Friday, October 21, 2011

Ending a thriller

Well I’m coming to the ending of draft one. While that sounds like I’m almost done writing I’m not. Captive, and the sequel, are thrillers so my ending should follow a (very loose) formula. I need a big ending. At page 291 I’m just starting to wind it down (and will likely end up with 400 pages after edits are complete).

So I’m building the grand finale. Someone will die; a bomb may go off; there will be numerous unexpected twists and turns. Mostly at this point I’m following the traps I’ve laid for my characters to their inevitable ends.

I love writing this part of a book. The ending will ultimately take about 100 pages. Draft one will be a little lean…the chronology is more important that the details; or, what happens in the room is more important than what the room looks like. And that’s why the clean up is also fun: I get to clarify and embellish.

Fiction allows for creation, and I play around with my story lines, throwing away outline after outline. Believable, thrilling, compelling and original? Writing thrillers is getting harder and harder as the real world ups the ante on us writers (look at the news from Libya over the last month; or Syria: no one would have believed me had I written it last year!).

Or, as I’m writing about the protests in Egypt, I touched on global unrest not expecting that since the book will end in New York I’d have to add in the protests there!

How fun it all is. So now, inevitably, I’ll follow the story line I’ve sketched out only roughly. Earlier in the week I threw out my already written last chapter because I decided another outcome had more impact.

So truly, when writing fiction, no one really knows how it will end (including me!). Is that so different from the real world in which we live?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: democracy or farce?

The WS protests have spread to a thousand cities (that’s a lot of unhappy people). Select unions have joined them; the media has taken up coverage. The 99% campaign is visual and personal, which tends to draw support. Over $4,000 has been raised on Kickstarter to fund their “paper”.

Today in Cairo the military/police drove armored vehicles into the protesting mobs and started shooting. Domestically, we hear that our WS protestors are defecating on police cars and dancing topless. Both sets of protestors want jobs and a voice in government. Or maybe not.

No one seems to have articulated what the protestors want. What do they want? You can’t be both against corporations and pro jobs (look at how well that worked in the USSR). Being anti-Wall Street is great…I joke we should just shut all of the banks (stop using credit or debit cards, checks, pay back your mortgage or other loans now, etc.).

And, then there are the analogies to kids with no adults in charge.

But isn’t that the point exactly? Where is the leadership? And I don’t just mean in the protesting parks around our fine country I mean in all of those cushy elected ofices in our capitals. Why are people in our country having to mass together to finally be heard…even without a leader or a message?

And to be clear, most of our “leaders” hire experts who craft and write their messages. They practice delivery and talk to reporters to expand their audience. So these protestors haven’t found that charismatic leader yet…they will. I just hope they chose wisely.

I’ve been writing the sequel to my thriller, Captive. The first book addressed a terrorist plot. The second one heads to the streets of Cairo and New York and into revolution, riots and a call for democracy. So to me, these Wall Street protests are very interesting. What I’ve learned about revolution is: it often starts small, creates turmoil, which is then exploited by a savvy and ruthless group to seize control of the momentum and take political power. Not to sound paranoid….

To quote Steve Jobs, a great leader: “It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.” Is it the protestors? While we may not be sure what they want we do know that it’s different from what they have. And they aren’t turning to elected leaders to drive change but are rather joining together to complain. To state the obvious - it’s easier to be heard in numbers.

With any mob comes a group think element. Much like going to a rock concert being a part of a communal event is fun. But so are a lot of other things. Voter turnout in elections can go below 10% for local ones, and rarely gets to 50% even in a presidential election. Are we seeing an increase in activism as it becomes local and personal? Are people more willing to get involved, sacrificing other activities, when they can work together for change (hope versus a rote task)?

I’ve been reading Tocqueville’s book, Democracy in America. It should be required reading for all in our “democracy”. He makes an interesting point, that any wise ruler will shift the social order periodically to lower those in power and empower those lacking to secure his own job. Basically, no other group is able to mass enough power to challenge the ruler.

Is that what’s really happening here?

I really don’t know; but when I don’t know my rule is to go back to what I do know. So here’s my best shot.

People in this country are starved for an inspirational leader that is willing to make tough choices and improve the lives of the most not a few. What steps that leader should take are highly contested.

A leader will fill that void. If he/she doesn’t self select an organized political group will find someone.

Equity is a subjective term.

To the WS protestors, find someone who can write and come up with a mission statement. No political change will come about without a practical platform that people can support. If you want something be specific and articulate what steps will get you there. Personally, I find that if I tell people exactly what I want them to do – they might say yes or no – but at least I get an outcome. “Help,” means little to nothing.

As Lewis Carroll says, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.

We really need to pay attention to the social messages in our country. Look at the turmoil in the Arab world and let’s hope we don’t end up there. Revolution is losing control; it isn’t like democratic and orderly change…but rather too easily devolves into chaos and a despotic government (only way to control the out-of-control people). Our demographics are risky: too many educated young are unemployed and have time to congregate in parks. Dangerous. Unnecessary.

Class warfare, the us against them mentality and attack rhetoric are all political tools. Don’t just believe what you think you hear…do the research. Our country is a great and blessed one so let’s pull it together and not tear it apart.

In our democracy people shouldn’t have to protest in over 1,000 cities to be heard. I’ll continue to write on this topic (and am writing a book on it) and am glad to be in America where the related news stories aren’t about torture, imprisonment without charges and death.

One more way in which our system – democracy – works? We’ll see

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Input: should I become a publisher?

I’m in the process of transferring Captive’s distribution from my publisher to me. There may be some disruptions in availability but I’m learning (a lot). And it’s all fairly simple…surprisingly so. Or at least I’m saying that now.

The Captive saga is long; suffice to say, when I decided to go with a smaller publisher I made the decision based on the fact that I kept full rights to the book thus could get creative with my marketing. And now I have distribution flexibility. The benefits and perils of being a lawyer (I was discussing this idea with a Copyright lawyer friend of mine over lunch…I even have great advisors). Not all writers have that skill set and are navigating the publishing world unprotected.

So I’m starting to question whether I should be leveraging all that I’ve learned about the book world from my Captive experiences to help other writers. Maybe I should ask for manuscript submissions and brand a (digital at first) publishing house. There is scale in a steady stream of genre related books.

As we know, book publishing is undergoing disruption and a newer, friendlier business model hasn’t yet emerged. Costs to make a product are lower but generating sales is harder (with the long tale continuing to get longer). Many, many individuals have written books yet new writers have a harder time getting heard as the publishers and agents are wary to take on the risk of a new artist with sales in flux. The burden of marketing is on the author, unless they’re already established or lucky.

In change comes opportunity.

Thoughts or suggestions? Good idea, or bad? Have a manuscript?

All feedback is welcome. I’m a huge believer in drawing on the wisdom of the crowds. Does it make sense to start a digital publisher to launch talented new writers? Any interest in reading their work…chosen carefully and in select genres?

Thanks for reading this far….even if you have no comments…..

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I've not been writing about important things today...or yesterday...
So...what have I been doing?

Protecting myself. Not rich or in that top tier I read about I've been dealing with those falling behind. And, as someone currently trying to write about the negative (societal) repercussions of other countries (Egypt) falling I'm facing it here.

So how did we get here?

People who aren't paying and know they aren't paying...which makes running a business harder. Then I wonder, you can't beat a dead horse, so how do you broach compromise? I just want the money you owe me...really... it isn't personal.

But it is more common. And increasingly too common.

In negotiations you always leave something on the table...even if you hold all of the cards. No, I don't mean that you bargain nice. I mean that humiliating people will come back to you someday (if only in karma).

So, what I will do? Not sure yet. But I really hope those in our capital (Washinton DC: Sacramento) realize the extent of the pain in our nation and do something to fix it.

This isn't the world I grew up in and our country deserves better (feel free to go after me for being too hokey). Let's help people help themselves.