But in THE WIRE, the pilot managed to introduce dozens of characters, immediately showing you who they were and how they fit into plot. Themes were established from the outset; several characters were already given a bit of a back story. But all of this was done in an artful, realistic, edgy way.
Go watch the opening scene on you tube. Wow!
Has there ever been a better series than THE WIRE?
Marc Brody Series
Anyone that knows me professionally has probably read my “How To Sell Loads Of Books” blog, which offers indie authors a template of sorts for making it in an extremely tough business.
That blog has been viewed more than any other blog I’ve written. I get at least one email a week from an author who has applied all the counsel in it consistently and is making respectable money now after flailing for months, or years.
I was asked the other day why I still keep to the schedule I do. Why, with 30 books out, co-authoring with Clive Cussler, I push myself to write 8 or 9 novels a year, some of which aren’t plagiarized or completely derivative of whatever’s hot at the moment.
The reason, in a nutshell, is I love getting it right, and almost more importantly, getting it right my way, on my own terms.
The reason I write so much is because I’m always trying to get it a little more right. Evoke emotion a little more powerfully. Paint a scene with a little more skill. Tell a story a little better.
One could look at me, as The Wall Street Journal did in January, and think that the story is, “Wow, the man’s written 25 books in 30 months.” No disrespect to the WSJ, but that’s not the story. The story, in my mind, is that I’ve been able to establish Russell Blake as a viable brand in action/adventure, a quality storyteller in that extremely competitive genre, and do it my way. That I’ve got tens of thousands of readers who enjoy my work in a genre I keep hearing is almost impossible to break into, much less break into big, and where sales are down for all but the very biggest names.
You wouldn’t know it to see my sales. If this is a down market genre, God bless the gasping wreckage of Men’s Fiction. It’s provided handsomely for me so far, and appears to be willing to do so for the foreseeable future.
The real story is that authors don’t require anyone to vindicate their skill or their plan other than readers. You don’t need to win the lottery. You can control your destiny to a large extent through sheer force of will, extremely hard work, and a constant drive to best your very best work every time you sit down to write.
Does that mean you’re guaranteed to sell? No. Of course not. If you’re writing because you hope to make money at it, perhaps view it as a better way of doing so than your day job, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, IMO. If you write because you have a burning desire to tell your story better than it could ever be told by anyone else, that’s why you should write. If you have that desire, and you apply yourself, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, constantly strive to improve your craft – not the craft of formal structure that arbiters of quality find so important, but the craft of telling a story in as compelling and entertaining a manner as possible – you will create a legacy of worthwhile work. The more worthwhile work you create, the better the odds are that someone reads it, likes it, and tells a friend. You win readers one at a time, and if they love what you do, they will stick with you for an entire career.
You’re not trying to make a sale. You’re trying to earn your readers’ trust by telling your stories as well as it’s possible to tell them, and if you’re like me, do it on your own terms. What does that mean? It means that you accept full responsibility for every aspect of the product, and that you are constantly reexamining your work, asking yourself if that’s truly the very best you can do, with no compromises, shortcuts, excuses, or concessions. It means that you will move mountains to find your audience, and you will reward them with an experience they can’t get elsewhere. It means you will be relevant to them.
If you can do that you’ll eventually make plenty of money. Doesn’t matter what you’re doing, actually. Any business, any occupation, if you do it because it’s absolutely what you must do, no matter what, and you’ll do whatever it takes to make it, money will find you – at least that’s been my fortunate experience. To many, your success will look a lot like luck. Many of the lucky authors I know have been working for years, doing this in the manner I’ve described, and the world finally caught on to their good thing. They appear to have come out of nowhere or won the lottery. But they all work extremely hard, are exacting in their demands on themselves, constantly try to better their efforts, and do so exactly the same way, whether they are selling next to nothing, or are bestsellers.
They do it because it’s important to them. In a way, they’re extremely selfish people, because they’re fulfilling their inner desire to matter through their chosen medium: the written word. Some make a lot of money, others very little. But they all do it with single-minded intensity because that’s just how they are, and this is just what they do.
Audiences can tell if you’re full of shit. Over time they can sense it. I don’t believe you can fake what I’m describing. I know plenty who try, but there’s always something just a little off about their effort. Sometimes they can fool the audience, but over the years it unravels. Because it’s hard to sustain a lie indefinitely. It requires energy that eventually sputters out. And then the audience is left with whatever is beneath the lie. And they don’t respond kindly.
Audiences are fickle and have short attention spans, but most importantly, audiences tend to buy entertainers who mean it. Maybe not the most talented. Not even the most skilled. Many a singer who’s a marginal talent goes big and stays big with a mediocre instrument and limited range – I cant think of more than a few pop icons who fit that bill. Many authors who go big and stay that way are described as plodding or untalented by the critics with more refined, elite tastes, who purport to know good from bad. That’s why the best work is not the most popular, and the most popular is often not the best, in their view.
My point is simple: If you want to be a bestselling author, write lots of books that matter to your audience, and never let them down. Promote so your audience knows that you have what they’re searching for. Deliver for them. Mean it. Tell that story the best it’s ever been told, and wake up every day trying to get it a little more right, a little better, and you’ll never run out of motivation. For me, the drive to be a successful author is simply the drive to matter.
It’s not what you do that’s important, it’s why you do it that counts. At the end of this we’re all worm food. Nobody gets out of it alive. And none of us knows how long we have. That’s the big lie – we imagine we always still have time, which is perhaps why we’re surprised when our time runs out. If you’re writing because you want success and all that comes with it, money, recognition, notoriety, admiration, whatever, you’re writing for the wrong reasons. If that’s your motivator you’ll be let down. You’ve chosen a business that’s extremely difficult to make it in, where the odds are beyond terrible. If you’re doing this because you believe you’re a special snowflake who will get all those things on account of you’re just you, probably not.
This is very different from the practical advice I offer in my “How To Sell Loads Of Books” blog. That’s more concerned with tactics and strategies for bookselling, tips on how to be a producer of goods people want to buy, on how to operate your publishing company in a businesslike fashion and approach both the publishing and the writing side with discipline. It’s the how to part of the equation. Important, but very different from what I’m talking about in this blog.
As an example, if you help people because you want to appear helpful or compassionate or generous or whatnot, because you hope that you’ll be noticed as such, and will gain some sort of advantage (be it thought of as a good person, or perhaps inspire folks to support you, or have people like you), that’s not the same as helping people because you feel driven to help.
Writing because you hope for the trappings of success is very different than writing because you want to matter to someone – your audience. And the way you matter to your audience is by telling your stories in a way that nobody else can or would. That takes work. A lot of it.
In my experience, if you keep your reader at the forefront of every decision you make, you’re way ahead of those who start their decision making process by trying to figure out what they can easily do, or what they can afford.
That’s all I have today. It just occurred to me as I looked back at my career over the last 38 months, and at my schedule for the next 12. There’s no frigging way I would work nearly this hard for anybody but myself, which means for my readers. For the people for whom I actually matter. Those who get it. My readers. For them, I’ll move the earth.
In closing, I’m reminded of one of my favorite authors, James Lee Burke, whose novel was rejected by every big brain in publishing, 110 times, for 13 years, all of whom were unified in their belief that his work was unfit for publication. When a small university press finally picked it up and printed it the novel was nominated for a Pulitzer. Point being that all the experts, all the cognoscenti, got it completely wrong. They had gold in their hands and for whatever reason, they passed. Readers had a completely different take than the experts and critics – none of whom had ever written a bestseller themselves, but all of whom were convinced they knew one when they saw it, and knew what it took to be one. Turns out, not so much. But JLB wasn’t writing for them. He was writing for his readers. Thank God he did.
So what’s the takeaway?
Readers matter more than anyone if you want to be a successful author. And you’ve got to do it because you’re driven to do it, if you want to make it for the long haul. If you’re not driven to do it, do everyone a favor and find something easier to pursue. Really. Because it won’t end well, and you’ll feel like you’ve wasted a lot of time, rather than invested it wisely in something you’d pay to do.
THE MIGHTY GORGA. American General Pictures, 1969. Starring Anthony Eisley, Megan Timothy, Scott Brady and Bruce Kimball. Written and directed by David L. Hewitt.
Required viewing for bad movie buffs, this ranks right up there with Mesa of Lost Women and Robot Monster. Unlike those alternative classics, Mighty Gorga is in color, but that doesn’t help much — you can still see it.
Anthony Eisley, once a star on network TV (Hawaiian Eye) stars as a circus owner fallen on hard times (not unlike the actor himself) who journeys to Africa in search of Great White Hunter Tonga Jack Adams, who can lead him to a legendary-jungle-monster-cum-boffo-box-office-attraction. Africa in this case appears to be the woods behind somebody’s back yard and the familiar landscape of Bronson Canyon, the perennial location of B westerns, here augmented by the sounds of jungle wildlife on the soundtrack: exotic birds (Bop-ooop-ooop-whaah-whaah-whaah!) lions and elephants, never seen but gamely referred to by the assorted players looking off-screen.
It turns out Great White Hunter Tonga Jack Adams has been missing since the last safari; not to fear, though: his comely daughter (Megan Timothy) is running things in his absence, despite sabotage from a competing Great White Hunter, played by Scott Brady. Driven to desperate measures, Tony and Megan trek off into the ersatz jungle, guided by Tonga Jack’s treasure map.
(Incidentally, Brady’s sabotage consists of setting fire to April’s animal compound, which might have been more convincing had the scenes matched up: he sets his fire at night and the characters react to it in the daytime — just a hint of things to come.)
Writer/Director Hewitt ratchets up the tension(?) by cutting away frequently to scenes of the giant ape Gorga plodding amok through the jungle (?) terrorizing a native village that seems to be built of bamboo screens and 4’X8”plywood sheets, and it’s fitting to put in a word here about the monster: The Mighty Gorga is played mostly by someone in the top half of a really bad gorilla suit, with immobile features and cute button eyes. I say “top half” because we only get to see The Mighty G from the waist up, photographed from low-angles with bushes (standing in for tree-tops) in the foreground to attempt the illusion of height. Nice try.
Anyway, our trepid explorers finally meet up with Mister G just in time to see him fight a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a burst of truly deplorable special effects. The T-Rex is represented by a plastic toy resembling a Pez Head, and for the fight scenes The Mighty Gorga is played by a hand puppet (his stunt double?) and his only visible wound is to get a splinter in his finger, which is removed by our plucky heroine, thus earning the monster’s undying gratitude, and there’s a lesson here for all of us, if we only look for it.
Well, I know you’re all anxious to hear how this all comes out for yourselves, and I won’t spoil the ending for you except to say that Great White Hunter Tonga Jack is reunited with his daughter, they find the lost treasure (which looks like stuff from the clearance bin in the “Everything-for-a-Dollar” store) romance blossoms, the volcano explodes and—damn, I gave away the ending, didn’t I? Oh well, these reviews can’t all be gems of critical insight.
But to conclude on a cheerier note, I should add that the acting in The Mighty Gorga is mostly better than you’d expect. Anthony Eisley, Kent Taylor and Scot Brady had all seen palmier days, but they trudge through this with admirable resolve and not a hint of embarrassment.
Megan Timothy, who mostly appeared in Russ Meyer films, does the heroine duties capably, and really the only thespic disappointment is Bruce Kimball (star of several 60s skin-flicks) as the Native Medicine Man; decked out in a sarong and Cleopatra wig, he spends the movie summoning the monster with enthusiasm, but seems unable to get the New Yawk out of his voice, resulting in lines like: “Oh, Mighty Gawga, de infidels have come ta steal yoah treashah!” Immortal stuff for fans of bad filmmaking.
Cops cleared more than 400 times each year for "justified" homicides...
Missouri lt. gov.: We need ‘Anglo-American’ justice in Ferguson, not
Maryland veteran shot 3-year-old daughter and cut her throat before
fatal shootout with police
Missouri official apologizes for racist Facebook posts: ‘I was a very
active Republican at the time’
Chicken-suited New Hampshire Republican arrested for flapping and
clucking at Dems
Wanted Man Discovered After Rear-Ending Detective’s Car
Robber Caught After Showering, Shaving In Elderly Victim's Home: Cops
Police Officer Allegedly Solicits Undercover Cop For Sex
Man Falls Asleep, Wakes Up To Bloody Stranger Sleeping On Couch
Man's 101st Birthday Present Is Another Day At Work
Affluenza’ teen’s father busted for impersonating a police officer
(this is the daddy of the teen who killed people and got off because
being so rich caused him to suffer from "affluenza")
Chris Christie Chews Out a Woman for Suggesting Bruce Springsteen
Doesn’t Like Him
CNN host: Nat. Guard said ‘you never know’ what Ferguson ‘n*ggers’ are
going to do
Oklahoma 12-year-old dies from B.B. gun shot to the head
Man wearing blue shirt poses as TSA, pats down women at airport...
Swastikas painted on church walls in MA...
NKorea calls John Kerry 'wolf with hideous lantern jaw'...
(as opposed to chubby boy-man who kills his people on a whim
including uncle while spending the national treasury on porn)
Wall Street Journal editor: Eric Holder should tell Ferguson protesters
to ‘pull up their pants’
No Charges for Guards in 3 Fatal Rikers Island Beatings
Though they were ruled homicides.
Cops accidentally kill bystander during FL nightclub arrest of
Tom Neal as Al Roberts
Ann Savage as Vera
Claudia Drake as Sue Harvey
Edmund MacDonald as Charles Haskell Jr
Tim Ryan as Nevada Diner Proprietor
Esther Howard as Holly, Diner Waitress
Don Brodie as the Used Car Salesman
Pat Gleason as Joe