MORE ACCOLADES: Fatal Exchange was the favorite book of 2011 for Kate Farrel at The Kindle Book Review.
NEW INTERVIEW: I was interviewed by South African blogger Nadine Maritz, and the result can be seen here.
IMPORTANT! Night of the Assassin just went FREE on Barnes and Noble. Please help me out here. Go to the Amazon page for Night here, and scroll down below the rating, where it says “Tell Us About A Cheaper Price.” Then click that, and enter the link to B&N, which I post below, and enter 0.00 as their price. I would appreciate the help in having them price match it. Thanks so much. Here’s the B&N link.
These are exciting times. Madly so.
Why, you ask, are you bubbling with such excitement, Russell? Did they switch up your meds? Did you start early today?
I was just nominated for a shorty.
Lest anyone think I’ve been living under a park bench, many people don’t know what this significant tribute to my talent means. So it wasn’t just me.
I investigated, and was initially disappointed that it’s not made out of any precious metal or negotiable commodity, and carries no cash award. Unlike the Nobel. If anyone wants to nominate me for one of those, now THAT would get me fired up. A million bucks. Think of the ocean of tequila that would buy! But I digress, as I often do. The point is that someone nominated me, and being the competitive animal that I am, I naturally want to win. Unless placing second pays. In which case, we’re number TWO, we’re number TWO!
As far as I can tell, it’s all about creating short content. As in tweets. Or maybe it’s short words. Or short ideas. Given that I have been writing the same book now a dozen times, I think it’s safe to say that I am as short on concepts as I am on patience after a mean drunk. So I should win.
Be that as it may, I’m up against some pretty significant talent. JK Rowling, who as I’m sure you all know produces prodigious quantities of masterfully-crafted tweets. Or maybe that should read “is the biggest selling author in the world.” I think she wrote the bible or something. Maybe it was Twilight or Chicken Soup for the Caged Bird. I’m pretty sure there were vampires. I really have to catch up on my reading. But she’s big.
This is where I need to suck up to you all, and beg you to vote for me, so that I can snatch victory from the jaws of whatever is masticating it. As with Chicago elections, please vote early and often. I’m hoping I win, so I can grope some supermodels or hang out with Kiefer for a few pops. Maybe I’ll show up lit and swing a tequila bottle at the MC. Very Ricky Gervais, only without the wit or money.
So please vote for me, @Blakebooks, so you can watch me humiliate myself before an audience of literally dozens. I’m listed under Authors, no doubt because they don’t have a category for man thong model, or ice dancer, or clown hunter. If I’m elected, I’ll wear the Russeller for some exposure – no pun intended – sales of which are down now that the weather’s colder. You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to vote (or be elected to many offices, apparently), so if you won’t vote for me, I’ll need to get the boys in Bangalore tippy tapping away and stuffing the ballot box in my favor. I’ll do it. Don’t test me. I just hope they’ll take a two-party out of state check with no ID, because I think my last payment to them for writing a few of my trilogies got lost in the mail. It happens.
To summarize. Nominate me for a Nobel, so I can sneer at Bono contemptuously. Absent that, vote for me for a shorty – because I’ve still got mad love for the streets and am keeping it real for my homies in the joint. But mostly vote for me because you are a sick, demented f#ckwad who would delight in watching our cherished institutions tarnished by yours truly putting in an appearance.
If elected, I promise not to let you down. Which you can bank on like so many other election promises.
That is all. You can vote HERE by typing in @Blakebooks and Author, and entering some drivel about why you’re voting. Hint: paid off isn’t a good entry. It can be our little secret.
So vote. For me. Until your fingers bleed. Do so to strike a blow against clowns, and because I love kitties, puppies, apple pie, Grandma, the flag and whatever else you need to hear. Do it for yourself. Because this is your time in the sun. Climb the mountain of success that is your birthright and reach your strong arms out to clutch the fruit of victory from the tree of bounty! A vote for me is a vote against your despicable enemies, who I will vow to destroy, crushing their bones into jelly beneath my relentless heels so you can dance a victory jig on their cold, dank graves, their last memories being of dying shivering and alone in a sewage ditch covered with frenzied fire ants and centipedes and broken glass/razor blades/whatever else you like with the realization that you, and you alone, are responsible for their defeat and humiliation, their legacy forgotten moments after their last gurgling breath exits as a death rattle.
Thank you. Love, XOXO – Oh, and if you like this page, hit the small green StumbleUpon button below and share the love.
URGENT: Need some help from my readers. Book 1 of The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, The Manuscript, is now FREE at B&N. I could use some help from readers by having them go to Amazon and right under the rankings, select the button that says “Tell us about a lower price” and then enter the B&N link and 0.00. The B&N link is: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-delphi-chronicle-book-1-the-manuscript-russell-blake/1108076528?ean=2940032924692&itm=1&usri=the+delphi+chronicle%2c+book+1+the+manuscript
The Amazon link is: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006NAY30O
Thank you everyone for doing this. It helps Amazon maintain price matching, and is good for everyone.
Normally, I write books. On the whole, they’re serious thriller pieces, third person, past tense, and don’t veer into the realm of the speculative or the absurd. Over the holiday I decided to try my hand at first person, present tense, in a decidedly silly and surrealistic mood – the truth is I wanted to do something new, push the envelope, climb a new mountain. The result is, well, different than anything else I’ve written.
I used a few paragraphs from my parody of writing, Gazillions, as the starting point. I deliberately wrote something unlike my stock in trade, while struggling to keep the whole mess to about 3000 words. I’ve toned down the obscenity to what you’d hear on talk radio. Mostly.
I hope you find it diverting. All rights reserved, as always.
NEWS: Great interview with Write Into Print essential reading for those interested in more info about my process and plans.
BREAKING NEWS: Fatal Exchange receives honors as one of the top books of the year at The Kindle Book Review.
ANOTHER COOL INTERVIEW: Just went live with @jambalian about writing, King of Swords, & my WIP, The Voynich Cipher.
JOHN LESCROART INTERVIEW GOES VIRAL: My interview with NYT Bestseller John Lescroart got featured in prominent lifestyle periodical InClassicStyle. It’s a good one, so if you haven’t read it yet, check it out. Thoughts on process and craft.
The words of a long dead bard grate on my skin as I speed along the ribbon of asphalt that bisects the high desert between Vegas and the Pacific coast—the obvious unfairness of scale that a million monkeys can bring to the party glares evident in the simplicity of those six succinct words: To be or not to be. I’m not so much bitter that some scribe had synthesized the entire human experience into so few syllables. The rough rub is that I haven’t approached the same level of rhetorical perfection, my delusions of grandeur and superiority complex notwithstanding. My ‘calling’, as I laughingly refer to it, is twisting words to do my bidding—to bend them to my will—to make them dance and tremble, mambo and bop, performing as and how I command them; to amuse or torture or reveal all, each tap of a key chipping shards from the marble to wrest the fettered figure from the block—to the delighted acclaim of the marginally interested, their porcine noses pressed hard against the stained Plexiglas, unappreciative of the miracle of creation cast before them.
Another swig from the plastic jug of Ballerina vodka stills the furies as the tumbleweeds and cactus blur by, the heat of the morning sun distorting the horizon into a shimmering mirage as the miles fly past, leaving echoes of a silent but obvious judgment on my unworthiness as a master of this realm. F#cking Shakespeare always pisses me off once my blood alcohol reaches a certain point and the cocaine edge dulls, and I know my sleep tonight, such as it’s likely to be, will be haunted by the bald, mustachioed head of the smug prick, the stiff collar and antiquated clothing a fitting foundation for the smirk on his face, which mocks the very universe that hosts my sorry existence.
I take a series of deep breaths and reach over to stroke the cold, comforting steel of the Smith and Wesson .357 magnum I like to fire out my of window at the imagined silhouettes of clowns when I’ve slugged back enough meanstreak to fuel my mischief. It’s just a thing I do to soothe my soul, a cordite balm for the open sore my festering lack of talent keeps raw. I should have gotten more sleep before trying the drive, but the moment my eyes opened, it was time to hit the road. I must have freaked out the cocktail waitress—who’d supplied such amenable company after her shift, with her gymnastic prowess that had almost placed her in Cirque du Soleil’s third tier of anonymous contortionists instead of toting watered shots of Jack to losing writers playing blackjack tables on the ghost-shift of a low-level casino, whose façade featured a steer’s snorting countenance as its come-on to frisky cow folk and Vietnamese grocers on holiday.
She’d been dozing after regaling me with tales of her boyfriend, Vinnie—who’d soon be getting out of lockup to take her away from the sordid trailer park reality that imprisoned her as surely as any bars, when I’d bolted awake to the bard’s words mocking me in a gritty tremolo. She’d reached for me, for anything, to fill the void left when her soul vacated the premises after a lackluster run, but it was time for me to get back to the vicious reality that was my daily existence. It was Monday, six in the morning, and I had a life-changing meeting in Lost Angeles at noon I couldn’t miss. If I made serious time I could shower and just make it—some things you didn’t want to blow off. All it would take to get there was willpower, some liquid bravado, a little help from my friends and a full tank of gas. I could do it. Veronica, or whatever, had slitted open an eye as I pulled on my jeans, then upgraded to a blinking accusation: another in a long line of men who’d abandoned her after getting what they needed, leaving her soiled and brimming with ire for her trouble.
“It was fun. Be good,” I’d told her as I negotiated the hotel doorknob with numb fingers that seemed to belong to a leprous stranger. A sigh of unspoken recrimination had dripped off my back as I kicked shut the door behind me.
Like the song, or at least like I think some song must go, I’d known when to hit the road—‘cause I’m a ramblin’ man.
~ ~ ~
The sky-blue Oxford button-up shirt collar chafes my neck uncomfortably as I sit waiting for the light to turn green. The faint stink of fuel-rich exhaust mingles with the musty smell of the ancient Pontiac’s perfectly preserved leather interior; an odor redolent of pimp slappings and drug deals sealed in bygone days. I contemplate lowering the convertible top to celebrate the sun’s burning through the brown haze of smog that hangs over the city like a toxic mantle, but discard the idea. I don’t need a wind-buffeting to make me any more disheveled. Red eyes and three days of stubble stare back at me from my rear-view mirror, a silent testament to an extended weekend of excess and debauchery in Sin City; another long stint in a seemingly endless orgy of indulgence.
Working as a B-list screenwriter is a double-edged sword. The pay’s good, when it comes, and the hours can’t be beaten. With a few rewrite jobs under my belt and an action-adventure flick languishing in lesser theaters throughout the country during the holiday season, I now have enough game to drag most of the dim-witted hotties doing the bar circuit home whenever I want. That never gets old, until morning, when they inevitably want to start talking.
The talking is the worst.
Same story every time: In tinsel town from some small berg where they’d won a talent show or had been crowned Miss Cornhuskers, and after watching too many reality shows, they’d mistakenly computed they had what it took to make it. L.A. is awash in misguided hubris and attitude substituting for talent—an entire industry caters to the delusions of the newly-arrived or the perennially-hopeful. Praise the flickering neon Hollywood Jesus for the lean, hard bodies of the aspiring. Their single-minded focus on getting ahead is my entre, and all I have to do is circle the herd, probing for the telltale signs of the weak and slow and stupid before I streak in for the kill. I’m just one of many predators in an uneasy truce at the watering holes, but my line is a little more convincing than most because, now, I have a movie out. The mention of my name in the credits has an aphrodisiac effect on a certain type of entertainment industry social climber, and once I hint that I have sway in casting, the quarry is down, exposed, supine—another easy conquest.
A strident horn sounds from a bombastic Benz behind me, interrupting my reverie. I goose the worn metal pedal and the gas-guzzling V-8’s reassuring burble propels me down the road. Nervous over the imminent meeting and edgy from the half tab of Dexedrine I choked down as an eye-opener with my coffee, I reach for the dashboard and stab the power button on the stereo like it owes me money. AC/DC blares from the speakers with a thrashing of guitars, the singer’s giddy vocal leer lamenting jailbreaks gone wrong. Keeping time with an anxious hand on the cracked plastic steering wheel, I fumble beside me for a can of warm beer. Coors Light, of course. Breakfast of near, or soon-to-be, champions.
I’ve subdued the flitter of butterflies by the time I pull onto the studio lot, waved through by security who spot the access sticker decorating my windshield—a remnant from a spit-and-polish job I did on a pilot two weeks earlier in Building B. What a cringe-worthy pile of shit that had been. Zero chance of ever being made, but someone’s cousin was blowing the right exec, so at least an hour of unwatchable script had been churned out of the sausage machine, in desperate need of a fix—which is where I came in.
I run my hands through my still-damp hair and pat it into straggly place, in an effort to appear at least marginally professional for my pitch session.
After killing the engine, I swing my feet out onto the pavement and stand, stretching to my full six-foot height with a groan. I should have cooled it with the partying yesterday. And the day before. Oh well, what was done…
I make a guttural clicking sound with my tongue, reminiscent of African tribesmen in television documentaries. In response, a brown furry form scurries from the back seat over the center console—which I f#cking hate with a passion. I shake my head in disgust. We’d covered the proper way to exit a car hundreds of times, but some of us were just too stubborn to learn.
The entry to the administration offices looms ominously across the lot, and I move unsteadily toward it, my companion scampering blithely by my side. It’s time to remind everyone who is boss. I clear my throat and stop on the front steps, turning to lock eyes and ensure I have the reprobate’s full attention.
“This is an important meeting. Don’t be an ass-hat. Don’t crap on the carpet, don’t disrupt things, and let me do all the talking. And please, whatever you do…no masturbating.”
My voice sounds disembodied, as though it’s drifting from afar, from down a long tunnel lined with cotton. Maybe the speed hadn’t been such a wise move. I twist the door lever and push it open, fixing what I hope is an amenable smile on my face.
Jarred by the sound of our entry, a breathtaking brunette glides from behind a backlit orange onyx-faced reception desk. She approaches across the Italian marble floor with an indifferent expression, all tanned, sculpted legs and muscled buttocks sheathed in a black executive skirt cut high enough to hint at heaven. I note with approval that she favors five-inch stiletto heels, foregoing practical business flats in favor of a little spice. Things are suddenly looking up.
“Russell, right? Thrilled to finally meet you. Come on in. Sol’s expecting you,” she says in a dusky voice, assessing me in the way spiders eye flies.
“Super. Lead the way,” I reply, the words sounding flat to my tuned ear.
“You want some Pellegrino or Fiji?” she calls over her shoulder as we make our way down the long hall.
“No thanks, I’m good,” I assure her, admiring the view.
We walk through the cavernous building, my furry associate holding my hand, his leathery palm a reminder of what has gone badly wrong with my life. I should have trimmed his nails, but he could be a regal pain about some hygiene niceties. Whenever I brandished the clippers he went berserk—you’d have thought I was trying to do a root canal on him. At least he’d occasionally acquiesce to file them himself, though doing a slipshod job of it. Amateurish. Another source of irritation for me in an already difficult situation.
The stunning assistant holds the door open for us and we edge past her into a large, wood-paneled office with film posters and celebrity photos plastered on every wall. Row aside row of awards are proudly displayed in a custom-made burled walnut armoire, replete with down-lighting—the better to make them twinkle. The heavyset man in his sixties, wearing the inevitable suit vest and loosened neck-tie, rises from behind the largest desk in the world, and pushes an ashtray bearing a smoldering cigar out of the way. Sol extends his arms wide in friendly greeting.
“Russell. Sweetheart. You look great! You get a little work done around the eyes? Nice. Not all Mickey Rourke. Tasteful. But please, sit, sit. Mi casa, and all that.” He pauses. “So whadda ya got for me today? Zombie cats? Space dinosaurs? Just tell me—I always have time for you, but man, today I’m jammed, you know? Tom and Kate are throwing a hissy fit, and Johnny’s…well, he’s Johnny, you know?” Sol hesitates, noticing my silent companion for the first time. “What’s with the f#cking monkey?”
I regard my simian friend, who is toying with the straps of his well-weathered Lederhosen, fingering the ornately embroidered leather suspenders. I lightly smack him and he drops his arms sullenly. I contemplate correcting Sol—chimps aren’t monkeys, they’re apes—but decide not to lecture.
“Sol, this is Emeliano, the chimp. But he likes to be called Ricky—it’s his name de plume, so to speak. He’s my writing partner. Does great work. Fast, and a wizard with dialog,” I explain.
Ricky glares at Sol with malevolent sunken eyes, and then cocks his head and bares yellowed teeth. Sol pulls back his extended hand, reconsidering his choice of greeting.
“All right. So you got a monkey partner. What the f#ck. You shouldda met my third wife…well, maybe not. No problem. Hey, but, Russ, I gotta tell you, your latest, in the theaters now? Magic. Like poetry. The reluctant vampire ex-CIA assassin who takes on his wife’s murderers in the Russian mob? Unexpected shit, that. Not everyone can write on that level. And I love the gender-confused sidekick, from the hood. Total brilliance. We’ll put a push on it after Christmas. It’s got the legs.”
“It was Ricky’s idea to make it personal this time. He’s good at back-story,” I disclose. It was important in the business to be humble and give credit where it was due.
“So whadda ya got for me today? Your girl said you were excited. When you’re excited, I’m excited. Lay it on me,” Sol invites, reclining back in his sumptuous burgundy leather executive chair while motioning for us to take seats in front of his desk. Ricky hops up and squats easily on one, but I prefer to stand for my pitch; to lend it additional gravitas. I close my eyes, draw in a deep breath, and then launch.
“Sol, look, here’s the setup: you have these beavers, and they’re just lovable little furry f#ckers out in a field with blue skies, and butterflies, and nature shit, doing whatever the f#ck beavers do. I don’t know…eating acorns or chewing grass, and then suddenly, they go Mission Impossible on your ass because an oil refinery project threatens their river! Think Dogs and Cats, think Ice Age, think a Bruce Willis smartass fast-talking beaver with a crusty-but-lovable Chris Rock sidekick! And here’s the best part: their sworn enemies are wolves! So they gear up in ninja suits, and it’s two hours of brain suck! Can’t you hear the dialog already? Do I even need to tell you? Every other line’s a wise-crack, and it’s written so kids will love it, but idiot parents will laugh their asses off too! By the end, we’ll all have learned something about ourselves, as will the beavers.” I stop, assessing Sol’s facial expression. You never want to talk past the pitch. Rookie mistake. Let it settle, steep like tea, and don’t talk. Ricky raises his eyebrows expectantly and picks his ear.
Sol slowly stands and removes his reading glasses. He slams his hand down on the desktop and rolls his eyes heavenward.
“Jesus. You’re a genius, Blake! The merchandising will be worth a hundred mil domestic alone! Ka-Ching! Come over here. Gimme a hug. Where do you come up with this shit? Whadda ya want? Three mil? Four? Okay, ya got me. I’ll go five against the usual back-end, a producer credit, full creative control, and you get to pick the director. You. Look at you! F#cking ninja beaver motherf#ckers. You’re killing me with this shit!”
I hesitate to embrace him. “Sol. Do I look stupid? You want me to mouth-f#ck you or something? Don’t insult me or treat me like your bitch. We’re friends here. Five, the usual back-end plus points, executive producer, fifteen of the merchandise including international, and who gives a shit who directs? It’s a f#cking CARTOON! Now where do I sign? Come over here, honey, and sit on papa’s lap!”
Sol grins at me, and we both throw our heads back and laugh in awful unison.
“A cartoon! Beavers! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”
Ricky joins in with the hysteria and executes a perfectly timed back-flip off the chair, landing on Sol’s desk, scattering paperwork everywhere. Sol finds this the height of amusement and cackles with glee, as does Ricky.
The receptionist shimmies into the office and smiles at Ricky after glancing neutrally in my direction. The chimp always has that effect on the ladies. It’s eerie. Ricky decides to push it and show off, and begins lewdly thrusting his pelvis in an elaborately choreographed dance of his own invention. Everyone is amused, even when he leaps off the desk with a somersault and grabs the receptionist’s bottom, fondling her leg in what can only be described as an inappropriate manner. I’ve seen it all before, so know what’s coming. Sol and I watch as the impish primate gropes the young woman’s thigh, and then turns and affords us with a salacious wink.
The next thing I know, the sun is streaming bright through my bedroom window, another dawn having encroached its way into my existence. My head feels like I’ve gone ten rounds with Tyson, and my mouth tastes like I’ve gargled cement.
A noise from the front room rouses me into stark wakefulness. I trudge out, bleary eyed, to be greeted by the spectacle of Ricky and the receptionist lying on the couch, sans attire, though their nakedness is partly covered by his cherished neon-pink felt Hello Kitty blanket. His trademark leather shorts are perched jauntily, if a little precariously, on the receptionist’s head. They’re sharing a cigarette, the stereo crooning Barry White even as Ricky smirks at me in triumph.
I pad back to my room in humiliated defeat and close the door.
F#cking chimps have all the luck.
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 and Black Flagged are climbing the charts. The review is a wonderful deconstruction of the trilogy, and is recommended reading for one and all.
The following is numero uno in a series of significant author interviews. It’s fitting that the first is with literary legend and icon, Lawrence Block. The man literally wrote the book(s) on writing, and Senor Block was gracious enough to take time out from his busy day to offer a few utterances for our titillation and enlightenment. 100% Lawrence Block, in his own words.
RB: Let’s start off with what you’re working on now. What’s your latest release? What excites you about it?
LB: Latest releases, actually. Hard Case Crime published Getting Off in late September, and I self-published The Night and the Music a week or two later. I have to say I’m excited about both of them. Getting Off is very intense, very erotic, and the POV is that of a sociopathic female serial killer, with whom I (and, it would appear, many readers) fell utterly in love. The book was a delight to write. The Night and the Music collects all the Matthew Scudder short fiction, eleven pieces written over 35 years, including two new stories; I couldn’t see it as a hot item in stores, so I decided to publish it myself, as an eBook and a POD trade paperback. The process was great fun, and the response has been remarkable. The thing’s flying off the virtual shelves.
But that’s not what I’m working on now, is it? Actually, I’m not working on anything now, because two weeks ago I wrapped HIT ME, the fifth book about Keller. Mulholland has it scheduled for February of 2013, which seems awfully far away, doesn’t it? But I suppose the time will fly. It so often does.
RB: What’s your process for creating characters? Do you do character outlines, or just start writing with a mental image? Any opinions on what process has the most merit?
LB: I wish I knew how to answer that. I start with whatever I start with, and sometimes it’s just an opening sentence. I find out who the characters are as I write. I’ve learned to trust the process, if one can even call it a process. I’ll tell you, I sometimes feel like the moron who found the lost horse when nobody else could. How did he do it? “I just said to myself, if I was a horse, where would I go?” That’s how I write.
RB: How many hours a week do you try to write?
LB: It’s always been too variable to quantify. Nowadays, when I’m most of the time NOT working on a book, I’m most of the time not writing. I thought I’d retired from novels a couple of years ago, but, like Bogart in Casablanca, I was misinformed.
RB: What’s your process like? Is it 10 hour days, 5 hour days, smaller chunks, or random? How has it changed over time?
LB: When I’m working on something, and can devote myself entirely to it, I’ll put in a long stretch of hours. But much of that time I don’t really seem to be doing anything. I check email, I surf some websites, I check my Kindle sales several times an hour, I play computer solitaire, I play non-computer solitaire, and somewhere in there a couple thousand words get written. God knows how. I think elves do it. You don’t like the new book, blame the fucking elves.
RB: You’ve been doing this a long time. What still excites you about writing? More succinctly, why do you do what it is you do?
LB: Well, money makes the mare go. Or at least I tell myself that’s it. But I write a monthly column for a stamp magazine—Linn’s—and I have a column in Mystery Scene, and while I get paid, the money’s hardly enough to serve as a motivator. So I guess I must like doing this, and it must fill an inner need.
RB: Do you work on multiple WIPs at the same time – as in several in different stages, or do you focus on one until it’s done?
LB: Like the Unitarians, who believe in one God at the most, I generally limit myself to one WIP at a time. At the most.
RB: Do you write your chapters sequentially, or no? I generally start at the beginning and keep plodding till the end, but I’m always curious about how others work.
LB: I write from the beginning and stop when I get to the end. Can’t imagine doing it differently.
RB: Is there a quintessential Lawrence Block book, that if readers could only read one, that’s the one that synthesizes your style and is the ultimate expression of your Blockness, or Blockticity, or whatnot?
LB: I’m all over the map, y’know? And I don’t know that a Scudder or Keller is any more moi than a Burglar or Tanner—or a Jill Emerson opus, or, well, anything. Write ’em all and let God sort ’em out, that’s my theory.
RB: What advice could you offer new writers, if you only had 60 seconds with them, and wanted to impart the most critical knowledge you could – other than don’t quit your day job?
LB: I would never tell anybody not to quit his/her day job. One piece of advice? Write to please yourself. Period.
RB: What do you dislike most about the writing/publishing process?
LB: The wait between completion of the work and seeing it on sale. HIT ME’s not out until Feb 2013? [email protected]!
RB: What book do you wish you’d written?
LB: Silly question. The DaVinci Code, obviously. No joy to read, but the perfect book to have written.
RB: Whose shirts do you wear?
LB: My own. My wife’s are too small for me.
I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about who does my book covers. Let me just say that he’s fast, cheap and good. If you’d like more info, e-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll put you in touch.
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!”
* * *
I was first going to write this blog about clowns, but that seemed just too creepy, because as we all know they’re usually alcoholic pedophiles and sex offenders hiding behind the makeup, red noses and oversized shoes so they can’t be easily identified by their victims.
Not that I’m encouraging stereotypes or profiling, but when I see a mid-forties man wearing face paint and working for peanuts at the circus, I’m judgmental. That doesn’t end well. Don’t even get me started on what series of wrong turns in life have you dodging elephant poop while wearing a funny hat and spraying other reprobates with seltzer. I think I’ve spent enough time heavily-medicated and at the therapist to put the obvious trauma my early run-ins with them caused behind me, but it’s still uncomfortable to go there.
So instead, I decided to do a blog on editing, and the value a good editor brings to the table for self-published authors.
Then I had a few drinks, and decided to change the topic yet again, to the topic of money.
Look, whoever said that writing was its own reward was obviously delusional in the extreme. It’s not. You can’t write your landlord a sonnet to keep a roof over your head. And the groupies aren’t anything to get excited about.
So let’s be honest. I, and most other authors, would like to see some cash for their books, assuming the work doesn’t suck a bucket of d#cks, to borrow a phrase from someone I stole that from. But then there’s that whole process where I have to write something, and then you have to be discerning enough to hear about it, and then buy and read it – although in truth, my interest in the process stops at the point you buy it. I really don’t care if you have to sit, lips moving, sounding out words to get to the end you likely won’t get anyway. I’m more concerned with the part where you pay for it.
But having said that, the process is grossly bloated. Kindle and the other eBook readers are doing away with the publishers, so that makes it more streamlined from one side, but from the other it still has drawbacks, as mentioned. So I’m thinking we can make it even more efficient by you disintermediating (that’s an erudite way of saying eliminating, and erudite’s a fancy way of saying scholarly – or close enough for our purposes) the part where I have to create something you then read, and instead, we just cut to the chase and you send me money!
I know, I know, it’s frigging brilliant. Magic, really. We do away with the entire system, and you just paypal me a few bucks so I can buy tequila and carouse with women of questionable virtue or buy black market organs to keep me fingersnapping till the wee hours.
You probably haven’t read half the books you downloaded for free on your eReader anyway, so let’s not kid around that you somehow are getting shorted on this. I actually just saved you the drama of feeling really stupid when you can’t make out half the ideas or concepts I sculpt with words, presuming you ever tried to read my work in the first place.
I recently saw a statistic (actually I just invented it, but you’ll never know the difference) that says that 81% of all eReaders have a large backlog of downloads they’ll never get to reading. That’s a huge resource drain those readers have to face. And the guilt will slowly poison their souls, as the weight of obligation crushes their spirits and creates yet more misery in their otherwise likely empty and meaningless existences.
So let’s just do away with that, and get very post-modern, and you send me money. We can eliminate the part where I become an investment banker and cheat you out of it in the markets, or a politician and tax it out of you – again, that’s inefficient. Better for both of us is you send it to me, just a little, mind you, hardly anything that will be life changing for you; but it will be a game-changer for me, I guarantee you, especially if we get some lift for the concept and millions of you send me a few bucks.
I mean, I suppose if you want to stay all medieval on me, we can stick with where I churn out a few thousand words about some hackneyed ex-covert operative who gets into improbable and poorly structured and executed pseudo-adventures written in mono-syllables, and then tack on 20K of self-congratulatory reviews and blurbs and such in exchange for your loot, but I’d much prefer if you just wing the shekels my way, and we just proceed from there. I see no downside for either of us. So that’s really best.
Just think about it, OK? Pretend I’m a starving, mewling little third world kid with flies laying larvae in my eyes while I’m sucking the water out of a mudhole to stay alive, if that makes it any easier for you. In fact, we can set up a program where you send a few bucks every month, and you’re “sponsoring” me! Change Russell’s life for only $5 a month? Christ, I’ll crank out some form thank-you letter from Sally Struthers or whatnot if that’s the only thing standing in the way. Because you can sure as hell change my life, if enough of you sign up for this.
Are you with me? Do you feel the change? Are you excited? I feel it! I feel it ENOUGH TO USE CAPSLOCK AND LOTS OF EXCLAMATIONS!!!!!!!
I know a few of you are selfish, money-grubbing misers, whose every waking moments are spent only thinking of yourselves, so I have yet an additional incentive!
I can set up a fraudulent 501c-3 if you want to write it off on your taxes – the IRS will never question $30 bucks of charitable contribution from your side, and I’ve got a beancounter who was doing Madoff’s books, so we’re golden.
If you still don’t see it, don’t make any hasty decisions. This has merit. They laughed at Ford before he invented the lightbulb, and look at how that turned out. You’d still be debating the shadows on the cave wall by burning dung patties if it hadn’t been for him. So don’t be a Luddite and stand in the way of progress. This really is the new new new thing, and you can be in on it for once, at the ground floor.
In fact, maybe the way this works is, everyone send me money, and then every week I’ll hold a contest where I give some of it away in a lump sum to those who contributed! Like 10%! Are you seeing it now? You’ll be rich!
Get back to me on this, OK? It’s for a good cause. Really. I think we can make this work for everyone.
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.
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.
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!