Thursday, March 31, 2011

They Keep Moving The Goal Posts!

So Not Low Maintenance reached a milestone around noon.  6 months ago it would have been a very big deal indeed.  Now not so much.  Still I'm thrilled and hope this is a harbinger of things to come.

Here's an interesting legacy article

Publishers Desperately Seeking Insanely Great Debut Novelists

Apr. 23 2010 - 1:13 pm | 431 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments
“Everybody’s looking for the next big thing — a work of great literary fiction from an unknown writer who’s never been published.”
That’s according to Jay Schaefer, an editor-at-large at Workman Publishers in New York City and its subsidiary, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Schaefer, a publishing veteran best known for producing the huge best seller Under the Tuscan Sun during his long tenure at Chronicle Books, spoke with me the other day after making the rounds at a couple of writers conferences out here on the West Coast.
“Every editor I saw was prowling the workshops and the grassy slope outside the conference, searching high and low for the next undiscovered debut novelist,” Schaefer said.

Look at the date.  Last April.  Isn't that when Amanda Hocking, despairing of ever being published after submitting to everyone and being ignored, decided to self-publish?  IIRC, that would be yes.

It goes on
Q: Why would an editor prefer an unknown writer to someone with some kind of a track record?
A: Because there are so many mid-list authors around whose last few outings weren’t exactly best sellers.

Someone with a track record--aka someone with experience and who can actually write.  Freaking annoying hacky midlist, boring ass writers. Death isn't good enough for them!
Would a year ago Joe Konrath be considered a non-bestselling mid-list author?  I think he might be. 


Break out the Windex for that Krystal Ball.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011


French addition of Impossible Charlie

It occurred to me yesterday on Dream Horse's Kindle page, it also lists the original Impossible Charlie, my paperback version of Impossible Charlie and of course, the Kindle of Dream Horse.  Why on Kate's page isn't the original In Real Life I'm Just Kate listed as well as the Fawcett paperback?  How did Amazon know to do it for Charlie but not Kate?  So I wrote to ask.  When I get an answer I'll let you know.

Above you can see pictured the original French version of Impossible Charlie.  I got pocket change as an advance in those days then nothing ever again.  But if you look on Amazon, you'll see another French version published well after the rights reverted to me.  I was never notified, there was no contract and certainly no money.  So basically some French person stole my intellectual property from me.  And it's not worth it to pursue them because they're in Europe and the cost of the legal fees would vastly outweigh anything I could get in return. 

What does any of this have to do with now, sure it's history but so what?  Because like a partial amnesiac there are whole areas of my career I haven't thought about for years.  Why?  Because they would be held against me.
Class?  Does anyone know the answer to this question?  Who, in the publishing business, would hold your history
against you?  Bueller?  That's right.  Editors and Agents.  

For years I had two resumes.  The long one with everything on it.  And a short version which was tweaked with each new query so that information wouldn't be used or held against me.  There was the non-juvenile lit version.  There was the non-television credit version.  There was the non-nonfiction version.  There were permutations all around.

As I was looking for that Charlie book, I found a French copy of my first book Ride A Proud Horse.  I swear to you, I didn't even remember it existed.  

Talk about down the Memory Hole.

UPDATE:  That was fast.  I heard back from Kindle support.  They have linked all versions of Kate and the reviews will also be put on the Kindle page (which will balance out those of the feral children.)   There was a part of the explanation that eludes me, however.  All editions must have the same title for them to be linked.
Impossible Charlie
Impossible Charlie
Dream Horse

How does that figure?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Disenchanted Evening

You will meet a stranger, across a crowded chat room.

And their rant sounds like you wrote it.

I found this somewhere, nevermind where, a watering hole where disenchanted writers gather at sundown.

Just chiming in regarding your post about signing over electronic
rights and regretting it. I did say that I wanted to keep my electronic
rights, in fact I tried to negotiate on a number of points. I hit a blank
wall. First the editor didn't even reply to me - it took over a month to get
a response. When I finally did get one, I got a really blunt two line email
stating a flat no, the publishing company is not pursuing the contract on the terms you
requested'. I totally thought I was dumped simply for asking. I asked if
things could still go ahead if I didn't get those requested contract changes
- no reply again. It was really horrible. I caved in on the issue - I wanted
the book published and I had no bargaining power. 

The funny part is that writers still flock to these legacy abusers, I mean publishers.  

I think this is a terrible part of my personality, I think it must be lazy and it's wrong-headed.  Here is it.  I believe in letting people (and countries) make their own mistakes.  People don't seem to learn by taking advice.  They don't learn by one unpleasant thing happening to them, they only learn when it's crushingly painful.  One bad thing isn't a red flag that shouts "Look Out!  Danger Ahead".  Nah.

The unfortunate part of this approach is that other people not involved in the decision suffer too.  People who weren't consulted on the efficacy of this path pay for the mistake.  That's why running around like an idiot and shouting about the chasm up ahead is the only way to handle such instances but I stopped doing that.

So okay.  Enjoy yourselves.

I got the CreateSpace proof for Summer Horse.  The front cover seems quite plain to me but the back cover is terrific.  They/whoever the printer is did a nice job.  The paper and cover material is top quality.  There's something in the interior I want to tweak but it might impact the spine so I am on the fence about bothering.
That 300 DPI image wound up being just fine.

I raised the price of the Kate book today to $2.99.  It seems to me that for some people that 99 cents price is like an invitation to be a bitchy brat in public.  So now they can pay a more realistic price for an excellent book and maybe that will weed out some of the malicious feral children who complain about my poor "grammer".

Quite a few years ago I lived in a very small town in California.  I think there were 66 people in town, but maybe it was 100.  Again, we didn't have a post office. the mail was delivered by a post office closer to Santa Barbara.  Why they made that drive instead of using the mail in Solvang is a mystery.  I lived on the ranch where Sandra Bullock so unfortunately married that biker guy--but that was long after I left.  It was very lovely, the whole valley was gorgeous.  At any rate, the owner of the ranch was an incredible business man from another country--I'll leave out all those details because some day I'll write it into a book.  He had a small and of course very profitable business in town and was in competition with a similar business from down in Santa Barbara.  This man's motto was "I will not be oversold!"  If the Santa Barbara company raised their price, he would raise his price.  If you get into a price war, lowering your price, sure you'll make sales but you'll convince the consumer that this item has limited value.  His item was the best quality, it was the most top quality and the higher price proved it.

I understand the explanation of the 99 cent book being something of a gateway to your other work, and being a loss leader.  I understand how John Locke's books are all priced at 99 cents and he sells 1 every 10 seconds.  I've seen Joe Konrath play around with the prices of his own books--what's optimal and where he sells more.

I also understand that my work (you may feel differently) has intrinsic worth.  It has history and longevity.  There's something offensive to me about pricing my intellectual property at a bargain basement price.

I understand the stupidity of pricing an ebook in the same way you charge for something that has to be printed.
Summer Horse costs about $4 to print.  Amazon has their hand out.  It's a physical object.  I understand $10 for a paperback.  I don't understand $9.99 for an ebook.

Someplace between 99 cents and $9.99 is something realistic.  Even in bad financial times.  It's never good to sell yourself short or let yourself be humiliated because you really really want something.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Self-Publishers and 100 Books

This is the argument that came through on the self-publishers list.  It was spurred on because of Amanda Hocking's success.  "She's the anomaly and most self-publishers won't sell more than 100 copies and those will be to family and friends."

Well, if that isn't a reason to not bother with actually printing your book I don't know what is.
If you haven't read Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum" you should.  With everything else going on, it's set at a vanity press and there are some interesting insights.

We should accept that the competition for readers will only increase.  More readers will buy e-readers as time goes on.  No one got bored with CD's and went back to 8-track tapes.  No one got bored with CD's and went back to vinyl.  I'm not saying books are done but we are only experiencing the first wave of excitement with reading devices now.  The numbers will only build and some people will not go back to paper books.  At all.  Ever.

More writers and wannabe writers will delight in the ease of self-publishing and flood the market further.  I try to remember that there are books ranked in the mid 6 figures.  I suppose that implies that at some point there will be a lot of writers ranked in the mid 7 figures.  "Yay!  I'm # 1,000,000!  I'm # 1,000,000!"  It could make you despair.

Some people just should not be writers.  It's the same as some people just don't have the voice to be a singer.  You see it all the time on American Idol.  Someone auditions and they're terrible, they can't find the tune let alone carry it.  They're rejected.  They cry.  "You don't know how much I want this!"  They sob.  "I've wanted this my whole entire life."  (They're 20.)

My reaction is always I don't care how much they want this.  That has nothing to do with it and they didn't want it badly enough to work for it.  Take singing lessons.  Get a gig as a singer with a local bar band.  Perform at Senior Citizen Centers.  Perform for free.  Perform 350 times a year.  But these people do none of that.  They want the adulation, the trappings that go along with this whole singer thing, but the striving to be a good singer is not part of their equation.

"Oh Simon Cowell is so mean!"  No.  Simon Cowell was so honest.  Unserious people should not be coddled and especially when it's about big money and big business and a lot of people are involved.  

Unserious writers...ditto.
So am I saying if you are serious and you put in the time and effort, you will succeed?  No.  You may not have any talent for it.  You could sing all day long and without a good instrument, a voice, no will want to listen to you.
I think, maybe I'm wrong, without the spark of talent, without the true love of words, of language, of the process of writing, most people will eventually give up the whole writing thing.  It's too hard.  It's not that much fun.  Let's go clubbing.

So am I saying if you are serious and work at it ceaselessly and you have that spark you will succeed?  No.  But you have a better chance and it depends on how you define success.  If you want to entertain an audience, you have a good shot at it.  If you want to be rich and hit a windfall like Amanda, well, your priorities are already wrong and point to the seed of your ultimate failure as a writer.

The one last element in this whole success/reaching an audience bit is the idea.  This is Hollywood in spades where a high concept pushes past all the other scripts and treatments to get the million dollar deal.  If you have a hot enough idea and minimal talent/writing skills, you can still get to the top of the heap.  I don't know if that can be sustained for a career or a lifetime.  Maybe so.  Maybe not.  I'm not that kind of writer so I don't have any clues how it's done.  


Sunday, March 27, 2011


I'm a bit flummoxed with Kindle and all their categories.  It seems confusing to me but I have a lot of things on my mind so maybe I'm missing the obvious.  

It did make me think about where to put your book when you're pressed to designate where  it belongs so people can find it.  This post won't be an answer to that question so quit reading now if that's what you're looking for.

What inspired me to do this post is not how fluid Not Low Maintenance is in winding up in unexpected categories but an annoyed 1 star review on BN for the Kate book.  Besides being horribly written, conceived and full of bland characters, there's no romance.  Darn it all, if it's supposed to be a romance, then there should be romance, you idiot writer!


I suppose I shouldn't defend my work but sheesh, Kate?  It got me into television.  It was optioned for a TV movie. It was a book club selection.  It was both a hardcover and paperback.  All before this reader was born.

No one ever said In Real Life, I'm Just Kate (now Just Kate) was a romance.  I don't know that there were YA romances then the way they are now and I wouldn't have been interested in writing one if there was.  

So this reader was expecting a romance and was ticked enough to tell everyone not to buy this book because she just wasted a whole 99 cents on it.  Less than what you pay for a ginormous Snickers bar that will give you a pounding headache.  (Does anyone else think that shark focus group commercial is funny.  "Oh yeah, Steve was delicious."  "He had just eaten a Snickers Peanut Square!"  "May I have another taste?"  note blood all over shark's mouth.  Send in the next victim eating a Snickers Peanut Square.  "Eat the whole thing, please.")

Back to the trying to sort thru the categories question.  If you're writing a paranormal, you are already bored with this post and left by now.  Some books are really easy to classify.  Horse books.  Easy.  But even mysteries got hard.  Is it a traditional?  A cozy?  Hard-boiled?  

I know there are writers on the mystery>thrillers>legal bestseller list who see me there with NLM and they're shouting "How in the hell is that listed here?"  Because a character was murdered and there are a lot of lawyers.

Blame it on Amazon.  We need a category called WOMEN'S FICTION.

They seem to do this better in England.  Women's fiction can encompass a wide range.  Here not so much.  Everyone seems confused. Is chicklit women's fiction?  Should there be a category for older women?  (Hen lit in England).  When is a character not a chick any longer?  When does she finally grow up and become a woman?

What do you call it if you're telling the story of someone's life and yes, there's an element of romance but it's about coming of age, it's about underlying conflict with a parent, it's about feeling your way into the world for the first time.  That's Kate.  Kate's not a romance.

We like to pigeonhole everything because like the billboard easily understood when driving past at 60 mph, we don't want to take the time to understand.  Do you get it?  You don't work to "get it" you just "get it".  We all want to just get it and get to to end so we can get to the NEXT thing.

In Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince there's a passage about being thirsty.  And the prince talks about strolling to the well to get a drink of water.  Yes we want the water.  The water is necessary for life but how we get to the water is also necessary for life.

Here's the passage

"Men," said the little prince, "set out on their way in express trains, but they do not know what they are looking for. Then they rush about, and get excited, and turn round and round..."
And he added:
"It is not worth the trouble..."
The well that we had come to was not like the wells of the Sahara. The wells of the Sahara are mere holes dug in the sand. This one was like a well in a village. But there was no village here, and I thought I must be dreaming...
"It is strange," I said to the little prince. "Everything is ready for use: the pulley, the bucket, the rope..."

He laughed, touched the rope, and set the pulley to working. And the pulley moaned, like an old weathervane which the wind has long since forgotten.
"Do you hear?" said the little prince. "We have wakened the well, and it is singing..."
I did not want him to tire himself with the rope.
"Leave it to me," I said. "It is too heavy for you."
I hoisted the bucket slowly to the edge of the well and set it there-- happy, tired as I was, over my achievement. The song of the pulley was still in my ears, and I could see the sunlight shimmer in the still trembling water.
"I am thirsty for this water," said the little prince. "Give me some of it to drink..."
And I understood what he had been looking for.
I raised the bucket to his lips. He drank, his eyes closed. It was as sweet as some special festival treat. This water was indeed a different thing from ordinary nourishment. Its sweetness was born of the walk under the stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a present. When I was a little boy, the lights of the Christmas tree, the music of the Midnight Mass, the tenderness of smiling faces, used to make up, so, the radiance of the gifts I received.
"The men where you live," said the little prince, "raise five thousand roses in the same garden-- and they do not find in it what they are looking for."
"They do not find it," I replied.
"And yet what they are looking for could be found in one single rose, or in a little water."
"Yes, that is true," I said.
And the little prince added:
"But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart..."

What's the rush?

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Saturday, March 26, 2011

This Day So Far

NLM made it into the top 1000 and has managed to stay there for a number of hours tho drifting from the 900s to the 800s and back again.  It was on the mystery>thriller>legal list.  Then it wasn't.  Now it is again, still at #3.  I have trouble with numbers so I think this is a minefield for me. It's so much easier with Sweeps which is just #1.  I don't look farther than that.  I don't understand how this ranking thing works but I do get that the smaller the number the better you're doing.

Hollywood.  This is a conundrum, isn't it?  It was created by a bunch of Jews who didn't have much money and saw an opportunity.  They had a vision of America and it became the prevailing vision.  Which I think was fine and noble.  But I'm not going to talk about that.

So lots of people were offered lots of money to come make movies and many people took advantage of that.  One person was George Gershwin.  I can't speak highly enough of his genius.  He and his brother Ira wrote some of the finest songs that will ever be written.  He so tragically died of a brain tumor in his 30s in the 30s.

In come the Hollywood vultures 10 years later to make a movie about him.  And manage to get almost everything wrong.  It was on this morning so those missteps are fresh in my mind.  Robert Alda was miscast.  And he couldn't act.  He was stiffer than laundry hung out on the line overnight in freezing temps.  The dialog was shriek-worthy.  I was shrieking.  I was mocking them.

Chico Marx.  It was Chick-o!  Not Chee-ko!  They could have called him up and asked how he pronounced his name.   It wouldn't even have been a long distance call.

In real life Oscar Levant was one of Gershwin's closest friends.  Oscar played himself.  Paul Whiteman played himself.  That was enjoyable.  I don't know who the chick was George was supposed to be having a romance with in the movie.  IRL, he was admittedly a man about town, and Kay Swift was his longtime main squeeze.    So this was a cleaned up invention.  With no heat.  As someone said of an actor (you want me to remember everything?) in Sweeps "He was stiff but not in a good way."

George deserved better than this.  He deserved to be left alone.

Geez, I hate these bio-pics.  

I had to think about posting this.  But decided yes.  On the afternoon of Feb. 12 1924 at Aeolian Hall in New York City, Rhapsody in Blue debuted.

In June of 1924 with the same orchestra, Paul Whiteman's, and again George at the piano, it was recorded.  Because 78 records were capable of 9 minutes, the work was cut in half. This was never duplicated altho it was recorded again with Whiteman in 1927.  By then Ross Gorman had moved on and wasn't on the clarinet.  And Ferde Grofe who has arranged the piece originally had formed his own orchestra.  So even with the pops and crackles, to me, this has never been performed better.  This is what George had intended.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Milestones and Tips From Daytime

Not Low Maintenance made it into the top 100 contemporary romances today.  So that's a big deal for me.

Don't ask how any of this ranking thing works.  I don't know.

Let's talk about daytime.  "Hang on there, that's all you've been doing lately."
Too true.  Let's talk about what I learned about writing in daytime.
Some people would say all you pick up is bad ticks.  I think that's true.  Because of time constraints, you make fast/unwise choices that lack creativity or freshness.

That's a big lesson to learn.

Here's a good lesson I learned from story meetings.  If you think something is in the work, make sure it is there.  Clearly.  Be able to point to it.  Don't just feel it's there, or it's there in a nebulous sort of way.  Readers pay less and less attention as time goes by.  Everything in the world is moving faster, so people are geared to speed.  It's unfortunate but you need to consider it.  I see reviews of certain of my books and it's apparent the people are reading way too fast.  What they missed is in there.  If the point is important, billboard it.  Repeat it if necessary.

Dialog.  No, actors do not make up their own lines.  They say they do in interviews but let me assure you most of them are not clever enough to do it.  Nor do they know where the story is going.  The wrong choice of words can spoil months worth of work.

Know your characters.  I have read (yawn) a thousand times you should create a bio for your characters.  I never have and can't think of a better time-waster than that.  But you do need to know and hear your characters.

Listen to people speak.  Everyone has their own style and so should your characters.  Ideally you should be able to differentiate the characters by dialog alone, without identifying them.  Some readers get bugged if you don't throw in a he said she replied every couple lines.  If I had my way, I would cut down my usage of those by at least half but I don't want to hear the complaints from people reading too fast to be able to process who's saying what.

Dialog isn't conversation.  It's not a transcription of how boringly most people talk.  This is a way to reveal information.  Make sure your dialog is fresh and valuable.

Some years ago I had a meeting with an editor at I don't know, let's say NAL, they're all interchangeable anyway.  At that point there was an equation.  It was something like 3 pages of prose (what you skim over about carpeting and the like) to 1 page of dialog.  Amazingly even with books written all in email and such, people can still complain there's not the right balance of description to dialog.  I don't know what the right balance is.  I'm usually accused of too much dialog.  With the result that I don't write less dialog, I just write more about carpets.

Just make sure your dialog conveys information the reader needs.  If they read too fast to notice it, you can try to slow them down.  Break up the flow.  Throw in something unexpected.  Shift something.  Make them pay attention.

How many readers savor reading anymore?  I don't know.  Especially when a book costs 99 cents, I think the tendency is to blast through it.

I get complaints that the book isn't the way the reader thinks it should be--they should write their own book then. 

Do your best work anyway.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Can One Say


Amanda Hocking just signed a 4 book deal with St. Martin's for over 2 million bucks.

As a tribute, I offer a Cole Porter song  but you have to click because embedding has been disabled.  (Sorry.)  Just take it for a jolly song it is, it's not a message, nor do I mean anything by it except it's Cole Porter (!) and the name is Amanda.  It's from the movie Adam's Rib starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

My triumphs are small in comparison.  CreateSpace finally was happy with the photo in the book pdf file so I ordered a proof copy of Summer Horse.  I can't explain the problem because I don't understand the mechanics of it.  I found an old image, I tweaked it, cropped it, and used it.

The DPI (dots per inch) was wrong.  Apparently this image is 72 and CreateSpace wants 300.  So I resampled it in PhotoShop.  That made them no happier.  I googled the whole DPI thing and sad to say I'm completely confused today by the explanation which has something to do with the size of the image.  I went back to the original image, tweaked it and did a small crop to wind up with 300 DPI.  I did not resize.

Here's as close as I can get to it.  If you have an 8X10 and it's 300 DPI, if you  decrease the size, you are removing dots.  (I would have thought the dots just got closer together, it would still be 300).  What will appear in the book is essentially an 8X10 photo that's compressed in Open Office to fit the small page.  Apparently since CreateSpace okayed it, that's how it's done.  I have no idea.  

But if you choose to go with CreateSpace and have any interior illustrations, this might happen to you, too.

Just to note, Summer Horse has always sold more briskly at BN and Dream Horse always more briskly at Amazon.  Again, no explanations from me!

Now the task at hand is to work on the cover for a book I haven't finished yet.  I tried to find a photo but (and I'm good at that) I couldn't so I decided "Heck, I'm a photographer" sort of anyway and while I don't really want to, I will.  But this is a little more complicated than going outside with half a bad apple and shooting it in direct light.  It'll take a while to figure out.  It's all part of the process and I'm glad to do it.  It does mean I have to make a cake today.  See what winds up being photogenic.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's A Soapy Life After All

It looks like ABC's gambit to move All My Children to the West Coast to save $ didn't work.  The wild fire of cancellation talk is spreading across the net.  What does this have to do with us?

I never worked on AMC altho I did have an audition or whatever.  They didn't like my storytelling sense I think is how I would put it.  I'm not sure anymore.

I'm struggling to explain this in the larger context.  There's an interesting chatfest that went on between Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler that can be found in PDF.  It has interesting things to say about the collapse of publishing.  I think the same forces that now work against publishing are working against soaps (and network television).

There is an audience, diminishing is true but existing still, for daytime serials.  A vast young audience will not bother with them now.  They'd go to MTV with Skins or Teen Moms Who Land in Jail reality shows.  The audience the high mucky mucks of network programming have abandoned is the older audience.

Instead of telling stories that would appeal to those interested in family, community and tradition, the networks tarted and modernized and sexualized everything.  This is obviously a mistake.  Hey, if it wasn't, the numbers would be there.  I rest my case.

I can hardly follow OLTL anymore and when I can I'm screaming at the TV.  The guy who plays Robert Ford is adorable, this guy is really typey.  He's had a stupid storyline from the beginning, came on as a very unpleasant character.  Obviously the audience related to the actor well and very strongly which forced the producer/writers to clean him up. Now he's in a storyline that's sheer pain to endure.  And what happened to Todd?  Is he dead or did he survive the gunshot?  And as much as I like Robin Strasser, please, I do not want to see her kiss a guy who is probably 35 years younger than she is.  Nor do I want to see Brian Kerwin and Kim Zimmer (who I know from The Doctors) in bed together.  No.

When I was at OLTL the ratings were down and Paul Rauch insisted we go back to the well and do yet another Viki/Niki story.  I was appalled.  I was against it but no one was going to listen to me.  A couple decades later and they're going back to the Viki/Niki well again.  Don't do it!  You're lying to yourselves if you think the audience cares anymore.  We don't!

The storytelling stinks on ice.  That's why no one shows up.  The networks lost touch with their core audience.  They don't understand what we get or what we want from daytime television.

I admit that it is so hard to write a serial.  It never ends, it's 5 shows a week and thanks to Paul Rauch's ...............well thanks to him shows are an hour in length.  Writers can't manage an hour 5 X a week forever.  They can do a half hour.  At an hour the writers get burned out faster, write stupider stories because they can't/don't have time to think of anything else and everything suffers.

What do I keep saying?  Think about the story you're telling.  Take time with it.  There's no time for that in daytime.  They've pushed it as far as they can and being unwilling to change, shows are cancelled, hundred of people are out of work.

You must be willing to change in order to survive.  Know your audience.  Write to them.  Honor them with your best work.  Be sincere.  Believe in your story and your characters.

Set at Hope Memorial Hospital, I was the last headwriter for The Doctors.  I wrote the last show.  The last scene was between Matt and Maggie clinking glasses together on New Year's Eve.  "Here's to Hope," he said.  It gives me no joy whatsoever to have another show cancelled.

But I gotta tell you this-- Not Low Maintenance has sold 50 copies a day since Friday!  Yahoo!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Messes

Should I tell you about my life?  Well, I guess not.  So just know that it's kinda unbelievable all round this morning and I'm not going to shift gears to talk about Diner.  I will at some point.  Because it's a good script and I wrote a haircut on it.

It's kinda genius storytelling because it's so dense.  Maybe I can find a clip for you.

Anyway.  Here's the latest rankings for NLM.  Yeah, I'm over the moon (and a bunch of really famous writers!)

Diner.  Masterful in every respect.  Pay attention to the dialogue and how much it reveals about the characters in so few words.  Pay attention to the acting.  Spot on and reinforces character.  Pay attention to what's going on around them.  I love this scene.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

High Finance

Finally.  All the math is laid out for us and we can plainly see for ourselves how it costs as much, if not more, for a big publisher to bring an ebook to kindle as it does to print the darn thing.  This is practically a charitable exercise.

I originally said more but I deleted it.  What I will point out is Not Low Maintenance's rank as of this afternoon
In the second category listed, this puts me ahead of James Patterson and David Baldacci.  Temporarily I know.  With all the disclaimers as to their millions and my tens of dollars.  All their publicity.  Me none.  All the weight of the company behind them.  My 2 dogs behind me.

What did it cost me to turn NLM into an ebook?  Why can someone...oh let me use the derisive term...sitting in their pajamas at a 3.5 year old computer and a CRT monitor, turn out a book that sneaks by their big guns with a handmade cover?

And let me tell you I made that lipstick case from scratch and had to figure out how to get the lipstick smear, too.  That was worth a lot more than 28 cents worth of my time.  At least 30.

And I'm not the only indie writer in the top 20.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Summer Place


Sorry I couldn't embed either of the 2 clips from the movie at youtube but they were disabled.  If you want to take a look go there and you'll find them.  But at least you can hear the theme song while reading.

This was a movie I found strange and dark and emotionally detached even as a child.  It's the story (sort of) of Ken and Sylvia who were lovers as teens on this island resort off Maine.   She was rich, he was the lifeguard hence unsuited for each other.  Fast forward about 20 years.  Now Ken's rich.  Sylvia married the blue blood scion of the resort.  The resort is broke and the scion is a drunk.  Ken has a teen daughter (Geez, her name might as well be Kitty) but it's Molly.  Sylvia has a son, Johnny (let's try to be a little creative) played by Troy Donahue.

Molly and Johnny repeat the love affair between Ken and Sylvia.  Are ya still with me?

Here's where it gets dark and super unpleasant.  Ken's wife/Molly's mother is Helen (played by Constance Ford).  What you need to know about her character is that she's a frigid bitch.  Not only is she a frigid bitch, she's more like the Piper Laurie character in the movie Carrie.  This woman is psychologically unsound and dangerous.

Full. Stop. We just went right over the top.

Why.  Why.  Why.  Is this in here?  Because it was written by a man.

Just off the top of my head, Helen has been married for 20 years to a man who was in love with another woman.  Do you think that fact could have possibly, conceivably, have anything to do with why Helen distanced herself emotionally from The Ken Doll?

Men used to love to portray women as frigid.

Time out for a short story.  Picture me in college.  Teacher is a bantam rooster of a man, I'm taller than he is.  I'm hiding in the back row.  Up front are the middle-aged women returning to college.  They've seen life.  They've seen it all.  Teacher starts lecturing about some poet from the late 1500's or whatever and casually says he wrote this poem because his wife was frigid.  Up front the biggest (and loudest) woman (Mrs. Dellabovi!!  I remembered after all these years!)  says "Maybe he just wasn't any good in bed."  Cheers erupt.  Class over.  He learned his lesson.

I won't go into the whole loose women/sluts thing, let that be for another day.  We'll just agree for our purposes here that women are the easiest target to label and destroy for a plot point.  If you're not going to have the obligatory car runs over the dog scene.

So Ken and Sylvia start rutting in the boat house, just like old times.  (Proving Helen correct, correct?) Apparently Johnny and Molly also rut at some point because she gets pregnant which admittedly was a big deal in the 1950s.  Alles gut, endes gut (to borrow from Shakespeare).  Helen gets a fat settlement in the divorce, Ken and Sylvia marry and Molly and Johnny can be together because they're really really in love.

This was a hit movie in its time, and referenced in Barry Levinson's excellent movie (that was a really good script) Diner.

Connie Ford went on to a long role on Another World (yes, I did write for AW but after she was gone).  Everyone else continued to act which I always think is great.  This is not an easy business and if you can keep working you're lucky.  Especially when you're not a very good actor to begin with.  I won't name names.

It's a movie with a heart of ice no matter how beautiful the exterior shots were (Monterey, California, not Maine) and how desperately the actors tried to emote.  Once you pee into the well, the water's no good anymore.  So you start with this big negative premise, and it's almost impossible to extricate yourself from it.
That Sylvia and Ken weren't suitable class-wise for each other was far and away enough.  To add the frigid bitch thing on top of it (unhappy marriage would have been enough), and the physical exam from a doctor to prove Molly's virginity and you're in repair mode through the whole story.

Unless that's exactly what you want.  However, expect someone to come along and point out how black the center of this story is.  

I haven't read the book and that spans five years not a summer and some months following it up.  Maybe the book was masterfully done.  But I'm talking about the storytelling of the movie.  If you're going to plant a bomb for yourself, you are then forced to deal with the bomb.  Everything else takes a backseat.  If you do not deal with the bomb then you look like 1) an incompetent or worse 2) an idiot who doesn't see anything wrong with this behavior.

See, I opt for #2 because of the general state of Hollywood morality.  They are just so clueless.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Naked Men

Totally Faked Cover

That should boost my traffic!

I was thinking about an exchange I read between a couple romance writers.  Books with naked men on the cover sell better than books with cruise ships or a cute girl with a broom.

What if your book doesn't have a naked guy in it?

I'm reminded of my first "job" in television.  I hardly remember most of the details but it went something like this.
My agent at the time, Larry Ithinkhe'sstillaliveandstillmadatme, knew someone who was going to turn some romance novels into short movies for television and did I want to do one.  Did I ever!  Oh yeah, SURE!  (This was when I was fresh out of books with no television credits.  This was my way in the door.)

I got all the material from the big city.  Geez, there was so little story there as I recall.  I built a script as best as I could and turned it in. 

Boy, were they ever frustrated with me.  "You don't seem to get the point of this at all!"


"She's running alongside the East River.  Close up on her breasts bouncing.  Cut To locker room.  She takes off the tank top.  Close up on her breasts.  She drapes a towel around her and Cut To showers.  She throws towel over hook and stands under running water.  Close up on her breasts."

This is a true story!

So they said do you want to fix your script?  I said no, I don't f'ing want to fix it.  That's when they all got mad at me.  A week later I get a call from Larry.  "Do you want to share credit on this script?  You'll be the second writer named."  No, I don't f'ing want my name on it.  I don't want to be linked to this thing in any way shape or form and I don't care if it gets me one step closer to being a member of the Writers Guild of America.  And don't give me any money either.  I don't want anyone to be able to prove that I ever knew you.

In a way I don't care if there are naked men on the cover.  In a way I do because it's an unnecessary titillation.  In the same way we see violence everywhere, marketers use our autonomic reflexes like sexual response to arouse us.  I don't think it's fair, I don't think it's good for us or society.  But there's nothing I can do about it but not do it myself.

I suppose that means I'll sell fewer books.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Marketing v. Let The Work Speak For Itself

I'm on a mailing list for self-publishers.  This goes back to the pre-digital time in my life when I thought I might possibly be able to sell Impossible Charlie in paperback.  So this week they're arguing about Amanda Hocking.  Did she set out to brand herself, is she the cleverest marketer ever, or was she lucky.  No one mentions the writing.  Hmm.

These people are micro-publishers as a business and most of what they say doesn't apply to us.  How do you get books in stores.  Who does the printing (my choice--Lightning Source).  Doesn't matter to us.

I'm not a marketer.  I never was good at hawking myself.  My feeling has always been "let the work speak for itself."  Maybe that's impossible now since you have millions of books and a million people shouting "Read my book!"  You have to do social media.  You have to be active on the forums.  You have to you have to.

If that's true, and this blog is all I do, why is Not Low Maintenance taking off this month?  It's been at Amazon since August and basically did nothing remark-worthy for months. 

A couple weeks ago I think it was Heather asking about marketing advice.  Here's my advice.  Write the best book you can.  Afterward, write another best book.  And so on.  Hone your skills.  THINK about what you're doing.  Because I believe readers will find you if you give them something good.  Sure let people know you exist.  If you can get a review or two and they're good, you're ahead of the game.  A good cover will help.

Being in a hot category is great.  Here's what happens.  Vampires are hot so the category is flooded by people who think they can churn out something fast and cash in on reader excitement.  It's then harder than ever to be found.  By the time you're on the brink of being found, vampires are cold as ice.  Which I suppose is redundant.

Hacks can write anything.  Are you a hack?  Want to write what you're writing.  Feel a passion for it.  It'll come through.

I was talking to a producer for um..Search For Tomorrow? years ago and he talked about the passion I showed for the story and the characters.  He said everyone got on board because of my enthusiasm.  They caught my excitement, my belief.  This can't be faked.  It can't be because of the money.  You, first, have to believe in your story.  That truth in you is what the reader connects to.

I can't explain every success story and why writers I believe to be total crap have had long and successful careers.  They're obviously connecting with readers in a way I don't get.

Let me tell the Mordecai Richler story again.  Mordecai Richler was a wonderful writer from Canada who has now passed and you can learn a great deal by reading his work.  He went out on a book tour at the same time as some romance/women's fiction type writers.  It could have been Judy Krantz or Danielle Steele or whoever.  It was obviously not his kind of writing.  He noted these women believed in what they were doing and so did their readers.  That element can't be counterfeit.

Connect with your audience.  Worry about social networking later.

Gluyas Williams

Monday, March 14, 2011

Summer Horse's CreateSpace Cover

Okay.  You didn't ask for it.  But you got it.

I built the cover on the template CreateSpace/Amazon provides when you know what paper you want and how many pages total are inside (that figure gives you the width of the spine).  You get a Photoshop template and a non-Photoshop template and some brief instructions in the zip file download.

I thought it would be 20 layers but it turned out to be 14 since I left out things like the ink blots and the horse show programs.  Like that.

The first real layer is the yellow label.  I made that somewhat transparent so you could see the guidelines underneath, but I also lightened it when it's 100% because it was just too much the color of French's mustard.

I had to build the apple w/ text image.  That was the easy way to do it.

All the other elements I had.  I just had to put them in place and add a drop shadow.  Why do that?  Because I want it to look 3-dimensional.  I want the cover to look like a page from the girls' scrapbook, and they wind up emptying their pockets hence the nails and sugar cubes.  Yeah I know the ribbon isn't accurate in size but so what really.  Yes I know the ribbon bleeds over onto the spine, I wanted that flow.

If you have any questions, ask away.

P.S.  It wasn't that hard.

Monday Quandary

I wasn't going to post anything this morning or even today but I'm so annoyed I must.

Here's an instructive article for us all to read.  Actually, don't bother giving them the traffic.

How a failed author made $2 million from e-books

Excuse me.  What is "failed" about Amanda Hocking?  She wrote some books that were completely dismissed by the high mucky-mucks in NYC.  When it was possible to present them to an audience, these books were embraced enthusiastically and she made 2 million dollars in less than a year.  Cut off my arms and call me a clothespin, that sounds like success to me.

Let me check again for who failed.  I think we can all agree that was the LEGACY PUBLISHING BUSINESS.

If publishers are in business of bringing the books readers want to read to the reading audience, it's EF.  Epic Fail.

Let me say this again for those new to this blog.  Traditional Publishers are very nearly completely clueless.  They are snooty elites who think they are above you and me.  They think, nay BELIEVE, they are smarter, prettier, cleverer, smell better and have greater wisdom and morality. They think we are chumps.

It is so over for them.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I must be insane.  I decided to publish a print version of Summer Horse.  The whole reason I went into digital is to get away from all that formatting.  

So immediately I had problems.  With Impossible Charlie it was tabs.  With Summer Horse it's been the page numbers.  I couldn't reset the page numbers on the template in Word.  I switched to Open Office.  For those new to this blog, I went to Open Office with Impossible Charlie because Word Perfect was less than perfect with the formatting requirement and here I am again.  To be precise, in Word the page numbers showed as Roman Numerals all the way through the book.  That had to change.  But it wouldn't.  It was grayed out.

I got it into Open Office and had to call my computer maven friend, Jon, and after about 90 minutes which started out with "Jon, here's a quick question for you..." we got it solved.  None of these things are ever simple.  You always have to go deep into the bowels of the program and perform special rites of contrition.  As for Word, no clue, I googled it and came up with nuthin'.

That part got solved.  Now I have the question of what illustrations, if any, I should retain.  What won't look like utter dreck in B&W.  If you're saying "Hey, girl, you have the same issue in digital."  Nah.  At some point everyone will have a color reader.  I'm ahead of the crowd.  Half the illustrations are in color, half are in B&W now.  Everyone is half mad at me at the moment.

Then I looked at the cover template for Photoshop.  At first I thought I'm going going to place/paste the original cover on the front and I'll do something plain with the back cover.  I did try that.  I wasn't very happy.  What I'll probably wind up doing is using the background image, which is an image of a real label so it's essentially 3 dimensional, and stretching it across the cover.  Because it's vertically oriented and the 2 pieces of the cover obviously are horizontally oriented.  Portrait v landscape.  Then I will just add all the elements from the original cover onto the template.  It's not a 15 minute job and will probably result in 20 or more layers.

I would love giving it a new cover but if we stick with Nadia G's advice about branding, let's not confuse people.  Summer Horse should still look like Summer Horse. 

When I get the thing built, I'll make all the layers transparent enough to see the template below and that should be fairly interesting for some of you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where The Boys Are

I think I misnamed this blog.  It should be Real Storytelling For A Digital World.  I may change it.  Who cares about writing anymore when the focus is all on story.

Do you remember the movie Where The Boys Are (1960)? It's a musical comedy I suppose.  Comedy with plenty of loud and lousy music in it. I always watch it.  I used to find it very likable, now I find it strange and curious. 

One aspect I find curious is the star, Dolores Hart.

Pretty girl, no?  Not a bad little actress, certainly as good as anyone else in that movie.  She also made a movie with Elvis.  Maybe she dated him.  Eventually she moved to a town not far from where I grew up and became a nun at the Regina Laudis Abbey.  That's a life arc that seems quite remarkable to me.  (Good going, Mother Dolores!)

The movie is all over the place.  There are so many characters, 4 college girls, Jim Hutton a college guy, George Hamilton, a Brown man, and some crummy jazz musicians.  And I mustn't forget the mermaid with the big flotation devices aka breasts and Brooklyn accent.  If we're to believe the last scene, it's a movie about searching for love and finding it.  For Dolores' character.  Yvette Mimieux's character is gang raped, or if not gang, then simply raped to the point of an emotional breakdown. 

Apparently there is great danger in bad boys who claim to attend Yale but just want sex.  And lots of it.  To quote from  A Sure Thing.  

(The next movie I'll address is A Summer Place but we'll stick with this for today)

This is supposed to be wittily entertaining and a jolly movie but I fail to see what the rape's doing in there.  Some will say it's a morality play.  Geez, that's what I want, a bunch of Hollywood freaks giving me lessons in morality.

If we follow that train of thought, Dolores' character, Merritt (for me just like the Parkway) is at a traditional type school but she's full of progressive type thoughts which translates to girls have to put out to be popular.  Okay.  Big shrug.  (Fast forward 50 years and 12 year olds are still getting that message...discuss amongst yourselves.)  Big twist in the plot by the end.  Yvette puts out and it lands her in the psych ward.  Merritt doesn't and it lands her the heir to a fortune.

Am I bored yet?

I guess this works in 1960 as a date movie you'd see at the drive-in as a triple feature with Palm Springs Weekend and Beach Blanket Bingo because there are more important things to do than watching the movie and detecting holes so big you could sail the Amoco Cadiz through them.  The jazz scenes are so loud that they cover up any other activities that might possibly be taking place with all the girls being lectured to on this putting out topic.

So as a piece of fluff, Where the Boys Are, is highly entertaining.  As a storytelling experiment it garners an EF.
Epic Fail.  It could only be written by a man and it was.  Both the book and the screenplay.  Directed by a man.

I love men.  I really do.  But they should disabuse themselves of the notion they know how to write women.  They don't.  They write women the way they wish women would be.

Meow!  Sex Kittens At The Beach!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Branding Yourself


I watch The Cooking Channel from time to time when I get hoarse from screaming at the TV when One Life To Live is on.  (Go more wrong, folks, see how that works for ya.)  There's a show on I keep missing called Bitchin' Kitchen.  At first I thought she was using Rachel Ray's orange stove and maybe she is.  She's dressed like a crazy biker chick from the 50s.  I didn't get it.  So I googled her.  From Montreal, apparently she references pin-up girl Betty Page

and rockabilly.  Now the rockabilly I get 100 % because that's an integral part of Bad Apple 3.  And actually the character of Babes is quite a bit like Nadia.

I went a little farther and this was a web based show that got picked up by mainstream television.  In the article I read, Nadia Giosia talks about branding yourself.  She comes from a design mindset and how you present yourself on the web/to the world is crucial.

Nadia created a strong character or persona that's instantly identifiable.  We may not like her but she flies out at you and you recognize what it is.   Bold colors, bold attitude.

I realized as I was reading, there was much to be learned from this.  When presenting your blog or your book to the world, simpler is better visually.  Bold colors and bold attitude garner attention.

What if you don't have a bold attitude?  Be bold in your reticence.  

The point is to have a point.  Let people know what they will be getting from you.  We all know what we're going to get from John Locke (who came from a marketing background and sells 1 digital book every 10 seconds so he claims and I don't doubt him), Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking or someone who writes erotica.  Be the go-to guy or girl (I want to say gal but even girl isn't PC, can I say doll?)  Be the go to guy or doll (yea!) for what you do.

I'd be the last one to tell you you should only write one thing although I'm sure it helps.  The agent Michael Larson said I was a victim of my own talent because I did too many things well.  Concentrate on one thing, brand yourself.  It could be genre, or your target audience like the Christian readers or middle readers or Baby Boomers. 

Well how about you brand yourself as offering a really good story, really good writing, and a sensibility the audience identifies with.  Let that be your brand.

Find something for yourself and after you identify it, do it.  Readers will find you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Take Delight in Small Accomplishments

I am so thrilled.  Not Low Maintenance has been chugging away all month and today it reached its highest ranking ever.

This is the first time I've broken into the humor category.  (People do say I write funny but in real life, most people say I have no sense of humor.  In reality, I have the same sense of humor while walking around but most people are too flatfooted to get it.  Sorry, there's no point in not telling the truth at this point.)

For the last 2 weeks its been Amanda Hocking everywhere you go.  She's had success that's just unbelievable, right?  I don't want you getting all despondent and compare your sales to hers.  Or King Joe.  It'll only make you feel bad.

I had a contract to write a book for Simon & Schuster with a psychic I knew.  Don't ask for further illumination or stories, it was a big fat mess and negatively impacted my career for years.  Anyway LadyMoon had a guided imagery thing where you would drive to the ocean and the point was to get as much water as you could because it represented prosperity.  It was kind of interesting to hear people say they drove up in their Beetle and and filled a bucket, while other people drove up in a tanker.  Still others didn't get the point of the exercise at all and were still stuck back at the house wondering about a storage facility or something.  The whole thing about the world is that abundance is truly unlimited.  If X runs out someone will invent something to replace it provided there aren't people clutching to lack and preventing innovation.

So don't feel bad about your sales if your work hasn't caught on yet.  Rejoice that there's a great market and someone achieved such success.  There is a world full of readers and lots of them speak English.  Indie Ebooks are so affordable, they're like a pack of gum or a huge, give you a headache it's so big Snickers bar.  There's plenty of success out there for everyone.

Do your best work.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Lowering Bar

Without getting into too much background causality, it's obvious to nearly every1 that how language is being managed now has changed.  U can C it everywhere.  Texting probably contributes.  (Personal disclosure: I don't have a cell phone. We don't have service here anyway and I don't have need for such a gadget.)

So okay we're not going to get very upset with typos in our books because we see tehm all the time.  What are we going to value?

In the very early days of movies,  such things were shown in storefronts in the city.  Who was in the city at the turn of the century?  Immigrants.  It became quickly obvious that many people in the audience had difficulty reading English if at all.  The story had to be told in images.  It had to be simple because the moving images move very quickly and details are lost and not remembered. 

I think we're reverting to this style of storytelling in ebooks and I'm only talking about indie books, not those that began life in tradpub.  Broad, simplistic, easily understood at speed, lacking resonance.  

In screenwriting, I think I've said this before, the opening image is supposed to tell the audience what the story is about.  I'm sure this isn't the only example but this is the one that I remember most clearly.  In The Bodyguard, the first scene is Kevin Costner standing over someone on the ground and there's a firefight going on.  You know he's a bodyguard, you know he will risk his life standing unprotected in a hail of bullets in order to do his job.  Okay we can go home at that point as far as I'm concerned.  Or to quote from The Player "The thing writes itself."  You know whatever dame is introduced will face a similar situation but that since she's a dame and he's a guy, they'll have deep feelings for each other.  There will be an obligatory sex scene where the formerly cold guy shows unbelievable heat.  You know she will act like a bitch, but that's just verve/whatever, she has reasons for acting like that but is not actually like that.  (Oh let her actually be like that, who cares.)

So what part of this movie is worth watching?  I have no idea.  I guess if you like Kevin Costner.  Of course with this specific movie you're waiting for Whitney Houston to sing I Will Always Love You which is spectacular and written by Dolly Parton.  This movie is going to change nothing, move nothing, say nothing.  It's a way to pass a couple hours.  It's...well no, I was going to say it's like eating potato chips but since I don't eat those very often, when I do, it's always very exciting.  This movie is never going to be exciting and we've seen it all before.  It's like robotic eating, you don't remember you've done it.  You don't remember watching this movie.

And there are an enormous number of ebooks we're not going to remember reading.  I'm not making a judgment because I really do believe people need to be distracted at times.  If your loved one is terminally ill, you need a few hours of a mind vacation.  Nurses, doctors, firefighters, police, all kinds of people have stressful jobs and just need a break.  A challenge isn't needed, it's not helpful.  But challenges make you stronger, they test your muscles and your mettle.

Right now we're in the storefront era of ebooks.  We're all learning what this new medium is.  But do you know what happened in film after the creators learned how it all worked?  There was 2 decades of creativity that has yet to be rivaled.