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.

So...in 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.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Problems with "Bigfoot Ranch":

1.) Taking too long to get to the action scenes. About 13K words in.
2.) The bulletproof Bigfoot costume, which undercuts the "seriousness" of the book.
3.) Introducing the love interest 65% of the way into the book.

Solutions to the problems:

1.) None. I like all these problems. It may be I'm just too idiosyncratic and quirky to write mainstream books. If so, I'll accept it.

In other words, I'm struggling with the intellectual awareness of what I need to do, and the stubborn creative partof me that wants what it wants.

Basically, my solution is to write another book and try harder to stick to the formula.


 I've had "Bigfoot Ranch" mapped out through the first 65% of the book, with a vague concept of how I wanted it to end. As usual, about 20K words in, I figured out the next 30K words.

The latest five or six chapters I already worked out in my mind weeks ago, so was just a matter of putting them down on page.

Though I'm writing these scenes as I imagined them, they don't feel inspired. Basically, the inspiration came when I imagined it. This is just coloring between the lines. It always alarms a little when this happens. It's one of the reasons I don't outline my books. I need the feeling that I might be surprised.

Anyway, I've got three chapters left that I pre-envisioned. After that, it is a blank slate except for the very, very end, for which I have a hazy vision.

At this point in the book, I thought that I'd have to pull the hero out of the wilderness and back to Bend, and that seemed abrupt and wrong, somehow. Yesterday, I figured out that all the elements that made the Bend scenes necessary could brought into the wilderness.  I can bring out the characters I want to join Hart, rather than having Hart go to them.

Much better.

I'm bringing in the love interest at 50K words. I've tried to foreshadow her through a couple of flashback scenes and a couple other references, but I'm well aware that it is late in the book. I figure I have to write about 8 chapters where Hart and Nicole are on the run, with the pursuit being ramped up. (More searchers, helicopters, dogs, etc.) Nicole being another wildnerness guide will know how to escape detection. Something like that.

Then the ending.

I came up with what I thought was a really cool epilogue. Like all really cool postscripts, it's a little silly. Which is what makes them fun.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Linda teared up over a chapter that I thought was a jury-rigged fix.

I'd brought in a love-interest in Chapter 20, just as an experiment. Nicole would actually show up earlier in the book, but the writing just assumed she'd been accompanying him. So the chapter turned out pretty well, and I thought, OK, this can be done. I liked that there was interaction. Plus, it added a good 20% to the word count, which I'm beginning to believe will be needed.

But, as I mentioned yesterday, I decided to write the rest of the book first, without the new character, and see how it turned out.

So yesterday, on  my walk, I took the new character out of Chapter 20. As a trick, I brought in the voice of Hart's son-of-a-bitch father; since Hart is suffering from hypothermia.

I thought it was kind of a temporary fix, and yet...

When I read it, I was amazed how effective it was--and when I finished, I looked up to see that Linda had tears in her eyes. Score!

It just goes to show you never can tell.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

After much agonizing, I've decided to finish the book with a single protagonist, for four reasons.

1.) My rule about not making major plot changes until I'm finished. I may find that I really like the end result, and more often than not, my original instincts are better.

2.) If I start adding the second character halfway through the book, it will necessitate changing the first half the book. Whereas if I decide not to change, I'm free of the necessity.

3.) I have a feeling that adding a character is easier than subtracting a character.

4.) If I decide to add the second protagonist, then it gives me some meaty working material for the rewrite, which I always like.
Adding a new character to join Hart on the run ratchets up the problem with credibility, which is making me consider about how to correct it.

The biggest problem is that while Hart's in the wilderness, I couldn't think of a plausible reason he couldn't just run further into the wilderness and loop around to safetly.

I tried to finesse that a little by having impassible physical barriers in two directions (which aren't there in the real world), corrupt cops in a third direction, and the mercenaries in the fourth direction. It was a bit of stretch, which I tried to ameliorate by having Hart hated by the people of John Day, further closing off that direction.

It was within the realm of fictional license, I figured.

But if I add another character, it means I have to figure out why SHE wouldn't be able to escape.

So with that dilemma, I think I came up with solution. The solution is so satisfying that even if I don't add the second character, I'll use it.

So this exercise is already paying dividends, making me think about the plot holes.

Having problems and coming up with solutions is sometimes the best way to plot. As long as the solution doesn't completely overturn the story and motivations of the characters.



I have to admit that the prospect of having an editor of a major publisher who is already inclined to like my stuff and who is open to considering the book has changed my approach. I'm taking more time than usual, trying to fix things that are "almost good enough." Not that I wasn't trying before, but somehow it's as if someone is looking over my shoulder and I'm anticipating his objections. 



I wrote Chapter 20 as if Nicole, the love interest, had been along with Hart the whole way, and I thought it worked really well. It's clear to me that it can be done.

Dave however thought it mollified the lone-wolf James Bond-ness of the the lead character, which had me third guessing myself.

This morning I went ahead and emailed my publisher and asked the question: lone wolf or love interest along? Figure it gives the editor the information that I'm well into a book, and maybe he'll give me a definitive answer. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Linda freaked me out a little last night.

"I'm not a fan of the wilderness stuff. Maybe the "lone survivor in the wilderness" is a guy thing. I like it more when the characters are interacting."

Here I've been trying to think of ways to extend the wilderness stuff because I felt it was the core of the book.

Have I  made a strategic mistake?

See, I trust Linda's opinion. I think she's almost always right. She tried backing away from it a little this morning, "No, I was just a little confused about what's going on." (That's been a problem too--the locations and times and logistics are always a problem with my books.)

"Honey, you don't do me any favors by backing away now. I need to know what you really think. Otherwise I can't make the necessary changes."

I immediately thought of one solution, which is for Hart to have a companion in the chase scenes. Maybe even a love interest. But I have 30K words written with Hart alone. Can I tack on another character to already written scenes?

Thing is, I think I can. I've done it before. And it seems more and more viable the more I think about it. It's a complication, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It ups the tension. It's not just Hart in danger--he has to think of someone else.  I'll have to be clever, but being clever is what it's all about.

One thing is for sure--it would make the book bigger, and I've been a little concerned about having enough material. So, yeah. I think it's a real possibility. It would also make the book more active--instead of interior dialogue, it would be conversation between two people, which is always more interesting.

But I won't attempt it until I'm finished. Let's see how it plays out first. (Though it will probably be in the back of my mind from now on...)

I'll write the entire book, then create a separate file and play with the addition of a new character. 

Weird though, how much I like the idea--which I never would have thought of on my own.  It will add a week or two to the rewrite, but if makes the book better, then so be it. I always like something new and meaty to add to a second draft, and this would do that.

So...yeah, I'm very enthused right now. But I probably need to finish the book and sleep on it before I do anything.


Monday, March 27, 2017

One reason I'm not so critical of others efforts anymore is because I know that most people are doing their best. Sure, there are lazy and sloppy people, but I don't believe anyone puts out crappy books just to write crappy books.

Willpower alone won't make you a better writer.

Where willpower enters into it, is how much time I'm willing to devote to the process. It takes willpower to clear the calendar, to sit down and start writing, to stick with it, to finish.

For me, it takes more willpower not to settle for that first version, but to take the time and energy to revise it, and even more willpower to do it again. It takes willpower to set it aside long enough to come back to it with fresh eyes. It takes willpower to take the time to send it to others to read. It takes willpower not to accept "good enough."

When I say willpower doesn't make you a better writer, that's not totally true. Because it takes willpower to create the time and atmosphere to do something creative.

I don't think you can be deeper than you are--I mean, you can't know what you can't know. Insights that don't come to you, don't come to you.

But occasionally something burbles to the top, sometimes you may even get an epiphany. Sometimes what emerges on the page is indeed deeper than you are, better than you are. Not often, but the more time you give it, the more often it happens.

Being aware and open to these gifts. If I get a neat turn of phrase, a neat insight, say once a week, then in 24 weeks I'll get more insights than in 8 weeks. So taking longer to write a book is a good thing. (Though there is a limit, a point of diminishing returns.)

I've been reading the New York Times Book Review, and I always get a sinking feeling. I realize that most of the books reviewed there are far better than anything I'll ever be able to do.

Part of it is intent. My intent is to write fast and entertaining books. But even in that realm, I know there are far better writers everywhere I turn.

But there is no point in comparing. I just have to try to make the book I'm currently working on as good as I can. Take the time for it to develop, put some thought and research into it, revise it, expose it to others, try to learn how to get better.

I made a choice early on to write as much as I could. Not to hesitate, but to write every book that came to me, to learn how to be a better writer by doing. A case could be made for working on one book, taking a year to get it just right. I understand that. But I also know I wouldn't be able to do that.

I'm pretty sure the way I'm doing it is best for me. But unlike the old days, work that might not have passed muster with the gatekeepers can now be put up for all the world to see. I've tried hard not to put anything up that wasn't as good as I could do at the time, which means I have quite a few finished works I've never put up at all.

Every book I learn a few new things, I make a few new mistakes. I can hope someday that I'll put all the things I've learned into one story, and cut down on the mistakes.

I believe--I hope-- that is within my capability.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sometimes the amount of time I spend on writing doesn't seem enough.

And yet, I've also learned a light touch is better than being forced.  I mean, I do want to get in at least 1000 words a day, knowing it will probably turn into more. But I don't want to call it "work."

A thousand words is really only about an hour of intermittent typing. Surround that by an hour or so of living in the milieu and maybe another couple of hours of cocooning that creative space, and you're still talking about 4 hours in total.

Could I do more? Probably. I could do two sessions a day, I'm sure. In fact, in the past I've done that. I'm not sure the quality suffered all that much. I did nothing but write for 2 full years, and they were very productive years and I don't regret it at all, but I can't keep up that pace forever.

But even 1000 words a day, done consistently, produces a lot of story. What this type of scheduling allows is for me to do other things.  So the 4 hours a day of actual writing is probably about right.

It just seems a little lazy. Again, it isn't how hard I work, but how smart. I figure that letting my imagination have the first draft is a good thing, even if it seems like I'm getting off lightly.

I've come to terms with re-writing in much the same way. Keeping a light touch, using intuition for changes. Not bearing down, not turning it into mechanics.

So maybe that's why it seems lazy. Because it is such a "click" thing. Here it is, it's evocative or it isn't evocative, but if I think about it critically too much it becomes a mess.

I'm not certain that treating it as "work," laboring over every sentence, will make it better. You can't force insight or poetry or depth. You can come back to it more than once, doing it once over lightly again and again, until it finally takes on a texture.

But it's done with a fine brush, not a paint-roller. It comes through feeling, not thought. The thought leaks through nevertheless, but the more I do this, the more I realize that it all comes from within, it all comes from feel and touch. I can prime that creativity by asking myself intellectual questions, but when it spews out on the page, it's all instinct.

I've learned that too much rewriting doesn't make it better. That there is a time to back off.

I do spend a fair amount of time just daydreaming about the plot, and sometimes something really valuable filters through. Again, it's just a matter of circling back again and again. I try to think about the book when I nap, or shower, or when the house is quiet and I'm just thinking. More often than not, my mind drifts, or I fall asleep, but that's OK-- I wake up and bring myself back to the book, and this may happen a couple hundred times in the course of a few days, and out of all that, I may get only 1 or 2 really good ideas. But those ideas probably would never have come if I hadn't let myself drift that way.

At the end of the day, not working at the store has allowed me to write. I may only actually do the actual typing for a few hours, but I surround it with an atmosphere of creativity. Including this blog, for instance. And talking to myself. "What needs to be done? How can I surprise myself and the reader? What would really intrigue people? Can I get away with that?"

Linda is off at church for a few hours, and I intend to get up after writing this and pace around the house and circle around and around the vague glimmerings of the story, seeing if anything pops up out of nowhere, that one thing that makes me go "YES!!"

May not seem like much, but it all adds up.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

A bit of soul-searching.

I'm having one of those lull periods where nothing much is happening.

As long as I continue quietly writing, it doesn't matter. It is what it is. The main thing is to keep making progress. This is the true test of a writer--that you write without certainty, that you do it in a vacuum, that you do it because you want to. No reward or even feedback for months and months, and minimal reward at the end.

And yet you still do it.

I'll be close to half done with the WIP in the next day or two. I'm pretty sure I can finish a first draft by late April, though it may take a few days longer to go through it quickly and do a bit of touching up before I send it off for editing.

Then I'll go ahead and do something else for awhile, like move into the new house, find new walking spots. Maybe go about publishing "Gargoyle Dreams" and/or "Said the Joker, To the Thief."

I have given up on the latter with Kindle Singles. Really, it's pretty clear I'm not going to get an answer, and every day that passes (17 weeks and counting) merely confirms that. I no longer wake up with the hope...or the fear. I've almost forgotten about it, but not quite--cause here I am writing about it still...blah.

Maybe I'll write a quick story about a Fire-setting Jinn for the cover I paid for. Or finish Mother Sali. I usually don't know until I finish a book what I'm in the mood to do next. 

At some point, theoretically, Gary should be getting back to me about editing the book he bought. Who knows?

What it shows is, when I finish "Deadfall" (the new working title of the WIP) that I'll need to just forget that I ever wrote it. Because bigger publishers have a whole different time frame than I do, years not months.

I could follow up on some of the unfinished business--ask about "Tuskers IV," or ask about "Snaked," or the contract from the new publisher (which was supposed to be headed my way over a month ago.) But I'm a little dispirited about it. Fuck it. These things will happen or they won't, I'm going to go on writing.

Because in the end, that is the only thing I  have ANY control over.

The thing to remember is that there are hundreds of thousands of writers, and tens of millions of books, and how you can stand out in the morass is a real question. It seems impossible. I know that marketing is the key, but I have neither the aptitude nor the appetite to do so, and as long as that is true, nothing is going to happen except by pure luck. I'd be just as likely to hit a powerball win by buying a lottery ticket on the way home every night (actually, MORE likely.)

I put out "Faerie Punk" without any fanfare whatsoever. Fully edited,with a bought cover. It was a test, a sacrificial lamb as to what happens if I just put a book out with nothing more than an announcement. I think  it's a very decent, entertaining book. As good as anything else I've done.

I believe I've sold less than 10 copies.

So why am I spending most of my life writing?

There's no good answer, really. Because sitting at home doing nothing isn't an answer either. At least it gives me purpose. I do enjoy it. I do believe that is a mentally and spiritually nourishing and healthy activity. It's a fun hobby, it's an identity. I'm breaking even on the whole deal, at least as far as expenses are concerned.

Where I'm losing money is by not working at the store, but I was needing to step back from that anyway. I was no longer really helping the store, I was probably hurting it. It makes more sense to have Cameron and others running the store, not only to save my psyche, but also to get the store updated, because I was just losing touch. Burn out was almost inevitable after 37 years of doing it.

So that's been a trade-off.

So the point, I guess, is to keep writing--even if it means I sell 10 copies of a book I worked on for months and which I spent a $1000 producing. Treating it like I would any hobby. Fishing or Hunting or Skiing or Biking or...? Have to buy the gear, right?  It's just a different hobby than most people have.

There is the "familiarity at a distance" of the social media, which I enjoy. I like the other struggling writers, I identify with them. As I said, being a "writer" has become my identity, whether I deserve it or not.

And finally, I actually have had a few encouraging things happen. I've been paid (a little) for a bunch of books by real publishers (small, but real...)  By selling a book to a major publisher, I'm technically in the black as far as expenses. I do believe I'm getting incrementally better. So there is still a chance I could write the "great" book, the "successful book.  So I shouldn't quite give up on the possibility yet.

I just shouldn't depend on it.





Friday, March 24, 2017

I made a bunch of mistakes with my first book back. Ironically, some of them were caused by trying to avoid the mistakes I'd made in my first career.

I gave myself one firm rule. Don't rewrite until the first draft is done. 

The first mistake I made was forcing myself to finish too soon. I wrote about half the book and stalled. After several months, I went on a "writing vacation" to the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City. Since I'd spent the money and cleared the time, I pretty much made myself write SOMETHING. The book went off in a wild tangent with which I've had trouble with ever since.

The basic idea that I needed to finish the book was correct. It's possible if I hadn't forced the issue I might never have attempted another book--especially since I'd had several books where I'd gotten several chapters in before stopping.

But the book suddenly had a wildly different tone. I'd started off trying to be snarky, but they have a saying on Broadway; Satire is what closes on Saturday night. It's hard to feel for characters who are being smart-assed all the time. Plus if you're going to pull that off for an entire book, you'd better be pretty good.

I hadn't thought through the motivations of the characters. It's hard to go back and do that.

I knew I was in trouble when I gave it to Martha and she said, "All the characters sound like you."

The idea that I shouldn't rewrite was also more or less correct, but I should have allowed myself a few course corrections.

And though I don't outline a book, it's generally a good idea to try to think it through a little. It so easy to write yourself into a corner, and to go back and try to change is more difficult, frankly, than starting a new book.

At the same time I was forcing the book, I was also worried about length, and looked for ways to add, which also created unnecessary problems.

So ironically, I ended up with a mess of a book that was similar to the same messes I'd made 25 years before. Through a dozen or more rewrites, I've finally gotten "Fairylander" close to where it needs to be. I liked the idea and the story enough to try to do that.

I was really lucky to have stumbled upon writing the "fun" book of "Freedy Filkins." I did this for my own amusement: a cyberpunk Hobbit. It got me in the groove, made me remember how to tell a story. Same with "The Reluctant Wizard."

By the time I attempted "Death of an Immortal" I had a process in place that pretty much worked, and I've followed that process ever since, with a few refinements.

In other words, I had to go through the mistakes to get to the solutions.

But of course, I keep making mistakes. Every book has its own problems.

With "Bigfoot Ranch," I created a couple of dilemmas without meaning to.

The first is: I chose to do it in 1st person. I've avoided first person through most of my writing. For one thing, it feels too easy. For another, it restricts how much knowledge and terrain I can cover. It all has to come from one viewpoint, and that limits the scope of the book somewhat.

I've decided to add a second (3rd person) narrator, which will help, but is still somewhat limiting.

The second problem is that I decided to make it a wilderness "chase" book, which was a great idea. But now that I'm writing it I'm realizing that it will be difficult to sustain an entire book. It just isn't credible to write 35 chapters of escape. I've done about 12 chapters, and I can probably do another 8, but even that is stretching it. Add the 1st person narration and it becomes almost impossible to sustain a full book.

So there will be a transition at some point to another setting. Which I think will work fine.

I'm trying not to worry too much about length. I need 80K words minimum, but I often find myself reaching my word goal without any extra efforts. We'll see what happens. I tend to add between 10 and 15% words in the rewrites, since my problem isn't too much but too little.

I just keep telling myself to write the next chapter and it will all come out fine in the end.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

"Bigfoot Ranch" is developing differently than any other book I've written.

I mean, very book is different. Which makes sense. Writing a book is a complicated process-- there are always going to be things that I've never done before.

In "Bigfoot Ranch," I'm spending a fair amount of time going backward and filling in as I go along. Adding locations, descriptions, even characters. Normally, I'd just take notes and try to remember, which is dangerous.

I had a firm rule when I first started writing again. Never, ever rewrite until the first draft is done.

So I've loosened that rule a little. Now the hard and firm rule is "don't change the plot" until the first draft is done.

I distinguish between "change" and "adding and subtracting." Change means that the rest of the book has to change to adopt it--which is almost always a disaster. But sticking to the overall plot as written but simply adding or subtracting--most often adding--that's OK.

It does tend to dissipate a little forward momentum, though, so I have to be careful. But when the wording and the scene develops in my mind's eye, I think it's dangerous to say, "Come back later."

I've got the plot sort of ironed out for the next few chapters. It looks like I'll get thru about 60% of the way through the book with the chase scenes--when it probably should be more like 80% of the book. But I told myself not to worry about length until I'm done. More often than not, length takes care of itself.

The story feels good to me, and that's the most important motivator.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Six mercenaries are chasing Hart. I want to winnow them down, one by one, until there are only two left.

So I have to figure out four different wilderness "tricks" to take them out.

I've thought of two so far, which aren't really wilderness tricks, but common sense. The first one is an outdoor trap, but sort of obvious, but what happens after the trap is sprung hopefully isn't.

The second trick isn't really a wilderness trick, but I'm pretty proud of it. It seems to me that it could actually work, (whereas the first trick, as in all such tricks, depends on things happening in just the right way.) It is actually based on things I know about the Strawberry Mountains and the roads up to them.

I hit 20K words yesterday, and the plot is coming along. I've figured out the contents of the box McGuffin, which I thought was rather simple and yet brilliant. I still have to figure out what deep dark secret Hart has, which Dave suggested because Hart seems too good to be true, and I have to agree.

It's just a matter of writing it.

The walk in the woods every day seems to be the trick. I have 7 spots along the way where I can sit and write some words. That's 14 overall, both ways. I mean, if I had to, I could just say--"sit here until you've written 100 words" at each station and at the end of the walk, I'd have 1400 words. Of course, what really happens is that 100 words turns into 300 words and 300 words turn into 500 words. Usually, the chapter is mostly written in the first half of the walk, upon which I can reflect on the way back and burnish and improve.

It takes a little willpower, I don't always want to do it, but if I can just force myself into the car and start the drive out there, all the rest follows.




Saturday, March 18, 2017

So I have a Facebook friend (Dave Cline) who has been providing some pretty good advice about "Bigfoot Ranch."

I'm not sure I can accommodate all the advice, but I'll need to do something close to what he's
suggesting. I think I can continue to write the book as is, because the advice all has to do with the McGuffin and the main character's motivation, which can change without changing the main character's actions, strangely enough.

Meanwhile, it looks like I might not need any super wilderness tricks after all, that some common sense evasions will be enough. I also don't appear to need any special outdoor journalist knowledge, either. I can look up a lot on Google. I'm going to still ask some people in that world to look at the manuscript and see if they have any advice, but if they can't do it, I think I can move forward anyway.

I may not actually spend as much time on the outdoors scenes as I expected anyway. I'd thought the outdoor part would be 2/3rds the book, but it may end up being more like half the book.

I'm guessing that in order to accommodate the McGuffin and motivation problems that I'm going to have to bring in the 3rd person character narration of the opening chapter throughout the book, with his own problems and adventures. I don't want him to be more than, say, 20% of the book, though.

I'm not going to worry about length. It will turn out all right, I'm pretty sure. I can usually find ways to texture in new material if I need to, and it usually actually helps the book.

It's going to be a little bit of a strange mix of humor and thriller. For instance, I have a scene where the main character is on the run, still wearing his Bigfoot costume for warmth because it has started to snow and an innocent hiker stumbles upon him and Hart jumps up and forgets he's wearing the costume and the guy screams and runs off.

Sort of funny and light. But later, Hart finds the guy dead, so not so funny. That sort of back and forth is there throughout the book. I can't help it. The trick is, I'm not trying to be funny. That would be deadly. The humor just sort of happens.

Meanwhile, my daily walk is the magic elixir for creativity. Over the last few days I've been stumped at the house, stumped in the shower, stumped at my desk, stumped napping on the bed, stumped on the drive out.

I start walking and within a quarter mile, the ideas just start flowing.

Which is both cool and scary. Because I'm afraid I've tied my writing process a little too closely to the walking, which isn't always possible.

Then again, I'm glad it's there!


Friday, March 17, 2017

I need wilderness tricks.

I've got my main character on the run in the woods, pursued by six hardened heavily armed mercenaries. So I need some believable things to happen where he manages to winnow them down one by one.

I've thought of traps, fire, rockfalls, flashfloods, bear dens, crossfire, snowfall, and so on, but whatever I do needs to sound believable.

The next half of the books things need to tighten up more and more for the hero, so that he barely survives, and is driven to more and more desperation. Then there needs to be the moment when he turns the tables on them, begins to take them out, for another third of the book, and then the final denoucement.

So far, the wilderness guide thing hasn't been as much of a hurdle as I expected, because its just been normal deer hunting, and I know how to do that.

Basically, everything from here on out is action, action, and more action.

Monday, March 13, 2017

I've noticed an uptick since the last time I mentioned this, so thought I'd give it a wiggle.

If you have Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Owner's Lending Library, you can read a bunch of my books for free--and I still get paid for every page you click!

So you can check me out painlessly.

Freedy Filkins, Fairie Punk, Blood of the Succubus, Burp the Burrow Wight, and I Live Among You, are all self published.

All pretty different kinds of books. 

"Freedy Filkins" is my cyberpunk Hobbit book, pretty light-hearted, fast read.

"Fairie Punk" is urban quest fantasy, my longest book, I thought it had a lot of originality.

"Blood of the Succubus" is sexy horror (fair warning). I do mean sex and horror.

"Burp the Burrow Wight" is a "Short Fable for Tall Children," very light.

"I Live Among You" is modern dark fantasy. Also a fast read, maybe even a little humorous?

I'm probably going to put up more of my finished books up soon because I'm realizing that going forward, I'm more likely to sell new stories to publishers than one's I've already written, strange as that sounds. 

I've allowed myself to be as quirky as I want up to now, but I'm being a little more directed right now (though still quirky, dammit.) 

 Still writing what I want but I'm paying more attention to what might sell.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"No one goes there anymore. It's too crowded." Yogi Berra.

I've been making this joke about downtown Bend for a few years now, especially when a Bendite tells me, "I don't go downtown if I can help it."

But the aphorism seems less like a joke to me now, and more like some kind of zen wisdom.

Whenever I travel to the west side of Bend, it seems cluttered and crowded. I almost breathe a sigh of relief when I reach the wider open spaces of the east side.

Paying a whole lot more for the privilege of living on the west side always seemed kind of nutty to me. The point is to find a nice place in a nice neighborhood. I guess there is the re-sale value, but if it is a final home, I'm not sure that matters as much.

Meanwhile, Redmond adds another large percentage in what you can buy. Wandering around our new neighborhood in Redmond it just feels slower, calmer, quieter, more small town.

But you know what? As far as making a living goes, there is no comparison. Downtown Bend is the place to be. I'm astounded by the numbers of customers coming in the door these days. I'm guessing a good third of them are either vacationers or newcomers. They are what make the difference between Pegasus Books doing well or not doing well.

Maybe it takes an oldtimer like me to appreciate it. I mean, I remember playing cribbage on the sidewalk with my neighbor and commenting that we could fire a cannon down the middle of the street and not hit anyone.

And that went on for years and years.

When the rents started to shoot up, I had to make a decision. All my neighbors left, but I decided to gut it out and I'm glad I did. The increased rent was covered by the increased business, which is what you would hope for. 

So complaining about traffic or parking seems sort of stupid, you know? I'm of the camp that believes that whatever capacity you create will soon be filled. So if you have an active business or shopping district, it will feel busy and crowded.

I suppose the best of both worlds is the have the business in Bend and the home in Redmond. Anyway, that's the way it's working out.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Buying a new house. In Redmond of all places.

Being a native Bendite, I never thought that would happen. Growing up, Redmond was our homecoming rivals, the other side of the tracks, hicks.

But let's face it, Redmond isn't Redmond anymore, and maybe even more importantly, Bend isn't Bend.

Bend is on some kind of ego trip.

Linda and I had the same experience we had last time we shopped for a house in Bend, 13 years ago. All the houses in our price range were crappy, or near the railroad tracks, or in a lousy neighborhood. When we walked into our present house we turned to each other and said, "This is it."

Don't know why this house was affordable back in 2004, but we grabbed it. It's a nice house and we fixed it up more and we're in a nice neighborhood. If it was up to me, we'd stay forever. However the traffic has grown over the years, the house has gotten older, and maybe it's time for a fresh start.

Anyway, Linda doesn't want to negotiate the stairs anymore on our split level house, so we needed a single story. Reluctantly, I agreed to look at Redmond--if we got more house for the same money.

In the end, we're going over our original budget by 20%, but we are getting a brand new custom built house, we're able to choose the flooring and colors and all the rest, a house that is 20% larger, a nice neighborhood on a cul-de-sac. It actually has space to go with the house, you know, real and psychic room between domiciles. (Horrifying how close most developers are building next to each other these days...yuck.)

So after circling the house for a week or so, we said yes. It had everything we had set out to find, every single thing was checked off. Now we have to assemble the financing and so on, pick all the accoutrements. It won't be ready until May 1, which is perfect, which gives me just about enough time to finish my WIP.

It's been hard to write. This is a test in a way. Can I handle real life and fictional life at the same time? I've never been able to manage it before, but then I've never been on a roll like this before. Mostly, I'm trying to let Linda handle it all, but I have to be there for the big decisions, so about half of the last ten days have been spent househunting. It's kind of fun, but impossible to write.

The commute doesn't bother me; hell, I drive the same distance everyday to to go for my walk in the Badlands. I'm sure I can find someplace new to traipse around near our new house.

I told Linda we have to reduce our fixed income withdrawals from retirement to the same exact proportion that we are overspending, which works out to a couple hundred dollars a month, and she's probably right to it's more important to have a house we really like than a couple extra hundred a month. It's not like we're world travelers.

We've been really lucky, knock wood. Things have worked out. Pegasus Books is still doing well, my writing is moving right along, we have our health mostly, and we are actually going to be able to retire with a little security (as much as anyone can have security these days.)

The one thing I'm going to spend a little money on myself is a used pickup I can go boony-stomping with, and which we can just throw our kayaks into the back of.

Knock wood again.

I'm going to try to hedgehog for the next 6 weeks or so, ignore the chaos, let Linda handle it, and just write. Probably spend a lot of time in the woods, I suspect. I'm really enjoying my new book and I'd really like to get a first draft completely done.

I had the experience a long time ago of blowing an opportunity. I'd sent Deviltree to a major publisher, and his response was; "If your next book is as good as this one, I'll buy both."

I met Linda at the same time, had instant family, bought a business. It took me two years to write that book, and then it was too late. ("I actually liked this book more," the editor said, "but I've changed my mind."

So I have an opening for a book right now, and I'm not going to let anything keep me from doing it. Get it done, do a rewrite, send it to Lara.

Then...I can devote all the time we need to the new house. 

 Meanwhile, I guess my old brag of "I"m a native Bendite" will have to be changed to "I'm a native Central Oregonian." Which doesn't have quite the same ring.






Friday, March 10, 2017

Well, shit.

My "thriller" has turned into a quirky little adventure story.

Damn.

I'll go ahead and finish it because I really like it, but I'm not sure it will fit the bill. Thing is, I can always write another book. I have a lot of confidence in my profligacy. 

Should have 10K words by the end of the day. It's just rolling off my fingers. I think because it's 1st person.

Chapters 2 and 3 and 4 of "The Last Honest Man" written on the same day. Moving right along.

I've always had a suspicion that 1st person narration is too easy. That's why I haven't done it until recently. I felt I needed the discipline of writing characters that weren't in any way me, who came completely from my imagination.

No matter how much I try to avoid it, when I'm writing in first person it's my own voice, one way or another.

In the current novel, most of the events that I talk about are things that happened to me, if not quite that way.

"I Live Among You" is the only novel I've written in 1st person, after writing more than 20 books in 3rd person. I recently wrote  a novella, "The Toad King," that is not only in 1st person but in present tense, but that was somehow different.

This current character, Hart Gallegher, isn't me and yet in many ways, he is me.

So what's wrong with that? Author's voice is all important, right?

The biggest problem is that it very hard to judge the quality. I'm not quite as objective about what I'm writing. I find it harder to cut words, or add words, based on some outside measure.

I've never had a hard time expressing myself. I can babble on endlessly about anything--and that's the danger. Instead of looking for "telling details" I'm afraid that I might be providing too many. I can't really tell.

Thing is, if this actually works, it will be enormously liberating. I will be able to just tell my stories in my own voice. I'll have the tone, the characters, and the setting I can live in.

How fun.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Chapter Two of my thriller, "The Last Honest Man," is done.

It isn't going at all in the direction I expected. In my head,  I have the framework for a proper thriller, but it's coming down on paper as something else-- something lighter. But...I like it. A lot.

It more Hiaasen than Lee Child, though I would never pretend to be as funny. It just has an easygoing tone, which probably isn't what you want in a thriller. But I like the characters already. I like the set up. I like the setting.

So I'm going to write it and hope for the best.

It sure as hell wants to be written. I've finished both chapters before noon. I wanted to stick to a one chapter a day pace, but I'm wondering if I should pick it up a little. 

If it doesn't work out to the editor's satisfaction, I can always write another book. But while I'm more than willing to be aware of what the market wants, I'm not really willing to change my writing to get there, which may doom me as far as the mass market is concerned.

It isn't that I'm too proud. I just can't seem to write anything but what I write and if I did, it would almost certainly suck.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017



Starting my thriller today. I've line up the next 17 days to do nothing but write.

After going back and forth several times, I've decided to do my "lost box" story, with the outdoor guide/ journalist as the protagonist. As much as I'm leery of writing a Rambo/McGyver story, I think it would be cool to have some of that.

Outdoor guy against city-slickers.

The "Takeover" book was just too fraught with politics, I decided. And everyone I talked to liked the first idea better.



Linda and I spent 3 days looking at houses. There is nothing in our price range in Bend that isn't crappy, so we are looking at Redmond. Linda is going on with Anita, our realtor friend. Linda will have the ultimate say. They know what I like.

I walked into 3 different houses and said, "I'd buy this." So I'm not someone to trust with the buying trigger. I make very quick decisions when shopping.



The Bookmark has been extinguished, sigh.  They took down the signs and painted the exterior dark grey and have been working on the inside for a month. I'm betting the new bookstore, "Big Story," is going to be spectacular.



Got my Sunday New York Times and it was refreshing to read long-form journalism.



Working Pegasus for 3.5 days was educational. Most of all, I get the sense the store is functioning very well. How nice, after so many years. Part of it is Bend is going through one of it's periodic expansions, but I think it also helps to have some young guys running the stores. The customer base is trending younger, which is good.



I haven't heard from any of my publishers in a long time, so I sent out a couple of reminders this morning. I sent a novella to Kindle Singles 14 weeks ago, which is way way too long not to hear back. So I figure it got lost or I missed the rejection. (Current Kindle Singles authors are: J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, Lee Child, Diana Gabaldon, you know, losers like that....)


Well, diving deep this time. No distractions. Just the world of my thriller.





Thursday, March 2, 2017

Working 5 days in a row, which I haven't done in several years. Put away comics yesterday, which I also haven't done.

It's good for me. I discovered, for instance, that Cameron's orders were spot on--maybe a little better than I used to do. I found 4 overages and shortages from our wholesalers, which seems to be common these days when it used to be rare.

A large quantity of graphic novels came in, and they were a broad mix, so that was nice to see.

I met a bunch of shelf subscribers who I didn't really know. Which is a strange feeling, because I used to know all my subscribers by name and number, what they collected, and how often they came in.

I got a sense of which parts of the stores were being looked at, or were active. I've got the raw numbers, of course, but that doesn't always tell the story. There can be strong interest just below the trigger point, and trigger points that are starting to fail.

The age and sex mix is more apparent when I'm working full time. It's pretty much 50/50, at least those that come in the door if not those who actually buy, which is still weighted toward the male, but not as much as it used to be.

I never thought I'd see the day. The store seems to be accepted as normal by everyone, which again wasn't true for the first half of my career. (I have an image of a customer realizing he/she is in...gasp...a comic store! and backing away slowly so as not to alarm the nerds.)

I was very tired by the end of the day, but I think the customer count is higher than it used to be too.

The experience has reinforced my goal to expand the books and game sections, which I think still have room for growth. Since the store is running smoothly, I think I can take a chance of ordering aggressively.  Books especially, since I know books pretty well and can see many areas of improvement.

This working for 5 days is good for me, even though it takes me away from writing. I'm reassured by the direction the store is going, so I'm very much looking forward to getting back to writing.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Read chapters 4-6 of The Toad King to writer's group last night. Among the usual grammatical corrections, Gary let slip, "Sometimes, it's almost poetic."

"What's that?"

"Sometimes it's almost poetic..."

"Yes! Thank you!"

It's amazing how even a qualified praise can have a big impact. I mean, first of all, it was from Gary who isn't prone to lavish praise. Way back when I was writing "Led to the Slaughter" Gary said, "...this almost has some real depth."

Again, qualified praise I took to heart, because he was commenting on a passage of the book where I felt I had broken through to some real meaning.

Meanwhile, one of the things I'm noticing about my writing is that the more I do, the less attention I'm paying to the outside world. I don't really want to know if others have done what I've done, or how they did it, or take advice on what and when I should write.

Part of this is my age. I've spent 35 years between writing stints and I had a lot of time to think about it, to read umpteen books, to read advice about writing. Combined with my original research of reading every book about writing I could get my hands on, and taking classes and joining groups.

 I'm sort of backing away from all that. I'm trusting my own instincts now. 

I'm retreating into my own little bubble, exploring my own psyche, writing what comes to me without regard to anything else. Trying not to second-guess myself too much. Just letting my own ideas come out and hoping they are original and fresh enough to interest people.

Fortunately, my imagination coincides more often than not with what others might want. For instance, it isn't a stretch to write a "thriller." So I'm not just writing one only because I have a receptive editor, but because it's the type of thing I was getting ready to write anyway. (In fact, two of my most recent books were thrillers.)

I retreat further and further into my writing bubble. The real challenge to me is to unlock what I think is already there in my head. The only thing standing between me and a really good book is myself, my own hangups, my own getting in the way of my imagination. It's all there if I can access it, which means being free, being focused on my own dreams, not letting any critical elements stop me.

Which isn't what I expected.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Toad King, Chapter 17. The final chapter. Meanwhile, I've written the first two chapters of "Mother Sali," the third of my Tales of the Thirteen Principalities. I like this world.




17.) The Mirror God Cometh.


The Yellow Prince is gone. Not a shred of him exists, torn into such tiny pieces there is nothing left that is recognizable. Unless he somehow escaped, which seems impossible. If he did escape, there is nowhere for him to go.
Out of the crowd steps Marna, and I realize that the gathering wasn’t completely spontaneous. She is still limping, but appears otherwise well.
“It seems the people have chosen their new Prince,” she says, as she joins me.
“Long ago, that’s how it was done,” I say.
She laughs. “I suppose you were there.”
I don’t answer, instead watch as the people once again lift Quarry and carry him to the Casperi Castle. We follow more slowly, at Marna’s limping pace.
“What will the great Princes of the other principalities say?” she wonders aloud.
“They’ll be delighted, I suspect. Having the Eighth Principality back to trade with will make up for having Quarry as one of them. Along with the wilderness, this realm always had more natural resources than any of the others.”
“They’ll think he’s a barbarian,” she muses.
It’s my turn to laugh, “You haven’t met many Princes! No…I suspect they’ll be more alarmed by his piety than by his earthiness.”
Around us, the soldiers of the Yellow Prince are fleeing. Some are shedding their weapons and uniforms as they run. Others are caught, and I see them buried beneath flailing fists and feet. After depositing Quarry at the entrance of the castle, a part of the unruly crowd follows him inside. Soon, they reappear, carrying loot. I hurry the pace, suddenly remembering the Mirror God mobile standing unprotected in the entrance hallway. I doubt anyone will want it, but they might destroy it out of spite.
As we near the castle, Quarry appears on the balcony above. He has cleaned his face and combed his beard and he looks regal despite merely wearing a plain grey robe. He hold out his hands and the crowd grows silent.
“I ask the soldiers of this principality to accept my ascension. If they do so, they shall be pardoned. They are not to be harmed.”
“Throw them in the cages!” someone shouts.
“The Casperi Cages will be cast down!” Quarry roars, and again the crowd becomes completely still and quiet. “The chains will be broken, the bars melted down. Never again will anyone be incarcerated in such a inhuman place.”
Quarry lets that sink in for a few moments, then, “Go home, my people. Tomorrow we will begin the task of making this place a home where people can live without fear, where what they work for they keep, where no one is punished without cause. We shall live by the Mirror God’s Covenant, each and every day.
“Go home!” he shouts, and his deep voice is joyous. “Tomorrow we join the rest of the Thirteen Principalities and the Mirror God’s blessings!”

***

“It’s time you show me this statue you’ve come so far to steal,” Prince Quarry says to me after a few days.
“Not to steal, but to reclaim.”
He gives me a curious look. “You have always been an honest thief, Toad King. It is what I like about you.”
“Nevertheless, Your Highness, this time I was the victim, not the thief.” It is the way I feel. I truly feel the victim, for I was young and naïve when the blue pilgrim took advantage of me. The knowledge that I stole the statue from Thirteenth Principality in the first place is conveniently buried.  
I can tell the Prince somehow senses there is more to the story, but he doesn’t pursue it.
The castle has been cleaned up, appearing almost bare. The Prince has been busy giving away its riches. He has taken a small room on the ground floor and has invited others to live and work in the castle. I say nothing, knowing it can’t last. A Prince must rule, and to rule he must have a castle.
I lead the way. The Prince has gained a retinue; the most shameless of the nobility is already fawning over him. Quarry ignores them. Jarmel and a few others of his original band protectively surround him, but there is little other outward sign that he is anyone but a common citizen, albeit a very large and regal citizen.
Between the looting and Quarry’s beneficence, the hallway near the entrance is stripped clean, all but one object, too humble for anyone to want. A mobile statue made of twirling mirrors.
Quarry grunts when he sees the statue. I blink my eyes, for it is as if the Prince has disappeared, he has become so still. I can see that it puzzles the nobles, who have never seen this side of their Prince.
My eyes, too, are drawn to the mirrors. The jumbled Oaths rattle through my head, as disjointed and disconcerting as ever. Once again, I am filled with a sense that I don’t understand what the object is trying to tell me, that I should be doing something.
But this time, that sense disappears. I am filled with a feeling of completeness, as if a task long delayed has finally been completed. As I watch the flashing mirrors, they seem to become one large mirror, filling the wall, the castle, the principality, the world.
All that exists is the mirror, and I see that it is the Mirror God and it is reflecting back the true nature of those who stand before it.
One by one, the Oaths flash before me, and I see a toad, a creature out of place, who has struggled to fit in. Then I see a man whose features are so ugly it is almost pleasing. I see a failure and a thief, but someone who has become more human than monster. I see someone who has failed each of the Oaths in his time, and fulfilled them too. I see a flawed man, who has forgotten the Mirror God’s Covenant more often than he has remembered it.
But the Mirror God isn’t reflecting me, except at the verges.
Standing beside me, Quarry is reflected in all his power at the center of the mirror. He has kept to the Covenant, and one by one, the Thirteen Oaths are administered to him, and he passes them all.
They who are last, shall also be first,
They who are stern, shall also be kind,
They who are cursed, shall also be blessed,
They who are mistrusted, shall also be believed,
They who are foolish, shall also be wise,
They who are innocent, shall also see the truth,
They who are weak, shall also be strong,
They who are low, shall also be high,
They who are scorned, shall also be honored,
They who hate, shall also love,
They who are far, shall also be near,
They who forget, shall also remember
They who are first, shall also be last.
A sense of dizziness overcomes me and it is as if I’m falling into the mirror, which I see is the Abyss.
And then, I’m standing in a bare hallway again, a statue made of cheap material before me. The twirling mirrors are dull, having lost most of their reflective surface. I no longer hear the Covenant in my mind.
I look about me at those surrounding the Prince, and it is clear they are puzzled, that they saw none of what I saw.
This is how others have always seen the mobile, I realize, except those few who somehow understood its significance.
“What happened?” I say aloud.
Prince Quarry appears unmoved. “The Mirror God cometh,” he says.
“What?”
“The Mirror God has been summoned. We must prepare ourselves for his arrival.” With that, Prince Quarry turns and starts back to the throne room.
I’m left alone with the statue. It no longer has the slightest appeal to me. In fact, it’s kind of ugly.
Like me, I suppose. We’ve both done the job we were sent here to do, apparently.
A sense of peace overcomes over me. I no longer have the nagging feeling of something left undone. I am free to be who I want to be—a humble thief, who takes from those who are too rich for their own well-being and gives it to those who can appreciate it.
A worthy occupation, in my estimation.
I lift the statue and carry it to my room, where I carefully take it apart. It may be a humble work of art, but it once had great meaning and I will treat it with respect.
I will take it to Prince Mordrial and collect my reward and not look back, however, for the statue is nothing more than a statue.
After that, I will do as I please…
…until the Mirror God comes.
I feel a stab of fear, for I know I am unready for His arrival. I saw myself in His Mirror, I saw how far I have strayed from the Covenant.
What’s more, I have traveled all the Thirteen Principalities and know that most of them are equally unprepared to be judged.
Gods and monsters, there’s nothing to be done. 
That day will come, but until then…there are riches to be taken.



Monday, February 27, 2017

I reread "Said the Joker, To the Thief" and I'm amazed by how intricate it is. It is by far my most sophisticated work, the melding of character and plot and theme. Came out of nowhere. If I could write like this every time, I'd be pretty impressed with myself.

Coming up on 13 weeks since I sent "Said the Joker, To the Thief" to Kindle Singles. The more time goes on, the more I think it was just a foul-up of some kind. I think if it was an acceptance, I would have heard by now. Up to about 12 weeks I could harbor the illusion. Oh, well. I always knew it was an extreme long shot.

Meanwhile, I have four free days, interrupted by 3 works days, and I want to really concentrate on "Takeover" once I start, so I've decided to start another novella, this one starring Mother Sali. Won't feel bad about interrupting it. Just have fun. A throwaway, either it works or it doesn't. Hell, maybe I'll even try to finish it.

This was just way too much time without writing. It feels off. I need to use my creative muscles on something.

So just do my fantasy thing, let my subconscious go to work, have some fun with it.

Writing novellas has been a valuable experience. Basically, novellas are plots distilled to the essence. No time for chapters that are inserted just for action. The action has to be in the forward progressing chapters. So if I could manage to do the same for a book two or three times as long, I'd really have something.

In "Said the Joker, To the Thief," Callipe's journey could have taken up at least half the book. Instead, I just cut all the adventures in-between and had her just show up for the ending. It worked as a novella, but if I had included those adventures, it probably would have worked as a book too. (If I ever have a call to extend it, that's what I'd do.)

It's my intention to have all of Callipe's in-between adventures as another novella. So I'm looking at a minimum of four different novellas, and I'm thinking I'll probably do a Lady Lysandra novella as well.

No real endpoint, really. Just any time I want to dive into that world.