April 26, 2015
Recently there's been some discussion about author self-promotion and whether or not it is worth it. Here's my perspective. I think there are several sides to self-promotion. Much of publishing, as far as I can see, is pure serendipitous chance. Finding a publisher who wants to buy your book? I know one friend who got his first book contract because he forgot his car keys. True story, too long for right here. As for finding an agent - after thirty-one books I still don't have one. As for getting people interested in buying the books. Let me start with friends and relatives - they all presume they should be getting free copies connected to their status as friends and relatives, or at least that was my experience with many of my friends and almost all relatives. And if I had the chance to do it all again, I would, in fact, give them all free copies - prevents a lot of pointless agonizing on both sides. Their connection to you is far more important than any profit that you'd make from selling them an actual book. The rest of the world? A bit of a story. When I was starting out, we were told any number of pearls of wisdom about getting our books sold. Some of them: Go to bookstores, we were told. Go to writers conferences! Set up book signings and tours! Make bookmarks pushing your books! Send out notifications to every library in your state! Except this was mostly kind of backwards. For example, people saw big time authors doing readings and signings and the crowds that would line up around the block. But see, the mistake made was presuming it was the signings and readings and appearances that made one famous. This might happen, I suppose, but most often people go to signings, readings, and appearances because the author is already famous. The causality was mixed up. And then if there is a magic spell to get a big time publisher to fork out big time money to get an author on big time network morning shows, I'm not aware of what that spell might be. My guess is, there is no such spell. We're back to pure serendipitous luck. Then there was the article not that long ago that made the claim that at least some editors in New York were laughing themselves silly about the poor mid-list authors rushing about the countryside trying to sell their books. True? I have no idea. My editors are and were always most kind, gracious, and encouraging. I've spent a great deal of tax-deductible money on taking out ads in the past few years. I keep track of sales at the author central section on amazon. You can keep track in any number of ways including by geography. I have yet to come remotely close to showing a profit from an increase in sales compared to what it cost to run the ads. In terms of all the Internet networking, I know some swear by it, and I've been to a couple seminars at conferences that push getting yourself onto the Net. But I'm afraid it's the same catch-22 as above. Those who are famous have huge followings already. Being on the Internet doesn't get you the following. If you're famous, then the following is there. All of the above said, what is an author to do? I think two things. The most important is three fold - shut up, sit down, and write. But at the same time, it really is important to do as much publicity as you can. You never know what bit of activity you might engage in that might lead you to your 'Susan Boyle' moment. That is that magic few seconds that turn you from not-famous to a star. But even more, there were a number of us who started out about the same time in the late 80s, early 90s. Those of us who madly rushed about and continue to rush about, are still being published. Those who did not rush about doing publicity are mostly not being published. Is there a direct cause and effect to all this that I can prove? No. I can only give anecdotal evidence. And so what I've done here, for example, is taken a chunk of time away from getting tonight's writing done to write this. Worth it? I know I feel better. And when I write my books, I know I feel enjoyment, pride, and great satisfaction. That has to be enough, I think, because all the rest, as far as I can see, is mostly pure serendipitous chance.
February 9, 2014
THE GREAT PIE FIGHT or WHAT SOME AUTHORS WON'T DO TO SELL A BOOK.
A TRUE STORY
Someone, and we are not going to name names here, set out to organize his receipts for his 2013 taxes this afternoon (any excuse not to work on writing). The bottom of the receipt box had a bunchof sales books/ledger books for use when selling books at street fairs. This would have been @ 1991/1992. Under those he found a mound of stuff from the same time. School stuff. Articles from newspapers on gay stuff. Mystery writer stuff.
At that time someone sent a memo to Debbie, Mark, Mike, and Bob re: Omaha con pie event. (Last names are not in the original. Speculation on who they might be are left to the reader, or in the odd possibility they were present at the event, they may actually know who these people are). The afore named were to be on a panel at an upcoming mystery convention in Omaha. The panel would end with a pie fight which would trigger huge sales. The memo discusses the seating arrangements for the pie fight portion, which includes a person not named in the 'to whom' line, a mysterious Barb. It also suggests the dialogue to be used to trigger the great pie fight, and to be used during the great pie fight.
My favorite line of dialogue: All scream curses, such as "Curses!"
I don't know if I should have it framed or bronzed, or, alternatively, my head examined for having it in this pile of junk or having saved it in the first place. But I've been smiling ever since I found it. There is, I believe a picture of the event somewhere amongst the junk in this apartment. Can't imagine finding it any time this side of the end of the next millennium, if then. Lucky for us.
And a final note, I did not sell one book at the convention after the pie fight, and not many before it for that matter.
October 10, 2013
Recent Release Review: Alien Quest by Mark Zubro
Posted by Pattycake on October 9, 2013
ďHe kept his vial of pepper spray with the lid off in his right hand. He didnít know if this would work against an intergalactic attack, but heíd do whatever he could to defend himself, as ineffective as thatmight be.Ē GENRE: M/M, humor, sci-fi, mystery RATING: 4 Sweet Peas!
BLURB: Gay Chicago waiter falls in love with a sexy, mysterious alien who asks for his help to save Earth from a mad scientist.
Chicago waiter Mike Carlson stumbles into intergalactic intrigue and romance as he becomes involved with Joe, an alien cop, who lands on Earth in pursuit of a dangerous mad scientist bent on taking over our corner of the universe. As Mike joins Joe on a wild adventure beyond anything he dreamed of in his life, Mike must balance his obligations to his nephew and his first loverĖ with a little help from a drag queen in sequins and spandex and the well-dressed patrons of a leather bar.
PATTYCAKEíS OPINION: In Alien Quest, Mark Zubro has written a quirky, humorous, and sometimes heartbreaking tale that takes the standard ďevil alien out to take over and rule the world vs the good alien out to stop himĒ story and turns it upside down and inside out. Mike Carlson is a waiter at Oscae and Alfredís, the trendiest restaurant in Chicago. A gorgeous man has been sitting at the same table in Mikesís section for several nights. The guy finally makes a move on Mike, but his crude attempt only makes Mike angry. After closing time, Mike finds the man unconcious in the alley behind the restaurant, where heís been attacked by a carful of teens. When Mike offers to take Joe-the name that the man gives him after he wakes up-to the hospital, or to the police, little did he know that this was the beginning of a wild adventure beyond anything he could ever dream of.
This is a character and plot driven story with a plot that flows smoothly from the first page until the last. The characters are solid. Three dimensional, and definitely donít fit the usual stereotypes that most people think of when they hear ďaliensĒ, ďspaceshipsĒ, or ďscience fictionĒ. The backstory does a fantastic job of filling in any gaps in the storyline and lays a solid foundation. There is little actual sex in the story, but the book is so interesting that itís really not needed. I really like how the author skillfully blends the ordinary with the extraordinary into a seamless whole, plus does a fantastic job of shining a bright light on subjects that all too many people would prefer not to know about.
The authorís writing style is crisp, clean, and original. The story has a very unique HEA ending that comes after a wild series of twists and turns that I didnít see coming. If youíre looking for a entertaining and enthralling book that is well worth the time it takes to read, then you DEFINITELY should check this one out.
Title: Alien Quest Author: Mark Zubro Publisher: MLR Publication Date: August 30, 2013 Series: Alien Danger #1 Cover Art: Deana Jamroz Length: 397 pages
September 29, 2013
I saw another one of those lists today. Those things with ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, a million places to see before you die. With people competing to see who had been to more of them. As if some how counting up and competition, about who had more toys than the rest of us reallymade much of a difference.
A number of years ago, someone asked me, of all the places youíve been and all the places youíve seen where would you want to be most.
My response was instant, ďIn my chair in my home with a book open and reading.Ē
I know, kind of Wizard of Oz-ish.
I have seen some beautiful sights. The stars of the Milky Way at night over the desert years before pollution began to obscure the cosmos above us. Sitting on the shore of Lake Superior one night with the moon and stars shining above and reflecting off the lapping lake water, while on three sides thunderstorms, climbing to the heavens, roared in the distance, the lighting reflecting and illuming the night sky of a wondrous world. Interstate 70 on the last pass over the last set of mountains before it intersects with Interstate 15 in thevalley below, a moonscape of mountain and shadow, jagged peaks and stone, and distant, sun-drenched valley in the distance to the east.
And yet we have lists. And itís kind of harmless fun. And I do enjoy seeing new places and having new experiences. But somehow this notion of counting up and competition seems strange to me.
Perhaps Iíve known for a long time that Iím not going to die with more toys than any billionaire, or millionaire, or, for that matter any kind of Ďmoneyaireí of any kind.
That notion, Iíve seen this and this and this and so what have you seen? Iíll see your Eiffel Tower and raise you several pyramids? Really, this is what it comes to?
Like I said, itís harmless.
And kind of a pointless competition. Do we compare a butterflies wings to the Eiffel Tower? Of course, not. A child sleeping peacefully in his father's arms to, well, really, is there a sight that we could or should compare to that? Each is beauty in itís own way. And can be appreciated each to each. But do we make a list then of butterflies seen, of sights visited, of compassion shone. Itís best we donít, I think. But really, it is harmless.
Itís the lists that bother me. The competition, implied or direct. The setting of a standard, one to another, with always the implication that this life is better than that one. Really, and we are to judge and make lists and say go here go there? I think not. But really who is harmed?
What Iíd be interested in knowing is, how kind were you at every possibility that came to you today? How much did you listen today? What did you do today to make the world a more kind and gentle place?
And no, I donít want you to count them up. I donít want you to justify yourself to me. Not that you had to in the first place.
But this whole counting up notion - of places visited, of movies seen, of books read, of degrees earned. And we count all this stuff up and that equals a good life?
As Iíve said, I know, itís all pretty innocent fun. But it strikes me as just a bit of bullying in a sad way. Iíve been to these places, and you havenít? Iíve been to more of these places then my life is worth more than yours? Iím rich and youíre not?
Congratulations. I hope that makes you feel better, and even more leads to you leaving those of us who are not as rich, alone. Then, indeed, there is less harm.
September 24, 2013
David Wright wrote a fabulous blog post about Alien Quest. The link to check it out is here:
September 24, 2013
Sitting down with a long celebrated Writer of Gay Mystery & Suspense. My Interview with Author Mark Zubro
I have been making up stories since I was about eight or nine; writing them down since about ten years old (this is a guess since my mother actually reads my postings from time to time). Thefirst ďAĒ I can ever recall getting was in an English class where we were asked to ďmake up a storyĒ. The rest, as they say, is history Ė though it took me almost forty years to consider publishing, and Iím glad I did.
The reason for my ramble is because twenty years ago, I marshaled enough courage to write a fan letter to an author of gay mystery novels I really enjoyed reading, asking advice for a gay writer just getting started. Remember, the old fashion way of putting pen to paper, signing your name at the bottom, affixing a stamp and knowing youíd never get a response? Well, believe it or not, I actually received a response dated March 18, 1992 (yes, Iíve kept the letter all this time!) from the writer who responded with a full page of advice, who was none other than Mark Zubro.
Please join me (excuse my giddiness) as I get to interview one of my favorite gay mystery writers, who helped to influence my own writing.
Where do you live? City, town, island, country?
Mokena, Illinois, USA
Writerís rarely like to toot their own horn. Seriously! What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Having twenty-five books and five short stories published, and the first volume of my great gay sci-fi epic Ė after working on it twenty-three years, is just out; these are my greatest accomplishments.
Without getting too personal, can you share a little about your home life?
Mostly I read books, write books, nap, and eat chocolate (Jon:I am so there!). Not always in that order, but pretty much thatís it. Iím good at dull and boring. They say Ďbe the best you can beí, Ďfind out who you areí, Ďdo what youíre good atí. Well, Iím good at dull and boring. Itís who I am and Iím comfortable with it. (Recommendation Ė read Quiet by Susan Cain Ė great analysis of this.)
Where do you write, and in what format? (computer, tablet, paper, recorder)
I write in my office on a PC. I can do corrections from my editor on the PC. I havenít learned to do them on the MAC yet.
What inspires and challenges you most in writing?
The most challenging thing in writing is making myself sit down and to get to work. That hasnít changed in all these years. The old clichť, boring as it is, 90% of life is showing up, is true. Iíve discovered that writing is a whole lot more like real work than most people realize.
The most inspiring thing or things: well, with most mystery writers Ė okay, with me Ė we are very busy getting even with people we donít like. Any number of women have told me they wrote their first mystery to get even with their ex-husband. And with a gay person, there are just a whole lot of homophobes out there who need their comeuppance. Thereís not a lot any of us Ė okay, me again Ė can do about the homophobes, not in real life. But in my mysteries, by gosh, they can have all kinds of problems. In fact, if you are racist, sexist, homophobic, or a school administrator in one of my books, if you arenít the corpse Ė and you are quite likely to be Ė but if you arenít, then rest assured bad things are going to happen to you by the end.
Iím also inspired by other peopleís stupidities. For example, if the gun nuts are right and we all have to be armed to the teeth, then what happens if at a convention of gun nuts ifÖoh, wait, thatís the beginning of the plot for the next Paul Turner mystery. I canít tell you more because I donít know more. Iíve only got a paragraph done on it. And I wonít be starting on (the novel) until I finish the new Tom and Scott, which I wonít be starting on until I get done with the edits on the books coming out in the next few months.
Youíve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers (and fellow writers) really want to know. Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?
Itís changed over the years. I used to start a mystery and not have a clue about how it would end. Iíd follow the characters as they bumbled through the world looking for a solution. Iíd realize over time, that if this event happened in the early part of a book, then there must be an explanation somewhere near the end of the book. So, no outline and no notion except what logic dictated.
Nowadays, itís different, sort of; still no outline, really, but I know, usually early on, (what) scenes that I want to put in the book. For example, in the next Tom and Scott, I know there are two murders. One many years ago. I know who didnít commit that murder, although I donít know who did. But the person who didnít commit the murder thinks he did. Tom has to figure out, discover that this person didnít commit that murder. How he does that, I have no idea. So, Iíve got a structure that I now fill in that leads to the conclusion I want. Sometimes when working this way, lots of things have to be rewritten, changed, and edited. And I have no idea who did the second murder. Iím pretty sure itís not the first guy, who is innocent of the first murder, but Iím not absolutely sure he didnít do it. Iíll have to see. (Jon:Confusing to say the least. I doubt most readers realize how much goes into developing a tightly woven mystery, suspense/thriller.)
In the Paul Turner example above, I have the whole gun-nut convention thing. I also know I want a scene in the book at home where Brian, Paul Turnerís older boy, has gone to college. His younger son, Jeff, four years younger, misses his older brother, but would never admit it (OMG, I have loved Jeff all these years since first reading, ďSorry NowĒ. I love the way you have developed his character; so real and true, regardless of his challenges). But the younger boy has taken to wearing his older brotherís lettermanís jacket. Itís a tender, nostalgic moment that I want in the book. I have no idea where it fits in with the plot, with the momentum of the book, but I think itís important to show Paul as a loving dad, and I think itíll fit. And then, in that same to be written in a year or so Ė Paul Turner Ė he needs to confront one of his colleagues who betrayed them inÖ Well, again, I donít want to give too much away.
With so much releasing and in the works, how do you deal with the constant distractions such as blogs, FB, promo and real life (like that dreaded daytime job)?
I wrote twenty-three of the books while I was teaching full-time. During those years of being published while teaching, I was also president of the teachersí union in my school district. So there was always a paper to grade, or a student to help, or a teacher in need of assistance or union contract negotiations with the school board; well something. But Iíve discovered with writing, there is always an excuse not to write. Always. It can be trivial or monumental, life changing or mundane, but thereís always an excuse. It goes back to an answer to an earlier question, making myself write every day is the key.
As for promotion, I know a few authors who get their book published and just think the world will then rush to buy their books. Then, there are those of us who slog through every promotional possibility we can find. Itís part of the job. The writing is the key, but selling is vital, painful as that can sometimes be, and Iím an intensely private person (again Ė read Quiet by Susan Cain Ė brilliant book on just this very subject), but I do the promotion. I try to do it right. I learn new things; all this techno selling for example.
How do I get them all done? I donít know. I just plod through. I get one thing done and then I go on to the next.
You have two long-running serials, affectionately known by fans as the Tom & Scott series and the Paul Turner mysteries. How do you sustain the awesome Paul Turner, gay Chicago cop/investigator series and the incredible couple, Tom & Scott, series to keep them fresh and to keep fans returning?
There are several key elements to keeping them fresh. I rotate writing them Ė one year a Tom and Scott, the next year a Paul Turner and so on. Tom and Scott novels are written in the first person; Paul Turner in third person. This is a big help in switching my mind into the different worlds, the structure of the books themselves. Tom is, by definition an amateur sleuth. This brings into play what I call the ďJessica Fletcher syndromeĒ. No cop in his right mind would allow an amateur such access. The Ďtoo interestedí person is, in your average copís mind, at the top or near the top of the suspect list.
Although after all these years, I think it would be a hoot, in the very last final two hour episode, if it was revealed that Jessica did them all. But, thatís just me. The point here is, I have to always give Tom a reason to be involved and an in. This influences the whole plot. The Paul Turner books in that sense are simple; itís his job. But being his job brings in its own set of complications.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Have I mentioned chocolate yet? Can chocolate ever be mentioned enough?
On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time answering questions fans of the genre are would like to know. Will you share a little about your current release and/or WIP?
My current release is Alien Quest, a volume of one gay sci/fi epic and love story set in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. An alien comes to Earth and enlists the help of a gay waiter to assist him in his quest to capture the evil scientist from his home world. They have numerous wild adventures as their relationships blossoms. The next book in the Paul Turner series, Pawn of Satan, will be out at the end of October 2013. My first young adult book, Safe, will be out in January 2014.
Where to get Mark Zubroís books:
Tags: and pretty dead too, black and blue, celebrated author, gay mystery, gay thriller, gay writer, interview, mark zubro, MLR, pawn of satan, sorry now?, writer
This entry was posted on Saturday, September 21st, 2013 at 9:51 am and is filed under Interviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
2 Responses to ďSitting down with a long celebrated Writer of Gay Mystery & Suspense. My Interview with Author Mark ZubroĒ
Kage Alan Says:
September 21st, 2013 at 11:02 pm
I had the pleasure of doing a book signing with Mark in Milwaukee several years ago and he was wonderful! Talk about a warm person who enjoyed the folks who came there to see us both. =)
Jon Michaelsen Says:
September 22nd, 2013 at 9:47 am
Iím jealous, Kage. What an awesome opportunity. I hope I get to eventually meet Mark one day as well.
September 12, 2013
I'm not normally into Sci-Fi, but this book was thoroughly enjoyable. First, it wasn't a story of the future, but takes place in the current time frame. Secondly, the reader isn't overwhelmed with future technologies or Sci-Fi jargon. It is the story of a cop from another planet who is chasing a bad guyand enlists a human to help. When asked how this or that gadget works, the alien always tells the human to find another alien. He's a detective, not a physicist and doesn't understand how it works, but only that it does. Will be looking forward to the sequel. This is pure Zubro.
September 12, 2013
From Allen at Goodreads - gay science fiction group
Allured by the cover... I checked out Alien Quest on Amazon. I read the free peek, which is about 8 short chapters worth. Normally, I read the free or low cost SciFi, of which there is plenty, but after the "peek", I was hooked so I bought it. I realize that the target audience for male/male romance is limited so authors who write it must charge higher prices. That said... I loved it! It was worth every penny. The author's knowledge of the gay world creates a place that feels like home. The characters feel real as if the author himself has met aliens of his own. The Chicago scenes feel real and they are since I looked them up on Google Maps. That adds to the credibility. I also like that sex scenes were alluded to but not explicit. That makes it read more like an adventure and not cheap smut. Thank you Mark! I hope your book is a huge success and you are encouraged to write a sequel.