Letter From Home

A quick update on a couple of things:

* Big Weed, the marijuana book I ghosted, landed two sweet reviews this week, one from Publishers Weekly, the other from Kirkus. The PW review is a starred review, which is quite nice. The author is happy, so are the publishers. The book is out in April.

* I'm driving home Friday to interview mystery writer Jamie Mason this Friday at our local bookstore, Malaprop's, for the launch of Mason’s second book, Monday’s Lie. I liked her first book, Three Graves Full, but Monday’s Lie is something special. The main character was raised by a mom who was a covert ops asset, and who taught her a variety of cool skills. Years later, Mom’s long gone, and our protag must call upon those skills to confront something terrible that’s cropped up in her life. Mason has a beautiful way with the language. A true stylist. If you’re in town, I hope you’ll come check out our “In Conversation With.”

* I just put up a new website. I hope you’ll stop by to look it over, and more importantly, shoot me a note if you spot any embarrassing bugs. From now on, my blog posts will originate at the new site, and be pushed out to Tumblr and Twitter. If you’re already following me on Tumblr, there’s no need to migrate over. The pushes are nearly instantaneous.

* * *  

Thanks for the kind response to my last post. Yes, our family is still hunkered down in Denise’s mom’s condo, acting as her daily caregivers. I don’t think this little apartment was made for five adults and a dog, but we’re determined to wait out this disease to its inevitable, sad conclusion. We are grateful for the friends who’ve stopped by to cheer us (and mom) up. We’ve left up the Christmas tree, thinking it makes nice touch to see those lights from time to time. But since the the holiday season is long gone, it’s a little hard to use that annual break as an excuse for procrastinating on our work. So we’ve staked out the corners of the condo that feel quiet enough to work, and started plugging away again. The nearby university has a great library; we escaped there for a few hours this week and it was awesome. Hope to go again if we can manage it.

As this horror progresses, I’ve been reminded of one of the doctors I once profiled. His story is told in the The Scientist and the Sociopath, but you can read it free here. The doc became closer with his mom following the death of his father and other family members, all in a single year, when he was a child. I was touched that the doc trusted me enough to report how he felt back then:

The mother did not know, and the boy did not tell her, that at night in his bed he bargained with God. He had attended five funerals in little more than a year, and they had terrified him. Over the graves of his loved ones he learned the words of the Lord’s Prayer for the first time. At night, he prayed: Please, God, don’t let my mom die. Please don’t take her from me.

His prayers were answered. She lived long and prospered. When she died four years ago at the age of sixty-nine, she was a wealthy woman. When she took sick with lung cancer, he gave her the greatest gift he could. He shut down his practice and cared for her 24/7 for the last seven months of her life. “It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” he says.

2011: A Year in Review

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D'Agnese, displayed in store window of Malaprop's Bookstore, Asheville, NC

A buddy of mine is fond of saying, “I’m fascinated by the passage of time and the aging process.” Um, me too. I especially like looking at my calendar and desk diary at the end of the year to see what I actually accomplished in the year just ended. I just did that today and 2011 frankly amazes me.

In the last 12 months, I...

  • self-pubbed two books (Scientist and the Sociopath; Jersey Heat)

  • had another book released traditionally

  • was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal for the very first time

  • got a starred review in School Library Journal

  • wrote a “Bible” for a TV show based on a book I hadn’t yet written and watched as it was actually bought

  • wrote a proposal for a ghost-writing project and sold it for six figures

  • wrote one book proposal that went nowhere

  • “conferenced” with a half dozen potential ghost-writing clients about projects that went nowhere

  • contracted, wrote, and shipped a short history book that will be out in spring

  • wrote a children’s picture book that’s making the rounds

  • recorded a hilarious podcast for a presentation we did for International Freelancers Day

  • gave 7 talks at various bookstores, historic sites, and conferences in the U.S.

  • did my first TV appearance

  • did more than 30 radio interviews

  • did one school visit

  • did more than a dozen Skype visits with classrooms for my children’s book

  • wrote, finished, and submitted to our publisher on a “Big Think” book with a collaborator overseas

  • made numerous out-of-state trips with my wife to help her interview sources and do research for her upcoming history title

  • visited Monticello for the first time ever and signed our books in their bookstore

  • taught myself how to format an ebook (ongoing)

  • conceived a new fiction book series

  • conducted weeks of interviews with a co-author whose memoir I’m ghosting

  • wrote and created a hilarious book trailer

  • made some wonderful new friends in the world of self-publishing

  • donated books to the troops

  • had our books featured in two major catalogs and the holiday gift list of a major city magazine

  • mentored a high-schooler who wrote a children’s book

  • wrote a novel that I’ll self-pub this spring

  • saw some Broadway shows

  • saw a ton of movies

  • lost an uncle

  • Facebooked, Tweeted, blogged, Google-plussed

  • discovered many new fascinating writers who blog

  • ran a local group for freelancers

  • hugged and drank with local booksellers

  • threw a couple of parties

  • wondered where the year went

  • wondered why I never have enough time to do the important things.

Professionally, the biggest change this year was jumping into the world of self-publishing. Despite all the good things I experienced this year in the world of traditional publishing, I am more excited every time I sell even one copy of my indie-pubbed ebook. The future is there, and I hope to do more books this way in 2012.

Part of my and my wife’s success with traditional book sales is that we’ve always been willing to hop in the car and drive somewhere to give talks, meet booksellers, and do conferences. We firmly believe that this one-on-one contact is important and ultimately helps us. But there’s no denying that it’s exhausting, and we’re hoping to reduce the number of trips we do in 2012 and focus more on writing.

Self-publishing has the potential to increase earnings and allow us to build relationships with readers directly, without having to hope they stop by at the next signing.

Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your collection of free ebooks, go here. Thanks!

Holiday Reminder

Signing Their Rights Away by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D'Agnese

Just a reminder for anyone who is looking for signed copies of my traditionally published books: The best way to get autographed copies is to order them by phone from the two independent bookstores in the town where I live.

Both Malaprop’s and the children’s bookstore Spellbound will take orders, get me in to autograph the books any way you like, and ship them out to you.

Both stores currently have stock on all my titles, and ordering from them is simpler than mailing me the book and having me sign and return it to you.

As always, if you already have a book and would like a signed bookplate, contact me via the contact page. A good season to all!

Yes, I am trying to post here more often. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your collection of free ebooks, go here. Thanks!