Mark Terry

Monday, December 31, 2007

Just Say NO To New Year's Resolutions!

December 31, 2007
Yes, yes, I know this is the day I'm supposed to commit to writing 493 words a day, losing 21 pounds and being a much sunnier fellow, but screw it. What's the point, anyway?

I've got GOALS, folks, not resolutions.

In my personal life, which is probably none of your business, and in my professional life, which is also probably none of your business, but hell, I'm willing, apparently, to drop my pants, at least a little bit, on a weekly basis here, so I guess I'll mention a few of them.

1. Complete the Laboratory Industry Strategic Outlook 2009 on time with few if any errors. This is the second time I'm updating this book-length business report, the first time being in 2006 and although I won't say I made a hash of it, it could have been better. I intend to make my life a lot easier this time by staying on schedule and proofreading everything multiple times. The real key, which I learned when I wrote the Laboratory Market Leaders Report 2007 this year was to footnote my own sourcing and calculations meticulously in my own version, so when people come back with questions (and they always do) I can say, "Hey, just a mo, I'll check."

2. Bring on some more clients. I dropped a number of clients in 2007 and then came back to a few of them. Much of my work, definitely the bulk of my income, comes from a single client. I want to keep them, but I want to branch out as well.

3. I want to make at least as much money as I did in 2006. Preferably more. 2006 was a stellar year and I made about $10,000 less this year, although most of that $10,000 will probably be coming next week. That's one of the annoying things about being a freelancer--you can do a ton of work in the 4th quarter and not get paid until the next year.

4. And in keeping with that, I want to handle my finances better than I did in 2006, always keeping in mind that the money doesn't always come when you want it to. And if my relationship with Midnight Ink didn't teach me that, nothing did.

5. I want to sign a book contract for one novel or more. Specifically, I want to sign contracts for DANCING IN THE DARK, PETER NAMAKA AND THE BATTLE FOR ATLANTIS, and HOT MONEY.

6. I want to be happy and healthy and continue to love my job.

May You Have A Terrific 2008!

Mark Terry

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Horrible Writing Joke--But Funny!

December 30, 2007
So I'm reading Capital Crimes by Fay and Jonathan Kellerman. The second of these two crime novellas takes place in Nashville and a joke is mentioned:

What's the difference between a Nashville musician and a large pizza?

And of course, I inserted:

What's the difference between a novelist and a large pizza?

A large pizza can feed a family of four.

Mark Terry

Friday, December 28, 2007

What I Read In 2007

December 28, 2007
Well, I read a lot of books in 2007. A total of 66, which surprised me. Here's the list:

  1. The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson
  2. Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman
  3. Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen
  4. Jack In The Box by John Weisman
  5. Lisey’s Story by Stephen King
  6. The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson
  7. Scavenger by David Morrell
  8. Chokepoint by Jay MacLarty
  9. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
  10. High Profile by Robert B. Parker
  11. Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny
  12. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
  13. The Watchman by Robert Crais
  14. Plug Your Book by Steve Weber
  15. The Side Effect by Bob Reiss
  16. Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman
  17. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince by JK Rowling
  18. Trial & Error by Paul Levine
  19. Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz
  20. Fear by Jeff Abbott
  21. Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell
  22. Capitol Threat by William Bernhardt
  23. The Last Secret by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore
  24. The Narrows by Michael Connelly
  25. Critical Space by Greg Rucka
  26. Fat, Forty & Fired by Nigel Marsh
  27. Invisible Prey by John Sandford
  28. Stone Rain by Linwood Barclay
  29. Percy Jackson and The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
  30. Escape Clause by James O. Born
  31. The Serpent’s Kiss by Mark Terry
  32. Bag of Bones by Stephen King
  33. The Cleaner by Brett Battles
  34. Hunter’s Moon by Randy Wayne White
  35. The Second Horseman by Kyle Mills
  36. Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz
  37. The Judas Strain by James Rollins
  38. Spare Change by Robert B. Parker
  39. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
  40. No Man’s Land by G.M. Ford
  41. Patriot Acts by Greg Rucka
  42. Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich
  43. The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett
  44. Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child
  45. Dead Watch by John Sandford
  46. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
  47. Rebel Island by Rick Riordan
  48. The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
  49. Red Cat by Joe Spiegelman
  50. Dead Heat by Dick Francis & Felix Francis
  51. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  52. Outsourced by RJ Hillhouse
  53. Dirty Martini by JA Konrath
  54. Dark of the Moon by John Sandford
  55. Some Like It Hot-Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen
  56. Now & Then by Robert B. Parker
  57. The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi
  58. Allah’s Scorpion by David Hagberg
  59. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
  60. Eagle Strike by Anthony Horowitz
  61. Requiem for an Assassin by Barry Eisler
  62. Capitol Murder by William Bernhardt
  63. T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton
  64. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
  65. The Devil’s Code by John Sandford
  66. The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
Once upon a time I used to write my Top 10 list for books I read, and I'm not inclined to do that any more. I will say, here are the ones that struck me the most:

Capitol Threat by William Bernhardt
Capitol Murder by William Bernhardt
I read CT by Bernhardt for a piece I wrote for the International Thriller Writers, Inc. newsletter and surprised myself by enjoying the hell out of the book. Bill writes legal mysteries, but in these two he goes to Washington, D.C. for them, and I found that mix particularly fun.

Ragamuffin by Tobias S. Buckell
Toby's a friend, but I enjoyed this book. It's been years since I read SF and I find Toby's to be original and unusual.

Percy Jackson and The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
I've been reading a little bit more YA novels and in some ways it's not surprising that they've been striking me more than so many other novels. I feel like I'm ever-so-slightly tired of mysteries and thrillers--or I just have to cast around harder to find ones that seem fresh and original. I don't know if that's a slam to the industry or just a sign of someone who needs to broaden his horizons. 

The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett
Written In Bone by Simon Beckett
Beckett was a powerful discovery for me. He writes about a forensic anthropologist, but what he does with the books is interesting--essentially moving his burned-out sleuth to isolated British villages--first a small town in the countryside, and in the second, to one of the Outer Hebrides islands--and makes the environment itself, the people, the landscape, the weather, a major character in the book, and one of the biggest obstacles the main character has to deal with.

Old Man's War by John Scalzi
More SF. I discovered him pretty much through Toby and I really have enjoyed all his books this year. Old Man's War is the favorite, although I really enjoyed the follow-up, The Ghost Brigades, and laughed my way through his standalone, The Android's Dream.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Another YA novel and so unique and fresh I could barely describe it. Funny, sad, odd, weird. Reading the author bio itself was worth the price of admission and I'm really looking forward to the next one.

Disappointers? Did some of the old regulars write books that left me going, uh, jeez, that sucked? Well, it's not nice to say so, but let me point out a couple.

"T" is for Trespass by Sue Grafton
Grafton typically is one of my favorite novelists. I still rank "I" is for Innocent as one of the best mysteries ever written. I haven't been too wild about any of her books for the last 4 or 5 years and I may just be growing out of her. That happens sometimes. I thought this book was well-written, but the structure works against her, the entire topic is depressing, and it took at least 100 pages to get going. Sorry Sue.

Lisey's Story by Stephen King
Well, critics loved it. I thought it was a depressing, confusing, frustrating mess.

Spare Change and Now & Then by Robert B. Parker. 
Well, I'm a huge fan of Parker and I think if you've published 50-plus novels you're probably entitled to being uneven from time to time, but Spare Change, a Sunny Randall novel, was a big, lazy mess with technical errors no novice would be allowed to get away with. I thought Now & Then was better, but not good. Readable, yes, but I wonder if he's phoning these in.

Well, enough of that nonsense. I'm currently reading Capitol Crimes by Fay and Jonathan Kellerman as well as sifting my way through A Thousand  Bones by PJ Parrish. It's possible I'll finish one of them before 2008 starts, but I doubt it.

Overall, it was a great year of reading. In 2008 I'm reminding myself to try to read a little more SF and fantasy, to find some good narrative nonfiction--I was checking out some travel books at Borders yesterday--as well as maybe, gulp, some mainstream fiction. I love mysteries and thrillers, but I do think you can read so much of it that it all starts to seem the same.

Mark Terry

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Overnight Success

December 26, 2007
Rick Riordan has a wonderful post from December 22 on his blog when he's asked about his overnight success.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears . . . well, the tree doesn’t exist until we notice it. Thinking about my own ‘overnight success,’ I remembered one of the first book signings I ever did, ten years ago, when Big Red Tequila first came out. I was invited to Waldenbooks in a shopping mall in Concord, California. They set up a table at the front of the store. They allotted two hours. I sat there in my coat and tie and watched people pass by, steering clear of me like I was an insurance salesman. I gave directions to Sears. I explained several times that I wasn’t an employee at the bookstore and I didn’t know where the self-help section was. I signed a napkin for a couple of teenaged boys who thought the title “Big Red Tequila” sounded slightly naughty because it had to do with alcohol. I sold no books.

I take some comfort in his piece, actually. I don't believe in overnight success. And I like Rick's work a lot, both his work for adults and his work for kids. I'm also grateful for a terrific blurb he wrote for my novel DIRTY DEEDS. It's not like we'd met or anything, but I suggested to my then-editor that we should ask Rick and she did and he read the book and blurbed it.

I think there's some irony, too, if you notice today's post on Rick's blog about 39 Clues, which he's writing and drafting a series for Scholastic, which the NYT is touting (probably ridiculously, as Rick notes) as the "next Harry Potter."

I would just note that for all of Rick's comments about his relative lack of "having made it," his early P.I. novels won damn near every mystery award available. He's a uniquely gifted writer and I delight in whatever his newest books are, for adults or kids.

And I take heart that I don't know what the hell overnight success is either.

Mark Terry

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Holidays!

December 14, 2007
I was trying to come up with a writing-related blog entry today and was struggling with it, so I decided, "Hey, let's just wish everybody happy holidays and go on hiatus until closer to New Year's Eve when you can write about your Christmas gifts and what books you read this year."

It was such a good idea, I decided that's what I'll do.

So, barring tremendous good news prior to then, I hope you all have most excellent holidays, no matter what religious persuasion. May this time of year be filled with peace, contentment and even happiness and joy.

Mark Terry

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Satan and Jesus: Brothers?

December 13, 2007
So I'm bopping around the website and I read this:

"The devil and Joseph Smith: "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" So asks Mike Huckabee in this Sunday's New York Times Magazineadmitting that he doesn't know much about Mormonism except that it's a religion (a good start for an ordained minister). McClatchy blog Hot Off the Trail reports that Huckabee apologized after the GOP debate. Still, bloggers see it as a Christian-on-Christian antagonism, which, depending on their affiliation, is either fun or disheartening."

Now, I was raised a United Methodist and went to Sunday School and all that, but I don't think the idea that Jesus and Satan might be brothers ever quite entered my religious event horizon.
Now, granted, whatever you might think of Mike Huckabee, I can't imagine a stupider comment for a presidential nominee to make in front of anybody, let alone a reporter. That said, I have been to Salt Lake City and toured the Mormon facility (and please, that's not an invitation to send me recruiting e-mail or visit my house; I've got a big dog and I'll unleash the hound on you--go away!) and all that, and although I have some opinions about the differences between Mormonism and what I suppose we could call mainstream Christianity, I'm wondering which particular rock Mike Huckabee has been living under all these years.

Anyway, from a purely theological point of view--or perhaps it's mythological point of view--wouldn't, as a matter of fact, Jesus and Satan actually be related to each other? Son of God? Top Angel (fallen, or otherwise)?

Of course, as a non-evangelical, I often been nonplussed by the Holy Rollers who worshipped and "spoke in tongues," since those "tongues" are supposed to be the language of angels. But since demons/devils, etc., are fallen angels, wouldn't they also "speak in tongues"? Wouldn't, then, even in the context of their own religious beliefs, speaking in tongues have the potential of being an incredibly dangerous thing to do?

Oh well. I mean, it's the Holiday season and if you can't get a pissing match going about religion, when can you?

Mark Terry

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tough Love For Writers

December 11, 2007
If you wander around the Web you're going to find a lot of writers putting a very positive spin on the writing world. And negative spin, too.

There's a point I've been thinking about a lot lately and it's one that no aspiring writer really wants to hear.

The point is that there's a lot of value to acquiring hundreds (or thousands) of rejections on your way to becoming published.

Yeah, sucks, doesn't it?

I just read an article in TIME Magazine yesterday about Barack Obama and one of the things he noted about the way we elect presidents here in the U.S. is that the long, drawn-out campaign really does show a lot about the candidate--their ability to stay in for the long-haul, their ability to bounce back from set-backs, maybe even just endurance.

I think the same thing essentially applies to writers.

The path of a professional writer is a rocky one. It does require a certain thick skin. I just read a blog entry yesterday where somebody mentioned a famous mystery writer and how thin-skinned he was. Frankly, I've run into a few too who took umbrage at any little perceived criticism of their work. It's like "love me unequivocally or go away." I did a joint book signing with a very successful mystery author who started by attacking me about a DorothyL post I had made about the signing, joking about his series character, "Philip Screwdriver," the joke being that he was the son of Philip Marlow. But he only perceived that I was making fun of him rather than comparing him to Chandler and Hammett. Sheesh, some people sure take themselves seriously.

Here's my perception of the writing life for the majority of us: shit happens. You'll have some successes.  You'll have some failures. Cool things will happen like good reviews and fan letters and foreign sales and movie options, and shitty things will happen like being dropped by your publisher, scathing reviews, rejections, and rejections, and rejections.

And one of the really valuable things about being rejected for a decade is that once you start getting your work published and received, you start to accept (hopefully) that all those lousy things continue to happen and they're just part of the business. Learn to deal with them.

We are, after all, putting ourselves out on the battlefield, giving everyone their shot at us. Why be surprised that sometimes we get hit?

So here's the real challenge to make it in the writing life.

Learn to bounce back.

Mark Terry

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Shameless Lion (Lying?) Award

December 10, 2007
awarded me theShameless Lion Award. And refers you to the originator. She explains that the award originated with Seamus Kearney of Shameless Words and the Shameless Lion Writing Circle, who wrote:

“Those people I’ve given this award to are encouraged to post it on their own blogs; list three things they believe are necessary for good, powerful writing; and then pass the award on to the five blogs they want to honour, who in turn pass it on to five others, etc etc. Let’s send a roar through the blogosphere!” (read award details here)

What three things do I find important?

Okay, folks. Yes, I'm being sort of lazy about this. But here goes:

1. Clarity

I guess this falls into "say what you mean, mean what you say." Don't confuse me, don't use long words when short ones will do, don't try to impress me with your vocabulary. Get to the point and make your writing clear and easy to understand.

2. Effectiveness

Ah, well. To each his or her own, but this ties into #1. I think writing that accomplishes what it's trying to accomplish is important. If it's trying to scare you, by God it had better be scary. If it's trying to inform, it should be authoritative and clear. If it's trying to make you feel sad, it should. If it's supposed to be entertaining, it should be entertaining. I'm surprised at just how often published books and other materials are ineffective at what they seem to be attempting to do.

3. Voice

We could argue what "voice" is until Dick Cheney is made a saint by the Pope, and at some level it's just word choice and style all wrapped into one. But what voice is to me is the distinct, unique word choice informed by the writer's personality and experiences. By that definition, almost all writers should have a unique "voice" but often don't. I think that's because they haven't written enough and haven't paid attention to what appeals to them in their own writing. Anyway, Stephen King has a unique voice. Joe Konrath has a unique voice. Barry Eisler has a unique voice. Sue Grafton has a unique voice, and so on and so on.

I'm supposed to pass this award on to five other authors, but I'm too lazy to dig up links and I've got to leave for an appointment in about five minutes, so let me just say that if you're reading this (Joe Moore, Natasha Fondren? I'm thinkin' of you two specifically!), then congratulations, you've just won The Shameless Lion Award.


Mark Terry

Thursday, December 06, 2007


December 6, 2007
Okay, there's a lot more to this story than I'm going to tell you right now, but...

I've been working on a new novel with a new character.

A movie producer had been shopping the Derek Stillwater novels around--still is, for that matter. My agent sent her a partial manuscript of the new novel.

She loved it. 

Several of the producers she showed the Derek Stillwater novels to liked my writing a lot, but have had some reservations about yet another film being made about terrorism. So she showed at least one of them the partial.

Then she came back to my agent and I and asked if there was more. And if I could write a synopsis of the entire thing, because at least one of the producers really, really liked it.

So I did.

Then the producer sent them to the other producer and he read it and they had a meeting and then she got out of the meeting and called my agent who called me...

They want me to finish the manuscript by the 17th (about 100 pages to go) so he and his partners can read it over the holidays and make a decision.

So if I'm a bit scarce for a while, that's why.

Mark Terry

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mark's Christmas Gift Recommendations

December 5, 2007
One of my favorite gifts to get is a book. To-date, I've read about 62 books this year. I decided to recommend a few of my favorites and/or notable books to you as Christmas gifts.

Just a note. There were tons of terrific books, but I thought I would recommend books in four different categories by people that I think wrote terrific books, but aren't necessarily brand names. I loved several of John Sandford's novels this year, as well as Robert Crais' "Watchman" and many others, but they don't need my recommendation, they've got the New York Times for that.

So here we go:

Written In Bone by Simon Beckett

Capitol Threat by William Bernhardt

Comic Crime
Trial & Error by Paul Levine

Some Like It Hot-Buttered by Jeffery Cohen

Science Fiction
Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Ragamuffin by Tobias S. Buckell

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Percy Jackson and the Curse of the Titans by Rick Riordan

I would also like to bring to your attention a couple books by writer friends:

The Hades Project by Joe Moore and Lynn Sholes

BrigaDoom by Susan Goodwill

Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny

A Thousand Bones by PJ Parrish

I could undoubtedly go on and on, but these is a great place to start your shopping.

Mark Terry

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Santana and Rob Thomas

December 4, 2007

Because they're a lot cooler and smoother than I am and...

Just because.

Mark Terry

Monday, December 03, 2007

Writer = Indiana Jones

December 3, 2007
I'm over at the Inkspot blog today. Enjoy!

Mark Terry

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why I'm To Blame For The Michigan Democratic Party Being Censured...

December 1, 2007
If you follow politics at all, you're probably aware that a number of states have moved their primaries up, or tried to: Michigan, Florida, Nevada...

I live in Michigan. I'm a Democrat. 

Here's part of the recent news on this:

VIENNA, Va. - Democratic leaders voted Saturday to strip Michigan of all its delegates to the national convention next year as punishment for scheduling an early presidential primary in violation of party rules.

Michigan, with 156 delegates, has scheduled a Jan. 15 primary. Democratic Party rules prohibit states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina from holding nominating contests before Feb. 5.

Florida was hit with a similar penalty in August for scheduling a Jan. 29 primary.

Michigan officials anticipated the action by the Democratic National Committee's rules panel. But Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said before the vote that he didn't think the delegates would be lost for good. He expects the Democratic presidential nominee will insist the state's delegates be seated at the convention.

Well, anyway, the article goes on and mentions that many of the Democratic candidates have pulled their names from the ticket as a result, etc, etc.

I will say that if the Democratic National Committee wanted to alienate Michigan's democrats for the next year or so... or forever ... and assure that the state, which currently has a Democratic Governor, becomes landlocked (so to speak) by the Republicans, they've certainly done a fine job of it. (Way to go, assholes!)

Here's why I'm to blame:

Back in the last Presidential Election, a Democratic pollster called to ask who I would be voting for in the Michigan Primary. To say that I wasn't polite would be an understatement. I was blunt, to say the least. And look, I'm a registered Democrat and proud of it, even if most of what critics have to say about the Democratic Party is true (incompetent, unfocused, unorganized...). I just don't find the Republican Party remotely palatable and I could go on about that, but when a political party has to tack on the word "compassionate" as an adjective, it suggests to me that they're anything but.

Anyway, this poll took pace sometime after the Iowa and New Hampshire Primaries and the caller asked who I would vote for. I said, and this is pretty close to a direct quote:

"It doesn't matter because they won't even be in the race by the time they get here."

The pollster then tried again. "Yes, sir, but if you were to vote today, who would you vote for?"

"No," I snapped. "You don't get it. By the time of the Michigan Primary, the presidential candidates are pretty much chosen."

It went on like that. And it was true. Look, I voted for John Kerry. Why? Because John Dean had his meltdown long before I had a chance to vote.  I might have voted for Dean, but hell, he was through long before my chance to vote for him arrived.

And frankly, I'm essentially undecided, as of today, who I would vote for. Maybe Clinton, maybe Obama. In truth, I rather like Richards, and have followed his impressive career for a very long time. And in a period when the U.S. is mired in international messes, one after another, I think a guy who was the Ambassador to the U.N., etc., would be a good candidate.

Do I think he would make it to the Michigan Primary? Hey, whoever wins Iowa (the Ethanol Gas Tax State) or New Hampshire (The We Have No Known Economy State--I mean, what the hell do people in New Hampshire do, anyway?) is 99% likely to be the candidate.

Which is why I think we need to start thinking about a National Primary, where they're all done on the same day (yes, but what the hell would the media do for the rest of the year????). Or, if that's too bizarre for people, eliminate the primaries and caucuses in general and throw the power to select candidates back to the Party Conventions, which now nobody pays attention to and are pretty much rubber stamps for the people who made it to the end of pre-election anyway.


Mark Terry

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