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Thursday, December 19, 2013

FIRST AND FOREMOST A FAN

AN INTERVIEW WITH DOWN & OUT BOOKS' ERIC CAMPBELL ON INDIE PUBLISHING 

 
As DOWN & OUT BOOKS moves toward a third anniversary, the two-year-old is walking with better balance and greater confidence.  The toddler is finding its identity. I was interested in hearing about why anyone would feel compelled to tackle the challenging and risky business called Independent Publishing—and who better to ask than Eric Campbell—the founder, publisher, editor, sometimes copy editor and avid crime fiction fan who stands at the helm of the young Indie.

Q: You are obviously passionate about crime fiction.  What grabbed you?

A: I remember my mom taking my brother and me to the library when we were nine or ten and picking out a book in the Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators series.  It was the beginning of my love for crime fiction.  There were periods when I would read other genres, but I always came back to crime—only in books, of course. When I was in my early teens I stumbled across a copy of Headhunter by Michael Slade, it was the first adult crime book I remember reading. A terrific novel and a very scary one for a fourteen-year-old—combining murder, mystery, horror and psychological suspense.  I was hooked.
 
 
Q: Headhunter, as well as The First Deadly Sin and Red Dragon before it, changed crime fiction by featuring the serial killer and a heightened level of graphic violence.  What other novelists and sub-genres of adult crime fiction fed your passion?
 
A: There are far too many crime writers who I enjoy reading to list here. Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos, Reed Farrel Coleman and the great James Crumley just to name a few. Did I forget to mention J.L. Abramo. In terms of sub-genres, I continue to get pleasure from serial killer books, particularly those which offer a fresh take on the subject. I am also drawn to the police procedural, some espionage, and find the quirky Florida crime novels of John D. MacDonald and Tim Dorsey very entertaining. On the top of my list is the hard-boiled private eye novel.  And any work of fiction, be it a crime novel or otherwise, earns my admiration if it is smart—written with wit, intelligence and a true and honest understanding of human strengths and weaknesses.
 
Q: Without getting to Down & Out Books quite yet, what about you? What compelled a huge fan of crime fiction to explore publishing and what were the first steps you took in an effort to scratch the itch?
 
A: Being a fan of crime fiction, I was always on the lookout for publishers who released unique books. I found that with Dennis McMillan. What started out as consumer-company relationship developed into a friendship. Dennis would talk about the issues he was struggling with—fewer readers, eBooks, recession— the same kinds of stuff any business deals with. I had a day job that afforded me the freedom to get involved in more personally satisfying projects outside of the daily grind, so I threw out a business plan to Dennis. Unfortunately, he had already made up his mind to make a change in his career so it didn’t come together.
 
In the meantime, Ben LeRoy had recently left Bleak House Books and started Tyrus Books. He and Alison Dasho were looking for some investors in Tyrus—so I invested in Tyrus and became the CFO. I learned a great deal about the publishing business in a very short time. Ben and I sold Tyrus to F+W in April 2011. Ben went to work for F+W and I was out of the publishing business.
My hiatus didn’t last too long. I still had a burning itch to be involved. I had made a lot of good friends. In particular, Jon Jordan and I had become close. There had been discussions about Tyrus publishing the eBook version of Crimespree Magazine, but after the acquisition by F+W it fell off the table—so Jon and I talked about an alternative plan for publishing the e-Magazine, and  Down & Out Books was born.

 
 
Q: From publishing the eBook version of Crimespree, D&O quickly moved on to publishing crime fiction eBooks—beginning with the re-issues of out-of-print novels you particularly admired and wanted to see out there again.  How did you go about acquiring those initial titles—and when did you get the wild notion to take a chance with previously unpublished works?
A: I looked at my personal book collection and asked, “What happened to this writer, and this one?” I made a list of several who I had read and really enjoyed and who seemed to have disappeared. When I first started D&O, I had a partner. I gave him the list and asked him to try to make contact with the novelists on the list. We had quite a bit of success in contracting some of these authors. Then I asked Jon Jordon and Jeremy Lynch of Crimespree for additional recommendations of crime writers who would fall into the where are they now category.  I pursued those folks and again had some success. Each time I began the process with a writer, I asked if they had unpublished works and what they were doing with them. Several had books; so after releasing their previously published catalog, I started working on the new ones. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed that aspect of what I’m doing. To be one of the first readers of some really great books is very exciting and rewarding. It will be even more rewarding when any of them is deservedly discovered by the general reading public in a big way.
 
Q: There is so many books out there, getting discovered is a formidable task— particularly for a small Indie publisher with a limited promotional budget.  What can Down and Out Books do within its financial means to bring more attention to the house and its stable of writers, and how can the D&O authors help in this effort?
 
A: You hit the nail on the head.  In most cases, a small independent publisher does not have the financial means to really push a single book the way the major New York publishing houses can—and even the big houses spend a great majority of their marketing bucks on their big names, those in their stable who have profitable track records.  Many of our writers were dropped by traditional New York publishers—not because they weren’t writing good books—but because these very good books weren’t selling enough to suit the publisher’s needs—largely due to the fact that they were not getting the kind of marketing attention needed to turn it around.  As an Indie publisher, Down & Out Books has been able to reissue some terrific out-of-print titles—and release previously unpublished titles—from a group of excellent crime novelists. That said—D&O Books does commit funds for publicity to each new book. It could be as simple as a formal press release or as robust as engaging a dedicated publicist or running ads in crime fiction magazines. I'm a finance guy by day, so I like to measure results. The success rate of these efforts has been challenging to measure—nothing has produced a rocket ship ride to the moon in sales—but I believe it is worthwhile and necessary. It's all about repeat exposure to create a brand awareness for the author and D&O Books. Many of our ads feature several covers of recently released or forthcoming books.  Maybe one or more will catch an eye or two and generate sales—and just as enjoying a novel by an individual writer creates interest in that author’s other books, so might enjoying a book by one D&O writer create curiosity about our other writers.

 
I truly believe we—the authors and publisher—need to work together to move the needle. Readers want to hear from the authors more than the publisher. I'm just the back office guy who should be in the shadows while the authors are the spokespeople in the spotlight. So far, I've found that only a handful of authors really want to participate in a joint promotional effort. And that's a shame because if the individual authors did more to promote each other it would multiply the brand reach significantly—and that is what will sell books for all.  So we are waging a campaign to encourage our authors to become more involved in team promotion.
 
Q: What goals and hopes do you have for Down & Out Books in the near and distant future?

A: For the next few years we want to continue publishing books that we think highly of and believe will impress readers—probably six to eight titles each year.  We will continue to build the reputation of our authors and build brand recognition for Down & Out Books as a publishing house that can guarantee top-notch crime fiction.  Within five years, we plan to bring additional experienced and committed professionals into the front office to more effectively create increased visibility for Down & Out Books and our authors—and to continue developing strategic alliances within the crime fiction community.  And, of course, sell lots of really good books.
To learn more about Down & Out Books and its lineup of authors and titles please visit DOWN AND OUT BOOKS and on FACEBOOK.
 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

BIG GUNS, BOLD GUMSHOES, AND BAD GIRLS

SELLING A BOOK BY ITS COVER

 
There was no lack of pulp fiction in the 30's, 40,s and 50's.  Literally thousands of paperbacks, many by writers who did nothing but pump out books with provocative titles and tantalizing cover art.  Drugstore Novels, Dime Novels, Detective Magazines.  Writers who quickly faded into obscurity.  Artists who attracted cult followings.  Guns, fedoras, and most often a scantily clad dame in peril...or just plain bad.
 
Girls Out Of Hell, Bad Girls, Dames Can Be Poison, She Tried To Be Good, She Couldn't Be Good, Blonde Hellcat, Marijuana Girl, Pleasure Girl, Pit Stop Nympho, Deadlier Than The Male, Big City Girl, Gang Girls, I Prefer Girls, and on and on...
 
 
Along with the sultry babes there were the clever and catchy titles...and the alluring tag lines...
 
She knew what she wanted...a man to take her away from the dirt road and one-room shack she called home.
 
Betty was easy to get...but hard to hold.
 
And from D for Delinquent (no...not a Sue Grafton title)...She was strictly for the boys.

 
And there were the suits and ties, the hats, the handguns close by...and sure...why not a vixen, too...
 
 
It was not only the once obscure, now vanished drugstore novels that used sex and violence out front to promote sales.  Publishers used these eye-catching titles and images for books that would eventually become genre fiction classics...as these editions of some very well-known and admired crime novels illustrate...

 
Bondage and leggy blondes in London and Paris...
 
 
Philip K. Dick (the android in the fur coat and little else), George Orwell (Big Sister with cleavage), and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (sirens indeed)...
 
 
And let's not forget good old Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade...

 
We have recently seen a return to the pulp cover art tradition...certainly influenced by what has now become a classic image for a new generation...
 
 
Hard Case Crime has published out-of-print classics as well as new titles with striking old-school cover art...including two recent titles by this up-and-comer...

 
Down & Out Books has recently published titles with covers paying homage to the classic artwork of the golden age...

 
Could this brand of pulp cover art be used to boost the sales of classic literary fiction...replete with babes, allusions to Hollywood icons...and tag lines like these...
 
She's...no angel.
 
When it came to loving...he knew which Daisy to pick.
 
Here's looking at you Cathy.
 
Someone thought so...

 
I leave you with the burning question...can you really tell a book by its cover...
 
And I also leave you with a book cover I put together myself...maybe someday I will write a book to represent it...
 

 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO BEAT

 
The sights, sounds, tastes and aromas of San Francisco are as unmistakable as they are unforgettable and provide a perfect setting for the fictional exploits of Brooklyn born, Italian-Catholic, Russian-Jewish, unsuccessful movie actor and marginally successful private investigator, Jake Diamond.
 
Jake is more over-easy than hard-boiled and he is more likely to be carrying a worn paperback classic novel than a firearm. Jake’s thirst quencher of choice is Tennessee sour mash bourbon, his favorite foods are those with the highest cholesterol, and the closest he comes to being a purist is non-filtered cigarettes.
         
                The scent of deep fried calamari floated in through my office window
           like an invitation to triple-bypass surgery.
 
So begins the third novel in the Jake Diamond series, Counting to Infinity, following Catching Water in a Net and Clutching at Straws.  Jake’s office sits above Molinari’s legendary Italian Market on Columbus Avenue; in the heart of the rich history and the eclectic street life of North Beach.  From Molinari’s Delicatessen to the Vallejo Street Police Station, to the Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi; the streets of North Beach are often the backdrop for Diamond’s most tense and funniest moments. 
 
During the break between my first and second year of graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati, I hopped into a ten-year-old Volkswagen bus and headed west; across the Mississippi for the first time.  Having grown up on the Atlantic Ocean, I was curious about the Pacific. 
 
I made the mandatory stops; the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Hollywood, and then up the coast to the City by the Bay.
 
It was love at first sight.
 
1971.  Richard Nixon was in the White House.  Vietnam was aflame.  The Summer of Love had come and gone, People’s Park sadly abandoned.  But Haight Street and Berkeley were still tie-dyed colors and long hair and civil disobedience.  The Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead were still thought of as local bands, and the city was a jewel still sparkling upon the turbulent sea of social change.  I was escorted to the top of Twin Peaks, as was Jake Diamond in Clutching at Straws, and the 360-degree view of the city, the bay and the Pacific was indelible. 
 
I left my heart there too, Mr. Bennett.
 
I lived in San Francisco during the closing years of the seventies; post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, pre-Reagan.
 
First, in the Fillmore, where Jake Diamond lived before inheriting the house in the Presidio.  Later on Frederick Street near Masonic, a short block from Haight Street, where the last Flower Children were fighting to hold the line, with their head shops and music stores and street performances, against the other thirty-something residents who were trying to turn the Upper Haight into a respectable neighborhood.  I worked part time at the Green Apple Bookstore on Clement, where Jake Diamond purchased paperback copies of A Tale of Two Cities and The Count of Monte Cristo.  Catching Water in a Net became a tale of San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Clutching at Straws became a tale of retribution.
 
I explored the city.  Seldom in a car.  Automobiles were impractical in San Francisco; there was no place to put them.  As Jake Diamond once noted, the only way to get a parking space in San Francisco is to buy a parked car. 
 
I explored on foot, walking up and down the city’s hills, from neighborhood to neighborhood, each with their unique personality and their own climate.  The Fillmore, Castro (the setting of One Hit Wonder, a Jake Diamond short story included in The Shamus Sampler), the Mission (where Vinnie Strings squanders his savings at the Finnish Line, a gambling hall run by two brothers from Helsinki), the Sunset (where Jake parks his cherished 1963 Chevy Impala convertible in Joey Russo’s garage), the Presidio, the Panhandle, North Beach and the Haight. 
 
I explored by bike, bus, streetcar, cable car and even sailboat.  I was taken in by the frenzied activity of small theatre, the renaissance being created in the redevelopment of Fort Mason, and a theatre rag found in every small venue lobby.  I began to write about art.
 
I took the knowledge and the passion to Denver where I founded and edited a monthly theatre magazine and placed it in all of the local theatres.  I began writing for some of the smaller independent newspapers.  I had become a budding arts journalist.  I was a professional writer; inspired by my time in San Francisco.
 
In 2000, in South Carolina, I began writing my second novel.  My initial attempt, a crime novel set in Brooklyn, was sitting unread, surrounded by thanks but no thanks form letters from an assortment of literary agents.  I wanted to try my hand at first person.  The natural, unpremeditated form was the private eye narration, and the setting could be nowhere but San Francisco. 
 
Jake Diamond was born.
 
Catching Water in a Net captured the SMP/PWA Award for Best First Private Eye Novel and a year later I was holding a hardback copy in my hand.  Remarkable. 
 
I thank the city of San Francisco.  And as often as possible I visit, preferably in the fall.
 
Autumn in San Francisco, Diamond muses in Clutching at Straws.
 
    
Late September, early October is my favorite time of the year in San Francisco.  In terms of weather, September is the mildest month.  Most of the tourists are gone and that is a great blessing.  In July and August they’re as thick as Buddy Holly’s eyeglasses.  The kids are back where they belong; the nine-week challenge of trying to find a single square inch of ground not infested by swarms of loud and reckless adolescents is finally over.  Unless you’re insane enough to venture anywhere near a school.  I can hardly imagine a better place to be in early fall.
                       Though I’ll admit, I’ll take Paris in the springtime.
 
I visit, I walk the streets, I duck into alleys, check out storefronts, and look for more magical places for Jake Diamond to discover while searching for a clue or two.

Monday, August 19, 2013

THE EVOLUTION OF A BOOK COVER

The title of a novel is a major consideration.  It is the author’s first opportunity to create some interest. For the new book, I was somewhat limited by wishing the title to start with a gerund beginning with the letter C—as with the three Jake Diamond novels—Catching Water in a Net, Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity. On top of that—it’s a good idea to have the title say something about the book. Chasing Charlie Chan worked both ways.  Given the title is critical, so should be the manner in which it is presented on the book jacket—the cover being an equally essential piece of the presentation—the invitation to look inside.  Jason Smith—who created the title artwork and hand painted the front and back cover images—allowed me into his world—staying open to my thoughts and ideas—working closely with me to come up with a design that would truly represent what lay in wait within.
There were two considerations when approaching the front cover. Down & Out Books, the artist and the author all agreed to work on a concept that brought to mind the noir private eye novels of the forties and fifties—Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Spillane’s Mike Hammer—albeit without the damsel in distress. (Sorry, no scantily clad babes aboard.)  I believe if you don’t grab the reader in Chapter One you have lost half the battle— therefore Jason and I decided on using an image which captured a moment in those first pages.  Here is an early rendition.

It was Jason Smith’s idea to use a badge—a small representation of the main protagonist which could be used in subsequent books and add to the dime store novel feel. Here is an early version of the Jimmy Pigeon badge.
The book is a work of fiction.  Any resemblances to people alive or dead are coincidental and not intended by the author.  That being said, we came to thinking out the back cover and the images that would best represent the story within the story.  Here is Jason’s early work—original paintings of characters coincidentally called ‘Bugsy’ Siegel and Virginia Hill (alright, there is a dame) from forties photographs—and a 1947 newspaper article.

 
Putting the front and back covers together was the next step—here is an early version of both with spine—including the Jimmy Pigeon badge.  The author name font was also changed and finalized at this point.
The back cover needed more pop—and the Las Vegas strip in the late forties was just the ticket.  Jason beautifully incorporated the image—pushing the lady to the top left—and changing the book description to a more classic style font.
The next installment was very cool—particularly in the form Jason sent it—giving me a glimpse into the way he worked—the shape of his palette.  And we were so close.
So close.  How about repeating the Jimmy Pigeon cameo on the spine?  Let’s make the D&O logo more prominent.  The result represents a long, rewarding collaboration of two artists from different mediums.  A writer striving to create a work of fiction worth reading—and a painter who got it and beautifully gift wrapped it.  The complete package.  Done.  Now we can only hope the fine art will inspire curiosity—and the reader will not be disappointed with the pages between the covers.
 
For more on Jason Smith please visit: http://jsmithillustration.com/
 

 

 
 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

RESURRECTING JIMMY PIGEON

 

         
           "Mr. Diamond, I came here to talk about my husband."
             "Of course you did, Evelyn," I said. I think my voice may have cracked. "Have you thought about going to the police?"
         "Finding my husband is already of interest to the Los Angeles Police Department, Mr. Diamond. I was hoping you could help me locate him before they do."
         "Why are the police interested in locating your husband?" I plowed on.
         "They suspect he killed his business partner."
         "And why would they think that?"
         "My husband's gun was found beside the body."
         "Did he do it?"
         "I don't believe so."
         "But the murder weapon was found at the scene, and it belonged to your husband. Any theories about that?"
         "My husband kept the gun in his office. The victim was killed in the office adjacent to his. The police have little else to go on."
         "And?"
         "They seem unwillingly to grant that almost anyone could have taken the weapon and killed my husband's associate."
         There you go, it could have been anyone. That should convince a jury.
         "If your husband is innocent, why is he dodging the authorities?"
         "I don't know. Perhaps he feels no one will believe him, he's always lacked persuasive ability. That is why I need to find him. Before he gets himself hurt. Someone suggested you could help."
          Why me.
         "Why me?" I asked, "There are plenty of very competent investigators in Los Angeles. I could highly recommend a good friend of mine down there. Jimmy Pigeon."
         "I came to you, Mr. Diamond, because my husband's business partner was Jimmy Pigeon."
         I managed to delay my reaction long enough to get the rough details from Evelyn Harding and then quickly sent her on her way; assuring her I would stay in touch. She was barely through the door before the surprise and shock of Jimmy Pigeon's death hit me like a sucker punch. I opened the top desk drawer and pulled out the ashtray and the bottle. This time it was the bottle of bourbon.
 
So ends the first chapter of Catching Water in a Net, the first novel in the Jake Diamond mystery series, where Jake discovers, from a total stranger, that his friend and mentor, the man who brought him into the PI business, is dead. And the book, winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America Award for Best First Private Eye Novel, becomes Jake Diamond’s quest to find Jimmy Pigeon’s killer.
 

 
Throughout the first book, and again and again in the subsequent novels Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity, Jake refers to Jimmy Pigeon; recalling lessons learned from Jimmy, and often posing the question, when an investigation hits a dead end, ‘What would Jimmy do?’
 Recently at ThrillerFest in New York, an international crime fiction writers/crime fiction fans convention, I sat on a panel entitled: Why Did You Kill Off My Favorite Character? 
          Speaking for myself; killing off a character who the writer, and hopefully the reader, has come to care about, is never an easy decision.  And for me, it is never premeditated.  There comes a time in a story when something has to happen to raise the stakes, and sometimes a sacrifice is required.  And I am as surprised as the reader when a good guy or good gal is killed.  And I often hear from readers of their disappointment; fortunately I have never been confronted with a reader like Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s Misery.  But what about a character who is killed off before you even begin, who you never really meet, who you only learn about from fond reminiscence?  A character obviously very important to the main protagonist of your series.  As his name kept popping up, I wondered more and more often, who was Jimmy Pigeon?


        And here is the fun part; I could find answers to my nagging questions about Jimmy Pigeon by simply turning back the clock.  Suddenly I was writing a prequel to the Jake Diamond series, which finds Jimmy alive and at work as a Private Investigator in Santa Monica in 1994.  And the result is a novel called Chasing Charlie Chan, published by Down & Out Books in trade paperback and eBook in September 2013.
        I have no illusions of grandeur, but being able, as a writer, to bring a character back from the grave, is pretty nifty.  It was a great exercise for me, and I can only hope it will resonate with those Jake Diamond fans who have at times also wondered about Jimmy Pigeon, the man who said, among other things: When it comes to private investigation, nine times out of ten the client is your worst enemy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Like Trying To Catch Water In A Net


The simple answer to the question what inspired me to start writing is reading.  The more I read, growing up, the more I was captured by the power of the written word; particularly by the truth that has been given the name fiction.  I have always found writing to be my preferred instrument of expression and creativity; I realized early on that I was more proficient with a pen than I was with a guitar or a paint brush.  Poetry, lyric writing, journalism, and ultimately book length fiction.
 
In the days before self-publishing the question put to published novelists by writers hoping to be published was how do you do it.  I often asked the question myself, and have been asked the same question many times.  My simple answer is I really don't know.  All I can do is relate what happened.

The summer of 2000 found this Italian-Russian Brooklyn boy working in an office in Columbia, South Carolina.  A fish out of water.  In the evenings I would write, working on my first full length novel.  And then one day it was complete.  Now what.

It was literally impossible to get a traditional publisher to look at the work unsolicited, so I was forced to go the prescribed route; attempting to find a Literary Agent who would champion my novel.  All of the agencies I researched would only accept query letters; would not even take a peek at a chapter or two.  If I imagined I could write a good book; I learned quickly that I could not write a convincing query letter.  The responses were short form letters which all said basically the same thing.  Thanks but no thanks.

When Van Morrison was asked what would you do if you never sold a song or a record he answered without hesitation that he would not stop creating because, he confessed, I can’t not write. Vincent van Gogh said If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint', then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
 
Determined to thwart discouragement, I did the only thing I could think to do.  I sat in front of an archaic Dell desktop PC and began to fill in a blank page.

I wished to write something unlike what I had written before.  I wished to take my mind off rejection.  Without much premeditation it began as a first-person narrative set in the office of a San Francisco private eye; and displayed humor that had been absent from my earlier efforts.  I wrote ten pages.

How a new work of fiction begins is as important to the writer as to the reader. For the writer, the opening pages are the seeds that will hopefully grow into a personally satisfying and coherent literary journey.  They are the cornerstone. For the reader, the opening pages are the hook that will hopefully inspire the fellow traveler to continue on that journey. When I face the blank first page I approach it as a quest, consciously or unconsciously, and try in time to reach some hidden treasure by the end of the excursion; with many detours and side steps along the way.  I do not know the final destination when I begin; the characters are created initially as composites of people I have known, and are fleshed out by their human responses to events.  The plot develops as a consequence of how these characters react, and is secondary to the characters since it is the people in a story that have always interested me most as a reader; and I get to know these characters more and more clearly as they move through the story.  In a series, such as the Jake Diamond books, there is the opportunity for the writer, as well as for the reader, to learn more about repeating characters in subsequent installments.  Plotting is extremely challenging, but when the theme of the work finally dawns on me, when I finally realize what it is that I am really writing about, plot offers direction. When I finally understand where the story is headed, I often need to back up to discover the path I have to be on to get there.  But at the start, when I begin, my books have always been initiated with a scene; one that will hopefully be recalled throughout the book, by myself and by the reader, as the circumstance that launched the expedition.

A few days after the barrage of rejection letters I was surfing the internet (more like rowing back in the days of dial-up) when I stumbled across the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America contest for Best First Private Eye Novel.  I decided immediately that I would finish a private eye novel and submit it before the deadline, which was less than a month away.  Apparently for the book’s characters and dialogue, and certainly not for its convoluted plot, Catching Water in a Net was chosen for the award.  The prize was publication by St. Martin’s (after a considerable amount of editing) and an advance against royalties.  Holy smoke.

Exactly one year later I received a final hardback copy in the mail.  It was a wonder to behold, and a thrill to hold.  The novel was released on October 1, 2001; less than a month after 9/11, making my first Bouchercon World Mystery Convention both an exhilarating and somber occasion.  SMP gave me two more shots before deciding that the Jake Diamond series, though well received by critics and readers alike, was not what they considered a cash cow.  I continued to write, of course, what other choice did I have; but the work seemed destined to remain out of the public realm.  And then, the net held water once again when Down & Out Books reached out to me and gave Jake Diamond and J. L. Abramo a second shot.

Over the course of eighteen months, D & O re-issued Catching Water in a Net, Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity as eBooks and published the stand-alone crime thriller Gravesend in eBook and trade paperback.  A prequel to the Jake Diamond series will be released in early 2013; and I am currently putting the finishing touches on a fourth Diamond novel.

We write, we paint, we sing because we need to.  And if we are persistent, and honest, and lucky, perhaps we can catch water in a net and reach an audience. We keep clutching and counting.  And we keep writing.