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?
http://www.amazon.com/Full-Moonlight-Dick-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00EZB6TYQ/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1I 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:  http://www.crimefictionbook.com/apps/blog/show/40274056-review-moonlight-sonata-by-vincent-zandri
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.