Michael Haskins

Friday, January 28, 2011


I travel about 400-miles round trip once a month to attend the Mystery Writers of America, Florida Chapter, luncheon meetings in Deerfield Beach. The first 125-miles is along scenic US1 from Key West to Florida City and then I pick up the Turnpike north to Sample Road, cut across to I-95 and an exit or two later get off. Without delays, it’s an easy four hours.

I do this not because I am on the chapter’s board, but for the camaraderie of other writers. In fact, I accepted the board nomination so it would be one more excuse to attend the meetings. Sometimes it can take an extra kick in the pants to get on the road at 6 a.m. to make the 10:30 board meeting. On the months there is not a board meeting (few) I can leave at 7 a.m. I have my pit stops, but once I am on the Turnpike it’s pretty much keep going. I pick up my coffee – extra espresso shot – at Starbucks just before the Turnpike and I am off.

I mention this because people have the misconception that Key West is a writers’ paradise. It is my paradise, maybe even my muse, but not too many writers hangout. If they do, they keep pretty much to themselves in cliques or quietly avoid people. They may come to Key West to write and need the solitude – kind of like a person needing AA showing up to attend meetings at our Bahama Village AA club house – but to many of us that live here, solitude is not what we came here for.

MWA is a fantastic organization – www.mwaflorida.org – and I became a member in the early ‘80s when I joined the SoCal chapter. I think the thing that stands out to me is that the most successful writers are willing to advise unpublished writers and I would even say they expect to be approached at these luncheons and conferences by struggling writers. They try to answer all the questions, no matter how lame and I know because I am guilty of asking some pretty lame questions in my day. I cannot think of anyone I ever approached that was rude on condescending – encouraging is the word that comes to mind.

If you think about, it is really amazing because as the publishing world shrinks, agents become elitists, and more and more people try to become writers, we are all competitors. When my book – Free Range Institution – comes out later this month, it competes with all the other books on the shelf in stores. I realize I am no real competition to the NY Times bestseller list of writers, but believe me there are a few more published writers out there that never make it onto that list and it’s not because those on the list are better writers.

After these luncheons any number of the guests – writers and fans and friends – can usually be found at the hotel’s bar (surprised?) sitting around and discussing – can you guess what? Yeah, ok, you are smart. We discuss writing in it may various forms.

If you follow this blog, you know that Mike writes a lot about self-publishing and his successes. I had some questions for him because my first book – Chasin’ the Wind – is on Kindle. Sandy Balzo, a writer with two series going (she has no time for Key West!) was there and we peppered Mike with questions.

I think we both came away with something. Sandy kept notes, and I told Mike I’d email him for the links the next day – it seemed the easier thing to do.

What I took away was the need to use Kindle Nation – a blog not related to Amazon – and look into CreateSpace, Amazon’s POD side.

CreateSpace can be free but it also offers services that can cost you. Since the rights to Chasin’ the Wind reverted back to me, I had a well-edited book, ready to go. The thing about CreateSpace that piqued my curiosity, other than being free, is that it offered me copies of my book for less than $5. This is a trade paperback sized book I put a $15 price on.

It took me a few efforts to get my copy into the CreateSpace formatted form that they supply. They actually have a link to their call center and twice I clicked on it for help and within minutes a live person called me and helped me out. You gotta remember, I am technology challenged, so getting onto my documents on the computer is about what I can do without an anxiety attack. But, I was able to complete the formatting and sent the book in. I chose a free cover design because it was the only one that had sailboats.

Chasin’ the Wind is out of hardback copies, but now it’s back on Amazon as a trade paperback and I can order copies to take to signings for my second book. Even with giving the bookstore its 40-percent of the $15 cover price, I make a few extra bucks.

Well, I am not sure I’ll be as successful as Mike but I am trying. He got me so jazzed that I went and found a CD with the first Mick Murphy book that I wrote back in ’95 in Tijuana, Mexico – Tijuana Weekend – and am getting it ready for Kindle and CreateSpace. I have surprised myself because the story still holds, but I have to put a July 1995 date and time on each chapter, because a few things in the story are dated, but I feel they are important enough to keep.

I will keep you apprised of how I do. If you are not a member of MWA, check out the site. The organization is open to writers – published and unpublished – and mystery fans. You join the main organization and automatically become a member of your local chapter. And don’t forget our SleuthFest conference is next month and some of Florida’s best mystery writers attend. Dennis Lehane is one of the special guests and I am sure you’ve seen or heard about the movies made from his many books.


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