Monday, June 26, 2017

I finished writing the extra action scenes that AJ at Cohesion wanted. I think it works great.

Basically, from the start, Cohesion has asked me to build up the tension and the action, and in each case they've been right.

They also asked that I do a timeline with this draft. A countdown. T-minus 12 hours. T-minus 6 hours, etc.

So I've been trying to oblige. I think it's one of the harder things to do, frankly. It's very difficult to measure time in fiction, to give it an exact placement.

On one hand, I think a countdown might be very annoying. Hopefully it's unnecessary. The story all takes place within two days (and an epilogue on the third day), and there are many overlapping chapters, so I'm not sure it really helps.

I'm went ahead and did it, but my own opinion is to go lightly. If anything, do a time stamp every few chapters instead of every chapter.

BUT, and this is a BIG deal, the timeline made me look at the story closer. I realized that in at least two different places I have an extra day. Mostly, the timeline for the people out on the ocean didn't match the people on shore.

It forced me to telescope the action at sea.

What's cool is that it made the story better, and actually closer to the way it would probably be.

For instance, I have a fishing boat taking a couple of days to get out to the deep ocean from Seattle. But in fact, modern fishing boats can go up to 60 or 70 mph! So it would only take hours. Which is great, because I needed the character out on a boat in the morning, and then out on a different boat in the afternoon, and the new timeline actually works better.

The second example was having the main heroes spend a night at sea, and that can't happen. But because they were in the dark, they got to see the bioluminescent snakes and all that, which is very visual and I really didn't want to lose that.

So instead of night, I have it being very dark and cloudy, like a heavy woolen blanket in the sky, almost dusk. It works, really, it isn't unbelievable, and again, I since don't need the extra day, I can fit it all the action in on the one day.

So the countdown made me look at what was happening and fit it into place properly.

I'm going to need to give it a complete read through to make sure the continuity matches the changes. But other than that, I think the book is ready.

I hope.

Unless Cohesion wants more snakes...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Working on transitions today.

Building up the tension and the action is great, but if the surrounding material doesn't reflect it, it seems weird. It feels sort of flat before and after the big events, because originally the peaks weren't there.

The basic thrust Cohesion Press has had from the very beginning is that I need to amp up the action with the snakes. Geoff originally rejected the manuscript because I'd dropped the snakes once the tsunami started. So went back and wrote four chapters (one of which is AJ, the editor's, favorite scene.)

The book was much better for it.

Then, after accepting and editing it, they asked for more and bigger action, including a Queen Snake, to cut some of the subplots, and to streamline the book.

Again, the book was much better for it.

Now they've come to me for a final round, and you guessed it, amp up the action.

The action part isn't that hard to do, but the emotional reactions of the characters can be hard to adjust. I do tend to underplay the emotional reactions, and when I try to artificially add emotion, it comes across to me as melodramatic.

So I really have to work on that, feel my way, make sure that I'm happy with the results and yet manage to add some feeling.

It's all a welcome learning process, which I will be aware of with the next book.

My "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities" is fine with the slightly laid back, slightly fairy-tale removed tone I think. I'd like to think I'm doing a Jack Vance thing. (I love Jack Vance.)

But if I'm going to write creature or thriller books, I need to be aware that if I'm going to get the characters in trouble, then I need to get them in Extreme trouble, all the way through.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Needing to juice up "Snaked:"

1.) the description of the earthquake on the ocean (technically, an earthquake wouldn't be noticed, but I'm ginning it up by having the boat DIRECTLY over the earthquake.) Found a great description by a scuba diver who was in the water over one, which I can use for inspiration. "clouds of roiling white sands rising."

2.) the attack by the Mama Snake on the boat. For this I looked up stories of whales attacking boats. Again, it's the telling details, "boat shook like a leaf" stuff that really gets my imagination going.

3.) the attack of the Mama Snake on humans. I tried looking up snake attacks, but found that shark attacks were so much more useful for blood and gore. (Spielberg nailed it.) Hey, that's what it is, that's why people will probably buy "Snaked." To hopefully scare themselves.

Every time I do this kind research, I'm reminded how valuable it is. My imagination only goes so far without direct experience. Much like location descriptions are so much more evocative if I have a real life example to write from. Driving all the way to the Strawberry Mountains for the a few pages worth of descriptions in "Deadfall Ridge" was worth it.

I've been working on researching for my next book, "Takeover" and reading about the Bundy ranch standoff and the Malheur occupation make for lots of real color, as well as a better sense of the politics of it.

But unlike some writers, I don't really enjoy the research. I'm much rather dive into the story. Up to now, I've done research after writing the story, looking for ways to punch it up. With "Takeover" I'm hoping to incorporate some of that research in advance.

Itching to just write, but need to do the work. I will give myself for credit for this--in the end, I do what needs to be done. Heh.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Just write.

The gulf between writing and marketing is like the Grand Canyon to me. It would take me building a Evel Knievel like rocketship to try to cross that gap and I don't much feel like it. I suppose I'm hoping that someone with a Wizard of Oz hot air balloon will cross the gap and look down and deign to notice me, but I'm figuring that's unlikely.

So I just write. It always comes back to that. I can feel myself getting oh so slowly better. The writing itself does that. I always feel pretty good about it when I'm active. It's only when I'm not writing that I start to have doubts. Whatever I'm writing at the moment is always "the best thing I've done." Heh.

I've already written 4 chapters of "Wyvern Riders" and I'm really enjoying it. I'm not sure there is a market for a series of fantasy novellas, but it probably doesn't matter since I'm not going to try to market it.

I'm going to write it.

I'd like to believe if I wrote something really good that people will notice. I have to have that faith, otherwise what's the point? I always felt that way about my store. Create the best store I can and let people find me, and that mostly worked.

Writing is quite a bit harder to stand out in, I admit. But, for instance, my entree into Kensington was the "executive editor" writing me out of the blue to tell me how much he liked "Led to the Slaughter." My entry to Ragnarok was a good review by one of the publishers, my entry into Cohesion was a good review by the publisher, and so on. That's the thin thread I've followed so far, and I'm hoping another thread will develop. But it seems so iffy I'm not depending on it. 

There is the sheer joy of writing. I don't know why I like it so much, but I do.

So fuck the marketing and full speed ahead.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Finally got a contract for a book that had been previously accepted. Supposed to be paid soon, heh. More money than I've made in all my other writing combined, and puts me firmly in the black despite all my lavish and perhaps foolish spending on covers and editing. So that makes me feel like maybe this whole writing thing is working.

Meanwhile, Amanda at Cohesion liked my edits for "Snaked" and has returned the manuscript for a couple more changes. Basically, they liked my Mama Snake additions but wants a little more. I think what I've learned from this is that I tend to underplay the big moments, and also leave out the emotion in the small moments. Hopefully I can apply that to future writing.

She and Geoff also want a "timeline" which is no small task, and I'm not actually sure how to go about it. But, like the last edit, I just need to tackle the problems one at a time.

Meanwhile, wrote the third chapter to Wyvern Riders and I like it. I told myself that I wouldn't let anything keep me from progressing on this story for the next ten days. So despite the importance of the revisions to "Snaked" they need to fit into a workable schedule. I had a good start on "Mother Sali" too, but got waylaid and when I went back to it, I'd lost the thread. I don't want to do that again.

I need this creation process in my life. I enjoy it, it makes me want to keep writing. I don't know what it is. I would compare it to reading, but even more intense. I live in that world for a time and I like it. Editing to make a book better is all well and good but it isn't the same feeling at all.

So even when I'm editing, I think I need to keep the creation part going at the same time. I'm doing this for the fun of it after all.

Money? I've given up so much money by not working at the store that writing can't conceivably ever pay me back for it. So obviously I'm doing it for the love. I do want people to read me, which means making compromises and concessions to publishers, but other than that, I just want to write.

I can't let the frustrations and delays of the publication process pull me too far away from why I'm doing it in the first place.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I have so much unfinished work.

Recently I showed Dave Cline samples of something I wrote 30 years ago, "Sometimes a Dragon," then immediately followed it up with the first chapter of "Wyvern Riders." Here's what he said: " soon as you take the active voice -- your writing just sings. That first paragraph kicked ass. And indeed every one of the passages and interactions were dynamic and engaging. So, yeah, this writing -- in particular -- is truly rock solid, as compared to the "Sometimes a Dragon." There are hints of what the old writing would become and this is it."

That is almost exactly my own estimation. The unpublished works are just not up to current standards: and yet, they really aren't terrible either. So they keep being put on the backburner. Every time I look at them I make a few improvements with the idea that someday they'll finally round into shape.

In moving house, I finally found a box with "The Changelings of Ereland" in it. This was the fifth book I ever wrote. (The fourth, "Bloodstone," was hopelessly bad. Amazing how much I regressed from "Icetowers," which overall was the most solid of my early efforts.) I'll take a look at it sometime, see if there is anything there.

I have to admit, I'm feeling at loose ends right now. Not sure where to go. I'll probably try to finish "Wyvern Riders," but I want to have the right tone. The first two chapters are really good, and I think the third chapter has possibilities.

I need an overall threat, so that's something to think about. Some secret about Danton that Sharmilan hints at, somebody coming after them for reasons that aren't clear. Meanwhile, they go about their adventures, then tying it all together. I have the overall story arc figured out, but not the specifics.

Yesterday was a throwaway day. I'd had two nights of buzzed sleep, too much caffeine basically. I need to go back to my old rules of never drinking coffee after noon, and never soda after dinner. So I felt really shitty after two nights of hardly sleeping and having bad dreams. I didn't want to do anything. I didn't even go for my walk.

But I did read some long-form magazine articles on the Bundy ranch, found all kinds of wonderful details. I want to read some more articles on the Malhuer occupation. Slowly but surely I'm building up some research for my next big effort, "Takeover." This isn't natural for me at all, but I know that it will be incredibly beneficial when I actually start writing.

I've got two manuscripts with publishers that I'm pretty sure they'll want revisions on; and I have "Deadfall Ridge" being considered.

I'm not confident. I think it's a good book, but it falls just a little short somehow. I mean, I think it's ALMOST there and with a little professional help it could be, but whether big-time editors have time or interest in doing that, I don't know. I know that if it gets rejected I'll probably try to rewrite the beginning yet again, dropping the second chapter altogether, and cutting down the third chapter as much as possible, (maybe eliminating it too.) That will put a heavy information dump in the fourth chapter, so I'd have to be really severe in figuring out what could be dispensed with.

The book is ALMOST there. It's killing me.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Scratching my fantasy itch.

I love fantasy. It's my first love, it's in my bones. What you love at 13 years old you love for life.

But I went away from it because I felt it had all been done. I still sort of feel that way. The basic perimeters are the basic perimeters, and those who try to stretch the boundaries usually do it in such a way that it is distracting, calling attention to itself.

Oh, this fantasy is different because the main protagonist is a rotter! Oh, the fantasy is different because it has nothing supernatural, or it's hyper-realistic, or it's got women heroes!

Or maybe I should say--the perimeters have been stretched, but the result is new genres; dark fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, etc. (And not surprisingly, these are more fun to read.)

Basic fantasy? There is a template, and some do it well and some do it mediocre. But frankly, I got tired of even the well-done fantasy never really surprising me. I went from an insatiable hunger for fantasy through my 20's, to "Oh, another fantasy." Especially since the most successful fantasies seemed to be the most unoriginal, the most dedicated to fan-service.

People kept recommending them. "This one is different, this one is better," but they never seemed to be.

So a few fantasy authors have broken through to me, mostly because of the quality of their writing; George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Lois McMasters Bujold (some). Most of the others people talk about leave me cold, and I've sampled almost every one of them.

Anyway, this is a long way to my point, which is, I have the urge to write fantasy every time I sit down. It's what lures me.  

Fortunately, I always seem to stray. At first, I didn't really consider that I was writing "horror" per se, but it became clear after awhile that writing horror was my way of breaking out of the fantasy tropes. Horror seems to be open to anything. Any story I write can be turned to horror with a few adjustments.

But, well, there isn't a huge market for horror, especially among the Big Five publishers. I was told by a big agent that the smaller publishers I'm already being published by are in fact the people who are doing the state-of-art horror, which is both reassuring and somewhat disappointing. Oh, there are a few breakthrough authors, obviously Stephen King and Dean Koontz among others, but there is an overall resistance to horror.

When I got tired of fantasy years ago, I went to reading mysteries/thrillers, and that's what I've been reading for the last 30 years of so. So turning to trying to write thrillers is a natural move. I've never gotten tired of them. The form seems very elastic as to what is possible.

I was a little leery at first of attempting to write them because of the necessity for realistic  procedural details, and that still is a challenge, but the form itself I think I can do.

But every time I sit down to write, my urge to write fantasy is as strong as ever.

I've sort of come up with a solution, at least for me. It runs counter to the trends, so it won't bring me fame or fortune.

The trend in fantasy is to write an unending series of huge books, the more Tolkienish the better. Pretend to be utterly different, but in reality be as close to the model as possible. So as not to offend anyone, I won't mention any names. (Goodkind, Jordan, Hobbes, Fiest, Eddings, Sanderson, Salvetore,  ad naseum.)

Instead, I'm writing a series of novellas, set in the same world, but not otherwise connected. They have a light tone, almost fairy-taleish (again, not done much these days.) But boy do I enjoy writing them. They come out naturally, and I have lots of fun with them.

I'm calling them "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities" and I've worked out the theology and the government structure of the world, and each story expands on the magical elements, and I'm excited to explore the world.

I've written two full novellas so far, as well as the beginnings of two others. I see no reason not to keep doing them.

Yesterday, the itch to write finally overcame me (after about a week of not writing--that seems to be my limit) and I started another 13th Tale called "The Wyvern Riders." It filled me with joy. I can't wait to keep writing it.

When I've done about a half dozen of them, I'm going to start putting them out. I'm going to edit them myself, do covers that don't cost a fortune, and charge a mere .99 for them.

Whether anyone will ever read them doesn't matter. I get to scratch my fantasy itch.