Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When did my obsessions become mainstream?

It's been obvious for a while. Culture is moving in my direction.  But I think over the last few months, I've decided that I'm now exactly at the center.

I didn't move an inch.  Culture moved to me.  I am now at the center of the universe, which is only right and proper, but also a little scary.

I turned to Linda after watching half a dozen TV promos for upcoming shows and said, "They've really figure me out."

I wasn't aware just how out of the mainstream I was when I was younger.  Dad and I watched Star Trek, watched it get canceled after season 3, cause, you know, it really wasn't that popular.

I remember reading Lord of the Rings in Junior High and not being able to find another soul who had read it.  As an adult I've had to remind myself that most people didn't read when I was younger -- that it isn't a new phenomenon.   I was glad that before my mom passed away that the first Lord of the Rings movie came out, so she finally understood that her weird son wasn't alone in his obsession.  ("I liked Harry Potter more," was her comment.)

An interesting thing happens in the store all the time now.  People come in who are fans of things that I've always liked.  But...they are fans in the sense of t-shirts and buttons and toys, not in the actual books or comics the thing they profess to like is based on.  So it's possible all this "mainstreaming" is only an inch deep and a mile wide.

On the other hand, I don't get people backing out of the store in alarm anymore, like used to happen 30 years ago. So much is familiar to so many people that almost everyone feels comfortable in my store now.

It's like, when did hard rock become background music to commercials?  When did the most obscure pop culture reference become mainstream currency?  When did science fiction not only become accepted by mainstream, but front and center?

It's all very strange.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Conflicting advice.

I don't think there is a single element of writing where I can't find conflicting advice, often diametrically opposed advice.

The one I've been noticing lately is -- write !, no matter how badly I think I am doing.  The opposite advice, of course, is don't write! unless I'm passionate about what I'm writing.

What this means, to me, is that I am on my own.  Trust my own instincts, follow my own inclinations.

I have my small business as a comparison.  Almost all the advice I read early about small business was wrong.  There was good advice mixed in with the bad, but there was no way of knowing which was which.  Until I learned it myself.  Then the good advice was just confirmation, and the bad advice was something I just shook my head over.

But it means that I am very leery about taking advice willy-nilly, without some evidence of my own to back it up, by which time I don't usually need the advice. 

Frankly, if I really tried to follow all the advice out there, I'd be tied up in knots.

I trust my instincts.  Most often, the best result comes from just doing what I think is right; even if everyone else is saying the opposite.

I imagine that's what a crazy person thinks.  Or put another way -- that's what I think and that's what a crazy person thinks. Which means I may or may not be crazy.

Knots, I tell you.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fighting scenes.

When Ragnarok asked me to write a column about "fighting scenes" I wasn't sure if I could come up with anything useful.  I don't have a particular strategy how write scenes with fighting in them.  I pretty much wing it.

My subconscious seems to come up with (I hope) believable moves -- the hero does this, that villain does that.  I mean, when you get right down to it, fighting is just a sequence of reciprocal blows.  The hard part is making it different and interesting.

The more intriguing question to me is how long the fight scenes should go.  You can make them short and to the brutal point, or you can extend them...and extend them.  It's a matter of feeling it, I suppose.  Too much fighting is as boring as too little.

Unfortunately, sometimes fighting is a replacement for storytelling.  That is, it works as 'filler.'  You see that a lot in action movies, in comics, and in books.  To me, it's off putting when the action serves as filler, no matter how cleverly it's done.

I think one of the worst examples of this I've seen is the movie, Armageddon.  (I've boycotted Michael Bay movies ever since.)

I've probably lost half of you with that statement. Sigh.

But to me much of the movie seems to consist of fighting for fighting's sake. The smarmy emotions, the lousy dialogue, but most especially the bullshit action scenes.  It's exhausting and not very illuminating. I happened to look at my watch at one point, bored to tears by the meaningless explosions, and I realized that the explosions came every 15 minutes or so -- or about the average time between commercials on TV and presumably the average concentration span of the American viewer.

On the other hand, I do like action movies above all others.  Given a choice between a drama, a comedy or an action movie, and I'll pick action every time.  I saw Kingsman last weekend, for instance.  Loved it.

What I'm saying is, the action has to be often enough to be interesting, but not so often as to replace real storytelling.  (I have the same problem with meaningless drama -- lots of TV shows are guilty of this -- sudden bullshit drama, meaningless fights.  Armageddon happened to have both meaningless drama and stupid action.)

Fighting scenes that come from the consequences of the characters actions -- that's what I'm looking for.  Aliens, Terminator, Die Hard.

I personally think the big budget action flicks are spending way too much time and money on fighting scenes, explosions, car chases and such.  These movies would be better if they cut about 1/3rd the action, and added about 1/3rd more character development.

But then, I'm obviously out of touch. 

Like I said, I do fighting scenes by feel.  I sort of wing it -- letting my subconscious choreograph the moves.  I admit, I probably spend a fair amount of conscious effort wondering how often and how long the fighting scenes should take place. I try to have something every chapter, if possible.  I try to build to bigger action scenes as the book progresses.

Fighting is fun, if done right.

It just has to fit the story.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The house alone.

Linda's visiting church friends in the valley, so I have the house to myself all day.  There is nothing like knowing that absolutely nothing can interrupt me to get me writing.  I can spend the whole day in the "fictional dreamstate" without breaking away.

When I was trying to kickstart this new writing career, I spent some money going to motels out of town with the sole purpose of writing.  That's a little expensive, so I've stopped doing that.  If I were to find myself blocked for some reason, though, I would probably resort to that method again.

So it's just me and the cat. Panga looked around for Linda all morning and finally settled for cuddling with me.

Friday, March 27, 2015

I have to work?

Horror of horrors, I have to work an extra day this week.  On a Friday.  On a Spring Break.

I'm too old for this shit.

I was able to put most of the product away yesterday -- it's amazing how over 15K retail worth of product can just blend in the store as if it never arrived.  I mean, it was just basic restock.  What happens is that I just start seeing all the things we don't have. 

I really have to be patient with people.  It's hard.  A couple of times I blurted, "geez, people, don't anyone read books anymore?" in a mild voice, but no one took offense, heh.

Tons of people coming in.  I'm really pleased that Cameron and Matt seem to be gaining some new, younger customers.  These customers seem surprised to see me -- like, "who the hell are you?"

Had a Secret Shopper report, which was mostly positive.

Weirdly, and I couldn't tell if this was on purpose or just an observation, but the three "negatives" were all things I do on purpose.

No TV.  Yes, I think having a TV is a bad idea.

No gaming tables.  I have no room or inclination and personally believe it detracts from the shopping experience.

No "New" comics section.  I tried this for awhile and thought it hindered, not helped, sales.  The "new" comics face forward, usually on the front shelves, and shouldn't be that hard for anyone who is serious about finding a title from finding it.  Plus they can always ask.  The inability for a "newbie" such as self-confessed non-comic secret shopper to find a particular comic is more a feature of the fact that there are so many damn comics than the design of the store.

Besides, I'm pretty sure people buy more comics when the new comics are mixed with the old.

So none of the apparent negatives were negative in my opinion.  Other than that, the report was very positive. 

I'm glad to have Cameron and Matt being the face of the store.  I have a much harder time faking friendliness if I don't actually feel it.  For instance, I know I should give out a cheery "Thanks for Coming In!" when non-customers leave, but I can't do it.  I just smile, sometimes nod, but that's about it.

I love my store, and I really think people are all right, but I can't put on a false persona as much any more.

Ah, well.  That's why I'm stepping back and letting younger, friskier people take the stage.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

So there's that...

I'm now about halfway through Tuskers III. 

Until I made the decision to split it in three parts, I was 2/3rds of the way.  Fortunately, I'm about halfway through Tuskers IV as well.  Nothing but an plot outline for Tuskers V.

I'm liking it.  I get absorbed by the characters sometimes and forget that the horror readers want action, so that's something I'm trying to be conscious of.  But story is everything, and I think I've kind of figured out how to do that in a certain way, and hopefully I can keep learning.

This looks like it will be my best month for sales, which is encouraging since I'm now more than a year since the release of Led to the Slaughter.  I'm not getting rich -- hell, I'm not even breaking even -- but, well, I can see how it might be possible to earn a little pocket cash in the future.

Interesting in that I've done absolutely nothing in promotion lately.  I've barely mentioned my books on Facebook, except for this daily blog.  There was a big drop off in my early books late last year, but then they went back to previous levels and have stayed there since. 

I do believe it is probably important to have a new release every four to six months.  I've got 3 books in the top 3.8% in sales of all horror novels, which sounds good until you realize there are 64,000 books on the list...heh.  But it beats the alternative.

Reviews have so far been stellar, and that makes me feel like I'm doing something right.  Led to the Slaughter is in the top 3/10th of 1% in Average Customer Reviews.  Probably just an accident of fate, but cool to see anyway.

I'm feeling busy and engaged and liking it.  So there's that...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing faster than the world can absorb.

I need to get back to writing in the mornings as much as possible, so I can do other things in the afternoon if I have to.  If I do even the simplest chore, such as doing a bank deposit, I seem to lose my ability to write.


Went to writer's group and read chapters 4-6 of The Last Fedora.  Realized as I read it that I had no action -- I mean, the story progressed, but no physical action, no tearing off of arms or legs like a proper horror novel.

Slept on it and realized I could insert a flashback scene in one of the chapters that would work.  Not only work, but build up the myth of the Golem. 


I wrote my chapter yesterday early, and then spent most of the day making game and book orders.  Essentially, I ordered everything I'd sold since Christmas, plus.  The store seems to be doing well enough to risk that -- though it's a huge amount and there may be some cashflow issues.

Getting about 18K retail worth of merchandise within a few days.  Going to try not to let it stress me out getting it out for display.  It will all be on my head because I'm working Thursday and Friday this week.

I should have done it last week so that it would be here for Spring Break, but I think we still have some out-of-towners still to show up.


It's a strange thing to be so far ahead of the game.  I'm writing much faster than I can publish, which kind of nags at me a little.  You know, it ain't necessary so why do it?  But I can't take that attitude. My writing shouldn't have anything to do with how fast it can be published, only whether it feels right.  I still love creating things, so I'm trying not to let myself slack off.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Things happening to different characters at different times in different places.

The more I write, the more a strange thing keeps happening.

I have a complete story in my head.  A whole world, where things are happening in different places at different times to different characters.  It's perfectly clear in my own head.

But when I write it down, I realize that the reader doesn't have access to the whole story, so it may not be so clear to them.

I figure if the story is valid, the reader will sense that -- if I do a good enough job of trying to explain it.  But I'm not sure.

Timeline issues.

The events of Tuskers III start when the events of Tuskers II are still happening, just to different characters.  Then a few chapters in, they start to overlap.  I think I've managed to integrate them, but I won't know until people read it.  Linda thinks I should make sure I clearly mark the dates, but I'm not sure that is a solution because it would require the reader to go back to II to realize the dates are different.  Actually, not even then, because I don't have dates in II.

So the only thing I can do is try to be as clear as possible.  Mention it more than once -- probably in each of the first three chapters.

It's all one big story, and I'm just dipping into with different viewpoints, sometimes at the same time.

Thing is, I'm putting faith in the reader to figure it out.

Same thing happens in IV.  Events begin to different characters before the events of the previous book are finished.

I think if my internal sense of story works, then most readers will also figure it out. I mean, if they are reading Tuskers III and Tuskers IV, I assume they are invested.

I hope.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Woke up and started writing.

I know I'm onto something when I wake up and just start writing. 

Since I decided to break Tuskers III into three different books, I've been feeling inspired.

I've created a couple of new characters, and I believe the spinning out of their storylines will make the book a book. 

Linda really likes both new characters.  It's funny, I think I've found a talent for that -- creating characters with a few strokes, making them at least somewhat believable. For me, that's what becomes a plot.  I have an overall scenario, I create a few characters to inhabit that scenario and let them play out.   They are recognizably a 'type' but that's what makes it easy to create full fleshed characters faster.  Hopefully, they have individuality too.

The advice that is always given is to write, write, write.

For me, I'm sort of finding my strengths and weakness by writing. 

They aren't what I thought they were.

I thought I wanted to write fantasy, but I find I like writing in real world locations much more.  I'm still very strongly genre, however.  I find realistic drama to be incredibly boring.  I want the hook, the exotic, the interesting ideas.

I think my strengths are story and characters and a weird bent of mind. I'm relatively facile with words, and I could actually probably be more "artful" but I've decided purposely not to do that.  The story is everything.

Dialogue is a challenge, but I try to handle that by making it as simple as possible.  No Tarantino monologues for me.  No Sorkin-ish cleverness.  I try to make it serviceable, at least. I try to use a little subtle humor

Finding the right blend of description and yet a fast forward plot is always a challenge.  I'm still trying to learn how to do that.

I'm just trying to pursue what comes naturally, what feel right, and the more I do that, the more I find a groove.  I wasn't sure if my 'groove' was something that people would like, but I feel like the more in groove I feel, the more positive reaction I get.  So I'm just going to keep doing that.

I've been writing full time for about 2 1/2 years now, out of an original 5 year plan.  I've extended that plan for another 5 years.  I'm hoping I can keep improving.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Thunderbold solution.

Yes, I misspelled thunderbolt.  A newly coined word.  :)

As I've been saying, Tuskers III is split into 3 parts.  The whole book works, though the first two parts are somewhat disconnected.  Part 3 ties parts 1 and 2 together nicely, though.  

I like the thematic structure of the novel this way.  It is getting bigger in scope, and complexity, but I figure anyone who has already read Tuskers I and Tuskers II will be up to it.

As it is currently, the book would be about 80K words, at least 1/3rd larger than the first two books.  Again, not what I would prefer but if it takes that many words to wrap up the storyline, so be it.

Anyway, in thinking about it this morning, it occurred to me is that what I've really got on my hands are three different books, not three parts.  I have the other chapters already simmering in my head.  I'd love to flesh it out a little, expand the characters a little, add a few more action scenes, that kind of thing.

Part 1 could turn into a book by simply continuing the logical progression of events, which I was going to need to summarize in Part 3.  Easily done, plus part one has a great climax that is more than satisfying enough to be the climax of a total book.

Part II is already pretty much its own story, and is mostly written.  Again, it has a pretty satisfying climax.

Part III is just a story in my head so far, but I really like the whole idea of it, so I know it would work.

If it were just me, I would definitely turn these into 3 books.  I went ahead and proposed the idea to my publishers.  I'm afraid they'll think it is a money grab, getting more advances, but really, that isn't it.  I think the whole story will be more satisfying this way.

I think if Tuskers goes to five books, each of them probably ought to have their own title, though.  Sometimes like Day of the Long Pork: Tuskers II.

I hope they like the idea.  It's very energizing.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Perception is not the reality.

Because we're in a relatively small comic market, we've had to be somewhat presumptuous in how we handle sign-ups for comics. More often than not, we will assume that certain subscribers will like certain titles and automatically sign them up for it.  Especially for DC and Marvel.

We try not to overdo it.  We try to make sure that the titles are compatible.

The thing you have to understand is, we buy comics non-returnable.  Hundreds of titles that we are more or less guessing on every month.

If it was games or toys or books or even graphic novels, either we have it or we don't.  We can buy what we need when we need it.  But being periodicals, we have to keep buying comic titles, whether we need them or not, whether they sell well or not.  Because, we just don't know.

But we've learned that if we wait for people to actually tell us they want a title, it is usually too late to do anything about it.  Or...they never ask.

So that is the system we've had for years, now.  Making the decision for the reader, very often.

And it seems to work.  There is a constant turnover in books and the interest in books, and this seems to help keep things level.  Most everyone seems all right with us doing that.  (They have the option of not taking a title they didn't specifically ask for -- but I'd say they take them about 90% of the time.)

Coming up in April and May, and continuing after, both DC and Marvel are throwing their universes into complete change-over mode.  So for about 3 months, we won't have any idea based on previous selling history, how these completely new titles will do.

If we were doing it the way most comic shops do it -- that is, waiting for people to sign up -- this would be a huge problem.  But because we're going to more or less make the decision for the customer, we may not get hurt too badly.  We hope.

So, for instance, there is a title called Shadow of the Bat.  If we just assume all Batman subscribers will want that (after we explain the regular Batman won't be coming) we can hope that 80 or 90% of the customers will accept that explanation and buy the comic.  We hope.

Something I've learned over the years -- customers will complain about constant turnover, but they will often respond.  Whereas, if the market remains stable (as they say they want) they will slowly drift away.  In other words, the comic publishers are simply responding to what the customers actually do, versus what customers think they're going to do.

This is true more often than not.  The perception is not the reality.  You have to deal with the reality, not the perception.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Tis and tat.

Got a jury summons for April.  I've gotten out of jury duty a couple of times in my life for the very legitimate reasons that at the time I was a one man store operation.

This time, I can't make that excuse.  I'm not sure a touch of agoraphobia is enough of a reason to be let off. 

I guess, if I truly see myself as a responsible citizen, I'll have to follow through this time.  Dammit.


Rock musicians from my era or even slightly after seem to be dropping like flies --- especially drummers, heh.


Going to see the Kingsmen today.


Worked at the store yesterday. Making massive orders -- hopefully Spring Break will pay off, if not, summer is coming.  The period between Christmas and mid-April is always dreadfully slow, so it's hard to both keep the inventory up and not fall behind.  I've stretched the not ordering for about as long as I can stand it.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Navigating the subconscious current.

As I mentioned yesterday, I wasn't happy with the last chapter I wrote.  I decided I would rewrite it from scratch, without reference to previous writing.  Good thing, too.  Because the previous chapter disappeared from my computer.

When that happens, I wonder if I had some sort of brain burp, where I had intended to cut and paste and instead forgot. Or what?  It is somewhat alarming when you lose an entire chapter -- it can ruin your whole day if you let it.

I very self-consciously decided not to get upset and to go ahead and write a new chapter.  Which worked out fine.  It was a better written chapter, which matched the flow of the book much better.

Best of all, at the end of the chapter I had two crux points covered by one event, when originally I thought I'd have to have two separate chapters to get to the two crux points.  There was a certain synchronicity to this discovery -- the subconscious at work again.

It remains an ongoing question to me how writing occurs -- how much is conscious and how much is subconscious and what the blend of the two is.

It seems to me to be like navigating a river.  The momentum comes from the flow of the current.  Whether you survive the trip comes from conscious navigating.

Meanwhile, on both Tuesday and Wednesday I had to make quick trips to the store to deal with banking issues.  On Tuesday I went early, and finished by 2:00.  This should have given me six hours to write, but instead, my mood was completely off and I didn't do much.  Meanwhile on Wednesday, I decided to wait until after 4:00 and get the writing in early.  That worked.

If I get my "blood-roiling", which is what I call being exposed to the outside world, then it is much harder to settle into the subtle rhythms of writing.  At the same time, I'm completely convinced that I need to have my blood roiled on a regular basis so I don't turn too much into the weird recluse writer that is my natural inclination.  Working at the store helps, but I'm not getting enough of that.  Helping Linda at her store is both necessary for her and helpful to me.  And then there is the walking in the wilderness, which I love. 

Facebook just seems to show me what a recluse I really am.  Thing is, I'm only bothered by it when I think about it...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

This writing thing has turned into a routine.

Went to Pegasus Books for some chores yesterday, then sorted books at the Bookmark for a few hours. By the time I came home, I just didn't feel like writing.

Partly, I'm not liking the chapter of Tuskers III I'm writing right now.  I need to get back to my previous idea of writing from scratch.  I made the mistake of trying to use previously written material.

I know that the chapter before this, I wasn't all that happy either, but when I read it to Linda that night, it was fine.  Much better than I expected.

Anyway, I'm determined to finish the problem chapter today.  It's important to write, to finish, to do the work.

I work at the store tomorrow.  I'm hoping to come back next week and completely finish part one of the book, and also write the unfinished chapter of part two.  Then I can concentrate on part three.

Just nuts and bolts stuff.

I signed a contract for Tuskers II and III yesterday.  Ragnarok also asked what else I might have to offer them, which is encouraging to say the least. 

I really want to see The Last Fedora in print, if possible.  (It's off with Lara, and I'm curious to know what she thinks of it.)  And I'm hoping I can get Faerylander to a place where I think it's worthy.  (It's off with Bren, and I told her to be as hard on it as she thought she needed to be.)

Not sure about the Audible Tuskers.  Audible seemed to think I wanted to narrate my own book, but hell no. I want a pro to do it.  I'm as curious as anyone to see how it sounds.  So my publisher had to clarify that.  I'm hoping soon.

This writing thing has turned into something a little more routine, I think. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Making progress.

It isn't coming easy, but it's coming.

Tuskers III is more a crafted book than one of those books that just come spilling out. That doesn't mean it isn't as good.  There is something to be said for craftmanship, rather than inspiration.  Things tend to be slightly better thought out.

They're just more work.  The writing isn't quite as smooth the first time, usually I have to spend a fair amount of time rewriting, and rearranging.  But as long as I'm making progress, as long as I'm putting the pieces together, it's fine.

I've mentioned before, I'm hoping after I've done all the necessary work on Faerylander and the other two Lander books, and finish Tuskers III, that I can then stick to books that come easy. The magical books, where the story just appears in my head and writes itself.

I'm not saying they're better or worse, but they take half as long to get there, and are more pleasant to write.

The thing I don't know is -- will these ideas come in a timely manner?  Tuskers came over me.  Then The Last Fedora came over me.  But I don't know if I can depend on that happening, and if it doesn't, then I'll need to write something nevertheless.   A planned and plotted book, most likely set in one of the existing worlds.  Nothing wrong with that, I'd just prefer the "magical" books, if possible, you know? 

Can  you blame me?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dreaming solutions.

Sometimes I dream solutions, but most often an answer pops into my head just as I'm falling asleep or just as I'm waking up.

If I have any doubts about my writing, these little helpful hints tell me my subconscious is still engaged and still willing.

As I've been mentioning, I have a timeline problem with the beginning of the third Tuskers book.  The Tuskers set off a massive electromagnetic pulse which fries every machine in the world.  I was looking for ways to level the playing field, to make it at least moderately possible that wild pigs could be a threat to humanity.  So this Pulse, along with the virus the humans set loose upon both humans and pigs at the end of the second book, instigate the downfall of human civilization.

The problem I was having was the timing of the Pulse.  I have it happening about 2/3rds of the way through Tuskers II.  Then, I more or less go back in time in the third book, and then back in time again.

I woke up this morning realizing that everything could be fixed if there were TWO Pulses -- the first a localized, limited, experimental, not-ready-yet Pulse which is what gives the Tuskers the advantage in the battle we see in the Tuskers II and the aftermath in III. 

And then, a much larger, worldwide Pulse.

That takes care of the timing problem.  I have to rewrite a little, but it should be achievable. 


Like I said, there always seems to be a solution, though it isn't always easy to see at first.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Click bait truth? Entrepreneurs.

I usually don't pay much attention to click-bait type headlines about entrepreneurs.  They're almost always wrong, or talking about a whole nother level of entrepreneurship. (Apple and I don't have a whole lot in common.)

But...I admit I check them out occasionally.

There was a pretty good one on Business Insider this morning, that I more or less agreed with.
"Psychologists say successful entrepreneurs have these 4 personality traits."

The first paragraph caught my attention, because I think it's the first time I've seen these particular statistics:

A third of all business fail in the first five years, and two thirds fail within ten years.

This seems about right.  The old bromide of "half of all business" fail in the first 2 (or 5) years has always seemed outrageously overstated to me.  At the same time, I always felt that in a longer timeline, say 10 years, that it was much worse than acknowledged.

So anyway, that caught my attention.

So the four personality traits, in order.

1.) "They're generalists, rather than specialists."

I love books, I like comics, I like games, and so on.  But when people say, "Wow.  It must be great to own a bookstore!" I always answer, "No, it's great to own a business."

Most of what owning a business entails is of a more general nature than specialized knowledge in one thing.  You have to pretty much do everything, especially at first.

2.) "They're outrageously self-confident."

Well, I don't know about 'outrageously,' but yeah, you have to have a firm faith that you'll succeed in the end.

I once told my mom that I tested as the 'most self-confident' of all personality types.  She laughed, because she equated self-confidence as being able to walk into a group of people and command the room.  I've always been reserved, shy.  So she didn't see that as "self-confident."

But what really matters?  Figuring out things for yourself, doing what you want to do, and making it work?  Yeah, that.

I feel self-confidence is being able to go your own way, no matter what.  Thinking for yourself, going against the tide even if everyone else seems to disagree with you. 

3.) "They're disagreeable."

I hate to cop to this, but it's undeniable.  You have to impose your will on the world, and this takes a form that doesn't always please other people.

4.) "They're conscientious."

I'm just going to say this, even if it's disagreeable:  I have conscientiousness in spades.

So here's the thing.  No one knows how hard I worked to make Pegasus Books work.  You can get a hint with my writing.

You can see specific results with writing.  How many books I'm writing.  How dedicated I am to the process.  How I see things through.

Well, I was applying that same sort of conscientiousness to my business for years.  It isn't the kind of thing that is noticeable on a day to day basis.  The results can take years to show up.  But day in and day out, I was doing the things necessary.  Out of sight of anyone, I'd spend hours doing things tht others probably would have skipped.  (Another example is this blog -- writing everyday for 7 years.  I set my mind to doing it, and then I DO it.)

Anyway, this all probably seems a little arrogant of me.

But, you know... see the above. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Timeline problems.

I tend to discover the plot by writing it.  When I wing it, I tend to have timeline problems that could have been avoided by a little outlining in advance.

But trying to outline usually means not writing, so I really don't have much choice.

Anyway, with Tuskers III, the beginning of the book kind of jumps around.

I want to start the book from the viewpoint of Barry, the main character of the first book and a very important character in the second book.  I want to bring in his wife, Jenny, and do a small recap of what's happened in the first two books.  This all feels right.

However the second chapter, with the Tusker Napoleon, actually takes place two or three days before.

Then I jump back to Barry, a day after the first chapter, but still a day before the events in the Tusker chapter.

Then back to Napoleon.  Now on the day of the first chapter.

I can clearly label the chapters, I suppose, though that always seems kind of lame.  Kind of like:

Two Days Before Z-Day.  -- Barry

Three Days Before Z-Day. -- Napoleon

One Day Before Z-Day. -- Barry

Two Days Before Z-Day. -- Napoleon

Or I could put them in sequential order.  Problem is, the book doesn't read right in sequential order.  It's more important that it read right than the timeline be in order, in my opinion.  I'm not sure there is any way around it.

Going to just write the book and see how it reads at the end.

Went out the Badlands again yesterday.  I have a little route I take, about a five mile walk.  I love it when I'm alone.  When it was sunny a few days ago, I ran into two other groups of people -- which makes it hard for me to concentrate.  (I also talk to myself as I'm walking, working out plot details.)  I generally spend about 4 or 5 hours out there, and I usually manage to get my word quota in.

Yesterday, it was cloudy and just the right temperature. Apparently the clouds were enough to keep people away.

I tried to plug my power cord into the laptop last night and there was just enough grit in there to keep it from connecting.  I managed to blow out enough of the grit to make it work, but barely.  Obviously, I've got to find a way to protect that. 

You can't go out into the Badlands, you can't walk off the road, and you certainly can't sit down -- without accumulating dust.  Dust is the price you pay...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Working as medicine.

I didn't miss working at the store at first.  But now that I'm going into my third year of taking so much time off, I'm really starting to notice it.  I look forward to the days I do work.

I miss talking to people -- who I consider friends, really -- at the store.  I miss the random surprising conversations.

I can tell that Matt and Cameron have developed a clientele of their own, and this is good.  It may be my imagination, but they seem younger.  It's all good, that way.

But I'm such an independent cuss that I could easily spend all my time alone, except to pop up and cuddle with my wife and cat. 

Not good for me.  Isolation breeds isolation. 

The store is doing well.  It may be about the first time in our history that we have the product lines in place, the cash-flow to keep the inventory up, and enough growth to feel comfortable.  Gee, it only took 35 years.  And who knows how long it will last?

Anyway, I have no intention of changing things.  I need the time to write, basically.  Hell, it takes me a day to get over every day I work, so it would definitely cut into my writing time if I worked more days.

But I see work as good for me.  Taking my medicine, if you will.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Throwing away 10,000 words.

I'm going to start the book from scratch, without referring the the earlier version whatsoever.  10K words, gone.

Thing is, I have no trouble writing, you know.  I mean, I can cover that ground pretty quickly now that I have a clear idea of what I'm trying to accomplish.

It's very tempting to try to adjust the previous material.  But often the tone and the information and the viewpoint and the sequence have to be changed so much that what happens is a horrible quagmire, a patchwork that takes just as long or longer to fix and usually isn't as good.

At the end, I can go through those 10K words, and if there is a sterling sentence or passage that doesn't have to be changed and which fits the new material, then OK.  I can add it.  But not until I've written a whole new framework.

The middle part of the book is mostly written, but I have to start the book over at the beginning.  The first 3 chapters are going to be in the viewpoint of Napoleon, a Tusker, which may be a dangerous thing to do -- but I figure if readers have gotten this far, they'll be willing to go along with it.

Later:  Wrote the first chapter, totally fresh.  Read it to Linda.  She liked it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Not better or worse -- just harder to do.

Read the first 3 chapters of The Last Fedora at writer's group last night.  They seemed to like it.  Pointed out a couple of cliches:  "deep wells" for eyes, and "soothing the savage beast."

They also thought the 10 year old character was way too precocious for the age.  Easily fixed, actually.  I can make him 12, 13, or even 14.  I'm thinking 13 right now.

One of the readers hadn't heard of Golem's.  I figure anyone who tracks down a book called, The Last Fedora: The Gangster Golem Chronicles, is going to know what a Golem is.

Back to the salt mines.  Trying to get Tuskers III right.  I always know I'm in trouble when I have to fiddle with the structure of a book.  I don't know why this sometimes happens and sometimes doesn't.  It doesn't really make the book better or worse -- just harder to write.

I had another brainstorm.  Do it in 3 parts.

Z Day, Minus One.

A continuation of the characters from books I and II, with a heavy emphasis on a Tusker named Napoleon.

Z Day, Plus One.

The new characters and how some of them meet the characters from the first two books.

Z Day, Plus 523.

This is set a year and a half after the events in the first two parts.  Bringing all the characters together in one final confrontation.

Z Day Plus One is more or less written.

I have a bunch of material that originally was going to be threaded through the story, but which will have to be rewritten as a separate Z Day Minus One.

Z Day Plus 523 will have to be written pretty much from scratch.

I'm going to do something different I think.  I'm going to outline each of the first few chapters; be clear about what I'm trying to accomplish before I write them.  Don't know if this will work, but I'm going to give it a try.

It is going to be a challenge to make the first part of the book work, but that's okay.  I probably need a challenge.

But, damn.  I wish they all came as easy as The Last Fedora or the first Tuskers book!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I know there is an answer, I just have to find it.

Everything has been a new experience with this round of writing.

Back in my first career, (7 books) each book I wrote was a separate world.  Which is odd, since LOTR's was my inspiration.  You'd think I'd want to write a trilogy.  Snowcastles and Icetowers were really one story split in half (because I wanted two money advances instead of one...)

Anyway, when I wrote the Death of an Immortal, I hadn't been planning to write a sequel, but the story left itself open to one and enough people liked the first book and asked for a continuation that I gave it a try.

Somewhat to my surprise, the second book, Rule of Vampire, was easy.  It just naturally followed the first, without having to invent a whole new world.

Blood of Gold, the third book, though, turned out to be more difficult, for a couple of reasons.

1.) An accumulation of characters that needed to be included.  I discovered that in order to engage my interest, I needed new characters to write about.   It was O.K. to add new characters to the second book, it wasn't unwieldy.  But by the time the third book rolled around, I needed to have all the characters be part of the book, and that got a little dense, and at the same time, scattered -- if both of those things can be true.

2.) Loose ends.  There were so many incidents in the two books, and a long story arc, that needed to be resolved.  In a sense, when you write a trilogy you're upping the ante with each book, making the story bigger and wider, and all that has to be brought to a satisfying conclusion.

So while the first and second books are fairly easy, by the time you get to the third book, it becomes much more complicated.

I've come to realize that a Series is different from a Trilogy.  Or put another way -- a series can be a bunch of separate stories starring the same characters -- or they can be one long story.

I think from now on, I'm not going to attempt the long stories, if I can help it.

The Virginia Reed Adventures are each separate, with the protagonist the same and the basic format, but not a continuing story.  Same with the Lander series.

That's going to be my model from now on.  So, for instance, if I continue the Golem Gangster Chronicles, each book will be a separate adventure.  Same with the Deeptower books. (I have a fantasy trilogy in mind, but that's on the backburner for now.)

All the above is a roundabout way of saying that I'm finding it hard to write the third Tuskers book.  There are so many characters and storylines that I'm afraid they're becoming too diffuse.  I love the overall story arc, I think it works, but the mechanics of it are daunting.

I'm going to keep trying different approaches until I've got one that works.  I'm not afraid of throwing out entire chunks if I need to.  I know there is an answer, I just have to find it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Synopsis and tagline for Tuskers II.

Tuskers II is scheduled for May. 

The cover is being done by Mike Corley again, and they wanted a tagline to match, "The Pigs Are Not All Right." (Somehow this tagline, which Andy Zeigert came up with, was perfect.)

I came up with: "Stay Out Of The Desert."

The following is the back page synopsis.  Any and all suggestions at improving it are appreciated.

"Barry and Jenny have inherited a fortune, with a single stipulation: that they hunt down and eradicate the Tuskers.  They can only hope the Tuskers are gone. They aren't sure they can follow through on the genocide of an entire new species.

Genghis, the smartest and most ruthless of the Tuskers, survives.  Deep in the desert, he breeds with the wild pig population.  These mutants learn from humans, and quickly surpass them.  

Next time, mankind won't be so lucky."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Like a whole new book.

Sending The Last Fedora to editor Lara today, and starting up the second half of Tuskers III.

After taking three days off from writing, it's feels good to have that urge again.  I'm looking forward to the writing, which is reassuring.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel, and the eagerness to write Tuskers is a good sign.

Most of the second half takes place after an as yet indeterminate time jump.  Probably a couple years, enough time for a couple generations of Tuskers.

I've got the general shape of the second half in mind, the theme I'm trying to get across, and the character motivations.

I'm thinking, rather than get bogged down, I'll just write the second half without referring much to the first half.  This may be a mistake, but I remember enough I think to pull it off.  It has the advantage of feeling like a whole new book, bringing that "new book" energy.

I'm thinking it will be good, which is a good feeling to have as I approach the end.  Endings are hard, especially when it is a three book storyline.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bullshit manufactured fake conflict or drama not justified by the story or characters presented.

The latest episode of Agents of Shield was shite.  You know things have gone wrong when characters just start yelling at each other for no apparent reason and completely out of character, and or cry about something that has zero emotional resonance.

Sad.  I guess I'm in the minority over preferring the lighter, spoofier first half of the first season to this overwrought and totally unconvincing melodrama.  Just as I prefer Flash to Green Arrow. Unfortunately, it looks like Flash is following Green Arrow's formula more and more.

Gotham is hit or miss, but I'm enjoying it.  A couple of great characters in the lead and Penguin.

I never could watch Supernatural, cause that seemed to be the blueprint.  I think it's all very calculated.  Must have screaming match, must have crying session.  Never mind if the story actually warrants it.

Agent Carter was fun.  Maybe it was because the lead actress was British, but she was very convincing as a 1940's character.

I've tried to watch Green Arrow three or four times now, and...no thanks.  I don't buy any of the motivations.

Second worse kind of show:  Quirky, unconvincing characters and lame banter.

Bones, NCIS, all CSI's except the first seasons of Las Vegas, etc. etc.  Almost all network programs.

Except The Good Wife. This one is the real deal.  Real drama, really clever banter, totally believable characters acting as they would act.

We watch Castle, which is totally formulaic.  Comfort food.  Nathan Fillion has charm to spare.

Linda and I saw Jupiter Ascending yesterday.  It was flat, emotionally.  I'm betting because this story was manufactured, not felt.  You can always tell when the writer is telling a story from the heart, and when they are telling it from the head.  I liked it better than the reviews. 

Temporarily between writing books, so have time for consuming movies and TV and books.  Reading the lastest Lee Child, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, and James Lee Burke in quick succession.

I'm trying not to be too conscious of the writing, which is pretty perfunctory these days for these authors.  Just light reading.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Fluffing it up.

The Last Fedora: The Gangster Golem Chronicles is done, but I want to spend a few days fleshing it out a little.  Little bits of description where they are needed.  Just looking for small ways to enhance the story.

I may have rushed the ending slightly.  I always want to get to the end when I see it, and the ending is not the place to get bogged down.  But Linda thought it needed a little more.  I printed up a copy of the last two chapters and she said she'd look at them.

I had left a couple of main characters out of the ending, so I just wrote a couple of small scenes bringing them back.  I'm going to mull over how to enhance those last few pages.  Make them as satisfying as I can.

What is most useful is to let my editor, Lara, have a look at it, and then do a little more fiddling around when I get back her comments.  Usually that is enough to make the book work.  I'd say this book came out about 88% complete, whereas Tuskers probably came out 96% complete.  (Most of my books come out more like 60 or 70% complete with the first draft.)

I have books where I spend more time on back story and history, more character development and description -- and I have books where everything is very straightforward, where the whole point is the easy reading action.

I like both kinds of books.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

When working the regular job is a vacation...

Spent the day filing books at Linda's store.  I enjoy doing that, fortunately.  It's hard to keep up with the numbers of books we take in.  We certainly don't have room for everything, even when we take out duplicates. 

It doesn't bother me to have stacks of unfiled books behind the counter, but it bothers Linda, and there is a danger that it could get out of control.

In between books.  Which is rare  I'm almost always writing one book or another.  I've got two books that are more than 30K words.  The one I obviously need to finish is Tuskers III.  I broke off in the middle because I realized the book was going to be tens of thousands of words bigger than the first two books, and I thought probably wasn't a good idea.  I was able to split off a section and put it in the second book, but that meant a bunch of rewriting.

Anyway, now the book is ready for the second half.  It will probably still be bigger than the first two books, but not outrageously so.

I want to take a little time to contemplate the ending, try to figure out ways to really punch it up.

Working at Pegasus today, which as I've mentioned before, is almost a vacation these days.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tuskers: doing relatively well.

Relative being the operative word. In the top 1.5% of all horror novels (62K books), Ragnarok Publication's best-selling book in February, and it spent most of the month in the top 100 suspense/horror novels on Amazon.


So cool.

It isn't going make me rich, in fact, I'll probably remain in the hole for a long time, what with my laptop, covers of books, and editing buying.  Not to mention all the money I'm spending on employees by staying at home.

But still, makes me feel like a writer.

Led to the Slaughter and The Dead Spend No Gold also continue to sell at a relatively moderate pace.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A book came over me

I'm going to finish The Last Fedora: The Golem Gangster Chronicles today.

I hope.

I've got the last two and half chapters all outlined in my head, I'm excited to go, and I think they work.

So I'm going to press through and finish.

I like this book.  I'm leaving it very open to a sequel, in fact, I'm more or less implying it.

But I'm determined for now to alternate new books, each one a different idea, with finishing up what I've already written.

I need to finish Tuskers III, and I'd like to write the third Virginia Reed adventure, (The Dark You Fear: Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine), so my plate is probably pretty full for the year.  But if I can, I'd like to try to write my love story, Gargoyle Dreams: A Gothic Love Story.  And finish up Nobody's Killing Me: The Linger Longfellow Odyssey. (Both of the latter books are more experimental -- which I think I can allow myself now that I've proven to myself that I can finish books.)

I want to leave myself open to sudden inspirations, though.  Both Tuskers and The Last Fedora came out of nowhere and I loved how they came out.  As I told my editor, Lara:  "I had a book come over me."

Linda's bookstore is overflowing with books because I was sick one week, and determined to write the next week, and I haven't been filing.

Plus I have a dental appointment tomorrow.  So if I finish today, I can work most of tomorrow at Linda's store.  It isn't a chore for me.  I like digging into stacks and stacks of books, seeing what I can find...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rocking the ending.

I was rock and rolling through The Last Fedora, but as I came up to the ending I realized I might want to think it through a little.

Doesn't matter if the rest of the book is good if I don't nail the ending.

But the more I thought about the ending, the more evolved and substantial it got.  Nothing wrong with that.  It doesn't hurt to let it have some substance.

It's may take a little longer than I thought.  A few days, maybe.  But I think it will be worth it.

I have to go back and do a little rewriting, not much.  I've finally got in the habit of when I write something later in the book that requires changing something earlier in the book of going ahead and doing that.  I had a rule against any substantive rewriting until the book was finished because of my experiences 30 years ago of getting bogged down.  That doesn't seem to be happening now.  Depends on the definition of "substantive" I suppose.

The answers to the ending comes from my researching of Golem's.  Which, if I'm going to come up with answers, it a good place to go.

I really like this book.  I wish all books came out this way.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

It's a book!

Crossed the 40K mark yesterday, which means The Last Fedora is a book, even if I were to just write one last lame chapter.  But it's going well.  I like everything about it so far.

Yesterday I had to contemplate the final 20% of the story, which basically means writing the penultimate section and then the climatic section.  So I had to think it through.

I went back and added a chapter in the middle of the book where I more or less explain where the Golems came from and how they fell into the hands of Gangsters. Amazingly, I was able to find some valid historical reasons.  Which is so cool.  Amazingly, it all fit the book so far (a few adjustments) and will make the ending possible.

Then I had to go back and develop an animus between one of the secondary good guy characters and the main bad guy, so that Jacob, the Golem in the title, has a good motivation to bring the book to a close.

It all fits like it was meant to be.

The feeling that engenders is worth everything.  I love it.  It feels like I've found a dusty manuscript in a library that already exists, and is fun to read.