Technically, this one didn't come to me, but was about me, so I think it counts. It's mail that my brother Tod got from a fan of mine:
Hey Todd, I am running a contest on my facebook page for a shopping deal I made at the store today! ( I bought a gallon of milk, hemorrhoid wipes and candy, it cost 29 cents) Anyways, would you like to be the judge? I was thinking the prize would be a Mr. Monk book by your brother, I will buy it at the local book store. I think it might be fun to see what creative responses we get. Also, you don't think that your brother Lee would be mad it I gave a Mr. Monk book as a prize do you?
To which Tod politely responded:
Uhm…I'm flattered (I think?) that you'd want me to judge this, but I just don't have the time, I'm afraid. As for the prize…well…I'm inclined to believe that no writer would really want his book being the prize for a bargain spree of candy and cheap hemorrhoid cream, so I'm going to go ahead and say use your best judgment on that one.
Naomi Hirahara, Brett Battles, Wendy Hornsby, Cara Black and Timothy Hallinan are just a few of the amazing authors who've contributed stories to SHAKEN: STORIES OF JAPAN, an ebook anthology that benefits the Japan America Society of Southern California's Japan relief fund. You won't find an easier or more enjoyable way to contribute money to a great cause.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know I'm a huge Thomas Perry fan. We did a panel together at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and I used the opportunity to urged him to bring back his two hilarious, out-0f-print classics, BIG FISH and ISLAND, as ebooks. I'm thrilled to say that he cracked under my relentless nagging…both books are now available! Here's the story on BIG FISH:
First published in 1985 and long out-of-print, Big Fish, one of Thomas Perry's most sought-after titles, is now available to readers in an e-book format. Powerfully-plotted and funny, Big Fish follows dangerous and mysterious Los Angeles entrepreneur Altmeyer, and his wife Rachel whose quiet lives in the Hollywood hills are disrupted when a multi-million dollar gunrunning deal goes bad.
Under most circumstances, Altmeyer might be mildly amused by the audacity of the double-cross. But whoever cheated Altmeyer may also be planning to destroy the world. With so much at stake, Altmeyer and Rachel and their friend, super-agent to the stars Bucky Carmichael, set off on a perilous adventure in search of the identity of the Big Fish. What they find is shocking and horrifying and all too credible.
And here's the story on his classic ISLAND:
Island, first published in 1987 and long out-of-print, one of Thomas Perry’s most sought-after titles, is now available to readers in e-book format. The riveting and entertaining thriller follows a husband-and-wife con team on the run from the Mob, a soldier of fortune between jobs, a two-bit operator with grandiose dreams of tribal dynasty, a sultry CIA operative with divided loyalties, and the most dazzling defector ever to hurl a split-fingered fastball––twentieth-century buccaneers who wash up on a tiny island in the Caribbean and turn it into a multinational cash machine—but then the shooting starts.
Somebody is trying to invade the island, and that somebody could be anybody: the CIA, NSC or IRS; the most powerful, corrupt bank in the U.S. or the South American cocaine mafia—or it could just be the Los Angeles incarnation of the devil himself, a shadowy figure with a checkered past named Fat Jimmy…
If you are Thomas Perry fan, these classics are a must-buy…revealing a lighter side only hinted at in his string of thrillers. And if you've never read Perry before, these are a great place to start.
Back when I was a teenager writing my .357 VIGILANTE books as "Ian Ludlow," my publisher thought it would be nice if I met some of their other writers who lived in my area. One of'em was "Pike Bishop," who was writing the DIAMONDBACK westerns.
So they set us up on a lunch.
I was expecting a leather-skinned, laconic cowboy with a boots and a Stetson…and he was expecting a hardened, streetwise tough guy.
Imagine my surprise when "Pike Bishop" turned out to be uniformed cop Paul Bishop...and imagine his surprise when "Ian Ludlow" turned to be, well, me…who was then a very geeky teenager.
But that lunch started a friendship that has endured for nearly thirty years (OH MY GOD, thirty years!?). In that time, Paul has become a highly decorated LAPD detective (twice named homicide detective of the year), nationally acknowledged interrogation expert, an acclaimed crime novelist (CITADEL RUN, TWICE DEAD, etc), and a TV writer (among his credits, three DIAGNOSIS MURDER scripts that he wrote for Bill Rabkin & me).
Now Paul can add another accomplishment to his list: TV STAR.
He's the star of ABC's new summer reality/game TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, from hitmakers Jerry Bruckheimer & Bertram van Munster, the team behind THE AMAZING RACE. Here's the description from the press release:
"Combining all the elements of an edge-of-your-seat spy thriller with the excitement of rooting for real people in different locales trying to outwit legitimate professionals, "Take the Money and Run" is an exhilarating competition series that will take reality television to a whole new level. The cat and mouse format will pit everyday people against real life law enforcement for a $100,000 prize."
The series premieres on August 2nd…and I, for one, can't wait.
I just received a solicitation from Creative Nonfiction Magazine, which is looking for true-crime articles for an upcoming issue. The catch is that they require authors to pay a $20 reading fee or to buy a subscription for $25. In return, they will award the best submission $1000. So Creative Nonfiction Magazine is, essentially, not so much a magazine seeking submissions…as it is a thinly disguised writing contest with a $20-25 entry fee.
If this was a reputable magazine, and not a facade for a contest, money would flow from the publisher to the writer, not the other way around. This is a scheme by a company that apparently makes its money from writers…as opposed a real publisher, who commissions work from writers and then makes its money selling the final product. Avoid them.
UPDATE: 6-16-2011 I received the following note from the magazine:
You should've checked us out quickly online before making that erroneous judgment.
To which I replied:
I see nothing "erroneous" about it. I did check you out online. You should be ashamed of yourselves for charging a "reading fee" and/or a subscription fee to submit articles for consideration. Are you charging Ruth Reichl, Sarah Wexler, John Edge, and Phillip Lopate a reading fee? I doubt it. You must be in pretty desperate shape to be trying to make a quick buck off of writers.
To which they responded:
Anyone is welcome to submit to general submission for free. Contest entries require a reading fee, which is used to pay the prize money for the winning essay, as well as any readers and judges we have to hire to read the submissions. We sometimes have to hire readers because we have a small staff who are taken up with reading general submissions and essays for other categories. This is standard practice for literary magazines.
So I looked into it some more. And they are right, it is standard for literary magazines to run contests that charge a reading fee. I owe them an apology on that score.
However, no where in their solicitation to me, or on their home page, do they acknowledge this is a contest. Here's the original email I received from Creative Nonfiction magazine in its entirety:
For an upcoming issue, Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about true crimes—detailed reports of premeditation, follow-through and aftermath, whether gleaned from police blotters or the news, passed down as small-town legend or family lore, or committed in cold blood.
We’re interested in a variety of viewpoints and are hoping you will help us reach your audience—or will consider submitting.
We want true stories of petty theft, identity theft, embezzlement or first-degree murder; of jaywalking, selling (or maybe buying) weed or assault; of crimes and punishments and unsolved mysteries. Think "The Devil in the White City" (Larson), "In Cold Blood" (Capote) and "Iphigenia in Forest Hills" (Malcolm); or "Half a Life" (Strauss), "Lucky" (Sebold) and "The Night of the Gun" (Carr). If it’s against the law and someone—maybe even you!—did it anyway, we want to know all about it.
We’re looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice. Essays can be serious, humorous or somewhere in between. Creative Nonfiction editors will award $1000 for Best Essay.
Submission guidelines: essays must be unpublished, 4,000 words maximum, postmarked by September 30, 2011, and clearly marked “True Crime” on both the essay and the outside of the envelope. There is a $20 reading fee (or send a reading fee of $25 to include a 4-issue CNF subscription–U.S. submitters only); multiple entries are welcome ($20/essay) as are entries from outside the U.S. (though due to shipping costs, the subscription deal is not valid).
Please send manuscript, accompanied by a cover letter with complete contact information including the title of the essay, word count, SASE and payment to: Creative Nonfiction Attn: True Crime 5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202 Pittsburgh, PA 15232
For more information, please visit www.creativenonfiction.org.
Thank you for your time. We appreciate any help you can provide in sharing this announcement.
All the Best,
Editorial assistant, CNF
You'll note that they say "for an upcoming issue," not for a contest. And here is what they say on the home page of their website about the issue:
UPCOMING CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS: We're always reading general submissions and queries for non-essay sections of the magazine. We'd love to see what you're working on! We're currently looking especially for Pushing the Boundaries essays—experimental work that tests the limits of the genre. (Postmark deadline: June 13). Just announced: True Crime!
You'll note that so far the word "contest" has not appeared anywhere. But if you click the link to True Crime, here's what you get:
CONTEST: TRUE CRIME
postmark deadline: September 30, 2011
For an upcoming issue, Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about true crimes—detailed reports of premeditation, follow-through and aftermath, whether gleaned from police blotters or the news, passed down as small-town legend or family lore, or committed in cold blood…
That is the only point where they finally disclose that this issue is the product of a contest that's outside of their usual publication submission requirements (where no reading fee or other fees are charged).
The problem here is two-fold. They aren't upfront that their contest is a contest…and I didn't dig deep enough before leveling a judgment. We are both at fault on this one.
My buddy Axel Brand's latest mystery, NIGHT MEDICINE is now available on the Kindle. This is the third book in the acclaimed Joe Sonntag series…the first of which, THE HOTEL DICK, was published top wide acclaim in hardcover by Five Star some years ago (and is not yet available in e-format). The second Sonntag tale, THE DEAD GENIUS, comes out in hardcover from Five Star in August. Here's the skinny on NIGHT MEDICINE…
It's summer, 1948, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The body of a lovely, well-dressed young woman is discovered at the Washington Park Zoo, near the lion cages. She is lying in a bed of ferns, her arms folded over her breast, her skirts smoothed and her legs straight. Nearby a lioness prowls her cage. Clearly, someone cared about this unknown young woman, and laid her out as if she were in a funeral home. Why she was placed there, in that fashion, is a riddle that Detective Joe Sonntag and his gifted staff try to solve.His quest leads him into strange dark corners, where compassion and death intersect.
I was on my way to lunch with my buddy Phoef Sutton, and waiting on the sidewalk to cross the street, when I heard a familiar voice behind me…one I hadn't heard in years. I turned around and there, sitting at an outdoor cafe with a friend, was actor Neil Dickson, who starred in She-Wolf of London, a syndicated series that Bill Rabkin and I wrote and produced in the early 1990s. It was a wonderful surprise. The last time I saw Neil was almost ten years ago, when he guest-starred in an episode of Martial Law, another series that Bill and I wrote & produced. While I've aged and fattened, he has kept his stunning good looks. We only had a few minutes to chat, and share some She-Wolf memories, but I am looking forward to catching up with him again very soon.
I’ve written thirty novels – eight of them Diagnosis Murder books and thirteen of them Monk tales – but my favorite out of them all is Watch Me Die, which was originally published in hardcover in 2005 under the title The Man with the Iron On Badge.
It’s about a guy who learns everything he knows about being a PI from reading books and watching TV shows. It's about the clash between fictional expectations/stereotypes and reality. The book is something of a spoof…and yet, at the same time, a straight-ahead crime novel full of explicit sex and violence. That shifting tone made the book a hard sell…because it didn't fit into a particular marketing niche. Is it a satire? Is it a PI novel? Is it a thriller?
Most of the editors who rejected the book back in 2003 praised the writing but didn't see where it would fit in their publishing line. There were two editors at major houses who loved it and wanted to acquire it…but couldn't convince their superiors. Another wrote a LONG rejection letter, saying how much she loved it, that it was the best PI novel she'd ever read, and how it pained her not to be able to publish it. (In the mean time, I wrote a screenplay version of the book, which landed me the gig writing the Dame Edna movie. It never got made, but it was a very, very big payday for me and was my first solo screenwriting job outside of episodes of TV shows that I'd produced).
It was frustrating not being able to sell the book because I felt it was the best novel I'd ever written. I loved writing it and I very much wanted to write more about Harvey Mapes, the main character. I couldn’t complain too much, because I was having a lot of success with other books. Even so, this one meant more to me than the others. I approached my Diagnosis Murder & Monk editors at Penguin/Putnams about The Man with the Iron-On Badge…but as much as they liked me, and my work, they weren't willing to take the gamble.
Finally, after two years of shopping the book, we took it to Thomson/Gale/Five, which had a reputation for putting out fine mysteries…and for being a place where published authors can find a home for their "dropped" series and unpublished works. It was an imprint run by writers (like founder Ed Gorman) and editors (like legendary book packager Martin Greenberg) who truly loved books and appreciated authors. They produced handsome hard-covers that were respected and reviewed by the major industry publications. I had a great experience with them on The Walk (another book that was a hard sell that but went on, after it fell out of print, to sell 20,000 ebook copies in two years) and I knew they would treat the book well.
The downside with Five Star was that they paid a pitifully low advance, primarily served the library market and had very limited distribution to bookstores. Still, it was possible to win wide acclaim and impressive sales with a Five Star title. And I did. Here's a sample of the reivews:
"As dark and twisted as anything Hammett or Chandler ever dreamed up […] leaving Travis McGee in the dust." Kirkus, Starred Review
“This was a witty, wonderful book,” Deadly Pleasures
“Goldberg delivers a clever riff on the traditional private eye novel, resplendent with witty and dark turns,” Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
“A fast paced, first person thriller about an under achiever who has to strive to be more than he ever thought he could be,” Permission to Kill
“Approaching the level of Lawrence Block is no mean feat, but Goldberg succeeds with this engaging PI novel,” Publishers Weekly
"Lee Goldberg bravely marches into territory already staked out by some fierce competition — Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, the early Harlan Coben– and comes out virtually unscathed." The Chicago Tribune
"Goldberg has a knack for combining just the right amount of humor and realism with his obvious love for the PI genre and his own smart ass sensibilities. [The book] is a terrific read. Goldberg is the real deal and should be on everyone’s must read list." Crimespree Magazine
The book even got nominated for the Shamus Award for best novel by the Private Eye Writers of America (losing to Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer)
And although it sold well for Five Star, it failed to land a paperback or foreign rights sales…and went out of print in 2007.
Last year, I re-released it as an ebook…where it has failed to gain much traction, despite several different covers, lots of flogging on this blog, and a stage production by the legendary Firesign Theatre.
So now I have re-re-released it as Watch Me Die. And am doing more flogging.
I really, really want Watch Me Die to succeed.
I want it to be my bestselling book…by far. Not so much for the money, but because I am proud of it.
And if it does finally do well, I can justify to myself (and, more importantly, to my wife), investing the time to write the sequel. Or a string of sequels. I would like nothing better than to write as many Harvey Mapes books as I have Monks…or many more….because Harvey Mapes is a character and a voice and an attitude that I love.
So please, help me do that. Spread the word about Watch Me Die.
(Pictured: Orson Ossman performing as "Harvey Mapes" in the Firesign Theatre radio play/stage production, at the RiverPark Performing Arts Center in Owensboro, Kentucky )