Michael Haskins

Friday, January 30, 2009

Murder & Mayhem at the Bar / Amazon's Kindle

Mystery writers are a strange group. Our minds work differently than normal people. I was recently appointed, or maybe elected, to the board of directions of the Florida chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. Last weekend I attended the board meeting/chapter luncheon at the Deerfield Beach Hilton, an almost four-hour ride from Key West.

The luncheon speakers were columnists Oline Cogdill and writer/marketing Guru Sandy Balzo, who talked about the importance of a writer’s website, something I believe in. Afterward, writers Jerry Healy, Sandy Balzo, Kris Montee, and I sat at the bar. We were talking about writing and eventually discussed my current work-in-progress, Car Wash Blues.

I should add here, that the chapter’s monthly luncheon are usually held at the Deerfield Beach Hilton and the bartender was used to Jerry and other writers sitting at the bar talking about murder and mayhem, so she went about her duties and ignored us.

Okay, back to Car Wash Blues. Briefly, it is about Mexican cartel hit men coming to Key West in search of $20 million that was stolen from the Tijuana cartel and my character, Liam Michael ‘Mad Mick’ Murphy, accidentally witnesses a murder by cartel hit men in a car wash.

The Los Angeles Times has run a yearlong series, Mexico in Crisis, that covers the horrific crimes the cartels are committing now that the government of Mexico has made crushing the cartels a primary goal. I saved those articles and used them as research on the cartels. I should also mention that while I lived in S. California, I spent a lot of time in Tijuana and had many friends there and still keep in touch with some, so what has begun to happen there has really affected me.

Many of the Mexican cartels are into decapitation, none more so than the Tijuana gang. So, in bringing these gangsters to Key West I wondered if I should stick to the reality of their murders and decided I should.

I ran my decision by Jerry, Sandy, and Kris, while we sat at the bar. You can imagine how those sitting around us reacted with words like headless bodies, heads wrapped in burlap and used as soccer balls and crushing heads in a tortilla press, coming from the four people at the bar. The bartender just smiled.

I don’t think while we were discussing my murderous ways any of us thought it was an unusual topic for an afternoon, but I bet those sitting around us were wondering about us. One couple actually got up and left before ordering and I have to wonder if they overheard us and decided it was best to leave! Maybe, maybe not.

For me, the gathering at the hotel’s bar was an opportunity to pick the minds of other writers, something I cannot do while facing a computer screen. Living hours away from most writers in Florida, I miss the camaraderie of writers; though, I should say I do cherish the feedback I get from my friends in Key West, especially since many of them are readers and readers’ opinions are important to any writer.

SleuthFest, the chapter’s writing seminar, a mixture of writers, readers and fans, is scheduled for Feb. 26 – March 1. For information on the event go to: http://www.mwaflorida.org/sleuthfest.htm.
* * *
Amazon is preparing to change the publishing world with an announcement on its Kindle. While bookstores close because of declining sales, Amazon steams ahead and its profits indicate, to me at least, that Amazon is the future of publishing. I don’t like that and hope I am wrong, because I enjoy holding a book and turning pages.

Here what Shelf Awareness had to report in its Jan. 30 report:

In the quarter ending December 31, net sales at Amazon.com increased 18% to $6.7 billion, and net income rose 9% to $225 million.
“But in a sign that Amazon was not immune to the recession, its operating margins fell to 4.06% from 4.78%, a result of heavy discounting to persuade reluctant shoppers to buy," the New York Times reported.

“Amazon offered a broad estimate for the current quarter and did not make any estimate for the year, as it normally had. It said it expected operating income of as much as $210 million, a 19% increase over the first quarter of 2008. At its most pessimistic, the forecast was for a 9% increase.”

Sales of media, which includes books, rose 9% to $3.64 billion. The Times also noted that while Amazon released no new statistics on Kindle sales, a news conference is scheduled in New York on February 9 to introduce a new version of the electronic reading device.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Edgar Award nominees . . . Children & books . . .

While Dec. 2008 found me busy and not blogging here are some interesting things (I think), My book "Chasin' the Wind" sold out of its first printing and I am waiting to hear if it will go into a second printing. My sequel, "Free Range Institution" is at the publishers and, agian, I am waiting to see if Five Star buys it.
Though I was not nominated for an Edgar, here are those lucky enough to be:

The 2009 Edgar® Award Nominees are...
Mystery Writers of America is proud to announce, as it celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, its Nominees for the 2009 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television and film published or produced in 2008. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at our 63rd Gala Banquet, April 30, 2009 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

Missing by Karin Alvtegen (Felony & Mayhem Press)
Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Sins of the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
The Price of Blood by Declan Hughes (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Night Following by Morag Joss (Random House – Delacorte Press)
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)

The Kind One by Tom Epperson (Five Star, div of Cengage)
Sweetsmoke by David Fuller (Hyperion)
The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador)
Calumet City by Charlie Newton (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock (Random House - Doubleday)

The Prince of Bagram by Alex Carr (Random House Trade)
Money Shot by Christa Faust (Hard Case Crime)
Enemy Combatant by Ed Gaffney (Random House - Dell)
China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library – Obsidian Mysteries)
The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli (Random House - Bantam)

For The Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago by Simon Baatz (HarperCollins)
American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum (Crown Publishers)
Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It To The Revolution by T.J. English (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Hans van Meegeren by Jonathan Lopez (Harcourt)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale (Walker & Company)

African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey (McFarland & Company)
Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories by Leonard Cassuto (Columbia University Press)
Scene of the Crime: The Importance of Place in Crime and Mystery Fiction by David Geherin (McFarland & Company)
The Rise of True Crime by Jean Murley (Greenwood Publishing – Praeger)E
dgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories by Dr. Harry Lee Poe (Sterling Publishing – Metro Books)

"A Sleep Not Unlike Death" - Hardcore Hardboiled by Sean Chercover (Kensington Publishing)"Skin and Bones" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by David Edgerley Gates (Dell Magazines)
"Scratch of a Woman" - Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
"La Vie en Rose" - Paris Noir by Dominique Mainard (Akashic Books"Skinhead Central"
"The Blue Religion by T. Jefferson Parker (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company)

The Postcard by Tony Abbott (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Enigma: A Magical Mystery by Graeme Base (Abrams Books for Young Readers)Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff (Random House Children's Books – Wendy Lamb Books)
The Witches of Dredmoore Hollow by Riford McKenzie (Marshall Cavendish Children's Books)Cemetary Street by Brenda Seabrooke (Holiday House)

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd (Random House Children's Books – David Fickling Books)
The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo (Harry N. Abrams Books – Amulet Books)
Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton Children's Books)
Getting the Girl by Susan Juby (HarperCollins Children's Books - HarperTeen)
Torn to Pieces by Margo McDonnell (Random House Children's Books – Delacorte Books for Young Readers)

The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza (Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on the story by Robert Lewis Stevenson (Arizona Theatre Company)
Cell by Judy Klass (International Mystery Writers' Festival)

"Streetwise" – Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Paul Grellong (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)
"Prayer of the Bone" – Wire in the Blood, Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (BBC America)
"Signature" – Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Judith McCreary (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)
"You May Now Kill the Bride" – CSI: Miami, Teleplay by Barry O'Brien (CBS)
"Burn Card" – Law & Order, Teleplay by David Wilcox (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)

The Bank Job, Screenplay by Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais (Lionsgate)
Burn After Reading, Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Focus Features)
In Bruges, Screenplay by Martin McDonagh (Focus Features)
Tell No One, Screenplay by Guillaume Canet, based on the book by Harlan Coben (Music Box Films)
Transsiberian, Screenplay by Brad Anderson & Will Conroy (First Look International)

"Buckner's Error" - Queens Noir by Joseph Guglielmelli (Akashic Books)

James Lee BurkeSue Grafton

Edgar Allan Poe Society, Baltimore, MarylandPoe House, Baltimore, Maryland

Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Killer's Wife by Bill Floyd (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer (Random House - Doubleday)
A Song for You by Betsy Thornton (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Fault Tree by Louise Ure (St. Martin's Minotaur)

The Book: 'Still the Best Transportation Device'
"Well, I own a bookstore, and when kids come into contact with books, I see them loving them. But I think we have to be a little more passionate about getting books to children--which includes putting books in our own hands. I see a lot of parents not reading, but instead spending hours and hours on computers. It sends a strong message to kids that books are not important. The book is still the best transportation device to take us through time, to new worlds and ideas. Once you've tasted it, it's hard to give it up. I think we just need to give kids more opportunities to taste it."--Peter H. Reynolds, children's author and illustrator, co-owner of the Blue Bunny bookstore, Dedham, Mass., and co-founder of educational media firm FableVision, in a Boston Globe interview.

Al Roker's new pick for the Today Show Book Club for Kids is Change Has Come, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, with the words of Barack Obama (S&S, $12.99, 9781416989554/1416989552). The text consists of excerpts from speeches Obama has given, including his 2004 keynote at the Democratic National Convention and the election-night speech last November 4.

Cool Idea of the Day: on ReadKiddoRead.com, James Patterson and librarian expert Judy Freeman list their favorite children's books, "the ones that leave kids wanting more and more to read." The site includes a blogging community, interviews with authors such as Julie Andrews, Jeff Kinney and Rick Riordan, an "almost can't-miss sure shot books for boys" section and online resources for adults.

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