Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Two-Way Street

There is a term in police work that, when I hear it about someone, I tend to make a snap judgment. The term is “One-way Street”. It’s easy to figure out. Basically it means you help someone but when the time comes for you to need help they can’t be found. Every profession has people who are one-way streets. In the business world there’s always the guy who can’t figure out how to use PowerPoint and you set up a kick-ass slide show but when you need his advice on an accounting program he’s too busy to help. You get the picture.

I doubt there’s one profession or segment of society that is void of one-way streets. The way to stay sane when you appear to be in the midst of this phenomenon is to learn from your experience and move on. It’s important not to give up hope and treat everyone as if they’re out for themselves; otherwise you become a one-way street. The thing you hate the most.

I have found the community of writers to have a relatively low percentage of one-way streets. Sure, writers need to promote their work, that’s the nature of modern publishing. Everyone understands that. But there is no need to exclude others when you promote your work. I think most writers get that. The mentality that, “We’re all in this together.” Frankly, that’s a comforting notion to me. I am not alone in my struggle to write a good book and convince people to buy it.

In the short time I’ve been in publishing, I’ve met a tremendous group of people that not only offer their time but, when the opportunity arises, mention that they know of another author or book that people might like. These two-way streets mention other writers to the organizers of book festivals or reporters. These are the kind of people I want to use as role models.

This blog, Naked Authors, is a good example. They welcomed me aboard and always say nice things about me or my books. Not just on the blog but out in the non-virtual word as well. I hear comments from booksellers or readers and know where the buzz originated from. I’m a redneck, not stupid.

A few others that are always helpful can be found by comments on their own blogs or websites. The following list is by no means complete, and in the interest of full disclosure, everyone mentioned here is a friend of mine. But that’s the point. We should all point out the success of our friends. Another variable in the names below is how easy it was to find a photo of them. Remember, this blog is a sideline, my job is to write novels. This was one afternoon of playing around on the internet and finding a few photos.

One of the first guys I met in crime fiction was Ken Bruen. Aside from liking him right away, I discovered his books and now feel he is the top of our field. He also is generous with blurbs, mentions his friends on his blog and is generally available for any advice one might need. In any area. Whether you ask for it or not. Sorry, I got side-tracked.

Michael Connelly is another guy who’s easy to talk to and helpful

in many ways. Read an interview with him and invariably he mentions several other writers. Go to a signing and he has another author in tow. If he had somehow avoided attending the University of Florida he might be in line for sainthood.

Christine Kling helps out in the crime fiction community by volunteering for just about anything anyone needs. She’s supportive when you’re down, cheering when you’re up and just fun to be around.

I used this photo because I happened to find it on the net easily. But Lee Child is just a good guy. He gave a few of us a class on image, promotion and style at last year’s Thrillerfest that really stuck with me. He treats everyone as equals, makes time for fans and is open to new writers. He is a class act. As is the beautiful Twist Phelan who is next to him in this photo. The problem to being around both at the same time is that they add to my weight and height complex. Go figure.

The lovely Julia Spencer Fleming attended the Alabama book festival with me this year. When it was my turn to speak she paraded her possee of die-hard fans directly to my venue. Then she bought me a beer. That's my kind of woman.

You guys have read some of my jabs at Jeff Shelby on the blog. Over at First Offenders he replies, or more often, starts the conflicts. There are few people who mention my books and share the spotlight more that this Flower Mound, Texas resident. See, that was a little jab because he can’t say the name of his new town without rolling his eyes. So remember, Jeff Shelby lives in a town named “Flower Mound”.

Tess Gerritsen embodies the concept of a two-way street. My personal experience, other than a great blurb she gave me for Field of Fire, is that she introduced me to my agent. Last year, while in New York, interviewing potential agents, she suggested I speak to her agent, Meg Ruley. In brief, I am now represented by Meg and happy for it.

J.A. Konrath also takes a few jabs at me but there is no doubt he’s a two-way street. He even has a blog entry about how to recommend authors by comparing them to bestsellers. I also like this photo because it makes him look a little like the devil.

Bob Morris always mentions his friends to book festival organizers. I’ve been invited to several as a direct result of Bob’s support. That kind of behavior is in someone’s nature and guys like Bob would help out if they worked at a cement factory. I’m just glad he’s a writer.

Sarah Weinman runs a website most of you have visited. Confessions of an Idiosyncratic mind. On virtually every day or every week of every year she points out books that might otherwise go unnoticed. She promotes authors without regard to any agenda other than quality. She’s a champ.

There are many of my friends and fellow authors I didn’t mention but luckily this is not my last blog. At least that I’m aware. Maybe that’s why Paul won’t answer my e-mail. Regardless, I was just giving you an idea of how helpful writer can be. I missed a number of them. I’m sorry.

There are a lot of role models in the crime fiction world. From this blog to the biggest names in the field I like that most people are willing to help each other. Now if we can get the rest of the world on this plan.


  1. Jim,
    All those seasoned writers are nice to you because
    you are an overwhelming talent...and you travel armed.


  2. I like you more today than yesterday. Who knew that was even possible?

  3. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, West (by God) Virginia, Ohio, and south Texas, I was astounded about five years ago here in Southern California to discover: book signings. I started frequenting MYSTERIES TO DIE FOR and, at least weekly and sometimes more, book signings.

    I still marvel at the normalcy (?), the courtesy, the graciousness, the humanness of authors (at least mystery/thriller ones), even those who have cemented their spots at the top. People I might have naively thought were so "famous" they wouldn't have time for the "common folk," are themselves "common folks." (Guess I had been influenced by the number of prima donna movie and TV "stars" i had heard of.)

    I am so pleased to have met those of you I have, to have heard about the rest of you, and I am pleased and proud to do whatever I can to support you and promote you to friends, aquaintances, and sometimes to strangers browsing at a book rack: "That's a great book. I don't think you'll be sorry to read it!")

    You writers and your characters have enriched my life and will be with me for the rest of it. Thank you all very much for all you've given me.

    Tom, T.O.

  4. I'd add Laura Lippman, the late (and much missed) Barbara Seranella and Jackie Winspear to that list of gracious writers who share the stage and encourage the rest of us.

    And "anonymous Tom," what a wonderful thank you note that post of yours is!

  5. Ahem.

    I'll try to ignore this obvious intentional slight to say amen Brother Born.

    Our family is going through some tough times right now and the number of supportive e-mails I've received has blown me away. I feel so unworthy, and yet so blessed, to be considered a part of this community that, all jokes aside, I am overwhelmed by the open, warm generous nature of so many of you. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude.

    (And thanks for telling us about Flower Mound. That made my day.)

  6. Thanks for the comments. Tom, yours is great.
    To my redneck friend, You were not forgotten, just not in this post. You are most gracious on A Dark Planet.

    I need a flattering photo of you. Perhaps one in uniform. Everyone loves a soldier.


  7. What Paul says is so true. The last part anyway.

    And you should see me roll my eyes when someone says "Oh. I'm afraid to touch elevator buttons."

  8. Aw, Jim. You've made an entire community of writers blush. Who are you really sucking up to?

    Only kidding. I've found exactly the same thing, and it's great. (Although you might not want to head over to First Offenders today...)

  9. I'm going to add Sandra Ruttan. And Anne Frasier. They've both listened to my bitching more than once! And Daniel Hatadi for starting Crimespace, where tons more supportive writers help each other out.

    I will also say that, although my dream is still to be a professional novelist, simply being part of this community has become fulfilling in its own right. I used to feel like I HAD to get published to hang around with such cool people... now I've found I don't. That helps me separate my own insecurities from the writing, which can only improve the writing. Might be the best support of all!

  10. There is no doubt about it. The mystery community is by far and above one of the friendliest. So many members and top authors give tirelessly of their time and live their lives on that two-way street named "Pay It Forward". Whether it's offering to blurb your next book, or coming up to you and saying hi, so that you don't feel like a wallflower at a convention or signing, or giving a bit of help on a project. We are, truly, a fortunate community.

  11. You are too nice, as is the rest of the mystery/crime-writing community.

    Re: you height and weight complex: I've never thought of you as short.