Saturday, December 31, 2016

One book of research down and nine to go. "Fire on the Mountain," by John Maclean. I'd already read and underlined this book, so it was simply a matter of going through and plucking out things.

Added about 1000 words of telling detail. Tried to be careful, picking only the most revealing facts. The book is up to 94, 500 words. Wouldn't mind if it came in around 100K words.

This research is all about adding vivid detail and accuracy.

The last rewrite will be all about going as deep into the POV character's heads as I can.

That is at least two steps more than I've done with any other book.

I hope it shows.

Another interesting thing keeps happening. I get these random additions coming out of nowhere. Just little snippets of dialogue, usually.

For instance, one of my little research items was a firefighter saying, "Fire suppression doesn't require a penis."

Which I stole, of course, changing it up a little.

Right after that, I thought of having one of the non-firefighting characters say, "I admit. I've always been a firefighting groupie..."

For which she gets a little slapped down, but know, I liked it.

Kinda cool. I suppose if I kept my head in a book even longer, I'd get even more of these. But it's a little bit like starting my car in order to drive to the mailbox. A lot of effort for a short trip.

LATER: Read "Young Men and Fire" by Norman Maclean, the father of the author of the above book, and author of "A River Runs Through It."

Didn't take me long to realize there wasn't much I could glean from the book, except to soak it up. Very poetic and philosophical. A beautiful book that I decided to finish even if it didn't have as much utility as I was hoping for.

Probably going to read "The Big Burn," Timothy Egan, next.

Thinking of a new title, by the way. "The Fire Came." Sounds vaguely poetic. I haven't been comfortable with most of the titles because they accent the terrorism angle, instead of the firefighting angle, the opposite of what my book does.

Or "Terror by Fire," which does play up the terrorism angle, but is more active.

I'm convinced the perfect title will come, but it's been over a year of searching. Very unusual.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Went through a year's worth of newspaper clippings on wildfires. Most of them had the same content--global warming is kicking our ass. But once I've said that, I'm not sure there is much more to say.

Most experts figure about half the increase in fires is due to climate change, and half to weather cycles.

Some interesting facts. 14% of homes in Oregon are in jeopardy from wildfires. There are 66 million dead trees in California. There are 70 million acres that are in danger. Every degree of temperature increase creates more lightning storms; rinse and repeat.

I inserted these facts and others throughout the manuscript.

Interestingly, there isn't a single policy where there aren't two sides fighting it out, which is part of the problem. Everyone sues everyone and nothing gets done.

But they can always do another study.

Today I'm thinking about writing a new scene, to include the Yarnell Fire. A movie is coming out next year called "Granite Mountain" which is about this disaster. It's the only new scene I'm contemplating writing in this draft, and it's to bring to life some of the dry facts of the chapter immediately proceeding and immediately after.

There is a great book here somewhere, and I'm clawing my way toward it. I challenged myself with this book and that's a good thing. But I may have overreached my skill level. I really wanted to get across the danger and size and the pathos of it all.

I'm not done yet. I'll just keep at it until I can't think of anything more to do.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lost a week. To this thing called Christmas, and to a horrible flu. The workaholic in me says, "got both out of the way at the same time..."

As of today, I'm starting my research for "Fires of the Djinn." I skimmed "Young Men and Fire," now I'm going to read it from beginning to end. After that, I'm going to read "The Big Burn," by Timothy Egan. I have a dozen other firefighting books, so I'll decide after that which one to tackle. Giving over the whole month to this process, which seems like an incredible luxury.

I am going to go ahead and try some agents. I don't really have to wait to do that. I can send my first three chapters. I don't expect much, not because I don't think I'm good enough or the premise isn't good enough, but because of the way the process is currently overwhelmed. No one's fault.

I'll publish it myself on May 1st, if nothing else happens.  This book was a challenge--maybe a little beyond me, but I gave it my best shot.

My New Year's resolution is to get back to reading again. At least a little everyday. This year was probably the least number of books I've read in my adult life.

I'm trying to slow the process down, hopefully without losing momentum. Every time I think that might happen, up pops a little story out of the blue like "Said the Joker, to the Thief." So far, I've never had to worry about having ideas.

I woke up the other day having completely rewritten a movie I haven't actually seen based solely on a review. Made the movie better, too. Which is my subconscious saying, "Dude, let's get writing!"

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Coywolves, hybrid surprise.

Been trying to think of another "creature" book. It can't be something hokey. It needs to have some merit.

I've been thinking Coywolves.

Hybrids of wolves and coyotes, most of them have been the eastern red wolf coming down from Canada and the coyote. They did the western grey wolf as an experiment.

So what would happen if the researcher realizes the the Coywolf she's been testing has been tricking her, smudging the results. She goes back over the research and realized, my god!, that the western coywolves are considerably smarter then they let on.

She hears a noise behind her.

The Coywolf enters the room.

I think it will need more than this. Some other element to make it work.

Oh...and Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Got a cold.

Linda's had it for a week, so I thought I was going to escape it and then if fell down on me like a ton of bricks. I've barely left my office, which is the only room I can keep warm enough. Other than that, I've been laying on the couch and shivering.

I'm glad my work day was yesterday, not today, but I'm worried about the Toby and Todd, who are coming to visit tomorrow. I told Linda to warn them, but I'm not sure she has.

She wants those boys HOME!

Writing? YOu  should have seen how many tipos I made in this short note...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The "Fires of the Djinn" is probably over my head.

I'm trying hard to make it believable, but I'm not sure it's possible. I'm 30 pages from the end of the first rewrite, and I've made it better, but it is still a stretch.

I like writing in the "real" world, but I am always aware that it is only a facsimile of the real world. Maybe all writers feel that way. It is the facsimile that readers want; the real world is what they live.

Thing is, I still think Firefighters Versus Terrorists is a neat premise, and likely to be timely, so I had to try. It probably contains some of my best writing....but is still difficult to pull off.

After the holidays, I'm diving into research with the goal of adding enough verisimilitude to hopefully make the whole story plausible. Plausible is probably the best I can hope for.

The point of the second rewrite will be to make it as realistic as I can. But there are elements to the plot that probably make that impossible. I should have stuck to ground level POV, instead of making it "big." (Astronauts, big wigs, L.A. and San Francisco, Jihadists, etc.) The "big" part came from that agent telling me to do that and to write "100 kickass" pages. 

If nothing else, this has been a good learning experience. It still possible I can pull this off. I'm giving it time and doing my best.

I've decided to go with the plot as is, because the changes I was contemplating probably won't make the story any more plausible, which is the reason I was thinking about the changes. So no point.

Hopefully, readers will give me the benefit of the Suspension of Disbelief long enough to enjoy the story. What I can do is try to ramp up the tension, make the action scenes vivid. The overall plot arc is what it is.

Writing "Said the Joker, to the Thief" was a reminder that in fantasy, everything works, as long as it is internally consistent. Writing "I Live Among You" was a reminder that a straightforward first person narration eliminates a lot of the space and time problems.

It's probably time for me to figure out my strengths and weakness, and do the first and avoid the latter. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"OA" review.


One of the great pleasures in viewing this 8 part series on Netflix was knowing absolutely nothing about it. I'd advise anyone reading this who hasn't seen it


Go watch it.


The first episode started off intriguingly enough. At first I wasn't sure if it was going to be a police procedural, a mystery, a S.F./Fantasy, or a drama. (Kind of ended up being all those things...)

Each character is given time to be fully developed, which held true throughout the series. I'm not sure I can remember a series that so expertly and completely fleshed out characters in such a believable way. Which is especially impressive given the unlikely scenario.

The characters mostly live in a half empty subdivision, in big houses surrounded by large spaces. They are just as separated by emotional distance. The five people who the OA picks to help her also come from completely different circumstances.

There's a great scene in the high school cafeteria near the end of the series where you clearly see how these five people belong to completely different cliques. And yet, they develop a bond with each other that turns out to be deeper and more lasting than those with their friends and family.

The five and OA have something that the outside world simply can't comprehend. It just looks strange and inappropriate to others.

The middle aged high school teacher is a beautifully drawn character.

There is a wonderful scene in the first episode where the OA pretends to be a parent, and she tries to get one of her Five off the hook. She finds out that the boy had hurt another student, and the teacher--very appropriately, it seems--is calling for his suspension.

Going into this, you think there is no way the OA can convince the teacher otherwise, but the scene is written so beautifully that by the end, not only is the teacher convinced--which could have just been a plot point--but the watcher is equally convinced.

This scene is when I knew this show was something special.

If I wasn't already convinced, the last 15 minutes of the first episode was one of the best plot swerves I've ever seen. It goes from being tight and dark, to open and colorful and beautiful, all in the space of a few seconds. It's as startling as Dorothy's landing in Oz. Really great stuff.

The rest of the series is just as well-written and surprising. In the end, you're not sure what really happened, but the emotional catharsis among the characters is more than enough explanation.

This series is so deep and textured, that I find that just describing some of the first episode and intimations of the ending is more than enough. The last 7 episodes are equally rich and mysterious. We meet another Five, who we get to know just as well. The parents and the villains are fully formed and believable.

Linda and I have been trying to decipher the series for days.

Goes without saying, the writing, the acting, and the production is as good as I've ever seen. I'm hoping there'll be a second season.

23 pages again of editing on "Fires of the Djinn." Took all day.

No comment.

One thing I'm noticing. The more I rewrite, the less confident I am about my abilities. Makes a certain sense. After all, I'm seeing everything I did wrong. I try to fix it, but I don't quite get the "perfect" combination of words, mostly all I've done is improved them, sometimes only slightly. It's even possible that I'm taking two steps forward and three steps back. It's uncertain.

When I'm writing my first draft, I'm usually feeling pretty good. My imagination is taking concrete form. What I'm putting down on the page seems good.

But once I open up the process to criticism,  that good feeling starts to dissipate.

I'm being careful to try not to overdo it. I think a "light" touch is a good approach because I know from past experience that sometimes rewriting doesn't liberate the words but stifles them. I focus on being clearer, sharper, adding detail. I'm pretty sure overall that it's an improvement.

As I've mentioned before, this is for the reader not me. I'm trying to connect the story in my head to the reader in a form they'll understand better.

I'm probably just being too tough on myself. Linda says not to second-guess myself, but that's the thing about rewriting. By definition it's second-guessing.

I think there is also the fear of mucking it up.

I'm going to spend more time on the rewrite than I did on the original draft. It's a chore. Like vacuuming the house. It's not something I'm eager to do, but it cleans up the space, makes it more pleasant to live in.

Each little session, I have to resort to self-discipline, and I'm a lazy bastard.  Since I can only do about five pages per session, I have to screw up my self-discipline later in the day for the next five pages, and then do it again. I wear myself out on the self-discipline, therefore I'm giving myself time to fail. I procrastinate like crazy.

Time is the only thing I have to offer.

Today--"Hey, Linda! Let's go see Rogue One!"

But then,  I have four hours before I leave, room for a couple of 5 page sessions.  So I'm sitting here at the computer writing this rather than rewriting.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

23 pages. That's all I managed in 7 hours of rewriting on "Fires of the Djinn."

Blows my mind how slow this is. But it is what it is.

I have about 5 days of this before I finish the first rewrite. Figure I'll probably take a break for a week for the holidays, then start the two weeks of research and the two weeks for the final rewrite around the 1st of the year.

I've added about 8K words so far in this rewrite, so I'm at 90K altogether. My guess, by the time I add the research and final rewrite, I'll be at 100K, which is a good size for a thriller. I know for one thing that I'm going to add at least one chapter to the next rewrite, and consolidate about 3 chapters.

I have to be careful about adding too many cool firefighting facts to the story just because I have them. Whatever details I add from research need to be completely pertinent. Mostly its about verisimilitude. I want to give the impression of plausibility, if not outright reality, which will be hard.

I have about 10 firefighting books and a couple of dozen newspaper clippings. I'm going to pick 5 books to read. (I've already read a couple.) I want to try to nail the firefighting "experience." I suppose if I could get a volunteer to read it who actually has experience, that would be cool.

I want it to be plausible, but remember that I'm writing fiction.

There is a possibility that I'll add a little section at the beginning of every chapter chock full of facts. Let the reader bypass them if they want. That will definitely push the book to 100K even with the consolidated chapters.

The story is hanging together much better than I thought it would. I have no trouble keeping track of the multiple storylines and VP characters. I will probably add an hour by hour timeline to the final draft.

It's going well, if slow. I just have to remember that I'm not in a hurry, at the same time I keep the motivation up.

Friday, December 16, 2016

For every minute I spend rewriting/editing, I have to take an equal amount of time off.

Roughly, I can edit about 5 pages in an hour.  But then my brain simply stops functioning. All I see are words.

So I have to go off and do something else for an hour, then come back. Sounds easy enough, right? Except every time I come back I have to remotivate myself. That's hard.

Editing uses a different part of the brain, somehow. Here's the thing--you might think I'm disciplined because I write so much.  When I'm writing the first draft, it's all fun. I'm not tired at the end of a session, I'm invigorated. I stop myself from writing more than about 2000 words because I know that I'm always fresher when I start so I save it up for the next day. But it's fun for me.

Rewriting? I just have to knuckle down. I'm intellectually lazy. So I need to impose the Five Minute Rule (do something for five minutes and usually I'll keep going.)  After about an hour I look up blurry eyed and have done some good work.

I can see the improvements. So much so that I probably shouldn't just settle for one rewrite, but do several. Arrrgghhh.

Given enough time, I can do that. Time is what I need, and time is what I have (knock wood.)

I gather from what I read that other writers have the opposite experience. The writing of the first draft is the hard part, and settling in on the rewrite is what they enjoy. If so, I'm awed by their dedication. Because there is no way I could tackle the hard part if I didn't already have a complete book in front of me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I was going to read my new 1st chapter of Fires of the Djinn to writer's group last night. While I was waiting, I read the first page and decided it wasn't ready.

I've gotten into a habit of what I would call a "casual" style. I'm looking for smoothness, a fast pace, characters who are easy to get to know, maybe even a little humorous.

I decided that this chapter needed to be completely serious from the beginning. In fact, most of the character changes I'm making are more or less trying to make them more "adult," if you will.

This looks to be one of those "learning" books, where I'm trying to be different. Basically, ever since Freedy Filkins, I've been going with a light, fast style. I varied somewhat from that with the Virginia Reed novels, because of the content. But most of these later books are pretty light, on purpose.

So I'm going to attempt to make this book a little more serious, not because I don't want it to be fast, fun and entertaining, but because I think the change in style will make it all those things. Less adjectives and adverbs, more direct action, almost no modifiers. Few if any offhand comments. Straight ahead.

Obviously, there is another rewrite ahead of me, but first I'm going to finish this one. I'm about 60% of the way through.

Up to now, my way of trying to improve was by writing one book after another. Some rewriting, but mostly, either the book worked or it didn't and I went on with the next book.

I think this was the right thing to do, actually. I really did learn a lot this way, but I feel like I've plateaued in quality.

Personally, I think Snaked is a good book. It is kind of the result of all my writing. I can continue to write on that level...and maybe I should.

But because I'm ahead of the game, I figure I can give myself the Gift of Time. I'm not sure how much I can affect the other variables--I mean, I'll continue to learn by doing, but my talent level is what it is. the one variable I can change is time. How much time I give between drafts and how much time I spend actually rewriting. Obviously, how many times I rewrite. Those factors can all be affected by the time I spend.

Even if it doesn't work out--I fuck it up--I'm not too worried anymore about being blocked. I can write books, no worries. So I'll spend a little time in the trenches and see if it does me any good.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It if for you, dear reader, I put up with this torture.

Rewriting is a Pandora's box of choices. Every sentence, every word can be changed or moved.

I try to stick with what's natural, sometimes seems impossible to find the right mix. Each word change affects the next sentence, which affects the next. Before I know it, I'm down some path where I don't want to be or completely lost or at the edge of a cliff.

I change a character's motivation, and that changes one scene, which affects another character, which changes another scene, and before I know it, I'm tangled up in knots.

Meanwhile, I start to lose the feeling I had when I first wrote the scene, so now it is the words that matter, words which are representative of those feelings but aren't the feelings.

But isn't that exactly what happens to the reader? They don't feel those feelings before the words exist, the words are there to create the feeling.

So I try to make sense, try to keep the words flowing, try for surprising but satisfying ways to say things, try to smooth out the inconsistencies and clarify the confusions and sharpen the action.

It is for the reader, because the I already know what the scene was supposed to do, I know the story in my head. But it came out on the page missing elements, or with too much emphasis on the wrong things, or out of order, or with awkward phrasing.

So it for you, dear reader, that I put up with this torture.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Because of my slow progress on the rewrite, I started working out a schedule yesterday. Five days for this, five days for that, five days for the next thing.

That helps get things done...but....

Random improvements on plots and characters keep coming to me. Just little wisps of thought, maybe only two or three per day, but all of them helpful.

Thing is, if I was doing my usual rigorously scheduled thing, these thoughts would have never come. I would have been past them already, onto the next thing.

So maybe this slowdown is a good thing. Maybe I should just try to stay in the fictional dream and see what comes.

 So once again, I'm backing away from an enforced schedule and letting myself drift a little. I have a general "do some editing today" goal, but nothing more. Let my subconscious keep filtering things to me.

The ideas on how to change the book keep coming to me, so that means my subconscious apparently wants it done. I was at my writer's group Christmas party yesterday (which unlike the actual group, always get a big turnout, heh) and I was talking this way, and someone said, "SO...there's another Duncan you're talking to?"

I joked it off by doing a nervous twitch, but...well...yeah. That's how it feels sometimes.

Yesterday, I added some character development to the second chapter. I like it, but now I'm worried there is too much in the chapter. I may have to cut something else.

This is what I'm talking about. I can never be sure that the changes aren't making things worse, instead of better.

I guess I feel that I've reached a place in my writing where it is basically competent and readable, everything is done right,'s just missing a little something extra.

Since I can't inject myself with something "extra" the only component in the writing where I have some leeway is in the time I take to do it. So I'm adding time, as much time in the rewrite as in the original draft, and seeing what comes of it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

This rewrite of Fires of the Djinn is something new. I'm going slow on purpose, to give myself time to think about what I'm doing as I go along.

The book is fine the way it is. I like it.

But I'm trying to figure out how to make it better. Up to now, I've had two different reactions to my books. Either they didn't work and they needed work to bring them up to standards--and I have about 9 books sitting in my computer that are like that. Or I've written books that I thought were fine, some needed a little work, but mostly the stories were good, and those I have published or plan to publish.

This is the first book I've written that I thought was up to standards, maybe the best thing I've done, but which I also see ways where I might be able to significantly improve it through some pretty big changes.

One thing I notice when I read is that it feels a little flat--which is deadly. It occurs to me that I just don't have enough character conflict. Now one of my pet bugaboos about stories, especially on TV, is phony conflict.

But it does serve a purpose, even if it doesn't hold up to examination. Arguments and bickering add a little tension in a scene that wouldn't ordinarily have it.

I'm perfectly willing to add "action" scenes that aren't totally necessary to spice up a story, so why am I leery of adding character conflict?

If the conflict is inherent in the characters, then I think it's good. In order for that to happen, I think I need to delineate the characters a little more. I've gotten in the habit of making most of my characters "likeable." I think that's important, but that doesn't mean they have to be warm and fuzzy. I think back to Barbara in Tuskers, who was a hard-ass, but ultimately a likable character.

So I've been going through all the major characters and sharpening them up and looking for where they conflict, and I think I've figured it out.

I'm also thinking of cutting several chapters that feel fuzzy to me. I like them, I impart a lot of information in them, but I think I can dispense with them. I've thought of a way to add an action scene where the story has slowed down.

These are the kinds of changes that can disrupt the whole book. As I said, a perfectly fine book.

It scares the hell out of me.

I'm going to go ahead and finish this rewrite before I attempt that. Bank this version, then see what I can do. If I fuck the newer version up, which is more than possible, I can always come back to this one.

Friday, December 9, 2016

That was a little scary. My main laptop wouldn't let me post anything on my blog.

Thing is, if this became permanent, there wouldn't be anything I could do about it. My old computer lets me do it, so it maybe a problem with my computer.

But the point is--there is no human at Google to contact.

A few years ago I wanted to add ads to my blog and they turned me down, no explanation.

I'm pretty sure it was because they couldn't believe all the material on my blog was original. That I was some kind of aggregator.

Ironically, ALL of my material is original. But when you post entire books along with a blog or two every day, it probably LOOKS suspicious.

But I couldn't contact a human and reasonably explain. This is the most worrisome part about our glorious tech future. A robot decides and you just have to accept it.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Took a stab at a synopsis of "Fires of the Djinn."

"In the tradition of Michael Crichton, "Fires of the Djinn" suggests an all too possible near future "what if".

After ten years of drought and budget cuts, the western U.S. is a tinderbox. Two survivors of the tragic Indian Wells fire in Oregon have become rivals. Big Mike Norris is convinced the National Wildfire Service is relying too much on technology--satellites, cameras, and drones. While agreeing that manpower is more important than tech, Cory Cantwell has chosen to work from the inside.

But someone else is paying attention. Terrorists have figured out that "One man, one match" can do more harm to the US than high tech bombs.

As the west explodes in flames, the terrorists strike. Bigger than the Big Burn and the Great Tsecho fire, the cities of the west are in the path of firestorms with the potential to be larger than any ever known or imagined."

I'll refine it later. :)

I'm about a third of the way through the first rewrite. I still like it, a lot, but I think I was doing it a disservice to call it a "thriller." It's a bit more thoughtful than that. I have quite a bit of research into wildfires and climate change and such, that I think are interesting and add verisimilitude.  I also spend the first third of the book developing characters. So it doesn't start off with the pulse-pounding immediate danger of a Lee Child or John Sandford book. That's not the book I set out to write.

But the last half of the book is all action!

There isn't as much wrong with the book so far as I imagined. I have to pay attention to the timeline from here on.

The research I'm planning to do will have to be measured. That is, I can't overload the book with these details. 

I'm going to take the first 3 chapters to writer's group and send them to Lara and get them as good as possible and then send them to agents. No harm, it's easy to do. So far most agents aren't even sending me rejection letters. Just nothing. 

How can agents ignore the combination of terrorism and wildfires? Easy, I guess, but I think they're missing a bet. Both subjects are going to be in the news a lot over the coming years.

Anyway, if nothing happens, I will probably publish this myself in May or so. It kills me that what I think is a pretty good book is likely to be ignored, but that's the state of the business right now.

Suggestion for the synopsis from a Facebook friend, Jerrod Balzer.  Not bad. 

"Ten years of drought and budget cuts turn the western U.S. into a tinderbox. While two rivals struggle over the best actions to take, terrorism creeps in to strike a match. In the tradition of Michael Crichton, "Fires of the Djinn", this powerful "what if" engulfs the landscape in a firestorm the United States has never before seen."

My take:

Ten years of drought and budget cuts turn the western U.S. into a tinderbox. While two rivals, survivors of the tragic Indian Wells fire, warn of the danger and struggle over the best action to take, terrorism creeps in to strike a match. In the tradition of Michael Crichton, "Fires of the Djinn", this powerful "what if" engulfs the landscape in a firestorm bigger than the United States has ever seen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tuskers III is live at last!

It's been a long wait for the ebook. This was supposed to come out in October, 2015, but my publisher, Ragnarok Publications got all ambitious and decided to distribute in bookstores, which set the whole process back.

The physical version of this book came out about a month and a half ago, but I know the vast majority of my readers are ebook readers, so it's been frustrating.

I hope people haven't lost interest in my pig saga. The evolution of Tuskers and the devolution of man continues, leading to the big climax of Tuskers IV.

My book sales are at their lowest point since I started. I think it's easy to lose momentun unfortunately, so once again I'm asking my faithful blog readers (I have 53 followers at least) will buy this book. Please.

And you might enjoy it!

Love you all,


Monday, December 5, 2016

Ideas often come to me in just little wisps of thought, like a slight breeze that you wouldn't ordinarily notice.

I have to pay attention. After already having done the rewrite of chapters 1 and 2, I had some further ideas and worked on those yesterday. I especially improved the character motivations in chapter 2, which has been a problem chapter from the beginning.

I decided I needed to introduce Nasim, the main terrorist protagonist in the third chapter, started to read the chapter, couldn't find much to change. By then, I was through for the day.

So really, didn't do what I set out to do, still stuck at 23 pages.

But just wandering around the house, (too cold and wet for my walk) a tiny little sliver of thought came to me--use only one of the flashbacks in the chapter, and save the second flashback for the next chapter featuring Nasim.

It's a thought that could have come and gone without notice, if I wasn't hypertuned to this kind of thing these days.

Ideas don't come solid and announced, they come as fleeting notions.

Often, they'll return. I had the idea of showing Cory's burns a few days ago, then forgot, and then yesterday remembered again.

It's interesting to me in this it is completely subconscious thought--given out of sequence, and that it doesn't announce itself firmly, but just as sort of "well, there's this..."

My original plan was to research for a couple of weeks and then give "Fires of the Djinn" a full rewrite. But it's been over a year since I wrote the first half of this book, so I decided I needed to familiarize myself with the story.

So I'm going through a full rewrite, adding 5 telling details per -page, THEN I'm going to do the research and add the elements as I come across them, and THEN do another (less intensive) rewrite.

Should take me between a month and a month and a half. I don't seem to be able to do more than about 25 serious pages of rewrites in a day. I don't know why it is so draining. But my brain just stops cooperating after 3 or 4 hours. I always think I'm going to take a few hours off and come back and do another 3 or 4 hours, but I rarely do.

Like I said, this work.

But really, I can see the improvements, to both the writing and the story. There is no excuse not to do it.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

These are going to be boring blogs for a month or so--or at least, more boring than usual.

I'm rewriting "Fires of the Djinn." (The current favorite title, over "Lucifer's Forge.") I'm contemplating the tagline, "One terrorist, one match."  It's my firefighters versus terrorists thriller.

The dreaded rewrite. Linda says I should quit saying I "Hate" rewrites, because it makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but to me it's just confirmation.

The rewrites are absolutely necessary. Not only that, but they are part of my effort to improve my writing. Give the rewrite due consideration, lay out some time between finishing the first draft and rewriting to gain some perspective, and then systematically do the rewrite, giving it the time it needs.

Try not to ruin it.

I think the first draft is fun for me, but maybe not as fun for the reader. The second draft isn't fun for me, but probably produces a story that is more fun for the reader.

Managed 20 pages yesterday. That seems to be my limit, more or less, when I'm not just browsing. When I knuckle down. I set a goal of adding 5 "telling details" to each page, and I mostly did that.

I can see why the second chapter, which was originally the first chapter, didn't work. But it is totally necessary, so I've just got to try to make the characters more sympathetic and the action more interesting.

It has also become very clear to me that the introduction of the main villain needs to happen in the third chapter, not the seventh.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Wrote the first chapter of "Lucifer's Forge," so the first draft of the book is now complete.

I had this vague notion of trying to duplicate the feeling I got when I read "Young Men and Fire" many years ago, but the book wasn't what I remembered it to be. It was much more matter of fact than I remembered.

The artistic part of the book was impossible to copy, because he layers the same event over and over again from different angles. He creates motifs that only work because of that layering. For instance, he calls the significant physical locations "Stations of the Cross" which is brilliant in concept and execution. Very emotive because he has laid the groundwork.

I've always wondered how to telegraph great emotion in a few words or images. The best example I've ever seen of that is the first few minutes of the Pixar movie, "Up." Hell, any movie that can get me to cry about characters that I've only known for a few minutes is pretty brilliant.

Anyway, I wrote the chapter using some of the events of the Mann Gulch fire, such as the foreman lighting his own fire and laying down in the ashes, who lived. The speed of the fire, the run for their lives. Trying to sketch their personalities in a few sentences so their deaths mean something.

Tough to do. Probably didn't pull it off, but it's still a better beginning than what I had before.

10 Year Anniversary of Blog

Ten years ago, I was so concerned about housing prices in Bend that I Googled "Housing Prices" and "Bubble" and discovered that there were such things as "bubble blogs" and that there were several in Bend.

I read them for awhile, then made the joke that I was going to start my own and it would be titled "The Best Minimum Wage Job a Middle-aged Guy Ever Had" which was a joke I'd been using for years in my store when people asked "How are you doing?"

Then I went and did it.

I've never had trouble writing stuff. Hell, I restrain myself, mostly.

I wrote every day for the next nine years. EVERY day. It was only this  year that I finally let a few days go by without a posting. I probably still hit 95% of the days.

The nature of the blog has changed a lot over the years. First it was about the housing bubble, then it was about my business, and finally about my writing. With each change I shed a bunch of readers and picked up a few readers.

But this was always about self-expression more than anything. I'd been keeping business journals for years before I started the blog. The journals were probably a bit more candid, or at least there was a lot more bitching and moaning (believe it or not) because they were designed to relieve my need to tell everyone about everything. (Especially Linda, who'd hear me say the same thing a thousand times with small variations.)

But talking or writing this way is how I figure things out. On the tenth reiteration, something unexpected may happen, which sets me off in a whole new line of thinking.

A little obsessive and self-analytical, for sure. (You think?)

I still enjoy this, and people have been unexpectedly kind to me.

So I figure I'll just keep going.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The purgatory between books. Such a strange feeling, not to be writing.

So the sooner I start again, the sooner I'm out of purgatory.

The task of making "Lucifer's Forge" realistic--or at least, plausible--has been intimidating. But I like the characters and the plot, and I especially like the premise (wildfire fighers versus terrorists.)  It's not like that premise won't remain topical.

I just need to have faith that it will all come together.

This is the first test of my new process. I took a full two months away from this book, so hopefully I come back to it with a new perspective. I intend a full rewrite, beginning to end, devoting almost as much time to the rewrite as I did to the first draft.

This is about upping my game.

I think there are three stages  affecting the quality of a book.

Stage 1.) How much time and planning I put into it before I start.
Stage 2.) The actual process of writing.
Stage 3.) The rewrite.

All three stages are affected by how much time I devote to each one.

Stage 1, I still haven't managed to do much about, mainly because my writing tends to be rather impulsive.

For instance,  after He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named was elected, I looked up "All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan because it had the right amount of foreboding to it. I posted it on Facebook with the line: "Bob Dylan: Seer."

For some reason, a short story started coming to me based on the song, so I wrote it. Than a second chapter, and before I know it, I'm writing a novella.

Most of my books seem to start with just these kinds of impulses, and I'm not sure I want to change that.

However, I do occasionally mull over a bigger idea, and for those books, I really need to just pull myself up short and spend a week or two writing notes. For instance, the next Virginia Reed book is going to be about murdered Chinese gold miners in Oregon. So, knowing that, I should sit down and think about it.

Stage 2: I'm happy with this. I've adjusted how much time and how many words I spend each day, how I incubate my creativity, how I fit my real life into the process and so on. I tinker with this, but mostly, I think I've found a very productive method.

Stage 3: This is where I think I can have the most effect. I already know that rewriting is always helpful. I already know that taking time to let it sit is helpful.

So I just need to follow through on this.

The trick for me to to find the proper balance between improving the story and ruining the story. By that, I mean I have a tendency to become rather obsessive, rewriting until I've ruined the story for myself.  It doesn't seem to ruin it for others, may even improve it. But I can't ruin my own stories and keep on writing, so that is something I have to watch out for. it time, both for perspective and to make it not drudgery, is really important. I think a fairly light touch on rewriting is what is needed, not going in and throwing out entire portions or changing things around excessively.

Each time I read a story, I find things to change. But if I do it too often, the words tend to lose meaning, the story fades. Above all, I want to avoid that.

So Stage 3 is a work in progress.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

They're having a sale over at Ragnarok, so you could buy Tuskers I and II for the price of one, just in time for the ebook version of Tuskers III (hopefully next week.)

Coming soon? An audio version of "I Live Among You," narrated by Cameron Saunders?

I'm trying to break out of the limbo I've been in. To bend the arc of reality in my direction.

I've been wanting to wait for Tuskers IV from Ragnarok and Snaked from Cohesion to come out before I do anything.

Well, I've kept writing. I just finished "Said the Joker, to the Thief." Sent it to Amazon Singles, though I'm not expecting anything. But just sending something off was exhilarating and I realized I was missing that. The consideration, even if a longshot, the daydreaming while I wait for rejection...heh.

Anyway, I really like the novella, and I'm going to keep it that size.

Meanwhile, I've decided to publish "I Live Among You" next. I've had in mind something for the open slot of March, 2017 for a long time, and I was just trying to figure out which book is should be.

What's interesting about "I Live Among You" is that it lends itself to an audio version, and the idea of doing that--the adventure and newness of that--is what has decided me.

I approached my Pegasus Books manager, Cameron Saunders, to be the narrator. I think he'll be perfect for it. And his involvement is already paying dividends. He suggested that I cut the last two chapters, and when I looked it over, I realized he was right. So I wrote a few new paragraphs for a new ending and it worked much better.

Why this is a good book for audio is that it is simple and straightforward, in first person, somewhat lighthearted with lots of dialogue. It's also only 50,000 words. It just feels right. I've sent it to my editor, Lara, and asked Cameron to look at it from the viewpoint of how it sounds. Come around mid-January, I'll give it one more rewrite and off we go.

So that will be a new experience.

But up next, the rewrite of "Lucifer's Forge."

Rewriting "Sad the Joker, to the Thief" was actually fun. The novella was an unexpected detour and unexpected pleasure.

I'm hoping I can carry that attitude into my bigger book. I'm way out there in the need for accurate details of firefighting, so I may be over my head, but all I can do is try. One thing I know. Wildfires and terrorists are both going to be in the news a lot over the coming years, and having something topical can't be a bad thing.

Anyway, I feel like I'm moving forward again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I went through the entire 105 page manuscript of "Said the Joker, to the Thief" in one day. Which is pretty amazing. Usually I can't go through more than 20 pages without my brain turning to Swiss cheese.

It didn't need a lot of changes. I managed to shave about 550 words.

This seems like the perfect little story. Of course, I'm well aware it ain't perfect, but right  now it feels like it is exactly the way it is supposed to be, which is pretty rare for me. Usually I have something about a story I don't quite like but which I can't change.

However, it can't be a good sign that the first chapter had over 100 views and the last chapter had only 30. But, well, on my own terms, I think it's good. I think I get a little better with each effort. (On my own terms...)

The whole process of trying to shave words has been a great exercise. I usually feel like my stories are too spare and need more. I think this kind of rewriting is something I can do. It's where I try to change things that I get in trouble, but refining what I already have, that I can do.

Now that I'm done, I've decided to keep it as a novella, and move onto the next thing.

I've gone ahead and sent this to Amazon Singles. I know there isn't a chance in hell, but there isn't any harm in it, I guess. They wanted a "detailed" description, and I sent them one line, so right there I've probably blown it.

But for fuck's sake. The file is right there. Read the first page and if you don't like it, fine. If you do like, read the second page. Repeat.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Timeless" review.

Linda and I always seem to settle for one or two formulaic network shows, which have just enough of something interesting to keep watching. For a long time it was "Castle," which had Nathan Fillon's comedic charm.

This year, I'm rather fond of "Timeless,"  a updated version of "Time Tunnel." (How many of you remember that show?)

Yes, it has plotholes big enough to drive a tank through, and yes, it is completely formulaic.

And yet...and yet...

The characters are deepening a little as the show goes on, including the bad guys. And they actually throw in a few interesting and accurate historical details in each episode (admittedly along with a plethora of anachronisms.)

The "conspiracy" element (which every show apparently must have these days) isn't overly annoying or overblown. At this point, I'm actually interested to find out what Rittenhouse is. I'm somewhat trusting that the showrunners have thought this through.

The biggest downside for me, (and what is common in lots of TV dramas), is the willingness of the protagonists to do horrible things for "loved ones." So a character wants his wife back, or her sister back, and because of that they're willing to betray everyone else.

The other huge plot hole for me is the way the antagonists seem willing to blow up history for reasons that seem awfully murky.

But that's just it. It's a time-travel story, so EVERYTHING can be explained.

Whether it will be or not, that's the question. It's probably moot, because the very fact that I'm writing a review probably means the show is doomed to cancellation very soon. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Novel as a Platonic Ideal.

The philosophy of Plato, especially insofar as it asserts ideal forms as an absolute and eternal reality of which the phenomena of the world are an imperfect and transitory reflection.

Before I start writing a novel, I have a chance to direct it. Maybe my last chance. I can decide what genre it will be, the tone I want to take, the themes I want to explore. I can figure out whether there might be an audience for it. I can think about how much research it will need.

But once I start writing, the novel tells me what it wants.

I have a theory that there is a Platonic Ideal of the novel--the novel in its perfect form, and my job is to try to find that form as much as possible. The closer I get to the Platonic version, the more I feel like I've done my job.

By then, it doesn't matter if it's commercial, or if anyone else will ever read it or like it. The book is the thing, and I'm in that world trying to figure out what the novel wants me to say.

Obviously, I don't do outlines. The story tells me where it wants to go. My job is to coax it out of the ether.

At this point in my writing, I'm not listening to anyone else about what I should write or how I should write it. (I do seek out critique that will help me reach the Platonic Ideal of the novel.) The idea that there is a mechanistic formula that makes a book better is anathema to me.

I've told this story before, but someone joined writer's group for awhile who was a convert to a certain book about how to write. To him, there was a right way to do it and a wrong way, and if you weren't planning out every detail, weren't following the dictates of the first act, the second act, the third act and the final act, then you just weren't doing it right.

Wow. I couldn't have disagreed more.

Thing is, commercially he may be right. There probably is an technique to gain the most followers. I'm sure Micheal Bay follows it religiously. Ugh.

What I've noticed in my own business career and now in writing is that I follow a certain path. First, I seek out as much information as I can. I'm open to all ideas, I read how-to books, I seek out advice.

The second step, which is much longer, is trying out all these different ideas. I'm no longer seeking new information, (such as taking classes or reading how-to books) but I gather it as it passes by. I see which of the advice is good and which is bad. It's a process of trial and error.

The third phase, is I simply go my own way. I've figured out to my own satisfaction what works and what doesn't work, and I quit paying attention to everyone else. I try to leave the door open for paradigm shifts, but other than that, I'm pretty self-contained.

This is when my business finally became profitable. I learned through study and experience what worked, and then followed my knowledge and instincts.

I'd like to think I'm that way with my writing. I've done the first two stages, now it's a matter of pursuing the Platonic Ideal, of applying what I know. When I'm writing a novel, I'm not thinking about who else may read it, whether it is commercial or literary or whatever. I'm just trying to envision the best form of that story.

Not saying I know everything. Not saying I'm succeeding. But this is the path that helps me create the novels that are closest to what I envision the ideal to be.

This may come across as naive or idealistic, but all I'm saying is, when I'm in the middle of writing, I'm trying to get the story that is coming to me down on paper as best I can. I've run into very hard headed writers, and I admire them. Maybe I'm just an amateur playing with mystical ideas.

I can and often do have all the doubts in the world after I'm finished. I can chastise myself for not coming up with a more commercial idea. I can try to do better the next time.

But I gauge the success of the story on how close I perceive it to be the Platonic Ideal of that story.

The fourth flashback chapter that will be placed somewhere in the middle of the story.

2 chapters left, with 4000 words available. If I go over a little, I'm planning to go through and really cut down on any extra words. (Normally, I'm adding when I rewrite.)

I purposely set out to write a Novella, and it's been a nice exercise.

16.) The Pilgrim without a Bell.

Pernitius stood with his back to the wall, blending in. It wasn’t just a matter of not calling attention to himself, but somehow finding the rhythm of the room, moving in the same beat, becoming part of the flow even as he was still.
But he couldn’t help himself. He stared up at the dais, drinking in Lysandra’s loveliness. She looked the same as when he first met her, even down to the simple but elegant gown. Her dark red hair was up, tied in a ribbon, the same color ribbon that had held up her hair at the Pilgrim’s Ball.
Not just any Pilgrim’s Ball, but one held in my honor.
He remembered the awkward yet graceful girl dancing in Prince Quin’s arms. He’d thought her an innocent, who was unaware that she was yet another trophy, no more important than the medals on the Prince’s chest. He’d stepped forward to save her from such a fate.
I thought I was a man of the world. I didn’t realize what a fool I was. I didn’t know that I was in even more danger than Lysandra. I couldn’t protect myself…much less protect her.
She seemed to sense his gaze, for she turned her head his way. He quickly averted his eyes, just in time to see the Toad King moving toward him with his strange hopping stride. Alarmed, the Thief hid behind a servant girl laden with a tray with dirty dishes stacked two feet over her head. But when the girl moved aside, there stood Horense with his wide-mouthed grin. Before Pernitius could stop him, the squat little man was embracing him, squeezing with surprising strength.
“How are you, old friend!” the Toad King cried, finally letting Pernitius go.
Pernitius looked around to see if anyone had noticed, but it appeared that no one thought the hug remarkable.
“Oh, quit worrying, Pernitius. Those who know who we are don’t care…and those who care don’t know who we are.”
“If they knew who you really were, they’d be running for the doors,” the Thief acknowledged. It was hard to believe that the Toad King could so easily blend with the crowd.
I have seen his true shape.
Even now, Pernitius didn’t see a jovial rotund man, but instead a creature that could be mistaken for human only in the darkest of nights, after several jugs of wine. “I should have known you’d be here at the end of all things.”
“Surely not the end of all things,” Horense croaked. “The Mirror God must have someone to reflect, otherwise His existence has no purpose. Someone will have to survive to start over.”
“You, for instance?”
“I am immune to the Mirror God,” the Toad King proclaimed. “We come from the same place, you know.”
“Truly?” Pernitius blurted before he could stop himself.
Horense laughed, as if delighted that the Thief would ask such a question, not so much because Pernitius had been credulous, but because he hadn’t been incredulous.
“Never mind,” Pernitius said, sighing. “It has been far too long since I met someone who lies more than I do.”
“You were always a quick study,” Horense said. “You were my best student. Why, I was starting to get jealous. People were beginning to speak more of the great Thief than they were of the Toad King!”
“I’m sure that it is a terrible thing to have all the attention taken off you,” Pernitius said. And with that, the familiar habits of his old and rather peculiar friendship with the Trickster fell over him like a warm and comfortable cloak.
Believe the opposite of whatever the Toad King says, he reminded himself, and it will be closer to the truth.
He glanced again at Lysandra. She knew who and what he was, and yet talking to the Toad King in her presence made him uncomfortable.
“I’m not talking to you here,” he muttered. “Come with me.”
The Toad King laughed. “What are you worried about? No one believes the Toad King really exists.”
“No one used to believe that the Mirror God existed either.”
He led the Trickster out onto the battlements. Horense complained about the cold breeze, but still followed. They found shelter behind a guard tower.
“All right, Horense,” Pernitius said. “What do you want of me?”
“I merely wanted to greet an old friend!” Horense said. “We had wonderful times together.”
Wonderful times? Pernitius thought. Is that what the Toad King thinks?
Horense had saved him at his lowest point (as often happened with the Toad King) so there was that.
But there was no coming back from what Pernitius had allowed the Toad King to turn him into. The Blue Pilgrim was gone and in his place was the Thief, banished forever from the Thirteenth Principality.


Pernitius sat shivering on the banks of the Danjar River, staring into the black waters, trying to catch a glimpse of the shimmering gold. It seemed to him that the golden bell had floated for a time, which was impossible, of course. He meant to throw himself into the current immediately after the bell, but decided it was fitting he should suffer a few more minutes, if only to appease the Mirror God.
He’d never believed in the Mirror God and apparently, the Mirror God had never believed in him. The farther he traveled, the less the people seemed to believe in the Covenant.
Or the less they pretend to believe, he corrected himself, for it was clear to him now that the first four Principalities had believed only in the pomp and ceremonies that legitimized the rule of Princes.
He’d been robbed before he left the Fourth Principality, beaten in the Fifth Principality, ignored in the Sixth Principality. Here in the seventh Principality had come the final indignity. As he wandered down a country road, he’d been struck from behind, and even his blue garments were taken, leaving him with only the golden bell
Devout thieves, apparently, or at least superstitious ones, for it was said that anyone who took a golden bell from a Servant of the Watchers would face the Mirror God and see all that was evil in His reflection.
Pernitius hadn’t eaten in days.
He’d lost his way hours ago, when—unable to slake his thirst from the muddy puddles--he’d strayed from the road at the sound of running water. The cascading sounds of the river had teased him for most of the day before he’d finally won his way to their banks.
There, instead of drinking the water, he sat down, overcome by despair. He’d failed in his pilgrimage; he had nothing to offer the Mirror God. He was naked and ashamed.
He couldn’t go on without offerings, nor could he return home like this. Not to his family and friends. But most of all--not to Lysandra. In the beginning, the thought of Lysandra waiting for him had sped him in his journey. Now he felt only shame.
He could not finish the journey. He was done.
In his frustration, he pulled the golden bell from his neck and heaved it into the river. Impossibly, the golden bell floated for a second, and then plopped from view. In that single impulsive moment, his life changed forever.
A sick dread filled him, like the slow dripping of a poison.
What does it matter? he asked himself.
He was just waiting for the right moment to dive into the frigid waters, whether to find the golden bell or to join it, he himself wasn’t sure.
The smell of roasted meat brought him to his feet. He slipped down the muddy bank toward the waters, but to his surprise, he saved himself. He scrambled back up the bank and into the dark woods.
A campfire flickered like the eyes of an animal through the tangle of branches.
As he approached, rain was falling so hard that it was like walking through curtains of fine beads, yet as he poked his head around a tree, the campground appeared clean and dry. A huge canopy stretched between the trees. Colorful carpets covered the ground, surrounding a fire with a halo of steam over it. Branches suspended a large black iron cauldron above the fire.
To one side was a small wagon, with a mule contentedly munching from a pail of oats.
A man with a wide belly sat with his back to a tree, covered in a blanket, munching on a hank of meat, holding papers up to the light of the fire and reading.
Pernitius saw a black cloak hanging from the end of the wagon, and he circled around to it quietly. The smell of food had drawn him, but now the cloak looked more tempting.
Food won’t matter if I freeze to death.
He snatched the cloak and ran. Something whooshed overhead, crashing through the dark branches. As he stared upward, the roots of a tree sent him sprawling. He scrambled to his feet, but a creature stood blocking his way.
For a moment, Pernitius saw the true shape of the Toad King; squat, with two beady eyes and a wide mouth, legs bent in an odd direction, webbed fingers and toes.
Then the vision vanished and he saw the man from the campground.
“How…” he sputtered. “Who…”
“Put the cloak on,” the man said. “I can’t understand what you’re saying if you’re going to chatter.”
Pernitius stood beside the fire, the warmth reviving him. His hands and feet tingled. For the first time, he realized he was going to survive.
But the poisonous dread returned, the vision of the sinking bell disappearing just as surely as his old life.
The man introduced himself as Horense. Rooting around in the back of the wagon, he found wooden crate and brought it over for Pernitius to sit on. He dipped into the cooking pot and fished out a bone covered in meat.
It is said that the Toad King eats his victims, came the thought.
Pernitius looked down at the meat and took another bite. His body wanted to survive and he had no willpower to overrule it.
He looked up at his host, who was hovering over him as if contemplating his next meal.
“Why are you helping me?” Pernitius asked. It had been so long since anyone had been generous or friendly that he’d forgotten what it felt like.
“That is a good question,” Horense said. “But I have to say…you are the first human in a very long time that I haven’t been inclined to rob. Probably because you are the first person in a long time who doesn’t have a thing to steal!” He let out a guttural sound, the Toad King’s laugh. “But if you wish to repay me, I would be satisfied with your story.”
So Pernitius told him his story, from the beginning of his journey to now. The Toad King interrupted only once—when Pernitius told of throwing the golden bell into the river.
“Then you are cursed,” Horense said. “As cursed as I am.”
“Then what I saw was true…you are the Toad King,” Pernitius said.
“I thought so!” Horense exclaimed, sounding delighted. “You saw through the glamour! That makes you special…special and cursed. But you are a terrible thief. I think, dear boy, if you are going to survive in this world, you need to learn a skill.”
“Are you offering to teach me?”
“To apprentice a Servant of the Watchers would be my pleasure. I never much liked the Mirror God. He’s a little too self-righteous to me.”
Once, Pernitius would have been horrified by the sacrilege. Now it had the ring of truth.
He fell asleep under the tree, listening to the patter of rain on the canopy. Something woke him late, and he saw the Toad King by the fire, dripping with water.
“Did you find it?” Pernitius asked.
“The current is too strong,” Horense said, unsurprised by the question. “It’s probably washed down to the Cormat Sea by now.”
“I thought toads didn’t swim,” Pernitius said.
“They don’t,” Horense said. “But the Toad King does. Now go back to sleep.”


They were constant companions for the next few years, until one day the Toad King turned to him and said, “I have nothing more to teach you, my boy. Why…at the rate you’re picking this up you will be better than me in a few years.”
“Surely not,” Pernitius said. If the Toad King said it, it probably wasn’t true.
“Well…I’d advise you to earn as much as you can while still young. Someday you’ll be old, but the Toad King will still be wandering the Principalities, hustling humans.”
Pernitius turned to reply, but Horense was nowhere to be seen. He sighed and looked upward. A brief shadow passed across the sun, and then the Toad King was gone.


“Why are you here?” Pernitius asked his mentor in the shelter of the tower. Over the years, they’d seen each other from afar, but by unspoken agreement had not tried to scam the same Principalities at the same time.
“There is nowhere else to go,” Horense said. “Besides…I have something to give you.”
Every golden bell has its own sound, and Pernitius recognized his immediately even before the Toad King completely removed it from his pocket. He reached out with shaking hands to take it.
“Why…why did you hide it?” he asked.
“Because you didn’t value it then,” the Toad King said. “You didn’t understand the importance. I’ve watched you over the years wandering the realms, trying to atone to the Mirror God even as you fleeced his worshippers. It is time.”
“It is too late,” Pernitius said.
“Oh, no doubt,” the Toad King agreed. “Far too late.”
The Toad King lied about everything, so if he was agreeing that meant…
The eighth stanza of the Mirror God’s Curse came to Pernitius: “They who are most mistrusted, shall be believed.”  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Hit my first roadblock chapter yesterday.

Just couldn't figure out how to do it. Tried three different ways.

The holidays are always a difficult time to get any focus on writing. It's amazing that any writing gets done at all. From about mid-October, when my taxes are due, until January 2, there are more things to do and places to be. The store requires more attention, obviously.

Four years ago, I ignored everything; three years ago, I was still ignoring everything. Two years ago, it took more effort.

This year, I've backed off a little from my writing obsession.

But it is still there. It is completely amazing that I walked away from writing for 25 years. The compulsion is so strong that I feel strange if I'm not writing. It just goes to show how hard the store was, and how much work and attention I had to spend on it.

But I doubt anything could happen now to stop me. (Knock wood.) This is my life now.

Anyway, woke up this morning having decided that the way to write the problem chapter was simply in sequence of events, rather than jumping around. Simple solution. I liked the dark beginning of the chapter, then the flashback, but then there was another flashback and that was one too many. I won't try to write today, and I plan on working part of the day at the store tomorrow, but then I hopefully have a few weeks to finish the book.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to turn it into a book. Not sure if I'll try to send a shorter version to Amazon Singles. I may, because it would be a one and done. Even if it got accepted, unlikely, it wouldn't contractually obligate me like an agent or mainstream publisher would.

I've mulled the possibility of submitting to agents and mainstream publishers for four years now, but have made little movement in that direction.

I was thinking yesterday that when I write a book, it's a Platonic ideal. The book tells me what it wants to be, and the closer I get to the vision of the book, the more successful it is.

That is, successful in my eyes.

It may not meet anyone else's standards at all. At first, I was writing horror novels because they seemed open enough and broad enough in scope to handle whatever ideas I had.

But my last two books were thrillers (Snaked is a creature book, but written as a thriller.) Lucifer's Forge is definitely a thriller. My current book is a straight out fantasy.

In other words, I want to write what I want to write when I want to write it.

All that argues against tying myself down with an agent or publisher. So far, I've only slightly pushed on the publisher's doors, and I've been opportunistic about my chances. I look at the monolith of the publishers and think, "No way."

So...unless some opportunity comes along, I think I'm better off writing away happily at what I want to write and then just plunking them out into the world.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

So from this point forward, anything I write about on Mirror God won't make much sense, since it is me going back and filling in.

I've removed all but the last two chapters, because if I submit it to Amazon Singles, there is a rule about posting the story anywhere else.

Friday, November 18, 2016

3 million organized fictional words. That's about how much I figure I've written in my life.

At this point in my writing adventure, I'm more or less judging things by my own standards. I think I'm probably twice the writer I was when I started, and half the writer I want to be.

That doesn't mean that people are going to like my books twice as much though. It's just an internal gauge about how much I'm learning.

Most of the improvement comes down to the process of incubating my creativity and then letting it happen. The more relaxed I become, the better the writer.

That and just discovering through the trial and error of 3 million words.

At least, that's what I think.

Sometimes I struggle to find the connectors, the plot elements that tie the characters and plots together.

Sometimes, like on my walk on Wednesday, my brain just starts firing off connector after connector, so fast I can't keep track of them. I worry that they are a little too neat, but it's better to have too many and then cut than to have too few.

Why, oh why, do I write such complicated plots?

This book is basically all flashback.

Now, there is a grand tradition of such books. A group of disparate travelers gather at a castle and each tells the tale of how they arrived there. That is roughly what I am doing here, and it feels right. A series of almost short stories unified by a grand threat.

I'm trying to keep this at novella size, under 30K words, so I can submit it to Amazon Singles. I don't expect them  to take it, but no harm in trying. I figure I can probably handle rejection by now without losing hope.

So far I don't feel I've written a clunker chapter. I had one chapter that someone else thought missed the mark and upon examining it, I thought it could be improved by expanding it into 3 chapters. But other than that, I really like what I've written.

However, I'm realizing that not everyone probably is enamored. The number of readers declines with each entry, which means that people are dropping away and I've failed at grabbing them.

But again, I'm measuring progress by my own gauge, and I know this is much more accomplished than anything I thought I could do.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The backstory of "Said the Joker to the Thief" is sort of falling together.

I'm about 33 pages in, which is sooner than usual. Not all the backstory, but enough to give me some ideas.

I'm going back and doing the necessary changes as they occur to me. I think I can risk doing that now. When I first came back to writing, my #1 unbreakable rule was not going back and changing anything until I was finished.

But I think I've got a handle on my writing now, so I know just how much I can get away with.

It's a lot of fun to write fantasy again. Not sure why I stayed away from it for so long. I'm really not worried about writing the same old fantasy as everyone else, because I do tend to go off on my tangents.

I just wrote a chapter that was almost all dialogue, which I rarely if ever do. It's funny to be doing the scans of Star Axe. I was afraid of dialogue back then and avoided it whenever possible, even paraphrasing things that probably should have been dialogue. Much more narrative storytelling, instead of progressing the story by scenes.

I've come a long way.

Interesting, frankly, that Star Axe got published, but my current writing can't even get the attention of an agent. I think the field was just easier to break into back then, simply because it was so hard to get into back then, by which I mean, if you were willing to do everything you needed to do, there was a fair chance you'd get a fair hearing.

Nowadays, it's just too easy. Too easy to write, too easy to send, too easy to get ignored.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I approach fantasy differently than I do my other books.

Often I'm just trying to capture a mood, or an image. I don't really want to know where it's going. I want to be surprised each time I sit down to write. I want to find the fantastical, the unexpected.

This gets me in trouble, sometimes. Fantasy really does need a fully thought-out world, and I build my worlds through writing. So I write myself into corners sometimes.

I'm going through my scan of Star Axe, my first published book, hoping to put it out again in December. I'm trying not to be judgmental, but...well, I don't have any doubt I'm a better writer now.

But what I can see is that I really made the effort. The book could have used a good edit--and it never got one, even from the publisher.

I notice that I spend a fair amount of time on description...and that it isn't as off-putting as I might have thought.

I think reaching for fantastic images calls forth a more poetic language, which is what makes fantasy so alluring. While I admire the world-building medieval empires of popular fantasy, my newer stories seem more in the mold of fables, where I'm not really trying to explain everything, but hoping the mood and images carry the story.

Like I said, not much fantasy like that these days. People want extensive worlds, like Martin and Jordan and so on.  I appreciate more the Jack Vance type stories--though he certainly did the requisite world-building, it's more the beauty of the language, the tone, the images he evokes which attracts me.

Obviously, Tolkien does the world-building--no one better!--but it is the mood and tone I remember most. A kind of nostalgia for a world that never existed.