Why Not More Free Books? Here’s Why

I am asked occasionally…okay, frequently…why I don’t offer more books for free. It’s a fair question. We all like free stuff. I know I do. So readers sometimes ask why I don’t just put my books out there for them to read at no charge.

The answer is simple. I like to eat, and live under a roof, and drive a car, and buy my wife a birthday present, drink an occasional beer and do all of the other things that “normal” people do. If I give my books, my work, away for free all of the time, I won’t be able to do any of that. Pretty basic economics, huh?

Independent writers/publisher like myself, (Indies) walk a fine line between promotion to gain market recognition and just giving stuff away with no purpose. I freely admit that when I offer a book promotion and give one away free for a time, it is to expose new readers to my work and hopefully encourage them to buy, purchase, fork over a couple of bucks for another book. That’s the reason, not because I am a prince of a human being.

Does that make me a bad guy? Those who rely on me to provide some small income to the household don’t think so. We have bills to pay like everyone else.

I find it interesting that people who would never freely give away the services they perform or products they make or sell do expect Indies like me to give our work product away. Now, mind you, I am not bitter about that. I understand. As I said at the beginning, I like free stuff as much as anyone, so if it’s free and I want it, I’ll take it for free. But I don’t EXPECT things I like to be free.

And that brings me to the point of this post. I, like other writers in the digital age, have discovered that there are some readers who are only interested in downloading and reading free books. That’s a shame. They are missing some damned fine work by authors who limit their free promotions.

While I don’t blame them for looking for free books, I do feel compelled to encourage them to understand that if all books are free, soon there won’t be any more books. Writers require money to survive, like anyone else, and my Indie writer colleagues and I will soon find something else to do if we can’t pay the bills. If all books are free, eventually, the overall quality of books available will decrease.

I do try to keep prices down and affordable, but here’s a breakdown of what an author actually makes on a book:

  • Average book writing, editing, and publication time – 1,000 hours (varies a little depending on the book and author, but this would be an average for a major novel of 80,000 to 100,000 words.)
  • Price per average book – $2.99
  • Average royalty per sale after fees – 2.02
  • Hourly return per book sold – 2/10 of one penny (Do the math- 2.02 dived by 1000 hours)

You get the picture. If I wanted to pay myself just $10 an hour for the work that goes into a single book, I would have to sell 4,950 books. Giving them away means that I work…work hard…for free.

My question to those who only want free books — Would you do that? Work for Free? I doubt it.

So don’t be upset that I don’t have more free books available. I am thrilled to offer a free book to everyone on occasion. In fact, you can join our group by signing up on this page and receive a free book, but if you like my work, I hope that the small price we charge for a book is worth the return you receive as a reader.

I and my Indie colleagues do work very hard to provide quality work and the best possible reading experience for you.

Best wishes as always,


Where Did the Story for “Eyes of the Predator” Come From? Here’s the Answer

Over the years, many have asked where the idea for Eyes of the Predator came from. If you were wondering, here it is.

I was 14 years old and living in Atlanta in 1965. The City was rocked by the abduction and presumed murder of Mary Shotwell Little 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 remember, this was a different world. 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.

Atlanta was traumatized by the disappearance of Mary Little. No one had ever heard of Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. I remember that even in school, teachers and students were in shock that something so terrible could happen. Keep in mind that in 1965 Atlanta was still a somewhat quiet, backwater city.

In short, it made a deep impression on the mind of a lot of people, including me, and the idea that a human being could just disappear permanently was deeply disconcerting. Thus began the story forming in the back of my mind.

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 may be a bit intense for some readers. I don’t apologize for this. It tells a story that, although not real, is true to life. I don’t write fantasy, at least to this point, and my goal in every story is to make it true to the reality in which we live.

A parallel sub-plot in the book is the parental abuse of the main female character. Again this plotline is true to life but not real. It is intended to paint a picture of abuse within a family but does not represent any particular family or person.

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 about our humanity, maybe we can all learn them.

Best wishes,


A Dream

I watched the speech on August 28, 1963. Yes, I was around then. I was 12 and no, I wasn’t particularly racially or politically astute. I watched it with Estelle.

Estelle was the black woman who took care of our family while my mother worked. There were five of us, and I was the oldest. My siblings were 3, 6, 9, and 11. Wisely, my mother did not entrust them all to my care while she was at work.

Estelle was our second mother for a year or so. We liked Estelle. She was funny, gruff at times, motherly when needed and tolerated no foolishness from us, which is not to say my brother Michael and I didn’t try our own brand of foolishness on her. In our daily battles to assert ourselves, she asked for no quarter and gave none. I remember hiding outside from the belt she had waiting for me when hunger finally overcame me and I ventured inside. She was right to use it on me when she did. Belt or not, we liked Estelle. I believe she liked us.

On the day of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream Speech,” I returned to the house sometime in the afternoon from whatever neighborhood mischief I was engaged in or causing. Estelle sat on the sofa in our little living room. The chores were done, my brothers and sisters were either fed and napping or playing in the yard. Estelle sat, leaning forward, her elbows resting on her knees, her eyes fixed on the small black and white television across the room.

“What’s on?” I asked and plopped onto the floor by the sofa.

“Hush,” she said.

She didn’t try to explain who Dr. King was or why she wanted to hear him speak. I could sit quietly and watch or get out. I sat and watched.

The flickering images on the screen showed a vast throng gathered on the Washington Mall with the Lincoln Memorial in the background. I recognized it because I had been there. We lived in Petersburg, Virginia and had made the hundred mile journey to Washington D.C. several times.

“I know that place. I been there,” I said.

“Hush,” she repeated, more sharply this time. Her eyes never left the television, silent as if she were in church quieting an unruly child.

I focused on the screen, more interested in the crowd than the commentary from the broadcasters. Finally, they stopped speaking and Doctor King came onto the screen.

I looked at Estelle. Her wide black brow furrowed in concentration. I knew that something important was about to happen. I just didn’t know what.

I tried to follow the speech. I have to admit that much of it was lost on me. Maybe because I was twelve, maybe because I wasn’t the smartest kid on the block.

What wasn’t lost on me was Estelle’s reaction..intense, focused, Dr. King’s every word soaking into her soul…a religious experience, a moment of faith and belief. I understood that day that he spoke to her and to millions like her. I’ve learned since then that he spoke to all of us.

When he spoke of his dream that one day all children, all mankind, would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, he said it to all… to white and black, Latino and Asian…to everyone. I believe the racial divide today would evaporate if all people and all races actually worked to make the dream a reality and focused on the content of character and not skin color and labels.

I admit that I didn’t understand that then. I didn’t remember the words of the speech until a few years later when I read them and then remembered that day, sitting on the floor of our little house, watching the black and white images with Estelle, trying to follow Dr. King’s words.

What I did understand that day was that Estelle was profoundly moved by his words, by his dream. As he ended the speech, I looked at her face, more curious than anything else. Tears glistened in her eyes and rolled down her round cheeks. There was hope on her face and a burning desire in her eyes that the words and dream were true, would be true one day.

We moved away to another city a few weeks later. I never saw Estelle again. I have never forgotten her though. I still remember the tears and hope in her eyes that the words would be true.


Sanctioned Murder – The Evolution of the Political Elite

Sanctioned Murder is a story that deals with the evolution of a political elite in the United States. It explores the possibility that a popular, peaceful uprising of voters determines that the best way to remove corruption and patronage from the political system is to use the ballot box to remove the political aristocracy that controls the system.

If your source of power, influence and wealth were about to be taken from you, what would you do to protect it? In Sanctioned Murder, the political elite would do…everything

In the end, the story is a murder mystery/thriller that along the way raises a number of questions about our system and our departure from a government of citizen public servants to one of professional politicians.

As a note, it was written and published in 2013 so don’t make assumptions about the message having any particular leanings towards any political party or the current state of politics in America. As a personal rule, I dislike all politicians and all political parties….but that’s just me.

If you like political conspiracy thrillers you might want to check out Sanctioned Murder. The Hunters are back doing what they do best.

Hope your day is great and Best Wishes,




Do You Ever Wish You Could Write it Over?


Do I ever wish I could write it over? Yeah, I do.

The thing is, writing and publishing books is not golf. There are no Mulligans. Once a writer commits words to public consumption, they are out there. No do-over changes that.

Yes, as an independent writer/publisher I can, in fact, have a sort of Mulligan anytime I want. I could pull every book from their sales platform and just write them again.

Should I Rewrite?

The question is, should I? For me, the answer is no. Those words have been read, considered, maybe loved or possibly rejected, and they are indelibly out there. Rewriting a story at that point seems to bring an element of dishonesty to the creative process, like saying, “Never mind that first story. I didn’t really mean it. Try this version.”

The truth is, no matter how perfectly a writer crafts a story, invariably he or she finds ways to improve on it when they read it; at least, they think it would be an improvement. Of course, by that time, everyone else has read it too. The fact is that pretty much every author I know wishes they could rewrite a book they have out.

Edit –Take the Time to Get it Right.

Mind you; I’m not talking about editing, revising and rewriting as part of the the proofing process, preparatory to publishing. In the words of Ernest Hemingway in his 1958 interview with George Plimpton, “I rewrote the ending to ‘Farewell to Arms,’ the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.”

That should be done every time. Well, maybe not thirty-nine times, unless you feel the need, but you should take the time to get it right. Then let it go.

Most writers know that, although some balk at the idea of having their baby mutilated. They consider every word that proceeds from their fevered imagination to be precious and irreplaceable. Balderdash! (Yeah, I’m trying to clean up my language)

The idea of some heartless editor who just doesn’t grasp the nuances of their prose redlining their words is nightmarish to them. Writers who obsess over their creation, hackles rising on the back of their necks when an editor, proofreader, beta reader, reviewer or friend dares to make a suggestion, are generally writers of the pretentious, self-indulgent sort of stuff I will never read. But more on editing in another post. For now, I’ll just say, get over yourself.

Back to the issue of actually rewriting a book, or parts of one. My first novel, Eyes of the Predator was an absolute masterpiece … I thought anyway.

Yes, I did edit it, had a proofreader go over my grammar and punctuation, had several beta readers go through it page by page and give suggestions. Some gave me reams of pages with ideas on how to say things, and even what I should say.

Many of the suggestions I used in the published version. Some I did not.

For example, one suggestion from a beta reader was that I should not abbreviate the African Methodist Episcopal Church located down in fictional Pickham County, Georgia as the A.M.E. Church. I ignored that one, despite the reader’s sincere protest that I was violating the rules of grammar by including an abbreviation in my prose without first giving it in full for the reader followed by the abbreviation in parentheses.

The thing is, I wasn’t writing a thesis and anyone who has lived in the south knows that the A.M.E. Church is called that … The A.M.E. Church. Nobody, including members of the church, call it by its full name. It’s just the way it is. I decided that a sense of reality was much more important to the story than grammatical exactitude.

Don’t Do It!

So Predator was published. Sales were actually pretty good, considering I was absolutely nobody (I’m still nobody, but not exactly on the bottom tier of nobodies). Then I made the mistake of going back, while I was working on my second novel, and reading my first novel. I don’t know what I was thinking. If you are a writer let me give you some advice — Don’t do that! Just focus on your next novel.

I found pages, chapters, and entire sections that I highlighted in my Kindle with the intention to completely rewrite them. I’m not just talking about edits and revisions. I’m talking about yanking them out and changing them completely. My work on the second book almost came to a screeching halt.

A Pointless Exercise

Eventually, I calmed down somewhat. My wife pointed out that the reviews were good except for one douche bag (her word not mine) who even admitted in the review he hadn’t read the book. He objected that a newcomer like me should have so many five star reviews and accused me of having a bunch of fake reviewers or of doing them myself. (For the record, they were not fake, and I did not do them if you are wondering) Her voice of reason pacified me, and frankly, she was right.

Since then, I almost never go back and reread my books. It is a pointless exercise. I would never have the time to go back and actually rewrite them and republish. I’ve got too many stories in my head waiting to come out. If you are a writer, I suspect that you do too. If you are a reader, you probably want to see the new stories.

No, in the end, I just have to trust that the story as it was first envisioned is the one that was supposed to be published.

Yes, my work is edited, proofread, beta read, sometimes reviewed before it is actually published. After that, I move on. If something needs to be improved in my writing, and I freely admit that there is much room for improvement, then I will work on it in my next project.

Stop Obsessing — Be the Writer You are Today

To my writer friends, I say, stop obsessing. You can’t go back and rewrite everything. Do your best impression of Hemingway and edit, extensively if necessary, and get it right the first time. Then, move on.

Making a career of writing is like embarking on a journey. You pass milestones. You go farther. You evolve. You become a better writer. Live with the writer you are today and be grateful for the one you were who started you on the journey. That writer, new and inexperienced, gave birth to the one you are today.

Audio Book Review – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Narrated by Chandler Craig

  A Delightful Treat for the Season

I have never reviewed an audiobook before. I am proud to make Chandler Craig’s narration of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, my first official audiobook review.

Knowing that some may not read the entire review, let me get the most important nugget out up front. Chandler Craig’s Narration is superb! More on that later, but do yourself a favor and pick up this delightful treat for the holiday season. Really. Do it! … Now! … Here’s the link again… Click Here.

Okay, with that important bit of encouragement out of the way, on with the review. As a point of disclosure, I received no monetary or other compensation in exchange for the review. I was offered a link to download the audiobook at no cost, which I appreciate, but which had no bearing on the review content. As always, my responsibility is to readers, and in this case, listeners.

In truth, I approached this review hesitantly at first. Audiobooks are not my customary reading format. I was a bit concerned that my native reticence about audiobooks might intervene and unjustly prejudice the review. Happily, such was not the case. One listen to the Audio Sample was enough to convince me that this was an assignment I could embrace wholeheartedly.

Two Masters Unite

So let’s get to it. First, in reviewing an audiobook there are two elements to consider, the actual book content, and the narrative presentation. In this case, the story is so well-known that an analysis of the plot seems unnecessary.

In the words of the original title published in December 1843, the book is “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas”. In the unlikely event that someone today is not familiar with the plot, here’s a quick summary.

A miserly moneychanger, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley and then on successive nights by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. As he travels through time visiting Christmases past, present, and future, Scrooge becomes aware of the narrow baseness of his own character. He seizes the opportunity to change himself and avoid the eternal chains of bondage that the ghost of Marley warns him about, and the “ghost” story ends on a positive note with a reformed Scrooge and the terrible events foreshadowed by the Ghost of Christmases to Come, negated by the changes in him.

It’s a wonderful story. There is a reason Charles Dickens is considered a 19th-century master. His ability to combine wry, satirical humor and colloquialisms of the day with elegant prose separates him from the crowd. Few, if any, can rival his ability to place the reader in the shoes of the common man in one paragraph, smoothly transitioning you to the drawing rooms of the rich in the next.

In an audiobook, the telling of the story, the interpretation of the prose into voice is the critical element to its believability. If I were to sit in front of you and read the story, I am certain that the room would empty within seconds of the opening paragraph.

Enter Chandler Craig. He too is a master. The vocal interpretations of each character is superb. There is no lag as he transforms from one instant to the next between, Scrooge, Marley, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Nephew Fred, Sister Fran, Love Interest Belle, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig … and the list goes on.

Craig embraces these characters, becomes these characters, slipping so easily from one to the next in each passage that there are never any moments of doubt. You listen enthralled, smiling at one moment, eyes moist with tears the next.

Chandler Craig Evokes the Poignancy of the Tale

Through Craig’s performance, you feel the warm, strong hand of Christmas Past on young Ebenezer’s shoulder, alone at Christmas, immersed in books with his only friends, Ali Baba and Robinson Crusoe. At these moments, Dickens offers a tender look at the innocent, solitary boy, and we feel the pain of young Ebenezer who later becomes the miser. Our sympathy for his lonely life exposes us to the loneliness we each have felt at times.

Regarding the story itself, Scrooge often is assumed to be an inherently miserly, cold-hearted man, who is forced to repent of his evil ways by the visitation of the ghosts. Personally, I don’t think that was Dickens’ intent.

There is empathy in the story for young Ebenezer, a sad poignant feeling of lost innocence. Through the device of the ghostly visits, Dickens shows us Scrooge not as an evil man, but a fallen one. Despite Marley’s warning, threat even, that Scrooge will walk the earth for eternity bound in the chains of his own forging, we see that the apparitions’ visits are more a reminder of what he could have been and of his lost innocence.

They don’t force him to change his ways. Their visits remind him of his humanity, surrounded by the bitterness he allowed to grow inside and fed by his life experience and loneliness. His evolution during the visits recalls his decency and humanity. The visits do not create something that never existed.

In the end, Scrooge is us and we are him. Dickens reminds us all of our basic humanity and tendency to lose it.

Chandler Craig does more than portray Scrooge in the usual comic book, adapted for animation way, as most do. Craig’s portrayal takes us into his humanity. The story takes on a deeper meaning with the realization that Scrooge and we are ultimately the same, struggling, sometimes failing, to retain what is good in us.

Add to that performance his ability to pull out the humor from the prose as in Dickens’ almost whimsical, tongue in cheek opening paragraphs:

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will, therefore, permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Craig nails this bit of Dickensian anecdotal humor, and there are many others scattered through the book.

You can almost hear and see Dickens chuckling to himself as he points out the inconsistency in the simile and then shrugging it off with a final ironic and self-deprecating remark, pointing to the wisdom of the ancestors standing firm and that Dickens would not disturb it or “the Country’s done for.”

As an aside, Dickens supplemented his income for many years through performance readings of A Christmas Carol. I think he would be proud and gratified by Chandler Craig’s performance.

You might have surmised from this review that I am a fan of Dickens. I am now a fan of Chandler Craig, whose virtuoso performance brought new life to an old Christmas tale and allowed me to look for a short while into and remember my own humanity.

Do yourself a favor this holiday season. Order up this audiobook edition of A Christmas Carol, in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, narrated by Chandler Craig. Then heat up the hot chocolate, pop the corn, and gather the family around.

And my rating in case you haven’t figured it out?

An emphatic 5 Stars 

Hello All,

Thought I’d let you know that the next book in The Blue Eyes Series is about a month or so out, give or take editing days.  Thinking about next projects and I was hoping for a little input from you.

I’m working on the storyline for a new series. Can’t give it away just now, but very different from the Hunters and Blue Eyes. A suspense thriller with a science back story, based on actual science.

Also, have a series planned based on the history of the character Leyland “Lylee“ Torkman from Eyes of the Predator. Have been asked a lot over the years about Lylee’s background, more than the brief chapter included in the book, so the idea came to design a series “prequel” around him, culminating with his entry into the story of Eyes of the Predator.

I’d be grateful if you would Click on the short survey at the bottom and let me know which of these you would be more interested in reading first. Also, if you have any other ideas about sequels based on characters in the books, I’d love to hear about them.

By the way, working title for the next Blue Eyes suspense thriller featuring Alice Trent is Nowhere. 

Thanks much and best wishes to all, as always,



Don’t Follow Your Dreams – You’ll Get Nowhere Except up the Backside of the Person in Front – Work Your Dream into Reality

I write books. Seriously, that’s what I get to do every day. It’s great.

I have been fortunate to author some that have achieved bestseller status, including The Hunters Series of mystery suspense thrillers. It took me a lot of years to get to that point, but I wouldn’t trade any of them for a minute. I love writing books for you and the journey that brought me here.

I am a native of the south, Georgia specifically. I spent much of my life there, but I have lived in many other places as well. We moved a lot when I was young. Eventually, we ended up back in Georgia in my teens where I finished school and went to work.

I wanted to write from an early age. A really long time ago, when I was still a young police officer in Georgia, I was writing short stories in my spare time and sending them off to magazines. One day I received one back in the mail.

Life Happened

Attached to it was a nice handwritten letter from an editor (this was long before the days of email and texts). The story manuscript was folded and smudged, and there were coffee cup rings on the edges of a couple of pages, which told me they had actually read it, maybe discussed it around an editorial table, or just used it to sop up the coffee.

In her letter, the editor said a lot of things that I don’t remember, but it was not the usual form letter that I was accustomed to receiving. It was original and personal.

She said they liked my story, had strongly considered it for publication, but that it wasn’t quite believable. Disappointed as I was, I was struck by her last words to me… “Don’t stop writing. You’re good at this. We almost bought this one.”

I remember staring at that a long time. Then I folded it up and tucked it in a file and … stopped writing.

I wish I could tell you a different story, but I can’t.  I stopped writing for many years.

There were lots of reasons. Yes, I was disappointed, but the letter that should have encouraged me not to give up was forgotten. Life happened. Dreams of writing were pushed aside by other things… important things.

Mostly I needed money for my young family. In the 1970s, police officers in Georgia were not paid a lot even by the standards of the day. I worked part-time jobs whenever I wasn’t working at the police department. Many weeks I had no days off at all.

I’m not unhappy that I did my best to take care of my family. It was the right thing to do and working for them was the joy of my life. Children grew up; then grandchildren came along. More life happened.

Then… The Internet Appeared

Then out of the blue, this thing called the internet appeared and guess what. I was at a point in life when I didn’t need to work part-time jobs every spare minute of the day. I could write again.

It’s different these days. I can publish a book whether I convince an agent or editor to read it or not. I am an independent writer/publisher, an “Indie.”

Being an Indie is not easy. There are no big marketing budgets and TV appearances to spark book sales. There is only you and me.

I like it that way. I get to write what I want and you get to read what you want with no middle-person between us. No agents or publishers dictating what the storyline will be or what sells.

It’s a partnership between us, writer and reader, and it’s a marvelous thing. The old closed publishing world that required almost a miracle to have the right person read your work is changing thanks to the digital age. I am grateful to still be around to experience it and enjoy it.

As of this writing, I am eleven novels and a collection of short stories into my writing adventure. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it.

Some years back, I left Georgia, working for a large corporation. Then I moved west and became the city manager of a small mining community in the mountains of northern Nevada. Now my wife and I live in the deserts of the far west. You got it… more life happened.

Don’t be a Follower — Make Your Dream Real

It took many years to get here. Life is like that, with lots of twists and turns and surprises. I like it that way.

Now, I write every day. I wouldn’t change a thing. One thing though… I wish sometimes I had been able to find a way to keep writing while life was happening. It’s not a regret, just an assessment, and it brings me to a bit of advice if you have read this far.

Don’t follow your dreams. Followers get nowhere except up the backside of the person in front.

Work towards your dreams. Life will happen and then happen some more. That’s as it should be, but you are the one who will make your dream a reality.

Best- Glenn

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.

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