Friday, December 26, 2014

A Review: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

This review is also published at Amazon, with a version at Goodreads.
Diclaimer: I have not read any other of Mitchell's work. I included no details of the story, hoping not to spoil any readers' enjoyment.
Three stars, if you like stars.
The title, The Bone Clocks, never made sense to me, though the phrase, the bone clocks, appears twice that I recall, referring to faces, elderly ones in particular. While Mr. Mitchell has written a master class in 1980's British dialect, slang and music tastes (for teens, anyway), about half of the references went over my head, and a few had even been missed by my dictionary. I read in hardcover, so didn't have Kindle's look-up-the-word feature.

I found his descriptions full to overflowing. I liked them very well, except they went on too long for me.

The book is written in first person, using six (if memory serves) different viewpoint characters. No problem there, and all their stories were wrapped up at the end, as they should be. However, Mitchell didn't solve the classic first person problem for the reader: who is this person? until too many words or pages had gone by. Again, this made me uncomfortable, but once settled, he stayed firmly with the character, and the sections were of suitable length.

The plot, or story problem, connecting the disparate sections does appear in the opening chapters. However, it is well disguised, and makes infrequent, seemingly random appearances until approximately the last quarter of the book. Until then, I had the frequent feeling of not knowing why these people were inhabiting my mind, even temporarily. Mitchell does clear it all up in relatively short order, once he gets to it. The denouement is long, but no less heart-rending for it.

You might be excused for wondering why I finished the book if I had the above complaints. The characters drew me in from the first, and brought me back, worrying about what would happen next.

So four plus stars for the characters and their situations, and two stars for not understanding many of the references, the excess (to me) descriptions, the dearth of story line, and my inability to quickly discern the viewpoint character. I hasten to add that these are, like as not, my own difficulty.

I can recommend The Bone Clocks for Mitchell's characterizations, and the story, once it fully begins. The book was a gift.
Find The Bone Clocks here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Business of Publishing, 2014, Part III

Part three of my little compendium is again from Kristine Kathryn Rusch. In this post, she asks what indie writers have learned in 2014, to complement her earlier post asking the same of traditional publishers. (See Part I.)

After a litany of things she believes she’s learned, she goes on to define 2014 and the way writers, inde writers in particular, have responded to it.

The absolute unarguable end of the gold rush made 2014…

The Year of the Quitter

Writers have disappeared from the dawn of publishing. I wrote an entire three-blog series about that in 2012, listing 12 reasons why writers stop writing.
It’s sad if the writer has to let go of a dream. But sometimes, letting go of one dream enables people to find their actual dream. And that’s a good thing.

The "year of the quitter" segues neatly into

The Rise of the Survivors

I’m pretty sure more writers quit than survived publishing in 2014, but that’s because more writers always quit than survive. As I said above, the entire profession is hard, and for those people who want to get by without working hard, this profession is not for them.
Anyone who’s gotten this far is likely a survivor. While I’m not a quitter, neither am I survivor, at this point. I’m a hobbyist, I think, doing something I like and making it available for others to enjoy, if they wish, after making it the best I can within my budgetary constraints.

A runaway best seller was never in the cards for me; what I like to write doesn’t seem to resonate with many others. And since I’m an OAP, as our British friends might say, I don’t need more than a hobby.

Believe me, Ms Rusch has tons of good points I didn’t excerpt; go and read them. Perhaps light will dawn, or even better, understanding will, and you’ll be able to use her comments to help direct your business efforts.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Business of Publishing, 2014, Part II

Another article I found through The Passive Voice warns us, not only as writers, but as anyone who holds a pen in hand and inscribes her or his signature at the bottom of a long page(s) of minuscule type:

I've been struck by the number of comments from writers who seem to think that a bad contract clause is not so very awful if (pick one) the publication is great; the people who run it are great; the bad contract clause is not always enforced. […]

That's all very well. But […] this is exactly how writers get screwed: by making assumptions about a publisher's intentions, by letting their emotions overrule their business sense, and by forgetting that, in the author-publisher relationship, the publishing contract is the bottom line.

I add that not only writers can be screwed by this attitude, though perhaps writers are more susceptible? I don’t know, and I’m not following any other industry with quite the enthusiasm I am publishing, so maybe, maybe not.

In any event, we all should do well to remember that “the […] contract is the bottom line.”

Read the entire warning at Writer Beware.

I’ve recommended The Passive Voice before, and I do so again.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Business of Publishing, 2014

A very interesting, articulate article on the business of publishing, whether traditional or indie, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I quote:

Over the past year or two, publishing companies have changed their thinking about the industry. (From now on, I will primarily refer to traditional publishing companies as publishers.)

Some of this change has been happening for years, as mergers and acquisitions grew. Some of it has come from the fact that the large companies have finally understood the impact ebooks and online shopping have had on the industry.

Much of the change is in response to 2013’s dismal fall sales, which happened courtesy of the Justice Department’s investigation of six major publishers and Apple for price-fixing. It didn’t matter how that case turned out; the case itself changed business as usual inside publishing.

Business as usual was this: Before that all important Christmas shopping season, publishers consulted with each other about the timing of their blockbusters.

Think of it the way that the movie industry does: When a film that will suck up all the ticket sales of a particular genre (like an Avengers movie) declares it will release in May, other filmmakers in that genre will avoid that weekend. Generally, studios will release a film that they think will appeal to a different type of audience.

This sort of thing is easier to do in film than in books. A movie takes years to produce and finish. The movie studio will reserve its theater space often two years before that film releases. Sometimes a studio will move a film to a different weekend because of another blockbuster, but often because of production troubles. (This happened with one of the Harry Potter films.) You’ll note that the move will be at least six months after the initial release date.

That’s because of all the moving parts it takes to get a film to market.

Booksellers don’t require book publishers to reserve space in the store ahead of time. There aren’t four or six or twelve slots for books in the average bookstore. There are hundreds.

However, it was smarter marketing to make certain that John Grisham’s latest novel would not compete with Scott Turow’s latest novel, on the theory that legal thriller readers wouldn’t pony up $60 the week of the hardcover releases—they would choose which author they liked best, and only pay $30.

She ends with these ‘comforting’ thoughts:

Traditional writers who go blindly into this world will get screwed worse than they ever have before. Traditional writers who go in with their eyes open might gain some benefits at the expense of a book or two or three.

Generally speaking, the writers who go into traditional publishing are risk-averse. But it would seem to me that the only writers who should go into traditional publishing are writers who appreciate and understand risk.

Because in 2014, the big conglomerates did what big conglomerates do: they reassessed their business and improved it.

Most writers never think to do that with their businesses.

There’s a lot of good stuff, well-researched, between these two snippets. Read the rest of Kris' article. While it's long, it's worth the time.

For what it's worth, being risk-averse shouldn't imply a lack of understanding of risk, merely the desire to reduce its effect.

The comments over at The Passive Voice are generally good, also.

Enjoy, and use your research to make good decisions, ones which benefit you.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Another Quick Update

Since was available, I snatched it up and now the blog is hosted there. If by some miracle you have bookmarked the blogger address, it will redirect, so no problem.

As time goes by, I'll work on a web site to include more than the blog.


I got a report that a reader is unable to comment, so I've changed a setting or two hoping to either point in the direction to fix or at least, figure out what is happening. I'd really appreciate anyone attempting to comment and letting me know via email, down on the right, if the attempt is unsuccessful.

Real content will follow in a day or two.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

PSA Or, if you love them…

... teach them. A Public Service Announcement.

Cars, that is, automobiles (remember how Tony Curtis said this during The Great Race) fail.

Sure, you say, I know that. Batteries die, leaving me stranded. Engines knock, leak oil and stop running.

Those aren’t exactly what I’m thinking of, because many failures of the automotive system happen while the vehicle is at rest, possibly due to the failure.

However, cars also fail while being operated, and as recent news reports remind us, with sometimes devastating effect. Two examples which have happened to your faithful scribe: stuck at wide open throttle (WOT), and its opposite, the engine suddenly stopping because the ignition circuit opened.

Recently, these faults have been reported in various Toyota and GM vehicles, respectively. Not for me. My WOT experience came in a early 80’s Mazda GLC, and the key switch failure, in an even earlier (late 60’s) VW Type 3.

As you can see, these failures aren't new.

In my case, the WOT occurred because the carburetor (remember those?) gummed up (not from lack of exercise, I assure you!) and once depressed, failed to return. In the Toyotas reported (both Prius and Camry), the root cause seemed to be that the floor mats became entangled with the accelerator pedal, holding the throttle open.

After the Type 3 stopped running a couple of times while calmly driving along, the dealer replaced the ignition switch, advising us not to hang so many keys on the key ring. Since no wide-spread reports of similar issues arose, we concluded, as the dealer obviously had, that the weight of the several keys (and other objects) eventually allowed excess movement within the switch, and the engine shut off. In the recent GM case, the design of the switch has been implicated.

Obviously, no deaths resulted from my experiences. Unfortunately, in other cases, this was not the case. Why?

Because I knew what to do, had enough experience and the time to actually do it. How about you?
What do you do? Do you know? Does everyone you care about know what to do? Think about that for a second.

In both cases, shift into Neutral. In a standard shift vehicle, depress the clutch. DO NOT turn the key off. (That locks the steering wheel, preventing the next step.)

In the WOT case, the car will begin to slow. Look behind you, signal, and steer to the side of the road. Don’t worry about the engine over-revving until you are stopped at the side of the road. Unless the engine self-destructs, you’ll still have power brakes and steering, and lights. When you are stopped, turn the engine off, turn on your emergency flashers and take a breath. If the problem is a simple as the floor mat or carpeting getting stuck in the throttle, take the darn thing out and throw it in the trunk. (Can you tell I hate loose things under my feet when I drive? You should, too.)

If the ignition switch has failed, due to misuse or design defect, in fact, if the engine suddenly stops for any reason while driving in traffic, again, shift into Neutral or depress the clutch. In this case, the vehicle will begin rolling, and feel like it’s speeding up, since the load of the dead engine isn’t acting on the transmission. (It’s not speeding up; it’s just not slowing as quickly.)

With the engine stopped, the power steering and power brakes will lose their power assist; they will still operate, but more force will be required. Look around at traffic while you begin to steer for the road side, out of the traveled lanes. If the ignition switch has failed, you may not have lights or turn signals, so pick your path off the road carefully. The emergency flashers will still work, if you remember where the switch is. When you stop, turn on the flashers (if you haven't), Now, you can play with the switch to determine if you can get the engine running, and if you trust it to get you to your mechanic.

That’s all pretty straight-forward. I’d like those of us teaching others to drive to remember that experiencing a thing is much more effective as a teaching tool than just reading or hearing it. As Graham Nash wrote: “Teach your children well.”

Find a large, empty parking lot. While driving, have whoever’s controlling the car bump the shifter into Neutral while the car is moving, to give them the feeling of what will happen. Do it yourself first, so the fear of damaging the car by shifting while rolling will fade. Obviously, take care not to force the shifter into Reverse.

Once that exercise has been done to death, again, have the car operating slowly, and turn the ignition switch to the first stop from run. The engine will stop, but not lock the steering wheel. Bump the shifter to Neutral. The object is to allow the driver to feel how the vehicle reacts with no power assist. If a failure happens in traffic, it shouldn’t be a surprise how much effort is needed to stop or to steer.

In a standard transmission, your driver will already be aware of how the car feels rolling; you’ll just need to remind them that it’s a valid response to either of these scenarios.  Don’t forget the dead engine exercise, though.

I can’t give good advice if your car has a sequential transmission. Check the operator’s manual to determine if there’s an override to shift directly to Neutral. If so, make sure everyone who uses the car understands where it is, and how to use it.

Do these enough that the driver is comfortable with what happens in these, thankfully uncommon, occurrences. If you are sending or have sent a child or spouse to auto driving school, ask what unexpected and emergency events they cover, and do the students actually experience them. The part of this exercise that will take the most time is probably finding a suitable lot.

Automobiles, and trucks too, fail. Don’t lose someone you love for lack of experience dealing with what can happen. I hope you never need this information, but even more, I hope that if you do, you know how to react.

Comments welcome as usual.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Minor Edits

While my beta readers read Connections, I made some minor changes to Freedom Does Matter, the most important of which was inserting Tommi Salama’s second map of the Nest.

As I write this, the Kindle version is live, as are the various Smashwords offerings. I’ll finish Barnes and Noble, and Kobo later today. The POD paperback version is completing the review process at CreateSpace and should be live by tomorrow.

If any of you bought a copy and would like the updated version, either leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll send you an updated version in your choice of formats.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer’s Here

Almost 90 degrees today, and a hurricane developing off Florida. Perhaps it will blow some sense into the Supreme Court on the way by. Maybe. Not likely though. Enough of politics; I’m pretty sure the wonderful people who visit me here aren’t interested in my political views.

I’ve almost done the “final” revisions to Connections—a couple more carat marks to visit and make the indicated changes, and it’ll be ready for my long-suffering beta readers again. I hope they can still read it with an open mind; I know I can’t, at this point.

I changed the cover slightly based on kind comments; the results are below. Just because I post it here doesn’t mean I’d refuse comments! If you have one, sing out.

Friday, June 27, 2014


My last post, I asked for opinions, and received a couple regarding the cover image for Connections. I promised to post the next iteration for comment, and it is below. I made changes that I think embodied the suggestions I received; of course, any problems are mine, not those kind enough to comment.
As always, opinions, comments and suggestions are welcome. What do you think? Is it too much like the  Freedom cover, just to the right? Or is the similarity a good thing, in your view?

Friday, June 20, 2014

On the Eve of Summer, A Request For Opinions

I’ve finally done some work on the cover for Connections, so once again,  here’s your chance to be a critic. I’m leaning toward this one.

But this one isn’t so busy.

Or do people like this photo as a background?

The images tie together (see if you can see this) the antagonist’s goal (obtaining a cassette with a compromising video) and his use of counterfeit dollars and cocaine (in the last photo, since it’s not really a driver) to gain it.

I like the Spanish Conexiones as a sub-title because a large portion of the story takes place in Peru, and visually due to the ‘X’ in the center, but as I mentioned, with the layout as it is, it may be too busy. Also, when I look at it in black and white, as a monochrome Kindle or Nook would do, the yellow washes into the background. More work would be needed to find a layout that doesn’t suffer the same fate.

Disclaimer: Neither counterfeit currency nor cocaine was used in the creation of these photos.

So, here’s your chance to say what you think, without any repercussions except that your idea might get used! Whatever you want to tell me about these potential images, or anything else, really, fill in the comments below.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Paean of Thanks, or Shooting the Messenger

Once again, as I work through the critiques of my current WIP, Connections, it is necessary to shout out to my writing partners, courteous and well-spoken as they are, to thank them for taking the effort, the hours and the energy to assist me in making my story the best it can be.

I learned long ago that shooting the messenger does no more than stop the messages, and it doesn’t always do that. It never corrects the problem that the messenger attempts to warn of. In some sense, critique partners are messengers, warning of poor word choice, unclear plotting and in my case at least, making assumptions that readers have no reason to make for themselves.

I do respond to my partners’ comments and suggestions, and encourage them to do likewise when receiving a critique from me. Some of my response are questions when a meaning isn’t quite clear, and some are explanations, which mainly serve to clarify their point in my mind while allowing them to say, yeah, that’s better or perhaps, what are you thinking? I always remember that explaining to a partner only informs that one person; the change must carry through to the manuscript to do any good.

However, my point here is that my partners have done a remarkable, nay, brilliant job in reading and offering suggestions which are as wide-ranging as they are helpful. I will acknowledge their assistance in the book, but want to do the same here. Andrea, Carol and Phil, thank you isn’t enough to say for your help and assistance, but

Thank you!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Back and Working

We’re back from a fun-filled excursion to Florida visiting dear friends and then the Land of the Mouse. Taking over the world, is Disney. Some may view that with alarm, but hordes of others welcome the inevitable coming of our new overlords. At least, judging by the crowds in the theme parks. A veritable river of people, thick and fast-flowing. And of those over about 11 or 12, most were doggedly focused on getting to the next ride or attraction. Very few of those leaving Space Mountain or Buzz Lightyear’s ride or even Pirates of the Caribbean looked excited, or happy, or entertained; more, it seemed to be: Where to next? I might miss something I’ve planned to do. Not the reaction I’d hope for at “The Happiest Place on Earth!”

Back home, I finished the Ugly First Draft of Coda?. Well, except for closing it off; I still need to think about that, and I’m going to ask my long suffering partners to take a look and see if I’ve had any success in telling the story I hope to. Comments may drive the tenor of the ending.  So far, it’s just over 90K words, right where I hoped it would be. Strangling the characters when they want to run off may have a more beneficial effect than I’d thought.

The rewrite of Connections is about a third through. I’ve benefited from the blog posts I mentioned last time, at Ramblings of a Grumpy Old Man (not me, in this case!) and other input (thanks, reading partners!) and I hope the lessons learned lead to a better result. So far, four or five insignificant (read: extraneous, unrelated to the story) plot lines have been deleted, but I fear the word count goes up as often as it goes down; it’s still over 110K. Hopefully, they are better used than the earlier ones.

The next task will be the description and the covers. Suggestions will be welcome; if you’d like to offer one, say so, and I’ll try to give you information to point you.

Comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

From On the Road

Not a Bing Crosby-Bob Hope movie… I hope. Who remembers them besides me?

We’re back in the land of no internetz, well except for Panera Bread. In Norfolk, on the way to meet the grandson at The Mouse, in Florida. He, with parental units, will arrive Sunday, the same day we plan to get there. While he goes by plane (school vacation is all he has), we’re driving, hence the intermediate stops, here at Gramma’s house and then outside Savannah. Us old people don’t want to drive all that long any more, LOL.

As for writing, my job for now, I’ve finally finished up two critiques for wonderful people that I can’t say any more about since their work isn’t public yet. I’ll try to let you know when they’re available.

Freedom Does Matter has a review on Goodreads. I’m not sure about the proprieties of reposting, but it’s linked from my book page, here. She discusses Mercenaries, too. Sales are existent, but countable on hands so far.

The third book, which has gone through maybe ten titles starting with Background Check, is currently called Connections for now. I’m trying to find a photo or two I can work both the English and Spanish words into. I have, two days ago, finished a major revision, recommended by my readers, and I’m letting it stew for a week or so, till we return home at the end of the month. If I can get it read again, I’m hopeful for an April release. I’ll post more about that later, along with some ideas for the cover. Reaction is always welcome.

The fourth book, working title Coda?, will be coming up for more work now that I’ve set Connections aside. Lessons learned from Connections are being applied, and that should make the story both stronger and clearer. But new scenes are required! It’s about 70Kwords now; the goal is 110K +/-, similar to Freedom and Connections.

I don’t believe I mentioned it before, but the hand-hewn map I used in the front matter of all the Mercenaries books describing the Nest, has been redrawn by Tommi Salama, find him at tommisalama (at) I think he did a great job; he’s looking at another map of the Nest, used in the reference material section, again, of all the books. You could find a worse cartographer. He does graphic design as well.

There are interesting posts at Ramblings of a Grumpy Old Man, . Try it and see if you like it.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome!