vrijdag 16 november 2012

No Reviews?

I'll admit it. I don't know how to promote my books.
I used to review books I like on Amazon, but with the new rule that writers cannot reviews other writer's books, well,  I don't bother anymore. No criticism of Amazon. I would never trash another writer's book to make mine look good or get a better star rating. I don't pay attention to ratings. Maybe I should. I'm always surprised when a reader tells me one of my books is one of Amazon's top mysteries, etc.

I've been writing hard for over twenty-five years with twenty-one books published. I work on honing my craft, on writing better books. I write just about all the time (when I'm not working as a police officer). It drives my wife to distraction, but she supports me all the way. I wish I had time to promote, but to me - writing is everything. Write. Write. Write. And write.

As for reviews, I've gotten some very nice ones. A few days ago, a friend alerted me that my story "The Body in Crooked Bayou" got a bad review. I tried to ignore it, but decided I'd see what it's about. It's on Amazon and the review is NOT ABOUT MY STORY. Apparently, a reviewer did not like a story written by someone named 'Raleigh' and put the review under my story instead of Raleigh's story, giving my story a low rating. I sent an email to Amazon. I mean, come on, if my story earns a bad review, OK. But if you're going to trash a story, list it under the correct story.

I'm sitting here laughing because my friend and mentor Harlan Ellison once told me to ignore reviews, don't comment on them. He was right. Again.

zaterdag 27 oktober 2012

Still No Reviews!

Very few writers know how to promote their own work. That would mean coming out of that semi-dark room—you know the room I'm talking about…it's the one where the bug guy doesn't even bother to spray on his yearly visits—and joining the frightening world of real people.

So, this is how I've handled the daunting world of self-promotion: I have done absolutely nothing. I don't have a Facebook page, I don't have a personal blog, and the thought of contacting family and friends to sell my books makes me crawl even deeper into that bug-filled room. That's the reason I don't use my real name. I don't want any pity purchases.

The one exception to the above strategy has been "free days" on KDP Select (Amazon). Over the course of the free promotion days for the three titles that I had with KDP Direct, I have given away almost 3,000 copies. And I have sold a respectable number of copies of my three books over the last six months or so.

Still, I have ZERO reviews. Not even bad ones. I don't understand. My writing has won several national contests, and I have been represented in the past by two pretty well-known agents (Jeff Herman and Paige Wheeler), so I don't think the lack of reviews is because I'm a bad writer. I'm no Steinbeck, but I'm not bad.

I know that some of this is a result of my refusal to accept reciprocal reviews from authors whose books I have reviewed. I review books simply because they are entertaining and well-written. A reciprocal review is, at best, questionable. They may be true and heartfelt reviews, but how would we ever know. Often, I review books under my real name so that no one knows that "Sean Dexter" has reviewed their work. I would rather have no reviews than one that is payback (positive or negative revenge reviews) for a review I have given.

Not too long ago, I joined Goodreads. Goodreads is a social media platform for readers and writers. I soon learned that most (but certainly not all) of the writers associated with Goodreads have one goal and one goal only: to shamelessly solicit reciprocal reviews. They even have reciprocal review clubs where they take turns reviewing each other's books. I would like to disassociate myself from Goodreads, but I am afraid that I won't be allowed to leave alive. I have taken to sleeping with a Ruger .357 just in case the "Recip Squad" should choose to pay me a late night visit for criticizing them...

Wait, did you hear that? Oh God, I think they're here…


woensdag 17 oktober 2012

I can't figure it out.

So I’m like the rest of you self-pubbed authors out there who are trying to keep their heads above water in the exploding world of e-publishing.

I feel your pain and I’ve been trying more than a few of the tricks I found in a fuckload of blogs about self-publishing.

I have good covers for my novels, the writing is good (I think so and so I’m told, Ain’t bragging!)

I have read and figured how to maximize “free days” on kindle select.

I have used a “middle of the week” approach. I have nearly spammed twitter at every significant hours (morning commute, lunch hour and after-evening-commute-before-you-go-to-bed) of a bunch of major “English” population centers (England, East-Coast, Mid-West, West-Coast, Australia…) It’s a fucking annoying task to upkeep and I’m not particularly fond of social networks in general (twitter the least of them all.)

But I did it anyways, I semi-spammed twitter and the few occasional annoying post on facebook that will most likely drive my real friends away and my latest giveaway landed “The Factory Line” in the top 40 free in humor.

I was thinking “holy shit, somehow this worked!” and expected to give away more books per hour (and trust, me I was addicted to statistics and reports for days!) but it didn’t happened. I was actually giving away less than before despite another round of less-than-shitty tweets to promote the book.

I can’t figure out the pattern. And for a guy who LIVES to figure out patterns, this is incredibly frustrating. I might actually ask for a job at Amazon to try and learn the freaking pattern because so far I can’t do it.

I wish I could, I can't. I mean don't get me wrong. Gimme the least amount of publicity and a half-decent publisher, I might work somthing out. And it would be a little bit like this :
A)    write a gritty, transgressive novel with a shocking name. If it’s literary and has some social criticism at the same time, double “marty” points to come.
B)     Get a great title and a good cover.
C)    Get loads and loads of fake reviews (although I have moral restraints to do this and I can’t afford to anyways)
D)    Get some “real” journalists (or glorified bloggers) to talk about the book.
E)     At the right moment, send a shocking letter from some right-wing group (you’ve created from scratch with a fake e-mail and blog) to some jumpy right-wing elected official who’ll jump on the occasion to “defend good Canadian (American, English, Australian…) families and values.
F)     Reply vigorously and fuel the flames of the debate by trolling said elected official
G)    Get more press because of the feud, which will sell more books.
H)    When you see the sales going down, fake your pen name’s death.

That would make a killing, I'm sure of it. So what the fuck am I waiting for?

I have not a freaking clue!

(those of you who failed to see the sarcasm/satire (OK! mostly sarcasm) in my post are invited to read Beckett, Burroughs, Welsh or Palahnuick)

That's pretty much it!

Take care,


dinsdag 9 oktober 2012


Desiree Blanc wants to be a gun-moll. Born into poverty in rural northern Mississippi, Dorothy Jellnick grew into an ash-blonde beauty. Everyone told her to go to Hollywood, show the movie people a real southern belle. She made it as far as Bourbon Street, New Orleans, where she became Desiree Blanc, a white-hot stripper at Hotsy Jazz Club. Determined to never be poor again, Desiree discovers a short cut to big money - crime. It is the summer of 1947.

As the story opens, Desiree and her hoodlum boyfriend rob a tourist from Kansas, leaving the man in his skivvies on a rural highway just outside New Orleans. More crimes and more money follows. The ash-blond beauty surrenders to avarice – the unreasonably strong desire to obtain and keep money – in a dangerous and deadly game.

BOURBON STREET is a classic noir mystery with a femme fatale, arrogant criminal, La Cosa Nostra mobsters and an army veteran wounded at the Battle of the Bulge whose love for Desiree is her only chance.

This is a damn good book. I know. I wrote it, but that's not why it's good. The characters make the book. They took over the book from the start and showed me where they wanted to go. It happened in BATTLE KISS and ENAMORED as well. The more I write, the more I learn from those voices in my brain. BOURBON STREET is only $2.00 Kindle and Smashwords and $10.95 trade paperback.


maandag 10 september 2012

On behalf of Banville, Atkins and Marlowe

There's a lively debate going on about John Banville's contract to write a new Philip Marlowe novel. It follows the debate about Ace Atkins continuing Robert B. Parker's Spenser series.
Ace has recently been sticking up for John about it. Personally I've given it a lot of thought.
At first, I wasn't against it really, but didn't see why it should be written. I could see why Spenser should continue, after all Spenser had characters like Hawk, Belson, Susan, Vinnie, Chollo, etc. Marlowe was just Marlowe, not an entire world of recurring characters. There have been so many PI's inspired by Marlowe a new Marlowe would probably seem like an unoriginal, pastiche-like character to new readers. I figured Holmes and Bond were original enough to warrant new books by other writers than Fleming. I wasn't sure about Marlowe. Wasn't Chandler's voice what made him unique, not the character?
Then I read Ace's article and I kind of changed my mind...
I started to think about Superman. He was the first superhero. A lot of imitations followed. Still, he kept returning, having become the property of the people as much as the writer who created him. Isn't that the case with Marlowe as well? Isn't he so legendary, so important a character in the world of fiction he SHOULD be alive for decades to come. Without him there would be no Noah Milano, because there wouldn't be a Spenser, or an Elvis Cole.
Philip Marlowe deserves to live on. I wish John the best of luck.
What do all of you think?

donderdag 23 augustus 2012

Editing and Revision Advice for New Writers

Sean Dexter, author of Denial of Duty and the Jackson Burke Thrillers

Dialogue Tags (“Tom Swifties”)

Tom Swifties are most often considered pun related. For example: "I only have diamonds, clubs and spades," said Tom heartlessly. The term derives from the style of writing used in the Tom Swift series of books written by a group of authors collectively known as Victor Appleton. More recently, the term has been used to describe hackneyed writing—thus the term hack writer. New writers sometimes use this type of writing because they feel it spices up their work. It doesn't. Some examples (created by me because I'm too lazy to look at an actual copy of a Tom Swift book) are shown below: 

 I've told you once before, and I won’t say it again,” Tom repeated redundantly.
“Do you think I can fly to the top of that tree,” Tom queried sardonically.
The point I'm trying to make here is that the use of said as a dialogue tag is almost always the right choice.
Examples of things to avoid:
“Give it me,” she demanded.
“Here it is,” he proffered.

Or even worse:
“I hate to admit that,” he giggled. (It’s impossible to giggle while speaking.)
“I’ve had it,” she retorted angrily.
"How dare you," she hissed. (Try doing that some time.)
These tags are used to explain the character’s emotions. Instead of elaborate and clichéd tags, writers should use beats (a bit of physical action or stage business). This is the show, don’t tell rule of fiction writing.
Ex: “I’ve had it,” she responded angrily. This should be “I’ve had it,” she said.  Her hand slapped the table so hard the empty whiskey glasses danced.
Ex: “I hate to admit that,” he giggled. This should be “I hate to admit that,” he said. He giggled like a school girl.
And finally, the name or pronoun should always come first in a tag.
Ex: “I am leaving,” said Bill. This should be “I'm leaving,” Bill said. Putting ‘Bill’ last, is the same thing as saying “I'm leaving,” said he. Unless you are Gilbert and/or Sullivan, this just doesn’t sound right.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Good luck and good writing, SD
To be continued…

maandag 20 augustus 2012

Short stories: the future of Kindle?

Lately my best selling work has been a Noah Milano short story, The Honey Trap. It surprised me at first because I'd heard in the past they don't sell, so you should make novels available on Kindle.
I've always been sure shorter works are best-suited for the Kindle-generation. Fast and furious stories of action and mystery... Those are my strenghts anyway. I've often received the comment my work is great for reading during commutes to work. I decided to bring out several novelettes and I've got a novella coming up.
But the success of The Honey Trap made me put out a new short story: No Dead Body In Sight. It's a ''high-concept'' PI mystery featuring my usual protagonist Noah Milano. Here's the description:
An aging movie star is sure she discovered a dead body on the beach. When the police arrives there's no deady body in sight. She hires Noah Milano, son of a mobster and security specialist to prove she's not crazy. Trying to uncover this mystery Noah soon finds himself in grave danger...
What do all of you think? What's the future of Kindle? Short stories, novellas, novelettes or novels?

zondag 19 augustus 2012

Five Places to Find Inspiration as a Crime Writer.

Five Places to Find Inspiration as a Crime Writer.

It happens to the best of us, regardless of how creative, crazy or fucked up we might be. There comes a time when we are out of twists and turns to carry our novels forward. When these things occur, I turn to real life for inspiration. Sometimes there’s nothing like witnessing an unlikely event to spark an entire train of thought and, thus, a bunch of new chapters towards completing yet another novel. Here are five places where I find inspiration for my stories.

1 – The local Diner.

A lot of people, I guess, would rather go to a bar or a pub, but the truth is that music in bars is often too loud to make out what is really going on around you. As for pubs, well I don’t drink, so I would be that weird dude who orders pomegranate-perrier all night. I don’t know! So I turn to the local diner, especially on the lunch hour and in working class neighbourhoods. It is where I find the most true-to-life inspiration for dialogues. And you never know what you’ll stumble upon: disgruntled delivery men, factory workers who complain about everything and anything, and that rare occurrence when you manage to strike a conversation with the waitress or the cook and he/she reveals to you all the secrets of the neighbourhood.

2 – Public transportation.

It’s not that I don’t like my car, but my daily commute is much better served by the local public transportation that by the ugly, ugly grid lock here in Montreal. It has its disadvantages, like being crammed into a tin box with (at least) 85 other people, sweating onto one another (yet even that sparked a poem in me titled “The Old Foe and the Cadillac”). It also has its advantages when it comes to finding new characters. Because let’s be honest. If you are stuck in your car, in traffic, the only things you’ll have to inspire yourself is your hatred for traffic, the hatred of people around you, and the god damned radio. I don’t think that’s hardly any good material for stories or novels. Not for me anyways. I’m not saying I find inspiration every single day in the bus, but there are these moments when you stumble upon an interesting person, a good (or horrible) conversation and so on. In the end it’s about creating opportunities to meet such characters. It’s all about rubbing shoulders with the world more often.

3 – The Red Light District.

The Montreal red light has been dying for the last eight years or so and since I’ve been hanging, studying or working in the heart of that neighbourhood for something like twelve or thirteen years, I’ve seen what it used to be like. I see the changes, and although I have to admit that most of it is positive for the city, it will take away a great source of inspiration for my stories. Since crime is at an all time low in the city, the remaining streets of the Red Light are this rare place where you can stumble upon odd situations, strange characters, drug trade, drunken students and the occasional brawl. Even though I’m way to fuckin’ old to take part in any of it anymore (and I never really took drugs anyways) I still enjoy standing in the distance and watching life unfold before me.

4 – Google Street View

I used to think it was a lot like cheating, but it saves me a lot of fucking time when I am doing my research. I know Montreal very, very well, but every once in a while, I need to find that spot at that place or that building somewhere in the south-west (for example). And since I’ve lived in the east for a decade now, I don’t remember exactly where everything is. Instead of hopping on a train and walking around the neighbourhood for hours (which I don’t have anymore), I will look it up on Google street view. Now don’t go thinking I don’t do the research. What I love about writing is going to places, getting the feel of it, the smell, the sounds and all. But for the very rare occasions in a month where I can actually have a few hours just to wander around, I need to know exactly where I am going for it to be worth my time.

5 – The newspapers

I take half an hour every morning to do a press review. I have a selection of newspapers that I have come to enjoy over the years and they range from liberal to conservative in scope. I don’t read every article in every paper (granted, my favourite part still are the political cartoons) but I do get a good picture of what’s going on in the city, the province and the world. It is a great, great place to keep up with current affairs, crime sprees, political schemes and anything else, good or bad, that might make its way into a novel.

That’s pretty much it for now,

Thanks for reading,

Ian Truman

About me : My name is Ian and I’m a hardcore kid turned writer. I have been straight edge and vegetarian for at least a decade now and I hope to bring the passion, verve and dedication of hardcore into the art form of the novel. You can find me in Montreal, Quebec, with my wife Mary and daughter Kaori.

vrijdag 17 augustus 2012

Making Point of View Work for Your Reader

Sean Dexter, author of Denial of Duty and the Jackson Burke Thrillers

So, you've written a novel…now what?

Writing a novel was probably one of the hardest things you've ever done, maybe the hardest thing you'll ever do. Lots of people write, few ever complete a novel. Congratulations, you're a writer! But I'm afraid I have a bit of bad news for you…the rough draft was the easy part. If you're anything like me (and let's hope you're not), editing and revising your manuscript will undoubtedly take as much time—or more—than writing the damn thing. In fact, no matter how many times you look over your book, you will ALWAYS find something that can be made better. Over the years, I have learned a lot about the editing/revision process. The first thing I learned is that editing is correcting the mechanical problems with your work. Revising is making your writing better. Here are some pointers I hope will help make the process a little easier for you than it was for me.

Point of View (POV)

Point of view is the perspective from which a story is told. Point of view allows us to see the story unfold through a particular character's eyes. We are allowed to see inside a character's mind, to experience his thoughts and feelings. In fiction, there are generally two types: first person and third person.

In first person POV, the narrator of the story (usually the protagonist) tells the story from his or her perspective. The pronouns I and we are used to tell the story. If the story is written in first person POV, we are only allowed to experience the thoughts and feelings of that one individual. We are NEVER allowed to see inside any other character's mind. The protagonist must be in every scene. Robert B. Parker's Spencer novels are a great example of first person POV.

In third person POV, the story is being told by a narrator who may or may not be part of the story. This narrator relates all the action in the third person, using third person pronouns such as he or she. With third person point of view, the POV can shift from character to character. This gives the writer a lot more flexibility when writing a story. The reader can now see inside the minds of multiple characters. The protagonist no longer needs to be in EVERY scene. However, POV should never shift within the same chapter or chapter section. Once when I was working with an agent in an attempt to publish one of my novels, she pointed out that I was shifting POV within the same chapter and doing so often. I explained (truthfully) that I had switched POV within the chapter for a specific reason and that Stephen King did it all the time. With practiced patience she said, "You're not Stephen King." Ouch… Over the years, the rules for POV have become a bit more fluid and flexible, but if you're not Stephen King (and so many of us aren't), I would suggest sticking with a single POV within chapters or chapter sections when writing in the third person.

As I mentioned above, the rules on POV are changing a little. Many contemporary writers of suspense are using a mix of first and third person. When the protagonist is in a scene, the story is told from the first person POV. When the protagonist is not in a scene, the narrator switches to third person POV. This is a technique that was never used in the past but is gaining favor. It has the benefit of using first person POV like the hardboiled detective writers of the past while still giving the flexibility of third person POV.

Following is an example of what you MUST avoid:

"It isn't always going to turn out right," Burke said. "Sometimes things go bad so fast that you can't make it right." He hated himself for saying it, but she needed to her the truth.
Kacey looked at him and smiled. She didn't say a word, but she believed everything he said.

From Burke's third person POV, there is no way we can know how Kacey felt. How can we possibly know that she believed him? Readers might not catch it, but I promise a good editor will. I know it sounds petty, but agents and editors look for stuff like that. There are lots of good books out there about POV. If you're still confused, buy one of them…or go to www.sdexter.com and drop me an email with your POV question.

Good luck and good writing.

To be continued…

maandag 13 augustus 2012


To paraphrase a line from my short story “A Relatively Small Sum of Money”, success is such a relative term.

When a well-connected New York agency offered to represent my novel BARONNE STREET, I fantasied about being successful which included a big advance, a national book tour with clamoring fans, and a cable TV series mashing up the conventions of film noir and soap opera.  

It didn’t quite happen that way.  Reality bit down hard when publishers consistently delivered variations of “The writing is good, but this guy uses his brains, not guns and fists, to get out of jams.  And where are the bombs?”

After a more than reasonable number of rejections, my agent politely released me from my contract.   It was an amiable split; we occasionally still communicate.

My next step was to independently publish using CreateSpace and Kindle.  In order to avoid the clichéd hellish descent into depression, I defined success in more modest terms.  I picked a small number of copies to sell. If I met that number I would consider the novel to be success.  

My modest goal has been exceeded by four-fold.  And mostly to people who don't know me.  The number is still so small that I am unwilling to brag about it but…

  • ·         Two years after publication the novel consistently sells a respectable (but small) number of copies each month.
  • ·         I receive emails from strangers who enjoyed the book (another small number).
  • ·         A local TV station interviewed me on their popular morning show.  WWL TV Interview
  • ·         I am scheduled to be interviewed on the local NPR station.
  • ·         I have become email pals with the drummer of 80’s rock group Ambrosia, Burleigh Drummond.  I borrowed his cool sounding name for my protagonist.  The real-life Burleigh Drummond heard about the novel and contacted me.  He even invited me to see the band perform. Ambrosia
  • ·         On his web site, actor Lance J. Holt reads an excerpt from my short story “Ash Wednesday”.  I would love for this guy to play BARONNE STREET crimelord Evan Charbonnet in the film or TV version.  Lance J Holt reads from Ash Wednesday 
  • ·         Speaking of film or TV version, I pitched a real movie producer in his office and was politely rejected.
  • ·         My hometown newspaper published an article about the novel when I came to town for a reading.  Statesville Recordand Landmark Article
  • ·        The typos in BARONNE STREET inspired a reader to become a free-lance editor/proofreader. She will soon be able to quit her part-time job and edit full-time from home while caring for her children.  MS Editorial Services
  • ·         David Lummis asked me to blurb his second novel: The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans–Part 2: The Last Beaucoeur.
  • ·         The local library purchased three copies. Someone stole a copy, another indication of success. 
  • ·         Jochem invited me to be a regular contributor to this blog.  Now, that’s impressive.
I defined success too narrowly both times.  As independent and small press writers we should define our success in terms we can meet.  If we meet that level of success hopefully we are closer to the next level.

Don’t get me wrong I would have preferred the big advance and all that came with it.  But it’s also nice receiving an email from someone who tells me that my writing has re-ignited their interest in reading fiction.

vrijdag 10 augustus 2012


Welcome to Trouble Is Our Business!
On this blog I will be blogging with the most talented crime writers working in the business now.
Visit us for our thoughts, reviews, advice and stories.

Jochem Vandersteen

zaterdag 4 augustus 2012

ENAMORED by O'Neil De Noux

Is this the first blog on this site?

ENAMORED, my first private eye novel was just published –
Set in 1950, it stars Lucien Caye, the PI from NEW ORLEANS CONFIDENTIALA desirable woman enamored of an undesirable man defies understanding, yet the human heart rarely listens to the human brain. A smart guy like Lucien should know better, but his mind has trouble controlling his libido, much less his heart. ENAMORED, a case of obsession and murder, a case that will baffle Lucien, intrigue him, make him fall in love – three times.