Ready, aim, Kindle Fire!

Amazon.com says it sold more than 4 million Kindle e-readers in December, and I was one of the lucky ones who received a Kindle Fire from Santa.

I've played around with my new Kindle so much, I gave myself a pain -- aching neck and shoulders from hunching over the full-color screen. I've learned to look up occasionally and swivel my head around to keep from freezing up.

Already, I've downloaded mystery novels by Anthony Neil Smith, Paul Bishop, Ray Banks, Mark Terry, John Galligan and Reed Farrel Coleman. Most of those I got for free or at bargain prices.

(Blatant Self-Promotion: All my books are available on Kindle, most for $2.99 or less. Click here: http://amzn.to/cvTTMv. The Bubba Mabry mysteries remain 99 cents each, though the price is going up soon.)

My Kindle mania goes beyond reading e-books. I've got apps for Facebook and Twitter and Gmail, a slew of newspapers and magazines as well as The Associated Press and ESPN, music via Pandora, The Weather Channel, MapQuest, chess and Scrabble and Spider Solitaire. All in the palm of my hand.

I'd be interested in hearing what other apps are tops among Kindle owners. I'm sure I've only scratched the surface so far.

It's a beautiful day here in Albuquerque, and it's time to get outside and enjoy the non-virtual world. But I'll have my Kindle in my pocket.


Happy holidays!

May you all be with your loved ones this Christmas season, and may the new year bring you everything you desire.

We're delighted to be back in New Mexico this year, and to have both of our sons (who still live on the West Coast) here for the holidays.

I've taken the week off from work after finishing the first draft of a new Bubba Mabry novella. Rewrites to come after Christmas, as well as planning, reading, etc., for the class I'll be teaching at the University of New Mexico, which starts Jan. 18.

This week's strange career news: Got contacted by a young filmmaker in India who's interested in making one or more of my books into movies in Hindi. Wouldn't that be a kick in the pants?

My bestseller for December comes as no surprise: SANITY CLAUSE, a funny Bubba Mabry mystery set at a mall at Christmas. The e-book is only 99 cents from Kindle, Smashwords, Nook, etc. It's not too late to give yourself a little gift!


New shorts for Christmas

If you're a fan of short stories (or if you have such folks on your Christmas list), I've got some great recommendations for you.

Daniel Woodrell's "The Outlaw Album" continues the great work he's done in such novels as "Winter's Bone" and "Tomato Red." These are hard-boiled stories about hard-bitten people in the Ozarks and they're not for the faint of heart, but, dang, they're good.

The same goes for Frank Bill's debut, "Crimes in Southern Indiana," which is making a lot of "best of" lists for its unflinching look at small-town druggies and desperadoes. Donald Ray Pollock covers similar territory in "Knockemstiff," stories set in the "hollers" of rural Ohio. Pollock also has a new novel, "The Devil All the Time," which is dark and twisty and wonderful.

An older collection, but one of the best I've ever read, is "Welding With Children" by Tim Gautreaux. Bittersweet stories set in the South, often with little touches of laugh-out-loud humor.

Starting next month, I'm teaching "Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir" in the University of New Mexico's Honors Program. We'll read a terrific anthology called "Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories," edited by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian, as well as Eddie Muller's splendid "Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir."

I just received in the mail a new collection called "The Best American Noir of the Century," edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler. That collection will be the main text for a "New Noir" class next fall, along with selections from the Woodrell, Bill and Pollock collections mentioned above.

One reason I've focused on short stories lately is I'm trying to get better at writing them. E-books offer a market for short stories and novellas unlike any we've enjoyed before.

My current best-seller on Kindle is "Sanity Clause," a 25,000-word Christmas novella, which I can sell for only 99 cents.

I'm almost done with the first draft of my current project, a Bubba Mabry adventure called "Party Doll," and it's turning out to be a 40,000-word novella rather than an 80,000-word novel. And that, I've come to realize, is okay. No reason to pad a story to meet some editor's idea of what a private eye story should be. Instead, I'll self-publish it as a cheap e-book.

After all, lots of crime writers are doing brilliant work with fewer words than that.