Thursday, February 28, 2013

Page 214

I am profiled on page 214 of the March issue of Albuquerque the Magazine. Will this be the article that finally makes me famous? Probably not, if my last brushes with fame are any guide and that might be a good thing.

In 1989, I lived in Washington DC, and wrote an article called "I fought the law and the law won," for Washington City Paper, the equivalent of Albuquerque's Weekly Alibi. It was about being unemployed in Washington. I had the surreal experience of seeing a Congressional intern in the Metro reading the article. I said "That's me," right before I got off the Orange Line at the Federal Triangle stop. I didn't see his response.

Their were definite repercussions to the article. There was an article about me in Georgetown's paper, which was ironic as I didn't get into Georgetown. When I finally did get a job in the Federal government, I was told specifically that I could not write any more articles. When budget cuts hit and I lost that job, I was so embarrassed that I moved to Roswell, New New Mexico to hide out. I did get a novel out of my Roswell sojourn, but that's another story.

In 1996, I was profiled in the business section of the Albuquerque Journal. The article said that I would be the next John Grisham. My novel, Rattlesnake Lawyer, was not actually published until 2000. Needless to say, I am not the next John Grisham.

A few years ago, my novel, Volcano Verdict was reviewed in New Mexico Magazine. The full page review was the best review of my career. I remember hurrying home every day that month to check, and through my careful analysis of amazon ranking, I was able to calculate that ONE person bought my book because of the article. Did I mention that I bought TEN copies of the magazine?

As I've said, I have realistic expectations. I'm still up before dawn writing, working on the next novel. I bought one copy of the magazine, not ten. Maybe my next book will be reviewed in the New York Times...I am not holding my breath if it does.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dog Day Oscar Ceremony

I recognized someone profiled in the "In Memoriam" part of the Oscar Ceremony. He was the one who nearly destroyed my writing career. Am I still bitter?

Frank Pierson had written the film Dog Day Afternoon and Cool Hand Luke, and then spent much of his retirement teaching at a film school. He almost failed me out.

During my mid-life crisis in film school, we had to produce a short film. A Korean director asked me to write The Silver Cross, the story of a contemporary detective who gets hypnotized and goes back to the middle ages to catch an evil wizard, all in thirteen pages. I would write five drafts, each seemed to be more confusing then the last. What we had here was a failure to communicate...

Our four days of production was difficult to say the least. We were trying to make Lord of the Rings on a Clerks budget.  Incidentally, the guy who played the detective's partner would go on to star in the Geico commercials where he would ask "Can Geico save you money on car insurance?"

After the screening of our student film, Frank Pierson called us back to his office and told us that we had made the worst project, ever. He would call leave us all a message that someone would fail. He asked to see my drafts to see if it was my fault or the director's.

Well, he spent a long weekend reading all five of my drafts and determined that the director was at fault, not me. As the Director was a foreign national on a student visa, he was subject to deportation. I was subject to having doubts on my writing for the rest of my career. I  was deported myself in a way, I thought of Frank when I left Hollywood twelve years ago and moved back to New Mexico and gave up screenwriting.

Still, I never gave up writing, and I now have eight novels to my credit.

When I saw Frank's face during the ceremony, I thought about The Silver Cross for the first time in years. He was a good teacher after all, and he was right, our film was terrible. If one of my projects ever becomes a film and I get to thank someone, I will certainly thank him!

Monday, February 25, 2013

And the Oscar Goes to...Me?

I watched the Oscars last night. I've actually held an Oscar in my hand a few years back when I was in film school. I was attending a party at someone's house. They are heavier than you expect. As I am no longer writing screenplays, it's unlikely that I will win one, but a man can dream, can't he?

As you know, nearly a thousand people downloaded my novel, Rattlesnake Lawyer, for free last month, Perhaps one of those people is indeed a good screenwriter, who does indeed have good connections. Maybe one of those thousand people is a producer looking for new material. New Mexico is now back on track with film production, so maybe this producer puts it on the fast track.

If I get attached as a producer myself, I would get to go up to podium at least. Hell, when I was in film school, I had a crush on a fellow student who directed a film where the actress won the award. She was thanked up on stage. I would settle for a good thank you!

I've told you about my cousin who won an Emmy for writing. He looks exactly like me, but it ten years younger and ten pounds thinner. The genes are there. People have heard me give a lecture and have gone on to win writing awards, and that's something too.

I've won ONE award in my life. Best non-fiction book proposal from Southwest Writers. Last year, I was up for the same award again and took second. That was the worst dinner of my life, but that's another story. In national awards, La Bajada Lawyer took a second place too. I'm not exactly Susan Lucci, who was nominated and never won.

Am I up at dawn, writing to get an award? Of course not. Yet, it is a fun motivator before I sip my morning coffee. At the end of the morning, just getting a few good pages done is job satisfaction.

Still...A man can dream, can't he? 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I Am Not My Main Character!

Now that people are reading my new novel, Rattlesnake Wedding, I worry that they will confuse me with my main character. Well, I am not him. Seriously.

My main character apparently inherited money from his Dad and is floating through life when the story begins. He falls in love with a woman with a ten year old and then meets the father of said ten year old. The father, Marlow is accused of kidnapping and the main character is stupid enough to defend him.

In reality that would never happen. If I got a call on a case like that I would refer it away.

People read my books in jail. One guy wanted me to "set him up" with the Luna Cruz character when he got out of jail. I told him that she was fictional, he didn't care. "I've got fictional charges too. Maybe she can help me."

The main character supposedly lives in the Bank Lofts on Second and Central, a building I chose because I have never seen a light on in ANY of the nine stories of the building. His office is in a converted bank vault or something like that.

The wedding takes place in the atrium of the District Courthouse, but unfortunately there is a shooting at the reception at a nearby hotel. Thankfully, neither event happened in real life. I had a very nice wedding where the worst thing that happened was that the DJ played "Under the sea" as our first song rather than "And he kissed me."

Still, I went to every place mentioned in the book and used my own memories to re-construct the scenes. I imagined my own dialogue in certain situations. I was crying as I wrote the final scene, even though I have never suffered a loss like the main characters do.

There is a scene where the main character sits next to an author at a "gentlemen's club." That author isn't me, either.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rewrite for your Right to Party!

The Beastie Boys implored their listeners to fight for their right to party. I had thought that I could write my way to a big book contract party after a single draft of my novel. Unfortunately, I need to be doing some serious rewriting before the party begins. I had been bragging about writing a novel in the span of a few months, and then I went back and read what I wrote. No need to brag any more. Let's just say, I am very glad that I did not send the book out.

Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather, supposedly said "The secret to writing is rewriting." Well, my book has made me an offer I can't refuse, I better rewrite it in secret.

Speaking of rewriting, I just had to rewrite this blog as I was calling it re-wrting.

I noticed that I use the word notice. I noticed that I used the word noticed noticeably more than necessary. "As in "he noticed."  I went through every time I used the word and took it out just on general principal. My book is 87,000 words already, the word "noticed" is probably 200 of those. I also realized that I used the word "realized."

It's time to stop realizing and noticing and start living.

In other books, I usually use the word "I" as if I was being paid by the word, and I wanted to get the most bang for the buck. Thankfully, in this project, I'm writing in the third person. Still whenever three people are in the scene, I have to make sure that we know who is who.

My characters also need to stop laughing so much. Rather than "he said," characters tend to be in sentences, when they say "he laughed." Usually, the sentence isn't particularly funny.

There will be a party of intergalactic proportions when this book is done and sold. Until then, it's back to a party on the computer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Paperback Fighter

I downloaded my new novel, Rattlesnake Wedding a few days ago, but even I will admit it's not the same thing as holding 360 pages of trade paperback in your hand. Yesterday, I received a twenty-three pound package from Brainerd, Minnesota. I felt like I was ten and just got a twenty-three pound Tony the Tiger from Battle Creek Michigan.

I waned to carve the box open with a knife, but I didn't want to carve up the front cover by mistake. It took me a few moments to open the cardboard with my car key, I then ripped open the flaps and grabbed the book. I made my wife take a picture of me holding the book. The book looked far better than I did.

When I saw my first novel, Rattlesnake Lawyer back in 2000, I caught a spelling mistake on the first page. I had actually cried in the Chicago convention center the sight of Book Expo America. My only complaint was a minor one, there is no blank page between the Author's note and the Prologue, so the Prologue appears on the left side. Will careless readers miss the Prologue page? On page 300, Luna is spelled Liuna.

No need crying over minor mistakes, I have my book in my hands!

I did not feel the same elation when I downloaded the book from amazon. I certainly didn't feel the same sense of ownership. Reading a book on a computer is like reading a newspaper article on the computer or reading an email on the computer. It still feels a little like work.

That's not to say I don't want people to download my books.

I was reading an online article in the New York Times about Google Glass, the eyeglasses people can wear that connect to the internet. That means someone can get an email from someone regarding my book, pay for it and download it instantly and begin reading it, all while being waiting at an intersection in their automatically driven Google car. Presumably I would still be paid for that as well . . .

The Beatles sang derisively about the Paperback Writer. Well, I'm a Paperback Fighter for now...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Maniacs and Asses

George Carlin had a famous routine about your fellow drivers on the highway. Anyone faster than you was a maniac. Anyone slower than you was an ass. (well, you get the idea) I try not to feel that way when people talk about how their writing is going. I have to resist the urge to shout.

I've been a member of several writing groups, some online. Invariably there's a discussion on how people are doing. One elderly woman bragged about being halfway through her haiku about flowers. Seriously. I had the urge to shout ass. One guy said that he appeared on a radio show with his self-published book about quantum physics in the bedroom and sold over a hundred thousand copies in an hour. I wanted to shout maniac.

I'm not even going to talk about the people who go on and on and on and on when they talk about their writing. They can be maniacs or asses, and if someone makes an announcement for longer than a two minute movie trailer during a meeting, it doesn't matter.

With my own announcements, I have made myself a target, both in person and online. If I brag about selling fifty books at a book signing, I am most certainly a maniac. If I announce that I wrote a really nice paragraph then I almost always an ass.

The important thing is not to let it get to you either way. As I've said, be happy for other people's success. Have empathy for people's difficulties. Realize that when you make an announcement that you are going to cause a reaction in other people's feelings either way.

So next time you are making an annoucement, pretend that the late George Carlin is peering down from the great comedy club in the sky. Don't worry about whether he considers you a maniac or an ass. Just ask yourself, am I entertaining him?

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Simpsons go to Barnes and Noble

On last night's episode of  The Simpsons, the family spent a few minutes on a store obviously based on Barnes and Noble. The show portrayed a woman in the store read a children's book to an adoring crowd while making slurping sounds. The joke was that the woman didn't really work there and was soon led away in handcuffs. Thankfully, I've never had an an experience like that at a Barnes and Noble. I am inviting Homer and the gang to my signing at the Coronado store on March 30. 

A free book is already reserved for Lisa Simpson and the actress who plays her, although, Bart doesn't have to come if he doesn't want to . . .

(I once applied to be on the legal staff for Film Roman, a production company for the Simpsons. I didn't get it, and that's a story for another time)

As I've said in previous blogs, Barnes and Noble has been very good to me,  and the store in Coronado Center is my favorite store. I truly hope that they survive the latest round of store closings. You can often find me there on my Saturdays reading obscure British film magazines as well as best selling books that I am too cheap to buy. Yes, I am aware that by browsing instead of buying, I am part of the problem.

Like the various Simpsons episodes where they experience the future and Lisa became President, I had a glimpse of a Barnes and Noble free future. I was at Costco, and I decided to check out their book table.  On the one hand, I had already had free samples of some delicious food, but there was no place to sit down. Needless to say, there was limited selection and books were treated like cereal boxes. I found a non-fiction best seller that I had been meaning to check out. I leaned against my shopping cart that was anchored by two 24 pack of gatorades and started reading.

Do not read books at Costco. The lighting was harsh, the back of the shopping cart was uncomfortable. A woman with a family of ten passed by me, and each of them bumped into the shopping cart. I gave up after a chapter when a staffer glared at me as if I had been reaching into a big box of Alpha-Bits and pulling out paragraphs.

In the famed Krusty gets Kanceled episode of the Simpsons, Krusty's guest stars were Luke Perry and Johnny Carson. I doubt that some of the viewers who are Bart's age would know who they are. I truly hope that twenty years from now, I won't have to explain what a Barnes and Noble is.

See you March 30!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Shooting Star on Amazon!

A meteor hit the earth yesterday, well I was a shooting star on Amazon yesterday. As some of you know, I had a free download day for Rattlesnake Lawyer, my thirteen year old book on Nearly a thousand people took time out of their busy day to download my book onto their kindle, computer or phone. Inthe amazon universer of  millions of products, I made it to #63 with a bullet in my category.

What does this mean?

I'm not sure.

It might mean nothing. This could be the equivalent of a friend giving you a CD of his brother's band, and you never bother to plop the CD and actually listen to it. During the next spring cleaning, the CD is already broken before you throw it in the trash.

Shooting stars inevitably crash and leave a big hole in the ground.

On the other hand, comets look a lot like shooting stars and comets keep coming back. Like Bill Haley, comets rock around the clock. Nearly a thousand people will see the cover of my book when they open their kindle or click on the kindle app building. I've got to believe that a few hundred of them will actually click on the icon, and start reading. Some of them will read through to the end. Hopefully, they will like the book, and be curious to buy other books. Although, I do like a national audience, I do hope that a majority of them are concentrated in my home town. I'm going to be profiled in an article in a few weeks, and that article is going to mention my upcoming book signing.

If you downloaded for free, you might want to meet me in person and buy a book.

The next big test for me is the release of the print version on for the new novel, Rattlesnake Wedding on March 19. It will NOT be free.

And we'll find out whether I have already crashed, or whether I go into orbit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Download Me Maybe: Rattlesnake Wedding Book Release

Valentine's Day is the free download day for my new novel, Rattlesnake Wedding. Realistically, a few dozen people might download the book on and tell their friends to pay $5.99 on Monday. Still, there's a chance that this is the next Call Me Maybe. Download Me Maybe?

Carly Rae Jepson was an unknown Canadian singer signed to an unknown label when she recorded the ubiquitous track. The song played on a Canadian radio station where it was heard by Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. They took to twitter and the rest is history. The song is one of the biggest downloads in world history.

Note to Selena Gomez, there's a part in the book for you if it's made into a film. Seriously!

As a University of Colorado alum, I'm also intrigued by the story of South Park. Two CU grads were working as assistants for a producer who asked them to send out a DVD of their short animated film as joke to the fifty people on his Christmas card list. George Clooney was on the list, and he liked the DVD that he told his agent. That led to the show on Comedy Central, and ultimately to a three HUNDRED MILLION dollar deal to start their own studio.  

Note to Eric Cartman, there's a part in the book for you if it's made into a film. Seriously!

As I've said, I'm lowering my expections, I want to make double digits in free downloads. I would be happy if TEN people download the book, and I get one nice email saying "Hey, I really liked it and I recommended it to my friend." But a man, can dream, can't he? goes

My book is published
And this is crazy,
Here's the amazon link
Download me maybe?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Is Rattlesnake Wedding Real?

My novel Rattlesnake Wedding has its ebook premiere on Valentine's Day. The author picture on the back is of my wife and I, but I did NOT have a rattlesnake wedding. I am not Dan Shepard and my wife is not Luna Cruz.
Hopefully, people will know the difference.

I once had a very strange expericence, when a reader asked me to "set him up" with Luna Cruz.
"She's fictional," I said.
"I like Scandanavian chicks," he said.

The two main characters get married in the District Courthouse. Tragedy strikes them at a reception afterwards when a witness in a case seeks vengeance. You'll have to wait until the end of the book to find out who lives.

As for us, we didn't get married at the courthouse, and the worst thing that happened at our wedding was that the DJ played "Under the Sea" as opposed to "And he kissed me," upon our entrance.

Rattlesnake Wedding also has a love triangle, well, a love quadrangle. Luna's old love is accused of kidnapping a woman who may or may not be Luna's long lost sister. Dan is stupid enough to represent him in court. Needless to say, that is NOT based on real life. Luna has a daughter who is progedy at the Albuquerque Academy. My wife does not have a daughter in school.

However, in researching the book, we did go to many of the places that the characters went to. We did travel to Valles Caldera and like the main characters we were bored. We did kiss on a gondola at the Venetian in Las Vegas. I felt the same love for my wife on my wedding day that Dan obviously felt for Luna.

She's not Scandanavian however...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Will Anyone Read This Blog?

If someone blogs in the woods, and there's no one around to read it, is it still a blog? I've written several blogs, and a few hundred people have checked them out so far. Still, I've been putting a lot of energy into promoting this blog, but today I'm going to see what happens if I don't promote it at all.

I have been clicking on the "stats" button on the page way too often. It gives me information about how many people are checking me out, and so far the numbers are "promising."

I used to have a fairly robust entertainment blog at, and I even made a few hundred bucks from it, but I grew tired of writing about Lindsay Lohan. I now post once a month to fulfill my contract, even though Lindsay does something worth writing about every day...

With this new blog, I am spending more time checking my numbers than actually writing. Dozens of you have been reading this blog everyday. I don't know who most of you are. Then again, perhaps one of you is reading it a dozen times, the stats button won't tell me.

So today, if you like what you've been reading, please post a comment. My goal is to turn this into a writing community, as opposed to a marketing community. I'm going to check the blog just ONCE today, at around six to see how many people actually read it.

I would also appreciate any advice on how to turn this into a real thing. Please post comments on suggestions on how to do so.

Let's take this blog out of the woods.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Costco Rules; Free Sample Thursday,

I went to Costco yesterday and gorged on free samples of extra cheesy Nacho Doritos, frozen maple sausage and tart orange vanilla Vitamin water. This Thursday, my new novel, Rattlesnake Wedding, will be available for a free download for one day only. Is my book like an extra cheesy Dorito? Will a free sample lead to further sales?

Did I mention that I did NOT buy any of the products I sampled? I actually had forgotten what I had sampled by the time I made it to the parking lot and had to remember where I had parked.

I have a theory that if you have to strain to remember where you parked, you will forget one childhood memory, but that's another story.

Costco is a marketing juggernaut, but we are all still finding our way on the internet with book sales. My publisher and amazon are going to let people download the book for free on their kindles. Amazon lets you download the kindle app for free to your computer or mobile device. So technically, you can obtain both a kindle and a download in less time than waiting in the checkout line at Costco. Unlike the producs, I ingested, the book download will remain on your device so you can read it at your leisure.

Hell, the lines were so long at Costco yesterday, you could have downloaded the kindle app, downloaded the book and made it to page twenty before you had to show your Costco card.

The issue is whether someone who gets a free sample will recommend it to their friends who will plop down $5.99 for a download, or $14.99 for an actual book. I don't know the answer to that yet.

I pride myself on being able to to convince people to buy my book at bookstores. I could probably sit at Costco in a booth next to the Dorito's guy and give out free chapters.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Read the Book. Take the Tour!

My romantic legal thriller, Rattlesnake Wedding, comes out on Valentine's Day. It details the love story between two lawyers, Dan and Luna, as they travel across the southwest. If you read the book, will you want to take the tour? We'll soon find out.

At the back of the book, I've provided a travel guide with information about each of the places that they visit. Dan and Luna have dinner at the High Finance restaurant on page 300. If that sounds intriguing, you can have the same meal. Even better, we've provided a coupon for a free dessert.

Dan and Luna take three trips during the course of the book. In the beginning they're exploring a little known corner of New Mexico. The book opens at Valles Caldera Nature preserve, a scenic pastoral valley created by a volcanic explosion thousands of years ago. As they drive down Route 4, they stop at the ruins of Jemez State Monument, they also realize that they might be followed. After a brief incident at Santa Ana Star casino, they have a delicious dinner at the Corn Maiden restaurant. Dan calls Luna his "corn maiden" over delicious buffalo rotisserie, setting up a theme of Native American mythology..

On their next trip, Dan and Luna drive from Albuquerque to Las Vegas on Interstate 40, and then cut up on Route 93 from Kingman. The book details some of the sights along the way in both directions and gives some help on where to stop in Las Vegas. On this trip, Dan gathers up the courage to propose to Luna, with hilarious and touching results. Whether the traveler will also propose on this trip, is up to them.

The final trip involves a family vacation to Carlsbad Caverns, where Luna takes along her daughter from a previous relationship. There's an accurate description of the caverns tour which any family can relate to and of course a link to the Carlsbad website.

Unfortunately, as the book went down from 120,000 words to 85,000, some trips had to be cut. The romantic trip to Inn of the Mountain Gods where Dan realizes that he loves Luna is one of my favorite chapters as well as a great couples weekend getaway. Hopefully, that chapter will appear in a "collector's edition," along with the links.

The back of the book also provides some information on Albuquerque locations, both high and low on the tourist list. For the high, there's the aforementioned High Finance restaurant. There's also links to more information about the District Court where the big trial takes place as well as the wedding. The book gives contact information on how to book your own wedding. Finally, there's a link to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque if like Dan and Luna your adventures get out of hand. The book does NOT give a link to the fictionalized gentlemen's club where Dan goes on his bachelor party.

As this is a romantic thriller, there are some speed bumps in the romance. Something tragic occurs in a prominent Albuquerque hotel. Hopefully, readers will look past the tragedy and still book an event there. There's a listing just in case. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Writer's Envy

I have a third cousin who looks exactly like me, except he is younger and thinner. Did I mention that he also has an Emmy award for writing? Writing is a profession that can lead to envy, but we all need to get over it as quickly as possible.

No, I don't know why the receptionist in your office is reading Fifty Shades of Grey, rather than my darkly comic legal thriller or your southwestern science fiction romance. I do know that that asking her, "How can you read that crap?" is not going to help advance the book industry.

We need to concentrate on our own craft rather than expend energy on worrying about others. I submitted the same first twenty pages of a novel to three different contests, and it didn't place. I showed it to professional editor who told me that perhaps those first twenty pages would be more exciting if someone was following the main characters as they went to seemingly random places. I thought about that and realized that she was right. I added three paragraphs and four lines of dialogue, and voila the book is coming out next week.

In these days of declining literacy, every book is a potential loss leader for the industry. It's like the washing machine that Sears sells under cost, in order to get the consumer inside the store to buy underwear. The receptionist reading Fifty Shades of Grey, is reading at least as opposed to playing on Facebook over the lunch hour. That means there's a chance that the next book they read will indeed be my darkly comic legal thriller or your southwestern science fiction romance. If they aren't reading at all, there's reading could indeed be lost forever. As long as people are reading, we all benefit.

Just because you envy someone, doesn't mean that they are happy. My cousin the Emmy award winner soon got divorced. Another writer who I had also admired had the same thing happen to him. Just because someone has achieved literary success, doesn't mean that they have life success.

So, let's all be positive, and concentrate on the craft rather than base emotions. If you work hard, someday, somewhere, someone will be envious of you!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Story I Didn't Write

With a new book coming out next week, I sometimes think of a story I haven't told. Back in the late nineties I became obsessed with the true story of Clayton Lonetree, a Navajo marine accused of espionage in the Moscow embassy because of his romance with a Russian woman working for the KGB. Done right, doesn't that just have Sundance written all over it?

In some ways, in light of the recent embassy scandals, and our ever changing relationship with Russia, the story would be more timely than ever. The story was both a social commentary--examining the role of a Native American in a conservative institution like the Marines, as well as a Romeo and Juliet type romance. Clayton was caught in a web by a mysterious femme fatale, and then after he went to prison, she confessed that even though it started as a set-up, she really loved him after all.

In real life, it was unknown whether they got together. In my mind, I would like to think that love conquered all.

That summer, I bought Russian guidebooks to learn about the subways that Clayton rode alone before the woman started to join him. I read every account about the case, and learned about Navajo rituals that I intended to integrate into the story. My three act outline was rock solid.

And then it was Fall and time for my screenwriting class. I pitched the story as my project for the semester...The pitch was greeted with silence and then derision.

"He's a traitor!" one classmate said.

I grew defensive, as if I was poor Clayton's lawyer. "No, he's not! He was blinded by love at first, and then he was acting to take the bad guys down."

"No one wants to read a story about a Navajo," another person said.

"Yes, they do!" I yelled. "It's fresh."

Well, it wasn't fresh enough, the teacher suggested I write some generic spy thriller-- not a Mission Impossible, but a Mission Much Easier. I think I wrote something else instead, and then something else.

I have no idea whether Clayton Lonetree is still alive or whether he found true romance with the Russian femme fatale. I've written eight novels since then, and countless screenplays. I will always wonder if I could have done his story justice.

Maybe one of you can write the story.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Captive Audiences

Is it a good thing for a writer to be popular in jail?

As a criminal defense attorney, I am always on my guard when a stranger approaches, especially after hearing about the shootings of attorneys in the last few days. Is this person coming at me a disgruntled client?  Could it be someone I cross-examined in a case, or the brother of someone who is now in prison? Yesterday in court, I had such a situation-- a young man, tattoos on his forehead, looked at me strangely, as if trying to place me.

"Do I know you?" I asked.

"Yeah, from jail," he said. That was not surprising. He kept staring at me, I wasn't sure if it was a threat or just curiousity.

"You're that writer guy," he said at last. "I read your book in prison."

"Did you like it?" I asked nervously.

"I did," he said without hestitiaton. "I really liked the ending."

I've already told about "story hours" in my jail, where literate inmates have read my stories to those who can't read. I have been challenged to a "write-off" by a felon in a Seg Pod, who feels that his book is better than mine. I even had inmates quote my books back to me.

Before my first book was published, I will always remember that a producer in LA once told me that he didn't think my writing was "authentic." This producer had never been incarcerated of course.  I felt like having the guy in court call him up and say "Miller is authentic!"

So I suppose it's a good thing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

There's No Such Thing as a Free Book

My dad always used to tell me that there's no such thing as a free lunch. If someone buys your lunch, they expect something in return. As an author, I wonder if there's no such thing as a free book. I will get twenty free books from my publisher. I will give some to family members, close friends, reviewers and some media people. Let's assume that there are ten free books, who do I give them to?

Now that I am married, I no longer try to use free books to pick up women. That's definitely a good thing, especially on a first date. On a second date, I once asked a woman what page she was up to. There was no third date.

I have given books to authors doing their own signings, but I don't think any of them have actually read them.

As a lawyer, I do give a few books to people in jail. There once was a book club in a felony pod, where one inmate read my book to her cellmates. She said that it helped them feel free if only for a minute. I wonder if it helped lower the recidivism rate.

Some people have asked me for free books, claiming to have Hollywood connections. I keep waiting to see Lindsay Lohan coming out of a nightclub reading a copy of my book on

A friend, of mine a teacher, manages to get a "media pass" to publishing events all over the country, even though she doesn't write reviews. At one book event, she grabbed several dozen signed books, and asked me to help carry them out to the parking lot. I don't know if she read the books, or then sold them on ebay? If you were one of the authors, and saw a personalized copy available on ebay, I'm sure you'd be angry. She is the reason I don't like giving out free

At a recent signing in Santa Fe, several well dressed people reeking with Santa Fe style, claimed that they would love to buy my book, but they were going through hard times. I gave them a discount. One woman then went out to her Range Rover after the signing.

But there are people who are genuine fans of my writing, that have supported me all these years.I do like helping them out with a book in return. If they do want to tell all their friends, relatives and contacts about the book, all the better.

Sometimes there can be such a thing as a free book...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Internet Promotion 101: The Tale of Tila

My new novel comes out in ten days. How do I promote it without being a jerk? Everything has changed in the marketing world and there is a fine line between agressive self promotion and acting like an ass. If you look at the ultimate tale of internet marketing, look at the story of Tila Tequila.

Remember Myspace? I started blogging on Myspace when Myspace was cool. At one time, I had three or four thousand people a day reading my little musings about law, love and lust. I would get comments from all over the world. Several of my readers also read Tila Tequila's blogs, and somehowMyspaceTom suggested that I add her as a friend. I did.

She blogged everyday with short pithy gramatically incorrect stories of her adventures. Even if you were living in Albuquerque, you got a feel that you were part of the glamorous LA nightclub scene. She then did one of the most brilliant internet marketing moves of all time. My memory is a little rusty, but she told all her followers that you could hang out with her at "It's a Small World after All" in Disneyland. Days later she posted pictures of normal looking guys posing with her chastely in front of the ride. I think that move single handedly pushed her to the next level--from 5,000 friends to over a million in a matter of days. No, I was NOT one of the people who went to Disneyland.

At one time she held the record of having the most internet friends in the world. For Tila, it truly was a small world after all. She had made her fans think that she was truly connected to each and everyone of them.

I moved from Myspace to Facebook, and did not stay connected to her. I do remember that she was pelted with feces at an Insane Clown Posse event, and then it was clear that perhaps she didn't have as many friends as she thought.

On the one hand, I would like to get to the point, where I have millions of followers, and I can post buy my book, and a great percentage of people will buy it. On the other hand, I don't want to end up covered with feces.

As I say, in the next ten days, I will walk that line. Hopefully, it truly is a small world after all.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Superbowls of Writing- Is Winning Everything?

Vince Lombardi famously said "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Is that true when it comes to writing competitions? On this Superbow Sunday, let's take a minute for a booth review.
Should you tackle a writing contest, or should you just sit on the sidelines?

When a contest can cost upwards of a hundred dollars and you are competing against thousands of others, that is a real issue. Is the stress and expense really worth it? Especially when your goal posts seem so far away?

A good friend of mine hit the end zone, when he won the Southwest Writer's competition a few years back. He was able to parlay that into a book deal with not one, but two different publishers. Had he taken second place, he might not have been able to do that. Lord knows, what would have happened if he hadn't placed.

2012 was a relatively good year for me in writing contests. In the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year contest, my novel Lawyer Geisha Pink took third in the multicultural fiction category and was a finalist in the mystery category. I was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence awards and the New Mexico Book of the Year awards. A proposed collection of non-fiction pieces took second in the Southwest Writers.

In terms of online sales, the net effect of these awards was probably "no gain."

Still, I must admit that in bookstore sales, having a little sticker on the book has probably helped out a little. Saying that you are an award winning author does look good on the resume.

This year, I have already entered the Amazon breakthough novel contest and the Tucson Festival of the Book contest. When my new novel, Rattlesnake Wedding comes out, I will probably enter it into all the big contests. Do I expect to win? Not really.

Entering the contests has helped me take an instant replay of my writing in my mind, to see what works and what doesn't. I once did not place in a competition, where there were four entries for three spaces. Needless to say, I sent that story back to the locker room. Sometimes losing can be more helpful than winning.

So Vince, winning might not be everything.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Writing away the Blues

Don't worry, start writing!

A few years ago, I was involved in brutal litigation with someone I had thought was a dear friend. During a six week span in the heat of the litigation, I needed a way to block out the stress, so I decided to start a new manuscript. The story had nothing to do with our conflict, it was pure escapism on my end. Thankfully at the end of the six weeks, the litigation ended in my favor, and I had a solid 60,000 words of story on my computer.

Can writing be an effective way to block out stress? That depends on the stress and it also depends on what you are writing of course, but I can honestly say that writing that novel helped me through a hard time.

In these troubled times, you might want to start writing a novel as well.

Writing a novel can force you to dream about something other than what's going on in your life. It can give you something to look forward to when you wake up the next morning. You will worry about your characters rather than worrying about something happening beyond your control. The beauty of writing is that you are the ruler of your own domain.

In your first draft, you are writing for yourself, in your second draft, you need to start writing for your readers. In a forgotten movie, Dennis Hopper's character once said "Just because it happened to you, doesn't make it interesting." There is writing from the heart and writing from the head. Adrenaline and emotion lead to great scenes, darling scenes even-- but a novel comes from brutally going over your material--killing your darlings.  So write that witty piece of dialogue down, but don't be afraid to edit it out if it doesn't fit.

One key to effective writing is rewriting. After a massive rewrite, and adding 30,000 new words, the story was published a few years later. It has sold steadily and gained critical acclaim. It also has given me good memories of a bad time.

Just because you write something in times of stress, doesn't necessarily mean that your writing stands up to scrutiny when times are better. However, the pure emotion in certain scenes of the book came from the emotion I felt in my real life. There are some scenes that are nearly unchanged from the first draft, and those scenes tend to be the strongest.

Don't worry, start writing!