New Video! February 2019 Book Haul

I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t I JUST post one of these videos recently? Well, yes. But everyone knows one can never have too many books! Right? RIGHT? Anyway, I picked up a few more books recently from my local HPB because they gave me a bed in back where I sleep now. Ha.

Also, special shoutout to Die a Stranger by Steve Hamilton, The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler, and You by Caroline Kepnes. I bought all of these over the weekend and I already had the video edited and uploaded. Whoops.

Now watch and tell me which books you’ve picked up recently!

How Many Authors Do I Own!?

I got a new computer late last year. But I’m barely starting to actually use it. I work on two monitors 40 hours a week, so when I’m home I’m not dying for more screen time.

Anyway, over the weekend I started organizing some of my reading-related documents I have (I’m writing a full post on them for tomorrow). One of which counts the number of books I own by author. I’ll have to do some checking, but I now know I have *at least* 270 books. That’s not surprising. What surprised me was that I have books written by *at least* 109 authors! Like, holy cow! That’s a lot of authors!

When I think of the hours I’ve spent reading my books compared to the hours spent writing them, it’s insane.

My favorite authors obviously carry much of the load in my little library, which I imagine is true for most people. Michael Connelly, Robert B. Parker, T. Jefferson Parker, Steve Hamilton, Robert Crais, and James Patterson (ugh) account for 107(!) of the books. And I have several single title authors.

Do you have any idea how many authors you own?

January Reading Roundup

Y’all!

Earlier this year I made it clear how disappointed I was in my reading last year. 5 books. Just saying that makes me want to hit my head on my desk. But 2019 is off to a better start! So I decided to do a little roundup of my January reading.

Two Kinds of Truth

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Harry Bosch ages in real time. In this book he’s into his 60s, but I DON’T CARE. Never stop writing him, Michael Connelly. Or we’re fighting.

Crimson Joy

⭐⭐⭐

I hate to say it, but this was rather unremarkable. I love Spenser. And this won’t discourage me from continuing the series, but I finished the book wanting more.

LA Requiem

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I wrote about this earlier in the week here. This book was the best crime novel I’ve read! There’s no exaggeration. I gave my reasoning in my previous post. I’m still considering it, but it’s likely a top five all-time read for me. And I have the next four in the series awaiting my curious eyes.

Rodrick Rules

⭐⭐⭐

I said I’d stay with crime novels for a bit, and I mostly did. But this was the lone exception last month. It didn’t have hardly any laugh out loud moments, whereas the first in the series was full of them.

The Second Life of Nick Mason

⭐⭐⭐

This was the first in a new series written by Steve Hamilton. He’s also one of my favorite authors and it was my first time reading one of his books in several years. It’s well below 300 pages and I felt it. It went way too fast and lacked much depth throughout. But still had a number of exciting moments, which kept it at the above rating.

I count 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 books for the month! It was really in the last two weeks, but shh. I matched my entire 2018 in the first month of 2019 and I’m still going! I know there will be some down months ahead, but I’m happy with and encouraged by my start to the year.

How was your month of reading!?

Well Look at This!

Just a few short days ago I told y’all about Steve Hamilton’s dispute with his publisher that ultimately led to the buyout of his publishing contract. He signed with a new publisher less than a week later. In that post I mentioned that his new book (which will start a new series) will now be released next year.

But there’s more to the story now. It was just announced yesterday that Lionsgate has purchased the film rights to the first book that could end up being a series on the big screen. Think about that. He’d written some great books for St. Martin’s for nearly two decades and never once did we get wind of a movie deal, and he signs with a new publisher and immediately gets one. That’s pretty remarkable. It also doesn’t hurt that his agent (who bought out his previous contract) also happens to be a prominent screenwriter. And Nina Jacobson is already attached to the project. She’s done The Hunger Games movies.

Steve Hamilton is simply on a roll. And I imagine his forthcoming book will become a bestseller.

Have you ever heard anything happening quite like this in such a short amount of time? I know I haven’t.

NYT Bestselling Author Jumps Ship

No, he isn’t self-publishing all of his previous novels like others have done before him. But he has done something some might call crazy. First off, I’m talking about author Steve Hamilton. He’s got a couple bestsellers and Edgar Awards to his name. Is he selling the same number of books as James Patterson or Michael Connelly? No. Is he someone who makes his publishers money? Yes.

Recently Hamilton decided that enough was enough. He left his longtime publisher (St. Martin’s Press) because he felt they weren’t doing enough to support his work. There was no real marketing plan in place to support his newest books, which will be the start of a new series. And after years of bearing nearly all of the responsibility to promote his books, he left the publisher. But the story gets tricky.

His newest book was set to be the first of a multi-book deal worth nearly seven figures, and Hamilton couldn’t afford to buy out the contract himself. So what do you think happened? No, he didn’t launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money. And no, he didn’t breach his contract and sign another book deal. His agent bought out the contract for $250,000.

You can say whatever you want, but tell me his agent isn’t the real deal. I don’t care how much money he has. There is no doubt in my mind that he supports Steve Hamilton and his work. No doubt at all. Just days after making the announcement that he was leaving St Martin’s, Hamilton found himself signed to a new publisher (Putnam) eager to take him on and support him to their maximum extent. He signed a new four-book deal worth substantially more than his previous deal. It’ll be two Alex McKnight books and two books from his new series.

His new book will be released next year.

Which all leads me to one question: Are major publishers doing enough to support their established authors? I don’t have an answer to this, but this current situation does make me scratch my head.

Ever Think of Entering a Writing Contest?

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On this day in 2014 I published 100th Post!.


 

I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d written about contests before on here. I had to do some searching of the archives just to make sure. I don’t think I have. So, let’s begin.

First off, writing contests differ greatly. We recently had the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award that offered ridiculous monetary prizes and publishing contracts. Then we have Macmillan with their handful of annual competitions, though I think they sometimes go calendar years without a winner. Then there are a million others that can be found online.

Ever think of entering one? Or maybe you’ve entered several. If someone told me that I absolutely had to enter a competition I’d go with Macmillan’s PI contest. It may not be as lucrative as some others, but I know there are not thousands of entrants every year. I know because I’ve been told by someone who won it. Steve Hamilton. I have all but two of his books. And when I met him a few years ago he told everyone in attendance that if we’re thinking of publishing a book, that we should try the comp. He’d judged the previous year and said there were a few hundred people entered. But I very highly doubt I’ll ever be winning any major contest. Which is fine by me.

But really, I don’t much see the point of entering any one of the many competitions that do not offer a publishing contract. So I’m going to send you my book for a prize of $50 and a critique by a “publishing expert”? Or I’m going to send you my book for chance to attend a writing conference that no one has ever heard of? Or I’m going to send you my book for a chance to be published by an indie press that publishes five books a year and makes its authors no money from their work? Uh no. And those are the kinds of competitions I’ve come across.

There are a few writing contests that are absolutely worth your time and effort, but there are so many more that simply aren’t. You just have to know which it is.

 

Which 2015 Releases are you most Looking Forward to?

My answer to this question is so easy. None. That’s because I never buy new releases. Why? Because that would usually mean buying an overpriced ebook or buying a hardcover. No thanks. I actually know the last two new releases I bought. I bought Misery Bay (Alex McKnight #8) by Steve Hamilton in 2011 and The Jaguar (Charlie Hood #5) by T. Jefferson Parker in 2012. I just said I never buy new releases and here I’ve mentioned two books that I bought fairly recently. Well, I bought them from the indie bookstore here that hosts all the major authors who go on tour. This place gets them all. And I attended an event for each of these two authors and decided to buy the new release so I could get my other books signed.

Was I particularly happy about having to buy these two books? Nope. They’re more overpriced than even Barnes and Noble is. At least they usually have discounts on new releases. But I decided that paying $24.95 or whatever it was was okay to get some autographs.

Anyway, so this means that I am not looking forward to a single 2015 release. I’m not sure I even know of any forthcoming books this year. I mean, I know James Patterson will release more books than anyone, but that’s about it. So which 2015 releases are you most looking forward to?

Ever Been to an Author Signing?

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I mentioned in a post earlier this week that I’ve been to a couple of author events. They were for authors T. Jefferson Parker and Steve Hamilton. Now you may not know either of them, but they have both won two Edgars. I’ve written about the Edgars and they are a HUGE deal when it comes to mystery writing. And both of these guys have won an award twice. Not an easy feat.

Let me tell you about the actual events. They were both held in a small indie bookstore by the name of Murder by the Book here in Houston. And let me tell you, ALL of the big mystery authors who go on tour come to this store. There are a couple other indie stores in Houston who have author events, but I’d have to think that this is the most successful. Anyway, the events I attended were pretty much exactly the same. Both times the author spoke for maybe 20 minutes or a half hour and then started signing everyone’s books. The 20 minutes may not seem like much, but if you listen you can learn quite a bit about them. I know I did.

The best part for me was definitely when they signed my books. I think I got four signed by both. I don’t feel like snapping pictures, but trust me that they’re signed. AND another great thing that I learned was that both of these famous authors who have surely sold millions of books are no different from anyone else you might know. T. Jefferson Parker helped me get my hands on a couple of his books that were unavailable from any of the major retailers. And Steve Hamilton snapped a photo! How freaking cool were they?

I have some minimal experience as an author on the other side. Maybe some of you know that I had a signing at my university all the way back in November. It happened just a couple of weeks after my book was released and I had a lot of fun. I sold all but four of the books I’d taken with me. And I’d had classes with a bunch of the guys who were pretty happy to see that I’d written a book literally right out of school. Of course, I never heard anything from any of the 21 people who bought one that day. So who knows what they thought of the actual writing.

The point of this post is to tell you all that I think author events or signings are actually pretty great. I don’t think they necessarily drive many new readers the author’s way, but I’m certain that plenty of his or her regular readers will attend events year after year. And it gives the author the opportunity to interact with readers in a manner that social media or other public appearances just don’t allow.

Two things: Have you ever been to an author event? Or have you ever had one of your own?

This was from my signing. It was CJ Majors Day.

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This is NYT bestselling author Steve Hamilton. Oh my goodness. This was three years ago, I was teeny tiny with braces and just ugh.

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Knowing Your Audience

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Photo Credit: Images USA

How well do you know the target audience for your book(s)? I’m of course not meaning how well do you know individual readers of your work, I’m talking about the demographic that reads books similar to yours over and over again. I’d like to think I know mine fairly well. And honestly, I’m sitting here trying to remember if I’ve written about this before now and I have no idea. So if you’re reading this thinking that you’ve read it before, well you’re not in the Twilight Zone. Or maybe we both are? Yikes.

Let me tell you what some very keen observations have told me about my target audience. Have you ever been to an author signing? Well they’re pretty cool if you’re not among hundreds of people. I’ve been to a few. Both crime writers. Both NYT bestsellers as of today. I met Steve Hamilton and T. Jefferson Parker. I have all but just a couple of their books. But I’m not here to talk about the events or what those two were like, I want to tell you about what I saw there.

This is very unscientific, but you use what you can, right? I would say both events were attended by maybe 50 people. It’s hard to say because the store changed its layout sometime in the months between these two events. Anyway, what I saw was approximately 90% White women. Who were aged 50+. And based on nothing at all, who I thought were college educated. I could probably come up with some other characteristics, but that’s all I focus on.

And I’m thinking that this type of person is a big reader of crime novels across the country. I don’t work in a bookstore or anything like that, but I do read other blogs and I have occasionally had someone buy books from me at work. And they fit the demographic I’ve described exactly.

Now that I claim to know my target audience, now what? Well, the only way I can think that knowing this has influenced my writing is the fact that Andrew Banks is obviously white. But other than that, the whole “write for your audience” thing people say is stupid to me. I write whatever I feel like.

Two things: Do you know your target audience? And how does this affect your writing?

Is There a Proper Chapter Length?

ImagePhoto Credit: The Wicked Writer

This is one of those posts I’ve wanted to write for some time now because I think the responses I’ll receive will be all over the map. And that’s okay. So, obviously today’s post will be about chapter length.

You’re likely a writer if you’re reading this. Or perhaps you’re a reader? Or maybe you’ve stumbled into an alternate universe and somehow made your way to your new favorite blog? No matter how you made it here, I have treats! Okay, I have no idea why the heck I’m typing these things. Let’s see if the second time around I can actually get down to business, shall we?

So you’ve decided that writing a book is your calling, that this is something you MUST do. You’ve decided on the genre. You’ve come up with what you think is the basic premise of the next New York Times bestseller. You open your Word document and type the words “Chapter 1” and start in on your future masterpiece. But wait, how long are your chapters supposed to be? Quick! Google!

This person who claims to be a bestselling author himself says a good length for chapters is 3,000-5,000 words. But this person says 5,000-7,500. But THIS person says anywhere from 3,000-10,000. Oh look, a cat climbing up a wall. Focus! And now we have a guy who says chapter length is irrelevant. WHO’S RIGHT?!

Relax. Let me tell you a little about my own chapter lengths and then about what I’ve read in actual books and not in internet forums. My first book, if you can even call it that, came in at just over 55,000 words and 21 chapters. Some simple math puts the average chapter length at roughly 2,600 words. I think it’s actually just a tad higher because the book may have been closer to 55,400 words, but let’s just go with the nice round number of 2,600 for the purpose of this post. That would put the average chapter at about 10 pages in my book. Note that my book averaged about 250 words per page. The typical books I read average between 250-350. But the number of pages is irrelevant. It’s all about word count if you ask me.

But the average is not necessarily representative of the norm when it comes to my book. The shortest chapter I wrote was a mere 900 words. I didn’t much like it, but ended up leaving it in because it seemed to somewhat fit in the story. It was the second chapter I ever wrote. I honestly had no idea what the heck I was doing at the time. Still don’t, to be quite honest. Anyway, The differences don’t end there when it comes to chapter lengths in my short book. The first 10 chapters of my book roughly averaged 2,300 words each. The last 11 averaged 2,800. That may not seem like a huge difference, but it definitely is. One more final note before I get into what I’ve read about chapter lengths. The longest chapter I wrote for my first book came in just under 3,700 words, which I think was 18 or 19 pages in the book. So my range was 900-3,700 words per chapter for the whole of the work. Now let’s see what others have to say about it.

I definitely did the whole Google thing to find out the proper chapter length for my genre before I started writing, and it pretty much played out how I described above. There are simply too many voices out there telling you this or telling you that that it’s impossible to ever know for sure if there is a specific chapter length that you should aim for. For my references to other author’s works I’ll have to use page counts because I don’t know the exact word counts for any of their books. Robert B. Parker’s mystery novels tend to stay within 5-7 page chapters. Steve Hamilton’s are in the 12-15 page range. Michael Connelly writes in the 10-15 page range. But then Kevin O’Brien and Karin Slaughter, both New York Times bestselling authors, rarely write chapters less than 25 pages! WHAT? And then you have James Patterson on the opposite end of the spectrum writing 2-4 page chapters. What’s your take from this? There is no set chapter length. There isn’t.

But since most of you are writers yourselves, I’d like to know about your personal preferences when it comes to chapter length. I like 2,000 words to be minimum for mine, but I’ve written several below that threshold, including in my second book. But you all are also readers. I’d like to know if there is a certain number of pages per chapter that you feel is simply too many. In my opinion, once I get over 20 pages in a single chapter I’m hoping the next turn of the page is a new one. But that’s just me, tell me about you!


I wrote this post by referencing earlier posts from last year when I was still working on my first book. I was sitting here crying because you can feel the excitement in each post growing as I neared what I knew would be the end. I don’t know if one’s earlier self can inspire one’s later self, but I’m thinking it’s possible. I want to get back to that point in my writing again. I’m a baby, I know.

Here are three posts I think you might enjoy reading. You’ve never seen any of these, they’re from August of last year.

And Then There was One

The End is Near

Done! Acabado! Fertig!