28 September 2011

Recommendation: Diary of a Small Fish, by Pete Morin

Today I'd like to introduce you to Pete Morin and his debut novel, Diary of a Small Fish. I know Pete from AQC and Authonomy, where I was privileged to read snippets of DOSF some time ago.

When Paul Forte is indicted by a federal grand jury, everyone suspects prosecutor Bernard (don’t call him “Bernie”) Kilroy has more on his mind than justice. Then the FBI agent in charge of Paul’s case gives him a clue to the mystery: Kilroy is bent on settling an old family score, and he’s not above breaking the law to do it.

Paul is already dealing with the death of his parents and divorce from a woman he still loves. Now, with the support of an alluring grand juror, Paul must expose the vindictive prosecutor’s own corruption before the jury renders a verdict on his Osso Buco.

Diary of a Small Fish was released today in ebook format, and will be forthcoming in paperback. If you click the book cover above, it will take you to the Smashwords purchase page where you can read a sample and buy the book in any format you desire. And you should buy the book!

Full disclosure: I have not read the entire book yet, but I hope, dear readers, you know by know that I don't promote authors or books I don't believe in. If you like crime fiction with suspense and a bit of that lovey-dovey mumbo jumbo (my favorite kind of mumbo jumbo!) then Pete won't disappoint. He has a straightforward, shoot-from-the hip kind of style, with just the right amount of quirk. I wholeheartedly recommend you check out this book, and keep your eyes open for more from Pete in the future. In addition to DOSF, you can find some of his short fiction on Smashwords as well. Tell Pete I sent ya!

I will post a proper review of DOSF in a few weeks' time (after I review a few other books that I just haven't had the time to finish reading yet). If you read DOSF, I hope you'll come back here and let me know what you think, but most importantly - review it on Smashwords, Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, etc. and spread the word.

About the author:
Pete Morin has been a trial attorney, a politician, a bureaucrat, a lobbyist, and a witness (voluntary and subpoenaed) to countless outrages. He combines them all in this debut novel.

Pete’s short fiction has appeared in NEEDLE, A Magazine of Noir, Words With Jam, 100 Stories for Haiti, and Words to Music. He published many of them in a collection titled Uneasy Living, available on Amazon and Smashwords.

When he is not writing crime fiction or legal mumbo jumbo, Pete plays blues guitar in Boston bars, enjoys the beach, food and wine with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two adult children, and on rare occasion, punches a fade wedge to a tight pin surrounded by sand or water. He lives in a money pit on the seacoast south of Boston, in an area once known as the Irish Riviera.

Pete is represented by Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency.

19 September 2011

Boundaries of the Writing Community

Recently I followed a discussion on AQC, about whether some critical comments were or were not appropriate in regards to a fellow member's writing. I saw no harm in the criticism - we're writers, and not everything we write will be received well by everyone else. That's okay. But the conversation - along with the recent publicity about paying for fake reviews - got me thinking about the obligations, expectations, and boundaries of the writing community. (On a brief side note, you can read my honest review pledge by clicking on the tab at the top of the page.)

There's a sense - I believe now, more than ever - that we're all in this together. We're all navigating the same murky waters, trying to break into an industry that's changing every day. And we do support each other. I love supporting those writers whose work I believe in.

However, I've come across the sentiment in some indie- and self-pub circles that all criticism should essentially be squashed. We need to support each other! If one wins, we all win! If one loses, we all lose! Rah-rah-sis-boom-bah! All that sort of mindless cheerleading.

Should you post a less-than-glowing review on Amazon, where it could potentially affect sales? Some would say no. But I say why not? If it's your honest opinion, not motivated by spite or anything like that, why not? If you bought the latest book by a NYT bestseller and didn't like it, would you refrain from reviewing it on Amazon because it was critical in nature? Just look at how many people bash Twilight, or The DaVinci Code, etc. But take an indie- or self-published author, and suddenly it seems like a different beast altogether. That's when all the cheering and jeering starts again.

We're all in this together! A negative review could hurt their sales. We're a community!

It doesn't sit quite right with me, though. Yes, I am a writer in a community of writers, many of whom I like a lot. I want to see those writers whose writing I adore shoot to the top and have great success. But if someone who frequents the same message boards and forums that I do publishes a book, that doesn't automatically make it off-limits for my criticism, does it? Why should it?

The purpose of a review is to share your opinion of a story and the writing with other people who have read, or may be considering reading, that book. It's true, a particularly good or bad review may sway some customers' decisions on whether or not to buy the book. Should we let that stop us from posting a review that isn't all puppy dogs and rainbows? If it's the latest Dean Koontz, I bet most of you would say no, it shouldn't matter, we're all entitled to our opinions. If it's a self-published author, though, trying to eke out a living...? Tell me what you think. Here's what I think (apologies in advance if it's a bit blunt).

Once you publish a book - I don't care how you do it - reviews are fair game. I'm talking genuine, honest reviews, based on the content of the book and the quality of the writing, and nothing else. I don't care if you publish with a major house, an independent press, or if you self-publish. You're in the business now, and people will have opinions. I don't care if we belong to the same online communities, if we chat on Twitter, whatever. If I think you've delivered a sub-par product, I should feel free to say so in my review, just the same as I would if I were talking about Nicholas Sparks. As callous as it sounds, I'm not terribly concerned with your sales (or Nicholas Sparks' sales, or any author's sales).

There's a real danger in the false back-patting that I've seen in indie- and self-pub circles. I'm not here to blow smoke up anyone's ass about their talent. If I don't mean it, I won't say it. I won't be pressured into giving something a better review than I think it deserves simply because the author and I are both signed-in-blood-card-carrying members of the writing community. Likewise, I can't be pressured into withholding a review that may carry some pointed criticism, despite the very real fact that reviews can affect sales.

As aspiring writers, how often do we complain about what we see as mediocre quality novels being published while our own superior (in our eyes) stories go unnoticed and as-yet-unpublished? As readers, how often have we picked up a much-hyped book, only to be disappointed? And that's with the stuff that's already made it through the so-called gatekeepers of traditional publishing. With the digital publishing push, there are oceans of new books to wade through every day. If we keep our criticisms to ourselves - or worse, if we let the idea of "community" guilt us into giving sugar-coated reviews - how will we then, as readers, be able to spot the proverbial diamond in the rough? And how will we, as writers, expect our own stories to stand out in the crowd if everyone has the same rose-colored reviews?

If and when my novels are published, I'll expect both good and bad reviews. Not everyone will like what and how I write. If a customer reads a negative review that resonates with them, so be it. Other customers will be swayed by the positive reviews. If the negatives outweigh the positives, and my sales aren't good, then I need to put out a better product, simple as that.

Would you post a critical review of an author you're familiar with through social networking or writing websites? Have you ever felt pressure to post a positive review no matter what you actually thought? I'd like to hear your take on things.

06 September 2011

A Writer’s Guide to Successful Blogging, Part 3

(You can read part one here and part two here.)

In this installment of the Successful Blogging series, we’re going to talk about one small – yet vital – aspect of blogging.

This is the Internet we’re on, and this is the Information Age. So many things are available at the click of a mouse, and naturally we’re accustomed to having them readily so. We Google things we want to know and can find the answers pretty quickly.

However, if a reader has come to YOUR blog because you purport to have some sort of information they want, you’d better have it right there, ready to go at the click of a mouse.
What the hell am I talking about, you ask?

I’m talking about LIVE LINKS, folks! It amazes me how often this is overlooked. If you have an interview with a new author on your blog, you should have a live link to a marketplace (such as Amazon) where it can be purchased or a site like Goodreads where people can read reviews. A link to the author’s website and/or blog is important, too. If you’re discussing an issue you heard about from some other online sources, it’s a good idea to link to those resources so your readers can read the same thing you did. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to link.

Wrong: No link at all. Don’t make your reader leave your blog and go to Google! You brought up the article/product/website/whatever, so you should provide the link!

Wrong: www.fromthewriteangle.com <---- You can’t click that link! Don’t make the reader open a new tab and copy/paste the address.

Wrong: www.fromthewriteangle.com Yes, you can click that link. But don’t link to a general homepage if what you really want to direct people to is a specific page or entry. You need to insert the permanent hyperlink (permalink) to the specific page. If it's a specific blog post, you can right click on the post title, then select Copy link location. Or just click on the post and copy from your browser. DON'T FORGET to use the permalink when you tweet about your post, too! Don't direct people to your homepage and expect them to know which post you meant.

Wrong: http://www.fromthewriteangle.com/2011/08/digital-publishings-plr-plight.html You’re probably beating your head against the computer screen, saying But that’s the direct link to the page you want people to see, which you just said we should use! Yes, yes it is. But it looks ugly, doesn’t it? Just sitting there in all its full-length glory. It can get especially ugly if you have a really long link, like the ones for a product on Amazon. Keep everything clean-looking. Instead of saying “Here’s a recent post on Private Label Rights” and then slapping the link on the end in parentheses or something, link the relevant word(s) in a sentence.

Right: “I read a post on Private Label Rights that really made me think.” See, doesn’t that look better? And you don’t even need to know the fancy code for that (although I could teach you if you really want.)

In your Blogger editor (and most other blogging platforms), you’ll see an icon that looks like a chain link – that’s your hyperlink button. Just highlight the word or phrase that you want to be a clickable link, click the hyperlink button, and type or paste the URL that you want it to point to. Voila! That’s all there is to it. That one tiny step will help your blog look clean and professional, and will ensure your readers have a hassle-free link-viewing experience.

Happy blogging!

02 September 2011

We Have A Winner!

The voting closed a little more than an hour ago for my Clothing Not Optional contest, and I can now reveal the winners, and the identities of the participants! First, here are the authors:

Michelle SimkinsThe Day Laborer
CherieLove in the Time of Dystopia
Kellie MBreathe
Author would like to remain anonymous - Sunshine and Sea Magic

They were all great entries, and really happy these four ladies took a chance at something none of them are that familiar or comfortable with. Bravo! I know everyone is dying to know, so here are the winners.

In first place we have..... Michelle! Congrats! You've won Wetlands, by Charlotte Roche. Seems everyone liked a good roll in the hay ;-)

And the runner up is Cherie! You've won the Agent Provocateur short story collection. Congrats!

If you two ladies could email me your postal addresses, I will mail out your prizes.

Thanks again to everyone who participated, and I hope to see even more entries next time. Oh yes... there will be a next time! :-)