Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I'm giving myself the Christmas present of my original books: Star Axe and Snowcastles/Icetowers.

They've got terrific old/new covers designed by Mike Corley. (The original Sword and Sorcery artwork by Romas updated.)

You know how they say everyone has one book in them? Well, Star Axe would have, could have been that one book. Except, well, I had more books in me. But it came from my pure love of LOTR's at a time when there wasn't a excess of LOTR's type books.

(My father challenged me to write two more books, and offered to get me a new Selectric typewriter if I did. So I wrote Snowcastles and Icetowers.)

I've scanned them, which is a messy process. I have to go through them line by line, which is a bit tedious. So I've decided to take the rest of the month to finish Star Axe at least. Snowcastles should be easier because I just downloaded a pirated version. (Heh). Icetowers is also going to be a chore. But I think I can get them done by mid-December.

Thing is, these books sold many more copies than anything I've currently written. They were mass market at a time when that was the market. They were in all the bookstores and newstands.

I got a single royalty statement for Star Axe which had numbers I may never again achieve. The publisher had a bankruptcy reorganization shortly after, so that was it. (Dorchester lasted another 30 years, the bastards. I took it to a lawyer and he scoffed at the paltry amounts. Paltry to him, but a few thousand dollars would have been nice back then.)

Snowcastles undoubtedly sold even better, because it was sold in the British Commonwealth, by a different publisher. They seem to be all over the world.

However, I was in my mid-20's when I wrote these, a pretty immature mid-20's at that. The innocence actually works pretty well for fantasy, but the writing is a little clunky compared to my current abilities, so I kind of wince my way through the transcribing.

I decided about a fourth of the way through Star Axe to change the more egregious sentences. I've decided that as long as I don't actually change the real content, improving the writing here and there isn't a crime. The book seemed to be liked by people--very much liked by some--so I don't want to change that.

But...improving a sentence only makes sense. I'm certain that no one will notice the difference.

It will be fun to have these available online, and why the hell not? Right?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Two week non-writing vacation.

Feels weird. But I'm going with it. I still want to finish Fires of Allah, but I had to break off twice in writing it before, and each time it's harder to get my head back into it. I want to be absolutely sure nothing will get in the way of finishing it.

I worry if I take too much time off, though, I'll get used to it. I might start liking it.

Meanwhile, at the store, I'm finding that I'm not in touch with what's happening as much as I'd liked. On the other hand, the store is doing great, Cameron is excelling as manager, and he and Matt are the faces of Pegasus and that's a good thing.

We are reaching subscription levels we haven't seen since the mid-nineties. We almost always have a big day on Wednesdays, which is when the new comics come out, and which is an indication of enthusiasm.

New books continue to do well, and I think as I continue to focus on them as my main job at the store they'll continue to do well.

In most ways, things are going extraordinarily well. Knock wood.

Here's the thing. I have several years worth of books finished.

Yes, several years. Finished, done, edited, covers. Ready to go. (There is some clean-up left to do, but that's just a matter of doing it.)

So what's the hurry?

There is no hurry, but I do have the concern that if I'm not compulsively obsessed with writing that I won't write at all. That there is no middle ground.

I guess I'm about to find out.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Shocked, Shocked! Tourism in Bend!

So to the person quoted in the paper who moved to Bend a grand 11 years ago, who wanted a "small town mid-western" feel: you can actually move to the mid-west for that. Of course, it won't have mountains or high lakes or a world class ski resort or Smith Rocks or...well, the list is endless. That's why we have tourism.

People often ask how I feel about the growth because I'm a native.

Hey, my store couldn't exist in the town I grew up in. 13,000 people, max. The 20,000 extra people in town on summer days is what makes my store possible. Without them I wouldn't have a store, or it would be a very different store. (My rent would be a lot cheaper too, I suppose, but whatever...)

The other answer is--I find the craziness easy to ignore. The traffic is the only thing that really impacts on me, and as a local I know ways around that most of the time and it certainly isn't a dealbreaker.

The outlines of old Bend are still here. I just ignore those other places. Northwest Crossing could be in another country for all I notice. I have no reason to go out there. No reason to be upset by anything they do.

Here's a rule of thumb I've found to be true. The first stop on a tourist route will be twice as crowded as the second stop, which will be twice as crowded as the third stop, and so on. So if you're willing to go a little further off the beaten track, you'll be fine.

I go walking every day in the high desert. On my path, I've run into people 3 times in the hundreds of times I've walked it.

But if you go to Tumalo Falls, or Sparks Lake, or Drake Park in the middle of July and August, then yeah, it's a zoo. If you go to the festivals, or the concerts, or any of the other venues, then it will be hectic. But, come on...those of you who moved here instead of the real mid-west, you kind of like that activity, don't you?

If you really hate the crowds, then don't do that.

If you want to see places like Dillon Falls, or Lava Butte, or any of the other cool places, you have April thru mid-June, September thru mid-November to do so. The weather might actually be nicer.

Live your life as normal, ignore the rest, and we still have nice small town.

Tourism IS Bend.

Ridiculous article in the Bulletin today about tourism.

So some of the newcomers don't like all these newer newcomers.

Downtown Bend faces gridlock. No one goes there anymore--it's too busy.

Still, we promote and we promote and we promote.

So now we want to complain about our success? Now we want to reverse course?

Too late, folks. Unless you want to depend on retirees spending money--and they don't spend money--tourism is what we got.

Tourism IS Bend.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

All in all, my writing is on track.

I've thought of a couple of extra scenes for Tuskers IV. I have a couple of major characters who kind of fade in the second half of the book, so I've figured out how to include them again.

I'm  eager to get Fires of Allah finished.

I took a week off from writing while family was home. It was good timing, with Tuskers IV finished.
Been doing my walks in the cool of morning instead of the evening. Doesn't work when I'm writing, because I really don't get going on the actual writing until later in the day.

I've refined the process I'm going to be following from here on out. Roughly speaking, I'm doubling the time I spend on a book. The actual writing will probably be about the same. Once I'm in the flow of a story, I really write at the pace the story comes to me. But I'm going to spend some time thinking about the book before I start. I'm adding a step of editing the previous days writing in the morning, I'm going to do a full rewrite before I send it to my editor, Lara, and a full rewrite when it comes back.

I'm in no hurry. I can still produce a goodly number of books at this rate and it's time to try to apply everything I've learned.

Meanwhile, I've got what I think is a very cool idea for my next new book. I'm very excited by the possibilities of it. I haven't decided if I want to make it the next Virginia Reed book, which will require putting in a supernatural element (which happens to be kind of cool) and changing the time of the real events.

Or I can write it as a straight historical.

I've got until the first of the year to decide. Like I said, Step #1 is to fully think through the book before I start.

I'm applying some of this new process to Fires of Allah, which means it will take up most of the rest of the year. In the in-betweens, I'm going to finish off my Lander series. I still have to write the ending of the 2nd book, Zombielander, and I'm undecided about whether to try to include a fifth book. But the other four books just require that I finish them and polish them up.

Like I said, I feel like my writing is right on track. I believe I'm getting better, I'm getting the hang of what a good story should be, I'm refining the process of creation. So all that is going smoothly.

The publishing front will always rely on the other guys. When and how and where is up to them. While somewhat frustrating, the difference in sales is Night And Day. The publishers have their own followings, which really helps.

When I put out my own books, sales are slim to none.  And yet...strangely it doesn't seem to matter to me that much. I still get great satisfaction out of writing the books, making them as good as I can, getting them edited, finding nice covers, and simply putting them out. Every book I put out is up to my standards, so the books I put out myself are just as good as the ones the publishers are doing.

It's just that I've filled all the available slots already, and I don't know if I want to go searching for other publishers too.

So I'm just plopping my own books out there every few months with zero expectation.

It's as if I was a painter who finished a painting he really liked and he just hangs it on the wall of his own office. It may only be seen by him and a few family and friends, but the painting is still the painting, and there is something to be said for that.

I've thought it all through, and I'm pretty satisfied with the way things are going. The quality of the books isn't dependent on sales, really.

I was on fire at work on Thursday. I think I sold 8 to 10 of my books. I did it out of sheer enthusiasm.

I had two separate instances of readers coming in specifically to tell me how much they enjoyed my books. I mean, they really did mean it. I could tell.

That counts for a lot.

So I'm just going to keep on doing what I'm doing. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Anyone feel like reading a Virginia Reed adventure in these hot pioneer days of summer?

True story: In August of 1845, the famous Lost Meek Cutoff wagon train wandered the high desert east of present day Bend, Oregon. Stephen Meek, the no good brother of the famous mountain man Joe Meek, had promised them a shortcut. (Seems like most Oregon Trail tragedies involve "shortcuts.)

Somewhere around Hampton Butte they stumbled across gold. The Lost Blue Bucket Mine.

They were never able to find it again...or so it was believed.

As usual I tried for historical accuracy.

And ghosts.

Historical accuracy and ghosts.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tuskers IV is finished.

I still have half a dozen chapter headings to write. Those usually don't take long.

I want to give it a quick read/re-write, then send it to Lara.

I'll print out a copy to work on while she has the book, then do a final rewrite in a month or so.

Meanwhile, I'm going to finish Fires of Allah.

As I've mentioned, I've decided to refine my process. I'm going to give myself plenty of time to finish this book. I'd like it to be at least 80K and would be happier at 100K, though the story is the story.

I'm going to do more research on this book than I've done on any other book. I'd like to try to get the firefighting down as correctly as possible.

When I'm done, I'm going to set it aside for month or two, then completely re-write it, and then send it to Lara. And give it a rewrite after it comes back from Lara. This is the new process. A little more intensive and time-consuming than what I've attempted before.

During the waiting times, I'm going to try to get my backlog cleaned up again. Starting with getting Star Axe and Snowcastles/Icetowers back on the market.

Starting next year, I'll start putting my finished books out every few months.

The real change will come with the next book.

My old process. Find an idea that I like and that I think will sustain a book, sit down and write it straight through without any major changes. Get it edited. Give it a brief rewrite.

My middle process. Step one, the same. Step two, think about each chapter before I write it, then write it, but otherwise write it straight through. Get it edited. Do a more thorough rewrite if I can.

The new process. The same way I've been thinking about chapters before I write them, apply the same technique to the book as a whole. Try to identify my strong points, what I do best. Work out all the ramifications in advance. Take a longer time to finish the book with more thought between each chapter. Set it aside, and then come back and give it a really thorough rewrite and only then send it to Lara.

I'm attempting to find more depth in my writing. At the same time, I want to focus on conflict and tension in the first page and ratchet it up from there. For depth, the characters need to be more detailed, and there has to be emotional possibilities. For tension, the plot has to be tight and focused.

Since I'm only as talented as I am, I have to try to use time spent as the improving factor. More time and thought.

But--I have to be very careful I don't block myself. And even more careful I don't ruin the book by overthinking or overwriting.

So it will be a fine line.

I don't even really know what the next book is going to be, yet. I'm purposely avoiding thinking about it too much until I'm done with Fires of Allah.

So I want to be as focused as ever on writing, but try to slow it down and put some more thought into each stage. Pretty clearly, I can finish a book. That doesn't seem to be a problem.