Friday, April 28, 2017

River City Reissue...All New Covers (and their stories) Revealed!

On Facebook this past week, I revealed the new covers for my River City novels Under a Raging Moon, Heroes Often Fail, Beneath a Weeping Sky and And Every Man Has to Die, as well as my three River short story collections, Dead Even, No Good Deed, and The Cleaner. All of these covers were designed by Eric Beetner, who in addition to his graphic design skills is also a supremely talented writer.

The reason I'm re-issuing these books began with the fact that Gray Dog Press, my print publisher for the River City series, is no longer publishing fiction. As a result, the print rights reverted to me. Since I already publish all of these titles myself in ebook form, I decided to publish the trade paperback editions as well. This meant reformatting the interior and at least tweaking the existing covers, which Russ Davis of Gray Dog Press was gracious enough to transfer ownership of to me. I did an extensive re-format of all four novels. Then I got to thinking that I should re-format the three River City short story collections, too. Having all of them look the same way inside went a ways toward better branding.

Of course, that got me to thinking about better branding when it came to the covers themselves. True, every River City novel and short story collection has the iconic River City badge, but the look of the covers themselves vary, sometimes a little, sometimes significantly.

I contacted Eric and he went to work. The guy has great visual ideas, and only requires a little bit of direction when it comes to what you're looking for. Over the course of a month or two, we worked on these covers.

When you publish your own work (call it independent publishing or self-publishing, same thing either way), often the largest expense you incur is paying for the book cover. It is money well spent, because the cover image is an important one in catching a reader's attention. A cheap, lame, or amateur cover is a turn off. A well done cover takes the reader to the next stage of exploring the book.

All of that is to say that I'm extremely happy with the work Eric has done for me here, as I have been with his previous work (Kopriva series, Ania Trilogy, etc.). Great work. Just stellar. Plus he's a cool guy, so there's that.

I thought I might share a little about these different covers and their previous versions, as well as the thought process that went into the development of the current covers.

Under a Raging Moon has had an interesting journey. I began writing it in 1995 but put it aside in 1996 when I went back to college full time (while working full time). A degree in History requires a lot of reading and a lot of writing, so until May of 1998, that's all I read and all I wrote. Then I got promoted in 1999 and 2001 and late 2002, so I spent a while learninng and getting good at a new job. When I finally started writing again in earnest in 2004, I picked up this novel and revised it. It was first published by Wolfmont Press in 2006, with this cover:

Wolfmont Press version
I liked the cover at the time because it had the moon, and a very defined Spokane landmark (River City is, after all, a thinly veiled Spokane):  the clock tower in Riverfront Park. Although this landmark doesn't appear in Under a Raging Moon, it is part of an important scene in Beneath a Weeping Sky.

My relationship with Wolfmont Press unfortunately and unexpectedly went south when the editor passed on the second River City novel, Heroes Often Fail. His feeling was that no one would read a book in which child was the victim or potential victim. He even created a Survey Monkey poll with leading questions to "prove" his point to me. He was wrong, of course. I knew it at the time, and I know it now, but there was no convincing him. So we parted ways, though he hung onto Under a Raging Moon until the contract expired (can't say I blame him -- I would've done the same thing).

Koboca version
I was fortunate enough to find another publisher, Koboca Publishing, that was willing to pick up the River City series with book #2, with the understanding that book #1 would join the family as soon as its contract with Wolfmont expired. Koboca published Heroes Often Fail in 2007, with this cover:

I really like this cover, designed by Martina Irabarren. It's got another iconic Spokane landmark, and the haunting eyes of little Amy Dugger, whose fate has such a significant ripple effect in the River City universe.

Unfortunately, Koboca over-extended itself with too many titles too early, and ultimately had to close its doors. As a result, the rights to Heroes Often Fail reverted to me. But I had no publisher.

This was in 2008 or so, when the idea of self-publishing was still stigmatized. Most self-publishing at that time was still vanity publishing, and most of it was poor quality. And ebooks were mostly a book file on a CD-ROM that you had to read on your computer. Neither option was very attractive.

So I kept writing short stories and the third River City book, Beneath a Weeping Sky, until in late 2009, I discovered Gray Dog Press. GDP was based in Spokane, so a series also based there was attractive to them. After some of the difficulties (which I didn't detail here) I had with my previous publishers, a publisher who had a local door I could knock on to have a conversation was pretty attractive to me. By this time, the contract for Under a Raging Moon with Wolfmont had expired and I recovered my print rights. So Russ Davis of GDP and I  struck a deal, and in 2010, Gray Dog Press re-issued Under a Raging Moon and Heroes Often Fail with these covers:

GDP version
GDP version

I love the Under a Raging Moon cover, which has a gorgeous photograph by Matt Rose, and it screams Spokane. I wasn't a big fan of the Heroes Often Fail cover, even though it is featuring the Post Street Bridge, which is where a critical incident occurs involving Officer Katie MacLeod. But it just wasn't as good as the Martina Irabarren designed version. Still, when you're working with a publisher, there are always compromises, and this is one I reluctantly accepted.

GDP version
GDP version
GDP then published both Beneath a Weeping Sky and the fourth installment, And Every Man Has to Die. Here are those covers:


I seem to be a publisher killer (oh my God...maybe my books suck!), because as I mentioned earlier, GDP eventually decided to stop publishing fiction in 2017. So I got my rights back, and made the decision to publish the print versions myself. That led to contacting Eric, and that led to the new covers.

I liked the cover of the GDP version of Under a Raging Moon a lot, and even though Eric and I looked at other options, I kept coming back to the beautiful Matt Rose photograph, and ultimately we used it for the new cover. Eric made some adjustments to the title, author, and the iconic River City badge, which ultimately made for a bolder look.

So here's the evolution of covers for Under a Raging Moon:

Wolfmont Press version
Gray Dog Press version


New version!

I really like this new Heroes Often Fail cover as well. We talked about a possible variation on the Koboca version of the cover, but ultimately the power of branding won out. I wanted the four River City novels, the forthcoming 5th, 6th, and 7th novels, as well as the three River City short story collections to all be clearly branded as part of the same series. So here is the evolution of covers for Heroes Often Fail:
Koboca version
Gray Dog Press version

New Version!
When it came to Beneath a Weeping Sky, I found myself in the same boat as with Under a Raging Moon. I loved the dark ambience of Matt Rose's photograph that was the backdrop of the GDP cover. It fits the tone of the book, in which a rapist is terrorizing River City. Additionally, some significant events occur in Riverfront Park, where the photograph was taken. So much like before, we ended up using the same cover, simply punching up the graphics to make it bolder, and consistent with the rest of the series.  Here's the evolution:
Gray Dog Press version
New Version!
I ran into greater difficulties with And Every Man Has to Die. While the GDP cover has a neat shot from Matt Rose and is well designed by Russ Davis and Andrew Corder, it isn't consistent with the other books in the series. If the book were a stand alone, the cover is perfect. But it isn't, and so it needs to marry up with the rest of the series somehow.

I considered getting a new shot from Matt Rose, ranging from another iconic landmark in Spokane to a stylized shot of a Spokane coffee shop (one of the characters in the novel has his base of operations out of a coffee shop). But in the end, Eric's design branding won out, especially when the cover he designed has a sunset featured, which ties into the events in the novel. Spoiler alert: someone dies. Of course, with a title like that....

Anyway, here's the old and new covers:
Gray Dog Press version

New Version!

Additionally, Gray Dog Press also published Dead Even in 2010, my first short story collection. This collection reverted to me when GDP ceased publication. Here's the evolution of that cover:
Gray Dog Press version



New Version!

I published my short story collection The Cleaner in 2010, using a cover designed by Jonathan Scinto. I liked it because it used the clock tower again, and had an otherworldly feel to it. But Eric's new cover really rocked. Here's the difference:

Old version
New Version!

I also published No Good Deed myself in 2010, with another cover designed by Jonathan Scinto. I really liked this Scinto cover, even better than the GDP Dead Even cover or Jonathon Scinto's cover for The Cleaner. Ultimately, though, I went with Eric Beetner's cool new cover because a) it was cool, and b) branding.

Old version
New Version!
So, there's a deeper look at the process I went through with these books, both in their publication journey and book cover design. If you made it this far into the post, then I'm guessing you found it interesting. If you didn't, then you're not around to read this part, either...if you Google Wolfmont Press or Koboca Publishing, you'll find a few references to both, but neither one is viable anymore. But I'm still around (and Heroes Often Fail is still selling copies, so I guess a certain little survey was bullshit, right?). I don't know if I should be proud of that or maybe take a little blame, but it's a fact either way.

Lastly, for those that might be wondering about the audio book versions of this series, it was wonderfully produced by Books in Motion, using the stellar narration of Michael Bowen for all four books.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

River City Re-Issue

Gray Dog Press, the publisher of the River City series in paperback since 2010 has stopped publishing fiction. As a result, the print rights to this series have reverted to me. Since I already publish the ebook version, I've decided to re-issue the print version myself. So over the next couple of weeks, the first four books of the series will become available again in print, complete with new covers. As part of branding the franchise, the three River City short story collections will also get new covers.

All of the covers have been designed by Eric Beetner. Two of the covers (Under a Raging Moon and Beneath a Weeping Sky) feature photographs by Matt Rose. This is the same team that I plan on asking to contribute to the cover for River City #5 (In the End), which I'm currently writing, as well as #6 (Place of Wrath and Tears), and #7 (Still Untitled).

I'm going to release these covers over the next few days on my Facebook page, so keep an eye out! But here's the first three anthology covers right now...




Saturday, April 22, 2017

New Story Accepted! (and other news!)


I am happy to announce that my short story "Titus, My Brother," was accepted for inclusion in the military fiction anthology The Odds Against Us


The anthology is a crowd-funded project from Oren Litwin, and should be out late 2017/early 2018. I'm joining a fine cast of writers, including two of my old friends, Jim Wilsky and John Floyd.

My story is a little bit of a departure from my usual fare of crime fiction. In keeping with the theme of the anthology, it is military fiction, set in first century Britain, during the Roman colonization (or occupation, depending on your point of view). Boudicca has just led the Iceni in an uprising against Rome, and a depleted Roman legion is marching to Camulodunum to put down this rebellion (or push for freedom, again depending on your perspective). For those who like a good battle story, I think you'll enjoy it. For those that like to look for subtext, I think you'll see a couple swirling around in the underbrush of this tale.

In other news, I've been invited to be part of a Lawrence Kelter-edited anthology project that will be out around the same time. It hasn't been officially announced yet, though, so I'm not sure how much information I'm able to share yet, so I'll get back to you on that.

Another unannounced project that I know will happen one way or another is one I'll be editing and also providing a couple stories. It's a series (call it a season if you like) of novellas featuring a pair of grifters on the run. Some of your [or mine, at least] favorite authors will be contributing, though some of them don't know it yet. More on this further on up the road (for those of you playing Zafiro Bingo, you may now fill in the box marked 'Springsteen Reference').

Answering Questions at Auntie's on 4/9/17
My appearance at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane on April 9 was a successful one. This place has been an independent bookstore since 1978, and remains viable in a wildly different marketplace than when it came into existence thirty-nine years ago. Great people, great atmosphere, and always a fun time. If you were one of the people who made it out on a Wednesday night, thank you!


My next stop is in Seattle at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop on Saturday April 29 at 12 PM. I haven't been to SMB for a few years, so it's exciting to be coming back. Hope to see a lot of you. The reason I'm there is to promote and sign copies of my most recent release, The Last Collar, written with the aforementioned Larry Kelter.  But hey, I'll sign anything, talk about anything, or just hang out. It is the final weekend before Independent Bookstore Day on May 2, so come celebrate early. If you haven't seen the inside of SMB yet, you're missing out on the coolest store in Seattle...period.

On Monday, May 1st, I'll be back in Seattle, taping an interview for "New Day Northwest," a Seattle TV program. I'm not sure of the air date, but it should be soon. This will actually be my first TV interview as a writer since KXLY's Robyn Nance did a feature on me years ago in Spokane called "Crime Fighter, Crime Writer" and I'm looking forward to it.

And last but not least, the news that more people probably care about more than all of the previous...I've started work on the next River City novel. It's called In the End and it is book 5 in the series. It will definitely be out this year. Books 6 & 7 should follow pretty quickly after that.

What's this one about? Well, more on that as we get closer. But expect Katie MacLeod to play a larger role than 2011's And Every Man Has to Die (book 4). Chisolm and Sully are in there, along with Detectives Tower and Browning, and the rest of the supporting cast....yes, including the weaselly Lieutenant Hart.

More to come. Hope to see you in Seattle!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

G Strikes Again!

G is a young writer who emailed me with some questions about the craft. Since the questions were intelligent ones that bear discussion, I offered to answer them in an ongoing series of blog posts.


Today's question: What's the best way to set a book up for a sequel without making it obvious? One of the big things about my book is that it's part of a series. From my research, I've learned that most first time authors have a lot more trouble publishing when their book is first in a series. 

It's a great question.

There are two kinds of series. One kind is when you follow a character from book to book as s/he encounters stand alone adventures. There are recurring secondary characters and the main character may grow and change over time, and there may even be a plot string or two that occur over the course of the series, but for the most part, each book can stand completely on its own. The fact that it is part of a series is great but reading one doesn't necessitate reading a second or third in order to get the whole story. Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder series or Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series are both great examples of this. I'll call these a Character Series.

The other kind of series is the purposeful series in which the overarching story plays out over more than one book. Think G.R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. Let's call this a Story Series.

In writing a first book in a Character Series, the biggest focus should be on that single book. Make sure it is a great book that stands on its own two firm feet. Ensuring that there is room for a second book is only a small part of a book like this, not the main focus. This book, and each of the others in the series, stands alone and you could pick up any of them and get enjoyment from it without having read any others in the series. 99% of the effort should be on the book at hand, and 1% about setting up future books or continuing existing series plot threads.

Interestingly, when Block finished When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, he thought the series was over because Scudder had faced the fact that he was an alcoholic. Then he realized he had a lot more Scudder tales to tell, so he picked up the thread again, and we got more books that stood alone as mysteries. But we also saw Scudder venture into sobriety, and eventually marry.

In a Story Series, you know going in that there will be a sequel(s), and that the sequel(s) is necessary to tell the entire story. But the first book still has to be a satisfying segment of the story. One way to accomplish this is to have an intermediate goal for the heroes to accomplish, and the first book is about striving toward that goal. A reader can enjoy some aspect of a finished goal that way, but the ending should also set up the next big step in the series, too. Think about how Star Wars ended...the Death Star destroyed, but the rebellion still not over. A battle won, but not the war.

This is a very simplified explanation of what some very talented authors accomplish with strong craft, but hopefully it points G (and anyone else contemplating the same question) in the right direction.

Of course, I welcome any further thoughts on this question...

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Where'd the TIme Go?

I got an email recently from Cindy Rosmus, the editor of the online magazine, YELLOW MAMA. She wrote to tell me about their 10th anniversary issue, being published on Valentine's Day 2017, and asked to reprint my short story "Cassie" in that issue. More specifically, she said that she was going to run her five favorite stories from that first year, and "Cassie" was one of them.

First off...cool, huh? When she asked if that would be okay, I sent a fast, enthusiastic "YES!"

So my first thought was that it was cool that she wanted to include "Cassie," and the second thought was that it was even cooler that it was one of her favorites.

Then I got to thinking...tenth anniversary? Tenth? It seems like only a short time ago when that story went live, and here I am, about forty stories and twenty novels down the line.

Where does the time go?

That was rhetorical. You don't have to answer.

"Cassie" is a short story featuring Stefan Kopriva, who is a pivotal character in the River City universe. He's one of the main protagonists in the first two River City novels, the main protagonist in three novels of his own, and featured in a couple of short stories, including this one. Chronologically, "Cassie" takes place after the events in Waist Deep but before those in Lovely, Dark, and Deep. It is one of the few stories that I've written that includes some graphic sexuality (if you're keeping track at home, "Good Shepherd" and "Gently Used" are two others). The sexuality included in this story made it a little more difficult to place, and resulted in a couple of rejections based on content. So when Cindy decided to take a flier on "Cassie," I was pretty thrilled.

If you're interested in this story, it's out there now and you can probably find it. But I'd suggest you bookmark YELLOW MAMA and when the Tenth Anniversary issue goes live on 2/14, give "Cassie" a read along with the other gems Cindy picked.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Another Q from G

If you're wondering what 'Q' is, your first guess was correct:  question.

If you're wondering who 'G' is, you can check out my previous post about it, but the short version is the G is a young writer who emailed me with some questions about the craft. Since the questions were intelligent ones that bear discussion, I offered to answer them in an ongoing series of blog posts.

Today's question: How do you tell a backstory without having a flashback or outwrite [sic] telling it?

(Sorry, I couldn't resist including the original typo from G's email...even though we all know it is a typo, it seems like it somehow ought to be correct, doesn't it?)

Anyway, this one seems like a simple question, and I suppose it has a simple answer, but the execution is everything.

For starters, I think most writers would agree that we know waaaaaaaaay more about each character than the reader ever learns. We know these back stories intimately. And because we know them so well, and because they excite us so much, and because, dammit, we did the work to create (or discover, depending on how your muse prefers to work) these stories, and because they are frickin' amazing...we want to include every little detail.

Don't.

Back story is like the spice in a meal, not the meal itself. It flavors the meat, but it isn't the meat. The meat is the story you're telling in the here and now, and that's where the focus should be.

Oh, but yes, I know...the back story is crucial to this character's persona, or her motivation, or you name it. And maybe that's so. I'm not saying the back story shouldn't be there. It absolutely should. But like seasoning on the meat, it enhances. And a little can go a long way.

Let's say your character has a hard time with intimacy, and recently endured a hard breakup. How much of that back story do you need to tell? The answer, of course, is that it depends. If the story you're telling is about reconciling with that partner, probably a lot more of the back story needs to be told than if the relationship and subsequent breakup is merely a part (albeit an important part that affects her immensely and drives her motivation) of the character's history but won't be revisited in this story. Because remember, this story is the one you're telling.

In The Backlist, my novel with Eric Beetner, one of the main characters, Bricks, has recently suffered exactly what I just described:  a tough break up. And the breakup reinforces the fact that she has intimacy issues. But the story is about something else entirely, so how much to devote to the loss of her recent love?

Well, in a book of about sixty thousand words, I spent less than two hundred giving that part of her back story.

Of course, there was more to her back story, especially with her mother and her father, but these also came about organically. Probably fifty percent of the back story centering on her Pops comes out in dialogue with other people, and most of the rest in scattered references she makes throughout the book.

Back story can be the most effective when it is told (or better yet, shown) in revealing snippets of conversation (whether dialogue or internal monologue), and not all at once. Creating a little mystery about the backstory isn't a bad thing at all. In fact, it can be intriguing.

Ultimately, unless the key to the story you're telling now is about resolving these past events in the character's life (and maybe not even then), what the reader needs to know is the flavor of those events and a couple of salient facts. Too much emphasis on the backstory might be an indicator that you're telling the wrong story now.

So go easy on back story. Reveal enough to meet the needs of characterization and/or plot points, but don't be afraid to let it dribble out in intriguing bits through dialogue. Oblique references and hints are fair game here. After all, the reader doesn't have to know everything...and certainly not right away.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Happy Accident and a Little Obsession

As you will know if you follow this blog, some of my projects are collaborations. For example, I just finished a third Bricks and Cam Job with Eric Beetner earlier this month, and am also working on one called FALLEN CITY with my The Last Collar partner, Lawrence Kelter.

The chapters in both of these collaborations flew back and forth pretty quickly. Eric and I got off to a slow start, mostly because of me, but once we got rolling, we rolled like a freight train. Larry and I were a little sporadic at first, too, but experienced the same phenomenon once things were established -- we flew. In the last couple of weeks, that freight train has positively morphed into a high speed bullet train.

So it was no surprise to me when I got back a pivotal chapter from Larry late last night (even later for him on the East Coast). Although I was seriously considering going to bed when the file arrived in my mailbox, I decided to at least read it. So I did, and it rocked, and as always got me even more excited about the story. That led to doing the revision piece that we always do on incoming chapters. Nothing big, just catching typos and doing some minor polishing. When that was done, I felt like I was in the groove, so I started my new chapter. It was to have two scenes, and I burned through the first scene, creating some conflict and feeling maliciously good about it. I was about a third of the way, maybe even halfway, through the second scene, when something weird happened.

It's still kind of a mystery to me. I must have inadvertently had a key depressed or something while I moved the mouse up to the task ribbon to switch it back to the HOME setting. I wanted to be able to italicize with the click of the button (yes, I know I can CTRL-I, but sometimes I like to click the italics button instead, okay?). Anyway, I used the mouse wheel to try to change it and my tired, clumsy fingers may have even depressed the left mouse button.

Can you see the disaster coming?

All of the sudden, Word closes and I'm staring at my desktop. My first thought was probably the same one you had -- immediately after uttering a favorite curse word, of course.

"When did I save last?"

I opened the file up again, scrolled down and...time for that favorite curse word again. No partial second scene. No completed first scene. No revisions.

Nada.

At that point, I just went to bed. I told Kristi what happened (she painfully endured the "And then I used the mouse wheel" description that she said was taking forever...and in truth, it kinda did) to vent a little, and we hit the sack. Being the great wife that she is, though, she said, "Why don't you go rewrite it while it is still fresh in your mind?"

But I refused. Stupid Word document wasn't going to me to jump through hoops.

After pouting for about five minutes, I realized she was right. Also, there was no way I was falling asleep, even though it was after eleven. So I kissed my wife and got back up. I grabbed some water and for consolation's sake, a few 'Nilla Wafer Minis. And by a few, I mean two gargantuan handfuls. But I stopped at two. Because that was all that was left in the box.

I did some Google research, asking if there was any way to recover an unsaved Word document. The first answer I found was in one of those help forums like Answer.com or something. Some idiot didn't save his document and wanted to know if it could be recovered. Some smug asshole replied that if he didn't save it, then there was nothing to recover. No help at all.

Luckily, there were about forty million other hits, and a couple of them had actual suggestions worth trying. I explored a couple of dead ends and finally landed on one that said if I had the autosave feature turned on, then I could find the auto-recover document at a particular location in my file directory. I crossed my fingers and went there. Lo and behold, an auto-recover document with a time stamp on it that seemed hopeful. I clicked on it, opening it with Word when prompted (why did I have to select Word? What else would I open it with? Excel, just for fun? Excel is never fun).

The first thing I noticed was that it opened with the Track Changes margin visible to the right. That meant some of my changes were intact, because I always made it a point to accept (or rarely reject) the changes Larry made on my previous chapter before going into his new chapter. So that was good news.

I scrolled down and saw that all of my revisions were there, and the beginning of my first scene. True, my protagonist was cut off right before he says something nice to his wife (who is piii-iiissed at him, oh!), but I probably only lost ten minutes of work, or less. Just spitballing, but I felt like that was a good estimate, since I noticed the setting on the Auto-Recover option was to save every ten minutes.

Still, that was a lot of lost material, because I had been rolling. I closed my eyes to envision the rest of the scene at the apartment, and the beginning of the second scene, which occurs at a crime scene. Then I started tapping the keys.

I finished the first scene, and drove right into the second. I got to the point where I'd left off and just kept rolling.When it came time to send it back to Larry, I did what we usually do for each other, inserting a page break and typing in the next chapter number. Then I sat there, staring at the screen, because I knew that his next scene, which I was looking forward to, didn't have any ripples into the final segment I was to write next. And my final segment was the end of the book, a time any writer knows is exciting.

So after a little deliberation (very little), I added another page break, was nice enough to type in the chapter heading for myself, and I started tapping the keys again. I wrote what I thought would be the final scene of the book, wrapping up some loose ends and putting a ribbon on things from the perspective of the main protagonist. It went well, I thought. Of course, it was late and I was both tired and mildly biased. But there was some irony, some mild self-awareness, and some love, both of the married and fraternal kind. I also happily tied it back to the very first scene in which the reader meets the protagonist.

When I was done (and had hit SAVE), I sat there a little longer. There was one nagging little loose thread dangling, and it was bothering me. It involved a character that could easily be categorized as the second only to the main protagonist in terms of screen time. And while Larry and I wanted to leave his fate a little bit shrouded (who knows if this will be a one-off or a series, at this point?), there was a part of his story-line involving his family that I didn't want to leave unresolved.

Besides, like I said, I was rolling. I felt like Bruce Springsteen, getting ready to introduce the band near the end of the show right in the middle of the song "Light of Day." Just chanting, "100 miles, 200 miles, 300 miles, train keeps on rollin', goin' 400 miles, 500 miles..."

So I kept writing. Since we had a prologue, I decided to go beyond our original plan and write an epilogue. Nature and art like symmetry, right? I took the approach of keeping the narrator's identity unstated, though it will be obvious to the reader who it is. The epilogue ended up only 366 words, but it did exactly what I needed it to do.

Then, finally, I was done. The bottom right corner of my monitor told me it was after two in the morning, which didn't used to seem so late, but seems positively rebellious now. I did a quick read-through, tweaking and polishing and correcting along the way, which took another ten minutes or more. Then I hit SAVE repeatedly, gave my monitor a sturdy middle finger, and exited the document.

And immediately opened it again to make sure it was all still there. If I was really crazy, I would have muttered an apology for the finger part, but just because I'm a writer doesn't mean I'm full out whacked.  So I only thought the apology.

Still there. All good.

I closed the file and went to bed. I fell asleep fast, and hard.

Now who know what will happen...I haven't heard back from Larry as of this writing, but it is well within his normal window for reply. He may read my two in the morning ravings and hate them. Or he may not agree to an epilogue. It is the ending, after all, and endings are important. But I think he's going to dig it. Because sometimes bad luck can turn to good luck, and a happy accident can end up putting you in a good place, if you're willing to contribute a little of your own obsession.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In with the New, Free with the Old

Starting with the new...

While Larry Kelter and I pound away at our WIP called FALLEN CITY (and we're nearing the end of our first draft!), our first collaboration, The Last Collar, has been released by Down & Out Books.

What's it about?  Welll...

The demons that drive John “Mocha” Moccia to obsess, to put absolutely everyone under a microscope, and scratch away at every last clue, make him the best hard-nosed detective in Brooklyn homicide. But these same demons may very well write the final chapter in his career.

He isn’t the kind of detective to take no for an answer, but in his most recent case answers are damn hard to come by. Partnered with the conscientious Detective Matt Winslow, Mocha endeavors to solve the murder of the wealthy and beautiful Jessica Shannon, a woman who had every reason to live.

As Mocha and Winslow strive to push forward the hands of time and solve the murder, their imposing lieutenant breathes down their necks, suspects are scarce, and all of the evidence seems to be a dead end.

With the last precious grains of sand falling through the hourglass, Mocha pushes ever forward, determined to make an arrest, even if it means this collar will be his last.

The first review I came across is a positive one, saying, "Not all police procedurals are created equal. Some reach beyond the standard cliches. The Last Collar delivers what we expect and much more … a seamless, enjoyable read."

A good start!

As I mention in my blog series on crime novel collaboration, I was a little nervous that both of us writing a single first person narrative would result in a choppy voice at best, a schizophrenic one at worst, but at the end of our revisions, I was glad to see that my concerns were not realized. Quite the contrary, actually, as it was difficult by the end of the journey to be one hundred percent sure which passages I wrote as opposed to those I only revised and edited. That's a good thing, and probably why the reviewer used the term 'seamless.'

Now, onto the old...

On the free front, my magnus collection of all of my short stories, Tales of River City, is free from January 20-24 (which means that the day this post goes live is the last day you can get it for free, so move-ah your butt-ah!). Tales of River City contains Dead Even, No Good Deed, The Cleaner and a clatch of additional stories that aren't collected together anywhere else, for a grand total of 61 stories. If short stories are your thing, especially crime stories for the most part, and if you dig River City, the this collection is for you. And. It. Is.

Free.

All in all, not a half-bad day to be a Frank Zafiro fan, no?

[This is where I would insert an emoji of some kind if I weren't a good enough writer to have already conveyed the literary mixture of serious promotion with mild self-deprecation].

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Good Moment For Us Both

I got an email from a reader the other day who shared his thoughts on both The Backlist and The Short List, books I wrote with Eric Beetner, published by Down & Out Books. He told me his favorite scene in The Backlist was chapter 23.

SPOILER ALERT! I'm about to give away plot points to this novel!
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Okay, if you're still here, I assume you're okay with spoilers.

In chapter 23 of The Backlist, Bricks is on the third of the three names she has been given to assassinate. This one turns out to be an old man who she finds herself fond of, both in her distant memory as a little girl and in the moment at hand. The man, Zooker, is almost certainly autistic, but from an era and of an age that only recognizes that he's different. He knows why Bricks is there, and lets her know he's dying of cancer. She accompanies him back to his apartment, where he draws a bath and kills himself by cutting his own wrists while she waits in the other room.

Most readers will see the homage to The Godfather Part II's Frank Pentangali, and I really made no effort to hide it. In fact, on the drive to the apartment, Zooker and Bricks engage in a debate over the merits of Part I versus Part II, as we learn a little bit more about the sad, lonely life of this old man.

Here's the point:  when I wrote the scene, I saw it so clearly in my head. I heard his voice resonating from behind the closed bathroom door as he sang an old song. I heard the slosh of the bathwater, the wetness in his voice after he splashed his face. The quiet grunts of pain when he made the cut. The trailing off of his song while Bricks, just as lonely as he was, sat her vigil on the hard chair at his kitchen table. I felt the power of the emotion as I wrote it, and it is one of my favorite scenes of the book, too.

So to hear that a reader out there felt the same way about that scene, had the same emotions evoked from what happened to both characters...well, isn't that why we all write, really? To feel it ourselves, first of all, and then to make that connection with another soul who feels something as well.

That is, to my mind, a good moment for the both of us.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Question from G

A little over a week ago, I got a nice email from a young writer (let's call her 'G', since that is her first initial, and the nickname of the captain of my favorite hockey team) who hails from my hometown. She had what she thought were a couple of small writing-related questions. Since Deer Park, Washington is populated by less than four thousand souls, connections are pretty bountiful. It turned out that this writer's father and uncle both went to high school at the same time as I did, and we were moderately acquainted. As a result, they knew about my books, and suggested that G ask her questions of me.

So she did.

As an author, I'm in that range of popularity in which I get emails from readers but not so many that I can't (or don't) answer each of them individually. I remember writing to my favorite authors (who got a ton more fan mail than I do) and how thrilled I was to hear back from them. So I figure that if someone takes the time to not only buy and read my book but to share their thoughts with me, the least I can do is reply.

But G's email represented a bit of a quandary. Her small questions were anything but small. Some were actually pretty large. So, after a couple of exchanges, she was gracious enough to agree to letting me answer her questions here, in case other people were wondering some of the same things she was.

This will be the first of several posts to accomplish exactly that.

Today's question was her first:  How do you write a multitude of subplots without getting off track?


It is a good question, really. In a way, I touched on it when I wrote about self-editing on the Down & Out Books blog. But clearly, there's more to it than just worrying about what to keep and what to cut...isn't there?

Maybe.

I remember the lesson Colin Conway and I learned with Some Degree of Murder. The original draft was finished in 2005 and ran about 111,000 words. We tried to find a home for it, but while there were several nibbles, no one took the hook. Time passed, and the marketplace changed, especially in the realm of independent (formerly self) publishing. We decided to go that route, pulled out the old manuscript and started revising.

Both of us were merciless during the revision process. We cut out entire scenes, including entire subplots, and stayed focused on the main story. The metaphor we used was that this book should be like a car driving on the freeway, headed fast for a destination. Anything that resembled an off-ramp was trimmed or eliminated. Yeah, you gotta stop for gas and to use the bathroom occasionally, but those are necessary things to keep you on the freeway, not a side trip.

"Stay on the freeway" was the mantra, and we stuck to it. We ended up with a much leaner novel of 73K words, and a book that remains among my best-selling titles.

So how does that lesson apply to G's question? Well, I think that if a subplot advances the main plot, or the character in a way that is indispensable to the main plot, you've got a subplot that must stay. If it doesn't, than you may be looking at something that needs a different home -- its own short story, another book, or heaven forbid, the trash heap.

Another element that I'd recommend is to remember that a subplot is exactly that: subordinate to the main plot. It needs to be as genuine as any other element of the book, but it doesn't need the depth. Or better stated, its depth doesn't need to be explored as completely (it still needs to be there, or it won't be very genuine, now will it?).

A key to making those subplots successful is being more succinct in that exploration. Bring those short story skills into the fray and say just as much or more in fewer words.

So there's my answer, G....first decided if the subplot needs to be there or not, then tell the story of those that remain as succinctly as possible.

Any other thoughts out there for G (who will be back on other occasions)?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pick Wisely Your Partner (the Art of Collaboration, Part III)

In Part I of this series, I gave some background on my collaboration experiences with other crime writers (10 books counting WIPs with 5 different authors).

In Part II, I listed the pros and cons of writing a crime novel together.

Now, in Part III, I'm going to dispense with some tips and observations based upon my experiences in collaborating with another writer to produce a crime fiction novel, just in case some of you are thinking about doing it. Or I suppose, if you've done it and have some additional tips to add, please chime in!

All set? Okay.

The first tip is the hardest one - know thyself. You've got to ask yourself if writing a collaborative novel is in your wheelhouse. If you have a huge ego, if you are pretty sure no one else has a better idea or a better edit than you, it's probably not going to work. Part of the greatness of collaboration is you get to draw on the best both of you has to offer. A big ego hampers that process.

If you simply have to be in control of everything, collaboration is going to be tough. There's nothing at all wrong with the need for control in one's work, but to collaborate successfully, you have to be able to relinquish some of that control. By that, I mean control over what characters say and do, which way the plot goes, the ending, the title...pretty much all of it. If you can't bring yourself to do that, it's no big deal -- but I'd think twice before collaborating.

Will you be a good partner? Pull your own weight at every stage -- first draft, revision, publishing, marketing?

Ultimately, though, the biggest question comes down to this -- are you amenable to compromise, to respecting the artistic talent and knowledge of craft your partner brings to the table? Because inevitably, she will make an edit or a correction that might irritate you, or lobby for a plot thread that will frustrate you, or not like your idea for the ending, and if you aren't the kind of person who can work through those reactions and work out those differences, maybe collaboration isn't for you.

That doesn't mean you can't have a partnership of another kind. One of the most common partnerships I've had with other writers is as critique partners. And that can be an absolutely invaluable asset to your work, but also one in which you don't relinquish control.

Secondly, you gotta know thy partner. Ask all of the questions you asked about yourself again, only this time, ask them about your prospective partner. Every one applies, in the same way.

Additionally, you've got to be a little bit mercenary here. Yeah, it is important for all the same reasons as above that your partner is a good collaborator (why do I think WWII or Cylons every time I type that word?). But an even more basic question needs to be asked: can he write? Do you want your name to share a book cover with her? Because regardless of how brilliant you are, half a book that's good and half a book that sucks...is a book that sucks. With your name on the cover. So think hard before linking up with someone. Make sure you're comfortable that the caliber of writing that you'll be sharing pages with is top notch.

And skill isn't the only consideration. Sometimes there is just the concept of "fit" that has to be explored. Does your style mesh well with his? Whether you're writing separate characters, separate chapters, or one narrative, it matters! Does her writing method match up with yours? Are either of you stepping out of your genre, and not likely to bring readers along because the genres are so different?

I've been fortunate on this count. My co-authors were all writers in the same skill range as I was, so the result wasn't at all uneven. I was able to grow and learn as a writer from working with each of them, and I hope the reverse was also true. In each case, our styles were close enough so that the transitions weren't jarring (or the single narrative, choppy) but different enough to give the reader separate voices.

As I said, fortunate. Because, honestly my friends, you have to Be realistic about what can happen when you collaborate. It isn't difficult to imagine all of the places where things can go wrong, where you and your partner can disagree. Pretty much everything is susceptible to that very real danger. You could end up spending a lot of time on the project and have it not go anywhere. I had this occur on a non-fiction book that another author invited me to work on with him. The project stalled mostly due to his overwhelming schedule, so I didn't have any hard feelings, but the disappointment was still there. The unused work product was still there.

So you could end up with a dead project. Or, worst case, a collaboration with legal entanglements. Actually, scratch that. Among lost work and legal troubles, I'd say the potential of a lost friendship ranks even higher. And this can happen even when a project is successfully concluded. I was part of a pair of boxed sets with a bunch of other authors. The first one did well, but the second set stalled. Some of it may have been the changes in the marketplace, or the timing, but some of it was most definitely due to lackluster marketing on the part of some of the participating authors.  Me included. I did a poor job of supporting that set, and though I had reasons then [they seem more like excuses to me now], it did nothing to assuage the righteous frustration and anger of those authors who were busting their asses. I still owe them more than just the apology I made, but who knows if I can ever repay that karmic debt?

So the point is, things can go wrong. Don't walk in believing otherwise. But you can take certain steps to mitigate that...

For one, Check your ego at the door. Or the keyboard. Or the email. Hell, I can't make the metaphor work, but you get the idea. As I mentioned above, you have to be able to accept less control, respect the other person's talent and craft, and be able to compromise. If your ego gets in the way, something negative will almost surely happen.

Set  expectations and boundaries . If you know what's expected of you in all phases of the project, and what to expect, there are less likely to be bad surprises. Who will write what? Talk about publishing plans, marketing, all of it.

Boundaries are important, too. For instance, in some of my co-authored novels, each of us wrote one of the two protagonists. There was an agreement that while each of us was expected to treat the whole book as his/her own in terms of editing, revision, plotting, all of it, each writer retained some amount of veto power concerning his/her own character.

Part of this is practical -- you know your own character best. Part of it is about not relinquishing all control. And part of it is showing respect for the fact that the book is a joint effort.

Agree on an approach. Are you going to plot rigorously? Loosely? Barely at all? What point of view will you use? Obviously, you've got to agree on this early on, or things are going to go sideways pretty fast.

Have a good idea where things are going. Many writers, myself included, only outline loosely. Maybe your co-author is the same. That works great for a solo author, and it can work for collaboration, too. However, there has to be just a little structure. Both authors have to know where things are headed. Maybe early in the book, it's just a compass direction, then a particular city in that direction, and as you hit the three quarter mark, it's probably going to be narrowed to a city block, or a specific house. By the time you hit the end of the book, you'll both find your way to the room of the house in which you type THE END. Maybe these plans change a lot along the way, but as you go, you both gotta know those directions. To ensure this, you also must...

Communicate...and be honest! You have to talk with your co-author. A lot. The topics you'll discuss are wide-ranging, including the just-mentioned plotting decisions. But you'll need to discuss every aspect of the book -- characters, tone, theme (I'm in favor of telling the story and seeing what theme emerges from that, but your mileage may vary. It doesn't matter, as long as your co-author is on the same page or willing to be...or you're willing to compromise on the issue), the title, the ending, publishing plans, marketing venues...you have to talk it over.

Talking does no good, though, unless you're honest. Be truthful about your own wishes, and be honest in your critique of the project, whether it is your work or your partner's. For example, as I write this post, I'm currently working on two collaborative novels (plus my own solo book -- it's a juggling act, to be sure). With FALLEN CITY, the Lawrence Kelter collaboration, the first thing I do when I get chapters back from him is read through the edits he did on my previous chapters. We use the Track Changes feature in MS WORD, so the revisions are obvious. I usually accept ninety-plus percent of them, and comment back the reason why on those I don't. Then I read his new chapters, proofread them, and make any small revisions that jump out at me. Some of these are typos, but others are fixes, additions, refinements, or just comments. Then I dive into writing my chapters, starting the process again.

This works for us, especially since we're both writing the entire narrative and not a specific, exclusive character. It's a good form of ongoing revision/editing, and for me, it gets me into the zone for when I start typing a new chapter.  But this communication about what we like, what we don't, what we think should be changed, is constant and ongoing, and it isn't vague or ambiguous. It's honest. Kind, but honest. As a result, we have a good relationship (and in the end, a tighter first draft). [Also, this is a good time to point out a call back here to the ego issue discussed earlier, by the way].

The other book I'm working on is THE WILD, WILD LIST with Eric Beetner. It is our third book together, and another Cam and Bricks Job. This one has a dual first person narrative, so you won't be surprised to hear that when I get a chapter from Beets, I read it and kindly correct any typos but otherwise leave his work alone. He does the same for mine. Occasionally, to make our coordination work, one of us will make a small edit to the other person's chapter. Even more rarely, one of us will edit some dialogue the other put into the mouth of our character. But for the most part, we manage our own plot of land.

The thing is, Eric isn't picky about his work being edited any more than I am or Larry is. But the nature of the books themselves lend toward two different back and forth approaches.

One place where the two approaches are similar, though, is in the communication. I talk a lot with both writers about all the stuff I mentioned above. You have to. In fact, as in any relationship, it is probably the most important thing...or perhaps the second most. The most important thing is to...

Enjoy the ride. You're getting to work with another cool author, making art, and having fun along the way. You're writing a book and getting to read one at the same time. Enjoy it! Enjoy the banter, the flush of creation, the surprises, and the sense of accomplishment. In some ways, it is similar to when you write your own book, but there's a feeling of community to it when you do it with a fellow author.

So enjoy the ride. When it works, it...is...a...blast.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Pros and Cons of Dos (the Art of Collaboration, Part II)

In Part I of this series, I gave some background of my own experiences in collaborating with other authors in writing crime novels. I recommend reading it first, because I will be making references to the people and books mentioned in that post as I discuss the Pros and Cons of having dos writers on one novel.

By way of summary (or review), I've written eight different novels (two more are currently in the works) with five different authors. Demographically, they are four men and one woman. Geographically, two lived near me and two lived on the opposite coasts of the country, and one smack tab in the central (well, sorta -- Texas). Two I have had face to face meetings with (the local ones), the other three I've communicated with largely via email (though with two of them I've had some phone calls, too).

The primary format I've used with four out of five authors and seven of eight books (8 of 10, if you count WIPs) is a dual first person narrative. In this format, each writer handles one character, writing him/her in the first person. The book is presented in alternating chapters, first one character, then the other.

That FORMAT is an important component in how these books have been successful, at least in terms of the writing. What is the benefit (and difficulty) of a format in which you get two alternating first person narratives?

Pro:  The benefit to the reader is that the first person is an intimate way to convey a story. The reader gets to be in the head of the character, seeing and feeling all she sees and feels. The limitation of that form of narration is that the reader is limited to that character and that character alone in terms of information being conveyed. If "I" don't know a fact, neither does the reader. A first person narration can fall prey to an unreliable perspective, in terms of what is seen, and how it is seen.

That's where the dual narrative softens the blow. The reader gets another viewpoint, another set of facts, from the second character. In many cases, the reader will know something the character doesn't, or get to see something in a different light. All the while, the narration is still that intimate first person style.

Con:  The reader may not like first person, or may get confused as the story jumps back and forth between the characters. Okay, this con is cheating a little. I've very rarely had a reader say this is the case. More frequently, people dig the style.

Pro: The back and forth. This is a pro for the reader, in that it can build tension and create natural cliffhangers. It has always been satisfying to hear a reader say, "I just finished a Bricks chapter, and I want to skip ahead and see what happens next, but then I start the Cam chapter, and by the end of that, I want to skip ahead, but then its back to Bricks, and I'm excited all over again..." Okay, that's a paraphrase, but actually a fairly common one when it comes to reader reaction to the format.

It's also a pro for the writer. It is exciting to get back your partner's chapter and see what happened. Yeah, you may know generally, but the details are fun, and can be surprising. One liners that make you laugh, beautiful use of language, the kind of things that you enjoy as a reader, you get to do while writing a book. Plus there's motivation to get to work on your own chapter, and to keep the bar high. You don't want to let your partner down, unlike your seventeenth workout partner.

Con: I don't see one here, honestly. Hit me up if you do.

Pro: You maintain most of the control over your own character. This is what makes this format an easy first foray into collaboration. You don't agree to share 100% of the book. You get to retain some measure of final say over one very important part -- your narrator.

Con: You give up some control over your own character. Your character is going to appear in scenes written by your partner, so there will be actions and words that he does that you didn't write. See my ego comments below to this point, and pay attention to Part III's tips on how to navigate these waters.

The format isn't the only consideration, though. It's obviously possible to collaboratively write a book in any format. I did a single first person narrative with Lawrence Kelter in The Last Collar, and it worked fine. My biggest concern (lack of a singular voice for the character) turned out to be groundless, and we're working on a second book now. This one uses a limited third POV, with two main characters and several secondary ones getting time on stage.

In fact, the format I described above isn't the norm -- most collaborations don't use it. I tried it first with Colin Conway in Some Degree of Murder, and it worked so well for me that I stuck with it for the majority of my other collaborations. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

There are other considerations when collaborating, focusing on WRITER CONCERNS.

Pro: You only have to write half a book. Cool, huh? You write half a book to finish a whole book. It increases your output.

Con: It's only half yours. This con has never bothered me, at least not in eight outings. Part of the reason why will come in Part III when I dispense with some tips on the collaborative process, based on what I've learned. But a little preview here -- ego plays a role. If you can't check your ego, this con will probably bother you. Also, the ego of your partner plays a similar role, so pick him/her wisely.

Pro: No writer's block. I have to say I've never encountered this dreaded problem (rap on wood), though sometimes writing is harder and other times it is simply a joy. But nothing charges me up like getting back the book from my writing partner. Not only do I get to read some great stuff, but it is energizing in that same way that going to coffee with another writer and talking about projects can be. Only this happens twenty or thirty times over the course of the book.

Con: Oh shit, what if I get writer's block? Obviously, you don't want to let your partner down. So this fear could be scary. For me, I don't fear writer's block, but I do fear writer's shit. In other words, I want to make sure I'm carrying my own weight in terms of quality and quantity of writing.

Pro: Coming up with (and refining) ideas. A lot of writers enjoy sitting down with another writer and brainstorming ideas. Some of us do this with non-writers (my wife, Kristi, is my first reader, and is great about talking through ideas, both in meta and micro terms). Usually this brainstorming happens with our colleague or friend, and then we scuttle off to your writer dungeons and make the ideas come to life.

In collaborations, that discussion process never really ends, and great ideas from you or your partner can build a wonderful synergy.

Con: Not all of your ideas make the cut. Doesn't this happen when you write solo, too, though? Hasn't every writer sat down with a great idea and then see things gravitate in a way that minimizes, changes, or even cuts out that original idea? So no reason to cry over this, I say.

Really, it comes down to the biggest pro/con aspect of collaboration: interaction vs. control. If you want the wonder and the excitement of working with a partner, you have to compromise some control. This simple fact is woven throughout many or even most of these pros and cons, and I'll talk about it some more in Part III.

Pro: Solving plot conundrums. Painted yourself into a corner? Two heads are better than one, especially when both heads have skin in the game.

Con: The plot may not always go the way you want it to. This is part of the compromise. And if you had your heart set on a plot thread that doesn't go down, that sucks for you.

Relax. The direction things went was probably better, anyway. Otherwise, you wouldn't have agreed to it.

Pro: A built in co-editor. Two sets of eyes on the every draft is a very good thing. I routinely catch typos in my partners' chapters and mine regularly come back with typo fixes as well. But it goes deeper than proofreading. Two minds focused on the book have a better chance of sussing out motivation issues, plot holes, and anything else that is often pointed out by an astute editor. As a result, drafts of collaborative novels tend to be tighter, earlier.

Con: You may not agree on an edit. So what, though? Doesn't this happen with a reader, reviewer, or editor, anyway?

The way to solve this is relatively simple. In all of my collaborations, both of us have had a free hand to edit anywhere throughout the book. Why wouldn't you? But we also retained final say on edits involving our own character. This creates some equilibrium in the process.

Pro:  Cross-Pollination. After the book is finished and out there, you have a built in marketing piece. Anyone who finds my work will eventually find Eric Beetner, Lawrence Kelter, Jim Wilsky, Bonnie Paulson, and Colin Conway. And if they find one of those fine authors first? Well, then they find me, too.

Marketing fiction in today's world is different than ten years ago. The problem for most writers then was getting past the gatekeepers (agents, publishers). Now there are many gates, and some are not even guarded, so anyone can scamper inside. So the problem becomes getting noticed in an increasingly crowded room. If every time someone bumps into one of your friends, your name comes up, and vice-versa, you and your friends stand a better chance of getting noticed.

Or to using a fishing metaphor, more lines in the water, with varying bait.

And (for a third metaphor) if any one of you catches fire? Everyone gets a little warmth.

This is just one more way of recognizing that writing and selling fiction is not a zero-sum game. I imagine a number of people have said that over the years, but I first read it on Joe Konrath's blog, and immediately agreed. A reader doesn't have to choose between your book and mine -- she can read both. If not today, later. Your success doesn't come at the expense of my own. So I can, and should, be happy for your success.

Con: The reader hates your co-author. Ah, who cares? The Internet is full of people with self-important opinions. Plus, the only books you ever wrote weren't with that co-author anyway, right?

Pro:  Marketing help from your co-author. As mentioned above, any marketing your co-author does benefits you, and vice versa. Got interviewed, wrote a guest blog post, appeared on Entertainment Tonight? Either author's efforts help the other.

Con:  You're not as good at marketing as your co-author. Or they aren't. Although in my case, this is my Achilles heel, and something I need to improve upon.

Pro: Building professional and personal friendships. I really like my co-authors. I've met two of them in person. The other three, I've never sat across a restaurant table from, nor hoisted a glass. One, I've never even spoken to outside of emails.

My kids wouldn't think that's weird at all. My parents don't get it on any level. My generation is in that middle position where we accept it but think it is weird. I mean, I've been friends with Jill Maser for something like ten years, and yeah, we've talked on the phone a number of times but 90% of our friendship has been based on emails.

Emails, people!

I have a friend, a retired Australian cop that I e-met a few years ago when he wrote to me because he liked my River City series. We've exchanged emails, and he's coming to the USA in 2017. I don't think I'll get to see him but still...I'm friends with a guy from Australia?! Who I've never met!?

And there are certainly others...many, actually...but you get the idea. So these co-authors aren't the first Internet-based friendships I've made, but they have developed into the most satisfying. Not only do I have some pride in what we've accomplished together, but I genuinely like the people I've met doing that. Would these friendships exist to this degree if we hadn't birthed a book or three together? Maybe, but I kinda doubt it. They'd be...lesser somehow.

Writing is solitary business, and having connections, especially one as direct as co-authoring a book together, is quite frankly, good for the soul.

Con: Are you kidding?

I'm sure I'm missing some pros and cons. Feel free to pipe up if you see any. In the meantime, check out the third and final installment of this series, which will include some tips and thoughts for you to consider if you're going to collaborate with another author on a novel.