Saturday, February 28, 2015

It isn't about the gangsters or the Golem.

The biggest thing I've learned over the last two years (or relearned) is that writing is about the story and the characters, and their emotional, intellectual and spiritual journey.  At least for me.  Where the story is set, or what genre, or what plot devices are used, doesn't matter as much.

I'm nearing the end of The Last Fedora, and my focus is on the emotional journey of the characters.
It may feature Golems and Gangsters, but it isn't about Golems and Gangsters, anymore than the Hobbit is about Orcs, or Star Wars is about space ships, or Harry Potter is about magic.

I'd already decided this as a reader.

I've been mystified for years by how easily people categorize their reading.  "Oh, I don't read science fiction."

Well, why?  Do you like good stories? A story set in Jane Austen's England is more real than a story set in near future America?  Huh?

You can make the case that Jane Austen is a better writer than more science fiction writers -- she's a better writer than writers of most novels.  But that is a different issue.  Where it is set, with what specific devices the writer is using isn't as important as whether you like the characters, or whether you enjoy the story.

Anyway, yesterday was about road trip -- the characters bonding.  Today, it's about love story, the hero and heroine meeting again.

Oh, and there are gangsters chasing them and the Golem is protecting them, but that is the action which carries the story.  The action doesn't matter if you don't care about the characters.

In other words, I'm not writing a story about Golems and gangsters and dressing it with some characters I put through their paces.

No it's about characters, for whom the Golems and gangsters are devices to tell their story. 

I have to be conscious that readers of horror want a certain amount action, and yes, gore and horror -- but I'll only do that if it makes sense for the characters and the story, not the other way around.  So I had a bonding chapter that could have been written with just the road trip aspects, but because I was writing a Horror Noir novel, I brought in the gangsters -- but only because it deepened the actions of the characters.

I'm not going to convince anyone who rejects Tuskers because it's about a Wild Pig Apocalypse.  Or Led to the Slaughter because it has werewolves. 

But it's important that I understand the difference.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fictional road trip.

I've got my characters on the run.

Now I want to develop the relationships between them further.  I need to incubate the romance, deepen the humanity of the Golem, and so on.

This is going to be challenging.

At the same time, I don't want to lose sight of the gangster background, so I'll need to get them involved as well.

I got off work early yesterday thanks to Cameron, and instead of losing all of Thursday, I had a chance to think about the ending of The Last Fedora: The Gangster Golem Chronicles.

I know what I want to accomplish thematically and emotionally.  I have a vague notion of what I want the plot to do.  Enough to move forward.

I dreamed about the book all night, so I know my subconscious is ready.  (I dreamed a lot about two characters who were cute -- but aren't actually in the book.  I tried to think of a way to get them in the book this morning, but couldn't.)

I'm going to do nothing but lock myself in my room for the next week and finish this book.  I'm still in love with it, which is a good sign this far in.  Also a good sign, I'm excited to do it, instead of feeling like I have to do it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Linda is my Touchstone.

I know that when Linda likes something, I'm on the right track.  If she is enthusiastic about something, I really know I'm on the right track.

I have to be careful asking her for plotting advice though, because her ideas are so good they sway me in a different direction than the one I was heading.  They are good ideas, but they don't necessarily fit the the flow of the story. 

Anyway, today I knew I had the easiest, most fun chapters of the entire book to write.  I'd been pointing toward them since early in the story.

A minor villain has become a major villain, not by plan but because he just sort of took over the narrative.

Anyway, all the stuff I thought of in the initial excitement of the book, as well as the stuff I thought of a couple of days later to improve it, have been done.  I'm 2/3rds of the way through the book.

Now I just have to come up with an ending that I feel is as strong as the rest of the book.  I think I can do that because that excitement over the book is still there, and there is still things simmering in my subconscious, I'm assuming.  There is still plenty of good stuff to come.

You sort of just know when a book is going to be a book.

I just have to let it rise to the surface.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A good book is the excuse for all things neglected.

By the end of today, I should be 3/5ths of the way through The Last Fedora: The Gangster Golem Chronicles.

It's coming easy.  Much like Tuskers.  I should have it done by this time next week.

Why am I doing anything other than writing books this way?

Well, I can't be sure I'll always have that idea that completely engages me.  On the other hand, so far, every time I've needed the next idea, it has come to me.  Next, I have an idea that has a strong theme, if not a killer twist, and that is a love story called Gargoyle Dreams: A Gothic Love Story.  Don't know if there is a book there, but there is the start of one.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I need to finish Tuskers III.  I want to write the third Virginia Reed adventure, The Dark You Fear: Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine.

But after that, I'm going to concentrate on one-ups for awhile.  Single books.  Hopefully with the feeling I had with Tuskers and The Last Fedora.

I'm getting way ahead of all the "support services," such as editors, cover artists, and publishers, but I've decided that is Okay.  The writing of the original content is the important thing -- everything else will happen in its own good time.

I've let lots of things slide, personally and professionally.  Fortunately Cameron and Matt are picking up the slack at the store. In fact, they seem to be doing better than I was.  So that's covered.

When I'm really engaged in a book, everything else comes second.  Personal grooming, eating, exercise, getting out, going to movies, reading books, TV, talking to Linda, the store, the family, the bills, the lawn and garden, the upkeep on the house, and on and on. 

I figure everything is absolved if I actually write a good book.

A good book is the excuse for all things neglected.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuskers is going to be an Audible book!

I've known this for a few weeks but I wanted to make sure it was a done deal.

Here's the announcement:!Audiobooks-Accolades-Announcements/caet/54eb999b0cf24f8d0056ceeb

I had to ask Linda what it meant.  I don't listen to audio books.

"That's who I get most of my audio books from!" she said.

So I looked around, and it appears to be rare that authors -- especially smaller authors -- are actually offered contracts.  There are only 2525 horror novels in Audible, for instance, while Amazon touts 62,000 horror ebooks.  As you can imagine, there are lots of Stephen King novels and Dean Koontz, (top ten authors account for 10% of the audio books) then there are the old classics like Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker.

So seems like some nice company to be in!

It turns out that Audible likes what Ragnarok Publications is doing, so it's due mostly the publisher.

But it was quite unexpected.

I'm being given an advance and they do all the production and so I'm pretty excited by it.

It will be so interesting to hear someone else -- a pro -- reading my writing!

I don't know when it's coming out.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Got a cold, going to write.

I don't think this cold will stop me from writing, and it had the benefit of getting me out of a dentist appointment.

The Last Fedora: The Golem Gangster Chronicles, is coming very smoothly so far.  I'm starting to see a pattern.  I get an idea I like, I start writing, I get about 10K words in and realize I've left out some basic elements, some plot thing or a character.

So I add those in, which then expands the plot, and before I know it, I'm halfway through the book with 2/3rds of the book plotted and a vague idea of how I want it to end.

For me it is all about getting the right mix of characters.  If I do that, and they have competing motivations, the plot takes care of itself.

I need the bad guy, the good guy, the romantic interest, the sidekicks, and so on.

What usually happens is that a couple of smaller characters grow large in personality.  They just insert themselves into the story, and that's cool because it makes the plot less predictable.

I'm calling this the Tuskers model of writing, though I was doing most of that already.  It just really clarified with Tuskers.  I won't call it a formula until becomes boring and predictable.

It's really about creating interesting people and letting them do their thing.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Led to the Slaughter anniversary.

I'm a little late.  Led to the Slaughter: the Donner Party Werewolves was one year old on February 19.

I had no idea what to expect, I've learned a lot since then.  I received enough encouragement to keep writing.

Led to the Slaughter is still in the top 5% of horror novels currently on Amazon, after a year, so I'm cool with that.

I had a five year plan, which I've extended because of the success I've had so far.

Just need to keep on doing what I'm doing.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Is it really so hard to believe?

I really like the way The Last Fedora is coming together.  Just need to continue the pace I'm on and I'll be finished before I know it.

I didn't set out to write these odd little stories, but I think it's the right approach.  Writing just another fantasy or whatever, what's the point?

I'm not being odd just to be odd.  These are the stories that are coming to me, and that's great.  Trying to catch people's attention that way, and maybe eventually start writing something with a broader appeal.  Or not.  I write what my subconscious wants to write.

People seem to be having a hard time buying the premise of Super Intelligent Pigs on a Rampage.  To me, Tuskers requires no more suspension of disbelief than a million other ideas.  Especially among those who already read this kind of stuff.

I write these books as "real" as possible, though.  The werewolves are just another force of nature, another form of human, if you will, in Led to the Slaughter.  They shouldn't be that hard to swallow.

I've contributed to this idea that I'm not serious by acquiescing and even contributing to Pig Jokes.  But really, is it so outrageous?

But then, the second book is more or less Steampunk Pigs.  And the third book is Zombie Pigs, so I may be pushing believability hard.  But I'm trying.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Doubt fades when I write.

It's not that doubt disappears when I write, it just seems less important, unrelated to the actual story.  I'm so engrossed in telling the story, that anything else fades.

So the obvious solution to doubt is to write, wouldn't you say?

Linda thought I was getting to some crux chapters too quickly, and I sensed she was right.  Then again, I didn't just want filler.

At the same time, I felt like I needed a couple of more characters.

So last night, just before bed, I realized I needed a woman for romantic interest.  And at the same time, I thought it would be fun to delve a little into the history of Gangster Golems.

I'd already made the main protagonist a history major having a hard time finding a job after college, so decided this woman can be someone he knows, who gets tangled up in the events of the story.

Cool.  Two problems solved very elegantly.  I love that little storytelling subconscious part of my brain.  It's been chaffing for years, apparently.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Writing Holiday.

Went walking in Badlands again, kind of regular route nowadays.

I'm 10K words into The Last Fedora, with the rest of the book sketched out.  I'm going to try to write it as fast as possible.

I read some chapters last night to Linda and she said, "Oh, I thought that would take longer."

"Am I rushing it?"

"You could do a couple of chapters building up the danger."


The other sense I have is that I need to build up the likability of a couple of characters, or even create a couple more likeable characters.  I've got a couple, but there are being acted on, not acting.  So maybe one more character in the mix.

It's already veered off a little, a minor character has become a major villain.

Anyway, it's a fun book to write, and I'm hoping it will be as fun to read.

Linda is going on a little writing trip, which also leaves me alone to write.  I'm always it little more productive when I'm alone, though I don't have as hard a time when Linda is around as she has when I'm around. Try as I might not to, I tend to interrupt her.  Plus she feels more responsibility toward outside things.  Me?  When I'm writing, everything else can go hang.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I started a new book.

I started a new book.  I don't want to jinx it by talking about it too soon, but it has really taken off and I"m really liking it.

I'm writing it the way I did Tuskers -- fast and straight to the point. 

I had a dream the other night that I thought would make a good story, but it was a mystery story, and I wasn't sure I wanted to stray from what I was doing.

Went for a walk in the Badlands yesterday.  It was glorious.  Just the right temperature to be walking in my shirtsleeves without sweating.  Loved it.  I've missed doing that.

So halfway through the walk, the dream came back to me and I asked myself what I could do to fit it into the horror genre, and bamm, the whole damn thing came to me. I got really excited, euphoric, because I knew it was good.  I really, really liked the whole thing.

I think the right term would be Horror Noir.  (Is that a thing?  I'm sure it must be.)

Even though most of the day was gone, I started writing it, and had 5000 words by bedtime, with more story tumbling in my mind.

Woke up this morning and started writing again. Have the basic plot pretty much worked out.  I'm excited.  I want to get this sucker written.

I'll just tell you the title:

The Last Fedora: The Gangster Golem Chronicles.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sent Faerylander to Beta readers.

I tried giving Faerylander one last read and couldn't do it.

It is just a jumble of words to me now. I mean, the story is in my head, and I see it reflected on the page, but I can't get a sense of the narrative flow.  I just see the words.

Thing is, I know it is improved.

I can take any section that I changed and see exactly where the improvements are.  In each and every part, right down to changing the phrasing or words, it is better.  I can see it.

But as a total?  I'm out of the picture.

This has happened to me before, especially early in my career.  Star Axe and Deviltree became word jumbles, but at the same time, the response from the publishers was better.  So I know that the very process that puts me at a distance makes the book better.

But I'd really hoped to avoid that this time around.  I can pick up Tuskers, for instance, and instantly become involved with the story.  It is very fresh to me.

But this was the fifth full rewrite of Faerylander, along with a bunch of early versions where I moved chapters around.  I've completely lost the connection.

So I'm hoping my Beta readers and editors can point out where and if I went wrong.  I decided not to give them any instructions, just said, "Any and all suggestions and changes are appreciated."

Bren asked me if was still willing to look at the "big picture," in other words, major changes and I shuddered, but then said yes.  Hell, I've gone this far with the book.  I want it to be good.  I'm willing to make changes yet again if they are obvious improvements and can realistically be done.


Now I can move on for a couple of months and get some other writing done.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Faerylander is done (again.)

I finished the structural rewrite of Faerylander.  (By my count, the 20th version, but probably about the 5th full rewrite.)  I'm pretty sure this is it.

I cut about 10%.  I think the motivations are clearer and the action more concise.  The flow is more forward and a little less sideways.

I still want to work on the language a little, take out a few of the more unnecessary and overdone passages.  I'm a more subtle writer now.  But those are easy enough fixes, they just need to be done.

I'd like to cut a little bit more, just little bits here and there.  I'm going to tinker with it for another couple of weeks or so.

But the story is more or less complete.

It's funny, but I don't think any of the full rewrites were the total answer, but the combination of them has wrestled a book into shape.  There are a few things I can't fix, but nothing that kills the deal, I don't think.

I'm going to send this off to Beta readers and then to Editors, so it's still months away from being shown to the world, but I'm pretty sure it's finally ready.  (I think the last draft was probably almost ready, but this one is better, so...)

If I can fully finish, that will free me up to getting Wolflander and Ghostlander ready by the end of the year, too.  Both will require rewrites based on what I changed in Faerylander.

Also in the next two weeks I'm going to write that one scene I wanted to add to Tuskers II and send the book on its way to Ragnarok Publications.

Then get to work on finishing Tuskers III.  

Onward and upward.

Algorithmic Gods.

Got all excited yesterday at work on Thursday because I kept bopping onto the Amazon best-seller list. (Stayed there most of the next two days.)

Got home and found I hadn't sold a book all day. It was all a hangover from a surge the night before.

Here's the thing -- the rankings are relative -- so I can be not selling books and yet rise in the rankings, or conversely, selling books and yet falling in the rankings.  For instance, right now I'm falling in overall rankings, but rising in genre rankings.

The real point.  What does it matter?  I can't seem to affect them either way.

In fact, it seems like every time I try to influence people, by promoting my book in any way, the opposite happens.  Other times, I'm paying no attention and suddenly the book starts selling.

There was a week late in January where I don't think I sold a single book.  My graph took a huge dive, stayed there for a week, and then started slowly climbing until it was past the previous high.

What?  When?  Where? Why?  How?  

Only the Algorithmic Gods know.

I really need to stop worshiping at their altar.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Simple fixes that aren't so simple.

I'm overly optimistic when it comes to writing.  I think, oh, I can fix that easy.

Faerylander always looks close to being finished.  It's almost there, I tell myself.  And then, when I correct one thing, another two things pop up which need to be fixed.

I had thought I was in the language phase of the rewrite, that the structural phase was done.  I thought most of the plot changes were in the first half.  But I'm finding plenty of plot problems in the second half too.  Like a puzzle with pieces moved around, it makes the rest of the puzzle harder to solve.

Went to bed last night, started thinking about how some of the motivations STILL didn't make sense, and trying to figure out the fix.  Tossed and turned until three o'clock, got up and jotted down a bunch of notes, then went back to sleep.

Thing is, if I can identify a problem, I can usually come up with a solution. Usually.  But sometimes the problem is just under the surface, and only revealed when another problem is removed.

That is, every layer of problems I lift reveals another layer of problems.

How can this be?  How can Faerylander, which has so much possibility, and interesting characters and settings and ideas -- how can it be such a mess and take 4 years?  And something like Tuskers comes out whole and complete and in a very short time?

I suppose it's possible that Tuskers has problems I just don't recognize, but that's not the feeling I take away from it.

Really, if I'd known that Faerylander was going to be such a burden, I would have dropped it long ago.  But I kept fooling myself into thinking I was almost there.  That plus I wrote two sequels that don't make sense without the first book. (I won't be doing that again...)

But here I'm going to say it again:  this rewrite has made the book much better, and it's close to being right.

I'm pretty sure.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Forgetting why books are good.

I'm going to get a lot of people disagreeing with me, as usual.

There are three science-fictions series where I think the first (and sometimes the second) book in the series are brilliant, but each succeeding volume gets progressively worse.

I think the reason for this is that the writer forgot what made the first book(s) good.

DUNE, Frank Herbert


ENDER'S GAME, Orson Scott Card

All of these books are great and I highly recommend them to everyone.

But most of the following volumes quite frankly suck.

How can this be?

In each of these books, the authors were lauded and lionized and given awards.  What did the they take away from this?

They heard the message that the "ideas" and the "philosophies" and the "world-building" was what made these books special.  And don't get me wrong, they are very good in all those elements.

But what really made these books good was that they had great characters that you cared about.  As detailed and careful as the authors were about their world building, the stories really revolved around characters.

The later books are mostly about ideas, and the characters are just there to expound.

And in my opinion they are nearly unreadable.  The second and third books are OK sometimes, but after that....yuck.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A book owes a debt only to itself.

The parts are all in place.

Now I need to fall back in love with my book.

I want this book to exist as its own thing -- without regard to anything or anyone else.

When I write a first draft, I love what I'm doing.  If I don't love what I'd doing, the book doesn't get written.  So I love what I'm writing, I love the plot, the characters, the writing.

And then, the more I change things in rewrites, the more the rosy glow fades.

The assumption is that whatever made me love the story in the first place is still there, and all the changes are just making it more readable, more possible for the reader to love the book too.

Paradoxically, though, the more I work on it, the more I fall out of love with the book.  It becomes much more of an intellectual puzzle.  How can I make this scene snap? What does the character want to say that makes him or her unique?  Is this explanation necessary?  And so on.

With Faerylander, I've rewritten so many times that the original book is more or less gone, but what has replaced it is a better book.  I know this intellectually.  There are many parts of the book that still retain that rosy glow, but other parts have completely faded.

So over the next couple of weeks I want to infuse the story with that starry eyed feeling.  I want to soften the lenses to blur the rough edges of technique and feel the story.

I want to feel the book from beginning to end.

The only way I knew how to do this is to immerse myself into the story, day and night, without interruption.  Weirdly, a lot of time is spent just dithering, nibbling around the edges, sort of in the world but not actively engaged in it.  Making the whole thing come alive in my mind.

I can't worry about what other people are going to think.  The book is a world of its own and owes a debt only to itself. The book needs to be good, not my opinion of it -- or others, or worrying about sales, or any of that.  It needs to be inherently its own thing, of itself.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Finding the feels.

Four years ago I forced myself to finish a book called Almost Human (which has become Faerylander).   I gave it to some people to read and they came back with lukewarm endorsement.

Martha said, "All the characters except the Mayor sound like you."


It was a flat book.  Had some interesting ideas and settings, but no emotional content.  It had a snarky tone, the main character being a faery creature observing the foibles of humans.

Thing about satire. To me, it's boring.  I can't read it.  I can't get involved.  I really don't like Hitchhiker's Guide, for instance.  Or Terry Pratchett.  One Piers Anthony Xanth book, and I was done.  (Don't judge me, just my personal taste -- I totally understand why others might like it.)

Thing is, if I don't like reading it, why would I write it?  How involved could I really get?

So then I went in and tried to add drama, which helped a little, but was awkward.

All along these many rewrites, I've felt the writing was better than plot.

So in trying to fix the plot, I thought I was trying to figure out the backstory -- how this world worked.

But here at the end, I've figure out that what I was really trying to do is figure out the character's motivations -- what made them who they were -- and even more importantly the emotional connections between the characters.

In other words, why the plot even mattered.

I had to take that "flat" book and infuse it with personality.  Create interesting characters the reader could care about, and make them interact in ways that created feeling.

So...I think I've done that.  All the pieces fit.

Now I need to increase the quality of the writing to match the plot, instead of the other way around. I need to really make those character interactions have feeling and meaning.  If I do that, the book works.  If I don't, the book is just a collection of incidents and ideas.

I think I've got solid emotional possibilities and now my job is make sure those are realized on the page.  That the reader feels it.

I feel a huge sense of satisfaction that I've ended up with a good book in my eyes.  I like these characters and why they do what they do. If I can somehow get that across, then I've succeeded.

Man was it a struggle, but all the more gratifying for it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

This time is the Last Time.

Almost done with Faerylander rewrite #2000 or so.   This is it.  No  more.

To follow up on yesterday's dilemma.  I decided that I wouldn't use the C.S. Lewis and Charles William meeting (which was a mash-up of two weak chapters, but still weak).  I really wanted them to be among the authors of the "strange and macabre" that Cobb interviews, but it wasn't to be.

I'm sticking with Poe, Lovecraft, Howard, Tolkien and the unnamed Holocaust author, most of them in the first third of the book.

I also decided not to use the new powerful Faery creature that Cobb goes to meet.  Too late in the book to introduce a new major character, especially a totally new made up one (especially when I'm already introducing a new major character in a couple of chapters though not as "major" as she was before, because I'm taking out the love-story element.)

I put the Old God's perspective chapter in with another chapter, instead.

The chapter I actually wrote is Cobb's confrontation with the whiskey bottle, his transformation into his Dragon form, his flying to Faery and being tempted to stay, and then reluctantly deciding to return to Mortal Realms and ask humans for help confronting Cthuhlu.

It was fun to write some new material.  That's the part I always like.

I then put the rest of the book into sequence to see how long it would be.  It came out at 95K instead of 101K, which isn't as much of a cut as I expected -- but then again, I probably added about 2K in new material, so the overall cut was about 8K or so.

I still have two scenes to write, one of them the final scene which obviously is very important.  I'm always leery of being anything but inspired when I write the final chapter -- which is often why I leave them for last.  (Last chapter, heh.  But what I mean is, I will often do major rewriting before I go back and do the last chapter for reals.)

So by the end of the day, the basic structure of the book will be in place.  Then it's just a matter of rewriting, making it work.  I'm going to send it off the Beta readers and editors and hope that the whole thing works.

No matter what, this time I swear is the last time.

Went to writer's group, and there were four readers and fighting my impulse, I let the others read first and then there wasn't time for me to read.  I was slightly peeved, but I knew it would probably happen, and to put it in perspective, I've probably read at every writer's group for a couple of years -- and often was the only one reading...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Crux chapter.

I'm halfway through the rewrite of Faerylander.  Because I've moved chapters around, I suddenly have a hole in the book.

But I decided it was a great opportunity to fill this hole with a chapter that deepens the theme of the book, and to turn the story from a things happening to the main characters storyline to the main characters making things happen.

Anyway, I've actually written three variations of this chapter.

One is a meeting in the Eagle and Child tavern with C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

Though this explicates the theme of friendship, it is kind of weak chapter, in many ways.

Another is to have Cobb, the main protagonist,  go into the heads of the Old Gods.  This is kind of cool, though I think it's difficult not to water down pure evil when you explicate it.

The third is the have Cobb drink some whiskey (I've established he's a drunk) and turn into this Faery shape and fly into Faery where he talks to kind of Father Nature/Buddha type guy who gives him advice.

The first option, as I say, feels weak.

The second option doesn't really explicate the theme that well (but I can still use it as part of another chapter).

The third option is more dramatic, but kind of comes out of left field, introducing yet another complication to the story.

Today I'm considering having Cobb transform and fly into Faery, and there somehow he overhears the Old Gods.  That would keep the elements within what has already been introduced as well as add a little action.

That's my thinking today -- who knows what I'll be thinking tomorrow. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Nerds eat their young.

It's bad enough that mainstream critics more often than not don't like science-fiction or fantasy films that don't go down easy. 

"It's too complicated," they whine.  "I don't understand it."

I watch the same movie and have zero problems because the movie is sophisticated enough to use the shortcuts that every S.F. or Fantasy nerd understands.

But it's the nerds who really kill movies.  They are savage, scathing, scornful.  It isn't perfect, it isn't like the movie they would have made, the makers of the film dared to make changes to their nerd conceptions.

Then a year or two later, they'll pop up and say,  "Hey, this movie wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."

Too late to do any good, you know.

Nerds can pre-judge things like you can't believe.

I'm going to say something here that no one will like or agree with, but I was there dammit.

NONE of you watched Firefly when it counted.  God knows, I tried to convince you.  I begged you.  I pleaded. 

"Not interested you said," one and all.  Your nerd memories tells you that you did watch Firefly during it's initial run.  Nope. You watched the reruns, after it was cancelled. In fact, most of you didn't watch it until Serenity came out.

It seems to happen over and over again.

And all I got to say is -- if you expect every S.F. film to be perfect, a classic -- if you savage the decent films, or worse of all, never go to see them -- don't expect them to keep making them.  They'll make the lowest common denominator films instead.

And it us Nerds fault.  

Bloodthirsty woman!

I need to sacrifice a major character at the end of Faerylander to make the book work. 

I told Linda yesterday my plans, expecting her to object (she gets attached to characters), but she simply nodded and said, "I think you're right."

"What if I just really, really wound him?  Take him out of action?"

"No, you have to kill him."

Bloodthirsty woman!

Smooth Transitions:

Seems to me that if the story is going right, if the plot is working, you don't really need many transitions.  The flow is already there.

But if you change the plot as much as I have in Faerylander, a transition here and there can smooth things over even if events don't quite mesh the way they did once.

It's worth the cost to make the story better, though as I say, I'm hoping by the end of the book I won't need very many.

But something I'm noticing in this rewrite -- the transitions I'm writing now are smooth and easy.  They'll need to be tightened up slightly, making sure there isn't any word duplication and so on, but mostly they read well.

Which has made me notice some of the earlier clunky writing.

When I pick up one of my published books and open to any random page, a test of the writing is whether I can read a portion out loud and it feels seamless, smooth.

So part of this last rewrite will be to make the entire book pass that test.  If I was reading this aloud -- or more to the point, if a future professional was reading an audible version of this -- would it pass muster?

No Explanations:

You also don't need a character explaining things.  The story does that.

In the previous iterations of this book, I had at least three different sections where the main character is explaining things.  Or more specifically, trying to convince people to help him by explaining things.

They were the weakest parts of the book.  Slowly, I've managed to replace them with action scenes that do the explaining for me, or making previous developments and motivations clear enough that explanations aren't needed.

I think I pretty much do this automatically now.  But this was my first book, and I was all into explaining things and coming up with what I thought was interesting material (that needed to be explained) instead of letting the story be preeminent.  Hard thing to fix retro-actively.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"There is no friendship without sacrifice."

Some potential good news this morning, but I want it all confirmed before I announce it.

Meanwhile, this rewrite of Faerylander is extraordinarily satisfying.

Most of you know, I hate rewriting.  Always have. I'm always afraid I'm screwing it up by messing with it.  I get the "word-jumble" effect where I seem to lose emotional connection the more I change things, and it's hard for me to tell if one phrasing is better than another.

But for some reason, this rewrite of Faerylander isn't working out that way. I think it's because I'm coming up with solutions -- big ones.

I'm so proud of myself for continuing to work on this book.  I could have accepted the way it was at any time, but instead I had the instincts it could be better.

Last night I thought of a huge change.

Dave Goodman had already suggested that bringing in a character I'd introduced early in the book and using him in the climax was a bit Deux Machina.  So I'd already decided to jettison this.  Cobb is the major protagonist all the way through the book, and it's his battle to win or lose.

But I needed something else to make that last scene work. I'd taken out one solution, so I needed another one.

Last night I found the answer.

It requires that I sacrifice a major character.  The minute I thought it, I realized it was the right answer.  I hate to do it -- I really like this character, and he's in the other two books -- but it has to be done to give the climax a satisfying resolution that means something.

The theme of this book is "friendship."  There is no friendship without sacrifice.

(A little late in the game to be figuring out the theme of the book, but hey, it was there all along, I just wasn't quite seeing it.  Now I need to play it up.)

It will mean rewriting both Wolflander and Ghostlander (though I think I have a nifty solution of lifting up a different character to take the place of the sacrificed character.)

I love it when the plot comes together.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Faerylander -- my learning book.

Four years after I started, Faerylander continues to be my learning book.  I can see my mistakes and I am continually trying to correct them.

Because of that I've jettisoned more than half the book and completely rewritten the other half of the book.

I must really like Faerylander because I could have written several books in the time that it's taken me to finish it.  But if I see it as a learning experience, the time wasn't wasted.  Especially if I come up with a good book at the end.

1.)  The biggest problem with the book was the tone.  I've corrected that mostly.  At the cost of throwing out lots of choice bits and some great dialogue.  But the witticisms didn't fit the story, so out they go.

2.)  The second biggest problem with the book was the plot, which I've wrestled with over and over again.  As I've mentioned, the problems were so big that I could only fool myself into tacking a portion of them at a time.

The plot didn't move forward, but circled around.  To try to correct the lack of forward momentum, I tried to amp up the drama, putting in a timeline threat.  I've backed off that now because I'm convinced that drama has to be intrinsic to the plot and can't simply be added on.  That's like adding an exclamation mark to a sentence and thinking that makes it more dramatic.

So my largest effort has been in moving the plot forward.  In the end, the answer was the eliminate as many chapters as possible, and to consolidate wherever possible.  The book is still a little more clogged than my other books, but I'd like to think now that it has more content than my other books.  As long as the forward momentum is stronger than the content, it will be all right.

What I'm realizing now is that if I can think of a plot solution, I can write a plot solution. I no longer look at each word as a terrible struggle, but something I'm quite capable of knocking off.  Which leads to:

3.) The third biggest problem, which I was noticing last night, is the stilted writing.  I was simply trying too hard to find the "right" words.  Problem is, you can see how hard I'm trying. So I'm loosening that up, letting my instincts take control.  Letting it feel more natural.  Sometimes the natural isn't the most concise (rewriting to me often means making things more concise) so I need to relax that impulse.

All of these diagnoses have helped me understand the writing process, and in turn have made the book stronger.  Eventually, at the rate I'm going, it will strong enough to be presented to the world.

Hopefully this time -- though I've thought that a dozen times before.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Writerly thoughts.

I'm reminded every workday why I couldn't write for 25 years.  The job is totally absorbing -- I have no energy or psychic space left to create.  Thankfully, the store is doing well enough that I can take the time off.  Pegasus Books is just packed with cool things, these days, and Cameron and Matt are doing a great job.  

Jeff Barr, the guy whose tweet led me to trying Books of the Dead Press, came in and we had a nice talk about writing.  I really like talking about writing.  Too much, I'm afraid.  I sort of neglect customers, and keep thinking of new things to say, even when the person I'm talking to is giving every hint they need to move on.

I've made a conscious effort not to hype my books over the last couple of weeks.  Not posting pictures of the covers and so on.  As far as I can tell, it has had zero impact on sales. In fact, if anything, sales seem to be slightly higher without me saying anything.  (Or anyone else saying anything.)

What it means, I think, is that just having the books out there, and the covers, and the reviews, and  the general idea of the books, is what sells the books.  All the promotion in the world seems to have little effect.  I mean, I can see how the right trigger happening on the right site could have a huge impact.  But everything I've tried has had minimal results.

By the end of today, I should be about halfway through the rewrite of Faerylander.  So it will probably take only a couple of weeks, maybe a bit longer.  Broke a tooth a couple of days ago, so getting a crown next week. That may throw me off my stride.  But I can feel the quiet settling in that allows me to write.  Should be able to keep that up that quiet for a few more months.

I can tell the Faerylander is better.  It's only taken me four years to create the same level of readability as books that I've spent mere weeks on -- but I hate to give up on anything, once I start.  If the result is a good book, it was worth it, and how long it took won't matter.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

I'm at peace with my Beanie Baby past.

Yes, I carried Beanie Babies.  Did quite well with them, thank you.

There are a bunch of anniversary (?) articles on BB's right now, and a lot of head shaking.  How could we have been so dumb?  What made us do that?

Most people get one bubble or fad in their lives -- and it is always pretty devastating.  (Especially if your first bubble is housing....)  Most people make the same mistakes, and I'm no exception.

But to my mind, you get a guilt free pass on that first bubble or fad.  Because there is just no way to understand how they work until you've experienced them.  I mean, I'm going to tell you how they work right now, and you won't listen.  When that bubble comes along, you'll fall for it.

Basically bubbles require that you go all in, and then collapse before you can get out.

There -- now you know.  Not that you'll listen.

My first bubble was sports cards and it was a biggie.  Bigger than all the other bubbles I experienced put together.  It went on for about 7 years, almost exponential growth and me putting the revenues into bigger and bigger enterprises.  At the end I had 4 stores and tens of thousands of dollars in orders out there.

When the bubble started to collapse, not only didn't I see it, I saw it as yet another opportunity to expand my market share.

Big mistake.  Not only didn't I get a share of the huge amount of money that went through my stores, I lost a ton of money.

Ironically, it was a series of fads that followed that saved my business.

Almost immediately on the heels of the sports card collapse, comic books took off.  I rode this wave too, and it helped me pay off much of the sports card debts.  I thought I could "manage" this fad -- but I was wrong.  Once again, I was left holding the bag.  Fortunately, my suppliers at the time helped me make it through (because they had to -- most of the businesses they serviced either went out of business or were suffering.)

I vowed never to get caught again.  (There were other fads along the way -- non-sport cards and magic, for instance, for which I didn't get killed, but didn't really make money either.)

Along comes pogs.

Yes, pogs.

And I managed it perfectly.  I pitched a perfect game.  I maximized the profits and minimized the risk.  It was easier because the supply wasn't limited and I didn't have to gamble.  But still...

I walked away from that fad paying maybe half of what I owed on the other fads, as well as adding a product line or two from the store.  I was still broke, but closer to viable.

Then along came Beanie Babies.  I pitched, if not a perfect game -- I'd say a no-hitter.  I minimized the risk by buying what I wanted from a middle man.  I could have made more money by going direct, but I would have increased the risk.  I took what I could get.

That got me more of the way back, and also added a couple of product lines.

Then came Pokemon, and again I used a middle-man as a cut-off and minimized the risk.

In both Pokemon and Beanie Babies I let go some of the revenue I could have made.  I bailed out when I saw them begin to weaken.  I was smart.

I paid off most of my debt and restocked my store through this process.

But it was still a gamble.  All bubbles are a gamble if you choose to partake.  My solution is to partake as much as I can without taking extreme risk even if I don't quite make as much money as I might have.

There hasn't really be a fad since Pokemon, that I've been part of anyway.  My business isn't vulnerable to a "fad" element, which is kind of a relief.

But if one came along, I'd try to play it -- get what I can out of it.

And watch the other people go nuts.

If every word is changed, is it the still same book?

We aren't wearing the same bodies we were born with -- the cells have all been replaced, and yet we still are who we are. (I'm not sure of the science of this, but you get the point.)

When I first finished Faerylander, I knew it had problems.  I set it aside.  Looking back, I'd have to say about 70% of the book was wrong, about 30% right.  The 70% that was wrong required extensive rewriting.  I didn't think I could face that.

Not to mention, I'd sort of figured out how not to make so many mistakes -- thanks largely to my experience with Faerylander -- and it was just easier to write a new book.  And another.

But eventually I went back and addressed the worst of the problems.  I came away with a book that was probably 60% wrong, and 40% right.

Again, I went away and wrote other things.  By now a couple of years had passed.

I came back to Faerylander because I still liked the ideas and the characters.  During these rewrites I also changed the tone of the book several times, and that doesn't even include the structural changes.

So I came back and worked on it again, and after several attempts, I'd say I got about 60% right and 40% wrong.

Again, I went away,

I came back again. By now, almost 4 years had passed and I'd written multiple books, many of which were published.

But I still wanted my first book to work.  I realized that in order to make the 40% right, I'd have to change much of the 60% that was already fixed.  So I threw it all in the blender and tried again.  In each attempt at fixing the book, I wrote new chapters and threw out old chapters.  At one point I put together a "Director's Cut" which included everything I wrote (whether they contradicted each other or not.)

I came up with a version that more or less worked.  About half the size of the Director's Cut.  Lots of inconsistencies had been ironed out -- and yet, I sensed it still wasn't ready.

Still, I thought I would go with it. "Good enough," I thought.

The very second I made that decision, I was somehow empowered to think about what final steps I could take to fix it.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

As those of you who read this blog know, in each and every attempt I thought I had fixed it.  But each and every time I held back with the suspicion I didn't quite have it.

So this time around has required yet more trying to fix chapters that had already been fixed, in order to fix the problem chapters.

Out of the first third of the book, I'd say I needed to fix about 10%; out of the last third of the book, the same thing.

It was the middle third that required complete rewriting -- the plot simply went in circles, not getting anywhere.  Too many duplications of scenes, too much explication, not enough forward movement.

So this last rewrite (Oh, Please Let It Be The Last Rewrite!) means pretty much rewriting over a half the book again.

By now, there is almost nothing left of the original book.  It has all been replaced, rewritten, removed.

But it is still the same book, just more deeply thought out.  In fact, this book has more backstory than any book I've written.  All that stuff I discarded is still part of the history -- just not necessary for the forward momentum of the story.

Truth is -- the book always needed to be discarded and started over.  I just couldn't face it.  So instead, I fooled myself into thinking I could fix it partly.

Funny thing happened -- each part fix added up.  I could face working on a third of the book at a time, and that's what I did.

I think -- I'm pretty sure -- I've got it this time.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Buy your kids books -- any kind of books.

There's a LaVar Burton quote meme floating around: "If your kid likes superheroes, then dammit buy your kids comic books."

If I may be allowed to expand on that.  Buy your kid any kind of book they want.  Buy them more than one book.  Hell, let them go hog wild.

I can't tell you the number of times a kid in my store has come up to the parent wanting a book and the parent told them to put it back.  It is often hard for me not to just say to the kid -- "Hey, you want that book, I'll give it to you."  I don't do it not because of the cost to me, but because I'd be interfering with the parent.

But here would be my first rule.  Buy the kid the book.

I would love to take the parent aside and say, "Okay, it's great that you have a weekend with your kids and that you've come into a bookstore.  But if I may ask, how often does that happen?"

I know what a lot of you will say, and it's exactly what the parent I ask will say:  "Oh, all the time."

But really, more than a few times a year?  (If you are really the exception, congrats.)

Now's your chance to "reward" the kid with a book.  To make books special.


the kid,

and the books

are altogether in one place --

Make the most of it!

Don't make it something about affordability (often, you have bags of candy in your hands, so that ain't the real problem), not about whether the kid has been good or bad or because you "just bought a toy" or -- worst of all -- "you already have a book."

Buy the kid the book.  Put your own stuff back and buy the kid a book if you are tight on money.  Let that kid stack the books high, and he or she will be the richest kid around.

Not only that, but buy the book the kid wants.  Don't meddle.  Let the kid explore, experiment, read the wrong books, books that are too adult, books that are too kiddy.  (I of course don't count the extremes -- you don't want to hand your 12 year old Fifty Shades of Gray, obviously)

Buy the kid a comic, a cartoon book, a reference book about dinosaurs, or the silliest sounding book you've ever heard of.

I've come to really dislike the YA label.  What the hell?  You're telling the kids and parents what is appropriate to read?  Let the kid decide that, thank you.  I very distinctly remember a period in my life when I alternated between the Children's Library and the Adult Library.  I wasn't shoe-horned into one or the other.  The YA age is exactly the age where the kid should be trying new things --not relegated to some YA ghetto.

I was a free range kid.  I read anything and everything.  Sometimes I tackled a book I didn't completely understand -- that was Okay.  Sometimes I'd read a book below my supposed reading level because the subject interested me.  No rules.

Just reading.

Just books.

Books as something special.

Books as an everyday part of my life.

Minimum Wage Bunk.

A bookstore in San Fransisco is closing up and blaming the minimum wage.

I'm skeptical. I think that's bunk.

Most of the time, normal raises in rents and wages aren't enough to do a business in.  They become part of the equation of how you do business.  If rent becomes too high, you move. If business is slow, you have less employees.

I think most of the time it is business mistakes that do a business in.  Not ordering enough, ordering too much, not pricing correctly, etc. etc.

It's interesting, the wages they are talking about are pretty much what I'm paying -- or will be paying long before the time the 15.00 kicks in in S.F.  But done in at a steady pace, I think I can keep on making adjustments.  Add a dollar to a employee's wages and we're talking about 40.00 a week?  Add 2.5 dollars and hour, we're talking 100.00 a week?

Frankly, if that is enough to close you down, you had other problems.   

Remember, all these expenses are proportional.  If you have enough business to need two employees, you have two employees, if you have enough business that you need three employees, you should be making enough money to pay three employees, and so on.

But that means the higher minimum wages forced you to cut hours! I hear you thinking.  That means you were forced to cut employees!

But I would rephrase that: 

A properly managed store is a properly managed store, with or without the raises in hourly wages.  It may mean, as the owner, that you need to work more hours.  It may mean you need to make more money through other means.

Overhead is nothing to dismiss, but the job of the store owner is to carry enough of the right kind of product at the right prices to pay for the overhead.  Or to lower the overhead to match what you're making.


Writer Mode.

I feel like I'm back to real writing (or rewriting).  Less distractions -- less caring about what other people are doing or saying.  Basically, I feel writerly again.

It is kind of a messy process, but the point is to just keep doing it, to focus, and I think I'm doing that.  I believe this will be the version of Faerylander I will probably publish.  I've now tackled two messy chapters, and have several more to go.  That plus a new ending, and this draft will be done.

Then I'll quickly finish Nobody's Killing me.

Then on to Tuskers III.

Mostly, I'm trying to get things in the right order -- as well as rewriting as I go along.  The writing is somewhat stilted compared to what I do now, but that can be corrected by lightening up.  And especially by cutting. So much of what I wrote wasn't really necessary.

It's very freeing to know that I'm done with Tuskers II and that my changes worked to make it better.  (I have one small scene I think I still need to write.)

It's very freeing to see the improvements in Faerylander and to know I can probably get it done in a relatively short time. 

It's very satisfying to be building a body of work. 

If I keep my eyes on that goal, I feel motivated.

Plus, I really like telling these stories.  Figuring them out.  Meeting these people. 

When I'm in writer's mode I remember that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rewriting is like doing a house renovation.

Worked on Faerylander all day yesterday, hoping to make quick progress.

This is going to be harder than I thought, but still worth it.

Rewriting a book is like doing a house renovation -- it'll take twice as long and cost twice as much as you think it will.  (Cost in this case being energy.)

But I can see the improvements already.

The biggest problem is that the plan I have in my head isn't what's coming out on paper. The first chapter I'd hoped to eliminate is still there, just completely changed.  A new viewpoint character, and it will probably be about half the size.  Less confusing.  But...unfortunately, I wasn't able to consolidate two chapters into one.

I have another chapter I need to move up in the order, and I'm afraid it slows the story slightly at that point, but works better in this slot than where it was before.

The real major rewriting is the middle half of the book.  I'd say about 60% of the book needs little to no change, 20% needs rewriting, and 20% is probably going to almost be written from scratch.

But then, that just tells me that 40% of the book was wrong.

So I can't regret changing it.

I'm fully engaged.

What's happened to Faerylander is that enough time passes between major rewrites that I'm willing to "let go" what I did the last time.  It's hard in the middle of rewriting something to throw it out, but a year later, is becomes tolerably feasible. 

It been a long slow struggle, but each time it's improved the story so much that I wonder that I ever thought it was ready.

The time before last, I thought the book was "Okay."

Last time, it was better.  "Good Enough.

This time, I think, the book will be something I can be proud of. "Good."

Monday, February 2, 2015

Oh, my god, what have I done?

I had a perfectly good book and I've decided to rewrite it.  Faerylander.

I feel like I've piled a ten foot pile of shit on my front porch, for no good reason.

Nothing to do but pinch my nose and dig in.

I told Linda the new plot and she started nodding halfway through and said, "Much better."

I know it is, but damn.

Anyway,  I don't really know how easy or hard this is going to be.  It's a bit like writing from an outline, which I've rarely done but when it happens, I do find it easier to power through.

(I don't outline because that isn't how I discover the story.)

I think I'm just going to write fresh chapters whenever possible.  I'm a better writer now than I was 4 years ago.  Some of the early stuff seems clunky to me now.

I know this is the right decision, but I can't help but wonder if the pile of shit is going to topple over on me and bury me.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Replacing an OK book with a Good book.

I've been struggling with Faerylander for 4 years now.

I finally had a version that I thought was workable.  I mean, everything made sense.

I like the writing, the characters, the whole basic idea.

But the plot has always been a mess, and all I've been doing is tidying up around the edges, making it acceptable.

Here's the thing.  So far, I've been surprisingly mature about what I've published.  I haven't put books out until I thought they were worth reading.  If I had doubts about them, I put them aside.

But the problems with Faerylander seemed unsolvable.  I could make them better, I could make them almost good enough, but I couldn't fix them.

I'd re-written it so many times, I was having a hard time seeing it.  So this last go around solved most of the worst problems, and yet...I knew the plot was still a problem.

But it was "good enough."

I have two sequels which are good, no problems.  But I can't put them out until Faerylander is out.

So I thought, enough is enough.  This is the version.

So I send it to my editor and two beta readers last night.

I'm in bed and I ask myself a simple question.  How would I fix the last lingering problems.

And Boom.  The solutions just started flowing, and they continued this morning.

They require completely rewriting half the book.  In the end, Faerylander will have had every single chapter of the first draft gone, pretty much, or so revised as to be unrecognizable.

But I just can't let go a book that isn't ready go out.

This will replace an OK book with a GOOD book, and that's worth the effort.

I just wish my scumbag brain could have given me these answers before now!

The Seaslugs vs the Pattywankers.

I'm not anti-sport, I've just sort of drifted away from it.  My experience with sports cards kind of soured me, made me cynical.

But if I have a sport, it's football.  Dad watched every game he could, and what Dad watched is what we watched.  (Those were the days.)

Anyway, I watched football until the last decade or so.  I'm old enough to have seen a lot of legendary games.  The Snow Bowl, Unitas versus Namath, and so on.

I have a weird resentment against the Seahawks, because back when we'd only get a couple of games a week, we in Bend would ALWAYS get the Seaslugs, not matter what other game was on.  It was like the networks had decided that Washington and Oregon were all one big state.

I stopped watching the Ducks not because I didn't care (I'm a U of O alumnus) but because I cared too much.  I'd channel change and see how they were doing and if they were safely ahead, I'd watch.  Pretty cowardly, I know. Also superstitious.

Anyway, whenever I watch a pro game, I'm struck again about the constant chest-thumping and slow pace.  Just bugs me.  Hey, if you gained 3 yards, you FAILED!  Don't fucking celebrate.

I'm going to handle the Super Bowl the way I do the Oscars.

Tape them and fast forward through them in about 1/4th the time.

It's harder with the Oscars, because I have to confer with Linda every time I fast-forward.  With the Super Bowl, I can zap through all by myself....