Bookman’s Promise, Lichtenberg, and Me

I am only 74 pages into The Bookman’s Promise by John Dunning, the third book of five in the Cliff Janeway novels and I already know I will buy the other four. The reason is simple. The writing.

In the story Janeway is talking about Richard Burton, the explorer, not the actor. He mentions that after his death, Burton’s wife “torched. . .forty years of unpublished manuscripts, journals, and notes. . .to purify his image.” She did not want anything to taint his image with the Church, though it was a bit late. But that is another story.

Then Janeway says “This is why I am not religious. If and when we do learn the true secret of the universe, some kind of religion will be there to hide it. To cover it up. To persecute and shred, to burn and destroy. They stay in business by keeping us in the Dark Ages. Darkness is what they sell.”

This is strong writing. Comparing what Burton’s wife did to her husband’s unpublished works (bad girl) to a conspiratorial view of religious purpose, and making it short, concise and clear. There need be no elaboration.

This is the joy for me of reading. Not just the craft of writing done well, but learning about Burton, whose published  books, now rare, factor into the story as part of the plot. One should not assume you learn nothing in reading fiction.

Later, Janeway, an ex-cop, now rare bookseller is talking how the computer leveled the playing field in rare book seling. It tells people what books are selling for around the world, but not “how to identify a true first edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Then Janeway quotes Lichtenberg, German physicist, who said, “A book is a mirror. If an ass peers into it, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.”  A computer, like the mirror, can only do so much. A computer can’t make us experts in rare books, and if both book and mirror are reflective, neither will make us more than we are.

Lichtenberg was also a satirist who said, “I thank the Lord a thousand times for having made me become an atheist.” He gave credit where credit was due.

So this was my joy of reading the first 74 pages of Dunning’s book this Sunday afternoon that I wanted to share. Now back to reading.

life is like a book

Spillane’s Assault and Insult On Why We Read

Mickey Spillane, famous for creating Mike Hammer, wrote hard boiled, tough, sexy  crime novels. The stories were short, packed a violent punch, and were big sellers, popular with men, but not with the critics or the literary world. Spillane didn’t care. Like Hammer, Spillane was a tough guy too.

What he wrote on the first page of his novel My Gun is Quick caught my attention. It is something we readers and movie goers know, but ignore, pushing it to the back of our minds. But Spillane confronts us with the following:

“You pick up a book and read about things and stuff, getting a vicarious kick from people and events that never happened. You’re doing it now, getting ready to fill in a normal life with the details of someone else’s experiences. Fun isn’t it? You read about life on the outside thinking of how maybe you’d like it to happen to you, or at least how you’d like to watch it. Even the old Romans did it, spiced their life with action when they sat in the coliseum and watched wild animals rip a bunch of humans apart, reveling in the night of blood and terror. They screamed for joy and slapped each other on the back when murderous claws tore into the live flesh of slaves and cheered when the kill was made. Oh, it’s great to watch, all right. Life through a keyhole. But day after day goes by and nothing like that ever happens to you so you think that it’s all in books and not in reality at all and that’s that. Still good reading though. Tomorrow night you’ll find another book, forgetting what was in the last one and live some more in your imagination.”

Spillane is right of course, but what struck me, and it may not have been his intent, is that it seems an answer to his critics, a defiant explanation of why people read and that he is writing for what his readers want, that being action, plenty of it, and a dame of course, nothing serious, just another vicarious experience. Mike Hammer will get involved with some tough guys, get in brawling fights, but we never will. Hammer will help out some blonde, the type we will never meet. But we will live through it in our imagination.

But there is something else going on in the quoted passage. “Life through a keyhole,” is  a punch in our face, like a blow from Hammer, telling us we have a dull life. Therefore we get ready to “fill in a normal life. . .someone else’s experiences. . .you’d like it to happen to you. . . nothing like that happens to you. . .”

Spillane manages to tell us why we read and insult us at the same time. I like that in a tough guy. We need not take it personally. Howard Cosell said, “I tell it like it is.” So does Spillane. I read a book or two of his years ago, so long ago I remember nothing of what I read. But I picked up a used book that contained three of his memorable novels, I the Jury, My Gun is Quick, and Vengeance is mine. So the stories are there for when I need a vicarious thrill. And I will read someone else’s adventure and be happy.

reader

 

 

 

Amazon’s Bots Causing Writers Nightmares

I applaud Amazon for developing algorithms and bots that seek out and destroy paid book reviews. Any type of review, book or otherwise, should not come from a paid hack. Nor, on the flip side, should Amazon allow reviews from those who always give bad reviews to everything they choose to write about. It is their idea of fun. They are the human equivalent of bots. The software digital bots have an excuse, the humans one are evil.

But we don’t live in a perfect world, far from it, and these problems will be ongoing.

A few years ago I had a 4-star review for one of my e-books that disappeared. Amazon told me they did not know why. As it dropped my average review from 3.5 to 3 that did not help my cause. Luckily I had saved it through copy and paste and can use it on this site.

I follow Anne R. Allen’s blog about some recent problems regarding Amazon’s bots deleting reviews that are random, done for no reason. This hurts both Amazon and writers.

I quote from her blog: ” UPDATE, 4/24/18: Yesterday the Washington Post ran an article on Amazon’s fake review problem, which made it sound pretty severe, and shows why the Zon is cracking down so hard.

But today industry watchdog David Gaughran offered some enlightening information that refutes some of the data in the WaPo article.

It seems that Amazon is using some very dodgy data from an outfit called ReviewMeta to flag “fake” reviews. Two “proofs” of wrongdoing, according to ReviewMeta are: 1) reviewers who mention the name of the book 2) reviewers who review more than one book in a series. Their algorithm flags those as fake reviews.

So if you’ve had your reviews removed, or your account has been deleted, it may have happened because you broke these “rules” which have no relevance to book reviewing.

This may be why the robots are getting things so very, very wrong.”

Digital technology is not fool proof. As you can see from the quote Big Brother Bots can go rogue, or maybe they are not that smart. So if you are a writer and have books, e-books, or sell anything on Amazon, monitor your reviews. Know how many reviews there are, who wrote them, what the rating was. And you might want to keep track the old fashioned way, paper and pen. You never know.

The following e-book has a 3.5 rating based on 3 reviews and is not the e-book with the missing review I mentioned. If you chose to buy this e-book please do NOT review the book. The bots may think we know each other. I can’t afford to lose reviews. Thanks for reading.

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Why a Writer Should Work Like an Actor

Before I answer the question posed I want to set the scene before two characters talk.
In a short story I am working on, a man is walking down a hallway, stops in front of a door with a security window, punches a code into a keypad, and enters into another hallway.

I do not tell what the facility is, but through describing what the man sees in the hallway, like the color of the walls and what type of pictures or posters are hanging on the wall and using phrases like ‘institutional carpet’ and what he observes by watching people, some of whom are looking at a TV, though few seem to be comprehending, the reader should get the idea that the man is in a nursing home.
The man walks into a room where a woman is sitting and looking out the window. He pulls up a chair and begins to talk. So now we have a setting. And now they must talk.
When faced with a conversation, especially an emotional one and one with a twist, and a conversation that must reveal character, a lot of thought must go into the dialogue.
You must know your character, know how he talks, and know his personality. What you need not know is how the conversation will end. If you choose to think of how it will end and write towards that end that works too. For me, I like to make it up as I go along. Like an improve actor.
If I know my character, then I can imagine the conversation. As I write I know the man is going to reminisce about two things. One is about how happy he was when he got married and the other is the worst day of his life when his two children, home from college, are killed in an auto accident.
So, like an actor, I go with the scene. A writer must get into the character’s head and pretend to be the character. Writing fiction requires you, not to think, but to feel. A good actor feels the words, understands the emotion. Once you feel the emotion of the words, the dialogue flows. It did for me, usually does. And in this moment where the man says more than the woman he is conversing with I come up with something that makes it all work, including the twist.
You see, the man thought he was talking to his wife. The woman said that she was not his wife, that her children were not dead. She made short interjections, then asked him to call a nurse; three of four times she would break in and ask for the nurse.
When the nurse does come she sees the man and an empty chair.
The man was not in the right room, his wife is dead, the woman who lives in the room was watching TV in the activity area, and the man had dementia.
But you never say what the facility is. You never give the background like a reporter giving news. You reveal through descriptive imagery and through dialogue, imagining you are an actor, not on the stage, but on the page.
Finished imaginings of mine are found at the top of my web page and the e-books are available on Amazon.
Thanks for reading.

To Publish or Not to Publish; that is the question-and of course How

If Moses were alive today he’d come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and spend the next five years trying to get them published.
– Anonymous

I have published three e-novels and two collections of short stories on Amazon because getting an agent who may find a publisher who may publish the book would be like beating the odds of winning the lottery. The odds are against anyone for too many reasons to go into in this blog.

But . . .

Having just finished my fourth novel I am faced with a choice based on new information about e-books and hard copy (book) by a publisher (who puts book in bookstores).

First, Amazon has something new that might make it easier for me and anyone else to publish. In the past I outsourced my word.doc to LiberWriter who changes my word doc. to the specifications of Amazon, something I do not feel qualified to do. LiberWriter sends me a file that I can upload on Amazon. Of course that costs me money, but I am willing as it saves me time and because I have no idea how to do it anyway.

Bu now Amazon has something called Kindle Create that lets me send my Word Doc to a software program they have and it recognizes everything, lets me play with it a bit, edit and so on before I publish, thus bypassing my paid formatter. I have done a cursory review of the how to and it seems easy enough for me to accomplish.

Or . . .

I subscribe to Authors Publish, a free weekly e-mail about smaller publishing houses that are likely to accept your manuscript. They do research on the company and also remind you to check out the publisher yourself through websites like Predators and Editors, which, alas, is no more. It is looking for a caretaker. But there is Writers Beware, that is supported by Science  Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America with support from Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and American Society of Journalists and Authors (links below). Authors Publish also has leads on magazines, online zines, journals, and they tell who pays and who doesn’t and provide links.

So . . .

Among the emails from them I have found book publishers that I may be able to work with. I have yet to fully research them as these e-mails have come during my writing and proofreading, so I saved the ones I read that looked promising. I have had a couple short stories published in hardcover, but a novel would be nice.

Therefore . . .

I must research both Kindle Create and a possible publisher. And do so now. But we have more options today then did Moses and he was more of an agent.

Horror Writers Association

Mystery Writers of America

American Society of Journalists and Authors

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Character Reveal, Foreshadowing, and Toilet Paper

After you read the following excerpt from my soon to be released e-novel I will explain the intent, why the reveal and the foreshadowing, and tell about toilet paper and life. The time is 1927 and this paragraph ends a chapter near the end of the story

Driving back I felt a sense of freedom. I was free from my job, a job I liked I grant you, but you become accustomed to not working. Maybe I am lazy. But I sensed this story was coming to an end, that Bast would be found, arrested, and tried for multiple murders. That would free my mind, case closed, back to Hollywood, back to a new job, back to writing, back to normalcy. Chasing down a killer, being followed, being shot at, being lied to, are not things that are pleasurable. It may be entertaining to an audience watching a hero in a movie catch a killer; a hero with smarts like Sherlock Holmes, with brawn like any movie tough guy, and all the while wooing some dame with ultra-coolness, but reality is nerve racking, tense, mind numbing, the bullets real, the danger scary. I am not near as smart as Sherlock Holmes, not a movie tough guy, not even close. I learn by accident, I stumble through the carnival funhouse coming out the other side with unexpected answers. And I don’t woo any dame. I am married, happily so. Movies aren’t real. I know, I write them. Of course we writers like to twist things, turn the screw if we can, do a Henry James you know. If we are good, we are magicians, or maybe illusionist is a better word, making you look one way, then the reveal, the twist, the unexpected moment. I didn’t think there was one in real life. I said ‘didn’t’ with intent because that is past tense. There was a real twist coming, one that Henry James would not have seen. Maybe that Freud guy would have figured things out, but not a writer.

First, a word about character reveals. Normally you might see a character reveal a personality trait about himself through dialogue, action, or something descriptive, like a nervous person avoiding eye contact, tapping their foot, pacing around the room. Here Chet Koski is being reflective. He has been trying to solve multiple murders and because he is a writer, not a police detective or private eye, he is frustrated. Real life is not the movies and he is a movie guy. There is an implication that moviegoers don’t get it when they watch a movie. Maybe he is out of his element at times, another reason for frustration.

This character reveal segues into foreshadowing by Chet’s reflection on writers and why at the end of the story writers twist things; the surprise ending. It is the author (that would be me) warning you there is a surprise ending coming soon. By implying Freud may have figured things out evokes, I hope, a psychological complex ending. Naturally I used my fictional character to reveal the foreshadow. Writers are sneaky. However, the character reveal is solely from Chet.

P.S. There is also another foreshadowing in the third sentence: “But I sensed this story was coming to an end.” Once again I put thoughts into Chet’s head. I am so bad.

Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

 

Ancestry.com links me to Sherlock Holmes

According to Ancestry.com to whom I sent my DNA-not all of it, just a sample-I am a direct descendant of Sherlock Holmes. I know, I know, you are going to tell me Holmes is a fictional character; I understand all that. But I too am a fictional character. It does not make me any less real.

There are thousands like me, perhaps millions, and we have lives; we experience fear, love, and some of us are mistrusted, many for good reason, and many of us are heroic in different ways.

The problem we fictional characters face is that our lives, no matter how exciting our lives seem to you, get boring at the redundancy of our existence. I have been told that readers face similar fates, but with a difference. You get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, go to work or school, eat lunch, go home, eat dinner, watch TV, and go to bed and if you are one of the lucky ones, you do not sleep alone. One difference between you and us, is we rarely go the bathroom. When did Sherlock Holmes ever relieve himself, or sit on a toilet and ponder clues.

So perhaps your life seems redundant at times and you to escape into our world and read some fictional lives. But look at it from our point of view. Take Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles. You can read the story a hundred times and Sherlock does the same things a hundred times. Let me tell you folks, that gets boring for us. Do you have any idea how it feels to be a character who is killed off. Do you want to get shot thousands of times. It’s not fun, but that is not my problem for I have not died off yet. But I can imagine.

Speaking of imagination try to imagine life from our point of view. Would you like to eat in the same restaurant, eating the same food, wearing the same clothes, dining with the same people. Trust me, it gets boring. You can change things up a bit. We are trapped.

The good thing about Sherlock Holmes was he had adventures other than the Hound story. Like him and all my other ancestors-Phillip Marlowe, Perry Mason, Nick and Nora Charles, Hercule Poirot, Lew Archer, Travis McGee, and Nero Wolfe to name a few, they do have different stories to tell. As a result they have different ways to get bored, but still it is better than having one story to tell.

Just as God created humans-so I am told-someone created me and I am thankful for that. In fact, I feel a stirring in my soul-yes we have one- and I sense a sequel coming on so I must get back to work. So I will see you in the bookstore or perhaps that Kindle thing.

But first I will go the bathroom.

JK Rowling attributes her success to failure

I get daily emails of encouragement from major league baseball manager Clint Hurdle, many of the posts coming from other writers and motivators. The post the other day was written by Steve Gilbert.

He tells of a period in Rowling’s life when she hit rock bottom; her mother died, she was getting divorced, didn’t like her job, and thought about suicide. She had an idea for a series of books while sitting on a train, but did not act on it.

Rowling then changed her life. She writes,  “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1977 with a run of 500 copies, 300 of which went to libraries. Sales now are over 12 million.

I am not recommending would-be-writers blow up their life and do a reboot. Reboots may carry a virus or two, but her opening line is what grabbed me. Strip away what is not essential in your life. It is another way of saying get your life in order, pursue what you need to do, stripping away what is preventing you from your goal.

We all waste time (from time to time) and that is okay for it can be relaxing, freeing anxiety and stress. But it can also become a habit that, like any addiction, can be consuming.

Consume yourself with your passion, not your distractions.

QUIZ-who wrote world’s first novel?

The modern novel, according to many, began with Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, published in 1719.

Or, as other scholars have suggested, Don Quixote, by Cervantes, published 1605.

But the truth of the matter is, as far as we know at this time, the first novel was written 700 years before Robinson Crusoe. It came not from the west, but from the east.

I write ‘as far as we know’ because their remains the possibility, remote though it is, that a manuscript of some type could yet be discovered.

The country where the novel originated is Japan. And the author of the first novel called The Tale of the Genji was a woman. And she was the first to use a pen name.

She did not intend, nor chose, to use her pen name of Murasaki Shikibu. She was, it is believed, to be a lady-in-waiting in the Heian Court. It was considered rude to record the names of women who came from noble families, though some exceptions were made, primarily for a princess or an emperor’s wife or companion.

Their is controversy of how the novel should be presented. The original translation was done in six volumes, but subsequently it has been reduced to 54 chapters. The feeling by Edward Seidensticker was that 54 chapters are the original text, that the cut chapters are not of the same narrative.

Murasaki began her novel around 1002. The Japanese, like the Chinese at the time, did not regard this form of writing worthy. Poetry, history, and philosophy were the genres one wrote in. Women could write diaries or vernacular tales and Murasaki essentially merged both in Tales of the Genji.

I have not read the original translation. I have the Seidensticker abridged version. And reading her novel I found myself amazed how modern it feels. Too bad we don’t know her real name.

Sources used for this blog:

The Novel 100 by Daniel Burt

A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland

The Tale of the Genji

 

 

Paul Auster; who writers are; their output, part two

In previous blog I quoted from Paul Auster’s novel Brooklyn Follies about who writers are and what writing is. Today I quote from same book regarding the output of writers. rather than quote from the conversation I will list writers and how much they wrote or how long it took to finish a book.

James Joyce wrote three novels

Balzac wrote ninety novels

Kafka wrote his first story in one night

Stendhal The Charterhouse of Parma in forty-nine days

Melville wrote Moby Dick in sixteen months

Flaubert spent five years on Madame Bovary

Musil worked for eighteen years on The Man Without Qualities and died before he could finish

Milton was blind

Cervantes had one arm

Marlow was stabbed to death in a bar room brawl before he was thirty

 

The point is it takes as long as it takes to finish your story so don’t go into a panic if you have trouble finishing because of other things going on in your life. Of course you don’t want to write for eighteen years and then die before you are finished, and nor do you want to die a bar room brawl with a knife going through your eye. But at least Marlowe finished his plays.

Do what you can when you can. Persistence can take you down the road to completion.

The best way tp predict your future is to create it-Abraham Lincoln.

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