Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Conspiracy Theories: Iran, Libya, the CIA, and Jon Stewart

This is going to be a series of posts. I’ll write them as I can, but I hope to post them on Tuesdays.

Not So Far-Fetched

Some people believe that some of things that happen in RABID are far-fetched, like “Oh, that could never happen in the Real World,” kind of things.

The world is weirder than they know. It’s craftier, it’s wilder, and it’s scarier than they dream. They watch and believe the news programs that piecemeal the world into discrete, unrelated events and never look at the whole picture for various reasons (mostly money, time, and research power.)

The recent movie Argo is outlandish and unbelievable to them. (Amazing movie. Go see it.) It's based on this book, which is flippin' $0.99 for Kindle. 

Okay, so I am talking about the second gunman on the grassy knoll? Probably not. I don’t know what happened there, and I admit that the Jack Ruby stuff is all pretty weird, but I don’t know.

But the world is not as random and is not as clear and simple as any of the blithe, facile news networks would have you believe. The Daily Show, with their amazing research staff, gets more of it right than anybody else because they make the connections that everyone else misses or is too timid to say.

TK Kenyon is a Conspiracy Nut

Okay, so the scales fell from my eyes a long time ago. Here’s some of what I know and how I know it.

When I was in undergrad, many moons ago, I seriously considered working for the CIA. My mom, who she never met a spill-it-all conversation that she didn’t like, told all her friends that I, her daughter, that one over there, wanted to do secret stuff for the CIA.

Now, I didn’t want to go be a secret agent or a clandestine super-spy and ferret out secrets overseas or turn traitors or do undercover stuff. I had no desire to be Jane Bond. I just wanted to be a bookworm in Langley, Virginia. The job title for that is “Intelligence Officer.” I wanted to read field reports and interpret them, put stuff together, mostly about biowarfare, and write more reports. (I was a microbiology major in undergrad.)

One of my mom’s friends, after a long pause, told my mom, “She should talk to [my husband]. He,” and here was another long pause, “knows a lot about the CIA.”

Yeah, he did. Because he had worked for them for thirty years. He really did the clandestine super-spy stuff.

The Spy Who Told Me: Iranian Coup, 1953

(Must be noted: my friend The Spy passed away a few years ago, so I’m not worried about blowing his cover.)

The first thing that The Spy told me about was the 1953 coup d’├ętat in Iran that deposed the democratically elected Prime Minister and installed the Shah. Everyone knows this now, with all its sordid details, including how the CIA used the New York Times like a Bangkok butt prostitute.

The important part that The Spy told me was that the CIA had almost gotten the Shah installed, but then they had some counter-actions from Soviet-based intelligence agents. Basically, Soviet-backed demonstrations and riots in the streets forced the Shah to flee.

The CIA was about to declare the coup a failed attempt, but another agent (though I suspect that it was The Spy himself) went in and arranged counter-counter-demonstrations and riots, and the CIA-backed coup finally succeeded. They did this by influencing and paying off major imams and other leaders who could then produce a certain number of followers in the streets, whipped up to a predetermined level of frenzy.

The Spy noted with pride that the counter-counter-coup came in $100,000 under budget and several days early. 

How the World Works

The part that struck me and has stayed with me was when The Spy said that all these demonstrations that you see on the news, all these riots, at least the ones that get something done, are bought and paid-for by (usually) governments, sometimes other players.  

You talk to and pay the right people, and the crowds show up.

That is how clandestine regime change works. That is how civil wars and coups get started and run. That’s how embassies get attacked.

That’s how the world works.

Here in the US, we have fewer of these influencers, at least violent ones, though some of them include people like black activists (historically) Martin Luther King, Jr. and (contemporary) Jesse Jackson, the Koch Brothers' quiet funding of the Tea Party, or even political satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

If you can convince them or pay them off, you've bought yourself an army.

Imagine 215,000 People Who Can’t Take A Joke

Imagine if the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear had turned into a riot.

It was more of a free concert, but I had an underlying suspicion the whole time that Jon Stewart was restraining himself, dampening the crowd’s emotional instability, and making sure that it didn’t turn into a riot because there were a lot of people there, all of whom were sympathetic to whatever he said.

Imagine if those innocuous rock bands weren’t so innocuous, but they played songs that thumped on people’s heart strings and boiled their blood with indignation. Anything from “Proud to Be an American” to “Won’t Get Fooled Again” to “I Am America” to “The Big Money.”

Imagine if Jon Stewart had gone all Patrick Henry on that crowd of 215,000 people, shouting “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

Then, in the crowd, a hundred men at strategic points yelled, “To the White House! Follow me!”

It was only a few blocks away.

Imagine if some of the crowd, say 50,000 of them, had followed the instigators planted among them and started running through the streets and then scaled that flimsy wrought-iron fence around the White House.

Yes, the Marines have nice guns, but they couldn't shoot all 50,000 of the mob as they poured over the fences from all directions.

What would have happened once the mob was inside the fences?

How long would those pretty doors and windows have held if, say, some of those “spontaneous” demonstrators happened to have brought along lock-cutters or shaped charges that were supplied to them by Jon and Stephen’s friends, who in turn got them from guys they knew, all of whom had funny accents? (Probably Boston or New York accents.) 

Even a mob of 5,000 would have done the job.

Do you think that 5,000 people out of the 215,000 wouldn't have joined in?

Quite honestly, I'll bet that it would have been 200,000 people who converged on whatever the target was. 

That’s how the world works.

That’s how it happens.

That’s How It Did Happen.

And yes, a few months ago on September 11th, 2012, when a crowd of “demonstrators” attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans including US Ambassador Chris Stevens and burning the place to a shell, I thought, “A spontaneous demonstration against a stupid YouTube video, my butt. Who bought and paid-for those crowds? Al Qaeda? Iran? How long has it been planned?”

The Spy would have laughed at that rationale: A YouTube video. 

Now it’s coming out that there were some puppeteers pulling some long strings. I’m not surprised. I don’t know if they’ll ever tell us who it really was. Maybe 20 years from now when it all doesn’t matter any more, they'll tell us. 

More on what I knew and when I knew it next week.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Escaping My Ex-Publisher: What I Got Back

In 2007, my first published novel, RABID, was published by Kunati, Inc., a small traditional publishing company. I was thrilled because they had 50,000 submissions for their first round and chose 8 books for their first crop.

Yeah, 8 books out of 50,000 submissions. That’s some serious “gate-keeping,” huh?

I had been writing RABID for three years at that point. I had graduated with my PhD in molecular virology, done a postdoc in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, and had a baby. My brain was scorched. I threw all my emotional baggage in that book.

Despite that, it turned out well, I thought and I still think.

It also turned out to be almost 200,000 words.

My publisher wanted me to cut it down to below 140,000, which I did. I think it came in at 139,996, which is below 140,000 words, and that’s the important point.

My publisher also edited the periods out of my name, kind of like e.e. cummings but with punctuation rather than capitalization, so I became TK Kenyon instead of T.K. Kenyon. I had been T.K. since sixth grade, when there were three “Terri’s” (of various spellings) in my class, so two of us got to choose new names. I chose “T.K.” When I sign my name, I use T.K., and yes, I tap out two periods in there. It’s funny that some people think it’s an affectation, since my publisher did it and I really didn’t have a say in it.

That’s common with publishers: they do stuff and authors don’t have any say in it. The periods in my name, 60,000 words of my first novel, etc.

I had to cut a lot of stuff out of RABID, including stuff that was important but was not the very most important. For example, there was a lot about the community, including some instances of ... hive mind, perhaps we should call it, that happened when several of the characters were together.

This was the po-mo structure of the novel: each scene was written from one of the viewpoint characters (Conroy, Leila, Bev, or Dante,) and had to include one of the other four characters, except that each character got one soliloquy when they were alone and at an important turning point in their lives. Bev’s soliloquy is the very first scene. Leila’s is the last scene. Conroy’s and Dante’s occur at important points in the book.

When all four characters were together, or at least three of them, the community’s hive mind become active. The viewpoint become omniscient and can duck into various minor characters’ heads. I wanted to speak about the gestalt that happens when people gather.

Anyway, that strategy was a casualty of the Great Revision. I went back and restored a lot of that in this version of the novel.

In addition to some additions for clarity and some emotional beats that were recovered, the new version of RABID is about 155,000 words.

Yeah, it’s pretty long, but it has a lot to say.

It’s not a book that everyone will like, which is why I posted this “quiz” a while ago to point you toward whether you should bother giving it a look. I just reread it five times in a row, which is a lot to read any one book. There are some parts in there that I am really proud of. There are some scenes that I’m surprised that I survived writing.

If you read it, I hope you like it. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Are You Cool Enough to Read RABID?

Here’s a QUIZ:

(1) How many graduate degrees do you hold? (Master’s or better to open.)
                (a) 2 or more.
                (b) 1
                (c) 0, but I have a professional degree (MD, JD, MBA, etc.)
                (d) 0, but I have a bachelor’s.
                (e) Other.

(2) Are you otherwise intellectually accomplished?
                (a) Heck, yeah. Extreme audodidact. I even know what “autodidact” means. I usually read around or more than a book per week.
                (b) I read everything. Around 40 books per year across a lot of categories and non-fiction.
                (c) I read deeply in 1 or 2 categories or genres, at least 1 book a month.
                (d) I read what’s on the NYT or other bestseller lists but not more than 10 books per year.
                (e) I don’t read that much.

(3)          Have you voluntarily read or seen something by the following authors? (Choose uppermost letter.)
                (a) Don DeLillo, Kip Thorne, Michael Frayn, William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Elaine Pagels, Vladimir Nabokov.
                (b) Chuck Palahniuk, Connie Willis, Nancy Kress, Abraham Verghese, William Gibson, Thornton Wilder, Carl Sagan, John Le Carre, Brian Greene, Michio Kaku.
                (c) J.K. Rowling, Neil Peart, Ray Bradbury, Phillippa Gregory, E.L. Doctorow, Harlan Ellison, Jeff Lindsey, Daniel Silva, Bharati Mukherjee, Graham Greene.
                (d) Orson Scott Card, J.G. Ballard, Arthur Miller, Stephen King, Nora Roberts or J.D. Robb, Mitch Albom, Richard Castle, Kingsley Amis, Lee Child.
                (e) None of the above.

(4) My religion:
                (a) Atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, or UU.
                (b) I don’t like churches because I know too much about them.
                (c) Catholic.
                (d) Other than Christian religion.
                (e) Conservative Christian, believer in angels or signs, or very spiritual or psychic.

(5) In my free time, I most like to:
                (a) discover new music that makes me think, experience other kinds of art, explore other lifestyles.
                (b) travel, watch the Science, History, or H2 channels, go to live concerts, live performances, lots of different kinds of movies, or dancing.
                (c) decorate my house, collect stamps or coins, watch the Food or HGTV Networks, listen to the same music that everyone else was listening to in high school.
                (d) play a sport, watch QVC, watch only rom-com or action movies, watch only reality TV shows, bass fish.
                (e) watch a lot of sports on TV, Bible study, go to strip clubs, drink or toke myself unconscious.

Here’s the grading scale:

- If you have at least 3 answers that are (a) or (b), you might like RABID.  

- If you have 3 or more (e) answers, you definitely won’t like it.
- The (c) and (d) answers were just other stuff that doesn’t correlate one way or the other.

I’m not trying to scare anybody away or be a snot. I didn’t write this to be elitist. (I don’t have to try. It comes naturally.)

More importantly, I have talked with quite a few readers who liked RABID and a few who hated it. I appreciate them all taking their time to read it. The people who “got” RABID and liked it generally are quite intellectually accomplished. They have impressive CVs. They read widely, and they read the hard stuff.

It’s not surprising that people who like RABID tend to read a lot of the same authors that I do.

The people who hated it don’t like their beliefs challenged or they don’t like to think too much.

I don’t want people to read my book and hate it or even to slog through it. So don’t read RABID if you’re not going to like it.

The world is full of books that are right for you. Not only are there more and more books being published now, but they’re more and more available than ever, and classics and backlist and out of print books are now easily available. Our reading choices have expanded at least 1000-fold in the last decade. That’s marvelous! That’s incredible! Go read something you’ll love!

You should read books that speak to you, that resonate with you.

Don’t read books that fit you badly. It’s like wearing too-small underwear or eating food that you don’t like, even if it is supposed to be good for you.

The novel that I’m writing right now, Selling Handcuffs, will be more accessible. It will still challenge you, but it is meant for a wider audience. If you won’t like RABID, I hope that you’ll wait for Selling Handcuffs and try that one. It will probably be out before Christmas.

By the way, those authors on #3? I am not “lumping myself in” with any of those incredible authors, but they’re my major influences. I’m also not denigrating the other authors in answers (c) and (d). I just looked at my bookshelves and randomly assigned names to these answers. I like all of them very well, too.

Thanks for reading,
TK Kenyon 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writing Tip: Beware of Self-Indulgence

Beware of self-indulgence. The romance surrounding the writing profession carries several myths: that one must suffer in order to be creative; that one must be cantankerous and objectionable in order to be bright; that ego is paramount over skill; that one can rise to a level from which one can tell the reader to go to hell. These myths, if believed, can ruin you.
If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have enough ego.
- David Brin

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Damn Those Weasel Words!

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chapter Four: Blood on the Sand, of Selling Handcuffs, An Angel Day Novel

Okay, folks. Here's "Chapter Four: Blood on the Sand" of the novel Selling Handcuffs, An Angel Day Novel. 

If you haven't read Chapter Three: The Secret Police State, it's here.

If you haven't read any of the preceding chapters, start with Chapter One: The Stash House.

I finished the first draft about an hour ago. Whew. That was a slog. There's still a lot that needs to be done. I know of one scene that I'm going to cut, and at least two scenes to add, but I wrote what will probably be the last sentence. Yea!

The fact that I finished the first draft means that I'll be posting these a lot more frequently. I was always worried that I was going to catch up to myself.

This chapter includes the First Pinch, which is where we see who the Antagonist is and begin to see what they can do. We see in what ways he opposes our Protagonist and some of his weapons. In this case, the Antagonist has a really big gun.

At the First Pinch, things start to get very serious for the Protagonist, our sniper chick Angel Day, and the casualties begin.

As I said, I'm done with the first draft, and there appear to be nine major chapters plus inter-scenes, like the Prologue: Swan Dive that I posted a while ago.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Random Name Generators

I've mentioned a couple of times on Twitter lately that, if you know you're going to have to mass murder a bunch of characters, start with a lot of characters so you have some to choose from and some left over afterward.

But how do you name lots of characters?

Random name generators!

Some reasons to use random name generators:

  • Easier on your brain. 
  • Kinda fun. 
  • Easy to deliberately populate your book with a good mix of ethnicities and backgrounds. 
  • Hides your "naming tics," like some authors without knowing it name their characters only sweeping, romantic names, or names that only begin with the letters A-G, etc. 

Some of my favorites: 

Behind The Name : One of my favorites. Includes first. middle, and last names, plus you can restrict the search by gender, by many, many ethnicities (Maori, Catalan, Provencal, Galician, Breten, Frisian, Czech, and Slovak, to name a few), and/or by other categories. Other categories include Goth (excellent for vampyres,) Greek myth, Hinduism, Ancient Celtic, Biblical, Literary, Kreatyve, Hillbilly, Hippy, and Transformer. Includes Native American names that are real names, not like "Little Foot Redfeather" or "Dances With Wolves." Does not have a Mexican ethnicity, which is odd. Also only gives you one name at a time.

Ultimate Random Name Generator : Another favorite. Can restrict search by gender and a list of some ethnicities, including Mexican. Gives you a long list of names rather than one at a time.

Let's face it, you don't have to carefully craft the names of minor characters, especially when they're just going to all die horribly in Chapter 7.

TK Kenyon

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Selling Handcuffs, An Angel Day Novel. Chapter Three The Secret Police Stat

This is the third chapter, after the Background/SetUp chapter, which is Chapter Two: The Bat Cave. If you haven't read that one yet, I'll leave it up a little while longer. 

If you haven't read Chapter One, an Ice Monster! scene, you can click here to read it now. It'll be posted for one more week, but then it will go away. 

As always, these blog posts are rough drafts. I appreciate your comments a lot but, just so you know, this is pretty much how the novel comes out of my head, although I do clean up the commas. This prose will go through another very rigorous draft plus polishing before it sees the light of day. 

The first 25% of your novel or story should set up your main character and show them as they are, with all their flaws and all their virtues. It should show the relationships that they have in place and introduce many of the major characters.

This chapter includes the start of the Big Plotline that will stretch over several of the novels in this series, as well as the start of this novel's Plotline. So far, this is a routine call-out for Angel, but that will change in the next couple of chapters. I'll probably have to shorten this chapter, mainly by line-edits, to get to the meat sooner.

Also, Angel convinces Tony of a lot of stuff during their conversation. I think she'll probably have to do more badly in this scene, because she still relies on violence to solve her problems. She's too logical and negotiates too much, now. She should do this badly, perhaps even make the situation worse, and she should consider all the violent ways that she could solve this problem, none of which will work, of course. This will probably be a major change in the second draft.

I will probably need to add some more characters to Bravo Team, the Phoenix PD's sniper team, and Alpha Team, the Phoenix PD's assault team, but I don't want to overwhelm the reader with 30 minor characters right at the beginning, either. A tip to other authors: when you're writing a book with a high body count, start with a lot of characters so you still have some left after the bloodbath. 

If you sign up for email updates (over there on the right side bar), you'll get an update when I post Chapter Four: Blood on the Sand.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Carl Sagan on Reading and the Freedom of the Mind

“Frederick Douglas taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom, but reading is still the path.”―Carl Sagan

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quick Writing Tip: If You Have A Day When You Can't Write

Writing tip: If you don't have time to write for a day, at least read the last 1-2 scenes and do a light edit. Keeps your head in the game.

Today, The Kid was home from school for his first day of summer break. He didn't want to go to camp on his first day off. He wanted to stay home. Okay, I get that.

So we went to the library and a local bookstore. We got him The Adventures of Tintin at the library, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5 at the bookstore. He reads the Diary and Big Nate books over and over, so they're worth the buy.

Then we came home, ate lunch, played chess, I exercised, then more chess, other stuff, supper, getting ready for bed, and he went to bed at about 9:30pm, which is late as all dickens for him.

During that time, I got some semi-private time, like while I was sitting next to him while he played his 17 minutes of Wii time. I'm not a total wuss about my writing environment, but sitting next to a Kid who is fighting his enemies with a virtual lightsabre is not conducive to writing first draft prose.

So, I edited. It kept my head in the game. I'm still inside the novel. This novel. 

You do what you can.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quick editing tips to tighten your fiction

That -- About 80% of the times that you use this word, you can delete it, and the sentence will still mean the same thing.

Up and down -- Ditto. Just cut them unless the sentence needs them.

Dialogue attributions, e.g., he said and she said -- If two people are talking, you only need 1 tag about every 5 lines of dialogue, or less. Try to make the words used by each character distinctive.

Do not cut one word of emotion or characterization unless it is redundant.

She saw/heard/thought/surmised/considered/theorized -- Remove this part and just let the observation stand on its own, unless you have not recently centered the narrative in the character. If you've been describing other stuff for a while, use this to re-center the narrative within the character. If you've been inside the character a lot, remove this to open up the narrative to the setting and world.

  • She thought that [T]he contradiction was obvious: if they had all planned to be gone and to set off the sarin remotely, why did they have a sealed safe room inside? (Remove the "she thought" and the "that.") 
  • Angel heard the rain on the tin roof above her, the roar of the tanks' big diesel engines, and her own heartbeat. (Don't remove. Centers the narrative in the character.)  

Good luck and happy writing,
TK Kenyon

Monday, June 11, 2012

Selling Handcuffs, An Angel Day Novel. Chapter Two: The Bat Cave

This is the second chapter after the Ice Monster! scene. If you haven't read that one yet, I'll leave it up a little while longer. 

These scenes are a bit of lull, some character development, some establishing the baseline that gets disrupted, before all heck breaks loose very soon. 

The first 25% of your novel or story should set up your main character and show them as they are, with all their flaws and all their virtues. It should show the relationships that they have in place and introduce many of the major characters. 

If you haven't read Chapter One, an Ice Monster! scene, you can click here to read it now. It'll be posted for a few more weeks, but then it will go away. 

If you sign up for email updates (over there on the right side bar), you'll get an update when I post Chapter Three: The Secret Police State. 

Chapter Two: The Bat Cave

Friday, June 8, 2012

Writing Tip: Character Population

#Writingtip: if you know that you're going to mass murder some characters, start with a lot of characters so you have some to choose from.

I'm going back and salting in characters, all of whom are DOOMED.

New chapter soon. With new DOOMED characters.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Chapter 1: A Stash House NEW VERSION

Now that I'm about 42,000 words into the rough draft, I changed my mind about the opening scene. You can read the original version here.

The original version was an Ice Monster! scene, but to give the reader a taste of danger and excitement before the novel backs off and goes into foreshadowing mode. (More on that at the original post, link above.)

However, the original scene was a bank robbery, which had little to do with the plot. Here, I've changed the location of the crime to a stash house in the affluent community of North Scottsdale. A stash house is a house or other location where human traffickers kidnap the very people they led over the Mexican-US Border and then demand ransom from their families back in Mexico or points south. This relates more closely to the Border themes in the novel.

Hope you like it. I'll take comments off of moderation soon. In the meantime, if you'd like to talk about it, feel free to Tweet me. My twitter handle is @TKKenyon, and there's a button over in the right hand column to follow me.

Chapter One: The Stash House

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Comments restricted and on moderation

Dear Friends,

Sorry that I've had to restrict comments to members of this blog, and even those are moderated. It seems that Passive Voice Guy's blog has now been attacked for posting Kris's article.

These publisher-lackey hackers are giving real hackers a bad name. Real hackers are anti-establishment and moderately anarchic. These publisher lackeys are hacking to help multinational corporations. What kind of slacker hackers are they? Yuck.

I've run my anti-virus, and I seem to be clean. I'm going to make sure my Carbonite is up to date.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Updates on Royalty Statements Post: Something Rotten in New York City

This blog post was posted on Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog a few days ago, and soon afterward, hackers took down her site. 

And then she posted it on another site, and they took that one down, too. 

Kris gave me permission to repost on my blog to spread this news. Other blogs are doubtlessly reposting, too. 

If you're an aspiring writer, you need to read this. If you're a publishing writer, you MUST read this, and then read your own royalty statements, very carefully. 

Kris Rusch: Updates on Royalty Statements Post: Something Rotten in New York City
By Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Kris Rusch's website is now up and running. The excellent blog post can be found here: http://kriswrites.com/2012/05/02/the-business-rusch-royalty-statement-update-2012/


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Selling Handcuffs Chapter 1: Hostages at a Bank Robbery

Hello friends,

Here is Chapter 1 of my novel-in-progress, Selling Handcuffs. I previously posted the prologue, which had some insight into the main character, Angel Day, but isn't necessary to understand what's going on here.

For writers: This is an "Ice Monster!" scene. For more on story structure and the concept of the "Ice Monster!" scene, watch Dan Wells's very good lecture series on YouTube here. Basically, an "Ice Monster!" scene is an interesting hook for the beginning of the novel and relates to some of the main problems in the novel, though not the main conflict, and it basically starts the novel off with a big bang (literally, in this case) rather than a bunch of talking or back story. You tell the reader, "Look! Ice Monster!"

Caveat: This is a rough draft. It's really rough.

I haven't added how much force it takes to pull the trigger of the .308 sniper rifle yet.

You'll notice that I also haven't even decided on the side three sniper's name yet. It's denoted as "BBB" in the draft. If you have a bright idea for a name, leave it in the comments or email it to me, because I'm stumped.

Chapter 1: Hostages at a Bank Robbery 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Selling Handcuffs: Prologue

Okay, so I talked to people about whether or not I should post my first draft up on my blog, just to start conversations with people about writing and stories, and there were a lot of opinions out there about whether or not it was a good idea.

Many of the negative comments were based in fear: mostly fear of pirates finding it, copying it, and publishing (mostly e-publishing) it as their own.

So, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to post each chapter for a while, then take it down.

So, this is the Prologue, or perhaps it will be inserted somewhere in the middle. Haven't decided yet. As I mentioned above, this is a rough draft. It's a little bit of back story, but mostly characterization.

It's really rough.

Before it is published, I'll fine-comb it for spelling and grammar and all that. Don't worry about that.

Beyond nit-picks, I'd love to know what y'all think. Feel free to leave your comments or email me.

This is the first time I've tried throwing rough drafts out there, and so the caveat is: this is a ROUGH DRAFT. It's pretty close to a FIRST DRAFT.

And here it is:

Prologue: Swan Dive 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quality: A Response to Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Post

As for the question of quality, I read about 50/50 indie books vs. trad books nowadays, and it seems like the bell curve of quality is about the same for both types of books.

However, I can say for sure that the two worst books that I’ve read in the past year, which were so bad that they stayed with me and I must restrain myself from ranting at the crappiness of them, were both traditionally published. My book club ranted at both these books last night, so it’s not just me. These were actually outliers on the quality curve, a two-book blip on the left end of the long tail, they were so bad.

I have not read any indie book that approaches the sheer badness of those two major NY-pubbed books.

It seems like when an indie writer is bad, they’re amateurish in safe, predictable ways, and sometimes you can actually see them improve during the book.

When a NY-pubbed book is bad, the writer is arrogant and blind to how terribly the book has gone wrong, because they are a Professional NY-Published Writer, Dammit, and then the book gets worse as they go farther astray and defend their terrible, terrible choices. The badness becomes exponential.

Yes, quality is not the exclusive domain of the large publishers, and shlock is certainly not limited to indies.

TK Kenyon 

Friends -- Do you really want to read my horrible first draft?


Some writers post their first drafts of their novels on their blogs. Seems like I've seen a couple lately.

Should I do this? It might be fun. It might be interesting. I'd be interested in what y'all have to say about it, either that you hate some things or want to see more or something.

I'm working on the first draft of the first novel in a series. It's about a woman (Angel Day) who is a sniper for the Phoenix PD. She used to be on the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team as a sniper. She likes to kill people a little too much, but the people she kills desperately deserve it. (In the first chapter, she snipes a big guy who had a shotgun duct-taped to a small woman's neck, and he was counting down to zero.)

What do you guys think?

TK Kenyon

Friday, March 9, 2012

Great Article about Picking A Title (For A TV Show)

There's a great article up at Yahoo TV about picking a title for a TV show.

Everything in there can and should be applied to novel and short story titles. It's a great article.

Some highlights:

THE DO'S AND DON'TS: Nine vital title tips from execs and producers who know you don't get a second chance to make a first impression
DON'T Be Too Witty
A title that gets executives excited may just be too cute for viewers. "We loved Better Off Ted internally," 20th Century Fox Television's Dana Walden says of Victor Fresco's critical darling that was dropped by ABC after two seasons. "We thought it was so smart and funny. We went with the witty, pithy title, and it just didn't work."
DON'T Be Too Generic
If a title feels like it could be slapped on any one of a dozen shows, it's probably the wrong title. "Every year, there are 10 shows that all sound the same," says one studio exec. "You can't distinguish them. You want to avoid those generic titles." If Desperate Housewives had been called, say Housewives, would it have become a zeitgeisty hit? 
DON'T Be too Long
Titles that are too long will get reflexively shortened -- by your onscreen guide and viewers. So save everyone the trouble and stick to a half-dozen words or less. People referred to The New Adventures of Old Christine as Old ChristineBeverly Hills 90210 became 90210. When people write, blog or tweet about How I Met Your Mother, it's HIMYM. For the latter two series‚ one a reboot with high title familiarity and the other an established hit that came into its own in a pre-Twitter era -- it's not a problem. But for a new series finding its footing and in need of constant brand reinforcement, a long title can hurt.

Read the rest at: The Strange Art of Picking a TV Show Title

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ebook Pricing: Yet Another Voice Chimes In

Hi folks,

Before we begin, let me say that personally, I have short stories for sale at 99c, compilations for $1.99, and plan novels for $2.99, $3.99, and $4.99 price points.

Really, perfectly honestly, I understand frustration that a lot of authors have with the "race to the bottom" mentality, but the reality of the situation is that ebooks have a great drawback: you can neither lend nor borrow the great majority of them. And it's kind of difficult to do even if you can.

I remember reading a statistic many years ago that the average mass market paperback book was read 6 times before it went to the dump. (This stat was before recycling was common.) Hardbacks had more reads before dumping.

Ten years ago, I purchased a fraction of dead tree books that I read. My friends and I, when at each others' houses, perused each other's stacks and took home books. There was usually a perfunctory, "You mind if I borrow these?" involved.

Sometimes the books were returned.

Usually, they were passed on.

That number, "6", is interesting.

Many mass market paper backs (mmpbs) are priced around $5.99. $6/6 reads = $1 per read.

The most acceptable price for a non-lendable ebook for a lot of people is 99c.

I think that books that are available as mmpbs should be 99c, and I plan to price that way.

Trade paperbacks, usually priced around $12-15, should be $12/6 reads = $2, or $1.99.

New issues, like hardbacks, should be $23.99/6 reads = $4, or $3.99.

Really excellent, large novels should be $29.99/6 reads = $5, or $4.99.

I think people are subconsciously doing that math, and I think that's why the price points have settled out at those numbers.

For short stories, the math is fuzzier, but possible to discuss.

In The New Yorker, there are usually about 20 pieces, plus or minus a few, and counting "Goings On About Town" as 1 piece, etc. If you have a subscription, that's about $1.50 per issue ($70/47 issues per year = 1.489). So that equals that I pay about 7.5 cents (= $.075) per short story that I read in The New Yorker. And I usually pass my NYer on to one other person.

On the other hand, The New Yorker usually pays a new writer around $10,000 to publish a short story, 1st NA serial rights, plus some other electronic rights. On their advertising page, they say that their average print audience is 3.9 million people. So a writer gets 0.26 cents per print audience member, (that's not a quarter per person, that's zero point twenty-six 100ths of a penny, or 26/100 of a cent, or about 1 penny per 4 reads.)

So that's even less.

Short stories should, really, be 10c, or 25c, or 49c, at most. I wish Amazon, Smashwords, and the other outlets would let us do that.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents,

TK Kenyon