Dealing with the internet


Today’s writers have a much larger (potential) audience than those in the days of paper books. Conversely, today’s writers can also be lost in a crowd of not millions, but billions, putting down prose worthy of a Nobel prize that no one with the connections ever reads.

So what do you do?

The first thing is to become a nuisance on the internet, if you want attention and you want to be read. If you are concerned about making friends, become something other than a writer. If you want readers, become noticed (without becoming a criminal). Some sites will temporarily block you and some may blacklist you. If that occurs, publish that action and name names. Nothing spreads faster than supposedly malicious gossip. Don’t believe me? Ever hear of Robert Murdoch? The largest selling papers by far, and the New York Times or the London Times are not even in the race, are the supermarket tabloids. You may be writing superb, intelligent and noteworthy stuff but it will be ignored unless someone talks about it.

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Expanding Your Audience


The one thing that hobbles most writer’s recognition is the crowd they are lost within. If the literary world were at all honest (which it is not) it would admit that Hemingway was not unique and neither was Poe. For every top seller there are at least a hundred undiscovered writers of equal or better quality. Even Tolkien and Rowling fit into this category.

Now this is not to say that what those previously-mentioned folks did not turn out quality stuff, not at all. What it does mean is that somewhere along the line they either got lucky or someone involved in the publishing world decided to take a chance and give them some much needed exposure. Once exposed the rest was as easy as falling downhill. Good writing sells itself, once it is out of the crowd to be seen. So if you cannot find an agent or a publisher with a pair, and more and more they simply do not exist, how do you rise above the crowd? That’s a very good question.

Here’s a suggestion or two: Consider an E Book publisher. With the advent of the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad and about a dozen other reading devices there is no reason to insist on the traditional brick and mortar publishing house. In fact, there is every reason to believe that eBooks will outnumber paper in the next very few years. Because the cost to publish and distribute a eBook is so much less than even a paperback more and more publishing houses are quite willing to give the unpublished writer a shot. It is something to think about.

Create a website for your writing: think about it, even dead authors have websites and since more people search the web than buy newspapers your potential audience is literally in the billions. If even 1% of that audience likes your stuff you are suddenly more popular that the number one New York Times Best Seller. My site is http://www.tonymandolin.com

Back up your site by joining forums, adding a blog, social media etc: I’m still working on this one as, as is the case with most writers, I’m not all that gregarious except on the keyboard. This type of publicity works well because you can post samples, get feedback and actually generate the beginning of a fan base, and believe me, it is out there just waiting to be groomed.

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Creating a laugh


I have always preferred writing that brings out a smile or even provokes a laugh or two. This is why my favorite authors are the humorists, Sir Terry Pratchett being at the pinnacle of that heap. Editors may not believe it, and I think that is how they think because the number of depressing authors far outnumber the humorists, but it takes far more talent as a storyteller to create a laugh than it does to invoke a tear.

An important point to consider though is the quality of the humor. It is all too easy, especially with the sort of laughs Hollywood goes for these days. Situation is far more difficult to write successfully than the cheap scatological reference and even more difficult than descending into the gutter of profanity. Yes, I have also read those critics who have managed to convince themselves that adult writing requires what is called adult language. I have also rejected their premise utterly since the market has also proven not only that less is more but forcing profanity into a manuscript just to create shock value cheapens the work rather than improving it. Some may disagree, but this is my blog. write your own if you think differently.

Here is an example of a funny scene out of the second volume in The Milward Chronicles:

Jerrold leaned on his halberd and listened to the clamor coming from inside the city on the other side of the gate. “No one allowed in or out?” He called over to his partner in the outside duty.

            “Them’s the orders.” His partner spat a bit of the weed he was chewing off to the side. “No one in or out, no matter what.”

            “The Sarge say why?” Jerrold shifted his weight to the other foot.

            “Naw,” Another spit, “just said to keep an eye out, an’ skewer anythin’ that tries ta climb the wall.”

            Jerrold considered, “I ain’t never skewered anythin’ afore.”

            His partner spat again. “Ain’t nuthin’ to it, ya just shove.” He demonstrated with his halberd. “Want some chew?” He held out the pouch to Jerrold.

            Jerrold shook his head. “No thanks, makes me see things that ain’t there.”

            His partner was impressed. “No kiddin’? All’s I ever gits issa nice buzz. What kinna things ya see?” Sput!

            “There’s a woman ridin’ a Dragon!”

            “Wow, wish I could see stuff like that. Like I said, all’s I ever gits issa nice…”

            “There’s a…flickin’…woman…ridin’ a flickin’ Dragon! Right…flickin’…there!”

            The weed chewer looked up and his eyes bugged. He took out his stash and looked at the bag. “Good stuff,” he murmured.

If you look closely at the blocking of the scene you will see similarities with that used in The Big Bang Theory. No, I did not copy them. This scene was written five years before the show aired.

 

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Writing in all three dimensions


Right now I am working on the fourth Tony Mandolin mystery, Hair of the Dog. The plot involves werewolves, vampires the last of the dragons, a compact administered by a wizard who happens to be a recovering alcoholic and a witch doctor with a serious issue with revenge. As with all of the previous books, it is important, very, very important to correctly paint the scene for the reader and that means writing in all three dimensions.

Writing in three dimensions describes the process of taking into account all of the factors you may experience if you were actually there. When you experience a given situation you take in data with all of your senses, taste, touch, sight, sound, tactile or feeling. If it is at night and your character is in the midst of a storm that came out of the north you would describe the temperature, the feel of the raindrops, either hard and biting or soft and damply chill. There would be the sound of the rain, the taste of it or anything that may have blown in one the wind and then the sounds come into play, rain can either patter or drive against the pavement with the sound of a million tiny jackhammers. See?

We inhabit this universe exercising all five of our senses, unless something went wrong and all five of those senses occupy all three dimensions. It is good to consider that a you pen the next NY Times Best Seller.

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The Value of Friends


Every writer has a resource he or she desperately needs to utilize, friends. An addition set of eyes, especially if those eyes can view your manuscript with the mindset of a fan is beyond price Every dedication page of every book ever written contains a reference to such a resource, some more concise than others. There is a reason for this. In the case of authors who write in a similar genre to mine, the published manuscripts would be little more than a loose-knit collection of slightly related scenes connected by a string of utterly incomprehensible holes in logic.

No one with any sense believes that top-selling fantasy authors such as JK Rowling, Modesitt, Cook and Butcher send their publisher first drafts devoid of typos. Of course not. There is a reason why the mainstream publishing houses have an extensive staff. A good number of those positions are filled in the form of minimum wage “readers”, folks who sit and read new manuscripts and report on any gross holes in the overall plot. After they do their job the editors take over and clean the thing up, send it back to the author who accepts or rejects the “cleaning” and then sends it back.

Those of us who do not have multimillion dollar publishing contracts have to rely on a resource a bit closer to home, our friends. I have one in the persona of Robert Freeman, esq, yes, he is an attorney and that makes him an ideal reader. One, he has the same tastes in literature and entertainment as I do. He is also an unrepentant punster. Two, he has an intellect that also contains an imagination nearly as overactive as mine. The fact that he has all of these gifts and is still interested in acting as a pre-publishing reader is unbelievably valuable. If you need legal help in the Los Angeles area, he’s your guy.

The first two Tony Mandolin Mysteries were rushed through by my publisher, no fault is imposed on any party, is just happened for a variety of reasons. The third book was, thankfully, placed into the hands of a very experienced editor of was, to be frank, flabbergasted at the coarseness of my ham-fisted typing. Let’s just say she was less kind than my friend in her notes.

An aside at this point: If you can get past the comments on your spelling and grammar and put the suggestions to good use you do wind up with a far more readable and therefore salable book.

The other thing she found was a few gaping holes in continuity, what I call holes on logic. If this happened, why? It was the work of a couple of minutes to fix them and time very well spent indeed. This brings me to my friend Robert. He has an eye to the type of story I write that, for one very good reason is paramount in its importance, he enjoys my writing. If he did not the surge of typos and holes in logic would overwhelm him, and with those taken care of my overworked editor has a much more enjoyable and easier job.

As to why those typos and holes appear in the manuscript there are a number of very good, and quite frankly unavoidable reasons they do, and for the most part are as inevitable as the tide. One, as an author you are far too close to the book to see those errors. The story is there in your mind as you check over the work. You read it as it should be, not as it is. (I wish editors would understand this before typing comments) The other and equally valid reason is that life happens. Things get in the way, even if you have a mountain retreat in the Catskills. Sometimes a few days, or even a week or more can pass before a scene is completed, and if that is the case you may have forgotten an allusion you had planned to build upon later and the editor is left wondering, “Why in the hell did he put that there?” And the list goes on, but it all boils down to one thing, you sent in a manuscript that needs cleanup. It even happens when you have the help of friends, but the manuscript doesn’t need as much mucking out if they weren’t there.

So where does that leave the writer? If you have finished the next greatest novel and your host of friends have done their very best to bruise your fragile ego with questions and suggestions, what then? I suggest a healthy swallow of pride and a large dose of listening, note taking and consideration. Your friends are your friends for a reason and I would imagine they have an ever greater desire for you to succeed than you do. Being able to nod appreciatively, even if you don’t mean it at the time and to jot down notes as they offer their help does nothing but improve your value as a friend in their sight. You can have your temper tantrum later, when you are all alone. Once that is done, take the time to look over your precious work and see if they may have a point. There is a greater than 99% chance they do.

I know, I’ve been there.

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A Slight Case of Death


This is what I put together as an example of the opening credits sequence for A Slight Case of Death.

Two funding campaigns have been started to see if the web series can actually be created. Kickstarter is at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/952237481/a-slight-case-of-death

Indiegogo is at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-sight-case-of-death/x/7600964

heck em out and let me know what your thoughts are. Even better, sign on as an investor.

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Expanding the market


If you have spent any time at all watching current television programing and if you are an experienced writer you, like me have been rather disappointed in what constitutes plot development these days. One of the reasons for this is there is no talent whatsoever residing in the studio and network board rooms. Talent is not allowed there as the focus would shift from affordability and profit to quality. This state of affairs would be intolerable if it were not for one thing, the broad band internet.

If you have some time and the capability of streaming videos online check out YouTube with the search term “webisode”. What you will be introduced to is the new frontier for writers of fiction. Most networks and studios have a habit of placing anything they cannot see as immediately making them wealthy into development hell, a sort of limbo world where promises come on a daily basis but nothing is ever decided, sort of like Washington DC. In the world of the webisode there is no such thing and because of the various public funding sites now online the writer need not even approach the studio or network at all, not even for handouts.

The science fiction show  Sanctuary, starring Amanda Tapping from Stargate SG1 began as a series of webisodes and was picked up for network broadcast. Amy Berg, one of the pioneers of webisode broadcasting put together a team of young actors from shows such as Leverage, Justified, Days of our Lives and so on and has produced Caper, a show about super heroes needing to steal to pay their rent. The possibilities are endless and if the writing is quality there is a very good bet the production will be as well.

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I am a writer of two fantasy series, the Milward Chronicles and the Tony Mandolin Mystery Series. I have begun exploring the possibility of creating a weisode series based on the first Tony Mandolin book, A Slight Case of Death. In doing some research it appears that the quality of writing and the potential for capturing a sizable online audience is quite significant. Those who choose to take their entertainment online tend to prefer science fiction, fantasy and horror as well as humor. A Slight Case of Death entails all but one of those elements. This could be interesting.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

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Hair of the Dog


Hair of the Dog

This is the cover for the fourth book in my noir fantasy series, The Tony Mandolin Mysteries. Yes, some think Jim Butcher has that genre sew up with the Dresden Files, but there are several writers who came before that, a couple before the immensely talented Butcher was born. Rex Stout entered the market in the 20’s with Nero Wolf. Glen Cook used the Stout characterizations in his very enjoyable Garret Files, and before any of them came Edgar Allen Poe. The trick is to not get hung up on being called a plagiarist because you are writing a tale in a genre someone else has already done, the trick is to make it your own version…face it, no one’s work is completely unique, not even the Discworld books.

In the Tony Mandolin series my protagonist is human whose eyes have been opened against his will to the world of faerie. His friend and partner is Frankie, a nearly 7′ tall 400 pound black drag queen. I put a lot of humor into the stories unlike most of the other noir fantasies and I do so precisely because no one else other than Terry Pratchett seems to like writing funny stuff.

As for using creatures and personages such as pixies, gnomes, ghouls, goblins, trolls, elves, etc… you have a couple of ways you can go. You can make up your own mythology which is mind-numbingly difficult to get right, or you can delve into a history literally a few thousand years deep and use them as you will, again with the proviso of making them your own.

In my books I am combining Celtic, Nordic, Russian, and assorted other mythological creatures and just changing the names a little bit. One asinine critic called One Last Quiche a direct rip off of the Dresden files because had a private eye, a wizard and a faerie queen from the dark side of the Celtic pantheon in the mix. That would be about as accurate as calling Harry Potter a rip off of Dickens because she also uses the British school system in her writings. Some readers seem to think it is their duty to defend their favorite author at all costs. The problem is, in most cases they all to often do it at the cost of their intelligence. You can’t be bothered by that.

What you do need to do is use proof readers along the way if available. A friend willing to browse a chapter or two as you write is extremely valuable. The only caveat is that you also need to be willing to take criticism when offered as help. Doesn’t mean you have to follow it, just be willing to listen.

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Promoting your work


Once you are done and the editing is in you need to do something to attract your readers, the more the better. How else did JK Rowling become the wealthiest woman in England next to the Queen?

My idea is this; The Milward Chronicles is five volumes covering nearly 3000 pages and close to a million words. It all takes place on a world of my own devising, and there is a map. For every reader of my series who recommends it to someone else and they can send me proof such as a copy of a review, an email a text or whatever, I will mail them a printed and originally autographed copy of said map.

There you go.

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When you are done


The sweat has been wiped away and the last period put into place. A labor begun nearly 15 years ago is put to bed. The Milward Chronicles, all five volumes, Birthright, Discovery, Whispers of War, Patriarch of Pestilence and now The Witch of Angbar are done. I counted it up and it comes close to a staggering one million words. Is it not interesting how when we set out on our own to do something we tend to venture far further down that road than when we had to do essentially the same task in school? I detested having to d essays and book reports. Unfortunately all of those teachers of mine are long passed away.

So, the task is done. What does the writer do now?

Well, if your publisher is like mine you will receive an email thanking you for the manuscript and then another one, just as politely worded telling you it is going to be a bit before the editing copy is sent back because the original was filled with typo and grammar mistakes. For me, what I do is begin another story such as the political thriller I’m currently outlining and then there is Herbie the Hedgehog who still needs more illustrating.

The point is, if you wish to be a writer, you need to write. Down time kills the muse, remember that.

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