Monday, February 6, 2017
Neil Plakcy is the author of over thirty novels and short story collections, a former president of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America hosting this year’s Sleuthfest, a teacher at Broward College, a social activist for LGBT issues, and a pioneer in eBooks and self-publishing. An incredibly active guy, Neil takes time to talk to readers of Miami Writers and Books.
1) Neil, it seems like a hundred years ago that I first met you at John Dufresne’s Friday Night Writers. That group included Ware Cornell, David Norman, Carol McFrederick, Mark Ginzburg, Henry Greenfield, and several other struggling writers. I can remember clearly what a stickler you were for good grammar, spelling and word usage, and how those who failed your standards got roasted quickly. Then encouraged, of course. You always encouraged improvement. Do you remember any of that?
I remember admiring John Dufresne for his commitment to helping writers -- all those chapters and stories to read! There were a lot of very talented authors there who provided me with insightful feedback, and it was an excellent opportunity for novice writers and those not involved with the MFA program at FIU to get the chance to put their work in front of readers and become familiar with the workshop method used in many creative writing courses.
Tell us about your involvement with MysteryWriters of America.
I joined MWA before my first mystery was published because someone told me I ought to. I started attending the monthly lunches and quickly got roped into helping out. I love the opportunity MWA provides to learn more about the craft of writing, the business of writing, and all the technical aspects that go into creating crime fiction. I have made many friends through MWA and participating in conferences like Sleuthfest. I’ve had the chance to meet many of my writing idols and also watch many talented colleagues succeed.
Several years ago, you started your Mahu series, featuring a gay detective in Hawaii. I remember being shocked. For a redneck Catholic from Virginia to read a mystery where the good guy actually goes down on the bad guy and likes it, Good Lord man, I think I had an Afib right there in the bookstore. How are the Mahu books doing now, and where can readers buy them?
The company that published the first edition of Mahu was sold to another publisher who discontinued their fiction line, and I was lucky that a second publisher stepped up to continue the series. Then sadly they went out of business after I published three books with them. I started to worry that I was the kiss of death for publishers but then was fortunate to hook up with MLR Press, an independent publisher who has since brought out eleven books in the series. I’ve had the opportunity to work with MLR as an editor as well, strengthening their line in gay mystery. I’ve been able to edit some authors I really admire that way.
I recall that you literally had to go to New York City and pound the pavement to get your early work published. How has that changed over the years?
I think you still have to pound the digital pavement to find the right home for your works. Right now I publish with two different online presses—one for mystery, one for romance, which both put out my books in print as well as electronically. Last year I hooked up with a small operation in New York, Diversion Books, started by a pair of literary agents, and was very happy with the treatment I got for my first FBI thriller, The Next OneWill Kill You.
You were the first person I ever heard say that literary fiction was going nowhere, or held no interest for you, and that genre fiction was the right path for writers looking to get published. Maybe you could elaborate on that, since I’m sure I mangled your comment.
Literary fiction, when done well, is awesome and I hope there will always be publishers ready to take on those books. But you don’t have to be able to write something worthy of an American Book Award in order to get published today, and if you can tell a good story then the world of genre fiction is wide open. I consider myself a story-teller rather than a literary artist. Sure, I’m capable of writing a great line now and then, but what I want is to grab you by the lapels and make you listen to the story I want to tell. I try to do that using the tropes of romance and crime fiction to create characters you’ll want to meet and situations you’ll want to explore.
You taught a seminar at the 2010 Sleuthfest I attended. Will you be doing that again?
I won’t be at this year’s Sleuthfest (so you might want to skip this question.)
Do you self-publish any of your work these days? At one time, you actually produced an excellent PowerPoint on self-publishing and marketing. It seems like that industry has grown tremendously.
I still self-publish my Golden Retriever mysteries, and I’m not opposed to self-publishing new work if that’s the way I can best (and most profitably) reach my readers. But as an example, I signed with Diversion because they could provide excellent editorial feedback, terrific cover design, and help with marketing. Self-publishing requires the author to do all those things, and more, so if I can find a partner with mad skills I’m happy to split my royalties.
I’m going to be the March luncheon speaker for Florida MWA, where I’m trying to take that old presentation a step further. Once you have a book published in print or electronic format there’s still more you can do—audio books are exploding in popularity, and I think the next wave is going to be translation into other languages. I’m going to talk about my experience in those areas.
Who are some local writers who should be featured at Miami Writers and Books? I know I’ve seen many writers from this area at your Book Launches. You introduced me to Barbara Parker at the Mahu Surfer booklaunch at the Mai-Kai years ago. She certainly had a great affection for you.
Sharon Potts, who like me is a hybrid author – published by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint and Oceanview, as well as self-publishing a couple of romances. http://www.sharonpotts.com/
Two of my colleagues at BC might be worth a look. Lourdes Rodriguez-Florido has published 2 YA books. I edited the second one for MLR—A Whisper of Angels. An interesting mashup of YA, M/M romance (very little romance) and angels. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4626015.Lourdes_R_Florido
If you’ll consider a poet, there’s Elisa Albo. She has two books out so far.
What is your schedule like this year?
Do you do your own marketing and social media? Your sites look very professional.
Thanks – I used to be a technical writer and web developer so I enjoy getting into the HTML and fiddling with images, layout and so on. Social media is a huge time suck and it’s hard to strike a balance between “buy my book!” and “here’s something interesting about me.” Still working on that!
Do you write every day?
Yes, I try to write for an hour every day, almost always in the morning and almost always at Starbucks. Writing is work—so my reward for putting my butt in the chair and opening my laptop is a nice grande mocha with whipped cream and mocha drizzle. Doesn’t do anything for my weight but does get me to knuckle down.
What’s your idea of a great vacation?
My next vacation goal is a river cruise somewhere in Europe. I have this fantasy of relaxing on deck with my laptop, writing while the world floats by! Breaking up the writing with stops in picturesque locations, and no need to pack or unpack every day.
Friday, February 3, 2017
John Dufresne forwarded me the media kit from a new Miami Micro-Press, Jitney Books.
Jitney Books was founded by J.J. Colagrande, author of several novels and short pieces, including Deco and Heatz, and more recently, Reduce Heat Continue To Boil.
"WHAT DO THEY DO?
"WHAT DO THEY DO?
Jitney Books is also uniquely a micro-publishing company focused on producing only original titles by local authors writing local stories with the intention of this material being produced into film or plays by local filmmakers or playwrights.
All cover art will always feature local artists and photographers. We are interested in the city of Miami, but also its media market, which stretches from Key West to West Palm Beach. All intellectual property rights will always remain with the artists and authors. And all we want to do is share the love."
Contact Jan Becker, Publicity
Jan Becker is the Jan Becker from FIU, not the automotive parts designer. Louis K. Lowy recommended her in his interview last week. I'll be tracking her down for an interview in the near future.
"Jan Becker is from a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania. She didn’t stay there very long. She grew up in a Marine Corps family, on military bases all over the United States, and wandered the US for many years before settling in South Florida. She is currently an MFA candidate at Florida International University, and has taught courses there in composition, technical writing, creative writing and poetry. She is on the regular faculty at Reading Queer Academy, where she teaches a Boot Camp for Queer Writers and serves as a mentor. Her work has appeared in Jai-Alai Magazine, Colorado Review, Emerge, Brevity Poetry Review, Sliver of Stone, and the Florida Book Review. She is the 2015-2016 Writer in Residence at the Girls’ Club Collection in Fort Lauderdale, and winner of the 2015 AWP Intro Journals Award in Nonfiction. Her first book, The Sunshine Chronicles was published by Jitney Books in 2016."
Jitney has also published Just Johnson: The London Delivery by Timothy Schmand.
Praise: “Just Johnson: The London Delivery is a funny, fast-paced spy thriller filled with zany over-the-top characters who find themselves entangled in events larger than themselves.” Huffington Post
Author Bio: Timothy Schmand fled upstate New York’s oppressive winters and settled in South Florida in 1982. Schmand’s award winning fiction has appeared in literary journals, popular magazines and anthologies, including the Miami Herald, Time Out Miami and the Holland Herald. He is a recipient of the Calvino Prize.