Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Movies About Writing and Writers

I love this post by P.J. Parrish in The Kill Zone entitled What writers can learn from movies about writing.

In the post five movies are highlighted, Wonder Boys, Throw Momma From the Train, As Good As It Gets, Adaptation, and Deconstructing Harry. It's a fun article to read if you've seen these movies and P.J. Parrish does a good job of making them relevant to actual writers.

The line that is mentioned for Throw Momma From the Train is a favorite of mine and i'm glad it's pointed out so well in the post.

I think the better question is, why are movies about writing and writers so mediocre and/or bad? I've seen Wonder Boys and had to force myself not to yawn. I hated Throw Momma From the Train despite the fact that most of my friends loved it. The fact that Jack Nicholson's character was a writer was unecessary and was really only there for him to provide a memorable line. I fell asleep during Adaption and still don't know how it ends and I've never seen Deconstructing Harry.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Penguin Pinching Pennies

My avid reader (the one) has sent an article and a quick review which I will post for him.

The article is found on Boing Boing and is titled Penguin's insane policy on electronic galleys for authors. It goes on to describe Penguin Publishing rather antiquated paradigm for distributing galleys to agents and authors.

To deal with this, Penguin (and a few other places), have set it up that you can buy a PDF file for $250-300 to send the book to foreign publishers. That cost is often borne by the author or the agency. Ridiculous. To get around it, agents have tried to approach at negotiation. But, when making a deal in the six figure mark, even at auction, agents still can't get that one little guarantee. We're talking BIG books and BIG agencies, but nope. Won't go into contracts (even though I'm sure there are exceptions, the point stands). What's more, Penguin will laugh off the idea of getting around it by making an author's advance, say, $20,300. Or $250,300.

It's a fun article to read if you think its entertaining to see how publishing houses are pushing back against the changes in the publishing world, a topic we explore here religiously.

Our reader, my indispensable brother who sends ideas and articles often (for a smattering see here), wrote regarding the article:

Thought this was interesting.  I don't buy their argument, but it is worth noting that the one book that leaked, still went on to be a #1 best seller.  Much like the movie and music business, the big businesses, always say that piracy and "digital" has caused them to loose money, but in reality, you see data like this. People will buy good things, and eschew the crappy, whether it's been pirated or not.

I think he should be the writer with prosaic phrases like: People will buy good things, and eschew the crappy, whether it's been pirated or not. I couldn't say it any better.

I've recently been involved in buying and selling houses. I've been impressed to find that since the last time I bought a house, three or four years ago, our real estate agent has embraced technology. Gone are the endless, highlighted forms that must be signed and dated. Now there is a dotloop document that gets e-signed quickly and passed back and forth even quicker. Sadly the financing folks  haven't yet followed suit. It's only a matter of time I predict, just as I imagine it will only be a matter of time for Penguin too.

Monday, July 29, 2013

More on the Writing Group

As I mentioned last week, there is a genre smorgasbord in my writing/critique group.

We have two writer's whose specific writing genre's I don't know. Then there is one Victorian murder mystery writer, another who has a background in zombies and horror but who is writing a WWII era murder mystery (I think) and a gentleman who is writing a compelling, high-landeresque, gruesome fantasy. Then there is your's truly who is writing a thriller/mystery centered on conspiracy theories.

So it was with great attention I read this article in the WSJ on murder's in the Victorian era, Bloodied Minded Victorians by Alexandra Mullen. Naturally I sent the link to the story to my writing group friend, but I link to it here because the author's position is that the fundamentals of today's murder mysteries started during this era.

Fenning's sad tale, like many of the other murder cases recounted here, was quickly adapted into fabulously melodramatic fiction. This is the final piece of Ms. Flanders's puzzle: how writers—from hack journalists to highfalutin novelists—eventually used such raw material to shape the narrative expectations for the mysteries and thrillers that we read today.

Then there is the fact that so many of the murder's that were popular to read about and follow in the press were so lurid and horrific.

  • Most evocative for fans of the great sleuths of the mystery novel are the middle-class murderers, quietly going about their nefarious business in country houses and suburban villas. Who savagely murdered the 3-year-old Francis Kent, last seen sleeping in a room with his nursemaid and later found "thrust down the outside privy, his throat cut"? 
  • There are unsolved violent crimes, such as the Ratcliffe Highway murders in 1811, in which a whole family (including a baby in his cradle) was massacred in their house. 

At first, this was a bit shocking then I thought about some of the horrific modern day massacre's and murders and I decided maybe things haven't changed so much.

It's a terrific little article about the nascent stages of the murder mystery and how they came about in the Victorian era. But it was the books suggestion portion of the article that really made me take notice, particularly the way that "avoirdupois" is used so adroitly.

The Woman in White (1860)

By Wilkie Collins

Collins's story is sensational in all senses of the word, but the bravura effect comes from the way Collins drew on his time watching a trial: the novel imitates the collection and evaluation of often contradictory documentary evidence, diaries and witness accounts. And there's the first master-criminal to boot, the charmingly evil Count Fosco, as large in avoirdupois as he is in ego. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lets Try This One

So, the last promotional campaign was not quite as successful as I would have hoped (see here), so I'm gonna try this one.

As far as the experiment goes BookBuzz isn't that bad. It's the same price, it will offer the same "goods" but it markets itself in a slightly different way. While Sage offered:
  • 3 week tour
  • 15-20 stops
  • reviews, interviews, guest posts, giveaways (customize your tour!)
  • Media Kit
  • Custom tour banner
BookBuzz offers: 
  • Distribute press release to at least 3 online PR Sites  
  • Send Press Release to 50 Book Reviewers
  • Send Press Release to 100 Bookstores
  • Provide List of Book Reviewers To Client For Future Use
Already they've posted the novel to their site and have a webpage for it. Results? . . . Inconclusive.

Hopes are high, but primarily I am doing this for you . . . my readers . . . so that you can gauge what works and what doesn't. You can thank me later. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Writer's Continually Stun Me

I don't know where writer's come up with their ideas. I've said before in his arena that some writers and author's ideas are amazing to me. Vernor Vinge's novels, or Hugh Howey's Wool are good examples of authors who have ideas that are just mind blowing to me.

My critique group hosts only three or four other writer's but it's stunning to me that they are so creative. One writer is working on a mystery in 19th century London. Another, who has a background in writing about Zombies, has a novel start that takes place in the WWII era and stars a WAC. Finally, one writer has a story, similar in nature to the Highlander series, but is so intriguing that I, who never fall for stuff like that, find myself reading it eagerly and wanting more.

I'm a tad worried that I'm out of my league. These are deep, deep books with some really well thought out plots, themes and stories. Then again, that's sort of the point of joining a writing group . . . to push oneself beyond the normal boundaries we are used to. As I said yesterday, so far . . . I'm marking it as a success.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

If Not "Rousing" a Success Nonetheless

First meeting of the new critique group. It was successful, although not completely so.

The unsuccessful parts? I thought we were meeting near my house. We were not. I found out 20 minutes before the start of the meeting that we would be meeting 20 miles away near downtown Houston, not in the burbs. I had decided to work from home so that I could skip the commute. I ended up commuting anyway.

One of the members didn't show. We were already down from 5 to 4 since Michael was at a writer's retreat. One of our members had to fill in for a neighbor mom who went into labor. She was stuck caring for the kiddos. Then, as it turns out, one member got the time wrong, she showed up at 1:30, thirty minutes after we had left. So all told the entire critique group consisted of me and Lindsay (but it was a quorum nonetheless).

Actually, there were two members who had the time wrong. I thought it started at 11:00. Nope. 11:30. But, that was to my favor as I was running late anyway.

Those are all the negative or pieces that we need to work on.

The positives?

Having a deadline made me write more and get more done on Vapor Trail.

That alone cancels out all the negatives.  We'll try again next month. I'm sure it will be more successful even still.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I'd File This in the Great First Lines Folder

No, it's not pithy or reverent. It's long and the reader has to have some contextual background to understand it fully, but this first passage from Executive Orders by Tom Clancy, the book I started reading this weekend, is a great first line:

IT HAD TO BE THE SHOCK of the moment, Ryan thought. He seemed to be two people at the same time. One part of him looked out the window of the lunchroom of CNN’s Washington bureau and saw the fires that grew from the remains of the Capitol building— yellow points springing up from an orange glow like some sort of ghastly floral arrangement, representing over a thousand lives that had been snuffed out not an hour earlier. Numbness suppressed grief for the moment, though he knew that would come, too, as pain always followed a hard blow to the face, but not right away. Once more, Death in all its horrid majesty had reached out for him. He’d seen it come, and stop, and withdraw, and the best thing to be said about it was that his children didn’t know how close their young lives had come to an early conclusion. To them, it had simply been an accident they didn’t understand. They were with their mother now, and they’d feel safe in her company while their father was away somewhere. It was a situation to which both they and he long since had unhappily become accustomed. And so John Patrick Ryan looked at the residue of Death, and one part of him as yet felt nothing.

Clancy, Tom - Executive Orders

Truth be told though, it's not the first passage that is compelling me to read on . . . its the entire story. I want to know what happens down the line.

Monday, July 22, 2013

More on Apple

To continue with the saga about Apple's pricing structure and the court case (see here, here and here) then I recommend this terrific article (pro-apple) that is in today's WSJ by Gordon Crovitz called A Judge Convicts Apple of Competition.

It's a great article (with a terrific title) but the best line in the article could be this one:

The ruling against Apple means that any company trying to provide a new service that requires negotiating with multiple parties to get access to content (like books, music or video) is at risk of antitrust prosecution. That includes Apple, which is planning to launch new offerings such as iTunes Radio. Other innovative consumer products that required the kinds of multiparty negotiations Apple had with book publishers include Netflix, Hulu and Pandora.

It's a worthwhile read whether you agree with the ruling or you don't, and I don't.

I am a convert. Originally I was anti-apple (see here) but having done just a bit of research and looked into the little bit I have, I think Apple has sure gotten a raw deal. They treated their book publishing business no different than any other app they had. They were busting up a monopoly not contributing to one, and they were forcing no one to do business with them. Where's the illegality?

Do I like the model? Not particularly, but then there are dozen of other sites where I can put my work. I don't understand the other side of the argument anymore, and have yet to find anyone to convince me that I'm wrong on this count. One more passage from today's article that speaks to me?

Company 2 entered a market in which Company 1 had a 90% market share—then Company 2 was found guilty of antitrust violations. Only in America. To the infamous antitrust prosecutions of technology companies such as IBM and Microsoft, add the Justice Department's July 10 "win" against Apple relating to sales of e-books.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Good News and Bad

I was forwarded an article, that I can't believe I missed, by an alert reader. This article, Self-Published Book Success Stories by Heidi Mitchell relates several different stories, of varying success from authors who have had to find routes outside of the traditional publishing model.

The most prescient passage is this:

Readers don't miss a traditional publishing house, says Ann McIndoo, who runs an author-coaching business. "The author or the topic or the brand drives the sale. When you go to the bookstore, you want Stephen King or a book on How To Knit. It doesn't matter who published it."

I have been trying to find a way to express that sentiment for years. I think publishers are like airlines. Why do they take themselves so seriously. They're broker's . . . middlemen . . . a service person or bus boy . . . they take things from the client to the producer. They are neither.

Nevertheless, the article is worthwhile to anyone who is stuck in the publishing process. Some great stuff just like the posts I have written here, or the one about Hugh Howey and Wool, here, or the article (the great article if you want success stories), here.

Every now and then some success stories are needed. It let's you know that one is on the right track. These do that too.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

That Being Said

Yesterday I wrote about inspiration for interesting novels, in that case I thought of a creating a thriller or mystery set in a dirigible. There really are so many much closer to home.

I was speaking to a co-worker today and he thought a novel that explores or re-imagines the Trayvon Martin tragedy would be worthwhile. We began to brainstorm some ideas.

Trayvon was actually casing a house on the way to his step-mother's and when confronted by Zimmerman, not wanting to go to jail with pot in his system, he starts fighting him and the gun shot occurs. 

Not too much there if you ask me. It's a bit less than fanciful. Could have actually happened that way if you ask many.

Zimmerman stages his own wounds after having murdered Trayvon Martin because he was bilking Trayvon's step-mother out of her social security checks and Trayvon was on the cusp of figuring him out. 

That's a tad better if you ask me. I've actually heard several callers to the local radio call in shows bring up the possibility of the staging of the wounds already, so again, not too mind expanding.

Zimmerman was sleeping with Trayvon's step-mother and Trayvon ran into them in flagrante dilicto as he came to the house. Zimmerman and the step-mother decide to keep it all quiet after the media fire-storm in unleashed. 

I like this a bit more. It's becoming more believably absurd and funky. But personally I like the one that includes the media.

The step-mother pays Zimmerman to kill Trayvon telling him that they will split the life insurance money, but in the media frenzy that builds up the racial differences, the mother must take a side against Zimmerman. During the court battle there is a second battle under the surface between Zimmerman still trying to get his half of the money without letting it out that they were in cahoots. 

In every case there would have to be a protagonist who is slowly uncovering the truth behind the murder and then trying to convince the others, those involved in the avalanche that the story produced, that what he has found out is true.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that so many stories are so many places, that just a bit of thought reveals dozens. Either that or I need to have more lunches with that co-worker.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Inspiration finds me at funny times and in funny places. I saw a post from Dark Roasted Blend today on Airship Dreams. I scrolled down a bit (a bit out of order) and ran across this picture first. 

Then I saw this one and inspiration took hold. 

When I put these two pictures together in my mind some pretty neat ideas come to mind. It makes me realize the way a fantasy or sci-fi writer must begin working. I've always wanted to write like Isaac Isamov or Vernor Vinge. World Building is something they excel at. 

Nevertheless, these two pictures inspire some pretty interesting ideas about a novel based in the future. It could even be something similar to Night Over Water by Ken Follett. A plot that involves a murderer loose on the dirigible. People being pushed overboard or found dead in their luxurious cabins. The problem is that it would all be too similar to one of my favorite episodes of Archer, Skytanic.

Then I saw this picture and things got even more interesting. 

Add this picture to all the others and you have a really interesting take on The Poseidon Adventure. This could very well be this years NaNo idea. 

Thanks Dark Roasted Blend.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Been Awhile

It's been awhile since I re-posted something from The Kill Zone, but it's not because they haven't posted some really great stuff on their site.

First, let me say how thankful I am that I ran across and started following The Kill Zone. It is one of those rare blogs that I could go and read every day and not get bored. Mostly that's because they rotate authors on a twice weekly basis. It's always fresh and new. Secondly it's because it speaks to me as a thriller writer. If you are a thriller writer and don't read The Kill Zone, . . . What's wrong with you!

Everything they write is interesting and relevant, unlike this blog (?) I know that there are many people who come to this site and think, "Another post on Apple? Come on. Talk about writing!" Then there are those that come and think, "More on your failed novel writing? Get back to articles on publishing!" Of course their are the majority of you who think, "Why do I keep coming to this blog?" The Kill Zone will not allow you to think that last thought.

Nevertheless, this latest post speaks to me if only because it deals with a facet of writing that I find incredibly intriguing. Why was Dan Brown's Davinci Code such a blockbuster when it broke so many well established rules. What about Fifty Shades of Grey? Why was it so popular? How do I go about writing a book that is just as ground/rule breaking?

Clare Langley-Hawthorne addresses all this in a bulleted list. As a Technical Writer I'm partial to bulleted lists. But this one is also good due to the comments. So often I forget to read the comments and that is where so many real gems can be found.

If you want to know more about "the Wow Factor" then read this linked post. If you want to constantly be intrigued, read The Kill Zone daily.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting Down to Serious (or) Business

I am in training all week, so my ability to quickly and concisely analyze and react to articles like this one in the WSJ that revolves around the publishing world will be seriously curtailed and limited or this one that a reader sent in.

That being said I do have a lot of time to think about the plotting (or is it plodding) of my novel. This is good for my critique group because hopefully it will enhance the work and make it more worthwhile.

I'm really looking forward to my critique group meeting, but I just noticed something. I accepted the meeting date readily and excitedly, happy that I was in town that day. That's what I focused on, the day. It wasn't till yesterday that I noticed the time.

Eleven in the morning? Who sets up a critique group meeting for eleven in the morning?

That's when it hit me. Want to know who sets up critique group meetings for eleven in the morning . . . people who are serious about their writing, that's who. I have a full time job, I work at eleven in the morning. My fellow critique-ers do not have full time, nine to five jobs. They are more serious, obviously, about their writing than I. I wish I could take my writing as seriously.

When does one start to take it more seriously? When one becomes successful? Seems like a catch 22. How does one become a successful writer, by taking it more seriously. How does one take it more seriously, by becoming successful.

Is it a good thing to be immediately jealous of one's writing critique group even before anything has been read or critiqued? We shall see next week at eleven in the morning.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Win Some, Lose Some

I think I must be reading the Onion because this smells of hoax, but if it's not it's either hilarious or jack-assery. The article, Samsung-pays-apple-1-billion-sending-30-trucks-full-of-5-cents-coins that I found via Newshound states:

This morning more than 30 trucks filled with 5-cent coins arrived at Apple’s headquarters in California. Initially, the security company that protects the facility said the trucks were in the wrong place, but minutes later, Tim Cook (Apple CEO) received a call from Samsung CEO explaining that they will pay $1 billion dollars for the fine recently ruled against the South Korean company in this way.

It's devious sure, but I wonder how much it cost Samsung to do it this way. My next question would be . . . why call them "five cent coins" instead of nickels. My final question . . . why not send pennies?

Avid Reader Responds

An avid reader, my indispensable brother, of this blog wrote to me yesterday regarding the subject of this article U.S. Judge Rules Apple Colluded on E-Books that was in the WSJ the other day.

A key passage in the article by Chad Bray, Joe Palazzolo, and Ian Sherr:

Justice Department prosecutors argued that Apple used publishers' dissatisfaction with Amazon's aggressive e-book discounting to shoehorn itself into the digital-book market when it launched the iPad in 2010. Apple's proposal: Let publishers set prices themselves. That led to Amazon losing the ability to price most e-book best sellers at $9.99, causing prices to rise.

My brother responded to this as such:

Great day for amazon, and a shitty day for authors around the world.  Somehow Amazon convinced our government to sue their competitor for trying make prices of ebooks viable.

I don't know if it's a product of living so closely to a (now) raging libertarian, but I have to agree and have written so in the past, particularly in this post from a few weeks past, the one in which it seems obvious that Apple wasn't setting prices, but merely setting the percentage they took off of books at the same weight as all other apps.

Nevertheless, I think my brother has headed the nail with a solid hit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Writing Group, Take 2

Those who follow the blog will note that I haven't enjoyed writing groups (see here or details), but I'm at it again.

A friend of mine from National Novel Writing Month and a woman I know from BookBlogs both formed the group with a third and then subsequent asked me to join. It's the first time my "fame" as a writer has lead to a perk. I'll take it!

So far it's been a raging and rousing success. We have a deadline tomorrow. All writers in the group have till tomorrow to upload their sample then we all have till July 22 to read each other's works and edit/critique them. Can you see why I'm so excited? One of the aspects I hated about my former writing groups was that we edited on the spot. Who wants such quick and one dimensional critiques? Secondly, all of us are in similar genres, not exactly the same mind you, but similar. I don't think there are any children's book writers or YA writers and the fantasy is not far fetched. Finally, we all come from recommendations of others, meaning that we've been vetted to some degree. This is the biggest plus. I've read a sample of Lindsay's work and I've read all of Kristi's last novel (here).

If I'm writing pissed on July 23rd you will know why, but on July 9th I'm stoked.

The End of the Experiment (aka AAR 2)

Just like my original AAR, I'm a-doing one for On the Edge now.

I know that there was a variable "control group" since I had two different novels that I was promoting, but despite Sage's best efforts, I just don't see any great increase in sales due to the blog tour. Once again my family has come in strong ordering the bulk of the copies that have been digested by the market, and I'm wondering how many of my On the Edge novels will become "home-fill" for my Aunt Debbie and Uncle Richard's ski chalet, but I'll take home-fill over land-fill or no-fill.

That being said I'm going to try a couple more things.

First, I'm going to try a mass market promoter. This, I'm sure will provide a sterile experience that has been promised to be tailored to my specific genre. We shall see.

Secondly, I'm going to hit up the folks who reviewed my last novel, Toe the Line. Let's see if they like the second novel as much as the first.

Finally, one thing I've found, which is somewhat inspirational, for Toe the Line I got about five rave reviews and two "so-so's" and one straight up "this sucka is bad." Not so with On the Edge. By my tally, I've got about four "this is good's" and maybe two or three "I liked it alot and intend to buy more." That means growth in my book.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Bit More Self Promotion

So over the past week, two more blogs have reviewed my novel On the Edge. Again, I'm not yet seeing any resulting downloads or purchases of my book, but the reviews are nice to read.

This first is from My Name is Sage, a blog run by the publicist, Sage Adderly, who I hired to run my blog tour for this book.

On The Edge is the second novel I've read by Dick Hannah and the growth in his writing is evident. While the plot of this story revolves around the military and disciplined fitness, two things that normally wouldn't hold my attention, Hannah's writing captivated me until the last page. 

This is a solid mystery with a group of characters that aren't what they appear to be. Protagonist Joe Malone attempts to juggle life after the war, family drama, and deceit within his work community. Hannah kept my interest with multiple twists and turns, which is necessary when executing a suspenseful tale. I liked that Dick Hannah added a light romance to the story. It added to the action-packed book without being distracting from the overall plot.

This second review is by Liz Wilkins of the Blog Liz Loves Books.

I liked the way this story flowed – well written and intriguing enough in the early stages to keep you turning pages, and with a good dose of interesting characterization it was an easy but involving read. Joe himself is well imagined – the challenges he faces to restore his mental health after the horrors he faced in Iraq are cleverly written and add great depth to his character. As for the adventure racing angle, I found this exciting to read – I don’t know a lot about this area but I found myself enjoying finding out. The author has written what he knows – and it shows.

All in all I would say this was worth a read if you like adventure, mystery and a great story well told.

Naturally I can't help but agree with both of these reviews. Secondly, these are the two most indepth reviews I've yet gotten. Unlike one or two of the others, these read as though the bloggers took time in reading the books. Of all the blog stops that did reviews I've yet to get a negative review (which is good to have) but like I mentioned above, no changes in purchases based on the blog tour.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Give Me a Reason to Care

I'm in the middle of working out some of the finer points of my novel Vapor Trail. One of those "points" is trying to find a way to make the reader care about the main character. That might seem a bit simple, but it is of vital importance to the novel and here's why.

Over the past two days I've read several reviews of the new Lone Ranger film that stars Johnny Depp. I read a review in the local paper that mentioned that the audience has a hard time caring about why they two protagonists, Tonto and the Lone Ranger, are chasing the bad guy (I would link to it but the paper's website is atrocious and I can't locate the article). Then today I read this in the WSJ by Joe Morgenstern:

Nor is there any reason to care about the masked rider on the white stallion; he's mainly Tonto's foil, a handsome boob played blandly by Armie Hammer.

"Nor is there any reason to care," that's what I'm trying to avoid in Vapor Trail. I've been focusing on plot and on story, but not on character. It's tough all the time making sure that the reader cares about the character, cares so much that they want to read on.

Right now I'm reading Les Miserables. Victor Hugo makes the reader care so much about what will happen to Jean Valjean that he can write chapters and chapters about houses and people in the Parisian suburbs, and about Waterloo, and about all sorts of other things and I'll keep on reading since I want to know what will happen to the hero.

It's my goal for the next few months . . . to give the reader a reason to care about Vapor Trail.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Savvy Reader Speaks Up

Hopefully commenting on my post yesterday, a savvy ready, my brother, spoke up with his own two cents that concentrates on his own milieu. has an article by Ryan Whitman that includes a video addressing why it was impossible to fake the moon landing in the 1960's. The video is fun to watch and well done. It takes complex technology and inside baseball, well in this case inside video, topics and breaks it down into simple, easy to digest bites that just about anyone can understand.

But eventhough the video is worth the thirteen minutes it takes to watch, it was the summary or conclusion that I really keyed in on. There were two snippets that hit directly on the theme that I'm trying to impart to my novel, Vapor Trail.

The first quote from the video is:

The urge to believe drives people to trade in part of their soul in exchange for the comfort of being a rebel.

This quote directly relates to the main character I'm trying to create. The "comfort of being a rebel" isn't quite there yet, but the exchanging of the soul, that's there and it's fun to develop.

The second quote is this one:

Once you're forced to hypothesize whole new technologies to keep your conspiracy possible, you've stepped over into the realm of magic. It demands a deep and abiding faith in things you can never know.

A couple of scenes I've already drafted include the main character and the protagonist meeting different types of people who are also conspiracy theorist. One is a nutty guy who believes the most blatantly ididotic theories out there. The other is a former college professor who is more down to earth. I could see the professor lecturing the protagonist with words just like the quote above.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Vapor Trail

I am currently working on my next novel, Vapor Trail, that delves into the harmful and debilitating results of believing too much in a conspiracy theories.

One of my favorite things to do every month is to listen to a talk radio show that sponsors a conspiracy call in day, appropriately on the night of each month's full moon. I love listening to folks call in and explain their particular conspiracy. In most cases the conspiracies don't hold water, most deal with cabal's of bankers running the world in some sort of shadow government. Most people who call in believe in what Popular Mechanics calls "The Myth of Government Hyper Competency." I've worked for the government. We barely made it up to competency, much less "hyper."

The conspiracy I delve into in Vapor Trail is the mystery behind the downing of TWA Flight 800 back in 1996. I know that Nelson Demille has a great book, Sky Fall, that hits on this same subject, but mine doesn't focus on the flight as much as it does on the deterioration of a character's life due to his believe in a conspiracy, a subject I started researching by reading Among the Truther's by Jonathon Kay.

Today I ran across this snippet in the WSJ in an article by Amanda Foreman called Conspiracy Theories: Everybody's Doing It:

It doesn't help that some of the most absurd-sounding conspiracies have turned out to be true: The Central Intelligence Agency really did feed LSD to unsuspecting civilians in the 1950s as part of a mind-control experiment. Or that some of the technically plausible ones have been patently false: The moon landings were not filmed on a sound stage.

It is human nature to look for a linear cause to explain complex events. The worse the tragedy, the greater the need for a narrative that does not involve dumb luck. Eight hundred years after the destruction of Constantinople by the knights of the Fourth Crusade, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches are still unable to agree on who or what tipped the two Christian empires into a ruinous fight against one another.

One aspect of conspiracy theories that I hope to dig down into is the theory of Occam's Razor, that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. I love the way conspiracy theorist will create an incredibly complex series of event and solutions to a problem that has many more simpler solutions. 9-11 provides 75% of the material during the call in show, and what I like about that is that my character in Vapor Trail visits other "experts" (conspiracy theorists) along his journey to the truth and most of them are focused on 9-11. None are looking at his conspiracy, the one that he finds has the simplest, most plausible explanation that everyone could see if they were just looking at it correctly.

Just as On the Edge was a step up in complexity compared to Toe the Line, Vapor Trail will be a step in the same direction. It's a tough theme to take on, but so far it's exciting to be in the midst of it.