Monday, July 25, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Ebook thriller author Tim Gilbert

THIS WEEK WELCOME my friend Tim Gilbert.  Tim and I go back at least ten years and share a passion for fiction writing.  Tim lives near me in West Des Moines and is my annual companion to the great LoveIs Murder mystery conference each February in Chicago.  Tim is married with 4 children and works in the finance industry.  Although he is now a Midwesterner, he grew up in the Northeast, where both of his books (thrillers) are based, and is a graduate of Princeton University.
Mike:  Welcome, Tim, to my blog.  Can you first tell us a little about your books?
Tim:  Thank you, yes, my first book, Damage Control, was ripped right out of the headlines of 2008 and the Bernie Madoff crisis. Drug cartels and financial scandals are a sign of our times even today in 2011. Damage Control is a subtle thriller (no car chases, big explosions), where a New Jersey doctor is faced with planning an escape from a Mexican drug cartel that is using his inside knowledge of a pharmaceutical drug trial to game the stock market. Overload is the sequel to Damage Control and is a little more violent.
M: You are doing something interesting as I can see; your first book is posted for a free download, and your second is available for purchase. What was the thought behind doing it that way?
T: I have seen other authors do this. I am trying to get people hooked on Damage Control so maybe they’ll spend a few bucks on Overload. You hate to give away product that is your baby, in essence, but that is sign of ebook times. There is a TON of free novel competition on the Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Smashword etc.
M: How easy (or difficult) is the marketing for books distributed that way?
T: You have be on either Twitter or Facebook and spend an hour a day at least building your fan base. It’s not easy, but marketing never is. Both sites have wonderful author groups, though, that are going through the same difficulties we all are.
M: We’ve had a lot of discussion here on e-books, especially by Robyn Gioia who writes here each First Monday.  What do you think is their future?
T: They’re here to stay for good. Borders is being liquidated and Barnes & Noble isn’t far behind. eBook pricing starts under $3, though for 99.9% of authors. It so easy to get your ebook on Amazon, the number of authors out there has exploded tenfold or more in the past two years.
M: Let me direct you back to your novels.  Can you give me a little background on your main characters?
T:  In Damage Control the two main characters are Nick Johnson, a family doctor in New Jersey and his friend, Peter Hansen, who is a celebrity money manager. The two have a relationship mainly because their sons are best friends. When Peter allows a Mexican drug cartel to infiltrate his investment operations, Nick and Peter’s relationship become far more intimate and intense.
M: What started you writing?
T: I mainly started writing because I had this story in my head and I just had to put into words. Both novels took about 11 months to write.
M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
T: I write over lunch hour at work and in the evenings when the kids go to bed. Not a ton of time.
M: Anything upcoming? Do you have another sequel you are working on?
T: I am working on another thriller, this time a short story about a detective who is thrust into the middle of saving a business man with the sign of seven mark from the radical, centuries old religious group, Leucippus Zeno who intends to kill the business man.
M: Any hobbies, etc. for spare time?
T:  Children sports and school activities eat up most of my spare time
M: How can readers contact you?
T: Twitter is the best way. “iamTimGilbert” is my id.  I am also on Facebook.
M: How can readers get your books?
T:  My two books are on Kindle, Smashwords, iBooks, and Nook.
M: Tim, thanks for dropping by today.
T.  You’re welcome.  Thank you, too.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Phillies’ Biggest Acquisition Yet?

Archbishop Chaput
THOSE WHO KNOW me know that I am a great Philadelphia Phillies fan (er…phan); my family is from Philly and I love baseball.  What they may not have known is that one of my favorite clerics is Archbishop Charles J. Chaput , formerly of Denver but now the new Archbishop of Philadelphia.  So naturally when I saw this photo it was to me the perfect marriage of heaven and earth! The Phillies have the best pitching staff in the major leagues, now they have it in more ways than one.

By the way, now that he is in Philadelphia, the good archbishop should soon be receiving a new “red hat” of his own.  Now, on to the World Series!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mondays Update: Wyndano’s Cloak now on Kindle

A WEEK AGO my Monday interview was with award-winning author and psychologist A. R. Silverberry whose children’s book, Wyndano’s Cloak had won several dozen awards including the Benjamin Franklin Award Gold Medal for Juevenile/Young Adult Fiction. Wyndano’s Cloak was just released in Kindle and is available by clicking here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Mystery Author David Walker

ONE OF THE great things about attending writers’ conferences is meeting great authors.  One of the many authors I’ve met is David Walker, the author of eleven published mystery/suspense novels. He is a past president of the Midwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and lives with his wife, Ellen, just north of Chicago. He has been a parish priest, an investigator for the Chicago Police Department, and a lawyer. Now he says, “I mostly sit around and do my best to think positive thoughts about the future of the planet. Oh...and I write nearly every day.”  David also was kind enough to review my latest book, End of the Line, and gave me a “blurb” for the book cover.

Mike:  Welcome David, I’m happy to have you here today. Can you tell me a little bit about the two series you write?  And if you can, tell me how you got the “Wild Onion” name.
David: My “Wild Onion, Ltd.” series features a female private detective named Kirsten, and her husband, Dugan. The word "Chicago" is derived from a native American word for "wild onion,” and when Kirsten, a former Chicago police investigator, opened up her private detective agency she called it "Wild Onion, Ltd." Kirsten's husband, Dugan, is a former prosecutor, now a personal injury lawyer. He is not thrilled with the practice of law and finds himself drawn into her cases. Though he may feign a reluctance to help, Dugan is actually far more intrigued with Kirsten's work than with his own.
My “Mal Foley” series features Chicago private investigator Malachy P. Foley.  Mal was once a lawyer, but lost his license when he refused to obey a court order to reveal what a client had told him. His license was suspended "until further order of Court" and, since he'll have to "demonstrate remorse for his misconduct" before he gets his license back, it is questionable whether he will ever practice law again.  Mal has a mentor of sorts, "the Lady," an older woman who runs shelters for abused women and is something of a mystic.

M:  I think your latest book is Too Many Clients, can you give us a short synopsis of it?
D: I love to talk about Too Many Clients, but it came out in 2010, and now I have a new book, The Towman’s Daughters. This one is the sixth in the Wild Onion, Ltd. series. It has just been released in Great Britain and will shortly be released in the U.S.  (Actually, I just checked and found that The Towman’s Daughters is already available on Amazon.  Oh, and I also see that it has garnered a great review from E.B. Loan, a novelist whose book reviews appear on numerous literary websites.)
The Towman’s Daughters opens with Dugan stumbling across a crime in progress. His Sir Galahad instincts kick in and he rescues the beautiful young Isobel Cho from an armed abductor…except she doesn’t seem all that happy to be saved. Soon Isobel goes missing, and it’s up to Kirsten and Dugan to find out what’s happened. Isobel’s father, a thuggish tow company owner, wants her to end her relationship with the son of a U.S. senator, and the senator herself wants that even more badly. But there are things afoot here beyond a romance between “star-cross’d lovers.” Things like greed and betrayal, politics and murder…and how far a father’s love for his daughters will drive him.

M: In addition to the two series, you have a stand alone, Saving Paulo, and an upcoming one, Bad Company.  Can you tell us a bit about each?
D:  lthough while writing Saving Paulo I hadn’t thought of it in quite this way, this book is actually a coming-of-age story. Three people—a young man going nowhere, a young woman with everything, and a self-proclaimed “seer”—are drawn together in a struggle to save a strange, silent little boy, Paulo, from murderous kidnappers. The story moves from the alleys of downtown Chicago, to the mansions of Lake Forest, to the depths of the Amazon jungle . . . and then back again.
As to Bad Company, I’ll hold off on that one because it’s in the process of revision.
M:  As a writer, what is more important: Plot or Character?
D: I have often thought that this writing mysteries gig would be a hell of a lot easier if you didn’t have to have a plot.  I find creating characters—especially quirky characters—much more fun. But since I don’t write “literary fiction,” I need a plot.  So I try to apply the maxim that plot and characters are equally important and are, in fact, inseparable.  “Plot” is simply what “characters” do. Of course you have to dream up tricky situations for characters to run into, but then you sit back and let them show you how they work their ways out (or don’t).
M: What started you writing?
D: I have never taken a writing class (beyond high school English), and have not attended any big-time writers' workshops.  As a kid, though, I used to read "all the time."  In high school I enjoyed writing the essays we were often required to write, and I was told by various English teachers that I was a good writer.  One even suggested that I should write an article and get it published in a magazine. That seemed pretty outlandish, and I never seriously entertained the idea.
When I was a priest, of course, I wrote lots of sermons, did a lot of teaching, and read lots of mysteries.  I also "moonlighted" as a free-lance writer for a nationally distributed "Sunday Bulletin" service.  I wrote articles that were usually centered around the scripture readings used in the Sunday services.
When I left the priesthood I toyed with the idea of making a living writing.  I had no money, though, and paying the rent seemed pretty important at the time, so I opted for a "real job."  Meanwhile, I had (blindly and rather foolishly) enrolled in law school.  I became a lawyer, and could never find any time or energy for writing.  For relaxation, though, I read fiction, again mostly mysteries.  After about a decade of practicing law I knew I had to change my career or lose my mind, so I became a part-time lawyer and started a mystery novel.  I gradually eased the law out of my life entirely (practicing law, that is; I mostly still follow it).
M:  Believe me, I know what being a lawyer can do to a person.  Let me ask you about your writing habits. Do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?
D: I am most definitely a morning person, and my ordinary procedure is to write every day (although I’m a little less compulsive than I used to be), and always in the mornings. I may rewrite in the afternoons or evenings, and these days marketing takes up a lot of post mid-day time.
M:  Do you have anything upcoming?
D: In addition to a little revision of my stand-alone, Bad Company—which may soon be rechristened as Uninvited Company—I have started a new Wild Onion, Ltd. book.
M:  Any hobbies, etc. for your spare time?
D: I am getting back to playing the piano (for personal consumption—mine—only) which I pretty much gave up when I first started writing.  I also practice yoga just about every day, and promise my doctor twice a year that I will upgrade my cardio-vascular workout practices.
My wife and I have recently become “mentors” (“facilitators?” “helpers?” “life coaches?”) for a family of newly arrived (well, they’ve been here a year and a half now, I guess) refugees from Nepal.  They are a husband, a wife, and two kids (now nine and four), and they arrived in Chicago with no possessions beyond a few clothes and a pressure cooker (don’t ask).  They had no money, no job skills, virtually no English, and high hopes. This adventure has turned out to be great fun, a lot of work, and a significant time investment.
M:  Thank you for joining us today. 
Here is David’s contact information:

Finally, Saving Paulo and Too Many Clients are available on Kindle and NOOKbooks; and The Towman’s Daughters soon will be.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Children’s author A.R. Silverberry

THIS WEEK PLEASE meet psychologist and children's author, A. R. Silverberry, who has been winning awards and praise for his fantasy novel, Wyndano's Cloak. The main character was described as, "An extraordinary heroine . . . captures the courage and sense of adventure that lies in the heart of all young girls." And Feathered Quill Review said the novel had, ". . . Constant suspense . . . impossible to put down. You’re going to be very tired in the morning!"
Mike:  Welcome, we are glad to have you with us today.  Let’s start off with Wyndano's Cloak, can you tell us a little about it?

A. R.: A sinister shapeshifter threatens to shatter Jen's world and the kingdom of Aerdem. But how? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with dark arts and twisted creatures commanded with sinister cunning. Jen has one chance to stop them: With a magical cloak too dangerous to use.

M:  Shapeshifting, that should get the kids interested. What ages is the book written for?

A: Children, ages nine and up, and adults who cherish fairy tales. One mom told me that her daughter read it three times in five weeks. It obviously struck a chord!

M: Wyndano's Cloak calls on readers to discover the magic within. What is that magic, and why is it important?

A: The environment and economy are just a few of the unprecedented challenges facing children today. As a psychologist, I've listened to the fears and longings young people express about their future. I wanted to write a story that helps them feel capable of facing our complex and sometimes frightening world. Wyndano's Cloak delivers a message of encouragement for young people to believe in themselves and trust the treasures they carry inside.

M: The book has three unlikely heroines. Why more than one?

A: One heroine wouldn't do it. I needed a wider canvas to make my statement, and I wanted to say it several ways. My main character, Jen, is vulnerable, but she has mythic qualities. Bit and Pet, on the other hand, are ordinary girls, making them easy to identify with. Readers believe they can triumph, too.

M:  What has been your best experience as an author?

A: After I signed her book, I saw a little girl hug it in her arms as she walked out of the store. I'll always treasure that moment.

M: Wyndano’s Cloak has recently won some awards. Can you mention them?

A: The book has won a dozen awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award Gold Medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction, Books and Book of the Year for Fairy Tale/Fantasy, and the Readers Favorite Gold medal for Preteen Fiction. It's also received awards for Interior and Cover Design. That was particularly gratifying; I wanted the book to be a keepsake.

M:  You write under a pseudonym, is there a reason for that?

A: Most people don't know the name Frederick Faust, but if you've hung around the paperback section of the supermarket for the past fifty years (as I have!) you know the name Max Brand. Even if you haven't seen one of his book covers, it's clear he's writing westerns. I wanted to do something similar, and use a name that promised a world of fantasy and fairy-tale magic in the pages ahead.

M: What started you writing?

A: My family--filled with writers, actors, artists, and musicians-- nurtured my creative spirit and stimulated my imagination. At dinner, we had lively discussions about plays, films, stories, and the arts. When my parents put on makeup and costumes and the stage lights went on, the greatest magic in the world swept me away. I was fascinated at an early age when my father explained how to create a plot by throwing together characters with opposing motives. Before I was old enough to write, my mother and I stole away to a secret place where I dictated a story. Storytelling is in my blood!

M: In “real life” you are a psychologist. How has that helped you with your writing?

A: I'm empathic by nature, so psychology works well for my day job. Empathy also helps me step into my characters' shoes and really understand them. I find ideas everywhere, so I'd be lying if I said that the germ of a few things didn't spring from my work. But translating psychological theory into character traits could only be a starting place; otherwise, it would lead to two-dimensional characters. Freud got it right, when he said "Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."

M: What are your writing habits?

A: I try to write every morning, but I'm lucky if I can get in 4 – 5 days a week. Consistency is key. I was lucky with Wyndano's Cloak. Most of the first draft was written on Caltrain. The ride was 75 minutes one-way. The sounds of the train and the babble of commuters triggered the writing mode. As soon as I settled into my seat, everything faded, and I slipped into the world of Aerdem. The twenty-minute walk to work gave me time to think about lines of description or dialogue. Moving away from that train was the biggest blow to my writing!

M: Anything upcoming? 

A: I'm incubating some ideas for a sequel to Wyndano's Cloak. Meanwhile, I'm working on something very different, an allegory set in a mythic past.

M: Is Wyndano's Cloak available in eBook?

A: Wyndano's Cloak is being released for Kindle. ePub and iBook formats will be out shortly, and will be announced on my website and eNewsletter.

M: How can readers contact you?

A:  My email is on my website,

M:  Thank you very much, and good luck with Wyndano’s Cloak, and I’ll be sure to post something when it becomes available on Kindle.

A:  You are welcome, thanks for having me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why did Casey Anthony Walk?

AS A LAWYER and crime writer, I’ve been asked several times about my thoughts on the Casey Anthony trial.  If you will permit me, I think the “not guilty” verdicts were the result of two things; one which is strictly legal, the other a matter contained in every murder mystery ever written.

First the legal matter.  I think this is fairly simple: The prosecution over-charged the crime.  The state would have you believe that Casey deliberately killed her daughter, Caylee.  The evidence for that mainly being Casey’s lies and her actions after the child’s death, combined with a lot of circumstantial evidence involving duct tape, chloroform and the “smell” of death in Casey’s car.  That’s asking for a lot from very little. 
The second is motive.  As Parker told Stan in Murder Most Holy, while motive is not a legal element of the crime, juries want to hear one.  It was obvious from the evidence presented that Casey didn’t need to kill Caylee to live a life of parties and fun . . .  she was already doing that.  And if she wanted more freedom all she needed to do was to turn to her overly indulgent parents and they would have gladly cared for the little girl.  The un-contradicted testimony was that Casey was not a bad mother.  So why would she deliberately kill when that was so unnecessary?
Then what happened?  I think the scenario that could have won the jury was a simple accident that went something like this: Casey used the chloroform to put Caylee to sleep and accidently overdosed her, then panicked.  That was the “terrible accident that snowballed out of control.”  The use of that theory, chloroform used to induce sleep, coupled with Casey’s failure report her child missing for so long, could easily support a charge of aggravated child abuse or manslaughter.  It would have been simple and easily understood; not the convoluted story of suppositions that the state presented.  Again, as Parker has more than once opined:  The simplest story that answers all the questions is probably the right one. 
Had that simple theory been the state’s theory, Casey Anthony could have been sentenced to a lot more time behind bars than the little more than “time served” that she’ll actually get.  But then that’s just my opinion.

Monday, July 4, 2011

First Monday With Robyn: E-book Independence

By Robyn Gioia
Happy 4th of July America.  May the coming year bring love, hope, and prosperity.
Something extraordinary happened this month in the world of writing. A monumental game changer. The most successful author in the world bypassed traditional publishing to open her own website. J. K. Rowling opened up the world of Pottermore. “Pottermore is a free website that builds an exciting online experience around the reading of the Harry Potter books.” It hasn’t even opened yet, and the chatter around the world is buzzing.
Rowling has bypassed Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Smashwords, and all the other avenues available for eBooks buyers to offer her own readers the opportunity to purchase the Harry Potter series exclusively from Pottermore as eBooks. That’s right. No middle man. Imagine the collective gasp coming from the publishing world.
Think about it. Millions (possibly billions) of fans, flocking to a place out in cyberspace where the Harry Potter phenomena lives. When the website debuted over a week ago, it told fans to leave their email and Pottermore would let them know when the doors will officially open for business. There was one small problem. The website was instantly overwhelmed. A message popped up saying they had all the emails they could take and to come back later.
Then it occurred to me. What if Rowling decides to start another series? It would be an instant success. And now that she has her own website, she wouldn’t have to use a publishing house at all. Could it be possible that the majority of books will be eBooks in the near future and bookstores will be begging for paper books? Will other famous authors decide to open shop?
Already, eBooks have turned the picturebook into interactive editions through iPads and other mobile devices. A child can press the screen and it invites them to interact with an activity. Or they can go straight to an interactive app that teaches and stretches a child’s thinking.
One of my Facebook friends, Roxie Munro has been busy at work delivering cutting edge books for kids.
Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing VacationAdventure is a top app where kids will need to think, use all their observation and thinking skills to go through the 16 beautifully illustrated screens. All the illustrations are done by famous Roxie Munro, author and illustrator of 35 books for children (including Mazescapes; Amazement Park; The Inside-Outside Books of New York City (New York Times Best Illustrated Award)).

Makes me wonder what else is coming down the pike. It will be interesting to see what happens with Pottermore and the other ground breaking trends on the horizon. Are we witnessing the slow demise of the publisher? Is the internet doing to publishers what Amazon did to bookstores? 
If you have a good idea, the time is now.
Happy reading.