Ebookery: JD Rhoades

JD Rhoades has had a pretty decent career as a print novelist. Starting in 2004 with The Devil’s Right Hand, he launched the Jack Keller series. Most recently, he released Lawyers, Guns, and Money, a standalone thriller, as an ebook original. He took a few moments to tell us about his experiences in the ebook realm.

You put out your first epubbed novel, Storm Surge, last year. What brought you to that decision?

Storm Surge first went out to traditional publishers in late 2008. As you may remember, things were in a state of complete panic then in a lot of industries, publishing included, and I got a lot of the “we really like this, but not enough to buy in this godawful market” rejections. Soon after that, my agent stopped returning phone calls or responding to e-mails and finally suggested I get someone else because he was “laser focused”–but only  on expanding the careers of people who already had contracts.  So I was pretty bummed. But with some help from my good friends Tasha Alexander and Kristy Kiernan,  I got another agent and started writing again. But I still really liked Storm Surge and wanted people to read it. Then I started hearing about how well people like Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch were doing with e-pubbing and decided to give it a shot.

Unfortunately, the first time, I did everything wrong. Lousy proofreading, lousy formatting, lousy cover that I threw together in GIMP–it got some good feedback and sold a few, but not many. So I studied up, found a really good cover designer, and put it back out. It’s ticking along nicely now.

You followed it up with Lawyers, Guns, and Money (Love that title, btw.) So obviously, you’re doing something right.

We can hope. That’s a book that really means a lot to me. I wanted to do a “legal thriller” that’s at least a little more accurate about the way actual lawyers talk and think. There’s still some artistic license, naturally, but on the whole, I’m really happy with it. And since, I’m told, none of the bigs think anyone buys legal thrillers any more (despite empirical evidence to the contrary), I decided to let the market make the call.

What has your agent’s role been in this endeavor?

She still wants to see me get a contract with one of the bigs, but she’s been very encouraging about the e-publishing. .

You also brought out the first Jack Keller novel as an ebook.  Any plans to bring the other books out electronically?

They’re out now. And for a limited time, the Keller novels are only .99!

Does print play a role in your future plans?

Sure. My watchword has always been “diversify.” Someone wants to come along and cross my palm with silver, that’s just fine with me, especially if they’re willing to do the actual work of promoting.

What’s in the pipeline for you?

Something completely different. it’s a vampire/zombie/sci-fi revenge epic featuring the characters from a short story called “Behind Every Man” which I did for Spinetingler magazine a while back: http://www.spinetinglermag.com/winter2006story9.htm.

The short pitch goes like this: The last member of a special ops unit of genetically engineered vampires is out for  revenge on the people who betrayed her people and ordered their execution.  I think of it as a little Firefly, a little Kill Bill, a little spaghetti western, but with vampires, werewolves, and, of course,  zombies. I have no idea how or where it’ll find a home, but I’m having a hell of a lot of fun with it.

Have you considered doing a nonfiction political book – print or electronic – along the lines of your newspaper column?

I have, but you know, when I look at old collections of people’s newspaper columns–like, say, Carl Hiassen’s or George F. Will’s–they just seem so dated. Like the stories they comment on, they’re of a particular time and place. Plus, you can get them online for free.


My Town Monday Cincinnati – Would You Like A Hudey? I’d Be Delighted!

When my beer drinking days dawned back during the Reagan Administration, many of my friends pushed me to try a brand called Little Kings. Little Kings is a cream ale, like Genessee. It was popular in the Cleveland area in the days before the Great Lakes Brewing Company emerged. It was really popular at Miami (of Ohio) University, where Li’l Sis and my best friend from high school went to college. Why?

Miami is in Oxford, Ohio, 30 miles from where I’m sitting right now, which makes it part of the Cincinnati area. That meant the local brews all came from the old Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company.  So when I arrived in the Queen City in 1991, I had to sample the local ale like any good newcomer. I’d already put away my share of Little King’s. The next thing I tried was Hudey Delite. It wasn’t bad. In fact, it was painted to me by my friend from high school as piss water, but it was pretty much a mild beer like Coors Lite, only not as watery. As my taste for beer grew more sophisticated, I tried their flagship brand, Christian Morlein. It’s now one of my favorites and is popular among beer snobs (of which I can be on occasion. It’s not a bad form of snobbery.) Never tried Burger. Someone once told me all I needed to know about Burger was to remember the last can of Stroh’s I’d drunk.

Yuck. (Sorry, Erin.)

Hudepohl fell on hard times in the 1990’s. Some of their facilities were shifted to production for Samuel Adams (the brainchild of Cincinnati-born, Boston-reared Jim Koch). Eventually, only Christian Morlein remained, a very old brand and recipe dating back to the city’s early days.

A few entrepreneurs, however, took it upon themselves to revive the old Hudey brands, buying Christian Morlein and, in turn, buying out the Hudelpohl-Schoenling Brewing Company.

So what does Hudey produce?

Here’s a few of their brands:

Burger – I was shocked they brought this one back until I started working on the West Side. It’s a workingman’s beer, and many West Siders have fond memories of drinking Burger in the old days. As I said, it was often compared to Stroh’s.

Hudey Delight – Hudey is a light beer along the lines of Coors Lite. Actually, it’s closer to Michelob Lite, a little more flavorful than Coors. Not as popular in its revival, it was very popular in the late eighties and early nineties.

Little Kings – A cream ale, my strongest memory of this brew is it knocking me on my ass.

Christian Morlein is actually a family of beers, the best known of which is OTR (for Over-the-Rhine, the neighborhood north of downtown). It is a strong, smooth amber lager that tastes a lot like some of the British lagers. It’s one of my favorite beers.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

Night Shift By Stephen King

Stephen King’s first short story collection is one I’ve revisited after about 25 years. Night Shift contains the seeds of Salem’s Lot and The Stand, along with a few classic shorts I’ve forgotten about.

It opens with “Jerusalem’s Lot,” the story about an abolitionist in 1840’s Maine who inherits a cousin’s estate. What he discovers is that his great uncle led a demonic cult in the nearby abandoned town of Jerusalem’s Lot. His visit there brings something horrific up from the depths of Hell. Hey, this is Stephen King. You were expecting Jimmy Hoffa?

Another story, “Night Surf,” could be a companion story to The Stand with the infamous Captain Tripps wiping everyone out in the course of a summer. A group of people in New England struggle with what to do with themselves in post-Apocalyptic New England, believing themselves immune to the superflu. Turns out, they may not be.

There are a lot of stories I remember well but hadn’t read in a long time. “The Boogeyman,” “Gray Matter,” “The Lawnmower Man” (which has absolutely nothing to do with the Pierce Brosnan movie of the same name), and “Sometimes They Come Back” are classics.  Salem’s Lot is directly referenced in “One for the Road,” showing how Stephen King’s Maine adapted to the disappearance of an entire village and the reality of its vampire infestation.

Memorable is “The Mangler” (which spawned an awful Robert Englund movie), about the accidental summoning of a demon into a steam folder at an industrial laundry. “The Mangler” is probably one of the scariest monsters King has ever dreamt up. Then there’s “The Ledge,” not a horror story but crime, where a tennis pro must outwit an abusive mobster. Who needs vampires and demonically possessed machinery when you have a murderous bastard making you walk a ledge in a Chicago high rise?

The story that sticks with me the most is “Graveyard Shift,” a tale of a rat infested factory. How infested? The rats in the sub-cellar have evolved. And the queen is as big as a cow.

I remember reading this book in the late 80’s, and I think between this and It, they were my gateway to Stephen King. Which, when I look back, is surprising. My mother loved Salem’s Lot, The Stand, and the movie version of It.  Yet I didn’t get into King until I read It and Night Shift.

But rereading this book was like visiting old friends. The old friends are a possessed laundry press, a town full of vampires, a man turned amoeba, and giant rats, but old friends just the same.

Audio Books

Years ago, when I lived in Mt. Washington, there was a shop down the hill called Books to Go that rented audiobooks. I delivered pizza still, so this was not a bad idea for me. Rent a cassette or a CD (MP3’s were still in their infancy, and I was still on dialup), and I could get a break from the increasingly stale classic rock I’d spent delivery nights listening to. (Had I been paying attention, I could have heard the future Mrs. Winter on WGRR late nights on weekends, but that’s a different story.)

Audio books were a godsend. I “read” more books than I normally would have because time spent behind the wheel of a car was time now spent listening to audio books. I went through all the Harry Potter books this way. (Jim Dale was an excellent reader, but I really wish I’d heard the Stephen Fry versions from Britain.) I also got through Stephen King’s mammoth Dreamcatcher, which was a monster in print.

I’ve just started getting into them again. In the ebook era, they’re a natural, and most ereaders will play an audio book now. Both Amazon and iTunes even give access to Audible.com accounts. And my library allows downloads that you can burn to CD and dump onto your iPod, both requirements for me. Plus there are the good ol’ CD’s you can check out. Right now, as I write this, I’m listening to Freakonomics while I’ll be listening to Packing for Mars by the time you read this.

I’ve thought about audio books a lot over the years. One of the problems with writing crime fiction is that I’ve always wanted either ex-Marillion lead singer Fish or former Dr. Who actor David Tennant to read something I’d written. Trouble is both men are Scottish and not known for their American accents. I write about American locales. Then I started toying with science fiction. My alter ego has yet to submit anything in that realm yet, but when your settings aren’t even on Earth, the only requirement for the audio version’s reader is to clearly speak English in a pleasing manner. A boy can dream once more.

The other thing I like about audio books is that they give me a break from talk radio. There’s only so much NPR you can handle, and WLW has gotten putridly partisan. Listening to Freakonomics or Michio Kaku or maybe a biography is a breath of fresh air.

Darth Vader Vs. Voldemort – Or Which One Stopped Being A Wimp

They are two of the darkest characters in modern cinema – Darth Vader, the half-man, half-machine lord of the Sith who has some serious rage control issues; and Lord Voldemort, he of the snake-like visage who divided his soul into seven parts to dodge death. So who would win in a fight?

Darth Vader, hands down.

But let’s look at our two antagonists, shall we?

Both started out as mopey, whiny kids. Anakin Skywalker was an annoying little boy who became a self-centered teenager, then an arrogant young man who thought everyone was holding him back. Recipe for failure, right?

On the other hand, Voldie embraced his inner sociopath. He framed Hagrid, murdered Moaning Myrtle to increase his power and create his first horcrux, and thought nothing of slaughtering a baby.

So why is Voldemort such a dismal failure? And why would Vader be able to mop the floor with him, no matter how many horcruxes Snake Boy put pieces of his soul into?

Well, put simply, Vader is not a sociopath. Vader is righteously angry. And he’s biding his time. About five seconds after getting his ass handed to him by Obi-wan Kenobi, it occurs to Vader he’s on the wrong side. His wife is likely dead. His best friend has become his enemy. And he realizes he’s just backed the wrong team. His only hope?

Hey, part of a Sith Lord’s job description is to rise up and strike down his master in anger. He’s got time.  Apparently, the Empire’s healthcare is second to none, even the Federation from Star Trek.

Voldie? Well, Voldie got stupid. His whole focus is living forever. Vader is not scared of dying. One suspects he’d just choke the living shit out of the Grim Reaper (which would make for a great Family Guy episode when you think about it.) Voldie? Voldie is obsessed with his damned horcruxes and a baby boy who, if he’d have minded his own business, would have been no threat to him. But no, Voldemort then spent the next couple of decades getting his ass handed to him by kids. That’s right. People younger than Justin Beiber are constantly making a mockery of Lord Voldermort, including flaunting the whole He Who Must Not Be Named (TM) rule. Voldie is so narcissistic that it’s not hard to imagine a muggle killing him with a blow to the head in a simple mugging. Vader? Not even sporting his bad-ass mask yet, Vader slaughters all the Jedi younglings.

Vader even manages to disembody (but not truly kill) Obi-wan, his mortal nemesis. Voldemort gets a serious ass-kicking from a baby! The result? Voldermort is a stunted, disembodied shell of a wizard, and he’s made said baby twice as powerful as he already was. And when he (spoiler alert!) kills Harry Potter? Well, he didn’t really kill him, did he? He killed the horcrux he accidentally made of Potter.

Ah, the ending tells all. Vader’s ultimate nemesis is the Emperor. When Vader realizes his son is a Jedi, he has two plans – Let Luke turn him from the Dark Side – which would give the Emperor a really bad day – or make Luke the next Sith Lord, which means Palpatine’s gotta go. So when the Emperor is doing that stupid trick where he rubs his shoes against the floor and zaps Luke with megawatts of electricity, Vader says “Screw it” and pretty much ends his own life by ending the cackling freak’s. Vader’s not one for dramatics. He just tosses the bastard over a ledge and lets the Death Star’s reactor core do the rest.

Voldie? Manages to kill himself by trying to kill Harry Potter. Again! This guy couldn’t boil water without burning it. One suspects if put into Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen, Voldemort would curl up into the fetal position and wet himself the moment Gordo yelled “Hey, donkey! Piss off!”

Vader, on the other hand, is a very stressed out man who has achieved personal nirvana by using the Force to make deserving Imperial schmucks’ necks his own personal stress ball.

And really, wouldn’t we all like to do that?

In short, Vader is a bad ass. Voldermort is a pussy.

Ebookery – Stacey Cochran

I first met Stacey Cochran in the Bouchercon bar in 2006, where we were both rather impressed with a speech given by Dennis Lehane. Stacey’s been championing the independent route for authors for most of his career. He was doing self-publishing, to paraphrase country singer Barbara Mandrell, when self-pub wasn’t cool. When Amazon opened up its Kindle format in 2009, he made the natural transition to ebooks and hasn’t looked back. He took a few minutes to give his take on the ebook revolution.

JIM: Your most recent efforts have been Claws  and Claws 2.  Tell us a little bit about those books.

STACEY COCHRAN: First, thanks for asking me to do this interview. It’s thoughtful of you, Jim, and I appreciate the time it took to put all this together. Claws and Claws 2 are two self-published novels that feature Dr. Angie Rippard as a protagonist. In the first novel, Rippard is a wildlife biologist at the University of Arizona who gets drawn into a police investigation when two teenagers are found dead at a golf course resort that borders protected National Forest Land. She suspects the teens (students of hers) were killed by a mountain lion, but her position draws her into conflict with the resort’s owner. It’s kind of a Jaws set in the desert.

JIM: You started on the independent route long before ebooks became the viable format they are today. Was this something you saw coming, or was it a fortunate development in publishing?

STACEY COCHRAN: My success has been a happy accident. I have been sending work to traditional publishers since I was in the 11th grade in high school… close to twenty years now. By the time I was 30, I had garnered somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand rejection letters.

I came to realize that if I kept sending work out and waiting for the golden bite of traditional publishing, I would likely be 40 (and then 50) and have nothing but a hard-drive full of 20-30 novels and thousands of rejection letters.

So, I started self-publishing my novels in 2004. I still tried (and am still trying to this day) to find a traditional publisher, but I had a good-sized catalogue of novels by 2007 to get out to the public.

POD publishing was clunky and expensive, but I learned some valuable lessons there and then later by podcasting my novels. I was one of the first novelists in the world to podcast an entire novel, and I had solid download numbers in the tens of thousands of listeners range.

Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing platform was opened in 2009 to anyone who knew how to format and upload a book, and I was in that first wave. I had already planned to release Claws in May 2009 as a POD paperback and had a full marketing blitz in place to support it.

Not really certain what the “Kindle” was or how publishing was about to change, I released the novel in the Kindle Store for 99 cents. I expected I’d sell a few dozen copies. I sold a good bit more than that.

By November, I was the bestselling solely self-published thriller author in the world.

JIM: Claws got some notice when it appeared on Kindle. JA Konrath even pointed it out in one of his many posts about using ebooks. Considering how early it was in Kindle’s development, did you see this as a risk?

STACEY COCHRAN: I had nothing to lose, Jim. A funny thing happens when you’re at rock bottom and no one is willing to throw you a bone. You learn how to make it on your own, and sometimes you get lucky. I didn’t see it as a risk at all by that point. I’d been trying to get published for over 15 years. It turned out to be a career breakthrough. I was just lucky.

JIM: You’re also working with CreateSpace. How has that worked for you in comparison to earlier services you used to produce books?

STACEY COCHRAN: CreateSpace works well for self-publishing a trade paperback version of your book. If you use their “ProPlan” you can get the base cost of your book down pretty low. They make the book available via Amazon, libraries, online retailers, etc.

I see publishing the paperback version of a novel as an important step in the overall process.

JIM: You’ve also moved into the realm of e-publishing.  Tell us more about that.

STACEY COCHRAN: Right, so building on my own success, I launched Stacey Cochran Books as an eBook publisher. It’s funny you should ask, because I’ve just spent the day today totaling up the sales of my authors’ books and completing invoices for the past twelve months. I love sending out royalty checks to authors.

JIM: What sort of works are you looking for as a publisher?

STACEY COCHRAN: Women’s fiction, chick lit, memoir, paranormal romance, romance, thrillers, crime fiction, and SF.

JIM: What’s next for you?

STACEY COCHRAN: I am putting together a proposal to chair Bouchercon in my hometown (Raleigh). I’ve got to make our case in St. Louis in September, and I’ll be competing against New Orleans, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. The Big Easy will be the sentimental favorite.

I’m launching a new paranormal romance The Loneliest in the next couple months.

And I’m currently in the process of putting two new authors under contract with Stacey Cochran Books.

I’ve got the TV show moving forward this fall; we’ve interviewed Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Robert Crais, Carl Hiaasen, Jeffery Deaver, David Baldacci, JA Jance, etc. We’re in our fifth season.

I’ll be launching the third season of my podcast Book Chatter with RJ Keller and Zoe Winters.

I’ve got a new documentary film to release in 2012, and I’m working with a couple of film directors and producers in developing my own novels for feature length adaptation.

I’ve got a month-long vacation planned for Key West this Christmas.

My wife just gave birth to a new baby girl in April: Harper Jane.

I’ve got a textbook I’m working on for St. Martin’s Press.

And I’ll continue my teaching duties at NC State University this fall.

Whew! That’s too much, isn’t it?

My Town Monday Cincinnati – Riverfront Stadium

Before the Reds moved to Great American Ball Park, before the Bengals moved into Paul Brown Stadium, both teams played in a large oval called Riverfront Stadium. In its waning days, they called it Cinergy Field, after the electric company now part of Duke Energy. As a building, it had little to distinguish it from other 70’s era stadiums like Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, RFK Stadium in Washington, or the original Meadowlands complex in New Jersey. It was a big, round bowl.

But it was Cincinnati’s big round bowl.



For Cincinnati, it’s history. Opening in 1973, it rescued the fledgling Bengals from playing in the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, which was not the class facility you see in the NCAA games today. It also brought the Reds into a modern stadium just in time for the Big Red Machine to start their dominance of Major League Baseball.

For the Reds, Riverfront succeeded Crosley Field, where the team had played since before World War I. Crosley was a neighborhood stadium in the mold of Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds in New York.  I-75 claimed part of Crosley’s outfield and bleachers, and neighborhood changes made the old field less practical for modern baseball.

Riverfront would become the site of both the Bengals’ and Reds’ greatest moments. The Reds, of course, had their run as the Big Red Machine in the 70’s at Riverfront, then revisited those days with their wire-to-wire championship season in 1990. The Bengals played both of their Superbowl seasons their in 1981 and 1988.

Near the end, it was where I got to see Ken Griffey, Jr.’s return to Cincinnati in 2000.

The end came, however, when, in an effort to keep the Bengals in Cincinnati resulted in Paul Brown Stadium. The Reds also benefited when voters agreed to also finance what is now Great American Ball Park. Riverfront finished its days as a baseball-only park when the eastern edge was demolished to make room for construction of GABP. In the end, the old stadium was demolished with experts collapsing Riverfront away from GABP. An era had ended.

More at the My Town Monday blog.