Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This Is Not An Obituary – William Zinsser

A few weeks back, in a book review posted in the Wall Street Journal (Article Here) I rediscovered a man who helped me in my writing. William Zinsser’s newest book The Man Who Stayed, is a treat and delight, the ramblings and musings of a cultural effete. For Mr. Zinsser, the world is rushing by and he no longer cares about trying to keep up, there is much to be said for the old and true. His book is more than that, it is a life lived in easily digested bites. Zinsser, now in his 90s, has lived long and large. Writer, editor, newspaperman, teacher, critic, and magazine contributor (and the list would go on and on in infinite variations), self-proclaimed WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant to those now culturally blind). A proud man, a man not easily convinced that progress is just that.

He has, as most of us have at one time or another, difficulties with changing styles, words, and technology. Boogie-woogie was scary at one time and I still remember clients demanding that I get a FAX machine – yes, you don’t have to be 91 to be bitchie. Mr. Zinsser is a man of style, his and his alone. Always well dressed, always with a fedora or proper hat (baseball caps belong at the game), always sending letters (in envelopes with stamps), always, well just always.

I loved the book, (exaggeration and hyperbole intended). It was like leaning into a casual conversation with a man who could be my father: experienced, well read, urbane, sophisticated, and pissed. If there is one theme throughout the book The Man Who Stayed (PAUL Dry, 175 pages GO HERE) it is loss. The loss of respect we have for each other, something that he has watched develop since the end of World War II. We are sloppier in dress and voice, we seemed to be more self-absorbed (really? Facebook?), our nose is buried in smartphones, we have lost the sense of adventure. We are acted on, we no longer act out.

But writing is his craft and one of my first books on writing was his, and On Writing Well is still one of the best. It is a comfortable mix of writing lectures, travelogues, and tips (he hated the term). The new edition has added “tips” on how a writer should live large to better understand their art, and how do deal with what the new piece they are writing is really about. What I particularly enjoy is the sense of real freedom he offers to writers, it is a book to be reread, often.

So your lesson today, students, is to add both books to your shelves. Read them, underline them, abuse them, reread them, and you will not only become a better writer but maybe a more enlightened person.

More Later . . . . . .

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Now Live on Smashwords and Serendipity

Now Live on Smashwords
After 90 days on Amazon’s Kindle kdpselect, 12th Man For Death Click Here is now on Mark Coker’s great ebook publishing site Smashwords. This will allow the book to be distributed through all the other major ebook sites, such as iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Sony. Every venue helps.
Amazon is the strongest (if not gorilla) presence in the retail market for ebooks and paper, they and Creatspace are the best friends a self-publisher can have. But Smashwords and Amazon and all the others are only shelves, they aren’t there for marketing. That, for good or bad, is the responsibility of the author and his publisher (and if they are one in the same – you now live in two worlds, the unlimited world of writing and the hard reality of marketing). My respects and condolences.

A bazillion words have been written by some of the best in the national press and another bazillion in blogs, about helping scribblers get their work on the street. And a like number, let’s say quadrazillion, on marketing. Every writer today is looking for a business plan that includes Fifty Shades of Grey as the success model. To be brutally honest, I haven’t seen or even heard of one that worked for everyone. Every business plan is unique and needs a wild card thrown in for good measure. A passing remark in a national magazine, a drunk actor seen on the beach with a copy of your book on the cover of the Enquirer, your book mentioned in an article about sex aids. All good. We are talking exposure and marketing here.

A Bit on Research and Serendipity
I had one of those great writer's experiences this week, one that sticks with you and makes you realize why we write. My first and second draft of my new book Wars Amongst Lovers, were done. But there was a nagging aspect about one of the characters and his involvement with espionage and intelligence during the years before World War Two. In doing some checks on intelligence agencies (i.e. MI6, MI5, CIC, OSS), I discovered a group of American soldiers, mostly young men and Jewish, who had recently fled Germany with their families. They became the backbone of Allied intelligence in Europe. The Army needed them for translating, surveillance, and interrogations, and even more clandestine stuff. Mind you my book was ready – but this tear in the story needed fixing. There were names of some of these soldiers posted in an article I found in Wikipedia, all men and now in their 80s. I was hoping some were still with us. Took a chance, sent an email, and I’ll be damned a response. Shivers.

The gentleman, a well-respected educator in a post- war world very different then kind he lived through in 1943, offered his help. His sharing of experiences and those of his comrades, are changing the trajectory of the story, making it richer, more real. And for historical fiction that is the key. It is a story that lives within the arc of real history.

After 150,000 words, 62 chapters, characters up the old wazoo, and a momentary belief of crossing the Rubicon, it’s now back to the drawing board. Ain’t it great, ain’t it great, love it.

More later . . . . . .

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Short Missive Today and Daniel Silva

Sorry fans, but today’s blog is short and to the point. Work and editing have gotten in the way and since even writers have to eat, proposals and contracts await.

Couple of updates, Wars Amongst Lovers is in into final edit (before copy edit), and I am very, very, happy with the results. I am making adjustments to the manuscript and hope to have it out to my Beta readers before the end of the month. If you wish to join the fun, drop me an email and I’ll see about adding you to the early reader/reviewer list.

12th Man for Death is doing well and I am looking for marketing opportunities this summer when the America’s Cup returns to San Francisco Bay.

And I just finished Daniel Silva’s fascinating and thrilling book, The Fallen Angel and thoroughly enjoyed it. If I can, I’ll post a review in the coming weeks. I recommend the book and the others in the series. Good job Mr. Silva.

As a tease here is Daniel’s interview regarding the book and his character Gabriel Allon.

More Later . . . . . . .