Mark Terry

Friday, November 30, 2007

101 Reasons To Stop Writing

November 30, 2007
Tripped across the blog, 101 Reasons to Stop Writing. Actually, to-date there's only 15 (Bet I could come up with the other 86, no prob), but you might want to check it out here. Or not. I mean, nobody's, like, twisting your arm, y'know?

The Reasons

Remember To Say Thank You

November 30, 2007
This has been a sort of crazy week for me and I should have skipped blogging entirely, but I was thinking about this, not in an angry way, but in a sort of glum, accepting way.

Have you ever asked a writer or anyone else for advice or help? And then they did? Did you say thank you?

Here's why I mention this. A relative of mine wants to be a writer. I got this person's e-mail address and sent him a whole bunch of links to websites I regularly use for my freelance writing business as well as a list of books that I've thought were particularly helpful. I sent it off and never heard anything back from him.

This is not the first time, either. One of my son's friends asked me last year about it and I did something similar, catering my responses to what I perceived to be her level and needs. And heard nothing. No quick e-mail response of "Thanks!" Nothing. Later I ran into her and asked if she got it and got a quick, "Oh, yeah. But I'm too busy to do any of that right now."


The Internet has sure made getting advice, help and contacts easy and quick. But I'm really starting to re-consider offering help to people who ask for it if the assumption is that it's not taking me time or effort to give it.

Look, I'm not talking to any of you readers here. This isn't me soliciting your thanks for blogging about writing. I get something out of it just by writing it and I hope you get something out of it, as well. I enjoy the interaction. The people here I've interacted with have been very gracious when they ask for anything and I've tried to reply in kind. And I don't let this sort of thing get under my skin much. During all my years of struggling to break into writing I rarely made contact with other writers. If I had, it might have helped. The few times I did, the writers were pretty reluctant to help or offer advice, but I thanked them anyway. It's the polite thing to do. It would be in any field.

So here's my suggestion. Whatever your field of endeavor is, imagine someone saying, "Hey, I'd like to go into electrical engineering, music, sales, etc. Any suggestions?" Then imagine spending time offering your best ideas on the subject, then having that person act like you owed them that information.

It gets a bit tiring.

Mark Terry

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is Writing Your Dream Job?

November 29, 2007
There's something of a running joke in my family. It concerns my wife, Leanne, and her "dream job." Now, Leanne is a medical technologist and she appears to really like her job and I think she's probably pretty good at it, but like most of us, she wishes she was doing something else from time to time. On her list of dream jobs:

U.S. Attorney General
Director of White House Communications
Constitutional Lawyer
Grounds Keeper for Detroit Tigers (Comerica Park)
Construction flag waver (you know, the person who stands out there on the highway and holds up a flag and tells you to slow down or stop).
Chef (haven't heard this one in a while)
Policy Wonk
Kayak tour guide

And for all I know, sometime she'll be one of them. Who can tell?

I confess that about 90% of what I do these days is my dream job. I love being a freelance writer. I'm thrilled that this is how I make my living. What about the other 10%?

Well, the real dream job would be to make a full-time living as a novelist, writing one or two novels a year. The "but" to that statement, having learned a great deal about how the publishing business works over the last few years is:

1. I would need to make enough money to live more than comfortably on and have a publisher who paid their advances and royalty checks in a timely, PREDICTABLE fashion. (Good luck).

2. I would have to be big enough (i.e., popular, selling enough) to have some version of security. That might mean being a bestseller.

I'm still working on this and I still have faith it will happen.

So, despite having my 90% dream job, which is, I suspect, significantly more than most people have, are there things about it that make me wish I were, oh, I don't know, doing something like, hmmm...

Running a surf shop on the beach in Maui?

Well, yeah. I confess, there are a lot of jobs that interest me, but not necessarily to the degree that I would pursue them. (Probably much like my wife's list of dream jobs). I think being an ambassador to someplace like Italy or, say, Costa Rica, would be interesting. I wonder what it would be like to run a bar on an island in the Caribbean. Since I've started taking up guitar, I'm reminded that at one point in my life the possibility of my earning a music degree and spending my days (afternoons & evenings, more likely) teaching kids piano and probably doing some gigs was quite high, but I consciously decided I didn't want to. Sometimes that strikes me now as being a perfectly acceptable way to make a living that I would probably have enjoyed.

Here's the thing, and I suspect it's true for bestselling novelists. It's certainly true for this full-time freelance writer:

It's a job. 

They call it work for a reason.

Sure, I love it. Sure, I look forward to hitting my desk every morning. This is light years away from the dread I felt about getting in the car and driving to the hospital in Detroit for 18 years, experiencing toward the end what I called my "elevator moods," which is to say, when I shut off the engine of my car there in Lot 12 by the Clara Ford Pavilion (or was it 10? How soon we forget!), my mood would sink and go black like a fast-moving elevator. Shit, Kemosabe, that's no way to live your life!

But sometimes the money doesn't come when you want it (or need it). Sometimes your clients are a pain in the ass. Sometimes you don't have work when you want it (or need it). Sometimes the business just doesn't run smoothly for one reason or another. Sometimes publishers owe you money and find a whole variety of reasons why they haven't paid you yet ("The check's in the mail" is a cliche because it's been said a million times, folks; it's not a joke! or a more recent reason given for no check: "We're really busy" and "well, we're checking into it.")

Still, I have very little to bitch about. I'm mostly doing what I dreamed of doing.

How about you? What's your dream job?

And maybe more importantly here, if writing is your dream job, what are your OTHER dream jobs?

Mark Terry 

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thinking About Book Promotion

November 27, 2007
Legend has it that when Mary Higgins Clark was getting started with her books that she did the usual book signing crap with a plate of fresh-baked cookies at hand. I'm told it was just as unsuccessful as anybody else's book signing crap, but somewhere along the way, somebody--God knows who--decided that the secret to Mary's success were the cookies.

I was reminded of this today because of one of the listservs--Murder Must Advertise or eMWA, I don't remember which--had a thing about things to give away with your books.

First, fellow authors: Does this make you feel like a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman?

Second, readers: Do free cookies, chocolates, M&Ms, bookmarks, tea bags, drink coasters, refrigerator magnets, pencils, etc. in any way, shape or form convince you to buy the frickin' book?

I just don't know. I'm hard-pressed to think that Stephen King spent any time giving away crap like this early on in his career. Or Patricia Cornwall? Lee Child? Yeah, yeah, I know at Bouchercon Lee Child opens up a local pub and invites attendees and, hell, Janet Evanovich puts on a freakin' street fair for her readers complete with caterer and live band. Presumably they can afford it. And Lee suggests it's in appreciation of his fans, as does Janet. They do this when they got big, not starting out.

Not to eschew (always wanted to use that word) promotion and the value of giveaways, but I've been to a couple author conventions where a slew of authors bring giveaways--I've done it, too, though in a more restrained (er, cheap) fashion. There's invariably a table filled with all this trash--bookmarks and postcards and pens--and it seems to me that when the convention closes for good, some poor schmuck has to come along and shovel the 99% of the stuff that's left into a garbage can.

The best giveaway I've ever seen was a chapbook by Joe Konrath. He wrote a short story featuring one of his characters and essentially self-published it as a small booklet complete with cover art and his photo on the back and his book jacket on the back with a "If you like this you'll love..." I took it home and I read it. It may still be around here somewhere. Joe also mailed me a drink coaster once and it's here on my desk--I use it. But I've also got a bunch of bookmarks (some of them with my own books and name on them) that I've collected over the years and I'm pretty sure I haven't bought a single book as a result. In fact, from time to time an author really puts money into it, sends you some fancy leather bookmark. Well hell, I've been on Sue Grafton's mailing list for years. I just got a Christmas card and a tea bag from her. (We threw it out. Although I will undoubtedly buy and read her book, I'm not drinking tea sent me by somebody in the mail. Sorry.)

I'm not purposefully being a curmudgeon here (it probably comes natural), but I do wonder, with a thousand authors flinging their bric-a-brac at readers like a low-grade version of a Mardi gras parade (without the floats, serious drinking or general debauchery--and you wonder why Americans are reading less?), whether we're all wasting our time and generally lowering the perception of writers.

Any thoughts?

Mark Terry 

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'd Really Rather Be...

November 27, 2007
It's snowing. My feet are cold. I'm slogging hard through a business report with a lot of charts and graphs and statistics.

I'd really rather be here.

How about you?

Mark Terry

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Frodo, Office Manager

November 25, 2007
Some of you have asked to see a photograph of Frodo. Well, there he is.

The reason I'm laughing is, when you click on the button to take a photograph in Photo Booth, you're given a 3-second countdown. Around second 2 Frodo started licking his, well, anyway...

But as you can see, he's in his usual posture when he's in my office, that is to say, lying on the futon. Occasionally when the winter weather kicks in, he'll come into the office and lay down so his face is nearly pressed against my space heater.

For years we've been calling him my Office Manager, which is reasonably accurate. He doesn't much care what I do, just so long as he gets regular walks and playtime. Oh, and is fed regularly, preferably table scraps because he's a miserable beggar. Well, I guess he wouldn't be if we didn't indulge him.

One of these days I'll get a really good photo of him, but this will have to do. And, in case you were wondering, we call him a chocolate Labrador, but he's a lot prettier than most chocolate Labs. He's more of a caramel color. His Mom was a yellow Lab (I don't remember if she was a mix, but maybe) and Dad was probably some sort of Newfoundland mix. We got him for free, which is a good way to get dogs, I think. Anyway, he's got a sister my wife has seen photos of and she's even more Newfie than Frodo is, with some black and curly hair to go along with everything else.

Mark Terry

Friday, November 23, 2007

Playing With My Computer

November 23, 2007
Yes, the iMac has a built-in digital camera and software to screw around with. And so I did. I also figured out how to get it up here on the blog.

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

Mark Terry

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Starting The Holiday Early

November 21, 207
I'm only working about half a day today. My in-laws are coming over around 2:00 to celebrate Thanksgiving. Tomorrow we're trundling down to Ohio where my brother lives for the turkey day. My wife works Friday and Saturday, and with any luck I'm going to take Friday off and do not much of anything.

So, I hope you have a great and happy Thanksgiving. 

Mark Terry

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Word Count For Writers

November 20, 2007
I was reading a post the other day where an agent mentioned word counts. The numbers themselves didn't surprise me much. She said that the typical novel ran 80,000 to 100,000 words. That typical cozy mysteries were 70,000 to 90,000, that category romances ran from 50,000 to 100,000 and fantasy novels might run up to about 120,000. I probably would have added that the top end for thrillers is up around 120,000 or so, too, but it varies.

That's all right. What kind of got me fretting was her statement to not use the Microsoft Word word count, but to call it 250 words per page if you're using 12-point font with 1-inch margins.

Okay, that's about right.

But then it gets strange. You see, I use Times New Roman, which although in 12-point font, is smaller than Courier or Courier New in 12-point font. It has something to do with spacing, etc.

In the comments section there were some fairly detailed responses and one person went into fairly specific detail about how if you use Courier New in 12-point font with 1-inch margins, you count it as 250 words per page. Therefore a 400 page manuscript will give you a 100,000 word novel, no matter what Microsoft Word says.


If you use TNR, same conditions, you need to count it as 350 words per page.

I gotta tell you, I've been  using TNR and pretty much using the Word count, although I also use the 250 word/page formula. I've done okay.

But there's nothing like this kind of crap to make a writer go nuts. So I'm working on a manuscript and I'm converting it to Courier New to see how many pages it is, then back to TNR, then back, then...

I asked my agent about this last year or so when it came up on yet another blog and she sighed and said, "Writers worry too much about stuff like this."

The whole thing drives me nuts, honestly. Back in 9th grade, I was taught to count the lines on a page, then count the number of letters in a line. Divide the number of letters in the line by 5, then multiply the result by the number of lines on the page, then multiply that by the number of pages.

Which isn't terribly accurate either.

I do know that nobody's been terribly worried about my word counts except me. DIRTY DEEDS probably ran between 70,000 and 80,000 words, and my publisher then did their layout in such a way that the book came out under 200 pages in its final published form. (I suspect money was an issue and they were trying to keep costs down). THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK probably ran between 80,000 and 90,000 words and the way Midnight Ink did their layout it's 369 pages long. THE SERPENT'S KISS is similar in length.

On the other hand, I wrote all those and turned them in using TNR. Wait, wait, let me pull up the actual manuscript, if one of them is available.

Oh man, my aching head. Okay, here are the numbers:

THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK--published with 369 pages
Times New Roman
Word word count: 87,405 words
388 manuscript pages
388 pp X350 = 135,800 words

Courier New
Word word count: 87,425 words
499 manuscript pages
499 X 250 = 124,750 words

In the classic text message format: WTF!!!???

Gee, I'm really glad I could clear this up for everybody.

Mark Terry

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Writer's Gender Game

November 19, 2007
I'm reading a kids' book for, oh, I can't even guess the age group, probably middle school to high school students. My son got it and loved it and the premise was so odd I decided to read it. The title is "Skulduggery Pleasant" and the author is Derek Landry. Skulduggery Pleasant, the title character, is living skeleton who dresses nattily, drives a Bentley and is a detective. He can also throw fireballs with his hands, among other things.

Despite being the title character, he's not the main character. And just to make sure I was correct on that assumption, I asked Ian who the main character was and he said, "Stephanie."

I agree, by the way, but I was thinking, "Hmmm, Landry made sure the main character was a girl, which would appeal to girl readers, but the book's essentially about a skeleton and all sorts of creepy stuff, which presumably would appeal to boys."

If you as a writer haven't given at least some thought to what gender your main character is, or for that matter, what type of story you're writing and who it might appeal to, then you're clearly not paying attention to apparent trends in the publishing industry.

Although I think there is a very strong argument for writing the novel you want to write simply because you want to write it, there's at least a little bit of a nudge toward potential publication by writing a book that will appeal to women. And as far as I can tell, that doesn't exclude hard-boiled PI novels or espionage novels, but...

Let me put it this way. You might want to consider having a female main character.

Now, the question is: Should you?

One of my published novels, DIRTY DEEDS, does indeed have a female main character and it got kudos for the character. In fact, I suspect that, had I actually tried to interest an agent in this book and gone the NY route, I might be writing this series today. But it came along at a time in my career where I was sans agent, totally frustrated with everything to do with NY publishing, and decided to give it my best shot with indies. It was almost picked up by Poisoned Pen Press, who ultimately declined, then I showed it to one other publisher, High Country Publishing, who snatched it up. HCP is a fine small publisher, but they struggle with what most small publishers do--they don't have very good distribution. Or much money, although I thought their editing was good.

Anyway, it got better and more reviews than any of my novels featuring Derek Stillwater, who has been largely ignored by reviewers, particularly the major review outlets. DD, on the other hand, had a good review by Library Journal. An LJ review sells books, period.

HCP and I went our separate ways, gracefully, I felt, and my agent tried to market the second book in the series, but the overall response from publishers was: It's good, but it doesn't feel like the start of a series. 

Well, duh, it wasn't.

Back to my main point, if there is one. I find this entire gender issue frustrating, frankly. I'm not the typical "male" reader, I don't think, although I am somewhat. Pundits claim men won't read a book with a female main character. One of my favorite authors is Sue Grafton. But yes, as a matter of fact, looking over my shelf, there may be some truth to that. Many of my favorite authors are men and their main characters are men. And most of them are bestsellers: John Sandford, Jonathan Kellerman, Robert Crais, Dick Francis, Robert B. Parker, Rick Riordan. 

But there's also Sue Grafton and Kathy Reichs and J.A. Konrath (ahem).

I don't have an answer here. I'm very frustrating and annoyed by this entire thing. I'd be glad to read a novel by a woman about a woman if it was the type of story I like to read--lots of action, plot-oriented, a little danger, a little sex, a little violence, a strong voice, a strong dollop of humor...

Automatically writing a main female character won't make you immediately publishable.

But it's something to think about.

Mark Terry

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Readers Want

November 15, 2007
I was giving this some thought the other day and, after all, novelists should ask themselves this question: What do readers want?

The simple answer is to be entertained. Anything else is probably a bonus. There's a wonderful exchange in Dick Francis' novel "Straight" between the main character, a beginning adventure novelist, and the grand dame of British literature, where she demands to know why he writes. He says "to entertain. How about you?" To which she responds, with a stuffy British sniff it is suggested, "To enlighten."

I'm not nearly that much of an egomaniac. Keeping readers entertained for 350+ pages is enough. Anything else they take out of it is the cherry on top. That isn't to say that I don't want to put in as much "stuff" as I can within the framework of the story I'm telling. But lengthy digressions about the meaning of life don't have much place in a fast-paced thriller. 

This is all a digression. It wasn't where I planned on going with this. My brother, who is a music professor and composer, studied composition a few years ago with some reasonably well-known classical composer in California, and we discussed the goal of the composer's teaching because it closely applies to the novelist. And you can sum it up in two words:

Surprising inevitability.

You have to surprise the reader who at the same time has to say, "Oh yeah, that makes sense." No deus ex machina, no left-field solutions. Yet we don't want to see it coming.

One of the things about books (and TV and movies) is it's safe to say there's precious little new under the sun. I have a friend who was always whining that books and movies always seemed "formula." I think he's right, but not in a denigrating way. That formula's been around since the beginning of story telling. Every now and then somebody does something different like telling a story backwards or entirely through dialogue ("Vox") and the big critics act like it's the second coming of Christ and people talk about it for a few days and then promptly go back to reading books that don't feel like they were written with Martians in mind.

And in genre fiction in particular, creating "surprising inevitability" is no small task. In mysteries the sleuth almost always solves the crime. In thrillers the hero almost always saves the day. In romances after disagreements, the main characters fall in love.

That's your formula. In the mystery, there's usually a dead body and the sleuth usually goes about finding out who did it and some version of justice is or is not meted out.

We've all read it a million times. There are about 180,000 books published each year that fall into that category. I could read a mystery a day, never repeat myself, and do so for the next fifty years and not come to the end of what's already been published in this genre, and yet, often times, if the writers did their job, even though I know that, yes, in most cases the hero will solve the crime and justice will be meted out (usually), I will be satisfied in how this happened.

That's what readers want. Surprising inevitability. The same, but different. 

Mark Terry  

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Internet Classic

November 14, 2007
Well, I think it's time to re-evaluate my To-Do list.

Here's a classic from John Scalzi:

Mark Terry

R.I.P. Ira Levin

November 14, 2007
I just read this on Shelf Awareness:

Ira Levin, playwright and author of Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil, among other novels, died on Monday in New York City, the New York Times reported. He was 78.

Most of Levin's bestselling books were made into movies. He also wrote Deathtrap, the long-running Broadway play.

The Times wrote: "Combining elements of several genres--mystery, Gothic horror, science fiction and the techno-thriller--Mr. Levin's novels conjured up a world full of quietly looming menace, in which anything could happen to anyone at any time. In short, the Ira Levin universe was a great deal like the real one, only more so: more starkly terrifying, more exquisitely mundane."

"Deathtrap" was such an amazing film, with Michael Caine, Diane Cannon and Christopher Reeve. Just loved it.

I haven't read everything by Levin, but I read a lot back in the 1980s, including "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Stepford Wives" and, of course, "The Boys From Brazil."

What, in retrospect, was so good about "The Boys From Brazil" was how he got all the science right long before anybody started cloning sheep. And if you're not familiar with the plot, it's a bunch of Neo-Nazis clone Adolf Hitler and implant the embryos into mothers. It has a totally chilling ending. Wonderful stuff.

For thriller readers, this is a real loss.

Mark Terry

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mac Versus PC

November 13,2007
Yesterday my computer died. It's still limping along, sort of, but not enough to fix and not enough to continue working. Despite not having the money for it, I went off to the Apple store and invested a lot of money in a 24-inch iMac and various software that I needed.

Here are a few observations.

It's a pretty computer.

I still don't know if Leopard OS-X is actually installed on the computer or not.

Mac's one-button mouse sucks, so I tried a two-button and it seems to work fine.

Yes, friends, there is a learning curve.

Although Apple tells us that iWork is totally compatible with Microsoft Office and can open all Word and Excel files, that is, how shall we say it... BULLSHIT. Okay, maybe it's me. But at the moment, I haven't been able to open any Word or Excel files using iWork. So I've invested in Microsoft Office for Mac, which raises some philosophical questions I won't get into today.

It doesn't appear to be any more intuitive than Windows.

Hopefully it will be as virus proof as they claim.

It's got some cool things on it like, I think, Time Machine (if that's what it is. It seems to be regularly backing up to my backup drive).

Safari doesn't seem as modifiable as Explorer, although that may be part of the learning curve.

Mail seems fine.

The iTunes dilemma. My video iPod complete with several hundred songs and several TV shows is formatted for Windows. It seems that I'm going to have to start back at the beginning in order to use it with the iMac. (If I'm wrong, tell me quickly, please). No, I'm not happy about this.

So at the moment I'm ambivalent. In the long run I figure I'll get the hang of it, but I'm not adjusting as smoothly as I had hoped. And my Visa bill is suffering.

I'm reminded, as I always am when I get a new computer, that it always costs more than you planned because of the software you need to replace.

Mark Terry

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Writing Interview

November 11, 2007
Christa Miller interviews me about being a freelance writer and stay-at-home Dad over at her blog. Check it out.

Mark Terry

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Writers' Strike

November 10, 2007
Although I'm not a script or TV writer, I am fully supportive of the Writers Guild of America strike. I think that what they're striking about is going to affect novelists and, frankly, any writer in almost any area. In my nonfiction area I am often paid to write for the print edition of a publication, but the publisher often re-uses the material on their websites or in some cases even sells reprint rights to it on other media.

For example, I wrote an article for an online publication and they sold it to be published on Because of my essentially non-negotiable contract with that publication, I got $0 for that re-use. Sometimes these things are negotiable and sometimes they aren't. I'm admittedly lax in this and the majority of my nonfiction work isn't of the reprint type because I predominantly work on trade publications rather than consumer publications. Still, this is what the WGA is striking about and I think we need to at least be aware of what's going on. And yes, I do think this is going to have significant carry-over to novelists in the near future.

Here's a video explaining what they're striking about.

Mark Terry

Friday, November 09, 2007

This Blues Cat's Got A Blues Cat

November 9, 2007
I'm working on Eric Clapton's version of "Cross Road Blues" (or Cream's, if you want to be picky about it), and YouTube is a wonderful thing for finding different versions of songs like this--including Robert Johnson's original version, which is so different from Clapton's I'm not entirely sure you can even compare them. Hell, I'm not even sure the chord structure is the same.

Anyway, I really like this version here and I think the dobro sounds great.

Enjoy & have a great weekend.

Mark Terry

Writing For Me Is Like...

November 9, 2007

I've got deadlines today, so I'll leave this up to you. Yesterday Joe Moore said:

"Writing for me is like the split second you lean back in a chair and realize the wall is further away than you thought."

I loved that.

My offering:

"Writing for me is like a beneficial addiction."

Go ahead, give it a shot.


Mark Terry

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Comfort Zone

November 8, 2007
I'll make this quick. I'm on my way out of the office for a few hours and an e-mail I got a little while ago suggests the shit's going to hit the fan on one of my projects (in a good way, but I'll be swamped) and I want to get out of the house before it does.

I popped over on Spyscribbler's blog and she wrote:

"It doesn’t matter how many stories you write, the process always seems to evolve. I thought I had my process down pat after sixteen novel/las, but that’s not how it works, LOL. Each story has its own challenges, you know?

"A wise woman once told me that if you’re uncomfortable, then you’re growing."

I remember talking to a multiply-published mystery novelist a few years ago. I told him I was working on a complicated novel about biological warfare and terrorism. He told me he was happy writing his mysteries and even though he had some ideas for thrillers and bigger novels, he was happy to stay in his comfort zone. The story I was working on was THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK and I'm glad I pushed out of my comfort zone. I'm doing it again with several projects, primarily CHINA FIRE.

So, what do you think? Is it better to write in your comfort zone? Or should you push the envelope?

Mark Terry

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Welcome To The Puzzle Factory

November 7, 2007

A number of my writer friends and I have been back-and-forthing about a whole variety of subjects related to writing and publishers and book contracts and promotion and surviving in this business.
And our conclusions?
What's he say: "Don't need no stinkin' conclusions!"
So, welcome to my puzzle factory:
*Is it better to be published poorly than not published at all?
*Is the trend of writers being dropped by their publishers getting worse?
*Is it harder to stay published then it is to get published?
*Why does it mean so much to us anyway when, from any objective point of view, we're not making enough money annually to purchase a used car?
*Did you hear about Radiohead's big experiment in online distribution? Give it free and have people pay what they wanted for it? Barry Eisler wrote at-length on this on MJ Rose's blog the last couple days, but there was an article on today that found that the predominant payment was, as a matter of fact, $0.
*Pundits claim that free content distribution is the way to go, but I think the reality of the situation is that the best content will have a price attached to it. If you want to read garbage, you can get it for free. You want the good shit, you gotta pay.
*Is the writer's strike going to affect novelists? It's having ripple effects on my agent's plans that are frustrating me, but then again, a lot of things frustrate me and I live with them just fine.
*How long do I have to practice guitar before I sound good?
Any thoughts? Or do any of you have unanswerable questions?

Mark Terry

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Day In The Life Of A Writer

November 6, 2007
Ah yes, here's my glamorous life--yesterday.

5:30--awakened by my wife's alarm clock so thoroughly that I can't get back to sleep.

6:10--get out of bed twenty minutes early, shave in hopes of beating my oldest son to the bathroom.

6:30--catch the weather report and put rubber bands on oldest son's braces (what evil contraptions those are)


7:10--into office, check e-mail, continue to proof first 100 pages of HM.

7:45--wake up youngest son, make my bed, get breakfast around.

8:30--walk Frodo.

9:00--back in office. Focus on proofing 100 pp of HM, some back-and-forthing via e-mail with my agent regarding a number of business matters concerning hanging contracts and potential markets for other projects.

10:30--leave for the gym.

12:00--back home, eat lunch. (Greek pita from Mr. Pita. Yummy.)

12:20--walk the dog. (Is he spoiled, or what?)

12:45--back in the office. Work the phone contacting people around the country before they head to L.A. for the Association of Molecular Pathology meeting.

1:30--go get my hair cut

2:00--back to working the phones. Conduct an interview with a doctor at Johns Hopkins.

2:30--after transcribing the interview, write the profile.

3:00--talk to oldest son when he gets home from school.

3:10--write two more profiles. Get an assignment from another client. (Yeah!)

3:45--conduct interview with doctor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Cornell.

4:00--talk to youngest son when he gets home from school.

4:10--transcribe interview, write profile of lab.

4:45--edit technical journal, deal with some e-mail correspondence.

5:00--send out a couple queries for writing jobs.

5:20--more editing.

5:45--talk to wife for a little bit, listen to her vent about work.

6:00--make changes to first 100 pp of HM, create a PDF file of it and send it to my agent.

6:30--work is done, upstairs to practice guitar until 7:00

7:00--eat dinner, do dishes

7:50--flip through the USA Today

8:00--watch Star Trek: Enterprise

9:00--check e-mail, surf the net, read.

10:00--go to bed.

Mark Terry

Sunday, November 04, 2007

On Your Reading Radar: "SOME LIKE IT HOT-BUTTERED"

November 4, 2007


by Jeff Cohen

I've noted before that "cozy" mysteries aren't exactly my cup of tea (ahem). There are exceptions, and Jeff Cohen is one of the major ones. He's a favorite.

He's off on a new series about Elliot Freed, the owner of a New Jersey-based all-comedy movie theater. When one of his patrons dies during a showing of "Young Frankenstein" in his theater of poisoned popcorn, Elliot feels compelled to investigate.

The book is light, always amusing, sometimes downright funny, and quite compelling in a way that I rarely find cozies to be. Cohen may actually have a point to make about comedy and finding joy and humor in life that doesn't hammer you over the head. He also, frankly, writes a pretty damned good mystery. The puzzle's good and intricate enough to keep you guessing.

And since it's a mass market paperback original, it only costs about $7. Think you could catch a movie, soda and popcorn for that much? Didn't think so. What're ya waitin' for?


Mark Terry


Saturday and Sunday totals for HM are about 3200 words, give or take, so far.

Friday, November 02, 2007

NaMoWriMo Ho, Ho, Ho?

November 2, 2007

China Fire: 0

HM: 1297

So, in 3 days I've written 0 words of China Fire and

on HM I've written: 4091

Mark Terry

November 1st Word Count

November 2, 2007


HM: 1694

Totals since starting this folly:


HM: 2794


Mark Terry

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Keeping Track

November 1, 2007

I hear November is typically the month that there's this thing about writing a novel in 30 days. I was going to look it up, it's called something like NaMaMo or NaNoMo or something (feel free to remind me), but I was into my dashboard here and didn't feel like stopping because... well, read on.
I just mentioned a couple days ago about avoidance behavior, how I was working on too many projects at once. I mentioned that my agent liked what I had done on CHINA FIRE. So it seemed logical to really kick butt on it.
But in a discussion with her about a couple of my other projects, I mentioned the political thriller and sent her what I'd done to-date, which was about 70 pages or so. She got back to me in a couple days (yesterday, primarily) to say she loved it, but I needed to kill the prologue and she had an editor in mind who loved that kind of thing.
There's a lot more to this, but I asked her to hold off a bit so I could cut the prologue (I was debating doing it anyway), get the length up to 100 pages or so, and brush up the rest of the manuscript. So we made a deal, which I won't go into here, and that's what I'm going to do.
I also want to get a big chunk of CHINA FIRE done, preferably getting a draft completed before January 1, 2008.
So, if not in the actuality of NaNoMo, but in the spirit of, I'm going to alert you to my daily word counts on these two projects. The other project we'll call HM.
So, 10/31/07
HM: 1100 words (approximately)
CF: 0 (yeah, bummer. But I hit a point where I needed to do some research).
Mark Terry