DAVID NEES

Creating new worlds, one story at a time

Category: Thriller lit

Musician’s Muse

I’ve had a Dan Stone novel in my head for a while but I’ve had to set up the character, and frankly, I didn’t think I had the skill to write the story a year and a half ago. I think I’m ready to try, but only after finishing my Mexico story. In this new story, Dan falls in love with a musician.  I’m interested in the unlikely pairing of a man of action, ostensibly without much in the way of artistic sensitivities, with a world-class artist.  And, further, how he becomes her muse.

Over the past year or more, as my mind had rambled over this theme, I found myself remembering an obscure book I had read years ago about the Spanish art of flamenco.  Now flamenco is often thought of as a form of guitar playing or aggressive tap dancing with much rhythmic clapping.  There are those elements, to be sure, but flamenco is really about the singer and the song.

Deep in the back streets of Grenada, Spain, you can find dark clubs, where you can hear the raw, gypsy-inspired flamenco.  It’s all about the songs; songs of raw emotion where the singer unabashedly shows his or her pain.  The songs are about a lost love, the love of a city or culture now gone, the singer torn from his or her home and roots.  The songs speak about pain and heartbreak being a part of life; a part one cannot escape.  If one has life, one has pain; there is no avoiding it.  You can let the pain eat you or you can force it through you and out into song.  In song you can let out the raw emotions, unashamed, unapologetic and, so, for a moment, shed your pain by sharing it with others.

The guitarist plays in an extravagant style that mimics the raw expression of the singer.  It provides a suitable fill and accompaniment for the rough-edged singing.  The dancing and clapping, sometimes done by the singer, provide the cadence and rhythm to the singer’s emotional expressions.

The best flamenco is found in the bars and clubs filled with small audiences.  The singer does not send out all that emotion, that crying out for what has been lost, that pain, into the vacuum that can often be found in a large concert hall.  The singer is communicating to his or her audience, looking to connect, to draw the audience into their pathos.  “You understand my pain.  Let me tell you more about my broken heart.  I see it in you. I want you feel it like I do.”  The singer connects.  The audience experiences the catharsis the singer goes through.  Everyone absorbs the sadness, the tragedy felt through the song and all go home washed in that experience.  I wonder whether or not the best flamenco singers could perform without an audience.

So, in my new story (still in my head), the protagonist finds he is touched by the artistry of this world-class musician.  This connection he experiences starts to feedback to her and she finds herself opening up her art to become more expressive.  She wants to touch him (her immediate audience).  He becomes her muse, and out of this synergy her music and a love story grows.

The musician in my story is like the flamenco singer without the rawness of expression.  Interestingly, I heard of a famous pianist (from Argentina) who retired from concert performances and would only play small recitals.  After some years of performing in large concert halls, she found them to be too sterile, too draining.  The smaller venues gave her the feedback loop she needed as an artist, the connection to the audience that fed her artistic expression instead of draining it.  Maybe the artist needs the audience.  Maybe the audience completes the loop of creativity and enriches both parties. Yes, I understand many artists would create even if no one listened to or looked at their work. But in the performance arts—music, dance, acting—the audience is perhaps a critical part of the creative process.

That’s what I’m going for as part of my story.  It should be fun to write and bring an interesting interlude to the middle of all the thriller action.  Let me know what you think.

PIcure is from a youtube video by Eli Ramirez. You can find the video here.

Genre Switching (not Gender Switching)

Genre switching; That’s not gender switching, but something more literary than physical. It’s what I’m going to attempt. Since I started writing I’ve had a desire to write in the “thriller” genre. As fate would have it, my first novel was inspired by a post apocalyptic story, so I began there. Post apocalypse (PA) stories have a certain freedom to them. You can create whatever type of world you want to put your protagonist into, but they do require you to build that world.

A thriller on the other hand exists within the framework of a known world. Admittedly it’s not a world in which most normal people exist. Thrillers are what they are because the characters experience life events far outside of normal; that’s why we read them.

But there are similarities:   both types of work have lots of action, a protagonist who must overcome challenges, and generally an antagonist to defeat. There can be fantastical situations to overcome (high tech dangers stopping short of science fiction) which can be taken further in PA literature.

My challenge, and it’s a bit scary, is that my readers have come to me through their interest in post apocalyptic or dystopian literature. Now I’m going to offer them something different. Will this fall flat? Who knows? But it is a concern to me as I approach publishing.

I take comfort that my first novel, Jason’s Tale, started from nowhere; I was non-existent on Amazon before publishing the story. However, it rose to reach #1 in both PA and dystopian genres. So I hope my first thriller, Payback, can be successful as well; (maybe not that successful as there are some real super stars in this genre). You can order the ebook as a “pre-order” on Amazon. When it is published in August, you’ll be sent the book automatically.

At least I now have a group of readers who know I exist and my hope is that many of them will follow me to this new novel. I’m working hard to make the writing my best. While I’ve read some PA novels that were not well written but did well in sales ranking, ButI firmly believe quality forms the basis of all successful writing in the long term.

Grunt work; that’s what I’m now I’m engaged in. The novel is written and has had one edit pass. But three trusted beta readers have commented that while most of the story is prime-time quality (yea!), the first part needs work. After the opening chapter, which they think is good, the story gets a bit lost in the “back story” that explains how the first chapter could have happened. It goes on for about fifty pages.

Structure/restructure: The work now is about structure, or restructure. This is not as creative as the original writing but has to be done carefully. A story becomes interlocked in many ways, so to take it apart one has to be very careful in order to not result in a chopped up narrative that doesn’t flow easily. Big time writers probably have staffs to work on issues like these. The rest of us have to figure it out for ourselves. That can actually be a good thing, providing lessons along the way. It’s just a bit daunting and different from the writing part. Luckily my issues are at the front where things are not strongly interlocked.

My first pass at this resulted in shaving the story around the edges. I took out a scene in the look-back part that I didn’t like and streamlined some others. I cut out five pages of the back story, but I’m not sure I’m there. The only thing to do is try another version with more serious chopping. First I’m going to read through what I changed to see if anything else jumps out at me. Waiting for the obvious solution to show up, but what the hell do I do if it doesn’t?

Oh, well, I’ve got a couple of weeks to solve this in order to still meet my August deadline. More to come on the polishing work. This is going to be good. A writer friend of mine says he can’t do a critical read because he gets so into the story he’s just turning pages without stopping; music to an author’s ears. Check out the book Here and set up your pre-order; coming soon in August!

Catherine’s Tale paperback and a lesson from Amazon

For those of you who have been waiting for the paperback. It’s out now on Amazon. You can link to it here. Although I read a lot more ebooks since I received a Kindle reader as a gift, I still have a soft spot in my heart for a physical book. Seeing the proof copy of the paperback made it all seem more real. Ebooks sell in greater volume, but seeing one’s work in print is very satisfying.

I learned something very interesting over the last week. By my estimate there are about 15,000+ readers of Jason’s Tale. I always assumed that the sequel would start from that platform; that those 15,000 readers would be notified that I had written a sequel and they could then find me and jump start sales. As progress on the sequel dragged on and on, I took comfort in that fact; when it came out, it would rocket forward on the momentum of all those readers.

That isn’t the case.

From what I’ve been told by Amazon and Kindle people, no links like that exist. (Would that get too complicated for them to manage?) And after 13 months, many readers had moved on.

So…I am starting out anew, sort of.

People will have to discover me again and I’ll have to rely on my personal connections to get momentum going. After a few more books that situation can change. An author can reach some “critical mass” point where the momentum becomes self-sustaining. A broad enough reader following develops and they will look for new works by that writer. It seems I’m not there yet and (foolishly) thought my previous 15,000+ readers would get pinged and create that momentum. Again, I find that real-world lessons are often the most expensive.

What helps? It seems that reviews are the single most important element in that effort. They help convince readers to try a book if they are not familiar with an author (my current situation).

So I hope you will get a copy of Catherine’s Tale and if you like it, write a review (hopefully a five star one), however short or long. If you have other comments/questions about what I’ve written, send me an email at david[at]davidnees.com. I answer them all.

Coming up in my writing endeavors:

June, 2017: Catherine’s Tale Part 2; this is action packed with very strong scenes as the growing conflict in Hillsboro explodes.

August, 2017: Retribution, the Beginning; this is the first book in my new thriller Assassin series. It has lots of action and is definitely not post apocalyptic. Think of Vince Flynn or Lee Childs (I can only hope to achieve their levels of storytelling someday).

Fall, 2017: Trying for an audio book of Catherine’s Tale Part 1

2018: If readers call for it, I’ll write another in the After the Fall series and the second novel in the Assassin series with publication of one in the first half of the year and the other in the second.

Lots to do, but I’m enjoying it all.

Good reading.

David

Sequel Update

Off to the Editor

I sent the manuscript off to an editor last week.  He’ll take over 100 hours to go through it.  It’s a very particular skill set and the author is definitely not the one to edit their own work. I’m sure I’ll need a hug and words of encouragement after I go through his edits, but that’s what editors are supposed to do, find the holes, the misused words, the plot kinks, awkward dialogue and expose them.  It’s my job to suck it up, so to speak, and fix them.  You, the reader, get a better story, which I hope everyone will appreciate.

All successful writers have editors whether traditional or self published, so why shouldn’t I? Jason’s Tale was beta read by thoughtful friends and self edited by me dozens of times. That process took a long time. A professional editor can shorten the time to publish, getting to the heart of a story’s issues. By investing in an editor, I think I’ll save months to publication. I want to get this sequel out this fall as promised all summer.  That said, I think beta readers are still a good step for me to take before sending my work off to an editor.

Will I have a long term relationship with this editor?  Who knows?  Some writers do.  Like any relationship, one has to take time to see how it develops.  Does the editor like reading my work?  That’s important; if they don’t like the story lines or writing style, it’s harder for them to edit.  Will I like the changes he imposes/suggests?  Sometimes an editor may want the author to go in a different direction than the writer wants to go, or to not take “license” with the rules of grammar where the writer thinks they are justified for the effect…think The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

Publish date?

My editor will take three passes at the story, after each of my rewrites.  We’re looking at about a month to complete it all, so I’m shooting for mid-November.  Of course when I get his markup back, I’ll be “head down” and hard working to get the manuscript turned around and back to him.  He said the first pass would take over 100 hours, as I said above, the second pass, maybe 30 hours and the third pass less than 10.  Hopefully all will go as expected.

New Thriller Novel

I’m still going to try to fit this in and publish it before year’s end.  It sets up a protagonist, Daniel (Dan) Stone, who becomes a black ops assassin for the CIA.  This first novel, tentatively titled Retribution, tells the story of how Dan loses everything and winds up with the CIA.  Most of the action takes place in Brooklyn, with some pretty colorful characters.  I like it and I think you will as well.

Audio Book

The audio book of After the Fall: Jason’s Tale is on schedule for mid-November as well.  Gabriel Zacchai has completed the narration and now he has to do the editing.  Check out his website; he lives in Maine, is a folk singer, tattoo artist, story teller and dad along with being a narrator; a very interesting guy.

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