Friday, March 9, 2007

Congratulations, Mack Maloney

OK, so I'm still sick, and although I still have some writing to do, I thought I'd take a break for a couple of hours and read something for a change. I started rooting through my bookshelf and came up with...

Starhawk, Book 2: Planet America, by Mack Maloney.

I don't know why I grabbed this book. I remember reading it the first time, and finding it awful. For that matter, I have read the first two books in this series, and they are both awful. But when I saw it on my bookshelf, I felt the perverse urge to read it again.

Yeah. It's still awful.

I won't go into detail on the plot (I'm sure some of you out there have read it), but it's a meandering, nonsensical science fiction/adventure novel with a ludicrous premise and the most inane dialogue and characters I've ever found in a work of fiction. From the amnesiac fighter pilot Hawk Hunter, who has built a faster-than-light F-16 out of thin air, to Pater Tomm, this book reads like it was written by throwing words in a hat and drawing them out one by one. Seriously. It's reminiscent of those creative writing exercises you used to do in high school and college, where the instructor would give you a list of words that had nothing to do with each other and you had to write a story or poem focusing on those words and tying them together.

After reading the first few chapters again, I decided to check this writer out and see what else he's done and how his books have been reviewed. This guy has written and published almost thirty books! He wrote the Wingman series, the Chopper Ops series, the Superhawks series, and the Starhawk series. The only one of these that I've had a brush with is Starhawk, the one I've been talking about today.

I just couldn't grasp how the person who wrote this complete dog of a book I'd been reading could have published thirty novels. Again, the only ones I've had the pleasure of reading are the first two Starhawk books. Perhaps his others are more noteworthy. I decided to look up some reviews.

And what did I find? The Starhawk books... these books that I found nearly unreadable, and almost laughable in content... got four and five stars in every review I could find! Even the only reviewer I found that had bad things to say (childish writing style... unbelievable or just plain wrong science... lack of talent...) said that the books were interesting and engaging!

Am I just missing something here? Or is this maybe one of those sub-genre things that you'll either like or hate, like my brother's favorite Mack Bolan series of books? Is this a case of a writer having found his niche, or am I just a big loser for not liking these books?

Honestly, I really don't like saying negative things about other people's work. That's why I don't really review books very often. Oh, if I feel strongly about something, I'll toss up a bad review somewhere, and I suppose I can get pretty caustic. (You should read some of my old reviews on Kryptonsite about Chuck Austen's run on Action Comics... Yowza!) But these Starhawk books are just BAD, in my opinion, and yet they receive almost universal praise!

I have to give Maloney his due, though. Whether I think his books are bad or not, he's gotten publishers to buy almost thirty of them. He's built the kind of writing career I can only wish for. According to his website, he began writing in 1984 and has been writing full time for a living since 1987. He's obviously doing something right; targeting the right editors, hitting the right niche market, appealing to a specific yet broad range of fans, something. He appears to have over a million copies of his books in print, and he's still writing and selling his work to publishers. Kudos to you, Mack Maloney, on having the life I want.

But man, I don't like your books.

Someday I hope someone writes a post just like this about my books. While I may find Maloney's books awful, a LOT of people out there obviously love them. One person's opinion doesn't make a book bad, and if someone ever writes a review like this about me, it will mean I've done what Maloney has done. Made a career out of writing novels.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Ugh... flu!

Sick as a dog!
Woke up this morning, sick as a dog. Sinus congestion, difficulty breathing, all over body aches, and tired.

I hate being sick. I mean, really hate it.

On a positive note, I wrote almost five thousand words today on my short story. I threw over a thousand of them out, but still, it's an achievement. It's going much better now that I've made the decision to write a character that I'm far more familiar with, one I've already developed to a high degree. There are still a few rough spots to work out, but I'll get there, and fairly quickly.

I'm shooting for between eight and ten thousand words. This is going to be difficult for me. I've already gone over the goal I set for myself for this point in the story. I don't know if I can pare it down to keep the entire story under my self-imposed limit. Working short isn't easy for me at all, but I'm confident I'll come in under the max limit for the contest, 17K words.

The goal is to polish this story up and enter it in the Writers of the Future contest by the end of this month. That means I need to finish the first draft by the first part of next week so that I can get it workshopped and proofread.

Anybody interested in taking a look at my short story? If I can get some folks who are willing to give me an honest critique and not show the story to anyone else, I'd definitely appreciate it. Just let me know.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Comments, people!

People read, but don't talk back

I'm developing a decent readership, but I don't get any comments. I'm starting to feel like I'm just monologuing here! I want to get input back from the people who are interested enough to read my ramblings.

On a different note, relating to my post yesterday, I think I've found a way around the problem I mentioned with my short fiction. The problem isn't so much that I'm having trouble dealing with writing short fiction, it's that I'm having trouble dealing with short characterizations. I need to write a character for a while, get to know him or her, before I feel comfortable writing for that character. But it's hard to develop a character to that point in short fiction.

But I think I've figured a way around that problem. The works I've already done have a LOT of characters, both major and minor. There are also references to a lot of events and history that is only peripheral to the books. So I'm going to take one big event that was only a mention in my novel, something that happened ten years before the book takes place, and then take one character that I know very well and write the story of his place and his role in that event.

Yeah, it's cheating. It's not really something new, it's something that's already been worked out as backstory for another work. But it's something I'm familiar with, and can really sink my teeth into. It's something that I feel comfortable writing. And it's something I'm certain I can do well. It's not really branching out the way I want to, but I think I've decided that I'll branch out in my next novel instead of trying to do it in short stories. At least until I feel more comfortable with the short form works.

Monday, March 5, 2007

What to do?

What to do?
So here I am, supposed to be working on a short story for the Writers of the Future contest. I've got a couple of starts, a little work done, but nothing I'm really confident of. The thing is, I'm not really happy with either of the possibilities I've been working on. Part of it is that I'm way out of practice in short form writing. In the past nine or ten months, I've written two novels, and it's a length and style I'm comfortable with. Shorter works seem incomplete to me.

I feel troubled by the lower depth of character development made necessary by writing short stories. I tried to approach it as a scene, a novel chapter, but that's not working. I can write a scene, but the reader really won't know the characters as well as I'd like, and that bothers me.

Another thing that bothers me is the fact that I'm itching to get started on book 3 of the Gatehouse series. I've got a good, solid idea for what I want to happen, and I'm dying to get the outline for it off the ground and get back into the writing. If I were working on that, rather than on a short story that I don't have a solid, comfortable, and workable idea for, then I'd be churning out four thousand words a day and feeling great.

But if I do that, I feel like I'm falling into a trap. You see, I love the Gatehouse, and I believe in the books and their sale-ability. But they haven't sold yet! I've written two novels, found an agent, and I'm being considered by publishers, but I haven't sold the books! So if I take a month and a half and write the third book, there's a possibility that I'll be working on something that's not going to go anywhere. I don't even want to consider that possibility, because I've invested so much of myself into the books, but that's the reality. And even if I sell the book, or even the whole series and get a three book deal, that third book is three or four years off from publication.

As a writer, I want to branch out, tell other stories, and I know I have them in me. But I just can't get to them right now because I'm so involved with the Gatehouse.

The two story ideas I've been working on are solid, good ideas. But they have the potential to become more than short stories. They have the potential to become novels themselves, even series. And I'd probably be more comfortable writing them as such. But my goal in this is to get some writing credits under my belt, maybe get a short story or two published, maybe even a win or an honorable mention in a writing contest. And I can't do any of that if I write them as novels.

UGH! It's frustrating. I used to write short fiction all the time, way back in the old days. I was far more comfortable with shorter work then. The only thing for it is to do it. I guess I should just ask you all to wish me luck.