Friday, January 24, 2014

Every Now and Then

Every now and then I post on the future of e-readers, self publishing, and trends in the digital publishing age. I knew and have discussed the difficulties that Apple is experiencing due to their apparent, suspected, (unproven) price fixing of digital content for their iPads, and I was duely aghast. I was not aghast enough, based on this article I read in the WSJ today.



The Apple Inquisition goes into a lot of detail for an opinion piece and even more subdued outrage at what is happening to Apple. I followed right along with my own outrage. Among the passages that caught my attention:

Mr. Bromwich says he must oversee Apple's "corporate structure, process, culture and tone" and the "tone at the top of the company," 

and

The improper relationship between Judge Cote and Mr. Bromwich extends beyond their friendship, political ties and ex parte communications, as we reported in December in "Apple's Star Chamber." Special masters are usually imposed on companies in negotiated legal settlements and the litigants consent to the terms of their appointment. Yet Apple is appealing Judge Cote's injunction and the terms of Mr. Bromwich's installation.

The core problem is that under Article III of the Constitution judges aren't allowed to conduct open-ended investigations, as Mr. Bromwich is doing. To the extent his position is legitimate, he is serving as an agent of the court. Judges can appoint surrogates to help carry out their judicial duties, but in that case they must be as objective and impartial as judges.

But the worst is:

Mr. Bromwich's declaration is filled with what he regards as personal slights, such as the fact that Apple scheduled interviews at a remote location instead of its Cupertino headquarters. But his main accusation is that Apple is "using its outside counsel as a shield to prevent interaction between senior management and my monitoring team."

So try to sort this one out. An agent acting on behalf of the judiciary volunteers to become literally the star witness for the plaintiffs. This arm of the court then claims that the defendant's right to counsel is preventing him from conducting his adversarial investigation.

I haven't even posted the passages about the veiled threat.

The worst part in my view is how under-reported this all is. Imagine this happening to another company?

The silver lining? This too was reported today in the same paper. Based on that . . . looks like Apple is still plugging along well ahead of the competition. I'll keep my stock.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Right Now

My foray into the three dollar or less realm is working out A-okay so far.



Interstellar war was not at the top of David’s schedule as he jumped excitedly out of bed. At nine o’clock on Saturday morning such absurdities even plummeted below the trivial status of maths homework. 

Today, on his actual birthday, all that mattered were the tangible demands on a fourteen year old boy’s life. In strict order these were: looking cool, finding a girlfriend, not getting into trouble and of course, looking cool. A little shallow perhaps, but to a teenager the only realities worth considering.

Lawrence, Roger - Three Hoodies Save The World 

Is it as good as finding a stranded man in the middle of the Black Sea (see here) . . . perhaps not, but it's certainly enough to make me want to read on (I'm a third of the way through now).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finished a Great One

This year I'm saving some of my really good books. Anyone who reads this space will remember that one of my resolutions is to pay no more than $2.99 for a book this year (see here). Thank goodness I had an unread stockpile of brandnamers in my library. The Devil's Advocate by Frederick Forsyth was one such stockpiled book.



If you are looking for a book worth the money, with depth of story and intrigue everywhere, this could be it. Unlike Avenger, also a good book, this was rich with plot. It was similar to a John LeCarre in terms of spy master thriller, and like Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising in that it focused so much on geopolitical positioning during the cold war.

The final line? Unlike the first line (here) it doesn't offer the reader too much. But the final twist that reveals who the real spy master is occurs just one line prior so I had to cut and paste carefully.

The impassive major with the cold eyes drew at Munro’s elbow; he was outside the Throne Room, and the door closed behind him. Five minutes later he was shown out, on foot, through a small door in the Savior Gate onto Red Square. The parade marshals were rehearsing their roles for May Day. The clock above his head struck midnight. 

He turned left toward the National Hotel to find a taxi. A hundred yards later, as he passed Lenin’s Mausoleum, to the surprise and outrage of a militiaman, he began to laugh.

Forsyth, Frederick - The Devil's Alternative

Best one I've read for awhile, and probably the best for some time based on my resolution.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Since I Posted that Last One . . .

. . . I thought this one should get some play as well.

I'm sure many of you have already seen this, probably on a t-shirt, but this is my first exposure to it. Can't wait to use it myself.

And that leaves out the <sarcasm> little </sarcasm> issue of Benghazi. The Senate Intelligence Committee report is at once a fascinating and utterly banal artifact of Washington. It identifies a huge mistake. It denounces said mistake. It concludes that the mistake could have been prevented. But nobody is responsible for the mistake. The bureaucracy did it! Jonah Goldberg - National Review, Hillary the Hyped

Now, regarless of the political leanings of the sours, that sarcasm tag, " little " is tres funny to me.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Posted Without Comment

I never do this but this seemed apropos.

(found via Newsbusters)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Good To Remember

I found this link of quotes to remember when starting out writing via Mental Floss. Twelve Quotes from Authors to Remember When Staring Your First Book by Jason Krell I found on I09. I found the below quotes the most enlightening.



"People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it." - Harlan Ellison

The past few nights have taught me the meaning of this maxim. The stories I'm writing now may never go anywhere but the process of writing them, the daily/nightly grind, it's all part of the work that hopefully makes me a better writer.

"Books aren't written, they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it..." - Michael Crichton

I've read this one before and it is so true. I was stunned by how many re-writes my books go through. Vapor Trail, the novel I'm currently working on, is nowhere near the book it started out as, and it's had the fewest re-writes of any of my novels.

As someone who despises the "rules" for writing that he keeps hearing and reading about, I particularly loved this quote:

"There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are." - Somerset Maugham

Reading the other nine quotes is definitely worth the time invested.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Word Wars Work

Due to circumstances beyond my control I'm having to miss my first "write in" this week. So as much as Kristy is trying to keep the writing group going, I am, apparently doing my darndest to undermine her work. That being said, I have written 2500 more words than I otherwise would have thanks to Kristy's and her sister's motivation.

Word wars work. I heard about them over the course of the last few NaNo's but never joined in. But in this case, it works. A quick couple of "hello's" via chat, someone sets a timer then says "Go" and fifteen minutes later you stop to see where you are. I have been hitting over 600 words in 15 minutes pretty faithfully. Sadly, it's not in the arena that I want.

I want to go back and re-write my Vapor Trail manuscript. I started using Scrivener to write my 10 key scenes for Vapor Trail, and I'd like to see where I am with that sucker, but these word wars hardly offer the opportunity for deep thought and re-writing.

They are more like brainstorming sessions where you are forced to throw stuff up against the wall and see what sticks. What's sticking now is a short story, so my resolution will be proud.

That being said, the positive note to glom onto is that I'm two word wars in and I'm 2500 words ahead. If I focus on bailing on the write-in (where I hoped to work on Vapor Trail) and the lack of a coherent story in my novel, well . . . who wants to hear about that!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Yet Another First

Yet again Frederick Forsyth delivers a first line that makes me want to read on.



The castaway would have been dead before sundown but for the sharp eyes of an Italian seaman called Mario. By the time he was spotted he had lapsed into unconsciousness, the exposed parts of his near-naked body grilled to second-degree burns by the relentless sun, and those parts submerged in seawater soft and white between the salt sores like the limbs of a rotting goose.

Forsyth, Frederick - The Devil's Alternative 

I started this series of cataloging the first lines I read because there seems to be so much importance attached to those first few words (the last lines and morning series were offshoots, but not created due to some perceived importance). I think we've fairly well established that although alot of import is attached, its no fundamentally the reason that a reader continues to read. I've kept on reading some books following horrific first lines, and quit on others that had pretty good firsters.

Conclusions? It's good to have a great first line or passage, but it's better to have engaging characters, a driven and well thought out plot, and a story that readers want to read. Great first, last and morning lines are all just icing on the cake.

Friday, January 10, 2014

On the Heels of the Russell Blake Post

The other day I blogged about a WSJ article that discussed the work ethic and writing life of Russell Blake. The article described his prolificness as well as how he wrote.



He churns out 7,000 to 10,000 words a day and often works from eight in the morning until midnight. He spends many of those hours on a treadmill desk, clocking eight to 10 miles.

So, that's a tad odd right? Try these oddities among writers that I found via Mental Floss in their article The Incredible Eccentricities of 20 Great Writers. My favorites?

1. JOHN CHEEVER

The short story guru was like everyone else: He woke up, put on a suit, and went to work. And unlike everyone else, he took an elevator down to his apartment building’s basement, stripped off all his clothes, and wrote in his underwear.

or

6. FRIEDRICH SCHILLER

Schiller worked late at night, so to keep the sandman away, he’d dip his feet in ice-cold water. But it gets weirder: Schiller always wrote with a bunch of rotten apples stowed in his desk drawer. He said the smell motivated him.

and my very favorite:

8. DEMOSTHENES

To keep on task, the Greek orator would shave half of his head because it forced him to stay inside and work. Plutarch writes, “Here he would continue, oftentimes without intermission, two or three months together, shaving one half of his head, that so for shame he might not go abroad, though he desired it ever so much.”

Finally there is this one, that seems like it's quite Russell Blakian in terms of output.

13. HONORÉ DE BALZAC


No one worked harder than Balzac. He’d wake up at 1:00 a.m., write for seven hours, take a nap at 8:00 a.m., wake up at 9:30 a.m., write again till 4:00 p.m., take a walk, visit friends, and call it a night at 6:00 p.m. To fuel all that writing, he threw back upwards of 50 cups of coffee per day.

Perhaps this is my problem. I'm not odd enough in my writing style. All I do is sit at a desk with a cup of coffee.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kristory Keeping the Writing Group Funct

I while back I wrote that my writing group may have gone defunct. Whether that group is dismantled or not one member of it, almost award winning author Kristi Jones, a faithful reader of this blog, is refusing to go down without a fight.



Kristi, author of The Corpse Goddess, which I read and reviewed a while back, was up for an award by Evernight Publishing for her work. Did you read it? I did. Like it? I did. Vote for it? I did.

Nevertheless, she's persevering and actually being a catalyst in my writing life. There is a "word war" tonight that I've been invited to, and I'm bound to win if only due to my natural bellicosity. A former Airborne Ranger losing to a writer of urban fantasy/romance/zombie stories? I think not. Never been in a word war, looking forward to it if only cause it appears to be an avenue toward getting my three short stories going.

Secondly, writing nights are about to begin. Although I loved the critique group, after blogging about Russell Blake writing style yesterday perhaps what our hero needs is a dose of hard core prolificness. So I welcome the writing night and intend to destroy that too.

So, Huzzah to Kristi for keeping the writing/critique group on life support (and if you're looking for a great book, go try The Corpse Goddess, or check out her blog).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More From WSJ

There's a fun article on Russel Blake by Alexandra Alter in the WSJ called Fast-Paced Best Seller: Author Russell Blake Thrives on Volumes. It was the next line that got me though: With 25 Books in 30 Months, Self-Published Writer Plots Success.



25 books in 30 months!

Don't worry it only gets crazier. Note the last line of this passage.

Some novelists are obsessed by plot pacing and character development, others by a literary turn of phrase. For Mr. Blake, it is about speed, and volume. Mr. Blake, who self-publishes his books, has released 25 books in the last 30 months.

He wrote one of his best-selling books, the 229-page thriller "JET," in just 16 days. He churns out 7,000 to 10,000 words a day and often works from eight in the morning until midnight. He spends many of those hours on a treadmill desk, clocking eight to 10 miles.

Writing 7 to 10,000 words will running ten miles! That's quite a multi-tasker.

He's not the only prolific writer out there self-publishing.

Some self-published authors produce more books a year than many established writers put out in a lifetime. Jon Hargrove, who self-publishes vampire novels and mysteries under the pen name J.R. Rain, released 18 books in 2013, including eight that he co-wrote with other credited authors.

Now I agree with his philosophy and have even written about it here, that there must be a library of books in order for readers to find ya. It's part of the reason I'm self-publishing mine. But here's a key in the second to last paragraph of the article:

To ward off the sloppiness that inevitably comes with such speed, Mr. Osso pays two editors and a proofreader to comb through his books for errors and typos. His content editor, Dorothy Zemach, a freelance editor who used to work for Cambridge University Press, says it can be taxing to keep up. "There are evenings when my husband says, 'Don't check your email, there will be another book from Russell,' " she says.

Still and all I need to get to writing!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Since We Are On the Subject

As we are talking about the importance of first lines . . . a subject I've discussed before . . . and continue to address via my posts on first lines . . . I couldn't resist adding this to the list of great first lines, even though it appeared not in a novel but in an article in the WSJ.



In his article In Mystery, Ferret Thefts Sweep Southern England, Justin Scheck opens with these lines that I dare you not to enjoy.

STONEHENGE, England—Ken Jenkins knelt on this desolate plain one recent morning, gazed at the looming stones and pondered one of the seemingly unsolvable mysteries that swirl about this prehistoric monument:

Why are people stealing ferrets?

Yes, a true question of the ages. It compelled me to read the whole article.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sunlight and Shadow First

I started reading In Sunglight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin and boy this is a doozey in terms of thick, thoughtful, emotional writing. The first few are indicative of the whole.



IF YOU WERE a spirit, and could fly and alight as you wished, and time did not bind you, and patience and love were all you knew, then you might rise to enter an open window high above the park, in the New York of almost a lifetime ago, early in November of 1947.

Helprin, Mark - In Sunlight and In Shadow

That's from the prologue, the first few of chapter 1 are even more considerable.

IF A NEW YORK DOORMAN is not contemplative by nature, he becomes so as he stands all day dressed like an Albanian general and doing mostly nothing. What little contact he has with the residents and visitors who pass by is so fleeting it emphasizes the silence and inactivity that is his portion and that he must learn to love. There is an echo to people’s passing, a wake in the air that says more about them than can be said in speech, a fragile signal that doormen learn to read as if everyone who disappears into the turbulence of the city is on a journey to the land of the dead.

Helprin, Mark - In Sunlight and In Shadow

Friday, January 3, 2014

Addendum to Writing Resolutions

Yesterday I wrote about my resolutions for the new year as they pertain to writing. I told someone the other day how silly I think celebrating New Year's is. I said this while watching our nextdoor neighbor's kids setting off fire crackers in the street. It such an arbitrary thing to "celebrate."

"Yay! I survived a year!" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "Yay! We fought and won our independence and became our own country!"

Nevertheless, the one thing I will give to New Year's is that resolutions are awesome things.

In that vein, my addendum to yesterday's resolutions on writing:

Fourth . . . I will write three short stories this year.



I wrote a ton of short stories ten years or so ago. One of my most trusted readers just asked for some of my old short stories and I unearthed stuff I'd clean forgotten about. Last year when I was worried about my second novel being finished I thought about releasing a collection of my short stories. Hard to believe but I have plenty enough to make a collection. Maybe it's time to unearth that idea. It's certainly time to unearth the short story writer who used to inhabit this person. This resolution should help dig that writer up.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Resolutions

I have some resolutions that are appropriate for this space. I have many resolutions, among them finishing Rosetta Stone Spanish, more weekend road trips with the kids, church more often, . . . that type of thing but there are a couple that deal with the subject matter of this blog.

First . . . I will finish Vapor Trail. It's not a bad novel, it's just super messy. So as an addendum to this resolution is the resolution of "making a ten key scenes" outline for Vapor Space and getting that sucker back on track.

Second . . . re-enlist in a writing group. As far as I can tell my writing group has defuncted itself. I was a part of an online group once that wasn't too bad. Lot of work, but still not too bad. I'll at the very least try that again.

Third  . . . I will not buy any books that are more than three bucks. This is going to be a doozey. I just thank goodness I've already bought some in the ole library I really want to read. I'll be able to parse them out throughout the year among the 2.99'ers. Jack Higgins Night of the Fox, Forsyth's The Devil's Alternative, Clavell's King Rat and Howey's Dust will keep me reading for a bit. and Morrel's Fraternity of the Stone are all already bought and ready to be read. Am I doing this to see what the competition looks like? Am I doing this to have a better appreciation of new writers? NO! I'm doing it cause I'm cheap.

Wish me luck and check in to see if I keep em all.