To Write or Not to Write – that is the question

This afternoon I took a bus out of the Mirador neighborhood where I teach on Saturdays and I was cruising down Lazero Cardenas and passed by the Independencia barrio on the south side of the Loma Larga hill. This area plays a big part in my novel ´LOBO.¨ Right them in came to me …. WOW. The entire plot to a sequel … like a Godsend. It just popped into my head. Villans. Scenes. A great ending. Theme. Conflicts. Just there for the taking.

Anyone who has followed my blog might notice that the frequency of posts has dropped off to almost NONE! I´ve been less than impressed with the state of Indie writing of late and really haven´t been focusing at all on my craft. Actually, my other love – Delta Blues guitar has been getting all my attention. Got my chops back and have been learning a bunch of new songs.

So should I invest a few thousand hours to write a novel that maybe no one will read? Well the jury is still out on that one … let me sleep on it a bit.

In the meantime I got home and found a notification in my email that my first book, ´A Rose by Any Other Name´ had recieved a new review. This book is a little memoir I wrote and which I am sometimes a bit embarassed by.

Here´s the Review.

‘We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment’, May 6, 2017
By Grady Harp

This review is from: A Rose by Any Other Name: Life Lessons from an Unremarkable Dog (Kindle Edition)
The title for this review is from George Eliot and speaks directly to the message this book. Author David Gordon Burke is a Canadian Ex-Pat who lives in Mexico and has focused his skilled writing abilities on dogs: he obviously is passionate about canines. Not that that is his only concern. He also writes tutorials on any subject in which he has expertise. Ingles al Poder de Tres is an ongoing language system for Spanish speakers who wish to master English. And his culinary arts surfaced in his t book about Mexican cookery.

What David manages to accomplish in this collection of stories and news reports about the condition of the life of dogs is both observation, autobiography, and simply warm reading enter entertainments. The brief synopsis provides enough encouragement for the reader to explore the pages quietly and with compassion. ‘“A Rose by Any Other Name – Life Lessons from an Unremarkable Dog” isn’t just another one of those dog books with a sad ending. It’s a book full of dog stories that follows the exploits of a typical household and the wide range of dog breeds that came to be part of the family. It highlights the joys and sorrows of sharing a dog’s life. This touching memoir tells the story of the dogs that influenced the author’s formative years, his dog-less years and his adoption of ‘Duchess Desert Rose’ – a half Lab, half Shepherd mix. ‘Rose’ is a story with a wide range – from the shores of the St. Lawrence River to the Mountains of Northern Mexico. Part autobiography, part dog training and dog care manual and part social commentary, “A Rose by Any Other Name” is pure entertainment.’

David is an animal activist and struggles with animal rights and protection. Fine writing, here, but all the stories are excellent. This little sampler encourages the reader to advance to David’s two novels – again about dogs. He is making a name for canine stories and those who love them.

Damn!  How does one live up to that kind of hype?

Have to give some very serious thought to that sequel.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.
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Creativity in the Trump Era

I am predicting a decline in all things creative for the very near future.
The Donald Trump influence is here and it is here to stay.
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The US of A is divided down some very scary lines – formost, if you disagree with our side, you must be the enemy.  (which applies equally to right and left)

I am not a fan of the new US president although I do agree with some of his policies / beliefs.  I am a staunch socialist … at least that is how I define myself.  As a Canadian I have always voted against the Right.  As a Mexican as well.

But over the years the left has lost their damn minds as well.  Social Justice Warriors and Political Correctedness and a million people lobbying for their causes.

All of this has led to the rise of the DONALD.

And sadly, I think that all creativity is going to take a hit.

How are you going to write a novel of any significance if half the people are going to reject you premise from the befinning?

Take for example `The Kite Runner` by Khaled Hosseini.  How would that book, first published in 2003 fare in today`s political climate?  Of course it would probably do well in the international market but what about in the US?  Is there any sympathy left for the plight of the immigrant?  What about the Afghani Muslim immigrant?

I suppose there might be some fun in it for the Right Winger when the protagonist gets revenge on the Taliban general towards the end of the novel.

What about in my personal case?  I write novels about Mexico.  As we know, Mexico is just one step up from the Middle east on the Right Winger`s agenda of WORLD EVILS.  I am of the belief that the word Mexican has now all the vile conotation as the ´N´ word.

I once even had a reviewer get uppity with a Mexican character in one of my short stories because said character expressed anti-US feelings.  So not only must the world be on the side of the US, but also fictional characters must never ever be anything other than pro.  Nuke `em Uncle Sam and pass the tacos.  WOW!  Leaves little room for character developement when you have to be constantly worried about what your potential US audience is going to think.

So if I`m not going to invest my time in writing stories no on will read, maybe I`ll get back to playing guitar.  Guess what?  A big number of the Blues Guitar  Facebook communities I was a member of have been invaded by Redneck, Racist, NRA supporting freaks with no respect for the (Black) history of the music they claim to love.

I give up.

If you want to get in touch, I´ll be contemplating life from the peak of the third mountain to the left.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.

¨I want to be an Indie Book Marketer …

…. when I grow up¨  Said NO ONE, EVER.

Like many people I kept the dream of writing a novel to myself.  I had no idea how it was done.  I wrote a few short stories that I promptly deleted or tore up but that was the extent of it.

Then a few years ago I read a blog by one of those top level Indie writers – one of the lucky ones that got on the Amazon wagon long before the rush.  It laid out how to do it.  What to do after you write that first novel.  Create a blog.  Get your social media up and running.  Have a great cover for your book.  blah blah blah.

And I followed the advice.  I did it all and then some.

Guess what?  It didn´t work.  I sold a measly quantity of books month after month.

Now I had read a fair number of other Indie writer´s works and I felt that my books were as good if not better than …. and yes, I realize that most people feel the same way.  Still, I had enough tangible proof …. grammatical flaws, plto holes, boring stories etc. etc. … I beleived in my books.

Still nothing happened.

And I kept on working it.  I kept on Marketing like a mad man until one day I realized I wasn´t enjoying the process anymore.

The bottom line is that to be a successful Indie writer you have to give up writing.  You spend all your time on-line doing mundane chores … like a girl guide cookie seller trying to meet quota.  It truly sucks.

My dilemna is that I live in Mexico.  There is no posibility for me to try to publish an English language novel here.  So traditional publishing is out of the question for me.  The sad realization was that unless I was willing to pay big dollars to a variety of serices that I consider to be CORRUPT PAYOLA SCHEMES OF THE INDIE PUBLISHING WORLD then I would probably be wasting my time.

Creatively, I need more than a solitary outlet for my efforts.  If an Indie book falls in the Amazon forest, does anyone hear it?

So lately I have returned to my first love – Blues Guitar.

My final word for today.  Someone once said that a writer should  be the social conscience of a society.  This is not the case today.  Writers just want money.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here

 

Inspiration – Dedicated to Gordon Downie

Anyone who may have read this blog occassionally will by now have realized that I haven’t updated since Moses was a child.  I’ve been extremely underinspired and disillusioned with the prospect of writing.

I’ve seen a meme that says that a writer MUST write.  It’s not about selling books or appealing to the public / audience.  It’s about a deep seated need to put words down and tell a story.  Isn’t that a nice little platitude for the digital millenium.

We all know that in the real world one must invest their time in a productive manner.  I have a deep seated need to be creative.  So if I’m not going to get the kind of personal satisfaction from writing, then I have many other outlets for that need.  Formost is playing the guitar, at which I’m not too bad, and cooking which if you were to take a look at my ever expanding mid-section, you would realize is one of my great passions.

So I’ve been working on my personal repertoire of solo acoustic songs and dreaming of doing some gigs around town.  That’s going great.

I have two novels in the works and without a doubt I will finish them in the short to mid-term future.  Whether they will get the kind of attention I feel my earlier work deserved is anyone’s best guess.  I’ve dropped out of all the facebook writing pages – reading again and again how so and so is making a 6 figure income by outsourcing the writing of his books is beyond depressing.  Obviously I am not in the same league as much of my competition.

But then along comes a defining moment that really inspires.  In this instance I am talking about this weekend’s final Tragically Hip concert which I was lucky enough to see via CBC music’s Youtube page.  The concert was broadcast on CBC radio, television and via web LIVE and without commercials this past August 20th.

If you aren’t familiar with The Tragically Hip, they are a Canadian group that have been sweethearts of the Northern music scene for over 30 years.  They are one of if not the DEFINITIVE Canadian bands of all time.

For me, they are peers.  When I was a working musician back in the 80’s, the Hip were just making it big.  They come from Kingston, Ontario, an even smaller pissant town than my own so they set the bar.  If they could do it, why couldn’t anyone else?

This year it was announced that their singer, Gordon Downie, had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  I assume this means Cancer.  I haven’t read all the technical reports but the “C” word has been in play in all the media.  The group had just finished recording a new album and with the doctor’s go ahead, decided to do a final tour.  Saturday’s concert was the last stop, back in their hometown of Kingston.

To say the least, it was a hugely emotional finale to a great career.  Even as I write these words I’m choked up.  I’ve had my own battles with Cancer – beat it twice and I hope I never have to deal with it again.

I imagine it’s redundant to mention that Mr. Downie’s battle and his decision to keep making music has been a tremendous inspiration to many people, myself included.

If you have never heard the Tragically Hip, I suggest you check them out.

Thanks to Gordon Downie and the band for 30 years of great tunes and parties.  I was lucky enough to see them twice in concert.  Sorry I didn’t see them more.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.

Social Network Language Hell

It seems like forever since I wrote a blog post.  Lately I´ve been feeling much more than let down with both my book sales and the whole indie author self publishing scene.  I´ve been feeling let down by human nature all around.  I guess I just wasn`t cut out for the world of memes and false platitudes and the like.  If given half a chance I`d gladly push the button to the global Magnetic Pulse bomb that would obliterate the internet, render hand held devices, computers, cell phones and the like obsolete and as a happy coincidence, erase the Zeros and Ones in some computer somewhere that represent the crushing credit card debt I´m living under.  Oh well, no chance there but it´s nice to dream.

Book sales aside, (I´ve talked about that theme ad nauseam on previous posts) I´m over the whole debate the issues via internet and facebook thing.  The internet may be the invention that has pushed human interaction back to the dark ages.  We may as well be slinging rocks or sending smoke signals when it comes to communication.

Why?  Because most people are too lazy to write out a full sentence or express themselves logically and concisely.  It may be the medium.  After all, if you are texting on your cell phone between bus stops using both thumbs, you probably believe that your short sentence gets your point across.  It doesn´t.
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Language is a colorful thing and can be interpreted many ways.

Then there are the habits we have developed over the last decade where debate and communication are concerned.  Who hasn`t gotten into a rip roaring throw down fight with some internet troll?  Someone who has no idea what the issues are, no ability to express anythhing other than their own martyr perspective without seeing anyone else`s point of view?  Has anyone ever felt they have convinced ANOTHER LIVING SOUL OF JUST 1% OF THEIR VIEWPOINT?  Clearly, the answer is no.

But we have grown accustomed to flaming a rival in the most virulent of terms.  Just this week in two relatively peaceful and civil conversations I was told to keep my mouth shut and not to speak through my hat.  The former from someone who I have known since grade school and the latter from someone I had never met.  In both cases I had simply given an opposing viewpoint of the material in a video or meme on facebook.

Then there are the majority of people who don´t understand what an absolute is.  An absolute is more than a generalization.  It is when you use black and whte language that cannot be disputed, is 100% – words like, ALL, ALWAYS, EVERY, NEVER, NONE, NO etc. These words leave no room for the slightest misrepresentation or interpretation.

So here´s a meme that burned my butt.
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I take issue with the word MOST.  Most means a massive majority.  I´d say 75% or more.
I also disagree with HATE.  There is no reason in this world that people of any color cannot disagree with Obama´s policies without hatred and race being part of the issue.  It`s politics.  But NO.  The race card gets played.

So somewhere between all this loss of communication and the continuing reliance on the internet for almost everything we do, we lose.  Words lose their meanings.  The get shortened.  Idiomatic phrases get misused.  Euphamisms become the norm.  And the language gets watered down.  No one is communicating anymore.

I recently met someone and I really cannot figure out what happened but somewhere between the language and the physchology, we were completely unable to communicate.  Even when I agreed with the guy, it still felt that we were at odds.  I chalk this up in part to the fact that he was an asshole, and in part to the age we live in.  Language.  Meaning.  It´s all getting washed away.

And in the middle of all this – I try to write novels that transport people to a world of my creating.  It´s getting harder every day.

David Gordon Burke

Find my books here.

Coming Soon – New Blog Directions

I’m going to be taking this blog in different direction in the near future.

Rather than continue with the same old news about my soon to be released Novels or collections and / or rants about the Indie writing world, writing tips and all that, I have decided to dedicate part of my time to highlighting some of my writing here on the blog.

This won’t be fiction or poetry or some other creative writing stuff.

Think Chuck Klosterman IV – Author of ‘Fargo Rock City’ – ‘Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs’ etc.  If you haven’t read his work, well do so or tune into my blog for my lame ass attempt at a Canadian Expat in Mexico’s imitation.

The reasoning for my shift in focus?

To be honest, I’ve completely run out of thing to say about writing and the world of self publishing and Amazon Ebooks.
Here´s a prime example of the kinds of nonsense that one deals with within the Indie World.

I received an invitation to join an Indie Book Promotion group.  I was slightly intrigued (with the usual doubts due to my previous experiences) but I replied that I was interested and I got this reply.

“Just to make sure you understand how this works, let me briefly explain it to you

Books are posted on a special (secret) page on Facebook. when a book is posted every member will buy the book during a 24 hour time frame. The person who is posting the book will repay everyone who buys the book. We have been doing this for 7 months and it has been very successful. The best part is you don’t have to do any of the work. The administrator does it all for you. All you do is check the page everyday and buy every book that is posted (normally 1 to 3 books are posted) It will take no more than 5 or 6 minutes. Within 24 hours or less you are reimbursed for your purchases. As administrator I guarantee that you will get repaid for your purchase. Please feel free to ask me any questions.”

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So basically a Payola scam.  This person assured me in another part of the correspondence that it was all legit and not in violation of any Amazon rules.  This I highly doubt.  (notice the grammar and punctuation in the previous paragraph.  Without a doubt, this grammar challenged dork would need to cheat to get his book sold.)

These kinds of groups and individuals, in true baser Human Nature mode, have found a way to short change the customer and corrupt the Indie Self Publishing world.  Their idea is to pump up their sales artificially in order to have a higher ranking on Amazon and in the process, get their books into the public eye.  Then, with a great cover and a slick book blurb, they may make some legitimate sales.  Sadly, their cheater system probably works and Amazon has no way to distinguish these pseudo-sales from the real thing.

By what merit should a book become a best seller within the Indie world?  Or make any sales at all by that matter?  Based on the entertainment value?  The quality of the prose?  The book’s ability to connect with its readers?

NONE OF THE ABOVE. Sadly, the answer in many cases has nothing to do with these elements.
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Indie Authors are much more interested in SALES.  It looks to me as if they could give a rat’s patootie about the quality of their work.  And this lack of interest in quality prose and stories is rampant across the world of Indie Self published authors.  I have yet to see much more than a superficial discussion about good writing in my the and a half years since I started out down this road.

However, I do have a caveat to add to this post.  I have just recently purchased a bevy of adoring fans via my Mastercard on sycophants.com and as soon as they start with the worshipping (or is that whoreshipping?) I plan to retract this post and start laughing all the way to the bank.

Look for the first example of my writing and biting social commentary / satire in the very near future.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here!

Imagine What your Novel Could Be

It’s been a while since I posted.  Mostly because I’ve been busy trying to get my professional life back on track.  Add to that my recent disgust for most of what I see in the world of Indie Self Publishing and I’ve been somewhat put off.  But it has stopped me; my latest ‘work in progress’ is coming along nicely at 40 thousand words.  I figure another month tops before I have a final draft.  (Which of course is far from the FINAL draft)

So what has me pissed?

Let me put it this way.  The subjective / objective battle that one always deals with when looking at his own work makes me aprehensive about talking about these details BUT after everything, I know that my books, if at worst would not be something that you would want to read, are written with a high standard of grammar, structure, logic, logical order of events etc.  They are readable.

I have had about 200 Indie published novels pass through my Kindle in the last 2 years.  Some of them I bought, some were gifted to me and some I downloaded for free via Amazon.

Of those 200 novels I was able to finish exactly ONE.

So why were these Indie novels so bad or impossible to read?

1.  Misinformation / Factual details.  Imagine a murder mystery in which the Heroine finds her friend dead in the bathroom with ONE wrist cut.  Dead after a 5 minute separation.  OH, MY, GOD.  It takes hours to bleed out from slit wrists (plural) and that’s when it is done correctly -Vertical cuts down the length of the veins.  So …. lost me before the second chapter.

2.  So much extraneous information not related to the plot.  I don’t need to know what kind of Kotex or whatever femine hygene products the Heroine uses.   I kid you not.

3.  A plot so complicated and convoluted that even Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be able to untangle it.

4.  It’s all TELLING.  One long blah, blah, blah to inform me what is going on.

5.  Bastardization / perversion of idiomatic phrases and euphamisms.  I did a post on this earlier.  Thinks like the nip of time etc.

6.  Bad grammar.  Bad punctuation.

The list goes on and on.  And  I will be honest, I am guilty of a few of these issues myself – I’ll admit it.  This week I started to reread my Novel ‘LOBO’ and I found 3 typos and one Character Name Snafu … (The Character’s name changes from Pedro Marquez to Pedro Marcos and then back … apparently no one caught it … HAHA)

So if I am guilty of these same sins, how dare I stand on my pedestal and point my finger?  What hypocracy?

The difference is that I’m more broke than old Grandma.  I do it all myself because I don’t have any other choice.  I don’t have a big income or a pension coming in that allows me to spend a fortume on this hobby / second career.

Yet I see writers with all these HORRIBLE issues that make their work totally unreadable and they have spent a fortune on everything except the important stuff like ‘THE WRITING.’

EXTREMELY expensive covers.  My covers cost me $100 a piece.  They are done by a pro graphic artist and they are very professional.  But they aren’t works of art.  They are functional, direct, concise etc.  But they use stock graphics, not an original painting.

How about paying big money for Kirkus reviews or other services that cost hundreds?

How about paying to join book clubs?   Groups that pay each other to review each other’s work.

Big money to pay various services to promote the book.  These services range from $10 into the hundreds.

The list goes on and on and on.

And the final kick in the teeth is the writer who has paid for or has developed a personal army of sicophants that will either buy or review and tweet, promote the writer’s books at no charge.  Nice talent to cocowash people to do your bidding – basically the idea behind most social media.  But it’s all for nothing if your book sucks.

If you have sold 10,000 copies of any self published book and you haven’t been noticed and contacted by a Traditional publisher, it’s because they realize that your book sucks.  Simple as that.  They are aware of the big sellers.  They are ready to swoop in and offer you a deal.  IF (that’s a big IF) your writing is any good.  And considering how bad some writer’s on the bestseller list are … well you get the picture.

HIRE AN EDITOR FOR GOD’S SAKE.  

Sowhy wouldn’t an Indie writer with a budget spend his money intelligently?  I’d say it all comes down to Human Nature and Motivation

What motivates you to write?
Money?  Please leave my blog now and never return.
Praise from friends and family?  Leave now.
The hope to write something of quality which transcends the human condition and becomes an eternal part humanity?  Ok, now we’re on the same page.

Not that making a buck is an evil thing.  But with so many writers ready to sell their souls for success, between quality and quantity, the former loses out most of the time.

Take writer David Morrell as an example.  He released ‘Murder as a Fine Art’ in 2013.  The second in the Thomas De Quincy series came out two years later.  Just think about that.  24 months between novels.  Even with giving 6 months to book tours and promotion, that’s 18 months of writing, editing, re-writing, research, and all the other details that do into creating a work of literature.

Most Indie writers I have been rubbing shoulders with are releasing a novel every 6 months.

So here’s the trick.  My last word on the subject to an Indie writer.  Ask one of your fans what they thought about the end of the book.  Even throw them a bit of misinformation … they will reveal whether they read the book or not.  I’ve been doing it since I began.  I’ve yet to catch anyone in a lie.  They read my book.  Can you say the same?
But hey … you’ve got a rocking book cover.

Nuff said.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

“All books are divisible into two classes: the books of the hours, and the books of all Time.”

“I think of myself as a bad writer with big ideas, but I’d rather be that than a big writer with bad ideas.”

“What people want, mainly, is to be told by some plausible authority that what they are already doing is right. I don’t know know of a quicker way to become unpopular than to disagree.”

“Evil is more famous than goodness.”

“Popularity is teenage heroin.”

 

Sales Slump – Enthusiasm Test

It’s been a while since my last blog post.  Mainly, I have been diverted by tons of personal issues combined with a horrific slump in sales of my books.  December and January were brutal.  I might have sold one book each.  This is were your passion for writing is truly tested.  And I have to admit, I didn’t really stand up to the test with determination.  I was devastated.

But I wonder how many of Amazon’s Indie writers actually do well in those months.  An Ebook is hardly the sexy gift one is expecting to see on Christmas morning.  “Oh, I got you an Ebook – just turn on your Kindle.”  Not exactly the stuff of which Christmas cheer is made.

Thankfully, February has been much better and I saw sales and page reads via the KU-KOLL system at Amazon.  So that has reset my determination.

But there are many other benefits from writing and self publishing.  One is credibility.  In the non-fiction world, a book on Amazon gives you a certain ‘leg up’ on the competition.  This has come in as a great help this week since I am doing the rounds once again to find work as an English teacher.  I doesn’t hurt that I have published seven different books on the subject.

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Another great thing is the networking.  My books have been the focal point of some new friendships.  I have a mutual twitter follower who is establishing a non-profit organization in India – Varun Aswasthi  … He reached out to me for advice on both how to build his organization and his twitter following.  So aside from writing entertaining books (I hope) about dogs, I get the satisfaction of lending a hand.  

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So the moral of today’s post – even if your books aren’t selling, there’s still a reason to keep going.  And that next book may just be the one to put you over the top.

Good luck and keep writing.

David Gordon Burke
Find my Books here!

 

 

Can Elegant Prose and Genre Fiction Coexist?

What is the goal of a writer?  First and formost to tell a good story.  A great story if possible.  Yet it goes way beyond that – even the worst dullard can excite an audience if the events he describes have an emotional connection to the listener.  So what is it that makes one novel stand out from another?  What is it that gets a reader’s motor humming and keeps them turning the page?  Well written prose.

I’ve been a fan of classic literature since I was a child.  I got hooked on ‘Classic Illustrated Comics’ from the time I started to read and eventually went on to read these same stories as novels.  One thing you can say about the greats like Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Austen, Daniel Defoe, J.R.R. Tolkien, Harper Lee, George Orwell, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe and others is that aside from delighting with great stories, they could also turn a phrase with a level of class and elegance that is way beyone the capabilities of many genre fiction writers today.  Although I don’t consider myself a genre fiction writer, I lump myself into that group of authors struggling to zap life into my prose – much like Dr. Frankenstein trying to give life to his creation.
classic

It may be the very nature of genre fiction that holds so many back.  Genre fiction inherently deals with a series of events.  A writer may find himself stringing together  sentence after sentence with ‘and then’ ‘after that’ ‘later’ ‘when’ and ‘at five o’clock(s)’ without ever scratching the surface of the human condition or digging deep into the depth of characters or motivations.  I have read much of this style of writing and while the best of it may entertain, very little of it makes me think.

This is my current challenge.

I am in the process of writing a novel based on my experiences during high school.  Wouldn’t it seem fake to wax philisophical in the middle of gym class?  What possible reason could a writer have to haul out the type of vocabulary that might spice up a novel if the genre only calls for teenage lingo?
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This is not to say that one is better than the other.  Genre fiction vs.  Literary fiction.  In my opinion the best writing out there finds a balance between action and elegance.  I have read a mountain of Robert B. Parker and Stephen King.  I’d hazard a guess that most people would agree that their merit lies in telling a great story, plotting and character developement.  Is their prose weak?  No.  It’s very workable, modern, at times lyrical and on the odd occasion slick.  But it’s not the work of the masters.

Writers who I consider to be genius are Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Yann Martel, James Carlos Blake, Alice Walker, Charles Frazier, Paulo Coehlo, Anne Rice, David Morrell, Khaled Hosseini, Laura Esquivel – there are others.  Within the genre fiction world I feel that Dean Koontz is a very under-rated author as he always finds a balance between a good story and flowing, elegant prose.
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So this is the twists and turns my brain are taking these days.
Add to that another untried concept.  My previous writing has been planned.  I use ‘Free Mind’ to chart the flow of my story and then drop these descriptions into my word document.  I usually plan out chapters and know where my story is going.  This time I am winging it.  I’ve done that for short stories – my collection ‘Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups and Chili Dogs’ was written this way but none of those stories went beyond 20,000 words.  This time I have no plan except that which is coming together in my head.

As an added challenge, I am writing the first draft ‘free hand’ – in other words, no computer.  And yet another great challenge / obstacle, I am writing the first draft on public transportation on my way to and from work.  Time contraints demand that I take advantage of my wasted time.  This actually has worked out very well.  Especially if the bus or subway isn’t too busy.  I can get three chapters done per week this way.

So all in all I have been learning a lot about the craft, have been asking a lot of questions and hopefully will find the answers before I am ready to publish this new novel.  I expect to do a lot of ‘Waxing Philosophical’ during the editing process.  I need to address the deeper issues that lie under the surface of the high school experience.  With any luck, that will spawn something elegant and memorable.

David Gordon Burke
Find my books here. 

 

It’s all About the Story – What I learned from Netflix

There are stories all around us.  TV, movies, theatre, comic books, graphic novels, Ebooks, Print, Hardcover, fan-fiction, poetry, non-fiction, jokes, legends, stories told through song, through art – the list goes on and on.  Each episode of your favorite TV series is a story within itself, sometimes stand-alone and sometimes part of a larger arc within a 24 episode seasonal arc or even an arc that lasts for season after season.

What makes these stories either succeed or fail?

My last post was about the contract with the reader.  (which we can extend to contract with the viewer, listener etc.)  We either walk away satisfied or we don’t.  That is not to say that every story that fulfills the terms of the contract will be liked by everyone.  I have heard all kinds of reasons why readers don’t like something they have read.  Some legitimate reasons and others – from way out in left field.

One thing to keep in mind – some books are like junk food.  It was designed to be tasty and maybe fill you up for a short time.  And that’s great.  Instant gratification without too much cerebral pressure.  Escape.  Everyone needs an escape now and then.

So why would something as simple as escapist entertainment fail?

Between transcribing my latest novel (and working … always trying to keep a buck coming in) I’ve been giving this a lot of thought.  And I’ve been watching a lot of TV, specifically NETFLIX series.  Since I live in Mexico I have missed a lot of shows and I have been catching up.

So here’s my list of series that FAILED in some way or another and didn’t life up to the promise / contract with the reader.  As a writer I think there is a lot to be learned from the successes and failure here.  After all, there’s a good chance that some of the people that watched these shows might end up with one of my books on their kindle.  I’d hate to let them down the way these shows have.

  1.  Dexter.
    Just an amazing show that totally dropped the ball in the last season.  I don’t know if the writers just didn’t get their own show but I as a viewer was ready to see Dexter WIN WIN WIN big in the end, to finally have the love of his life, to kill the last bad guy and to hang up his kill kit and plastic sheets for good.  And then walk off into the sunset … giving us one last ‘What if’ thought and a sly wink over his shoulder to indicate … Hey, I’m a retired serial killer but if anyone messes with me and mine ?????
    Instead they gave us Dexter the loser.  No one I have talked to was satisfied with that ending.
    dexter
  2. Prison Break
    Not a thing wrong with this series – Interesting and engaging from beginning to end.  The unique problem was that the concept had an extreme limited shelf life.  They break out of prison.  Then what?  Hunt them down.  Put them back in prison.  Then they break out again.  Now they have to break into some high tech fortress.  Ok, it was all interesting and well acted but they bit off WAY more than they could chew and it became far fetched.  Thank god they got out when they did.
    prison
  3. Glee
    Here’s one the writers didn’t expect.  Their main lead character actor dies of a drug overdose at the height of the show’s popularity.  That pretty much put an end to this excellent show about a High School Show Choir.  But where were they planning to take the show?  With or without Cory Monteith’s death, the show had limited possibilities.  The right move was to slowly bring in new singers to the club each year, graduate off the older cast but follow their budding show biz careers.  Sadly, once the female lead hits New York and Broadway the show all but gives up on the original premise and become the Rachel Berry show.  Which while still entertaining, isn’t the agreement we had from the beginning.  Also, the death of the main male lead left the on again off again romance between the principal characters unresolved.  A death knell for the Young Adult demographic.  glee
  4. Lie to me
    This one struck me a particularly obvious.  They laid out a huge premise about the micro expressions we all make to express disgust, shame, guilt, fear, honesty etc. and how this FBI consultant could read our expressions blah, blah, blah.  I never really bought into the premise but I went along for the ride anyway.  It was a well scripted show with good actors.  Then, around episode 15 or so of the first season they started to steer away from the technological element of this ‘face reading’ process.  By about the second season they have abandoned the premise completely and it was just the main character as a Super Sleuth.  Nothing to back up his hunches … we just had to believe he had the gift.  A major let down.
    lie
    There are a lot more show that over the years haven’t lived up to their promise or have bit off more than they can chew.
    Don’t get me started on movies.  The Force Awakens anyone?

    Have a good day.  Keep true to your vision and keep that contract with the reader alive.  After all, who are you writing for if not the reader?

    David Gordon Burke
    Find my books here!