Monday, December 28, 2015

End of an Era

No, St. Louis Bread Company, aka BreadCo for the locals or Panera’s for the rest of the country, is not closing.  But this one is.

After going there for coffee two or three times a week for the last two years, I’ll miss it.  It is, after all, where a lot of the storyline and dialog for Half a Mind and Mind in the Clouds was born.

OK Doc, where do we go now?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What Are the Chances, Part 2

What’s more likely to kill you, your hot water faucet or an airplane?  I’ll let you think about that for a moment.

Previously, I have mentioned that I started writing for the experience of it.  It was something that many people talked about, but few did.  Or so it seemed to me.  And then, I wrote my first book, dropped it on online, and saw my Kindle sales rank on Amazon standing near 1.5 million.  What the…

It appeared, I had deceived myself.  I knew, of course, that self-publishing had exploded in recent years.  But just how many people must be writing to have produced more than 4% of the total of all the books in the Library of Congress in just a few years?!

Now it seemed that eBook writers were everywhere.  I was sure there were dozens of authors hidden behind closed doors on my block alone.  I probably said “Hi” to 2 or 3 people writing techno-thrillers at the grocery store this morning.  And I was positive my mailman was hurrying home to work on his novel; who else would know more about going postal?

So, what does my out-of-control imagination have to do with hot water and airplanes?  Actually, more than you might think.

Our estimates of the likelihood of events, ranging from the chance of bumping into an author to dying in a plane crash, are influenced by a number of factors that have nothing to do with how often they occur.  Among these factors are the personal importance of the event, how dramatic it is, and the media coverage it gets – the latter two obviously being related.  The effect these factors have on how we estimate chance is called the availability heuristic.  Events that are more available, or in other words, are more easily recalled due to their importance, their drama, or their newsworthiness, are considered more likely, even if they are not.

So, of course, as more of my days were spent on blogs and promotion sites about writing, authors seemed more prevalent.  And for the rest of you hot water using, flying public, what do you read about in the papers and see on TV – the tragic story of the old man dying from shock from being scalded by hot water, or sensational photos from an airplane crash?  In fact, the odds of the average person in the United States dying from hot water is about 1 in 3.2 million; the odds of dying in a plane crash, on the other hand, are only about 1 in 11 million.

So, before you decide to relax in a hot tub before bed, just remember, you might be better off flying.

Happy Writing,

Friday, December 11, 2015

Just Waiting for the Next Blockbuster Novel

Have you read, Girl on a Train?  Or maybe you read, The Girl on the Train?

Yes, you guessed it.  There are two books with nearly the same name.  And the result?  You can probably guess that too.  Sales of the two-year old psychological thriller, Girl on a Train, by Alison Waines took off in 2015, climbing to the top of the rankings on Amazon UK and Australia.  It did so, largely on the coattails of the blockbuster novel, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (see

So, my strategy as a writer has changed.  I was planning to write a book entitled, The Great American Novel.  I mean, how could that miss?…until I found out that Philip Roth had already written it.

Now, I’m banking on the chance that the author of the next blockbuster (whoever that may be) is reading my blog, because I have a couple of suggestions for a title.  How about Half A Mind?  Or, if you prefer, it could be Mind in the Clouds, as long as it comes out after April 2016.  Is that too much to ask?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: Crimson Shore by Preston and Child

Good, but Too Formula and Too Conceited to Be One of the Best

First, I am a big fan of the Pendergast series by Preston and Child, which is why I deliberated so long on my review of this novel.  But in the end, what seems a shift in the main character’s personality and the familiarity of some story themes left me feeling less engaged than I had felt previously.
The novel reads like it was written in two parts.  The first, which accounts for about two-thirds of the book, involves solving the theft of the wine collection.  Sometimes I wonder if Preston and Child spend much of their time between novels researching vocabulary, because they always seem to find terminology to fit the feel and lineage of the plot.  In this case, they use a number of somewhat archaic words to underscore a story with roots in the 1690s.  I always appreciate their attention to this type of detail.  The shortcoming of this section, however, is what seems to be a shift in Pendergast’s view of the world.  He is always been aloof and extremely particular in his tastes in everything from his associates to his wardrobe to the food and drink he consumes.  Even so, he usually finds a “diamond in the rough” in the people he deals with, e.g., Carrie Swanson, even when their potential is not apparent to others.  But in this book, he seems to become quite snobbish and condescending of nearly everyone. 

In the second part, the plot becomes more violent and darker.  It is, in a phrase, more typical Pendergast action.  But to some degree, this is also the limitation.  Preston and Child seem to have adopted a few specific physical settings to evoke anxiety in the reader and a few methods to explain otherwise inexplicable occurrences, and this part of the book uses a couple that are becoming somewhat well-worn within the series.  Having said that, however, there is still enigmatic turn of events at the end that assures that I, once again, will be buying the next installment as soon as it appears as a pre-order.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanks to the 352!

I wanted to say thanks to the 352 people who signed up for my book giveaway on Goodreads.  The winners have been selected and I’ll be mailing the proof copies of Half A Mind in a few days.

Happy Writing…and Reading,

On Facebook Now

For those of you who prefer your social media in a different form, now you can find me on Facebook.

Facebook Page for Mind Sleuth Series

The content of the posts there and here will be the same, although the blog will still be the best source of information on current and future publishing and past book reviews.

I guess technically, I have a twitter account too, but I just cannot quite see twitting, “Wrote 14 more pages today #AwesomeProgress”.  But who knows…

Happy Writing,