Monday, August 31, 2015

Very cool.

Man, I love the invention.

Doubts can come later, but I love the first drafts, especially when they are going well, especially when the words are just flowing.

I've written the first new chapter of Blood of the Succubus and I love it.  I feel totally energized by the potential of this book, and I'm so glad I decided to take another look at it.

Spent most of yesterday finishing Bren's critique.

Then somehow started rewriting the second chapter. It became quite the project, taking most of the evening, but in the end it was completely redone, beginning to end, and came out much, much better.

That's only the second chapter.

So, I do have a fair amount of work ahead, but I'm excited by the possibilities.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sex is a big idea, it turns out.

I'm going to be finishing Bren's critique of The Blood of the Succubus today, and I have to admit the book is improved.

I had thought it was already ready, and now it's more ready, but...

I have some ideas.

Sex is a pretty big idea, it turns out.  Lots of ramifications.

The original idea was that the Three Daughters of Lilith, the Succubae: Eisheth, Naamah, and Agrat Bat wander the earth to tempt man and drain him of his lifeforce. A group of men and women try to stop them.

So what about women? Are evil women temptresses a harmful stereotype? How about aggressive men? What about gays? When is sex wrong?  What much more...

I'd sort of decided not to address many of those ramifications in an effort to keep things simple, but I'm beginning to think there is no way to avoid them. I at least have to say something.

Anyway, I've thought of a whole bunch of historical flashback chapters I can write, and a few new current chapters that won't disrupt the continuity too much. These should provide information, answer questions, but most of all add some depth and complexity to the story.

It's daunting.

There are so many landmines in this story that I probably can't escape at least some censure for getting something wrong in one way or another.  Not just the appropriateness of the sex, but more dangerously, the sexual politics. I'm bound to get the political correctness wrong, just because gender politics are so fraught.

It would be so much easier to let the book go the way it is.  It's "Good Enough" but that's just it -- I told myself going into this whole writing gig that I wouldn't let those words be my scale of success.  "Good Enough" isn't good enough.

So I'm sort of bound to do this further rewrite.

There is a added bonus of making this book longer, and I need to start writing longer books.

The advantage is the 90% of it is new material, and I do like writing new material.  There will be some adjustments, but hopefully the puzzle won't fall apart.

So off I go, doing something I hadn't planned on. Which pretty much describes my writing career.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Making up for lost time.

If you had told me three years ago that writing would become all consuming, I probably would have said, "Good!" After all, I'd just spent 25 years not writing, or trying to write and only coming up with the first few pages of a story.

So, yeah, the goal was to incubate the writing. To get writing.

I had a bit of slow start, but about six months in I forced myself to finish my first book. I gave it to a couple of beta readers who didn't much like it. I had to take a second look, and realized they were right. Anyway, I floundered with this book (still am 3 years later, though in some ways it is still my favorite story and I intend to finish it one way or another.)

Then came what I think of as the miracle year when I was so engrossed in writing, I barely poked my head out the door.  That was fine, that was fun, and it is particularly impressive to me because I had no indication at the time whether it was going to do me the slightest good.

I call it the miracle year because it was purely for the love of writing.

The very next book gave me a clue, then the next book really got me rolling, and the book right after that was Led to the Slaughter which I thought was pretty good. Then The Vampire Evolution trilogy, which I also thought was pretty good.

At the end of the year I had so much material I thought I should reach out, and it's been more complicated ever since. Lots of attention must be paid to practical matters like rewriting, copy-editing, covers, uploading, marketing, reviews, social media, publishers, you know, the actual books.

Occasionally I still break off from the business aspects to do the pure writing. Tuskers came to me in a rush, and I loved it, and I thought it turned out exactly as I intended.

So by now, if you had asked me 3 years ago, I would have expected to slow down, but now the momentum has set in, the habits, the need to finish, the need to revise, and it seems like all I do is write.  Not even time for movies, or gardening, or most other things.

I'm glad that I work at the store every week, and frankly wouldn't mind another day of that, but my guys are doing such a bang up job there that I don't want to mess with the formula.

Sometimes I go out into the real world and it's like, "Wow. Look how fast everyone is moving! Look at what they're doing! Listen to what they're saying!  Wow!"

But then I get sucked right back into writing.

I've managed to go kayaking a few times this summer. A couple of movies. A couple of times in the garden.

But I've not even been going on walks, which I was doing in my miracle year. I intend to start that up again when the weather gets cooler. (Like today, yea!)

I'm still operating on the assumption that this can't last forever, and as long as the muse keeps supplying I will keep worshiping at her altar.  I'll try to keep my head in the real world, though sometimes it's hard, sometimes I resent having to leave my current story.

I'm obsessed, compulsive, and I can't really argue with the results.

I think I'm trying to make up for lost time. I'm in my 60's, which is pretty old to be a beginning writer.  I think a few more books and I can probably give up the "beginning" label.  (This is all in my head -- to me a writer earns a living at writing, and I'm far from doing that.)

I keep making progress, new stories keep coming to me.

A new wrinkle is that I've decided that rewriting -- revising -- is really something that improves a book and I should do more of that, so add that to my compulsive agenda...

So I'm giving in to this compulsion, despite some doubts about the healthiness of it. Art must be done! I'm incredibly lucky that things have worked out this way.

It would be stupid to stop now.


I read this to Linda and she said, "You were that way in the store. That's why we survived..."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Second thoughts.

I'm starting to have second thoughts about changing my writing process and how I deal with completed manuscripts.

Giving it another rewrite is a good idea and I'm going to do that.

But trying to expand 60K novels to 80K novels -- that I'm not so sure about. These are good books as they are. Expanding them wouldn't necessarily make them better, they would just fit some outside perimeter of what publishers might be looking for.

So I think I'll not do the expansion thing unless there is a specific request to do so.

What I've been doing as been working pretty well. I write the best novel I know how, and then move on the next novel, trying to make it better. I think it would be mistake to linger on books that I've finished and that I already like.

As I said -- the extra rewrite -- that's O.K.

Otherwise, just keep on trucking.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Headline puzzlers.

Nazi gold train.  How do you lose an entire train for 70 years?


All men, no women on Ashley Madison. So what the hell was everyone doing?


Stephen Hawking's new 'discovery.' Didn't he, like, discover this years ago?


Water parks and water slides and "historical canals" -- and fires and fires and more fires.


Hottest July in history. Just saying...


I just can't get worked up over Trump.


So there's this theory about Jon Snow and it goes like this.  Oh...fuck it. Who cares?


Not once have I been "astounded" or "stunned" or "thrilled" by a bait click headline...well, except for cat videos. That happens every day.


Damn. I swear I do all those "Things Rich and Powerful Do."  Unfortunately I apparently also do all those things "That Keep You From Being Rich and Powerful."


Man, I'm outraged. Totally outraged! I tired.


The Dreaded Rewrite.

I'm working on a full rewrite of Blood of the Succubus (formerly known as The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders.)

Bren did a great job of critiquing it. I was already doing considerable rewriting while addressing her suggestions. I may as well really bear down, beginning to end.

The Last Sombrero was going well, but I'm going to leave it for now to work on the other books.

Both The Last Fedora and Blood of the Succubus were complete, and I'd planned to send them off...but....

I've decided I can probably write at my current level forever. Which is fine. But if I want to make progress, I really need to try to take a step up.

So from now on, I'm going to give every book one more full rewrite, even when I think they're finished, because I've discovered that there are still enough improvements when I do this to make it worthwhile.

It takes up to a full month to do a thorough job.

I flesh out the story with telling details, smooth out story inconsistencies, and strengthen connections.

I don't LIKE doing it. But I can see the value. Taking one more month per book to make them better just makes sense.

With some firm rules.

1.) I will not change any part of the manuscript that pulls apart the puzzle. That is, if adding or subtracting the piece destroys the whole, I won't do it. Additions or subtractions that don't do this are OK.

2.) I will not obsess over the language to the point where I lose feeling for the story. The dreaded "word-jumble." This is going to take some fine judgement about how little or how much to do, but I've done enough rewriting to think I can negotiate the traps.

Another reason I'm doing rewrites is that I've decided that every book should be 80K words or more, instead of the 60K words I've been doing. 60K words are fine for ebooks, but 80K are better for physical books, and if my ultimate goal is to be in every bookstore, I'd better get started.

Every book I've put out so far has been as good as I knew how to make them. I've got quite a few "trunk books" which may or may not ever be published, but so far, I think I've chosen correctly which stories to pursue.

This is just a continuation of that process.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Schrodinger's Cat books.

I have a bunch of book that are alive or not alive, depending on whether I look at them.

I have three or four that I could pick up and give the final push.

I have a bunch more that require full rewrites.

But my heart wants to write another original book, and another, and that's what I'm doing with the theory that none of it is wasted. Inspiration is the currency here. Hard work is the payment.

I can always put the hard work of rewriting in, even when I'm not necessary inspired. But I can't write new stories without at least some inspiration, and despite all the advice not to wait for inspiration, I also believe its dangerous not to take the inspiration when it comes.

By that I mean the words flowing, the excitement I feel to see where the story is going. That feeling can't be manufactured -- it can be incubated, but not forced.

I've been expecting it to flag for about 3 years now, but it just keeps flowing and damn if I'm going to stop it.  Something will probably happen someday that puts the brakes to it, so I'm just going to keep writing until that happens.

Hopefully it will never happen.  Hopefully I'll just keep writing, getting slightly better with each effort.

All I know is I enjoy the inspiration...I'll let Schrodinger's Cat alone for now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When the Villain takes over.

Villains are inherently more interesting to write.

And because of that there is a constant temptation to turn them into good guys.

You see it all the time on TV shows. Some bad guy, who makes the show interesting, and over time they start becoming "nicer."  I heard this phenomenon often happens because the actor who plays the villain starts to agitate to make his/her character more "human" or "rounded" and thus the character loses what made the character fascinating in the first place.

That's probably so, but I also think any creator who has an interesting character wants to do the same thing.

So I try to resist.

Still, my new Golem, who's name is Mud (yes, his name is Mud) is the titular bad guy, has taken over my book. Which is good, in a way, because he is the title character, the wearer of The Last Sombrero. I think it's OK to make him a tragic character, one that the reader can sympathize with, but not make him good.

Last night I thought of the ending, which is one of the landmarks in any book, maybe the most important.

I don't know how the full book is going to play out.  About 15K words in I always realize that I need to add more elements, and I've begun that process.  I want to keep it as simple as possible.

The major bad guy left from The Last Fedora is still out there, but I intend to save him for the third book.

Thing is, I'm excited to wake up every morning to write. The book has me in it's grips. I stopped writing before dinner yesterday, as usual, but the ideas kept coming and finally I just sat down at midnight and wrote another chapter.

I need to remind myself whenever I'm in the doldrums of rewriting that this part of the process is so fulfilling and so much fun. Rewriting is totally necessary, and it makes the book better for the reader, but the first draft is so much more fun for the writer.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What a pleasure it is...

What a pleasure it is when the words come spilling out, fully formed, the characters alive, the plot making sense. A story that seems to exist outside myself and all I'm doing is writing it down.

I needed this. After struggling with Gargoyle Dreams and then spending a month rewriting Tuskers III, it is nice to get back to inventing again.

It's a cleansing of the palate, a reminder of why I do this.

I have no doubt that finishing a book I'm struggling with is the right thing to do.  I have no doubt that rewriting books is beneficial.

But the fun part is the storytelling.

It's thrilling when an idea loops around and becomes thematic, when you didn't even plan it.

It really is like reading a good book. I'm discovering the story in the same way, and when the story works, I like it in the same way.

It just reminds me that the book itself is everything. It is self-contained. It doesn't matter what happens after, or marketing or any of those things.

All that matters is how well you tell the story.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Walked away from the dead.


Fear the Walking Dead.  

Basically Walked away from the Dead.

Every time I thought they were winding up for a scary scene, it fizzled. Instead, we had about the most annoying Johnny Depp imitator acting all weird for 60 minutes, while Mom is a tight ass and stepdad a wimp and little sister a little twit.

That's it.

Family dynamics to Fear.

So they constantly had scenes where there could have been a confrontation -- not one but two separate visits to the scary church where we met the zombie at the start of the show. Nothing.

Old guy in the bed making scary noises, and Johnny Depp tied to his bed. Nice nurse comes in and unties one of his hands, and I'm ready for a nice Old Man Zombie trying to chomp on a one-hand-tied Deppster.

Instead, the old guy is taken away and Johnny Depp minces out of the hospital and acts weird for another 30 minutes. 

That kind of thing -- all the way through the show.

Really hope this isn't what they're going for.

Try for emotion.

Emotion is hard to write.  Oh, it's easy enough to talk about it. To put in all the words that are supposed to signify emotion, but unless the reader feels it, it's just sentiment.

I set out to write Gargoyle Dreams as a pure love story, a sort of Hunchback of Notre Dame kind of tale, but as it evolved it became more of an adventure story -- as I am prone to write.  Nothing really wrong with that, and I still like the book. Linda did actually tear up as I read the last chapter, so I must have succeeded at some level.

Still, to write about Love for an entire book is a hard thing to do.

Maybe I shouldn't even try. Maybe the emotion is a byproduct of the story.

But it is my intention to try harder to have real emotions in my stories.  To have characters who feel real enough for people to care about.

To my great surprise, I'm writing a second Golem book.  The first three chapters came spilling out of me. But this morning, I needed to decide on where to go from here.

I came up with a plot turn, but...well, it seemed kind of standard,  somehow. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing that great about it either.

Instead I asked myself, whose personality needs to be expressed?  Which character do I need to go into the head of?

So the fourth chapter is going in a different direction than I thought. I'm going into Jacob the Good Golem's head. He's become human, or has he?

There is a lot to milk there -- philosophically and emotionally.  The Frankenstein story of what makes a human.

I'm hoping I can keep making these decisions about the plot that feel true and surprising.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

An embarrassment of writings.

Finished up Gargoyle Dreams, hopefully getting it sequentially correct. Will send it off to Lara when she gets Tuskers III back to me.

I really like having that full month of so while Lara is editing to gain some perspective, and then give it a full beginning-to-end rewrite.  That's going to be my new process from now on.

I'm also going to try a little harder to get my books to be 80K minimum, instead of the 60K average they are now.

60K is all right, but 80K would be a more satisfying reading chunk, I think.  I'm pretty sure that I can take any 60K first draft and simply by fleshing it out, add between 10 and 15K words.  So a couple of extra pertinent chapters, and I'm there.

So the embarrassment of riches is having two books pretty much complete, a third book done except for a little polishing, and a fourth book ready to send to the editor.

The only reason I've been holding off with finished books is that I don't want to overwhelm my publishers.  

And I'm writing a sequel to the Golem book, which I'm just working on in the mornings, a thousand words at a time.

So I'm still on a roll, even though I feel way more distracted these days than I did when I started. When I started, I had only one or two manuscripts to think about at a time. I doubt I'll ever get back to that.  Hell, I've got the five Lander books I want to finish, the two Deviltree books, the fantasy trilogy that I've already written.  All these books need work, but I intend to finish them. 

Friday, August 21, 2015


This is the first time in 8 1/2 years I've purposely not made a blog entry.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Clean up stage.

I'm kind of in a clean up stage.

Tuskers III almost ready to go. I want to give The Last Fedora, a final pass through, which is a new step for me, but one I feel I need to take to be 'professional.'  I intend to make Blood of the Succubus, a longer book, at least 80K words, instead of the 60K it is now. I need to get Gargoyle Dreams, in shape enough to send to my editor.

So that's all going to happen from now until October 1.

No new projects until these three books are shaped up.

Then I want to write the second half of Tuskers IV.

And then and only then will I be able to write the long delayed third Virginia Reed adventure (set right here in eastern Oregon, about The Lost Blue Bucket Mine.)

I suppose it's good I have all these books to work on, but I miss writing the first draft of something.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It's a superhero universe, and we all just live in it.

Over the years, I got a little away from the big publishers, Marvel and DC.  Marvel was always problematic for me, because I was not a natural Marvel reader.  I'd read what I thought were to better titles, but the continuity heavy interactive universe was hard for me to scope out.  I mean, I got it mostly right by paying attention to what was selling and what other people were selling or saying and by reading the industry news.

But deep down, I just wasn't a Marvel guy.

DC I understood much better, though I was probably equally lacking in knowledge of the continuity heavy interactive universe of super-heroes.  I loved the Vertigo titles and ordered heavy.

I thought I was pretty good about Dark Horse and Image and the independents.

The result was that I probably didn't do enough Marvel and DC and a little too much of everything else.

I'd often get compliments from the types of people who read that kind of thing -- which was, is, and always will be a influential minority of comic readers.

Influential, but not necessarily lucrative. That is, they'd pay me in compliments more often than in money.  Or they'd tell me I didn't have enough of the critical hits (even though it often wasn't selling.)

The turning point was the big 100.00 Acme Novelty Library that was sold-out all over the country during a Christmas season.  Years later, I still have it.


So I tried to curb my need to get the "critical darlings" and pay more attention to the baseline Marvel and DC superhero comics that are the bread and butter of the industry.

Along come Cameron and Matt, who really deep down like that stuff, and things improved.

I gave Cameron the responsibility for ordering comics, and things improved even more.  Especially in Marvel graphic novels which seemed impossible to get right.

Anyway, I was working last Friday, and about 8 new people I didn't know came in to pick up their subscriptions, and they were all enthusiastic and into that world and it really hit home that the store was reorienting in the right direction.

Oh, we'll still get the critical darlings, but hopefully they are going to be paid for by the next Iron Man comic.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Never too late for big changes.

As long as the book is still in my hands, I figure it's never too late for changes.

I've been vaguely dissatisfied with the way Tuskers III has been going.  I've been fixing it as I go along, but at 3/4th of the way through, I realized that I didn't like a couple of chapters at all.

And it occurred to me that I could cut them completely.

As I've been rewriting, I've been fleshing things out and by now I've added ten thousand words to the original manuscript. Which means, actually, that I can cut these chapters and still have a book.  I have to move a few things around, write a couple of short scenes.

But the new scenes will dramatically clarify the action.  I just have to do a little foreshadowing, which shouldn't be too hard.

So at the last minute, I'm going to make these changes and see how they come out.  The book as it is is good enough.  But I think these changes will make it better.

Or they may fuck me up completely....


OK.  Worked on them all evening, and I think it's a vast improvement.  Lost one chapter, or enough of two different chapters to combine them.  Cut some other stuff, wrote some new stuff.

Overall, I cut a couple thousand words.

So I added about 10K words in the 3/4th of the book, then cut 2K words in the last 1/4th, for an overall improvement.  I'm much happier with the book now.  I believe it is much improved.

This book isn't done until Ragnarok pries it out of my cold dead hands.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Feet to the Fire.

Bren has returned her critique of Blood of the Succubus (The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders).

As usual, she doesn't hold back. She holds my feet to the fire.

Many of her word changes make me go, "Hmmmmm."  They are generally more active than mine, and that is usually a good thing. When she edited the first chapter of Led to the Slaughter, I thought she went too active, but when I showed it to about 10 people, every one of them picked her version.  So by accepting most if not all her changes, the book was improved.

It sometimes takes an outside person to see things clearly.

Some of her changes would require the entire rewriting of the book. 

I won't be doing this.

It's not that I'm afraid of the work.  It's that I'm worried about ruining the book.  When I've tried to do the kind of big changes she's recommending, I've most often ruined the book, not improved it.

In other words, there are changes I can do and changes I can't do without risking the whole enterprise.

I push that boundary as far as I can.  More or less, I'll change anything that requires adding or subtracting, or small movement.  But no huge movements of material, that's where I go wrong. No complete changing of approach.  It always becomes a quagmire for me.  I'm better off abandoning the book and writing a new one, frankly.

One consistent criticism of hers is that I give away too much too fast.  That I should hint more at things.  I've tried doing this, and botched it more than once.  In fact, Faerylander has never quite recovered from my original approach.  It may be that it requires more skill than I currently possess.  What seems certain to me is that if I am to do that, it has to be baked into the pie from the beginning and not added later. (Faerylander is the quintessential quagmire...)

I'm still on the rewrite of Tuskers III, but should be done by the end of the week.  Then I'm going to turn to Bren's version of Blood of the Succubus  and try to address as many of her concerns as I can.

This is an extra step for me. I did it for Led to the Slaughter and The Dead Spend No Gold, which I thought benefited the books greatly.  I choose which books to give this kind of treatment.  Tuskers didn't really need it, I don't think. The Vampire Evolution books may or may not have needed it, but I couldn't afford it at the time, nor did I know Bren could do what Bren could do.

Lara of course does the same thing, and does a very good job.  Having two such good editors is a luxury that usually isn't available or affordable, but sometimes comes together.

It's all an investment on my part, an effort to become a better writer.  Everytime I have my feet held to the fire and have to think about what my editors are saying, it make me that much more aware the next time, and I do believe I am improving as I go along.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Quarterly Bend Economic Report.

I love that the Bulletin does this.

Early on, it became obvious to me that Bend's economy is based on tourism and retirement.  Actually, "based" isn't a strong enough word.  It IS the economy.

Nothing since has contradicted that observation.

Housing starts are still way below the peak, though the housing market is supposed to be strong, which just means the housing bubble created such a surplus that we have yet to work through it.

I'm not sure construction jobs are the good strong foundation of an economy anyway -- dependent on the tourism and retirement, right?  And very susceptible to economic downturns.

So get used to it, Bendites.  No point in complaining.  These newcomers and these visitors ARE our economy.

The Great Recession seemed to push back the wave for a short time, but it's up and running again.

Thing is, there is a huge, huge amount of Creative Destruction going on in the tourism and retirement businesses.  The newcomers who don't really have a clue how Bend works, opening businesses that are problematic.

Hasn't been problem for Bend so far, because there always seems to be new people willing to take the leap.

Personally, I just try to ignore the whole spandex/foodie/hipster culture.  I see it every day in the paper, but it doesn't impinge on me, that I can see.

And of course my business thrives from the visitors, so I'm not in a position to dislike it. Go for it, people.

Like I said, this IS Bend. 

The unfit chapter.

I wrote a chapter in Tuskers II that I really liked. I liked the characters, the action, the point of it. It was well written.

In the end, I took it out and replaced it with a paragraph that paraphrased the action.

I've just reached the same chapter in Tuskers III.  Once again, I've decided to take it out and replaced it with a paraphrased paragraph.

There is a version of the chapter in Tuskers IV, told from a different viewpoint, and it appears I'll have to take it out there, too.

In the Omnivore Wars (subtitle to Tuskers III, heh) I have the Tuskers setting off a massive Tesla-like worldwide Electro-Magnetic-Pulse, frying most of the machines in the world.  (Remember, they're Swinesteins) This is an event that runs through the last three of the books, so everything has to be timed by that.

The consequences of the EMP becomes so important, that all the action revolves around it.  It made the plot so unwieldy, that I decided to have two EMP's. A Small Pulse, used the disrupt an early battle, and a later Big Pulse which does all the real damage.  It's a solution, if not an elegant one.

So I've managed to construct the plot so that everything that takes place after the Big Pulse is without electricity.  Complicates things, obviously.  No phones, no lights, no cars.

So I've reached about 2/3rds of the way through Tuskers III, which is after the Big Pulse, and I have one of the main characters out on a scouting trip.  But in the first draft, I have him requisitioning a car from some people in a diner, and driving home.  Well, that can't happen. This is the "unfit" chapter.

So I decided to switch him to a horse, which I like.  I like the rumination that the world has changed forever and from now on it was going to be horsepower and candles.

I looked at the "unfit" chapter and tried to figure out how to keep it with the main character requisitioning a horse instead of a car, and well, it just didn't work.

Instead, I'm just going to have this take place not far from home, have him hop on the horse, and come riding back home. It works, and nothing is lost, and it is actually slightly more interesting.

The more I rewrite this book, the more I realize that the thematic structure of the story is very strong, the plot was less strong with some continuity problems, and the writing was the least strong, with some clunky passages.

So in this rewrite, I'm improving the writing, bringing it up to standards, ironing out the continuity problems, and hopefully added some depth to the themes.

Strangely, no one ever seems to complain about my writing in reviews (knock wood.) It's usually the themes, or premises, or the plot they critique.

But to me -- it's all writing.  Anything can work as long is the writing is good.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

I'm a square, man.

I watched a documentary on Hunter S. Thompson, and I have to admit that Gonzo shit leaves me cold.  Absolutely no appeal

During his heyday, and that of other self-destructive voices like Bukowski, I was trying desperately to hold myself together.  I became rabidly anti-drug, for instance. So the appeal of going too far really was something I shied away from.  Only now, after 40 years of relative sanity am I able to revisit some of those places.

I fell for it a little too much as a teenager. With dire consequences.  So On The Road was part of my reading, and Steal This Book! and other shit like that.

And the writers of those books self-destructed, just like Thompson and Bukowski and so many others.

I can intellectually understand that Thompson may have thought he needed to immerse himself in the extremes to understand the extremes and write about the extremes.  Though I suspect that all the writing was a byproduct, and the excesses a rationalization after the fact.

I'm a square, man.  I admit it.  A liberal square, if you will.  I kind of like moderation.  I think life is fragile enough without pushing it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

We all need room to stumble.

I came across a phrase I really like.  "Room to stumble."

That's what I've been reaching for!  The idea that we all need room to stumble.  A really progressive civilization would give everyone a chance to stumble and not be destroyed. We're not dependent on the next crop, after all.  We're not about to be eaten by a bear if we wander off the path. 

The artist especially needs room to stumble, and learn, and flail around, without the pressure to produce the perfect result. The imperfect leads to the art.

A business that requires that you be better than everyone else isn't the way a strong economy should work.  You shouldn't have to outperform in order to survive.  You shouldn't have to be perfect. There should be enough wiggle room to make a mistake, to stumble.

In politics, the same thing. Some of these social issues aren't easy -- to say the "wrong" thing is almost guaranteed.  The so-called gaffs.

When talking about race, or gender, or social inequality, we need room to stumble. To not get shut down because we say the wrong thing.  As long as we have room to stumble, to rethink what we said, to figure it out.

Let's all be a little more forgiving of mistakes.  In our children, in ourselves.  Let's give ourselves room to stumble, create a society that won't crush you when you do, and one which allows for growth before destruction.

(Damn that is hard.)

This is probably boring to all you non-writers, and I'm not sure other writers have the same experience, but this is how rewriting seems to work with me.

Did 20 pages of rewrites on Tuskers III yesterday.  This is the first time in a long time that I've systematically sat down to revise a novel from beginning to end.  Partly because the book needs it, partly because I've decided that I need to do it to every novel from now on.

Many of my first drafts don't need this, or only need it in parts, but all could probably benefit.

Thing is, I've written more than 20 pages of brand new, original material in a day and not felt anywhere near as tired.

On first drafts, the only limiting factor on how long I write is how much inspiration I can bring to it. So I've spent up to 10 or 12 hours just dreaming and writing, writing and dreaming.  I've worked on scenes that felt like they took 5 minutes, only to look up and realize 4 hours passed.  It's as though I'm visiting a different dimension, where time flows more slowly. Fairyland, indeed.

I can walk away from a first draft feeling pleasantly tired, but not exhausted.  Writing is an energizing thing to do, an exciting thing to do.  I'm discovering what's happening just like the reader is, I get excited by the creative world that flows through my mind.

Rewriting is different. There is a creative element to it, of course. But it is always directed by the more rational, thinking part of the brain.  I'm thinking about each word I'm changing. It is very much an immersive game of concentration. 

It's drains my brain.  I find that I can do somewhere around 5 pages at a sitting, maybe a couple hours worth, then I have to step away.  Generally, I'll go downstairs and listen through an entire album (sometimes two albums) of music, maybe play some solitaire. In between, I browse the Internet.

Only when I've felt some distance, do I come back and start again. If I'm lucky, I've got three of these spurts in me per day.

It really is like doing a job.  Like having to weed the garden, or go to work, or clean the house. Something I need to do, but which I'd rather be doing something else.

I often find that I have to check the last couple of pages I rewrote the next day, because by then I'm flagging. I'm fresher at the beginning and can fix things fast. Then the slog begins.

It's a constant struggle to say what I'm trying to say in the best possible combination.  Making it more active, more personal, more original, more informative, more detail oriented, more moving, more telling, more everything.

It probably never ends. I could probably set this book aside and come back in a couple of months and do it again, and then come back and do it again, but for smaller and smaller rewards.

Today I came across a couple of chapters that I'd already revised earlier, and sure enough I found that I had to change less. I'd already done some of the hard work.

What is very clear, though, is that it really does improve the book.  And whenever I'm tempted to scrimp on the process, I remember that once released this book will be out there in the world next year, and the year after, and for however many years it holds any interest. So spending these hours trying to make it better isn't wasted.  It's really my duty.

I need to be mature and patient about it.  (And damn that is hard.)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Every book is different.

I think sometimes I don't like to rewrite because I really don't like seeing how much I need to rewrite.  You know, like if I ignore it, it doesn't exist.

I read another section of The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders to writers group, and it mostly passed muster.  What it also shows is that not all first drafts are in need of so much work.  Both MPDGM's and The Last Fedora came out pretty much polished, with a little work.

Tuskers III needs the rewrites.  Gargoyle Dreams will need the rewrites.  It's O.K.  It makes them better, it's just harder to for me to gauge them once I start rewriting again.

Tuskers came out without many changes needed at all.  In fact, I'd have to say none.

But not every book is that easy.  Rule of Vampire was that way.  But most of the rest needed either a little rewriting (Led to the Slaughter, Death of an Immortal), or a moderate amount of rewriting, Tuskers II), or extensive rewriting (Blood of Gold, The Dead Spend No Gold, Tuskers III) or endless rewriting (Faerylander, and a number of books that I've given up on for the moment.)

I guess what I'm saying is every experience is different, no matter how much I try to normalize the process.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Carnage on the highways.

Is it just me, or are the highways of Central Oregon Mad Max corridors?  Accidents everyday, more than one a day, fatalities, injuries, mayhem! 

What the hell?

We need something that at least mimics the freeways -- barrier all the way from Bend to LaPine and Redmond.

Like we can afford that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

That's not how a Liquidation sale works.

Cameron had a sports card customer who wanted to know if we'd sell him cards for less than half price.

First of all, at half price, we're already losing money since the markup for sportscards has never been even close to 50%.  More often 25% to 35%.

Secondly, that's not how a "Liquidation" sale works.

Most liquidations sales would start at 20% off, or maybe, if you have time, 10% off.  Then after a set time, you raise it to 30% off, then 40% off, and so on until they are all gone.

I started at 50% because, well, these are sportscards, and it is such a dysfunctional industry that even at 50% you will get complaints.  As Cameron found out yesterday.

This guy was so aggressive that even friendly Cameron was driven to distraction.  I called him up and commiserated.  It is, after all, why I'm getting out of sports card business.  I had two difficult customers in one day a few weeks ago and that was it.  After 20 years of consistently making sports cards a smaller and smaller sideline, I still get the occasional customer who acts like I should bend over for them.

Never complain about the customer.  But since I'm getting rid of cards, I'm not sure "customer" is the right word.

Anyway, back to the sale.  Liquidation sales work because the customer has to guess whether the product they want will still be there when the discount lowers.  It's a bit of a game of Dare.

So going outside the Liquidation prices subverts the whole process.

Anyway, everyone, sportscards are going to be 50% for a good long time, and we will slowly but surely be winnowed down.

I spent a couple of years winnowing down manga and anime at 50%, until I'd sold about half of them, and then I stabilized and started buying again. But I am truly liquidating sportscards until they are gone forever.

I'm in no hurry.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Some reviews of recent shows.

I'm not going to defend True Detective.  At times it seemed like a satire of the Hard Boiled genre.  But I still liked it.  The action scenes were extremely well done.

Halt and Catch Fire was my favorite show for half the season, but it ended up relying a little too much on the characters never, ever, communicating with each other, which drives me nuts as a plot device.

Humans was well done, but...a little too tidy somehow.  Didn't have any rough edges, any zing.  I could stare at the face of the lead female synth all day long though.  If I were her, I'd wear those green contacts all the time.

I started watching Wet Hot American Summer, the series, as a lark, even though I never saw the original movie.  I kept looking over at Linda expecting her to object at any moment.  She doesn't much care for gross-out humor, and I don't much care for embarrassment humor, but after a couple of episodes, it really caught us.  There was something really good natured about it and I ended up caring for these characters, who were about as unreal as possible (40 year old actors pretending to be 16?).  Also, I think this was the most star-stacked show I've ever seen.  They must have all worked for peanuts.

The plot was unashamedly outrageous, well that was the point, but it still worked emotionally, which is a good lesson to a writer -- that the characters count above all.

Strain is cheesily entertaining, and the writing seems to have gotten better as it goes along, and I actually like where the plot is going.  So about a third is just awful reaches for emotional resonance, and a third is entertaining and well done horror gore, and a third is spritely dialogue among the leads, for an overall win.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Clarity will come, hopefully.

Opportunity comes knocking.

How fucking stressful.  I was perfectly happy before.  The Devil comes a'calling.  Temptation.

So whenever this kind of thing happens, I always have to ask myself: "What is the moral high ground here?  What is the best ethical and emotional and moral choice?"

Really, so far it's just possibilities and potential. (But I've gotten one hell of a validation that I'm a writer, thank you very much.)

I also have to remember that I've already succeeded beyond my original goals, by far.  I'm very happy with what's happened and continues to happen.

And I have to remember that the writing is everything.  The book is everything.

So I need to just knuckle down and finish my Tuskers series.  I'm rewriting Tuskers III right now, and I think it's been a valuable experience.  I think I'm improving it, but it is a bit of slog.  I spend hours and look and find that I've only done 6 pages, for instance.  Ouch.

But it should and must be done.

I decided to give The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders one more pass as well, even though it was ready.  I've decided I need to make that extra effort, even if it is costly in time and effort and even money.  All this is an investment in the future.

There are so many options right now, it's got my head spinning.  I'm just mulling them over again, and again, and again, as I'm prone to do.  Clarity will come, hopefully.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Trumpspiracy.

William Jefferson Clinton:  "Hey, this has been fun, Donald.  Good to see you.  I've got to get back to Hillary, we're starting our run next week."

"You're gonna win, Bubba.  I guarantee it.  I know about these things."

"I hope so.  Hillary really wants it.  I wish there was a way to guarantee it."

"No worries.  They're a bunch of chumps.  She'll bury them."

Bill gets a gleam in his eyes.  "You know what would be fun.  Messing with these guys."

Donald spreads his arms, a big grin.  "I'm getting bored with this Apprentice thing.  I think that would be a blast.  Just get in there, say anything that comes to my head, the stuff I usually have second thoughts about.  I wonder what they'd do."

"Never work, Donald.  They're never fall for it.  They'll know."

"Nah.  I've given money to all of them. I've given money to everyone."

"Well, that would be right decent of you, Donald.  See you at the debates!"

"Wait up. I'll leave with you. I just need to put the hair back on."

Friday, August 7, 2015

Missed another day.

I had to go to work at 7:30 yesterday to let the electricians in and then got totally slammed and so I forgot to blog for the second time in the last ten days or so.

So my streak has ended.  With a whimper, not a bang.

I wasn't even going to say anything, but you know, blogging everyday for 8 years was no small accomplishment.

I'll probably still blog almost every day, because I just talk a lot, but I'm not going to worry about the streak anymore.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Rewriting is....palatable.

Unexpectedly, I find myself almost looking forward to my rewriting sessions on Tuskers III.  Hopefully I've found the process that works.  Seeing the story improve is the main blessing, though.

I guess I just need time and distance, and having it squared up by Lara, and suddenly the whole process is palatable.

Linda was saying that if I keep saying "I don't like rewriting" I'm just reinforcing it.  But dammit, if I hate raw onions than no amount of saying I like raw onions is going to make me like raw onions.

Whenever I hit a roadblock like this, I try to find ways under, over, or around it.  So I'm easing into this rewriting in a way that isn't totally uncomfortable. I just need to keep finding ways to motivate myself.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Big Slowdown.

Well, for me, anyway.

I am taking the extra step.  It's not that I wasn't before, but there was a nexus recently where I realized that my books were good enough to pass muster, but that I could make them better.

It wasn't an easy or obvious discovery.  I waffled quite a bit on whether rewriting would improve or detract from the books.  The rough answer is -- if I'm messing with the continuity of the book, it is usually a minus, but if I'm just focused on the rewriting, the words and descriptions and the fleshing out, it is usually an improvement.

Much of it is a matter of timing.  To really benefit from rewriting, I need a minimum of a month away from the book.  When I add in the month or two that it takes to get an editing out of Lara, then a single book starts to take a lot longer to finish.

The problem here is that a finished, polished book doesn't always coincide with when it makes the most sense to approach a publisher.  I've let that timing dilemma go -- the book is everything.  If the timing goes off track, so be it.

The solution, I believe, is to send the book to be edited by Lara in the same timeframe that I need the space for perspective.

The one drawback is that I lose some of the copy-editing polish that I get when Lara finishes off a book.  Instead, I'm using her more as a very diligent Beta-reader.

But I think this works.  First of all, it seems to shape the book enough for me to tackle the rewriting in a straightforward beginning to end process.

At any rate, every book going through this process is going to take at least an extra month or two.

But I think I'm at a point in my evolution as a writer where I need to do this.

While both The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Murders and The Last Fedora: The Gangster Golem Chronicles, are complete to my satisfaction, with a nice solid editing job by Lara, I've decided to give them one more rewrite just to make absolutely certain that they are as good I can make them.

I think Tuskers III is benefiting from that treatment right now. (It probably needed it more, which is why I'm doing it, but in doing it, I'm realizing how every manuscript could use this extra effort.)  I should have it done in time for it to come out at a nice reasonable 4 to 5 months after Tuskers II.  So that then gives me another 4 months -- that's the frequency I'm shooting for -- to polish TMPDGM's and The Last Fedora both.

It seems like an extreme slowdown to me.  I apparently have any number of books in me, but now I'm focusing on improving the books I've already done.  Not as fun, maybe, but necessary.

And it is "fun" to feel that the books are better than they might otherwise have been.

Looking back, I'm still proud of the time and effort I took to improve Led to the Slaughter.  It was going to be my first real book, and I wanted it right.  I worked with Bren on that book, and tried to respond to her criticisms and I think that book was improved by that.  So was The Dead Spend No Gold.  

I've taken that extra step with TMPDGM's, sending it to Bren, because I feel like this is my most commercially viable book.

Most encouraging of all, though, is how much I think Tuskers III is benefiting from this new process.  This is the first time, really, that I've done what probably is normal for other writers.  Write a first draft, get a good beta read and editing, and then go over the book from beginning to end with a thorough rewrite.

It feels surprising right.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Have I finally found the way to rewrite?

It's funny.  The advice I usually hear is to not read the reviews.  I had intended to follow that advice.

But then the reviews started coming in and they were almost all good.  Not just from friends and family, but from strangers.  The few bad reviews I've gotten have been so wrong-headed and off-the-mark, that I can pretty much dismiss them.

That's not to say that someone couldn't write a bad review that was on the mark.  That might be hard to take, but might also be a learning experience.

Anyway, I've found the opposite experience.  Just about the time I'm feeling down and discouraged, along will come a nice 5 star review where the reader had a genuinely good time reading my book, and I think, maybe I'm a writer after all.

Anyway, I'm in the process of rewriting Tuskers III.  I'm doing it a bit different this time.  I finished the first draft knowing it had some problems but sent it to Lara anyway.  Then went off and wrote Gargoyle Dreams.  Tuskers III came back to me from Lara on Friday, and I started going through accepting changes and responding to comments.

Then on Saturday, I sat down and just started rewriting from the beginning.  I'm determined to do this all the way through the book.  So far, I'm 6000 words in, and I've made substantial changes.  Improvements, I do believe.  The kind of filling in that I've always felt like I needed.

This is the first time I've really done it this way, and I can see that this is the way to go forward.

The only downside is that I will lose some of the benefit of Lara's copyediting.  That is, I'm adding so much material that there is bound to be copyediting mistakes.  I'll ask her if she wants to take a quick copy-editing trip through the book (and Lara always asks for this opportunity) but it may be more than she bargained for.  I do have a publisher though who also edits so I may have to depend on this for a complete book.

I've added a third to the book so far.  4000 words has become 6000 words.  If I do that all the way through, I'll end up with a book of 80,000 words, a good 25,000 words longer than Tuskers I and II.

If that happens, so be it.  I'm hoping that the additions are more necessary at the beginning of the book than at the end of the book.

I almost always pack some action into the beginning of my books.  This time I'm taking a more measured approach, which probably somewhat depends on the readers having read I and II.  Which I assume will be almost everyone.

Some of my books have come out pretty much complete, without the necessity of this kind of rewriting.  Tuskers, Death of an Immortal, and Rule of Vampire were all pretty much done from the start. Led to the Slaughter had some rewriting which improved the book quite a bit.  Blood of Gold and Tuskers II needed some rewriting and looking back, I think I would probably rewrite them even more.

But this going through page by page is so obviously a benefit that I'm going to do this from now on, whether I think the book is finished or not.  I think I'm at a stage in my career where I need to focus on improving, not on speed.  I've got plenty of material to work with.

So taking the month or two for perspective, having some help shaping the book through editors, and then sitting down and giving it a thorough rewrite.  This is the way to go.

I often talk about how I hate to rewrite. Well, giving myself a month off between efforts addresses that problem, more or less.  I didn't find it to be so terrible after all. 

Especially when I see the improvements.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tis tales.

Got up at 5:30 to go to the store to open it for the electrician.  We're having all the lights replaced by LED's. 

Much as it was nice to see the sun, getting only 4 hours of sleep wasn't fun at all.  (Of course, because I needed the sleep I couldn't fall asleep...) 

The LED's are much brighter.  I guess we'll have to dust more often.

Had our best day of the summer at the store, I think.  Thanks for not closing the streets Downtowners!

Still sitting on my massive book order.  Thing is -- if sales are so good, while spend all that money?  Why not wait for when I really need it? (Fall and Winter). 

Meanwhile, got Tuskers III back from Lara and went through her corrections.  I'm going to spend several weeks doing some rewriting.  I like the overall ideas in the book, but I think it needs some buffing up, more than usual.  Thinking about it last night, I came up with a little addition that will help.  So I'm hoping to come up with a couple dozen more helpful additions before I'm done.

I've not written for a week now, and it feels a little weird, but I think it's good for me to take a break once in a while.  Getting together with my sister Susie and her family (she's home for a high school reunion).  Going kayaking on Tuesday.

Linda seems to have gotten serious about finishing the third book of her trilogy, and it tickles me to see her doing it. 

Wasted day yesterday.  Too hot and tired to do much of anything.  Blech.

Today I've got to go out and adjust the sprinklers -- our new neighbor came over and told us his trailer was getting too much spray.  Only way to do it is to stand in the water and take what it's giving.  So, warm day is pretty much needed.  Neighbor also pretty much shamed me about the side of the house -- the part that is out of sight and inundated with weeds.  He kept saying he didn't want to be "that guy."  Heh.

Trying to cut back on calories for awhile.  My highwater mark is 200 pounds, and I need to be about 15 to 20 pounds lighter to fit into most of my wardrobe.  I don't feel unhealthy at that weight, but buying a whole new wardrobe seems kind of wasteful.

Looks like I missed a day of blogging the other day.  I've decided it doesn't count, because it wasn't intentional.  As far as I'm concerned, my eight year blogging streak is intact.  If you don't agree, you're a jerk!!!!  (Just agree, dammit.  You never saw it...)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Not a note-taker.

I'm not much of a note-taker when it comes to writing.  I keep most of it in my head.  I mean, I make sporadic notes, here and there, but not consistently.

I always think I'll remember what changes I mean to make.  Then I forget.

So that's something I'm going to try to change.  Start with taking notes, make sure I have a notepad while I'm writing, and then refer to them on a regular basis.

Shouldn't be hard, right?