Friday, June 23, 2017

Just write.

The gulf between writing and marketing is like the Grand Canyon to me. It would take me building a Evel Knievel like rocketship to try to cross that gap and I don't much feel like it. I suppose I'm hoping that someone with a Wizard of Oz hot air balloon will cross the gap and look down and deign to notice me, but I'm figuring that's unlikely.

So I just write. It always comes back to that. I can feel myself getting oh so slowly better. The writing itself does that. I always feel pretty good about it when I'm active. It's only when I'm not writing that I start to have doubts. Whatever I'm writing at the moment is always "the best thing I've done." Heh.

I've already written 4 chapters of "Wyvern Riders" and I'm really enjoying it. I'm not sure there is a market for a series of fantasy novellas, but it probably doesn't matter since I'm not going to try to market it.

I'm going to write it.

I'd like to believe if I wrote something really good that people will notice. I have to have that faith, otherwise what's the point? I always felt that way about my store. Create the best store I can and let people find me, and that mostly worked.

Writing is quite a bit harder to stand out in, I admit. But, for instance, my entree into Kensington was the "executive editor" writing me out of the blue to tell me how much he liked "Led to the Slaughter." My entry to Ragnarok was a good review by one of the publishers, my entry into Cohesion was a good review by the publisher, and so on. That's the thin thread I've followed so far, and I'm hoping another thread will develop. But it seems so iffy I'm not depending on it. 

There is the sheer joy of writing. I don't know why I like it so much, but I do.

So fuck the marketing and full speed ahead.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Finally got a contract for a book that had been previously accepted. Supposed to be paid soon, heh. More money than I've made in all my other writing combined, and puts me firmly in the black despite all my lavish and perhaps foolish spending on covers and editing. So that makes me feel like maybe this whole writing thing is working.

Meanwhile, Amanda at Cohesion liked my edits for "Snaked" and has returned the manuscript for a couple more changes. Basically, they liked my Mama Snake additions but wants a little more. I think what I've learned from this is that I tend to underplay the big moments, and also leave out the emotion in the small moments. Hopefully I can apply that to future writing.

She and Geoff also want a "timeline" which is no small task, and I'm not actually sure how to go about it. But, like the last edit, I just need to tackle the problems one at a time.

Meanwhile, wrote the third chapter to Wyvern Riders and I like it. I told myself that I wouldn't let anything keep me from progressing on this story for the next ten days. So despite the importance of the revisions to "Snaked" they need to fit into a workable schedule. I had a good start on "Mother Sali" too, but got waylaid and when I went back to it, I'd lost the thread. I don't want to do that again.

I need this creation process in my life. I enjoy it, it makes me want to keep writing. I don't know what it is. I would compare it to reading, but even more intense. I live in that world for a time and I like it. Editing to make a book better is all well and good but it isn't the same feeling at all.

So even when I'm editing, I think I need to keep the creation part going at the same time. I'm doing this for the fun of it after all.

Money? I've given up so much money by not working at the store that writing can't conceivably ever pay me back for it. So obviously I'm doing it for the love. I do want people to read me, which means making compromises and concessions to publishers, but other than that, I just want to write.

I can't let the frustrations and delays of the publication process pull me too far away from why I'm doing it in the first place.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I have so much unfinished work.

Recently I showed Dave Cline samples of something I wrote 30 years ago, "Sometimes a Dragon," then immediately followed it up with the first chapter of "Wyvern Riders." Here's what he said: " soon as you take the active voice -- your writing just sings. That first paragraph kicked ass. And indeed every one of the passages and interactions were dynamic and engaging. So, yeah, this writing -- in particular -- is truly rock solid, as compared to the "Sometimes a Dragon." There are hints of what the old writing would become and this is it."

That is almost exactly my own estimation. The unpublished works are just not up to current standards: and yet, they really aren't terrible either. So they keep being put on the backburner. Every time I look at them I make a few improvements with the idea that someday they'll finally round into shape.

In moving house, I finally found a box with "The Changelings of Ereland" in it. This was the fifth book I ever wrote. (The fourth, "Bloodstone," was hopelessly bad. Amazing how much I regressed from "Icetowers," which overall was the most solid of my early efforts.) I'll take a look at it sometime, see if there is anything there.

I have to admit, I'm feeling at loose ends right now. Not sure where to go. I'll probably try to finish "Wyvern Riders," but I want to have the right tone. The first two chapters are really good, and I think the third chapter has possibilities.

I need an overall threat, so that's something to think about. Some secret about Danton that Sharmilan hints at, somebody coming after them for reasons that aren't clear. Meanwhile, they go about their adventures, then tying it all together. I have the overall story arc figured out, but not the specifics.

Yesterday was a throwaway day. I'd had two nights of buzzed sleep, too much caffeine basically. I need to go back to my old rules of never drinking coffee after noon, and never soda after dinner. So I felt really shitty after two nights of hardly sleeping and having bad dreams. I didn't want to do anything. I didn't even go for my walk.

But I did read some long-form magazine articles on the Bundy ranch, found all kinds of wonderful details. I want to read some more articles on the Malhuer occupation. Slowly but surely I'm building up some research for my next big effort, "Takeover." This isn't natural for me at all, but I know that it will be incredibly beneficial when I actually start writing.

I've got two manuscripts with publishers that I'm pretty sure they'll want revisions on; and I have "Deadfall Ridge" being considered.

I'm not confident. I think it's a good book, but it falls just a little short somehow. I mean, I think it's ALMOST there and with a little professional help it could be, but whether big-time editors have time or interest in doing that, I don't know. I know that if it gets rejected I'll probably try to rewrite the beginning yet again, dropping the second chapter altogether, and cutting down the third chapter as much as possible, (maybe eliminating it too.) That will put a heavy information dump in the fourth chapter, so I'd have to be really severe in figuring out what could be dispensed with.

The book is ALMOST there. It's killing me.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Scratching my fantasy itch.

I love fantasy. It's my first love, it's in my bones. What you love at 13 years old you love for life.

But I went away from it because I felt it had all been done. I still sort of feel that way. The basic perimeters are the basic perimeters, and those who try to stretch the boundaries usually do it in such a way that it is distracting, calling attention to itself.

Oh, this fantasy is different because the main protagonist is a rotter! Oh, the fantasy is different because it has nothing supernatural, or it's hyper-realistic, or it's got women heroes!

Or maybe I should say--the perimeters have been stretched, but the result is new genres; dark fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, etc. (And not surprisingly, these are more fun to read.)

Basic fantasy? There is a template, and some do it well and some do it mediocre. But frankly, I got tired of even the well-done fantasy never really surprising me. I went from an insatiable hunger for fantasy through my 20's, to "Oh, another fantasy." Especially since the most successful fantasies seemed to be the most unoriginal, the most dedicated to fan-service.

People kept recommending them. "This one is different, this one is better," but they never seemed to be.

So a few fantasy authors have broken through to me, mostly because of the quality of their writing; George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Lois McMasters Bujold (some). Most of the others people talk about leave me cold, and I've sampled almost every one of them.

Anyway, this is a long way to my point, which is, I have the urge to write fantasy every time I sit down. It's what lures me.  

Fortunately, I always seem to stray. At first, I didn't really consider that I was writing "horror" per se, but it became clear after awhile that writing horror was my way of breaking out of the fantasy tropes. Horror seems to be open to anything. Any story I write can be turned to horror with a few adjustments.

But, well, there isn't a huge market for horror, especially among the Big Five publishers. I was told by a big agent that the smaller publishers I'm already being published by are in fact the people who are doing the state-of-art horror, which is both reassuring and somewhat disappointing. Oh, there are a few breakthrough authors, obviously Stephen King and Dean Koontz among others, but there is an overall resistance to horror.

When I got tired of fantasy years ago, I went to reading mysteries/thrillers, and that's what I've been reading for the last 30 years of so. So turning to trying to write thrillers is a natural move. I've never gotten tired of them. The form seems very elastic as to what is possible.

I was a little leery at first of attempting to write them because of the necessity for realistic  procedural details, and that still is a challenge, but the form itself I think I can do.

But every time I sit down to write, my urge to write fantasy is as strong as ever.

I've sort of come up with a solution, at least for me. It runs counter to the trends, so it won't bring me fame or fortune.

The trend in fantasy is to write an unending series of huge books, the more Tolkienish the better. Pretend to be utterly different, but in reality be as close to the model as possible. So as not to offend anyone, I won't mention any names. (Goodkind, Jordan, Hobbes, Fiest, Eddings, Sanderson, Salvetore,  ad naseum.)

Instead, I'm writing a series of novellas, set in the same world, but not otherwise connected. They have a light tone, almost fairy-taleish (again, not done much these days.) But boy do I enjoy writing them. They come out naturally, and I have lots of fun with them.

I'm calling them "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities" and I've worked out the theology and the government structure of the world, and each story expands on the magical elements, and I'm excited to explore the world.

I've written two full novellas so far, as well as the beginnings of two others. I see no reason not to keep doing them.

Yesterday, the itch to write finally overcame me (after about a week of not writing--that seems to be my limit) and I started another 13th Tale called "The Wyvern Riders." It filled me with joy. I can't wait to keep writing it.

When I've done about a half dozen of them, I'm going to start putting them out. I'm going to edit them myself, do covers that don't cost a fortune, and charge a mere .99 for them.

Whether anyone will ever read them doesn't matter. I get to scratch my fantasy itch.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

While I'm waiting to hear about "Deadfall Ridge" I decided to revisit some of my earlier work that I never released.

I wrote "Sometimes a Dragon" 30 years ago. Linda and I worked on it together for a time, so I have very fond memories of it.

It was a mess. I gave it a quick rewrite when I came back, but it still has problems. There is some nice writing there, and I love some of the characters, but there are major problems with the plot. They might be fixable, but it would take as much time and effort as it would to write another brand new book.

Each time I look at it, I try to improve it a little. So maybe someday it will shape up.

Same with my other unreleased books. Most of them are fantasies, which was my early focus. They all have something, but also have problems. Each time I've wrestled with them I've decided my time would be better spent writing something new, applying all the lessons I've learned.

I guess I'm holding out hope for magical epiphanies.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Musically annotated Beatles.

I'm reading "Tune In," Mark Lewisohn's fantastically detailed biography of the Beatles up to their moment of fame. (Apparently, two more volumes are coming.)

Within a few pages, he started mentioning rock and roll songs that the Beatles were listening to and learning to play. I went to Youtube and started playing each song as they were mentioned. It has enriched the experience immensely, and what a cool resource!

I took several lessons away from this book:

1.) It's often been said that the Beatles learned to play in the crucible of the clubs in Hamburg and Liverpool, but I never realized just how much. They were playing for 6 and 8 hours, day after day after day, year after year, fueled by booze and uppers. They were the bad boys, (especially John), dressed in leathers and misbehaving every chance they got.

2.) Ringo was the more accomplished musician right up to the time the Beatles were beginning to jell. He joined at just the right moment.

3.) The establishment are idiots. It's infamous that Decca (among others) passed on them. What wasn't clear to me was how freaking easy it would have been to sign them up and put a record out. Minimal cost and effort. One guy liked a song of theirs and thought it worth signing them up just for the potential sales of sheet music! Meanwhile the companies were signing lame act after lame act. Once they started passing on the Beatles, it became self-reinforcing.

"Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein."

It was probably only because Brian Epstein owned record stores that were important to them that they finally cracked.

Apparently, EMI dumped the Beatles on George Martin's lap as punishment.

4.) Luck and timing. It's so clear that things could have tipped in different directions at any time. They just kept missing the right moment, but ironically, the delay made them wait for the right people; especially Ringo, Brian Epstein, and George Martin.

5.) Genius is inexplicable. Hard work, and intensive immersion in the scene, sure, but the songs they wrote were offhand at first. They didn't think much of their own songs and had to be convinced to play them!

6.) Their personalities and relationships were as tightly honed as their music. They had a comedy act going among themselves which made them impervious to the squares who tried to take them down later. They were so fast on their feet, they took down the squares instead.

In my fifth year of writing, it's encouraging in a way that it took Beatles at least that many years to get good. And then, well, they got a bit better. Heh.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My editor received "Deadfall Ridge' and says he will read over the next two weeks while traveling.

He says, "Good first chapter!" That's encouraging.

All I really want is a fair hearing, and it appears I'll get one. I don't know if the rest of the book is good enough, but I did my best. Also, he's following up getting the contract to me from the previous book, which I haven't gotten yet.

Was wondering about that.

It's funny, right after I sent the book, the usual doubts hit and I wondered if I should have written beginning different. Continue Sherm Russo's POV from the first chapter (which has gotten good comments) then skip chapter 2, winnow down a couple of other chapters, get to the action a good 10 to 15 pages sooner.

Oh, well. It's time to let Gary look at it and tell me.

If he doesn't take the book, I'm going to try not to be dispirited. This was a learning experience, and I'll take what I did and apply it to another book.

Gary seems to like my writing, so I'm hoping he'll work with me to get it better. He appears to be invested in me as a discovery, at least I hope so.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Can you become addicted to writing?

I go through withdrawal if I go a couple of days without writing something. Life starts to feel a little empty. Time's a'wasting. Maybe it's my age--I've got a lot of catching up to do.

I don't want to go off half-cocked, or do I? I started writing a spin-off sequel to "Deadfall Ridge" that I had no idea I was going to write. My only instruction to myself was to make it fast paced and have fun. I'm really not sure if the story is going anywhere.

And I don't know that I care. The writing itself is the medicine I need.

As I become more and more aware that I need to put more work into writing if I'm going to get anywhere, I'm also feeling a sense of rebellion. That's no fun.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Screech...stop that. :)

So the acknowledgment that I need to do more planning, more outlining, more research. My brain understands that. But I don't really want to. (Said in a peeved voice.)

I understood 30 years ago in my previous career that I'm facile enough to write story after story after story--to no effect.

I've allowed myself to do that in my current phase, and I'm not sure it's wrong. Every time I write something, I learn. Every time I write something there is the chance that this one will be a great book. I do what I think is necessary to improve my chances, or do I just do what I want?

Admittedly, this is pure laziness, but--ironically--boy have I been productive giving into my instincts. For now, I'm just going with the flow. And the flow is being blocked on all sides by the publishing part of it.

So I scoot off to the side and just do my thing while I'm waiting. I have to write something, and it may as well be fun.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

In trying to figure out what to do next, I'm aware that I need to figure out where I stand in the marketplace. If "Snaked" does well, then it would make sense to do another creature book. If Gary takes "Deadfall Ridge" it would make sense to do "Butcher's Cut." If he rejects it, then it would make sense to write "Takeover," a different kind of thriller.

Either way, it probably wouldn't hurt to challenge myself and try "Takeover."

I would call it my first "adult" book, in the sense that I would try to make it more serious, with deeper characterization, well thought out and believable plot, and realistic dialogue.

Can I do that?

The only way to find out is to try. I think it needs to be fully plotted and thought out in advance. I think I need to do character outlines. And I need to think a lot about dialogue.

I need to think about what style I want to do. Right now, I'm inclined toward 3rd person, straightforward with as little adverbs and adjectives as possible. Simple he saids, and she saids. But also try for a little philosophy and some poetic writing.

I want to start with action and keep the tension up, have as many things go wrong as possible right from the start, and then in the second half of the book, make it even worse.

The basic idea of a takeover, followed by a murder, and then a takeover of the takeover by more extreme elements, that all makes sense. That's about as far as I've gotten with the outline. (I wrote some scenes, but they were preliminary and don't start with action, and I'm going to try to avoid that.)

One trick I'd like to try is the read a little prime Ellroy, "The Big Nowhere," for a sense of how the characters talk and interact, before I start writing. Just soak up the tone.

I'm still in the mulling stage, which often only lasts as long as the first scenes coming to me. I'm going to try to forestall that for as long as possible.

This will be a challenging book politically too. I don't want to take sides, but show every side. But that's what makes it so intriguing to me. There's some real meat there.

I've written enough books to know I can do it. Now I think I need to try to up my game a little. What usually happens is that the new book ends up being a Duncan McGeary book that is a lot like my other books with maybe a few new wrinkles.

I figured out the middle of the process first: the writing of the first draft. Got that down to a science. Very effective.

I tackled the last part of the process next, forcing myself to take the time and effort to let the story sit for a time, doing research, and then coming back and doing a thorough rewrite, and then another.

I need to tackle the first part of the process next. Planning and outlining in advance. Researching in advance. Thinking through all the ramifications. This is the hardest thing to do, but I managed to take on the rewriting process, so I figure I can do this too.

I've got lots of writing under my belt. There is no hurry. Do it right.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Pretty awesome cover to "Snaked." I do believe Cohesion Press has some faith in the book and intends to do their best to promote it. (Partly because they can rightly take credit for the end product after putting me through a couple of rigorous rewrites.) It's scheduled to come out 4th Qt. 2017, and I think that means October.

Haven't heard what's going on with Tuskers IV from Ragnarok Press. It's supposed to come out in August, and I haven't heard differently.

So things are happening.

I have a major publisher who said he was ready to look at a thriller from me, so I've attempted "Deadfall Ridge." Don't know if I've hit the mark, but I think I'm close. I'll write another thriller if this one doesn't take, applying what I learned. Meanwhile, I think it's a good book so it will come out one way or the other.

This morning I queried the editor and I'm hoping he'll ask to see it. I'm risking rejection, but if I want to have a publisher, that's the game. If he turns it down, I'll try again. I'm guessing since he expressed interest in my writing("brilliant premise, beautifully written") that I'll have maybe three shots.

The last three books I've written have been a step up in a way. Mostly because of the work I did after I finished the first draft. I'm getting more of a sense of what is required, both in subject matter and technique. My earlier books are good, I think. (It took me so long to say outloud what I really thought, heh.) But they were written totally at my whim, without any attention to their commercial prospects.

Part of me loves the purity of that. Writing what I want when I want. But part of me wants wider readership, and that means being aware of what the market is asking for. It isn't too much of a compromise to do that, I think.

Even my whimsy books were always meant to be readable in a popular way. It was more that the subjects (love-lorn gargoyles, gangster golems, cyber-punk hobbits) weren't going to attract publishers.

To be read by a wider audience, I need either to go through publishers, the bigger the better, or really crack down on self promotion, or just accept that books I put out myself without any promotion aren't going to sell very well. I'm willing to try the first option as long as there are publishers open to me (which is a very fine thread easily broken), but I'm not really willing to do the second option of self-promotions. I hate it and it's self-demeaning as far as I'm concerned.

I'm willing to go to the third option if that ends up happening. Publishing what I want, when I want, to a few readers.

I've already gone way, way beyond my original intent. I'd hoped to finish just one more book, to self-publish it, just to prove I could do it. A few doors opened and I went through them and as long as there is a sliver of daylight coming through those doors, I'll continue. But if they shut, I'm not going to knock on those doors again.

Life is too short, folks.

Monday, June 5, 2017


Finished entering the edits on "Deadfall Ridge." This is by far the most polished writing I've ever done.

It's a solid book, fully vetted.


It just seemed to be missing an extra spark. Up to now, I've always been able to put in a bit of the fantastical in my books. Even my previous two thrillers, which didn't have any supernatural elements, did have some big ideas.

I tried to write "Deadfall Ridge" in a much more realistic vein. It works, but it seems to me that it needs just a little more.

My friend Jim Cornelius mentioned that the "outdoor scenes work fine, if a little Hollywood. Nothing wrong with that."

Well, I took his words to heart and decided to go all in. I wrote three "crazy-ex wife" chapters that are almost all Hollywoody action, and two "bad guy" chapters that are also kind of melodramatic.

 The other problem was, I sort of buried the lede.

The McGuffin was always about a certain New York real estate tycoon who runs for high office and is in debt to the Russians. The box that Hart Davis has is proof of those dirty dealings. So I've decided to bring that a little more forward, from the first chapter.

Go big or go home, I figure.

I'll be done in the next couple of days. I need a corker of a synopsis and that is one of the hardest things to do of all.

And I'm not sure my editor will respond to my email. He's been non-responsive to me for a couple of months, which he's done before, and well...I guess I'll just have to wait for him to come around. I've come to realize, it's not me. It's how busy he is.

But if I want a major publisher, I just have to patient.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wrote 3 crazy ex-wife chapters for Deadfall Ridge.

Amanda's an intriguing character, fun to write.

By writing these chapters, I remove some of the intrigue. On the other hand, these chapters also explain the origin of the McGuffin better than I have so far. On the third hand, I detract from her surprise appearance at the end.

So even though I've written them, I'm undecided about whether to include them. 

I'm working my way through the various edits of the book. Lara does a great job, really thorough, so I use her edits as the base copy. I've got a couple of other people who have edited the manuscript at least partly, and my writer's group comments. Dave Cline's comments are always really insightful. My former pro editor Tim Marquitz did an edit. Linda is partway through one, and she always has really good suggestions.

I'm pulling all the stops out for this book, as far as rewriting and getting as much input as possible. Incremental improvements, maybe, but I'm hoping they all add up to one big improvement.

I don't know if Gary at Kensington is ever going to be ready to read it. I haven't heard back from him for awhile, which seems to be the way it is. But meanwhile, I can keep trying to make the book better.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sent "Snaked" back to the publisher. Interesting experience. My first 'directed' rewrite.

I have to admit most of AJ''s suggestions were right on. The hardest part was moving the chapters around, but since she gave me instructions on that, it was doable. I don't really have that much trouble cutting things or adding things. But moving things around or changing the basic understructure--that's hard, if not impossible for me to do without losing focus.

Cohesion really wanted more snakes, bigger snakes, and they were probably right to do so. I tried to do as they asked.

I hope they like it. It always seems like I'm making massive changes, but when I'm done, it's pretty much still the same old story. Which is good and bad, I suppose.

Now I'm going to get to work on another rewrite of "Deadfall Ridge," which will probably take a couple of weeks. The publisher who I was going to send this to has been non-responsive, so I'm not sure what's going on. I've learned that is more the editor's way than any reflection on me, heh.

I thought this editor was going to send me back a manuscript to rewrite, which was my next project. I'm worried that I'll start something new and then have to drop it to get on the rewrite. But I also don't want to wait around too long before writing again.

I'm also not sure what to work on next. I think I'll probably try to pick up "Mother Sali" the third "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities." Three novellas add up to one book, whereas two comes up a little short.

I've thought of an idea for the next "creature" book. I seem to be getting better known for these books (Tuskers, Snaked) than my other books, and they are fun to write. This new idea will allow me to set it in Central Oregon, which is always an advantage.

So if I alternate between the "Butcher's Cut," the next Strawberry Mountain Mystery, and the new creature book, that pretty much takes care of the rest of the year.  In both cases I'm hoping to do a bit more outlining than I usually do. I really need to avoid getting halfway through a book before I realize it doesn't work.

I'm at the mercy of the marketplace right now. But that doesn't need to stop me from writing. I just need to act as if what I want to happen is actually happening.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

I predict gridlock downtown.

Years ago, it seemed like a good idea to schedule special events downtown in the summer. Like lots of downtowns, Bend was having trouble. Slowly over the years we recovered.

Meanwhile events continued to be added and extended until now most of the weekends of the summer the streets are closed off.

Not only isn't this necessary anymore, I think it is actively harmful to most businesses. We have no trouble attracting crowds downtown on the weekends. On a normally busy weekend we can do quite well. For a store that for years was off the beaten track, having so much foot traffic is a blessing.

However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. You want busy, but you don't want gridlock.

I think we are rapidly approaching gridlock. I predict that this summer we will be locked into a situation where there are so many people that regulars will actively avoid the area, that stores won't be able to deal with customers effectively, and we will become an amusement park.

This is my annual futile plea to slow it down.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When a secondary character takes over a book.

In "Deadfall Ridge" the hero has a crazy ex-wife. She was meant as a minor character, but she was so interesting, I brought her back at the end and she plays a significant role in the denouncement.

In thinking about how to ramp up the book, I've decided to write three more chapters from her POV.

It's true that villains are easier and more fun to write than heroes. Amanda isn't a villain but her motivations are mysterious and dubious.

I'm not going to explain her. 

Dave Cline recommended that I leave her a mystery. I'd already decided to do that. His comment about her was "She's a pocket of intrigue. A unaccounted for bolt rattling around in the oilpan - you just don't know if it will freeze the engine or settle to silence."

One of the two big problems with the book is the McGuffin that is given to the hero twenty years ago which he nevers open. I think I can explain this by it being part of Amanda's machinations and manipulations.

In contrast, the main hero is too bland. I'm going to try to go back and add a darker layer underneath. It won't be easy--I'm usually pretty straightforward in my writing and this will require a couple of layers. Don't know if I can do it but it's worth a try. 

It's going to require some rewriting, but there doesn't seem to be any hurry about the book. The publisher I was going to send it to still hasn't gotten back to my about an earlier book that I thought was a settled matter, so who knows what's going on.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A weed free garden for the first time. Of course, it's a fraction of the size of the plot in Bend, which was a third of an acre. It's so out of control the house is either selling that way, or I've got to hire a crew to clean it out.

The lawn is very green and lush, and I let it get away before I transferred the lawn mower. I actually had to use a weed eater to knock it down before I could mow.

I spent all evening in the Redmond garden, clearing it of weeds before they could seed in, and poisoning the cheat grass in the gravel. Not a weed to be seen.

That won't stay that way forever, of course. But it should be easier to keep up from now on as long as I don't drop the ball. It's a bit like a new car without a dent in it. You want to keep it that way for as long as possible.

But eventually, entropy catches up. Fight The Entropy!

I've only transferred a few plants so far. Most importantly, my mom's peony, my biggest remnant of Libby's wonderful garden.

Still working out the kinks of the new house. The fridge doors are wonky, have to close them correctly. One of the hinges came off a door. The water comes out too strong and too fast in the shower. There is no side mirror in the bathroom. Both toilets were broken, thankfully not at the same time. The builder has been responsive to all the changes. He's building a house next door, so he's sort of hostage.

The air conditioner keeps it cool without much effort, it seems. The granite countertops hide all the grit, which is both bad and good, I guess. The wood floors have wisps of cat fur everywhere already.

Panga adapted rather quickly. She likes the short hop down to the enclosed and open backyard. It's mostly quiet in the neighborhood so far. Have met a few neighbors, including a very gossipy old fellow who clued us in on who's who. :) 

Can't get the New York Times here in Redmond. Will have to transfer it to the store.

It's quiet here, and despite the closer proximity of neighbors, more private. We thought we were getting privacy in Bend, but because of the angle of the lawn, we were visible from the street.

I've found a new walking path 15 miles out which is suitable. I'm hoping to re-establish my writing routine on it. Haven't run into anyone out there yet, but there's more tracks than in my Badlands trail, so I'm bound to run into someone eventually.

Linda and I are going to end the day at that canal trail I found. She'll read while I do my hour walk.

Haven't heard back from my publisher on the book I thought I had sold. Last message was, "I'll have the contract to you next week." That was two months ago. I sent him a message a week ago. "Are we still on?" Haven't heard anything.

Say what you will about self-publishing (like that I only sell 10 copies that way) it gets done fast!

It's a new life.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The editors at Cohesion have been coaxing me toward more action in "Snaked." More snakes, bigger snakes. They've been right every time.

What it says to me is that a story can always be ramped up. And should be.

I've been looking at "Deadfall Ridge" and wondering if there might be a way to ramp up the action there. Something I can add, without changing the fundamental plot.

And there is the Crazy Ex-Wife. She's an interesting character, plays a pretty big role at the end of the book, and it occurs to me that I've missed at least two opportunities to bring her further into the story. One of the opportunities is early in the book, which would be a good thing. I have an action first chapter, but then nothing but set up for the next 40 pages, and that maybe too long to wait.

If I could find a third chapter for her in the middle of the book, that would be even better. Usually, once I have the idea, I can figure out how to do it.

So I have a few days while I'm waiting for editing, so I think I'll give it a try.

Friday, May 26, 2017

2 big new scenes for "Snaked."

I saved these for last, waiting for inspiration. But nothing much was coming to me. Moving house seems to have removed all my location and timing triggers for creation.

So yesterday, I headed back to Bend and went out to my old stomping grounds. Sure enough, even driving out there I started to get ideas. I stopped at my first station and wrote half a chapter. By the time I finished my usual 4 mile walk, I'd written most of the rest.

I'm going to replicate the situation today. But damned if I can drive 45 minutes one way just to start writing every day. This works to finish this book, but for any new effort I'm going to have to develop new routines.

Who knew routines were so important? I mean, I did--but not how much.

I get so much writing accomplished because I give all my time over to it. Even when I'm not actually writing, I'm making room for it. It's very difficult to write if anything major is going on--like moving house. I couldn't write at all when I was working full-time at Pegasus.

It's a matter giving myself all the time I need and then finding places conducive to the act. I'm making progress, otherwise I might be discouraged. I hope when all the moving hassles are done, I can settle in to new routines.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The better "Snaked" gets the more I want to make it better. That seems to be the dynamic. It felt pretty good to start with, but has unexpectedly improved--and that just makes me want to find more ways to make it even better.

"Snaked" is definitely improving. I can see that. There are a bunch of obvious misses on my part in the first draft. It's not bad, but I dropped opportunities to play up the action. So one by one, I'm fluffing those scenes up and damned if they don't read better.

That plus the pacing being improved by cutting some of the unnecessary stuff.

The main plot points are a plague of poisonous sea snakes, followed by a tsunami. 2/3rd through this rewrite I realize I missed a bet. The tsunami is caused by an earthquake, which I more or less downplay. (I have it happening off scene--in the deep ocean.) But there is no good reason to downplay it that way. So now I'm looking for places to describe the earthquake.

The more changes I make the more continuity and consistency problems are likely to arise. I thought all I needed to do in this rewrite is address each of the comments by AJ one by one, and write the new scenes she asked for.

But now I realize I'm going to need to do a complete revision based on these changes from cover to cover.


But...well, the book which I already thought was good has gotten better, so I don't want to stop now.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A light touch feels like a lazy touch.

I'm working my way through the rewrite of "Snaked."

I look for the easiest solution to every plot problem, while still addressing the problem. I don't think I improve my writing by agonizing over it. But it can feel a little lazy.

What I tell myself is--going over something 3 or 4 times lightly is more beneficial than going over it once in an overbearing way, and probably ends up devoting as much time and energy. But it can feel a little lazy.

I believe the first answer is probably the best answer--except where it isn't. But that's where beta readers and editors help. Telling me where I missed the obvious. But it can feel a little lazy.

Ir may be a little ridiculous to accuse myself of lazy when I put so much time and effort into it. But yeah, I'm intellectually lazy in some ways. Back in college I got a "B" on a paper I had estimated was an "A" and the professor said, "You are so facile with your writing you don't put an effort into it."

But the truth is, I've ruined more books by trying too hard than I have by trying too little.

This isn't a science, but an art. There is craft and there is feel. You can't always reason yourself to a solution. Sometimes it just "feels"right. If I stare too long at words on a page, if I overthink it, I'm likely to make a wrong move. If I go over something too many times, second guess myself too many times, I can lose the "feel" for the book, and I usually can't get it back. After that, I'm trusting that the original story is still there.

But I never know when I'm going to tip over into that, so I tiptoe carefully, trying not to lose my fictional dream by messing with it too much.

When I see other people's representational art, I often like the rough drafts better than the finished product. It feels and looks more pure, not so slick.

Nice excuse for being lazy maybe, I don't know. But I know that I was stumped on rewriting for a long time because I was making it too hard. Now I just look at something and let the words flow (or cut or change) and trust my instincts.

There are times when I have to use my critical brain to think about it. It's much more a part of the process in rewriting, and isn't as fun. But there is still a thrill when I fix something that wasn't working, even if at first, I wasn't sure.

So being put through my paces, holding my feet to the fire, is helpful. As long as it is in a light way that feels a little lazy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Going backward to catch up.

Worked at the store yesterday, my first full day in a long while.

It was fun and exhausting. The thing I noticed is,we don't seem to be at the forefront of pop culture the way we were a couple of years ago. But we haven't quite receded back to fanboy days either. Still, an awful lot of people profess to be interested in what we're selling but when it comes down to it, really aren't. Tons of compliments about what a "cool"store it is, then no buying. I don't think Muggles know they are Muggles.

Speaking of which, I completely missed a fad this time, one that my "fad" distributor has apparently been hawking. Those "fidget spinners." I was in a 7/11 the other day and some guy was obviously popping into stores looking for them and the clerk was explaining about how they are selling out, and my ears perked up.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

He explained, and a day later there was an article in a store about how schools were banning the thingies, and that is one of my signs of fadness...these things tend to roll out in a certain way, and the school banning is usually about 1/3rd of the way in. (people popping in the stores to buy up all available is another sign... heh.)

Pretty much too late to jump in.

Anyway, that's the kind of thing I used to be an early adopter of. I'd get them before anyone else, make sure I kept them stock, become known for having them.

I'm not sorry about leaving that rat race behind, frankly. It's a quick boost to sales, but then becomes a hassle quickly, and always a chance you'll get stuck with them at the end.

Sold two of my books without trying very hard. Since I stopped working at the store, they haven't been selling. Nothing like having the author standing there.

There was a note from Enes Smith, a local author of thrillers (he was a police chief in Warm Springs.) He wanted to set up a table in front of my store some weekend.

I called him up, and he was obviously way more savvy about hawking his books than I am. He's going to set up a table in front of Pegasus this Sunday and I'm actually thinking about joining him, just to see what happens.

But I'm also a day behind on my writing because of working, so probably not.

Finally getting window shades at our new house. We've been open to the world, which has been an interesting experience. Not too bad, we're on a quiet street, but a little strange.

I've found new walking paths that are relatively quiet about 15 miles out, the same distance as Bend. Everything closer is unfortunately Yahoo territory.

I'm itching to start writing again, but I have three books-- THREE!!!-- that I have to edit first. I'm having to go backward for awhile to catch up.

Monday, May 22, 2017

I both dread and desire content editing. I'd love to believe my writing is good enough as it is, but I don't know what I don't know. In other words, there comes a time when my own editing isn't enough. Someone can come in from the outside and point out the obvious.

Most people are leery of doing this, even people I pay. Line editing and copy editing they're comfortable with, but telling me my character sucks or the plot isn't believable or I've wasted too much time on a subplot--or any other major change--most people avoid, no matter how often I tell them to let me have it.

I've had friends who've held my feet to the fire. Bren was pretty good about "Led to the Slaughter" and "The Dead Spend No Gold." She was also pretty hard on "Faerylander," to the point where it has never been published. That's the danger in asking for the truth--that I become so discouraged that I never do get around to finishing.

Lara, my main editor, has always been good about the general consistency of the book, but I think she has avoided, "This sucks, do it different" sorts of messages. Which I think was appropriate to what I asked her to do.

Dave has been pretty honest about "Deadfall Ridge."

In every case, it improves the book.

But for most of my books, they were published pretty much the way I wrote them, which of course I love--except for the nagging suspicion that I might have missed something that would have improved them.

If the word of mouth never really takes off, then to my mind, I obviously did miss something.

I've always had this feeling that I've somehow come up a little short.

So the experience with "Snaked" has been interesting. When I wrote the first draft, I thought it was the best thing I'd ever done. I still do, pretty much. But Geoff turned it down because I had dropped the black snakes too much.

Went back and added 4 chapters of black snakes and it was instantly clear to me that the book was improved. Geoff accepted it.

Now, AJ, the editor-in-chief at Cohesion is holding my feet to the fire, and in almost every case, I can see that she's right.

Demanding more a reaction to events (one of my weak spots--something weird happens and my characters don't respond strongly), asking that a character not do a terrible thing, asking that another character be stronger, more snakes! bigger snakes! keeping the tension of the snake plague and tsunami, and so on. All valid critiques which I've tried to address one by one.

And I can see it shaping up.

The one thing I was leery of was changing a subplot, which I thought was the heart of the book. But when I got to the chapter AJ was referring to, it was instantly clear that I had indeed gone on and on to no effect and when I cut it by half, it read much better.

So as painful as this is, I can see the book shaping up to be a better book. I'll send it back to AJ, and she'll let me know if I addressed her concerns, and maybe, just maybe, I should hope she has more, because in the end, the quality of the book is what counts.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

To carry on about editing "Snaked," and to procrastinate a little more from real writing, Dave said this:

Narrative writing is so not like programming.

Clever = convoluted.
Obscure = confusing.
Nuanced = vague and misleading.
All things you do not want your code to be, which in general is: drop-dead-obvious. 

I'm not sure you give enough credit to the analogy, especially in genre, plot-heavy fiction. In other words, you can be both, I think. Streamlining, removing redundancy, condensing, etc. All that helps a book. I think the structure needs to be thought out, even if in a intuitive way.

With your speed of production I wonder if more time spent designing, rough outlining, sampling the story in a broad context might not be a way to test a story before it's written.

With every book, I try. Nowadays, I do tend to have an overall story-arc in mind, a theme, a cast of characters and a locale.

But I seem to find my story by writing it. I can't seem to find it from the outside, as it were. I learn by doing. So for instance with "Deadfall Ridge" I realized that I waited too long to get to the action, that the action must be immediate and never let up. Of course, this is true of all genre fiction, but in thrillers it becomes much more noticeable.

But yeah, "designing, rough outlining" would be a huge help, if I could do it. I try a little harder each time. More thought before I start a book, more thought before each chapter.

I heard someone use the phrase, in describing a book that had a thin plot, "not enough paint to cover the walls."

Nowadays, I try to make sure I have enough paint.

A comment about the editing of "Snaked" from Dave that I thought I'd address here.

"So, these module swappings (code-speak) are they temporally based? Or character introduction/explanation rearrangements? Or plot flips? Or?

I recently wrote this in which I discover that my purely sequential story plot detracts, rather than adds to a story:

Can you give us a glimpse into the reasons what this editor has done to improve your book?"

Many of the swappings are temporally based. This is always confusing either to me or to the reader. I do it intuitively, (as you say, purely sequential story detracts, rather than adds). But when enough readers and editors insist that the sequence doesn't make sense, I bow to their will.

Thing is, so many of these events are happening at the same time, or near in time. I'm more concerned about juggling characters and action/non-action and theme and so on. I've always felt that people can adjust to things being slightly out of temporal order--especially if the book is the book.

In the editing phase, though, people always notice.

Anyway, they're the boss. (Or rather AJ, is. Editor in Chief Amanda Spedding at Cohesion.)

The biggest change comes in the second half of the book. After the first half sets up the danger and mostly concerns the plague of black sea snakes, the second half kicks off with a tsunami. They felt I was letting the momentum fade by the way I placed the chapters.

I point blank asked them to suggest the sequence they thought was right, and thankfully they did. This is one of the hardest things for me--once I've written the book in a certain order, it's all pick-up-sticks after that if I mess with them.

Now that they've suggested an order, I will move them as requested, and then make sure the transitions work.

When I first presented the manuscript last year to Geoff Brown at Cohesion, he liked it, but thought I had dropped the black snakes too much in favor of the tsunami. I agreed and wrote four chapters in the last ten chapters that concerned the snakes.

It very much improved the book, and he accepted it.

In this rewrite, they want even more snakes, including a plot twist that I hadn't thought of but which I think works really well. It will require me writing a couple of new scenes, which doesn't scare me. (I'd rather write new scenes than try to completely rewrite an old scene, frankly.)

I had a subplot that they thought took too much of the book and slowed down the action. This was the change I had the most trouble with, because I thought this subplot was the heart of the book. But you know what? When I got to the chapter they were referring to, damned if they weren't right. I cut the chapter in half and it improves the pacing tremendously.

There was a major character that they thought I had phoned in and who wasn't convincing. Once again, they were right when I looked at it, and I tried to make her a stronger character. Another character who acted out of character, which I changed.

Lots of other suggestions in the course of the manuscript which I am addressing one by one. What seemed overwhelming when they first got back to me now seems much more manageable, now that I've wrapped my brain around it.

As I said, this is really the first time I've had a publisher do "content" editing, and not just copy-editing. (Hell, most of the time, I don't even get line-editing, but then again, I've paid for my own editing, so perhaps the writing is in line.)

The biggest surprise to me about writing these books is that people really don't seem to have trouble with my "writing." Oh, there is passive writing here and there, lots of mistakes and so on, but those things can always be improved, and I'm perfectly willing to accept suggestions. (I find I accept about 95% of line-editing, no matter who does them, because they usually are seeing the obvious.)

What people have trouble with is consistency, story pacing, and plot twists. Or more simply, the story. This is what people review, whether they liked the story or not. Never a mention of the craft.

Craft is taken for granted, I guess. It's the starting point, the bare minimum. They expect competence.

So story it is. Story, story, story.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

All right, I admit it.

When I first got the editing back from Cohesion, I was intimidated by how much they were asking me to change. But, well, what choice did I have?

At first, I looked for ways to finesse the changes, but then hit some parts which require more than that. So I took a deep breath and dove in, hoping I wouldn't wreck the thing.

Came close to wrecking it a couple of times, but came back to the original version and tried again. And I started to see that it was improving the story. Undeniably. And in some ways, the bigger the change, the more it improved the book.

I'm still not sure if the chapter movements are right. That's the kind of overall picture thing that's hard for me to see, but since the smaller changes are improvements, I'm going to go ahead and assume these are improvements too.

The biggest tasks are ahead, but getting the first half nailed down has increased my confidence that I can get it done.

Even if it's starting to feel like a damn job!

Friday, May 19, 2017

What I give up in pleasure, I give to the reader.

Nice of me, huh.

I've been doing nothing but re-writing for a couple of months, which is not my favorite activity. Right now, I need to get "Snaked" done. Cohesion wanted some major changes and I'm trying my best to do them. Haven't really ever had anyone from the outside ask for that before. They've got a stake in me--I've seen the cover to "Snaked" and it's pretty spectacular--so if I make a good faith effort, I'm sure it will work out.

Meanwhile, I have "Deadfall Ridge" out with beta-readers and editors. The first beta reader, who knows his outdoors, was pretty blunt in his criticism--which is good, believe me. I can address most of his criticisms, and a few others I can try to finesse, but I'm not surprised by what he found to be faults.

He really liked the first chapter "Which made me willing to read the rest of the book." The implication that he didn't like the rest. "Too many adverbs and ing words."

So I immediately went to the manuscript and started fooling with it. For one thing, I think I have decided on the final draft to turn it all into 3rd person. I was never completely comfortable with the 1st person. Just didn't feel like I pulled it off.

I'm backing away from the book until I get all the critiques back.

I need to get "Snaked" done first.

Just trying to handle the "Snaked" revisions one at a time. Finding the simplest solutions wherever possible, because I've got two major changes I need to concentrate on.

It's weird--but having someone actually request changes is way more stressful than just realizing myself that changes need to be made. Most of the suggestions are right on--especially for the kind of books Cohesion publishes-- big, action-oriented creature books. My book was probably a little too mellow the first draft. (I've already done one rewrite on their request, which improved the action dramatically.)

In other words, they are helping mold this book into a much more vibrant story.

But I always like my first drafts, you know. That is always the real story to me. Improving the books for others--and I want to be clear here; they ARE improvements--still tends to diminish my pleasure a little.

What I give up in pleasure, I give to the reader. 


Writing while moving is pretty much impossible. I knew that. I figured the month was a goner.

What I'm not sure I anticipated is how it would change routines so much. I had particular times, places, and habits at the old house which were all designed to be conducive to writing. None of those routines are here.

I guess I'll have to develop new routines.

There are walking spots close to Redmond, but they are in "yahoo" territory. (The first few miles of "wild" outside any urban area are all beat up to shit. Shotgun shells, trash, tire tracks, and so on. You can walk, but it's like walking in a trash dump.)

So to get to anywhere nice, I have to drive another five to ten minutes, somewhere between 20 to 40 minutes out, which is a third further out than from Bend. But I'm willing to pay that price. Some of the spots I've identified are very nice, and will probably be very conducive to writing.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bought something from Walmart for the first time.

Our new house is about half a mile away.  I destroyed one of the cables to our TV while installing it and made a quick trip.

So I can no longer brag that I've never bought anything from Walmart or Target. Both stores showed up in Central Oregon after I'd already been in business, and I had strong feelings about them.

Anyway, my reaction yesterday was--a huge space full of cheap crap.

Funny thing is, there are perfectly good brands there, but they are dragged down by the acres and acres of junk. The whole thing reeks of cheap.

It's kind of pathetic really. I mean, here I was thinking it was this vicious, smart predator and really it's just this big huge drooling giant. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

The editor from Cohesion emailed me her suggestions and changes for "Snaked."


See, this has never really happened before, even back with my mass market fantasies. The publishers usually just take my manuscript and print it, with at most a little copy-editing. I was beginning to wonder if editors really ever did that kind of stuff anymore.

So AJ wants the sequence changed a little, and more snakes, snakes, snakes.

I'm going to try to be easy-going about this. Not make a big deal out of it, but just enter into it with an open mind. Just follow instructions. If I run into anything I disagree with, try to communicate it and find a solution.

I've never had much of a problem accepting word and punctuation changes, but this is the first time that I've ever had to mess with the actual structure of the book (except on my own initiative). Structural changes for me are always dangerous. To me, a book is like a jenga tower--take out one piece or insert one piece and the whole thing can fall apart.

Plus, if I work over the same area too much I begin to lose focus (and enjoyment) of the story.

But all the suggestions AJ has made so far are legitimate and I can see how they'll make the book better, and making the book better is the point, right?

This is probably my best book. Making it better may take it up a notch.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

I found my lost manuscript.

14 years ago when we moved to our house on Williamson Blv. I lost a box with manuscripts in it, including a completed novel, "The Changelings of Ereland." I didn't cry too hard about it. It had never quite passed muster, and I ended up using parts of it in other books. Both "Bloodstone" and "Changelings" missed the mark, somehow.

Now, in this move, the box has magically appeared. I'll look it over, see if there is anything there, but if it is as bad as "Bloodstone," the other book from that era, not much can be done.'s nice to have it, in a sentimental way.

Also found the original version of "Sometimes a Dragon," a book that Linda and I cowrote the first half of in the throes of young it would be interesting to see how that reads. I kind of messed with this book too much, I think. It might be nice to go back to the foundations. It would be very cool if we could publish this by Duncan McGeary and Linda McGeary. (Linda McGeary and Duncan McGeary?)

Typed manuscripts...shudder.

Thing is, I can get all my unfinished books done in a very short time if I set my mind to it. Probably a third the time it would take to write a new book. So I could get all these books out under the D.M. McKinnon pen name.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Orphans of Inspiration

I often say I didn't write for 25 years, but in moving out of the house I've uncovered tons of stories that were started and never finished. Because they were usually inspired--that is they rose up and demanded to be written--they're actually pretty good.

I have absolutely no memory of writing some of them. 

They are orphans, belonging to nothing, with no context.

I'm going to throw them away. They're a trap, trying to get me to go backward instead of forward.

There is always more were they came from; much more. I've got all the faith in the world that I have enough ideas in my head to write forever. No sense trying to resurrect the dead.

I also have a foot high stack of business journals, and I once thought they'd be full of cool ideas to write a book about small business. Then I wrote my book about small business and found the journals were mostly my griping about the same damn things over and over again. Which was their purpose, in a way. I wanted to spare Linda having to hear it, so I vented on paper.

These will probably also be tossed. I've always have this experience with diaries. Reading them later just makes me cringe, not be nostalgic.

I'm ready to write new stuff and have fun.

I'm just at an age where I don't see the point of hanging onto this stuff. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Strange not to be writing. It just allows me to fret more.

But we're in the middle of moving, so no way I can write.

We moved the big stuff over yesterday, thanks to Todd and Toby and our friend Anita and her son an grandson. It went pretty smoothly. Didn't drop anything major. Backing up the big 28' U-Haul I ran over our post box. Ouch. Backing up to the house, I thought I was stopping well short. When I go out it turned out I was a mere foot from the house. Almost a big ouch.

Still a ton of small things to take over. I'm kind of living in both houses right now, especially since the Bend house has WiFi and cable. That will probably be the last thing moved. I'm wanting to put in a full sound system this time, plus be able to hook up the TV to the computer, and I'm hoping my tech wizard friend Aaron can help us there.

Linda has fully embraced the new house. Her pleasure wiggle is transparent. 

Still quirks to work out at the new house. The air-conditioning isn't working, which would have been nice last night.

I don't know. This is going to take some time getting used to it all.

As soon as I've completed the transfer over I want to outline the next "Strawberry Mountain Mystery." Outline may be too grandiose a word for it, but at least fully think through what I want to accomplish.

I thought I had plenty of material for "Deadfall Ridge", but I overestimated how much I could spin out the chase scenes (after awhile, they become one damn thing after another.) I underestimated how much plot I lose by not having other POV characters. And I underestimated how much of the underlying reasons for everything (the McGuffin) needed to be explicated. I just figured the McGuffin was the McGuffin.

So this time I want to be sure I have plenty of raw material before I start building my story. I've got the basic idea for the story; it would be nice to think of a couple of unique twists as well.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

1st person narration.

1st person narration is the easiest to write, but it's the hardest to do well.

In every book I write, I go through one last time and relax the writing a little, putting in little small things that are slightly quirky, all in service to the author's voice. So far, this has almost always been 3rd person narration, so putting a little bit of an "author's voice" into the story helps it.

In 1st person, a voice is even more important. But it can't be the author, it must be the narrator.  In 1st person you want the reader to feel like a real person is talking to them, not an author speaking through a character.

I haven't written enough 1st person really to get the hang of it. I'm still learning.

When I'm writing in 3rd person, I regard that character as someone other than me, with their own personality.  So far, at least, that has been harder for me in a 1st person narrator. No matter how I try to distinguish myself from the character, the very act of saying "I" and "me" makes it feel like it's me that talking. It's hard to focus. The narrator becomes just me and all my messiness. Not distinct, not sharp. Sure the characterizations in 3rd person may be superficial to some extent, they may be "types" but they are distinct. 

Early in the process, Dave Cline, who has been kind enough to read this book as I wrote it, pointed out that my main character wasn't strong, that he was too good to be true, that his motivations didn't quite ring true, that he needed some  character flaws that he was overcoming.

The first time I tried to address this, I more or less did it with a blunt instrument--adding backstory to the narrator. But it slowed the story down and didn't seem convincing.

It's the sentence to sentence "voice" of the narrator that matters. That's want I really have to try to inhabit. But it can't be me, it has to be Hart Davis. So that means I really need to get a sense of him as someone else, with his own voice.

I went through a second time and tried to refine his character, but by adding flaws I sort of made him weak at the same time. The trick is for Hart to be flawed, but not weak. That he needs to have a darkside, but he can't be unsympathetic.

I think each time I've approached the character I've made him more his own man with his own voice, but I don't think I'm quite there yet. So over the next month, while the book is out being edited, I'm going to really attempt to figure out who Hart Davis is, all the way down to his soul, and he has to be different from me.

Then, in the final draft, I want that unfiltered Hart Davis to come through in every line of narration, so that the reader feels as if Hart Davis is actually talking to them. I need to feel that "click" like this is someone else telling the story.

I think all my efforts up to now have gotten me closer. I think I'm almost there.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Deadfall Ridge is done."

A full and complete rewrite of "Deadfall Ridge" is done.

I really worked on this, and now I can't really see the story. I have to assume that the original story still works the way I remembered it, and all the rewriting has improved it.

As I've mentioned, I'm not completely confident of the 1st person narration. If I had it to do over again, I'd probably do it as a 3rd person.

Then again, I was hoping to create a main protagonist and supporting characters, a locale, and a tone that I could continue doing. So I did that. If it works, I've got more books I can do this way. If not, I'll try something different.

There is no end of rewriting that can be done. Every single time I open up the file I find something to change. But I believe you can tighten a book too much. There has to be few woolly elements here and there to make it human.

I'm sending this off to some people who are familiar with the wilderness, hopefully to catch any howlers and recommend some telling details.

And I'm getting it edited. I'll give it one more rewrite when all those edits and suggestions come back, and send it off.

If it doesn't work, I'm going to try not to be discouraged. This was a type of book I've never tried before. I think I learned a lot by doing it. I just need to apply those lessons to the next book.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Turns out, buying a house and writing a book are not compatible activities.

I've had to spend two days dealing with paperwork. We closed on the house yesterday. I felt like Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles, signing, signing, signing, signing, signing...

I suspect moving and writing are even less compatible.

Anyway, I've still got three days left to finish the rewrite, which should be plenty of time as long as I don't do anything else.

Anything at all.

(Warning to Linda.)

I've been pretty diligent in my re-write. I cut about 3000 words out of the first 15,000 words. I didn't end up jettisoning the second chapter altogether, but cut it by 60%, saving the best parts.

It's funny, I think I'm making huge changes, but I compared the newest draft with the one before the last one and really it isn't all that different. There just aren't that many things I would change. In fact, a bunch of the changes I thought were improving the book got taken back out. But the point was, I tried, and when it got down on paper it proved not to be better.

I also learned something--or relearned something--in taking out the 3000 words. It was a lot easier doing it on paper, crossing off sections, circling sections and moving them, and so on. A good thing to remember.

I have no idea if "Deadfall Ridge" works as a "thriller." I nearly always have "fantastical" elements--even the two books I wrote without the supernatural; "The Scorching" had fires lighting up the entire West, while "Snaked" had a plague of snakes and a tsunami.

This was a little more local, a little more street level. If nothing else, it was an interesting thing to try. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Killing my darling.

I read the first two chapters of the new re-written "Deadfall Ridge" to writer's group.

They read beautifully, especially the second chapter, which felt like a nice little short story.

And it became clear to me that the second chapter isn't necessary to the book. The events and characters don't advance the main story. There is quite a bit of duplication.

I've kind of suspected this for a while now, but just didn't want to admit it to myself.

There is a single event in the second chapter that needs to be told, and I'll just have to figure out how to get that in.

I just have to hope that the whole thing doesn't fall apart without it. I'll keep a file of the current version just in case, but I'm going to dive in today and either make the second chapter about 2/3rds shorter or eliminate it altogether.

This is a different kind of book, really. I'm learning as I go.

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Deadfall Ridge" re-write--which is basically an edit now that I've filled in, which means, really the fill-ins were part of the re-write--is going faster than I expected. It's very intensive, taking up most of the day.

I should be done on time, May 1. 

It's undeniable that it improves the book. If I can improve the book as much with the last re-write in a month or so, then it might even be readable.

The biggest problem is that I'm afraid the story takes too long for the chase scenes to start. About 20% of the way into the book. Hopefully there is enough tension in those first 50 pages, and hopefully the writing is sharp enough. I develop the background and the characters, and I just have to hope the reader sticks with me.

Everything is improved by good writing.

I was editing someone else's story, and it was so clear what needed to be done, the word choice and all, what to cut, to change, to add. Of course, I'm not always right, but I'm not adverse to making changes, maybe because it wasn't MY story.

I wish sometimes I could do that with my own writing. I can, to some extent. But not so thoroughly.

Drinking used to help me in this--but it doesn't anymore. Not sure why. I may give that a try in a few days, just to see if anything pops out at me.

I think it's because the problems with my manuscript wouldn't be problems if I knew how to do it right. Whereas, the problems in someone else's work is their problem, so I can see it much more clearly.

The only solution to this that I can see is to give my own manuscript more time. If I walk away for a month and do something else, I come back as a different person, with a slightly different perspective.

I think the first 60 pages went so fast because they've been with me the longest, and of course, even though I try not to do any re-writing while doing the first draft, I did go back and make small changes here and there and every time I do that, I also do a bit of editing. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Starting the re-write.

I'm about 5 days late on the re-write. Then again, I filled in the story with a bunch of material, wrote 4 new chapters, and more or less did a lot of things that could be considered part of the re-write. From 67,000 words I'm also now over 80,000 words, which was the goal. If I add the usual 10%, it's possible I could reach 90,000 words, which is even better.

I'm going to up the daily re-write goal to 25 pages, from 20 pages, but it will probably still take me a couple days into May.

So I need to go through and make the story flow, then send it off to get edited.

A couple of changes. I'm going to change several names to an Italian origin, since they are "made" members of the mob.

I'm also going to change the name of a prominent landscape feature from "Juniper Ridge" to "Deadfall Ridge."

The title of the book is currently, "Deadfall." But I'm thinking of calling it "Deadfall Ridge."

I'm changing the lava caves to old Chinese gold mines (which has the virtue of being based on the real fact that there were Chinese gold mines in the Strawberry Mountains.)

Other than that, I think it's good to go.

Just have to lock myself into my room and get it done. (This is not the sort of thing I can do on my walk, unfortunately. It's a game of concentration rather than creativity, remembering all the little details of the story. Instead of energizing me, it enervates me. So it's an entirely different process.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

For a few landscape descriptions, I drove 350 miles.

Drove to John Day on Wednesday. Motels were full, but dropped in on the Best Western.

"Any cancellations?"

"Why, yes...five minutes ago."

"What's going on?"

"It's the annual meeting of the Forest Service for the whole West."

I drove up Lone Pine Road as far into the mountains as I could get. Which was much farther than I expected.  Was finally stopped by the snow. Got out and walked and wrote descriptions.

The next day, I drove up Dog Creek Road, and got even farther. I'm driving my little Toyota Solara up these tight, winding, and very steep and rough roads, hearing the occasional bump under the car, and telling myself I'm crazy. But I got very close to the top and walked the rest of the way.

The configuration of the land is such that I think my story is plausible--with a little literary license.

I wrote 1300 words of description. A long walk to a shallow pond. But it was worth it--I also got a sense of the area. The only thing that doesn't work in my story is that there are no lava outcroppings and certainly no lava tube caves. So I've got to change that to basalt rocks, and just make up the caves; literary license again. Pretty much everything else in the book works.

But most of all, it is really beautiful land, awe-inspiring. Peaceful and enriching.

The traffic all the way through Prineville was terrible, but once past Ochoco Lake, it felt like I had the road to myself.

Bend, Redmond, and Prineville are in the middle of a maelstrom. Outside that, it feels like the old central and eastern Oregon I remember. 

I dream of a writing lodge in the Strawberry Mountains. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The book moves fast.

Didn't manage to write a chapter yesterday, but did do 1000 words of fill in.

Little by little, I'm adding all those things I've thought about doing. Yesterday, it was the "Beatles" hiker and a chat between Sherm and Hart at the end. And just a bunch of little things.

The book moves fast. Not a lot of fat. I'm trying to decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

I also tried to iron out a timeline and synchronize the two story lines. That required adding a day to Sherm's journey and cutting a day from Hart's. Fortunately, I was able to do that.

It's very possible I'll have 80,000 words before I even begin the re-write. Which means, I don't have to artificially inflate it. But that wasn't what I was planning. It was about adding telling details. So...85,000 words? Something like that.

I have two Sherm chapters to write, then I think I'm done. 

I'll have to compress the re-writing into 11 days instead of 15, so do more like 25 - 30 pages a day. I think I can do that.

Tomorrow I'm making a day trip to John Day to write a couple pages of scenery description. I also want to do a bio of every major character, describing them and their ticks, and then try to play that up in the story.

The framework is there, but there are probably tons of little inconsistencies that can only be smoothed by re-writing. I know it's beneficial to have some distance, but I also need to have the entire story in my head, which I have right now and might not in a month. a month, after I get it back from my personal editor, I'll have that distance. But right now, since I have it all in my head, I need to go through it again from the beginning.

That final, cold-blooded re-write is very hard, and I've never completely succeeded, but if I was ever going to do it, this might be the time. I may spend a month researching some of my favorite mystery writers, especially George Pellecanos, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, for how they handle the little bits of business.

I have way too many, "He looked at..."  "She turned..." "He smiled...raised his eyebrows...grunted...shrugged..."

Just really lame stuff which I need to get better at. It's weird since I'm so visual in most ways...just not in expressions.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Filling in the holes.

I've added 3000 words simply by going back and filling in holes. When I write a book, I push forward, hardly ever going backward. In fact, it was Rule #1 when I returned to writing, which I'm only now beginning to loosen up.

In the course of writing, I discover things about the characters and plot that need to be fleshed out. Just the process of going back and doing that will probably add an extra 5000 words before I'm done.

I used to think of a finished first draft as a complete story, that just needed to be burnished. Now I think of it as a framework, where I go back and add things and cut things and move things (slightly, not too much). I'm not trying to make the writing polished, but trying to get the story fleshed out. This needs to be here, that needs to be there. Figuring out the timelines.

The final draft, the editing and copy-editing is when I smooth all that out.

I'm probably going to make a day trip to John Day, to get some landscape description down. I was going to stay for a couple of days, but I don't think that's necessary.

I've written two of the Sherm chapters, and have two more I want to write. Only then can I sit down and do the re-write. So I may go past my May 1 deadline by a couple of days.

It's important I get this right. I have a big publisher willing to look at it, and that's an opening that doesn't come along very often (especially since I don't have an agent.) This editor actually sought me out originally, which I think is pretty rare. I figure the he'll probably give me more than once chance to produce a publishable thriller, but I shouldn't waste my opportunities. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Writing on my day off.

I'd planned to take a couple days break from writing after finishing the first draft of "Bigfoot Ranch."

When I started the book, I'd intended to have two narrators. The main character who would tell his story from a 1st person perspective, and another character--who would drop in every 8 chapters or so-- who would be 3rd person.

Aside from the 3rd person first chapter, the rest of the book was all written from Hart Davis's 1st person perspective. I decided to see if I could write the entire book without bringing in the first chapter 3rd person VP character, Sherm Olsen.

I thought I pulled it off, though I came up 13K words short of the 80K I think I need.

My goal in the rewrite was to add those 13K words, but it seemed kind of intimidating.

I went for my walk without my computer for once, because I had no intention of writing anything. I hadn't gone a hundred paces before Sherm Olsen popped up and said, "Hey, remember me?" and the chapter just started unspooling in my mind. (That is my creative process, a movie screen behind my eyelids.)

Suddenly I had four more chapters in mind.

I came home and wrote the first of the new Sherm Olsen chapters after dinner (not a time I usually write).

So apparently my first draft wasn't done after all. I've got three more Sherm chapters in mind. It will mean I have to compress my re-write into 12 days instead of 15 days, but since the rewrite was going to take more time because of the need for more words, that probably is a wash.

Oh, brain. Make up your mind.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

My thriller "Deadfall" is finished.

I finished the first draft of "Deadfall" (or "Bigfoot Ranch" or "The Last Honest Man" or whatever I end up calling it).

It came to 66K words, which is 14K words short of the minimum length I need. But I usually add between 15% to 20% to a rewrite as I flesh the story out. I concentrate on getting down the story for the first draft, but it always needs a bit of filling out. Telling details. Character development, description.

The filling out improves the book, and also gives me an entry point for rewriting. For a long time, rewriting was a bit of mystery to me. It was always intimidating, partly because I just couldn't figure out how to do it. It was a little like taking apart a beautiful thing, my first creative impulse.

But by embellishing the book, I find I also automatically do the rewriting, so it's a bit of trick that works. 

I still have to write the short epilogue today, and I have several scenes I need to go back and add. Then on to the rewrite.

I find I can do about 20 pages of rewrites a day, usually about 5 pages at a time.  I have to take a break between sessions, because it is mentally exhausting to me. Much harder than writing the book in the first place. Nowhere near as fun, but the improvements are undeniable, so I force myself to do it.

If I didn't have to rewrite or edit or prepare books, God knows how many books I could write. Scary to contemplate...

The book turned out to be typically idiosyncratic and quirky...goofy even. I think I can get away with that when I write my usual fantastical stuff, I'm not sure it will work for a thriller, at least not a thriller I'm trying to sell to a publisher. The bulletproof Bigfoot costume made it all the way to the end of the book, torn and tattered and reeking but still there --almost like it was another character.

Not to seem all pure and all, I don't seem to be able to write anything but what the story demands. That is, I can see it going off course but rather than trying to readjust, I let the story be what it is.

With horror or fantasy, I can just always rely on the werewolves or the Bigfoot or the vampires to add some spice to the story.

Not that it's cheating. I enjoy the genre aspects.

"Thriller" is a genre, but no matter how crazy the plot, it is still somewhat more grounded in reality, and I'm uncertain about my abilities there. I love telling stories, but I've never thought they were "real."

I don't know. This whole writing thing is just something I do. I should probably just give up trying to figure it out, but...that is also something I do.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Time to be sappy.

I stopped in the middle of the trail and just let the endorphins wash over me for a few moments. The warm fuzzies. The overwhelming sense of gratitude for the gift of creativity.

The only thing I can liken it to is falling in love.

Every once in a while I get that high five sense of rightness, the moment when everything clicks and I know the story is complete, that it is right. That fist bump moment, the chop in the air "YES!"

I'm about five chapters from finishing "Bigfoot Ranch" and I've embraced it's goofiness. It isn't what I expected, I'm not sure it's what the publisher expects, but it is what it is supposed to be. I'd purposely held off thinking about the ending until that moment, but as I turned the corner to those last few chapters, I thought of something out of nowhere. Just a tiny little telling detail. Something that probably won't even seem important to anyone reading the book, but it's a detail from which all the rest flows. The little bit of business that unlocks the scene.

And I know I have a book, and all I need to do is sit down and write the ending.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

"Do YOU like the book?" "Yes, yes I do. Thank you for asking."

Was having a long conversation with myself about where my writing is going.

It's sort of dying off where I haven't done any promoting. My self-publishing career is dead in the water. I think the books are just as good, but as far as sales are concerned, it doesn't matter what I think.

I have three books coming out with publishers over the next year--I think. Two of the publishers are new for me.

I'm writing for a publisher a book that I have lots of doubts about. So I was working through that and by accident asked myself the question: "Do YOU like the book?"

And the answer is a most definite: "Yes, yes I do."

I mean, I still have to pop the ending and I'm asking my subconscious to come up with a corker, but even the ending I have so far isn't bad.

In every case where I question the direction of the book, it's been because of some sort of awareness in my head that what I'm doing might not work with the publisher.

But I think it's very, very dangerous to write to other's expectation.

"Do YOU like the book?"

"Yes, yes I do."

I like the characters, the plot, the setting, the writing. I like the measured beginning, the middle alone-part, the quirkiness of the Bulletproof Bigfoot costume being another character in the book.
I like the relationship between Nicole and Hart. I like the McGuffin. I like the premise. I like the somewhat goofy humor (always amazes me that I write that goofy stuff.) All these are somewhat problematic commercially.

So far in my writing I've written what I want to write when I want to write it--and only then have I asked myself where I could place what I've written.

When I was told by the "big-time" agent to write "100 kickass" pages," I tried to write it the way I thought he would want it. I took out a couple of chapters, changed the beginning, and moved chapters around.

He rejected it outright. So I went ahead and wrote it anyway, the way I wanted, restoring the original story, and it was this book that the bigger publisher took.

I know in my business that I decided a long time ago to do what I wanted, instead of always chasing the almighty buck, and build on the small successes because in the end I had to live with the store on a daily basis, and doing it for money only was a recipe for burn-out.

My attitude to writing from the beginning was "Just write it. Don't question it, trust your subconscious, have fun."

So I need to ask that question more often, instead of getting hung up on other things.

"Do YOU like the book?"

"Why, yes. Thank you for asking."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I think Linda nailed it when she said I didn't seem to have my regular confidence. She saw it before I did.

I've been trying to think why.

I think I made a couple of strategic errors.

1.) This is the first book I've written without some kind of fantastical element. Even the two thrillers I wrote before this had Apocalyptic aspects. This book is written at street level. This may not be so much a strategic error, because I wanted to write a normal thriller--but why do I need to write a normal thriller? I could have added the big Apocalyptic thing without resorting to the supernatural.

2.) The decision to make it first person. This limits my options, unless I play with the formula. (Keep the 1st person protagonist but add 3rd person VP's).  I decided to keep it 1st person all the way through except for the first chapter. I have only one viewpoint character--which constrains what I can write about. This means I barely had enough paint to cover the walls. Remains to be seen whether I do have enough paint. I can probably expand the book in rewriting, at least I  hope so.

I've only written one book and a couple of novellas in 1st person before. They got such a good reaction, I decided to do it again. Now I'm wondering if I shouldn't have stuck to what I know best.

The result is that I have Hart by himself in the woods for like 20 chapters and I'm not sure how interesting that is. It will depend on my author's voice being strong enough. I don't do a lot of interior dialogue and that's a problem if I'm not going to have a lot of exterior dialogue. (Linda points out that I do have a lot of interaction with the bad guys, just not verbal.)

When I brought in Nicole 2/3rs of the way through the book, it was like a breath of fresh air.

Someone to talk to! Yea!

Looking back, I'm wondering if there aren't spots were I could have some dialogue. For instance, instead of finding the hiker dead, have them meet on the trail, have a conversation, and then have the guy run away. We hear a shot, everything plays out.

Jordan takes a shot at him, he hides, they carry on a taunting conversation, that kind of thing. Anything I can do to enliven those chapters.

I'm looking forward to the next 3 or 4 chapters with Nicole. I did a little research on dog tracking, and it gave me a bunch of ideas. I don't know why I don't research more--mostly because I'm not sure what to research until I've written the book. Then I can focus on the type of research I need.

Anyway, I think I pulled it off--barely.

The other thing about this book that is different is that instead of the second draft just fixing up what I've written, a good 25% of the book is going to need to be changed. That will be a challenge, not to ruin what I've already written.

But necessary.

It's a different kind of book than I'm used to--that's why I'm uncertain. But like my previous books, I can only learn by doing. I'm given myself the job of writing 3 thrillers in a row, with Hart Davis as the hero. If none of them catch on, it's back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I've gone about as far as I'd mapped out.

"Get off the Harley, Bigfoot." That line has been in my head for weeks.

So now I need to make it all up again. I purposely didn't want to get that far ahead, but now's the time. It is also time to ask the question, that is almost like a mantra to me--the same question I used to ask myself at bedtime for most of my business years.

"What have I done that I shouldn't have--and what haven't I done that I should have?"

I know I want to ramp up the tension again, just as Hart thinks he's making his escape. Instead of seven killer mercenaries after him, the entire apparatus of the state--dogs and helicopters and ORV's and professional trackers, closing the cordon around him little by little.

He now has a companion, a love interest, so that ought to make it interesting, at least to me as a writer.

About 1/3rd the book left, with only the last 4 or 5 chapters figured out. The rest is action--chase and escape. I'm figuring about 8 chapters or so.

I'm actually kind of excited at the opportunity to create again, instead of just writing what I've already figured out. Heh.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Maybe subscribing to the New York Times wasn't such a good idea.

Up to now, I've ignored other books, other writers. Just done my thing. I haven't read any writerly self-help books or paid much attention to what professionals might think.

I just kind of cloistered myself in my own fictional worlds.

So now I'm getting these other writers in my face, unavoidable if I want to read a newspaper from a New York full of creative types. It's enough to make me insecure about my abilities and talents. I tell myself it doesn't matter--just like I tell myself it doesn't matter how many books I sell, or how many good reviews I get, or whether I'm published in the mainstream and carried in the bookstores.

It doesn't matter--but of course it does.

It doesn't matter. I'm just going to keep doing my own thing. Just try to be steady. I write every day, even when I don't want to. I appear to have a strong willpower when it comes to writing. I force myself on my four mile walk on days I don't want to, I force myself to sit down and write at least 1000 words, and little by little, the book gets written.

I'd love to wait around for the wellspring to overspill, to feel inspiration come upon me, to do nothing that isn't purely creative utopia.

But if I did that, I'd produce about three partial stories a year, just like I did for 25 years. Snippets of 10 or 25 or 50 pages at a time, promising starts that go nowhere.

Thing is, once I start writing, the creativity happens anyway--through doing.

The water from the wellspring is the same water, whether it's overfill, or lapping at the edges and can be drunk from a cup, of whether I have to lower a bucket and pull it up. 

I don't really have that many illusions about my talent--I think my estimation has been pretty much borne out by events. I thought there were certain potentials, and those potentials seem to be happening.

Slowly, oh so slowly.

Too bad I couldn't have seen this 25 years ago, but back then I was on a different trajectory. Mostly because I had horrible habits and debilitating doubts. I needed to make a living, and the bookstore was so damn interesting, and Linda and the boys were so important, that I didn't really ever regret it.

I made the right choice.

In fact, I can be a full-time writer now without any pressure because I've already had a career. I have the same creative energy I had when I was 28, but without the time and money constraints.

My habits, my process, are so much better and getting refined all the time.

My attitude is almost the opposite from when I quit--instead of questioning the viability of every idea, my approach is the write anything that comes to me, to never say no, the try to fit it ALL IN.

I've already seen more progress than I expected. My original goal was to finish just one more book, and then to see if I couldn't get it published. I mostly expected to self-publish (though I admit I thought that would have more significant results).

So all the activity that's happened has been somewhat unexpected.

I think that I could get a regular gig going in the mainstream (my own estimation) but it would probably take another 5 years of trying. That would be interesting, but I'm more and more inclined to wonder if that is really what I want to do.

The thing I learned in my business is to do my own thing, as much as possible. To not bend to desires for money or notoriety. To do the modest, satisfying thing.

I probably should apply that to my writing.