A Quick Question

I’ve noted more than once that people will stop by my site, look around, and download some of the .pdf’s I’ve got here.

So, the question is:

If I were to make a work, say the complete novel “A Dream Before Dying”, available for downloading, who might be interested in having it, possibly in return for a nominal donation?

(“Nominal”, in this case, might be a dollar)

So, if you’re interested, let me know by commenting on this post.

Thanks for any feedback in advance.

When nostalgia is misplaced.

Fair warning: I am about to not step on some toes, but stomp on some writing fantasies. So if you’re bothered by such things, you might want to stop reading now.

Now that the warnings are out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Recently, in an online writer’s group I’m involved in, someone asked where they could find a typewriter. Their reasoning for asking was that they were having problems writing because their laptop was randomly failing as they used it. My response was simple: forget about looking for a typewriter and find someone to fix the laptop so they could get on with writing.

For my efforts, I received some pointed negative comments, but I stand by my position: Modern computers, even those in need of serious TLC, are infinitely better writing implements than typewriters.

I do not take this position because I used to work on computers for a living, but because of past experience writing on both computers and typewriters.

For roughly the first year of my time as a writer, i.e. someone who writes material for others to read, I used a typewriter. It wasn’t anything elegant, just an (even then, nearly thirty years ago) ancient Underwood manual. I had been looking for some way to get stuff in printed form, and had picked it up for what I thought was a song at an auction sale. Of course, once I started using it, I found out why it had been so cheap: it needed a new ribbon (yes, it used an honest-to-gods ribbon, one on a pair of spools that had to feed into place by hand), half the keys had their letters crudely painted on, the hammers themselves often stuck, and it was rare event when all the text lined up perfectly.

For all that, it got me started, and until I found a cheap computer and printer (an elderly Kaypro that should have been in a museum even before I laid hands on it and a very early HP Laserjet printer that weighed about as much as a modern Smart car), I was glad to make do with what I had. It wasn’t until I first sat down and worked with a word processing package (WordPerfect, if memory serves) that I realized that writing wasn’t something to suffer while doing. No more lines of text that jogged all over the place. No more pages where the text angled subtly from one side to the other because I hadn’t quite gotten the paper in correctly. No stopping to ‘white out’ an error, or to plaster it on a portion of a page so I could change a sentence completely. No more worrying about pages accidentally getting out of order because I knocked what I’d already typed over.

Since then, I’ve gone through several different computers, many printers, and more than a few word processing packages, but never once have I felt a desire to go back to the ‘good old days’ of using a typewriter. Don’t get me wrong, if a typewriter is all you can afford, then go with one. If you need to sit down in front of a typewriter to get your ‘creative juices’ flowing, more power to you. But please, when you’re talking about them, don’t look at the experience through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. There’s one universal truth we should all acknowledge: typewriters are a pain to work with. Compared to computers, even the balkiest ones, they’re seriously inferior in usability. So the next time you read/hear some writer expressing an interest in getting a typewriter, especially some young writer who does not know what they’re really like to use, please give them an honest opinion of the beast they are about to tangle with.

BTW, here’s my old Underwood. I keep it around partly because it weighs so much I’m not sure the garbage men would take it if I threw it out, but mostly to remind me of how much better I have it these days.

underwoodx1

The nature (and portrayal) of evil.

Is evil relative?

I ask that question after engaging in a debate of the subject with a couple of fellow writers. They insisted that, yes, evil is relative, and writings that portray certain subjects in a positive light should not be censored.

One writer insisted that, at least at first, the Nazi’s weren’t evil. Another insisted that, because many surviving Nazi’s still view what they did in a positive light, then the actions of that regime were not evil.

Personally, I thought both of them were insane.

The first, who styled themselves as a historian, insisted that the German government didn’t really ‘go bad’ until after the war started. They also said that, because the other European powers failed to intervene, they were either complicit in what happened, of at least initially, agreed with what happened.

I remembered history differently.

I remember the violence the Nazi’s used to gain power, and the swift expansion and increasing brutality of that violence once they had achieved power. I know that they moved swiftly to crush any and all opposition parties. I remember how they rounded up those who opposed them. I also remember that they imprisoned people in existing prisons long before the first purpose-built concentration camps opened in 1933. In short, I remember that the Nazi’s were born evil, and were never anything but evil.

The other person, who insisted that because surviving Nazi’s remember their actions in a positive light, they could not have been evil I found to be laughably naive. Mass murderers, from the ‘Son of Sam’ to John Wayne Gacy, rarely if ever speak of what they did as evil. They also pulled out the “Star Wars” card, quoting Obi-Wan Kenobi’s famous ‘from a certain point of view’ line as proof that evil is all in the eyes of the beholder. This person, btw, was a woman, and I was strongly tempted to ask her how she react to a story that portrayed a woman being raped in a positive light.

Perhaps I am old, but I think there are some things that are simply evil, and that they should never, ever be portrayed as anything else. What subject I feel should be regarded that way is a long list. Mass executions. Genocide. The rounding up of large numbers of people for no other reason than to silence opposition/please a fanatical leader’s ego. Torture for any reason. Sexual violence against anyone. There are a few others, but I write this to ask all of you, the readers, what you think?

How do you feel?

Are there subjects that should not be portrayed in a positive light, or is it ‘anything goes’ and be damned to what happens after?

What is your writing fantasy?

 

What’s your writing fantasy?

I know, I know, you don’t indulge in such trivial, juvenile things…but the reality is, we all have them.

Some of us dream of a string of Pulitzer’s sitting on a shelf somewhere. Others, no doubt, picture themselves posing for a photo to go with the glowing review of their latest book in the New York “Times”. Maybe yours is having half a dozen studios clamoring for the rights to turn your book into a block-buster.

Whatever it is, we all harbor something like that somewhere in our heart of hearts.

So, what’s your fantasy? No, it can’t be just getting published (far too limited), or worse, just getting finished with your current WIP. What do you dream of for your work? I’ll start out, and offer mine, and even if it’s not as grand as some of the ones listed above, I think a lot of writers will be able to relate to it.

I imagine myself reading something I’ve written in public. Not to a huge crowd, but enough that there are people who will hear me. I keep my face down, following the lines I’ve written, so I don’t see anything of the response until I finish and look up. That’s when I see it: absolute, dumbfounded astonishment. The sort of stunned, gap-mouthed look you see on people when they’ve witnessed something so amazingly beautiful that their brains are still trying to process it. To have my words get that sort of response from people, that’s my fantasy. Even if only half a dozen people heard my words and react like that, it’d be enough. I’d know I had written something worth reading.

So, comments below if you choose to chime in, and thanks for reading.

The strange case of Lindsey O’Hara

[This is the beginning of an idea for a crime novel I’m thinking of writing. Any feedback is welcomed.]

She had come in yesterday, just as Mike Shannon had been getting ready to leave for the day. A short, slender woman, her back as straight as a reed. She had the coal black hair of someone with am Armada survivor in her ancestry, but skin so pale it might have been paper. Her request was simple: she wanted to hire Mike to investigate the murder of Lindsey O’Hara, late of Tuam. She was willing to pay his rates, plus any extra expenses he might incur. Given the lack of cases Mike had had of recent, he’d ready to be dickered down, but if the customer wanted to pay him full rates, he’d not object.

So Mike climbed the stairs to his office over Flynn’s Pub intent on researching the crime, But his search soon made one stunning fact clear: Lindsey O’Hara was his most recent client. The face that stared out of the photo with her obituary was the same face he’d seen the night before. Further digging brought up more stories about the crime. Lindsey had been the only surviving child of Rory O’Hara, and the last living member of his family.

Rory had expanded his Tuam-based contracting and real estate development business into the Dublin market just before the Irish economic bubble had popped. Mike remembered his end well, having been part of the team investigating it. Exhibiting singularly poor business judgment, Rory had decided it would be better to get in bed with the Kinahan crime family than to go bankrupt. When his company went under anyway, his underworld ‘friends’ had taken him to an isolated farm on the outskirts of Dublin and put a bullet in his skull. Linsey had followed her father in dying a violent death. She’d been shot three times in what was described as a failed robbery of her home. After their usual bluster, the local garda had failed to bring anyone to trial for the crime. Eventually, the story had faded from from the headlines.

How he’d forgotten the shooting, Mike couldn’t fathom. He leaned back, his old office chair protesting at the sudden motion. “Well fuck me, how about that? I’m working for a dead woman. But how am I to get paid by a dead lady?”

The screen on his mobile lite up, and a tinny instrumental version of “Happy Days Are Here Again” began blaring away. He only used that ring tone for one person: Liam Pleshen, an old acquaintance and current a senior manager at the AIB branch where Mike did what banking he had. Liam had gotten in trouble with a couple of bookies over a bet on the Grand National. He’d won on a long shot, and suspecting Liam of possessing inside information, they’d not only refused to pay up, they’d threatened to go to the garda. Mike had managed to mediate an agreement by drawing on his former colleagues in the Dublin branch to lean on the bookies. Since then, Liam had been a vital source of information where banking was concerned.

Mike tapped the phone. “Well, Liam, how are things for the idle wealthy?”

“Yeah, hello and fuck you too, Mike. I called because there’s been some odd activity in your bank account. To be precise, five thousand euros were deposited in it overnight. The only way I can see you getting that much money is either you finally solved a case, or you’ve quit pretending to be ethical and have started blackmailing your ex-clients.”

Five thousand euros? That would cover what Mike charged for a couple week’s worth of investigation, maybe more.”Can you find out where the money came from?”

“Half a sec…” Liam’s fingers clattered on a keyboard was the only sound, then a muted “Fuck me!” before he spoke to Mike again. “The money came out of an account registered to Galway United Development, but isn’t that….”

Mike drew in a sharp breath. Galway United Development had been the shell company Rory O’Hara ran his other companies through, and the only one that had escaped liquidation after his death. As his sole heir, Lindsey would have had control of it. “Yes, it’s the last business holding of the O’Hara family. Is there any record of who authorized the transfer?”

“Mike, I’m just your friend the neighborhood banker, not a forensic accountant with the grada. They’re the only ones who could find something like that out. You should call your old pals in Dublin, maybe they can find that out who’d be sending you money from a dead man’s accounts. Then again, maybe they’ll be asking you why you’re getting money from a source like that. Why are you getting money from them, Mike?”

No way Mike was telling someone he’d been hired by a dead woman to investigate her own murder. “I don’t know, Liam, but I’ll find out. Thanks for the call. Maybe you should stop by Flynn’s and I’ll stand you a couple of pints as thanks for letting me know I’m flush again.”

“What, and drink on a dead man’s tab? Thanks, no.” and broke the connection, leaving Mike to sort out what he knew so far. He’d grown up in America, so he wasn’t one to believe in banshees or spirits. That meant either someone posing as Lindsey O’Hara was orchestrating an outside investigation of her death, or someone with the funds to hire an impostor was pulling the strings. But why?

“Well, Liam, I might just have to follow your advice for once.” Mike opened a screen, then accessed his ‘Doomsday’ file. It had all the names and contact information for every member of the garda who might be willing to help him as a friend…or whom he had dirt on to use to extract a favor.

Olivier Dzba was one of the former. The two of them had been in the same class at the Garda Training College, and with them both being outsiders, they’d become friends. Olivier had been six when he’d come to Ireland with his parents to escape a nasty civil conflict in the Congo. So unlike Mike, he’d come up through the Irish school system, and spoke Irish like a native. Watching the reactions of some of his Irish classmates as a stream of Galway Irish poured from the huge black man had given Mike many a laugh their first year. Mike tapped in the phone number he had for his old friend, and smiled as he heard that deep baritone coming from his mobile.

Ceanncheathrú Bhaile Átha Cliath, Garda Siochana, Bleachtaire Dzba ag labhairt.

“Olivier, you know my Irish isn’t worth shite, so could you speak in a language I can understand?”

“Mike? Jaysus, lad, where’ve you been hiding? It’s been ages since I heard your voice.”

“Athlone. Not the Middle of Nowhere…but I can see it from here on a clear day.”

That got him a laugh. “Ah, you always were one to love Dublin, weren’t you? For myself, I can’t wait for the next bank holiday…I’ve a spot already reserved on the Corrib. Three days salmon fishing, and not a case to be solved.”

Don’t take this request!

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a literary agent who expressed interest in my work. Specifically, they said they were interested in my ‘trunked’ novel, “A Dream Before Dying”. I thought the request odd, but when I mentioned it to a fellow writer, they suggested I follow up on the interest.

So, as the agent requested, I sent off the first three chapters, expecting to hear nothing. A few days later, I received a follow-on message from the agent. They were interested in my novel, and wanted to read the rest of it. At this point, I thought ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ and sent the bulk of the novel out.

Based on the severe critiques of the story I’d received, I expected, at best, to hear that I had an interesting concept that needed significant work. In less than a week, I received a request from the agent for a conversation via Facebook Messenger regarding my novel. Now, I knew something wasn’t quite ‘kosher’. Why? Because even with the first three chapters not attached, “A Dream Before Dying” is not a light read. My word processor said it totaled 420 pages, and possessed a word count of over 146,000 when I formatted the second section for sending. But expecting a ‘Thanks, but it needs lots more work!’ response, I agreed to take the call.

The appointed time rolled around, my laptop chimed, and I took the call. The voice was friendly, welcoming….and it proceeded to tell me what a great novel “A Dream Before Dying” was. The agent wanted to represent me, his agency was eager to take my novel on, and he predicted that it would draw a great deal of favorable attention from the big publishing houses. There was even mention of a ‘book auction’ to draw several presses into competition for my novel. There would, of course, be an audio book release, e-books too, even possibly a request for movie rights.

Before anyone asks, yeah, I figured out it was a scam about the time the ‘agent’ said he saw no reason to make anything beyond ‘minor spelling changes’. By the time he started blabbing about movie rights, it took a major effort not to start laughing. But to be fair, I did some further research. I had tried, before the call, to find the ‘literary agent’ online, but beyond a web page for the ‘agency’, there were no references. So I dug deeper….and still found nothing.

It wasn’t until I did a search for a review of the literary agency that I found any reference to it…and that reference was far from glowing. (https://accrispin.blogspot.com/2019/02/ams-literary-agency-approach-with.html) The agency had registered its domain name (the Web maintains a list of all the site names connected to it, and to keep a domain, you have to register it) less than a month before, and the reviewer found out the primary (and seemingly only) agent, the person I had been contacted by, had been the prime mover in a vanity press that had bilked numerous authors out of literally millions of dollars.

So if you’re contacted by a guy named Don Phelan, or if a message pops up on your Facebook feed from a literary agency called AMS Literary Agency, just hit “Ignore”.

Feeling under the weather? Join the club!

I hate colds.

If you get the flu, or pneumonia, or even Ebola, it hits you hard enough that you feel justified in not doing anything.

But a cold?

A cold makes you feel miserable….but it doesn’t really hit you hard enough to make you feel comfortable putting everything off. Complain to your boss that you’ve got a cold, and what do they do? Your nose is acting more like a leaky faucet than a part of your body? Blow it and move on! Sinuses so stuffed your head feels like it’s about to explode? Take something and get on with life! Your cold’s settled in your chest, and you feel like you’ve got Dumbo sitting atop you? Pffffffffttt! Deal with it!

If you’re a writer, you’re your own boss, so you don’t have someone physically telling you to get busy. No, you’ve just got that nagging voice in your head telling you pretty much the same thing a real boss would say to you, and in a way, that’s even harder to ignore than a boss. Right now, I’ve got the ‘big three’ of colds going on: runny nose, stuffed head, and a stuffed chest. A full night’s sleep is a fond memory, so I find myself struggling to keep my mind focused enough to get daily chores done. Worst of all are the pains and discomfort a cold brings with it. Right now, my neck that feels like my car was rear-ended by an Abrams, and every time I get into a coughing fit, my head feels like there’s this little man inside it swinging a mean 16 lb. Maul.

And for all of that, I still feel like I should be writing. So I’ll let the impulse out on this little piece. Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel human enough to dig back into “The Haunted Blade”…or maybe not. Right now, I think I’d be happy just to get a good night’s sleep.

I hope none of you who are reading this are suffering something similar, and if you are, you have my sympathy.