Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
New York Times Best-selling author Jon Land will be my guest on Weekly Wilson podcast this coming Thursday, Aug. 20th, at 7 p.m.CDT on the Bold Brave Media Global Network and Tune-In Radio.
New York Times Best-selling author Jon Land has a new offering in his Caitlin Strong series. The new book, eleventh in the series involving a courageous female Texas Ranger, is entitled “Strong from the Heart.”
Here is what Amazon says about the book, available as an e-book for $14.99 and as a hardcover for $21.80:
Caitlin Strong wages her own personal war on drugs against the true power behind the illicit opioid trade in Strong from the Heart, the blistering and relentless 11th installment in Jon Land’s award-winning series.
The drug crisis hits home for fifth generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters nearly dies from an opioid overdose.
On top of that, she’s dealing with the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night.
When Caitlin realizes that these two pursuits are intrinsically connected, she finds herself following a trail that will take her to the truth behind the crisis that claimed 75,000 lives last year. Just in time, since the same force that has taken over the opiate trade has even more deadly intentions in mind, specifically the murder of tens of millions in pursuit of their even more nefarious goals.
The power base she’s up against—comprised of politicians and Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors—has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they’ve never had to deal with the likes of Caitlin Strong before and have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.
At the root of the conspiracy lies a cabal nestled within the highest corridors of power that’s determined to destroy all threats posed. Caitlin and Cort Wesley may have finally met their match, finding themselves isolated and ostracized with nowhere to turn, even as they strive to remain strong from the heart.
I’ve read and reviewed two previous Caitlin Strong books: “Strong Vengeance” and “Strong to the Bone.” This is the best of the lot.
His books include the Caitlin Strong novels about a fifth-generation Texas ranger, and the Ben Kamal and Danielle Barnea books, about a Palestinian detective and chief inspector of the Israeli police.
He is an emeritus board member and currently sits on the marketing committee for the International Thriller Writers. Jon was also the screenwriter for 2005’s “Dirty Deeds” film, which starred Milo Ventimiglio, with Zoe Saldana and Charles Durning in the cast.
August 30, 2015: Participated in the Indie Authors Book Fair in Chicago held at 1448 57th St. in Chicago, from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, doing a reading from her Christmas Cats children’s book series and a table.
September 3-5, 2015: Writers for New Orleans. Connie appeared on panels at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, Louisiana, in conjunction with Heather Graham’s annual conference that benefits the schools and libraries damaged during Hurricane Katrina. This was her third appearance as a panelist at the event, held over Labor Day this year.
October 3-5, 2015: Participated in the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Book Fair (theme: politics), reading on Sunday, October 4th, at the Café on Market Street and tended to a table with 2 other authors on the pedestrian mall from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, was the featured keynote speaker for the event.
Chatting with a passer-by.
October 13, 2015: Connie was one of three authors with a table at 2723 North Halsted from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with her books at a joint meeting of Illinois Women’s Press Association and the Independent Writers of Chicago.
October 21, 2015: Connie will be participating in the third event in the Highland Park, Illinois’ “Let’s Get Published” series, titled “The World of Children’s books.” The event will be held at 494 Laurel Avenue in Highland Park at the Highland Park Library and will feature a 5:30 p.m. dinner with hosts and panelists at 1908 Sheridan Road, a 6:30 p.m. event set-up at the Highland Park Library, a 7 p.m. panel discussion, an 8 p.m. Q&A and wrap-up followed by refreshments, concluding with a one-on-one chat and the opportunity for book sales.
October 30, 2015: Book signing in Las Vegas at Barnes & Noble for the anthology “Never Fear Phobias.” Connie’s story (fear of dreaming and dreams) is one of 19 stories from authors such as Heather Graham, F. Paul Wilson and Thomas Monteleone. The e-book has been consistently in the Top Ten Selling e-books in its category since its release on October 1st, 2015.
November 21, 2015: Connie will be selling books from 1 to 3 at Columbia College in Chicago at their author event.
Stay tuned for the details of the line-up for promotional stops for the Christmas Cats series, ramping up in November, including 4 stops in the Quad Cities and, potentially, the People Reads Bookstore in Austin, TX.
The link above will take you to a Twitter picture of me, apparently in tears, on a panel MC-ed by New York Times best-selling author (Caitlin Strong series) Jon Land.
Jon has been a great friend to me. True story: I was at my first ITW (International Thriller Writers) conference in New York City. I didn’t know a soul. I was in the bar at the hotel where it is always held and a group had formed around a gregarious sort who was holding court. At the time, I had no idea who this energetic person was. (Nor did he know who I was).
Rather than simply ignore me, (as most would have done), Jon asked me, “What are you working on?” At the time, I was working on the 2nd volume of my “Hellfire & Damnation” series, organized around Dante’s “Inferno.” Each level of Hell is represented by a story focused on the crime or sin punished at that level of Hell. Completely out of the blue, Jon asked, “Would you like me to write a blurb for that?” I had not asked because I didn’t know him (well or at all) and I didn’t think anyone famous would care about a retired English teacher who grew up (and went to school) in Iowa and had few credits. I stammered out that I’d be delighted if he would write a blurb for this slim volume of short stories and Jon wrote one of the best blurbs I have ever received, unbidden. What a guy!
I also ran into Jon in Chicago at “Love Is Murder” and again at the Spellbinders Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii when he was MC-ing panels again and I was on one. It was a great conference, but woefully under-attended.
Lance Taubold and Rich Devin of 13Thirty Books with the anthology “Fear Phobias,” which I have a story in about fear of dreams and dreaming.
This time out in New Orleans, all of the panels I saw Jon run or participate in, or the actual interview concerning his work that Molly Bolden of Bent Pages Bookstore conducted were well-attended, and he was in rare form.
Since I now knew Jon slightly better (and vice versa) he chose to give me some tough questions and, since I was on the end of the panel, I got the “speed round” question (in 5 words or less) and a few others that required some intense thought, and you’ll see, in that Twitter link (should you check it out) that I appear to be in tears…or distress.
Jon went on to do an equally great job on his topic of “How to Write a Novel in 3 Easy Steps,” which featured him energetically pacing the room and taking suggestions from the assembled masses.
It was a very good presentation, and I enjoyed it very much. The entire conference was one of the best ever, and, since it took place the same weekend as Southern Decadence Weekend, there was plenty to see and do outside of the Hotel Monteleone in the heart of the French Quarter.
[*I used the Grammarly service grammar check (http://www.grammarly.com) to double-check this interview for grammar errors because I thought Grammarly was my husband’s Great Grandmother, Lee, and I was trying to be diplomatic. (It was only later that I learned that Nanna Lee shuffled off this mortal coil in 1969. By then, it was too late. As Rick Perry would say, “Oops!”)]
I caught up with Best-Selling author Jon Land at International Thriller Writers Conference in New York City from July 10-14 and asked him some questions that all struggling authors want to have answered. Jon, whose E-book “Pandora’s Temple” was nominated for Best E-book of the Year, was Vice President of Marketing for ITW until recently turning over the post to Joseph Finder (“Company Man,” “Paranoia.”) His Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series is just one of Jon’s many accomplishments as an author. 1) “What marketing tips do you have for wannabee writers?”
Author Jon Land (“Pandora’s Temple”) prepares to moderate a panel on “the hybrid author.”
Well, the best marketing tip I have for wannabee writers is to write a great book. I know that may sound like a cop-out, but the social media craze currently infecting our industry has too many of us spending our time figuring out how to sell something instead of focusing on making it truly worthy to be sold. The simple fact of the matter is the one thing that hasn’t changed in the crazy publishing business is that the surest route to success is writing a book that works, where fabulous characters find themselves struggling along a wondrous quest. The thing about marketing is you have to be careful about how best to budget your time so you’re not tilting at mythical sales windmills. With the Caitlin Strong series growing more firmly entrenched in the reading public’s mind with each new entry, I’ve taken to focusing my efforts on landing as many reviews as I can anywhere and doing as many interviews as I can for bloggers specializing in books. Those interviews, posts, and reviews seem to work well for helping spread word of mouth, leading to the kind of steady build that is a more realistic and attainable goal these days. 2) What are the challenges of writing a series, as opposed to a stand-alone book? (i.e., how much do you go back and fill in the reader on what went on in the previous book or books?)
That’s a great question and the simple answer is assuring that the characters enjoy emotional growth from book to book, while not necessitating that the reader cover them in order. That’s a very fine line to walk, but walk it we must, because nothing in my mind renders a series dull and impotent faster than characters that never change, grow or, sometimes, even age. Another fine line is knowing exactly how much back story to fill the reader in on from book to book. In my mind, you want to include as little of that as possible to avoid making the reader think he or she has missed something. And the best way to achieve that is to prioritize making the lead characters the only ones who reoccur. Bringing villains back creates the notion of a long story, instead of separate and distinct tales. Basically the mark of any good series is to be able to begin it anywhere and not realize it’s a series at all. Every book needs to work as a standalone or you risk losing your reader before you’ve even had a chance to grab them.
3) What do you think makes a”good cover,” for a book? Give some specifics of your thoughts on what makes a good cover for a book.
Another great question! I’m convinced that the best covers capture both the tone and subject of the book, while also working as a great sales tool. Let me use the cover of my latest, STRONG RAIN FALLING, as a prime example, in large measure because I feel it’s the most effective so far of any in my five-book Caitlin Strong series. The dominant graphic of a lightning bolt striking a desolate road suggests both the storm of violence that’s coming and Caitlin’s lonely quest to stop it. And I love the presence of the lightning branching off in several directions, suggesting the far-reaching effects of the evil plot about to descend on America. That, along with the gathering storm clouds in the background, forms as effective a thriller cover as I’ve ever seen. 4) What do you think the future of E-books (with Amazon now the owner of Goodreads) will be?
I kind of look at E-books as a snowball rolling downhill, gathering size and speed as it goes. So I see the impact of Amazon’s purchase of GoodReads to have only a negligible effect on this sector of the industry. Look, the problem we have right now in publishing is that there are bestsellers and then there is everything else. We’ve essentially lost the middle and writers both new and old are scrambling to figure out how to break through this dome that’s tougher to crack than the one envisioned by Stephen King in the book and hit CBS series. So we intend to fixate on labels and the ever-shrinking window of opportunities new and independent writers have to build and/or expand their audiences. There are a thousand challenges to that process and Amazon buying Goodreads is just one of them. 5) “To trailer or not to trailer (a book), that is the question.”
Book trailers work in conjunction with a larger campaign to increase an author’s and book’s visibility. It’s the same thing with social media; everything works best for authors who are already established and normally not as well for authors who aren’t. You want to know the most important thing to maximize the opportunities for success? Get display space in bookstores and get featured on Amazon. Unfortunately, both those are far easier said than done, but without them, no matter what we do, we’re pushing a boulder up the hill. The key thing this whole selling side presents is looking at each book as another step in the process. If each one you do does better than the one that preceded it, you’re on the right track because you’re making a case for yourself and for either getting a publisher or making your existing publisher do more promotion along with you. Too many writers do a single book and then spend the next year promoting it instead of writing their next book. Because here’s the thing: successive titles, building a backlist, is the best promotional tool of all! 6) What method or methods do you think work “best” in promotion of a new book?
I’ve pretty much covered that above but let me try to go at it from an angle I haven’t hit yet, and that’s the author himself or herself. There is that particular area of expertise or experience the authors bring to the fashioning of their books that will lend it enough relevance to make people want to pick it up. For instance, if the hero of a book is tortured by a past riddled with abuse, it would really help the author’s cause if he or she was writing from that kind of painful experience. Promoting yourself by opening up, by sharing, is probably the most effective strategy of all, because it vests readers in the author, not just what they’ve created. The alternative to that is writing about something you’re expert in. Promoting a book based on that may not have as visceral a response as something intrinsically personal, but it will definitely make people pay attention to what you’re writing.
Jim Strauss, Conference co-organizer and writer, addresses the brunch crowd in the Rainbow Tower.
A brunch was held for participants at the Spellbinders’ Conference this morning. Co-organizer James Strauss was the keynote speaker and James is always good. Although I try to make it a rule to “be the change I want to see,” and the change I want to see is starting things no earlier than 10 a.m., after blogging till 1:30 a.m. I fell out of bed, did a very bad job of make-up and hair (naturally, some young photographer wanted to take my picture and the lens was literally less than foot from my nose, as I stared into the lens, bleary-eyed and hair in disarray. THAT one will be good—NOT!), and traveled down in the Tapa Tower elevator to join the others in the ballroom where our meals have been being served. Or so I thought.
Nobody was in the room, when I arrived there, and when I tried to take the elevator back to my 18th floor room to check on the location in the program (a) the elevators would take me neither up nor down (b) I remembered I HAD no program, since I lent it to Jon Land, who needed it more than I did and (c) 4 other lost people were trying to find the location of the brunch. Among them were Susan Crawford and Peter Miller, agents present to take pitches. And we also collected some other lost folks along the way.
While Susan made phone calls to various others, we tried to find the Rainbow Tower, where the hotel had apparently moved the brunch without notifying those of us trying to find it. As a result, several of us were very late, but the food was (as usual) good, and Jim Strauss, as always, gave an amusing and interesting talk to the assembled masses.
Authors Jacqueline Mitchard (“The Deep End of the Ocean”), Jon Land (the Caitlin Strong series) and Gary Braver (back to camera) listen to James Strauss’ speech.
Originally, some of the members of the group were to move on to Turtle Bay. I think that idea has been jettisoned in favor of staying on here at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, but what do I know? (Jim also told me that the entire cast of “Hawaii 5-0” was going to substitute for the MIA John Travolta and Garry Marshall, but I think this was his idea of a small joke. I don’t watch “Hawaii 5-0” and Scott Caan is too short for my Favorite Leading Man, so no big loss.)
Meanwhile, we’re checking out the cost to “rent” an umbrella on the beach. Yes, you heard me right. To rent one. They are not free to hotel guests. And the riff-raff from town are no longer allowed to congregate anywhere in front of the hotel–[-if they ever were.]
I love Hawaii and always have, but I can assure vacationers that, if you travel to Cancun and stay where we stay (the Royal Resorts properties), you won’t be charged extra to sit under one of the fixed “palapas” on the beach in front of the Royal Sands or the Royal Islander. I used to call Cancun “the poor man’s Hawaii,” but, of late, it has gotten pricier, as well. Still, charging $6.50 for ONE coke beats Australian prices (gas is cheaper than Illinois, however), and making guests pay for the use of an umbrella is a new twist on gouging the tourist trade, which would probably not cause the tourists to want to repeat the experience, if a similar beach could be experienced, with bluer water and cooler sand, for NO extra expense.
Casual shot of the group as the brunch broke up.
The food has been uniformly great. The presentations have been useful and enjoyable. As usual, I never hear anyone say, “Hey, we’re going to go hang out at ________ after this. Wanna’ come?” but that is probably because I’m a minnow in the literary pool. Still, it would have been nice to have been frequenting the bar where Shelley Berman showed up last night (he has a guest spot on “Hawaii 50,” they say), but why should this be any different than ThrillerFest or HWA or Love Is Murder or the Backspace Writers’ Conference or any other writing thing I have ever attended? I go. I pay my money. I am pleasant to one and all. I attend the functions. I end up in my room watchong TV, because I think you have to reach a certain level of income or popularity or thinness or attractiveness or something-ness to ever be allowed into the “Inner Circle” that gads about. Just the way it is. Unlikely I’ll ever reach that stratosphere. But at least the husband and I are here together, which gives me ONE person who doesn’t blow me off repeatedly and take off with a large group to go socialize and have fun at the “in” places I am not aware of.
Two more days of fun in the sun.
No idea what the deal is with this guy. He is either starting his own religious sect, stretching before or after exercising, mourning the recent death of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon or planting something. He was in that position for a LONG time, though, folks, and it looked extremely uncomfortable.
Hilton Hawaiian Village grounds.
View from the Rainbow Room brunch.
Jim Strauss, the ubiquitous Nadia (not Comanece), Tony and Tori Eldridge (“Lone Tree Productions), after the Spellbinders’ Brunch.
Jon Land is the author of the Caitlin Strong series, [as well as the Blaine McCracken series (“Omicron Legion” and “The Omega Command”)]. He is a Brown graduate who lives in Providence, Rhode Island. His credits list over 25 books.
In “Strong at the Break,” Land took some of every topical news strand out there and jammed nearly all of them into an action-packed book, “Strong at the Break,” to be followed by an even newer Caitlin Strong book, “Strong Vengeance.” (July, 2012).
The man is a writing machine. The publication dates for his four Caitlin Strong novels: May 12, 2009; June 22, 2010; June 21, 2011, and July 17, 2012. Wow! As someone who labored three years on her first novel, I am impressed by Jon Land’s output! You’d think the man never left his house or his computer, but, instead, we learn that he is very active in martial arts. Caitlin Strong, a 5th generation Texas Ranger, has appeared in Land’s four most recent books (of 35): “Strong Justice,” “Strong Enough to Die,” and “Strong Vengeance: A Caitlin Strong Novel” (which followed “Strong at the Break,” my focus here).
“Strong at the Break: A Caitlin Strong Novel” derives its title from an Ernest Hemingway quote, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
In an interview by Doug Cobb published in June of 2011 on the online blog “Boomtown,” Cobb asked Land questions about his Caitlin Strong series:
“Strong At the Break featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, the third book in your series, just may well be the best one yet! It has three–count ‘em, three–main plot lines that at first seem to be unrelated, but you brilliantly tie them all together. There’s the one involving Caitlin’s journey to Canada to assist the Mounties in their efforts to stem the tide of illegal drugs coming into America; then, there’s the one where she’s concerned about and active in stopping the sex slave trade based in Mexico; and, lastly, there’s the one where she attempts to shut down the militant quasi-religious group, the Patriot Sun, headed by Malcolm Arno, before he can start up a second Civil War.
Would you say there is any actual evidence that a portion of the $20 billion Bremer had at his disposal in Iraq may have found its way back to America to fund certain militant groups, or is this more of a very dramatic plausible deduction you have made?” (*Cobb forgot to mention the page-time devoted to Don Imus’ philanthropic gestures towards amputee veterans.)
Land gave great answers to Cobb’s questions, and revealed the scoop regarding his fourth Caitlin Strong novel (July 17, 2012).
The original series, said Land, came about when a need for strong female heroines was articulated to him by Tor/Forge books.
Jon Land Picture In the Cobb interview, Land also said, “But the best advice I’ve ever been given about writing actually came from my martial arts instructor who told me to get out of the way of the story and let the characters do the work. The book’s about them was his advice, not me.”
I agree with this assessment. It is why it has taken me so long to finish the third of the four Caitlin Strong books. I had trouble envisioning Caitlin Strong as “real.” Nor did I believe her “maybe-love-interest” Cort Wesley Masters was a real flesh-and-blood person. I’m not fit to hold Caitlin’s six-shooters, that much is for sure. What a rootin’ tootin’ heroine! And she has almost no sex or interest in same in “Strong at the Break.” One chaste kiss. Talk about denial of one’s basic urges!
A book clearly could be written about Land, an author of over 25 books who also has had a 25-year career in the martial arts. (He is an associate member of the U.S. Special Forces) Land is an affable fellow who also is Vice President of Marketing for ITW (International ThrillerWriters). In fact, the dedication of “Strong at the Break” says: “For International ThrillerWriters, keepers of the flame.” Land has written and produced one screenplay (“Dirty Deeds”) and sold the rights to his novel “The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending” to be turned into a DC comic book series and eventual film franchise.
The uncorrected ARC advance copy I read did not have a cover. It opened with heroine Caitlin Strong helping stop drugs being smuggled in from Canada. This immediately made me think of Melissa Leo’s role in the 2008 film “Frozen River.” But “Strong at the Break” isn’t content to stop with a riveting story about Canadian drug dealers and the slavery of Chinese would-be immigrants and Hell’s Angels, it quickly jumps from Quebec and the LaChance brothers to San Antonio, and we are off to the (Ranger) races. [Texas Rangers, that is.]
I admire Jon Land’s ability to jump around within his novel(s) and keep his places and times straight, all things a writer has to do and difficult, at that. His Phi Beta Kappa/magna cum laude abilities definitely show up in the way he is able to reintegrate disparate plot elements, ranging from the Malcolm Arno quasi-religious group (read Waco), to an amputee veteran who blows the whistle on billions of dollars that went MIA in George W. Bush’s war (Bremer in Iraq), to the kidnapping in Mexico of Cort Wesley Masters’ son, Dylan, who functions as a quasi-son to the unmarried Caitlin.
I don’t begrudge men writing about women, or women writing about men. I just need to be able to believe that the woman (or man) I’m reading about could really exist. They have to seem real. Despite some backstory about Caitlin’s having been present at the face-off outside Pearsley’s Tackle and Gun Shop in Midland, Texas in 1990 when her father shot down a religious wing nut in full view of his teen-aged son (who later becomes a bigger menace than the old man), I just could not get in to Caitlin Strong. I did not buy her cowgirl-who-can-kill with the best of them. I tried, but I just could not. I could believe that the slight Swedish heroine, Lisbeth Salander, could defend herself against far bigger opponents (and hack into their bank accounts, if necessary) but Caitlin just seemed unlikely and unrealistic. Maybe it was all the jumping around in time and place, from Canada to Mexico to Texas to wherever. I would like to see the talented Mr. Land concentrate on just ONE of his many storylines. I admire his dexterity in keeping them all straight, juggling all the balls in the air at once, and pulling them all together by the novel’s end (348 pages later) and I admire his prodigious output.
All I can say to Mr. Land’s rabid Caitlin Strong fans and to the fascinating author himself is that, sometimes, “less is more.” I’d love to see an in-depth investigation of just one of the (many) plot strands thrown out there in “Strong at the Break.” And I’d like to add, “Happy Mutual Birthday!” (with no mention of the year, of course) as my birthday, too, is July 23rd.
But, meanwhile, I salute Jon Land’s hard work and prodigious output.