Sunday, January 31, 2016

Researching before, not after.

I keep having this experience of researching the locale or history of a story after I've written it and finding that my story contradicts reality.

How fealty do I owe to reality in a fiction story? At what point do I offend reality so much that the reader scoffs and puts down the book?

There is probably a fair amount I can get away with, but every instance of getting it wrong is an excuse for the reader not to like the book.

In the latest book, I'm dealing with a university and professors and marine biology and geology and Seattle and much more. Every one of these are outside my own experience and I could be getting it entirely wrong.

So I try not to make any egregious errors, and bend reality my way in a way that is acceptable, hopefully, in an adventure novel.

I'm at 60,000 words. The four chapters I knew I had to write at 50,000 words are still ahead of me. I found that I hadn't really fully explored the character arcs of some secondary characters. This is likely to turn into a full sized book. (80,000 words.)

Anyway, yesterday I just couldn't write for some reason. So I made the mistake of starting researching and immediately realized I had some problems.

So the problems can be finessed or ignored, or they can be dealt with.

Dealing with them means a lot more work, but probably a better book. Problems are always a good excuse to improve the plot.

I've written two novels recently that required no research at all. They are set in a world far enough removed from reality to be able to wing it all the way through. I wish all books were this way -- but unfortunately, most aren't.

With "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders," researching turned a 55,000 word novel into a 95,000 word novel, a much more satisfying and complete read.

("The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders" is being published tomorrow!)

So this book, "Deep Sea Rising," is dealing with the Cascadia subduction zone and deep sea creatures and tsunamis and ocean blobs and methane release and....well, I can address most of these issues through a little rearrangement of the plot, a little filling out the details. It will be work, but it will make the story stronger and more textured and complex. More interesting, I do believe.

So I have to do it. Whether I want to or not.

I wonder if I could avoid these problems by doing research before, not after. But I keep coming to the same conclusion. Write the story, then adapt it to the research. It makes the story most important, and it can almost always be done, though it makes for more work.

But the work always improves the book, so it is an opportunity not a loss.

Friday, January 29, 2016

New idea for a book.

Not yet finished with "Deep Sea Rising." Another week of writing.

Meanwhile, came up with another idea that I thought was kind of cool. Thought it was completely original.

Googled it and found it was a 'thing.' But not so much in the book world, but in the Etsy/art world. No books with the title I have in mind.

So I have a title and an aesthetic that I think is kind of cool before I actually have the plot.

I've thought of the main character, and interestingly, a cover to the book.

Is this enough to write an entire book?

I have the three most important things: An interesting premise, a cool title, and an imagined awesome cover.

Well, there is one other small thing -- I have to write a good book. I think I'm getting the hang of this. I have a 'feeling' I want to evoke, and that is often the most important thing of all. Can I keep up that 'feeling' through the whole book without getting bogged down?

Hard to do.

We'll see how I feel when I finish "Deep Sea Rising." I still have the "Not by Water, But by Fire" book that I want to write.

I often don't know what is going to grab me until it does.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Ending.

I really like this book, "Deep Sea Rising." Not a misstep so far, and I've been able to say that about very few of my books.

So I want to stick the landing.

I had the book pretty much figured out up the 50K mark. Now I just need to bring it home.

Now I'm waiting for inspiration. I want the words to come to me. I want to feel that they are right.

Yesterday, I wasn't feeling it. So I told myself to take a day off. I was going to be reading at writer's group that night, (I'm reading "The Darkness You Fear" which is in the editing phase), and I just didn't have any ideas.

As I mentioned before, roughly speaking, the ending is:  Earthquake, Tsunami, and Invasion of the Deep Sea Creatures.

Action scenes usually come to me as I write them. I seem to have a knack. But blocking them out in my mind is helpful. And I want for more than just action scenes. I need a bunch of satisfying character catharsis to really make the book work.

I'm definitely in no hurry. I'm not getting Lara's edit of "The Darkness You Fear" back until the 8th of February, so I have roughly two weeks to write what normally takes me 5 or 6 days.

Anyway, most of the day passed. Then, around 3:00 in the afternoon, a minor character who has been in the background the entire book, popped up and demanded to be included in the book. She was always hinted to be an intriguing character, so I thought, let's see where this leads.

A good chapter later, I see that it was meant to be.

I'm going to approach the book the same way today. The words have to come unbidden, so to speak. I want to be inspired.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why go into nature to trash it?

I'm still walking every day in the Badlands.

I haven't wanted to say this, but yesterday was pretty bad. I'm amazed by how much vandalism and trash I find out there.

I don't understand it. At all. It makes no sense.



"The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders" is up on Amazon. I'm going to make it "live" on February 1.

I hope some of you faithful blog readers will buy it. The first week is so important. (I don't monetize this blog, so if you feel like supporting me and my writing, this would be a really good time to start!)

I hit the 50K mark on Deep Sea Rising yesterday. Now all that's left is earthquake, tsunami and an invasion of nasty, slimy, slithery, fangy deep sea creatures.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The glamorous life of a writer.

11:00: Thought it might be interesting (zzzzzzzzzz) to do a timeline of a typical writing day.

11:15: Start thinking in the shower about what I want to accomplish. Choosing what chapter to write.

Getting dressed is my "go" signal.

11:45:   I'm sitting in my car getting ready to open the garage door and drive out to the Badlands. I've packed a tuna fish sandwich, some chocolate chip cookies, and lemonade.

This is what I know about the chapter I'm writing today. The cheating wife of the main character goes to the house of the billionaire, whose son has gone missing. He peels her off from her lover, and takes her to another part of the house and has his way with her. Then he humiliates and scorns her.

She leaves in a huff, dragging her lover with her, takes him to their usual motel.

There they will be when the tsunami hits.

That's what I know. The object of this writing trip is to fill in all the details. That's the challenge. How do I make the above broad strokes interesting?

12:10: I decide to try one of my secondary walking paths first, since it's Saturday and my main path is probably busy with people. Running into people interrupts the process.

This seems to be mostly a dog walking offshoot. Usually at least one car, but none today, so I'm grabbing it. If I walk more than a mile, I'm past the likelihood of running into anyone. There is about a mile of clear path, then a very steep and muddy climb, which I've not attempted yet. I'm going to do it today, by going beside the path and walking from grass clump to grass clump. Then I'll be on my own to write.

It's 43 degrees, wet on the ground, cloudy. Good walking weather, actually.

On the drive out, I confirm that I want to tell this chapter from Kristine's viewpoint. She's a very greedy woman, so she'll go on and on about how big the house is, and how richly appointed. That's about all I've come up with yet.

There is a drawbridge to the island, so I have her think: "Only a billionaire would have the Pacific Ocean as his moat." Heh.

Telling detail, #1. That's the sort of thing I'm looking for.

12:15: Heading out on my walk.

12:45: Have reached the base of the muddy hill, about a mile and a half in. Found a very nice writing spot, a flat rock and view, and I take out my laptop and sit down my still warm backpack.

I have thought of a number of "telling details" plus decided that the Kristine scene is only half the chapter, and that the second half is John Sanders, the Billionaire. To be written later in the walk.

1:15: Getting cold. It's the wind and the lack of sunshine. Wrote about 500 words. Going to continue my walk and warm up.

1:30: Another half mile. A very steep climb, so I took my time. I was thinking more about the climb than writing, but I'm going to try to write some. It's sprinkling a little. I keep meaning to bring a big plastic bag in case I ever get caught out in it.

1:45: Wrote another 500 words. I'm two miles into the walk, I can head back and get my usual four miles. But I've hit a flat spot so I think I'll walk a little further.

2:15: Walked another half mile. Past the "very steep hill" it is very pleasant. I think I want to go farther someday soon. Most people are probably stopped by the hill.

I'm back at the first writing station. Going to write some more.

2:30: Wrote another 500 words. Had intended to head back. The wind has been freezing. Then, miraculously, the sun came out and it feels great. Warm and energizing. So going to keep writing.

2:45: Heading back to the car. Have written 1500 words. Would like to write another 1000.

3:15: Back at the car. Going to warm up, eat lunch, and write some more.

3:45: Still need to write the last 1000 words. A big sex scene. Heh. Sex scenes are like action scenes, they seem relatively easy to write.

I write most of it right there.

I think the chapter works. Now I go home and read it to Linda and see what she thinks.

4:15: Home. Thought of a few more things to write. When I come in the house, I yell up to Linda. "Still writing!" and go into my room. Finish it up. Ended up being all Kristine, no Sanders.

5:00: Took a short nap, half on purpose (closing eyes, laying back, thinking.) Then read over story.
 Read story to Linda for her stamp of approval. She "liked" it.

Done writing for the day, except contacting Aaron about putting The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders up on Amazon on February 1, and making sure Lara has finished the edits, and doing some research on the best format.

Glamorous, no?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Unnecessary Risks.

I got 30,000 words into this novel before I ran into complications.

Some of that is inevitable. You set the story up, then you have to spin out the ramifications, and so it gets a little more complicated.

Anyway, I had one of the secondary characters, a graduate assistant, being a Asperger's person. I'm not sure why that happened, he just appeared.

I had a employee for several years who was Asperger's so I felt I had a pretty good handle on his outer actions, but then I went into his head.

This is obviously more of risk. I tried to use my own experiences as a agoraphobic for a number of years, my own love of routine, my own obsessive nature, as guides.

It feels right, and with writing, that's everything.

Anyway, the plot then turned a little on me. The very deadly neurotoxin of the sea snakes turns out to have an effect on autism. Suddenly, it becomes a major part of the story. Jerry becomes a central character, and even becomes pretty much the hero of the story. I bring in another character, who is more severely autistic.

Now I'm talking the politics of the syndrome. What's normal? Is a "cure" even necessary.

I go into Jennifer's head, and this is a little more alien, but again it feels right.

There much more relationship oriented material in this book -- which isn't completely necessary for an action, entertainment book. In fact, a straight entertainment novel doesn't need the autism angle and so on.

It's a risk. An unnecessary risk.

But why am I writing if I'm not will to take risks? I'm trying to stretch myself with every book. Well, not trying, per se, but just letting whatever happens happen, and that turns out to be something different with every book.

It probably doesn't matter, except maybe to me. I feel like I'm improving, though there is no way to judge that. But it feels right.

Friday, January 22, 2016

"Cranking them out."

Maybe I need to shut up about finishing books.

As one friend said, I'm really "cranking them out."

I chose not to take offense at what may be a pejorative verb. From the outside, it may very well appear that I'm "cranking them out."

My simple answer was, "I'm writing every day."

My second answer was, "If I spend 10 hours a day thinking about a story and I can't get 2000 words written, then there's something wrong."

My third answer was, "It's easier than running a store."

I've said this before, but I have always put a lot of energy into whatever I'm doing. It doesn't always look like it, because the energy is always under the surface, always being applied. I'm just slowly trying to warp reality to what I want. And I keep doing it, day after day after day after day...

It's just that with books, there is a qualitative measure. Books get written.

There is a qualitative measure with the store, too, but it's best not to broadcast my sales, other than to tell whether it's "up" or "down."

But when I apply the same diligence to writing, the end result is that...well, I finish books.

Maybe the spending 8 to 10 hours a day on one project is considered weird these days, but isn't that what everyone does with their own jobs? So my "job," so to speak, is to write. I don't think of it as a job, except that I try to be disciplined and to finish what I start.

So the end result, is books get written. You turn around one day, and not only are you writing, you "have written." There are books. One step at a time.

I spent 25 years making excuses -- and they were good excuses too. I mean, I understand that it might be difficult for other people to apply the same sort of effort to writing that I do.

I'll just say this:  I really like doing it, I can afford to spend the time and money to do it, and so I'm doing it.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Writing triggers.

I think I fixed the problems from yesterday. It going to be a challenge to get the chapters in the right order -- there is what works sequentially, and then there is what works thematically, and they don't always match. I prefer chapters to work thematically, except when it warps the space/time continuum so much that it's bothersome.

I'm 40,000 words in, and they came relatively easy. I've worked out a process that works well for me.

1.) I don't try to do more than 2000 to 3000 words a day. (Except when it just comes to me fully formed, which seems to happen about every fifth day or so, then I'll write more.)

2.) I go for walks.

3.) I think the scene out in advance, and only then do I write it.

Often I sort of know what I want the scene to accomplish. So I ask myself questions as to how I can get there. I ask myself these questions in the shower, and sometimes I'll write the first part of chapter right away.

Then I drive out to the Badlands, again asking myself what I want to accomplish.

Turning onto the road is like a trigger for me now. I'm removed from my everyday life, and I'm in a different zone.

So what happens is, I'm walking along and a little inkling, a tickling in the back of my brain, a little snippet of story, or dialogue, or action, or description, comes to me. I say, "thank you" to my brain, but keep walking. Then another snippet comes along, and so on. One snippet leads to another. And so on.

Sometimes I'll stop when I have enough of these store up, (often at my "writing stump" which is midway on my daily walking route), and I'll write the scene. Then I'll get up and finish my route. I'll sit in the car and write some more.

Finally, I'll drive home, all the while ideas are still coming to me. I generally write the last third of a chapter at home, just in time for dinner.

Takes all day, but I have a fully realized, fleshed out chapter.

So I've always been able to write 2000 words or more a day, but I used to start with just one or two ideas. Now I have maybe 25 telling details stored up before I start writing, and while writing I'll add another 25 telling details, and the chapter feels pretty complete.

Before, I had everything in place, but I had to add more telling details in the rewrite. I'd get to about the same place, but with a lot more work.

Now, on the rewrite, I can make the story even more firm, or concentrate on getting the continuity and language write, since I've already fleshed the story out.

This seems to me what makes a writer -- the ability not only to tell a story and use evocative language to do so -- but to fill it with these little bits of business, these little connections, these telling details. And I think it comes pretty naturally to me, thank goodness.

So, this has all been a way of learning the best writing process for me, the best writing triggers. After 4 years, I've really refined how I go about things for the best result.

At least, that's the way it feels.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Uh, oh. Problems.

Up to Chapter 14.

I have finally run into some problems. I read the last chapter to Linda and she said, "Wait, isn't this supposed to be happening in the morning?"

Damn. The scene was written -- has to be written -- to take place at night.

So I have to take two characters and figure out what to do with them for a day. This actually turns out to be a good thing, because I need to prepare them for something that happens later. There are two ways to do that. Either an explanatory paragraph, or an actual scene/chapter. I'm incline toward the latter if I can figure something out. But a solvable problem

Then woke up realizing that I had another problem. I have the boat in trouble. Why don't they call in the coast guard? So the solution is that they are out of cellphone range or in a cellphone dead zone (what do they call those?). But wouldn't a commercial fishing boat have a satellite phone or some other ship to shore communications?

There's a solution, even if it is just the character begging off. "Well, it broke and I didn't have the money to fix it and I'm never out of sight of shore anyway."

Both of those are minor, fixable problems. (though it was kind of neat I got more than halfway before I ran into them).

The bigger problem is that a storyline has been introduced that I really, really like -- but which I have a feeling might be problematic for some readers.

It's a challenge. Maybe beyond my skills. but the story went there and it intrigues me so I'm trying to pull it off.

Over the last few books I've verged off in directions I liked but which I knew might be a problem. I've decided to do what I like, even so. I mean, I am very aware that I need to please the reader.

The choice seems to come down to this. Take out the problematic material and it becomes a "competent" book, but no more.

Leave it in, and it has more of a chance of either becoming a "good" book or a "bad" book.

I'm pretty sure I can write a competent book. I want to try to write good books, even at the danger of fucking it up.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Too many books?

Nothing is more dismaying that looking at the liquidation lists for books. I order for the store about 3 or 4 times a year.

It's not just that there are so many, but that so many of them look interesting. They're legit -- nice covers, intriguing subjects, often well-known authors. And they're being discarded.

Most I've not heard of, though I try to keep track of the book world.

So what chance do I, an unknown author without any promotional skills, without influential contacts, writing quirky stories, have of being discovered by anyone except by accident?

The most success I've had trying to get people to read my books is to ask them person to person. I've done this twice. The first time with "Led to the Slaughter" because it was my first book. The second time with "Tuskers," because it was my first book with a new publisher.

Not coincidentally, these are by far my most successful books, saleswise. If you can get a good start with sales and reviews, that momentum can carry you.

I won't be doing it again because it is obnoxious, verging as spam. People who joined my Ironic Fan Club are contacted, because they have showed an interest, but I'm not trying to bug everyone again. People will forgive me the first time because of the excitement I have, and they might forgive me the second time, because again, I'm excited to have a new publisher and a new series.

But everytime? Especially since I write so many books?

A public plea to buy my new book without the personal one to one contact has very little effect. It floats by like advertising. People may have a momentary urge, but it passes.

So I depend on people who have enjoyed other books by me, and by newcomers who stumble across me.

That's the way it is. I'm going to keep writing the best books I can and have faith that it will be enough, even when all the evidence says otherwise.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How did I not write?

How did I not write for 25 years?

I love doing it so much, it actually gets me kind of high. I'm halfway through Deep Sea Rising, and it is going very well, and I'm loving the premise and the story and the characters.

I'm going to push on through this middle part, which is one of the more dangerous places to stop (I have two or three books halfway finished.)

Anyway, this burst of creative energy which is entering the fourth year is so amazing, especially since I didn't write any fiction for about 25 years.

Originally I stopped to keep my business alive, thinking I would only take a few years off. I remember specifically thinking that if I started up writing again at 40, I'd still be young enough to get the job done.

But I didn't start up again until I was 60.

I had a few false starts. A bunch, actually. One or two chapters, then I'd get busy again. The store was all consuming.

I was a working man.

For years, the store was on the edge. I worked the cliched 60 hours a week for decades. Amazing to look back on it. I'm incredibly grateful that the store finally began to work the way it was supposed to work. (Mostly a matter of getting out of debt.) It was nice that the store was quirky, and I often get comments about how much fun it must be, but frankly, it became a business -- as it must. The fun part was being my own boss.

I did spent an awful lot of time writing in journals, to myself. I literally have a stack a couple feet high. Most of it is repetition, but there are some nuggets of wisdom in there.

And over 8 years ago, I started writing this blog, which was similar to my private business journals, but cleaned up. I allowed my creative side to emerge once in a while.

But I feel much more fulfilled as an artistic man. In the doing of it -- not saying I'm great, not walking around with a halo over my head. I'm talking about how using my creative abilities, which are subconscious in most ways, and effectively producing stories is incredibly satisfying.

How did I not write for 25 years?

Survival. Feh.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

An actual blog about minimum wage.

As a damned liberal, I'm all for a higher minimum wage.

As a small store owner, I'm a little ambivalent.

First of all, you should know that my employee wages are already pretty much at the proposed levels.

But what I like about this is that is My Idea. My reward to employees for doing a good job. My way of motivating them.

So here's the thing. I think minimum wage needs to go up. I guess I would probably moderate it slightly, though. Say 13.50 for the metro areas, and say 12.00 for the rural areas, at least to start with.

Given a longer time frame, say 5 years, I could see the 13.50 for rural and 15.00 for metro.

This is simply an acknowledgment that 15.00 will indeed impact on small businesses.

If it were a choice between the proposed increase and no increase at all, I'd bite the bullet and take the proposed increase.

So there you have it. A muddy compromise. Just a simple acknowledgement that there are two sides to the story, but ultimately, the wages need to go up.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Chapter 10, still good.

Got started late, went out to the desert so late it was fully dark by the time I finished my walk. Didn't mind, could still make out the road. There is something extraordinarily peaceful about that time of day in the wilderness.

I'm now entering the 2nd act of the book, which details the gathering storm. I have to ratchet up the danger, but I can't use the main characters too much without coming to a climax too soon or making it unbelievable.

So I decided I could start each chapter with a sea snake incident starring non-main characters, who I could also kill off if necessary. That is, the gathering danger is happening away from the main storyline.

I wrote a chapter about a young girl exploring underground Seattle who runs into the snakes and it was great. Like a little short story.

You know, I think I'm getting better at this. It may not be noticeable to anyone else, but I can see it.  Hard to quantify or qualify, just the stories clicking without dead zones, the characters coming alive, the action clear and exciting, the words evocative and appropriate.

At least I think so.

I've realized that I have a fear (and have always had this fear though I couldn't put my finger on it) that I'll write something good and no one will read it, no one will notice.

You noticed I'm not talking about money or fame or anything like that. Just the desire to see something that I think is good being appreciated.

The other fear that I have after writing 10 good chapters is that I won't be able to keep it up.

But there's nothing to do but keep writing.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tuskers in bookstores.

Here's the announcement.!PRESS-RELEASE-SMALL-PRESS-MAKES-GIANT-LEAP-TOWARD-MAKING-DREAMS-COME-TRUE/c7a5/569923460cf210383194a844

I probably ought to explain what this all means.

There are three basic ways you can look to get published. (With many variations.)

1.) Self-published, with or without a physical version of the book. You are sold by Amazon, and through Smashwords, you are also sold in other venues like Barnes & Noble and Apple.

You usually don't get bookstore distribution.

This isn't vanity press anymore. It can be done for very little money. The quality of the book is up to you. The cover and the editing and design are up to you. The promotion is up to you.

Amazon is extremely generous in their payments -- paying up to 65% of the cover price of the book to the author. Can't really beat that. Plus they'll pay you for page reads.

On the other hand, it is just one book among hundreds of thousands, so unless you've got a following, or know how to promote yourself, or get lucky, you'll most likely fall between the cracks.

However, there is nothing wrong with it. You can put your book out the way you want when you want about any subject you choose, and it happens more or less instantaneously, and it is out there in the world at least. You can spend as little or as much as you want.

This was the route I intended to take. But I stumbled across Books of the Dead and that led to Ragnarok, and that might lead to others avenues.

What I give up is the bigger percentage of the retail price, I get a professional platform, expertise, and community and a bunch of other benefits.

2.) Hybrid publishing. I tried self-publishing for a short time. I figure I would have had dozens possibly hundreds of sales. Through Hybrid, I'm getting hundreds and possibly thousands of sales. I'm getting good covers and professional editing that doesn't cost me. They pay for everything. They give me an advance. They produce the physical book, which I can buy for wholesale to sell in my store.

But I write too many books. I fill the available spots pretty fast. So beginning with The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders, I'm going to see if I've established enough of a following to get some exposure.

3.) Mainstream or bookstore distribution.

I had no intention of going this direction, beyond my first sporadic efforts, which only confirmed my suspicions that it was pretty fucked up. (Little to no response from agents.)

See, you have to have an agent. Period.

Plus it's like going from the Indy 500 in speed of things happening, to walking down the street in a walker. Agonizing getting responses and so on.

Plus, well -- I just don't think I fit what they're looking for. I write quirky books, and they don't really want quirky books (no matter what they might say.)

Still -- there is nothing like seeing your books in the bookstores, and the exposure is much higher, and there is the chance...or a better chance... that you'll sell from the thousands to the ten thousands.

Those kind of numbers are unlikely no matter which of the three options you choose above. Some people do extremely well self-publishing, better than they would by the mainstream route, believe it or not.

Anyway, Ragnarok is making the jump from Hybrid to Mainstream, and I wish them luck. It's a risky gamble, but I'm along for the ride!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Chapters 8 & 9 are fine.

Wrote two chapters yesterday. Was done with Chapter 8 early enough to take a slight break and start in on Chapter 9.

They are character/plot chapters. After 7 seven action chapters, I thought it was fine to spend some time moving characters around.

Here's the thing about disaster/creature books. You don't really have to have a bunch of bad guys, or a Big Bad. Nature is the Big Bad, and even then, not really. So I can create a bunch of characters, most of whom I like, and have them interact and have the plot derive from those interactions.

So I'm a third of the way through and the set up is complete and now I just need to ratchet it up a notch, put these characters in greater danger.

The third act is when the disaster fully strikes and it will be action scenes from that point on.

It is so weird when in Chapter 9 a whole bunch of stuff happens that bring up things I introduced way back in the first few chapters. Was my subconscious working to bring the story back to this spot?

The last three chapters I've written all take place around the same time, from different point of views, with the characters meeting at the end.  Linda was a little confused, but I didn't think it was confusing at all.

But this whole story is going to take place over a couple of days (maybe three). I could actually prefaced every chapter with a timeline and it wouldn't be out of place.

Anyway, this story really has come together, in my estimation. I'm not sure I've ever gotten this far into a book without running into problems.

Oldest established owner?

Brett White, owner of Heroes Haven in Roseburg, messaged me wondering if I might now be the oldest established owner of a comic shop in Oregon. Apparently, the longtime owner of the comic shops in Eugene has sold his businesses.

That probably would make me the oldest, except -- the Things From Another World shops in Portland are owned by Mike Richardson, who I happened to buy my own shop from in 1984. Mike is the founder of Dark Horse comics and I don't believe he's been very involved in the retail side of things for years, but...owner is owner.

Meanwhile, I think I might also be the oldest established continual retailer in Downtown Bend. There are others who have opened and closed businesses, or moved, and it's possible there are some restaurant owners who have been here longer, but I can't imagine who.

One of the oldest, for sure.

What I'm proud of is that my business is actually thriving. It isn't limping along, surviving, but improving every year.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chapter 7, still humming.

Wrote chapter 7 yesterday. Went smoothly.

The pattern is set. Mull over the chapter in the morning, focusing on what needs to be done. Think about it during the shower and on the drive out to the Badlands. Write whatever has come to me either before leaving the house or immediately upon arriving.

Then go for the walk, stopping at the writing stump on the way out, and then on the way in also. Then walk back to the car, do some more writing. Think some more on the drive into town and finish in my room, if necessary.

Basically, this is a four or five hour process. Cushioned by an hour before and hour after. It takes the middle of the day out, so pretty much the whole day has to be dedicated to the process.

On the drive out I was nearly overwhelmed by the gratitude that this happens.

I think I've turned into a good writer, actually, or at least I'm getting better all the time. Getting better through doing, through working out the process, through trusting myself.

It may not be noticeable to anyone else, but I know it is happening. I'm feeling a satisfaction that has nothing to do with the outside world, and that is the best of all.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Chapter 6, still good.

Don't know if it is a homerun, but it is at least a triple.

The next chapter is tricky. I know what characters I want to introduce, but I need something significant to happen in the chapter, and I can't pull out the poisonous sea snakes yet.

But that's the thing -- I'm sure that my subconscious will come up with something. I give myself instructions and let the subconscious work on it, and something always comes through.

This waiting until the full chapter is assembled in my head before I write it is obviously the way to go. I worry that I'll miss or drop stuff, but it doesn't feel like I do. Sometimes I'll remember something later and add it in. But mostly, it all seems to come out on the page.

Went walking yesterday. Again, ran into a bunch of people. and dammit, it's my Badlands! Drove to another part of the area, but didn't like it as much and ran into snowy hillsides pretty fast. But I also assembled the chapter to my satisfaction and wrote most of it down.

A pattern is emerging. I write the beginning of the chapter at home, usually a page or two, then go on my walk, (thinking it through on the drive out also), then write another 3 or 4 pages, then drive home and write the last 2 or 3 pages.

Working like a charm.

I really like this book so far. It is an awful lot like the way I wrote Tuskers. I just seem to have an unexpected talent for writing up a bunch of characters in an almost soap opera way and then subjecting them to outside disaster. It's fun and it seems to work.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Perfect is the enemy of the good.

It took me a long time to say that anything I wrote was "good." It seemed presumptuous of me to say something like that about my own writing.

On the other hand, I needed a measure to know how much more work I needed to do, what should be kept and what should be removed. So I always had a sense of whether a chapter or a scene or an entire book worked.

Thing is, most (all) books aren't perfect. Perfect is the enemy of the good.

I have my own inner gauge of my own writing, which books I think are better than others, but I've decided that I'll never say. But inside, I know.

Almost every book, though, has scenes or chapters where I think I really hit the mark. Not perfect, but pretty close. Frankly, if I can have three or four of these chapters in a book, I feel pretty good, especially if they are strategically located -- the beginning or the end or a nexus points in the story.

All the books I've so far released had those chapters -- or the books weren't released.

Anyway, in the book I'm currently writing, I feel like all 5 chapters I've written so far have met the gold standard. I don't believe that has ever happened, and I'd love to keep the string going. Basically, I feel like all 5 chapters have been inspired by that most creative part of me.

At some point, the requirement of the story will probably force me to write something that isn't "inspired." I will have to work at writing something that moves the story along and I may not be perfectly satisfied because it didn't have a immaculate creation.

But I am going to continue to give myself the chance. Part of it is the working process I've come up with. I now try to have the chapter completely written in my head before I sit down to write it. I've always done this to some extent, but there were always chapters I started cold, or chapters where I only had a few bits and pieces.

Thing about waiting for inspiration is that you can wait a long time -- sometimes forever. So you go ahead and craft a chapter. I'm not really sure if these crafted chapters are worse than the inspired ones -- they might even be better.

But there is no better feeling than a chapter coming out on page the way it feels like it should be.

Someday I hope that an entire book is immaculately conceived. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Solid 5th.

I didn't write yesterday and felt guilty about it. Spent the morning being annoyed at technology, then watched some movies on Netflix, started a Miles Vergosigan novel.

But today I got right back on track. Fifth solid chapter on the new book. I really like the characters. It's been fun to write so far.

What a miraculous thing it is.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Who owns my phone, anyway?

I get up this morning, check my new iPhone and it wants my passcode.

I press my thumb and it's not enough. I put in my passcode and it tells me I'm wrong.

Here's the thing. I didn't ask for -- I don't need -- and I don't want all this fucking security. I bought this phone, I'll take care of my own phone, butt out!

Overnight, it decides to remove itself from usability. Now I've got to spend an hour at Verizon trying to fix the problem. I've only had this phone 2 weeks and already it's fucking with me.

Really, I'm wasting about 99% of the capacity of this phone. All I want to use it for is as a phone. I don't want it to surf the internet, I'm not going to down load any apps, I hate the little typing pad, I don't text except for useful reasons.

I do everything on my computer. The phone is for phoning. Period.

I do like the ability to take a picture on put it on Facebook. Me saying I like this is what impelled Linda to buy it for me. But it ain't worth the aggravation if this happens again.

What right does my own phone have to decide that I can't use it? Who decided that I had to prove myself every time I use my own phone? Apple? Verizon?

Well, fuck you guys. It's not your phone, it's my phone.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Writer connections at the store.

Worked at Pegasus yesterday. I still enjoy this -- would do it more if I didn't need to give my guys more work.

Ran into the daughter of my mentor, Dwight Newton, and told her that a mainstream publisher had been inquiring about whether his books were available. I will give the publisher (who has my book proposal) her email when I contact him again. But...I don't want to invite rejection sooner than needs be. I'm pretty sure he is either going to turn me down or ... more probable... not give me an answer at all. So when I finally contact him, that's when he'll tell me.

So I'll give it a couple of more months. You never know.

She bought Led to the Slaughter because she is a western history buff. I sell one or two of my books almost every day I work. I also have someone tell me they liked my book almost every day I work.

But I can't be both store clerk and a writer -- that was proven for 25 years. And even more proven by how I exploded into writing after being freed from clerking.

Also ran into a fellow who works in New York doing videos who comes in the store every year or so. It's interesting to talk to these ambitious young people. He was wearing aviator style glasses and I wonder if that is about to become a "thing." I remember the first time I saw a goatee on a younger person was the same sort of surprise. I remember thinking how good it looked.

Linda and I are going to go see The Hateful Eight this afternoon. I was thinking about seeing Star Wars again, but I just don't do that very often. I've seen it. I liked it. But...well, I've seen it.

I want to see The Revenant too.  Both of these westerns probably need to be seen on the big screen. I worry that they are too extreme for Linda's tastes, but she's been married to me for 32 years so...well, she's used to it.

I'm going to go out to the Badlands early, say 10:00 or so, do my walk, and try to get some writing done. Get back in time to go the movies.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

3rd solid chapter.

Wrote my 3rd solid chapter in a row, after my 3rd daily walk in the Badlands. I figure, if I have 3 solid chapters to start, I probably have a book. Each chapter is like a short story, with a meaningful arc. I'm in love with it.

I wasn't sure what I was going to write after The Darkness You Fear. I had tons of options. But I just woke up with the certainty that I wanted to write another Creature book like Tuskers.

Tuskers is probably the most enjoyable story I ever wrote. I told myself that I wanted to write a story straight to the end, no detours, solid action all the way. What came out was Hyper-intelligent Wild Pigs On The Rampage. (Started as a joke response to Bruce's confrontations with Javelinas.)

When it started turning into a 70's disaster movie (think Ava Gardner and Charlton Heston bickering as the Earthquake/Fire/Killer Bees attack) I thought I really had something.

Anyway, the title of this book is Snaked. (Alternate title, Deep Sea Rising.)

I've assembled my cast of characters and my scenario, and I really like it. I'm excited to write it, which is the biggest thing.

Meanwhile, I awoke to another newspaper article about wild fires. I really wish the big publisher would send me a contract for this. It couldn't be more timely; terrorists and wild fires are going to be in the news from now on. But apparently my 100 page "kick-ass" proposal was "lame-ass." It's not how I operate, but I tried. The agent hated it, but the publisher still asked to see it -- and this publisher seemed to really, really like Led to the Slaughter, so there is still a small hope.

I want to write this book fully researched, so I had the balls to ask for a contract, telling the publisher I would do my very best to deliver a "good" book.

I don't think mainstream publishing works that way...but it's the way I want to work, so there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2nd chapter, not so perfect.

So I wrote a second chapter in the new story and I was excited by it, but when I read it to Linda it was kind of a mess. Not the content, but the writing. But, well, the writing can be fixed. The story is progressing and that's the main thing.

I went for a muddy walk in the Badlands, constructing the scene in my head, sitting on my writing stump, getting back to my car as it was getting dark.

Getting involved in a new book is slightly inconvenient, but I never turn down a gift from the muses. This story obviously wants to be written, so I'll write it as long as I can.

On the 15th, I've really got to dig into the rewrite of The Darkness You Fear.

I've got some people lassoed into reviewing TMPDGM's. They're finding typos and some other problems, and it occurred to me that since I'm self publishing, I can always make changes right up to the last minute. (And beyond, actually.)

The whole writing thing has gotten kind of messy -- lots of loose ends and false starts and unfinished endings and half written stories and...just more complicated. But then, one of the things I learned in owning Pegasus is that things are never really finished, things are always in flux, so this is just more of that.

I'm slowly coming to the realization that it doesn't matter what I do as far as trying to sell the books. I could do everything right and the odds are still very much against anything significant happening. No one's fault. There are a lot of writers, and among them are very good writers and probably a plethora of writers who are competent (as well as legions of not so serious writers.)

I've come up with a syllogism:

Whether a book is good or bad is not based on sales.
I only care if the book is good.
Therefore, it doesn't matter how many copies it sells.

The last three times I've been in the store I've had someone come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed my books. Hey, that's enough. That plus the fact the reviews of my books have been mostly positive, sometimes very positive. So I don't think I'm wasting my time.

But how you can break through to the wider world? Well, I'm not willing to pay the price, so I can't expect to win the prize. 

I went through this whole cost/benefit analysis 30 years ago, and arrived at the conclusion that I'd better concentrate on making a living by other means. That hasn't changed -- in fact, the barriers are much more challenging because of the ease of ebooks. I'm not complaining. I love the ease of ebooks! Frankly, it's what drew me back in. I didn't even think I would go to the publishers, but it just sort of happened.

I've written so many books that I've simply overwhelmed the publishers I have. I have a proposal with one publisher, I'm writing a book for another publisher who said he might be interested, I've got a book already placed with another publisher, (with a another one to finish the series) and I've got a book almost finished that a publisher has said he'll do.

Meanwhile, I have another half dozen completed book, and even more manuscripts that just require I turn my attention to them and finish.

Ergo, I've got to start putting stuff out myself.

The first book is The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders.

These finished book are just as good as anything I've submitted to publishers, if perhaps a little more quirky. But then, everything I've written has been quirky...

I'm satisfied with my progression. I've learned a lot about writing and the process of writing and how my own creative side works and I enjoy the process and I've even had a bit of success.

So I'm going to just keep on writing and not worry about anything else.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The perfect 1st Chapter.

Of course, it's not perfect. In a month I'll probably hate it. But when I finished it yesterday, I thought it was perfect. Good characters, setting, action, a denouncement that's a killer, some nice phrasing, a perfect pace.

Even though when I'm in the midst of a book I often wonder what I'll be writing next, and sometimes even think I know what I'm going to be writing next, I find that I don't really know until the moment arrives.

I've been taking a few days off to let myself gain some perspective on The Darkness You Fear, and I hadn't really intended to write anything (after all, I just finished the first draft yesterday, for goodness sake) but it suddenly became quite clear what I wanted to write.

I wanted to reproduce the feeling I had when I wrote Tuskers by writing another "Creature" book. Not only that, but I have an editor who has expressed an interest.

So I started thinking about how I would go about it.

It was unexpectedly warm yesterday, so I drove out to the Badlands and walked my circuit and by the time I returned, I had the entire chapter written in my mind.

And I got 90% of the story in my head down on paper, which is pretty good.

I read it to Linda and she was really wowed. I mean, I can tell when she really likes something.

"You have such a way of creating believable and likable characters --- and then killing them."

"Why thank you," I said.

There's a book here, I can feel it. I'm just going to have fun with it. I wouldn't mind another 30 chapters written that way...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Star Wars movie #17: The Force Reanimated -- a review.

Star Wars 17 ("The Force Reanimated") from Lucasfilms arrives just in time for the national holiday, Star Wars Day. Schools and government offices are closed, as usual. Of course, it has already made trillions in China, so everything it earns in America is just gravy. It is already projected to beat the record, (though of course the 50.00 ticket prices will need to be adjusted for inflation.)

Of course, every day is Star Wars day now. We are all Star Wars nerds, and it didn't take the recently passed law that disparaging Star Wars was a criminal offense to make us so.

The familiar scroll and fanfare thrills as always, though it now takes seven minutes. George has a lot of trade laws and such to explain. It helps that John Williams has added the Fanfare Lullaby. But after that, the movie really takes off.

How can you not be excited when the three Death Stars roar above you, chasing our hero's C-3PO and R2-D2 in their small X-wing? They are as droll as ever, and it is a comforting thing to hear C-3PO exclaim, "We're doomed!" and R2-D2 answer, "Shut up, you twit!" Gets a laugh every time. (I'm so thankful that George decided to give R2-D2 a voice, and using Jack Nicholson is sheer genius.)

Objects and delightful aliens whiz by the screen in a blur, but every so often a familiar figure shows up and the audience cheers. There's Han Solo shooting a dozen stormtroopers from his wheelchair and we are reminded that Harrison Ford still has it. He can act with the unparalyzed half of his face better than most young actors can with their whole body. (The rumors that he was paid for his two minutes more than all the other actors combined is just that -- a rumor.)

Bobba Fett is front and center again after her sexual transition. The rumor is that since she recently won the Oscar, Brittany Spears on a lark decided to do the voice this time.

Speaking of voices, Darth Moss is truly scary. That deep, gravelly voice carries so much gravitas. Again, though George is being coy, the rumor is that Carrie Fisher is back, and her whiskey, smokey voice certainly makes sense. As for as Darth Moss's strange helmet, George once again denies that it is slam on the Disney Mouse. But one can certainly understand why he would do it after the long, bitter battle to regain control of his creation. (He insists it is a homage to Princess Leia's buns -- the hair buns -- and if it is indeed Carrie Fisher's voice, this makes sense.)

The backlash against George is as strong and as unfair as ever. He, of course, has every right to market his toys. Buying Walmart only made sense, and it is better that his toys fill those cavernous spaces than take room in every other mom and pop toy stores (those few that are left.)

This is now the third Micheal Bay directed Star Wars in a row and he is really in his element. Hardly a minute goes by when there isn't an exciting explosion. The characters are totally convincing in their "Watch outs!" and "Let's go's."

And when the young Jedi, Musti-Tuns, cradles the other main character (sorry, her name escapes me right now), it is hard not to cry at the convincingly maudlin lines.

Darth Jar Jar Binks is still stuck on the planet Nooby-Noo, but George has promised that he will bring back everyone's favorite character soon, possibly by Star Wars 20.

So now I get to what you are all waiting for. Yes, this is the first movie to have full frontal nudity. It is done tastefully, harkening back the Princess Leia's g-string costume in Star Wars 12. (The argument about whether Carrie Fisher used a body double is completely unfair, and ... well, I won't dignify it with further comment.)

Luke Skywalker is still "lost" of course, though there is a small scene of him in the back of a tavern if you're paying attention. He's the pirate with the hook on his arm. Clever!

The ending is exciting as ever. Thank goodness the rebels continue to find weaknesses in those Death Star plans! And when the young female Jedi (sorry, her name still escapes me -- the biggest mistake George ever made was killing off Rey) makes her final run, the audience is still on the edge of their seats.

All in all, The Force (is truly!) Reanimated. I look forward to Star Wars 18, which is due on the Star Wars Day after next. Until then, we'll have the new Maz movie to look forward to.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

I did what I set out to do. Now comes the work.

This book is complete. "The Darkness You Fear: Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine."


Now comes the work.

I've cut a couple of minor characters, added a character who is minor but who plays a huge motivational role. I've changed a bunch of names. I have a chapter early that just doesn't work, mostly because I wrote in 3rd person and had to change it to 1st person. I just keep hacking away at it, improving it slowly with each attempt.

I'm using the location of Fort Boise as a jump-off point, though the first Fort Boise, which existed at the time of the events, was later moved 50 miles to the east and is the present day Boise. So I may put in a Historical Note:

"The events in this book are mostly true, though the names and characters are fiction. The Fort Boise described in this book was located by the Snake River and precedes the later location 50 miles to the east of present day Boise. As far as I know, The Lost Blue Bucket Mine has never been found."

I have to put in locations and dates. I want the to correlate as much as possible with the real Lost Wagon Train, (Meek's Cutoff). It's got to be generally right, but perfect accuracy can wait for the last draft.

In other words, I'm trying to get this book in the rough shape it needs to be.

I've taken to sending these rough versions to Lara, because her editing clears away a lot of things making it possible for the last draft to be more effective. Then, if she has time, she can copy-edit the highlighted changes I make.

As soon as I send this off to Lara, I'm going to start researching the book for historical details. This is adding embellishment and believability to a plot that is centered around the characters.

I'm hoping to have this book done by the first week of February.

I like the book, though I wonder if it is going to go over with the readers. But I did what I set out to do.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Finished the third Virginia Reed Adventure.

I finished "The Darkness You Fear: Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine."  On the last day of the year.

The publisher at Books of the Dead is open to it. I'm sending it to Lara for editing on Monday, after tinkering with it over the weekend. She'll take about a month, and in the meantime, I'll do some research and add as much verisimilitude to the story as I can.

The basic plot is done, though.

I do want to add some historical detail and descriptions to the 2nd draft, which I figure will add about 10% to the 75K words of the 1st draft.

Thematically, I thought it came out really well. Ghosts are hard to do, but once I realized that, in my story at least, they are symbolic of "guilt and remorse" the plot worked itself out.

It feels like my books get more and more complicated as time goes on. I'm not sure if this is good or bad.

It's as if I need the challenge.

At the same time, I wrote "I Live Among You" as a very simple book, and it came out well. "Tuskers" also had an original concept that was meant to be straightforward, too.

Really, why don't I do that?

I'm going to go ahead and publish "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders" myself. I'm all caught up at my publishers -- each of them have a book in hand (or almost in hand.) It would be a very, very long time for the next book, and by then I'll have written more books, so I may as well just put it out there. I like it a lot. Maybe that will be enough.

I'm not going to try to find another publisher -- it was pure luck I got these two publishers without a long strenuous dispiriting search, and I have no intention of tackling that process now. It was the idea that I could publish what I want when I want that got me into this writing thing again.

So it's time to take the plunge. (I did do "Cyber Flash" as a self-published book, but that was more of a lark.)

I suspect I'll sell far fewer copies than the books the publishers did, but so be it. I've written a lot of material and I want to see it put out into the world. Sales are nice. Reviews are nice.

But having written the books and knowing they can be accessed by others if they so please -- that's the real reward.