Happy Blogging Anniversary — to Me!

Has it really been five years?

I started this blog as a way to chronicle the writing process for my debut novel Baby Grand, particularly since I was in the throes of a massive writer’s block in the spring of 2010. I had this thought that sharing and commiserating with and cheering on other writers would help me write my way out of a hole. And somehow it did.

The blogging community has grown much in the past five years. There was a rush of bloggers around the time I started out, and the number of blogs just keeps getting higher and higher. Those of us who managed to stick around have found value in blogging and have readers who have found value in us.

Thank you for your support these past five years. As long as you continue to come, I’ll keep building. :)


#PubSmartCon Pieces: Jane Friedman

Last week, I attended the inaugural PubSmart conference — an unprecedented gathering of publishing professionals who really are some of the smartest on the planet — in chilly (where were the warm temps??) Charleston, South Carolina. The participants came from all aspects of publishing: self publishing, traditional, small press and hybrid. As a journalist and author, I’ve been to quite a few of these things, and I truly was blown away by the value of the information presented as well as the generosity of spirit of the event’s keynoters, panelists and organizers. (Hugh Howey, the bestselling author who served as one of the keynoters of the conference, is not only a savvy author, but he just might be the most gracious one I’ve ever seen, stopping to answer questions for anyone who asked one. Very cool.) By the time I got on my flight back to New York on Friday, my brain was heavy with all sorts of actionable information.

Today, I’d like to share pieces of Jane Friedman‘s enlightening keynote address titled, “What does it mean to publish?”

  • 25 percent of the top 100 books on Amazon last year were self-published. “This would have been unfathomable at the beginning of my career,” Friedman said.
  • Publishing used to have a scarcity of content and a controlled environment, but now there’s an abundance of content and a scarcity of attention.
  • Through the 20th century, to print something was to amplify it. Not so today. There’s too many competing printed materials. Then whose job is amplification. The traditional role of the publisher was:
    –Gatekeeping and editorial. But… gatekeeping is broken. People are self-publishing en masse. Quality is not a useful debate to have anymore, because we’re not going back to the way it was.
    –Distribution. But… distribution is no longer of value anymore in the eBook world. I distribute. You distribute. Mobile is important to the future of reading. It is a myth that what we have to say has to be in book form. We’re slowly coming out of that cultural myth and moving into trans media: how one story can be told in many different ways.
    –Marketing/Publicity. But… it is now about lifetime marketing. The conversation never stops. Authors have direct engagement with readers. The sales life of a book is no longer a few months, but forever.
  • Free has become the tool of the unknown author who is looking for a readership. “Loyalty comes first,” Friedman says. “Monetization comes afterward.” For example, she said, “I haven’t paid a dime for Candy Crush. You can download it for free, but if you run out of lives, you have to pay 99 cents. Now, the company that produces Candy Crush is valued at billions.”


And We Have a Winner!

The random number gods have spoken, and we have a winner for yesterday’s BABY GRAND giveaway!


Congratulations to Kathy Gunthorpe Ashdown, the second person to leave a comment — that included a birthday wish — on yesterday’s blog! Kathy has won an autographed copy of Baby Grand.

Thank you to all who participated in my birthday giveaway! I hope all of your wishes come true!

Anne Canadeo: ‘All Characters Are a Reflection of the Writer’

Last night, I attended the book signing of cozy mystery writer Anne Canadeo at Book Revue in Huntington, New York. Anne is the author of the Black Sheep knitting mystery series (she also wrote the popular Thomas Kinkade writing as Katherine Spencer) and was discussing The Silence of the Llamas, which is the latest book in the series. As often happens when I attend these appearances and the authors talk about their experiences while writing their books, I find myself nodding along. Here are nine things Anne said that I thought were pretty spot-on:

Anne Canadeo

Anne Canadeo

  1. ‘All the characters in the book, including the villain, are a reflection of the writer.’ Whether consciously or unconsciously, I imbued practically all the characters in Baby Grand with elements of my personality or fragments of my thought process. A piece here. A piece there. What’s fun is when people who know me read the book and pick up on them.
  2. ‘Fun things happen by accident.’ All the time. I plan, plan, plan, but sometimes the characters have something else in mind. I was surprised by many of the twists and turns that occurred in Baby Grand as I was writing.
  3. ‘Even though I knew my ending as I was writing, I wasn’t sure  how I was going to get there.’ Imagine getting into your car and getting ready to drive to a destination that is familiar to you. Hmmm… let’s see, you can take the highway if you want to get there quickly, or perhaps the scenic route if you’re in the mood for pretty. There’s lots of ways to get to one place, and that’s part of the magic of storytelling.
  4. ‘I need an outline or else I find that I’m wandering aimlessly.’ I experience this as well. Although my process is to just jump in and start writing wildly, without an outline, I reach a point — probably about a hundred pages in — where I get that “wandering aimlessly” sensation. That is when I sit down and do a very, very basic outline that serves as a guideline to get me from chapter to chapter and eventually to the end of the book.
  5. ‘Sometimes writing is miserable, but you’re compelled to do it.’ As one of my graduate professors used to say, there are so many more exciting things we could be doing — spending time with our families, meeting friends for lunch, going to the movies. Why do we sit at that computer and suffer? Because, for some reason, we’re compelled to do so.
  6. ‘You can talk and talk about writing, but you really just have to sit down and do it.’ This is VERY true. Waiting for inspiration is a myth if you’re a working (or serious) novelist. Gotta just sit there and write. Now.
  7. ‘When I’m writing, I do not think about the reader.’ It sounds cruel, perhaps, but worrying about what readers will think about a book will keep me from writing anything at all. Everybody is different. We all find different things funny, scary, thought-provoking. I truly believe that if you just concentrate on writing what’s in your heart, readers will find you.
  8. ‘Being a writer is pretty lonely.’ When I’m writing, it’s just my computer and me. In the middle of the day or night. I wouldn’t quite call it lonely, although I am indeed alone. Writing is a solitary endeavor. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying the marketing aspect of Baby Grand right now — interacting with readers at store appearances and book clubs. I get to share my characters with others who — thank goodness — seem to love them as much as I do.
  9. ‘The most fun is being done with a book.’ Amen.

My Book Revue Author Event

Last night, I had my first book signing for Baby Grand at Book Revue in Huntington, N.Y. — the go-to place for book signings on Long Island (Nelson DeMille will be there tonight, Valerie Bertinelli tomorrow night). More than 100 people came out to support me, braving the rain and the parking. I was completely overwhelmed. A truly great evening. For photos from the event, you can visit the Making ‘Baby Grand’ Facebook page. And here is a video snippet of my presentation where I talk about the inspiration behind Don Bailino, the villain of Baby Grand.

Kevin James: ‘Great Teachers Need to Be Saluted’

Kevin James and Henry Winkler at yesterday’s Mamarazzi event.

Yesterday, I attended a private screening of the new Kevin James movie Here Comes the Boom, as part of a Mamarazzi event led by Denise Albert and Melissa Gerstein. In the film, former college wrestler Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a 42-year-old biology teacher in a failing high school. When cutbacks threaten to cancel the music program and lay off its teacher (Henry Winkler), Scott begins to raise money by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter. Everyone thinks Scott is crazy—most of all the school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek). But in his quest, as Scott becomes more and more committed to fighting for the students, he becomes a sensation that rallies the entire school.

It was such a fun film, definitely one of my favorite Kevin James movies along with Paul Blart: Mall Cop. After the screening, Kevin James and Henry Winkler sat down for some Q&A time, and James talked a bit about the writing of the film (in addition to being the star, James served as co-writer and co-producer). Here’s a snippet of what James he had to say about writing Here Comes the Boom:

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Kindle Nation Daily Sponsorship: Worth It?

On August 19, 2012, Baby Grand was Kindle Nation Daily’s eBook of the Day.

My goal for the sponsorship was to introduce Baby Grand to readers who have never heard of the book or of me or my blog — to connect with complete strangers who might enjoy a good thriller. And, hey, if I could make a little money too, even better.

Kindle Nation Daily is a popular promotional choice for Kindle authors (when I purchased the sponsorship back in June there were only two dates left for August). KND offers all kinds of sponsorships, including daily and weekly options, as well as packages, that run from about $30 and up, and their newsletters and websites connect with tens of thousands of readers.

The sponsorship I purchased, eBook of the Day, is priced at $159.99. A bit steep. So right off the bat, I knew there was a good chance that I might not recoup my investment since I had planned on selling Baby Grand at the promotional price of $1.99 that day, which meant that I’d need to sell about 270 books (since Amazon offers 35 percent royalties for books priced under $2.99) to break even.

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