Murder in Ocean Hall – Now for Sale in France!

We live in a magical age, where I can write a book in Washington, DC, and then readers in Paris can download my work to their e-readers.

Murder in Ocean Hall is now available in France. It’s available in la boutique Kindle, which is an adorable name for an e-book store.

The book is in English, BTW. Technology can do many amazing things but language translation requires the subtleties of the human mind.

And what did I do to publish my novel in France? Uh, nothing. I just made the e-book available on Amazon and they did all the rest.

Book Review: Purple Cow by Seth Godin

I’m a fan of Seth Godin, particularly his book, The Dip, which is about knowing when to quit and when to keep going. His thoughts on traditional publishing are also really compelling – it’s an industry that is broken. I read just about everything he writes.

purple cowPurple Cow is one of his older works, published in 2003 and updated last year. Purple Cow is a book that will push you to create something extraordinary. Godin’s basic point is that we don’t remember ordinary experiences, like the airline that got you to your destination on-time or the meal that was merely OK. Instead, we become passionate over excellent, “above and beyond” service and products. We rave about them to our friends and neighbors, which is the best marketing there is.

And about the only marketing that works.

Which is Godin’s point – in order to break through the clutter, we must create the truly extraordinary. Do work that scares you, that’s on the edge. Don’t be like other people – be unique.

A compelling idea, but one that probably doesn’t deserve a whole book (even a slim one). After a while, it’s the same story of iconoclasm again and again. Also, some of the examples are dated now, like JetBlue as a paragon of customer service and Godin’s comment about mobile phones being commodities at this point – obviously written before the iPhone.

But if you’re a fan of Seth Godin, or are currently working on a new product and need some inspiration, then it’s worth checking out.

Note: The 2010 edition includes an appendix containing stories of companies and organizations that have adopted the Purple Cow philosophy successfully.

Birthing a Book the National Geographic Way

I had the privilege to work with Janice Hall Booth. She’s a very inspiring woman who wrote a great book, Only Pack What You Can Carry. It’s like Eat, Pray, Love but is about someone who actually went out into the world and did something 😉 Her message is that you can find your personal mission through solo travel.

Janice has been a whitewater rafter, a photographer, a nonprofit executive and an avid adventurer, always willing to push the limits of what’s possible.

Only Pack What You Can Carry
Only Pack What You Can Carry

But perhaps her most challenging adventure was getting a book published! She’s been blogging about this and has now put the publishing story together in a handy PDF. Find out how she was discovered and what it was like working with National Geographic. It’s a warts and all look at the publishing world, told with her trademark honesty.

And I make a brief cameo at the end, as Janice’s new media coach. While I gave her checklists to follow and guides to blogging, my advice was really simple – use the tools that you’re most comfortable with to tell your fascinating story.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Mac users at SXSW

Everyone writes. In this digital age, we’re creating more words than ever. Whether it’s an email to a client, a persuasive blog post or the Great American E-Book, the ability to explain yourself in writing is the critical skill of the Internet era.

Despite this profusion of words, people often encounter writer’s block when attempting large or significant projects. They can fire off tweets and snarky Facebook comments all day long but their fingers stall when it comes to crafting something that really matters.

After I wrote my novel Murder in Ocean Hall, the question I got most was, “How?”

How did I muster up the patience to devote so much time to a single idea? How did I keep at it? How did I overcome the inertia of writer’s block to get started?

Writer’s block happens to everyone. But it can be overcome. Continue reading “Overcoming Writer’s Block”

Book Talk: Prohibition in DC

It’s hard to imagine but booze was once outlawed in DC. The Prohibition era is the subject of a fascinating new book by local author Garret Peck.

He’s an excellent speaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of the city. I wrote an article for the Pink Line Project about his book talk, where he shared what life was like when Washington was “dry.”

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.