Saturday, August 19, 2017

Just write the damn thing.

I've been hovering over the next chapter for about 3 days now, trying to find a strong entry point, trying to figure out which character's POV has the strongest voice, and just wanting it to be great.

Wanting something to be great is a the surest way to block yourself. 

I wrote a chapter that happens later in the meantime, just to make some progress.

Went on my walk last evening along the canal (I tend to alternate between day walks where I actually write and twilight walks where I just think) and asked myself, "If I were to write this chapter right now, how would it come out?"

Then proceeded to write the chapter in my head and think, 'Hmm, that's pretty good, actually."

So today I''m going to write it for real.

Rapidly approaching the end of the book. It's funny, but in the old days I couldn't wait to wrap up a storyline: nowadays I always have this final hesitation, an unwillingness to really get to the end. Not sure why. But I'm pretty sure the delay is beneficial, mostly.

Waiting for inspiration at this point is hard. The story has more or less been written in my head. The initial excitement has dissipated. The discovery isn't there, except in the execution.

For the last three days I've been waiting for inspiration. The dilemma is, the longer I wait for inspiration, the farther I am from the last time I wrote and the harder it gets. A kind of Catch-22.

So I'm pushing forward, trusting that the story and the characters are strong enough to finish this book.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Snaked: Deep Sea Rising" available on pre-order.

It's coming out September 28.

Warning: Word Count. Process post.

This is one of my lovely process posts that I like so much and which must bore the hell out of everyone else.

I got to 66K words yesterday, with the ending still quite a ways away. I'd originally thought the first draft would be about 60K words, or if I was lucky, 65 or 70K. Now it's pretty clear I'm easily going to pass 75K.  Just goes to show that I shouldn't worry about length.

It will happen. Second drafts are usually between 10 and 15% longer, as I add needed development, description, continuity transitions, and telling details. When the whole apoc-eclipse is over, I'm driving over to the Fossil Beds to get some first-hand description in place, do a bit more research to see what I can fit into the story for verisimilitude.

I managed to get a chapter written yesterday, despite a family get-together later in the evening. I wrote a chapter out of sequence, because I wasn't quite ready to write the very important next chapter.

I suspect that I'm going to lose Sunday and Monday completely, as family is coming to our house in Redmond to see the eclipse. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to write Friday and Saturday as usual.

I was getting a little worried at the mild tone in the last few chapters. Many of the radical characters have been removed from the scene, and the newer even more radical characters aren't point of view characters.

Talking it over with Linda I said, "Wouldn't it be great if I could have XXX come in and be all crazy and stuff." And then immediately figured out how I could do that. That's the chapter I wrote on my walk and it was very satisfying.

Meanwhile, I changed the emotional tone of one of the "mild" chapters, so it seemed to carry a bit more punch.

Here's the problem. I've got a cast of characters, each of whom I've given multiple chapters. As I come up on the resolution of their individual story arcs, the temptation is to give each of them their due, but I can't afford to give them each a full chapters. So either I leave their endings implied or unresolved or I give them a partial chapter.

Which means head hopping in each chapter, probably among two or three characters. (Most often, a character gets an entire scene to him or herself.)

Since most of what's left are action scenes, head hopping is a bit more acceptable, I think. If I've done my job, I've established their characters, so now I can just show them in action. Action sequences are more staccato anyway, to be effective, even down to shorter sentences and paragraphs. So head hopping will probably work if I don' overdo it.

I'm still really happy with this book. I think it hangs together believably. The motivations all make sense. The plot is exciting.

At least, I think it's exciting. Had a reader tell me it needed more "edge" which made me feel insecure about the first half of the book. There is no real "action" per se for much of the book, though I hope there is enough tension and suspense. I see no way to write a "realistic" novel, which was my main goal, if I'm having gunfights from the beginning (or anything else radical.) To make this book work, there has to be a build. I do have several murders along the way, about halfway through. But...

Well, if it turns out it doesn't work because I don't have that kind of action, so be it.

My third attempt at a thriller will be a flat out effort to do a Lee Child, John Sandford kind of story. I think. Unless it bores me too much.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sea Monster Trilogy from Cohesion Press

"Snaked" comes on the heels of two other sea monster books by Cohesion Press, so I'm appropriating their success, jumping their bandwagon. Both "Fathomless" and "Primordial" have done very well.

And they all have beautiful blue covers!

"Snaked: Deep Sea Rising" is due out on Sept. 28, and it looks like Cohesion Press is nicely behind it. It's my idea to think of it as a thematic trilogy, I hope they don't mind.

What fun!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wondering if my book is too politically polarizing. Damn.

"Takeover" will be my best book, without a doubt. The "good" book I've been striving for. As I say, this is my own estimation and may not be matched by others opinions, but it doesn't matter.

I think it's good.

However, I think it's probably a problem book not because of the quality of its story or writing, but because of the content.

There is no way to write about what I'm writing about without polarizing one political side or the other. In fact, I sort of have the dreaded feeling that I'll probably polarize both sides!

But I knew that going in. It was what attracted me to the story in the first place. There is some meat on those bones, some real world meaning. So I went ahead and expended my best efforts on something that may in the end be unpublishable.

As I say, it doesn't matter. I've succeeded in doing what I set out to do.

No missteps so far.

I've never gotten this far into a book without feeling like I've made missteps--missteps that couldn't be fixed. Fundamental errors that couldn't be removed without destroying the story. Usually, I have to try to ameliorate these missteps, make them manageable.

There are probably too many POV characters in "Takeover," then again, that is a feature of the book. It might take a little paying attention on the part of the reader, but I don't think it's too much to ask. 

I've held off thinking about the ending, not wanting to shape the book in a direction that the characters didn't lead it.

Finally, yesterday, the ending started leaking through my mental blockade, but that's probably all right since I'm almost to the point where I was planning to allow it anyway.

I want to be sure to do this right, but I think that the ending I've come up with is realistic as well as dramatic.

In other words, no missteps to the end of the book. I'm very excited.

Sorry about that.

I've been blogging just about every day for 12 years. Mostly because I figured no one was paying attention anyway. I could write boring process posts about writing. Or be vague about my plots. Or simply comment on the weather. Nothing spectacular, not exactly literary. A personal diary, if you will.

I decided recently to up my social media presence a little. Went from 350 FB friends to 850. Went from 300 Twitter followers to 450. I'm going to pause at 1000 friends and 500 followers. Maybe if I have a hit, it will be easier to get more people to follow me. Otherwise, it's mostly in the horror community, which is a comfortable place to be. But it's tiny numbers in the scheme of things.

It's harder to get people to follow you on Twitter, but I figure if they don't follow me after I follow them, then we don't need to continue. I'm not interested actually in following famous people, who most of them probably spend less introspective time than I do.

My Facebook feed is clogged today with political stuff. I'm pretty good at scrolling through these fast, since they pretty much all say the same thing. My decision not to vent politics on social media is confirmed.

The point of this post is a defiance to the sudden pressure I feel to write something deep, or important, or inspiring, or entertaining, or consequential.

I'm going to write as I've always written. About the real stuff of life. No memes or tropes, no pandering to clicks. Just this. My boring life of walking in the woods, reading and writing, watching TV, going to the occasional movie, talking to Linda and a few friends and family, and working at my bookstore once in a while.

Sorry about that.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A day in the bookstore.

Working the counter at Pegasus Books is exhausting. I don't know why. It's not really that hard on the outside.

People? It was really fun to mix it with people yesterday after my solitary endeavors.

Anyway, I come home and immediately need a nap just to decompress.

New books are selling really well. I think we'll have a record month. I'm preparing to remove used books this fall and make room for more outward display of graphic novels, moving the art books over to the comic half of the store, and opening up room to carry more new books.

Despite tales of troubles in the comic world, they seem to be holding their own in our store.

Surprisingly, new books outsell used book about 5 to 1. Who knew? After all the horror stories about how hard books were to sell, it turns out to be relatively easy compared to say, comics. Order good books and they sell. Heh.

Of course, I have the luxury of not depending on them to pay all the bills, but still. 

It wasn't as busy as I feared (hoped) after what Cameron said about the day before. I kept asking people if they were there for the eclipse and none of them were. Too early. Just a busy summer, I guess.

Sold a "Vampire Evolution Trilogy" set and a "Led to the Slaughter." Wow. I seem to be able to sell at least one or two books of mine every time I work. So I could sell hundreds a year (Making 50% on them!) if I wasn't writing them in the first place. A real Catch 22, that.

It's still amazing to me that I worked the store 90% of the time for decades, and 100% of the time for many of those years.

But it also seems pretty damn obvious why I didn't write. I'm drained.

Meanwhile, I keep coming across articles in the paper that confirm some fictional element of a story I've written. The latest is that sea snakes slough off toxic chemicals in their skins from pollution!. (Wish I'd thought of the pollution angle...)

Amazing how often that happens. Inexplicable, really. Extrapolation is a powerful technique.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Go away, ending. I'm not ready.

First this happens, then that, then this, then that.

It's logical, event following event. Consequences and all that.

But life doesn't work that way.

The best example is, we've all had the experience of a practice dialogue in our minds, exactly what we were going to say to another person, and imagining that person's response, and then our response to their response. All very logical and orderly.

So how did that work out?

In fiction, you have the luxury of doing exactly what you imagine. But if you do, then you become way too predictable, too easy a solution, too pat an answer.

I learned a trick a long time ago. In dialogue it is sometimes good to throw in a non-sequitur on purpose. Usually, I come up with two pieces of a conversation and instead of transitioning them, I simply put them together. Amazing how often that works.

Just as in, when writing scenes the temptation is to over-transition. Spend time trying to logically connect the dots. Sometimes, though, you should just let the reader make the jump with you. You can trust them, most of the time.

When editing, people see these gaps, these illogical things, and they naturally point them out. You have to be careful not to smooth everything out. Not everything needs to be perfect. If the story goes sideways on you, most of the time that's good.

Especially endings.

So I'm coming up on the ending of "Takeover." Hit 55K words yesterday, and the plot as I've figured it out will probably take me to between 60 and 65K words.

Then the ending. Which I haven't thought through. In fact, I haven't thought about it at all. Oh, I can catch glimpses of the logical conclusion, the pat answer, and I'm trying hard not to let that climax form into solid words.

I want to let the subconscious come up with something unusual, something I don't expect, therefore the reader won't expect.

Often these type of ideas come in the state between awake and nodding off. Little wisps floating by and one will kind of materialize for a moment and say, "how about me?" and then drift on by. Some of my best ideas come this way, and I think it's because they aren't logical--like dreams--they may even have nothing to do with the story at hand, but my mind seizes on them, that little wisp, and says, "how could this work? what does this mean?"

So I'm actively fighting even thinking about the ending except in these very general terms. "Go away!" I cry whenever a thought passes through. As long as I don't glom onto them, it's still cool. The minute I let them crystallize, I'm doomed. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Eclipse, time-travelers, and aliens.

Time travelers and aliens and the Eclipse.

I'm reading "Transitions," by Iain Banks, one of my favorite writers. He makes the case that the best time to seek out time travelers or aliens is during an eclipse.

The exact fit of the moon into the sun, he asserts, is a mystery and a wonder and probably unique in the universe.

I mean, what are the odds? They'll be coming from everywhere and everywhen just to catch a glimpse. And lots of them will be awkward, you know. Tourists, after all. Catch them out while you can.

I don't know about the science of that, but it's a funny idea.

So not only will I be wearing approved Eclipse glasses, I probably need to put on some 3D glasses over them just in case any aliens are around. Maybe a little tin foil to catch their reflections out of the corner of my eyes.

That will work, won't it?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stop reading bestsellers!

If I really had the courage of my convictions, I'd quit reading bestsellers. I'd seek out books I'd never heard of but which sound interesting.

I recently read "Ready Player One" and while it was very enjoyable I had the same reaction I often have; does this book deserve to suck up all the oxygen in the room? Reading bestsellers is hit or miss, sometimes good but not special, sometimes just ok, sometimes pretty bad.

So if it's going to be hit or miss anyway, why not take chances on other books? Look at the subject matter and the style and try something out that is unexpected.

I already stay away from bandwagons when I perceive them as such. Sometimes, I find an author I really like who then becomes a bestseller, George R.R. Martin for instance. I'd read every book he'd ever written before Game of Thrones, which I almost passed on because I as burned out on fantasy, but Linda read it and loved it so...

What becomes obvious from both the buying and selling aspect is the publishing world is focused on the big book. They want bestsellers or nothing at all.

Every reader ought to have the experience of buying from book liquidators. They're available to the general public, but I don't know if many people use them except stores. Anyway, when you see book after book after book that is trying to be Twilight, or Lee Child, or Gone Girl, it gets a little nauseating. I know from personal experience that in many of these cases the author isn't at fault: the publisher is probably positioning a book that is close in subject and trying to wedge it in. Though, sometimes a few years after a big bestseller, there is an avalanche of copies which can be blamed on the authors, poor saps. What pride do they have?

Classics are a little different. They've passed the test of time.

As a science fiction reader, I can point to a couple of dozen authors who are good, sometimes great, and yet have never gotten their due. I recommend them and the customers often look at me blankly and say, "Do you have the newest..." whatever YA is the flavor this year.

Sadly, some of these bestselling authors just start phoning it in. Whatever made them interesting is gone. Trapped by their successful formula; but formula it is.

I'm trapped somewhat as a store owner, but I don't have to be trapped as a reader.

Leaving the ending for last.

I've hit 50,000 words on "Takeover," which is the number where I think a book is irreversible and inevitable. Hard to see what could stop it now. Knock wood.

I've got it mapped out another 5 to 10K words, then...well, I've purposely avoided thinking about the ending. I want it to be fresh, like a new start. I've prepared the story, the characters, the plot, and all that is required is resolution.

Of course, the ending is supremely important, after all it's what people will remember most when they finish reading.

This is total trust in my subconscious.

The reason I'm holding off is that once I've figured out plot, it loses some of it's freshness to me. Once I know what happens it's a little like coloring between the lines. It's almost preordained. There are always little surprises, but it's hard to completely change a plot once I've come up with one.

So...I have the book plotted up to 55K words. The last 15 or 20K words will probably be mostly action, which is relatively easy to write. (As always, when I say "easy" I don't mean easy to be good. If that makes any sense.) The final 10 or 15K words will come in the rewrite as I fill in the book with adequate description, telling detail, and clarifications.

But I want to leave the ending blank until I'm ready. By then, I'm hoping my subconscious will be excited to deliver. I intend to research the endings of all the various takeovers--Ruby Ridge, Waco, Bundy ranch, and Malheur and figure out a killer ending.

Going into Bend to garden the house there, which is a mess. We probably set the house price too high, trusting that people would see the good bones, but that was probably silly of us. I'm stubborn though. I'm pretty sure houses in Bend will continue to go up, even if we don't rent the place it might break even.

Lawn care is ridiculously expensive. I used to do that for a living, and the current prices make no sense to me. I just can't stand it.  I know that mowing takes 40 minutes, tops. I can probably weed the entire place in a couple of days, 3 or 4 hours per session.

Or I can pay someone like $500 for it, whenever they happen to feel like showing up. I mean, these guys appear to be getting between $50 and $75 bucks an hour, and yes I know they have the equipment, but that should make it all that much easier.

I'll just skip my long walk over the next two days and weed instead.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Drinking while writing.

I've all but stopped drinking. It's not that I have a problem, it's just that I'm married to a woman who's had two drinks in her life. I watched her struggle to drink half a wine cooler once. Also, it has a physical impact on me that isn't cost effective.

Besides, I just fall to sleep.

So mostly, since I'm not terribly social, the only time I might drink anything is when I'm with my family and they're having wine at dinner.

35 five years ago, I drank beer and wine all the time, especially while writing. I found it a big help. It seemed to loosen me up, let my imagination run wild. Sometimes I'd sit at the desk with a few beers and lose myself for hours in the fictional dream. Writing and drinking just went together.

This time around, I was hoping for the same booster effect, but it doesn't seem to be there. Whatever insights or loosening I glean I'm already getting. I've learned to access the same fictional dream without the artificial support. This isn't by any means a holier than thou thing. I really wish I could drink and get that same effect. It would make things easier.

I do feel that drinking can sometimes give me some insights and clarity, cut through the confusion. In vino veritas and all that.

Anyway, Linda is off to camp for a week, so I sat on the back patio and drank some wine last night.

Woke up this morning with these four lines written on my notes:

1.) "Do a Kristen Chapter, with her response."

2.) "Bring in the Feds POV? Think about it."

3.) "Need more description: Do a trip to John Day."

4.) "Research, research, research."

Like I said, I'm pretty sure I would have come to these conclusions already. In fact, I really already had, only they felt so much more important last night.

I really don't like to do research. When I got my bachelors degree I was really burned out on higher education. I swore I'd never go back to college. I read like crazy, as much as anyone, and I read all kinds of books, but I stopped reading "How To" books. Not saying this is a good thing, (though books about writing are so contradictory and idiosyncratic that they can lead you astray, I believe. Besides, I read every book about writing there was in the library at the time.)

This time around I'm trying to be true to myself, find my own way, take advice and criticism whenever offered, but follow my instincts. Because I read so much, I still pick up pointers all the time, I just don't seek them out anymore. Again, probably stupid on my part, but whatever gets me writing is what I need to do.

But...I'm very good at assimilating real information into my stories. I forced myself to research for "Takeover," and now that I'm about 60% of the way through, I've used every bit of that research in my book and it has enhanced it no end.

The idea that I need to do further research is probably the most important of the above insights. So back to the drawing board. Read some long form articles on Bundy Ranch and Malheur, and probably Ruby Ridge and Waco as well.

Not looking forward to the work, but looking forward to the results.

As far as the drinking is concerned. Linda is gone for a week, so I'll probably have another little drinking session. I woke up this morning between the blankets over the sheets, still wearing my watch and ring. I'm out of practice. I didn't walk into any doors, tho.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ready Player One

Have I ever mentioned I managed an arcade for six months?

When Pegasus Books was still on Greenwood Ave., and I was still working part time for Mike Richardson, and I was still trying to be a writer, the landlord opened an arcade next door and put me in charge.

Owning a comics store for 35 years, running an arcade, having books published: makes me sound far cooler (or nerdier) than I really am. But it was great that I was courting Linda at the time, and her two boys, Todd (12 years old) and Toby (11 years old.) Looked like a hero to them. 

The job really amounted to not much more than counting quarters at the end of the day, counting games played. Learned that most new machines earned a lot of money until about 2/3rds the cost of the machine and slowed radically after after that.

A few games were evergreen: Galaga for instance.

I was given free play, and I concentrated on two games. Asteroids and Galaga. I couldn't play any of the other games worth a damn, but I became the best Asteroids and Galaga player I ever saw. It frustrated the hell out of me that I had the 2nd highest score on Galaga and some guy had a score that was impossibly high above me. Couldn't figure out how that was even possible.

With Asteroids I just accumulated so many ships I'd just have to walk away. Hours worth of ships. That's a pattern for me: be persistent on a few things until I master it. Otherwise I'm lazy as hell.

A little story: before this, I'd stopped in a 7/11 one day and watched this guy play Asteroids. I'd never played games before, probably plunked a quarter in Pac Man and lost it in seconds, NAh,  Nah, Nah....

The guy hung around and he mocked me on my playing. Mocked me!

Couldn't have done a better job of encouraging me. So I got good, really really really good. I'd get in a zone and just couldn't be killed. Heh.

So one day I'm in a 7/11 showing off and the mocker comes in and watches me for a while and walks away shaking his head and muttering to himself. Most satisfying thing that's probably ever happened in my life, I tell you. JUSTICE! You know, that never happens.

Bought the store soon after, and became very conversant with pop culture, and stayed that way for far longer than most people at my increasing age. Kept me young. (Interestingly, I didn't try to follow video games because I was already trying to learn everything there was to know about comics, books, games, cards, and toys. I figured I had to let something go or my head would explode.)

So "Ready Player One" is right up my alley. I got all the references--as I'm sure most of your did--so it is very satisfying that way. Of course, there is not enough time in a lifetime to know all the protagonist and his friends were supposed to know, but the book was a lot of fun to read. I didn't realize it was a young adult novel; that caught me by surprise.

Spielberg has a movie coming out in March of next year, and that could be huge.

As usual with one of these culturally conquering books, I feel like it's a pretty good book, but I don't understand why it's THE book. I mean, there are so many good books that are ignored, and then one comes along and seems to glom onto the entire market. I mean, good for them, but it seems all out of proportion.

I've stocked up on the book at the store. I have a feeling it's about to be Hunger Games sized.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

My WIP, "Takeover," is such rich material that I:

1.) Am certain someone has or soon will write a similar book.

2.) It is probably beyond my ability to give it full justice. At the same time, it is probably the best writing I've done.

As always, this is my book and my idea and it really doesn't matter if someone is doing it or doing it better. I always say, you could give the same idea to a hundred writers and they'd all come up with something different.

All I know is that this book is coming together so naturally that it is mean to be, somehow. I'll imbue it with everything I got and maybe it will transcend my natural limitations.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Is "Takeover" coming too easily?

Went for my walk early, wrote 1500 words on "Takeover."  Back on track after a couple of days doing errands.

This is the easiest a book has ever come to me. That's a good sign, I think. It's when I struggle that I go off track. So far, everything is just falling into place.

If I tap into the correct narrator's authentic voice it will continue to be easy.

I can't tell if others will think it's good, but this is the first realistic novel I've written. In fact, I don't think I ever believed that I could write a realistic novel. When I finished "Led to the Slaughter" I realized that I could have had a good story even without the werewolves, but even then there was a hundred fifty years difference in realism, so I could get away with some things.

In fact, the final challenge of this book will be to get the legal stuff right, to smooth away anything that doesn't seem real. I'll probably need help for that. As usual with thrillers, I struggle with the guns and the law. Those are two things I have to research.

There is a whole lot of Sagebrush Rebellion stuff to include too, but I don't want to overdo it. It's a thriller not a political tract. I'm sticking to personalities, not politics. But the politics do add a little meat and consequence to the story. I worried a lot about whether I was writing something that the political polarization of our society would make impossible to read. But I think I've been fair to both sides, and I'm bringing in some really bad guys, extremists as the final villains, so if someone want to root for them, fuck them anyway.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

It is pointless to complain about the publishing industry. At best, people will just think it's sour grapes.

I'm writing something that I think is pretty good. I believe in a fair world it would be considered. As it happens, I actually have someone to send it to who will probably take a look at it.

Lucky, that.

My guess is that I'll have about three tries with this guy before I strike out, and I've already got one strike. But, really, if this book doesn't fit the bill, I'm not sure what will. It's at the higher limits of my capabilities.

The publishing industry as a whole contracted just as the tsunami of new books and authors struck. So the volume of books went elsewhere, to self-publishing, to Amazon, to smaller hybrid publishers. Which would be fine if it wasn't so bloody difficult to get noticed.

Weirdly, its the practical ease of writing and producing and communicating books that is mostly responsible for this in my eyes. When I was writing in the early '80's the physical process of writing a book was intimidating in itself, never mind the usual difficulty of creation. 

Anyway, I think it takes herculean effort, or pure luck, to stand out in this tsunami, but that most of us will just get washed away in the tide. Lots of advice out there on how to break through, in both the traditional and non-traditional avenues, but most of it is pure bullshit.

I just put blinders on and keep on trudging ahead, keep on writing, knowing that at the very least there is the ability to put my books online. Whether I want to try to scale the walls of traditional publishers, or even small indy publishers, is a future question for now. I've got two books coming out from publishers who have made the step into mass distribution. That will be 15 books that I've sold, to 5 different publishers.

Which sounds great, but it's a good thing I still own a bookstore if I want to eat.

I've done my part.

I'll probably publish "The Last Fedora" myself in the spring, and I've still got a couple shots at producing a thriller worth publishing.

If all this strikes out, I'm not going to be too hard on myself. It's just the way this industry has shaken out and it's no one's fault. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Confederation of Horror

I found immediate acceptance in the horror community. They liked what I was writing. I didn't think I was as extreme as some of them, but I was in the ballpark. I also realized that whatever I wanted to write could usually be adapted to the horror genre with a few tweaks.

Geoff at Cohesion Press is asking his authors to try a little harder social media wise, so I've been making a push. Interestingly, I saw that there were a ton of people who I had 50 people or more in common with, and they were almost all horror fans or writers.

I started adding these folks, and within a day the "mutual" friends list was suddenly more like 100 or more. So I'm adding those.

I'm pretty sure that we are simpatico by that point.

This is just a drop in the bucket, social media wise. I mean, I'm talking about going from about 350 friends or followers to 500 and then maybe to 1000? I don't think you really hit a level that makes a difference until you get to 10K or more. And how do you do that?

You write a breakthrough book.

I don't think it often works the other way around.

However, I'm comfortable with the idea of 5000 followers and friends, for instance, because I'm very quick going through the timelines and roll, and the more interesting stuff the better.

Yes, it's a lot of spam and authors trying to sell to each other, but that's OK. We're all in the same boat.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Genesis of "Tuskers."

I had a friend move down to Arizona, and he started complaining about javelinas knocking over his lawn furniture, digging up his garden, chasing his dog.

I had a vision of him, Conan the Barbarian mode, standing on top of a pile of pigs, swinging a baseball bat as he's besieged from all sides.

A silly thought. But I wrote the first chapter...and then the second. "The Wild Pig Aporkacalpse."

In the second book, "Day of the Long Pig,"  I didn't hold back, I let the ideas flow, even if they did include "zombie" pigs.

Book three, "The Omnivore War" was more or less the beginning of "Planet of the Pigs."

And now, this fourth book, "Rise of the Cloven" is about the synthesis of human and porcine culture.

All along it was written perfectly seriously, though most people thought it was camp. But really, pigs are very intelligent--I didn't see it as that much of a stretch. I mean, as long as we're talking fantastical fiction, right?

It turned into a little world of its own, that to me is perfectly viable and fun.


Genesis of "Snaked."

A few years ago there was an article in the paper about venomous sea snakes washing up on the shores of California, thousands of miles from where they should be.

I filed that away.

Then Linda and I went for a weekend on the Oregon Coast and there were Tsunami signs everywhere we turned. It's wasn't hard to imagine the panic, the running for the hills.

Put the two together and it's a book. I start writing the book, and an autistic character pops up who is affected by the venom of the snake, and suddenly the book has slightly more depth.

I wrote this book with the template of "Tuskers" in mind, but of course within a few chapters it went in a different direction. Looking back on it, there's a real "Jaws" element to it, though it wasn't intentional.

I thought when I finished that it was my best book.

Geoff at Cohesion felt I'd dropped the snakes a little too much in the last third of the book in favor of the tsunami. Without de-emphasizing the tsunami, I was added four snake chapters to the end of the book, and he was right. It was a better story.

AJ and Geoff put me through too more rewrites, each time amping up the danger of the sea snakes and the earthquake/tsunami, and again they were right. It made it a better book. Frankly, this is the first time I've really had an editor ask for substantial changes, and I welcomed it.

I hope people like it as much as I do.

Social Media Push.

I'm going to make a social media push. Add a few people per day on Facebook (or ask, at least). Do some posts every day other than just my blog. I'm not short of opinions.

Try to increase my presence on Twitter. I went from 50 less follows than followers, to one hundred more follows than followers, and I'm going to try to keep it in that range. Somewhere between 100 and 150 more follows than followers. So as I get follows, I can do more. I guess. Maybe I shouldn't be so chary, but that's how I'll start out.

Will not be shy about putting up posts, two or three a day as they occur to me. Hopefully amusing and insightful. Heh. Need to figure out how to post pictures from my phone.

I went to my long moribund website for Duncan McGeary. Last time I posted anything was for Tuskers! (Never mind that Tuskers IV is coming out within days.) According to Wix, I had 95 visits last week. If that's been going on, I've been failing to satisfy thousands of visits a year!

Doh! Obviously, if WWW DuncanMcGeary would get more hits than anything else. Duh!

So I added pictures of the covers to Tuskers IV and Snaked, and I'll slowly try to back fill. Plus, put my blog posts on there everyday. I'll need help trying to get some of the fine tuning, like adding links to my books.

Cleaned out my bookmarks, removing my own book links since I can get to any of them pretty easily.

Moved Twitter to the top of the bookmarks, in-between Facebook and the Best Minimum Wage Job a Middle Aged Guy Ever Had. Also moved my webpage up, and will try to add to it every day as well, if nothing else my BMWJAMAGEH entry.

Jared always said I should try to get people's emails as well, so I can notify them when new books come out. Do contests or something. I don't know.

Anyway, it's probably idiotic I didn't start this five years ago, but I just wasn't ready I guess. Now I am. Not in a spammy way, but hopefully in an interactive way.

I actually really like Facebook. I just need to get used to Twitter as well.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

This has been a long fruitful journey. I had no idea. None.

I've written a lot of books. I've always kind of obfuscated this fact, figuring no one would take me seriously if they really knew.

After writing 7 books, the first 3 of which were published, I took 30 years off.

When I came back, I thought maybe I'd finish one more book just to prove I could do it. No expectations that it would get published, but I was encouraged by the thought that I could put it up on Amazon.

Flailed around a little, made some missteps. "Faerylander" was flawed from the beginning. I started with the wrong approach and never really recovered. But I suspect that whatever book I wrote first would have had problems.

I stepped back, tried to analyze where I went wrong and attempted "The Reluctant Wizard." Closer, but still all screwed up. But I got a tingling sense, a teasing memory of how I used to feel when I wrote "Snowcastles" and "Icetowers," both of which came to me easily. ("Star Axe" was hard, and "Bloodstone" and "The Changelings of Ereland" never did quite work.)

I grabbed that feeling and wrote "Freedy Filkins," my cyberpunk Hobbit book. I knew it wasn't the kind of book that was going to get much readership but that was sort of the point: To write the  book for fun and for myself and just do it the way it came to me.

That was the book that freed me up. That was the book to said to me, write whatever comes to you, don't say no.

When the next idea was a vampire book, "Death of an Immortal," part of me said, "Oh, hell no. That trend is over. What new is there to be said?" But I'd just come off of a fun experience with "Freedy Filkins" so I just went ahead and wrote it, and then followed it up immediately with "Rule of Vampire." (Which I still think is probably the most put-together book I've written.)

Then I tried rewriting "Faerylander" and got closer, but it was still flawed. That didn't stop me from writing a sequel, though; "Wolflander."

I set it aside and finally tackled the book I'd had on my mind from the start as my best shot at breaking through: "Led to the Slaughter." I took the time to make it as good as I could, and sure enough, it got published. While I was waiting for an answer,  I finished the vampire trilogy with "Blood of Gold," and then talked the publisher into publishing the trilogy as well.

During that first year, I barely poked my head above ground I was so intent on writing. I had a huge amount of creative energy. Not saying its good or bad, just that I was writing all the time, most of every day.

 I mean, I can't even remember when I was writing what, now.

Rewrote "Faerylander" again, and then again, getting closer each time. Doing another sequel, "Ghostlander," breaking "Faerylander" in half and creating "Zombielander." Writing "Spell Realm," a fantasy in the same world as "Sometimes a Dragon," which I also rewrote. Writing a sequel to my earlier book, "Deviltree" which I called "Deeptower." A short story called, "Burp the Burrow Wight."

The second year was just as productive, because by then I had my process down. Wrote a second Virginia Reed adventure, "The Dead Spend No Gold," wrote a book about succubae (with an uncomfortable level of sex, heh) called "Blood of the Succubus." Wrote my book about a gangster golem, called "The Last Fedora."

Most importantly, writing "Tuskers," the book along with "Led to the Slaughter" that has done the best for me. And a sequel, "Tuskers II."

Meanwhile, I wrote a couple of partial books that I might sometime go back and finish. "The Last Sombrero," and "The Odyssey of Linger Longfellow," and probably half a dozen others that went nowhere.

The third and fourth years I slowed down slightly, but still produced a mountain of words. Writing "Ghostlander" and "The Darkness You Fear" and "Faery Punk" and "Gargoyle Dreams" and "I Live Among You." Some of these might have been written in the second year, but they're all beginning to blur together.

I wrote a business book called "The Small Business Survivalist Guide," which I may throw onto Amazon someday. 

Rewrote "Faerylander" and "Zombielander" again. Still not there.

The fifth year going into the sixth year, slowing down slightly, "Tuskers IV" and "Snaked" and "The Scorching" and "Deadfall Ridge" and now "Takeover." Short pieces like "Free Mars" and"Big Liar, Little Man."  Novellas like "Said the Joker, to the Thief" and "The Toad King."

"Tuskers IV" is supposed to come out in August, and "Snaked" is coming out in September.

I decided early on to act as if I was a "professional." Pay for editing, the best covers I could find. Pretend I was successful, even as I spent more than I was making. 

Then I sold a ghostwritten book to a major publisher for more money than everything else combined, enough to put me well into the black. Someone asked me why I would do such a thing and I said, "It's not like I don't have more books."

I write just about every day. I endeavor to finish what I start. I allow myself to write whatever occurs to me. I feel antsy if I'm not writing.

Millions of words, I figure. Through it all, I'm refining the process, getting more comfortable, loosening up and at the same time asking more of myself, and slowly but surely learning how to write. Millions of words.

I enjoy it immensely. It is very fulfilling. I can't imagine not doing it.

I'm right on track with "Takeover."  Writing each chapter as they come. I'm not sure they are inspired, but they lay down the marker.

As far as being "emotional" is concerned, I'm having some second thoughts. I'm thinking about the thriller writers I read. You've got the world weary detectives (Connelly, Crais, Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald); you've got philosophers (James Lee Burke); you've got techno thrillers; you've got near superhero operatives (Silva, Child), you've got ironic and funny (Leonard, Hiassen),  and so on.

None of them dive deep into "emotion."

So far, I don't believe I've taken any false steps. The beginning of the book is a little messy, but instead of trying to fix it, I'm going to claim the messiness--this is supposed to feel real, after all. I've maintained the real and the authentic, at least I hope so, though these middle chapters are influenced as much by plot as by character, but I think that's all right as long as the plot COMES from the characters.

I've included nothing silly or far-fetched. In a way, this is my first mature book. My first book that I've tried for realism as much as possible.

I'm not saying it's better that way, just that this book needed it. I will probably go right back to writing my fictional stories again and be happy as can be. (However, for some reason I seem to have a knack for taking true events and fictionalizing them, so that will always be part of my repertoire.)

I've got this plotted out to about 50K words or more, and then I just have to create a slambam finish, which I refuse to think about until I get there. But I have total faith it will be there, because so far this book has come to me naturally and without straining. How nice is that?

I'll be 40K words by the end of this weekend, which is more than halfway for a first draft. I just need to keep trucking along.

I've decided against writing drunk for the moment. I'm making too much progress this way, and I don't want to risk derailing it. Get this first draft down, then step back and look it over.

This first draft is about character, above all, followed by plot. The second draft will be about ramping up the action and emotion as much as possible. The third draft will be about trying to layer in depth and research.

This is my best book so far, so I don't want to rush it. I want it to continue to be my best book.
My publisher is starting to gear up for Snaked, due out in September. They just sent me a Facebook cover, which I have gone ahead and plastered on all my Facebook pages.

 "Don't go swimming," it says. "The ocean has fangs."

To which I would add, it wriggles and slimes and squeezes and slithers.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Read some long form articles on the Malheur occupation and Wow! The insights, the richness, and the texture are overwhelming. 

I had to take a step back, because it was too much. I love that there is so much there. It gives "Takeover" a solid background.

But my book is a thriller, not a philosophical or political treatise.

For now, I'm not trying to include that new information, except as it informs the book going forward. When I've laid down the first draft, then I'll go back and reread those articles and see what I can use to deepen my story. Most of the time, my stories stand alone--that is, I make it all up without any regard to real events.

The other time I felt this way was with "Led to the Slaughter." As I wrote that book, I realized that the Donner Party drama was so deep that I didn't really need to have any supernatural elements to make it a good story. I was committed by then, and probably would have chosen to do so anyway, but sometimes the real life events are so filled with possibilities and implications, that it's more a matter of choosing what to include or not include, instead of struggling to come up with enough backstory to make what I'm writing feel real.

I will need to be patient. Take each possibility and implication and examine them and decide if they can add anything to the story without being a distraction.

But it's comforting to know all the rich material is out there to layer some meaning.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Walking 2 miles before I write. I've gotten in the habit of walking as deep into the woods or desert as I can get (well, 2 miles) and finding a place to sit and getting lost in my story. I gently nudge myself in the first mile, figuring out which character is talking and what the general thrust is, and then I try to let my subconscious suggest specific detail over the next mile, then I sit down and just got lost.

For as long as it takes.

Sometimes, about halfway through a scene I have to get up and stretch, pace up and down the trail, or break off twigs from trees (yes, that's a thing. It's like popping bubble wrap, very soothing.) I talk to myself if I must, I wait for the next cluster of specific images or words.

By then, the creative juices are flowing and on my walk back I usually can add some detail, or do some minor editing. 

So far in "Takeover" I haven't written anything that I didn't think was authentic. I've taken days off when nothing came, which is unusual for me. Usually I force it, and sure enough I'll get some good stuff, but this time I want everything to feel as natural as possible.

I'm not sure this is the best process. It ties everything to my ability to get out in nature. This winter, for instance, I was stuck in the house for almost 3 months, and this summer I've had to wait until 8:00 at night, when the sun isn't blasting, to go for my walk. Lately, I've been challenging that, going ahead and walking in the full heat of the day, just making sure I've got lemonade with me and letting myself sweat.

I can write at home, but it just seems harder to get going and I can't quite concentrate as deeply.

I've had the idea for some time of driving up into the Ochoco Mountains, thinking I could get there in 45 minutes and thinking it might be cooler up there. I have a 45 minute loop from Bend to Redmond that includes my old path that was most conducive to writing, so 45 minutes seems like a lot but I've done it before. (I've found a bunch of places between 10 and 15 minutes from my house.)

Took an hour to get to the first forest service road. An hour is a long way to go to get some privacy. It was nice--big firs and ponderosa, a different feel from the desert, and a lot more private that if i went west toward Sisters to get into their ponderosa forests. It was just as hot if not hotter, so much for that idea.

The chapter came out well. The scenes work as long as I get into the voice of the character. That's what I'm most concentrating on. Getting that voice down. Everything else follows.

It's nice to have the plot in my head up to the last bit. The last 20% of the book will be mostly action. I'm confident in my ability to work out the plot details of that. So the book between 20K words and 50K words are the real meat and feeling of the book, and the toughest to write, and I'm about halfway through those.

I may actually drink some wine over the next week or two to try to loosen up some emotions for the really dramatic chapters. I'm a little leery of that. But I  think I'll experiment.

I really want these chapters to hit hard. I really want the readers to feel something. I could write those chapters as usual, no problem.

I need to reach for something deeper, if I can.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Willpower, Duncan. Willpower!

The reaction so far to "Takeover" has been the best I've ever gotten. They liked it at writer's group last night. My own appraisal is that it is the best thing I've done. A mature work.

By now, I figure my last effort has probably been rejected by my publisher, but he's just not saying anything yet. So my temptation is to throw the first 100 pages at him and say, "Here's something completely different."

But if there is one thing I've learned it's don't let go of something until you are finished. I just didn't have that patience 38 years ago. Now I have to use my willpower to overrule my impulse.

Now I'm a great believer in impulse. Without impulse nothing gets done. At least for me.

But I do believe there is a good book here, and it's more likely to be a good book if I am patient and write all the way to the end and then go over it again, and then maybe even again.

So...much as I wish I could get some reassurance that my publisher will still be willing to look at the finished product, I'm going to hold off until I'm done.

Willpower, Duncan. Willpower!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Writing from my head not my heart.

Once I transitioned into plot, I realized that I also transitioned into my head. These next 10 chapters are the meat of the book, where everything spirals out of control. It needs to be dramatic and emotional.

That isn't easy for me. How do I access those feelings? If I don't feel strongly about what's happening, how can I expect others to?

I've given myself plenty of time to write this book, so I'm willing to try to access that feeling, to not write further until something strikes me hard.

The danger in that is that the longer I take to write something, the harder that will be. So a bit of a Catch-22. I'll give it a week or so. Go for my walks and see if my subconscious insists on something. As I've said, there is outer directed and inner directed and often by this point in a book, (roughly halfway through) the outer directed becomes more prominent. It's unavoidable, I think, because the demands of the plot I have to craft the elements.

I figure I can go over the top on feeling and drama and can always scale back later. But the opposite isn't true. So instead of intellectually accessing story ideas, I need to tap into the emotions.

Today I'm going to work on the concept of being a "method" writer. That is, try to tap into something in my own life that is a parallel to the events in the book, try to act out those feelings on the page.

It may not work at all. It may be that I'll just have to go with my head, and hopefully my heart will follow. But I'm going to give it some time, see what develops. In every book there are a few scenes where I fully feel the emotion of the moment. I'd like to up the odds of that happening. 

Like I said, the longer I don't write, the harder it becomes, so it's a tradeoff.

I really think what I've written so far is the best I've done, by quite a bit. But I need to fulfill the expectation I've set up. It's ready from something a little deeper and more emotional than I've attempted in the past.

So here goes.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Advancement by Addition.

Someone said about "Game of Thrones" that George R.R. Martin's plots consist of advancement by addition. He doesn't really resolve things so much as add a new wrinkle. (One of the reasons the latter seasons of the show are so startling. Things happen.)

Anyway, for the first third of "Takeover" I was doing something similar. I was going into multiple character's heads, first person, giving each of them a little slice of the story. No real plot, just development of the situation and characters.

At that point, I realized I could keep doing that, but it would be difficult to resolve anything. Similar to real life, which is more a jumbled mess of conflicting viewpoints and events.

Or I could transition into a good old-fashioned plot. Trying to keep it real, but fictionalizing events for maximum dramatic effect.

I sent my writer friend, Dave, one of these later chapters and he instantly noticed the change in tone.

I don't think he liked it.

It did remind me to keep up the 'witness statements.' Wrote three right away and they were refreshing and real. So yeah, for every standard Jon narrative chapter, I think I need two or three of the WS's.

But I'm damned if I can see how to have a plot with that method alone. As evocative as the WS's are, they are sideways or additions or character development, but not advancement in plot.

I'm now 27K words into the story, and it's good enough that I'm worried about blowing it. I have to remind myself that no one really cares that much if I write another book. It's my thing and I need to do it the way I think it needs to be done.

So I'm just writing it one day at a time. I have the book plotted, pretty much, at least to the final third. I'd thought the "murder" was going to happen around 25K words, but it will be closer to 30K words. I thought the murder would be resolved by 30K words, but it will be more like 40K words. That's all to the good.

This book can be as long as I want it to be. Adding witness statements is a pretty flexible device. I seem to be really good at these short little inserts.

I did the same thing with Tuskers IV, putting in a little insert with each chapter, sort of like "Dune." Easy to write, usually very nice stylistically, a great way to include flavor and info outside the narrative. 

In this book, it's a great way to develop character.

But like I said, the subtlety of doing an entire plot that way is beyond me, I think.

Freedom of the whim.

It's amazing how often my stories, and some of my better stories at that, start out in jest, a whim, a response to something I just heard or read.

"Tuskers" came from a friend moving to Arizona and having javilinas tear up his yard and chase his dog and other shenanigans. I visualized a retired guy standing on a pile of pig bodies swinging a baseball bat like Conan the Barbarian.

"FREE MARS!"came from reading about child slave colonies on Mars. If ever there was a Heinleinesque science fiction adventure story...

What usually happens is that I write a quick little story, but the story just keeps going and going and before I know it, it's become a thing.

Because they start as throwaways, not really serious, I'm pretty much free to write what I want, and because of that idea that nothing is going to come of it, I think the writing is actually better than when I try to be serious and bare down.

The purity of it, the telling the story just to tell the story, is what makes it good. Which is pretty ironic, you know. Because most often they aren't commercial ideas, and so it don't matter in the least whether they are any good in their own right.

I never really understood the idea of "sell-out" but I'm kind of running into real world examples of it. Personally, I think its a silly idea. Writing to sell just means you're writing things people want to read and there is nothing wrong with that.

But sometimes I just want to write what I want to write, and that doesn't mean it will be something anyone else is interested in.

It hurts my brain to think about whether an idea is commercially viable.

Basically, it isn't relevant.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Floundered around yesterday, just couldn't get going.

Part of it was that the chapter I wanted to write was going to be difficult and I wanted to be sure that I had some of it written in my head before I put it on paper. Part of it was the heat and the distraction. Anyway, I wasted most of the day.

Then, around 6:00, I forced myself to go into the bedroom and Write Something. I got something started, not great, but a start.

Then around 8:00 I went for my walk along the canal, and that's when the ideas started flowing. Filled in the earlier material and wrote new material and got back to the house at 9:30 and went out onto the patio and kept writing, then inside to type it up and add even more. Finally finished around 11:30.

Read it to Linda and she said it was really good. She really seems to like this story.

Substantial chapter, 1800 words, and it wasn't too shabby.

I'm proud of myself for not giving up on the day.

Over my head?

There have been several times when I've felt the subject matter I wanted to write was above my skill level. A couple of times, I chose not to write it.

This time, I decided to do it, as a challenge. I've written so many books that I don't need to prove that to myself anymore. I can risk a few failures by overreaching.

This idea was so strong that even though I didn't know if I had the chops, I thought I'd try. After all, it's my book. It's not like I'm affecting anyone else.

I'm now 25K words into "Takeover," which is over a third of the first draft. I'd say so far that I've done some of my best writing, characterization, and plotting. But I still feel like it needs more. A little more depth and sophistication, intelligence and subtlety. I feel like I've got a feel for it--maybe because I'm a native central Oregonian, a desert rat, and I've soaked up these attitudes and feelings naturally. I think I've got an advantage there.

I've always said--you can't write a book more intelligent or deep than you actually are. But you can try to probe the limits of your abilities--take the time and thought to improve it, if only incrementally, and then improve it again.

And maybe, just maybe, I can get to the book that I know is there -- if only I was smarter, more experienced, and more skilled.

Don't get me wrong. I think it will be a worthy read, and probably the best thing I've done. It's just that I can also see the potentialities gleaming within the story and don't quite have what it takes to fully flesh them out. As always, I feel like just a little push and I'm there. Maybe a little help. So close, and yet so far away.

Then again, I'm not done.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Found a broken lawn chair on my walk. Sat comfortably. Score! Hid the chair behind trees and bushes. Will use again. For once the garbage people throw away in the woods was a good thing. Heh.

Went out the next day and was chased (actually I was off road and they didn't see me...) by a family of four-wheelers. I try to restrain my resentment. (The mother was in the last vehicle, covered in dust, heh.)

The more I write, the more I realize how much I don't know.

What the hell. Is everything effort? Can't anything be effortless?

"Takeover" feels real and authentic to me. Probably the first time I've pulled that off--not going into "fictional" feel. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but for this book I'm trying to keep it real all the way through. Every chapter is a challenge and so far I think I've pulled it off. I doubt I could have written this book until now. I don't think I could have even come close in the first few years. It's an unusual format--first person, multiple characters, epistolary style and I think it works. I like the jumping around but coming back together with an overall feeling and theme. 

Writing is both easier than you'd think and much, much harder. I'm facile, I can write something decent. Writing something good is exponentially harder.

My Australian publisher's last Facebook post of the day is my first, and their first post is my last--and vice verse. 

Yea, apes! Strange to be rooting for the demise of humanity.

Not commenting on politics has saved me no end of wear and tear.

I wish there was a Netflix for classic or even ordinary older films. There probably is.

Dropping by Big Fun (the bookstore that replaced Linda's store) every week, and picking up classic SF from my youth. Andre Norton's Witchworld, Harry Harrison's Deathworld, Jack Vance's anything world. Loved that stuff. Filling my library, the older the edition the better.

Why don't I like Twitter? Apparently, mass market distributors judge an author's worth by how much Twitter activity they have. WTF? So authors really have to be social media present as well as being writers, which is the new reality. (I remember when I realized that the pretty singers were also incredibly talented, which meant...logically...that you not only had to be incredibly talented but pretty.)

My publishers are all ambitious. I've seen one pretty much crash and burn, a second who has struggled, and a third who is in a very ambitious phase. I want to tell them to be careful, to slow down, but I know from experience that a business person in the throes of success is almost impossible to talk down.

Our house in Bend is finally on the market. Got lucky and rented a U-Haul the night before we needed it, loaded up what was in the garage. (Read in paper next day that most U-Hauls are rented through to Sept.) We went a little high on price, maybe, but intend to stick to it. My thinking is, when we looked for our house 13 years ago, it was head and shoulders above the other houses in our price range. What will be, will be.

Whatever anyone can imagine they can do in a movie. So many classic SF books would make great movies, instead of the next damn Transformers or whatever.

Linda is happy as a clam. It's easy to take the air-conditioning for granted. I write at the kitchen table instead of in my office.  I've kept up with the lawn and weeds so far, fresh start. Quiet neighborhood, more blue collar than our last, lots of boats and cars and trailers, but quiet. Vacant lots around us probably still have a few years to fill in.

Have increased my effort on new books and toys and card games. Cameron was already doing a good job on comics and graphic novels and games, but I'd dropped the ball a little on my part. Can already see an increase in interest. Sometimes you just have to spend money to make money.

Listening to "Luxury Liner" by Emmylou Harris in the car, one of my favorite albums, and realizing that the pace and tone of country western just seems to "fit" better in Redmond than in Bend, and wondered if there is something to that overall. That the rural pace of life is attuned to a different rhythm in music.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Made to order."

I wrote a "made to order" chapter for "Takeover" yesterday, and I think it turned out fine. By "made to order" I mean a chapter that was dictated by the needs of the plot. I have about three chapters I need to fill in storyline that way, backdating them.

Then I move forward with the plot. It's all plot now.

But I spent the first 15K words just following the characters, setting the scene. Probably 15K words too many, in the modern parlance. All of it came spilling out without prompting. But it wasn't necessarily plot driven, or dictated by the needs to have action.

I'm sort of perturbed by the Michael Bay-zation of storytelling. Everything has to start with a bang now, even if artificially induced. Sometimes that works, but it needs to feel natural.

This seems to be the advice that everyone is following, demanding. Yet...if you really look at the good books, the successful books, many of them don't really do that. Because a good book is an original book, not a formulaic one.

In a recent book, I felt I needed to do that start with a bang thing ("write me 100 kickass pages!" says the bigly time agent) and it turned out terrible. Months later, I replaced that first chapter--with another action chapter, only this one worked.

I also seemed to be trapped by my walking process. I can't seem to write anything until I've walk a couple of miles into the middle of nowhere, sit down on a stump or a rock, and just lose myself. Inconvenient. I mean, sometimes I can get going at home, at the table or outside on the patio, but mostly it's like my subconscious won't produce unless I'm walking.

I'm up to 20K words in "Takeover." The Murder will happen around 25K words. The solving of the murder and the ending of the first takeover will happen around 35 to 40K words, then the real bad guys come in and I haven't gotten that far with the plot except to know that it will probably be all action after that. Try to get to 65 to 70K first draft, add my usual 15% with description, research tidbits, character development, and making things clearer.

This is the first book where I've tried to be completely serious all the way through. I can't help a little humor here and there, which is weird that I feel that compunction because I never set out to be funny, which is probably good because when I try to be funny, I ain't.

But nothing silly like a bulletproof Bigfoot costume and a Queen Snake. (And these were my previous "serious" books.)

And I've had the realization that I'm kidding myself about writing something "literary." I just don't have that in me, I think. I'm better off sticking to pure entertainment. That is a worthy goal and not easy to accomplish.

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Keep it Real."

I think I need to back off a little from yesterday's post. All the "good" book talk. I'm setting myself up for failure, for writer's block, for disappointment.

I'm going with the plot, which means taking each plot development and writing a chapter, whether it is inspired or not. It just has to be done.

I've been sort of drifting for several days now, waiting for inspiration, and it doesn't seem to be happening. Or, rather, the inspiration is in other directions which are just more set up, more neutral, not advancing the story.

So it's time to switch to normal writing mode. I think it will be fine, and it will be done, which is the most important. I don't think it's possible to write an entire book inspired, nor that it would necessarily be better.

I told Linda about my two tracks, realistic and grounded all the way through, or going into heightened thriller plot oriented, and she definitely came down on the side of the latter. In truth, it was 80/20 where I was leaning, too.

But most of all, there are things that need to be written, and I just need to do it. Whether it's a "good" book in the end remains to be seen. But first it has to be written, and there is no realistic way I'm going to diverge from the plot that I've come up with. It feel very solid to me, this plot, no plot holes so far, which almost always seems to happen with me, and then I have to paper them over. I like the plot and the theme and the general thrust, and I'm still going to try to be realistic in approach. In fact, I've written a little note over my desk.

"Keep it Real."

I have about five chapters fleshed out in my head, another five chapters more loosely diagrammed, and then another ten chapters with general outline, and the last third of the book denoted. "Action: chickens come home to roost." Heh.

Just need to get on it.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Takeover" is the "good" book. I need to keep it that way. Make sure that every piece works, that I don't compromise, that I don't get sidetracked. This estimation of a "good" book is strictly mine, and may bear no relation to how others will see it. It could very well be rejected and it wouldn't change my opinion of it. It could get few readers, bad reviews, and it won't change my opinion.

I've always wanted to write the "good" book, the book I can point to and say,  "Here. I've left this."

I could make this a reality-based book all the way through. It would probably get to 30 or 40K words and could be embellished, I suppose, to 60K words. Maybe lots of philosophizing and politicizing and interior dialoguing and I  could get it to 80K words. That's a real option. I've been debating with myself. To do that book I'd need to do more research.

I'd need to drop the plot, basically. The murder. Drop the second murderous group. End the book with the capture of the leaders and the death of Jules.

If I was a literary author and could bring some depth and pathos to that, it might be the way to go. How ambitious am I in that direction?

I have my doubts that I could really nail that book. I do think, however, that I could nail a thriller. 

So keeping to real events would just be my interpretation of what really happened. That might be critically more palatable, but it wouldn't be a thriller, per se. And I'm not sure that I can pull it off. I also don't think it would be as fun and satisfying personally.

Like I said, this has to please me.

So, by the time I write some fill-in chapters, I'm going to be at 20K words.

Then the murder. Then the plot happens. From that point, it will be more plot oriented, like a thriller.

That doesn't mean I have to drop the reality "feel" of it, it just means I move away from what really happened.

I came into this book with only two plot ideas. That there would be a murder, and that a more extreme and violent group would come in and the original group and hostages have to work together to beat them.

The first 20K words have paralleled real events. With the murder, I go into new territory.

In every book, there is that part where the story drives me and there is the part where I drive the story. I always prefer the former, but always bow to the necessity of the latter. The crafted parts of the books aren't worse, they just aren't quite as personally satisfying. Sometimes, actually, they are better because the inspired parts often are more predictable, the parts I have to think about I can try to veer away from predictability.

I liken inspiration to a well. Sometimes the well is overflowing and it spills out on the page. Sometimes I have to dip into it. Sometimes I have to dip the bucket to the bottom of the well. But the water, the inspiration, is the same no matter how I access it. the same time...the overflow water always seems to have a big more fizz to it. It always tastes just a little better.

I've gotten as far as 3/4th the way through a story with the story directing me. But I've never made it all the way through a book before inspiration peters out and I have to direct the story. I think I have the luxury with this book to make sure I get all the way through being driven by the story. Even if it takes twice as long as normal. I don't want to mess with the "good" book.

I've tried to let the characters direct the story so far, but I've reached the logical conclusion of that unless I intend to leave out the plot. If I bring in the plot, then I have to have the characters directed by the plot.

I'm waiting for inspiration, really. Waiting for my subconscious to tell me what comes next.

The funny thing is, this is exactly the opposite of what I thought would happen. This was the book that I was going to fully plot out, every little detail, with character sketches and tons of research.

So I did some research, as much as I could force myself to do, and then I started writing the character sketches and those seemed to take on a life of their own and were telling the story better than a fictional narrative, and I kept that approach.

I've used up most of the research in the first 20K words, which is fine because this is where the fiction takes over. So far, everything I've written has paralleled real events. If I decide to keep it real, I'll need to do a lot more research. I'll need to figure out how to explain the thinking and motives of the characters. If I go with the plot, then I need to make it satisfying in an action way, without so much literary interior dialogue.

I'm going to keep waiting for the characters to pop up and tell me it's their turn. I have the plot pretty much formed. I've written the book in my head, so to speak. Which is always alarming and reassuring at the same time. Alarming because I'd much rather keep discovering (but of course I do) and reassuring because there is always the danger that I can't come up with an ending. Heh.

Anyway, I'm incredibly excited by this book, and I'm hoping to keep the head of steam all the way through.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

"Big Liar, Little Man."

Woke up with the title in my head and went ahead and wrote the story.

"Big Liar, Little Man."

This is the second little fable I've written, after "Burp the Burrow Wight."

I went ahead and concocted a cover to it and published it, just like that. I don't know, I may have a bunch of these cute little stories in my head. They're palate cleansers, you know? Done and done. Like poetry is to me, a way to exercise my creative side without any real consequences.

I was told by a friend to stick to writing, but I can't afford to hire artists for a .99 story (my cut, .35).

I've noticed, though, that the short story covers I see online are nowhere near the quality of the covers for books. Obviously, everyone is in the same boat. So my covers actually don't compare all the badly to the covers for other shorts stories, at least I don't think so.

Here's the cover:

Friday, July 14, 2017

For "Takeover," I am purposely letting the characters dictate the plot. Usually what happens about now is that I have an idea of where the book is going and write accordingly. I'm trying hard not to do that. I'm trying to make each chapter a surprise. If it doesn't click with me strongly, I'm not writing it.

In a way, it's waiting for "inspiration" which everyone tells you not to do, but I think I can afford to take a chance since I'm really on a roll, you know.

I spent the whole day yesterday waiting for inspiration. By the time I went for my twilight walk, I'd given up, figured that nothing was going to come that day.

I was halfway through my walk when a character popped his head up and said, "My turn."

So that will have to happen each time. I'm not going to write anything that doesn't feel strong.

The feeling I'm attempting is authentic, real. No fictional glow, but something that feels like it could have happened, that these are real people narrating the story. I'm about 14,000 words in, so the question is, can I keep this going all the way and will it turn into a plot of some kind? I've got some foreshadowing going, so I'm hoping.

No compromises on this one. (Compromises with myself, by the way. Most of what other people mention is valid, but more often than not I get it in my head that even though I really like something, others won't, and that changes what I do. Not this time. If I like it, I'm doing it.)

There's the, "I don't understand that reference," or "That transition is confusing," or...all kinds of things that are clear to me and I think should be clear to the reader but aren't. So I've always thought the point was to be clear, but in doing so, I always feel like I've lost a little edge, a little bit of a challenge, this time, screw that. I'm putting it in if I think it's valid.

It's maybe a bit more "literary" this time. Terrible word, that I normally shy away from. Nothing will keep me from reading a book more than labeling it "literary." But I'm not doing anything that smacks of "pot-boiler" fiction. Nothing fantastical (not that there is anything wrong with that) and nothing melodramatic.

As I've said before, all my books turn into Duncan McGeary books in the end; they all end up with similar style, even when I try to do something new. My guess is, trying to be literary is all fine and good, but maybe all that will happen is that I make my book just a little harder to read for most, but something a few people will appreciate. Heh.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dialogue is naked.

"Takeover" feels real to me. The book's got a really solid feeling to it, like it's meant to be. I get this sense in the pit of my stomach sometimes. Yesterday on my walk, I got this feeling that something strong is going to come out of it. Not sure what, just that it's there, that it's merely a matter of telling the story.

I don't want to be talked out of this delusion just yet.

I'm writing it the way I want, without any editorial input from my brain. I suspect some of it probably doesn't work, but I really like it. So I'm thinking I'll probably write this exactly the way I want, without any compromise whatsoever, because I think it's good.

My feeling is, if I try for literary, I won't get there but I'll write a better book from the attempt.

I'm getting to the part of my book with more dialogue and that feels a little weaker to me, because I think writing convincing dialogue comes from real world experience and in that I'm limited.

I can imagine people's interior thoughts easier, somehow. Embellish them enough to make them sound convincing.

Dialogue just sits there stark, without any clothing, and if it isn't strong, it shows.

But I won't get better at it until I try. I'm looking for naturalness, but also surprising turns.

Because people aren't predictable, and that shows in their words. So much is revealed by so little.
Read the first 17 pages of "Takeover" at writer's group.

Somewhat to my surprise, the "epistolary" element of the book is passing muster. No one seems bothered by it. It's clear I'll need to clear up some things, maybe label the entries better, change the order, but overall the idea seems to be working.

Gary thought I should kill one of my babies. (A section Linda had singled out as really liking.)

Came up with some really satisfying plots elements yesterday on my walk. Since I'd pretty much run out of ideas the day before, that was very reassuring. I just have to trust that my subconscious will keep coming up with stuff.

Writing this way is extraordinarily easy for me. It's more or less a fresh start every day. The story advances by addition, but not by straightforward timeline, which is fine with me. Jumping around like that is very refreshing.

I have chosen one character to carry the narration. I'm trying to make sure he's at least every third entry.

My biggest problem is that the more extreme characters are the most interesting. Much more fun to get in their heads, and by doing so, I can't help but make them sympathetic. But I really don't believe their views, even though it may seem like I do. I don't really get into the political specifics, so far, more just their general since of aggrievedness, their pissed offness.

The moderate characters by contrast are, well, moderate, and they tend to get drowned out.

Just like real life.

I'm hoping by the end of the book I've made it clear that taking-over places is a bad idea.

Linda thinks the real theme of the book is the inability to see consequences, that taking extreme action leads to extremes...ending in violence. I hadn't intended this as the theme, but by trying to access the character motivations, this seems to be what's coming up. Not the "reasons" for their actions, but that they respond to their anger in inappropriate ways.

I've avoided the specifics politics, like I said, which is unexpected. But I can see a way to keep doing this, making it more about personality than politics.

I've decided not to even go into the POV of the law enforcement. So the two people who work at the monument and stay behind have to carry the "moderate" load.

That's going to take some doing, I think. That will be a challenge. This book was always going to be a minefield, so I really want to defuse that ass much as possible, and that means making the two sides roughly equal.

If the reader gets far enough into the book, he'll find that it evens out as the original takover-ers join the moderates to fight to true extremists. But whether people will hang in there long enough, I don't know.

This book could fall victim to the extreme polarization these days. It's probably a stupid thing to write.

I'm also writing a few "babies," that is, parts that are artistically satisfying but maybe aren't completely needed. (Just about anything can be atmosphere and mood, but not everything materially advances the story.)

For instance, I decided to have one of the characters be a "cowboy" poet and as a result, I have a couple of poems I wrote included, and really, it's all character mood and shading.

Anyway, the book really has me in its grip, and I'm writing it the way it wants to be written, and if that doesn't work for other people, so be it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Writing an epistolary novel.

Without meaning to, it looks like I'm writing an epistolary novel called "Takeover."

Epistolary: a literary work in the form of letters or documents.

I'm 10,000 words in.

I started out writing "witness" statements for color. They came out so well I kept doing them and at some point I realized I was telling the story that way.

I feel like I have a knack for this format, capturing the voices of the characters. They come out pretty convincing, I think.

It's an interesting technique. On one hand, it's slightly distancing in that it is one step removed from the story. It is a kind of "dear reader" effect in that you are aware that it is after the fact. On the other hand, you can get all the way into the POV of a bunch of characters, which I think cancels out the distancing factor.

It's not the first time I've done it. I was halfway through "Led to the Slaughter" when the Donner Party reached the mountains. I needed to show the suffering, the cold, and the hunger, and I landed on diary entries to show the daily struggle. It worked really well. I also used this technique in "The Darkness You Fear" because the POV character is Virginia Reed, but she wasn't with the Lost Meek Wagon Train, so I had another character's journal telling the story.

Interestingly, I realized that I was currently reading an epistolary novel without having been aware of it: "D.O.D.O." by Neal Stephenson.

I'm kind of winging it so far, quickly using up the research I've done. So far the action is paralleling the Malhuer occupation and the Bundy Ranch standoff. Pretty soon I'll be moving into new territory; a murder and an escalation of action, the 'Juniper Rebellion.'

As long as these characters keep telling the story in an interesting way, I'm going to keep going with this technique. I'm not sure how publishers are going to feel about it, but the books seems to want to be written this way.

Monday, July 10, 2017

In Cahoots.

The moonlight in cahoots,
to keep me riding
the dusty trail
on the banks of the canal,
a calf astray in the weeds.

Blackbirds dive bomb me,
pretending to be wounded,
leading me astray,
in cahoots, I reckon
with the lost calf.

Be safe, I murmur.
The water rushes through
the narrows, in cahoots,
spraying the soft green
amidst the brown.

In cahoots,
the bounding rabbits,
the scurrying lizards,
to keep me wandering,
no hurry to find the calf.

Dark and quiet,
until the calf bellows,
lost in the reeds,
needing its mother,
In cahoots to end my sojourn.

I rope the calf,
it quiets and follows,
the blackbirds ignore me,
the darkening trail,
in cahoots to lead me home.

I'll be honest here.

It takes amazing few sales to get in the Top 100 lists on Amazon. Amazingly few. I'm amazed the whole thing isn't manipulated even more.

If you got 50 friends to buy within a few days, you'd probably be in the Top 10 on some lists. Of course, you wouldn't stay there for long, but on the theory that people checking for something to read would check the front page, it might do some good.

But really, how many people are LOOKING for something to read rather than trying to beat off suggestions with a stick?

I've resorted to asking friends to buy my books a few times, but not every time. It worked very well for my first book, Led to the Slaughter; not quite as well for Tuskers, and then pretty much since then, not all that well.

I published Faerie Punk with no fanfare at all. Just announced it once, and that was it. By far my worst selling book, dang it. It's good book, too. Wouldn't it be so much more fun to just put a book out there and expect people to buy it?

I'm going to make a big push for Snaked. I think Cohesion is an interesting publisher, with exciting books in their roster, and they've got some marketing clout and credibility, so it might all be worth going after.

So be prepared!

Meanwhile, "FREE MARS!" is currently in the Top 100 lists, and a few more sales would keep it there for awhile, so I'm asking again. A bit of an ego trip, I admit. No real money in it.  Costs all of 99 cents.

Love you whether you buy it or not, dear blog readers.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

So if about 10 of you guys who regularly read this blog--you know, where I talk about what I'm writing--would actually buy FREE MARS!--it would move up the ranks pretty fast where people who don't read my blog might find it?

Not sure. "FREE MARS!" is only .99 and a half hour read. Give it a try, folks. Help me feel like this blog means something.

Here's the link. You know, click it, and spend 1/4th a cup of coffee?


Write like you don't care.

I can't tell you the number of people I've run into that have the tools to write a book and never get around to it. They have much too high expectations of their first efforts.

But at the same time, it's these high expectations that get some people to actually write a book. The financial rewards are usually so unrealistic it isn't worth talking about. That reality will hit you fast enough and if that's the only reason you're writing, then you might as well quit now.

It's the response by your family and friends that you have to overcome. Either they'll blow smoke, tell you what you want to hear, or they'll be honest.

It's enough to crush ambition. least what happened to me is that the urge to write returned, again and again, after each crushing. And I slowly got a little better. But at first, most writers aren't going to be at the level they hoped for.

So they write something and they think it's pretty good and they expose it and find out maybe it isn't that good, so they try again, and it falls short again but there is a bit of improvement, and then you do it again, and you've got the beginner mistakes out of the way but you find even bigger problems, never ends.

It's a constant negotiation with reality.

I'm always trying to write the "good" book. That sounds modest, but it isn't. It's the Holy Grail. It's something that very few writers ever actually manage. It's my own definition, I guess. A "good" book that is so good that people talk about it, pass it along to others, reread and savored.

Every time I start a new book there is a chance it will happen.

But I can't put that expectation on myself or nothing will get done. I do best when I just wing it, write whatever comes to me, enjoy the process, not care whether anyone else is going to like it.

It's a bit of a Catch-22, I suppose. I might be better served trying to figure out what might be commercially viable, then do a lot of planning to achieve that goal.

But...that book will never get written. Has never gotten written. A few times I've tried, and the result wasn't that good, frankly. It fell flat. Right idea, right approach, flat result.

Bad idea, bad approach, lively result.

Anyway, if I had any advice to beginning writers it would be to write like you don't care. Do it for your own amusement.

Of course, the old pros would probably look down at this approach. But for me, it's very liberating. And it doesn't keep me from trying to get better. I just give myself breathing room, and the chance to have fun, and to keep the sense of exploration alive.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Writing short pieces of "Takeover," what I'm calling "witness testimonies." If nothing else, it gives me a sense of each character. I ended up liking these snippets so much, I almost wonder if I could write an entire book that way.

I like the kind of complexity they weave, the sort of disjointedness and contrary observations that real-life events have.

I do think there needs to be a connecting thread, though. A main narrator. But meanwhile, I'm just writing things as they occur to me, with the idea that I can thread them all together later.

I'm just writing stuff that I'm inspired by so far. Using up a lot of the research I did fast, but I'm going to be moving into new territory soon, so that's probably all right.

I'm just hoping it will all hang together at the end.

Right now, I'm thinking of taking one character and making him every second or third entry, and making each entry of his at least a couple thousand words. (Most of the others are between 300 to 1000 words.) Use his narration as the connective tissue but try to maintain the tone.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

FREE MARS! is live.

My new short story is Live.

If you've ever wondered about my writing and wanted something short but complete and only .99 (or free on Kindle Unlimited), here it is.

It was so much fun to write!

Got the "Tuskers IV" publisher-edits yesterday. They asked for a few small revisions and for me to look over the copy-edits.

I almost always accept edits. I'm not sure if this is because I'm a wuss or because I've been lucky so far and the suggestions haven't been out of bounds. In fact, most of them are pretty good. And as far as word changes and grammar, I find the changes are almost always for the better.

Anyway, I quickly wrote what they wanted and sent it back, so it looks like "Tuskers IV" might be ready to go. I think it came out really well, especially since it's a fourth book. It may actually be the best of the lot.

I'm very responsive to direction, I'll give myself that. I try to do what they ask. It doesn't ever seem to be a problem, despite the stories you hear about obtrusive and wrong-headed editors.

At least so far.

So I've done editing over the last three months of "Deadfall Ridge," "Snaked," and now "Tuskers IV."

I'm looking forward to writing new stuff. I still have at least one book out there that I'll probably have to do under an editor's supervision, and a possibility of another.

After that, I'm on my own unless something happens.