Saturday, November 26, 2011

Video Games

"Lana Del Rey is a Gamer."

My sons play video games.
Ok, that's an understatement. Not only do my sons (Jack 21 and Bear 17) play video games, they own literally thousands of them. They also own every gaming system available, both TV adaptable and hand-held, and they collect retro systems from the '00s, 90's 80's and even an Atari "Pong" system from the 1970s. The games they purchase and play often arrive to our home in strange packages wrapped in brown butcher paper, postmarked Japan or South Korea and even China. These games will be designed and presented entirely in an Asian language that somehow my sons understand.

The games they play range from G-rated to Mature to Violent with names that have become entirely familiar in and around video gaming circles: Final Fantasy, Mario, Tekken, Street Fighter, and lots more, 

The gaming doesn't stop there.

As many gamers do, my sons are also into the tangental aspects of gaming like graphic novels, video anime, feature length straight-to-video movies, and more. They also maintain a special allure for Bruce Lee, who's early Kung Foo movies curiously follow a video-game-like plot-line of "level's" of battle or fighting, despite their predating practical video game development by a decade or more.

Lately my boys have been designing their own video games starting with humble miniature games in order to educate themselves to the complications and nuances of the art. One day they hope to make their mark on the industry with big games that will be distributed throughout the world.

I grew up with video games which back then in my early teens, were mostly located in video game parlors. Back when you could find records in record stores and books in bookstores. Nowadays it's getting harder and harder to find a video game parlor since just about every household owns some kind of video game system like a Uii or a PlayStation. Certainly just about everyone has access to the Internet. But I never really got into them since I more or less knew that once I was hooked, I would forever be dedicating half my life to sitting in front of a whole bunch of computer generated pixels.

But video games still fascinate me. Especially the ones gamers refer to as "Kill Games."
These first person kill games put you the player in the position of the chaser while you hunt down a series of victims which more often than not assume the form of Zombies (that way they can't ever really be killed). But there are other kill games in which you hunt enemy soldiers or bandits or rednecks driving fast cars. I was curious about what goes into the design of these games and designers who might become so obsessed with making them so realistic and life-like they might go to extraordinary lengths to create them. Like murder for instance. So fascinated in fact, that I decided to wrap a stand-alone thriller around the idea.

The plot I had in mind was not just a simple murder. But an elaborate hunt and chase which would culminate in a murder upon which the chaser would record the victim's screams prior to perishing. The screams would then be used in the design of a Violent First Person video game that would closely resemble the actual hunt and chase that inspired it. That in mind I created a video game designer who is a master of disguise and a serial killer. A man who never stays in the same city for very long and who operates under as many different aliases as he's had facial reconstruction and voice enhancement surgeries. He is a man who will stop at nothing to observe how another human being reacts to a hunt and chase, and he's determined to translate the experience for the video game as accurately as possible.

Even though my sons were able to provide me with almost all the research material I needed for the novel (minus the murder part!) it still took me almost three full years to write the psychological/suspense/horror thriller, SCREAM CATCHER. It's now coming at you in e-Book, trade paper and in a matter of a few weeks, audio, screams and all. It's my contribution to an entertainment genre that has not only fascinated me for a long time, but become an art form unto itself and a way of life for my sons. And even, a living.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Small Blogs Big Give Aways Blog Hop Event

Welcome to the Vincent Zandri Vox romance readers. To celebrate the release of Love At First Sight and celebrate my Amazon best selling romantic suspense The Remains I'm happy to have you wonderful readers here. The two books are included in the prizes. Hang out, take a look around and keep hopping. Good Luck to each of you that looks like a nice prize pack of books.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Modern Marketing Plan

If she were doing a book signing, I'd definitely buy a copy...then get back in line.

My agent just sent over some pretty detailed information for us, his authors in his stable, on how we might go about marketing ourselves in this the ever changing era of digital publishing. What's impressive about the marketing package samples he included with the email is that it's social media heavy. In particular is a bullet about tracking down the top 100 sites that are relevant to your book (be it a hard-boiled mystery, a true crime novel, or a non-fiction narrative about St. Peter and Paul), and then finding ways to either guest blog on them, be interviewed or if none of these, perhaps paying for an advertisement. The point is this: getting your book cover in front of YOUR AUDIENCE!

I like this way of thinking because....:

1. It allows you to focus in on a specific reading group. The old adage applies here. If you shotgun your promotion efforts all across the social media board without a rudder, it's possible no one will see it. But if you focus in on specific peeps who might belong to your tribe, then it's possible everyone sees it.

2. You only have to go as far as your computer to make this work. Whether you're sitting in your bedroom or in a gondola in Venice, Italy, you can become an effective marketer so long as you have an internet signal.

3. Cost. It's potentially free, that is you decide not to pay for advertising.

4. Your audience will grow exponentially so long as you have written a good book. In other words, if it's a good read, the people who frequent these sites will chat it up, and your next book....again if it's good...will probably do even better and so on, and so forth.

So, I applaud my agent here.

But here's where I'm a little sticky with the marketing thing. Much of the sample plan is rooted in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It talks about driving/flying all over kingdom come and doing books signings. It talks about spending hundreds if not thousands on Bling. Yes, that's right. Bling. You know, T-shirts, pins, key-chains, pocket protectors for that nerdy engineer in your life. It talks about driving all over the place to do readings.

Here's my take on this, let's call it old fashioned approach: Unless you are already Stephen King, it doesn't work for shit. Not only will it not work for shit, it will end up costing you money. Book stores are dying while, at the same time, on-line purchases are on the rapid increase. However, if you can find a book store that will grant you a signing as a virtual unknown, it's likely you will sell only a few copies, if you are lucky. In the end, you will have put out gas money, dough for a hotel, plus incidentals like food, and booze...and believe me, if the signing is a total no-show-whiff, you'll want to have a couple of drinks later. You will wake up the next morning with a mustard on your new book cover T-shirt, hungover, and entirely in the red before the tour has even gotten off the ground.

But wait, can't you land a series of readings????
I'm sure you can try with the help of a publicist who might run you anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per month. But beware, unless you are the hot lingerie model pictured above or Tony Bourdaine with a highly popular cable television show that focuses on exotic locales you can only dream of seeing, you are not only going to be invited to speak without pay, it's very likely no one will show up. Again, it'll be another red letter day.

Hey listen, I love my agent. He just scored me a major deal and we have a lot going for us right now. All I'm saying is, folks, forget the old ways of marketing. They might work to a slight extent, but then I could probably pull out the old 8-track player and pop in that Casey and the Sunshine Band tape and let the good times roll. But it doesn't beat my Pandora account or my I-pod. Now there's progress.

What you need to do as authors, is focus on internet, on social marketing opportunities, your blog, your Twitter posts, your Good Reads, You Tube, and Google+ accounts and more.Seek out those 100 prime sites that will  help you focus in on your audience. If you hire a publicist, make sure she or he focuses almost entirely on online promotion and virtual tours for each one of your titles. Only when this solid foundation of internet marketing has firmly been established, and your e-book editions are selling in or around the 10,000 and less range consistently, should you begin to spend time on book signings and readings. What was once a primary marketing consideration is now of secondary importance.


Because e-Books are becoming the dominant form in which we read.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bri Reporting for the Vox: Screamcatcher

Howdy Voxers,

If you don't know from social media I am Vince's new full time publicist. Some of you might know me from Facebook or as a guest blogger here at the Vox. Anyways I'll be popping in with updates, invitations and news from time to time for Vince. With me on board that leaves time for our favorite author to write. So I hope you'll tolerate me. I promise to keep it fun and exciting.

To make good on that promise my first post will be the Scream Catcher blog tour and reveal of the new trailer.

What so different about this Zandri trailer compared to previous ones?

This one has Zandri written all over it from footage, editing, design and creation.

How is that possible? Did Vince invest in a sharpie and write Zandri on everything?

No his son's Jack and The Bear produced and filmed it. The whole idea was Vince's as well.

So sit back, not alone hopefully this is a Zandri trialer, and enjoy. Then check out the blog tour calendar of events below.

December 5:Guest Post@
December 7: Interview@
December 9: Review@
December 21: Review,GuestPost&Giveaway@
December 22:Review@
December 23:Guest Post@
December 23: Review@
December 24:Guest Post&Giveaway@
December 25: Spotlight&Giveaway@
December 26: Review&Giveaway@
December 28: Review @
December 29: Review@
December 30: Review@
December 31: Review@
December 31:Review@

Friday, November 11, 2011

No Rest For The Weary...

"Somebody is loving you...;)"

I'm tired.
Ripped to shreds.
Tossing in the towel.
Asleep on the feet....

I can't believe I just wrote all that. But it's true. I think by now you know me as this unstoppable writer guy who can't sit still for more than the few hours it takes everyday to write his five pages. Invincible Vince, as it were. But since I got back from Europe a couple of months ago I've been undergoing some tremendous life changes, the least of which is signing the new deal for two new books and five backlist books with Thomas & Mercer/Amazon and also not the least of which is my oldest son's 21st birthday.

Life is different for me now in that I'm contemplating a change of living venue...a new heaven on earth. And even though I haven't quite figured out where I will call home over the next six months (whether it will be the US or Europe or both), I can tell that I'm now completing a life phase that includes the completion of four books, four short stories, and articles/blogs too numerous to count in the past five years. It also includes travels....travels encompassing Africa to Moscow and L.A. to Italy, sometimes for a weeks at a time.    

These are just the things I can tell you. Because there are also things happening in my life that I can't quite reveal yet, although I will one day when it's right (It could be months from now!). I know, I know, ... I know what you're thinking. Don't be keeping secrets from inquiring minds. But let's put it this way. I haven't actually been "in love" (I mean real, gut wrenching love) in quite some time and it's possible that where ever I do decide to lay my head, she will be there with me...Enough said on that subject.

Back to business...

But now that I've signed my contracts, I've felt a wave of exhaustion and emotion pour over me like a waterfall. This isn't an unusual experience. Often when I complete a novel (only days ago I completed BLUE MOONLIGHT), I find myself sleeping more than I do spending awake time. It's not an unusual reaction to a job well done.

So what's my point?

I'm always preaching to my peeps to get those pages done, put ass cheeks to the chair cushion, ignore the world and write your pages. But, and this is a big BUT, when your body begins to send you signs that you need to take some time off and relax, don't ignore them. For me, the signs are attention deficit, trembling hands, lack of appetite, upset stomach, inability to enjoy the foods I normally enjoy, night terrors, melancholy, bi-polar like mood swings, and just a desperate need to get some serious sleep.

Or...wait a minute...Hold the freakin' phone...Maybe I'm fooling myself here.
Maybe there's nothing wrong with my writing or work/travel schedule. Maybe all these "signs" as it were have nothing to do with too much on my work plate. After all, writing isn't just a job for me. It's a passion and a hobby and a religion all mixed up together. Maybe they have everything to do with something else. Maybe, just maybe, I've fallen in love....

for ec...;)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Few More Minutes with Andy Rooney

"Former left guard for The Albany Academy football team and young war reporter, Andy Rooney."

I'm having a trouble imagining a world without Andy Rooney. It's kind of like trying to imagine Star Wars without Yoda. How else are we supposed to move on with our lives while having to put up with its everyday absurdities, banalities, and garden variety foolery? Did I just write the word "foolery"?

Andy worked almost right up until the end. As writers we never retire. But he did give up the TV gig with 60 Minutes only a month ago, which should serve as a sort of be a warning to those seniors who insist on working well into their golden years. Don't give up the day job!

I can just picture this week's A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney if only we were to be graced with one more. He'd appear in the crumpled up suit he pulled out from under his bed, even though God would probably offer him a nicer choice of threads. He might look a little younger, maybe because he wouldn't be in pain. Old age is often accompanied by aches and pains. He might bear a little more of a smile. His eyebrows might be trimmed. But I think otherwise, he'd be the same old crotchety Andy. The subject of his spot would be "Retiring."

"It's not retiring that's hard," he'd write. "It's the dying part of retirement that is."
He might say that had he known he was gonna cash it all in within a month of retirement, he would have negotiated a better end-of-career bonus with the network. He would have coined this as a "Sure to Perish Immediately Upon Retirement" clause or something like that. Then he might have mentioned other famous men and women who have "retired" and died soon after. Since I can't think of anyone famous who has died very soon after quitting their job, I can tell you that I've had a couple of uncles who retired from the construction business and died within a year or so. It's a warning for my dad who at 76 is still putting in a full week. Keep working!!!

Andy was an everyman's writer in that he didn't believe in writer's block anymore than a plumber believes in plumber's block. He once wrote: "Writers are repeatedly asked to explain where they get their ideas. People want their secret. The truth is there is no secret and writers don't have many new ideas. At least, they don't have many ideas that a comic strip artist would illustrate with a light bulb over their heads."

Andy's ideas came from the everyday. Like procrastinating before getting to work. Or having to deal with pulling out all that cotton filling in your plastic bottle of Advil. Once he wrote about how the French had expelled something like 47 then Soviet spies that year from France. "That's a lot of spies," he wrote.
I mean, how can you not smile and laugh a little on the inside when you read that?

I've met Andy on a few occasions, most of them having to do with a private high school we both attended up in Albany called The Albany Academy. I attended the place in the 80s and Andy in the 30s. The place has changed a lot in the many years since I moped around its marble halls. But back in the early 80s it wasn't much different than the school that Andy attended. It was a military country day prep school that prided itself on discipline as much as it did sports and the arts. We wore military uniforms and ate not in a cafeteria, but a "buttery." Also, Andy played left guard for the football team and so did I. We played the same position and we were both under five feet, eight inches. We took a lot of pounding in those four years, but we gave a lot out too. Maybe that's why we became writers. All that head banging will prevent you from looking at the world in a conventional way.

I guess I've known Andy my whole life, having first taken notice of him when 60 Minutes would pop on the TV after the New York Giants football games. Even if we were bummed out about the Giants losing a barn burner to the rival Dallas Cowboys in the last minute of the last quarter, and even if we were in a black mood over having to go to school or work in the morning, we could always count on Andy gracing the screen in his wrinkled suit. You'd wait for the topic of his "few minutes" with baited breath. When finally he'd come out with something like, "It costs us almost a quarter for every mile we drive a car," we knew we were in for something special about something not so special. And that getting up in the morning and putting on your socks one at a time, wasn't all that different from the life he was living. Andy was just a regular guy in possession of an extraordinary talent.

I'm going to miss Andy Rooney and his words and his unconventional wisdom about the conventional. I'm going to miss running into him and having to remind him of my name and what I do for a living. That stuff never bothered me because I was such a fan with a little hero worship sprinkled in. Did you know that during World War II Andy spent about an hour hiding in a ditch alongside a road that had been strafed by German planes along with Ernest Hemingway? How many people can brag about something like that? But Andy would be the last guy on earth to talk about Papa. He'd be more apt to comment on how every buffet you dine at no matter how nice the facility always offers you Sweedish meatballs. He'd write about how you couldn't resist the Sweedish meatballs even after some of the gravy got on your tie and stained it. He'd show up on TV the next week with the same tie and the same stain. It would become a heated topic of discussion. A philosophy. A reason to carry on in the everyday. 

Enjoy the afterlife Andy.
Keep writing.
Keep being you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Boise has Babes

There is more to this career than writing, marketing, and reading. Travel is part of it. Which anyone who reads this blog knows I love to do. I spend more time in a plane than I do in my apartment. But in addition there is the presentation of my experience, knowledge and advice I'm invited to share at conferences.

Halloween weekend I was privileged to head back to that secret haven of literary genius Boise ID. I spoke on the industry, balancing life, the future of publishing and my career in general. My publicist Bri got some photos for the Vox. Unfortunately she was never around when I wanted a picture of one of the good looking women, usually married, that passed by. Wonder if she planned it. Anyways below are what she captured.

IBE was held in downtown Boise

Here I spoke from Backlist to Bestseller

On a round table with Don Jacobson, Tim Vandehey, and Maryanna Young discussing the future of publishing

Later there was an author mixture but most of those pictures we won't show. However, here is a few.

My bro (and Abe Lincoln lookalike) and the brains behind Stone House Ink Aaron Patterson.

Donna Fletcher Crow has been writing books for 30 years.

And that's Bri. Aaron celebrated by taking all Stone House's people out for dinner. Mmmm Lasagna

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Love Stinks

"I love you so much. Even though we only just met 24 hours ago and you're about to be blown to smithereens by a German mortar shell."

I write a lot about love. 
I can't avoid it. 
In any given story there's got to be a love element. Whether it's about falling in love, or out of love, or about avoiding love for a moment or two of lust, which can be lovely but entirely devoid of being in love...if you catch my drift.

Bear with me here.

Truth be told, I'm a total sap. So what that means is, I'm especially attracted to those stories that not only pit one man against the world, but that also contain an almost impossible to fulfill love story. You know, the stories about unrequited love, or love that's crushed due to vast distances in geography, time, or space. Then there's the love and war stories that made Papa so famous, and even the Hammett-style hard-boiled drama of the private detective who falls in love with the "dame" who turns out to be a black window. In the end he's got no choice but to watch her being carted away to jail while he flips up the collar on his leather coat, lights a cigarette with his Zippo, and walks away from it all in the rain-soaked neon lit darkness. If you've never read my noir novels, THE INNOCENT, MOONLIGHT FALLS or even SCREAM CATCHER, it's the latter image of love-gone-wrong that you will inevitably receive. 

Realistic...Even more yes.

I'm one of those authors who like Hemingway or Mailer likes to taut the tough guy image in his main characters (even if the main character is a woman like in CONCRETE PEARL). But I also like to show off their sensitive side. Mostly I do this by proving how prone they are to falling head over heels for someone (as opposed to heels over head). They don't just love with a logical perspective attached to the emotion. They love until it hurts; until they can't sleep or eat or function as a productive human being. In a word, they suffer love so much that they are reduced to a sweat-soaked bundle of or rags and bones. When these ill-fated characters are separated from their love interests by either geography or breakup, their imaginations play evil tricks in them. So evil that Richard "Dick" Moonlight, anti-hero of my Moonlight series, once placed a .22 caliber revolver to his head, and pulled the trigger. 

That "Love is Kind" Bible passage that always gets read at weddings is pure bullshit.

Love isn't kind.
Love stinks. 
Love hurts.
Love sneaks up on you when you least expect it.
Love is not friendly.
Love is like water torture. 
Love will drive you to drink.
Love causes suicide.
Love sucks.
But for some reason, love is what we all crave and live for.

Falling hopelessly in love is unbearable. Especially when you find someone whom you've been searching for your whole life and by reasons of timing or commitment to another, can't quite as easily give the love back. Even if she wants to more than anything in the world. 
Such is life. 
Such is romance.
Such is Cupid's painfully sharp arrow.