“I am thankful for all those difficult people in my life .
For they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be.
In the early eighties when I married, my wife used to tell her relations that she couldn’t take me anywhere, without me winding up in a bookstore for hours. My ex-wife was a bean-counter who did not share my love of literature. In fact, in the six-years we were together I cannot now remember her ever reading a book or being passionate about this author or that.
In 1982, seeking a part-time seasonal job for the holidays my hanging around Waldenbooks,( a wonderful bookstore until the death of all bookstores), led to a part-time job for several years. The manager’s Donna and Pam were kindred spirits, into books, mushrooms, Dr. Who (the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker) and New Age. On one occasion my wife left me in the bookstore to shop elsewhere because as she said, “bookstores bore me.”
All aspects of traditional bookstores fascinated me, soaking up the atmosphere, drinking a latte in the bookstore coffee shop (before that dreadful Starbucks chain killed the notion of quaint), 3D bookmarks, puzzles, collectible hardcover books in their case. The magazine section was worthy of hours, catching up on the latest edition of Popular Science, Popular Mechanics. Mad Magazine or such.
It didn’t have to happen this way- Amazon and on-line giant e-tailers declaring war on brick and mortar stores but it did. The real tragedy is that the brick and mortar stores didn’t even try to fight back, they raised the white flag after the first volley was fired. Only Barnes & Nobles, always considered a super warehouse of books with snotty salespeople did not have the good sense to go quietly into that gentle night. They dragged out their deaths for years like a patient in an asylum. Brick and mortar retailers blew countless opportunities to pair with e-tailers like Amazon. Why Borders could have had an Amazon Kiosk in its store’s or a Red-box in its music/video departments.
As every traditional author has come out with a book about the ‘craft, (Stephen King’s ON WRITING is wonderful) , and every snake-oil salesmen from John Locke to J.A, Konrath (the .99-cent kid) has come out with a book about how to write, I have been playing with the idea of writing my own book. Not just about the ‘art’ or ‘craft’ of writing but how the ‘art’ or ‘craft is no longer about the craft but the business of getting published. New ebook authors worry more about the mechanics of getting published before they have even finished writing their first book.
While adding Facebook friends recently, those ‘people you might know’ suggestions from Facebook, I found to my amazement that there were hundred, thousands perhaps, all young females with (Author) after their name. Inspired no doubt by Amanda Hocking, Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins who all think they can be the next bestselling author. Most will give up. Not because they don’t have the passion or the will, but because it is a business despite Create Space and Smashwords making it easier than ever for inexperienced writers to publish. The hundreds, maybe thousands of aspiring ebook authors have flooded the market. Now, that brick and mortar stores have also gone the way of the dodo, add to the ocean of on-line books A-LIST authors like Stephen King, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Dan Brown all moving their wares on-line and you can see it’s almost next to impossible to make even a small ripple in the vast ocean of publishing. A minnow hoping to be discovered by a whaling ship.
Around 2005, laid off again as a journalist by a Chicago suburban newspaper acquired by a larger newspaper who would be acquired by even yet another larger fish, my mom and I has a serious discussion about writing. Most people love to read books but most people have not, or do not make the connection that “books don’t write themselves” I told her. In her day, writing a novel was considered a hobby. Michael Crichton spent nine years on Jurassic Park writing after work as a doctor. Stephen King wrote part-time in the evenings coming home from teaching Creative Writing at University of Maine. Being an author was never considered a ‘full time job.’ It was a hobby, something one did in their spare time. Which make being discovered by a giant publisher like William Morrow a huge lucky break for authors, and a miracle should your book become a bestseller. About 40,000 copies in those days. Today, with ebooks, 8000 copies is considered an ‘ebook’ bestseller.”
But the reading majority never made the connection that writing books was damn hard work. Something one had to work at, developing your craft. Something one had to learn every aspect of the business, cause it is a business, writing, editing, layout, design, sales, marketing, publishing, legal aspects. The majority of readers pick up Stephen King’s Tome Under the Dome, they read it, they enjoy it …or not. But they give little thought to how much time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears went into the crafting of this book. Both from story-writing, to cover art.
Nobody thinks much about the fact that writing is a full-time job despite the thousands of self-help books flooding the market for aspiring ebook readers by failed authors. I have always subscribed to the notion that those who can…do. Those who can’t…write self-help novels or teach creative writing classes. Failed writers. Failed in the respect that they just gave up. Many failed writers are passable storytellers. But most gave up for various reasons or when success was just around the corner, just within their grasp. The thing about failed writers is this- they have become Nay-Sayers, viscous assassins of the dreams of new aspiring authors.
I never listen to the naysayers. I had an ex-wife like that. She and her people would always say, “No one will ever buy that, listen to that, want that.” Which probably explains why she is my ex-wife. It’s always seductive to hang around people who have failed at something and have them tell you how mean the business is — whatever your business is — and how unfair it is and how they got screwed by a bunch of people that didn’t care. It’s easy to find failures, and it’s easy to be seduced by failure. It’s much easier to think, “Well, everybody else has failed; no big deal if I do,” than to ignore that and plod on the other way. It takes love and passion for what you do to overcome that and to overcome the “Naysayers.”
An American author from Chicago, IL., I have been a journalist, editor, columnist since my high school years in the 70’s when I was a sports writer. I have been writing for over four decades for various newspapers in Illinois, Florida, and Colorado. That also includes the Chicago ‘Sun Times’ where I was editor/columnist during the Rupert Murdoch years. A political blogger since 2008, I left his newspaper career with the downsizing of print and the birth of the electronic media. My first fictional murder novel The Killing Of A Robin followed by sequels; Nothing Personal-Just Business Darling, and The Red Ball, uses very real locations in Chicago and its environs. My works, based on the techno-thriller genre, like my mentor Michael Crichton, heavily feature science and technology. I am the author of six novels including his highly acclaimed debut thriller, Kun Lun. Other works include The Killing of a Robin, Nothing Personal-Just Business Darling, The Red Ball, Ark, Morphed, Bimini Road, Excalibur, and Cure.
On January 17, 1998, a blogger by the name of Matt Drudge was sitting in his apartment in Bel-Aire, California when he broke the biggest news story of the decade on his blog. (Drudge Report). He scooped the major news services and went on to become the most successful blogger in history. Back then, in 1998, few had heard of the Internet much less knew what a blog was. So, it was easier for bloggers like Drudge to be hugely successful.
Today, ten-years-later, (2008) there are millions of blogs and bloggers. Every housewife in America blogs and most twenty-something females have their own sex web cam site. The problem today is getting people to read your blog or visit your site. With so many blogs and blog services, it’s hard to get people to read your blog unless you spend a great deal of time promoting your own blog. WordPress.com was one of the better blogs. They give you the tools that a lot of other blog sites do not give you. I had another blog on another site for six months. I write mostly about politics and entertainment. In all that time, only one girl accessed my blog and only, because in an entertainment piece, I tagged Ben Affleck. She didn’t read my words- she was only interested in reading about Ben Affleck. The blog wasn’t about him.
I gave up ‘blogging.’ A colossal waste of time.
As a retired newspaper journalist, columnist, film-critic, editor and the author of nine books, I write adventure books which have journalism under-pinnings. To keep my journalism skills razor sharp I continue to post on Facebook. Twitter and other social-media though few people use Facebook anymore. And … for that day when I receive a comment which states, “That was a truly great post about such and such.”
My life’s philosophy given to me as a device to learn how to spell by my eighth-grade English teacher Bea Royer known as “Teach.”
One can learn the mechanics of writing, heck any adequate decent community college English composition course can teach you the mechanic. Self-help books, how to write books, blogs can also give you basic instruction. There’s two things no writing class, self-help, how-to book or blog, summer writing seminars cannot give you;
1. The will, desire, passion to succeed
2. Belief … which is never sure.
But many an average writer has turned out passable stories, some sell moderately well. But the average dog hunts in a pack. Occasionally walking down life;s highway you discovered a nugget, a diamond in the rough. Author’s like Stephen King, Alan Moore an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell.
And having once discovered their brilliance, they become the main course, the soup-dejour for readers. Many of my childhood favorite authors like Robert Heinlein, are gone now. Their books live on, their books still inspire me. The Door Into Summer inspired me to write CURE. Lost Horizon inspired me to write KUN LUN. Trevanian’s (pen name of American author Dr. Rodney William Whitaker) The Summer Of Katya inspired me to write Nothing Personal-Just Business Darling.
“If I waited till I felt like writing,
I’d never write at all.”
Most self-help professed experts who write how-to books on writing, teach summer seminars, or Internet on-line seminars offering to teach you how to write are full of shit. If you want to learn how to write you need to become a sponge. To soak up everything you can about writing. When I wanted to soak up knowledge I went directly to the masters like Stephen King, Steve Berry, Dan Brown…why listen to some failed writer you’ve never heard or or some snake-oil salesmen like John Locke, J.A. Konrath who sells each and every one of his books for less than the price of an i Tunes download. Yeah, some sales role model he is. But don;t let me try and tell you what to do. If you think you can become rich selling your ebooks which took you six months to a year to write for a buck, by all means, go ahead. No one;s stopping you least of all me. Stephen King’s semi-auto biographical book titled ON WRITING is wonderful. You know why it’s wonderful? Superb? Because it’s real. It’s genuine. It’s not bullshit. Most books about writing are bullshit. The very author who write it trying to separate you from a few peso by bullshitting you. We call these people: Snake-oil salesmen. I would, as an addendum to this statement also add that authors who write bullshit as fiction, and you know who they are having picked up a few of their books, read the first chapter and exclaimed, THIS IS BULLSHIT are writing bullshit, hoping to bullshit you into buying it, bullshitting you with their ad copy which is all just bullshit plain and simple. Farmers buy bullshit to fertilize their crops, something that bullshit helps make grow. As a reader, bullshit will never help you grow. It’s just a time waster.
Having grown up with Stephen King since my college days in the seventies, I can honestly say that Stephen King has never written BULLSHIT. Now, you may not care for some of his tales from the twilight Zone, or you prefer some of his stories over other’s, but none of his stories, and I have read just about every one of them has been a time waster. Every one of King’s stories gets you to look at life, think about your own experience in a new light. Which is all a good author is supposed to do. Which is what I try to do.
And what I will try to do here.
FOR BEA ROYER AND PETER MIKULAK
Two of the most difficult people from my childhood from which I learned everything.