Wednesday, June 28, 2017

THE EAVESDROPPER paperback sneak peek

THE EAVESDROPPER is already available on Amazon Kindle, and about one third of the book can be sampled on my YouTube channel.

In the video below, I have a hot-off-the-presses copy of this latest corporate thriller. 

I also discuss upcoming reading plans for the YouTube channel.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Do you believe in ghosts?

From my YouTube channel: Reading #58 of my coming-of-age paranormal thriller/dark fantasy novel, 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN.

In this installment, Leah, Jeff, and Bobby meet Jimmy Wilson, who warns them of impending danger, and asks them if they believe in ghosts.

After the night that the three have had so far, the answer to that question is obvious.

Jimmy stood up and sighed. He wasn't wearing a Halloween costume, obviously, given his age. His oxford-style blue dress shirt was untucked and half unbuttoned. His jeans were stained with what might have been grease or dirt. The fabric covering his right thigh was torn, revealing a patch of very white skin that had probably never been decently tanned.  
“Ronny, Larry, and Jerry,” Jimmy said. “Ronald Willis, Larry Sturgis, and Jerry Ames, to be exact. Do you know who they are—or were?”
Leah, Bobby and I looked back and forth at each other. None of us had heard these names before.
“No,” Jimmy said. “I guess you haven’t. That was before your time, wasn't it? Before my time, too, actually. Maybe I’ll have a chance to tell you about that. But right now we need to get out of here. It isn’t safe around here.”
Bobby snorted. “No shit, Sherlock.”
Jimmy dismissed Bobby’s sarcasm with a mild look of annoyance. “Have the three of you seen anything—unusual—out here tonight?” he asked. 
“Have we?” Leah said. “Have we ever.”
We proceeded to give Jimmy an overview of everything that had happened to us that night—and all that we had seen: the realistic gravestones that might have been nothing more than someone’s sick idea of a joke, but were almost certainly something else, in retrospect. The moaning, writhing bodies in the muck. Elmira and the tree. The Shipley house. 
Jimmy took it all in without too much visible surprise. “It’s happening again, then,” he said.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“I don’t exactly know,” Jimmy said. “All I can tell you is that something similar happened to me about five or six years ago, when I was your age, more or less. Tell me: Have any of you been visited by this weird kid? He looks, I don’t know, maybe fifteen or sixteen years old?”
“You mean the ‘ghost boy?” I replied.
“Yeah. I suppose that’s as good a name for him as any. Though my friends and I called him the ‘dead kid’. Same thing, I guess. Well, he’s been fifteen or sixteen for a long, long time.”
Jimmy’s revelation created more questions than it answered. The things we had been seeing and experiencing tonight—Jimmy had seen and experienced them, too. But why? And what exactly was going on?
“Who is he?” I asked.  “I mean the ghost boy—the dead kid.”
“I don’t know,” Jimmy admitted. “You want my best guess? I’d say he’s some wandering ghost who found his way here, and decided to stay. Or maybe he used to live here. I don’t really know. 
“Say,” Jimmy asked. “Do all of you believe in ghosts?”
We nervously laughed and muttered various responses that mingled bravado with gallows humor. Whatever we had believed in before this night, there could be no doubt about the matter now. Yes, we all believed in ghosts. 
“Good,” Jimmy said. “Because whether or not you believe in them, they believe in you. That’s the important thing. Now, we need to get the hell out of here, if you’ll excuse my French. We shouldn’t be standing in the middle of the road here—not with Ronny, Larry, and Jerry around. I know a place not far from here where we should be safe until the danger passes—the immediate danger, that is. Follow me.”

Monday, June 26, 2017

THE EAVESDROPPER: Prologue and Chapter 1

Are you in the mood for a workplace conspiracy thriller? You've come to the right place....

What would you do if you overheard three of your coworkers planning a murder?

Frank Joseph has a quiet life, a daughter he loves, and a “typical boring desk job” in the purchasing department of Thomas-Smithfield Electronics. 

One day he overhears three of his coworkers plotting the “elimination” of another coworker. 

Frank is both shaken, and uncertain of exactly what he has overheard. But he is also incapable of standing by and doing nothing, while an innocent person’s life is in imminent danger. 

Frank attempts to intervene. But he soon discovers that he has the situation all wrong, and now he is the next target of a complicated and deadly conspiracy.

“There's nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.” 

Thorton Wilder


My name is Frank Joseph. What follows is the story of what happened when I eavesdropped on a conversation at work one day. 
I was a purchasing agent at a company called Thomas-Smithfield Electronics. 
Yes, a humble purchasing agent. I spent most of my day in a cubicle, hunched over a computer, often with a phone in my ear. I attended meetings. I did my best to finesse the intricacies of corporate politics. 
A typical boring desk job, you might say.
Well, that typical boring job almost got me killed. Or to be more precise, what I overheard one day at work almost got me killed.

Before I tell you what happened, let’s talk a little bit about eavesdroppers and eavesdropping, shall we? We all claim to look down on those who eavesdrop. 
And yet, we all do it. Be honest—if not with me, at least with yourself. 
This is especially true in office settings. The cubicle farm that has become the fixture of modern corporate life encourages eavesdropping.
Sometimes you simply can’t help but listen in on a discussion that doesn't concern you. (This is largely because, corporate politics being what they are, any given discussion very well might concern you—or it might even be someone talking explicitly about you.) 
Of course, many of the conversations we overhear in passing, both intentionally and unintentionally, are indeed inconsequential: People talk about their weekend plans, their preferences in food and entertainment, a fight with a spouse or a significant other. People talk to pass the time, especially at work. 
Most of this stuff simply floats in one ear and out the other, forming the white noise of the modern workplace.
But every once in a great while, you overhear something that really does change your life. Sometimes people reveal the darkest of intentions when they think no one is listening.
And that’s what happened to me. 

Chapter 1

Donnie Brady and I were both standing before the mirror in the men’s room on the third floor of the Thomas-Smithfield Electronics headquarters building. I was doing my best to ignore his presence, but I knew that he wasn't going to let me off that easy.
“So,” he began, “All that sucking up you’ve been doing has finally paid off.”
Donnie was about my age, give or take a year or two. We were both in our early thirties. The main difference between us was our relative sizes. I was five-ten and weighed maybe a hundred and sixty pounds soaking wet. Donnie was six feet, three inches tall. His frequent gym workouts were apparent even beneath the white fabric of his button-down oxford shirt. He usually left the top button of his shirt unbuttoned and worse his tie loose. His neck was that thick.
“I’ll take that as a congratulations on my promotion,” I replied. Truth be told, Donnie Brady made me more than a little uneasy—even before everything happened. He had always given off the aura of a hoodlum in business attire. But I wasn't going to back down; I was determined not to let him rattle my cage.
Donnie noisily expelled a puff of air out through his lips, a universal expression of sarcasm. 
“More like you’re just a big suck-up,” he said. He stopped checking his hair (although he was often disheveled, he was simultaneously vain about his appearance), and took a step closer to me. 
Donnie now towered over me, and I couldn't ignore the disparities in our heights, sizes, and physical strengths. I had thought that concerns about bullies were twenty years behind me, in the distant memories of junior high. Well, you just never know what aspects of childhood are going to come back to bite you in early middle age, do you?
I was still determined to hold my ground. “If you’ve got a problem with it, Donnie, talk to Sid Harper. Or talk to HR if you want to. Hell, I don’t care. You’d think I’d been promoted to president of the company. It’s a grade promotion. That’s all.”
Donnie was miffed because I had recently been promoted to senior buyer. This was, as I’d reminded him, a very low-key grade promotion. But it came with a modest bump in pay, and eventually it might mean a marginal level of authority. The promotion had been decided immediately prior to the company’s Christmas/year-end break; and it had gone into effect a week ago, the first week of the new year. 
I won't lie: I was more than a little happy to get the promotion. It was a small bright spot in what had otherwise been a depressing phase of my life. I had been downsized (or “right-sized”, or whatever they call it) out of my last job two years ago, about the time that my marriage had imploded. I was now living in Cincinnati, Ohio, and my ex-wife and daughter were living an hour away, in Dayton. 
Thomas-Smithfield was a snake pit of a company in many ways. There had been a series of upper-management shakeups; and the average employee didn't seem to be particularly happy. Well, I guess they call it “work” for a reason, right? Since joining the company barely a year ago, I had done my best to buckle down and work hard. Sid Harper, the manager over our purchasing group, had recognized and acknowledged my efforts. The grade promotion had been his idea. 
“You haven't been here as long as either Bethany or me,” Donnie said. “And you’re the one that gets the grade promotion. Explain to me how that happens.”
I was going to tell Donnie that it might have something to do with all the time he spent checking ESPN and on the Internet. Or maybe it was all the time that he and Bethany spent sneaking around, making out and fooling around in one of their cars during work hours. 
But mentioning those things might be going a bridge too far. I didn't want to escalate matters. I wasn't actively afraid of Donnie. But I avoided being alone with him when I could. I didn't know if he was capable of real violence. But I knew, even then, that he wouldn't be above keying the side of my vehicle in the company parking lot. 
“Like I said,” I told him, “I don’t decide who gets promoted. You got a problem with it, talk to HR or Sid.”
I turned to leave the men’s room. Donnie turned around, too. He stepped ahead of me, and cut me off, blocking my path to the exit.
“Maybe I’ve got a problem with you,” he said, throwing down the gauntlet. 
“I’ve got work to do,” I muttered. I brushed by him. It was then that I got a full sense of his height and strength. He didn't yield at all, and I had to squeeze myself between him and the wall.
But at least I didn't back down. I passed through the swinging restroom door and stepped out into the main office area, relieved to find that Donnie hadn't followed me, at least. 
I know what you’re thinking: Why didn't I go to HR about Donnie? Thomas-Smithfield, like every company in the litigious twenty-first century, had a lengthy and explicit set of policies that forbade all forms of bullying and harassment, or “hostile work environment”, in human resources parlance. 
The simple truth was that I didn't want to be wuss. My manhood had already been challenged by my unwanted divorce, and I wasn't going to let Donnie Brady humiliate me further—even if it meant getting my ass kicked one day in the parking lot after work.
How far was Donnie Brady prepared to go? I had no idea then. But I would soon find out. 


A reading of the title story from my collection: HAY MOON & OTHER STORIES: SIXTEEN MODERN TALES OF HORROR & SUSPENSE.

Below is the title story. It is available as part of the short story collection, as well as a standalone horror novelette on Amazon Kindle:

Hay Moon

“What’s the scariest thing you ever saw, Gramps?”
It is odd how an innocent question like that can bring back such horrible memories; and even odder in this case, since the question came from none other than Lisa, my little great granddaughter. 
Today is Halloween, and Lisa’s mother, Emily, brought her over to visit her sole surviving great grandparent before an evening of trick-or-treating. Lisa was wearing one of those plastic Halloween costumes that parents nowadays buy for their kids at Walmart or Target. This particular one looked like a cartoon ghost character that I have seen on television over the years.
“What’s the scariest thing you ever saw, Gramps?” Lisa was standing in my living room, unable to contain her self-delight over her Halloween disguise. She was holding a trick-or-treat bag that bore the image of a typical Halloween cliché: a witch flying on a broomstick, silhouetted against an oversized full moon. I had just dropped two Snickers bars into her bag—her first of many before the end of the evening, no doubt. Lisa was filled with energy even without all that sugar. 
“Tell me what’s the scariest thing you ever saw.” She repeated. “Tell me, pleeeease! You always tell good stories, Gramps.” She stamped her foot once on my living room carpet.
I didn’t answer her right away, because the images that stirred as I considered the question made me lose my breath for a few seconds. Then I struggled to think of a suitable response. My answer would be a lie, of course. Not for a million dollars would I tell my great granddaughter the truth.
“Well, once this scary little ghost came into my living room.” I said, recovering myself. “And I’ve never seen anything scarier than her.” I pulled Lisa gently onto my lap and she began giggling. She is only eight years old, and still light enough so that her weight doesn’t hurt my knees—even though my arthritis has gotten quite bad in recent years.
“Lisa, say thank you for the candy your great grandfather gave you.” Emily said. Lisa responded with an enthusiast thank you and more laughter, her voice muffled by the plastic mask that came with the discount store Halloween costume.
“Will you be alright here by yourself tonight, Grandpa?” Emily asked. Emily is now what—thirty-six?—and it doesn’t seem like so many years since her own mother used to bring her here to visit me, and she would be the one sitting on my knee. (Or I should say visit us—as that was back when my wife Elsie was still alive.)
“I’ll be fine, dear. Don’t you worry,” I said. “Just take this little girl out trick-or-treating before she blows a gasket. And be safe, the both of you.”
They visited for few more minutes, and then bid me farewell. As they were walking out, Emily’s husband Todd called on her cell phone, and made arrangements to meet them for a quick dinner before taking Lisa out trick-or-treating. Emily invited me to accompany them but I declined. I knew that I would be an imposition; and anyway, I suddenly found myself in a thinking mood—not a talking mood. So I waved goodbye to them from my front porch; and they both waved back at me from the front seat of Emily’s SUV. 
And then I was left alone with my own thoughts. From my front porch I could survey the jack-o-lanterns and cardboard skeletons that adorned the houses across the street. The afternoon sun was fading. In a few hours, an army of imposters would descend on the neighborhood: goblins, witches, and more ghosts like my little Lisa.
(“What’s the scariest thing you ever saw, Gramps?)   
Every life has its dreadful episodes, its junctions with stark, naked fear; and mine is no exception. I have been profoundly frightened on a handful of occasions. I was in the war—the big one in Europe; and I had several close calls there. But those involved the simple fear of death. And when you cheat death, the feeling afterward is more often relief than dread. That was close, you tell yourself, but I made it out alive. And after you have put the memory sufficiently far behind you, it even makes you feel lucky to be alive—or blessed—depending on your view of the world.
Once, though, I cheated death in another way—and perhaps I cheated something even worse than death. I escaped; but rather than relief, I am left with a memory that still causes me to wake up screaming from time to time—more than seventy years later. 

Not that it is always with me. For years at a stretch, it leaves me alone. But then something—usually something casual and insignificant—drudges it up. And then I’m back there again—just like tonight.....



A funny thing about flashbacks: they come unbidden, and at the most unexpected times. 
One moment I was standing in Walmart, and the next moment I was not: I was a twelve-year-old boy again, crouching beside the outer wall of a darkened house in a long-ago suburb, hoping that the shrubbery to my right and my left had adequately concealed my presence. A malevolent creature was intent on taking my head. He—or it—had an entire sack full of them.
That particular flashback is always especially vivid. When it overtakes me, I can feel not only the pervasive, all-consuming fear of those eternal minutes, but also the little details of my surroundings: the cold, damp ground beneath me, the scratchy feel of the barren shrubbery of late October. ....

The Pacific: the HBO miniseries...a mini-review

Yes, I realize that I'm a little late to this party. The HBO miniseries The Pacific was released in 2010, and I've only recently gotten around to watching it. That was my mistake...but better late than never.

Although presented as a purely dramatic work, The Pacific is actually more of a docudrama, in that it follows the stories of real Americans who experienced the U.S. war against the Japanese.

The level of violence in many of the combat scenes will be difficult for some viewers to handle. The violence is, however, not of the gratuitous kind that we so often see in movies nowadays, but a realistic depiction of what combat on Iwo Jima, Peleliu, and Okinawa was really like. Be forewarned, though: the battle scenes are intense and graphic, and will not be suitable for everyone. 

The Pacific seems to be mostly based on the wartime diaries of Eugene Sledge. A native of Mobile, Alabama, Sledge served in the Pacific, and later became a professor of biology. He compiled and edited his diaries into a book, With the Old Breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa, which you can still purchase on Amazon.

At the end of the last disc, there is a nice little segment that gives brief summaries of the postwar lives of the major characters. Most of these marines went on to some form of success after the war. Almost all of them had passed away by the time The Pacific aired. The majority of them died between the late 1990s and 2005.

As the World War II generation passes into history, it is worth reflecting that we have not only lost a great generation, but also a vast number of personal stories from which we might gain lessons and inspiration. The American marines who served in the Pacific took the concept of "tough" to an entirely new level. I cannot imagine myself enduring what these men endured. I'm in complete and unabashed awe of them. The were heroes in the truest sense of that word.

The Pacific captures a handful of these personal stories in vivid detail, with superb writing, choreography, and acting. This is television that is well worth your time.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

YouTube update: 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN

 I am still reading my coming-of-age horror novel, 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN, on my YouTube channel. Below is reading #56. You can catch all the previously posted videos for the book on my YouTube channel at any time.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


That's right. To celebrate the passing of the summer solstice and the beginning of shorter days, my short story THANATOS POSTPONED will be available for FREE on Amazon Kindle this Thursday and Friday.

This is something of an "innocents abroad" story set in Mexico. I've also read this one on my YouTube channel. Enjoy.

Monday, June 19, 2017


If you'd like a free short story of mine this Tuesday, feel free to download THE VAN for free to your Amazon Kindle. 

Troy is a single father, traveling with his 13-year-old daughter, Ellie, through Tennessee. 

When they stop in a restaurant, Troy becomes alarmed as two rough-looking men begin paying his daughter unwelcome attention. 

Troy is soon to discover that the two men harbor a horrible secret…a secret with implications for himself, Ellie, and other lives as well. 

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Sunday, June 18, 2017


....The paperback will be available in about 2 weeks! description:

What would you do if you overheard three of your coworkers planning a murder?

Frank Joseph has a quiet life, a 
daughter he loves, and a “typical boring desk job” in the purchasing department of Thomas-Smithfield Electronics. 

One day he overhears three of his coworkers plotting the “elimination” of another coworker. 

Frank is both shaken, and uncertain of exactly what he has overheard. But he is also incapable of standing by and doing nothing, while an innocent person’s life is in imminent danger. 

Frank attempts to intervene. But he soon discovers that he has the situation all wrong, and now he is the next target of a complicated and deadly conspiracy.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

FREE today on Amazon Kindle: GIANTS IN THE TREES

One my early short stories. Get it today on Amazon Kindle for free.

Amazon description:

Jim knew that his older coworker, Paul Taulbee, had a checkered past. But he was unprepared for the horror he discovered on the night he gave Paul a ride home from the office.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

40 years of watching 'Star Wars'

Last night I watched Rogue One, the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise, with my dad.

It occurred to me as we were watching the movie that much had changed since the last time the two of us watched a Star Wars film together. 

In the summer of 1977, I was nine years old and my dad was 31. He took me to the local cinema to see Star Wars, which was a really big deal that summer. 

I'm now coming up on my 49th birthday. My dad is 71.

What about the movie? When the film came out a few months back, I understood that it was embroiled in various political controversies. (Isn't everything, nowadays?) 

If you'd care to wade into that, you can Google "rogue one politics". I'd rather not. I was more concerned with simply watching the movie. 

Rogue One was a fun film, and--in my estimation, at least--probably the best one to come out since the original three: Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983). 

And yes--in case you're wondering--I refuse to refer to the original Star Wars as "A New Hope". The movie that was released in 1977 was called Star Wars. It doesn't need a new name.

THE EAVESDROPPER: a change of plans

Well, I have good news and bad news, depending on how you enjoy consuming your stories. 

The production schedule for the Kindle/print versions of THE EAVESDROPPER has outpaced the readings of the videos on my YouTube channel. The Kindle version should be available next week, and the paperback version will be available a week or two after that. 

I'll be honest with you all here: I love YouTubing and making videos. If it were up to me, I would delay the production of every book and short story in order to fully serialize it on YouTube first. Because that's something I really enjoy. 

But at the end of the day, my priority is giving stories to readers, when they want them and in the formats they want them. 

Recently readers have told me that while they enjoy listening to my YouTube videos in order to "sample" a story, they prefer to go to the print or Kindle version when it comes time to really jump into it. 

This makes sense to me.  I enjoy watching videos on YouTube, but I recognize that a 50- to 100-video playlist may not be the most convenient way to read/listen to a novel. 

For those of you who have been watching all the videos--don't worry! I will continue to read chapters of my books (and entire short stories) on YouTube. But I may shift my scheduling priorities a bit as I move forward. Readers have told me that they want Kindle/print versions first, so Kindle and print versions will be my priorities.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A hot crime thriller for summer

Are you in the mood for a pulse-pounding crime thriller? Try my Kentucky crime novel, Blood Flats.

What's it about?

Lee McCabe, an ex-marine and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is framed for a double homicide. Battling local meth traffickers and mafia hitmen, Lee goes on a gun-blazing battle across rural Kentucky in order to clear his name.

Who is it for?

Fans of Stephen Hunter, Lee Child, and David Baldacci. 

What formats are available?

Amazon Kindle and paperback.

Can I read it in Kindle Unlimited?

Yes. Blood Flats is currently enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. 

Can I sample it on YouTube?

Yes. At the time of this writing, I've read a handful of chapters on YouTube

Monday, June 12, 2017

Hot, hot, hot..writing in a heat wave

It's hotter than Hades in Cincinnati this past week. My lawn is dying from a combination of blazing sun and scant rain. When did they relocate Southern Ohio to Arizona?

June is typically a slow time for book sales, but it's a great time for writing--especially if you aren't fond of hot weather. (So long as the air conditioning holds out, that is.)

If you're in the mood to sit back and listen to my serial corporate thriller, THE EAVESDROPPER, you can listen to all the videos in the playlist on my YouTube channel. 

If you're in the mood for a scary walk down a haunted road in Ohio, try ELEVEN MILES OF NIGHT, which is available in both Amazon Kindle and paperback.

The summer, and the stories, roll on...

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Storytelling in rock music: “Hotel California”

I was thirteen years old the first time I heard “Hotel California” by The Eagles. 

I loved this song immediately, and I love it still, even though I’ve heard it literally thousands of times. (Hey, I was thirteen years old in 1981; that’s plenty of time to hear a single rock ballad thousands of times.)

This is a great example of compact storytelling. In a mere 345 words, Glenn Frey and Don Henley manage to spin a tale that contains multiple scenes, vivid surrealistic imagery, and a deeper theme of lost innocence. 

Consider the first stanza:

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair 
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air 
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light 
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim 
I had to stop for the night.

When you read these lines, you can actually see an image of this guy, riding along a “dark desert highway.” 

Frey and Henley don’t mention his means of conveyance, but I have always pictured him on a motorcycle. Why? He feels the “cool wind” in his hair. (Note the genius of brevity and implication here.) 

The hotel is mirage-like (“a shimmering light”). You feel the weariness of the narrator (“My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim…”)

But I really love the next stanza:

There she stood in the doorway;  
I heard the mission bell 
And I was thinking to myself
'This could be heaven or this could be Hell' 
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way

Consider the lyricists’ choice of words: This lone woman is waiting in the doorway of the establishment. This conveys (without Frey and Henley explicitly telling you) that the Hotel California is an old Spanish-style inn, versus the local Best Western. He hears “the mission bell.” When was the last time you heard a mission bell at a Best Western or a Motel 6?

And to completely cement the atmosphere, the woman lights up a candle to show the narrator the way. Wow. Can’t you just see this woman, holding a candle, as she leads you down a darkened hallway through a converted Spanish mission in Arizona or New Mexico? I sure can. 

And that’s only the first two stanzas. “Hotel California” gets even more surreal as it continues. There’s a fairly solid story here; and again: 345 words. But not a word is wasted. No wonder this song still gets a generous amount of airplay, forty years after its original release.  

Friday, June 9, 2017

Happy Friday: writing, hockey, and world events

It's Friday, of course, which will put many of you in a good mood. 

I'm following the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. The Penguins blanked the nefarious Predators last night, 6-0, which put me in a good mood. 

On the not-so-good side, the United Kingdom is in turmoil. There has been plenty of news from Europe in recent weeks--most of it bad.

I'll be writing today, and posting more story videos for you all to my YouTube channel. 

I hope you make the best of your Friday. Over here, the stories roll on. 

I'll leave you for now with Reading #53 of 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN. Be sure to catch this coming-of-age supernatural thriller on my YouTube channel, or get it dirt-cheap on Amazon Kindle. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

THE EAVESDROPPER: About the book

The "about" video for THE EAVESDROPPER, and my thoughts about the serialization of novels for the YouTube format.

To listen to the other videos for this corporate thriller (and many other works of suspense fiction), visit my YouTube channel.

Thriller fiction and real-life influences

Stepping into the Ed library today, I address a question from a reader about the real-life influences of THE EAVESDROPPER, the corporate thriller that I'm serializing on my YouTube channel.

THE EAVESDROPPER involves multiple conspiracies. One of these conspiracies is indeed based on a white-collar crime that I was made aware of during my days in the corporate world. (I've embellished it considerably, as I explain in the video below.)

Too many books? Authors and discoverability

In the video below, I address the question: Are there too many books--especially in the wake of the indie publishing boom?

The short answer is: Yes, there are too many books, if we define "too many" as a state of profusion in which not every book will find sufficient readers. (Some books won't find any readers.) 

But there have always been too many books. In every artistic endeavor, supply has always outstripped demand.

In the present hyper-abundance of the Internet, the real battle is for discoverability. This is why writers have to market their stories like rock bands market their music. That is, they have to give readers plenty of opportunities to sample what they have on offer. This is a major motivation behind my YouTube channel.

What I'll be doing today

Let's see...Lots on my plate for today:

1.) Novel writing: I'll be finishing up the remaining chapters of THE EAVESDROPPER. (Last night I posted Chapter 26 of the serialized book on my YouTube channel.)

2.) Short story writing: I'll be working on the short fiction projects I discussed in an earlier post.

3.) YouTube: I've just posted Reading #52 of 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN on YouTube. Don't forget that you can get the book dirt-cheap on Amazon Kindle!

4.) Hockey: Tonight is Game #5 of the Stanley Cup finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins vs the Nashville Predators. Go Penguins!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Writing, YouTube changes..and baseball

Last night I watched Scooter Gennett hit four home runs in the Reds' 13-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season, and seeing what this young man (and the rest of the team) can do.

I've been writing, writing, writing...

I've also uploaded some more chapters of THE EAVESDROPPER to my YouTube channel. More will soon follow, as will additional chapters of my coming-of-age supernatural thriller, 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN

*       *        *

And in the near future, there will be more short fiction, with a few changes. Let me explain:

Most of the short fiction I've published to date has been in 5,000- to 7,000-word range. (Long short stories, if you'll forgive the oxymoron.)

The problem when converting these longer short stories to YouTube is their length: A 7,000-word story can easily take an hour to read. That's a long march by YouTube standards. 

I'm presently developing some shorter tales, in the 1K- to 3K-word range, that can be read in less than 30 minutes. 

The majority of these will be genre stories: mystery, science fiction, horror, and fantasy--just like my previous short stories and novels. But they'll be shorter and sweeter, so to speak.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Writing excuses and hockey

I tried to work on the outline for my next fiction project last night while I watched game #4 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But it's almost impossible for me to focus on much else when I'm engrossed in a hockey game. Mostly I just watched hockey.

The Predators won the game, 4-1; but I remain hopeful of a final victory for the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

I'm not a sports blogger, but I have one comment: Hello, Nashville refs? 

Throughout the game, the Predators were committing grievous acts of slashing, tripping, and unnecessary roughing, with nary a word from the referees. They continued their flagrant bullying of Crosby. P.K. Subban was out of control.

Granted, hockey is a contact sport; but the refs shouldn't allow a game to degenerate into a one-sided street brawl, because they don't want to call penalties on their home team.

End of rant. Now, back to my fiction projects--until game #5, that is.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Why I’m vlogging my books on YouTube

The other day another writer dropped by my virtual home here to ask why I’m reading so much of my fiction on my YouTube channel. 

Just in case you don’t know: This is a project that I began in earnest last September, when I began reading my supernatural thriller, ELEVEN MILES OF NIGHT on the video sharing site. 

Since then, I’ve done readings for a number of my previously published novels, novellas, and short stories. I’m currently reading an in-process project, THE EAVESDROPPER. My plan henceforth is to serialize my novels on YouTube first, and then publish them in print and Amazon Kindle. 

I’ve decided to make video the basis of my author “platform”. Below are some thoughts behind the decision. 

Some of the following points will be immediately relevant to you as a reader (or prospective reader). Some points (I will warn you in advance) will be of interest only (or mostly) to authors.

1.) YouTube is a perfect venue for authors, but few authors use it, or use it effectively.  

YouTube is a place where you can read one of your stories, or a chapter from your latest novel, and then upload it to the Internet for all the world to hear. Every fiction writer on the planet should have a YouTube channel!

Sadly, this isn't the case. 

There are a handful of fiction writers on YouTube, but almost none of them use YouTube as a venue for storytelling, or providing samples of their books.

Most authors who are on YouTube use their channels to dispense writing and self-publishing advice. 

Now, before I go further: I’ve benefited tremendously from some of the writers who have also become expert curators of writing/publishing/book marketing information. (A special shoutout here to Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Chris Fox, The Sell More Books Show, The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast, and The Self-Publishing Podcast. All of you are great, and very helpful.) 

But the above “how-to” content is targeted at writers, not readers. This is a crucial distinction. 

While there is some overlap between writers and readers, they are basically different groups. 

For example: I’m a fan of both hockey and rock music. I will never be a participant in either of these fields. (I can’t even stand up on skates, and any attempt I’ve ever made at music has caused humans to laugh, and dogs to howl.)

As a fan, I might be interested in watching a video that gives me an overview of Mike Sullivan’s strategy for leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup victory. I’d definitely watch a video detailing the story behind Rush’s latest album. 

I have no desire, however, to watch videos that teach me how to ice skate, or to play the bass guitar. 

So…feel free to become a curator of “how-to” writing/publishing information, if that is your calling. But understand that the audience you’ll attract will be mostly other writers—not readers. 

And if that isn't your calling (it definitely isn't for me), that’s perfectly okay. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that just because you’re a writer and you have a YouTube channel, you must turn your YouTube channel into a writing/book marketing seminar.

2.) YouTube is the platform that authors need in a crowded market. Every writer is looking for the “killer ad platform”, whether that’s Facebook advertising, or advertising via Amazon Marketing Services (AMS). 

As a result, most of these ad venues are now oversubscribed. 

I’m not anti-advertising, mind you. Yes, as an author, you need to buy ad space. But you also need to give readers a chance to sample your work, just like rock bands have long allowed music listeners to sample their music. 

YouTube is a perfect way to introduce readers to your stories, to allow them to sample. 

Back to the concept of the crowded market, and the sometimes controversial question of whether or not writers are really “in competition” with each other.

Yes and no. A reader who is looking for the latest teen vampire romance is probably not going to be interested in one of my hard-edged thrillers, at least at that moment. Nor is a fan of ELEVEN MILES OF NIGHT likely to seek out a book written “in the tradition of Twilight”.

So we aren’t really competing, in that sense. 

But we are competing in the sense of “Hey, look at all these books on Amazon!”

(On the subject of romance: Romance is a category that tends to bleed into other categories in Amazon search results. I recently did a query for “historical fiction” on Amazon, expecting titles by James Michener and Edward Rutherfurd. What I got instead were titles like Romanced by the Earl, and Seduced by the Scottish Highlander with the Rippling Pectoral Muscles. Romance fiction is the crab crass of Amazon, but that’s another topic for another day.)

To the book-buyer, Amazon is a stadium filled with carnival hawkers, sidewalk peddlers, and door-to-door salesmen. Lots and lots of people competing for attention in the same screen space, all at the same time. 

Readers face a profusion of choices when they push the Amazon query button. That’s where the “competition”comes in. If we writers make more of our stories available on platforms outside Amazon, we can help cut down on the competitive noise inside Amazon. 

3.) If more authors utilize YouTube, more readers will (eventually) come. 

Go to YouTube right now, and you’ll find mostly adolescent comedy, adolescent prank videos, political rants, and videos in which people record themselves playing video games. 

I won’t mince words here: Around 90% of the content on YouTube today is pure crap, aimed mostly at thirteen-year-olds. 

I’m not so vain as to suggest that my author videos will change the nature of YouTube, lifting YouTube to new, previously unimagined intellectual heights! 

(That would be more than vanity on my part, that would be downright delusional.)

But I will say this: If there were half as many authors on YouTube as there currently are gamers, pranksters, adolescent comedians, and political ranters, the authors, collectively, would change the nature of the site. 

And for the better, in my opinion. YouTube is a platform with tremendous potential, and we’ve left it to fools. 

I also know that at present, people aren't flocking to YouTube in order to find their next book. (Hell, given the level of the content there, I wonder if the average YouTube user can even read.) 

The transformation of YouTube to “a place for writers and readers” will take some time. But the video game people weren't there 10 years ago, either. If more writers come, more readers will come, and vice versa. 

4.) I’m a ham. Some people (especially writers, who are typically introverted) would not feel comfortable sitting in front of a video camera, and reading a story they’d written, for all the world to see and criticize! And maybe say nasty things!!

Hey, what can I say? I used to work in sales, so I’ve got thick skin… and I’ve always loved a stage.

Yes, when you read your stories on YouTube, you will get the occasional unfriendly remarks from drive-by commenters and trolls. (But that’s true for everyone on YouTube. Like I said, there are a lot of knuckleheads on YouTube.) 

If this is really a problem for you, you can disable comments on your uploaded videos. (I think it’s better to leave comments enabled, however, as it’s better to allow a troll-ish comment here and there, versus closing the door to an earnest reader who wants to interact with you.)

5.) Making your work freely available on YouTube will not cannibalize your book sales.  

Not unless your name is Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or John Grisham, that is. 

And even then, it would be debatable: Due to format and uploading limitations, I usually break my novel-reading videos into chapters. This means that a reader who wants to listen to one of my complete novels has to listen to as many as a hundred videos—or more.  

I’m flattered and happy if someone wants to do that; but most readers, I think, will use the videos for sampling, in order to determine if this is a book they would like to read. 

But that’s not the big reason why I don’t worry at all about cannibalization. 

I’m currently reading my coming-of-age supernatural thriller, 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN on YouTube. I honestly believe that the book is better than 95% of what is currently being published in the horror genre. 

Horror fans who haven't read 12 HOURS OF HALLOWEEN (or ELEVEN MILES OF NIGHT) didn't take a pass on my books because they decided to listen to them on YouTube instead. They’ve taken a pass because they don’t know about my books.

I’m no fan of Internet piracy, or fuzzy-headed digital utopians like Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig. But I do agree with Tim O’Reilly’s observation of about a decade ago: "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.” 

The same can be said of the novels you read and make available on YouTube. 

Yes, a few people will listen to your entire novel for free in lieu of buying it, one video at a time. So what? That person probably didn't know about your book, anyway. 

Unless you’re a household-name author (and there are only a few dozen of those, nowadays), YouTube will bring you far more sales-friendly exposure than cannibalization of your sales.

*       *       *

Well, lo and behold, this post has become more writer-centric than reader-centric, after all.

If you are a writer, get thee to YouTube. And please don’t use your channel to dispense writing and self-publishing advice. Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Sean Platt, etc. are already doing a fine job of that. 

You can also spare us political rants—there are already more than enough of those on YouTube, too. Yes, you do/don’t like Donald Trump. Good for you! But unless you’re an author of political tracts, very few of your potential readers care.

Use YouTube to present your stories to potential readers. This is a not-yet-saturated platform for writers. 

And given the shy, introverted personalities of most writers, it is likely to remain unsaturated for quite some time to come.