Thursday, August 28, 2008

Richard Laermer can kiss my young ass

So Richard Laermer wrote this post on HuffPo which he'll have you believe is a missive on what's wrong with publishing (and how he can fix it, despite the fact that it's more a missive about how publishing doesn't work for him). Now, I'm not going to take umbrage with most of what Mr. Laermer says. Having worked in publishing, he has some valid criticisms. But it's this passage that irks the ever loving hell out of me and cannot be left unanswered:

Who's in charge here? How can a 22-year-old editor bid on a book? What does a post-graduate $32,000-a-year fresh-out know what will hit with the public? Why does this frequently appear to be a case of the nuthouse leaving the inmates to decide! People in publishing (except those that are up top and doing well) are not really supervised, but there are tons a folks who say, "I have to make sure they are in charge of these decisions." Adorable when they were six and playing with the Easy Bake Oven.

Let's set the record straight here, Rich. I'm not sure you're aware of this but 22 year olds are members of the freaking public. Their age group drives media and entertainment more than just about any demographic. I was 23 when I bought my first book as an editor. Know why I wanted to buy it? Three simple reasons: 1) I love movies, 2) I love unintentional comedy, 3) as a member of the public, I thought other people (i.e. other members of the public) might enjoy a book about unintentionally hilarious movies. And the very first book I acquired at the ripe old age of twenty three--THE OFFICIAL RAZZIE MOVIE GUIDE--hit the Los Angeles Times bestseller list.

And I don't know who exactly you think is unsupervised, but unless you run your own imprint, every editor has to run their submissions by half a dozen people or more. Now, those people don't all need to love what you have in, but they have to understand why you love it. And if those young editors can show their superiors why they believe in a book and why it will appeal to others, they'll have the chance to buy it. And rightfully so.

Young editors buy books that will appeal to their generation, people who think like them and enjoy what they do. Who should buy these kind of books that appeal to the Judd Apatow crowd? Middle aged marketers? Yeah, they're a great judge of what the public really wants. Oh, and newsflash, young people read. Maybe not the same books you read (I guess somebody needs to keep the 'Business Books' section in airports thriving), but most young people have pretty eclectic tastes and can tell a good book from a bad book. What, you need a PhD to say, "ooh, I like this book and I think other people might too"? You can argue that twenty two year olds might not have the same tools to edit a book as someone with twenty years of experience, but whether you like something or not doesn't depend on how long your 401k has been active. Good young editors read a book they like and let their colleagues know about it. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong. Just like those "up top and doing well," only perhaps on a smaller scale.

Now, let's look at a couple of these "inmates" who, according to you, should be playing with E-Z Bake Ovens until their social security kicks in:

Shawn Fanning: Invented Napster at the ripe old age of 19. Changed the music business forever.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page: Invented Google at 25 (maybe by 25 they could have graduated to Tonka Trucks).

Mark Zuckerberg: Launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room at the age of 19. Changed the face of social networking.

Again, I'm not criticizing your entire post (aside from the fact that every one of your points has been stated by people with much more proactive solutions to the problems). Many of the points are valid, and publishers will be forced to deal with many of them over the next decade.

But let's also be honest--your post is not so much a criticism of the publishing industry as a thinly veiled plug for your book(s) and defense of your marketing genius. Again not necessarily a criticism (you're more than entitled to plug your work), but don't fly it under a different flag. You know what most young people have a pretty developed sense of? B.S. And Richard, calling a book PUNK MARTKETING shows how out of touch you are since using the word "Punk" to describe anything rebellious is about thirty years too late.

And what does the starting salary of an editorial assistant have to do with anything? According to your website bio, you started working as a newspaper reporter in 1979. I may be wrong, but I'm guessing you weren't exactly rolling in dough at that point. Know what? I'm also willing to bet you were pretty darn happy. I'd rather be a twenty two year old making $32,000 a year with my whole life ahead of me than a bitter man who forgot what it was like to be young, idealistic and passionate.

And by the way, my starting salary as an editorial assistant was $30,000.
Jason Pinter

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday BSP 

Check out the transcript of my chat at DetectToday. We talk about the Henry Parker novels, how much Henry has in common with traditional PIs, what I'm currently working on, and which New Jersey author I most enjoy spending time with on an airplane (it's not who you think).

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This is America

"My mother was born before women could vote. This year, my daughter was able to vote for her mother for President."
--Hillary Clinton

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why You Should Only Listen to Bad Reviews

Every now and then I get an email from an aspiring author asking for advice, whether it's on writing, publishing, getting an agent, or just general inquiries. Every so often someone emails me their manuscript in the hopes I'll read and critique it. Though common sense says to ignore unsolicited manuscripts (on the off chance the sender will claim I stole from them), I'd be lying if I said I didn't open one or two out of curiosity. 

The other day I got an email from a man who wanted my advice. He'd published a novel through a vanity press (my words, not his). The press told him that they required he hire a freelance editor before they would accept his manuscript for "publication." He did just that, then when the freelancer's job was complete he paid the press for the right to publish his book as well. He told me that in a little over a year, he'd spent over a thousand dollars publishing his book and had not received a dime in compensation. In his own words, his book needed to begin paying him rather than the other way around.

I wrote back and gave him my honest thoughts on vanity presses (they're financial sinkholes, useful only if you want to see your book bound, not to make a living or attract publishers/agents), as well as advice on the publishing process, resources on how to find an agent, and the like. He told me he'd sent the book to many agents after realizing the vanity press wasn't the path to riches. He said the most common rejection he got was that the book was not edited thoroughly enough. He also told me that at this point he refused to edit the book any further because everyone who read it told him it was a "good book." It was the fault of the publishing establishment for failing to recognize the book's virtues. When I asked him who "everyone" was, he said 1) the freelancer he hired, and 2) the people at the vanity press.

That's when I opened the file he sent me. I didn't need to read past the first page to see what the agents were talking about. Plot and character aside, there were innumerable spelling errors. Grammatical mistakes. Changes of tense and voice. In short, unless things changed dramatically after page 1, this was not a "good book" and would not last five minutes on an agent or editor's desk.

This post is not to single out this guy (perhaps he's capable of writing a good book) but to point out the psychological fallacy of being complimented. As painful as bad reviews are--trust me, they're like a punch to the gut that lasts for hours--when it comes to honing your craft, they do far more for you than any positive review. The moment you start believing people who tell you that you do something well, you become complacent. Your work no longer needs the same diligence. When you once wrote six drafts, now you're writing three. 

Bad reviews can be harsh, but they often point things out that, if corrected, could make your work better. I've read a few negative reviews of my work that, despite that stomach punch feeling, were accurate in their criticisms. This is not to say that you should heed a review that states, "You suck and should never write again", but rather look at the reviews which contain constructive criticisms. Maybe a character's motivation wasn't as clear as it was in your mind. Maybe your research wasn't as comprehensive as you thought. Perhaps someone will let you know they thought a plot twist was unbelievable, or a section ran on too long. These kind of bad reviews will make your future works better. 

I appreciate every single person who's read and liked my books and cherish the letters from people who have taken the time to tell me that. Those letters can make your day and confirm that those hundreds and hundreds of hours spent hunched over a keyboard are worth it. But every author knows you can receive 99 letters from people who loved your book, yet it's the one person who lets you know they hated it that will really stick with you.

A bad review is like a rejection letter in many ways. It stings like hell, but it can also help you focus. Obviously this guy I'm talking about is an extreme example of this psychological fallacy. He was being buttered up by people he was literally paying, the very definition of "yes men." But most writers do not go to conferences, or read literary blogs, or have subscriptions to Publishers Marketplace. Once you're published you have no choice but to learn the tricks of the trade on the job. Before they're published, most authors simply don't know what questions to ask. 

I can't tell you how many times, as both an author and an editor, somebody told me they knew their book was good because either a friend or family member told them so. These days, with innumerable resources available to writers, I tell people there's no excuse to be ignorant either about the publishing process or the writing profession. Just like you don't build a house by grabbing kindling from your backyard, you shouldn't publish a book using only advice from those closest to you. Venture a little farther out, and you'll find wood for a much sturdier frame.

Every writer needs unbiased critiques. When you're published, your editor and agent will likely do that for you. Sometimes you'll get lucky and have a friend or relative who can do this, but not often. Your best bet is to find writing groups or critique partners. Or, best of all, edit your own stuff. If you have the tools to write, you have the tools to edit. Writing a book doesn't need to cost more than a pen and paper. Writing a good book, however, will cost a little pride. But if you want to be good, you'll swallow a healthy amount of it and ask for more.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Shield: Episode Guide

Season 1

Episode 6: Cherrypoppers
The discovery of an underage hooker--found in similar circumstances as several others--lends weight to Dutch's serial killer theory. Aceveda gives Dutch the resources to go after the killer, which includes the Strike team. Vic refuses to answer to Dutch, and leaves to solve the case on his own. Dutch: "People here see me as a joke. They don't know the real me." Claudette, joking: "I don't think the department is ready for the real you." (she doesn't know how right she is...)

Vic follows the dead hooker's trail to an underage sex club (in one of the most disturbing scenes in the whole series). Meanwhile Julien contacts Internal Affairs about Mackey's stolen drugs, to the chagrin of Danny who is upset that Julien won't keep quiet to help other officers. Mackey busts up the sex club, pissing off Dutch who feels Mackey is doing his own thing while everyone else searches for the killer. Yet when Vic and Dutch brace the club's owner (by forcing her to watch a snuff film involving the victim), Dutch finally sees the dead girl as a human, not just a case. Dutch: "The asshole who made her do that..." Vic: "Don't worry. He's mine." Dutch: "Good."

Dutch ends up barking up the wrong tree thanks to a practical joke gone wrong, while Vic responds to a distress call from Connie who's killed one of her johns she mistakenly thought was the killer. Vic nearly turns her in, but she convinces him that unless he helps her she'll lose her son. So he does, but not without them both getting a few bruises.

A riot at a high school leads Aceveda to pull extra units off the serial killer, which leads to Dutch losing his cool and embarrassing Danny in front of the squad. Vic gives Dutch some needed moral support, but the FBI cautions that serial killers can take years to be found. Danny confronts Vic over the stolen drugs, and his non-answer tells her everything. But when she arrives home to find a contrite Dutch, grilled cheese solves even the most hurt feelings.

Episode 7: Pay in Pain
A mass Latino gang shooting leads assistant chief Gilroy to bring the Strike team in to assist the lead cop, who used to be a member of the gang who was targeted. Vic tracks down the  M.I.A. janitor (who turns out to be innocent), but Shane gets carried away and beats up the janitor's friend, yet again putting Shane at odds with Vic. 

Dutch's obsession with the serial killer grows, so Claudette makes him work on some "low priority" cases to clear his mind and keep the citizenry happy. Yet when the suspect turns out to be a white man targeting Hispanics, the Hispanic citizenry is outraged. Julien gives his statement to Internal Affairs, which officially begins to investigate Vic, who's pulled away to another mass Hispanic shooting before he can review the accusations.

Shane's detective work leads them to a suspect, but when they storm the suspect's house the Strike team finds his parents dead and his wife and son missing. Despite the protestations of a Hispanic community leader, Vic braces the family member of a dead victim, who admits to knocking the suspect out and handing him over to a Latino gang for retribution. The gang took it too far, though, killing the suspect's parents and assaulting his wife. Thankfully they manage to save the wife and son.

Gilroy learns about IA's case against Vic, and tries to compel Vic to give up Shane as a sacrificial lamb. Vic refuses when he learns that Julien is the star witness. And since he knows Vic will try to weasel out of it, Aceveda hands the IA case against Vic over to the Hispanic community leader in the hopes of publicly shaming Vic and being perceived as a cop fighting corruption. Later that night, just as Julien and Tomas are about to get a little closer, Vic busts in with a warrant for Tomas's arrest. "Don't worry," Vic says with a sneer, "I'm sure your boyfriend will lock up."

Episode 8: Cupid & Psycho
Danny and Julien chase down a suspect on the highway, only to open the trunk and find a charred almost corpse. Aceveda's leaked story makes front page news, forcing them to tone down the Strike team's actions for the time being by reassigning them to the regular detective pool. That means Shane goes with Dutch, and Vic goes with Claudette. Fun times.

Vic and Claudette head to the emergency room to speak to the crispy victim's friends, and they find out he was burned in a meth lab explosion. According to the doctors they've been getting meth ODs in all week. Put two and two together, and they realize someone's been dealing bad meth that's killing people.

Meanwhile an attractive widow comes to the barn to find out why nobody's been looking into her husband's year old murder. Shane and Dutch take the case, with Shane fully intent on '"easing her grief." Vic threatens to file the arrest warrant for Tomas--including the circumstances in which he was found--unless Julien changes his testimony. Rather than be outed, Julien agrees. This causes Aceveda to throw a fit, since he was planning to ride the headlines and scandal to the city council.

Vic and Claudette find out the bad meth was distributed at a fraternity initiation, and dealt by a sleazeball named Manny Sandoval. They arrest Sandoval, but are forced to cut a deal since he's the only one who knows where the bad drugs are being kept. Sandoval is released, but we haven't seen the last of him. Corinne Mackey convinces Vic to put Matt in a special ed school, which will cost $25,000 a year. Money the family can't afford to spend.

Danny and Julien make several calls to a see-sawing love triangle, which ends the only way things do in Farmington--in bloodshed.

Episode 9: Throwaway
A spate of truck hijackings leads the Strike team to knock on the door of a known gang member. Inside they find a girl and a guy, and when the guy runs and then turns suddenly, Lem shoots him. Vic, assuming they caught the suspect, plants a gun on him to justify Lem's shooting. But it turns out that the guy is the suspect's brother, a former gang member gone clean. Lem is distraught, and now the team must both find the real jacker, protect the girl, and make the bogus charges against the brother go away. Lem agrees to protect her.

Note: Lem has been a relatively minor character up to this point, and this episode is the first time we see that he's the only member of the Strike team with a fully developed conscience who wants nothing more than to be a cop by the book. Lem simply lost his way at some point but, like the ex-gang member, has learned the error of his ways. Of course as we learn later on, conscience is a killer.

Claudette's family comes for a visit, and Dutch enjoys her father's willingness to discuss Claudette's childhood. And when she meets her daughter's new boyfriend, Claudette isn't above using the interrogation room for a different kind of suspect. Vic attempts to make amends with Julien, but Julien is having none of it.

Vic and the team hijack the evidence van posing as gang members in order to get the charges dropped against the innocent brother. And when they plant the purloined gun in the hands of the real truck hijacker, all's well that ends well.

Episode 10: Dragonchasers
Vic's wife is having a hard time dealing with the kids by herself while Vic is working, and their marriage is feeling the strain. And when Connie's mother dies, leaving the hooker/crack addict to take care of her young son by herself, Vic decides it's time for an intervention and locks her in a room with the supplies to get clean.

The Strike team is taking down a ring of strippers who take their johns into a back alley for a quickie, then have an accomplice clock them and steal their money. Shane is used as a decoy to catch the duo, but of course thinks the stripper was actually into him. "She was rubbing her ass against my hand. They don't just do that for everyone." Lem finds out that the stripper was the ringleader, and planned the whole scheme. Shane, however, is seduced by the woman ("Is there anything I can put on the table?"), and ends up having to turn her loose or else face charges of misconduct. 

Danny and Julien catch a guy pleasuring himself in an alley, but let him go with a warning. Yet when Dutch catches wind of it and realizes the alley was just blocks from the last hooker murder, he wonders if perhaps they've stumbled onto the real killer.

Julien's aloofness leads to Danny being attacked by an HIV positive transvestite prostitute, and in his anger Julien joins with other cops to give the hooker a 'blanket party,' a severe beating with their batons. Julien beats the transvestite nearly to death, taking out his frustrations with his own sexual confusion. Connie escapes from detox, gets her fix, leaving her infant son with Vic.

Dutch finds that the suspected serial killer is also an armchair profiler, and he works up a profile of Dutch that's almost to a T. The other cops watch on the monitor laughing at Dutch being torn apart mentally...until Dutch corners the suspect and gets him to confess to 23 murders. Dutch leaves the station to a standing ovation, gets into his car, and cries. One of the most powerful episodes of the series.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

THE SHIELD: Season 1

"The Shield" is currently my favorite show on tv, and on September 2nd the final season begins. So here's an episode guide, with notable moments, interesting bits, and my favorite quotes. If you haven't seen "The Shield," spoilers will be abound.

Episode 1: Pilot
Here we're introduced to the fictional California city of Farmington, a cesspool inhabited by drugs, gangs, prostitutes, and every scumbag known to man. Detective Vic Mackey leads a special forces unit called the Strike team, whose job is primarily gang control, but extends to every corner of the city. Since the Strike team got on the scene, crime in Farmington has gone down. But many people, including new captain David Aceveda, wonder if Mackey crosses the line to keep the peace.

In the debut episode, we meet the other members of the team: the stoic Curtis 'Lem' Lemansky, tech expert Ronnie Gardocki, and the wild card Shane Vendrell. Right off the bat we learn that Vic has supporters in the department that go higher than captain Aceveda, namely assistant chief Ben Gilroy, so Vic's accusations of brutality are often overlooked because the team gets the job done. We also meet the barn's other main residents: officer Danielle 'Danny' Sofer, a good cop who has a hard time balancing being a woman while trying to be one of the guys, her partner, untested rookie Julien Lowe, no nonsense Claudette Wymns, and the brilliant yet socially awkward Holland 'Dutch' Wagonbach.

Dutch's awkwardness is established early on, as are his tremendous interrogative skills, but also his feeling that every case closed is merely another notch on his belt, padding his resume. Mackey constantly gives Dutch a hard time, as he has a camaraderie with the rest of the squad that Dutch does not. Newcomer to the Strike team, Terry Crowley, is approached by Aceveda and the Justice department in order to bring down Vic. We learn that Aceveda has ambitions that go beyond the police department. Says Terry, "You want to be Mayor, you better learn to lie a lot better." Terry accepts the deal, but is quickly sniffed out by Vic. The scene at Vic's pool party where Terry asks to be included more is poignant, as we see Vic slowly realizing that Terry has been compromised. Vic plays dumb...for now.

At the end of the episode, Vic commits the Original Sin that will follow him the rest of the series: during a raid on a drug dealer's apartment Vic shoots Terry in the head while Shane watches.

Episode 2: Our gang
Terry dies, and the squad mourns him. Danny scolds Julien who didn't show up to the hospital, and we see Julien's difficulty in understanding what it takes to be a cop in Farmington. Julien: "I didn't even know the guy." Danny: "He was a cop. That means you knew him." Julien is also given a 'B&B' by the other cops as an initiation, and his reluctance hints at other, larger issues. Vic's team is investigated in Terry's death but soon cleared, to the chagrin of Aceveda who thinks someone informed Vic about Terry's deal. Shane expresses regret over Terry's death, and Vic is distressed by his young son's Matt's compulsive behavior. Wyms and Dutch investigate the shooting of a street vendor, who turns out to be the victim of a gang initiation rite of passage. We see the tip of the iceberg as to just how entrenched in Farmington gangs are, and the pride the members take in their cold violence. Aceveda tries to get Shane to admit that Vic killed Terry, but Vic interrupts. As "A Man is Only as Good as His Word" plays, Vic leaves with Shane, offering Aceveda a smirk that says he'll always be one step ahead. Butno matter how noble Vic thinks his motives may be, his word is forever tainted.

Episode 3: The Spread
It's warrant sweep time, and during a drug bust the Strike team happen to find NBA superstar Derek Tripp in a compromising position, and look to capitalize financially on their find. Connie Riesler, a hooker who works as an informant for Vic, gets assaulted and Vic needs Dutch and Claudette's help finding her attacker. Connie is a soft spot for Vic, as we're exposed to his paternal and protective nature. We also get a glimpse of Shane's racism and reckless nature, as his intolerance for Tripp (who has everything Shane does not) leads the two to scuffle. Tripp: "Too bad you can't make a jump shot." Vic scolds Shane, because though he and Shane are both dirty, Vic is smart and calculating while Shane is sloppy and impetuous. Aceveda is on to Vic, but must placate Tripp's attorney (his rephrasing of Vic's "snorkle deep" comment is pretty funny). Dutch investigates Connie's attack, but speculates that a recent rise in hooker murders is due to a serial killer, which leads him to press too hard on the schizophrenic suspect. Everyone laughs his theory off, and we see Dutch's desire to solve a big case to make more of a name for himself. Says Claudette, "You're just looking for something big and juicy." Julien meets Tomas Motyashik, who thinks he recognizes Julien from a West Hollywood gay nightclub. Julien: "You've got the wrong guy." But his eyes tell the truth.

Episode 4: Dawg Days
Danny and Lem are working security at the album release party for rapper Kern Little (Sticky Fingaz), when gunshots are fired by a rival rapper T-Bonz's posse. Vic braces Kern's gunman Rondell Robinson, whose drug business is financed by Kern. Rondell leaves his dealers on the street despite Vic's warning, which leads to several deaths including that of a young boy whose family knows the mayor. And when Rondell's thugs try to intimidate Danny, who witnessed the shooting, Vic hits Rondell where it hurts most: his wallet. Vic then tries to moderate an end to the war between Kern and T-Bonz before more blood is shed. Julien learns a former classmate was killed robbing a liquor store, and we begin to see how difficult it was for him to take a different path than most black men in his community. Aceveda meets with Jorge Machado, a wealthy developer whose influence can help with the captain's budding political career. But only in exchange for a favor, for which Aceveda assigns Dutch and Claudette to look into the disappearance of Machado's maid's husband, an illegal immigrant. Dutch's pitiful attempts to speak to the laborers in Spanish is rightfully mocked. Aceveda expresses his desire to run for city council. "With your backing, I could win that seat. I could be of great use to you." As the war between Kern and T-Bonz escalates, Vic decides to mediate things by locking them both in a trailer and letting them work things out the old fashioned way. And when Kern leaves the next day, alone and covered in his rival's blood, Vic's offer for food shows that he's finally met a gangster he can relate to.

Episode 5: Blowback
The Strike team prepares to bust up an Armenian drug deal, but realize that their wire tap has taped people whose first language is not English. Vic: "Huh. The Armenians speak...Armenian." Tomas shows up at the Barn unexpectedly, and Julien ushers him away to protect his secret life. Aceveda sends a backup squad to support the Strike team in their takedown of the Armenians (including Ken Davitian of "Borat", and the show's own co-producer Kurt Sutter, in his first appearance as psycho Margos Dezerian), but the captain's real goal is to establish authority over Vic. During the takedown, Julien witnesses the Strike team stealing two kilos of cocaine, but doesn't know how to handle the info. Shane leaves with the stolen drugs, but after a late night booty call realizes the SUV he left the loot in got jacked, exacerbating the team's mistrust of Shane. Lemansky: "We're all gonna crash and burn because of you. I mean Christ dude, Amy's not even that hot!" After stonewalling Dutch and Claudette, Dezerian compliments Danny's feet, a seemingly innocuous comment that foreshadows the violence to come. Vic and the team try to hunt down the stolen SUV before Aceveda finds it, and when they find the drugs, courtesy of a female car thief (who knows a little too much about police procedure), Vic spends an extra moment staring into the mirror after flushing the drugs down the toilet, as the depth of his deceptions are finally starting to sink in. Not to mention the news that Margos has escaped from custody by diving out of a moving vehicle at 40 mph--while wearing handcuffs. Claudette: "That's a special kind of crazy." Add to that Vic's discovery of Matt's autism, and he's had a pretty rough day. Thankfully there's an open bed waiting for him. No, not his wife...Danny Sofer.

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Review of Alafair Burke's ANGEL'S TIP book launch

A few days ago, the Killer Year folks received a request to review Alafair Burke's new Elle Hatcher novel, ANGEL'S TIP. Since we don't post reviews on the Killer Year blog, we politely declined. I went to Alafair's launch event last night at the Tribeca Barnes & Noble, and I figured if we couldn't review her book, I should at least review her signing. So here we go:

I arrived at the store at about 6:40 and walked around for a few minutes, soon bumping into fellow crime writer and forensic pathologist Jonathan Hayes. Jonathan was kind enough to offer some help with forensic research for my next Henry Parker novel. I first met him at ThrillerFest. He's an exceedingly nice guy, so Alafair already gets points for her good taste in fans.

We eventually wandered over to the signing area, which was slowly filling up to max capacity. I met Alafair's publicist, saw her agent and a few other publishing folks and authors, and by the time the event started the signing area was standing room only. Points for Alafair's drawing power. Points subtracted because I stupidly finished my iced coffee before the event started and I was thirsty.

After a brief intro by the bookseller, Alafair came onstage accompanied by Lee Child. In an interesting twist, rather than conducting a traditional reading, Lee agreed to interview Alafair about her books. Alafair wore a black blouse (was it a blouse? I'm not good with fashion) and Lee wore a cool Vic Mackey-esque black leather jacket. Points subtracted because they both wore the same color. I think that's some sort of fashion faux pas.

Lee began the interview by asking Alafair about her career, and why she chose to switch protagonists (from Samantha Kincaid to Elle Hatcher). Alafair offered good answers, discussing how she reached a crossroads at a certain point in the fourth Kincaid novel which led her to go in a different direction, and went into detail about how her two lead characters differed. Said Alafair, "I didn't want Elle to just be a blond Samantha." Points for her ability to create two distinctly different lead characters in two very different settings (New York and Portland). Points subtracted because Samantha Kincaid isn't good at taking care of her dog.

They also discussed a scene in a recent Reacher novel where Jack meets a prosecutor named Samantha in Portland (hint hint) and has a few nights of romance (wa wa wee wa) with her. Points because the perpetually broke Reacher paid for the pizza.

Alafair discussed why her law background made it a necessity to get all the details right in her books, and how personal experience aided in the writing of the first Hatcher novel, DEAD CONNECTION. Points for her candidness. Points subtracted because, despite what Alafair said, no husband is ever difficult. Cough.

After Lee finished with his grilling, they took questions from the crowd. Alafair pointed out a bunch of her former students (she's a tenured law professor) in the audience. She also discussed the difficulty of being Professor Burke in the classroom, and Alafair Burke the author in public. Points because I went through a similar thing while juggling editing and writing. Points subtracted because she undoubtedly handled it better than I did.

Once the Q&A was finished, Alafair and Lee signed copies of their books. Points subtracted because each row was called up individually, like we were boarding an airplane. Points added because Alafair signed my book with a funny inscription.

Final Grade: Lee Child was an engaging and witty interviewer, and Alafair's answers were always interesting and provocative. This was a nice change of pace from the traditional reading/signing, and it made me want to read ANGEL'S TIP. So my final grade for Alafair's event is an A

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Catching Up

I'm back in town after a week in Israel, and trying to get over some severe jet lag (we were asleep by 9:00 last night). Needless to say Israel was a far different experience than my last time in the country fifteen years ago (this time I didn't have to memorize a Torah portion, and a plate of Chinese food was not dumped on my lap by a family member). The wedding was a wonderful affair, and we spent lots of time on the beach and seeing historic sites in Haifa and Tel Aviv. I even got yelled at by a Rabbi at the Western Wall (for donating money to the synagogue, but not enough money). A sincere thanks for the hospitality of my generous hosts, you know who you are!

Thanks to everyone who came out to my signings recently. This Thursday I'll be signing copies of THE STOLEN at the world famous Murder by the Book, alongside fellow Killer Year mates Marcus Sakey and Dave White. Then on Friday, I'll be in Clinton, NJ for a signing at the Clinton Book Shop with Dave (again) and Duane Swierczynzki.

Anywho...a few pieces of press to catch up on:

Jason Boog was kind enough to come to the Borders signing and videotape some of it for The Publishing Spot. I also participated in his feature, "Five Easy Questions." They certainly didn't allow for easy answers. 

I did a podcast interview for eHarlequin, which can be listened to here.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday, then away...

Today at 4:00 I'll be on a crime fiction panel with Harry Hunsicker and Reed Farrell Coleman at the Backspace Writers Conference. I stopped by the conference today and was very impressed with the attendees. They've come prepared with great questions, so if there are aspiring crime writers hopefully we'll teach them a thing or two. Or at least offer them a chair to fall asleep in.

After that I'll be heading over to the Barnes & Noble on Court Street in Brooklyn to read and sign copies of THE STOLEN at 7:00 pm. I'll be thrilled to meet any Brooklynites who come by. Thanks to everyone who came by Borders the other night. We sold out, and had a great Q&A session.

On Saturday I leave for a Israel, my first time in the country since I was thirteen years old. My wife's cousin is getting married in Haifa, so we'll be spending a few days there before traveling to Tel Aviv. It should be a very interesting trip, and I'm eager to see the country for the first time as an adult. I'm also thinking about what tv shows/movies to download for my iPod for the 12 hour plane ride. Suggestions are welcome...

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

First NYC Signing...Tonight!!!

If you live in the NYC area, or have a bunch of spare miles, please stop by the first Manhattan signing for THE STOLEN. Deets* are below:
*I've been informed that 'Deets' is the new hip slang for 'Details' that all the kids are using

Wednesday, August 6th
7:00 pm
Borders Books
576 Second Avenue (at 32nd st.)

After the signing we'll be trekking across the street for drinks and Beer Pong at the world famous Whiskey River saloon. And who knows, you just might see Cindy McCain topless!

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

For one minute and fifty seconds, I don't hate Paris Hilton

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

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News and Notes

Library Journal chimes in on THE STOLEN:

"An intriguing mystery plagues reporter Henry Parker, who risks his career to find the truth in Pinter’s third series entry. This thriller proves truly scary as it explores every parent’s worst nightmare. It’s also great to see favorite characters back in action; the next book can’t come fast enough."

I wrote an article for John Scalzi's "The Big Idea." Check it out over here.

Plus I just received word that THE MARK has been nominated for the Salt Lake County Readers Choice Award. The nominees are chosen by the 18 libraries and over 650,000 residents of the Salt Lake area, so this is really a very cool honor. If you live in the Salt Lake area, vote early and often!!!

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Book Pimpin'

First off, today is the last day you can read THE MARK for free online. Get to it! And if you've either emailed friends/family or pasted the widget on your website, remember to email me at Now on to the good stuff...

These three books are all new to the shelves, and if you know what's good for you you'll pick them up:

This is the fourth in the Anthony Award-winning Ceepak/
Boyle mystery series, and a terrific installment at that. It practically ripped from the headlines, and if you're new to the series, Ceepak and his partner Danny Boyle are kind of like what would happen if you teamed up Jack Reacher and Stifler. A good mystery with some laughs thrown in.

The first in a great new series featuring Texas Ranger Sarah Armstrong. Yeah, you read that right, Texas Ranger (the badass law enforcement type, not the team formerly owned by George W.).

Sarah is a great new character in the mystery genre, whip smart, caustic, loyal, and better than t
he men at their own game. The Texas setting is as authentic as they come, and Casey's a star in the True Crime genre already, imbuing her debut with the kind of research that give this book an extra oopmh.

Ok, the only mystery here is why after reading this book you might wake up naked in Central Park with a receipt from the San Diego Zoo.

Alex Bash is one of the funniest writers I've ever read, and THE IMBIBLE is not only the end-all-be-all of drinking game guides, it's legitimately one of the funniest books of the year. I mean, just look at this praise:

"A stunning debut by that guy who kept us up 'til 4am with drunken choruses of Wonder Wall..." - The Sorority Next Door

"The Imbible introduces Bash as a major new talent in the genre of 'books most likely to make you run through campus naked…'" – Officer Hernandez

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

An Open Letter to John McCain

Dear Senator McCain -

Up until this week, I was undecided as to who I was going to vote for in the upcoming election. I have had great respect for you, and had you been the nominee in 2000 or 2004 there is a good chance you would have received my vote. With perhaps the most important election in decades upon us, I wanted to be sure my vote for President in 2008 was for the right candidate. I am terribly disappointed that you have made that decision easy for me.

Your below-the-belt, lowest common denominator advertisements, coupled with your campaign's recent comments towards the New York Times, have shown me that despite your exemplary past service to your country, you are a cynical, cynical politician. Wait, scratch that, Politician should be capitalized.

I am sick and tired of presidential administrations that treat Americans like idiots, and Presidents who prefer to mock those who disagree with them rather than holding their head high and showing doubters the correct and decent path. Mocking a company's financial troubles the same week in which over 50,000 Americans lost their jobs is simply demented. Whether you agree with the Times or not, many good people have lost their jobs there and at other companies due to the current economic catastrophe. In case you haven't noticed, the newspaper industry is in a crisis, and the Times is not the only organization suffering. It's nice to know you take such perverse pleasure in this. I want my President to consider the job stability and happiness of all Americans to be important, not just those who nod and smile.

If you spent nearly as much effort and "creative juices" showing us how you are going to solve the current economic problem as you have been comparing your adversary to vapid, crotch-baring, sex-tape selling celebrities, you might win over voters like me. In the end, Senator, you have proven you're just another page from the same sad book. A Politician. I'm tired of those. I was hoping you might be too.

Our president should be a person all Americans can look up to. A person who reflects the very best of us, and in us. Shouldn't the highest position in our country be manned by someone who is simply put, the very best of what the United States has to offer? Can you truly look us in the eye and say these recent actions are what we should expect from our leaders? That this is the best you have to offer? I am tired of cynicism. We need a President who can weather the storm, rather than one who mocks the rain. 

After the willful and/or ignorant deceit of the Bush administration, America needs a government willing to be transparent. This past week you have been transparent. You have shown us your true colors, Senator. And it is not a pretty sight.

Thank you for helping me make up my mind.
Jason Pinter

Friday, August 01, 2008


I can't believe I forgot to mention this until now, but the German edition of THE MARK is officially on sale today! (they've retitled it 72 STUNDEN, which translates into 72 HOURS).

Let's see what the Amazon Germany website has to say about it (from

Henry Parker came to New York to start his dream job: Reporter in one of the most famous newspapers of the land. Henry is young. Ambitiously. But his first history could kill him. In 24 hours Henry of the murder will be accused. His only prop: A courageous, but injured young woman whom he must protect from the truth. In 48 hours he will be before three men on the run who want to see him everything for different, but very personal reasons dead.

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Just Four Days Left!

Only four days left to read THE MARK for free online. Click the "Browse this Book" link below to access it.

And read this post to see how be helping to spread the word, you can be thanked in a 2009 Henry Parker novel.

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