Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ugh . . . Don’t Beat Me Over the Head With It

The other day I watched an episode of the usually reliably funny Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I noticed that the characters, as is their norm, were holding and drinking beers as they spoke around the bar. Something was off about this scene though. All of them were drinking beer so that the label could be read, and the label wasn't a knockoff a common beer, it actually said Coors Light on it. Secondly, the tap that was just in the scene, had a Coors Light logo. So in one little shot there were three references to the Bullet. Now, I don't mind product endorsements or product placements in television or movies. I do mind when it is so obvious that it disrupts from the story or the "art." Today's article This Book Brought to You by... in the WSJ (here) by Erica Orden, makes me think that the book she describes is a "hit you over the head type." We all knew it was bound to happen, and bully for you Mr. Hurt for making some dough whilst you write and publish, but I kinda doubt if I'm going to read your work.

What's sad, and a bit confusing, about this position is that I had a similar idea years ago with my idea of racing mysteries. The plot centered around a series of deaths that took place at adventure races and triathlons that the hero either raced in or organized. I thought it would be a good idea to contact these races and for some cash-eesh promote their races in the book. Then it hit me that deaths at the races were hardly good ways to promote the race. Never followed through on the idea.

Interestingly, another article in the WSJ (here) hits on the growing popularity of adventure races. If I finish novel two quick enough, mayhaps the market will be stronger in a year or two.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Word Smiths

I've never been a huge wordsmith; in fact I am alternately impressed and disgusted by wordsmiths in general. I remember one of our first assignments for a class to get my MBA was to divine a mission statement. Due to these two gals in the class my team was at this task for three hours on a Friday night for what ultimately became a throw-away line at the beginning of the next class. They were investigating and trying out each and every syllable and letter in that mission statement as if they were picking out wedding dresses. Naturally the three other guys in my group were as put out with the gals as I was. We would have been content with the rented tux version, finding something on the internet, cutting, pasting and re-working.

Then, at my last position, there was a dame who was the most unobtrusive and least offensive wordsmith I've ever known. She could come up with ideas and words quickly and easily. Made me think differently about a personality group I'd previously disparaged. My views of wordsmiths went from hatred and loathing to mere annoyance. It's been upped again, this time to intrigue and interest as my son has recently broken into the industry.

My four year old coins terms that both melt the heart and give pause to re-order what the listener thought about the universe. Last month it was "Movieater" instead of "Theatre." Makes sense doesn't it. Just this weekend it was "Jumpoline" instead of "Trampoline." Again, makes perfect sense.

I'm sure there will be more to come.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is it Bad News or Good?

Great article today in the WSJ (here) about digital publishing. In the article, Cheapest E-Books Upend the Charts, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg describes a thriller writer who prices his novels at 99 cents and is doing quite well. Not surprising. For years I've read about writers who are doing well peddling via e-retailers. If I had a greater library of finished novels I'd try it myself. There's a market there. Mr. Trachtenberg writes:

"Amazon.com Inc.'s top 50 digital best-seller list featured 15 books priced at $5 or less on Wednesday afternoon. Louisville businessman John Locke, for example, a part-time thriller writer whose signature series features a former CIA assassin, claimed seven of those titles, all priced at 99 cents."

What is revealing is that the article goes on to describe how this is threatening the conventional publishers as it is changing the reading habits of the buyers. Now, instead of being forced certain "name brand" authors works, there is a greater variety of authors and books out there, all who can set their own prices. I wrote earlier (here) that I feel a 99 cent price is too low, and the reasons for that. Still it's causing problems.

"As digital sales surge, publishers are casting a worried eye towards the previously scorned self-published market. Unlike five years ago, when self-published writers rarely saw their works on the same shelf as the industry's biggest names, the low cost of digital publishing, coupled with Twitter and other social-networking tools, has enabled previously unknown writers to make a splash."

Having just gotten a lead from an agent, I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing for me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Great Expectations from a First Line

I'm reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. First because it was free. Secondly, because my new job seems to be expecting so much from me. I want to see how Pip handled the pressure. Perhaps I'll mimic him and his results.

The first line is:

"My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip."

No, it's not "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" but it's still pretty good.

I was looking forward to highlighting a lot of passages. Within just the first few pages I was up to three or four highlights. I abandoned that project out of fear that I'd be highlighting the whole book. Looking forward to the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Memorial Day Book Review or Becoming Thor

No, not about the new movie coming out, nor about my getting swoll off the new P-90X workout video. Nope, this has to do with the Vince Flynn book I just finished, Memorial Day.

One must know that it won't be Dickensian when one picks up a Vince Flynn novel. No David Copperfield, instead the protagonist is Mitch Rapp. Just the name alone tells you alot about the thriller that about to come. But I'm sorry to say the further in the series I've gone the worse the writing. I found nothing worth highlighting in the whole text. No interesting passages, no clever turns of phrase and no fun vocabulary. The only thing he did well was describe a raid in Afghanistan, but as soon as that was over, all downhill.

Still, I didn't give up on Page 1 as I did with Brad Thor. Maybe the title is a bit of hyperbole. Maybe he's not quite Thor-ish yet.

Monday, April 18, 2011

If I Ever Write Comedy . . .

If I ever write comedy, a genre I think would be extremely difficult to write effectively, I intend to include the following snippet:

Was watching America's Funniest Videos with my 4 year old son yesterday. He enjoys watching this if only because it is one of the few shows that he's allowed to watch. As we watched we saw clip after clip of people falling. After each fall Price would say, "What happened?" That is until the very end.

Show: Woman slips on the ice.
Price asks: "What happened?"

Show: Dog slips and falls in a lake.
Price asks: "What happened?"

Show: Man slips and stumbles on the sidewalk.
Price asks: "What happened?"

Show: Bride falls during her wedding dance.
Price asks: "What happened?"

Show: Girl slips in her hallway.
Price asks: "What happened?"

Show: Lion turns and pees on a crowd watching him at the zoo.
Price asks: "Did you see that! That was gross! He peed all over them."

I thought it was interesting that after every fall, whether simple or complex, Price asked the same question. But when he saw the lion pee, he knew exactly what was going on.

By the way, the clip immediately after the lion was another fall. Price's question? What happened. Consistency is key son.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Atlas Shrugged

I finished Atlas Shrugged with three days to spare. I read Atlas Shrugged years ago. I think I was in my early twenties. I might have actually been 20, when I was in Belgium. I read a lot in Belgium. It was fun to read again. The goal was to finish it before the movie came out. I intended to see the movie. Having seen the trailer, I think I'll skip it.

Someone on a blog I regularly read (wish I could remember his name) once said: "When you're 18 you should read Atlas Shrugged and think it is the best primer on conservative principles ever written. Then you should grow up." I found it just as much fun to read this time as the first time. I found myself skipping just about as much of the long winded John Galt speech at the end. Ugh. That's one longer winded sucker. Nevertheless fun to read again. Thick, filled with ideas, great writing. It satisfies I think my "One Epic per Year" policy. Last year Shogun, this year Atlas Shrugged. Next year, Lonesome Dove? Moby Dick? Any other suggestions?

Along these lines, WSJ had an article on Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand (here). As I read Atlas Shrugged I kept thinking of all the parallels I saw between what Rand was describing and what was happening in real life and politics today. Donald Luskin's fine article brings up specific examples of those parallels. Both the article and the book are well worth reading at least once per lifetime.

Finally, usually I take notes and highlights of the writing and words I find intriguing so I can post them here when I finish a book. I didn't do that this time. I haven't done this for the last couple of books. I took a break from blogging when I lost my job a few months back. I intend to highlight and note in the future if only cause now, I feel I've lost that opportunity with this book. But, on a happier note, I start my new job tomorrow. That should inspire a myriad of new blog posts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Giving Up

I gave up on Exchange Alley by Michael Walsh. It wasn't bad, but I just found it a bit tedious and prosaic. Not worth the investment of my time. This helped me further develop my "Bootcamp Investment Theory".

First, as an aside, let me say, when I was younger I never gave up on books. I would slog through anything I started just cause I liked to finish what I started. Now? Now, I realize that life is too short to waste on bad books. Another policy I've amended is my one book at a time policy. I used to only read one book and only that book. Now? Now, I'm reading a throw-away thriller by Vince Flynn (lighter fare after Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged which I finally finished), I am reading a non-fiction book recommended by the wifey on why females feel shame and what to do about it (I'm thinking I might not get much out of this book), and I'm listening to Rawhide Down, a book about the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Life is also too short to waste on one book at a time.

My Bootcamp Investment Theory was developed after watching my brother go through bootcamp. I've found that the more people invest in something the more seriously they take it. My little brother, who got into my bootcamp for free, quit after three days. This lead me to realize that when my boss sponsors "two for one" events with bootcamps, where clients can bring a friend for free, far more people quit then when we have a full price bootcamp. When someone invests 300 dollars for a two week bootcamp they tend to stick it out to get the return on the investment. The more you put in, the more determined a person becomes to get something out of it. Lana and I have argued about this in terms of tax policy, welfare and more. Nevertheless, apropos my latest reading failure, Exchange Alley; I paid 99 cents. Makes me wonder if I'd still be reading it had I paid more. If I ever sell my novel on Amazon I'm charging a minimum of $3.99, If only to discourage quitters from buying it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Most Recent First Line

"It was hot in the attic room."

First response, if a first line is the precursor for things to come, . . . uh oh.

But by the end of the fourth paragraph you realize it's not as bad as all that. In fact it makes me think the rest of the book will be a pretty fun ride.

"It was hot in the attic room. The quarters were small, about three meters square. The door was covered with a metal screen. There was one window, locked and papered over, high up on the pitched ceiling; too high for him to look out, even standing on the bed. The bare gunmetal military cot stood in the middle of the room and was bolted to the floor. It had no sheets or blankets and one filthy pillow. There was a chamber pot in the coren, but no sink, and no running water. The only light was a single bright, bar bulb in the center of the room."

"Wake-up was at 6:00 AM; lights out at 10:00 PM. They made him razor himself with cold water, no soap or shaving cream. Once a week, but never on the same day, he was permitted a shower, to which he was led blindfolded and handcuffed; the cuffs stayed on throughout. Each day, he got to eat a small bowl of watery soup and some tea. He was not allowed to brush his teeth. Sometimes he would have visitors, whom he received blindfolded. But most days would pass without any human contact at all, unless you counted the creep who brought him his meals and, if he felt like it, emptied the chamber pot."

"Still, things could be worse. He could, for example be a prisoner of the KGB instead of the CIA."

Michael Walsh – Exchange Alley

Friday, April 8, 2011

Most Recent First Line

As you know, reading Atlas Shrugged, so the first line:

"Who is John Galt?"

Not imminently compelling. Not even the rest of the paragraph helps:

The light was ebbing, and Eddie Willers could not distinguish the bum's face. The bum had said it simply, without expression. But from the sunset far at the end of the street, yellow glints caught his eyes, and the eyes looked straight at Eddie Willers, mocking and still – as if the question had been addressed to the causeless uneasiness within him.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Atlas Shrugged

I'm in the middle (76% through exactly) of Atlas Shrugged. I like The Fountainhead more, but as for this second reading of Atlas Shrugged, I'm beginning to think it's just as much my favorite as the other. However, in both cases, it's a long hard slog. I like reading an epic a year. At least one. A book that is long, sweeping, somewhat historic, and grand. Last year I read Shogun. The year before that I read the entire Song of Ice and Fire Series. Four books, all fantasy. I'll say this, Rand makes it tough to keep going. The worst part about it is, instead of feeling like your about to summit a peak, I feel as though I'm about to summit a plateau. That I'm near the top, but once I get there I probably will go right on past and not notice it till I'm past. Oh well, it's a fun climb, just lot of the same scenery.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Can’t Help But Like the Way Napier Expresses Himself

Gen. Sir Charles Napier in India explaining to the locals his position on suttee — the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands.

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

Great Line From Book On Tape

For my commute I like to listen to books on tape. At the moment I'm into non-fiction, David Halberstram's The Coldest War, about the Korean War. Heard a great line this morning that really stuck with me.

"No more victories, only death."

Wouldn't that be a great title for a novel?

He also had a terrific passage about how men develop in war. How green recruits will become salty over time, with nothing more than putting battle after battle under their belts. And how some privates never become salty, they just stay green no matter the situation. Just great stuff. Sure makes a fellow realize how bad a leader can be. Some of the Army leaders in Korea were horrendous. Too bad I can't transcribe the whole thing here.