Monday, June 30, 2014

No fixing it later.

I reserve the right to make changes to the very end, but there comes a time when I have to stop thinking I can fix it later.  Each change I make has to be good enough before I move on to the next change.  It has to be able to pass what my publisher calls "the clean edit" test.

If this book was published, would I be proud of it?  Could I stand behind the writing?

The closer I am to a final copy with my first draft, the more likely that book is to be published.  So my Vampire Trilogy were published first because they were most-of-the-way-there from the start.  Led to the Slaughter required fleshing out, but I didn't really mess with the story that much.

It isn't that the unfinished books aren't as good, but it just makes more sense to finish what I can when I can.

Anyway, I will sometimes write scenes that I know will have to be fixed later.  But for the sake of momentum and continuity, and because, well, it's a rule of mine, I keep going until I finish the book.

Often, I'll forget a detail, a name or a location or a description, but rather than go back and look for it, I'll just keep going.

Fix it later.

I'm now at the point where there is no fixing it later.  Each change I make has to stand.  It has to be good enough for the final book.

No fixing it later.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A month is a long time.

A month is a long time, if I dedicate myself.  (It goes by quickly if I don't.)

It seems to me that writing has expanded time for me.  Given me a timeline for events in my life.  It has been less than two years since I went to the coast and wrote a major portion of The Reluctant Wizard, which kicked off this whole writing spree.

Only two years.

Hell, it seems like two years is nothing at this time in my life, but I've packed a whole lot of writing into it.

Anyway, I wrote three new scenes yesterday, for The Dead Spend No Gold, adding some new characters and scenarios.  If nothing else, this has clarified some of the characters and their motivations. 

It never hurts when you flesh out the characters and understand who they are and why they do things.

I'm not sure how easy these scenes will be to add to the book, or how much rewriting will be need to be done to accommodate them, but I think they make the book a little more complex and layered.

I also intend to go through and work on the romance storylines of the main two couples.  I need to make the girls resist a little more, have a little more tension between them, disagreements and so on.

Later:  managed to meld the three new scenes.  It's a little unwieldy, but they more or less fit.  I'll just have to trim the rough edges.  I may split one of the scenes and add it to a previous chapter, which will change the structure slightly, which is dangerous.

I can do some random rewriting for a few days, until I get Lara's editorial changes back.  Then it will take some time to consolidate the two manuscripts.  Then I want to add some historical detail and description.

THEN I can do the final rewrite, and hopefully have some time for Lara to give it one more editorial copy-editing passthru.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Shit, she's right.

Always a danger when you ask people to be honest about your writing.

Bren has pointed to some real improvements to The Dead Spend No Gold that I can't argue with.

It means rewriting entire chapters, and many scenes.

But I think she's right.  It needs to be done.  It will make it a better book.

I think it can be done without changing the structure of the book.  That's what I'm most leery of.  Once I start moving scenes and events around, the whole thing is in danger of falling apart.

But as it happens, these new scenes will mostly either replace or add to the existing structure, and that I can see doing.


I wish it was ready.   But these changes will make it better.

As seems to be happening more and more, the rewriting is more intensive than the original drafts.

I'm going to try to immerse myself in the story, and improve it all along the way.

First thing I'm going to do is write the new material outside the story and then see if I can't add them or integrate them into the original story.  That may not work, but I'm going to give it a try.

I'll probably spend a week or more just integrating the two outsider editing jobs.  Then another week or more adding historical details.  So I may not get this done in the month I had earmarked.

But if I set myself the task of doing it, I can probably get it done.

I keep reminding myself that a month or two to improve a book is nothing, when that book will be out there forever.

It will take as long as it takes.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Focus on the books, nothing else.

I keep talking about my "miracle year" in writing because it was all about the writing, not the selling.  I wasn't putting any thought whatsoever into selling them.  The entire focus was in the books.

I've lost some of that over the last year.  By necessity, I suppose.  I mean, I had a lot of material at hand and it needed to be dealt with at some point.  I wanted to test the waters. 

But what I didn't see was that the moment I made that choice, the inward focus would shift outward. 

Then it shifted further with the need to rewrite some of the material I had already written.

Both things needed to be done.

I got my first report from my publisher last week.  It only includes 42 days, so it is obviously incomplete.  What I learned was that I sold more on Amazon than I expected, but sold very little on Smashwords.  In fact, Smashwords was alarmingly low considering that I was on "best-seller" lists for a good part of that period.  I had been harboring some illusions there.  Just as my publisher said, the action is on Amazon and Smashwords was inconsequential.

I sold a bunch of my books in my own store, but that is probably coming to an end.  I simply can't continue to be so aggressive because I'm getting to the point where I'm trying to sell the same books to the same people too often.  Yes, I can still mention it to tourists, but I'm finding that the initial excitement is fading and it was that excitement that sold the books.

What I'm trying to say here is -- it is time to shift the focus back to writing the books again.  It appears I can't really affect the broader sales of them by anything I say or do. 

So I'm going to focus on making The Dead Spend No Gold into a good book.  And making Faerylander a good book.

Nothing else.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Writers make time to write. 1,000,000 words.

Bren, who is helping edit The Dead Spend No Gold made the following comment to me:

"It's amazing what I can accomplish when the house is quiet..."

Well, that's it, of course.

I've set aside my time to write.  Dedicated time and lots of it.  Not just for the physical process of writing, but creating that time and space where I can just wallow in the creative juices.

I know I'm not the kind of disciplined writer who can set X amount of free time to write.  I have to have most or all the time to write.  I'm disciplined in using that time, in the sense that I feel like I can't waste it.  I have a minimum 2000 a day word pace when I'm writing a first draft.  (Not maximum, but preferred.  That is, I don't go over 2000 words unless the words are really flowing.)

But anyway, I think a writer has to be ruthless with his time management -- or be like me and pretty much not do anything else on the days dedicated to writing.

I've loosened up a little over the last year, and I can feel it.  It has been a detriment to my writing.  But that year I spent in my dark room and did nothing else -- I don't think that will probably ever happen again.

My estimate is that I wrote well over one million words in a year and a half.

Because that's all I did.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Final push.

Spent the entire day putting in the changes to The Dead Spend No Gold that the writer's group has suggested.

As always, I'm amazed by the tiny copy-editing changes that need to be made.  Simple little things that the brain just passes over.  I believe that I'm relatively careful.  I get the grammar right most of the time.  I don't misspell that many words.  And yet there they are -- saying "he" instead of "his", leaving out the "it", etc.  I think, probably, that you need not only a copy-editor, but a couple of other people reading a manuscript to catch most of them.

Meanwhile, I've gotten about half the book back from Bren, and I've entered those changes too.  (Coincidentally, the same 11 chapters is exactly how far I've gotten with writer's group.)

She's also putting me to task for relationship problems.  She thinks I've gotten the two couples together too fast, especially the sex.  I think she's probably right, and I'm going to try to adjust that.

Still lots of work to do on this book, but I'm hoping that if I keep on working on it intensively for the next month, I should be able to get it ready...

My main goal in the final draft is to get all those little unbelievables and inconsistencies ironed out.

And to add "Telling Details."  Those little details that make the scene seem real, with historical details or just descriptive details or character quirks.  Whatever works to make it seem like it is really happening.

You just keep tipping the book in the right direction, and if it works, then one day it all kind of comes together into a real thing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Burden of Proof is Mine.

Went by a local bookstore to see if any of my books that I'd left on consignment had sold.  They had placed the books in the farthest corner, in Siberia, about as far from a good selling spot as they could be.  I just took them back.

So, obviously, no respect there.

I have a theory.  When the average reader buys a published book, the presumption is that it will be good (if not good, then competent.)  So the book has to prove that it isn't.  If the book is any good, it will get the benefit of the doubt.

When a person picks up a book by someone they know, they are dubious, the presumption actually is that the book probably won't be any good (but hopefully competent.)  So the book has to prove that it is good.  Which is one hell of a higher burden of proof.

At least two degrees away from how the book would be treated if they bought it off the shelf without knowing anything about it.  So the irony is that the further away and the less the person knows you, the more likely it is that they'll give you the presumption of good.

It's just the way things are.  I try not to take offense.  I'm the same way.  It's just human nature.

Led to the Slaughter has done well enough with people I know and don't know that I feel like it has passed some kind of test.

But the burden of proof is still mine.

Oh, and if the book is "self-published" you can double the burden of proof.  Which is why I went with a publisher, even though it is the same book.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Minor travel Inconveniences.

So there's Olivia on my Facebook traipsing through the U.S. with nothing but a backpack, and I'm about to complain about a bunch of minor inconveniences.

Linda and I went to Crescent City for the weekend.  This is NOT a tourist trap.  In fact, it's a pretty poor town.  You walk into the grocery stores here and they are one half beer/wine/booze aisles and one half groceries.

But they have great beaches.  Really.  Some of the nicest beaches around.  And at least the weather was decent.  About 60 degrees, but low wind and that's about the best you can expect.  I realized suddenly that I know more about Crescent City than any other town beside Bend (which is why I set part of my Vampire Trilogy here.)

Anyway, the motel we have stayed in for about 15 years is really getting run down.  The refrigerator was stuck on high, the air conditioner makes weird noises, the doors don't close properly and squeak, and so on and so on.

Plus they're doing construction RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR ROOM with bulldozers actually shaking the entire building.  I mean, I guess they had no reason to warn us, but try writing with that going on.

So Linda and I went to the X-Men movie.  Actually, we went to the Dragon movie, but missed the beginning because the stupid theater has the ticket and commission line combined.  So even though there were only about 15 people ahead of us, it took us 15 minutes to get our tickets because every one of those people wanted popcorn.

So we walk into the Dragon movie and it's well underway.

Well, I get all wound up about these things, but usually manage not to say anything.  I excused myself to go the bathroom when we approached the tickets because I knew I'd say something rude.  But I always forget that I get Linda wound up too, and then she goes and says something...

So we exchange our tickets for the X-Men, which was fine because I really wanted to see that.

But then...they keep the lights on during the entire trailers sequence.  Bright lights.  The movie starts and the lights go down slightly.  The seats sag.  The screen is tiny.   I get up and kick the door closed and that helps.

It's just Linda and me in the theater so we talk all through the movie.  So rude of us.

As we're getting ready to leave, I realize the name of the theater owner is Catheaters. (California Theaters?)

"Yeah, because it's about as pleasant as a needle up your....."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A book came to me in my dreams.

I was perfectly happy with the idea of the third Virginia Reed novel being my next book.  But I wasn't excited the way I've been with just about every book I've done.

So I went to bed last night and an idea for a book came to me.

"Nobody Killed Me."

I really liked the premise I came up with, but it was a big one and I couldn't figure out how I could make it pay off.

Went to sleep and woke up with the answer.

So there it is.  My next book.  The one I'm excited about. 

I'm going to try to work through the plot before I start.  Try to assemble all the ingredients.  Try to discover what it is I'm wanting to say.  What characters, and what themes.

Then sit down and write it.

It's a bit of a departure from what I've done so far -- but that's good.  I can give it a try and if it doesn't work, I will still feel like I've done something new, that I've stretched myself.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Books of the Dead Press in stock at Pegasus Books.

I bought a full line of Books of the Dead Press books for Pegasus Books.   All very cool looking.

This is cutting edge stuff.  The guys who are leading the way into the future of Horror.  I'm proud to be among them.

A Life of Death: The Complete First Novel Undead On Arrival The Romero Strain: A Zombie Novel Discoredia The Bell Witch Running Home On the Lips of Children Mountain Home Paradise Denied The Howling (The Howling Trilogy) Badass Zombie Road Trip The Dead Parade Best New Vampire Tales (Vol.1)Best New Zombie Tales (Vol.3) HuskClassic Vampire Tales Everyman Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves Death of an Immortal: Vampire Evolution Trilogy #1 Rule of Vampire: Vampire Evolution Trilogy #2 Blood of Gold: Vampire Evolution Trilogy #3 Kill/Off Little Deaths 10 Minutes From Home: Episodes 1-4

Friday, June 20, 2014

Splintered attentions

I'm going to hold off writing the last chapter of Ghostlander.  I want to let it percolate in my subconscious for awhile.  I have a general idea. 

Meanwhile, Paul Carrington came by and said that he did like the latest version of Faerylander better.  The one problem was that he didn't quite buy the relationship between Parsons and Sandra.

Which coming after Dave Goodman's comments that he didn't quite buy the relationship between Cobb and Lillian, makes me worried about relationships.

Now that I have the actual structure of the book nailed down, maybe I can go in there and try to make those relationships stronger.  Maybe writing an earlier scene for both of them.

Paul said I'd lost some of the consequences of the battle by not developing some of the characters the way I had in earlier versions.  But the earlier versions were a problem in structure -- that is, the scenes where the characters who were later killed were introduced were scenes that didn't work for the overall book.

In other words, things are lost when they are cut.

I might be able to introduce a couple of characters that are later killed in the battles and not disrupt the structure of the book, so I'll give that a try.

And work really hard at making the relationships between Cobb and Lillian; and Parsons and Sandra more believable...

What's interesting to me is that the problems I had with the book was that it had too much, that it was slow and went sideways too much.   And now I'm told I cut too much.  Neither reader seemed to think the pace was too slow.  So I'm going to allow myself to insert a few more scenes that I cut, especially as they relate to "relationships."

Meanwhile, I want to go through Dave's critique of Faerylander and Bren's critique of The Dead Spend No Gold.

So I'm feeling somewhat splintered.  The best writing comes from being focused.  I probably should pick one of the books and finish it before I start work on the other book, but the logistics are such that it would add weeks if not months to the process.

Oh for the days when all I did was write!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Finished the second to last chapter.

It's not very good.  I can see that.  I suppose I'm hoping I can fix it.  Ugh...

One more chapter to write.  I've got all the pieces I need to write it.  My writing just seems really clunky right now.  But I'm going to go ahead and do it.

My attitude is "Anything Goes."  Just go for the big ending.

As long as the book is working, the story, the plot, the characters...then I have to assume that the writing can be improved.  But only if the story is finished first.

I sure hope the Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine goes smoother than this!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Well, hell.

After spending an extra two weeks on it, I can't seem to finish Ghostlander.

The ending just doesn't do it for me.  So...I'm going to hold off on the last chapter and hope that something really strong comes to me.  If I were to actually write the ending, that would be it.  It's very hard to throw out a storyline once I've written it.  I can change it no end, but not completely throw it out.  Not because I'm not willing, but because in my subconscious that becomes the story.

So better not to put something lame down and regret it.

Makes me nervous to be so close to finishing and then not doing it.

I'm starting to get back some of the edited chapters of The Dead Spend No Gold from Bren, so I can work on those.  Plus I have Dave's critique of Faerylander.

So I'll work on those for the next few weeks.

I just need that one fabulous idea for an ending.

This has never happened before.  Usually, I have it all figured out by the time I get to this point.  I thought I did here, too, but once I got here...well, I just didn't feel like it was very strong.

It will happen, I'm sure.  I'll be walking along one day and boom, the idea will come.  So...I'm waiting.


OK.  That's hilarious.  After weeks of struggling for an answer, not five minutes after I "give up" it comes to me.

The problem was that the Big Bad at the end, which must be vanquished, was just this amorphous ghostly realm.  There were individual hauntings that had individual bad guys, so those chapters worked, but the final resolution just didn't have any pizzaz.

So I figured out that I need a Big Bad guy; and personalization of the Evil, who can then be defeated.

I have the character in mind, but I have to go back to the very beginning and build him up and have him entered into scenes throughout the book, but I think that is the solution I've been needing.

Weird.  Thanks for nothing, subconscious. (Knock wood.  I don't mean it.  I love you subconscious.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dare to be silly.

I've just written a chapter that is so over the top sentimental and religious that it is totally out of character for me.

First of all, I'm not religious, so it was strange to write such a scene.  But the Character was a believer, a strong believer, and so I went into her head and wrote this outrageous scene that seems silly to me.

But it's what it is. I let myself write it.  I like it, but I don't know how it looks to others.

But does it matter how it looks to others, if this is what I think the book needs?  Been forcing myself to write the scenes.  They seem a little clunky to me, but move on.  Get it done.

Wrote 2600 words.  A couple of short chapters.

So I have two chapters left, which is only one less chapter than I started the week intending to write.  Like I said, I wrote a couple of extra small chapters, which were more or less about upping the danger stakes.

So now I feel like the final chapters can be written.

This next chapter is the emotional core of the book.  The final chapter is just like the final fireworks.
I have only a general idea of what I want to accomplish in both chapters.  Yesterday worked out OK, in that I forced myself to write the chapters despite not really knowing where I was going -- besides having a general idea.  Usually, I like to have the whole chapter in my head before I write it.  But I waited two weeks for the chapter to form and it never did, so I winged it.

Lots of rewriting ahead of me on Wolflander and Ghostlander -- going along with the huge rewrites of Faerylander I have to wonder what it is about these books that require so much rewriting.  I think maybe because so much of it is totally made up and imaginary.  My Faery is a completely new world, with its own rules, and it if very hard to make that work.

Maybe a lesson there.  Either think out all the rules in advance, or write material that doesn't require so many rules.  Writing my historical horror books, for instance, I'm constrained by historical reality.  Which somehow makes it easier.

Same thing with the Vampire Evolution books, which were constrained by the reality of the modern world.  Strange to say about books about werewolves and bigfoots and vampires, but they are meant to be set in the real world.

Whereas the Lander books have much more of a made-up quality to them. (Even though technically they are set in the real world they have always seemed more imaginary to me.)  

Next time I write a new book that isn't connected to any of the current series, I'm going to set myself the task of writing a straight-forward book, with no side trips, no flashbacks, something simple. 

That's hard to do.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Just finish the damn book.

Still struggling.

Wrote about 500 words yesterday, which for me is next to nothing.   Part of the problem is that 'religion' has entered the story.  Now when you write horror books, a little religion is probably hard avoid, but I try to keep it very vague, just a sort of good versus evil thing.

But this has gotten a little too specific, opening up very complicated philosophical and theological themes.  Which, if I knew more and was smarter might be a good thing.  But since I'm just trying to write an entertaining story, it is a little daunting.

Anyway, I'm going to force my way to the end.  I gave it a couple of weeks to come easy, but if it doesn't come easy then it has to come hard.

It will be at least 6 months, and more likely a year, before I really get a chance to rewrite the book, so I'm going to stake a lot on that -- that I'll be coming back to it fresh and hopefully can do something with it.

Otherwise, the limbo I've been in for the last couple of weeks will continue.

The other alternative is to just not write the ending.  Save it.  But that seems dangerous to me, especially since part of the problem I'm having is that I broke off in the middle.

This is just a reminder that once my head is fully in a book, it needs to stay there.

Mistaking popularity for profitability.

I should just make this a regular feature of this blog.

On Shelf Awareness they regularly announce openings and closings of bookstores.

The closings are especially interesting to me in what they say about why they close, and how it is pretty easy to read between the lines as to why the bookstore really failed in the way they try to explain why it failed.

So a quintessential one came up today.  But I have read similar articles dozens of times over the last few years, and in every case they seem to completely miss why they failed.

Over and over again, the store will say something like:  We did everything right.

They then give details of what they think is "right."

Signings and a comfortable place and serving food and drink and really nice features and blah, blah, blah.

"The store survived as long as it did thanks to the more than 100 events he hosted annually at the shop. The free get-togethers "solidified vague notions of community and neighborhood," he said, while driving a lot of the book-selling business."

" long as it did..."  Two years?

100 events?  In a year?

"...vague notions of community..."  Ha.  You can say that again...

They almost never mention books.

First off, the picture of the store is three quarters filled with tables and chairs.  With a couple of bookshelves to one side.

Secondly, the store is only two years old.

Third, they talk about how popular they are:

"A lot of people will be very sad if this store closes. I'd say we definitely gave it a go the best that anyone could.... The store is very popular. We have a lot of regular customers."

Well, no.  You obviously don't have "a lot" of regular customers.  You have a lot of people coming into your store for "free get-togethers."

It's amazing how often I run across this statement.  How often they think they did the right things and yet not mention books, as if books always were a secondary motivation.

It seems to me that every high profile failure is similar to this.  And no one seems to see the connection -- that it might not be that they failed "despite" doing all the "right" things -- but because they did do all the "right" things.

Only right wasn't right.  Promotion is not the same thing as sales.

The focus is all wrong.  The focus should be on selling books, not being popular.  Not having the nicest spot.  Not being someplace people can hang out at.  Not being an "event" center.  Not being a restaurant.

These people open bookstores not to sell books, but to be popular.  To be cool.  To be social.  They are always doing it for the "neighborhood."

Oh, and they sell books too, sometimes.  I think.  They don't really talk about that.

How about spending the thousands of hours hosting events in finding good books?  How about taking all that space with empty tables and chairs and filling them with bookshelves?

How about being a bookstore?

Oh, and right now there is someone out there planning to open a bookstore, and they are spending 10 hours on menu's and ads and decor etc. for every hour they are spending on buying books.  Or displaying books.  Or finding the most efficient space for bookshelves.  Or ... well, they've been told that they have to have that "third space" and so they've bought into it completely.

I believe there are places that do well with events and restaurants, etc.  But every time I've seen one (say like Politics and Prose on C-Span) they are PACKED with books.  Because they understand that books come first.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Danger, danger!

Still struggling.

Have written only one chapter in the last four days.

I think one of the reasons that the end of Ghostlander wasn't coming was because it was just too tidy.

The characters weren't in enough danger.  Things weren't going to hell enough.

So, once I figured that out, the ending started coming to me.  Ramp up the danger level.  Make things in doubt (as much as any story can be in doubt).

Problem is, by ramping up the danger, I've also complicated things.  So I have to ask myself whether making it more complicated, probably with a couple of chapters I didn't expect, really improves the book or not.

I was going to have one of the characters literally dragged into "hell" and then have her fight her way out.  But I'll be damned if I know how I'm going to do that.

I have a feeling the right ending will come to me, if I give it a chance.  I'm just sort of hovering right now, waiting for my subconscious to work on it...

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I'm not used to this.  Ever since I started my streak almost two years ago, there has rarely been a day when I couldn't write.

I've been struggling over the last couple of weeks. 

I'm very close to finishing Ghostlander -- about three chapters.  But I just can't seem to summon the words.  I have a rough idea of where I want to go, at least for two out of the three chapters.  The last chapter is the one I'm foggiest on, but that isn't unusual when I'm focused on the chapter(s) at hand first.

Generally, when I can't write something it means that my subconscious isn't satisfied.  In other words, it's actually a good thing.  It means I want to come up with something better.

So that's why I've been letting the ideas trickle in to me over the last few days.  I'm much more confident about the next chapter at the least -- which has turned into two chapters, by the way.

As it happens, I have another couple of weeks before The Dead Spend No Gold comes back from the editors.  I was going to do some random rewriting in those two weeks, but what may be happening is that I'm going to be wrestling with the end of Ghostlander instead.

It's very tempting for me to say to myself:  Dude, you've done what you set out to do.  You've published 4 books.  You've written quite a few others.  You're on track.  Relax.

But I really want to keep this going, and if I relax now, I'm afraid I'll stall.  Really.  I can almost feel it.

I'm very interested in writing Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine, the third Virginia Reed novel.  But I want to make sure it is as good as the first two books.  I want to get a really strong sense of it, and then really focus on it without interruption.  Clear the decks, batten down, and do a good book.

So I figure, work on The Dead Spend No Gold in July, and then spend August working on Ghost/Blue Bucket.  

And have fun.  Enjoy living that other world.  That's the best part of it.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Holding off the finish.

As you know, I rarely hold off writing waiting for "Inspiration."   For me, that's a recipe for writer's block.  Usually, if I set my mind to it, I find the words.  I subscribe to the five minute rule: sit down and do it for five minutes and if nothing comes, then quit.   But that rarely happens.

However, I'm at the end of Ghostlander.  Maybe 3 or 4 chapters left.  And even though I have a rough idea of how I want it to go, I'm not feeling it.

I've taken one day off already, then a store work day, and now today.  Still nothing. 

Obviously, the ending is important.  It's what the reader will take away, really.  The beginning is important to get the reader reading, the middle is important to keep them ready, so it's all important, but the ending may be most important of all.

This hitting a lull has happened before, and I think that waiting for a strong idea isn't the wrong thing to do, as long as the delay doesn't go on for too long.

The longest I've waited was a couple of weeks about 2/3rds of the way through Led to the Slaughter.  I had gotten the characters to where they were trapped and starving in the snows, but I couldn't figure out how to continue the story just constantly repeating how hungry and cold they are.

When I figured out Journal Entries were the way to go, that was the key that unlocked it.  In fact, I more or less went back and did as much of the book in journal entries as I could.

So I'm going to wander around the house muttering to myself until something hits.  I already know that in the next chapter something has to go very, very wrong.  And that has already sparked my interest more than I was before.  But I'm going to give it a bit more time to come up with a few other tweaks as well.

Still committed to finishing the book with this writing session.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Instilling mystery.

I'm pretty disciplined when I'm writing.  I work every designated day.  But I took yesterday off.  I went to the see the doctor in the morning for a physical, which I passed just fine.  But then I felt so relieved all day, that I just sort of enjoyed it.  Why was I so certain he'd find something wrong with me?

I will finish Ghostlander in the next writing session.

Anyway, after celebrating with a hamburger and fries, followed by some donuts  (Name for a donut shop:  "Do...or donut") I looked at what my friend Dave Goodman said about Faerylander.

He did a really great editing job.  Plus he had some great suggestions. 

The gist of his suggestions is that I need to reveal things more slowly, and to make it more of a mystery.

This has been sort of a problem from the beginning.  My original intention was to do this, but when I tried, it came off as completely ingenuous.  For one thing, I had these Famous Author chapters where they reveal all. 

I was constantly having the character saying,  "For the first time, he realized..." in variations.  But there is only so many time you can use that phrase.  Technically, you can only use that phrase once.

Anyway, I gave up on it and just started supplying the information as it came up.  I tried to replace the 'mystery' with a 'threat'; a time urgency, a kidnapped child, etc.

The main character of the story is a powerful exiled Faery creature, who each time he uses magic loses some of his memory.  So Dave's idea is that this character rediscovers the truth each time, rather than learns it just once.

Which is rather clever, but probably difficult to pull off.

I asked him if he wanted to "move things around" to show me how he'd do it, and he agreed, so I'm hoping I can re-instill some of the mystery without massive rewrites.

So...I can't believe I'm even contemplating this...I might do so more rewriting on this book.  But...I am not going to throw everything in the air again.  If I can find a clever way to make the changes I will, but if it requires starting from scratch, uh,uh.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Taking advice.

I take advice on my writing so readily, you'd think I have no pride at all.

I was at writer's group last night, and another writer said "You have a poetic style" (I'm not sure about that...) "But you don't vary it for the action scenes."

So she turned some of my compound sentences in short declarative sentences.

She was right.  Completely.  I thanked her and reminded myself to do similar adjustments to the other action scenes in my book.

When it was her turn to read, I tried to return the favor.  She has a great story, great characters, but she writes almost completely in short declarative sentences.  I tried to tell her that she could loosen up a little, give us a little more information, maybe a few interior dialogues, etc.

I could tell she was having none of it.

This is the most common reaction to critique, and it has always mystified me.  People go out of their way to ask for advice, even coming to a group whose purpose is the offer advice, and then most often reject it.

What I've found in both writer's groups and with readers is that they are right about  90% of the time.

There is the occasional person who is completely offbase.  Sometimes they have an agenda, often something they read in a book or were taught in a class.  Always a bad sign when they say, "Show don't tell" as if that is the panacea to everything wrong in the story.

But if you can scope out the bad advice givers, and listen to those who give the good advice (like I said, 90% of the time) you will improve a lot.

In fact, I've always maintained that those writers who have come to writers group who internalized the critique, tried to change based on the critique, and came back later with a much improved revision -- those are the writers who almost always got published later.  It is the single most obvious indicator.

Perhaps it is because I took classes from Dwight Newton who didn't put up with the bullshit of "I meant to write it that way!" that I learned to take advice.

Oh, sure, sometimes I'd go home feeling crushed and want to rebel, but almost always I would eventually come around and do it the way he said.

When my editors make changes, I most often accept it.  I have a theory that one can get stuck in a "Style" if you will, and it is a positive to change it up, to have someone else make it slightly different, which you can then learn from and try to incorporate the next time.

Plus, sometimes they just catch the way it should be said, the way you wanted to say it, but just couldn't figure out at the time.

So in taking advice, I split it into three responses.

1.)  Accept the advice.  This I do 90% of the time.

2.) Not accept the advice.  Sometimes wrong is right.  Sometimes wrong is just being more creative.  Sometimes, the other guy is wrong. 

3.) Not accept the advice because it is too overwhelming.  The advice might be right but in order to make the changes necessary to facilitate the advice, the rest of the book might fall apart.  So I measure the cost/benefit ratio.  Is this change important enough to possibly weaken the rest of the book?  No book is perfect.

Anyway, I just thought I throw this out there to all the beginning writers.

Take advice (just as long as you make sure the advisers isn't completely off base.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Feeling uninspired.

I'm so close to finishing Ghostlander (62K words), I don't want to stop now.  I've had the ending sort of mapped out, so each chapter is being done as intended, and each chapter by itself seems fine, so I'm assuming it all holds together.

But I do have a sense of having lost an overall feeling for the book.  I don't feel that strong urge I usually feel.  Thing is, I'm not sure you need the feel that "urge" to get the job done.

It's a little bit like building a house or something where I'm busy building a wall while I've forgotten how the rest of the building will look.  But all I need know is that this wall is necessary.  So I just need to build it competently.

I took a long break in the middle of this book in order to finish Faerylander.  At first, I didn't think it hurt me, but as I've gone along I've felt the disconnect between the first half of the book and the second.

I'm a firm believer that you finish a book once you start.  Taking another break wouldn't help, only make the disconnect worse.

The basic plot has come down to three "haunting" that have to be resolved.  (Hauntings come from guilt or anger or unresolved issues.)  So those are three walls I have to build.

Then the final chapter or two where the source of the hauntings has to be exorcised once and for all.  The Big Bad.

So I know what needs to be done and just have to do it.  Maintaining the "inspiration" within each chapter, even if I'm not feeling it overall.

So I see the entire Lander series as 'potential' still.  Faerylander has been worked on a great deal, more than any other book I've ever done.  Both Wolflander and Ghostlander are going to have to go through rigorous rewrites to make them work and make them consistent.

So the lesson here, I think, is make sure you have a clear path before you start a book, and then keep working on that book until it's done.

I have really liked the two Virginia Reed books, Led to the Slaughter and The Dead Spend No Gold.

I want to make sure the third book is as good, so I'm going to be ruthless about protecting the space around the writing of it.

I have a subtitle, but not the title.  The subtitles of the first two books are: The Donner Party Werewolves and Bigfoot and the Gold Rush.  The subtitle of the third book is "Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine."

It's going to be set in Central Oregon, along the Meek Trail, and I'm really looking forward to it.  When I'm ready to write something, I always have a metaphor of a overflowing well in my mind.  The sense that it really wants to be written.

As I've said before, I like the main character Virginia Reed so much that I'm looking forward to being in her head again.

She's about 17 years old now; and confident of her abilities. (What do I know about teenage girls? you ask. They're human aren't they?)

I have to finish The Dead Spend No Gold first.  I'm hoping to make it as polished as Led to the Slaughter.  

And then, and only then, when I feel that nothing will interrupt me -- and with the full plot and feeling of The Dead Spend No Gold still fresh -- will I write Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine.

Monday, June 9, 2014

My books are here!

The Vampire Evolution Trilogy are here in paperbacks. 

They are just gorgeous in person.  Very pretty.  I'm very impressed.

I wrote that!

I have them in both Pegasus Books and the Bookmark, at 14.00 each.  All of them signed.

I hope if you liked Led to the Slaughter you'll give them a chance.  Even if you don't normally read vampire books.  As I always say, it isn't about the vampires (or werewolves or hobbits) it's about the people.

Finding an Ending to a Book

I'm approaching the end of Ghostlander.  I'm at 60K words, and my guess is it will be a little over 70K words, which seems to be about the size of most stories I tell.

Anyway, in all three Lander books I've had to find "solutions" to the problems presented in the plot.  Basically, actions the characters can take to resolve the problems.  There are some mechanistic aspects to this.  The solution can't be pulled like a rabbit out of a hat.  It has to make sense and it had to satisfying.

Ultimately, every book needs a nice cathartic ending, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually.

What was nice about Led to the Slaughter was that I didn't have to come up with a mechanistic ending.  I just needed to characters to endure.

Same thing with The Dead Spend No Gold.  So the story arc is more emotional than material.  Maybe because it is true history and we know there were no resolutions to many of the problems presented -- life went on.

With the Lander series, I had to come up mechanistic solutions.  How to close the Portals to Cthuhlu, in Faerylander; how to end the hybrid vorewolf infestation in the Wolflander; and how to close off the entrances to Hell and save those who are haunted in Ghostlander.

So that is a lot more tricky in some ways.  I tend to have more chapters where the characters are sitting around talking and planning.  I try to skip these whenever possible, but sometimes they can't be avoided.

Meanwhile, The Vampire Evolution Trilogy was somewhere in-between the two types of endings.  The plots and the resolutions were dictated by the moral and ethical choices of the characters.  But I also had to explain the 'mechanics,' if you will, of the process.

I'm already looking forward to writing the third Virginia Reed novel, after Led to the Slaughter and The Dead Spend No Gold. 

For me to write a satisfying story (at least for myself) I need simply get my head into the main character, Virginia, who is strong and interesting to me, and see where it leads.  Let her continue to grow and learn.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Coming to terms with rewriting.

After I finished the first draft of Wolflander, I completely rewrote Faerylander, and then wrote the third book, Ghostlander.

Finally looked at Wolflander last night.  Oh, oh.  It is now sandwiched between two books that play havoc on the continuity of the middle book.

That's OK I think.  If it makes me rewrite that book, that's a good thing.

I've come around to believing that the first draft is only half of the battle.  The second (and third and however many more it takes) drafts are what make the book readable.  That is, I take the basic ideas and plots and characters of the first draft and I "craft" it into shape.

It is this "crafts" phase of the process that make the illusion real.

That isn't to say that I think a "problem" book should be worked on until it is fixed.  I'm not doing that anymore.  A "problem" book is one where there is a fundamental problem with the premise.  Or where the plot doesn't work.  Sometimes these can be very difficult, if not impossible to fix.

But these aren't "problem books," they're just books that need to fleshed out and tightened and polished.  Which is different.

I wish it only took a first draft to get it done.  Sometimes I do get 80% of the way there, but most of the time I think I only get more like 50% of the way there.

I've been piling up research on the Gold Rush for The Dead Spend No Gold.  When I get the manuscript back from the editors, I'm going to try to go in and add the telling details, the historical accuracy that will help if feel real.

My plan from now on is to alternate rewrites with first drafts.  And give myself the time to do the rewrites correctly.  By the way, this doesn't mean I like rewrites -- but I've come to terms with them.  I've made my peace with them.  But doesn't mean I have to like them...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Out of step?

I have zero interest in The Fault in Our Stars -- either the book or the movie.

I tried to digest a column by a newly published "literary" author that was so thick and clotted with words, I quit reading.

I read for entertainment.  Who are these people who are trying to tell me what to read?

I don't take these stupid internet tests.  They aren't valid.  No, I'm not Luke Skywalker.

Food is fuel.

Sports are dumb.  Especially running.  Why?

Reality shows are a waste of time and ain't real.

Sitcoms aren't funny.

Most drama's are formula.  Fuck formula.  I'm so so sick of formula.

Re-runs of Law and Order?  How is it that I've seen every one of them and barely watch them and Linda says she's never seen them and is always watching them?

There is no independent bookstore in Bend.  How can that be?

From childhood, I wanted to be a writer and/or own a bookstore.  Weird that it happened.  I probably should have included the word "successful" writer or bookstore.

Where the money is?  Look at the size of the buildings:  Healthcare, finances, real estate...

Hey rich people.  How much money do you actually need?

Bless government types.  Someone has to keep things running, I guess.  (Or not running...)

I'm not impressed by your car, your house, your clothes...really not.

I'm going to pick up a book at random and read it.  Hopefully it will be a book no one has heard of and is not approved of by the snobs of the world.  Someone spent a lot of time on that book, and I'll give it a try.  Totally random.

I don't like hot weather.  I like it the way it has been for the last month or so.

My beard is long not as a statement, but because I'm too lazy to do anything about it.

Politics are so off the rails it is painful.  What the hell, everyone?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Amazon the Bully -- for them.

You wouldn't know it from the news stories, but there are a bunch of authors who just love Amazon.

The self-published ones.

They are actually rooting against Hachette and the other Big Five publishers.  Most of them were probably rejected at some point by the traditional publishers and therefore are antagonistic.  So there is some sour grapes there.

There is, just like in traditional publishing, some big winners in self-publishing.  Authors who can make much more money on their own than they could through traditional routes.  But just like traditional publishing, the few winners do not represent the vast majority.

I'm sympathetic.  I do believe that traditional publishing has been too elitist and constricted.  They've become closed on so many entry levels and to so many mid-list authors, and have become so addicted to the "Big" book that might be made into a movie, of following the latest success until it becomes formula pap.  There are less and less editors and imprints to send our books to, and less and less support for the books, less pay, less patience.

I think Amazon has opened to door to worthy writers and genres. 


Another reason that self-published authors like Amazon.  You can get up to 70% of the price of an ebook as profits.  The Big Five offer only 25%.


I do think Amazon is a bully.  I think there is no guarantee that they'll keep up the high rate of sharing profits.  I think that they are getting flooded by books, good, bad, and everything in-between.

I'm only getting the same rate as the Big Five on my books from my smaller publisher.  But I'm about to put up a book that is completely self-published, Cyber Flash (which is a reworked Freedy Filkins.)

I think self-publishing, or "indy" publishing as they like to call themselves, is the future of books.   Great authors and books will come out of this phenomenon -- authors and books that never would have emerged under the old system.  But there will also be many great authors and books that will be ignored because they can no way to break out of the logjam.  (Self-promotion is everything.)   Again, not all the different from what is currently happening in traditional publishing.

I think books that deserved to be published but were rejected by traditional publishing, have found great success at Amazon and other online venues.  So have thousands and thousands of books that probably should have stayed in a drawer. 

But the public will figure it out. 

I think there is room for both.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Golden Age for Indies.

I didn't really start looking at self-publishing, and/or ebooks until last September, when I finally started to prepare the results of my year long writing binge for publication.

I've learned a lot since then.  I still have a lot to learn.

I had to at least take a stab at traditional publishing.  Which went nowhere.  Then I had to take a stab at self-publishing.  Again, pretty much nowhere.

Finally, I arrived at the hybrid model -- ebooks through a smaller publisher, who also publishes physical books, but which aren't distributed except online.  I get paid like with traditional publishing, but not as much.  The publisher pays for everything, (printing, covers, distribution, etc.)  has a platform, has some marketing savvy, and knows how to use key words and placement.  Things like that.  I have more control than if I was with a traditional publisher, but not as much as if I was publishing myself. 

This model has some of the same advantages and disadvantages as traditional publishing, but is quicker and more adept.  It seemed like the right way to go for me.  There was some validation in it, and it made it easier to push my own books.

But I've continued to research it, and learning.  I flailed around until I found the sites that had the kind of information I needed.  (Hugh Howey and The Passive Voice are the best, for those who are interested.)

I was talking to someone today, and I said that self-publishing was further along than I had suspected, and that I thought I was coming in at the tail end of the Golden Age.

The proponents of self-publishing call it Indy publishing, and they make a good case.

The Golden Age is my term for when a new thing works.  When everyone is in it for the right reasons, and there is a reasonable chance of success.  Every fad has a Golden Age.  Every new product that becomes Big has a Golden Age.  A time when you can do well with it if you have good intentions, work reasonably hard.

One of the hallmarks of the Golden Age is the skepticism by outsiders.  "You can actually make money selling sports cards?"  "People actually buy these Beanie Babies?"

That's when it's best for all the participants, the buyers and the sellers.  Things are happening, and there is a slow build until it becomes common knowledge.

Then everyone jumps in the pool, including the grifters and the cheaters, and the Golden Age comes to an end.  Those who are rudest and most obnoxious push their way to the head of the line.  Quality and honesty become lost, and only the top of the top can make it.  Competition becomes suicidal, the consumer can't figure out the good from the bad and throw up their hands in disgust.

"Oh, another card shop..."

When I went home I thought about it, and while I think it is true that the Golden Age for self-publishing is near the end, there is still some time.  (It would have been better to get started two to three years ago...)  I'm guessing there is still at least a year left, maybe more.

It's still a high hurdle to success, but it isn't impossible yet.  (Self-publishing itself is only beginning -- it will go on without or without me.  But the Golden Age is nearing the end.)

Most people still look down at "self-publishing."  Most people are still skeptical that anyone can make money at it.  And that's good.

It's when the truth is otherwise -- when everyone perceives it as not working when it is -- that's the best time to get in on it.  (The worst time?  When people perceive it as working when it isn't...)

When will the Golden Age be over?  Well,  I'll be looking for the signs.  For instance, the articles -- about how easy it is to make money publishing your own books, and how it is no longer looked down on, and look how rich this person has gotten!

There have already been a few articles like this.  There are a few examples that people seem to know about:  Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking, for instance.  But there are dozens if not hundreds of self-published writers who are doing very well, and who are producing good books, and that really isn't common knowledge yet.

So I just need to keep doing what I'm doing, and hoping for the best.

It isn't too late.  If I can establish myself before it becomes an impossible hurdle (instead of just a very very difficult hurdle...)

There was no way I could have timed this.  I was ready to start writing when I was ready to start writing.  I'm probably fortunate that I could even catch the tail end of this.  I could just as easily waited another year and missed it completely.

I predict that within five years it will jump from 2000 books a day being published (an already insane number of books) to 5000 or 10,000.  That big name authors will be self-publishing.  That the barriers of entry will rise, and the payoff will decrease.  It seems inevitable to me.

But it doesn't matter.  I'm busy writing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

It's a book.

By the end of today, I'll have 54,000 words for Ghostlander.

Which means, even if I started in on the conclusion from here, it would be a book.  I'm thinking another couple of writing sessions for the first draft.  I prefer at least 70K words, and 80K words even more.  But not much more than that.

I've noticed quite a few ebooks that aren't much more than 50K words, but that doesn't seem like a book to me.

Meanwhile, The Adventures of Burp, the Burrow Wight: A Fable for Adult Children, is probably going to be less than 10K words.  Really, it would work as an illustrated book.

Linda really likes it.  She seems to be telling everyone about it.  I told her the ending and she laughed out loud.  So far, every scene I've read to her has elicited some belly laughs.  Of course, it may just be our peculiar family humor.

"Not a children's book," she said. 

"I told you it wasn't..."

I'm not sure what to do with it.  I'll probably just throw it up online somewhere and charge .99 for it or something.  I have to find a cover to it.  I need to find what category it would fit in. 

I think I should allow myself to do that.  Write these uncategorizable books if they come to me.  Just for fun.  Cyber Flash (which was Freedy Filkins) was a lot like that.  Not sure what to categorize it as.  Written purely for my own enjoyment but I thought it came out pretty well and went ahead and published it.

Thing is, that writing for story and enjoyment unlocked Death of an Immortal for me.  At the center of Cyber Flash is a love story, and that human element made me realize that a story is about the people.

Even my regular books don't seem to fit the normal perimeters of the genres.  The Vampire Evolution Trilogy was sublisted by the publisher as "gothic" which I kind of liked.

I was trying harder to write a historical fiction, in some ways, than I was a horror when I wrote Led to the Slaughter.   The better historical horror is like that, I think.  Like Terror, by Dan Simmons which is more about the historical and human drama, with a tinge of the supernatural.

That's the nice thing about the new publishing world.  There is room for books that don't strictly meet conventions.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How am I doing?

Aaron Leis was over yesterday helping us with tech things, and he asked how my books were selling.

Well, I don't know.  I won't know until I get a readout from my publisher, and lord knows when that will happen.

I do know how many books I've sold on Amazon, because I found a workaround online.  And of course I know how many books I've sold in my own stores.

So based on that, assuming that sales are similar on the other venues, Smashwords, Apple, and Barnes and Noble and whatever 'foreign' sales I'm making, I'd have to say, for me the sales are 'promising.'  Assuming that they continue on this pace for a couple more months, and then still have the occasional sales thereafter.

The sales are probably higher than anything I could have done on my own. It's enough to feel like I'm not completely wasting my time, but not enough that the money would impress anyone, and certainly not enough to quit my day job.

My publisher said, "You're starting over.  You've just begun."  So I keep reminding myself of that.

I'll have a steady roll out of new material.  I've got enough books already finished that I should be able to bring out something every 5 months or so.

If this was a store campaign I'd be satisfied that I'm on track.  (I often bring in product lines that take years to really reach fruition.  You try to start off with enough impact to make the space, time and money expended justified and then build on it.)

There's just a sense that things are rolling out in a reasonable way, and I have that sense. 

So I'll just keep doing it and hoping that creating content is enough.  Just try to make sure each book is worth reading.  Just hope that people slowly find me.

I'm content with it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Paperbacks available of Vampire Evolution Trilogy.

For those of you who don't read ebooks, the Vampire Evolution Trilogy is available in paperbacks on Barnes and Noble and Amazon websites.  I'm hoping to get some copies in my store very soon.

If you've enjoyed reading this blog over the last 7 & 1/2 years, I've never monetized it.  I've kept it pure, but I guess I'm asking if some of you might consider buying these books -- either ebooks for 2.99 or the paperbacks for 13.99.  (I make about the same either way, believe it or not, at least online.)
The titles are Death of an Immortal; Rule of Vampire and Blood of Gold.
Or just put in Duncan McGeary.

I hope you like them.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Planting the seeds.

At the end of this writing session, I'll be about 65% of the way through Ghostlander.  Time to start firming up the ending.

I had a vague idea of what needed to be done.  I've established that the Pilot Butte Inn is haunted.  Not only that, but there are places throughout Faery and Mortal Lands that are haunted.

So I needed a way for the main character, Cobb, to more or less exorcise the evil.  Something that would make sense for a Faery creature.  Something grand and exciting.

I figured out a very cool solution, but it was a little bit too much like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Except -- there is no reason why I can't go back and plant hints and foreshadows and clues throughout the first two books.  In fact, the solution also helps explain a few things in the first book.

It's an easy fix.  It doesn't disrupt the plots of either the first or second books, just a little detail that actually kinds of gives them some added flavor.  And then become full-blown significant in the third book.

I guess there are some advantages to writing the third book before I release the first book!