Monday, March 30, 2015

Conflicting advice.

I don't think there is a single element of writing where I can't find conflicting advice, often diametrically opposed advice.

The one I've been noticing lately is -- write !, no matter how badly I think I am doing.  The opposite advice, of course, is don't write! unless I'm passionate about what I'm writing.

What this means, to me, is that I am on my own.  Trust my own instincts, follow my own inclinations.

I have my small business as a comparison.  Almost all the advice I read early about small business was wrong.  There was good advice mixed in with the bad, but there was no way of knowing which was which.  Until I learned it myself.  Then the good advice was just confirmation, and the bad advice was something I just shook my head over.

But it means that I am very leery about taking advice willy-nilly, without some evidence of my own to back it up, by which time I don't usually need the advice. 

Frankly, if I really tried to follow all the advice out there, I'd be tied up in knots.

I trust my instincts.  Most often, the best result comes from just doing what I think is right; even if everyone else is saying the opposite.

I imagine that's what a crazy person thinks.  Or put another way -- that's what I think and that's what a crazy person thinks. Which means I may or may not be crazy.

Knots, I tell you.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fighting scenes.

When Ragnarok asked me to write a column about "fighting scenes" I wasn't sure if I could come up with anything useful.  I don't have a particular strategy how write scenes with fighting in them.  I pretty much wing it.

My subconscious seems to come up with (I hope) believable moves -- the hero does this, that villain does that.  I mean, when you get right down to it, fighting is just a sequence of reciprocal blows.  The hard part is making it different and interesting.

The more intriguing question to me is how long the fight scenes should go.  You can make them short and to the brutal point, or you can extend them...and extend them.  It's a matter of feeling it, I suppose.  Too much fighting is as boring as too little.

Unfortunately, sometimes fighting is a replacement for storytelling.  That is, it works as 'filler.'  You see that a lot in action movies, in comics, and in books.  To me, it's off putting when the action serves as filler, no matter how cleverly it's done.

I think one of the worst examples of this I've seen is the movie, Armageddon.  (I've boycotted Michael Bay movies ever since.)

I've probably lost half of you with that statement. Sigh.

But to me much of the movie seems to consist of fighting for fighting's sake. The smarmy emotions, the lousy dialogue, but most especially the bullshit action scenes.  It's exhausting and not very illuminating. I happened to look at my watch at one point, bored to tears by the meaningless explosions, and I realized that the explosions came every 15 minutes or so -- or about the average time between commercials on TV and presumably the average concentration span of the American viewer.

On the other hand, I do like action movies above all others.  Given a choice between a drama, a comedy or an action movie, and I'll pick action every time.  I saw Kingsman last weekend, for instance.  Loved it.

What I'm saying is, the action has to be often enough to be interesting, but not so often as to replace real storytelling.  (I have the same problem with meaningless drama -- lots of TV shows are guilty of this -- sudden bullshit drama, meaningless fights.  Armageddon happened to have both meaningless drama and stupid action.)

Fighting scenes that come from the consequences of the characters actions -- that's what I'm looking for.  Aliens, Terminator, Die Hard.

I personally think the big budget action flicks are spending way too much time and money on fighting scenes, explosions, car chases and such.  These movies would be better if they cut about 1/3rd the action, and added about 1/3rd more character development.

But then, I'm obviously out of touch. 

Like I said, I do fighting scenes by feel.  I sort of wing it -- letting my subconscious choreograph the moves.  I admit, I probably spend a fair amount of conscious effort wondering how often and how long the fighting scenes should take place. I try to have something every chapter, if possible.  I try to build to bigger action scenes as the book progresses.

Fighting is fun, if done right.

It just has to fit the story.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The house alone.

Linda's visiting church friends in the valley, so I have the house to myself all day.  There is nothing like knowing that absolutely nothing can interrupt me to get me writing.  I can spend the whole day in the "fictional dreamstate" without breaking away.

When I was trying to kickstart this new writing career, I spent some money going to motels out of town with the sole purpose of writing.  That's a little expensive, so I've stopped doing that.  If I were to find myself blocked for some reason, though, I would probably resort to that method again.

So it's just me and the cat. Panga looked around for Linda all morning and finally settled for cuddling with me.

Friday, March 27, 2015

I have to work?

Horror of horrors, I have to work an extra day this week.  On a Friday.  On a Spring Break.

I'm too old for this shit.

I was able to put most of the product away yesterday -- it's amazing how over 15K retail worth of product can just blend in the store as if it never arrived.  I mean, it was just basic restock.  What happens is that I just start seeing all the things we don't have. 

I really have to be patient with people.  It's hard.  A couple of times I blurted, "geez, people, don't anyone read books anymore?" in a mild voice, but no one took offense, heh.

Tons of people coming in.  I'm really pleased that Cameron and Matt seem to be gaining some new, younger customers.  These customers seem surprised to see me -- like, "who the hell are you?"

Had a Secret Shopper report, which was mostly positive.

Weirdly, and I couldn't tell if this was on purpose or just an observation, but the three "negatives" were all things I do on purpose.

No TV.  Yes, I think having a TV is a bad idea.

No gaming tables.  I have no room or inclination and personally believe it detracts from the shopping experience.

No "New" comics section.  I tried this for awhile and thought it hindered, not helped, sales.  The "new" comics face forward, usually on the front shelves, and shouldn't be that hard for anyone who is serious about finding a title from finding it.  Plus they can always ask.  The inability for a "newbie" such as self-confessed non-comic secret shopper to find a particular comic is more a feature of the fact that there are so many damn comics than the design of the store.

Besides, I'm pretty sure people buy more comics when the new comics are mixed with the old.

So none of the apparent negatives were negative in my opinion.  Other than that, the report was very positive. 

I'm glad to have Cameron and Matt being the face of the store.  I have a much harder time faking friendliness if I don't actually feel it.  For instance, I know I should give out a cheery "Thanks for Coming In!" when non-customers leave, but I can't do it.  I just smile, sometimes nod, but that's about it.

I love my store, and I really think people are all right, but I can't put on a false persona as much any more.

Ah, well.  That's why I'm stepping back and letting younger, friskier people take the stage.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

So there's that...

I'm now about halfway through Tuskers III. 

Until I made the decision to split it in three parts, I was 2/3rds of the way.  Fortunately, I'm about halfway through Tuskers IV as well.  Nothing but an plot outline for Tuskers V.

I'm liking it.  I get absorbed by the characters sometimes and forget that the horror readers want action, so that's something I'm trying to be conscious of.  But story is everything, and I think I've kind of figured out how to do that in a certain way, and hopefully I can keep learning.

This looks like it will be my best month for sales, which is encouraging since I'm now more than a year since the release of Led to the Slaughter.  I'm not getting rich -- hell, I'm not even breaking even -- but, well, I can see how it might be possible to earn a little pocket cash in the future.

Interesting in that I've done absolutely nothing in promotion lately.  I've barely mentioned my books on Facebook, except for this daily blog.  There was a big drop off in my early books late last year, but then they went back to previous levels and have stayed there since. 

I do believe it is probably important to have a new release every four to six months.  I've got 3 books in the top 3.8% in sales of all horror novels, which sounds good until you realize there are 64,000 books on the list...heh.  But it beats the alternative.

Reviews have so far been stellar, and that makes me feel like I'm doing something right.  Led to the Slaughter is in the top 3/10th of 1% in Average Customer Reviews.  Probably just an accident of fate, but cool to see anyway.

I'm feeling busy and engaged and liking it.  So there's that...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing faster than the world can absorb.

I need to get back to writing in the mornings as much as possible, so I can do other things in the afternoon if I have to.  If I do even the simplest chore, such as doing a bank deposit, I seem to lose my ability to write.


Went to writer's group and read chapters 4-6 of The Last Fedora.  Realized as I read it that I had no action -- I mean, the story progressed, but no physical action, no tearing off of arms or legs like a proper horror novel.

Slept on it and realized I could insert a flashback scene in one of the chapters that would work.  Not only work, but build up the myth of the Golem. 


I wrote my chapter yesterday early, and then spent most of the day making game and book orders.  Essentially, I ordered everything I'd sold since Christmas, plus.  The store seems to be doing well enough to risk that -- though it's a huge amount and there may be some cashflow issues.

Getting about 18K retail worth of merchandise within a few days.  Going to try not to let it stress me out getting it out for display.  It will all be on my head because I'm working Thursday and Friday this week.

I should have done it last week so that it would be here for Spring Break, but I think we still have some out-of-towners still to show up.


It's a strange thing to be so far ahead of the game.  I'm writing much faster than I can publish, which kind of nags at me a little.  You know, it ain't necessary so why do it?  But I can't take that attitude. My writing shouldn't have anything to do with how fast it can be published, only whether it feels right.  I still love creating things, so I'm trying not to let myself slack off.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Things happening to different characters at different times in different places.

The more I write, the more a strange thing keeps happening.

I have a complete story in my head.  A whole world, where things are happening in different places at different times to different characters.  It's perfectly clear in my own head.

But when I write it down, I realize that the reader doesn't have access to the whole story, so it may not be so clear to them.

I figure if the story is valid, the reader will sense that -- if I do a good enough job of trying to explain it.  But I'm not sure.

Timeline issues.

The events of Tuskers III start when the events of Tuskers II are still happening, just to different characters.  Then a few chapters in, they start to overlap.  I think I've managed to integrate them, but I won't know until people read it.  Linda thinks I should make sure I clearly mark the dates, but I'm not sure that is a solution because it would require the reader to go back to II to realize the dates are different.  Actually, not even then, because I don't have dates in II.

So the only thing I can do is try to be as clear as possible.  Mention it more than once -- probably in each of the first three chapters.

It's all one big story, and I'm just dipping into with different viewpoints, sometimes at the same time.

Thing is, I'm putting faith in the reader to figure it out.

Same thing happens in IV.  Events begin to different characters before the events of the previous book are finished.

I think if my internal sense of story works, then most readers will also figure it out. I mean, if they are reading Tuskers III and Tuskers IV, I assume they are invested.

I hope.