Friday, April 29, 2016

Course adjustments.

Well, I feel like the cover and title I chose for "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders: Blood of the Succubus" didn't work out. I mean, they may have nothing to do with it. Maybe the whole thing didn't work.

But I'm going to go ahead and change the title to "Blood of the Succubus: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders," and go with the red silhouette cover. (Which got by far the most votes anyway.)

I don't believe this will confuse anyone.

I'd also like to do a better job of entering the title. I have only one category for instance, and I'm supposed to have two. Maybe change the synopsis slightly.

Meanwhile, I've written an entire book under the assumption that it was going to be called Fairy Punk. A comment someone made about the word "Fairy" at the last writer's group about the connotation for that word made me rethink it. Not so much because of that but because I'd already been thinking about it. It just started not feeling right.

So I came up with a bunch of other titles:

Faerypunk. (One word. I like this--but I already have a title called Faerylander, so I think that would be confusing.)

Faery Punk.

Faerie Punk.

And the original, Fairy Punk.

I put these up to a vote on Facebook and Faerie Punk won going away. So I've gone back to the cover artist and asked him to change it. Also, I'll have to change the term Fairy throughout the manuscript to Faerie. (I know there is a way to do that on Word, but I can't remember. Lara can probably do it for me.)

I'm still trying to figure this all out.

One of the reasons I'm doing both changes is that I don't want to become known as a gimmicky author. I mean, I'm quirky, I admit that. But it isn't a trick to get people to buy my books, it's just the way my brain works.

But I've got werewolves and the Donner Party, and I've got Bigfoot and the Gold Rush, and I've got superintelligent pigs called Tuskers, and so on.

I think having titles like Tuskers, The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders, and now Faerie Punk may look like I don't write serious books, which in effect I do. I mean I'm not going for the humor though I hope there is some there.

So I need to rethink how I approach this. I get way too many Pig jokes as it is. It makes me a little uneasy, you know?

Most of my books are meant (by me) to be taken seriously, but because of the subject matter and perhaps the titles, I think people approach them differently than is intended. I tend to get a lot of "surprising good" comments, which I think is a reflection of them finding that it wasn't a gimmick but an actual book.

But really, is that where I want to start? Maybe I need to take myself more seriously.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Damn! Where did that come from?"

Passed 112K words on Fairy Punk, still have several chapters to write.

I've really enjoyed writing this book. I hope the readers will enjoy it as much as I do. This is the kind of epic fantasy I can see myself writing. Set in the real world but also completely fantastical. Just really fun to spin off ideas.

My "Memoirs of Joseph Tindermaker" headings to each chapter are fun. I can just wax poetic, spin out ideas. It explains what's happening in the narrative so that I don't have to slow down the narrative to explain. (Weird, that, since the Memoirs aren't narrative at all and might ordinarily be considered a complete slow down...yet somehow, to my mind, that's different. If you start reading the headings you've bought into the idea of the headings.)

The biggest lesson of this book is to treat each chapter as it's own thing. To be patient. To just approach each day as another step. To not hurry and to not try too hard to come up with an overall plot, instead letting the story develop the plot.

All this is the result of really trusting my subconscious to have a plan. I've written so much, that I completely believe that something will come up, something will happen, it will all tie together.

I haven't lost my joy in writing. I know that sounds sappy, but I don't know how else to explain it. Whatever worries I have for the day, writing brings a fresh mood. Euphoric, satisfying.

I walk along my Badlands trail after finishing and just say, "Damn! Where did that come from?"

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Mood Chapter.

I love writing "mood" chapters, where my main task is to evoke a mood. They are easy to write, for some reason. I think they add depth to the characters, feeling to the story.

But I have to be careful that I don't go there too often. They usually don't move the story forward all that much, and if I'm not disciplined, they can be self-indulgent.

But there are times when they are completely justified.

I'm near the end of the "Fairy Punk." Izzy is broke and alone in New York, being hunted by both humans and Fairy. It looks hopeless.

This is the pivot to the final fight. His picking himself up off the mat and going--hopelessly--into battle.

Everything has been building up to this and a little reflection is perfectly in order.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Ending In Sight.

I've hit 106K words on Fairy Punk and the ending is in sight. I'm guessing at least 14K words to go.

It's like when you've been on a long trip and you're only an hour from home. So close you just wish you were already there, but still far enough away that you're not, if you know what I mean.

Especially since I have the ending pretty much figured out, so there are no more surprises. It's just a matter of doing it. So close that I just want to do it in one fell swoop, but I'm trying to remain measured. Bring a little fresh energy to each chapter.

I was worried about the last chapter, but I've worked out an entry point that makes sense; I'm not sure how it's going to play out, but at least I have a solid concept.

Meanwhile, the Postscript came to me fully formed on my walk yesterday and is already written.

Got the cover to Fairy Punk back from the artist this morning, and it is pretty cool. Pretty much what I envisioned. It's hard to be patient, but I'm going to hold off showing it until I'm closer to publishing.

So close to finishing I can taste it.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Rewrite.

You hear it from me often.

1.) My stories are better when I do rewrites.
2.) I hate rewrites.

I hate rewrites (rather than simply dislike them as a necessary step) because I overdid the rewriting in my earlier career. I'd dive down the rabbit hole constantly changing plots and words and then changing them again, and again, and again until the whole thing turned into a jumbled mess. I would no longer feel the story or empathize with the characters. It would all just be words.

When I came back to writing 25 years later, my #1 rule was that I would do NO REWRITING! until I was done with the first draft.

Turns out, this was what I needed. (It also helped that the process is SO much easier. Word processing is 10 times easier than the old typing and correcting. Young writers have no idea. If there is a proliferation of books, I believe this is the biggest factor. It used to take real grit. Walking five miles in the snow to school, uphill both ways, typing your books...)

What I've found when I finish the first draft is that some books need lots of rewriting. Some books don't need as much. Some books are relatively hopeless and require more rewriting than makes sense when I could go write a new book in the same timeframe.

All books need a timeout between finishing the first draft and doing the rewrite--at least a month.

All books benefit from an outside editor.

I've refined the process to what works for me.  So what I do nowadays is finish the first draft, send it off to Lara who can point out inconsistencies and fix plot holes and clean the book up. She'll usually take between 4 to 6 weeks. I also read the book at writer's group and get their critique. (I usually read about the first half, and then maybe the last chapter or two. I write faster than the group meets.)

Meanwhile, I go off and write something else.

When it comes back, I usually accept about 90% of Lara's suggestions, which also require some rewriting. If the book needs some research, I tend to do it then. (Weirdly, I find researching is beneficial to me after I finish the first draft. I know what I need.)

Finally, I sit down to do a rewrite. Depending on the book, I can do anywhere from about 10 pages a day to 30 pages a day. (Every book is different, it seems, in how finished they are.)

So it takes anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to do the rewrite.

What does the rewrite entail?

For me it's two seemingly contradictory things.

1.) Refine the language.
2.) Flesh out the story.

Refining the language, making it more active, cutting unnecessary words, getting to the point quicker, will cut the book a little.

This cutting is more than outweighed by my fleshing out the story. I tend to be focused on getting the story down on the first draft. Not a lot of frills. You might think that's all good, but the pace needs to be varied occasionally, things need to be explained, descriptions can add to the flavor, a little inner dialogue can add depth, themes can be further developed, telling details can be added, and so on.

This fleshing out will usually add about 10 to 20% to the length of the book, depending again on how much work the book needs.

Then I send it off to Lara again for a clean copy-edit.

I've been forced to do this rewriting process for most of the books I've put out. (Oh, how I'd love to just dish out the first draft. So much more fun!) At first, it wasn't really a conscious thing. Just what needed to be done. Now I've sort of wrapped it into my overall process. I know in advance that it is going to happen.

And, there is no denying the books are better for it.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Random writing thoughts.

A book is as long as a book needs to be. "Fairy Punk" crosses the 100K mark and still has a ways to go. I never expected my little story of punk rocker caught up in Fairy shenanigans to take off like this.

My writing is always improved by rewriting. I hate rewriting.

Just piling up the books, writing every day, having fun.

Walking loosens up the creative juices. I only worry that I'm starting to depend on that.

It took me 20 years to get my business right, and even if I hadn't made mistakes, it would have taken me a good 10 years. I can't expect to get the process of writing (and selling) books any faster.

My Word program stops giving me word totals after 100K. Very inconvenient.

I finally put all my stuff on a flash drive so I can edit my Dropbox and not worry about accidentally deleting something important.  Kind of romantic thing--like micro chips for spies when I was a kid. I'm such a Luddite. All my work in this tiny little thing.

Prince. You don't know what you're missing until it's gone.

I haven't posted any of my books on any of my social media for over two months. Kind of a relief, really. Besides...I don't think it does the slightest good. I'm just taking a step back, doing my writing. Besides, I have material out at four different publishers. Can't do much more than that.

Everything is taking longer...except my writing. I recognize this kind of lull from business. You just accept it--it is often a good thing. Like leaving a field fallow to make it more fertile.

I have some great covers to show off when the time comes. Waiting until the books are finished first.

I'm about to plunge back into the "Faerylander" morass. This is still my magnum opus and my problem child at the same time.

I also want to do my firefighting book, "Devil's Forge." I'd hoped at one time to have it done by fire season, but I'll just have to get it ready by the next fire season.

Everything is going pretty well actually. Especially the writing. Knock wood.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

My "ideal" reader.

Reading Stephen King's list of things writers should do.

One of them is to find your "ideal" reader.

Well,  I've got one in Linda.

I read my two newest scenes from Fairy Punk to her last night and her comment was, "That's very good."

That's the kind of thing she'll most often say. (But she'll also point out if I've gone off track.) She and I are just really simpatico in what we like. It's just very encouraging to get that little pat on the head every day.

I've come to rely on it.

I've reached 99 thousand words on Fairy Punk. I have about 5 chapters (out of 40) that still need the "Memoirs of Joseph Tindermaker" headings, that that probably takes me to 100K at this point in the book before rewriting.

I have the entire conclusion yet to write. This book is going to be somewhere between 110 and 120K words, or over 400 pages. That's a big book for me, especially since I wasn't expecting it.

I've just sort of allowed my imagination to really let go this time--just write whatever the fuck I feel like writing. My process has really gotten refined. I've created the conditions for me to write. (Loner that I am...)

Refined it almost too much in that I'm really depending on my 5 mile walk in the Badlands to kickstart my writing every day. For the last two days I tried writing at home and could only eke out a few hundred words. Went out walking and somewhere around the 1 mile mark, the ideas start flowing. This seems to happen just about every time.

I posit what I'm after, or question which things I need, or challenge my subconscious to create answers to problems, and sure enough, they start to trickle in. Just a little snippet of an idea at first, then another one, then another. When they reach so many ideas I'm afraid I'm going to forget them, or when they start to form into concrete words, I have to stop and find a stump to sit on and to write.

Then I come home and read to my "ideal" reader.

A little pat on the head from Linda to savor until the next day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Unexpectedly, writing my "epic" fantasy.

So "Fairy Punk" is more or less turning into an epic fantasy with a modern setting. Not at all what I expected when I first started writing. I'm now wondering if the either the title or the cover are in the best interest of the book. I'm afraid of promising something raucous and aggressive when in fact it is more of a big fantasy story.

I'm also afraid the rather aggressive cover (my idea and fault completely) may turn people away instead of inviting them in. I've tried hard to keep the "punk" element as part of the book, but it's not the most essential part of the book like I thought it would be.

Oh, well. Too late to change either the cover or the title now, really. I tell myself that if I write a good book it will be all right, as long as the reader is satisfied. I may be getting the usual "Surprising Good" reviews from the few people who buy it...

I'm at 96K words and my people have only now reached New York where the climax takes place. My guess is that this will come in at 110K words or more, which will be the largest book I've written. (Faerylander is currently 100K words, and at its peak was 120K words, but I intend to break it up into three stories with some additional writing.)

I'm being very measured in my pacing with Fairy Punk. Not trying to hurry it but also trying to write something every day. The walking in the woods thing is my savior. It seems like I don't have an idea in the world and then about one mile into the walk, the ideas start coming. I usually stop about halfway--at my "writing stump(s)"--and write them all down, then keep stopping every time I've accumulated enough ideas.

I've got a rough idea of the next 8 chapters or so, but I'm also trying to remain flexible.

Almost done though. Don't know what I have.

"I" like it though.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A worthy goal.

My goal is to write a great book.

Please understand that I'm not saying I've written the great book, or even that I'm capable of writing a great book.

I'm saying it's a worthy goal.

Way back when I started, Jared, who pointed out self-publishing through Amazon as a viable option, asked me what my goal was. I don't think I had much of an answer.

Let's just say I had a very strong urge to write. As it turned out I had an amazing amount of creative energy stored up.

I think for a long time I teetered between 1.) making money; having big selling books. Or 2.) just writing for my own amusement.

Then I had a more modest goal of just being published, getting good reviews, and making a little money.

So after 2 years of being published, my goals have finally more or less crystallized. I'm getting a pretty good sense of the lay of the land.

1.) The chances of fame and fortune are slim to none. You have to be involved in writing to know that this isn't just me being pessimistic. It's the reality of hundreds of thousands of books being published. Finishing a book is satisfying, seeing it published is even more satisfying, seeing good reviews is satisfying, and seeing it sell a little is even more satisfying. But all that fades fairly rapidly, and if that was the only motivator, I wouldn't be able to continue.

2.) Writing for my own pleasure is also not quite as fulfilling as I'd like, though--don't get me wrong--I mostly enjoy the whole process. In fact, the wisest way to approach writing is to see it as an ongoing process, not something that you never necessarily reach the end of. But if I was just writing a vacuum with no other purpose than to amuse myself, I think I'd probably find something else to do that wasn't quite so hard.

So here's the real motivation. To write the great book. Just that. It is probably beyond me--way beyond me.

But I'm always trying to get it JUST RIGHT. Each time I start a book, or am in the middle of the book, or even after I finish a book, I'm trying to get all the elements of a great book together.

This is probably a never-ending goal that will never be reached.

So my goal is to write that book where I'm totally satisfied in every way that I've done everything I can. A book that surprises me, that if I stumbled on it in a bookstore I'd be delighted with.

I like to think that I'll know if I ever get there.

I used to think that I couldn't write a book that's deeper, more intelligent, more creative than I am, but I don't think that is quite right. Writing is such a mysterious process that I think in fact I could write a book that is all those things. That there can be a synergy; by inspiration, by happy accident, by constant refining, by hard work, by trial and error, by constant writing and practice, by being in a zone, by some mystical beyond me type of connection, whatever...

I can imagine a great book emerging out of my typing.

It may not be likely, but it is a worthy goal, one that I think is just the tiniest bit possible.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Good to Great book.

I think maybe writing is so important to me because of my age. As I get older, I get fatalistic. I mean, things can go haywire at any moment and I know this.

For some reason writing is way of asserting my existence. Last night I realized that writing is more important than just about anything to me right now except family. I just will do anything to keep on writing my books.

The goal is to just keep trying to write the "good" book.

Each book I write is an attempt to do that. I plan on continuing to try to do that.

Am I saying I haven't written a "good" book? Am I asking people to read "bad" books?

My definition of the "good" book, I guess, is really the "great" book, the one that everyone talks about, that people pass on to others, that people re-read fondly, that remains present and is still talked about long after publication.

I just find it hard to use the terminology of "great" because I think it will jinx me.

I believe I've written entertaining and interesting books that are well written. They're all "good" in that sense. 

I seem to get better in parts, and so every book is a mix of improved and learning and still not great. But if I can assemble all the parts into one book, and I'm on a roll, and it's a great idea--the "good" book is possible.

I'm convinced I have the skill and the talent--but not easily. It's not something that will happen without a great deal of trial and error.

So I'll just keep trying even knowing that the "good" book might not get noticed.

But I think I'll know it when I've achieved it.

So far, I've come close a couple of times. I do believe that with a little "professional" help I could get there more easily, but I don't think that help is ever going to happen, at least until I've already achieved it.

In almost every book there comes the moment when I realize I'm not quite there. Often I'll write a really good scene or chapter and think, "Every scene and chapter should be this good."

With Fairy Punk, I've taken every chapter as a distinct unit. Tried to write something really good, or surprising, or different. Attempting to make each of the parts good in hopes that the whole will be good. At the same time, I loosened up, let myself write longer, more meandering scenes that explicate the characters or background.

It's a combination of the plotting, the characters, the premise, and the writing. All of them are pretty instinctive with me, and I refuse to follow any formula, so it's always going to be hit and miss, I think. If I keep giving myself permission to try new things, let myself go, I think I'll eventually get there.

Each book is a new attempt...

I probably come across as both supremely egotistical and under-confident. I think that's the writer's lot in life.

The one area where I think I can improve is the writing. I can improve that by re-writing. I can do that by taking the time to do it. I just need to sit down after every book and give it another pass through or two, concentrating on the writing itself.

I've mentioned that most people never comment on the "writing" per se. They usually criticize the premise and or the story.  But the premise and the story can only be realized by good writing.

I think that's why I keep getting the "surprisingly good" comments, because the writing is better than they expect considering the premise. Which is why I'm kind of moving to broader subjects, such as epic fantasy, urban fantasy, and so on.

The reception really is pretty much out of my control, I think. There are a whole lot of books out there and no incentive really to read MY books. I'm not sure, actually, that even writing the Great book will overcome that.

But, like I said, I think I'll know it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mainstream is boring.

Small encouragements. I stumbled across a website in Australia where a guy said he downloaded Tuskers by mistake and that it was "surprisingly good" and so on.

It's amazing how often "surprising" and "good" come together with my books. Like the concept itself argues against it being good.

I read somewhere recently that independent books were the new "B" movies. I think whenever a platform is wide open to ideas some wild ideas will be written. I used to think this about comics--that that was where some of the most original, strange stories were being written.

Look, I know what a standard epic fantasy, or urban fantasy, or whatever looks like. I could write something like that fairly easily. But I'd be bored out of my head. I just can't seem to go there anymore, either to read them or to write them.

If I'm going to write a epic fantasy it's going to be set in the modern world with a made-up mythology and feature a punk rock guy as the main character. 

Back when I wrote Sometimes a Dragon, a publisher agreed with me that it was too quirky, and suggested that I look at -- and then he spun off a bunch of names of your standard boring fantasy writers -- and I realized I was probably in trouble.

Giving myself the freedom to write what I want to write has opened the floodgates of my creative energy, but it probably limits what can happen.

But, all great ideas start out as quirky ideas. Otherwise they'd have already been done.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Big Book.

Fairy Punk is going to be a big book. Especially since it started off as a cute idea (punk and fairy.)

It's become a full on epic quest, with lots of ideas and characters and locations. I'm hitting 90K words and the roadtrip still has at least one more chapter to go.

Then the conclusion, which is going to be more than just a few chapters. So I suspect this will be my biggest book, well over 100K. It's also taking me longer, but I'm not awfully worried about that. It will take as long as it takes. I'm dedicating the entire rest of the month to it, which is plenty of time.

I struggled yesterday despite knowing where I wanted the chapter to go. I did my usual walking around the house, and mumbling to myself, and solitaire, and napping, and just sitting thinking. Nothing came.

Went for my walk in the badlands and within half a mile the words started flowing.

I'm actually beginning to worry a little that walking is becoming a necessary crutch to my writing. Because I'm not always going to be able to walk for time or weather reasons, so what does that mean to future writing?

Oh, well. I guess as long as I can walk, it's all good.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Snappy reviews of TV shows.


I'm apparently the only one who really likes Magicians. Yes the main character and his dithering hair bothers me, but the whole things feels different and fresh, despite being about magicians at a school fighting a big bad wizard. I like the Evil Narnia. The last episode felt rushed--so many cool elements that could have been extended, but since just about every show I watch has the opposite problem (extending a limited story too far) that's a mild criticism. Goes into dark places and I like that.


Another show that's getting bad reviews that I think is rather clever. I love that Lucifer always, always tells the truth. Just blurts it out. They don't fudge on that, and that's cool. Lucifer isn't so much evil as a "punisher of evil," which is a distinction that I think works. Fairly clever dialogue, attractive leads, snappy pacing. I'm always entertained.

Wynonna Earp

First episode was fairly interesting, thought it had a kind of Buffy vibe and I'm always up for a Western. The second episode was so awful that I'm dropping it. Hey, writers. You have a major TV show, couldn't you put just the tiniest bit of thought into motivations? (I'm looking at you, Bastard Executioner!)

Walking Dead

Not much to say. I have to overlook all the stupid to appreciate the clever. But always entertaining.

Fear the Walking Dead

Sorry...not enough clever to overlook the monumentally stupid. Hate the characters.

The Good Wife

Beautiful writing, characters, dialogue, interesting plots. A master's class in storytelling. But...scratch beneath the surface and they are all ethically despicable characters including the titular heroes.  Lawyers, bah.


Almost tips over into being too adorkable. I like the light tone. It's a bit "tweens" as my son Todd put it.  The villains are lame.




Nicely dark, some really interesting characters, both heroes and villains. Well done. They have really settled into a groove, I think. The casting is brilliant.  I joked that the romantic leads didn't have any "chemistry" then found out they were married in real life but that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it!

Green Arrow

I can't stand the angst. I'm outta here. (That goes double for Supernatural.)

Agents of Shield

A sloppy mess. Characters and plots all over the place. I still watch it...barely.

Legends of Tomorrow. 



Linda's favorite show. I'd probably watch anyway, for the Portland settings and atmosphere. I like the monster of the week episodes, even if they really have to stretch credibility sometimes. The bigger conspiracy plotlines are silly and inconsistent. Still, it's a minor pleasure, somehow.


This is a show where the main actor is so good that I watch it despite all the romantic stupid. Too bad Nathan Fillon doesn't have better writing to back him up.


Almost a really good show. Clever one moment, not so clever the next. I think it gets a little too melodramatic sometimes when it could really be a great show if they played it straight. Let the subject matter carry the show. (Hey, the writers to The Good Wife are available if you really want some believable melodrama!)


I really should like this show. I want to like this show. I mostly like this show. But the main character is so over the top that he just isn't believable to me. He self-destructs every week and comes back the next week for more. Really too much. He should either be dead, drummed out of the business, or in jail by now. Other than that, I like it.

I obviously watch too much TV.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Every writer needs a Linda.

When I went walking yesterday I had no clear idea what I was going to write for Fairy Punk.

I did have a mood I wanted to evoke though. Sometimes that can be enough.

This amazing thing happens when I walk. I'm going along, not an idea in my head, and then the visualizations and/or words start popping up, one by one. Just out of thin air.

Not sure how that happens. It's a miracle.

So anyway, the ideas started flowing. Up to now, in each of the quest chapters I've tried to find an interesting location, look for the Fairy creatures I can use, both good and bad, and have a big scene. This time I couldn't think of a good Fairy to save them, then decided that was a good thing--let the characters save themselves for once.

So I wrote the chapter and it kept going and I realized I had two chapters. The second chapter went in an unexpected direction (always a good thing) and also brought back an earlier character I'd been neglecting, tying the beginning and the end together (always a good thing.)

I haven't written this chapter yet, but I've got it worked out. It's nice.

I read the chapter I wrote to Linda last night and she said, "You are really getting good. You're just getting better and better at creating evocative scenes. I can really see it and feel it."

Every writer needs a Linda.

Anyway, it's encouraging to get a burst of inspiration this late in the book. I still have one more quest chapter before I get my Fellowship to New York. I'll be a good 90K words by then, with the concluding chapters yet to write, so this is going to be a bigger than normal book for me.

Also taking longer--probably a month longer than usual, but it's not as if I'm falling behind.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Good writing, backward.

I read some of Deep Sea Rising at writer's group last night.

I had written a couple of chapters overlapping from two different character's viewpoints.

Realized as I was reading it that I had two chapter 6's numbered.

But worse, if I needed to switch the order, and then cut the second viewpoint after a certain part. Not a hard fix, but necessary.

On the third chapter, I had a flashback within a flashback, which also didn't work, because it wasn't clear.

Again, not hard to fix, but a necessary rewrite.

Thing is, I sent this manuscript off to a couple of publishers thinking it was ready--and obviously it's not, completely.

Oh, well. If I get it back because of that bone-headed, impatient move, I'll half deserve. I still think it is my best book overall, the writing is really quite good, the story and premise are intriguing. I would think there is enough there to catch a publisher's interest despite my missteps.

The manuscript is with Lara, my editor, so I'll fix it up and get it ready to send elsewhere if it comes back.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Make Linda cry.

I read the three chapters of Fairy Punk to Linda that I wrote while she was in Portland.

She teared up on the first chapter, which is the response I hoped for. Then she really seemed to like the second chapter, which was the one I really had trouble writing--which reinforces my notion that struggling doesn't make the writing worse. And the third chapter passed muster.

This thing is turning into an epic. I've hit 82K words and I'm not even at what I would term the concluding chapters. Originally, I thought it was going to be a short pithy quirky novel in the vein of I Live Among You, but the more world-building I did, the more it became a quest story and all that brought with it. Don't know how long it will be and I'm trying not to hurry it. It's very expansive, both in the numbers of characters and settings as well as in the overall length.

I'm still enjoying it. My goal is to bring something surprising to each chapter.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The antidote to doubt is to write.

I keep saying this but it keeps being true.

The antidote to doubt is to write.

There is nothing like the fortuitous phrase, the unexpected character turn, the sudden insight into theme, the surprising plot turn, the cool description of a neat place, and so on and so on.

It validates everything. At least in that moment. While you write.

So keep on writing.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Grinding it out.

Would you think less of my writing if I tell you that sometimes I have to grind it out?

The last few chapters of Fairy Punk haven't come easy. I spent all yesterday doing a paragraph here, a paragraph there, finally getting the 2000 word chapter I was aiming for.

I read somewhere an established author who maintained that chapters that you grind out can be just as good as chapters that come in an inspired rush. That when you come back to the chapter later the qualitative difference is minimal, because your baseline writing is what it is--that is, your skill doesn't diminish just because it comes from work instead of inspiration.

I think I agree with that, more or less. I have found that chapters I grind out can be as good or better, or sometimes worse, or...but it isn't because I did or didn't have a rush of inspiration. It may not be as easy or fun, but they don't read any worse.

It makes rewriting a little more necessary, but that's going to happen anyway.

I'm up to 80K words, with the ending in sight. At least one more "travel" chapter before the fellowship arrives in New York, and then the end action scenes to get Iggy to the island, and then the climax.

So very close.

If I have to grind it out, so be it.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Just make shit up.

So I didn't realize it until late in the writing, but Fairy Punk is more or less a good practice for completing my Faerylander saga.

Well, saying "practice" might be discounting the importance of Fairy Punk, which is probably a better book in some ways. But it points the way.

I mentioned in my blog that I gave myself permission to be "silly."

What I mean by that, is that I let my imagination just make shit up. In both storylines, I've made up a fairly elaborate "Fairy" (or "Faery") world. In Fairy Punk I used traditional classical mythological creatures but I put my own spin on them. In Faerylander, I made up most of the creatures out of whole cloth. But in both cases I allowed myself the permission to be wild and crazy.

The mistake I made with Faerylander was that I tried to rein that in. I grounded it more. I turned it closer to horror than to fantasy. Dark Fantasy is probably the sweet spot.

I'm not jettisoning these darker chapters, but if I split Faerylander into 3 books, the horror elements won't really take front and center until the middle or third book.

I also think that I'm going to make the Cobb chapters 1st person, and all the rest 3rd person, just as I made Iggy 1st person in Fairy Punk and all the other characters 3rd person.

There is one author I know who does this consistently. James Lee Burke, the mystery writer. It doesn't bother me when I read those books, so I'm hoping I can pull it off too.

I think Faerylander can be completed if I give myself permission to go wild.

Just make shit up.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Time to wrap up Fairy Punk.

I purposely tried not to think about the ending of "Fairy Punk," trusting in my subconscious. I mean, I had a very vague idea, but I refused to look at it closer. I wanted to spin out the story for as long as if felt appropriate.

But a couple of days ago, I again seemed to be blocked for inspiration, which has been a problem now for a couple of weeks. I've managed to work my way through the blocks, but it continued to be a problem.

So at the beginning of my walk, it struck me that it was time to end this book. I'm at 75K words now, I figure it will be at least another 15K words to finish, if not more.

The minute I had that thought, lots of little details and additions to the manuscript came to me. I've spent the last couple of days filling in scenes that will help bring the book around to completion. Very gratifying. I'm always amazed that little random details I come up become important later on.

I still have a couple of more road trip chapters in mind, one more or less fleshed out, the other more vague.

But I've also pretty much worked out the rest of the book. Once I gave myself permission, it all just kind of came together. I think it will work.

This book by far has the most characters and settings and the most involved backstory of anything I've written since Faerylander. (A book that tied me in knots.) In fact, it's a bit of model for what I need to do to finish my Lander series. Mostly in the notion that I should allow myself the freedom to be a little silly and just do it.

I just spun out ideas like crazy for this book, more or less at random. I don't know if it works, but I like it, so operating on the assumption that if I like it others will like it, I'm going to complete it and put it out.

Then...I may turn to Faerylander again. If not right away, I've definitely got more of a handle on what I need to do.

I feel like I'm progressing.

Or maybe I'm just giving myself more and more permission to write the way I want to write.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Classics vs hot new thing.

For the first half of Pegasus Books' existence, I was completely dependent on the "hot new thing." Though, I never quite knew what the hot new thing was going to be until it revealed itself -- or after it became hot and I couldn't get it anymore.

So I played the game of trying to guess what the hot new thing would be, but it proved to be nearly impossible. It was hot because it was unexpected, most often.

The first comic I ever didn't order from the catalogue one some stupid title called "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

During the same years I was riding the tiger of fads. Sports cards, non-sports cards, Magic the Gathering, black and white comics (see above TMNT's), comics (variants and flashy covers and Death's of...), beanie babies, pogs, Pokemon, and so on.

I count a good 7 of 8 fads in the first 15 years.

And then...none. I mean, there was still hot versus cold product, but the wildly exploding product lines--the kind you spend all your profits on just to keep up with--those slowly faded away.

I still find that somewhat amazing. The Past is not Prologue when it comes to retail.

Anyway, during those early years, the store's dynamic was to get new stuff in every week and hope it sold, then let it sell out and move on the the next and the next. Back issue comics and some sports card star cards helped out in the first few years, but both began to fade--first into only the "hottest" comics and stars, and then even those stopped selling, more or less. It was a constant, stressful tightrope.

Luckily, about the time all this guesswork simply became unworkable, graphic novels were introduced, and then games and toys and books became available to me. (I simply couldn't get any of those for years--not enough volume to establish accounts with book and toy and game distributors, nor would they answer my calls.) The fads funded my move into diversification, and faded just about the time I was done.

I didn't really make the strong move into boardgames and new books until just before the Great Recession, but it started paying off immediately, so I continued doing it even when business is slow. Looking back on it, it's a good thing I took the gamble, because without the new product lines we'd be hurting. (I held off on new books for years because of the Book Barn, because I didn't to hurt them but when it went out, I dived in.)

So yesterday, I was looking at the books and graphic novels and games I'd sold over the last month, and the same titles popped up that have popped up almost every month and I realized that we were finally off the roller coaster of the "hot new thing."

We have a world of "classics" we can order, especially graphic novels and games and books. As long as we keep a good selection of those in stock, we are almost guaranteed sales.

So the store is now about 1/3rd new stuff (weekly comics and graphic novels and games), 1/3 classics and 1/3 discounted and or quirky stuff.

It seems to be a viable mix, arrived at organically. Much of it wasn't possible until it was possible--that is, I tried during those first 15 years to diversify, but found it difficult. No viable book distributors or game distributors, graphic novels didn't really exist, toys were mass market almost exclusively and weren't offered to the likes of us. 

There was a moment, about 1996, when what I was selling wasn't selling enough--and I couldn't get anything else. That was probably the most alarming period in our store.

Now...I have so much good stuff to pick from, I can't really get it all. As long as the classics exist at higher levels than the store actually needs to thrive, we're in good shape.

It feels nice, especially since the particular mix of stuff I have is unlikely to be duplicated by anyone else. I get competition in one area of the store or another, but it seems to be okay. We still get enough business from regulars and tourists to do all right.

If I get a Princess Bride book in, it will sell.

If I get Settlers of Catan game in, it will sell.

If I get the Watchmen graphic novel in, it will sell.

My job is to just keep ordering them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Not checking reviews or sales.

I've now gone a full month without checking reviews or sales.

I had no idea that I was so preoccupied with them, that just checking was taking up so much psychic space.  I feel much freer. I get the urge once in a while, but then quickly forget it.

When the books were newer, each within the first six months or so of release, it was motivating to check, because they actually did better than I expected. But books tend to fall off the table around the 4th or 5th month and it was starting to become demotivating.

I don't think I managed the release of  "The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders" very well. I may have chosen the wrong title and cover, hard to say. I couldn't figure out how to have it listed under more than one category (I should have been able to get two at a minimum) and I just don't think I have a handle on how to optimize the Amazon search engine.

Or maybe, self-publishing just isn't going to result in sales for me. I'm unwilling to do much in the way of self-promotion.

I'm not worrying about it, but the next book I put up, I will definitely try to do better.

Anyway, not checking has refocused my attention on where it should be--the actual writing.

The one thing I didn't foresee was that the more time I let pass without checking, the more the results would accumulate, so I suspect if I check now, it will have that much more impact.

So the only real option, in a way, is to never check at all.

I wonder if I have the willpower for that.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Tesla and nerd culture.

So I wrote a chapter about Tesla in Fairy Punk.

I make the point that everyone is still saying that Tesla was a forgotten genius when he's probably better known today than ever. I mean, he's on that really neat cusp of where people know who he is and feel like they are in the "know" of who he is.

Years ago, I'd wear my Green Lantern symbol t-shirt and people would congratulate themselves as knowing what it was. Or the best current example of an "in-the-know" nerd thing is Cthulhu. People in nerd culture are totally aware but the rest of world still seems clueless.

That's the sweet spot. Popularity without being popular enough for Walmart to pay attention. For instance, for several years that was the boardgame Settlers of Catan. It's being sold at Target nowadays and B & N, so it has sort of tipped over a little.

I guess another word for this is "Cult." People in the know are happy to be in the know until the Cult thing is appropriated by the public.

I'm going to say something shocking: Star Wars was a flop. A big fat flop. For my store. Sitting on piles of toys that no one is interested, my autopsy was this: Star Wars is no longer a thing you go to Pegasus Books for, anymore than you'd go to a specialty bread store for white bread.

It's so ubiquitous that it no longer has any kind of Cult flavor. (It's only surprising that it kept it's Cult flavor for so long...)

I'm probably past the age where I'm really picking up the Cult nature of things. I've forgone certain areas where I really should have stayed current with -- video games, Magic the Gathering, and so on.

Then again, I'm so eccentric in my interests--and my interests are my interests--that much of what I'm interested in becomes Cult without any push from me.

It's very strange to feel so mainstream knowing the same things I knew when I was so far out on the fringe.

I haven't moved so much as Mass Culture has moved toward me.

Can a thing be "Cult" when it is also "Mass Culture?"

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Placeholder chapter.

I'm still struggling with "Fairy Punk."

I'm 70K words into it, so it's not like I'm going to quit now. Yesterday I wrote what I'm going to call a "placeholder" chapter. I try not to do that too much. It's an easy crutch, and just means I have to go back and really work harder on it.

I read it to Linda, and she seemed to think it was all right. She's having trouble with the multitude of characters, which is a problem that can't be resolved easily. In fact, it's an intrinsic part of the book. If it isn't working, it's because I'm not writing it well.

Anyway, yesterday's chapter was more or less 'The White Council' chapter, where the good guys get together and discuss plans. (I even make a joke about Tolkien, which I'll probably take out.) I love the setting, which is in an extant Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls. (The real cave collapsed in 1954.)

In fact, I've loved all the setting to these chapters. Really, that's my starting point. I try to pick an interesting location with an interesting history and then have the scenes play out there. So I'm very satisfied with that part.

But what comes obvious when you have a bunch of characters talking about their motivations is if you haven't really nailed down the motivations. For instance, Iggy's journey should be more or less a secret (like the Fellowship). Otherwise, I have the lame motivation of the Big Bad saying, "I'll just watch them and see what happens.") That's probably the best (worst?) example, but there are a bunch of others.

It doesn't help that they have this big meeting but nothing is really resolved. No real decisions made.

Oh, well. Like I said, a placeholder chapter so I can move on. I needed to check in with that group of characters.  I've got to find a way to firm up the motivations, make them believable.

I'm sure I can do it, if I think about it long enough.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A flexible middle.

It's strange how different the experience of writing is for each book. You'd think after all the books I've written that it would happen a certain way. That is somewhat true, at least for my work process, but the books themselves seem to roll out differently every time.

"Fairy Punk" is another new experience. By now--65K words in--I usually have an endpoint in mind; how and when the book climaxes. Hell, half the time the book is finished by the time I've reached this word count.

With this book, I don't really have a clear idea where it is going to end.

The reason, I think, is because it is a road trip, a quest. As a result, the story is somewhat episodic. Something happens in one place, and then something else happens in another place. From Oregon to New York I can put as many adventures for my intrepid Iggy and friends as I want to. I mean, there needs to be a limit, but it is definitely flexible.

I'm planning on about 6 to 8 of these adventure chapters, but it could be more depending on how it goes.

What I've done is mapped out each day's travels and then looked for weird places and things along the way that serve the story, and so far, that has been amazingly easy. In fact, I have so many weird options I have to make a choice. America is a big and fascinatingly weird place.

So this flexible middle, where I approach each day and just write an adventure chapter, and then the next, is a new thing.

Funny thing is, I've also constructed a flexible ending. They get to Joseph Tindermaker's workshop, and there are levels and levels going down, and each level can also be an adventure, and how many levels I choose to use will depend on instinct and imagination.

It's fun to do it this way, but a little scary. It's writing without a net. I have a certain amount of faith in my creative energy now that I think I can pull it off.

I just have to take it one day at a time.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Connector thread.

I have two storylines going in Fairy Punk. There is the main storyline, which is basically a quest story where the "fellowship" is making their way east, and then there is the storyline on the east coast, foes and friends, waiting for them to arrive.

I reached a point in the story where I need to sew the two threads together. I need a connector thread.

The east coast storyline isn't as dynamic, so it needs to be pulled deeper into the story while the quest is still going on.

I'm enjoying the quest part. It has a kind of American Gods vibe in the sense that I'm looking for unusual locations and characters for the fellowship to meet along the way. The USA is full of interesting places, so that isn't all that hard. More a matter of choosing which weird to use.

So I've given my subconscious instructions, and I'll mull it over most of the day probably, and if I'm lucky, by the time I go for my walk, something will be rising to the surface.