Mystery Monday: A former CIA agent speaks

Goooooood Monday morning to you all! I know, nobody likes Monday mornings, especially when there’s some jackass yelling, “Goooooood Monday morning!” to you. That’s almost as bad as someone telling you, “It looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays.” You want to smack them with a shovel, the kind with the round point, not that panzy-assed flat head shovel. And why do they make the flat ones so short? Are they promoting child labor with those things, or what?

But, today is not about shovel conspiracies, it’s Mystery Monday, and there’s a lot bigger conspiracies out there. Back in 2010, I set up my Google alerts to include the phrases “currency wars” and “financial crisis.” I did this because my latest book, The Brink, deals with those topics, so I wanted to keep abreast of all current events about said issues so I could tie them into any press releases/blogs about the book.

Over time, many posts came from the “The Economy Collapse” blog.  Now while there’s a lot of the “Buy Gold! It’s soon to be the only currency worth anything!” articles from goldbugs hyping the shiny stuff, there are also interesting articles about the finer, and messier, points that keep the good ol’ international financial system a’running.

Case in point, here’s a youtube video (really an audio because there’s only a static screen shot on display) from a “former CIA agent” about how “war is a racket”, and how “spying doesn’t work.” Now I know this isn’t anything earth-shattering, former government workers are just like private sector workers, many feel they got shafted by their employer and they say bad things about them after they’re gone. But the interesting thing here is that this audio reminds us that there’s a whole lot of mystery that still surrounds the CIA, and agents that serve in the international arena. And while what this guys says isn’t so new, his words could trigger a thought or story arc in our own minds that could flesh out into a good book idea. It’s a reminder that there are possible story ideas all around us, from the newspaper, to blogs, to everyday life. All we’ve got to do is listen.

So, when you’ve got 10 minutes free, please give it a listen for yourself. Maybe have a pen and paper hand or a clear Word doc screen open and write/type some ideas down as you listen and, as always…

thoughts? Comments? To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com

Do ebooks make it all about price, price, price?

 

It’s Writing Wednesday and I have only one question – does Amanda Hocking hold the key to how the publishing world may survive?

For those that don’t know who Hocking is, she is the self-publishing “phenom” that sold 450,000 of her self-published book in January. Yes, I wrote self-published. Yes, 450,000 copies. Yes, is one month.

How, you ask? She’s writing in a popular genre – she described her work as ” young adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy mostly.”  But I think it’s mostly about the price.  The ebook sell for 99 cents to $2.99. Hocking’s cut of the $2.99 book is 70%; 30% of the 99-cent books. Even if most books sell for $.99, she’s already made a half a million this year. Not bad. Plus, rumor has it the traditional publishers are circling, and dangling $1 million on their hooks. Not bad at all.

So, is it mostly about price? The ebook version of my latest book, The Brink, is $7.99. And I’ve sold nowhere near the number of copies Hocking has. As Snoop Dogg says, should I “drop it like it’s hot?” I think I will. I mean, what’s the downside? Should you? That’s for you to decide. But just remember this, people are more apt to buy when they think they’re getting a good deal. One only needs to look at the success of Groupon to see that truism. Sometimes a quarter pounder is just another burger at $3.19. But at $0.99 it’s a hell of a deal, especially when you’re jonesing for a pretty good burger and you’ve only got a buck in your pocket.

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com

Where’s the beef?

 

First things first. My apologies for missing Friday’s post. We got caught in a massive traffic jam on I-35 outside of Austin on the way home from Sea World in San Antonio and didn’t get home until late. If anyone’s been on I-35 around Austin, you feel my pain. And that was after dealing with massive crowds at Sea World. Anything for the kids, right?

Nevertheless, we move forward with another Mystery Monday. We’re all trying to find a certain niche with our mystery writing, something that will make the critics say, “now this is a fresh approach in the mystery genre, these are unique characters, this is a truly different story.” Well, for all of us looking for both unique characters and fresh plot on this Mystery Monday, I give you cattle rustlers.

Oh yes, you heard me right. Cattle rustlers. Thieves of the Beef. Cattle rustling isn’t something that’s stuck in the Wild West, or days of yore. It’s alive and well all over the world. In fact, with beef prices on the rise, law enforcement is seeing more cases of cattle rustling today than ever.  Back in the olden days (1930s-70s) rustlers would herd cattle into trucks in the dead of night. From 1970 through today, they often use helicopters to manuever herds into temporary pens and then load them into the trucks from there.

Now where does a story go that starts with cattle rustlers? How to formulate a plot around a cattle rustling operation? There are many different directions. Maybe your lawyer hero used to be a cattle prosecutor who’s moved on to the big city, but still uses the small town tricks he learned in said profession to solve the case. Maybe a female police chief in a town along the Texas-Mexico border witnesses a helicopter that she thinks is being used for a cattle rustling operation only to investigate it and discover its being used for something much worse. Or, how about a reformed cattle rustler as one of your supporting characters?  

Wherever you go with your mystery, unique characters or a fresh approach to a story will always make readers raise an eyebrow, and hold their attention along the way. Stories about the characters that are associated with off-bat subjects, like cattle rustling, might be just the right meat in your Mystery Sandwich.

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com

The Rules of Writing from the Masters…and the rest of us

 

Okay, it’s humpty-hump day and that means it’s Wednesday Writing Class here on Mark Fadden’s Blog. Today, inspired by Eric from Pimp My Novel’s Monday post of Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules of writing,  we are taking the rules topic one step further. Because while Vonnegut has his eight rules, Stephen King has rules, and so does Jonathan Franzen. So do I and so do you. We all have rules, and I bet my asterisk that if we all were told to name our top 10 writing rules, no two lists would be the same.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t necessarily like rules as a youngster. Rules typically mean limits. And, like every red-blooded American boy, I liked to think of myself as indestructible and, therefore, rules weren’t for me. It is only now that I’m older and smarter that I’ve realized most rules are in place for my own good. I, dare I say, like rules now? But I do, I do…especially when it comes to writing.

There are writing rules and they are in place for a reason. Now, I’m not talking about rules of grammar, which should be pushed to the limits at all times. I’m talking about the rules of a good story, those unwritten rules that every good storyteller abides by to make sure that his or her reader ends up with a satisfying story. They are the rules of expectation, and it is these rules that allows someone to walk into their local book store and pick up a Steven King or Jonathan Franzen novel knowing exactly what they are going to get. And even though King and Franzen may end the occasional sentence in a preposition, they will probably always adhere to their own specific rules, which can be seen throughout their writing.  

And, like I said earlier, it’s not just King and Franzen that have their rules. We all do.  So, since it’s Wednesday Writing Class, let’s all write down our rules and share them for next Wednesday’s class. It should be an eye-opening experience.

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com

Mystery Monday – The Mystery of Inspiration?

It’s Mystery Monday once again, I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. We celebrated my wife’s birthday and, well, let’s just say I’m glad we don’t have neighbors that are too close for comfort. The music was loud and the  ridiculousness was plentiful!

As mystery and thriller writers, one of the things we have to do, unless we are a serial killer or homicide investigator, or a medical examiner that started as a homicide investigator who investigated the very murders he was committing, is look elsewhere for inspiration. Because even if you are said serial killing cop, you still need to look outside your own life to fill up the pages of a 300+ page novel. But, donde esta por la informacion?

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, websites abound with information about the criminals living among us. One of the best that I’ve come across, which just so happens to be my local paper, and sometime employer, is the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Crime Time Blog. Their tagline is “Keeping track of law and disorder in North Texas and beyond.” Many of the stories from this blog are part of the “you can’t make this stuff up” mileau. In fact, here’s a sampling of some headlines:

 
East Texas 83-year-old carries her husband’s torch, cocaine

I mean, seriously, some of these are Elmore Leonard-esque characters that even the masterful Mr. Leonard would shake his head at saying, “Now that’s too quirky even for me.”
 
Take a look for yourself, I’m sure the stories will help inspire you. One thing you’ve gotta check out is their “To Catch a Killer” serial novel, which also contains an excellent multimedia portion, that chronicles a homicide investigation step by step. If you’re looking for a primer on how investigations work, this one is pretty darn good.  

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com
 

Finance Fridays – The Financial Conspiracy

Aaaahhhhhh…Friday, time to sit back, relax, fish through the fridge for the good beers, not the crap at the front that you serve your moocher friends that come over, we’re talking one of your favorite IPAs here, or perhaps you’re going Mexican tonight. Let’s face it, it’s a lot safer these days to sit on your back porch enjoying a Tecate or Corona than traveling south of the border to do the same thing.

But, my friends, since it’s the first week of the revamped Mark Fadden’s Blog, it’s also the inaugural Finance Friday. Why Finance Friday from a guy who barely made it through Bucknell University (they got into the tournament tonight, Go Bison!!!) with a BA degree? Because I spent the better part of a year painstakingly researching the international monetary system to come up with the foundation of the plot in my latest award-winning thriller, The Brink. Yes, it won an award, two actually, so that means I now know a thing or two about the world of international finance. At least, the award panel thinks I do, so pay close attention.

I love conspiracies. Is it because I seek to an easy explanation to the complex? Probably. But don’t most of us? I love books about conspiracies. I think The Da Vinci Code should be considered The Bible for all those challengers to the conspiracy-based thriller crown. Hence tonight’s topic. The conspiracy behind the 2008 financial meltdown.

No matter whether you were neck-deep in the stock market, or you kept all your savings in the butter dish, you were affected by the 2008 financial sh**storm. Michael Lewis gave us an inside peek into what happened in his unbelievably awesome The Big Short. But, for me, not enough conspiracy. Where’s the shadowy figures, the clandestine agenda, the guy with an eye-patch that has no name, and leaves no fingerprints or DNA behind?

Okay, maybe the ghost pirate dude is a little much, but reading this post about the 2008 Economic Crisis: The Creation of a Manufactured Meltdown will take you right into the heart of the world of conspiracies. As a writer, you should be able to curl up in there with your Stephen King limited edition Cujo blanky and embrace the madness. It should inspire the old noggin to come up with some other mad conspiracies over the weekend. Should we make it a homework assignment? Oh, what the hell, let’s do.

For next week, aka next Finance Friday, it’s your job to come up with a financial conspiracy in 30 words or less. Enjoy your weekend!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com.

The Writer’s Audit

It’s the first post of “Writing Wednesday” in the new and improved Mark Fadden’s Blog, and with tax season in high gear, I think it’s time that we borrowed one of the most unpleasant things that you can go through – a tax audit – and use it to make sure that we’re budgeting our writing time correctly. After all, our time is just as important, even more so, than our money. So, what’s good for the IRS Goose is good for our Writing Life Gander.

First, let’s take a look at a typical workday:

24 hours in a day – out of that we’re probably working, getting ready for work, and commuting to and from work around 11 hours a day; let’s give us kids or a hobby, which includes trying to get our daily exercise, so that’s around 3 hours a day; we need to eat – 2 hours for that; finally sleeping, let’s give ourselves 6 hours.  Add ’em up and, wham, there’s 22 hours. So, we have 2 hours a day leftover for writing. Question is, is that enough?

Well, like my statistics professor in college once said, numbers can, and do, lie. While they aren’t lying here, this is a typically workday schedule. Let’s give us 2 days off a week from our day jobs, and throw in a little time to hang out with friends and family, drink a few cervezas, and sleep in a little and we go from having 2 hours free a day to 20 free hours a week (2 hours a day during the week plus 5 hours on Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday). Sounds better, doesn’t it? So, will 20 hours a week give us enough time to not only write, but research, edit, blog, promote, and do everything else there is to do to be a writer in the 21st century?

The answer is, I don’t know.  But like saving and dieting, the proof is whether you actually adhere to your budget. Is your butt in your somewhat uncomfortable writer’s chair and are you actually doing the work? Or are you sitting there playing Angry Birds on your computer and ticked because you just can’t get the little house to crumble the right way to smash the oinking pig?

So let’s say that we’re all being good and we’re doing our work. Let’s take a look at my numbers. For me, I work from the house, so cut commuting out of my work schedule and I free up an hour each day. But, I’m also the primary caregiver for our sons, so add two hours to my kid portion of my day. That puts me around 15 hours a week. Is it enough? If I budget my time, yes. often, I let some of my writing time bleed over into other parts of the day with a little thing I like to call multi-tasking. While I’m riding the exercise bike, I’m doing research by reading a book on the secret service. When I take the kids to the library for story time, I review the 5 pages I wrote the night before. These are small things, but like saving and dieting, small changes add up to big gains over time. Making sure we are using our time wisely can mean the difference between a finished manuscript at the end of a year or starting yet another year with that same old New Year’s Resolution: “This is the year I finish my novel.”

Now it’s your turn. How does your writing audit stack up? How many hours can you devote to writing a day? How much does your actual time compare to your budget?   To the keyboards!

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Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and award-winning author of Five Days in Dallas and The Brink. Check out his novels at www.markfadden.com.