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.


Maryann Miller said...

Michael, had to laugh at your "bar talk." Once a group of us writers was talking about sucking chest wounds at a bar and folks just down from us asked if we could refrain until after they finished their chips and salsa.

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