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Pirated books at Amazon

Yesterday we discovered that a paperback edition of Rise the Dark was available for sale on the book’s homepage on Amazon. Apparently, it had been available since September 2. This was intriguing, because the paperback edition won’t be out for a year, and that seemed awfully early for a pre-order page.


It wasn’t a pre-order page. It was a pirated version of my book, selling at $12.99, below the hardcover and Kindle price. It had its own ISBN, and the publisher was CreateSpace Independent Publishing. CreateSpace, I learned, is a print-on-demand, self-publishing outfit that is, ironically, owned by Amazon. The stolen copy’s product page included the real book’s reviews and blurbs. It included a photograph of me, holding up physical copies of a real book in my real publisher’s warehouse. It included everything, essentially, that is on the real book’s product page. For the buyer, there was absolutely no indication that this was pirated.


Thanks to Amazon’s wonderful “look inside this book” feature, I was able to scan the pages. The copyright page was missing, naturally. An odd floating page had been added, announcing that this was “The Second Book in the Markus Novak Series, 2016.” Then the text appeared – wrong font, bad formatting, but the right words. It was my book, but someone else had somehow managed to upload it and sell it right alongside the real formats. Disturbing, to say the least.


Thanks to swift work from Little, Brown’s legal team, the pirated edition is off the site now. That’s a good start, but obviously doesn’t answer some critical questions. I hope to know a lot more soon.


If you purchased a paperback edition from Amazon, I would love to hear from you. I will happily replace it with a signed hardcover and my sincere apologies. I’d also love to see a copy of the bootlegged book.


Fraud in the e-book business isn’t new – fake novels by Stephen King, John Grisham, Michael Connelly and other major bestsellers regularly appear, and pirated versions of classics like The Great Gatsby abound. I’d heard about that before. I’d never heard about someone selling a fake physical version of a new release right alongside the real deal – with free shipping for Prime members, no less!


For now, I’m most interested in reaching any reader who got a pirated book in exchange for their real dollars. If you somehow ended up with a bogus book, please send a private message via Facebook or use the contact page on my web site, and we will do whatever it takes to make this right.


For other writers – you might want to keep an eye on all of your editions. If CreateSpace suddenly becomes your publisher, it is a serious problem.






Michael on Craft & the Notes He Leaves Himself

Michael discusses craft, the advice he keeps in mind as he writes, and his rotten S.O.B. of an editor in his post on Literary Hub:


By Michael Koryta, Sept. 2

sword-pencilWhen I worked at a newspaper, my cubicle walls were lined with little reminders about craft—things of the “every word counts” and “hard writing makes easy reading” variety. But my absolute favorite piece of advice was from William Blundell, who wrote a wonderful book called The Art and Craft of Feature Writing. This particular quote has traveled with me from desk to desk and from journalism to fiction; I still include it with handouts anytime I teach a workshop or give a craft talk. The only line that has equal mileage for me is the one from Michael Connelly that’s still taped to my computer today: “Write with your head down.”

Here’s the Blundell quote:

The mean writer is always a lean writer. He can’t help it.

By meanness I don’t refer to a harsh quality in his copy but to his attitude toward himself as he works. You may think it strange to cite an attitude as a consideration in good writing, but often it’s the only thing separating the work of two equally talented people. The one turning out fat, flaccid, talky stories is not being tough enough on himself.

The mean storyteller becomes two people, acting alternately as he works. The first is the sensitive artist-creator, the second a savage critic who eradicates every weakness in the creation. He’s cruel, derisive and obsessively demanding. He hoots at the writer’s affectations and pretty turns of phrase, blisters him for cowardice when he uses soft, passive constructions or hedges on conclusions, challenges every point of logic, demands sound reasons for the presence of every character and fact, and above all flagellates his victim for wordiness. He is a rotten, S.O.B., worse than any editor who ever drew breath, and he is the artist’s best friend.

I absolutely love that concept, and I believe in it, but I never realized just how literally my subconscious applies it until I combed through some old notebooks from works-in-progress.

Supposedly, the most-common question for a writer is , “Where do you get your ideas?” but in my experience, it is actually, “Do you outline?” I don’t outline, but I do fill notebooks with scribbled thoughts about where the story is and where it should be, and over the years I’ve realized that these pages inevitably take the form of a hybrid between potential plot moves and an editorial note on the existing material, as if I’m offering feedback on a student’s manuscript, or another writer’s work, rather than my own. Only, in this case, I’m the student and teacher, and I’m cultivating that “rotten S.O.B.” Blundell describes so well as the artist’s best friend.

Looking back at those notebooks, one thing has become painfully apparent: when things are going well, my subconscious is happy to view writing as a team effort. When mistakes have been made, though, the rotten S.O.B. is very quick to the point the finger at me. Mistakes become personal, and the rotten S.O.B. is not going to share the blame.

The notes shift from a plural pronoun approach “we” to an accusatory “you.”

Here are some samples from the notebooks of my 2015 book, Last Words. In the same pages, or even same paragraphs at times:

“A key question to hold in mind—how do we deal with the body of Evan Borders’ father?”

“We can use this to incite Ridley…”

“We’ve done a good job of building the sense of Garrison as a place of menace.”

See—it’s a team effort! “We” are all in this together, and doing good work! But then:

“You have missed some key opportunities.”

“Major mistake—you haven’t explored Ridley’s alibi.”

“You need to give him a line stating that the past needs to be left to him and Ridley.”

And my absolute favorite, a single-sentence shift:

“We have done a nice job with the emotional and sensory qualities of claustrophobia, but you haven’t anchored it in anything related to character. Mark could be anyone trapped in a cave, but not in the good, universal sense. We need to understand why this fear is unique to him and what it says about his past. Maybe he has a desire to control his circumstances as much as possible because in his damaged childhood he didn’t have that ability?”

“We” have done a nice job but “you” have screwed it up. This is what I write to myself, about my own work. I wouldn’t want to share those pages with a psychiatrist, but I’m actually grateful to see the unconscious way that I can look forward with hope and optimism about the opportunities I’ve created and simultaneously berate myself for mistakes I’ve made, or opportunities I missed.

There are countless books, essays, and interviews on craft that I’d recommend to every writer, but there are not many that I’d put in front of the William Blundell explanation about the requirement that there be two people at work on the same book.

He is a rotten, S.O.B., worse than any editor who ever drew breath, and he is the artist’s best friend.

Amen, Mr. Blundell.

Writing’s Not Such a Silent Art After All

Michael talks to Audible about the sound on the page with writers like Michael Connelly Books, Stephen King, Alafair Burke, Dean Koontz, and Megan Abbott Books.

The Voices Tell Me What To Do

Writing’s not such a silent art after all. The bestselling author explores the role that voice plays in his process as well as that of writers like Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

S68_Thriller-Michael-KorytaThis is about the voices in my head. It’s not a manifesto, I promise. I hope that it will never be used against me in a court of law, and I’ve made my wife sign paperwork promising not to use it to have me committed. In an attempt to validate this confession, I’ve even sought witnesses who will testify that they, too, have voices in their heads — and some of them say very bad things.
I love listening to a well-read audiobook, and I’ve had the good fortune to have my own work read by two great narrators, Scott Brick and Robert Petkoff. Robert was honored with an Audie Award for his reading of my novel, Those Who Wish Me Dead, and they sent me a duplicate of the award, which was nice but also amusing to me — because if the audiobook had been offered in my own voice, it would have been useful only as a torture tactic. What skilled narrators do with the words on the page is humbling and inspiring.

But it’s also nothing like what I’ve heard in my head for the many months along the way to publication.

By the time I’m done with a book, I’m really hearing the characters and am deeply familiar with their individual voices.

This is not a criticism of the narrators, who make the books infinitely better than I deserve, but rather just an explanation that, by the time I’m done with a book, I’m really hearing the characters and am deeply familiar with their individual voices. This involves more than accent or affect; it’s about rhythm, how quickly they speak, when they pause, if they linger on a word or hit it harshly.

Mind you, I can’t replicate this aloud, myself. When I give public readings, I don’t strive for any real change of my own voice because I simply lack that skill. It’s one thing to hear the way a voice sounds in your head and another to convey that, and this is what separates most writers from being able to do their own audiobooks. (Although there are certainly exceptions — if you want to hear the best of both worlds, listen to Terry McMillan on audio.)

The only thing I can do to help the performance when I read aloud is to put the brakes on in the right places, enunciate it in the way I’ve heard it in my head, or maybe hit a word harder than the text would seem to suggest. Of course, then I’ll listen to Petkoff and think, “Okay, he fixed that portion for me, and he sure gives that paragraph a flow that it doesn’t have on the page.”

While [the audiobook is] still your story, it’s a different, enhanced version of that story.

Listening to a great narration performance is kind of like watching a movie adapted from a book you loved — I never would have thought to cast her in that role, but she’s fantastic. The adaptation comparison might seem over-the-top, but I really don’t think it is, because an audiobook, like a movie, is an entirely different medium. You need people to bring certain gifts toward that medium, and while it’s still your story, it’s a different, enhanced version of that story.

Rhythm and cadence are among the most important elements of that thing we generally call a writer’s “voice.” Ben Yagoda wrote a really interesting book on this topic called The Sound on the Page. We read with our eyes, but also our ears. It’s largely an auditory experience. Dean Koontz told me that he not only “hears” distinct voices when he’s writing dialogue, but that he will “laugh out loud when a character says something funny and hiss ‘Yesssss’ when he or she says something either poignant or kick-ass.”

He captures perfectly the odd sense of being more on the transcription side of things than the authorial. I know the writing is truly going well in the moments when I don’t feel anything close to creative; rather, I feel as if I’m just trying to keep up with the voices. That’s also when it’s the most fun, by far.

Now comes another confession: I’ll speak while I write, without intending to. Not all the time, but often enough. And far more often than I speak aloud, I’ll catch myself mouthing the words.

If people watched me write, I think they’d feel like they should be on the other side of bulletproof glass.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King counsels to “write with the door closed.” He’s referring to avoiding feedback on first drafts, but in my personal case, it’s also prudent advice for maintaining any social ties in the world. If people watched me write, I think they’d feel like they should be on the other side of bulletproof glass. My lips move in the way a child’s might when he’s learning to read — sounding things out, quite literally. And that’s because there is a unique sound to it, and — particularly with dialogue — I need to know how it feels to say the words. It’s not a conscious thing, not a plan, just something I catch myself doing. It happens most often when I’m first meeting a character and learning who they are and how they talk, and then again in revisions, when I’m honing a sentence.

I’ve been curious what the experience of other writers has been with this, and so I sent out a few inquiries, asking people if they ever catch themselves speaking or mouthing the words that they write. Here are some of the responses I received:

Michael Connelly: “I do this all the time. I say dialogue out loud when I’m writing just so I know it sounds like something someone would say instead of write. I don’t do this with all dialogue, just those lines where that question comes to mind: Was this written or was this said?”

Dean Koontz: “I don’t move my lips silently while writing dialogue, but when, for one or another reason, there needs to be a certain rhythm to what a character says, I whisper the dialogue to get a sense of whether the beats are falling where I want them. I don’t speak it fully out loud, because I’m a rotten actor, and I’d give it such a ludicrous reading that I’d spoil the mood.”

Alafair Burke: “I know it sounds crazy, but dialogue plays in my ear as if I’m monitoring a wiretap. Even in the first draft phase, I know I’m in the zone when I find myself mouthing words as I write them on the page.”

Stephen King: “When I’m not sure, I always read it aloud. Again and again, until it’s right. ‘Easy reading comes from hard writing.’”

Megan Abbott: “I rely on sound heavily. I tend to rewrite and rewrite until what’s on the page ‘sounds’ like the, er, voices in my head. I always want the experience of reading my books to feel like the main character is whispering in the reader’s ear, and so that does lead to all kinds of crazy behavior while writing it. So you are not alone.”

(Bless you, Megan. You will be Character Witness #1 in my defense.)

In discussing this with other writers, it seems that many of them will pause to read aloud during revision. Some authors will read the entire work aloud as they go through copy edits. I know one writer who will even read his book into a recorder and then play it back just so he can be more objective about the cadence and pacing. That seems like a great idea to me, a total immersion in craft, the ultimate example of Strunk and White’s “every word counts” mantra, but whenever I’ve tried to read prolonged portions aloud the characters begin to fade on me, and then I’m only hearing myself (perhaps because, out loud, I can’t do the voices justice).

The responses on this topic seemed a little like discussing outlining — every writer has a different philosophy, and they’re wedded to what has worked for them. Alafair Burke said, “Before I let a manuscript go into production, I read the entire book aloud. I advise my law school students to read their memos and briefs aloud to find the clunky spots.” Megan Abbott said she knows several writers who do this but that she can’t, that it’s a “bridge too far” for her and that she is most likely to read aloud “when I’m revising, trying to nail the rhythm of a voice.” Likewise, Stephen King said that he’ll read it aloud only when he’s not sure if he has things precisely right.

A highly individual habit, but a consistent one, those voices in the head. Duly reassuring for me. I’ll save my next confession for another time. For now, there’s no need for you to know that I also find myself talking out loud when I’m hiking. No reason to share that at all! Although in Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, he mentions that “Hamilton’s lifelong habit of talking sotto voce while pacing lent him an air of either inspiration or madness.”

So, if I did do such a thing, at least I’d be in good company — squarely in that comfortable spot between inspiration or madness. Don’t lean too far …






Huffington Post: Koryta’s Talent is No Fluke

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Koryta’s RISE THE DARK Proves His Talent Is No Fluke

BY Jackie K. Cooper, August 20, 2016

Last year I stumbled across the novel LAST WORDS by Michael Koryta. I really enjoyed the story and enjoyed the author’s talent. However I thought possibly this one novel was a fluke. I have been lured in by good stories in the past and when I selected to read the author’s next novel it was a major disappointment. Thus I approached Koryta’s new novel RISE THE DARK with feelings of trepidation. This book was a sequel to the other Koryta novel I had read and I am also wary of sequels. So with RISE THE DARK I was concerned with both his talent and the story.

Now I am happy to report RISE THE DARK is not a letdown. If anything it is even better than LAST WORDS. Once again we are drawn into the world of Private Investigator Markus Novak as he attempts to find out details about his wife Lauren’s murder. Lauren was killed in Cassadaga, Florida and the last words she left on a notepad in her car were “Rise the dark.”

Garland Webb was convicted of her murder but now through some legal technicality he has been released from prison. Markus is determined to find him and to force him to tell why Lauren was killed. In addition to gaining information he also plans to get revenge.

His search for Webb takes him to Red Lodge, Montana, a place he knows well since he grew up there. Ominous thoughts swell around him as he finds himself in familiar surroundings and filled with unwanted memories.

Michael Koryta is very creative in his creation of characters, but he is even more successful in his establishment of place. I have never visited the state of Montana but having read this book I have a keen sense of what the countryside there looks like, and a feel for the inhabitants who reside there.

RISE THE DARK has a very convoluted plot but in Koryta’s hands it is very easy to understand. There are conspiracies against the entire country as well as feuds between a few people. People are kidnapped, assaulted and murdered and these acts of violence occur swiftly. You can never lower your guard once you enter the world Koryta has created for it is a place of violence and one where no character is safe from harm.

Having read this second book of Koryta’s I can now safely place him on my list of “must read” authors. He has proven the talent displayed in LAST WORDS is not a fluke and that he is a writer of consistent greatness. I will be eagerly awaiting his next novel.

The New York Times Finds Eerie Thrills in Rise the Dark

The Latest and Best in Crime Fiction

By MARILYN STASIO, August 19, 2016

NYTWelcome to Michael Koryta’s latest nightmare. In RISE THE DARK, Eli Pate, a self-anointed messiah capable of calling up a homegrown army of “more than 200 heavily armed and deeply paranoid white men,” is preparing to shut down the electrical grid supplying energy to half the country. (“Good night, Seattle. Good night, Portland.”) Very few,  very brave linemen have the nerve and technical skills to pull off this feat. One of them is Jay Baldwin from Red Lodge, Mont., and to ensure his participation Eli’s confederates are holding Jay’s wife hostage. “When darkness fell, chaos would reign,” and Eli intends to be “the man who controlled the chaos.”

Meanwhile, across the country in Cassadaga, a little Florida town populated mostly by “registered mediums,” Koryta’s private detective, Mark Novak, is searching for the psychic his wife consulted before she was murdered. In one of those wonderfully eerie scenes that always manage to creep into Koryta’s novels, Mark has a brief exchange with a little blond boy who’s standing on a ladder to pick oranges from a tree. (“He was incredibly pale for Florida, with bright blue eyes.”) He’s the littlest psychic in town, it seems, but he puts a fright into the detective. Us too.

Koryta isn’t entirely successful in his attempt to merge these two plots into a cohesive whole, but each one has its distinct thrills. On the domestic terrorism front, it’s the horror of watching Eli convince his various extremist “brothers” that bringing down the electrical grid is a political act committed in their name. Meanwhile, Mark’s hunt for his wife’s killer picks up steam when he heads for Wyoming and enlists the aid of his slow-talking, straight-shooting Uncle Larry. But Mark will never be out of the psychic woods, certainly not after his own mother — a bogus medium who, in her younger days, used to dye her hair and skin, posing as Snow Creek Maiden of the Nez Percé to bilk tourists — shocks him with a reading that should propel him right into his next adventure.

Michael Talks with the Indy Star

Michael talks with the IndyStar and shares how his father’s job at Indiana University influenced parts of the plot in Rise the Dark.

Electric thrills guide Michael Koryta’s ‘Rise the Dark’

By David Lindquist,  August 16, 2016

In new novel “Rise the Dark,” Indiana author Michael Koryta pits his protagonist, private investigator Markus Novak, against a fringe group that wants to control power — electric power.

With bad guys planning to attack the power grid and turn out the lights for half of the United States, “Rise the Dark” has roots in Koryta’s childhood.

The Bloomington resident didn’t grow up thinking a sinister enemy wanted to cut the conveniences of television and air conditioning. His father, however, was responsible for keeping electricity flowing at Indiana University.

Jim Koryta retired in 2012 after working 36 years as senior electrical engineer on campus.

“My sister and I grew up with electricity and power outages being very central to our lives,” Michael Koryta said. “When the phone rang at 2 a.m., you had an idea that it was going to be a power outage.”

Koryta’s 12th novel is his second to feature Novak as the main character. Following 2015’s “Last Words” and its exploration of caves in Southern Indiana, “Rise the Dark” has action set on high-transmission lines in Montana and Wyoming.

Although Jim Koryta wasn’t part of a “high-line crew,” Michael said his father always expressed admiration for those workers.

“It added the real understanding of the human element that goes into fixing these things,” Koryta said. “You’re dealing with physically demanding work, and it’s extremely dangerous.”

Fear factory: Eli Pate, the criminal mastermind of “Rise the Dark,” wants to experiment with mob mentality and the viral nature of fear. He is not aligned with ISIS, right-wing militias or militant environmentalists, but his “Wardenclyffe” crew isn’t opposed to any of these groups. “This guy does not have a political point to make in the least,” Koryta said. “He’s just a sociopath who sees the potential of activating other groups by understanding the fears that set them off.”

Personal research: Koryta looked back to his days as a reporter for The Bloomington Herald-Times when crafting “Rise the Dark’s” Eli Pate character. In 1999, Indiana University student Benjamin Nathaniel Smith killed Won-Joon Yoon, a Korean graduate student at the school, as part of a three-day killing spree in Illinois and Indiana. Smith followed the teachings of white supremacist leader Matthew F. Hale. Koryta interviewed Hale before and after he was convicted in 2005 of soliciting an FBI informant to kill a federal judge. “He was kind of ahead of his time in the way he used the internet as a recruiting tool,” Koryta said of Hale. “Now it has grown to the point where the people who are being radicalized for any cause are generally not going to have a face-to-face recruiter.”

The threat: Regarding the possibility of an attack in which the U.S. electrical grid is taken down, Koryta said it’s not a far-fetched idea. The nation relies on a nearly 200,000-mile network of high-transmission lines, and the author mentioned hospitals and nursing homes as at-risk entities. “The potential of that kind of attack is really very sobering,” Koryta said. “It could be catastrophic in warm-weather months or in warm-weather areas if the grid stayed down for any length of time.”

What’s next: Koryta has spent most of his summer in Maine, where he is working on a third novel of Markus Novak adventures. He also revised a script for a possible film adaptation of his 2014 novel “Those Who Wish Me Dead” for 20th Century Fox. And awaiting a green light is a TV mini-series adaptation of Koryta’s 2012 novel “The Prophet.” Channing Tatum, star of two “Magic Mike” films and “Foxcatcher,” is attached to portray one of “The Prophet’s” lead characters. “It depends on whether and when Channing Tatum says it’s his priority,” Koryta said of the timetable.