Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Congratulation to Nicole Scheller for winning October's contest.  Her scene was scene A in the post below this.  The readers voted her the best scene and she's a deserving winner.  Even though she had to cut this scene down to make it fit into the parameters of the contest, the writing was powerful and dare I say---Strong.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Below are the three finalists for October's contest.  A real diverse group of genres.  Use the poll on the right to vote for your favorite scene.  The winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card, plus at least one literary agent will read the winning submission.  Good luck and vote.

A- Nicole Scheller

As if she feels your stare, she lifts her head. In the dimmed light you can't make out the title, but the fact that she sits here alone on a Friday night, holding a book, makes her attractive enough.

She smiles at you. Her far too perfect lips reveal a set of white teeth. You know it's rude, but you can't hold her gaze. Ashamed, you look away, into your glass. When you take a sip, you sense her eyes scanning each inch of your body.

Another sip. It feels warm, comfortably warm. Slow, but confident footsteps on the wooden floor. You listen carefully, your grip tightens. Five, six, seven, eight. Then, they stop. The scent of flowery, expensive perfume penetrates your nostrils.

'You are waiting for someone?' she asks. Her voice surprises. It is nothing like you thought it would be. Much deeper – not displeasing, though. A faint accent gives away she is not a native. It sounds inviting. You shake your head in response to her question.

'Would you mind me sitting here?' Without waiting for an answer she lays down her book and takes a seat. Its author is no-one foreign to you.

B- Wayne C. Rogers

I’m going to die, he thought.
Then, everything changed as Freeman heard the most wonderful sound in his entire life.
It was Betty’s loud, ferocious bark.

She’d somehow managed to get her leash untied from the post and had come racing to his rescue.
God, he loved that dog.

The stranger in the overcoat heard her bark, too, but reacted too late as the dog leaped into the air, knocking it off her master’s back with the sheer force of her weight.

Freeman heard a shrill cry.

The dog was tearing into the creature, going for any part of the body she could sink her teeth into.

Pushing himself up to a sitting position, Freeman lifted the .45 with his good hand and took aim. That was when he saw the creature grip Betty’s snarling mouth with both of its hands. In an unbelievable feat of strength, the stranger tore the lower jaw from the dog’s mouth and then bit into her throat, tearing at the flesh like a starving animal, shaking its head wildly from side to side.

Blood flew everywhere.

“No!” Freeman shouted.

C- Kirsty Logan

Painted and smiling, I balance on my trapeze. Luka is poised ten
metres away, his muscles shining under the lights. The ringmaster, his
moustache oiled to needle-sharp points, announces glory and wonder. I
pull sawdusty air into my lungs and start to swing. As I build up my
momentum, I smile down at the crowd stacked up in the tent: blinded by
the lights, all I see is a mass of teeth and eyes and restless limbs.
From the corner of my eye I see Luka, hanging from his knees, patting
his hands together so the talc can absorb the sweat of his palms. I
wait for the twitch of his thumbs that lets me know he’s ready.
I curl my toes around the painted bar, spread my arms like wings, and let go.
For two seconds I’m weightless, as helpless as a newborn with its cord cut.
Then Luka’s hands are on my wrists, calloused and hot, swinging me
round. Below me the crowd gasps, claps, cheers. I look at the world
below us: the restless crowd, the glare of lights, the motes of
sawdust in the air.

Then I let go.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


There are only a handful of fictional characters which are universally known by a single name--Frankentstein, Tarzan and of course Rambo.  When David Morrell created the Rambo character in his novel, "First Blood," back in 1972 he was an English Professor at the University of Iowa.  Now he is considered the originator of the modern action thriller and one of the most prolific authors of the past thirty years. He has currently agreed to publish 9 of his backlisted novels exclusively on Amazon as a Kindle E-book, as well as a new novel, "The Naked Edge."  He was very gracious with his time and very thoughtful with his answers.  Thank you David.

1-     What runs through your mind when you're introduced as the man who created Rambo?

In my writing book, THE SUCCESSFUL NOVELIST, I mention that one of the hardest tasks for an author is to have a subject matter or an approach or a character recognizable to readers.  At a party or a similar event, when people learn that someone is an author, almost the first thing they say is (note the negative), “I don’t suppose you’ve written anything that I’ve read.”   When they say this, they almost always shake their heads from side to side.  In my case, even if they haven’t read FIRST BLOOD or seen the film based on it, they’ve heard of the character.  There are only about 5 action characters that are recognized pretty much anywhere around the world—Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, James Bond, Rambo, and Harry Potter.  It’s a strange feeling to have created a character who is in that group.  At the same time, whenever Rambo is mentioned in the media or wherever (which is almost every day), it always takes me a moment to remember that I’m the creator of the character—he became so much a part of world culture that he’s like a son who grew up and out of the control of his father.  In fact, I sometimes autograph books as Rambo’s father.

2-     Rambo was a violent, guilt-ridden character--were you happy with the way Sylvester Stallone handled the complexities of your character on the big screen?

The film FIRST BLOOD went through 5 studios and 26 scripts before Carolco finally produced it with Sylvester Stallone in 1982.  Some of the reasons are due to miscasting.  While it sounds like a great idea to have Steve McQueen as Rambo, the director who was assigned to that possible production, Sydney Pollack, told me that it took them 3 months of preparation before they realized the fatal flaw—that Steve McQueen was in his mid 40s.  In 1975, there weren’t any 45-year-old Vietnam veterans. Other possible productions emphasized the violence of my novel as well as Rambo’s anger, and that caused producers to be hesitant—they wanted to soften the character. Finally the Carolco script by William Sackheim, Michael Kozoll, and Sylvester inserted the scene at the beginning where Rambo speaks to the woman whose son was in Rambo’s Vietnam unit and who died from Agent Orange. The intent was to make Rambo a victim, which is a different interpretation of the character but an effective one for film purposes.  Many years later, when Sylvester was preparing the fourth Rambo film, he phoned me and said that he didn’t think any of the previous films truly captured the character as I wrote him and that the fourth film would have more of the angry tone of the original novel. As for Sylvester as Rambo, Richard Crenna told me that in his long career, only two actors really knew what to do in front of a camera, with regard to their eyes and their use of props—they were Steve McQueen and Sylvester Stallone.

3- What made you decide to publish The Naked Edge and 9 other backlisted novels as Kindle books?

Amazon came to my agent, Jane Dystel, and asked if I’d be interested in offering a lot of my backlist in exclusive Kindle e-book editions. As it happens, I’d been thinking a lot about e-books and the current broken state of publishing.  Printed books currently have a shelf life of 6 weeks. The hardback is given 18 months in a warehouse before the copies are remaindered. The paperback lasts a little longer.  But an e-book doesn’t go out of print, and in the Amazon Kindle model, it can be available within a minute almost anywhere in the world.  Australia, Japan, Germany, France, on and on.  It’s mind spinning to think of how quick and easy it is for a reader to have access to an e-book—and I repeat, the access is global, not dependent on creaky warehouse procedures or smoke-spewing delivery trucks. I’m not turning my back on printed books. Not at all. I collect books by certain authors and want signed copies of each one.  I love to give books as gifts. I prize the books that are on my shelves. But as an author, I need to realize that it is sometimes difficult for readers to buy physical books.  To give one example, I once had a novel for which a warehouse screw-up caused the books to arrive in stores 3 weeks after the publication date, long after my publicity tour and the expense of the print ads and 40 radio interviews that each averaged 20 minutes in length. Then almost immediately the books were shipped back to the warehouse. So much waste. Many other authors have similar stories. To draw attention to the e-books of my backlist, I decided to go all the way with the experiment and add a brand-new, never-before-published novel, THE NAKED EDGE. No established author ever did that before. Then I decided to experiment with the e-book format and add 18 color photographs of fine-art knives that are mentioned in THE NAKED EDGE. These include the most expensive knife in the world, Buster Warenski’s solid-gold replica of King Tut’s dagger. In a printed book, the 18 color photographs would have pushed the price to $50.  But in an e-book, that sort of extra material can be added easily and with no extra cost.  Similarly, my novel THE TOTEM exists in two drastically different versions. For the e-book, we put both versions together. A printed volume that contained both versions would have been huge and costly.  But not the e-book.

4- Amidst all the great reviews on Amazon for The Naked Edge, I noticed one disparaging remark from someone in the print industry who clearly never read the book but used this platform to remark how the digital world is destroying jobs for hard-working individuals.  Have you received any flack from people within the industry about your decision--or was this simply a matter of an individual Horse and Buggy driver shaking his fist at a Model T?

Some readers said they were old-fashioned and would always stick with printed books.  We’ll see.  Current predictions are that e-books will amount to 50% of book sales within the next five years.  I personally think it’ll be closer to 60% for e-books and that it’ll happen sooner.  When was the last time your readers bought a music CD as opposed to downloading something?  On my FACEBOOK page, I did a survey, and the vast majority hadn’t bought a CD in years. Tower Records went out of business.  Best Buy and Sam’s Club and the chain sores reduced the space they devote to CDs.  The music business is the model I think publishing will follow. I’m not saying this is good or bad. I’m saying it’s reality. As for the one-star review on Amazon, it came from someone who readily admitted that he hadn’t read the book.  He said he was in the print industry and that the e-book trend would put him out of a job and that it was un-American. I understood his frustration. In my many years, I’ve never seen cultural changes happening this fast. But I wish he hadn’t condemned a book that he’d never read.  That didn’t seem right to me.

5- Your best guess--what does the publishing industry look like in ten years?

Barnes & Noble told mall developers that it was going to reduce the size and number of its physical stores.  The model they envision is a kiosk store that emphasizes their Nook e-reader.  As the chains downsize, I think we’ll also see more independent bookstores close (some of this is due to atrophy as owners age and retire).  After that, I believe that the surviving independent bookstores will do well—because they can offer signed copies of printed books to a dedicated clientele.  Audio books will be almost entirely in a download form. E-books will dominate the general market.  In that form, distribution will be global even more than it is now.  I recently heard from a U.S. soldier in the Persian Gulf.  He has a Kindle, on which he can store a thousand books—and he can get those books the day they are published, even those he’s on a remote military base.  That’s what he did with THE NAKED DGE.  Wow.


Books have been around in virtually the same form for thousands of years. It’s old school. Very old school. So when someone from the younger generation mentions something about reading a book, believe it or not, it’s met with scrutiny more than envy. Bottom line–it’s not cool to read books. I’ll never forget a few years back my then 14-year-old daughter was setting up a profile for some social webpage and when the profile’s question was “Which books have you read recently?” My daughter’s comment was, “Very funny.” Go ahead and frown, I did. I’m a writer. She was too embarrased to even admit she might have read a book because it’s uncool. Book-readers are nerds, right?

Enter the Kindle and iPad. The epitomy of cool. I think the iPad even comes with a pair of shades. Because these new digital devices are so cool the kids are gobbling them up. Now they can discuss what they’ve read recently because it wasn’t done on an archaic, dusty piece of brown paper, but their new digital thing which they can hear music on or surf the web. But what they’re really doing with a lot of these devices is reading. Even if it’s a webpage or a text–it’s still reading. And we all know what reading texts leads to–reading books. Okay I made that up, sort of like smoking pot leads to heroin addiction. But maybe, just maybe, if owning an E-reader is such a cool thing, possibly it may just lead to reading. And we all know reading leads to eternal happiness–or an addiction to morphine, I forget how that works.