Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fixed what I could.

All right.

I wrote a flash-forward prologue that is all action.

I moved some chapters around, not introducing the third thread until further into the book so there aren't so many characters coming at the reader all at once.

I've strengthened the motives of two of the main characters.

I put one character's chapter at the very end of part one.

I addressed all the smaller concerns -- mis-named characters, etc.

So...I think it's stronger. Maybe not kickass, but enough that if the agent/publishers are willing to give me the benefit of the doubt and trust the book will be stronger by the end, they would be willing to take it.

If they don't have goodwill toward me, I'm probably out of luck anyway. There are almost as many disadvantages as there are advantages to dealing with the mainstream, so I'm not going to freak out about it.

The book is everything.

Friday, October 30, 2015

"It's a Trap!"

So I've made this a choice between sending off a proposal that may only be half as good as the final book will be.

Or to take a few months to research and write the final book.

The first choice risks that the agent/publisher will reject me based on something that might be better in the future.

The second choice is that I'll spend months on a book and this opportunity will fade. There is a timing to these things -- these guys seem ready for me now. Plus, I really do have other books that I feel like I need to finish first.

As in all things, I'm going to compromise.

I will take another week to ten days to try to get the 100 pages better.

As in all things, the closer a "deadline" comes, the easier it seems to be to extend it. When I set the deadline two weeks ago, it seemed twice as long as it needed to be. (I had the proposal written in the first week.)

Now that the deadline is actually here, waiting  another 10 days doesn't seem so bad.

The agent has told me he'll be happy with a "rough" proposal. But my immediate instincts are, "It's a Trap!"

This is just one of many possibilities for this agent -- easy for him to say that. But it's probably the one chance I'll have to make an initial impression, so I'd best be patient.

So I'm going to work on these 100 pages for a while longer. Maybe continue to write the book because often the later pages can influence the earlier pages.

And then send it off and get to work on The Darkness You Fear, as well as my November Novel Writing project, Snaked.

It ain't done until it's done.

I've mentioned before that I'm not really an outline writer; I discover the story through writing.

That probably goes double with trying to come up with a proposal.

I believe that a book should be judged by it's final version, that every version before that will probably be lacking, more or less. Often I come up with some of the best bits in a book at the last moment, sometimes I finalize the "voice" in the final version, making it consistent all the way through the book.

So this proposal I've come up with for the mainstream publisher is probably no better than half as good as it will end up being.

In other words, the "100 Kickass pages" isn't really possible for me.

My instincts are, given the current version, that the final book will be just fine, but it won't look fine until it's done.

So why don't I write the complete book and then send it off?  Because my intuition is that I don't have that much time. Plus, I have other commitments.

On the other hand, I might be burning bridges by sending something off that is not as good as it will be.

I'm going to work on this for the next few days, and then decide what to do.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Why mess with those guys?

A friend asked me, basically, why I'm even messing with the mainstream publishers, telling me that the path I've been on has been fruitful, and that I need to watch out.

I'm aware of the dangers. I have the same concerns.

Thing is, they came to me. Out of the blue. I'm being given the opportunity to skip all the preliminaries and going straight to the top, to the people who actually make the final decisions. (Someday, when all this has played out, I'll tell the whole story -- the bright opening, the slow responses, the opened door, and ... well, we'll see...)

So a door opened, and I just figured I'd be foolish to not at least poke my head in the door.

Truth is, though, that I'm almost too quirky for even the small publishers. I decided when I started writing that I would write what I want to write without regard to what others are looking for. Which means I have several books that seem not to fit anyone's categories.

This thriller I'm writing is right up my alley though. I mostly read thrillers and suspense these days. So the idea isn't foreign to me. But it is a challenge, and I'm not sure I'm up to it. That's not putting myself down. I think I'm a decent writer for what I do. This is just a harder hill to climb.

The biggest danger, as I've mentioned before, is being jerked around. (Again, easy for them to suggest constant changes with the attitude that maybe I'll produce something magical). My past experience has made me leery of that. Someone pointed out to me, once they've rejected you -- it becomes almost impossible for them to accept you, no matter how encouraging they sound.

So really, I want an acceptance or nothing at all.

I will have to have the courage to walk away.

But I think, because it isn't something I sought but something that came to me, because it is a bonus, and extra, that I might be able to say, "Thanks but no thanks."

Even if my proposal is accepted as is, and I'm totally aware the odds are low, (it doesn't cost them anything to dangle the possibilities in front of me), I'm going to tell them that it will be the first of the year before I can really get going, because I want to finish The Darkness You Fear and Snaked first.

Bottom line, I've got to do this on my own terms. I'm too old the play the game.

P.S. I do have the store as an example. About midway through my career I realized that I was neither making money nor having fun. Since I couldn't do much about the money part, I chose to make the store more pleasant.

I took a hit on earnings for a few years, but when the store built back up again, it was on my terms. And that has made all the difference. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

More Limpass than Kickass?

Read the first 20 pages of my "kickass 100 pages" at writer's group and, well -- they didn't kickass.

I asked for it. And they told me.

So back to the drawing board.

Slept on it. I think I can punch it up a little by starting with an action scene from toward the end of the book, and then flashing back.

If I change the order of chapters a little after that, and try to tighten them up, I should be able to get across what I'm trying to do.

I've always thought this book would benefit from research, but I'm not going to do the research without a contract, and maybe I can't get the contract without the benefit of research.

So it may not happen.

I just keep telling myself that's OK. This isn't my kind of book, ordinarily. I gave it a shot, but in some ways it would be a relief to go back to my previous way of doing things.

I still think the book is a good idea though. But if they can't see that...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The "Hot Hand."

For years, I've been touting the fact that there is no such thing as the "hot hand." No such thing as the "zone" that athletes talk about. It's an illusion.

That "career years" and "streaks" get rounded out by statistics.

Turns out, there is some doubt now about those studies. A mathematical error I don't understand.

So maybe there is such a thing as the baseball looking like a basketball to a baseball hitter, a hoop looking five feet wide after all.

Why did I tout this? Even though my intuition and instincts seem to tell me something different?

I think it was a way for me to reinforce persistence as the  most important attribute in any enterprise. The race doesn't always go to the swiftest, the smartest, the whatever, but to the guy who hangs in there, keeps trying, working, learning.

If you do it long enough, the statistics even out -- you'll have the "hot" month or year, just by an average result.

So for instance, my feeling was that if I wrote 30 books and they were consistently strong efforts, that statistically one of them would be "hot" just through the law of averages.

So now what?

Well, it doesn't make much difference, once I think about it.

It just means that if I write 30 books, that at some point along the way, I'll have a "hot hand." The same persistence applies. Heh.

Or it just proves I'm going to do what I'm going to do and I'll rationalize the reasons later. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nice to have choices.

Taking another full day off before diving in to the re-writing of the "100 Kickass pages."

I started to feel the grind lift a little yesterday, and realized I need that. I need to put the whole enterprise in perspective.

It's a flyer and need to remember it's a flyer. It isn't that big of a deal, one way or another.

Meanwhile, I need to get on with things. I had a nice little plan of getting a book out every four or five months, and thought Tuskers III was going to do that. I thought The Darkness You Fear would come four or five months after that.

But because of the publisher reboot of going into distribution, Tuskers III will be delayed at least six months.

I'm trying to decide if I want to go ahead and publish The Last Fedora: The Gangster Golem Chronicles myself. I love this book, but it doesn't seem fit into a nice genre category. I already have the editing done, and the cover is complete. There is nothing keeping me from putting it out. 

I'm going to sleep on it for a week or two, but I might very well do it.

I have a plethora of projects I want to finish, but I always want to leave the door open to new stories as well. Nice to have a choice though.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Creative without an ulterior motive.

JOURNAL: 10/25/15.

I've been fussing and fretting way too much.

Today is going to be a worry free day. To hell with it. In fact, I'm going to read a book. Yes, that's what I'm going to do. Pick a nice book and read it.

Mow the lawn, go for a walk, watch the Sunday shows. 

But no thinking about my writing. I've worked through all the ramifications, I've a pretty good idea of what's going on and what my reaction will be. Any more fussing, and I'm just churning over the same thoughts.

I enjoyed writing a poem yesterday. Poems are pure inspiration, tapping into the creative part of myself without any regard to results. Because generally, the only one who will read my poem is myself. That is, the joy is in the creating.

I'd like to do more of this. Remember that I can be creative without an ulterior motive.


Sitting high on a red rock road,
Distant traffic on the highway below
Curves cut by trees, and pebbles rolling,
Down a gentle but persistent slope,

Here where no one else has been,
Or will be, at this moment.
Silence, but for a high away plane,
The wind low and sweet.

I doubt myself and my writing,
But my words are what they are,
The story is as the story,
And my job to get out of the way.

The art of the moment,
The words of today,
The musings for tomorrow,
Gone yesterday.

It’s what I’ve always wanted,
Fulfilled as what it is,
A gentle, persistent warning,
Not to stay dormant.

To live on a red rock road,
Distant from these worries,
Set apart from the world,
A land of my blessed own.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Personal scales.

I've always made up personal scales to gauge my writing. I don't know if they bear any relation to reality, but they are useful tool for me to feel like I'm making progress.

So when I started writing this time, this was my scale:

1-4. Better off doing something else.
5. Minimum necessary to continue writing.
6. There's something there, but pretty amateurish.
7. Worth reading. Something that is pretty close to competent.
8. A book worth publishing.
9. A good book.
10. A classic.

Now the later numbers shift into a more of a kind of logarithmic scale. So the difference between a 7.5 is higher than the difference between 6 and a 7, and so on. A 7.8 is higher than the previous difference, and so on.

So I felt when I started this time around that I was probably a 6.5 to start with, because of my previous experience with writing. (Back in the 80's before I took classes and wrote a lot, I was probably a 5.)

Now, looking back, I think Led to the Slaughter went to an 8 right off the bat. I think it was a book worth publishing. At the time I published it, I probably thought it was a 7.5, so I admit I've been influenced by the reaction to it. I think Tuskers is a good solid 8.

If you think that's being hard on myself ("What, you don't think you wrote a good book?") my definition of a "good" book is a high one. It's the book that everyone just has to tell everyone else is a good book, the kind that best-sellers are made of, and so on. Classics are on another level altogether.

So, anyway, put that to one side.

Lately, I've been trying to gauge the effectiveness of rewriting.

Most of my stories comes together in the first draft. My feeling is, if I don't get at least 70% of the way there in the first draft, I probably don't have a book worth pursuing.

So assuming that I get 70% of the way to a competent book, I can get to 80% of the way there by paying mindful attention, making sure it all works.

So how do I get to the final 20%?

I have to spend at least as much effort as the first 80% -- and take about the same amount of time.

The arduous task of rewriting, of sending it to an editor, and then rewriting again.

All for just 20% of the result.

But on a Five Star Review system, 20% is the difference between a 4 Star and a 5 start. More importantly, it's the difference between a 3 Star and a 4 Star, and most importantly of all, it's the difference between a 2 Star and a 3 Star.  (Any less than a 3 Star -- I get it, you don't like me.)

It's hard when you know that you're 80% of the way there for half the effort, but I told myself I would make the extra effort this time, and I think it's the right thing to do. These books are going to be out there with my name on them forever, so taking the extra times makes sense.

Again, these are personal scales -- something I use to try to improve. I don't know if they are real or not, but they seem to work to motivate me.

Most important thing is to keep writing.

My goal is to finish up the first draft my mainstream book proposal, the "100 kickass pages," today or tomorrow. I have one chapter left to write, then a rough outline.

Then spend the next eight days getting it edited and doing a quick rewrite.

Finally, send it off and try to forget about it.

Whatever happens, I'm good with it. As I keep saying, I'm happy with the ways things are going. This whole mainstreamy thing could be an overreach and disruptive.

I want to be careful about that.

I'll accept whatever happens.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Another word for patience is Limbo..

So I expected to succeed or fail, but it seems that more often than not I'm in some sort of Limbo.

In my previous writing career I used to call it "Sending it into the Void." Long, long waits for tiny responses. Six months, a year, even a couple of years. It wasn't flat rejection, in fact the publishers would even say that, "Be encouraged! We're still considering it!"

Or "This book would be improved if you do..." this and that. And since they were editors at the top of the pyramid who were telling me these things, I would rewrite to their suggestions and send it back...and then have to wait another six months, a year, even a couple of years.

It was like I was being punished for being almost good enough.

So I'm leery of the "almost" limbo state.

The last editor I dealt with said this: "If your next book is as good as this I'll publish both."

So I wrote the next book, and he said: "This book is better, but I've decided not to publish both."

Now in hindsight I can see that I was at the door, that I was close. Everything I read later told me that getting letters back from editor-in-chiefs was a rare thing. But it was too late, I'd gone on with my life. I was on to running my store and having a family, full time jobs. I put off writing for 25 years.

So when I came back to writing I felt freed by the idea that I could just publish myself. No waiting, no approval necessary. Just do it.

And then...I started getting a little bit of response from the small publishers, which has led to other small publishers, which has, I don't know.

But it has led to a sort of Limbo.

Books of the Dead seems to be in a kind of Limbo right now. They've told me they want to publish my next Virginia Reed novel, so I'm doing that. I like the idea of consistency in the look and feel of the books.

Ragnarok is making the leap into bookstore distribution, which by necessity means that everything is going to be delayed, even rebooted.

I've got another small publisher interested.

I've got another opportunity which I want to keep vague but which could be big or could be nothing, but means long, long waiting.

Nothing is keeping me from writing, but the backlog is getting bigger, because I really do work at it, and I really do produce. These novels are waiting for opportunity. Not to mention all the novels that have healthy first drafts but which I've left in....well, Limbo...while I write my more current stuff.

Nothing wrong with being patient, but I kind of liked the immediate production and feedback I was getting from the small publishers.

I don't want to do anything rash. But it appears that the alternative is...Limbo.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Being dragged into the writing business.

I'm really working hard at this folks, really hard. So much for it being a nice little hobby.

I never intended this to happen. Submitting proposals, writing books on demand, writing to meet the needs of the publishers.

But the doors open a little bit and I think, "I can't let that door close" and off I go.

In other words, I'm having just enough success to drag me in further.

Nearly done with the "100 Kickass pages" of my mainstream novel proposal. Going to give it a rewrite and a rough outline for the rest of the book, and probably a synopsis, then send it off and forget about it.

I submitted The Last Fedora to an editor I haven't dealt with before, and he rejected it because it wasn't the type of book they normally published. At the same time he told me he'd loved Tuskers and if I ever wrote another "creature" book he'd be interested. Turns out he'd written a positive review of Tuskers and I didn't even know it. So I perhaps have another publisher as a resource.

That's pretty much the hardest part, finding someone who's interested from the start, so that's pretty cool.

Amazingly, within a couple of hours I thought of a neat "creature" idea I could see myself writing, as well as a title I really like.

However, I have to finish my Virginia Reed book before I can do that. And possibly the mainstream novel after that, if anything comes of it.

I have several books done that I'm beginning to realize are neither fish nor fowl. I mean, I think they are good books, but they don't seem to fit any normal categories. I'm just sitting on them for now, to see if anything else happens.

If I establish myself enough with other books, then I can pop them out as self-published books and they have a chance of being noticed.

They are just as good as the books I've published, or may be publishing soon, but the "premises" of the books just don't seem to fit anyone's needs.

But that doesn't mean they might not fit some readers needs, I hope.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Writing the "Real" world.

Up to now, everything I've written has been genre. Fantasy, horror, historical, etc.

I was sort of amazed when I tried to write about the real world in my Vampire Evolution Trilogy and Tuskers, but there was always the genre hook, the little step outside of reality.

This mainstream book I'm writing is a genre, I suppose. Thriller type. But it is much more firmly placed in the "real" world.

There is a specific sub-culture it is placed in, for instance, the members of which will probably judge the accuracy of what I have written.

When I wrote The Death of an Immortal, I had police involved, and sure enough it was pointed out to me that I had jurisdictional problems. I didn't think it was so egregious that it couldn't pass. But I do think readers have every right to expect things to be correct.

I've avoided police procedurals, therefore. And science-fiction. And other detail specific genres. Better to take a step back or to one side, and be able to write from my imagination.

Anyway, with this new mainstream book, I've really got myself into a situation with a couple of subcultures that I'm trying to get right.

A lot could be solved if I'm allowed to set it, say, five years in the future. I can adjust the jurisdictional issues and procedural problems by explaining, basically, that things have changed. In other words, impose my impression of the real world on the actual read world.

A bit of crutch. I don't want to make it science-fiction, however. I just want a little space. Plus it will be fun to involve things like self-driving cars, drones, and other near future things -- and a gender neutral President of the U.S. heh.

I think it still works effectively as a thriller, better even, but also allows my more egrecious inaccuracies to be excused.

The book is going to require a huge amount of research and fact-checking, even so. So much so that I really kind of want my proposal to be accepted before I tackle it.

So this first draft is more or less off the top of my head, my own version of reality, with constant checking of Wiki for details and facts.

It's the kind of book I normally read, actually. So it isn't at all unfamiliar to me. So I'm having great fun with it. When I have these big bursts of inspiration, I know it's the right thing to do.

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's the premise that counts.

Writing for me isn't a matter of whether I can do it. I seem to have a lot of creative energy. It's a matter of choosing which direction I want to go. If I choose a project, I can generally finish it.

I'm learning that it really isn't the writing that counts, it's the premise.

Of course, you have to deliver on the premise, but that seems to be a given -- publishers expect you to be a competent writer, that's the starting point.

The selling point is the premise.

I think I've had some decent premises, which I'm pretty proud of. But they have limited reach. Only some people want to read about hyperintelligent wild pigs on the rampage. Only some people are interest in historical horror, with werewolves and Bigfoot and ghosts.

It's a self-limiting proposition.

There are advantages to exploring a niche, you are more likely to catch the people who like that specific premise, but there is also a built in ceiling.

On the other hand, a bigger premise, let's say vampires, isn't specific enough for reader of vampire books to want to read your book specifically.

So what I'm trying to do now is write a thriller, which has a much bigger reach, but to have a specific premise within that broader category.

I think I've done that. We'll see.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

My grown-up book.

In the middle of writing, The Darkness You Fear (which was going well) I switched over to my mainstream book.

The task is to come up with "100 Kickass pages and a killer synopsis." If I can pull that off, I have some people interested who could really advance my career. (Listen to Sheesh.)

They love me and my writing, but they don't like "horror." The message I got was, that the very people I'm currently publishing with are the guys who are doing a good job of that, but that the big NYC publishers aren't really interested in the genre.

So they want a mainstream book.

Well, I've had an idea kicking around forever, and I threw it out there, and they seemed to really like it.

Once I started writing it, it just came splurging out. I'm already 50 pages in, and I have a pretty good idea of where it's going. I think it's pretty good. Fun.

Thing is -- by writing genre books I've been able to write around my weaknesses. I could have everyday, if quirky, characters, who I could at least make marginally believable. People I could relate to. Or characters from the distant past, who if I don't quite get them right, who's going to know?

Strangely, characters in distant or strange worlds are easier to make believable than characters who parallel the real world.

Grownups, if you will.

Now I'm writing a thriller, dealing with what I've always termed "Suits." Grownups who wear suits to work, who live in the world I've always avoided.

I'm 63 years old, so it may sound strange, but what the hell, I've owned a comic book store for 35 years!  I've worn a suit once in all that time, to my son Todd's wedding. It's gathering mothholes in my closet, I presume, because I've never looked at it since.

So people in officialdom, people of power, people of finance and law and government. What the fuck do I know about that?

What I know is what I read.

And yet, people are people. While I may not be getting all the details right, I do think that I'm getting the essence of their personalities. And that's the most important thing. I'm getting it better than I thought I would.

The experience of writing my genre books which are set in the current world -- Tuskers, the Vampire Evolution, Faerylander -- those have given me some confidence. To my great surprise, I found that it was actually easier for me than the fantasies I used to write.

I can take the full advantage of my rather broad if superficial knowledge of the world.

If I can't do it, I'll find out, and I won't be crushed. I think it's a pretty good book -- the thing is, it is probably going to need extensive research and fact-checking, and frankly I'm not going down that road unless the book is already accepted.

So...we'll see. If they pass, I'll know that's not a path I want to pursue. I'll go back to what I was doing, which I was perfectly happy doing.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Afraid of overreach.

I don't really like to stand out.

(Oh really? Writing in a blog every day for nine years? Owning a store? Constant Facebook posts? Writing books? Me, me, me!)

Odd statement, I'm sure. But when I was depressed, oh those so many years ago, I always felt like everyone was watching me, judging me. That was followed by years of agoraphobia, which I still have a touch of.

So my fondest desire in those years was just to fit in, you know. NOT be noticed. Walk in a crowd and be one of them.

I've never cared for riches or status. Respect yes, status who gives a fuck. Honestly don't care about possessions or wealth, but do want some security.

So in most every way that counts for me, I've been successful. After years of struggle, the business is performing well enough for me to take time off to write. My writing has resulted in books being published and more than a few people reading them. I've got the greatest wife in the world -- I still love her madly, and respect her more than ever. Todd and Toby became admirable men. My cat...well, lets not talk about that.

I don't wear any clothing that will make me stand out -- I don't even wear hats. My hair stays within unremarkable perimeters. My way of handling crowds these days is to remind myself "It isn't about me" and to try to blend in.

I see nothing wrong with middle class values. Sorry. I think they are just fine. I live by the rules generally. I try to stick to my own code of ethics. Be honest and forthright and try not to criticize (my biggest failing) and be modest and nice to others (again, a failing) and I do my civic duties.

There have been a few times when I was on the verge of stepping out from this comfortable stasis -- and almost every time I've self-sabotaged, which I can usually only see in hindsight.

I do think it is important that a person not overreach. Don't reach for something where you are going to be bad at it, not just for your own sake but for the sake of others who might be depending on you.  I'm not a Live For Today kind of guy. I don't think this makes me a coward, I think it makes me prudent.

Basically, success will come when it should come, and it should be organic, and it should feel comfortable.

I know all this runs counter to the American Way. I've often advised other business people to slow down, to not try to expand or duplicate too fast, but it always falls on deaf ears, because by God that's not how it's done!  

Fame and Fortune seems to be the ideal. Everything on TV and the Movies and Books and every other form of media pounds that message into us.

I'm more of a stoic. What you think of me is your business, not mine. I live by a set of standards, and it doesn't matter what the outside world thinks of that.

There is nothing wrong with being modest. Nothing wrong with living your life without fame and fortune. Fame and fortune would be a pain in the ass, frankly. (Well, maybe not the fortune.)

Not that any of that is likely anyway.

I'm currently taking a step which is a little outside my comfort zone. It probably won't succeed anyway, but I'm going to try. I'm going to attempt not to self-sabotage myself. I will take one step at a time, and if at any point it becomes something that doesn't fit my self-image, if I have to make too many compromises, I'll let it go.

I'm not saying it's overreach, per se, but it definitely takes me away from my comfortable middle-of-the-road-existence. Then again, it may turn out to be just that. Modest success.

Weirdly enough, that's kind of what I'm hoping for. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Semi-secret mainstream project. 100 Kickass pages.

I've more or less gotten the go ahead on my semi-secret mainstream project, which is either going to be a big thing or no thing at all.

But the idea seems to have some momentum, so I'm turning my attention to that. Virginia can wait a little, as much as I love her.

This project, which I prefer to keep vague, may very well be above my talent level, but I'm going to give it a try. We'll see.

The powers-that-be seem to think the premise I proposed is a good one. Now all I have do is write, in their words, "100 Kickass pages."

Sheesh. No problem. Easy.

Just "100 Kickass pages."

I'll just toss that off.

When I started writing, all I wanted is a fair hearing. So I'm about to get one, and if I can't deliver, it will be on my head. That will be all right. I'm probably a "niche" writer, and I'm comfortable with that, but I at least had to try to do this mainstreamy thing.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I'm comfortable in that world.

For some reason, the world of Virginia Reed feels comfortable and familiar to me. It's the same West I live in, separated by a century, but the same terrain, the same ethos, if you will.

There is a feeling that settles over me, one that draws from my childhood of exploring, of hunting, fishing, backpacking, boonystomping, hay bucking, horse-riding, skiing, canoeing, and so on and so forth. Back when Bend was a lumber town of 13,000 people.

All of that is still accessible to me. I can go directly into the High Desert if I need inspiration. There are wagon routes just outside of town that were blazed by John C. Fremont. Truly.

I also grew up when Westerns were still a thing. Most of TV was dominated by Westerns, there were the books, there were the movies. The Western feeling pervaded the media. 

This latest book is based on a famous incident that happened in eastern and central Oregon. I can literally follow much of the same route as my characters. 

Meanwhile, I love the Virginia Reed character, and so far I've found interesting companions to her.

I had a transition chapter to write yesterday. Virginia had received a letter from an old acquaintance, asking for help. So she leaves her ranch in California and heads by steamship to Oregon City.

I thought I'd spice it up a little by having her attacked by werewolves.

So a sinister character is following her, and then they meet.

And the guy is interesting, and he isn't a werewolf, and he suddenly becomes her sidekick.  Angus Porter is his name, and I really like the little guy.

I had this book all mapped out, I thought, but so far it's been going in unexpected directions. Starting with the next chapter, I moving into the essential core of the plot, so I'm expecting it to be more like what I envisioned.

But, as always, my subconscious will decide that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Writing mainstream.

I'm considering, just as an experiment, writing a more mainstream book. Nothing supernatural at all. Not fantasy or S.F. Maybe a thriller of some kind.

Just to see if I can do it.

I have several books to complete first. I want to finish The Darkness You Fear, and do the rewrite of Gargoyle Dreams, and I have the fourth Tuskers to complete. I may also want to rewrite The Last Fedora, and finish The Last Sombrero.

So the "mainstream" book is something I can contemplate in the meantime. I have a rough idea, which I think might work.  So...

So much to write.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The personal miracle of writing.

Writing is such a miracle. A personal miracle. Three days after starting, I'll have 9000 words on paper. More importantly, I'll have characters coming alive, doing things. And it feels real.

I've learned how to do this. Get up in the morning, drink coffee and read the paper. Take a shower and get dressed. (Important, this -- I can't write in my bathrobe.) Very often I get my starting point and or scene while I'm showering. Maybe eat some brunch, then go to one of my three places where I write, the downstairs office, the couch, and my bed. These days I usually start on the bed.

Then, usually, several hours go by while I'm lost in my new world. When I stall, I put a pillow over my head and ruminate. If I fall asleep, that's OK. Often I wake up with the idea I needed. Mix and repeat.

I get up, have some snacks, wander around a little, then go back to writing. The important thing is the stay in the fictional dream. To have that "feel" for the world I'm in.

Often I'll finish by 4:00 or 5:00, which is pretty early, but once I get that 3000 words down, I stop. I like to save up creative energy, start fresh with every session. I will sometimes read through and correct obvious mistakes.

I most often read what I wrote to Linda, who will point out if I've gone off course, but usually tells me it's good. While reading aloud I'll often catch things and correct them.

Then I let myself relax a little. Do some chores, watch T.V., that kind of thing.

When I go to bed at night, I try to get a glimmer of where I want to start the next day. But only a glimmer -- I hold off anything more than that.

If I get stuck, sometimes I'll take a break and try for an evening writing session. Sometimes I'll go for a walk in the Badlands. Sometimes I just do that for a change of pace. It gets me out of the house. Writing is a very solitary activity.

So I sit down, and I do this every day, and 3 days later I have 9000 words, and 14 days later I have 32,000 words, and so on.

Like I said, a miracle, that works to revive my faith in life whether anything else happens or not. It just feels good to do, and it feels like what I should be doing.

A personal miracle.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Short reviews.

The Bastard Executioner is incoherent. Motivations are upside down and backward. Pretty bad. Sorry for all the people who loved Sons of Anarchy, but I felt the same way about that show.

Watched The Last Kingdom last night. Much better. Sympathetic characters, at least. But it feels a little too mainstream, if you know what I mean. What I'd like is something fairly extreme, but which makes sense.

Speaking of which, Linda and I have been binge watching, Mr. Robot. Great show. Very dark.  I'm liking it a lot.

Meanwhile, I thought Fear The Walking Dead was horrible. The last two episodes were OK, like a middling Walking Dead episode, except that the "heroes" did some pretty despicable things.  But the first few episodes were truly awful. I know, I know. "But the people didn't know about zombies!" blah, blah, blah. All the defenses I've heard. Stupid is stupid, whatever.

The Good Wife is brilliant as usual. Whenever I think I might be writer, I just watch that show and despair. Oh, well.

Castle. I'm done. Really done. Manufactured drama. It's gotten very tired.

I enjoyed the first two episodes of Scream Queens, but they have finally done it. Three shows at the same time I want to watch -- and I can only tape two. So I'm letting it go.

Gotham has been very good. I'm glad they're going there -- to the darkside. There is zero chemistry between the two romantic leads, but other than that, I think it's right on.

Agents of Shield. Kind of a mess. Never really congeals into anything very meaningful. But entertaining enough.

The Martian. Good movie. I predict some idiots will think it's real. Heh.

Binge watching is all well and good, when it's 10 episodes or less. But I've never felt like I had the time to go back and do Soprano's or Breaking Bad, no matter how good they are supposed to be. American Horror Story is becoming the same problem. Too much.

"I hate spunky!"

I read the advice long ago, before the Internet, that the way to get your mind off a submission is to write another book. It's true, I tend to get more anxious when I'm not writing, which isn't very often fortunately.

I tried to outline this new book, but there is only so much I can do before I start writing. The thing I need to do is stay conscious of where the story is going and make course corrections.

I wrote the first chapter yesterday. I wanted an "action" chapter to start it off, just like I did the first two Virginia Reed books.

This one turned out a little different. First of all, it's told from Virginia Reed's perspective. I'm still wondering if I won't end up writing a chapter to put before this one told from the perspective of one of the victims.

Anyway, I knew that I wanted Virginia Reed to be off somewhere by her herself, without her husband Frank, and that I wanted her to be in her Canowiki aspect, fighting monsters.

I started writing it from an Eastern Washington location, the conceit being that she writes a letter home to "Dear husband" about how similar it is to their ranch and how much she misses him.

So I started off in Spokane, for some reason. But within a few minutes, I caught mention of the Marcus and Narcissa Whitman Mission massacre, to the south in Walla Walla, and looked it up, and was amazed to see that it happened in 1847. Since it is now 1851 in my fictional world, it was the perfect situation for Virginia to investigate.

I love that. It's like the universe arranged it for me somehow. It's like I've been given the go-ahead, approval for my scenario, thank you very much.

I'm pretty sure I've assembled the right characters, the right format, and most of all there is a theme that is strong enough to carry a book.

Now I just need to get into Virginia's head, which is fun to do because she's so spunky.

("I hate spunky!" Lou Grant.)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hey, there.

Interesting start to my Virginia Reed book. I wanted an action chapter, and I wanted Virginia to be away from home, and the next thing I know, I'm in Walla Walla four years after the Whitman Mission massacre and Virginia is discovering that it isn't Indians who were the perpetrators, but werewolves.

He, he.

Meanwhile, I posted a message earlier today that I had to remove.

Suffice it to say, for reasons beyond my control but are probably good, Tuskers III will not be released in October. I'll tell you more when I can.

I'm so glad to be back to writing again. I just hope I don't go on too many sidelines like I did on the very first chapter. On the other hand, I really like it.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Officially starting the 3rd Virginia Reed Adventure.

As of this week, I've started The Darkness You Fear: the Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine. Roy at Books of the Dead has more or less given me the go-ahead.

It's set in eastern Oregon, so I'm going to try to fit in a couple of road trips before the snows fall.  Try to follow the path of the lost wagon train as best I can.

The first week has been about trying to outline the book. So far, it's been coming up with story ideas, which are coming relatively easily.

I'm pretty excited to do this. Virginia Reed is probably my favorite character I've written, and it's nice that she is the main character.

I've got a bunch of research books to go through, as well.

I think this has real possibilities. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Doing taxes.

Basically, I'm always using the extension period. What I do is throw everything into a cardboard box all year long, set it aside in January, then a week before seeing my accountant, I lay everything out on a table and fill up a Dome type bookkeeping book. 

Pretty easy. No accounts receivable. Just money in and money out.

We'd certainly make more money if we both worked 5 days a week, but that's the cost of writing. Plus, I tell myself that I worked superhard for decades -- 60 hour weeks, probably.

Ironically, I think having Cameron in charge has actually helped sales, because he's much more up on the current comics than I ever was. Matt too. I had a lot of hobby horses that cost me money (art books, indies, cards, designer toys) and he doesn't have that handicap. Marvel sales -- the big kahuna -- are way up. I could never figure out what graphic novels to order from them.

Plus both guys are way better with the public than I would be if I was working 6 or 7 days a week. Working the hours I am now, I can remain cheerful.

So it really works out.  It only took 30 years to happen. Heh.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Impulsive or patient?

For me, it takes a weird combination of both to get anywhere.

I need the impulsiveness to take the first big step. If I think about it too long, I'll usually talk myself out of it. Sometimes I'm not quite ready, but if I try to wait until I'm ready, it also never happens.

But once committed, if I actually get a response from the first impulsive move, then I try to be very patient.

So for instance, I've made some impulsive moves over the years in my business -- the biggest is jumping on a location and opening a business when I have the chance.

On the other hand, I've been very, very patient in my downtown location, through all the ups and downs, despite not having enough space, despite some of the inconveniences.

Once I set down a path, I'm very patient and rarely quit.

So too in writing. Almost all my approaches to publishes has been a spur of the moment thing. Then once there, I try to be very patient, wait for things to develop.

In the store, I'll often impulsively decide to carry a particular product line, but then I'm patient about developing that product lines, sometimes for years, before it finally takes hold.

So...I don't tend to move much, change much, but when I do it is generally impulsive.  But once I start, I just keep on going.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Outlining and rewriting: two things I don't like to do.

Two things I've been fighting the necessity of for a long time.

Outlining and Rewriting.

Of course, all the advice is that you should do both, but I just couldn't seem to work that way.

Well, guess what? After having written quite a few novels, I've come to the conclusion that I just can't afford not to do both things.

By outlining, I mean a pretty firm handle on the plot, the character, the theme.  By rewriting I mean -- when I think I'm finished, do it one last time.

So I'm trying to install both of these steps into my process.

My first full outline is going to be The Darkness You Fear. I want to know where I'm going before I start.

Obvious, no?

Well, I didn't like outlining for a long time. Oh, I'd do a rough outline as I went along, but I usually was only a few chapters ahead, until at least half the book, and then the rest of the story would come to me. Still rough, but a general idea. Sometimes this works fine. Sometimes it leads me down blind alleys.

I felt like I couldn't discover the story without writing it, and I was afraid outlining would detract from my creativity. So it's been a real Catch-22: I can't outline until I write the story, I can't write the story effectively until I outline.

I've now had enough experience to realize that the more I outline, the better off I am.  So I'm trying to think it through as much as possible.

For instance -- when I decided to rewrite of Blood of the Succubus, I had a very good idea of what I needed to do.  In other words, an outline. And it came so smoothly. I wrote to specifications. I didn't get sidetracked, I didn't mess with the continuity. It didn't seem to detract from the creativity at all.

As far as the rewriting is concerned -- in truth, I always ended up doing that final rewrite, but each time it was touch and go as to whether I wanted to do it or would do it or whether I thought it improved the book.

I've come to the firm conclusion that it helps.

What I feared was the dreaded Word-Jumble, which definitely happens, but I've decided it doesn't matter.  So what if I fall out of love with my book? -- I've improved it so that maybe other people will like it more. That's the price I pay.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Too sexy for my resume.

Woke up in the middle of the night worried about publishing Blood of the Succubus under my own name.

I had an image of someone  -- maybe a young person -- reading Led to the Slaughter going to BOTS and being offended, or vice versa and being disappointed.

I believe it's a worthy book. I think it deserves to be published. The sex in it is not gratuitous or over the top -- but there is a lot of it. The sex is integral to the story, not the reason for the story -- but it is still there almost in every chapter.

How much is too much? What is explicit? How will Amazon treat it?

One solution would be to publish it under the name D. M. McKinnon. Not try to hide the fact that it's me that wrote it, but distinguish it as a different creature. Of course, if it is successful, it removes any benefit to the Duncan McGeary brand.

Thing is -- I want to distinguish it, but not disown it. In other words, I want it to be proudly published, and I'm perfectly willing to own up to having written it, but I want to make sure that people know that it is a different beast.

I suppose it's not a problem until it's published, but I need to think about all the ramifications.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Getting into the Western mood.

I'm getting ready to start The Darkness You Fear: Ghosts of the Lost Blue Bucket Mine, which will be the third Virginia Reed Adventure.

Roy at Books of the Dead has assured me that he's ready to publish it.

So I've already spent a lot of time in Virginia Reed's head and world. It's the Western world.

I grew up there. I grew up in Bend when it was still a small logging town. I spent most of my childhood traipsing around the countryside, hunting, fishing, skiing, bucking hay, going on trail rides and otherwise living an outdoor life. (Pretty different from now, heh, but I always just wanted to stay home and read and now that I'm an adult, that's what I do.)

I'm glad for all these experiences. I feel, for instance, that I can often get the mountain scenes right, especially the snows, because I spent so much time there. Or the desert scenes. And if I need a reminder, well, I can just head out twenty minutes in any direction and get any kind of Western feel I need.

I also grew up when Westerns were ubiquitous on TV and at the movies, and when Western novels were more widespread.

All in all, I feel like it's in my bones.

So I want to settle into that particular mood, live in that particular world for a few months.

I liked The Dead Spend No Gold, but I made it harder than it needed to be by straying a little from what I did in Led to the Slaughter.

Virginia needs to be the primary character. She needs to be in 2/3rds of the book.

And using Journals was a great way to impart information and move the story and reach for a realistic feel to the West.

I'm going to map out the plot a little more than usual this time. Spend a week or two just thinking about it before I start.

I have taxes to do by mid-month, and I want to tidy up the garden for winter, and maybe get out of town for a couple of days. (Hell, head into the High Desert and take notes.)  I may even make a trip to Baker City and just get started.  Sounds like fun.

I'm ready.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

This publishing thing is complicated.

This whole publishing thing is more nuanced, complex and ambiguous than I expected.

I didn't go into it completely naive. I was published 35 years ago and I knew that the game wasn't what I thought it was. In fact, the more I researched it, the more complicated it got. That played at least a small part in my not writing for 25 - 30 years.

Of course, Amazon and ebooks have complicated that situation even more.

There are all kinds of things going on behind the scenes that I can't talk about, because it all takes so much time to play out. Their timeline is not my timeline. These developments look hopeful, but you never know. They at least look promising enough to try to go down that road.

But I do sort of miss the; Write a book, publish a book, thing that I had going there for awhile. Of course, this option always exists. If all these other avenues are explored and nothing comes of them, then I can always self-publish. I think self-publishing is gaining more and more credibility. For instance, did you know The Martian was self-published?

I don't go that route now because I like having other people do all the work, I don't have the skills, and I hate promoting.  But when the day comes, I can do all those things. That's always been my fallback position. Fallback positions that were almost first choices are a nice thing to have.

Besides, I've already succeeded beyond what I expected, so it's all bonus from here out.

Meanwhile, I keep reminding myself that writing the book is what counts. Nothing happens until I write the book, and the better the book, the more that happens.

So concentrate on that.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Collating two drafts.

Trying something new. While Blood of the Succubus was off being edited by Lara, I decided to do a little editing myself.

Now I have to collate the two.

Actually, I've done this before, and told myself I would never do it again. I would have to go from version to version and it was confusing and time-consuming.

But now I have two computers to work with, side by side, and that should make it easier. 

We'll see.

Almost done. This book has had the most work done on it of any book that I actually finished. (Faerylander has had more work, but it has never been released. Maybe Deviltree, also not released.)

It's as good as I know how to make it.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

So would dope make me more creative?

This time around, all my writing has been sober.

My last writing, in the 1970-80's was somewhat fueled by beer and wine. Basically, a lot of wine at first, and then as I tailed off, a little beer to get my butt in the seat and concentrate.

In the 30 years between, I slowly quit drinking.

Still, I wondered if it would help and I've tried a couple of times.  The answer seems to be, yes it will sometimes help, for maybe a chapter or so, if I was willing to pay the price of being miserable for a few days after. It only helped in the rewriting (which I don't like) not at all in the original draft.

At that rate, it would take me a year to edit a book under the influence. For marginal improvement.

So in other words, no.

So would grass (as I called it in high school) help? Marijuana is legal in my county as of today. I'm always open to the idea of anything that could help me in my writing.

I suspect, not so much.

Besides, when I did it in high school it made me really, really paranoid. Not pleasant at all.

I do remember having some revelations. Waking up to find the revelation was: "Peanut Butter."

And I've always told this story.  I went back over my journals in high school year ago, and a pattern was very clear. I'd have some entries where I was planning to do this, or do that. Lots of activity.

Then I'd smoke dope and for the next week I did nothing at all.  I mean nothing.

So it totally removes all motivation for me.  Not to mention, I isolate myself already and this would only accelerate that.

It's not like I was going to do it, legal or not.  Linda has never been a drinker -- as in, maybe a total of a couple sips in a lifetime. So I'm not going to lead some separate life from her, for either alcohol or grass.

But I'll always wonder -- would it help in the creativity?