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#samplesunday

17 Jan 2012, by

So it begins

Night of the Assassin just went free on Amazon.

Thank you to everyone for your support in getting Night of the Assassin free. This represents the next phase in my marketing plan – to give away the prequel to King of Swords, in an effort to broaden my readership and gain exposure.

Night is one of my favorite books, for a host of reasons, not the least of which that it is the prequel to what is arguably my best work, and absolutely one of my all time favorites. I don’t know why these two books turned out the way they did, but for whatever reason, I’m thankful.

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MORE ACCOLADES: Fatal Exchange was the favorite book of 2011 for Kate Farrel at The Kindle Book Review.

INTERVIEW: I was interviewed about writing and craft by @WritingTips101. Worth a look, & please Stumbleupon it at the bottom using the little green button.

BIG NEWS: International bestselling pet bio An Angel With Fur is free on Amazon for a few days. If you want a whole other side of me, pick that up. Guaranteed it will move you.

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So why give away what is one of my favorite books? Isn’t my craft something worth being paid for?

Absolutely. My conviction is that once readers get their hands on Night, they’ll know two things. First, that it is a different kind of read, and one that’s a good representation of my unique writing style. And second, that they’ll want to read King of Swords next. I’m so convinced I’m willing to skip the part where I get paid for Night, at least for a limited time, so that readers can see what I’m talking about – so I can back my mouth without risk to them. I would say that they’ll know where they fall in their opinion of the book within the first 10 pages. That fast.

People are either going to love Night, or hate it. That simple. Doubt that there will be many “I don’t know, it was okay” reviews. It’s a polarizing book, that chronicles the making of a monster – the super assassin El Rey, from King of Swords.

Pick up a copy, and see if I’m full of it or not. And enjoy, with my compliments, for as long as it lasts. You can get Night of the Assassin here. And if you like it, or any of my books, please take the time to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

If you like this blog, hit the Stumbleupon button down at the bottom (the little green guy) and share it. Gracias.

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And for those who keep asking who my cover artist is, shoot me an e-mail at [email protected] and I’ll get you the contact info. Good, fast and cheap.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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23 Nov 2011, by

Finito

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.

INTERVIEWS: Couple of newish interviews you might have missed. You can see them here, and here.

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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…

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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!”

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18 Nov 2011, by

Nano Update

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. 

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My author went to Nano and all I got was this dumb book.”

An update on my new magnum opus, King of Swords.

For those just tuning in, last Friday, Nov. 11, at around 2 p.m. I got it into my noggin that it would be a swell idea to come off of having just finished writing about 150K words of The Delphi Chronicle and launch into a book for the National Novel Writing Month challenge – to write at least a 50K novel during the month of November.

Being as in Mexico it’s not unheard of to start happy hour around noon on Fridays (or most days, for that matter) it seemed like a perfect idea. Hell, after grinding out 150K of intricate international conspiracy, 50K would seem like a massage with a happy ending, not that I know what that means (wink wink). My point is that cocktails were involved, and so, without taking into consideration what it would do to my posture or my Iron Man triathlon training regime, I launched into it.

Today is one week later, and I’m at 45K words of what is shaping up nicely – it’s a hell of a story so far, as you can tell from the first few chapters (link below). One problem is that it is going to take more than 50K words to tell it, no matter how concisely I write it. There’s just way too much going on, with a lot of story getting packed into a slim wrapper. The characters are at that point where they’ve come alive, and taken on a life of their own. Who knew that the protag had a dark sense of humor? Who knew that the assassin would be that interesting and complex? Who knew that there would be conspiracies within the conspiracies, and that nothing would be as it seemed?

For those following along at home, I could finish this today at 50K, clock it in, and have won my “personal best” bet with myself for the fastest I’ve ever written a fiction novel. But the story wants to keep rolling, so I’m going to let it run and see what happens. My hunch is this is a 75K-85K effort, if I’m going to include all the nuance, which seems worthwhile. So I’ll let it have its way, and hopefully by next Thursday or so I’ll be done, and can polish it for three or four days, and clock it.

You can track my daily progress online here & read the opening few chapters I wrote Friday. And again, please, no wagering. This should serve as a cautionary tale for those considering doing anything after tequila blinds you to reality. Don’t do it, kids.

It’s also pushed editing and polishing my latest work in progress, The Delphi Chronicle, for two weeks, so this will delay that release to around third week of December, with King of Swords releasing around second week of December, assuming it isn’t drivel. I also think I’m going to end the promotion of Zero Sum where the first book’s for free around the end of the year, or end of Jan. at the latest.

That’s the news from my end. I’m keeping my head down and pulling on the oars as hard as I can, so hopefully by end of next week I’ll have birthed me a book…

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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!”

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13 Nov 2011, by

Nano Mo?

NEW INTERVIEW: With Becky at MysteryWritersUnite. On craft & my books.

GOOD INTERVIEW: New interview now live with @ElaineAsh1 interviewing me. It’ a good one.

NEWSFLASH: Zero Sum, Book 1, Kotov Syndrome, my Wall Street thriller serial trilogy, has just 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. And the Pet Wall also gets spotlight coverage at Justin Bogdanovitch’s blog.

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I have been told I’m out of my mind.

There is some merit to that position.

I decided to give the National Novel Writing Month challenge a whirl. The objective is to write a 50K novel in the month of November.

The problem is that I was finishing up my latest magnum opus, so I couldn’t start on a new book until yesterday. So I did some cursory plotting, and started writing yesterday afternoon. That would be the 11th.

As of today, I’m at 10K words, and I hope to get to 15K by tomorrow night. That’s about as far as I can imagine getting, as I haven’t plotted what happens next yet, so there’s a conceptual hurdle there. But not to worry. I’m fairly sure I know the broad strokes of how it ends. I just need to flesh out all that stuff between Chapter 1 and the ending. Details, details. Stuff happens. People die. There are plot twists, and other stuff happens we didn’t see coming. Then the pace builds, and pretty soon we’re at the end. Maybe our protag’s character arcs, and he learns something about himself, or the world. Maybe he learns to trust, or that hate is a cancer, or finds the power of love.

As with all my thrillers, you can bet there’s a conspiracy within a conspiracy, and a breakneck pace. I just don’t know what the conspiracy is quite yet that’s in the conspiracy. Nor do I know what the twists are that will surprise and delight us at the end. Or the middle. Or anything after the beginning.

Having said that, the world is filled with bad people doing bad things, so there’s no shortage of real conspiracies I can draw upon for ideas.

The big hurdle is that I want to have 75-90K words done, as opposed to the 50K the challenge requires by, er, November 25. Of 2011. While I’m polishing my latest 150K of stories. And editing that one, which will require some heavy lifting. And preparing for a big book launch event I’ve signed up for in honor of @AndyHolloman.

But what is life without a challenge or three? Who knows, maybe this will turn out well enough to warrant some serious editing time, and release, say, around December 15?

What the heck. I actually almost wish I had one of those magic 8 balls where I could just shake it every chapter and it would go, “The protag meets a woman, who seems benign but is really deadly,” or whatever. It would be way easier than plotting all that stuff between once upon a time, and the end. Maybe I’ll just follow the age old advice, if you don’t know what happens next, have a guy enter with a gun.

If you want to check out the first installment, the opening of the book, which I’ve tentatively titled “King of Swords,” you can read the intro here. The title was suggested by my editor, who completely rocks and who I shall now blame for everything if the book bombs or sucks in any way.

That was yesterday afternoon and evening’s project. Oh, and MS Word conveniently lost the quick outline I did, where I’d figured out the first half of the book, so I’m kinda winging that. Nice, huh? Good old Word.

So pull up a chair and make some popcorn, and you you can watch a thriller novelist try to create something from scratch over a period of 10 or so days, allowing for a meeting or lunch every now and then.

Did I mention that some believe me to be, er, a little nuts? It’s why I drink. OK, one of the reasons. Ya got me. Now back to the ink mines…

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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!”

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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.

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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:

http://www.amazon.com/Zero-Sum-Book-Syndrome-ebook/dp/B005O0QISE/ref=pd_sim_kinc_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

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.

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29 Sep 2011, by

On Editing

BREAKING NEWS: My first interview with Patricia de Hemricourt at ePublishABook.com, just came out and can be viewed here. It’s a good one, and goes into some detail on my process and general thinking, including some insightful questions on Gazillions. John Locke, and my writing and editing times.

NEW BOOK REVIEW: An extremely positive review for The Geronimo Breach at the blog of J. Landon Cocks can be seen here.

FEATURED BOOK: Fatal Exchange is the featured book at The Kindle Book Review. Check it out.

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Many of my Twitter followers are authors, and of those most are self-published. As we’ve all seen and heard, self-publishing can be a thankless and barren road, and money can be tight, or even non-existent.

The ease with which the self-publishing platforms now enable aspiring writers to upload their work is mind-boggling. The only thing standing between you and being on Amazon are a few mouse clicks. Gone is virtually the entire delivery system that defined the traditional publishing business for generations. Trees don’t need to be sawed down, trucks don’t need to go to and from warehouses filled with freshly printed books, stores don’t need to occupy valuable space that could house another Starbucks or fast food joint. It’s a brave new world we’re writing in; the old rules are dead and the sky’s the limit.

But is it really different this time?

Look, I’m no fan of inefficiency. I don’t particularly like a system that is the most usurious model I can imagine, aside from the record business. Authors see pennies on the dollar under that old model, with the retailer and the publisher pocketing the lion’s share of the product’s revenues. The actual creator of the work sees a sliver in that scheme, just as musicians see nominal bucks while the record companies pocket gazillions.

But is it all bad? Is the entire model worth throwing out?

As with most things in life, the answer is maybe.

It really depends upon the discipline of the writer.

What do I mean by that?

In the old model, there was a presumption that the literary agent had culled through thousands of manuscripts to find the most deserving to represent. Deserving generally equated to well-written and interesting, although in many cases deserving actually meant generated by someone whose name would ensure sales, even if they couldn’t spell their book title. Be that as it may (and don’t start me down the Snooki path), presumably the literary agents were gatekeepers of quality, who then passed their clients’ wares to publishers, who further thinned the herd, resulting in a clumsy industry algorithm that spat out books at the opposite end of the sausage machine – and the presumption was those books were competently written, would be of interest to someone, and were executed in a superior fashion; professional cover designers drew up art, professional editors checked grammar and punctuation and spelling, etc.

Now none of that applies. You can have your dim nephew kluge together some sort of botched abortion for a cover, and can generate books as quickly as monkeys can type.

That’s both good and bad. Because it demands that the writer be disciplined, even to the point where he/she must invest in quality control, in addition to investing the time into writing and then marketing.

From my standpoint, two essential elements I won’t sacrifice on are cover art and editing. I recently wrote a guest blog on my thinking about cover art, which can be viewed here, so this exercise is devoted to singing the praises of editing. Professional editing by a qualified, experienced editor, not a friend who substitute-teaches English as a second language and who has no real expertise or germane education.

A good editor can play an accretive part in the writing process, helping to not only catch errors and correct grammar, but also to take a larger role in ensuring the author’s voice is compelling, and that the story being told is done so in as masterful a manner possible given the writer’s skill level. A good editor adds to the quality of the work, and demands more out of the author, perhaps by asking leading questions or introducing commentary, or in some cases more overtly influencing the process: suggesting areas that need to be rewritten; pointing out gaps in story or plot; checking to ensure continuity and coherence; offering counsel on overall flow and pacing.

A good editor has the luxury of picking work he/she can improve, and will drive to create a superior product. A bad one will spell check and ensure punctuation is at least marginally competent. Or worse, will actually hurt the work, introducing more problems than they fix.

I believe that it’s almost as important to find a conscientious editor who shares a similar vision, as it is to sit down and write. I believe this because I’ve been on both sides of the editing table, and it’s a thankless job in the end, and it pays modestly, at best, and demands excruciating attention to detail and a love of the game of writing, as well as use of language. A good editor suggests alternative word choices, and catches echoes, and calls a spade a spade, and shares the writer’s enthusiasm over turning a phrase in a satisfying manner.

As writers, you owe it to yourselves to spend time interviewing editors, learning about their qualifications and the roster of authors they’ve worked with, and in the end, investing in a quality job. You need to pay for a pro to do the work correctly.

I’ve blogged a lot about why I write. I’m not a marketing wiz, nor do I claim some literary high ground. But I do know a bit about starting businesses. I’ve done more than my share of start-ups, and one thing I know is that you have to invest in your business before you can expect to see income, much less profits. So when you’re done writing your masterpiece, sit down and jot out a rough business plan – a budget, if you will, that captures product development (cover, pagination), quality control (editing), and marketing. Note that few if any business plans have zero committed to quality control, and zero for marketing, and zero for product development. None I’ve ever seen that were successful, at any rate. So what are you committing to your business, in terms of time, and money? How much are you planning to invest, and what do you hope to earn, net of those expenses? In what time frame? And what if things don’t go as planned? How long and how much are you willing to commit to seeing your business through until it is successful?

Being a writer requires intellectual discipline and honesty, if your writing is going to be compelling. I’d liken it to being on a never-ending quest. But once you’re done writing, you’re now a publisher. And being a publisher also requires discipline and honesty – at least with yourself. You need to commit resources to your self-publishing business, or it will fail. That seems elemental, and obvious.

Editing isn’t an optional part of this game. It’s a requisite. You need to expect to pay for a quality job, just as you would expect to pay for any other quality job in any other discipline. I’m very fortunate, as I have a gem of an editor who shares similar tastes and literary aesthetic. If you’d like his info, I’ll be happy to give it to you – just e-mail me via the “Contact” button. He’s the right man for my jobs, but may not be ideal for yours. You’ll need to determine that. But I can tell you that my work is the better for his involvement, and that he’s the best I’ve found. And I looked. I’ve been through four now. This is the fourth and final one.

The takeaway on this is that you need to look at your publishing gig as a business, into which you need to put sufficient resources to have a decent shot at success. Most start-ups fail due to flawed research, failed execution, or insufficient funding. All three of these are avoidable if you do the work and go in with your eyes wide open. So do yourself a favor. Get a good book cover to represent your product to the public. Get a good editor to keep you on track and help you polish your work to as exacting a standard as is possible. Plan a marketing approach, commit time and money and energy to it, and modify your approach if it isn’t working. Develop a habit of discipline – commit X hours per week to social media, Y to blogging and interviews, Z to finding reviewers to sample your wares, and A to writing your next work. Invest time in your product descriptions. Listen to what your readers think of your work. Seek out the counsel of those whose opinions you respect, even if their opinions might seem harsh to you on first blush.

And be disciplined in developing your product, which is the sum of the writing, the editing, and the representation (cover, your blog, your persona).

Is this easy? Nope. Will it work if you do all the above? No guarantee, just as there’s no guarantee of any other start-up business succeeding. But your odds increase the more disciplined you are. I’ve seen plenty of undisciplined talent with oodles of money and energy go nowhere due to lack of discipline. And I’ve seen marginal talents with a good work ethic and persistence, and reasonable commitments of resources, do well.

I’ll leave you with this. The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get, in every business I’ve ever started or operated. I bet this one is much the same. So my advice is hire a good editor to work with you, ensuring your product is as good as it can be, and you’ll be far ahead of many of your peers. Again, it’s not an elective or an option. It’s a requirement for success.

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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.

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BREAKING NEWS (sort of): Sensational author Kathy Hall has written a wonderful review for The Geronimo Breach. Take a moment out, and visit her blog to see what the fuss is all about. It can be viewed here. And new acclaim for How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) just came in as the 15th sequential 5 star review at Amazon here and another at this blog.

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In Defense of Writing

Everyone knows that selling one’s work is a business.

It’s the selling business.

Some are good at it, some not very, but whether it’s selling plush toys or cars or books, the gig’s the same – convince consumers the wares are worth buying and develop a strong enough brand so they return to buy more. Selling is the transactional part; marketing is the brand-building part.

Enter writing. More specifically, enter the act of writing.

Everyone reading this blog knows I’ve done a viciously snarky parody of the slew of self-help books targeting aspiring authors for whom self-publishing is the new Holy Grail. Its title alone should give one a taste of the cynicism which inspired its creation: “How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated).”

What drove me to write it wasn’t to make millions, but rather because I like to write and I especially enjoy mocking human foibles, my own included — and I wanted to express my frustration and disgust with the foolishness and self-important hypocrisy evident in every corner of the writing and self-publishing game.

Which brings me to the point of this blog.

One “How To” book, in particular, by self-publishing sensation John Locke, contains a host of tips and steps for aspiring self-publishing authors. I take no issue with 99% of the counsel Mr. Locke offers, and believe that much of it serves as a decent platform for book marketing in the modern internet-connected world.

But there is a section I have a problem with, specifically where his approach to writing is to do so as though creating a product – essentially, if you follow his model, you’re to profile your target audience/reader and stereotype them, figure out what your hypothesized reader wants (chocolate or vanilla or strawberry), and then write what your target market will consume. Some quotations: “I set project goals: 1) Determine my target audience. 2) Complete a manuscript. 3) Write a book that will sell.” And “…understanding who your target audience is, and what they want, and writing to it (and only them!) is the most important component of being an author.” And “Selling downloads is nothing more than writing to a specific audience, and knowing how to find them.” All good marketing-driven advice. I have no issue with it from a marketing standpoint, nor from a salesman’s. It’s good counsel if you measure success as a writer in sales terms.

And if you think about it, the counsel makes sense if one views writing as product development. It’s a marketing worldview which treats writing as a product, much like any other. For me, it would be the same as treating painting as product, versus art – the inevitable result of which is a world filled with Thomas Kincades instead of Van Goghs.

When it comes to writing there are basically two camps, once you strip away all the hyperbole: Those for whom writing is a business and writing is a product-engineering process; and those for whom writing is an art/craft, separate from the business of selling the work once it’s produced (again, I have no problem with the business of selling and this is not anti-selling in any way).

I would describe it as Camp A, the “writing as product” camp, and Camp B, the “writing as expression of art/craft” camp.

Part of me rejects Camp A at a fundamental level, because I’m a Camp B guy. I write because I enjoy doing so. I write what I want; I do so in genres I myself read, and I don’t attempt to second guess how the work will do in the marketplace. I’m aware that the work is a product, but when I write I do so because I love the act of creation, not because I want to be in the “book widget” design & marketing business. I desperately try to avoid self-censorship, or creating a book because I’m hopeful it’s what the market “might” devour. In truth I’d be terrible at it, because then I wouldn’t be creating what I want, enjoying the craft for my own selfish, guilty pleasure – at that point, I’m churning out a product.

As I read Locke’s counsel to write what your audience wants, I found myself thinking of the scene in Amadeus where Salieri is counseling the commercially-struggling Mozart to craft heavy-handed operas with pedestrian execution and a bang at the finish so the audience knows the opera’s done.

Now, I’m not saying I’m any Mozart, but my point is that I do believe that we owe it to ourselves, as artists and writers, to aspire to be Mozart, even if our talents largely fall short. You can’t be the next David Foster Wallace if you never try to be. And if most don’t strive to excel, and instead focus on cranking out “sellable” product that panders to the lowest common denominator (not a bad commercial bet, incidentally), then it’s likely we will all be the poorer for it in the long haul. When we abandon the pursuit of excellence in favor of the pursuit of commercial reward, we are doomed as artists.

Note I’m not saying commercial reward is bad, or shouldn’t be aspired to. I just don’t think it’s the reason one should write. The odds are better of being struck by lightning or winning the lottery than becoming a bestseller, so setting out to write with commercial success as the reason for doing so is a lousy justification, in my mind.

I think you should write because you love the act of writing and creation, and I believe you should hone your craft with the sedulous devotion of an aspiring Yo Yo Ma – and perhaps if my perspective resonates and finds purchase in the world, the next Mozart of literature won’t be wasted writing the equivalent of greeting cards, pulp fiction, or “Penny Dreadfuls.”

Again, I’m not being artsy fartsy, or taking a high moral tone. But writing is, for me, about self-expression first. If a million people wind up thinking my work’s worth reading, super. If only a handful, I’ll be disappointed, but in the end, it won’t diminish my pursuit of the next well-crafted sentence, or plot twist, or memorable character. It’s the process I enjoy, not the selling or marketing part, and while my end-result may become a product I then market, I don’t set out to produce one for any other reason than the joy of doing so.

I’ve been fortunate, financially, so it won’t kill me if nobody wants to buy my books. I’ve made plenty of money marketing and selling things in my life, and I’ve churned out plenty of products that could be described accurately as mediocre. I never confused that with art or striving to master a craft. It was commerce, the business of selling, and it paid me generously. I apprehend the value of marketing and the importance of selling – as a commercial enterprise, not as an artistic endeavor.

So I’m not a neophyte at the commercial aspect of the job. I understand its role. But I also question whether the world is better off with writers aspiring not to craft work that is the ultimate expression of their gift (such as it may be), but rather to spit out mediocre dross, because that’s what they believe will sell. Do we really need more literary sausage machines grinding forth mundane, unimaginative screeds?

On the flip side, I’m also a realist. I understand the argument that it doesn’t matter how good the work is if nobody reads it. I’m fully aware of that. I’m nothing if not pragmatic, and skilled enough with a pen to write monosyllabic action screeds of marginal inventiveness, if that’s what the world is clamoring to buy.

Only I don’t, and won’t. The reason I don’t is a selfish one. It’s because when I write, I’m not doing it for the money. Sure, some cash is a nice reward for a job well done, and a decent indication others believe the work has value (as well as a reasonable measurement for success), however given that I’m comfortable in life, my motivation is different than one driven to pursue a financially-defined success. Regardless of ultimate sales, I’m already successful if I can create intelligent, well-written books I’d enjoy reading, in the genres I like. That’s just me. I write because I’m passionate about the process of invention, of creation, of using language to evoke emotions; and because I’m intent on becoming a better writer every time I sit at the keyboard.

The line of demarcation really comes down to this — I would write even if there was no money in it; no hope of making bank. For those who view writing as commerce, they likely wouldn’t. Why build it if nobody will come? Would you go to your accounting job if nobody paid you? Would you write tech manuals for fun or out of love? That’s nonsensical.

I’m not being sanctimonious. I’m not arguing that one philosophy is superior to the other. I’m not dissing the business of marketing and promoting, which are essential to getting the work into the world. I’m simply saying that I think the act of writing can happen for multiple reasons, and I’m sharing why I do so. Perhaps I’m all wet, and naive, and should treat my act of giving birth to new worlds roughly the same as determining which type of potato chip texture tests best in my target market segment. I just know that when I write a thriller, I do so because I want to, and I want it to be a book that is the very best example it could be, and if others love it, super, then hopefully acclaim and reward will come. If not, so be it, but I’ll still write, either way.

I fully understand I could bastardize even this pure expression of creativity – I know better than most how to do so.

I just don’t want to. I think it cheapens something special, at least for me, and with a finite period on the planet, I’ve learned to jealously protect and cherish the special.

What about you? Which camp do you fall into? A or B?

I’ll be curious to see the responses. Remember for this discussion there is no C – “I write because I love it, and just happen to love writing what I believe my profiled reader would want.” That’s a camp A person who enjoys the work. That’s the bus driver who enjoys doing a good job and is conscientious, but drives a bus because he’s paid to do so.

Camp B is the “I’d write even if people paid zero for books” crowd, camp A is the “I am trying to write something that will be commercially successful and modify what I write accordingly” crowd. One is workmanlike as I see it, the other is more about artistic self-actualization.

Which are you?

 

Russell Blake is the author of Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach, and the upcoming Zero Sum trilogy (all thrillers), as well as the satire/parody How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated). Excerpts can be viewed at Amazon.com, as well as Goodreads.com and at WattPad.com.

 

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Excerpts of all Russell Blake books can be found at Wattpad.com. The Geronimo Breach, Fatal Exchange and How To Sell A Gazillion.

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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.

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