Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Progress Report #7 – I’m Out of Breath

For the last month, in between bouts of dealing with Sharon and her impatience and temperament, I've been editing my 120,000 word novel, Elk River. Cleaning up the story, tenses, POVs, and the sorting of characters. Then, you get into a funk and begin to ask questions, such as:
  1. Does this thing even have a plot – a quick review and it does conform to Aristotle, Freytag and every other believer in “systems?” So check that off; yet you wonder.
  2. Verbs and tenses, holy smokes, did I really say that!
  3. Point of View (POV), how many can be held in a paragraph, let me show you the way? It’s getting better, but still more cleaning up to go.
  4. Characters, how many is enough, ten, twenty, first tier, second, walkons? Hell, I don’t know, but once you get to know them their nice people, except for that evil giant and his black dog.
This is a story of the 1950s, a hard summer, a young man, hot Michigan days, cherries and migrant workers, families that are challenged, players lost and a love that can’t be discussed. If there’s an agent out there, drop me a line.

I had to finish this next edit before I could get my head back into the 4 Death world of Sharon O’Mara and the shenanigans of the uber-rich and uber evil. And uber is the working language of the villains, it’s all just so uber-cool.

I have pinned on my wall, just over my computer, the schedule I posted six weeks ago, I’m now six weeks ahead of the schedule, and I feel a push coming on. As I posted last week, Act One is done, on to Act Two, Freytag calls for plots to have five acts:
  • Exposition
  • Rising action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Denouement
Sounds very racy to me (or a weekend in Las Vegas), but this is a structure that seems to work well and is based Aristotle’s Poetics, but then again the Greek lived 2500 years ago. I’ll leave the lecturing to people more learned than I. Me; I just want to tell a good story, so Toulouse 4 Death continues.

The marketing grind continues, our publishing company is trying to build a business model that will work within the brave new world of publishing for the Independent and self-publisher. As we develop ideas I’ll throw a few out there for your opinion and comment, if you have any thoughts, drop me a line.

More later . . .

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Progress Report #6, End of Act One

It has been a busy week.

Last week I completed the video trailer for Containers 4 Death (see below or select), finished the conversion of Containers 4 Death into an ebook format, and completed the final InDesign layout for the trade paperback. The word doc was suitable for Smashwords and I loaded it on Mark Coker’s excellent site (here). I was selected for Premier status that allows the book to be distributed to the all the major ebook sellers (they do the distribution), but not Amazon. I then went to my author’s page on Amazon and loaded the new book into their system (using the .mobi format), it’s there and up and running (here).

The paperback (pdf format) went to my printer in LA, BurdgeCooper and Joe Silverman, my rep there, I expect a galley proof this week; it will be a Print On Demand (POD). The formal release is for mid-April. The one thing I learned from Land Swap 4 Death, was to get everything (or at least most everything) ready before going live. So, like a soft restaurant opening, I’m pulling things together to make sure the book is available when we say it will be.

I also completed the ebook construction of America’s Original GI Town, Park Forest, Illinois into a format for the Smashwords conversion. With 65 black and white images it was complicated. I’m sure there are houses out there that would do it for a price but, well, I like to do things for myself. So, I found out, after two hours in the Smashwords queue (I was 405 when I posted), it was too large, they have a max of 5.0 mb, my file was 8.5 mb. So I’m debating whether to reconvert the images to smaller sizes and resubmit, or try Amazon’s conversion site that says they can do up to 10 mgs. Maybe later this week, the trade paperback is on Amazon.

The novel Elk River’s first draft is done and I am grinding through the second or is it the tenth, I’ve lost count. I may drop a character or combine two of them. Not sure yet. The book is both literature and art; I will have ten original black and white sketches in the story. The setting is in the cherry country of Michigan in 1956, and the story involves a restless boy emerging from childhood, migrant workers, a family in crisis and a giant. I love the story, now to make it a great story.

The New Book
I have chosen a title for the newest Sharon O’Mara Chronicle, Toulouse 4 Death. And yes, it’s Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa, and now you know one more, of the many reasons, it’s now the shorter Toulouse Lautrec. He died at 37 and it wasn’t from inhaling lead based paints, a lot of Paris free love had something to do with it, they say. I’m almost 18,000 words into the manuscript, and have completed the first act. The next chapter is four and starts a difficult transition with new characters and a twist. I guess the stolen Nazi art, stolen again while being unloaded at the San Francisco Fairmont, will have to wait. But, I’m sure Sharon will figure it out. So let’s see where we are: World War II, stolen masterpieces, a dwarf, a billionaire, San Francisco, Paris, Argentina, a half-ton of gold, and a redhead carrying a gun. More wine?

Monday, March 14, 2011

NEWS FLASH: Land Swap 4 Death is now at $0.99 on Amazon starting 3-16-11

Also NEW Book Trailer for Containers 4 Death

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Progress Report #5, I Can’t Believe It, the Story Just Flows

The last week has allowed me a good chunk of time to write, a tough thing to admit while also trying to run a professional design shop. But my daily regime of coming in early and knocking back at least a thousand words is working and it helps to keep the thread of the story. We all hate those mornings when we pull up to the manuscript and say, “Now, where was I?”

Each of us has out own approach: mine is to reread the previous work, minor editing, and get into the flow. Some mornings it’s more like a stream of consciousness – hoping that something or someone will take the lead. The great days are those three thousand word plus days, where the story is under control and you are the master. Yeah, right! “Vengeance is mine,” sayeth the story; “I shall give, then I will take away.”

This book has a considerable amount of back-story and information dealing with World War II. Those eight to ten years of political theater and horror impacted the structure of our post-war political world more than history has ever seen, and probably ever will. Hyperbole intended. The last time I spent this much time on the war was when I was writing my non-fiction work America’s Original GI Town, Park Forest, Illinois. As the title suggests, the village was built for the returning veteran in mind. I have been immersed in documentaries, movies, wiki articles, and books about the period, especially focused on early 1945 in central Germany. To tell a good story, supporting facts are important: the who, what, where, and when of it.

The most important aspects of research are:
1.      Good organization of facts and information,
2.      Understanding connectivity and threads of the players,
3.      And making sure you don’t get lost in the research (it’s a serious time-sucker).

You need to put in enough information to add color to the story, to create a sense of realism. But good fiction is not a recitation of facts and history, leave that to non-fiction; it is the setting and style that adds to the main story. In Gone with the Wind, the Civil War provides the stage for the characters. The war is not the story, Rhett and Scarlett are.

Work on your research and stage setting; they will provide the flames of a burning Atlanta or the bombs falling on my main character, they provide the environment for their actions.

And by the way, I’m at 13,801 words and counting, my initial schedule said 20,000 by May 15th. Maybe the book will be completed faster that I thought.

Other Books:
I’ve completed the complicated task of converting GI Town into an ebook. With 65 images, it is more complicated than a book of fiction/prose, and the non-fiction chapter links are critical. Not hard, just complicated – will be on Amazon next week (fingers crossed).

We are considering reducing Land Swap 4 Death to .99 cents. This is the way of the future, volume versus price. Since the hard costs are minimal, this may be a practical solution. Question: Is the value of the product diminished if the price is lower, or does it reflect where the market is? Love to hear your thoughts.

For Containers 4 Death, a lot underway. Completing the ebook version, seeking reviews, completing the InDesign file and format for the paperback, adjusting the colors for the cover, completing the book trailer, and setting up marketing. Busy, busy.

More later . . .

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Progress Report #4 – The Train Has Left the Station

I’m underway and the past week has been productive. I guess a writer’s conference will goose you along and offer just a bit of encouragement; 7,000 words and well into Chapter 2. The outline that I started, got me going, helped to form an early strategy, but as always the story and the characters took hold. If you can manage the chaos that they throw in your way, the story should be a success.

The whole issue of outlining is a point of serious debate among writers. John Grisham admits he’s a slave to the outline, it must be followed. Some start with a general outline and dive in, and others track the story as it moves along, outlining ahead of themselves. Like sending out a scout ahead of the wagon train, I’ve always wondered what would happen to the settlers if the scout didn’t return. But he always did.

My outline is continually being manipulated as I move forward. New ideas pop-up on the page and then have to be dealt with, like unruly children. Sometimes the outline helps, other times it’s just another page in the spiral notebook. I remember last August, when I was trying to get my arms around the completion of Containers 4 Death (beginning done, substantial middle done, ending done – it was the pesky chapters 10 through 13 that were killing me). We were on a cruise in Alaska (contrary to belief, a cruise is a great pace to write), and I sat for a few damp yet glorious afternoons on the upper deck and was able to focus and complete the story – the result will be released later this month. For a writer, focus is an essential tool.

I’m ahead of my schedule and intend to stay that way, fingers crossed.

Other Work:
I am working on the ebook version of America’s Original GI Town, Park Forest, Illinois. If there is one intense part of the publishing and book writing industry that is under constant evolution is the ebook reader and working in the five or six formats that drive this nascent industry. Each has their own or approved format, Kindle, Nook, Sony, and the iPad. The iPad allows you to download the apps for all of the above compatible formats. There are at least 20 million of these devices out there in less than three years. I think that will double in the next year (Apple is announcing the next generation of iPad today). It’s not your Dad’s bookstore anymore. But what’s interesting is that ereaders also buy more paper books, kind of counter intuitive don’t you think?

There are great online services out there to help with conversions from word (.doc) and pdf to ebook formats; me, I a glutton for punishment – I’m doing it myself.

Trying to put the final touches on the Containers 4 Death cover and get its ebook version done – publication date is April 15, 2011. A hopeful author pushes forward.

More Later . . .