Sunday, February 26, 2012


After spending ten years publishing short stories and receiving publishing credit and garnering two Pushcart Prize nominations, I decided it was time to attempt a novel.  That book was my first Nick Bracco thriller, "A Touch of Deceit."  In the original manuscript Nick Bracco couldn't tell a lie, similar to the James Spader character in Sex, Lies and Videotape.  But an FBI agent who couldn't lie became cumbersome and required significant reminders to the reader, so I scrapped the idea and moved forward.  That project took almost a decade to perfect--constant changes and rewrites until I was completely satisfied with the end result.

Fast-Forward a few years--after "A Touch of Deceit," loitered in the offices of a high profile Literary Agent's office in New York for 18 months until his assistant was kind enough to contact me after she'd left and tell me the agent had only submitted it to one publisher and had no intention to do anything more with it.  Then another agent, Robert Brown, was the judge of the S.W. Writers Contest, who awarded me first prize in the thriller category and was excited to take me on as a client.  It only took him a couple of months to realize there was no one interested in taking on a no name client during the recession.  His advice, publish it yourself.  He was smart, kind-hearted and honest.  He even helped format the book for ebooks knowing he would never receive a penny for his work.  Who else would have done that?  No one.

Now, two years later, the third book in the series is a reality.  After 10,000 people bought my Nick Bracco thrillers in December alone, the series seems to be finding an audience.  It's all I ever wanted when I began taking my literary career seriously some twenty years ago and if not for a broken publishing system and a caring agent, I would not have gotten this far.  I am grateful for the opportunity and it's rewarding to know that every time I sit at my computer and write, thousands of people will be reading those words.  A very heartfelt "Thank You" to my many readers and especially to Robert Brown.

Below is the opening to A Touch of Greed: 

When the blood stopped oozing from James Braden’s head, FBI Agent Ricky Hernandez knew his partner was finally dead. Hernandez was tucked behind a steel column in an abandoned airport hanger just inside the Mexican border. His partner was sprawled on the floor ten feet away, his body riddled with bullet holes from the ambush.

“Mr. Hernandez,” the man’s voice called out from behind him in a Mexican accent, “we have two kinds of soup today. We have chicken soup and we have screw-you soup. Unfortunately for you, we are out of chicken soup.”

A roomful of laughter echoed throughout the empty chamber of aluminum roofing and corrugated steel walls. Hernandez judged about thirty men surrounded him with AK-47s, while Hernandez had an FBI issue 9mm pistol with just one solitary bullet left. He stared at Braden’s corpse lying there in such an unnatural position, his eyes wide in horrified shock. Hernandez’s legs trembled. His left eye had an uncontrollable twitch. The desert heat was so viciously oppressive, his sweat-soaked shirt stuck to his chest.

The voice taunting Hernandez belonged to Antonio Garza, known as El Carnicero throughout the world of Mexican cartels. The Butcher. He was an infamous assassin with a legendary reputation for torturing anyone who crossed him. Including undercover FBI agents posing as drug dealers. Hernandez had seen the remains of the bodies Garza had left behind. Fingers, eyes, tongues, all severed and stuck inside the victim’s mouth, while the body floated in a vat of boiling water. The assassin was known to have a doctor on hand to continuously revive the victim and prolong the torment for hours, sometimes days.

“Mr. Hernandez,” Garza said, closer now. “I make you a deal. Come out right now and I let you speak with your family. You can say a proper farewell, eh?”

Hernandez was in shock, his mind numb to the statement.

“You can't be saved, so make your peace,” Garza ordered.

Among other things, Garza was a chronic liar. Hernandez was lured into Mexico while undercover, so there would be no rescue. He was out of US jurisdiction. Then it hit him. He still had a minute or two to say good-bye to his wife. He fumbled into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.

“I’m waiting,” he heard Garza say.

Tears blurred his vision as he tried to find his Nicole’s number in his contact list. He was bawling now, warm urine leaked from his bladder. Once he’d heard her voice he realized he wouldn’t be able to speak. He was wasting too much time just trying to gather himself. Then he saw the name just above Nicole’s. Nick Bracco. Hernandez knew then what he needed to do with the remaining seconds of his life. He pushed the button.

“Time is up,” Garza called out.

“Hey, Ricky,” came the voice on the phone.

“Nick,” Hernandez stammered. “Nick can you . . .”

“What’s wrong?”

Hernandez’s hands shook, tears crawled down his face. “Please tell Nicole . . .” he hiccuped and whimpered, “how much I adore her.”

“Where are you, Ricky?” Nick demanded.

“Now!” the assassin screamed, a barrage of bullets exploded all around the agent as he shriveled up behind the column for protection. His legs were getting pounded by direct hits and ricochets.

“Ricky?” Nick shouted into the receiver.

The shooting stopped. The tops of Hernandez’s feet were missing, only two toes stood out among the bloody stumps. Hernandez’s stomach spiked up into his throat. “Nick,” he uttered. “Promise me you’ll kill him.”

Footsteps came shuffling up behind him and Hernandez dropped the phone between his legs. He took one last look at his partner, then said, “I’ll be right there, Jimmy.” As he braced the tip of his pistol tight under his chin, the one thought which remained, the one glimmer of solace which contained him, was the thought that Garza would not survive long. Hernandez had an irrational rush of jubilation. Nick Bracco had been notified. Ricky Hernandez smiled.

Then he pulled the trigger.

Here's a link to the Amazon page:


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Over the past year and a half, I've highlighted some very talented writers just on the verge of becoming superstars--John Locke, Rick Murcer, and Robert Bidinotto are just a few.  I believe Allan Leverone is the next rising star in the publishing world.  His thriller, "The Lonely Mile," went from #11,000 on Amazon's Kindle bestseller list to #15 over one weekend, going from selling one book a day to selling several hundred a day.  He explains that here, plus his insider view of the future of publishing .  To me, the most intriguing part of Allan's career was the fact he actually got a job as an air traffic controller before ever stepping foot inside of an airplane.  He's been an air traffic controller at Boston's Logan airport for the past twenty years now and at 52 he's going to be forced to retire in four years.  Maybe, just maybe, if he continues on this torrid pace of selling thrillers, he might find a sweet home writing bestsellers and make a lot of readers happy.
Here's Allan:

1- How do develop your stories?  Do you outline, or fly by the seat of your pants?

I’ve outlined one book, and by the time I was maybe halfway through writing the first draft I had deviated so wildly from the damned thing it was completely useless. This outline, this supposed roadmap, which I had spent dozens of hours over several weeks developing, was now nothing more than a taunting reminder of how little I know about my own book when I start writing it.

That was the first, last, and only time I’ve ever outlined on paper before starting to write. This is not to say I have no idea where I’m going when I start a book, only that the process of outlining is just too specific for the way I write.

To me, writing a book is a little bit like taking a trip with a blindfold on. I know where I’m starting, and I have a pretty good idea where I want to end up, but the route I’m going to take to get from Point A to Point B is mostly a mystery. I might follow the highway, but I just might drive through a field and plow through a few houses, too. And that’s kind of good thing for a thriller writer, because if I have no idea what’s going to happen next, how in the world could a reader?

Plus, more often than not, I drive right on by Point B and end up somewhere in the vicinity of Point C. Or D.

2- Have you ever considered writing a series with a continuing protagonist?

I’ve absolutely considered it, and in fact, my newest release, PASKAGANKEE, is the first in what I envision as at least a three-book series. I’ve already completed the first draft of Book Two and am running ideas for Book Three around my twisted brain.

As you know, being an author yourself, the biggest hurdle facing any mostly unknown author—at least in terms of making sales—is the lack of name recognition. My theory is that readers don’t buy books, they buy authors. If a potential customer is trying to decide between buying my book and buying Harlan Coben’s latest release, I’m facing an uphill battle, because a hell of a lot more readers are familiar with Coben’s work than mine.

The advantage of writing a series is that not only does the reader become familiar with my name, but if they buy one book in a series and like it, they are that much more likely to buy another. And we all want sales. If we didn’t, we would just stick to keeping a journal. Fewer bad reviews, you know?

3- Give us a short recap of what happened a couple of weeks back with "The Lonely Mile," and how you ended up in the top 25 of the Amazon bestseller list?

Wow, what a ride! I had been promoting THE LONELY MILE pretty much nonstop since its release last July, trying various promotional ideas, giveaways, etc., without really ever gaining much traction in terms of sales. I was stuck in a rut, selling around thirty copies a month, give or take.

I had been extremely skeptical of Amazon’s Kindle Select promotional program, but after seeing numerous reports from authors I trusted, all saying their sales had spiked after taking part in it, Aaron Patterson (CEO at StoneHouse Ink, publisher of THE LONELY MILE) and I decided to give it a try. What did we have to lose?

The response was phenomenal. We gave away 42,000 copies over the three days of the giveaway, spending most of that time period at #1 in Amazon’s Free Store (Free Store – there’s an oxymoron for you). When we ended the promo and resumed charging for the book, sales went through the roof. We started the day at #11,000 in the Paid Kindle Store, and by the end of that day we were in the Top 100.

Over the next three days, we hovered at between #21 and #25 in all Kindle releases, got as high as #15 in all fiction titles, and camped out at #2 in Suspense Thrillers. We sold 8000 copies over that three day period, and although the pace of sales has slowed, it’s still several hundred times better, literally, than it was before starting the promotion. I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around the unbelievable success of the promotion and the book.

4- What is your relationship like with Stonehouse Ink and what service do they provide for you?

StoneHouse Ink isn’t my first publisher, but when I heard my friend and bestselling author Vincent Zandri rave about this little publishing outfit in Boise, Idaho doing everything right, I knew immediately I wanted in.

To me, StoneHouse is kind of a hybrid, the perfect publishing model for this brave new epublishing world. They were among the first to utilize a strategy of epublishing first, following that up with print publication several months later. They pioneered the use of digital shorts as a way to raise the profile of their authors.

CEO Aaron Patterson understands the importance, also, of things like excellent cover art, solid, consistent editing, quality formatting of digital editions, and, most especially, how to sell books to the author’s best advantage at Amazon, the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the new publishing jungle.

I owe a lot to StoneHouse Ink, and you’ll have a hard time finding a more vocal proponent of the company than me.

5- What do you think the publishing world will look like in 5 years?

Man, everyone has opinions on this subject, and I’m no different.

I believe mass-market paperback books will disappear almost entirely, and sooner rather than later. The amount of overhead required to print books, warehouse them, ship them, deal with returns, etc., is staggering. At some point in the not-too-distant future, ereaders will become so cheap and so prevalent (we’re almost at that point right now, I believe) it will simply become too economically inefficient for any publisher to continue the mass-market paperback format.

This is not to suggest print books will disappear, though. I believe the biggest-selling megastar authors will continue to feature large print runs of their books, but all other authors will be featured in print-on-demand technology. The quality of that technology has risen almost to the point where you can’t tell the difference between it and offset printing, and the economics favor its use with all but the best-selling titles.

Hardcover books will continue and probably flourish, as collectors and the biggest fans will be happy to shell out the money for the latest Lee Child book, or (insert your favorite bestselling author’s name here) book.

Some of the biggest, top-heavy publishers, real biggies, will have to adapt, and quickly, or there will be a rush to bankruptcy as the big-name authors come to the conclusion they don’t need to be satisfied with the paltry royalty being offered by their Big-Six publisher when they can self-publish and work out a distribution deal for print books that will put far more greenbacks in their pockets than they’ve been used to. John Locke and his deal with Simon and Schuster for distribution of his physical books might be the most revolutionary thing to happen in the world of publishing. Ever. Mark my words on that one!

And I believe all this will happen in far less than five years. Publishing is undergoing its first real revolution in five hundred years, since the invention of offset printing, and we’re here to see it. It’s a pretty exciting time, unless your name is Random House.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Trevor Scott was an Eagle Scout, loaded weapons on Navy aircraft carriers, and spent seven years as an officer in the Air Force.  He's traveled to 60 different countries and lived in 15 different states.  I'm guessing a lot of his experiences show up in his writing, where he's published more than a dozen mystery, espionage and thriller novels worldwide.  His Jake Adams thrillers are consistently bestselling Kindle books.  His newest thriller is titled, "Way of the Sword."    

He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to play 5 questions with me.

1- Tell us a little about your protagonist, Jake Adams, and how does he differ from other leading characters?

Jake Adams is a character I developed as a captain in the Air Force stationed in Germany. He's kind of a cross between James Bond and Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name character.

2- Your plots are so creative, how do you work—with a strict outline, or do you wing it?

I rarely use a full outline to develop one of my novels. It's too constraining. Also, there are times when I have no idea what might happen. I'll usually know how a book will start and end, but getting to the climax can be an adventure for me as well as the reader.

3- Do you feel your military service allows you more insight than the average writer about the politics of terrorism?

As an Air Force officer stationed overseas, we were constantly briefed on terrorism. Additionally, I studied international relations and geopolitics at the graduate level while stationed in Germany. During the INF treaty implementation, I escorted Soviet inspectors around our secure nuclear facility. I'm sure their handlers were KGB and GRU officers.

4- What is your current relationship like with your publishers and how can you afford to sell some of your ebooks at just .99 cents?

It became obvious early on in the eBook market that pricing would drive sales. I've been selling eBooks since 1998, having best sellers in a number of the old platforms like the Rocket eBook and others. While it's true we are selling books and trying to make a living, it's equally true that what we are selling is pixels and digital files. It doesn't take as much to produce an eBook, since no trees are dying and no books are being shipped to warehouses and bookstores. By selling at a buck a book, I'm hoping to work on building a larger readership. So far sales have been great with this new price.

5- Any idea what the publishing world will look like in 5 years?

I believe the large New York publishers have had their day in the sun. You should see major authors selling directly to their readers, cutting out agents and publishers. Authors like myself (what they used to call mid-list authors) are already doing this. We have been the leaders in the eBook revolution.