Random Musings From Under the Publishing Bus

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by Larry Brooks on August 24, 2009

bus

Things have been pretty heavy here on Storyfix lately.  A 10-part series on Story Structure that lasted 13 parts.  Three ways to do this, five ways to do that.  A new ebook.  Me learning what HTML means. 

If you’re new here, don’t be confused or discouraged.  This is a serious writing site, big time.  It’s just that today isn’t the day for serious.  It’s a day to celebrate the writing life.

Because I just sold a novel.  Emailed the publisher my agreement to the last of the contract revisions this morning.  I’m pretty excited, this novel was built on an idea hatched in 1979, and it waited until a couple of years ago until I thought I was writer enough for the story.

But a good story waits for no writer.  Part of the process is taking on a story that scares the hell out of you.

It was a hard sell.  My agent at the time said it was the best thing I’d ever done — this after four critically-acclaimed published novels — but they couldn’t make it happen.  Too rich, too scary, too controversial for New York, they said.  Try a smaller publisher, they said. 

And so I did.  I found a guy with a vision and the courage to rock the boat.  And so, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, an apocalyptic thriller that explores the proximity of the goings-on in the Book of Revelation in context to today’s harrowing times, will be released soon, hopefully by year end. 

New York doesn’t like thrillers with the word “God” in them.  Even if you swear it’s not a religious story, which it isn’t.  It’s about people who main and kill and plot to overthrow because of what they believe to be religious.  Publishers can’t get past their first impression, both of me and of the market.  Dan Brown has been there, done that.  Besides, they wanted me to write more stories with hog-tied women on the cover.  Which I will someday soon, but for now I have Whisper.  And I have Storyfix.

A guy named Kyle Mills, whose father knew Tom Clancy personally and got a blurb out of him for his son’s first novel, the fact of which propelled Kyle to the front of the class, wrote a book in which a serial killer attaches a victim to an I.V. line to prolong the sexual torture he was into.  Exquisite detail ensued. 

Meanwhile, during that same timeframe, someone in New York decided to put a woman with her hands bound by a scarf on the front of my first novel — not my idea, by the way — and the book ended up being classified as erotica in all the major bookclubs and a few stores.  One lady who owned an independent bookstore in Tucson practically threw me bodily out of her store. 

Prolonged sadistic torture — yes, she carried Kyle Mills’s book — hey, let’s do it.  A little kink, though, and its off to the back room for you.

This may be hard to believe, but  the suits who hatch the market strategies for our books don’t always read them.

I just cut the price of my new ebook in half.  Sales quadrupled immediately.  If my math serves me correctly, I believe we’ve just witnessed the end of the recession.  I knew I took Econ 101 for reason.

A few years ago I saw that Royal Caribbean was running a contest: best 150 words on why you like to cruise wins an all-expense paid luxury cruise for four.  Being the ex-copy jock that I am, and an avid lover of cruising, I dove in.  Cut to a few months later, I get an email.  Guess who won?  Moi.  First place out of 15,000 entries. 

Take that, those of you at my old agency who still don’t think I can write ad copy.

Then I read the fine print: “no professionals allowed to enter.”  This was just after my fourth novel got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, so I had to fess up.  Here’s what’s interesting, though: people came out of the woodwork to suggest ways I could beat the system.  To lie.  To cheat.  Tell them my wife wrote it.  Withhold the truth about my profession and hope they didn’t go near a bookstore any time soon.

Many of these well-intended people, I fear, are in politics today. 

I fessed up, and of course they took the trip away.  As consolation they sent me two bathrobes, two hats and a backpack.

Recently on another website I commented that learning to write a novel or a screenplay by simply starting to write one, without understanding story archecture, was like a pilot trying to learn to fly without ground school, by hopping into the cockpit solo.  The wonderful lady who authors that site took issue, claiming that she had documented evidence, supposedly from an aviation expert, that the best way to learn to fly is, in fact, by getting into the cockpit and taking off. 

Three words: crash and burn.

My wish for you is that you never buy a ticket on that airline.  Or, that you won’t have to read the book that particular pilot writes.  No problem there… nobody will.

Another website owner just asked me if I could “dumb down” my stuff.  Don’t worry… I won’t.  At least not here. 

The author photo used in my first book, published in 2000, was taken in 1991.  At a booksigning a woman picked up a copy, looked at the picture, looked back up at me, and said, “Holy shit, what the hell happened to you?”

Getting published has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life.

Favorite opening line I’ve written thus far: She was scalding hot heroin dripped slowly into an open wound.  Never touched the stuff, to be honest, but I’ll tell you honestly that it was inspired by my wife, who hasn’t either.

Write on.

Photo credit: xddorox

Suzannah-Write It Sideways August 24, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Larry,
Finally finding a few minutes to do some reading, and happened to find this post. Congratulations on the new book deal! That’s fantastic. I like that you express how difficult it was to sell this manuscript, regardless of the fact you’ve already had 4 novels published. It’s a reminder to all of us that good writing takes toil, and there are no handouts. You’ve earned your stripes, I daresay.

Patrick Sullivan August 24, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Congratulations! Must feel good to get another book published after it being a few years since the last one. You’ll have to post when it hits shelves so we can see all your advice in action in it’s newest form.

Luke Burrage August 24, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Congratulations on selling your latest novel!

The last part of your post reminds me of a key passage in my first (completed) novel. One of the main themes is about learning, or at least trying not to repeat mistakes. In a conversation about zero gravity sex there is the following exchange:


“What I’m trying to say is that you can’t take it too seriously.”

“So I’ve failed already, I’m asking for instructions beforehand.”

“No, that’s just being smart. People say the best way to learn is from your mistakes. Bullshit. Nobody learns how to drive by their mistakes. Nobody learns how to fly a spaceplane by their mistakes. Nobody learns what foods are poisonous by their mistakes. Learning by your mistakes means you live your life repeating everybody else’s mistakes.”

“So… where’s the best place on the CSS for zero G sex?”

“Well, airlock B is the best size, but a bit too public. Check store at the end of section D to see if it’s empty. If you do end up using it, cover the window on the hatch.”

“I’ll learn from your mistake on that one.”

“Yup!”

Keep up the good work on the blog!

Lori August 24, 2009 at 5:24 pm

I was just starting to write my next blog post – I am an admitted hobby blogger – when I decided to pop over for a dose of inspiration.

Larry, I am happy for you and am anxiously awaiting your next book release at the end of the year. Great news!

I love stopping by your site. Thanks for once again giving me inspiration, good advice, great stories and simply – hope.

Cheers! Lori at Jane Be Nimble

Rene August 24, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Larry, congratulations on the sale! That’s wonderful news.

Bryce August 24, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Nice bus.
Oh, and congrats on the deal.

And with a cruise, all you get is fat and a couple of memories. A bathrobe is a gift that keeps on giving.

Shirls August 24, 2009 at 11:30 pm

I just love it when good things happen to good people. Especially when the good things are not by chance but as a result of grit and know-how. Congratulations on your book deal Larry – I’m looking forward to reading it. The theme appeals to me and I’ll have to read it a few times because first time round I’m just going to enjoy it: deconstruction can come later.

Iain Broome August 25, 2009 at 6:21 am

Truth is there’s far too much running before crawling in the world of unpublished writers. Alarm bells always ring for me when I see people shouting about there book before it’s even finished, let alone with an agent or publisher. It all feels like an extension of what I think you’re describing – the notion that anyone can write a novel, you just need to get cracking. It’s nonsense. Always has been.

Oh, and congratulations!

PatriciaW August 25, 2009 at 7:05 am

Congratulations on publishing your novel. “Found” your blog last week and gave you a shout-out on mine. Great stuff here, because I’m one of those “ground school” types, not the “crash and burn”.

Mary E. Ulrich August 25, 2009 at 7:15 am

Congratulations on the book and your determination.

My favorite quote: “I’m pretty excited, this novel was built on an idea hatched in 1979, and it waited until a couple of years ago until I thought I was writer enough for the story.

But a good story waits for no writer. Part of the process is taking on a story that scares the hell out of you.”

Please keep driving the quality bus. If we want dumber content, we can go to numerous other sites.

Jo-Anne Vandermeulen August 25, 2009 at 7:34 am

Wow…again, I’m so impressed with your many talents–gifts of true intuition and just plain darn hard work. Congratulations!!!

Would love a signed copy of “Whisper of the Seventh Thunder”. I cannot wait for it to come out. Sounds like my kind of book…and, being it is written by you, makes it EXTRA special.

>Cheers and a hug from your BTR partner in crime<

Jo-Anne Vandermeulen
Owner and Marketeer
Premium Promotional Services
http://www.premiumpromotions.biz

Susan402 August 25, 2009 at 7:41 am

I just wanted to say congratulations, Larry. I’ve been reading your articles as soon as they hit my inbox for the last few weeks and have enjoyed every one of them. My friend Kait Nolan has been sending me writing articles for months in hopes of dragging me back into the mire and I had my heels firmly dug in until she sent me your link. Thank you for the inspiration to try again and fantastic content in every post.

Sharon August 25, 2009 at 7:47 am

Way to go on the new book!

And thank God you aren’t going to dumb down.

poch August 25, 2009 at 8:25 am

CONGRATS LARRY!!
I wish I could drink a bottle or two with you.
‘Write On’- great motto. (have you copyrighted this? It might be stolen if it’s original.)

Krista August 25, 2009 at 11:36 am

Congrats on the sale! I’ve never read your stuff before, but I think I’m going to have to keep an eye out for this latest one. It sounds like something I would very much enjoy.

First time visitor who will be back to read more.

Susy August 25, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Hi Larry,
congrats on signing on the dotted line, and thank you for your brutal honesty about your writing, it is refreshing to say the least. Keep it up.

J.Morgan August 25, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Let me add my Congratualations as well.

Awesome job and I will definately be picking that book up when it comes out.

Here’s to hard work and skill!

Wendi Kelly August 25, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Hi Larry,

Been reading for awhile now, subscribed after your first PenMen article and have been here ever since. Seems like a great day to say hello and congratulations. I love what you do here, your words make a great deal of sense to me.

I wish you great success with your new book!

Trish August 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Just adding to the congrats, Larry. It’s good to know that good writing still sells.

Larry August 26, 2009 at 6:45 am

Just want to say thanks to all for the warm congratulations and the support. I’ll keep you posted, as the journey from here to there is always interesting.

Also, just a heads-up… I’m planning a 5-part series on “character demystification,” identifying specific areas of opportunity and criteria for the birthing of compelling characters in our stories, pitfalls to avoid, and how to get past the lit professor rhetoric on the subject that always, for me at least, seemed to be more style and substance. Look for it here on Storyfix soon.

I appreciate your referrals, too. Keep ‘em coming!

Have a great writing day, everyone.

Katie Delderfield August 26, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Hey, huge congratulations! Thank you for posting your gleeful gloating. Shows that success never gets old, even if you have been published before. I hope your new book isn’t shuttled off to the Christian Supply Bookstore, as I wouldn’t go in there to find it. : )

Rubi Degrasse October 9, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I found this post to be very good. I have went through and read many of your articles. They are good!

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