Blog

Stay tuned to this page to follow developments involving Whelan, Larsen, Stensen, Kirkland, Thomas, Almeida…and Christie, Levell, Maksym, Federov and others in the Sleeping Dogs series. CAVEAT: I'm not a daily, or even weekly, blogger. Unless I believe I have something of interest to share, I don't spam my own blog site.


The Dogs Are Back!

It’s been too long since my last post. The reason, however, is a positive one—I’ve been working feverishly on the latest book in the Sleeping Dogs series of political/espionage thrillers. The wait is over. Dogs of War is available on preorder pending its release date of July 4th. Independence Day seems like a good date for publication of the fourth book in a series of political thrillers.

The ebook is available on preorder at Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Smashwords, and most online booksellers. The print version already is available from Amazon and its POD subsidiary, CreateSpace, as well as Barnes&Noble and other fine booksellers.

So, what’s Dogs of War about? With the help of the drug cartels and gangs like MS-13, thousands of murderous Islamic terrorists have infiltrated America through its porous southern border. They’ve spread out across the country, stockpiling weapons and explosives and identifying strategic targets as well as soft ones. Worse yet, they’ve got nukes. The U.S. government is helplessly hidebound by political correctness, agency turf wars, over-regulation, partisan politics, and gross inefficiency. 

Once again, Cliff levell and the shadow government known as the Society of Adam Smith must step into the breach. In a race against time to stop the detonation of the nukes on American soil, Levell must turn to Brendan Whelan and the other members of the ruthless hunter-killer team known as the Sleeping Dogs. The Dogs are back in action, this time with a new member, an Australian named Liam Stone. 

In addition to Levell and the individual Dogs, several familiar characters are on the scene: Whelan’s wife Caitlin, and their two sons, Sean and Declan; Maksym, Whelan’s monstrous brother; FBI agent Mitch Christie and his fiancée, Camila Ramirez; the two ex-Spetsnaz mercenaries, Kirill Federov and Andrei Ulyanin; the tyrannical Alliance for Global Unity and its leader, Harland Fairchilde, IV; Zheng Bao Xun, the scheming finance minister for the People’s Republic of China; the chief Islamic terrorist Nadir Shah, leader of the Holy Army of the Caliphate (HAC); and others. Newcomers include Bazir Haqqani the leader in America of the forces of HAC; Haqqani’s teenaged disciple Turan Salam; Carolina Avila, the all-American girl next door…to terrorists.

I’ll be focused principally on marketing efforts for Dogs of War until its release on July 4th, but I already have the storyline in mind for the next book in the series—Bad Dogs, Dead Dogs. In the meantime, please read Dogs of War and let me know what you think of it. Also, your reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and iBooks are greatly appreciated.

Marketing Your Self-Published Book

I turned down an opportunity to have my first novel published by Harper & Row (now HarperCollins). Sure, I was 23 at the time and focusing on my nascent career as an attorney, but the reason I walked away was a matter of a difference of opinion. H&R’s senior VP didn’t like my protagonist because he was an antihero. The VP thought readers didn’t like antiheroes and wanted me to rewrite the story—which he liked—from the perspective of a nerd I had thrown in for comic relief. I wonder if he ever heard of Jack Reacher?

I turned to self-publishing with my next novel, the first in a series of political/espionage thrillers. It went to #1 on Amazon Kindle in two different genres. Part of that was due to the use of Kindle’s free promotion tool. That resulted in a large amount of reviews, 80%+ are 4 and 5 stars. Since then, I’ve learned that productivity also increases sales. I just published the 3rd book in the series; my 4th book overall. The next book in the series is nearing completion and its publication should boost readership/fan base even more.

In a nutshell, here are marketing tools that work for me.

·      A growing body of work

·      A short, advertised freebie period at launch

·      The use of beta readers in my genre

·      Working in a group with fellow writers in my genre to critique and suggest improvements, as well as to write an initial blurb or two for a new book’s launch (join an existing writer’s group or form one)

·      Hiring a freelance editor who gained substantial experience in my genre by working for a major publishing house (this is going to run, on average, 4 to 6 cents per word, so forget the 200,000-word masterpiece unless you can break it up into 2 or 3 separate books in a series and have it edited accordingly. The end cost is the same, but you spread the payments out over time.)

·      Spending unreasonable amounts of time on my book’s description; polishing it endlessly

·      Always having a professionally designed cover; I want to look like I’ve been here before.

Each writer’s experience is unique, so there are other methods of marketing that can work. See what’s working for others in your genre. And good luck.

It’s The Year Of The Dog!

My latest novel in the internationally bestselling series The Sleeping Dogs has been published. The Year Of The Dog became available in eBook and print formats on Election Day in America, November 8. That seems an appropriate date for a political/spy thriller. A description can be found on the Books page. The new book is available at Amazon Books, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other online and traditional booksellers.

Notes From ThrillerFest 2016: Part 3

This post addresses the topic of what agents and publishers are looking for, how to approach them, and what to expect. CAVEAT: it just scratches the surface.

Agents/Publishers:

·      The first 3-4 pages tell a prospective agent or publisher whether the book is publishable

        o   Polish chapter 1, keep going back to it

·      Use action words in the first sentence. Come back to them at the end of the novel

·      Traditional publishers appear to be shying away from series, but the opposite seems true of self-published thriller writers because the more books in the series, the more overall sales. Also facilitates building a brand.

        o   Series seem to work better today because readers feel they have an investment in the characters and want more of them

·      CAVEAT: It’s difficult to earn out a big advance from traditional publishers, so if your first 2 or 3 books don’t earn out that advance through sales then you may be cut loose with a reputation in the industry as a “failure”

       o   An opposing view says get as much as you can up front because often there is no earn out

·      Be very clear with publishers as to what they will do (viz., marketing efforts) and make sure they do it.

Notes From ThrillerFest 2016: Part 2

Here are some more notes from my participation in this year’s Thrillerfest in New York City. I hope other thriller writers find them to be helpful.

Characters:

·      Use the Myers-Briggs 16 character types for ideas

·      The protagonists and villains should have lives outside the plot

·      Description of characters’ physical appearances needn’t be lengthy

·      The MacGuffin/McGuffin: a motivating element in the story that drives the plot, but serves no other purpose; like a question that must be answered, but the answer is immaterial.

·      Make your characters work by digging deep for their motivation

       o    Motivation can be anything, but it must be believable-verisimilitude is key

·      Readers identify with characters’ flaws more than virtues

       o   Revisit your characters: do they have virtues and flaws?

·      Tell the story through different characters: multiple viewpoints

·      Give each character a voice that differs from all the others

·      Make readers care about the characters: either likeable or compelling characters

·      Make readers participate by showing the character’s traits, not telling the reader

·      Character Arc: redemption is #1, but others include acceptance, change

·      3-dimensioal characters “have skin in the game”

·      The antagonist usually drives the plot

·      It’s okay to incorporate a character’s action and dialogue in the same paragraph

In my next post, I’ll share some ideas I picked up regarding Agents and Publishers.

Notes From ThrillerFest 2016: Part 1

The following are some of the notes I took at ThrillerFest 2016, the annual worldwide conference of writes of novels in th thriller genre. Yes, there are multitudes of sub-genres within the thriller category, but these points apply to any and all of them.

General Tips:

·      The facts support the story, not the other way around—don’t bore the shit out of your readers

·      Write something everyday—it’s a profession, not a hobby

·      Don’t sermonize—lecturing about the social message kills the thriller aspect

·      Keep your research in case you’re ever challenged or sued

·      Your writing has to reflect the writer’s confidence

·      Establish a setting

·      Set the tone

·      Don’t settle for your preliminary concepts; dig deeper

·      Moral dilemma is key to thriller novels

·      Create conflict: churn related conflict and resolution, followed by more conflict.

·      Conflict is rooted in differing motivations

        o   Fear often is the primary motivator

·      Emotion is more important than logic

·      The Dramatic Question: What does the hero/villain want? (in 1 sentence)

·      There has to be “high stakes” for a nation, a group, or an individual

·      There has to be a “Riveting Concept” that’s focusing and larger than life

·      Subplots prop up the middle of your story

·      Read your book out loud to find the stumbling blocks for readers

·      Print the book out and read it as if it was someone else’s book

·      Because of peoples’ short attention spans today, you have to tighten up you novel

        o   Cut-Edit-Condense again and again

·      Find your voice

·      ENDING: have an ending that seems inevitable, but to be effective there has to be a change caused by the main character. BUT it has to be clever enough to please the reader

·      CLIMAX: Here’s where the twists come into play, but don’t be predictable

·      PROLOGUE/EPILOGUE: only use a prologue if absolutely necessary. The Epilogue tells the reader what happened to the characters—OR in my Sleeping Dogs series, it sets up the next book in the series.

·      We’re not here to write the Great American Novel, we write to entertain—remember, it’s fiction.

·      Don’t be discouraged by naysayers and doubters

·      Don’t let being around big name, bestselling writers cause you to change what and how you write

        o   They weren’t always big shots, they used talent, hard work, and luck  

In the next post, I’ll share pointers on developing your characters.

ThrillerFest 2016—What Is It?

ThrillerFest was a five-day affair this year. It also included evening social events many of which were attended by the top bestselling thriller writers on the globe. For example, I had interesting conversations with Lee Child (Jack Reacher), Steve Berry (Cotton Malone), Brad Taylor (Pike Logan), Walter Mosley (Easy Rawlins), and many others. That’s Lee Child on the left reading my first novel in the Sleeping Dogs series of political-military-espionage thrillers at one of the cocktail sessions that followed full days of presentations and panel discussions.

ITW may not follow the same format next year, but it probably will be similar. The first day required you to decide between attending a day-long visit at the FBI’s New York HQ or joining a MasterCraft session with 6 or 7 other folks and led by a bestselling thriller writer. This year I opted for a tour of the Bureau. Next year I’ll look into the MasterCraft sessions. 

The second and third days were a series of concurrent presentations by the cream of the bestseller lists. The subject matter varied widely but all addressed how to craft a better thriller. These included Thriller Writing From A to Z, Setting the Hook, and Developing Character Through POV and Dialogue. Day 3 concluded with PitchFest—3.5 hours of “speed dating” with over 60 agents and publishers, where you try to interest them in representing you or publishing your book(s).

One thing that struck me was the interest the agents and publishers showed in my books despite the fact that I’m self-published. A couple of years ago that would have killed the conversation before it got started. I’m sure some of it had to do with the fact that I’ve sold over 35,000 books with little marketing and have over 120 reviews on Amazon, most of which are 5 and 4 stars. The fact that I have my novels edited by established professionals also grabbed their attention. We’ll see what comes of that.

Days 4 and 5 consisted of a series of concurrent panel sessions with provocative titles such as Kitting Out Your Character, Secret Service, FBI, or International Spy?, and Standalone, Trilogy, or Series? All through the days of the event there are sessions where famous authors interview other famous authors. For instance, Lee Child interviewed Heather Graham, Karin Slaughter interviewed Gillian Flynn, and David Morrell interviewed Walter Mosley. Day 5 ends with a big cocktail party, then the Thriller Awards Banquet, followed by a post-banquet cocktail party.

The next posting to this blog will included tips I gathered from the assembled bestselling thriller writers.

Post-ThrillerFest

Blog postings are supposed to be kept short. The five nonstop days of ThrillerFest were filled with so much material and so many experiences that it’s impossible to be brief, yet still be comprehensive. I’m just going to have to do a series of blogs to be able to get the full flavor and import of the conference across to those who may have an interest in learning what goes on there.

First, a little background. I spent many of my years in the real estate development industry as an active member of its largest professional organization. It was supposedly an organization for active professionals in the industry, but actually was run by and for the benefit of the bureaucrats in its offices. The most they knew about real estate development is that they’d bought a house. Members received a constant barrage of BS over-promising what its annual gatherings would do for them, but unfailingly under-delivering. The only people who benefitted from the organization were its office staff.

ThrillerFest is an annual production of ITW—the International Thriller Writers. The people who run the organization, as well as organize and conduct ThrillerFest, are thriller writers. You know their names: Steve Berry, Heather Graham, Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Walter Mosley, and many, many more bestselling writers. As a result, ThrillerFest over-delivers on all counts. All presenters and panelists are published writers who share their hard-earned experiences and steps to success with others in attendance.

I have a boatload of experiences from this year’s ThrillerFest and dozens of pages of bulleted notes. I plan to share them in these posts over the next couple of weeks. If you’re a fellow thriller writer, or harbor a secret desire to be, stay tuned.

ThrillerFest 2016

July 5—9, 2016, I will be participating in the International Thriller Writers’s (ITW) annual conference known as ThrillerFest in New York City. Day 1 is spent at FBI HQ in lower manhattan. Day 2 and part of 3 are CraftFest—a series of concurrent sessions led by best selling thriller writers who will be sharing the lessons learned in honing their craft.The balance of Day 3 is devoted to PitchFest, a gathering of agents, editors, and publishers—you pick the ones you want to pitch your novel(s) to, and then it’s like speed dating. Days 4 and 5 are ThrillerFest sessions—a series of concurrent sessions led by writers, agents, publishers, as well as technical, military and spy experts. The evening of Day 5 is the Awards Banquet ceremony, a gala affair that celebrates the accomplishments of the best thriller writers. Click here for more information. 

I’m looking forward to speaking with some of my favorite thriller writers such as Lee Child, Brad Thor, Brad Taylor, David Baldacci, and other. I’ll share my experiences in these pages after I return.

When Are You Writing, When Are You Not?

A Typical Hard Saturday Ride With My Bike Homies

From time to time, I’ve heard writers remark that if they were not actually typing material such as a novel or short story, they weren’t engaged in the act of writing. That’s a fallacy, and a potentially harmful one. It can cause the writer to believe he or she is not being productive, or perhaps is suffering from the dreaded writer’s block. The truth is that writing involves a number of steps, all of them important.

A case in point is my novels in the Sleeping Dogs series of politically incorrect thrillers that focus on the current state of world affairs. The books’ plot lines span the globe and involve a myriad of individuals—heroes, bad guys, and everyday citizens.  State-of-the-art weaponry and technology are involved. I’m no techno-wizard and I don’t have a background in military ordinance. But I necessarily have to include these items in my novels because they are integral to modern world affairs. Where I’m going with this is that I have to do in-depth research in countless areas—not just weapons and technology, but aircraft, motor vehicles, customs and cultures in other parts of the world, specific locations in places I’ve never been, and countless other topics.

Plus, one thing I really want to avoid is having my books read by someone who is an expert in any one of these matters, and them realizing I have no idea what I’m talking about. When you make it up, it’s just science fiction. Grueling research is the only way to avoid that. In fact, I spend about four hours in research for every hour I’m actually writing content. Much of the research is done online, but I also scour newspapers and other sources on a daily basis.

Few writers can just start typing without any sort of preparation and actually produce decent writing; the kind that sells. We first have to create the basis for the book. In my case, I develop story lines based on what’s happening in the world today, and where I think it could be taking us. Then, because I publish my novels in installments—four or five per book, I break the story lines down into those four or five segments. Next, I develop an outline for each part and create the chapters for each part. Initially, the chapters are just brief statements about who is involved in a chapter and what takes place and where.

Up to this point I haven’t written the first word of what will become the novel, but it’s all critical to being able to write that novel. The point is that “writing” a novel is much more than just typing words into a document. So, even if you’re not typing, you’re still writing when you’re doing research, outlining, creating the cover, formatting, or any of a number of other tasks that go into creating a complete book. For self-published writers, that also includes publishing at any number of online bookstores, publishing in print, and managing your ad campaign across multiple media.

© John Wayne Falbey 2016 All Rights Reserved