Category Archives: Literary Endeavors

Free Stuff!

In a blatant attempt to get people interested in The Blue Silence: Murder New Orleans Style, I’m posting forensic scientist Sean McKinney’s first adventure, A Trace of Gold, on Wattpad. The first six chapters are up. I’ll post the rest, three at a time, over the coming weeks. You can read them at

And, to sweeten the deal, I’m putting the audiobook version of Kiddieland and other misfortunes up on Soundcloud. The first two stories are up. You can listen to them at

To quote my favorite promoter, Stan Lee, “Excelsior!”

Marketing Sucks

Well, I’m working on marketing. I had to make some decisions about getting reviews. There are plenty of places to buy reviews, but they’re expensive, and I don’t know how much weight they carry with readers. Maybe with booksellers? Anyway, I sent ARCs of The Blue Silence to the publications that gave good reviews to Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold (NOTE: soon to be reissued as A Trace of Gold). This list includes Mystery Scene, Foreword Reviews, EQMM, AHMM, and Booklist. I also sent ARCs to Crimespree and The Strand. I also have a list of mystery fiction blogs, like Auntie M, that I’m working my way through.

Bublish tweets out excerpts of your work to their followers, some of whom retweet. New users pay about $80/yr. I’m trying it, but the jury’s still out on Bublish.

NetGalley serves up a complete galley of your novel to librarians and other industry professionals who request it. It’s expensive, but there’s a discount to members of the Independent Book Publishers Association. Since I’m publishing through Ingram Spark I get a free trial membership in the IBPA. I’m giving NetGalley a shot, too.

Closer to the publication date I’ll contact librarians and bookstores. After publication I’ll try GoodReads and Amazon give-aways.

This stuff is a time suck.

I just want to write.


Throwback Thursday

Here’s a 2013 piece from Janet Rudolph’s “Mystery Readers Journal”

Sweet Home, Chicago

I got up early for a run along the lake, but the alewives had washed up along the shore and the air smelled like dead fish, so I headed home. It didn’t matter; we were going to the Art Institute to load up on culture and I hadn’t shaved or showered. By the time I got back Ellen had coffee made—the thick black stuff that’s her specialty. I tossed it down while I got dressed.

Parking in the Loop costs about as much as a kidney transplant these days so we parked near Wrigley Field and took the EL downtown. Michigan Avenue was bustling. It was the start of tourist season and a few panhandlers were working the crowd. I recognized one of the guys selling papers near a group of bucket drummers and slipped him a deuce before we hurried past the stone lions and up the museum steps. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the world’s best art museums. No matter how many times I visit, I’m always blown away by the beauty and variety of the collection. We haunted the impressionist galleries for a bit, wandered through the modern wing, then headed out walking past Daley Plaza which, in the famous words of Blues Brother Jake is “where they got that Picasso.”

The EL clickety-clacked us back, past Lincoln Park, to our car. I must have missed the street cleaning sign when I parked because the wind-shield was wallpapered with tickets. I crammed them into the glove compartment and drove us up to Devon Avenue for some aloo gobi and spicy fish curry. That’s the thing about Chicago; with all the ethnic neighborhoods you can get any kind of food you want. The popular meme is that hot dogs and deep-dish pizza are our signature foods. Bull. Chicago has everything from fancy French to tasty tapas to south side soul food. It’s a city rich in diversity of people and culture.

I suppose we should have gone home after our feast, but we were in the mood for some electric blues, so we headed south to Svengoolie’s adopted hometown, Berwyn. There’s a little blockhouse tavern on Harlem Avenue that serves up cheap beer and smokin’ hot blues bands. We pushed our way past the regulars and grabbed the last two seats at the bar. The guy on the stool next to mine kept falling asleep on my shoulder, and someone behind me kept bumping my elbow but I didn’t care. There was a woman on stage who was making her guitar wail like she had made a pact with the devil. No human should be able to play that fast and clean.

After the second set we figured it was time to pack it in; we both had to work in the morning. Ellen would be clocking in at the crime lab to analyze gunshot residue kits from the weekends gang shootings. I’d be facing a room full of tired city college students; each one hoping to land a career that pays better than the crappy fast food joints and retail shops they currently work in.

Ellen likes to call Chicago the Paris of the Midwest. The native Algonquian speakers called it the place of the wild onions. The white-picket-fence crowd out in the suburbs think of it as a crime ridden cesspool to be braved once a year when the shop windows are decked out for Christmas, but Chicago is my Calliope. She was an inspiration for my first novel, and is as important to the story as any of the human characters. Sure, she’s got plenty of problems—violent crime, poverty, and a long history of corrupt politicians, but hey, what better muse for a mystery writer?

Proof Of Concept

After converting both the interior and cover files to PDF format, according to Spark’s instructions, I uploaded the files. Spark sent e-proofs by email. The first thing I noticed was, because I had done my own line edits, I missed a HUGE error. In the transition from Microsoft Word to Adobe inDesign all my italic formats were lost. Doh! I had to reformat the book and upload a revised PDF of the interior. Every time you upload a revision it costs $25. The new proofs looked fine, so I ordered 50 ARCs to send out to reviewers. With shipping and handling the 50 copies cost $254.56. Spark lets you choose a release date, and I chose October 31 (Halloween), a decent length of time when I first selected it, but now Halloween seems right around the corner! Next up: compiling a list of reviewers and begging for reviews.

Will Self-Publishing Give Me Hairy Palms?

I’ve decided to self-publish the sequel to my crime novel about forensic scientist Sean McKinney. A friend from Mystery Writers of America asked if I would keep him updated as I go through the steps. Well, I figure if I post the info: A. more people can learn from my mistakes and 2. maybe it’ll help generate a little pre-publication interest in the book, which by-the-way is called “The Blue Silence” and is set, mostly, in New Orleans.

I finished writing the book last summer and sent it to a couple of beta readers and proofread it myself at least a dozen times. I’ve been teaching writing for nine years now, so I felt I could skip paying an editor, but I bet I’ll regret that decision. If any of you read the book and find mistakes, let me know and win a valuable prize (valuable as defined by me).

So, some software choices: I work on a Mac and have an old iPad Mini that I carry around for when I want to write during lunch. I wrote the manuscript in Word (converting from Apple Pages on the iPad). I have older versions of a couple of Adobe programs, Photoshop and inDesign, from my days as a graphic designer (after I left the crime lab). I used inDesign to layout the book and Photoshop to design the cover. I bought a photograph from and a cool font from I had previously self-published my short story collection, “Kiddieland and other misfortunes,” using Ingram Spark ( and was satisfied with the print quality and, of course, their distribution network (Ingram), so I figured I’d go with them again.

My first steps after laying out the book and designing the cover were to purchase ISBN numbers and get a Library of Congress Control Number. For the ISBN I used Bowker. You can find them at my I also purchased the bar code for the back cover there. You will need to know a few things, like how much your book will retail for and have a short synopsis, bio, and metadata keywords ready. The Ingram Spark web site has calculators to help you decide on pricing. I’m publishing both print and eBook and decided on $12.00 for print and 4.99 for eBook.

Ah yes, the eBook… I paid a “professional” to crank out the code for the “Kiddieland” eBook and was disappointed. There were glitches generated by his software that only showed up on Kindle, lines breaking funny (ha ha) and other embarrassingly amateurish mistakes. This time I’m making my own amateurish mistakes and saving a couple hundred dollars. Apple Pages lets you break text into sections that are searchable in an eReader, but it doesn’t handle images well. I copied and pasted my text from inDesign into Pages, broke the chapters into sections, and exported an ePub file. I ran this through an online code verifier, Epub Validator, at This told me exactly what sections and LINES contained invalid code. After that I imported the ePub file into a program called Calibre, which shows you each page and its code simultaneously and updates the page in real time as you fix the code. I had to do a little research into XHTML specs, but I like doing research. BTW—when you open your ePub file in Calibre be sure to turn off the automatic code fixer thingy or it’ll break your paragraphs in that funny (ha ha) way that my “professional” coder did.

Next: Outputting files according to Spark specs and uploading. Wow!

Printers Row Lit Fest Is This Weekend!

I’ll be book-signing Saturday at Printers Row Lit Fest. 10-12 am at the Society of Midland Authors tent and 2:30-4 pm at the Mystery Writers of America tent. No, I don’t have a new book out this year, but if you’re in the area, stop by to say hi. Listen to some of the great speakers. Eat some unhealthy food. Check out the used book stalls. Read more books!

Printers Row Lit Fest Schedule

Meet Nero Wolfe Writer, Robert Goldsborough

Here’s a subtle reminder—this Saturday at 1:00 I’ll be signing copies of my novel and short story collection at the Village Crossing Barnes & Noble.
“Big deal,” you say. “If I went to the Orlando Barnes & Noble I could meet Toni Tennille. Besides, I still can’t figure out how to use this damn NOOK.”
Maybe so, but it’s a long drive to Orlando, and if you come to Village Crossing you can meet Nero Wolfe Writer, Robert Goldsborough, check out his latest mystery, and get NOOKified, all at the same time.
Plus, it’s B&N’s Educator Appreciation Day, so all you K-12 teachers can swing by for a little much-needed appreciation.
And, to sweeten the deal, the first ten people to say hello will receive, absolutely free, no purchase necessary, a colorful character bandaid to proudly wear on the skin area of your choice. Impress your friends!