Saturday, December 13, 2014


Diane Capri is a lawyer turned fiction writer.  Unlike others of that ilk, she was actually ranked in the top 1% of lawyers in the nation.  Now with her success as a NY Times Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller, you could argue she's in the top 1% in both fields.  Does that make her all full of herself and keep the proletariat at arms-length?  No, actually she's extremely social.  She's been involved with many writers organizations, including International Thriller Writers where she served on the board with longtime friend Lee Child.

Diane is also very active on Facebook where you could chat her up on many subjects without ever feeling she's rushing you through her of of readers questions.  If you haven't read any of her thrillers, you should.  Start with "Due Justice," her first Judge Willa Carson Thriller, or "Don't know Jack," her first Hunt for Jack Reacher thriller.  Yes, that Jack Reacher.  Either way you can't go wrong.  She also spearheaded one of the first ebook anthologies with a fantastic group of writers which broke all kinds of sales records.  I could go on, but I'll to turn it over to Diane to let you know about her other projects: 

1- It seems that the Deadly dozen was one of the first anthologies to break through to mass success.  How did the Deadly Dozen begin?

Deadly Dozen was the first big project from The Twelve, the author collective I started in late 2013. The idea behind The Twelve is simple: Twelve authors working together can be twelve times as effective as one author working alone. When I invited the first few colleagues to join, they were enthusiastic about The Twelve concept and we very quickly added the remaining authors to our group. From there, we brainstormed our first project and Deadly Dozen was our unanimous choice!

2- How far up the bestseller lists did you guys go?

Deadly Dozen seemed to resonate with readers in a very big way, much bigger than we expected, actually. We had a simple goal: Make Deadly Dozen available to every reader on the planet who might want to read it as a way to introduce The Twelve to readers and as a thank you to readers who were already fans. Everything we did was aimed at that goal. Which eventually meant that if we could hit the "big lists," because they get so much exposure, we could make more readers aware of Deadly Dozen.

A few weeks after we released Deadly Dozen, the set hit three New York Times lists and six USA Today lists before another set of terrific books by other authors knocked us off the lists. What a great run, though!

3- Did you see residual benefit with your other fiction as a consequence of this collaboration?

Absolutely. We've been actively working to share our books with readers. The first place we started was with our individual mailing lists of fans. From there, we branched out to Deadly Dozen. Now, we're deeply involved in our new Flight 12 project and we released Deadly Dozen 2 this week. All of this work brings in new readers for all of us and gives new readers a chance to try our individual works, which is great!

4- What did you think of all the anthologies which followed your theme, including the Thrilling Thirteen?

I'm always excited to see what the author community is doing to reach readers. Much of what I do toward that end is based on what's happening with my peers. So of course we were immensely honored and flattered that other authors wanted to release sets similar to Deadly Dozen. It feels good to give back, even a little bit, though inspiration. 

5- What’s in store for the future of the group of authors involved?

As I mentioned, in addition to our individual work, The Twelve is deeply involved right now in another groundbreaking project titled Flight 12. The story is revolutionary because as far as we can find out, no single author or group of authors has ever done this before. And it's evolutionary in the sense that the readers are the ones who will help us write the ending.

The story's concept is simple: We release one new book featuring characters our readers already know and love every month for twelve months. At the end of each novella, one person boards Flight 12 to Rome. Then, the plane disappears! What happens after that? The conclusion is so thrilling that it could only come from the collective minds of our readers! And along the way, we're offering contests and prizes and collecting those great suggestions from readers every month, too. Everybody should get on board! It's going to be a wild flight!       

Monday, October 27, 2014


When the twelve authors who released the anthology, Deadly Dozen, last year it changed the Ebook landscape forever.  Writers everywhere began collaborating in hopes of attaining even a percentage of the success the original DD Ebook accomplished, including a group I was involved with called the Thrilling Thirteen, which was extremely successful, but not Deadly Dozen successful.

So how did this work, and why?  Well, you start with super accomplished veteran authors like Diane Capri and J. Carson Black and Vincent Zandri.  Then fill it in with a collection of tremendously talented and motivated authors who were willing to allow their thrillers to be downloaded for  just pennies and you can see where this is headed.  Twelve novels from twelve quality writers for just .99 cents.  The result?  Over 100,000 copies of Deadly Dozen were downloaded in a very short period of time.  What did this do for the writers?  Well for the ones who weren’t already NY Times bestsellers, they became one themselves.  A title which can’t be taken back.  Add to that a USA Today bestseller label and you’ve got the daily double of writing accomplishments.

What about the readers?  They received the best value in this deal.  Not only did they get twelve quality books for .99 cents, but it spawned an avalanche of anthologies that go on to this day.  An avid reader could buy years worth of reading material for just a few measly bucks.  Not bad, huh?

Well, when the Deadly Dozen consortium invited me to participate in the second anthology, Deadly Dozen 2, I said yes before the question got out of Cheryl Bradshaw’s mouth.  I am flattered to be part of this prestigious group and more than anything I wish the readers will appreciate the volume of excellent storytelling they will receive for just .99 cents.  For me this was an opportunity to align myself with a group of well established authors with big time names in the publishing world.  An affiliation I do not take lightly.

Now, here’s the link to that new anthology, Deadly Dozen 2.  Get those fingers twitching:

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Rarely do you see a real professional turn their career into fiction with the grace of Jennifer Chase. Think John Grisham turning his attorney skills into courtroom thrillers.  This is what criminologist Jennifer Chase has done with her life's work.

With the creation of her Emily Stone series, she's utilized all of her years as a criminologist and created a protagonist who's not only tough, but armed with knowledge the average law official simply couldn't attain.  Jennifer was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.  But first--

Below is a remarkable short film trailer of her series:

Here's Jennifer to discuss her series:

1- With all of your forensic background and technical skills, what gave you the urge to create fiction?

Actually, writing came first and then forensics. I’ve loved books and writing for as long as I can remember, so the urge to write has been part of my DNA for quite some time. As I began to study forensics and criminology, I had the idea for my first book Compulsion, which was loosely inspired by a violent neighbor who threatened my life for more than two and half years. I found that a forensic background and writing crime fiction complimented each other. I love being both creative and scientific. It’s the best of both worlds for me.

2- How much of Emily Stone is really you? And what traits are simply not in your repertoire?

Ah, I love this question. Yes, Emily Stone is the more intelligent, savvy and tougher version of me. She takes the next step and hunts down killers and the most feared and heinous members of society, something I think about quite often. All my characters, the good and bad, are some part of me I suppose even if it’s just the dark part of my mind. Emily Stone encompasses the traits that I would love to see in someone out there helping law enforcement anonymously, but it’s not in my repertoire. After my first hand-to-hand combat fight with a killer, I’d probably run screaming for my mommy. Lets face it, law enforcement is overburdened, outmanned, and in need of more specialized training when it comes to serial crime and cold cases. I felt that Emily Stone filled a need as a phantom detective. It’s my version of a law enforcement forensic superhero.

3- What aspect of writing do you find the most challenging and the most rewarding?

For me, setting out to write a full-length novel is the most challenging. It’s a huge undertaking and a little bit scary too. There’s a little bit of me that feels like maybe I can’t do it this time, but I’m a person who has always loved a challenge. I try to take each novel to the next step, not only for my readers, but also for myself as a novelist. Funny thing, the most challenging part of writing is also the most rewarding for me. There’s nothing better than the feeling of finishing a first draft of your novel.

4- When a criminal acts irrationally, like keeping your dead girlfriend's corpse in the house for a couple of months, doesn't that create a great insanity defense all by itself? And do you suspect that can be staged?

The use of the insanity defense is used rarely, despite what we see on television. However, there have been a few successful cases. And, it’s possible (but unlikely) to stage all the “psychological” elements, both before and after the homicide. This would take someone who knows quite a bit about psychology and the criminal justice system. They would have to know how the local detectives would investigate the case along with prosecutors, etc. As with the case you stated above, it appeared that the individual killed his girlfriend in the heat of the moment and then didn’t know what to do. Basically, he didn’t want to get caught carrying out a body from his apartment and couldn’t stomach dismembering her. He committed the crime and then knew it was wrong afterward. People do strange things under stressful circumstances. A psychological history and the use of drugs would play a significant part to his defense. I don’t think this case would fit the requirements of an effective insanity defense.

5- What are your thoughts on the tendency for authors with traditional print publishing contracts deciding to go Indie instead? Do you see that trend continuing or is it just a temporary blip in the new digital publishing world?

I think it says a lot when an author with a traditional publishing company decides to go independent instead. We’ve been told over and over that getting that big publishing contract is the way to go and the only way you’ll be successful. Or, is it? I’m in awe of Indie authors who are kicking butt and selling loads of ebooks. That’s fantastic! I think that a little competition is healthy for publishers. I don’t see this as just a trend. Readers have spoken loudly and don’t care if a book is published by a big publisher or self published. The bottom line is the book must be good. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a need for mainstream publishers, but nothing ever stays the same and it’s time for publishers to make some changes too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The project was considered risky. Why give away thirteen different thrillers for the ridiculously low price of .99 cents?  I mean you can’t make it up on volume.  There aren't enough readers on the planet to do that.  Yet somehow the concept became reality and eleven authors joined together to create an overabundance of value for the reading public.  The authors decided to offer some readers the ability to ask questions about the project and about the individual books themselves.

Here they are:

Question for M.P. McDonald:

 "I read and reviewed No Good Deed and know it's Book 1 of the Mark Taylor Series. Why did you choose Genesis as the book you contributed to Thrilling Thirteen?"

I chose Mark Taylor: Genesis because I felt that it was a great way to introduce readers to my Mark Taylor Series. I think of Thrilling Thirteen as a gourmet sampler of wonderful thriller authors' works, but not sample sizes. All the books are complete novels. What better way to find people who love to read thrillers? 

I also felt it was a fantastic opportunity to reach readers who might have picked up No Good Deed, the next book in my series, a few years ago when it had a great run up the charts to the Kindle top 20. I hope to re-connect with those readers if they lost track of the series over the last few years. For others who have read the other books in the series, Genesis offers a more in-depth look at how Mark came to acquire his special camera and abilities--and how he initially dealt with it.

For Ty Hutchinson:

“Did you have sleepovers and roast marshmallows while you wrote the stories?”
I wish. Sadly the stories were all written beforehand, so there was no chance for in-person bonding. Plus, three of the authors in the group live outside of the country: Thailand, Canada and England. However we did clog up each other’s inboxes with copious amounts of long-winded emails before deciding to communicate in a private Facebook group. Now we have a proper excuse to check Facebook throughout the day without feeling guilty about procrastinating.

For Lawrence Kelter:

“Why did you choose a woman to be your protagonist?”
Women are cooler than men—hands down. I’ve tried to come up with a unique male character several times but they always end up resembling a gross James Bond characterization. Stephanie Chalice is an interesting detective, she’s bright, a wee bit headstrong, and lots of fun. Above all else she has an intense moral code and is deeply compassionate.

For Debbi Mack:

“When you start a novel, do you know how it’s going to end or do you write the story, then come up with an ending?”

I prefer to know the ending before I start writing. I tend to outline my stories, then structure them to lead up to the ending I’ve planned. However, sometimes things will occur to me while I’m writing that change my plans for the ending. So, I suppose I usually know the ending, but it can change based upon how I write the story.

For Toni Dwiggins:

“What made you choose this incredibly scary topic, I mean the extreme danger caused by mercury? I would really like to know!”

I came to the subject via an interest in gold mining (just like my characters!). I was touring the California gold country and came across the huge hole in the earth where Gold-Rush era miners had washed away an entire mountain to get at the gold. When I saw the abyss I thought, good setting for a story. When I researched more thoroughly I learned that something more extreme than mountain-erasing had gone on there. The miners used mercury—quicksilver—to bind with the gold. During the gold rush, mining dumped about fifteen million pounds of the neurotoxin into the environment. A lot of it is still there. Every year, about a thousand pounds of quicksilver washes out of gold country rivers down into the San Francisco Bay.

Indeed, poisoning is classic thriller material. And greed is classic bad-guy motivation. Add mercury poisoning to the lust for gold and you get—I hope—a scary 13th of the Thrilling Thirteen.

For Dani Amore:

“What do you like about being in a box set with other authors?”

It's great to work together with other authors for a lot of reasons.  Just the camaraderie alone is fun.  But it's also a great experience to pool resources, marketing expertise, and our unique readerships.  Writing is usually a very solitary endeavor, so to be on a "team" is very cool.

For Frank Zafiro:
“What is the most important thing you learned from working with the other authors who are part of this project?”

That writers are cool people. Seriously. The communal attitude of this group has been a great thing to be a part of, and I've learned things about marketing opportunities that I wasn't aware of already. Instead of laughing at my ignorance, my fellow TT members took the time to help out my education. I've always been a believer that this whole thing isn't a zero sum game -- you selling a book doesn't equate to a missed sale for me -- and that we're all in this together. It's good to see that others share that sentiment.

For Gary Ponzo:

“I would love to know the behind the scenes info on how this extraordinary collection of eleven authors, with thirteen of their works, came together. How is this even possible for 99¢?”

Yeah, me too. Seriously though, once I realized the quality of writers involved, it was a no-brainer. I mean should Bono ask me to sing on his next U2 record I’d probably agree to that as well.  It takes time to put something like this together and I’d have to tip my hat to my author friends, but mostly to Ty Hutchinson and Ethan Jones who did a lot of the heavy lifting.


Monday, April 28, 2014


I want to take a minute to announce a very special book release.  Some time ago I was approached to participate in an anthology with a dozen other writers to create a collection of 13 Thrillers for one low price.  I’m very pleased to tell you that day is here.  All of the authors in this collection are bestsellers yet somehow they decided to have my first book, “A Touch of Deceit,” start this collection.  Separately these books would cost over $40.00 to purchase, but for a short period we will be selling the collection as an Ebook for just .99 cents. Obviously we’re not doing it for the money, we want to cause a stir in the marketplace and offer such a tremendous value that people will be willing to tell their friends about this opportunity.  The book is titled, “The Thrilling Thirteen,” and I implore everyone to take advantage of this offer as quickly as possible and tell as many of your thriller-reading friends to download it as well. 

Thanks again for all your support,  

Friday, March 28, 2014


Jonas Saul is an International Bestselling Author with loads of talent and a core group of readers who’ve stayed with him throughout his career.  It’s this loyalty that has kept him on the bestseller list and he rewards them with quality writing and massive production.  It seems like he releases a new book every week, but that’s just the jealousy talking.  I first met Jonas a few years back when he entered a writing contest I’d run through this blog.  It was quite obvious even back then he was someone to keep an eye on.  Now he’s one of the top producers in the business.  He was kind enough to remember my name and spend a few minutes to play 5 questions with me.

1- Your Sarah Roberts character is unique.  Tell us about the series.  Who is Sarah Roberts, and how is she different from other protagonists?
Sarah is an Automatic Writer. Her sister, raped and murdered many years ago, works through Sarah by giving her messages of future crimes. Sarah has become a vigilante but with a unique twist. She talks to the dead to save the living.
The Sarah Roberts Series began when Sarah was eighteen years old in Dark Visions, Book One. Now in Book Ten, The Antagonist, which is available for preorder and releases April 22, shes twenty five years old. During the course of the series, Sarah has matured, and grown into a woman. As the readers move through each book, they get to grow with her.
Shes a realist. She tells it how it is and never bluffs. She lives by certain rules that have kept her alive and she has a unique ability to see through people as shes quite aware that everyone has an agenda. Learn the agenda, understand their motivation.

2- Talk about the Mafia Trilogy.  How did this come about, and will it spawn any other books?
The Mafia Trilogy came about one day when I was reading the newspaper. I had read a piece about a UPS driver in New York who had hit a young girl with his truck after she had run into traffic. The incident was deemed an accident by local authorities. A little while later, that UPS driver was found dead by an execution style hit.
The little girl was the daughter of a reputed mob boss in New York.
I was taken aback by this article so I wrote the Mafia Trilogy. It starts with the son of a Mafia boss in Toronto being killed by accident and the fallout that came after that. Except in this case, the Mafia suffers great losses.
I have no plans to write anything further in this series.

3- Youre an extremely prolific writer.  Tell us when you were able to convert to writing full time and how many hours a day do you actually spend on your craft?
For over twenty years I ran several privately owned retail stores. In early 2010, I sold off the last of them as I wanted to pursue writing as a career. My wife offered to keep working outside the family home, so I made her a deal:
Give me one year. At the end of that year, I will be making enough money from my writing that she would be able to quit her job and never have to work again.
She agreed to this deal and quit her job a year later, early 2011.

I began writing full time in April 2010 and have been doing so since. By May of 2011, my wife and I took off for a two-year tour of Europe where I could write freely and use exotic locations in my novels. I now have two novels set in Italy and two novels set in Greece.
When Im immersed in a novel, I write 5000 words per day, six days a week. During that time, I start in the office by 9:00am and usually finish by mid to late afternoon.
When Im not writing new words, Im on social media, Im researching the next novel, or performing edits on the last one. Currently my output is six novels per year as a minimum.

4- You and your wife travel all over the world together.  Where is your favorite location to visit?
We spent two years traveling through eight European countries. For me, the eleven months we lived in Greece were my favorite. Italy is a close second. But so is Denmark. Three months in Denmark wasnt enough. Were already planning a trip back to Europe for a month or two this summer with Copenhagen, Athens, Rome, Amsterdam, and Florence as destination cities.

5- What is your next project and whats on the horizon for Jonas Saul fans?
For now, Im focused on the Sarah Roberts Series. I have The Antagonist coming out in April and then The Redeemed due in June. After that, The Haunted should be available by August and The Unlucky, Book Thirteen in the series, should be out for Halloween.
My goal is to have 50 Sarah Roberts novels by the time Im 50 years old. Ive got five years and just over thirty more books to go. At six novels per year, Im still on target.
Also, Im attending the Thrillerfest Conference in New York at the Grand Hyatt in early July this year. Seriously looking forward to that!
There are a few other things in the works with one LARGE announcement coming soon, but I cant elaborate on that just yet.
Thank you Gary Ponzo for taking the time to work with me on these questions. Its an honor to know and work with such an accomplished author as yourself. You have my respect.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


As I listened to a song by The Postal Service the other day I couldn’t recall whether it was a new song or it was something they’d released a decade ago.   Normally I would go to my CD collection and check out the case to search for the title of the song, but it wasn’t there. It happened to be one of the very first songs I downloaded on iTunes, so physically it wasn’t there and somewhere deep down inside I felt deprived.  Those CD’s stacked on the shelf in my office are a symbol of my cultural being.  Part of my soul resides on that shelf announcing to anyone observant enough to notice that I’m an alternative rock music fan.  I grow weary of the same Nickleback song pulsing across the airwaves and I need the obscure Pop/Rock bands who seem to bypass the major streams of distribution.  This is my own personal taste which is reflected on the CD cases.  But with digital downloads, part of my past seems to have evaporated.

It’s this way with books as well.  That copy of Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep,” reminds me of when smart-aleck dialogue became an acceptable form of literature.  At least that was my first introduction into the underbelly of character-driven narrative.  It’s why Elmore Leonard was so endearing to his readers.  When I look on my desk and see
literary giants like Chandler and Leonard mingling with classics like “Fahrenheit 451,” or “Of Mice and Men,” I remember why I became a writer in the first place.  How different would my career had been if I were just starting now and read everything digitally.  No wall full of books to motivate me.  No book spines staring at me while I’m searching for the proper phrase. 

It’s the reason we take all our pictures digitally, yet still have them printed and framed to hang on the wall.  Otherwise they remain in our phones and go completely unnoticed.  In this way, I’m afraid some of our best writers are going unnoticed as well, hidden in the dark recesses of our computers or digital readers.  Only exposed to a readers eyes when they are actually in the process of reading it, then stored in the virtual basement for eternity.

Do I read ebooks?  You bet.  But somehow that old copy of “Brave New World,” won’t be going anywhere for a very long time.  In that regard paper books are an important part of our culture and somehow we need them to remain with us long after we've read their contents.

Now where’s that Doors album I've been looking for?          

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Jim Fusilli is a multi-talented author.  He's written fiction for young adults, published many short stories and is the rock and pop music critic for the Wall Street Journal.  He's been nominated for an Edgar and Macavity award and his book, "Hard, Hard City," was voted Novel of the Year in 2004 by Mystery Ink Magazine.  But in 2012 he launched a new mystery series with the novel, "Road to Nowhere."  It's this story of a troubled drifter who witnesses a brutal assault on a young woman and is hurled into a vortex of violence and double-crosses which intrigued me the most.  I found "Road to Nowhere," to be extremely well-written and kept me turning pages all the way to the end.  Jim was kind enough to spend a few minutes of his time to talk about his writing career with me.

  1. You’re an extremely talented writer with a very descriptive writing style.  Is that where nonfiction and fiction come together?  It seems thirty years ago nonfiction writing was much drier, now you can barely tell the difference between the two.  Do you agree with that?
Thank you.  My approach to my fiction and journalism are entirely different, though I suppose there are inevitable points of comparison regarding style, in particular the sweep and rhythm of language.  At The Wall Street Journal, there’s a tradition of long-form features where reporters also had to be fine writers, so I came up in the field reading terrific writing and aspired to do it as well.  Thirty years ago, magazines were publishing long-form nonfiction by the likes of Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe.  There was no shortage of flash there.  Norman Lewis is one of my favorite writers and his reporting, especially from Italy in the World War II years and thereafter, is dry – in the sense that it places fact above flash – but he knows how to set up his points and they arrive with full power.  He seemed to strike the balance between journalism and opinion that I prefer, more so than what was called “the new journalism” or Truman Capote’s “nonfiction novel,” as much as I admire “In Cold Blood.”
When I look back some of the columns I’ve written for the Journal – I’ve been preparing an anthology – I can tell which ones I wrote when I was also writing a novel – as opposed to researching or editing and re-editing and re-re-editing various drafts of a novel.  The language is more fluid and in service of an emotional connection.  That’s not necessary a plus:  My column is about 800 words and I need to get right to it for busy readers.  But every once in a while it works to keep things fresh.

         2- Which form of writing is more satisfying?  Fiction or nonfiction?

I enjoy both quite a bit.  I’m one of those lucky writers:  I love to write; and I find all kinds of writing satisfying.  It was difficult for me to learn how to utilize the novel as a form – I don’t think I fully understood it until “Narrows Gate,” which was my sixth published novel.  Journalism came a little bit easier.  I had a bit of a voice as a young writer and by the time I began to write for the Journal, I was surrounded by reporters and editors who were the best in their field.  They helped me improve.  To be in their company, I had to strive for excellence.  If I had to choose, I’d say it’s more satisfying to write a successful novel – successful in the sense that the story that emerges organically from setting and is well told in service of the reader – just because it was so hard to raise whatever sense of craft I had to the level of art.

        3- The main character in Road to Nowhere and Billboard Man is nameless. Does that offer any more freedom than a named character? Or do you feel that adds more intrigue to the narrative?

Halfway through “Billboard Man,” his real name is revealed.  The character who we meet as Sam is disassociated completely from the world in which he lives.  His name doesn’t matter:  He exists, but doesn’t live.  Over the course of the two books, he is moving inexorably toward recovering his self, even if he believes he can’t or doesn’t want to, so it was inevitable that he’d be Donnie Bliss again.  By the way, there’s a bit of a logic at work in the aliases he chooses.  Just a little foreshadowing.

          4- Road to Nowhere is set in Chicago and Billboard Man starts in Arizona.  Since you live on the east coast, how did you choose these locations as the setting for your books?

I wanted to give Sam a sense of dislocation so I chose places that I’d visited, but didn’t know all that well.  As a journalist, I travel often.  I arrive in a city, stay a day or two, talk to a few people, walk around a bit, take in the atmosphere, make notes and do my story.  If I have a visceral reaction to the city, I can recall it for my fiction.  For example, the town of Jerome, Arizona – which is where “Billboard Man” begins – is home to the vineyard and wine shop of Maynard James Keenan, the singer in Tool and A Perfect Circle.  We spent a nice day together in Jerome.  I’d been there before, but to have Maynard as a guide was special.  I thought I’d revisit it in a novel.  I would be writing from a perspective that was slightly surreal, not unpleasant and yet alien.  Then the story moves to Memphis, a city I don’t know as well as I should.  But I thought maybe it was time to put some music in one of my novels.  Several key scenes take place in or near Sun Studios, which is where Elvis and Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis made so many of their hits.  I guess the point there, however subliminal, is the past is a thing you can’t escape.
With Chicago, I always feel a bit lost there.  Those big buildings on Michigan Avenue, the El and the lake:  They don’t really care if I’m there or not.  I wanted “Road to Nowhere,” the first Sam book, when he was just emerging from his darkness, to ring with that sense of alienation.

          5- With the reduction of paper books and bookstore signings, how does digital publishing change how you market your work?  Or does it?

It does.  Very much so.  I miss working with the owners and staff at independent bookstores, and I miss talking to readers.  In the six years it took me to write and publish “Narrows Gate,” I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the experience of coming into a town, visiting the staff at the bookstore, doing a reading – though I’m a dreadful reader of my own work – and then spending time with readers.  I loathe the idea of author as celebrity, but I have to confess that getting good feedback from smart readers feels a bit like a reward for the effort of writing the book.  
In a sense, I’m conflicted about the new world of publishing because I don’t really care about delivery systems – for me, a book isn’t paper and ink.  It’s a story by an author written for readers.  I like the immediacy of downloading, and I can use social media and my mailing list to alert people to when there’s a good discount on one of my books on  But I’m the kind of author who really profits from hand-selling.  My books aren’t for everyone, just as my column isn’t for everyone.  Independent book sellers have been very good to me and I believe the sales of “Road to Nowhere” and “Billboard Man” have suffered because I haven’t made it possible for those book sellers to introduce the books to their customers who they know would enjoy them.  I have to do something about that.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


David Lender is a former investment banker whose bestselling thrillers are inspired by the twenty-five years he spent on Wall Street.  His writing is very descriptive and he lures you into his story very quickly.  He's the author of six novels and four short stories, but the Sasha Del Mira thrillers are the real deal.  Trojan Horse (the first in the series) was a crazy success on Amazon and gave him the confidence to move forward with the series.  And we're very glad he did.
Here's David:

1- Your writing is so vivid. In a subtle manner you seamlessly add the smells and sounds of your character’s surroundings.  Where did you develop such a strong writing style?

I always write a scene from one character’s point of view.  Because of that I put myself in the mindset of that character and even write the non-dialogue sections of the scene using the character’s manner of speech.  That forces me into that character’s head, so I describe what he or she is sensing in the surroundings of the scene. That includes smells, sights, sounds, textures, etc.

I also try not to overdo it with setting the table for a scene.  My first editor pounded into me that I should quickly establish the setting and get into the meat of the dialogue or action, or set the scene simultaneously.  Forget about long introductory paragraphs describing the colors of the sunset, but give readers a few rich bursts of setting that stick in their minds.

2- Being a Wall Street veteran, it must be tempting to write some real life stories into your fiction. Ever squeeze one in using different names and places?

As a former wall Streeter, yes some tidbits from real deals, negotiations, even composites of different people I worked with or represented, inevitably wind up in my fiction.  I think that must be the case with anyone who has a particular life experience, otherwise what would you have to write about?

But if the story was entirely Roman `a clef, it probably would fall flat because trying to write real-life people into fictional characters would be almost impossible to get right.  I'm not a big believer in the fact that characters have a life of their own once you create them—after all, it's the writer who determines his or her characters’ personalities and the direction their stories will take.  Otherwise your writing is just blathering onto the page with disorganized, unstructured chaos.  In addition, I think you can move your story forward in a more lifelike manner with characters you create than by trying to put yourself into the skin of a person that you know, whether or not he or she's disguised as fictional.

3- Knowing what goes on in the trenches, do you keep most of your money under your mattress?

Ha-ha.  No, hiding your money in your mattress won’t get you anyplace.  At any point I'm relatively fully invested.  I've never liked bonds, I love stocks that pay big dividends and my financial advisors tell me I have a very strong stomach and high tolerance for long-term risk.  I also learned one of my most important investing lessons early on: find smart people.  I’ve done alright investing my own money, but I've done the best by finding great advisors and money managers.

4- Tell us some of your experiences with the business of publishing.  Does it differ much from finance--or is business simply business?

I think many writers still don't look at publishing as a business.  They think it's all about writing, when in fact managing the business sides of it is critical.  Decisions about social media, promotion, covers, formatting, consistency with your genre or theme, platforms to publish on, how frequently to put out books are big parts of it.  And while it's easy to say that publishing is nothing like my former career, finance, I believe that success in any business is mostly about having an organized mind and developing a strategy.  And then having the discipline and skills to stay focused on execution.  So as a writer, stick to your genre or theme, feed your readers.

My most profound experience in the business of publishing is how I uploaded my first novel, Trojan Horse, onto the Kindle Direct Publishing platform in early 2011.  A few months before that, one of my brothers, who is sophisticated computer guy, wanted to read the novel and asked me to send him a .mobi file.  I had no idea what that was.  He took my Word file and converted it and then dragged and dropped it onto his Kindle.  I had no idea what a Kindle was either.

Then my wife gave me a Kindle shortly afterward for my birthday.  Rather than wait until I knew what I was doing, I stumbled through formatting Trojan Horse for Kindle, chose one of my dad’s photographs for the cover picture and had a friend of mine who did post-production work create the cover for me.  I threw the book up there priced at $9.99 alongside major thriller writers’ current releases.  This was back in the day, when $0.99 was driving pricing for indie writers.  I learned fast.  It took me about a week to figure out price was an issue.  So I cut the price to $0.99 and the book started to move.  I got some good reviews.  I started promoting it in social media, joined an on-line author group that swapped ideas.  I took out an ad in one of the online e-book newsletters and got a big two-day bump.  And then somehow Amazon's software picked up that bump and Trojan Horse was featured in an Amazon e-mail blast with a few other thrillers, and that really lit up Trojan Horse.

I woke up that Saturday morning and had sold 100 books by 10 a.m., more than in the entire previous week.  I thought it was a mistake.  By 11 a.m., another hundred, then 100, 200, and so on.  Trojan Horse ultimately reached the top 10 on the Kindle bestseller list.

Yes, I got lucky, but I was also adapting quickly to what I was learning and that helped me start developing a following.  I really believe if you sit around and research everything to death, you'll never get off your butt to do anything.  Sometimes just throwing yourself in the water over your head and clawing your way to the surface can get you to a better place more quickly.

5- Where do you see digital technology taking the publishing world five years from now?

I see digital technology being the primary vehicle for publishing five years from now.  I don't think physical books will ever be totally dead, because there's a mystique about holding a book in your hand.  You can go back and reread it, mark it up or dog-ear its pages.  It's a whole different concept than highlighting something in your Kindle.

But e-books are an unstoppable wave, a tsunami, and if you take the analogy of what's happened in the newspaper business you can see where it's going.  Any newspaper that hasn't adapted to the online world is either a local niche business based on a completely different model, or it’s dying or dead.  Google and Amazon are the ones to emulate; they’ll rule the world.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Vincent Zandri is as mysterious as his name.  With a name like Vincent Zandri, he couldn’t be a drycleaner or a bartender, he had to be a freelance photojournalist who traveled around the globe for stories, then published them in places like New York Newsday and Game and Fish Magazine.  I know him mostly because I follow his global travels as a Facebook friend and watch him expose parts of the world I will never see with my own eyes. 

The other thing you should know about him is he’s an International bestselling author of many thrillers including his Dick Moonlight series which I personally have read and enjoyed immensely.  His writing is sharp and casual to the ear, yet full of details that will keep your senses completely engaged. Right now his latest “Full Moonlight”  is available as an Ebook for FREE:   

Vincent was kind enough to answer these 5 Questions from his hotel room overlooking the Tuileries in Paris.  Mysterious enough for you?
1-   As a freelance journalist you’ve been to every corner of the world.  Which is your favorite spot to visit? spend a couple months in Florence every year in an apartment I rent from a friend. So, I guess that’s my favorite spot or I wouldn’t spend so much time there. But in truth, everywhere I go holds something special for me. Paris is great in late March, early April when the trees are budding. Surprisingly, I’m not afraid of the tarantulas in the Amazon jungle, even though a small house spider will make the fine hairs on the back of my neck stand up straight. Even post-revolutionary Cairo, where I found myself surrounded by a pack of hungry street dogs, is a very special place. I guess the common denominator in all of this is authenticity. There’s not a lot of authenticity to be found in the world anymore and I’m determined to keep on seeking it out.
2-   Your Dick Moonlight series has enjoyed serious critical acclaim.  How much of Dick Moonlight is actually Vincent Zandri?
No comment. Okay, I’ll admit that there’s quite of bit of Vincent Zandri in Dick Moonlight. It might be better to refer you to this brand new review Ben Sobieck of CrimeFictionBlog wrote on behalf of the newest in the series, Moonlight Sonata (StoneGate Ink). It’s pretty revealing and digs deep into Vincent Zandri as Dick Moonlight:
3-   Tell us how your work has become so successful overseas.  Does it have to do with your traveling to Europe so often?
I think that’s part of it. Four or five of my books take place in Europe and the Middle East. I’ve learned a lot in my travels, and since circling the globe a couple of times and working as a journalist while doing it, I’ve become a bit humbled. Curiously, I’m also more restless. Two or three months spent back at home and I start itching for a new adventure. My lifestyle is tough on relationships! But to be more specific, I also think that my novels, especially the ones that might be considered traditional, let’s call it, existential, noir appeal to the European audience. Especially in the UK, German, and French markets. Noir is still considered literary fiction in Europe. The books are now doing quite well in India too. I’ve recently signed on with Meme Publishers in Paris and Milan and they are translating the Moonlights into Italian and French in hopes of capitalizing on my European popularity. The first novel to be released will be Moonlight Sonata later this spring.  
4-   Tell us about your relationship with your current and past publishers.  If you could talk to Vincent Zandri of 20 years ago would you have chosen any different paths in your publishing journey? 
20 years ago I embarked on as traditional a path as a young neophyte writer can possibly embark. I pursued the same path Hemingway followed. Start with writing for the newspapers, move up to magazines, start on some short stories and publish them in the small magazines and journals, then write the big novel. It’s exactly how I began my career, with one crucial exception. I went to writing school believing that with an MFA in Writing in my pocket, I could teach should it come to pass that earning a good living as a writer would be impossible. As luck, and providence, would have it, I’ve never had to teach. Since then I’ve published two books with Delacorte Press/Dell where I was paid a 250K advance that I did not earn out. I’ve published seven or eight books with StoneGate/StoneHouse Ink, seven books with Amazon Publishing’s Thomas & Mercer imprint which included new editions of my Dell books (both of which went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies), and a book here and there with a couple of micro presses. This year I will publish anther book or two with the StoneGates, one with Down & Out Press, one with Thomas & Mercer, and of course, my foreign books with Meme. I’m also building up my own exclusive publishing imprint with books like The Shroud Key which is part of the new Chase Baker series. But to answer your question, would I have done anything differently knowing what I know now? I most certainly would have jumped into the indie publishing pool far earlier back when the major pubs were seriously cutting back. I didn’t know about ebooks until 2010.
5-   Which do you enjoy more- writing articles about people’s plight in different part of the globe, or recreating those worlds in your fiction?
It’s two different experiences. When you’re writing on deadline in Paris or Florence or on a hospital ship docked off the Port of Cotoneau in Africa for a news outlet like Moscow’s RT, and later on you see your story and photos on-line and it just happens to be the lead story in Eastern Europe, you get an unimaginable rush. But when you are able to take those same experiences and put them in a novel, making them seem so real for the reader he feels like he himself is living inside the book, then that’s another kind of rush. Next month I have a travel piece coming out for inTravel Magazine, some design and architecture pieces for a global design trade I freelance for, and I’ll be putting the finishing touches on two new novels. Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear about a movie sale for The Remains. Could I quit journalism altogether now and focus entirely on fiction? Sure. The sales are there and I’m making great living from the fiction alone. But fiction, nonfiction, journalism, film … it’s all a rush to me, or I wouldn’t be doing it. I wouldn’t be dreaming about it. Like a writing teacher/novelist of mine at Vermont College by the name of Douglas Glover once said, “I lust publication.” I’ve never forgotten that because no truer words have been spoken.