Thursday, February 28, 2013

A walking cliche.

When did it come to this?

If I'm not working  -- or not writing ---- I feel guilty.  Guilty.

For god's sake, give myself a break, he said. 


Maybe it's inevitable that old white guys become cranks.  It's experience after all.

But do we have to become conservative cranks?  I hope not.  Not so far.

Woodward is the latest example of someone who you can see has been so swallowed by his ego that when he is challenged, he goes running to the safety of the conservative media, who will treat him like a star.  Hannity?   Really?


My Facebook is interesting -- most of my old high school classmates seem to be on the conservative side, most of my young comic store followers on the liberal side.  Guess who's going to have more clout in the future?


Got a cold, and so I've not gotten anything done for a couple days.  Tried working yesterday and I was twirling and not hearing and standing stumped and nothing penetrated and two plus two was -------------------four.  (Got the right answer, just took forever to get there.)

So I went home.


I tell you, I'm a walking cliche.

Stayed away from the internet for years -- don't need it, don't have time for it.

Once I was introduced to blogging, well you guessed it, I've written every day for 6 and a half years or so.

Facebook.  Don't need and don't have time for it.

Once I was introduced to Facebook, guess who's checking it every ten minutes?

Social media is perfect for me, the loner who likes to have contact with just a smidgeon of commitment.

I often tell people at the store "I don't do video games -- online games."   But it isn't because I don't think I'll like it.  I suspect, actually, I'd like it a lot.  Best not to try that cocaine for the first time...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stupidest reason to rewrite a problem book?

Stupidest reason to spend months of my life on a problem book?

Because I like the title:  SOMETIMES A DRAGON.

I can't let this title go to waste.

I'm about 20% of the way in, and I'm realizing that I need to jettison about  2/3rds the book -- which makes it no longer a book.

So I have to reinvent the book.  Write entire new sections.

I have some ideas.

When I started thinking about it, I realized that I have three couples in love -- one of which the story is old and sad, one of which is new an exciting, and another somewhere in the middle.

So, my idea is to contrast the three stories and alternate them.  In the original book, the new love predominates, by far.  But much of what I wrote is pretty sappy.  (Hey, I was in love.)  Most of what Linda wrote is, well, even more sappy.  (Hey, she was in love.)  So, I have to tone that down a little for public consumption.

But I like going back to the older romance because it's darker and has more fantasy elements that I like.

So...more or less, I'm writing a whole new book.

But I can do that.

What an interesting new world we live in.

The whole ebook thing has been an extremely interesting process to me.

Getting the covers done has been really satisfying.  The covers are hand-selected, or even created from my own ideas.  I really like that.

I like the looks of the books on the e-readers.  They look like real books to me.  They're easy to read.

I'm slowly....oh, so slowly....realizing that I'll need to get an ebook reader someday for my own use.

It's a bit of the Wild West out there, and I'm only a couple of miles west of St. Louis right now, but I'm taking my time, exploring the terrain.  Looking for guides. 

What an interesting new world we live in.

Lingering blog threads.

Since this blog started as a bubble blog way back, I always pay attention to the local housing.

Housing prices went up in Bend?  Why do I feel this is manipulated by artificial shortages created by bureaucratic bungling and real estate manuvering?  And not by a rise in local employment and consumer confidence?

A couple other lingering threads from way back toward the beginning of this blog.

Early on, I wondered if Bend could really count on telecommuting tech people from large companies.  (Since we weren't likely to get the companies themselves.)  Turns out, according to the new Yahoo CEO, maybe not so much.  She's ordered them back to the fold, or quit.

Rumor was, many of them were indeed more or less forgotten, as I suspected.  But unlike the result I mused on back then -- that they would fall behind in their careers, the result seems to have been that they just kept collecting their paychecks.

Then Farhad Manjoo of Slate pops up an says, not so fast, that this telecommuting is a good idea.  Well, that just confirms it.  You can't go wrong by doing exactly the opposite of whatever Farhood Manjoo says you should do.  Farhad Manjoo is an idiot.   So that's another lingering thing I've noticed writing this blog. I notice how often the same columnist is wrong.  How do columnists who are wrong every time keep getting hired?

Another thread I've returned to over and over again, is questioning why Barnes and Noble is committing retail suicide.  That the ebook reader they created was unlikely to be the winning platform, that they were distracting customers from books, and so on.

Turns out, the platform reader is not doing so hot, the bookstores are actually profitable, and if the former owner of the company can take the bricks and mortars private, and shed the tech, that he thinks he can may be able to have a viable company.

I agree.  I mean, I really think bookstores are still viable if you try.

So two things I figured were kind of weird have quietly been confirmed.

Interesting, no one pops up and says, "Hey, that really was a dumb idea.  What were we thinking?"

These ideas -- which defy common sense on the face of it -- have instead died sort of whimpering deaths, don't pay any attention to how stupid they were type deaths.

But writing about them on this blog has made me notice.  Gives me a bit of continuity to tap into.

I may have been wrong about a few things, but for some reason I don't seem to be noticing those....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Posting DEATH OF AN IMMORTAL twice a week.

As I mentioned, I'm going to post a chapter of DEATH OF AN IMMORTAL, twice a week.  A chapter on Tuesday and a chapter on Friday.

Meanwhile, the whole book is for sale at 2.99 on Smashwords, and I would greatly appreciate if a few of you will buy it.  I know how many are selling though I don't know who's buying.  Or not buying...

Meanwhile, I'll be working on finished NEARLY HUMAN as well as DEVILTREE, both of which I have covers for.

My next new effort, I'm thinking now, will be the second book in the LORE series, which is my straightout fantasy, THE RELUCTANT WIZARD of which is the first.

Woke up this morning with a sore throat -- which is me all over.  Finish a task, get sick.


Chapter 1.

Terrill awoke to an empty mirror.  Empty but for the bland motel décor, the tousled bed with its too many pillows and overstuffed bedspread, innocuous framed pictures of leaves on the walls.
Empty though the mirror was right in front of his face. She probably thought he was dead.  Sometimes when he slept, he forgot to mimic the motions of breathing.  She was probably just trying to see if his breath would fog the mirror. Oh, god.  Why had she done this?  The part of him that was human struggled to control the part of him that was immortal.  No!  His mind shouted.  Leave her be!
The vampiric instincts were in full command, the same instincts that had kept him alive for a millennium.  The small vessel of empathy he’d managed to fill drip by drip in recent years disappeared in an overpowering blood lust, his fangs fully extended, dripping with the venom that would paralyze her.
The little white hand holding the mirror looked bloodless, though Terrill had yet to take her blood.  The female was naked and pale in fright from head to toe.  Her eyes were wide, her pupils dilated, her breast quivering.  No predator could have passed up such a pure victim.  Terrell instantly flushed with the rush of the hunt, his sleepiness evaporating in a surge of hunger.
Again his mind fought against the overwhelming urges.  Don’t do it!  Let her go!  Let her live, damn you!
She screamed, dropping the mirror to the floor with a crash.  It shattered.  Seven years of bad luck – or in Terrill’s case, seven hundred years.  In the case of the girl, not even seven seconds of bad luck.  She made it halfway across the room before Terrill flew out of the bed and sank his fangs into her neck.
Don’t…oh, god.  It was so good.  He had missed this so much.  Why did she wake him?  Why did she excite the monster inside him?  His mind was screaming Stop!
Now it was too late.  Once a vampire started feeding, he couldn’t stop until it was finished.
She was dead in seconds.
He saw himself in her dying eyes – the only way he could ever see his reflection.  He hadn’t seen himself in twenty years.  It didn’t matter; he looked the same  -- sharp saturnine features, eyes glowing in lust, frowning in his hunger, black hair immaculate even in his wild feeding.
He laid her lifeless body gently to the floor.  Guilt wrapped around his shoulders like an old familiar shawl.  He nearly staggered.  Inside he felt the savage rush, the exhilaration he hadn’t felt in a very long time.  But the thinking part of him, the part to which he’d sacrificed the last twenty years, was sickened.  It was gone; all the effort had come to nothing.  He was the soulless creature he’d always been.  Nothing could change that.
Joy.  That was the name she’d given him.  When she signed into the motel, she had used the name Jamie.  She should have stuck to Jamie – a prettier name, a name that was real.  Just as she should’ve stuck to her hometown origins, gotten a job as a waitress, attended community college, met a nice stupid boy – who knows where she would have ended up.
Not here. Not dead.
The scream still hung in the air, and Terrill extended his hearing to the neighbors on either side and to the street outside.  Nothing.  The people who inhabited this seedy motel were no doubt used to screams in the night -- used to ignoring them.
Quiet as a tomb.
He took a shower, got dressed and left.  It was considerate of him, to close the door quietly, walking softly down the rickety stairs, and out into the empty street.  He was always considerate.

He made it to the end of the block.  The streetlamp was at half strength, flickering.  There was a false dawn on the horizon, but real dawn would soon follow, within the hour, thirty-four minutes to be exact.    Terrill could calculate this timing nearly to the second.
He turned back, made his way to the top of the landing -- his senses were on alert.  There was no one about -- no one awake or watching.  He slipped back into the room.
She lay at an unnatural tangle -- arms akimbo overhead, her legs drawn up behind her.  He straightened her body, smoothed her hair.  He took the heavy bedspread and tucked her inside.  He closed her frightened eyes. 
At the last second, he took the necklace from the table by the bed.  The crucifix burned into his hand before he put it into his pocket.  Even there, it was as if he could feel its power.  Why?  He didn’t know.  He just knew that he needed some part of her to come with him, and the crucifix was important to her.
He kissed her on the forehead, and left the room in the same manner as before.  There was a glimmering of dawn.  The skin on his face felt taut, as if preparing for the pain.  His car was three blocks away. 
He made it just in time.
The windows were tinted to just the right level of shade -- he could see the light of dawn, he could even drive, but the burning -- the hellfire -- was held at bay.  He crawled into the back seat and closed his eyes.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cover to my new book.

 With Aaron's help, I concocted a cover to my vampire story.  I thought it turned out pretty well.  Simple, but gets the idea across.

I went ahead an put it up for sale on Smashwords, for 2.99.

While I didn't ask you guys to buy Freedy Filkins, I think I'm going to kinda ask if you wouldn't mind purchasing this book.  I don't think you'll hate it.  And if you do, well, you read this blog so you'll forgive me, right?

It would be nice if a few people bought this one.

But, you know, if you want to wait, I'm going to start publishing the chapters on this blog, starting with Chapter 1, on each Tuesday of the week, for however many weeks it takes to finish.  (Well, 47 weeks to be exact.)

Oscars in the background.

Taped the Oscars and then watched it in about a half an hour, zapped just about everything.  Didn't listen to a single Seth McFarlane joke.  I don't like the guy, don't like his shows, don't get him at all.

So my reaction is:  ARGO?  Really?

In ten years our reaction is going to be:  ARGO?  Really?

Not much else to say.

I mean, I like the movie.  But best of the year?

Love you Michelle, but you seemed out of place.  The marine band behind you watching you adoringly was a little much.

Linda sat down over the last 2 days and read DEVILTREE from beginning to end, making corrections.  Since she is in the midst of her own book, that's pretty amazing.

Meanwhile, I worked all day on SOMETIMES A DRAGON.  I turned 83 pages into 29 pages, and then realized that the easy stuff was done.  I think this 70K word book is about to turn into a 30K book.  Which isn't a book. 

But it might be an rough draft to a book.  Thing is, I like the new 29 pages -- moves fast, the writing is pretty good, it's pretty original.

The problem I'm confronting is, that it almost seems to take longer to completely rewrite a book as it does to write a book in the first  place.

Assuming I'm a better writer now, I really need to get away from the old books and move on.

But -- there they are, almost ready, and it's hard to let go of them.  My attitude has certainly changed -- since I'm the gatekeeper, and once these are out they are mine forever -- I'm hesitating, as long as I think they can be improved.

As a result, they are starting to pile up, all in various stages of improvement.  It hasn't gotten crazy yet -- I mean, I've only been super serious about this for the last six months of so -- the year and half before that I only thought I was serious...

I'm going to see what I can do with S.A.D. over the next couple days, and if I make progress, then I'll try to continue.

As of now, the only book I'd really feel comfortable putting out there is DEATH OF AN IMMORTAL.  For which, I have no cover.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This IS what recovery looks like.

I've taken to commenting on each of the quarterly economic reports that the Bulletin does.  As I've mentioned before, I like that there are consistent measuring sticks being used.

I'm sure that most people who are monitoring these charts are waiting for signs of a solid recovery.

I've come to the conclusion that what we've been seeing for the last few years is pretty much what we're going to see from now on.  A small, slight increase most quarters, with a relapse here and there.  This is the way growth normally works.  This is just a reversion to mean.

Take that bulge out of the middle of the chart, and you see small incremental growth from about 2000 on.

As I also thought, that fourth quarter was nowhere near as strong as was being reported.  The experts play around with words, making excuses for this decline, but I call B.S.  The downturn was exactly what it was -- a downturn, no matter how you might want to explain it.

I think this is it folks.  This IS the recovery, for what it is.  There isn't going to be another huge leap into the stratosphere.  The bubble is gone, never to return.  Hopefully.

Slow, steady growth is going to be so much better for us in the long-run.

Twilight Razzies.

I see Twilight, Breaking Dawn 2, won the Razzie this year.

So happens, I tried watching Twilight, Breaking Dawn Part 1, the other day.


I started squirming about two minutes in, and kept waiting for something that wouldn't make me squirm and it only got worse and worse.  Listen, five minutes of getting dressed for a wedding is totally excruciating.  I'm tellin' ya.

I finally turned and said, "Hey, honey, would you mind finishing this without me?"

She said, "Please -- it's hard to watch when you're snarking every 30 seconds."

"I was?"

"That and moaning..."


I might have clogged the Internet.

I finished formatting DEVILTREE.  It was interesting.  It has some good things and some not so good things, but Linda is going through it right now, so I'm thinking I'll give it a bit of rewrite.  When I finished this years ago, I never wanted to look at it again.

I guess enough time has passed.

Now I've started playing around with SOMETIMES A DRAGON.

When I first started thinking about an online book, my first instinct was to go with this book which I so much enjoyed writing.  But I knew it had some structural problems -- a little too dense and passive in the first third, and little too light in the middle third, and so on.  Maybe an attempt at a little too much "style."  It was a kind gothic and arch ("Dear Reader") style.   (By the way, I still REALLY like that style -- but it's clear no one else does...)

Anyway, the guy who was going to help me, totally rejected it.

So I set it aside, disheartened, and started something new -- NEARLY HUMAN.

Now, two years later, I decided to see what I can do with it.  As it happens, Linda had rewritten the first 50 pages or so, and I started looking at that.  The earlier rejection now seems -- well, routine.  I just think he expected too much of me,  but this really isn't that far off my actual writing ability. 

I think Linda cut through the Gordian Knot pretty well.  But it became clear that it was in her words and her style not mine. But then -- it started to get interesting to me.  What could I do with that?

Turns out, it is kind of fun.  I take her words and scenario and play around with it, saving some, changing some, but trying to keep the spirit of what she was doing.  I think I get what she was doing, and I like it.  We were courting when  I was writing it, and she had quite a bit to do with some of the earlier passages. 

She's taken the kind of dry writing (Jack Vance, style, I like the think) and enlivened it, freshened it up.

So I think I'm going to go ahead and push on through with this rewrite, which probably won't take all that long.

Which pushes me into crazy prolific territory.  Ridiculously prolific.

Let's see.



Plus the two books I've given up on, BLOODSTONE and CHANGLINGS. I've found the first third of about three other novels in my explorations of old boxes.

Maybe I should quit talking about it.

Stupidly for me, career wise, none of these books are connected, except SNOWCASTLES and ICETOWERS.

I'm thinking -- get them all done and then decide what to do.  Which book to put out first, whether to roll it out, whether to just dump them on the market, whether to talk about them or try to get other people to talk about them.  All of that.

God help the world if I hadn't been busy doing other things the last 30 years.  I might have clogged the Internet.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Take what you got and stretch it.

So what did I learn from reading Neal Stephenson?

One, that the plot can go in many different directions.

Two, that you can mix the believable with the fantastic.

Three, quirky's all right.

Four, explanations and descriptions are good.

All the above are predicated on it all being interesting.  Interesting being things you didn't already know.  Interesting being told in a skillful way -- a reassuring author's voice.  Interesting just being good writing.

So, externally, I'm not sure what I learned that I can adopt.

Strangely, the more I analyze the more the actual answer seems to be -- trust your own instincts.  Don't get sidetracked by doubts, because other people do it differently.

Take what you got and stretch it.

I wonder sometimes if all the advice about writing -- all the books and so on -- just don't bend people in unnatural directions, make them too self-conscious.  Of course, you have to be willing to improve, and that often means trying to learn or take advice.

But at the same time, you really need to do it your way -- the way that works for you.  Analyze what your doing, and try to improve on that.

I've got a basic model for that in my business.  Yes, there are certain fundamentals.  But more than that, you need to think for yourself, and if your analysis is different from the common wisdom, you need to follow your own instincts.

It comes back to trial and error -- seeing what works for you and what doesn't and then stretching the part that works, and shrinking the part that doesn't.

Working less and enjoying it more.

Working less days at the store has had some unexpected bonuses.

I knew that my attitude would probably improve, and it did.  It's as if there is a level of aggravation that builds through the hours until it overflows.  Working less hours means that it never builds to that level.  I'm basically cheerful and unconcerned during my days at work.

My employees are doing a good job.  They sell different stuff than I do.  They have their own enthusiasms and it shows.  They aren't as tempted -- aren't tempted at all -- to give away stupid extra discounts like I do.

I'm seeing new customers in comics and they are trending younger, which I'd almost given up on.  All three employees read super-hero comics more than I do -- read comics more than I do -- and can talk the talk better than I do.  So that's been great.

 They are also much more knowledgeable about games and card games. 

I even have more sports card collectors than ever before.  I had a mother ask me, "Are sports cards coming back?"  And I answered,  "I don't know.  But I think my attitude is much better toward them."
And it true.  Part of it is that there is a general awareness that there is a true difference in the product I sell and the product the mass market sells.  But part of it too, is I'm not there all the time to express my skepticism.  Which means, when I am there, I'm also expressing less skepticism.

All in all, my not being there every hour and seven days a week,  which obviously doesn't save on wages, has been more than compensated by having these cheerful guys doing their thing instead.  I still need to work -- if nothing else to figure out what's going on.  But instead of feeling guilty about taking time off,  I'm beginning to believe it's one of the smartest things I've ever done.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Stealing time to look at art books.

Was straightening the art books at the store yesterday, and I opened an Andrew Wyeth book.  Images just caught me, and I sat on the floor and tried to linger over them.  Savoring them.  (Helga -- hubba hubba).

I loved his father's artwork (N.C. Wyeth) when I was kid.  We had King Arthur and Last of the Mohicans and Robin Hood and all that.  (Not sure if he did all those, or I may be thinking of Howard Pyle as well.)

Thing about art books.  You have to take the time to examine each picture, soak them in.

And who has time for that anymore?

I have all these cool art books and even I don't have time to really look at them.  I'm going to try to make time.  Pull them out on slow days and leaf through them...


In between books, so things are kind of routine.

Linda has been walking around sick for the last ten days, so every morning I wake up expecting the first symptoms.  So far, I've made it.  Knock wood.

I was asking her about an employee working for her, and it occurred to me that I'm supposed to work next Friday.  Then I started doubting, next Friday or this Friday?  Drove all the way to the store and checked the calendar and sure enough, I have to work today.  Almost missed a full day!

A couple of days ago, I glanced at the top of my distributer site and realized with a thunderbolt that my monthly orders were due the next day.

It's as if this whole month is missing a week, or something.  Time is passing so quickly, and in a herky jerky sort of way.  I'm a little disconnected because of all the writing I'm doing.

I made it through the first six weeks of the year without significant reorders.  Finally made a game order last week, and sales suddenly took off.  So yesterday, got on the phone and reordered everything I'd sold over Christmas -- plus.  Totally blew out the budget.

Thing is, while I broke even during January and February, and didn't get ahead either.  Cutting orders seemed to result in a comparable cut in sales -- so what good did it do me?  So -- back to ordering the material I know will sell.

Pretty much the same result of breaking even or falling behind on the slow months, but much more fun and sets us up much better for the good months.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Which Project Next?

I didn't like yesterday's post.  Made me feel like an amateur which I don't think I am.

I'm not taking it down, but I'm not happy with it.

Heard back from the editor I hired and she likes the basic arrangement of NEARLY HUMAN, said that some things could be cut but it otherwise works.  She counseled patience...

So I'll wait until she's done.

I tried to completely reorganize and cut the book and it didn't work.

One thing I've noticed over the years is that the first version that a person reads is usually the version they most like.  It's as if they become invested in that incarnation.  So there's that.

Tomorrow I have to make a choice about what to work on next.  I'm torn between working on THE RELUCTANT WIZARD sequel or a DEATH OF AN IMMORTAL sequel.  Or going back and seeing what I can do with SOMETIMES A DRAGON.

Linda did a rewrite of DRAGON and I'd like to plug that in and see if it works and as I'm making the digital copy, do some rewriting.  I really trust Linda's instincts, and I'm betting she improved it.

I loved S.A.D. back when I wrote it, but much like NEARLY HUMAN, it seemed to have structural problems I couldn't overcome.  After 30 years, I might be willing to make the necessary changes.

I used to think that I could just combine different writings into a whole -- so it didn't matter if I wrote from beginning to end in one session.

I'm thinking I was wrong about that.  Books that have worked for me lately (and in hindsight in the past) tend to be done as a whole -- books that don't work tend to be drawn out and combined and mixed and reorganized and "improved" and become a mess.

I'm now at the point with NEARLY HUMAN where it has become a jumble of words.  So I'll probably just take the editor's suggestions, follow through, and then call it a day.

I'm very curious about SOMETIMES A DRAGON, so maybe I'll start with that.  When I tried the same thing with BLOODSTONE, my fourth book, I found it to be completely unfixable -- but I also learned some things.  So even if S.A.D. never transforms, I'm sure I'll get something out of it.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Apprentice Author.

It may seem kind of funny for a 60 year old guy to call himself an "apprentice."  But I don't see myself as a 60 year old writer, I see myself as a 30 year old author who got interrupted toward the first part of his career and is only now coming back to it.

I spent at least one year and one book just trying to get back into the swing of things.

I see my first book, STAR AXE,  as beginner's luck.  I happened to write what they were looking for at the time.  It was the "one" book that everyone probably has in them -- my baby, which I nurtured for about 5 years before finally finishing

In some ways, my second and third books were more impressive.  They were pure invention.

So about then, maybe I was edging into"journeyman" writer.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm going to call a "journeyman" anyone who can write a book at 7 or above.

My feeling is that STAR AXE and SNOWCASTLES were both in the high 6's.  ICETOWERS  was a 7, and DEVILTREE was maybe a 7.

For some reason, I ran out of juice when it came to the fourth and fifth books, were maybe a 4 and 5, respectively.

I'm edging toward journeyman again, I think, because I've gotten many amateur mistakes out of the way.  I'm hoping I'm edging back up to the 7 level or so.

Anyway, in the past, this would have been confirmed by acceptance by a publisher. (In theory).  In this current climate, I suppose there is a danger that I'll put something out there that shouldn't be put out.  I certainly would have put my fourth and fifth books out, and that would have been a mistake.

But for something like NEARLY HUMAN, which is probably a good solid 5 -- with the potential if I can just find the right approach, of being a 6:  Do I go ahead and put it out or don't I?  There is always the danger I'm prejudging it.   

I was watching a documentary on the Eagles last night (wow, man, brings back hippie memories) and one of the members was talking about when he started he asked a more accomplished songwriter "What if my songs suck?"  And the answer was, "They will suck.  You just keep writing until they stop sucking."

The new technology allows people to put out there "not ready for primetime" material. 

I'm not putting myself down here.  I think doing what I've done and am doing isn't easy.  I've worked at it, I think I have some natural talent.  I can always entertain the possibility that I could write something really good.  So...But I think I'm fairly realistic, too.  Maybe on the optimistic side, but if I was on the pessimist side, I'd just quit.

I can feel myself getting better, the more I write.  So...apprentice writer it is.

"What you said..."

Cover article in the Bulletin today was kind of funny:  "What You Said About Bend."

Could just as easily been entitlted:  "Proof of Poverty with a View."

In a nutshell, 90% of the respondents rated Bend an Excellent to Good place to live.

But only 46% rated Bend as an Excellent to Good place to  work.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hacking the book.

I'm starting to get feedback from Lara, the professional editor I hired, on NEARLY HUMAN.

While she's improving the writing, compared to the RELUCTANT WIZARD and DEATH OF AN IMMORTAL,  the writing feels stiff to me now.  Bulky, awkward.

So since I've already decided that I won't publish the book in its current form, I'm going to take a knife to it.

Do one final rewrite.  Not so much a rewrite, as a recutting.

I'm going to start with the plot.  Begin where it begins, and go from A to Z, cutting anything out that doesn't fit, or slows the story, or doesn't work.

Only then will I look at the flashbacks and decided where and how or if to incorporate them.

Right off the bat, this means cutting the first two chapters -- one a flashback and the other the original tone setting chapter that inspired me to write the rest of the book but which now feels superfluous.

Thing is, the book is 120K words long.  I could cut a third and still have a book.

So I'm going to cut drastically, and then decide later whether it makes sense or whether I need to put stuff back in.

All of this is what I should have done in the first place -- plot first, and above all.  Plot derived from characters, not ideas. 

Story above all.

I'll keep the previous version, just in case it doesn't work.

The culture of Vampire tropes.

I've gotten back a couple of copy-edited Death of An Immortal(s).

Funny how each of them found mistakes the other missed and I missed them all despite looking for them.

I think Lisa and Martha liked the book, though it's always hard to tell.  What are they going to say?  They hated it? 

More importantly, I still like the book 10 days later -- which usually isn't true.  Usually by then I'm having second thoughts and doubts.

I didn't expect the story to continue, but there is an obvious direction for a sequel. 

I didn't realize there was such a built up culture of expected Vampire tropes.  The danger here is that I either do too many cliche things not knowing they are a cliche, or totally offend the fans by going too far outside the canon.  I'd rather do the latter than the former, I suppose.

Funny.  I've gotten the question -- "Is there romance?" several times.  I wasn't thinking of it as a romance, but of course any good story has to have some romance, what? 

Oh, well.  I tend to write what I write.  So what I wrote was Death of An Immortal.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Time line for success.

When you talk about economic recovery, you really have to include a timeline.  Some people talk about recovery as if it's just around the corner, when they are really talking about 2 or 3 years. 

It's pretty hard to forecast farther out than that.

I think it's important to try to find some historical context.  The article in the Bulletin today about empty subdivisions has this quote about growth from a developer:  "I think it will be slower; we won't get quite to the speed we were seeing in 2004 and 2005." 

Let's assume that word "quite" was ironic.  Because we will never ever see that kind of growth again in our lifetimes and if we do, watch out!

So if you say, "Yes, we're on the road to recovery" and you mean 3 years from now, I won't argue with you.

But holding your breath underwater for 3 years isn't much reassurance.

I'm close enough to the end of my career, that there isn't much incentive to take big chances.  But if I was younger, I know what I'd do.

I'd bet on the big chainstores to start to collapse.  (Start, as in over the next 10 or 20 years.)  To a young person, that may seem like forever, but really, it's smack dab in the middle of a career that starts now.

I like reading James Kunstler's ( views on chainstores, because he is so snarky.  Here's some quotes from an article:

"The unintended consequence of their victories through the 1970s and beyond was the total destruction of local economic networks, that is, Main Streets and downtowns, in effect destroying many of their own livelihoods. Wasn't that a bargain, though? "   

And this:

"America made itself hostage to bargain shopping and then committed suicide. Here we find another axiom of human affairs at work: People get what they deserve, not what they expect. Life is tragic."   

And this:

"Though the public hasn't groked it yet, WalMart and its kindred malignant organisms have entered their own yeast-overgrowth death spiral. In a now permanently contracting economy the big box model fails spectacularly. Every element of economic reality is now poised to squash them"

He lists a whole series of things that are going to "squash them."  I agree, but I think it's going to be a very slow process, one that most people will only notice in hindsight.

I think small stores are coming back.  

The large stores have been illogical for awhile now.  But to paraphrase an old saying:  The situation can remain illogical longer than logical people can outlast the situation.

Kunstler is making the case that young people should see an entrepreunerial opportunity here:
"...the coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies. At this stage it is probably discouraging for them, because all their life programming has conditioned them to be hostages of giant corporations and so to feel helpless."
 And I totally agree.

As long as they include a long enough time frame to measure success.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Next time I'll get it right.

I had a sudden insight yesterday, as to why I always write something new, instead of continuing to write characters and worlds I've already created -- which also happens to be smarter commercially in that it creates a brand.

I always believe that next time I'll get it right.

The one time I wrote a "sequel" it really was the second half of a book that I split when I realized the publisher wasn't paying me a living wage.  I was forced to rewrite ICETOWERS a couple of times, and I've since come to believe that it was my most "professional" book.

Anyway, I couldn't help myself yesterday and started writing the opening scene of the next book in the LORE cycle, to follow THE RELUCTANT WIZARD.  I realized right away that it would necessitate completely revamping the last two chapters of the previous book.  (Which is good argument to write the whole series before you release the first book --if you can afford to do so.)

So right away, the book already seems flawed, arising out of a flawed original book (at least, until I do the rewrite.)

Whereas, I can start a fresh book with a blank slate and hope that this time I'll get it right.

That's the illusion.  This time, this new story, this fresh start, I'll get it right.

While it's true, I think I might be getting better, they'll never be perfect, anymore than a sequel would be.  And I do have the example of ICETOWERS being the first book that I completely thought through and liked every part.

I think this "I'll get it right" next time tendency is a form of perfectionism, and I probably need to rein it in a little.  Each effort is going to be it's own thing -- no guarantees that the next book will be that much better, nor is there any reason to believe that a sequel will be any worse. 

It makes sense to use the characters and landscapes I've already created. 

Reading the 1000 page novels of Neal Stephenson, and realizing how prolific I am, it makes more sense to extend the existing stories.  So, the next few efforts will probably be sequels.  I may try to revive the characters and ideas of NEARLY HUMAN, even if the book itself never sees the light of day.  I could revive the main characters and ideas of DEATH OF AN IMMORTAL too.  And of course, the LORE series of fantasy novels.  (It's almost de riguer for fantasies to be series...)

I don't seem to be short of ideas, and I already like these characters and thinking out the backstory and rules of a book is just about the hardest part.  So it's silly for me not to use that.

Unless, of course, I wake up with a new idea -- something unexpected -- and I just have to write it now. 

Thinking -- this time I'll get it right.

Still trying to learn from Stephenson.

Not having read a book in over a month while I was busy writing, I dove into Reamde.

Looked up at 2:00 a.m. and realized I should be going to bed.

Some authors just have a very pleasant and fun voice.  Stephen King, Neal Stephenson, for instance.  Maybe that's just another way of saying they're good writers, I don't know.

So as I was saying yesterday, not much happens for the first 80 pages or so, until the chapter entitled Day 1.  But none of it boring, all of it character development that makes the action scenes pay off because you know and like the characters so much.


So I broke off last night about 200 pages in -- the heroine has tricked the bad guys into invading the wrong apartment, and by coincidence it's full of terrorists armed with assault rifles and there is a gun battle, while the three hostages are in the stairwell trying to escape and the quirky Chinese woman is trying to get free and start the car and...

I went to bed.

So, we have a action scene that is better done than most thrillers, you have characters that are better done than most drama's, you have quirky and fun and unexpected surprises better done than most hip novels and so on.


About the only thing I've learned, I think, is that I could probably take more time to tell the story.  The scene above, wrapped up in a certain way, would be a more than satisfying book to me -- about 250 pages.  Perfectly good book.

He's got another 750 pages to go...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Trying to learn from Stephenson.

Started reading REAMDE by Neal Stephenson, who is my favorite current author.

As I mentioned, I was planning to pay attention to what he's doing and steal mercilessly.

So far, I haven't found anything to steal.  In fact, I don't think I can follow his example unless and until I become as accomplished as he is.

So, for the first 28 pages, it's all internal monologue.  It's not 1st person, but very in depth 3rd person point of view.  It's a family reunion and not much happens really. (Hints and portents that he has an interesting past.)

Then, on page 29, he springs the thing that makes the book different.

He then takes the next 20 pages or so and explained the evolution of a video game.   I don't think it's until about 50 pages in that the ongoing plot seems to take off. 

All of it interesting.  Most of it, I couldn't possibly get away with.  He gets away with it because the reader has faith that it will lead to something.  Sure, he writes interestingly.  He doesn't flash too much -- not like Chabon and some of the other literary types -- but is more straightforward.  Though almost every page has two or three very original turns of phrase.

It's a style I can aspire to -- but probably not a narrative structure I could possibly get away with until I've proven myself.

Just talking about writing makes me want to take off on some wild jaunt again.  I'm restraining myself, forcing myself to take a week or two off.  

"Region on the Mend?"

The Bulletin has another article about how our local economy is on the mend.  The article itself seems to be mostly about Oregon as a whole -- and I've always maintained that we can't really be lumped in with the rest of the state. 

In contrast, I just about wrote a blog yesterday entitled, "The Walking Wounded" with the theme being that the economy in Bend continues to limp along.  One restaurant in downtown seems in doubt (rumor stage) and the Blacksmith just sold.  Our vacancy rate and churn seems about the same now as it was a couple of years ago. 

That, combined with both Juniper Ridge and the bus system rearing their heads in coverage of the city council in the Bulletin.  Somehow there is this feeling that we can start planning for future growth again. 

But I still have the feeling that city officials and real estates experts are somehow expecting a return to the steady rise of the 99's and 00's, instead of reverting back to what the economy in Bend did through the '80's say, or the very small growth it incurred during the first 30 years I lived here.

Very small growth because we never established any real industries here but tourism and retirement.  Which more or less took the place of the timber industry in this town.

So now, the media and city officials  all seem to be expect the problems to resolve, for the money to appear to fund Juniper Ridge expansions and bus systems and anything else that we require.

All seems predicated on the assumption that we're "recovering" or "on the mend" that things in a couple of years will be different than they are now.

And, well, I don't have any evidence to prove otherwise.  But my feeling is, that while the economic body may have stopped taking shots, there are still lots of walking wounded in this town.  Businesses that aren't falling over dead, necessarily, but not exactly thriving either.

New money, as in new brew pubs, is not the same thing as established businesses doing particularly well.  I think "new money" is churning money, not necessarily producing money.

I don't think we'll collapse, because we do have that "new" money, which I think arrives because in many ways Bend is a pretty cool place that people want to live in.

So holding our own is pretty good, I think.

But my own inclination would be to put Juniper Ridge back on mothballs and not expect any changes for the bus system -- which means the city will have to go ahead and fund it though it can't afford it, or let it fail.

At any rate, start planning for the contingency that maybe we won't see lots of growth, but instead keep limping along.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Work or write, write or work.

The contrast between the last two days at work, and the previous ten days devoted to nothing but writing, couldn't be more stark.

It's very very clear why I couldn't write for so many years.  One, I'm exhausted and two, why even get started if I'm just going to be interrupted?

I was telling Linda this, and she said it's the same way with her.  (And she loves people -- I sometimes love some people...)

I'm not going to even think about writing for a week or two.  Try to clear away the cobwebs and doubts and come back fresh.

Slate's "The End of Barnes and Noble."

The article really is just a couple of paragraphs wondering if there really is a need for so many ebook platforms, and whether B & N's platform will win out.

I wondered this several years ago -- my guess was, that either someone would come along with a superior technology, or someone would come along with similar tech only much cheaper.

Of course, now it seems even clearer to me that ebook dedicated tech is doomed.  That platforms that can do everything a Nook can do but everything else too is probably the future.

So, even outside their crazy suicide business plan of making their bricks and mortars obsolete in favor of a lower return on ebooks, the ebooks readers themselves are going to be a huge struggle for them.

Did they have any choice?

Being stubborn, I wonder if they couldn't have doubled down on books.  But everyone seems to think that wouldn't work.

I was playing with the idea of a full bookstore, but the more books I carry and the more I watch the finicky behavior of the book customers, the more I think I'm better off having an eclectic mix of product.

I sold one out of four of the new J.K. Rowling book I brought in -- which is exactly the reason I stay away from most "best sellers."  They're cheaper and ubiquitous elsewhere.  But if you can't sell best-sellers, it makes it pretty difficult to be dedicated to that one product line, doesn't it?

So my little entry strategy of sticking to quirky, cult, favorite, classic books turns out to be maybe my only strategy.  And having books be about 20% of my business also turns out to be my only strategy.

I know the customers will go where the customers will go.  All the "Buy Local" and "Support Your Local Bookstore" campaigns in the world won't stop the inevitable.  So you take what part of the inevitable you can use, and you mix that with other leftovers and you can still have a viable business.

Pile up enough failures, and it begins to look a lot like success.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Harry Potter?

Wrote this on Facebook last night.
For those who don't know, Cameron is the manager at my store and gets acting gigs.  
Cameron was acting in an educational film downtown. Dressed very Dr. Who-vian in tan suit, pink suspenders and bowtie. First guy comes up and asked, "Are you Daniel Radcliffe?"

"On a lark he says, "Yes." Soon a crowd is forming, and someone asks for his autograph, so his girlfriend says, "I'm sorry, you have to have an appointment with Mr. Radcliffe."

The film and sound guy play along. He signs, "Daniel R." and they walk off.

Meanwhile in my store, I'm getting people coming in saying Harry Potter is in town filming a documentary. Second time around, I say, "Wait a minute. Does he have a pink bowtie?"

So the crowd is gathered and it comes time for Cameron to interview some bystanders so he says, "I'm going to have to try my American accent. Do you mind?"

So he does his interviews, and then slips back to his English accent.

Comes into the store at the end of the day, and I say, "Have you checked Twitter yet?" And sure enough, there he is, standing between two of his admirers."

So, look a little like Harry Potter. (Black glasses help.) Say you are Harry Potty and put on an English accent. Have an entourage and film crew to play along.

Too funny.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My five minute Time Travel Story.

Paul requested my next book be a Time Travel Story.

Well, I have a five minute story...

"The first time machine was invented on July 1, 2015. From that moment on, people could move backward to the moment of the machine's inception.

The first time traveler was Mortimer Snurgens, the machine's inventor, who came back to change what he'd eaten for breakfast that morning -- it had given him heartburn. Of course, by doing so, he changed the daily sales total of the diner where he'd originally eaten.

The struggling owner of the diner looked at the sales totals for the morning, and quit. Thus creating the first time paradox. 

Soon, everyone was going back to change the past.  And the future was never the same.

And the world became a churning mass of change and more change and friends today were enemies tomorrow who were enemies yesterday and toast became eggs became bacon.

People stopped worrying about finishing projects, because it wasn't the same project. People began to sit around and watch the world change.  

Finally, someone put a camera on the time machine. All that could be seen was a blur, a rainbow of unfocused images.

Only the time machine was unchanged, black and stolid and looking the same no matter what else happened.

And the time machine thought --- "It is good."

The End." 

 "Mortimer Snurgens finished typing his little time travel story and was satisfied.

Five minutes later, thought, something occurred to  him and he came back and changed it.

The End." 

"Wait!" Mortimer Snurgens thought, five minutes later.   Is this a story of time travel, or time 
traveling story?   He have to think about that.

The End."

"Five minutes later it occurred to Mortimer that the words had changed, but the machine he typed the words on was the same.

Was he the machine or the words?

The End."  

"Paul read the Five Minute Time Travel Story and thought, "WTF?  Mortimer's messing with my head.  Screw this"

Five minutes later, the story changed.  Paul didn't notice.  He was stuck in the past.

The End."  

"Mortimer, who was a minor genre writer, decided to write a post-modern story.  Thus changing his career trajectory.

The End."

"Mortimer decided he didn't have the literary chops to be a post-modernist, and went back to writing silly vampire stories.

But there for five minutes, he was a post-modernist....

The End."

"Five minutes later Mortimer deleted the story.

It never happened Paul.  You just imagined it.

The End."