|Posted on February 4, 2013 at 8:05 PM||comments (0)|
The Pulp-o-Mizer lets you design a pulpy book cover. It's the greatest thing since sliced...bagels. Here's one of mine. What kind of demeted covers can you create?
|Posted on December 11, 2012 at 7:00 PM||comments (0)|
I got a call for help with a flat tire this morning. In the winter. In Minnesota. After a snowstorm. The experience shed some light on changing tires in the winter. I thought I'd share it here.
Five Tips for Changing a Tire in the Winter
1) You already know the jacks that come with cars suck, but they REALLY suck in 12-degree weather. Buy a small hydraulic jack. It's worth it.
2) Get the hell off the road. Fortunately, the car was in a parking lot. Changing a tire means being on your stomach a lot. Being spread out like that makes it easier to get hit.
3) Put this in your winter car kit right now: Something to lay on while changing a tire. I used a spare jacket. It kept me dry, which means I stayed warmer. You get wet in 12-degree weather, you're going to be miserable.
4) Nothing beats a great pair of gloves, a solid set of boots and a tough winter jacket.
5) Fix-a-Flat does not work when it's frozen. If you have a can in your trunk, put it in the cab to keep it warm.
Also, it was hard enough to hike it in a foot of snow as an able-bodied twentysomething. Made me have a whole new appreciation for anyone in a wheelchair or crutches.
|Posted on November 21, 2012 at 6:00 PM||comments (0)|
Here's a bit of humor to lighten the mood before diving into the dark times ahead: The holidays. These are courtesy of Someecards.com. It lets people like me throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. Feel free to share if you find these amusing. Or leave a comment with a better caption.
|Posted on November 20, 2012 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
Where plenty of thinking about writing takes place.
|Posted on November 7, 2012 at 12:35 AM||comments (0)|
The Simpsons gets political satire right on so many levels. A lot of people are referencing the eerie real-world similarities in a clip of Homer using a voting machine. But this is the one I think of every election day.
What are some of your favorite political comedy sketches?
|Posted on October 13, 2012 at 11:30 AM||comments (2)|
As mentioned in this post, my next crime thriller novel is set in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota. The boom there is bringing oil companies and workers from across North America. They're using a practice called "fracking" to extract oil out of shale.
There's a lot of misinformation about fracking out there, both for and against. This Snopes article dishes them out pretty well. While there are environmental concerns with any mining operation, the benefits of the oil boom in North Dakota are also on a lot of minds. The state has such a budget surplus, voters considered doing away with property taxes.
The measure failed last year, but it highlights an important point. Fracking radically transformed North Dakota. It changed the land, the demographics and possibly the direction of an entire country. It's important to understand what the process entails. Energy independence is a big issue this election season, and fracking will come up.
What do you think about this process? Does the potential for water contamination make the process too risky? Or are the economic and energy independence issues too important to not use fracking?
|Posted on October 2, 2012 at 11:25 PM||comments (0)|
As the title suggests, what the hey, here's a picture of me with a poster.
|Posted on September 2, 2012 at 1:05 AM||comments (0)|
My better half and I did something unusual last night. We went to a St. Paul Saints minor league baseball game. This led to another odd occurance: Me shouting one-liners at the crowd in hopes they'd buy beer from me.
Our luck is like that. We got what we deserved for not staying in with the newspaper and Netflix.
The perfect storm of reasons to go to this game had descended on the day like so many foul balls into the much-loathed, tragically positioned "healthy food" stand. It was the third-to-last game of an unforgettably forgettable season. It was Labor Day Weekend, the last stand for summer vacations. Most of the semi-comatose corn doggers were at the Minnesota State Fair. This is what it takes to put this crowd-averse couple into baseball bleachers.
For those not in the know, the Saints are notoriously tongue-in-cheek. The first inning featured a skit by two real pigs nicknamed Kim Lardashian and Kris Hamphries. Another break had "an actual Japanese guy" absolutely slaughtering Blondie's Call Me over terrible karoke tunage. The music only got nominally better with two kids singing Garth Brooks's Friends in Low Places. The catch? The words were substituted to promote the Doritos Loco Taco ("I've got a taco that's actually a Dorito/With the lettuce, cheese and sour cream\They're open late\So I'll be OK").
So when this lady vaguely resembling Flo from those annoying Progressive commericials walked over, I figured she was just there to pump the crowd up. There are all kinds of characters walking around. (My favorite: Gert the Flirt, who channeled the most cringe-inducing moments of Golden Girls into a three-hour butt-slapping session.)
Flo (I never did get her name) wanted to know if I wanted a $25 gift certificate to Old Chicago. I said, "Sure, why not?" before I could think that there must be a catch.
Oh, and there is a catch.
You see, Flo had already asked that same question to someone else. That person happened to be the loudest, drunkest, biggest-cowboy-hat-wearing guy in the entire place. Goes by the name Larry (of course!). And he was in a group wearing matching T-shirts. All the 'tude of a loner cowboy, but with the infallible echo chamber of a support system.
Flo explained that in order to get my $25 gift card, I needed to sell more beers than Larry. We'd each be paired with a vendor and be issued Old Chicago shirts. (The latter was an advantage on the psychological front. Better to wean mentally him from his herd.)
The odds were stacked against me. Larry had a row of guaranteed sales versus my one (sorry, better half, but these things are 5 bucks). He also clearly knew something about beer transactions. I haven't had a drink in years. I also didn't have a cowboy hat.
But I did have one trick up my sleeve. I write crime humor and I'm not scared of public speaking. If that's ever going to be worth something, it needed to be right now. We're talking a $25 gift card here. Shit just got real.
Let the games begin.
We had one inning to get the job done. I channeled my inner Wally the Beer Man (a bona fide Minnesota celebrity...probably the only one not currently in political office), shook hands with Larry and went to work.
Shiste, you wouldn't think it'd be this hard to sell beer. No, wait, I mean you wouldn't think it'd be this hard to be the vendor who got paired up with me. Because I slapped the sales sizzle into that crowd like no one's business. The steak could hardly keep up.
It helps to throw a bunch of one-liners into the mix like a cracked out carnival barker.
Some real-world examples...
* General audience: "Two-for-one beers when you buy two." - "Free shipping for all beer sold here." - "Cold beer here. Warm beer, too, if you let it sit." - "Cold beer here. Guaranteed colder than the one in your hand. Spit that stuff out and get a new one." - "A-dult beverages here. Two-dult if both hands are free." - "Last beer of the season here. Or second-to-last. Or 12th."
* Ladies: "I'm sorry, but I need to check your ID." Then, after they show the ID, say, "Sorry, I can't sell to someone with a fake ID. There's no way you were born in 1975."
* If I was selling near Larry: "Don't buy from that guy. He has a cowboy hat. He's weird." - "That guy's only selling the warm stuff. His ice isn't as cold."
* If they already have a bottle: "Why not try beer in a can?"
* Married people: "Buy a beer for charity. I need to take my wife out to dinner. You know what that's worth. You're making a real difference with your donation."
* Kids: "Are you 21? No? Ask your mom if she is, I can't tell."
* When I got over to my wife's section: "Free beer and a sober ride home on the house, who wants in? I'll just pick someone at random. You, ma'am. Let me buy you a drink. And I'd be happy to give you a safe ride home."
* Once our inning was almost up: "I need to sell all these beers. Time is running out. Your beer is getting warmer. Lets solve both our problems." - "You've listened to me shout like a maniac for the entire inning. If that doesn't make you wanna drink, I don't know what will."
Repeat, reword, repeat.
Some folks (mostly women) were warm to my approach. One lady was from St. Cloud, so I went on and on about what a great place it is. Boom, instant sale. That ID thing worked like magic, too.
Others weren't as open to Ben the Beer Man. One guy told me to "keep going," which I took as encouragement until I saw his hand waving me off. He also had his money rolled and tucked between his temples and baseball hat. Freak.
In the end, my hoarse barking wasn't enough. Larry won by three beers. Damn. At least I grabbed Flo's attention. She said I was, "Quick on my feet," and that she liked my delivery. Given she's a regular at the stadium, I'll take that as the highest of carny compliments.
Larry turned out to be a good guy. He also turned out alive, which was surprising considering the beers-consumed versus bleachers-walked ratio. Some would question where most of his stock went, but I wasn't going to push it. Not for a $25 Old Chicago gift card. Maybe for $30.
A few innings later, Larry sauntered over to our seats and handed me the gift card. I told him he won it fair and square, but he wouldn't listen. Said it'd make him happy to send us to dinner. Besides, Larry wasn't planning on using it because (and this is verbatim), "When the fuck am I ever going to go to Old Chicago?"
Proof that there are still good times and good people to be had in minor league Minnesota baseball.
|Posted on July 6, 2012 at 8:20 AM||comments (0)|
It came in my e-mail this morning. "Spam - Please Endeavour to Use it for God."
As if the good Lord needs more junk mail. Imagine all the spam that hits that inbox.
|Posted on June 30, 2012 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
Here's how I sold 12,000 crime fiction e-books: I didn't.
At least, not in the way you think of a transaction. I "sold" them, not sold them, through Amazon's KDP Select program.
Readers of e-books will feel their eyes glaze over after that last sentence. But know this. The piles upon bloated piles of free e-books you've stuffed into your Kindle's digital gizzard are offered gratis only because of the KDP Select program from Amazon.
Here's how the program works. First, an author signs a 90-day exclusivity agreement with Amazon on a per-title basis. That means e-books in the program can only be sold through Amazon.
In return for jumping into the turrets of this market-grabbing blitzkreig, the author is given five days for giving away the e-book on Amazon. Authors can spread them out through the 90-day period, in chunks or all at once.
Getting the e-book out there for free increases the chance readers will buy it once the gratis days end. Amazon is happy, readers are happy and the author is happy.
Now back to that 12,000 number. Since February, that's how many free copies I've "sold" of Cleansing Eden: The Celebrity Murders in the US, UK and elsewhere. The novel even got to #43 in all of Amazon for free titles.
I say they were sold even though money didn't change hands. Every "sale" (when someone got a free e-book) was like a tiny ad in a larger campaign. An ad campaign that put 12,000 e-books in front of readers' eyeballs would've cost me a good amount of scratch. It's opportunity cost. Profit has as much to do with expenses as income.
That's not to say exposure pays the bills. There are plenty of rants about this, such as the Harlen Ellison video below. Try explaining to your landlord or mortgage company that you'll get a payment in as soon as the exposure comes through for you.
Here's the but.
BUT exposure from KDP Select does seem to pay off. I'm not going to throw out any numbers, but I can safely say hitting big freebie numbers does translate into at least one traditionally defined sale.
That's the dream right there. There's no greater compliment an author can receive than having a reader pay for a work. It doesn't matter if it's a lot or a little. Authors need to be read. Readers need authors to write. The KDP Select program is making that happen.