Tuesday, October 4, 2011


My wife came home from work today and asked why I seemed to be in the dumps.

My lack of enthusiastic communication centered around a tweet this afternoon from author Brad Thor: "Please keep Vince Flynn and his family in your prayers."  It was followed by a link to Vince's website where he chillingly discussed his on-going battle with prostate cancer.

I consider Vince a friend so this hurts to see him and his family go through such a difficult period.

If this was paper, there'd be DNA from tears sprinkled on the edges.  While Vince was dealing with his illness last year, he graciously took the time to read my debut manuscript. He did so while resting and recuperating in Mexico.  Considering his situation, I was shocked that he wanted to thumb through the pages of a newbie's work.  After finishing the manuscript, he provided a blurb to help me get the process going of finding a publisher.

If Vince should read this he'll probably say, 'Why aren't you writing?'

That's what writers are supposed to do - write.  Consider this a short break then.  No need to send Mitch Rapp my way.

When I read my first Mitch Rapp story, I couldn't get my hands on the books fast enough.  It also made me do some background on Vince.  He immediately became my inspiration.  A guy who self-published at first because no one was interested in giving him a chance.

Multiple books later, he's routinely on the New York Times Best-Seller List, represented by one of the most prestigious firms in the business, making serious money along the way to seeing his dreams realized.

At long last, Vince's kick butt CIA operative Mitch Rapp is slated to appear on the big screen in the coming year.  All this couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

I reached out several years ago to Vince's publicist, David Brown at Atria Books.  I begged him within an inch of stalking to convince Vince to make a stop in Detroit.  They eventually worked it out.  Vince was a guest on our morning show and a budding friendship had begun (okay, more admiration on my part than his).  To make the deal complete, I inherited David as a friend as well.  So when David called a couple of years later, asking if I would MC a Vince book signing at a Metro Detroit Borders (remember them?), I was more than happy to do so.

Even though I'm a broadcaster, it was an education to see a master at work in front of a crowd.  Vince was warm, patient and gracious with each person in a very, very long line of late-night worshipers.  Did I mention I anchor the morning show!  Afterward, Vince took me and several employees at the bookstore out for a drink and candid conversation.  Good times.

In reading the statement on his website, it's obvious Vince feels bad for not being able to deliver the latest Mitch Rapp adventure to his loyal readers on time.  Hey buddy, trust me when I say, Mitch can wait.  Your faithful fans want to see the true hero get healthy.  So in that regard, take all the time necessary to make that happen.

There's nothing wrong with going back and rereading the fine collection that occupies a special place on my bookshelf.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


My agent said there'll be days like this... there'll be days like this my agent said.

I'm trying not to break a writer's rule of thumb.

Patience.  It's part of the job description.

I know it hasn't been two months yet since my agent began sending my debut thriller on its maiden voyage to editors.  I realize much like getting an agent, only one editor has to say "yes" to further my dreams.  So I try to put it behind me at the end of each day as I rest my head on the pillow.

At least no one got hurt today.

However, it's getting harder to suppress sort of a Jekyll and Hyde persona.  I'm beginning to feel a little bit like Hank Moody, the main character on Showtime's Californication.  I can see myself spiraling out of control somewhat in a fit of literary confusion.  'Damn right I poured my heart out in that manuscript.  Researched the hell out of it.  Bartender, yes, I'll have another.'

I've almost run out of mild-mannered retorts when my friends say "I can't wait to read your book.  When is it coming out?"  I still smile when I answer, "I have to get a book deal first."  What follows is a sympathetic look akin to patting me on the head.

Thankfully, I have family and now March Madness to keep me sane.  Of course I would care less about my brackets (not true) if my agent were to call me with some "Are you sitting down?" news.

Until then, here's to Hank Moody for keeping me in line.  I can see where going off the deep end will get you. Better to just vicariously live through the train wreck.

Besides, have to keep telling myself 'Be patient.  Your time will come.'

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


The manuscript is out there, seeking a publisher with all the force a 93-thousand word thriller can muster.

It's only been a short while, but every time the phone rings at home, the hairs on the back of my neck rise a little.  Could this be the call?  Damn!  It's just AT&T wanting me to upgrade my service or some other annoyance that I don't care to hear from.

I want to scream into the handset, 'Don't you know I'm waiting on the call!  Stay off the line!'

Truth is, there's no sense in driving myself crazy because this step, much like the one before it and the one before that, can take some time.  How's does a year sound to you?  Only the crowd that includes Stephen King, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling and John Grisham can get projects green-lighted in less time.

For us mere mortals, the process is tedious.  Once an editor likes the project, it then goes through the wash with co-workers and bosses before a final go-ahead is given.  If that happy day arrives, your agent is given an  offer.  That offer basically includes an advance (less these days unless the Almighty has written you a blurb), royalties, territory (the area it's going to be sold) and other terms spelling out everything that comes to mind.  The deal can be for one or multiple books, and if you're fortunate, another editor from a different publishing house might be interested which leads to the sweetest words a budding author can hear "AUCTION."

So now you've got a signed contract and several bottles of good champagne later, the editor lets you know that 93-thousand word thriller you've already whittled down a million times needs further content changes that of course you will make.  Remember, you aren't King, Patterson, Rowling or Grisham yet.

When the manuscript achieves editorial approval, it's on to copyediting because even spell check isn't perfect.
You still have to proof-read each version as it's completed.  The good news is while all this is going on, the publisher is working on the design of your book, including the cover.  In addition, your new best friend, the editor, is co-ordinating with the sales and marketing departments to make the book look and feel the best it can be.  Long before the book is published, your personal sales force will deal with bookstore buyers and any other takers to place orders for your soon-to-be blockbuster.  All the complicated data derived helps the publisher determine how many books will be printed.

From finished manuscript to the point where passersby are looking at you strangely for striking a pose in front of bookstore windows, the process takes about a year or more.

Surely while all that was going on, book two is nearly finished...

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Brad Meltzer
I'm proud to say Brad Meltzer has become a cherished friend.

You just want to rub that smooth dome of his, hoping that some of the knowledge locked inside will transfer.  His latest thriller, The Inner Circle, surprise, surprise, is on the New York Times bestseller list.

If you haven't discovered by now, Brad is also a social networking addict.  He's crossed the line!  He tweets constantly on his Blackberry.  He was exercising his digits prior to being interviewed by me on television.  He can't help himself and when you consider the degree of success he's had, you can't blame him.  Hell, I should be emulating him!

You know you've made it to the mountaintop when in the green room, the one and only Chaka Khan told him that she religiously watches his History Channel show, Decoded.  What is it with bald guys impressing the chicks?  Yul Brynner, Telly Savalas, Michael Jordan -- Brad Meltzer!  To be fair, when he was in college at the University of Michigan, it was hard to tell Brad apart from Joey Lawrence.

Colleagues at work who've been living in caves, asked me afterward about Brad.  They were intrigued by his synopsis of The Inner Circle.  Aside from being a first-rate storyteller, Brad is also a freak researcher and it pays off by making his books compelling reads.

I made a huge mistake the other day by starting to read The Inner Circle.  I did this while tweaking my novel and brainstorming the next one.  Of course, it was hard to put the darn thing down.  It now occupies a spot on my nightstand next to the bed.

Brad is also a work-alcoholic, dabbing in writing comic books such as Batman, Superman, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (okay, there has to be good story behind that one).  I guess a guy has to make a living.

Trying to gain whatever insight I can about the writing business, Brad informed me the process basically never stops.  He runs his manuscripts by his wife, a brutal trip down reality lane as I've come to discover as well.  His agent is a former editor so she makes suggestions and then he gives a few trusted friends a look too.  All that before the publisher ever sees the work.

The craft of fine tuning your query letter pays off as well.  Leaving nothing to chance, Brad also wrote the description inside The Inner Circle jacket cover.

I could talk at length about Brad's preparation but hey, I've got writing of my own to do.  And then there's that damn The Inner Circle waiting to tuck me in for the night.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Short Coffee Break

Ah, a new year.

Smells like opportunity.

Agents are refreshed, ready to devour query letters and publishers are awaiting the next big thing.  What you have to be saying at this point is, "Why not me!"  Surely during the holidays you didn't just sit around feeding your face.  Surely you spent some valuable time writing, plotting, touching up your manuscript.  Is that query letter the best it can be?  Have you done your homework on potential agents in order to make your query stand out among the wave of others?

It's not easy work, but if you're serious about being a writer, you already know that.  I can't think of anything I've done in my life that has been more mentally and physically draining.  From plot to finish, wait, did I say 'finish'?  Make that from plot to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite and then finish, writing will test your resolve.  But like a good workout, you'll feel better for having completed it.

If you haven't already, you should establish a link and follow some agents you like.  Their musings are often insightful, sometimes humorous and can serve as a guide for polishing up your act.  Some agents even give you an indication of what's trending in the business and novels they're excited about.  I still find myself visiting Janet Reid's blog from time-to-time because she has this obsessive contest where you have to write a story  using 100 words or less, including five words she provides.  It's a fun exercise and you'll be surprised at much it streamlines your writing.

My book is getting ready to be pitched to publishers (fingers crossed) and while that agonizing period is underway, I'm working on book No. 2.  Might as well drive myself crazy even further.  I'm beginning to understand Hemingway more and more.

Oh, and there's a life I still have to pay attention to -- wife, two kids, two dogs, a job that pays me, or more correctly, pays the bills and IRS.

Ah, writing, what a great relaxer.