Author, Reread Thyself

In his enewsletter, mystery writer Michael Jecks talks about the constant juggling act that prolific writers have to perform.

Every time one book is ready to launch, I have to plan the next to be written.
And at the same time, of course, I’m receiving the next to be published so that
I can go through the copy editor’s notes. That’s why at any time of the year I
tend to be working on three different titles simultaneously, and it’s also why
authors should always reread their most recently published books before being
interviewed about them.

During a radio interview, the host asked him a specific plot question about his novel… and he couldn’t answer.

In the two years between writing the book and the interview, I had written The Merchant’s Partner, A Moorland Hanging, and
synopses for two more books. I had scarcely thought about The
Last Templar
, beyond being glad that it was in print and selling well. I
couldn’t remember the names of the victims, the perpetrators, or the motives for
their crimes. It was a salutary experience, and one I won’t forget in a hurry.

I can see the same thing happening to me some day. I will be sure to follow his advice…

C’mon Get Happy!

My sisters Karen & Linda have a gripe.

Lee often quotes Tod in his blog but he rarely quotes either of us, his two really funny and talented sisters. However, we won’t harp on that because we don’t really talk about all that mystery shmistery stuff that his fans (or in some cases, his enemies) like to read.

That is about to change.  My sisters, my brother, and I all have new books coming out in November — Linda Woods & Karen Dinino’s  art book VISUAL CHRONICLES, Tod Goldberg’s short story collection SIMPLIFY, and my detective yarn THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE.  PartridgefamWe’re going to hit the road together, like the Partridge Family. I’m Keith, of course. Tod is Danny. Karen is Laurie. And Linda is Tracy.  We aren’t going to sing… but we’ll sign books, tell lies, and probably make an art project or two.

My art-minded sisters have also launched a new feature on their blog of interest to folks here.

We do know something about books, and in an effort to bind the 4 of us in the literary world, a new feature of this blog is born… Judging a Book by its Cover.

Be sure to check it out… and watch this space over the coming months for more news about my sisters and their first book.

Something More Pathetic Than Those Full Page Ads in Variety…

From Defamer:

snaps a couple of pictures of this billboard (click on image to see larger view) physically located near the
intersection of Sunset and Highland, and metaphysically situated at the
intersection of "writerly desperation" and "too much money lying around."
Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to hire a dozen hookers wearing sandwich boards
detailing his pitch to camp out in front of NBC’s offices in Burbank?

The writer should meet up with those guys at the Colonial Fan Force.


Does Everyone Have A Book In Them?

not according to my brother Tod, the literary novelist who teaches creative writing at UCLA Extension, among other places.

It’s hard for me to say that I teach creative writing because I firmly believe
that talent cannot be taught. Either you can string two words together or you
can’t, and what I am able to do is either provide direction or try to foster
talent in a particular way. There are tools, certainly, that a writer needs, but
I don’t prescribe to the idea that everyone has a novel inside them, just like I
don’t believe everyone has a brain surgeon or a plumber or a lawyer inside

He also talks about some of his experiences as a teacher.

There are three things I try to suss out the first night:

1. Who is the crazy person (there’s always, always one).

2. Who is the person who will disagree with everything I say.

3. Who is the person who will be offended by my constant use of the word
"fuck" as a place holder for my thoughts, as in, "It’s hard to say whether or
not a first present tense story about a woman with an imaginary friend who
commits murders while the main character is asleep, but only kills the people
the main character dreams of, will sell. I mean, it’s like, fuck.  You know?"

Paperback Writer

While some are proclaiming the death of the mass market paperback, at least one writer is still making a very healthy living writing them. Author Lynn Viehl (who also writes under five other names)  is interviewed on Book Angst.

LV: I’ve had my disappointments, but not many, and
they made me work harder. I didn’t know anything about the industry and
I never met another writer until after I was published, so that may
have something to do with it. My only expectation was simply to see my
name on the cover of a book, and I’ve done that twenty-six times in
five years.

M: You also seemed to be among the best paid of all of the respondents.

The reason my writing income is in six figures is because I write very
fast, I’m aggressive about finding work, and I’m willing to work 12 to
16 hours a day at the job.

M: If you don’t mind my asking, what’s the most you’ve ever been paid for a book? And how many do you generally write per year?

The largest advance I’ve been paid for a single novel is $25,000.00. I write six to eight novels a year.

She writes in a variety of genres, including horror and romance, and mentions on her blog that she’s well on the way to reaching that total in 2005.

I’m 20K away from finishing the first draft of my first book of 2005 (some of which I wrote in 2004; I’m not that
fast.) I expect to polish it off today. I have two more books in
progress and hope to finish both of them by the first of Feburary.

Compared to her, I feel lazy.

Tod’s Got a Blog

My brother Tod has joined the blogging world…

I swore up and down that I wouldn’t get sucked into this. That I’d watch from
the sidelines while the rest of the world blogged away. I’d spend my mornings
jogging, working out, reading Dostoesvsky, getting a handle on my Esperanto
lessons, really getting down to the basics as to why I just can’t get my
wireless router to work, throwing out all my old cassette tapes, flossing,
shaving the tuft of hair that growns on the base of my back, rectifying that my
mother moved in down the street three years ago and, seemingly, ain’t moving
out, learning to love The Wire and 24 because everyone else seems to, maybe
doing an odd bit of actual writing during the daylight hours vs. the hours
between 9pm & 3am, thinking about who might have dropped the gate on
Freddy’s head on last week’s Amazing Race (Bolo?
Jonathan? Hayden?) and generally spending more time not reading blogs whilst
killing time.

But he finally gave in. Well, to be honest, I kind of pushed him into it. I gave him a blog for his birthday. Not using it would have been rude, don’t you think?

I can’t wait to see who he offends first. I just hope it isn’t me.

Reach Out and Touch an Author

The web has made novelists far more accessible to their readers than ever before. But, as author Alison Kent observes, there’s a downside.

I am often amazed that because authors choose to make themselves accessible on
the web, readers feel they can say anything to them in an email.

In my case, it means I get inundated with emails from people asking me to buy their series idea or read their scripts. I delete most of those (and occasionally post some of the best ones here). But I also get a lot of wonderful notes from readers and viewers… and those make me feel great, especially the flood of get-well emails I received after my accident last April.

It’s still amazing to me that I can read a novel and, in many cases, easily email the author directly and let them know how much I enjoyed their book.  And it’s still a big thrill for me to get a reply back. I hope I never become so jaded that it stops feeling special.

The Decline of Story

Richard S. Wheeler certainly isn’t afraid of controversy. After laying the blame for the decline of the mass-market paperbacks on the quality of the novels, today on his new blog he makes much the same argument about the movie business.

fiction is not the only type of storytelling in decline. After
adjusting for inflation, Hollywood’s annual gross from feature films
had declined every year since 1970. As is true of novels, this decline
has occurred during a time of rapid population growth. Plainly, there
is a deepening disconnect between storytellers of all sorts, and those
who buy our stories.

In the case of the movie business, I’m not sure storytellers are to blame as much as aggressive creative meddling by non-writers… studio execs who "develop" scripts to death. Literally.

What are your thoughts?

Who Needs Religion If You Have Tivo?

The multitalented Mark Evanier is a man who loves his Tivo.

It’s odd — and yes, I know it’s probably not healthy — to have an
emotional connection to a product. I think TiVo is the best thing to
happen to television since Chuck Barris retired. If nothing else, I
find it so liberating that I never have to fret about being home on
time to watch a certain show or to hassle with setting the VCR. I can
go about my life, comfortable in the knowledge that the latest
broadcast of The Daily Show will always be there to watch when
I’m ready to watch it…and I can pause it or rewind it or watch part
and then stop and go get lunch and watch the rest tomorrow. It makes
you feel like you own your TV instead of the other way around.

He offers users this link to get in line for the priority software upgrade that will allow you to  record a show on your TiVo and then transfer it to your PC. 

I look forward to this upgrade but a tiny part of me resents having to
wait in line. I owned one of the first TiVos made, and have continually
upgraded and purchased new models, and I think they should cater to
"charter subscribers" before they service Johnny-come-latelys to the
wondrous world of TiVo.

I’ve got my first-generation Tivo hooked up to a GoVideo DVD burner/VCR combo, so I can easily off-load whatever I record to DVD or video.  For the time being, that’s enough for me.