Friday, December 30, 2011

Prediction Noted and I Agree

One of my favorite political writers, John Derbyshire, a true curmudgeon, has provided a list of predictions for 2012 at National Review (here).

He provides his predictions in an interesting style, for instance the list includes: "The following things will become less popular in the advanced world" and "The following things will get better."

One of the things that he puts in the list for "get better" is e-book formats. I agree. But that's not the reason for this post. It's the two words he puts within his final string of predictions:

"One or more of the following canoes will arrive at the lip of Niagara: the euro, the North Korean government, the finances of a major U.S. state or municipality, the student-loan system, Eric Holder, book publishing, China’s banking system."

Firstly, I love the way he phrases that prediction for disaster. I wish I had thought of it. Secondly, I agree with his prediction on book publishing.

The other day I read and article in the WSJ by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg called E-Book Readers Face Sticker Shock (here) in which he explains that e-books from noted writers or potential best sellers will be priced the same or higher than their conventionally printed brothers as they have more features, can be read on multiple platforms, more portable, etc.

This is the wrong way to go publishers. The way the masses see it is e-books save you on printing and shipping costs, we should see those savings when we buy the books. Not to mention the fact that we can't place that sucker on a shelf as a household ornament when we buy it as an e-book.

Sorry to say with the trend that that article shows, Derbyshire's prediction are a certainty.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

No More Truly Original Posts

An astute reader has shown me what Oliver Wendell Jones' teacher lamented years ago in a Bloom County cartoon. That there truly are no more original ideas.

Apparently a screed regarding the very subject I brought up this morning can be found (here). Sadly for this blog JM Tohline completes a far, far better take down of the same pabulum that I focused on that I.

Just as it is too bad "porcupines are allergic to raisins" it is too bad for me that Tohline exists. Failure is hardly original.

For the Money

A few weeks ago a reader posted a comment to something I said that intoned that if I was not in writing for the love of writing, if I was only in it for the money then I was writing for the wrong reason. I think this is a silly point of view and what's worse, I hear it constantly.

What's wrong with being in something for the money. I am at my present job, as a business analyst for an industrial cleaning company for the money. Never throughout my life did I think I wanted to work for a company that picked up waste and cleaned out refineries. I fell into it and now I do it just for the money. I don't love doing it, yet I'm good at it.

I want to make money off of my writing. Do I write for fun? Sure, its a hobby, but if there was no way to make money off of it I wouldn't do it. Then there's the argument that writers write to tell a story and that's the compelling reason they write. Thanks Captain Obvious. But by telling that story they want to make money. They want to tell (and sell) that story to as many people as possible, that's the impetus behind their writing.

Nothing is wrong with capitalism or trying to make a buck, hell that's what makes this country so great, so it always irritates me when people say they write cause its in their soul and they'd do it even if they didn't make any money. I say bologna!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tad Worried About My Followers

Uh oh. I never expected this to happen. In fact it makes me worried about the type of people who read this blog, but several folks have asked about that novel with the tragic and horrific first line I wrote about yesterday.

Apparently Linda Chavez, a contributor to National Review and I believe former Secretary of Labor under George HW Bush, knows a bit about North Korea.

Nevertheless, for those of you who want to be further horrified, the snippet of her novel is linked (here).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shock But Not Much Awe

It's a bit of a run on sentence, but it certainly has shock value, which I suppose is what you want when you write a novel about the horror show of North Korean life.

"She held the large plastic bucket in front of her as the midwife severed the umbilical cord with a blood-smeared butcher knife before tossing the squirming infant into the pail."

Afterbirth - Linda Chavez

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Bit Out of Order

So, yeah, as you could guess by the book reviews I've been posting, this first line is a bit out of order. I read this several weeks ago.

"Okay so here I am, Lee Morris, opening doors and windows to gusts of life and early death."

Decider - Dick Francis

It's a bit prosaic, some would say, but it's a good little first line, unassuming, light and fun. Just like the rest of the novel. What I think is smart is that it actually foreshadows the ending quite nicely. Writer's Digest last month said that a good first line should do just that. Plus it makes sense when the reader realizes that the man thinking this is an architect.

The Imaginary Blonde by Ross MacDonald or The Way Hard Boiled Should Be

I’ve never read a story by Ross MacDonald, but I’ve read one now, and I can guarantee it won’t be the last. As fun as a Nero Wolfe mystery, with just about the same style and aplomb, but with far more of the hard-boiled attitude. It typifies the genre. The Imaginary Blonde took all of one night (maybe two) to read but not because it was too short, it was hard to put down.

I must have dozed for a few minutes. A dream rushed by the threshold of my consciousness, making gentle noises. Death was in the dream. He drove a black Cadillac loaded with flowers. When I woke up, the cigarette was starting to burn my fingers. A thin man in a gray flannel shirt was standing over me with a doubtful look on his face.

I suppose I marked this one for two reasons. First, I really liked the fact that the dream rushed by the threshold of his consciousness and made gentle noises. That seems like an apropos way to describe a dream. Secondly, I like the rat-a-tat-tat way of describing the events of his waking up.

At one point, the protagonist is looking down at a man who has just been shot to death and he says to the reader, “He was rough looking in spite of his anemia.” What a terrific way to say that he was dead. Later on that same page when a lady sees him coming back he says, “Ellas’ welcome was a few degrees colder than absolute zero.” Both of these are so prototypical of the hard-boiled genre it seems to me.

Later the protagonist is being beaten up by the villain, he states:

“The men in the blue serge held me upright by the arms while Gino used my head as a punching bag. I rolled left and rights as well as I could but his timing improved and mine deteriorated.”

It’s the his improved mine deteriorated that caught my attention.

Finally, one last simile. He says:

“Thank God,” he echoed, shaking his fist at her. She retreated like a schooner under full sail, menaced by a gunboat.”

Just the one vocabulary word.

Circassian – Relating to or denoting a group of mainly Sunni Muslim peoples of the Northwest Causcasus.

This was recommended to me by a very good friend and I’m glad that she took the effort. I like hard-boiled mysteries particularly those that remind me of Alfred Hitchcock short stories, that don’t take themselves too seriously, and are quick, fun reads that offer a look into 1950’s era writing. I look forward to more.

The Rest of the World is Catching Up to this Blog

This is what two in one week. Two major articles on the benefits of self-publishing via the digital format? This one is in today's USA Today (here) and actually hits on the one reason I have not yet ventured boldly forth into this market with my own (rather pathetic) wares.

The article by Deirdre Donahue entitled Self-published authors find e-success
is actually a bit more readable than its WSJ counterpart from last week (here). Plus it focuses on more authors although Miss Chan makes another appearance. It's a good article for anyone considering this route to publishing, but the caveat I mention above is nestled away, way down at the bottom of the printed page and says:

"One reason Prescott is able to capitalize on the e-book revolution is that he already has a back list of novels previously edited and released by traditional publishers. (When his publisher let the book go out of print, the rights reverted to Prescott.)"

I have one little book that still has some flaws that need to be edited away. How big of a splash can I make with one.

I will say this, these articles do make me want to finish up little book number two so that my library is a tad more impressive. Then, with two novels and a short story compilation, we'll see what happens.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Decider or An Old Friend

I read a book which is now starting to feel like an old friend, Decider by Dick Francis. I can’t remember the first time I read this, nor can I remember how many times I’ve read it, but it has to be three or four times. Each time I read it I like it more.

Decider’s protagonist is Lee Morris, an architect, with five kids. It’s probably one of the more light-hearted and easy to read Francis mysteries, and I guess that is one of the reasons I like reading it so much.

A couple of the lines I marked this time include:

Rebecca sulked angrily. Marjorie’s disapproval grew vigorous runners in her direction, like a ramplant strawberry plant.

The five boys roamed around scavenging, Toby having joined them belatedly. The Strattons had left. Outside, horseboxes were loading the last winners and losers. The urgency was over, and the striving, and the glories. The incredible weekend was folding its wings.

I like both of the above passages for the imagery that they present. The runners quote made me think of ivy that tears down aged fences, until he brought up the strawberry plants. I think mine would have been better. The folded its wings, says a lot with just a little metaphor.

There were only two vocabulary words that I highlighted.

Salver – A tray, typically one made of silver and used in formal circumstances.
Obloquy – Strong public criticism or verbal abuse.

Just like the last few times, I loved it. Fast, fun, and easy. A good little thriller cum mystery.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I read with great relish an article today by Alexandra Alter called How I Became a Best-Selling Author (here). It is all about how Darcie Chan sold over 400,000 copies of her book and still can't find anyone to publish it. I did not learn much more than I already knew before, charge 0.99 not 2.99 despite the difference in royalties, how to pay for reviews and get traction on your novel, but what I gleaned from the article was that publishers still don't trust ebook sales.

It was a great article to tell new authors how they might find readership, how to publish their books as ebooks, etc. and I would heartily recommend it to any writer who wants to be an author. But the passage that stuck in my craw the most was this one:

Sales kept climbing. In July, it sold more than 14,000 copies. That month, it was featured on two of the biggest sites for e-book readers, generating a surge of new sales. In August, it sold more than 77,000 copies and hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book best-seller lists; it later landed on the Wall Street Journal list. In September, it sold more than 159,000 copies. To date, she has sold around 413,000 copies.

Ms. Chan and her agent decided to resubmit the novel to all the major imprints, citing robust sales figures and rave online reviews. Some publishers have responded warily. A representative of one publishing house feared the book had "run its course," Ms. Liss recalls. Others worried about the novel's bargain basement price, arguing that an e-book that sells for 99 cents likely won't command a typical hardcover price of around $26.

Now, I guess that they know there business better than I, but by the same token it seems to me that they're looking at a possible best seller and saying, "I'll pass."

Good for Miss Chan nevertheless.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Compelling Random Sample

One thing that I think would be incredibly hard to do is to self-promote my own book. I don’t think I have it in me to be a cheerleader for my own stuff. That being said, my new acquaintance, Andrew Greenwood sure seems to make it look easy.

Andrew has written several novels (here) that based on my first reading aren’t half bad. He’s got a terrific plot in the first book Random Sample, some engaging characters, and for a native Houstonian, it’s fun to read about so many places in my home city from his character’s point of view.

He’s also terrific at self-promotion. I heard about him from a friend of mine who read one of his books and when I went online to order one I had an email from him in no time with an offer to deliver the books personally and for a personalized signature. When the books did show up he included several of his books.

So, you tell me if he’s good at self-promotion. He’s just sold three instead of one of his books, he’s just made a fan out of someone who might not have given him a second though otherwise, and I’m probably going to “re-gift” the books once I’m done with them, thereby inspiring more people to become Greenwood fans. I say that he’s doing all the right things.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Interrupted

I'm interrupting my progress through Alex Brennerman's spy novel (which by the way is completely engaging) to read a draft of my writing buddy's National Novel Writing Month submission. The title of the work by Beverly Miller, who completed the 50K contest with over a week to spare is For the Imagination. So, with no further ado, I present her first line.

"It is sometimes said that imagination is often more terrifying than the truth."

For the Imagination - Beverly Miller

Not bad, but I think it would have benefited from a bit more. The next few lines help.

"It is sometimes said that imagination is often more terrifying than the truth. We are often more scared by what isn't seen - by what we think is there, than what is actually there. But what happwens when the imagination meets reality? What do we find out about others when we see their dreams and fears? What do we find out about ourselves when imaginations come to life?"

Not bad. I like the voice she has already developed. I look forward to the other 49,736 words.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Banker or Such a Prosaic Title for a Thriller

I finished Dick Francis' Banker last month. I remember this book well. Not because I read it and liked it, not because of it's well written prose, or thrilling plot. Nope, I remember Banker cause it was perhaps the first "adult" novel I came in contact with as it was always positioned within eyesight in my parent's library. It had a bright yellow cover and picture of horse intermixed with a dollar sign. I never read it as a child and remember thinking how horrible a book on banking must be. I would have been wrong. It's just as good as all of his other works. A bit odd, the relationship the main character has with the love interest, but that's par for the course for Francis. Still in all I loved reading it and it got me into a fine fettle for National Novel Writing Month.

A few quotes are listed below.

At one point the main character is describing a scene at a dinner party as:
"Henry Shipton and his wife were standing in the doorway to the balcony, alternately facing out and in, like a couple of Januses. Henry across the room lifted his glass to me in a gesture of acknowledgement, and Lorna as ever look as if faults were being found."

I like the way he uses the line about Janus to show that they were looking all about them.

Then later, the main character finds that he is falling more and more in love with the wife of his friend. He has to continually remind himself to quit falling for her.
"We went down to the paddock, saw the horses walk at close quarters round the ring and watched the jockeys mount ready to ride out onto the course. Judith smelled nice. Stop it, I told myself. Stop it."

What guy hasn't had to remind himself of certain things in his life, maybe not as tragic as unrequited love, but I like the way Francis makes his main characters human through this.

Finally, one that made me think of my own wife.
"Mind you," Judith said forgivingly, "his second wife was the most gorgeous thing on earth, but without tow thoughts to rub together. Even Dissdale got tired of the total vacancy behind the sensational violet eyes. It's all very well to get a buzz when all men light up on meeting your wife, but it rather kicks the stilts away when the same men diagnose total dimness within five minutes and start pitying you instead."

I can say with all honesty I've never been pitied by my friends.