Thursday, October 17, 2019

Another drunk detective

Okay, folks . . . I'm just going to come right out and say it. If you are a fan of a writer, and thus a fan of the main character the writer has created, the last thing in the world you want is to see is the writer you like basically killing off his main character.

This is what Jo Nesbo is trying to do to Harry Hole. Jo Nesbo is the writer. Harry Hole is the police detective. Norwegian dark noir, for those of you who haven't discovered him  . . . or Nordic crime literature in general. And I must warn you if you are thinking about discovering this line of mysteries on your own. 'Dark' doesn't quite describe the depths of horror you will find yourself swimming through. Up there in the snow countries like Norway and Sweden . . . when it's time to murder someone in fiction . . .it gets grim and devilishly cleaver in a hurry.

Most of the time I like that. The deeper it becomes devilishly clever, the better I like it.

But . . .

In Nesbo's latest called The Knife, the real murder committed is his effort to kill off his main character. To be frank, the first two chapters is a horror trying to get through. A horror not in the sense of blood and violence committed on an intended victim. But the horror of seeing a writer describe his alcoholic hero in terms so damning, it makes a reader wonder if the writer has finally become disgusted with his character and wants to get rid of him.

In the Harry Hole series, the police detective is an alcoholic. An alcoholic who knows he's an alcoholic and doesn't like himself for it. Okay, that's bad enough . . . another fracken' police/detective character who is an alcoholic. As if we haven't seen that kind of stereotype before. Over and over and over again. But in Harry's situation, we don't exactly know WHY he is such a sloppy drunk so addictive to his booze.

And he shouldn't be. The guy's got looks, intelligence, and a knack for finding the bad guys. And a woman who loves him dearly. So why is this guy such a booze-clown? And why does the author paint a picture of him so despicable in the novel you just want to slam the book shut and throw it into the trash?

I'll be truthful . . . I haven't finished the book yet. I stopped at about chapter two and almost threw it into to the trash. But no . . . I'm going to go back and finish it. But I am not a happy camper. Why did the novel start out this way?

I dunno. And that bugs me.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

We're experimenting, boys and girls

Spent the last weekend in Denver, Colorado at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's Conference. An interesting weekend. And yes, if you ever get a chance to attend this one . . . they have it every year . . .  I highly recommend it. Writers, well known authors, lit agents and major book publishers show up every year.

Really, this conference is not that much different from other conferences held around the country. New writers get an opportunity to pitch their book ideas to agents and publishers, plus take in a lot of interesting tidbits and techniques in writing/promoting from those who have had some success with it. It is well worth your while to attend two or three of these events over the lifetime of your career.
But here's the main point I'm aimlessly meandering toward. Serendipity. Sheer accident. A casual conversation with a stranger while eating breakfast in the hotel's restaurant might turn out to be a fantastic discovery in putting my name, and my books, into the view of a far larger bank of potential fans.

My wife Susan and I sit down to breakfast in the restaurant. Beside us is a fellow writer. But one far more successful than I. But even more intriguing, one of her side businesses revolves around her efforts in working the internet to her advantage in selling ebooks. For herself and for clients she agrees to take on. Her contacts range all over the world. Not just selling books in the good ole' US of A. But selling books all over the world. Lots of books.

Apparently she has clients who sell five books a day to hundreds of books a month. Big numbers, if you ask me. And yes . . . maybe a little too much to believe. But on the other hand, how would you know what is the truth and what might very well be a huckster throwing a line of bullshit out to a potential customer, unless you try it out for yourself?

Ultimately, that is the risk, isn't it.  To succeed as a writer you have to take risks. You have to way the financial costs to what potential successes you might achieve. And if you're like me, you can only afford so much financial costs before you have to come to a skidding halt. Yes . . . I go into this little venture with eyes wide open. But if it is true that you have to expand your internet presence into an ever larger venue of interested, and potential, customers . . .how do you do it without taking any risks?

So we begin with the Smitty series. Every 30 days we're going to hit the market with something about Smitty. Starting on the 20th of September with A Dish Served Cold.  From the 20th through the 24th it'll be free. On the 27th of September, Dark Retribution, Volume II: Sometimes Nightmares Come True hits the airwaves for the first time.

We're experimenting, boys and girls. We're trying to crack the nut called Marketing. When the dust settles, we'll see if our efforts produced anything of merit. That's all we can do.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Dark Retribution series

And so it continues. This hope, this desire, to see a character of mine by the name of Smitty become better known.

Smitty, as you may or may not know, is a hit man. But, more than that. He's a hit man slowly changing, or converting, himself into something else. Call it becoming a private detective. Or maybe, more like a crusading vigilante. Whatever you decide on his image, he is slowly weening himself out of the hit man-for-hire persona and into something else.

Still dark. Still a bit scary. Still relentless. But definitely morphing into something else.

A small British indie publisher, Close to The Bone, and I have been working, off and on, with each other for a few years. Lots of Smitty short stories have found their way to to their ezine magazine. Now we're working on the idea of making Smitty a series. The idea (or, my idea is . . ) to write a novel, follow later one with a collection of Smitty short stories plus a novella into one volume, write another novel, and so on. Over the years I've written about 30 Smitty short stories. So novel . . . collection of short stories . . . novel . . . collection of short stories . . . seems like a perfectly logical way to go.

First came the novel, Dark Retribution: Smitty's Calling Card (look to your right to see it). Coming out in September is the second offering in the series, a ten-short story and one band new novella called Dark Retribution, Volume II: Sometimes Nightmares Come True. This volume of short stories explains why and how Smitty became Smitty. I'll make a confession here; frankly, I think the very first short story in the collection is the best story I have ever written. But there are a few other gems in there that should capture your attention.

My publisher/editor friend came up with the idea of using a cover that will automatically alert the reader it's the Smitty series. Each overall view of the image is similar. But look closely and you see the subtle differences. I think it's a brilliant idea.

Compare the two covers and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Rebuliding the series; Roland of the High Crags

The continuing saga of my not-so-illustrious-writing career. Next up on the agenda is a revamping of my fantasy saga, Roland of the High Crags. You know the story if you've been around on this blog before.

A human-warrior-wizard is asked by a dying dragon baron (these dragons are humanoid in physiology) to take his last remaining kinsman, a dragon princess of about seven or eight, and save her from certain death. The catch . . . as there is always a catch in most novels . . . is the child is not only a child. She is a weapon. A weapon designed by the Dragon Dark Gods to destroy all of Mankind.  But the monk knows what she is. And there is the crux of the whole series.  How do you turn a weapon designed to kill you against those who created the weapon to begin with?

The original version came out some years ago. Ten years, maybe? I don't remember. But it has grown and expanded considerably since the beginning. It has expanded, in word count, from about 72,000 words almost up to 102,000 words. Book One is called, Roland of the High Crags: Evil Arises.

Book Two is called, Roland of the High Crags: Treacherous Brethren. It's finished, but in need of a few corrections and additions. It is also longer. About 130,000 words in length. Book Three (not written yet) will be called, Roland of the High Crags: Desperate Pawns.

But here's the whammy. Do I self-publish . . . again? Or do I find a small indie publisher who will take a chance with me? Forget the Big Publishers. I have no name, no success, and no representation for any of them to take notice. And, of course, since the first volume has been published, they will not be interested in republishing.

So be it. That's the way the world rumbles.

Using a different artist on this revamping. Above is a semi-finished version of the front cover. It too needs a few corrections, but it basically what you get if you buy the book. Eventually.

To paraphrase a Shakespearean quote; Oh, what a wicked will we weave, when we . . . become a goddamn writer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Some news about Fahrenheit Press

Yes . . . I know. I'm about as reliable in issuing a new blog on a regular basis as a Conservative Republican is willing to admit they haven't a clue what they're doing politically. But, in my defense . . . no. To be frank, I have no defense. Other than to admit I'm extremely lazy.  I admit it.

Moving on.

Some good news this last week. Fahrenheit Press, those boys and girls over in England, have decided to re-issue one of my original, and potential series character, Jake Reynolds. Jake, you may or may not remember, is an art thief. His specialty is finding rare pieces of art for select customers, copying the original down to each brush stroke, and then replacing original with his copy. He claims . . . and I have no way to prove it, since he's my own invention . . . that many pieces of his artwork still resides in some of the finest museums all across Europe.

But he also has a failing. Jake can't stand to see anyone get away with murder. And he has this unfortunate gift of finding dead bodies in the least likeliest of places. He also has the unfortunate gift of living in the first half of the 20th Century. He's met quite a few of that century's famous rogues. From the Red Baron himself all the way over to America and Al Capone.

The title of the book is, Death of a Young Lieutenant. I'm hoping it's a success for Fahrenheit. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.




But we're not done with Fahrenheit Press. The other half of Fahrenheit Press is called Fahrenheit 13. When it was originally called Number 13 Press, we hooked up with one of my Smitty novellas. When they merged with Fahrenheit Press, I thought I'd cook up a new character and see if 13 might be interested.

The new guy is named Lenny Leonidas. He's a good 'ole boy from Ballard, Texas (fictional) . . . which is the name of both the county seat and the county itself in the Panhandle of West Texas. Lenny's father threw him out of the family house when he was eighteen. For the next twenty years he bums around as a soldier in the US Army before retiring . . . and coming back to Ballard. There, through a series of unfortunate events, he becomes a deputy sheriff for Ballard County. And all hell breaks loose when that happens.

There's actually three characters in this one you should get to know. Lenny, of course. And the old, 6'6 white-haired sheriff, Horace Greene. Horace and Lenny have a long, long relationship. A relationship filled with secrets. The third character is Lenny's grandmother, Evita. And she's a trip, boyo's. She too has secrets she wishes to keep to herself.

With Fahrenheit 13 I'm going to try an experiment with them. I'm going to see if they will use the cover artwork I've commissioned for this book. Over to my right is the rough draft version. We'll see if they will go for it.

Okay, that's it for now. I'll try to write another blog before I turn 75 (I'm just 70 now).


Thursday, February 14, 2019

The working first chapter of Smitty novel number two

So I'm playing around with the opening chapter of the second full-length Smitty novel. Again, the template is simple; grab the reader as fast as you can with the first page. And then wrap the story, the mystery, the urge to continue reading into a web that requires the reader to continue reading to the delicious end.

Of the novel.

Simple, huh . . . the template? Yeah . . . not so much.

To capture the reader in the first page or two you've got to have a lot of imagination. You've got to set up a scene which invites the reader into the spider's web that both soothes the reader's natural hesitation, and at the same time, introduces him to a potential problem which requires his presence to solve. Not as easy as you think.

So with these parameters in mind, here's the first working chapter of a novel called, Discreet Inquiries.



One

He sat back in his chair and folded the paper back to reveal the Want Ads.  Folding the paper in half again, he laid it down on the small kitchen table beside his eggs and bacon and reached for his cup of hot black coffee.  Sunlight was pouring through the small kitchen window of his apartment and splashing across the kitchen table with a warm, clear light.  Outside, the sky was that light Cerulean blue. Not a cloud to be seen to mar the image.  He smiled.  It looked like it was going to be another beautiful day.
It was another Monday morning. Sitting at the table dressed in a blue shirt, top button undone, dark slacks and still wearing his slippers, he glanced at watch and noted he had another hour before needing to be at the office.  Good.  A good breakfast, then up to wash his teeth and slip into his shoes before slipping on his tie and knotting it, and he’d be ready for another day at the office.
But lifting the coffee cup he paused and frowned. 
There it was again. That strange ad. Taking up the right bottom corner of the want ads. Nothing special.  Other than the size of the ad.  An eighth of a page of the want ads had to be expensive.  But there it was.  With such an odd, odd lead line that instantly caught one’s attention.
Everyone, at one time or another, must face a Serious Security Crisis in their Lives.
            Life is neither Fair nor Cruel.  But People can be.
When that situation arises, and you need that Someone in your corner,
            Call Me for a Free Consultation.

He lowered the cup onto the table, not taking his eyes off the bold black words in the process and read the ad three or four more times.  Odd.  So very odd.  It was like something out of a TV show.  Yes.  That was it.  He remembered the old show from out of the 60’s.  What was it called?  Ah!  The Equalizer.  That was it.  An ex-CIA spy, retired, working the streets of New York City and helping those who needed protection and who could not do it themselves.
Silly.  Really silly nonsense, if you asked him.  Someone pulling a joke on the reading public.  That’s all.  Simple tomfoolery!
But, twisting his face into a thoughtful mask . . .
I wonder.  Could it be for real?
He read the ad another half a dozen times. Ending, each time, by staring at the phone number.  Finally, sitting back in his chair, he grabbed for his coffee and hurriedly slurped some of the hot fluid down before turning in his chair and reaching across the narrow confines of the kitchenette for his cellphone lying on the counter top beside the sink.  Lifting the phone up close he thumbed the phone icon and then paused.
Was he really going to do this?  Was he really going to make a fool of himself?
Yes.  He could use someone like this in his life now.  Questions needed answered.  So many questions.  Questions he had been looking to find the answers to ever since coming to the city.  He had promised.  Made a promise to someone back home he would find out.  Do everything possible to find out.  Surprised, he felt sweat beginning to bud up like unwanted little dandelions across his forehead as he paused holding the phone in his hand, ready to dial. Yet his natural tendency to be cautions, to be circumspect, kept him from dialing.
Really?  Really? Was he going to do this?
Yes.  He was.  Setting his face into a mask of stone he glanced at the number in the ad and dialed.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Basically, as struggling writers, we're trapped

WARNING!  Up front I am morally bound to warn you today's entry is a bitch-piece. I'm a Grumpy Old Gus today and I can't keep my silly mouth closed any longer.

I've got to get it off my chest.

I want to bitch about Indie publishers. Indie publishers and how they go about finding their 'best selling' authors.

The source of my rumbling bowl-movement is a series I am writing (or maybe I WAS writing) for an
indie. It's the Decimus Julius Virilis series. The 1st Century Roman detective series (look to your right, and go down a few of my entries and find the title, While the Emperor Slept. That's the one.)  The idea was to write an essentially proto-Sherlock Holmes. Someone who uses Holmes' skills in observational prognostication in solving crimes. But a proto-Holmes set in the era of Augustus Caesar.

Okay. Novel written; now what?

The indie publisher accepts the novel and puts it out there for the readers to grab. A few readers do.  One reader even offers a very humbling review saying it was a delightful read and could this be the beginning of a historical series?  And there's the rub . . . One Reader. Not 50 reader/reviews. Not even 10 reader/reviews. Just one.

I write the second book of the series and sent it in almost exactly one year later. The response from the editor? 'Sorry, we'll have to wait a year since the number of sales on your first book is a bit low.'
In other words, I have to hit a Magic Number of sales in order for the second book to be publishes. And what is this Magic Number? Who knows. I surely don't. But that's only part of the problem. The other problem is this publisher, like so many other Indie publishers, use the shot-gun effect in finding their 'best sellers.' They take in about anything that comes to them the first time and publish it. And then they set back and wait for the number of sales to arrive. From this scatter-gun effect they pick and choose who they will continue to publish.

Apparently finding a writer who creates an interesting character that has potential and taking the time to slowly build up that franchise until it reaches the 'best seller' platform, no longer exists. That's been replaced by publishing 15-25 new books a month in an ebook format and then choosing only the writers who hit instant big numbers in sells to continue publishing.

Yeah, okay; I get it. Publishing is a business. In order to publish, you need to make a profit.

But relying on only avenue to the golden lands of Profit Paradise, in the long run, you might be cutting your own throats in the process. Building a franchise takes Time. Patience. A bit of Luck thrown in. There's no proof that Instant Success will continue. But maybe, just maybe, a determined, methodical plan to build a franchise might offer a bigger profit farther down the road.

That's it. That's my Grumpy Gus Gripe for the month. Say 50 Hail Mary's to get the bad taste out of your mind, and then knock down about eight or nine beers later on to clear your throat.

And have a friggin' nice day.