Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Underlayer Twist

The deeper I get into Tess Gerritsen's The Silent Girl, the more I'm convinced of her brilliance.

I call an element of this mystery and underlayer twist. There may be another name for this, but I don't know it. Just as a note, I've already tried to incorporate this into a manuscript I'm peddling to agents, a commercial mystery called OTHERS. So I'm alert to the element.

What this is, is an element of the story that, if the reader knows a reference or detail intimately, it may be a mistake... at first.

A stolen car is recovered, and the original owner's registration and insurance card is found in the glove box.

The problem is, in Massachusetts, the insurance company info is printed on the registration, so drivers don't have insurance cards like other states.


Ummm... no.

This car, though stolen out of Springfield, could be from another state.

And it could have started as a leased vehicle. They're notoriously returned with personal paperwork still in the glove box, and often sold to a new owner that way. I've seen it myself, often.

Now, this has me thinking. Really thinking. And, this may prove to be an utterly meaningless detail, later on.

Was this a possible mistake really meant to throw off a reader who knows something in-depth?

I'll give her that.

It's been done before.

And it's clever as all getout and never easy to incorporate.

And there's another one...

Every martial arts school I've been in was not quite like the one she introduces early on. I've found instructors to be terse, firm and even, and unfailingly cordial to outsiders.

I've yet to see an instructor show much more than respect--maybe some humor and openness--but not the kind of melodrama I'm reading. No fear, no nervousness. Confidence, which is a main by-product of all martial arts training.

She's got me thinking again... and it's maddening.

I can't finish this book fast enough.

Her style certainly does not seem to be canned, or conventional, or trite in any fashion, and it's because I know some crap.

I don't think I'm giving her too much credit, either. This plot is woven too well.

And one more interesting note: Perhaps this is a huge advantage of doing a book signing for readers who haven't read the book, yet.

Oh, the questions, the accusations, the protests...

The spoilers.

Amazing job, Tess.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's A Bet

A famous rock band once released their new album free of any charge, then asked downloaders to pay what they thought it was worth.

The average donation turned out to be about what they would have normally charged, for an album that buyers would have normally taken a bet on, not having heard it in total and therefore knowing for sure if payment was worth it.

That's the point, right there.

Movies, music, food, all marketed as a bet.

Unlike socks on a store shelf or a birthday card, those are items that people use their hard-earned coin to bet on.

The bet is based on impressions, assumptions, prior experience, and opinions of trusted others. The assumption is that the product will be at least as claimed, maybe better, but worth at least the transaction price to the purchaser. You don't find out with lots of things if they're worth the money you paid up-front until you've pulled them on, started them up, swallowed them.

So it is with writing.

My column provokes the occasional question:  Ever consider writing a novel or play? That comes from two views: My columns are already popular (thank you very much; I'm obviously doing my job) and I show some talent that can spill over into other facets of the prose-generating business. (Thanks for that viewpoint, too.)

I write the column twice a week, and it's been around for a few years, so my track record is lengthy and popular enough so it's an excellent bet I'd find a willing agent for some other form, and a ready market.

Funny how this works. On the strength of those columns, an experienced agent and editor could estimate my sales prior to any actual ones, and plan accordingly. There might actually be an advance!

Still, they're promoting a bet, no matter how successful the author has been to then. A few top-shelf authors currently shoot YouTube videos like movie trailers, to pump up demand for their next book. I've seen some, and they're pretty cool. Hope they're financially worth it; video can cost a wad. Although some look like they were shot with an iPhone--near-perfect, close enough.

I can name a few big authors who have written novels that wouldn't have sold well if it weren't for the fact that they authored them. After safe bet after safe bet, there was a bit of a fail. Let's not get into Hollywood producers who shot a bomb or two. Or three. Trusted, normally-reliable producers.

I'm not good enough to know what kind of publicity needs to be in place, to drum up sales and buzz prior to shelving a new book. I don't know if writing this column is enough.

Furthermore, a relative is trying to round up an agent for his novel, and getting little interest, even though he already has a nonfiction book on the racks and has gone through the publishing/editing/book tour stuff already. Somehow, that kind of track record doesn't count for much, but my little old stream of blather dribbling out thrice a week for a couple of years has what it takes to go for a strong launch in a different area of publishing. I'm told.

I'm mixed up and my brain's throbbing.

Good thing I'm not a literary agent.

Making these bets between the urgent pleas of an author wanna-be and a ripped and buff publishing giant and depending on performance from both sides to put another meal on the table has to drive some to Monster.com for some just-in-case window-shopping.

Maybe all they need to keep smiling through the briers and gopher holes is the idea that they're avoiding a punch clock for yet another day.

I sure couldn't punch one.

Maybe that's why I'm doing what I'm doing, and why I'm accused of chronic cheerfulness.

Anything else is paralysis.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hi, Kate!

Fear not, the with-it cutting-edge electronic communication methods.

Here's the easy secret to it:

You only need to know a couple of simple and easy things about each.

So long as you're genuinely communicating a message others want to receive, well, you just found a whole new and wonderful tool to stay in touch, get the word out, read antic banter from those you know (or want to), and attend the equivalent of an anytime-anywhere in-your-house no-pressure no-driving get-together that doesn't involve one more tuna casseroles.

I'm using this post just to show a blog fan I just ran into that I'm savvy and with-it and, with a touch of noblesse oblige, I use blogging to encourage, embrace, and lift up others.

Always happy to.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Post Time

I've been asked why I post so rarely.

Many reasons, all of them sensible, none having to do with a lack of enthusiasm for it.

First, I'm busy. Hitting the books, personal duties, personal responsibilities to others, and I pretty much say my peace in my thrice weekly column in the Ticker. That's my bread-and-butter, you know, and that's where the world goes to find me and go sniffing for yet another Ky's Prize. I love the idea of a paycheck, and I'm also strong on loyalty and gratitude that King Seneca had faith in a runny nosed little urchin who displayed some flair for prose. It all blends so well. Yeah, it's a marketing thing, but I hope nobody thinks ill of me for going with the river raft ride. It may look like it's a pure ride, but I'm paddling, and hard.

Second, I have a problem with the idea of throwing something out to the rabble, and allowing an edit of my thoughts and opinions through the comments area. Not that I feel uppity or anything. It's just that King Seneca gets to read the stuff over, and he opines. A few others get the shot, too. I don't believe in the lone inventor theory, when it comes to this kind of open creative process. I don't wholesale delete anything, either, just to flex. I get to structure my theme and thoughts in the Ticker in a way that I can't, here. This is an imperfect ramble.

Third, I have what others say are hot ideas by the bagful. I don't want to release them till they're ready to be cuddled by the world, and the blog form doesn't allow that. Sorry, but you'll get what you're fishing for in the well-stocked pond, not here.

Notice how that metaphor came off a bit strained?

I don't have time for that, and you're not looking for that.

Lightning is one thing, but to bottle it, well, there's an elixir to cure all ills.

Sorry, we're fresh out. Try the Ticker.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

What's All This About Jelly?

I'm still knocked out by how my readers not only connect through the various channels such as Twitter and Facebook and this blog and my column and email, but how they casually flow from one to another, even though each has its own style and formula and function.

I'm turned to jelly, but not in the way you think.

One of my readers came up with a real curve, and I'm thrilled it was hit out of the park by my readers and followers.

I was asked to back away from my standard sterling prose and crisp editing with just a single word in the title of my last blog, one of those things that doesn't belong. I was to gather every email reply and Tweet and reply on here that mentioned that the one word seemed out of place, and the person I arranged this with was to donate $100 to a well-known children's charity for each one.

It was a more satisfying Christmas for a platoon of unfortunates, to the level of several thousand dollars.

Doing this again will take some discussion, but this first shot scored in a way no one guessed.

I asked my co-conspirator if this threatened a timely payment of the rent, or meant a meal of pb& j sandwiches, and it didn't. They were ready and willing and able, and called this the most fun and humility they ever expressed signing a check.

There's some talk that this little stunt may take root and sprout an oak, so we'll see. We prefer that the next... um... Easter Egg? be unexpected, so we may plot another angle for 2011.

May I thank my followers for participating in a wholly inadvertent way, and your aid and abetting brought forth some smiles of relief not expected and gratefully appreciated.

It was not just a merry sort of Christmas. It was one where Santa appeared when some were unprepared for his generosity.

And it was delivered to some who didn't have any sort of feel for what the magic of Christmas could mean. This crossed all the lines set up that bound the Christian holiday and all its traditions, at all levels of belief and celebration.

I don't know how to conclude this blog, maybe because that sort of thing has no conclusion.

Just thinking about the graceful good done also turns me to jelly.