28 May 2015

Muscling Your Way Back Into Your Narrative

by Brian Thornton

 We've all been there–going great guns on a project, and then, suddenly REAL LIFE strikes, and drags you (frequently kicking and screaming) out of your narrative, and by the time you've got REAL LIFE tamed and wrestled to the ground, hog-tied and branded, your head's been out of the story for so long you're having trouble picking up where you left off.

After all, it's not a pensieve and we're not all Harry Potter, able to dip our face in it and drop right into the middle of the story.

So what to do in such an instance.

I've recently found myself on the horns of just such a dilemma, so I did what any evolved, 21st century writer does: I crowdsourced it by putting the question out to my Facebook writer friends earlier today.

And I have to say, I was both pleased and heartened by the response, not just from writer friends, but from non-writers as well. So I thought I'd share the responses here.

See below, and if you feel like weighing in with some free advice or just how this reminds you of this or that funny story, please feel free to drop a response into our comments section.

And how, without further ado, here they are:

"Not a writer, but i have an idea. when i read i put myself in the story, i become one of the characters. at the very least, in my mind i am in the room with them. try reading your story from the view point of one of the characters. it might put you back into where the story was headed. or, it might just show you a different direction to take it." 

"This happens to me a lot. I just begin to rewrite it from word one. I don't even consider moving forward for a day or two."

"Not a (fiction) writer, but I would think the process might be similar to reading the story. If there's a long break between reads in the middle of the book, I sometimes have to go back and reread all or a major part, just to get the thread of the book back in my brain. Perhaps going back and re-reading what you wrote will pull you completely through the story you've written, and re-remind you of where you were going with it...."

"I review my notes and outline then I edit the last few things I wrote. I have to do that all the time!"

"Once when I was stuck I wrote a "behind the scenes" scene of my characters talking about me, bitching about the long wait, complaining about plot holes and where they wanted their character arcs to go. It was fun and was, uh, scary what obnoxious opinions they had of me. Good luck!"

"Hire Bob Towne or Johnny Milius for the rewrite, while I grab a gimlet or six at the Brown Derby with Diane Keaton and Jackie Nicholson, then hit the links for a quick eight with Ronnie Reagan. At least that's what I'd do if I were Bob Evans."

"Read and re-read it until I finally get back in the groove."

"Plant ass in chair. Type."

"May have to go in seclusion for inspiration."

"Tough spot. Was recently there myself. But yeah, as has been stated, ass in chair, start typing. It also helped me to review my plot notes, do a re-read and reattach myself to the feelings that got me started in the first place. Ask yourself: Why did I start this mad scheme way back when?"

"I agree---re-read, that's what I did after I brought my old, old word processor online and looked to see if there were any stories I could salvage!"

"Re-read from the beginning. Then plant your ass in the chair and type. You can have some coffee."

"Write a tangent with the characters doing something that is not plot related. Kind of like letting school kids get a recess. It might get you back into the groove and you might get a short story out of it."

"As someone said, reread from the beginning or some other interesting spot. How about mood music?"

"I have to read it from the beginning, typically in one sitting with a notebook handy to make notes. Sometimes I forget what my characters have been up to! ... I just read the posts above mine: Glad to know that retracing the plot from the beginning is something you all do as well!"

"Hemingway said never leave off at the end (of a scene or chapter). Always start up more action then go right to it. Works for me. So does re-reading previously written section."

"I spend a few days being really cranky and kinda sneaking back up on it..."

"Whenever you leave your thread, jot a note of how to reframe and focus in. Survival tactic for to-do lists, dissertations, homework, vacation planning, blah, blah."

"I go back and re-read. If it's been a few days, I go back a few chapters. If it's been a while, I start from the top and read through."

There you have it, folks. The fruit of my crowdsourcing on this issue. Again, if you feel like being heard on the subject, please do leave a comment of your own.

Tune in two weeks from now to see which approaches worked for me, and which didn't. And a sincere thank you to all of my Facebook homies who chimed in with helpful l suggestions!                 

27 May 2015

The Verdict

A while back, I wrote a story and submitted it to HITCHCOCK. Not long after, a bomb went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was one of those WTF moments, because it didn't make any sense. (Of course, you could say that terrorist acts, by definition, don't make any sense, and you wouldn't get an argument from me.) The weird thing was that inside of 48 hours, the suspects in the bombing were ID'd as Chechens. My story began with a hit on a guy in a car. The shooters were hired guns, contract killers. They were Chechen gangsters, brought in soft, for the one job.

Now, my story didn't have anything to do with terrorism. It was about money, and closing a loop. Eliminating loose ends. But the coincidence bothered me, and I dropped a note to Linda Landrigan at AHMM, and suggested it was kinda too close to home, as if I were exploiting a real-life event - that killed people - and better we revisited it, if and when she bought the story.  

Next up, I touched base with my pal Michael Parnell, who at the time was living in Tbilisi, Georgia. Michael's pretty much my go-to guy for crazy feudal stuff in the Caucasus, and I wanted his input. Michael came back at me and agreed it was an odd juxtaposition. He said, Chechens make great heavies, for sure, but you got a lot to choose from, this neck of the woods. For openers, there's your Armenian rug guy who gets his thumb cut off - why not make the baddies Azeris, for example? Armenians and Azeris hate each other. And he threw some other stones in the pool, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the heroin traffic out of Afghanistan, the Moscow mafia moving in on the Georgian gangs. In the end, writers being jackdaws, attracted to shiny objects, I wound up writing a book called EXIT WOUNDS, and I'd happily credit Michael with giving me the background.

This is taking the long way around to the Tsarnaev verdict. Everybody's familiar with the essential narrative. An impressionable kid, led astray by his older brother, who'd been lured to the dark side of Islam. I have to comment that I have no patience at all with Fundamentalism, whether it's Born Again bible-thumpers, or extremist Orthodox Jews (like the guy who murdered Yitzhak Rabin), or ISIS thugs. My personal sympathy is that I'd like them out of the gene pool. Tsarnaev himself is sort of a poster boy, or at least that's the tack his defense took. There's something to this. The wars in Chechnya, for instance, drew in plenty of recruits from the disenchanted Soviet republics, border states along the southern perimeter, what the Russians like to call the Near Abroad, many of them with majority Moslem populations. Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Tajiks. All of them disaffected with native dictatorships, set up by Moscow. These are genuine grievances, and historic. Don't think people don't nurse old wounds.

This is, however, no alibi. You don't spray a crowd with shrapnel from pressure-cooker bombs. An eight-year-old kid died. What does he have to do with the Palestinians, or the invasion of Iraq? There's something truly screwy with making these things morally equivalent, or using them as an excuse. I don't get it. Terror tactics, the bombing of the King David hotel by the Irgun, say, or the IRA campaign in central London, in the 1990's, don't really work. They come back to haunt you. Prince Charles can shake hands with Gerry Adams, but it was the Irish, after all, who blew up Mountbatten.

I know inviting a conversation about the death penalty is asking for trouble. Abortion, capital punishment, and gun control seem like hot-button issues. (How gay marriage got sucked into this is beyond me.) But certain things seem obvious. The death penalty isn't a deterrent. It's unequally applied. Guys on Death Row turn out not to be guilty. DNA evidence, twenty years later. That's enough reason to get rid of it. Me, personally, I kind of like beheading, and hanging, and electrocution. They're all inhumane - you hang somebody, you have to stand on their shoulders, it doesn't break their neck, put some weight into it. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, society's revenge. You murder the social compact, you pay the price. And in this particular case, there's certain guilt. I'm sorry, but this isn't good enough. I might personally think Tsarnaev should be publicly disembowelled. That's not the issue.

Tsarnaev has no excuse, legally or morally. Like the old lawyer joke. Guy murders his parents, and then throws himself on the mercy of the court, because he's an orphan. I don't think so. You take responsibility. Diminished capacity doesn't work, not in this instance. There was a plan that required malice aforethought. They knew innocent people would die. They went ahead. Good lawyering can't explain this away. In fact, nobody even tried. We're left with the raw thing itself. The dead.

I think we deserve satisfaction. Socially. I think we deserve an endgame. I think we want payback. I think we're entitled to it. The death penalty speaks to this. You fry 'em, or they roll on the gurney. Retribution. But. I can't answer my own question. Are there people who deserve to die? Yeah, there are. Who makes the decision? I guess we all do, collectively. Which means the burden is ours. We choose this. Have we repaired the damage to the social compact? There's certainly something final about it, that a blood price is paid, and we're complicit. I don't know. If you take innocence off the table - if we can say, beyond doubt, that Tsarnaev is guilty - is justice served? I'm not convinced.


26 May 2015

Turnabout is Fair Play

Okay, time for me to piss everyone off. Well, at least some agents and editors I’m sure. I want to air some pet peeves about the above-named people. They have their peeves about us, so turnabout is fair play, right? They think it’s a crime if we don’t follow their guidelines—and everyone has a different set of guidelines. And I think it’s a crime that there’s no set standard so that we’re constantly scrambling to change our manuscripts every time we submit to a different person.

Peeve #1: No simultaneous submissions. Sure, I’ll send you my story or novel and I’ll just sit around for the next year and a half waiting to hear back from you....if I hear back from you at all. And lately, a lot of agents and editors are saying something to the effect of “if you don’t hear back from us within six weeks that means we’re not interested.” Nice. Whatever happened to manners—yeah, I know. But how hard is it to send a form e-mail saying thanks but no thanks. And if we never hear from them how do we know they got the story, especially if it was sent over the net. And then they put the fear of God into you if you dare follow up or contact them again. I think authors should rebel against the no simultaneous submissions policy and just submit everywhere you can. Then what? You go on some agent/editor blacklist that says “don’t accept anything so and so sends.” But what’s the alternative? Sit around and wait and grow old.

Peeve #2: Every editor or agent seems to want a different thing. The first 50 pages or the first three chapters. Some want a one page synopsis, some 2 pages. Another wants no more than one paragraph. Others want detailed outlines, another a summary. I don’t know about you but I get sick and tired of having to reinvent the wheel every time I submit something to someone. I understand they need guidelines, but do they realize how difficult they make it for us when there’s no set standard? So what if you send a 3 page synopsis instead of two pager? Or 2½ pages? You’re a malcontent. A subversive. It’s time for the balance of power to shift. Our time is valuable too. How about an industry-wide standard, so we don’t have to start over every time?

Peeve #3: They all have things that turn them off before you even get off the ground. There was a producer once who said if you submit a script with ellipses in it he would automatically reject it. Why? Did that make it a bad story? If a writer submitting to him, on their own or through their agent, would have taken out all the ellipses would that have made it a better story? Some agents or editors don’t like prologues. Well, what if there is a need for a prologue? Coming from a film writing background I understand the need to get into a story quickly. But one of the joys of books is that you can—or used to be able to—take a little longer to get off the ground. And sometimes a prologue is necessary. But I do know about cutting to the chase. In my rewriting gig I once chopped off all of Act I of a script and started on Act II, using just a few tidbits from the first act, inserting them where I could. I understand when the prologue is used for exposition and only exposition that’s not a good idea, but sometimes that’s what works for that particular project.

Peeve #4: Everyone has a different opinion, so when you get notes from someone, but without a commitment, should you rewrite your manuscript every time? What if they still don’t like it? Or the next person who reads it doesn’t like the things you just changed for the last person? Write your story not theirs. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be open to criticism, but only if you agree it’s valid. I once optioned a script to a producer. He loved the dialogue. It was the best dialogue he’d ever heard. He gushed on and on about it. He gave it to a director who hated the dialogue. Magically and overnight the producer hated the dialogue. Another script I optioned several times went to an agent, early on, who complained that a scene was set in Union Station in L.A. “Nobody takes trains anymore,” he said. Should I have changed that? Would it have made all the difference and he would take me on? Well, I didn’t and he missed the whole point of why it was set in a train station, which was to contrast the “old” vs. “the” new in the context of a main character stuck in the past in some ways. So if you rewrite for everyone who has an opinion you’ll spend your whole life doing that. You can’t please everyone so please yourself. Like Rick Nelson said in his song “Garden Party,” “It's all right now, yeah, learned my lesson well, You see, ya can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have guidelines and rules, but they should be consistent and not so rigid that you lose before you even get in the door. Sure, margins should be an inch. Manuscripts should be carefully proofread and edited. But just like everyone one wants one inch margins, they should all be on the same page (pun intended) with other things so we aren’t starting from scratch every time we submit to them.

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest. Let the arrows fly.


A little bit of BSP: My short story “Howling at the Moon” from the November, 2014 issue of Ellery Queen has been nominated for an Anthony Award. I’m very grateful to those who voted. And it certainly came as a surprise. Very cool, but very unexpected. If you want to read the story, click here and scroll down to the Short Story section. All of the short story nominees are here: http://bouchercon2015.org/anthony-awards/

Hope to you see at the California Crime Writers Conference

(http://ccwconference.org/ ). June 6th and 7th. I’ll be on the Thrills and Chills (Crafting the Thriller and Suspense Novel) panel, Saturday at 10:30 a.m., along with Laurie Stevens (M), Doug Lyle, Diana Gould and Craig Buck.

And please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my soon-to-be-updated website www.PaulDMarks.com

Subscribe to my Newsletter: http://pauldmarks.com/subscribe-to-my-newsletter/

"Ricky Nelson free" by The original uploader was Mind meal at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ricky_Nelson_free.jpg#/media/File:Ricky_Nelson_free.jpg

25 May 2015

All I Need To Know

Mystery Author Jan Grape
This past week I was thinking about how things learned at a very early age can form us in a way that we really don't understand. Thinking about that reminded me of the book title, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. Have any of you read that book? I never read it but I did read Mr. Fulghum's original essay on the subject. If you haven't read the book or the essay here are some highlights:
  • Play Fair.
  • Don't Hit People.
  • Put Things Back Where They Belong and Clean Up Your Own Mess.
  • Wash Your Hands Before You Eat And Don't Forget To Flush.
  • Take a Nap Every Afternoon.
Pretty good examples of how to live a pretty good life, right? And we did learn this in kindergarten or if you didn't go to kindergarten, you learned it in first grade. A couple more things were mentioned but I didn't want to get into copyright problems. And the major point I was thinking about was how this all can relate to your characters as you write. Definitely to your main character and to your villain as well.

My late husband, Elmer, had a somewhat traumatic experience when he was five years old. In fact, it was on this fifth birthday. He was playing outside and although he knew he wasn't feeling too well, he kept running and playing and one of his older sisters who was in the house watching him out the window didn't see him fall. He just fell unconscious. No injury, no reason. If she saw him at any point, I'm sure she just thought he was playing dead or whatever little five year old boys do.

A nearby neighbor saw him and called for an ambulance. The ambulance took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. A short time later, his mother who had returned home and found out her child was in the hospital raced to the medical center. Mama began having a screaming fit because this was a Catholic Hospital. She had been taught in her church that Catholic churches were evil and that all nuns, even nurses worked for the devil. She came into the children's ward, right to her son's bed yelling about how they were going to kill her baby and that she absolutely had to take him out of this Satan's Den of Evil before he died.

Fortunately, the medicine that had been given Elmer had broken his fever and since the family didn't have any insurance or money, they sent him home with his mother and medicine. For the rest of his life, every time Elmer had to go to the hospital and he had a number of surgeries after we were married, he always had a bad experience. There were times he called me to come get him, he felt they were doing him more harm than good. I had heard his childhood story but never connected the dots of the child's traumas with the man's bad experiences. Often because there were little things that had gone wrong, like pain meds making him sick or a bad nurse, or machine failures.

The mother of a good friend of ours died when he was five years old. He actually doesn't remember much of the next couple of years although his father remarried and his new mother was kind and loving to him and his three older brothers. His parent's had four other boys and all were happy and healthy. It wasn't until he wrote his memoirs when he was in his seventies that he recalled the devastation he felt. It also explained his fear of separation from his wife and children even though they were only going on a short trip to visit her mother two hundred miles away.

These little stories made me think of how things that could have happened to your main character when they were four or five or six can shape the life of a hero/heroine or the life of your villain or even secondary characters.

I even read that psychologist say that even if a young person goes bad and maybe commits crimes and seems to hate everyone and everything, love can save him.  If that person knew and felt love when he was a baby up to age five or six, that he will return to return that love. I have no idea how this relates to career criminals but it might redeem some bad person you're writing about it you know their life story.

I'm writing this on Memorial Day and I want to say thank you to all those who are serving in the military, those who have served through all the years, and those who have to wait. May all come back home safely. Including my father, my bonus dad and my husband who did come home safely.

24 May 2015

Scams, part 2

by Leigh Lundin

Last week I wrote about my friend Thrush fielding a scam telephone call pretending to be the IRS. This week I turn my attention to friends who were the subjects of web-mail scams. But as I was writing about other people’s email being cracked, my own was used to spoof addresses of email spammers.

Fourteen years ago, I signed up with AOL. I stuck with them during the vicissitudes of their development cycles, but at some point they wanted to charge fees at a time when their mail interface had run amok. I switched to Yahoo and stuck with them through their vicissitudes of (mis)fortune. Mail received by my old AOL account is forwarded to my Yahoo address, one-way only. I still give out my AOL address– it’s simpler to spell over the phone– but any reply I may make will come from Yahoo, not AOL.

As I’m working on today’s article, imagine my surprise when friends Dale Andrews, Thrush, and Sharon tell me my email’s being used to blast unsuspecting souls with ads for weight loss, penis enlargement, and an eatery called “Quick Sushi”. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have recently been attacked in a similar way. Typically, programs either mine email headers for addresses or they break into an address book. They then email from their own accounts ‘spoofing’ a fake return address hoping acquaintances will open emails from an apparent friend or family member.

But our SleuthSayers’s friend Cate was the unwitting pawn in a different kind of attack, as you can tell in the following exchange. I caught on early as did our friends Sharon and Darlene Poier. Not trusting her other accounts hadn’t been cracked, I immediately sent emails to friends and family to warn Cate her business address had been compromised.

Here’s my exchange keeping the scammers busy. Note the grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and keep in mind that Cate, a former teacher, writes and edits textbooks and tutorials.

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
Interesting. Cathrine is notorious among family and friends for refusing to carry a cell phone.
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 4:59 AM
Subject: Good Morning

How's is your day going,  I'll like to discuss something with you. i should have called, my phone fell in the tub this morning are you online ?  let me know

Cathrine ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒

Sent from my iPad

On 06 May 2015 at 16:11, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Is this you?

Leigh Lundin

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
A professional editor would rather die than write horrible grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 10:37 AM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

How are you ? hope all is well with you sorry to bother you I'm actually in need of a loan, i have decided to request this from you. its just a token and i intend to refund back by  next week.  please are you able to loan me this funds.

Sent from my iPad

On 06 May 2015 at 17:12, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Now I'm playing with them. But I'm also probing to see what they know: The real Nelly is missing a leg.
I'm sorry to hear that. What happened? Are you okay? Are you in Düsseldorf or München? Isn't Nelly doing the leg work for you? You've got to keep her on her toes.

Of course, I'll help. How many euros do you need? If you send me your street address, Chadwick is leaving Bruxelles in an hour or two. We'll send a courier; just sign for it.

It's a hectic morning, but I'll do what I can.

Leigh Lundin

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
More of the same plus 9000 what? Dollars? Euros? Rand? Notice the stuttering "the the".
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 11:15 AM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

Thank you so much the  the funds (9000) its needed for some outstanding payments I'll be more than glad to get it today,  i'll have it refunded before the end of next week i  promise you . can you help me send it through now ? can you help me send money via western union

Sent from my iPad

On 06 May 2015 at 17:26, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

I'm confused. 9000 in which currency? I've got Mickey Chadwick standing by. Are you okay? Elle says you're not in Düsseldorf. Where are you?

Leigh Lundin

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Imagine Bill Cosby saying "R-i-g-h-t…"
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 12:49 PM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

No i am in south africa now , can you help me send the money now yes i am very okay, reply now

On 06 May 2015 at 19:36, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

What the hell are you doing in South Africa? You're supposed to be in Düsseldorf. What the hell's going on?

Leigh Lundin

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Tap-tap-tap dancing. Notice how "Sent from my iPad" comes and goes.
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 1:42 PM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

Yes i went on a quick trip and should be back Düsseldorf on Friday but now i am owing some outstanding payment and i am in good health will you be able to assist me on this money

On 06 May 2015 at 19:54, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Where is Nelly? She can't go running around with you.

Look, I'll send the money if you tell me what currency and your address. Get your arse on a plane and get back to Düsseldorf immediately. We're going to have a long talk.

Leigh Lundin

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Here we go! Notice Cathrine's name– the supposed author of the email– and Johannesburg are spelled wrong as well as all uses of 'its'.
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 1:57 PM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

Please send the funds to the below information "Western Union Money In Minutes"

    Catherine ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒
    South Africa

once its sent please send me the #10 digit confirmation number that will be used to pick up the funds  how long will it take to be sent ?

Sent from my iPad

On 06 May 2015 at 20:18, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Except for Nelly, Chadwick and all other names I use are from stories I've written.
It’s 20h15 here and I imagine the same in SA. Smuts, Sergeant Ngenzolwampi, and Magondo Svitsi are in Harare headed to Pretoria. What’s your addy in Joburg? And where’s Nelly? I’ve given Svitsi orders to clean up your mess and put you on a plane. Smith’s involved in that op in Sana’a and he’ll not like this at all.

Leigh Lundin

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Did I say that?
Sent: Wednesday, 06 May 2015 2:19 PM
Subject: Re: Good Morning

Are you saying your no longer sending the money

On 06 May 2015 at 20:30, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Svitsi's got instructions to take care of any trouble you're in including paying off whatever crap you've got into or other measures– I'm sure you know what I mean. Stop being coy about your address; I can't deal with evasiveness. And where's Nelly? Smith's definitely going to be pissed off. Either answer my damn questions or deal with him yourself.

Leigh Lundin

On 07 May 2015 at 06:29, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Smith called in on the sat-phone and he's pissed. Call him ASAP.

Leigh Lundin

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Testy, testy! And look how the spelling deteriorates.
Sent: Wednesday, 07 May 2015 07:15
Subject: Re: Good Morning

I dont need to call anyone as i need your assistance to leave here but you dont want to send the oney

On 07 May 2015 at 07:43, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Abu Bakr? Never mess with a crime writer. Oh, and never call Cathrine 'Cathy'.
Cathy, I'm asking you to cooperate. Svitsi is standing by with whatever funds you need, but we can't wait forever for you and Nelly. We're trying to run an op and Smith is furious. Abu Bakr is selling out and yet we've got to deal with you. Either make contact or deal with your own problems and don't expect us to bail you out. If you've been captured, you know what to do.

Leigh Lundin

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Likely dreaming but I like to imagine a small sense of panic.
Sent: Wednesday, 07 May 2015 07:46
Subject: Re: Good Morning


On 07 May 2015 at 07:49, Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com> wrote:

Message from Smith: Ipso lorem de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum. Si?

Leigh Lundin

From: ☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒ Consulting <☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.consult1@gmail.com>
To: Leigh Lundin <leigh_lundin@☒☒☒☒☒☒☒☒.com>
Unsure what they intended.
Sent: Wednesday, 07 May 2015 08:26
Subject: Re: Good Morning

(empty email)

From: Maj. Ngenzolwampi <undisclosed@berlin.com>
To: undisclosed list
Always work historical and current events into your fiction.
Sent: Thursday, 08 May 2015 09:50
Subject: OP 2371

Congratulations, team, for another successful operation. One of the best protected men in the world, Nasser al-Ansi, is no more. Special thanks to Colonel Smith and his squad. Job well done! See you in Ankara.

I’m happy to report Cate has re-seized control of her business account. She was touched that friends called her land-line to offer help and one of her best clients even deposited money into her business account, money that has to be returned. (Today I received word that the client reacted by awarding her another project rather than have her return the deposit, a very positive outcome.) To the best of her knowledge, no one wired money to the isigebengus, an isiZulu word meaning bad guys.

But I can envision a terrible outcome where a friend reacts and sends money to the swindlers and of course expects to be paid back. Imagine the strain in the relationship of two good-hearted people.

There’s an even more evil ploy in which the isigebengus claim one’s daughter was in a campus accident or someone’s grandson was kidnapped and to send money immediately… all through the anonymity of the internet.

Be cautious out there!

Images © the Better Business Bureau

23 May 2015

Worst Typos Ever - Take 2!

It happened again, and this time it was my fault.

You know how it happens.  Spellchecker has an evil twin that changes your word by one letter, and you don’t notice it until it goes to print.  

Public becomes Pubic.  Corporate Assets becomes Corporate Asses.  The Provincial Health Minister becomes Provincial Health Monster.  We’ve all been there.

Readers may recall that last year, I wasn’t too happy when the virtual blog tour company paid by my publisher changed the title Rowena and the Dark Lord to Rowena and the Dark Lard.  Sales were not stellar.  However, the hilarity that ensued was probably worth the typo.  Seems there were all sorts of people willing to suggest alternative plot lines for a book about Dark Lard.  Many were a mite more entertaining than the original concept (she said ruefully.)

Here’s a small sample:
Protagonist moves back to Land’s End and opens up a bakery.

Protagonist and love interest return to Land’s End and become pig farmers.

Protagonist messes up another spell that causes all who look at her to turn into donuts.

It’s enough to make a grown writer cry.

Well, this time I did it to myself.

REALLY not cool to request a formal industry review for a book and misspell the title.

No matter how it reads, "Cod Name: Gypsy Moth" is not a tale <sic> about an undercover fish running a bar off the coast of Newfoundland...

That wasn’t enough.  People were quick to respond with suggested plot lines on Facebook.  Other authors (22 in fact) had to wade in <sic>.

he'd have to scale back his expectations - a bar like that would be underwater in no time.

and here's me waiting with 'baited' breath

Readers will dive right into that

That's a whale of a tale

that book will really "hook" a reader

Smells pretty fishy to me

definitely the wrong plaice at the wrong time.

We're really floundering here; no trout about it.

Okay!  In the interest of sane people everywhere, I’ll stop on that last one. 

The real name of the book? 
“Comedy and Space Opera – a blast to read” (former editor Distant Suns magazine)
“a worthy tribute to Douglas Adams”  (prepub review)

It isn't easy being a female barkeep in the final frontier...especially when you’re also a spy!
Nell Romana loves two things: the Blue Angel Bar, and Dalamar, a notorious modern-day knight for hire.  Too bad he doesn't know she is actually an undercover agent. 

The bar is a magnet for all sorts of thirsty frontier types, and some of them don’t have civilized manners. That’s no problem for Dalamar, who is built like a warlord and keeps everyone in line. But when Dal is called away on a routine job, Nell uncovers a rebel plot to overthrow the Federation.  She has to act fast and alone.

Then the worst happens.  Her cover is blown …

Buy link AMAZON
Buy link KOBO

22 May 2015

Keep the faith, Buddy!

By Dixon Hill

In the last phase of the Special Forces Qualification Course I ran into an instructor who clearly didn't
like me because he was intimidated by my previous experience in Military Intelligence.  In fact, the first words he ever said to me, after having met me about ten seconds before, were: "So you worked for Military Intelligence, huh?  You probably think you're really smart.  Don't you?  Well, we'll see how far 'book smarts' get you through, where you're going.  I think you're gonna be pretty surprised!"
I hadn't said a word to him before he said that to me; clearly he'd been reading my personnel folder.

After he walked away, the other members of my training A-Team asked me, "What did you do to tick that guy off?"

I shook my head.  "Never saw him before in my life."

Roughly a month later, I was one of the 11 men he'd flunked out of Phase 3 (that's 11 out of the 13 guys on my training A-Team).  With the exception of one sergeant, who quit in disgust, all of us went back through Phase 3, starting a few weeks later -- all over again -- and we all passed.

Because we had a very good company commander, Captain Juan O'Rama, all 11 of us were signed out on leave within 24 hours.  When I returned, to start Phase 3 again, I found a brass Zippo lighter on my bunk, left there with a note from my buddy, Sergeant Ed Antonavich.  The note explained that he had "kidnapped" my pillow (for very sensible reasons that will remain a mystery on this blog). The lighter was inscribed: Keep the faith, buddy!

What has this got to do with writing?

My life as a writer sometimes seems to come at me as a sort of wave-like experience.  My success crests, washes over, and then I find myself in a trough, working to mount the next wave.

When it comes to the writing itself, I suppose this wave behavior works its way into a surfer's analogy: I paddle my board into the middle of a story trying to catch that big curling wave and ride it for as long as I can.

It strikes me that this is similar to a previous analogy I've posted here, one in which I pick an interesting freight train, with various and intriguing boxcars coupled to it, and hitch a ride, hoping that after I push-start the locomotive it will begin running along on its own steam, whisking me down the line with it.

I suppose the surfer analogy is the friendlier of the two, because changing course doesn't require tearing up the track and laying it back down in a different configuration.

Problem is: changing course in a story sometimes DOES require such drastic measures, so maybe the train analogy holds truer.

The wave theory of a writer's life, however -- MY writer's life, at least -- pertains to more than just the mechanics of writing.  It also applies to successes and failures, as well as those times that are simply spent working, during which neither monetary nor critical success or failure are achieved; a writer is just busily working.

When this happens, a writer has to have a considerable amount of faith that the project in question is worthwhile, because s/he is usually getting no feedback from the publishing world, and sometimes not even from a critique group.

At such times I am strangely reminded of trials I went through in the army, trials which required an enormous expenditure of physical strength and endurance, often coupled with mental agility and determination if one were to succeed.  Whether these trials were part of training, or simply a necessary component for mission accomplishment, the end result was usually the same: sagging head and shoulders, ragged breathing, tongue hanging out, and -- when salvation arrived! -- that blessed sense of a lightened load when we clambered aboard a chopper, or some other vehicle, and could slip the ruck straps from our shoulders.

For the writer, of course, there is no chopper to whisk one away to the land of security.  The closest we come to that is the moment we receive a request for more pages, an acceptance, or a check in the mail.

There are other times, however, when a writer might receive a much-needed shot in the arm.  That manuscript submitted nine or ten months ago, and forgotten about, suddenly catches an email nibble or bite.  Or, as happened for me a few months ago, you open the mailbox to discover an unexpected check for royalties on work you did some time ago.  The effect on a writer's psyche is not on par with being choppered home to relax, but it certainly helps when you're on the march with no relief in sight.

So, if you're currently in a long trough, working away at something, and the doubts are threatening to set-in, take heart and Keep the faith, Buddy! -- a shot in the arm, or literary chopper-equivalent is undoubtedly on the way.

A couple years after reaching my first A-Team, when I went through Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) school our instructors  constantly exhorted us, if ever captured, to: Always look for the little victory each day brings!  

POW's who survived long incarceration evidently shared this common trait: they always looked for the little occurrences that gave them a chance to laugh at, or at least think mocking thoughts of, their captors.  Many made a field-expedient calendar and marked off each day, thinking: "One day closer to freedom and home," each morning or evening.  Others took heart from managing to do small things that bucked-up the sagging spirits of a fellow prisoner(s).  On rare occasion, a few even managed to sabotage enemy vehicles or equipment.

All these things are little victories.  Personal victories.  They didn't win any military war, but they did help POW's to survive long periods of hardship, doubt and fear.

The same holds true for writing.  The little victories are there all around a writer: completing X hours that day, finishing a certain chapter -- any and all of the little signs that you're making progress, no matter how much you DON'T hear about it.  If nothing else, a writer can always say, "One more day of writing down, one day closer to completion!"

So, my thoughts to those in the long trough:
Keep the Faith, Buddy!
Look for the little victories each day brings.  

See you in two weeks,

P.S. How do I feel about having to repeat Phase 3 of the SFQC?  Well . . . as I mentioned earlier, all of us who went back through it again, passed with flying colors.  Additionally, the sergeant who flunked us wound up being put out of the army on grounds of mental instability, so I don't hold much of a grudge.

P.P.S. Please don't think I know anything about surfing.  If I tried it, I'd probably end up looking like this guy!