Category Archives: Literary Endeavors

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Hang A Crooked Number: Now Worth Nothing

Today marks the start of another Mets season. To celebrate the occasion, for a limited time you can join another lost cause at minimal cost. Which is to say, no cost. From March 31 through April 4, Hang A Crooked Number is on sale at Amazon for the considerable markdown of 100 percent. If I’ve done my math right, that means it’s free. As in, zero dollars. And zero cents.

If you’ve missed/ignored my many posts about this novel since it came out last year, this is Hang A Crooked Number in a nutshell:

Backstop lives a double life, and both are crumbling. He is a minor league catcher and an operative in training for The Moe Berg Society, a secret intelligence group that uses baseball as a front for its spy work. The mysterious disappearance of Backstop’s fellow trainee, Mark, has plunged him into a career-threatening slump. He gets one last chance at redemption when his handler asks him to investigate a connection between rumors of a mole and The Scouts, a faction of old-school spies hell-bent on seizing leadership of The Society. Backstop’s mission is complicated by his new roommate, The Swing, an aging slugger working on a major league comeback, and by Brooke, a tenacious reporter who suspects Backstop holds the key to her investigation into Mark’s disappearance. With one eye on his plummeting batting average and the other on the mounting casualties of his mission, Backstop attempts to unravel a conspiracy that could change the game forever before he unravels himself.

I know many people believe that spending money for anything on the internet is an affront to their human rights. Such folks contend that their function as consumers is so important that it is above such piddling concerns as paying people who make the things they consume. Under normal circumstances, I’m not inclined to encourage such beliefs. But I would also like people to know that Hang  A Crooked Number exists, and one way to do that is to give it out for free. There are other ways to do this, but they involve the spending of money that my family insists is better spent on shoes and rent. So, free it is.

I recognize that people who don’t want to pay for things on the internet also don’t like it when they’re asked to do anything on the internet. (I’m not sure what these people do like to do, other than scream that video games are art and tell other people to die in fires on Twitter.) However, if you choose to download this book that I worked on for years and you find you enjoy it, I ask that you at least consider giving the book a few stars on its Amazon page. And if you’re feeling really generous, maybe leave a nice review. Stars and reviews mean a lot to Amazon, so the more you leave, the more often my book comes up in searches for other books and hammocks and whatever the hell else Amazon sells. Damned if I can figure it out, but Bezos works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

Thanks.

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Hang A Crooked Number: Now At Insultingly Low Prices!

cover_art_insideHey there, cheapskates! Perhaps you’ve considered purchasing a copy of my book Hang A Crooked Number—guaranteed to be the year’s best novel about baseball, spies, and failure—but balked at its retail price. Personally, I believe $2.99 is more than reasonable for a full-length novel written by one actual human, but I also recognize that ideas about what constitutes “reasonable price” has changed considerably in our modern age, what with all the computers and hula hoops and fax machines. I also recognize that nobody knows who the hell I am and thus may need extra incentive to drop any amount of cash on my weird ideas.

So, for a limited time, I am slashing the price on my novel. From now through November 15, Hang A Crooked Number can be yours for the frankly insulting price of 99 cents. This is literally the least amount of money I can charge for it without making it free altogether. (I have just enough dignity to not do that.)

If you want a better idea of what 99 cents buys you, check out excerpts of the novel at Stymie Magazine and The Classical.

If that does it for ya, you can purchase Hang A Crooked Number for the low, low, insanely low “price” of 99 cents at Amazon, Apple, Smashwords, or sort-of direct from me in either epub or PDF form.

Remember: If you likes what you read, I’d sure appreciate it if you’d leave a star-filled review on Amazon or Goodreads. I know, I’m asking you to leave a review after you paid a whole 99 cents for this book. A thousand pardons, sirrah, but I need the scraps from your table to survive. Please take pity upon me, a lowly beggar.

Hang A Crooked Number, Now With Middleman Removed

Hi! Lately, I’ve been begging asking people to purchase my new novel, Hang A Crooked Number, at the ebook retailer of their choice. The reception thus far has been heartening and supportive, and the death threats have been kept to an acceptable minimum.

However, I’ve received some queries from folks who don’t own an e-reader of any kind yet would still like to read the book. And while there are no plans afoot to publish this book the traditional way (i.e., using dead trees), I did want to make some concessions to folks who are interested in Hang A Crooked Number but don’t have a Kindle or an iPad or what have you. It also occurred to me that there are many folks who’d rather not put dough in the pockets of Amazon and their ilk, an attitude for which I can hardly blame you.

If you fall into one or more of these categories, you’re in luck as of today. I’m now making Hang A Crooked Number available for purchase from Scratchbomb itself (via Gumroad) in both epub and PDF formats. This should satisfy the needs of both people who don’t have e-readers and people who hate Amazon for one reason or another. Plus, I get a bigger cut of the retail price when you buy it via Gumroad, if that does anything for ya. I know it does something for me. So, in summation, purchase away!

Buy the epub

Buy the PDF

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Hang A Crooked Number: Available Now

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Cover art by Tony Morais

I wrote a novel called Hang A Crooked Number. It is about a world where baseball is an elaborate front for the operations of a domestic intelligence organization called The Moe Berg Society. It is narrated by a minor league recruit who is mired in a horrific slump on both sides of his work, unable to work his way to the big leagues as either a hitter or a spy, while being caught between rival factions fighting for control of the organization. It’s about some other things, too, but we’ll start there. And it has serious parts and funny parts (parts I intended to be serious and funny, anyway). I’m letting you know about this because I think some people might like it.

As this novel made its final steps to becoming a Real Live Book, my first impulse was to write a huge post detailing its journey from idea to reality, why I took so long to write it, commentary on those Other Things alluded to above, the evolution of my thoughts about fiction in particular and writing in general…

I wrote this very lengthy post, more to remind myself of the journey this novel took from the time when the idea first came to me. Then I crumpled up that post and tossed in the trash, because it would be of no interest to anyone outside of my head. Maybe you’d care about how long it took me to write this novel or what I went through in the intervening years if I was Some Important Author, but I ain’t. Last time I checked, I was known (if at all) as a semi-pro enthusiast of Edgardo Alfonzo, Action Park, and Steampipe Alley. You are well within your rights to not give a shit about my “process.”

Furthermore, I shouldn’t attempt to explain a piece of work whose primary function is to explain itself. I’m reminded of something Elvis Costello once said during a live show: “People are always asking me, ‘What does that song mean?’ If I could have said it in a way other than how I said it in the song, I would have written another song, wouldn’t I?”

So, though brevity is not my strong suit, I will keep this as short and sweet as I can:

Hang A Crooked Number is now out in the world, available to eyes that might enjoy a novel about baseball and spies and some other things. If you believe you own such a set of eyes, it can be purchased at Amazon, iTunes, or Smashwords for the ridiculously low price of $2.99. (Other retailers to follow.) I figure that’s plenty cheap for anyone to take a chance on a novel about spies and baseball written by Some Dude. If you are fortunate enough to own an ebook reading device yet consider $2.99 too much to spend on an ebook, all I can say is good luck to you, sir or madam.

If you do take a chance on this novel and find you like what you read, leave a nice review on Amazon and tell a friend. Leave something nice up on Goodreads, if that’s a thing you do. Tweet or Facebook about it. Every little whisper helps. I’m just one person without any sort of machine working for me, so this is how more eyes will get a chance to read it. That is all I want and all I can want.

Thank you.

Contested

I may have mentioned this before several thousand times, but I’ve written a novel. It’s called Hang A Crooked Number. Here is what I say about the novel to people who may wish to represent or publish it:

Backstop lives a double life, and both are crumbling. To the outside world, Backstop appears to be a minor league catcher of rapidly diminishing skills. In truth, he is an operative in training for The Moe Berg Society, a secret intelligence group that uses baseball as a front for its spy work. The mysterious disappearance of his fellow trainee, Mark, has plunged him into a career-threatening slump. Backstop gets one last chance at proving his worth when his handler asks him to investigate a connection between rumors of a mole and The Scouts, a faction of old-school spies hell-bent on seizing leadership of The Society. His mission is complicated by his new roommate, The Swing, an aging slugger working on a major league comeback, and by Brooke, a tenacious reporter who suspects Backstop holds the key to her investigation into Mark’s disappearance. With one eye on his plummeting batting average and the other on the mounting casualties of his mission, Backstop attempts to unravel a conspiracy that could change the game forever before he unravels himself.

This is the logline (industry terms!). Out of necessity, this omits a lot of what the book is. At the risk of explaining a thing that should serve to explain itself (like art is supposed to do), I can say that Hang a Crooked Number is about a lot of things that have almost nothing to do with spies, or baseball, or an imaginary world that has spies in baseball. A friend of mine who read it described it as “very New York,” which I took as a compliment. What I’m saying is, if you don’t dig baseball and/or spy novels in the slightest, I think you might still enjoy it.

The reason I’m going on about this is because I would like you to know Hang a Crooked Number is currently in the running for something called the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The novel has made it to the quarterfinals, in fact, and is one of about 100 titles under consideration in the General Fiction category. I entered the novel in the general fiction category because despite the novel’s genre shell, I think it’s closer to literary fiction than anything else. (See: defensive overexplaining above.) I’m normally suspicious of any contest that would allow me to advance this far, but they haven’t asked me for any money or to crash on my couch yet, so I think I’m safe.

If you want a tiny glimpse of the novel, Amazon is offering free ebook excerpts of all the quarterfinalists; mine can be found here. If this were in print form, what you get would only be the first 10-15 pages or so. But hey, it’s free, innit? I don’t think people downloading and/or reviewing this excerpt on Amazon will have any bearing whatsoever on whether or not Hang a Crooked Number progresses to the next rung on the contest ladder. But I don’t think it will hurt its chances either, if you catch my drift.

This novel will see the light of day, one way or another. If it’s via this contest, great. If it’s via the more old school method of agent pitching to editor over a three-martini lunch, great. If I have to make and distribute an ebook myself, great. If I have to tattoo it on my back and walk down the beach, great. My primary interest is to see it available to as many people as possible. That probably eliminates the tattooing option, but never say never.

Alright, as you were.

The New Quadruple-A Landscape of Writing

One thing I love about writing is that it can demonstrate someone being remarkably perceptive and oblivious all at once. To witness this phenomenon, read Stephen Marche’s latest piece for Esquire, in which he attempts to argue that we live in a “golden age” of writing. I found myself agreeing with a few of its assertions, yet also felt this agreement was negated by how much the author got wrong, chose to ignore, or could not perceive about the modern writing landscape.

In his article, Marche argues that ye olden days had plenty of bad or just plain boring writing, and I agree. He also disdains the “woe is me” attitude so pervasive among writerly types, which I believe is important. Every writer, at some point or another, firmly believed his/her beautiful art and soul were being crushed by a cruel, unfeeling world. One’s ability to produce work worth writing is directly proportional one’s ability to move beyond this narcissistic mindset. Otherwise, you spend the time you should be writing looking in the mirror, admiring your own bruises.

However, Marche’s stated aim was to show our era as a golden age for writing, and in this he fails. This is because the support for his thesis stems from how spectacularly rich authors like J.K Rowling and Tom Wolfe have become. By the same logic, you could point to J.P Morgan and John D. Rockefeller and say the Gilded Age was one of vast prosperity. It all depends on one’s notion of a Golden Age. Does that mean mountains of wealth displayed by the Morgans and Rockefellers of the world, or does it mean everyone is able to pay their bills?

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