Posts Tagged ‘Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar’

The Worth of Books

on September 8, 2014 in Misc 14 Comments »


So here’s the thing: I think a lot of books have gotten too cheap.

Sure, I’m biased ’cause I’m a writer.  And arguably the massive number of new books now available, thanks to indie publishing and e-books technology, will drive down sticker prices.

On the bright side:  Readers have more literary choices than ever at almost no cost, and writers have more opportunities to get their stories in front of readers.

On the dark side:  We writers will soon starve to death.

Seriously, the really dark side of super cheap and even free e-books is that many readers seem to be devaluing our work.  They have come to expect a fantastic bargain.  After all, why buy a $4.99 e-book by an unknown writer when a 99 cent one sounds pretty good? For that matter, why spend 99 cents when there are so many free books? Marketplace forces are grinding away.

dirt cheap

But is a cheap price always the right tactic for a writer to take?

Here’s an old marketing example.  In the Depression, Curtis nail polish cost 30 cents.  Then Max Factor came along with its spanking new nail polish and charged a dollar.  Business experts warned that Max Factor would fail.  Instead, Max’s polish sold like crazy because women assumed that at more than three times the cost their product was superior to Curtis’s.  The cosmetics and fashion industry took note and has used the more-expensive-is-better ploy ever since.

Yet those same women customers would baulk at spending $5 on an ebook by the likes of us.  Never mind that our books only exist because of months and even years of our work, creativity, passion, intelligence, and other good stuff.

In book publishing, the equivalent of designer fashion prices is a limited edition book.

beatles book

Currently, Amazon doesn’t even carry Harry Benson’s The Beatles (Art Edition).  One of its independent sellers offers the lone copy for $14,100.  The book’s publisher Taschen has on its website a mere 20 signed editions available at $1,000 each, and no doubt they’ll eventually sell out.  Meanwhile, much cheaper editions of Benson’s photo books of the Beatles are much more available.

Sure, it’s a fantasy that any of us pleb writers will one day produce an in-demand costly limited edition book.  But is it too much to ask for a mere couple bucks a book?  Aren’t our stories worth even that much?

In the end, I have no solutions or even suggestions, but I’d love to hear yours.

Logline Hell

on September 1, 2014 in Misc 13 Comments »

If you think writing a blurb for you novel is tough–and for me they’re a nightmare–try summing up your magnum opus in a mere log line.


A log line is your first and most important pitch for a screenplay or a TV script.  Think blurbs for people with severe ADD.   When industry folk want to know about your story, you’ve got to pitch it in a mere ONE SENTENCE!  Or if you’re the garrulous type, TWO SENTENCES!

That means you’ve got to cover your story’s crucial elements of the protagonist, antagonist and the goal, and throw in some “sizzle and pop” and “titillation and intrigue” in a few measly words.

back to future

Here’s an example:

An alcoholic ex-superhero searches for his daughter after she is kidnapped by his demented, jealous former sidekick.

Here’s the log line for Back to the Future:

A young man is transported to the past where he must reunite his parents before he and his future are no more.”

Here’s a verbose two  sentence log line:

An expert on cults is hired by a mother and father to kidnap and deprogram their brainwashed daughter.  He soon begins to suspect the parents may be more destructive than the cult he’s been hired to save her from.

By now you may be wondering what my screenplay’s log line is.

I don’t have one yet.

What I do have is 16 pages of a screenplay, which means only about 103 pages to go.  But it’s going kinda fast because I’m having fun telling my story in a format that so different from novel writing.

Still, I’ve got the feeling that by writing my log line now, I’ll be forced to think with crystal clarity about my story, hence the log line will help me write it.

Have you ever done something similar with your own stories, whatever the format?  Like writing a rough blurb early on, or composing a query letter? Could you sum up your novel in one sentence?









The reasons why I still haven’t heard from the agent who’s looking at my novel, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar.


  1. It’s August and sweltering and most of the population of New York City has skipped town for the month.

  2. The agent is still in her office but her assistant is on vacation and left her email account in lockdown.

  3. A virus created by evil Russian hackers has destroyed the agent’s computer system and all contact information for me.

  4. The NSA intercepted my email because its attached pdf manuscript revealed too many national security secrets.

  5. The agent loved my novel and is about to send me a contract in the mail.

  6. The contract was already mailed but a mugger stole the postman’s mail bag.

  1. The IT person at my job decided I shouldn’t be sending personal emails from work so he’s been intercepting and deleting them.

  2. My manuscript is so brilliant that the agent is reading it very, very slowly so that she can savor every word.

  3. My manuscript stinks and the agent doesn’t have the heart to tell me she can’t reject it fast enough.

  4. I am suffering from hallucinations because in reality no one anywhere is looking at my manuscript.

Personally, I think the answer is #10.  Do you have any additions to the list?

Today I finished polishing my second Charity book, Charity MacCay and the Saintly Wives. It feels so good! Sure, I still have a few sentences to add in a couple places, but that’s it. I’m DONE!

What struck me about the final chapters was how I make Charity suffer through some pretty rotten luck.  I don’t feel bad about it because she’s had a comfortable life.  She was born into an upper class family, she’s never known hunger, she’s beautiful and buxom and so very smart, and underneath her impulsiveness and selfishness beats a generous heart.   So I figure readers won’t mind if I inflict her with some bad karma, especially since it adds to the plot twists and humor.

V fair cover

Anyway, it’s ironic that over breakfast I read an article about a woman who in most ways had the opposite early life of Charity, but now Karma seems to loves her to pieces.

She’s on the cover of Vanity Fair this month, her name is Natalia, and she’s a supermodel (those rare one-name creatures I haven’t paid heed to in years).  She looks like she’s eighteen but is 32.  And she has three beautiful children.  And a doting, gorgeous, wealthy husband.  And two homes in France.  And she was in a bikini on the swimsuit cover of Sports Illustrated, never mind that she’s had three kids so she should have stretch marks and blobs of fat on her hips.

You know why I forgive her even though she make me want to slit my wrists?

Turns out she had a grim childhood in her native Russia.  Badass dads who came and went.  A severely handicapped sister.  A mother who struggled to sell fruit on the streets while paying off the local Mob to let her work.  Soon Natalia was also on the street selling fruit.  What a tough childhood compared to my Charity character.

Flash forward to Natalia at 22:  She’s a supermodel, has bought her mother a house, and has founded a major charity foundation that has built over a hundred playgrounds for children in Russia.

You know, if any of us wrote a novel about someone with such a fantastical life, we’d be laughed out of the business.  But here’s what a friend said about Natalia, and you tell me if it doesn’t sound like a solid background for an exciting lead character:

Earl karma

She is a fighter.  In Russia… she had to survive.  The qualities she needed—the constant awareness, the readiness to fight, the sixth sense about danger—these things are in her blood…  She is like a combination of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.”

This kind of reminds me of the old TV series My Name is Earl.  I liked its humor and how Earl was trying to atone for his past bad actions so that he could straighten out his Karma.  Do good stuff and Karma will do right by you, Earl preached.  That rule never seems to work for Charity MacCay, however, because for her no good deed she does goes unpunished.  But then, that’s why my book is fiction and funny.

How about you? Any wild Karma stories you’ve written or lived through? Known people who seem to  experience extremes of good or bad luck?

First off, Finished:

This afternoon I was stunned to realize I’ve got no more historical research to do for Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar.  I mean nada.  Zip.


See, the thing about writing an historical novel or just one that deals in some way with history (like The Compass Master) is that there are ALWAYS details to look up. ALWAYS facts to check.  ALWAYS another resource to read among the hundred other books I’ve already read.  So today I sat down at my computer feeling like maybe I’d get a couple sections fixed.  And I fixed them.  And then I checked my literary To Do list.  But…

There isn’t anything else To Do.   Seriously?  Ya mean from here on out it’s just reread the manuscript a few times to proof it and make any last changes?  I don’t believe it!

Maybe you’ve had the same experience.  You’ve had a manuscript around for so long that it seems you’ll never finish it and get it out there.  And then one day… WHAM! It’s practically done.  Charity should be in print by this autumn!  I can’t tell you how good that feels.

Of course, I still have to edit the sequel, Charity MacCay and Holy Relations, but I’m not gonna think about that tonight.

Second, Factoid:

As you know, I like to throw out facts I’ve come across that might come in handy for my fellow writers.  Here’s the latest…

Scientists have at long last discovered why salamanders can regrow limbs and regenerate parts of major organs.  (Lost your leg?  Just grow a new one!)  It seems that this “superhero-like” ability stems from immune cells called macrophages, which of course we mammals also have.  In fact, many animals may have a capability for tissue regeneration that has been turned off during evolution, but for whatever reason remained on for salamanders.

Now that scientists have pinpointed the macrophage involvement, they’re hoping to find a way to reactivate the process in humans, for example to heal damaged spinal cords or speed up recovery from diseases.  Later on, maybe they can regenerate limbs, which would be so wonderful.  The theory is that it might be possible to turn back on in us humans a natural genetic (or epigenetic?) ability.

Personally, I think this factoid could be the basis for everything from an X-Men type of story to a more serious literary novel.  It’s also just plain good news.

So that’s it for today.  Do any of you have some inspiring factoids?  How about novels that you think you’ll never ever get into print?

OMG I finally finished all major edits of Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar.

I am so tired.

But oh, I also feel so good.

I mean, my novel isn’t completely ready for print.  I’ll have to go back through it a couple times for nit-picky copy editing and proofing.  But really, after such a long hard haul and readings by several friends, it’s virtually FINISHED. Hallelujah.

The down side is, I now have to edit its sequel, Charity MacCay and Holy Relations.  And I want to publish these two books within weeks of each other.  Buy hey, I’ll worry about that later.

You know why I finished my edits today?  Because I woke up this Sunday morning thinking about my failures, and one of them was the way I’ve allowed so many tasks and projects to drag out seemingly forever.  I mean, I wrote my Charity books before writing The Compass Master.  But in my usual insecure way, I kept feeling that they needed more edits, more historical research, more rewrites, more feedback.  Because nothing I write is ever quite GOOD ENOUGH!

So I got out of bed and did some daily stuff and by the afternoon I was sitting down with the final chapters of my hard copy and then I parked myself in front of my computer to insert the changes and I didn’t get up until I was FINISHED.

Did I get outside at all?  Oh, sure. I made a quick trip to the grocery store this evening where I wondered how all the money that had been in my wallet vanished even though I had no fun this weekend.  But that was okay, because I felt lighter and happier.  Doesn’t it feel great when you’re near the end of a long, scary dark tunnel and the bright light you see is not an oncoming train?

So my day ended okay, especially since it began by waking up to guilt and nasty little whispers of depression.  Does that happen to any of you?  Waking up, maybe from dreams you can’t remember, with nagging doubts and guilt and regrets or wondering what might have been or all the things you should have done.  And then the only way to feel better is to throw yourself into whatever is bugging you, and in the end the hard work is worth it.

Have a great week.  And sweet awakenings.