Author, Editor, Publisher, Coach

Category: Readers

Just Wondering….

THIS POST IS FOR WRITERS and READERS:

Are books becoming mere “Movies on Paper?” Does eloquent writing even matter anymore?

(This article originally appeared at another site back in March of 2011, from which it is now gone. Therefore, I re-post it here.)

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately—at least, “quite a bit” for me. I’ve read six thrillers in the past month, and one common thread has really jumped out at me. The authors of four of the six wrote them in what I could best call a “sparse style.” Were I feeling a bit snarky, I might call them “just plain sloppy.” The other two might at least challenge the average 12-year-old. (Remember: We’re talking about content otherwise meant for an adult audience.)

This raises a number of questions for me:

1) Is this really what the publishing industry wants? If so, is it because that’s what readers want?

2) Is this unique to the Thriller genre, or are other genres displaying the same lack of concern for quality prose?

3) Why do people read? If they seek nothing more than a “Movie on Paper,” why wouldn’t they just watch the movie? It’s a lot quicker… and cheaper.

4) Have our schools dumbed us down so much that no one even knows how to write anymore, or, for that matter, how to read? Does that mean we should throw up our hands and surrender? Give up on the language?

5) Whatever happened to editors? Are these successful authors now so comfortable with their positions that they no longer feel it necessary to “do it right”—which is to say, “write?” Is anyone else insulted by that, feeling a bit abused, or is it just me?

6) Why should I continue to spend my hard-earned money on books, if all I’m going to get is a different format for a movie I can watch… free of charge… in less than two hours?

Okay, so maybe I’m ranting a bit. Okay, so I’m ranting a lot. What can I say? When I read a book in which every other sentence is a 3- or 4-word, verb-free, content-free fragment, I can’t help but feel as if I have the hiccups. And between you and me, I HATE the hiccups. NOTE: I say this not as a writer or editor, but as a reader.

I look for more from a book:

A) Characters that live and breathe on the page, full of emotional and psychological depth that a movie hasn’t the time to offer;

B) Complex plot that goes beyond the movie-like car chases, explosions and eye candy;

C) And yes, a thoughtful exploration of the language, one that brings richness and wonder that no movie can match.

It’s not that I mind an occasional simple, quick, not terribly fulfilling read—a minor distraction from the stresses of everyday life. I just don’t want every book to be that way. Nowadays, it seems I must return to the classics for a literary excursion. Modern storytellers are decent enough… well, storytellers. However, I’m hard-pressed to call some of them—quite a few of them, in fact—writers.

Our language is a wonderful tool, a fantastic opportunity for the exploration of whole new worlds born of imagination and daring. Yes, I love a good story… of course! However, let me revel in the words, at least every once in a while, to make that exploration a richer and more satisfying one.

Is metaphor dead? Is simile obsolete? Are breathless, grunting sentence fragments all that remain of our devolved language?

God, I hope not.

Of the six authors I recently read, each of whom I’ve read before, I’m scratching three from my future reading list. I’ll not buy any more of their books. Ever. Perpetual hiccups are no fun, and I just can’t stand it anymore. As to the other three, I’m placing them on probation—one more chance, maybe two—only because I’m so attached to their characters.

I offer here an example of how to do it right:

Dean Koontz, in his book Forever Odd, could have simply TOLD us that protagonist Odd Thomas was lonely, and that he had only himself to blame for that fact. This would have been fine, if rather dull. Instead, he chose to SHOW us Odd’s state through metaphor:

“Loneliness comes in two basic varieties. When it results from a desire for solitude, loneliness is a door we close against the world. When the world instead rejects us, loneliness is an open door, unused.”

As I read those words, I could see Odd in my mind’s eye, standing at his open door, wondering why no one ever stopped by to visit. Dean Koontz took the time and effort, as he does in snippets throughout all his books, to raise the bar, to challenge and excite us with words—to write for us. Thank you, Mr. Koontz! Whatever you may think of his stories, at least he writes!

A note to modern writers, on the off chance that you care: “My patience is running thin. Write for me! Or I’ll just wait for the movie.”

‘Til next time, remember this: Writing well is not easy. It takes work. You mustn’t be lazy.

Working to Catch Up

THIS 1st PART IS FOR READERS (and fans of Forgive Me, Alex):

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I’ve heard from more than a few of you with something along these lines: “Hurry up and finish the damn sequel, Diamond!” I’m trying. I really am.

My duties as managing publisher/editor at Evolved Publishing have forced my duties as an author into the back seat. Well, the view back there sucks! And I’m getting tired of it.

So I’m now officially back to writing every day, even if just for an hour (hopefully 2 or 3 on most days). I simply must make daily progress, or The Devil’s Bane will just keep being relegated to the dustbin of what-would-have-been. Indeed, I’ve been re-reading The Devil’s Bane in preparation for charging full steam ahead starting Sunday night. (So by the time you see this on Monday, I will have already gone back to work on it.)

It’s interesting to discover that despite all the time away from them, those characters remain clear in my mind – a part of my life. I suppose that’s to be expected after working on Forgive Me, Alex for 5 years. These “people” are as real to me as the guy next door. Pretty cool.

I’ve also been doing a little forward plotting as I prepare to jump back into it, and I’m sneaking up on the conclusion that I’m going to have to kill off a beloved character. I mentioned this to a reader, and her reaction was, “Oh no! Which one? Oh my God, who are you going to kill? Who?”

Yeah, I had to smile at that. I’m such a sadistic $#$&! sometimes.

Who will die? To be honest, I’m not sure, as the plot can go one of two ways, but I see two beloved characters in the crosshairs, and I suspect one of them will fall. You’ll just have to wait and see.

I think this is the part where I say, “Na na na na na na.”

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THIS 2nd PART IS FOR WRITERS:

Write every day. I mean every… single… stinking… day! Take my experience as a lesson, and don’t do as I did, or next thing you know, like me, you’ll be wondering why it will be over 3 years between books. DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN!

As I look back on it now, I can’t help but wonder how different things would have been if only I’d taken 30-60 minutes a day to write. Seriously, maybe you only have time to sit down for a few minutes when you first wake up, or right before you go to bed, or while you’re waiting for the pizza delivery guy to show up. So what? Sit down for that half hour and crank out a few paragraphs, because even those few paragraphs will keep you engaged in the process.

More importantly, they will represent real forward progress.

Frankly, if I had started doing that right after Forgive Me, Alex came out, I’d have already completed The Devil’s Bane… a few paragraphs at a time.

Everyone complains about workload (*raising my hand*), but 30-60 minutes a day? Really? I… you… can’t find 30-60 minutes a day? Of course you… we… can.

I know what you’re thinking: “Diamond, if I have to do it a few paragraphs a day, I’ll never finish the damn thing!”

Wrong. Think about it. The average page is about 500 words. Just 500 words! If you did that every day – 1 little old page – you’d complete a 300-page novel in less than a year. Then, let’s assume you need a few months for editing, beta reader feedback, more editing, etc. You’d have a finely-polished novel done in about 18 months.

The alternative? To do what I’m doing now: looking back and wondering where the last 2 years have gone. Please… don’t let that happen.

Even if you only have time to sit down and write a single page, do it. And do it every… single… stinking… day!

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Noir Detective Mystery “Hot Sinatra” by Axel Howerton an Award Finalist

THIS POST IS FOR READERS:

The big news is that Hot Sinatra by Axel Howerton is one of five finalists for the Arthur Ellis Award: BEST FIRST NOVEL. For a complete listing of finalists for this prestigious award, please visit the Crime Writers of Canada website.

Why am I so thrilled about this? First, I’m a fan. I absolutely loved Hot Sinatra as a reader. Second, I had the privilege of co-editing this book, including doing the final polishing edit. Third, I had the honor of publishing it for Evolved Publishing.

Okay… I know what some of you are thinking: “Oh sure, Diamond is talking about this because he edited and published the book.” Fair enough, BUT… seriously, I LOVED this book as a reader. I’ve long been a fan of the likes of Mickey Spillane, Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, and others of that ilk. So when I first read Hot Sinatra with an eye toward publishing it, I did so as a reader with awfully high standards. And yes, Axel Howerton’s book passed the test.

I categorized this post under “Readers” and “Characters.” Why the “Characters” category? Simple, Hot Sinatra is one great, tasty, funny, compelling character stew! Not only is the main character, Moss Cole, a lot of fun, but much of the supporting cast is just a riot. You’re going to love some of these characters. In particular, many readers have commented positively on Manlove and Kickerdick – a pair of knee-breakers unlike any you’ve encountered before, believe me.

I enthusiastically recommend Hot Sinatra, but if you’re still in doubt, just sample the portions that sites like Amazon and Smashwords offer. That should convince you. Of course, you can also see what other reviewers have said.

Don’t miss out. Grab your copy today.

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Available at Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords.

Oh… and did I mention that it’s also available in French, Italian and Spanish? Yeppers.

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Authors Hope To Connect with Their Readers

In this day and age, in a world where everyone is online and engaged in social media and blogging, it’s easier than ever for authors and readers to connect. More than that, however, it’s more important than ever for them to do so, given the new market dynamics.

Two pieces recently posted at the Evolved Publishing website speak to these issues. I would encourage readers to drop in and take a look.

5 Ways To Show Love To Your Favorite Authors – by Kimberly Kinrade

The Art and Necessity of Posting a Book Review – by Ranee Dillon

Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult for an author to break in and succeed if he does not engage in the effort to connect with his readers.

As one of those emerging authors, I view this not so much as a nuisance, but as one of the more enjoyable parts of what I do. Sure, it gets to be a burden at times, when struggling to find time to get it all done, but nothing beats talking to a reader who enjoyed what I wrote. It reinforces me, convinces me that I didn’t make a mistake giving up the “day job.”

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Writers Need Readers – Period!

One of the primary concerns that has driven me from Day 1 of my writing career is this: How shall I appeal to readers, so that they will want to read every piece I publish?

Ultimately, the answer is simple: Provide the reader with a great reading value.

Okay. Great. How shall I: (A) Produce the best possible book, and; (B) Convince potential readers to take a chance on it?

Well, I provided part of that answer in an article I posted yesterday: From Evolved Publishing: Our Covenant with Readers

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Online Feedback – The Double-Edged Sword

The subject of how to deal with online feedback, whether you’re receiving it or doling it out, has been the cause of much angst and excitement.

Won’t you please love me?

As writers who sell directly to our readers, we tend to live and die on the content of our reviews, articles about our work, social media posts praising or blasting our work, and so on. As is the case with any artist, we must have thick skin, for no matter how polished our work, we’ll never please everyone. When we put our work out there, we take on a rather schizophrenic mindset: on the front edge of our sword, we’re the star of the lead float in the parade; on the back edge, we’ve just awoken in the middle of Grand Central Station at rush hour—naked.

Taste is such an extraordinarily subjective thing; my 5-star item may well be your 3-star item. It’s reasonable for us to expect that if our work is worthy of 5 stars in the minds of some, it will nonetheless be worthy of much less in the eyes of others. I recently saw a bestselling book with 148 5-star reviews… and 13 1-star reviews! What? How is that possible? Frankly, it appears some people live to cut down other people’s work. I don’t understand living life that way, but it happens, especially in the anonymous internet age. I tend to discount those few 1s when there are so many 5s.

What really interested me about that bestseller, however, was its mix of ratings at the top: 148 5-star, 132 4-star, 76 3-star. (2-star and 1-star were minimal.) That mix makes clear the subjective nature of art. As artists, we can’t get all panicked and suicidal when a poor (or less than perfect) review pops up. It will happen. It’s inevitable. We cannot please everyone.

Some authors, in particular, are hesitant to post bad reviews—for any number of reasons. For one, they know first-hand how damaging a poor review can be. Second, they may fear retribution. This leads me to the next point.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap?

I watched with some interest recently a little war waged between 4 authors. There was some back and forth on the social media sites, and some nasty reviews flowing in multiple directions. It appears this all started because one author cut down another author’s work. Author #2 took exception, and decided to respond in kind. And the war was on.

I know of many people who have policies about reviewing that go something like this: if I can’t give it at least a 4-star rating, I won’t post anything at all.

Now, I don’t think any of us should be in the business of destroying other people’s dreams. Yet if their work really is substandard, and you can provide constructive feedback to point out the issues, would that not help the author in the long run? Well, yes… if the author accepts it as he should. On the other hand, you might just start an Author War.

This fear drives many people to say nothing at all, when some feedback might be helpful to the author. Furthermore, I think we perform a disservice to readers when we fail to tell then the truth about a substandard book. And who is more important to us authors than our readers?

I try to be honest at all times, but I must admit that I too am selective about when I’ll post a generally negative review. If I see real potential in the piece, if only the author will tackle certain developmental needs, I’ll try to indicate such. On the other hand, if I encounter a piece that makes clear the author should never even consider quitting his day job, I let it go. (Really, what’s the point?)

I love good books. Period. And the more the merrier. Yet a sea of bad books does make it a tad more difficult for the good books to get noticed. The gems will win out in the end, but it may take some real time and effort. It’s made more difficult when people refuse to post poor reviews for books deserving of a low rating. Ah, the dilemma.

Do you have a policy about reviewing?

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