Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fun at Home.

Years ago I picked up the graphic novel Fun Home at random and started reading it. I hadn't heard anything about it (I think this was before it took off) and the subject matter wasn't what usually interested me.  I must have read a few pages.

Anyway, the book blew me away.  I told everyone I could about it, and proclaimed it was the best book I read that year, of any form, which was a pretty big endorsement from me who reads 10 prose novels for every graphic novel.

It went on the gain accolades everywhere.  Now the Broadway musical has been nominated for 12 Tony awards.

Amazing.  Sometimes the good guys win.


Drank some beer the other night, for the first time in probably six months.  (When I drink, which is rarely, I prefer white wine.)

By the second bottle, my eyes were puffing up and my nose was running.  Proof positive, though I really didn't need it, that I'm allergic to something in beer.  Craft beer.  When I used to drink beer on a regular basis, years ago, I finally settled on Miller High Life, not because it was my favorite but because it seemed to have the fewest side effects.  Craft beer out of a 7/11 was unheard of back then.


I asked the landscaper for a more modest contract, for just mowing and fertilizing the lawn.  Last year I paid 280.00 a month, but they did a lot.  Helped me with the irrigation, trimmed the trees, and a lot of other stuff.  I'd been so deep into writing the year before that I needed help catching up.

But the contract was more or less for 7 months, so 2000.00.  She wanted to start in Mid-March and I told her that was unnecessary and I was right -- everything was looking great in Mid-April.

Anyway, I offered her 150.00 a month for two lawn mowings, plus two fertilizing for the season.

"That isn't even worth my time unloading the lawn mower," she says. 

So I thank her for her services, charge up my lawnmower, and mow my lawn.  In 40 minutes.  With a 10 minute recharge in the middle.  So, you know, half an hour.

So basically an hour a month.  For 150.00.  Or 150.00 per hour. 


3/5th of the way through Blood of the Succubus.

33K words into Blood of the Succubus: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders.

Will be bringing into the story the Big Bad's sisters, so now they'll be super bad.  Not sure if there is enough material here to get to the end, but we'll see.  Going straight there, though.

The Scooby Doo Gang is all together now.  Next chapter will be the Scooby Doo gang trying to catch the Big Bad.

The chapter after that will be the Big Bads' tricking them, doing Bad stuff somewhere else. (To use Joss Whedon's shortcut terminology.)

So that will take me to somewhere around 37K words.  As long as I keep getting the next 2 chapters in advance, I'm not going to worry about the end.  I have faith it will come to me.

Along with all the sex, I think gender politics will enter by the end.

Listened to most of Tuskers on Audible, (once started, I couldn't stop) and it was surprisingly good, you know.  I'm impressed with myself.  (It's very weird to hear someone else performing something I wrote, like it has a legit separate existence).  Not ambitious stuff, admittedly, but entertaining. That seems to be what I'm writing these days.  I may have to try to be more ambitious someday, though I'm not sure what form that would take. Every time I've had that thought, I've screwed it up.  I'm thinking I shouldn't mess with what's working.

It's now been three weeks since I stopped checking rankings, sales and reviews.  It makes me feel surprisingly isolated, but overall I think that's a good thing.  I've been very productive, so it's hard to argue with results.  The one danger is that somewhere down the road I'll be blindsided by bad news.  That is, I'll finally look and it will be a disaster.  (Could be the opposite, I suppose :) Is it better to know bad things little by little, or all at once?  If knowing would help me make changes, I'd say little by little -- but I can't think of any changes it would prompt me to make.  I'm writing the best I can, following my own muse.

Have to work at the store today. Then I get to write the ending of Blood of the Succubus.  I'm excited.  I think it will be fun.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Listening to Tuskers

Linda is listening to Tuskers.  I've caught about half an hour of it, fascinated.  I'll listen to the whole thing someday, but even listening to it this long, I learned some things.

First of all, it seems so sure footed, so professional.  It helps to have a professional voice reader, I think.  He adds to it.  But the book flows really well.  I'm amazed by how much time I spent setting up the characters and scenario, and yet keeping enough of the action to be interesting.  I'm amazed at the connections I created within the story.

The interesting thing is, it really does have some humor to it.  I kept getting that response, and couldn't quite figure it out because I didn't remember trying for humor.

But what happened, I think, is that I was just trying to make the dialogue and the narration interesting, and the humor was just a natural part of that. 

I think this has convinced me more than anything that maybe I really am a writer.  I mean, it doesn't sound the slightest bit amateurish.  It is exactly what it is supposed to be.  I think I can be proud of it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Imagination is bigger than the world.

After hours of writing, I look up and I realize I've been sitting in a semi-dark room with a fan blowing as white noise.

But that's not at all the way it felt to me.  In that quiet room, exciting things were happening, I was not in the dark, but in the light, not laying on my back, but fighting monsters.  I wasn't inside, I was outside in the world, doing big things, bigger things than I'll ever do in real life.  Exotic locations, alluring people, earth-shaking events, deep emotions.

Introversion?  Isolation?

It doesn't feel that way.  My characters aren't introverted (unless they are). I'm creating all kinds of characters, outgoing or not, old or young, male or female, boring or exciting, stupid or smart.  It doesn't have anything to do with what's going on outside my door.

I've never done these things, never known these types of people, so how can I be convincing?

Because they come from my imagination and the imagination is bigger than the world.

I don't know how this happens, but I can describe a person or an event that I've never experienced, never will experience, and yet it feels real to me.

Isolation incubates imagination, solitude breeds writing

It's been 18 days since I quit checking my sales, rankings, or reviews.  It feels like a big wall has suddenly sprung up between me and the world.  I still check social media, mostly Facebook, but that doesn't seem to be too distracting.

I'm living two lives right now. The inside and the outside, and they are equally real.  Time expands, and so does life.  Because to me, the imagination of what can be and should have been is as big as the real world.

The Audible editon of Tuskers is out.

The Audible edition of Tuskers is out.   TUSKERS

This wasn't my idea.  The book was purchased by Audible and was narrated by a professonal actor.

I've listened to the first five minutes and it is definitely an interesting experience.  I wrote that!

I don't want to be distracted from the book I'm writing, so I'm holding off listening to the entire book.

It's about 5 hours long.   It costs $14.99, which surprised me -- I guess I thought it would be like an ebook, slightly cheaper.  Linda says this is actually on the low end of what new audio books costs.

How cool is that?  I got an advance, which was very cool, but the way the contract is written I won't see royalties for a long, long time (assuming there are any.)  Since this is a book that Amazon has a financial stake in, I'm hoping they'll spend a little time promoting it.

Also interesting is that it is in the Contemporary Science Fiction section, instead of Horror.  This means that it is being offered to a much wider audience -- but also with much more competition.

My estimate is that about 3 to 5 new books of this genre are offered on Audible each day. (As opposed to hundreds of regular science fictiony books.)

Anyway, for anyone who has been curious about my books, and wants a painless way to check them out, here's your chance.  

I have an oeuvre?

I've been trying to figure out where Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders: Blood of the Succubus fits into the Duncan McGeary oeuvre.  (I have an oeuvre?)

This is a story about a Succubus.

There's sex scene in the first chapter.  I passed it around a little to see how it went over, and was told that it was "the right amount of explicit" for the scene.  I was even told it was relatively "tame."

But I've followed that up with another half a dozen sex scenes.  In every case, it was in service to the story.  I'm trying to be measured and tasteful.  I really can't see how this story can be written without them.  There will be more sex scenes to come.

And frankly, the sex gives a certain amount of energy to the story.  The sex scenes, in essence, are the action scenes. 

Anyway, I was thinking it might be a shock to people who read Led to the Slaughter.  But maybe I'm overthinking it.

Thing is, it really does fit the story.  It is the story in some ways.  I'm not trying to be explicit -- I'm not going for an "ick" factor.  In fact, I'm probably trying to be as vague as possible in the sex scenes and still get the idea across.

But...there is definitely a lot of sex.

If I can sell this book to a publisher, I'll let them worry about how to describe it.  They probably have more of a sense of how such a book fits in the modern publishing world. 

I can't change the book.  It is what it is.  I mean, it's rolling out of me fully formed and vivid.  I'm in a honeymoon period, where I love what I'm writing, but I think it's the best thing I've written.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl SEX Murders?

There's an author's voice in The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders that is strong and consistent.  A tone that I seem to be tapping into. 

I really like it.

I always have a honeymoon phase when I'm writing a book; otherwise, I probably couldn't complete them.

This is an unusual book for me.  There is quite a bit of sex, with four letter words that I don't think I've used much, if at all, in anything else I've written.  But the book is about a succubus, and it seems to me to be essential that I explore that.  It doesn't seem out of place.  It's not being done out of sensationalism.  In essence, the action sequences in the book -- where ordinarily I might have a gunfight or a swordfight -- are sex sequences that ends badly.

So I'm struggling with the title.  The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders doesn't seem to give the right clue.  I thought about using Blood of the Succubus.  I could use the latter as a sub-title, but it seems awkward.

I've thought of The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Sex Murders, or perhaps The Case of the Manic Pixie Dream Girls: The Sex Murders (or perhaps the Succubus Murders.)

I don't want to promise too much sex either. This isn't porn.

Oh, well.  I have time to think about it.

But it all once again shows me that books have their own needs.  This is the book.  That the content may be awkward doesn't matter.  It's what it is. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A very productive day.

(Written yesterday.)

Got on a roll writing The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders today.  I think this is going to be one of my "fast" books that demand to be written.  I'm going way past my 2K a day word average, which is cool as long as I'm not forcing it.

Wrote the first chapter and it came out really well, I think.  (I'd already written the second and third chapter, and yeah, that was weird.)  It had a fairly explicit sex scene in it -- there's a succubus in this book, after all.  But I think it worked.

I'm taking a break to recharge my working computer, and going to get to work doing more tonight.  I love this sense of excitement.  There's just this feeling that there is a book there and all I need to do is peel back the package.

I've got a new character today, as well as a couple of new powers for the bad girl.

I probably need something else to extend it to a full book, but I can write a couple more chapters before I worry about that -- hopefully something will pop up naturally.  I never worry about length anymore.  I write the story as is.  There always seemed to be a couple of ideas I can expand on if I don't quite get there -- but usually that isn't a problem.

Assemble the premise and the cast of characters and the plot takes care of itself.

Later:  A very productive day.  Ended up writing 8K good words.  Nothing I wasn't happy with.  Came up with some more characters, and pretty much a solid lock on the first half of the book plus a rough idea for the second half of the book.

I'm really happy with it.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

More books than time.

Spent all day yesterday at the store just putting games away.  Thankfully, Matt was pricing them in-between dealing with customers and we finished with 15 minutes to spare.

Amazingly it all fit.  I spent all the day before yesterday preparing, and then opened up some more room yesterday by moving things around.

Nine very large boxes, full of games.  And yet, when we were done, they had all faded into the background, just more inventory.

Came home and added them up on the invoice -- and sure enough, it was almost exactly 8K worth of product, added to the 3K I got earlier in the week from a different distributor.  I don't know why I bother to check -- my instincts are so good after this many years that I can just look at something and figure out volume and cost.

I got back The Last Fedora from Lara, and other than a few minor changes, it's a complete book.  I like it.  You know, really like it, though I'm not sure how much impact it will have.  It's kind of different, and that's a good thing, right?

I've also got some ideas about rewriting Tuskers III that I want to try out.  A new theory, or trick, or technique, whatever you want to call it, and I'm excited to try it out. I'm going to experiment a little, and if it works, I'll tell you all about it.

And...I've just started The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders book, and I really want to write that.

Taking the day and working at the store was the last thing I wanted to do, but I was necessary.

I think I'm going to try my little experiment with Tuskers III first, see if I can't finish it off once and for all, and send it off to Lara.

Then finish up the minor changes to The Last Fedora and see if a publisher wants it.

Then dive into The MPDG Murders book and write it fast, hopefully.

I'm feeling very enthused and energized about my writing, and it's all internal again, because I'm not paying a lot of attention to the outside world right now. Everything seems to be hitting some nexus, all at the same time.  Faerylander is coming back to me soon, too. 

So many books, so little time.

Friday, April 24, 2015

More games than room.


I did it again.  My distributor was having a sale so I thought I'd order everything off the list that we didn't have and thought we could use.

Ended up with about 8,000.00 (Retail...) worth of boardgames, roleplaying, card games, and miniatures. 

I started calculating how much space I had in my store and realized I probably can't even display them all!  Stupid, stupid.

Not to mention budget busting.

But I can't resist a good sale.

I spent all day yesterday trying to clear away some room.  This kind of periodic over-ordering has at least one beneficial side-effect: It forces me to move or remove tired product.  It forces me to be creative in how I display things.  It forces me to change the look of the store, which is probably something that should happen once in a while anyway.

It also means I have to work one of my days off.  Just as I was getting some real inspiration on my writing.

Oh, well. The damage is done. will look kind of cool, and there won't be anyone who can say I've neglected the game part of the store.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I'm sure books are nothing like that....

I'm halfway through a non-fiction book, Positively 4th Street, by David Hajdu, which is an account of the early folk rock movement.  I was listening to a Joni Mitchell retrospective album (Dreamland) and thought that some of her later songs sounded sort of bitter.  I'd heard something about that so I Googled, "Joni Mitchell/bitter," which opened the floodgates.

She has accused Bob Dylan of being a fake, and not all that talented.  Well, the being "fake" is certainly true, though I don't agree with the latter assertion.

When I saw this book at Linda's store, I snagged it.

It's interesting to me how cutthroat the supposed "non-commercial" folk movement was -- these guys were relentless in their pursuit of bookings and songs and record-deals, the more ruthless the better.

This includes Joan Baez, who doesn't come off as the ethereal angel of her image.  She used Bob Dylan as much as Bob Dylan used her, it seems.

I just get the idea of a bunch of scheming, conniving, back-stabbing, song-stealing, envious, elbows to the head crunching, get off the stage it's my turn, hey, can I be in your recording session (so I can corner the producer?), talented performers ignored and shoved to the side, damn with faint praise, bullshit spinning, make up my past and embellish the present, look at me I'm hot shit, and on and on.

I'm sure books are nothing like that....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders.

I've started a new book -- The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders.  (If you don't know what a MPDG is, you should look it up.  :)

I'm thinking that will probably be the sub-title, not the main title, eventually.  It's not really a comedy, or satire, and I think that's kind of what the title promises.

A funny thing has happened.  I've made a discovery.  Any story that I can come up can be turned into a horror story.  Because everything can be covered by a horror archetype.  Any genre form can be used.

Horror is wide open, as far as I'm concerned.  I'm really liking it.

I had the idea for a murderous MPDG first, then realized it fell right into the idea of a Succubus.  So there it is, a story I can really dig into.

The Last Fedora happened in a similar way.  I had the idea for the main character and how he interacts first, then realized that he was a Golem. 

I wrote a quick 2340 words on the new book, without even trying, so apparently the story wants to be written.  They're the second and third chapters, actually.  I saved up the first chapter, which I pretty much have in my head.  Will write that today.

Oh, I love it when I get an idea that wants to be written!

It will be a challenge.  In a MPDG story the dialogue needs to be clever without being too cute, and I've never felt dialogue is one of my strong points.

I think it is going to need some gentle tweaking.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuskers III is done, first draft.

I finally put all the pieces in place.  I'll give it a quick readthru and doodle with it while I'm waiting for Lara to finish The Last Fedora.

I think the basic story is good -- I'm not completely satisfied with the writing, but I think I need some distance there, and letting Lara edit will give me the distance I need, plus, as always, I can hope she'll comes up with magical solutions.

So, by sheer coincidence, I now have three books that are more or less finished at the same time! That is, that if I had to put them out in say, a month, I could.

Faerylander is with Bren, and the original deadline for her edit is the end of the month.  She may have (probably) suggestions that require some work. 

The Last Fedora edit by Lara is supposed to be done within a week or so -- and this one I'm actually ready to send off, with a few adjustments.

And Tuskers III, which needs to be edited by Lara, and could also probably use a fresh look in a month or two.

So I'm actually at a point where I could start a new book, if it's one of the quick ones, with flow.

I always wonder if the idea will be there when I need it.  I do have one idea, which I'll just call, The Manic Pixie Girl Murders, but I won't know how much is there until I start writing it.  I'm going to allow myself to break off from writing a new book if it doesn't flow.  What I like is that it is different, and I think that's what I should shoot for.  Tuskers was a change of direction.  The Last Fedora was a change of direction.  The Manic Pixie Girl Murders would definitely be a change of direction.

Tuskers flowed.  The Last Fedora flowed.

That's the kind of book I want to write, instead of getting bogged down in rewrites.  I think I'm addicted to the "New."

What I don't know yet is whether I'll have a "Flow" book when I want it.

Like...right now.

But, even as I write this, some ideas have started to come to me.  Heh.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Napoleon in Rags.

In rewriting the Napoleon chapters, I've made him a much stronger character.  There's a character-arc for him that wasn't there before, from before he has a name until...well, the ending of the book.  The problem has always been integrating these chapters with the rest of the book, but making the character stronger doesn't make that any harder.  In fact, it justifies having those chapters in there.

I've had some fun inserting a bunch of real Napoleon quotes -- some of which are used all the time without anyone knowing who said them.

I also, rightly or wrongly, went ahead and directly addressed the premise that Tuskers could be a danger to humanity.

As I mentioned before, I could have just left it vague, showed the results.  Instead, I explain how it happens, which weirdly enough might make it even harder to believe.  But once committed to explaining, I needed to make it as reasonable as I could.

I was up to the Tuskers III F version last night. (Which means I've had full versions of III A - E already.)  I was really tangled up and blue, trying to fit the "best" elements of each version.  So much so that version E had three completely newly written chapters.  But then I went back and tried to insert the best parts of A - D, and messed it up.

So I drank a little wine...and smushed them together as best I could, making snap decisions as a went along.  Under the "Do something even if it's wrong" method.  (I did keep the earlier versions...just in case.)

Today I'm going to look at the results, which may be a drunken mess but which I'm hoping will be a blueprint version to work from. 

I'm hoping I've got the right versions in the right places.  There may be a little chapter moving -- which is always a hard thing to do -- but I think I need to commit to a version and just work on making it better.

I have two small scenes I need to write to complete the story. I have a major plot change I have to address.

I should have all the story-elements in place by the end of today, and then I can concentrate on the writing. (Which was supposed to be this week, but which I decided to delay in order to work on the Napoleon chapters.) 

I like the story.  I feel like it's complete in itself...and carries on from the previous books...and also sets-up for the next book.

Which is what it is supposed to do.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

$15 Minimum wage.

I won't lie. It would hurt.  I might even have to moderate hours, or work more myself.  I also admit that I have ambivalent feelings and am willing to listen to reasonable arguments.

But I think it would be a good thing.  (I can tell you that every other small business owner in town is now cursing me.)

If it is done in stages, I think it might work.

I don't want to be all NIMBY about it, but it might be better if it was applied to larger businesses -- say, any business with more than 5 employees.  But I can see how that might have unintended consequences.

I also wonder if there couldn't be a six month probation period -- but again, I can see how that would have unintended consequences.  (Firing employees every six months...)

I haven't read the article in the Bulletin yet, because I wanted this to be my own response.  But one suggestion would to have some tax breaks for smaller businesses -- under the theory that the state would collect more taxes from the employees.

I've been trying to give my own employees periodic raises -- so that, if they are still with me in a year or so, they will be either at, or close to the 15.00 an hour.  These are good, experienced employees -- and business is currently good, so I can do it.

I have to say -- I like the idea of me rewarding my employees, rather than it being mandated.

There were many times in my business when I couldn't have come close to paying those wages -- but those were also the times when I worked most of the hours myself anyway.

There are some in-between times when I held onto employees or was adding employees, where such a wage increase would be problematic.

I can tell you one thing -- I would expect more from my employees.  No just babysitting the cash-register. Frankly, employees would have to up their game.  No more hanging onto marginal employees.

And it would need to be strictly enforced.  No more competing businesses where the employees are "volunteering." As long as everyone has the same standards, it would all shake itself out.

Over time, the 15.00 would become part of the system.  There might be some fallout at first, but in the end, when everything is said and done, those that work might be better employees, and the businesses better businesses.

I don't know.

It will be hard for very small Mom and Pops.  But if Walmart and McDonald's are forced to pay those wages, it might end up coming back into the coffers of the small businesses.  Theoretically.  (It's a bit like trickle down, but probably more valid.)

Here's the thing.  I'm not totally sure about this.  I could be wrong.  And if I'm wrong, it could have disastrous consequences.  It would have to be done wisely.  My feeling is that any business starting at today's wages, given a two or three year warning, would either be viable at the end of that period or not viable.  Any business that tries to start would know what they need to do to make it.

It's very possible it would be a situation of two steps back and three steps forward.  The short-term results might look scary, but I think in the long run, it would be beneficial.  Especially if the rest of the country follows suit.

It will be interesting to see the results in Seattle and San Francisco. 

I have a feeling it wouldn't be as harmful as it might appear on the surface.  But I could be wrong.

Usually, I'd say when it doubt, leave it alone.  But the wage stagflation and wealth distribution in this country is so fucked up, I think some bold steps need to be taken.

Finally, I am saying this because my business is mature.  I've gotten over the start-up mistakes and the stupid mistakes and the bubbles and become established.

I might have had a very different response 15 years ago, and I think everyone should listen very carefully to those small businesses who are where I was at 15 years ago.  I don't want to be that guy -- I've made it, so now I'm imposing these standards on people who are still struggling to make it.

So...I am open to opposing opinions.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

On equal footing (or hoofing.)

I wrote the first new Napoleon chapter.

I didn't refer to any of the previously written material, though it obviously contains some of the same events.  I was much more direct, and much more conscious of trying to create a strong character.

I think this is a much better approach.  Harder to pull off, but if I can do it, will make the book.

For one thing, I'm pretty much sticking it right out there in front:  This is the premise -- this is why I think the premise works.  The reader can decide right up front whether or not they buy the premise.

Sometimes I think events are better off not explained. That is, the explanation only makes it less believable.

So I can postulate a wild pig apocalypse (Aporkcalypse) and just ask the reader to believe it.  That worked OK for the first book, when it was an isolated valley with humans who didn't know what was coming.  (Though I was surprised by how many people seemed to think the idea unbelievable.)

It was even OK with the second book, where the Tuskers are in hiding.

But by the third book, I needed to establish why Tuskers were a danger to all humanity -- and risk that the reader doesn't buy the premise.  I started that in the second book.

So the basic idea is:  The Tuskers are super smart and are quickly learning all the human tricks, and they are breeding exponentially and infiltrating every part of the continent.  They have built The Machine, which is capable of creating such a strong EMP that it destroys everything connected to the electrical grid.  Human civilization falls apart.

Meanwhile, a zombie plague has unintentionally been loosed upon both humans and Tuskers. Also, Tuskers can control other species, adding to their numbers.

So Tuskers and humans are both struggling to survive, and are on equal footing (or hoofing.)

I don't know.  I don't see why this is any more wild or less believable than a thousand other Apocalyptic stories...

So I'm all in.  My job is to introduce all this information in an interesting way, slowly convince the reader that it could actually happen.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Looking forward to a rewrite.

Looking forward to a rewrite is very unusual for me.  I don't much like rewrites.

But in this case, I think I have a chance to make the book much stronger without risking the existing material. 

Basically, I have two story lines -- the human POV characters and the Tuskers POV characters.  I interweave the two plots, but they are connected more thematically than sequentially for most of the book until they come up against each other in the final clash.

When I say Tuskers POV, I mean a character named Napoleon.

I really want to start over with him.  I have more of a character journey for him in mind now; a specific point of view.  I'd like to write him as a very distinct character. 

If I can do this, it will make the book much better.

I may get started and find myself over my head, but I'm eager to try.  I'm going to spend a fair amount of time just thinking about it, which is unusual for me -- but in this case, I have most of the book done so that overwhelming prospect is out of the way, allowing me to really bear down on this one aspect.

I really want Napoleon to come alive.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

When re-writing becomes re-doing.

Started the rewrite of Tuskers III and realized I just don't like the first three chapters of one of the story arcs -- Napoleon's.

I tried rearranging and fixing, and it was just a quagmire.

So what I'm going to do is simply rewrite them, plus bring in a fourth chapter.

Easy, right?


But really, other than those chapters, the rest of the book works and I don't want these three chapters to drag down the other 24 chapters, you know?  So better just to rethink it.

I knew they were a problem as I was writing, but carried on and finished, which I think was the right thing to do.  I'm much more clear about what these chapters need to accomplish now. 

Writing fresh material is easier sometimes than trying to fix old material.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Re-writing is too open ended.

I think I've figured out why I don't like rewriting.

It's open-ended.  It never stops.  There is always something to fix.

When I write a first draft, the book is done.  It's right there in front of me.

A re-write?  When is that finished?

I've decided that I need to treat the rewrite the same way I do the first draft.  Set a goal of how many words to work on per day, go through them one by one, and have them finished in a finite amount of time.

No matter how much I try to convince myself it's fun, it isn't.  It's work.

But it is undeniably necessary.

So I just need to buckle down and do it.  A good stiff rewrite.  Get it done.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Finished Tuskers III

Finished Tuskers III.  Such a satisfying feeling.

I finished a couple of days early.  Got on a bit of a roll the last couple of days, finished strong.

I had to change things around a lot while writing this book because I wanted the ending to be strong.  So it's very gratifying that it actually worked.  Hopefully, all this preparation will make the series climax all that much stronger too. 

I had some doubts while I was doing it.  It would have been easier just to go with what I had before.  But I knew that the ending wouldn't be as consequential as it needed to be.  Okay, but not great.  I'm not saying the ending will now be great, but I've given it a chance to be.

I'm stretching myself here -- taking some risk.  Maybe everyone will get tired of the story long before it finishes, which could be embarrassing.

But the story will exist.  It's the story in my head, and in the end, that's the most important thing to me as a writer. 

I liked the ending so much, especially since it was what I set out to do, that I think I should just go ahead and work on Tuskers IV next.  I hadn't planned on doing that, but now I'm curious to see where the story goes.

That's a good sign.

I can now also see how the book could be five books.  Because of the ending.  All the writing is preparation for the ending, which shouldn't be rushed.

A little delayed gratification.

Somehow these pigs have gotten into my head.  Especially considering I barely went into their POV in the first book, and had great trepidation about doing it in the second book.  By the third book, they've become even more important, and by the fourth book...who knows?

Plus, if I do end up at five books, you'd have to say this is my magnum opus so far.  I never expected my humble little pig story, that I wrote for fun, to take over like this.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Finishing Forgives All Two.

If I had any advice for beginning writers it would be to finish.

An unfinished book is an albatross around your neck, a stinking reminder of things left undone.  No matter how bad or good a book is, finish it! 

There is such a sense of satisfaction in finishing that it motivates you to continue writing.  You've climbed that mountain.  Doesn't matter how fast or how polished you were doing it. You're on the peak and no one can take that away from you.

You've learned you can do it.  Which means you can do it again.

It made you stronger, you learned some techniques which you can use the next time.  And when you finish the next book, that is even more true.  Finishing means you can look back on the process and analyze what you did right and what you did wrong. It wasn't wasted, no matter if you have witnesses to your achievement.  You know you did it, and that's enough.

Even if you don't think the book is good, finishing means you have something to work on.  You can try to make it better, or you can move on to the next book.  I have several books in what I call "storage":  that is, finished, but not ready for prime-time.  Someday, I'll get back to them, and fix them, and they'll be truly done.  But I had to finish them first.

Finishing the book makes you a writer.  Not finishing means you want to be a writer.  Finishing means you're serious.  Finishing is validation for all the work. 

I can't imagine putting all the work into a book, and getting halfway or two thirds of the way and not finishing.  All that work!  For nothing!

Actually, I can imagine it, because I used to do that, and yes, it was extremely dispiriting, demotivating.  Nothing like spending days and days on something with no result. Yeah, you pretty much don't want to do that again.  Your life was held at abeyance while you wrote, but you have nothing to show for it.

So, finish the book all you writers.

Finishing forgives all.

I'm very near the end of the first draft of Tuskers III.  Should have it done by Wednesday.

I'm right on schedule, though it felt at times like I wasn't making any progress.  None of this book was easy.  I spent many hours just sitting or lying there, trying to come up with the first sentence of a scene. It felt like I was wasting a huge amount of time.

But finishing forgives all.  Finishing means it was worth it.  Finishing means it wasn't wasted.

I think it's a worthy addition to the storyline.  It's probably the least conclusive of the first three books in that it is a set up for the final climax of the next book(s).  A matter of getting the characters in deeper and deeper trouble.

In other words, a third act in a four or five act play.

I've decided I will finish the story in four books, instead of five -- if I can.  If, in writing the fourth book, I find that the story needs to be continued, then I'll do that.

The hardest part of writing a long story like this is to come up with a satisfying conclusion.  The reason I'm writing this as a four or five part story is because anything less would feel rushed and wouldn't have a final payoff worthy of the story.

I realized the thematic arc of this story required that I spin two plotlines per book, instead of trying three plotlines, so that it will be less confusing to the reader.  So, in a sense, I'm simplifying by adding, if that makes any sense.  Two plotlines each for two books, instead of three plotlines for one book.

Book III is going to require a good stiff rewrite, but I can do that.  For example, I wrote a chapter yesterday that was very unsatisfying.  I went back, added in what I thought was missing, and when I was done, the chapter felt firm, it felt good.  I just need to do that to the entire book.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Progress through constant addition..."

Reading a puff piece on Game of Thrones this morning and this sentence leaped out at me.  It describes George R.R. Martin's process as "progress through constant addition."  I think this is kind of a brilliant insight.  Obvious, once you think about it.

Anyway, I recognize it, because I believe "progress through constant addition" is what happens when you write a series of books with one over-arching storyline.  It keeps the actions fresh and interesting.  It makes the plot complex and demanding.  It introduces new characters to root for or against...

And frankly, it is easier to write new stuff than to try to wrestle older plotlines and characters into interesting situations. 

It also contains the constant danger of writing yourself into a corner.  Personally, I think Martin let his plot get out of control.  Feast of Crows just wasn't as satisfying as the first three books.  (I haven't read Dance with Dragons.) 

I found that with each of my own books, I like to have a fresh slate of characters.  In the end, they interact with the characters of previous books.  It's a really tough thing to pull off.  So tough that I've decided to avoid it from now on.

I can write single books.  I can write single books within a series.  But I don't want to write a single story over a series of books again in the near future. 

Part of it is process.  I can pretty much wing a single book -- the plot usually comes to me, and yet I can also veer off where inspiration takes me -- and contain the whole story in my head.  I love doing that.

Writing a single story over more than one book -- usually, for me, a trilogy -- takes much more planning.  By mid-way through the second book, I really pretty much need to know where the third book is going.  Since I prefer to discover my plots while doing them, this can be a problem.

I mean, I've learned to do what's necessary.  The first two Tuskers books came easily, but by the time I introduced a whole new cast of characters in the third book, I realized that the plot had gotten too big to wrap up in the third book without getting too complicated.

It may sound strange to say, but adding a fourth book actually simplifies the process.  Progress through addition, if you will.  I couldn't both introduce three different groups in one book and wrap it up at the same time.  Too confusing.

Separating the process into having two plotlines per book, establishing them all, means that in the fourth book I can take already established characters and finally bring them together.

I have a sort of thematic structure in mind.  I have two groups who are at polar opposites; basically, the humans versus the Tuskers.  But originally, in the third book, I introduced a third group, in the middle, a group of Tuskers and humans together.  They're basically the good guys.

So I changed it: in the third book I took out the third group, and instead wrote about the extreme polarization of the Tuskers versus the humans. 

It requires a fourth book to establish the third group,  and then bring all these groups together for the final confrontation.

It's fine.  It's just a lot more work.   

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The right motivator.

Andy Zeigert, my cover artist to Led to the Slaughter and The Dead Spend No Gold, had this comment about me not checking my rankings and sales and reviews.

"How many times I gotta tell ya. :-P

It's like stepping on the scale 20 times a day. Totally toxic."

He's been telling me this for awhile, and I mostly agree.  But like I said, I don't think it was a bad thing to do...for a while.

Luckily, both sales and reviews were better than I expected, so it wasn't a discouraging thing.

And secondly, I felt like it was important to see what sorts of efforts helped sales and what sort of efforts made no difference. 

As I mentioned, the takeaway was that most promotional efforts had little or no effect. I know.  Now I can concentrate on writing and not worry about getting my work and my name out there on a constant basis.

One reason I wanted to stop checking is because it was a distraction.

But the biggest reason was because it was the wrong motivator for writing.

It's really important to have the right motivator.  Usually, if possible, the moral high ground. 

For instance, at the store, when I finally broke away from the "collector/investor" model, and just started selling product as "entertainment" the whole thing became easier to do.  It was easier to buy, easier to sell, but most of all easier to justify the whole thing.  I have no problem selling things for fun -- I just couldn't sell anything as a collectable or investment anymore and feel good about it.

Ultimately, the moral high ground motivator for writing is just writing for writings sake.  For art, if you will.  For self-exploration.  For fun.  Any of those things.

Writing for money or fame or whatever -- wrong motivator.  Probably can't win.  Besides, if I write for fun and good things happen, it's a bonus.

And more likely, I think.

Daredevil: Comics are the most creative and original stories out there.

The new Daredevil series on Netflix reminds me of my start in comics.

A confession:  I was not a comic reader when I bought Pegasus Books.  I'd played around a little, reading some Elfquest, some First Kingdom, some other fantasy oriented books.

So when I bought the store, I realized I needed to understand what I was selling.

I started with reading a full run of X-Men comics, which was the hottest title at the time.  I liked them, the soap-opera elements, and could understand why they were popular.  But they didn't grab me deep down.

I kept having that experience right up to the moment I found Swamp Thing, which was the first title that Alan Moore wrote.  I actually cried during one of his comics, which is not something I do very much.  This was a good writer.  (Who of course went on to write great comics like Watchmen and V for Vendetta and just about anything else he wrote.)

There were other titles I really liked, such as American Flagg, and other indy-types.

The next author (and artist) to really convince me comics were an artform was Frank Miller.  Specifically Daredevil.  He was still writing in the superhero format, but...well, it was more gritty noir.  I really liked that.  I liked what he did with Batman, too.  (More his Batman: Year One than The Dark Knight Returns, frankly.)

This version of Daredevil is the best superhero series I've seen -- frankly, I like it more than almost all the Marvel movies.  I just wish that people who watch it and like it could understand that the same experience is available in comics -- years and years of great, gritty stories, not just by Miller but by a host of other artists and writers. 

Comics, in some ways, are the most creative and original stories out there.

Some day they're going to do Preacher and Y-the Last Man and many others of the huge backlog of great stories, and I predict they'll be hugely popular -- and that they won't do a thing for comic sales...

Friday, April 10, 2015

I don't have that kind of fortitude.

You know how when you make a big decision that hadn't planned on making and you instantly know it's the right decision?

Quitting checking my rankings and sales and reviews yesterday had more impact than I thought it would.  It sort of reminds me of when I quit smoking years ago: I suddenly had all this free time on my hands and free hands on my time.  I never knew that so much of my day was made up of that.

Anyway, I can tell this is the right thing to do.  Just concentrate on the writing.

Makes me wonder how much free time I'd have if I stopped using the internet or watching TV?

The days would certainly be longer.  A life extension, so to speak.  Especially if you're the type of person I am, who is perfectly happy to be by myself.

But no...the other day I woke up and my wifi was down and boy, did the morning feel empty. 

So it's all good in theory, but I don't think I have that kind of fortitude.

Besides, I'd probably just use up all that free time reading -- which would be better than internet and TV browsing, perhaps, but would still take up all the time.

Anyway, I feel like I have writing time in front of me, and that's a great thing.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Incubating my daydreams again.

So I've made the decision to stop checking rankings and sales and reviews of my books.

I'd gotten pretty obsessive over it, checking multiple times throughout the day.

I'm not sorry I was doing that.  I learned some things.  Mostly I learned a negative, that is, sales didn't happen because of how many times I mentioned or highlighted my books, or how often a publisher did something, or even how many reviews I got.  Books with 10 reviews sell as well as books with 35 reviews.

As long as the news was mostly positive -- as long as I was selling some books every day and the reviews were all positive -- I don't think checking hurt me.

But the downside is so much bigger than the upside, that I've decided to quit while I'm ahead, with the understanding that not paying attention can't hurt my sales.  I mean, I'll still pay attention to my blog and Facebook and my publishers' sites and emails.  Just not the rankings and reviews.

It had gotten to the point where sales and good reviews were expected and where no longer getting much more of a reaction than, "that's cool..."

Whereas, when I got only my 3rd 3 star review, it felt really harsh.  I mean, what would happen with a 1 or 2 star review, which I think is inevitable?

So the upside benefits of checking were fading and the downside was increasing.

For instance, most of the criticisms of Tuskers were that it wasn't "believable." Well, if they didn't find book I believable, they sure as hell won't find book II believable, because I pretty much up the far out aspects of the story.  That doesn't bother me -- it seems perfectly right.  But I can almost see what the reaction is going to be.

Anyway, I look fondly back on the days when all I did was write and had nothing to do with the outside world.  I have a perfect opportunity to do that again, because the next year is pretty much settled.  The Tuskers books have a home, the Golem book is ready to be sent to find a home, and I'm assuming that if I write a third Virginia Reed adventure, it will find a home.  So...I can turn my back on all the marketing stuff and just write.

I'll have to fight the impulse to check for the next 3 or 4 weeks, until it becomes a habit.  Just concentrate on doing the work.  Making the books as good as I can.  Nothing but that.

 I'm looking forward to descending into my little make believe world again.  Incubating my daydreams.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Stuck and questioning.

I seem to be stuck.  I'm questioning whether it is a good idea to force myself to write.

I got about 800 words in yesterday.  Which is basically doodling.

Not sure what to do.

I have to box up books at Linda's store today, but I still have time earlier to do some writing.

I'm going to make the time, and focus, but I'm not going to write unless I'm pleased with the notions.  So...we'll see.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A classic lull.

I'm having one of those classic lulls, the low ebb of a cycle.  I'm glad I've owned a business long enough to recognize it for what it is.  I just need to keep on trucking and the cycle will turn upward at some point.

Here's the thing -- Everything has it's ups and downs, and you can't always be on the high end of a cycle.

Most of the lull comes from other folk.  Waiting for everyone else. There is nothing I can do about that. I just have to be patient.

I continue to get good reviews -- I've gotten 8 four star reviews and 43 five star reviews for Led to the Slaughter.  Most of the later ones are from strangers -- so I'm feeling pretty good about that.  I've been lucky not to get that one or two bad reviews that almost every book gets, even really good ones, so I'm way up the rankings on Average Customer Reviews.  Out of 64,402 horror novels, I'm ranked in the top 3/10ths of 1%.  Tuskers is also doing really well, in the top 1/2 of 1%.  Those are some rarefied heights.   (This does not reflect sales, unfortunately.) 

That helps me when I have moments of doubt -- like right now.  Everything I write seems to be shit right now.  I know that's not true.  I'm not letting it stop me.

I still feel the desire to write. 

(I woke up with an entire s/f short story this morning in my head.  I'm not going to write it.  No point.  The s/f people have their thing and I've already learned that my thing is not their thing and I'm not going to knock my head against the wall.)

I seem to be regaining some bad habits.  When I started out, I'd had a lot of time to think about what I'd done wrong, work-habit wise, in my first career.  I had a set of rules about what not to do.

I was very focused and disciplined about this.  Since I've had some success finishing books, I've been letting some of those rules slide a bit, which I can now see was a big mistake.

I need to get back to my original approach and stick to it.

This is one of those moments when it's easy to take my eyes off the ball.  I have to continue to be diligent and conscientious and I'll come out the other side.  Like I said, I learned that in the business.  Sometimes years would go by and nothing would happen though I felt I was doing the right things.  I just kept the faith, kept trying to do what I thought were the right things, and in the end -- the cycle would turn and my efforts would be rewarded.

Sometimes success just comes from being plodding past the point where most people give up.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Famous last words?

Landscaper called a month and a half ago wanting to get started.

"Call me back in mid-April," I said.

"You sure?"

"This is Bend.  Mid-April is soon enough."


My poor bleeding heart in front of the house got a little too exuberant.  It's drooping now.

I always make the joke that the gardening departments in Bend make twice as much money as anywhere else.  They sell the same plants twice, once in March and once in May.


Woke up and my wifi was down.

My life felt empty.

There's something wrong with that feeling.


Finally put my chapters on Tuskers III in order yesterday.  I had a sinking feeling about it.

Woke up this morning and realized that if I switched the second and sixth chapters, and rewrote them slightly, they would be so much better.

The lesson being -- Sleep on it.


I don't want to like Frank Sinatra for some reason.  After watching the first half of the documentary last night, I think I understand him a bit more.

It is a Sinatra production, so I think it whitewashes a lot.  The whole "met some gangsters in Cuba once and everything else is made up" posture is ridiculous.  I've read enough reliable stories elsewhere to know that there is more to the story.

I still remember my Mom's comment when Elvis died.  "I don't understand the fuss," she said.  "Now if it was Sinatra..."

Seeing those pictures of Bobbysoxers, I couldn't help but see my Mom in the audience.  heh.


I want to finish up the books I'm committed to, but then I want to write One-ups.  Each as different as possible.

This will both keep me fresh, and let me discover more what my strengths and weaknesses are.

I thought of a title to a second Golem book: The Too Quiet Man.  But I need to resist writing it.

But if I do, it will be a standalone, part of a series.  Just like the next Virginia Reed book.  No more of these long continuing stories like The Vampire Evolution Trilogy or Tuskers.  It's too hard.


They shot a cougar on Pilot Butte, about half a mile from my house.

The paper this morning had this advice.  "Don't hike alone."

Well, fuck that.  I walk in the Badlands (15 miles east of town or so) all the time.  I'm not going to stop.

Famous last words?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Building the book foundations for an eventful ending.

I wrote three Tuskers viewpoint chapters in the last three days, thus building one corner of the architecture of the story.  With the foundation in place, I can build the plot higher.

I'm not terribly happy with these chapters, but they should hold up until I can improve them.

Now I need a chapter from the folk at the Pederson barn, a couple more chapters from the citizens of Sagauro, then a couple of chapters of the conflict between the two groups, then the climactic chapters of humans versus Tuskers.   That should about do it.  I'm at about 36K words, with about 50K envisioned.

Today I have a fill-in chapter that I don't know will work.  There are several chapters in this book that I might jettison if they aren't improved.

Anyway, I'm making progress.

The thing I'm most encouraged about is that for both this book and for Tuskers IV, I have sufficiently eventful climaxes lined up.  The whole book doesn't work if I can't come up with good enough endings, and I've built these books so that the potential for something grand is there.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Writing every day.

I'm writing chapters that I don't particularly like.

I guess I'm hoping I can fix them.

I give myself most of the day to get the inspirational spark -- sometimes just a sentence that comes whole to start.  But if by late afternoon I haven't come up with anything, I go ahead and write anyway.

Actually, I also figure that if I can't fix the chapter, I can throw it out.  I mean, the writing itself is a good exercise and I learn something every time I sit down to write.  I have faith that there is always more where that came from.

Even in books where I'm inspired, there comes a time when I have to force the issue.  Books don't get written without effort.

The quality control comes from not releasing anything until it meets my standards. But it doesn't come before I write -- I write whatever it is I'm writing.

Oregon poet William Stafford had this advice: "There is no such thing as writer's block for writers whose standards are low enough."

I'd go even further: there is a joy to writing without standards.  It often results in something fun.  And you know what?  It's probably just as good or profound or artistic in the end as that stilted piece of crap you write trying to reach some high standard.

A year later, I can't really tell the difference between work I labored over and work that come to me in a flash.  Except that the labored stuff sometimes is better.

Don't get me wrong.  I love it when the words flow, when I think I'm being "artistic."  If I could, it would always be this way.  But sometimes I write stuff that I don't think is good, but get me part way to where I'm going.

The quality of the writing isn't affected by whether I think I'm writing "art" or "pulp," because in the end I write the best I can.  That can't be helped.  I have to write the best I can no matter what I'm doing.

By forcing the issue, I sometimes go places I wouldn't have gone otherwise.

So...writing every day is good, even if it isn't always easy.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A pleasing balance.

I don't know if I'm being silly or pretentious, but I include in thinking about my writing such things as "themes" and "architecture." (There are probably technical terms for what I'm saying, but since I don't know them, I've made up my own terminology.)

I have three different viewpoint clusters in Tuskers III -- not just different viewpoint characters, but clusters of viewpoint characters separated by time and space from other clusters, but connected in the plot.

So when I have too many chapters with one cluster, it makes the book feel lopsided, somehow.  In an architectural sense.

So I find myself looking for the other clusters to counter-balance that.

For instance, I have quite a few chapters in Tuskers III with new characters.  I have a few chapters with older, main characters, and the biggest addition is a third cluster from the viewpoint of the Tuskers themselves. 

I'm having no trouble with the first cluster, the new humans. 

I've got a plan in mind for the second cluster, the former main characters.  They'll come in strong at the end, where they belong.

The third clusters seems sparse. I feel like I need a couple more early chapters from the viewpoint of Napoleon, the main Tusker character.

But the story so far hasn't offered a reason for those chapters.

Nevertheless, I feel like the book is lacking chapters from that viewpoint.  There has to be something I'm missing, otherwise the book would feel complete and it doesn't.  It's lacking something -- a pleasing balance, if you will.

So today's task will be to come up with those counter-balancing chapters.  I may spend most of the day thinking about it, before I write.  The new chapters have to be legit.  They can't just be chapters for chapters sake.

But because the architecture of the story demands it, I'm positive they are there.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Apparently all those years my creative subconscous was screaming to get out.

I spent 25 years telling myself I didn't need to write.  That the world was full of books.  That others were much better writers than me.

After a great start, publishing my first 3 books, my experience in my first career hadn't ended well.  I'd tied myself up in knots with my fourth book, wrote a crappy fifth book, and tried really hard with my sixth book and came Soooooooo Cloooooose.

My seventh book, I wrote exactly the way I wanted, and it didn't work.

My work habits sucked.  I was totally hitting writer's block.  I'd put too high expectations on myself.

Worse, I now had four manuscripts in a cedar chest that I knew were never going to see the light of day, and I didn't see much point in adding to them.

The publishing industry looked awful to me.  It appeared to me that luck, timing, and who you knew mattered more than talent or potential talent.  Fuck that.

So I convinced myself not to try.

The internet changed that.  Just the idea that a book wouldn't end up in a cedar chest to be tossed out someday, but would actually be online, even if only a few people ever looked at it -- that was enough for me to try.

So I set out to write just one more book.  Just to see if I could do it.

The first book was finished, but I mishandled completely.  Oh, oh.  Back to old habits.  I wrote a second book that had possibilities, but it got clogged too. I wrote third book, just for fun, and that was better.

Then I woke up one day with a vampire book blooming in my head.  I ignored the warning thoughts that "The world doesn't need another vampire book" and it poured out of me, and I haven't stopped since.

I had the idea of Donner Party and Werewolves, and it came out well.  My first really mature book, I thought.

So the ease with which I write comes and goes.  Sometimes it comes pouring out of me, sometimes it becomes a chore, but either way, I've tried to finish the books.

What I'm saying here is -- I'm amazed.

Who knew?

I just wanted to write one more book.

Apparently all those 25 years I was telling myself I didn't need to write, my creative subconscious was screaming to get out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Forget about it.

I'm going to stay away from the internet today.

This is hell day for gullible people.