Thrillerfest 2016 – Friday morning notes


Thrillerfest is a highlight of the year for me. The world’s biggest thriller writer convention and in my own backyard (The Grand Hyatt adjacent to Grand Central or, as Claire would say, just a short jaunt upstate).

Jon Land very generously comp’d me in several years ago and I’ve paid my own way (!) twice since. It’s a brilliant collection of topics and a lot of fun.  So I’m going to share my notes on this year’s gathering.

I found a much more welcoming atmosphere this year toward self-published authors. It’s an established part of the landscape now and routinely covered in panels, one more part of the universe.

Caveats: There are NO quotes in this report. I don’t promise even to be accurately paraphrasing. This is what I took away from the conference but I’m not swearing it’s what anyone said.

Friday AM:


Meg Gardner, Panel Master

Bruce De Silva

James Hayman

Con Lehane

Thomas Locke

Sharon Potts

AJ Tata

Netgalley–useful tool to get reviews. Offer advanced readers copies to reviewers.

De Silva: When he won an Edgar, his ranking on Amazon jumped from the thousands into the Top 100. Other awards he won made very little difference.

Reviews in the trade press help traditionally-published books because the people who buy books for the stores read those reviews. With trad publishers, you have to realize you’re not Lee Child or James Patterson–anyone could get them publicity. For those of us who are less well-known (that is, everyone else), it’s crucial to make them be specific about what they are going to do–and then follow up to make sure they actually do it. One author said he had wildly divergent results on different books with the same publisher. The person assigned to your publicity is often someone with little to no experience.

No one seemed to feel that book signings did much for them; book trailers also didn’t seem to have much effect, though someone mentioned one author who had some success just talking to the camera sitting in his office in a t-shirt. They said it was evidence of passion.

Con Lehane said he’s had mostly small groups at book signings but frequently had people named Lehane showing up. He says he’s read somewhere that Denis Lehane had also had these visitors on the road; Meg Gardner cracked They’re going to get what they want eventually.

James Hayman: uses Facebook ads. You can specifically choose the people you want to target–age, region, interests. Link the ad direct to Amazon sale page. He’s had 65-1000 shares which cost nothing and are wonderful advertising. If someone goes from a Facebook link to your Amazon book page and then back to Facebook without buying, Facebook will place an ad for your book in their sidebar. Research shows reader needs to see the book two or three times before they will buy, so this is great.

De Silva: Your job is to get reposted. He has a character who loves the blues. He started posting blues playlists online so people could play the music. Then he got a call from a music magazine wanting to interview his character about blues music. He did the interview (in his character’s voice) and then ended up landing an article in the Wall Street Journal about innovative book promotion.

Locke seemed to feel that online presence was a distraction from writing (it is) so he had someone create an online persona for him that he said isn’t a total lie. Others felt it was important to create a presence for yourself online, that that relationship is crucial to promotion.

Tata: former General, Deputy Cmdr of the 86th and 101st Airborne, head of counter-terrorism in Europe, etc. You won’t get on media (TV, radio) because of your book. You might get there because of some expertise you may have, during which they will show the cover. But that works fine.


Panel: Anita Katzen, Susan Lee, Craig Manzino

This was a bad idea. If you’re going to have a panel to start off your conference–at 8 am–don’t make it tax professionals. That stuff is hard to make sense of at noon or 3 in the afternoon, it’s mindnumbing at 8 in the morning.  None of this is the fault of the panelists, who spoke real English and seemed very helpful and friendly.

Highlights: Keep careful records. Don’t count on 1099’s–you won’t always get them and you’re responsible to pay your taxes whether the payer files a 1099 or not.

The IRS adjusts slowly to fast-changing reality. There is no official decision as to whether Kickstarter is income or not. Writers can deduct expenses in the same year they are incurred but publishers cannot and, if you are an independent (self-published) author, the IRS may decide you are a publisher, not a writer, for tax purposes. So let the tax-payer beware.

Good news: The IRS is getting easier on the home-office deduction as more people are working from home. Bad news: They still expect the space you’re deducting off your rent to be exclusive to work so NY City apartment dwellers multitasking the kitchen table will have a hard time.

Be ready for self-employment. When you finally start making some real money and quit the day job (oh glorious dream!), you suddenly are paying both halves of the Social Security tax (in your day job, the employer paid the other half), so between that and regular income tax, you’re suddenly paying 50% tax.

And if you have good creative use of deductions and get yourself down to where you’re making almost no income, understand that that will leave you short of Social Security money and with almost no income to show when you go for a loan–not to mention the scrutiny that brings from the IRS.

More to come…

Mindbenders 1 and 2 are FREE!!!

mb2-2-450 copy

In honor of Thrillerfest (the world’s largest thriller-writer convention) in NY this week (I’ll be attending tomorrow and Saturday), I’ve made Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky FREE on Amazon through the weekend! Get your copy now!

And Mindbenders the first is FREE on Smashwords as well, so you can have BOTH BOOKS FREE for a limited time.

Enjoy the mindbending while it lasts!

Chump Change…


I walked into a Chase Manhattan Bank branch yesterday to make a deposit for the store in which I work. The smug young man in the fancy suit on the other side of the window asked me about the extra 59 cents I’d deposited.

I wanted change back.

They don’t do change anymore, he told me.

hand-holding-money-510My company doesn’t give me a cash drawer, I explained. And they insist I make the deposit the next morning before 10 am. So sometimes I have to depend on you, the bank, to make change.

We don’t do change.

You’re a bank, I said. You’ve got money there, you can’t fool me.

He gave me a look and I lost it.

Excuse me, I said, if you want to be an investment bank only, then take the name ‘bank’ off the front of the building and just refuse to let anyone but millionaires inside. But while it says ‘bank’, your job includes making change.

That’s not our policy, he said.

That’s a stupid policy, I said. Nothing about you personally, I know you didn’t create the policy but it’s still a dumb policy and you’re going to have to keep explaining it and getting pushback from guys like me over it. Because you work for us.

Now I got a dirty look.

And there’s the problem, I told him. Your attitude is the problem. You’re the Chase Manhattan Bank so you don’t need us. Congratulations. Eventually, you’ll discover you do. Now give me my change.

He gave me my change.

You could say I shot myself in the foot here and you’d be right, because now I’ll have to look at his smug nasty little face every time I make a deposit in that stupid bank branch. But in a world that gives me no cash drawer and a bank that won’t make change, the momentary satisfaction of throwing a childish fit seemed about the only option open to me.

This morning, however, reading the headlines, I realized that it was just that kind of reaction that leads to a Brexit, Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, Trump as President and Mussolini as Il Duce. Get mad enough that you just don’t care about the consequences anymore.

You can’t have a democracy where the majority of people are getting screwed all the time. Working people are building up a universe of anger. Either someone starts pays attention to that very soon or we’ll all pay in some other (worse) way later.

FOLLOWUP 7/11/16: Just a little karmic note. I found out a few days ago that the bank branch where this incident took place had a fire last week and is no longer functioning. So apparently I won’t have to look at that guy’s face anymore, at least for a while. Mess with me, willya?


All Together Now!

I swear I’m going to start writing about something other than Mindbenders and politics sometime soon.

However, in the meantime…

I worked in print and broadcast journalism for over twenty years. I think journalism is a calling or should be, but I’m an idealist and this is not a world made for idealists.

I’m frustrated by the devolution of media now. It all started with the rot of Fox News, which is simply propaganda that starts with a viewpoint set at the top (if there was liberal bias in the old media, it wasn’t top-down; it was the result of producers who’d traveled the world telling you how things looked from their point of view) but, because the others just aped Fox without yelling as loudly, they’re all consumed in rot now.

WV primary yesterday: Bernie 51%; Hillary 36%–seriously, if the margins were reversed, you don’t think the headlines would scream “Clinton Devastates Sanders”, with calls for him to get out of the race forthwith?

What do we have instead? The NY Times shoves a tiny item into the news capsule at the bottom of the front page saying ‘Sanders Wins in W Virginia’.

4953247-underdogJournalism typically loves the underdog. Here’s the underdog of underdogs–the 74-year old Jewish socialist from a tiny state with no big money backers–beating the overwhelming favorite after she’s already pivoted to November and the media has already counted him out. Damn Bernie doesn’t know when he’s supposed to roll over and play dead…

If there’s something sadder than a once-great newspaper passing up a great story, it’s a once-great newspaper insisting on a pre-determined storyline despite the facts. Why don’t we just rename the NY Times ‘Pravda‘ and get it over with?

There’s a much bigger article on that front page about Hillary ‘suggesting she would like to give people the option to buy into Medicare.’ The Times goes on to say: ‘Mr. Sanders calls his single-payer health care plan “Medicare for All.” What Mrs. Clinton proposed was a sort of Medicare for more.’

And there’s the difference between the two Democrats–and it’s a world of difference. Hillary, after much prodding from Bernie, is willing to consider letting some people ’55 or 50 and up’ to voluntarily pay their way into Medicare.

I’m not an economist–I can barely make change most of the time–but I know this doesn’t add up. Remember that, in Obamacare (which was written by the insurance companies, folks), the catch was that everyone from age 26 on had to have insurance so they premiums from the healthy younguns would pay for the older folks with more diseases (because God forbid the insurers might actually have to pay out some money to the people who keep paying them).

ercrowded-300x225So now, you’re saying you’re going to let a subset of middle-aged people, already seeing the mileage pile up, join the pool–what’s that going to do to costs? It’s certainly not going to make things markedly cheaper, is it? The pool of cheap insured, the ones who would help pay for the older folks, remain in Hillary’s plan in the clutches of private insurers, which brings up their profit margins (they’ll love this plan) while the Republicans moan how expensive Medicare is, we should just jettison it for some grant that won’t pay for anyone!

What are we protecting here? Private health insurance? I understand there are jobs involved but if there’s a more blood-sucking parasitic industry out there, I don’t know what it is.

On the other hand (you knew I’d get here, didn’t you?), Bernie’s plan is to put everybody on Medicare immediately. Tax all of us a bit more (and the rich a lot more, basically on par with what they paid under that notorious high-tax monster Ronald Reagan) and eliminate most private insurance, copays, referrals, surprise $10,000 bills from anesthesiologists who don’t take your insurance (and nobody bothered to tell you) and the idea that the elderly should have to liquidate everything they own before their insurance companies should have to pay back on the policies those elderly folks have been paying into their entire lives. Do we really consider the amount of hell we put ourselves through to preserve the profit margins of insurance companies? Did I use the phrase ‘blood-sucking parasitic industry’? Did I use it enough? I think not.

Let them die. Too soon isn’t soon enough.

English Doctors LIKE socialized medicine

English Doctors LIKE socialized medicine

Bernie’s plan is for everybody. Because everybody would be in it, the costs would be spread among the entire population, the costs of drugs would be negotiable with the federal government like they are with any other national health so they would go way down. More importantly, the principle would be that health care is not about profit. This mania that everything is about profit would be dealt a serious blow.

I want that. I want to see that happen. I don’t know if it can and I don’t know why I’m writing this since all the algorithms tell me conclusively no one will read anything this long.

I finally have a candidate (for the first time since 1976) that I don’t have to hold my nose to vote for. I’m going to continue to contribute and hope for California. I’m going to hope that something shakes the nest of the entrenched and powerful and makes them realize that the anger of the populace is not going away. I may end up voting for Hillary instead of Trump because I’ll have to. But I’m not there yet.

And the difference between Bernie and Hillary feels as real to me today as the difference between Hillary and Trump.


The Torturable Class

Wormold and SeguraBeatrice: Are there class distinctions in torture?
Capt. Segura: Some people expect to be tortured. Others are outraged by it. One never tortures except by mutual agreement.
Beatrice: Who agrees?
Capt. Segura: Usually the poor. In your welfare state you have social security, therefore you have no poor. Consequently there you are untorturable.

-From ‘Our Man in Havana’ by Graham Greene


Does a person have to earn dignity? Or is dignity something we just have, something we’re entitled to as human beings?

It isn’t a theoretical question. I realized recently it’s been nagging at me almost every day through this already-endless election season.

I’ve spent most of my life holding my nose and voting for the lesser of two evils. This year, I’ve been following Bernie Sanders, though this blog isn’t really about him. It’s about a different sound I hearing behind his policies and programs, one that I hope will survive and grow regardless of the fate of his candidacy.

That is, that we’re all of us in this together and all of us entitled to be treated like creatures with dignity.

The other candidates, like almost every politician of the last thirty years, come from what I think of as a post-Reagan point of view – if you haven’t ‘succeeded,’ it’s your own fault, so why should we worry about you?

Trump’s boast that he could shoot someone in front of cameras and still get votes seemed fanciful once, remember? Now, it’s inarguable. On the other side of the coin, the un-powerful in this country (it helps if you’re black) can be shot in front of cameras without consequence.

This has nothing to do with government, by the way. Have you tried calling for business support lately?

Want to hear someone laugh? Just say ‘Your call is very important to us.’

Every aspect of the ‘support’ experience reinforces the impression that you are of absolutely no importance to the company that took your money.

The Tobacco Chiefs: Trust Us - Smoking Doesn't Cause Cancer.

The Tobacco Chiefs: Trust Us – Smoking Doesn’t Cause Cancer.


The wealthy and powerful can create pharmaceuticals that kill, airbags that kill, powerplants that render their surroundings uninhabitable, investment instruments that wreck the economy of the Western World and walk away with a slap on the wrist.

Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House, was just convicted of sexual abuse against an unspecified number of teenage boys; he got 15 months in prison. If he was some inner-city gym teacher, preferably with white middle-class students testifying against him, want to bet what kind of sentence he’d have gotten?

As Graham Greene would have understood, we now have a torturable class. I’m sorry – we now are the torturable class.

And that’s where Bernie Sanders is truly different.

freedom of speechHis programs don’t make distinctions – they help everyone. They’re based on the concept that every citizen is deserving of decent treatment, whether that means getting into college based on merit instead of financial ability, making healthcare decisions based on medical need rather than maximum profit for insurance and Big Pharma, imposing jailtime because ‘you did the crime’ instead of ‘you were born unfortunate (and are destined to remain that way).’

His ideas grow out of the idea that ordinary people’s lives matter, that they’re not just guinea pigs offered up to the highest bidder.

The Republicans and Hillary Clinton may differ wildly on policy and style – I do think there are real significant differences between them – but none of them challenge that ‘Us Against Them’ world that Reagan created. Sanders’ worldview does.

And in the end, that worldview is what’s going to matter. Whether or not Sanders takes the Democratic nomination this year, millions have heard this message and we’re not going back. We may vote for Hillary or Trump in November or we may stay away from the polls altogether but, longterm, we’ve been reminded that we are full citizens, entitled to have our grievances heard and our needs met, human beings with dignity, not animals consigned forever to fight over the scraps on the floor of the cage.



Mindbenders 2 a ‘Dead-Bang Winner’!

Shane Gericke is one hell of a thriller writer and I’m really proud to have gotten this review from him for Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky (buy it here on Amazon):

One of the fun parts of publishing is when writers you respect ask you to read their upcoming books and, if you like what you see, write a blurb for the cover. I do so when I can, and am pleased to report we have a winner: Ted Krever’s soon-to-be-released thriller novel, MINDBENDERS II. Here’s what I wrote after I hit the end:
“I read this opening line—‘The man tied to the slab means nothing to me’—at precisely 7 p.m. The next time I looked up, dawn was peeking through my windows, and I thought, I’m gonna be a sleep-zombie today, but I don’t care, ‘cause THAT was some mondo terrific thriller writing! This novel is a dead-bang winner, and if you don’t go grab it, you’ll kick yourself when the bookstores run out. Four thumbs up for MBII!”
–Bestselling author Shane Gericke, THE FURY’
(So if you find yourself needing a good ‘un with which to spend the night, do yourself a solid and check out Ted Krever‘s newest. )

Mindbenders 2 ‘Fantastic’ and ‘Frustrating’ – My Answer

Mindbenders 2 is out (more details here) and I’m proud of the reviews it’s gotten. There’ll be a new review Monday that I’m especially proud of and we’ll talk more about that when it posts.

In the meantime, here’s another review I found today which I’m less entranced by (edited by me to eliminate even more massive redundancy):

mb2-2-450 copy“Hello My name is Joe Lee and i’m here to express my opinions on this fantastic book written Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky: A Max Renn Thriller (Volume 2) . With a variety of fake Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky: A Max Renn Thriller (Volume 2) reviews listed online a large number of people find it hard looking for dependable answers while browsing Yahoo for ‘where to download Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky: A Max Renn Thriller (Volume 2) PDF free’. I realize that this must be a frustrating task when making a decision if an individual should buy Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky: A Max Renn Thriller (Volume 2) ebook for kindle, or any well known device in which the reader would rather read their digital books. Nevertheless, by checking out this review people can be assured that Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky: A Max Renn Thriller (Volume 2) is a great book as detailed.”

Gee thanks, Joe. Nice to know the book is fantastic and great and all that. An endorsement’s an endorsement; I’m grateful for people liking my work.

Then again, this is a guy offering my book on his torrent site, one of several I’ve found links for in the last few weeks. The first link appeared within minutes of the book’s publication in Tokyo, hours before it was even available in the US.

So this is just someone offering my work for free. Naturally, I have a problem with that.

Joe, this book is several years of my life and decades of hopes and ambitions for me. I assume you don’t work for free. The other alternative is that you can afford to work for free.

The book costs less than two gallons of gas or a small anything from Starbucks. If you drove anywhere (or took mass transit anywhere) in the last month or drank a coffee or tea or hot chocolate in that time, you can afford the book. Pay the damn three bucks.

In the meantime, it will be available on Nook, iTunes, Kobo, etc. in about three months, when the inital Kindle Direct enrollment runs out. So if you guys can just hold your horses for a little while, we’re all set.

And thanks for your support.



Mindbenders 2 Locations: Pulau Patang

One of the first decisions I made about ‘Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky’ (publishing on Amazon March 12th–click here for details and to pre-order!) was that the three members of the Mindbenders team would split up right after the conclusion of the first book, under hot pursuit from the CIA, MI6, Interpol and L Corp, their most dangerous enemy.

So, starting sketching the new book, I had the very entertaining duty of trying to figure out where I’d want to go if I wanted to disappear. Personal preference–like the fact that I hate the cold–ruled out some extremely promising locations, like Patagonia or the Sandwich Islands. The US, Canada, Japan and China all seemed too ‘wired’ for someone who wanted to become invisible.

Google Earth is the thriller writer’s friend. I started sliding around the globe looking for places that seemed remote but not so primitive that you couldn’t get out quickly if recognized.

And then I realized that the safest place to hide was in a place where nobody would expect you to be truthful about your identity. In our world, such places aren’t hard to find, particularly where the gold rush (whichever one) is local. Shortly after, I found this:

netuna besar village v3

A village on stilts, jutting off the edge of an island. Attached to Nature but not of it. Within disputed territory, so under no flag. Filled with people with a reason to be there–which is to say, with a good reason not to be anywhere less remote.

sea village in terempa v3

The pictures fascinated me and filled in all my questions. I wrote far more material about the place than what ended up in the final book.

By the way, the two pictures above are of two different villages, hundreds of miles apart and technically in separate countries. This kind of living has spread across the sea basin.

I even found a video. It’s nine minutes and in the middle of a real city in a real country but the living-on-stilts is pretty vividly portrayed:

So this is the first of a few locations I’ll highlight. I think this is the most exotic; nonetheless, they all have their fascinations.

Stay Tuned! More to Come!

In the meantime, read a sample of the new book here!




Mindbenders 2 is coming March 12!!

Mark the date! It’s (finally) coming! Better yet–go to Amazon and pre-order your copy now!

mb2-2-450 copy


Mindbenders 2: The Fiery Sky will publish March 12th on Amazon!

The most dangerous enemy is the one inside your own mind.

Max Renn, the legendary Soviet mind control agent, faces a terrifying new threat to the global balance of power—and an opponent who ruthlessly uses Renn’s own deepest secrets to betray him.

Renn and his Mindbenders team race from a murder-without-clues in Belgium to a floating village in the South China Sea, from an amphitheater in Africa to the Australian Outback.

The battle is waged in a world where brutal coercion is an everyday weapon and victory hides even in the doubts of those who seem to know too much.

Stay tuned–I’ll be previewing some of the places and people of the expanded Mindbenders universe in coming weeks.

For those of you who’ve been waiting, thanks for your patience. For the impatient ones (you know who you are), thanks for your passion. The wait is (almost) over!

Words Between the Lines of Age

We went to a New Year’s party last night. I know it’s a night early but who’s counting?

I came from work and met Claire on Sixth Ave near Waverly. And, waiting for her (because the F train was actually quick and to the point for once), I wandered down the block past a magazine stand I swear I remember in that location since the 70’s or even late 60’s (the awning over the place tends to support that memory).

depression newsstandThis is a famous Berenice Abbott photo of a newsstand from the Depression, when a third of the country was out of work and even those earning some kind of living had very little money for frivolous reading. The magazine stand I remember wasn’t quite as thickly populated as this one but I still remember hundreds of publications on display,  such dense variety you couldn’t see the entire cover of more than a handful.

Them days are gone, as they say…


newsstand 1Here’s what I saw last night. About ten newspapers, some of them mere classified ad sheets, some Chinese and Russian language, a few rows filled with candy and some soft drink displays–and no magazines. Zero. All those banal and beautiful thoughts and passionate causes and idiotic space filling, gone.

I know we read differently now. Most everything is free (for the moment) and online and instantly searchable and that definitely has its advantages. But I felt very aware, all of a sudden, of how different the experience was of buying magazines at the stand, making a public decision like declaring an allegiance in a public square. And it feels like a connection to the way people got through the Depression with a sense of solidarity that we certainly haven’t been able to muster in a financial crisis that is tiny by comparison.

They made those declarations every day at the newsstand, going to see a movie with friends at the theater, listening to radio shows on the three available networks and discussing them the next day at work. Did that contribute to a level of solidarity and understanding? Certainly the music and film of the day had a sense that we were all in this together, as opposed to the solitary-loner, beat-the-other-guy-to-the-punch nonsense paraded these days by Trump, Cadillac ads and every politician but Bernie Sanders, that wonderful relic.

We don’t really believe in progress anymore and we have plenty of reasons not to. But even where we seem to be moving forward, it seems important to take a few minutes here and there to consider what’s being lost…or what we never had.