Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Writerly Life ReKindled

Today on the blog we have author Paul Levinson. I read his novel The Silk Code which was very good. But that isn't all he has written. His other works include The Plot to Save Socrates and New New Media. He's done many TV appearnces and I'm delighted he decided to stop by this blog. Take it away, Paul.

I love talking.  I love writing.  Likely because to me, the two are pretty much the same, pretty much just as easy.  Ok, writing takes a tiny bit more thought, and that’s as it should be, since the act of writing is intrinsically a public act, a move to get your thoughts out into the larger world, in contrast to speaking which is usually more private.

Part of the joy of writing, then, is in seeing your words out there in the world.  In fact, for me, not seeing my words - my stories and my novels and my books - out there in world would ruin a lot of the fun.   I mean, I suppose if someone threw a ton of money at me to write something that no one else would ever see, I might do it - nah, I really don’t think I would.  Life’s too short.  The writerly life is too short.

Traditional publishers used to be the only way you could get your words and works out there.  It had its benefits - actually, just a few benefits: getting a decent advance and getting your books into bookstores.  On the other hand, you as an author were lucky if you got more than 10% of the sales, and the publisher was ever ready to drop your book like a hot potato if sales took an even slight decline.

I shouldn’t complain.  Traditional publishers got my books reviewed in The New York Times, on Locus science fiction best seller lists, and publisher clout was no doubt helpful or responsible in my getting on NPR, C-Span, the BBC, and other national and international media.   But these highpoints of promotion were exceptions rather than the rule, which had my wife and me working like demons on publicity, and the publisher deigning to get my books in a bookstore after I had arranged for a signing, or to a radio station after I had arranged for an interview.

I likely would have continued exclusively in a such a traditionally published arrangement had the Kindle not come along.   My nonfiction book, New New Media, now in its second edition, is indeed published by one of the biggest publishers in the world, and they do a good job of getting the book into college bookstores, where it is used as a textbook.  But the best decision I’ve made in recent years about my science fiction was getting two of my novels, The Silk Code and The Plot to Save Socrates, up on Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and Kobo, with the help of JoSara MeDia, a small, savvy operation in Texas.  Both books had been selling little more than a handful of copies a year, and some of that handful were used copies - which earn authors no money and sap potential sales of new copies.   It took me a while to get my rights back from the traditional publisher, and then a while longer before I got the Kindles in motion, but now the novels are selling as many copies a week, sometimes in a day, as they used to sell - just a year or two ago -  in a year.  I do lots of promotion, and I get to reap the benefits.  When PBS recently aired a NOVA documentary, “Decoding Neanderthals,” I didn’t have to wait for any publicity department or plead for any publisher’s permission to launch what was now easily accomplished via a campaign of tweets, etc., that pointed out that many of the speculations in that science show were explored in my 1999 science fiction novel, The Silk Code, now available as a Kindle.  Indeed, an old fan and friend, Gerry Elman, first wrote to me about the connection, so the impetus as well as the execution were all in social media, which cost me nothing except my enjoyably spent time.

I’m now just about finished with the sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates - Unburning Alexandria - which had been languishing on my hard drive for years.  Further novels and movies are in the works.  I’m going to get every one of my other novels, and all of my short stories, out there in ebook land as well.  The Kindle revolution has rekindled my love of science fiction writing - and, though who needs the competition, I recommend that route to one and all.

Check out his books by Clicking Here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Deadly Eyes

It may surprise you, but I'm not the only one who used the phrase "dead eyes" in their titles. Here's one author who contacted me recently who has a pretty interesting book with a similar title. So without further ado, take it away Michael.

I was a professor of writing for four years at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix campus. I fell in love with the Caribbean. It truly is American paradise. I have always loved a good mystery, especially one with never-ending twists, turns, and surprises. Local color is important to me, so I saw that placing a mystery on the romantic island of St. Croix was a win-win situation for me, since I am like a reader when I write, never quite knowing what will happen next.
I thoroughly enjoyed every second of writing DEADLY EYES. The varying elements all seemed to fit together so perfectly. Reggae, calypso, swaying palms and sandy beaches provide such a terrifying contrast to the fact that a romantically linked couple is so brazenly stalked in such an idyllic setting, which sets the perfect tone for what I wanted to achieve in this mystery. Romance, beauty, and mystery are all intermingled in DEADLY EYES.
Since I know the island of St. Croix so well, having lived there, the setting posed no real writing problems at all for me. In fact, the setting actually enhanced everything I was attempting to achieve. The local color is authentic, but the plot is my own creation, the bits and pieces falling into place as I dug deeper into the story.
Creating the authentic local color came easily for since I had spent four wonderful years as a college professor on the beautiful island of St. Croix. I love the island! I miss being there. The only research I really needed was to make full use of my own memory bank, which is a storehouse of exciting moments personally experienced by this author. St. Croix is a part of me and always will be.
In addition to being excited as I wrote about an island paradise I truly love, I found myself really liking the two main characters of DEADLY EYES. Cuff is a laid-back sort of guy, a real looker, a guy who has come to live on the island to get away from some bad memories on the mainland. He and his girlfriend, Rosie, are both very strong individuals, and the repartee between them was quite enjoyable for me, the reader-writer, to observe. She is like Maureen O’Hara, the one woman who could actually stand up to John Wayne on the big screen. The two actors were like magic on the screen together, and that is how I view the relationship Cuff has with Rosie. They are both caught up in something scary that they do not understand, but neither will slow down one iota in their quest for justice.
I actually found myself falling in love with the character Rosie, Cuff’s girl. She is sexy, independent, and flippant, and I thoroughly enjoyed creating the repartee between her and her boyfriend, Cuff. Both characters are people I would love to know. I was sad to have them leave my computer and move to their new home on Amazon Kindle. I miss interacting with them on a daily basis. I never quite knew what they would say or do, and I loved seeing them cope with their circumstances and evolve as people.
Yes, the setting, the local color, the mystery, and the characters all combined to give me a good read as I wrote the book. In fact, being the reader that I am as I write, I was sorry to see the book come to an end.