Friday, August 31, 2012

The Other Benefits of Independent Publishing (Beyond Becoming a Millionaire)

The summer is over and I’m looking back on my self publishing experiment. Three months and seven stories later, I have come to three conclusions:
1.       I started this process with the intent of becoming a writer. I now know that I am not a writer. I am actually a publisher because I have to take care of web design, cover design, marketing, sales, formatting, advertising AND writing.
2.       Although neither the process nor the product have been perfect, I am very proud of what I’ve put out there and I’m excited to write and release more work.
3.       Writing the stories is easy. Getting people to notice them is hard. Getting people to actually read them is almost impossible so far. That means achieving the same sales as Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Gray or the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is still a distant dream.
Does that mean the stories suck and I’m a horrible writer? Maybe. Does that mean my marketing sucks and I’m a horrible advertiser?  Probably. Does that mean I haven’t been lucky enough to reach the right audience yet? Definitely.
A writer for the Huffington Post named Scott Steinberg recently wrote about the benefits of self publishing that go beyond sales numbers. According to him, sales are still important but releasing your own book gives you are chance to:
1.       Increase engagement with your audience
2.       Demonstrate your talents
3.       Provide a low-risk way to test potential markets
4.       Create a unique promotional tool
5.       Promote critical fan feedback
6.       Offer an immediate way to set you apart whether you are an individual, brand or company
I haven’t found a pot of gold after writing for 90 days. I have done everything else on this list and I’m proud of that. The Great Expectations that I wrote about before haven’t changed. If anything, I see my writing taking me to places I could never reach sitting at home and watching TV. Is all this pontification just a rationalization of a failed business venture? It could be. But I would rather find some benefit in the things I enjoy doing instead of giving up because I haven’t made as much money as EL James.
Have fun.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Art of Intelligence: A Book Review

by Gamal Hennessy
I try to read real word accounts of intelligence and espionage to inspire my writing so I was looking forward to reading Art of Intelligence. As I started reading it, I thought it was excellent. The more I read, the less I loved it but it is still a very good book.
The book is basically an autobiography of the author’s life in the CIA. It also is a personal account of the history of espionage from the Cold War to the beginning of the Iraq War. It’s a four part story. In the first part, Crumpton recounts his motivations for joining the CIA and his training. The second part discusses his work as a case officer and recruiter of spies in Africa and Europe. This is the most impressive part of the book. The author does a very good job of describing tradecraft and telling compelling stories without ever revealing where he was, who he met or what he was doing. If he only told stories like this for the rest of the book, I would have given it five stars.
The third portion of the book focuses on his years in the counter terrorism and the leadership role he had in the Afghan War. While this section was well done, I found myself incredulous as I read it. I felt like he took credit for every success in that conflict and predicted every eventual outcome. I felt like he pinned every failure and miscalculation on someone else. While that might be what actually happened, I find it hard to believe. Even spymasters get it wrong sometimes.
The last part of the book talks about his work in the State Department and as an academic. This was the weakest part of the book and read like a sermon from Captain America, but that doesn’t make his conclusions any less valid. Crumpton has a unique and authoritative view of espionage and the Art of Intelligence is one of the better books on the subject that I have ever read.
Have fun.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Your First Look at Must Be the Music

The new erotic anthology from the Nightlife Publishing goes on sale in a few days. Here is a look at the cover and a preview of the story.

These two erotic stories are dedicated to the DJ.
In Let the Music Play, a man looks for love behind the turntables and finds himself lured by a beautiful woman into a risky liaison.
In Dance for Me, a DJ spins tracks for his lover, but what happens when his music inspires her to dance with another man? 
This title goes on sale on Amazon on September 4th. Authors, book reviewers and bloggers who want to write a review for this or any other Nightlife Publishing title should contact me directly at for press copies.

Your First Look at Family Affair

The new crime thriller from the Nightlife Publishing goes on sale in a few days. Here is a look at the cover and a preview of the story.

Harrison Trent is a freelance operator who is haunted by his past, paranoid about his present and uncertain of his future. When an alluring acquaintance tempts him to kill for her will he be consumed by his own demons or killed by his predatory enemies?
This title goes on sale on Amazon on September 4th. Authors, book reviewers and bloggers who want to write a review for this or any other Nightlife Publishing title should contact me directly at for press copies.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Often Do You Give Up on a Book?

I just stopped reading a book after only reading about 25% of it. It was dull, half baked and overall it was pretty pointless.

Part of me feels like I'm wasting money by abandoning a book that I paid for before I'm even halfway through it. Part of me feels like I'm wasting time reading a book that bores me.

Do you finish every book you start? If you don't what makes you turn away from a book mid read? I'd like to know because I want to avoid doing things in my own writing that turn people off.

Thanks in advance.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What to do When Bullets Start Flying (Responding to an Active Shooter)

By Gamal Hennessy
Most of my writing deals with crime fiction, but I often come across things in my research that can be helpful in real life, especially when you consider recent events.
The news over the past year has emphasized the idea that brutal massacres are not limited to war zones or ghettos. They are happening in summer camps (Norway), movies theaters (Colorado) and now churches (Wisconsin).
While the mainstream media will trot out the usual suspects from the pro and anti gun lobby, it is unlikely that meaningful debate or change will come out of the latest crime. There will be no major change in American gun laws because there is no political will to enact such a law. Even if a more stringent law could be passed, there is no practical way to collect and manage all the firearms in circulation. It would be easier to find and confiscate everyone’s iPhone at this point than take away their gun.
US society is not moving toward a period of fewer guns. If anything, recent events will inspire more amateurs to arm themselves in the naïve belief that a weapon alone will make them safer. This means more people will be armed on a regular basis. The standard response by government authorities and corporations is to implement armed security to respond to future threats. But armed security is only a deterrent to a rational actor. Many of the lone domestic terrorists among us are not rational and will not be deterred by security. They will simply find a new less secure target.
As members of an armed society with potential murderers who could strike at anytime, we are faced with two choices; hide in our homes or adopt principles that can help us avoid danger that might occur. This essay is meant to be an introduction to concepts of escaping an active shooter and increasing your chance of survival.
Defining an Active Shooter
In this essay, an active shooter is any individual firing repeatedly into a crowd. He is not threatening to shoot. He has already started shooting. He is not shooting at someone specific (as far as anyone can tell). He is simply trying to kill as many people as possible. There are other concepts that are applicable with other scenarios, but I’m going to focus on the scenario that has popped up with more and more frequency.
Preparing for an Active Shooter
If a gunman can appear at anytime in any location then it is impossible to be completely safe at all times. But there are preparations you can take to increase your ability to get out of danger.
  1. Get your body used to moving: If you never run you can’t expect to instantly become Usain Bolt if bullets start flying. There is a certain amount of energy that comes from fear but the more you learn how to use that energy before hand, the better off you will be. The type of running I’m referring to isn’t the jogging you do in the park to fit into your skinny jeans. This is running as if someone is shooting at you. Periodically sprinting (and not in a straight line) will give your body more exposure to the type of movement it has to do in an active shooter situation.
  2. Dressing for a retreat: The lady in the super tight skirt with the six inch heels and two purses isn’t going to be able to move very fast. The guy with the heavy backpack and the gym bag strapped to him on the train is in the same boat. I’m not suggesting that you only leave the house in Under Armor and track shoes, but you have to balance your wardrobe and luggage with the reality that you might have to leave it behind, assuming you actually have a chance to get rid of it. Lighter is faster and faster is better.
  3. Decide where you are going: Being able to move isn’t very helpful if you don’t know where you’re going. Trying to find the exits in the chaos of a human stampede trying to escape an active shooter is challenging at best. Whenever possible, it is prudent to locate the exits in your surroundings before you settle into whatever activity is on the agenda. This is also a good time to figure out if there are multiple exits or just one. If trouble occurs you can move yourself and your loved ones to the exits without any discussion or thought.
Reacting to the Active Shooter
The best writing I have found on this subject comes from a site called No Nonsense Self Defense. Violence expert Marc MacYoung has identified three main steps in avoiding an active shooter.
  1. Get out of the line of fire: move to a place where the barrel of the gun isn’t pointing
  2. Get out of the shooter’s field of vision: move to a place where the shooter can’t see you and will be less likely to aim at you and put you back in the line of fire
  3. Get out of the area where the shooter is located: move so far away from the shooter that he cannot continue shooting at you.
Becoming the Rabbit
In their seminal book On Combat, Dave Grossman and Loren Christensen divide the world into three types of people using the analogy of a sheep herd. The civilians who are potential victims are sheep. The criminals who prey on society are wolves. The police, military and first responders who have to deal with the criminals are sheep dogs.
It is difficult to determine where the wolves will strike next. The sheep dogs can’t be expected to be every where we need protection so we need a new script. I’m not suggesting increasing the number of armed civilians and creating a society of wolves. I am advocating a different model all together. Instead of lying down like sheep waiting for the slaughter, we can choose to be come rabbits. We are not involved in committing or stopping crime. We are only interested in getting out. Hopefully it is a set of skills we will never have to use.
Of course, following these steps cannot guarantee your safety if you encounter an active shooter. There are many variables that could hinder your escape including your own paralysis, a lack of exits, a lack of warning or a combination of all these factors. But consciously deciding how you will react and preparing for that reaction increases your chances of living through a horrible incident.

Gamal Hennessy

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why Women Have Sex: A Book Review

The sexual motivations of women have consumed men since the Middle Ages (and probably earlier than that). We have created laws, religious restrictions and fairy tales in an attempt to define it and control female sexual expression. But we haven’t done very much to understand it. Buss and Meston try to shed some light on this enigma in their 2010 book “Why Women Have Sex”. Using a combination of anonymous surveys, lab experiments and multi-discipline research the two psychologists break down sexual motivation from a variety of different angles.
So why do women have sex? The answer is…complicated.
According to Buss and Meston, there are nineteen major motivations for female sexual expression including:
  1. Sensual attractors
  2. Physical pleasure
  3. Social status
  4. Emotional/ spiritual connection
  5. Mate capture/ Mate retention
  6. Mate poaching
  7. Responsibility in relationships
  8. Guilt in relationships
  9. Curiosity
  10. Variety
  11. Mate Evaluation
  12. Barter
  13. Trade
  14. Ego Boost
  15. Deception
  16. Punishment
  17. Abuse
  18. Health benefits
  19. Procreation
In addition to this list, the authors point out that several motivations could be present at the same time in any woman’s sexual choices even if those motivations are in conflict. Another complicating factor is that the motivations could be subconscious and fluid over the course of a sexual act. Finally, the choice of each woman has to be understood in the context of her age, peer group, religion, upbringing and previous sexual history. In other words a person may have no idea why a woman might decide to have sex and the woman herself may not be cognizant of the factors underlying her choices.

I originally decided to read this book to put more authenticity into the sexual motivations of the female characters in my books. For the sake of clarity in my work (and my own sanity) I won’t try and definitively nail down the sexual motivation of any character. But reading this book will add more variety and resonance to their sexual expression and hopefully improve the quality of my writing.
Have fun.