Oct 202014

Jeff Cohen

Final update on the MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE: Thanks to all who posted pictures of themselves with the first Asperger's Mystery from E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen! We all greatly appreciate your effort and hope that you enjoy the book! Donations are being made to the Autism Spectrum Education Network (ASPEN). While the Challenge is officially over, we'll keep donating for those who continue to post pictures!

Just for the record: My son is virtually nothing like Samuel Hoenig.

I understand the question. If I were in the position of those who ask it, I would probably do the same. It's not at all too large a leap to attempt. But the honest fact is, there is very little connection.

Samuel is the "hero" (he would not ever consider himself such) of Question of Missing HeadTHE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, the aforementioned Asperger's mystery. He is 29 years old in that book (sorry, Josh Getzler--in my mind Samuel's in his 30s because I'm already past Book #2), lives at home with his mother, prefers working by himself, has a driver's license but doesn't drive, and is formal in his language and meticulous in his observation.

He has Asperger's Syndrome, which until recently was a disorder and is now a nebulous part of the autism spectrum, but that's a whole other story. (Grammar fans: I do in fact know there is no such word as "nother.")

My son Josh (not Getzler) is 25 years old, lives at home with both his parents, prefers working by himself, drives pretty much every day, and is not at all formal in his language nor especially meticulous in his observation.

But he does have Asperger's, and that's why people ask.

I've written about Josh before. In fact, I wrote two non-fiction books about raising him (and other people raising their children with AS) long before Samuel ever came to life on the page. I've occasionally posted about him here, and if there's anybody out there who's looking for an employee doing... just about anything, he's still mostly available. Don't hesitate.

In the Aaron Tucker series, back when I was a feckless youth of 43, I included Aaron's son Ethan who--waddaya know!--had Asperger's. That was mostly because nobody knew what it was in 2002 and I figured I could reach some and educate them while writing what I hoped was a funny mystery. And sure enough, the 38 people who read those books often get in touch to let me know they learned something, which makes me proud.

So because I have mentioned Josh's Asperger's in public, and now I write an adult character who has AS, people naturally assume he's the inspiration for the character. And I suppose he is, in that I wouldn't have known much about Asperger's or autism or a number of other things if I had not been Josh's dad. But the similarity ends there.

My Josh is a graduate of the Drexel University film and video program and has made a few short films. He lives at home because he managed to get out of college and enter the absolute worst economy since Tom Joad graduated from Hard Knox. He'd love to be making enough to rent his own apartment. Sure, he likes his parents, but maybe living on his own wouldn't be so awful.

Samuel lives at home because he likes it, enjoys his mother's company, and if he were being completely honest, the thought of being in his own place probably scares him a little bit.

Josh is working part-time at a movie theater and wants to make, or assist in the making of, film or television. Samuel owns a business called Questions Answered, which he operates out of a former pizzeria.

Samuel's Asperger's makes it difficult for him to process idioms and understand body language. Josh might have had those challenges when he was 10, but he's learned enough that it doesn't really seem to slow him down much anymore.

Samuel asks everybody what Beatles song is his/her favorite. Josh likes to talk about comic books, superhero movies, and Doctor Who. It's not at all unusual for a person with AS to have an intense interest in one subject.

The things Samuel does in THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, including investigating the theft of a frozen specimen from a cryonics lab and the murder of a scientist, are things Josh wouldn't ever do. And if a loud alarm were to sound, while Samuel is almost incapacitated, Josh would be uncomfortable and probably annoyed.

Samuel would probably never make a film in which a baby devours his babysitter (off-screen) for fun. That's all I'm saying.

So if you want to know whether I wrote Samuel because I've grown up with Josh, sure. There is much to learn from people with any type of autism spectrum disorder. I've become a better person through knowing my son. It helps write with compassion when necessary.

If you believe that  Samuel is based on Josh? No. They're really very different. 

But thanks for asking.

Just say no?

 Books, Josh Getzler, Writing  Comments Off
Oct 152014

Josh Getzler

Recently a number of my agent colleagues and I were discussing whether it’s worth even saying that we would look at young adult novels that are self-described in the query letter as “dystopic.” Dystopic is, at this point, a signifier for “any theme that’s been popular for a long time, been successful, and now is so saturating the market that an editor’s eyes roll back in their heads before the third syllable.” “Vampire” was the “dystopic” of four years ago, and “wizard” of four years before that.

It brings on an interesting thought process, and one that we deal with regularly: When a theme is popular but well-represented, do you keep evaluating submissions, hoping to find something different, or better, or unique? Or is that a waste of time?  Do I look at ANOTHER thriller that feels like a rewrite of Jack Reacher or Da Vinci Code in the hope that a particular editor hasn’t found his best-seller? And how do we even know that the time has passed?

This is one of those areas where we use the tools in our toolbox: experience, taste, and connections.  We will ask our friends on the Buy Side over lunch or drinks, who at this point would rather see the 125th knockoff of Fault in our Stars than another Hunger Games. We ask our agent colleagues whether they are having any luck (not with debut YA dystopia for the past couple of years by and large). And then we look at the queries themselves. Does this feel utterly familiar? Is this loner ex-Seal Team 6 back home in Western PA bringing anything new to the table? Is the writing undeniable? Is it worth spending the next six months whipping it into shape for the hope that one editor at one imprint hasn’t found that one special novel after 900 passes.

And then we take a deep breath, email the author, and say “Any way you can put it in space and call it science fiction? Add some sex and call it New Adult? Kill someone mysteriously and call it a cozy?”

And hope for the best.



Oct 082014

Josh Getzler

As readers of this blog doubtlessly know, Wednesday is Pub Day for Jeff Cohen and his VERY CLOSE FRIEND EJ Copperman’s first (official) collaboration, The Question of the Missing Head. As you may also know, but I will reiterate it, this is a Dead Guy Family Affair, where Monday, Tuesday and Thursday Dead Folk are all involved in our respective roles. But the other thing that we are collaborating on is raising money for autism charity Aspen. As Jeff said yesterday,

The MISSING HEAD CHALLENGEwill see to it that for every person who posts a picture of themselves on Wednesday holding THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD in some form, $9 will be donated to ASPEN, and it won’t be your $9, but you can claim responsibility for it.

The $9 comes from matching three dollar donations from Jeff and EJ, Terri’s folks over at Midnight Ink, and my agency, Hannigan Salky Getzler. Please take photos and send them in.


But that’s not all! Midnight Ink, bucking the Tuesday publication day trend of many other publishers, instead releases its books on Wednesdays! So tomorrow is also the pub day for two other Midnight Ink offerings that are very dear to my heart: Linda Joffe Hull’s second Mrs. Frugalicious mystery, BLACK THURSDAY, and Sheila Webster Boneham’s third Animals in Focus mystery, CATWALK.


OK, so I’m hugely prejudiced here, since I’ve worked with these authors for an awfully long time. But I have to say, it’s a terrific bunch of books. All different, but all within the same basic area of mystery where you learn something—whether about how a 20-something guy with Asperger’s thinks, or certain secrets about saving money, or about feline agility trials. All eclectic, all interesting, all good reads, all with mysteries that work, because these writers are skilled . Buy them all (Terri would certainly agree), and Enjoy!



Oct 062014

Jeff Cohen

Not to belabor the point, but the fact is that THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD , the first Asperger’s Mystery from Midnight Ink, will be published Wednesday, and you should buy it. In order to better entice you to do so, please consider the following list of dire consequences that might—just might—occur if you choose to skip this book and wait for the movie.

Quick side note: The MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE is set for Wednesday, the publishing day for THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD. Take a picture of yourself with the book or the title page on your e-reader and post it. For everyone who does on Wednesday, $9 will be donated to the Autism SPectrum Education Network (ASPEN) helping families touched by autism spectrum disorders. So don't forget to post that photo!

Possible—Just Possible—Consequences

  1. There isn’t going to be a movie. Buy the book.
  2. You might be the only one in your book group who hasn’t read it, leading to ostracization (that is, you can get ostracized) and possible expulsion.
  3. You might fail to catch the first adventure of Samuel Hoenig, the borderline genius with Asperger’s Syndrome, and Janet Washburn, his newfound associate. This could lead to terrible feelings of regret when Book #8 in the series is published and you have to catch up.
  4. Your bookseller, who knows your taste, might look at you funny.
  5. It’s possible you won’t be laughing enough. That’s bad for you.
  6. You won’t be helping to contribute to the MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE, and will therefore miss out on getting $9 contributed to the Autism SPectrum Education Network (ASPEN) without spending any extra money yourself. So you don’t want to help support families touched by autism, huh?
  7. Your local bookstore might need to sell that one more book to make the rent this month. You want that on your head?
  8. If you don’t buy the book, I might have to get a regular job. At my age? Please.
  9. That short leg on the kitchen table? This book is the exact right thickness to prop it up level. If you don’t buy it, you could drop hot soup in your lap.
  10. You might very well miss reading a book you’ll like a lot, that Publishers Weekly called “delightful and clever.” Do you really want to skip something that’s “delightful and clever”?

 But hey, no pressure.

On the other hand, here are a few things that might happen if you do buy a copy of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD this Wednesday (or even now on your e-reader!):

Benefits of Buying the Book

  1. There’s the slimmest possibility it will change your life. Preferably for the better.
  2. Maybe if enough people buy the book (like, for example, you), there will be a movie!
  3. Smiling is good for your face.
  4. You could get a slightly better understanding of what it’s like to be a person with an autism-spectrum disorder. You might treat such people better afterward.
  5. As previously noted, the MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE will see to it that for every person who posts a picture of themselves on Wednesday holding THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD in some form, $9 will be donated to ASPEN, and it won’t be your $9, but you can claim responsibility for it.
  6. You could be seen reading Question of Missing HeadTHE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD on the subway. Someone whose attention you might want to attract could see you’re reading an intelligent, witty (or "clever and delightful") book and strike up a conversation.
  7. You might learn something about cryonics or the probability of hitting a ball fair out of Yankee Stadium. But it won’t feel like work.
  8. If you figure out who the culprit is, you’ll feel smart. If you don’t, you’ll be delighted when the culprit is revealed. It’s a win/win.
  9. Reading helps keep your mind agile. Even reading this post is good, but THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD is much longer, and provides more benefits over time.
  10. Let’s face it: You want to know what question could be asked regarding a missing head. What better way to find out?

So there you have it: Scientific evidence that you should buy and read THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD. Do you want to argue with Science?

Oct 052014

Last week I was so excited about Anna Katherine Green that I left out an important codicil: she was the first American to write a mystery novel, not the first earthling. I apologize. Thanks, Esau Katz, for pointing this out. And thanks, Josh Getzler, for not pointing out that you'd already pointed this out on an earlier post.

According to Marie T. Farr's entry on her in American Women Prose Writers, 1870-1920 (Dictionary of Literary Biography volume 221), Green disliked the term "detective novel" and preferred "criminal romance." Farr references Alma Murch's "The Development of the Detective Novel" (1958), which claims that Green introduced a number of detective story tropes, including the series detective, the "rich old man, killed when on the point of signing a new will; the body in the library; the dignified butler with his well-trained staff; detailed medical evidence as to the cause and estimated time of death," and more. This suggests that without Green, we wouldn't have the name of this blog!

She's even the one who first came up with the idea of an icicle as a murder weapon in her 1911 novel Initials Only.


"Ralphie, you're lucky it didn't cut your eye! Those icicles have been known to kill people."

Oct 022014


September 21: I’m past my deadline, without only three-quarters of the book rewritten, but the important thing is: I FINALLY KNOW HOW TO WRITE IT. (This is such an important part of the process; teaching yourself how to write your own damn book.) I meet Josh for breakfast at Bouchercon in Albany and lay it all out. Where I was going wrong, how I’m going to fix it. He seems happy with my choices, tells me to go with God.

Duane Swierczynski on the timeline of writing his forthcoming novel, Canary. Don’t just read the pull-quote, read the whole damn thing. And then pre-order Canary from your favorite bookstore. And then find me at the Hachette booth at New York Comic Con for some Canary swag. I’ve got it all planned out.


 Books, Lynne Patrick, Writing  Comments Off
Oct 012014

As Lynne is unfortunately preoccupied this week, she asked me to step in once more, so forgive the intrusion.

A few years ago, authors never needed to worry about publicity (well, so I believe). The publisher would handle that side of things. These days, of course, the paradigm has changed, and even most of those published by the big houses have to handle their own publicity, unless you’re a major name.

As a writer, I’m very active on social media. Twitter and Facebook are my friends, and I also have a Facebook author page. Of course I have a website, and I tend to blog a couple of times a week. I do author events, libraries and wherever I can. For my most recent book I had bookmarks printed up to give away at events. Cheap but effective, and definitely useful.

But I’m in search of other ideas. It goes without saying (I hope) that most of my Twitter and Facebook activity is interaction rather than blatant promotion. That’s just sensible. Social media is about building a community, and communities need interaction to grow. Become a real person to others and they’ll be interested in you and what you do.

A readership is built one person at a time, and word of mouth is still one of the most powerful tools. People like your book and recommend it to others. As you build a back catalogue, people will search out the books, especially in a series.

Of course, there are some big breaks. An interview in a prestigious magazine, a review by an influential blogger, things like that. They all help in circulating the name.

What I’m curious to learn is what you think are good promotion techniques. There must be many I haven’t considered, and I’m eager to hear. Especially if they cost little or nothing.

Right, the ball’s in your court.

Oct 012014

Josh Getzler


Thanks to everyone for your good wishes while I was out with the shoulder surgery. Still barking a bit after two weeks, and I've got an I-Can't-Shave beard going and am still sleeping upright on the couch. But getting there. Thanks to Danielle Burby and Todd Moss for posting the past two weeks.


One of the more exciting things that happened in the past month is that Book Culture, an independent bookstore that lost its lease uptown, announced that it was reopening in one of the retail spaces below my apartment building. And instead of putting up the usual brown butcher's paper to cover the windows during renovation, they put up a happy sign telling the story of the return of a bookstore to the former site of an older store, Endicott Books, which was one of the inspirations for You've Got Mail.


This weekend, my wife and I were taking a walk and saw that there were a bunch of brightly colored stickies on the window of the store. Turns out that an anonymous Upper West Sider decided to create an Old School Pinterest board and put out a bunch of sticky pads and Sharpies and asked the neighbors to write notes about the new store, take photos, and post on Twitter with #BOOKCULTURE. And they did. And the neighborhood is truly giddy. More next week, but here are a couple of very happy pictures.


Bookstore stickies (2)


Bookstore sign (2)

Sep 292014

Jeff Cohen

Note: For an update on the MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE, see below. You'll want to read this.

Seriously: Have I ever given you any indication that I know how to get thousands of people to look at a blog piece? On a good day, I get 200 people to visit here.

You're a little ticked off now, right? Think I misled you?

But marketing is a necessity to the author. (Don't ask, "The author of what?" Just go with it.) It's not about trickery and it's not about lying to the reader. Do those things and you might get someone to take a look. Once. What are you going to do now that you've annoyed them? What have you accomplished?

I can't claim to have the magical formula that will bring the thundering hordes to your blog post, your Facebook page, your web site or your front door. Anyone who tells you they know for sure is lying or mistaken. But I can tell you what certainly DOESN'T work, and I can say so with confidence, since I have tried each one and watched it fail in a spectacular fashion.

  1. Promising a visitor something you can't deliver. (See above.) This is especially good at getting people mad at you. Because the intelligent ones will realize immediately that you're a fraud, and the less intelligent ones will try what you advocate, fail, and blame you.
  2. Making general statements based only on your experience. If you want to blog about yourself, that's fine. I do it sometimes, and posts about my daughter, my dog and my wife have attracted some of the larger audiences I've gotten here. But don't try to extrapolate your experience and make the reader think it will definitely apply under any circumstance. You don't know, because your experience is just that--yours.
  3. Stating something without doing the research. If you want to make a statement, make it. But be sure you're right. I have gone off on a tear at times here and made statements that, when I was typing them, felt great--only to find out I was astonishingly wrong. Colossally wrong. I mean, wrong. Check first.
  4. Politics, religion--what could go wrong? Everything. Write about the "forbidden" topics if you want. That's your right. But go in knowing for sure that your opinions are definitely going to piss some people off. And maybe you know in your heart they're just wrong, and what the hell--maybe they are. It won't convince them of anything and it won't make them less mad. It's fine to do if that's the kind of blog you want, but don't be naive about it--you're going to annoy. Be prepared to deal with the consequences.
  5. Making your post a flat-out sales pitch for your book. I have done this one (see two weeks ago, sort of) and I promise you I will do so again. That's perfectly fine--this is a forum about crime fiction and I write crime fiction. The reader is always free to click elsewhere. But doing nothing BUT hawking your book is just going to bore and irritate. The fiction you write isn't the only place you have to worry about entertaining an audience. And by the way, I have a Question of Missing Headbook that came out last Wednesday and another coming in less than two months.

This week's reminder: The MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE is now extended to this Wednesday, October 15! Before then, buy a copy of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD by E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen and take a photo of yourself with the book (or title page of the ebook). Post said picture on Facebook or Twitter for all (especially me, so tag me on it) to see. For everyone who does that on  I will donate $3 to ASPEN, the Autism SPectrum Education Network, and our own Josh Getzler's HSG Agency will match the donation. And our own Terri Bischoff's Midnight Ink will match THAT donation. And our very own Marilyn Thiele will add $1 each, to bring the total to $10 per picture! That pledge is good for the first 100 people to post--be one of them! 

Also: I'll be at the Barnes & Noble in East Brunswick, NJ on Tuesday (Oct. 14) at 7 p.m., talking (because try and get me to stop), signing and taking MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE pictures with anyone who has a copy of the book. Come by if you can--Cathy Genna of the B&N there really knows how to put on a show!