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True Lies 4: The Everything Store, True Detective, & Graduation Rates

I’ll get back to the saga of living True Lies, escaping the Bronx, surviving West Point, yada, yada, I had the bisque.  Which reminds me:  people either hate Seinfeld or love it.  There’s seem no middle ground.  Which is actually good.  It’s like a relationship.  You either want the other person to hate you or love you, but it’s over when they’re apathetic.  That’s why nasty reviews or emails don’t bother me much any more.

They used to.  One aw crap could wipe out 99 atta boys, right?  But I quickly realized and slowly accepted something:  to get that upset about my book, the reader had to really get vested in it.  And sometimes we just miss the mark.  I can tell some people just didn’t get the snark in the Nightstalker books, taking them a smidge too seriously.

true-detectiveThe other night my wife and I watched the third episode of a new series, True Detective, and I thought since I’m writing True Lies, I should mention it.  Stars Matthew McCoanughey  and Woody Harrelson.  It has two timelines.  A present one where both are getting interviewed, separately, by detectives obviously investigating a current case, and a past one, the subject of the interview, a murder case they worked back in 1995.

Dual timelines is hard to pull off, but it works here.  You need suspense and tension in both timelines. Story-wise, we have it, because there’s obviously been another murder in the present to cause these new detectives to interview the old detectives.  And in the past, we have the case they worked and ‘solved’ but apparently, maybe not, since they’re getting interviewed now?  On a character level, it works very well in the contrast between the two main characters.  I love the names:  McCoanughey is Rust Cohle and Harrelson is Martin Hart.  Rust vs. Hart?

Nothing in a book or movie or show is done by chance.  Those names weren’t randomly selected.  If you’re watching, did you pick up the fact that Hart’s wife didn’t tell her husband about Rust’s kid dying?  And that something developed between the two later on?  These are the subtleties I love searching for in story.  The murder investigation is almost secondary to the character interplay.  That’s great story-telling.  Here’s hoping the show maintains.  By the way the guy with the machete, the gas mask and wearing his underwear– reminds you a bit of cooking meth in Breaking Bad, eh?

In fact, only three episodes in (and I will boast that my wife and I were on board from the first episode of Breaking Bad years ago along with The Wire, Sopranos, BSG, yada yada) the only problem might be is that the dialogue might be too good.  Sort of like a smarter West Wing where everyone talked alike, in True Detective, almost every character says something wickedly brilliant.  But I’ll take wickedly brilliant any day.  So far, it’s the best thing on TV this year that we’ve seen

EverythingI’m currently reading The Everything Store, which is about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.  I’m not far enough in to really report on it, but I’m finding it quite fascinating.  When I hear whining about Amazon I always want to ask what the whiner was doing in 1994 and what they’ve done since.  Really.  I like where the Riggio’s of Barnes & Noble go to Seattle and try to buy out Bezos.  Here’s what the other guy from Amazon who accompanied the CEO to the dinner reported: “They didn’t come right out and offer to buy us. It was not particularly specific”, Albert says. “It was a pretty friendly dinner. Other than the threats.”

My interactions with traditional publishing and Amazon make me feel the difference between when I was in the Infantry and when I was in Special Forces.  Nice people in both places.  But one was very different than the other when it came to mission accomplishment.

I find the concept of a “bar raiser” who sits in on every interview for hiring at Amazon and has veto power intriguing.  I think we place far too much emphasis on statistics and numbers and not enough on trusting the instincts of those who’ve shown they can be successful.

091014-A-3239S-009For example, the school with the lowest graduation rate I ever attended was jumpmaster school.  My class started with 87 highly trained Green Berets.  We graduated 14.  The reason was that you had to score 100% to graduate.  99% doesn’t cut it when you’re falling out of an airplane and responsible for a bunch of jumpers.  But it got to the point where we had to videotape actions in the aircraft to justify failing someone based on the instructor’s gut instinct.  There were times when I could look in a student’s eyes and while they were doing everything correctly, by the book, I knew that if something went wrong, they wouldn’t be able to handle it.  But we couldn’t flunk someone just on that feeling.  My team sergeant told me in his time, an instructor in the Q-Course could flunk a student just by saying:  “You’re out of here.  Walk back to Bragg.”  It’s a long walk down Chicken Plank Road (seriously, it’s called that) from Camp McCall to Fort Bragg.  The instructor, experienced in Special Forces, just knew that candidate couldn’t make it on a team no matter what the statistics or tests said.  By the way, while Jumpmaster was statistically the most difficult to graduate , others schools were harder in other ways, such as mentally, physically and in teamwork, but we’ll get to those are we progress in True Lies.

So this week’s questions:

  1. What’s the most interesting book you’ve read so far in this young year?
  2. Most interesting show/movie?
  3. Most difficult school/course you graduated from?

The_Rock_CoverAnd LAST CHANCE, we’re giving away a Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight at the end of January to someone on our mailing list for our infrequent newsletter (sent out 6 times a year).  All you have to do is sign up! You can do that by following this link. Those already there and those who sign up by the end of the week are eligible for the random drawing done by Cool Gus.  As the year goes on there will be more giveaways and also exclusive material and first reads done through the newsletter.

And PPS:  The Rock, one of my favorite books of all, is only .99 today as part of a Kindle Countdown Deal. Publishers Weekly called it “The best combination of science fiction and technothriller this year!”

The Reluctant Bestseller

The Naked Husband

Available at Barnes and Noble for Nook

Please welcome Guest Blogger and Author Colin Falconer to Write It Forward.

*********

A few years ago I inadvertently had a huge bestseller in Australia. The number one book at the time was something called the Da Vinci Code – or something like that. It became a publishing phenomenon and kept me off the number one spot in Australia. I never felt strongly about Brown’s book one way or the other, but I found his timing unforgivable.

Well, sort of. Every author wants a bestseller; but the book everyone wanted to read was the book I had never wanted anyone to read. I wrote The Naked Husband for myself initially; then I turned it into a novel to try and make sense of the events I was writing about, because using novels to make sense of life is what novelists do. It’s the book that goes into a writer’s drawer, never to be seen again. A bloodletting.

Because no one was ever going to read it, I turned my inner censor off. I rented a caravan near the beach, holed up with bourbon and microwave meals and wrote a hundred thousand words in ten days. I wrote what I damned well pleased, as near as candid as a book is ever going to get from me. Then I edited it back to 50,000 with a novelist’s eye for structure.

I only showed it to one other person, the person in the book named Anna. We worked in the same industry and she urged me to publish. “Women – even some men – are hanging to read a book like this,” she said. “You have to do it.”

My agent said the same thing.

I didn’t sleep for three days. This book was way too close to home. Was I crossing a line or was I building a touchstone? In the end I believe I did both, so there will always be a sense of both regret and accomplishment around it, pride and doubt jostling in equal measure.

There was an auction. Four of the six major houses in Australia went after it. The winner of the auction marketed the hell out of it. And guess what? It sold in six packs.

I still – like last week, eight years after pub date – get emails like this:

It seems so strange that the feelings I thought were only mine should be laid out raw in front of me, as though you climbed into me and dragged them out …

Or this one:

… what I’ve loved about your book – and for this reason have read certain passages many times – is its ability to capture the true heart of what goes on in this situation.

Or this:

I’ve been so appreciative to know that Mark too feels the craziness I feel.
In a weird way it’s been helpful …

From a guy in Holland:

… my personal situation is similar to yours and I could hear myself speaking at moments …

When my New York agent (a different agent, but just a brilliant woman who agented massive names in the business) read the book she wrote and thanked me for giving her such a fantastic book to read and represent.

Now that doesn’t happen very often.

But she couldn’t sell it. Over the next months her emails to me became increasingly dejected.

A couple of months later, when we had lunch in NY, she told me she was depressed and saddened by the current state of the industry. “I cannot understand why they all rejected it. They all say American women are different and won’t relate.”

She thought New York publishing had become moribund.

So it’s only now that I will finally discover if Australian women are that much different from their counterparts in the US and the UK. If not, then it might possibly mean that the gatekeepers have grown so out of touch with their readers that what they have been gatekeeping is their own prejudice.

The cultural divides between Australia and the US and the UK does not seem to me that steep. Don’t you have divorce, adultery or suicide in your country?

But maybe they were right. After all, major publishers have never made an error in judgment before – have they?

The Naked Husband is currently available exclusively at Barnes and Noble Nook Books. It will be released on all other platforms and in print on 1 November.

The difference between lending, borrowing and pirates.

There is always chatter on writer loops about websites Pirating eBooks. This is a huge problem and does often take revenue from the author and publisher. True, pirate sites should be shut down, but spending the time chasing them and sending take down notices takes up a lot of valuable writing time from the author. But one website recently struck a huge cord in the writing community. I saw a lot of talk amongst authors regarding this site in at least five different loops and on various writer boards.

The site is Lendink. I’m not promoting the site or suggesting that readers or writers use it. There are many other sites like this one such as eBook Exchange, Lending eBook and on Goodreads if you go to their groups and search for lending eBooks you will find message boards of readers who are willing to lend out their eBooks to other users. (Amendment: It appears the Lendink site is no longer valid. I get an error when going there that says the site either was overused or owner ran out of resources.)

Everyone breathe and let me explain what lending is and how it works (when used as it is intended).

When you publish on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) you have the option to allow those who purchase your book to lend it to ONE person for 14 days. Once the other person hits 14 days, the book disappears from their Kindle account. The same is true for Pubit (Barnes and Noble).  What this means is that if I buy Atlantis by Bob Mayer I can loan my copy to one of my friends (who has a Kindle account) for 14 days. Once that time frame is up, the book is gone and my friend no longer has access to it. AND, and this is a big AND, I can only lend the book ONE time.

What these sites do is hook one reader up with another to share books they LOVED.  This to me is awesome both as a reader and an author. Why? Because the more people who read my book, the more people are more likely to buy one of my other books, so if one found me through it being lent from a friend, then yippee for me.

Word of mouth is still the number one way to sell books.

So are these sites bad? It’s a gray area, but one that can actually help the author. Consider this. Your book, your name, your brand…is listed on a site readers hang out. They are not selling your book illegally, they are simply lending the book for a short period of time to another user. This is readers’ talking to readers’ and well, readers rule.

I do want to clear up one other thing. This is very different from the Amazon Lending Library, which allows members for Amazon Prime to download free eBooks. The author gets paid for each of those downloads (done through the KDP select program) and the sale goes towards your book’s rankings.

I agree, those who pirate books, meaning steal the authors work and sell it for a profit should be shut down. However, this gray area of lending books is something we, as an industry, need to understand and figure out if and how it adds value to our overall careers. The technology is changing rapidly and we need to be aware of what is going on and how it affects our business.

Go here to find more information about Kindle Lending. Go here to find out about lending on Nook. To my knowledge, you can’t lend books via the iBookstore. You can borrow books from you local library and read them on on your Kobo reader. FYI, Cool Gus is getting their books into the library system through Overdrive. Working on that right now.

Thoughts?

A New Book: I, Judas: The 5th Gospel published today. No SEX

My latest title, I, Judas: The 5th Gospel, is now out, exclusive for 30 days to Nook First, and then it will be available everywhere.

They say never discuss money, sex, politics, religion or family.  Hmm.  Well, there’s no sex in the book.  Does that count?

My wife and I watch a lot of TV. We watch MSNBC and Fox News.  We watch Colbert and the Daily Show.  We watch Family Guy even though Rupert won’t let you fast forward through the commercials on your DVR.  We want to see all sides of things.  And that’s where I, Judas comes from.

I was an altar boy.  Not in Boston.  In New York City.  One of the most striking things I experienced was when we had a visiting priest, an African.  When we were in the sacristy after he said mass one day (and it had a walk in safe for all the chalices, et al, which by itself makes you wonder), we were talking.  And he said that if those people in the pews really believed the words they were mouthing, they would act much differently than they do.  The simple way he said it, even at that age, I could feel his sincerity.  I felt it when he said mass.  A lot of priests were going through the motions.  In nomine Patris, yada, yada,.  He meant what he said.  Every word.

By the way, we always got bigger tips at funerals than weddings.  Isn’t that weird?

I also went to Catholic School through Cardinal Spellman (same as some supreme court justice) until I went to West Point, which means I’m really socially stunted.

Anywho.  I, Judas: The Fifth Gospel grew out of a couple of things.  One, as noted, was trying to see both sides.  What if both sides were wrong about the Rapture?  I remember a movie years ago The Rapture.  It was brutal because it portrayed the Rapture occurring just as the Bible lays it out.  Don’t watch it unless you’re ready for some nasty stuff.

My book starts at The Last Supper.  Then goes to present day.

With an object appearing in space.  Three days out.  One side thinks its Wormwood.  The other an asteroid that came through a wormhole.  One side wants it to hit.  The other wants to stop it.

And then we’ve got Judas.  Sitting in the Amazon.  All these years.  Waiting.  For the Second Coming.  Except it aint what anyone expects.

And he has a story to tell.  About the Bible.  Do you know how many authors it had?  How long it took to be pulled together?  What was left out?  What Revelations is really about?

Jen Talty, my business partner, came up with the phrase Factual Fiction about my books.  I’ve written about a lot of stuff.  My wife and I joke when we’re watching TV (especially National Geographic, History, Military or Smithsonian Channels) and I’ll go “I wrote about that!”  And she’s like—“Yeah.  And?  You’ve written about almost everything.”  In my Area 51 series, I think most people would be surprised to realize 95% of it is factual.  I just add in a fictional reason.  For example, in Area 51 The Sphinx, the Sphinx has indeed been scored by rain.  Which brings its date into question.  And yes, sometimes I use the same fact over, such as in The Sphinx I use Sir Richard Burton’s lost manuscript as a plot device and in I, Judas I also use it as a plot device:  the lost Fifth Gospel of Judas.  But Burton’s wife, Isabella, did indeed burn a manuscript over his body.  So there was this mysterious manuscript.

So.  No sex in the book.  But I am going to put sex in Area 51 NightStalkers, which I’m writing now and will be released on 11 December from 47North.  I used to joke that the only sex I’d put in my books before collaborating with Jenny Crusie ended up with someone, usually the woman, dying.  That way the man didn’t have to make small talk and he could go avenge her death.  So look for a high body count in Nightstalkers.

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