Irony Bites

A few weeks (months?) ago, I dished out a piece of advice in which I state that a person who wishes to release a piece of media should do a title check to see what is already out there. I had done it for my second book. BUT NOT THE FIRST BOOK! Yes, friends, I was comically surprised how many exisiting books had the word “progeny” in the title. And how many of those had “progeny” as the ONLY word in the title. Guh.


So I’ve changed the title of the book to Dolan’s Son. And you can buy it here on Amazon for 99 cents.

OR you can read it free in PDF form or .MOBI

See what you think and please write a review. The book description reads like a telegram so I have to re-do that. And the cover is temporary as well, but I didn’t use comic sans or papyrus on it so it’ll do for now.

First Person Time

I finished the first draft of Progeny a few months back. It’s been out there with my reader friends. Several have gotten back to me with encouragement and constructive feedback. A nice combination of “I liked it!” and “what the hell were you thinking here?” My old friend Tom pointed out some great stuff and once I make those fixes, I’ll post the book for the Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and right here.

On Progeny, I used the third person because… I don’t remember why, actually. I never broke from the main character’s story. Maybe I thought I would splinter off the plot lines as the story went on, but then I didn’t. Truth is, I prefer the first person. So when I started this next project, it’s a little crazy that I didn’t think of going first person right of the bat. Why? Not sure.

I was thinking of ways to open the next project and I turned to some of my favorite books for inspiration (aka theft). Count Zero is third person, but has multiple threads. Altered Carbon is first person. Lee Childs’ first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, is in the first person, but the rest of the Reacher books I’ve read (up through book 4, I think) are all third person. Weird to switch it up, but I guess he decided he wanted the reader to know what was happening to people in the story besides Reacher. Mankell’s Faceless Killers is third person, but feels like a first person narrative. You get the sense you’re feeling what Wallender feels even if you never hear his inner thoughts. It’s great writing, and way out of my league.

One of my problems with Progeny is how much it felt like a screenplay (as I’ve said many times here). Third person description and action. How many times can you write, “Jim thought” after every time the guy has a thought? Gets old. For the new project (untitled as of right now), I wrote the first chapter in the third person and I struggled with the same problem. Pretty bland storytelling. Dry description and chains of dialog. Just for kicks, I rewrote the chapter again in the first person. It was like a light went on. Actually, it was more like a floodgate opened. The words came easy and the story unfolded more naturally. The story is about a guy who acquires rare objects for the ultra rich. It’s a future where cities have no vehicle traffic and areas are either overcrowded or abandoned. He has just lost his partner and mentor and is making a go of it on his own. He owes money, his friends don’t trust him, and his confidence is shot. He poaches a job from another collector and is soon in over his head. That’s the setup. Seems obvious now, but it took me a while to figure out that it’s a personal story. It centers around this character and not really the events themselves. The story is Creighton’s story, not a sweeping account of the great battles of the Nextor System. I made that up just now. Gold, right? Gold.

There are enough writing advice blogs and twitters out there and I never intended this blog to be anything more than an account of my progress and decisions. But if you’re banging your head against your idea and the word counter is laughing in your face, try a change of narrative voice. Worked for me.

Hey Kids, Do Your Homework!

I started a new idea and have been cranking away on it (intermittently) for a few weeks. I thought the idea was cool, the plot was cooler, and the name was the coolest. Then I thought, wait a second, what if someone else thought of that name? NAAAH! Impossible. But it wouldn’t hurt to take a quick look on Amazon, right?

WHAAAAAAT? Turns out there’s not only one SF book with the same name/concept, but like thirty. I’m still ok because my story is character-based and the world can be changed. But damn, seriously? I thought I was special. Turns out I’m only as special as thirty-something other self-published books. Oh well.

This reminds me of a lesson I learned a few years back. I worked on a movie called Hart’s War. The director’s name was Greg Hoblit (don’t look him up, yet). When the movie was over, he took the whole post sound crew out to dinner and I ended up across from him at the long table. We talked about basketball and he did what he could to convince me he could dunk. I never really bought it. I asked him about Primal Fear because I knew that was his first feature. Like a dummy, I asked how he got that picture. He said, “They brought it to me.” The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Co: That’s cool, how did they line you up with a picture like that?
Greg: From my television work. They thought it was a good fit.
Co: You were in television? Did you work on a series?
Greg: Yes. I created Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and NYPD Blue.
Co: Oh. Heh. More wine?

Then the waiter brought his steak covered in mushrooms. The next part of the conversation went like this:

Co: You don’t like mushrooms?
Greg: I f***ing hate mushrooms. I can’t eat them.
Co: What happens when you eat them?
Greg: I die!

Here’s where I took a big risk. I wanted to keep the chit chat going. He had taken the snub from the young guy pretty well, but I could tell there was a little tension as if his face were saying, “who’s this punk who doesn’t know who I am?” I had a few glasses of wine in me so I went for it.

Co: You die?
(he was pretty much shouting at me in the Larkspur Inn, the most expensive restaurant in Marin County, a mecca for expensive restaurants. Yes, people were looking from other tables.)
Greg: Yes! I f***ing die if I eat mushrooms!
Co: Is that what happened last time you ate them?

Dead silence as he stared at me. The rest of the table and half the restaurant was waiting for the response. Swear to God it was right out of a movie. He laughed. Not loud, but it was enough to ease the mood. Then his steak showed up with no mushrooms and we talked about basketball and the actor Marcel Iures who was amazing in this movie that Greg was so disappointed with. The studio had ruined the surprise with the trailer and cut out the best parts of the drama in favor of more courtroom scenes. But Marcel as the evil Nazi was amazing.

Anyway, my original point was that you gotta do your background checks. It’s impossible to know everything and if you move forward with that attitude, you’ll get burned over and over. All reading is research and all research counts.

More stories soon.