Sep 192013
 
Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I am so happy to have photographer William Greiner as my guest today. I am one of the lucky authors who had an opportunity to contribute to his book – Show & Tell – a beautiful hardbound book that combines his photographs with short stories from authors with names you will recognize. The book comes from UL Press (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press) and is available now at this LINK

Below is the page image of the photo I wrote about in my story – On Her Special Day. I wanted you to see the fine quality of this book. I've ordered some for Christmas gifts and can't wait to read what the other authors wrote. Welcome, William!

Show & Tell-show and tell, show & tell, william greiner
Cover - Show & Tell
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On Her Special Day by Jordan Dane


So why is a book titled SHOW & TELL being blogged about on The Kill Zone?

First, the premise was to give a group of fiction writers (In this case 28 in total, including 6 TKZ writers), a photograph without any information about the image and ask each to make up a story about that image. The resulting stories are fascinating, entertaining and thrilling.

John Ramsey Miller, John Gilstrap, Joe Moore, Jordan Dane, Joe Hartlaub and James Scott Bell, amongst others, apply their writing skills to bring a story to every image.

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“A Blur of Motion” by John Ramsey Miller



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“The Touch” by John Gilstrap



The idea for this book came to me many years ago after doing a print trade with another photographer. In conversation, it somehow became apparent that this other photographer had a complete different take and understanding of my photograph than what it meant to me. It made me realize we all bring our own notions, expectations and experiences to what we view.

To see what your favorite TKZ author sees & tells, order SHOW & TELL from UL Press, hardbound, 28 photographs accompanied by 28 stories, 183 pages, $35. To order: click this LINK.


William Greiner is a photographer and artist, living in Baton Rouge , LA. For more on our guest, click HERE.

For Discussion: Have you ever seen a photograph that inspired you to write about it? Tell us about it.
May 182012
 
By John Gilstrap
My next book, Damage Control, hits the stands on June 5.  In this edition of the Jonathan Grave thriller series, Jonathan steps into a trap when he and Boxers travel to Mexico to rescue a busload of missionaries from the hands of a drug cartel.  Someone in Washington betrays him on what should have been a routine ransom drop-off, and the result is a lot of dead hostages and kidnappers.  As Jonathan and Boxers escape with the lone survivor, the cartel and their sponsors in Washington move heaven and earth to stop him.  Publishers Weekly gave the book a glowing review, and I’m pleased to report that my publisher, Kensington, is pulling out some new stops in the promotion department.
One of the coolest things I’ve been asked to do is a video blog that brings readers deeper into Jonathan’s world.  I’m calling it “Jonathan Grave’s Arsenal.”  In two-minute segments, I’ll give overviews and demonstrations of the weapons Jonathan has at his disposal.  So far, I’ve completed videos highlighting Heckler and Koch’s 5.56 mm HK416 (designated the M27 by the US Marines), the Colt Model 1911 .45 caliber pistol, and the Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun.  By the time I’m done, the series will cover, at a minimum, the 7.62 mm HK 417 and the amazing 4.6 mm HK MP7.  I’d like to do some episodes on explosives, too, but I haven’t yet figured out the logistics of that, what with all those pesky ATF rules.
While I’ve written a few movies over the past decade or so, I haven’t actually shot one in a long time.  The last time I edited a film, I used a home version of a Moviola, literally cutting the film and splicing it with tape. 
When first approached about this video blog thing, I had no idea how I was going to do it.  Sure, I have a digital camera that shoots video, but I’d never actually shot video with it.  Plus, since talking heads are boring—and, in my case, shiny—I knew I’d want to do cutaways.
Well, lo and behold, my Windows 7 program comes complete with Microsoft Movie Maker, an editing program that is way more powerful than I would have imagined.  More than adequate for my needs.  You simply drag the segments you want to work with to the work window, and you can make precise cuts. 
With the first episode in the can, as it were, my next challenge was figuring out what the hell to do with the 60MB files.  They’d choke anybody’s email server.  Enter: YouSendIt.com.  For $149 a year, you can email an unlimited number of HUGE files to people.  The Kensington team is thrilled with the results.
My only frustration—and I’m turning to you dear Killzoners for help—is how to do voiceovers in Movie Maker.  From what I can tell, on the digital recording, the audio track and the video track are all together.  Is this correct?
Jonathan Grave’s Arsenal” will be exclusive to Barnes & Noble for the first few weeks of its existence, but then I’ll add it to my website and upload it to YouTube.
I feel a new obsession coming on.  I deeply don’t need another obsession.
May 112012
 

First the submission, and then my input: 
END POINT 
Mason Boll leaned forward in the driver’s seat of the van, squinting to get a better view of his target. Twenty yards away the focus of his attention—a tall, gangly youth named Brett Feinman—was chatting with a girl at the corner of two residential streets in a tony section of Santa Monica. The girl seemed to be doing all the talking. Feinman was mostly listening. Periodically he cast shy glances down at the sidewalk.  The girl wore a smug, flirty smile, as if she relished her power over the kid. She kept leaning in, touching his arm for emphasis.
Mason’s orders were clear: grab Feinman off the street and deliver him as promised. Today’s job would pay handsomely: well into five figures, with a promise of more to come. For that kind of money his employer demanded that everything go without a hitch. Feinman had to be delivered without any injury to the head. Not even a bruise. Mason wasn’t worried on that score. He prided himself on swift, error-free operations using the skills he’d honed as a military contractor in Iraq. 
From the van's cargo bay behind him, Mason heard one of his crew crack his knuckles for the umpteenth time. What the hell were those two kids yakking about for so long? Mason wondered. Stifling a surge of impatience, he checked the van's long side mirror for any sign of a cop or nosy Neighborhood Watch type. Except for some wild parrots doing acrobatics on an overhead power line, the street appeared deserted. Without taking his eyes off Feinman, Mason extracted a pack of cigarettes from the glove compartment. He lit a smoke. Then he settled in to wait.

There’s stuff to like here, storywise, but the author gets in his own way, stylewise, by reverting to passive voice, and non-specific language.  Consider this change to the first paragraph after a little cosmetic adjustment:
Mason Boll leaned forward in the driver’s seat of the van, squinting to get a better view of his target. Twenty yards away, a gangly sixteen-year-old named Brett Feinman chatted with a girl at a residential corner. Actually, Feinman mostly listened, periodically casting shy glances at the sidewalk while the girl flirted, occasionally touching his arm.  As in most adolescent conversations, the girl seemed to have all the power.

Okay, I added a detail there at the end, but by doing a little tightening and adding detail where there was only generality (sixteen-year-old instead of “youth,” for example), the piece feels more professional to me.

I would severely trim or even cut the second paragraph.  This is page one—the hook, the most important bit of literary real estate.  We don’t need to know that Mason had been a contractor in Iraq, and we certainly don’t need to know what his fee is.  If that stuff is important to the story, I would find a way to plant it somewhere else.  As for the mission to snatch the kid, let the reader piece that together from Mason’s actions.

Moving on, allow me to play with another paragraph:

Behind him, in the cargo bay, Paulie Knuckles earned his handle yet again, popping his finger joints for the umpteenth time. “Must you?” Mason asked.
“They get stiff,” Paulie said.  “You don’t want them stiff if I have to hit the kid, do you?”
“I don’t want you hitting him at all.  No bruises, remember?”
“No bruises on the head,” Paulie corrected.  “Everything else is free game.”
“I want this paycheck,” Mason said.  “Don’t screw it up.  We only hurt him enough to get him into the van.”
“Whatever.”
Mason let it go.  Paulie knew the rules, and he needed the money, too.  
“Come on, kids,” Mason grumbled.  “Either get a room or break it up.  I ain’t got all night.”
Okay, that wasn’t true.  He’d stay here for a week if it took that long to get the job done.

I tried to do a couple of things right there.  First, I gave a name to “one of his crew” and then gave some life to characters.  I have no idea if the changes reflect the specific desires of the author, but that doesn’t really matter in this case.  The point is that characters don’t become interesting until you hang a few details on the skeleton.

Note also that I was able to accomplish through dialogue and character interaction all of the important elements of that expository paragraph that I cut.  I’m still not convinced that the first page is the best place for that interaction, but this is a pretty clear illustration of how “showing” through interaction is better than “telling” through narration.
Apr 132012
 
By John Gilstrap


A few weeks ago, I posted about my adventure with Jeffery Deaver in which we got private instruction on tactical shooting while at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas.  Well, now there's videos evidence: http://tinyurl.com/clxzbry.  You can also find a link on the News Feed on my website.


If it looks like slow motion, that's because it was.  We were using live ammo in a car, assuming shooting positions that could easily have made our own legs the primary target while drawing.  The "quick draw" contest at the end--also rather slow--was a one-shot, three round accuracy contest.  The first to hit the gong won the round.  While the video shows Jeff winning the first shot, the next two, which I won, somehow ended up on the cutting room floor.  I'm just sayin' . . . 


This brings me to the stated purpose of this week's post: my coolest new Internet discovery: Dropbox.  Like everything else that dwells in cyberspace, I'm confident that I'm one of the last ones to the table here, but my goodness, is that cool!


You go to www.dropbox.com and download the program free of charge, and Bingo! you have cloud storage for your files that is accessible from any computer anywhere.  You can even share files, which is how I was able to give my web mistress access to the 100MB video of our shooting adventure.


I still depend heavily on my thumb drive as primary storage, backed up to whatever machine I'm working on at any given time, but it's great to have Dropbox, accessible from anywhere.


What are the other cool Internet toys that I'm behind the times on?  Which ones are indispensable toyou?
Apr 082012
 
James Scott Bell

This past week TKZ blogmate John Gilstrap and I received the lovely news that we are finalists for a 2012 International Thriller Writers Award. Even lovelier, we are not in the same category, so we can root for each other without tight smiles. John’s novel, Threat Warning, is up for the Best Paperback Original. I’m up in the short story category for One More Lie.

Which prompted a few thoughts on awards, kudos and the writing journey.

Of course, every writer––indeed, anybody who does anything––likes awards and recognition. That’s our nature, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Used rightly, it can be a motivation to good work and striving to get better.

But it should never be a dominating drive, in my view, or it might become a snare and a distraction.

One of my heroes is the late UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. When I was in high school I got to attend his basketball camp, and talk to him a bit. Coach Wooden gave all of us a copy of his Pyramid of Successand taught us more than just the fundamentals of the game.



“Individual recognition, praise, can be a dangerous commodity,” Coach Wooden once wrote. “It’s best not to drink too deeply from a cup full of fame. It can be very intoxicating, and intoxicated people often do foolish things.”

He was just as clear about losses. Never measure yourself by what you lost, but by how you prepared. That’s the only thing within your control and the only thing you can change.

“I never mentioned winning or victory to my players,” Wooden said. “Instead I constantly urged them to strive for the self-satisfaction that always comes from knowing you did the best you could do to become the best of which you are capable.”

That’s his famous definition of success, and it’s rock solid. When we work hard and know we’ve taken whatever talents we have and pushed them further along, that’s achievement. It’s one of the reasons I teach writing classes and workshops. I love helping writers get to their own next level, whatever it may be for them.

So regardless of what happens at this year’s ITW Awards, I will be happy for the trip to New York with my wife, for hanging out with John and other writers I admire, and appreciating the privilege of being included in such august company.

But then it will be time to come back to L.A. and hit the keyboard again, working hard to be the best I can be. It makes each day its own challenge and, in striving, its own reward. Don’t miss that by letting an inordinate desire for recognition mess with your head.

“I derived my greatest satisfaction out of the preparation, the journey,” Wooden wrote. “Day after day, week after week, year after year. It was the journey I prized above all else.”

*Quotations are from Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Courtby John Wooden and Steve Jamison (Contemporary Books, 1997)



Apr 062012
 


On American Idol the other night—yes, I’m a fan and I’m proud to admit it—I heard a bit of advice delivered to an Idolette by one of the industry mentors that rang a resounding bell of truth in my head.  The mentor, a famous drummer that I’d never heard of, told the singer that she was thinking too much.  He said that the secret to a great performance was to prepare, prepare, prepare before the show, but then to “free fall” once she hit the stage.

Hearing those words made me realize what’s wrong with my writing when it doesn’t work, and what makes it euphoric when I’m in the zone: When I think too much, the writing suffers.  I believe that’s one of the reasons why I vastly prefer rewriting to writing.  In those later drafts, I already know where the story is going, and I can allow myself the luxury of playing the in world I’ve created for my characters.  I get to step into the story and free fall.

Sometimes, the free fall happens on first drafts, too.  Actually it happens frequently.  Perhaps that’s how I’m able to write a book per year and still have a demanding Big Boy job.  I don’t know.  That’s one of the things that I try not to think about too much.

I am on the record here in TKZ regarding my thoughts on writing classes and such—that at the end of the day, successful writers are created exclusively through the act of writing—but this throw-away line on American Idol fine-tuned the point in my head. 

Books on writing and classes on writing can be of enormous value, but only as part of the preparation for free fall.  But if the class assignments and the reading invade the writer’s consciousness during the process of writing, those taught words and techniques thrust a giant wind break into the airstream of the free fall.  The writing becomes the fulfillment of an exercise rather than the flow of the writer’s imagination.

I think that’s why so much writing that flows from MFA classes feels stilted and leaves its creators  so frustrated in the long run.  The danger of the wind break is why I tell new writer to quit searching for rules, and to search instead for their own voices.  The only way to do that is through butt-in-the-chair writing.

Let me be abundantly clear: workshops and writing books can be of enormous value, but only insofar as they provide an intellectual foundation for what is essentially an emotional experience for the writer.  If the writer does his job correctly, that emotion will transfer to the reader.

I used to tell people in classes and speeches that the single major difference between the first three (unpublished) books I wrote and the first book to get published was that when I wrote Nathan’s Run, I was less concentrated on Writing A Book (that phrase should be read with rolled Rs and an exaggerated English accent) and more focused on telling a story.

From now on, I’ll tell people that the difference was that with Nathan’s Run, I allowed myself to free fall.  I inserted myself into the world I’d created, and I wrote from the heart.

So, dear Killzoners, what do you think?  Are you ready for a free fall?  You’ll note that I never mentioned anything about a parachute—or about the potential for a very hard, very uncomfortable landing.
Mar 302012
 
By John Gilstrap


I have a hard time with titles.  To date, of the nine books I've published, only three bear the titles I proposed.  Here's the history:


Mine: Nathan!
Title: Nathan's Run


Mine: Most Wanted
Title: At All Costs


Mine: Even Steven
Title: Even Steven


Mine: Scott Free
Title: Scott Free


Mine: Six Minutes to Freedom
Title: Six Minutes to Freedom


Mine: Grave Danger
Title: No Mercy


I confess that after No Mercy, I stopped trying.  My working titles became Grave 2, Grave 3 and Grave 4.  My editor came up with Hostage Zero, Threat Warning and Damage Control.  I love them all, but I've come to embrace my limitations.  And typically, the title is just about the last element of the book to be written.


When Damage Control hits the shelves in June, though, it will contain the first chapter of the book that will come out in 2013--the one I have been writing under the title, Grave 5.  That's a little under-inspiring, so we had to scramble to come up with a title earlier than we usually do.  Since the book deals with some issues regarding the first lady, I thought I had a winner: First Traitor.


Everyone was excited until we said it out loud, and we realized that the title would be heard as First Rater.  That's bad for radio interviews.


In the end, we decided on High Treason.  I love the title and I am utterly shocked that it hasn't already been used for a big thriller.


Here's what I've come to understand about titles: It's more important for them to be compelling and cool that it is for them to apply directly to the story.  The clearest example of this in my writing is Hostage Zero, which actually means nothing, but sounds very cool.  The title has done its job when a reader picks up the book and reads the back cover and thumbs through the first chapter.  That's where the buying decision is made.


What do y'all think?  I know writers who can't write unless they've got the title nailed down.  I also know writers to fight for the title of their choice, even though their choices are often not very commercial.


How do you deal with titles?
Mar 232012
 


One of the great pleasures of this writing game is to receive the occasional effusive email from fans who really enjoy my work.  Because my books so often involve adolescent protagonists (usually, but not always, in secondary roles) I hear from many young readers who are almost always complimentary of the stories and the characters.

Of all my books, none gets more fan mail from young people than Nathan’s Run.  In that story, the main character, Nathan Bailey, is a 12-year-old fugitive from the law, having admitted to killing a juvenile detention center guard and running away.  While it’s a thriller at its face, it explores some pretty complex themes about how little voice children have in society.  In schools where it’s not banned, it is frequently taught.  (The book contains, by one irate woman’s accounting, 409 unacceptable words.)

Whether in fulfillment of a class assignment or of their own volition, it’s not uncommon for students to contact me via email to “interview” the author.  On these requests, I am a sure thing.  I never say no, and I always try to respond promptly.

There’s a fine line, however, that I won’t cross, and that is the one where I sense that the student is essentially trying to get me to write his book report for him.  On biographical details, for example, I point them toward my website, or to other places where they would have found the information if they had tried.  I also shy away from questions regarding theme, symbolism, and other very English-classy subjects where I imagine the teacher wanted them to do some analysis on their own.

Last Sunday, I received this email from a boy named, shall we say, Tom:

hi john i have a question i have read yur book now i have a project to do wit it i kinda wanted to ask yuh how did nathan solve the problem and what was the turning point

That is cut and pasted in exactly the format I received it.  Clearly, it was easier to write an email than it was to read a book.  I have no idea how old “Tom” is, but if he’s been assigned to read Nathan’s Run, he’s got to at least be in middle school.  Plus, his email strummed another sensitive note: respect for the language.  I understand that kids are kids, and that texting language is different than real English, but I figure that I owe some allegiance to the rules of grammar.  So I donned my dad hat and took the high ground with the following response:

Hi, Tom.

Nice to hear from you--sort of.  Let's start over, with you recognizing that I am an author, and that punctuation, spelling and grammar matter.  If you ask some properly formatted questions, I'd be happy to address them

Best regards,
John Gilstrap

That was me doing my part to be cooperative, yet not compromise my principles.  To this, he responded:

suck my dick Nigga

Again, that’s a quote; word choice and punctuation are his alone.

Well, goodness.  I confess that when I first read his response, I laughed.  It was so . . . startling.  But then I thought about the fundamental lack of respect, and my amusement turned to concern.  I’m sure that in his mind my reply showed disrespect, but come on.  To be really honest, I have second- and third-guessed myself about even posting this here, for fear of seeming like a bully.  At least I changed his name.

I’ll resist the urge to draw a larger conclusion about the state of adolescents today, and instead look to my son and his friends as the models for the actual norm.  (Okay, their adolescence is 10 years in the rearview mirror, but work with me.)  I have often thought that I would like to teach writing at the high school level, but when stuff like this happens, I have to check myself.  My hat goes off to those who do teach, and who find a way to control their anger despite their instinct to smack a kid out of his chair.

Yep, I’m becoming that old guy down the street.

Mar 162012
 
By John Gilstrap


Last week, our friend and frequent-poster Terri Lynn Coop posted the following comment:


"You've talked about becoming agented and querying. However, what happens once your novel or non-fic is sold to the publisher.
What kind of deadlines are there? How firm are those deadlines? What role does your agent play after the publishing contract is signed? What sort of public face does your agent and publisher expect you to maintain from contract to release (is there a difference between fiction and non-fiction)? When do you see your advance?"


It's a great bunch of questions. I'm going to take a shot at some answers.  The underlying assumption of my answers is that this is a first published book we're talking about.  The rules don't change a lot after you have a chip in the game, but they do change a little.  I'm also going to juggle the order of the questions a little:


What role does your agent play after the publishing contract is signed? 


Understand that a lot of negotiation goes into what a publishing contract looks like.  What rights will be sold?  More importantly, what rights will be retained by the author?  Is this a one-book contract, or a multi-book contract?  What will the pay-out schedule be?  If it's a multi-book contract, will they be individually accounted or jointly accounted?  (Joint accounting means that Book #1 would have to earn back its advances before you could start earning advances on Book #2.  It's by far the least preferable method, but first-timers often don't have a lot of heft there.)


The agent is the go-between for all uncomfortable transactions.  For example, in fifteen years, I have never discussed money issues with an editor, and no editor has had to tell me to my face that I wasn't worth the money I was asking for.  The agent keeps the creative relationship pure.  Beyond that, if everything goes well, the agent doesn't have a lot to do after the contract is negotiated.


But things rarely go well.  What happens if your editor quits or gets fired?  What happens if you really hate the cover, or if the editor is getting carried away with his editorial pen?  On a more positive note, the agent will continue to pursue foreign publishing contracts, movie deals, etc.


What kind of deadlines are there? How firm are those deadlines? 


Deadlines are part of the negotiation process.  You'll have to agree to respond to your editorial letter by a certain date with a corrected manuscript, and then you'll have copyedits and page proofs, all while making your commitment to deliver the next book in the contract if it's a multi-book deal.  I consider deadlines to be inviolable.  I've had to push the delivery date by a couple of weeks once, but I hated doing it because it inconveniences so many people, and it makes me look unprofessional.  Here is another instance where a track record of performance keeps people from losing faith in the author.  For first-timers, blowing a deadline can kill a career.  Remember, by blowing the deadline, you technically violate the contract, which the publisher would have the authority to void.


Writers need to understand that publishing calendars are set 12 to 18 months ahead.  Working backwards from those dates are the in-house deadlines for the production side of things (cover design, copyedits, publicity, ARCs, reviews, and a thousand other details).  If a deadline is blown by as little as a month, publishers may pull the author's book from the calendar and replace it with another, thus potentially adding months to the publication date.


When do you see your advance? 


This is another  negotiated deal point.  Advances are paid out in pieces.  There's always one piece on signing.  After that, the milestones vary from author to author, often depending on the horsepower of the agent, and on the "importance" of the author.  Other payment milestones can include: submission of edited manuscript (this is the "D&A payment--Delivery & Acceptance); hard cover pub date; softcover pub date; and even, in some cases, some period of time after the pub date.  If there's a second book in the contract, there'll likely be a payment milestone for the submission of an outline for the second book, followed by submission of an acceptable manuscript.


Meanwhile, if you're happy at the publishing house, sometime while writing the second book of a two-book deal, your editor and agent will start negotiating the next deal.


What sort of public face does your agent and publisher expect you to maintain from contract to release (is there a difference between fiction and non-fiction)? 


This is where the issue of an author's platform comes in.  If you're a celebrity writing your autobiography, the pressure will be high to be out there to flog it.  Similarly, if you've written a book about a presidential candidate during an election year, the publisher will press hard for you to have media face time.


On the other hand, if you've written a novel featuring a feline crime solver (or about a freelance hostage rescue specialist), chances are that you couldn't buy publicity outside of your local newspaper.  In that regard, an author's public face is only as public as the author wants it to be.


I think that's all of it.  Okay, Killzone comrades, let's hear from you.
Mar 092012
 
By John Gilstrap

Everyone who does anything for a living owes it to himself to take advantage of learning opportunities.  Even after one has attained journeyman’s status, to rest on one’s laurels is to invite disaster.

Last week, I had the honor and pleasure of attending SleuthFest in Orlando, Florida.  I taught a class on pacing, and sat on three panels.  And I hung out at the bar, of course, because that’s where all business is conducted, irrespective of chosen discipline.  I met a lot of talented writers I’d never met—Heather Graham and Charlaine Harris among them—and hung out with old friends.  And, of course, there are our own Kathleen Pickering and Nancy Cohen, whom I finally met in person—Nancy in a meeting room, and Kathleen in the bar.  A lot in the bar.  I’m just sayin’ . . .

For me, the big learning moment—the a-ha moment—came during Charlaine’s luncheon keynote, and it reinforced something I’ve known and admired about Jeff Deaver for years (Jeff and Charlaine were guests of honor, along with Chris Grabenstein).  If I did my math correctly, the first book of Charlaine’s True Blood series—the one that launched her into the authorial stratosphere—was her twentieth book.  Give or take a couple of books, that was the same number of novels that Deaver had published before he became a household name with the Lincoln Rhyme series.  As Charlaine put it, she’d spent many years with $4,000 advances, pursuing what her husband had come to think of as a “well-subsidized hobby.”

I am currently pounding away at my tenth novel (fourteenth, if you count the ones that no one wanted).  I’m proud of them all, but the recent ones are so way better than the older ones.  And the ones that were never published?  Well, thank God they weren’t.

At SleuthFest, I learned (again) what I’ve long known to be the truth: writing is a business, and the only way to succeed—and success to me means hundreds of thousands of copies sold—is to keep writing and playing by the rules. Agents are more important than they’ve ever been, and brutal, professional editing is what makes the difference between passable and entertaining.

Even in these days of new media and instant gratification, the bottom line is the bottom line: There are no shortcuts to success.

All comments welcome . . .