Tuesday, April 30, 2013

State of the Business, 1st Qrt. +

I'm hearing more and more reports of huge increases in comic sales across the country.  In fact, the increase in slow copies has been larger than the entire digital presence. Needless to say, this isn't happening with most mediums.

Comics have always been a funny business.  The things I first thought of as weaknesses -- the small market, the inability to break into the bigger world -- have turned out the be strengths.  The artwork and visual presentation of comics make them more ideal as a slow product, rather than a digital product.  So instead of comic shops being showrooms for digital, I think -- so far -- digital has been a showroom for comics.

The mechanics of comics have kept them a independent store phenomenon instead of being readily transferable to a national chain, the mass market, even to some extent the internet.  (Can't be sure this will continue, of course.)

So far, I'm not seeing the huge increases in sales, but this isn't unusual when it comes to national trends.  I often see a significant lag -- six months or a year -- before I start experiencing what everyone else experiences. 

I find the quality of material outside DC and Marvel to be reassuring.  Image especially seems to have it together.

As I've said,  I'm more interested this year in trying to increase the efficiency of the store, and increasing its margins, than I am in gross sales -- or increases in gross sales.  I'm constrained, as always, by the space I have.  If I want to create more room for a product, something else has to be consolidated.

I've managed not to incur any debt during the slow months, which is unusual, and have been able to -- mostly -- keep up the inventory.  Mostly, spot shortages as usual, but the overall stock has stayed high.

I have about two more weeks to go before I can open up the spigots for summer spending.  About 15 to 20% more than I've been doing this spring.  I'm going to assume that I'll start seeing some of those people on vacation who have pushing comics sales up elsewhere.  With any luck, they'll spur the locals to give comics a try again.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Perfect gardening weather.


Did the middle third of the back garden.  I'm going to finish off the last third today.  I've tried really hard not to go off on tangents.  I have some overgrown plants I want to subdivide and plant elsewhere, but I need to prepare new ground first.

Nope.  Stick to cleaning the existing garden before I do anything else.

The front garden should only take one more day, possibly even counting the side garden.  Two days at most.

Then finally, the big, big job of cleaning up the side on the other side of the fence which has always been out of sight out of mind. 

Perfect weather for gardening.  Cool.  Time to get it done.

Then, I'm going to spend the next week fertilizing everything.

Only then will I attempt to open up new territory and try transplanting.


Wrote a Donner Party chapter.  I've decided to extend this side story into three or four chapters.  All kinds of werewolfian things happened on that journey.  Lots of interesting characters and incidents.

Really, it should be it's own book.  I can't tell if anyone has ever combined Donner Party and werewolves.  There appears to be a White Wolf game scenario that uses elements.

Hard to believe no one had done this idea. 

In thinking of it as a full book, it would be a real stretch of my abilities.  Especially, the getting the details and the dialogue right, as well as the full range of emotions and horror.

I'm going to write my little chapters for Wolflander and see where they lead. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Just a inch above the ground.


Gardened for about 5 hours yesterday.  Stopped because I don't want to get so sore that I can't do it again.  Burn myself out too early.

I got about a third of the back garden done.  The most visible prominent part.  Which is what I do every year.  The problem with that is that the reverse is also true --  I do the least visible part last every year.  I have a stretch along the side of the house on the other side of the fence which I keep thinking I'm going to get to, but never do.  It's pretty disgraceful.

I prefer to pull weeds up by hand, one by one, doing the job thoroughly.

Anyway, I hauled out the Roundup and megadosed it this year.  Then I'm going to weed-whack it, then I'm going to dig it all up.  Do it industrial strength.

I'm disappointed in the survival rates in the plants I've purchased.  Some of this is me and misplacement of sprinklers and the plants.  But I think some of it is the plants just aren't hardy.  I don't remember too many of my Mom's plants not surviving.

I was going to see which plants thrived and then just settle on those and subdivide them, but I still don't think I have enough variety.  So I'm going to try one more time.  Maybe do some research on hardy perennials for Central Oregon.  I don't know -- some plants that everyone else does well with, I think I kill just by looking at them;  phlox, for instance.  Everyone can grow phlox -- except me.


Meanwhile, I didn't do any writing on WOLFLANDER.   I remain stalled at about 6 chapters from the end.  I didn't expect to stall, but I think I just overdid it there for a couple of weeks and burned myself out.

A steady pace is a better idea.

I wanted to bring some emotion to these final chapters, and I'm sort of waiting for that spark.  Being so close to the end, I think I can give myself that time.

I have several flashback chapters to do.  The conceit of the flashbacks, what gives it a slightly western flavor, it that famous incidents of cannibalism in the West -- the Donner Party, Alfred Packer, were actually cases of werewolves...

So I may attempt to write those, while waiting for inspiration of the end.  I also plan a chapter on Skinwalkers, which is a pretty obvious parallel.  I'm thinking a chapter with Lon Chaney.   I've done a chapter on the French incident -- the loup garou.  I'm thinking a gypsy chapter.

All these are colorful settings and characters -- which adds some spice to the book, I think.

My local editor, Lara, has a touching faith in NEARLY HUMAN.  I think she's invested in the book by putting so much work into it.  Still, it's nice to think she really thinks the book is good enough.  It certainly got much better toward the end.  So now I'm just waiting -- I don't expect the publisher to take it, but I'm hoping he's positive enough toward it to somehow leverage some kind of approach to an agent or something...

Who knows...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sat. sats.

Four days of not writing, a bit of a vacation.  I'm so close to finishing the first draft though, I kind of want to get that done.

Went to see Oblivion yesterday, which I'd call a medium kind of science fiction film -- pretty simple by book standards, not bad for a movie.  Many of the reviews and some of the word of mouth was that it was 'complicated' so I expected a kind of P.K. Dick surprise, but pretty much not.

I see this a lot with science fiction movies -- they seem simplistic to me, and complicated to others.  It must just be familiarity with the tropes.

Was reading the East of West comic, and it made me realize that when you really want some way out imagination without border or limits, comics really do that.  They deal with wild ideas and images even better than movies do.  Something about the format lets reality and imagination just blur.

Breaking out my gardening clothes -- long sleeved white t-shirt, beat up slacks, cowboy boots and hat.  Put the laptop and a jar of lemonade on the deck table and get to work.  Try to do gardening and writing at the same time.

Friday, April 26, 2013

As much as I write, I'm still lazy.

Read the first chapter of Wolflander at writer's group and I think it went over well.  Pam, who says she never reads any science fiction or horror, thought it was something she could read, that it wasn't too "explicit."

I'm thinking:  Is that a good thing?

I have trouble these days with labels.  I call what I do "dark fantasy" because that seems like a broader term than fantasy, horror, or whatever.

Indeed, because these books are set in Bend and I try to bring in the local landscape and history -- there is a 'western' flavor to these books, too.  So fantasy/horror/western.  What is that?

Meanwhile, I'm finally going to get out into the garden and do some cleaning.  I'm looking forward to writing and gardening at the same time.  They are complimentary to each other.  Pulling weeds and thinking, going over and jotting down my ideas, going back to the pulling weeds.

I've written so many words over the last few weeks, that not writing the last three days has been like a fever breaking.  It's a bit of a relief.

I look back at my delirium in amazement.

I've come to a relatively firm assessment of my writing and one thing really stands out.  As much as I write, I'm also lazy and impatient.  If I can just get myself to really work at it -- that is, do the necessary rewriting -- I think my efforts will turn out better. 

I'm not as worried about my creative ideas or my writing skills as I am about my work process.  If I've improved at all, its because I've gotten more effective in my approach -- which, along with the wonderful technology -- has made it possible for me to write more.

So I just really need to bear down on the hard part -- the rewriting, and really keep working at it.  Take the time to get it right.  Not rush things.

As I've mentioned before, I want to be effective at rewriting -- but I also want to retain the freshness of the story for as long as possible.

I'm refining the work process, basically.

1.)  Working out how to outline and plan, both for the long run and for the next day.

2.)  How fast to write the actual book.

3.)  And then how to retain freshness while I work on rewriting the book.

I've got the basics down, and now I'm sort of figuring out the most effective methods.

'Marketing' is in the future -- a sort of hazy impossible cliff.  I'll just keep writing until I've got something I think is really, really good and use that book as my possible entry point.

Meanwhile, just keep writing and hopefully get better.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Go ahead create, you guys. (Never mind the money.)

Lots of activity in comics, right now.

At least there is the impression of much more activity in comics than there used to be. 

Of course, the internet has much to do with that.  But there seems to be more shows, more meetings, more interaction than ever before.  More aspiring young writers (and not so young) and artists and publishers.  More commentary and reviews and just .... all around creative energy.

But...I wonder if there is any more money floating around than there ever was?

Huge money for the corporate owners of the big franchises of course.  But it seems to me that very little of that money trickles down.  The corporations are mining very old ideas, actually.  The Batman movies were based on stories and themes that are 20 years old, at least.  The Marvel movies, even further back.

There is the occasional indy success -- but again, the money doesn't seem to stretch very far.  There is some credibility lent -- though not as much as there should be.  The snobbishness toward comics will never go away.  (I used to think we could break through the bias, but now I don't believe it will ever happen.)

The store is selling slightly more comics, but nothing dramatic (though I'm getting reports that stores in the bigger cities are seeing a resurgence, and if that is true I'll see it something in the future.)

I've quit worrying that comics will die altogether, at least.  (Which, as some wag pointed out, has been a worry from the beginning of comics as readership seems to shrink with every decade.)

Having my young guys working at the store has helped, I think.  I can probably make the store run better when I'm there, but it's difficult to generate the enthusiasm that my guys are showing.

But everyone seems to be involved in ways that involves rewards that aren't money.  A little bit of attention, a little bit of fellowship, a little bit more ease in the creation and non-paying suffusion of creative efforts.  

Periodically there is the concern that artists are -- you know -- actually starving.  That creators of the previous generation didn't actually  make any money. 

But meanwhile, the creative ferment just keeps bubbling.  I suspect the same circumstances are there for all the creative fields -- music, painting, writing, etc. etc. 

It's like the world has conspired to make it easier for artists to create -- it just doesn't want to pay them anything...

Interesting, and I have no idea with it means for the future. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The dangers of expansion.

It's the American way.  If you're successful, expand.  Open another location.  Do more stuff!

Of course, all those things may very well lead you away from what made you successful in the first place.

A couple of local defunct restaurant owners are fighting it out in court, plus some apparently less than informed investors.

I expanded into four stores once.  It worked for a couple of years, and then it didn't.  I won't go into all the reasons why.  I borrowed the money, I paid it back.  No partners, thankfully.

One thing I noticed about this story in the paper:  the guy being sued borrowed the money -- took on investors -- but it appears that there weren't controls to keep the money from being spent on already existing restaurants.

I'll tell you what I think happened -- the guy had businesses that were almost working, and he tried to shore them up first, thinking if he did that, he'd have the resources to do all the expansions.  Of course, if the the businesses aren't working now, throwing more money at the problem isn't usually the solution.  You have to change the way your doing business, fundamentally, and very few people can do that.

Closing the other three stores was one of the hardest maneuvers I've ever done.  I was more or less out of the cashflow while the expenses lingered.  It's was difficult to keep the whole thing from cascading downward.  I was in danger of customers abandoned the store, that kind of thing.

I think I was pretty smart about it.  I expanded the downtown Bend store at roughly the same time I closed the Redmond and Sisters stores -- which kept my customers from leaving. 

Anyway, the point of this post is to say -- sometimes you're better off just to keep on doing what you're doing, and resist the temptations to get bigger.  Everyone but everyone will tell you to "go for it."  But make sure you've really got all the bases covered before you try, and be aware that you may be adding all kinds of stress and expenses, and all the extra revenue will most likely go toward paying for others to run the other businesses.

It took a long time to get over the trauma of that.  When we decided to open the Bookmark, it was because Linda was there to run it, otherwise it never would have happened.

Be satisfied with moderate success -- even if it isn't the American Way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Apology accepted, Micheal Bay.

A pet peeve of mine is the movie Armageddon.  I hated it.  Really viscerally hated it.  So much so that I swore I'd never go to another Micheal Bay movie, and I've stuck with that vow.

I rarely hate movies.  There are lots of movies I dislike -- say, the third Twilight movie.  But I can think of only one other movie that I hated this much, and that was Natural Born Killers.  Not because it was violent -- I mean, I liked Devil's Rejects and just about any other movies like that.  I hated it because it was creepily cynical.  Like a movie made by a sociopath that was supposed to be a message about sociopaths.

Anyway, back to Armageddon.

Apparently, Micheal Bay is apologizing for it:  Said he'd redo that last third if he could.

OK.  If he has balls enough to apology, I think I'll give him another chance. 

New strategy for rewrites.

I've come up with a new theory for rewrites.

For me, one of the most important things is for a book is to stay fresh.  What works for me is to write a quick first draft, feeling it, not worrying about being polished, but trying the get the macro problems right; plot and story, characters and theme, emotion and catharsis.

I tend to be a little sketchy when I write this way.  My second draft are always bigger than my first drafts.  I tend to go back and put in more description, more telling details.

I also need to polish the words.  These are more like micro problems.

So one of my problems with rewriting is that I tend to go over the whole book, beginning to end, and then do it again and again.

Imagine reading the same book 10 times in a row, and you'll get a sense of what happens.  The story becomes nonsense, the words a jumble.

Eventually, if I work on a book long and hard enough, this always happens.  The irony being, in trying to make the book more readable for the reader, I've made it less readable to me.

So, like I say, I try to hold this off this singularity event for as long as possible.

When I write the first draft, I'm concerned with the overall story.  By the time I write the third or fourth draft, I'm focused on individual scenes, then paragraphs, then sentences, then words.  It gets more and more micro, the more polished it is.

With Nearly Human, I put the numbers of the chapters in a hat and worked on the randomly and that seemed to work.  I've been thinking theoretically, that when I begin focusing on sentences and paragraphs, I could almost do it backwards!  I may actually try that.

I wish I liked rewriting more -- but none of the macro matters if I don't get the micro right -- and vice versa.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sequels are different, it turns out.

I've never written a sequel before and I'm learning there are some things about sequels that are different.

I'm finding it's hard to incorporate the characters from the first book in a meaningful way.  I mean, I told their story last time.

The new characters seem to be taking over.  They seem to have more skin in the game, if you will.

So instead of being major characters, the original characters have become secondary characters, which I don't think is supposed to happen.

I'm hoping to fix this in the rewrite, I suppose.  Find stronger motives for the main characters to be involved.  Besides that whole "End of the World" thing.

Obviously, I can't give all the old characters as much space if I'm adding new characters -- or each book would just have more and more characters that have to be given their own space.

I think the answer is, that of Cobb and Co.  I need to pick Cobb and one or two of the other part of Co. to focus on each book.  Bring them in and out of the books.  But always Cobb.

So in the rewrite, my goal will be to have Cobb much more involved in the book.

One way of doing this is with his flashbacks -- Cobb visiting historical characters and/or situations.  Brings Cobb in without disrupting the main plot.  That is, if the flashbacks themselves don't disrupt the main plot.

Why can't this be easy?

Maybe sequel is the wrong word.  This is the second book set in the same place with many of the same characters involved, but not really a continuation of the story.  So maybe Cobb and Co. will be j involved in every adventure, but not the main protagonists.

I don't know.  I have to figure this out.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Alone in a room.

I was watching Cspan last night after a very long day of writing.

One of the writers on a panel said,  (paraphrasing):  "All it takes to be a writer is to be alone in a room for a very long time."

It's a very odd experience.  Probably not all that healthy mentally or physically. 

Then again, I think giving your creative urges the chances to bloom is very healthy.   I've decided that lots of people are creative, and lots of people are talented, and lots of people have the desire -- but most of them never get around to making the commitment for any number of reasons.

Its easy to dabble in creativity, but to fully commit is a much bigger sacrifice.  I'm fortunate that I'm at a point in my life where I can make that leap of faith.  The store is doing well, my wife is very supportive -- she's doing the same thing, actually.  (We met in a writer's group 30 years ago, both of us writing fantasy.) 

I'm not sorry I spent all my creative energy on the store all these years.  I was immediately rewarded for my efforts, it provided a living -- at times -- and it gave me independence.  The store reinforced my positive tendencies, socialized me, kept me engaged.  Writing would have reinforced most of the negative tendencies, and might not have turned out so well.

Besides, I'm making up for lost time.  I wrote the most words yesterday that I think I've ever written in one day.  Every book I finish just reinforces the notion that I can do this. 

Whether I can do it successfully remains to be seen.  It's a little like working full time on a job for six months or a year on your own hoping that someone will like what you've done and pay you for it.

To be honest, I don't think I'd have the guts to do it if I hadn't published those three books.  I'd be so full of doubt, it would paralyze me.  I was naive back then, and got lucky, but it is an indication that I'm not completely wasting my time.

As I said, the more I write, the better I think I get, the easier it gets -- the more I write -- and so on.

Meanwhile, I'm alone in a room.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

That was a pretty cool movie...gunfights! Car chases! Manhunt!

I don't want to minimize the tragedy.  The deaths of innocent people and the awful carnage from below.

But we all got pretty caught up in the narrative of the story.   Like a movie that was so exciting we were willing to sit through the slow parts.

To me, there was a lot of troubling aspects to the whole thing.  I mean, I think it's great they caught the guy alive.  But I wonder if we'll discover a larger reason than the uncle's "They're losers!"

I could go on -- but almost all my concerns were about the varying levels of what happened, not so much what happened, and since the levels are something that can be endlessly argued, there isn't much point.

So for instance, is 1 cop every 50 feet enough, or do we need 1 cop every 25 feet?  Or every 10 feet?

Did the level of attention it all got just give the terrorists what they wanted?  What's the right level of attention?  Are we all drama junkies?

Is shutting down an entire city the right response?  An entire transportation corridor?  What message does that give copycats?

And so on.  And so on.

I'm ambivalent. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

All the news in 6 hours --- or 2 minutes.

I'm on a writing trip, trying to push through the first draft of Wolflander. 

I got my quota of words written yesterday, barely, but then I got caught up in the news. 

I feel like I wasted 6 hours of my life, when all I had to do is turn on the computer and get the same news in 2 minutes this morning.  But that stuff is addicting -- and irritating.  I swear at one point I wanted to throw my shoe at the screen if one more reporter said, "We repeat. We don't know if this is related to Marathon bombings."  We get it.  We get it.

I wonder, a little, if we aren't just giving the message to the world that one guy on the loose can shut down America.  Then again, if this kind of things becomes old hat, we're in trouble.

So -- going to try real hard not to check the news or T.V. and get all of what happens in a two minute report when I'm done writing.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

It's about time.

Just for a change of pace, I thought I'd talk about Pegasus Books today.

There's a reason I haven't been talking about it -- no news is good news.  Things are just humming along nicely.

The big thing I'm trying to do is not get in the way of the store -- just let it run, without pushing it one direction or another.  It took me a very long time to get the mix of product right, but I think I got there a year or two ago.

I'm trying very hard to keep the store up, but not overspend.  That's the main thing.   The hardest thing to do is to change a pattern once I've been doing it a long time.  For a long time I was looking for every possibility to buy -- sales, volume discounts, special offers, etc. etc.

Now, I'm trying to maintain the store, without overspending. 

So far I've had three and a half months without breaking discipline.  It's still hard, even now.  I see all kinds of things I'd like to buy for the store.  But I'm trying to stick the the essentials, and not fall into debt during the slow months.

I broke down once -- I made a huge game order that I'm still trying to absorb.

The equation is essentially this -- slightly lower sales, slightly higher profits.  Less risk, paying as I go. 

Starting in about mid-May, I'll be able to increase my budget by 10 to 20%, say 15%, and I'll try to fill in all the holes that have developed in the slow months.  Of course, with increased seasonal sales, I'll probably just continue to keep up.

I've purposely stayed away from the store -- not just because I want to write, but also because I want to see how the store runs itself.  I'm less inclined to get a sudden urge to spend money if I'm not there.  I'm also wanting my employees to establish their presence at the store, and trying to distinguish how much sales are me and my giving deals and buying stuff -- and how much is the store and the inventory.

Another month of two and I figure this new approach will be habit.  Already, I'm finding it easier to avoid temptation.  Every time I go to work, I'm reassure by the depth of the inventory and that we're keeping the essentials in stock.  In fact, I may be keeping more essentials in stock because I don't go off and spent all the money on some new buying spree.

I don't know that I've ever strung a year together where I was disciplined and didn't break down and overspend.  So maybe it's about time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ridiculously productive.

I continue to be ridiculously productive.

I've given in to my obsessive/compulsive tendencies and I'm writing as much as I want.  I won't even tell you how fast I'm writing Wolflander, because it's kind of embarrassing.

The only thing that seems to be limiting me is the hours in the day -- and an overall nagging sense that I should give myself a little breathing room to let the creative wellspring fill.

Who knows how long this will last?  I may have a ton of material done before I even start to try to market them.

I've worked out the process -- which I think was most of the battle.  I've found a rhythm that seems to maximize my creative urge.  I've removed artificial limits about how much I can and should write.  I've focused on the creative part and made it an internal process that is complete in and of itself.

I have a ton of creative energy -- which I spent 30 years lavishing on my store.  I don't think other people can see it when it's used on work, but when the words just keep flowing like this, it's pretty hard to hide. This blog has been a hint at how much energy I have for words -- I've always actually kind of held back.  Believe it or not.

Not saying it's immortal literature -- but I do think I'm getting better.  The focus is on a good story, that I hope people will enjoy.  In order to get there, I'm trying to tell myself a good story that I enjoy.

No shortage of ideas -- just of time, and physical energy.  Both of which I'm expending in perhaps ridiculous amounts. 

But I'm going to keep giving myself permission.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The book demands what the book demands.

Whenever I first start writing, I am always aware of other writers and how I compare.  I'm even more aware of how other people are going to like or dislike my book.

But when I really get going, I simply forget about these factors.  It isn't that they don't matter -- obviously they do -- but they simply aren't salient to the process.

Writing for me is writing -- I'm not choosing quality, or subject, or any of those things.  It all gets focused down to what I'm doing, and doing it the best I can, and everything else sort of recedes into the background.  I don't care if someone else is better or worse, or if people are going like the end result, because I'm trying to write this the best I can to my own satisfaction.

The deeper I get into a book, the less it matters what anyone else might think.

When I'm done, I can poke my head out and ask -- well, did this work?  Will anyone care?

But while I'm writing it, it's such an internal process that it isn't that I force these concerns out -- they simply disappear.  The book itself seems to demand what it demands, the book itself is the quality of what it is.

I'm aware of flaws, of things that don't work.  But it is an intrinsic, inherent part of the process, not a concern about what people will think.

It's really a saving grace.

The writing sweet spot.

I seem to have hit a sweet spot in writing.

Every night before I go to bed, I try to plan out the next days writing.  What's it missing?  What do I need to do to make the story more interesting?  How does it click?

Then I wake up and drink my coffee and read the news. Write on my blog.  I shower and get dressed.

Around noon I start my first writing session. Usually that just takes off on me.   I take an hour or two break, think about what I want to do next, then I have a second writing session..  Then I take three hour or four hour break, get any errands or chores done.   Then I sit down for a third writing session.  I finish up somewhere around early to late evening. 

Then I start the whole process over again.

For example:

Last night, I had maneuvered two of the main character to meet at the scene of the crime, but then -- I didn't have anything for them to do or talk about.  It occurred to me that I need for the more mature voreling to escape.  But I also like the idea of him breaking out of the lab and creating havoc in the the Bend suburbs.

What if I have two of them maturing out of the litter -- 'Six', a female, looks at him one day and he realizes she is maturing too, and he lets her have more food, etc.  She follows him out of the den when they are attacked, but she gets away.  And so on.

It gives me another action character to write -- a femme fatale.  Nice little addition. 

I still have to work out Naorsi's and Forrest's reactions and response.  It needs to be something interesting, besides, "Huh."

But I'm making progress.  The outline is turning out to be very flexible -- but it's still a good starting point.  That plus planning ahead for each writing session, maybe I'll be able to avoid the slow spots.

It's important that the book have interesting momentum, and that requires some thought.  The more I work these things out in advance, the less I'll have to go back and insert them.  To be aware that the story needs to have some strength -- and if it doesn't -- what I can do about it.

One of my favorite things is to ask myself -- "What's it missing?  What would make it work better?"  And then to just let my subconscious work on it for awhile.  Sometimes I need to spur it to action a little -- "what if..." but other times, it just pops into my head.  But first I have to ask the questions.

At the same time, to keep the emotional sense of the story, I need to write it fairly fast, trusting that I can go back and smooth out the rough spots, fill in the blanks, and make it more polished.

For instance, I'm realizing that I need to do research on wolves.  I don't need to be utterly realistic -- these are 'vorewolves' after all, which can be anything I want them to be.  But they have to be wolf-like.

The story has a different tone than Nearly Human.  Not even close to as much setup -- dives right into the story, and just takes off.  Which is good.  Wish I could get Nearly Human to do that too.  But Nearly Human has improved so much, there is no reason to believe that I can't continue to refine it until it works just as well.

I'm now so into this world and these characters, that I can easily see myself writing a series of books.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Amazon emperor has no clothes.

Comes the news that Amazon actually loses money on direct sale of books.

Comes the news that the founder of Amazon basically brags about the strength of his company despite the lack of profits.

This isn't going to end well.

Not that anyone is going to listen to the owner of a small bookstore.  But I'll keep saying, this isn't going to end well.  The whole business plan is idiotic.  But apparently shareholders have bought into it, and as long as they keep believing, the ponzi scheme is intact.

One savvy competitor, one unexpected development, one new technological hack-- and the whole thing will come tumbling down.  Billions of dollars will have been churned, hundreds of small bookstores destroyed, untold infrastructure destroyed because of uncollected sales taxes, all for nothing.

The emperor has no clothes.

Festivals are good for business!

Just as long as they are held in the Old Mill District or Northwest Crossing.

We always have good weekends when they hold these events outside of downtown.  My theory--people either get done with the fest or avoid the fest and ask themselves -- hey, what else can we do?  I know!  Lets go downtown!

So, all hail street closures!  As long as they aren't MY street.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I've changed my mind -- outlining is a good idea.

Somehow I got it in my head that if I wrote an outline, I wouldn't write the book.  Somehow I convinced myself that I "discovered" the book by writing it. 

Problem was -- I may have been discovering the book by writing it, but the plot was coming out in such a haphazard way that it usually necessitated a whole lot of reorganization.  I was constantly writing myself into corners, or being too predictable, or having to go back and shoehorn elements I left out.

If I didn't finish outlined books in the past, there must have been other reasons for it, I think.

So I decided after struggling with Nearly Human that every book thereafter would be planned ahead, and then -- written quickly.

This seems to be working.  These two elements put together -- planning them and then writing quickly.  Along with the third working technique of being patient in rewriting.

The working process is at least as important as the creative process when I'm taking on as big a challenge as a novel.

What I'm discovering is, that it isn't so much the plot of the book that I need to outline -- though that is useful as far as it goes.  No, I need to think about what "elements" the book needs, and where.

1.) The plot.  If I have a clear idea of what a chapter is about, I tend to write it quickly and concisely.  But what I'm finding is, that the plot is a very flexible thing.  For instance, I outlined the first 11 chapters of Wolflander, but by the time I got to the 3rd chapter, I was already changing it.  In this case, I added a chapter.

I'm pretty sure this will happen throughout the book, but it just means that I'm constantly thinking about the plot, coming up with the next day or weeks writing, and changing things for the better.

2.) The elements.  What I mean by this is, the book needs to have all the proper parts.

A good example is when I started writing Death of an Immortal, I knew that the theme was going to be redemption.  That the main protagonist was trying to reform, and -- you know -- not eat people.
Well, what kind of vampire story is that?  So I decided I needed a Big Bad -- an evil vampire who could supply the thrills and chills.

In the past, I might have written the whole book without realizing what was missing.

With this newest book, I realized within a few thousand words that the original plot outline meant that all these secondary characters I had invented for Nearly Human, didn't have much to do.  So I thought about it for a few hours last night, and came up with a neat little plot device that will bring them in the story.  The plot element was there all along, but I just figured out a way to get the characters connected to it.

The more of this avoiding pitfalls I do in the first place, the easier it will be to write the book.

So I've come around -- planning for a book makes sense.  Outlining makes sense.  Making sure the book has all the elements to succeed makes sense.

I can still have plenty of flexibility in the actual writing.  If new plot point comes up, fine.  If a new character pops up and wants to be part of the story, fine.

Like a long road trip, detours are allowed, as long as I stick to the basic direction I mapped out.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I've decided to make my next Cobb book about werewolves.

Vampires.  Yawn.

Zombies.  Blech.

Werewolves are the Next Big Thing! 

Well, out of all the supernatural critters I could pick, werewolves interest me the most.

Title:  Wolflander.

So I'm thinking that I'll have the wolves naturally migrating into Oregon come up against the fact that Bend is the Nexus between Faery and Earth.

O.K.  Went out to the Badlands and came up with a preliminary plot.

I don't have too much trouble coming up with things.  I can can up with This, That, and the Next Thing.  What I seem to have trouble with, sometimes, is the sequence of these events.  Does That happen before This?  Does the Next Thing happen after This or That?

All this is harder than it looks, and that's why this time I'm actually planning the book, instead of setting off blindly.

I've got an outline sketch of the first 11 chapters and an overall direction I want to go.  This is more planning than I usually do.

What's cool is that, because I've already written a book in this world, I have the characters, background, setting and basic premise (Faery/Humans versus...) in place.  Why didn't I think of this trick before!?

No really.  Why didn't I think of this trick before?  I've written 8 books, and only two of them were connected and that's only because I originally planned them as one book.

Anyway, I'm going to get started today.  For some reason, I'm always a little nervous, scared before I start a new book.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blogging about writing...writing about blogging.

I was going to apologize for blogging about writing so much, then figured, what's the point?  I'm going to keep blogging about writing as long as that's what I'm doing.

I have decided, once again, that alcohol is just too hard on me.  I mostly don't drink because Linda doesn't drink, and because it messes up my equilibrium somehow.  I envy those folks that can have a few relaxing drinks every day, but I can't.  Two drinks is as bad as four drinks for me.

It's mostly how it affects my sleep cycle, I think.

One thing I've decided.  Wine is the creative alcohol for me. Which I don't understand -- isn't alcohol, just alcohol?  Beer just seems to fill me up -- and I think I might be a little allergic to some of the contents.

No, wine is what works for me when I'm writing -- cheap, white wine.  If nothing else it allows me to concentrate on one thing for longer than normal.  Sometimes it skews my vision and loosens my parameters enough to come up with some nifty phrasing.  Very occasionally, I feel like I get a good solid sense of direction.

Maybe I should be trying hard liquor, like all those hard-drinking, two fisted writers like Faulkner and Hemingway.  I keep thinking I'll stock a bottle of whiskey and vodka and -- but I think I've only been in a liquor store once in my life.

I'm between books, so to speak.  I think it's time to turn to something original, rather than working on an existing manuscript.  So I could write a sequel to Death of an Immortal, a sequel to Nearly Human, or a sequel to The Reluctant Wizard.

The Reluctant Wizard is my long term project -- my fantasy trilogy that I want to finish someday.  No hurry, but then again, any work on it wouldn't be wasted.

Nearly Human.  How strongly do I feel about this book?  Do I want to write a sequel to an unpublished book?  Would having more than one book in the series help me sell it?

Death of an Immortal.  Even more a question of following up something that doesn't seem to be gaining any traction.

In any case, I'm planning to do some planning first, so it will probably be either Nearly Human or The Reluctant Wizard, and I may not actually know until I sit down to actually work on it.

Probably Nearly Human since it is my active project, as far as sending it to agents and publishers, and writing a second book might help me with the first book as well.  (I love that as long as it isn't actually published yet, I can always go back and work on it...)

O.K.  So I'll apologize about blogging about writing -- but I ain't going to stop.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Changing the tone of my books as a way to fix them.

Many years ago, I sent Deviltree to Del Rey publishing.

I got back a letter from Lester Del Rey, telling me that though he liked my book, the main character "murders" innocents in the first chapter and that didn't fit his imprint.  He went on to suggest some other things I might change.

I thought it was cool that I got a letter back from the man for whom the Ballantine imprint -- the biggest fantasy publisher at the time -- was named; but didn't really realize what a big deal that really was. (Apparently, they don't do this very often.)

Anyways, I rewrote the book based on his recommendations.

Later I sent it to another big publisher, and got a letter back from Susan Allison who was another big name in the S.F. publishing world, and she also said she liked the story, and gave me some suggestions for improvement.

So I rewrote it again.

Neither publisher took it.  I later read that editors rarely take books they have rejected, even if you improve them --- because they've already rejected you...

Anyway, I got thoroughly sick of Deviltree after rewriting it so many times.  It came really really close to getting published, even being accepted at one point, but never got there.

At this point, I sent my next book, Sometimes a Dragon, off only twice, (once to Susan Allison who said she liked it, but it was too "stylistic", heh.)  Then gave up  -- thinking it would be for only a few years.   I was nearly married and newly a store owner...

...and that was it for my writing career for the next few decades.

So here it is, years later.  I'm rereading Deviltree, and it's OK.  Has some good imagination, some good characters, some decent writing.  I think I could do better now.  It seems to be missing a little 'something.'

So, dealing with the horror publisher has got me thinking. 

I prefer Dark Fantasy.  Sorry Lester Del Rey, but sometimes violence happens. 

What would happen if I turned Deviltree into Dark Fantasy?  What would happen if I turned Sometimes a Dragon into Dark Fantasy? -- (It would probably take the title Sometimes a Gargoyle, which would be natural to the plot I have in mind.)

I like this idea because it gives me something to grab onto.  It gives me something to add to stories that are missing a little something.  I don't like rewriting unless there is something substantial I'm changing.

I've gotten pretty good lately at inserting secondary stories into already existing plots -- to make them more interesting and complex. 

For instance, if I approach Deviltree, for instance as a "dying world" (which I imply but don't really play up) it adds all kinds of opportunities for mood and scene. 

 Even The Reluctant Wizard has strong elements of Dark Fantasy -- I just haven't played them up.  (For instance, the bad guys are more or less based on Aztecs -- pretty dark right there.  Their main minions are what I call Witchweres -- which are flying dark shrouds who suck the life out of their victims.)

Part of this is motivation to get me to give each of these books another effort.  But part of it feels right, too.

So even just approaching this horror publisher, no matter what happens, has had an unintended beneficial consequence.  It's got me going in a direction that interests me -- and above all, I really need to feel interested to make the changes I need to make...

Choosing the next book.

I've finished Nearly Human to my satisfaction for the moment.  Put that last surge of effort into it, which I'm proud of, and I think I made it much better in each of the last two drafts.

Sometimes a Dragon has been rewritten, and I'm sending it off to the copyeditor here in town.

So my next step, I think, is to plan out the second book in the Lore series.  Either that or the second book in the Cobb series (Nearly Human.)

1.)  Plan ahead, get the theme down and a rough plot outline.  Try to flesh out the backstory.

2.) Clear enough time away to write a first draft quickly.

3.) Set it aside, then come back to it several times.


Pick the second project, and rinse and repeat.


Go back to the first project.

And so on.

That's my working process now, which I learned after not doing it that way with Nearly Human.

I thought, when I started, that I could write a book like a blog.  Just wake up every day and do a thousand words, or something.

Doesn't work that way.

I thought, when I started, that I could be clever and snarky, but my main characters need to be underdogs and sympathetic and not clever and snarky.

I need to "feel" that first draft; I need to try not to take too many missteps; and I need to take the time at the end of the process to get it polished and right.

My weaknesses that I can do anything about, as it see it now, are that I need to spend more time on the background details, the little things that make the world real.  Again, I think it would help to visualize the world before I start.

When I actually write, I write quickly, so I can afford to take a little time to plan.  I've always said I don't outline because I discover the plot through writing -- but I just don't think I can afford to do that anymore.

At some point I want to go back to Deviltree -- add a couple of new elements -- and rewrite it from beginning to end.  I was thinking about making it more horror than fantasy, and how I could go about that.

I've gotten very clever lately about inserting secondary stories into an existing plot.  It actually works pretty well, I think, and Deviltree needs a little something more to really make it work.

So there's that, too.

I'm really enjoying the idea that I'm going to be able to do these things....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I think this is a book.

No matter what else happens, it's obvious to me that the last two rewrites of Nearly Human have improved the book. 

There's that moment in a book where it just clicks, and you know you've got the real thing on your hands.  I hadn't been feeling that, until recently.  As you know, I've been hesitant.  I kept putting the book down and going and writing other things for awhile.

I've written two other books in the course of working on Nearly Human.  I've rewritten an entire separate manuscript since, and I've got a good solid first draft of a fantasy down.

 I kept coming back and wrestling with this book, thinking there was something there.  And walking away frustrated, making improvements but knowing it still was floundering.

But I laid down that last read-through a couple of night ago, and went -- huh, what do you know?  This reads like a book.

But what an effort!   I've put over two years into this manuscript, off and on.  It has completely changed from the beginning in tone and plot. 

There's not much more I can do with it, for now.  I'm just seeing a jumble of words now.  I mean, I can tell it's much more polished and integrated and so on.

But the emotional content, and the pacing -- I'm just having a hard time feeling it anymore.

So, I'll send it off and set it aside and come back to it later.

But I will give myself credit for working hard on this book.  I told myself that I wouldn't be premature about sending it off.  That I'd wait for the moment when it clicked.

Having a deadline really helped.  I really focused in the last week.  Having an outside editor was very helpful, I think, in pointing out inconsistencies and getting the writing itself more polished.  She did me a big favor by pointing me in the direction of cutting.  I probably wouldn't have done that on my own.

But also, she seemed to take the book very seriously, treat it as a real possibility.  "In the unlikely even the publisher doesn't take it..." is the way she phrased the last draft.  Heh.  Yes, it cost me to get her to work so hard on it, but like I've said before, I don't need much encouragement.

I just need to feel like I'm making progress.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Writing for 20 hours.

I've been writing so intensively, that I almost forgot to blog!

That never happens.

Really put some effort into this last week, trying to shape up Nearly Human.

It's got to be much more polished by now, I think. 

We'll see.

Monday, April 8, 2013

This ain't no hobby. This ain't no disco. It's sloppy and hard work.

Writing Nearly Human has not been a tidy process.

Writing a book isn't efficient.  I look around my room and see papers scattered about, unfinished notes, newspapers, pencils and pens, cups and plates, blankets -- it all feels so slovenly.

Add to that how sitting around and thinking and laying down and internet browsing and playing solitaire and sometimes or mostly just staring into the screen -- with a few moments of writing -- make up most days.

Or, conversely, how I'll dive into a writing session and emerge six hours later unaware of how the time has passed.

It feels like I have made every mistake I'm prone to make with Nearly Human.

If nothing else -- and this sounds lame -- it has been a learning experience.  I've had to rediscover my strengths and weaknesses, and even more importantly, my working process.   I can say, too, that it has been a reaffirmation of my desire to write.

Because -- and this sounds lame, too -- I've worked really long and hard on this book.  This ain't no hobby if the amount of time and effort is taken into consideration.

This last round of rewriting has been interesting.  The editor I hired has been very helpful -- first as an affirmation that I was indeed making progress from the early drafts and actually had something worthwhile-- but also because it has spurred me into make yet another effort.  (I won't say final, because that's what I think every time and so far every time I've been wrong.)

She forced me to look at perhaps cutting the book, and so I set out over the last weekend to try to cut out the fat.  I managed to cut 17K words!  Which was both scary and exhilarating.  I'd rewritten this book so many times, added so many layers, that there was quite a bit of duplication.  But more importantly, many of the cute ideas and explanations and conversations and even some scenes I'd come up with, didn't propel the plot.  So I tried my best to cut or trim or consolidate those.

So the book should read much faster and smoother -- whether faster and smoother enough, I can't tell.

The book certainly reads differently.  The early version were 'interesting things,' one after another, with a sort of plot with hazy motivations.

This last draft is mostly about plot and story -- which is what a book should be, I think.

From what I learned from writing Nearly Human -- Freedy Filkins and Death of an Immortal and The Reluctant Wizard all came much easier, without so many of the missteps.  The working "process" may sound less important than the creative process, but all I'm really saying is that the working process makes it possible to do the creative process.  Otherwise, I'm floundering around.

I was inspired to go back and rewrite Sometimes a Dragon, which I always wanted to do but was afraid to tackle.

I'm making big decisions on direction and I'm willing to cut or change huge parts of the books -- which is necessary for me if I'm going to ever make these books better.

I don't know if there will ever be a payoff -- but I know that I've worked hard for it.  I've really put the effort into this for the last two years, and the last six months especially.

Though sometimes I feel like I'm just beginning.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Writing hard.

Me tired.

Worked on Nearly Human until 2:00 and woke and started again at 6:00.

Trying to get this done.  There's been some back and forth with the editor.  She has finished copyediting the whole book, so I'm integrating that with what I've done.

I made it through 22 chapters last night.  (With the help of some wine.)  Figure I cut about 7000 words, altogether.  I want to get through at least another 15 chapters this afternoon, and then send the fresh version to Lara in hopes that she'll see a couple more things to do.

I'm encouraged that she seems to think this is all worth doing -- that there is a real chance.  I don't expect it to be accepted because it's not strongly 'Horror', but I want to try and the possibility is getting me to work hard on it.  

Meanwhile, I'll keep working on it until Tuesday afternoon, as which time I'll send it to the publisher.

This is as intensive and concentrating a time at writing as I've ever had.

It's the deadline.  Trying to get it as good as possible by a deadline has made me really focus.

Of course, the result may end up being something like:

Writing Hard.  Me Tired.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What to cut and what not to cut.

I started cutting Nearly Human yesterday, at the editor's recommendations.   Cut about 6000 words in the first 50 pages or so.

It can be hard to know whether what I'm cutting is completely unnecessary, but I'm making my best guess.  If it doesn't advance the plot then it better be pretty important to characterization or it goes out.

I'm hoping to cut as much as 20,000 words and get the book lean and mean at about 100,000 words.

But I also decided to move the chapter with Lovecraft up much earlier in the book, as well as a chapter with Arthur Conan Doyle/Houdini that I had previously cut.  Then I wrote a brand new chapter with C.S. Lewis.  I mostly use their own words in these chapters, sometimes paraphrased and taken out of context, but put into their mouths.  I'm planning to write a Charles Williams chapter, too.

Lara really liked these chapters, and I do think they are maybe interesting to people who like these kinds of books.  I really liked writing them.

I'm hoping she can get me some recommendations of what to cut and condense.  I'm really having a hard time seeing my book as anything other than a jumble of words.  It always gets to this point with me, if I work on a book long enough.  It doesn't mean the writing is bad -- in fact, the very fact that I've put so much work in it means it's probably improved.  It's just that I can't feel it anymore.

I can look at a sentence and logic out that maybe it doesn't propel the story, but I can't figure out if there is a "feel" reason for it to be there.  So, I'm worried this is a little dangerous.  So that's why I'm hoping Lara has enough time to figure out what she thinks could be cut.

So...another two or three days of cutting, and then a complete read through and then I send it off to the publisher.



Terrill arrived at the Black Bear restaurant a few minutes late.  The skies had cleared in late afternoon, and he had to wait for the sun to fall behind the Sisters Mountains before venturing out.
He'd thought about it all day.  How much to give to Sylvie.  Too much money and she might wonder.   Too little, and she might just spend it all on other things.  He decided on an amount and wrote out the check with the Prestigious Insurance heading.  If it turned out not to be enough, he could always send more later.
Chainsaw carvings of black bears surrounded the restaurant, and paw tracks were stenciled onto the sidewalk.  The entrance was enclosed within a gift shop with kitschy plates and statues.  It was dinnertime, and the place was packed.
Sylvie was talking to friends near the front counter, still wearing her waitress smock.  She saw him and waved.  She finished her conversation and went into the back, emerging seconds later as a civilian.
She nodded to the inside of the restaurant and led him to a small table in the corner, near the swinging doors from the kitchen.
"You hungry?" she asked.  "We make some pretty good hamburgers here."
"No," he said.  He wanted to hand the check over as soon as possible.  He wanted to get out of this high desert land with its bright sun and little shade.  He needed to get back to a city, where he could blend in, where his behavior wouldn't be observed by the same people every day.  The local butcher was already looking at him askance, and if he stayed much longer he'd have to track down another source for raw meat.
He handed over the check.
She didn't look at it.  She put it face down, and stared at him.  "Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what?  I'm just delivering an insurance settlement."
"Why are you delivering it?  I wouldn't have even known about it until you wrote me a letter.  If you'd put up enough roadblocks, I probably wouldn't have even fought it.  You could have sent it looking like junk mail and I would’ve thrown it away.  Why didn't you?"
"At Prestigious Insurance, we don't do things that way."
"That’s another thing.  I spent an hour on Google looking for a Prestigious Insurance and couldn't find it."
"We fly under the radar," he said.
"No kidding.  But why?  Why would an insurance company not want to be known?"
He took a drink of water trying to cover up his consternation.  Why the hell was she questioning it?
The swinging doors opened and a waitress came out overloaded.  She didn't quite make it out the door; one of the plates landed upside down, mashed potatoes squirting out onto Terrill's shoes.
There was some sarcastic clapping, but Terrill rose and reassured the young waitress that it was all right, waving her away from wiping off his shoes.
"That was nice of you," Sylvie said.  "She's new.  You could've really wrecked her confidence if you'd made a scene."   She was looking at him with raw appraisal and for the first time, she didn't seem suspicious of him.
"Pick up the check," he urged.
She put her hand on the check where it lay on the table.  She hesitated, then flipped it over and looked down.
"Holy shit!"
"Yes, your sister was quite generous." 
"I could live on this for ten years.  Hell, I don't need to go to school."
"Yes, and then what?  Besides, as I've said, the insurance is predicated on your continuing your education."
"Well, Central Oregon Community College doesn't cost all that much," she said.  "I'm not leaving Bend.  I can't leave my Mom and Dad right now.  They need my help.
"I understand they have a new four year program here."
"Yeah, if you want to be in the hospitality industry, or a chef, or something like that.  Hard sciences are still over in the valley."
The restaurant was getting crowded with the dinner crowd, the swinging doors were opening more and more often, and the clanking of dishes and the shouts of cooks washing over their conversation, was making it more and more difficult to hear each other.
A table of four guys fresh from a baseball game came in and sat in the next table over.  They weren't lowering their voices from the playground level.  
"There's a nightclub next door," Sylvie said.  "It should be quieter over there this early in the evening."
The other waitresses waved to her on her way out, and the desk clerk smiled brightly.  It was obvious Sylvie was popular around here.  They checked him out, too.  A well-dressed guy in his thirties -- an obvious catch.  Then again, a girl like Sylvie probably had plenty of guys sniffing around.

The nightclub was mostly empty, it being too early for the night crowd.  They found a quiet table near the bar.  They both ordered a couple of Deschutes Ales to pay for their table.
“You old enough?”
She smiled brightly.  “Turned 21 a month ago.”
He cleared his throat after they both took a deep swig.  "You were saying that there weren't any hard science programs here but with enough money the programs will come to you.  Believe me, no school will turn you down with your grades, especially if you pay full tuition."
"How the hell do you know about my grades?'
"Well, I assumed.  I'm right, aren't I?"
She looked away.  She had stuffed the check in her pocket, and it seemed to him that she didn't even want to think about it.
"Why are you fighting it?" he asked, softly.
Tears came to her eyes, and she looked down.  "Jamie died.  It seems all wrong that I should benefit from that.“
"It's not your fault.  You had nothing to do with it."  
"I feel...guilty.  Like I caused it, or something."
"What you said last night at your house -- she got unlucky, that's all.  She met the wrong guy.  It could have happened here, or anywhere, believe me."
"But she might not have been over there in Portland at all, if it wasn't for me."  She put her face into her hands and sobbed.   "She wouldn't have been doing...what she was doing."
"Sylvie.  Listen to me."  He stared at her until she looked up and met his eyes.  "Your sister was thinking of you, and you will honor her memory by taking this money and making something of your life."
"I will?" she smiled sadly.
"Yes...you will.  It's what Jamie wanted."

They drank their beers and ordered another round, and settled into a companionable conversation about schools.  She seemed to know a lot about which colleges had the best programs, and he encouraged her to look into them.  She was easy to talk to, just as Jamie had been.  But whereas Jamie had a slightly defeated manner, Sylvie was still defiant, still hopeful the world would come through for her.
They didn't notice when the four baseball players from the restaurant came in, or when two of them walked over to their table. 
"Sylvie? Is that you?" 
The two men stood over them with big grins.
"Yeah?" she said, in a neutral voice.
"It's Peter Saunders...I dated your sister in high school."
"I remember you," she said.  She obviously didn't like the guy, but was trying to be polite.
"Hey, I heard about what happened to Jamie.  I'm sorry."
Sylvie softened a little, and her eyes became moist again.  "Thank you, Peter."
He sat down in the booth next to her suddenly, and she had to scrunch closer to the window to make room.  The other man stood directly over Terrill.  
"Scoot over man," he said, and pushed his way onto the seat.  Terrill made way reluctantly.  They both smelled of sweat, of healthy young men.  Once Terrill would have torn them to pieces for their rudeness, but he stayed silent.
"Yeah, I was sorry she moved to Portland.  She was the best piece of ass in Bend."
Sylvie stiffened.  The young man, Peter, looked over at Terrill challengingly, as if to ask, 'What are you going to do about it?'  Terrill stared back, but didn't say anything.  It wasn't the reaction Peter was looking for.  He seemed a little disconcerted.
The guy next to Terrill spoke up.  "She never would put out for me."
"No?" Peter said.  "Well, you are one ugly son of a bitch."
"Not even on the second date."
"Well, I heard she was selling herself over in Portland.  Once those bastards over there hollowed her out, maybe you could've afforded her."
"Come on, you guys," Sylvie said.  "Get out of here."  She didn't sound so much angry, as sad. 
"Why?  Jim here was wondering if you put out for free.  Or do you cost money too?"
"That's enough," Terrill said.  The tone in his voice froze both men.  They stared at each other, as if challenging the other to say something.  Peter looked Terrill up and down and seemed to decide he wasn't much of a threat.  Both men were huge, steroid inflated jocks.  Terrill was as tall as they were, but nowhere near as muscled.
"I like your duds, man.  Obviously, you can afford her.  Jamie always was a skank, ever since middle school.  Sylvie probably costs more, being that she's so much fresher."
"Stand up," Terrill said.
They looked at each other, grinning.  They were about to get what they came for.  No doubt, they didn't expect he'd put up much of fight.   They stood up and waited for him.
He took his time, wondering what he was going to do.  If he fought these two men, he doubted he would be able to control himself. Any other time, any other place, he would have taken the chance.  But not here, not in front of Jamie's little sister.
He tried to stare them down, and they backed away a step in response.  If there had just been one of them, it probably would've been over.  But the each of them was egging the other one on.
Peter took a swing at him, which he easily evaded.  But Jim came in low, from the other side, and Terrill was slammed against the edge of the table.  The air went out of his lungs, and he collapsed to the floor.
Both men started kicking him, and he put his hands over his head in protection.  He wasn't afraid.  Under the cover of his hands, he was trying to minimize the damage, taking notice of what part of his body was being struck.  Again, he hoped that was enough to satisfy the young men’s' bloodlust.
He fought the urge to tear them apart.  His fangs started to extend, but he kept his face down.  He thought he heard a gasp from Sylvie, but didn’t dare look at her.  A kick to his neck and he was gasping for breath, and his fangs and claws retracted.   That had never happened before in the face of danger.  He wondered about it as he continued to take the blows without resistance.
It was the girl, he thought.  He didn’t want to turn into a monster in front of her -- he didn’t want her to know that he was her sister’s murderer.  He wanted desperately to look like a good man in front of her.
The guys were beginning to tire.  It wasn’t any fun if their prey wasn’t going to fight back.
But Peter wasn't satisfied.  He picked Terrill up, and slammed his head down on his knee. 
That was the last thing Terrill remembered.

Hi.  This is the last chapter I'm posting.  Yes, it was a big tease.  But getting the rest of the book is easy.  All you need to do is go to smashwords (below) and sign up.  It's free.  Then you can buy the book in many formats for 2.99.

It will be a great favor to me if you do, but I think you'll enjoy the rest of the book if you've gotten this far.

Thanks to anyone who has been reading.  In the words of Spartacus, "gratitude."

Friday, April 5, 2013

No such things as "drafts" in digital -- just constant change.

My copy-editor has suggested cuts and consolidations to Nearly Human -- plus thinks I should describe characters and the Central Oregon setting more.

So I'm going to dive in over the next four days and see what I can get done.  I have no problem with cutting -- in fact, I usually feel like I'm rushing things, so I let myself go on purpose sometimes.  I have no problem making cuts.

It's big book, so I could cut quite a lot.

What's interesting to me is that most of the early parts she thinks I should cut are from the first efforts -- including the first chapter that sent me on my journey.  It sort of confirms that I was kind of 'feeling' my way at first, and only oriented myself after nearly a year went by.  So this book is going to be very different from those early drafts -- it's like human cells that have been replaced, so that after a time, you don't have the same body, but you still have a body.  I don't have the same book, but I still have a book.

She seems to like the actions scenes -- and especially the "author" scenes -- which is also what I like the most.  I'm thinking of front-loading the "author" chapters -- to get the hardcore horror readers intrigued. 

Cutting the dialogue is in the "process" scenes is O.K. with me -- though I have to be careful not to cut anything that appears important later in the book.  

It will be horror readers who will be reading this, so many of the explanations probably aren't all that necessary.

So...taking a big breath and getting it done.  I'm not worried about having enough time, I'm just worried about not getting confused moving things around -- remembering what I've done and where I've done it.  But I'll just try tackling one problem at a time.

I'm impressed with myself -- my willingness to keep working on this fucking thing.  A few years ago, I would have just given up.

There are no such things as "Drafts" in the digital age  -- only constant change.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The self-perpetuating store.

The store is self-perpetuating at this point.  Took a long time to get here.  Took a long time to even realize that it was my goal.

For instance:  I pay little attention to best-seller lists.  Every once in a while I'll take a glance and pluck one or two interesting titles and add them to my inventory wishlist.

But mostly, I have X amount of money, and when I look at what I've sold and reorder it, most of the X is gone.

So -- I can go out and buy a copy of some unknown book -- or I can look at the sales trajectory of Vader and Son and buy it, knowing it will sell.

In other words, I have sales history on a bunch of non-"best-seller" consistent sellers for my store. 

You figure out these things one at a time.  I avoided Doctor Who paraphenalia for a long time, lumping it in with other 'cult' products like Star Trek and NBX where there seems to be huge interest and tiny sales.

I found to my surprise that the Doctor Who fans were good for it -- especially the Sonic Screwdrivers.  So I've tried to have a selection of Screwdrivers ever since.

So I just keep adding item after item that seems to sell consistently.  Because I've diversified into 5 to 10 product lines, depending on how you define it, I always have a list of proven sellers to buy.

This contrasts with the first 15 years of business, where I was dependent almost exclusively with timely product, which came in once and then on to the next thing.  Monthly comics and the newest card releases was playing ongoing Russian Roulette.

I developed the self-perpetuating model only after lots of trial and error.  And only after the industry itself seemed to move in that direction.

The book industry, especially, is bit of mystery to me -- why they are having so much trouble.  If they would just concentrate on proven sellers, I think they'd do better.  Instead, they seemed to be trapped by the "Best-Seller" model -- which Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Costco can do cheaper and in greater volume.

The "next new thing" is all well and good.  By all means, you'll want to carry them.  But don't forget that you have 300 years of book history behind you, and that Hemingway and Heinlein and Kerouac never stop selling.

Sure -- you have to try new titles.  Do lots of sampling.  But in a book world where you can get a reorder in one or two days, with minimal shipping costs, why do you order extra copies of some books and no copies of most books?

As you can see, I'd love for an opportunity to show that I could run a full new bookstore, to show my model would work.  It works in my store -- but it's only 20% of my business, so it doesn't prove the test.

Turning a full thousand or two thousand square feet to books and nothing but books, would be the test.

But I have no doubt I could fill it with proven sellers.  The book industry is full of proven sellers.  It seems to me that most book retailers ignore them, for some weird reason.  They are way too influenced by the industry publications and media, I believe.  Not focused on the books themselves, but what people are saying about books.

Which is like gambling with every order.  The return system encourages this -- volume discounts encourage this -- higher discounts ordering in volume from publishers instead of wholesalers -- encourages this.

But it's still taking chances they just don't need to take.

They could take much of the gamble out by concentrating on proven books, and dabbling in new best-sellers.  Most booksellers, it seems to me, concentrate on new best-sellers and dabble in proven books. 

I may be wrong.  Maybe you can't make enough money on proven sellers -- but have to depend on the "Next Big Thing."

 You could do both, just with the accent on the former, instead of the latter.

A bachelor for ten days.

I made the joke on Facebook that with Linda in Florida for 10 days, I was seeing how it would be to be a bachelor.

It isn't a pretty sight.

So, I watched less television than usual -- not just because I was taping the shows we watch together, but because I just don't tend to turn the infernal contraption on.

What I did end up watching is -- Chinese movies.  Lots and lots of Chinese movies.  Don't know why.  Probably because it's the biggest repository of good movies I haven't seen.  Linda doesn't like subtitled and I don't mind, so it's the perfect thing to watch when she isn't here.
Actually, despite the image I might have evoked above, the house is a bit more clean and in order -- it's easy for me to pick up after myself.

I drank wine for several nights.  Linda doesn't drink, so generally neither do I.

Slept really well.  I don't get up at night and Linda does...

I talked to myself -- as an idea generator for the books.   "What's weak and needs to be fixed?  What can I add or subtract to make it better?  What parts are still bother me..." and so on.  Easier to talk to myself without feeling crazy if another person isn't there.

I'd planned to spend all ten days finishing Sometimes a Dragon, but I was done in 3 days.  Then I planned at editing Nearly Human but I was done in two days.  

I fought off the cat's constant demand for hugs and cuddles.  Normally she's even a little standoffish to me, so this was a little startling.  We have our late night lap time, an hour or two before bed she'll jump on my lap while I'm reading, and after curling up for awhile, she'll turn around with an evil gleam.  Then I grab her head with my hand and we have a knock-down drag out fight for a few minutes.  When her claws start coming out, it's time to quit playing.

It alarms Linda, but Panga starts it.

Went walking in the high desert, dust up to my knees, but very pleasant.  Back to work on Wednesday and my wonderful wife was back home waiting for me, safe and sound.

Benefits of being a bachelor:

Cat cuddles.

Better sleep.

Wine drinking.

Downsides of being a bachelor:

Everything Else.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Boredom is the spark to creativity?

Saw an article that asserted that boredom is the spark of creativity.

If you are constantly entertained by your phone and your computer and your xbox and your T.V. and ect. ect. You never get the urge to fill it with something creative.

Thing is, I don't get bored.  Never really have.  Stick me in a bare room by myself and and I'll just sit there and ruminate about things.  No boredom there.

But I will agree that unused time is necessary for writing.

I noticed a long time ago that if I had one or two days off, I never got the urge to write.  If I got three days off, I'd start to get an urge, but I'd turn it off because I'd be going back to work the next day.  Getting three or more days off is what it really takes.  I find by the end of the first day or the beginning of the second day, I'm rarin' to go.  But only because I know I have that time in front of me.

Same thing happens on a daily basis.  If the day is going to get broken up by chores or errands or appointments, I put my subconscious on hold.

Creativity is a "shy pet" who you have to give freedom to tiptoe out its cage and sniff the air.

Lots and lots of rumination before I take action.  Giving myself time.  Letting the creative rhythms' take charge.

Don't get me wrong, you can't just sit around waiting for inspiration.  No --you call forth the inspiration, and you coax it, and you ask it nicely.  You can try the five minute rule, for instance.   (Sit at a task for five minutes and more often than not you'll keep going.)  Or you can browse the manuscript, or you can play solitaire or talk to yourself or go for a walk.

It won't just come without asking.  And it comes much easier, for me, in quiet alone space and time.

Not boredom -- space that needs to be filled with ideas.  Ideas that can bloom, instead of being crowded out by other things.

I'm not even reading much these days.  I'm taping shows and trying to watch them in chunks.  I'm dropping mediocre shows -- Revolution, Red Widow, for instance.

I had been cooped up in the house for 5 days, and yesterday I got in the car and drove out to the high desert and just sort of walked around for a few hours.  Sat down on stumps and pulled my hoodee over my head and computer and typed in some ideas.  But mostly just ruminated.

It was dry and smelled sweet and the temperature was perfect -- high 60's.  Just a great central Oregon day.

Didn't write much, but I know that when I breathed in that dry sweet air, I was sucking in ideas somewhere in the back of my brain.

Nurturing it not with boredom, but with contemplation.

First cracks in Walmart's armor?

There's a few articles out there about how Walmart is falling down on the job.  Apparently they've cut 100's of thousands of employees lately, while adding hundreds of stores.

So the complaints by customers is that there isn't merchandise at the store or product on the shelves, because there aren't enough employees to unpack and display the new arrivals.

The article is framed with the idea that Walmart customer service sucks.  All such articles seem mostly concerned about "customer service."

O.K.  That's a problem.  But it's a by-product of the real problem.  Not hiring enough employees and not paying them enough to retain them is the real problem. 

The Real Real problem is -- if you don't have products on the shelves to sell, you can't sell them. 

When we had a store in the Mountain View Mall, we were three stores down from Kmart.  You could almost see that store going downhill day by day.  Empty shelves is what I remembered -- it shocked me. 

By that time I was disabused of my notion that giant corporations are efficient.  They are dumb and slow, but oh so big.  A tree can outsmart you if it falls on you.  Then you are as dumb as a stump and just as dead.

They kill you with volume and price.  If service really mattered to people, these huge stores would be the ones in trouble, not the small independents.  Real service is having the product, conveniently displayed, with clear pricing, and it's gravy if you have someone behind the counter who actually knows something.

As you know, I'm a big fan of inventory.  That's what the mass market has always had over us -- that and price.  If they start falling down on that, they're in trouble.

But here's the thing -- inventory is limitless on the web, and price is even cheaper. 

So you've got the small specialty shops on one side, and the Amazon's of the world on the other, and the mass market in-between.

Things change, that's for sure. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Two more books ready to go.

Well, this never happens.  I just had two hard jobs turn into two easy jobs.

First of all, I thought it would take six days to finish transcribing and then reading and copy-editing Sometimes a Dragon.  It took three days.  I just couldn't find that many problems.

Then I decided that I would take whatever the professional copy-editor had done to Nearly Human and work on it for the next eight days or so before sending it off.  But the writing program we're using means I only have to "click" approval or not, and after a couple of hours I was done, even having to write from the notes she also included.

I find I usually accept these kinds of revisions -- if a reader comes across a sentence that doesn't quite work, and they have a suggestion for improvement, I find they are almost always right.  It's as silly thing for a writer to object to.

Turns out, she has done about 70% of the book.  She's agreed to do the last 30% of the book in the next week.

She seems like a pretty persnickety reader, not afraid to make suggestions and corrections, and she didn't find anywhere the number of inconsistencies and continuity problems I thought she would.

 She called it a "terrific story" and the publisher would be sure to like it... heh.  Well -- I am paying her, so maybe I should take it with a grain of salt.

I'm not really expecting Nearly Human to be accepted by the horror publisher -- who after all is taking open submissions so all he really agreed to is what he was already offering.  The book, while having horror elements, may not be horror enough.

 But here's the thing --  I do think both books are vastly improved from earlier versions.

There is a kind of exponential improvement to books sometimes, each version being twice as good as the previous version, which means that Nearly Human isn't just 3 times better than the first version, but 8 times better.  Well, maybe not that much, but you get the idea.

That idea breaks down at some point, of course, or else the next version would be 16 times better....

Thing is, most people only read my first versions, so they never get to see the improvements.  (Also explains why people have been surprised in the past when I actually got published...)  Much of that is my own fault, because I'm usually convinced that whatever version I currently have is the best one.

I'm proud of being persistent with both of these books, when I could have given up, or said -- "good enough."

This time I didn't do that.  Or maybe I should say, still haven't done that.  Though I'm sending Nearly Human off to a publisher because of an opportunity.    But if there is an chance to improve the book, when I get it back, I won't be opposed to trying again.

Same with Sometimes a Dragon.  In fact, I'm very purposely setting it aside for a minimum of a few months and then coming back to look at it.

So that leaves me time to actually finish off Deviltree as well.  Linda did a copyedit, and Martha is looking at it now.  So a quick incorporation of their ideas, and that book will be done, too.  Then I can finally concentrate on writing something new.

Suddenly, what seemed like a log jam is clearing up.

My intention is to write the second book in the LORE series (The Reluctant Wizard is book 1.)  But I wouldn't be adverse to writing sequels to either Nearly Human or Death of an Immortal.

Nearly Human is pretty good, I think.  Time to start sending my baby into the world.




Carlan drove back to Bend, his mind churning.  He wasn't going to accomplish anything in Portland, not with Brosterhouse in the way.  Despite Jamie's restraining order, in his hometown he was still in pretty good standing with his colleagues, many of whom had their own problems with ex-wives and girlfriends.
He also had a trump card.  The last time he was in trouble with his boss, Captain Anderson, he'd been relegated to deskwork.  There, he'd come across a discrepancy in the inventory of guns.  He'd known from the moment that he reported the missing rifles that his boss had sold them for cash, and his boss had known that he knew.  
Carlan was careful not to overuse this useful piece of information.  He was satisfied staying a patrolman, where the possibility of bribes for traffic stops and other misdemeanors were available.  Being a detective entailed more oversight, not to mention that authorities tended to be harsher about any hanky-panky with felonies.  
Still -- he’d saved this information for a rainy day.
He pulled into the police station parking lot, and checked the Captain's parking space.  Empty.  Damn.  He'd forgotten that Anderson took Mondays off.  He'd have to wait until tomorrow.
He pulled out onto the highway and headed downtown, to room 23 of the Badlands Motel.   The Cadillac Escalade was there, despite it being mid-afternoon.  He thought about knocking on the door, but decided his first plan was still the best plan, despite the opportunity.  When he took this bastard down, he didn't want there to be any questions.
When he pulled out again, the car seemed to make its way to the Hardaway house without any conscious thought on his part.  Many a night he had spent parked out in front, hoping to get a glimpse of Jamie, hoping she would talk to him, let him explain.  The restraining order should have kept him away, but who was going to arrest him?
He'd been patiently waiting for hours every day.  Then about a week ago, Sylvie came out one afternoon and marched directly to his car.
"She isn't here."
"Jamie isn't here, so there's no sense stalking her."
"I'm not stalking anyone.  I just want to talk to her.  After that, I'll leave her alone."
Sylvie didn't argue with him, just turned around and walked back into the house.   It was only weeks later that the arrest in Portland for prostitution of one Jamie Lee Howe had been picked up by his search engine.  After weeks of seething resentment and anger, it turned out she hadn’t even been home.  He didn't mind her yelling at him, he didn't even mind the restraining order.  But leaving without telling him?
He’d headed for Portland the very same day.  
She should have stayed in Bend, let him take care of her.  It made no sense for her to go the valley, and it especially boggled his mind that she had resorted to selling her body.  Hell, it had taken him months to get a little, and even then he'd had to be insistent about it. 
If she had stayed with him, she would never have had to worry about anything ever again.  All because he'd slapped her, just that once.  Hell, Dad had slapped his Mom a hundred times and they had been perfectly happy...
He got out of the car, adjusted his belt, the gun as usual making him feel powerful and secure.  He walked up the door, trying to remember that first date with Jamie, the coy little kiss at the end.  But instead, his mind wandered to the shape of Sylvie -- the way her slender body had sashayed a little walking away from him.  Was she trying to give him a message? That he'd chosen the wrong sister?
The old man answered the door.  "Hey, Howard.  Just coming by to check and see how you're doin'."
Howard stared at him with blurry eyes, as if trying to remember who he was. Then he broke out in a grin.  "Officer Carlan, how good to see you!"
Jamie’s parents had always liked him.  Because he was a cop, they had thought he would be a good catch for Jamie.  Apparently, Howard either hadn't known about the restraining order or had forgotten.  When Jamie's mother came out of the kitchen, he could see from her hard eyes that she had known and hadn't forgotten.
But Howard had already invited him in, and Carlan quickly sat down on one of the couches.  He smiled at Jamie's mother -- Jennifer?  Jean?  Best not to guess.  
"Please don't make any effort on my part, I just wanted to come by and express my sorrow at Jamie's ...passing.  I wish I could have been there...I would have kept her safe."
"Bend is a lot safer," Howard agreed.  "I can't figure it out.  Why she did it.  Why go to Portland with all those lowlifes?"
Jamie's mom almost said something and then decided against it.
"One good thing came out of Jamie's death," Howard said.  There was a strangled sound from the other couch, and Howard blanched.  "I mean...No, Honey…nothing good came out of it.  I didn't mean it that way.  I'm just talking about the insurance, you know..." His eyes pleaded with his wife, but she wouldn't look back at him.
"Turns out, Jamie bought an insurance policy for Sylvie's education.  A big amount, too, unless I'm mistaken."
"That was quick," Carlan said.  Better and better.  Unlike with Jamie where he'd had to pay for everything, Sylvie could pay her way.  "I've never heard of a policy that only pays for school."
"That's what I said," Howard exclaimed, looking to his wife for confirmation.  "But the guy said that there was some flexibility there -- like, if Sylvie was living at home she could use it for expenses..."
"He actually came to your door?"  Now Carlan had heard everything.  Usually you had to track down the insurance companies and hold their feet to the fire to get anything out of them.
"I'm pretty sure he's good for it, too.  He was driving a big Cadillac Escalade."
Carlan froze.  The smile fell off his face.
"What?" Howard said, looking alarmed.  "What's wrong?"
"Nothing...I forgot an appointment," Carlan said, getting up.  “Again, my condolences to both of you.  Be sure and give Sylvie my best."
He made his way to the door, but Jamie's mother spoke for the first time.  A whiskey and cigarette voice, deeper and more alarming than her husband.
"Stay away from Sylvie."
"Honey!" Howard exclaimed.  "What are you talking about!"
Jean -- that was her name, he suddenly remembered-- got up and pushed Carlan toward the door.  He didn't resist.  "What are you talking about?" he said in protest.
"Jeanie -- that was really rude!" Howard said.
As the door began to close behind him, Carlan heard the old woman say,  "Howard.  Sometimes you’re so blind.

He sat in the car for another ten minutes, trying to wrap his brain around what he'd just learned.
Why would the killer be offering Sylvie money for school?  Guilt?  Remorse?   Was it a trap to lure another young girl to her death?  What was his game?  Who was this guy and why was he targeting a single family like this?
For a moment he wondered if he should wait for this guy to deliver the 'insurance' payment before taking him down.  The money would come in handy.  But he quickly discarded the idea.  Ridiculous to believe that the guy was going to hand over money to a girl he’d never met. 
No, this was a cold-blooded murderer and he was trying to entice Sylvie into his trap.  
Carlan decided he couldn't wait until tomorrow to take this ‘Jonathon Evers’ down.   He'd track down Captain Anderson on his day off, call in his favor.  He had been to his superior's house once for a Halloween party, somewhere in the lower West Hills, a steep road -- Roanoke Avenue, that was the name of the street.  He’d get an arrest warrant for the man in Room 23 of the Badlands Motel and search the room for evidence.
Even if he couldn't make the charges stick, he would at least warn the guy away from Sylvie.  The Hardaways just didn't know what a good friend they had in him. 
He’d lost Jamie, but he wasn't going to lose Sylvie.