Friday, December 30, 2011

What A U.S. Marine Taught My Daughter About Life

[Editor’s Note: I’m launching a new blog tonight—titled Mark Young: Arresting fiction…one character at time—which will run in tangent with this blog. You’re invited to join us by clicking on the link below. As a legal bribe, I am offering free Off the Grid eBooks to five lucky winners in a giveaway contest. Deadline is January 14, 2012. Just follow the link below, scroll to the bottom of the post on my Mark Young blog, and read the simple steps to register.

Lastly,  thank you for faithfully following this blog as 2011 closes out. Let’s continue our journey together in the new year. Hook’em & Book’em will continued to invite selected authors, cops and crime specialists to this blog, while the Mark Young blog will more personal, documenting my writing journey and sharing insights I get from other writers and readers. Please join us on both sites as this 2013 begins. Happy New Year!]

By Mark Young
My nine-year-old daughter excitedly edged through the fair crowd, going from booth to booth collecting free stuff—toys, pens and pencils, candy, free bottles of water, and balloons. She was a walking advertisement for the Republicans and the Democrats, water softeners and water savers, tree huggers and tree cutters. Everyone had their stuff out for the taking—and she took. With a cute smile and a polite “thank you,” she shoveled her loot into free bags collected on the way.

And she wasn’t the only one. There were a string of takers right behind her, of all ages and shapes. But she is a pro. This was her second fair this month, and she quickly learned the best places to grab free stuff. Forget the exhibits, animal barns, and the rodeo show. She was a girl on a mission.

It was almost inspiring how she swooped in to clean house. And no one seemed to mind.

Then she came to a small booth wedged between the carnival lot and a performance stage, where a country western band rocked out. One man in a U.S. Marine uniform stood tall, his knowing smile and friendly eyes greeting all visitors. A small crowd of teenagers—boys and girls—gathered around the Marine and must have caught my daughter’s attention.

As we drew closer, I saw the Marine sergeant holding a leather exercise ball and standing next to a convex sit up bench with a rack bar. One young man lay back on the bench, his head touching dry grass and his feet in the air, wrapped around a dumbbell bar. As the teenager raised himself, the Marine threw the ball at the young man’s midsection. With a straining red face, the teenager caught the ball and threw it back on his way up. I heard the Marine chant “fifteen” and the boy seemed to collapse.

I heard the goal was twenty reps which the boy failed to achieve. He walked away dejected amidst smirks and jeers. Another young man took his place, and this guy reached his goal. He was given a U.S Marine poster, and walked away beaming as if he’d been given a pot of gold. I heard the Marine tell him and his companions something, but I couldn’t make it out.

My daughter stood watching until all the teenagers had sauntered away. Then she bravely walked up to the Marine and asked if she could try. Without wavering, the Marine nodded and smiled. I watched with some trepidation. I knew the exercise ball would be too much for her to handle. Wisely, the uniformed sergeant modified the rules so that she only needed to do a complete sit up, hands clasped across her chest, twenty times or more to reach her goal. Still, this was a daunting task for a young girl.

I watched her sit up, face taut, arms folded, as she grimaced...
(Click on link here to read more) 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chapter 3: One Novelist’s Journey To Self Publication

Bumps and Jolts On This Publishing Journey
By Mark Young
How many of you thought I died eight months ago after writing the last chapter in this on-going saga about self publishing—you know, that would be author who published one book and was never heard from again.

“Well, I’m back”, I say, echoing the words of Sam Gamgee in the last spoken line of J.R.R. Tolkeins’s novel, Return of the King. Still alive and kicking.

This publishing journey has been a real kick—sometimes in the pants, sometimes a jolt of joy. Just to recap:  I came out with the Revenge eBook last January, and I planned on releasing a print version—compliments of Amazon’s CreateSpace—a few months later.  Plans often go awry.  A crashed computer, archaic format programs, and a few other bumps in the road delayed release of the print book until this month.

Hey, it’s a learning process, right?

Here are a few things I discovered:
  • Spend a part of every working day trying to get someone, somewhere, to review or write about your novel. Beg, plead, do whatever it takes—short of  being rude or obnoxious—to get the word out about your novel. Devote at least a part of every working day toward this goal.
  • Prepare yourself for a marathon. It is an uphill struggle the whole way, and this struggle will continue into the foreseeable future and beyond. When will it end? Who knows?  Probably when they plant me in the ground.
  •   Enjoy those successes that come your way, no matter how small. A kind word about the novel left by a reader. A sudden spurt in sales one day, knowing that tomorrow your sales may flatten out again. Small triumphs in learning new ways to do your job, like getting Amazon to finally merge your eBook and print book on the same page, or getting the meta data entries down so the Library of Congress and ISBN sources jive.
  • Shake off the disappointments and continue to persevere.  Such things as looking at your sales record for the last week and realize the total number of sales equals the chance you book has of placing on the NYT’s Bestseller list for the same time period=0. Just remember—you could still be sitting there, sending out queries and submissions, and watching your mailbox fill up with letters of disappointment. At least someone, somewhere, is reading your stuff.

Since last spring, I have seen my eBook sales rise, fall, and begin to rise again. Part of that was an early interest by a number of people to read the novel. In early summer, I bit my nails watching sales begin to wane. After a month of decline, I decided to lower the price and almost immediately began to see sales rise again. As those number rose, I noticed something else of interest. Hollywood released a television series with the same name as my novel. I saw sales take a little spike, although I don’t know if it was connected to this TV show or whether it was a result of my lowering the price.

As all this unfolded, I began working on the December release of my next novel, OFF THE GRID: A Gerrit O’Rourke Novel. I have developed a checklist for each new novel, to include all the steps an indie author must take to get the next title out there. I began coordinating with others for editing services, design cover, and formatting for both eBook and print—all those services that fall beyond my area of expertise.

Like all of you, I must continually take a look at everything that must be done and determine what I can do—and, more importantly, what I can’t do. One of the most difficult decisions was whether to continue with this blog. At first, when I felt overwhelmed, I thought of killing this blog as I tried to build a web site and create a second blog simply titled Mark Young.  However, I just could not pull the trigger on Hook’em and Book’em. In order to keep this blog alive, I plan on publishing at least one article a month here while writing for my other blog and writing guest articles elsewhere as opportunities arise. But Hook’em and Book’em will remain alive, rescued from a one-way ride on the coroner’s wagon.

If everything goes as planned, I will release OFF THE GRID—an international thriller—as an eBook in December, closely followed by a print version. If any readers out there are interested in reviewing this novel, just click on this email link and I’ll put you on a list to receive a free copy when the formatted eBook becomes available. Those of you who want to wait until the print version comes out can also leave a message—I’ll give out a limited number of free print copies for review. After all, I’m an indie author counting his pennies, not a John Grisham whose first print runs into the millions. Just promise to post a review on Amazon, and anywhere else you might be able to spread the word on this digital highway. Here is the backcover copy so you all know what you’re signing up for:

Live OFF THE GRID … or die.

Seven years ago, U.S. Marine Gerrit O’Rourke returned from Iraq after learning his parents died in a Seattle car bombing. When a manhunt turns up empty, Gerrit joins that city’s police department to find those responsible and bring them to justice—one way or another.

Still searching for leads today, Gerrit travels undercover to a European city on what he believes to be a matter of national security.  He soon learns, however, nothing is what it appears—including his parents’ deaths. Contacted by a mysterious woman, Alena Shapiro, Gerrit discovers his life is in danger because he continues to seek the truth. Confused by Alena’s warning and strange events he encountered in Europe, Gerrit returns home where his own world is blown apart. People close to him end up dead.

Gerrit and Alena must combine forces with others to live off the grid as they try to uncover an international conspiracy that reaches to the highest level of government in several countries. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, they must survive to expose a conspiracy to breach national security codes that might launch World War III. Time is running out—for Gerrit, for Alena … for the world.

By the way, anyone who has read REVENGE and would like to simply click a Like button on Amazon can follow this link and leave their digital footprint right now. I would be very grateful. As for those of you who procrastinated, you can use the same link and down load a copy right now.

Enough of the sales talk.  I hope you will join me here on Hook’em and Book’em as we meet other authors and cops along this writing journey, and I share more about this publishing  journey. See you next month!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

10 Fictional Cops We Wish Were Real

10 Fictional Cops We Wish Were Real

[Editors Note: Jay Smith, writer for, sent me this article they posted and offered to allow it be run here. I know there are other fictional cops we could add to this list, but these are great picks and great comments. Thought you might enjoy.]
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With all the shows and movies focusing on police these days, it’s hard to find any unique or likable cop characters. Many seem to be cast from the same mold, making it hard to connect to them or emotionally invest in their characters. But there is a handful of fictional cops who know it is their duty to protect, serve, and entertain. Whether we love them for their competency or for their hilarious mistakes, here are 10 police characters that we wish were real.
  1. Larvelle Jones from Police Academy

    One of the most important skills for a police officer to have is the ability to produce awesome sound effects with his mouth, and Larvelle Jones is a master. He should’ve been able to skip the police academy altogether. He uses this talent to not only annoy his authorities but to intimidate suspects and entertain the public (or make them flee in terror depending on the circumstances). From gunshots to helicopters to harmonicas, Jones can do it all, and he’d make a very effective officer in the real world since most of us would probably be much more willing to cooperate with a human beatbox than a normal cop.
  2. Officer Michaels and Officer Slater from Superbad

    Officer Michaels and his partner Officer Slater would probably be the last police officers you would want protecting you, but the only ones you would want busting you at a party. They attempt to do their jobs sometimes, and if there was a person in danger, they would probably help, but for the most part, these guys are just laid-back idiots. It’s nice, though, to see cops relating to young people and helping one guy have the best night of his life. Maybe it’s a little extreme to set your own police car on fire, but that just keeps criminals from doing it later.
  3. Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show

    When it comes to small-town deputies, Barney Fife is as tough as they come. Between locking up alcoholics in one of Mayberry’s two jail cells and wooing Thelma Lou, Barney still found plenty of time to inadvertently foil criminals’ plans and take care of a goat full of dynamite. He may not be the biggest or smartest policeman to walk a beat, but he helped keep Mayberry one of the safest TV towns. Every city could benefit from a big-hearted, strong-willed deputy like Barney Fife who will work day and night to nip crime in the bud.
  4. William "Bunk" Moreland from The Wire

    William "Bunk" Moreland, a homicide detective in the acclaimed series, The Wire, is the kind of cop you want patrolling your city. As a character, he’s believable at his weakest, displaying faults like alcohol abuse and infidelity, but he’s amazing at his best. Bunk’s a hard worker who always tries to do the right thing and understands the community he’s protecting. He can get punk kids to talk, relate to informants, and use his wit to make you love him. He also provides consistency in the homicide department throughout the series, making you trust your own police force a little bit more. It’s all in the line of duty.
  5. Chief Clancy Wiggum from The Simpsons

    Growing up, Chief Wiggum was always the cop in cops and robbers, was a hall monitor, and maybe a part-time security guard. That’s the kind of dedication we’d like to see in our real-life police forces. Sure, he’s a little pudgy and mostly incompetent, but he’s always there when Springfield needs him, even if he’s not entirely helpful. He also has a couple heroic moments under his extra long belt: solving the attempted murder of Mr. Burns and saving the Simpson family from Sideshow Bob. Even though he’s quick to throw the rule book out the window, gets overly emotional about his fellow cops, and eats his weight in donuts, Chief Wiggum is responsible for Springfield being an undeniably happy place to live.
  6. Joe Friday from Dragnet

    Joe Friday was such an excellent cop, the actor who played him was buried with full police honors when he died. Friday was a no-nonsense detective with the Los Angeles police department who went about his job, boring paperwork and patrols included, with pride. He’s about as close to a real policeman as you can get on TV (or radio or the movies) because the show’s creators were careful to show every step of real LAPD cases, though most cops today can’t talk as fast as he does. Friday never revealed too much about his personal life, was never overacted, and never failed to earn respect for those in his line of work. And while we wish Joe Friday himself were real, it’s likely that we have someone almost exactly like him in our own police departments.
  7. Inspector Gadget from Inspector Gadget

    If there’s anything better than a cyborg, it’s a cyborg policeman. Inspector Gadget isn’t your typical cyborg or your typical policeman, but every child is amazed by his endless supply of high-tech tools that stay hidden beneath his hat and trench coat. He wasn’t exactly the sharpest investigator on the force, but he was brave enough to face the frightening Doctor Claw each week. It may be his niece Penny that really saves the day, but Inspector Gadget is the policeman we always tuned in to see. In real life, the police department might not hire him, but he could at least tour the country showing off his built-in helicopter and other gadgets, or make a really entertaining contestant on a reality show.
  8. Marge Gunderson in Fargo

    With a sweet Minnesota accent and a seven-month pregnant belly, Marge Gunderson is one of the most likable female cops of all time. As she investigates three murders (and those that follow) in her jurisdiction, she is incredibly competent and gets the job done by being polite and intelligent, rather than hard and unapproachable like many female police officers are portrayed. Even if the criminals hadn’t been bumbling idiots, it’s clear that Gunderson would’ve been hot on their trail. If we need role models for our little girls, we should point them toward Marge Gunderson, a strong, working woman with a husband, baby on the way and impeccable manners.
  9. John Kimble from Kindergarten Cop

    Before Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor, he was a policeman (and Danny DeVito’s twin and a pregnant man, but that’s beside the point). But he wasn’t just any policeman; he was an undercover cop who became a teacher and had a ferret who helped save the day. Detective John Kimble knows how to keep both criminals and kindergarten students in line, and he does it all with his tough but lovable accent. Even though he assaults a kid’s father and starts a relationship with a woman who is both a fellow teacher and a witness in his case, most people would agree that they would feel safer if he was protecting their children.
  10. Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order

    In the series that spawned a thousand similar series, Lennie Briscoe is the man that works the streets and makes sure that the bad guys end up behind bars. Briscoe always has some wisecrack to make and gets along well with his coworkers, but isn’t afraid to take a stand for what he believes. During his 12 seasons on the show, he saw countless murderers sentenced to prison time and helped the audience see how the law really works. For many, Briscoe is the way we envision all homicide detectives, or at least how we would want them to be.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interview: Ex-counterterrorism Agent Fred Burton

Chasing Shadows:
A Special Agent’s Lifelong Hunt To Bring A Cold War Assassin To Justice
By Mark Young
An assassin lurked in the shadows of a quiet Bethesda, Maryland neighborhood in the summer of 1973, patiently waiting for an Israeli air force colonel to return home from a late-night party. Several blocks away lived 16-year-old Fred Burton, whose neighborhood—until this moment—seemed safe and secure.

The gunman opened fire as Col. Joe Alon exited his car. Moments later, the Israeli war hero lay dead. It would be thirty-seven years later before Burton—a State Department counterterrorism agent and later vice president of a global intelligence company known as the ‘shadow CIA’— could finally offer closure to the surviving Alon family. Plagued by a plethora of unanswered questions, Burton and others attacked this case years later, running down leads across the globe that led to terrorist groups, spies and treachery. They would find that this victim was much more than just a gifted pilot.

Chasing Shadows is a true-case story that is more captivating than any fiction Hollywood might conjure up on the big screen. It was written by coauthors Fred Burton and John Bruning.

MARK: Fred, thanks for returning to Hook’em and Book’em for another look at global terrorism and a fascinating glimpse into a case that took you and others years to uncover. A very tenacious effort. Give our readers a little background about this incident and what it meant to you on a personal level.

FRED:  I tried to stay centered over the years by focusing on the murder, looking for facts and motive.  The FBI destroyed the physical evidence in the case for reasons that remain unclear.  Pretty much everyone connected to the original case was dead. 

We've been successful in getting a Hebrew edition published that I'm very proud of for the victims family.  There was also a short film that coincided with the book done by an Israeli film crew. 

MARK: You coauthored Chasing Shadows with writer and military historian John Bruning. How did the two of you work together to create this captivating book?

FRED:  John is a brilliant military historian that is laser focused on aviation.  I needed his expertise.  The victim was a decorated fighter pilot.

MARK: One of the fascinating parts of your book for me—a Vietnam veteran—was the difficulty the USAF faced with North Vietnamese fighter pilots. I found the behind-scenes relationship between the U.S and Israel equally fascinating. How did you and John acquire this information and tie it into your investigation of Alon’s murder?

FRED:  FBI FOIA reports and John's subject matter expertise on military aircraft.  The original FBI case agent also was extraordinarily helpful.  

MARK: Since we last communicated on this blog, much has happened in the Mideast and northern Africa—Egypt, Syria, Libya and other hot spots. Can you share with us some perspective as to what we might expect to see in the near future from organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood?

FRED:  I think the verdict remains out as groups jockey for power.  The events unfolding in Libya are amazing. 

MARK: Can you give us a little background about the Muslim Brotherhood?

FRED:  In the shifting sands of power in the Middle East, one needs to study the old groups, whether it be the MB, Hezbollah or Black September.     

MARK:  As the events of the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden (OBL) unfolded last spring, I couldn’t help but think about the case detailed in your first book, GHOST: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent concerning the capture of terrorist Ramzi Youseff in Pakistan. You made reference in GHOST about the political ramifications you and others faced for keeping the information close to your vest in order to have a chance to capture this man. What were you thoughts about related issues as you watched the OBL news unfold?

FRED:  Mixed emotions.  To be blunt, I would have preferred talking to OBL.  Operationally, I've also learned that one should never second guess the operators in the field.  DevGru (Navy Seal Team 6, official known as Special Warfare Development Group) did a fine job.  Thank goodness our nation has men like that.    I'm also not surprised in the least OBL was hiding in plain sight in Pakistan.  

MARK: I can only imagine what you get involved with as vice president for counterterrorism and corporate security at Statfor. Tells us a little about the services your company  offers.

FRED:  We are an intelligence company that publishes analysis of geo-political events.  I like to say we make sense of the world.  Many of our articles are free and can be found at

MARK: Can you tell us a few of the projects you have been involved with through Statfor?

FRED: I've done a great deal of work on cartel violence in Mexico recently, along with interviews for National Geographic TV and The History Channel.   I'm also in a few Gangland productions. 

MARK: Are you planning any more writing projects in the near future?

FRED:  Yes, I'm working on another book about terrorism and have been asked to write a college textbook.   Not sure I have time for the latter, but its humbling to have been asked.    

MARK:Where can readers go to purchase your latest book, CHASING SHADOWS?

FRED:  Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any private book store. 

MARK: Thanks again for joining us. We wish you well in your effort with Statfor. Stay safe!

Fred Burton is one of the world’s foremost experts on security, terrorists, and terrorist organizations. He was deputy chief of the Counterterrorism Division of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and is currently a vice president at Stratfor, a global intelligence agency known as the “shadow CIA.” He is the author of GHOST: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent and has appeared on The Daily Show, Glenn Beck, Anderson Cooper 360, Fox, ABC, and CBS radio. He has also written for the Los Angeles Times, among others. He lives in Austin, Texas.

John Bruning is a military historian and the coauthor of House To House. He lives in Independence, Oregon.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Interview: Author Nike Chillemi

Sanctuary Point Book One: Burning Hearts
Historical, Romance and Murder/Mystery
 By Mark Young
Burning Hearts is much more than what the title implies—romance. It is an arson murder story set in fictional Sanctuary Point, a village on Long Island, New York, during the post World War II era. Readers are swept into this 1940s period by well-researched descriptive prose as debut novelist Nike Chillemi weaves language, foods, businesses, clothes and vehicles to create a vivid step back into the past. This inspirational novel is a guaranteed page-turner, even for readers like myself who normally flee from stories with more than a hint of romance.

Nike loves a good crime mystery as her blog title clearly suggests: Nike Chillemi ~Crime Fictonista. She writes about her purpose on the blog: “Reading, writing, and shooting the breeze about Christian crime fiction, murder mysteries, thrillers, police procedurals, detective stories, and life.” Her current novel reflects this passion.

Erica Brogna, a young clothing designer, finds her friend’s dress shop in flames. Erica vainly tries to rescue her friend and mentor, but is forced outside by heat and flames, finally collapsing across the path of a stranger riding a motorcycle. Lorne Kincade, a troubled war veteran, nearly crashes his bike to avoid hitting Erica. In answer to her pleas for help, he rushes into the burning building to pull out the dying victim, Ada Pinter. Later, police determine an arsonist started the fire. Erica and Lorne are drawn into the investigation—Erica, because of her love for Ada; Lorne, because of his growing attraction for Erica. The search for truth becomes elusive as they find out more than they ever wanted to know about themselves and their community. This suspense-filled story captivates readers until the last page.

Nike has done a good job of creating a vivid 1940s community peopled by believable characters. Erica and her family, a part of the smaller Czechoslovakian community, offer readers a glimpse of traditional ethnic dishes, language and customs which broadens the flavor of the story. Aficionados of history, mystery or romance novels will discover something in this novel to piqué their interest and keep them reading.

MARK: Thanks for joining us, Nike. I tried to give a brief synopsis of Burning Hearts. What else would you like readers to know about this novel?

NIKE: I want to show how ordinary people can rise to great heights in standing for what is right and against evil. I hope my readers can see the "natural nobility" unpretentious people can display when against all odds they do the right thing. I hope my main characters Erica and Lorne come off in this manner. There is great ugliness in the world. I don't want to deny that ugliness, but want to show there is greater beauty. Dignity and hope can live in the human heart. I want my readers to come away knowing the greatest, most powerful force on earth is love. It can't be defeated. 

MARK: I understand that the fictional town of Sanctuary Point, located somewhere on Long Island, New York, might not be far from where you live. How much of your own hometown experiences wound up in this novel?

NIKE: There is a great deal of me in the book. I love the seaside and was compelled to write a novel in a setting where the salt sea air tantalizes the nostrils, so to speak. Erica is a bit like me. She wants to be a dress designer and I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in the bridal industry. She's independent and stubborn and it gets her into trouble. I'm independent and stubborn but it never got me into any trouble at all. Yeah, right. Something I didn't realize until the book was in edits is that Erica's mother is very similar to my Czechoslovak grandmother. Mrs. B excels in the kitchen and has a great sense of humor. So did my grandmother. Mrs. B teases her children and is teased by them. I recall my grandmother swatting my dad with a kitchen towel. He'd laugh and hug her.

MARK: You have created a memorable community of characters in this post WWII story. How did you go about gathering historical research? What became your best sources of information?

NIKE: I did a lot of dogged, grunt type research. I looked up the make and models of cars in use then. Found out that auto manufacturers stopped making civilian model cars during WWII and only made vehicles for the military war effort. I spent hours finding what types of products, gadgets, and appliances were in use in homes then. I researched hairstyles, clothing, slang terminology, and much more. There was a certain type of cadence and rhythm to the speech of that period. I listened to a number of classic movies made then to get that down. I studied the partition of Czechoslovakia and even read the nonfiction book, "RAID, the untold story of Patton's secret mission." My hero's backstory is that he was an undercover operative working for Patton in France during the war. I wanted to really know what that was like.

MARK: One of your characters, Lorne Kincade, owns what many men only dream about—a Harley Davidson. Are you a Harley lover, living vicariously as a biker, or was the motorcycle just a prop for one of your characters?

NIKE: I don't ride a bike. But Harley's are kind of iconic and bigger than life. I wanted that symbol for Lorne. I guess, in a way, I wanted a type of James Dean feel to Lorne. The difference is, he's a loner rather than a rebel, and he has a cause. He wants to see wrong righted.

MARK: Your novel was released as an eBook through Desert Breeze Publishing. Tell us about your publisher, and how you connected with them.

NIKE: I wasn't put off by the fact that Desert Breeze was an Ebook publisher. I embraced it. Several people I respect mentioned Desert Breeze to me as a good possibility for my writing. So, I submitted and the rest is history. Desert Breeze is a romance publishing house, but they offer great diversity in what they put out. One novel might have a huge science fiction element to it, another might be sheer fantasy. Mine are clearly classic murder mysteries with a huge action element to them.

MARK: Much has been written over the last year about the changes going on in the publishing industry? A few years ago, publishing opportunities offered by houses like Desert Breeze were not even available. Any thoughts about what might be in store for authors in the near future?

Nike: The world of Christian publishing is expanding rapidly. In fact publishing in general (Christian fiction, general market, and nonfiction as well) is in great flux. One thing early on that helped me understand I had done the right thing was the wave of Kindle ads, week after week, on American Idol last season. It seems Ebooks are going to be the way of the future when the younger generation choses to read. And I hope they do read. I'm a huge advocate for increased literacy in America. In addition, there are numerous small independent Christian and general market print publishers springing up. In Christian fiction, these smaller houses are giving authors who push the envelope a chance. What they publish might be gritty, or steamy, or have a darker edge to it than what traditional Christian publishers would go for.

MARK: Now that you have been through the fire as a debut author, what suggestions would you have for other writers who have not yet run this gauntlet?

Nike: I feel reading within the writer's genre is very important. And newbie Christian authors should not be afraid to read a few general market authors. There is some terrific writing out there in gen market fiction. Read the best of it. If there are any affordable or free online writing courses available, take them. To help me in crime fiction I took a course offered by Romance Writers of America entitled "What the Kickass Heroine Knows That the Writer Should Know." It was designed to help write about feisty heroines in fight scenes and entailed martial arts, knife fighting, and gun battles. Since I'm writing a historical suspense series, I took an online course on the history of forensics. That course caused me to change quite a few facts about my medical examiner in book two of the series.

MARK: Since Burning Hearts is now on the digital shelf, should we be looking for Sanctuary Point Book Two in the future or are you working on other writing projects?

NIKE: I just sent the manuscript for Goodbye Noel, which is book two, to my publisher. It's a Christmas themed, action packed romantic suspense with lots of period police procedure and will come out in mid-December 2011. Without getting on a soapbox of any kind, one of my side objectives is to show how pervasive the celebration of Christmas was in America in 1946.

MARK: If you created a character like yourself as an author, what words and phrases might you use to paint a vivid and accurate image for the reader?

Nike: This character would appear hardnosed but would be a lot more ditzy than most people think. She'd love animals. Most domesticated pets would feel comfortable around her. She's not a push over, though she's also not afraid to love. Her ideal spot would be in the tropics under a cabana with a good murder mystery to read as the surf goes in and out.

MARK: Lastly, Nike, if you wandered into a large bookstore, which shelf would you gravitate toward first? Mystery? Historical? Romance? Other? Any particular authors?

NIKE: Oh, brother, I don't like bookstores. I can never find anything I want to read there, even in the larger chain stores. I'd try the mystery shelves first. But they never have the authors I read, not even in general market novels. They might carry Michael Connelly now that The Lincoln Lawyer has been made into a successful movie. I'd have a hard time finding Robert Crais and Barbara Parker. Then I'd try the religious fiction shelves and look for Steven James, J. Mark Bertrand or Sibella Giorello. I wouldn't find them, so I'd go to the coffee bar and get an iced tea. Then I'd go home and order from Amazon.

More information about author Nike Chillemi can be found at her blog site Nike Chillemi ~Crime Fictonista. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse; sat as a 2010 Inspy Awards judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category; and was a 2011 Carol Awards judge in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction, and a member of several writers’ organizations.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fictional Character and Author Fight It Out!

Fishing, Whitewater and Killers Spark REVENGE
[Editor’s Note: Coral Russell of Alchemy of Scrawl has invited me to post a guest article on her site today. The first part of the article appears here. If you would like to read further, just click on the link at the end and it will take you to the rest of the article, including a conversation between myself and my main character, Travis Mays. Coral’s blog highlights indie book reviews, news, and resources, as well as hosting a Blog Talk Radio broadcast for indie author interviews.]
By Mark Young
Recently, I sported a new T-shirt with the word “Writer” emblazoned across my chest, a father’s day gift from one of my daughters. Someone came up with this clothing idea, spawned by the television series Castle, a television cop drama about a New York bestselling author who manages to finagle the mayor into allowing him to shadow a beautiful homicide detective as she solves crimes. The Writer shirt is a spoof of the raid shirts cops wear when they go into high-risk arrest situations or try to execute a search warrant while dressed in plain clothes. Anyway, a guy walks up to me, glances at my shirt, and asks, “So, what do you write?

I began to tell him about my latest novel Revenge, a murder mystery where an ex-cop—Travis Mays, now a university professor— and those he loves are  stalked by a serial killer along the rivers in central Idaho and on the Nez Perce Indian reservation.

He asks, “How did you come up with the idea?”

I studied the guy. “Fishing gave me the idea.” He just nodded and walked away. End of conversation.

Revenge really was born somewhere along the banks of the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers in central Idaho. Less than a year before starting the novel, I began scouting that part of the state, looking for places to use my fly-fishing skills.  One of my favorite pastimes is searching for that perfect fishing spot, and I enjoy exploring endless mountains, rivers, and lakes. Just trying to relax, I dropped my line into the beautiful Clearwater River. I wanted some alone time, but Travis—always the detective—started in on an idea that began to bubble like coffee grounds in those stainless steel percolators you once saw on old cop shows or on Leave It To Beaver.

As Travis blabbed into my ear and the novel idea stewed, I came to the fork of the Lochsa and Selway rivers where they join to create the middle fork of the Clearwater. There, nestled along the forks of these rivers, I discovered the Three Rivers rafting company. Pulling up to the main office, I wandered around the old general-store kind of business, and came up with a brilliant idea for the novel—what if the main character learns to ride the whitewater rapids in this developing saga. Travis always ready to try something new, readily agreed. Unfortunately, it required me to learn how to navigate the white-water rapids of the Lochsa River. If you search on YouTube—using terms like “rafting” and the “Lochsa” you might still come across video feeds of people trying to survive those rapids at the peak of the season. Insanity is the first word that comes to mind. I never saw these videos until just before I took a trip down the river. I almost asked for a refund. … (To continue this article, just click on the link here).

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom Is Not Free!

Fourth of July, 1776
Legacy Of Our Forefathers
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. …

Lest we forget the cost. Pray for our country.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interview: Novelist James Scott Bell

Bestselling Author’s Tips 
On eBook Self-Publishing
By Mark Young
Bestselling novelist James Scott Bell likes to take chances. This year—after successfully writing novels for traditional publishers for two decades—Jim entered the relatively new era of eBook publishing with a bang. Since last February, he has released three eBooks under the Compendium Press banner. Here is the lineup:

Watch Your Back, a suspense novella and three short stories, released on February 9th in Jim’s first self-publishing venture. This novella is a story about a brash IT guy who has it all—a secure job, a loving fiancée, and a financial future that looked very bright. Everything begins to change when he is attracted to a new woman at work. Casting everything aside, main character Cameron Cates jumps aboard a fast moving train wreck of lust and greed that ends in an unexpected manner.

After the novella, Jim added three short stories at part of the same eBook, just in case you did not get enough suspense. Fore Play is the story of a married golfer who likes to play on and off the gold course, a lifestyle that may change his game for good. In Rage Road, a young man takes his girl out for a ride and finds out the hard way why it is best to control ones anger. One thing just leads to another. Finally, in Heed The Wife,  married man Frank Dabney always listens to his wife in order to keep the peace and to make sure his wife sticks around. This time, however, listening to his wife might be the worst thing he could ever do.

Less than a month later, Jim released his latest nonfiction book on writing, titled Writing Fiction For All Your Worth. (Jim already has several writing books published through Writers Digest).The goal of this book is to help writers develop “strategies and techniques for getting your fiction to the next level.” The book contains the best of Jim’s articles and blog posts on writing.

Finally, Jim released a third eBook on May 4, a short story titled No Laughing Matter. The expression you’re killing me comes to mind as I read Jim’s short story about a comedian who is deadly serious about making it to the big time. He has one last gig that may send him to the top—or will it prove deadly?

Jim has dazzled suspense lovers over the years with a number of published novels, primarily legal thrillers set in his hometown of Los Angeles. Many tags can be pinned to Jim’s coattails—novelist, screenwriter, trial lawyer, writing mentor, and adjunct professor. And now, one more tag: a self-published eBook author.

MARK: It is always a pleasure to learn from a writer of your stature, Jim. Thanks for joining us here on Hook’em and Book’em once again. Let’s start with the most obvious question. Why did you decide to venture into the eBook business?

JIM: It's sort of like, why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't a writer who loves to write, has many stories to tell, has readers who ask for more stuff, and who now has the means to deliver it to them—why wouldn't he?

It's a great time to be a writer. If you can deliver the goods, I say deliver them.

This is especially true for short form fiction. There's really no print market for novellas and short stories. In the glory days of Chandler and Hammett, there was. Now, once again, it's possible for writer to turn out stories and get paid for them. I always wanted to be able to do that, so I am.

MARK:  What are some of the things you have learned about eBooks since you launch Watch Your Back last February?

JIM: I've learned that the fundamentals are very clear. First, you have a write a really good book. That doesn't change. Then you have to have it vetted by those who can be objective about your work. I use beta readers, take their feedback, and tweak. Then I need to hire a copy editor to catch the mistakes.

Good cover design is, of course, important. It also helps to have some copywriting skill and marketing sense. It's really like running a small business, which I've done. So if you are intentional and have a plan, and can write, you can actually do pretty well for yourself.

MARK: How did you go about putting together your first self-published eBook?

JIM: I was between print projects. To fill the gap I started writing a short story. I wanted to write it in the style of James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice) and it just took off. It soon became apparent it would be longer than a short story, probably novella length. At the same time I'd been writing short stories with twist endings. My wife got me a Kindle for Christmas, and that was the impetus to me to get this material out there.  Thus, Watch Your Back.

I also blog at The Kill Zone and write articles on the craft of fiction. I put together some of the best of those for Writing Fiction for All You're Worth.

Both books took only a few weeks to get ready and online. This is an amazing and wonderful thing.

MARK: Is Compendium Press an entity for only James Scott Bell books or are you open for new business from other writers?

JIM: Compendium Press publishes print law books. It's a small company I've run for over twenty years. It became the natural entity for publishing my e-books, too. I'm not looking to acquire books by other authors.

MARK: Stepping back and looking at the eBook industry as a whole, what do you see happening in this field as it pertains to both self-published authors and those within the traditional publishing industry?  What are some of the advantages and disadvantages for writers? For readers?

JIM: The industry is in such flux now. Especially for the last six months. Traditional publishers have been taking it on the chin. Some of them will evolve and survive and continue to serve authors and readers. Let's remember there still is a print world, and it is still the major part of the pie. That will probably change in the next several years, but traditional companies can get lean and mean and find a way to stick around.

For writers this is, as I said, a new golden era. Advantages abound if –– and I stress this above all –– the writer knows how to tell stories. Which leads to the primary disadvantage: it's so easy to put stuff out there. It doesn't do the writer any good to throw up junk. Readers may take an initial chance on you, but if you don't deliver you don't get repeat business. As Mickey Spillane put it, "Your first chapter sells your book. Your last chapter sells your next book."

At the same time, I don't go in for trashing the traditional publishing industry. It still does many things well. But right now it's all about the terms of the deal. Each writer will have to be wise and assess what's being offered to them (if indeed they get to that stage). And traditional publishers will have to be flexible like never before.

MARK: What advice would you give unpublished authors who has not yet found a niche for their works within traditional publishing? Are eBook or POD (Publishing On Demand) formats a viable option for these writers?

JIM: Let's face the fact that most writers are not ready to be published right out of the gate. It takes a long time to learn the craft. Amanda Hocking wrote five or six full length novels in one year, then studied the market and wrote more, better books. You still have to pay some dues in this game.

As for POD, I'm not sure that's going to be a great benefit for the writer. It is certainly becoming easier, as with Amazon's CreateSpace program. But the real gain is going to be in going into e-pubbing with stories that sell, or getting the right deal from a print publisher, or some combination of both.

MARK: I know you are a firm believer that a person can learn to be a bestselling author or screenwriter. On your web site, I noticed that you offer a two-day seminar that helps writers achieve these goals. Tell us a little more about this project and where they might be able attend these teaching seminars.

JIM: I've always loved helping writers. When I was trying to figure out how to write, I benefited from things like Lawrence Block's fiction column in Writer's Digest and excellent books, like Dwight Swain's. At the same time, I was doing my own trial and error. I'd get jazzed when I figured out ways to make my fiction work better, and I wanted to teach others what I'd learned. So I did. After over a decade of doing so, and seeing students go on to publication, I've pulled together the most powerful things I know for a two day intensive seminar. We held the first one in LA in June, and had a great group that included a #1 New York Times bestselling writer. The response was so good I am going to take it on the road in 2012. Plans are being made now, so watch my website for updates.

MARK: What surprises to you have in store for suspense readers like myself that are addicted to James Scott Bell stories?

JIM: Thanks, Mark. There are definitely surprises in store, and soon, but what kind of suspense writer would I be if I told? Suffice to say I am having more fun than ever as a writer and there is much more to come. I'll never stop.
More information about Jim may be found at the James Scott Bell web site. Jim also is part of a group of suspense writers on the highly visited blog site The Kill  Zone, where writers learn more about the business of writing and publishing.