Wednesday, December 23, 2015


In March we’ll be publishing Connie Dial’s sixth thriller, Set the Night on Fire, all of them taking place in Los Angeles, where Connie, until retiring in 1999 (“on July fourth, my Independence Day!” she laughed), was the first female captain and later the first commanding officer in the Hollywood Division of the LAPD.  Four of her thrillers featured the ongoing story of Captain Josie Corsino...with Fallen Angels (2012), Dead Wrong (2013), and Unnatural Murder (2014) preceding Set the Night on Fire

It’s been our pleasure and privilege to meet her at mystery conferences, know her, publish her, and find so many readers have shared our pleasure when reading her mysteries. With that, I turn this blog over to Connie.

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“I never thought of myself as a cop who became an author, but rather a writer who, until her adventure bug had been thoroughly satisfied, couldn’t sit still long enough to do the thing she loved. A lifetime of notebooks full of short stories, poems, plays and even a few book manuscripts tucked away in my file cabinet was a constant reminder of a habit I never could or really wanted to kick.  My writing obsession always made me think of an alcoholic who stashes bottles around the house to sneak a sip now and then.

“Journalism was supposed to be the perfect answer to my dilemma, but after several years I found investigative reporting wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the characters and stories I could create in my imagination, and the excitement level never met my expectations.  Police work on the other hand turned out to be an adrenaline junkie’s dream—going to work every day looking for trouble, driving fast with lights and sirens, shooting guns, and chasing bad guys.  No need to make it up.  I was living the dream.

“After nearly thirty years in law enforcement, the desire to write finally grew stronger than my fascination with adventure, and I discovered that all those hours spent scraping parasites off society’s underbelly wasn’t wasted. It exposed me to some of humanity’s finest and nastiest moments and best of all provided a cornucopia of ideas for plot and character.  

“Usually cops interact with people who have had something out of the ordinary happen in their lives, sending them to the police for help, empathy or in too many cases plain old vengeance.   I’ve seen more than my share of dead bodies and gore, gone to too many funerals, but there were those amazing acts of courage rarely observed outside life and death situations.  My stress level bounced up and down at least a hundred times each day, but within every interaction, every bit of fear, excitement, and aggravation was a potential story. 

“I was lucky. As one of the first women patrol officers in LA, I was exposed to a lot before the nature of police work changed.  In the early seventies, Los Angeles was a little reminiscent of the Old West. My first night out of the police academy involved a foot chase, a pursuit, a shooting, and our cruiser was involved in a traffic accident. And it only got better. I worked undercover intelligence and participated in a group that wanted to overthrow the US government. We went to jail together after a particularly violent demonstration and I was one of the few cops who knew what it felt like to get hit with a police baton, gassed, handcuffed and thrown in the back of a paddy wagon.   

“My time as a detective in narcotic enforcement supplied a feast of characters.  I had an informant who suggested my partner and I take out a life insurance policy on him. He expected to be killed 
but couldn’t resist the urge to snitch. I worked undercover and bought heroin from Jimmy Lee Smith the police killer in Joseph Wambaugh’s non-fiction book The Onion Field.  Just before we arrested him, he told me he’d never go back to prison because he could always spot a cop and would never get caught again.  

“Almost every cop will tell you he or she has a great idea for a book. They probably do. Real life is stranger and sometimes a lot funnier than fiction.   However, most of them quickly discover that the idea is the easy part; writing is much harder.   My first manuscript was over four hundred pages. Practically everything I knew about police work got into those pages. It was a good story but also a wordy primer on how to do a murder investigation.  Paul Bishop, a very fine writer who also happened to be an LAPD detective, agreed to read it and gave me some great advice.  He told me to find the story buried under all that procedural stuff and he was right.  

“One of the questions I’m always asked is, “What bothers you most about the way writers portray the police?”  The answer is easy—just about everything.  I’m certain doctors and lawyers feel the same way about their professions.  It’s difficult to reproduce the true nature of what it’s like to be a cop even if you’ve experienced it.  I try to give readers a peek into that world and they tell me there’s authenticity.  That’s gratifying because most civilians and a lot of authors have formed their impression of detectives and the work they do from books or movies.  Those characters usually display a litany of psychological defects and seriously need an AA sponsor.  They’d survive about a day in any legitimate police department.

“Granted, there must be something different about a person who would want to do police work.  Trust me, I speak from hours of soul searching and self-analysis, but limiting a detective’s personality to a few external characteristics does that investigator a great disservice.  

“The best cops I know do their jobs knowing that in today’s world they are walking targets. They love police work, and their gallows humor is recognition of how tenuous life on the streets can be. They have an urgency to live fully at an accelerated pace and do most things such as loving, playing, drinking, as if they might not have another opportunity.  They might not. Camaraderie comes from a dependence on each other to stay alive, not a code of silence, and fear is unacceptable. They are warriors who feel the need to help others as much as the desire to battle criminals. They’re complicated and need to be written that way.” 

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I HOPE YOU WILL POST YOUR COMMENTS HERE. If you wish to reach Connie directly, you can email her at

We’ll be taking a two-week break from posting these weekly blogs and resume them again on January 13. 

If any of you, dear readers, want to contribute to these blogs, contact me directly at and send me your suggestions during the interim, since none of us working here are taking two-week vacations. Anyone who has blogged before and has something new to add is also welcomed back.

Wishing you all a good holiday season and a rewarding 2016.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Anthony Schneider’s first novel, Repercussions, starts off our 2016 list in late January and was greeted with a sterling pre-publication review in Kirkus. It’s interesting to me that another South African novel, Love in the Time of Apartheid, closes off our list. So all the other 14 novels this year have these fascinating bookends that enclose them.

Anthony, born in South Africa, spends much of his time between London, England, and New York City, and maintains citizenship in both countries. He is currently at work on his second novel, Lowdown

This is the fourth and last posting from this first novelist series and I hope you like reading his blog as much as I did. 

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The Steps

“Just write, I told myself. If it interested me, I kept going. I filled a lot of pages, and new characters popped up (and sometimes vanished as quickly as they’d appeared). The individual pieces didn’t cohere, nor were they all related to the same places, events or ideas. But I kept going. I wondered whose story it was, and what it was all about, and then I stopped worrying and wrote a bit more. And that’s the funny thing about writing. You delve, you scratch, you explore. You have an idea where you are going but you are also a passenger. You rush to find meaning, discover what it is you’re writing about, or what it is that’s stopping you from writing, but you also have to be patient. You have to play, and be comfortable in the half-light of your nascent creation. And maybe it goes somewhere and maybe it doesn’t. Rinse, lather, repeat. It’s half fun and half frustration, half search and half serendipity.

“The first big step I took toward a cohesive novel, a single book knitted together from all of those fictional shreds and patches, was a cast of characters. The book would be about him and her and her and the younger version of him… and that’s it. After that it got easier. If it wasn’t one of their stories, it wasn’t something I was going to write, not today anyway.

“The main character in Repercussions, Henry, was there all along somehow, and writing the book was about uncovering and discovering. A very long game of hide and seek, and sometimes I was looking for Henry and I suppose sometimes I was looking for things about myself.
“The second big step was about committing myself to writing—and to writing that novel. I don’t have much more to say about this because it starts to sound a bit like a self-help book or your vaguely spiritual friend’s Facebook post: be committed, be authentic, hashtag grateful. Don’t get me wrong: they’re important ideals. I just don’t have much light to shed. 

“The third big step was probably peculiar to my novel, one that spans eighty years and three continents and features a relatively high number of characters for a relatively short novel. This is undoubtedly of no use to any writer, but I’ll tell you about it anyway.

“Here’s what happened. I was on holiday on a beautiful Mexican island with a woman. Romantic? Not really. We’d just broken up and while I’d offered to buy her out, pay for her part of the trip and get a week by myself to write and walk and swim, she said no, and I was stubborn and she was stubborn, and so there we were: two stubborn unhappy people side by side in bed, with matching Netflix envelopes, watching different movies. Actually we had an okay time. But she didn’t want to go to the little town for breakfast, and because she could order room service and breakfast was one more meal to get through without bickering, I did walk to town each morning. And there I ate excellent granola and yogurt or scrambled eggs and drank strong coffee and went through the book and played with structure. I ripped it apart and put it back together, moved sections and figured out a structure that could hold my jigsaw puzzle of a novel together. It was the closest I came to a eureka moment with this book. Thank you Sahila (not her real name). Thank you Isla Mujeres. 

Five Rules:

“I’m often asked about rules for writers. I don’t know many rules. I know about five, maybe five and a half. If you hate lists, or rules, or detest pens and pencils, stop reading now. 

Rule #1:

“Don’t show your work to people at every step. Be mercenary, be secretive. Hoard, write, wrap your head around it. 

Rule #2:
“Carry a notebook and pen or pencil. 

Rule #3:

“Don’t give up when you think it’s shit. Don’t believe it when you think it’s going great. 

Rule #4:

“Don’t write something because you think it will sell, or because it will help heal some psychic wound. 

Rule #5:

“When you think you are finished but not yet at the point of fine-tuning the commas (yes, it’s a very fine line), do show it to people, people you trust, more than one person. And listen.”

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I invite you to comment on Anthony’s blog here, and if you want to contact Anthony personally try him at

Anyone else in the business of books who might wish to post a blog, should email me (

COMING NEXT WEEK, December 23, there will be a blog posting from Connie Dial, former head of the Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department who has written six enthralling mysteries that we’ve published, unless Santa Claus sends us something we can’t resist...though, given all the gifts he carries about for children, that is not likely to happen.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Alex Austin’s first novel, Nakamura Reality will be published by us in late February, 2016. Thus far it’s had a starred review in Publishers Weekly (read here) and two film companies (Legendary Pictures and Captiva) have requested reading copies. Alex’s is the third blog in a series written by first novelists, all being published next year:
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“Getting a novel published is a fine thing, but it’s no walk in the park.

“My desire and determination to write a novel surfaced in the late seventies working for the Automobile Club of Southern California’s magazine Westways. I was hired as a staff writer by editor Frances Kroll Ring, who I soon learned had been the personal secretary of F. Scott Fitzgerald during his time in Hollywood: typing his manuscripts, suggesting editorial changes and throwing out his gin bottles. Frances was reticent about Fitzgerald, but there were enough anecdotes floating about to inspire a young writer, not to mention the editorial atmosphere. Frances knew everyone on the West Coast arts scene, and the magazine’s contributors included M.F.K. Fisher, Anais Nin, Lawrence Clark Powell, William Saroyan, Jack Smith, Ray Bradbury, Carolyn See, Susan Straight and Norman Corwin. They wrote about history, culture and literature, and their stories were illustrated by graphic artists of equal stature.

"How could I not write a novel?

“My problem was Kurt Vonnegut. His novels were funny, ironic, and wise, filled with insight into people and their foibles. His throw away phrases, like “So it goes,” dazzled. So when I first tried to write, I aspired to be Vonnegut. Outside working hours (and sometimes during working hours--Frances was quite liberal about such things) I wrote satires (and parodies). I could get away with it in with short pieces that would find a home in the local left-leaning weeklies, but I didn’t have the chops to write the long form. I had no grasp of character and I hadn’t read enough. (Read everything. Then you'll realize that you've been beaten to your story by decades if not centuries). And as they say, satire closes on Saturday night.

“When a corporate coup pushed Frances from the editorship (she was too progressive for AAA), I found work at another magazine, an inflight for the California airline PSA. I was in perks heaven: free airline tickets and endless vacations at luxury resorts. When not in Cancun or Snow Valley, I kept working on my novels. But then Mr. Toad’s eyes lit up. A friend sold his first screenplay for $100,000 with another $100,000 for a rewrite (a rewrite!). Why the hell was I trying to write a novel? Movies, that’s where the glory and money was. For fifteen years I put my heart and soul into screenwriting. Studying the hot scripts. Writing screenplays that were obviously just as good as those of Joe Ezsterhas and the Cohen Brothers. Screenwriting classes, screenplay competitions, taking meetings, pitching, collaborating, getting an agent, one dollar options, rewriting a screenplay set in Bakersfield to South Africa. And in the end getting nowhere. But then Mr. Toad attended a premier of a play and bathed in a new glorious light.

"Screenplays didn’t get made, but plays did. I rewrote my latest sure Oscar winner into a play, and to my great happiness an independent producer got interested in it. He hired actors, a director, rented a small theater. On opening night, the audience (friends and relatives) went wild. I entered the play in competitions: second in the Carmel Festival of Firsts, First in the Fullerton College playwriting festival of seconds. Another production. A Backstage West Critic’s Pick! A Maddy Award for playwriting. An agent, another production in Portland, Oregon. Hard cash.

“I was a playwright. The next play was produced by The Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and on the heels of that published by a legitimate play publishing outfit, with a nice layout in their catalog. The play sold six or seven copies and was never produced again.

“I wrote another. Off-Broadway development and staged readings that I never got to see. More development. What? Your theater company has been disbanded? Financial problems? But my play?

“What I realized were that plays were ephemeral. They’re staged and then they’re gone. Like a tree falling in the woods, if you’re not there to witness it, it didn’t happen.

“In the meantime, a writer who worked with me on the staff of Westways had published a half dozen critically acclaimed novels. I attended his book signings, read his reviews, caught my breath at his grants and awards. Why had I not stuck with novels? Why had I squandered my talents?

“I was going to write and sell a novel if it killed me, and it almost did. While employed as a middle school teacher, I worked six years on Nakamura Reality, revising it perhaps a hundred times. Nakamura Reality 1, Nakamura Reality 16, Nakamura Reality 67. Bloody queries and sample pages. But eventually, I roped an agent, and then with her input spent another year rewriting the novel until she felt comfortable submitting it. A bidding war ensued—no, it found a home at The Permanent Press for which I will be eternally grateful. 

“Frances Kroll Ring passed away recently at the age of ninety-nine. Her humor, intelligence and humanity stick with me. She once said that I reminded her of Fitzgerald, well, his sense of humor. I don’t drink gin.

“Wine is a different matter.”

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You can reach Alex Austin by email at or me, and, as said before, most importantly by commenting on this blog posting.

COMING NEXT WEEK the last in this series of posts by first novelists. Anthony Schneider will talk about his South African novel, Repercussions. 


Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Kathleen Novak’s first novel, Do Not Find Me, will be published in February and it has drawn accolades. It's already been sold to Blackstone Audiobooks.The storyline concerns a mother with two young sons living in a loveless marriage who heads to Lost Lake Minnesota to tend to her dying dad and then settle his estate, where she discovers a document that unnerves her. It's a scrap of paper with the words, "Do not find me," handwritten and unsigned. Who sent it? What did it signify, and why did he keep it, hidden in the back of a dresser drawer? The mystery unfolds in five chapters, two telling the father' story, then three telling her own. Now, in the throes of grief, she's questioning her choices, thinking about options, and asking questions. Kirkus Reviews had this to say: "The result is a taut and beguiling meditation on love, loss, secrets, and silences. Tender and intricately written, this well-crafted novel is poetic, evocative, and beautiful." With that, I turn you over to Kathleen's blog

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“I just love to write. It’s possibly an addiction, picking up the number two pencil and going like crazy until I hit the end of the page, then on to the next. When I don’t have a pencil, I write in my head, narrating my observations, sketching with words, scribbling out anything – plans, people, even lists. I just discovered that Fitzgerald too wrote list upon list. The random chatter of the mind, I suppose. 

“I was delighted and relieved to have Do Not Find Me accepted by The Permanent Press. It’s my first and only published novel. A debut in midlife. Truly, I have been around awhile, at one desk or another writing poetry, letters, business documents, books, notebooks, essays, sometimes oddball tidbits that win prizes. A friend of mine asked me once if I set aside time each day to write, and recently reminded me that I answered, I am always writing. It’s true. I have never really experienced the thing called writer’s block, though I get stuck often and come back at it, as most writers do. But I have not stared wonderingly at the blank page. I don’t mind tossing bad drafts away. I lose poems all the time. And maybe this sense of the ephemeral allows me to plunge in. 

“When I was in my 20s and sending out poems to small presses, I got a rejection letter from the then editor of the California Quarterly. I don’t remember her name, and I did not save her letter. She said, kindly I think, that I should take the intensity of my poetry into narrative fiction. Then you’d really have something, she concluded. But I heard only that she didn’t think I should be writing poetry.

“I didn’t write another poem for thirteen years. 

“I did write everything else under the sun though, except narrative fiction. Just to prove her wrong. I wrote an ardent piece of what is now called creative nonfiction about a murder in my family history. I wrote a true short story, which might also be called creative nonfiction, about my parents’ obsession with perfect Christmas trees every year. But I didn’t write poems and I didn’t write books.

“Eventually, in a brief phase of intense sadness, I returned to poetry. And a decade later, in 2004, I chose to write fiction. More accurately, the book chose me; a story settled into me and wouldn’t let go. The narrative tumbled around me and trailed behind me and drove me nuts until I sat down to give it play. I was having the time of my life, lost in the story and excited to return to it whenever I could. It didn’t turn out to be that good. It wasn’t published and I set it aside. Last winter I went back to read it again and decided that I needed to write it all over again (which is what I am re-working now). 

“Subsequently I’ve written other fiction trying to figure out the process, playing with characters and chronology, voices and plot. These are also unpublished. But these efforts paved the way for Do Not Find Me. I now believe the erstwhile editor of the California Quarterly (which years later actually did accept one of my poems) gave me a bit of truth back when. 

“I am old enough to see the progressions and patterns of my life. I had three separate careers – as an English teacher, a corporate manager and a marketing consultant. In all of them I used my writing skills. But being a writer is not my career. It is what I am and what I most love to do.

“Decades ago I had a hairdresser who cut to precision, though the salon owner continually pushed her to hurry, hurry, hurry. I can’t do a haircut in a half hour, she told me. But I’m the one who is going to die an artist.

“So be it. Here’s to all of us who feel the same.”

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Do feel free to share your thoughts on this posting with Kathleen at,  with me, or MOST IMPORTANTLY, on this very same blog post.
COMING NEXT WEDNESDAY(December 9) Alex Austin continues this first novelist series.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Paul Zimmer has received eight Pushcart Awards for his prose and poetry, and an Award for Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1995 he was given the Open Book Award by the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His book, The Great Bird of Love, was selected for the National Poetry Series by William Stafford. He has recorded his poems for the Library of Congress and was twice awarded Writing Fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts, and has served as writer-in-residence at more than a dozen universities. He now writes about his first novel, published this past February.

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“My first book of poetry was published in 1967 just as I became assistant director of the University of Pittsburgh Press.  I had been working on poems for a dozen plus years by then.  Eventually I published more than a dozen poetry books and two volumes of essay/memoirs and they got nice reviews and some awards.

“Until I retired in 1998, I did my writing on my lunch hours and early in the morning before my family got up.  I worked for almost forty years as a scholarly publisher, eventually directing three university presses. 

“For most of my writing life I had kept a novel going on the back burner as I scratched at my poems.  I must have started work on at least half a dozen novels over the years, eventually losing interest in the manuscripts.  I did not have enough time to bring off this kind of extended writing.  Perhaps I was practicing...

“When I retired in 1998 I had time to work steadily at fiction along with my poetry.  It was wonderful—at long last I could work for as long a I wished.  I had several false starts, but eventually grooved in on three characters—two of them quite old, the third a mean and heartless son of a bitch.  I realized more about tension and narrative in prose, and the script began to sail. I worked on it for at least a half dozen years.  It got big and then I shaved it down again.  Eventually I decided to try it with some publishers.  It is called The Mysteries of Soldiers Grove

“Judith Shepard had given me some encouragement about an earlier prose submission, so I sent it to The Permanent Press as well as the other publishers.  It wasn't very long at all until one Saturday night as I was having my weekly cocktail with my wife, the phone rang.  It was Marty Shepard calling from Sag Harbor, New York to say that The Permanent Press would like to publish my novel.  They wanted to do a hardback edition, so it was going to be a REAL book and not some phantom thing pulsating out there in a great electronic void.  I started dancing on my desk...and that is a precarious thing for an 81-year-old man. 

“But a novel at my age!  And, you know, I think it is pretty damned good.  Is that not worth some cavorting?  The early reviews have been heartening. How very nice it all is.  I hold this clothbound novel often in my hands.”

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THIS IS THE FIRST in a series of four blogs written by first novelists. Should you want to reach Paul Zimmer, you can contact him at  On December 2, Kathleen Novak will write about her debut, Do Not Find Me.

Please post your comments as well on this cockeyed pessimist weekly blog. If you need to reach me, my email address is


Wednesday, November 18, 2015


We’ve published nine novels written by Larry Duberstein, starting in 1986 and ending in 2011. All were interesting over this span of twenty-five years, my favorites being The Marriage Hearse (1986), The Handsome  Sailor (1998)—A masterpiece about Herman Melville, and two most unusual comedies: Carnovsky’s Retreat (1988) and Postcards from Pinsk  (1991). Sales, unfortunately, did not match great reviews and so he decided to self-publish his tenth novel, Five Bullets. And here is what he has to say about that experience:

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“It is a Brave New World in publishing, right? Self-publishing is no longer a way of conveying that no self-respecting publisher would want your book. It’s okay now! The Internet has leveled the playing field, connecting you to a billion readers. Quality will out in the marketplace.

“Exactly how is the question, I suppose, in any marketplace. You may grow the very best cabbages, but how do you get anyone to know your wonderful cabbages exist? How do you get grocers to display them? If you stood by the roadside under a colorful umbrella, your produce might lure the odd motorist in for a look, but business would be conducted on a painfully small scale. One can only imagine how much smaller and more painful if, instead of advertising fresh vegetables, you stood there crying 

“Novels, novels, alive-alive-O.”

“Invisibility is a serious problem where sales are concerned. Cabbages at least start out neutral, equal to all other cabbages. If they look good (and yes, if someone sees them) they might have a fighting chance. Whereas your novel, however good it may look, and whether or not someone sees it, will likely be dismissed out of hand. Why? Because you self-published it, you fool.

“Or me fool. I had a publisher. I stuck with them (and they stuck with me!) through nine titles, partly because I liked them so much as people and partly out of laziness. But this new book was important to me, it was personal, a family matter, and buying into the Brave New World notion, I decided it would be fun to put the book out under my own imprint and allow the Internet to deliver books to the waiting masses.

“So what made me such a fool? Beyond a finger in the wind of cultural shift, what made me imagine I could vault over negative fences and get this book into the public eye?

“The answer is probably good old hubris, because, you see, those previous titles were not ignored altogether. While we were never knocked back by waves of royalties, strong reviews and bracing honors did come ashore. A New York Times ‘New & Noteworthy,’ a New York Times Notable Book, a Publishers Weekly starred notice, a glowing treatment on NPR, a BookSense Notable Book—each novel found its way to such encouraging responses. Wouldn’t these bonafides—enhanced by a few huzzahs for the new novel—stand in for the say-so of salespersons and publicists?

“Well, no. Begin with independent bookshops. There have been bookshops that welcomed me, absolutely, and I have done a number of well-received readings. But there were as many bookshops who could not be bothered replying to emails, even though they employ a closed internal email as the sole approach to the “events” person. Unless you are a name brand writer you really have to go there, stand there, and hope the elusive events person is standing there too.

“Most curious was the case of one shop that did reply, sort of. This was in a city where I had lived for decades and had a substantial following. In fact I had done a reading for this bookshop that resulted in a sizable audience, a lively interchange, and strong sales. Recently they hosted an author who, though he had produced an extraordinary book, drew a crowd of six. So bless their hearts.

“Except they said there was no room at the inn; that sadly the month of November was booked. As if the world ended on November 30. As if there did not lie on the road ahead many months not named November. Clearly this was just code for No. Given my history with this store, I could only guess that behind the spoken answer lay the unspoken: the book is self-published, you perfect fool.

“Reviews are the real problem. Not the reviews we got, the reviews we didn’t get, some of which I had counted on when deciding to self-publish. I had a friend who reviews books for the website of a large bookstore chain, so there was thatuntil there wasn’t. They were not permitted, I was told, to take on self-published titles.

“Another friend has a books-and-authors show on public radio and we had discussed my coming on the show to talk about this very book. But that was prior to my fateful decision. Now there was a firewall: we only do the books that publicists bring us. More code.

“On to Harvard Magazine, who had treated my books handsomely in the past and would know what they were looking at with this one. Except that they would not look. They could not consider the novel, alas, because there was a policy against covering self-published books. No code there!

“One editor there felt badly enough about this outright ban to take the trouble of calling me—kind and courageous on her part—to deliver this news. 'Had I given this book to my publisher and let them print it,' I reasoned with her, 'you would be holding the exact same object in your hands.'

“But her hands were tied. My plaint had the ring of truth, it was what Mark Twain might have called a real home shot. It’s just that home shots lack the caliber to pierce the armor of policy.

“The critical organs are the pre-pub stalwarts, the handful of review services librarians rely upon for recommendations. We all know their names: Kirkus, P.W., Booklist, Library Journal. Each of these outfits had reviewed my earlier work and most of their judgments were laudatory. Looking back, I discovered that PW had reviewed all my previous books and that all nine reviews were distinctly positive. Many were lavishly so. But PW did not choose to review this book.

“Neither did Library Journal or Booklist. Neither did newspapers (The New York Times, The Boston Globe) that had praised earlier titles. To my astonishment, Kirkus did find space to consider the book and to my further astonishment (because Kirkus, as we all know, can be thorny) celebrated its virtues without reservation. I bow to Kirkus, even if I suspect the book may have slipped through by accident.

“So we are back to the problem of invisibility. Those pre-publication reviewers are there to tell the world your book is coming out. Librarians will not order copies unless the book comes recommended; even safer to say that they won’t order a copy if they have no idea the book exists.

“Meanwhile, there really is a brave new world (lower case) of online bloggers and webzines giving consideration to independent presses and the better self-published books. Some of these enterprises have grown to noticeable proportions. Most, though, have 37 followers, or maybe 178, though I hasten to say those are 178 people for whose interest you will be thankful. Five Bullets may not be an NYT Notable, but there is some consolation knowing it is a ShelfUnbound Notable Book. If the more talented blogger/reviewers are not quite the wave of the present, they may yet become the wave of the future. All revolutions start small. How many went with Castro to the Sierra Maestra?

“This particular revolution has not gone as far as advertised, that’s all I seek to convey. I’m not saying good things can’t happen; many have happened for my novel. What I am saying is that you may have to put most of the brave into this brave new world. Brace yourself. A lot of the doors you approach will be closed; many will be locked.

“Genre comes into it; genre could solve the equation. If you issue forth Six Quick Ways to a Better Butt, your chances of prospering are surely brighter. Butts go viral more readily than cabbages and kings and literary fiction. And if you must write fiction, try Fifty Shades of Purple Prose and you might find a runway open. If you are an Internet wizard capable of throwing your whole soul into these new interactive sites & sounds, you might even achieve pushback and liftoff. You might get airborne.

“Otherwise, don’t expect to see your lovingly self-published book displayed on a spinning carousel at the airport (to continue with our air travel metaphor). But if you should happen to see a badly dressed fellow running across the tarmac waving his bonafides at you like a madman, feel free to stop and say hello. Buy a copy! My doors are always open.”
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STARTING NEXT WEEK (November 25) a series of blogs from first time novelists that I’m sure you will enjoy reading. You can post comments on this blog to me, to  Larry Duberstein , or better yet on this website.