Monday, July 07, 2014

"An Open Door" Redux

Rough day back after the long weekend? Here's some online fiction for your work-weary eyeballs. "An Open Door" first appeared in the BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND TWO anthology way back in May of 2012. It's a (horror) sequel (of sorts) to my Spinetingler-Award-winning crime story "Seven Days of Rain." As of ten minutes ago, it's free to read at Beat to a Pulp. Pop on over and check it out!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Books in Boothbay

This Saturday, July 12, I'm delighted to be participating in the tenth annual installment of Books in Boothbay, a book fair featuring Maine authors of all stripes, from children's to thriller. It's free and open to the public, so if you're in the area, swing by and say hello! I'll be hanging out and signing books alongside Tess Gerritsen, Paul Doiron, Kate Flora, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Barbara Ross, and many more. See the above flier or visit the Books in Boothbay blog for details.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Noir at the Bar

Like kickass crime fic? Hanging out with crazy talented wordslingers? How 'bout beer? Can you find Boston on a map? If you said yes to any of the above, you owe it to yourself to come to The Pour House on Boylston Street this Sunday, June 29, at 6PM for Noir at the Bar, New-England-style. (Noiah at the Baah?) I'll be reading alongside the likes of Todd Robinson, Dana Cameron, Rob Hart, Chris Irvin, Bracken MacLeod, Jen Conley, Dave Zeltserman, Paul Tremblay, and Toni L.P. Kelner. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Four Questions

Writer/editor Erik Arneson was kind enough to have me by his blog today, to take part in his Four Questions series. We talk tattoos, THE KILLING KIND, and the future of the Collector series. Click through to give it a read!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Dreaded Query Letter

The following is adapted from a handout I put together for a recent writing workshop. I thought folks might get some use out of it, so I figured I'd post it here.

Query letters probably cause authors more angst than any other piece of writing (save, possibly, synopses), and yet they’re a necessity for anyone who wants to land an agent. Now, I can’t claim any special expertise in the realm of query letters, but I’ve had two agents in my career, both of whom I approached via blind query (meaning no client reference or invitation to submit.)

The fact is, you don’t need a long list of publishing credits to woo an agent. You just need a decent one-paragraph “elevator pitch” for your book, some manners, and common sense enough to follow the agent’s stated guidelines. Below is a version of the query I used to land my current agent, the insanely awesome and talented David Gernert. Is it any good? I couldn’t say. But I can tell you it worked.

***

To [agent’s name; DO NOT MASS EMAIL and for Cthulhu’s sake double-check your spelling]:

[If you’re approaching the agent because you’re a fan of a client of theirs, feel free to open with a sentence saying so. It’s not expected/required, though, so don’t lie. Heck, even if it were expected/required, you still shouldn't lie.] I'm seeking representation for my mainstream thriller, THE KILLING KIND, complete at 80,000 words.

THE KILLING KIND is the story of Michael Hendricks. Once a covert operative for a false-flag unit of the US military, Hendricks was presumed dead after a mission in Afghanistan went sideways. Now he makes his living as a hitman entrepreneur of sorts who only hits other hitmen. For ten times the price on your head, he'll make sure whoever's coming to kill you winds up in the ground instead. Not a bad way for a guy with his skill-set to make a living – but an even better way to make himself a target.

[If you’ve got prior relevant publishing credits or expertise relevant to your book, say so here. “My short fiction has appeared in such publications as…” or “As a former Navy Seal…” will do just fine. But if you have no prior credits and/or your background is irrelevant, skip this paragraph entirely. It’s better to be brief than boring.]

I've included [whatever their submission guidelines ask for, and NOTHING ELSE]. I'd be delighted to send along more, should you prove interested.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
Chris F. Holm
[website URL, Twitter handle, phone number, etc.]

***

So there you have it. Short, polite, and to the point. If you’d like to learn more about crafting a quality query, I recommend checking out agent Janet Reid’s Query Shark blog, on which she invites fledgling writers to submit their query letters for critique; it's an invaluable resource, and gives authors a rare glimpse into how agents think about submissions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Lizard's Ardent Uniform

Today marks the release of Beat to a Pulp's latest anthology, THE LIZARD'S ARDENT UNIFORM & OTHER STORIES. My short story "The Lizard's Ardent Uniform" is featured alongside stories by such talented writers as Hilary Davidson, Steve Weddle, and Patti Abbott. This project has a special significance for me because it honors my good friend David Cranmer's nephew Kyle J. Knapp, a writer who passed away far too young. His dream journals provided the prompts for each of the stories in this collection, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated in his name.

If you'd like to learn more about the project, check out this post on David's blog. If you've got a Kindle, you can get your copy here. And if you'd prefer a print copy, David's got you covered there, as well.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

EVENT: Friday, June 6 at Hamilton College

Fellow Hamiltonians/People of the Greater Utica, NY Area: I'm hosting a book event called "A Dispatch From the Genre Trenches" at Hamilton College's Sadove Student Center this Friday, June 6 at 2PM. Here's the full description:
Think you’ve got a book in you? Or have you typed THE END already, and now you’re wondering what comes next? Chris F. Holm is an award-winning author of crime, horror, and dark fantasy. His Collector trilogy is a fantastical take on the classic crime pulp of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Join Chris for a reading, signing, and discussion about what it’s like to be a working author in the digital age.
While the event is part of Hamilton's Alumni College program, it's free and open to the public. The college bookstore will have copies of my novels on hand, but I'd be happy to sign any you bring along, as well.

Here's the address, so's your magic GPS devices can get you there:

Hamilton College
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

The Sadove Student Center (formerly ELS, for those of you attending the reunion) is the first building on the left after the main crosswalk on campus as you're driving up the hill. Hamilton's a small school; you'd be hard-pressed to miss it. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Experiment's End

Some of you may not know this about me, but by day, I am a scientist. No, really. I wear a lab coat and safety glasses and do calculations and stuff, occasionally all at the same time. Take my word for it: it's very impressive.

Years ago, when e-readers first transitioned from the early-adopter fringes to the mainstream and debate in the book-world turned to the artistic and commercial viability of self-publishing, I had no idea where I stood on the topic. So, ever the science-nerd, I decided to conduct an experiment. At the time, I had a number of short story credits to my name, and many of those shorts were out of print. I decided to bundle eight of them into a collection and put it out dirt-cheap, just to see what happened. That collection was 8 POUNDS.


I was fortunate. 8 POUNDS was well-received. It got some great reviews from critics and readers both, and was even nominated for a Spinetingler Award. And while I didn't get rich off of it, it sold well, too. So a few years later, when I'd amassed a set of new short stories, I put out a second collection, this one called DEAD LETTERS.


Folks seemed to like DEAD LETTERS, too. In fact, it won The House of Crime and Mystery's Reader's Choice Award for Best Short Fiction Collection. It sold a little less than its predecessor, in part no doubt because it cost more (it was longer and contained a previously unreleased tale, so the price seemed warranted to me), and in part because e-publishing had exploded in the years since 8 POUNDS was released, so it had a lot more competition. Still, between the two collections, I'd count my experiment a success.

I never intended, when I released these books, to put them out solely for Kindle. At the time I published 8 POUNDS, iBooks wasn't a thing, and Nook's upload interface was too buggy for this technological idiot to wrangle. And when I put out DEAD LETTERS, it seemed easiest to simply stick with what I knew. Credit where credit's due: a few formatting hiccups aside, Amazon really does make it easy to put out e-books, and the fact is they sell way more of them than does their competition.

Lately, though, I've been thinking a lot about the ramifications (whether intended or not) of publishing my short story collections with Amazon and Amazon alone, and what it means now that I'm an author with a few books under my belt and more coming (the latter from a subsidiary of Hachette, no less.) I've come to the conclusion that providing what amounts to preferential treatment to Amazon is disrespectful to the other vendors who peddle my traditionally published wares, be they big box booksellers or scrappy indies, as well as to readers who choose not to do business with Amazon.

That's why I've removed both 8 POUNDS and DEAD LETTERS from Amazon. As of today, both are officially out of print. (Uh, e-print?)

Understand, this isn't me taking a stand against The Evil Empire Amazon. Like most people these days, I buy stuff from Amazon. I've also profited from others doing the same, and hope to continue to in the future. But when I pondered reformatting my aging e-books such that I could sell them elsewhere, it just didn't seem worth the effort. The internet is a Great Content Machine after all; without adding anything new to them or sprucing them up a bit, they'd likely be lost to the noise, and rightly so. I don't want to insult my audience by half-assing a wide release.

Perhaps these collections will surface again sometime, in one form or another: updated, reformatted, and bursting with bonus materials. Perhaps not. But in the meantime, if you'd like a copy of either, drop me a line at chris[at]chrisfholm[dot]com, and I'll send you a PDF copy, free of charge. Consider it an experiment in marketing.