Friday, November 29, 2013

Guest Post by Jennie Bates Bozic

In addition to being a writer, I’m also a visual effects artist for film and television. I like to tell people that I blow things up and shoot zombies for a living, which is true but far from the whole picture. I went into visual effects because I love storytelling. However, I didn’t expect to get a crash course in dealing with heavy criticism along the way.

I became a professional artist about five years ago. I was also writing at the time, albeit quietly and by myself. I didn’t have critique partners and, quite frankly, the task of writing a novel felt so huge and unattainable that I decided to focus on another career entirely. I would be an artist! I would embrace my sensitive side and surround myself with people who loved beauty and art and good stories!


Most visual effects studios host daily critique sessions where the latest version of your work is shown to the entire company, and everyone tries to find every single thing that’s wrong with it. When done right, these sessions are constructive and helpful, even if they are a little nerve-wracking. In the wrong hands, they can utterly destroy your morale…or give you incredible perspective.

I thought that I had developed a thick skin until the company I was working for came under a very difficult deadline despite working tons of overtime and my boss (who was usually hard to work with anyway), went on a tirade saying we should all be ashamed of ourselves. He went on and on until I was literally shaking from stress. A few weeks later, I tried to tactfully tell him that I wanted our relationship to be a good one, and I wanted to make him happy, but this approach was really hurtful and inappropriate.

He told me that maybe I should go be an accountant if this job was too much for me.

I smiled, stood up, and went back to my desk with my head high. From then on, everything he said grated at me. He told me I should use more nouns when I spoke, that I should use fewer words when I explained to producers what changes I had made. He constantly tried to force me to conform to his own artistic preferences even when producers had given me license to do things as I saw fit. He was an all-around insufferable douchebag, but I eventually figured out something really important: He was often right about his technical suggestions for my shots. If I ignored what he said because he was a horrible human being, I would hurt myself as an artist and sabotage my own career.

So I gritted my teeth and tried as hard as I could to find the gems of advice among the heaping piles of shit. It certainly wasn’t easy and working with him actually took a toll on my health, but I learned a lot.

Years later, I am no longer working there, but I’m applying what I learned in taking criticism to the writing and reviewing process. There are lots of people out there who, for various reasons, want you to feel bad about your mistakes and/or artistic vision, but that doesn’t mean that their criticisms are wrong. It just means their motivations for telling you are, well, less than honorable. You will be hurting yourself if you disregard any criticism that comes your way with malice behind it. Will all of that critique be helpful or even applicable? 

Nope, but that’s why it’s so important to get feedback from several people (preferably some of those are writers you respect) so you can sort it out.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the idea that we writers all need to have incredibly thick skin. I’m not sure that I agree, but I definitely believe in the value of perspective. I’m a big fan of feeling all my feelings and trying to understand them. I think that makes me a better writer, even if it takes more effort. Does it hurt when someone says your work is awful? Yes. Does it really help when someone reminds you that not everyone will love your novels? Sometimes. Sometimes not. I think that’s okay. There isn’t always a comforting thought that will make the sting go away, but that’s life. That’s part of why I write – to tackle the tough things head on.

The next time someone hands you a shit-and-criticism sandwich, I hope you’ll take the time to dig out the edible parts, say thank you, and cross that person off your Christmas card list. Then grab a beer/pint of ice cream/glass of wine and pour whatever you’ve learned into writing that next chapter.

About Me:
My name is Jennie Bates Bozic and I write fantasy and science fiction for young adults. I decided to self-publish my debut novel, DAMSELFLY, and its companion novelette SUGAR PLUM, because my agent, Steven Axelrod, is a very smart man and suggested I do so when we were unable to find a good home for it. I currently do visual effects for science and history documentaries. You can see my latest on BIG HISTORY and some of my older work on my website!

Thank you so much for reading my post! As a thank-you, DAMSELFLY is only .99 for Thanksgiving weekend! It’s also available in print and enrolled in Amazon’s Matchbook program. If you choose to get the print version, you can download the ebook for FREE. I hope you will check it out. And don’t forget, SUGAR PLUM will always be free on Smashwords (and hopefully on Amazon too by the time this posts!) in case you’d like to get a taste of my writing before handing me a dollar.

Damselfly’s Description:

In 2065, the Lilliput Project created Lina - the first six-inch-tall winged girl - as the solution to a worldwide energy and food crisis. Isolated in a compound amidst the forests of Denmark, Lina has grown up aware of only one purpose: learn how to survive in a world filled with hawks, bumblebees, and loneliness. However, on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she discovers that she’s not the only teenager her size. Six 'Toms' were created shortly after Lina, and now her creators need to prove to the world that tiny people are the next logical step in human evolution. In other words, they need to prove that reproduction is possible.

Um. No thanks. Lina's already fallen in love with a boy she met online named Jack. Only he has no idea that thumbelina1847 could literally fit inside his heart.

When her creators threaten to hurt Jack unless she chooses a husband from among the ‘Toms’, Lina agrees to star in a reality TV series. Once the episodes begin to air, the secret of her size is out. Cut off from any contact with the outside world, Lina assumes Jack is no longer interested. After all, what guy would want to date a girl he can’t even kiss?

Slowly, very slowly, she befriends the six young men who see her as their only ticket to happiness. Perhaps she can make just one guy’s dream of love and companionship come true. But her creators have a few more twists in store for her that she never thought possible. 

She’s not the only one playing to the cameras.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Death and the Self-Pubbed Writer

This is an idea I've been mulling over for some time, fine-tuned by my friend, bestselling author Barry Eisler, with contributions from my friends, bestselling authors Blake Crouch and Ann Voss Peterson.

It's based on a premise no one wants to face, but all writers should:

What happens to our IPs when we die?

I have dozens of self-published books, and I've spent years learning how to maximize revenue on these titles. There's more to self-publishing than simply pressing "publish." and there's a lot to know about this business in order to succeed.

Which made me realize something important; my heirs aren't the ones best suited to run my literary empire after I die.

My wife knows enough to ask my friends for help when I kick off. But what if we both die at the same time, like if our parachutes don't open during sex sky diving? My family doesn't know anything about self-publishing. They wouldn't even know how to log into my Amazon KDP account, especially since they'll be in shock having to ID our naked, intertwined, smashed corpses.

So my peers and I have been drafting a letter to help my heirs get the help they need in order for my literary estate to continue to be worth money after I'm gone. Self-publishing, like gardening, requires a learning curve and ongoing attention.

This is what we came up with. Perhaps writers should consider adding something like this to their will, or to at have this kept along with a will. But remember I am not a lawyer and this post is not me attempting to give legal advice.

You are free to use this without my permission. If this letter is missing anything, or you have anything to add to make this stronger, please mention it in the comments.

Some Thoughts on How to Handle My Literary Assets After I’m Dead

If you’re reading this letter, it’s because I’m dead. Sorry for that—I’m sure it wasn’t on purpose!  But it happens to all of us sooner or later, so it makes sense to prepare for the eventuality. To that end, before embarking on my permanent journey to the Great Beyond, I was talking to three writer friends of mine—all smart people, all of whom I trust—about how we might advise our heirs on our somewhat unusual writers’ estates. This letter is what we came up with. You should contact all of the people named below. They’re experienced, knowledgeable, and, again, trustworthy.

The four of us are:

(List of names, addresses, email, phone numbers, and names of spouses of four trusted self-publishing peers who understand the biz.)

So here’s why we’re doing this. A lot of my post-death affairs will be pretty straight forward—personal effects, real property, that kind of thing—and consequently, should be easily handled by any competent estates attorney. But one of my most significant financial assets is the revenue stream produced by ongoing sales of the novels and other stories I’ve written, and knowing how to properly manage this kind of intellectual property (IP) portfolio requires some specialized expertise. Accordingly, I wanted to offer some thoughts as a guideline for my heirs so they can make wise decisions about what to do with my IP assets.

If you want my work to continue to sell as well as possible now that I’m gone, I think you’ll want a literary trustee who is able to understand five basic rules in the publishing world:

1. How to access various publishing platforms with my backlist (the novels and other stories I wrote before shuffling off this mortal coil), and do what is required to keep that backlist relevant, including:

a) Which platforms to publish on, weighing the exclusivity of certain programs (such as Amazon KDP Select) vs. widespread distribution (currently B&N, Kobo, iTunes, Overdrive, Createspace.)  I’m talking about not only a knowledge of these platforms, but also the URLs, usernames, and passwords needed to access them.

b) When to change prices on titles, putting them on sale, make them free, and use advertising (BookBub, ebookbooster, bookblast) in order to maximize visibility and revenue.

2. How to exploit my IP rights (now yours) in subsidiary markets, including:

a) Foreign

b) TV and Film

c) Audio

d) Interactive multimedia and other

3. How to franchise IP rights so other authors may continue to create new works using the brands, characters, and universes I created before departing this plane of existence.

4. How to work with current collaborators to continue to maximize visibility and profits.

5. How to work with my current agent(s) to continue to maximize visibility and profits.

Because of the complexity and nuances of this profession, and because you obviously want to work with someone trustworthy, I think the best person to appoint trustee to manage the continued sale of my works would be one of the people I worked with in drafting this letter, contact information for whom is listed above.
Even if they don’t want to take on the role, they can help you find someone who can (for example, a qualified literary agent might be another possibility, but you’d really have to find the right person and make sure the terms were favorable). And they’ll give good advice regardless.

We all think 15% of the revenue generated by my literary legacy would be a fair amount to pay someone for acting as literary trustee, for as long as he or she continues to act in that capacity. If you go this route, a lawyer can help you draw up a simple contract setting forth your respective rights and obligations.

Having talked with these people (who are all generous and eager to help my heirs in this unhappy time of agonizing hell due to my absence), we have concluded that the 15% should be mandatory, even if the appointed literary trustee declines to accept it. Managing my IPs will require a lot of ongoing work, and not only should the trustee be compensated, but having a vested interest in making sure my work continues to sell will make said trustee more likely to put forth a continuous effort, which may stretch on for years.

Please contact all three of the people mentioned above, and let them pow-wow to advise my heirs on the best course of action, and then divvy up the responsibility as they see fit.

[Message from Joe:  I hope my son Talon, who has shown an interest in writing and self-publishing, will some day take on the duties of literary trustee as he learns this business, but only when he’s at least 25 and is deemed to be ready by the then-current trustee.]


List of current works (including Dropbox log-in information and locations of files)

List of collaborators and current contracts/deals in place (with contact info and where contracts are located)

List of associates with contact info (cover artists, formatters, agents, assistants, web-designers, proofreaders)

List of platforms where work is currently available on and has been available on in the past (URLS, usernames, passwords, PayPal)

List of works in progress and unpublished works, and locations

List of current subsidiary rights contracts and end dates

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Proofreader

Joe sez: Those of you paying attention may notice I have a new picture in my sidebar, linking to my proofreader. I released Haunted House earlier this year, in a rush to meet a deadline, and the published book had dozens of errors in it.


Since then, I've been using Chereese to vet my manuscripts, and have found her reliable, fast, and affordable.

Here she is to talk about what she does.

Chereese: We all make mistakes.

As an author you have whole worlds to create, characters to build, stories to tell, you can’t always remember to cross every “t”, dot every “i”, or make sure that the son your protagonist had on page four didn’t end up as a daughter on page one hundred and seven.

That’s where I can help. My name is Chereese and I can catch the things that may go unnoticed by you or your copy editor. I’ll do a first read-through of your manuscript to get a sense of your writing, and utilizing the Chicago Manual of Style I can help to make sure your work is in tip-top shape and ready for publishing.

Once you’ve completed the editing process, I can be one more set of eyes to help with:

Punctuation Marks
Grammatical Mistakes
Run-On Sentences
Subject-Verb agreement

Rates: I charge a flat fee of $1.50 per each double-spaced, 12 point font page. That way you’ll know exactly what the upfront cost will be. The goal is to find no mistakes, but whether I find one or a hundred, your rate will never increase.

Turnaround Time: Varies depending on scope of work. Estimated anywhere from two days to two weeks.

Method: Everything is handled through email. Most documents are proofread utilizing the Track Changes feature in MS Word. A hard-copy, red-lined version can be available upon request.

Payment: I bill through Paypal. Full payment will need to be received before a finalized version of your manuscript is emailed back to you.

Contact me:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Zen and the Art of Bitching

I'm not in a good mood today.

I have only myself to blame. I regularly take on more than I can chew, spread myself too thin, and then wind up stressed and unhappy.

My fault. My bad. Apparently I must crave this way of living, because I keep doing it to myself, over and over.

On the one hand, it makes me ridiculously productive, and probably played a large part in the success I've had.

On the other, I have no right to bitch because I asked for it. Yes, I'm irritable right now, and I feel even more irritable because I have no right to be irritable. All of my problems are what Barry Eisler calls quality problems. "Oh no, I have to manage a literary empire." "Oh no, I have to pay $300,000 in taxes." My fave is Blake Crouch's saying, "Oh no, I spilled champagne on my cake."

Which got me to thinking about all writers.

We complain constantly. We're easily hurt. We're never satisfied. We feel misunderstood. We're a bunch of touchy, moody, pessimistic whiners.

Such is the path of an artist. But there is a very specific fork in that path, and as I prowl the Internets I see more and more of my peers taking the fork that I never took.

Namely, who gets the blame.

Maybe we can all agree that the writing biz isn't fair. And maybe most of us can agree that luck plays a big part.

But the schism forms when it comes to placing blame.

I can look at the low points in my career, and there have been many. As successful as I've become, I've still had a lot more bad days than good--at least 5 to 1. I battled depression. I raged against the universe. I searched for meaning in disappointment. But ultimately I knew this was the path I'd chosen and I was solely to blame for my own unhappiness, even if it seemed like outside forces conspired against me.

Perhaps my perspective is skewed, but more and more writers seem to be looking for scapegoats for their unhappiness. They blame Amazon. They blame other etailers. They blame bookstores. They blame advertisers. They blame publishers. They blame agents. They blame haters. They blame each other.

Everyone looks to point fingers at someone for their misfortune, instead of looking where they should; in the mirror.

Just as I am responsible for my own current unhappiness, so are you. And you're kidding yourself if you think I'm wrong. And you're kidding yourself if you think you'd be happy if you suddenly took over my life and career.

It is human nature to be dissatisfied. Goals reached are celebrated for a brief moment, then other goals take their place. Buddha said the only path to nirvana is to deny wanting. Being a writer means constantly wanting.

We all need to take responsibility for our careers. This is what we choose to do, and what we choose to do, by definition, involves the approval of others. There is no way to force the world to buy, read, and like your story, unless you are Chairman Mao. So we're all going into this biz with a lot of hope and expectations, and hope and expectations ultimately lead to disappointment and unhappiness.

So in an attempt to get me out of my funk, I'm going to pose some solutions for what I see as an industry-wide problem.

1. Set appropriate, attainable goals. Remember that goals are things that are within your power to accomplish. Selling 1,000,000 ebooks isn't a goal, because you can't force a million people to by them. Finishing and publishing your ebook by December 15 is a goal.

Also make sure that you don't take on too many goals at once, because being overwhelmed isn't a happy feeling.

2. Celebrate reaching goals. Force yourself to stop working and to actually take a time-out to enjoy what you've accomplished.

3. Stop blaming. You definitely shouldn't blame anyone for your choices. And you shouldn't blame yourself too much either. Because anything you do to yourself is within your control to fix. If you're unhappy, stop. If you can't stop, evolve.

4. Stop trying to do everything. This is similar to setting appropriate goals, but it involves more than just the publishing biz. There aren't enough days in life to do everything you want, and you must remember to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. The more you take on, the more stress you take on, both with your professional life and your personal life.

5. Elbert Hubbard, an author no one remembers, said, "Don't take life too seriously. You'll never get out of it alive." We aren't curing cancer, folks. We're entertainers. Nothing in a writing career is very important. Poor sales, bad reviews, personal attacks, failed endeavors, unreached goals--take it all with a grain of salt and a spoonful of sugar.

6. Remember there is more to life than writing. That's hard to do sometimes, because writing often seems less like a career and more like a calling. But obsession makes you miserable, and isn't pleasant for those around you, either.

7. Accept that the universe isn't fair. There is no karma. You don't get what you give. You don't deserve anything. Deal with it.

8. Stop whining. Especially in public.

I began this blog entry by whining in public in order to prove a point; we're all the same. Even Joe Konrath feels down sometimes, and questions himself, and occasionally needs to vent. But complaining that your sales are in a slump, or that you got a bad review, or that BookBub won't select you, or that Amazon is unfair, or that it's impossible to get discovered, isn't helpful. It doesn't offer any solutions, or help anyone, including yourself.

As writers, we could throw a gigantic pity party and each bring a dish of epic failure to the event. And that party would suck major ass.

I know that we're all confused and unhappy and seeking answers. But maybe if we took the energy we wasted raging at the universe, and instead tried to find answers on our own, we'd all be better off.

You wouldn't be visiting my blog, reading this right now, if all I did was complain constantly. So why do you think anyone wants to hear you complain?

If you don't like your career, fix it. If you don't like the industry, change it. If you don't like your attitude, get a new one.

And the next time you consider airing your grievances in public, make sure you also pose a solution. You're writers. You should be able to plot something out.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Straight Up and Racked and Amazon's Also Boughts

The ultimate goal, naturally, is world domination.

Before that, baby steps.

Some of those baby steps involve me allowing authors to write stories and novels using my intellectual property, and then collaborating with them, publishing their stories, and splitting the profits while giving them full power in the relationship.

I blogged about it here, and here. My first collaboration, Jacked Up, which I did with Tracy Sharp, has been available for a few weeks.

Two more collabs are now available. Both were a lot of fun for me to work on, and are a lot of fun to read.

Iain Rob Wright is my kind of writer. He specializes in horror and technothrillers, and did a great job teaming up Jack Daniels with his new heroine, Sarah Stone, in the story Straight Up, now available on Kindle for $1.99.

Lieutenant Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels hates to fly. She hates the cramped leg room and the recycled air. She also hates the fact that she can't get a decent drink. The short flight to Florida is a necessary burden to visit her mother, but what escalates it beyond a mere inconvenience is the fact that the pilot is a gun-toting maniac.

Teaming up with an irritable, badly scarred woman from England, Jack sets about trying to protect the plane and its passengers from the homicidal Captain Clive while also making sure that they don't end up taking a deadly nose dive into the Sunshine State.

STRAIGHT UP by J.A. Konrath and Iain Rob Wright
Air Travel can be murder.

Rob is close to finishing a new novel; a sequel to my technothriller Origin called Holes In The Ground.

Jude Hardin has been commenting on my blog for as long as I've had a blog. It's been fun watching him launch a writing career, and it was really fun teaming Jack Daniels up with Hardin's PI Nicolas Colt in Racked, now available on Kindle for $0.99.

A private investigator, a police lieutenant, and a man wearing a Bugs Bunny mask walk into a bar...

Unfortunately, it's no joke when Bugsy rigs the barrel of a twelve-gauge pump to the back of the bartender's neck.

Together for the first time in this explosive, lightning-paced tale of greed, betrayal, and blood-soaked terror (not really, but it's a fast-paced and funny mystery-thriller), Florida PI Nicholas Colt (Crosscut, Key Death) and Chicago cop Jacqueline Daniels (Whiskey Sour, Shaken) team up to stop the robber before another shotgun shell gets RACKED.

Jude just finished a full length Colt/Daniels novel called Lady 52, which should be available before Christmas.

If you're reading this blog, stop right now and go buy those two ebooks. You can spare the three bucks, and the knowledge I'm about to impart is worth the expenditure.

Are you back? Good. Thanks for your support. :)

And now I'm going to share with you a very cool trick which will allow you to sell more books.

If you've been following this little project of mine, you already know a few things. For the uninitiated, I'll recap.
  • My wife, Maria, reads all the submissions and decides if they fit in my universe or not.
  • I pay for everything involved in the publishing process, and don't recoup my investment. 
  • The co-author gets paid monthly by my agent, and we split the money 50/50.
  • The first draft of the story is written by the co-author, then I do the second draft, rewriting and adding about 20%-40% to the content.
  • The co-author has all the power: they can cancel the deal whenever they'd like, and they have final say over price, platforms, and sub-rights.
  • No one gets rich writing short stories, but I'm using shorts as a testing ground for where the real money is--novels.
Earlier I mentioned world domination. Here is my nefarious scheme.

Amazon has provided two big ways to assist readers in finding new ebooks to read. The first we're all familiar with; bestseller lists. Readers who like Female Sleuths can browse that list for the Top 100, and find new authors who write stories similar to the ones that they enjoy. It is possible to manipulate the bestseller ranks by using promotions such as social networks, blogs, Bookbub and Book Blast, and sales.

The second assist Amazon gives readers is the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section on the ebook's Amazon page directly under the description.

The items that appear in that also bought carousel are the result of Amazon keeping track of purchases. Any reader who likes Konrath can look at the also boughts and discover new authors they haven't read before. It's like a reader making a recommendation to another reader. "You like Konrath? Try Eisler."

Right now, in the also bought carousel for Racked, there are ebooks by Konrath and Hardin, which is to be expected. But there are also books by Blake Crouch, Henry Perez, Tracy Sharp, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson--all authors I've collaborated with. But it doesn't only link to our collabs, it links to these authors' ebooks written without me.

Customers who bought Run by Blake Crouch also bought Jacked Up by Tracy Sharp, and customers who bought Jacked Up also bought Kutter by Jeff Strand, and customers by bought Kutter also bought Animal Kingdom by Iain Rob Wright.

This isn't coincidence. This is lineage. 

How many authors will be linked with also boughts when I have twenty more collaborative stories and novels live? Forty more? A hundred more?

Does my world domination comment seem a little more plausible now? How soon before every thriller ebook on Amazon has a Konrath title in the also boughts, which not only increases my visibility and sales, but also the visibility and sales of everyone who has ever worked with me?

And what's really cool is that readers benefit as much as the writers do. The collaborators I work with are vetted by me. Co-writing with them is a seal of approval, giving my fans opportunities to discover new voices. The first person I did this with was Blake Crouch, and when we began it was pretty one sided--I sent my fans his way. But as Blake's star has risen, he's been sending more and more fans my way... and Jeff Strand's way... and Henry Perez's way... and Ann Voss Peterson's way... etc etc etc.

I wish I could clone myself so I could get through these collabs faster, but I'm only one guy and I also have to run the business side of my growing empire, so it's taking longer that I'd like. But I'm getting through them, slowly but surely. 

If you're a writer, and you haven't written a story in my universe yet, what are you waiting for? Follow the guidelines and submit one. If my wife rejects it, you can always rename my characters and publish it yourself.

And if you're a Jack Daniels fan, I encourage you to read not only Straight Up and Racked, but other collabs I've done, all reasonably priced:

And coming soon...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Guest Post by Al Boyle

I’d wanted to be a screenwriter.

The screenplay format can be intimidating. In the simplest terms, it consists of scene headings, action paragraphs and dialogue, but there’s nothing simple about writing a great screenplay. There are a few unwritten rules to screenwriting which stand in contrast to the novel format:

They tend to run 90-120 pages, depending on the genre.
Action paragraphs are typically kept to a maximum of four lines (rather than four sentences). A screenplay riddled with dense paragraphs suggests the work of an amateur (unless your last name is Tarantino).
Since movies are what we see and hear, inner thoughts must be dramatized through action, dialogue, or both.

There have been plenty of exceptions, but you had to know the rules – as demonstrated by command of your craft – to break them.

Screenwriting teaches you to be disciplined. The lessons I learned helped a great deal when I wrote my novel and I found the transition liberating. My story could span hundreds of pages. I could let my paragraphs breathe and get inside my characters’ heads at no peril to my perceived craftsmanship.

The irony was, despite the newfound freedom, my approach remained the same:

Make every word count.

If you don’t, your reader will know. They’ll grow impatient. Some may skim, others may skip.

Some will put your book down.

As readers, we know what we put down may stay down. If you’ve enjoyed other works by the writer, you might cut them some slack. If their work is new to you, there might be no second chance.

If you struggle with brevity in your writing, I’d recommend securing copies of the motion picture screenplays for your favorite movies. A screenplay is a different reading experience, but after a few pages you’ll find a rhythm. You’ll also see how those writers made your favorite stories leap from the page using comparatively few words. Many can be downloaded for free online.

Here are a couple of sites with good inventories:

One of my screenplays became the basis for my debut suspense-thriller novel, Unhinged. For television buffs, think The Dead Zone meets Without a Trace.

A brief synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Jared Chambers vanished in broad daylight. The police have no leads, no suspects, and no persons of interest. 

One eyewitness has come forward. She was twenty miles away when it happened. 

Amy Dylan is a psychic with a loyal following on WXYZ-FM in rural Sussex County, New Jersey. She experiences a disturbing vision of eighteen-year-old Jared's abduction and captivity by a brutal, unseen assailant. Her offers to assist the police and the Chambers family are met with skepticism and hostility. 

Undeterred, she conducts an independent investigation and produces the first solid lead, thrusting herself into the media’s spotlight. Jared's elusive captor challenges her on the air and provides chilling proof that Jared is at his mercy. 

To save Jared, Amy must take the battle to his captor and live to tell.

Wilding is a short story in the same genre. It’s free on Smashwords and Kobo. It’s .99 on Amazon until enough people besides me nudge them to price match. 

After learning his thirteen-year-old daughter and her best friend are being harassed by boys, Jake rushes to their aid. When he arrives, he realizes the boys are young men and he’s vastly outnumbered. His quiet, suburban neighborhood is about to become a vicious battleground.

Thanks again, Joe, for the keys to the kingdom. I’ve enjoyed my stay.

Joe sez: I wanted to write movies when I was younger. Back in my pre-publication days, I'd penned three screenplays and spent two weeks in Hollywood, knocking on agents' doors and trying to get my work read.

I wound up getting over a hundred rejections on my screenplays, and rightfully so--they weren't good.

So I became a novel writer, and now, twenty years later, I make a good living at it. But after I'd gotten published, I took another shot at a screenplay, and I think I did a pretty good job on it. Synopsis:

You’re chopping wood at your cabin in upper Minnesota—a cabin forty miles from anything—when a man in a filthy orange jumpsuit comes running out of the woods.

“Please hide me! I’m an American citizen! They’re holding me against my will!”

Then you see it. The black helicopter. Coming this way. And like the man’s jumpsuit, it has no numbers on it, no identifying marks.

“Don’t let them take me! I can’t go back there! I haven’t done anything!”

Do you hide him? 

Greg Point does. And then they come. They come to make sure no one alive can reveal the government’s darkest secret.

But Point has secrets too.

He’s been living in the US for almost twenty-five years under a false identity. Now his cover has been blown, his adopted country has turned against him, and Greg Point is about to see how a Black Site operates... from the inside.


I enjoy writing screenplays. But I no longer play well with those in power. I spent a long time trying to get free of the legacy publishing world, and I have no desire to work in Hollywood where decisions are made above my pay grade. While I love movies, and think it would be cool to see some of my work on the screen (either adapted from my books, or an original screenplay like THE SITE), I don't want to have to jump through hoops to please the money people.

If anything by me is ever shot, I'll have no hand in it other than cashing the check. Having control over my work means too much to me to watch someone else adapt it. So I'd either shoot it myself, or stay completely out of the process.

Here are some random musings based on Al's post, many of which seem to contradict each other but really don't.

1. A screenplay forces you to think visually. As I've said for years, a novel is a movie that plays in the reader's head. The better you are at picturing a scene, the better you are at writing it.

2. Less is more. When I was teaching writing and publishing at a local community college, I asked my students to write about walking into a hospital. They gave me long, florid descriptions of sights and smells and sounds. Then I shared mine:

"I walked into the hospital."

That's oversimplifying my point, but the point still needs to be made. Everyone has been in a hospital. Everyone can picture it. Don't waste words writing stuff the reader already knows. Thinking visually doesn't mean bogging down the story with minutiae.

3. There are no unneeded scenes in movies. Or at least, there shouldn't be. Ditto with novels. This is called pacing, and the pace should always be quick, even if you're writing a 1200 page novel of a man dying of boredom. Each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence, each word, should be doing something.

In most cases, that "something" is moving the story forward. But in other cases, that "something" is making the reader emote. A joke. A scare. Turning them on or making them cry. Which brings me to:

4. Faulkner was wrong when he said, "In writing, you must kill all your darlings." Stephen King elaborated in On Writing: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Actually, my darlings are some of the things my fans like most, and some of the things I most enjoy writing. While I try to make sex, violence, and humor essential to the plot, I often take them further than needed. And that's what makes my work appealing to many. Tom Clancy probably didn't need all the technobabble in Hunt for Red October, but those who like that sort of thing were just as enamored with the overabundance of detail as Clancy undoubtedly was. If challenged, I bet King could whittle Under the Dome down to the length of Carrie or Cujo, but he kept a lot of his darlings, and his readers like that.

It's important to be objective, and cut the parts that don't work, even if you like them. But the fun of writing, and reading, often comes down to the odd bits that probably could be cut. I could certainly remove Harry McGlade and the Feebies from Whiskey Sour and have a leaner, more traditional thriller, and the plot wouldn't suffer. But the entertainment value of the book would.

5. The three act structure is a guideline, not an outline. Your story must have conflict, rising action, and resolution, but it can have many plot points and twists and go in whatever direction you dream up. Yes, your hero should have inner conflict as well as story conflict, and there should be an inciting incident and a call to action and a low point and all the crap you learned in school. Formula works for a reason--it's why our brains are so receptive to storytelling.

That said, novels and screenplays don't have to be cookie cutter. I take perverse pride that my eight Jack Daniels books are all very different structurally and tonally. Bloody Mary has two full three act structures. Shaken has three. Fuzzy Navel has twelve points of view and is written in real time. Fully half of Cherry Bomb is in the villain's POV (name another book that does that.)

The point is to take the reader on a ride. Once you understand how to manipulate story, you can have a lot of fun playing with structure.

6. Control control control. Whether you are writing a novel or a screenplay, make sure you're able to justify and defend every word. That's being in control of your craft.

But once you write "the end" you have to make a choice. Do you want to maintain control by self-publishing it or shooting it yourself? Or do you want to give up control in exchange for a publishing or movie deal? Are you willing to change things because an editor or producer tells you to? Are you willing to let another writer do a second draft of your screenplay? A sixth draft? To change it so drastically you only get a story credit?

There is no right or wrong answer here. Personally, I doubt I'll ever sell novel rights again. I would sell movie rights to my works, but I wouldn't want to adapt them myself, and wouldn't want anything to do with the final product (unless I was the one shooting it.)

We must remember than in 2013 we not only have control over our words, we have control over our careers. For the first time ever, writers have choices.

Choose wisely.