Tag Archives: television

Money for Something and Clicks for Free

Recently, I was visiting my hometown of Huntington, WV and my brother who is in the music business told me a story. I’d heard similar stories over the past few years, but this was the first one I had been told from someone with direct, first-hand knowledge. My brother, who we will call Brian (because that’s his name) told me about the bassist of a up-and-coming hard rock band. It was a band I had heard of and they were played frequently on my favorite radio station, SiriusXM Octane. Not only had this band been busy touring, but they had been touring on ShipRocked which is an incredibly popular event.

The band was really doing well. They were gaining fans.

They were… usually sleeping in a van in various Walmart parking lots.

They were… usually broke.

They were… soon to be without a bassist. It turned out he recently quit the band and moved home with his mother.

Those in the music industry are experiencing the same issues as most of those in the writing business. Streaming music sites and the proliferation of self-publishing have taken a toll on these industries as the supply is larger than the demand and the available content has been diluted. This isn’t to disparage those who place their music on streaming services or self-publish. This ability to get one’s work out into the public is fantastic and should continue.

However, a side-effect of these changes are that it is harder than ever for writers to make a living and the same goes for musicians. If a novelist sells 10,000 copies of a book, she is lucky to make $20,000 and there is no guarantee that income will continue for any real duration of time. Musicians face similar struggles. This article from 2016 gives a detailed breakdown of what a Metal band makes and has to spend if they play to 500 people per night.  It’s not pretty.

http://www.metalinjection.net/its-just-business/detailed-breakdown-of-how-much-a-band-earns-spends-playing-to-500-people-a-night

While writers and musicians have it tough, musicians have an extra burden because most of the money they do make is from touring. For those with families or who don’t want to live out of vans, urinate into a jug, and shower at truck stops, the lifestyle is less than ideal.

For writers, books tours are nice but not essential. But even with sales, fame and fortune may be elusive. My friend Wendy Tyson recently wrote a column on a site I contribute to called The Thrill Begins. In the piece, she explains what it’s like for writers when expectations meet reality. 

Again, not a pretty picture. Or at least not the rock star life some think may think successful writers may lead. By many measures, I’m a successful novelist and like 95% of the writers I know, I have a full-time job not related to writing. Out of the other 5%, I’d say 4% are retired and 1% (or less) are famous.

For all but the absolute biggest rock stars, the days of private jets and huge mansions are over.

For all but the most popular writers, the days of huge publishing contracts filled with massive advances are gone.

It’s all a trade-off. Is the trade-off worth it? It’s up to the consumers to decide.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

Watch for my new book, BOLT ACTION REMEDY, in October 2017! Preorder now!

Buy it on Amazon!

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

AVAILABLE NOW!

Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.image1 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

Advertisements

How The Night Manager Gives Us Hope for Television

There is half a psychopath lurking in there, Jonathan. I want you to find him and stick to him.”

Angela Burr to Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager

 

For the most part, television bores me.  Occasionally, I stumble across a clever sitcom or entertain myself by dissecting a police drama while rolling my eyes at the inaccuracies or logical fallacies.  It’s not that I’m a television snob, but rather that I long to find shows that are well-written and compelling.  As I write this, articles announcing series cancellations are flooding the news outlets.  Castle is gone.  Agent Carter is gone.  Person of Interest is gone.  A dozen other shows I barely knew existed are gone.  I find these cancellation announcements disheartening, but not necessarily because I’ll miss the shows.  I often find the news clips depressing because many of the series that are being eliminated have been limping along and probably should have been whacked a season or two prior to the finale.

This is the problem with a series that has an indefinite termination date.  The duration of the adventure is determined by ratings and not by quality.  I believe this can give a limited series, or a mini-series, quite an advantage in the screenwriting and production.  Lately, I’ve been watching The Night Manager, which is based on the novel by John le Carré.  Since the six-part series is based on a novel, there is a definite end in sight and the screenwriters were able to feed off of a great starting point.

taller de ilustracion digital - 217

Presumably due to the limited number of episodes, the producers were able to round up an amazing cast for The Night Manager.  Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie headline a collection of actors that includes Tom Hollander, Olivia Colman, and Elizabeth Debicki.  While I’m struck by the cast and the incredible scenery in the show, I’m more fascinated with the efficiency and powerfulness of the writing.  This is something not often found in typical television series and sadly is not always found in literature.  As the series is based on book written by a legendary author, the quality of the writing is hardly a surprise.  However, it is still refreshing when such efforts make their way to the small screen.  I recently came across another example with a mini-series production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  There is no way the story could have been told as well in a 120 minute movie and it certainly would have become a mess if turned into a full television series.

Storytelling is not just about the plot and the characters, but the pacing and the duration.  If you think back to some recent novels you’ve read, I’m sure you can name several you felt were fifty or even one hundred pages too long.  Similarly, there is little doubt that you have sped through a novel that seemed to drop off an unexpected cliff at a premature end.  These pacing and duration problems plague the television movie industries and are the reasons why so few productions are done as well as The Night Manager.

When the proper amount of time is allocated for a story, dialogue doesn’t ramble and words become more meaningful.  The action is deliberate and related to either the plot or a character’s development.  When a limited series is done correctly, we finish watching that final episode feeling sorry that it’s over, but not really wishing it would continue.  That’s how The Night Manager can serve as an entertaining reminder for writers.  It is also how the series has renewed my faith in the ability for television to keep viewers engaged without simply seeking out the next concept that will shock viewers.  The art of storytelling is in fact alive on the small screen, but it sure would be nice if there were more examples to find.

Share any thoughts you have in the comments below!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

The Speeding Ticket You Got in Arizona Was Not My Fault – Really!

Being a former police officer and former Secret Service agent, I end up in a lot of conversations with people who want to tell me about some experience he or she has had with law enforcement.  Nine out of ten times, the experience was a somewhat negative one for the individual who was upset about getting a traffic citation, or felt the police did not adequately investigate a crime of which the person was a victim, or the individual was somehow inconvenienced by police activity.

I understand this.  I’ve gotten used to these talks during which I make sure I listen well and do my best to remain objective.  After all, cops aren’t perfect.  There are some patrol officers who are jerks on traffic stops.  There are lazy detectives who fail to follow-up on leads.  There are federal agents who have giant egos.  It happens.  However, most of the frustration that is conveyed in the telling of these stories comes from a misunderstanding of processes, the profession, and what are realistic expectations.  This is something officers experience every day and it happened to me.  I recall a victim of a theft becoming extremely frustrated with me because I didn’t “… force the suspect to take a polygraph.”  Of course, I explained that the police cannot force anybody to take a polygraph test and that the results would be inadmissible in court anyway, but the victim of the crime had already labeled me as inept or apathetic since I hadn’t pursued this unrealistic avenue.

Now while every profession has to endure some level of skepticism and scrutiny, law enforcement is unique in the way many people will attribute the circumstances of a specific officer or incident to any police action.  On the surface, this can make sense to an individual.  However, when one does this with other professions, the exercise becomes a bit silly.  Below, let’s compare some complaints / stories about law enforcement with what would be the equivalent for other professions.

Police story:  “Hey, you were a police officer in Virginia, right?  Well, I was driving in Georgia and this police officer pulled me over and gave me a ticket for going three miles per hour over the speed limit.  Three!  And he completely ignored the cars that were passing me!”

Equivalent in another profession:  “Hey, you work for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, right?  Let me tell you about this time I was driving in Delaware and had to sit in a construction zone for an hour and there was no real construction going on!”

Now, obviously most people would not think to connect a construction zone on a roadway in Delaware to a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation employee, but that’s exactly what people do when discussing policing.  Another example:

Police story:  “Oh, you were in the Secret Service?  Did I tell you about the time I was late to work because the Governor’s security people wouldn’t let me use the elevator because she was visiting our building?”

Equivalent in another profession:  “So, you just retired from Xerox?  Man, we had this Konica copier at my old job and that thing always jammed.  What’s up with that?”

I know.  The conversation with the former Xerox employ would be a ridiculous conversation.  The complaint about a different product created by a different company is essentially the comparing of apples and oranges.  Aside from that, in law enforcement discussions, sometimes people try to compare apples and oranges and what people think are oranges are really tangerines.

In law enforcement, there are tens of thousands of employees in hundreds of agencies who are responsible for a variety of jurisdictions.   So, why do people tend to associate what happens with one agent or officer in a particular region or jurisdiction with an entire profession?  We usually don’t do this with construction workers, accountants, museum curators, or lawyers.  Well… maybe lawyers.  The answer is easy.  Because television, movies, and novels have made us a society of EXPERTS in all matters surrounding the administration of justice.

Many people have derived their knowledge of policing from television shows such as Law and Order, Castle, Criminal Minds, NCIS, CSI, or crime novels.  There are far fewer shows and books about construction workers, accountants, and museum curators, so people don’t believe themselves to be experts in those fields.  However, if we see NCIS Special Agent Gibbs do something on NCIS, then we know it must be partially true.  Right?  I mean lots of agencies have a computer wiz on staff who routinely, and illegally, hacks into the Pentagon in order to get classified records.  Right?

It’s natural for people to be apprehensive about law enforcement.  Many of the interactions we have with the police are negative.  Often our contacts with cops involve either being pulled over for a traffic violation or with having been the victim of some sort of crime. The overall experience may not be pleasant, but every encounter with each individual officer or agent should be evaluated independent of each other.  If an officer yelled at you in Pittsburgh, then the retired L.A. cop you are talking to at a picnic had nothing to do with it.  If you felt a detective in Austin, Texas was unfair to you, the investigator from St. Louis really can’t weigh in on the matter.  If you got jammed up in traffic because of a motorcade rolling through Washington, D.C., then don’t complain to me about…  actually, that could have been me.  Sorry about that one.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

 

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

 

Know Your Enemy

Oddly, authors are sometimes told that other writers are the enemy.  However, in my column for The Thrill Begins, I explain the enemy is L.L. Cool J and anyone who is part of the upcoming Road House remake.  As if this needs any explanation at all.

http://thrillbegins.com/2016/01/07/know-your-enemy/

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

AVAILABLE NOW!

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

Resolve

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

Legacy cover

Coming February 2016

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.

Quoth the Raven… You’re Now On A Watch List!

I honestly don’t know how people wrote novels before having access to the miracles of technology we now have at our fingertips.  I cranked out about 3,000 words over the past two days (hopefully a few of the words are decent) and conducted research along the way.  If not for modern technology, this little section of a manuscript would have taken me days, if not weeks, to construct in any intelligible way.  Allow me to explain while paying tribute to a few wonderful tools of technology.

Spelling and Grammar Checks:  Oh, how I love thee.  Not only do you catch the fact I never type “definitely” right, but you signal me with a little green line if you think I may have meant “lying” and not “laying”.  Sure, you frustrate me when I get on a roll, fail to look at the screen when I type, and then I raise my eyes to see you have underlined most of an entire paragraph in blood.  But, I forgive you.  And you truly humble me when I put forth my very best effort to spell a difficult word and you give me the Microsoft version of the middle finger by telling me “No suggestions found“. That’s right, MS Word.  You have a gazillion words saved to memory and you’re telling me I’m not close to ANY of them.  Awesome.

But, if not for you many a proofreader would have seen my many spelling and grammatical flaws.  I still love thee.

This Internet Thing:  Occasionally, I’m writing a section of a novel and come to the realization I need to research something.  Edgar Allen Poe would have had to have gone to a library and spent hours finding the chapters in the right texts.  Mark Twain would have had to interview countless people, take copious notes, and then try to make sense of them later.  Now while I do both of these things, sometimes I just need to nail down a few facts to make sure I’m not making a colossal blunder.  Thank you, Internet.

DSCN0819

The Internet – Circa. 1974  Tin cans on a string.

Where else can you get two-minute YouTube videos of someone pushing buttons on a stereo system (yes, this was part of my research this week).  And while the Internet can be a huge distraction, it is incredibly convenient when a writer needs basic facts or a visual or audio aid.  However, it’s just as well this technology wasn’t around in the nineteenth century.  Can you imagine seeing Poe’s browser history?????  Quoth the Raven… Dude, you’re now on a watch list. 

The third one is…

 

Sorry, I checked Twitter and got sidetracked.  Damn Internet.

Movies and Television:  You might be thinking, Movies and television?  Are you insane?  My answers to those three questions are, Yes, you read that right and Possibly.  While these mediums have been around for quite some time, shows and films have never been – for better or worse – more detailed and descriptive.  While some may argue this leaves little to the imagination, I believe the vivid images people see may in some ways help readers envision what a novelist is attempting to describe.  That being said, novelists have to be cautious as to not get lazy and paint a superficial picture and expect the latest big prime time drama to fill in the unpainted sections.

A movie theater. You probably knew that.

A movie theater.
You probably knew that.

I’ve had many people tell me that my novels read like movies.  They mean it as a compliment, so I’m assuming they aren’t referencing the second Star Wars trilogy.  What I think the readers  are saying is that they had no trouble seeing the action play out and the story was paced appropriately.  Or they consider my characters’ dialogue to be similar to that of Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.  In which case, I need to dig up my old Rocky IV soundtrack, crank up some Survivor, and work on my dialogue writing skills.

What are some technological advances that have made your work easier?  It doesn’t have to be writing.  Anything at all!  Comment below.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

https://hensleybooks.wordpress.com
http://www.hensley-books.com
https://www.facebook.com/hensleybooks
https://www.goodreads.com/JJHensley
Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

AVAILABLE NOW!

An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

cropped-measure-twice-750-x-1200-jpeg.jpg

Also:

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

Resolve

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology

Legacy cover