Defining Success For Writers

By Mark Alpert

Blogs like The Kill Zone often emphasize the obstacles that writers face. We want to offer helpful advice to fiction writers who may be struggling to start or finish a manuscript or trying to navigate the publishing process, so it makes sense to focus on the hurdles that all aspiring novelists have to confront. But I think it’s also helpful to look at the rewards that lie at the end of the race.

I’m not talking about the rewards of money or fame. For the most part, those are unrealistic expectations. The majority of published novelists earn less than the minimum wage for their fiction, once you factor in all the time they put into it. No, I’m talking about a more subtle and satisfying kind of compensation: the joy of seeing your words have a positive impact on your audience, even if you have only a handful of readers.

I got a chance to experience this joy last weekend when I went to Patchogue, N.Y., to attend an event called Authors Unlimited. It’s organized by Derek Ivie, the youth services coordinator for Suffolk County’s Cooperative Library System, and he leads a great team of librarians from all over Long Island. At this year’s event, they invited eight authors of Young Adult and middle-grade books, and I was proud to be among them (see photo above).

Hundreds of kids gathered in an auditorium on the campus of St. Joseph’s College, and a dozen student volunteers holding pom-poms lined up in front of the stage. Derek introduced the authors in grand fashion: as he announced each name, the honoree dashed down the aisle to the front of the auditorium, like a football player rushing onto the field. At the same time, the student volunteers waved their pom-poms like cheerleaders, and the loudspeakers blared a snatch of music that was relevant to that particular author’s books. (I think they played something spacey or otherworldly when I ran to the stage, but I was so full of adrenalin at the time that I didn’t recognize it.)

All this hoopla might seem a little ridiculous, but I think it sent a powerful message to the kids: that books should be important to their lives, and that the creators of those books deserve the same kind of admiration that most people give only to sports heroes. And I could tell that the students were receiving this message loud and clear. They crowded into the question-and-answer sessions at the Authors Unlimited event and purchased an extraordinary number of books from their limited amount of spending money.

The impact of this message was probably strongest on the student volunteers. They were selected in a rigorous process that even required a letter of recommendation, and as a result they took their responsibilities very seriously. The volunteer assigned to help me — he directed me to the rooms where the question-and-answer sessions were held — was somewhat awed by his selection; he said something like, “I can’t believe that both my sister and me were picked.” This kind of realization can have an enormous impact on a kid; in fact, seeing yourself in a new, positive light can change the course of your life.

This goal, to get kids to look at themselves in a new way, is one of the main reasons why we Young Adult authors write for teenagers. When I was a teen, I loved reading science fiction and nonfiction because the books made me feel smart. When I finished a book by Isaac Asimov, I would say to myself, “Wow, I understood that book and really enjoyed it, so that must mean I’m a genius like Asimov!” I’m not a genius, unfortunately, but at least I thought I was for a while, and that alone had a positive effect on my life. And I can tell that my YA novels are having a similar effect on at least a few of my teenage readers. I can see it in their proud, self-confident eyes.

That’s the kind of reward I’m talking about.

6+

Kindle Scout – A Two Year Performance Review

By Debbie Burke

Kindle Scout has been called American Idol for authors or a Slush Pile Popularity Contest. Amazon defines it as “reader-powered publishing.” Scout has now been around for a couple of years, with nearly 250 books published so far, making it a good time to review its performance.

How Scout works:

Authors submit a 50,000+ word book to Scout, with cover copy, logline, bio, etc. Submissions can be made year round, but only one book at a time per author. Amazon posts an excerpt online for 30 days for readers to peruse and, if they like it, they nominate it for publication. During that time, authors drum up votes through social media, email, and personal contacts, urging their book toward the coveted “Hot and Trending” classification.

When Scout accepts a book, the author receives a $1500 advance, 50% eBook royalties, and a 5-year renewable contract with Kindle Press. While the quantity of nominations carries weight, the number of votes is not the only determining factor. Scout’s editorial board makes the final decision to publish or not and they ain’t talkin’ about why they choose one book over another.

Comparison between Scout Kindle Press and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):

Since I’m researching which route to go for my suspense novel Instrument of the Devil, I ran a quick and dirty comparison between Scout and KDP. This by no means covers all differences between the programs. Of course, authors should carefully read both contracts before making a decision.

An interesting aside: when I printed out the contracts, Scout’s came in at four pages, while KDP’s was 21 pages (albeit in a slightly larger font).

SCOUT

  • $1500 advance
  • 50% royalties on eBooks
  • Amazon marketing
  • Amazon sets pricing
  • Rights exclusive to Amazon
  • 5 year renewable contract*

KDP 

  • No advance
  • 70% royalty on eBooks $2.99+
  • Do it yourself marketing
  • You set pricing
  • After 90 days Amazon exclusive, you may sell in other venues
  • No time limit

*If your book doesn’t earn out $25,000 during the 5 year period, you may request reversion of your rights.

The time from submission to acceptance/rejection is about 45 days under Scout, lightning speed compared to traditional publishing, but slower than KDP where your book can be available for sale as fast as you can upload. The book launch time varies, but according to several sources, runs about four months. Scout is experiencing growing pains, a victim of its own success. A number of authors mentioned understaffing and slow response times to questions. Still, in comparison with trad pubbing, it’s a relatively quick process. If you require faster publication, go KDP.

Who Uses Scout?

When I looked into winning Scout entries, I found surprisingly few first-time authors. Many winners already had multiple books in print, both self-published and traditional. The added promotion by Amazon for a Scout winner should result in significant bumps in sales of backlists.

What Authors Think of Scout:

I reached out to several winning authors who graciously shared their experiences.

Eric T. Knight, author of Ace Lone Wolf and the Lost Temple of Totec, already has multiple books published through KDP and chose Scout “more or less on a whim.” Overall, he grades the experience a B or B+. “The contact person I’ve worked with has been helpful and friendly. It didn’t feel like I was dealing with a machine. I also thought the feedback from the editor was good.”

On the downside, Eric misses the control he has with his other books in KDP. “I wish I could choose when to run promos instead of waiting for them. I’m used to tweaking my blurb pretty regularly and with Scout you have to go through them. You don’t have access to sales figures as they happen, the way you do with KDP.”

V.B. Marlowe, author of Forever Snowhas self-published an impressive 30 books in the past four years. “Marketing isn’t my strong point. I figured having a book published by Kindle Press would give me the privilege of having Amazon’s super marketing powers behind my book.”

She is pleased with the responsiveness of Scout’s staff, but “I only wish I had been given a heads up about when my book would be available. It was kind of a guessing game. Books selected after me were being set up for preorder while my book was still in production status, so I was a little worried. They do send you a letter once your book is already on preorder, but not before.”

With the launch date of April 25, V.B. doesn’t yet have firsthand experience with Scout’s marketing, but other  authors she’s communicated with say Kindle Press runs special promotions 90 days after publication. “I do know that KP regularly submits our books to Bookbub. Just this month they had a special anniversary sale and promoted all KP books.”

She adds, “I think the best way to increase sales is to publish regularly so I already have Book Two of this series ready to go.”

Max Eastern is a New York attorney and The Gods Who Walk Among Us is his first published novel. His impression: “What few problems there have been were very minor,

and I’m actually quite happy with the Kindle Scout program as an alternative to traditional publishing.” He adds, “It’s fun voting for a book. Human nature being what it is, readers are more apt to like your work if they see that someone else has already liked it before them.”

Currently Kindle Press only offers eBooks and audio. Max would like to see coordination between them and CreateSpace to make print versions available. Amazon, are you listening?

Kindle subcontracts editing to Kirkus and, according to Max, “it was strictly a one way street,” unlike the give and take in the trad pub editing process. “I was given a document…with his editorial suggestions, and allowed to accept or reject them. I had no means of communicating with him.”

Max raised an interesting question: if your first book is published through Kindle Press, what about future books? “Your readers are going to assume that, once published the first time, you will be published a second time automatically, and they might think there has been some failure on your part if they have to go through the process of voting for you again on Kindle Scout.”

The marketing advantage of a Scout win to authors with backlists is obvious. But how does that work for a first book with more books to follow? Has anyone in the TKZ blogosphere had experience with subsequent releases after a Scout win? Please chime in and let us know how you handle it.

What if You Don’t Win?

Even if you don’t secure a contract, there’s a nice consolation prize.

When you submit, Amazon has you write a thank-you note to readers who nominated your book. If your book is chosen, everyone who nominated it receives your thank-you note, along with a free eBook, immediately building your fan base

If your book isn’t chosen, you can still take the KDP route. Amazon still sends the thank-you note to everyone who nominated it, giving you the opportunity to sell your book to readers who already liked your excerpt—an instant leg up in readership.

Scout – Go or No Go?

Scout is another of Amazon’s many fresh, imaginative innovations. Yes, there are growing pains, but from my research, most participating authors range from satisfied to delighted with the program.

As both Eric Knight and V.B. Marlowe say, “It’s worth a shot.”

4+

The Secret to Effective Research Is . . .

By John Gilstrap

Last Friday, I spent the better part of seven hours hanging out with the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team at their headquarters in Quantico, Virginia.  In addition to getting a tour of the facilities, I got a peek into their tactics, and, most importantly, into the new technology that has evolved for breaching all kinds of doors, from residential to ship-board to prisons.  Given the focus of my Jonathan Grave series, it’s hard to conceive of a day better spent.

Which brings me to the question, how did I stumble into this opportunity?  Which, in turn, triggers the question, how does a writer access research information that will make his books believable?

Okay, here it is, the secret to worthwhile research: Listen and ask questions.

Here’s how the HRT gig originated.  I was on a flight coming home from the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, and the guy in the seat next to me was reading a book by a friend of mine.  I asked him to hold up the book and smile so I could take a picture of him with the book and send it to my friend.  The guys seemed a little put off by my request, but when I explained the circumstance, he agreed to pose, and then shared with me that he was friends with the author’s brother.

Let’s call the guy with the book Mike.

It didn’t take long for the conversation with Mike to morph into my own line of work as a writer, and yada, yada, a connection was made.  Mike has a certain tactical look about him.  Forty years old, give or take five years, he’s got the physique of an operator and sports a battle beard.  I presumed that he, too, was returning from the SHOT Show, but he told me that he was not.  He was in Vegas for other business, but had dropped into the show for an hour or two.  I’m hearing code at this point: He’s spooky, but doesn’t want to talk about it.  Okay, that’s cool.

More conversation revealed that he lives fairly near me, and that he works at Quantico.  There are only two “industries” in Quantico, Virginia.  One is the United States Marine Corps and the other is the FBI.  When I asked Mike when the Marine Corps started allowing beards, he smiled.

Bingo.

We talked about books and about the writing process, and when I told him what I wrote, he lit up.  He is a fan of Six Minutes to Freedom, my nonfiction book about the rescue of Kurt Muse.  More conversation.  It wasn’t till we traded contact information at the end of the flight that I found out that Mike was with HRT.  Our parting conversation was about coming down to Quantico for a tour, and now, several months later, that’s what we did.

Two weeks previous to my exploits with HRT, I was in Austin, Texas with a former SEAL friend–also met at the SHOT Show, but several years ago–who taught me the ins and outs of modern night vision technology.  On that flight home, I sat next to a guy whose specialty was defending against explosive and chemical weapons threats posed by standard commercial aerial drones.  I hadn’t given that a lot of thought, but wow.  I learned about jamming technologies, about what was legal in the continental US and what was not.  In that case, once he learned that I was a writer, he clammed up.  But that was okay.  I had germs of thought that intrigued me.

One of the most common questions I receive from fans and readers deals with how I learn what I know.  These two anecdotes are merely examples of dozens of others over the years.  People love to talk about what they do and how they do it.  Since I’m not a reporter with a notebook, most speak freely because I have assured them that I wish only enough information on a topic to not embarrass myself in front of knowledgeable readers.  I am genuinely interested in what they tell me, and that interest tends to trigger more detail.

If you want to know how doctors talk and behave in clinical settings, volunteer to work at your local hospital and get to know people.  Talk to them.  Ditto cops, firefighters, or any number of other professionals whose careers are interesting (yet nowhere near as interesting in real life as we imagine them to be).  Go where they are and hang out.  Listen.  When an opportunity arises, ask an honest question from an honest place.  Don’t take notes.  Chat them up.

I think you’ll be pleased with the response.

7+

The Lessons for All Writers
Woven into ‘Charlotte’s Web’

“Remember that writing is translation, and the opus to be translated is yourself.” – E.B. White

By PJ Parrish

Writers are often asked what their favorite book is. Or which one most influenced them as a writer. The first question has always been easy for me — my favorite book is E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.  But it has only been in the last couple years that I realized Charlotte’s Web might be one of the biggest influences in my writing life.

I fell in love with this book the first time I read it. I was maybe eight or nine, just around the age of the heroine Fern.  But a couple years back, on the 60th anniversary of its publication, I decided to read it again.

What a revelation. It is, of course, maybe the most famous kid book ever. It won the Newbery and remains the bestselling children’s paperback even today. But what I didn’t realize is that it is a terrific story for adults.  Like the Harry Potter books, it has a magic that transcends age and a theme that resonates deeper the older you become.

I pulled out my copy last week and read it yet again. Yes, it still holds up for me. But I also tried to look at it with different eyes and dissect how it works as a novel. It has lessons to teach any writer working in any genre.

First off, it teaches us to write from our inner selves, from the most shadowed places of our hearts.  I think this is what the adage “write what you know” really means. It does not mean write about your narrow everyday world.  It means write about what is essential to your unique soul.

E.B. White has said the story came from his childhood memory of being unable to save a piglet. But in his book The Story of Charlotte’s Web, Michael Sims explains that in 1949, White found an spider egg sac in his Maine barn and cut the sac out of the web with a razor blade. He put the sac in an empty candy box, punched some holes in it, and absent-mindedly put the box atop his bedroom bureau in New York.  Weeks later, hundreds of spiderlings began to escape through the holes and spun webs on his hair brush, nail scissors and mirror. Thus was hatched White’s magical meditation that teaches us about life, death and the beauty of friendship.

But the book has many other things to teach us as writers.

Let’s start with the opening. I talk here often about picking the right moment to inject your reader into your conjured up world. And James writes often here about how you need to build your opening chapter around a “moment of disturbance.” Something has to happen. And it has to happen early enough in your plot to engage the reader’s interest. So how does Charlotte’s Web begin?

It’s breakfast time at the Arable family farm. Fern comes in to the table to see her father heading out to the barn with an ax. Mom tells her that one of the piglets is a runt and father is going out to do away with it.

Yikes. Gets my attention! Notice White didn’t start his story with Fern waking up in her little bedroom and thinking about the cute piglets that were born yesterday. He didn’t start it with a beautiful description of the Arable family farm. He went right for the dramatic heart. And what a great contrast he set up in our imagination: The warmth of a morning kitchen and a man leaving it with an ax on his way to a “murder.”

And is there a more chilling opening line in all of fiction: “Where’s father going with that ax?” Fern asked.

THE LESSON: Don’t waste time with pages of gorgeous description. Find the right moment to parachute the reader into your story. Build tension as quickly as you can.

Fern runs outside and we learn in a quick brushstroke that “the grass was wet and the earth smelled like springtime.” The crying Fern confronts her father that killing the piglet isn’t fair. To which dad says “you have to learn to control yourself.” Which is backstory, right? We now know Fern has a history of impetuousness. Dad relents and tells her she can bottle-feed the runt so she’ll learn how hard life can be.

THE LESSON: White sets up the protagonist’s challenge and has begun Fern’s character arc. And he starts plumbing the first level of the most important question an author must answer about motivation: What does the character want? Well, level one: Fern wants to save the pig.

We then meet her brother Avery, who wants to know why he can’t have a pig, too. Dad says “I only distribute pigs to early risers. Fern was up at daylight trying to rid the world of injustice.” (Level two: Fern wants the world to be just)

White then slows things down with a nice narrative about how Wilbur the pig thrived under Fern’s care. But then Dad says that Wilbur is old enough to be sold to the Zuckermans. Fern cries but Wilbur is banished to a manure pile.

THE LESSON: Your plot must have a series of setbacks for the heroine to deal with and overcome.

Chapter 3 opens with a long and lovely description of the Zuckerman barn. Because the plot is chugging along now, readers will be willing to slow down.

THE LESSON: Good pacing isn’t just a matter of full speed ahead. You have to know when to slow down and let the reader catch his breath. A good plot is a roller coaster with a series of tense climbs, terrifying plunges, and areas where you coast along – “whew!” – while you anticipate the next dip.

We then switch to Wilbur’s point of view as he meets the barnyard animals, each one indelibly drawn, especially the goose who helps Wilbur escape and Templeton the rat who steals his food. Fern hasn’t been to see him and Wilbur feels lonely and friendless.

THE LESSON: Don’t neglect secondary characters. Make them vivid and useful to the main character, be it a sidekick, foil, confidante – or a nefarious rat. Good secondary characters are prisms through which reader “see” the main character.

Speaking of secondary characters…has there ever been a finer one then Charlotte the spider? From her first lines – “Do you want friend, Wilbur? I’ve watched you all day and I like you” – we can’t help but love her. She’s smart (“Salutations! It’s just my fancy way of saying hello!”) and pretty and good at catching flies.

Wilbur is appalled by the fact she traps and eats bugs. He thinks she’s cruel. But in a matter-of-fact monologue, Charlotte explains that is what her kind has always done, that flies would take over the world if not for spiders, and besides, she fends for herself while he depends on the farmer to bring a slop pail.

THE LESSON: Never be content to create cardboard characters. Make every character as rich as you can — they are lightness and darkness  — and find ways to make readers understand your characters’ complexities.

Next, the plot turns dark when the goose tells Wilbur he’s being fattened up to become Christmas ham dinner. Wilbur is distraught but Charlotte says, “Don’t worry, I’ll save you.”

THE LESSON: All good plots are a series of setbacks. Wilbur thickens and so does the plot.

In Chapter 9, in what feels like a digression with no relation to the plot, Charlotte explains to Wilbur and Fern why she has so many legs and how she makes a web.

THE LESSON: Readers like to learn things about how the world works, but you have to weave such narratives subtly into your plot or they are boring or worse, preachy. Don’t show off your research. Have it relate to your characters. White slips in this factoid: It took eight years to build the Queensborough Bridge but Charlotte says this only to comment that men “rush rush rush every minute…”

Then we come to the “The Miracle.” Charlotte conjures up a plan to save Wilbur by weaving the words SOME PIG into her web. The Zuckermans are gobsmacked and decide Wilbur is special. People flock to see the miracle pig.

THE LESSON: Give your characters setbacks to overcome, but a good plot also includes triumphs, which usually escalate as the climax nears.

Charlotte worries that people are getting bored with SOME PIG so she gets Templeton the rat to go fetch some words from magazines that she can copy into the web. She weaves TERRIFIC and then RADIANT. The excited Zuckermans think of ways to exploit their pig.

THE LESSON: Always look for ways to up the ante, increase the stakes.

Chapter 14 is titled “The Crickets.” It’s a lovely descriptive dirge about the dying of summer. School would start soon. The goslings are growing up. The maple tree turns red with anxiety. “The crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.”

THE LESSON: A little foreshadowing and mood is good but don’t be heavy-handed. Let it flow naturally from your setting. This is also White telling us what the theme of his story is – that life is about the inevitability of sadness and change.

The Zuckermans take Wilbur to the county fair for display. Charlotte, who needs to lay her eggs, reluctantly agrees to come along. At the fair, Wilbur is worried about a rival pig taking top prize and tells Charlotte to spin a special word for him. Charlotte confides that she’s not feeling well – “I feel like the end of a very long day” — but she promises to try. The cool of the evening comes and everyone is bedding down. White give us this wonderful dialogue between two old friends.

“What are you doing up there, Charlotte?”
“Oh, making something,” she said.
“Is it something for me? ” asked Wilbur.
“No,” said Charlotte. “It’s something for me, for a change.”
“Please tell me what it is,” begged Wilbur.
“I’ll tell you in the morning,” she said. “When the first light comes into the sky and the sparrows stir and the cows rattle their chains, when the rooster crows and the stars fade, when early cars whisper along the highway, you look up here and I’ll show you something. I will show you my masterpiece.”

THE LESSON: Yes, you should tug on the heartstrings. But whatever emotion you are going for must be well-earned. We have come to know and love these characters and as White moves us toward his climax, we have a soft dread in our hearts. Every emotion he has invested in this scene has come organically. Nothing feels tacked-on or artificial. Everything has pointed toward this logical end.

The fair opens and Wilbur, standing under Charlotte’s latest spun-word HUMBLE, wins a special prize. At night, left alone, Wilbur listens to fading Charlotte deliver her poignant speech about death and renewal:

“Your success in the ring this morning was, to a small degree, my success. Your future is assured. You will live, secure and safe, Wilbur. Nothing can harm you now. These autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will come, then the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world…Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur, this lovely world, these precious days…”

“Why did you do all this for me? ” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

THE LESSON: Don’t neglect your theme. It is the heart of your machine, purring beneath the grind of your plot. When you are asked, “What is your book about?” the answer is never about its plot. It is about its theme.

Then, of course, Charlotte dies. Here is how White ends this chapter:

“Good-bye!” she whispered. Then she summoned all her strength and waved one of her front legs at him. She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died.

THE LESSON: Sometimes you must kill off a sympathetic character. If it serves your plot and it is not gratuitous, the reader will accept it. But it must have a feeling of inevitability so that when the readers comes to this point they are sad but acknowledge there was no other way.

Chapter 22 is titled “A Warm Wind.” Life at the farm resumes its cycle. The snows melt, the sparrow chicks hatch. The last remnants of Charlotte’s tattered web float away. Wilbur misses Charlotte but one morning, her egg sac – which he had carefully brought back to the farm in his mouth – erupts and her babies emerge. Wilbur is happy to meet the new spiders but one day Zuckerman opens the barn and a soft wind carries the babies away. Wilbur is crushed, thinking he has lost his new friends. But three of Charlotte’s daughter stay and begin weaving webs above him.

THE LESSON: Don’t neglect the denouement.  A powerful story doesn’t end at the climax. There should be a tail to the tale wherein you wrap up some loose ends if needed, update readers on time passage and what has happens to some of the characters. In White’s story, of course, the denouement is also a coda of hope. Life goes on. Depending on the tone of your story, a happy ending might not be in your recipe.  But a hint of redemption or hope is never a bad thing.

Which goes to the point of theme. In the final chapter, the narrative recounts the passage of months and years. Fern, growing up, doesn’t come to the barn much. But every year, Wilbur has new spider friends – the offspring of his good friend Charlotte. Here’s the last graph of the book.

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

THE LESSON: Bring it home. Your ending graphs are as important as your opening ones. A good story is circular in that it wraps back around itself, weaving a web of logic and emotion that captures your reader and  leaves them with a feeling of satisfaction.

 

15+

First Page Critique: Strangled by a Cloud

Welcome to this week’s first page critique – today we have the first page of a historical mystery/thriller entitled ‘Strangled by a Cloud’. As always, my comments follow.

Strangled by a Cloud

My part in the Tenant’s Harbor affair began on the last day of January in 1878. That morning I was at my usual station: peddling hand-penned calling cards in the lobby of one of Boston’s many hotels; this time it was Young’s, in the financial district. A dozen cards for a Harvard toff had already bought me a hearty breakfast; a dozen more – perhaps with some flourish – for a Court Street banker would carry me through the rest of the day.

As the clock and the thermometer waned and the clouds began to spit sleet, my mood soured:  I take days like this personally, as have the thousands with my surname since the days of Noah. To lighten my mood, I left the outer crust of the lobby and strode towards the warmth of the core – the front desk – where I was greeted with the welcome smile of my friend, Adam.

“Cold is it, Mr. Merryweather?” he asked

“As colde as eny froste,” I replied, in an ersatz Middle English tongue.

“Ah, Chaucer – very good, very good,” he said (Adam was also the hotel’s unofficial man of letters and always appreciated a well-placed quote from the Tales).

I pulled the hotel register at his hands my way.  Now and then I made a sport of guessing at the age, nationality, personality, or occupation of guests based on their handwriting. I traced my finger down the list of guests until I reached the name “Charles Goodword.”

“Now here’s a bad character, Adam,” I began. “I’m guessing a gambler by profession, maybe something worse…he’s about forty years old, broad-shouldered, perhaps five feet ten or eleven…stout…and mean.  You’ll want to be rid of him, and soon.”

“Mr. Merryweather, it’s remarkable!” Adam said, truly surprised.  “As to age and height and build, you are quite correct, sir, quite correct. But as to his character, you are very mistaken: he’s a clergyman, you know – here to preach for several weeks – the Benevolent Society for something-or-t’other is paying his board.”

“A clergyman, is he?” I asked, adding, “Well, he’s a thief to boot.  Humor me and send for him,” I said, handing him one of my cards.

Adam obliged and sent a valet to call on Mr. Goodword.  The valet returned swiftly, confirming that he had successfully delivered the card and invitation, with my compliments.

“You think he’ll come?” I asked Adam. He nodded in assent.  “We shall see,” I said, shaking my head. “We shall see.”

Overall Comments:

Overall this first page was cleanly executed with an initial voice and style emerging that I think is pretty engaging. It appears to be emulating a Sherlock Holmes detachment and narration which I think could work well. What it initially lacks, however, is a bit of ‘oomph’ to set our story in motion and build intrigue. It also teeters, I think, in terms of credibility (see my specific comments below), but overall with some editing this first page could be an effective one.

Here are my specific comments:

Credibility

I think in this first page we need more background regarding the main character, Mr. Merryweather, as I’m initially skeptical that a man who makes his living penning calling cards in hotel lobbies would be educated enough to quote Chaucer and have even peudo-expertise in handwriting analysis. I’m also a little doubtful that a front desk clerk would be even an unofficial ‘man of letters’ without a bit more background. I’d be more willing to believe all of this if we got a sense that either Merryweather is an educated man that has fallen on hard times or that he is deliberately masquerading as someone he isn’t. Likewise I need a little more to buy into the fact that Merryweather has uncanny, Holmesian powers of deduction based on viewing Mr. Goodword’s handwriting.

Oomph

I wanted a little more intrigue from this first page when it came to the set up re: Mr. Goodword. I was expecting the valet to discover his dead body! The pay off on the initial page wasn’t really there and I was also skeptical as to why a clergyman would be interested in meeting a man who penned calling cards (or why the main character thought if he sent the valet up with his card the clergyman would respond – to be honest I’m not sure I even believe a man who makes his living hand to mouth by making calling cards would present his own card to anyone).  I feel that on this initial page, more intrigue would set the story on a stronger footing and would entice readers to keep turning the page.

Minor editorial issues

There were a few moments where I was taken out of the story. The first was when the main character said ‘I take days like this personally, as have the thousands with my surname since the days of Noah’. I didn’t feel this reference worked, mainly because the name ‘Merryweather’ doesn’t exactly sound like a surname from biblical times. Perhaps a middle ages reference would be more appropriate but at the moment it sounds awkward. Likewise the reference to the ‘outer crust’ of the lobby sounds strange – even though I understand what the writer was trying to get at and how the main character moved to the ‘core’ of the lobby – It didn’t work for me in the context of this story. In addition, the clock and thermometer ‘waned’ didn’t seem quite the right expression either – as the clock ‘waning’ would surely mean going backwards if the numbers got smaller (?).

I also found it odd that Mr Merryweather would call Adam by his first name but Adam didn’t reciprocate, but called him the more formal ‘Mr Merryweather’ in return. I’m assuming they are on the same social level and know each other well enough (as Merryweather calls him a friend) so the formality of Adam’s response doesn’t seem to ring true.

Also when Adam says: ‘ But as to his character, you are very mistaken’,  I feel that this should be either ‘very much mistaken’ or just ‘mistaken’ (‘very mistaken’ sounds weird to me).

So TKZers, what comments do you have for our brave submitter today?

 

4+

First Page Critique: MERCY KILLER

“Cloud Sculpture” by Berndnaut Smilde, from Architizer. All rights of ownership reserved to respective creators.

Good Saturday to you, and please join me in welcoming today’s Anon to First Page Critique! Anon combines thriller elements with a touch of the supernatural in a work entitled Mercy Killer, which begins as follows:

 

Mercy Killer

I checked the picture on the screen of my cell phone one last time.  Errors were not acceptable in my profession.  The blue light of my phone spilled out into the darkened hospital room that smelled of antiseptic and decaying flesh.  I glanced up at the old man in the bed. An overhead lamp lit his face in a circle of warmth. He was the one. His chest quivered as he drew in a ragged breath. I wondered how many breaths he would take before the end.

His silver blue mist floated in the air above him. I shook my head.  That was not a good sign.  When the mist had become completely detached, I knew that the time had come.  Sometimes the mist still clung to them, but as the hour approached, it tugged and pulled, begging to be free.  I could always tell when the end was near.  The mist told me and this man’s mist was already free. He was ready to die.

I glanced at a photograph on the stand that showed a young man in a suit holding a new born baby with a pink face.  Beside it stood a vase with a blood-red rose. Propped against the vase sat a card that lay open. I stepped close to read the words scrawled in an impeccable hand.  “To my dearest love.”

Crayon pictures of what looked like animals and grass and trees had been taped to the wall.  A photograph of a sailing ship with its sails billowing out before the wind clung to the wall over his bed.  This man had lived in this room for a long time.

I checked the history on my screen.  He had been here for over a year and he was scheduled for death in two days. I glanced at the mist again.  I couldn’t leave him for two days. He was ready now.

The man grimaced and opened his eyes. A hand strayed to his stomach were a cord poked out from under the sheets. I had seen pain before–many times. But I never got used to it. Seeing another human being in pain always sent a stab of sorrow to my heart.  I had endured pain, real pain. My handler told me that that is why I had been chosen for this special task. Not just anyone could do it.

“You have empathy,” she said as she peered down me from over her pink rimmed glasses.  “We need people like you.

 

Anon du jour strikes a mood here, for sure. I currently have a friend in what is known as a “rehabilitation center.” It is a nice one, as such places go, but there are certain things you just can’t clean up and the smell of slow-motion decay is one of them. I’ve been thinking of “Mercy Killer” often over the past few days as I walk through the corridors of the center toward his room. There’s a lot of misery in that place.

Overall, let’s give our Anon some applause for creating mood. I want to clean up a few things, however, to make it even better. I’m also going to propose reshuffling a couple of paragraphs to arguably improve the flow of the story. And…I know Anon uses the word “mist” frequently here, but I can’t think of a way around that. Maybe one of you out there can help.

First paragraph:

—  Errors were not acceptable in my profession. Anon, do you mean that errors were not acceptable in the narrator’s profession, but they are now? If there’s been a change in standards, fine, but if errors will still get the narrator dinged on their performance evaluation, the sentence should read that “Errors are not acceptable…”.  

An overhead lamp lit his face in a circle of warmth. Anon, I kind of get where you’re coming from but let’s cut that sentence off at An overhead lamp lit his face. so that the reader isn’t wondering if the lamp is a heat lamp or an illumination lamp or both.

— Also, let’s cut out the second “breath(s)” in the paragraph so that it reads, “I wonder how many he would take before the end.”

Second paragraph:

Parts of this paragraph — those dealing with the significance of the mist — are redundant. Your protagonist explains that they can tell when the patient is ready to die by the state of the mist, then notes the state of the mist and concludes that the patient is close. Also, you use the word “free” twice in the space of a couple of sentences. Let’s shorten and sharpen this up just a bit. One way to do it would be:

 

His silver blue mist floated in the air above him.  That was not a good sign. I shook my head. Sometimes the mist still clung to them, but as the hour approached, it tugged and pulled, begging for release. This man’s mist was already free. He was ready to die.

Actually, Anon, we’re going to do a bit more with this, combining it with the fifth paragraph when we get there. See below.

Third and Fourth Paragraphs:

— I like these. You do a nice job of putting us in the room, Anon. One typo: “new born” should be “newborn.” You might also combine these paragraphs, but they work fine separately, as well. It’s up to you.

Fifth paragraph:

— I recommend combining this with the second paragraph since as a whole it is somewhat redundant. Thusly:

His silver blue mist floated in the air above him.That was not a good sign. I checked the history on my screen.  He had been here for over a year and he was scheduled for death in two days. I glanced at the mist again and shook my head.  I couldn’t wait that long.  Sometimes the mist still clung to them, but as the hour approached, it tugged and pulled, begging for release.    When it was completely detached, however,  it was time.  This man’s mist was already free. He was ready to die.

Sixth and seventh paragraphs:

Anon, I think that you should save the introduction and mention of the handler for later in your story. Let’s try to keep things in that room and between the patient and mercy killer until things play out. We’re accordingly going to remove the seventh paragraph altogether, as well as the last three sentences of the sixth paragraph.

— As for the sixth paragraph:

1)  “Let’s change “A hand strayed…” to “THE PATIENT’S hand strayed…”

2) “were the cord” should be “WHERE the cord.”

 

Last…I would like to rearrange your paragraph order, Anon, so that the story goes from observations of the patient to the room and then concentrates on the mist. This involves keeping the first paragraph where it is, and moving your second paragraph (now combined with the fifth) so that it follows the description of the room. It’s going to look like this:

I checked the picture on the screen of my cell phone one last time.  Errors are not acceptable in my profession.  The blue light of my phone spilled out into the darkened hospital room that smelled of antiseptic and decaying flesh.  I glanced up at the old man in the bed. An overhead lamp lit his face. He was the one. His chest quivered as he drew in a ragged breath. I wondered how many he would take before the end.

I glanced at a photograph on the stand that showed a young man in a suit holding a newborn baby with a pink face.  Beside it stood a vase with a blood-red rose. Propped against the vase sat a card that lay open. I stepped close to read the words scrawled in an impeccable hand.  “To my dearest love.” Crayon pictures of what looked like animals and grass and trees had been taped to the wall.  A photograph of a sailing ship with its sails billowing out before the wind clung to the wall over his bed.  This man had lived in this room for a long time.

His silver blue mist floated in the air above him.That was not a good sign. I checked the history on my screen.  He had been here for over a year and he was scheduled for death in two days. I glanced at the mist again and shook my head.  I couldn’t wait that long.  Sometimes the mist still clung to them, but as the hour approached, it tugged and pulled, begging for release.    When it was completely detached, however, it was time.  This man’s mist was already free. He was ready to die.

The man grimaced and opened his eyes. His hand strayed to his stomach where a cord poked out from under the sheets. I had seen pain before–many times. But I never got used to it. Seeing another human being in pain always sent a stab of sorrow to my heart.  

I’m done. TKZers…please have at it. I will stay uncharacteristically quiet for the most part during your comments. And Anon…thank you for providing us with your first page. Your story feels as if it will raise an important issue which is still being played out. I hope that you get to the end and that we’ll have the benefit of reading it.

3+

Key Ways to “Show” Your Character & Not “Tell” on Him – First Page Critique: Palm Beach Nasty

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

This photo makes me want to go on vacation. Let’s take a ride with Crawford, our character in Palm Beach Nasty, a 1st Page Anonymous Submission. Read and enjoy. My feedback follows:

ONE

It turned out Crawford really missed the murder and mayhem up in New York. Which was weird, since the whole reason he’d gone south was to get away from it all.

At age thirty-six, with a bad case of acid reflux, chronic cynicism, and acute burnout, Charlie Crawford had packed up his Upper West Side apartment and headed down to the Sunshine State. He decided on the Keys, the plan being to take up surfing, give the Jimmy Buffett thing a shot. But after three long months of listening to stoned-out beach bums in lame Hawaiian shirts oohing and aahing pretty average sunsets and duding each other to death, Crawford was ready to move on.

So he’d reached out to a handful of Florida law enforcement agencies, and when the Palm Beach Police Department made him an offer, he grabbed it. But almost a year into the job, no one had come close to getting knifed, shot, garroted, or even banged up a little. Christ, what he’d give for a nice facedown stiff, a little rigor setting in. Crawford was drawing a bunch of nowhere cases, which could best be summed up by the one he was writing up now.

It was late afternoon on Halloween, and a call had come in about a possible trespass up on the north end. The north end of Palm Beach was really two places, depending on the exact location. Obscenely rich or doing just fine, thanks. Spectacular houses on the ocean and Intracoastal that started at ten million dollars and went up from there. Or fixer-uppers, on postage-stamp lots at around a million. Recently a Russian fertilizer billionaire had plunked down a shade under a hundred mill for Trump’s monumentally ugly, but colossally huge, ocean spec house.

But despite that, the real estate market had been hit hard when Wall Street collapsed three years before and was still wobbly. Somewhere between anemic and soft, desperately trying to claw its way back to pre crash levels. One of the top brokers in town was whining about having a lousy year—4.8 million in commissions as opposed to over 7 million in ’07. And real estate lawyers quietly grumbled about fewer closings, but even more about a troubling new phenomenon: clients hondling them on their fees. And pity the poor builders, who had traded down from tricked-up ninety-five-thousand-dollar Escalades to basic Ford 150s.

FEEDBACK
Overview – There is an ease to this writer’s voice that I liked. This intro is written in a deep POV that is close to first person. I almost wish it was full blown 1st, to give the character more room to breathe. This character has opinions about everything, which would work for the intimacy of 1st person if the author can tighten the narrative (without too much meandering). Because of the mental meanderings, the pace is significantly slower with a lack of focus for the action or world building.

A good thing to note is that this author can hear the character and is willing to channel him. That’s not an easy thing to get and execute. Kudos.

But how can this author retain the good parts of the character voice, yet not slow the pace? A big part of this resolution is how to introduce a key character by SHOWING rather than TELLING about him.

HOUSEKEEPING:

Where to Start? – The author started with a back story dump, sharing where Crawford had lived in NYC with a subsequent stay in the Keys, then on to police work in Palm Beach. These are all things that can come out later with patience. At the start, it’s too much misdirection without a point. That puts us down to paragraph 4 to search for a place to start–at the body or crime scene and any interesting lead up to that moment–but we get a lesson in real estate and the Wall Street crash. Bottom line, we need a better place to start that can showcase Crawford and his personality, through his actions and his cynical dialogue or banter with his colleagues.

Passive Voice – There were too many uses of ‘was’ and ‘had’ to indicate a past time period, or hint of backstory. ‘Was’ is used 8 times and ‘had’ is used 9 times in 400 words of this introduction. These are words I try to minimize and correct in an edit. It indicates this story should start with the present action and minimize the backstory.

Missing words typos – These are hard to catch. As authors, we are too familiar with our own work and miss words that should be there if we don’t read more carefully or read aloud. Last sentence in 2nd paragraph – “…oohing and aahing AT pretty average sunsets…” (‘At’ is left out.)

But how can this author retain the good parts of the character voice, yet not slow the pace? A big part of this resolution is how to introduce a character.

Key Ways to SHOW your Character rather than TELL On Him:

Try introducing your character like some films do, with big character stars like Capt Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. Johnny Depp doesn’t merely walk onto the scene and speak his first line, he makes a big intro to SHOW who he is. In mere seconds, we know him and who he’ll be. It takes practice to do this for an author of fiction. I call this “The Defining Scene.”

So imagine who Crawford is when he’s first introduced to this story. Since I like the author’s instincts on voice, I wanted to ask open ended questions for a rewrite of this intro. I didn’t want to influence the author by rewriting it myself. Think of it as a homework assignment, a short exercise.

1.) He’s a transplanted New Yorker with a side trip to the Keys. I can see his NY accent coming through. Are there remnants to his Keys stay? What does he wear in Palm Beach as a former New Yorker?

2.) Crawford is cynical and opinionated. How does this affect his co-workers, the other cops. Is he liked? Does he like them? Is he a loner?

3.) What hobbies does Crawford have? Are these apparent? Does he let other people know about them? What does he dream about? Is he saving for a beach house or a boat? Maybe he works more than one job to save up for something he doesn’t want to share with anyone else. Why did he choose the beach again? Does he miss NYC?

4.) He seems to thrive on crime scenes, being in his element. How does that manifest? Is he overly detailed in his approach or almost too relaxed? Does he communicate on the scene or keep to himself? Does he have a partner? If so, is his partner the same or opposite? Do they get along or not? How does that work for them?

To make Crawford memorable, the author gets a ‘first shot’ at a reader’s first impression. How would the author set the stage?

Below are some things to keep in mind.

  • Devise this crime scene for Crawford to shine or standout. Is it particularly morbid? Has he seen cases like this before? Does he bring NYC bagels and coffee? How does he react versus how others do? Set the stage for Crawford.
  • Give him something to do that will show the reader who he is. When others are turning away, he’s unusually attentive to details of the corpse. Does he have any idiosyncrasies at the scene, like how he treats the victim? Does he notice a stray cat in an alley with a possible clue when no one else does?
  • Make this scene about Crawford and focus on him. Let the reader know how he ticks, his values, his likes and dislikes. Carry these things through the book to take the reader on a journey.
  • Focus on Crawford’s character, more than plot, to give the reader a sense of him in this intro. If the author can devise a way to jump-start the plot (as in the murder scene), then you’ll get two birds with one stone.
  • Build on the energy from the Defining Scene. The reader will make an investment into Crawford going forward.

DISCUSSION:

What feedback would you give this author, TKZers? Is the engaging voice enough to keep you turning the pages?

Mr. January Available NOW! $2.99 Ebook

Zoey Meager risks her life to search for her best friend Kaity in a burning warehouse, only to cross paths in the inferno with Mr January, a mysterious man with a large black dog, completely devoted to its master.

3+

So You Wrote the BEST BOOK EVER! Sorry, There’s More to Do.

 

Writers have a reputation–sometimes deserved–of being drama queens. Right this very moment, I am wearing the crown. 👑 My head aches, my eyeballs are dry as ping pong balls, I just this moment came thisclose to accidentally taking a family member’s Adderall instead of a handful of ibuprofen, when I turn my head, my neck sounds like it’s filled with potato chips, and I’m at the computer two hours past my bedtime for the 13th night in a row. This can only mean one thing:

I finished my latest book and sent it to my agent today!

Maybe it’s just the sleep-deprivation, but I feel a bit…insane. I actually left the house today for the first time in let’s-not-talk-about-how-many-days. Tuesday is the day I schedule appointments and run errands (and, no, I’m not yet eligible for the Tuesday senior discounts!). I have a vague memory of mailing things, and listening to someone telling me about a friend’s son who has a collapsed lung. I could only respond, “Oh, that’s terrible.” But I think I said it about 30 times, because it felt weird to actually be talking to another human who wasn’t my husband and I was having trouble following the details. I could go on about how I’m waking up to the alarming state of our home, and the nutritional paucity of the meals I’ve been slinging to my family over the past two weeks, but you can simply picture a post-tornado scene, littered with Chinese takeout boxes and piles of unopened mail. (Okay. There aren’t really food boxes, but there’s a lot of mail, and I might have had reheated pizza for lunch.)

BUT. The state of things isn’t going to change for the next little while, because while I’ve sent off the manuscript, there’s much more to do. (Hey, I bet you thought this was going to just be a touchy-feely blog. Surprise!)

I suspect that in the long history of TKZ, folks have talked about what an agent needs from a writer in order to put together a nice package for editors. But here’s a refresher. I have an excellent agent, and she has very specific requests. Your experience may differ.

Your agent (or you, if you’re doing the submitting) wants editors to see you as somebody who: 1) has written a kick-ass book; 2) fits into an identifiable category; 3) will be a partner in selling your book. It’s pretty simple, but this is stuff you need to think about between the time you finish your book and start sending it out to agents. Yes, even before you have an agent because if you have all of this information together, you’ll be more appealing to an agent.

A clean manuscript. Tidy it up, make sure it’s double-spaced, in a legible font with page numbers, your name, and title in the header. Don’t include a picture of your cat, child, or sketches of what you want the cover to look like.

A bio. Who are you? Where are you from? Have you published anything else or won any contests? Keep it brief–around 250 words. Don’t share your hobbies or recipes or phone number (that goes on the cover page)

Oh, and do have a cover page with your name, address, phone, and email up in the left-hand corner. Title should be centered in the middle of the page, with “by” and your name below it in a smaller font. No page number on the cover page. There’s a box you can check for “different first page” in the header format menu.

Comps. This can be tough. List writers who write similar books to yours. The Amazon “Customers Also Bought” list is a good place to start. Include as many as you can. Be specific. Don’t list, say, Michael Connelly, if you write bakery mysteries, or romantic suspense. Do reach, though.

Your platform. There are tons of places on the Internet (i.e. Jane Friedman) where you can learn what a marketing platform is. Everywhere you’re found online is part of your platform. (I’m certain TKZ has info–anyone have a link?) Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Linked In, Goodreads. No Tindr or Grindr. I confess I’m not a Snapchat-er. Does anyone here use it for promo? But your platform also includes your website, blog, and email list. (It’s never too soon to start building a mailing list. Start with people you know in real life.) Sex tapes totally count. But they can also count against you.

Professional Associations and Contacts. Networking can be challenging for introverted writers. Most professional groups have associate memberships for unpublished writers or readers. Join. Get the newsletters. Go to conferences and volunteer. Get involved. An editor wants to know that you’re out there networking with other writers and getting your name in front of potential readers Your agent will also want to know if you have writer contracts who might provide you with the B-word: BLURBS. Most writers will tell you that this is by far the most awkward and uncomfortable thing about the business. But it must be done. Blurbs from other writers not only look nice on a cover, but suggest that someone a reader might admire likes your book enough to say something nice about it. A big name can be a huge deal. If you can’t get a big name, a medium name will do. You’ll find that some writers, particularly indie writers, quote reader reviews. It’s fine, but they won’t get an agent’s or publisher’s attention. Don’t make up blurbs. That’s really bad, and you’ll get caught.

If you can get a writer to blurb your book even before it goes to agents and editors you get bonus points. It’s something my agent likes me to do before she goes out with a book.  Talk about a difficult ask…I once had a NYT bestselling writer turn me down for a pre-submission blurb, and she wasn’t very nice about it. It’s worth a shot, though. Give your book every advantage.

Be proactive in describing how you might promote your book. Newsletters, contests, ARC giveaways, guest blogs, etc. Think about reaching out to readers. Even if your publisher has a promotion budget–a rarity these days–you need to do everything you can to pitch in.

Editors. Do you know folks in the business? A friend of a friend? Your agent will have many contacts, but if you know someone, they might be able to direct you to just the right editor in their publishing house.

I think that’s it. Can you all think of anything I’m missing? Remember–You’ve put your heart and soul into your work. Honor it, and take responsibility for it. You can make a real difference for yourself.

 

 

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“The Dot”: Grist For A Sci-fi Thriller?

By Kathryn Lilley

I’m slightly obsessed with science and technology TV shows (How The Earth Works, Through The Wormhole, etc.). In fiction, I love Michael Crichton-style techno/sci-fi thrillers, such as stories about a new technology run amok (JURASSIC PARK and PREY, for example). So I was intrigued by a story I recently heard about a worldwide research effort called The Global Consciousness Project. The research project (which is being conducted at Princeton University) is collecting data to investigate  the theory that a global, coherent consciousness exists, composed of the energy created by human minds.

Up until recently, any notion of a global consciousness existed only in the realm of science fiction novels and B movies. But according to the project’s researchers, recent studies have suggested that the presence of humans (specifically, human minds) can in fact have a discernible effect on random number, machine generated data. I’m probably not explaining the concept well, so  below is a YouTube video with more information. But basically, the idea is that human thoughts and reactions to significant events, scaled up to a global level, creates measurable impacts on patterns of otherwise random data. The researchers are tracking the changes in “thought energy” by tracking realtime color changes in a so-called “Global Consciousness Project Dot.” The dot changes color every time there is a structured change in an otherwise random data pattern. In other words, the Global Dot is supposed to function as a sort of planetary Mood Ring. (Remember those?)

When I checked the Global Dot this morning, it was Orange, which suggests people are responding to some significant event taking place in the world. (Did I miss something big?)

So, getting back to science fiction and technology run amok: in the hands of a novelist, how might the theory behind the Global Consciousness Project be helpful or harmful to humanity? To be the stuff of a good sci-fi story, the technology or science must appear promising at first (as the Global Consciousness researchers declare this project to be), but then–talking strictly fiction here, I’m not impugning the actual GCP itself in any way–that technology has to morph or change in some unanticipated way, becoming a monster that threatens humanity instead of helping it.

If you were to write a sci-fi novel based on the science of The Global Consciousness Project, how would you turn it into a “monster” for your thriller?

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