Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Kindle Unlimited

I'm pleased to report I've enrolled all of my books in the Kindle Unlimited program, which means that subscribers to that program can now read all my books for free. It also means I can, for limited periods, make my books available for free to all Kindle users, in the hopes that folks might snag them, like them, review them, shelf them on Goodreads, and tell their friends. So, check in often at my Amazon Author Page to see what book might be free!

(As always, whether or not you're a member of Kindle Unlimited, my books and shorts remain available for sale, all at prices ranging from 99 cents to $4.99. WHAT A DEAL!)

Unfortunately, membership in Kindle Unlimited means my books are now exclusive to Amazon (one of the rules of the program) so none of the links off to the right (other than the Amazon and the paperback link) will take you to my books. But the hope is that if I do well enough there, maybe get myself a readership base, I can at some later date make my books again available elsewhere.

If you've followed my twitter feed at all, you know I have mixed feelings about Amazon's KDP Select program -- no, that's not true either. There's nothing 'mixed' about them. In fact, I think it is borderline illegal.

For example. I think it unfair that Amazon requires authors to make their books exclusive to Amazon to take advantage of some of the program's offerings. In the days of brick and mortar bookstores, was there ever a book you could buy at Borders but not at Lauriats or Barnes and Noble? The very thought of it is preposterous. I think too that Amazon's 60% plus (and growing) share of the ebook market flirts dangerously near anti-trust territory. I'm old enough to remember both IBM and Microsoft engaging in long, drawn out legal affairs when they too began cornering marketplaces. I've often opined how much it boggles my mind that Apple is perceived (and adjudicated) the bad guy in most every ebook skirmish, when it appears to me that it is Apple that has my own best interests at heart. Amazon wants me only to sell books cheap.

On the other hand, there is no denying reality. Amazon does, in fact, have a 60% (and growing) share of the ebook marketplace. Unlike previous brushes with marketplace hegemony, there is no sign that anyone anywhere is going to do anything about it. In my years of holding out on the program I've watched writers I view as contemporaries do very well in the program, some even becoming bestsellers.

Meanwhile, from the outside looking in, I've watched ebookstore after ebookstore close, watched Barnes and Noble essentially abandon the nook, all while Amazon's market share climbs. No, if you are trying to get yourself read and noticed, Amazon is the only place to do it; and if you can't sell books at Amazon, you can't sell books at all.

The good news is that in the brief time I've been enrolled in the program, people are finding and reading my books! In fact, I can now quite literally watch people turning pages as they read them, and I'm delighted to see that most folks who do start them, finish them, sometimes in one sitting.

As always, thanks to all my loyal readers for taking a chance on my offerings (speaking of, have you read THE MOUND yet? It's a fairy horror mystery romance. You'll like it. I promise) and often leaving reviews at Amazon or Goodreads and checking in with me on Facebook. It truly means a lot.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Nation of Gladys Kravitz's

So a tragic, but interesting thing happened over the weekend. David Goldberg, a 47-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur (and husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg) died “suddenly” while on vacation with his family. When I saw the news, I clicked on a few articles, and was struck immediately that no mention was made in any of them of exactly how he died. And the reason it struck me was because in this day and age, it seems there is no escaping the lurid details of how any of us die.

Yes, I understand we live in a celebrity culture, and people’s appetites are insatiable when it comes to the deaths of famous people. For example, it wasn’t ENOUGH for us to know that Robin Williams killed himself, we needed to know HOW he killed himself (hanging). Then, it wasn’t ENOUGH for us to know that he hung himself, we needed to know also that he wrapped a plastic bag around his head, just to make sure.

I do recognize this sort of thing has been going on since forever. Indeed, the words of Elton John’s tribute to Marilyn Monroe come to mind: “All the papers had to say . . . was that Marilyn . . . was found in the nude . . .”

And hey, so wasn’t Whitney Houston!

When the brilliant New York Times media guru David Carr died recently, dropping dead in the Times newsroom, it was sad and tragic news. But most everyone who knew of David Carr also knew he had battled plenty of demons in his time, most especially, years of drug abuse. He had written a very well acclaimed memoir about it. Those closest to him also knew he was a cigarette smoker (ironically, perhaps one of the more benign substances Mr. Carr had ever put into his body.) And when the news came (because of course it did) that Mr. Carr’s sudden death was due to lung cancer, the moralists and finger waggers of our day had lots of fun with it.

Perhaps the most egregious recent example of wallowing in the manner of someone’s death also comes from the Times, when fashion designer L’Wren Scott took her own life. It wasn’t ENOUGH for us to know that she killed herself. We had to know HOW she killed herself. And if the Times obituary for her wasn’t a veritable “how to kill yourself with a scarf” primer, then I don’t know what would be.

Now, I do acknowledge that celebrities and so-called “public figures” are fair game when it comes to this, however unseemly it may be. But what about the rest of us? Because it seems whether famous or not, public figure or not, the manner or cause of our deaths – what specific cancer kills us, for example – is going to end up in our obituary, whether we want it to or not, whether it’s anyone’s business or not.

Maybe I misremember, but I don’t recall years ago, every obituary containing a cause of death, particularly the obituaries of older people. “Natural causes” was often used as a catch-all for any of the hundreds of things that can (and will) kill us as we get older. Do we need to know that an eighty-year-old man dies of prostate cancer? That a ninety-two-year old had colon cancer? Or, in the case of eighty-two-year old Joseph Lechleider, a Father of DSL Internet Technology, that it was esophageal cancer that finally did him in?

When I opined about some of this on twitter yesterday, someone responded that in most cases, cause of death is a public record, and that gathering causes of death is important for public health. Yes, it is. Then, someone else chimed in that Mr. Goldberg and his wife LIVED online. They OWE us an accounting of how Mr. Goldberg died! No, they don’t (setting aside even that Mr. Goldberg’s 400+ twitter posts is hardly “living your life online.”)

No, I contend that people’s insatiable appetite to know the cause and manner of someone’s death is akin to prurience, plain and simple, an insatiable prurience to know other people’s business. Exactly when did we become a nation of Gladys Kravitz’s?

At any rate, rest in peace, Mr. Goldberg. You died too young, and you leave behind a loving wife and two young children. That’s all I need to know.

UPDATE: The family wished to keep the details private.

It's a shame they couldn't.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Introducing THE MOUND

Very excited to report today is the official release date for my book, the fairy horror mystery romance THE MOUND. As offbeat as it might sound, I'm oddly proud of this one and think it might be pretty good. I'd be grateful if you gave it a shot (and would marry you and have your children if you left a review.)

Plot goes like this:

"The new police chief in Bixbie, Massachusetts, is trying to stay off the booze and start a new life. Bixbie doesn't have much in the way of crime anyway, that is until people start disappearing. 

While investigating, he learns Bixbie is also home to a mysterious mound thousands of years old. Though its purpose is unknown, it becomes clearer when his runaway daughter Dani comes to town. 

Because what Hogan doesn't know is Dani believes she is to become queen, and local skateboarder Ian Sinclair is to become king, of a fairy tale kingdom populated by elves and pixies and helpful brownies. And you know what? She may just be right."

THE MOUND . . . where faeries are real, boys can fly, and true love will always win in the end. Available NOW at AmazonAppleBarnes and NobleKoboSmashwords, and in paperback.

As always, thanks for taking a chance on my stuff.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

And all the ships at sea . . .

(Yesterday's excellent Charlie Pierce piece, coupled with today's Boston Herald and Politico embarrassments, inspired me to republish this short, first published here in 2010.)

America's number one talk show host was already in a foul mood that morning. He had noticed a small scrape on the door of his Hummer after the valet brought it around. Adding to his trauma, traffic to the studio was a real bitch.

Maybe that was why on this day (as opposed to any other) he was particularly sharp-tongued, inspiring some of his thirty million or so listeners to action.

During the first hour, he said he believed Muslims in America were a fifth-column bent on our destruction. When a caller suggested we try to befriend them, the host countered, “I have a different idea. You want to befriend them. I want to kill them.”

In a sweaty apartment outside Newark, listener Joe Sikes thought that was a splendid idea. There was a Muslim temple just down the street. It was almost time for afternoon prayers. The place would be crowded.

Returning from a break, the host warned it would soon be impossible to buy guns. “They're going to take our guns away, just like the Nazis did!” He went on to remind his listeners that German citizens who refused to surrender their guns were murdered in their homes by jack-booted thugs.

An unemployed laborer outside Philadelphia named Scott Foster wasn't going to let that happen. In fact, he'd seen a motorcycle cop just the other day whose boots were polished to a fine sheen. Would he be the one who tried to take his guns? From my cold dead hands, he thought.

Gathering his guns and ammunition, he overturned the dining room table and made himself a hidey-hole. He then put on his bulletproof vest and killed his mother before calling 911.

In the second hour, the subject of abortion came up. The host railed against “baby killers” and not for the first time mentioned one doctor by name and the place where he worked

That was all listener Phil Hastings needed to hear. The doctor was just a few towns away.

In the third hour, the host questioned the president's eligibility for office.

“He's not even a citizen! He has no right to be president!”

In a long hallway outside the kitchen of a D.C. ballroom, police officer James Casey was listening too. One of the cooks had the radio playing softly.

In between the applause and laughter and the din of clinking glasses, he caught himself nodding when the host said he no longer recognized the country that he loved.

“This country is being taken away from us! Right before our eyes! And this president is responsible!”

A roar of applause came from the ballroom. Even before it crested there was movement down the hallway. Men with earpieces and bulges prepared for the VIP to exit the ballroom.

As the talk show host continued assailing the president, the cop realized there was nothing he could do about him. But the woman he loved had just come out the door.

(All quotes are verbatim. All incidents but the last are true.)