Sunday, August 31, 2014

Finished! Tuskers II.

It's always a euphoric feeling to finish a book.

Wow.  I did that.

Finished right on schedule.  Tuskers II is currently about 42K words long.  I figure it will probably be about 45K long by the time I finish rewriting it.

Tuskers I is about 47K long, probably 50K by the time I rewrite it.  Short books, but not outrageously so.  It's going to be a trilogy.  The whole saga will be one long book.  Tuskers III will be set in a real post-apocalyptic world, and I'm looking forward to writing it.

The goal was to get to the end by the shortest path possible.  No detours, no lollygagging.  Straight to the point all the way.

I really like these two stories.  I allowed myself to be as over the top as I wanted.  The books benefited from that.  But no matter how outrageous I try to be, I tend to want to ground my stories in some kind of reality.  I want to be both outrageous and believable.

I'm not sure if I'm ready to tackle Tuskers III just yet.  I'm going to do a quick rewrite of Tuskers I over the next three days and send it to Lara.  After that, we'll see.

I have plenty of directions I can go from here.  Plenty of material that needs to be rewritten.

But sometimes a new idea pops up at these moments.  Sometimes the subconscious demands I go someplace new.  And I always listen to that voice.

I've settled into a nice writing routine.  I just need to keep that going.

Two year writing anniversary.

Two years ago I went on a writing vacation to the coast.

My idea was to write an analog story about my childhood and set it in a fantasy setting.  I called it The Reluctant Wizard.  What this trip did was unlock my creative door.  I'd been struggling for a year with Faerylander (at that time called, Almost Human.)

Somehow, tapping into my childhood emotions got me going again.

Then I had an idea of writing a cyberpunk version of the Hobbit, which I  called Freedy Filkins, and which is now called Cyber Flash.  It was fun to write.  I didn't worry about whether it might sell or not.

Anyway, from that point on, I haven't stopped writing.  Anything that came to me, I wrote.  A vampire story?  Haven't vampires been overplayed?  Maybe, but its knocking at the door so, well, Okay.

Sequels to my earlier unpublished books?  That seems dubious, but Okay.

Stories about a wild pig apocalypse?  Uh, Okay.

Donner Party Werewolves?  I like it, Okay.

Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush?  I like it, Okay.

Even though I'm struggling with Faerylander, write two more sequels?  Okay.

And so on.

I worked out a work strategy, a pace I could maintain, and cleared the decks to do nothing but writing.

I gave myself 5 years to concentrate on writing, and I'm now at the 2 year mark.  (I don't count the struggle of the first year where I was just relearning how to write.)

I'm going to try to moderate a little.  Fit in some more gardening and trips and more work at the bookstores and movies and books and so on.

But I think I can still keep up a steady writing schedule.

I'm not worried about how well they sell, only about how well I write them.  I've worked out the math, and it's ridiculously low odds.  ("Never tell me the odds!)

But I don't care.  It turns out I like writing, telling stories, and crafting them the best I can, so I'm going to just keep doing that. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My garden is out of control.

Two years of ignoring my garden and it has grown like the blob.  A big mass of bio. 

I had to do radical surgery yesterday.  Just cut out entire sections that were infested with grass.  Pull out viable plants that had just taken over too much territory.  I had to take off the top 1/2 inch of soil almost everywhere, which hurts because it is top soil and top soil is a valuable commodity.  In theory, I'll get that soil back when my refuse pile become my top soil again.

I hired a landscaping service this summer and they revived my lawn, informing me that I wasn't watering enough.

The garden had responded to the extra water by exploding.

I did about half the backyard yesterday, and I'm going to finish it today or tomorrow.  Try to keep up from now on.  I'm afraid that the grasses and weeds have seeded in pretty firmly, so next year will be a huge struggle if I don't try to keep up.

As usual, I found great satisfaction in the gardening.  It feels good to dig in, to make it look nice.  I really should do more of it.


So...meanwhile, I have only one chapter and a epilogue to write on Tuskers II.  I love what I've got planned, but I'm hoping for a giant burst of inspiration to get what I've got planned down on paper.

Then I'm going to quickly rewrite Tuskers I for editing. 

Then move on to Tuskers III.  To be fresh on the Tuskers III, early in the book I'm going to jump ahead a few years.  It will be a post-apocalyptic world where the non-diseased Tuskers and Humans band together to fight off the diseased (dare I say zombie?) Tuskers and Humans.

Should be fun.

Friday, August 29, 2014

I want to know about You.

I quit smoking -- like fifty times.

I've never announced I was giving up on social media because I doubted I was and because if I stop doing something, I just stop doing it.

So I stopped checking Twitter, completely, without saying anything. 

The only social media I still go to is Facebook.  (And Reddit, which is not 'social' for me, I just browse.)

Last night, I checked Facebook and I'd say about 30 out of the top 50 entries were videos.  Not original videos, but passed along.  Of the twenty left, 10 were non-original photos.  It took forever for me to weed out the crap.

I don't know if this is a new feature but as I scroll down, the damn videos start playing whether I want them to or not.  It freezes the computer for a few seconds each time and is totally distracting.  If I can figure out a way to turn off or avoid that feature, I might continue but it really is the last straw.  (With Reddit I at least have a choice about whether I want to see something or not.)  Add that to the advertising, and the incredibly stupid "tests" and I've had it.

Enough, already.

Here's the thing.  I want to know about you.  Not about some fluffy cat or squirming piglet.  You.

So I'm going to check Facebook to see if there are any personal comments -- and then stop.  Because I'd done.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Veronica Mars

Watched the Kickstarter funded movie Veronica Mars last night.

A very nostalgic experience, which just reminded me how great that show was.

Why does a show like this get cancelled after three seasons and a piece of formulaic crap like NCIS is the number one show?

What people seem to forget is that these "cult" shows were never popular.  Buffy almost got cancelled every year, and even changed networks.   Star Trek had 3 seasons.  Firefly...oh, firefly.  I was BEGGING people to watch this show -- my supposed nerd customers at the store and not one took me up on it.   I've found since, almost everyone thinks they watched it, without realizing they watched the repeats.  I'm here to tell you, almost no one watched it when it counted.

Apparently The Good Wife was on the "bubble" last year.  The well written shows just seem to struggle.

To bring that around the books.  The question is -- if you write a good book will people notice, and the answer I believe is -- probably not.

Sales and quality simply don't correlate as much as people would like to think.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writer's group as support group.

Sometimes you take something to writer's group that you think is great.  And they disabuse you of the notion.

Other times, you take something that you think has problems...and they like it.

Either way, just getting feedback is wonderful.

You see, most of the time I'm writing I don't get feedback.  Days, weeks, months go by of hard work and I don't know if I'm writing something good or not.

Sometimes I don't get real feedback until I send it to my editors, or even when it's published.  Linda is always willing, but I try not to wear out my welcome.

Anyway, I took the first three chapters of Tuskers to group last night.

When I was writing this, I loved it.  I thought it was fun.

But my first beta reader didn't care for it much, which brought me back down to earth.

I followed his suggestions, tried to beef up (pork up?) the danger quotient for the Tuskers.  I took the first person chapters and made them third person like the rest of the book.

But reading it over, I was pretty uncertain.

The writer's group really liked it.  They seemed impressed, (I believe I can tell when people are genuine and when they're just telling me what I want to hear) and they found little beyond a few typos to suggest changes.

So, yeah. That's what I needed.  I was starting to feel a little insecure about it.

This make me feel like I'm on the right track.

Not to get all egotistical about it, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.  Mostly from having done so much writing over the last couple of years that I'm avoiding the worst problems from the beginning and I'm learning a few tricks, both in writing and in my work habits. 

I don't know where it leads.  The next book could be something awesome, certainly I didn't expect Tuskers to come along.  Whether Tuskers ever hits it big or not, it has been so much fun to write that it has been a great experience.

I want more of that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Taglines for Tuskers I thru III.

I'm writing this from my new MacBook Air.

The computer I bought at Christmas was a flop.  I tried to save a little money by buying something other than an Apple and that was a mistake, obviously.

This will have a long battery life and is light enough to throw in my backpack and take anywhere I go.  I'm liberated.  I can write whenever and wherever I want.

I'm going to ask Aaron to adjust this machine to copy my other laptop as much as possible.  For instance, when I scroll I go the opposite direction than the one that is installed.  (Which drives me crazy.)

Simple things that most people probably know how to do...

Checked Smashwords for the first time in a couple of months.  Led to the Slaughter had dropped off the best-seller lists for a thought that was it.  But I'm back on the lists, so that's pretty cool.  Apparently it doesn't mean much in actual sales, but at least the book is getting noticed by somebody.

I'm hoping to get the second quarter results from my publisher.  I have a vague idea of how it's gone, but it would be nice to see more info.

One thing that is interesting to me.

If you plug in my book on Amazon and search for best-selling books including reviews Led to the Slaughter is #165 out of 53,000 books.  Which is pretty good, when you consider how many good horror books have been written and how many good authors there are.

That doesn't really translate into sales, unfortunately.  But still...I need all the encouragement I can get.


Hoping to finish Tuskers II in the next day or two.

Then immediately start in on Tuskers III.

My total focus is to make these as fun and fast-moving as possible.

I think I've come up with the three taglines.

TUSKERS:  The pigs are not all right.
TUSKERS II:  Stay out of the desert.
TUSKERS III:  Mankind is so over.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tuskers Cover.

Andy Zeigert has done a preliminary cover for Tuskers.

I'm almost through writing Tuskers II, and have plans for Tuskers III.  They are smaller books, but books nevertheless.

I like the tagline but wonder if we couldn't do better.

"The Pigs Have Had Enough."
"The Pigs Are Pissed."

You guys have any ideas?

I'm undecided about using a pen name.  And I'm undecided whether to go the full edit route or just finish it up myself.  After all, that's the way I always used to do it.

I still have to write the third part and then go back and rewrite and edit.  But I'm still kind of excited to see the cover.

Art versus Entertainment.

I've been watching a lot of documentaries about artists.

I can come away from them feeling kind of insecure.

Am I creating art?  Is my intent to create art?  Should I be trying to create art?

I always come to the same conclusion.  Good entertainment is art, and art is good entertainment.

My intent is to tell a story, to try to tell it well.  For the story to be entertaining, and perhaps have some emotional resonance, and to craft the writing well enough that the reader will fall into the story and feel that he or she is in good hands, that there is a full experience here.

If I do all those things to the best of my abilities, I'm being an artist.  The depth, the message, will come through the story, not the other way around.

Frankly, I've all but stopped reading anything that has a 'literary' tag.  I find them usually boring or pretentious or difficult or all the above.

1984 or Brave New World or Lord of the Flies or Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird or Sometimes a Great Notion or For Whom the Bell Tolls are above all, good reads.  Entertaining.

I can name a whole bunch of modern 'literary' writers who strike me as superficially deep, sentimental rather than emotionally evocative, con artists with words, 'look at me' provocateurs, deliberately vague and ultimately too subtle to be satisfying.

So back to writing as good a stories as I can, with as much craft as I can summon, and the depth and artistry will be part of the whole...or not... but I'm not going to try to throw on the cloak of "artist" and try to be "deep" and fuck with the words until all you see are the words.

True craftsmanship becomes art.  But art without entertainment is boring.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Watched a documentary called Download, about Napster.

Even though the parallels are obvious to everyone, I've always been a little resistant to the automatically equating music and books.

I still am, to some extent, in the sense that I believe that more people are more likely to stick to physical books longer.  Partly, unlike music, it is because readers tend to be older.

But the way the two industries reacted is very similar.

The publishing industry, despite what they saw in the music industry, did all the wrong things.  They tightened up.  They fought it.  Instead of making it easier for new writers to get on board, and keeping old writers (mid-list) on their rolls, they made it near impossible.  So obviously, writers looked for alternatives.

Once that alternative proved workable, it was only a matter of time before some writers chose to go that route on purpose.  And the more success they have, the more word will get out, and the more writers will chose to skip the whole ungainly, unfair process that traditional publishers put you through.

Like the music industry, the book industry has become completely corporatized.  The focus is on big sellers, franchises.

Anyway, I think it is inevitable that one of the big writers will figure out he can make a lot more money self-publishing rather than giving the bulk of the revenue to a middle-man.  All it will take is several big writers following and the whole thing falls apart.

That's my prediction.  Stephen King or someone like him, will just go out and hire his own editor and cover-artist, etc. and produce his own books.  Bookstores will have the choice of buying his independently published book or going without.

If enough of the big writers do this, the wholesalers and chain-stores will be forced to accept books from self-published authors.

The publishers are vulnerable because they didn't support the small bookstores, and instead encouraged Barnes & Noble and Borders, which when Amazon came along, left them with few options.

They also raised prices on books, and have refused to be more fair in their ebook sharing.  All of which is going to come back and bite them, big time.

My only concern is whether Amazon will prove enduring.  But the technology to do what they did is out there, and even if it turns out Amazon can't turn a profit and the whole thing collapses, others will pop up to take its place.

Unlike musical acts, writers can't earn money by performing.  So it may be that writing will become even harder to make a living at than before -- not because it is so hard to find an agent and a publisher, as it was in the past -- but because it will be harder and harder to get noticed among the millions of books being published each year.

But as the self-published authors point out -- that is already true.  The average book published by the traditional publisher sells 1000 copies.  They aren't promoted, they aren't cultivated.  It is hit or miss and then you're out.

So the possibility of being discovered isn't all that much greater with the traditional route -- meanwhile, you're giving away most of price of the book, you're getting tied into onerous contracts, you're forced to rewrite to the dictates of editors, you have to wait for very long period for the whole process to proceed.

So in the end, the only thing a traditional publisher offers the average writer is an advance, which most often isn't large enough for most writer's to live on.

Here's the thing.  The advance is basically a loan.  Either you earn back the loan (in which case you would have made the money without the advance.)  Or you don't earn back the loan, in which case you're likely to be dropped by the publisher.

So the more you look at the situation, the more it becomes clear that self-publishing is the future.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dangerous thing to say.

"There's no hurry."

That can be a very demotivating statement.  All the pressure to write is self-induced.  No one is clamoring from the outside.  It is all inner directed.

Anyway, I'm going to try to finish Tuskers II this week.

I have decided that I will give it the full treatment.  That is, send Tuskers I and II off to my editor while I write Tuskers III -- if I can find a reasonable way to pay for it.  Each of these books are going to be around 50K words when they are done, so about 2/3rds my smaller books, and half my bigger books.

Why the full treatment?

Because I'm going to be publishing The Dead Spend No Gold in the next month or so, and I think putting out a book more often than every 4 or 5 months is too much.

So I may as well do the job properly.

I was thinking about why these books are smaller than usual.  Mostly, it's because I'm pushing to the end without a lot of intervening chapters.

So, for instance, in Tuskers II, I have them capturing a industrial tycoon who has a formula they want.  They try to befriend him, coax the formula out of him, and then they finally resort to torture.

So all that could be shown, a chapter where they try to befriend him, a chapter where they try persuasion, and then finally the chapter where they resort to torture.

So what I do instead is go straight for the torture scene and simply tell you about the earlier efforts.

Is this the right was to do it?

For this book, I think yes.  The whole point of the effort is to be lean and mean and straight to the point.  Action driven, cliff-hanger, condensed and hopefully evocative in shorter spurts.

By the time I flesh it out, I suspect it will be more developed than it is now.  Which it also probably needs.

I've been diligent so far in releasing only the material that has been fully worked out.  I think I probably should continue doing that.

After all, there is no hurry.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A good summer.

The store is having a good summer.  Nice.  Downtown is booming, my product mix is clicking, and Cameron and Matt are doing a great job.

So it got me to thinking about what it took to make the store successful.

I don't advertise, or promote, in any way.  If a newspaper wants to come interview me, I'm down with that.

I see three things that have worked at the store.

1.) Size and diversity of product.  I just kept trying out product lines until I had a mix that produced enough sales to be self-sustaining.  This changes all the time, and is always in flux.

2.) Longevity and consistency.  I'm always open, I've been in the same location for 30 years, I institute policies and stick to them.

3.) A busy street.  Ironically, for half of the time I've been downtown, that wasn't true.  But at least I was smart enough to see when downtown was recovering and to change my product mix to reflect that.


I can do the first two things myself.

1.)  I can write books, bunches of them, try to make them as consistently good as I can, try diversity.  Create the content until I find the right mix.

2.) I can keep on writing.  Just be steady and persistent.

It's #3 that will be the problem.  Always is.  Kind of luck that I established my store on a street that became busy. 

So what is the publishing equivalent of a busy street?

Well, Amazon, obviously.  And Barnes and Noble, and Apple, and Kobo and all the rest.  But that's like saying you're located in New York -- it doesn't say what part of New York you're in. 

That's the tough part.  How do you maneuver yourself to 5th Avenue?

For now, I'm concentrating on the first two elements of success, and looking for opportunities on #3.

Most people's answer to #3 is to promote, but for me that probably isn't the answer.  One thing I learned in my store is that you build on your strengths, not expend efforts on your weaknesses.  I'm pretty opportunistic -- when I see opportunities, I try to take advantage of them.  What I don't seem to be good at is creating those opportunities from whole cloth.

Well, it's still early.  I'll be hitting the two year mark on September 1, of a five year plan, that I can see easily extending to a ten year plan. 

I'll just keep writing, and trying to get better, and producing books.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A.K.A. Redshirts -- Action fodder.

If you're going to write action novels, there have to be casualties, you know?

So you have to have fall guys.  You can't kill off the main characters, usually, unless you're George R.R. Martin.  Or, if you do, it has to be a major plot point, usually toward the end of a book.

Meanwhile, if you're having battles and bullets are flying, well -- someone has to get it.

So you have to assemble a cast of characters that include a few Redshirts, here and there.

I find that I often have to go back and inserts scenes to introduce characters that I can later kill off...

Very cold blooded.  All writers are psycho's.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Submitted The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush.

I sent The Dead Spend No Gold to the publisher of Led to the Slaughter, Books of the Dead Press.

This is the sequel, starring young Virginia Reed.

I wrote a rough synopsis, which will need to be refined (the publisher is good at this).

But very roughly, this is it:

Virginia Reed survived the Donner Party (in Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves) only to once again find herself in a life and death struggle with a creature out of nightmares.  With gold discovered in the same mountains where she had fought to survive the winter before, California is flooded with gold miners, who are pushing the Indian tribes off their lands, or killing them if they won't leave.  But there is a creature in those mountains that won't be so easily removed, who reacts to the invasion of his territory by killing everyone who trespasses.  Virginia finds that it is her destiny to confront such creatures.  The Indians call her the Canowiki, the Hunter, and with the help of her friend, Jean Baptise (who survived the Donner Party but was transformed) and the Miwok girl, Feather, she confronts the Skoocoom, a monstrous creature that has always lived, hidden, beside us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Finally able to say it's good.

I've never just been able to out and out say about my books,  "This is good."
Always the doubts, plus what do I know?
I usually say something like, "It's as good as I can make it."
But I put the work in on The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush.   I kept working on it until I thought it was good.  It was edited thoroughly twice, and I responded to every criticism.  I didn't cop out with "it's good enough" and I wasn't intellectually lazy, as I have a tendency to be.  I polished it until it clicked.
Lara gave it a final edit, and yes, I pay her, but this is what she had to say.

"I love the way it turned out! This iteration is more rounded, better developed and has lots more detail and description. It's definitely on a par with Led to the Slaughter now."
To which I say, I think so too.  
What's happened is that I've made sure that I'm proud of each book before I release it.  As inconvenient as that is, and as little as it probably matters on how they ultimately do, I plan to continue this policy.
I told myself to be patient when I started this, and I've stuck to that so far, and I think the quality of the writing shows it.
Most of my beta-readers see early drafts.  The quality really seems to jump in the last draft, as if everything pulls together. 
Good for me.  Heh.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Quickest route to the ending.

The goal I set for myself on the Tuskers books is to get to the ending the quickest, shortest route possible.  Not fluff, no sidetrips.  No worries about length.  Tuskers I is rapidly approaching 50K which is 10K more than I thought.  There are always things I do in second drafts that increase the size of a book, mostly more description, more back story, more characterization.

H. Bruce didn't think my Tuskers were scary enough, so I'm concentrating on that in the second draft, as well has turning my first person chapters into 3rd person to match the rest of the chapters.

I'm undecided about whether to pay for editing on this.  I'm undecided about whether to use a pen name.

On one hand, I feel like I need an avenue which isn't quite so expensive and time-consuming and where I can publish works that either won't benefit from more work or can't be made better by more work.  So I probably should do those under a pen name.

On the other hand, I want everything I write to be up to snuff, and if I end up doing that, I may as well publish them under my own name.

Truth is, any book I simply throw out there under my own name, published by myself, with no promotion by me or a publisher, probably won't do anything anyway.  These books will be sacrificial lambs to my urge to write.  I shall cast them upon the waters -- and hope for the best, but not expect anything.

The second goal was to have fun.  To be as outrageous as possible. 

Thing is, I still try to write a book that makes sense, so I need not worry about jumping the shark -- unless you consider a wild pig apocalypse already jumping the shark.

Ironically, what makes the plot is trying to make the wild premise plausible.  By the time I end up exploring that, I've written a book.

My goal is to keep writing books, whether they are 'commercial' or not, and publish them, and not worry about results.

Except for a few select books, where I take more time and effort and promotional attempts.  My Virginia Reed Adventure books, and probably my Lander books. 

It's a steep hill.  I don't have the social media skills to make much headway. 

But I can keep creating the content and keep the faith that eventually the content will be discovered.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Linda is a Utopian.

I've decided that the overriding theme of Linda's books is a desire for Utopia.

She's always liked those kinds of books best.  Under Plum Lake, The Green Kingdom, Islandia.

She also always been attracted to hidden worlds.  Hollow Earths, and Kingdoms behind Great Barriers, and Moons.

She yearns so much for people to be Kind to each other and Just to each other and it come through in her writing.

Her basic decency and sweetness overlays everything else. 

She also has a Hero thing; her dreams are usually about her saving someone.  So many of the things she's told me she's dreamed about over the years are finding their way into her writing, in one form or another.

It gives you a very satisfying feeling, like everything will be all right, everything will work out.

She's learned to put danger and threat into her stories.  When I first met her, she couldn't bear to have anything bad happen, or if they did, it was quickly resolved.  But now she puts in threats, even bad things, and know they are only temporary.

Because her sense of right and wrong is just too strong to let evil win for long.

I'm happy to live in her world.

Sometimes you just have to ask the right questions.

I was about a third of the way through Tuskers II before I had to break off to finish the final draft of The Dead Spend No Gold.  Then I needed to read Linda's book, Once on a Blue Moon.

Just as well.  I'd kind of run out of ideas for the book.  I'd started seeing problems.

But when I started thinking about it last night, it was those very problems that gave me the rest of the book.  That is, in trying to resolve the inconsistencies and illogical developments, the rest of the plot came to me. 

Very satisfying.

Sometimes you just have to ask the right questions.

So now it's a matter of entering into the Tuskers world, which is like and unlike my own world.  It has a flavor all its own.  If I can get back to the frame of mind, the rest of the book should be easy.

Plus, nothing is in the way.  I can get to work on it.  I think I'll have clear sailing for Tuskers III too.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Reading Linda's book on an iPad.

So I'm reading Linda's book, Once on a Blue Moon, on an iPad and I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

I read Telling Tree   (   on my computer, which wasn't ideal, but I don't remember it bothering me that much.  (Hell, I read so much on the computer that my eyes are having adjustment problems.  I literally have to lay down for five or ten minutes with my eyes closed after a session so my eyes revert.)

Anyway, for some reason, Once on a Blue Moon   (   didn't show up on my computer in a readable from, so I borrowed her iPad.

This morning she asked how I was liking the experience.

Maybe I had preconceptions, but it is pretty much the way I thought it would be.

1.)  I'm conscious of the screen.  Harder to get lost in the story.

2.)  It's awkward to hold, for some reason.  Not soft and fuzzy friendly somehow.

3.)  I like leafing back and forth in a book to check out details and such.  Can't do that as easy.

Problems one and two would probably go away the more I use the pad.

Compare this to audio books.

I'm also kind of opposed to audio books.  I feel like instead of me interpreting the book, the narrator is interpreting the book, and I don't like that.

However, the one book I did listen to on a trip, I thoroughly enjoyed.  I mean, I really liked it.

So why am I denying myself the pleasure?

I'm not totally sure.  But reading has always been a solid part of my life, almost an alternate life (which has been replaced by writing lately).  Somehow, these two ways of reading (or listening) are a separate experience.

I'm a boring person.  I like doing the same things everyday.  I like my habits.  It gives me a sense of security and continuity that I seem to need.  So I don't go out seeking new things all that much.  Instead, I tend to dig deeper into whatever I'm doing.

That and doing nothing.  I like doing nothing at all.  

On the other hand, I've always tried to keep up with the superficial news and culture of by continually browsing information sites, both paper and digital.

I'm ready to give that up.  I just am running into too many situations where I see a Huffington Post article about someone I've never heard of, and I click it, and it turns out to be some woman that was on "Housewives..." of whatever on the "third season" and who the fuck cares?  I'm pissed that they suckered me and made me waste my precious few brain cells on complete pablum.

So I seem to be going to opposite direction as everyone else.  No apps.  No texting.  Just books, and movies and T.V.  Have no friggen clue about music anymore. (Meanwhile, ironically, my two twenty-something employees seem to almost exclusively listen to music from my youth;  Guardians of the Galaxy mixtape kind of music.)

Simplify, simplify. 

I wish I had the courage to throw in the towel completely, but I hate not knowing things.  I hate not being up to date.  It really bothers me.  I have a dozen sites I go to.  I try to weed out the essential from the useless.

So I'm trying to find a middle ground.

So I'll be sticking to paper books for the foreseeable future.  Just because I'm comfortable.  Just because it's comforting. 

The future is barreling in anyway, no matter what I decide.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A best-seller in my own store.

I sold all six copies of Led to the Slaughter I had in the store within 2 hours yesterday.

Like, Wow.

I've figured out the most effective phrasing, the combination of words that best sells the book, which goes something like this:

"I wrote this book..." I say in a mild voice.  I lean over and touch it.  Sometimes, I'll put it in their hands.

"Oh?"  Either zero interest (about 50%) or tiny interest (about 25%) or actual interest.

So if they evince actual interest, we go on.  Otherwise, I shut up.

"How cool!" they might say.  "You're Duncan McGeary?  What's it about?"

"Do you know what the Donner Party was?"

Most people say yes, otherwise I explain.  Then I point to the sub-title, the Donner Part Werewolves.

Some customers nearly throw the book back on the shelf, but others are unfazed, so I continue.

"Well, I wrote it as if I discovered the original journals of the Donner Party.  You know, they all wrote in journals in those days.  So I try to keep is as real as possibly, the real people, the real sequence of events...except, at certain important points, I put in the werewolves (which I treat as natural creatures.)

Customer either 1.) put its back.  2.) starts leafing through it.  3.) Carries on the conversation.

I then offer to sign it.

And then, I stay silent.  Waiting.  And amazingly, a certain number will put it in front of me and say, "I'll buy it."

So the paradox is -- I can sell my own books when I'm in the store. 

But I can't write my books when I'm in the store...

Starting up Tuskers II again.

I'm halfway through Tuskers II.

It may take me a few days to pick up the threads of where I left off, but the whole point of this exercise is to power through the book, no side trips.  Straight to the end.  Action all the way.

Tuskers was 45K words, which is a decent size for ebooks these days.

So far, I've always considered a novel to be at least 65K words, 80K would be better, and 100K is a nice solid chunk.

Here's the thing.  Keep the price moderate, and the story moving, and 45K seems like the proper number for Tuskers.  Especially if I do Tuskers II and Tuskers III at about the same size.

Someday, this may be a 130K saga, again at a moderate price.

I'm hoping to find a picture of a Tusker for the front of the book, and jigger the background colors and such to be able to use the same picture for Tuskers II and Tuskers III.

Mostly, I just want to have fun.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What? Snake again?

When I wake up in the morning, I'm as groggy as hell.

Linda is a bright, shining face, smiling and cheerful, always ready to tell me a long story about the dream she had.  (Her dreams are like movies, long and eventful.)  Or to present me with a complex problem she's been thinking about.

I've forbidden her to speak to me.

Anyway, I woke this morning and she came to me and looked up and said brightly, "I've cooked you a snake!"


"Wait, I mean..."

"Oh, honey.  Thank you so much.  It's what every man longs to hear when he wakes up..."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"This Too Shall Pass." Depression.

44 years ago, in my senior year in high school, I fell into a deep clinical depression.  I didn't really come out of it for another 10 years.

Just as it can be hard to remember when you're depressed how it felt when you weren't depressed, it can  be hard when you are healthy to remember what it was like not to be.

But...well, if I wanted to delve back into that, I'm sure I could summon a sense of it.

I'd prefer not to, thank you very much.

"This too will pass," my shrink at the time said, when I asked in for one piece of advice.

I don't know that I was ready to hear then, but even so I always tried to remember (even if it was an intellectual impression) that there was a life outside the bottom of the well.  That even though I couldn't see it or feel it myself, there was sunlight.

I've been thankful and grateful that my depression hasn't returned over the last 35 years.  I kind of expected it to, because that's how this disease works, apparently.

But not so far.  Knock wood.  A whole bunch of wood.

I think my depression was somewhat situationally induced -- but there is little doubt that I have a genetic predisposition.

It runs in the family.

I've made a couple of vows to myself.  That I would immediately seek help if I felt it coming on.  I'd take whatever pills they gave me, no matter how unpleasant. It took over 2 years the first time it happened to me to seek help. 

Anyway, it was ten years of my life.  The depression, and in some ways worse, the wreckage in the aftermath.

I was never suicidal, even at my worse.  For some reason, I had a faith that I would come out of it.

I also just buried myself in books and media, and I for some reason kept a intellectual curiosity, which I don't think happens to most people.

In many ways, I have a great life.  A truly wonderful wife, and great kids, a successful business, a writing career, financial security, good health.  I'm a bit of a loner and that always concerns me.  During those ten years, I was often completely alone and isolated.  That's what happens to me.  I get completely isolated and weird and the the weirder I get, the more isolated.  Kind of downward spiral.

But part of the health is recognizing and forgiving myself for my weirdness.

 But I'm not daring fate.

 I'm just counting each day as a bonus.

Finishing touches to The Dead Spend No Gold and done.

So I've written 3 full drafts of The Dead Spend No Gold.  I've had editors go over 2 of them.  I've read the entire manuscript to Linda (bless her), and I've read the whole book to writer's group.

So yesterday I sit down to do a final read, and...

I start changing things.  A lot of things, especially in the first two chapters.

Even as I'm doing it, I'm amazed and slightly concerned that I'm messing with it.  I call this doing my "sloppy" version, but that sounds bad, and isn't really what is happening.  I mean, that's the way I remember thinking about it when I did it to Star Axe.  That's the term I used.

So I'll try to explain what I mean by "sloppy."

First of all, this has happened to every book I've had published.  (And revealingly, not to the books I haven't published, because they have never gotten to the point where I can do it.)

I do one final light go through, changing things.  Basically, what happens is that I "loosen" up a little.  Everything to that point has been to get the writing as "tight" as possible.  Now I let my instinct take over, adding here, cutting there.  Like I can visualize the final version, now that all the content is in front of me, fully edited.  So a little flourish there, a little daring cutting there.

This version is the one people are going to read.  So I lighten up a little, put in little touches, just try to individualize it more.   Small personalizations and quirks, dare I say, put in some "art"into it.

Just making it all my own.

For some reason I don't quite understand, it always reads better when I'm done.  But I can't do it until it's done, if that makes sense.

Anyway, I took the first two chapters to writer's group last night -- for the third time, bless their little hearts -- and they seemed to like it.

What was especially cool is the parts they liked best were the parts I had put in a few hours before.

It's a mystery.

Sent it off to Lara yesterday for a last clean copy-edit, then on to my publisher around the 20th.

I finally have some free time to read Linda's book, Once on a Blue Moon, on her iPad. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Oh, Amazon.

Oh, Amazon.

So, I'm worried about the fact they don't make profits.  And that my books depend Amazon to sell.

I'm puzzled as to why Indy writer's are up in arms about traditional publishers wanting high prices for their books.

I say, let them.  They'll be put on sale anyway.  Or you can buy them used.  Whatever.

It all seems to be much ado about nothing.

Jesus, brain, leave me alone!

Woke up at 5:00 this morning with an incredibly cool idea for a book.

I mean, maybe because I've just thought it, I'm overestimating it.  But...really, an awesome idea.

Just popped into my brain, like the force of it was enough to jam me awake.

I lay there, trying to go back to sleep, as the first paragraph formed in my head.  So I get up and unplug my computer from the bedroom and take it down to the office, where I am now.  At 5:00 in the fucking morning, with the coffee pot empty. (Yes, I'll drink day old coffee if I'm desperate enough.)

I've just written a couple of pages.

Jesus, brain, leave me alone!

25 years of nuthin' , then idea after idea after idea, more than I can probably ever write. 

Lots of guys my age are just now coming to a kind of relaxed approach to their writing career.  Jaded, even.

Not me. 

I feel like a teenager who's so full of bullshit he can't get it all out.  And now it's starting to eat into my life in a way that is disruptive.  I mean, I can't keep having these 4 hours sleep nights, either because I'm still so jazzed from the day's writing that I can't fall asleep at night, or because my brain insists on writing in its sleep and waking me up early in the morning with an insistent buzz.

I feel almost disconnected.  I'll be sorting books in Linda's store, and someone will ask me a question and I'll go, "Huh?" like the words don't make any sense. 

When I work at my own store, I feel like I've been away forever and don't understand what's happening.  It is a pretty steep learning curve that first hour while I get back into the rhythm of it.

This is the same thing that happened to me 25 years ago when I more or less stopped writing.  I couldn't fit running a store and having a marriage and being a stepdad with the disruptions of writing.

Now I can.  I think.  I hope.

This isn't mania, I don't think.  I mean, it doesn't have that flavor.  It just feels like a creative excitement, like I've been let loose.

There is no way all these ideas can be done.  Or if done, that they'll all get proper publishing treatment. 

I've already decided I'll need to resort to a penname, and have a couple of different tracks.  For instance, the books that come spilling out, fully formed, and the books that I go back to rewrite again and again. 

One thing is for sure.  I can't afford to have every one of these tomes edited by a paid editor.  Some of them are going to have to be edited by me.  Which really isn't so bad.  My grammar and spelling suffice, I think.

At first, the ideas came in a stately procession.  "Ah, yes.  That is a book."  Then I'd write it, and set it aside.  There might be a month between ideas, or longer.

Now, the ideas seem to be speeding up.  The process is getting messy as I'm hurrying to get them all down on paper (or computer.)

Who knew?  I mean, I was writing stuff in those 25 years, but I don't remember having great ideas.  I had a zombie story going, and a mystery, and a couple of fantasy type stories, but they weren't exactly inspired.

I think it's because I've made this transition over the last couple of years, without completely meaning to, of being "the writer." 

Allowed myself, if you will, to devote a lot of my brain space to generating ideas. 

In some ways, it's the same energy I brought to my business.  The same letting loose of strictures.  Being my own boss and doing it my own way.

Writing is even easier, though not completely cost free.  I'm going to have to buy a new laptop, for instance.  (The one I bought at Christmas last year was a dud.  Should have stuck to Apple.)

Well, I want to finish Tuskers first, so this new book will have to wait.

If it will let me.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Problem chapter.

I've been happy with the final rewrite of The Dead Spend No Gold so far.

The last version is the one where I finally let go of some things that I've suspected are unnecessary.

Bren's been on me about the way romances play out, and I think I finally got what she was saying.  So I trimmed some of the earlier scenes, made them more subtle.  Several others cuts where the point is implicit and doesn't need to be spelled out.

I'm getting to the point where every scene is the way I want it, and they all fit together to create a satisfying story. 

The writing has been sharpened.

But I did finally run into a problem chapter late in the book.

The final confrontation between the good guys and the bad werewolves, in the middle of which Bigfoot's (Grendel's) mother stomps into.

Complicated action that I didn't fully think through.

So I'm going to block out the action today, and then rewrite the scene to make it better.

I should still be able to finish the whole book by the end of tomorrow to send off to Lara for a clean edit.

I think all the work has paid off, and the book holds together very well.  I'm hoping that everyone who liked Led to the Slaughter will like this book too.

Virginia Reed is a pleasure to write.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The book is shaping up.

The Dead Spend No Gold is almost done.

It is really pulling together.  It has been much work, and there were times when I wondered if it would match the quality of Led to the Slaughter, but I think I'm getting closer with every day.

It is a completely made up story this time, using the facts of the California Gold Rush and the Indian genocide as the framework, but with the plot completely created.  Led to the Slaughter had some stricture imposed by the real events, which was both a help and a hindrance.

This book is all mine.

I have several characters from Led to the Slaughter -- most notably, Virginia Reed who is the heroine of this series.

Anyway, as I've said before, with the help of editors many of the problems have been resolved and the book is starting to read the way I wanted it.

It will probably be hard to get as many people to read it as Led to the Slaughter, but I committed to trying. 

I'm proud of it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A massive game of Concentration.

I hate it when people tell me how hard they work.  You work as hard as you have to work to get the job done.

I have no excuse.  Especially since nobody is making me write.

But damn, this is exhausting.

Writing a first draft is energizing and fun, almost exhilarating.

Writing a last draft is enervating and mind-draining.  I feel like I've been working in the coal mines. It's a giant game of concentration, especially when I am moving parts around.


I see the book getting better before my very eyes.

I had a moment of doubt the other night and so I read the fully re-written first chapter to Linda and she seemed impressed.  She felt it was vastly improved.

That's when you know you've done something, when you re-write something that was already OK and make it better.

I'm a third of the way through this final re-write, which is behind schedule.  I've put the hours in, but I'm trying to respond to all of Bren's criticisms, which means having to create new material (that part is fun) and integrating it seamlessly with the existing stuff (that part is not fun.)

This is more like work.  Doing due diligence.  Making sure the book is as good as I can make it, and not just sloughing off when it gets hard.

I'm proud of the books that have been published so far.  I can pick them up and read them at random and see the work and time and effort I put into them.  They read well to me.

They are real books.  Professionally written.  Fast and entertaining.  Even bits of depth.

I want to be able to continue to do that.

Final rewrite doesn't mean no changes.

So I'm incorporating Bren and Lara's revisions.  Combining the best of both.

There are spots that Bren points out don't work.

So I'm dealing with them.

For instance, the mustering of the search party.  She found it boring.

So I had two choices -- either cut it, or make it interesting.

At first I cut it, then I tried to make it interesting -- by delineating the characters more.  Giving them more personality, including more plot points.

I think it worked.  I passed it by Bren, and she agreed.

Then she thought that I 'told' about the plight of the Indians when I could cover the same ground by a conversation, so I did that.  Again, it strengthened the characterizations in the process.

This along with the regular stuff of better wording, which is what I thought I'd be dealing with this draft.

I've already arranged for a final copy-edit by Lara, so I feel safe in making the changes.

I'm still learning a lot by this process.  Bad habits, if pointed out often enough, can be corrected.

I'm proud of myself for making the effort.  If there is a problem I try to address it.  No sloughing it off.

The only thing I'm not changing is the love story between two of the characters that Bren didn't like, but which I do.

But in everything that I feel that she has a point, I'm working hard to address that point.

It does makes the book better, and that is the whole point.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Editors are a great luxury.

When I see what Bren and Lara did to The Dead Spend No Gold, it's enough to make me wonder why I'm so enamored of my first drafts.

I mean, about 90% of their suggestions for improvements are right on, and the 10% I don't like is probably my fault.

I have to remember, I wrote the original words that are being shuffled around, I came up the ideas, the characters, the story and plot, the pacing, and all that.

Anyway, the editors are a great help, the kind of help I've always wanted... and thought I needed.

Oh, I always felt I got the majority of the way there to a final book, but there was always the feeling that I didn't quite have it done.  I'd have the vague feeling it could be better.  But I'd fiddle and fiddle and not get any closer, sometimes even going backward.

I don't feel that way as much now that I'm getting a couple of edits and a couple of rewrites.  (Oh, there is always the feeling something can be better -- in all things, right?)

In my earlier career, I had little or no editing.

The publishers and agents?  Forget about it.

Friends and family?  At first, a little.  (Linda is absolutely wonderful about it.)

Volunteers?  Well, sure.  But when they found out how much work it was, it usually fell through.  Not always, but mostly.  Even when they were willing, I'd feel like I was imposing after awhile.

I hired my mentor, Dwight Newton, to help me edit Deviltree way back when.   (How I don't know -- because I certainly had no money...)  I remember liking my own version more.

I think I'm much more open to changes now.  Much less defensive.

The upshot is that I suppose I should be thankful that I didn't take up my writing career again until now.  I don't need to write for the money.  Oh, I want to be professional.  I want the validation, and money would be nice.  But I don't have to have it to continue.

In some ways, since my desire to write is as great or greater than it has ever been, I may have dodged a bullet not picking up the gauntlet earlier.

I feel free to write what I want, when I want.

And I can hire editors.

Both editors are very reasonable in their costs.  I think they are doing it as much out of friendship and curiosity and just being involved in the writing game as anything.  But is an expense I couldn't have done before.

I see it as an investment -- which may just turn into "hobby" expenses -- and in either case, the amount of money I'm spending isn't going to break me.

I want these books to be as good as possible without tipping over into obsessive/compulsive.  Which I can do.  I can also be intellectually lazy.  So I'm trying to find the proper balance.

Not to mention the copy-editing.  Amazing how a manuscript can be read by multiple people and still miss a simple typo.  

Anyway, I think these books are turning out better than I could have ever expected and much of that is due to having some outside -- objective -- help.

So thanks to Linda, and Lara, and Bren.  And earlier, out of kindness, Martha and Dave and Wes ... I'm going to forget people here...but thanks to all.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tuskers. Chapter 22

First draft again, so be nice.  But if  you see anything too out of line, let me know.

Chapter 22

Peggy knew more about what was going than Mark, even though she hadn’t left the building all day.
They’d starting getting reports in the grocery store early in the morning.  Rampaging pigs.  They turned on the radio, not believing it, despite the continuing reports.  Peggy had tried calling him, to tell him about the joke, but cellphone service had died at around the same time.  Not much later, a customer had come in to say that the one cellphone tower in town had toppled over.
“Gophers,” the customer had said, knowingly, and again they had laughed at the absurdity of it.
They’d laughed about it, that is, until a customer came in bleeding from the thigh.  The tusks had hit her femoral artery, and the old woman had died in an aisle of the grocery.
They’d closed for business after that, but kept the doors unlocked in case anyone needed shelter.
“I tried to talk Justin and Brian into staying,” she said, sounding worried.  “They wanted to get home to their girlfriends.  I hope they made it.”
Mark hugged her, and didn’t tell her what he thought.  Without a .30--06, he doubted they had made it very far.
“What about Mrs. Andrews?” he asked.
“She didn’t show up for work.”
Mark didn’t say anything.  Both of them knew how unusual that was.  In fact, Mark didn’t think that anything less than the End of the World would keep the woman from showing up.  Which just meant the End of the World had indeed arrived.
About that time, they heard crashing down below them.
“Someone’s in the store,” Peggy whispered.
Mark was pretty sure what was in the store, but didn’t say anything.  He looked around the apartment.  It was pretty sparse.  They hadn’t been able to bring anything with them from Idaho, so they’d scrounged from friends and relatives.  Cast-offs, like what Mark imagined a hippie apartment must have looked at in the sixties.  A wooden wire spool table, a broken down lawn chair, a black and white TV, which was probably the last one in the entire country. 
“We ought to sell it on eBay as an antique,” he’d joked.  “Perfect for Humphrey Bogart movies.”
There were a couple of solid pieces.  A nice table Peggy’s mom had given them.  Four nice chairs.  A sofa that wasn’t too disgusting.
“Help me out,” he said, dragging the sofa to the door.  She didn’t question him, but put her slender little body to pushing while he dragged.  They got it to the top of the stairs and let go.  It slid rattling down the steps, and banged into the door.
“That’s good start,” he said.
“Not the table!” she exclaimed, when he went over to it.
“The wire spool,” he said, turning at the last second as though that had always been his plan.  She willingly helped him roll it out the door and pushed it crashing onto the sofa below.
By the time they finished, all that was left in the apartment was their bed and the nice table and chairs, and the refrigerator, which was too heavy to move.
“What more do we need?” she asked.
Food? He wanted to say.  More ammo?
She hugged him, and suddenly her body was racking with sobs.  “They’re dead, aren’t they?” she said.
Mark didn’t answer.  He’d only told her that he’d been chased by the javelinas.  He hadn’t told her what a close call it had been.  But she’d managed to intuit it anyway.
“We’re safe now,” he said.  “Unless the damn pigs have scaling ladders.”
They lay in bed, feeling like the last people on earth.  Most of the residents lived outside of town.  There was a motel at the edge of downtown, but it was pretty much the abode of the near homeless, paying most of their paychecks in weekly installments.
Mark hugged the girl he knew he’d spend the rest of his life with.  She was skinny, with small but delectable breasts.  Her incredibly thin waist.  When she put on full make-up she was as pretty as a model, and indeed, she’d been approached by scouts.  She’d laughed it off, certain it was just dirty old men, but Mark wasn’t so sure.
But she loved art.  She loved comics and Doctor Who and Adventure Time as much as he did.  He had never imagined that was possible.  A beautiful girl with a kind heart who loved Doctor Who.  It had seemed very unlikely.
So he’d waited for the dark side to emerge.  Or the phoniness 
But she was exactly how she appeared on the surface.  Only deeper.
He envisioned a nice middle class life.  Buying a house, working until they were sixty-six.  Maybe returning to Moscow some day.  Maybe some day, he’d have time to do his art.  A nice modest life.
Without pigs.  Just the normal deer and bears and such.  Wild pigs seemed un-American.
She snuggled up to him, in that way that he knew would lead to the next thing, and he ran his hand down to the indentation above her ass, which she knew would lead to the next thing, and the next thing led to the next thing and they fell to sleep in each other’s arm, spent.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Final Rewrite, The Dead Spend No Gold.

This should take about a week.

Got the edited manuscript back from Lara and I'm going through it quickly.

Most of her changes are obvious improvements.

The only place she and I seem to disagree is the use of "had" in past tenses.  She prefers to use "had" whenever appropriate.  I try to use "was" as often as possible, even if it isn't technically correct.

There are a few other places where she is formally grammatically and/or tense correct, but I feel incorrect is better.  Hard to explain, it's just a feeling. 

She's going to go through it one more time and I'm going to ask her to again put in what she thinks is proper and I'll have one more chance to decide if I agree or not.

It would probably be safer just to click acceptance, but...well, sometimes not quite right is better.

Nevertheless, going through her changes will be relatively quick.

Consolidating Bren's new critique will take much longer.  I'm going to be much more careful this time, do it page by page, make sure everything is correct before I go on to the next page.

I more or less figured out how to do it in the last quarter of the last rewrite.  Simply put the two versions consecutively paragraph by paragraph, and choose the best of both versions. 

What I noticed is that Bren's version was often more active than mine.  Now I try for an active voice -- believe me, I try -- but sometimes without knowing it I slip into a more passive voice.

I will choose a slightly less correct active voice over a technically correct passive voice just about every time.

As you can imagine, this is time consuming and rife for error.  So I just have to do it diligently, page by page. 

Each of these changes makes the manuscript slightly better, so it's worth the effort.

I'm excited to finally be finishing this.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuskers. Chapter 21

As before, a rough first draft.  Be generous.

Chapter 21

Barbara woke up with the sun in her eyes.  She’d gone to sleep without closing the curtains, like she normally did.  
Why’d I do that? She wondered.  Did I hit the sauce last night?
A bolt of pain up her leg brutally reminded her of what had happened.  She groaned and rolled out of bed.  She tested her footing.  The leg was swollen.  She could feel the pounding of her pulse, and it was painful, but she used the trick she had learned of pretending the pain was happening to someone else and stood up.
She fell back into bed with a cry.
She immediately pushed herself up and tried again.  This time she’d stayed standing.
Now if rampaging swine weren’t surrounding her house, she probably would have allowed herself bed rest.  But these were no ordinary pigs.  She’d seen that look in the smart one’s eyes.  The mean one.  Unless she missed her guess, he was probably trying to figure out how to get in.
She made it the bathroom and too a pain pill.  Just one, because she wanted to be alert.
It was time for her to figure out what her vulnerabilities were.
She hobbled into the living room, and immediately saw the giant cracks.  She had an old plate glass window, illegal now.  But it seemed to her the glass was clearer than shatter glass and she’d connived to get some installed.  No one could get around the law better than a career law enforcement officer.  Which why some of them became corrupt.
Her ethical failures were small ones, petty ones.
One more blow -- however they’d managed that -- and that window was going down.  She went to the garage and started hauling the scrap lumber into the living room.  She had just enough to cover the picture window but that wouldn’t take care of the smaller windows.
She pulled one of her picture frames out of the wall.  The backing was plastic.  Strong enough to hold out for a short time.  Better than nothing.
She got to work.  The more she hobbled about, the more functional her leg became. She’d no doubt pay the price tonight, but it needed to be done.
By the time she was finished, her house looked half empty.  Much of the wood furniture had been broken apart.  The pictures on the walls.  The bookshelves.
It looked like the insides of the house had exploded and attached themselves to the walls and windows.  But it looked pretty secure to her.  The little monsters would probably be able to get in eventually, but not all at once and she still had thirty-six bullets.
She went to the closet and pulled out her leather jacket.  The electricity had gone off during the night, but despite the sweltering heat, she put the jacket on.  Then, as long as she was being silly, she pinned her old badge in its old spot. 
Now she was ready.
She poured herself a stiff drink and sat down and waited.


A crash woke her up.  It had come from the bedroom.
She hadn’t planned it, but in addition to her gun, she reached over to the magnetic knife rack and picked the biggest knife she had.
A pig had managed to get its head through one of the wooden slats she’d nailed across the window. He was squealing, unable to get in or out.
She examined it for a few moments.  Just a pig, one of the dumb ones.  She ran the blade across its throat, and the squealing was muted and then silenced.  She left the head hanging there.
“Next?” she called out.  “Which one of you bastards wants it next?  How about your leader?  Is he too much of a coward?”
I’m off my rocker, she thought.  It wasn’t the danger; that was making her feel alive.  No, it was the loneliness.  That’s why she was having a conversation with pigs.
“Come and get it, you little bastards.  Come on!”
There was a thump in the living room and she turned and strode purposefully toward the sound.  A smaller pig had squeeze through a gap, but a bigger pig was still trying to get in.
She pulled the gun and shot the one running around the living room.  Then she walked over and slit the throat of the bigger one.  Again she left it hanging.
That’s one way to fill the gaps, she thought, and giggled.
Yep, completely off my bonkers.
And then they were trying to come in from every direction and she was too busy to giggle or tell herself she was nuts.  Too busy killing.
By nightfall, she was covered with blood.  Almost too late it occurred to her that she had no light.  She managed to find time between battles to search for her old flashlight.  She found it with the rest of her police stuff in the closet.  It still had strong batteries, and its heft was reassuring.  She’d never actually had to wield it in action and she had always been curious.  She slammed it against the next intruder, and it had landed with a satisfying thud, and it still shone bright.
Not bad, she thought.  Again she chuckled, and that’s when she knew the frequency of attacks was diminishing.  She was finding time for thought, for humor. She found some candles and lit them in every room, well away from the walls.  She always had the fixings of a fire in the fireplace, though she almost never lit it even in the coldest winter nights. (Which by Crook County standards, wasn’t cold at all.)  She hated cleaning it up afterwards, but she liked the look and smell of the wood.
She took some papers off the table, and set them on fire.  (Wait, wasn’t that her driver’s license renewal?  Oh, well.  She’d be lucky to be alive, much less driving around.)
The fire was soon roaring, and it was atavistically satisfying.  The attacks came less and less, almost as if good old-fashioned fire was driving them away.  She checked her watch and was astonished that both the day and the following night were almost over.  She’d been besieged for almost a full day.
Boar heads stuck out of every wall, as if she was some kind of mad great white hunter.
“Bwana,” she said, out loud.
She heard a scream from outside.  It sounded like the most pissed off animal she’d ever heard.  Surprisingly human sounding.  
And somehow, she knew she’d won.  That the enemy was giving up.  That his dumber followers were defying the leader.
She checked her ammo.
And she still had five bullets.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tuskers II is a thing.

I was just experimenting, but I'm already up to 12K words.  Huh.

I've brought back a character who wisely removed himself from the danger in the first book who I really like.  I have the original protagonists, and I've created some new characters.

I'm upping the threat.  Instead of one litter of mutant pigs, its going to be a bunch of them.  (Pigs are fertile at six months, they could average 10 pigs per litter...over a couple of years, you do the math.)

I'm letting myself write it fast, though I'm also letting myself get out of the house to go to the movies and work at Linda's store.  But even if I write it one third as fast as Tuskers, it is still a torrid pace.

I'm hoping to get halfway before I break off to do the final rewrite of The Dead Spend No Gold, and then immediately get back to it.

Best of all, I'm really enjoying it. 

That's it, you know.  I'm really enjoying it. 

That's all I need to say.

The writing is enough.

When I'm writing, I don't have that many doubts.

It's only when I'm not writing that I wonder if I'm wasting my time.

When I'm writing, I'm doing my best.  It isn't as though I'm not using all my creativity and skill.  I'm lost in the story, in the telling of the story, in the characters and events.  I'm saying it in a flow, that comes from inside.  It feels good.

If I set it aside and come back to it, I see all the flaws.  It can be dispiriting.  But then, when I correct the mistakes, it can be rejuvenating.

I have decided to compartmentalize my writing.  The expectations of publication are beyond me.  I simply can't seem to affect that one way or the other.

But the writing I can do.

So that's what I'm going to do.  Just write.  Without any expectation.  Just do it.

I wasn't sure at first if that would be enough, but the more I write, the more satisfied I am with writing.  I enjoy it.  It's uplifting.  It fulfills me.

That's enough.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tuskers. Chapter 20

As always, remember this is a rough first chapter draft and be kind.

Chapter 20

When Pederson came to, the only thing that hurt was his little finger.  The air bag had exploded out the front window, and apparently also broken his smallest digit.
How did that happen? He wondered, dazed.
Somehow, he had ended up on the right side of the car.  He must have unlatched his seatbelt earlier, in some unconscious effort to get away.  He reached for the passenger door handle and winced at the pain.  He used his left hand instead and tumbled out onto the road.  He was disoriented for a moment, then got to his hands and knees.  Again a shooting pain in his finger made him cry out.
He staggered to his feet, this time tucking his finger away.  He reached into the cab.  The glove box opened at a slant, getting caught halfway down on the right side, but it was enough for Pederson to reach in with his left hand and pulled out the first aid kit.  He immobilized his finger, and immediately it stopped hurting as much, and he realized that half the pain was coming from the anticipation and now that it was safely wrapped his brain was relenting.
The second thing he looked for was his gun.  He’d had it on the seat next to him.  But search as he might, he couldn’t find it anywhere. 
The bow and arrow box was lying in the middle of the road, as if beckoning him.  He walked over and picked it up, and while he was at it, kicked the other items out of the road and over the side of the cliff, like a good citizen. 
Just in time, for as he was finishing up, he heard sirens approaching.  Two fire trucks came swerving around the corner, followed by a cop car.  The first truck slowed down, but he waved them on, and the fire trucks kept going.  The policeman stopped.
“You OK, Mr. Pederson?”
Pederson recognized Steve Altman, one of the few other citizens of the valley who also knew Pederson’s past.  He’d been a security guard in Silicon Valley.  He’d gotten in trouble once for falling asleep on the job and Pederson had gone to bat for him, saving his job.  So when the cop got a job locally, it hadn’t been hard to convince him to stay quiet.
“I’m good, Steve.  There is nothing you can do here.  I’ll call the tow truck.”
“You sure?”
Pederson nodded.  “What’s going on?”
“The Silverstein’s house is on fire,” Altman said.  “It sounds bad.”
“You better get going then.”
The policeman nodded and waved and accelerated away. 
It wasn’t until he was long gone before Pederson realized the other casualty of the wreck was his cellphone, which was broken right down the middle.
He calculated the distances.  He figured it was six miles to his house by road, and three miles overland.
He glanced back at the truck.  It was totaled.  Most of the supplies inside had survived.  If someone was desperate enough to steal them, they were welcome to have them.  The supplies had been overstock, really.  Just stuff he’d bought to fill his truck because he had the room and the money. 
He stepped to the side of the road.  There was a steep cliff, about fifty feet high, then a few rolling hills, and then the bottom of the valley. If he headed up the dry creek from there, it was smooth sailing to his place.
There was the outline of a deer trail to his left that he thought he could probably negotiate and he started that way.  Then at the last second, he turned around and grabbed the box with the bow and arrows.
It wasn’t an easy descent.  He was starting to feel his age.  His legs were getting wobbly.  His right hand was pretty useless in stabilizing him.  And the box was bulky.  Finally, he let the box slide the final few yards, and slid down on his butt.  He hit a rock on his tail bone on the way down, and gasped for breath for a few minutes, while the excruciating pain shot through his back.  He almost passed out.
The pain eventually passed, leaving a dull ache. 
He lay on his hip and opened the box.  Taking out the pieces one by one, and examining them.  He unfolded the instructions.  His engineer’s brain quickly made sense of them, and he was able to assemble to bow without much trouble. 
He stood up.
Stringing it was a bit harder, not because he didn’t know what to do but because of his diminishing energy and strength and his immobile finger. 
There were twelve arrows in the quiver, which he thought was pretty generous.  Everything had a high tech gleam to it, a pleasing design, and his Silicon Valley persona appreciated the beautiful functionality.  This wasn’t one of those high priced bullshit objects that was made just for looks and brand name bragging, this weapon was the real deal.  He could feel it.
He put an arrow on the string and tried pulling it back.  Oomph.  The pull was a little much.  He perused the instructions again, adjusted the bow, and was able to pull the string the second time.  But it was awkward.
He unwrapped the bandage around his right hand, almost crying out from the pain, and rewrapped it so that his first two fingers were free.  Now he could pull the bow much easier, and though it was tough to get full extension, he knew that the more powerful the pull, the more force the arrow would have, and the greater distance.
He took aim at what he gauged to be an eight-inch circumference fir tree about twenty feet away and let go the arrow.  He jerked it, and the arrow went flying far to the left.  He marked the location of the arrow and tried again.  This time, he released the arrow as if he was pulling the trigger of a gun. 
It was inordinately pleasing that he missed by only a few inches.
He sensed the gun analogy was the right one.  Pull the string, take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and release…
He tracked down the two arrows, put one back on the bowstring and the other in the quiver and started off.

It was only a few hundred yards along that he realized he’d made an enormous and avoidable mistake.  It was a hot Arizona afternoon and he was sweating profusely.  And getting thirstier with every step.
Like an idiot, he’d left gallons of bottled water in his truck.
He contemplated going back, but was pretty sure that he’d have a hard time making it up the cliff, certainly with the bow.  He wasn’t willing to relinquish the bow.  Better to stay on the flats and just make a beeline for his house and barn.  A couple more miles was all.  He should make it in less than an hour, even with the uneven terrain.
But he was slowing down.  Maybe two hours, he thought.


He sat on the side of the trail, his head down.  How long had he been sitting here?  Maybe it will take three hours to get home.
And unbidden came the thought, Maybe never.
Big Stanford engineer brain, Silicon Valley Master of the Universe.  Forgetting water.  What any dumb cow would have thought of first.


The pig probably did him a favor. 
Pederson’s thinking had been confused for a while.  He wasn’t even sure he was heading in the right direction anymore.  He found himself sitting in the dirt as often as he was stumbling around.
A single threatening grunt, and his brain focused instantly.  He saw that the sun had descended closer to the horizon.  It was past noon.
He stood up, threading the arrow with shaking hands.  Where had the grunt come from?  Then the pig did him another favor.  It grunted again, just ahead of him on the trail.
The pigs came around the turn and stopped, seemingly as surprised to see him as he was to see them.  There were four of them, but only one of them mattered.
Pederson recognized Himmler.  One of the smart ones.   One of the mutants, the one with the prissy little mustache.  The javelina examined him, his eyes taking in the bow as if he understood what it was.  He grunted, and the other pigs moved forward, surrounding Himmler, giving him cover and depriving Pederson of a clear shot.
Another grunt, which sounded to Pederson’s ear very much like a command, and the three pigs started forward.  But Pederson ignored them.  He was likely to get only one shot off, maybe two if he was lucky.  He wasn’t going to be able to kill them all.
But he had an instinct that he didn’t have to kill them all.  He only had to kill Himmler and the others would be just pigs, afraid of men, mostly harmless.
When the three attackers were half the distance, Pederson finally had a shot.  Himmler sensed what was happening too late and turned to run, but by doing so he turned sideways.  Pederson had been aiming for the chest, and was going to miss by a foot to the left, but by turning broadside, Himmler had made himself a bigger target.
The arrow thudded into his neck.
The pig squealed, and his scent glands released, filling the clearing with the stink of death.  It thrashed, turning over and over again, which only drove the arrow deeper.  It didn’t just slowly subside in movement, it stopped in mid-motion and collapsed.
The other three pigs had turned around.  They looked around as if confused, saw Pederson pulling a second arrow out his quiver, and they turned to run.
Pederson released the second arrow, knowing he’d probably missed, but angry enough to try.  To his amazement, he caught a retreating pig in the rear end and it tumbled head over heels and lay still. 
One less to worry about, Pederson thought.
He couldn’t dislodge the arrow from Himmler.  It had apparently embedded itself in bone.  He was able to draw the arrow out of the soft tissue of the second dead pig, though. 
He went on, his thirst forgotten for a moment, feeling pretty good about himself.  The mighty hunter.
That feeling only lasted until the next corner.  Waiting for him was another dozen pigs, and standing thirty feet back was a single pig, who regarded him with calculating eyes.   This one had hair hanging down past its mouth, like a Fu Manchu mustache.
Genghis, Pederson thought.
Then he thought, Shit.
He raised his bow, knowing it was hopeless.
The javelinas must have heard the whine of the motorcycle first, because they started milling about in panic, despite the commanding grunts of the mutant pig. 
Then Pederson heard it.  The motorcycle went whizzing past Genghis and bowled over a couple of the smaller javelinas, and roared up to Pederson’s side.  He stopped and grinned and through the dirt and grime, Pederson recognized Barry Hunter.
“Hop on, neighbor,” the man said.
Pederson had never felt so happy to see another person than at that moment.  He put the arrow in the quiver and climbed behind his rescuer, holding the bow with one hand and the grabbing Hunter around the waist with the other.
The motorcycle accelerated away, weaving dangerously for few moments, almost giving the pigs a chance to catch them.  Then the pigs were left behind, obscured by a cloud of dust.