Thursday, September 30, 2010


Rush Limbaugh Cartoon by Ian D. Marsden of mar...Image via Wikipedia
Dear You—

I’m in two minds as to whether writers want to be helped. Part of the satisfaction that compensates for the innate insecurity, that is typical of a creative writer’s existence, comes from the sense that writing is one of the few areas where the creator of the work can have complete control. Of course, that happy state only lasts until one encounters agents, editors and the like who have a tendency to want to ‘shape’ one’s manuscript because they ‘know’ the market. 

I’ll refrain from further comment at this stage while I go and kick the cat, or otherwise work off my frustrations. I’ll just say that a good editor is hard to come by; and a ‘good’ agent is a contradiction in terms. I’ll also add that I have benefited from considerable help in terms of introductions and other lucky breaks, though whether the advice I received re my actual writing was helpful is something I’m less sure about. If you write hard enough and long enough – and refrain from excessive indulgence in alcohol, and wild, wild women, that inner voice will come. And you would be wise to trust it. And you should note that my choice of the word ‘excessive’ allows a great deal of latitude.

On to the hard part.

Q. Why is writing so … difficult?
This belongs in the What-is-the-meaning-of-life category, and I’m not sure that many people do think it’s that difficult given the number that have said to me: “I’d love to write a book if only I had the time. In fact my friends are constantly telling me that I should because I’ve had such an interesting life.” The Taser was invented for such people. If you are not so equipped, a well delivered epithet is considered a socially acceptable response to such idiocy.

The current American Way of life is based upon consumption rather than production. Add in lousy schools, and a corporately controlled environment (meaning that corporations now control EVERYTHING including our politicians) and a reasonable Martian might reasonably conclude that an independent cast of mind is not encouraged. In short, most of us are so manipulated, conditioned and programmed from birth that our ability to cast a fresh eye on things, and translate that perspective into words on paper, has been driven right out of us. 

The system doesn’t want us to think because to think is to question the status quo – and that threatens those who benefit from it. The consequences of such mass cognitive failure show in many ways from the generally poor quality of American conversation, to our seeming inability to discuss issues of any complexity, to our obsession with celebrity, to our acceptance of demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Gen Beck and Sarah Palin, to our unhappy habit of engaging in unnecessary and expensive wars, to the decline of this Great Nation. Instead, most of us rely on prejudices and clichés, and talk at each other rather than engaging in genuine dialogue; and we avoid exercising our minds as if the practice was somehow unclean. In short, instead of cultivating well trained minds, the American system produces conditioned conformist consumers who go through life being intellectually bottle-fed rather than thinking for themselves.

The consequences of this sustained assault on our innate cognitive abilities are self-evident and far-reaching. But the specific problem, where writing is concerned, is that good writing requires an active, well honed, well informed mind because original ideas are the raw material for what is a highly complex decision making process. And if your intellect has been allowed to atrophy, because you have spent your life being distracted by manufactured entertainment, trying to rev up those little grey cells to construct an original thought, let alone translate that into written form, is extraordinarily difficult. Which is where we came in.

Writing would be less difficult for most of us if we learned to do it earlier and practiced more; and if we used it as the excellent intellectual exercise that it is. But we don’t. Instead we instituted the multiple choice question, arguably the greatest threat to cultivating a thought prior to Bill Gates’s introduction of PowerPoint.

I’d like to add one further soupçon that occurred to me today as I was enjoying a walk on what was a truly beautiful day - and watching the activities of the local Anti-Gang Unit (their uniforms were labeled that way just in case the unmarked Crown Vic didn't make the point). Somehow I get the feeling that many of us are losing the facility to really observe our surroundings. It’s hard to appreciate the subtleties of life when one is driving, let alone with the radio blasting away, and half of one’s mind focused on texting. I’m not against cars, radios, iPods and mass entertainment in general – I positively love the radio - but I just think we’re using such marvelous devices to excess right now and might benefit from a sense of proportion.

Fortunately, there are many bright people around who are exceptions to what I have just written – and, naturally, they all buy my books (and you are one of them) but I have a horrible feeling that my basic thesis is accurate where the population as a whole is concerned. I would like to be proven wrong. It may be going through a bad patch, but I’m very fond of this quirky country.

To be continued…


Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Dear You--

When I think of my pre & post-publication writing career to date – now nearly two and a half decades long - I realize I owe a great deal to being helped. This isn’t to minimize my own efforts – I happen to be extraordinarily committed to writing (and have paid the price) but more to try and determine how I can put something back into the collective pot. 

Why bother? Damned if I know; but I suspect the human psyche contains some decent impulses, and I am learning, as I get older, that helping people can induce a rather pleasant warm and fuzzy feeling - akin to stroking a cat, or finding one hasn’t been hit after a firefight. 

But enough of analysis – because what sane person would trust Freud. The task at hand, right now, is to determine the questions that writers seem to want answering.

All suggestions to the Q&A welcome. I’m merely priming the pump because what I really want is your input. So tell me your writing concerns and I’ll do my best to come up with answers. Mind you, normally, if you can frame the question, you practically know the answer already; but why spoil the fun.

By the way, over time I’ll flesh out the answers to provide detail (lists of books, agents etc.) and probably put the whole thing together in one central place on the web. This is just the quick-and-dirty beginning.

I would add that I’m also responding to my good friend, author Norman Wilson’s, commitment to ‘Paying it forward.’ He is what we would call, in Ireland, ‘a decent man’ and also happens to be the author of  THE SHAMAN'S QUEST Read this book!

But I suspect I digress. The answers await.

Q. How do I learn to write?
A. It’s amazing how many people think they want to make writing a career before they have learned the basics of writing. Here, I have two suggestions:
Firstly, read voraciously, widely and well – and preferably to excess. This is one business where you can see exactly what the masters do merely by going to a library or a bookstore. One of the great advantages of reading is that one tends to learn how writers do things through osmosis.

Secondly, write every day until you reach the stage where the mere sight of a keyboard will make you want to write. The idea is to make writing a conditioned reflex (as in you will react similarly to Pavlov’s dog). What should you write about? That is entirely up to you but I suggest you start by keeping a journal and discipline yourself to hit a target word-count. Initially, it doesn’t really matter what you write. The important thing is to do the deed and not talk about it. Write until you have to write!

Q. Are spelling, punctuation and grammar important?
A. Yes! You don’t have to know all the terminology but you have to have mastered the basics if you want to be taken seriously. True, spelling and style checkers help but they can only do so much. Personally, I still read books on grammar (some are extremely amusing) from time to time, and I thank the Ultimate Writer in the sky for spell checkers; and swear I’ll study harder when I’m re-incarnated. Dave Petraeus (THE general) edited one of my books (GETTING TO KNOW THE WARFIGHTERS) and asked me had I ever heard of the comma!

Q. How long does it take to learn to write?
A. You will still be learning when you die. Rather like sex, it is one of those activities which you never master quite as well as you want, but where the endeavor is exhilarating. Think decades rather than years or months. This isn’t to say that you won’t become competent within a few years, but if you are serious about writing you’ll want to do better than that – and good takes longer. The positive aspect: It’s a fine thing to be considered a good writer and worth the effort.

Q. How does one get used to being alone all day with only a computer for company?
A. It probably helps if one starts off having had an unhappy childhood or some such. Actually, though I did have a ridiculously difficult childhood (just for starters I’m the eldest of 12 children, was raised a Catholic and went to an English boarding school) I quite like people, but since I like writing more I can happily commune with a keyboard for a typical working day (or more) without missing those over-rated beings, real live humans. Besides, one has one’s characters to socialize with and they have a habit of becoming very real very quickly. Nonetheless, I will admit that the love of a good woman is a wonderful thing – and pleasant to enjoy AFTER writing; and a glass of wine with friends is not to be sneezed at.

To be continued…

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Mac OS logoImage via WikipediaDear You--

The following came up on the Linkedin writers' group 'Writing Mafia' today. 

Mac or PC for Screenwriting?

Hi to you all, 

 Whilst I realise that, ultimately, it is the text that must sell your work, what is the groups opinion on the best tools to help you get there? 

1. I need to buy a new laptop and although never having previously been a mac user, I quite fancy a macbook pro. Is there any justification for the extra expense? - Other than it can run Win 7, what would be the point when any new laptop will do this. 

2. What are the best tools on the market for screenwriting on either platform. Bearing in mind that most of my cash will be going on the laptop, suggestions for free tools are be as welcome as those for full commercial packages. 

 3. Any other writing tools you'd like to suggest? 

Many thanks, 

Victor O'Reilly • Mark— 
My credentials re computers are that I have no natural aptitude with them but know I need them so both use them and follow the field with something akin to a sporting interest. I have also managed to write eight books on them (one a NYT Best Seller) – and in the process to have gained hard won experience. For various reasons, mostly to do with affordability and my investment in software, I have stuck with PCs – and I regret that decision. Here are my thoughts from over two decades in the trenches: 

1. You should, without hesitation, opt for a Mac. All my writer friends who use Macs seem to have less trouble and be more productive than those who use PCs – and that has been the pattern for years. True, PCs have now become more usable with the introduction of Windows 7, but the Unix based Mac OS remains an innately superior operating system. 

2. Macs tend to dominate in the creative area because they have long been superior graphically and in multi-media generally. Whereas you may think multimedia unimportant if you are solely working with words, you will still find that you will need optimum multimedia capabilities if only because the overall trend is in that direction. 

3. The choice of Mac model is up to you but whatever you chose, buy plenty of memory. It’s the cheapest way of improving performance. Macs utililise RAM more efficiently than PCs but I still recommend 8MBS even though the standard is pretty much 4MBs right now. 

4. Add a second screen. It means that your main machine doesn’t have to have a large screen and yet you have the convenience of one when needed. 

5. There isn’t as much software available for Macs as with PCs, but the quality of Mac software can be higher and there is more than enough there for your chosen field. I would recommend Scrivener for general word-processing use and preliminary screenwriting, Final Draft for the product you intend to submit, and possibly DevonThink as your database. 

I’m currently overhauling my web site but it will contain an updated Writing Advice section when it is finished – and I will continue to recommend good software and anything else which may help my fellow writers. As my good friend Norman Wilson likes to say, “Pay it forward is good practice in our game.”

Veronika Kaufmann • Bottom line, you have to love your computer. At least it helps me. I love my mac. And since I come from the film industry, am used to macs. Mine is a purely subjective and emotional viewpoint. I love my computer. And I look forward everyday to using it. Doing research is simply more enjoyable on a mac. It may seen innocuous and silly, but if you search for stuff, and get awesome crystal clear pics, it makes the task that much more fun. 

Regarding software: Victor already mentioned the status there. Again, bottom line: its not about the fancy software that formats your script or novel. Word does the job in both cases. It's about the idea and how well written it is. No software can replace the editing and copy editing process. For that, you need human eyes regardless what fancy software you have.

Good luck and enjoy your new laptop.

Victor O'Reilly • Mark-- 
I agree with Veronika completely - and she conveys the tone better than I did - and the fact that Mac users tend to love their computers is no small matter because they love them for very good reasons. As for the software, of course you can get Word for the Mac - and you may prefer to go that route - but I mentioned Scrivener because it is written specifically for a writer in that it integrates a database and allows you to sort your ideas. Also, it is cheaper. As for browsing, e-mail and the like, I have switched to Google for as much as possible recently and am very pleased. And don't forget backup. Here the best way to go is via a cloud based system such as Carbonite. Also backup up on a thumb drive. 

Happy to answer any further questions. Every success @VORAuthor

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Tap dancer at Tokyo Disney SeaImage via Wikipedia
Dear You--

It is curious the number of skills a writer needs today. I seem to recall that there was a time when drinking too much and having a creative personality (being moody and depressed) being broke, and living in a garret were the primary requirements, but now – in these days of e-books, self publishing and rapid change, one is expected to be futurist, networker, relentless self promoter, analytics expert, book cover designer, typographer, public speaker, direct mail expert, and much more besides - all rolled into one. And I guess it probably helps if one can write. Then again, that may be a fast vanishing requirement given that e-books are soon destined to feature movie clips erupting forth from the printed page, doubtless in 3D before too long. Just imagine a tap-dancing book. It’s a damnably disconcerting concept.

This imperative to be a writer of many talents – mostly to do with self-advancement - has been much on my mind recently because I’m on a countdown to launch a number of titles as e-books and I’m acutely conscious that not only am I woefully lacking in some of the necessary expertise,  but my carefully honed ability to focus is being chopped – metaphorically speaking - into a regular mise en place as if destined for a wok. This isn’t to say that I’m not enjoying learning all these new things but more that writing is hard work, requires all the creative energy one can muster, and deserves as much commitment as good sex.

I’m not sure how I’m going to resolve all this so I think I’ll exercise my author’s prerogative and change the subject and expose you to the kind of activity one is supposed to be involved in as a professional author these days. I’m not knocking it – it’s fun – but it seems like a lot of work as a way to get known and my conscience says I should spend the time writing real books!  

The following is from a writers group, Writing Mafia, on Linkedin.

Let's get this community connected - If you accept LinkedIn invitations from members of this group please post here!

Donna Wood • I think I just evolved into a writer. I grew up in two storytelling cultures and it grew from there. As far as what do I hope to accomplish as a writer? I hope to continue the tradition of storytelling in the family in a different venue. To entertain the masses. To write books with substance and meaning. To cause the average person to take pause and question their own thoughts and beliefs. That's about it in a nutshell. What do I hope to accomplish as an author? My greatest dream is start the Butterfly Phoenix Foundation with funding from my books. I don't see this happening anytime soon, but it's always good to dream.

Ross Brown • Lee, I'd start a new discussion if I were you. If we're all connected, we'll see the topic on our LinkedIn Home page. I think that starting a discussion in this thread may get lost. I'm looking forward to sharing ideas with all of you.

Susan Thwing-McHale • Yes, happy to connect.

AJ Miller • Count me in! Great group. My writing has been primarily been in the areas of ad and marketing copy, as well as formal with regard to composing strategic plans. I am ready to broaden my creative skills.

Victor O'Reilly • Early in my writing career, I was once told by a Best Selling Author (God as far as I was concerned) that writers were genetically programmed to be jealous of other writers. Needless to say, I never harbor such low feelings.

Paul Callaghan • I'm not the jealous type either Victor. I just look wistfully at the vast numbers of connections that other people have and sigh. :)

Victor O'Reilly • I'm not sure writers should have friends. Given all the good work produced by people in dire straits in freezing garrets, I have the notion that all this cameraderie may be undermining our need for that well known creative stimulant - misery. The next thing you know is that people will be suggesting we ease up on being moody, depressed and angst filled. I shall now rise and kick the cat just to prove that I'm still moody and difficult. Good grief, it was never like this back in Ireland.

Ben McDonald • Agreed, Victor! A lack of friends and, I would argue, a surplus of booze and cigarettes are key to any good writer. Being a happy family man has certainly not helped inspire any masterpieces lately!

Victor O'Reilly • Thank you, Ben. I had forgotten the cigarettes. Fortunately I come from a large and dysfunctional family who can generate stress under any and all circumstances so I'm probably sufficiently traumatized to be able to be creative without adding cancer. Also I live in Seattle where the weather can be relied upon to be unreliable and depressing. Add in the Great Recession and continuing unemployment and we're going to be knee deep in creative genius before too long.

Suzanne Wendt • Oh Victor, Just bring on the Absinthe!

Victor O'Reilly • Suzanne, I was just pouring that very liquor for my cat, Toulouse. One should never drink alone as you know though I suspect that writers are allowed to. Toulouse is, of course, stuffed since that means I don't get distracted by the damned thing. Of course the downside is that it's tough to drink booze from a saucer. Then again, a certain degradation is de rigeur for us author types as well - and to be found licking up spilled absinthe from the floor - while one's stuffed cat looks on sardonically - serves more than adequately in that regard. But shame on me for giving away the secrets of my craft. I shall next be accused of being convivial.

Paul Callaghan • But Victor you have forgotten the chocolate. And coffee makes a great mixer for that absinthe. Stuffing sounds a good way to stop the cat's distractions, I wonder if it would work as well for teenagers?

Veronika Kaufmann • Excellent. Then I should have a bestseller in no time. I live in the most miserable place on earth. And i smoke. Although today I gave up for an hour, opting to sit inside to avoid the pigeons outside.

Victor O'Reilly • Just so long as you don't smoke on Linkedin, Veronika. We have our standards here. Your vices apart (feel free to elaborate) where is the most miserable place on earth? As for you, Paul - you'll never drink yourself into fame if you dilute your absinthe with anything other than contaminated water. As for teenagers, I thoroughly recommend stuffing though it's best to do the task when they enter that phase. They get a little hard to handle later on. A side benefit is that placing a stuffed teenager in one's passenger seat allows one to use HOV lanes.

Farewell. As always, I miss you.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Dear You—

More on my move from Microsoft to Google software.

CONTEXT: Working Method:
I normally have a working document and a reference document on the go at any one time – with various other programs available, if not necessarily visible. When I’m book writing, the working documents would typically be my working draft and some research material – with various useful services such as a dictionary and thesaurus on hand via the browser. If I’m e-mailing, the working documents might be my reply and the e-mail I’m answering. Typically, I use two screens to accomplish this because my main computer is a laptop with only a 13” screen. But, however one accomplishes it, having plenty of screen real estate is a marvelous aid to productivity and is highly recommended. It also gives one a chance to re-read one’s e-mail and thus reply more carefully. I know in this age of texting, spending time on comprehension may seem a wasteful practice, but that’s my approach. As a practical matter, I may end up with 20 or more documents open at once (I’ve reached more than 50 during moments of over-enthusiasm) but the core of all my work virtually always tends to be two documents, one on one screen and one on the other.

E-MAIL: The move from MS Outlook to Gmail:
Outlook was disastrous when it was launched, but has morphed into a pretty good e-mail program with significant weaknesses in how it stores both its settings and its database – particularly when one’s pst file gets large. Also, unless one is operating via a fileserver – which is the norm in a corporate environment – one’s data is machine dependent. If your laptop or whatever goes down, then you cannot get at your data until the problem is fixed. When you backup, Outlook always demands special consideration.
I thought about this for a while and decided that Gmail’s inadequacies (starting with the fact that I didn’t like the way it looked) would be compensated for by:

  • ·         Being able to access one’s e-mail from any browser.
  • ·         Not having to file e-mails any more.
  • ·         Being able to avail of Google Search.
  • ·         Having an offsite backup.
  • ·         Having more confidence in Google’s data integrity than in Outlook’s pst.

Initially, I wasn’t too happy with Gmail as such – I thought it looked weird and functioned in a decidedly strange manner – but as the months have passed Google has fixed its more egregious flaws and I have become better used to it. In particular I like the way Google responds to feedback and communicates because it means that weaknesses are attended to, problems don’t fester, and one knows – reasonably well – what is going on. Perhaps the best example of this is the contacts database which was on the crude side six months ago but has been improved immeasurably.

Bottom line: I’m vastly pleased with Gmail and my only concern now is to work out a back-up routine. True, Google doesn’t look like vanishing but storing valuable data in a single corporate cloud makes my vaguely nervous, especially since there are some places I like to go where internet access isn’t possible.

BROWSER: The move from MS Internet Explorer to Firefox to Google Chrome
MS Internet Explorer’s weaknesses are well known so I won’t re-visit them. In fact, I moved to Firefox some time ago and only switched to Google Chrome when I found Firefox was crashing on me. I’m told Firefox has fixed the problem but I have been so pleased with Google Chrome that I am not inclined to go back. Chrome is fast and powerful, does everything I want and I’ve come aware that there is synergy between Google’s various programs; and all seem to be being improved at amazing speed. That is just as well because Google seems to specialize in inconsistencies. For instance, although a Google bar is available for MS Internet Explorer and Firefox, one isn’t yet available for Google’s own browser, Google Chrome.

OFFICE SUITE: MS Office & Google Docs being used in parallel.
I like MS Office thought, in truth, I mostly use Word alone with the other programs in the suite being of benefit primarily for opening incoming presentations (PowerPoint and Excel). As for Google Docs, I am uncomfortable at the thought of dependent on an internet connection to write. Nonetheless, I’m beginning to use Google Docs for some administrative chores and all I can say to date is that it promises well. My eventual plan is to write non mission critical stuff in Google Docs but keep using Word for the vital stuff. In short, my Google Docs evaluation is a promising work in progress.

Perhaps because Google Docs is primarily downloaded, it is a little tricking to know exactly what it is and to assess its capabilities. The main elements, which are listed on the bar, consist of:
  • Gmail
  • Calendar
  • Documents
  • Web
  • Reader
To the above five programs one has to add:
  • Google Voice (which is broadly similar to Skype).
  • Google Notebook.
So far, the unsung hero in all this is Google Notebook. More when I have evaluated it more.

Farewell. I miss your wit and your company.



MS Dos LogoImage via Wikipedia
Dear You—

Please make sure you are sitting down – preferably with a drink in your hand. I am about to surprise you. After over a quarter of a century sharing with you the horrors and frustrations of dealing with personal computers, and the eccentricities of Bill Gates’ various attempts to produce a stable operating system, I am about to say something nice about computer software - Google's, as it happens - and to deliver a progress report on my journey towards being free of Microsoft’s corporate clutches. 

I am in shock at my own temerity and am looking anxiously up at the heavens for fear I shall be hit by a lightning bolt for deviating from the norm (God alone knows how many innocents have been delivered to Hell because of Microsoft’s software screwing things up in Heaven; like most corporate entities, they use Windows). But I shall press on.

I first started investigating using a computer for writing back in the days of Wang and Olivetti word processors in the very early Eighties and actually used Xerox’s early graphically controlled personal computer, the Star (which they declined to market) and then Steve Job’s independent venture after Apple, a Next (which I couldn’t afford but which I thought represented the future of computing). I then followed up that pioneering by ordering IBM’s first PC (which was delivered without a BIOS so useless and returned) and then proceeded to order an early Mac Lisa but was actually delivered a PC clone because the Mac supplier had gone bust. Thus commenced a long journey on the wrong road – using a PC instead of a Mac - which I like to delude myself prevented me becoming as rich and famous as Tom Clancy or Shakespeare. Certainly, I have experienced an extraordinary amount of computer hassle over the years which has been exacerbated by my determination to have several programs up at once instead of accepting the limitations of the technology at the time. Meanwhile, my writing friends who used Macs led relatively trouble-free computing existences and their writing careers prospered. 

Why didn’t I switch to a Mac? There were various reasons at various times. I couldn’t afford to. I was too heavily invested in PC software. My favorite free-text database program – which I have now used for approaching 25 years – askSam - didn’t have a Mac version. And, surprise, surprise, when I did borrow a Mac for a while (this was before Steve Jobs returned) I just couldn’t get comfortable with it; I had become conditioned to PCs with all their imperfections. Microsoft had put a spell in me.

In the beginning, I rarely knew whether a problem was caused by hardware or software – or both – but eventually I realized that the operating system was the critical element as far as I was concerned, and that, if I really needed to have multiple programs up at once, I should be using Unix. However, everything to do with Unix was expensive and all the computer gurus I knew warned me against it on the grounds that it would near impossible be for a computer illiterate person like myself to master, good technical support was hard to come by, and, of course, it wouldn’t run askSam or any of the popular PC programs. Nonetheless, I wish I hadn’t listened to all this well meaning advice. Unix was, and remains, inherently more stable than Windows, and is designed for multi-tasking. My decision to stick with Microsoft DOS and then migrate to Windows was a poor one; and Windows 7 hasn’t changed my mind even though it is the best Microsoft operating system I have encountered to date. Nonetheless, I still have to reboot more often than I would like, and there seems to be wide agreement that Macs are superior for audio visual work. Also, Macs, since they are now using Intel CPUs, can run Windows if so required, as well as the Mac OS whereas the converse is not true.

Back in May of this year I started moving away from Microsoft dependency by freeing myself of MS Outlook and switching to Gmail and Google Docs. I have been pleasantly surprised by the results to date.

More tomorrow.

Farewell. I miss your wit and your company.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, September 10, 2010


Screenshot of the White Rabbit from the traile...Image via Wikipedia

Dear You—

Given the amount of information that is now available, I sometimes get the feeling we need to introduce the 48 hour day. Certainly, I find it extremely difficult to juggle the kind of daily reading I like to do to keep up, with book writing, social media, blogging, e-mail, general administration, and all the learning one needs to do to master constantly changing software and the other tools of the modern communicator – and I haven’t even got to podcasting, graphics and the kind of movie talent one needs to put together an acceptable YouTube presentation of the kind which, I am advised, is becoming de rigeur if one wants to make it in the writing game. I could add texting but I have steered clear of that so far. On the other hand I haven’t mentioned book reading which is innately time consuming in itself. More and more, I feel myself identifying with the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland rushing around crying: “I’m late! I’m late!” In fact, I think it is highly probable that my ears are getting longer and I’m growing fur (though that may be coming from the cats).

To make matters worse (he said with some humor in his voice) I am under constant pressure from well meaning friends to promote myself more, to be more outgoing, to network and generally to market myself “because that’s the American Way, Victor, and you’ll just have to get used to it.” I’m also supposed to be doing public speaking, teaching writing master classes, sending out press releases, cultivating both TV and radio talk show circuits and attending seminars about how to promote myself even more effectively. Oy vey, indeed! Welcome to a struggling writer’s world in the 21st century.

To make matters worse, I was brought up to regard self-promotion as absolutely “not done,” boasting to be socially unacceptable, self-deprecating understatement to be the standard, and one’s status to be implied through subtle social signals such as one’s accent, choice of tailor, how one held one’s tea-cup and so-on – rather than overt success, let alone wealth. All in all, I sometimes have the feeling that my excellent and expensive British public school education, and my years spent in Trinity College Dublin’s ancient portals, ill prepared me for the modern world.

In truth, I am awed by the range of skills a modern citizen seems to require to get through the day. All I seem to be able to do is write and even that facility is very much a work-in-progress and utterly demanding of my time and focus. As for the rest, it’s fascinating and can be fun but I secretly hearken back to the days of authors like Arthur Hailey who lived in the Bahamas (or some such), wrote for no more than four hours a day, and devoted four years to writing each heavily researched novel.

With that thought, I shall rise and go search for a carrot.

Farewell. I miss your wit and company.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Aldo Moro, photographed during his kidnapping ...Image via WikipediaDear You—

Thanks for telling me about your experiences recovering from a serious fall – five weeks for you to feel normal again -because I was beginning to think I was taking far too long to recover. However, I haven’t quite hit your figure yet and seem to feel more or less fit this week apart from some remaining damage to my left hand – and the occasional twinge from my neck and left shoulder as if I had whiplash. I probably did. Nonetheless, overall I guess I’m pretty lucky considering how hard I hit; and I agree that concussion is not to be trivialized. Relieved my hands are both functional at least. They are useful things in my line of work.

I have been reading through some of the correspondence between us, and it strikes me that I’ve been writing too much about the State of this Great Nation and not enough about life in general and my other books. My thanks to you for being so understanding though I know that you are as interested in trying to stop our decline as I am.

My main focus recently has been book covers. After much frustration, I seem to be making progress working with my good friend, Chris Carrdus, and at last to be making up for lost time. We have gone for a hard hitting approach rather than graphic elegance and the end result will leave you in no doubt that, for instance, THE BLOOD OF GENERATIONS is a thriller, and a Hugo Fitzduane thriller at that. It will be the fourth in the series after GAMES OF THE HANGMAN, RULES OF THE HUNT & THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINT. We’ve included a banner ‘FITZDUANE IS BACK!’ so I hope all those thousands of readers who have written to me asking for another Fitzduane book will finally be satisfied. I blush when I consider how long it has taken to get this latest book together, but I don’t think readers will be disappointed. This is a ‘Big Thriller’ in the classic tradition.

We’ll be working on the book cover for SATAN’S SMILE tomorrow. That story links serial killing and nuclear terrorism and is set in and around Livermore but unfortunately ‘the Lab’ isn’t that photogenic. I originally went there in the Nineties to watch their hydrogen powered supergun fired and because I was a foreigner wasn’t allowed in the Green area, where the pre-shoot briefing was taking place, but was allowed to stand in the doorway and see and hear everything. Only in America! Still, meeting the scientists was both fun and fascinating with Dr. Strangelove himself, Edward Teller, living up to his reputation for being difficult – though he was also charming.

Saw THE AMERICAN recently with George Clooney. It is visually stunning but its pacing is strange and Clooney is not at his best being morose which he is for virtually the entire movie. Still, it was set in the Abruzzo region of Italy and brought back memories of Rome in the Seventies and driving in the dark to an Abruzzi restaurant along a road lined with the bonfires the prostitutes light to attract business. The food was worth the drive and much of it was cooked over open fires. It was an evening of flames. 

I was with Maria at the time and the whole city was tense because former prime minister Aldo Moro had been kidnapped by terrorists – and there were fears of more violence. The city was being searched block by block, cops with their fingers of the triggers of their sub-machine guns were everywhere, and there were piles of flowers where Moro had been ambushed and his bodyguards killed – near where Maria lived, as it happens. If you want to read a novel about that period, I recommend THE SALAMANDER by Morris West which captures the edgy atmosphere and paranoia of that period beautifully. Moro was eventually found shot to death not far from where I was having lunch. I went to look and felt vaguely ashamed of myself for enjoying the drama while looking at a tragedy.

Farewell. As always I miss your wit and your company.

Enhanced by Zemanta