NEWSFLASH: Zero Sum, Book 1, Kotov Syndrome, my Wall Street thriller serial trilogy, has been reviewed by acclaimed author Steven Konkoly, whose The Jakarta Pandemic just got its 100th Amazon review, and who just released Black Flagged. The review is a wonderful deconstruction of the trilogy, and is recommended reading for one and all.
MAJOR BREAKING NEWS: Justin Bogdanovitch just published a poignant and touching review of An Angel With Fur for prominent online lifestyle magazine InClassicStyle.com . It’s really a must-read review.
After a lot of 15 hour days, I finished the first draft of “King of Swords” – my newest thriller, about a super assassin targeting world leaders at the G-20 Conference in Los Cabos, Mexico.
It’s a shocking, sometimes violent, often disturbing rush of a book. To say that it races is like saying a G-6 is a private plane. I’m now going back to polish & rewrite, which will take me four days, and then I’ll be submitting it as completed to NanoWriMo.
Every now and then you write one where you feel, as you write it, like this could be “The Book.” I’ve felt that way a few times, especially when I did The Geronimo Breach (still probably my favorite, depending upon which day you ask me) but this time I really feel like it’s my best work to date. Which is odd given the schedule I had to keep to get it done in 12 days – it’s no exaggeration to say I worked from 8 a.m. to midnight the entire period. So that’s around 160 hours with breaks, writing time. For those following along at home, the book totals a little over 87K words, and may gain or lose weight during rewrite and edit – although I’m pretty brutal about cutting during rewrite. I typically switch into a completely different mode, and go for efficiency over word creation.
For those who think it can’t be done in eleven or twelve days, consider that my speed actually comes to around 550 words per hour. That’s paltry. It’s just all about sitting down and doing the work, not about being a virtuoso speed-writing demon.
Books are made or broken in rewrite. I don’t think this one’s going to be the case. If you read the sample chapters I wrote on the 11th, you’ll see that it’s fairly well along as a first draft.
I’m very excited by this story. I hope that’s still my impression once I get done killing my babies in rewrite and edit. But I can say I haven’t read anything like it. A Mexican Federal Police protag that’s hugely developed as a character, set against the backdrop of the bloody 10-year de facto civil war with the drug cartels in Mexico, an assassin that’s by far the most interesting villain I’ve ever created, plots in plots in plots, a back story or three that will make you cringe in places…everything I’ve ever liked about the genre, but on steroids.
I want to take my time on rewrite so won’t be submitting it till next Wed, the 30. And I’ll work up a cover in the meantime, and get the editor cranked up to move this through with prejudice, and then will launch back into rewrite on The Delphi Chronicle, which is almost double this novel’s length and is a mover & shaker for entirely different reasons. Target for that is a Dec. 22 release. We’ll see. Target for King of Swords is Dec. 10.
And then I’m taking a one or two week break, before moving back into The Messiah Cipher, which will take till end of January to complete with all the holiday merriment.
Unless I decide to write one of the prequels to King of Swords first. I’m thinking Night of the Assassin as a title, covering the exploits of the killer before this book. God I hope this doesn’t keep me up at night and force its way into the world the way this last one did. I don’t want December to be like November…
Join Russell Blake and 9 of his author friends at WoMen’s Literary Cafe’s Mystery Book Launch, December 13-15. Ten authors will discount their ebooks to just 99 cents. Buy 3 get 1 FREE!”
UPDATE November 1: An Angel With Fur and the Pet Wall get spotlight coverage at Justin Bogdanovitch’s blog. Great pooch photos too.
URGENT NEWS: Zero Sum, Book 1 – Kotov Syndrome, is #1 Bestseller on Amazon free Action/Adventure downloads, and #14 on overall free downloads!!!
BREAKING NEWS: New review for Fatal Exchange from book blogger Kate’s Reads.
Thanks to everyone who registered a pricing alert with Amazon. It’s been a long week with a lot of help from my twitter buddies, but I’m happy to say that the mission was accomplished.
Zero Sum, Book 1 – Kotov Syndrome – is now a free download from Amazon.
You can download it there, and should. Early and often.
I know that hundreds of you sent messages to Amazon alerting them to the pricing disparity, and it looks like it worked.
Amazon is under no requirement to lower the price to free. They don’t have a price parity guarantee on anything but televisions. With books, it’s more of a smart business policy. But sometimes when you’re dancing with elephants you have to do so nimbly; with a little help from your friends. And so hundreds of messages alerting Amazon to the pricing disconnect were registered, and eventually a switch was flicked, and Zero Sum Book 1 is free.
That’s you guys – the power of the crowd, if you will.
Now I can market the books as they were intended – Book 1 for free, to familiarize readers with my intrigue/thrillers, fostering a trust in my style and reassuring the reader that I can write competently, and hopefully in a manner they enjoy. I know the biggest hurdle when I consider a new author is the concern they aren’t up to the task of keeping me entertained, and will come off as amateurish, or pedantic, or poorly executed in myriad ways. I’m pretty sure that once a reader has spent ten to twenty minutes with any of my books they’ll figure out quickly whether I suck or not, and if they believe I don’t, will then be interested in mushing forward through the remainder of the trilogy, and perhaps even to other books.
That’s the hope, anyway. Give the reader a taste, and then let them decide if further reading is warranted. Many will likely never read the download, or decide it’s not their cup of tea, which as John Locke points out, is par for the course, as is the likelihood of some hating you, some loving you, and some being ambivalent. It’s all part of the game. The only trepidation I have is that those who download free books might not fall into the demographic of those that buy books, but that’s risk anytime you hand out free anything. You have to expect those who go to Costco just to eat dinner by trying complimentary samples, along with legitimate customers who have no problem buying if they like it. At the end of the day, it all evens out, and the good will float to the top.
So now I have one more favor to ask, and then that’s it. For a while.
Please tweet to your following that Zero Sum Book 1 is now free on Amazon. The link is:
And always, thank you. I absolutely know I couldn’t have done this without you.
2011 was definitely the year of the book for me. Ten books released in one year (and one more I’m not releasing as it will make you all hate me and believe me to be the devil or something). Don’t try this at home. I never will again.
But never forget that the real push began when Zero Sum went free, and that was entirely due to support from the indie author community and my twitter crew. To all of you, Muchas Gracias! This may all wind up a tempest in a tea cup, but my bones say no, it’s the beginning of something big. We shall see. At least you all have front row seats!
Thanks again to everyone who contacted Amazon on my behalf. And thanks in advance to everyone who tweets about Zero Sum Book 1 – Kotov Syndrome – now being free on Amazon! As well as those who post honest reviews as to how they liked the books. Your feedback is important, and I try to read and respond to every critique.
BREAKING NEWS: I wrote a guest blog for author Benjamin Wallace on my thinking about book covers. It’s a good one, and you might want to check it out and introduce yourself to Ben, who is a talent. It can be viewed here.
BREAKING BREAKING NEWS: Fatal Exchange is the featured book at The Kindle Book Review.
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A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about writing. Specifically, about why I write, and positing that there are two general camps of authors — those who write for their love of the craft, and those who write to create a commercially-viable product. Put another way, those who would write if there was no money in it, and those who wouldn’t write unless they could get paid, or thought they could.
The response was unprecedented, with 113 comments at last count
In this new blog, I’d like to examine the opposite side of the coin I flipped the last time, namely effective book promotions. The overwhelming consensus of the last blog was that most write as members of Camp B (if you don’t know what that means, read the frigging blog), but once they’ve written something, the question that arises is, how to best promote it?
To start off, I’ll share a few promotions I have going on, or will have within a week. Some of these were a bit unorthodox, as I’m leery of the efficacy of things like contests, trailers, blog tours, and the like. That’s not to say they don’t work, but merely to admit that I don’t know how well they work, when they work at all. I’m hoping I’ll find out more by the time this blog has run its course. That will of course depend on the feedback I get.
The first promotion is a cross promotion in all my thrillers with NY Times featured author David Lender, whose work I’m a big fan of and who’s been very supportive of my efforts.
The way this works is that each copy of Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach and (when I release them within the next 7-10 days) the Zero Sum trilogy, has an excerpt summary page right after the copyright notice in the front featuring samples of my three thrillers, and then an excerpt summary page featuring David Lender’s three thrillers. The actual excerpts are at the back of the book – three samples of my work, and then three of David’s, from The Gravy Train, Trojan Horse and Bull Street.
We figured our audiences would enjoy each others’ books, so have put this into place to see what kind of cross-traction we can get. We’re betting that if someone likes my new Wall Street thriller trilogy, they’ll like his Wall Street thrillers, and vice versa.
This is not uncommon with traditionally published authors under the same publishing house, but I haven’t heard of a lot of self-published/indie authors doing it. If it’s successful, I’ll keep everyone posted on how well it worked, and how long it took to do so.
Another promotion I’m getting ready to launch is with the way the Zero Sum trilogy will be marketed.
I’m going to make the first book in the trilogy free. Then the second and third book will be for sale, with a bundle of book two and three at a special discounted price.
My reasoning is that once a reader has had five or six hours of familiarity with the first book, they’ll be convinced enough to buy the rest of the serial, as well as possibly try my other thrillers. I believe this is a good premise, because the hardest part about breaking to new readers is to convince them that not only can you write, but you are worth an investment of their limited time. In short, you need to get the reader to trust you as an author. But they can’t learn to trust you if they’ve never read you, so my solution is to reduce the barrier to entry to zero.
Free is a pretty low hurdle, and one could look at it as a loss leader, or as an investment — the reader’s willing to invest their time in the book, so I’m willing to invest my cost to create it. My writing time, the cover and the editing.
And third, I’m lowering the price of all my books to .99 for two weeks. For the rest of the month. Again, on the theory that familiarity might breed something besides contempt.
I have no idea how well this will work, but my hunch is that it will work better than nothing, or sending out 100 tweets per day telling you to buy my crap, or a blog attempting to capitalize on a topical figure.
So I’d like to hear from other authors out there. What’s worked for you? What marketing or promotional efforts have yielded results for you, or perhaps as importantly, what hasn’t worked for you? What was ineffective that you’d never do again?
I’m open to being taught new tricks, and I believe that encouraging a constructive discussion can benefit everyone, so I’ve just tossed out my two best ideas for marketing over the next few months.
What’s your input? Don’t be shy; let’s get a discussion going so we know how to save our valuable time and money.
I have received a number of questions via comments and e-mail since posting a blog several weeks ago asking for interview questions, and because I’m a considerate, kind example of humanity, I thought I’d respond to the more interesting ones. Unlike my invented, humorous “interviews.” I (mostly) answer these sincerely. Most are writing process related, which doesn’t surprise me since most of my Twitter followers are writers. So, in no particular order, here they are.
Question: Why do you have such graphic torture scenes in Fatal Exchange, and yet in Geronimo Breach you have no graphic violence?
Me: I was trying a number of different things in both books. In Fatal, I wanted to craft a book that worked like a season of “24” – a series of short, percussive scenes with high impact and a racing plot, with two distinctly different story lines – that of the foreign government counterfeiting US banknotes and sending a hit team to silence the leaks, and that of the serial killer who is stalking the bike messengers. Part of my experiment was to see if graphic scenes could shock the reader’s system at desired beat points, compelling them to stay engaged. Another major experiment was to see if I could write a convincing female protag that worked for both sexes. Some love the graphic shock, some not so much. Mostly positive, though.
On Geronimo Breach, I wanted to do a different experiment – write the most offensive protagonist on the planet and see if I could make him engaging so readers root for him even though he’s a despicable sh#tgrub of a human. And I also wanted to see if I could sustain an element of suspense over the underlying conspiracy plot till the final two or three pages. For that I didn’t require violence – it’s a different approach to the thriller genre than Fatal, so I wrote what I needed to in order to successfully accomplish what I’d hoped to achieve. Both have gotten rave reviews, but Geronimo’s have been particularly good, so I think both approaches are valid depending upon what you want to achieve. My instinct is that future books won’t have much graphic sex of violence, as it’s proved unnecessary to moving the story along or making it more compelling.
Question: Have you sold a Gazillion books yet?
Me: As described in my book, How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), I am on an exponential curve to sell a Gazillion shortly. An understanding of math and physics will tell you why I’m confident. Critical acclaim has been overwhelmingly generous, and sales are on track with expectations.
Question: How do you incorporate layering into your books? What is your reasoning for doing so?
Me: I try to make the books work on a number of levels. At the obvious level, and then at a deeper philosophical level, and finally at an experimental technique level, for authors. I do it using proprietary approaches only Goldman Sachs and I have access to. I do it because I bore easily, and I enjoy when I can reread a book and get an entirely different experience out of it the second or third time around. And also so I can take an intellectually superior tone with anyone foolish enough to cross me.
Question: What’s next for you? Are you going to serialize a character as John Lock advises? Write a heartfelt blog about someone topical?
Me: If I thought I could write a blog about someone newsworthy and insert myself into the discourse to broaden awareness of my work, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But I don’t believe that will ever work again, presuming it ever did, claims notwithstanding. The reason is one of efficient market theory: once all facts are known, and a technique is broadly understood, it by definition loses its effectiveness. Unfortunately, while Locke’s book is filled with interesting advice and techniques, I have yet to see them work for anyone but him, thus I find it interesting as a post hoc reasoning piece and a historical analysis of why he thinks he hit when he did, but not particularly helpful as a moving-forward guide. Perhaps I’m an A-hole, and others are having miraculous success with his approach, but I have yet to see it. If you are aware of anyone, speak up. We would all love to know the secret sauce and see it validated via reproducibility. Because that’s the test of any hypothesis – can you repeat the experiment, in a vacuum, and achieve the same result? So far, not so much, as far as I’m aware.
As to serializing a character, I want to see how my next trilogy does. Zero Sum is a trio of Wall Street thrillers, which follow the trials and tribulations of Dr. Steven Cross as he battles a powerful financier adversary in a biotech pump and dump scheme. I don’t have any particular drive to serialize any character thus far, but I’m open to it. If I do so it will because I feel that character has more to say, or is appropriate for another story – not because it appears to be a favorable marketing strategy. Ludlum had a pretty good run of it without serializing until he did the Bourne trio, and Grisham and King and many others have done nicely without serializing, so in the end I think it’s a function of what you want to write – what interests you. If Zero Sum does well and acclaim is uniform, I’m thinking of using Dr. Cross as the protagonist in one of my next novels.
As far as other characters go, I love Al from Geronimo. He’s was one of my favorite characters to write, ever. But I’m not sure he has another adventure that requires telling. Tess, from Fatal Exchange, is another compelling character, in my own admittedly not-so-humble opinion, but I’m not sure she’s going to ever appear again.
I’m not that calculating in my process. Generally, I get an idea, generally a “What if X was true, and as a result Y happened” and then I scribble an outline. Sometimes it goes into a drawer, and I add to it over time, and sometimes I’m compelled to sit down then and there and write the bloody thing. I have no control over it. With Gazillions, it started out as an idea for a 1200 word blog, and manifested into a book. With Geronimo, it began with conceptualizing Al, and a burst of insight over a possible conspiracy that would be world-changing in significance. With Fatal, it was the idea of doing a dual plot book in a post-“24″-sensibility manner. I wish I had more control over it, but I don’t. I just get an idea, and sometimes it sucks and I kill it, and sometimes it has legs.
Question: How long does it take you to write a book? Fiction and non-fiction?
Me: Depends. Generally speaking, however, non-fiction is much faster than fiction. Gazillions was written from July 2 to the 7th. 12 hours a day writing it. Laughing aloud much of the time, to the alarm of my dogs. Fiction, depending upon length, for a first draft,takes me between 140 and 200 hours for an 80K to 110K word novel. Also 12 hour days; generally contiguous days with no distractions. I find it far easier to immerse myself in the fictional world and scenario and remain there until done. But I usually have an outline of the plot on fiction before I start, so that speeds the process as I have a rough roadmap of where I want to go before I start.
On Geronimo, and Fatal, I did a chapter by chapter summary, two to three sentences, of what’s going to happen and who’s going to do what to whom. That makes it fast to write once I sit down and start. On Zero Sum, I tried it with no outline or chapter summaries. It took longer, but not that much longer, so I’m unsure how I’ll write in the future. Probably with outlines and chapter summaries, as I think it makes for a more coherent, and more complex, plot. It’s easier to keep 3 to 5 story lines running simultaneously with that approach, and I think it enforces intellectual discipline for the writer. You have to really think through all the pieces before you start, which enables you to ask yourself questions like, “Is it a good idea for the reader to know X at this point, or does it work better if he discovers X far later, and then realizes X was important earlier in the narrative?”
Question: Do you use any organizational tools, like Scrivner?
Me: Nope. I use MS word, and index cards. The glamor of technology hasn’t really had any appeal for me, mainly because I can’t maintain attention to figure out how to make the SW work. So far so good.
Question: You Tweet a lot. How as social media changed your approach, if at all?
Me: I do tweet a lot, but it runs in waves. If I’m working on a book, the tweeting will drop off to nothing. If sitting around, bored, I’ll tweet a bunch. I try to keep it random, and interesting, and funny, and not just a bunch of “Buy my book” clogging crap. I hate that, as it smacks of desperation and flop sweat, and ignores the obvious – it ain’t working. Again, if there are authors who have found twitter to have increased their sales significantly, I’d love to hear about it. But I don’t see it as a big contributor in the long run. Same with Facebook. I have a page, but I rarely update it. It’s just a timesuck. Most of the social media stuff seems to be.
Having said that, I’ve made some great friends on Twitter and Facebook, so from that aspect it’s been valuable. But overall, I don’t think most writers buy other writers’ work, so tweeting to a bunch of followers who are mostly writers, in an effort to get them to buy your work, seems low impact to me. We writers are usually a self-involved bunch, focusing on our own projects, so the work of others is not a priority. Or again, maybe that’s just me. But if I get to one book a month of my fellow writers, I’m doing well. Next on my list is David Lender’s Bull Street, and then Steve’s The Jakarta Pandemic.
Well, that’s the lot of them. I did get a few that asked some personal questions, but I’d prefer to keep some parts of my life private, so those won’t be seeing the light of day. No offense to anyone who sent one. But some things are none of anyone’s business but mine. You’ll note I actually tried to answer everything sincerely, and without my usual mockery and derision. That’s probably a rare exception, so don’t get too used to it. If I haven’t answered something here that you are curious about, as always, e-mail me or leave a comment, and I’ll add it to the next round of these.
A status update. Well, first off, acclaimed Aussie novelist Kath McDicken has devoted a marvelous new blog to reviewing several noteworthy authors’ work, not the least of which is John Locke, and the complete works of Russell Blake. She’s a fabulously entertaining writer with a style all her own, and I think her blog is one of the best I’ve read. It can be viewed here.
Next, I was invited to write a guest blog on the ins and outs of being a book whore, or more specifically, on being a book pimp, at John Mierau’s blog. John’s loose topic idea was “Book Pimping,” and what resulted was my first guest blog at his site, titled, “The Art of Pimping.” John’s a talent in his own right, and I have no idea why he’d sully his reputation by allowing my ramblings on his site, but it’s too late for him now — the blog is live. You can check it out here.
And finally, lest it gets lost, a few days ago author Steve Konkoly wrote a glowing review of The Geronimo Breach, which can be viewed here.
I’m hard at work editing my new Wall Street financial thriller trilogy, Zero Sum, which will be available, er, shortly. Please take out a moment to check out the above, and if you’d be kind enough to tweet about this blog, I’d owe you big time.
It’s rare that I blush. Generally speaking, at least several bottles of good Shiraz or Malbec are involved. OK, maybe not all that good, but several. In any event, as all authors know, it’s hard to tell how your fellow writers are going to react to your work. The reasons are legion. They’re tough critics because they’ve had to forge their talents by having a zero tolerance policy in their own work for slop or grammatical error. They know the theory of story, they understand character arcs, and they’re jaded – they usually read a lot, and are picky as hell. So surprising a good author with something in their own genre is a tough task. Really. I know I read an awful lot of work from established names where I’m groaning aloud halfway through, wishing for death, or at least regretting the hours of my time I wasted on a substandard offering. It sucks. I hate it. So should you.
It is with considerable surprise and no small amount of joy that I read author Steven Konkoly’s review of my latest thriller, just out in the last few weeks: The Geronimo Breach. This is a man of no small literary talent of his own, who is as positive as I think it’s possible to be about my book. But what makes the review significant in my mind, as you read it, is that it’s clear that he has a grasp on all the elements of story, language, grammar, character development, etc.
I won’t belabor the review. I think it’s worth reading it for yourself. And then I think that you should take me up on my offer – if you don’t agree that The Geronimo Breach is the best thriller of the year from a new author set in Panama, I’ll gladly refund your money. Seriously, though, if you like thrillers, take Steve’s words to heart. He’s not just blowing smoke. The review is honest. Probably more so than I am. That being said, thank you Steven for the review.
And thank you Lawrence Block for your positive review of How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated). And John Lescroart, and David Lender, for your kind reviews of it as well.
I understand this seems shamelessly self-promoting, and perhaps it is, but there is also a sincere part of me that really wants you to read Geronimo, just to hear the reaction. It has nothing to do with money. If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. If you’re a reader, you know the joy of discovering something new and exciting. I’m hopeful Geronimo Breach gives everyone something to cheer about.
Till next time…
First, an update. Fatal Exchange has 18 rave reviews on Amazon to date. Geronimo Breach, just released a week or so ago, already has 4. And How to Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) has 11, plus some wildly flattering reviews from literary luminaries like Lawrence Block, John Lescroart and David Lender.
Now, to the point of this blog. I need your advice. Sincerely. No gimmicks.
I’m working on a host of projects right now, and I’m sort of at a crossroads in terms of what to write, when. I’ve talked to all my usual suspects, and everybody has a different opinion. So I figured I’d ask you, the reader, your opinion.
Here’s what I have in the pipeline:
Zero Sum – a Wall Street financial thriller trilogy, in edit.
Project B – International intrigue thriller tentatively titled The Delphi Chronicle
Project C – treasure hunt type thriller tentatively titled The Manuscript Cipher
Project D – Satire/humor book on why men are the way we are
Project E – True story of the best dog in the world and his trials and tribulations
Project F – International conspiracy thriller
So the question is, which would you rather see next? Of all the above? Actually, you’ll see the Zero Sum trilogy next, as that’s in editing, but of projects B through F, which would you most want for Christmas? I’m working on all, and have anywhere from 20K words to 30K words completed on many, so it’s more an issue of, what would most interest you? You want another Gazillions style book on being a man? An international chase? A heart-wrenching story of the canine love of my life? A Raider’s of the Lost Ark type thriller/adventure novel?
Tell me. Assume all will be executed as well as it’s possible for me to write them.
Then the second question is, should I do some genres under a pen name, to avoid confusing fans? I mean, it’s bad enough already with me being a thriller writer, who also writes snarky parodies on all things grammar and writing related. Will it dilute my brand to throw some of these even odder genres into the mix? Dog book? Dick-lit? And if so, should I be thinking up a new moniker for those genres?
Tough questions. But then again, I’ve got some of the smartest readers on the internet, so I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Leave them as comments with an OK to publish and I’ll approve them, or of you have something more confidential, mark secret and only I will ever see it.
I’m dead serious about this. I have 4 months left. I can turn out a non-fiction ready for editing in a couple weeks, and a novel in a month or less. So what do you want your next couple books from me to look like by Xmas?
Appreciate the feedback. As always. But please, no more adverts on how to make $5K from home in my spare time – I already tried the pedophilia server-hosting thing, and collections are an issue they don’t tell you about. So I know you’re lying. Stop lying.
Please leave the suggestions as comments. Much appreciate it.
First off, let’s discuss the brand new book from yours truly, just released a few days ago: The Geronimo Breach. It’s getting critical acclaim, for which I’m grateful, as I take a lot of risks in this book, a sample of which can be viewed here. I sort of wrote a novel where I broke as many of the traditional rules as I could, without crossing over and becoming a twat.
My reasoning was simple: I wanted to write an anti-hero, a protagonist who was so filled with objectionable traits he was barely tolerable, much less likeable. I also wanted to open the book with a dream sequence – but not just a dream, rather a dream inside a dream, the only purpose of which was to throw out some gratuitously fun literary beats, and to introduce the offensive protagonist. And I wanted the entire novel to be based upon such a controversial predicate that it would infuriate, but also wanted the plot to remain unknown until the final pages, when realization hits the reader with a roar. Yet I wanted the story and characters to be engaging enough to carry this hidden plot for 80K+ words. And finally, even though the events in the book date it to just a few months ago, I wanted to create something that would be timeless.
So we have a book that was written in a short, intense period of time, that understands all the rules and deliberately breaks them for effect (and the hell of it) and which comes off as entertaining and fun, and in the end, troubling, where you have as despicable a protag as possible, whose arc in the story benefits almost entirely from dumb luck favoring his making the wrong choices at virtually every turn, and for whom any sort of redemption is not only unlikely, but almost unthinkable.
Fortunately, it appears that the mission was accomplished – upon reread, I enjoyed it rather a lot (I have to put the book down after editing for a few weeks and get busy on something else so I don’t own the words, and thus sort of forget how a particular sentence was structured or what precisely comes next). Early readers also liked it quite a bit, awarding it 5 stars. And it was just featured on an editing blog that is rather influential in the UK – Write Into Print.
I’m hopeful more of you who have read Fatal Exchange will post commentary on it at Amazon (we’re up to 16 four and five star reviews thus far), as well as for Geronimo Breach and Gazilions – which has gotten so much critical acclaim I almost blush to think of how kind my critics have been.
So that’s the update for how I’ve been keeping busy. Even as we speak, I’m editing another thriller that’s largely financial-world driven (I want to get as far from the jungles of Panama and Columbia as I can in this book, given Geronimo is set there), and more up the alley of Wall Street than Calle 12. Once done with that, I have two more books set for this year (actually 3, but I don’t think I’m going to get all 3 done) – one an international chase conspiracy/thriller, one a treasure hunt type book a la Da Vinci Code, and one a humor book in the vein of Gazillions, which skewers male/female relationships. I’ve completed 25K words of the chase book, 20K of the treasure hunt (of which I’ll probably trash 10K), and 90% of the humor book. So I’m a busy boy, but if it’s a choice, I think I prefer to get the treasure hunt book completed next, and then move to the others. Given that the second humor book will likely kill my career it’s so abjectly offensive, I may shelve that for a while. Dunno.
On another topic, I’ve just completed a guest blog which should come out next week or so, and now want to try something a little different.
I’ve been getting comments from fans asking for a real interview, as opposed to the simulated ones that have appeared thus far. So I’m going to propose that anyone with a question leave it as a comment on this blog, and at some point shortly I will organize the questions into interview format, and answer as many as I feel like fielding. This may not work, or it may work great, so we shall see – comments are moderated so you smut-mouthed trash talkers who usually comment can be appropriately censored, however that also means that your questions won’t appear until I publish the interview. So leave your questions, and I’ll assemble them and answer them as a separate blog post within the next week or two.
Finally, the new action/thriller The Geronimo Breach is available for purchase from Amazon.
Hopefully this will stop the recent rioting, which was incorrectly blamed on disenfranchised youths angry over lack of financial opportunity. What actually happened is they were pissed, and rightly so, as Geronimo was supposed to go live on Saturday, and when it was delayed due to technical issues, they went as frigging berserk as paint-huffing circus freaks. While it is lamentable how unstable readers can be, I can feel their disappointment – but stealing big screen TVs or stereos or bags of Basmati rice isn’t the answer. Stop the madness, and go buy the book, and apologize to the people you’ve harmed, and be glad they didn’t call me in to lead a charge of man-killing grizzlies to shut your asses down, or spray the crowd with acid as I suggested to sources high up in the government.
It will also hopefully stabilize the global financial markets, which were similarly roiled by anger and disappointment when the book took an extra few days, and investors sold their shares, causing one of the worst daily percentage drops in market history. Folks, The Geronimo Breach, at $2.99, now that a US dollar is basically worth a small ball of twine and a few battered bottle caps, is ridiculously cheap at the price. Consider the recent collapse of the world’s reserve currency as your chance to exchange virtually worthless paper for a high value asset that will give hours of reading pleasure. Dump your dollars now, buy the book, and soon everything will be well again.
I do want to dispel internet rumors that all my books have some miraculous curative effect. While it’s true that unexplainable spontaneous remission of horrifying metastasis has been reported from all over the world by readers of Fatal Exchange and How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) the truth is nobody’s really sure why purchasers seem to be basking in a glow of perfect health and near miraculous longevity. It will take years of research to establish the exact reasons for this phenomenon, however in the meantime you can expect that The Geronimo Breach will also possess whatever quality that’s causing it.
So do yourself a favor. Be one of the first to get the book that is going to change everything in the publishing game – a work that will challenge your beliefs about life, government, democracy, love, heaven and hell, as well as virtually every other aspect of existence of any importance. Don’t be a twat, too cheap to spend the few bucks, and be forced to sit alone in the area reserved for lepers and those with flesh eating bacteria, because you didn’t download it. That doesn’t have to be you. No, yours can be a non-stop thrill ride set in the jungles of Panama, with a sensational anti-protagonist who will teach us all lessons about our human frailties, as well as inspire hope for redemption in even the most base of us. You can claim to have been there first, when the entire Geronimo Breach sensation was just starting, and sneer at others in smugly self-righteous superiority at having known about it far before the great unwashed lumbered to the trough and finally figured it out.
Go check out the excerpt at The Geronimo Breach page, and then go to Amazon, and vote for world peace and stable markets with your inconsequential three bucks. Do it for the circus bears. Do it for the kitties, and the puppies, the pandas and the penguins, and especially the children. And do it for yourself, and your loved ones. Because if you don’t, your life is going to be a miserable wallow in a miasma of sewage and spew, and you’ll be both sickened by your fall from grace with nothing to show for your short, painful stint on the planet but crushed dreams and a dead soul, as well as be repellent to anyone unfortunate enough to come into contact with you — making you a rejected outcast whose only company is the humiliation of having had the chance to change it all, but having failed even that simple test, are now an empty husk praying for a swift, merciful death.
Personally, I’d buy the frigging book. But that’s just me. Do as you like.
We can now all get back to a normal life, although if you aren’t holding Swiss Francs and bullion, along with bullets and cans of food, you’re hosed. But get the book. It’ll change everything for you, and is sure to get rave reviews from delighted fans nearly giddy with satisfaction. Each word was personally chosen by me for you, dear reader, and each scene carefully crafted to amuse, entertain, and teach. Don’t waste the opportunity to jump on the train and take that ride. Go buy it. Now. You’ll be glad you did. Because for a limited time, if you don’t agree that this is the best novel set in Panama about a clandestine scheme gone horribly awry to be released this year, I’ll return your money to you. That’s how sure I am you’ll like it. So now you have absolutely no reason to be a twat. Go buy the book, and join the anointed circle of the fortunate. For once in your life, do the right thing. Please.
Due to the amazingly positive response to the first part of the interview, I reluctantly agreed to put the rest up so fans can get a better feel for the inner workings of Russell Blake. This, then, is my little gift to you. I will be busy writing and editing for the next month or so, thus you’ll need to be satisfied with these two snippets until I’m able to cobble together enough coherent sentences to call my next rant a book, or can find someone worth plagiarizing.
You might want to go over to the Fatal Exchange page and read the excerpt from it for a feel of what my fiction is like. Just saying, is all. If you’re already here, it’s not like you have much better to do.
Here’s the remainder of the interview:
INTERVIEWER: So what advice do you have for other writers?
ME: Buy gold and guns. The world’s going to hell, and you’ll want a fistful of kruggerands and a Glock when the sh#t hits the fan and the supply chain breaks down. When the mob goes berserk, you’ll want a box of slugs and some bullion, baby.
INTERVIEWER: I meant writing advice.
ME: Don’t be a twat.
INTERVIEWER: I beg your pardon?
ME: Not you. I mean, well, you too, but not exclusively you. My advice is to just stop being a big blubbering twat, and cooing about your writing on twitter like a mewling little bitch kitty. Nobody thinks your asswipe toddler is cute but you, the world doesn’t need another bloated housewife dying her hair green and insisting she’s a vampire channeler, whether or not you’re watching True Blood is of zero interest to anyone anywhere, and most of what you are writing has the gravitas of Cool Whip. So just understand that, and deal with it, and stop being a twat. That goes for the male authors, too, who are doing their best to come across as neutered missionaries asking you to read their pamphlet on Jaysus. Stop being twats. Nobody likes a twat. Except other twats, and then only when they’re looking in the mirror.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. I see. So who is your audience, then? Who are you writing for?
ME: Mostly strippers with bad meth problems, and felons.
ME: It’s a big market. You know how many of my peeps are in the joint? Don’t discount their buying power. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – most readers aren’t going to be smart enough to get my stuff. I mean, they’ll sit there, glassy-eyed, roaming over the words, but they won’t be able to figure it out as it’s written at above a kindergarten level, which is about what the average reader these days can grasp. Decades of sitting in front of the television, mistaking turgid little melodramatic vignettes for actual substance has created generations of dullards for whom James Patterson is frigging Voltaire. It’s sad, but true. So if you’re smart enough to understand my novels, you’re in the minority – trust me on that. When I imagine my reader, unfortunately I visualize a quarter-ton shut in with twelve cats who moves her lips when she reads comic books. And I’m probably being generous.
INTERVIEWER: That sounds sort of, well, mean.
ME: That’s because you’re a twat. “Bwah. Mean people suck. Boo hoo hoo.” Sweetie, let me tell you something: mean people only seem mean because you have some distorted Pollyannaish view of the world where everyone acts like some retarded deacon at the Church of Friendly. Here’s a newsflash. The reason your sh#t goes down a waterslide instead of sitting on your floor is because some “mean” engineer figured out how to make it happen. The reason the 747 overhead doesn’t come crashing through the roof of your lean-to is because mean people spent decades figuring out how to make it fly. When your tragically unhealthy lifestyle has your arteries clogged and your face goes numb, your mean, brusque doctor will be the one you’ll be begging to save you like he’s the air tube and you’re 40 feet underwater. The only thing nice people are good for are buying products, believing their vote can make anything different, and pretending they don’t want to secretly f#ck the neighbor’s daughter or pool boy.
ME: But I don’t want readers to think my work isn’t upbeat, with a positive tone. Because it’s really uplifting.
INTERVIEWER: You mean the slack-jawed morons who might be interested in pretending to grasp your ideas while staring at their Kindle like it’s a Gameboy?
ME: Exactly. I believe that even the most simpering dullard should buy every one of my books, as it might, just might, make them smarter for the effort of trying to read it. I mean, let’s face it, that’s unlikely, but still, anything’s possible, and I’ll be a much more deserving steward of their three bucks than they would.
INTERVIEWER: It sounds like you don’t expect much out of readers.
ME: I expect three bucks.
INTERVIEWER: But aren’t you worried about offending them with these types of interviews?
ME: Do I seem like I give two sh#ts? Really? Does this look like a face that cares? Look, people should find the idea that their country is being robbed blind by pecuniary interests run by elite criminal cartels offensive. They should find the fact their currency is worth 80% less over the last 9 years offensive. They should find the idea that their kids are going to live in a world as second class wage-slaves offensive. They should find the fact their government lies to them at every turn offensive. If they’re going to find me offensive, and not that, they’re twats. And what’s my advice?
INTERVIEWER: …Don’t be a twat?
ME: Correct. Now, I’m afraid this interview is over. I hear my peacocks making amorous advances upon one another over in the throne room, signaling that my lunch has been prepared and it’s time for my massage. If you want a piece of this, just follow me in – I can always shut off the lights and drink you pretty. Oh, and I hope this does it for your readers. And try to make me seem approachable and friendly, would you? So many of these interviews seem to come out with me being distant…
I’m really excited to have just completed my first interview. We covered a wide range of topics, and even if it got off to a slightly rocky start, I believe it hit its stride after a bit. The interviewer was a rather severe librarian who is apparently a big fan of my work, although I’m not sure she completely understood all my humor. But no matter. Without further ado, here’s the interview, followed by yet another free sample from the hit “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated).”
Oh, and on the Fatal Exchange book page, I’ve posted an excerpt so cheapskates can sample my fiction work. It’s following all the glowing 5 star reviews from famous people.
INTERVIEWER: Well, it’s certainly a treat to have you participating in my interview series. This is the first one, so I may be a little nervous. It’s not every day I get to interview a man who has sold over a million eBooks in 5 months and then written a book to share his secrets with us. So let’s start off with…
ME: Uh, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I think you may be mistaking me with John Locke. He is the one who sold the million and wrote the “How I Did It” book.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, uh, OK. So you didn’t sell all those books?
ME: No, I wrote a book called “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated)” which is a parody of all things writing, self-publishing and self-promotion. I also wrote Fatal Exchange, an action thriller set in NY featuring an iconoclastic female bike messenger being hunted by a rogue nation’s hit squad and a serial killer.
INTERVIEWER: So let’s talk about the fiction then. You’re now writing westerns? Something about bear poking or rock throwing?
ME: No, that would be John again.
INTERVIEWER: Not you.
ME: No. My books are longer. Longer words. More of them. And no bears.
INTERVIEWER: Hmmm. Well do you have a lovable yet crusty ex-CIA hit man who speaks in monosyllables as a protagonist?
ME: No. That’s John again. I write complex characters like Tess, the ex-software programmer turned bike messenger who is battling depression while racing for her life as everyone around her is butchered by bloodthirsty killers.
INTERVIEWER (studies notes): So you’re not from the South?
ME: No. I think Locke’s from Georgia, but I’m living in Mexico. Georgia’s where they freed the slaves a while ago after the whole schoolbus incident happened during the second world war. Mexico is where all the gardeners and maids come from. They speak Mexican, and have a different word for everything. Totally different places. I think they might speak English or some kind of patois in Georgia, maybe Georgian, but it’s definitely different than Mexican.
INTERVIEWER: I see. So it’s Russell, right? Blake? Oh, now I remember! Weren’t you relieved when the jury acquitted you on the charges you butchered your wife in that restaurant parking lot?
ME: I think you might be thinking of Robert Blake. The actor.
INTERVIEWER: Right. You had that hit TV series from the 1950’s, I think. Borat or something? How’s the parrot? They live a long time, I know. But wow, I mean, you’ve changed a lot.
ME: Yeah, the tequila will do that. I also had a little work down around my eyes. But seriously, that’s not me. My name’s Russell. His name’s Robert.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, Russell! Very good, then. I think I get it. So tell me, were you disappointed with the reviews on Robin Hood, that said you were a butterfaced twat with the acting depth of a bag of rocks?
ME: No, that would be Russell Crowe. He’s also an actor, from someplace foreign like Mel Gibson is, Austria or Newfoundland or something. He’s taller than Gibson, and doesn’t hate the jews as much. I’m not sure which country the Amish are from, but I believe they’re from there – Amity, maybe? I think they both like their scotch, though, if you know what I mean. Actually, I could use a pop right about now…
INTERVIEWER: So you’re sure you aren’t any of these people? Well, fudge. I’m not sure what to ask you.
ME: You could try discussing my hysterically funny parody book that’s garnering rave reviews from literary luminaries and influential bloggers alike…
INTERVIEWER: No, not really my cuppa, if you know what I mean. Don’t read that kind of crap much, no offense. I tend to stick to non-fiction audio books or illustrated novels.
ME: I see. The pictures are probably the best, huh? So, how long’s it been since you had a man?
INTERVIEWER: I…I beg your pardon?
ME: You know what I’m saying. Or put another way, how many cats do you have? You’re obviously not getting to the gym at all, but we could still make something work…
INTERVIEWER: That’s none of your beeswax. I think this interview is over.
ME: OK. But offer’s open. Mrrraawwrrrr. I have a bag of Ho Hos in my car. And I brought my man thong. The Russeller! Whooowhee!!!
Overall, a strong positive, even though she wasn’t prepared for my pithy observations and literary brilliance. But it’s a start.
On a different topic, here’s an excerpt from “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time” – from the writer’s guide portion of the book, which advises on character development, rules of usage, plotting, story structure, grammar, etc.
“Tip #42 – Tell, Don’t Show
What’s the product a reader is buying? Words. Is it a motion picture? No. So what did the buyer sign up for? Being told a story. If the reader wanted to be shown a story, he’d wait till your eBook comes out on DVD. He didn’t. Don’t get clever and infer things, or try to demonstrate a quality, characteristic, or plot point. When in doubt, tell the story. Let the reader know what’s happening.
You’re a storyteller. What does that term sound like it means? Does it say you’re a story-shower? Is there some aspect of the language that implies demonstration?
This one’s obvious. Tell the reader what’s going on, what the characters are thinking or feeling, and why this time it’s personal. If the protagonist’s wife was killed by a bear on a rampage, tell us she was his beloved and that he never recovered; don’t give us feeble clues so we have to play Sherlock Homes. I’m busy. I don’t have time to sleuth around for what your characters are feeling or not. Just spill the beans.
I’m reminded of an ex. She would never tell me what was wrong, or why she was upset. She’d just try to poison my food and glare at me in a sullen manner. It would have been way easier had she just told me she’d discovered I was sleeping with her sister, but no, it was all some sort of divine mystery. Just learn from her mistake.
Tell, don’t show.
Tip #43 – Make it Personal This Time
We all love characters who are detached and don’t have much or any skin in the game. An aloof, uninterested protagonist who’s just doing his job is always fun, and I personally thrive on these types. Most good fiction is written in this manner. But I’ve got a novel twist that can have readers on the edge of their seat.
Hang on. Don’t rush me. Okay. You ready? Drum roll, please . . .
Make it personal, this time.
That’s right. As an example, if you have a tired, alcoholic ex-cop who is jaded by decades on the job, whose substance abuse has ruined his relationship, and who seems indifferent to whether he lives or dies, you can add some spice and bring the story to life by getting him involved, because . . . this time it’s personal!!! I know, I know. Pure writing genius. It’s just one of the reasons Russell Blake’s a beloved household gazillion-selling name.
But back to our story.
Maybe we have him befriend a scruffy-but-lovable street urchin with a foul mouth, or a hooker with a heart of gold, or a lovable kitty cat, which stirs something inside him and offers him a brief glimpse of his own flickering humanity, and then the villain kills his newfound object of hope. Bang. Is he ever pissed . . . and this time it’s personal!
Do you see? Are you with me?
I know it may seem like a foreign concept, and you may need to make it excruciatingly clear for the reader that it’s actually personal this time, and why that’s so, but in the end, this can have an enormous impact on your popularity. When in doubt, make it personal.”
I don’t want to give away the whole book, as that’s inconsistent with me making a huge pile of money from mining all those easy self-publishing millions, however I figure there are still a few cheapskates out there who haven’t shelled out the measly $3 so they can better their miserable lives, and hopefully this will motivate them. I mean, hey, maybe the cost of some lukewarm soy no-foam decaf is too much for you to achieve all your dreams and become a success, in which case, this isn’t for you. No, somebody will have to wipe the bugs off my windshield at intersections or the base of freeway off ramps, and if everyone was a gaillion selling bestseller, there would be a crisis, so by all means, if you have something better to do with your three bucks than turning your life around and taking the first steps to self-actualized success, hop to it. But for those who understand that this is their ticket into the race, their shot at the bigtime, their moment to bask in the sweet glow of their own personal sun, it’s never been easier. Hit that buy button, and begin your journey to the land of your wildest dreams coming true. Guaranteed!