Night of the Living Book

April 23, 2014 marks the commemoration of World Book Night in the United States. It is also the International Day of the Book, which is commemorated in other countries by giving a loved one a book. This commemoration — known specifically as World Book Night U.S. — has been going on for at least a couple of years, unbeknownst to me. I love the idea of it. The particulars may be found herebut the gist of this celebration is that a number of authors and other good people in several cities across the United States will be hand-giving away copies of special editions of more than thirty books to those who for one reason or another don’t have access to the print books.  I literally just found out about this (on Thursday, March 27, 2014, to be exact) and am, uh, a little late to the party in terms of signing up to do something is concerned, but I have already taken steps to officially participate in 2015, if the Lord be willing and creek doesn’t rise. May I make so bold to say that we, authors and readers alike, should be strongly on board with this?

It is not bulletin news to any of us that there is a great deal of competition out there for that very limited thing known as leisure time. Television, movies, video games, the stage…curling up with a good book is not everyone’s leisure drug of choice. Just as we have a generation of people who have attained their majority without ever having heard a jazz album in its entirety (my younger daughter was ready to call Children’s Services when I made her spend thirty minutes of a road trip listening to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue) there is a large chunk of the population who haven’t read a book that wasn’t called “Cliff Notes” since eighth grade. Oh, the Humanity! Each of you reading these words knows someone like that, someone good and decent whom you call friend but who just doesn’t read. You know their interests, what types of television shows they watch or what movies they enjoy; with just a bit of thought you can put a book that matches their interests in their hands, for the price of a trip to Sonic or dinner out, depending if you buy them a hardback or paperback.

The music industry has been doing something like this for several years with “National Record Store Day,” supporting local music stores selling physical product (usually vinyl, believe it or not). In my city of residence, there are actually more stores selling vinyl records than compact discs. World Book Night U.S. isn’t quite the same thing, but it’s a similar sentiment: support the product.

Please: take ten minutes, pick one person out of your circle of acquaintances and lay a brand new book on them on April 23. I’m mentioning this three-plus weeks ahead of time to give you time to plan it and to pick up all that loose change on the floor of your car to pay for it. Trust me: whoever you pick will be delighted that you thought of them, and they might even read the book. And another.  And another.  And as a treat for yourself, visit the Book Night website and pick up a coffee mug or a tee-shirt or something while you’re signing up to be an official participant for next year. The toughest part will be handing away all of those special editions (“Huh? What box of special editions of PRESUMED INNOCENT by Scott Turow? Oops. I forget to pass those out.”) but somehow we’ll manage. And thank you.
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Amazon and Goodreads, Sittin’ in a Tree…


I do not visit Goodreads as often as I should. There are readers out there who spend hours on it, and yes, I probably should as well, but I am one of those people who is good socially only in small doses, whether in person or in cyberspace. I only

use Facebook to wish folks Happy Birthday; I text better than I talk, but never instant message; and I rarely visit Goodreads. Part of the reason for my lack of use of the latter is that I cannot keep up with my reading of those books of which I am already aware; if I discovered, say, an entirely different genre — such as redneck noir, to name but one — it might send me entirely over the edge that I am already toes up against and leaning forward.





I as a result have only a (barely) working knowledge of the site. I know that it is very user friendly; the opening page treats me with more respect than do my children. It does a wonderful job of pretending that its happy to see me. Maybe I don’t visit often because I know that if I did I might never leave. It is just as well, for I discovered today that Goodreads loves another, a suitor known to its friends and detractors as “Amazon.” They haven’t set a date for a nuptials, but a ring has been proffered and accepted, and a dowry promised.

I’m thinking — and I cannot stress enough that I am stating this from a position of ignorance — that, as with other marriages arranged for the purposes of uniting dynasties, this one could result in offspring good and bad. I was amused to read that one of Goodreads’ co-founders asked its users “…what integration with Kindle would you love to see the most?” I was sorely tempted to respond “Kindle. From behind” but felt that such would perhaps be inappropriate. No one asked how the friends of the parties felt about this coming together, however (though that hasn’t stopped Scott Turow from weighing in). 

Until now. I am asking you: how do you feel about Amazon purchasing Goodreads? What do you see as advantages or disadvantages for authors, publishers, readers, and the entities themselves? Is this a good thing or a bad thing, overall? Should Amazon maintain an editorial firewall, if you will, between itself and Goodreads? How will we even know? Ready, steady, go!

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It’s No Longer an Either/Or Publishing World and Other Notes from ThrillerFest


Last week I had the honor of being the first author to final for an International Thriller Writers Award for a self-published work, One More Lie. ITW has been forward thinking in this new era, recognizing that the future is now and a thrilling story works no matter what the delivery system.
Although I didn’t take home the top prize, it was cool to be there (along with former blogmate John Gilstrap and others) and to be confirmed in this: it’s no longer an either/or publishing world, but a both/and and why-the-heck not?

Mrs. B and I had our usual wonderful time in New York, where I used to pound the boards as an actor. We had dinner with my agent, Donald Maass, at a nice bistro in the Meatpacking District (really hopping these days). We talked about the craft, natch, and something Don said in passing I had to write down (this happens a lot when you listen to The Man): “Backstory is not just for plot motivation, but deep character need.”
Chew on that one for awhile.
Dear wife and I saw a hysterical Broadway show, One Man, Two Guvnors.It’s hard to describe, but suffice to say the Tony Award winning lead, James Corden, is a comedic genius.
Also saw about two hours of the amazing 24-hour film on time called The Clock.
And I got to teach at CraftFest. The room was packed! Then I realized Lee Child was teaching right after me….still, a good time was had by all.
The most interesting talk at the Fest, for me at least, came from Jamie Raab, senior vice president and publisher at Grand Central Publishing. Some notes:
Ms. Raab stated that, of course, the industry is in flux. Mass market paperbacks, for instance, are in steep decline as a category. Ms. Raab did not see any way for that format to come back to what it once was. Just what this means to the industry is not known at this time (like so many other things!)
Hardcovers, too, are heading south, simply because they have to be priced too high to cover costs of production. But, as we all know, prices are trending downward as more and more ebooks become available at consumer-friendly price points. Consumers are getting used to certain levels, and there’s no way to fight that. Consumers are co-regents with content in the marketplace.
Ms. Raab spoke about the thrillers she’s read over the years that were “game changers.” Not merely good books or great reads, but books that did something so amazingly original or compelling they actually changed the way the books after them were done.
The titles she mentioned:
Marathon Man by William Goldman
Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
The Firm by John Grisham
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Absolute Power by David Baldacci
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Each of these titles did something “more.” Marathon Man, for example, had one utterly unforgettable scene. You all know what it is. If you’ve ever been to the dentist, that is.
Absolute Power begins with another unforgettable moment, a burglar hiding himself in a swanky house, witnesses the murder of a young woman by the President of the United States. That scene, and book, changed the course of political thrillers.
So here is what you ought to consider as you write: what are you doing that is “more” than what you’ve read before? What is it about the idea, the scenes, the characters, the plot itself that comes from the deepest part of you?
Here’s the nice thing, as Leonard Bishop once put it. “If you boldly risk writing a novel that might be acclaimed as great, and fail, you could succeed in writing a book that is splendid.”
Splendid isn’t a bad place to be.
Are you reaching for “more” in your writing? 

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