Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Five-Star review: http://twofistedblogger.blogspot.com/

THE SEVENTH COMPASS POINT OF DEATH is now on Amazon, the Kindle Store, B&N, the iBookstore and smashwords.com (see instant links below).

THE LIT-CRIT TAKE: A character-driven thriller, centering on the themes of terrorism, understanding and hope.

THE PURE PLOT PITCH: Here’s bad day: Guy sets out to rob a bank but ends up pulling a carjacking, and when he’s arrested a body is found in the trunk. The victim is a Sunni community leader, and why was he killed? Who killed him? The search for answers takes me into a homegrown Islamic terror underground, into plots, counterplots, deceptions and love affairs, all leading to an attack on a major NYC landmark.

For a quick taste, just click on

If you have time to write a review at Amazon or Smashwords, please please do.

Many thanks!

THE LINKS (can I make this any easier for you?)

Amazon (in print)

The Kindle Store

iPad (in iBooks)

Barnes & Noble (The Nook)

Smashwords (all e-reader formats)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

For Halloween, how many people are breaking out their old witch's costumes and going as Christine O'Donnell?

Friday, August 27, 2010

An E-Book First

New Thriller Sells More E-Books Than Hardcovers

Weeks after Amazon.com said that it is now selling more electronic books than hardcovers, a leading book publisher said one of its prominent new titles is generating greater e-book unit sales than hardcover unit sales during its first week on sale

Laura Lippman’s thriller, “I’d Know You Anywhere,” went on sale Aug. 17, and in its first five days sold 4,739 e-books and 4,000 physical hardcovers, said News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers...


The guy who runs my local Lotto store...

just announced he's launching his own e-reader. Where does it end?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's cause the pages are easier to turn

The ABCs of

Book lovers have long worried that technology would lead to the demise of long-form reading. But new research shows that owners of electronic reading devices may be reading more than ever before.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Self-conscious about writing?

Within the past few hours I've talked to two friends who are trying to write and have ideas, but they get blocked by self-consciousness. It's a common problem--and it's a killer for creativity. Don't try to write something that's going to please other people. Try to write something that's only going to please your harshest critic--yourself.

And surely don't try to write something that will appeal to everyone. There's never been a book, story or article that's had universal appeal. I mean the best-selling book in the world is the Bible, and there are LOTS of people who don't like that. So if God can't write a book with universal appeal, who the hell are we to try? Relax.  The more you can have fun writing, the better your writing will be.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ads in E-Books?

It's the wave of the future, according to the 8/19/10 Wall Street Journal.
I've been asking other writers how they feel about this. Surprisingly, there hasn't been much resistance, especially if some percentage of the ad revenue will be going to the writers. How do you feel?
I've also been told that at some non-recent point in publishing history, it was common to find advertising in books, usually at the end. This in an era I know nothing about, but I'd like to. If you know anything about it, please let me know. Many thanks.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


(Available on Amazon, Kindle, iPad and smashwords.com)

THE LIT-CRIT TAKE: A character-driven thriller, centering on themes of redemption, responsibility and spiritual freedom.

THE PURE PLOT PITCH: Just before he dies in a downtown hospital, a doctor passes along the half-formula for a powerful new hallucinogenic drug. Find the other half, and you’ve got a miracle drug—one that can save lives, save the world, and make a lot of money. Which, of course, makes it worth killing for.

It started to rain as we got off the LIE and began negotiating the faux-rural streets of Long Island’s north shore. The roads became narrow and unmarked, then narrower and narrower until we were on a quiet lane about the width of Joel Coryell’s dick.
We came to a house—though house is putting it mildly. It was a baronial, three-story, 14-bedroom Gilded Age palace, built in 1883, according to Joel, and recently restored to its former glory. Think about it, 1883. A whole army of carpenters, masons, coppersmiths and wrought-iron craftsmen had gathered here, working their asses off while a heartbroken Karl Marx died in a London bed, while the first cash registers were being manufactured, while Beatrix Potter was writing the story of Peter Rabbit, while Sigmund Freud was thinking about buying his first gram of coke from the local apothecary, while somebody was first trying to sell the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge to a dumb-assed tourist.
Joel gave me a rushed tour, marching through the house with the feudal arrogance of a real estate consultant, pointing out such high-end attractions as the oak walls and floors patinaed with real or recreated age, the rooms decorated in golds and creams and cherry-colored velvet, the authentic hand-tooling of the brick grout, the eight sets of French doors opening to a garden patio.
I was still trying to estimate the cost of heating the place when we stepped out back. The garden was wild with reeds and tall grasses—lemon, diamond, pink pampas—all cultivated to look untended and overgrown. You almost couldn’t see the small building on the other side. The house’s original kitchen, said Joel, had been constructed as a separate outbuilding.
It wasn’t a kitchen any more. The single room had been stripped down to basement-bare stone walls, and it was filled with an odor of sweat and sickness and something that smelled like rusted pigs’ knuckles.
Two men were standing in the middle, a fine pair of dull-eyed gentlemen whose resemblance to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now—right down to the shaven heads and cement-barrel bellies—was remarkable.
A third man sat at a small table, wasted and barely awake. His hair was tangled with perspiration and he hadn’t shaved in days, the growth on his face so scraggly and gray at first I thought he had a skin disease,
“Quinn,” said Joel, “say hello to Wayne Schuster.”
The man at the table lifted his head and gave me a weak, dazed stare.
“Wayne’s a security consultant from out in Seattle. Wayne, say hello to Quinn here.”
The man said something in a raspy, incomprehensible growl. His tongue was coated with the kind of slime you usually find on the underside of jaundiced frogs.
My own mouth went leather dry, like I’d just been sucking on a baseball mitt.
“Wayne had a meeting last week with Viktor Zubriggen. What’d he hire you to do again?”
“Protect,” Wayne said with slow difficulty. “Protect something.”
“A formula, wasn’t it?”
“A formula.”
I turned to Joel. “What’re you doing to him?”
“Nothing. We’re just giving him Genevix, one of our high cholesterol drugs.”
“Is this what Genevix does?”
“If you take enough of it.”


(Available on Amazon, Kindle, iPad and smashwords.com)

THE LIT-CRIT TAKE: A character-driven thriller, centering on themes of celebrity, addiction and survival.

THE PURE PLOT PITCH: The sex tape of a famous actress suddenly turns up on the internet, showing her on the last night of her life. The full version is being offered for sale, and the reason for its high price goes way beyond celeb voyeurism. The video also contains a clue to who killed her. That's why everyone is--literally--dying to see it. 

It started like any other piece of home-shot video. Blurry, patchy, grainy, underlit. TV on in the background, its transmission lines rippling with static. Bright blotches of jewelry scattered on the counter next to the TV. For the first few seconds the television audio is the clearest thing about the image: It’s the 6 p.m. newscast from KTTV, the Fox affiliate in Los Angeles.
Then the fleshy smudges in the foreground take on definition and shape. The lens is adjusting to the low light. There’s movement, moaning. You see a man’s body lying on a bed. A woman, a brunette, is going down on him, her bobbing head positioned in the center of the frame. Okay, so what’s the deal? It’s just somebody’s amateur porn.
Why was this forwarded to me?
But 12, 13 seconds into it, the woman raises her head. She looks up at her partner and smiles at him, checking his reaction. That’s when you realize this isn’t simply some random tape. There are the pouty, heart-curved lips, famously kept plump with Blistex balm. There’s the brown mole just above the left side of her upper lip. There are the eyes—large, almond-shaped and somehow, despite her life, peaceful. There’s the mermaid tattoo on her right shoulder, the tattoo they tried to hide with body makeup for her nude scenes in I’m Still Waiting but finally had to digitally conceal.
No mistake: It’s Amanda Eston. It’s the Disney darling who turned tween and teen queendom into a film career filled with sweaty-palmed reviews and movies that routinely grossed $100 million plus. It’s the actress who managed to hold onto her sweetheart fanbase despite emotional breakdowns, mood swings, episodes of depression, drunken displays, drug overdoses, emergency hospital visits and prolonged rehab stays.
The man’s face is never seen. All you can catch are snatches of his chest, hips, thighs. His one claim to video fame: A large, wine-colored, football-shaped birthmark on the side of his average-size cock. Otherwise he’s anonymous. The fixed camera is angled to showcase Amanda Eston’s performance. The focus stays on her, in porn as in life.
She goes back to work, providing more lip service. All right—this is mildly, if grimly, interesting. It’s high-wattage erotica and you watch it with a kind of breathless voyeurism, though what you’re seeing is oddly tranquil for sex.
Then there’s a moment when it all turns.
It comes from the sound on the TV. In the course of reporting a story, one of the newscasters mentions the day’s date and year. And if you know anything about Amanda Eston, you know that her body will be found hours later. In this same room. In this same bed.
If you know anything about Amanda Eston, you know this is the last time she’ll be seen alive.
You’re looking at the prelude to her death, the foreshadowing of her end. Everything about the video—the grain, the blurs—has been touched by what’s going to happen.
This isn’t porn anymore. Porn keeps you out, keeps you watching the performers as objects. But this thing, this pulls you in. This draws you into itself. This makes you feel connected to what you’re seeing, as if hidden messages are being carried through the bytes and bandwidth and are entering your body through your eyes.
Which explains why this one minute and 18 second video is on your screen. Which explains why it was posted on a small, obscure site in Amsterdam and picked up worldwide in a record 30 minutes.
It’s infused with dreamspun danger, with night and terror. You know what’s coming. You know what’s going to happen. You know that death is rushing through every frame.


(Available on Amazon, Kindle, iPad and smahswords.com)

THE LIT-CRIT TAKE:  A character-driven thriller, centering on themes of prophecy, mortality and salvation.

THE PURE PLOT PITCH: He was told he had exactly eight days to live. By a blind psychic photographer. Okay, Wooly Cornell was plenty crazy—not to mention a huge asshole—but he asked me to help him. So I did. And as the countdown to his death started and I found myself facing threats, shootouts, a mysterious scarred woman and weird predictions that somehow managed to come true, I could only come to one conclusion: Fate is one strange thing to fight.

I went to his house the next day. He lived on the edge of the Paumanok woods, in a single-level glass and cedar home with a set of double doors big enough for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
I rang the bell, waited. No answer. Rang two more times and was seven seconds into the next waiting period when I heard the scream. A woman’s voice. I was trying to look inside the house when I heard the scream again. It was coming from around the back.
I was running for the corner when I picked up a man’s voice—pitched somewhere between a yell and a moan—mixing with the woman’s shrieks.
I stopped moving the moment I got to the backyard. The first thing I saw was Wooly fetal-rolling in the wild grass that led to the woods. A black woman was standing over him but all I could look at was the big boy. Yes, his six-three size and Orson Welles fat certainly commanded attention. More than that, though, his hands and arms were dripping with blood and he was stark raving naked.
“I want it to stop!” he shouted, staring at the woman with a mad-panic look that was pure electrical voltage. “Make it stop!
“You stupid son of a bitch!” she screeched. “What’re you bleeding for?”
“I can’t get out! I can’t get out of this!”
“Put it down! Put it down now!
I saw what it was. He had a razor blade in his hand. I understood—he was a cutter. He’d been slicing up his own arms. Fortunately, he had plenty of blubber to work with—those cuts were only surface deep.
As for the rest of him, Wooly’s real name was William Cornell and he had one of the hairiest bodies I’d ever seen. Arms, chest, legs—a lot of the growth was gorilla-thick. There was no doubt about how he got his nickname.
The woman noticed me. She was a haggard, harried, sad-eyed person with Christmas-red sweatpants and a face gone dark purple from screaming.
“Can I help you?”
“Quinn McShane. Real Story. Louisa Collins sent me here to talk to him.”
“Genevieve Cornell.”
She didn’t have to tell me she was his wife. I could hear years of grievance in her voice.
“Tell Louisa not today,” she said. “He’s upset over last night.”
Wooly wasn’t paying attention to our talk. He was caught in some primal nightmare, and all he could hear were the batwings beating in his head.
“I don’t know what day it is,” he cried, frantic. “What day is it? What fucking day is it?”
“Get inside,” said Genevieve. “I’ve had enough of this. I want you in the house right now.”
“You need some help?”
“Once I get him inside, he’ll be better. He says the pain actually calms him down. He says it’s a kind of cleansing thing, a kind of letting go. Trust me, this isn’t his debut performance.”
At this point Wooly became aware of a stranger in the midst. “Who’s that?” he yelled, gesturing wildly at me. “I don’t know him. He’s completely new to me.”
“He’s here to see you.”
“Get rid of him. Tell him I’m whacked out.”
“I think he can see that.”

A Quick taste from SEX DEATH DREAM TALK

(Available on Amazon, Kindle, iPad and smashwords.com)

The lit-crit take: A character-driven thriller, centering on themes of redemption, revelation and the power of the unknown.

The pure plot pitch: What do you do when clues to an unsolved murder have been coded in a stolen $50 million painting? You try to steal it back. Only you have to deal with corrupt collectors, crazy thieves, lust-powered women, shootouts, betrayals, double-crosses and surprises. And a psychic dog named Hillary. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

The Quick Taste:

There were no eyewitnesses to the murder, just earwitnesses. The people who lived just north of Dominicus Park all reported the same thing—terrifying, drawn-out, phantom-human screams that cut through the pre-midnight stillness of the cold November night. Eleven calls were made to 911 in the first minute alone. No one could see what was happening but they all said the cries were coming from the same place, the part of the park that was walled-off from view by a grove of cypresses and pines. And all the callers stressed the horror of the noise. It sounded like a head-back howl, the thunder of pain that comes straight from the rear of the throat, a trapped-animal jungle shriek, the sound of a demon screaming for its eternal life.
Suffolk County police units responded by midnight. There was no doubt about the source of the sound. They found the body of an elderly, large-framed African-American man in the middle of the grove, bathed in so much blood it looked as if the ground itself was bleeding. No ID, no wallet. From the Salvation-Army style of his clothes, he could’ve been homeless. He’d been stabbed multiple times, though the fatal wound had to have been the vicious slash that sliced into his heart after splitting his chest open from nipple to nipple. He was a barrel-chested man, and after he’d fallen on his back, the blood from the gash had flowed back toward his face, so that by the time the police found him his head was a mask of congealed red.
A bad way to go. Still, for those who heard them, it was the death cries that stayed lodged in the spine. They were haunting and profoundly strange, agony wails that spiraled up from the earth and echoed along the sky. As soon as I heard those screams, one woman said, I knew I’d be living that night for the rest of my life.


I remember reading those words, remember thinking her quote would have to be used in the story. I remember the words because the murdered man turned out not to be some homeless, anonymous victim. Based on the missing-person’s report his daughter filed the next day, the police quickly determined that he was Isaiah Robonnet, one of the country’s most fabled folk artists.
I didn’t know much about him or his work at the time, but as a top editor at Real Story, I knew Robonnet was good material. One of 13 kids, raised in and around New Orleans. Confined to institutions for the feeble-minded (a term much used back in the day) most of his childhood. Became a self-taught painter later in life, known for his incredible visionary canvases. Emerged as one of the symbols of New Orleans’ post-Katrina renaissance.
And now he was dead, catching some nasty and obsessive knifework in the middle of a suburban park in Long Island, N.Y. I assigned reporters to cover the killing; I edited the posts that ran on the website and the larger story that ran in the magazine. Robonnet had been visiting his daughter’s house on the north shore of Nassau County that night and he’d gone out for a drive. How and/or why did he end up maybe 50 miles away, slaughtered in a small Suffolk County town where no one knew him? I just wanted to know. I thought it would make a good story and I just wanted to know.
I had no idea where my curiosity was going to lead.

Friday, July 30, 2010


THE SEVENTH COMPASS POINT OF DEATH is now on Amazon, the Kindle Store, iPad and smashwords.com.

THE LIT-CRIT TAKE: A character-driven thriller, centering on the themes of terrorism, understanding and hope.

THE PURE PLOT PITCH: Here’s bad day: Guy sets out to rob a bank but ends up pulling a carjacking, and when he’s arrested a body is found in the trunk. The victim is a Sunni community leader, and why was he killed? Who killed him? The search for answers takes me into a homegrown Islamic terror underground, into plots, counterplots, deceptions and love affairs, all leading to an attack on a major NYC landmark.

For a quick taste, just click on

If you have time to write a review, please please do.

Many thanks!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A quick taste: The Seventh Compass Point Of Death

(Now on Amazon, Kindle, iPad and Smashwords)

THE LIT-CRIT TAKE: A character-driven thriller, centering on the themes of terrorism, understanding and hope.

THE PURE PLOT PITCH: Here’s bad day: Guy sets out to rob a bank but ends up pulling a carjacking, and when he’s arrested a body is found in the trunk. The victim is a Sunni community leader, and why was he killed? Who killed him? The search for answers takes me into a homegrown Islamic terror underground, into plots, counterplots, deceptions and love affairs, all leading to an attack on a major NYC landmark.


Sometimes we can all have a bad day. Sometimes we can have a very bad day. Tyrell Lomax? His day came straight from the cosmic fumes of hell. Started out okay: Picked up his partner, Melvin Harwood, on Mother Gaston Boulevard, headed south for the Belt. Harwood was his usual all-nerves self. He fumbled through the pink Conway's shopping bag on the floor, checking its contents. Two pieces--Smith & Wesson 9 Pro, Charter Arms Bulldog--and two ski masks.
"Far to go?" he said.
Lomax shrugged. "Nothing unreasonable."
"Have to get back in time take my mother to the doctor."
"Now what?"
"Her back. Her knees. Diabetes. Pressure. Just glad she's got her red, white and blue."
"Her American flag?"
"Medicare card."
Harwood kept talking about his Moms for the next half hour, not stopping until they got to Rockville Centre and pulled into the parking lot behind the Poughkeepsie Savings & Loan. Lomax had scoped the place two days ago. He'd been able to answer all his questions but one: What was a bank named for a town in upstate New York doing on the south shore of Long Island?
They got out, walking easy, and casually slipped the masks on just before they got to the door. Nice and snug.
They went in large, Lomax fast-shouting, spraying the place with his AK-47 of a mouth. "Go easy! Go easy! Everybody go easy! Everybody shut the fuck up and go easy!"
His audience: Two tellers, four customers, nobody at the ATM in front. Justly perfect.
"Get down! Everybody get down! Hands and knees! Everybody get down and kiss the floor!"
The customers complied. Nobody said a thing, going down with no noise. It looked like a prayer meeting at a mosque.
Harwood carried the Conway's bag to the tellers while Lomax covered the customers with the Bulldog. Three women who'd been on line, a man with tinted shades who'd been heading out the back way. All of them with paper slips shaking in their hands. All of them finding ways not to look directly at him or Harwood. I couldn't see a thing.
Behind him he heard Harwood doing a calm, steady teller-chant. No nerves now.
"Very simple. No alarms. Drawers open. Stacks in the bag. No marked bills. Nobody gets hurt."
Everything going smooth, thank you thank you. Lomax's body eased to the point where he could smell the Pine-Sol on the floor. This was the third bank they'd done in a month's time and it always went level. Thing at a bank is, they teach tellers how to get robbed. No shit, they take courses in what to do--don't resist, do what they say, give 'em what they want. Where else can you find that level of cooperation? It was part of their job: Keep trouble to a minimum. What you call risk management.
Course that only applies to the help. The customers, who the fuck knows what they can get in their heads? You needed to watch special for them. They had no captive discipline. You can never tell what they'll try.
Like that tight-faced woman in the middle. Look at her, slowly inching her handbag closer to her body. Subtle. What was she doing, protecting her wallet?
Or going for her phone?
Lomax pointed the Bulldog at her. "Stay still. No moving. I don't want anybody moving around."
"I was just..."
"Quiet! Keep it quiet and be still. I don't want nobody moving, I don't want nobody..."
Something was wrong. Edge of his eye he could see movement. The guy by the back way, the man with the tints--he was sliding his arm down to the bottom of his leg.
For a moment Lomax didn't know what he was looking at. Then he did.
Ankle holster.
Off-duty cop.
Fuck me.