Killing My Friends

Killing My Friends

I’m writing a book. I know you’ve heard that one before. Seriously, I am writing my eleventh novel and have come to that point in the first draft where someone is going to die. I knew it was coming…thought about it…thought I had prepared for it…now the moment to commit to it is here..and I hesitate.

Painful as it may be, a character that I have grown to like immensely is going to bite the big one…go down for the permanent dirt nap. I say painful because, believe it or not, characters in my stories become my friends.

If you are a writer, you get that. If you are an avid reader, you probably also know it. They are my friends. In the writing of the story, we have grown together, become one. I know things about them…their past…where they come from…what they look like (in my mind)…their secrets…things only a good friend would know. Good friends don’t share secrets, not even to my other friends…you the readers.

I make a point of that…giving you enough of a character to develop your own picture and understanding…but I never give you everything I know about the characters I have written into life. When you read them, they become yours as much as mine, colored by your perception and imagination.

Anyway, the time has come to kill off one of my friends. I have been asked a few times over the years by people who seem to understand the relationship between a writer and his characters just how I go about doing that. How do I decide that this one lives and that one dies?

Stated like that it seems harsh, even arrogant, but in truth, I have very little to do with it. The determining factor in the death…or life…of any character, from my perspective is the story, and the commitment to write it honestly, without contrived endings, happy or otherwise.

For me, if the story is good, it stands alone. The movement through the plot should be natural. As I capture that action in words, there come moments when I know something bad is going to happen to one of my friends. At those moments, I force myself not to do what my heart wants to do. After all, I am the writer. I created this story. I can end it any way I want…kill or not kill whomever I want. Right?’

Not exactly. At least, not for me.

Although I may have set the story in motion, may have outlined it and have an ending point in mind, the story must unfold naturally and truthfully. That means that sometimes someone I care about will die, or suffer in a story.

I came to this understanding about my work in my first novel Eyes of the Predator. There was a scene in the opening chapters where an elderly man is killed. I didn’t want him to die. He was not a major character, but he was a colorful old fellow.

I remember smiling as I wrote the interaction and dialogue between him and his wife. I liked the old man. I could see myself sitting on the porch with him and his wife on a steamy Georgia evening, sipping iced tea and watching the lightning bugs hover over the grass. In fact, I had intended in my character sketch to keep him around and bring him back in later books in the series. Such was not his fate.

The story progressed and moved inexorably to the moment when I knew he would die. Writing his death was one of the hardest moments I have had since I began this adventure with words.

There have been others. No spoilers for those who may not have read all of the books, but if you have read them, you know who they are.

In the end, I tell people that it is not a matter of killing off, or not killing off people I like in my stories. It is a matter of remaining true to the story. For me, that is the key. Truth wins out over sentimentally contrived outcomes every time.

And so, some of my friends have died. Others will die. There is one right now awaiting his fate, so I had better take a deep breath,  swallow hard and get it over with. Goodbye, my friend.

 

eReader or Print? … Does it Really Matter? Just Read!

Ereader or Print

The controversy continues. Do true readers read eBooks or books printed on paper? From my perspective as a writer, it’s irrelevant. The argument is based on a false premise. That is, that there is some intrinsically superior form of reading, that either readers of eBooks or print books are inferior, or superior, in their reading appetites and comprehension than the other group, depending upon your personal perspective.

It’s a silly argument. The real issue is do we read, and do we teach our children to read in a world that is becoming increasingly illiterate. Perhaps that sounds a bit strong, but the truth is that, while more people may know the alphabet and are able to read words, I maintain that reading comprehension has decreased and continues to do so. In a world of texts, emails, memes, and posts, the art of abbreviated communication has replaced reading and writing.

There are some studies that suggest that reading in print increases comprehension and retention because of the tactile connection between the page and the reader and the ability to envision the entire reading material as a whole. EBooks do not have pages and therefore limit the tactile connection that is a comforting sensation for many.

Personally, I’m not convinced. These days, I read almost exclusively from an eReader. It contains a full library of history, science, biography, politics, economics and fiction, and frankly, when I discuss these issues with others, I am pretty certain that my comprehension is at least as good as theirs.

I will admit that the facility of reading an eBook versus a print book may mean that at times one is simply reading to relax and drift off to sleep. Retention at these times may not be as important as the simple flow of words.

I also admit that the opening of a physical book requires an additional physical effort that enhances the tactile sensory satisfaction of reading, thereby possibly increasing retention for some, but I suggest that this is more a matter of familiarity than of superiority of the printed material.

Don’t get me wrong. I love books. I love holding an old-fashioned book also. I love it because that was how I began reading in life. I’m a sentimental old fool, attached, as we all are to things I know. I have no doubt that had I been brought up reading eBooks exclusively, without any reference to physical books, I would be as attached to them.

The Pew Research Center points out that in 1978 only 8% of Americans had NOT read a book during the previous twelve months. In 2014, that number had increased to 23%. This is a cultural issue and not about which reading medium is best. No doubt, this statistic would impact reading comprehension studies amongst a random sampling, since readers would be more likely to have higher cognition and retention than non-readers, regardless of where or how they were reading.

Like everything, the ebook revolution is in a transitional stage. For me, the bigger issue is the fact that fewer and fewer people actually read. This is not an issue of which reading medium is superior, but of our cultural tendency to seek shallow simplicity rather than depth. Thinking requires effort and effort is not FUN. And, if it is not FUN then it is not worthwhile…right?

I do worry that the ability to read and understand deeper thought and emotion is decreasing. I do not consider the medium of the reading material (print or electronic) to be the issue.

We are the issue. The culture of immediate gratification and self-indulgence has far more influence, in my opinion, on the lack of literacy in our society than whether books are on paper or a screen.

Recently the American Association of Publishers (AAP) conducted a study that determined that Ebook sales are on a decline. The AAP has also been working very hard, filing lawsuits against Amazon to price eBooks artificially high in order to prop up the sales of their very expensive print books.

The result is that THEIR ebook sales are naturally down. The truth is that when you consider all eBooks outside of the AAP, ebook sales continue to rise.

In my case, I sell about a hundred eBooks to one print and sales are rising. Another point of interest is that readers of eBooks tend to read more frequently and in greater variety.

While I understand the love of print books (I love them too) I also love old cars but that doesn’t mean I want to drive one every day. The AAP would like us all to read only their published books. They hate the idea that anyone who has the desire to learn the craft of writing can publish a book and develop an audience without relying in their closed and tightly controlled system to be noticed.

The electronic information age has been revolutionary for the arts. Writers, artists and musicians who would never have been heard or seen under the traditional good old boy systems have found audiences. Some have even achieved stardom.

If the advent of eBooks encourages more people to read, I count that as a positive trend, not a negative. Now, if you will excuse me I must get back to writing my latest book. Oh yes, it will be available in both print and electronic formats if that matters to you.

To Read or Not to Read … Not Much of Debate in My Opinion

Books - Lincoln vs West

No mystery where I come down on this debate.
READ … Teach your children to READ … I firmly believe that much of the tragedy in the human condition would be eliminated through the expansion of the mind and sensibilities that takes place through the simple act of READING BOOKS. Not asking you to read my books, Just set the example and teach your children to READ BOOKS!

Best – Glenn

Mystery Reader’s Circle Selects ‘A Desert View’ as a Pick of the Day

Just wanted to give a quick update and let you know that Mystery Reader’s Circle has included ‘A Desert View’ as a Pick of the Day. Always grateful to James Moushon and his great site at HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle. Click on the link and check it out for recommendations on great books by Independent Authors, including James and myself.

 Hope all is well with everyone. Have a great weekend and do some smiling.

Glenn

 

Writing – A Short Thought…Love it, or Leave it

Writer Tee Shirt

I suppose the point of this Tee Shirt message is that writing is not as easy as it looks, and that’s true…but this makes it sound like it is a terror…a frightening, horrific experience. It’s not. Writing is a joy and a craft that you must learn in order to succeed. There are good days and bad days like everything else, but if you are a writer and feel this way about your craft…give it up. It’s not for you.

I love writing and being a writer. If you do not love it…leave. Life is too short to spend it in this kind of agony just so you can call yourself a …Writer.

And with that, I leave you to your Labor Day Weekend, hoping that it will be a wonderful time for you and yours.

Book Review – To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: A Look Into Our Soul

To Kill A MockingbirdIf ever there were a book I would consider voting for as the “Great American Novel”, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the one…the only one. It is hard for me to say that there is a one great anything. Times change, technology improves, and social views evolve. In short, we are never the same from one generation to the next and trying to pick anything that spans the gap and the differences as the greatest of all is difficult, if not a complete waste of time.

When it comes to literature, there are so many fine books and so many great writers that trying to narrow the selection to the “one great one” interferes with valuable reading time…generally. But then there is To Kill A Mockingbird.

Harper Lee’s story takes place in the small southern Alabama town and county of Maycomb during the depression era 1930’s. She paints a picture of the community and the people populating it through the eyes of Scout (Jean Louise Finch) the daughter of a prominent local attorney, Atticus Finch. As the book opens, Scout is preparing to begin her first year in grade school.

She and her brother Jem and friend Dill pass the summer doing the things children did before the age of video games and twenty-four hour television. They played. They entertained themselves. They went on adventures. They told stories about the frightening, recluse who lives on the corner. They were children.

They did all of this under the watchful eyes of Calpurnia, the black woman who is housekeeper and surrogate mother to the family. Scout describes her as “all angles and bone…with a hand as wide as a bed slat and twice as hard…”

In the Finch household, Cal is treated as an equal, a partner in the upbringing of the children and an indispensable member of the family. That is in the Finch household. Outside their small world, things are different in the community of Maycomb.

I find Calpurnia to be one of the most interesting of characters in the story. She is a strong and independent black woman who makes her way in the world dominated by whites. Scout is amazed on one occasion when visiting at Cal’s church that she spoke differently to other blacks, using their particular colloquialisms and dialect. It was very different from the way she spoke with Scout and Jem in the Finch home. Scout had no idea that Calpurnia lived this “double life” relating differently to the two cultures in Maycomb.

In short, racial prejudice reigns, as was common in the time. Blacks, Negroes as polite members of the community called African Americans in that day, are second-class citizens with a place in the universe of Maycomb that is always inferior to the whites. Even the most white-trashy, ignorant, slovenly of whites holds a place in the community superior to any of the blacks.

As a southerner who grew up in the south in the 1950s, I remember the “Jim Crowe” days. I went to schools that were not desegregated. I saw white only water fountains and restrooms. Black children were to be treated kindly, but we did not associate as a rule. They had their world. We had ours.

As Scout paints a picture of Maycomb through the experiences she shares with Jem and Dill, it begins as a sort of “Mayberry-esque”, idyllic memoir of her childhood. But events open her eyes to the underlying darkness of their culture. Maycomb is not the perfect little world she thought.

She is guided by her father, Atticus, through the twisting cultural maze she inhabits. He teaches her not to judge others, but to get in their shoes and walk around a while to see how the world looks from their perspective. Most importantly, never kill a mockingbird because all they do is sing and bring happiness without harming anyone else. Atticus is the rock in Scout’s world, giving her rope to explore and float about on the sea, but always there to anchor her safely.

Brother Jem (short for Jeremy) and friend Dill are her conscience and mentors in a way. Dill, rambunctious but sensitive, opens her eyes to things she had missed in their small community. Jem, sees and struggles with the contradictions around them…white people they have known all their lives as good people, doing things and saying things that they know to be wrong.

Through her innocence and confused effort to understand what is happening around her, we see that things are socially complicated. Whites harboring racial prejudice are not all evil as Scout describes their interactions. Instead, you get the feeling that they are ignorant, not seeing the contradictions in their lives, one instant treating a black member of the community in a courteous friendly manner, the next making sure they understand their place in the community…second class.

Some, however, are evil. The Ewells are the evilest of them all. Their conflict with Atticus and his defense of a black man, Tom Robinson, accused but innocent of a terrible crime leads to a chilling climax in the concluding chapters.

In the event that there is someone who has not read the book or seen the movie, I will not include any plot spoilers here. Just know that it is a gripping story with a conclusion that keeps you on the edge of your seat before Lee allows you to take a breath in the final chapter.

The prose is superb. The story is engaging and riveting. There are moments that will make you smile, others that will make you angry and some that might bring tears to your eyes.

Most of all, Harper Lee’s use of a little girl, Scout, to bring the narrative to life is masterful. It is not a children’s book, but through the eyes of a child, we see ourselves and the world around us. For me, that is why To Kill A Mockingbird is the great American novel. It spans the gap of generations, and through Scout’s eyes, looks into our soul.

KENP Is In…and the Whiners are Out in Force

manSo here it is…the great reveal…the dreaded month when Amazon unveiled KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) and actually paid authors for what they are worth. Oh, the unfairness of it all! (sob of despair, hand raised dramatically to the forehead.)

What the hell is the old man talking about? Fair question.

I know that this audience is a mix of readers and writers, so for the non-Kindle Select readers and writers among you, allow me to explain.

 A Personal Choice

For several years, Amazon has had a program called Kindle Select for authors. Some authors, like me, have opted into it. Others have not. It is a personal choice. Amazon does not pressure anyone to join the program. You may publish your books on Amazon whether you are a Kindle Select author or not.

There are several reasons why I have chosen to list my books with Amazon Kindle Select. For one, it simplifies the publishing process, so that I can focus on the core of my business…writing.

Amazon is the biggest marketplace, and I am fine with that. I tried publishing with other markets (Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Lulu, I-Books, etc.) and sold almost no books. In some of those markets, my total sales were…0…nada…a big goose egg.

So, I made the choice to go with Amazon, the largest market with the best business model. And let’s be honest, Amazon Kindle led the E-book revolution and continues to do so. It has worked out pretty well for me.

 Writing is a Business

Do not forget that writing is a business as well as a creative literary art. You have heard me say it before…authors like to eat, live under a roof, drink an occasional beer, go visit the grandkids…you know the things other people do.

When you publish on Amazon, you have the choice of publishing as a Kindle Direct Publishing author (KDP) or as a KDP Select Author. KDP Select requires you to publish exclusively with Amazon for a ninety-day period. At the end of the ninety days, you can drop out or re-enroll in the program. Your choice.

 Incentives

Amazon offers a number of promotional and income incentives to Select authors in exchange for their exclusivity. These include the option to offer your books at a reduced rate during a “Countdown Deal”, or to offer them free as part of a promotional package. Many of my readers have taken advantage of these promotions, and I am happy they have. Otherwise, they might be asking who the hell is Glenn Trust and why is he pissing off all of the other writers out there?

You may also, opt into the “Matchbook” program, which allows a reader who purchased a print copy of your book also to buy a Kindle version at a reduced price. A Select author can take advantage of these promotional opportunities for any of their enrolled books during the ninety-day period.

Some authors, like me, appreciate and use these programs regularly. Others do not. As I said, no one is coerced into joining the KDP Select program and many prefer to market in their own way through various other marketing channels. I prefer to write and try to become better at writing than spend time working all of the other markets for minimal returns. There is no right or wrong to this. As I said, it’s a personal choice.

 I Like It

Another incentive to enroll books in KDP Select is the opportunity to be compensated for the books that are borrowed through Amazon’s Lending Library (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited (KU) programs for readers. This is a benefit for readers and authors, and another indicator that Amazon has a great business model that is innovative.

Amazon did not have to pay authors for borrows in the KOLL/KU programs. When someone goes to a library and checks out one of my books that the library has purchased, I receive no compensation for that library lend. I wouldn’t expect to.

But, it was in their business interest, and mine, to implement the program and pay authors for the borrows as an incentive to enroll in KDP Select.

It’s fair and I applaud their business acumen. As I have repeatedly said in this post and others, writing is a business as well as art. Forget that and you will be a very hungry writer.

Amazon could have allowed people to pay their fees for Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, borrow the books and not pay authors for the borrows/lends. But, they do pay us. Last month they committed $11 million to be distributed to authors who have books borrowed through the KDP Select program. I like it.

Just so you know, I am not a shill for Amazon. I receive no compensation for posting my opinions here or elsewhere. I am a businessperson whose business is writing books. I try to put out a quality product so that my readers come back and want to read more books. My income comes from readers who like my work.

 Suck It Up

In the past, the KOLL/KU program ran in this way – A customer would borrow a book and authors would receive a lump sum for each book borrowed. It didn’t matter what type of book it was, how long it was, or what the quality of the writing was. If your book was listed in Kindle Select, you were paid a standard rate every month based on the total number of books that were borrowed. In other words, you received your proportionate share of the incentive money for books borrowed.

It was always a bit of a thorn in the side of some authors, me included, that all books were rated the same and valued exactly the same. Let’s be honest, if you read a lot, you know there are good books and…uh…not so good books out there.

Having said that, we sucked it up and went on writing…it’s what we do. After all, the KU/KOLL program was a bonus, an incentive, for being a Kindle Select author. The income from the books borrowed was a supplement to our regular royalties. It was never intended to be an author’s primary source of royalty income.

Besides, I need to write and whining takes too much energy away from putting words together into coherent sentences. The program wasn’t entirely fair to writers who spent months working on a novel. They were competing against authors who were cranking out short 100 page (or less sometimes) pieces and enrolling them in KDP Select, but we accepted it in the spirit of goodwill that Amazon offered it.

I suppose it would be asking too much for whiners to work within the new, fairer rules and Suck It Up, as we did in the past.

 They Got It

I have to give Amazon credit. They finally understood the inequity of their program…another sign of their business acumen and fair play.

Not all books are of equal length or of equal quality and value. They got it.

They came up with an extraordinary idea. Pay authors in the Kindle Select program for every page read of the borrowed books. No more paying the writer of a hundred-page short cranked out en masse at the same rate as the writer who spends months fine-tuning a lengthy novel. Instead, pay both of those authors for the actual pages read…a much better indicator of the quality of an author’s work. If readers keep turning the pages, they must like what they are reading.

The playing field is now equal. It is a free and open marketplace, and I, for one, am grateful for it.

 Seems Fair to Me

But, it has become the source of considerable controversy…and Whining.

Many are not happy. Amazon is unfair, they cry. Amazon is a bully. Mean old Amazon, “I’d like to put a flaming sack of shit on their doorstep.” (Yes, I actually saw one comment that said exactly that.)

Many are throwing public tantrums, posting long diatribes in social media and blogs wailing against Amazon, and those of us who happen to support the new program. Their verbal weeping and gnashing of teeth reads as if their heads were about to spin off their shoulders.

Why are they so unhappy?

Because those authors who were cranking out small little pieces and flooding the market on Kindle Select and KU/KOLL are no longer able to dominate and receive the lion’s share of that revenue. Now, they are paid, as am I, by the number of pages of their borrowed books that are actually read.

Seems fair to me. Write a god book and people read it. Put out a book that is poorly written and readers move on to something else.

 Gaming the System

See what has been happening? Some writers have been gaming Amazon’s system, a practice that is no longer possible.

In the past, they could throw out anything, enroll it in Kindle Select, where the minimum price of the book must be $2.99 if you are on the 70% royalty plan. To put that in perspective, many fine and lengthy novels are priced at 2.99 on Amazon. Admittedly many are by newer authors who are trying to develop their audience, but that does not diminish the quality of their work.

But the whiners were deliberately pricing a short piece that may have taken an afternoon to write at the same price as a full-length novel. (Okay maybe that’s a little harsh, let’s say it took them a week in some cases, even two weeks) The abbreviated length of the book drove readers to borrow the book and not waste money on a purchase. They were then paid for every lend/borrow of the book…just like me and everyone else.

Apparently, some of these authors were making their livelihood in this way, inundating the Amazon KOLL/KU marketplace with cheap, often poorly written bunkum. And apparently that is why the quality of some of the books you buy or borrow on Amazon is so poor. I know; I’m a reader too.

 Don’t Like It? Drop Out.

For those writers who are unhappy with the new Amazon method, I will point out, once again, that the KU/KOLL was never intended to be the primary source of a writer’s income. It was meant to be a benefit, bonus, an incentive to writers for enrolling in the Kindle Select Author program. Don’t like it? Drop out.

I won’t mince words here, as I suspect I have already pissed off any of those writing whiners that have read this far. If KOLL/KU has been your primary source of royalties, then you have been gaming the system, and I am extraordinarily happy that Amazon caught on and changed it.

By the way, I am not criticizing shorter works. I have even read a couple of the shorter work writers who also happen to be among the complainers. They are good enough to make a living through sales. They don’t need to game the system. But it may take a little more effort and time spent in writing. Isn’t that what we got into this business for, anyway?

I also have a couple of favorite authors specializing in shorter books and whose books I read avidly. I won’t mention their names here because I don’t want this post to negatively impact them or their book sales.

If you write good books that happen to be short in length and want more pages read, write more books. You might also consider selling your books at a reasonable price to drive up actual sales. In the time it takes me to write one of The Hunters Series novels, you could complete two, three, maybe four shorter works, depending on their quality and length.

If you write longer books and want more pages read, write better books. It’s that simple. It’s fair.

 Do It Downwind

Amazon has no obligation to guarantee you an audience or any certain level of income. They are not the bad guys. They are a business. Writing is a business. If you don’t get that, then you might consider doing something else. Part of business is fair competition.

The new pages read method simply means that if you write an excellent book, one that people will want to read, you will be paid. If you do not, you will not be paid. It’s all about customer/reader satisfaction and competition in the free marketplace.

I’m okay with that. I am happy to compete on the playing field that has been leveled…finally.

In addition to fairly compensating all Select authors, the new KENP program solves another problem. It will increase the quality of the books that are available to KOLL/KU readers. Want your pages read…Write A Good Book!

Amazon wants to satisfy their customers. As authors, why wouldn’t we wish to do the same? The only reason I can think of is that some have become committed to perpetuating the scam and the easy way out instead of to writing.

Thank you again, Amazon for leveling the field. As for the whiners…please do it downwind. I’m working.

Genesis of ‘Eyes of the Predator’

Cover 042513 Reduced Some have asked where the idea for “Eyes of the Predator” came from. It is, admittedly, a dark story. After reading it, some have queried my wife as to whether she sleeps with one eye open, lying inches away from the brain that envisioned such a dark story.

So here’s the scoop. Like most of my stories, ‘Predator’ spent some years in the boiling and simmering process inside my head, before I began putting actual words on a computer screen. (no I don’t use pen and paper, pencils and tablets, or typewriters. I am actually able to keyboard quite proficiently for an old guy, thank you)

I was 14 years old and living in Atlanta in 1965. The City was rocked by the abduction and presumed murder of a young newlywed at Lenox Square a large shopping center that is now a huge upscale mall in the Buckhead area. Although her body was never found, her bloodstained car was. The incident was covered repeatedly in the media for months.

You have to understand that Atlanta 1965 was a different world from the sprawling metropolis of today.

In some parts of the city, mothers still left their babies in strollers outside stores while they went in and shopped. It did not occur to anyone that someone would harm a child, or for that matter a young newlywed walking across a parking lot.

The airport (called then simply Atlanta Airport not the ponderous Hartsfield – Jackson International Airport) was not international. To fly overseas you had to first fly somewhere else.

The Atlanta Braves would not come to the city from Milwaukee until 1966. There was no NFL Atlanta Falcons.

The tallest building downtown was One Park Tower, also called 34 Peachtree Street. It stood a dazzling thirty-two stories tall. Today, it is the 24th tallest building in Atlanta. As of this writing the tallest is the Bank of America Plaza at 1,023 feet (three times the height of the old One Park Tower building), and no doubt taller buildings are currently on the drawing boards.

As young teenagers without a driver’s license, we rode the bus downtown, went on dates and walked around the city, completely at ease and without parents worrying about our safety. I would not be so free and easy about that today.

In short, Atlanta was then still, somewhat, a quiet, backwater city, and the disappearance of the young woman made a deep impression on the mind of a lot of people, including me. The idea that people could just disappear permanently was deeply disconcerting.

In those days, no one had ever heard of Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. I remember that even in school (Yes, believe it or not I was young enough to be in high school) teachers and students were in shock that such an occurrence could happen in 1965. We talked about it, it was in the news for months. When a new lead would be announced, the media coverage would increase again for weeks. The city was truly traumatized, and Atlanta joined the ranks of other big cities…with big city crime.

In the seventies and eighties I was policing in the Atlanta area, DeKalb County to be exact. Periodically, someone, almost always a young woman would disappear from some parking lot. The end was never good for them. I met some very bad people, almost always men and witnessed the ongoing patterns of abuse responding to domestic violence calls. I became aware in a very real way that some people live lives of terror and fear right under our noses.

I also became aware of the fact that there are human predators in the world. Like other predators, they seek weakness and vulnerability in their victims and the opportunity to exercise their will. I also learned that for many, if not most, the driving motivation behind their terrible acts is power, the ability to inflict pain on others. Sex for many of these predators is secondary and another way of controlling and inflicting pain.

I realize that “Eyes of the Predator: The Pickham County Murders” may be a bit intense for some readers. I apologize for this. It tells a story, that, while not a true story, is intended to be realistic and “true to life”. By that I mean the story is not based on any single case or event. It is a composite sketch of predators and their victims.

An additional parallel plot in the book is the parental abuse of the main female character. Again, this plotline is not based on any true story. It is intended to paint a realistic picture of abuse and the desperation that drives some young people to do desperate things and to seek escape from their personal hell.

In any event, I realize the story is somewhat dark. Truth be known, I found writing some of the passages to be deeply disturbing but as the characters acted out on my computer screen, they took on their own lives and acted for themselves. I simply recorded the action as I saw it.

I hope you enjoy the story. In the end, that is all that it is. If there are lessons to be learned, maybe we can all learn them.

Write Right, Damn It!

Proper Use of You'reUh oh…the old fart is in a bad mood.

Deep breath…no not really. I just came across one of my pet peeves…the improper use of the words – Your and You’re. They are not interchangeable people!

Now I don’t pretend to be an expert in grammar and punctuation. I have my struggles, along with my never-ending battle with sentence-ending prepositions, if you can understand where I’m at…I mean the point at which I am…Bullshit…I mean where I’m at.

Still, there are certain fundamental grammatical forms that, when used improperly, are just plain incorrect because they MEAN SOMETHING DIFFERENT than what is intended. This is not the same as improper conjugation of a verb or using a comma instead of a semicolon, or the aforementioned preposition-ending sentence. I can see those errors and still understand the meaning of the passage I am reading. In truth, I also comprehend what is meant when someone misuses Your and You’re, but I always wonder if the writer does.

So, before I go any further (not farther, by the way) let’s get this straight.

Your: An adjective that describes the possession of something tangible or intangible. Ex. Your book, Your idea.

– You’re: A contraction of the pronoun You and the verb Are, (1st person plural of the verb infinitive ‘to be’ which is used to link the subject (read pronoun You) to some information about the subject (read pronoun You). Ex. You’re never going to be published if you don’t (another contraction) learn the difference between Your and You’re!

 Get it?

Okay, so what’s the point old man, you ask. Just this, serious writing requires the same attention to detail that a carpenter puts into building a cabinet, or an engineer designing an airplane.

Words have meanings. When I read a sentence that misuses simple vocabulary, I wonder how much time and thought went into the writing of the piece.

I’m not referring to dialogue…although the You’re contraction should be correctly used there as well. We all know that dialogue must be real to be meaningful. That means that it frequently is written the way people actually speak. My books are full of southernisms and dialect that is intended to bring color and realism to the action.

But if I want to say “You are the very distasteful offspring of a female dog” as spoken by a character in a story, I might say:

“You’re one mean son of a bitch” (I might even throw ‘asshole’ in for emphasis.)

I would not say:

Your one mean son of a bitch.”

Get my point?

Okay. That’s enough ranting by an old curmudgeon.

This to my writer friends, work,  hone your skills, learn your trade the way a carpenter or engineer does. Learn how to use words; don’t be used by them.

I mentioned in my last post that truly becoming a writer requires work, but the work is a thrill ride that I would not trade for anything else. When you know that the words you have written have found a way into the hearts of readers, that in some way they have been absorbed into their life experience, you will embrace the work of writing as well as the passion.

Easy Reading Hard Writing

Want to Be A Writer? Cut the Crap!

Steinbeck - Writers Clowns

Welcome to the world of Clowns and Trained Seals…or somewhere in between.

A little over two and a half years ago, I published my first novel, Eyes of the Predator, on Amazon. I make no claims to be an expert in writing, publishing or making a ton of money as an author (I wish), but I have had a modicum of success and a few observations that might be of help if you are a new Independent Author. Or you might, just decide the old man is full of…well, you know. Only way to know is to read on, or not…your choice. I did learn that lesson early on in my writing career.

First, learn to write. Seems to be a no-brainer, right? Not so much.

If you haven’t already discovered it for yourself, there is a lot of junk out on the various ebook publishers’ sites. When I first started publishing my novels, I read that one way to become known is to do book reviews for other Independent Authors. I thought, great idea, and started building relationships on Social Media and soon had a few requests to review books for authors. I soon stopped that practice. Why? Because most of what I was reading was silly drivel, poorly written and poorly edited. I could not in good conscience give a positive review, and my personal feeling is that if I can’t say something positive about an author, struggling as I am in my own writing experience, I prefer to say nothing at all.

So, learn to write. How do you do that? Pretty simple really…write.

Oh, you can spend months researching, studying, reading, listening to advice from “experts”, but in the end you must write. I would also add, that you must read. Reading increases your feel for language, the conveying of emotion, sensory perception, drama and tension through words.

When, I go back and reread one of my novels, I invariably find passages that I wish I had written differently. Maybe one day I will return to the manuscripts and rework them, but for now, I push on, and I…yes, that’s correct…I write.

Second, cut the crap. Why, Glenn, whatever do you mean? Writing is my passion…my calling…he/she said, as he/she puts a wrist to their forehead and gazes dreamily into space overwhelmed by the majesty of the artistic calling of authorship…Bullshit.

Once you have decided to string words and sentences together in such a way that others will want read them, it is time to cut the drama…and the crap. Trust me, readers don’t give a flying &8$# about your calling. They want a good story, a riveting plot, characters they can relate to…they want to be entertained, or educated, or elevated in some way. They want to laugh, cry, feel fear, and hope, happiness and pain…they want a good book!

I am constantly annoyed by the drama I see in various writer’s groups, seminars, circles etc. I freely admit that I am not a young man and I tend to be easily annoyed by many things and people anyway, but I have a special distaste for the need of some to create drama in their lives. I do not speak of the drama in a good plot. I am talking about the personal, self-inflicted, breast-beating, look at me world sort of drama, or as I have termed it…crap.

For those authors who feel they must opine about their calling as a writer, I say…shut the hell up! Want to know what may be preventing you from fulfilling your “calling”, your “passion”? Forgive me for being direct (actually I don’t care if you forgive me or not), but the self-indulgent, narcissistic need to explain your calling and passion is sure to inhibit your focus on what you claim to be…a writer…. Additionally, it will annoy others (read Glenn). Seriously, cut the personal drama and write. You will be surprised at how much better you become at your “calling”.

 Third, be careful from whom you accept advice (including from me). Find your own way. Discover your own writing voice, style and way of sharing your stories with the world.

That is not to say that you can’t mimic styles. We all do, whether we admit it or not. Somewhere along the way, however, your style of writing becomes yours…personal and recognizable as belonging to you.

Fourth, writing is your job…your business. If you say to yourself, “I write for the joy of writing. I don’t care if anyone reads my words or not.” I say to you…Bullshit. (I use that word a lot I guess…call it my writing voice. I found it years ago,)

If you feel that way, you are a hobbyist. You are not a writer. Sorry if that sounds harsh. There is a place in the world for hobbyists, but not in the world of writers.

My advice, don’t take yourself as a writer too seriously (see Steinbeck’s quote above), but take the business of writing, damned seriously. Those of you who are engaged in the struggle to become published authors know that writing words means that you want someone, somewhere to read them. That’s the point of it all! There is no shame in being honest and admitting it. Deny it and you are a damned liar, or supremely confused about what being a writer entails.

How do you treat writing as a business? Have a work ethic. Go to work, so to speak, daily and write. Sit down and do it…stop talking about it. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Imagine that.

Fifth, promote your writing…your business. In fact, promote, promote, promote. No way around it, unless you have one of the premier literary agents and a sweet contract with one of the big publishing houses (In which case, you will likely not be reading this post).

Learn marketing and promotion so that others (call them readers…or even customers) know you are a writer and want to read what you have written. Be shameless about it. Are you proud of your work? Then promote it. If you don’t, no one else will.

Marketing and Promotion is a big topic. I am currently gathering some data that may be of interest to you about independent marketing. I will share it in an upcoming post…maybe. Until then, do what I did. Figure it out and keep promoting.

Oh, by the way, you must have a backlist…more books…lots more books. If you write one book, promote the hell out of it and have some success, readers will want to read more from you. If there is nothing to read, they (your readers…customers) will soon go somewhere else. I learned this the hard way. I’m slow, but eventually I figure things out. So as I have said above, write and keep writing!

 If you are a writer, and I have offended you…well, it wouldn’t be the first time. If you are a “writer by calling” (sigh of passionate joy at the thought of your literary calling)…I don’t care.

But, if you are serious about writing…if you want to write…take the mystery out of it and…Write!

%d bloggers like this: