Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch
After the Fall 2016

Friday, September 30, 2011

Prison Break!

Collaboration involves some new skill sets.  And some are harder than others to learn:  orchestration  being the toughest of the bunch for me.   I work on something according to my schedule, then send it off to Brad Strickland who edits or rewrites on a schedule of his own.  Meanwhile, I need to keep working if we're to stay on schedule...I've been helped by a vision that's grown stronger by the day:

A creative prison break with one man working on the roof--say, trying to break through an air vent--the other working in his cell, stitching their life vests or making an oar.  There's always something to do. 

Within the week, Brad will send back his rewrite of a major chunk and I'll send him the last pages I write, leaving him to write the long, action-packed closing section.  While he writes that, I'll go through his last rewrite, etc.

Tonight I've spent a couple of hours trying to find or make a place where a doomed character could pass on a critical clue.  And when I sign off this blog, I'll try to draft a one-paragraph speech in Scottish accent...using Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting for guidance.

Soon, when it's all down on paper, the real fun in our game, Beat the Clock, will begin.

Alternating chapters--the usual approach, I'd guess--is a good way to fly the collaborative sky.  Then again, certain books require their own strategies.  And when the Muse calls out 'Hey, baby!' I always lend an ear.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunday Offering #4

Master the instrument, master the music, then forget all that shit and play.
--Charlie Parker

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Reb MacRath tries a bold new tactic to get Rob MacRath to move over!

Summary:  Googling Reb MacRath today, I am referred unendingly to ROB MacRath.  No disrespect to Rob, but there's room for both of us online and he's simply gonna have to budge.   Now, Google does feature--in small letters--the question "Do you mean Reb MacRath?"

From the start this has been an adventure in play.  And I'll keep playing every day with Googling Reb MacRath, then hitting the Do You Mean option till the god in the machine gets the message and pulls up the links to Reb, not Rob, MacRath.

Certified as gospel truth by:

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation

Helllllllllppppppp! Has Anyone Seen Kelley Wilde?

You'll be hard-pressed to find former horror author Kelley Wilde on Google.  I know because I've looked...and I looked because I was Kelley Wilde.  You'll find a Kelley Cunningham Wilde and a Kelley Cotter Wilde (listed in Contemporary authors, but with no information preovided).  And if you look under The Suiting or Makoto or Angel Kiss or Mastery, you'll eventually stumble onto the forgotten name.

And in one way this is for the best.  Kelley Wilde has done far more than simply take on a new name--he has been reborn as two writers pooling their brains and their talents to defeat the dreadful Midlist curse.  Oh, vanity may still object to see one's name go up in smoke.   But there's liberation here as well--and an almighty lesson:  Protect your name and preserve it through artful online maneuvers. 

I shall do this now as follows:  Kelley Wilde is alive and well, forty-five pounds lighter,  working on a big new book with his partner Brad Strickland.  The opening pages will be shown to a carefully chosen group of five Beta readers in mid-November.

And for those who've missed the announcement:  the last, horrifying photo of Kelley Wilde will appear on Facebook November 10, alongside a jawdropping photo of the monster reborn as a boytoy.  The gospel truth from:

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reb MacRath Plays High-Stakes Cards with 50 Cent and Robert Greene

It's true.  I play Five Card Draw with both:  a life or death version invented by me and based on their great book, The 50th Law.  The book is both a study of fearlessness, each of its ten chapters covering a separate front...and it's also a thrilling chronicle of 50's rise to fame and wealth through mastery of all ten, including the new Wild West we know as the Web.

Now, self help books, like diets and books about how to quit smoking, are mostly doomed to fail.  Then readers move on to the next...and the next...The great trick is to find a way to keep the wind behind our sails once we've set course and reality hits and we feel ourselves drifting from our hot resolve.

How could I keep this incredible book from falling by the wayside with others that changed into yesterday's trash?  I needed a way to keep the ten principles fresh in my mind--and, at the same time, to keep the fire burning in my belly.  Also, I needed to jack up the ante, recording my progress and playing for keeps, compelling myself to take more and more risks.

Result:  the daily game of Five Card Draw I play with 50 Cent and Robert Greene.  Real cards.  Real risks.


Gotta go.  I've just drawn today's cards and once again I'm up against two supreme hustlers who know how to play.  In the audience, inside my head, the seats are filled with stars I love:  Rod Stewart, Lady Gaga, Roarin' Al Pacino, Lord Byron, Richard Boone...Their smiles tell me 'Go, boy.'  And I begin to play my hand.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hello, Hello, You Google Dings!

This morning I checked yet again, expecting still more of nothing...but a search of Reb MacRath resulted in five dings, resulting mostly from the linked blog and Facebook page. 

Hopefully, the god in the machine will pick up the major event I've listed on FB:

The world premiere photo event scheduled for November 7, springing upon the world a horrifying photo called Monster in the Desert:  the first photo of former horror star Kelley Wilde in over twenty years. (Reb, you may say, you've already announced that!  I agree while adding:  it never hurts to repeat feed the god in the machine.)

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Arrival of the Mighty Roar

Of all the midlist monsters, I was the quietest, raised to behave and always speak in a soft, genteel voice.  Even when a well-known agent screamed 'Are you friggin' insane!' after I'd personally pitched a new series emulating one by a favorite dead author.  (A year later, I found a new novel listed with the same title she'd blasted--and today, on bookstore shelves, a series paying homage to the same dead author has been begun by a pop mystery writer.  Apparently, ten years ago, my idea was not insane.  But I whimpered off with my tail between my legs, where it remained for a decade.)

In the desert, though, without much else to do I set out to work on my soft, well-mannered voice.  If I ever got another chance, I knew I'd need an instrument that could roar as well as murmur..set the house on fire as well as give the crowds a hug.  Oh, this didn't come easily.  But I had time, oh yeah, I had nothing but time all those years.  With only the snakes and coyotes to hear, I began to try to raise my voice just a little bit higher each evening.  Until they stopped yawning and lent me their ears.

Back from the desert, I had a new dream:  to speak one day, even if only that once, to a crowd of monsters like myself.  And, with the fire blazing in my gut, I'd give a great speech that began:

"There's a crackling in the air, a hot new nervous energy, as midlist monsters round the world storm the castle, lanterns swinging, like villagers in an old fright film..."

I'd go on to talk about the stupid tragedy of putting to pasture published pros who'd spent years--even decades--perfecting their craft...seasoned vets discarded at the very moment when they were ready to reach higher ground...

Then, in a voice twice as rich as Pacino's I'd roar:

"We've got the stuff, we've proven that, and our gifts are in full bloom now.  So, turn us loose just one more time--and WE WILL MAKE YOU MONNNNNNNNNNNEYYYYYYYYYY!""

Sunday Offering #3: Belated

If you write or want to write, put this on your Events calendar:  November 7.
On that date, a world premiere will appear on Reb MacRath's Facebook page, in the Photos section.

There, you'll find two pictures: 
1)  A horrifying portrait of the midlist monster in the desert.
2)  A new photo of the recharged Reb with the fire back in his belly.

Warning:  Nick Nolte's notorious mug shot pales beside the first.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How Facebooking Freed Me

I've carried a weight that crushed me for nearly fifteen years:  what should have been a source of pride and consolation.  I mean the four novels I published.  But I'd come to hear the death knoll sound, in my own mind, when these books were mentioned:  What?  Those four old books that only sold about 10K copies each?  That old guy?  Etc.

But I made a bold decision after a decade and a half of pussyfooting.  I'd be upfront on Facebook about the previous pen name, my publishers and the dates of publication.  I also decided to reach out to friends and colleagues I'd drifted from as the sense of my failure crushed me. 

Result:  in just a week I've built up a small but solid base of friends.

Resolution:  continue to explore FB as not only a tool but an art.  Today I learned how to pull up lists of upcoming birthdays and I'll be paying closer and closer attention to how the masters use FB:  David Morrell and Ray Garton are two of the savviest teachers around.

I've known from the start that new footwork will be required for this game.  So let's get to it daily with a more fearless spirit.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Facebook Freaking Floors Me!

I had no idea how user friendly Facebook is:  notes re friends in common, suggested friends, regular e-mails regarding responses related to anything I've posted on, alerts re responses to friendship requests. 

I'm moving slowly, in an organic fashion.  I began with friends from the CommanderBond forum, which I frequented for years.  Then I tried approaching writers whom I used to know years ago, but fell out of touch with.  With a couple of exceptions, all friendship requests have been accepted...resulting in more suggested friends.

Today I checked out an agent, Don Maass, whom I've known for a long time.  Don confirms in his Profile that he uses Facebook to check out writers' Facebook pages.  So I'll continue to fine-tune my own Profile page.  And I sent a friendship request to Don.

Progress report: 21 confirmed friends, 5 requests still out there.

Next step:  get a good picture to post there.  Don Maass has raised the bar with his own photos.  Try to match and raise the bar.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Offering #2

Hot tip for any aspiring writer who may have chanced on this blog:

Get sick of books you can't put down.  Almost anyone can write one with a bagful of shockeroo plot twists and sharp, gleaming hooks.  Write a book we can and must and do put down repeatedly:  to gather a tan in the sun of its style or savor a tryst with a foxy young phrase--and to catch our breath, of course, from the shockeroo plot twists and sharp, gleaming hooks!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Outright Thieves and Space Vampires...Or: Wait a Second, That's My Book!

Fact:  When I lived in Toronto, I came across a great story, one so hot I knew that it would be my first pro sale.  I phoned the city desk at the Toronto Star, where the editor agreed.  "But why should we give it to you?" he then asked.  "We have our own reporters."  Wahhhhhhhh!  Luckily, I rallied and called the Star's rival, the Sun.  They were outraged by what had happened and agreed to publish my version of the tale.  The Star's scoop beat me by a day but I broke into print at last.

Fact:  Around the same time, I sent a short-short story to a well-known, extremely prolific fiction writer who also lived in Canada.  I never heard back from her.  But about 18 months later, she published a short-short in Playboy.  Different title.  Her own words.  But the story was the same, with an identical final plot twist.  Wahhhhhhhhh!

Fact:  About seven years ago,  I received a form rejection for a nonfiction proposal.  But at the top of the form was a handwritten note in large letters:  "CALL ME!"  I did and asked him timidly, "Was the form rejection a mistake?"  He said, "No, you write wonderfully but no one can publish your nonfiction book because you don't have a platform--you know, an online reader base and big bucks to sink into touring."  But why had he asked me to call him?  "Well, in your query," he said, "you mentioned a secret plan to help writers go on tour at a fraction of the cost.  Tell me about it and maybe it can help some of my writers."  I slammed the phone down and cried, "Wahhhhhhhhh!"

Oh, I have other stories.  But, call me a slow learner, I've learned how to deal with thieves.  Effectively and legally. 

Space Vampires are the more serious threat.  To hope to succeed in the market today, our books must be great--and our queries must rock.  Because speed is of the essence.   Ineffective queries that make the rounds for months, then years, reinforce the presence in the air of hot ideas.  Ideas are far less often stolen than thought about and talked about in casual conversations:  decent people trading quips or scoring points for insight.  In time, no one even remembers the poor aspiring writer who came up with the idea.  Or that his proposal contained the phrase "The Monster Tour" long years before Lady Gaga.  The idea was in the air.

Moral:  Write brilliantly.  Then bleed nearly to death in writing a query that brings down the house.  Get an agent who can help you beat the Space Vampires to the draw.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Stieg Larsson Never Said 'But Mommmmmmmmmm, Everybody's Doing It!'

In fact, his terrific trilogy could never have been published in the U.S. first.  Not with the original title, Men Who Hate Women.  And not with Lisbeth Salander as Larsson had portrayed her--a borderline psycho who bucks The Great Law:  Readers must have a likable lead...,who must be shown as likable within the first five pages.  Furthermore, Larsson seems not to have heard certain pressing Lesser Laws:  Avoid long passages of dialog...Avoid summary mode...Show, don't tell...Avoid back story...Or maybe Stieg had heard these Laws but decided to do it his own way instead.

The irony has grown acute:  agents and publishers who wouldn't have given the great Swede a dime are now looking for the next Larsson. 

The three books Big Daddy Stieg left us are flawed.  But I'll take each one of them as is over pretty much anything else on the shelves.  I salute his independence, his non-herd mentality and his stubborn refusal to cave to the Laws cowards and clones rush to follow.

Come on, Big Daddy, smile on us and on our own Law-breaking mystery.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reb Makes a Major Internet Discovery!!!

You read it here first:  It's called Facebook...and my prediction is that it'll rock the world!  Now, this'll have to go through the strictest testing in the world-famous Reb MacRath Lab.  But it appears to be a form of--if I might coin a phrase--social networking online.  After completing your profile and mounting your photo if you have one, you can import Friends from your various e-mail accounts, etc.  Heck, you can even ask folks if they want to be your friends--including, quite by accident, a high-powered agent you really don't want to tick off!  Do you begin to see why Reb feels a little excited?  But let's keep this to ourselves, okay?  Last thing we need is 15-20 million people doin' the same thing we are!  Check out Reb on Facebook, where you can also find Brad Strickland--who beat me to the draw.


Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation!

Did Amy Winehouse Shag Clark Gable's Ghost?

Absolutely not.  But now that we've cleared that up, we'll let the title stand as is because Hook-ing is the theme today:  the difficult, perilous art of commanding the attention of readers already bombarded with pitches and hooks from klutzes who haven't a clue.

After an outrageous hook--one that may even be somewhat amusing--the average klutz will say, "Okay, now that I've got your attention..."  The superior klutz will transform him or herself into a verbal pretzel, trying, trying--oh, so hard!--to relate the fab hook to their query or book.  The end result though is the same:  we can't help feeling betrayed, even slimed.  Our time is too precious for kidstuff like that.

The need for caution with our hooks has nearly reached the sky as more aspiring writers learn the speed approach online:   Begin with a great killer hook and wrap up the query in 200 words...Not a word about your theme or any suggestion of style...Don't waste time talking about your character or theme...Keep your query style bland--this is a business letter...Etc.  But thousands of queries that all sound the same may result in yours getting the boot at a glance.

Rightly so.  For it's trickier to write a query than a business letter.   A query is actually part biz and part ad.  We need to sound professional while sending off sparks of what sets us apart. 

These thoughts are much on our minds as we begin to prep our query and fine-tune the opening pages.  Let our hooks be strong and honest ones, each sentence driving us on to the next.
Observations based on Reb 1's ten years in advertising, the successful pitching of a syndicated newspaper series, four published books...and about 10,000 lifetime queries.

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Partnership and the Pleasure of Not Being Perfect

From one of my favorite books, The 50th Law, recommended in Sunday Offering #1:

"The public is never wrong.  When people don't respond to what you do, they're telling you something loud and clear.  You're just not listening." 
--50 Cent


I note a sea change in my thinking, an almost total absence now of fearfulness of error.  And I've come quickly to relish the joys of e-mailed light from my partner:  what's not clear, what's too slow, where I've slipped into lonnnnngggg summary mode, etc.  I look forward to these e-mails and the chance to perk my ears.

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation!

Computer Skills Report Card: First Week

The bad news first:  straight F's in resolving problems with Comments.  So far, we remain limited to Anonymous comments only.  Am unable to even send PMs to new Friends.  I receive, unendingly, one message telling me that I'm already registered to Google Friend Connect...then another message telling me I'm not!  An e-mail to their help section results repeatedly in links I'm unable to use:  nothing happens when I click on them...and I can't enter them as new URL's (can't cut and paste for some reason and they're too long to type in URL bar).e
    Update at 4 p.m.:  the situation grew so bad, with me being locked out of the site temporarily after trying a different tack with Comments that I've had to abandon my efforts for now. 

The better news:  B or even B-plus for relating the diary format to readers' own interests and concerns.  Also for acquiring quickly a decent working knowledge of how to get the word about and score some Google dings.

The good news:  A+  for persistence and ingenuity in overcoming a dreadful case of Can't-itis:  I can't learn that/I can't do that/etc.  Baby steps so far, it's true, but baby steps advancing to a sensational Can-Can!

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation!

Time and the Art of Midlist Monstering

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that time--and timing--can be as important as talent in major undertakings. 
--Though our own book has been in development for well over a decade, 'the juggernaut' arrives next year.  The storylines could hardly be more different, but the projects do share one key ingredient.  Best case scenario:  synergy between the two.  And yet the pressure's on us to complete our book before the juggernaut arrives.
--The usual collaborative method--alternating chapters--didn't work for us.  'Nuff said.  Instead, our own MO evolved, one that fits well with the theme of the book.  One of us is always doing one thing or another and, without getting on each other's nerves, we need to keep communication lines open 24/7.
--We also needed to decide on when to start querying agents.  Though they prefer completed manuscripts, and some insist on exclusive reads, the juggernaut's arrival factors into our approach.  Works in progress can be sold--and examples do abound.  Or we may find an agent who loves what s/he sees and is willing to wait a few months for The End.  Strategy:  pre-queries to five dream agents.  One positive response so far. 

Whoops, my watch is beeping--time to get back to my part in the book!

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Offering #1

Hot tip for any aspiring writer who may have chanced on this blog:


The two books you simply have to read are The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.  The first book's as scary as anything by Stephen King and shows how agents do, and must, judge manuscripts on the strength or weakness of the first five pages.  (One long nonfiction book was rejected after speed-reading a single page picked at random from the middle!)  Impossible to read this book and keep any hope of having fifty or a hundred pages to get a tale in gear!

The second book covers everything from dialogue to pacing, description to characterization, with superlative examples of the way to fly.  Writers could do worse than reread this great text once a year.

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Reb MacRath laughs as he stumbles and learns

The list of things that I don't know could reduce a filled stadium to tears of helpless laughter:  Here are just a few E.g.'s:

--I don't know what Twittering is, though it does seem to be all the rage.
--For my life, I can't figure out how visitors to this blog are supposed to leave their comments.
--I still don't know how to get the god in the machine to grant me Google dings.

Enough, enough!  If it's electronic, I don't know it.  And if it's computer-related, I know it even less. 

But if becoming a star were easy, everyone would do it.  Do I stumble?  Yeah, you bet.  But I'll tell you something:  there's a crackle in my eyes and fire in my belly as I set out to feed the god in this machine...mastering the Online Speed Hustle. 

Gotta go.  For I've advanced to a better class of problems, superior to my old woes in every way.  These are problems worthy of a rogue like Reb MacRath!

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation!

The all-important starting question: Who is the enemy?

It's important to remember this:  when I first began to publish, the market was nothing like it is now.  My publishers, Tor/St. Martin's and Dell were putting out anywhere from two to four horror novels a month.  And it seemed those days would last forever.  The general wisdom being tooted then by some established pros was that the writer's worst enemies were either the agents or the editors.  I was advised by one now forgotten Wise Old Hack to tell my editor to be a good little girl and publish what I'd written as written...or get lost.  And what about my agent?  His language can't be printed here.  Essentially he advised to find 'em and forget 'em once we got our checks.  Where is he now, I wonder.

No, the agents aren't the enemy and neither are the editors.  However brutal the industry's gotten, it is still peopled mostly by men and women who love books and authors, men and women much like us:  fearful of the changed terrain and fighting to survive. 

Until about a week ago, I might have answered my question like this:  the situation is the enemy.  But that too would have been wrong.  Dead wrong.  The situation is our friend, though its claws and teeth are frightening.  The situation is our friend if we allow it to push us as we've never been pushed...if we're willing to think till our heads hurt about new strategies, new possibilities, new ways to connect.

So, let us say this morning:  Hellllllloooo, there, you scary friend, you toothy situation!  Meet your match in Reb MacRath, the Electrifying New Internet Sensatsion!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lady Gaga is the Love Child of Stephen King and Cleopatra

Strictly creatively speaking, of course.  And there's a lesson for us all.  The King part is clear enough:  she's an insanely imaginative creature of the night, as cozy with her demons as suburban wives are with chihuahuas.  The Cleopatra half, though, is where we need to focus:  she's a thrillingly shameless media seductress and a steely empress in charge of her career...she's utterly lacking in fear genes and willing to follow her instincts, tramelling any who stand in her way...she rules her subjects by seeming to surrender.

Memo to past fears and petty inhibitions:  clear the deck, we're moving on and learning to boogie like monsters online!

Reb MacRath
The Electrifying New Internet Sensation!

The rules of engagement

Challenges in learning how to sizzle on the web:  I have no idea how to engineer hits or dings or whatchamacallems on Google.  How are folks to find this blog?  How do we use, persuade or teach the god in the machine to signal readers/agents/editors Googling our subject to check us out?

I don't know the answer.  But I've come to love making mudpies:  I don't mind wearing mud all over while I learn what I need to know by whatever means are required.

First step, decided today:  begin to sign all postings on any sites I visit "Reb MacRath, the Astonishing New Internet Sensation" and see if this generates interest.  If it doesn't, learn what does.  Cook those mudpies, Rebster!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Midlist Monster Arrives

Reb MacRath is the pen name of two published, award-winning authors pooling their talents together to defeat The Midlist Curse.  Things are tough all over, yes.  But the changes in the publishing industry have led numerous high-powered agents to claim that it's easier to sell a new writer than one who's published and spent years perfecting his or her craft.

The half of Team MacRath who began this blog published four novels with two major houses...won an international award...had his first novel optioned for film...and has spent the past fifteen years battling The Midlist Curse.  (One of the nation's top agents claimed the author had written "possibly the greatest Christmas story ever written--but one that can never be published".)  The other half of Team MacRath has published sixty novels ranging from horror to sci/fi to mystery to YA--yet his new proposals are getting thumbs down.

Our project:  an epic mystery concerning a revenge plan that spans fifty years.  The book itself was first conceived about fifteen years ago and has taken this long to gel.  The hero, a Southern Scot, is more than a little bit different from other mysery/action heroes. 

The plotline?  Well, it's strong enough that we find ourselves battling a juggernaut--a sort of distant relation--scheduled to arrive next year.

We'll need to learn some new footwork if our baby's to survive.  And I thought it might fun to chronicle our progress here as two SOGs (Slightly Older Guys) learn how to boogie and blog, fighting for their lives to master the electronic hustle.

Tune in for more reports!