Writing Update. I got the page proofs for MHI!

I got the page proofs for MHI today.  I’m finally able to see what it is going to look like in the Baen format.   I was right, and it isn’t going to be in the 300 page range like it was listed on Amazon. It is going to be fatter. Which is good, because I couldn’t figure out how they were going to squeeze 195,000 words into that many pages. 

Everybody who read the initial version of MHI found it to be a very fast read, but it is actually rather fat. I take it as the ultimate compliment when somebody gets back to me that they finished my book in two or three days. (and in a few cases, in one sitting!) That means that I did my job.

That July 28th release date is getting closer.  MHI is being listed on more bookstore’s pages every day. I even found my first UK listing, which is very cool.  The one original self-published copy listed on Amazon is going for $1,000, which is totally nuts. 

MHI:2 The Rough Draft has been been submitted to Baen, and now all I need you guys to do is buy lots of copies of MHI:1 so I can get this sucker published.

Dead Six is rolling right along, and we’re still on track to have the rough done next month.  This is one of the more original thrillers that I can think of, and it just keeps getting better. We’ve created a deep and plausible world here, and it has gotten to the point that it just kind of keeps creating itself. 

Mike and I did up a character file, where we did a brief sketch of every single named character in the trilogy so far. (and the 3rd book still doesn’t exist at all). It was EPIC. Unlike most thrillers, everybody actually has a plausible motivation, and we tried to make the people as realistic as possible. Somebody once asked Mike if our main characters were “flawed” because supposedly flawed characters are more interesting.  He could honestly reply that one of them is a emotionally damaged alchoholic and the other is a narcissistic criminal scumbag, and we still make it fun.  In the world of Dead Six, the actual good guy does bad things, while the bad guy ends up trying hard to be good. 

On that note, let me digress and put my writer pontification hat on for a minute. I think that thing about flawed characters is a two-edged sword. Owen Zastava Pitt is a popular character, and he does have some flaws,  (sucks with women, clumsy, petty, holds a grudge, opinionated, and stubborn), but they’re all plausible things that any normal person could have. On the other hand, you get into the really flawed territory, and I just can’t bear to read about those characters because it is too painful.   I’m looking at you Stephen King. I really don’t want to listen to the ramblings of a drug-addled, adultering, child-molesting, porn-addicted, drunken, abused, whoring, wimpy idiot for 800 pages. My favorite King book is still Dark Half, not for his standard King cutout main character, but rather because King (probably accidentally) created a heroic supporting character (who wasn’t a drug addicted pederast) in the Sheriff. I know there are others, but King loves creating chracters that I would just never tolerate in real life, and if I couldn’t stand them in real life, why do I want to be in their head for 800 pages? (man… what was that one where the chick was handcuffed to the bed for like 600 pages?) 

My current Grimnoir project is evolving, and I’m extremely pumped about it too.  It is turning out in a very interesting way, kind of an alternative history where Indiana Jones meets Black Mask (the 1930s one, not the Jet Li one) meets Harry Potter only with more guns, samurai, and zeppelins.  I’m having fun with this main character because I get to write somebody in the pulp style of the hardboiled detectives. I’m talking about the kind of square jawed manly man that has a fried egg, black coffee, and a cigarette for breakfast, stuffs a Colt .45 in his coat, saves the dame, and takes out the trash.    All while wearing a fedora. Because men should wear cool HATS.

18 Responses

  1. You can put me down as someone who’s burned through MHI in one sitting, each of the four or five times I’ve read it.

    It’s a bloody addictive book, Larry. I love it.

  2. “Men should wear cool HATS.”

    Truer words were never spoken.
    Also, I’d agree to an extent on the flawed character thing. I think people get that advice a lot because too many writers create flawless Mary Sues as their protagonists. But more important than a flawed charcter is a realistic one. Owen is a good guy, not a lot of moral equivocation, and his flaws aren’t exceptionally pronounced. Grant, by contrast, is deeply flawed–he’s an arrogant prick who puts himself above everything else. But he’s not more realistic than Owen, he’s just realistic in a different way–he’s that asshole you work with, whereas Owen is your buddy who occasionally gets on your nerves but overall is a good person.

  3. Well, I have MHI on order at Amazon, and will buy the webscription.

  4. To be fair, my friend actually asked me about the characters *weeknesses*. She’d looked over our Character Bible and wanted to make sure they were fully developed, as opposed to your stereotypical square-jawed, steely-eyed men-of-action that tend to populate this genre.

    I can’t tell you how many thrillers have the protaganist as a “former Navy SEAL” or some such. Hell, I read one novel where the protaganist was a former SEAL AND a former Navy fighter pilot!

    Heh. Despite that, it was a good read.

    Anyway. Valentine is an emotionally scarred young man that has a fair-to-middlin’ case of PTSD and tends to self-medicate with bourbon.

    Lorenzo is, to quote part of our trilogy, a “Godless, self-absorbed narcissist”.

    It’s easy to write about great people. It’s more challenging to take realistic people with realistic problems and make them connect with the reader.

    You just have to be careful to not make them TOO f’ed up, as Larry pointed out. Because then the reader CAN’T connect wtih them, and then loses interest.

    So many writers out there think they’re clever, even artistic, when their characters repeatedly and/or ultimately disappoint the reader. They think they’re being so-o-o original when they have their “kick the dog” moments, or go off the deep end with a “rape the dog” moment. (No, thank YOU, TV Tropes!)

  5. Unfortunately, I have not read MHI yet. Didn’t find out about it until close to the end of the self-published era, and B&N was always out of stock. Can’t wait until July!

    NC, nothing wrong with making the character an ex-SEAL or the like, so long as they have flaws & weaknesses like any real person would. The protagonist in my novel is an ex-Marine Corps Scout Sniper, but he’s got his share of flaws and weaknesses just like a regular person.

    And no, he’s not a clone of Bob Lee Swagger.

  6. A Marine Corps Scout Sniper is fine. I picked Navy SEAL in particular because it’s been done to DEATH. Everytime some hack writer needs his character to be a badass and have a skillset, suddenly he’s “a former Navy SEAL”. This is mostly done by people who are clueless about the military.

  7. Larry, I believe the Stephen King novel you’re talking about is called “Gerald’s Game.” Synopsis, IIRC: Idiot housewife lets @$$hole husband handcuff her to the bed for some fun and games…and then the husband promptly drops dead of a heart attack. Followed by, among other things, “like 600 pages” – sounds about right – of mental recriminations on the part of said idiot housewife, and a moderately icky ending involving how she finally gets herself loose. And a stalker.

    I used to really like Stephen King, but somewhere around 1987 or so he went totally off the deep end with characterization – he got so involved in portraying the characters in his novels that he practically forgot to tell the damn story – and started dumping loads of warmed-over liberal politics into his plots. Like feminism in “Gerald’s Game” – the basic thrust of which seemed to be that all men were at heart rapists – or the antinuclear theme of “The Tommyknockers.” (The central character of which was an antinuclear activist with a short temper who was primarily known for shooting his wife in a drunken rage. You were saying something about ramblings of unlikeable characters, Larry…?)

    Oh yeah, and then King went and wrote himself into his “Gunslinger” fantasy series as a main character. Something that always bugged the hell out of me when Clive Cussler did it in his books, too…

    • “Oh yeah, and then King went and wrote himself into his “Gunslinger” fantasy series as a main character. Something that always bugged the hell out of me when Clive Cussler did it in his books, too…”

      Uh….um….yeah….about that….

      LOL

      (Hint: Owen Pitt is basically Larry Correia himself.)

      The big danger with self-insertion is the Mary Sue/Marty Stu syndrome that Nick pointed out, wherein your “self” character is always right, ultra-badass, and always saves the day.

      This is primarily a phenomenon in…ugh…FAN FICTION, but it manifests itself in other areas too.

  8. I’ll eventually write myself into a novel. I’ll be an overweight, bald, accountant, who randomly stumbles in the way and is eaten by monsters or blown up by terrorists.

    Gerald’s Game… Uggg. What a piece of crap. I’ve written a few novel pitches now for different editors. How did that one read? Woman gets handcuffed to bed. Nothing happens. The end. 200,000 words.

  9. PFFT. Yeah, “eventually”. As if Julie Shakleford isn’t basically your wife with an M14. Nyah.

  10. Oops, posted same time as NC. And Mike, I disagree. Owen isn’t me. Sure, we’d get along really well, but he’s way braver, smarter, tougher, so on and so forth. I guess when you write something in the 1st person, a bit of the author is going to rub off on the character.

    Which is funny, because I’m NOTHING like the guy I write in Dead Six. When I write Lorenzo, it is actually rather fun, because I can just be a dick. I’ve written a few parts, and Mike has critiqued me with “naw, he would never do anything that considerate”.

    As for Navy SEALs in action novels, I have one in MHI (
    Sam Haven), based on an actual friend of mine, and he’s sure not a Brad Thor kind of action hero. And there is a former SEAL in Dead Six (Anders), who plays a more prominent role in #2, but he’s certainly not typical. One of my favorite characters overall, and he will have to be played by Dolph Lundgren in the movie.

  11. Yes, Julie is totally my wife in real life. Which is funny, because one of the criticisms I got from readers were that she wasn’t that plausible of a character, because she was too much of a tough/action girl gunnut’s dream stereotype.

    While at the same time, people who know me personally were all like, oh, you just took the easy way out and wrote your wife as the love interest.

    And yes. It is that awesome to be me.

  12. 195,000 words? Wow. When I read it, it felt like 120, max. Good pacing!

  13. With a name like Owen Zastava Pitt, I have to be wondering if this character will be using a Yugo SKS, TT33, one of those Yugo 8mm AK things, or something equally interesting.

  14. Actually Graves, he uses something even cooler! heh heh, abomination! “how man laws?” … “All of them?”

    There is nothing wrong with using a military guy or LEO as your character, but if they aren’t real then they suck. Bob Lee Swagger was great because he was emotional, screwed that one chick in Ajo, Az. (my home town by the way, and yes there really is a slummy trailerpark where Stephen Hunter described it).

    I loved the Welcome Back Mr. Nightcrawler stories becuase I don’t recall any “real” military training for either lorenzo or NC.

    BTW Larry someday you need to write a spreadsheet for MHI and tell us who each character was based off of in real life.

  15. Harm,

    Milo is based on a buddy of mine named Jay Andrus. The character really wasn’t changed much. Sam Haven is the same, based on a guy named Seth Hicken. We hung out in college. And yes, Seth is the kind of guy who when he goes into a bar on a tear, they have to sweep up internal organs at the end of the night. :)

    Trip is a composite of a couple of different people. Same with Holly. Though to a lot of readers, they came off as being the most likely to be people that I actually knew.

    Julie is my wife, Bridget. Seriously. Only Bridget grew up in coastal California, not rural Alabama. And went to Utah State instead of UAB.

    Earl is totally made up, with mannerisms stolen from a bunch of old school Alabamans I’ve known.

    The Doctors Nelson, Lucias and Joan, are based on a senior missionary couple that I knew when I was on a mission. (Nielsen, and one was a psychologist and the other was a psychiatrist)

    Lord Machado is real. He is that unpleasant in real life too. Makes a real mess on the carpet….

    Contrary to what my mother and father in law say, the characters of Ray and Susan Shackleford are not based on them at all.

    Skippy and his people are cool to hang out with.

    In the Mr. Nightcrawler universe:

    Valentine/Nightcrawler is a very rugged version of my co-author, only with a drinking problem and real serious emotional issues. (Mike is a lot more normal in real life). Lorenzo is like my evil, screwed-up, much smaller, angry alter-ego.

    A shocking number of the Mr. Nightcrawler characters are real people. Once that book gets into circulation, I’ll be able to talk about those.

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