Monday, August 27, 2012

Hang Fire, Chapter One now online

As part of the redesign of my website, I've added pages containing the entire first chapters of all of my books. Many authors (and publishers) say that a good way to entice new readers is to let them read opening pages for free, and so I'm following that advice.

Of particular interest to those who've read the earlier novels in the Steve Martinez series: The first chapter of Hang Fire, my forthcoming novel (to be published April 19) is now online along with the jacket copy. Go have a look.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Website redesign

One of the more time-consuming tasks of a midlist mystery author is to create and maintain a website promoting his books. In the last year folks have suggested I hire a professional web designer for that job. Of course it was their gentle way of saying my two-year-old self-created site was lame-o, lame-o and needed a thorough redesign.

While the old site didn't have the exploding-scoreboard ambience of some of the fancier best-selling author websites, I didn't think it was that bad, just mildly serviceable. All the same, over time I came to view the home page as cluttered and clumsy, and a few days ago decided to do something about it. I wanted to make the new site as open, airy and simple as possible, something Mies van der Rohe might have approved of had he lived into the Internet age.

And I didn't want to spend anything on it except time.

The first thing I did was to use Photoshop Elements 10 to create a .jpg banner illustration with a photo the Lady Friend took of me a few years ago and add the name of the website in Charlemagne, the same shapely and elegant font used in the original site, finally tying title and illustration together with a rule.

Next I used free website software called KomPoZer to combine the foregoing banner illustration and a strip of page buttons to make a page template that would serve not only for the home page but also all linked pages.

On the home page I added another .jpg illustration promoting my book Zephyr, and made it clickable through to a page with full information about the book, including where to order the Kindle and Nook ebooks.

Finally I added a strip of links under the Zephyr .jpg to help readers find the ebooks of my novels.

The website still won't win any prizes for breathtaking elegance, but I do think it's not too shabby for an amateur with only a rudimentary knowledge of HTML coding.

Go have a look at it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reality catches up to fiction, Chapter Two

Go take a look at my October 30, 2009, blogpost, and pay close attention especially to the last comment, posted just last night.

I am gobsmacked about the power of search engines to make obscure connections.

Of course, the lost Simon Talikka referenced might not actually be the one who is being sought, but the correspondences are awfully, awfully close.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tour of the Line

I'm off to the Soo today to check another item off my railroad bucket list: Algoma Central's train from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, 296 miles north to Hearst deep in the province.

The marketing department at Canadian National Railway, owner of the historic Algoma Central, bills the round trip as a "Tour of the Line." But this is no ordinary tourist train for Yankee rubberneckers, like the same railroad's Agawa Canyon Tour Train. It's a workaday local that stops everywhere a passenger flags it down. It could be called one of the last "milk trains" on the continent.

The Algoma Central line drives deep into the Ontario wilderness, serving hamlets and resorts and fishing camps inaccessible by road. Rather than trunks and suitcases, the two baggage cars on the train carry provender and other supplies, canoes and kayaks, and, in the winter, snowmobiles.

There is no dining car, requiring the hardy traveler to pack his own provisions over the 10-hour run to Hearst.

A few weeks ago the Lady Friend and I drove around Lake Superior, partly as tourists and partly as researchers into a future mystery novel in which Sheriff Steve Martinez tails a suspect who is presumably looking for good places to stash bodies. Maybe there's a way to work the Tour of the Line into the plot.

Further details ahead.