Mark Terry

Thursday, July 26, 2012

THE SINS OF THE FATHER gets reviewed!

Robert Carraher of the Low-Down Dirty Blog reviewed THE SINS OF THE FATHER.

One thing the reader can be sure of when he cracks open a Mark Terry book is that it will be solidly crafted, well researched, topical, and there will be plenty of relentless action. Once Derek Stillwater is on the trail, the plot will move as fast as a Formula One racer. Terry’s books and stories exhibit the cream of the crop of the writers craft. There are no holes in the plot. The characters are extremely real and he makes them leap off the page. They each will develop a separate voice in the reader's mind.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

e-Publishing Royalty Trends - The Big Huh?

Today I received notice of my latest Amazon (US) royalties. It's for 2 months ago (that's how it works). Sometimes I'm in the mood to share numbers and sometimes I'm not. Today, I'm not.

But I am willing to discuss trends.

Because, you see, I've listened to Joe Konrath and Kristin Katherine Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith and Blake Crouch and John Locke, etc., discuss how their e-book sales gathered momentum and took off.

Is this happening to me?

Well. Sort of. Yes. Okay, really, I think so.

Not to the extent that Joe et al. has. At least not yet. You'll know, because you'll hear about this lunatic in Michigan running screaming "Eureka!" through the streets of Oxford.

But I think it's sort of illustrative to note that in the first 6 months of 2012  (technically 7 months, I suppose) I have made 3 times the amount of money in royalties than I made in all of 2011.

Yes. Three times to-date. So it's possible that I will have made, by the end of 2012, oh, let's go with 5 times the amount of money on book royalties than I did in 2011. Or more. Or  less. It's hard to extrapolate.

Now, granted, I've also included royalties from some traditional publishers I've worked with, although those aren't big enough for me to get excited about. But... holy guacamole, Batman! Five times!???

I don't believe I can extrapolate that indefinitely, but I'd like to consider the possibility, if I continue to publish 3 or 4 more ebooks a year that I'll have the possibility of an additional increase like that. Or even more. And if that did, it wouldn't be too long before I could probably focus primarily on writing fiction.

I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Maybe I'm just a Yankee at heart, I had to have this be proven to me. But there does seem to be some validity to:

- write a lot
- publish a lot
- there's a snowball affect
- there's some value in occasionally having a book for free for a period of time, because it generates a lot of POTENTIAL book buyers/readers
- this is sorta fun

Monday, July 23, 2012

Here's The Deal

I want to get back to blogging more. I'm busy. It slips my mind. Or I get going on things and, well...

But one of the things I'd like to do is promote other people's work. So, if you're a writer, especially if you publish in the crime, thriller, tech-thriller, SF category, let me know. We'll figure out something out. A review. An interview. A list of books! Whatever!

We'll talk.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Some Writing Bullshit

July 19, 2012
I was going to write about why I think Romney should turn over his tax records, but really, aren't you glad I changed my mind? (Because he's running for president, that's why. Duh!)

Anyway, having been at this writing gig semi-professionally and professionally since 1993 (first time I wrote something and got paid for it), and full-time since 2004, I'm as used to hearing writing advice as the next person. So here's some typical writing advice that is either full-out bullshit, or at least requires a bit more nuance than it's usually given.

1. Write what you know. Well ... no. Write what you're interested in. There's a thing called research. If you're interested in writing about biological and chemical terrorism, read up on it. If you're interested in, oh, I don't know, court intrigues in 6th (or is it 5th) Century Byzantium, do some freakin' research. If you're interested in writing about American life in the year 2135, well, use your imagination.

People that write about what they know often do provide a lot of depth and, shall we say, richness to their writing. They can also be enormously boring because they get carried away with every little  detail. Write what you're passionate about. Or what you might be passionate about.

2. Show, don't tell. Um. Folks, it's good advice, but... that's a movie. Not a book. Books show and they tell. It's hard to get around it. Sometimes you just gotta tell or the book will be 800,000 words long. It's okay to skip the boring stuff with, "She fixed dinner, brushed her teeth, and went to bed. Alone. Again." Rather than show us that. Or skip it altogether if it's not important.

3. Write every day. Well, it's good advice if you're the type that doesn't get anything done or the type that has to drag his or herself to the computer (and if that's the case, consider a different line of work or a different creative endeavor). When I was trying to break in, I wrote pretty much every day. Now, not so much. Since I do it for a living, it's nice to have some breaks from writing. It helps keep me sane. In fact, it helps my writing significantly to have other things in my life. Sometimes I even write about them.

And although this may seem heretical to a bunch of writers, there's more to life than writing.

Let me repeat that just so the message has a chance to sink in: there's more to life than writing.

4. Write to please yourself. Hmmm. Well, yes. But I'm a little bit skeptical that just writing to please myself will completely please readers. And I've read a number of books that seemed terribly unfriendly to readers, that seemed to consciously go out of their way to piss off the readers, to make me think that you might want to keep your readers in mind. And that's for fiction. As a professional freelance writer of nonfiction, I'd be a total imbecile to not write for the readership I'm being paid to write for.

How about you? Any commonly held writing advice that you think is bullshit?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is Batman Insane?

July 18, 2012
This week's issue of TIME Magazine has an article by Richard Corliss about Cat Woman, especially as performed by Anne Hathaway in the upcoming THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Corliss goes on about Cat Woman through the ages, but what resonated with me was a comment he made along the lines of, "Batman is insane."

Of course, part of the context here is that, at least in the Christopher Nolan films (okay, and when you think about it, probably all throughout Batman's history), his nemeses are all insane. Certainly Joker, Riddler, Two-Face...

Granted, Bruce Wayne is a billionaire who dresses up in a Kevlar bat suit and acts as a high-tech vigilante. Does seem a little bit nuts. Gee, Bruce, just hire a security service and have it patrol the streets of Gotham. Invest in the police department. You can't fight corruption by hiring a really good law firm? You've got to go all vigilante on their ass?

Which, at least, is part of my issue with Nolan's second Batman film, THE DARK KNIGHT. My reaction to it was pretty much along the lines of, "If I wanted to watch THE DEPARTED, I'd watch THE DEPARTED. If I wanted to watch a fantasy about a rich guy who dresses up in a bat suit and opens some whup-ass on some crazy villains, I'd go see a Batman movie."

I'm sure fans would argue, why can't you do both? Why can't a comic book fantasy go deeper and have themes, and take itself seriously? Why can't it provide some sort of literary commentary on society?

Granted, I was probably in a minority. And I could recognize the brilliance of something without really liking it. I thought Nolan managed to take all the fun out of a comic book character. (To which I might add, I'm not that likely to go see the new film, although I imagine I'll see it eventually).

So what do you think? Is Batman insane? Is there some middle ground between dark, brooding, depressing and violent, and wham!, bam!, pow!???? Is it all about the director's vision?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How Does Creativity Work?

July 17, 2012
Although I'm working on a novel at the moment (it's a tech thriller), and I've sort of planned out my next couple books (after this book, then the 2nd Austin Davis novel), I'm aware that the Derek Stillwater novels are pretty much my franchise. Or at least, they're my best sellers.

Anyway, I hope to publish 3 or 4 books a year and I want one of those to be a Derek Stillwater novel, pretty much to be published in the late spring, early summer. [And yes, Natasha, I've decided to finish CHINA FIRE some time next year.]

So, I've got a title for the next Derek Stillwater. That's pretty much it. I have a situation. A situation isn't a plot. It's sort of a premise. After having Derek working for Homeland Security, and then being on loan to the State Department, and in DIRE STRAITS having him working for the CIA, I was considering Derek going into business with some folks as a private intelligence contractor. So there. That's my premise.

That, my friends, is not a book. Nor is it even a story. Or a plot. Or much of anything. That isn't to say I couldn't start writing it and have things come together, but it's better - far better - if I at least have some notion of what the hell's going to happen. At least in the first scene.

I was channel surfing the other day and the John Travolta movie, BASIC, came on. And it starts in Panama. And something in my head went CLICK!, and I started to have more than a premise. I've always been fascinated with the Panama Canal, and the fact that billions and billions of dollars of cargo from every country on the planet go through there, and that after turning loose of our control there, the Chinese got extremely involved. So yeah, there's a lot of potential there for the likes of Derek Stillwater.

And that's how creativity works.

How does it work for you?

Monday, July 16, 2012


July 16, 2012
I was listening to an NPR piece on what should or will be done to punish Penn State for turning their heads while Jerry Sandusky molested children. The reporter pointed out that the NCAA rarely kills a sports program - they've done it something like 3 times over 60 years. And then further pointed out that Penn State's "crime" was basically a one-shot deal, although it "allegedly lasted for ten years."

To which I muttered, "What was alleged about it?"

I mean, Jerry Sandusky has been tried and convicted, right? The abuses and the time frames are very clearly laid out, right? There's nothing alleged about it, as far as I can see.

I'm rather sensitive to the use of "alleged" or "allegedly" in the media. They use it whenever describing a criminal or any sort of accusation. But it seems to me that the media has gotten so timid about just calling someone a criminal, that "alleged" has become a lazy form of writing, the way we might say "a sort of lazy form of writing." No "sort of" about it.

It's easy to get into that sort of sloppy, lazy approach in your writing. And speaking. And thinking. And apparently the media is doing it as well ("apparently" is lazy, "perhaps?"). They're waffling. I just waffled. I said "apparently," which is common in my essay writing. I assume it's a way for me to back off from being pinned down on saying something controversial (I almost said "fairly" controversial, which is "probably" wishy-washy, too).

What say you?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

THE TRUST by Norb Vonnegut - A Review

THE TRUST by Norb Vonnegut
Minotaur Books
306 Pages

Grove O'Rourke is a stockbroker in a hotshot brokerage in NYC. One of his oldest friends and clients is Palmer Kincaid, a Charleston, South Carolina real-estate multimillionaire (even billionaire, I suppose). Kincaid calls O'Rourke with something on his mind, but hesitates to spill it. A few days later he's dead, having drowned after falling off his sailboat.

After the funeral, Grove discovers he has, as part of O'Rourke's will, been made a trustee of his charity, The Palmetto Foundation. Mostly he's to be the deciding vote between the other two trustees, Palmer Kincaid's wife, JoJo and his daughter, Claire. Easy enough. Well, sort of... it definitely gets complicated soon and the claws soon come out.

Meanwhile, two other things are going on. First, an attorney named Biscuit Hughes (only in the south, says this Yankee reviewer), is hired by his local community to get rid of a new business, an adult superstore.

On another track, some sort of crazed killer murders a priest in a particularly grotesque way. (Yeah, it's a thriller).

Do they connect?

Of course. Particularly when Grove has a priest from the Philippines pushing him to sign a check from The Palmetto Foundation for $160 million... and Biscuit Hughes (easily the most likable character in the entire novel) discovers that one of the owners of the adult super store is a charity called The Catholic Fund.

Soon Biscuit and Grove's paths cross and they're both determined to find out what's really going on with The Palmetto Foundation, the Catholic Fund, and the weirdly mysterious priest from the Catholic Fund.

The book's pace, at least for the first half, is fairly slow. There's a huge amount of set-up going on. Vonnegut is a stockbroker, and he clearly brings a richness to the setting when it comes to the brokerage houses, their politics, personalities, and to the financial machinations possible with community foundations. He spends a lot of time on his characters, which is good, because once things really get going in the second half of the book, they seem to be skating across the surface of the world, rather than interacting with it. It's a little bit odd in that way.

Overall, I like the book quite a bit. It's refreshing in its own way to be dealing with financial markets and money laundering as the setting for a thriller, playing tennis on thriller writer Christopher Reich's tennis courts. I never really latched onto Grove, who apparently Vonnegut is trying to turn into a series character (he's apparently the main character in a previous novel, TOP PRODUCER).

So, do I think it's a great book? No. It's a little uneven in its pace and I found his occasional wandering point of view frustrating. But he's a pretty good writer with a nice handle on characterizations, he brings a lot of interesting detail to the financial world. If you're looking for something a little bit fresh, a little bit different, and you're not bothered by more deliberately-paced thrillers, then check out THE TRUST.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, apparently he is related to Kurt Vonnegut - a fourth cousin. I'm not even sure what a fourth cousin is.

Mark Terry

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Kate Wilhelm Jumps Off The Cliff With The Rest Of Us

July 14, 2012
Rather well-known, perhaps even iconic writer Kate Wilhelm recently wrote a blog post about how after getting offered a ridiculous book contract she decided to open her own publishing company to self-publish, as well as to publish her extensive backlist of out-of-print books. She says:

In the fall of 2011 I was offered a contract that was so egregious that the publishing house that sent it should have been ashamed, and if I had signed it I would have been shamed. I proposed additional changes to those my agent had already managed to have incorporated and each suggested change was refused. I rejected the contract and withdrew the novel. At that point, I could have tried a different publisher but I knew it would have been a repeat performance, because the major publishers are tightening ranks and the contract I had rejected was more or less the new standard. It wasn't about the advance, I might add. It was about rights, especially electronic rights, not only those in existence today, but anything that might be developed in the future in any form: who owned them, duration of ownership, how they would be exploited, how and if they would ever revert, and so on. I refused to submit it to anyone else.

To read the whole piece, click here.