Monday words of wisdom…

May 29th, 2017

If I were to run, I’d run as Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They love anything on Fox News.—Donald Trump

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The Collector. In #5 of the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” the detectives set out to solve the murder of a Manhattan art dealer. After twists and turns, they discover that the crime leads to something perverse financed by stolen artworks from the Gardner Museum in Boston as collateral. This intriguing and profoundly disturbing mystery/thriller/suspense novel is the crime-fighting duo’s toughest case so far. It also introduces Scotland Yard Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone, the protagonist of my new book Rembrandt’s Angel (Penmore Press). The ebook The Collector is on sale now at Smashwords in all ebook formats; use coupon code SV28G. My new book Rembrandt’s Angel is available in ebook formats on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple and will be available in print format on Amazon or at your local bookstore via Ingram (if they don’t have it, ask them to order it).

In libris libertas!

Book stats…

May 25th, 2017

Book stats are hard to come by, harder to organize in a meaningful way so we don’t compare apples and oranges, and even harder to use to predict where the industry is going. Online retailers like Amazon and the Big Five publishers covet their data. Professionals in the industry pretend to know what they’re talking about, but making sense out of the current status of the publishing industry is a nearly impossible task, especially for a single writer trying to understand it and what goes on with her or his books.

Part of the problem is that there are many books published now. More than 700,000 indie books were self-published in 2015; more than 300,000 traditional books were traditionally published in 2013 (Bowker Report). There are so many on the market that the average reader can’t keep up with what’s available, let alone try to read some. There are many good books and good authors; there are many authors who shouldn’t have bothered to write their books. The average reader is faced with a sea of books, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and has neither the tools nor the time to select those that rise above the average sea level.

Some readers rely on friends and family, but they can mislead you as much as a stranger. Others choose books that have won awards, but they can be boring tomes of literary fiction that go nowhere. In fact, books receiving prestigious awards often don’t sell many copies. Man Booker winner Anne Enright, sold only 9000 copies in the U.K. of a recent book. (Maybe a few others like me don’t like literary fiction and think it’s the trash can of all the genres?) The old saw that winning an award leads to more book sales could be wrong.

Writers, agents, and editors aren’t often forthcoming about these stats, or, if they are, it’s to discourage new writers because there is an oversupply of good ones. Incompetent agents pretend they know what will become a bestseller—if a ball player had the low batting average they have, though, he’d be in the minor leagues. That takes us to a topic that is so uncomfortable to some writers that a group banned me because I had the audacity to say it: no one likes to admit that there’s luck involved, and too many propagate the myth that a writer without a successful book is NOT a good writer. The afore-mentioned prizes show that’s not true. Having a successful book is like winning the lottery, and it doesn’t matter whether you are indie or traditionally published—just ask Mark Weir (The Martian) and Hugh Howey (Wool).

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News and Notices from the Writing Trenches #143…

May 24th, 2017

An example of “political correctness” run amok? The most recent victim of the anti-cultural-appropriation lunatic fringe is an editor of the Canadian magazine Write. He was forced to resign for stating that there should be a reward for an author who does it well. While I’m no fan of literary contests and awards that often go to so-called “literary fiction” books (the genre that’s no genre), how absurd is this action!

Fictional characters play out on the world’s stage. If an author’s writing is to be realistic, it has to recognize the diversity of human nature. In my very first book Full Medical (now with an ebook second edition), one main character is lesbian; she plays an important role in the other books in the “Clones and Mutants Trilogy.” Can I not show her as an admirable and caring human being because I’m not lesbian? The main character Rolando Castilblanco in my detective series is Puerto Rican. Can I not portray him as a crime-fighting wizard who has compassion for his victims because of his ethnicity? I even write his part of the novel in first person (hell, I once dreamed in Spanish, which is something for a non-Hispanic white guy). His partner Dao-Ming Chen is Asian-American. Why can’t she be a character? Because she’s not white and she’s a woman?

This anti-cultural-appropriation movement is silly and absurd. It’s just another example of political correctness running amok to the point that it’s becoming autocratic dogma. I’ll have none of it! If you don’t like the cultural appropriation in my novels, which I feel is an important aspect of my fiction along with its many controversial themes, don’t read them. Or maybe that’s why people don’t read them? If so, that’s sad.

Rembrandt’s Angel. Are you looking for an entertaining novel to read this summer? You have it in Rembrandt’s Angel, my new mystery/thriller/suspense story from Penmore Press just released. The novel pairs Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities Inspector Esther Brookstone with Interpol Agent Bastiann van Coevorden, as their search for dealers in stolen artwork leads to exposing an international conspiracy.

Bastiann first appeared in Aristocrats and Assassins and played a prominent role in Gaia and the Goliaths. Esther made her debut in The Collector. This new team of sleuths discovers that pursuing stolen artwork can become surprisingly dangerous…and finds romance along the way. The new ebook is now available in all formats and can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Nook, and Kobo. If you haven’t wanted to try me because I’m not in bookstores, or if you’re hooked on print versions (I respect that—many readers are), the print version will also be available shortly on Amazon, and you can also order it through your favorite bookstore.

Do you use beta-readers? I’m addressing this to authors who read this newsletter. I find them invaluable. Scott Dyson, an author of some great horror stories and a Disney World guide, went the extra mile by beta-reading Rembrandt’s Angel. I haven’t seen the print book, but Amazon says that the ebook is equivalent to 422 pages. That’s much longer than my other novels simply because I had the most fun writing it, but that meant his task was much more difficult for Scott. Kudos to him for a job well done. And readers should check out his stories.

My beta-readers take my edited manuscript and look for logical errors (the getaway car turns from red to green in the middle of a chase, for example); mine also catch many remaining edits. In addition to Scott, Debby Kelly and Carol Shetler have contributed on many books. Every author should have at least one or two–they make a big difference!

Just a reminder… In regards the rest of my books, or even Rembrandt’s Angel, you can read the ebook version for free in exchange for an honest review. I write mystery, thriller, and sci-fi novels, sometimes combining those genres—the story’s the thing, not the genre. All authors need reviews. You only have to say what you liked about the ebook and why. That helps other readers and it helps the author. Forget about those formal book reports (reviews) you had to write in high school English. People simply want to know what readers think about a story.

Netherlands… is a country in Europe, AKA Holland, and the people are known as the Dutch. But Netherlands is also the name given to the king of that country in my novel Aristocrats and Assassins. He plays a major role as a kidnapped aristocrat who refuses to give in to terrorists.

You can understand my astonishment when I learned that the king has a secret life as pilot for KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines. He also served in the military. No wonder he wanted a major role in my novel, according to my muses. It’s all fictional and the king comes across as a great guy in the book. I’ll pass this information on to my other main character, Detective Castilblanco. The king and the detective are now good friends in my fictional universe.

Sale almost over. The sale of Aristocrats and Assassins is almost over, so don’t miss out! You can purchase the ebook on Smashwords for $0.99, a $2 reduction in price, until May 31. It’s #4 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series.” Use coupon code VN74R when you checkout on Smashwords.

In libris libertas!

 

Thank you, Mr. President!

May 23rd, 2017

Thanks to Donald Trump, AKA Narcissus le Grand AKA Il Duce, the clown currently residing (sometimes) in the White House, we have a plethora of scandals. In this era where SNL has become the Nuedexta for all sane observers of national politics, there’s such a wealth of scandals that I don’t know what to write about. Firing the one person investigating him and his cronies for collusion with Russia to affect the U.S. elections sounds an awful like Nixon v. Cox—another Watergate could be coming. What’s he covering up? Was the FBI getting too close? Maybe ex-FBI Director Mueller, as special counsel, will bring the perp to justice. Will his son-in-law Kushner be named FBI director? He’s in charge of everything else, and puts business over country every day. A recent case in point: trying to get tax breaks for some property in Jersey City.

But I’ll take us back to another scandal playing out: healthcare. Trump’s collusion with Ryan (and presumably McConnell in the future) is real, and they’re bent on killing Americans. Some people who were covered by the ACA will simply die.  That first A in ACA is for “affordable,” not “accessible”—I have access to buying a yacht, but I could never afford one. People with pre-existing conditions will have access to healthcare—but they won’t be able to afford it because the U.S. House’s bill allows them to be placed in special pools of high-risk patients. And the conspiracy against ACA continues—the GOP, especially those old men in the Senate, is using the distraction of the Comey firing and Mueller appointment to work behind the scenes for the complete destruction of ACA.

This leads me to recall Il Duce’s comments about Australia’s healthcare system. They can be interpreted in three ways: (1) he’s such an ignoramus that he doesn’t understand the Australian system is single-payer like most systems in the civilized world; (2) he wanted to insult Australia’s system by comparing it to the travesty just passed by the U.S. House and now being considered by the U.S. Senate; or (3) he doesn’t understand what the provisions of that travesty really are because, like many GOP representatives, he never bothered to read it.

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Monday words of wisdom…

May 22nd, 2017

Late for a date with fate?  Leave people alive.  Don’t text and drive!

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Aristocrats and Assassins. In #4 of the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” Castilblanco and his wife are on vacation in Europe when a terrorist starts kidnapping members of European royal families. Castilblanco and eventually Chen work with authorities to discover the terrorist’s agenda. This fast-moving mystery/thriller/suspense novel is on sale now at Smashwords in all ebook formats; use coupon code VN74R.

Looking for an entertaining novel to read this summer? You have it in this new mystery/thriller/suspense story from Penmore Press: Rembrandt’s Angel pairs Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities Inspector Esther Brookstone with Interpol Agent Bastiann van Coevorden, as their search for dealers in stolen artwork leads to exposing an international conspiracy. Bastiann first appeared in Aristocrats and Assassins and played a prominent role in Gaia and the Goliaths. Esther made her debut in The Collector. This new team of sleuths discovers that pursuing stolen artwork can become surprisingly dangerous…and finds romance along the way. The ebook is now available in all formats and can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Nook, and Kobo. The print version will also be available shortly on Amazon, and you can also order it through your favorite bookstore.

In libris libertas….

Characters, actors, and minimalist writing…

May 18th, 2017

By the first, I mean literary characters: Hercule Poirot, James Bond, or Jack Reacher, for example. By the second, I mean actors who portray them: David Suchet, Sean Connery, and Tom Cruise, for example. Same goes for female characters: Eliza Doolittle and Queen Elizabeth, for example, and the actors Julie Andrews and Hellen Mirren. Note that I am listing those actors I identify with the characters, the ones that stick in my mind.

Having read both Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming before seeing movies made or inspired from their books, it’s a wee bit unusual that when I saw Suchet as Poirot or Connery as Bond on the silver screen, they matched my mental images of the characters. Same for Hellen Mirren as the Queen, although the latter, already larger-than-life and still quite a character, was never a main character in any book I ever read. The movie version of Doolittle was Audrey Hepburn—she never matched my image of Eliza because I developed that by reading Pygmalion, much more a commentary about British aristocracy than My Fair Lady. Cruise as Reacher didn’t match my mental image at all, and probably represents the worst error in casting ever made (Cruise could play a pilot in Top Gun because he’s short; why did they choose him to act the part of the six-six Jack Reacher?).

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Free speech…

May 16th, 2017

…doesn’t mean that Ann Coulter or anyone else has a right to speak at UC Berkeley. For the conservative commentator and writer, she’s had ample opportunity to spew her venom publicly around the country. Those who support her (or the Berkeley group who invited her to speak) don’t understand what “free speech” means, constitutionally or in practice.

Free speech always has to be measured against the safety of the general public. Sure, that’s a balancing act, but you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is none, creating panic. Similarly, Ann Coulter cannot be allowed to endanger innocents in Berkeley. The group backing her, and her followers nationwide, are wrong in making this a free speech issue. As alt-right supporters, they have the right to think and even to say what they believe—I support that, and it’s why the Bill of Rights protect Bill O’Reilly’s rants as much as those of Rachel Maddow. (O’Reilly’s fall from grace was caused by his alleged abusive treatment of women, an entirely different issue.)

This isn’t about political correctness either. Both the extreme left and the extreme right get their hackles up about some of the things their opponents say. Hell, if we enforced PC, our president would be impeached by now and maybe in jail! People say (or tweet) outlandish things all the time. If it doesn’t go beyond that—yelling “Fire!” in a theater, for example—an educated and reasonable person shrugs it off and simply considers the speaker a crazy idiot.

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May 15th, 2017

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.—Aldous Huxley

***

Aristocrats and Assassins. In #4 of the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” Castilblanco and his wife are on vacation in Europe when a terrorist starts kidnapping members of European royal families. Castilblanco and eventually Chen work with authorities to discover the terrorist’s agenda. This fast-moving mystery/thriller/suspense novel is on sale now at Smashwords in all ebook formats; use coupon code VN74R.

And look for this new mystery/thriller/suspense story coming this spring from Penmore Press: Rembrandt’s Angel pairs Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities Inspector Esther Brookstone with Interpol Agent Bastiann van Coevorden, as their search for dealers in stolen artwork leads to exposing an international conspiracy. Bastiann first appeared in Aristocrats and Assassins and played a prominent role in Gaia and the Goliaths. Esther made her debut in The Collector. This new team of sleuths discovers that pursuing stolen artwork can become surprisingly dangerous.

In libris libertas….

Rembrandt’s Angel…

May 11th, 2017

I have fun writing…and that goes far beyond making money at it (which I don’t). I also have fun reading. By the time I finished junior high (7th and 8th grade in California, part of middle school in the Northeast), I’d read all the sci-fi, mystery, and adventure novels in our public library (for the most part, “adventure novels” later became “thrillers”). But I soon had an immodest epiphany: I could write this stuff too, which would be doubly entertaining (“immodest” because a lot of people determine the quality of a novel by how well it sells—I don’t; I’ve read many excellent and entertaining books that don’t sell well, and find many of them better than what the Big Five, B&N book barns, and the NY Times have to offer).

Thus began a lifetime of collecting story ideas, possible settings, themes to weave in and around plots, and character descriptions. Anyone reading this post has ample evidence of that. I’ve never had writer’s block, all my ideas are original ones, and still find writing a great deal of fun.

My most recent novel, Rembrandt’s Angel, to be released this spring by Penmore Press, isn’t just the next book, though. So far it’s the one where I’ve had the most fun writing it.  Before I go into why, let me describe the book a bit more. (Note: You won’t find a pre-release excerpt in the corresponding blog category; that’s up to Penmore Press. But I want to tell you a bit of confidential stuff about the book. You’ll only see it here.)

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Can you afford Trump’s tax reform?

May 9th, 2017

Like many rich people, our president doesn’t mind spending money as long as it isn’t his. In the case of his proposed tax reform, he’s willing to steal from the middle class in a nefarious campaign to enrich his friends and destroy your future. Moreover, he’s also happy to waste money as long as you foot the bill.

Let’s start with the security for Trump Tower in NYC where the wife hangs out with the kid while he goes prancing around the country to faux campaign stops designed to bolster his already infinite ego. That security costs millions, and most of the bill due NYPD hasn’t been paid. The family will soon join Il Duce in either the White House or Mar-a-Lago. I guess we’ll have to call Trump a snow-vulture as opposed to snowbird as he flits back and forth between his properties. He even thinks the people’s house, the White House, is his own special property as he redecorates in a style reminiscent of a mafia mansion. Counting travel costs between NYC, DC, and Florida, and more security at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties, your money might as well be flushed down one of the golden toilets at his estates. In addition, he makes money off you too, because the State Department’s website advertises for free the sumptuousness of Mar-a-Lago and he has doubled the membership fee as a result.

Now let’s turn to those Executive Orders. The first, an anti-Muslim edict that couldn’t pass constitutional muster, was replaced by Version 2.0, which was also declared to be unconstitutional. Narcissus le Grand vows to fight that all the way to SCOTUS, with you paying all the legal bills, of course, because the case is a squabble between the Supreme Court and a lower court, i.e. all government.

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