‘The Woman from Prague’ Book Tour

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The Woman from Prague arrives in less than a month, and thusly I will be showing up at bookstores to sing and dance so that maybe you will buy it.

Locally I’ll be in Manhattan on July 11 (The Mysterious Bookshop) and Staten Island on July 13 (Barnes & Noble).

Then it’s off to Scottsdale on the 20th (Poisoned Pen, pictured above), Portland on the 24th (Powell’s at Hawthorne), Austin on the 26th (BookPeople), and Houston on the 27th (Murder by the Book).

I won’t be alone for all of these events! At Poisoned Pen, I’ll be appearing with Daryl Gregory, author of Spoonbenders. And at BookPeople and Murder by the Book, I’ll be rolling with Jordan Harper (She Rides Shotgun) and Bill Loehfelm (The Devil’s Muse).

In a general sense, when I’m not doing these events, I’ll be hanging around town, searching for drinks and burritos and other fun things to do. If you’re around, get at me.

If you want to see all the event links, click here. You can also find the Facebook events at this link. If you want to RSVP to them, that’s cool. You don’t have to in order to attend, but it’s always nice to get a sense of how many people might be coming out (plus, you’ll get reminders from Facebook so you’ll have no excuse to miss it).

Finally: There’s still time to get in on the pre-order campaign. Pre-order the book, get a postcard, get entered to win a prize. Details here. If you’re planning to attend one of these events, you can always put in a pre-order at the store. That certainly qualifies.

‘The Woman From Prague’ pre-order prize pack!

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The Woman from Prague is almost here! The latest Ash McKenna novel lands July 11 in hardcover and eBook. Now, you can wait until then to get it. Or you can pre-order it. And you might want to.

Because if you do, you’ll get a postcard from Ash.

And you’ll be entered to win the Prague Prize Pack, which includes:

  • Three excellent books from my publisher, PolisSilent City by Alex Segura, Shot in Detroit by Patricia Abbott, and Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips.
  • “The Gift of the Wiseguy,” a short story I wrote for The Mysterious Bookshop. It was given away to customers of the store during the holiday season. Only a limited number were printed, and it’s not available electronically anywhere.
  • A New Yorked umbrella—they were printed up by Polis back in 2015, and I spirited a few away, specifically for moments like this.

Here’s how to enter: Send me a copy of your pre-order receipt for either the physical book or the eBook. Photo, scan, forward me the e-mail, whatever. Just, you know, prove you pre-ordered the book. Include your mailing address.

Send to: praguepreorder@gmail.com.

Want to pre-order the book from one of my tour stops? That’s cool too:

I’ll draw one winner the day of release, July 11. So you have until July 10 to enter. US mailing addresses only.

‘Condor’ lands in Brooklyn

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Movie fans: Mark Aug. 7 on your calendar. Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn will host a special screening of the 1975 thriller Three Days of the Condor. After the screening, I’ll be conducting a Q&A with Six Days of the Condor author James Grady. Both of us will have books for sale from The Mysterious Bookshop, and we’ll stick around to sign them.

Condor is one of the books that inspired my newest novel, The Woman from Prague. So I’m thrilled to be doing this event. And Jim is one of my favorite people in publishing—real smart and real generous, on top of being a fantastic writer.

Tickets will be available in early July, so keep an eye on my social media. I’m hoping to blast the link out a little early so fans get first crack. Besides working with Jim, I’m really excited to be doing this at Alamo. It’s the only place I’ll see movies anymore—the food is great, the no texting/no talking policy is awesome, and their customer service is terrific.

Plus, the ladies-only screenings of Wonder Woman are pretty cool and for the life of me I can not understand the psychology of the guys who are complaining—it’s just too sad.

More soon!

In search of a rudder

Back when my first book was published, I had an idea for a column at LitReactor: I’d reach out to authors I knew and ask them to tell me the one thing they wished they’d known when they released their first book. I figured I’d get some good anecdotes.

I scrapped the piece because I kept hearing the same thing: “I wish I had an agent.” I heard this from some well-respected, big-time authors. And I couldn’t write a piece that was just the same piece of advice over and over.

There’s a lot of debate about whether you should have an agent. I’m firmly in the “should” column. At least, when it comes to me and my goals.

I work in publishing, I deal with contracts, I understand the language and the subrights and all that—but I also don’t want to deal with that shit. I’d rather someone else do it for me. I’ll pay 15 percent to let someone do the heavy lifting. That’s time I can spend writing.

It’s also nice to know someone has your back. To rein you in, to give you advice, to commiserate. To give you a guiding hand when you need it.

I never appreciated how important those things were until a few months ago.

My agent, with whom I had a good relationship, decided for personal reasons to leave the field. It’s not an acrimonious situation and I wish her the best. It was a little disappointing—I considered her a friend—but it’s also a problem with a solution: Go out and find another.

There are a couple of things counting in my favor: In the past two years I’ve published four books, to pretty strong reviews and sales. Publishers Weekly gave some nice kudos to my next book, The Woman from Prague (starred review, naming it one of the best books of the summer). I’m co-writing a novella with James Patterson, which is kinda fancy. My agent didn’t drop me, which can really count against you (potential agents will wonder if your sales suck, if you’re a jerk, if you’re difficult to work with, etc.).

There’s one big thing counting against me: I don’t have anything done. I can’t really search in earnest until I have a book finished, in hand, ready to go.

Immediately after my agent skedaddled, another agent—someone I respect—offered to take me on. It was tough but I declined. Given my genre and my goals, I thought it would be better, career-wise, to work with someone more intimately familiar with the players in the crime and mystery field.

It’s a weird thing to say no to an agent, considering how much of the query process feels so sacred, and so imbalanced in terms of who has the power.

For the past few months I’ve felt rudderless. I threw myself into researching new projects. I read a lot. I outlined. I wrote 70,000 words of a novel I’m not sure is coming together.

I’ve cracked open the fifth and final Ash McKenna book, for which I don’t have a contract. The book is tentatively due by the end of the year and I’m sure I can hit that deadline, but now I’m left wondering what comes after.

For a while now I’ve been stuck between three potential projects. Two are big swings (one of which is the 70K I already have down).

The third is, I think, a little “safer.”

So there’s a lot to consider. Do I go with the safer project, knowing it might earn me the goodwill to take those big swings later? Do I come out with the big swing now because, fuck it, sometimes you gotta go yard?

I kept thinking it’d be nice to formulate a game plan with an agent, who understands the wants and needs of the market, the potential salability of what I’m kicking around…

(For the record, this isn’t a “woe is me” story. I’m doing okay. And I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t give a shit about the artistic end. I do. But given I work in publishing it’s pretty easy to divorce myself from that and look at my situation with an outside, dispassionate eye.)

So, the point is, the more I thought about this, the more I dug myself into a hole of self-doubt and shiny-thing syndrome.

Until I realized I’m creating a problem for myself.

I’m breaking one of my own rules: Shut the fuck up and write.

The distance between a writer and a published writer can be measured in finished projects.

Having an agent isn’t a magic bullet. A lot of the writing process is knuckling down. People ask me how I write so much and it strikes me as a silly question. I write. How else is it going to get done? There’s no incantation to slow the rotation of the earth, no exercises that allow me to type 200 words a minute. The work gets done or it doesn’t, and I like when work gets done.

It’s hard, too, when you have a lot of ideas (you should see my Google docs…). Depending on my mood, the time of day, the direction of the wind, I might think one is better than the others, and ten minutes later that could change.

Again, creating a problem for myself. I let myself lose focus, and put the blame for that on not having an agent—like I need supervision and permission to write.

I don’t. What I need to do is pick a project and commit to it and finish it and then start the query process.

Honestly, I think I’m having a bit of a publishing-life crisis, where I’m on the verge of leaving the safe confines of an ongoing series, setting a course in uncharted waters. My next project will likely be in third person. Third person! How the fuck do you even write a third person narrative?!

It’s all pretty nerve-wracking. Especially because of how easily it is now to slip into Ash’s voice. I feel like I blinked and had the first 10,000 words of the fifth book.

Whether my first post-Ash book is salable or the “right one” or a big swing or whatever, it doesn’t really matter.

All it needs to be is something I believe in, and done.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that. To get lost in the mud of uncertainty. Because, god, what a fleeting fucking profession this is. Sometimes you need to remind yourself of certain things.

So I wrote a come-to-Jesus blog post.

I’ve got my project. The one I want to be next, after Ash.

It’s a big swing. I’ve got a loose outline and 20,000 meandering words and tons of research. It’s the project I feel passionately about. It does that thing I love about books, that made me want to be a writer in the first place.

It speaks to a problem.

I want to take a big swing. That’s who I am, and that’s what I want. That’s all that matters in any of this. It took me a few months to realize that. It feels like lost time, but also, it’s not. It’s the space I needed.

Back to work, and come what may.

Talking ‘Hannibal’ at Split Screens

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Next month is IFC’s inaugural Split Screens Festival, celebrating all that’s cool and awesome on TV.

As part of that, on June 8, they’re screening “The Wrath of the Lamb”, the show’s very excellent series finale (where Hannibal and Will should have kissed but didn’t and that made me a little sad).

Afterward, there’s going to be a Skype chat with series creator Bryan Fuller, along with a panel of people talking about the show’s artistic impact.

This is the kind of event I’d love to just attend… so it’s real damn cool that I’m actually going to be one of those panelists, alongside some very cool, very talented folks.

Check it out. Then check out the other events. The whole festival looks aces, top to bottom.

Me and PW

IMG_7496.JPGI was flying into Chicago for an event. Usually I’m a sucker for in-flight wifi, but given that I didn’t have my laptop and I was in the middle of reading a really good book (The Force by Don Winslow), I didn’t pony up for it.

When the plane touched down, I turned off ‘airplane mode’ and the first e-mail to pop up on the screen was from my publisher.

The subject line was: “Holy. Shit.”

I figured it was good news. I was shocked to find out how good it was: Publishers Weekly, the premiere trade magazine for the publishing industry, picked my next book, The Woman from Prague, as one of the best reads of the summer.

Time for some real talk: A lot of authors will tell you reviews and lists don’t matter. I think at least some of those authors are lying. Whenever a new “hot books of the season” list comes out, of course I check it, on the off chance one of my books made the cut. This is rarely the case. That space tends to be reserved for the Big 5 publishers or the hyped literary darlings. It’s rare to see something like what I write: A genre book from a smaller publisher.

So to make a list like that is pretty incredible. And it meant a lot coming from Publishers Weekly. Here’s why: They said some nice things about my first book, but dinged me on the plot (fair). For the second book, they praised the plot but dinged me on tone (also fair). For the third, it was smooth sailing. All praise, no dings.

I hoped for the fourth book I’d make it a step higher—a starred review. If I was improving as a writer, that would be the natural progression. Maybe it’s a silly benchmark. Maybe that’s not even how I should be thinking about it. But I did. I wanted that star.

When the list came out, there was a little blurb about The Woman from Prague, and under that there was a link you could click to see the full review. Every time I clicked it (and I clicked it a lot), it would say the review wasn’t available yet.

Weeks passed. Every now and again I’d be working on something and click over to see if it was posted. It went from habit to tic. I’d do it without even realizing I was doing it.

Even knowing that new reviews tend to go up on Fridays, I would do this all week long. Morning and night. When the review finally posted, I froze.

IMG_7497.JPGI got my star.

And a hell of a nice pull quote: “Hart’s Kafkaesque fourth novel featuring amateur PI Ash McKenna has great pace, a fascinating relationship between the central characters, and superb atmosphere… Noir fans will be enthralled.”

They went one better, too, putting a picture of my goofy mug at the front of the review section. I don’t tend to keep mementoes, or else I do and end up tossing them after a few years because I don’t like clutter.

But this is a thing I’ll keep.

From a technical book-selling standpoint, this is great: A starred review tends to mean more orders from bookstores and libraries. And the timing couldn’t be better. This is the first book in the series that’ll come out in hardcover, a format which tends to be more popular with libraries.

So right off the bat, more copies should (in theory) go out the door.

It speaks to the importance of trade reviews. The average reader doesn’t know what Publishers Weekly is, but the people who keep the gears of the industry turning—they do.

And, it’s a nice little feather in my cap, as I’m currently without an agent. Mine retired, which means when I finish my next book, I’ll be back on the market. This certainly will not hinder the search.

For as happy as I am from a business perspective, I’ve even more happy from a writing perspective. The trajectory of the reviews was going up, which I took as a good sign: My first book will always be special and important, but I also want it to be the worst book I ever write.

I want the last book I ever write to be the best.

Whether I accomplish that, who knows, all this shit is subjective. But it’s nice to see something that could serve as evidence that, yeah, maybe I am getting better at this.

(Oh, and, hey, The Woman from Prague comes out July 11—you can pre-order it here.)

Join the street team for ‘The Woman from Prague’

WFPDo you want to read The Woman from Prague before anyone else? Then join the Ash McKenna street team!

Here’s how it works: Sign up at this link, tell me your preferred eBook format, and I’ll send you an advance reader copy.

(Sorry, print galleys are limited at this time—I can only accommodate people who’ve sold their soul to the electronic devil that is the eReader.)

Nothing in life is free, of course. This is mostly free but I’m going to ask a few things in return.

  • Add it on Goodreads and post an honest review when you’re done (if you have a Goodreads account).
  • Post an honest review of the book on Amazon the day of release (July 11).

That’s it! You might get some swag in the mail at some point too. We’ll see about that.

So, you down? Want to join? Get moving. Spots are limited. Click here.