Where are we headed?

Wonder where this goes?

Recently I watched several TV shows on cable that had scenes that I found offensive. Several involved sex scenes that just seemed inappropriate for viewing unless you’re some kind of voyeuristic peeping-tom, also there were story lines involving extreme violence including mutilation of bodies—it was gory and offensive. These shows were supposedly entertainment and cost me money to watch—both aspects of that statement seem wrong.

Many shows on television have a rating of TV-M. I guess that stands for mature. I really question whether a mature person would watch some of these programs. Not sure who slaps that rating on TV shows but I believe it is not like the movies, where there are people who get paid to spend their days watching some really horrible movies to attach a rating.

Of course, I’m an author and have had a few people compare my works of fiction to trash because I used words they do not approve of. Are vulgar words the same as sex scenes or graphic violence. I don’t think so but maybe I’m wrong.

Why aren’t books rated the way movies are? Sounds like a good question doesn’t it? The answer is kind of silly–because there are too many books and it takes too long to read them.

Maybe a silly answer but it does make sense. There are thousands and thousands of books released every week compared to a small number of movies. Authors would have to pay fees to support the structure to allow for the army of book readers to read and rate each one. Starting to sound like a very bad idea. Movies take a couple of hours to watch– a book can take five times that or more to read. And of course the rating (just like movies) would be subjective.

I know there are people who have sites that rate books. These sites are looking for books that are family friendly–I guess that means no sex, no bad language and only good violence. Probably the bad language would have to be broken down into bad, very bad, super bad or something like that. Or maybe it would just be volume. Say a 70,000 word book can only have 100 bad words and still be okay for general reading–excluding kids.

There is a segment of the reading population that only wants books that have no “vulgar” language–none! A book rating might be nice for them but it is totally unnecessary. The vehicle for this information is the reader review. Somewhere around 5% of my reviews are about language–cuss words, vulgar words, dirty words, potty-mouth words; and these reviewers are not only passing along information but they also find time to scold me for such behavior.

I have written before about the context of my language choice. The gritty language is usually limited to the bad guys or the good guys under stress. There are exceptions–a couple of characters just had a tendency to use crude language in almost all situations. My other defense was that those “words” were not that frequent. But as I said before I don’t think the quantity is too important to the “bad word” people who are offended by any word that they consider bad whether it’s one or fifty.

For funnies I checked one of my books for offensive words. It happened to be Four Corners War which is the third Pacheco & Chino book and will be released in August. I chose that book because it is the one I’m working on and the manuscript was handy. I ran a word count and found a little over a two-hundred words that might be offensive. That is in a 70,000 word book—so less than a half of one percent of the words were gritty. I would guess that’s about average for my books–except for maybe the first one The Bootlegger’s Legacy–in that book most of the bad words were at the very beginning in the prologue where the gangsters are waiting to kill our hero and they are chatting–using a lot of vile words–after-all they are gangsters in a bar, what would you expect.

So what is the point? Where is this headed? We seem to live in a world without clear guidelines on what matters. Some things matter a great deal to some and none at all to others. We definitely don’t have a consensus on what is acceptable and what is not as it relates to entertainment. We have TV shows on cable that are violent beyond reason, where every other word is fuck where sex scenes are thrown in just as filler. Could I write my books without certain words? Sure. Will I? No. Why not? The why not is because it would change the book. The characters would be different—and I don’t want too!

Does that make me a hypocrite if I complain about sex and violence on TV but find crude words acceptable in writing. Maybe it does; but I think it means that I have defined my personal guideline and that is something we all can do. I have never resented the bad reviews related to the “bad” words, I always saw it for what it was—a message that if some words offend you –stay away. I agree.

I use words to tell a story and sometimes a good F-bomb is the best way to tell that story. And if someday someone decides to do a TV series of one of my books I will insist that they limit the violence and keep the sex behind bedroom doors. They would probably tell me to F-off.

Time to Write?

One of the recommendations I keep reading about on how to be a successful author is to write more books—one every three months is often suggested as a standard—why not one every week? In some ways it seems absurd to measure the success of a creative enterprise based on the time you spend creating. But, of course, what is being measured is more about marketing and the short cycle of attention that demands something new every day. Having a new book every three months would maximize marketing dollars and increase the author’s visibility so it must be good. Or is it?


I write quickly, when I’m writing, so producing a book every three months would be within my capability. But as an Indie author I spend about as much time dealing with other aspects of book writing as I do writing. The details of publishing and the time consumed by marketing will usually be about the same as writing. Of course someone else could do that—but I’m not in the position to hire someone for those other tasks. That probably means that two to three books a year is about my limit.


Usually I’m carrying around with me every day at least two, sometimes ten ideas for a book. They just sort of bubble around inside my head until one day I begin the story. Very little prep work –I just start. There are authors who will spend almost as much time preparing to write as they do writing—I really admire this approach and wish I could do it. Prepare a detailed outline, develop a story board for scenes, list all of the important characters, even write character descriptions—wow, this is so impressive. Authors also do extensive research on locations, the elements of law in a book, details about specific issues related to crime, the courts, jails, anything you can think of; it is amazing the details that will be in a book—even a book of fiction. This is not how I work—I wish I could. It just sounds so orderly and efficient.


I have said this before and it still sounds a little goofy, but it seems to me the characters write my books. I start the process and lay out the basics but often the story takes on a whole new approach as I’m writing. The characters by their actions will dictate how a story progresses. I didn’t plan it—it just happened.

The first book I wrote, The Bootlegger’s Legacy, was not going to be about a bootlegger (obviously that was not even the title of the book when I began) it was going to be about two normal guys, honest business-people who found themselves in financial trouble and decided to do a drug deal to save their businesses and their families. That idea came from something I had actually seen happen. From day one that kernel of an idea grew, changed, and then exploded into something entirely different. It was still two guys dealing with financial and family issues but it became a different story. A much better story I might add—with almost all of it made-up. The kernel of fact turned into something unknown to me until I started writing.


Some writers need the details planned in advance, for me that would be a serious mistake. I need to start an adventure and see where it leads. That first book taught me to write on the fly and see where it goes. But I still envy the writers who can plan and devise details in advance of writing—it just sounds so organized and mature.


That three-month cycle of writing books is a recent ideal, no doubt, based on something to do with Amazon algorithms. Authors are infamous for taking as long as it takes to write books. Many famous authors took what in Amazon terms would be a lifetime to write a book. Margaret Mitchell took ten years to write Gone with the Wind—and supposedly only began writing because she was bored and never intended it to be published. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the Hobbit and was asked to write a follow up. Some seventeen years later he finished The Lord of the Rings. The manuscript was 9,250 pages which his publisher decided to break up into three books. Based on the Amazon driven standard of four books a year Tolkien would have written 68 books during that time not just three. Maybe the 68 books would have all been great; but somehow I think we’re better off with the three Tolkien actually wrote, no matter how long it took.


Since I’m not Tolkien or Mitchell I will stick with my goal of two to three books a year because it’s what I can do and it seems to work on Amazon—which I guess is a good thing?


PS. The 9,000 plus pages of Tolkien’s manuscript could easily have been 25 books rather than 3. Must have been a massive editing job. Wonder what was cut? I cannot imagine writing that many pages and then have it chopped down to maybe less than 20% of what I wrote. I think I would have been cursing the editor. From one write-on-the-fly guy to another –maybe Tolkien should have planned better.

Hey, whad’ya think?

I think of Indie authors as being lonely people. Not that they don’t have friends and family it’s just that most people don’t want to talk to them because all they care about is their silly books. They keep asking have you read my latest book, what did you think about the cover, did you see that review I got….on and on. So people start to avoid them. Wisely so.

But still; have you read my latest book? What did you think of the cover? Yep, I’m an Indie author desperate for information. Who are my readers? Are they male, female, under 40 over 60? Which of my books have the most appeal, why? What should a good cover look like. What are readers willing to pay for an e-book, how much does it matter? Information/data –it drives everything. If you had good data you could make better decisions on marketing, cover design –every aspect of writing books.

I currently have nine books published; it would be great if you could share with me any information you have about my writing. Which of my books have you read? What do you think about the covers? Just anything that might help me understand how other people view what I’m doing–it would be helpful. Or maybe just a comment of books in general, what you like; don’t like? What you’re willing to pay?


Reading for Health?

Reprinted from May Newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter on the web site tedclifton.com.

Most of the male members of my family do not read books. And maybe only about half of the female members read. When I realized this some years ago I was shocked. I’ve always been an avid reader and, since I love living in my bubble, assumed most everyone read a few dozen books a year; but not so. Now to be fair I do have relatives who read—but it’s the exception not the rule. And especially men do not read books; why is that?

I’m sure most of you have heard that there are health benefits to reading books. Here is an excerpt from an article by Andrew Merle for Mission.org which lists these benefits.

Reading has been shown to do all of the following:

Reduce stress levels (by 68 percent!)
Preserve brain health and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Alleviate anxiety and depression
Help you fall asleep
Increase life expectancy
Boost happiness and overall life satisfaction

Reading accomplishes all of this by activating your mind, providing an escape from day-to-day life, and offering refreshed perspective for life’s challenges.

Some of my more obtuse relatives might say that they can get most of that from watching TV—most particularly the help you fall asleep part. But research contradicts that. Apparently reading has a unique effect on the brain and it’s hard to find other activities that provide this level of benefit.

Of course I write books so maybe I just want people to read so they will buy my books—the answer to that is; yes. But even if I didn’t, there sure seems to be some major potential benefits to reading and if you’re lucky you might even enjoy the story. So why don’t people read?

Maybe it’s just the effort required. Reading is not a passive activity. Now it’s also not an exhausting activity– like riding a bike; so when I say not passive, it is that it takes thought and thought is not passive. Some of my books may have two or three plot lines with twenty or more characters—you have to pay attention to follow the story. That is the joy of a mystery—all of the characters, clues and suspects coming together for that surprise ending—the one you knew all along. That is fun and enjoyable but it does take effort.

So now we have the answer. Non-readers are lazy. Well this certainly fits several of my relatives; but I don’t think that is all. I think for many it is that they never enjoyed reading. They didn’t read books growing up. Books that they treasured and read many times. I haven’t tested this but I have the feeling that many non-readers just didn’t read books as a kid–they didn’t form that habit of reading. Sure mom or dad read books to them on occasion; but as they got older they did not graduate to reading on their own. They didn’t read the Boxcar Children’s books, they didn’t read The Hardy Boys, nor Tom Sawyer nor The Three Musketeers. Or even maybe they didn’t love comic books—I know I did. Some of my favorite kid memories involved reading Classic Illustrated comic books—okay I’m weird. They also didn’t read those wonderful books as a young adult Catcher in the Rye, Sherlock Holmes, Treasure Island, Lord of the Flies, and more and more and more.

So now they don’t read because they really never did. They never felt that wonderful joy and comfort of your favorite book waiting for you when you got home from school. Books were all about school, not fun or enjoyment, just work.

The sad part of this story is that all of those people who don’t read are not teaching their children to read. A big event will be a movie costing $60 for a family that last two or so hours. The movies are so aggressive it makes us even more mentally passive. An e-book today is dirt cheap and will last many more hours than a movie and could last a lifetime. I know the joy of reading can last a lifetime and bring tremendous benefits.

So my final thought is that you should give someone you care about a book. It is good for their health and very cheap. Did I mention that I sell books?

Thanks everyone for being a reader!

Long Journey

Release Date May 15th, 2019

Fiction No More will be released next Wednesday the 15th of May, 2019. This book took longer to finish and publish than previous books (with the exception of one; Four Corners War which I will discuss in a minute). I started writing Fiction No More in June 2018. My normal pattern is to write a book in about three months. That is the time it takes for me to write a first draft of the manuscript. Typically there has been about an equal amount of time to finish the book–editing, revisions, more editing, cover design, layout –the whole other shebang is usually another three months. For a total of six months from start to finish.

I read about authors who write a book in a month and have it published in another month. There are, of course, authors who take years to write a book. There is no correct amount of time–it takes what it takes. My goal is to write three books per year. When Four Corners War is published later this year it will be my tenth book–in about 4 years. An average of 2.5 books a year. So close to my goal. The odd part is that I have had books take three or so months from start to finish and now with FNM has taken eleven months. The reason one book would be one thing and another book (with the same author and same team of people) would be so much longer is not very interesting. It’s not more complications and re-writes; it is mostly just delays, one-time disruptions–all easily described as life interfering with schedules. But it is frustrating.

No doubt none of this is very interesting; but since you are reading a blog about writing, I’m working on the assumption that your interested in the messy details of writing. When I say “team of people” this is mostly editors. No author should publish a book without the assistance of editors. It would be nice to just take the first draft and run with it–publish as is. That would be a mistake for the author and the reader. Editors have a great skill in helping authors reach the goal of writing the best book they can. They don’t rewrite the book but they make corrections, offer guidance and are a necessary element in producing a good book. In the case of FNM the first editor to work on the book was in the process of moving–which didn’t go exactly as planned and he was delayed in completing his part of the project. The editor towards the end of the process was also delayed by some miscommunication on my part. All in all it was anything that could go wrong did–the result was delays.

So now the book will be published next week almost a year from when I started writing.

Now the real champ for length of time from starting to publishing is Four Corners War. I’ve written before about my mental block regarding FCW. This is a book that I started in 2016–yep three years ago. I had zipped right through the first two Pacheco and Chino books and was all gung-ho to begin the third. Got about a fourth of the way into the book and a cloud developed. On that dark day I just stopped writing. My mind went blank. I didn’t know where the story was going–nothing felt right. It was writer’s block. I was frozen. Bottom line is that I didn’t write anything for almost a year. To try and break out of that slump I began to write a new series with a co-author; the “Murder” books with Stanley Nelson. In a relative short span of time we wrote three books. The spell was broken.

Pre-Order Soon!

I returned to FCW and just recently finished the book–it will be published later this year. The total time for one of my books at three plus years hopefully is a bad record that I never break.