I hope you and your loved ones are doing all right, in this most chaotic of years.
I've got some rather serious updates to share, but first off, some good news. You can finally get my comedy mysteries in paperback!
Chris, my designer, did such a spectacular job, didn't he? And check it out, they look great on a bookshelf too:
My favorite spines are the first two; Mark on Book 1 is eyeing the hapless Pete on Book 2.
And, as a special gift for you, I'm doing a launch sale…
I've cut the prices almost as low as Amazon will let me. If you buy these now, I'll only make a dollar or two (at most).
The “Murder Feels…” Cozy Mystery Series
A detective who feels secrets?
That could get… awkward.
Then comes the crash. The cops call it an accident. But Mark felt murder.
>>>>> GET THE "MARK AND PETE" PAPERBACKS (on SALE!) <<<<<
You can even get a paperback of Mark's secret prequel:
High-Rise Demise: The Empath's First Case.
The Wonder Springs Cozy Mystery Series
Her unique power is secret…
But she just got framed for murder.
Can Summer use her psychic gift to catch the real killer in time?
>>>>> GET THE "SUMMER AND TINA" PAPERBACKS (on SALE!) <<<<<
BUT BILL, I'VE ALREADY READ THEM ALL!
Wow, really? You're lovely. :)
How about giving these new paperbacks as Christmas gifts?
I've yet to try to gift an ebook. Plus, you know how it is when you gift a friend a book you love; you finally have someone to talk about the characters with.
Or, you could ask your local library to buy them. Then all your friends can read them (at least your local friends) and you don't have to spend a penny.
I'll probably put the prices up to normal in a week or two, so please act now if you're interested.
I say “probably” because I know our economy is presently a disaster, so odds are high you don't have extra money to luxuriate in paperback editions (however gorgeous). Honestly, I originally tried to wait until Congress passed another round of pandemic aid before I even ventured to announce these, but it's been several months now, so, oh well. If you can't afford these right now, sale or no sale, I totally understand.
SPEAKING OF THAT PANDEMIC…
Yeah, it's been quite the year so far, hasn't it?
But before I get all personal, let me give you a status update on my books.
As a reader myself, I have lots of authors where I honestly don't much care about their personal issues or views… the brutal truth is that I just want them to pump out the next book.
Sadly, the Bill Alive book factory has been stuttering of late.
My original plan for 2020 was to write the next book in both my mystery series: Murder In a Psychic Prison for Summer and Tina, and Murder Feels Deadly for Mark and Pete.
For the first several months, I made steady progress on Murder In a Psychic Prison. That book is in pretty good shape; I have it almost completely plotted, which means I'm not far from writing the draft.
But then came the protests. And also some personal issues. Which have both led to other projects making large claims on my time.
So, I don't expect to release that book until next year. Sadness.
UGH. SO WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING, THEN?
Well, I have some friends who recently faced a very difficult anniversary. You might remember me talking about them last September; in a horrific freak accident, they lost their youngest child.
As I asked myself what I could possibly do to ease this pain, all I could think of was this goofy unfinished comedy draft of mine that had actually made them laugh. (And these were big, generous, gut-wrenching laughs… one of the sweetest consolations vouchsafed to humor writers here in this valley of tears.)
I decided to “finish the book up” for them… which wound up meaning a massive rewrite. But I did actually finish it, and, in true pandemic style, I left a copy on their porch.
I'm not sure how to describe this book. Basically: parody self-help.
Man, I love that cover.
(Don't try to click it, though… the book's not launched yet.)
Did you ever read Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book? This is mostly nothing like that. Percy snuck some serious essays into that thing! But it is a self-help parody. And he has some scenes in there that are just hilarious. Okay, mainly, I only brought up Percy's book because I love it, and I hope someone besides me has actually read it.
But this book is more like if the Muppets tried to do self-help.
It's pretty fun.
Over the next few weeks, I'll send you some free samples. This will not only lead up to a proper launch, with a sale price and everything… it will also help me climb back on the wagon of actually keeping in touch with you.
As much as I wish I had actual skills that could help save people's lives right now, I know I'm appreciating the entertainers who are showing up every day to make funny videos and help save my sanity. So I really do apologize that I have been AWOL. I want to do better about showing up for you.
But it's hard. My country's crisis is breaking my heart.
WHOA. GETTING PERSONAL MUCH?
Yeah, if you're not much into the whole “personal connection with my fave authors” thing, this is definitely your time to jump.
Whew. Okay, here goes…
Up to now I have worked pretty hard to stay apolitical. I try to write novels that anyone can enjoy, without feeling threatened or criticized for their stance on hot-button issues in the culture wars. I try to write to the core human truths and questions that I really do think we all share.
Still, I know I sometimes fail. I remember a few reviewers took issue with Murder Feels Bad, coming away with the idea that I'm “anti-religious”. I found this reaction bemusing, since the book is about a cult, not a church… and the sordid truth, I'm afraid, is that I'm a practicing Catholic with a bunch of kids.
That's not something I share much.
Because even though there are literally millions of American Catholics, with a very wide spectrum of very different ideas, many people tend to assume that they can guess how a Catholic's going to think on any particular issue. Plus, it's hard enough to make friends and have decent conversations these days; do we really need one more reason to raise the shields?
You might also be leery of practicing Christians who are trying to write fiction. Fair enough. Honestly, I'm leery myself.
I mean it. Although some of my most beloved authors were Christian, it's also true that many fiction writers who identify as Christian produce what can only be described as propaganda. The most scathing and excellent critique I've ever read of this scandal came from the critically acclaimed Flannery O'Connor, a devout Catholic herself. She compared “sentimental” Christian fiction to… wait for it… pornography. (Why? If you're interested, I'll let her explain.)
I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO TALK ABOUT POLITICS?
Right, anyway, so here we are a few weeks from this American election. If you're still reading, your stomach might be clenching up, because you're like, What's he going to say? Will I have to never read his books again?
Can I just pause you right there? If that thought did occur to you, maybe this is part of our problem right now? We are losing the ability to stay friends and keep talking.
Look. The odds are pretty high that you are absolutely resolute in your view of our current crisis. That nothing I can say will change your mind.
In that case, you can safely stop reading now.
Seriously, for all I know, you are grieving a lost loved one. Or struggling with the “long hauler” symptoms of this virus yourself. Or maybe you're just staring down an empty bank account, a lost job, and a looming eviction. You don't need to waste time on one more opinion when you've already made up your mind.
But there's a small chance that you might be feeling queasy.
Maybe, for instance, you are deeply opposed to abortion, but somewhere along the way, Trump has made you hesitate. You're surrounded by friends and relatives who insist that he's the “most pro-life president ever”, and you don't trust any criticisms of the man that come from a liberal, pro-abortion media.
And yet… and yet…
Well, I just want to tell you that I am deeply opposed to abortion, and I also plan to vote against Trump.
And if you've ever enjoyed anything I've ever written, then I have a request.
Please set aside fifteen minutes and read this article I've written on my reasons.
I originally wrote it as a letter to a friend. Although a few bits are specific to Catholics, it's relevant for anyone who feels obligated to support Trump because of his stance on abortion.
I think you'll find my perspective is unique.
At least, I've had trouble finding pro-life writers who will even consider that Trump might be a terrible mistake. They are out there, but they're hard to find.
Side note: if, on the other hand, you are pro-choice, please don't write me off in disgust just yet. Honestly, I wouldn't necessarily blame you, but here's the thing: it is possible to both oppose abortion and also oppose the whole mindset of trying to “solve” it with laws and prison.
Also, I admit that I will always have a visceral bias on this. Because I was nearly aborted myself.
… and now I'm realizing that I can't remember the last time I tried to read anything that openly acknowledged that you, the reader, might viscerally disagree with the writer. Or even with other people reading the same piece.
Maybe that just reflects poorly on my reading habits? I hope so. But I feel like it's the vibe of our whole culture right now. We're all spinning apart into tinier, tinier tribes.
But I also feel like, as readers, we're the ones with the power to heal.
READERS HAVE THE “POWER TO HEAL”? WHY?
We have imagination. We spend hours, days, even weeks inhabiting whole other minds… seeing the world as someone other than ourselves. It's easy to forget how hard some people find it to do this. How terrifying it can be to step outside the solace of your cherished ideas. To listen.
That's what we do. We listen.
And right now that seems like an endangered skill. People seem to fear that this mere act of listening, of making space for empathy and a real conversation, is somehow a dangerous treachery.
And so, fellow reader, at times like these, people need our courage.
That may sound a bit self-congratulatory. But seriously, if we're not willing to stay present, to keep listening, to keep talking with the loved ones and friends and strangers with whom we disagree… who's going to do it? We've had so much more practice.
So thank you for listening to me.
For the next few weeks, I expect I'll be writing elsewhere about this election, but I do want to at least keep sending you funny bits from this new comedy.
And I have other cool projects that have been stacking up too… my designer has been illustrating more of my books for kids. You'll hear more on those soon, because I hope to have them ready as paperbacks in time for Christmas.
And I still do have an awesome set of science fiction and fantasy short stories that I want to release as soon as the chaos settles a bit. Writing, as ever, is the easy part… marketing is hard.
But it's good to be back. Talk to you soon.
P.S. Wow, this was LONG! If you skimmed to the bottom, here's the short version:
I've finally got paperback editions and they're on sale:
Plus Mark's secret prequel, High-Rise Demise: The Empath's First Case
And also my short silly standalone cozy, The Affair of the Hideous Vase
Finally, if you are that rare person who has felt obligated to support Trump because he opposes abortion, but has also started to feel queasy about the man, please read my recent article on this.
And stay tuned for free samples from my upcoming self-help parody: Rich, Skinny, and Super Spiritual! Transform Your ENTIRE LIFE In Just 24 HOURS!! For Real!!!
For more of my funny cozies and other books, click here.