Tuesday, December 24, 2013


But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the City of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 10-12)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Amazon's Kindle Matchbook Program

By Mark Young
Amazon is about to launch another program geared to tempt readers to buy more books—print and digital. Sort of a two-for-one deal! Past, present or future print-book purchases from Amazon will qualify readers to purchase the Kindle version for less than 50 percent its current list price/ These Kindle novels must be listed at a price point of $2.99 or less under this new deal.

Here is how I understand the program works. If you buy a print book form Amazon, you can opt to enter the Matchbook program and select the Kindle version at a greatly reduced price. This digital versions will range in price from absolutely free to a maxim cost $2.99. One caveat: This program will only include books from authors and publishers who have chosen to participate in this program.

Amazon has made this offer retroactive to include books purchased through their company going back as far as 1995 when they first opened their online bookstore. It will include books currently released and those released in the future.

On Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook FAQ page, the company tries to answer most of the questions that authors and publishers might have about the program.
One question that caught my attention had to do with how royalties would be calculated in this program. It appears the royalty is based upon the regular Digital List Price. 

For example, one of my Kindle novels is currently listed at $2.99, which allows me to earn 70 percent royalty. I have chosen to lower the digital price to .99-cents as a Promotional List Price. If I understand this formula correctly, I should expect to earn 70 percent of the Promotional List Price of .99-cents, rather than the normal 35 percent of books priced less than $2.99.(Amazon’s 70 percent royalty is only available for books price from $2.99-$9.99 in participating countries).

Looking at the broader picture, will this Kindle Matchbook program interest readers to buy two versions of the same book? I asked this question on the Kindleboards (KB) site to see what other authors and readers might be thinking. Now, keep in mind that most of these KB viewers are biased toward the Kindle version. At last count, 2,337 viewers clicked on my question to read what others had to say about this program, and 62 people jumped into the conversation to record their thoughts. Here are some of their comments:

One woman wrote: “I don’t have that many print books I’ve bought through Amazon. And I seldom buy or read print anymore. But I might use it to get eBook versions of a few books I bought for hubby through Amazon…and if I buy a gift paper book for someone, I might get the eBook version for myself. It would be neat if the reverse were also true—buy the full price eBook and receive a discount on the print book so that the total price is the same.”

Another viewer wrote: “I am looking forward to it because of past print books (pre-kindle) I bought and never read; maybe now that I can get them on the Kindle for a low price, I will read them! “

One man write back: “I can certainly understand Amazon’s intentions for this program—to drive eBook consumption and thereby drive Kindle sales—but it would be nice if they offered the reciprocal arrangement with the possibility of getting a print book at a discount once the eBook was purchased. I know a lot of people who don’t buy DTBs except as gifts or souvenirs. Amazon has sold millions of eBooks; I am sure they could boost the print sales if DTB’s were offered at a discount to purchasers of their eBook versions.

And lastly, this reader’s comments made me chuckle: “When is this program starting? I just ordered Nicholas Sparks new books for my MNL and would like it on Kindle so I wouldn’t have to wait for her to finish. She loves her Kindle but she has his whole collection so figured why stop now.”

I went ahead and started entering my novels onto the Matchbook program figuring it could not hurt to try it out. Who knows…maybe my novels will attract the attention of readers like the last person just quoted above who could not wait for MNL to finish reading the latest Nicholas Sparks novel. (Oh, in case you were wondering what  ‘MNL’ mean, I looked it up. Apparently it means ‘My New Love,’ at least in the context in which it was used. Either that or they were talking about flying to NML, which is the airport code for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines.)

What are your thoughts about this new Amazon program?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Writing From Your Emotions: Old Dogs, Children, And Watermelon Wine

By Mark Young
Writing draws from a writer's emotions and experiences. I’m talking about that part of the brain that stores up memories and experiences like a sponge. That allows a writer to squeeze those memories onto the page and breathe life into a story. To weave words and memories together to create a world that is comprised of the fabric of our emotions and our life experiences.

I grabbed this title—Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine—from a country song written and recorded by songwriter/singer Tom T Hall to help illustrate a point. I remember when this song came out years ago. It touched me. The words and the way Hall sang and played this song made me feel like I was there beside him in that bar listening to an older “grey black” gentleman telling him about the meaning of life. It resonated with me, particularly two lines of the song that summed up love and innocence:

 Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes,
God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate.

Now, I’ve never indulged in watermelon wine, but I love watermelon and I could imagine what watermelon wine might taste like. But, more importantly, I can feel and experience the other aspects of that song—a dog who loves you without question, without judgment, and children before they grow up in this fallen world and lose their ability to see everything through innocent eyes. I can close my eyes and picture that gentleman as “uninvited he sat down and opened up his mind” about life. I have been in places like that bar in Miami, and I can paint a picture in my mind just how the place would look.

As a writer, I could sit down and write a scene about this song based upon sketches and wisps of memory from my own life. That is how Hall reached me because he touched that part of my memory that is filled with similar experiences and emotions. This is what writers must do: They must make that connection between their readers’ world and their own.

Hall did this masterfully. If you have ever had the joy and frustration of owning a dog, you know what Hall is writing about. You could be the most cantankerous person on this planet, but if you fed and cared for a canine with any semblance of compassion and love, that dog will reciprocate with love one hundred fold even if you are an ornery old cuss. A dog will love you without question, without judgment. Hall used that emotional tug—a dog’s unquestioning love and a child's innocence—to grab at your heart and play you like a fiddle.

Writers do the same in a story by using experiences and memories to create a connection between writer and reader, much like playwrights creating a connection between the actor and the audience using the spoken word and stage props, or as Hall did with lyrics and music to guide usinto that bar. Certain words, certain stage props are used to carry the audience into another place where the playwright/author/song writer lets our minds do the rest of the work

In my first published novel, Revenge (A Travis Mays Novel), I
take the reader up into the Idaho Mountains and along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers. The story is about an ex-cop-turned-professor, trying to hide from the world in his cabin, who reluctantly agrees to help a Native American river guide find her missing brother. Much of the story centers along the two rivers, federal lands, and the Nez Perce reservation. It is a place I like to go to fly fish, and I have many memories—and frustrations—searching for the elusive steelhead along those waterways.

In my novel the land is as important as the crimes that the main character must investigate. I try to use my love of the mountains and rivers to create a world in which the reader sees and feels this place the way I do. Near the beginning of Revenge, Mays begins a journey down the river in which he sees something that his mind can’t seem to identify. He enjoys the river but he can’t shake that feeling that something or someone is out there in the forest watching him. The way he describes the river reflects his uneasiness:

Fingers of sunlight painted the river’s canvas with shades of green and sandy yellow until overhanging trees cast a foreboding net of darkness across the water. Like a dividing line between the seen and unseen worlds, sun-flecked waves became pools of mystic gloom beneath these leafy behemoths.

Throughout this novel I tried to use my love and appreciation of the river—and, hopefully, the reader’s—to create a bond between the reader and the character. I attempt to use the river as an allegory to what is happening in Mays’ life, and by the end of the novel these ties to the river should draw from the reader the same emotions and feelings coursing through Mays. I guess you will just have to read it to find out if I was successful.

Another great example is Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway used the sea as much as a character within that novel as he did the old man, Santiago.

He looked across the sea and knew how alone he was now. But he could see the prisms in the deep dark water and the line stretching ahead and the strange undulation of the calm. The clouds were building up now for the trade wind and he looked ahead and
saw a flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over the water, then blurring, then etching again and he knew no man was ever alone on the sea.

As I read that novel, I could feel Hemingway’s love and respect for the sea. I grew up near the Pacific Ocean, and those pounding coasts, bays, and inlets became my playground. As a young man, I ventured out onto the ocean currents searching for that trophy fish and felt the vastness of God’s creation and—by comparison—my own finite being. These experiences in my youth allowed me to make the crossover into Hemingway’s world. Maybe a reader has never been out in a little boat like Santiago, but they can use similar experiences to draw parallels in their mind to what this old fisherman must have felt as he battled nature.

This novel was Hemingway’s answer to all those critics who claimed he no longer could write, that he had somehow lost his edge to create another literary masterpiece. In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway drew from the deep reservoir of his emotions and experiences that he had stored up while living in Cuba and fishing the waters of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. Hemingway's joy and reverence for nature comes alive in his stories.

Can you close your eyes and see the waters over which Santiago battled the great fish and the sharks? Can you smell the salty breeze and feel the parched lips of the fisherman as he struggle to stay alive? This novel was a culmination of all those experiences and emotions Hemingway soaked in and kept in his mental reservoir until he found the right time to put it down on paper.

What experiences and emotions have you used to allow your story to touch a reader’s life? What authors have you read that skillfully used their experiences and emotions to make the story come alive?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Disneyland Through The Eyes Of A Writer

By Mark Young
Disneyland looms just ahead in our family’s vacation plans. In a few weeks we will travel to that happy place where everyone goes to have fun and to put the cares of the world far behind. Over the years I have loved taking my three daughters there as a family. Now, I have only one daughter at home and in a few years she will be spreading her own wings in preparation to leave the nest. I don’t want to think about that right now. I just want us to have fun. To live in the moment.

Maybe I will always be a kid at heart. Maybe that is why I became a novelist.

One thing that Disneyland does well is to create an environment in which everyone’s imagination can be unleashed. There is nothing in this amusement park to detract people from reliving their favorite childhood memories, to spend time in places that bring back those special moments. And to create new ones.

I would imagine for many folks picking out which part of the park is their favorite can be hard. Some of the memories I share are of characters and movies that I enjoyed as a child. Peter Pan and the ride through Neverland, fighting Captain Hook and never growing old. Mickey Mouse and his friends in Toontown. And later, Raiders of the Lost Ark, once again wondering if that giant rolling rock is going to crush you or if those spiders will sap you with poison this time. How about walking through the New Orleans quarter, listening to the jazz quartet amidst the aroma of Cajun cooking.

Hard to pick your favorite, huh?

As each of my daughters grew up, I think back about certain experiences unique to each child. One was sort of a daredevil. Disneyland is filled with these experiences—and brings back memories from yesteryear.

Recently, I asked my youngest daughter which ride was her favorite. She just
shrugged her shoulders and said, “I dunno.” I know how she feels—I can’t pick my favorite either.

On one of the days at the park, we will get a special pass and go early—before most of the park is opened for the general public. We get to stroll through there before the sun rises up and heats up the place hotter than the gunfight in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. In those early morning hours, we get to jump on rides that have no lines. It is like Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one. The park is cool and unhurried, and we can race from ride to ride without any long waits.

Can you spell ‘Heaven’?

The Disneyland experience for me is akin to writing novels. Back when I began writing my first draft of Broken Allegiance (A Tom Kagan Novel) due out later this year, I felt that Disneyland feeling about writing my new novel—or reading a new book. Anything can happen. Pare it down to one word—magic. An opportunity to let your imagination run wild, to let words and scenes run through my mind in unending possibilities. It is like being in the park early in the morning before crowds moved in. Before an unkind reader leaves a less-than-flattering comment about the novel I just penned. Before my editor—whose advice and suggestions I truly appreciate—can point out those areas where I really missed the boat and my Great American Novel runs head on into reality. Before that first blush comes off the rose, that first excitement of writing that very first draft begins to fade.

That is part of the Disneyland experience.

When I sit down to write, I like to pick places I have been to before—if at all possible. Sometime, I need to do research for places I've never visited, like the city of  Baku, Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea, and then try to imagine that place as it came alive in my novel,  FATAL eMPULSE (A Gerrit O’Rourke Novel). And I find myself often creating mind picture characters who resembles actors I have seen on the big screen—at least at the beginning. Before these characters begin to take on a life, looks and attitudes all of their own.

It is all about imagination.

Disneyland is laid out like a novel as it sparks one’s imagination. The ‘Happiest
Place on Earth’ is filled with all kinds of scenes—castles, rocket ships, mountains, and submarines. It is not bound by time. You can travel in the past, into the future, or in the here and now. You come across a variety of characters to fill these enchanting places. Some are good, some are evil and many fall somewhere in between.

Disneyland—like each novel—is divided into genres of entertainment—western, futuristic, medieval, and historical, to name but a few. You can choose which genre you would like to visit, or, you can sample them all. You are free to roam wherever you want until the place closes down. Morning turns to afternoon, and afternoon to dusk. As the hours slip by, so does the atmosphere of Disneyland. Places of mystery and intrigue during the day, seem to change as darkness sets, morphing into something entirely different at night. Lights become more intense, crowds seem to change, and at some point fatigue sets in as the hours wear you down.

It is like reaching a point in the novel, as you lie in bed, and start looking for a
bookmark to save your place for another day. You are too tired to continue, and your imagination needs to take break until tomorrow.

Which brings me to the question I asked my daughter: “What is your favorite ride?”

My favorite moment in Disneyland is not the rides or any of the entertainment. It is when you approach the front gate and see Mickey Mouse or one of his friends on the other side waving back. It is about the excitement I see in my family’s eyes—if those 'tween' girls who try to pretend that Disneyland is for kids, not almost teenagers like themselves. I enjoy that moment where we are about to cross over into the Land of Imagination where everything is possible. That little moment in time when everything about the day is still fresh and you feel anything is possible. That your imagination can go just about anywhere and unleash a whole new world.

Like when you pick up a new novel—particularly one written by one of your favorite authors—and you have no idea where this story is going to take you. You just know it is somewhere worth visiting. And you can’t wait to start the journey.

That is my favorite part of Disneyland. And I experience it every time I return with my family.

How about you? What is your favorite experience in the enchanted world of Disneyland or the enchanted world of books?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

FREE 3-Day Promo on Amazon: REVENGE (A Travis Mays Novel) Available through Wednesday, May 27, 2013

When a trained killer threatens ex-cop Travis Mays—and those Travis loves—he finds a skilled adversary and an unexpected fight.

After a high stakes gamble ends in personal tragedy, Travis walks away from years of training and a highly successful law enforcement career. Determined never to look back, he starts a new life and a new career, teaching criminology at the university and building a cabin in the idyllic Idaho Mountains. He hires a beautiful river guide, Jessie White Eagle from the Nez Perce tribe, to guide him safely down the Lochsa. The turbulence of the whitewater, however, is just the beginning of his troubles. Travis finds himself in the crosshairs of a killer—calling himself Creasy—bent on revenge.

This fast-paced thriller takes readers on a wild ride down Idaho’s whitewater rivers, along the historic Lolo Trails once tread by the Nez Perce nation, and onto the city streets of California. Tighten your helmet. This ride never stops until the last shot is fired and the final body falls.

Link for Free copy of REVENGE


Excerpt from Chapter 1, REVENGE (A Travis Mays Novel)


Santa Rosa, California, December 2004

Raindrops splattered the windshield as Travis Mays raised his binoculars. Come on. Come on. Where are you? He squinted, trying to catch a glimpse of any movement near the building through this infernal darkness.


Travis flicked the glove box open and snatched a bottle of antacids, tossing a handful into his mouth. Jaw muscles ached from gritting his teeth. These tablets did little to ease the burning inside. He raised the glasses once again.
Carlos shifted in the passenger’s seat. “She’s still inside, dude. Don’t get your shorts in a twist.”

Travis ignored his partner, straining to see through the windshield’s fogged-up glass. A two-story building loomed in the darkness fifty yards away. A black-grated fence circled the office complex. A droopy-eyed security guard—sheltered from pelting rain inside a lighted shack—sat twenty yards away, scanning all vehicles coming and going. No way to sneak inside to check on her safety.

He glanced at his watch. Ten o’clock.

Travis gripped his binoculars, searching for any signs of life in the darkened building. “Something’s wrong. I told Michelle to get out of there before everyone went home. Get in. Get the documents. Get out. This is taking way too long.”

 “Chill out. Maybe she’s just waiting until everyone leaves. Then she can grab and run.” Carlos chuckled. “Michelle, is it?  Sound like this is more than business. I saw you making eyes at her. She’s just a snitch, man. Business is business. Don’t let it get personal.”

“That snitch is risking everything. She’s putting it all on the line. We get paid to take these risks. Not her. She gets nothing out of this.”

“Okay, Okay. She’s a saint. What do you want from me?”

 “I want you to give her some respect. Michelle willingly came forward to tell us what she found out. No one forced her. And now, we’re about to nab one of the most ruthless traffickers we’ve ever hunted down—because of her bravery. Who knows how far this network reaches.” Travis lowered his voice. “She went back in there—knowing the danger—because I asked.”

Carlos raised his hands. “Whoa, man. Lighten up. To set the record straight, the suits higher up the totem pole sent her back in. Not you. They forced your hand.”

“I had a choice. I could’ve told them to take a hike.”

A car emerged from the parking garage beneath the office building. Two on board. He scanned the car as it slowed at the guard shack. Two burly men, no one else. “I’m telling you something’s not kosher.”

“Okay, maybe you’re right,” Carlos said. “What are we—“

Travis’ cell phone emitted several sharp beeps. He glanced at the digital screen and grimaced. His sergeant, Timothy Heard, supervisor for Santa Rosa Police Department’s criminal intelligence unit, was calling. “Yeah, sarge.”

“Need you to break away right now. We just received a call from the county. Their VCI dicks are working a homicide near Goat Rock. I need you and Carlos to eighty-seven with them.”

“We’re still waiting for the CI to come out. Once we connect, we’ll head out—”
“—I need you out there now. Your CI’s a no-show, right?” Heard barged ahead, not waiting for an answer. “Their victim is a female. Description matches your gal.”
“No way. She is still—”
“—I need you to get out there immediately, Travis. That’s an order.  The victim matches your snitch, that’s all you need to know. We may have some damage control issues.”

“It can’t ... what do you mean ‘damage control?”

“I mean if your informant turns up dead, we’ve got to cover ourselves.”

“You ordered me to send her back into that killer’s den. Damage control? You mean protect your sad —” He felt a hand squeeze his arm. Carlos leaned over, silently mouthing the words, “Be cool.”

Travis snapped the cell phone shut, jamming it into his pocket. “The SO found a body out at the coast. They want us to check it out.”

“The boss thinks the body might be our gal? And we’re just supposed to drive away? What if she’s still in there?”

Grimacing, Travis fired up the engine. “Orders are orders. But if this victim is Michelle ...” He let the words dangle, not wanting to give them life.

Only six hours ago he’d held her in his arms. They’d met in a motel room where he gave her final instructions. Get in, get out. Carlos stood guard outside. It had been eight exhilarating months since she breezed into his life, gave him a reason to get up in the morning. The way she teased and cajoled him into doing things he never tried before—ballroom dancing, or using a palate machine with her instead of going out for a beer with the guys. Michelle squeezed joy and excitement into every day they spent together. For once in his life, Travis began to think about the future, about spending his life with her.  It had been a long time since he thought about anything other than police work. She changed all that. Before they parted ways today, she reached up and drew him close, almost like a premonition. Jasmine perfume still lingered on his clothing. A few moments later he followed Michelle to her car, watching her taillights disappear into the bowels of the garage across the street. The last time.

Travis gunned the engine, cutting through the darkness. Rain and wind rocked the car as he slowed at the next intersection. He pressed the accelerator to the floor, activating emergency lights embedded in the grill of his car. It would be a long drive to the coast.

Bio.~Novelist Mark Young

Mark Young is an Amazon bestselling author. Both his Travis Mays and Gerrit O'Rourke novels reached the top 100 list, and his debut novel, Revenge, hit #1 for bestselling mystery/suspense police procedurals. Mark worked as a police officer and sergeant with the Santa Rosa Police Department in California for twenty-six years after working as an award-winning journalist. He is a Vietnam combat veteran, honored to have served with Fox 2/5, 1st Marine Division, and later with Headquarters company. He worked on several law enforcement task force operations, including the presidential Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force targeting major drug traffickers, and the federal Organized Crime Task Force charged with identifying and prosecuting prison gang leaders. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his family. You can find out more about Mark Young at his web site at MarkYoungBooks.com

Friday, April 19, 2013

Helping Indie Authors In The Market Place

By Mark Young
[Free eBook giveaway contest. See details at the end of this article.]
Indie authors must fight every day to gain discoverablity in today’s challenging market. They must compete with well-financed traditional publishers who have a strangle hold on how and where books are placed, including advertising and marketing. Traditional publishers enjoy a near-monopoly of their products in franchised and independent book store outlets because of the deals they can make regarding return of product, discounted prices, and the fear books store owners harbor over Amazon’s expanding influence.

So how do indie authors/publisher compete against such odds?

One big advantage is offering books at a price-point lower than what traditional publishers can afford to offer. Traditional publishers, burdened with huge operating costs and fix-asset expenditures, need to price their books to allow for maximum profit. Even their eBook price point is equal to their hardback novels in some box stores. There are a few other ways that indie authors can compete—social networking, book review sites, and lower prices for production to name a few.

But discoverability is where traditional publishers generally overshadow indie authors. And this is where companies like Amazon, B&N, and Kobo can step in to help indie authors compete in the market place.

Barnes & Noble released information last week that I believe was intended to help indie authors publish their eBooks. It fizzled! All I heard from authors were comments like these: “Seriously?!?!?! This is B&N’s big news??? You’re kidding!” and a few other choice words I won’t put into print. Let’s just say that it was a major disappointment for many indie authors who were expecting more from B&N.

I think B&N really wants to provide more assistance to self-publishing writers struggling to get their eBooks out to readers. This was part of B&N’s message to authors:

Our success is your success, and we've been working hard to bring you a platform that takes our partnership—and self-publishing—to the next level. Today, we're pleased to introduce to you NOOK Press, our new and improved self-publishing platform!

The press release goes on to offer a one-stop platform upon which authors can write, edit, format and publish their eBooks on this new self-publishing Nook Press. This was a nice effort, but B&N—as well as Amazon, Kobo, and other self-publishing services—can go a lot further to aide indie authors to reach new readership. At the present time, Amazon does the most for indie authors, but even this innovative marketer can do more to help.

I don’t have all the answers. Like many other indie authors/publishers, I am still trying to figure out this ever-changing market place. In this article, I want to throw out a few ideas that I think might help meet the needs of indie authors and their readers while benefiting companies like B&N and  Kobo—even Amazon.

Right now, Amazon is winning the race. Unless things change, this chasm will only widen—to the detriment of everyone. Here are a few suggestions that might help even the playing field:

  • Allow self-publishing authors to offer pre-release sales of their book just like traditional publishers.
  • Provide services like Amazon’s KDP’s Select option—but without demanding exclusivity.
  • Allow POD print books, as well as eBooks, from indie authors to be sold through each publisher’s site.
  • Generate email ads for all authors to attract genre-specific, topic-specific, or price-conscious readers regardless of whether the books are indie or traditionally published.

Pre-release sales: Traditional publishers regularly offer readers an opportunity to purchase a book that is not yet released. For example, one of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz, has a novel coming out in May that is now available to pre-order through Amazon and other locations. As part of a marketing strategy, this allows the books to automatically reach fans the moment it is available. The pre-release sale allows for the novel to begin gather ranking status, publicity, and marketing traction.  It gives an opportunity for the author/publisher to generate a pre-release buildup. As far as I know, this pre-release option is not available to indie authors except for a limited few.

I know there might be some trepidation from the Amazon/B&N/Kobo companies to offer this opportunity to everyone. What if the authors/publishers failed to meet the release deadline? Customer complaints would be pouring in and refunds would be pouring out. And companies like B&N—who allow indie authors to sell eBook but not print books for fear that indies might compete with the retail print sales and anger traditional publishers clients—might be reluctant to do anything to improve the playing field for independents. However, there are ways to minimize some of these fears. For example, authors/publishers might agree to pay a fine for failure to meet the publication deadline as an incentive to ensure the books are available on time. There are many ways to make sure these problems are minimized, and appreciation from indie authors and their customers would be evidenced through continued customer support, loyalty, and increased sales.

Provide services like Amazon’s KDP’s Select option but without demanding exclusivity: As an indie author, I have greatly benefited from Amazon’s KDP Select program by getting my novels in front of thousands of readers. Last year, when I tried it for the first time, I was shocked at the results. For a writer struggling to make a few sales a day, I saw my sales count soar into the thousands in just a few days. Not only sales, but I saw hundreds of readers make use of Amazon’s Prime lending option where readers get to down load new books for a free read in this lending option. One caveat of this program: authors must allow Amazon exclusivity for three months at a time. No other company can offer that novel for sale. Later, the Amazon internal matrix changed to lessen the results of the program, but I still participate on a novel-by-novel basis because Amazon helps to promote each book that is in their program. This is significant for writers like me.

If Amazon would relent and allow authors to enter the KDP Select program without exclusivity, more books could be offered through this program. In the long run, customers who pay the annual fee to participate would be greatly served by gaining access to a greater variety of novels. Authors would realize a larger reading market. And Amazon would still financially benefit through increased sales and over-all customer and author satisfaction. A win-win situation.

Taking this a step further, B&N, Kobo and other platforms might consider offering similar programs—without exclusivity. For all the reasons above, these companies would financially benefit from serving the great reading market.

Allow POD print books, as well as eBooks, from indie authors to be sold through each publisher’s site: I know this is controversial topic, but I think it is time for companies like B&N and Kobo, to recognize that the market is shifting and that they need to come up with a different business paradigm. I am still trying to figure out all the points of view on this particular issue, but I do know that there is a market for indie authors print books as well as eBook offerings. However, B&N and other companies—and most brick-and-mortar bookstore—are shutting Amazon out. I understand this dilemma, and I also recognize the fact that it is important that that Amazon not become the only game in town. That is why B&N and other companies need to do a little soul-searching to find a way to meet the needs of indie authors and their readers while still making a profit.

Right now, my print books cannot be sold through B&N, though that company will accept my eBooks. Only Amazon and its subsidiary, CreateSpace, offers my print novels. Unless I can get a brick-and-mortar store to order my books through Amazon (fat chance), my print books will never be offered in physical bookstores. And—as I understand the process—my novel sales will never be registered on Nielsen’s BookScan and similar services that track print sales, even though I have sold a number of print books online.

There are some changes underfoot. Some indie authors have entered into contracts allowing traditional publishers to retain the rights to print books, while the author retains all digital rights. I know this is comparing apple to oranges—POD books to traditionally-published prints—but the market and technology is changing. So must companies who want to stay alive in this market.

There must be way for everyone to come out ahead. Could B&N, for example, offer a similar online service for POD books? Might they accept CreateSpace books with a different pricing arrangement with the author? Unless there is a way to compromise—for the good of the readers, authors, and publishers—writers like myself and readers will continue to patronize Amazon to the exclusion of other companies.

Generate emails ads for all authors to attract genre-specific, topic-specific, or price-conscious readers regardless of whether the books are indie or traditionally published: Again, Amazon does this best. Amazon will send out massive ad campaigns by email to include all their authors, particular those who have ranked well on Amazon’s bestselling lists. As soon as I see one of my books appear on these lists, my sales take a jump. My eBooks have been on Barnes & Noble for as long as I have been on Amazon, but not once has B&N made an effort to promote my novels. Likewise, Kobo has never gone out of their way to help promote my books, although they are still relatively new to the business and seem to be looking for way to help authors.

More effort should be made by these other companies to come alongside their indie authors and help get the word out. Discoverability is the name of the game. And right now, Amazon takes the lead. This translates into more sales, more money for everyone—Amazon and indie authors. B&N, Kobo and others: start thinking outside the box before you are left behind. Those of us in the indie trade want to work with you, but the relationship must be a two-way street.

Many of the topics I touched on in this article are more complicated than I had space and space to comment on. I wanted to present some ideas that all parties might consider—indie authors and companies with publishing platforms like Amazon, B&N and Kobo. We need to work together. The last thing you want to do is raise the expectations of indie authors—like B&N’s announcement last week—and then not come through. It makes for bad business.

I urge companies like Amazon, B&N and Kobo to explore ways that they can further team up with indie authors to improve discoverablity for independents while giving readers a wider selection of reading material to match their literary taste. What do you think?

FREE EBOOK CONTEST: What ideas do you have to help bridge this gap between indie authors, readers and companies like Amazon, B&N and Kobo? I’ll take a look at any suggestions left in the comments section over the next week and select which one was most unique. At least one or more of those who leave comments will win copies of the Gerrit O’Rourke series—Off the Grid and FATAL eMPULSE—as a thank you for sharing your ideas with us. My selection will be posted as a comment to today’s article in about a week.


Mark Young is an Amazon bestselling author. Both his Travis Mays and Gerrit O'Rourke novels reached the top 100 list, and his debut novel, Revenge, hit #1 for bestselling mystery/suspense police procedurals. Mark worked as a police officer and sergeant with the Santa Rosa Police Department in California for twenty-six years after working as an award-winning journalist. He is a Vietnam combat veteran, honored to have served with Fox 2/5, 1st Marine Division, and later with Headquarters company. He worked on several law enforcement task force operations, including the presidential Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force targeting major drug traffickers, and the federal Organized Crime Task Force charged with identifying and prosecuting prison gang leaders. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his family. You can find out more about Mark Young at his web site at

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Writing Crime Novels Without Getting Busted

By Mark Young
After chasing crooks for a number of years as a cop, I forget that some writers might break out in hives trying to figure out to write about the slimy side of life—interaction and investigation of the criminal world. Some writers’ life experiences might not have afforded them the opportunity to have a gangster in their face telling them what he’d like to do “wid yo mudder.” Or what it smells like to enter a home where the deceased died days ago.

Maybe aspiring crime writers wonder what it’s like to face an antagonistic defense attorney in open court. Or how they’d weather the withering attack from an attorney trying to expose their whole life to the world so the defense can shift attention away from their law-breaking client.

For example, in California, a Pitchess motion can be filed when the defendant alleges in an affidavit that the arresting officer used excessive force, or lied about the facts concerning the defendant’s arrest. You can imagine where that might lead to. All based on the word of a criminal bent on gaining his freedom? You’ve seen it on TV.  Something like, “Yo’ Judge…that officer planted that pound of weed in my car. And the popo stashed the guns in my trunk and the blood on my shirt that matches my baby’s momma. And the ten grand stuffed in my pants…they planted that, too, yo’ Honor. I swear!”

It happens. Just picture yourself in that officer’s shoes. How would you feel? Angry? Mad? Frustrated? Just put it down on paper and you’ve got a great scene.

Now, you are writing a crime novel and—deep down—you wonder whether you will be able to pull this off. Trying to write about how a cop feels about a situation he faces and make it sound and feel like the real thing. This might be about the time you gut clinches and you think: Am I about to be busted? Are readers are going to inherently feel like I do not have a clue about what I are writing about?

Don’t throw in the towel. Let me throw some tips your way to ease your mind.  You’re more of an expert than you might think.

First, use experiences in your own life that you can draw upon to enhance your writing. Take the example of a gangster ‘getting in your face’ and how you might react. Maybe you have not had the joy of facing a prison-tatted monster, straight from the pen, threatening to tear you limb from limb. But somewhere in your past, I’d bet you've dealt with bullies or some kind of alpha-dog type of personality. Someone that tried to intimidate you. Close your eyes and remember how you felt. Fear. Anger. Helplessness. Then use those emotions to allow your character to feel these same feelings, harbor these same thoughts and fears. Remember that guy who made a vulgar remark about your girlfriend? Remember what you wanted to do to his face? Now, put those feelings down on paper.

Television and movies are another way to vicariously experience what a cop’s life might be like. One of the shows I love to watch when my wife is not in the room is Southland. Much of what the actors in Southland do is so real that I have flashbacks to the job. And the gamut of emotions they show and express are the real thing. Use these scenes to build your own.

Some of what you see on TV and the movies might work—but be careful. How many times have you seen actor/cops leading a suspect into an interview room, exposing their backside to the criminal? Or watched shooting scene after shooting scene in one day. Never happens unless a riot broke out.

What about the actual crime scene? Police procedures? Legal aspects of law enforcement?

Here is another tip. If you are too shy to ask a cop or a prosecutor, then go to secondary sources.

Use books, blogs and web sites run by former cops. I just searched Amazon for ‘police investigations’ a
moment ago and spotted this book by Lee Lofland: HowdunitBook of Police Procedure and Investigations: A Guide for Writers. An excellent handbook to add to your library. Lee also runs an great blog, The Graveyard Shift, about police work and similar topics. In addition, he runs a police academy for writers where you can get hands-on experience in traffic stops, crime scene investigations, and even firing weapons. Lee has visited my other blog, Hook’em & Book’em if you want to learn more about Lee and his work. And this is just one secondary source.

Reach out and contact these sources by email or leave comments on their web and blog sites asking for direction and information. I have found these cops-turn-writers to be very help to many writers. All you have to do is ask!

Lastly, find out if your local law enforcement agencies have a ride-along program. Make use of these services, and in the process you just might make a friend. You might be surprised. Maybe that person that you befriend might be willing to answer other questions down the road when your scene is begging for answers and none are forthcoming. I have read of other writers who joined their local police reserve unit. Excellent way to get an inside look at how law enforcement functions and helping your community to boot.

Use your own experiences to build upon the emotional drive within your writing. Taste, touch, texture, fear—everything you’ve experienced as a human being can be translated onto the page. You can imagine how a suspect feels caged in the backseat of a patrol car with prison bars in his future. You can imagine what it must feel like when someone pulls a gun on you, that oh-darn feeling when your world is about to go sideways.

First, use your imagination. And secondly, use the first and secondary sources I mentioned to help build a believable crime novel. Nowget to writing. See you on the page.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Blank Page Jitters: That In-between Time for Writers

I have fallen into what I call that ‘in-between time’ for writers. That period of uncertainty between the finished novel and the not-yet started one. It can be unsettling. A time of doubts before you starting putting words down on paper.

Pestering questions always surface as you wander through this literary morass: Can I do this again? Will my next story idea be a flop? Will readers finally see my flaws and failings that I have been hiding? How can I possibly maintain this story idea through another 112,000-word marathon? 

This will be my sixth novel and I go through this little mind game every time. You would think I’d learn. I have learned a few tricks from other authors, ways to escape this momentary mental freeze. Let me share.

I try to fill this time by staying busy. For example, this week I am waiting for my manuscript, Broken Allegiance, to come back from my editor. As I wait, I began editing a previously completed novel that will become a sequel to Broken Allegiance. I play catch up by writing articles for my two blogs like this one right now. All this time, however, my thoughts return to the next novel I want to write. All I have at this moment is a great title and a vague concept of what the story might be about. I know there are more than four-hundred blank pages waiting for me to fill. So I freeze…momentarily.

One of my dilemmas is the desire to make the next novel better than the last. Writing the same stuff just won’t cut it. I need to push myself to come up with a novel that is leaner, better, deeper, and broader in scope than my last. A novel that creates a relationship between readers and my characters closer than Bogart and Bacall when they weren’t fighting.

I came across this statement from Ernest Hemingway from his Nobel Price acceptance speech he wrote in 1954:

“For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.

Just add more pressure, Papa!

Really? Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed!”  Give me a break. The word might does not promise success.

All kidding aside, I think Papa really does a good job of trying to explain what a writer should be focusing on when they start the next novel. Make it better. Push you limits.

But writers can become paralyzed by their own expectations. How can one push past this and begin to write their novel. My good friend, author James Scott Bell, in his great how-to book, The Art of War for Writers, sums it up this way:

We all reach points in our writing that are like ‘the wall’ marathon runners experience. It seems we can’t go on, and we start to wonder if we ought to just scotch the whole writing thing. (To “scotch” means either to [a] give it up; or [b] drink it into oblivion. I recommend neither).

My first wall is that blank page. Getting that first sentence down. Then a paragraph. A scene. E. L. Doctorow wrote: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

One sentence at a time. Just get something down on paper. If your mind blanks, use any trick you can think of. Jim Bell suggests that writers try opening a novel at random, look at the first complete line on the left-hand page, and put that line in your novel. Start a scene with it. When you finish, cut the first line and substitute one of your own. His list of wall-breaking suggestion goes on. He summarizes this way: Do something, anything, to help get words down on paper, to push past whatever wall you have encountered.

Lastly, let me share a few ideas from other writers:

Anton Chekhov: “If you look at anything long enough, say just that wall in front of you -- it will come out of that wall.”

William Faulkner: “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything really good.”

William Campbell Gault: “If you haven't got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you'll only have to throw away the first three pages.”

Somerset Maugham: “All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary -- it's just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.”

J. B. Priestly: “Perhaps it would be better not to be a writer, but if you must, then write. If all feels hopeless, if that famous 'inspiration' will not come, write. If you are a genius, you'll make your own rules, but if not - and the odds are against it - go to your desk no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper - write.”

As a bit of encouragement, I like this tongue-in-cheek advice from Sidney Sheldon: “A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it to be God.”

I don’t know about other writers, but once I have a story in mind and I start living this fictional life with my characters—words start to flow. For me it becomes an exciting journey with a lot of highs and low before the final scene. I never know exactly what is going to happen, but like E. L. Doctorow’s analogy of driving a car at night, I take one scene at a time as we travel through this literary darkness, letting the headlights of creativity carry me further down the road until my journey ends.

How do you break through the wall?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Readers: A Quick Glance At the Year Ahead

Self-promotion might be a dirty word to some, but hey…if you don’t toot your own horn once in a while, who will? This post is geared toward those who have read my novels—and enjoyed them—and for those who are still sitting on the fence trying to decide whether to make such an investment. Come on! For something that cost less than a Starbuck’s Venti Mocha, you can have hours of enjoyment in the privacy of your own reading world with a click of the mouse.

Looking back at my three published novels, readers might scratch their heads trying to figure out where I am going with each series. Let me try to explain. Last year ended with the release of Fatal eMpulse (A Gerrit O’Rourke Novel), the sequel to Off the Grid released the previous year. And, before I leave Fatal eMpulse behind, here is the synopsis and what one bestselling author had to say about this novel:

“Taunt with drama and suspense, Fatal eMpulse is a must read!”—Aaron Patterson, Bestselling author of Sweet Dreams.

A presidential edict hurls Gerrit O’Rourke and his international team deep into the heart of the Mid East to prevent an aerial attack threatening to start another world war. To make matters worse, a traitor close to the president alerts others of Gerrit’s mission. Only days away from the attack, the team must stay alive long enough to complete their mission and thwart whoever is trying to orchestrate their deaths.

Racing from the blue waters of Florida’s Key West and California’s Lake Tahoe to the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, everything comes down to this—who will survive? Gerrit’s past again rises to create conflict between himself, his Mossad-trained partner Alena Shapiro, and a flame from the past—CIA agent Shakeela Vaziri. Beyond romance, beyond survival, Gerrit and his team must race against the clock as attack planes launch. Every second counts.

Now for what 2013 might offer.

I am coming out with a new series that should be released this summer. It is about a character—Sergeant Tom Kagan, an investigating supervisor with Santa Rosa PD’s Gang Crimes Investigations Team—in a novel titled Broken Allegiance (A Tom Kagan Novel). Here, Tom is faced with unraveling a puzzling gang killing that starts in Santa Rosa, California, and leads him all over the state, finally culminating on the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe. Sadness from his past forces Tom to confront an uncertain future as he tries to save his marriage and those he loves in a story that becomes a cop’s worst nightmare. A killer—unleashed from the bowels of the state’ highest security prison—has targeted Tom and his friends on a mission of terror. A sequel to Broken Allegiance should be coming out later this year.

More on that novel in later posts. Suffice it to say, Tom gets into more trouble trying to do his job. If he does not move fast enough, Tom might lose his job, face prison or, worse, death.

Also in 2013, I intend to release the sequel to Revenge (A Travis Mays Novel), titled Blood Quantum. Travis Mays and his girlfriend, Jessie White Eagle, and her father—Frank, chief of the Nez Perce Tribal Police—once again join forces over one of the hottest issues facing the Indian nations today, a concept called blood quantum. After two long years, I and my readers get to travel back to this beautiful Idaho reservation along the Clearwater River. Travis and his friends find themselves in trouble once again as tribal and BIA politics erupt in murder and deception. And, as part of my research, maybe I can get in a little fly-fishing. Oh, the trials and tribulations of a writer.

Notice I mentioned “intend” to publish in the previous paragraph. Three novels in one year is a tall order, and of course many factors will come into play. There is one whopper of a break—if it happens—surrounding the release of Broken Allegiance. If it materializes, you will be the first learn of it right here on this blog. Stay tuned!

There is one aspect of all my novels that intimately ties them together—characters! Though Revenge (and later, Broken Allegiance), fall in the mystery/suspense genre, and the Gerrit O’Rourke novels are classified as thrillers, my characters could care less about what genre they fall in. For example, in Revenge, Travis Mays is visited by Tom Kagan, who doesn’t even have his own novel until this year. Later, Travis pops up in Gerrit O’Rourke’s first novels which are listed as international thrillers. And finally, FBI agent Beck Malloy, pops up in all three novels to help the main characters survive. Again, Malloy and the others could care less about the boundaries of genre. All they care about is solving the crime, getting out of trouble, saving those they love while fighting for God and country...and in some cases—getting the girl.

I found during my twenty-six years in law enforcement that there is a tie that binds between all brothers and sisters who carry the badge. Not that we are always one happy family. Yes, at times this family might be a little dysfunctional. However, I’ve made friends and acquaintances in all levels and geographical locations of law enforcement. We share information and assistance whenever anyone asks. I asked and gave assistance to others throughout this nation and even foreign countries. And yes, I worked closely with the FBI, IRS, DEA, US Marshals and state agencies on a regular basis. We did this generally without stirring up any ‘us versus them’ squabbles often seen in novels and movies today. Not that there weren’t a few hiccups, but generally we play well together. I have carried this concept over to my characters. So, before anyone reads about my characters’ intradepartmental cooperation—like FBI Beck Malloy, Travis Mays and Tom Kagan—and scoffs at it as unrealistic, let me be the first to tell you—it works and it does exist inside and outside of fiction.

I appreciate every reader who gives me an opportunity to entertain them with the best fiction I can muster. And I appreciate your comments and thoughts about these novels.

Just a warning, though! Watch your back. You never know what is about to happen next. Trust me! Now begin reading.