Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pinning the tail on the shaggy dog.

Well, I tried ripping apart and jamming all the disparate parts of Tuskers II and III together and probably made a mess of it.

I probably would have given up if I hadn't been drinking a little wine at the same time.  I don't know that drinking helps writing any, but it does help keep me rooted to one spot for hours on end doing something I'd rather not do.

It's a huge game of Concentration.  Lots of shaggy dog tails hanging off the end of chapters that make no sense anymore.  Lots of duplications and things out of place.

But the overall structure feels right.

Tomorrow I'll see if the reorganized chapters make any sense.

I was careful to keep the original versions of both books.  The only thing really wrong with them was that one book was a good one third shorter than the other book, and I'd prefer to have the books about the same size.


I don't know.  Just seems like that's the way it should be.

I think having to reorganize can be a good thing, as it can challenge me to be better.  Forcing me to rewrite.

Then again, I don't mind it when a book just falls together either, as Tuskers I did.

Anyway, I'll spend a week or two trying to eliminate the inconsistencies and in-continuities.  Only then, when I read it straight through, will I know if it reads right.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Self-consciousness is the end of creativity."

Just saw a documentary on some musicians putting music to the words of lost Basement Tape lyrics of Bob Dylan.  T. Bone Burnett is the man behind the gathering, and at one point -- as one of the musicians is struggling with the pressure -- he says, "Self-consciousness is the end of creativity."

That's it exactly.  I was never freer with my writing as when I was spending a year without any regard to anyone else reading.  Even after I started sending material out to publishers, I felt pretty free because nothing much was happening, and I didn't expect anything to happen.

Somehow, though, just recently, I've started putting harder expectations from myself.

So today I woke up and decided, I'd just keep a light touch.

A nice light touch.

No more Star Wars spoilers.

I'm going to avoid all things Star Wars from here on, so that I go into the movie fresh.

I always regret that I was so up on the Lord of the Rings images before I saw the first movie.  I'm pretty sure the movie would have had more impact on me if I hadn't done that.

I avoided all Gone Girl posts for months, because I knew it had a twist or two and my mind just really picks up on the slightest hints and figures it out.  I mean, every O'Henry movie there is, (Sixth Sense anyone?) if I hear anything about it, I figure it out. 

Ended up not going to Gone Girl in the end, because I just was never in the mood.  I'm not in the mood for serious movies these days, whether it be 12 Years a Slave or The Master or whatever. 

Yes, I know they are probably great movies, but right now...not so much.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Star Wars trailer.

Got shivers down my spine when the Star Wars music started and the Millennium Falcon burst into view...

It's going to be really hard to live up to expectations, you know?  I mean, how can it?

But if it's a decent movie, it will be received as the Second Coming.

So much fun.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Star Wars Again.

Let me rephrase that.  STAR WARS AGAIN!

That's more like it.

I can still get excited by this.  I saw Star Wars the opening weekend in Oregon, at a big theater in Portland, front row. Within the first 30 seconds I knew that someone had finally done S.F. right.

The next Star Wars movie is still a year away, which gives us a year of anticipatory selling at my store, Pegasus Books, which is the best kind.  Things always sell better in advance if it's a well-known license.  (Things sell better after the movie if it catches people by surprise...but usually if it catches people by surprise, there isn't any ancillary product to be had.)

The first Star Wars trailer comes out tomorrow.  Oh, boy.

Anyway, Cameron and I are doing the orders for January, and up pops the #1 Marvel comics version of Star Wars.

January 14, 2015.  

Wind back a bit.  Marvel had the license to the original Star Wars movies, but let them go after they figured the excitement had faded.  Hard to remember now, but that's the way it worked then.  A  movie came, it was a big hit, and then it faded.  There was a small nostalgia market maybe, but it wasn't a world where Star Trek or Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, or Doctor Who existed independently whether or not there were any current versions of them in the marketplace.

It turns out that comics are a great place to keep the excitement simmering, even if the movies aren't being made.

When Dark Horse picked up the license, I had a feeling that the excitement hadn't faded, it was just sleeping.  I ordered what, for Pegasus Books, a huge number of #1's, and they sold well...and they continued to sell for years, at higher prices.

The whole thing got diluted down a little by the myriad titles and storylines, but added together they are significant enough to have their own little corner in my store devoted to nothing but Star Wars.

So there is no shortage of Star Wars material.  Not only that, but Dark Horse did a pretty good job of it.

So a new Star Wars comics shouldn't be a big deal.

And yet I think it will be.  Because it will be done by Marvel, who is owned by Disney, who owns Star Wars (frightening when you put it that way...)  This will be officially sanctioned, connected to the movie stuff.

Marvel is also having one of their "Party Packs," which I have always ignored.  These are packages that you get if you host a "party" on the day of the release. (We would do it after store hours.)

But I'm actually going to do it this time, because I have Cameron and Matt who seem excited to be able to host the event.  The Party Pack gives us material to give away, and we'll be getting a bunch of variants that we can use as prizes.  I'm thinking we should have a Cosplay contest, and maybe a trivia contest, and maybe a drawing.

My biggest concern is the lack of space we have in the store.  So I expect it will get ridiculously crowded and will spill out onto the sidewalk.  But, even if I personally avoid the whole thing which I probably will, (introvert!) I can still kind of thrill to the idea.

I'm going to order a ton of these #1's.  Which cost 4.99!  And as many variants as I can qualify for.  My reasoning is, I can sell these for years, because my assumption right now is that the first Star Wars movie will be the biggest movie ever.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Successively instead of concurrently.

I've now had two occasions where in writing the third book in a trilogy, I've needed to go back and rewrite the second book.  (Thankfully, the first books usually seem to stand alone, for some reason.)

It's fine.  It's a good reason to write the whole trilogy before I do anything with them.  The hardest part is when the trilogy represents one storyline.  I prefer to have each book stand alone, but there is usually a larger plotline going on that has to be tied together.  Which is pretty complicated.  Each book usually has it's own theme and characters, and they all have to be brought together in a way that makes sense and is satisfying.

This is different from the Series where I have may have a unifying character and world, but there isn't one over-arching storyline.  I can write the Virginia Reed Adventures in such a way that a reader can read them out of order and not lose anything.  The same is true of the Lander series.  Each book stands alone.

The Vampire Evolution Trilogy and the Tuskers Trilogy are each one big story, which turns out to be a pretty challenging thing to do.  Though there is something satisfying about it.  (Not least that when I'm done, I'm done.)

Anyway, I'm stuck at 2/3rds of the way through Tuskers III.  Partly because I know I'm going to have to rewrite Tuskers II, and I feel like I should do that first before tackling the end of III.

I'm waiting for the editing of book II to come back before I tackle II.  I've learned a lesson over the last few books -- that having multiple versions and then trying to consolidate them is a nightmare.  It isn't terribly efficient and no matter how hard I try, I tend to drop a few nice sentences or plot points by accident because it is incredibly complicated.

So I've decided from now on that if I have multiple editors (including myself) that I will edit these books successively instead of concurrently.  It will take longer waiting, but should make things much easier.

I also woke up this morning determined to finish the first draft of both Tuskers II and Tuskers III by the end of the year, no excuses.  Just do it.  I think more than anything I've been missing the resolve.  So my goal over the next few days is to jump full speed into writing on December 1 and finish these books.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

8 years of blogging.

I started this blog on November 26, 2006.

I haven't missed a day since.  Not every entry has been important and profound.  But I always seem to have something to say about something.

I've enjoyed it.  It hasn't been a chore.

It started off as a "bubble blog" because I was convinced the economy was on the verge of a collapse.

I wasn't wrong.

In the last few years, this has mostly been about writing.  Because that's what I'm doing.  Writing all the time.  I don't think I have as many readers as I did at first, but that's OK.  It never really was about that.  It was just me expressing myself.

I think letting myself write whatever I wanted to write might have even led to my re-entry into Fiction writing.  I have a different, lighter approach, which was at least partially attributable to the blog. 

So I'm going to just keep going, because that's what I do.

I'm nothing if not persistent. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Another idea for a book.

I've got plenty of ideas for books.  I have three or four fresh ideas I'd like to explore, as well as continuations of the worlds I've built.

So coming up with ideas isn't a problem.

It's more a matter of time and timing.  What do I write next?  What would be best for my career?

I do want to spend more time thinking about next book before I write it.  And I'm kind of wanting to write a standalone book, something other than what I've been writing.

So I just have to choose which idea to pursue.

One idea is a modern fantasy.  Maybe with a little satirical element.

One is a dystopian S.F.  Might as well make it Y.A. while I'm at it, no?

And the third is sort of Steampunk.   Deep and dark and strange.

I've not done any of these three genres yet, though I love reading them.  So they would be fun to try.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Breaking the formula.

Saw a crazy Spanish movie last night, Witching and Bitching.  Loved it.  Over the top humor and some interesting satirical ideas on the battle between the sexes.

Anyway, a review of the movie caught my eye.  From Matt Donato; We Got This Covered.

"Witching & Bitching is a perfect example of how Video On Demand horror movies are making Hollywood's mainstream titles look like bargain bin garbage in comparison."

I think this is exactly right.  I consistently find more interesting movies on Netflix than are at the theaters.  Many of these movies never made it to the theaters, but are way more fun than many of the formula Hollywood movies.

I keep going back to my experience at writer's group of a new member who insisted that there was only ONE way to write a book, and it was by THIS formula.  He was absolutely convinced that any other way of writing was a waste of time.  Whereas I couldn't imagine doing it.  I mean, I love writing my stories because of the way they just happen, without regard to any pre-concieved standards.

It was like we were living on two different planets.  

I think that the new media is going to end up creating more creative material than the old media ever could.  Because you can write a crazy book, make a crazy movie, and find an outlet for it.  It doesn't have to make millions of dollars to be valid.

I've always thought that comics are consistently more creative than any other media I consume.  I think it's because it is such a small medium, there is not as much at stake.  People just let it go.  It's no accident that so many movies -- and not just superhero movies -- are made from comics.  They break the formula all the time.  (Don't get me wrong -- the vast majority is formula, but there is still much more acceptance of non-formula material.)

I think traditional book publishing also operates by formula, more or less.  No matter what they say.

But indie publishing is going to bring out a lot of fresh, original ideas because there isn't anyone who's going to say, "You can't do that."

I'm not saying my own books are incredibly different; I think I've absorbed many conventions by osmosis, by my reading.

But I don't set out to write a book by some formula.  I write what I want to write.  The story has to be internally consistent, not bent to meet some outside standard.  That is creativity to me.

I admire people who can write formula well.  Any Star Trek or Star Wars or Doctor Who or any other licensed property is going to be formula, almost by definition.  There are people who can take the formula and be brilliant.

But I couldn't do it.  I have to write what comes to me and it doesn't fit the formula, well...I can't do anything about it.

Alone with my thoughts.

My moratorium on Internet browsing from 11:00 to 7:00 each day has been interesting.

I'm not sure that I'm not wasting just as much time, but at least I'm aware that I'm wasting time.  What becomes obvious (even more obvious that the obviousness it already was) it that the Internet is a constant distraction. (duh)  Once I close that window every day, it's as if I'm alone with my thoughts again.

I don't know that being alone with my thoughts can be considered a waste of time.  It centers me.

I'm also learning that I'm not missing anything.  I can easily get just as much information in the time before and after my moratorium hours.

I was hoping I'd get some writing done on Tuskers III, which 2/3rds done.  I'm afraid the further I am from writing, the further I'll get.  It's hard to pick up the story threads, the longer it goes.  But I'm also leery of going in the wrong direction.  I at least want a strong feeling of where the story goes next before I start writing again.

I'm also leery of struggling and failing, struggling and failing, which only leads to struggling and failing some more.

I have a crude example of that.  I tried quitting smoking for years, and I'd struggle and fail, struggle and fail, until that became the expected result.

So I told myself, no more attempting to quit and failing.  When you are ready to quit, then do it.  So a few more years went by, and that's what I did.

I trust there will be that moment when I know I'm ready, when the story is ready to proceed.

I think I've had so much trouble with Faerylander because I forced the story, and it went in an unnatural direction.

I need a good, solid sense of where the story is and where it is going before I start again.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Diversity and competition.

My store, Pegasus Books, is so diverse now that I don't worry about one-to-one competition the way I used to.  Not only am I carrying between 7 and 15 different product lines (depending on how you want to define them) but there is so many different brands within each product line that it is impossible to delineate.

There was a time when I was basically selling two things -- sports cards and comics.  Sports cards got so big, I was advised to drop comics altogether.  Comics were taking up more than half the space and yet only bringing in 15% of the revenue.  Thank god I ignored that advice.

Because I was only selling two product lines, and the diversity within those product lines was limited, I was at the mercy of price (and other) competition.  For sports cards, there were the 3 sports and a number of brands, but it was pretty uniform over the industry.

What I didn't see was that what I considered a 'specialty' product could so easily be transformed into a 'commodity.'  Anyone could carry it, and the only thing that distinguished it was price.  I simply couldn't beat the suicidal fly-by-night competition, nor could I compete with the big chain stores in price.

I was screwed.

In comics, it was DC and Marvel, more or less, and mostly only comics.  Again, I was vulnerable to the industry ups and downs as a whole.  Any comic store that opened was probably carrying exactly the same stuff, and could steal competiton by bigger discounts.

In both cases, there was a bubble that popped, almost taking me with them.

There was a moment in 1997 when I simply didn't have enough viable product lines. I had no reasonable access to books or games or toys or any of the other things I carry now.

These products became available to me only over time.  The Internet, of course, made it all available.  (I should say, the product was available, but the difficulty factor was high.  Everything was done by snail mail or phone, the minimums were high, the distributers didn't want to deal with small stores, and so on...)

Hard to imagine now.

In each of the seven product lines I carry, there is so much saleable product that I simply can't carry it all.  I have the luxury of picking what I carry.

Back then, when a competitor opened, the customers could do a more or less direct comparion, and inevitably I would lose customers for any number of reasons, most of them out of my control.


Well, I have my regulars, and I would hate to lose any of them.  But another large part of my business is connected the thriving downtown area and how many people I have coming in off the street.

There is no one-to-one competition for their business.  They either see something they like or they don't.

Almost all my book business is like this.  They come in and they see a book they've been wanting to read and they buy it.  I'm not a destination store for anything but comics.  Everything else is due to my diversity.  In other words, a customer comes in and buys something he or she didn't even know they wanted.  Toys, games, books, graphic novels...most of them are impulse buys.

Turns out, impulse buys, spread out over a large diversity of product, is actually more reliable in some ways than a destination buys.  Which is counter-intuitive.

So when people complain about too much product -- too many books, too many comics and graphic novels, too many toys, too many of everything -- I understand what they are saying from a psychological standpoint, but from a business standpoint, the sheer volume of selection protects me to some extent from destructive competitors.  

No one is going to replicate what I've done.  It's based on my own ideosyncratic tastes, which even I can't explain.  But I know what I like, and I have confidence there are enough other people who like what I like to have a viable business.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Female narrators.

I've been super happy that female readers like Led to the Slaughter.  The main protagonist is a 14 year old girl, Virginia Reed, and she just came alive for me.  I felt like she was a fully developed person, perhaps because she really existed.  It was like I was just listening to her.  I really liked her and admired her.

Anyway, she's the real hero of the story.  She's also the main character to the sequel, The Dead Spend No Gold.

I don't question who the protagonists are in my books.  In Tuskers, the main protagonist is a middle aged white guy, like me, but not like me.

But I do seem to have my fair share of female narrators.

People are people.  As long as I don't pretend to be all teenage girly or whatever, I think I can be authentic.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stealing my idea?

I don't worry about anyone stealing my ideas.  But I do worry about being trumped.  Perhaps inadvertently, but having the idea become less strong because someone else has done something similar.

Last night, Jon Stewart had a skit about pig 'gestation cages' and about the "Rise of the Planet of the Pigs."

I just swore at the screen, because that's how I think of my Tuskers novel, as a kind "Planet of the Pigs."  I even use the 'gestation cages' as the motivating factor in the first rise of the rebellion.

So I thought maybe I'd have a bunch of people notice that and tell me on Facebook.  But...well, maybe this too will pass.  Kind of like when I noticed that there was a Kevin Smith movie called 'Tusks' coming out.  Well, that came and went without much notice.

It's a matter of timing.  Of catching the zeitgeist.  I believe that a Wild Pig Apocalypse story is inevitable.  Probably has already been done, who knows?

I spent a year on a book entitled Almost Human and was just finishing a draft when a TV show was announced called -- "Almost Human." 

That kind of thing.

Once I've written a book, I want it out as soon as possible.  But by going to publishers, it is taking months and months longer than it might otherwise have.  And I worry that someone who pull the rug out from under me.

But really, there is no new idea in the world, just variations.  I have to keep the faith.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No Internet, 11:00 to 7:00.

I imposed a new moratorium on Internet usage, 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM the last two days.  I'm planning to continue this, especially since it seems to be working.

First of all, the fact that is was so hard to do is proof that it needs to be done.  It is very much a mindless addiction on my part to boot up the computer.   I find myself flipping the lid and clicking Firefox without even thinking about it.  Then, a couple hours later, I'll close the lid, feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

Enough of that.  It seems to be working, too.  Around the middle of the afternoon, both days, I found myself thinking about my book.  I'm actually getting some writing done.

Then, at 7:00, I find that I have a nice pleasurable anticipation built up.  I open the computer and browse everything I need to browse in less than an hour.

I've had a rule against drinking or watching TV before 6:00 for years.  So I've just added the Internet to that. 

It seems to be easier to have parameters around my usage rather than a vague desire to do it less.

I wasn't going to even talk about this until I'd proven to myself that I could do it, but I may as well conduct a social experiment in front of everyone.  We'll see just how strong this addiction is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Anytime you invoke Tesla, it's got to be a good thing.

I really need to explain how it is possible for a bunch of Tuskers (mutant wild pigs) to bring down the humans.

It's pretty wild.  I've got super intelligent Tuskers, and zombies, and the end of civilization.

I think I've figured out a pretty good way to explain it, and it needs to be in the second book. It involves invoking Tesla!  Anytime you can use Tesla has to be a good thing.
No matter what I do, the third Tuskers book is getting too big and unwieldy.   I want it to be no more than 25% bigger than the first two books, but to accomplish that, it will have to be pretty sparse the rest of the way.

The first book is fine the way it is.  Nothing needs be done.

But in writing the third book, I've realized that I missed some bets in the second book.

Basically, though the first book was told almost solely from the human perspective, the second and third books need to be told from the Tuskers' perspective at least a third of the time to make them work.

When I first looked at this problem of too big a third book, I thought I had a very simple and elegant solution.  I would take the expedition of humans to the Tusker territory that was split between the two books and bring it all the way back home in the second book.

I thought all I had to do was tack those chapters to the end of what was already written.

But it was horrible.  Boring and stupid.  So I changed back.

Now, on third thought, I think my inclination is correct.  It's just that it won't be simple.  It will require integrating the extra chapters, weaving them into the current storyline, not just tacking them on without effort.

So my next task is to sit down and make a diagram with a timeline and try to fit the chapters in the proper slots.  I think if the chapters are alternated with the current book, they would work much better.

Meanwhile, by taking these chapters out of the third book, I've left a bit of hole in the beginning.  But, as I said, I need more material from the Tuskers' point of view, so those should fit in there nicely.

Which basically means I have to re-write both books.

I wish I didn't have to.  I wish they had come as easy as the first book, but that isn't what happened, and now that I've actually sold the first book I want to make absolutely sure the second and third books are as good as they can be.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I've sold my book Tuskers to Ragnarok Pub.!!!

Hey, people,

On this cold and snowy morn, I'm proud to announce that I've sold my wild pig apocalypse novel, Tuskers, to Ragnarok Publications.  They are also planning to buy parts II and III when they are completely finished.

I'm beginning to feel like a real writer, with two different publishers willing to buy and produce my books!

I'm very excited by this, of course.  The Tusker books won't be coming out until next year, which is great because my second Virginia Reed adventure, The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush should be published any day now by Books of the Dead Press.

So I'm hoping everyone will give that a read first.  (Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves, the first Virginia Reed adventure, is currently available.)

The cover of Tuskers, which may still be jiggered a little, is done by M.S. Corley, who is Hugh Howey's cover artist, and also happens to be my next door neighbor.  I love it.

I so hope you guys will give my books a try.  I think you'd enjoy them.  Werewolves and Bigfoot and Evolving Vampires and  super-intelligent, super-aggressive wild pigs who have had enough of our human shit. 

I feel like I'm so close to making this all work, with a little help from you guys.  Here's my Amazon webpage...

George R.R. Martin wrote other good books, too, you know.

Most of these books I carry at my store.  Long before Game of Thrones, I was reading every Martin book I could find.  Decades before he was THE George R.R. Martin.

I'm doing these reviews from memory, so I might be slightly off on some particulars, but this is how I remember his oeuvre.

Tuf Voyaging.  This is the book that turned me into a fan.  A series of short stories starring a galactic trader who just wants to do his business in peace, but it seems like every planet he lands on becomes a situation that he has to outsmart everyone to survive.  Wonderfully fun S.F.  Martin shows us how the hero is smarter than everyone else, not just says it.  (Much like the equally wonderful Miles Verkosigan stories by Lois McMasters Bujold).  After this, I started searching out Martin's stories.

Dying of the Light and Windhaven.  I don't actually remember these books much, only that I was disappointed.  Pretty average, was the way I remember them.  I will say, though, that Linda loved them.

Fevre Dream.  A perfectly realized vampire story.  So much better than Interview with a Vampire, that I find myself almost offended that the latter book is so much better known.  (I found Anne Rice's book so turgid that I couldn't finish.)  This novel covers much of the same territory, but oh so much better.

Armageddon Rag.  Frankly, I was a little disappointed in this rock and roll story.  Apparently, it didn't do well and sent Martin into the purgatory of Hollywood for a few years.  But, you know what?  It was a better book than most anyone else's.

About that Hollywood experience.  Linda and I loved the Beauty and Beast T.V. show starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman.  Guess who's show that was?  Just guess?

Then he came back and wrote a little story called, The Song of Ice and Fire.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A "No-Go" Day.

That's what Linda calls days when she can stay home and do nothing.

She almost never has No-Go days because...well, she's actually social.  Also, she tends to schedule things like doing her nails and doing her hair and volunteering at the food kitchen or the food pantry or shopping or visiting friends or church.  You know, normal stuff.

I have so many No-Go days that I will leave the house just to go for drives or walks, but she absolutely loves a day when nothing is going to happen.

She has just recolonized her office.  She'd been driven out by the overpopulation of books.  (You just can't keep those books from breeding, dammit.)

She'd kinda moved all her writing and business stuff upstairs to the dining room table (and beyond).  I got used to waking up in the morning to find her at her computer, the cat at her feet or on her shoulder.

Now the dining room and living room feel empty, and I traipse downstairs to open her office door and find her with Panga at her feet or on her shoulder, books piled into and spilling out of every corner.  The books are still there, but some paths have been created between them.

We'll see.  A book addict probably shouldn't own a bookstore...

I haven't been writing.  I've been re-evaluating.  I'm cogitating and mulling and letting my thoughts drift and trying to figure out my next moves.  I'm at least a full year ahead of the game.  That is, I could stop writing for a year, and then start writing and still have books coming out at a steady basis, published by publishers.  (Actually, if I were to start publishing myself, I could stop writing for 3 or 4 years and start up writing and still have books coming out on a regular schedule.)

So I've proven to myself that I can write these books, fairly readily.

Now I'm wondering what kind of books I want to attempt, and how much time I want to take on them.  Maybe change things a little.

Or maybe just keep doing what I'm doing.

I'm letting some time pass, a little distance, and trying to figure out what is best.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Will we be open for Thanksgiving? Oh, hell no!

We'll be thanks.

But we will be open the weekend after.  We're going to have a "Sale" table for the first time in years.  I'm not going to do a percentage thing, but just price the books and items at as low a cost as makes sense.

We are really stocked this year.  The store is packed.

I hope you guys will include us in your shopping plans.

Friday, November 14, 2014

It's only snow!

Did 7% of average yesterday at my store.  Linda had 10 people in all day.

I was dismayed to find that lots of stores downtown were closed.

I don't think it used to be this way.  It got pretty nasty in the evening with the freezing rain, but the morning was pretty much a normal snow day. 


A good reminder to me to be careful.  I was really gearing up my ordering for Christmas, but this has made me step back.  See, every year I need to remind myself how important the last 10 days before Christmas are, and how easy it would be for something (weather, war, some other traumatic event) to stop business cold. (heh).  Something like yesterday happening the week before Christmas could cost us in the thousands, conceivably in the tens-of-thousands of dollars.

As much as I'd like to throw caution to the the wind and buy everything I need, I have to constrain myself to a budget that takes into account possible disasters.

Still haven't missed a day of work at Pegasus Books in 30 years...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Too much description and atmosphere?

I'm reading a book right now that is full of description and atmosphere...and I find myself becoming very impatient with it.  The Lies of Locke Lamora.

I mean, I think I would've had no trouble with it when I was younger, though I may have spent quite a bit of time skipping over the longer passages.  As I pay attention to what's being written, my feeling is that it's really well done, almost poetic. But...boring.

Nothing is really happening.  There isn't a big overall threat to the main character so far.  It's all well-done theater, decent dialogue, interesting background building.  This is a highly regarded book, by the way, so I'm finding it intriguing that I don't like it that much.  Good enough to keep reading, but not much more than that.

Just very interesting to read as a writer as to what I like about it and what I don't like about it.

I tend to believe that I probably don't do enough description and atmosphere -- and that is mostly a good thing.  On the general hunch, though, that I could use some more of that, my rewrites are more or less about trying to find places where atmosphering and descriptioning make sense.

A book like this shows that I probably don't have to be afraid of doing more of that.  Very consciously add those elements where I can.

I think really deft writers can create the same atmosphere and descriptions with a few choice phrases.  But...well, you have to be damn good.

So other authors make up for it by going on and on until they make their point.

I'm trying to find a spot I'm comfortable with, somewhere in-between.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Networking fool.

I'm realizing that I can't be a loner for 40 years and then suddenly try to build "Team Duncan."

I pretty much do everything on my own (with Linda, of course.)  My store is my store.  My books are my books.  I don't spend much time on image or promotion or building connections with other people.

Funnily enough, I'm probably more networked now than at any point in my life -- if you count Twitter and Facebook and such.  Even Facebook connections were almost an accident.  I got drunk one night and started "Friending" everyone in sight. 

I'm glad I did.  I like the connections with old friends and classmates and such.

But it might never have happened.

Anyway, I can spend months and years all by myself writing my books, but then find after I'm done that I have very few networking skills to get the books out there.  I need publishers because they can give me objective validation and at least have their own networking platforms.

Ironically, it's the very lonerhood that allows me to succeed in my business and writing.  I get a lot done through individual persistence and time.  But without a network, the success is always going to be somewhat limited.

I'm O.K. with that, mostly.

There's always some luck involved, too.  So networking could still happen without me being the one to institute it.  It's just a lot less likely...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Getting ready for Christmas.

Pegasus Books had a great Christmas last year.  So far this year, we're running well above last year.  So I'm taking a chance and really stocking up for the holiday season.  It's always a gamble.  As Linda says, "It seems like every other year is good."  Which also means, every other year is bad.

It's material I can sell next year, of course, but we're talking cash flow and taking on debt if the material doesn't sell.

Ordered 6K worth of boardgames and card games to start with, which will be arriving today.  So going in today and helping Cameron put it all away.  I've ordered so many books they literally don't fit in the store.  I'm going to stock up on stand-ups, and more books and games and graphic novels.  Trying to fluff up the toys and posters and such.

I'm contemplating taking advantage of some of the liquidation deals and ordering higher quantities of individual items and having a half/off table.  I don't much like 'Sales' but there are times when they work.  But I've noticed they work less and less as "Sales" have now become the normal.

Anyway, I'm slowly easing away from quite so much writing, and trying to concentrate on both mine and Linda's store for awhile.  Linda is feeling some pressure at her store, and I'm trying to help out.  I really kind of enjoy sorting through the books that come in and figuring out where to put them.

Cameron has been doing a great job of ordering comics.  I don't know if it is his doing but comic sales are up.  I've always been a little lax in the DC and Marvel ordering, because I don't read superhero comics all that much myself.  But both Cameron and Matt are into it, and I think it shows.

Anyway, here's hoping Christmas isn't cancelled.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Letting up on the pressure.

So I didn't even think about writing for a few days.  Went to Linda's store and sorted books (which I enjoy) and spent some time at my own store trying to find room for all the books and games I ordered for Christmas.

Yesterday, I decided to go for a walk in the Badlands again, and took my computer along just in case, and to my surprise, wrote a good chunk of a chapter.

I realized that I'd just been putting too much pressure on myself to produce.  This is supposed to be fun, and I need to keep a lighter touch to keep it going.  Quit worrying.  It'll be as good as it is.

Tuskers III has a bit of an odd plot, in that the last third of the book will jump forward a couple of years, and then have a climatic battle to decide all.  Again, I have to quit worrying and just figure there is away to get it done.

I still have one more chapter and a half to write before I get to that jump.

Really, I could probably write a fourth Tuskers novel with the material I have, but I think that would be a mistake.  So this last book is going to be maybe 15 to 20% larger than the first two books.  So be it.

I do believe that Tuskers III will require more rewriting than the first two books.   Again, so be it.

I'm waiting for The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush to be published.  Not sure what the hold up is, but I swore I wouldn't haunt my publisher about things so I'm keeping to that.  I wonder if it is good or bad to be published in the holiday season?

I figure I just need to keep opening up the time and space to write and writing will get done.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Conscious Reading.

My reading experience is different when I'm actively writing.  I just catch the 'tricks' more.  I can tell when the author is actually making an effort.

So for instance, I like reading quick thrillers, John Sandford, Lee Child, Daniel Silva and the like.  But I'm noticing just how....lazy...they are.  They're mailing it in.  I still read the books, but I can tell they're not making much of an effort.

Meanwhile, I started reading Lies of Locke Lamora, which I had heard good things about, and...well, it's a bit 'over-written' -- that is, I think the author is making too much of an effort.  It's distracting.

I tried reading the latest Frederick Forsyth book.  Now I loved Day of the Jackal, long ago, but this newest book was shit.  Moronic right wing politics, card board characters, recycled plot.

I started reading Olen Steinhauer spy novels, and...I can tell that he's trying really really hard to have both hard-boiled spying and domestic drama, and the domestic drama is just...boring and stupid and completely unnecessary.

I don't mean to be over-critical.  I don't want to be over-critical.  I just find it harder to find books I want to read all the way through.  I'm just way more conscious of the plot and the characterizations and I can tell what they're trying to do and it just makes it harder to sink into the story and enjoy it.

When I wrote my first book, Star Axe, it was even worse.  I didn't read for months, almost a year.  I finally forced myself to start up again.

In the interim, the 25 years when I wasn't writing, I was more critical of the writing than I had been before I had the experience of writing a book, but I eventually relaxed and quit being so conscious.

Now I'm having trouble just enjoying the experience again.

I think it's just one of the costs of being an active writer.  I see the backstage machinery.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Short notes.

Watching the first trailer to the movie Into the Woods, I turned to Linda and asked, "Did you know this is a musical?"

Why make a musical and then hide it?  Weird.


Watching The 100 on T.V. which is maddeningly close to being a good show.  But then there will be a moment where something happens and the characters all go:  "Oh, let's impulsively do something really emotional and stupid and then let's talk about it earnestly as the situation gets more and more dire and then lets just say or do something really contradictory to our established character traits and for God's Sake let's not just talk it out or give the crucial piece of information that would resolve everything and let's ignore the evil character who has fucked us over ten times already and let's never be on the alert even though we're on a very dangerous world and ... Chocolate Cake!"


Jerry Steinfield says he might be on the autism spectrum.  First guy I mentioned that to said, "Somehow I'm not surprised."


One week, the Bulletin writes a story about us loving the wilderness to death.  The next week is the announcement of a grand scheme to turn the Deschutes River into a Wilderness Disneyland.

Dead and buried.


The reaction of the other brewers to the news that 10 Barrel Brewing sold out to Anheuser-Busch was a strange mix of dismay, scorn and envy.  Oh, and that "not changing anything" posture?  When you change from 40K barrels a year to 400K or 4000K, something is going to change.


I didn't vote for Roat, but the lawsuit against him seems kind of petty.  If he was building a house in Bend and staying with relatives while doing so -- well, he's building a house in Bend, which seems like pretty much a commitment to Bend.


I've turned back into a pumpkin.  I can't seem to write.  Two years of relentless writing, and now three months of dribs and drabs.  Just waiting for that feeling of empowerment I had to return.

Friday, November 7, 2014

An entrepreneur doesn't sell out?

Talking about the local brewery who sold out.  I realize that's debatable.  I mean, maybe your business plan is to sell out and make money that way.

It seems weird that you would take all the risk and hard work to start your own business and then sell it a few years down the road to a huge corporation.  

But, as far as I'm concerned, selling your business to a corporation means you aren't an entrepreneur. The reason we're entrepreneurs is because we want to be in charge, make our own decisions, not have a boss.

It just surprises me, is all. 

So selling out pretty much wipes out all the advantages of being an entrepreneur.  Selling out to a huge corporation, taking the money and doing something else.  That I could sort of understand.  But selling out and still working for them?  That would be strange.  (As a note:  I don't believe a new owner who says he's going to just do business the same way it's always been done.)

I don't know.  Maybe they're being smart.  Mature and adult.  Maybe that was their plan all along.  Silicon Valley certainly seems to have that business model.

But I doubted they started their brewery with plans to sell it, so it feels slightly off that they did.

Then again, if someone came along and waved a bunch of money at me, would I turn them down?

Probably not.

But I wouldn't work for them...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A little blocked.

At least for the moment, my writing momentum has stalled.

Look, I was astonished by how much creative energy I had for two years.  I was unstoppable.

Now, suddenly, I'm sort of stepping back.

I'm not worried.  I think this sort of thing is cyclical.  I'm just waiting for the creative well to refill. 

At the same time, I feel somewhat as though I'm stepping back from trying to keep up with everything.  (Standard joke at the store.  Customer asks, "How do you keep up?"  Me, firmly, "I don't.")

The store is doing well.  Which kind of amazes me because I'm not laser focused on it like I was for so many years.  I think it's a great thing to have other people doing orders, interacting with the customer.  It's been a good thing.  But I feel like I'm losing touch.

I don't know whether its me or that the world has continued to get more complicated, but I can't keep up with the basic understanding of what's going on.  Not that I ever did have a basic understanding -- that was probably always a delusion.

But in my little business world and in my little writing world, I was trying to keep up.

I don't know if that is even possible anymore.  Comic culture has continued to expand.  Which is cool.  I love seeing it.  But damned if I know what's going on.  It has crossed over into TV, cartoons, movies, video games and other media so much that I'm not sometimes even aware of big licenses until they are already established.  Add in the whole convention and events culture, cosplay, gaming, tech apps...and I'm lost.

And the Internet.  Oh, that sounds like an afterthought.  You know, "and the Internet."  But its like a huge black hole of content.  Endless and fascinating and impossible to know completely.

So now I'm driftwood, floating on a sea of ideas and stories and imagination, catching glimpses of the depths below.  Letting go.

What the hell.  What's the point?

You know how many apps I have on my phone?  None, zero, nada.  How pathetic is that?
How often do I text?  Almost never.
Download music?  Never.  I don't like current pop music much.  (When did I become that guy?)
Watch movies and shows on my computer?  Occasionally.
Boardgames?  It ain't just Settlers of Catan anymore.
Video games?  Not a clue.  But I sold out of every Halo novel I had in the store.
Dr. Who, Adventure Time, My Little Pony, and on and on and on?  Not my thing, but it's definitely a thing. How many cults things are there?  It ain't just Star Trek and Star Wars anymore.
Marvel Universe?  "You need to talk to Cameron and Matt," I say.
DC Universe?  Same response.

And on and on.

Makes me want to go to a desert island with a bunch of paper and pencils and just forget about everything but my own imagination for awhile.

And I see the younger folk actually seeking out material!  Whereas, I've put up filters because I feel overwhelmed.

Humans are going to be a completely different species in a few more decades.  And I'm going to just watch it all with a bemused expression, because I'm wired differently.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maybe not so elegant.

Well, this is embarrassing.  After going on about how a nifty little change in the second and third books would fix all problems, I went ahead and made the change.

And it was awful.

It just didn't work. 

The only thing I can think is that both books had a certain arc, and that I can't take out a long section from one and put it in the other without losing a certain cohesiveness.  It isn't a logical difference, it's something else.  Subtle clues that show whether the chapters are supposed to be in the first half of one book but not the ending of another. 

I just know that when I read it, it was completely wrong.

I think I'll shut-up about writing for awhile.

Hey, saw Snowpiercer last night.  Cool movie.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's got to be right, because it's so elegant.

As you know if you been reading this blog, I've been really struggling with Tuskers III.

It just hasn't been coming to me. It seemed to me that I had too many characters, and the plot was going everywhere.  Worse, it was almost looking as though I'd need to write a whole nother book to wrap it up, and I think that would be a huge mistake.  So either a kind of bigger-than-it-should-be but still truncated third book, or it was going to require a fourth book.   For what was supposed to be a simple, straightforward story.

(I think the quickness of Tuskers I almost spoiled me -- I started to think I could do that every time.  Instead, I'm mired in the usual messy process...)

When I first started to third book, I figured for continuity's sake that I needed to take a chapter out of the second book and insert it into the third book.

After mulling things over yesterday, I finally realized I was wrong.  Not only do I need to put that chapter back into the second book, I need to add about four other chapters from the newer book.  I need to take those core characters from the second book and bring them on home.

Then start the third book with a whole new cast of characters, with a little bit of crossover.

This will make the second book longer, which it can afford, (takes it from 43K words to 50K words), but it won't complicate the plot because the events are just a continuation of the character arc.  I loved the original ending being the emergence of the "zombies" but it doesn't really need to be that way.

The attack of the zombie horde on the good guys will make just as strong an ending.

It even works thematically.

I knew that I was going to have two camps of humans -- one where the humans wanted to exterminate all Tuskers.  In this group, one of the major characters is killed, which turns one of the other characters -- who until that moment had been counseling peace -- rabidly anti-Tusker.

The second camp -- the humans in the third book -- are actually co-existing with some of the Tuskers and fighting the zombies together.  I knew in the second half of the book that the two groups would meet, and have a strong conflict.

Which would be resolved by an attack from Tuskers who now control the zombies.

So this works out much better.  Establish first one group, then the other, then bring them together.

I think my subconscious was just balking because I didn't have it right.

Not to get all mystical about it, but sometimes it feels as though I'm discovering a story, rather than writing it.

This is such an elegant solution, it's got to be right.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Stretching the bounds of credulity.

Well, I'm definitely stretching the bounds of credulity in Tuskers III.  Smart pigs. Talking pigs. Gun wielding pigs.  Zombies.  But if you just go along for the ride, it should be fun.  But I don't want it be a cartoon.  I want it to be believable.

All right.  So I'm struggling.  I'm half tempted to walk away and come back later.  But I've already done that with Ghostlander.  I've already got several manuscripts that need to be revised.  I really don't want to leave another book undone.  If this was the first book in a series I'd probably walk away, but it's the third and climatic book and it needs to be finished to validate the first two books.

I'm trying to stay with the characters, staying in their heads, trying to imagine what they're doing and thinking.  That seems to be mostly working.  But I have some doubts about the plot: wondering if it is too complicated and too many characters.

I'm pushing on through to the end, then I'm going to set it aside for a week or two, then come back and do a rewrite.  Give it to Lara, see what she has to say, but with the understanding that it may require a second round.  (I believe parts I and II only needed the one major editorial go around.)

I'm spending whole days eking out a few hundred words that I'm not totally happy with.  But I kept taking days off to see if inspiration struck, and that only seemed to make me rusty.  So I'm back to sitting down and instituting the Five Minute Rule and getting those few hundred words done.

What it means is -- I'm going to have to work for it.  There is going to be a lot of just going back and revising and clarifying.  This in itself isn't a bad thing -- sometimes the writing ends up being better.

But I really like the books that come to me more or less complete -- which seems to happen about half the time. But I can't make that happen.  It just does or it doesn't. The books I struggle with end up being just as good, just harder work.

Just knuckling down.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Every book is different.

It's true what they say.  Every book is different.

Tuskers I just came flowing out of me.  Tuskers II required a little more thought and planning, but still came smoothly.

Tuskers III has been a challenge.  It will take me a two whole months longer to finish (gasp, two months!?)

Yet...I like the book.  I like the theme, the characters, the ambition of the wide-ranging plot.  It's just that it isn't as cohesive or well-behaved.  The writing isn't as smooth, the plot will have to be moved around a little.  It will require more re-writing.

I've been kind of stuck lately, trying to finish the first half of the book.  The plot has been getting bigger.  I'm almost to the point of thinking maybe I need a Tuskers IV to pull it off.  But I'm going to try to get this done, not more than 5 to 8K words longer than the other two books. I think I can do it if I'm very to-the-point-straight-ahead-tell-the-story-to-the-end..

I need a couple more chapters of set-up to finish the first half.  But at least I knew how I want to go about it. 

I drank a little wine last night, and for once it did actually seem to spur some inspiration.  Then again, maybe I was just ready to get going again.  The most important thing about writing is setting aside the time to do it, and then doing it.

It seems like most often when I'm stuck, there is a good reason, and I need to figure out that reason before I proceed.  But that can also be dangerous, because sometimes a good deal of time passes, and the farther away I am from the action, the harder it is to focus.

Anyway, I finally figured out that I needed a new bad guy who can bring about the final battle.  I needed to show how widespread the Hamaggeddon was.  I needed to have internal conflict among the good guys.

So that has finally all come together in my thinking.

Often I find that if I can't write a chapter, it is probably because I have the wrong viewpoint character, and yesterday I realized that the chapter that had stalled me was being told by the wrong character.  Once I had the right character, the chapter actually came easy.

The first "half" of this book is going to be around 33K words.  I'm hoping to wrap up the second half in 20K words or less.  Just straight action.

I'm going to jump ahead a couple of years in the timeline, and I'm looking forward to the fresh start.  But first I have to finish the first half, a full month after I thought I would. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Patience is someone else's schedule.

I was so focused on writing for a year, that I produced so much material that in the natural order of things it will take years to publish them all.

If I'm patient, and if I wait for the publishers to do them one by one.

My second year was almost as productive, though I was more aware of the schedule by then.

Now...I've written so much that patience will have to be my main virtue.  Not diligence, not hard work.


So far I've tried to present to the publishers the best of what I've written at that moment.  So...I felt that Led to the Slaughter was my strongest book, followed by my Vampire Evolution Trilogy.

So it made sense to follow up Led to the Slaughter with another Virginia Reed adventure, which I did in The Dead Spend No Gold.  So that is with the publisher, waiting for the right moment to come out.

Then I did Tuskers I, II and III, which were the next books I wanted to see in print.

Meanwhile, I have my Lander series:  Faerylander, Wolflander, and Ghostlander, which I have been patient with because I have these other works ahead of them.  Faerylander has always been my problem child, Wolflander will have to be re-written to match what I've done in Ghostlander, and the last book still needs a conclusion. 

I wrote a sequel to Deviltree, called Deeptower, and I've been trying to revise the first book at the same time.  I want to continue to series as well.

I still have lots of ideas for my Reluctant Wizard fantasy.  I like the first book, but want to include a new beginning, which will require more re-writing.  I want to fully think out the background of this world before I continue.  I want it to be an epic trilogy.

Meanwhile, I have two books I've written which I think are probably in the same world.  Its going to take some effort to work all that out.  I'm thinking of these as part of a precursor trilogy in the Reluctant Wizard world.

I'd love to get Star Axe, Snowcastles and Icetowers back in digital print.

So, you know, I've been busy.

So busy I wonder if I should keep going at such a pace.  Because I've got lots of rewriting which has been shoved back on my own schedule.

I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed.

I think because I stopped and actually thought about it... oops. Big mistake.