Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Art and the Confidence Game

So, there I sat at the end of six weeks' labor on the second draft. 50 pages to go before I could strut, proud as a peacock, into the third draft. That's where I start to shine. But wait:

The last fifty pages didn't let me off so easily.  I found myself facing daunting problems on three fronts: back story, mystery solution and pacing. I'd wanted these pages to whip like the wind and I'd wanted to leave readers gasping for breath. I'd taken a bold tack: almost any other writer would have stretched these fifty pages into 75-100--or roughly a third of the book. But I'd wanted to capture the rush of a sting whose main hope of success is its speed.

But, as I say, there were...problems. I grew discouraged and remained so..till I devised a plan:

Though I couldn't resolve all of the challenges yet, I needed to work and make progress--or my confidence would leave me. For the first time in my writing career, I began to paste in patches of research to rewrite at the third draft: the description of a world-famous mansion...description of a nearby hotel...far more detail on a gun...At the same time, I contented myself with the best I could do right now on the more troublesome scenes. In other words, I settled for less than my best on scenes I couldn't pull off yet while giving my all to the parts I could nail.  I might not 'get' the most resistant passages until the fourth or fifth draft. Hell, maybe not till the tenth.

It's a confidence game but it's one we can win if we adapt as we go.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review of Guns of the Waste Land 1 by Leverett Butts

Here's my Amazon review the astonishing first installment of this Weetern epic by Leverett Butts:

http://tiny.cc/r44u3w

Got $.99? Then do not miss this feast!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Meet the Real Reb MacRath: 1

I'd feel better about having some writers on my Kindle if they'd have me in their dens and offer me a carrot juice or Cafe Rebuccino. In fact, I'd settle for a post that lets me greet the spirit of the author of the book. And today I'll try to offer you the sort of things I'd like to know before I decide: Will I spend my time and money?

Who are my favorite authors?
I'll have to divide that one into three parts, since I delve freely into Classical, Pop and Literary.
a) Classical: the ancient Romans, foremost: especially Ovid and Horace, for their mastery of style and structure. Also: Tacitus, for his incredible fusion of gravitas and dry wit, eloquence and terseness. And Homer, of course, from the Greek camp: I've read most of the major translations. Russians: Pushkin and Gogol. Brits: Byron, G. B. Shaw, Oscar Wilde. Yanks: Mark Twain, Walt Whitman.
b) Pop: emphasis on mysteries and thrillers. Lawrence Sanders is, far and away, my favorite: in equal parts, a showman, stylist and commercial master. I also like: Stieg Larsson, James Lee Burke, Stephen King, Micheal Connelly, Sue Grafton, Sarah Paretsky, Lee Child, Brad Strickland, Michael Prescott, Claude Bouchard, Russell Blake, Diane Rapp.
c) Literary: I love the poetry of W.H. Auden and Leonard Cohen. Gore Vidal's essays. Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale. Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.

What sort of films do I like?
I disappoint a lot of people with my preference for 'low-brow' films. Can't help it: I love action--and it shows in my work. That said, I don't go to just any old B-movie, though I do prefer Quentin T to Stanley Kubrick and Hitchcock to Terrence Malick.
Some favorite films: Kill Bill 1 and 2, The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, Alien, The Exorcist, The French Connection, Chicago, Jackie Chan's Project X, Tootsie, Any Given Sunday, Scarface, The President's Analyst, Something Wild, Sleepless in Seattle, On Her Majesty's Secret Service...

What sort of music turns me on?
My taste is limited. I acquire a stable of favorites, then listen to them endlessly. Born that way, as Gaga says.
Likes: Rod Stewart, especially the Great American Songbook CDs. The post-Beach Boys Brian Wilson. Imogen Heap. Rolling Stones. Eminem. George Gershwin. Josh Groban. I'm always open, but nothing else is calling now.

Are there any movies or music that have a bad affect on me?
I'm allergic to the Beatles, though I salute their genius. I may leave the room when I hear them. Worse, if I even see a poster of Kubrick's 2001, I begin to weep and babble, crawling off on all fours. Kubrick never met a great idea he didn't like--to butcher.

I'm such a mild and temperate soul. Do I have any, well, pet peeves?
People who talk with their mouths full or spray the table with chewed goo. Petty, mean-spirited people with no  sense of the grandeur of my own personal woes. Hot babes who won't go out with me because I'm not famous enough for them yet. Bullies. Braggarts. Studmuffins with mustaches badder than mine.

Are there any ruling passions it saddens me not to be able to share?
Ah! The world would be a better place if everyone shared my passion for Prison Break, in toto, not just the first two seasons. And I wish more people shared my passion for the towering acting ability of William Fichtner, who played Agent Alex Mahone in PB. One of the best, and most under-rated, American actors today. And, frankly, I'm always a little bit hurt when a close friend refuses to share my belief that black cherry's the best ice cream flavor on earth.

Do I have any last words on the issue?
Of course I do, I'm Reb MacRath. It's a fine thing to have character. But it's far more difficult to do so while being one--and, preferably, a blend so rich it spins our blinkin' heads: outrageous, witty, quirky, lovable, feisty, sexy, sometimes wise.








Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Real Reb MacRath is coming!

A job-related emergency has set back till tomorrow the post I had planned for today: Meet the Real Reb MacRath.

I'll be sure to add a little something extra to make up for the delay.

See you Sunday!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Easy Art of Writing a 30-Word Review

So many writers have written about the hardships encountered in getting reviews of their work. The writers are right in suspecting that many readers do not know the need for even short reviews of books they have enjoyed.

When a new restaurant opens--possibly a great one--who wants to be the first to walk through its doors? Who doesn't find the prospect of all those empty tables more than a little unnerving? Who isn't put off by the sight of the waiters desperately hoping for something to do?

But as the tables slowly fill, night after night, and word of mouth begins to spread, we grow far more willing to give the place a try.

Circling back on the first paragraph: for every reader who doesn't know the importance of a short, simple review, I suspect there are others who do know--but who tremble at the prospect of sitting down to write one.

For those who are willing but fearful, here's a 30-plus-word review of The Suting's 25th Anny Edition that resulted in at least one sale the day that it was published.

"Starts off easy. Picks up speed. Then towards the end, hits like Ronnie Lott and runs you over. Great book. a must read for those who enjoy Horror. Thanks for the ride, Reb!"

The Suiting has received longer, more detailed, reviews. And I'm grateful for each one of them. But this mini-review from 'porkfatrulez' shows mastery of the short form. He gives an idea of the escalated pacing and the crushing final impact. Equally important, he conveys the suspense and the fun of the book as a Horror novel--and a ride. (The review earned one comment on Twitter: 'Told me all I needed to know. I'm rushing out to buy the book.')

Next time we don't have time to write a hundred-word critique, let's keep this in mind as a template of sorts. In just thirty words we can tell the genre of the book, what we liked best about it, and what others can expect: great plot twists, deep characterization, razzle-dazzle style, etc.

No need to do this every time. But if a book's enriched your life, why not take time for thirty words?





Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Twelve

This chapter marks the breaking point for the first third of this adventure. 

12 seemed, somehow, just right to me. My impression stemmed from my experience in the breaking of difficult habits: especially drinking and smoking. Each of those tricky endeavors had similar timelines with multiple points: 3 days to whip physical withdrawal--then a week, a month, three months to signal new growth in mastery.

But whether it's three months or four months, we all reach the same moment of truth--where we have to do something bold and dramatic: grow out of the act of NOT doing and start to positively DO. This phase of my journey took four months, not three. I wondered why. And with some help from my good friend Google, I learned:

--Twelve is a sublime number, one that has a perfect number of divisors, and the sum of its divisors is a perfect number also.
--The human body has twelve cranial nerves.
--The Twelve Olympians were the chief gods of the Greek pantheon. Odin, the chief Norse god, had twelve sons. King Arthur's round table had seats for twelve knights. Christ had twelve disciples.
--There are twelve days of Christmas.
--Virgil's epic poem, The Aeneid contains twelve books divided into halves.
--Alcoholics Anonymous has twelve steps, twelve traditions and twelve concepts for world service.

And on and on and on. My instincts and experience both seemed spot-on to me: the time has come to graduate. So today I throw a party for the lessons nailed so far:

1) Working a list of five principles, on a rotating basis, gave me both variety and a comforting sense of consistency. (Know what you don't want...Know what you do want...Get clear where you're confused or undecided...Feel your intentions already achieved...Let go of the need to control specifics--or of painful past experiences that still control you.)
2) Even so, I needed to put a slightly spin on the daily questions from one rotation to the next: e.g., day one, rotation one, 'What is my list of Don't Wants." became in the next rotation :"What are the top two Don't Wants that can most impact the rest, if corrected?"
3) I needed to whittle my lists down to size: ten Don't or Do Wants proved to be unmanageable. But if I arranged them in blocks? No such sweat. E.g.: Job discontent, financial stress, third-shift exhaustion and lack of time blocked together naturally: I don't want a crappy third-shift job that exhausts me, bums me out and leaves too little free time. Or: I do want a M-F day job that offers a comfortable salary, affording me more time to write. Etc.
4) I also learned to subdivide the lists. No need to tackle even five or six large blocks at once. Handle two or three, tops, in the next third--and handle those that best empower me to tackle the remainder in the final third.
5) The most challenging list proved to be the Don't Wants. And, remember, the goal is not to 'fix' these completely at this point--but rather to shift our focus to the list of Do Wants. After four months, I've managed to whittle my list by a third--things I don't think of as Don't Wants at all...but rather as their opposites: things that I Do Want and am committed to achieving.

So I celebrate the foundation today. And a handful of solid achievements, including publication of my sixth ebook with Amazon (The Suiting: 25th Anny Edition)...commencement of new job search...decision to relocate next fall...mending strained relationships and atoning for past wrongs...training for new fall photo...preparations for strengthening my online presence and promotional activities while taking care at the same time to better look after my friends..began the second rewrite of the next Boss MacTavin novel, due sometime early next year.

The adventure doesn't end with this twelfth chapter--it reboots. So be on the watch, my friends, for the Phase Two Bulletins!




Monday, September 16, 2013

Two Big Events are Scheduled for This Week

Thursday, September 19:

The twelfth chapter of Reb MacRath, Action Manifester will close the adventure's first third...making way for a new format--and a sharpened focus on results. The foundation and the frame are built. Time now to furnish my spirit's new house.

Saturday, September 21
Meet the Real MacRath: Part 1 will launch a new series of personal posts intended to give you a better idea of the man with designs on your Kindle. You may be pleasantly surprised by some of what you learn.

See you then!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Red-Hot Secret is Revealed

Wait no longer. Learn today 'How to Have Red-Hot Sex with your Damned Dirty Ape'.

Click on this link to be taken to the post on Authors Electric:

bit.ly/15mQNpe

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Have Red-Hot Sex with Your Damned Dirty APE

Tomorrow. Thursday. September 12.

Mark and highlight the date on your calendars now.

Damn the consequences, I intend to tell you all what nobody wants you to know:

How to Have Red-Hot Sex with Your Damned Dirty APE.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Another Killer Cruise from Diane Rapp

I've read and loved Murder for Glacier Blue, the third in Rapp's series of High Seas mysteries.


Here is my review:

The third time's the charm for this author, who takes the crown of Cruise Mystery Queen with this third entry in her High Seas series.
Diane Rapp begins with an entirely different setting, a bit of nifty techno-magic and her most intriguing mystery.

Setting? This time we're Alaska-bound for an it's-about-time wedding between sassy Kayla Sanders and her fiance Stephen Young (a young Pierce Brosnan lookalike). The gorgeous ice-bound settings are enhanced by an ingenious art angle: an auction company, Genuine Fakes, will display and auction imitations of masterful paintings along with the originals. And Rapp brings her passion for art to bear in her descriptions of the paintings.

Techno-magic? The author intersperses a few lovely photos at just right the times: of animals or scenes. Back in the day when Lord Byron sprang to fame with Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, readers who hadn't traveled to his exotic settings thrilled at the descriptions. No cameras then, of course. Or cheap, easy means of image reproduction. But if there had been, we can be sure the showman in Lord B would have prompted him to make use of those means. This author has done that, precisely--allowing tradition-bound rivals to spend pages describing what she can show in a snapshot.
Another cool something-else: rather than lose any narrative speed, links are embedded in the tale for those wanting to know more about certain things.

And the mystery? It's a corker involving a ring of art thieves on the ship...the specific art they want to steal...why they'll kill to steal it.

Though the High Seas books aren't thrillers, it is a thrill to watch this author blend mystery, setting, character, humor and suspense.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kelley Wilde Grills Reb MacRath

Setting: The interview takes place at Starbucks in Charlotte's chichi SouthPark area. Surrounded by movers and shakers who couldn't care less about us, we sip the charred drinks the barristas assure us is coffee and get down to business. I am interviewed by none other than Kelley Wilde, my former self. For a ghost, Wilde looks feisty enough, thrilled for anything remotely resembling attention. I'm about to be put on the hot seat, I know.

KW: You remind me of my younger self, when I set out from the west coast to conquer the world in New York with a hot little book called The Suiting. The year was 1986 and--
RM: No disrespect intended, spook, but enough about you now. Let's boogie to me.

KW: You wouldn't even be here, Scottie, if it weren't for me. My first books came out in hardcover. The first won an award and was optioned for film, profiled in Success Magazine!
RM: Yes, yes, we all know about that. The reviews and profiles in Publishers Weekly, the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, the New York Times, the Toronto Star, etc. The fact remains, spook: you flamed out.

Enter the Zone of the Big-Time BooHoo. The ghost of Kelley Wilde weeps and begins to rant: financial and marital problems, combined with deadlines that he couldn't meet, led to the decline of books two through four. He begins to shout then of the treacheries of agents--till he sees me yawning. To my surprise, the spook dabs at its eyes and then chuckles.

KW: That isn't working, is it?
RM: Nooo. You agreed to those back-to-back contracts and the deadlines they contained. You married the wrong woman and let her drive you crazy. You chose the wrong second agent, passing up on a couple of all-stars in order to make easy bucks. You made some potent enemies by shooting off your mouth.Worst of all by far: you didn't have the discipline at that time in your life to succeed.

KW: Agreed.
RM: So...why did you chuckle?

KW: I'd needed a good cry, you see. And, oddly, the instant I had it, the whole sorry bag of the past went KA-POOF. Now I do have a few questions for you.
RM: Tell you what. You take me my surprise, and I'll let you do another of your famous sound effects.

KW: Does that include KA-BLOWIE?
RM: Well, if you insist. All right.

KW: Does your rebirth as Reb MacRath signal a brand new departure or a creative synthesis? If the latter, what parts of me have you been able to use?
RM: Well, I haven't made something from nothing. In fact, after the crash I made nothing at all till I stopped denying you. I had as much to learn from your weaknesses as from your strengths--and you had your share of both.

KW: Name the main narrative weakness you had to overcome.
RM: You may do one sound effect for not asking the main narrative strength you possessed.

KW: Hooray for me! KA-BLOWIE!
RM: Less is more...more or less was the lesson you needed to learn, but did not. You'd come to believe that cutting was the answer to all narrative woes. For every ten pages you wrote, you'd cut five, resulting in jarring transitions and an over-terse, clipped style that made readers work twice as hard, trying to fill in the blanks: where a chair was in the room, what a given character looked like, etc. The key fact is that editing means adding as well as deleting..

KW: And yet you're doing ebooks now, when I worked so hard to get into print.
RM: I'll answer that by bringing up a painful memory for you. Your first book had just been published. And you roamed all over Atlanta, trying to find it in bookstores. No dice. Finally, Mark Stevens--who owned a wonderful indie sci-fi and mystery bookstore--took the time to check Tor's catalog. Your publisher had not listed your first book!

KW: KA-SNIFFLE! Sorry, that one just came out.
RM: You earned it. And don't forget: your second publisher left out one entire chapter in the galleys sent out for reviews--causing some critics to complain of narrative confusion. And, for God's sake, let's remember the publisher who sat on a new book of yours for three years. Go ahead. You're entitled, just this once, to let loose with your trademark leader dots.

KW: ...............................................................................!!!!!!
RM: Here's my point, dear partner: when you think of all that might have been, don't forget what actually was. And don't confuse the stories of publishing's halcyon past with the cut-throat number-crunching business that it has become. You had your chance. Now it's time to move on, with dazzling new footwork, to brand-new frontiers.

KW: Did I hear you correctly? Did you just say...partners?
RM: Of course. As long as you remember that I'm the senior partner with the controlling vote.

KW: I can live with that if you'll give me a clue: what's your game plan for this unique balancing act?
RM: Well, it'll be tricky but it can be done. You had brass cajones--a good thing to have, provided one knows when to zipper his lips. You showed enormous persistence and vision in your campaign to get published: e.g., you changed the spelling of Kelly to Kelley to plant confusion all around...you rented a midtown P.O. box to hide your poor address in Queens...you withheld all personal details, ignoring the agents' demands...We can't make the same moves again. But the persistence and vision themselves are still gold in our account. I'll bring to bear the maturity and discipline I acquired in those years in the desert. And we'll continue to balance the backlog of work that I wrote while pounding sand with the new books that we're writing.

KW: I'm left with the wonderful feeling that you have something else up your sleeve, Reb MacRath.
RM: Well, bless your soul. You've just earned two sound F/X in big letters. The something extra trumps all else. And it's what should give us the most cause to dance. The sense has grown, in quantum leaps, that writing is all about our readers and not us. From first to final draft our focus should be riveted on conveying the same joy to readers that we find throughout the process. Whether we write fantasy or horror or mystery, joy's what keeps us going--even when that joy is painful. Go ahead, you've waited long enough.

KW: Thank you, Reb.
KA-POOPSIE!
and
KA-BLAM!



Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Interview by a Ghost

Correction: the interview's over. The ghost who grilled me has since left the building. And the interview will appear:

Sunday, September 9

Friday, September 6, 2013

Coming Monday, Sept. 9: My 4th Interview

I (barely) hold my own against some pretty damned bold questions from a witty interviewer known to all of you.

Get up early and allow us to try to make your day.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Eleven

Your feet themselves will tell you when it's time to find new footwork.

Though much has been accomplished since I began this log in May, much still remains to be done one third of the way through the year.

Manifestations accomplished so far:
--Completion of extended fast--weight loss of 30 lbs.
--Decided to where I want to live next year and corresponded re the logistics with a special west coast friend.
--Landing second job to prepare for cross-country move next year.
--Completion and publication of 25th anniversary edition of The Suiting, my first book as Kelley Wilde.
--Staged a successful Kindle 4-day 5-book free event to help launch The Suiting.
--Began second draft of the third Boss MacTavin novel.
--Discovered a company I want to work for full-time and began a campaign to get hired. More money frees me to work just one job.
--Succeeded in repairing some strained personal relations. 
--Began organizing all references for both job change and future move.
--Began intense physical training for a fall photograph to replace the current photo used on this blog, FB, Goodreads and Amazon.Goal: not to mirror my hero Boss MacTavin's rail-thin, ripped physique--but to more closely suggest it.
--Changed my hairstyle and grew a Boss-style mustache, then set up appointment for a trim and coloring before the photo.
--Found the photographer whom I want to work with: a man with a serious edge to his style.
--Fine-tuned the way in which I use my Moleskine logs.

Key new tacks: 
1) Expanding theme entries from daily to 2-3 days--to afford me time to really dig into an issue.
2) Adding a Playbook section to each new entry: things that needed doing before I moved on.

Not bad. for four months' work. And the better I get at the Moleskines, the higher the ground I should reach.

BUT...

I've begun to feel tied-down by the structure of these 'chapters'. With a four-month foundation beneath me, I need to try something different. For the second four-month stretch, I'll post occasional Bulletin/Report Cards: the goal being not only to record my progress but to compel me to act. And I don't plan to be a gentle taskmaster either, not with Julius Caesar and 50 Cent waiting to play cards each night. 

The time has come to shake things up.

The 12th chapter will be a party of sorts before I enter the arena of the second third. And I will list the weaknesses and issues I need to conquer, then devise my battle plans.

Stay tuned. The adventure is about to take some sexy turns....along with some pretty damned bold ones.