Friday, December 3, 2010

Conferences & Workshops

I've been involved with producing numerous writers' conferences and workshops over the past six years. I've also attended so many I've lost count, as well as presented my share of workshops. It strikes me that both are good ways to stay connected with the writing community, to polish our craft and add key individuals to our network of supporters.

Maybe you're one of those writers who found an agent or publisher at a conference. Or made a key contact that led to getting published. Or learned how to write more effective dialogue or scene structure at a workshop. All of this and more can happen when writers attend workshops and conferences with open minds and positive attitudes.

When you become published, you'll also be invited to participate at conferences, which is always a big ego boost, as well as another opportunity to sell books. Of course, there comes a time when we have to decide if our time is more valuably spent staying home and writing or attending conferences.

Let me know if you have a conference success story to share. Now I have to go back to planning the workshops for next year's UNF Writers Conference.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Good Week

It was indeed a good week. It began with my publisher informing me that Windrusher and the Trail of Fire had won a Silver Medal in the Florida Publishers Association's annual President's Book Competition. This was indeed good news. On my way to the Florida Writers Association 9th Annual Florida Writers Conference Wednesday, I stopped by the Flagler Beach offices of Ocean Publishing and publisher Frank Gromling presented me with the medal.

After grinning through this photo session, I continued on to Lake Mary, just east of Orlando, for the FWA conference which lasted through Sunday afternoon. It was a busy four days, starting with a presentation of my Novel in A Day workshop on Thursday, moderating the agents and publishers' panel on Friday, and presenting another writing workshop on Saturday.

The FWA Conference was one of the best ever, and I've attended seven of the nine. This year's attracted 420 writers from multiple states. The highlight was the Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) banquet Saturday night where over 350 people were treated to an inspiring talk by award-winning military historian , Carlo D'Este, author of Patton: A Genius for War and Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life among others. Carlo was good, but we all looked forward to learning the winners of the RPLA.

As a Regional Director and Board member of FWA, it's been my pleasure to participate in the growth of the organization that began just 9 years ago with only 7 members and now is approaching 1,200 members. The Northeast Florida region, which I oversee, was well represented in the awards ceremony, taking home 21 separate awards, including Book of the Year in the Unpublished category. Those of you who have followed my writing career may recall that my mystery, Matanzas Bay, took Book of the Year honors last year. I was happy to learn my short story, The Day Hemingway Died, took second place in the published category. The story first appeared in The Flagler Review, Flagler College's literary magazine. You can read the first few pages of the story by clicking on the Other Works button at the top of my web pages. Or just click here.

Let me hear from you if you've had a good week, like making the New York Times Bestseller list, for example.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sergio's Story

This blog post was supposed to be a celebration of my new and improved website finally going live. You can view it as usual at When you do, click on Author Bio and scroll down to the photo of Sergio licking my head. We only added this photo last week along with a new page of Vic's Cats.

Even as I added the photo, I knew Sergio was no longer the playful and energetic kitty he was when that photo was taken a few years back. Just two months ago, Sergio was diagnosed with the beginnings of kidney failure. We put him on a special diet and gave him lots of love. You can see by the postscript I added that Sergio lost his battle with the disease and now joins seven other cats in our book of memories.

Sergio was a neighborhood stray, growing up feral like many of our adopted cats. He came to us and we fed him. Eventually we had him trapped and neutered. The plan was to return him to our front yard since we already had a houseful of cats. First we sequestered him in a bedroom until he healed from the surgery. But somewhere along the line, we decided to keep Sergio (as we named him) and introduce him to his new family of brothers and sisters. There was Satchmo, Rocco, Sami, Gage and Sasha. Unlike these other rescues, Sergio wasn't ready to be a house cat. He spent all his time hiding under a bed. We figured he'd eventually come out and join the others, but he didn't. And he wasn't eating. The poor cat was obviously miserable inside and my wife decided it was best to return Sergio to the outdoors where we found him. So about two weeks after we brought him in, she opened a window in the bedroom and he scampered out.

A funny thing happened, though. Sergio kept returning to our front door, and we kept feeding him. After many months, he allowed us to pet him without running. This went on for more months while we made friends with this stubbornly-resistent outdoor cat. We eventually got him in the house only to have him scurry under the bed again. My wife and I looked at one another, thinking, "Here we go again." But this stage lasted only a day or two ending when my wife entered the bedroom to find Sergio not under the bed but on top of it. He looked at her as if to say, "What? Isn't this where I belong?"

Sergio was now part of the household, and a fully socialized kitty. He proved to be one of the sweetest boys we've had, never giving us any trouble. Fast-forward twelve years. We awoke yesterday morning to find Sergio in bed with us, something he never did. Was he saying goodbye as a friend suggested? Perhaps, but yesterday we said goodbye to him after the vet informed us his kidneys had shut down completely. Goodbye Sergio, and to the 12 years of friendship and good spirits you brought to our household.

I'd like to think he would have enjoyed seeing his picture on my website, and remembered fondly the times he licked my head while I sat there reading or watching television. I know I will.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Website

We're making progress with the new website and hope to go "live" shortly. Thanks for your patience. I did want you to know that I've added a new feature that will spotlight Windrusher's fans. You can be part of it by sending me a JPG photo of you and your cat reading or displaying one of my books. Well, unless your cat is extra-cerebral, you'll be reading the book and your cat will be watching you for any sudden movements – like reaching into your pocket for a yummy tuna treat. Send your photos to me at

And speaking of photos, while updating my page of photos of our cats for the new website, I came across this one of Gage, who passed on some years ago. As I was writing the first
Windrusher adventure, I used Gage as my model for Lil One. She was a true Wetlos, though a lovable one. We would crack up
at her antics like sitting and staring skywards as if a squadron
of invisible mice was marching across the ceiling. At other times, she enjoyed chasing his tail, though didn't seem to know what to do with it once he caught it. We miss Gage and still speak fondly of her.

I'm sure you have wonderful memories of your old friends.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What's Going On?

Did you know there was a revolution going on? Not the shooting wars in Africa and elsewhere, but one that's affecting everyone who reads. I'm referring to the e-revolution turning books into digital files.

How many of you have already joined the revolution? Do you have a Kindle or an iPad? How about a Nook or Sony Reader? These are the top four right now, with Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad leading the way—in a big way. Apple recently announced they had topped the 3 million mark for iPad sales while Amazon has lowered the price of the Kindle several times to stay competitive with the other e-readers.

Maybe you think, as I once did, that this was a passing trend. Who would want to read from a screen when they had the option of holding a real book in their hands, feel the weight and texture of the pages? Certainly, there will always be "real" books we can hold and pages to turn, but the publishing industry is learning some hard lessons the music industry learned several years back when the iPod and iTunes turned that industry on its head. Remember all those music stores? Coconuts, FlipSide, Tower Records, Musicland, Sam Goody? All gone.

The Association of American Publishers announced recently that sales of adult hardcover books for June were down almost 14 percent, while ebook sales were up an incredible 119 percent. Amazon recently reported that for every 100 hardcover books sold in June they sold 180 Kindle books. Authors Charlaine Harris, Stephanie Meyer, James Patters and Nora Roberts have each sold more than half-a-million books, and Stieg Larsson, author of the Millennium series that started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has become the first author to sell over one million Kindle books. Unfortunately, he's dead and can't enjoy the fruits of his labors.

Which brings me back to my original question—did you know there was a revolution going on, and are you part of it? Each of my Windrusher books are available as Kindle downloads, but I have no idea how many people are taking advantage of this. Let me know if you own one of these devices and if you've downloaded any of the Windrusher books. As for me, I don't own a dedicated e-reader, though I do have several books loaded onto my iPod Touch. I am considering either the Kindle or iPad. What are your recommendations?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Something borrowed, something new

If you've gone to my website in recent days you saw the Under Construction sign. After six years of pretending I knew what I was doing, I've turned the job over to a brilliant graphic designer and website professional. I may not be totally objective since he's my son, but I'm confident the results will be a great improvement over my haphazard attempts.

Below the Under Construction sign is an invitation to visit my Blog. I accepted that invitation and realized I hadn't added a new post in over a year. Chalk it up to my innate laziness, though I prefer to call it exhaustion caused by excessive multi-tasking. The truth is that last year I switched to sending out a monthly e-newsletter to my readers, but it got me to thinking about what authors do to keep their name alive in the minds of their readers. It reminded me of Billy Joel's song, The Entertainer. In his plaintive testament to the price of fame, he wails,

But if I go cold, I won't be sold.
I'll get put in the back in the discount rack
like another can of beans.

Most authors I know may not be able to relate to Billy Joel's fame, but we certainly understand his message. Before my first Windrusher book was published in 2004, I attended a writer's conference and heard one author say "a book had the shelf life of a banana." If those black-spotted fruit in my kitchen are any indication, that means they won't be around as long as that can of beans.

Which brings me back to my first blog post since February of 2009. With my new website, I promise to make a renewed effort to post regularly, speaking on all things writerly, on the changes in the publishing industry, and introducing you to other authors. And I'd love to hear from you. Offer me your insights, suggestions, comments. preferably written on the back of a ten dollar bill, but please respond either way. It's a brave new world out there for authors and book lovers. Let's enjoy it together.