Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Severed Ears Are Yummy, Or: Another Brian Drake Interview

If I sold a copy of Reaper's Dozen for every interview I've done lately, I'd be rich. This one is different than the other and features severed ears so you're sure to get a kick out of it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Next Ebook Cover

The e-book experiment continues with my upcoming short novel "Justified Sins" which features a character you can find in two stories included in Reaper's Dozen. An artist friend drew the cover, and charged me a lot of money to do so, but I think it's great. See for yourself.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brian Drake Interviewed on The Indie Spotlight!

A few months ago when my e-book Reaper's Dozen came out I answered some questions from the good folks at The Indie Spotlight, which highlights "indie" authors. If any of you Kindle owners subscribe to the newsletter you've probably already seen this; if not, click away!

Monday, July 19, 2010

You Too Can Be a Kindle Millionaire....Or Not

Not too long ago, back in May, I put up an e-book called Reaper's Dozen at the Amazon Kindle store and Smashwords.Com. I figured I would give it a shot as others, some notable but others less so, weren't doing too badly with their e-books and bringing in some extra cash besides. Reviews have been kind (on Amazon); in fact, amazingly kind, as Evan Lewis was over at his blog

Do note that Reaper's Dozen is a collection of short stories, and I think that's the reason sales have been so bleh since we started this. My other writing pals, one of whom is pulling in around $300 a month for her work (I could sure use that!), are doing far better, and they think it's because my book is note a full novel and readers would rather have that. I don't blame them as I myself am less likely to try out a new author unless it's a novel I can really invest in; after that, if short stories come out, I'll snatch those up, too.

So it's too early to call the Brian Drake E-book Experiment a failure, as I'm sure that once my spy novel The Eagle Intercept goes up, sales for Reaper's Dozen will pick up. Heck, my other pals have more than one title available, so it makes sense.

If not...

Well, I would rather not think about "if not" at this point, because it usually ends with my jumping off the roof.

Granted I'm only two floors up, and would cause far more embarrassment to myself than damage (what else is new?) but you know what I mean.

And if you haven't been over to Amazon to check out the action, here's a convenient link:

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Hell I Do!

Thanks for David Cramner's "Education of a Pulp Writer" site I tried this writing analysis do-hickey and have to call the whole thing bullshit. Why?

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Like hell. I do not write like Stephen King.

I did notice at the bottom, though, that there was some sort of come-on for what looked like a self-publishing racket. Perhaps that's the whole point: get suckers to self-publish because they think they write like Stephen King or whoever.

Why couldn't it say I write like a real, talented writer, who knows all the ins and outs of grammar, description, and how to construct a gripping, imaginative story? Like Stephanie Meyer, for instance. Why oh why?

Friday, July 9, 2010

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler

I discovered Ambler's Journey Into Fear because James Bond read one of Ambler's books in From Russia With Love. And I'm glad I gave it a shot! I have never read a thriller so.... thrilling. Seriously, Ambler knows how to write, and he can turn what sounds like a been-there-done-that story and plot circles around your expectations.

Journey Into Fear involves an engineer named Graham who is the target of Nazi agents because of his British business connections that may interfere with Nazi operations. I know what you're thinking: it's an Everyman-in-danger story with a Macguffin that's never fully explained and is there just gets the action going. Yes. But it's better than that! Graham is on a ship traveling home. Problem is, the Nazi agents are on the ship, too, and they very much want to kill him. But who is the assassin? We meet a variety of colorful characters, all of them well-drawn and interesting. The conversations develop the story and bring up the issues of the time and suddenly you're not reading a thriller, you're reading well-balanced political opinion and it brings a certain sense of real life to the story that other thrillers totally lack. It's not just kiss-kiss-bang-bang. But when the Nazis catch up with Graham and the kiss-kiss-bang-bang starts, Ambler knows how to get his bang-bang on.

Graham's transformation from Everyman to Action Hero doesn't happen the way you'd expect. It happens when he's finally up against the wall, about to be murdered, and he reacts with brutal animal instincts, and it really rings true. There was not a false note in the final battle and it was as well done as the rest of the book.

Journey Into Fear may not be hard-boiled, per se, but the story overflows with paranoia; the reader, like Graham, cannot trust anybody; somebody pretending to be your friend may actually be the one trying to kill you; it has a certain noir aspect which is why I include it here today. Along with your noir you get nail-biting suspense that's better than any thriller I've read in a long time. It proves that thrillers can have strong themes, realistic characters, and believable action, and that's something any thriller writer (or any writer in general) should keep in mind the next time he puts pen to paper.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rescued by the Muse

Last post I wrote about my frustration with the current book and that there was something not right with it. I specified one sequence as a problem; however, upon further reading, more and more issues popped up--nothing specific, but I knew something wasn't right. Imagine my surprise, while out on my walk last night in a continuing effort to fight my waistline, when my Muse showed up and started giving me tons of ideas, and they don't require that the whole book go back to the drawing board. In fact, I realized what I have now is the middle of the book, and what came to mind during my walk is the beginning and the end.

I hurried home, grabbed a cigar, and went out to the deck, turning on the lights that rim the railing, which provides light to read and write by when night comes and gives me the added benefit of pissing off the neighbors (they're on the board of the Home Owners' Association, and they don't like my lights, but can't get an "official" order from the board to make me take them down). My ideas turned into four pages of notes, so now I'm going back to my original outline and fixing stuff there first. That way I have a working model of how the book plays out. Then I'll simply retype or cut and paste the existing material with the new stuff.

I'm much happier now.

There's probably only one or two of you who really care, but so what? This is one of the things I like about scribbling. When you want to throw the fracking book in the trash, your subconscious arrives like the calvary to save the day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

It's Never Good Enough

Tonight I wrapped up another reading/edit of my spy story The Eagle Intercept, which I am currently shopping around. It's 65,000 words of tasty espionage mayhem, but I have my doubts about it. Not because I do not think it's a bad story, but because there's a sequence in the book that nags the heck out of me. Ninety-nine percent of the book is, I think, just right, and I wouldn't alter it; however, there is a sequence that I think can be done better, but I have no idea how to do it better, so it sits there mocking me. I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with it. The sequence doesn't slow the story; in fact, it moves things along at a brisk pace, and soon enough the characters are in another location engaging in more tasty espionage mayhem.

But I think this sequence could be done better. We're only talking, say, 10 pages. Ten pages of this stupid manuscript are keeping me awake tonight--well, that and the constant popping of firecrackers. Dudes? Independence Day ended three hours ago, put 'em away until next year. Although, considering the town I live in, and it's high crime rate, what I'm taking for fire crackers may indeed be the town gangs settling some scores. But I digress....

One thing that's hard about writing--for me, anyway--is that I'm never happy with the finished product. Maybe a lot of writers feel the same way, and every book is an attempt to get the previous one right, and if so I have my work cut out for me. This is not the first time I've faced this issue. Back in high school, when I was turning out a book a year (terrible books, looking at them now, but they provided great practice) I spent a lot of those years trying the same book over and over again because it never quite worked. Eventually I gave up, and what there is of it sits in a drawer to this day.

The sequence in question also bothered me a year ago when I outlined this book, so this isn't a new problem. I've lived with the damn thing for over a year now, and it's still a nag. It's not a bad scene, there's nothing wrong with hit, but it nags me. It could be better.

I'll probably think of a solution after the book is published.

Yeah, that's exactly what will happen. I'll let you know what I come up with.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Ebook Pitfalls, or: My First Editor Was Right!

Nobody said writing is easy, but I have "come to realize" that writing is not hard, it is what happens after writing that is hard, like picking off every single fracking typo, and every little line that doesn't quite sound right.

A writer, we assume, does his best to eliminate these pesky pests with multiple readings of his own, and readings from others upon who's eagle eye the author counts, unless, of course, said eagle eyes are pickled from too much gin and bitters.

But, alas, you can never get them all, apparently, even with three sets of "eagle eyes" doing the work, and then you put the damn thing up on Kindle, and somebody, perhaps the actor turning your opus into an audio book, after reviewing the script, says, "Hey, Snookums, you done got some errors in this here thang," and you scream, "Oh, fiddle faddle and farpleknocker," and suddenly realize why, perhaps, the release and reaction to the ebook in question has been like urinating into the ocean in an attempt to raise the sea level. Folks are downloading the sample, spotting errors, and saying, "Oh, heck no," before going back to the tee vee.

Well, it's a theory. Queries to the sets of eagle eyes resulted in a chorus of "I didn't see anythings", though one did admit, "I am the world's worst proof-reader." Gee, I wish she would effing have told me that before I paid her with a case of beer. Typical.

Anyway, said author is now going to review his manuscript again in an attempt to get the ones that got away. This is exactly how he wanted to spend his Fourth of July weekend.

Back in high school, I worked for a publishing company that not only did books but a monthly magazine as well, and part of my job was to catch typos in the magazine's articles. I was the fourth set of eyes, I think, and I always caught a few things, and when I asked my editor why I was still catching problems after three other people had looked, he told me that something always gets through, and often they don't find the last little errors until the magazine is published. I guess that's just the way of the world, but I don't have to like it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye by Horace McCoy

I don't often mention a book with the caveat "save your money" at the end of the title, but this time I am. McCoy's "Kiss" is a famous novel that later became a James Cagney movie, and I liked the movie so much that I bought the book when the opportunity arose. It was awesome and totally spectacular... until the end. I don't want to go into too much detail about the misadventures of Ralph Cotter because it would give too much away, but I think McCoy rushed the ending and robbed readers of a more satisfying finish. Maybe he ran out of typing paper, and his deadline wouldn't allow a quick run to the Typing Paper Store for more, so he used what he had to rush the ending and mailed off the manuscript and mixed some Captain and Coke.

Other than the ending, it's a fine book. McCoy's writing is sharp, the characters well-drawn, and the first chapter grabs you by the throat, but I really wish it hadn't been ruined by the ending.

Endings are important, because, as Mickey Spillane has pointed out, the ending sells an author's next book. Harry Whittington called a story's ending the punch line, and if it wasn't worth the trip, the audience may not listen to your next joke.

Oh, well. "Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye" is another classic of the hard-boiled school I can check off my list, at least.