A famous peer, thriller genres and $2.99 – 2020 Writing Week 8

MJG Weekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

I just saw an old school peer on the TV, Ralf Little! We weren’t friends, but we hung out a few times, chatted occasionally, and I’ve kept a distant eye on his career. When we were at school he was in the cricket drama Sloggers, then around Uni he was in 2 Pints of Lager and Packet of Crisps, which I never felt drawn to, and then he was kind of quiet.

Now he’s the lead detective on Death in Paradise! A show I used to watch religiously, then tapered off after they swapped the lead guy for a young guy, watched more when they swapped it to Ardal O’Hanlan, and tonight just randomly caught it and saw Ralf in the lead!

Good for him. It felt quite nice to see a peer up there on the TV screen, holding his own. Away for filming in the Caribbean. Google says his net worth is between 1 and 5 million dollars. Sweet.

Now I just need to get there myself…

Restraint on Saint Justice tweaks

I have been making so many tweaks to Saint Justice – cover, blurb, actual text – that now I am a little addicted. As if any little change could make a big difference. I agonize over questions of font, background darkness, yellow or red, size of figure.

I can petty much recognize what this is – I sort of know something’s not right, but I can’t put my finger on it and fix it. It’s like anything I write – like the Last Mayor series. When I wrote it, it was definitely the best I could do. It all felt necessary. When I went back to rework it recently, the boring bits just about smacked me in the face.

I trust it’ll be the same with Wren and his cover.

Broadly – I’m becoming aware of 3/4 potential genres it straddles:

1. Jack Reacher – The first cover I put out was a Jack Reacher copy – my name big and spaced out, lots of lines of text, all my ads and copy focused on mentioning Lee Child. The figure is walking, the colors monochrome. However, there isn’t really another big author like Jack. Just a vigilante guy roaming like a solo A-Team. Most of the similar ones are either:

2. Assassins or Special Forces or Spies – This is the bigger genre, with your Bonds, Bournes, Rapps, Horvaths and so on. They usually work for someone, and get sent somewhere, and end up helping someone unexpectedly. The difference is perhaps one of scale. Jack Reacher deals primarily with local concerns. These guys deal often with matters of national security. Patriotism plays a big role. They have running man covers, or double cut-out covers with two guys holding guns in different poses overlaid. There’s little swearing, blood, gore.

3. Jo Nesbo serial killers – These can get pretty dark. We’re dealing with creeps who kill in colorful ways – so mutilations, horror, gross tableaus. Like Se7en. It’s always a detective going after them. there’s usually a couple of deaths. It doesn’t usually involve vigilantes. These have covers similar to the Jack Reacher ones – a guy walking, but they’re darker and have starker color contrasts.

4. Stieg Larsson ‘Dragon Tattoo’ books – These are probably closest to what I write – weird dark culty stuff, tech-geekery, hackers, brutal violence and revenge, not afraid to stray off the beaten path. They have very different covers – tattoos and patterns feature heavily. Basically about vigilantes, but international, facing cult-like organisations/families.

So which to target? It decides my cover, my blurb, and my ads. Ideally – all 3 of those should sync up. Right now I’ve got a Jo Nesbo cover, a dark version of a Patriotic thriller blurb, and ads targeting all thriller authors. I do mention cults. When I took that aspect out – the books seemed to lose their USP. Wren becomes just another faceless vigilante.

I have to be honest to the books. Yes, I can alter the text, but not completely. I’m actually quite happy to unkill some people.

Unkilling people

This was never an issue with the zombie books. People have been writing reviews saying too many people die in Book 1. I didn’t see it. Just like with Wren getting injured after every fight – I thought it would not be realistic for most of the goodies to survive intact.

So I pretty much killed them all. It’s largely true that every one Wren met in book 1 died. Every member of his cult that he got involved died. It rather makes him look ineffective. It bludgeons the reader. You liked that guy? Oh, dead. That gal? Dead.

It’s no fun. So I unkilled them. It was easy.

Eustace now survives. Also Lacy (that was a really random death), Henry (Abdul dies to save him – gives more meaning there), and Mason himself. Much nicer. That is on top of the changes I made ages ago to let both Cheryl and Teddy survive. I also reduced the death count of the Saints’ war from some 3000 to less than a hundred.

Why not? Wren was effective. He stopped the bad guys. How many action movies end with a massive slaughter of the good guys? We wouldn’t watch any more.

It’s good. It also leaves me a greater cast of existing characters, with history, to draw on in later books.

$2.99

In my tweaks I increased the price of Saint Justice to $2.99. Sales dropped from 7/8 a day to 3/4. Not much difference. I’ll show patience and hold off tinkering – see if it settles down and sells for a week, then maybe drop it again and compare. It’s no good changing things every day.

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