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The German edition of JET was nominated for an award in the Beauty And The Book contest. I’m particularly happy about this as that’s my favorite cover to date.

But there’s a problem. It needs votes. Your vote.

Could you please go to the website, click EN in the upper right corner to choose English, and then scroll about halfway down the page to the JET cover, and vote for it by clicking the little butterfly? I’d owe you one. And you know how prompt I am about paying.

I’m starting on another one with Clive now, and it’s a humdinger of a plot. Can’t tell you how happy I am with it. Here’s to hoping the first one with him, releasing in September, does well. I’m enjoying inhabiting that Fargo world. Fingers are crossed!

Thanks for voting on the cover. You rock.

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15 Jul 2014, by

RE Blake

My new pseudonym, R.E. Blake, is now live, in preparation for the first in a string of NA/YA and CR novels. You can view RE’s new blog here, or check out and like the Facebook page, which I would appreciate. Friend it, too, while you’re at it.

I’ve been too busy to do Twitter, but that too shall come.

The first R.E. Blake novels will release in October, and are more in the tradition of Twilight and The Fault In Our Stars than my usual fare, hence my creation of a new brand. I don’t want Russell Blake readers to inadvertently pick up an R.E. Blake novel expecting car chases and gunfights, just as I don’t want R.E. Blake readers to pick up JET or BLACK expecting a poignant NA romance.

This is an example of me walking my talk. I’ve long maintained that the author name is a brand, and that you want to make it painfully easy for readers to understand what they’re getting when they see your brand.

Russell Blake novels are breakneck-paced adrenaline rushes in the action/thriller genre, R.E. Blake…aren’t.

Which isn’t to say that some Russell Blake readers won’t be interested in R.E. Blake’s work. Early beta readers have said that the first R.E. Blake novel, Less Than Nothing, is a blockbuster YA/NA novel that manages to combine the romantic coming-of-age saga of two teen runaways with a classic road novel like Huckleberry Finn, which makes for a unique mashup that’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. I probably should have thrown in a fight for survival in a dystopian future, but hey, hindsight…

But many won’t be interested in that new and completely different genre. Which is as it should be. This way they won’t inadvertently pick up the wrong author’s work and be disappointed.

In other news, I’m delighted to announce that I’m hard at work on a second Fargo novel with Clive Cussler, and this one, like my first co-authored novel with the “Grand Master of Adventure,” is going to be a hell of a yarn. That debut effort, The Eye Of Heaven, releases Sept. 2, so we don’t have much longer to go before we see how his fans like our new offering.

That’s all I have for now. Hope you’re enjoying  your summer. I know I am.

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I’m always in favor of a new excuse to have a cocktail. So why not a new global holiday? We can make it on July 4th, so at least in the States you’ll benefit from free fireworks and a day off work.

I hereby propose the holiday of Independent’s Day – a celebration honoring those who are indie. Film makers, musicians, small businesses, and…authors who self-publish.

All of these groups have one thing in common: they’re self-sufficient, requiring nothing from any established industry player for their existence, and are essentially entrepreneurial endeavors. They’re the mavericks going it alone, who, in the best hunter/gatherer tradition, eat what they kill. In some cases, they’re revolutionizing whole industries. More power to em, I say. Innovation rarely comes from established behemoths.

It’s fitting that this would fall on July 4. If any segment represents the quintessential American spirit of rebellion and independence, it’s self-published authors.

Forbes has a remarkable piece on this phenomenon, and I recommend everyone read it. Not only because I feature prominently in it, although that’s a pretty good reason.

So, in order to set a good example, I’m headed to the beach for margaritas. Indie margaritas, of course.

You would be well served to do the same.

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Woohoo!!!

Finally, the seventh installment in the JET saga is live. JET – Sanctuary has launched into the world, for better or for worse.

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NEWS: Forbes mentioned me as an example of indies changing the playing field. Great article!

MORE NEWS: A wonderful article on why everyone must read JET now, dammit.

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I’m really pleased with both JET VI and VII. I wanted to pick up the story right where we left off in JET VI, with the entire book taking place over a span of hours. The compressed timeline really forced me to move it along, and there was no fat on the bone by the time I was done.

The next JET will probably hit around November or December, so until then, enjoy this one. It’s a fun read, with villainous bad guys, conflicted allies, and more action than you can shake a stick at.

That’s all I have. I’m writing away, as always (maybe next year is the one I slow down…), and hope to have some exciting news soon. Until then, enjoy your summer and don’t do anything I wouldn’t…

 

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21 Jun 2014, by

Present Tense

I’ve been working on a NA romantic adventure, and writing it first person, present tense. And I’ve got to say, wow, what a difference in writing speed. I’m typically a turtle, managing 600-700 words per hour. On this? More like 1500.

I have no idea why that is. Could be because with NA I don’t have to spend nearly as much time considering word choice, trying to find the perfect fit to achieve the cadence I’m after. NA is simpler in terms of sentence structure and vocabulary, so a lot of the heavy lifting doesn’t have to take place – in fact, from what I can gather, you’d be writing over your audience’s head after a certain point, so it defeats the purpose. There are exceptions, like John Green’s latest, but that’s a notable exception, and I have a feeling if I went down that road I’d sell two copies. At least that’s what my research and beta readers have indicated.

Normally, when I write, I write prose, where I’m unconsciously trying to get a certain lyricism and musicality to the words. Whether I achieve that is besides the point, but that’s the goal.

Which is kind of silly, I suppose, given that I write action thrillers. I mean, how lyrical does a car chase have to be, right? Turns out, pretty lyrical. At least in my books.

Some readers hate that. Mainly other authors, who come from a school that was wildly popular in the U.S., where Hemingway’s lean, sparse prose was considered the ideal, and anything more than the absolute bare minimum was branded purple or flowery.

I have no problem with that school, and understand it well. But it’s just a preference, not a set of rules carved in stone. Unfortunately, as with Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, a whole group of silly preferences masquerading as rules (many contradictory, if you’ve read EOS recently) were taught in a dogmatic fashion, where that was the only way you could write “well,” and there are plenty of adherents. They, by and large, know what “good” writing is, and anything outside of the narrow parameters they learned is to be eschewed.

Those readers are almost always authors, because everyone but an author pretty much forgets most of that crap by the time the third beer’s poured on graduation day and they move on to shit that matters, like making a living or finding someone to cohabitate with or getting that damned car to start.

But back to first person, present tense. My customary approach is third person, past tense. It’s just how I naturally write, no doubt a function of the thousands of books I’ve read, almost all of which were written that way. But it does demand more thought, at least from me.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying I’m kind of digging the breezy quality of first person, present.

Of course, writing as a teenage girl is a little daunting, but that’s a whole nother story. Guess we’ll soon know whether that was a bad idea. OMG, LOL.

In other news, JET – Sanctuary has a gazillion sales on preorder, so June will be berry berry good to me. Oh, and Requiem for the Assassin just went on preorder, too, for a Sept release – which will also be when my co-authored tome with Clive Cussler, The Eye of Heaven, will go live. Other than that, the weather’s dependably in the low 90′s every day, the water’s warm and the beer’s cold, so I’m spending less time at the keyboard for a few weeks and more courting wildfire melanoma and cirrhosis. Which is as it should be. Live to work or work to live, right? Got to have a little fun every now and then…

Hope your summer’s kicking off nicely. Mine sure is.

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Much has been written of late maligning the big publishing companies.

The nasty rumor is that a while ago they colluded to illegally fix prices, and the spoilsports at the DOJ slapped their wrists, as well as Apple’s. At least that’s the spin some have put on it. I prefer to think of it as the publishers were trying to protect the perceived value of literature from being denigrated by ruthless discounters who would see us all living under an overpass, if they had their way. Of course, the storm troopers with guns and badges thought differently, but they’re ass hats – what is one person’s mega-conglomerates colluding to price fix is another’s courageous blow for freedom from Amazon’s tyranny. Remember to the Brits, the colonists were behaving illegally during the American revolution.

This is a lot like that, only different.

I’ve read countless blogs and articles on the latest Hachette/Amazon kerfuffle, with more hyperbole and tortured rhetoric in both directions than a Chicago election. Big name authors are calling for the government that just got done fining those same mega-billion dollar conglomerates for collusion, to do something to stop Amazon from picking on the poor, publicly-traded French multinational company, Hachette (perhaps those authors are confusing France’s socialist system of government intervention for privileged corporations – think Airbus, for starters – or perhaps Hachette’s French management team is unclear on how free markets work), and I’ve stayed silent about it. But I can remain silent no longer.

Now that the smoke has cleared, I want to go on record supporting Hachette, and in fact, all traditional publishers, in their thankless battle to maintain premium pricing in the face of precarious record profits.

Here’s my thinking in a nutshell: Let the big publishers collude to keep ebook prices high all they want. In fact, force Amazon to let their vendors dictate the prices they should sell books for, a la “the agency model.” Screw Amazon’s right to set their own prices. I want to see $15, $18, $20 ebooks from Patterson, Silva, King, whoever.

Why? Because it’s good for publishers, it’s good for readers, and it’s good for me.

Why publishers? I’m not going to go into all the technical details, but suffice it to say they really want it in the worst way, so use your head – it’s not because it’s bad for them.

Why good for readers? Because it will force those for whom price is an issue to look at less expensive alternatives, creating more opportunity for authors like me. And having found those authors, the readers will likely get more quality books for less money, which is a huge win for them.

Why good for me? Because my offerings at $5-$6 look like bargains next to the new Thor or Grisham at $15. So I’ll sell a lot more books, which is really good for my bar tab, my taste for the finer things in life, and the service sector where I live, as my generosity increases exponentially after a few pops if I’ve got a fat wad in my pocket.

Contrary to all the articles bemoaning the price fixing and the crap royalty rates the big publishers pay, I celebrate them. I frigging love the idea of 25% ebook royalties that work out to be more like an effective 12.5%, and I literally dance in the streets at the thought that all big publisher ebooks should cost $12-$20. Of course they should. There’s a lot of overhead to support, a venerated way of life, a whole galaxy of people who love books and earn their livings by publishing them – not writing them, God forbid, as that’s so pedestrian – but who appreciate them as only MFAs dealing with empty nest issues or investor banking husbands who don’t spend enough time at home, can. Let them gatekeep the shit out of the supplicants who are willing to take scraps in exchange for their work. Why is that good? Because it ensures that my competition stays relatively small, and that those who do make it through the gauntlet and get picked up quickly discover it pays crap, and either quit, or kill themselves.

That translates into me having a long, fat, happy career. Do I want smart, nimble competitors who’re paying top dollar to encourage the best talent to write thrilling, compelling tomes that men’s fiction fans will gobble up? Hell no. I want publishers who continue to spew forth hundreds of thousands of screeds nobody cares about or wants to buy. I want them to be unable or unwilling to sell these masterpieces for under nosebleed pricing, and I want them to continue to make the hurdles higher for those who choose to go the trad route, while simultaneously convincing the majority of authors there is no other “real” way to be an author than that approach.

I want that more than a toddler wants a pony from Santa.

Because as long as that continues, my nice little interstitial business can build, my readership can expand, and I can solidify my hold on my chunk of the market.

The worst thing on the planet for me would be where trad publishers start paying 50% or more to their authors, and lose their battle with Amazon, only to see their books priced in the weeds.

I’m known for holding heterodox opinions, some of which border on obliquity. But stay with me on this one – if we give the publishers what they really want, it’s a huge win for everyone, starting with me. The dedicated workers in Manhattan will continue being able to afford their expense account dinners at Nobu, readers will have a financial incentive to look to authors like yours truly, and my author competitors will be able to sneer in smug superiority as they serve my non-fat latte whilst eye-rolling my sad self-publishing desperation move.

Everyone wins in that scenario.

Here’s what I propose. Someone start a petition supporting the rights of the big publishers to price fix. I’ll be front and center to sign it. In fact, I’ll devote endless space on my vast social media platforms to advancing its agenda, and I’ll gladly rub shoulders with a bunch of venerated big name authors whose opinions are aligned with mine. Don’t allow Amazon to bully the poor French conglomerate, or any other publishing titans. It’s bad for America, it’s bad for puppies and grandma, and I’m pretty sure it will cause brain cancer and cannibalism. Stop Amazon from doing that, and get the DOJ off big publishing’s ass and instead protecting us from real threats, like Russia or global warming or Iraqi WMDs or something.

Don’t be a selfish douche. If not for me, then do it for the children. Because if Amazon’s allowed to continue dictating terms as a monopoly (and before you start in with that, “but they’ve got a ton of massive competitors” pedantry, I mean a monopoly in the sense that any successful company is sort of one, if they get really popular and want to determine how to operate their business) to the five remaining publishing conglomerates, the terrorists have already won.

And then we’ll never be safe. Or eat freedom fries without looking over our shoulders. You know what I mean. Hachette fries. Wink.

Now on to still more of my favorite topic: me. JET – Ops Files is now free for a limited period of time, so go download it before you it reverts to paid and you have to actually part with $4, God forbid. Oh, and JET got its first new cover from German wunderkind Michael Schubert, which I present below. The rest of the series will follow in that theme’s footsteps. I’m totally stoked about it, and am hoping it causes a stir. It was either that or an image of a kitty swatting at a yarn ball whilst playing in a basket filled with chocolate held by a shirtless tanned, tattooed hunk with abs of steel.

That’s next if this doesn’t fly.

Here’s the cover.

JET_Cover_USA_eBook_340X544

 

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Why do some succeed, but most fail? Is it random chance, or is there more to it? Are there habits that successful people have, that their less successful brethren don’t? Sure. There are countless books on the topic. They involve things like being driven, focused, organized, hard working, etc.

So that’s not what this blog’s about. Instead, I thought I’d list the seven habits of highly ineffective people – people who don’t seem to accomplish nearly what their successful peers do, no matter the timing, or the industry. I’m using self-publishing as an example, but these are constants in any industry. Just look around and you’ll find plentiful examples.

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NEWS: Requiem for the Assassin, the next in the Assassin series, just went on preorder at Amazon!

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1) Spend lots of time on the Internet instead of working. Facebook, Twitter, dumbass blogs like this one, chat groups, forums, Youtube. According to numerous studies I mostly made up just now, those who express the desire to be successful authors (meaning top selling, respected authors) but fail to make inroads spend large amounts of time being social butterflies, and very little time actually writing.

2) Shun marketing. If you want to sell few to no books, ensure that nobody knows they’re available, much less worth reading, and do little or nothing to create visibility. Those who are ineffective book sellers seem uniquely focused on avoiding anything that would sell their books, which makes a kind of sense. They generally believe marketing and promotions are a pain, or beneath them, or that they shouldn’t have to because they’re special snowflakes. They’ll cite plentiful examples of unrelated authors with completely different circumstances who made it without having to sully their hands with the vagaries of filthy commerce, ignoring that these were exceptions, sort of the guy who jumped off the Golden Gate bridge or jumped out of a plane but had their chute fail to open, and lived. Tut tut, they’ll insist, it can still happen. Sure it can. Bridge is right over there. Have at it.

3) Treat your muse as though it were an uncontrollable force of nature, like rain or snow. Completely outside of your ability to make it dance for you. Another aspect of this odd view is that everyone’s different, and not everyone can be creative on command, or work up the motivation to write on a regular schedule. Tell that to the countless Hollywood script writers, journalists, ad copy and web content creators who do in fact create to a schedule in order to be paid. There’s a word for those who can’t master their muse: Unemployed, at least if they’re writers. Or broke, if you prefer brevity.

4) Fail to have a production schedule. It’s sort of like going on a road trip from NY to LA. A production schedule is a map. Apparently the idea that you’re far likelier to get to your destination, on time, and on budget, with a map, is a novel idea to the ineffective. Best to just see what happens. It’ll sort itself out.

5) Have no consistency to your work. Jump around a lot of different genres and ignore what’s working. Keep your readers guessing what your next one’s going to be about, how long or short it will be, when it will be released, or even whether there will be a next one. The ineffective seem to mistake the liberty to fail in multiple genres or form factors with freedom of expression. They ignore the avisos to stick to your knitting, preferring to write whatever their illusive and mercurial muse dictates. Generally to empty seats. A good warning sign is if you’re asking questions like, “Why don’t my short stories sell?” or “Who says you have to do a series to make a decent living at this?” on author forums.

6) Surround yourself with those who aren’t performing. Misery loves company, and if you’re going to spend a lot of time on social media, who better to do it with than other kindred spirits who also aren’t accomplishing anything? See number 1 above for the best way to do so.

7) Nickel and dime everything. Ineffective people will generally spend an hour to save a dime, instead of earning twenty dollars. Everything will be do-it-yourself, and it will be a point of pride at how little their work cost to produce. Of course, they will also seem incapable of grasping that most are discerning consumers who won’t pay for do-it-yourself, amateur efforts. This results in a circle of mediocrity and failure – everything’s done on the cheap, nobody wants to buy it, no money comes in, resulting in everything having to be done on the cheap. Many proponents of the wisdom of this approach are also broke, which is usually directly related to taking this approach in every aspect of their lives. But they don’t seem to see the causality.

So there you have it. If you want to be ineffective as an author, I’ve just handed you the keys to the kingdom. In fact, if you want to be ineffective in most things, these suggestions will prove helpful – using genre as an example, imagine one’s effectiveness to an employer if instead of spending years honing a discipline, like, say, accounting, you jumped around every few months to try something different because you felt limited by that one thing – because everyone respects and wants to employ a dilettante. Or imagine your effectiveness as a business owner if you just can’t seem to work up the motivation to go in today to open the doors, much less get things done. Or as a manufacturer if you failed to have production schedules, preferring to let everyone just sort it out and work at their own pace. In fact, these simple techniques can be used to be ineffective at almost anything, and provide a wonderful window into the soul of failure as leitmotif.

I left out the one about arguing with those who have done well, as though by disagreeing you can make your unsuccessful approach a winner, but ran out of numbers. We can tackle that one next time. Now I’m off to tell the chef at the wildly popular restaurant down the street how there’s more than one way to run an eatery, after which I’ll follow by arguing with my doctor that I read contradictory information from his recommendations on the web, and announce to my engineer that I don’t need to spend years in school learning a bunch of BS, but have decided that I can just sort of tell how much structural steel needs to be in a beam to support a certain amount of stress and weight.

UPDATE: In the interest of clarity, here are some definitions of terms: When I use the term ineffective, I mean ineffective at operating a successful self-publishing business (or really any sort of business, business being defined as commerce, where success is measured in terms of net profit dollars). Ineffective is another word for inefficient in this instance.

When I use the term success, I mean selling boatloads of books for oodles of money. Success has a very narrow definition for the purposes of this blog – it doesn’t mean how you might define it (the joy in your puppy’s eyes at seeing you again, the pride of a job well done, persevering in spite of overwhelming odds, self-actualization, the warming rays of a sunset, modest progress with marginal results, etc.). For the purposes of this blog, success is selling hundreds of thousands of books per year for many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you disagree with the specific definitions I’ve set out for these terms, I’d suggest you find a group that cares about your definition, and write your own blog.

 

 

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Phoenix Sullivan reached out to be about participating in a bundle, and given her stature, how could I say no?

The result is Force Majeure, a collection of six epic novels about, well…disaster, plague, biblical-level-end-of-the-world shit, and so on.

Force Majeure

Why should you care? Because Upon A Pale Horse, my bio-thriller, is the lead novel, which is really akin to you buying it for under a buck and getting five other great reads for free.

Which is really the perfect summer read. Mankind meeting the apocalypse book after book. I prefer my plague with a margarita, but you may be thinking Corona. Tomato, tomahto.

The authors are top shelf. Freezing Point by Karen Dionne, who’s an RT Best First Mystery Nominee, has gotten rave reviews, as have Toni Dwiggins’ bestselling Volcano Watch and USA Today Bestselling Author Melissa F Miller’s Indispensable Party. Sector C, by Phoenix Sullivan, as been an Amazon Top 100 novel, and The Rift, by Nebula Award Winner Walter Jon Williams, are gripping reads. So how can you go wrong? Answer: you can’t.

So go forth and get the bundle. It’s the right price, Upon A Pale Horse is one of my favorite, and certainly, one of my most important novels dealing with a topic so shocking that it’s been banned in nine countries (none of which you can probably pronounce, as they require clicks and pops instead of consonants and vowels, but still) and burned in three Kentucky school districts, or will be once they discover fire.

Don’t delay. This baby will only be on sale for a very limited time, and Phoenix has assured me that one of the lucky purchasers will get a car or a private plane or something through mysterious and yet undeniable cosmic forces. I wouldn’t F with that. If you wind up in August with no car or private plane, it’s kind of your fault, not mine, because you were alerted, so quit whining, take life by the reins, and do something for yourself for once. Buy. My. Crap.

There. I said it. It’s out in the open.

In other news, I’m super excited about the German cover for JET, and it looks like I’ll be able to get it with some modifications for the English language version. How cool is that? I’m pretty stoked. Maybe I’ll even sell a few. Fingers crossed…

 

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JET – Ops Files. My latest book. Reviews say it’s one of my best. Sold many thousands in two months. Still selling strong.

So what to do?

Why not just give it away?

So that’s what I did. You can download it for free at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, iTunes, or wherever else you regularly get your free swag.

“But why would you do this, Russell? I mean, you’re wasting away to nothing, trying to make it week to week, your bar tab mounting as we speak…”

Fair question, inner dialogue. I’m doing it because I received a message from my higher power that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that the world needs to read JET – Ops Files, and that for me to withhold it from anxious readers who were too frigging cheap to buy it for $4 makes me an asshat. And I don’t want to be one of those. Of course the higher power could have well been the tequila talking, but who am I to question the way the cosmos works? The voice said make it free, so that’s what I did. At least I think that’s what it said. Could have been get the flame thrower and go on an alcohol-fueled anti-clown rampage. But I think it was make JET – Ops Files, free. Pretty sure, anyway.

What have we learned in all this? That there are cheapskates for whom $4 is a vast fortune and they can’t possibly part with it? Perhaps. That I need to stay away from my friend’s special mushrooms when the mescal comes out? Don’t judge me.

No, I think the takeaway is that we are all part of a unified field of energy, and that our perception of ourselves as separate from each other, and from the field itself, is an illusion – the wave mistaking itself as separate from the sea. Or maybe that’s not it. Maybe it’s that the world would be a better place if the downtrodden, the oppressed, the sexually frustrated and the marginalized, the up and comers as well as those fading away, the disenfranchised and the mainstream, read a Russell Blake book, which teach us many lessons about ourselves, our world, love, laughter, sadness, and loss. And of course kick-ass hotties in leather with more gun skills than Rambo and more weapons than the NRA.

So that’s what I’ve done. It’s free for God knows how long. Download it with my compliments. If action thrillers aren’t your cup of tea, download it anyway and read it to your beloved pet or something. Get creative. Live a little. Expand your horizons. Spread your wings.

Ooh, and the German publisher of JET just did a cover that’s so kick-ass I get dizzy just looking at it, and I’m hopeful I can convince them to let me use it or I’ll fly over there and make an ass out of myself, completely killing the odds of making a sale. Here it is below. Tell me that doesn’t make you want to read it cover to cover in the not-so-original German! I love it. Really love it, and I’m super excited to be working with them.

 

Photo: JET - Russel Blake - für  LUZIFER-Verlag Steffen Janssen

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As a continuation of my rant from the other day, about my acquaintance who never got around to writing the book he’s got an idea for, I thought I’d discuss my take on the value of ideas.

Simply put, ideas don’t have a hell of a lot of value – they’re a dime a dozen.

What do I mean?

There’s an old saying in the venture capital world: ideas are worth, at most, 10% of the deal.

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NEWS: JET – Ops Files is FREE for a limited time. If you don’t grab it while it is, you’re an ass clown. Don’t be one of those. Really.

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In the business of writing, it’s probably even less. I can sit around with some drunk friends for an evening and come up with a plausible thriller. That’s the idea part. “The Federal Reserve can’t give back any of the gold it’s holding for foreign governments because it hypothecated it and sold it off over the last 40 years to keep the price depressed. One man learns the truth when he gets top secret internal Fed paperwork documenting the sales. And now the Fed’s owners will do anything to keep the secret.”

There’s the premise. Man on the run. A secret. A conspiracy (that’s actually probably 99% factual, as the NY Fed – a private bank, incidentally, contrary to what many people think – hasn’t been able to give Germany back its gold, and told it that it would take 7 years to give it back a fraction of what it’s “holding;” after refusing to allow Germany to see its own gold that the Fed says is “safe” in its vault, with a, “trust us, we’re the Fed!” Germany said, mmm, not so much, and demanded a portion of it back, you know, just for giggles. After stalling and posturing, the Fed delivered only half of what it committed to last year, and the bars it sent weren’t Germany’s – they were newly minted bars, absent the German government stamp). A cabal that will do anything to remain in power.

There. I just gave everyone a great, fact-based conspiracy to run with. Took me one minute. In a day or two I could flesh out a passable outline. You might be able to, too.

Now turn it into a page-turner. Oh. Not so easy. 100 people could write that story, and maybe one would be really good, a dozen would be competent but plodding, and the rest would vary from yawn to blech.

I’ve found that ideas are a very small part of being a successful writer. I’ve got enough of them to last me the next 100 years. Every time I read the news there are 20 ideas that occur to me. Malaysia Air crash? Sure – who or what was on board that made “them” need to take it down at all costs? Ukraine? Bam – the CIA has operatives posing as insurgents to destabilize the area as retribution for Russia blocking the US on Syria and Iran. 9-11? Don’t even get me started – not only are a slug of the supposed hijackers alive and well and working as pilots in Saudi Arabia to this day, but dust residue from an apartment across the way from the towers was tested and had significant levels of sulfur, the primary bi-product of thermite…as well as another ingredient that’s exclusively used in U.S. military thermite, for which there is zero explanation, and which is ignored by the media. Or perhaps less recent – America goes to war over the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which history now shows never happened (when it was reported, there were many claiming it didn’t, but the US press ignored the issue, toeing the party line). But at the time it was a CIA false flag attack to get the country into the conflict so that the small corporation whose largest shareholder was the President’s wife could become a centi-billion dollar conglomerate supplying infrastructure during the endless war effort (Halliburton). Or want to go back further? Try the Spanish American war, where the US claimed it was fired upon in Havana Harbor, which later turned out to be a boiler exploding on the ship. Corporate interests wanted the war, so they contrived an event to lead the country into it.

History gives us more good ideas than we can use in ten lifetimes. We just have to be able to read.

These are all good conspiracies based on fact. Go ahead and write em. Let’s see how you do.

That’s what people don’t get. Concept is good, but it’s execution that’s everything. You want concept? I’ll give you concept from the bestseller lists: Wool: Chick in a dystopian world bucks status quo to discover a better world. Da Vinci Code/Foucault’s Pedulum/The Voynich Cypher: Hero must solve puzzle to discover the dark secret powerful forces will do anything to keep hidden. Hunger Games/Harry Potter/The Matrix/Star Wars/The Hobbit/Dante’s Inferno/Jason and the Golden Fleece/Great Expectations/The Three Musketeers/Lord of the Rings/90% of adventure fiction: Hero who doesn’t realize his special qualities must overcome obstacles and ultimately his/her own fear to transform into new, more powerful/enlightened hero, seeing his former ordinary world in a new light.

You can come up with these ideas pretty easily. I could probably generate a widget to create them at the press of a button by combining various archetypes and tropes.

Making them into a book someone wants to read’s a little harder. And that’s where the art and magic lie. The telling of the tale, the particular perspective of the author that’s unique to his or her little noggin, the phrasing, cadence and word choice of that writer, vs. that of any other.

So the next time someone approaches you, upon discovering that you’re an author, and tells you what a great book idea they have, tell them what I do: “Super. I’ve got a million of ‘em. My problem is there aren’t enough hours in the day to write ‘em all!”

At least you’ll be telling the truth.

And now, given that I’ve been conspicuously remiss in self-promotion recently, here’s my gratuitous pitch for you cheapskates who can’t pay a lousy five bucks for some quality entertainment: Zero Sum, my Wall St conspiracy thriller, is on sale for .99 today on a countdown sale. Go buy it. Just do it. It’s like 140K or so words, some of them decent. Don’t be a miser. You can’t take it with you, and if you want to read the third novel I ever published, now you can do it for pennies.

Beyond that, I hope to finish first draft of Requiem for the Assassin by Thursday. It’s a good one, I think, and it’s going in unusual directions, which is always fun. Unless I can’t figure out what it all means. Then, maybe not so fun. Guess we’ll soon know for sure…

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