Wednesday, October 31, 2012


This will be a short message due to the Giants’ and the San Francisco World Series parade. What do you do when a city invites a million people to a party and they all show up?  Wow.
World Series Crowd and Market Street
This was a day that, if you weren’t into crowds, was best not to be there. We wouldn’t miss it for the world. Up early, BART in, watch the stars queue up in fancy convertibles and, like in the days of Rome, march (or roll) triumphantly up Market Street to the steps of city hall to the cheers of their fellow citizens. All that was missing was the vanquished paraded before the victors (sorry Detroit).

But what really caught my attention was not just the team but also included in the parade were the front office, the back office, the trailer full of player’s coaches and all the support staff needed to make this team winners. From Larry Baer to Brian Sabean, from the great Willies, Mays and McCovey, and recent players like J.T. Snow and Will Clark. And of course Bruce Bochy. 

There are also almost three hundred members of this team that help to make this success happen. Sure there are twenty-five members of the “World Series Team,” but it was also the team that stands in the near shadows that find them, support them, and help them to be the best. This year they showed San Francisco and the world they, the Giants, are the best in baseball.

On the podium in front of city hall the fans were not forgotten, player after player point to the millions standing before these conquering heroes that it was they, the fans, that pushed them to success. We see a team win, not just the twenty-five, but the hundreds of staff and millions of fans that helped to make it real. A team.

Writers hide in their garrets and studies, dark bedrooms and well-appointed offices scribbling and polishing words and stories, often alone and with their characters wandering about the room pushing and pulling a story to its end. Structure, style, prose, and dialog intertwine and swell to conclusion. Then it’s done, not unlike the pitcher working on a slider or a slurb, pitch after pitch, till satisfied. Like the young kid with McCovey on his shoulder, watching swing after swing, till it is as effortless as sliding silk over a sharp blade. Swoosh.

But it is the team that wins, not the slider or the swoosh. And for a writer it is the team that makes his words successful. Editors, coaches, agents, cover artists, book builders, printers, publishers, marketers, publicists, shippers, and bookstores. It is even iBook, Amazon, Smashwords, and even word-of-mouth. They all have to believe in the words so that the team can make it a success.

These are difficult times for writers. Not to create but to sell, to hit the one over the fences, to drive in the runs needed to win. That’s tough, damn tough, just ask the Giants. A good writer needs a strong team to become a winner, to hit one over the fence, hell even to hit a bloop single, a dying quail, a Texas leaguer, anything out of the infield to drive in a run.

Find a successful writer and you will find, like the 2012 World Series winners, the San Francisco Giants, a well developed and successful team.

More Later . . . . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Benchmarks and Writing Schedules - Redux

I have always been a project and task oriented manager of my time. I look at the scope of the work and then estimate the time needed to complete the task and suddenly POOF it’s done. Well, most of the time, oh okay, some of the time. We, of the List Driven Clan (our tartan is criss-crossed out bullet pointed lists), fully appreciate the compulsive need to compile to-do lists and thus receive immense personal satisfaction by scratching off one item after another as our mini-goals are accomplished. We even keep them on our iPhone, we are a sorry lot, but we do get a lot done.

I started this blog as way to allow the patient and interested reader to follow the construction of my last book in the Sharon O’Mara Chronicles, Toulouse For Death. During the past 101 weekly editions I fished one book, began and am now finishing another, and half-way through writing the next novel (so many lists, so little time). I didn’t realize that the initial list of dates and benchmarks (real business term – sounds official – so MBA-ish) would be driving me as hard as the stories. I posted the list for 12th Man in February.

The newest book is done, 12th Man for Death, has as its scenic backdrop San Francisco Bay and the current battle for the America’s Cup, the oldest international sailboat race. Since 1851 this competition has grown to encompass the world’s greatest sailors and richest people. Boys and their toys - expensive toys and very wealthy boys. Sharon is hired to find a killer, a killer who wants nothing more than to use the race as a way to gain immense wealth. Here is a taste of the first chapter.

Teaser Alert
Here is the first nine hundred words:

“She’s flying,” Catherine Voss screamed into her headset. “Twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five knots, Mike, thirty-eight fucking knots. She’s flying!”
“I see you, incredible,” Mike Stroud yelled back into his microphone as he stood on the bridge of the chase boat, binoculars up and alert. “Watch the wind shift off the beach, watch it.”
“I’m watching, the hard wing looks good, real good, but she’s a beast in this wind.”
The thirty-six foot trimaran rode high on its thin hydrofoils mounted under each of the outboard hulls; these blades angled in like knives as they cut the heart from the waves. With each burst of wind, the boat’s speed increased; she rose higher and higher on the blades until she seemed to skate on nothing but the thin runners constructed of hard carbon fibers. Catherine, snug in the boat’s cockpit, flicked the control stick. Every servomotor on the sailboat responded. Lines came in taut in milliseconds, tightening the sail’s grasp of the wind. Other lines eased out. Every second, a hundred adjustments were made to the sails, the rudder and the angle of the hydroplane’s runners. She toggled the stick to the left, the boat corrected for the offshore wind’s kick, she eased it right, it corrected again. The Cheetah responded like the wild cat the trimaran was named for.
“The program is just right, magnifique, superb. God damn it, Mike, I’m flying. You can sail this boat single-handed.”
The hydrofoil raced across the San Francisco waterfront, tourists on the piers pointed at the strange craft, hundreds took snapshots. The setting was perfect with Alcatraz floating in the background. Catherine shaped her course into a large arc that would bring her near the Golden Gate Bridge. Even from two miles away, Catherine could see the fog boiling over the deck of the bridge. She increased her speed.
“Forty-one knots, Mike. Forty-one,” Catherine said calmly as she stroked the glass smooth hull of her pet. “She’s wonderful, Mike. Wonderful.”
“Watch the fog, it’s starting to lower!” Mike answered.
“I’m watching, damn,” Voss said as she carved a broad arcing U-turn across the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, “It’s dropping fast.”
Catherine Voss had practiced well that late afternoon. Running a thirty-six foot trimaran is not easy on the best of days, they usually had a crew of at least five, but single-handed sailing tested her on everything she had learned during her fifteen years on the water. The boat performed well; she had designed it. She knew it would. Her prototype, unique and innovative, cost two hundred thousand euros, but it was hers and she knew it would make millions when produced in quantity. She designed it to be sailed by one person, one very insane pilot with an unquenchable passion for speed. The boat might perform better with three people as backup and to help balance the weight. But today she drove the Cheetah alone, it was her baby.
She knew the growing mania for the next America’s Cup, taking place on these same San Francisco Bay waters, would create hundreds, if not thousands, of buyers. The new boats designs for the upcoming America’s Cup were different; they were catamarans with two gigantic hulls built for speed and agility. They could also explode into the most spectacular slow motion disasters imaginable, one pontoon would slowly rise out of the ocean, tip over on itself like it was flipped by Poseidon himself, throwing crew and rigging into the sea like a dog shakes fleas. Catherine’s boat was half the length of the contending AC-72s, yet still held thirty-six feet of sinewy muscle, speed, technology, servomotors, and cold wave slicing terror.
She wanted to feel the boat through her ass and her hands. Now her ass was sore and her callused hands, raw. The exhilaration was indescribable. But the fog was winning; the soup became incredibly thick; she suddenly lost sight of the trimaran’s bow not thirty feet away. It appeared and then disappeared. The last time she had looked north, Angel Island stretched across the deck of the Bay, its flanks hidden in the fog. Now she saw nothing.
“Finally,” she said out loud to the sound of the approaching launch. She ran down the evening’s schedule: a brief interview with that reporter from LA, dinner at Boulevards with the crew, then a long and luscious evening with Bobo. The black launch eased itself up to the port hull, scraping the gunnel of the sailboat.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing?” she yelled as two lines were silently thrown from the launch. Their loops expertly snagged cleats and secured the hydrofoil to the side of the launch.
Stunned, Voss just watched, not believing what was happening. Without warning, two men, dressed in black wetsuits, expertly pitched themselves over the launch’s railing and landed on the port pontoon of the Cheetah. Each carried a machine pistol and both were pointed at her head.

Let me know what you think, book is in final production, ebook by mid-November, paperbacks by mid-December, books signing in mid-January at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California.

Info on distribution and sales is coming, look for it here. Any questions? Please post a comment.

More later . . . . .

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Writing, Editing, and Blogging


Late Sunday last, I received the edited manuscript (MS) from my pal Dennis DeRose who has done three of my books (see his info in the header above – he is super). We have developed a certain way of attacking these things: I write the book, try very hard to make it great (and his life easier) by fixing all the usual problems. Goal: A quicker and faster edit job. And then he starts and finds things needing repair in almost every paragraph. I have more than once gone back to the original MS thinking that he’s making up these fixes. And there, in my well-studied original MS, are the mistakes that I missed. Thank goodness for patient editors. Even at my well marinated age I have to bow to his detail and thoroughness.

My job now is to reread the edited version (in Word 'Track Changes'), approve or disapprove the changes, and finalize the story. The primary problems seem to be in punctuation and most critically the infamous comma. There are rules for commas somewhere, but often its use is primarily to set the tempo of the sentence and thus the paragraph. It is often like the ‘rest’ in music. It allows the flow of the statement or sentence to rest or breathe when required and then move on. I tend not to place as many commas as Dennis likes. Or as Lady Macbeth said about writing in the famous turning point in Macbeth: “Out, damned comma! out.” There are other real reasons for its use such as the following famous story from Lynne Truss in her excellent book on punctuation. Note the last four improperly punctuated words.

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons

"Why?" asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

"Well, I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. "Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

I hope to have the revised text done by next week, I will then fold it into my nifty prepackaged formats for ebook and paperbacks. 

News Flash:
BTW, I will be speaking in January at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California – more later on date and times as we draw near, very exciting.

On Blogging
I write two blogs each week, each about 650 words, give or take. This is my 100th blog for Writing 4 Death. Who’d a thought? By my reckoning that’s a 65,000 word book. Cogito Urbanus, my blog on urban issues is now at 122 posts – same calculations but averaging about 700 words puts that at 85,400 words. Not bad since during that same time I have written and published three O’Mara Chronicles and one novel, Elk River and now about halfway through the first draft of the next novel. No wonder my golf game is crap.

I pride myself on not missing one week for either of the blogs and there have been many weeks this year I would rather have not faced the keyboard and screen. But these little missives are done not so much for you, my patient and (hopefully) sympathetic reader, but for me. They are personal and while I try not to rant (this media makes it far too easy), I often fine myself drifting into positions I hold dear. I only ask tolerance. I am learning a lot regarding writing and self-publishing and it is my hope that you will also learn as I learn. If I can make it just a little easier for you to publish your next Magnum Opus, all’s the better.

With a little more time I think I may try to reorganize these posts (with proper editing) into a small volume on Self-Publishing and Writing, we will see.

Here is to one hundred more!! Huzzah!

More Later . . . . .

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Travel, Writing, and Research

During the past ten days we have been traveling the East Coast from New York to Boston and a little of Connecticut; returning today. Obviously the goal was to relax – that’s why we picked New York City, the most relaxing and layback town in America. Ah, for the tranquility and quiet of California. The visit was also an opportunity to touch bases with some critical scenes from my new novel Wars Amongst Lovers.

Grand Central Station, the piers from 89 to 100 on the Hudson River, Mulberry Street and Little Italy, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge all play minor sets in the New York chapters. Even though almost 75 years have passed since the story, much has not changed. The bridge and statue are almost unaltered (other than famous facelifts), Mulberry and Little Italy are well, smaller, as the time and the emigrants have moved on (the food is still as delicioso).

I am not going to write a travel log (later – you are warned), this is more of an attempt to offer help to authors as they travel. Here is a bullet list of ideas to consider while writing and traveling:

  • Write whenever you can, even if for thirty minutes – it will keep your head in the game.
  • Keep your original and working copies on a memory stick, save often, and carry it with you as you walk about.
  • Email a copy of the work to yourself – often. Things happen but then you can access an email anywhere.
  • I work on a small laptop – it has served me well (though a touch on heavy side). I lust for an AirBook. Remember to take a mouse with a cord – I had an attendant tell me I would crash the plane if I continued to use a wireless mouse (or is it a tailless mouse?).
  • I tried emailing a copy of the manuscript to my iPad to allow me to work in Pages. Came through nicely, but Pages is tough to use even with a wireless keyboard (see above and plane crashing sounds). Hard to do the screen and finger thing and typing.
  • Keep copies on your computer as well as your stick.
  • Remember to bring a few extra batteries for the mouse (tailless version).
  • Layout all you various cords, adapters, battery rechargers, and memory stick docks and double check. I keep them all in one of those clear zippered cosmetic cases. You will forget one at some time and buying one on the road is a pain.
  • BTW – make sure you have all of them when you move on; discovering that you left the converter plugged into hotel room wall is not a good thing (I have done it!).
  • And above all have a great time – you can write anywhere, but you have to walk the streets of New York and Boston personally. And if your partner says to put the damn thing away, pay attention. It could be a long and uncomfortable trip home if you don’t.

More later . . .