Monday, November 24, 2014

Misogyny, Racism and the Moscow Rules

If my intent is to write something useful that people can understand then it's better to write about the way things are instead of what we imagine them to be. Many have imagined the world in ways which don't really exist because how one lives is so far removed from how one ought to live that the person who abandons what one does for what one ought to do, learns frustration rather than clarity.”
Niccolo Machiavelli: The Prince

During the Cold War, Russia was the most dangerous place to be an American spy. The men and women who survived this dangerous and brutal environment followed a set of concepts called the Moscow Rules. These weren’t official guidelines. For years they were never written down. The rules were simple, easy to remember and essential if you didn’t want to end up dead in the street with a bullet in your back.

In the 21st Century, America has proven itself to be a dangerous and brutal environment for women and minorities. Look at the police brutality caught on tape (See Thoughts on Police Brutality). Consider the institutionalized misogyny of the NFL (See My Sixteen Game Ban on the NFL), Uber and the legal system when it comes to rape. Spend a moment thinking about all the hate groups, militias and interpersonal conflict in the United States and you might see parallels between Cold War Moscow and present day Ferguson (See Writing While the World Burns). 

Perhaps it is time for us to adopt the Moscow Rules for our own use. Maybe evolution is based on survival and survival is based on adaptation to circumstances. If you don’t know who to trust and you can’t rely on institutions or violence to protect you, then maybe you need a different approach.

Since there is no official set of Moscow Rules, I’m going to suggest my own. These are based on different versions of the Cold War ideas. I’ve simply modified them for the world we live in now.
  • Assume nothing. (Help may never come)
  • Pay attention. (You can’t avoid what you don’t know about)
  • You are never completely alone. (Threats can come from anywhere)
  • Everyone is potentially under opposition control. (I’ll let you define “opposition” for yourself)
  • Go with the flow, blend in. (If they don’t see you, they probably won’t get you)
  • Always give yourself a way out (of a conversation, altercation or attack)
  • Vary your pattern. (if they know where you are, you’re an easier target)
  • If it feels wrong, it is wrong. (Don’t ignore your instincts)
  • Maintain a natural pace. (Too fast or too slow draws too much attention)
  • Lull them into a sense of inactivity. (If they define you as a threat or an opportunity, they will attack)
  • Build in opportunity, but use it sparingly. (Pick your shots and your battles)
  • Don't harass the opposition. (Attack from a position of strength, not weakness)
  • There is no limit to a human being's ability to rationalize their actions. (Being “right” won’t protect you)
  • Keep your options open. (especially when it comes to getting away)
  • Technology will always let you down. (Rely on your wits and your skills, not your stuff)
  • Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.  (Understand the patterns of human behavior)
  • Don't attract attention (Even by being too careful or prepared)

I’m not suggesting we need to be spies in our own country or personal lives. I’m not saying this is the right way for people to live. On a certain level, adopting these concepts as part of your daily routine involves a change in perspective. You might begin to see yourself as isolated and oppressed by your own society. Seeing life this way can create emotional and mental damage over time. But I’m not writing this in response to the way life should be. I’m looking at the world around me and writing about the way our society is now.

If you feel the institutions and systems you live in will protect you, then you have no need for the Moscow Rules. If you are willing to risk a bit of alienation to avoid being shot dead in the street, consider the Moscow Rules. They might help you adapt to the dangers and brutality of your environment.

If you hope the institutions and systems you live in will protect you, give you justice or make you whole again after you’ve been violated, good luck. Just remember; hope is not a plan and the news is full of people who didn’t have a plan.

Have fun.


Monday, November 10, 2014

An Exercise in Reader Hunting

At this point in my independent publishing career, I feel my ability to write is stronger than my ability to market. While this combination gives me the right skill set to be a starving artist, I’d like to find ways to increase my ability to reach my target audience and not die of hunger. I’m planning a major overhaul of my commercial strategy in January and increased exposure is a fundamental part of the program. As part of my long term plan, I just completed a small scale experiment to increase my pool of potential readers. I’d like to share it with you. Please feel free to use it or ignore it at your leisure.

The Goal
There is a school of thought in independent publishing (and sales in general) that people will buy books from authors they already know and like (See Write, Publish, Repeat). Not many people are familiar with my work right now, so my goal was to increase my exposure for a short period of time and get my writing into the hands of potential readers. Because this was a marketing exercise and not a sales exercise, I didn’t expect to generate any revenue. At the same time, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money either.

The Method
  • I hired a marketing group on that specializes in e-book marketing. They charged me $45 for what amounted to a mini blog tour.  
  • I took my last novel (A Taste of Honey) and made it exclusive on Amazon’s KDP to set up a two day free offer that would take place a couple days before Halloween.
  • I announced my free offer a week in advance on social media along with a free piece of horror flash fiction to get people’s attention.
  • On the day of my free promo, I sent an email blast out to my mailing list of about 13,000 names.

The Results
  • The marketing company produced 5-7 announcements and reviews for my book just before the free period. The announcements appeared on, Top Books Worth Reading and other blog sites.
  • A handful of verified purchasers picked up the book before the free period and left reviews.
  • There were more than 900 downloads of the book during the two day period, with a huge push in the first 16 hours and then a steady decline afterwards.
  • A Taste of Honey broke into the top ten spy novels list on Amazon during the first day of the free period.
  • Sales for the most part remained flat outside of a predictable dead cat bounce.

The Lesson
If my goal was to make a lot of money in a short period of time, then the experiment was a failure. I spent forty five dollars and didn’t make anything back. If my goal was to connect with more potential readers, then things didn’t turn out too bad. Nine hundred potential readers is a decent bite at the apple. In my experience, nine out of ten people who enjoy adult crime fiction liked my writing. Not everyone who downloaded my free book will read it, but even if only ten of those nine hundred people decide to read my book, maybe nine of them will like it too. When my next nine novels come out over the next five years, each one of those potential readers will be more prone to buy them because I’ll be an author they already like.

Some writers will mock me for losing 1,000 potential sales, or continuing to use KDP long after Amazon scuttled the algorithms that used to guarantee sales. Other writers might reject my use of a marketing company, comment that the process perverts the purity of the blog tour concept or otherwise smacks of dishonesty. Some people will be offended just for the sake of being offended. My goal isn’t to change those opinions. Every writer is entitled to their own perspective. My perspective is finding more people who might enjoy my work.

I plan to include this tactic in the overall strategy for releasing my next novel. Have you done something similar? What worked for you? What do you wish you could do over? Any comments are welcomed, even if I don’t answer them all.

Have fun.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Luxury of Voting

I almost didn’t vote yesterday. I didn’t want the hassle of the forty minute train ride. I didn’t know anything about the candidates or the issues allegedly defining the election. I didn’t think it would make a difference. But I got off my butt, went into the city and voted anyway. The after affect wasn’t empowering or inspiring. I just had the same feeling I get when I finish running an errand.

So why did I bother? There are probably a lot of reasons. The fact that no one is going to lynch me or bomb the polling place has a lot to do with it. The persistent encouragement (or shaming depending on how you look at it), of social media plays a role. Expressing my disapproval of politicians who side with FOX News also helped me get to the polls. But the biggest reason can be boiled down to the luxury of expression.

As a writer, I have the luxury of being able to express myself in words. When my friends perform at a show or have an event, I enjoy the luxury of expressing my support by showing up to cheer them on. When things I find online resonate with me, I have the luxury to express my perspective by sharing them. When I vote, I take advantage of the luxury to express my preference for the particular personality or perspective presented to me at the time.

As a student of the realpolitik school of political science, I do not see individual votes or even individual elections as the ultimate measure of political success. Politics isn’t about candidates or issues. Politics is about power. Power is measured by what you can and cannot do to affect change. The power to change or not change the lives of individuals comes from actions not votes. Whether you’re talking about ending slavery or LGBT rights or ending Prohibition, the pattern is the same. The decisions and actions come first. When the votes come later, it is an expression of acceptance for a fait accompli.

Is voting a decision or an action on its own? Maybe, but if it is, it represents a minimal act of power. It will not create change by itself. The party in power may or may not change, but the sight of a police officer will continue to make me just as apprehensive as the sight of a potential criminal. Temporary political shifts in Washington or Albany will not change my struggle to manage my relationship with money, time or the people who are important to me. If I’m going to change anything substantial in my life, it will be determined by what I do during the 364 days when I’m not voting.

I don’t vote to exercise power. I vote to express my opinion. My opinion in this case is symbolic because it is limited to a handful of pre-selected, carefully screened artificial personas. But most luxuries are symbolic. The real power in my life comes from my choices and my actions.

Maybe it’s the same for you too.

Have fun.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Final Chapter of My Free Halloween Fiction

This is the third and final installment of my free Halloween flash fiction. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

And remember, you can get my latest novel A Taste of Honey for free next Monday and Tuesday only (that’s November 3rd and 4th).

Happy Halloween

The Shadow Dancer
Part Three: Revelation

I broke both his elbows before he took his first step. He wanted to retreat, to understand what happened, but I moved faster than his thoughts. I ducked down and punched him in the side of the knee with enough force to guarantee he would never walk again. He dropped to his other knee. His face tried to form a scream, but I moved faster than his voice. I stood over him, straightened my fingers into a spear and plunged my hand into his gaping mouth.

That must have been so horrible for his friends to watch. I’m sure they want to help, but how could their minds deal with what they saw? How could their bodies approach something so bizarre? One boy started to cry. The other peed on himself and screamed like a newborn child. But I didn’t blame them. I had my arm buried elbow deep into the big man’s mouth. They were just making the noise that he couldn’t make for himself.

I saw tragedy in my victim’s eyes. I witnessed his horror, his pain and his sanity crumbling at my feet. I held my arm in place for a moment, letting him flail around with his useless arms and scrape the ground with his broken leg. The smell of his emptied bowels overpowered the whiskey and smoke in the alley. My hand reached down so deep that I felt his heartbeat pumping with suicidal speed near my fingertips. I wanted to feel it burst in my hand. I wanted the ripe fruit of his life to drip through my fingers. But he didn’t deserve that. He deserved to live with the madness that came with this moment.

So I snatched my arm out of his mouth with a sticky wet slither.  Then I turned my back on them and walked away. Another scream echoed between the walls as the big man crumbled onto the pavement of broken glass and used condoms. The muffled dubstep might have drowned out their shrieking, but I’m not sure. I danced into the shadows before anyone else showed up.

Now I’m writing this to try and understand what I am and what I’m doing here. I’m not worried about revealing whatever dark secret defines me. I’m writing this journal by hand so no one will ever find it. If someone does get it, they won’t ever read it and even if they do, no one will ever believe it. This is my story. I’m writing it for me.

I might be dead. I might be alive, but whatever I am, at least I’m not drowning in feces anymore and the only thing eating away at me now are the questions of my existence and the secrets trapped inside me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Free Halloween Fiction: The Shadow Dancer Part 2

Yesterday I announced two free gifts I’m giving away for Halloween.

First, my novel A Taste of Honey will be available for FREE next Monday and Tuesday (November 3rd and 4th)

I also wrote a piece of flash fiction horror just in time for Halloween. This is Part 2. If you want to read Part 1, you can find it here. The last part will go up tomorrow.

The Shadow Dancer
Part 2: Confusion

I stumbled out of the shadows and into a dark grimy alley littered with broken glass and used condoms. The sky was a dark shroud above me, without a moon or stars to offer light. Muffled dubstep throbbed from the other side of one wall and the smell of decadence that led me here clung to everything in the narrow passage. I stood silent in the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.

Three unfortunate boys found me standing there, paralyzed by my new freedom. I’m sure they were in their late twenties, affluent, arrogant and privileged. Their eyes glazed over with liquor and drugs. Their bodies overflowed with lust and their faces revealed the frustration of a hundred recent rejections. They circled me like hyena, unsure about which one of them should make the first move.

I felt so sorry for them. I wanted to save them from me.

But I didn’t know the language of compassion on that first night. My voice was still raw from the razors. I tried to say something to calm them down as I held up my grubby hands to warn them, but all I could come up with was,

“If you fucking touch me, I’m going to shove my hand right down your god damn throat.”

They laughed. 


Didn’t they see the clumps of vomit in my hair? How could they not notice my half eaten stomach dangling down by my knees? Did my shredded tongue cut my warning into sounds they couldn’t understand? If those poor boys saw anything, they didn’t pay attention. Two of them just watched as the big one called me a bitch and lunged at me with rape on his mind.

I felt so sorry for him.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two Halloween Treats Just for You

I’ve decided to kick off the holiday season by giving you two free gifts for Halloween.

First, my novel A Taste of Honey will be available for FREE next Monday and Tuesday (November 3rd and 4th)

I also wrote a piece of flash fiction horror just in time for Halloween. This is Part 1. The other two parts will go up later this week.

Don’t say I never gave you anything.


The Shadow Dancer
Part 1: Torment

I choked on a thousand razor blades as calloused and clawed hands held me down on a bed of glass.

I drowned in boiling stew made up of vomit and feces.

I lay helpless on a bed of spikes, watching my organs ripped out and devoured by insatiable cannibals.

I was raped from the inside out, violated by a fetus or a virus so hurtful that his come spat molten lava through my body and out from my eyes when he was done with me.

And then my torment repeated from the beginning, with a dozen hands holding me down and forcing razors into my mouth.

Was I in Hell? How do I know? Organized religion uses the ideas of eternal damnation to maintain power over their flocks. Hell represents the punishment that awaits the sinner after death. But I didn’t die. I crossed over into the shadows trying to save my husband. What sin did I commit? Is it a sin to fight for love in the face of Darkness? And how could my lover open a passage to eternal damnation in the first place? How could I escape something that’s supposed to be forever? Based on what I’ve read since my Release, my suffering sounds more similar to the traditional Chinese versions of Hell than the Christian, but I’m not Chinese and my suffering wasn’t nearly as poetic as their descriptions.

How did I escape? I seized a fleeting moment of opportunity. I think someone else paved the way and opened the door. Maybe a lot of some ones tore down the walls that oppressed us. Who knows? I never saw anyone else during my torment beyond my faceless cannibals. All I know is at some point my reality tilted and I caught a whiff of cheap whiskey and stale cigarettes. My cannibals abandoned me, so I slithered, crawled and ran towards the scent, not knowing or caring where it led me.  Considering where I was, what could possibly have been worse?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How Can We Forget?

It is difficult to forget a turning point in history. 

Few other events in recent memory have done more to expose our arrogance, our ignorance, our greed, paranoia and basic disregard for human life. We hide behind our insecurity to justify our self-righteous indignation, willful blindness, double standards and docile conformity. 

There are some things we can never forget. There are other things we can never remember because we probably never knew them in the first place.

Have fun.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Sixteen Game Ban on the NFL

Dear Professional Football:

Tomorrow is the start of the season, but I’m giving you a sixteen game ban from my life. You can probably guess why, but allow me to be specific.

As a more than casual fan of the Giants in particular and the league in general, I’ve ignored a lot of bad behavior over the past few years including:
  • The bounty scandal
  • The concussion scandal
  • The dog fighting scandal 
  • I even gave you a pass on the alleged homicide scandal because of the way you reacted.

But I can’t condone misogyny.

You make a big show of holding your employees to a high standard of behavior (See the Sportstrac NFL 2014 Suspension and Fine Tracker). You claim to enforce harsh discipline whenever and however you see fit. If a player takes marijuana or performance enhancing drugs, you suspend them for four games. They lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. If a player hits another player the wrong way on the field or makes an obscene gesture, they are suspended for a game or fined or both.

So what happens if a player hits his fiancĂ© hard enough to knock her unconscious, then drags her out of an elevator, tosses her on the ground like a sack of dirty laundry and has a casual conversation with the security guard who happens by? 

He gets a two game suspension. (See The NFL’s Uneven History of Punishing Domestic Violence)

Here are the messages I get from your decisions:
  • It’s better to knock a woman out than smoke weed or cheat on a test.
  • Punching your significant other is just as bad as two obscene gestures during a game.
  • Domestic violence is not as bad as illegal contact during the game.

The overall message boils down to the safety and security of women is not important to the NFL.

I know we don’t know what happened in the elevator. I know you changed your policy in the wake of public backlash. I understand my decision to distance myself from you won’t make any difference to your business or your product. I’m sure you’ll make more money this year than you did last year. You will continue to be the most addictive and popular sport in America. But I need to get away from your message for a while. I want to give you an example of what a significant ban looks like. Maybe I’ll come back for the playoffs. Or maybe your next misogynistic misstep will turn me away for good.

Have fun.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Way of the Knife: A Book Review

9/11 had a ripple effect the world is still dealing with. Universal surveillance, endless cycles of war and the erosion of civil liberties are all by products of the attack on the World Trade Center. The Way of the Knife focuses on the way, waging war and declaring war have changed for America in the 21st Century. The book goes over familiar ground in great detail, but it is ultimately unsatisfying.

The central premise of the book revolves around the military developing increase spying capability while the intelligence community devoted more of it’s time to killing than spying. The book explores the high level infighting between the Pentagon and Langley for control of the War on Terror. It’s a catalog of greed, bickering, turf battles, mismanagement and failed opportunities. Way of the Knife reveals many of the political and financial gains made by Washington elites in the name of national security.

I hoped this book would focus more on the experience of spies and soldiers on the ground in places like Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I had little interest in the back room deals made at the White House or the juvenile temper tantrums of our highest officials. Way of the Knife is enlightening and educational, but it gives too much attention to men and women who deserve condemnation and not more fame for their manipulations

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Writing While the World Burns

by Gamal Hennessy

Police strangle a man in broad daylight.

I write.

Police gun down yet another unarmed man and I keep writing.

Protests turn into riots and police suppress the media, but I keep writing.

Gaza bombs Israel. Israel invades Gaza and I’m still writing.

Ebola spreads fear and death but that doesn’t stop me from writing.

Russia invades Ukraine.

Iraq and Syria crumble into civil war.

Fanatics behead journalists.

Athletes beat women and send them to the hospital.

I write.

Rape culture, racism and sexual repression remain fixtures in our culture.

I just keep writing.

What is the point?

Books and ideas can change the world, but I’m not writing some social manifesto. Very few people read what I write and even if they did, it wouldn’t change the relationship between cops and the community, women and men, or people and their own sexual expression. Writing, especially my writing, doesn’t change the world, but it might offer a way to cope.

Writing is an opportunity for catharsis. When anger and rage from police brutality, misogyny and other acts of human stupidity start to pile up, a writer can channel all those negative emotions into their work instead of holding it inside. A reader can feel the visceral impact without exposing themselves to more danger. Perhaps hiding an emotional truth inside a fictional lie is a good way to express the chaos of our lives. Maybe that’s why humans need stories. Maybe that’s why I write.  

I don’t know the right answer and I don’t have solutions to the problems we face. But I’m not trying to solve the world’s problems. I’m just trying to write.

So I keep writing.

Have fun.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Touch of Honey Beta Reader Request

I'm currently looking for beta readers for my third novel, A Touch of Honey.

If you're not familiar with the beta reading process, don't worry. Beta readers are like a focus group for books. They help the publisher predict audience reaction to a story by getting feedback from a small segment of the market (See On Using and Being a Beta Reader)

A Touch of Honey is a sequel to my last novel, A Taste of Honey. It continues the story of the spy Nikki Sirene as she tries to survive in a world of crime and passion.

If you enjoy adult crime thrillers, consider this premise:

In seduction, control is surrender and surrender is control…

Nikki Sirene uses her sexual charms to manipulate men and steal their secrets. She lives in constant fear because the man who used to love her is now trying to kill her.

Desperate for protection, she agrees to a relationship of mutual exploitation with a mysterious spy named Warren Baker. He agrees to protect her from her enemies if she agrees to help take down a sex slave operation in New York.

Entering into this world of depravity and pain pushes Nikki to the edge of sanity. Can she escape with her freedom and her life, or will she become just another human trafficking statistic?

If you're interested in being a beta reader for A Taste of Honey, please send an e-mail to and I'll put you on the list.

Have fun.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Being Wrong: A Book Review

Most people go through life thinking they are almost always right about pretty much everything virtually all the time. The reality is we are often wrong about things from the trivial to the universal. Being Wrong explores why we are wrong so often and how it is helpful to us.

Katheryn Shulz  breaks down various sources of error, from sensory perception and cognitive interpretation to group prejudices and cultural biases. She also looks at the mental, psychological and social consequences of both being wrong and knowing you are wrong. She had so many categories of how we get things wrong as well as compound combinations of error, I began to wonder how we ever get anything right. I also marveled at humanity’s ability to remain in existence considering how massive some of our mistakes are.

In the end, Being Wrong suggests error is a fundamental part of thinking. Developing the ability to use the brain also develops the ability to misuse it. Shulz took time to focus on the positive aspects of being wrong, including innovation, learning and adaptive behavior. She didn’t spend anytime discussing situations where subjective opinion is the basis of being “right” or when the “right answer” can’t be known or situations where people continued to maintain the “wrong” stance when it was in their best long term interests. Still, Being Wrong is an insightful look an ignored part of our mental processes. If you decide not to read it you will, once again, be wrong.

Have fun.Gamal

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Who Watches the Watchers (Thoughts on the American Police Brutality)

The current strained relationship between police forces and some communities could be the result of military surplus weapons and training flowing from the War on Terror to local precincts (See Bill Maher: Police State).

It could be the result of the gradual expansion of police powers and a siege mentality in policing dating back to the American Revolution. (See Rise of the Warrior Cop).

Perhaps this occupying force mentality has always been present in our society and is only on the top of our minds now because the wider proliferation of personal video gives us weekly examples of minority and poor Americans being attacked and sometimes killed by police officers or even neighborhood watch members. (See NYC Official Wants Police to Wear Cameras After Chokehold Death).

It’s probably a combination of these factors and many others, but I think the most important thing to look at when thinking about or dealing with the police revolves around understanding their day to day motivation.

The articles I’ve seen about the killings in New York and Missouri frame the issue as racial, economic or social. (See FBI Steps In Amid Unrest After Police Kill Missouri Youth) I think all these things come into play, but why a person does what he does is based less on his socio-political position and more on his mental and emotional motivations. I’ve never been in the police department, but I don’t think it takes twenty years on the force to understand the things he care about:

A police officer wants to protect*:
  1. His life
  2. His partner’s life
  3. His family’s future
  4. His income
  5. His pension
  6. His career and/or promotion
  7. His reputation with other police
  8. His relationship to his superiors
  9. The relationship of his precinct to the others
  10. The relationship of his precinct to City Hall
  11. His relationship to the media and the court of public opinion

Please note: aiding the members of the community like you or me may or may not fit on this list. If it does, I doubt it will be higher than any of the things I’ve mentioned. I think this is accurate not because police are evil, but because police are human and every human in a society is motivated by self interest. If you or I decided to be a cop for whatever reason, this list would seem completely reasonable.

When you add the constant threat of sudden violence that comes with being a police officer, and increased access to military weapons and training to the list of motivations above, you create a situation where any actual or perceived threat to an officer or his motivations could result in a lethal force altercation.

To reiterate, I don’t believe all cops are evil. I don’t believe all cops are good. I believe all cops are human and are driven by what they perceive to be their best interests in stressful situations. Putting every police officer on camera for every civilian interaction can be effective because it impacts most of the officer’s motivations. But footage can be manipulated and evidence is not a guarantee of anyone being punished for a crime. Cameras treat the symptom, but they do not alter the underlying factors of behavior.

I’m not, nor do I plan to be engaged in any violent or criminal activity. Having said that, I limit my interactions with police to the same level as the characters in my writing. I avoid them when possible and do my best to avoid or disengage from any situation where police might become involved. If that isn’t possible I try to remove myself from the situation as soon as possible without making things worse (See 10 Rules for Dealing with Police)

Struggles between police and the people they protect is not a new phenomenon. In the first century AD, a Roman poet coined the phrase Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? or who watches the watchers? Through the magic of YouTube and Iphones we can all watch them, but until we can understand and change their motivations, is there anything we can do to stop them?

Have fun.

*Yes, I realize there are female police officers. Yes, I made a specific choice to single out men. I’m sure you can figure out why.

A Brief Introduction to the Crime and Passion Blog

You and I share something in common. Curiosity led you to this post. Curiosity inspires me to write. Most of my books focus on adult crime fiction and I plan to use this blog to explore the real world influences on my work. I want to share ideas to increase your understanding and interest in the forces that shape modern conflict. The conflict could be based on our internal struggles, our personal interactions or the challenges facing us as a group. All of them play a role in my creations.

I’ve renamed this blog, and my series of novels, Crime and Passion because those concepts describe the what and the why of my curiosity. The characters in my stories are spies, assassins, prostitutes, slave traders, gun runners, thieves, mercenaries and others who make crime and violence their way of life. They are driven by greed, pride, lust, envy, hatred and other expressions of our darker nature. My hope is to create stories you can relate to, even if you see a side of yourself you might not like.

Writing in this genre exposes me to a lot of fascinating real world stories. My research covers a wide net, including news stories, books and open source intelligence reports. I want to use this blog to share the information I find and hopefully have a dialogue on aspects of the real world that are far more fascinating than any fiction I create.

Because I write about real world issues for adults, this blog will explore some hot button issues concerning politics, sexuality, social issues and violence. I will offer my perspective on news stories relevant to my writing. Those perspectives might not conform to popular opinion or to your experience. I welcome discussion and alternative views, but I try not to waste time with trolls.

I hope Crime and Passion satisfies your curiosity and stimulates your imagination.

Have fun.
Gamal Hennessy

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Navigating the Waters of E-book Exposure

For the first time (and hopefully not the last time), we have a guest writer on IPN. Ms. Leti del Mar of Rock the Book has shared some of her classic and traditional methods of book marketing with us. As an independent publisher, I plan to borrow some of these techniques.
The publishing industry is changing. It is being flooded with affordable e-books by traditionally published authors, self-published authors, and authors published by small companies. E-books are one of the fastest growing facets of the publishing industry, and authors are taking control of their own marketing and book promotion.

The gatekeepers used by the big bad publishing houses are becoming irrelevant. Many authors are skipping the traditional steps: write a book, query an agent, get signed by said agent, agent submits to publisher, publisher publishes said book, and then publisher does little to promote it. Instead they bring their work directly to the reader.

What that means for readers is that the reading choices out there are endless.

What that means for authors is that, while it is easier to get your book out there, it is just as easy for your book to get overlooked.

So with no gatekeepers, how does an author get noticed? How does a writer find an audience for their book?

For just a moment, let’s forget all about technology, Amazon, e-books, e-readers and book bloggers.  Go back in time a decade or two to when these things didn’t exist. In those days of mortar and brick bookstores, how did people find books to read?

They asked a friend. Remember those conversations? You might even still be having them. They went something like this:

“Hey, have you read any good books lately?”

“Yes, I have! I just finished (insert name of book you read a decade ago), and it was fantastic! You have to read it”

“Okay, next time I go to Borders, I’ll pick it up.”

Back in the early '90s, I was reading Michael Crichton and John Grisham, even before the films. Why? My friends were. They would tell me about a title I hadn’t read, and I would go over to that bookstore that is no longer in business and pick up a copy.

Believe it or not, that is how people still discover new titles. Only now most of these conversations happen online.

We talk about what we are reading on Facebook, give a great title a shout out on Twitter, post a picture of the cover of a good read on Instagram or Pinterest. You too should join in on meaningful conversations about books and share what you are reading.

That’s right. I’m telling authors to frequently share what they have read, not what they have written, and here’s why:

People will listen when they like what you have to say. If you recommend good reads, they will pay attention. They will want to learn more about this person who has such great taste in books, and they will click on your picture, look at your profile, and discover that you too are an author.  This won’t happen 100% of the time, but when it does, it is powerful.

What makes this even more powerful is chatting about books in the same genre you write.

Let’s go back into that time machine and think about another way we used to find books to read. We browsed our favorite aisles.  If you read westerns, you would go directly to the western aisle. If you read historical romance, you explored those aisles.

This is where book bloggers come in. Find bloggers who read what you write. Ask them to read, review or feature your work. That way readers who love Young Adult Paranormal and go to Young Adult Paranormal blogs, will find your Young Adult Paranormal book.

Want to make this even more effective?

Don’t just solicit these blogs. Follow them and leave comments. Do this for a while before soliciting anything. That way, when you do ask the blogger to read, review, or feature your work, they will see you as a long-time follower and be more inclined to help.  

Over at Rock the Book, we found each other because we write in the same genre and frequent the same message boards. We enjoy reading similar things and share with each other books we have read and ideas about what we want to read.  The cool part is that we live all over the world and do our sharing online.  

So yes, the publishing world is changing, faster than we can keep up with it. But the old ways for finding a good book still work. Use those old ways with new twists, and with some elbow grease and a little luck, your book will get its due notice.