Murder & Mayhem at the Bar / Amazon's Kindle

Murder & Mayhem at the Bar / Amazon's Kindle

Mystery writers are a strange group. Our minds work differently than normal people. I was recently appointed, or maybe elected, to the board of directions of the Florida chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. Last weekend I attended the board meeting/chapter luncheon at the Deerfield Beach Hilton, an almost four-hour ride from Key West.

The luncheon speakers were columnists Oline Cogdill and writer/marketing Guru Sandy Balzo, who talked about the importance of a writer’s website, something I believe in. Afterward, writers Jerry Healy, Sandy Balzo, Kris Montee, and I sat at the bar. We were talking about writing and eventually discussed my current work-in-progress, Car Wash Blues.

I should add here, that the chapter’s monthly luncheon are usually held at the Deerfield Beach Hilton and the bartender was used to Jerry and other writers sitting at the bar talking about murder and mayhem, so she went about her duties and ignored us.

Okay, back to Car Wash Blues. Briefly, it is about Mexican cartel hit men coming to Key West in search of $20 million that was stolen from the Tijuana cartel and my character, Liam Michael ‘Mad Mick’ Murphy, accidentally witnesses a murder by cartel hit men in a car wash.

The Los Angeles Times has run a yearlong series, Mexico in Crisis, that covers the horrific crimes the cartels are committing now that the government of Mexico has made crushing the cartels a primary goal. I saved those articles and used them as research on the cartels. I should also mention that while I lived in S. California, I spent a lot of time in Tijuana and had many friends there and still keep in touch with some, so what has begun to happen there has really affected me.

Many of the Mexican cartels are into decapitation, none more so than the Tijuana gang. So, in bringing these gangsters to Key West I wondered if I should stick to the reality of their murders and decided I should.

I ran my decision by Jerry, Sandy, and Kris, while we sat at the bar. You can imagine how those sitting around us reacted with words like headless bodies, heads wrapped in burlap and used as soccer balls and crushing heads in a tortilla press, coming from the four people at the bar. The bartender just smiled.

I don’t think while we were discussing my murderous ways any of us thought it was an unusual topic for an afternoon, but I bet those sitting around us were wondering about us. One couple actually got up and left before ordering and I have to wonder if they overheard us and decided it was best to leave! Maybe, maybe not.

For me, the gathering at the hotel’s bar was an opportunity to pick the minds of other writers, something I cannot do while facing a computer screen. Living hours away from most writers in Florida, I miss the camaraderie of writers; though, I should say I do cherish the feedback I get from my friends in Key West, especially since many of them are readers and readers’ opinions are important to any writer.

SleuthFest, the chapter’s writing seminar, a mixture of writers, readers and fans, is scheduled for Feb. 26 – March 1. For information on the event go to: http://www.mwaflorida.org/sleuthfest.htm.
* * *
Amazon is preparing to change the publishing world with an announcement on its Kindle. While bookstores close because of declining sales, Amazon steams ahead and its profits indicate, to me at least, that Amazon is the future of publishing. I don’t like that and hope I am wrong, because I enjoy holding a book and turning pages.

Here what Shelf Awareness had to report in its Jan. 30 report:

In the quarter ending December 31, net sales at Amazon.com increased 18% to $6.7 billion, and net income rose 9% to $225 million.
“But in a sign that Amazon was not immune to the recession, its operating margins fell to 4.06% from 4.78%, a result of heavy discounting to persuade reluctant shoppers to buy," the New York Times reported.

“Amazon offered a broad estimate for the current quarter and did not make any estimate for the year, as it normally had. It said it expected operating income of as much as $210 million, a 19% increase over the first quarter of 2008. At its most pessimistic, the forecast was for a 9% increase.”

Sales of media, which includes books, rose 9% to $3.64 billion. The Times also noted that while Amazon released no new statistics on Kindle sales, a news conference is scheduled in New York on February 9 to introduce a new version of the electronic reading device.

www.michaelhaskins.net

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Comment by Robert K. Foster on January 31, 2009 at 6:02am
I'll be clear up front and say that I personally like to do all I can for my local independent bookstore by making my purchases there. I believe that my money is a ballot like anything that I vote on. Some books I can't get there or are so expensive that I need the Amazon discount, so I also buy from Amazon.

However, it was clear to me when I recently moved out of my home of thirteen years that paper books are now wasteful, heavy, space consuming, etc. in many ways. There is a clear split now for me between "volumes" that I would buy and keep for eternity as paper books, and ones that I would just like to read and not necessarily have a permanent copy of. I think the industry will fall into this pattern in the future, the latter type being digital. Some books will still be best published as hard copy. I think Magazines are the best example of what digital publishing is best for.

I've been waiting for years for the eBook device that will finally get it right but, in my opinion, none have. I keep hoping and waiting. Every new device and announcement gets my hopes up only to be dashed.
Comment by Michael Haskins on January 31, 2009 at 5:21am
Folks, I believe that Amazon will come out of this mess with more infulence (power?) than the major publishers and it will also help dismiss the need for printed books, to a limit. First with Kindle. A brighter side of Amazon and the publishing world is for self published authors. Now that Amazon has its own division for self publishing and sells books it publishes on its site, authors could consider the rewards it would get from controll the book. After all, Amazon is the biggest bookstore in the world, or maybe that's book distributor. Many Indy bookstore will buy on consignment, so if you arrange a signing and bring books, they don't have to deal with accounting, etc. Kindle and Amazon are to publishing what the printing press was in the 1800s and though I would rather hold a book and/or newspaper when I read, a whole generation is in school now and have never held a novel in their hands! I guess it's old age show!
Comment by Thad McIlroy on January 31, 2009 at 4:52am
Don't you worry about Amazon and Kindle. I'm about to post to my blog (www.thefutureofpublishing.com) and entry called something like, "Amazon achieves record profits on out of stock item!" as the Nww York Times yesterday reported: "'We’re particularly grateful for the unusually strong demand for Kindle in the fourth quarter,' Mr. Bezos said, referring to the company’s electronic book reader. It was out of stock for most of the holiday season, but the company encouraged consumers to order it for later delivery."

If the Kindle hype annoys you as much as it does me, check out two other blog entries:
http://thefutureofpublishing.com/blog/2008/10/the_kindle_changed_oprahs_life.php
and
http://thefutureofpublishing.com/blog/2008/08/the_kindle_could_become_your_b.php
Comment by I. J. Parker on January 31, 2009 at 1:12am
Amazon sells books, and it sells them better than any bookstore could or does. They try harder to promote authors, and you don't have to fight for shelf space or be afraid of large and quick returns.
In addition to having 6 books on Amazon, I have two of them also on Kindle. They are doing well. More power to Amazon!

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