But saying we want to go PRO is easier than knowing what one actually looks like. To be blunt, there are far more people “playing writer” than “going pro.” Even those of us …
Category Archives: Writing
Since we announced it a month or more back, it’s no secret that the publisher I work for, Oghma Creative Media, has secured a contract to republish several of Harold Robbins’s books, starting with his debut novel, Never Love a Stranger, under our Iridium imprint.
If you’re not familiar with Harold Robbins, look him up. He’s the fifth bestselling author of all time, and nine of his novels were made into movies, including Never Love a Stranger, which starred a young Steve McQueen.
I just finished “editing” Never Love a Stranger yesterday. I put the word editing in quote marks because, let’s face it, Mr. Robbins’s novels were already edited professionally years ago. The books we’ve contracted to publish are only available (new) as ebooks at present, and we’re releasing them in new editions, with new covers and layouts.
Mr. Robbins writes long, long books. Stranger clocks in at just a few thousand words shy of 160,000. It’s the story of Francis Kane, an orphan, who grew up to eventually become a big-time criminal figure. It takes place mostly in the 1930s (the novel was originally published in 1948), so there were things I had to ignore that we generally would change. Our philosophy at Oghma is that colons and semicolons—for example—don’t belong in modern fiction, yet Mr. Robbins uses both quite often.
We actually had a bit of a debate about this, but in the end elected to leave it as is. Why? Because, in essence, it would be akin to modernizing Mark Twain or Charles Dickens—you just don’t do it. The aim of Iridium is to make works that are largely out of print available to the public again. At present, we only have a contract for selected works of Harold Robbins, but we hope to expand those offerings in the future.
If you read this book—or, I’m assuming, any of his other works dealing with criminal figures—I think you’ll be surprised. At least I was. Probably the biggest surprise—actually, a confirmation of what I’d seen elsewhere—was that terms I’d thought peculiar to the gangsta culture were actually stolen from the old gangsters of the thirties—terms like calling gangsters gees and guns gats. And while the book isn’t exactly rife with profanity, there are some off-color words that surprised me, considering the era in which it was published.
All in all, it was a pleasure to edit it, despite the time it took (remember, it’s a looong book lol). I’d known about Harold Robbins for years, but never read one of his books, which I classify as money/sex/power books, though that might be selling them short. Never Love a Stranger is an epic story, one that tells the entire life story of its protagonist, both from his eyes and—briefly, at least—from the eyes of his friends. Mostly, all I did was look for typos—I think it had been transcribed for the ebook versions Jann Robbins, his widow, published—and a few misused words. Other than that, I was just reading it, hoping I found all the little mistakes that always and inevitably creep into things like this, especially when they’re as long as this one was.
At this point, Never Love a Stranger is due to be published in May, coming from Iridium Press. It’ll be available in print and ebook versions, and you’ll be able to get it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, among other places.
I think you’ll be glad you read it.
If Money and Power are two of the metrics and Ms. Huffington calls them LEGS then what exactly is this THIRD METRIC she wants me to embrace and why do I suddenly feel dirty all over again?
How do I feel? About the same as before. I don’t expect overnight greatness from this. I didn’t get it with my first novel, Spree, and I highly doubt it’ll happen with these two books. Just being pragmatic here. The so-called overnight success stories are exceptions to the rule, and are generally no as sudden as they might seem at first glance.
Take Stephen King. His first novel, Carrie, took off like a shot and catapulted him to fame and fortune. It was a novel he threw away and only gave a second chance because his wife urged him to. And he’s stated he still doesn’t really like the book.
Understandable. But he’s also cognizant of what it did for him, so he doesn’t exactly disown it, either.
Either way, Carrie was not his first published work. It was just his breakthrough work. He’d published short stories—a favorite medium of his and one I can’t do well at all—in magazines, most of them men’s magazines such as Cavalier. By the time Carrie came out, he’d been slaving away getting low pay for his work. And all this had honed his craft so that the success Carrie had was well-deserved.
And I’m sure if you read the back story of pretty much any successful author who’s worth reading, you’ll find the same narrative. We may be born with the talent to write—an arguable position—but we still have to work at it to make it better, and we have to keep working at it our whole lives.
And then we have to get noticed.
That’s never been easy. Back when Mr. King was first published, there were gatekeepers—i.e. editors and publishers—who decided whether or not you got noticed. And, quite often, despite the fact they might decide to publish your work, that didn’t necessarily mean they’d do their best to make sure it sold well. One of the many reasons the New York model is falling flat on its face.
Even still, there were lots of books published, and I find them in used bookstores all the time: books by authors I’ve never heard of, and when I crack them open, I see why. These days of self-publishing don’t have a corner on the market of bad writers, necessarily, it’s just that it’s easier for them to see the light of day.
But even when you’re good—and I’ve been told by several people that I am, so I suppose it’s true, at least to an extent—getting noticed is hard. It’s a big sea, and there are a lot of fish in it. Being the one who rises to the top isn’t an easy thing.
So. I have two new books out. They’re available on Amazon. And from me, if you happen to see me. It’s not like I sold out at my release party this past Sunday. That’s the reality of publishing these days, and I’m not looking to quit my day job anytime soon.
But it still feels good to finally have more books out, because that means I’m a bit closer to being able to quit my day job.
And that’s the goal: to tell that day job goodbye.
I’m gonna jump briefly on the bandwagon here, one that’s previously been touted by, among others, Kristen Lamb (this one on how we’re paid is informative as well) and Wil Wheaton, and that’s the issue of free work for exposure. It’s as if, because we’re creative, we’re supposed to let you have parts of our work for free just because we’re not part of what’s considered “normal” working folks.
Really? You very rarely see this kind of thing from other professions. Sometimes free samples at restaurants, but you’re not gonna make a meal out of them. Yet we’re expected to give away stories, songs, and artwork in the hopes you’ll come back and buy more.
I live in Northwest Arkansas, the land of Walmart. Now, I gotta tell ya, sometimes when I shop there, you’ll see them giving away free samples of what are usually new products. But if you look at those samples, you’re not getting more than a bite or two, or a couple of drinks in the case of liquids. They’re not giving boxes of the stuff away.
And no one expects them to. No one goes to, say, Keebler, and says, “Hey, give us a case of free cookies and maybe we’ll come back and buy some more.” No one petitions Coca-Cola for free products. No one goes to an insurance agent and says, “Give me free coverage for three months, and if I like it, I’ll renew at the end of that term.”
Why? Cause they’d get laughed at, that’s why.
No one else, anywhere else, is expected to do this. Only creative people are. Why? I have no idea. Yes, we need exposure. But we get hungry and cold just like everybody else, so we need food and clothing as much as they do. And electricity. And cars. And for God’s sake don’t let me hear you tell me to “get a real job” cuz I’ll slap you on the back of the head. Writing is a real job. If you don’t believe me, just try it sometime. Quit using that excuse that you’ll do it when you have more time. Or when you retire. When you’re a real writer (or artist or musician), you write whether you want to or not. Know why? Because it won’t let you sleep if you don’t.
I’m not an artist or musician, so I can’t tell you how long it takes them to get a finished piece, but I can tell you that even a short story can often take days to write, and that’s not counting editing the damn thing. If you think we sit down at a keyboard and pound out something in a short amount of time, you’re sadly misinformed on how all this works. Sure, we occasionally blurt out one or two thousands words at a sitting, but those occasions are rare for most of us. I shoot for around two thousand words a day, and it’s been a long time since I’ve met that goal in any kind of a consistent manner.
A novel can take hundreds of hours altogether before it’s ready to be published. Hundreds. Easily. And then you complain when our book is fifteen bucks. Yet you’ll spend five bucks on fifty cents worth of ingredients at Starbuck.
Think about that next time you browse a bookstore or Amazon, would you?
Imagine it—you’ve been on the ship for ages, maybe cooped up in cryosleep, maybe just passing time while in FTL, but now you’re here, at the target planet. The ship is in orbit above you, and the shuttle is touching down… now.
The pilots shut everything down, and for a few moments, it’s dead quiet. No need for environmental suits—this planet was targeted because a probe detected an atmosphere like Earth’s. It’s a rare find, so being on this mission is a privilege. You weren’t picked to be the first to step foot on this world, but you will be among the first.
You exchange glances with the other members of the initial exploration party, then you all get to your feet and shuffle to the door. The team leader opens it with a hiss and daylight floods the compartment. A whine of electronics as the ramp lowers, followed by a brief clang as it locks in place, and the member chosen to go first steps out of the vehicle.
You try to appear patient, but inside you’re bursting. Just because you aren’t the first doesn’t mean you aren’t eager to step outside. For one, you’ve spent so much time inside this ship you’re ready for broader horizons. But more than that, there’s the idea of being among the first to step foot on a new world, one everyone hopes will be ripe for colonizing. Earth certainly needs the resources and to lighten its population load.
Finally, it’s your turn. You walk down the ramp, inhaling your first breath of alien air. It’s clean, not like the polluted air back home, and full of scents that are strange to someone used to fumes and little else.
And the sights! My God, it’s amazing. Not a building or car anywhere, and the only voices are those of your teammates. You step onto the ground—a big moment for you, even if the big moment for mankind has already happened—and it takes a few seconds, and a bump from the person behind you, to remember to move. The novelty isn’t lost on you.
This. Is. Another. World.
You step to the side so the others can experience their moment of discovery too, but you barely see them. You’re standing on this planet’s version of grass. It’s soft and springy, and it looks a lot like pictures of wild grass back home, with long leaves that are a pale green in the center edged around with a greenish yellow. It slowly springs back up when you lift your foot off it.
In the distance, trees tower into the sky. They’re shaped like oversized broccoli—no limbs at all until the top, and then it forms a dome-like shape that’s a good twenty or thirty meters above the ground. A breeze ruffles the leaves and brings with the sweet smells of flowers.
An entire world, and only ten people on it at the moment. Soon there’ll be more—they can’t bring colonists here until it’s reasonably sure this is a safe world—but for now it belongs only to you and your teammates.
It’s worth the trip. All those months cooped up in a spaceship, trying your best not to snap someone else’s head off at times, staring out what few portholes there were at the cold depths of space, all of it was worth this moment, this time in your life that nothing else will equal. It’s your first time on a planet that’s not Earth, not the planet of your birth. There’s work to be done, and no doubt you’ll grow accustomed to this place, but for now, this moment, you’re an explorer, one of the privileged first few to leave footprints, as it were, on this world. Even if your name never goes down in a history book, you’ll still cherish this forever.
The moment is over. Time to go to work. But you’ve got something now that very few others have, and it’ll keep you going for the rest of your life.
Here’s another story of Davin, the thief I invented a couple weeks ago. I know these aren’t the greatest stories, but if they’re intriguing enough, I’ll try to come up with better ones. Maybe they’ll be collected into an anthology someday. Let me know what you think of them.
Davin stood with his back against the wall, listening to the tramp of Nightwatch on the street. He eased forward and peeked around the corner and was rewarded with the sight of the patrols in their black and silver uniforms. The sound of their boots echoed off the close walls, making it difficult to tell where they really were.
He ducked back around the corner and, looking up at the darkened sky, took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
How had they gotten onto him?
And more importantly, how was he going to get away from them?
They had the area blanketed with officers as well as local security men. He’d managed to elude them so far, but just getting into this walled neighborhood—the same one his birthday party had been in two weeks earlier—had been tough enough when Nightwatch hadn’t discovered him. But with them all over the place, getting to the walls was going to be a major effort. He’d worry about getting over the walls when he got there.
The sound of the echoing boots faded and he took advantage of the lull. He dashed down the alley—unfortunately a very clean alley, with nothing to hide behind or in—heading in the direction of the neighborhood walls. He crouched low to present less of a target, and avoided the streetlights like the plague.
Two minutes later, he had to draw up again as another patrol approached.
He looked up. Nothing up there, no balconies to hide in, just a blank wall, which was a surprise. People in Calonia liked their balconies.
And the walls surrounding the neighborhood were so close.
He glanced in the direction of the patrol. They were still some distance away. Could he make it, get over the wall before they caught him? He gauged their pace, then eyed the distance to the wall. Getting up it from the inside wasn’t much of a problem. There were stairways everywhere for the security forces employed by the inhabitants to keep watch from up top.
But getting there in time and then making it over… well, that was another trick altogether, wasn’t it?
There wasn’t much choice, though. He was close to the egress point he needed anyway, where he could disappear into the alleyways of the rest of the city. If he could get there, Nightwatch would never find him.
Another glance at the patrol. They came on steadily, but were hampered by searching every doorway and shadow.
Behind him, one of the officers yelled out, and a moment later, a flare bloomed in the night sky, their way of communicating with one another. Each flare had a different color, which told the others something very basic.
Davin didn’t bother to see what color this one was. He was too busy making his way up the stairs.
As he barreled up, a form emerged from the shadows at the top of the wall—one of the private security officers. He must have been waiting for just this.
Davin wasn’t a big man, and this guy was, but he had momentum behind him. He hit the guard in the midriff, shoulder down, legs pumping. It was like running into a palm tree, except this one gave way after a moment. The guard’s legs hit the low parapet and he pitched over the wall with a yell. A scant moment later the yell cut off with a thud.
With barely a pause, Davin hooked his grapple onto the parapet and rappelled down the wall. At the bottom, he shook the rope to loosen the grapple. Faces appeared above as he was coiling the rope.
He glanced at the guard—out like a light, but still breathing—then sprinted off into the darkness.
Another flare went up.
Down a short alley, then a quick right. This one was longer, and he ran down it full tilt, making as much distance as he could. From behind came the sound of running boots.
Damn, he hadn’t even managed to steal anything. Couldn’t they leave it be, now that he was out of the neighborhood?
He took an alley that ran in a diagonal to the one he was in, running for all he was worth, then jinked left into another one and paused. The pursuing sounds had fallen behind, and he took a moment to regain his breath and take stock of his surroundings.
Unlike the alleys of the walled neighborhood, these were full of refuse, piles of stinking garbage and other, less savory things. Some of the heaps were large enough to hide in, but there was no way he was getting in one, not even on pain of capture or even death. Better to die quickly than suffer from something he caught in one of these mounds of filth. There were balconies overhead, but they were out of reach.
And the Nightwatch was closing in again.
Huffing a deep breath, he took off again, ignoring the rank smell that filled the air around him. Maybe the garbage would discourage the searchers.
He dodged left, then right again, not really paying attention to where he was going, just making yet more distance.
And fetched up abruptly in a small cul-de-sac.
For a moment, he stared in disbelief at the blank wall in front of him. He turned to find another way out, but his pursuers were closer than he’d thought. If he left the cul-de-sac, they’d see him and capture him. They were just too close.
He glanced up.
Another balcony. It was a silly place for it, right at the back of the cul-de-sac, but Calonians would have their balconies, even if they had no view. This one wasn’t that big, and didn’t even have the usual open railing, but was instead hemmed in with boards making up short walls.
Gods, this was not his night. If the balcony had the normal railing, he might be able to get enough of a grip on its floor to hoist himself up. But with the boards blocking access, there was no way. And he couldn’t jump high enough to grip the tops.
He glanced at the approaching patrol. He had to something, and fast.
Then he remembered a trick Amalia, his mentor in the thieving trade, had told him about once. She’d been small and strong, and she’d shown him the trick. It was a way of running up a wall, using a corner to gain admittance to something too high to jump to. He’d never been quite able to do it because of his weight, but he had nothing left to lose tonight.
He backed up, making sure to stay out of sight of the patrol, took a deep breath, and sprinted diagonally down the cul-de-sac, aiming for the corner to the right of the balcony.
You can do this. Just give it all you have.
He jumped, hitting the wall at an angle, and pushed off for the adjoining wall. The moment his foot touched, he pushed up and managed to grab the top of the balcony.
He’d done it!
Another heave and he stood inside the balcony. He took a deep breath, then laid on his side, curling up in a loose fetal position.
Now if only the Nightwatch couldn’t hear him breathing, he might get out of this.
The running boots came closer, then entered the cul-de-sac and paused.
“What the hells?” one of the officers said in a deep voice. “I thought you said he ran in here.”
“He did,” the other man said. “I swear it.”
They stood for a moment, breaths heaving.
“What about that balcony?” the second voice said.
“No way for him to get up that high. Come on. If he came in here, he slipped out without us seeing him.”
They ran off, footsteps receding quickly in the night.
Davin waited a good five minutes in case they came back or more followed behind, but no one else came.
Finally, he rose and stretched. He was going to have to practice this kind of thing more. There were people who did this all the time. Maybe it was time he learned some of their tricks.
He glanced around, saw a higher balcony across the way he hadn’t noticed earlier. It had a large glass in its door, and… was that a glint of something in the dim light?
He mumbled the words to the spell that enhanced his night vision.
Yes, it was. Something gold hung on the wall just inside the door. Even from here, he could tell it wasn’t just decorative.
He eyed the balcony. He could make the leap from here. Maybe tonight wasn’t going to be a total wash after all.