Tuesday, December 28, 2010

When the book is finished, the real book begins.

If you're a writer, you've probably seen that statement dozens of times. Publisher, agents and blog sites will tell you time and again that writing the book is the easy part; marketing and publicizing the book are where the real work comes in.

That's a load, and you know it. Writing the book is damned hard, and proofing it is ten times harder. I think once your book is finished, it's more fair to say congratulations...you're half way there.

But it's no joke that marketing your work is time and labor intensive, especially for the new wave of self-publishers (such as I) who don't have the luxury of an agent or publisher to push their work. Where an established author would be setting up a book tour, speaking engagements, signings, etc., we must start at the beginning...trying to get the world to recognize us with as little capital investment as possible.

For instance, to promote my book, Murder Behind the Closet Door, I have established:

• This blog
• The StarDust Mysteries Website
• The MBTCD Facebook Page
• Two Twitter Accounts
• Two additional Blogs, including Tiki Lounge Talk dot com (dedicated to retro/tiki living)
• A Facebook Page for Tiki Lounge Talk
• A separate website dedicated to MBTCD
• A separate email account
• Accounts on various internet groups, including writing and reading groups.

You can imagine how much time it takes to update all these vehicles on a daily or even weekly basis. And remember, I am creating content, not just re-posting other peoples' work. Add to that photos, artwork, and original short stories that I create to make my posts interesting...you can see where this is going.

So the point of this post is lay down (electronically) some of the things an aspiring writer has to go through just to sell a few copies of a book. Hopefully, these efforts will pay off...as more people become aware of, buy and read the book, and the more popular I as an author become, the better chance I (or any good writer) has of getting the attention of an agent or publisher.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from the land of palm trees and coconuts

Living in South Florida means never seeing it snow on Christmas. It's 72 and sunny today, and later we'll BBQ burgers and ribs, and eat out on the lanai at the Tiki Bar.

I do miss some of my South Jersey Christmases though; sometimes my father would drive us down Ocean Drive, through Ocean City, Sea Isle City, all the way down to Wildwood and Cape May, just to see how crazy it was that these towns were all asleep. The traffic lights would be turned off for the winter; some would be covered with canvas bags to protect them from the weather. Stores would be closed and boarded up for the season. One house in fifty might have Christmas lights up.

We also had a tradition back then to go to the local department stores on Christmas eve, just before closing, just to see the toy departments in shambles. I remember very clearly going to Bradlee's in Pleasantville and seeing the toy shelves nearly empty. A few broken toys, open boxes and misc. trash littered the floor. There were very few people in the store. It was crazy. On more than one ocassion, when we got home Santa had come early and I got my gifts on Christmas eve. My whole family would come down the shore from Philly to our house. Christmas day would be filled with tons of food, cookies and toys. Ahhh.

Things are so different these days. I was in a department store this past weekend, and was very surprised to find a fully-stocked, neat and clean toy and holiday department. It's not that people weren't buying...the lines were out the door...it's just that stores have somehow figured out how to keep the stocks up. Maybe it has something to do with computerized inventory. Maybe it's because 35 years ago, store buyers knew exactly how much they'd need to get them through the season without overspending. Who knows.

So today we're opening gifts (my wife got me a great retro donut maker, among other things), drinking eggnog grog and watching old Christmas movies and shows, like we do every year. Later we'll have the BBQ, and enjoy the great weather. I love it, but I miss those Christmases from the old days.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ghosts and Electrical Disturbances: Paranormal Mystery, or Technical Malfunction?

Some of the most commonly reported paranormal experiences involve disturbances with man-made electrical equipment...lights turning on and off, bulbs blowing out unexpectedly, EMF meters going off, and voice coming across speakers, radios or recorders when no one is there to make the sounds. Indeed, some of my own paranormal experiences have been electrical disturbances, and I incorporated several of these types of "haunts" into my book, Murder Behind The Closet Door. Thousands, if not millions of people have had similar experiences. But are they really paranormal? Or something much more common, and much less interesting?

My personal experience (without going into a lot of detail) involved several light bulbs blowing out in my home long before their life expectancy was due. This always happens each year around the time my father passed away, and I've always felt there has been a connection there. Brand new bulbs, even the 7-year jobs, will blow out in his old room two weeks before the date of his death, and up to a week or so after. Oh, and he died on Halloween day.

I believe these occurrences are caused by either left over energy from his death (it was pretty traumatic), or his soul reaching out from the netherworld to let me know he still exists, somehow. I believe that because it comforts me to know that he does still exist, and that there is something beyond our own plane of existence.

Of course, the argument could be made that the bulbs are blowing out for completely practical reasons. After all, our house was built in South Florida in 1974, an area and an era that are renown for quickly-built homes constructed with cheap materials. Our wiring is over 35 years old, and does not meet current electrical code. Over the years, several people have rewired lights, switches and ceiling fans with total disregard for code. It could be the bulbs are burning out because the wiring is junk. But then again, why do they only blow out around Halloween?

Watch any episode of the Ghost Hunters and you'll see they rely heavily on sounds recorded on digital recorders and video cameras. Known as EVPs, or electronic voice phenomena, these "ghostly voices" can't be heard by the naked ear, but come across (sometimes with exceptional clarity) on recording devices. The investigators will show that no one was in the room at the time of the recording, therefore asserting that the voices are paranormal.

This reminds me of something that I experienced when I was a teenager growing up in South Jersey. We lived just off one of the main highways leading into Atlantic City, the Black Horse Pike (Route 40). This was the 1970s and 80s, and a lot of people used CB radios back then to talk to each other on the road. Even our next door neighbor had a 40-foot CB antenna to broadcast and receive. Well, one summer afternoon while sitting in my room, I heard an eerie, metallic voice come through my stereo's speakers. I thought I was imagining it. I stopped what I was doing and listened more intently. Once again a voice came through the speakers. The voice continued, scratchy and strange, but I could make out what it was saying. I was hearing half a conversation between a trucker and a base station. Something about delivering car parts, if I remember right. It was someone's CB broadcast being picked up by the magnets in my speakers, and coming though. Not a ghost at all.

If you understand how speakers and microphones work, this shouldn't surprise you. They both consist of magnets and wire, configured in such a way that they either transfer sound waves into electromagnetic waves, or convert electromagnetic waves into sound waves. If the conditions are right, and they often are, electromagnetic waves can be picked up by a number of speakers, amplifiers, even metallic tooth fillings. Nothing paranormal about it at all. It's when those voices answer the investigators' questions that things start to get interesting.

I think the thing that annoys me most is this whole theory on 'orbs' in photographs. These are balls of light that seem to have intelligence. They generate their own light (rather than reflect light) and are thought to be the energy of spirits. Well, you can chalk up about 99.9% of these orbs to dust, bugs, and camera anomalies. Dust particles in the air will look twenty times their size when they reflect the light of a camera's flash. I know, I've taken plenty of photos that were ruined by dust. Because the particle is illuminated so intensely it causes a halo effect, making it appear that the ball is giving off energy, not just reflecting it. Orbs that move quickly are almost always bugs. I've seen a few rare occurrences where these orbs are unexplained, but too many people foolishly report them as spirits much too often.

Feelings of dread: Ever walk into a building, or room, and feel like something evil is there? I have. To the point where I couldn't stay in the room alone. On some of those occasions I truly felt there was a presence, something there that should not have been there. But on several occasions, I know it was just something normal. Let's take my bedroom closet, for instance. One of the reasons I wrote a book about a ghost in the closet is because this is something that almost everyone has feared at some point in their lives, usually during childhood. My closet now, as an adult, is not very scary. It's a nice, bright walk-in with some clothes and stuffed animals in it. My wife has a lot of shoes that wind up on the floor when the cat decides to play house in there, but other than that, it's just a closet. Yet, if you walk into that closet and stand there for just a minute or two, your head will feel like it's going to cave in. Seriously. The air pressure in there must be twice what it is anywhere else on the planet. And a deep, menacing hum can be heard, without know where it comes from. It took me a while to figure out what was causing all this...it turns out nothing more than poor engineering and architectural design. Our home is a one-story, concrete block house built on a cement slab, with an outdoor central air conditioning unit and an outdoor pool pump. All of the houses on our block are built the same way. The humming comes from a combination of mechanical sounds from our central air unit and the neighbor's pool pump. The humming of these electric motors converge in this closet, and small enclosed space at the far end of the house. The sound waves basically ram into each other and intensify, like ocean waves hitting the beach. This effect also causes extra pressure on the ears, giving you a feeling of oppression, or even dread. Go in there at night with the light off, and you'll think you're surrounded by evil spirits.

I don't mean to discredit anyone in this post, especially ghost hunters or people who are sensitive to the paranormal. I just mean that if you think there's an evil spirit in the closet, it just might be science giving you a fright. Then again, you never know.

(Please excuse any typos in this post. It's late, I'm tired, and it's way too long to proofread right now!)

Keywords: ghosts, ghost hunters, paranormal, Christopher Pinto's Murder Behind The Closet Door, Wildwood Ghost Story, Wildwood Murder Mystery

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In Honor of Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941

In Honor of Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941
I’m saving our weekly Mod Movie Monday for Wednesday this week, in order to post something for Pearl Harbor Day. Please visit my Tiki Lounge Talk for my feelings on Pearl Harbor Day

Monday, November 29, 2010

In Honor of Leslie Nielson: Airplane! 1980, For Mod Movie Monday

In Honor of Leslie Nielson: Airplane! 1980, For Mod Movie Monday

Over at my Tiki Lounge Talk: "If I were to list all the movies and TV shows Leslie Nielson appeared it, I’d have to have my ISP increase my bandwith. Leslie Nielson started acting on-screen in 1950 and never took a break. For 60 years he’s been entertaining us, first as one of TV’s early tough-guy actors, appearing in just about every TV show that was on the air from Rawhide to The Untouchables, The Fugitive to Route 66, and later Love Boat to Fantasy Island to The Golden Girls and everything in between. He was the Commander in Forbidden Planet long before Airplane! changed his career, exposing his hidden comedic talents...."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chris Pinto's Murder Behind The Closet Door makes a great Stocking Stuffer

Buying a copy of Murder Behind the Closet Door at Amazon.com is a great way to save some holiday shopping time. You can have it sent to you, or directly to someone as a gift. If you know someone who loves to read, loves mysteries and loves ghost stories, MBTCD is for them.

Written in an original style with influences by Micky Spillane, Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Dunning, Murder Behind The Closet Door masterfully mixes the genres of mystery and paranormal with a touch of nostalgia. The action takes place in Wildwood and Ocean City, New Jersey, set mainly in 1978-79 with flashbacks to the 50s and 30s. Anyone who's lived in that area will love the cues to the local Jersey Shore culture. Anyone who hasn't will easily get pulled into the world of Heather and her friends as they try to discover what's been torturing them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

At Tiki Chris Pinto's Tiki Lounge Talk: Who Cares About The Tonga Room? I do

 If you know me at all you know I'm a big fan of Tiki Bars and mid-century Poly-pop culture. I'm lucky enough to be 15 minutes away from the World Famous Mai Kai, but it kills me whenever I hear of one of the old, original Tiki Bars getting the axe in the name of "progress". The Tonga Room, situated in the basement of the Historic Fairmont Hotel in San Fransisco, has been delighting guests since the 1920s, first as a ship-themed restaurant, The SS Tonga, and later the Tiki bar. The new owners of the hotel want to demolish the tower in which the Tonga Room sits in order to make room for a new, modern tower with additional hotel rooms and Condos.

In the last 30 years, the word "condo" has become a four-letter word to me. It seems that all developers want to do is find places that people love, then bulldoze everything that make people love it and build condos. I've seen it in Wildwood, NJ, in Key West, and in South Florida. It's happening everywhere, and pretty soon there won't be anything left for the people in Condos to enjoy.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bucket of Blood, 1959 & House of Wax, 1953 for Mod Movie Monday

Bucket of Blood, 1959 and House of Wax, 1953 for Mod Movie Monday

From now through Halloween, each week Mod Movie Monday at Tiki Lounge Talk will feature a new vintage horror movie for your viewing pleasure.
Stardust Mysteries
Murder Behind the Closet Door
Tiki Lounge Talk

Friday, September 10, 2010

Here's a little snippet from Chapter 3 of Murder Behind the Closet Door

They reached the edge of the property. There were brambles and weeds that hid what was left of an old rotted chain-link fence, parts of which still stood two feet high. They carefully picked over the weeds, shining both lights on their path. Rocco tore his pants on a piece of rusted fence, and let out a quiet but evil-sounding curse. Riggins did all he could not to laugh.
Ahead to the Right was a boarded up bungalow. The roof was partially caved in and the back porch had collapsed long ago, but the house still stood. There was a pile of scrap metal behind Slate’s garage that cast jagged, eerie shadows from Rocco’s light. Small dead trees and weeds obscured most of the house, but they could still make out “CONDEMNED” stenciled across each of the boards on the windows.
They made it through the thicket and headed for the old car. Riggins shined his light under the trunk, noticing a lot of rust and scale on the ground under it, and large dark patches on the cracked and worn concrete slab on which the rear of the car rested.
“See those dark spots?” He said.
“Yea, you think it’s old blood stains?”
“Could be.”
“After all these years? Could be oil spots too.”
“Could be.”
The car dipped at about a 15° pitch to the driver’s side due to the two flat tires. When they got closer, they could see that all of the glass was still in the windows, but each pane was so encrusted with grime that the light simply bounced off. Holes from the size of quarters to baseballs were rotted through all along the bottom of the fenders and doors. But it still held itself together.
And then they were at the trunk.
A cold sweat was breaking out all over Riggins. He hated this detail on any investigation, finding bodies of murder victims. It made him sick a couple of times, like the time he found the teenage prostitute hacked to death with a kitchen knife and stuffed in a trash can. But there would be no blood this time; if this guy was still in here, he was nothing but rags and bones. He hoped.
And of course there was a good chance there was nothing in there at all. After all, a junk car in a neighborhood like this is usually attacked by kids as soon as no one is looking. He thought about the Dodge 440 up the same street with no wheels or glass. He found it very odd this car was still intact, aside from the rust.
“I’ll hold the light…you use the crow bar. Shouldn’t be too hard…the trunk’s all rotted out around the lock,” Rocco said, taking a step back. Apparently he didn’t like this detail either.
“Ok, here goes.” It only took one pry of the bar to snap the rusted metal of the 30 year-old sedanette like peanut brittle. The springs were still good though, and the trunk popped up fast and easy.
It was the first time the trunk was opened in 20 years.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stephen King Fans love Murder Behind the Closet Door

Spoke with another satisfied reader of Murder Behind the Closet Door today. She's only 70-some pages into the book and is already hooked. Two comments she made gave me a very happy feeling inside. First, she said my writing was very descriptive, to the point that she could see the characters, the places they lived in, the Wildwood boardwalk. Second she compared my style to Stephen King's early works, which was not only a compliment by itself, it also made me smile because that's exactly the style I was going for in this book. Spooky, dark, mysterious with surprises in every chapter.

She also said she envied my ability to write. Another great compliment, and from a professional in the media industry, too. I thanked her a zillion times, but didn't go into detail as to how I got to this point in writing: practice. I've been writing for close to 30 years now, from when I was in school (I wrote several short stories and a full length musical-comedy before I graduated high school), through the 1990s where I wrote for The Atlantic City Press' At The Shore entertainment guide to the dozen or show comedy-murder mysteries for Stardust Productions. Along the way (and through the present) I've also done commercial and advertising copywriting, from tag lines to multiple-page brochures. And of course there are the blogs, including Tiki Lounge Talk.com and The Retro Tiki Lounge on Facebook.

Being a writer is more than just being creative. You've got to get those creative ideas down in a natural, flowing form that people will enjoy reading. It has to make sense, have a purpose, and be fun to read. Practice makes perfect. Knowing decent grammar and syntax helps too. When you can do all that, then you're a writer.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Jumping back into writing

The last couple of weeks have been a little crazy...from being extra busy at the Ad Agency to caring for dying puppies, I haven't had time (or the energy) to do my daily writing. As is often the case with writers, I was on a role and am finding it hard to get back in the groove.

I've got the ideas in my head. I've got the plan of action. It's just opening the file and writing things down that can be a drag after two weeks. So I've made a new plan.

I'm not going to write today.

I've got a bunch of things I want to get out of the way first, and I'll get them all done today. That leaves tomorrow, Labor Day, free to do anything I want...including writing. So that's the plan. A day off from writing on my own terms. Tomorrow I sit down and write the beginning of the end of my new book, Murder on Tiki Island.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wish I had an Advertising Budget

Absolutely, publishing a book today is a miracle dream for people like me. It's marketing it that's a challenge.
When I was a kid (the last few years before the home computer began changing the world) getting anything published meant typing up a manuscript double-spaced on 20lb paper and sending it out snail mail to agents to read. They'd read a few pages and give a yea or neigh, and if you wanted it back you had to include a self-addressed stamped envelope. There were no public photocopiers, and when they finally came along in the late 1970s copies were 25 cents each. So copying a 300-page manuscript meant $75. Kookie.

I remember I wanted to turn a short story I had written into a book. Just one book, just for myself. I didn't even have a decent typewriter so I tried to lay out the pages by writing the story in calligraphy on parchment paper. Well, my hand shake a lot, even then. That didn't work out so well. Somewhere in a box I have several shaky pages of handwritten story along with a cover I tried to use from another old book. Oh well.

Fast-forward to 2008. Internet-based printhouses are advertising printing for self-publishing authors at incredibly low rates. Instead of buying 1000 books at $4.00 each, you can get a short-run of high-quality books for as little as $5 each. So you can upload your Word file to their site, design a cover online and buy 100 books for $500. Still sort of out of the money for most of us, but a great improvement.

Fast-forward to 2010. Amazon very sneakily has started their own publishing print works to support their web store. Basically they realized they could make just as much money off of authors buying copies of books as readers. So they launch CreateSpace.com, and offer aspiring authors the opportunity to design their own books and covers and upload the files quickly to the site with $0 money out of pocket. That's right, I said $0. Once the files are reviewed by CS, the author simply has to buy a proof copy...generally around $4.00 to $12.00...and that's it. You get your proof which is a full-quality printing of your book. Done. Ok the proof and start selling your books one-off at no cost to you. In fact, you make royalties every time a book is sold. Not a lot, but something.


Now here's the problem: I wish I had an advertising budget. Now that Murder Behind the Closet Door is in printing, is available for purchase online, and will soon be available in Kindle format, the only thing holding me back from making it a best seller is getting people to find it.

I've done a lot with social networking and have sold several copies through that route. But if I could spend a few hundred dollars a month on marketing, I think I could really get it to take off. Of course I'd lose a lot more money than I'd make, but the point is to get the book out there, get it in the hands of people who can get it looked at by agents or publishers to get a mainstream book deal. Well, that's the plan, anyway.

In all modesty I now know the book is damned good. I've talked to dozens of people who have read it, most who don't know me from Adam, and they've all had great things to say about it. Some have even left reviews on Amazon.com...all great, four and five stars. So it's commercially viable. It's a great story with fun characters and the subject matter has a wide appeal. All I need now is the right set of eyes to fall on it.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mad Men, then writing on Murder on Tiki Island

It's been a long couple of weeks, and I haven't had much time to work on my newest book, Murder on Tiki Island. This weekend was my wife's birthday also, so I spent a lot of it with her...which meant no time to write over the weekend. (Not that I'm complaining, it was a fun weekend!). It's now Sunday night and her birthday weekend has officially come to an end, so I intend to watch MAD MEN (a favorite of mine for obvious reasons) then get back to writing the final chapters of Murder on Tiki Island.

For those who aren't familiar with my new book (I've been talking it up on my Facebook Pages, Murder Behind the Closet Door and The Retro Tiki Lounge) this story is a lot like the old 1950's pulp Noir detective stories that so many of us enjoy. Sort of a Mike Hammer meets Les Baxter sort of thing. It takes place in 1956, and mixes a bit of real history with a fictional resort island in the Florida Keys and a taste of the paranormal. Detective Riggins (from Murder Behind the Closet Door) is featured in his youth as he gets himself mixed up in murder and the occult while trying to vacation in the Keys. Beautiful women, sandy beaches, a multi-million dollar Tiki themed resort and enough tropical drinks to drown a whale combine with fierce Atlantic hurricanes and the phantoms of a lurid past to bring you Murder on Tiki Island.

I hope to have this new book available in time for the Christmas Season. In the mean time, be sure to check out Murder Behind the Closet Door at Amazon.com

-Christopher Pinto, StarDust Mysteries

Thursday, August 26, 2010

1950’s Car Commercials…The Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

1950’s Car Commercials…The Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

Living in the past - vintage ads

As Creative Director for a national automotive advertising agency, I always find advertisements from our past to be both interesting and a source of inspiration. Car ads from the 1930s through the 1960s show a level of sophistication...even Chevrolet talked about luxury, as Cadillac set it's automobiles on pillars high above the competition. The ads were very wordy - they talked to the consumer, persuaded them to read or listen to how wonderful, exciting and new their products were. You don't see much of that today...today's audience wants excitement and facts. They'll decide which product is best.

I've got several examples of excellent TV and print advertisements at my Retro Blog, Tiki Lounge Talk. Check them out when you have a chance.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

For Those Who Love Noir & Vintage Stories

Chris Pinto playing sax as Detective Bernie in "Who Shot The Piano Player!?",
StarDust Productions Mystery theater ran from 1999 to 2010. Our main focus was to bring a taste of comedy, mystery and music from days gone by to our audiences. All of our shows (written by yours truly, Christopher Pinto) incorporated jazz and swing standards, and borrowed heavily from the old time comedians including Jack Benny, Milton Berle and Sid Ceasar. We also took a lot of cues from Sinatra and Dean Martin in style, timing and personality. Every show opened with a sight gag; every performance ended with Star Dust by Artie Shaw.

I put the same spirit into Murder Behind The Closet Door. Set in 1979 with flashbacks to 1938 and the 1950s, MBTCD opens a window into times past through the use of music, characters and atmosphere. From the green shag carpeting in Heather's apartment to the dilapidated remains of Slate's house, the descriptive tone will pull you deep into the times and places of this book's world.

To read some excerpts from book, go to StarDust Mysteries and click on "What's Behind The Closet Door". Or visit Amazon.com to view the first and last few pages of the actual book.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Murder Behind the Closet Door at Amazon.com

So far the response on my new novel, "Murder Behind the Closet Door" has been fantastic. Five star reviews on Amazon.com, lots of great comments on the MBTCD Facebook Fan Page!

I'm very excited about the opportunities that online publishing has opened up for authors like myself. For years the only way to get a publisher to look at your work was through an agent, and the only way to get an agent to look at your work was if you were already published. This limited new authors to either having a friend in the industry, or taking the academic route and publishing through college resources. Well, no more of that. Now, with social media and inexpensive online publishing aspiring authors can submit their work to the world and let the audience decide on whether it's good enough to read. And once a work is established as being commercially profitable, it will be a lot easier to convince traditional agents and publishers to take a look.

At least that's the plan. It's also a lot of work, a lot more work than writing the book itself. But I'll try. And as long as people keep buying Murder Behind The Closet Door and giving good reviews I'll keep on trying to get it published mainstream!

Thank you to everyone who has purchased and read MBTCD. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

-Chris Pinto