A lot going on today for Cool Gus. Actually, we prefer to calls ourselves a publishing partner rather than a publisher. We view the author as being in charge and we facilitate the short distance between the author, who creates the product, which is story, and the reader, who consumes the product.
First, we’re blasting out seven titles for USA Today bestselling author, Janice Maynard including Hot Mail. Second, my 55th book, The Kennedy Endeavor comes out today. Third, Colin Falconer’s Naked in LA also is being published today. And, fourth, one of our authors, Jennifer Probst, has a new book coming out from Pocket, Searching for Someday.
Let’s work that backwards. Why would Cool Gus care about a book from Pocket? Because we have one title out from Jennifer Probst, Executive Seduction, and we’ll have a new series coming out in 2014, the Posse series. Our philosophy is that the better she does overall, the better for everyone. We put buy links to all her trad books in the back of our books. I think it’s short-sighted of publishers to only push their particular titles of an author. My books with 47North have links to almost all my titles.
We’ve been working with Colin Falconer for a couple of years now. He’s been a bestselling author overseas, but its been an uphill battle to gain traction in the States, but we’re finally seeing it. Silk Road is selling well and he’s been contacted by Gale Anne Hurd’s production company (The Walking Dead) about a possible theatrical option.
The Kennedy Endeavor is the second book in my Presidential series, following The Jefferson Allegiance which hit #2 nationally at Barnes and Noble when it was released (and is now only .99 for the next day). In Kennedy, we’re also trying something new and including several film clips of JFK speeches that are critical to the story. A form of transmedia, which seems to be the big buzzword these days.
So what does Cool Gus have to do today? Jen Talty is putting the finishing touches on Janice Maynard’s landing page with links to all her buy buttons. She had to reload Kennedy last night when I added a ‘fact’ page to the end, which is a trend for me lately. Since I write ‘factual fiction’, at the end of each book, I’m now listing some key facts that I weave my fiction around. I wrote this blog post and now have to hit all the social media outlets, including Twitter, Facebook. Pinterest, and more. Plus I need to put the finishing touches on a Slideshare for Kennedy which will be turned into a book trailer. We’ve got on for The Jefferson Allegiance. Also, our normal post on Wattpad goes up, as we post a new excerpt from three different books weekly. I’m also going to put the opening of Kennedy on Wattpad as its a way for readers to browse the book. And last, but not least, Cool Gus & Sassy Becca are getting washed, in time for Thanksgiving!
That gives you an idea of the range of topics I write about. Actually, Synthetic Battles Forms, shortened to SYNBAT, while the fourth book in my Green Beret series and my fourth book published, was my first foray into a ‘science fiction’ type of story. I’ve always been interested by science and while many have considered the robotic soldier, aka Terminator, I went with genetic. Perhaps it was an extension of the concept of contracting out combat—what if we could invent a creature to do our fighting for us? By the way, SYNBAT is free today on Kindle but only until Saturday.
My next science fiction project was The Rock, which remains one of my favorite books. The opening is a bit like Crichton’s Sphere, or Andromeda Strain, where a diverse team of experts is pulled together to analyze a strange message coming out of Ayers Rock. The result is something none of them expected or was trained for. My next science fiction was Area 51 and that’s continued to the present day, spinning off into the Nightstalker books.
I also wrote the Atlantis series and the second book in that series, Atlantis Bermuda Triangle is currently only .99 for the next couple of days. Interestingly, the feedback I got from readers was that the series got much better as it went on because I started placing half the book in the past using ancient battles such as Thermopylae, Custer’s Last Stand, Pickett’s charge, Isandlwanda and others. One of my favorite characters of all my books is in this book: Ragnarok, a fierce Viking warrior who must protect a seer from Valkyries, Kraken and other terrible forces.
I guess that means my writing is diverse since I’ve also written military history, thrillers, co-written romance, and a bunch of non-fiction. The Presidential series is very focused on history, with The Jefferson Allegiance being followed by The Kennedy Endeavor next month. It’s great to make a living while studying what you love. My wife and I say our ‘hobby’ is story. It’s also our livelihood. Just before the last episode of Breaking Bad, we re-watched the entire series and it was mind-blowing to see what the writers did. In fact, Breaking Bad has strongly influenced the way I view story-telling. Right now, we have a tendency to make the last thing we watch at night be a Modern Family because it puts us to sleep in a good mood. We still watch a lot of ‘murder and mayhem’ but have learned to fill our minds with something positive and funny at the end of the day.
Do you find that the last thing you do before going to bed influences your dreams and your mood the next day?
We feel Cool Gus is beginning to hit its stride with these releases. Colin has been a strong seller for us for a while, but we’re seeing his sales pick up finally here in the United States. Jennifer’s book is the first book she ever had published, originally titles Heart of Steel, but re-written and updated. We view this launch as preparation for her original Posse series which will begin next year. Also, Executive Seduction is available in audio for the first time ever!
It’s going to be a busy fall for Cool Gus. On 26 November we’re blasting out 7 titles from Janice Maynard. On 5 November, the second book in Colin Falconer’s latest series, Naked in LA will be published. And on 14 November, the second book in Bob’s Presidential series, The Kennedy Endeavor, will be published.
So we have two different types of stories, both revolving around love and different kinds of high stakes:
Reference Executive Seduction: Logan Grant knew Chandler was trouble the moment he laid eyes on her. He agrees to her business proposal because he wants a guaranteed profit…and he wants Chandler Santell. But a dangerous game of love, power and greed play out behind the scenes. The payout is worth millions, but only if he can claim her heart.
Chandler Santell has successfully avoided rich and powerful men who believe more in money than in people. But when her Yoga and Arts Center is on the verge of financial ruin, there’s only one man who can help her: Logan Grant–the most ruthless CEO in the finance industry. He’s her only hope and she’s willing to do anything to save her dream.
Reference Naked in Havana: You can’t find love. Love has to find you.
But fate doesn’t care whether we believe in it or not… Havana, 1958. Magdalena Fuentes knows that Angel Macheda is the only man for her, even after he takes her virginity and then tells her he is engaged to someone else. She knows they are meant to be. So why can she not stop thinking about Reyes Garcia? From the moment I saw you, he says, I knew there would be no one else. From the moment I saw you, she tells him, I knew you were arrogant, conceited and rude. Magdalena is a girl who will not let sentiment stand between her and love. But as Fidel Castro’s rebels tighten their grip around the city and she watches her family and her whole life come apart, she learns hard lessons about love abd about life. Against the backdrop of the boleristas and the gangsters, the music and the guns, Magdalena discovers just how dangerous love can be. In the tradition of Casablanca and Gone With the Wind, the story of Magdalena Fuentes and Reyes Garcia is a sprawling epic of passion and destiny, stretching across three decades and two continents.
While it’s nice to think we just write by grabbing things out of the limitless bounds of our imagination, the reality is every writer has a process. For new writers, this process is usually subconscious.
I used to joke I wrote my first thrillers by essentially regurgitating every thriller I’d read, but it’s not a joke. I had no formal training for creative writing; although I can write a hell of an OPORDER or FRAGORDER based on my military training. I also wrote the Gettysburg Staff Walk for the Officers Phase of the Special Forces Qualification Course. But having read so much, I just sort of knew how a book went and I wrote one. My first version of my Novel Writers Toolkit, after four books published, was 11 pages long. That means consciously, I knew 11 pages worth of how to write.
It’s a bit longer now, but I’m still evolving.
So I spent years trying to move stuff from my subconscious to my conscious. To focus on the craft; trying to learn more. I believe this is critical for writers who want to have lengthy careers. My first novel came out in 1991 and I’m still making a living at it. But I would have to say my process has really begun to evolve a lot in the past couple of years. For several reasons.
First, I listened to my wife. Duh. But she’s the only person I’ve ever met who can keep an entire book in her head. Almost twenty years ago she gave me some advice on my book The Green Berets: Eternity Base. The book opens with a woman working at the National Archives (where my wife had worked) searching for clues to her MIA father. In the process she stumbles across what appears to be a secret military base in Antarctica. So the book proceeds to be this race south, yada yada. So they find the base and open it up and there’s a dead body at the bottom of the ladder leading into the underground base. My wife said: well, that’s her father right? And I was like: what? No way. That’s way too much of a coincidence.
It’s only taken my all these years to realize she was right.
We watched Breaking Bad from the first season. When those two planes crash (not much of a spoiler if you haven’t seen it because you have no clue what I’m talking about) it was a stunner. I had to drive to a conference right after that and I spent a lot of that drive pondering the writing.
This past couple of weeks we’ve re-watched Breaking Bad from the beginning on Netflix. I told me wife if there was one thing I would tell a writer to watch it’s this series. There seem to be so many amazing coincidences, which I used to teach was author manipulation of the plot. But now I realize, like life, it’s the smallest things, random things, that drive life and plot. It’s the characters. Studying Walt’s mental illness and the way he reacts is key. Character drives plot, right? Walter’s personality (there actually is a textbook that lists it and the traits) has a lot of quirks. One is that his personality type cannot accept charity which drove a large part of the plot. Watching his narcissism and his pride in action—Bryan Cranston is a hell of an actor, BTW.
Bringing this back to process. After over fifty manuscripts, I’ve realized that, like in Albert Brooks Defending Your Life, the subconscious is much more powerful than the conscious. I have to trust it more. To stop planning things out too much and to just write and let it flow. To then look at what’s there and see the possibilities. When we control plot too much, it becomes stilted.
Here’s an interesting example. In The Green Berets: Chasing the Lost I actually had written what I considered the last scene first. I knew where I was driving the book toward. I had this great twist at the end and was real excited about it.
So I wrote most of it and was talking to my wife about it. But I’d added in this character, a vet who, for no conscious reason, I made a lesbian. I even wrote a scene (since cut) where she was packing up to go help my guys prepare to take down the bad guys as the team doctor and explaining to her lover why she was doing it. I was telling my wife this and she said—maybe this supporting character is really this– and just sat there stunned. She took an ending I thought was pretty wicked and flipped it making it not only totally wicked but setting up the next book. But the key is I’d written it exactly as if that were the case, I just hadn’t realized it.
But what makes that really cool is because I wasn’t aware myself that’s where things were going I didn’t overdo it. It came as a surprise to me, so it came as a surprise to the readers.
Here’s a thought—in Sixth Sense did the writer know Bruce Willis was dead? Or did he write it with Bruce Willis alive and then a beta reader read the first draft and asked: is this guy dead? I think there’s a very good chance that’s true. And that’s where the shock comes from.
So the lesson is this: trust your subconscious.