Irish National Holiday



I live in Scituate, MA, a suburb of Boston. Scituate boasts of the highest percentage of Irish residents in the country. We have our own St. Patrick’s Day Parade and elect our own Irish (honorary) “Mayor.”

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade that takes place in South Boston is quite a spectacle indeed. I mean, look at these people!


Because of the prevalence of Irish who work for the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, St. Patrick’s Day might as well be a holiday.

Susanne and I are doing our part to promote this holiday by making Full Irish and Half Irish available to actual and honorary Irish readers for the ridiculous price of 99 cents. At that price, we should entice quite a few Scotsmen, as well.

We have also just placed Half Irish in the Netgalley catalogue, where it is available for free download to Netgalley reader-members to read and review. If you are a Netgalley member, or want to become one (it is free!), you can use the “widget” below to obtain the download from the site.

So do give us a bit of Irish luck, and if you celebrate the holiday, please do so responsibly.


Netgalley widget:

Visiting the Woolf

“The Woolf: Ranging the cultural landscape” is a fine cultural E-zine coming out of EU, edited by the lovely Jill Marsh, who is also an excellent novelist. Jill’s novel, Behind Closed Doors, is a psychological thriller in a Patricia Highsmith fashion. It is a mesmerizing first of four in the Beatrice Stubbs series.

Jill asked some folks to describe our experiences working “in tandem” with another. It’s an interesting series of essays. Go have a look, and bookmark the site!

Writing What You Know

Among the many invocations piled upon the aspiring writer, “write what you know” is usually close to the top. Like most of them, this one can be overly interpreted to the absurd (in either direction); but in the main, I think it’s pretty good advice for Big Issues.

I know a lot about the law and courtrooms, politicians, elections and the legislative process. It excites me (I know, that’s sick) to use these as plot devices, because with my knowledge, I can have fun crafting a compelling plotline, without either doing months of research or losing sleep over the fear of a Big Dig-size plot hole.

I suppose I could do the research necessary to write a convincing bio-terrorism thriller, but why would I? I don’t know anything about either biological weapons or international terrorist tactics. And there are apparently hundreds of other authors who do (or think so), so it’s simply not a value proposition for me to go there.

On the other hand, very few of the authors who use international terrorism or intelligence in their plots have any actual experience in that field. They have general experience in the “profession,” perhaps, but I sincerely doubt that Barry Eisler was actually an international assassin.

Another great example is sex. Who doesn’t know about sex? It seems some people get very rich these days writing about all sort of deviant and sordid sex. I take it on faith that most of them are just gifted with wild imaginations. I mean, seriously, edible body paint?Small Fish - ACX

But those are Big Picture things. You can research a lot of technical detail bits with internet research these days. It’s ridiculous how quickly you can learn anything on a browser. Or at least get a reliable answer to a question. Guns, incendiary devices, blood spatter science, even the heritage of Jesus Christ, apparently.

But do you really need to know the actual fact to successfully fake it? Even if the reader expects you to be authoritative on it, your research can carry you. People trust Tom Clancy on military spy stuff, but he was an insurance salesman who couldn’t even get into the service because of nearsightedness.

Of course, there are many instances in which the reader couldn’t care less about technical accuracy. These are just opportunities to let your whimsical self loose.

Here’s an example from a recently published indie novel.

As we near the climax of the story, the hero has been beaten about the face, head and body by thugs. He lies in a hospital room with an IV drip of hydrocodone when his wife rushes to his side. How does a badly beaten man under the influence of hydrocodone behave? What does he see? How does he speak? Does the author need to interview an ER physician before putting finger to key? Of course not. Anyone with a bit of life experience has been zonked on painkillers in a hospital at least once or twice. (Or if he’s over 50, has had a colonoscopy!)

Through a gauzy hydrocodone haze, Paul imagined an angel, disguised as his wife, swiftly descending on him. As the angel got closer, the features of her face clarified, and for a terrifying moment, he saw Shannon as a marionette.

“Your cheek looks like an eggplant,” Shannon the puppet said, gliding to Paul’s side, patting him gently with its tiny hands.

“You look like Pinocchio with tits,” Paul said, totally serious.

The floor nurse poked her head in. “Mrs. Forté, your husband has just had a fresh dose of pain killer, so I would give him a wide berth on whatever he says.”

“What do you mean? He talks to me like that all the time.” She patted Paul’s hand. “Don’t you, sweetie?”

Now the cat’s out of the bag. I’m shilling for PAUL & SHANNON.Full Irish Cover MEDIUM WEB

Susanne and I had a lot of fun with FULL IRISH, and we’re very excited about the plot that’s coming together for the next in the series. A lot of it is what I know, but in the past two days I have spoken with experts in (a) “double indemnity” insurance and (b) mortuary procedure.

So it’s not all about what you know, but what you need to know.

Full Irish, Full Bore, Full Flaps

If I may be permitted the occasional opportunity to crow, I woke up this morning to this link, supplied to me by my co-author, Susanne O’Leary:

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 9.14.15 AM

It might be only a fleeting instance, no one can predict these things. But I do know that, for this brief moment in time, everything you do to work toward a goal is worth it.

If you haven’t had a chance to add to this great fortune of ours, to perpetuate that novel’s appearance on the Hottest New Releases list, why not take this moment to do that?

You read from a kindle (or have the kindle app on your iPad), or prefer paperback, go here.

You read from a Nook, go here.

And thank you for your patronage!



Celebrate your bad reviews, and celebrate reviewers!

So much vitriol is going on about “author vs. reviewer.” It’s come down to acts of physical violence now. And it’s casting a pall over the entire indie community. Every time some reviewer gets hassled (or worse), hundreds of us are cringing, thinking, “that’s not me! No, no, don’t put me in the same boat as that one!”The enduring advice is, “ignore bad reviews!”It’s great advice, and I am going to break it, by celebrating my favorite bad reviews.

This is not a whiny post that mocks the reviewer. I’m talking about, “Check this guy out! He really got me good!” Appreciating and respecting a point of view other than yours. Because if we’re lucky, we have some good ones, and celebrating them – accepting that they are opinions well-stated – makes us stronger, and makes us better writers. Taking criticism makes you a better writer. Yes, it does.

Soon after I published Diary of a Small Fish, I solicited and received a review from a critic at the Chicago Center for Literature & Photography (CCLAP). It was beautiful, and you might enjoy reading the entire review. Here is the part that makes me smile the most.

“But still, maybe Small Fish would turn out to be a redemptive story when all is said and done, and our protagonist would by the end understand what kind of sneaky, petty, subsumed-guilt Bush-loving Michael-Scott frat-boy douchebag he actually is…”
I love that.Here’s one more, a one-star from a Goodreader:
It’s kind of like the author couldn’t decide whether he wanted to write a political thriller or just a really long story about rich people enjoying expensive food and wine (which he goes to staggering extremes to explain in every detail during almost every scene). I read books for interesting character and plot development, not to hear how often they eat fancy food and drink expensive alcohol.
Are these guys right? (Hey, what’s wrong with fancy food and expensive alcohol?)
It doesn’t matter what I think. It comes with the territory. Everyone’s a critic.
This business requires thick skin, humility, and an indelible sense of humor. Some writers are born with them, some have to grow them. Some of the rest will be next week’s fare in The Guardian.

Give a Man a Fish – FREE AUDIOBOOK!

Hello, Friends!

I have come into possession (legally) of a hatful of promotional codes that can be used on to download the audiobook of Diary of a Small Fish – for FREE!

All of the book marketing gurus urge that these be used to generate sales of the ebook version. Run a contest, they say. Well…if you get a free audiobook, why would you buy the ebook? What do those gurus know, anyway?

This is your invitation to participate in the first, last and only Give a Man a Fish Contest.

I will give a FREE promotional code to the first twenty (20) people who email me at this email address: All you have to do in return is leave an honest review on Amazon! What a deal, huh? Okay, so technically, this isn’t a contest, it’s a race.

I should entice you further by mentioning (again) that my narrator, Keith Sellon-Wright, is a very experienced television actor with a long and impressive list of credits. He also has a cool voice and a sharp attention to the humor that weaves through Small Fish.

A story is born

A few weeks have passed since Susanne and I announced our collaboration, and I wish to report that the process so far has been superb.

Through a series of emails and Skype conversations, we have tweaked and embellished the plot and put up >10,000 words. At this rate, we’d be done with a draft by the end of August. More importantly for me, though, is that we have a road map that shows me the signposts ahead, and I feel no anxiety that I may take a wrong turn and end up hip deep in a peat bog.

So, here’s a bit about our story:

Finola Murphy is a political reporter for a Dublin newspaper. Shortly after a friendly TD (member of Irish parliament) tells her he has some sensitive information to share with her, he is pushed in front of a train on his way to work. Finola knows enough to suspect that her friend had some information implicating a high-ranking member of the Irish legislature (the Oireachtas) in some sort of corruption. Devoted to her friend and his widow, Finola is keen to solve the murder.

At the same time, Paul Forté has a new client, a software company in Massachusetts that is involved in a contentious bidding process for a lucrative sate contract. His 800 lb. gorilla competition is an Irish software company whose Boston lobbyist (a former colleague of Paul) has enlisted the assistance of some powerful politicians to help it get the contract – by whatever means necessary. Paul needs to find out where the fix is, and prevent it from happening.

The story bounces back and forth between Ireland and Boston, as Paul and Finola each investigate their own ends of the story until they discover their common interests and combine forces. The point of view alternates between Finola and Paul (in 3rd person).

Influence peddling, blackmail, bid rigging, more murder, and a satisfying climax ensue (along with am amusing relationship between Finola and Shannon).

The story development has occurred almost without effort. The collaboration has been easy, free, and (so far) without disagreement. And it’s a great deal of fun!

When I first registered as a member at Authonomy in late 2008, I had no idea what to expect. The friendships and contacts I made there have been a constant source of satisfaction and pride since then – and this is the latest example. I can hardly wait until we have something to show you.

Mad Men Features Small Fish Voice

In this Sunday night’s (May 11th) episode of the wildly popular Mad Men, the producer and narrator of Diary of a Small Fish (audio), Keith Sellon-Wright, makes his first appearance. He will play a character in a scene about which he cannot say a word. He points out that it’s always good when his scenes end up on-screen instead of in the trash can.[1]biopic

Keith’s resume is truly impressive, and Mad Men is the latest in a string of his high profile appearances, like Scandal, Vegas, Parks & Recreation, The Mentalist and Nip Tuck (to name a few)

I am wishing the best for Keith. He’s a fine gentleman, a great actor, and a perfect voice for Paul Forte. Break a leg!




[1] Note: I use “trash can” in the desktop icon sense, not where actual household trash is deposited. I use this in preference to “the cutting room floor,” which people who know these things (like Keith) tell me a thing of the past, an anachronism, a relic.

Small Fish for the Ears

Small Fish - ACXI’m pleased to report that the audiobook of Diary of a Small Fish has just launched on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. The experience working through Amazon’s ACX platform was so satisfying, I thought I’d tell you all about it.

Back in the mid-autumn of 2013, while doing exactly nothing about promoting or selling my novel, I stumbled across ACX. I quickly learned that I could have my audiobook produced through the ACX platform at no out-of-pocket expense by splitting royalties with one of their many participating audiobook producers. Oh sure, I thought, how many of them will go to all that work (probably 25-50 hours of time) and expense (some of them pay for studio time) for a self-published novel by an unknown, on a straight royalty basis? I was skeptical.

But, what the hell – posting the project was simple and easy. It starts off with an Invitation for Auditions. It includes book description/blurb, and a full chapter of the manuscript. Once posted, the project is reviewed by the producers who search on their own, or you can search the roster of producers, listen to their voice samples, choose as many as you want, and send them an invitation to submit an audition.

I had no expectations at all – but in the short space of three days, I received 6-7 auditions. All of them were professional – and totally different! As I mulled the ones that had come in, others continued to arrive, until I had more than a dozen to choose from – any one of which would have satisfied me.

Then lightning struck. I received a message from ACX. They awarded my project a “production stipend,” essentially offering the chosen book producer a $100 per hour stipend (up to $2500) if the project was completed within 60 days of an agreement.

Notice of the stipend is attached to the title on the project page (a nifty red banner!). Within two days, I had another 8 auditions.

I spent a great deal of time looking up each of the artists. There were a number of people who’d just gotten into the field and had no credits to examine. There were some who had several credits in ebooks. There were some radio and television voice actors – commercials, mostly, but a few who’d also done theater.

I narrowed it down to two, based upon the voice alone. Then I made my final decision based upon the resume of the artist.

You will not have heard of Keith Sellon-Wright (yet), but the odds are you’ve seen him before – if you watched American television at any time during the past 25 years. I mean, just go look at the man’s IMDb! Wings, Love & War, Silk Stalkings, Married With Children, Almost Perfect, Seinfeld, The Practice, Charmed, Frasier, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls… I’m only half done.

Anyway, who would have thought, eh?

Here’s the kicker, though. Keith’s a hell of a guy. He’s a great character actor, works very hard at his craft, and he brought every element of his experience to bear in producing the novel in audio form. Most importantly, as the author of this story, I was curious to hear an experienced actor interpret it – and I have to say that Keith really nailed Paul Forté.

He really nailed him.

So – it took Keith a few months to get to the project due to prior commitments–discussed and agreed to during the “offer-acceptance” stage. Once Keith accepted, the clock began to tick, and he had 60 days to deliver. A week before deadline, he delivered (on the ACX website project page) chapter-by-chapter recordings, which had been done in a studio, with an engineer/editor, all paid for by Keith. I listened to each chapter, sent him back my notes, and he addressed them. In the space of 5 days, I listened to 15 hours of audio (original and re-recorded segments) and had many emails and phone conversations with Keith. In the end, he uploaded all of the chapter files, and a 3-minute “audio sample” used on the Audible site for promotion, and I clicked “ACCEPT.”

Now to sell the damn thing.

From what I’ve been able to find, marketing and promoting of audiobooks is the same slog as ebooks, etc., but My Partner and I haven’t settled on any particular plan. It will probably entail a lot of grumbling and whining about “cutting through the clutter” and “differentiating” us from the incessant spam with which we compete. More homework to do on this subject.

So that’s it. I now have a new audiobook, at a cost of zero, narrated and produced by an experienced professional actor into a very high-quality product.

Thank you, once again, Amazon.

Surviving in the Amazon Jungle – How authors and reviewers can co-exist in a hostile environment (and run to court if they don’t)

Well, the Rice Petition has lost a lot of its steam as author after author continues to sign it with no apparent understanding of exactly what it proposes (based upon their own comments), but in the meantime, there has been a lot of discussion, and agreement, that Amazon’s review guidelines could use a few tweaks and a lot more enforcement.

There has also been a fair amount of criticism that demanding the true identities of ten million customers of Amazon products was too high a price to pay for a few dozen militant female reviewers to be “taught a lesson” by Queen Anne.

In that light, I began to consider the kind of actions the author and reviewer could take to both clarify their expectations in the book review arena and provide meaningful remedies against wrongdoers. There is no reason to send the cockroaches into the woodpile when a few well-coined provisos and wherefores can bring about harmony and understanding.

As a (dreaded) litigation attorney, I am forced to parse the language of contractual covenants, indemnifications, waivers, warranties, representations, certifications, promises and disclaimers. While the reading is excruciating, I take comfort in the fact that, pedantic and dull as they are, these kinds of clauses are usually enforceable according to their terms, no matter what they say. As long as both parties agree to the language and it is otherwise unambiguous and capable of only one meaning, it will be enforced in the event of a breach and consequent suit.

This kind of dirty business is not something fiction writers find tasteful (to say nothing of affordable), but believe me, knowing at the outset what your rights and obligations are gives you the comfort that your engagement in the Amazon marketplace is not going to land you in an FBI sting operation or subject you to nasty pranks or sudden food poisoning.

In the spirit of conciliation and cooperation, indie author to indie author, indie author to book reviewers of all kinds, and officious interloper to guileless newbie, I offer you these helpful tips to avoiding the snake pits and alligator jaws lurking in the Amazon jungle.

Authors and Their Babies Books

 When you’ve spent several hours a day, several days a week, over several weeks years, on your next series blockbuster; when you’ve waited days months for your friends experienced beta readers to return their uncritical praise detailed criticisms and smiley emoticons line edits; when you’ve begged paid your BFF copy editor to go over it with a blow-kiss fine-toothed comb; when you’ve spent hours putting together your cover using stock photos and impossible fonts hundreds for a professional cover from a reputable graphic artist, and run your word file through the free software you downloaded from someplace paid for professional formatting and design of interior matter, the last thing you need to worry about is having no control over who reviews your book and what they say. One opinion from a gangster bully the discriminating reader, and your new baby book is floating face down in the Amazon swamp, has met its first troll review unflattering opinion, a victim proud new participant of the evil unnamed cabal of bully gangster trolls rough and tumble of the new book marketplace.

To enhance the opportunity for your book’s immediate and unqualified acceptance by avoidance of the mindless fangurlz “thought leaders” of the Amazon review system (as represented by the vaunted Society of Top Awesome Reviewers – STAR), I suggest that you insert the following language into the front matter of every one of your ebook offerings:

By receiving a copy of this book from any source whatsoever, the reader agrees that s/he will not post any review of said book in any Internet venue, without prior disclosure to and approval of the author. The author shall have no obligation to approve any review that contains undue criticism of any aspect of the author’s craft, imagination, story, cover or author page. The determination of what is “undue” shall be at the sole and unfettered discretion of the author, with or without regard for fact or reality. The author reserves the right to employ any and all means of social media (included but not limited to Amazon forums, Facebook, Kindle Boards, Facebook, personal weblog, Facebook, Pinterest, DiggIt, Tumblr, Fivrr, Facebook and Facebook) for the purpose of criticizing, mocking, ridiculing and otherwise defaming any review or reviewer, whether or not such review has been published in any public venue (including but not limited to the Internet generally, message boards, bulletin boards, telephone poles and public urinals); and the reviewer hereby waives any and all claims s/he may ever have against the author for the exercise of said right. As security for the performance of the reviewer’s obligations hereunder, the reviewer hereby grants the author an unlimited, unconditional lien upon reviewer’s residence located at _____________ as described in a deed dated ____________ and recorded at the _______________ county registry of deeds at Book ___, Page ___.

(Notary Public)

Please note that the notarization is a very important detail, as many foreign states require that contracts contain the raised seal of the notary to be enforceable.

Authors new to the business might consider the recommended language to be more aggressive than necessary. Who would agree to such ridiculous terms just for the pleasure of writing a review?

Those authors are dipshits not inured to the risks of the marketplace. They have not witnessed the permanent damage temporary setbacks that can result from the ravings of a psychotic stalker troll the expression of a frank opinion.

You are business people. Business people use contracts. Contracts protect rights. You can’t be too clear with your expectations!

The Rabid Stalker Bully Gangster Trolls Reviewers

 Only a few short years ago, the average stay-at-home mom spent her relaxation time reading Jackie Collins and staring at the pool boy. Now, half of them are outselling Jackie Collins writing porn about the pool boy.

The other half are writing reviews of them.

Make no mistake – some of these reviews are the evil and illiterate rantings of jealous nobodies  can be controversial, as they may shine an unduly harsh light on perceived shortcomings such as spelling, grammar, usage, style, characterization, plot, pacing and other frivolous details.

As many of these hypercritical reviewers do not boast MFA degrees and over-blown writing resumes, their criticism is often met by rabid hoards of fans attacking en mass in a deliberate prompt from the author’s Facebook page emphatic disagreement. The troll truly dedicated reader, a devoted two-book-a-week genre junky who has been a big meanie and said bad things to me written hundreds of reviews (good and bad) and been responsible for destroying the destiny of fame and fortune for tons of indie authors the word-of-mouth sales of thousands of indie books, might be publicly attacked by a bestselling household name as a “cartoonist reviewer” or like term find her opinion challenged by informed and respectful fellow readers.

There is only one way to protect the avid reviewer from the repercussions of harsh attacks on illiterate tripe honest intellectual criticism. Get it in writing.

The next time those indie authors contact you via email with a review request, send this back to them, auto-reply:

Hi!! I’m so GLAD that you contacted me to request a REVIEW!!!!

I’m glad to oblige and I can do it almost immediately!

Just send me back a (prc)(epub)(pdf)(doc)(other__________) file and your signed acknowledgement of the following statement:

“By delivering a copy of my book to REVIEWER, I hereby acknowledge that I have no expectation that the reviewer will read, like, or even review my book; and should REVIEWER publish a review in any venue, I will not criticize or otherwise comment negatively upon the review or the reviewer in any Internet venue; and further, I will not request or exhort any family member, friend or fan to do so. I further agree that any violation of this covenant shall entitled the reviewer to damages in the amount of $5 for each such comment made, in any venue, times $5 for each day such comment(s) remain visible. I hereby certify under the penalties of perjury that my true and correct legal name is _________________, and my true and correct residential address is ____________________.”

It comes down to communication. Problems arise between author and review when there is a failure to communicate. By both utilizing the form language above, or such modifications as they may mutually agree, the risk of miscommunication is substantially reduced. Each party knows their rights and liabilities. And they have an ironclad, enforceable promise in writing, upon which they may escalate any possible dispute.

I am available for consultations, should a problem arise.