Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grandma? Part 2

Joe sez: Congrats on finally publishing Grandma? Part 2, son.

Talon: Thanks! You, too.

Joe: This one took a lot longer to write than the first one.

Talon: If it wasn't for all the kittens I had to save, or the many babies I delivered, this would've been done a lot quicker. Hopefully, Part 3 won’t be as troublesome.

Joe: We followed the same writing formula as Grandma? Part 1:

1. We talk about what's going to happen.
2. You write it.
3. I change everything in the rewrite.

Talon: Tough, but fair.

Joe: The difference between now and two years ago, when we began this project, is that we did some scenes together using Google Docs. What did you think of that experience?

Talon: It was a lot of fun, a lot of learning, and something I would come back to if I ever did another collaboration.

Joe: Were you amazed by how fast I can write, watching me do it live in a Google Doc?

Talon: I do have to admit, the professionalism and the way I excel in the art of prose is pretty amazing.

And yeah, you were good, too.

Joe: You've made a few hundred bucks off of Part 1. What did you do with the money? Investments? Stocks? Bonds? Real estate? Bitcoins? College fund?

Talon: The money went directly and safely under my bed.

Joe: Saving for something special?

Talon: All of it is going to strippers when I turn 18.

Joe: Thank god. I thought you were going to just blow it on something stupid.

Talon: What are you going to do with your half?

Joe: It already went to strippers.

Talon: I think we’re getting off topic.

Joe: When can we expect to see Part 3? In another two years?

Talon: I can ask you the same question. But, if I had to estimate, I’d say, hopefully, in a month.

Joe: It's true that I've been pretty busy with other projects, and Grandma? wasn't a priority for me. But it's also true that you rewrote Part 2 about a gazillion times. So it isn't all my fault.

Talon: The more reading and writing I did, the more I realized I needed to change some things. Like, grammar, plot, characterization, suspense, POV, pace, explaining why things happened; you know, all that crap readers care about.

Joe: Yeah, readers do tend to care about that crap. Did you know Stephen King's son writes?

Talon: No way! That’s cool. Man, I wish Stephen King was my dad. He has like everything you don’t.

Joe: Including an appreciative son.

Talon: Let's list the things:
Good looks.
More books sold.
A nicer house.
Multiple movie deals.

Joe: You know King's son writes under the name "Joe Hill" because he doesn't want to ride on his father's coat tails.

Talon: Who would do such a thing? I could never use someone’s last name in order to boost my popularity. Which is why my last name is King now.

Joe: You're funny, Talon.

Talon King: It’s Mr. King, and can we hurry this interview up?

Joe: Yessir, Mr. King.

Since we're talking about Stephen King, I want to say I really loved Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace. Other famous authors would just cash in on their popularity and slap their name on any old piece of garbage.

Talon: Or create a Kindle World.

Joe: You're grounded.

Talon: Thanks, dad.

Joe: And since I now know where you hide your money, I'm now off to the strip club! Woo hoo!

Grandma Part 2 is now available on Kindle for only $0.99. Grandma Part 1 is free for a limited time.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Path to Success

On the surface, the path to becoming a successful writer has three key components.

1. Write a great book.

2. Do whatever you can to make that book a success.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2. 

Like all paths, just because the path exists doesn't mean you'll be able to follow it. There are known routes up Mount Everest, but there are no guarantees you'd make the summit no matter how good you are or how hard you try. Even the best mountain climbers must deal with the unpredictability of weather, among many other bad things that can happen.

Luck is always a factor.

Even if you're an Olympic gold medalist with natural talent and years of training, you were lucky no one was better than you at that time. Because all records get broken. Someone always winds up being better.

Hell, you were lucky a bunch of Greeks thought it was a fun idea to compete in sports thousands of years ago. Without them, you'd be doing something else.

Keeping the luck factor in mind, let's review those three points.

1. Write a great book.

This is subjective. There is nothing inherent in a collection of words that makes those words "great". We can study writing, narrative structure, characterization, grammar, punctuation, works that scholars deem great, works that the masses deem great, and the only real connection among them all is that someone wrote them.

I write what I like to read. I'm able to defend why I like it. I'm able to defend what I wrote. I try to be as self-aware and deliberate as possible, and I'm usually able to justify why I used an em dash rather than a semi-colon, why I ended the chapter where I did, why the twist was needed, and why the joke was funny.

That's not to say that things that aren't deliberate can't be successful. On the contrary, the world if full of freak success stories where the artist was neither deliberate nor self-aware.

But, in a world where luck plays such a big role, knowing why you're doing what you're doing is probably going to improve your luck.

Maybe.

A key problem is that you can do things right--defensible, self-aware things--and still fail.

That could mean that maybe you didn't do things right after all. That maybe your meticulously handcrafted narrative actually sucks.

Or maybe, being an artistic type, you're so moody and sensitive that your self-awareness tells you that you'll never be good enough, and that any success you may have attained was a fluke.

Both of these could be correct. Or incorrect. Because no one knows why a book becomes a success, other than luck.

Still, I'd rather call my shots on the pool table than win by slop. The more deliberate and self aware you are, the more you can sink what you're aiming at. It doesn't mean you'll win, but it means you're exercising some control over the outcome.

2. Do whatever you can to make that book a success.

Before you begin this step, you need to identify what your goals are, and what success is.

Then you need to research the different avenues open to you, to pursue goals and success.

It's different for everyone. And it involves luck.

Again, the more deliberate you are, the better your odds. At least, that makes sense logically. The actual numbers may not hold up. You have to be self-aware to know that.

In other words, you can be pretty damn sure you're doing everything right, and you can still fail to hit your definition of success.

You should always be able to reach your goals, because goals are within your power. Finishing your book by May 10th is a goal. Self-publishing it by Christmas is a goal.

Getting an agent is a dream, not a goal, because that involves an agent saying yes to you, and that isn't within your power. Neither is hitting a bestseller list, getting a great review, selling 1000 copies, or getting fan mail. Those aren't goals.

Your goals, and your definition of success, are plastic. They'll change. Make sure your goals push you to learn, experiment, practice, and work harder. That should, theoretically, improve your luck and chances at whatever you call success.

As with your writing, this applies to how you promote yourself, your titles, your brand. Try anything and everything. Luck still comes into play, but reason dictates it is better to do something than nothing.

Even though doing something doesn't guarantee anything.

Yeah, it's frustrating. So is life.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2. 

We've all heard about artists who didn't become famous until after they've died. For every Van Gogh, there are tens of thousands who died without fame, and were then forgotten.

Did I mention this is all about luck?

You cannot game this system. There is no surefire key. No shortcut. Not even a discernible path.

Maybe hard work helps. Maybe being self-aware helps. Maybe being deliberate helps. Maybe being stubborn and refusing to give up helps. But you aren't guaranteed anything.

If this discourages you, quit. Find a career that involves less luck. Writing is not for the risk-averse. The world can live without your prose. I'm sure of this, because there have been better writers than you or I who have died in poverty and obscurity, their words never to be discovered.

Your words may never be discovered.

In fact, for the majority of you reading this, you'll never reach even your most modest definition of success.

That's because your definition of success is wrong. It's based on money or fame or numbers of something that involves the approval of others.

That's a fail. The three steps I wrote above are bullshit.

There is actually just one true path to success:

Success is meeting your goals.

That definition doesn't depend on money or sales or agents or reviews or publishers or advertising or how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have. It has nothing to do with anyone other than you.

Success is all about setting goals that are within your control, and then hitting those goals.

Maybe some people will read you and like you. Maybe they won't. That all comes down to luck.

You can try to improve your luck, but it might not work.

You can, however, become a better writer. Write more. Try more. Do more.

The world may never accept you. But that shouldn't be your goal.

Your goal should be to accept yourself. That's within your control. And it doesn't involve luck. It involves learning, trying, working, practicing, experimenting, finishing, never giving up.

You can do that.

You can write books.

Learn to be happy with that, and everything else is just a bonus.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a book to finish.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Guest Post by Tracy Sharp

Wow. Kindle Worlds. What a brilliant and fun idea! This is a game where everyone wins.

Writers who want to play in another writer’s sandbox are able to create their own castles and add them to the structures that are already there. The original writer has the joy of watching their characters take off in new and exciting directions while earning a percentage from new stories, fans of the series can continue reading about their favorite characters, and authors can earn a royalty while writing in a popular series and expanding their readership.

Kindle Worlds is also a fun way for established writers to explore writing in a series different than the one in which they normally write. Several bestselling writers have written stories for Kindle Worlds, such as Theresa Ragan, Jana Deleon, Russell Blake, and Marquitta Valentine.

I love when musicians collaborate or sample the songs of other artists in their own work, especially when the artists are from vastly different music genres. The result is usually fresh and outstanding. It’s remarkable what merging the visions of different artists can produce. I don’t see Kindle Worlds as being much different, and I look forward to reading and writing many Kindle Worlds books.

I am especially excited about the launch of the Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World, as I’ve been a huge fan of the series for many years. A couple of years ago I had the honor of collaborating with Joe on the short novel Jacked Up, which teams up characters from his wonderful Jack Daniels world with my series character Leah Ryan. So when Joe invited me to write a full-length novel featuring both characters, I was thrilled and jumped at the chance. The result was Happy Hour, which also combines both the Jack Daniels and Leah Ryan worlds.

I’m currently working on a story for the Codename: Chandler World, which launches On May 5, and I’m having a blast. So many times during the writing of these stories, I feel the biggest smile cross my face. It’s amazing that it’s possible for writers to choose from so many different worlds and just take off with them. The possibilities are endless.


How many of you are working on Kindle Worlds stories?  Tell us in comments. I look forward to reading them! 

Joe sez: It was fun co-writing Jacked Up with Tracy, and I'm thrilled to have her tackle a Jack/Leah novel on her own.

It's sort of like watching someone cook one of your recipes, in your kitchen, buy adding their own personal spin on the dish. Writers willing to let others experiment with their characters are in for some tasty surprises. And because both the Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World and the Codename: Chandler Kindle World allow writers to keep full possession of their IPs, there are no sticky copyright issues over who owns what. Your characters stay your characters, and neither I nor Amazon have any claim to them. 

Currently, Ann Voss Peterson and I are looking for writers to expand our Codename: Chandler Universe. We just finished a story with F. Paul Wilson, where Chandler meets his mainstay hero Repairman Jack. They fight. A lot. It was a ridiculous amount of fun to write, and we believe the readers will enjoy it just as much.

If you're interested in writing a Chandler story, email me. The deadline prior to launch is April 30. To learn more about Chandler, check out the page on my website.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Self Published Authors Guild

I was told by the Bilderberg Group that I can finally make this announcement; I'm the first president of the newly formed SPAG - Self Published Authors Guild.

All of the top indie authors in the world have been meeting, in person and in highly complicated Skype chats where we all have little squares like the credits of The Brady Bunch (or The Hollywood Squares) in order to create an organization that specifically meets the growing needs of self-pubbed authors.

Our first orders of business will be as follows:

1. Start the Hugs For Reviews initiative.

Everyone knows that I've gotten more than 15,000 reviews on Amazon, and I've paid an average of $50 per review to people who haven't actually read my books. Hugs For Reviews will streamline this process, providing SPAG members with a database of fake reviewers (examinateurs fausses) who will pretend to read your work and then give it five stars, all in exchange for cash.

We're calling it "Hugs For Reviews" instead of "Cash For Reviews" to ward off all the whiny little Twitter bitches who will cry moral outrage if they hear money is involved. 


2. Demand, via notarized petition delivered to Jeff Bezos via overnight FedEx, that Amazon begin paying KDP authors 200% royalties.

For years, we've endured the indignity of 70% royalties, without any collective bargaining power to get Amazon to raise that number to something fair. SPAG members are responsible for more than 85% of Amazon's total world sales, and we want a bigger piece of the pie.

With 200% royalties, Amazon will pay us double the list price of every book we sell on their many websites around the world. They'll also pay double current market value for our cover art, formatting, proofreading, and when required, ghost writing. 


3. Initiate the "Let's Shame A Legacy Author" campaign. 

Starting immediately, we will be partnering with renowned telemarketing firm CYDD (Call You During Dinner) to pester everyone who has a current Big 5 contract by phoning them up to 38 times a day, calling them "Pinhead!" and then hanging up. 

Our Facebook page will list everyone who has ever signed a legacy deal, along with their addresses, pictures of their homes, cars, children, pets, and childhood friends. Then we will be sending them vague, cryptic, anonymous threats such as, "That's a really nice car. Stop signing legacy contracts or we'll blow up Wyoming."

Also, we'll probably do something with LinkedIn, once we figure out if it facilitates anything other than irritating humble bragging.


4. Buy the Authors Guild, tear it down, and build something useful in its place, like an Uno's Pizzaria.

Damn, Uno's is some great stuffed pizza! And that's no April Fool joke.

SPAG will be open to the tens of thousands of self-pubbed authors who can offer documented and notarized proof that they earn more than $500,000 a year. That should cover just about everyone.

As your first SPAG president, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I have your many concerns as an indie author first and foremost in mind, and I'll devote myself 24/7 to meeting your needs, which will be difficult to juggle with all the embezzling I plan on doing with SPAG membership fees.

Also, SPAG membership is $500,000 a year.

This annual fee includes a part-time staff member who can help you update your LinkedIn profile. His name is Charlie, but don't give him any of your personal info, because he's a registered sex offender.

I encourage you to join SPAG immediately. With our united efforts can we stomp out the injustice of something or other. 

Remember: It's Us vs. Them. Only by driving a wedge between us and our well-meaning peers can we ever hope to show them how much they suck.

Joe Konrath, SPAG President

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ebooks for Libraries

TL;DR

1.     I want to help authors get their ebooks into libraries.
2.     I want to help libraries acquire indie ebooks.
3.     To do this, I started a business called EAF - EbooksAreForever.com.
4.     I want to sell your ebooks to libraries.

What's going on with libraries and ebooks?

There are 120,000 libraries in the US. These libraries, and their patrons, are eager for popular ebooks. Many libraries have a budget they must spend, or they risk having that budget cut.

Currently, libraries have no allies in the ebook market. They aren't happy with the restrictions and costs of the current leader in supplying libraries with ebook content, Overdrive. Through Overdrive, many publishers charge high prices for ebooks, some higher than $80 a title. They also require yearly license renewals, and may force libraries to re-buy licenses after a certain arbitrary number of borrows.

Just one example of the perils of this approach for Americas libraries is that a library must pay for extensions of time-limited licenses of old ebooks and purchases of licenses for new ones. All kinds of sustainability and predictability issues arise. And thats true even if the budget remains the same, rather than declining, as many have in recent years. It will be harder than ever for libraries to grow their collection, whether the licenses are time-limited or come with limits on the number of times a library can loan a book.

So libraries are spending a fortune and don't even own the content they're spending that fortune on. In many cases, if they stop paying the fees, they lose the content they bought. This has been dubbed "digital decay", and it's a money grab, pure and simple. 

What's going on with indie authors and ebooks?

Some indies are on Overdrive and 3M. I've been on Overdrive for a few years. My last quarterly check was about $60, and I have a large catalog. This is small money, not just for me, but for any writer. And I was fortunate enough to have been invited into Overdrive. Many authors are not.

The vast majority of libraries don't have access to many of the ebooks that readers are seeking. The latest AuthorEarnings.com report showed that 33% of all ebooks sold on Amazon are from indie authors. Libraries are missing out on 1/3 of available titles, because they have no way easy way to acquire them.

Just as important, these are quality titles. People are reading, enjoying, and recommending them. Indie authors are hooking readers, and selling as well as the major publishing houses, but there isn't a way for libraries to offer them to their patrons.

This is unfortunate for patrons, and libraries, and indie authors, who are all missing out.


For the past year, my business partner, August Wainwright, and I have been talking to acquisitions librarians across the country, and they crave an alternative to the status quo. These libraries are looking to buy thousands of ebooks at once in order to best serve their patrons and community.

Their main wish is to be treated fairly - which means they want to own the ebooks they purchase, acquire good content at a reasonable price, and have access to as many copies as they need.

Our solution? Give libraries what they're asking for, and in a way that gives libraries the sustainable purchasing model they deserve. We're striving to offer a large, curated collection of popular ebooks that libraries can easily purchase with just one click.

We currently have just under 1000 ebooks in our collection, with more being added daily.

And we want to include your titles as well.

I'm a writer, and I'm already on a lot of platforms. Why should I sell my ebooks through EAF?

EbooksAreForever distributes to libraries at $7.99 for full length novels, and $3.99-$4.99 for shorter works. We're offering 70% royalties to the author, and the library will have the ability to purchase more copies as needed.

The way this works is that if a library wants to allow 3 patrons to borrow your ebook at any given time, they’d need to have purchased 3 “copies”. Most libraries adhere to a strict hold ratio (usually around 3:1) in order to present patrons with the best user experience possible. Our hope is that by making ebooks both affordable and sustainable, then libraries in response will automatically purchase more copies.

So, if you have a catalog of 10 ebooks that we then distribute to 1000 libraries, you've just earned $56,000 in royalties from making your books available to the library marketplace if they each buy one copy. If your titles are popular, they'll buy more copies and you'll earn more.

I heard about EAF over a year ago. What have you been doing all this time?

Listening and learning. EbooksAreForever.com is trying to serve three groups: Authors & Publishers, Libraries, and Library Patrons.

Each requires special consideration to ensure the best overall experience possible.

Currently, there is no killer app in the library market. Every library, library system, or consortium, has to reinvent the wheel in order to offer ebooks to its patrons. With no standardization in the library market, and the few companies and publishers who offer ebooks to libraries doing so in such a one-sided, money-grabbing manner, libraries have been getting squeezed without getting fair and sustainable value when it comes to content.

We needed to figure out what libraries were looking for, as well as what features authors and publishers would love to see, and how to best provide them with that.

A large part of this involved bringing on multiple partners to help make the EbooksAreForver.com website as robust and useable as possible, while implementing a fully RESTful API.

What's an API and why should I care?

The easiest way to conceptualize what an API does is to think of an interaction between two separate pieces of software without needing a human element.

EbooksAreForever wants libraries who purchase ebooks in our collection to eventually integrate access to those titles in as many places as possible; most importantly, their own ILS (catalog system).

Some libraries have their own custom ILS, others use third-party services of which there are many. You can see here that in Texas, there are about 20 different ILS systems being used. Without an API, we'd have to go one by one to help each library integrate our books into their catalogs. Think copy and pasting times a million. With an API, each service could integrate our catalog by following a simple set of standardized rules.

Another way to think about it would be to look at the connections on the back of a TV. That panel on the TV with all the coax/hdmi/usb/fiber/rca connections are in a way your TV's API. It allows other appliances (Cable boxes, DVD players, video game consoles...) to interact with your TV.

The reason you should care about this is because it allows EAF and our service to act in the exact manner in which libraries desire. One of our goals is to meet the demands of the ReadersFirst organization, which is made up of nearly 300 libraries that represent more than 200 million readers in the US and Canada. These principles, and in turn our API, are about openness and ease of use, all of which provide libraries and their patrons with the best user experience possible.

If all libraries are using various third parties to license overpriced and decaying digital content to them, how does EAF plan to interface with them? Aren't libraries tired of new companies vying for their acquisitions dollars?

What we've been doing the past year is only offering our collection to a few beta testing libraries that use Adobe Content Server. It's an expensive, ongoing cost, and many libraries can't afford it, or won't even bother with it for various reasons.

With the API in place, we can deal directly with libraries, library systems, and consortium, without Adobe—though we can also interface with libraries who prefer to keep Adobe.

I'm not sure I understand…

Having an ebook file isn't enough. Libraries also need ways to catalog ebooks, store ebooks, and provide ebook access to patrons.

EAF has been developing ways to do that, for all libraries, in a way that doesn't fleece them.

Where are you at right now?

We're at the stage where we need more content. Offering a better service to libraries is only part of the equation; we also want to offer them content that no other company can.

Indie content.

We're the only company fully opening up to indie authors, and we're paying the same rate Amazon does.

Right now, we're working with a select group of partner libraries. We've been dealing exclusively with that initial group, but now we’re adding another selection of libraries who will be joining in the next two weeks. They've weighed in and have helped us build the platform they actually want. Our full launch date is tentatively set for later this spring/early summer. When that happens, we'll begin distribution to ALL public libraries, be it individually, whole library systems, and consortium groups, through both our web platform, as well as patron reader apps.

What are these “consortium” you speak of?

A library consortium is really any local, statewide, or regional cooperative group of libraries that provides and helps with the effective coordination of the libraries they count as members. Their main focus is usually built around improving services to the clientele of libraries within the given consortium (group).

When large publishers were faced with the advent of ebooks, instead of trying to come up with viable models that worked in libraries, they applied the same structures that they used for paper. Some say they deliberately crimped libraries. And in much the same way, many large publishers, distributors, and services have refused to adequately work with consortia.

EAF is not among that group. Although we understand the need to come up with different models for different sections of the marketplace, it is our mission to find solutions where others have fallen back on insufficient ways of doing business.

Joe, you're an author. Are you sure you want to give libraries a copy of an ebook that will last forever? Doesn't that put a cap on a title's earning potential?

It may seem that way, but we have future plans. Currently, libraries can buy multiple copies of titles for simultaneous uses.

Soon we plan to offer libraries unlimited uses if they pay slightly more.

That sounds even worse for the author!

Depending on EAF's ability to saturate the library market, it will be a long while before we run out of libraries to distribute content to. An author selling one title to 5000 libraries earns $28k, which is well above the average advance that legacy publishing offers. Sell four titles, and that author is making six figures in a new market that wasn't previously open to them.

It’s important to understand that EAF is intended to be a complimentary service. Much in the same way that it used to be common for translations and foreign sales to be a part of an author's subsidiary earnings, we want library sales to be available to indies. Libraries spend billions of dollars annually acquiring content. But they likely don't have your content.

Yet.

Don't library sales hurt sales on other platforms?

That's a common assumption, but we haven't found any evidence or data to back it up. The library market has always existed, just like the used book market.


The reality is that readers who are loyal to the ebooks available at their local library may have never had a chance of discovering your titles. What we’re talking about here is an entirely new group or readers that has previously been unreachable.

If I sell my titles through eBooksAreForever, do I still own my rights?

Yes. And you can opt out at any time for any reason, though all sales are final. Meaning, if you sell a title to a library, they keep that title.

Can I sell my ebooks for more than the stated price?

During the current beta period, we are keeping all prices for novels set to a pre-established level.

However, as we move out of the beta period and expand our offerings, we will be looking at different pricing structures. It is of great important to us that we create a sustainable platform for both libraries, as well as for publishers & authors.

I’m already distributing my titles on Overdrive. Will selling through EAF affect my account?

Distributing your titles through Overdrive won’t affect your ability to also distribute through eBooksAreForever. However, libraries will most likely not re-purchase titles if they have already licensed them through Overdrive. We are actively working to persuade libraries to purchase titles - and keep them forever - through our service, instead of continually licensing ebooks at higher prices from other services. This would help library budgets go further.

Is exclusivity ever required to join eBooksAreForever?

No exclusivity is ever required.

And, since we’re still in a beta period, our advice would be to continue to distribute through other library specific channels, if you have access to them. As we grow, we believe our pricing model will earn authors far more royalties, even with fewer overall sales, when compared to any of the other market competitors. But even after we demonstrate that to be true, we will still never require exclusivity.

I'm an author. How do I submit my titles to EbooksAreForever? Do you have any requirements?

At this point, EAF provides libraries with vetted content. We want to offer great books by great writers, so we're reviewing works on a case-by-case basis. If you'd like us to consider your books, you can sign up for an Author Account here

We aren't currently accepting erotica, but we will be soon.

If I'm accepted, what next?


I'm an agent who represents indie authors and want to know more.

Contact Joe at joekonrath@comcast.net. We'll set up a call.

I'm a publisher and want to know more.

Contact Joe at joekonrath@comcast.net. We'll set up a call.

On my blog, I've repeatedly called independent ebooks a shadow industry. This shadow industry hasn't been able to effectively mesh with the library industry.

We're working to change that. And we'd like you to join us.


Friday, March 20, 2015

When Jack Meets Derek - A Guest Post by Mark Terry

This blog post is designed to flog my recent short story that shares one of my series characters, Dr. Derek Stillwater, with one of Joe Konrath’s series characters, Lt. Jack Daniels. The short story is called BLACK RUSSIAN and it is part of the Kindle Worlds program. You can buy it here for the low-low price of $0.99.

If you want to know how I came to actually write BLACK RUSSIAN, I suggest you visit my blog and read Derek Stillwater Visits JA Konrath’s Universe. It’ll provide you with some information on why I wrote what I did and how it came to be, if that’s the sort of thing you’re interested in.

So rather than regurgitate that here, I thought, since I wrote things backwards—starting on a novel first, then realizing Joe wanted a short story first—that maybe I could share with you how Derek Stillwater first met Jack Daniels. The events occur only a day or two after the events of JA Konrath’s DIRTY MARTINI, and I expect the novel will be published sometime mid-2015 if I can get my crap together and finish it.

For those of you who haven’t read DIRTY MARTINI (what the hell are you waiting for?), a mass murderer dubbed The Chemist is using Botulin toxin to kill random chunks of the population of Chicago and Jack headed the task force to track him down. As I said earlier, this occurs just two days later:

Jack
Realistically speaking, I was on administrative leave while the aftermath of, well, everything, was documented. But my captain and Superintendant Terry O’Loughlin had made it quite clear that although I was behind a desk or at home and not on the street, I had to make sure the Chemist task force was wrapped up with a bow, all the I’s dotted, T’s crossed, and whatever clich├ęs the brass could come up with to say, “Lieutenant Jacqueline Daniels, chain yourself to the computer and file paper until your eyeballs bleed.”

The glamorous life of a hotshot homicide detective.

I was currently in a conference room with thirteen boxes of paperwork. Big boxes. Really big boxes. Many dead trees. A lot of this was in the computer system, but I still needed to go over the notes from various members of the task force and make sure everything was in order before they all got filed, distributed, and the inevitable civil lawsuits, complaints, and finger-pointing commenced. The sewage treatment center seemed quite intent on suing the CPD for blowing a big hole in their facility.

So I welcomed the polite knock at the door.

The guy standing there stood a smidge over six feet, had thick wavy brown hair, electric blue eyes, and managed to look both wiry and strong. He was good looking in a beat-up sort of way. He wore court shoes, blue jeans and a tight black T-shirt with U.S. Army Marathon written on it. He wore a handgun in a holster off his right hip. I noticed that the T-shirt fit him very well.

“Can I help you?” I said.

He smiled and it was a great smile, one that made his rough-around-the-edges look all the more appealing. “I hope so. You’re Lieutenant Jack Daniels?”

“Guilty.”

“Did your mother have a sense of humor or is that a married name?”

“Both. You are?”

He handed me a badge folder. It said Dr. Derek Stillwater, Department of Homeland Security.

Handing it back to him, I said, “You’re late to the party, Doctor. We’ve already solved the case.”

“Ah. Well, actually, I’ve been here the whole time. I came in with the FBI’s HMRU, but we decided Rick Reilly would be the liaison with the CPD.”

I flushed. FBI Special Agent Rick Reilly, part of the Hazardous Materials Response Unit, was what one could euphemistically call “as hot as a supernova.” He knew it, and I knew it, and we almost consummated it on my desk. Stillwater caught the flush, cocked his head and suppressed a little grin.

Bastard.

“What do you want, Doctor?”

“Overall, I think you did a great job—“

“You came in here to congratulate me?”

He sighed. “I’m not here to criticize you, if that’s the second part of what you’re thinking. But I’ve been working closely with the CDC on this case. As you know, they were collecting all the patient lab results and interviewing survivors and family members to help locate the epicenters of the poisoning.”

Stillwater still stood in the doorway, very close to me. I stepped out of his orbit, frowning.

“Yes, okay, fine. Why are you here?”

Stillwater took a deep breath. He glanced at a rugged-looking black watch on his wrist. At the same time, I noticed black beads he wore around his neck and a silver metal chain that disappeared beneath his shirt. The beads were a little different for a Fed and I wondered what they were all about.

“Look, it’s almost noon. Why don’t I take you out to lunch and explain what’s going on. At the very least you can take a break from all the paperwork.” He gestured at the table.

“It has to be done.”

“Please,” he added. “It’s important.”

Derek sez: So, okay, they get introduced. Seems there’s a copycat and Derek’s been assigned to hunt down that person. I’m really looking forward to writing the rest of the book. But I thought I’d give just one more little taste, because I enjoyed writing the scene so much. Jack and Derek have just interviewed the Japanese Consul in Chicago and after leaving the interview, run into an old partner of Jack’s.
         
Jack
Back out on the street, Stillwater turned and glared up at the building. Chicago pedestrians responded the way they always do, by ignoring us and flowing around us like a sandbar in a river. I said, “Problem?”

“Besides the obvious? What the hell was that all about?”

“I thought you were being unreasonably pleasant.”

“I could have kicked him in the head, but it probably would have been counterproductive.”

“I think he was blowing smoke. I wanted to push him on it.”

“I’d like to know more so I have some facts to shove down his throat. Besides, technically the Consulate is Japan territory. Nobody will back us up if we try to pressure this guy in his office.”

We started walking back to headquarters. “Okay,” I said. “Which victim? The math professor or the laser guy?”

Stillwater shrugged. He seemed distracted. “You comfortable driving in the city?”

“Sure. My car’s a piece of crap. What’re you driving?”

“Big Buick. It’s a rental.”

“You get to drive.”

“Sure.”

“I think we might want to bring my partner in on this. It’s going to snowball as we get going.”

“Herb?”

“Yes. Do you know him?”

“No. Saw his name in the reports and in the news. Is he any good?”

“How do you expect me to answer that?”

“Something reassuring?”

“Yes, he’s—“

“Jackie! Jack! Jackie, Jackie! Jack!” It was a very familiar voice. We turned. Sure enough, it was Harry McGlade, trotting toward us. But the second he spotted Stillwater, the color ran out of his face.

“Uh, hey, Agent Stillwater, howya do—“

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone move as fast as Stillwater. I’ve studied Tae Kwon Do for years and still work out once a month, but I’ve seen masters who didn’t have the kind of “quick” that Stillwater demonstrated.

One second he was next to me, the next he was on Harry, his fist gripping Harry’s throat.

“You remember what I told you last time? What I would do if I ran into you again?”

Harry let out a strangled gargling sound. He raised his prosthetic to grip Stillwater’s wrist.

“McGlade, you touch me with that thing and I swear I’ll tighten my fist.”

“Let him go,” I said, even though I was kind of enjoying this.

“I don’t want to see you again,” Stillwater said, and let go.

Harry, massaging his throat with his good hand, said, “Geez, Stillwater! You some kind of psycho or something? I’m just here to talk to Jackie.”

Scowling, Stillwater walked to the curb, leaning one arm on a parking meter. He didn’t take his gaze off Harry.

“What do you want, Harry?”

“It’s about my spacesuit—“

“For crying out loud, Harry. Give it a rest.”

“I loaned it to you and you ruined it.”

Harry had a spacesuit of sorts that he uses for God knows what fetish and he loaned it to me when I needed to enter a house the Chemist had booby-trapped. The suit was ruined and Harry wanted me or the city to reimburse him for it.

“Go find some other kink, Harry.  In the meantime, send your bill to the mayor’s office.”

“Hey, I got a party to go to—“

Stillwater took his gun out of his holster.

Harry gulped. “You know what, Jackie? I don’t think it’s a good time. I’ll talk to you later.” And he turned and rabbited down the street.

Stillwater put the gun away, which was a Colt .45 1911 semiaut with a pearl handle. It seemed a little flashy for him.

“I don’t know whether to thank you or chastise you. How do you know Harry?”

We continued walking. Stillwater said, “I was in Chicago about four years ago investigating a bioterror threat and our paths crossed.”

“I gather it didn’t go well.”

“I threw him out of a window. It was closed at the time.”

Something I had considered doing many times. “You have a temper?”

“Not so much, but McGlade brings out the worst in me.”

“He does that to people.”

Derek sez: So, if you like that little sample, pick up BLACK RUSSIAN. If you don’t like that little sample, hell, pick up BLACK RUSSIAN anyway, you’ll get your money’s worth.

And thanks Joe, for the opportunity to team Derek up with Jack and for Derek to terrorize Harry McGlade.
   
Joe sez: Thanks, Mark.

I've been a fan of Mark Terry since reading DEVIL'S PITCHFORK five years ago. (You should go buy it.) Stillwater is a fun character, and watching him interact with Jack and company cuts to the essence of why I did Kindle Worlds in the first place; playing in another writer's sandbox is fun, but bringing series characters together is really fun.

Ebooks allow for so many things that paper never could. Authors can change cover art as many times as they want to. They can fix typos, or rewrite entire scenes, after publication. Readers can download ebooks anywhere, anytime, inexpensively. It's all win.

But being able to do crossovers, where fans can see two heroes from two different series interact, is practically unprecedented. This couldn't be done in the old days. Publishers, and rights, once got in the way.


I believe that the more creative freedom given to writers, the better it is for everyone. Being able to work with another author's characters can be as much fun for the writer as it is for the reader. 

But don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself by reading BLACK RUSSIAN, and by writing in my universe.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Kindle Worlds Launch

This is cool.

The Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World is now live. The official announcement was just made.

Right now there are 38 stories, with more on the way.

I first blogged about this last week. TL;DR - writers can now create stories using characters and situations from my books. How my KW is different from other Kindle Worlds (at the time of this writing) is that writers can keep the rights to their characters.

This is a big deal, because it allows authors to team up their characters with mine. Or their characters can kill my characters. Or have sex with them. Or whatever.

The takeaway here is that writers can do cross-overs and mash-ups, which is a fun way to cross-pollinate fans, and could never be done before in KW.

I encourage everyone reading this to check out the launch stories. Simply click on the title under the cover art.

In the upcoming weeks, many of these authors will share their experience on this blog. As far as experiments go, this one is pretty big. It has never been done before, and we're in uncharted waters. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.

And if you're interested in writing in the Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World, or the Codename: Chandler Kindle World, you can. You don't need my permission, or my help. You don't need to even tell me. You can do it entirely on your own. It's easy, and you keep half the royalties. All you have to do is follow the guidelines. So check those out, check these out, and mix your characters with mine.

Looking forward to seeing some cool stories!

Here's the list of titles so far: