Monthly Archives: November 2014

Why I hate success stories

I harbor a distaste for success stories, especially from writers I never heard of. Ah bitterness, how sweet thy sting. A success story is a sub genre of those feel good, warm and fuzzy, based on, or inspired by a true story, about people who overcame the odds and rose above their misfortune. In the old days they would be on the ABC, made for TV, movie of the week. But there is a larger issue with success stories and why stories about failure are more informative.

I have read many stories about indie writers and so-called real writers and they all have good advice, make salient points, and have, by reading through their success stories, a formula you can follow. And truth in honesty, what they say makes sense. The problem is that every person, every writer is different. Some are aggressive in marketing, others are passive, some see a clear path, others flounder along various trails, taking the wrong fork in the road. In the end some are lucky, others are not lucky.

No doubt you have heard ‘you can make your own luck.’  Or that luck is when ‘preparation meets opportunity.’  And lest we forget, ‘luck is the residue of design.’ To this I say luck can not be mixed in a bowl, baked at 350 degrees, and served on a golden plate. A friend of mine gave me a recipe for banana bread. I followed the recipe to perfection three times- and the banana bread was a disaster all three times. And while I find that preparation is important, not when opportunity comes knocking at your door for that implies you are patiently waiting for opportunity- but when you knock on opportunities door, it does not mean opportunity is home. Mr. Opportunity may be taking a lunch with Mr. Luck. And you can design your formal for success, but the residue can be ashes.

What is more important are stories of failure because they teach us what not to do. Jerry Lewis said you can learn more from bad movies than good ones because watching bad movies shows what is wrong, you see it, we have all experienced bad movies and we know why they were bad. Good movies we get involved and pay little attention to why, we don’t care, we are involved.

The good news is that there is only one failure story. You can find it in every story of failure you hear about. The recurring theme that comes under different headings is one and the same: giving up, quitting, surrendering, desisting, abandoning, throwing in the towel-or the keyboard.

The true success story is continuing to work at writing. You don’t need inspiration, that doesn’t last, it tastes good for a short time, but, like my banana bread, it does not sustain. Come to think of it, it never tasted good either. What you need is not inspiration, but will. The will to sit down and simply write.

My e-novels and short stories that will not inspire, but amuse are at Amazon:



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How Sherlock Holmes changed the world

It may come as a surprise to some, but Sherlock Holmes changed the world of police investigations and forensic science. While his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was having Holmes examine crime scenes and setting up a lab at his 221 B address on Baker Street, police at the time had no clue (pun intended) about crime scenes and forensic science was 23 years away. For readers at the time the Sherlock Holmes stories must have seemed like science fiction. But science fiction would become reality.

Dr. Edmond Locard of Lyon France was called “The Sherlock Holmes of France” because he was a pioneer in forensic science. He convinced the police to give him two rooms in the attic with two assistants and began the first police lab in 1910. He continued to work until his death in 1966. Locard was a fan of the Holmes stories and used Holmes methods and deductive reasons in his work.

Another fan of Sherlock Holmes was an Austrian judge named Hans Gross who wrote the first book on police procedure and criminalistics in 1893 that is so thorough it is considered the classic textbook on crime scene investigation. Gross was fed up with how police conducted solving crimes; nobody gathered evidence from crime scenes because no one thought to do so. Much of how Gross approached his work can be traced to how Holmes conducted himself at crime scenes.  

Doyle based the character of Sherlock Holmes on one of his professors who expounded deductive reasoning. The professor James Bell even wore a cap similar to Holmes.

So we have James Bell, a professor who inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to study deductive reasoning and Doyle used the methods of deduction with his character Sherlock Holmes whose crime solving methods were unheard of at the time, but inspired two men to create forensic science and change police investigations in ways that changed the world we live in. All from a fictional character.

The characters in my e-novels are not as bright as Sherlock Holmes, but you may enjoy them anyway.




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Don’t promote your book-let your fictional character do it for you.

Like it or not, all Indie writers, as well as established writers, must promote their book one way or another. It is harder for us Indie writers because, if you are like me, publicity agents cost money, so does advertising, and forget any talk shows.

But one way to create interest is to have your main character have his own blog. I can promote my books through my blog, have done so from time to time, in the process sharing information about writing, my experiences, hopefully with humor along the way. But I figure I should let Chester Koski do more of the work.

Chester is my lead character in two e-novels on Amazon and is currently helping me finish his third book which will be available early this spring. Chet’s blog will be separate from this blog. He said he will introduce himself, talk about his experience on the 1911 New York Giants, perhaps share more than he told in his first adventure, “Loonies in the Dugout,” and hopefully tell us more about his chorus girlfriend Eveleen Sullivan. Of course we are also interested in his friends Charlie Faust, Bat Masterson, George M. Cohen, Christy Mathewson, and Damon Runyon, among others. And I am sure he will reveal even more about his solving the mystery of silent film director William Desmond Taylor, as chronicled in “Loonies in Hollywood.” He may even talk about his current case, but I will let him tell that-if he chooses.

My hope, other than passing the promoting buck to a fictional character, is that he will entertain, tease, inform, and, who is kidding who-he is a mask to hide behind. And what writer does not like to hide behind his characters, let them do the talking, let him take the fall for us sensitive types. I think Chet will do well and am curious to see how many followers he will gain.

His bog will begin soon and I will promote it for him when he is ready. It is the least I can do for him. I trust his blog career will not interfere with his screen writing career with Paramount, or his marriage to Eveleen, or his attempt to solve the murders of sound technicians that he is currently working on.

If you desire to catch up on his life his e-novels are found here.



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The secret to writing good fiction with health warnings

It is no secret, but let me illustrate by showing an example of writing and my thinking behind my changes. Here is the opening to my work in progress, “I went to work worried I would be fired, was elated when told I still had my job, but a chill ran down on my back when I went to my office and saw a dead man sitting in my chair, his head resting on my desk in a pool of blood. And this on the day I had to go to Clara Bow’s birthday party. Some days just don’t fit in a normal life.”

I like the opening as it quickly shows a characters concern over being fired to shock at finding a corpse at his desk. The part about Clara Bow is indicative of my style of humor. He actually has to go the party. But it also brings time and place into the beginning of the story. In addition when the character goes from worry to elation to shock in a short time and be going to Clara’s birthday, it really is not a normal day.

Bur could I improve the paragraph? This is actually my second rewrite of it. A few months ago I showed my changes in  this blog. The best thing a writer can do is put the writing away, forget about it, do some other writing, then return. Yes I can improve on the 2nd rewrite.

How, you ask?

Thank you for the question. Here is the answer.

“A chill ran down my back” is a borderline cliché. So I get out Rodale’s “Synonym Finder.” I check under run, because ran is not listed. After a couple of minutes of checking other words I settle on quivered, but then I rethink and use the word shivered. “A chill shivered down my back”  I like better because “a chill will shiver, will it not? but it also borders on being too cute a phrase. But for the time I will keep it.

“…saw a dead man sitting in my chair, his head resting in a pool of blood is okay, it works, but can I make it more visual, more of an impact to the reader? It is rather blah. So I change it to, “. . . saw a dead man sitting in my chair, his arms hanging down towards the floor,” Stop. Stop. Stop. How are they hanging? How about limply hanging. And why do I need ‘down towards the floor?’

I start again. “… saw a dead man sitting in my chair, his arms limply hanging towards the floor, his head reposed on my desk in a pool of blood, one eye closed, the other vacantly staring at me.” I first had blankly then changed to vacantly, I like it better.

The new opening is: “I went to work worried I would be fired, was elated when told I still had my job, but a chill shivered down on my back when I went to my office and saw a dead man sitting in my chair, his arms limply hanging towards the floor, his head reposed on my desk in a pool of blood, one eye closed, the other vacantly staring at me. My emotions went from worried to elation to shock and this on the day I had to go to Clara Bow’s birthday party. Some days just don’t fit in a normal life.”

I don’t know if I am finished. Perhaps ‘reposed’ should be changed. The point is that the key to writing is rewriting, and then rewriting, always searching for the best word, the best sentence. It is a pain in my caboose, a pain that can cause anal fissure, perhaps even hemorrhoids, or other problems sitting on your caboose rewriting and rewriting. It can also lead to insanity as you are never satisfied. But you must rewrite and that is the secret. Beware the dangers though. If you feel your caboose start to itch, you have worked to long, so give yourself a treat.

My e-books:



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What you learn from writers insults

One of the truly great writers-and one of my favorites-Vladimir Nabokov once said of writer Joseph Conrad, “I cannot abide Conrad’s souvenir shop style and bottled ships and shell necklaces of romanticist clichés.”

Yes, writers can be snippy, catty, and insulting.  How about William Faulkner on Ernest Hemmingway. “He has never been known to use a single word that might send a reader to a dictionary.” It may be an insult, but if you have read Hemmingway, you know that to be true. And Faulkner was far worse in talking about America’s beloved writer, Mark Twain. Faulkner said, “A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and lazy.”

There is something about Faulkner’s quote that is beyond snippy. He seems to think Europe has better writers, but the reason Twain is revered in America is for the local color. I don’t want to go into a long defense of Twain, truthfully I like Hemmingway, Twain, and Faulkner.

Is there a lesson for writers to take away from lines like Virginia Wolfe who said of James Joyce’s book “Ulysses,” that  it is “the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples,” or the below the belt, truly offensive comments by W. H. Auden on Robert Browning, “I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve year-old girls.”

It is easy to laugh at writers who snip at each other and we love it when one of them takes on a writer we share an abhorrence or dislike for, but beyond that consider the message within the message. They are just opinions and just like rear ends, we all have one. I can’t get through “Moby Dick,” finding the nonfictional sidebar about whaling a big bore; it stops me dead the two times I tried to read the novel, but others revere Melville, whom I believed was paid by the word. There are those who trash “The Great Gatsby.”  I say those people can’t read.

Bottom line, is if you are a writer and you get insulted, trashed, and excoriated by others, remember that one person’s opinion is not a universal opinion. And if it does hurt, play a game, tell yourself that some opinions come not from thought and insight, but from the area of the body that everyone has, one that the dastardly pygmy brained idiot was sitting on when he wrote the comment, one created from indigestion and methane. Keep that image in mind when you are raked over the hot coals of literary cattiness.

Here is a link to more writers insults.

And here is a link to my e-novels which might create laughs or gas.

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