Saturday, May 31, 2014

Writing creepy stuff.

I saw an interview with Stephen King once where the interviewer kept implying that King must be really warped to write such stuff.  And he'd joked and laughed it off.

I thought that the implication was pretty stupid.  Of course you could write horror if you were normal.  It's just stories, you know.  Doesn't mean King wants to turn into a werewolf or something.

Like Fairytales, horror speaks to us on many levels.

But most of all, as I keep saying, a story is a story.  You try to write about characters you care about, and have a story arc which is satisfying and interesting.  Doesn't mean if you write mysteries that you want to kill someone.

Or that you would personally want any of the creepy things that happen in horror to really happen.

Funnily enough, it isn't the supernatural horror that is disturbing to me when I write it.  Its the behavior of the humans.

For instance, the abusive boyfriend in Death of an Immortal was the real villain of the piece, not the vampires.  The warped sociopathic kid in Rule of Vampire.  The kidnapper in Blood of Gold.  All worse in some ways than the vampires.

In Ghostlander, I'm writing about crimes that are so horrid that they create Hauntings.

So I have things happening to people that are disturbing.  The actual Hauntings, as creepy as I try to make them, are in no way as disturbing as the actual crime.  They only work as something worse when they recall and amplify the original crime.

Still, for the first time, I wonder what is in me that can write these scenes.  Mostly what I've read and seen in the movies, embellished by my own imaginations.  Fortunately, nothing I've experienced myself.

Really, I'm not that weird.

Later:  I finished the chapter that started out so creepily and it ended with an emotional payoff.  Forgiveness and redemption.  Which was only possible because of the original bad stuff.

So it goes.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Writing at work.

The results of my experiment of writing at work yesterday.

Before I start, I should tell you I couldn't manage to both write and own a store when I first bought the business.  The learning curve was so steep for so long, it just wasn't possible.  And then, when the card bubble popped and then the comic bubble popped (and Pokemon, and Pogs, and Beanie Babies and...) I was in crisis mode and so on and so forth.

I told myself that owning a store was "creative" and that I was getting immediate feedback from my decisions -- unlike writing, which took forever.  (I'd send my manuscripts into the "Void" and try to move on...)

But even when things weren't in start-up or crisis mode, I found it nearly impossible to write.  A single customer every hour or so could break up the thought process so much that I'd have to reboot each time.

I remember early on being in the middle of a scene and looking up at a customer with unfocused eyes and saying, "What?"

I just couldn't live in two worlds at the same time.  The fictional dream would be woken by the needs of the business.

So here's what I've learned.

The technology is enabling.  I just went to my blog space and wrote there, and then transferred it to my manuscript when I got home.

I wrote about 1100 words, which is less than the 2000 words I do when I have the full day to write.  It seems pretty obvious to me that I can't do much writing before work, and that I'm too tired to write after work.

But I think the only reason I got as much done as I did was because I already had a rough idea of what I wanted.  Which means, it came from the fictional dreamflow I had before work. Without the fictional dreamflow, I might not have been even able to start.  I'm also had a couple of years of writing everyday which probably helped.  I can see how it was difficult if not impossible to restart my writing career when I was working full time.

I need that time to cultivate my skittish little creative mind.

Also, yesterday was a slow day, and I dedicated it to only clerking and writing.  Most work days aren't like that.  Most times I have very intensive tasks.

Now the next question:  Was the writing any good?

I felt like I had the rough outline of a chapter, but I didn't fully develop it.  I'm hoping I can fix that today.

I felt like I had an idea for what I wanted to say, but that it came out in a rather clunky way.  So the quality of the writing was maybe C+ or B-.  I'd prefer to write at a minimum B level on the first draft, but there certainly have been times when I've accepted a C+ level to move on. (Fixing it later.)

So -- half the normal production, on a day which was totally cleared to do it, at a lower level than I'd prefer, and probably only possible because I was already in the midst of a fictional dream.

Not impossible, but anything but ideal.

If I totally had to go back to work , I could probably set a goal of 1000 words a day, and then spend my one or two days off trying to fix them.

Rather than stop writing, I'd probably do that.

But it is pretty clear that having several days off to do nothing but writing is much preferable.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dragons versus Ghosts.

I don't have anything lined up at the store today but clerking.

So I'm going to try an experiment.  To see if I can write at the store.

I have a stand-alone chapter in mind.  If I mess it up, it won't matter too much.  I can replace it.

So I'm going to see if I can do it.

I'll tell you, just even getting ready to go to work has put me in a completely different frame of mind.  So I'm doubtful that I can do it, or if I can, that it will be any good.

But I have a full shift.  300 words an hour doesn't seem like much.  But of course, it isn't really adding up words, it is a story and at home can spurge out in 2000 word increments, or 10 word increments.

We'll see.

It's about Dragons.  Dragons versus Ghosts.  That should be fun to write.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Halfway through Ghostlander.

The book seems to be writing itself.

Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing for the quality of the book.

I was looking at Led to the Slaughter and remembering just how much work went into making sure it was just right.  It was going to be my reintroduction to the world for writing, so I wanted it to be as good as I could make it.  The original story was fairly easy to write, but I gave it several re-writes, I spent more time doing research, and I fixed a couple of problems that I could have skated by on.

That's what I'm trying to do now.  Not skate by.  Be sure I make the extra effort.

Without, however, getting bogged down like I did with Faerylander for so long.

As far as the readers are concerned, they don't seem to see much qualitative difference between the books I struggle with and the books that come  easy.  Thankfully.   Because the books I struggle with become a word-jumble and I simply can't see them anymore.  But they retain enough of the original inspiration, apparently, and whatever weaknesses they have are compensated by the number of rewrites, which is why they are problem books in the first place.

So it evens out.  But obviously it would make more sense to do the books that come easy, right?

I have one more problem book I want to save -- Sometimes a Dragon.  But after that, either a book has a way of being written -- or it doesn't get written.

I spent way too much time 30 years ago trying to finish my fourth book, Bloodstone -- when the book simply wasn't working.  It more or less derailed my writing career.  I started second-guessing myself too much.   I should have just set it aside and tried something else.

So far, obviously, that hasn't been a problem for me this time around.  I seem to be full of ideas and creative energy right now, long may it continue.

So that's my goal.  Write the books that want to be written, and set aside the books that insist on being problems.  I think I can avoid problem books by making sure that I've assembled all the right ingredients.  I seem to understand much quicker when I'm going in the wrong direction.

But I have no doubt there will be problem books in the future and I'll need to be smart enough to figure out when I'm in the midst of one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vanishingly small.

The latest Author Earnings report from Hugh Howey has come out.

Interesting stuff.

Here's my takeaway.

Roughly 500 authors debut in the Big 5 publishers per year.

This is a vanishingly small number. 

They also point out that maybe only 300 fiction authors in the Big Five earn a decent living.  Even if they're off by half, that's only 600 authors.  Again, vanishingly small.

The ones on the tippiest top are doing well -- it's a logarithmic scale, though.  It drops off rapidly.

It's not just that you have to be must less than the 1% to be published, but your chances of earning a living even if you do get published are minimal.

I've decided I could take the money I spend on writing and buy lottery tickets and my chances of making money will probably increase....

The odds are better if you self-publish, apparently.  But again, these are the exceptions -- and usually people who are naturals at promoting themselves.

I'm going to keep writing.  Money was never really the object, though I did want to have readers if possible. But even there, I decided that I would write the best books I could and be satisfied with that.

It's a spiritual thing for me.  I figure the universe will figure it out.

Monday, May 26, 2014


I'm discombobulated by the the argument between publishers and Amazon.

Because I can see both sides.  Not just some of one side and some of the other.  The whole thing.

And for once in my life, I can't make up my mind about it.

Even worse, I can't seem to synthesize the two arguments to come up with my own answer.

So I have two completely opposing opinions at the same time.  They both seem completely correct.

I await further developments...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

First draft high.

This is so much fun!

Oh, my.  I'd forgotten how much I enjoy creating my stories.  I love living in these characters, having these adventures.

After struggling with the re-writing of Faerylander for weeks, it was like diving into a cool lake on a hot summer day to be creating Ghostlander again.

Creating just takes me out of myself, into another world.  Which I gotta believe is a really healthy thing, especially for someone as obsessive/compulsive as me.  Worrying about something other than myself...

I get a high from it.  Like reading a really good book.  I'm not saying I'm writing a really good book, though I'm trying.

What I'm saying is that by trying to create a really good book, I'm getting the same feeling I get from reading a really good book, if that makes any sense. 

I have a goal of 2000 words per day.  I try not to do less than this, if I'm going to devote a whole day, and I also try not to do too much more than this, because I think it keeps me fresh.

But sometimes there is an open field in front of me.  Makes no sense not to run with it.  I've been doing more like 3000 words a day over the last few days and I think I can keep that up.  I'm about 40% of the way through the first draft.

As usual, I'm having great fun writing the flashback chapters...the murder scenes and the subsequent hauntings, and also the kind of "historical' incidents of haunting.

Was having a hard time coming up with the current day narrative though.  Struggled with that all day yesterday, and then last night, as I was going to sleep it came to me.  The main character, Cobb, may not be as directly involved emotionally, but three of the secondary characters  are, so that should be enough to carry the story.

I needn't have worried about loosing the thread from taking time away.  My subconscious was apparently raring to go...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Adventures of Burp the Burrow Wight: A Fable for Grownup Kids

Hard to explain.

I started writing something yesterday called, The Adventures of Burp the Burrow Wight: A Fable for Grownup Kids, which is every bit as silly as it sounds.

Linda was delighted with it.  Called it "genius."  Laughed at all the right parts.

But really, what the HELL is it?  Uncategorizable, that's what.

I'll keep writing it as long as the story keeps coming to me, but I don't know what it is.

Meanwhile, I did finally manage to start writing Ghostlander again.  I seem to find it easy to write the original murder, rape and mayhem scenes that create the ghosts of the story:  don't know what that says about me.  Maybe such scenes are inherently dramatic.  Maybe my subconscious is a murdering psycho....

I think I've loosened up on my writing -- I feel more self-confident letting myself go.  I do keep a watchful eye, though, that I don't go too far off track, like I did with the original Almost Human -- now Faerylander.

What I think I've figured out is this -- though I may not know the plot before I start, it is essential that I have assembled the right ingredients.  Characters, scenes, settings, etc. with which I can construct a story.

Led to the Slaughter is really the outlier for me.  It's by far the most realistic of my books (even if it does have werewolves.)  The whole focus was to make it as believable as possible.

I don't usually worry about that.  My imagination runs toward the fantastic, and I think I should let myself go there.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Writing Interruptus.

One thing I've avoided since I started writing again is interrupting the first draft of a book.   I was always afraid I would forget how the book was supposed to proceed, lose the thread, as it were.

But only 30% of the way into Ghostlander, I came up on a time constraint that I couldn't ignore.  My editor(s) were done with Linda's book and it was time for them to look at one of my books, and I decided that The Dead Spend No Gold needed more seasoning and that I'd give them Faerylander instead.

Then, foolishly, I thought I could toss something off in a week or two, got 2/3rds of the way through and realized the book wasn't working, and sent the editors The Dead Spend No Gold after all.  (After reading it at writer's group I realized is was pretty good.)

Then I tussled with Faerylander for another week, and finally gave up.

As so often happens, giving up somehow gave me the key.  I had a couple of insights that made the book viable, and so I set out to put those in place.

It turned into a very intense rewriting session that resulted in a version of Faerylander that I am finally happy with...

So Ghostlander was abandoned about a month ago.

Now I have to go back and try to put myself in the same space I was in.

I guess I'll find out if that is possible...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Somethings Gotta Give

I finished Faerylander yesterday, and for the first time, I'm completely happy with it.

But it was a pretty intense few weeks getting it done, and I look up and see that I've neglected other things.

For some reason, I've gotten on the Fed's list of places to go for statistics.  I'm constantly having to fill out forms, or answer surveys.  I got some sort of census survey and stuck it in my pile, even though it was emblazoned with "required by law."

Hey, how important is it really?  I've got writing to do!

But apparently I got a call at the store the other day and have to call them back.  Oh, oh.

My beard has gotten long, unnoticed.  My mustache is interfering with my eating.

And oh, by the way, I've lost about 8 pounds simply by forgetting to eat.

I hired a landscaping service, that is going to be more costly than I thought, but at least that is out of my hair.

My bills have piled up, and no doubt most of them are overdue, probably dangerously overdue.

I dismantle the painting easel from the landing -- who am I kidding? 

The weather has been beautiful, and I've been stuck in dark room.  I haven't been to a movie or read a book in months.  We haven't been on one of our little vacation trips in a long time.

All because of writing.  Writing, that frankly, will probably never pay off monetarily.

I keep saying I want to moderate, but I don't seem to be able to be both moderate and a writer.

Being a writer is excessive, it's unhealthy, its silly.

But I like it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

In vino --procrastination.

Well, since I consider this last rewrite to be work, it's maybe not surprising that I did the procrastination thing big time yesterday.  Big time.  Found every excuse in the book not to get started.

Finally, around 9:00 PM,  I started reading, drinking wine as I went along.

Three things became apparent.

1.) It is work.
2.) Wine doesn't help.
3.) It is completely and utterly necessary.

Along with finding tick-tacky errors I found one lulu of a time discrepancy.  It was an easy fix, but it was the kind of thing that would totally throw a reader.

I only got about 40 pages of a 285 book in.   I had earlier read the last 6 chapters backward, so I decided that counts too.  So I've done about 80 pages of the book.

I just have to put my head down and keep going.

I read it out loud pretending that I was in a library standing in front of an audience. It helps to realize how it might sound to other people.

I have noticed one other problem.  On a regular basis there is a dramatic moment, but I don't play them up.  Now, I don't like melodrama, but I do think I might be missing some bets -- just a slower leadup, a bigger bang, and then a short aftermath would make those moments more effective.

Something I wouldn't have noticed before being finished and reading the narrative flow of it.

Much of the book flows very well, and there are a few slightly rougher spots.  But overall, the first part of the book is deeper and more textured and developed.  Hard to believe I could ever have thought the first versions of this book were ready for prime time.

The word flow is due to the book having been gone over so many times, I think.

I'm not going to be able to finish it today, I think.  Which pushes it to Friday or Saturday.  These deadlines are self-imposed but helpful to getting things done.  But I have to remember they are arbitrary.  A couple of extra days won't hurt, but an incompletely vetted book certainly would.

So another couple of days of reading out loud to myself, and it should be done.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Six packs from Hell -- Horror Covers

So as I check the horror best-selling lists on a regular basis, I start noticing certain motifs that run through cover after cover.

The Six Pack From Hell -- the body of sculptured male body, usually with the face out of the picture, most often in black and white. 

The Witchy Tree:  I noticed this especially because my cover to Deviltree is one of these.  The profile of a bare branched tree, in many shapes and sizes, but always with a kind of witchy feel.

The Biological Hazard Symbol.  This is on tons of books.

The Dark Haired Girl with the Witchy Eyes:  This is in various combination on tons of books.  The quintessential one is showing half of the face, with strangely intense eyes and always straight black hair.  There are no blondes in horror, apparently.

The Babe in Leather (brunette always) standing in front of something momentous, usually holding a weapon.

Guy in Full Military Gear, sometimes wearing a gas mask, standing in front of the apocalypse, either in ruins or a empty road.

The Waif:  A small girl, with big eyes, looking balefully at the viewer.

Other trends.  Bad Pun Titles.

Predominantly Black and red covers, with a little dayglow green and sickly yellow thrown in here and there.

But Hey, you have to figure these covers work.

It's just work now.

Here, at a very crucial stage of Faerylander, I'd just as soon quit working on it.

Because that's what it is now.  Work.  Like digging ditches. 

I just want to throw it into the hands of my editors and say, "Fix it."

All that remains to be done is that final crucial read thru and rewrite.  No, I don't want to do it.  But it must be done. 

Two days.  All I have to do is tie myself to my deskchair for two more days and ignore the siren calls of a spring day...or the faint whisper of any other temptation -- any temptation at all. 

Get to work on it.  Finish right.

Kinda stupid to spend three years off and on working on this damn thing and then not be willing to put in that last little bit of work that might make the whole endeavor worthwhile.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The all-important read-thru.


OK.  All the narrative pieces of Faerylander are in place -- I think.

So now all I want to do is go through the manuscript and clear away any inconsistencies.  I'm hoping not to slow down my reading in doing so. I probably should have a notebook at hand to make any bigger changes when I'm done reading.

Then, hopefully with the help of friends, I can shape it up for the last time.

I hadn't even intended to work on it today, but I knew that I needed to add a bit more transitional narrative here and there to smooth over the big cuts, and I wanted to get the timeline right.  So I did that.  I may or may not keep the time tags I put in there.

I think it's a complete book now.  It just needs to be finalized.


I'm going to spend the next three days giving Faerylander a complete read-through.  I want to get a "reader" sense of the narrative.  I'm guessimating about 10 or 12 hours, in 3 sessions of 4 hours. 

I'd like to read it outloud, because that makes it easier to catch mistakes -- even better would be to have someone to read it to.  But I don't dare ask Linda who has already read it more than once.  Nor may I end up reading it all aloud -- it gets tiring after a while.  I may try read aloud for an hour, take some time off, come back and read for an hour.  I don't want the breaks to be too long, because like I said I need the sense of how it comes across to a reader.

 (A strange thing happens when you read aloud -- you might read it slightly differently, and the way you read it is almost always better than the way it was written, as if the brain is editing as you read without you being aware of it.)

I will make small changes -- in tense, names, etc. -- but nothing major.  Anything that takes more than a few moments,  I'll write a short note and come back later.

If I do this right, this should be a done book even without the editors.  My books are usually copy-edited well enough by myself to pass muster, though there are always a few things I miss.  The editors for me are really a matter of improvements and for adding the final luster.


I'm just going to have to assume that Faerylander is readable, because it really is pretty much a word-jumble to me.  But I have to trust in the original ideas and concepts, the original feelings, and also trust that all the "conscious" changes are an improvement.  

Whenever I've done this in the past, the readers seem to think the books are just as good as the books that haven't turned into a word-jumble, sometimes even better, which is reassuring.

I'm hoping I can find a strong author voice for this book in the final reading, and carry it through to the end.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Doing it right in the first place.

Now that the final rough draft of Faerylander is done, the lessons are pretty clear. 

Avoid the fucking problems in the fucking first place.  I've finally got this book the way it should have been all along, if I'd known what I was doing at first.  It was ten times harder to get it into shape by not having thought it through.

I can't fault myself too much.  When I started this book 3 years ago, it had been 25 years since I'd been serious about writing.  No surprise that I went about it wrong. 

Wrong tone, wrong plot, wrong characters, wrong everything.

By the time I got to writing Death of an Immortal, I was fixing problems before they got out of control, foreseeing things that needed to be done.  But with Faerylander, I just started writing and wrote myself right into knots.

Anyway, I think I've fixed it.  So this is the structure I go with, no matter what.  No more moving around of scenes and chapters.

I'll never do this again.  Any book that requires this much rewriting to make it work will be abandoned.  I can just go on to the next book.

But Faerylander was worth saving, I thought.  (Not to mention doing something silly like writing a couple of sequels that only make sense if the first book exists. )

I still want to spend a week or so going through it and doing some polishing.  The book is little less than 100K words, so I managed to winnow about 30% of the length by cutting and consolidating, which is good.

The editors won't be ready for about six more weeks, so I can go back to writing Ghostlander. 

When they are ready for Faerylander, I'll give it one more go through and that's it.  One way or another, this book is done.

I think it's a good book, now.  Only one chapter still bothers me, and I have the six weeks to try to find a solution to it.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tending my garden -- not.

I neglected my garden and lawns disgracefully last summer.  I was so deep into writing.  I was on such a roll.  That year -- September 2012 to September 2013 -- will probably never be reproduced.

Ever since I tried the agent and publisher route in September 2013 there has been a measure of distraction.  Even being published has been a distraction, if a nice one.

Anyway, I'm going ahead and hiring a landscaping service to at least mow the lawns and perhaps do a bit of the bulk weeding. 

My mother would be horrified.  Well, I always considered myself a gardener, but my garden hasn't quite turned out the way I envisioned it.  Either I didn't buy the right plants, or take care of them properly -- or the plants sucked -- but I'd say only half of them have survived so that garden looks kind of skimpy.  My lawns seem to be dying for no good reason.

In compensation, I've let the plants that are flourishing take up a larger percentage of the space and have started transplanting them.  So, I may have a garden comprised of Basket of Gold and poppies, but so be it.

But writing is still my main focus right now.  I told myself I would give myself five years to try to establish a career, and I'm about 20 months in on that process.  I have a bunch of books in the works, several of them near completion.

Problem with taking time off from writing -- is that it kind of gives me a reason not to write, which gives me time off from writing, and...well, you can see where that might lead.

Turns out, I have the perfect personality to be a writer.  I don't mind being alone, mostly confident of my own abilities, a self-starter, and able to discipline myself into accomplishing my task.

I'm not saying it makes me a great writer, but I think I have the right temperament for it. 
(Now if I had a self-promotional, extroverted, out-going, lots of friends and connections type personality, I might actually be able to sell my books.  But then...I wouldn't write them, eh?)

Anyway, waiting for the landscaper and feeling very bourgeois -- so middle class and middle age. 

What, I can't mow my own lawns? 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Beta readers are important.

As I finish up Faerylander, I asked my friend Paul Carrington, who was the only other person besides Linda to have read the previous version, for his thoughts.

He came into the store yesterday and talked to me about his impressions.

First of all, he really didn't have any trouble with the beginning half of the book it seemed -- which is where I was most concerned with it being clogged up or too slow to start.

He felt that the chapters in the last 40% of the book, just before the "action" chapters, didn't work.

As I've mentioned before, this has always been the problem spot for me, where I would lose faith in the story.  I think I've fixed that, by changing the motivations around.  Makes much more sense.

He also thought that the some of the scenes after the "action" chapters weren't necessary. The "running away" chapters as he put them.  I think I can fix that by cutting some of it.  Plus, at least a couple of the later chapters will no longer be necessary because of the new narrative.

I told him I wanted to get it down to around 100K words, so that the followup novels that are about 80K wouldn't look so weird, which Paul scoffed at.  "Lots of series has different sized books."

Probably a moot point, the book will be as big as it is.

In pursuant of that, I'm looking at any parts that are explicative, or asides.  It's hard to know sometimes if a scene is adding to characterization and/or atmosphere -- or isn't really necessary. A good rule of thumb might be that if the characterization and atmosphere aren't in the narrative itself, then adding it with extra isn't going to solve the problem.

But which are necessary and which aren't?

For instance, I told him I cut the bus scene with Parsons.

"Oh, no," Paul said.  "That was one of my favorite scenes -- that's where I really started to buy into the creature world you created."

So I'm putting it back in.

I'm still undecided about the Bestiary intro's to each chapter.  Some are very good and effective, but some are fill ins.  Paul thought they would work as a separate thing -- and I'd love to get sketches of each of the critters from some artist -- but I don't think that would happen unless the book is a huge success.   The entries explain a lot of material outside the narrative, which is helpful.  And really, the readers can pass over them if they want.  Just read the story.  I do that sometimes when I read a book with these types of things.

Anyway, it's really good to get outside opinions.  At this point, I'm not sure I completely trust my own judgement -- though I really have to trust my own judgement in the end.  But a little outside input doesn't hurt.

I'm really going to rely on my editor(s) this time, because it has become somewhat of a word-jumble for me.  I've been focusing on the "story" and trying to make the "writing" as good as I can, but I'm now at the stage where I can look at a paragraph and see five different ways to write it and not know which one is the best.  Argggh.

There is a "sense" of a book that I have -- the "feel" that it works or doesn't work -- and I think I'm almost there with Faerylander. 

My friend Dave Goodman has volunteered to read this version, and so has Paul again (a glutton for punishment).  I can't send it to my editor(s) for at least a month and a half because they are working on The Dead Spend No Gold right now.

So I'm going to finish this, give it to my Beta readers, and then come back to it in a month and finish up the version I send to the editors.

So you think it's easy?

I'm talking about bookstores today, instead of writing.

One of the most insightful writers out there about the Indy writer movement is Hugh Howey.  So I've been reading his blog.

Recently, he posted how he'd like to open a bookstore in the small town he lives in.

He then listed about 10 or 15 things he'd like to do; from the usual suspects of a coffee shop and readings, to things like a reading room, and classes to teach writing, and so on.

So I commented on perhaps he might want to get the bookstore running first, before adding all these other things.

Oops.  His obsequious followers (what's up with that?) came down on me -- one accusing me of being a "book snob" and the others saying not to stomp on their dream.

So I'm going to come at this argument from a different direction.

How many of you think running a bookstore is easy?
How many of you think running a bookstore is lucrative?

Let's start with the first question.  In some way, these dream-wish stores, promising the moon in extra services, are being dismissive of the basic work of running a bookstore.

If you want to do a GOOD job of running a bookstore, it is already a full time job just doing the basics.

To start with, assume that running a bookstore is a full-time job.  Just for starters, you'll be open at least 48 hours a week, and someone has to clerk those hours.  Assuming you're making enough money to pay for that clerk, you'll probably dealing with customers for most of those hours.
Which means ordering, stocking, researching, cleaning, record keeping, etc. etc. etc.  and on and on, and all the things it takes to run a bookstore will probably be outside those 48 hours.

So let's assume you are really really lucky and are making enough to have an employee help you.

But at first, you'll probably be doing most of it.  The majority of the clerking, as well as all the rest.  So lets assume, if you really just keep it to basics -- a 60 hour week.

I'm honestly not sure who is supposed to making the coffee and serving the food and all the rest.

Now -- think about adding all the extra services.  Figure out how you're going to pay for them.  And look ahead and ask yourself if you can continue to do it for 2 years, 5 years, 10 years.

Remember -- the 60 hours running the store, PLUS having the extra hours for signings, and the health inspections (cleaning!) and the broken machines and the occasional disastrous employee and the Great Recessions and...well, trust me, things will get complicated and hard even if you keep it to basics.

Everything you do has to paid for -- time and space are relativistic to the money spent.

If you manage to do everything you promise --and over-promising is the worst thing you can do -- then you are headed for burnout most likely.  Because once you've set up that model, you can't go back on it.  You're committed.  Not just now, but in 5 years, 10 years...etc.  It'll be exciting at first -- but years later it will be a job.

The second question -- how many of you a think a bookstore is lucrative? -- this really plays into all the above.  But in a small town -- say like Bend, or the town Hugh is opening in -- there is probably enough money for a Mom and Pop business -- maybe Mom and Pop and a part-time or -- if you are really lucky, two part-time employees.

Thing about a Mom and Pop business is -- they are a Mom and Pop business because that's all the money you're likely to make.  Paying the employees probably brings down your income to a lower level than you are going to like.

Again, project into the future, and realize that amount of money may never significantly change  (unless you think bookstores are more likely to be more lucrative in the future, instead of less...)

I guess I'm saying "Why do you think this isn't already a full time job?"

If it was lucrative or easy, both Hugh Howey's and Bend would have an Indy bookstore, but we don't...

I believe it is still possible for Bend to have an independent bookstore, if it is centrally located, does a good job on stocking books, and all the other basics of running a bookstore.

Then, when you've done all that, you can decide what else you want to add to your 60 hour less than high paying week...

Our basic mantra when we opened the Bookmark was "Keep it Simple."  And that has worked.  Even with just carrying used books and nothing else, Linda can feel overwhelmed by the process at times...

I believe that the reason I'm still in business 30 years later is because I've winnowed it down to basics.  Doing the basic job of doing my job at modest pay and avoiding burnout.

Oh, and Hugh Howey?  You can probably forget about being a full-time writer...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

That was intense.

Another very long, very exhausting session of rewriting.

As the weather got nicer and nicer over the last two days outside, I was retreating further and further into the rabbit hole of my mind.

It was almost zen-like.  I went to bed completely drained,

Fucking Faerylander.

It was necessary I think to see if the narrative worked as a reader might experience it, and the only way to do that was to try to get through the whole book, beginning to end, in a couple of sessions.  Making the book flow the way it needed to flow.

I got about 3/4ths of the way through.  Enough to get a pretty strong sense of it, and I think it works.

I will finish on Friday.  There is one more chapter that needs extensive rewriting, but the rest is fine.  This is the point in the book I've mentioned before where all the flaws accumulate and I throw up my hands.

This time, I get there and went.  "It's good."  It feels like a complete book.  Not flawless, but it holds up.

I'll have to go over it one more time, when I've let some time pass.

But the basic structure is there.

That's it.  I will never reorganize this book again.  This is the version I go with.  All words, sentence and paragraphs are fair game, but I'm not moving scenes or chapters. 

Again, I have to trust that if the narrative works for me, it will work for the reader.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Not bad, if I do say so myself.

So after struggling with Faerylander for a couple of weeks, I read Chapters 6 & 7 of The Dead Spend No Gold at writers group last night, which I hadn't looked at for a month.

How refreshing.  It felt nice -- it felt, if I may say so myself -- very professional.  Even the critiques were right in line with making the story complete; a couple of different starting points, and a clearing up of POV.  Simple fixes.

I do believe I've gotten considerably more proficient in my writing.  Not the struggle that Faerylander has been.  (As I say, I must really LOVE Faerylander to keep at it.)

Meanwhile, I'm about 30% through the current rewrite of Faerylander.  It's a straightforward narrative, which actually feels kind of strange.  But all the pieces are falling into place.

I think I was trying to cheat in earlier versions, because I knew the story was dense, so I was trying to put "tease" chapters earlier in the story.  But I have to trust in the narrative; and that the reader will stay with it.

We'll see when I get about 2/3rds in -- that's when all the flaws seem to accumulate.

This time, instead of just moving scenes around from different versions to get a rough draft, I'm trying to get each chapter "right" before I move onto the next.

I figure a couple more weeks and I'll have a nice workable draft to send to the editors, and then I can get back to writing Ghostlander again.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Taking out the comic relief.

One of the (many) things I've been struggling with in Faerylander is the tone.

Originally, the whole book was supposed to be kind of snarky, a Faery creature's guide to Mortal Realms.  But I decided that I personally don't enjoy these kinds of books -- I like my fantasy and S.F. to be serious, mostly.  Nor did I feel that I had the talent to carry that tone all the way through a book.

It also doesn't create much of plot.  That is, you have to care about the characters if you want the plot to work, and having a bunch of humorous asides just doesn't do that in my opinion.

As I tried to make the plot more consequential, the stakes got higher and the tone definitely shifted.

Ultimately, a snarky book just wasn't the kind of book I wanted to write or read.

Still, it retained some light-hearted moments, especially with Parsons, the sidekick, who was the comic relief.

But if I've just spent five chapters trying to establish the seriousness of the Cthuhlu invasion, throwing in a light chapter really is off-putting.   If I've had icky human sacrifices and fights for survival, having a joke just feels out of place.

Then along comes a scene where Parsons plays a practical joke on Cobb and it just rings wrong to me.

In a final draft, that's where you really establish the "voice" of the book, and it needs to be engaging.  By changing tone like that, I think I risk loosing the flow, the voice of the main character.

I know that people will always come down on the side of light-hearted moments; I think that is a natural tendency.  And there are some interesting and nice moments -- but I'm making the creative decision that these passages let up on the pressure, take away from the forward momentum, and the forward momentum is that I'm trying to instill.

The Famous Author Flashbacks are a little lighter in tone, and they also go more or less sideways, but I'm going to retain those.  The rest of the plot is all about keeping the story going.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Earle Stanley Gardner version.

Told my new plot elements of Faerylander to Linda and she got excited.  "That works so much better!" she said.

"I thought you liked it before."

"I did, but I can see how this is much better."

"The Earle Stanley Gardner version..."


I once read a book by Earle Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason) where he showed the genesis through final version of a short story.  Each version was good.  The first was pretty good, the second was better, and the third -- wow.

He just kept going back until he got it, that final twist that really made it zing.

I've always used that as my example of why rewriting is so important.

Faerylander was written before I relearned -- or remembered -- how a book is written.  It was a necessary step to getting there.

But it was a mess.

Each time I've tackled it, I've made it better.  Each time I'd think "I've got it!"

And then, somewhere near the end, I would realize that I don't "got it."

So let's just say for now, this newer version will be better.

But I'm not sure I'm there yet.

I must really like this book, because it's way past its Nine Lives.


I had a friend in high school who thought I was the most wishy-washy person he knew.  I never thought I was, really.  I preferred to believe I was flexible.

But, you know, I can see his point.

Then again, maybe not...

Well, maybe...

After throwing up my hands on Faerylander yesterday -- for the last time!  I decided that I'd throw together my Gumbo version -- that is, everything I've ever written.

And I started to see glimmers of what I could do, if I was willing to radically restructure and write some new scenes.

There is a plot element that I dropped early on, almost inadvertently, that I now see is crucial to making the rest of the plot work.

And I figured out a way to fix the weakest part of the book -- that part, incidentally, where I gave up yesterday.

Basically, it's a motivational shift.  I had the Hero trying to convince the mortals to help him fight the Cthuhlu, but it works much better if they come to him and ask him for help.  Suddenly, it makes sense.

So what I'm going to do, instead of going off half-cocked as I tend to do when I get new ideas, is draw up a very detailed, scene by scene plot outline, making it as linear and forward leaning as possible.  If I can come up with something over the next two days that I think works, I'll give it one more try.

Then I'll go ahead and write a lean and mean version of that book.

One thing I'm going to do is simply leave out the "famous writers flashbacks" for now, because they just sort of obscure the linear nature of the plot.  I can put them in when I'm all finished.

So, here we go again.

 P.S.  I told my new plot elements to Linda and she got excited and said, "That really makes it work so much better!"

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Giving up on Faerylander again.

I've just spent 10 days trying to "fix" Faerylander, to make it a "serious" book.

I don't think it can be done.

Faerylander is a big, sprawling, messy, silly gumbo of a book.  It can't be distilled down into its essence.  I think it probably works better as a giant conglomeration of good and bad scenes, believable and unbelievable motivations, serious and silly tones -- all just thrown together.

I've improved so many elements of it!  I mean, so much of it works!  So much of it is interesting and fun!  But...fundamentally, it is flawed and I'm not sure the problems can be resolved.  They can only be displayed proudly. 

So many of the messy, flawed parts have become real to me.  I can't change them or toss them out.  This book is really my magnum opus, as far as world construction goes.  But world construction is not the same thing as good efficient story-telling.

Each time I've tried to fix it, I've just added another layer and made it more complicated.

I'm tempted to just mash everything together and say -- This is it.  Here's my big shaggy sloppy dog.

I mean, it's wildly imaginative.

But as a story that the reader can believe is real, despite the unreal elements -- it doesn't work.  Faerylander requires that someone go -- "This is silly, but kind of fun.  It's meandering, but the ideas are interesting.  It's got a lot of characters, but I like them."

All put together, it is approaching 160K words, twice the size of any of my other books.

So I like this story -- but I'm not sure anyone else will.  (Actually, the people who have read it seem to like it, mostly.  It's that last little "mostly" that worries me.)

Here's the thing.

Faerylander doesn't fit with what I've done with Led to the Slaughter and the Dead Spend No Gold.

It doesn't fit with the Vampire Evolution Trilogy.

Unfortunately, it doesn't even fit with the sequels I've written or am writing, Wolflander and Ghostlander.  

In comparison these novels are well-constructed, straightforward stories, that despite the supernatural elements are believable enough for the reader to buy into.  Manageable and internally consistent themes and characters.  Well-rounded stories, I hope.

These are neat tidy 80K books. 

What I'm saying, I guess, is that I don't think it would be a good career move to put Faerylander out right now.  Maybe I'm taking myself too seriously, but really -- I don't want to put something out that will change what I've tried to establish, how I'm being perceived.

So what do I do with my Frankenstein Book?

I'm thinking I should put it out sometime when I'm well-established, and let the chips fall where they may.  

Just offer it to the world.  Here it is -- I hope you're in the mood for some wild imagination.

Or, I can just put this out under another name, so that the Duncan McGeary brand stays what it is -- and the new book is just something some other guy put out.   I'm really tempted to do this -- and also put my Deviltree trilogy out under a different name.  (This has some good writing in it, but again because it was written 30 years ago has a different tone and style.)

But for now, I'm just going to set Faerylander aside again, and hope that in the future I can find something that will make it all work.  Keep building on it, like it is my own private little world.  Make it something that I just do for myself and then someday throw out there and see if anyone else likes it.

The Dead Spend No Gold is going to be a fine book.  It's time I go back to it.

And finish Ghostlander, which I'm also liking, even though it is a sequel to an unworkable book...heh.

I have faith that it will all work out, eventually.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Closer You Get -- the Closer You Get.

I've noticed before, that the closer you get to the end of a book, the more the pieces fall into place.  It's one of the ways you know you're finishing up.  All the random elements you've been struggling with are in place, and now you can clean up around the edges, which strengthens the book.

In fact, I think maybe that last bit of tightening and focusing is what makes a book work.

I really felt that way with Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves.  (Books of the Dead Press.)  I finally got the book to where I didn't feel like I needed to add anything or subtract anything.  It was complete.

I'm in that process with my current book, Faerylander, now.

That's why it is so important to have an editor, I think.  An editor cleans up a lot of the crap so that you can see the story a little more clearly.  Sometimes you can lop off scenes, or add that little bit more.

For instance, I have a description of the "Great Library" late in the book that isn't necessary.  However my first description of the scene really wasn't adequate, so I take the latter scene and include it with the early scene and it works much better.

Another example:  I've cut a chapter where the main characters are sitting in a diner talking things over.  I have the Hero describing his Sidekick to the Sidekick's Object of Affection.

But I have an early chapter where the Object of Affection is asking the Hero about the Sidekick, so when I move the whole interaction here, it works.

These last minute adjustments are huge.  And they can really only be done at the last minute, when you have the narrative firmly in place and can see it for what it is.

It's that last bit of effort that makes it a polished novel.

The Doubts Creep Back.

Maybe you can't work on something as long as I've worked on Faerylander without the doubts creeping back.

I feel as though I've -- mostly -- solved the beginning problems, though the fifth chapter (which used to be the first chapter, and then was the second chapter, and then the third will probably always have the problem of too much exposition and not enough motion.  But I've got the story well underway now before I hit that chapter, and I've streamlined it so much that I think it works OK.

I'm fine with the book until I get toward the middle, and then it does seem like a whole lot of character chapters, again without much forward movement.  I'm going to ask my editors to CUT, CUT, CUT anything they don't think is necessary here.

The book is still over 100K words, and as far as I'm concerned, 20K words could be cut and it wouldn't hurt my feelings.  I'm just not sure how to do it.

I am currently focused on streamlining the book.  If the book has problems, the more I can whittle them down, the more I can focus on pushing the story, the better.

And I'm fine with the last part of the book, once the plot really sets in.  It was a little silly for awhile, but I think I've flushed that out.  It is pretty straightforward action.  I don't know if the emotional catharsis is enough at the end, and that is a HUGE problem, but I've done my best to set up the characters so that the reader cares.  The book was mostly missing that in the early versions.

I think the writing is good on some chapters, but a little stilted on others -- I hadn't quite relaxed into a style yet with this first book.

And then there is the problem of changing it from 3rd person to 1st person.  I have a whole lotta "I's."

As Bren has suggested, I'm trying to rewrite some of these sentences by changing the subject from "I."

So what do I have here?  Does this book work?

I don't know.  I have decided that the difference between a good book and a bad book may not be as wide as you might assume.  That is, a bad book can become a good book with a few changes.  So I'm glad I've kept trying to fix this.

But never, ever again will I do this. 

And as I say, if you want to be a writer, you have no choice but to write through the doubts.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Encouraged to keep going.

I'm amazed by how many people are willing to flat out buy my book when I show it to them.  Not knowing who I am.

Almost every day I work at Pegasus Books, I sell 2 or 3 copies, so if I worked more days, I'd probably sell a whole lot more.  In my store especially, I get so many out-of-towners in that there is a constant supply of new customers.

I get a kick out of the reaction people have to the book when they are walking by on the sidewalk and see it in the window.  It's a positive reaction without them knowing the writer is lurking inside.  Same thing with people picking up the book curiously in the store.  So the "Donner Party Werewolves" and the cover seem to work on their own.

My Vampire Evolution series is going to the press right now, so I should have those books in stock in a couple of weeks.

By the way, I don't have a review of Blood of Gold up yet, and only one of Rule of Vampire.  I think the trilogy got progressively better, but I've got to get people to read that far!

Anyway, I do feel like I'm starting to get unfiltered feedback -- that is, volunteered opinions from people I don't know.  People coming in the store just to tell me that they really enjoyed the book.  And it has been all positive.  I can tell they mean it, which is a big relief, you know?

I have to say, one unsolicited glowing review is worth a hundred sales, as far as motivation goes.

If I sell a few more books on Amazon, I will have reached my original -- admittedly modest -- goal.

I've sold about the same number in my store.

I'm guessing I've sold about the same number in all the other venues, but I'm not sure -- by how far up the 'best-seller' lists I am on Smashwords, it could be much more.  But I've been told Smashwords doesn't move as many units, so it could be much less.

But I think a guess of equal to the Amazon totals isn't probably far off. 

There is still some time to sell more, so I'm pretty satisfied with it.

I hope my publisher is too.

Other than what I've hand-sold myself, I really don't know the real numbers because that is proprietary to the publisher.   He'll report to me eventually, though I'm not expecting anything for a few more months.

Anyway, it's enough of a success -- in my eyes -- that I feel encouraged to keep going.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


I don't think I've ever concentrated so intensely on one thing for so long in all my life.  14 hours yesterday, barely getting up from the desk.

And this has been going on for several days.

I've lost 8 pounds, because I've forgotten to eat.  I fall into bed late at night and I'm out like a light.

Working at the store today is going to be a vacation.  (Even here, I find myself making notes -- but I purposely left the writing laptop at home.)

My prodigal book is killing me.

I hate humble-brags about how hard a person works -- but this is the real deal.

This is the last rewrite of Faerylander, for good or ill.  I just can't do it anymore.  Thing is, since I know it is going to be the last, I'm being very diligent in making sure all the pieces are right.  This is it on the structure.  I will be doing a lot of editing, yet.  Especially since I'm changing the main character from 3rd person to 1st person but I am done rearranging the narrative or chapters.

The reason it takes so much concentration is that I have to keep all the storylines in my head -- multiple storylines, actually, since I have so many versions. Notes don't really help -- the notes would have to be as extensive as the story. 

The new chapter that inspired the rewrite has helped -- but the rest of the book is what it is.  Fortunately, I had done much of the continuity work on the version before last, so by reverting to it, I've saved myself a lot of work.  I've also been incorporating Linda's corrections as I go along.

It's going to be about 100K words, in-between my normal 80K for my other books and the 135K this book was in the last version.  (If I incorporated everything I've written, it would be over 150K.)

I'm going to order my editors to cut everything and anything that is unnecessary or doesn't work or slows down the story.  Give them permission to use the knife.

I'm undecided about included Cobb's Bestiary.  I like the entries, but they kind of clutter things up.  I probably will, though.

I can't tell if it is any good.  But if hard work will make it so...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Just waiting to be found.

Apparently, this new chapter was just waiting to be discovered by me.

It's been three years since I started Faerylander (which started off as Nearly Human).  Each time I finished a draft, I thought it was better but still missing something.  I would go on to other things.  I started to learn that I could write a book that didn't have so many intrinsic problems -- but I wasn't willing to give up on this book.

I think what it was missing was this chapter I've just written which ties everything together, gets the story started, makes stronger connections between characters and behavior.

Not to get all mystical, but it was like my subconscious was telling me I wasn't done.  Now it is finally giving me the go-ahead, contingent on a nice clean edit.

This rewrite isn't going to take as long as I thought.  The new material plugged right into the version of the book I wrote before the last one.  I was always been kind of 50/50 on the two versions, and this sort of decides it.
This version is more streamlined, with some chapters cut out of the middle, and/or combined.  It has a more serious, no-nonsense tone. 
The main change is that I am turning all the Cobb chapters to first person, and since these are about 65% of the book, that is a real chore.  That is the thing that will probably need the most editing.  It seems like no matter how many times I go over it, I still find the occasional "he" instead of "I": "him" instead of "me."

My sense of this book -- which is muddy, I'm really having a hard time getting a gauge on it -- is that it denser than my other books, and more complicated.

I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

But I do know -- or hope -- is that with this version I finally have a book that is really worth reading.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Prodigal Novel.

You know what?  I take back my previous blog entry (which I wrote before bed last night.)

Faerylander isn't my Book from Hell, it's my Prodigal Book.  Always a problem, but I dearly love it and wish for it to do well.

I couldn't make Bren's suggestion of an assassination attempt on the main character work, but in thinking about it, I suddenly had a brainstorm.  (I was up until 5:00 this morning thinking about it.)

I think I've come up with a solution that fixes the problem and ties the book together.  It makes the plot coherent, it deepens the characters, and it just seems to be the answer I've been looking for.

But it also means a top to bottom rewrite -- again.

If the solution wasn't so beautifully elegant --- didn't seem like it totally clicks -- I wouldn't do it.  I'd try to scrape by with the current version.  But this is what I've been looking for, the final piece.

Thing is, I knew it was missing something, but I just couldn't figure out what.

This new chapter is what I think it needed.  I say the entire book needs a rewrite, but its mostly in a few details here and there.  What makes me think this is the right solution is that it doesn't require a massive restructuring, but instead strengthens what I've already written.

I have a version that I wrote just before the last one where the new material especially works well (I was always a little 50/50 about which version was best, and now I know.)

So I'm dropping everything else (Ghostlander...) and embarking on another rewrite that will probably take a few weeks.  But I think it will be worth it.

What's more, I'm excited by it, and that is a pretty good indication that I've arrived at the right solution.  It just FEELS right.


Another rewrite.

This is now the champion rewrite book.   Star Axe took longer to complete but there was a lot of off and on.  Deviltree was rewritten many times but never had several complete re-hauls like this book has had.

I'll never let myself get tied up like this again.

This may end up being my best book, but I'm not sure it was worth the cost.

But I'm bringing my Prodigal Novel home...

The Novel from Hell.

So I basically hired someone to give Faerylander a clean read -- and sure enough, she finds the problems that I knew in my heart of hearts that the novel still had.

Damn, Damn, Damn.

I think I might be able to fix it -- yet again.  She suggested that I can introduce the danger by having the main character suffer an assassination attempt.

So I'm going to write a whole new chapter.  A whole fucking new chapter, and try to insert it.  It would be chapter 3, I guess.

I'm not sure if it is possible, but I'll give a whirl.

If THAT doesn't fix it, I done.  Finished.  Screw the whole thing.

No, I can't do that.  There is a good book here, I'm convinced.  I just need to keep working on it until it works.

In-between all the books that work without so much work.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Double Duty Writing.

I mentioned awhile back that I wanted to write original material during the early day and work on rewriting in the latter part of the day.

I couldn't do it.  I can just do one thing at a time, I guess.  Either write a first draft, or do rewriting, but not both.

Anyway, for the next three days I have no choice.  I've arranged for Lara to take a look at the final draft of Faerylander on the 10th of May.  But Linda has already gone through it, and pointed out a bunch of inconsistencies that I'd like to fix first.  And Bren has gone through the beginning chapters and pretty much convinced me I need to completely rework the first two chapters -- again for the umpteenth time.

So I have to spend the next three nights totally focused on Faerylander.  I have no choice if I'm going to slot this into Lara's available time.  With all my backlog I can't afford to let any time pass without something for her to work on.

This is the final draft of Faerylander, no matter what.  (Perhaps a final clean edit after this.)  I just can't keep working on Faerylander forever.  I've got to pick a moment when I think it's finished.

I'm almost there, and if I can fix the first two chapters and the inconsistencies, I think the book is about as good as I can make it.

The Ambitious Plot.

I'm 22 thousand words into Ghostlander.  It was time to really start thinking about the plot.

Up to now I've introduced the characters and the hauntings -- which I was going to have to do no matter what plot I came up with.

So I started thinking about solutions last night, and Oh, Boy.

I've gone from almost no plot to a very complicated and ambitious plot.  One that is going to require some tricky themes and emotions.  Some depth.

It may be beyond my abilities to pull off, but I've written enough books by now that I think I should probably try to stretch myself.  Even more, I should put the trust in my subconscious to bring it all home.

One thing is for sure -- it isn't being written by any "formula."  It may turn out to be a mess.

But what's the point of writing if you don't follow your muse?  The chances of success are so minimal anyway, I might as well do what I want to do.  I've tried to learn the basics of writing.  I've got a lot of words under my belt.  So I think I can venture away from the beaten path a little.  See where it leads.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Writing Day.

I often mention that I may only spend a few hours actually writing.

But that's not the true story.  The true story is a put in a full day preparing myself for a few hours of actual writing.

I'm sure other writers do it differently.  I'm sure other writers will say hogwash to this entire setup.

But this is how I do it.

I more or less start at 11:00.  I know that sounds late, but it's when I started work at the store for more than 20 years and I think that is when my brain is actually willing to engage.  Up to then, I'll shower and drink coffee and read the paper and peruse the internet.

So at 11:00 I start.  What follows looks a lot like procrastination.  But I call it priming the pump, filling the well, preparing my brain and my spirit for writing.  This might take an hour or two.  I may lay down and close my eyes (and try not to fall asleep) or I may walk around or I may talk to myself.  But I'm trying to visualize what I want to accomplish in this writing session.

I basically come to the very edge of writing but don't actually write. 

At some point in the these two hours, either early or late, I'll hit a trigger phrase or image and I'll start writing.  I always can feel when it is time.

Then I'll just write.  That part I can't explain.

After awhile, usually an hour or two, I'll run out of steam.  I most often won't have reached my 2000 word goal.

I then walk away from the writing, but try not to do anything too worthwhile.  Again, this looks a lot like procrastination, but it is just daydreaming.  Often in the daydreaming period, (either the early one or this one) nothing really comes to mind but as long as I'm in the fictional dream, I'm trusting that my subconscious is working on it.

The subconscious is the magic.  I don't control it.  My whole job is to nurture it, keep it fed, protect and shelter it.

I may play solitaire, or nap, or walk around, or play with the cat, or any number of meaningless, brainless activities.

Then I'll prepare myself to write again, much like in the morning.  Again, usually I get a trigger phrase or image and start writing.

Most often, I finish up.

Sometimes I can't quite get there, so I just stick around and stick around, and sometimes the day goes into night before the 2000 words are done.

But more often, I'll finish at around 4:00 or 5:00.  But even then I'm not done.  I try to stay in the fictional dream for a couple more hours.  I'm not sure what is happening during this period.  Sometimes I have very specific ideas about what I want to do the next day, but most often not.  I don't know why this cooling off period is necessary, but it is.  I think the subconscious is absorbing what I did and mulling over where to go next.

That's it.  Then I'm done.  An 8 hour day or more, in which I may have only written for 2 or 3 hours.  But it was all necessary.

Even outside these 8 hours, I usually want to keep activities at a low-key, rout sort of mode.  Nothing upsetting or two exciting.  Even when I'm not writing, I'm trying to keep the fictional dream going.  This is where the self-isolation really becomes noticeable.  If I could just do the 8 hours of work and then live my life like normal people, it wouldn't be such a problem.

But I spend most of my day, conscious or asleep, nurturing the fictional dream. 

Keeping that warm glow going...

And that's my writing day.

Another summer writing indoors?

Am I willing to spend another summer indoors?

I already feel like an invalid or a recluse or something.

It will be the second summer of letting the garden go all to hell and getting all white and pasty looking.  I started the writing binge in September of 2012.  Last summer seemed particularly hot, and so spending time inside with the air-conditioner seemed OK.

I write best on my back, either in my dark office or in my bedroom.  Even better with the white noise of a fan or a cooler.  Even better with a soda and some chips or cookies. 

And now I'm looking at doing again.

I keep saying -- this writing isn't the most mentally or physically healthy thing I could be doing.  At least the way I do it.  I don't think I can do it any other way.  Either I'm totally absorbed...or I'm doing something else.

There may be no help for it. Summer will come around every year, but this inclination, this ability to produce words -- that isn't so certain.  It isn't certain at all.

There are a million things that could end this writing streak.  Illness, emergency, business or employee problems and on and on.  (Knock wood...twice.)

So this writing streak is so precious, so unusual, that I think I have to pay the price to keep it going.  I mean, what's more likely -- that being a writing hermit will hurt me, or that the the writing streak will come to an end?  To me, the latter is much more likely, so the former is worth risking.

So I think I'll probably do again -- with an attempt to get outside more than last year.  But I'd planned to get outside today, and by 6:00 I still had about 10% of my writing to do.

So the writing continues, at least until I've fulfilled the plans I've made for myself. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Monster Porn. Really Barnes and Noble?

I can find my books on most lists for Amazon and Smashwords, but they must be far down the list on B & N.

Instead, you can find "Cum for Bigfoot."

So apparently my books are lacking a certain something for B & N.  I can't put my finger on it.

Eww... actually, I'd rather not put my finger on it.

Congratulations to both Amazon and Smashwords for not letting monster porn overwhelm their horror lists.

Oh, I'm sure it sells well.  Obviously. 

But give it a separate category, at least. 


I found the key.

I think I found the key to Ghostlander.

I'd been trying to find it for weeks, and finally last week decided I had to get to writing and that I'd just have to hope I'd stumble across it later.

Today, I think I did.  I'm 18K words in.

Most often this happens by asking myself questions.

For instance, this time, the problem was:   I have a ghost story which involves the Pilot Butte Inn and a bunch of missing guests.  But how do I bring Faery into it?

As soon as I figured that out, I realized that I had all the pieces to make a plot work.

That moment when I know it is going to be a book.

Free Comic Book Day at Pegasus Books.

Better to come early, because we've managed to give away most of the comics over the last few events.

These comics are created for this event, they aren't just extras.  They are weighted toward kids, which is interesting.  I don't know if it works, but it's a worthy try.

We're letting people take 3 comics each, their choice.  Hopefully you'll see something else you like while you're there.

Come on in! 

You gotta have heart.

I've mentioned before that I started off on the wrong foot with Faerylander.  I was more concerned about ideas and plot than I was in telling a story with heart.

A story has to have heart.  The reader has to care about some of the characters, there has to be some kind of cathartic resolution.

Which comes back to storytelling.

So while the mechanics of plot and grammar and ideas and all that are important -- they are the tools -- they are not the end goal.  I think you can have a really good story where the plot and the writing is messy.  I think you can have an incredibly boring stale story where the plot and the writing are precise.  I'll take the former any day of the week.

After much rewriting, I've managed to put the heart back into Faerylander, but it was a tough thing to do.  Much easier to include it from the beginning.

I'm proud of both Led to the Slaughter and The Vampire Evolution Trilogy in that the focus was on the people and their relationships.

The current book, Ghostlander, needed some plot elements, and I was 50 pages in before it all came together.  I've hinted at the 'human heart' elements, but I really need them to become the central focus from here on as well as going back over the first 50 pages beefing that up.

It's possible to write a book of "ideas" or "action" or "fast plot" or whatever.  But fundamentally you need someone to care about, someone to identify with.

Even the anti-hero needs to be someone you can root for.  (I saw a foreign film last night, "On The Job" where the main character by any objective standard is a complete monster -- but he is also the most sympathetic character in the film.  Great film by the way.)

When I started Faerylander, most of the young people I talked to seemed intrigued by ideas -- they wanted a unique twist, or something really different and original, and by all means all that is important.  But at the core of the story there has to be heart, caring about what happens to the characters.

Friday, May 2, 2014

It works as a trilogy.

I like my Vampire Evolution Trilogy quite a bit -- especially as a trilogy.  A complete and satisfying story arc.

For the longest time, I kept writing single novels.   Even Snowcastles and Icetowers were originally one story. 

I don't know that it ever occurred to me to write continuing adventures.  I suppose I had some concept that you continued that which was successful, and so you kept writing that first book until one of them hit it big.

But I think when I gave up on concept of "hitting it big" and just started writing what I wanted to write that I was freed to keep writing about the same characters and scenarios and settings.

It allows me a chance to deepen the relationships, to more fully flesh out the world.  I can stretch my storytelling, expand and develop.

In other words, it's very enjoyable.

Not to mention easier.  (Not having to create all of it from whole cloth.)

And finally, I think, more effective as a story.

So I'm kind of hooked on the concept now.  I'm so prolific I've got several ongoing series going, some of which the first book hasn't even been published! 

Doesn't matter.  What matters is the writing.

Just a reminder to everyone.  The whole trilogy is really cheap right now.  Only 99 cents each on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and Apple.  If a few of you buy it, it will really help on the "lists."  So -- just a matter of taking the time.

Please do.


A good review in Cascades A&E.

There is a nice review of Led to the Slaughter in Cascades A&E by Jeff Spry, who I think is a good writer. 

Here's the best link I could come up with:  You have to kind of negotiate the digital mess to find the article, but it's there.

I know that I probably should have confidence in my own writing, but how do I know?

I was sort of waiting for feedback from complete strangers, like on Goodreads and such.  So far, they've been very good, so I feel like I have more leeway to recommend my own book.

I sell least a couple at my store everyday I work.  Which is a real Catch-22.  You know, stay at the store and sell hundreds over the course of a year -- or stay home and write my books.  I figure this time of being able to write freely may not last forever, so I'm choosing to do that.  It was never really about the money, frankly.  But I did hope for readers.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Vampire Evolution Trilogy is Live. Please buy.

They go on sale today.

Looks like the publisher kept them at 99 cents for now.

They're also available on Amazon for the first time.

So I'm asking -- make sure that your pre-order actually happened.  You may have to click the "Buy" button.

And for anyone who read Led to the Slaughter and liked it, I'm hoping you'll give my Vampire books a try.

Doesn't look like they popped up on any lists so far, so I'd like to change that, at least a little.

Anyway, the whole trilogy is out there:

Death of an Immortal:

Rule of Vampire:

Blood of Gold: