Greg Campbell's Blog

December 27, 2011

Hey, kid: did Santa get you a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad for Christmas? Because I’ve got just the thing to load it with: the newly released digital version of The Road to Kosovo, A Balkan Diary, my first book published in 1999, now newly edited and expanded exclusively for digital publication.

Throughout the years, I’ve heard from many people who either didn’t know this book existed or couldn’t get their hands on a copy. Since it was, for the most part, out of print, Westview Press recently reverted the book’s copyright to me so I could make it available online. So rather than spending the past few weeks shopping and getting in the Christmas spirit, I’ve been slaving at the keyboard becoming far more of an expert at Microsoft Word than I’d ever planned. Formatting for e-readers is a science (and a frustrating one at that), but for a first effort, I think I pulled it off with fewer glitches than one might expect. Knock on wood.

What’s that? Santa didn’t get you a Kindle? Never fear, because The Road to Kosovo can be read on practically any digital device from iPhone to laptop, using the free Kindle app for your device. Download the book in 10 different formats here on Smashwords, or have it beamed directly to your Kindle from its Amazon page. The book is also being processed by Barnes & Noble, iBookstore and others and will be available directly through those retailers soon. Once all the sites have it ready to go, I’ll post direct links on my Books page at my site.

Below, I've posted the author’s note that accompanies the new version, and—if you read it over at my website—you can find a coupon to redeem at Smashwords to get it for half price from now until the end of the year …

A Note From The Author

The Road to Kosovo; A Balkan Diary was originally released in the spring of 1999, three weeks after NATO forces began what was to be a 78-day bombing campaign in Yugoslavia to end ethnic cleansing by Serb forces in Kosovo.

The timing was fortuitous for a first-time author, and the book was quickly reprinted in paperback in 2000 with an additional chapter based on my return to Kosovo shortly after the offensive ended. For a brief period of time—the prototypical fifteen minutes of fame—The Road to Kosovo was the most contemporary in-depth source for commentators and pundits looking for an explanation for how we got to where we were. Despite the atrocities of Bosnia that ended just a few years before and the months of violent buildup in Serbia’s southern province, our involvement in the conflict in Kosovo took many people in the United States by surprise. We’re having a war where, exactly? And why?

It was a bit of lucky instinct on my part that The Road to Kosovo came out when it did to help people begin to answer those questions. When I conducted my reporting in the summer of 1998, it was not at all certain that the regional conflict would mushroom into an all-out war involving NATO, one that threatened our international relations with key countries like Russia and China, which were still establishing their footing in a post Cold War world. Or that it would result in one of the greatest population displacements since World War II. It certainly had the potential to get out of hand, which of course is why I was there in the first place. Two years earlier, as the war in Bosnia was ending, simmering tension in Kosovo was considered by many of the correspondents and diplomats gathered at the low tables in the lobby of the Sarajevo Holiday Inn as the most likely source of renewed violence in the Balkans. Serbian aggression in Kosovo, it was predicted, would lead to wider calamity and a return to the sort of butchery and violence that was just being put to rest in Bosnia. When that violence began to manifest in the spring of 1998, I returned to see how accurate the predictions would be.

The Road to Kosovo did its duty to the time in which it was published, offering a snapshot of a confusing conflict rooted in centuries of unrest. So why is it being rereleased now?

As proud as I am with my first book, I’ve long wished that I could tinker with it just a bit more. There were things that, as I matured as a writer, I felt needed a bit of tweaking—after all, I wrote it when I was 25. Like muscles, writing skills develop over time and there are passages in the original printing that, to me at least, show a still-developing writer at work. For example, my younger self had a fascination with stupendously long sentences infested with colons, semicolons, ellipses, and clauses offset with long dashes. The rhythm and timing of certain sections was abrupt and jolting. Passages whiplashed between somber and funny with less aplomb than I would employ today. Throughout the years, I would thumb through The Road to Kosovo and wish I had the chance to take an editor’s pen to the manuscript.

Now, with the emergence of digital publishing, I’ve had the chance to do just that. Over the course of a few weeks in late 2011, I polished and buffed the entire manuscript. This is no major rewrite, but a more of a fine-tuning. I lobbed out some small sections that did nothing to add to the story and introduced some new material that did. Sentences were rearranged to improve the flow and I rediscovered the utility of the common period, of which there was an apparent global shortage when I wrote the book in the first place. Those who were mentally running out of breath trying to find the end of endless sentences will be relieved.

Consider this, then, to be the director’s cut, complete with a new cover featuring a photo of Kosovar refugees taken by my best friend, the late Chris Hondros. With physical copies out of print, it’s a great satisfaction to have improved this work as it joins my other books on the digital bookshelf. Thanks for adding it to your library.
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Published on December 27, 2011 09:20 • 98 views • Tags: ebook, greg-campbell, kosovo

February 1, 2011

Hi, Goodreaders!

I've dropped off the radar here lately to devote some much-needed time to my newly-relaunched website, www.bygregcampbell.com. If you haven't checked it out already, please do so. There are certain pages that are still under construction -- in particular, the "bonus material" sections for my books, where I plan to offer a ton of behind-the-scenes material, much like a DVD -- but there's a lot there to enjoy.

I'm also experimenting with sending my truly avid readers a monthly e-newsletter, delivered right to your in-box. They will include news, events, schedules, advance peeks at new projects and exclusive columns and articles. The first edition was sent out this morning, and if you haven't yet subscribed, you can still get February's if you sign up by the end of the day. Just go to www.bygregcampbell.com and enter your e-mail address in the box at the bottom of the home page. I'll do the rest. If you're reading this after Feb. 1, sign up anyway to be sure you get March's issue.

And as always, thanks for reading and being interested in my work.

Cheers, Greg
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Published on February 01, 2011 09:06 • 128 views

December 21, 2010

It’s nice to get an early Christmas present like this: A message from my publicist that Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History was listed among the top 20 bestselling true crime books of 2010 by Library Journal. That’s some serious satisfaction, considering how hard Scott Selby and I worked on that book. When we started the project in 2007, two of the four identified thieves were still on the loose in Italy; by the time we’d finished, they’d been arrested, served their time and were released. In other words, we worked on the book about their crime for longer than they were behind bars for committing it.


A little background for those of you who might not be familiar with the story: Flawless describes how a gang of Italian thieves spent more than two years planning the biggest heist of all time. On February 15, 2003, they broke into what was supposed to be an impenetrable vault in the heart of the Antwerp Diamond District in Belgium and made off with as much as a half billion dollars of loot, including diamonds, jewelry, gold ingots, cash and securities. They bypassed motion detectors, heat sensors, light alarms, infrared detectors, a magnetic alarm, closed-circuit television cameras, a double-locked foot-thick steel door, and nearly 200 double-locked safe deposit boxes. They also skirted security guards and armed cops, and made their way in and out of a locked building (which was also covered by external security cameras) without being detected. No one was hurt or threatened during the crime and, in fact, it wasn’t even discovered until 24 hours after they’d made their getaway.


What was so much fun about researching and writing the book (beyond the obvious perks of getting to travel to Italy and Belgium) was the fact that Scott and I had to think like thieves and detectives ourselves in order to reconstruct the crime. While we spoke to detectives, victims, diamond dealers and security experts around the world, those who knew most about the crime -- the Italian thieves in the School of Turin ring -- weren’t cooperating with us. The charming front man, Leonardo Notarbartolo, only offered to tell his version of events in exchange for a lucrative (for him) financial arrangement, which would have been a violation of journalistic ethics and was therefore something that Scott and I didn’t even consider.


So it was up to us to piece the crime together from concept to execution. We knew we’d done our jobs well when we got an email from one of the lead detectives, who’d just finished reading the book. “The content is extremely correct and accurate,” he wrote. “I had the feeling that I was experiencing the investigation all over again, it was very weird.”


Now we’re keeping our fingers crossed that Flawless will win the 2011 Edgar Award, for which it’s been submitted. The award will be announced April 28 at a ceremony in New York City. That would be a fantastic acknowledgment. And it would give me an excuse to head to New York in sometime other than the winter.



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Published on December 21, 2010 09:25 • 137 views

December 15, 2010

Editing a book -- for an author at least -- is like going to the dentist. You know you’re going to have some teeth pulled, but in the end, you’ll be better looking because of it. Knowing that, however, doesn’t always make it easier to go through.

Here’s how the process works: You spend months writing and polishing your manuscript, re-reading it incessantly to look for holes to fill, to identify gaps in logic or knowledge, and to fine-tune your sentence structure and word selection. Inevitably, you will come across passages and scenes that you flat-out adore. You can’t wait until the book is published and your readers get to that section. They’ll laugh or cry and blog about it and it will be retweeted around the world, on its way to becoming an iconic passage in the annals of literary nonfiction.

But then you get the manuscript back from your editor and your beloved 2,000-word section -- which, OK, doesn’t have that much to do with the overall topic and isn’t really making much of a point, and yes, sort of drags down the pace -- is whacked out, with a comment in the margin like “superfluous” or “redundant” or “long-winded” or even “WTF?”

I haven’t yet gotten the manuscript for Pot of Gold back from my editor, but I already know I’m in for scenes like this. But I’ve been through the book editing process enough times now to know not to cry when it happens. In practically every instance where I thought an editor was tone-deaf to my literary skills, it’s turned out that the editor has been right to highlight huge sections and hit the delete button. I do fight to keep certain passages (or negotiate their inclusion by cutting or rewriting them) and have been glad I did so, but on the whole, I’ve been blessed with wise -- and patient -- editors who could see the forest for the trees when I couldn’t.

There’s an added bonus to thinning one’s manuscript: It gives authors a stock of stories to tell that aren’t included in the book. This is excellent cocktail party fodder you can use to keep strangers enrapt with your wit, sort of in-person DVD extras that you can brandish with flair anytime you’re asked to tell admirers what it was really like to research your book.

Of course, it’s a waste to keep those stories and passages to myself, only to be shared by an increasingly small number of acquaintances that haven’t already heard them a million times. I’ve decided to start sharing them from time to time once I roll out my new website in a few weeks (those of you who really like the old one -- a small pool, to be sure -- go to www.bygregcampbell.com and take a screen shot). Think of it as DVD extras for a book. The idea of including unpublished bonus material (not direct excerpts, mind you, since they probably wouldn’t make sense, but commentary and anecdotes) comes in part from Stephen Elliot, the author of The Adderall Diaries who developed an iPad app to give readers more than they would from the e-book (read all about his other DIY marketing here). But in larger part, it’s part of my broader effort to capitalize on the digital resources at my fingertips to reach out to readers in ways I’d never thought of -- indeed, which no one had yet dreamed of -- when I wrote my first book back in 1999.

So I’m hardly dreading my next round of editing, worried that my favorite stories and passages might not survive the process and see the printed page. In fact, I’m looking forward to it for not only making the book better, but for providing a well-stocked supply of extras to dole out from time to time for those who like the book and want more.

I’ll keep you posted as this idea develops.

Note: Some of you may notice this is, again, a repost of my blog on Facebook. I'm reconsidering my original idea of posting unique content in various places if only because I don't want fans of one site to miss out on what's being written at the other. Still mulling it though. Meanwhile, thanks for your patience.
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Published on December 15, 2010 07:49 • 188 views

December 8, 2010

Note to my Goodreads friends and fans: This is a repost of a blog published on my Facebook page (which you're welcome to join!). My goal is to write unique posts on this site, but my weeks has been a nutty one, so I hope you'll forgive the cross-post. GJC


Today I’m make my annual—or sometimes semiannual—pilgrimage to New York City, my yearly homage to the capital of North American publishing. Part of it is purely functional; you can’t do what you need to as an author and freelancer without being present, even if rudimentarily, in the heart of the market. My visit this time involves both advance-planning for future projects and strategery-planning for the one currently in the pipeline. Yes, I could brainstorm over e-mail or by phone (which I do), but nothing beats showing up in person and hashing out subtitles, cover ideas or thoughts on new books face to face. One friend describes these trips as a genuflection before the altars of the publishing gods, the sort of trip from the hinterlands a feudal baron would make to the king’s castle to report on the affairs of the serfs and to make an appearance of fidelity at the annual bacchanal.

But the other reason I look forward to these trips is that they are among the few times I actually feel the way I presume most readers expect authors to feel. And that is, like a bit of a big shot.

For reasons I blame on pop culture, the word “author” conjures up for many people a life that is, if not wealthy, then at least abundantly comfortable, one punctuated with scheduled bouts of creative genius. In the movies, authors always have money to burn on rustic writing retreats and last minute business-class air travel. They never need second or third jobs and somehow manage to get their writing done while lazing about on a porch with a glass of wine. Editors and agents fawn over them like royalty, and buckets of money are always presumed to arrive at the same time as the box of bound galleys.

The truth, as usual, is much less romantic. The next time you envy the solitary writer lifestyle, picture yourself pouring a scotch while standing over last night’s dishes in the kitchen sink at 9:30 a.m. after not having slept for nine or ten days, wearing pajamas you can’t remember putting on (was it this month or last month?) because you’re coping with a long stretch of writer’s block. Whether you drink or not, that scene is in your future should you go down this path.

Writing is done dishearteningly alone for long stretches of time, and writers on deadlines (those involving final products measured in the tens of thousands of words) often begin to feel like prisoners in solitary confinement, going stir-crazy for the chance to vent to anyone who will understand what they’re going through.

Where I live in Colorado, there are a few writers’ groups but hardly any compared to what one would find in New York, where you can literally surround yourself with word nerds 24/7, people who are either going through the deadline gauntlet, are juggling several at once, or who have the vacant, 1,000-yard stare of those who’ve just come out the other end of a finger-crippling 90,000-word marathon and have no idea whether or not any of it is publishable.

So that’s more what I get out of a trip to New York, the opportunity to surround myself with people who eat, drink and breathe words for a living. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. And that many of them wine me and dine me like I’m the big shot that most readers presume is an author’s natural state of affairs … well, who am I to complain?
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Published on December 08, 2010 11:47 • 140 views

November 30, 2010

File this entry under “Quirky Habits of Mine I Can’t Explain.”

After three months of relatively light writing — at least compared to the three month round-the-clock marathon of nonstop wordcraft preceding it as I approached my deadline for Pot of Gold—I’m gearing up to write its final chapter, which I couldn't start until after Election Day.

That means that I’m also gearing up to read a bunch of books that have nothing at all to do with what I’m writing about. Not stylistically, not topically, not anything whatsoever.

Over the summer, while clocking around 2,500 or 3,000 words a day on my own book, I also consumed paperbacks like they were glazed donuts. I read Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not,” Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities,” Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire” and “The Vampire Lestat,” fictional Hank Moody’s “God Hates Us All,” Andrew Mueller’s “I Wouldn’t Start From Here,” and three Dennis Lehane novels.

I’m sure there’s some sort of subconscious mechanism at work here inciting me to siphon in as many diverse styles, genres, structural flourishes, plotting devices and topics as my ability to stay awake will allow but I’m at a loss to explain why it hits when I have a book of my own to write. That it’s tied to my writing, though, is indisputable … when I’m not on deadline and bored out of my brain, I’m as picky about the books I read as cats are about the food they eat. I’ll stress and fret over my bookshelves for an hour before plucking out a volume only to skim a few chapters before adding it to the towering pile of books on my nightstand that I’ve abandoned due to boredom. On deadline, though, I can grab a book in passing without looking at the title and suck it down in a day or two. Weird, I know.

So now that I’ve got more high-volume writing to do, I’m expecting the same kinked gene to take over any day now. Since I’ve become conscious of this tic, I might try a new tactic and chip away at the unfinished business on the nightstand.

One of them is “War and Peace,” through which I’ve made it to page 12.
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Published on November 30, 2010 14:10 • 309 views

November 23, 2010

I'm already working on my New Year's resolutions. One will be to deal once and for all with my congenital procrastination.

(Case in point: I have two complicated articles due on Monday and the clock is ticking on how long I can reach the people I need to speak with before Thanksgiving. I got up at 6 am with the intention of jumping on it and KICKING ASS. Instead, I did the laundry, walked the dog, raked the yard, wrote a blog post, booked a ticket to New York, called a mortgage broker, made weekend plans for my son, hired a handyman to fix the hole where mice come in from the yard when it's cold, and watched two episodes of Judge Judy. I've also made a list of things to do this afternoon, including buying a truckload of firewood, working on my website, shopping for dinner because I have a craving for Philly cheese steaks and getting a beer with a buddy. Then we're going to see Harry Potter. Chance of even starting on the articles: next to zero.)

Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated case. This is my normal state of mind, and has been for as long as I can remember. In writing my most recent book, I enjoyed the research so much (yes, it's about pot, but that is not the reason I enjoyed it) that I put off the actual writing of the book until I had something like 25 days until my deadline.

I should add here (in case my editor is reading) that this style serves me well. I prefer 24/7 full immersion on my projects. I wrote Blood Diamonds in about two weeks, and Road to Kosovo in a month. Everything stays top-of-mind for one long marathon of writing, and the style generally stays consistent. The drawbacks are all physical -- my ergonomics are so bad, I usually need a chiropractor at the end -- and familial -- I can't be counted on to remember days of the week, much less to take the chicken out of the freezer for dinner.

Despite coming to terms with my personal writing style, I'm getting tired of the manic-depressive peaks and valleys it engenders. Weeks of ennui followed by more weeks of heart-clenching angst can't be good for the blood pressure.

So in the year ahead I'm going to get organized and get moving on the professional things that need to be done. I'm going to be a list-maker and a mono-tasker ... do one thing at a time, started and finished, before moving on to the next.

Starting first thing tomorrow.

After I go to the gym.
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Published on November 23, 2010 10:57 • 238 views

November 18, 2010

Ah, blogs are so much easier to write when you have an audience of two. So Megan and Amy, consider this a personal entry for my two inaugural fans, my first foray into blogging on this site.

Actually, it's one part of what I hope to develop as an organic, multifaceted online presence (and I hope I can find a far hipper way to say "online presence" in the coming weeks) that I should have been pursuing years ago. I remember having a conversation about it with my agent, Ayesha Pande, in New York as far back as early 2008, which, even then, was behind the times. "Blog," she said. "Blog everywhere."

And tweet and set up a Facebook page and develop a one-stop online portal for all things Greg Campbell. Link to booksellers, post videos, connect to my articles on HuffPost, dscriber.com, TheGreenZone.com and everywhere else I fire off an opinion from time to time (yes, those are undisguised plugs, but be aware that if you go looking for my content, most of it is pretty old).

My excuses for not doing all this before now were the two books I've written since then. My thinking was not only "who has time to blog while I'm writing a book?" but also "why bother blogging if the goal is to get a deal to write a book ... I'm already doing that."

As so often happens, I didn't look very far past my deadlines. And now here I am with my "online presence" being the equivalent of chirping crickets, everything out there stale and dusty. I was finally inspired (or maybe "shamed into" is a better phrase) to catch up with the times by this fabulous article posted on Publishing Perspectives.

So stay tuned, my small cadre of fans. I'm heading to New York in two weeks for a summit meeting with Ayesha and editors about the ever unrolling road forward and my goal is to have a capital-P Plan for finally coming to the Internet party. That involves blogging here, there and everywhere.

Step one: figure out how to say "online presence" using terms that don't make me sound like I'm from 2005. I'm open to suggestions.
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Published on November 18, 2010 07:57 • 156 views