Murder in Ocean Hall – Now in Germany


Murder in Ocean Hall in GermanyMy book Murder in Ocean Hall can now be found in the Kindle online store in Germany. For less than a euro, readers in Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg or elsewhere in the country can download this DC mystery.

What did I have to do to publish my work in Germany? Nothing. I had already published my book in the USA with Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon did the rest, creating a new Kindle store for German users.

If a few years ago you had told me that I would write a mystery, publish it electronically, and that people would actually read books on e-readers, and that my book would be available in Europe…. That sentence involves so many improbabilities, but all of these things are now true. Makes you really hopeful about what comes next.

Why I'm Not at SXSW This Year

SXSW 2007
SXSW in 2007

SXSW Interactive is an annual conference of social media and web geeks in Austin. It’s a huge, exhausting event that takes place over a long weekend in March and is popularly known as the conference that introduced Twitter and other new forms of communication.

The criticism now is that it’s gotten too big and too corporate, dominated by giant corporations trying to be hip. And that it’s gotten to be such a chaotic moshpit that it leads to network outages.

I went to SXSW in 2007 and 2008, just the right moment before it became mainstream. The conference taught me to love the brilliant minds at 37signals, whose radically hopeful ideas about the future of work cannot arrive soon enough. I learned that project management should be as simple as possible. Gantt charts and MS Project should be avoided in favor of clear goals that everyone can understand. REWORK is their vision for the ideal work environment, where meetings and busywork are eschewed in favor of collaboration and results. Their philosophy is subversive and attractive for anyone stuck in boring meetings or lengthy conference calls. Continue reading “Why I'm Not at SXSW This Year”

Murder in Ocean Hall Advances to Second Round of Amazon Contest

My novel, Murder in Ocean Hall, has advanced to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA).

ABNA is a competition sponsored by Amazon for self-published and unpublished novels. This year’s competition will award two grand prizes: one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance. (I’m entered in General Fiction.)

Quarter-finalists will be announced on March 22 while we don’t find out the first place winner until June 13.

The competition is also a great way for Amazon to highlight their self-publishing tools, CreateSpace (for print books) and Kindle Direct Publishing (for e-books). They’re both easy and free to use.

Murder in Ocean Hall is a mystery set in Washington, DC. The world’s most famous oceanographer is killed at the Smithsonian. Set during the summer before the 2008 presidential election, we follow Detective Thomas across the city as he encounters the powerful and the powerless in his quest to solve this high-profile case. Thomas has grown bitter from decades of investigating bloody mayhem on city streets. Despite the new condos and gentrification, has the city really changed?

Murder in Ocean Hall is available exclusively at Amazon. The paperback is $9.99 while the Kindle e-book edition is just $2.99.

murder in ocean hall


Adventures in Book Marketing

I wrote a short piece for FlackRabbit on my adventures in book marketing. Last year, I published a book, Murder in Ocean Hall, using the awesome CreateSpace.

Why publish it myself? Because the traditional publishing model is broken and it takes a year to get a book in print, even after it’s been accepted by a publisher. Being a web person, that struck me as a crazy and unnecessarily long time.

The downside, of course, is that you have to do your own marketing. However, that’s been a good learning experience, which I write about in the FlackRabbit article.

Super Sad True Love Story

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart starts off as a hilarious farce, an inventive look at the future gone wrong. All your paranoid fears about the Department of Homeland Security are well-represented as a bureaucratic error throws Lenny, the book’s narrator, into absurdist peril.

But the novel is much deeper than that. It’s not just a farce, it’s an honest and painful look at a nightmare vision of America. In this dystopia, our country is obsessed with sex and shopping, in hock to the Chinese and teetering on the edge of financial collapse (not too different from today).

The book steadily grows darker and darker as history unravels – we feel for the characters who are so clueless about the inevitable reckoning. And we feel for this country, all the values we hold dear – democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty – all imperiled by decades of folly.

That’s what this book is about – Lenny’s collapse into middle age is mirrored by the collapse of America. Ultimately, it’s a very upsetting book. You don’t want the country to end up this way. The book is dark and funny but it’s also a warning to us as a nation to get our act together. Otherwise, the future will be very cruel.

WikiLeaks and Shame by Salman Rushdie

shame coverA good chunk of the recently released WikiLeaks documents deal with the problem of a nuclear-armed Pakistan in the grip of radical Islam. Despite the billions of dollars in US aid they receive, they are unwilling to cut ties with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

One diplomatic cable on the New York Times site is called Will Extra Aid Persuade Pakistan to Cut Ties to Extremists? American diplomats discuss whether giving Islamabad more money will lead them to cut ties with the Taliban.

The author concludes:

There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups…

Islamic terrorist groups like the Taliban are key element of Pakistani security. They provide a hedge against India by securing Afghanistan and by causing problems for India in Kashmir. Continue reading “WikiLeaks and Shame by Salman Rushdie”

WikiLeaks and Absurdistan

absurdistan_coverOne of my favorite novels of the past few years is Absurdistan. This comic romp by Gary Shteyngart takes place in a degraded post-Soviet world, where all anyone cares about is making money. The book is narrated by Misha Vainberg who dreams of returning to New York, where he was a student. Though a Russian heir to a fortune, he considers himself a lost American, trapped in corrupt country.

To get back to the United States (and the love of his life), he travels to the Caucasus republic of Absurdistan. He hopes to get a visa there. Along the way he joins in epic bouts of drinking and conspicuous consumption, as the nouveau rich show off their wealth with huge bounties of caviar, vodka and prostitutes.

This is fiction, or so I always thought, the invention of a very funny writer. But then I read the WikiLeaks cable on the wild wedding in Dagestan, Russia. It’s like the world of Absurdistan come to life, featuring a rich cast of characters frolicking along the shores of the Caspian Sea. The cable even has the perfect blurb for the back of a paperback:

The lavish display and heavy drinking concealed the deadly serious North Caucasus politics of land, ethnicity, clan, and alliance.

Continue reading “WikiLeaks and Absurdistan”

The Perfect Gift for Mystery Lovers – Murder in Ocean Hall

Do you have someone on your Xmas list who likes a good mystery, particularly one set in Washington, DC?

Then check out my novel, Murder in Ocean Hall. In this mystery, the world’s most famous ocean explorer is killed at the Smithsonian. It’s up to a cynical DC detective to solve this high-profile case.

Murder in Ocean Hall takes place in a Washington “beyond the monuments”, in the real neighborhoods of the city that most tourists don’t see. Set during the summer before the 2008 presidential election, we follow Detective Thomas across the city as he encounters the powerful and the powerless in his quest to solve this case. He’s grown bitter from decades of investigating bloody mayhem on city streets. Despite the new condos and gentrification, has the city really changed? Or is it doomed to dysfunction?

I’ve lived in DC for almost twenty years. I know the neighborhoods, the conflicts and the personalities of this unique city. I’ve been behind the scenes at the Smithsonian and worked in the field of ocean exploration, where my murder victim comes from. The book is set in places I’ve lived in and is informed by that most universal DC experience, street crime. It features some real characters, including a brief appearance by Marion Barry (no book in DC would be complete without him).

A reviewer wrote about my book that it:

will take you behind the scenes of places you’ve been and tell you how they function then give you insights into people in power and how they fail to function.

Murder in Ocean Hall makes a great gift for anyone who likes a good mystery or wants to uncover the seedy underbelly of our nation’s capital.

And if you live in DC, I will even sign it for you!

Murder in Ocean Hall is available exclusively at Amazon. The paperback is only $9.99 while the Kindle edition is just $2.99.

murder in ocean hall

FotoWeek DC 2010: “To Publish or to Self-Publish?”

libros en madrid

Only three years old, FotoWeek DC has blossomed into a city-wide event encompassing gallery shows, competitions, lectures, workshops, portfolio reviews and parties.

There’s a lot of great free stuff to attend. In addition to gallery shows, there are some interesting lectures and workshops going on this week.

One of them was “To Publish or to Self-Publish” held at the Corcoran over the lunch-hour today. While it was billed as a comparison of traditional photo book publishing against the new on-demand model, the discussion was much broader than this. Continue reading “FotoWeek DC 2010: “To Publish or to Self-Publish?””

Chris Guillebeau and The Art of Non-Conformity

Chris Guillebeau in DC
Chris Guillebeau speaks at the Barnes and Noble in downtown DC.

Last night, I listened to Chris Guillebeau speak at the Barnes and Noble in downtown DC. Chris is one of my favorite bloggers, from the Art of Non-Conformity. His message is that you don’t have to live like everyone else, that you should follow your passions while looking to leave something behind.

He lives what he writes about – he’s on a quest to visit every country in the world and has been in 125 of them so far.

Now he has a book, also called The Art of Non-Conformity, and is off on a 5o state tour to support it. His publisher thinks he’s crazy. As a writer myself, I think he’s crazy – North Dakota?

While his DC reading was standing-room only, his next stop in West Virginia will be less attended. Chris emailed the one person signed up for the reading, telling her to make sure to be there.

In person, he’s much like his blog – more curious about the audience than himself, non-judgemental, cognizant of how lucky we in the West are to have the “problem” of following our dreams. After speaking for a bit (and filling in DC on his 50 state map), he took questions from the audience.

Why did he write a book? Blog posts don’t change lives, was his answer. His goal in writing the Art of Non-Conformity was to get people to positively change and to share his and others stories of how to do it.

One goal of his book has been to bring people together. In the Q&A session, he let the audience answer each other’s questions, covering such diverse topics as entrepreneurship and conflict-free diamonds.

What I like about Chris is that he doesn’t say that there is one magic answer for everyone – it’s not Scientology or the 4-Hour Work Week. Your quest to change yourself, and the world, can involve very small steps – life experiments, where you get away from your desk and visit an art gallery. Or start learning a new language during your commute.

Unlike other so-called “life hackers”, he believes that the quest for efficiency is overrated. A new method of burning through your email is meaningless. It’s better to figure out how you can pursue adventure while helping others.

In his view, the core questions to think about are:

What do you want out of life?

What can you offer the world that no one else can?

In a city filled with well-paid people trapped in bureaucracy, these questions have enormous resonance. The Art of Non-Conformity aims to guide people in finding their own answers.