Untold Damage, Well Told Story   Leave a comment

Hi, Gang.

It’s been awhile, I know. But, as I said in my last blog, I’m sick of yakkin’ about myself. I’ll have plenty to to bore you with once I write a story that I think you might want to read. So, I went looking for other ways to use my blog. (Before you all think I died and forgot to tell you.)

One of the best things I could think of is to help a few of the authors I know get some web presence. Particularly if they have a published work. I consider self-published as published, by the way.

Now, I will warn everyone that I will never, Evvvvver, say I liked a story when I didn’t. But do remember. I’m just one joker in the deck. And most of you know what I think of a single person’s opinion. Even mine. We all have one, and they all stink.

Beyond that BS: I’ve been doing some heavy reading. Recently, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Robert Lewis’s Untold Damage. I will say that I am a fan of a well told ‘cop’ story. Particularly when the tale isn’t really a ‘cop’ story. Untold damage, at least as far as what I got ‘out of it, is a human story. The same kind of story that made hits out of shows like Criminal Minds, Or CSI, (Pick one, they were all pretty good.).

Yes. Mark Mallen is a cop. Even though he is a junkie and in disgrace―he is a cop. But Mr. Lewis also makes it plain. Mallen is a human being who made some bad choices, and wants nothing more that to be the police officer he once was. Be the man he once was.

Now add to this mess a dead best friend; two goons who want nothing more than his ass dead, (Once they get bored with torturing him, that is.); an estranged wife and daughter; and a mystery that gets deeper with each page. Now as crime dramas go. That’s a damned good combo.

By the way. Publisher Midnight Ink, a division of Llewellyn Worldwide, lists Untold Damage as a mystery. And they’re right. But ya ain’t getting any spoilers out’ta me, Chuckles. Besides, you maniacs would want to parboil me if I ruined the story for you.

The only thing that bugged me a bit are the flashbacks. This is a personal thing, Folks, but I’m not a big fan of flashbacks, or dream sequences. Mostly because they pull me out of the story the author got me interested in. Which is where I want to be. Mr. Lewis has quite a few flashbacks woven into his novel. And to his credit, they are necessary to understanding the story. Kudos. But, I wanted to stay with the main story, and slightly resented being pulled out of that story. I honestly think a lot of the flashback info could have been woven into the main story for a much better effect.

If there ever was a litmus test for a story―This is it, Gang. Can a story interest the reader enough to make them forgive violating a pet peeve, and keep reading?

For me, the answer was yes. I honestly wanted to know what the heck was going on. I rooted for Mallen to keep going and solve the crime. In short, I wanted to finish this story. More important, I want to read the next novel.

Now, I’m just a storyteller… I hope… so this is the only compass I can go by when reviewing a story. I’m not college educated, and I couldn’t diagram a sentence if my tailbone were set aflame. But, I know when I like a story, and I like Untold Damage.

I also recommend Untold Damage. Even if you’re not inclined towards crime drama, or mysteries.

Now, remember guys and gals, I am a Book Ho. Actually, I’m a Story Ho. I liked Piccadilly Cowboy author, Terry Harknett’s Edge series. That would get me hung in some circles. Or at the very least, looked at as the village idiot. But I like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, as well. Go figure.

Now, I don’t believe in thumbs up, or star ratings, (What? Are we still in kindergarten here?), so I don’t use them. Either it’s a good story, in my opinion―or it’s not. Untold Damage is a good story.

Later, Gang. 😉


Sometimes I Do Get Lucky   2 comments

Hi, Gang.

I had to let this set for a while, but if you read my last post you know that author Robert Lewis just had a contest where he graciously gave away three signed copies of his first novel: Untold Damage. (Please click the link and check out Amazon’s infamous look inside sneak peak and check it out for yourselves.)

Or, if you prefer Barns&Noble, Untold Damage is listed there as well… don’t know if they have a look inside feature, but there is an editorial review.

Now the reason I had to let this post sit before writing it was: I am one of the lucky three winners, along with Angie Sandro and Cheryl Dale. (Hey. You know damn well I was going to enter that contest, Jack. I was just nice enough to let the rest of you in on it.)

Needless to say, when Robert contacted me to request my physical address, I did a happy, happy, joy, joy dance that would have made Ren and Stimpy turn green with envy. I rarely win anything, and was so excited with the news that―had I posted then―I would have made Sally Fields, and Tom Cruise look like poster children for Thorazine.

I also didn’t want this to sound like I’m bragging. I am. But I don’t want to sound like I am. Which, naturally, means I’m failing miserably at the task.

Now on to the real reason for this post―if you’re still with me.

I haven’t been posting much. Mostly because I tend to get lost in working on my stories, and lose all sense of time. When I finally do realize that a week, or two, has slipped past me, I have critique partners waiting to find out what I thought about their own stories. And critiques are something we should not rush through, as thoughtfulness and honesty are required.

But this little stroke of luck finally kick started my poor abused brain. Why waste time letting the blog sit idle for weeks on end?

Since I did enjoy Robert’s sneak peek and planned on purchasing a copy anyway, (I still plan on it.), why not try my hand at writing a review?

If this works out well, I could write reviews for other published authors I know. Both traditional and self-published.

Since getting exposure is one of the hardest things for a newly minted author to do. Maybe, just maybe, I can help a fellow writer out a bit. Every drop in the bucket brings it closer to full.

Not certain how big a drop I can provide, but I’ll give ‘er one hell of a run.

Now, rest assured; I’m not about to do rainbow clouds and candy land reviews. If something strikes me as off―I’ll say so. If something hits the right spot and makes my hind leg shake like a dog getting its belly scratched―I’ll say so. If something strikes me as mediocre―same answer.

However, keep in mind that those are all just my personal tastes, just like any other reviewer. And one-size-fits-all is one of the top ten lies ever perpetrated on human civilization.

I’m not even sure I this will increase the number of times I post by much, but it could add a little more cannon fodder.
The point is that the author will get another bump of web exposure.

Hopefully, I can do this well.

Later, Gang. free smileys

Robert Lewis’s Publication Day has Arrived. (along with a BOOK GIVEAWAY and NEWS!)   Leave a comment

My Publication Day has Arrived. (along with a BOOK GIVEAWAY and NEWS!).

For those of you who may not know, fellow author Robert Lewis has arrived at his publication day.

Robert is graciously giving readers a chance to win one of three free copies of his crime drama Untold Damage… FREE!

All you have to do is leave a comment on his blog, linked above, and he will select three random winners one week from now.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind winning, but after reading the sneak peak for Untold Damage over at Amazon; I’m having a copy regardless. (What can I say? I also happen to be a fan of good crime dramas, and believe me, this one looks GOOD!)

So, hop on over to Robert’s blog you cheapskates and take a chance.

At the very least, take a moment to check out Untold Damage on Amazon. You may very well be glad you did.

Later, Gang! 😉

Posted April 8, 2013 by Peter Burton in Uncategorized

What if?   3 comments

Hi, Gang.

This week I thought we’d take a look at two of the most magical, and often forgotten, words in writing: What if.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Step right up. I’m here today to tell you about two handy dandy little words that are a sure fire cure for writer’s block, plot holes, stuck scenes, wooden characters, contrived plotting, the common cold, upset stomach, and they make a heck of a furniture polish as well.

OK. So, I lied about the cold, upset stomach and furniture polish.

Snake Oil salesman pitch aside, asking this simple question can, and often does, do all those other things I mentioned. The problem is that far too often we forget to ask it. Particularly when it comes to our babies.

As I’ve noted before, all too often we want our stories written in stone. We want them to carry the same weight as the word of God. How dare those two measly little words mess with our genius? We’ve plotted scenes and scenarios that will shake the world of anyone who reads them.

What if… that egotistical hogwash is only true in one mind? Ours. Kind of limits the readership, don’t you think?

Now, it is true that a good story needs to evolve from living characters, and follow a conceivable set of circumstances designed to make the reader forget that they are reading a story. What if should never, ever interfere with that. As Steven King says, you must write the truth, even in fiction. But, there are times when What if can be a god send. And muses are notoriously lazy creatures.

All too often we will wrestle with a scene, or a plot hole, where we have written ourselves into a corner from which there seems no escape. We panic like a little girl with a spider down the back of our dress and contrive some of the worst malarkey we can come up with.

Yours truly knows because… I’m as guilty as anyone of doing exactly that.

More often than not, the answer to our dilemma is right in front of us. Hidden within the pages of our story. All we need to unlock it are those two little words… What if.

Let’s look at a few scenarios where What if can save our bacon. And maybe keep our sunny side up eggs from turning scrambled.

Our hardboiled detective has walked into a trap set by the mysterious villain. The vile miscreant has sent a red herring letter to the detective, and now his hired assassin has our hero right where he wants him. Tied to a chair with a throw away .38 special pressed to our hero’s forehead. Our protagonist is doomed. We could suddenly reveal that he was once the student of an escape artist. That he can untie the knots holding him, then jump up and knock the bad guy out with the martial arts he learned in China before the hitman can pull the trigger. (Yeah, right.) Or…

What if… the cute secretary of our detective, who we mentioned has a habit of going through her boss’s things way back in chapter one, finds the letter the bad guy’s used to lure him into a trap. What if she followed him, and just before the hired thug can blow our hero away, puts a slug right between the goon’s shoulder blades? Problem solved by an element already in the story, and odds are the reader never saw it coming. She unties our hero, and he is free to continue the investigation to its conclusion.

Next, we have a hero who has never failed once in the story. He never gets seriously harmed. And we get him out of trouble faster than he can get into it with a series of miraculous events, and saving graces we suddenly reveal just when they are needed most. Odds are, we’re boring our reader to death with a character who is about as deep as the puddle from a spilled canteen in Death Valley. And about as believable as a politician trying to get re-elected. Need I mention anything about Superman syndrome, or deus ex machina here? Ah! But…

What if… we let him fail a few times? What if we get him into trouble where he has nothing to rely on but himself? Suddenly we have a hero the reader can empathize with, feel scared for, and we can root for him because he’s no longer surrounded by an impenetrable wall of divine protection. He’s no longer safe. The reader already knows he’ll win in the end, but they also want to know he is fallible.

Lastly, and most terrifyingly, the computer screen stares blankly back at us, echoing the empty contents of our once fertile imaginations. The dreaded horror of a writer’s worst nightmare has come a’calling. Writer’s block. We can’t think of a single thing to write about, or even more gut-churning, our story is only half way finished, and the well has gone drier than the Sahara at high noon in midsummer. We is totally screwed. Or are we?

What if… we quit worrying about what to write and just picked the first thing that comes to mind? If you’ve read Steven King’s On Writing, you may have noticed that most of his stories have come about just because he saw something and started asking himself, What if. Carrie happened because he was helping the high school janitor in the girl’s room and noticed the feminine hygiene dispenser in there. Christine, when he and Tabitha stopped to get gas on the way back from Florida. Night Shift, when he saw a big rat while helping to clean out the storage room basement in a textile mill he worked at.

No difference. Stop worrying about how good it may, or may not be. Just pick something and start writing. What if… that cockroach crawling up the wall was part of a mutated hivemind creature? What if… The telephone ringing was a call to say you won the lottery, but it wasn’t the lottery you expected? What if… your barking dog suddenly began speaking English? And on, and on. Bye, bye writer’s block.

In fact, What if works better on writer’s block than it does in almost any other area of writing.

What if… this post is the biggest amount of BS I have ever concocted?

I’ll leave you to decide that for yourself. I try to avoid sounding like an authority, because I’m not. I’m just another hack trying to make my way into this business like everyone else. And I noticed a long time ago that speaking as an authority is an open invitation to cram your foot down your throat.

So, all of the above could very well be a steaming pile of horse hockey. But… What if… it isn’t?

Later, Gang. 😉

What Is Your Dream Worth?   6 comments

Hi, Gang.

You know, as writers and aspiring authors, this is a question we should often ask ourselves. Some of us do, I’m sure, but all too often I have a feeling we tend to answer it with a get-the-pain-over-ASAP answer instead of giving it the attention it deserves. You know, one of those quick, “Anything! Now, let me get back to my life,” answers we tend to forget all about just as soon as the dog craps on the carpet. Or until the latest episode of our new favorite popular TV show comes on. Truth is, they’re both about the same in value.

This kind of answer, in and of itself, is a perfect clue as to how much we really think our dream is worth. For one thing it’s absurd. I would give all I can for my dream of making a living writing fiction, but certainly not everything. It’s definitely not worth my family, my good friends, and if you think I’d give up the family jewels, guess again, chuckles… It ain’t about to happen. I’m too fond of the old boys for that.

So, now that we’ve established that the standard answer is a huge pile of steaming horse nuggets, let’s give the question the consideration it deserves.

In many ways this is a question that we must, and will have to answer for ourselves. The funny part, at least to this long-haired country boy, comes when we believe we can put next to nothing in, and get tons back in return. Where this notion came from I can’t begin to say, but I know it’s yet another outright lie. The amount of fuel needed to keep your body running for a month outweighs you by quite a few pounds, and don’t get me started on the internal combustion engine.

Now I’m not saying we have to spend a fortune to make one. But the plain fact is, we are going to have to invest heavily in our dream if we really want it. And some of the areas we have a tendency to waste our resources in can only make an outsider shaker their head in wonder when we give that standard answer, “Anything.”

We all know of aspiring writers who will say that, spend $85.95 on The Super Season Sports Package, and go for a ‘free’ site to set up their author’s web page. Or the wan’na be writer who will think nothing of spending $50.00 on the latest Playstation 3 game, but can’t seem to find the extra cash for a $24.99 book on how to write fiction that sells.

I don’t know about you, guys and gals, but it looks to me like that, “Anything,” is quickly turning into an, “Anything, but.” And you have to wonder just how seriously to take that answer, or the person making it. Worse, you have to wonder how seriously the people who count, (Agents, editors, readers.) are taking him/her?

Particularly when you consider the fact that neither one of those examples helped the writer so much as a micrometer towards their dream of becoming a successful author. But the latter of those two choices could have brought them one step further towards that cherished goal.

Those, of course, are just two of a blue-million other examples I could go on about. And the truth is, all of them are leaching precious resources away from your dream. The odds are, you might not even be aware of them. Thanks to the impulse buying, keep up with the Joneses attitude that our consumer culture has ingrained in us, they’re almost a knee-jerk reaction. But, fortunately, it is one we can take control of. Or I should say, those of us who really do want to make it in this business can take control of.

At least we can if we are aware of it, and that is the point to this whole post. Now, you are aware of it. The only question is: “What are you prepared to do about it?”

Before any of you smartypants out there start leaving comments about my being hypocritical and giving out advice I don’t follow myself… this post was inspired by exactly what I’m preaching above.

The reason my blog has fallen by the wayside more often than not was dial-up. I live in the country, there is no cable, and satellite internet is expensive. At least for me it is. But, I could not get away from the fact that the writing game is fast becoming dominated by the Internet. And if you don’t have broadband on the ‘Net, you just became a push-cart trying to win a NASCAR trophy. Ain’t a gonna happen.

Given that, I scrimped, saved, and was finally able to get broadband. It wasn’t easy. I had to deny many of the luxuries I hinted at above, but you know what. I thought about that question long and hard. My answer?

My dream is worth anything I can give to it, and those needless accessories are not.

Later, Gang. 😉

Revisions, Revisions   4 comments

Ah, the bane of every writer’s life; the dreaded revision. Or is it?

Truth is, whether or not a revision is a pain in the ass happens to be a matter of perspective. But, then again, so are most things we all tend to gripe about. Still let’s take a look at this necessary evil, and see what most of us are really having conniption fits about.

Most authors consider their manuscripts their ‘babies.’ OK, let’s accept that premise, and take a look at our stories from that perspective.

What would we want for our real child if we could give them anything? Would we give our sons and daughters every advantage they could have to succeed in life on their own? Sure we would. We would give them the ability to make friends easily. Captivate others with their charisma, and be popular. We’d remove every defect life hands them. Give them perfect eyesight, healthy athletic bodies, and strong personalities.

Would we piss and moan about it, if we could do that for our children? Would we complain if we had do it again, because what we thought was an advantage wasn’t? Probably not. Would we do it until we got it right for them? Damn straight we would.

That’s a revision, gang. We would do all that for our real babies without as much as a hiccup. But gripe endlessly about having to do the same thing for our ‘babies.’

The reason why is easy to understand. Our egos. We don’t really care about our ‘babies,’ we want our words to be holy writ. We want our genius set in stone, irrevocable, so it is written, so shall it be. In short we care more about ourselves than we do our stories. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be bitching about having to work to make them better.

Personally, being from the ‘story is everything’ school of thought, I don’t mind revisions. I want my stories to be the best I can turn out.

Over time, I’ve created scenes that I thought were the next best thing to Ernest Hemmingway, only to discover they fit the story about as well as your left shoe fits your right foot. They detracted from the story instead of making it stronger. I tossed them aside faster than the days trash and set to work coming up with a scene that did work. Sure it took a while, and I racked my brain for days trying to figure out what actually happened there. But, the end result was a stronger story.

Now what I mean by ‘what happened there’ is I also believe in having the story grow out of the situations that arise, instead of forcing the story to fit the situation I came up with. Which is exactly the mistake I made. I had this great idea, but it didn’t quite fit the way the story was going, so I shoehorned it in anyway. Bad idea and the result was a scene that was as awkward as a fart in a spacesuit… stunk about as bad, too.

Now, I’ll probably do the same thing again. In fact I’m sure I will. But, because I want my ‘baby’ to have every advantage I can give it, I’ll be more than happy to sit down and make any change it needs to make it in this old world.

It’s our duty, our responsibility, and more than that, should be our pleasure.

That’s actually the key to getting out of Revision Hell. Make it a pleasure instead of a chore. You’ll probably find the whole mess goes a lot faster, and is a lot less stressful.

Later, Gang 😉

Posted November 30, 2012 by Peter Burton in Uncategorized

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Rejection Inspection   Leave a comment

Is there anything as frustrating as having a partial request, or a full for that matter, form rejected by an agent or publisher? Well, if there are, brothers and sisters, I sure as Hell do not want to know about it. This business is rough and depressing enough without you lot making things worse by introducing my virgin sensibilities to the negativity I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid so far. So there! 😛

Now, truth be told, we all know just how much of a pain in the ass the above question is. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if the gatekeepers would just give us a hint as to why they didn’t want our story… or at least come right out and tell us we suck mountainous rocks. But, no. For the most part they just leave us to twist in the wind like an old plastic bag that got caught in the limbs of a dead tree.

To be fair, though, you’d have to know how busy agents and editors really are. And I’m not even going to go into how much they actually have riding on the decisions they make daily. Agents a little less so than an editor. All the agent misses out on with a bad decision is a potential commission. The editor risks their job if they make too many gaffs and start costing the publisher money.

Ok, you caught me. I did it anyway. But you can’t begin to understand why you may have gotten that form rejection without understanding what the other guy has laid on the line.

Quite honestly, almost every rejection you get will be a type of form rejection. Face it, brothers and sisters, your manuscript is one of hundreds that come in the P.O. box, or e-mail, daily. The gatekeeper’s ‘to do’ box grows at a rate that would make a politician’s bank account jealous. Odds are, unless the ‘personalized’ rejection was hand written expressly to you; it’s just a gentler form rejection that has probably been sent to quite a few other would be authors, verbatim.

Like it, or not, we’re just another faceless manuscript in an ever growing pile of manuscripts. If you have ever done a well thought out critique, then try to imagine doing that for several 100,000 plus word stories a day. Starting to see why you get a form rejection instead of a personal response that will take twenty or more minutes to write, yet?

Hell, it takes me a whole day to do a critique of one chapter for one of my crit partners. I can’t even imagine trying to do it for a whole novel with a hundred more waiting for me to get to them. And we want an agent to drop what they’re doing and give us detailed reasons for our rejections? Would you, if you had all that work to do? (For those of you who said, “Yes.”, I’m Henry the Eighth… pleased to meet you.)

So, I’m going to let you in on a big secret in the publishing industry. When you have a polished story that has been put through all the proper channels of beta reading, critique partnering, revisions and rewriting, then still get a form rejection. The most likely reason is this: The agent, or editor did not think they could sell it.

It’s actually that simple. This is a business, and if they don’t believe they can make a buck or two off the work they are going to reject it. None of the gatekeepers are in the business to give you, or me, writing lessons. That is our job, not theirs.

If you suspect it is your writing, then you need to get busy with your end of the deal and work on your art. If you do have a good story that the gatekeepers don’t think they can sell, then you have two options. Trunk the book as a non-commercial idea whose time has not yet come, or prove ‘em wrong and put it out there yourself. After all, the reading public is the only critic whose opinion is worth a damn, anyway.

If you can sell it big, I’ll personally guarantee the agents and editors will be beating a path to your door to represent your next book. As I said, this is a business, and you just proved beyond doubt that you are a saleable commodity.

Does the post seem a bit cold so far? That’s probably because this is a cold business to try and break into. It always has been, and a little research into the struggle of famous authors will prove it. But, I am not a cold person, and neither are a lot of other writers I know of. So, in that spirit, and being true to my real nature, let me offer you some help in getting where you want to go. (If your still reading this, that is.)

There is wonderful on line community of writers in all phases of the publishing experience known as AgentQuery Connect. You can find all sorts of help on every phase of this job there. I warn you though, it is an addictive place to be.

Another fantastic on line resource for writers is WritetoDone. I would also highly suggest downloading their free EBook, The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing. The link for it is on every page there, so you won’t have any trouble finding it.

Ok, so much for the free resources that can help you cut your odds of being rejected. Time to see just how serious you are about becoming a published writer. How bad do you want it, and how much are you willing to invest in yourself, and your craft? I’m not talking a fortune here, but if you are unwilling to spend a little on yourself and your craft, then I have to question just how badly you really do want to be a writer.

There are two books from The Writer’s Digest that are really helpful. Bargain hunters can probably find them cheaper on Amazon, but however you get a hold of them, by all means, stop being so cheap and get them. They are:

No More Rejections: (50 Secrets To Writing A Manuscript That Sells), by Alice Orr


Writing the Popular Novel, by Loren D. Estleman

Google both titles, or follow the above link to The Writer’s Digest, and acquire them both. At the worst you’ll spend about $45.00 on yourself and your craft. Surely you’re worth $45.00? Well I think you are, and you’ll be very happy if you think so, too. (C’mon, be honest. You spent at least that much in one month on entertainment that didn’t do a thing for your career.)

Best of luck, and…

later, Gang! 😉