Monday, June 30, 2014

Noir at the Bar

Last night, I attended the Noir at the Bar get-together at The Pour House in Boston, where crime/mystery writers met to read some short pieces and hobnob.

We had fun, and there were some readings of great pieces, some stories, some shorts from longer works. It's an excellent way for writers in a genre to meet and find out more about good work.
Check out the fun. Not pictured are Ray Daniel and Steve Ulfelder, who were going incognito.

Todd Robinson, Chris Irvin, and Bracken below

Chris F. Holm- nice guy, and he lives in Portland, ME, my old stomping grounds

The scary man, Bracken Macleod






Toni and Dana Cameron

Tough Guys

Katrina Niidas Holm with Todd and Dana

Jen and Paul
More Tough Guys



Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fremont, NH, 250th

Yesterday I appeared with Joe Ross of Rosstrum Publishing to sell and sign books at the Fremont, NH 250th celebration.

It was a beautiful day, but our shade device didn't make it, and we got sunburned from being out all day.

Still, it was a great time, meeting new people, like Larissa Chiccino, a model and consultant for Arbonne beauty products.

And Christine and Gary White, who make hand-crafted decorations for the home.

And Carl Juliano, a voiceover performer and actor.

There were lots of activities, and a good crowd on the first day of summer. Not a bad way to sell books and meet new fans.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cool- another guest spot- Susan Kaye Quinn

Can fame and fortune be far behind? :-)
First we guest on the site of Joe Konrath, prominent Indie guru:

Today we're guesting on the great blog of Susan Kaye Quinn-- Innovation: Four Indie Authors, One Small Cooperative:

She's written the Indie Author Survival Guide, listed on my Writer's Bookshelf resource page as a necessary book for writers to absorb.

Tomorrow I'll be selling books at the Town of Fremont, NH 250th celebration.

And a week from Sunday, I'll be at Noir at the Bar in Boston, hobnobbing with cool mystery writers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

500 Posts

This post marks the 500th one done here. Holy cow, can't believe it! Most blogs fall off after a while, due to the poster getting busy or running out of things to say.

So much more yet to talk about, so am hoping to be here for some time yet to come.

When I started this blog, hadn't published any books yet, just some stories. Was still looking for an agent, still thinking about signing with Big Legacy Publishers. Am so glad I dodged the bullet on that one, because now I have my books out, still have my rights, and have done the books I wanted to do.
And plenty more to do.

I'd like to thank everyone who reads this blog- over 18,000 views so far. So let me ask- anything you'd like to discuss here?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Interview With Ursula Wong

Today we're interviewing writer Ursula Wong, whose debut novel Purple Trees was recently published by Genretarium Publishing.

Having your first novel published is an exciting time, and we're glad to feature her here and find out more about her work.

Q: So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.
A: I think fiction is about taking a fact or an event, and giving it life. Originally, Purple Trees was about a loss in a family. I wanted to emphasize the loss by adding anger. Then I needed a reason for the anger, and so on. Eventually, it became a story about Lily Phelps, a woman with a tumultuous past that affected her relationship with her son.

Q: Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?
A: Writing is like making lasagna. It gets better if you let it marinate a while. I wrote the first draft of Purple Trees in a few weeks.  It took a year to evolve and finalize the story.

Q: What do you feel is the main theme(s)?
A: Ultimately, Purple Trees is about salvation and love.  It’s also about family, coping with tragedy in unique ways, and it’s about secrets.

Q: Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?
A:  I hope the story resounds in different ways for different people as it touches many things in family life such as turmoil, illness, and hard-nosed tragedy affecting children.
The story takes place on a Massachusetts dairy farm. Dairy was a thriving industry in the 1960s and now there are very few dairy farms left. I wanted to remember what it was like growing up on a farm, and I wanted others to know about it, too.

Q: What makes a good book or engaging story?
A: Good stories have the elements of humor, tragedy, a sense of purpose, tension, and characters that we either love or hate.

Q: Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?
A: Anyone familiar with Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina, or Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, or Carolyn Chute’s The Beans of Egypt, Maine will be on familiar ground when reading Purple Trees.

Q: Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?
A: It’s great when a story has a theme that resonates with readers but a book audience is largely anonymous. I think the best we can do as writers is to be true to our characters, and write from the heart.

Q: Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?
A: I’m a retired computer engineer, so my goal was to become a professional writer, and that happened when I sold my first copy of Purple Trees.
I’d like to publish Amber Wolf, my next novel, later this year. It's a story about anti-Soviet resistance in Lithuania during WW II.
My daughter is going to college in California and my husband and I want to become familiar with the Los Angeles area over the next few years. So far, we adore the beaches, but hate the traffic.

Q:  Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?
A: Each time I send the novel out for review, it is the best I can do at the time. I find that incorporating review comments brings the novel to a new level.
In general, I start with a draft that has some structure and a few main events. Then I add material and revise. Sometimes, it takes a while to know my characters. I had that issue with Lily Phelps in Purple Trees, as she was so darn secretive.

Q: Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?
A: I have an outstanding publisher who did an excellent job copyediting and raising content questions up to the very last draft.  Content questions are those lingering issues that a writer should explore fully in a novel.
Because Purple Trees was my first novel, I hired an editor to review my first draft to make sure it made sense, had a good story arc, and had believable characters; namely a good foundation.
After that, I relied heavily on workshops.

Q: If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?
A: I’d give a new writer the advice that Dale T. Phillips gave me. Finish what you start.  Don’t give up. Stay with it. Trust the editing and workshop processes to improve the story.
I’d encourage them to attend workshops, which are regular meetings of like-minded writers who review each other’s work. I'd encourage them to find writers willing to collaborate on novels as a whole, discussing detail as well as broad aspects like tension and story arc. This goes beyond the typical workshop scenario of reviewing a chapter a week.

Q: Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?
A: I think many writers fantasize about a movie deal. Of course, I don’t know if Reese Witherspoon would be available to play a young Lily Phelps.
The next step with Purple Trees might be an audio rendition to see how well it translates.

Q: What's the next step in your writing world?
A: Publishing Amber Wolf is my next project. Given current events in Eastern Europe, the story is eerily relevant. My goal is to bring Soviet resistance in 1944 Lithuania, to life.  Who was in the resistance? Where did they live?  How did they get weapons? How do I represent a country in turmoil? I’m also incorporating some Lithuanian culture with foods, phrases, and traditions, like saying a prayer to good health under a crescent of the moon.

Q: Any other information you’d like to impart?
A: I’d like to thank Dale T. Phillips for the opportunity to post this interview on his blog.

Purple Trees is available:

And here's a terrific review of the book on Sara Carbonneau's review site.

Finally, if anyone would like to join my Reaching Readers group to receive a super-short story every month for entertainment and fun, feel free to send an email to me at or contact me via my website at

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day. Happy Bloomsday

It's been a great Father's Day for me, with lots of love from my family.

Pretty cool, since I'd never planned on having one. A lovely woman made me change my mind about kids, and am so happy she did, because I've got great ones.

Went outside, and it was a staggeringly beautiful day, cool and breezy and sunny. I felt the need to see the sea, and off we bopped to Newburyport. Strolled along the quay, browsed through shops, ate a superb lunch outdoors in the shade, and watched the boats dance on the water. I felt relaxed and at peace. Needed that. Certain days should be enjoyed to the fullest extent.
Pics below.

And tomorrow is Bloomsday (Juneteenth), a celebration in honor of Leopold Bloom, the character from the pen of James Joyce. Not everyone can get through Ulysses, but there's some fun stuff in there. Happy Bloomsday. Hit Wikipedia for more info.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

TerrorCon Photos Are Up

Here's a lot of terrific shots from the very first TerrorCon, held down in Providence, RI this last weekend.

As you can see, we met a lot of folks and there was much to view and do. Lots of shoutouts to people who were there.

We even sold a bunch of books to new fans and made some connections.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Is Amazon Evil, With a Plan to Destroy the Universe?

Elizabeth K. Burton commented on a previous post.
Thank you for weighing in- good food for thought, because authors really need to think this through.
It's truly a battle of mega-monsters, who will no doubt trample a lot of us little folk underfoot, whoever wins. And it may well result in the outcome Elizabeth brings up.
There's some pretty big stakes for us all here- future selling capability. There's a few more places to check out for commentary, the wonderful Hugh Howey and the irascible Chuck Wendig. Different slants here, but good to get a broad picture, and fair input from pretty savvy people with skin in the game.

My words in the last post were inadequate to the whole picture. And Elizabeth caught me mixing my metaphors, when I should have explained in more detail. Let's explore some more.

The previous title reflects the real battle-- between two giant corporations, rather than big old bully Amazon is picking on a poor little Mom-and-Pop shop, as has been the slant in a number of pieces by media apologists for Hachette's side. The big publishing house and their parent corporation have an immense amount of resources at their call, and have been pushing for hearts and minds in the media.

The weakling vs the sumo image comes in when we see Hachette try to push Amazon into doing things the Hachette way, instead of how Amazon wants to do it.

Big Publishing has had at least five years to adjust to the new world, but it seems all they can do is keep blaming Amazon for unfairly taking away their divine right of massive profits. They keep making it too damn easy for Amazon to beat them senseless, and hand Bezos ever-bigger clubs to do it with.

Amazon is just way better at this game, much more versatile, and craftier, thinking long-game, while the Big Pub moves seem clumsy, short-sighted, and ill-intentioned. See how Amazon completely and easily disemboweled the argument about hurting individual writers with their offer of loss compensation to be matched by Hachette.  Hachette grumpily refused (at least seemed to), in typical, ham-handed fashion. Low-hanging fruit with a huge PR win, and all Big Pub does is reload and shoot their other foot.

First, let's accept one thing- any extra money Hachette gets from any deal is not likely to go into author pockets, but rather to Hachette profits. Ditto for higher book prices. Many commentators are rightly pointing out that Hachette, as part of the Big Publishing conglomerates, is currently taking unfair advantage of authors. Heck, we have the public confession by several of their writers that working for that cartel is like grubbing for change, and if the current author Hachette book doesn’t sell properly, they’re screwed, no matter how successful they’ve been in the past.
Ouch. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a business partner…

Okay, it’s not a holy war, it’s not the Fellowship against Mordor, it’s big monsters contending for how much pie they’ll eat in the future. But one group is doing bad stuff RIGHT NOW, and the other side is… currently treating us pretty decently…

Amazon has made it possible for hundreds, or thousands of authors to get paid (at much higher wages) for their work on their terms. We are approaching a time (if we haven’t made it there already) when more authors can make a living outside of Big Pub than inside.

And that, my friends, is what has Big Pub scared shirtless. They have to fight this idea tooth and nail. Because when the smart authors figure out they can make more money over the long run and be treated better by NOT rushing to Big Pub, Big Pub not only loses profits, but is in grave danger. That’s why they froth over the Author Earnings reports from Hugh Howey and Data Guy, who are extrapolating the data, and showing that now there are two very viable options, and one has much higher odds of success.

But, as many have counseled- diversify! Don’t put all your author eggs into any one basket, Big Pub or Amazon. Use multiple outlets to distribute and sell books. Mark Coker of Smashwords must be loving this dust-up, because he’s going to be a clear winner, as many authors realize he offers a terrific place to sell ebooks.

As for Barnes and Noble, why is it so hard for them to get decent customer service and a website that doesn’t suck? With millions at stake, they look like they just don’t care. Maybe they’ve just given up, which would be a shame. It’s good to have market alternatives.

So suppose Amazon gains even bigger control of the market, and pulls off their mask to reveal the Face of Evil underneath. Suppose they give a giant F-U to the writing and reading world. Could they get away with reducing author ebook share to 50-50, or even less, if they were the only game in town? Maybe. Note that it would still be more than Big Pub! But you’d hear thundering hooves as many left the fold. They reduced the author share on ACX by a few percent, and the resulting firestorm would have made you think they ate babies. Many would continue with them, but alternatives would spring up fast, and people would split as soon as it was viable.
Not saying it may not happen, just not happening today.

Neither company is your friend. Neither is a religion. As a writer today, you view distributors and publishers as business partners who are temporary, as long as they benefit you. Last night, someone at the writing group was asking who to publish with. We told them “depends on the contract terms.” Right now, Amazon is treating authors as more of a partner, while Hachette is treating authors as serfs.

You have a choice on who to deal with. Make yours wisely, and plan for today and the future.