Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Get Better, Not Bitter

There will be setbacks.

There will be critics.

There will be raised hopes that are crushed, and expectations that are never fulfilled.

There will be difficult stretches.

There will be high hurdles.

There will be a lot of waiting. A whole lot.

There will be blows to your pride.

There will be attacks on your person.

There will be rejections, and more rejections, and even more rejections.

There will be people who don't think you can do it.

There will be people who don't think you should be doing it.

There will be hundreds of things that will make you consider quitting.

Don't get bitter.

Get better.

Write more. Improve your craft. Learn the business.

Make success your only option.

Take joy in the good things that happen, and grow stronger from the bad things.

No one likes a whiner.

Everyone loves a winner.

Be a winner.

Get better.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Brain Donors

Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed a lot of really stupid behavior lately.

Here are some of the dumbass characters I've recently run into on the World Wide Web.

THE ONE STAR WHORE - Some folks go on certain review sites and feel the need to bash stories with one-star reviews. Why? I can only deduce some over-inflated sense of self-importance that compels a percentage of the population to see their diatribes on the internets, sort of the equivalent of a giant refrigerator door. Look what I did, Mom! I'm a negative prick!

JOE'S RESPONSE - Negative reviews amuse me. I don't complain about them, or try to have them removed, because I believe rational people can come to their own conclusions about whether or not to read something, and aren't influenced by poorly-worded hate-fests. I particularly love the reviews from people who got the book for free and then feel the need to warn folks against ruining their lives by making the same mistake they did and reading the offending material. I bet your family can't stand you.

THE SPOILING CRITIC - Getting professional reviews is important to writers, and it comes with the territory that a certain amount of them will be negative. But some asshole critics think their job isn't to rehash and rate, but also to spoil major plot points in the book.

JOE'S RESPONSE - Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, critique. Those who can't critique well, spoil. How frustrated a person do you have to be to want to ruin someone else's potential enjoyment? Perhaps we should ask the folks at Kirkus that very question.

THE CONTEST MOANER - I was recently a contest judge, and some folks took exception to my list of "don'ts" I recently blogged about. They feel I'm not fair.

JOE'S RESPONSE - Don't enter contests. If your story is good enough, find an editor who will pay for it. But guess what? If you do the things I mentioned not to do, you won't find an editor. Also, someone is knocking on your door. It's Life, and he's holding a big sign that says "I'm Not Fair." Maybe you should let him in and get to know him.

THE WOE IS ME AUTHOR - We all know the publishing industry drops books and series all the time. They have a myriad of reasons for doing this, many of them impenetrable. But whining about this in public, no matter how much it stings, is asking for sympathy, which is pathetic.

JOE'S RESPONSE - You do not get future book contracts through sympathy. Yes, the publishing industry is often unfair, and sometimes downright idiotic. But airing your dirty laundry isn't the way to fight back. Fight back with great writing. We all get kicked. But we don't have to acknowledge it. After sincerity, the thing all people must learn to fake is confidence.

THE ENTITLEMENT JUNKIE - These folks seem to think they deserve some sort of success, and like to spout the Conspiracy Against Them and publicly wonder why they aren't getting what they're due.

JOE'S RESPONSE - No one deserves anything. There is only luck and hard work. Once you feel you're due something, or that people are keeping you from getting yours, you're on a slippery slope that usually ends in obscurity.

THE GREEN FAIRY - Envy is a disease. It's easy to look at other writers and compare yourself to something they possess; money, fame, awards, print runs, bestsellerdom, talent. It's also easy to take pot shots at these writers, while secretly (or not so secretly) wishing you were them.

JOE'S RESPONSE - Your race is with yourself, not with your peers. Never compare yourself to another writer for any reason whatsoever. Once you start wishing for someone else's career, you aren't tending to your own.

THE ME ME ME - The definition of a bore is someone who talks and doesn't bother to notice if anyone else is in the room. Writers may be more self-absorbed than most, but they shouldn't mistake this for being so fascinating that every other word they speak is "I."

JOE'S RESPONSE - If you're in a conversation and more than half of it is coming from your mouth, it isn't a conversation--it's a monologue. If you're in a conversation and the only questions you ask are directed at yourself, I pity the poor saps stuck in your orbit. At least have the decency to pass out cyanide capsules when you walk into the room.

THE INSULTER - Nothing says "I'm pathetic" like name-calling. Yet some folks feel the need to hurl insults, and direct criticism toward the person rather than the comment. This, like many of the above, is a result of the Internet, which buffers accountability. As such, some folks feel it is okay to be rude little twits, because they're protected from being socked in the mouth.

JOE'S RESPONSE - If you wouldn't say it to a person's face, don't say it on the net. Ideas and opinions are a lot of fun to discuss, defend, and attack. But once it becomes personal, you've lost control, and lost the discussion, you asshole.

THE SELF-PUBBED MARTYR - There's nothing wrong with self-pubbing. But the majority of the writers in the world won't equate it with traditional publishing, for too many reasons to be discussed here. If you want the respect of your peers, it isn't going to be by logically presenting your points and calmly discussing why their views are irrational, any more than intelligent discourse saved anyone on the Trail of Tears. And bemoaning your lack of respect in the publishing world is just a rally for more people to attack you.

JOE'S RESPONSE - If you want the respect of your peers, get a traditional publishing contract. Personally, I think peer respect is useless, and trying to join a club that doesn't want you is futile. Stop trying to convince the world you're relevant. The world will ultimately figure that out for itself.

THE KNOW IT ALL BLOGGER - This guy spouts advice and opinions like he's God's Gift to the World, guising his superiority under the banner of "being helpful."

JOE'S RESPONSE - Thank this man profusely, and buy all of his books. The latest is CHERRY BOMB, now on sale...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Cherry Bomb by JA Konrath


My sixth Jack Daniels book, CHERRY BOMB, is available today in hardcover.

I encourage everyone to buy several copies. If you have any money left over, pick up ABANDON by Blake Crouch (the co-writer of SERIAL), which also comes out today and kicks absolute ass. If you like my books, you'll love this.


If you want to meet me in person, and also meet authors Henry Perez and Jeff Strand, my booklaunch party is at:

CENTURIES AND SLEUTHS BOOKSTORE, July 12, 2pm-4:30pm, 7419 W. Madison St. Forest Park, IL.

Feel free to bring people along. All of my books will be for sale, and the beer is free. You don't think I'd have a booklaunch without free beer, do you?


If you want to kick back and listen to me talk shop and crack wise, I've recently been on two podcasts.

You can hear me and Blake talk about SERIAL, CHERRY BOMB, ABANDON, and many other things on Diabolical Radio at

Then, if you want to hear me really get silly, check out the podcast at You should bookmark Genrefinity--it's a fun site run by some crazy guys who love everything genre. The podcast is at


Finally, for those who missed my previous announcement, I wrote a horrific thriller novella with Jack Kilborn called TRUCK STOP. It's available exclusively as an ebook, and features Jack Daniels.

Which brings me to a question I'm often asked. "Joe, can you list every Jack Daniels story?"


WHISKEY SOUR - Book #1, Jack chases The Gingerbread Man. Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. 2004.

BLOODY MARY - Book #2, Jack chases a rogue cop. Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. 2005.

RUSTY NAIL - Book #3, Jack chases The Gingerbread Man's family. Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. 2006.

DIRTY MARTINI - Book #4, Jack chases The Chemist. Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. 2007.

FUZZY NAVEL - Book #5, Jack chases the Urban Hunting Club and Alex Kork. Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. 2008.

CHERRY BOMB - Book #6, Jack chases Alex Kork. Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. 2009.

THE LIST - Jack makes a cameo in this technothriller novel. Available on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2009.

SHOT OF TEQUILA - Jack co-stars in this crime novel, which takers place in the early 1990s. Available on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2009.

ON THE ROCKS - Jack in a locked room mystery short. Originally appeared in Ellery Queen. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2004.

WHELP WANTED - Jack's ex-partner, Harry McGlade, acting like Harry. Originally appeared in Futures Magazine. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2004.

STREET MUSIC - Jack's criminal buddy, Phineas Troutt. Originally appeared in Ellery Queen. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2004.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY - A Gingerbread Man short story. Originally read by me at the end of the Whiskey Sour audiobook. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2004.

WITH A TWIST - Jack in a locked room mystery short. Originally appeared in Ellery Queen. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2005.

EPITAPH - Phin in a revenge tale. Originally appeared in THRILLER edited by James Patterson. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2006.

TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS - Harry being Harry. Originally appeared in The Strand Magazine. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2005.

BODY SHOTS - Jack in a school shooting. Originally appeared on Amazon Shorts. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2005.

SUFFER - Phin as a hired killer. Originally appeared in Ellery Queen. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2005.

OVERPROOF - Jack Daniels and a suicide bomber. Originally appeared in CHICAGO BLUES edited by Libby Fischer Hellmann. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2007.

BEREAVEMENT - Phin making ends meet. Originally appeared in THESE GUNS FOR HIRE edited by JA Konrath. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2005.

POT SHOT - Jack partner, Herb. Originally appeared on Amazon Shorts. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2004.

LAST REQUEST - Phin on a quest. Originally appeared in my short story collection 55 Proof. Available on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2007.

SUCKERS - Harry, teaming up with Jeff Strand's Andrew Mayhem. Originally appeared as a limited edition hardcover. Available on my website and on the Kindle. 2007.

FLOATERS - Jack, teaming up with Henry Perez's Alex Chapa. Originally appeared in MISSING edited by Amy Allesio. Available on my website and on the Kindle. 2009.

PLANTER'S PUNCH - Jack, teaming up with Tom Schreck's Duffy Dombrowski. Originally appeared on Kindle. Available on my website and on the Kindle. 2009.

TRUCK STOP - Jack facing Taylor (from AFRAID) and Donaldson (from SERIAL). Originally appeared on Kindle. Available on my website,, and on the Kindle. 2009.

SCHOOL DAZE - Harry being Harry. Coming July 24 in UNCAGE ME, edited by Jen Jordan. 2009.

THE NECRO FILE - A Harry novella. The funniest thing I've ever written. Originally appeared in LIKE A CHINESE TATTOO edited by Bill Breedlove. Available in my short story collection 55 Proof on my website and on the Kindle. 2008.

SHAKEN - Jack Daniels book #7, currently being written. You can check out the first few chapters in the FLOATERS ebook. Available on my website and on the Kindle. 2009.

That comes to twenty-seven stories in the Jack Daniels universe, plus a work in progress. Also, in CHERRY BOMB, there's a cameo by one of my characters from my medical thriller DISTURB, along with a cameo by one of the characters from THE LIST.

Let's have some Q & A.

Q: Do these have to be read in order?

A: No. Though FUZZY NAVEL should be read before CHERRY BOMB for maximum enjoyment. The shorts can be read in any order at all.

Q: When does TRUCK STOP take place?


Q: What's your favorite novel?

A: I don't have one. But I'm really fond of CHERRY BOMB. I think it epitomizes the kind of book I write.

Q: Which is?

A: Breakneck pace, lots of conflict, scary scenes, and bad jokes. Plus, if you haven't heard, CHERRY BOMB has a lot of sex in it.

Q: What's your favorite short story?

A: STREET MUSIC. I love the last line.

Q: Will you revisit Jack Daniels?

A: Absolutely. I'm working on another Jack book, called SHAKEN. But it isn't one of my priorities.

Q: I want more Jack!

A: That's not a question. But trust me--Jack will be around for a while...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Truck Stop by Jack Kilborn & J.A. Konrath

As of this writing, SERIAL by Blake Crouch & Jack Kilborn has been downloaded over 70,000 times. The majority of these have been on the Amazon Kindle.

Of course, SERIAL is free, which helps. But it's still gratifying to know that our little short story has been read (and in some cases, hated) by so many people.

Naturally, I've been thinking about how I could follow this up.

Regular blog readers know I've been doing pretty well selling my old short stories and unpublished novels on Kindle. But I've never actually written anything specifically for the Kindle.

Until now.

Jack Kilborn and I got together and did a prequel to SERIAL. Not only does it feature one of SERIAL's bad guys, it also features Taylor, one of the Red Ops from Kilborn's horror novel AFRAID.

I wracked my brain trying to figure out a good protagonist to throw into this nest of vipers, and came up with the obvious.

Jack Daniels.

The novella is called TRUCK STOP.

Before the events of Jack Kilborn's epic horror novel AFRAID...

Before the events of J.A. Konrath's critically acclaimed thrillers FUZZY NAVEL and CHERRY BOMB...

Before the events of Jack Kilborn's and Blake Crouch's #1 Amazon Kindle bestseller SERIAL...

Three hunters of humans meet for the ultimate showdown at the TRUCK STOP.

Taylor is a recreational killer, with dozens of gristly murders under his belt. He pulls into a busy Wisconsin truck stop at midnight, trolling for the next to die.

Chicago Homicide cop Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels is a long way from home, driving to meet her boyfriend for a well-earned vacation. She pulls into the truck stop for a quick cup of coffee and stumbles into her worst nightmare.

Jack's no stranger to dealing with psychos, but she's got her hands full trying to stop Taylor. Especially since he's getting help from someone just as deadly; a portly serial maniac named Donaldson...

TRUCK STOP is a 15,000 word thriller novella that ties together Konrath's and Kilborn's works, with terrifying results.

A prequel to SERIAL, which has been downloaded more than 70,000 times, TRUCK STOP is an eighteen-wheeled ride straight into hell. Not for the faint of heart. Let the reader beware.

This ebook also includes an exclusive interview: JA Konrath talks with Jack Kilborn, plus excerpts from their latest books, CHERRY BOMB and AFRAID.

Here's the Kindle link:

I'm really curious how this will sell, because Kilborn has been doing better than Konrath on Kindle. I'm also interested to see if this does anything for my backlist of Kindle books.

If you don't have a Kindle, and want to download it as a pdf (or many other formats), I also uploaded it to

I'll keep everyone posted. In the meantime, feel free to spread the word...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

How Not To Write A Story

This is a repost of a blog I did last year, because once again I'm judging a short story contest, and once again I'm ready to fling myself off a cliff.


In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm in a bad mood. For the past few days I've been wading through hundreds of short stories. I'm a paid judge for a big contest, and my verdicts are due.

This bad mood has been brought about by seeing the same story mistakes, over and over and over and OVER AND OVER...

So, for the benefit of the newbie writing world, and to save me future pain if I ever judge a contest again, please take the following to heart:

Yes, you can work weather into the scene. But I don't care that it was sixty-five degrees on a spring morning, and if you make that your first sentence you're going to remain unpublished.

Your protag may be named Bob McTestes, and he was born in Sunnydale, Ohio in 1967, but you need to work that into the body of the story and not make it the first sentence. Better yet, don't work it in anywhere.

"You'll never believe what happened on July 2, 1943." You're right. I won't believe it, because I just stopped reading.

"Phil Assmaster didn't know he was going to die that day." But Joe Konrath knows you're not going to win this contest.

Frankly, it shocked me how many stories began like this. More so than any other way I'm warning against. Opening your eyes because you had a bad dream or heard a strange noise is a quick way to put the reader to sleep.

Once upon a time. A long time ago. This is a true story. Ugh. Next time, save me the trouble and put the story in your own recycle bin.

"Moronville, Ohio was a town of 8371 people originally founded in 1872 by Quakers." Hopefully, one of those Quakers has a gun and will shoot me.

"Josh felt terrible." Really? How am I supposed to picture that? Maybe I picture Josh's stomach aching, his head throbbing, and the hole where his heart is supposed to be. If I'm picturing that, perhaps you should have as well and written it that way.

I don't care if you're describing a person, place, thing, era, or whatever. I want to read about conflict, not helper words.

Force yourself to pare away every adverb, and half your adjectives. Also kill any speaker attribution other than "said" and "asked."

Your short story doesn't need a prologue. Your novel probably doesn't either.

Especially a bunch of them!!!!!!!

Get the faruquing point?

If you don't care, why should I? Ditto annoying dialect spelling. Y'all get a-ight wit dat sheet, 'kay?

And finally:


Are there exceptions to these rules? Of course. There are always exceptions. But I didn't see any in the 2000+ stories I had to endure.

Also, for the love of all that is good, use 12 point Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman, double space the text, one inch margins, and indent each paragraph but don't add extra spaces in between them. One staple, in the upper lefthand corner.

Rant over. Ignore at your own peril. Now I'm going to go have some bourbon and scour my eyes and brain with steel wool.

And if you want an example of what I've had to endure, here's another blog entry I did on this subject:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Are You There, Amazon? It's Me, JA

An open letter to Jeff Bezos and Amazon.

I want to tell you why I haven't bought a Kindle yet.

I'm still considering it, because I made about $3000 in June selling my unpublished novels and published short stories on the Kindle. Three grand is a nice chunk of change, and it will be interesting to see if those numbers stay strong through oncoming months.

But even with this success, I can't bring myself to buy a Kindle.

Here are the five main things preventing my purchase:

1. Cost. A Kindle is simply too much money, especially compared to other electronic gadgets that do more. While I'm sure manufacturing costs are high, all costs reduce with time, and if I were Amazon I'd spend a lot of time and money figuring out how to get the price down so more people buy Kindles.

2. Most of the books on Amazon are too much as well. This is the publisher's fault, because they set the price. So perhaps Amazon should stop dealing with publishers and start dealing directly with authors. Mr. Bezos, if you want an exclusive JA Konrath title, contact me.

2. DRM. When I buy a book, I want to own a book and do whatever I want with it, and copy-protection makes that impossible. Again, this is publishers doing this, not Amazon, but it is preventing me from buying Amazon's Kindle.

3. Format. There are too many ebooks available on the net for cheap or free that aren't compatible with Kindle formats. The Kindle DX reads pdf, which is terrific, but it costs a hundred bucks more than the Kindle 2. Give me this feature for less, and I'm sold.

4. Unitasking. A mini-laptop costs the same, is only a bit larger, and can do a billion things. As of right now, the Kindle is limited in what it can do. It does what it does very well, but people like their gadgets to have cross-purposes.

Unfortunately, Amazon hasn't released a Kindle app for PCs, and I have no idea why. The laptop minis are perfect for reading because they are so portable.

But Kindle has released an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. My son recently got an iPod Touch, and I played with it for a few days.


I love this gadget. Reading on it is ridiculously easy, not only using the Kindle app, but using other readers like Stanza (also owned by Amazon.) Many books also have their own app, including my novella SERIAL, which doesn't require a reader--you simply download the free ebook and the reader is included.

I had no problems curling up with the iPod for an extended reading session, and enjoyed the experience. While I don't believe this is going to be the de facto way of reading ebooks in the future, for the time being it's a nice placeholder.

So what will the breakout ebook reader be like? Mr. Bezos, take note.

1. Under $150, and available at retail outlets like Wal-mart and Best Buy.

2. Wireless Internet capabilities for downloading books.

3. Able to read many different ebook formats, with no DRM.

4. Adjustable font size, type, and contrast.

5. A built in light.

6. Color no-glare e-ink.

7. Upgradable memory and operating system.

8. Long battery life, scratch proof, and water proof (or at least with skins available to make it waterproof.)

9. E-Book 2.0 capabilities.

What is E-book 2.0? And why aren't more people thinking about it?

Here are my Criswell predictions for E-book 2.0:
  • The books will be interactive, the words clickable on a touch screen. You click on the word "lugubrious" and it gives you a dictionary definition, or the word "Taj Mahal" and it shows you a jpg picture.
  • Ebooks will have extra content, such as author annotation, first drafts, deleted chapters, extra short stories, interviews, essays.
  • The ebook version and audio version will be packaged together.
  • There will be options for ambient sounds while reading, as well as music.
  • Ebooks will be upgradable, meaning the author can continue to add DLC (downloadable content, which is hugely popular in videogames) to books. A reader can buy the first part of a chapbook, then automatically get each new chapter as the author finishes it.
  • Ebooks will link to book-specific forums, where readers can review the book and share thoughts and interact with other readers.
  • The touch screen will be signable, so authors can autograph their books (much like signing the electronic screen on a credit card machine.)
Will these things come to pass? Honestly, I think they will. Playing with the iPod Touch, seeing the unlimited potential of a handheld electronic device, there is no reason why books shouldn't go the same route movies have gone, getting deluxe DVD editions with extra Rom content. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

In the meantime, I'm going to be reading on my son's iPod, waiting for the Amazon Kindle to catch up...