Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Passing of a Legend

J.D. Salinger passed away on the 27th. He was 91 years old and died from natural causes. Salinger's Literary Representative stated that he was in remarkable health until the new year when things started to decline.

I first read J.D. Salinger's controversial novel Catcher in the Rye when I was showing a copy I had to my girlfriend. "Have you ever read it?" she asked. "No," I said, "I always thought it would be to hard to understand." She shoved the book in my hands excitedly and said, "Read the first paragraph."

She sat down while I stood and read, out loud, the words that captured me from the instant I finished:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They're quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They're nice and all. I'm not saying that-but they're also touchy as hell. Besides, I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy.

"I think...I love this," I said.

And I did.

I gorged myself on that book, fascinated by the fact that an adult wrote it. Salinger caught the teenage angst that we all go through. I really like the character of Holden Caulfield. He remains wedged in my mind, a constant reminder of what it was like to be young, dumb and full of trashtalk.

Soon after, I did some research on Salinger, finding out that there was more to the story. Salinger wanted to be famous but when the time finally came, he wanted no part of it. He became a recluse, only writing words for himself instead of the open public. I remember one such story that Stephen King told when he was promoting his book Lisey's Story, in which an author leaves behind a vast amount of unpublished works after his death. Salinger walks into the place where he keeps his safety deposit box. In his hands, a large stack of pages. A woman notices him and asks, "Excuse me? Aren't you J.D. Salinger?"


"Are those your manuscripts?"


"Why are you putting them away? Why not publish them?"

It is then that Salinger turns to her and says, "What for?"

"Why is it that the words we write for ourselves are more important than the words we right for others?" These were Sean Connery's lines from Finding Forrester, a movie in 2000 which depicted an author much like Salinger, closed away from the world.

I learned a lot from Mr. Salinger without even meeting him. For decades he turned down movie offers for Catcher in the Rye, already dealing with one adaptation that he passionately despised. He just basically wanted to be left alone. I can respect that. I hope that his unpublished works don't become mangled or made public. Y'see, there's a beauty in this little mystery here that I think shouldn't be bothered with. It's like revealing the wizard of oz when you weren't ready for it. Better to leave the curtained closed.

There was a man who tried, I think, to coax Mr. Salinger out of hiding by writing a sequel to Catcher. He called it 60 years later: Coming through the rye. To everyone's surprise, Salinger won the court case and the book became promptly out of print. Although, you can still find copies floating around Europe. Maybe with this passing, John California, the man responsible for the sequel, will try to publish it again.

But there is one thing that I learned from Mr. Salinger and that was that he was a teacher. In order to be a better writer, I read constantly. Of the books I've read, his work stands out the most. I see all of the books as lessons and their authors as teachers. So, in that respect, I was overjoyed to have read a lesson from a very memorable teacher.

So long, J.D.

Hope you don't come across any phonies in the next life.

"What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though." — J.D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Thoughts on The iPad

Not Impressed. To me it's just an over sized touch-screen-gizmo that will be harder to hide and easier to steal. Put simply, It's just a bigger iphone without the phone. Funny, I always knew there would be a day, like in sci-fi B-movies, where people would be walking around with computerized tablets for all their Internet/document needs. But, man, I guess I really grew out of that. The whole concept is as ridiculous to me as Jack Donaghy's gargantuan microwave with four doors on wheels from 30 rock. It's just the kind of invention that made me go, "Really? Do we really need this?" But hey, I'm not makin' 'em. I'm just one out of the millions of consumers that just isn't rushing to jump on board this train.

What do you think?

Whould you rather have the IPad or the Donaghy Mega-Microwave?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Notable Movies #4

One stereotype about writers is that we tend to be neurotic. We're always trying to fix our own problems. In this movie, the master of wit Albert Brooks, takes on the guise of a science fiction writer who has trouble keeping a relationship. This has not only damaged his home life but it has also blocked his writing progress. In order to figure out his womanly troubles he moves back in with the first woman in his life; his mother. I love this movie becuase it shows that us writers see things differently and can't help but comment on the oddities of so-called normal life.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Slight Snag

Well, in the midst of my so-called brilliant scheme, I found that it is near impossible to price your book at zero on amazon unless you are a publisher or know someone in the biz.

Fortunately, I priced the kindle books as low as I can go on amazon which is 99 cents each. That should help.

But you can still get my books for free on smashwords by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Freebie Facts

Over time, I've adjusted prices to my ebooks. They went from 1.99 to 1.50 to 1.00. Now, no more. Ebooks should be enjoyed without paying a hefty price. Now that I think about it, these prices are too high. But I've seen some that are worse. 25 dollars for an ebook? Are You kidding me? Plus, I'm at a stage right now that readers are more important than profits. I know my audience is out there, I just have to find them. And what better way than to make both my ebooks free.

A large amount of the Kindle Bestseller list is comprised of ebooks that cost $0.00.

Those are the ones that stand out. These aren't just self-publishers either. Writing addict James Patterson is also trying it as well.

The readers have spoken and the word is: Free!

Soon, the prices for both Mr. Dead Eyes and For What It's Worth will be zero. They will remain that way too. No take-backs, as they say.

Also, my books are available on Smashwords for free. You can even sample half the book or put it on your iphone or Blackberry.

The way of the book is changing...and I don't want my works left behind. Those are the Freebie Facts.

"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."— Anna Quindlen (How Reading Changed My Life)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Becoming a Fiction Writer

About a week ago, I had the privlege of guest blogging on someone's site. That site was Becomng a Fiction Writer. The person who runs it is Amanda Kendle. Quite close to Amazon Kindle, would't you say? Anyway, it is my great pleasure to introduce her. Now, to tell you of her writing journey, Amanda Kendle. Take away, Amanda.

Like Rob, writing has always been my passion. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer, and my grandmother dates back my writing ambitions to a time which must have been before I could even read. But if you ask me why, or what I like about writing, then that's a more difficult question to answer.

Writing is hard work. Sometimes you can write pages and then decide it's all rubbish. It's just lucky that the delete key is less environmentally-damaging than the old way of screwing up the bit of paper and adding it to the wastepaper bin, like in the movies. But like all hard work, when you complete something, you feel really satisfied.

I've dabbled in all kinds of writing over the years, with short stories, poetry, non-fiction and more recently blog posts taking up my time. But what I like reading the most is also what I want to write the most, and that's novels. The only problem is that a novel is a pretty huge undertaking, and it takes a lot of time, motivation and dedication to get one finished. I had so many false starts but finally used the pressure of NaNoWriMo - when you join an online group of people determined to write the entire draft of a novel within the month of November - to get my first one finished.

An incarnation of that novel - it's been through so many changes since that first draft - did well in an Amazon contest and although it hasn't been published yet, I'm kind of confident it will be one day. And now the sky's the limit, because once you know you can write one novel, you know you can write two, or ten, or twenty. I'm just finishing off my second now, and it's not getting any easier, but that's okay. It's still a hell of a lot of fun.

To keep myself under pressure, I blog about my fiction writing at Becoming A Fiction Writer. Knowing that people across the world are reading my constant promises to finish that next novel, and helping me out with comments and encouragement, makes it one step easier.

"As far as I'm concerned, the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning. " — Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Einstein's Dreams

Like a ship ready to set sail, it must be christened on it's journey with a jolly smash of a champagne bottle. So must this new year start, by being christened with the turn of another page. I have no doubt that one of the two titan tasks seems foolish to accomplish, but I will continue it. I'm betting I'll only be able to read 2,000 books but it's worth a shot. For the first month, I plan on cramming in the shortest books ever written. I'd like to share with you the first book I've read in 2010.

What a start. I like this book not just because it's different, but that it challenges your imagination. The story revolves around Einstein working at a patent office. He has frequent dreams which reveal a new perception of time. In one chapter, time is like a circle, where we constantly repeat the same actions. In another, time runs backwards. In one, possibly one of my favorite chapters in the book, describes a period where people are always in motion but that the elusive time they seek to slow things down are nightengales that people must capture in jars. Isn't that inventive? While some may struggle with this book, which is only 124 pages and had very little dialogue, I found the book inspiring. It sticks with you after you read it. Alan Lightman sort of writes like Kevin Brockmeier in certain parts but it is a very fluid book with mind-bending vignettes. Pick it up and read it and, who knows, it may help you out of your writer's block. I plan to pick up his other book: Ghost. He amazed me with time, now let's see him wow me with his take on the supernatural.

The books I will tackle next are The strange case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Notes from the Underground, Casual Lex, No one belongs here more than you, and The Shack.

If any of you have a suggestion for any light reading, by all means let me know. Wanna cram my head with as much lit as possible.

Monday, January 4, 2010

100 Blogs

While researching authors and how they promote their work, I found that authors are slowly becoming masters of online promotion. To the point where they don't even need to spend any money.

They would do tours.

They would appear on others blogs and participate in an interview or just say a few words about their books. The first time I heard of this was when Stacey Cochran said he did a "45 day blog tour" where he went to over 40 blogs, including mine, and chatted about his stories.

Elisa Lorello also went on a blog tour and appeared on writing blogs as well.

Since this is a way of growing your audience, I've decided to do this as well.

So far, I queried over 100 blogs to see if I could guest post.

Got a writing blog? Know a good writing blog? Let me know, I'll do a guest post on yours and have you on mine to promote your book as well.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Two Titan Tasks

In every person's life, there has to be a drive to do something large. But if you don't create an ultimatum for yourself, your dreams may fall short. It's always smart to think big. The country itself was born from big dreams. So, in effort to feed my mind and keep my drive strong, I've set for myself two titan tasks.

Titan Task #1:

One of my favorite authors, A.J. Jacobs, did what some considered impossible. He read the current Encyclopedia Britannica cover to cover, from A to Z. He wrote about his struggle in the hilarious memoir The Know-it-all. So, with time, it can be done. He went on to live the bible as literally as possible in The Year of Living Biblically. He then wrote articles experimenting on himself called The Guinea Pig Diaries. This man is a reading junkie. I admire that in a person. Steve Jobs said in response to the amazon kindle: “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

That's why, in effort to know more about the craft of writing and a thirst for more reading material I aim to be THE MAN WHO READ 10,000 BOOKS. If I get to 5,000 I'll be happy. But that's one of my biggest goals for the year. This includes audiobooks, ebooks and paperbacks.

Titan Task #2:

Every dream needs a shove. This year, I plan on hitting the markets and flooding the grid of Chicago with my books. Self-publishing is cool and it does make you work hard to promote yourself, but I crave a contract. I hope to be officially published before the year is up. I aim to be THE MAN WHO PUBLISHED IN 2010.