Inside the Mind of a Literary Thief

Everybody knows by now that the spy thriller Assassin of Secrets was stitched together by "author" Quentin Rowan from passages stolen, word for word, from other espionage novels. But he went even further than that… he also stole from other authors for the essays, blog posts, and the Q&A interviews that he did to promote his book.

Novelist Jeremy Duns, who blurbed the original novel, has been extraordinarily aggressive now in exposing the ruse and, in the comments section of his excellent blog post dissecting the Assassin of Secrets, Rowan shows up to explain himself, leading to a revealing, back-and-forth interview. It's fascinating stuff. Here's an excerpt of Rowan's mea culpa…

"[…] the minute I got an agent and started showing it to people who suggested changes, I began to distrust the quality of whatever real work I'd done on it. So I started ripping off passages from spy novels in my collection that fit. Somehow public scrutiny has always been the pressure point for me. Once I feel I'm doing the work for someone else's eyes, I begin stealing, because I want to impress.

Once the book was bought, I had to make major changes in quite a hurry, basically re-write the whole thing from scratch, and that's when things really got out of hand for me. I just didn't feel capable of writing the kinds of scenes and situations that were asked of me in the time allotted and rather than saying I couldn't do it, or wasn't capable, I started stealing again. I didn't want to be seen as anything other than a writing machine, I guess. Some call it "people pleasing." Anyway, the more I did it, the deeper into denial I went, until it felt as if I had two brains at war with each other. Half of my time this past year was spent in a strange internal argument: Yes I can, no I can't. They'll figure it out! No they won't! It became like a strange schizophrenic form of gambling, and for some reason – viewing myself as a failed 'literary' writer – I saw this book as my "last shot." So even though what was left of my rational mind understood I would probably be found out, I still thought I had to bet it all on this one horse."

Jones Harvest is Dead

Bonnie Kaye reports on her Jones Harvest Fraud Victims blog that Brien Jones' sleazy vanity press is finally dead and buried. She writes, in part:

Brien Jones is a predator. He had his staff calling people in nursing homes to solicit them for money. Some of his past employees have called me with the horror stories of how horrible they felt doing this. Children of three different elderly authors have contacted me after their parents died waiting for books that were never printed. 

[…]Some of you are aware that Jones opened a bookstore in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere. Since he was unable to get author books into real bookstores, he rented his own with the money donated by two authors in order to have the store named after them, Bidwell Moore and Merlene Byars. […]I called several stores in the shopping strip where the store was located and they confirmed that Jones “snuck out” in the middle of the night due to non-payment of rent.  

Brien Jones has given up snookering elderly people out of their savings to "publish" their books to reportedly concentrate on becoming an author himself. I only wish he was writing his books from a prison cell.  The real tragedy here is that law enforcement officials in Indiana let Jones continue with his sham publishing company until it finally, and thankfully, crumbled under his staggering incompetence.

The Publishing Cart Before the Storytelling Horse

I wish I could take credit for that headline, but it belongs to Chuck Wendig.  He makes a very good point in a recent, and controversial, blog post about the obsession self-published authors have with striking it rich, boosting their rankings, voting on tags, etc. and how little attention they pay to the really, really, REALLY important part…

 In self-publishing, I see so much that focuses on sales numbers and money earned, but I see alarmingly little that devotes itself toward telling good stories. After all, that’s the point, right? Selling is, or should be, secondary. The quality of one’s writing and the power of one’s storytelling is key. It’s primary. It’s why we do this thing that we do. Any time you hear about the major self-publishers, it’s always about the sales, the percentage, the money earned. What’s rare is a comment about how good the books are. When the narrative was all about Amanda Hocking, everybody was buzzing about her numbers, but nobody I know was buzzing about how good those books were. Focus less on the delivery of the stories and more about the quality of what’s being delivered.

The problem is, if more self-published authors did that, they'd have to acknowledge how insanely awful most of the "indie" stuff really is. Josin L. McQuein, one of the commentors on Chuck's post, summed up the problem perfectly:

…self-e-publishing is a lot like the atmosphere on a fanfiction site. It’s mostly garbage, and everyone reading it knows that. Among that garbage, there are pockets of gold and diamonds that, if found, will draw readers. (I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the more popular fanfic authors make a serious go of self-e-publishing. They’ve got a built in audience that can be tens of thousands strong in the larger fandoms.) The trick is, someone has to find those pockets of precious material and pass the information along. It doesn’t always happen. If you’re going to self-e-publish, then TAKE YOUR TIME. If it takes you weeks, months, or even a year to write your book, then why would you undermine all of that time and effort by rushing through the final steps of the process? If you’re going self-publish, then don’t handicap your novel by not making it the best you possibly can.

In other words, don't put the publishing cart before the story-telling horse.

The Rave Verdict for The Jury

0298 Goldberg ecover The Jury Series Bruce Grossman at Bookgasm has given THE JURY SERIES a rave review. Here's an excerpt:

This four-book collection, THE JURY SERIES, is straight-up men’s adventure material. Don’t expect complex plots; these were all about body counts and vengeance, and there is plenty of both to go around.  Originally credited to Ian Ludlow, they were actually Goldberg in disguise — a mild-mannered college student testing out his writing muscle.[…] Goldberg holds nothing back in this one, that’s for sure. Bodies pile up real quickly, proving Macklin is not one to screw with. This collection recharged my love for the genre.

Thanks so much, Bruce!


The Tired Procedural

Ken Levine reveals on his blog today the tired formula behind  most of today’s procedural crime dramas. Here’s an excerpt:

[The hero] must have some supernatural power. He or she can read minds, has an amazing photographic memory, can remember every lunch he/she ever had, is a math whiz, or the most common – can see Fairy Tale characters. 

But with this gift must come a curse. They must be tortured emotionally. They must have a dark past. Their wife/sibling/child/imaginary friend has been killed and they’re still haunted by it. 

They’re only helping the police solve crimes as a way to better get in touch with resolving the unsolved circumstances of their dark past. The killer is still out there!  But only week one and the season finale.  Otherwise, it’s business as usual.  Solving crimes and tossing off zingers…


For the rest, check out his blog.

More Word from The Dead

Ron Hogan at Reader's Entertainment has written a great background piece on THE DEAD MAN series and our new deal with Amazon. Here's an excerpt:

“Ultimately, we are the ones responsible for maintaining the consistency of the franchise and turning in great books to Thomas & Mercer,” Goldberg explains; each book is commissioned on a work-for-hire basis, with the authors receiving an advance and splitting royalties with the series’ creators. Although Thomas & Mercer will be paying a lower royalty rate than the 70 percent Goldberg and Rabkin earned while self-publishing, the deal is still “much better than what we would get from a traditional publishing contract,” he says. “In addition, we are going to move a lot more units than we would thanks to Amazon’s marketing and promotional savvy on their own platform.” 

That’s welcome news for Goldberg, who attributes much of the “great” sales for Face of Evil to a guest post he wrote for Amazon’s Kindle blog in which he described how the series was connected to his love of classic “men’s adventure” novels that flourished when the paperback market was in its heyday. “The other books [in the series] were doing fine, but not spectacularly well,” he admits. “Nowhere near what we saw as their potential, based on the amazing critical response and reader reviews we’ve been getting.”

When Amazon’s audiobook division, Brilliance Audio, began negotiating at the beginning of the summer with Goldberg and Rabkin about audio versions of the series, Thomas & Mercer quickly became involved as well. “They instantly understood what we were hoping to accomplish with the series,” Goldberg says. “They saw the potential in it and, like us, were frustrated that it hadn’t been tapped yet.”


Boob Tube

Farrah_fawcett_011 Boobs are back on TV…and in a big way…this season with CHARLIE'S ANGELS, PAN-AM, and THE PLAYBOY CLUB, to name a few. As The Wrap reports:

Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., the executive director for Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, suggests that, particularly in dour financial times, male viewers — not to mention the overwhelmingly male decision-makers at the networks — might be looking to retreat into less complicated, more comforting times.

"In times of economic and social upheaval and difficulty, nostalgia and a longing for an era when life seemed simpler tend to bloom," Lauzen said.

That could be especially true in an era when men — at least the ones not on TV, anyway — find themselves losing economic and social ground to the fairer sex.

"As women continue to gain economic, social and political power, there is always some sort of backlash, a desire to put women 'back in their place,'" Lauzen adds.

"These programs may reflect that type of wishful thinking."

Naturally, those involved with the series have a different take on the matter. At the Television Critics' Association press tour earlier this month, "Pan Am" star Christina Ricci dismissed cries of sexism, claiming that her series provides "a really great message for young girls and women … [Air travel] is something that's exciting for these women. We're as excited as the passengers are."

Never mind that the Pan Am stewardesses were subjected to mandatory girdle-wearing and weigh-ins. Or that the trailer for the series prominently features a clip of one of the stewardesses stripped down to her bra as she frantically changes clothes in the back of a taxi.

I,for one, can't wait for the new take on THREE'S COMPANY as a female-empowered show…with female empowered breasts.

Get Sharp

ZoeSharp-StreetTriple-closeup-lo-res[1] Author Tim Hallinan has interviewed my friend Zoë Sharp on the release of FOX FIVE, her new collection of stories about bodyguard Charlie Fox, the heroine of a nine terrific action novels.  Here's an excerpt:

TH: Are there now “strong woman” stereotypes, as there are “strong men” stereotypes, and if so, what are they?

ZS: LOL. I suppose there are stereotypes, yes, although for me the strong-woman stereotype is in danger of becoming a caricature. They’re so often either ice-cold assassins or psychos. And the typical strong woman is rarely ugly, or even plain for instance. She’s always brilliant and beautiful (and tall) and preferably troubled as well. And she worries endlessly about her figure, regardless of age.

[…]I tried to give Charlie a wry sense of humour about most things, her own looks included. Because it’s a first-person narrative, there isn’t a lot of room to talk about how she looks. And when she does look in the mirror, she tends to see her own scars more than anything else. But I have tried hard to keep her both feminine and human, though. She is not, as someone wonderfully put it, ‘a guy in nylons’.  (Actually, I can’t see Charlie ever wearing nylons, but there you go . . .)

I haven't read these short stories yet but I am a big Charlie Fox fan. Here's my blurb for Killer Instinct, the first Fox novel, which was published a decade ago in the UK and was recently re-released by Busted Flush Press here.

If you only know Charlie Fox from [her U.S. releases] First Drop, Second Shot, and Third Strike, you don't know Charlie. What you've got in your hands is a rare and special treat. It’s like finding some lost Jack Reacher novel or a couple of non-alphabet Kinsey Milhones that nobody knew existed. Don't let anyone tear it from your hands without drawing their blood.

These early  books haven’t been a secret, but they've been harder-to-get than Charlie Fox in your bed. Think of these as the early years of Charlie Fox − she’s lethal and relentless, but still raw from the military experience that made her the kick-ass, take-no-prisoners bodyguard that she’s become.

But there’s more going on in these books than breakneck action and adventure. Charlie has heart, maybe too much for a woman in her profession . . . and it’s that caring, that humanity, that makes her much more than a killer babe on a motorbike. These books are your chance to discover Charlie Fox as she discovers herself, her strengths and her weaknesses, and sustains the scars to her body and soul that make her such a unique and compelling character.

I have no doubt these new stories are every bit as good as the novels. And if you like them, you won't want to  miss Fourth Day, her latest Fox novel.

What We Do To keep Ourselves Interested


I write books more for myself than for my readers. I figure if I am not entertained, my reader won't be, either. Author Christa Faust feels the same way

A reviewer recently accused me of creating a “Mary Sue” character in my Supernatural tie-in COYOTE’S KISS. For those who don’t know what that means, a “Mary Sue” is a too-perfect wish-fulfillment character that represents the author’s own idealized persona.

While I freely admit that the character in question is a wish-fulfillment character, it’s a completely different kind of wish. I created that character not because I’d like to be her, but because I’d like to fuck her. After all, we tie-in writers have to do something to spice up the daily grind.


I don't think I've ever created a character in a book or a screenplay that was a personal fuck fantasy figure. I'll have to try that one of these days…but I doubt it will be in a Monk novel.