I don’t have rhythm

Since my surgery on Wednesday, I have been trying to write with my dictation software. It hasn't gone well. Not because of the software, which has been working fine (I am using it to write this post). The problem is me and it's mental. Or maybe tactile. Or both.For some reason, the act of typing is very much linked creatively to writing for me. The dictation software has been fine for things like this post, but for fiction, it has been problematic. My sentences are coming out stilted. The words just aren't flowing. Granted, I have other handicaps working against my creativity now…pain, discomfort, drugs. Even so, I feel like I need the tactile connection/sensation of fingers on the keys to really get into the groove, the rhythm of writing. That rhythm is missing for me without the act of typing. I guess it's like trying to dance while belted into a chair. On the plus side, I seem to be a better speller with the dictation software … at least when the software gets my words right, which surprisingly is most of the time.

Yesterday I wrote an essay for the Edgar Award program and what would have taken me maybe an hour took me a lot longer. It was easier than trying to dictate fiction, though. Maybe with practice I get better at it. I hope to be back typing with my right hand again very soon.

Mirror Mirror

I hate it when authors use reflecti0ns as a way to describe how their characters look. It always feels lazy and flat. But, for some reason, the horror cliche of having an image suddenly appear in a mirror never seems to lose its shock value. Just take a look at this:

Thanks to Alex Epstein for the link.

I’m Going Under The Knife

..and not for the long overdue nose job, pec implants and scrotum lift.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m having more surgery on my right arm again today so I may be absent here for a while…

Then again, I said that before my second surgery on my arm a few years back…and I blogged the next day using my dictation software. This blogging thing is an addiction, my friends…or a desperate cry for attention…or both.

UPDATE 2-10-10: thank you for all your kind comments and support.I wasn’t able to watch the surgery this time because my arm was taking too long to numb-up so he had to knock me out.  The surgery lasted a little over an hour and my modest doctor tells me he “performed another miracle” so all is well. My arm is still numb, so I am feeling no pain…yet. I am writing this using my dictation software and am stunned at how accurate it is. Okay, time to go eat some cookies and drink some gatorade.  

A Book Made For Me

51lYvEwlv-L._SS500_ I'm a sucker for unusual reference works about the media, whether its books, movies or TV shows (and you gotta love McFarland for publishing so many of them). Bradley Mengel's "Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction" was a must-have for me, even before I read the rave reviews on Bookgasm and Bill Crider's blog.

I've always loved pulp novels like "The Executioner," "The Penetrator," "The Death Merchant," and "The Destroyer." In fact, I did a scholarly, unpublished examination of the vigilante genre myself many years ago for a UCLA class…and as research for writing my first novel, .357 Vigilante, under the pseudonym "Ian Ludlow" (yes, it's covered in this book, and accurately, too. And notice how similar the cover of his book is to mine).


For me, the best part of Mengel's book is discovering who actually wrote the novels written under "house" names…and learning the inside story on the development of so many obscure pulp series. This book is clearly a labor of love, but it leans more towards scholarly analysis than fannish drool. It's a great book for fans of pulps, rich with details and background information, and offers a historical overview of a genre, and a class of mass market paperbacks, that are all but dead today (except for Gold Eagle's "Executioner" books). Many of these books, and their authors, would have been forgotten if not for this one-of-a-kind reference work, which also offers a glimpse at the influence and workings of book packagers/"creators" in the 60s,70s & 80s.

The only drawback of this book is the steep $45 cover price. To save a few bucks, I bought the Kindle edition, which was also inexcusably pricey at $16, especially since the book doesn't really lend itself to easy reading on an e-reader. Even so, I'm glad I bought it.


My buddy Max Allan Collins talks on his blog today about his collaborations with Mickey Spillane. Here's an excerpt: 

The truth is, these are genuine collaborations, all of them. I would put them at 50%/50%. I usually take Mickey’s work, expand upon it, and extend it so that it takes up at least half of the finished product. Probably about 60% of the wordsmithing in these novels is mine. But the plot idea, and various notes, and sometimes rough drafts of endings, plus the other 40% of the writing, are all Mickey’s. That’s how it’s done. I don’t believe anything like it has ever occurred in mystery fiction, a writer of Mickey’s magnitude leaving half a dozen substantial manuscripts behind, having designated a trusted collaborator (me) to complete them.

He also talks about his collaborations with his long-time researcher Matthew Clemens, who is uncredited on the covers of Max's C.S.I. tie-ins. Max is very candid about why his name is so much bigger than Clemens' on the cover of their new "standalone" thriller, even though they equally divided the work:N335740  

A good collaboration is synergistic – two plus two equals fourteen. While there are plenty of Matt’s sentences in YOU CAN’T STOP ME, it is about as fifty/fifty a project as you can imagine…and neither of us could have done it alone.

[Bill Crider's]comment that my bigger byline on THE BIG BANG may indicate a bigger contribution by me is at odds with the truth of publishing. Often times, the bigger name of a dual byline did the least amount of work. YOU CAN’T STOP ME is very much a fifty-fifty novel by Matt and me, but my name is much larger, because I am the bigger name (at the moment). But usually with such a situation, you could safely guess that the smaller name did most or even more of the writing.

The blog post is worth reading… it's a very interesting look into the work habits of a professional writer and, to some degree, the business of writing. 

You Go, Girl!

Mom's Cover for Amazon  My Mom, Jan Curran, is thrilled about the tremendous reader response that her memoir Active Senior Living has been getting on Amazon, the Kindle Discussion forums, and on the Kindleboard. Here are just a few examples. G Murphy writes:

This is such a heartwarming story. It helps to take the scaryness out of an independant living home. So many seniors have false impressions of the senior homes and negative ideas of living in one. This just confirms to me that having social contacts and friends as you age is so important to a person's well being. The friendships shared in this home give each resident a purpose in life and make living fun. I am 67 and have visited a senior living home in our area as a volunteer. I can so relate to the story in this book as see these people living in the residence in my town. I have told my family for years that this is the kind of place I want to live when I can no longer live alone. Friends and a sense of being needed and loved are such an important part of ones wellbeing. Jan has made us feel like we know each and everyone of these people. I look forward to another book continuing the experiences she is having. I found this book on the Kindle forum page. Good luck to you Jan. I feel I know you.

Lesley Suddard wrote:

I found myself laughing and crying with Jan, reliving her experiences moving in and settling into life at an "Active Senior Living Community", her encounters with the other "inmates", and the sweetness of the interactions with the residents there as they developed bonding friendships. Not only is this an entertaining read, but it is also an enlightening one. With my parents approaching the age where either an independent senior living facility or an assisted one may soon be required, the insights into the advantages and the pitfalls of these facilities provide kind of a guidepost for what to look for when evaluating various alternatives.

Cathy B wrote:

I bought this book for my Kindle yesterday afternoon and stayed up reading until I'd finished it. By the time I was done I felt like I knew all the people Jan met during her stay in assisted living and was as attached to them as she obviously is (and they to her). I am hoping that one day soon she will write a follow-up book so I can find out how all of "my" new friends are doing. After reading this book, I realized that even at 80 or 90 life is what you make of it. Like any other time of life, there are joys and sorrows, smiles and tears. AND there are "kooks" in every age group, LOL. Please, Jan, don't make me wait too long for an update. And give "Ed" and the others a hug from me.

Molly Cook wrote:

You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll recognize human nature no matter how old you are, but if you're over 65, you'll probably recognize yourself and one or more of your friends. Jan is a wonderful writer who can make you laugh and shed tears in the same paragraph. Her personal account of life at "the Inn" and her courage in the face of mounting challenges show us she is the Energizer Bunny of writers. You'll be glad you met Jan Curran!

Kari Johnson writes:

Rarely do I laugh out loud while reading a book. Maybe while at home, but certainly not while reading in public. Today, I'm sure the patrons at the restaurant I lunched at thought I was nuts. Maybe it was reading about Mr. Jones and Carol Channing. Maybe because I can remember so clearly when my grandparents lived in one of these places at all the women swarmed around my very married grandfather, begging him to play the piano and sing with them. It brought back many of my own memories of hanging out with them at their facility. I cannot wait to share this book with my parents. And siblings. And children someday.

Congratulations Mom on touching so many lives with your book!

You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 12

January was my best month yet in sales & royalties for my out-of-print books on the Kindle (click on the photo above for a larger, and clear, image of my royalty statement). THE WALK remained my best-selling title with 536 copies sold. MY GUN HAS BULLETS was a distant second with 164 copies sold. And coming up third was THREE WAYS TO DIE, my collection of previously published short stories, with 148 copies sold.

I lowered the price of my .357 VIGILANTE books from $2.89 to $1.99 and sales went up. It seems to me that Kindle readers are more inclined to take a chance on books if they are priced under two bucks.

All told, I made $775 in Kindle royalties this month…and all found money on out-of-print books that were boxed up and forgotten in my garage (I really do owe Joe Konrath a drink for getting me into this back in May). I credit the jump in my sales to all the people who got Kindles as Christmas gifts and were eager to test drive their new toy for as little money as possible. I suspect my sales will slowly decline once the novelty of the Kindle wears off, but  THE WALK has already sold 50 copies in the first two days of February, so maybe I'm wrong (by the way, THE WALK has already sold more copies on the Kindle than it ever did in hardcover). 

I'll be curious to see how my MONK books did on the Kindle during the same period…but it will be some time before I get my royalty reports from Penguin.

BEYOND THE BEYOND continues to sell poorly, or at least below my expectations, so I lowered the price in late January to 99 cents and sales immediately went up…though not by much. I'm hoping I can use the book as a "loss leader" to draw people to my other ebooks.

All of these Kindle editions of my out-of-print books have also been available for two months now as ebooks on Barnes & Noble (via Smashwords) and I have sold less than half-a-dozen… COMBINED. Clearly, B&N and the Nook have a long way to go to catch up to the Kindle.