Someone recently asked me, “What is ‘historical fiction’?” I never realized it was a confusing phrase until I really thought about it and concluded that it sounds like an oxymoron. Here, I will do my best to explain historical fiction and the process that goes into writing it.
What is something you hate? What is something you love?
The thing about opinions is that somebody always disagrees with you. There is somebody that loves what you hate and hates what you love.
What does this have to do with the Fantasy genre? You might have guessed by now. If you hate it, there’s somebody that likes it. If you like it, there’s somebody that absolutely despises it.
Writing Mysteries intrigued me because I love a good cliff-hanger. There I’ve said it, so shoot me, as for anyone who says they don’t like them or don’t do them they’re not being completely honest.
There is mystery and cliffhangers in almost everything people write, if there wasn’t then your story won’t be worth reading. Whether you think so or not, everyone’s writing has cliff-hangers. Continue reading “The Value of a Cliffhanger by R.M. Gauthier”
I’m Going to Post it For the World to See*
Subtitle: Reading and Writing in the Age of Social Media
One of the most important changes we’ve seen in the last ten years has been the advent of social media. It’s had a profound impact on the way we communicate. If you keep in touch with friends on Facebook, or catch up on news and sports stories through Twitter, or check out someone’s Goodreads reviews, you know what I mean.
It’s no secret that social media has transformed the way people buy, sell, review, and share crime fiction books. For readers, social media has made it possible to learn about books from all over the world in ways that would’ve been impossible just a few years ago. Choosing what to read isn’t just a matter of going to the local bookshop anymore, and being limited to that store’s selection. Now, readers can choose what they want from among many thousands of different places.
“Mr. Kneeland is here” said the intercom. Stephanie Crusher, head of AAH Furniture Corporation, pressed a button.
“Send him in.”
Bill Kneeland pushed through the door as if a tiger waited to pounce from the OC-55 credenza behind it. He wasn’t completely wrong. Stephanie nodded toward the hot seat, a specially adjusted model OC-23. As Kneeland settled onto the low, hard chair, Stephanie stepped around to his side and leaned against her desk. The ED-14 sported a smooth thumbnail edge which allowed her to sustain the intimidating position in comfort—and without creating a crease in her skirt.
“So,” she said, “what about Operation Hardcover?”
Of course, Kneeland tiptoed around the real issue like it was a shin-high coffee table in a dark living room.
“Well, we’ve been working with the Big 5 publishers to set the hardcover-to-paperback launch delay at 21 months, up two months from a year ago. And we talked them into a one-month adder for every 10,000 hardcover copies sold, so the popular ones hold out even longer.”
“Old news. What else?”
Kneeland tried to lean the chair back, but Stephanie had disabled the patented tilt-feature. He had to crane his neck to look her in the eye.
“Our Luddite Ladies team has increased their penetration of book clubs to almost 70 percent. The LLs insist on reading only what they can get in the library—which, of course, are mostly hardcover. With just one Luddite Lady member, a club can’t choose books that only came out in paperback or e-book.”
Stephanie felt like she was trying to open a stuck drawer. She gave it a final pull.
“Get to the point, Bill. What are we doing about Mystery Thriller Week?”
The chair squeaked as Kneeland straightened up and gathered his thoughts. This would not be a satisfactory answer.
“We’re trying to ignore it,” he said, squeaking like the chair. “We don’t think it’s a threat…”
“Not a threat?” she snapped. “Through MTW, mystery and thriller fans can discover hundreds of great new authors! There’ll be discounts and giveaways! Interviews! Excerpts! Reviews! And it’s all free on the web! These people don’t do hardcovers, Bill. If all those readers discover even one or two new authors, sales of the Pop 20 writers will tank! Mystery Thriller Week is a threat—what are you going to do about it?”
“We’ve been spreading propaganda for years that these new authors aren’t as good as the Pop 20.”
“Bill, you’re aware of all the independent reviews MTW is doing. Those lies you’re planting are shakier than a two-legged stool.”
Kneeland’s eyes fell, admitting she was right. He shrugged.
“Maybe we should sic the Editorial Board on ‘em?”
Stephanie considered it. The “Editors” were a small team of highly-skilled assassins, used to eliminate mainstream reviewers who dared to pan a new release. It didn’t take much—one or two “deleted” critics and the rest fell in line. There hadn’t been a bad mainstream review of a hardcover in years.
But this was different.
“We can’t kill a hundred people without drawing suspicion. Hell, I don’t know if the Editors even have that much ammo. Any other ideas?”
Kneeland shook his head.
“I got nuthin’.”
Stephanie let the failure hang between them for a few seconds.
“Well, get somethin’. We’ll talk again tomorrow.”
Kneeland nodded, extracted himself from the OC-23, and shuffled out.
Stephanie crossed to the window that overlooked the plant floor. The Assemble At Home Furniture Corporation’s shelving factory was running at peak capacity. Circular saw stations sliced particleboard sheets into shelf planks, and glue machines immediately applied veneer from giant espresso-brown rolls. The multi-head drill robot bored pilot holes in acceptably precise positions along the edges. On a parallel conveyor line, the hardware manifold filled bags with screws, washers, brackets, and plugs before sending them to the REPI machine. Stephanie smiled—that was her idea. There were always enough parts, but the Random Extra Part Inserter made sure there were a few left over just to confuse the customer. Every cartoon, blog post, late night joke, and standup comedy bit about how hard it was to assemble AAHFC shelving was good publicity. Sales were booming.
Then she thought about MTW and stopped smiling. Shelves only sell if there’s something to stack on them. She’d realized a long time ago that hardcover books took up the most space, and only the popular authors went hardcover first. Grisham, Connelly, Child, Evanovich—all of them were good for business. Hell, the last four David McCullough bios had goosed shelf sales 2 percent all by themselves.
She turned from the window. These new authors were coming out in paperback and—she shuddered—e-books. Practically zero shelf space required.
Mystery Thriller Week was indeed a huge threat. Once fans discovered a great new author, or two, or even—she shuddered again—a half dozen, it was all over. Stephanie could only hope no one would hear about it.
She sighed, walked to the EB-48 executive bar, and poured herself a tall Scotch.
Our thanks to MTW author Dave Agans for providing this look into the power of the MTW.
DAVE AGANS, corrupted by Mad Magazine and Get Smart at an early age, began writing spy spoofs in the sixth grade. He has since written the musical comedy Hot Buttons, dozens of comic stage monologues, the popular, humorous technical book Debugging, and the conspiracy thriller satire The Urban Legion. Dave can be recognized on New Hampshire golf courses by his flawed swing and on the roads by his AMUSED license plate.
Want to contact Dave or locate The Urban Legion?
Who are the Highwaypersons? What are they like?
People have asked me about the main characters in my book Highwaypersons: Debts and Duties.
- It is hardly an unreasonable question and it is not one I should find difficult to answer. I invented these characters and I have been living with them for some time as I have written and rewritten, edited and re-edited the novel.
- There is, strangely enough, one difficulty. I keep being reminded that I should ‘show, not tell’ in almost all situations. Advice I appreciate. Salesmen, take note! I hope you will also think how it might apply to your situation, whoever you are.
- One reason for an author to follow such advice is that the readers should make up their own minds about the people they encounter in the book.
Despite this, I will say a few things to let you know what to expect.