Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Well, damn. It's a book.

Well, damn.

Gargoyle Dreams has turned into a book.  I'm at 30K words, and I haven't even crossed the continental divide yet.

I had a great time writing a chapter yesterday.   To see a scene come alive, fully formed, characters and setting and dialogue, is an amazing thing.  A miracle of life.  A fictional life, maybe, but it feels alive to me.

It's this that I'm most grateful about.  That periodically my stories come alive, as real to me as anything.  I don't know whether my talent is small or large or somewhere in-between, but just having this happen is a blessing.

I mean, I struggle more often than not.  But then I'll have one of those moments, and everything else drops away and nothing else matters.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this is what I should be doing.

This is the true success of my writing.  This is the true reward.

Okay, enough of the sappy.

I'm supposed to get The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders back from Lara, my editor, tomorrow.  I'll be interested in what she thinks of it.  Especially what she thinks of the subject matter.

Lara is turning her attention to Tuskers III after that.  I figure that will need another rewrite when I get it back, and I want to clear the decks for that.

Anyway, I figure I'll finish Gargoyle Dreams through July, then turn my attention to edits of The Last Fedora and The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders. 

At some point in the next month of so, I'll have 4 books finished: two first drafts, and two first drafts plus edits.  I would kind of like to give the first drafts plus edits one more fleshing out.  That's the work part.  The part I have to force myself to do, but which makes the books better.  I need to grow up and do that.

I've gotten to a certain level of competence, and I need to knuckle down and work on making them just a little bit better, if possible.

It's fine line between making them better and fucking them up, though.  So I'm going to be trying to thread that.

Meanwhile, the changes that Bren has suggested to Faerylander are so extensive (and rightfully so -- she is holding my feet to the fire) that I've pretty much concluded that I should try to cut the book in half.  Basically start all over.

Faerylander will become Faerylander and Zombielander, two different books.

An ambitious project that I'm putting off for now, because I need to write Tuskers IV as well as the The Darkness You Fear, which is my new Virginia Reed novel.

Just need to be diligent and get these things done.  (And still allow myself to write new books as new ideas come along...such as The Last Fedora and TMPDGM and Gargoyle Dreams.)

When did this turn into a job?  Remember the above Joy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

I make the rules.

I started Gargoyle Dreams with two POV characters.  A simple love story.  I figured it would be somewhere between 20 and 30K words.

I'm now at 30K words and I'm nowhere near the end.

I've added ghosts, good and bad, an evil cabal of monks, evil gargoyles as well as good gargoyles, a greedy priest, and so on and so forth.

Makes it a more interesting book.  I mean, the experiment of writing a simple love story was great.  I've kept all that, I've just given it all some clothing.

Anyway, I decided to have a confrontation between a 'good' ghost and a 'bad' ghost.  I decided at the end of the chapter that the good ghost realizes he can drag the bad ghost into the afterlife.  That he is finally willing to give up on this earth and release his soul.

Why would that work?  I mean, how can he do that?

Why not?  I make the rules.  Heh.

Literary? A Big Nope.

So I was looking for something good to read on my shelves and came across a book called, The Prop, by Pete Hautman.  Looks interesting.  A mystery set in an Indian casino.

Then I read that it is a "National Book Award Winner."  I immediately start to put it back, and then hesitate.

Wait, has it come to this?  That a recommendation of "literary" quality is a turnoff?


It has come to this.

I have to say I've been annoyed and unsatisfied with most of the so-called "literary" novels I've read lately, not to mention most of them are terrible downers, most of them about the same damn subjects. 

Oh, the occasional good books become "literary."  Authors like Neal Stephenson and Neal Gaiman come to mind.  But it's as if the entertaining aspect is an accidental byproduct.  That is, they aren't deemed "literary" because of their entertainment value but because of other more unspecified reasons that shall forever remain a mystery to me.

Anyway, it turns out that the author not the book is a "National Book Award Winner" for a young adult novel he wrote, and that The Prop is an immensely fun read.

Phew... dodged another one.

Top 1%,

Interesting take on Comic Reporter  what it takes to make a living in Indy comics.  Answer is: very few people do.

"My hunch for a long time has been that the talent of the people making the comics has outstripped the talent of the non-creatives who are the primary folks responsible for fashioning an industry that can reward that talent. What you have left is an assemblage of people doing okay to great: superior talents and/or talents that had good timing in terms of finding something that works; those who were present for a moment in history that matches up with a market opportunity; those inclined towards a genre effort that speaks to a specific cultural need, a few with something undefinable that resonates with people in a way that can't be denied. Everyone else is in survival mode. Because some of the traditional structure is exploitative, a good deal of the best talent out there serves that system rather than another, more equitable one."

That's a bit wordy.  You can winnow it down to: Success by superior talent; good timing; smart marketing; and luck.  (I'd add, who you know.)

I would extend this to books -- and probably just about every other form of art.  It's just a matter of scale.  It has probably always been thus, and in every field of endeavor. 

I especially like this phrase: "...the talent of people making comics has outstripped the talent of the non-creatives who are the primary folks responsible for fashioning an industry that can reward that talent."

In other words, the big publishers are bungling it.  In books as well as comics, self-published and smaller Indy publishers are more creative and and open and interesting than the Big Five. 

It's one thing to know this in theory.  It's another to run up against it.

Right now, Tuskers II is in the top 1% of sellers on Amazon in horror.  There are 70,000 horror novels, so you can do the math.  Tuskers is in the top 1.5%.

I'm pleased with that, but you'd probably be surprised by the numbers.  Not all that high.  Certainly not something that I can quit my job over.

As I've mentioned before -- where else but the arts can you be in the top 1% of your field and it not mean much?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Keeping the mystery.

Wrote a new first chapter for Gargoyle Dreams and it works.  Much more action oriented.

The fourth chapter will be new too, more action oriented.

An unexpected bonus.  I can write these chapters hinting at darker doings and place them in the midst of chapters where the main characters are clueless.

I've always had trouble trying to keep information secret in my books, or to let out the information in pieces.  Usually I just come out with it and hope the story is strong enough to withstand it.  Quick moving books where the next thing happens can probably get away with not withholding info, but I've always wanted to try that.

So this is an unexpected opportunity.  I've got a couple of surprises up my sleeve and I think I can keep from the reveal until the last third of the book.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Simple Hubris.

Gargoyle Dreams.

So in my hubris, I thought I could write a quick novella between book edits.  Just a simple love story, with two POV characters.  Nothing major happens, just love.

I got about a third of the way through and lost interest. Stalled for about a week, then it occurred to me to add another character as a competing love interest, which would make the sacrifice at the end more meaningful.  That got me to about half way through when I again stalled.

After struggling for another week or so, I figured out a plot that would get me to the end using the existing characters.  By then, the book was growing into a long novella or a short novel.  But even though I had the plot worked out, the words still weren't flowing.

I spend most of yesterday managing to write about 400 stilted words.

And then, just about the time I was about to give up for the day, I realized that I could elevate a secondary character and create a major plot twist at the same time.  Just out of the blue.  Woke up from napping and the idea was right there -- not having a hint about it before it came emerged as my one full productive thought for the day.

I felt my interest quickening, and began to think of ways to make it work.

And then, last night as I was going to sleep, a whole bunch of other plot complications came to me.  A whole bunch.  Making the book much more action oriented, with genre conventions and hooks.

And it was good.

Apparently, I can't just write myself a simple novella without getting bored.  Instead, it has to be the real deal, a real book with a twisting plot and multiple characters and action and all that.

I'm not only cool with that idea, I'm extremely intrigued.  It make the book much more interesting to me.

I admire anyone who can write a simple love story.  That takes some real skill, for the emotions and words have to carry the weight.

Then again, would I actually read such a story?

Probably not.  I like my genres.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Losing steam?

Going to retreat to my air conditioned bedroom and finish Gargoyle Dreams.  I should have a straight shot from here.  The story has been mapped out, though the particulars will no doubt surprise me as usual.

I sat down yesterday and wrote out a schedule for my writing.  Basically, the rest of this year is pre-programmed, and most of next year.  After that, I'm hoping to more or less alternate new stories with fixing up old stories.

Very ambitious.  Lots of books.

But I can also feel myself running out of steam a little.  I was maniacally focused there for one year, and damned focused for the next.  This feels more like a routine.  I think it can still happen because over the course of those two years, I became more proficient and effective.

Like an older athlete who makes up in experience what he's lost in speed.

I'm still committed to my five to seven year program, of which I'm more or less halfway through.  I just need to keep on keeping on.  Much like my experience with the store -- just hang in there through the ups and downs.  It only took 20 years to earn a profit and only 28 years to be able to get away from the store for longer than a couple of days.  But in the end, it worked.

The newness of writing is wearing off, but I've always kind of had an ability to renew my interest in whatever it is I'm doing.  I don't tend to go off and do something else, I just look for ways to rejuvenate what I'm already doing.

This is a true test of commitment, totally on my own head.  There is no outside demand, there is no one really paying attention.  This is when it really comes down to self-motivation, which I've always had.

I have faith that in the end, it will work.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Back on Track.

I forced myself to take a good hard look at the bottleneck I've been in over the last 10 days or so, and which had completely stopped me from going forward, and to realize that I wasn't going to be able to finesse it.  I had to roll up my sleeves and cobble together a solution.

So two chapters were changed.  The original flow and focus were softened.  Ordinarily, I'd think this was bad thing, but the points the chapters were making were premature and made the rest of the book difficult.

So I smoothed them out.

The problem was, the chapters were originally written as if there were two main POV characters, and I decided to add the complication of a third POV character.  So the emphasis needed to change.

I was forced to cobble together one of the chapters.  I read it to Linda last night and she thought it was fine.  I much prefer when a chapter comes to me in whole than when I take different bits and pieces and try to make them work together.  It never seems as good to me, but I don't think that necessarily means it isn't as good for a reader.  The reader doesn't know what the original flow was, and so if by objective standards, I've written something that flows, then flows it does.  I hope.

Most importantly, it clears the way for me to finish the book.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pushing thru without "inspiration."

As I mentioned yesterday, I decided I needed to push through the writing on Gargoyle Dreams and not wait for "inspiration."

I did do an outline using index sized sticky notes spread out on my table, and it was very helpful in visualizing the storyline.  What ended up being necessary was completely throwing out a crux point in the story and replacing it.

It's never easy to throw out writing.  It was story that was true at the time but is no longer true.

But I did it and immediately realized it was the right decision.  So I'll be doing the next chapter the same way.  After that correction, I should be able to write the book to the end.

Meanwhile, I read chapters 6 and 7 of The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders at writer's group and they had very few criticisms.  It was good -- I was impressed.  I can forget sometimes that I can be a decent writer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Do Gargoyles Dream?

Well, as an experiment, it was revealing.

I was going to write Gargoyle Dreams only if I was inspired.  But I got about halfway through and stalled.  I waited for inspiration for about a week, and nothing came.

So I'm going to sit down today and push it on through.  Start at the first place I was stuck and force a solution.  Get this book done and move on.

Also thinking of changing the title to Gargoyle Ghosts, which actually makes sense in light of the plot and has a nicer word play, and maybe a little more evocative.  Then again, what do Gargoyles dream?

How about:  What Do Gargoyles Dream? as a title?  Or maybe Do Gargoyles Dream?


So anyway, going to finish this book.  I'd hoped my inspiration would carry through to the end, but I believe that doesn't get done in the way I tried to do it, that is, with minimal word count, waiting for inspiration, and long breaks.

It gets done when I really let it flow, lots of words, no breaks, making sure I write everyday whether inspired or not.

I kind of knew that, but thought maybe this time...

Monday, June 22, 2015

"My Least Favorite Life." My favorite True Detective.

"My Least Favorite Life," sings the chanteuse in the smoky bar as two men glance warily at each other.

It almost made me laugh.  Not exactly subtle.  Ripe for parody.

But you know what?  I really liked it.  I liked the overhead shots of the freeways -- which while a cliche haven't been done that much lately.  It felt more like Raymond Chandler, somehow.  Or vintage James Ellroy.

When I read The Big Nowhere, by James Ellroy, it was a revelation to me.  It probably turned me away from S.F. and Fantasy for a couple of decades as my main diet, into mysteries and thrillers.  L.A. Confidential was then the confirmation of that for me.

So this was like a new James Ellroy, and I couldn't ask for more.  (Frankly, I don't read Ellroy as much since I think he's let his style take over his substance.)

I've been reading lots of negative reviews of the new season of True Detective, but I thought it was great, even the excesses.

The main criticism of the show seems to be that it is delving into cliches, unlike the first season.  I beg to differ.  I think the first season did exactly the same thing -- and the only way you don't know that is if you haven't read Southern Gothic fiction, or the crime novels of Joe Lansdale and James Lee Burke.

So I'm really looking forward to this show, and will try to ignore all the politically correct scolding (much like the scolding GOT's gets.)

I'm not sure you can write consequential fiction if you're trying to please everyone.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My days of winging it may be over.

Some of the books I write come out full form:  Tuskers; The Last Fedora; The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders; Led to the Slaughter; Death of an Immortal; Rule of Vampire, and back in the day, Snowcastles.

Other books I have to fiddle with to make work.  Change things, move chapters, and so on: The Dead Spend No Gold; Blood of Gold; Tuskers II; Icetowers.

And a few books I have a horrible time with: Faerylander; Star Axe; Deviltree; Sometimes a Dragon.

Interestingly, the books I have a horrible time with are some of my favorite stories -- the ones I had the highest hopes for.

Anyway, I'm beginning to think that I can't just start writing a book anymore without a little more planning.  Lately, I've had about a 50% success rate with that.  The Last Fedora and The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders came easy, but Tuskers III and Gargoyle Dreams have been harder.

I've tried outlining, but if it isn't clear in my head, it doesn't matter how I write it down, or make it sequential.  I need to retain the whole story somehow.

I was watching a documentary on the guy who directed Drive, and it showed how he had index cards tacked to a wall, I'm assuming with the scenes.

So I've gotten some large sticky notes, pink and blue, and I'm going to stick them to my table in the order in which I'm hoping to write.  Blue for finished chapters, pink for unwritten chapters. 

This may not work at all, but I'm desperate to try something.

I always knew this was too easy. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Kayaking, news, Russian movies, and writing.

Linda and I went kayaking for the second time this season up at Elk Lake.  The loading and unloading went much smoother; it's a matter of balance more than lifting.

We made it all the way across the long length of the lake and back, which was short-circuited last time by a thunderstorm.  Now we're going to start exploring some of the other lakes.  I wanted the first couple of times to be somewhere familiar so we could get the hang of it.  Not that it's very complicated.  Very fun and relaxing.  Linda really hit on a great getaway for us with this.

I love being with her all day like that.  She is so much fun.

Now, we need to go kayaking another 48 times or so to actually pay for everything....


I noticed the Bulletin didn't put the shootings in Charleston on the front page, which I thought was a questionable choice.

The discussions and comments I'm reading reaffirms my intention not to discuss politics online.

But sometimes I long for the days when news seemed (I know it probably wasn't so, but...) like they were reporting objectively.  I really have a hard time these days wading through all the clickbait and bullshit and slants.  (This is not a reference to the Bulletin, but the online and cable stuff.)


Netflix seemed to be offering a whole bunch of new and weird choices last night.  I don't know if this was universal or they've find figured out how weird I am.

Started watching a Russian movie called "My Joy."  Oh, boy...nobody does nihilism like the Russians.  I'm already creeped out.


Struggling a little with Gargoyle Dreams.  I mean, I have all the pieces, I'm just trying to figure out how to put them together. The wisdom is in struggling before I commit to paper, instead of after.  That is, I could just write it and then try to fix it, but I think I want to keep mulling it over until I get it right.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Millions of books.

There are millions of books.  I mean, everyone knows this, but I'm not sure they really understand it.  My first book, Star Axe, is ranked like 7,500,00 on Amazon, which probably shouldn't be a surprise considering it's been out of print for 35 years.

Anyway, it always comes home to me when I order off the "discount" sites.  What always amazes me is how good these books look.  It isn't like I look at them and go, "Oh, I can see that was going to flop."

No, these look pretty nice.  In the categories that I read, I could see myself buying half of them, given the right mood on the right day.

There are definitely trends.  Tons of young adult books that look similar, paranormal that looks even more similar, zombie books, and so on...

So how does this fit what I'm doing?

Well, I wrote a vampire trilogy at the tale end of the vampire craze. But not because there was a vampire craze but in spite of it.

Since then I've written historical westerns based on werewolves and Bigfoot.  Not really that trendy, but not out of the trend either.

My nature-gone-wild books, Tuskers I and II, were a little out of the normal, but you can see a trend in that direction, or maybe an outlier that is always hanging around.

Next book was about a Golem, then a Succubus, and then a Gargoyle.  None of them exactly trends, but books are being written.

I tend to believe that I don't so much tap into trends as that I'm a reader and the same things that inspire me to write probably inspire others around the same time.  Certainly, I don't chase trends.

Meanwhile, at the store, I sell a couple of my own books everytime I work.  I do this by showing them to just about every new customer who walks in the door. (And probably customers who have already been approached -- I see my regulars rolling their eyes at my pitch.)

Anyway, it may be that these are "guilt" buys -- though I try very hard not to apply pressure. 

I get a whole lot of non-responses, some lukewarm responses, responses that are enthusiastic but don't turn into a sale, and then the a couple of people every time I work come through.  It does make me wonder what would happen if I worked the normal 5 days a week.  I mean, 10 to 15 books a week in my store would add up after a few years.

Oh, well.  Can't do both.  Either can write or I can be store clerk, but not both.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tuskers II and The Dead Spend No Gold on way to store.

The Dead Spend No Gold will finally be available as a paperback in the next few days according to my publisher.  I've ordered copies for the store.

Tuskers II is definitely on its way to the store.  Always nice to have the physical copies.  Makes them realer somehow.

They should both be here by July 1 or so.

Kind of exciting.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Could the well run dry?

Since I started back to writing 3 years ago, I've been amazed by how much creative energy I've had.  I haven't run out of ideas.  I've come up with a variety of stories.  I've liked all of them.  I think they're pretty good.

They're starting to pile up.  Not only stories that I finished and decided probably needed a lot more work, but even books that I think are almost finished.  Because I have to wait for editors and publishers, I'm forging well ahead of the capacity of the market that I've managed to enter. 

I could just start throwing some of these stories online myself, and I suspect that someday I'll do exactly that, but as long as I'm making headway on the publishing front, I'm putting my best efforts out one at a time, being careful to get them as good as I can get them. 

So when a story like Gargoyle Dreams comes along, straight on the heels of The Last Fedora and The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders, the question arises -- should I go ahead and write it?

The answer so far is yes.  I guess I've always felt that I shouldn't turn down any gift from the muses.

But maybe I shouldn't worry about that?  Maybe I've proven that there's more where that came from?

I do worry about it and I'm going to continue to write these books as they come to me.  I have had the well run dry before, so I know that it can happen.  I was pretty much stuck for a couple of years between Icetowers and Deviltree (circa 1980 to 1982) without anything coming to me.

Even more dangerous is that something else will come along in real life and knock me off course.  Linda and I still need to make a living from the stores, so that is a constant worry.  And of course health issues.  Something like that could subvert my writing.

So I'll just keep writing these books as they come to me, even if I run far ahead of any ability to put them out. 

Besides, it's the most fun I can have.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Trigger words to write.

Talking my way out loud through Gargoyle Dreams, making notes.

I've got a pretty good idea now of where it's going and how it's going to end.  Most of it came from a short period of thinking on the couch a few days ago.  That's how it happens for me -- in a flash.  But I think the subconscious has been mulling it over for some time. 

But the plot is just the structure... I need to imbue it with meaning, flesh it out.

So I've worked out a rough outline.  What usually happens is that I stray away from the outline the further into the story I go, but at least it's starting point and a direction.

It's looking like it will be a novella, somewhere around 30 to 35K words, which seems just fine to me.

I still want to do some research on cathedrals to give it some accurate atmosphere, but for now I'm concerned with getting the story down.

So this a new working model for me.  Just one relatively short chapter per day, somewhere between 1000 and 1500 words.  I could do more, but I have a feeling that this amount keeps me fresh and keen for the next day.

I'm trying not to force the issue.  Sometimes I get started on something and it goes nowhere.  I've learned to back off, to actually jettison whatever it was I wrote, because it doesn't feel right.

I'm also spending more time in the 'fictional dream' mulling over what the story means and who the people are and what's happening.  Letting the words come to me instead of going and looking for the words.  I'm purposely setting up an hour or two per session to do nothing but mull it over, to get immersed in the world.  

'Mulling' isn't really thinking, it's more just drifting and letting thoughts come to me.

And, as I said, waiting for the trigger words.

Trigger words is that one sentence or phrase that comes to mind full-blown and is the signal that I'm ready to write. Always a mistake for me to write without a trigger word first.

It's a very comfortable way to write, and it gets me to the finish a little slower, but it's time a found a more user friendly method of working.

Monday, June 15, 2015

"When a bookstore closes an argument ends."

Jared asked me what I thought of this article:  http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/when-a-bookstore-closes-an-argument-ends  

I guess I think it's inevitable.  Some bookstores aren't going to make it.

I do believe that a fully engaged and smart retailer can make a go of it, if they are hardworking and insightful and well-read and a good business person.

But I've always always said that any industry that only survives with the "exceptional" is not a fully functioning industry.  Not everyone can be smarter than the other guy.

Exceptions don't prove the rule.  They are exceptions.

The loss of bookstores in this article is as much about gentrification as it is about competition from other platforms.  And nothing can stop gentrification, nor should it.

I've felt for a long time that downtown Bend could use a full service bookstore.  I think Dudley's is trying, which is interesting, and good for them.  They've moved a little away from used books and more into new books.  I've found the same thing -- I believe that a nicely curated selection of new books works very well in a busy tourist zone.  Whereas used books, you're more dependent on what people bring in and they never seem to bring in the good books except in dribs and drabs.

I've put as many books as I can fit into my store.  Really, space is the only thing that's keeping me from bringing in more.  I decided on a diversified model, selling comics/graphic novels, games, toys, new and used books, and cards a long time ago, and it's working, so I have little incentive to change it now.

The downtown has grown busy around me, and I'll be damned if I'll move now that I'm finally getting the foot traffic I've always wanted.

So I guess I'll be happy with the sales in new books I get, and keep on truckin'


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Writing in the moment.

I think maybe for a short time there I'd forgotten how much fun it is to be writing in the moment.  The feeling of creation, the living in a fictional dream, the sense of anticipation and curiosity, the soft lassitude of words and feelings and visions.

I've been pretty goal oriented.  Nothing wrong with that. That's how books get written.  It was probably a necessary attitude, and of course in the pursuit of that I was often 'in the moment' of writing, but maybe I wasn't appreciating it quite as much as I should.

This new book has no pressure on it.  I've got so much work completed that I could probably take a year or two off and -- other than making the necessary rewrites -- still put out a steady production of books.

So this one, I'm allowing myself an hour or two of just waiting for those first words to come.  No hurry.  And letting the fictional dreamstate slowly creep over me.  And taking plenty of pauses in-between paragraphs and sentences and words -- just letting it flow over me.  

Writing in the moment.

When I'm in this state it almost doesn't matter if the words are actually making it to paper.  That is, the words are coming, ready or not.  I don't need to worry about it.

The words come.

This morning, I was taking a shower when a sentence came to me.  "Okay, remember it," I told myself.

Getting out of the shower, another sentence came to me, from a different paragraph.  "Oh, hold on," I muttered.

I picked up the toothbrush and another sentence came to me, from another part of the same page I hadn't yet written.  I laid down the toothbrush, threw on my bathrobe, tracked down my computer and started writing.

Only when I was done did I go back and brush my teeth and get dressed.

The words come.  That I don't need worry about, at least so far.

So I'm letting them come as they come, and not pushing it, not setting any quotas, even letting myself NOT write if the words don't come naturally.

Just enjoying the moment.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Reviews are more important than you think.

All writers know this, but I think most readers don't quite understand it.

In the world of Amazon, reviews are the Kingmaker.  I've taken to saying in the store, "A good review is worth 100 sales."

People will come into my store and tell me they enjoyed one of my books and I all but beg them to say it on Amazon.  "No big deal.  Just give me some stars and a one line comment, and that's enough."

And they promise to do so and walk out the door and instantly forget.

I understand it.  I'd probably do the same thing.  But it is a little frustrating.

(By the way, I probably should say, "good" reviews are the Kingmaker, but there is no guarantee of those.)

I know I shouldn't take my validation from reviews, but the good reviews have been oddly sustaining.  Enough strangers have liked my books to make me think I'm not completely deluding myself.  (I think deluding ourselves is a prerequisite for trying to be a writer.  It's what keeps us going until we learn our craft, if ever.)

The three bad reviews I've gotten so far all seemed to come from people who apparently expected a different kind of book than what they got -- which seems unfair to blame the author, but that too is human nature.  Fortunately, there are 127 good reviews to counteract them.

If I was getting lots of bad reviews, I'd probably just quit reading them and keep writing.

I've stopped asking people to buy my books or review them.  The two exceptions is when they buy the book at the store, I say, "If you like it, go online and give me a review," or when they volunteer the information they liked my book.

It doesn't seem to make much difference what I do about my own books.  So I will plead the case for all writers: if you really liked a book, do the author a favor and give him some nice feedback.

It's more important than you think.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Purity of vision.

I just watched a documentary on Bill Cunningham, the NYT's fashion photographer. Now, I could care less about fashion, but what came through was the purity of his vision.  He is an artist in the true sense of the word, where fame and fortune mean nothing to him, all he wants is access to take his pictures.

"If they don't pay you, they can't tell you what to do," he says, and he means it.

Which lines up with what  Bill Watterson's notions about art and success.  (Calvin and Hobbes.)

"So, what’s it like in the real world? Well, the food is better, but beyond that, I don’t recommend it."

It's hard to be completely pure about these things.  I have the luxury of having had a career that worked out, and now I have the time to pursue the writing.  For some reason I'm lucky enough to have an undiminished desire to express myself, despite not having pursued my ambition through the middle part of my life.

I'm not looking for fame or fortune.  I want just enough success that I have access to a publisher who can take care of the nuts and bolts of publishing.

I want to pursue my writing for my own vision.  The stories that comes to me, and how I can tell it best.  Finish the story and move on to the next, always trying to make the next story as good as I can make it.

I have no problem with other writers being pragmatic and writing for money (fame and fortune).  That is totally understandable and I wish them the best.

But for myself, I'm trying to write my stories without regard to such things.  Write what I want to write, and hope there are people who want to read them.  Of course I want to have people read them, but I have very little control over that.

Writing come first. Whatever form it takes, whatever fulfills my need.  The story is what counts, and whether it is what people expect or want, that I can't do anything about.  I need to fulfill my own vision of the story, as purely as I can.

And just write.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Married to a writer.

Linda has been writing a fantasy trilogy, the first two books of which are on Amazon.

Telling Tree:   http://www.amazon.com/Telling-Tree-Linda-McGeary-ebook/dp/B00HCZ66FY/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1434040265&sr=1-3&keywords=Linda+McGeary

Once on a Blue Moon:   http://www.amazon.com/Once-Blue-Moon-Trillium-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00LLVESQO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1434040201&sr=1-1&keywords=Linda+McGeary

They are charming stories, with a lot of Linda's sweetness coming through.  She really has a feel for fantasy, and an innate sense of the adventure of a young person.

Just as she was getting started on the third book, Under the Trillium Sea, we had some disruption at work and she was sidetracked.  For almost a year she was unwilling to get back to it, afraid that she'd be interrupted again,

"If you keep waiting to be interrupted, you're going to be interrupted," I'd tell her, which probably didn't help.

Anyway, she got back to it in the last few months.

Today she was telling me about some of the developments in her book, and she was so animated and filled with joy that I said, "This is why we do it.  It's good for our spirits, it's what makes us feel good and alive."

Anything that you can be that enthused about is the thing you should be doing.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Writing for myself.

As I continue writing Gargoyle Dreams, I'm beginning to wonder if anyone else is going to want to read it.

It's a cute story.  Charming.  I like it a lot.

Not pulse-pounding exciting or brutal or bloody or stomach-churning or overly dramatic.

A "gothic lovestory" is what I'm calling it.  Two people finding each other.  A Beauty and the Beast.  I mentioned my doubts to Linda last night.

"You can always publish it yourself," she said.

I have to remember I have that option.  I put up my Freedy Filkins story, Cyber Crash, by myself, and I've always liked that story.  It's cute and charming too.  But no one ever buys it.

All I need is a cover and I'm good to go.  I'm thinking it is most likely going to be a novella, though I never know for sure.  Somewhere between 20 and 30K words.  

I'm about 12K words in, so I don't really know how it's going to turn out.

I've set some strictures for myself.  It all has to take place at the Cathedral, and it has two POV characters, who alternate in the telling.  I'm taking it slow, trying to be inspired with every scene rather than forcing the issue. (About 1200 words per session, which for me isn't that much.)  I'm letting myself be as poetic (flowery) as I want to be, and as love-storyish sentimental as I want to be.

It's been a very nurturing experience so far.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Writing is not believing.

One of the stranger things I've encountered, and which I'm still having a hard time wrapping my brain around, is the idea that because I write about werewolves and vampires and Bigfoot, that I must somehow then believe they exist.

This idea never occurred to me.

I just got my first one star review.  It was for The Dead Spend No Gold.  Basically the comment was "pure speculation."

Well, you know, it is a book about werewolves and Bigfoot.  Speculation isn't even the half of it.

I looked up the other reviews by this person, and sure enough there were several non-fiction books about Bigfoot, expressing their belief that Bigfoot is real.

So...well, nothing I can do about it.

When Led the Slaughter, the Donner Party Werewolves first came out, I got the strangest question over and over again.

"Is it true?"

At first I laughed, thinking they were making a joke.  "Only the werewolves," I'd respond.

It finally dawned on me that they were asking a serious question.  So that was the first surprise.

Did they believe in werewolves?  Are there actually people who believe in werewolves?

As more time passed, I realized I had this wrong.  The person asking didn't necessarily believe in werewolves, but they assumed that I did!

I still have a hard time with this.  I live half my life in a fictional world, maybe more if you count my dreams at night.  Movies, TV., books, comics, games.

All made up, folks.

I pretty much don't believe in anything supernatural, nor have I seen any evidence of it.  To me, these are symbolic representations of bigger truths.

And, well...sometimes they're just entertainment.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Chivalry is dead. G.O.T. ya.

Minor spoilers.

Somewhere around the second book of The Song of Ice and Fire, when the Lannister's 'pragmatism' started looking good (especially Tyrion, but Jaime too, to some extent) and the Stark's 'nobility' started looking idiotic, it occurred to me that Martin was subverting the fantasy order.

Much has happened since, and no one is looking good anymore.

If you read some of the early short stories, about Dunc and Egg, it's almost like the Hobbit version compared to LOTR's.  It has a kind of nostalgic glow for better times.

Times which never existed.  Which existed only in the stories.

Any time a character evinces one of those chivalric notions, they are cut down and humiliated.

By the way, the whole way that Martin treats women is going to be open for criticism -- I just last night read the Cersie humilation scene in the book.  To say the least.  But as a writer, it all makes story sense.

Story above all.  Martin built this world, and he must be one sick and twisted guy.  But totally fascinating.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Working on the comic lists.

Spent all day redoing the comics subscription list.

It's a bit harder to do because I'm not really up to date on current titles.  When in doubt, I just included a title. Better too much information than too little.

Sometimes there is a license, such as Groo, or Rocketeer say, where nothing is currently coming out, but one might in a future year.  So good to know who wanted these.

Biggest title this time around was Secret Wars.

Biggest regular title was Batman.

Biggest group was Star Wars.

Considering that comic sales have been pretty good, it is sometimes surprising to see how sparse the shelf numbers are.  We have more subscribers than a couple of years ago, but nowhere near the old-time numbers.  Same for the comics.  Even in those long ago days when Bend was 1/4th the population it is now, we had bigger numbers.  Of course, comics were .75 and there were fewer of them.

Weird thing to see the X-Men looking so pathetic.  I've heard the Marvel is purposely neglecting these titles because they don't have rights to the movies.

That seems pretty short-sighted to me.

I remember when it was the Avengers who were neglected, and it was X-Men all the time.

DC, despite having Batman as the biggest regular title, doesn't seem to be doing as well.  They haven't quite managed to leverage their big guns -- Batman, yes, but not so much Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman.

I really wonder what a commitment to consistency would do for these guys.  Probably doesn't work, but I yearn for it.  They change titles so often I don't know how the customers keep up!

We're in for ALL NEW!!! universes in Marvel and DC again this summer.

For the 100th time.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Mowing the lawn with a weedeater.

Fair warning.  This blog entry is about as interesting in watching the lawn grow. 

Due to a comedy of errors, I finally got the lawnmower operational today.

Too late.

The grass was a foot high, maybe higher.  I mowed about 10 feet and realized it was hopeless.  So went out there with the weed eater and cut it down to size.

Which is a little bit like sweeping the sidewalk with a toothbrush.  I finally figured out the best way to do it was left to right, about 2 or 3 inches at a time.  About halfway through I figured out that if I just held the one handle, and balanced it by holding the other handle, I didn't have to lift and carry so much. 

I'm going to let the cuttings dry for a few hours, then rake them up, and then an hour before dark tonight I'll mow at the highest height allowed.  Then tomorrow, I'll mow at regular height.

And then, by God, I'll keep up.

I keep telling myself I'm saving 2000 bucks by not having the lawn mowing service I had last year.

It's normally a half hour job.  This turned it into a five hour job.  Heh.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ragnarok Block Party.

A little online get together on Monday with five authors.

I come on at 5:45 on the West Coast, just to chat, show the book, answer some questions.  I'm boring, but the the other four authors are scintillating. 

There'll be some giveaways and a good time will be had by all.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

"Inspiration book."

I'm up to Chapter 8 of Gargoyle Dreams.  I've gotten to that point in the book where things are uncertain and changes are being made, so I've stopped posting the chapters online.  Sorry about that.  The chapters I posted are still valid, though one of them has been moved, but like I said, putting up more would probably just be misleading.  Not that any of you are suffering, I'm sure.

This is my "inspiration" book.

What I mean by that is -- I'm waiting for inspiration before I start writing.  Which normally I think would be dangerous, if not impossible.  But I've been on such a roll, and I've got so much written, that I can take a chance.

One way of dealing with it is to do a small amount per day.  Leaving some psychic energy for the next day.  So the chapters are about 1200 words, and that's all I try to do.  That is still a significant amount, though no where near how many words I can do when I really get rolling.

Another thing I'm doing is giving myself permission not to write at all if nothing comes to me.  That's happened on two writing days so far, though it was mostly because real life intruded in some way.  But I've got to let real life start to "intrude" here and there.

Another way of dealing with it is that I'm leaving it open-ended as to how long it will be. It may very well be a novella, in the 30K range, which is still worth putting online.

Yet another thing I'm doing is not artificially pumping up the action or drama.  This is kind of a tender book, in a way.  My Peter S. Beagle-ish book, and it will have as much action and drama as the story needs and no more.

I've given myself one stricture, which is actually helping me shape and form the book.  I'm going to tell the story from the POV of only two characters, in alternating chapters, in a single setting.  So far, that seems to be working.  No flashbacks, no extra character POV's, no new locations.  All those things are good tricks to freshen up a story, but I'm trying not to do them.

I've decided that if I'm going to be so prolific, I need to challenge myself each time, to try new things.  I'm liking writing a new story each time, instead of a continuation.  I think going forward, that's probably what I'll try to do more of.

I'll keep the series going that I think work, such as the Virginia Reed series and ... maybe ... the Lander series.  But as soon as I wrap up Tuskers, I'm going to try to go one-ups from then on.  (Of course, if any single book were to "take off" I'd be willing to rethink it...:)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Loose Ends.

The loose ends in my writing career are accumulating.  Unfinished books, books that are being edited by various folk, stories that are finished and just need to be put online, books that need to be rewritten, books that need to be re-edited, covers that need to be made, series that need to be completed, and so on and so forth.

So what do I do?  I start another first draft.

I've decided that is the proper emphasis. 

Writing, and writing what I write when I want to write it.

All the rest is just working.  At some point, I have faith, I'll get around to tying up all those loose ends.  But for now, if I have an inspiration, it seems to me that I need to respond that inspiration.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Fight the Entropy!

Everything's breaking down. Lawn mower went first. Turns out the batteries give out, especially if you don't use them.  I had a landscaping service last year, since I was in the throes of writing the year before that and let everything go to hell.

I thought it would be an enormous problem to replace the battery so was ready to go out and buy a gas powered one.  At the last moment, I finally figured out how to replace the battery, so ordered a new one.  Won't be here until late in the week and meanwhile my lawn is a jungle.

The computer at the store is collapsing everyday, so it's time to get a new one.  But I'm afraid that I'll need my Wifi connection password and try as I might I can't figure out how to do that.  So that has to be resolved.  I need Aaron, but he's got his new "Maker" enterprise going...so he's kinda busy.

Linda went kayaking a couple of years ago, and loved it so she wanted us to both get involved and I said yes so we bought a couple of kayaks and then didn't do anything last year because we got stumped by racks.  (Linda wanted a rack that she could do by herself, and I doubted there was such a thing that wasn't prohibitively expensive -- and besides, I didn't think it was safe for her to go alone.) Finally went to Rack and Roll here in Bend and it turned out to be fairly easy.

We went kayaking at Elk Lake on Sunday, and I have to admit it was pretty fun.  It was a beautiful day so we went about as far from our parking spot as possible and then suddenly a big storm rolled in.  By the time we got back, it was pouring rain and thunder and lightning.  Which made it kinda fun, actually.

I figure kayaking is the perfect duffer sport.  The only difficulty is getting the kayaks on top of Linda's SUV.  The kayaks aren't that heavy but they are awkward.  I just need to find the proper balance point and I think that will be easy.

Meanwhile, I've started another book, Gargoyle Dreams, which I really like.  It's a "Gothic love-story", kind of a Beauty and the Beast storyline and I'm very much enjoying it.  Not sure what the point of writing so much is -- but I do enjoy just doing it, so I guess that's the point.

I'm lazy and like writing first drafts.  I wish I was like Linda and some other writers I know who actually love revising.

Anyway, it just seems like most of my time is being used to just fight the entropy.  Trying to keep things from falling apart.  That's life, I guess.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The dead don't swim.

Yep, Game of Thrones, epic episode.


OK.  I liked Cersei having to lick water off the floor.  I loved the conversation between Tyrion and Daenerys.  (When this is all over can we have a spin-off show?  "Tyrion and Friends" something like that?)  I was charmed by Arya's (Cat-like) stroll through the wharf.

And then came the White Walkers.

This was incredibly satisfying and momentous.  I think the reason being that there has been a long slow buildup.

Now slow might not be the word you would use for GOT, but in the background of all the seasons, Winter is Coming.  This was a full manifestation of that saying. 

I've always felt that the very thing that makes Lord of the Rings such a hard read for some people, and the best book ever for other people is that it spends most of the book building to the epic climax.  The more we know the world, the more we understand the people, the bigger the payoff.

I think this is happening with GOT.  We care about these characters, but we're getting weary of all the back-stabbing politics. Enter pure evil, who doesn't give a damn about all that, and it's very bracing.  There is going to be one hell of a conclusion to this -- involving dragons, I assume, and dragon-riders (I vote for Tyrion, Daenerys and Jon Snow, though Arya would be good too.)

I can't wait.