Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sold the Bookmark.

Linda and I have officially sold The Bookmark. Today is Linda's last day at the store, and then she is retired. We've been holding off talking about it until it was finalized.

I should leave it for the folks taking over the store, Heidi and Josh, to speak for themselves, but I will say this:

1.) They've told us they will honor people's credit at the Bookmark for a year. So if you have credit, get in there and use it.

2.) The new owners are going to take this to a whole new level. I know that's the kind of things people say, but this time it is true. They are smart and experienced and have plenty of resources. I think everyone is going to be impressed.

Finally, my store Pegasus Books is doing well, and I'm very happy with it, and I have no intention of going anywhere. I'm a few years younger than Linda plus I still like having a place to go to and hang out and talk to friends.

This worked out amazingly well for everyone, and we feel very lucky and blessed.

Thanks to everyone who came to the Bookmark. We are grateful and we'll miss you.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

In a few more days, I'm going "LIVE"  with this book.

When the Devil comes a-calling, Grandy isn't surprised. He's a damned soul -- or so he thinks. When the urge comes over him, he kills without pity or remorse.

But the Devil isn't after his soul. Not just yet. He hires Grandy to infiltrate a cult which is planning to open a Portal to another dimension.  

The Old Gods await.

It's a jurisdictional issue. The Devil can't go where he isn't invited.

But Grandy can. 

This the most straightforward book I've written. Fun and quick and hopefully humorous. Told from a single first-person perspective.

It's also Linda's favorite book.

I've decided to make this an audio book, with Cameron Saunders doing the narration. I'm going to be really excited to hear how it sounds.

That's a whole new thing, and we'll have to figure it out, but I think this will sound good.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


A few years ago I read some advice from a well-known writer (I don't remember who), who said, "Daydreaming for a writer is a waste of time."

She was talking about the dreams all writers have of their book being bought and read and lionized.

In a way she's right. It is easy to delude yourself, to think you've got more talent than you have. I've always tried to be realistic about my abilities. I've told myself, "My books can't be any smarter, deeper, or more talented than I am."

But even though I understand what she's getting at, I couldn't disagree more.

In fact, I think that is some really fucked up advice.

Daydreaming is what fuels my efforts, even as cold reality is lurking. I imagine people reading my story and enjoying it; I imagine them passing it along to friends; I imagine them slotting it into a place of honor in their bookshelves.

None of that may happen, but the daydream of it can keep me going for the days, weeks, and months it takes to finish a book.

Daydreaming kicks into a higher gear when I send it off to an agent or publisher. Now I wait, and I hope, and I daydream. For weeks at least, and sometimes for months. During that time I wait, I keep my hopes up, even as I tell myself to be realistic.

It's unrealized potential, endless possibility.  Like Schrodinger's cat, my story is both alive and dead.

So I daydream. At the same time, I'm brutally realistic. I know, for instance, that when I send "Said the Joker, to the Thief" to Kindle Singles that I don't have a chance in hell. That I'm up against the Stephen King's and John Gresham's of the writing world. But just that tiny, tiny sliver of lottery odds is enough to daydream, even as I kick myself for daydreaming.

When I get back the (almost) inevitable rejection, I'm crushed for days, sometimes weeks. I ask myself if there is any point in continuing. And then it wears off; I accept the reality that was there all along even as I daydreamed.

So I write something new, and the daydreams start all over. I send it off and wait for weeks and months. In effect, I'm trading months of hopes for days of crushing rejection, and it seems like a fair trade.

I have faith in myself even as I know the odds. I don't let others tell me my chances, either those people who don't care (the vast majority) those who look down on me (though usually not blatantly to my face) and those well meaning people who have even more unrealistic expectations. ("When is the movie going to be made?")

There is a great scene in "La La Land."


The heroine has just put on a one-woman show, writing her own script and stage design, hiring the theater. No one shows up. She gamely goes through with it, and then sits dejectedly in her dressing room.

She overhears some stagehands mocking her efforts, "...and she isn't even any good."

But in that audience happens to be the one stranger who can help her.

I've had that mocking happen to me. It's harsh and it's hard to overcome, though a little success can help put that in it's place.

And a whole lot of daydreaming.

Friday, January 20, 2017

I intend to publish "I Live Among You" around February 1st.

This is a short, first-person novel about a fellow who thinks he's serial killer but finds out he's something very different.

"When the devil came a-calling, I was too busy to notice."

It's Linda's favorite book, because it has a straight ahead plot, no detours. Cover by Andrew Hunt, design by Andy Zeigert.

I think it's the perfect book to try an audio version on. I've asked Cameron Saunders, my store manager and a good actor, to do the narration.  I want him to go as creatively crazy as he wants.

This is going to be an adventure. I have no idea how to go about this; how much it costs, what sort of equipment is required, how it is uploaded, how to price it, etc.

But it should be fun.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

As you might imagine, this weather hasn't exactly been good for business.

But you know what? We're all right.

There was a time when this would have really hurt. But experience and liquidity have made it a non-event, in some ways. I figured out years ago a baseline daily average that we needed. Hopefully, that baseline would hold during even the worst events.

Well, that's what seems to have happened. Though business is down, it is still above that baseline. More importantly, the weather in mid-December was enough warning to be careful, and I kept my orders in line.

Therefore, the drop in business seems to have left us exactly where we'd be if business and orders were normal.

Big sigh of relief.

Linda and I have some big news in a couple of weeks. Sorry to vaguebook it, but it's good news.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Where did this come from?

Santa Got Caught In The Elevator.

It's 1960 and I'm 8 years old.
I want a BB gun for Christmas,
just like in that show.

On the back,
of every comic,
my parents don't approve
but Santa...will...deliver.

Sirens on
my way to school,
The snow up to my waist
for Santa's sleigh.

Firetrucks surround
the Pilot Butte Inn,
the only elevator in town.

Santa broke the elevator,
I hear them say,
the school bells chime
but I linger and stay.

I wander through the
hoses, the scrambling
cursing firemen.
Christmas is coming.

Santa has my BB gun,
and he's too fat,
He broken the elevator,
trapped like a rat.

They bring him out,
with an oxygen mask,
His beard askew
A man in a fat suit.

My friend Bill doesn't
believe, nor my sister Sue,
And in that moment
the North Pole fades.

I say goodbye
to the BB gun
and the X-ray glasses too.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"The Scorching" is done, done, done. I was going to do one more beginning-to-end editing, but I don't think it is necessary and might even be counterproductive. I'll do some polishing of the last four or five chapters over the next week or so, but other than that, I'm ready to send it on to Lara.

I'm doubting the idea of sending it to agents. I hate that process so much. I'm still a little undecided. Part of me says it wouldn't hurt to give it a shot, and then, if I don't get a satisfactory answer in three months, go ahead and publish it myself on May 1 or so.

Part of me says...why bother?

I'm so looking forward to writing something new. But...interestingly, I don't have any ideas right now. That's unusual. Just letting it come to me. I'm hoping for something fantasy and first person, but I'll know when it comes to me.

LATER: I've taken one of my favorite characters from "Said the Joker, to the Thief" and decided to write a novella about him. "The Toad King."  I started in first person and present tense, but decided I didn't like it. Besides, if I write a series of novellas set in the Thirteen Principalities, then I need to make them stylistically consistent. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Time to remind myself that I enjoy writing.

I watched the movie "Genius" the other day, about the relationship between the editor Maxwell Perkins and the author Thomas Wolfe, about how they wrestled the huge manuscripts that Wolfe wrote into readable novels. So...two years of working every day on "Time and the River."

Well, you know, no offense to all involved but...Fuck That.

I tried something new with this latest novel. The only variable I could think to help improve "The Scorching" was time. Time and perspective. I seem to have a baseline talent and insight and depth and intelligence that I can't do much about. But give it time, I figured, and maybe I'll be able to add a few layers.

And yes, it did seem to help. But in very small ways. Incremental ways. A couple of months struggling with the right approach.

But the fundamental book is still there. I'm not sure that 90% of the readers would notice much of a change. Meanwhile, I'm bleeding confidence, I'm losing interest, I'm getting discouraged.

So was it worth it?

I think I learn best to write by writing. Each new manuscript is a chance to get it right. I enjoy the process and apply everything I learned from the last one I wrote. I become more comfortable.

I know there is a school of thought that you should challenge yourself. That you shouldn't settle for comfortable. But I wonder if that is right?

My theory on writing is that  doing what I like will improve my writing little by little because I'm learning new things by doing. It may be a slow process, but it's enjoyable. Not everything I write will see that light of day and that would probably drive some writers nuts, but I always figure there's more where that came from.

I'm looking forward to writing something that I enjoy. It's very freeing. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My flagship title, my HMS Victory.

I was hoping "The Scorching" would be my flagship title. So I've sent it off, and intend to send it off on that basis. But I'm not sure I'm right.

I'm in writing limbo.

So I've got a couple of small indications that something could possibly happen. It's got me paralyzed.

Then I remember what I thought were my original odds, which were "Slim to None" and realize the small indications aren't enough to really sway those odds, and I get a little perturbed with myself for getting my hopes up.

But I can't seem to help it. The delusion is so strong that it keeps me writing, though in my saner moments I realize that the whole thing is extremely unlikely. Ironically, when nothing is happening, I can get things done, but give me the slightest hope, no matter how unlikely, and suddenly I'm frozen. ( I realize that I'm contradicting myself, but think of it long-term versus short-term.)

Haven't settled on my next book yet. I know that I'm going to write another Virginia Reed novel sometime this year. I know that I want to work on finishing the Lander books. But I'm not sure I want to do either thing just yet.

I very much enjoyed writing "Said the Joker, to the Thief," a straight fantasy novella. I think the way "I Live Among You" turned out was encouraging.

So I'm thinking I should combine the two things--first person narration and straight fantasy.

But I don't have a starting point.

I still need to give "The Scorching" its final polish, which I'm going to start tomorrow and finish by the end of the month. I'm sort of backing away from the idea of sending it to agents, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I think the whole agent, mainstream publisher route is likely to disrupt my writing to such an extent that it will be counterproductive. (The Limbo I'm in compounded.)

And secondly, though I hate to say it out loud, I don't think I quite hit the mainstream narrative I was hoping for. I mean, I like "The Scorching" but I think it's a little flawed in its approach. Nobody's fault. It's more than good enough to put out, but I don't know if its what I want to use as my flagship title.

I'm stuck in this process of writing something and then figuring out what it is. But as much as I'd like to think this all through in advance, all that happens when I do that is that nothing gets done.

Ultimately, it seems better to go off half-cocked and hope that something good happens, then to sit and stew about it and not create and even if I do create, still end up with many of the same problems.

The flagship title will happen. Right now, I'd say it's "Led to the Slaughter," or possibly "Tuskers," and depending on how well it sells, "Snaked." "Snaked" probably came out the best narratively, with some of my best writing and characters, so we'll see. If I had to show one example of my writing, it would probably be one of those three titles.

I think, if I keep writing, that one book will stand out, and of course, I always think my next effort will be my HMS Victory.

Monday, January 9, 2017

I Reckon.

Pulling out all the stops with "The Scorching," especially the first 3 chapters. Figure if I can hone them to a sharp edge, I have more of a chance of attracting an agent, so I'm really trying to get them right.

I'll probably try the old scattershot approach--a bunch of agents. What the hell. There seems to be about a 60% response rate, even for rejections.

I'm also going to send it to a couple of publishers who take unsolicited manuscripts. Again, the competition is fierce, to say the least. But no harm in trying, except to my ego.

I reckon my ego can take it. I reckon the odds are long. I reckon I can always go my own way. I reckon it ain't all about me. I reckon I got enough irons in the fire to take a few rejections. I reckon I'm fucked to start with. (And before anyone says, be positive, I'm sending off my manuscript to be judged, so there!) I reckon its all luck, timing, and who you know. I reckon either I'm good enough or I'm not, and I also reckon that whether I'm good enough or not, the chances of a fair judging are small. I reckon there are more writers than are needed in this world. I reckon that's just the way it is. I reckon sour grapes is a very unattractive attribute. I reckon it ain't sour grapes to believe the game is rigged. I reckon that in some parallel existence it happens, and maybe it's this one.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

"The Scorching" is finished, more or less. If it was sent off the way it is, it would be more than fine. I'm going to set this version aside for a final polishing.

I also want to finish reading "Fire Line" over the next couple of days, more as background knowledge than anything else at this point. It's a very well written book; I even emailed the author (Michael Thoele, a U of O professor) to tell him so, which I've never done before.

I have Bren going over the first three chapters, since she tends to tighten my writing up, and I'm going to try to get input from writer's group. I'll see if Lara can do a quick edit. I will go ahead and send those chapters off later in the month to some agents. I don't expect anything, and I'm not going to let myself get tied up, but it's worth a try.

I'm still a little surprised that no one else has written a pyro-terror book. I wish there was a way to publicize it properly. Pyro-terror really is a possibility in the near future. Terrorism and wildfires are going to be in the news, for sure.

I did what I set out to do. I think my overall trend is toward incremental improvement with each new book. I certainly learn something each time.
All right. Took out all the chapter headings and time tags. Only cut the wordage by about 700 words, which surprised me. Cut a few pages.

It looks and feels much cleaner.

Also restored the original chapter sequence, which reads much better.

I'm now hesitant to change much else. When I start messing with the plot that's where I get in trouble. I'll just try to clean it up when I do the final rewrite.

Spent the rest of yesterday entering in the writer's group critiques. So really, I'm going to be done with all the preliminaries by the 10th or so.

I'll start my rewrite then, get it done by February 1.

I'm going to send the first 3 chapters to some agents, wait until May 1, and then go ahead and publish it myself if I haven't gotten satisfactory replies.

Meanwhile, "I Live Among You" is scheduled to be released on February 1. Right after the ebook is up, going to set off on a journey to get an audio version done, narrated by Cameron Saunders.

So, I seem to be on track, if only for myself. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I've decided, in the end, that "The Scorching" isn't a 'techno-thriller' as I originally intended.

It succeeds more as an adventure story.

Ironically, the more technical detail I learned, the less satisfied I was with it as a techno book. People reading it for that purpose were still going to find plenty wrong. Ironically, it will be a very well researched adventure story...

Meanwhile, the chapter headings with the "Incident Reports," which looked cool at first, just ended up being distracting. As did the tagged timeline, which I originally thought would add verisimilitude to the story. I've satisfied myself that the events all take place within a certain timeline, but I don't need to label it.

I also plan to take out any futuristic elements, which turned out to be so minor as to be--why are they there?

I'm going to take out a couple of mucky-muck meetings, and a chapter where one of the characters just sort of lectures the other character about facts and figures.

Streamline it into an adventure story, and I think it will read much better and--again, the irony--probably be more believable for not trying so hard to be believable. In a weird sort of way, I'm giving the subject matter proper respect by not pretending to be an authoritative expert.

In a nutshell, the book is starting to resemble my other books more than what I originally intended. I tried to reach high, but I just couldn't pull it off. By aiming lower, I'm actually writing a much better story, if that makes sense.

I'm at about 100K words now. I figure the changes will cut about 5K words or so, which is more than fine.

I really like this book, it just isn't what I thought it would be.

Crossed 100K words on "The Scorching." (et al, Fires of Allah, Fires of the Djinn, Lucifer's Forge, Not by Water but by Fire, Terror by Fire, etc. etc...)

I've now read four firefighting books since the research stage started. I've added about 15K words to the original manuscript. About 5K of are two new chapters. The other 10K words are fleshing out the story with telling details.

I had about 10 books lined up to read, but I'm only going to do one more. I don't want to overload the story. This last research book, I only added a page worth of notes. I figure too much detail is as bad as too little.

Surprisingly, the best firefighting book wasn't "Young Men and Fire, "by Norman Maclean, like I expected, but instead the one I grabbed last. On the surface is looks like one of those Time/Life books, with big glossy pictures, but the writing is very active and evocative. Very impressive.  It's called "Fire Line," by Michael Thoele.

I looked him up, and this appears to be the only book he wrote. How does that happen? A writer that good?

So I'm going to read this book, try to pick up some technique and some details, and call the research done.

Then to sit down and do the final rewrite.

I don't know if I'll ever do a book like this again--spending more time on the rewrite than on the original story. Not much fun, but I think...I think...I'm making it better, if only incrementally.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Spent a busy afternoon destroying Bend by fire. Strangely satisfying.

Didn't spare my own store.

"As he passed Minnesota Avenue, the canopy in front of the local comic bookstore burst into flames. Another ember dropped down into the middle of the street, sending sparks into the air. His instincts were to stop and put out the fire, but he heard sirens approaching and kept going."

Really... I like Bend and I like my store. I'm only nihilistic in my imagination.

This chapter was a result of my research, specifically, the book The Big Burn. For most of the story I've kept the fire somewhat at a distance. I mean, I bring it on home in the last five or six chapters, but I never managed to have a chapter where the people were surrounded by fire, with no way out, the way The Big Burn was. And through heroic efforts, most of the people are saved.

I decided I needed to mix some disaster amongst this.

Thus...I burn down Bend.

I've got a title which I like, but which I suspect no one else will. But so far, it's holding. Which is the test. Emotionally, it feels right. Some of the other titles had some intellectual heft, but didn't do it for me. In the end, I think I need to pick the title that "feels" right.

"The Scorching."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Never too much action. On the assumption that more action is better than less, I'm adding a couple chapters near the end of the book. One concerning individual homes burning, the other burning down Bend.

I tend to wrap up books perhaps a little faster than I should. It doesn't seem like it at the time, but there always seems to be more I can do. With "Snaked," the publisher pointed out that I needed more black sea snake action at the end, and he was right.

Meanwhile, the pace of rewriting seems extraordinarily languid to me. I gave myself the month of January for this purpose, which seems like a lot of time. But my deadlines have always been self-imposed. No one is clamoring for my books. I have books already written. There is no hurry.

But by thinking that way, I'm in danger of stalling. It's important that I keep up the pace, I think.

Nevertheless, I'm sticking to my plan and giving January over to this book. Trying to apply myself every day.

Meanwhile, I started to get my hopes up slightly on Amazon Singles for "Said the Joker, to the Thief." Then I looked up the site yesterday and had to laugh.

Here were the names on the first few pages: John Grisham, Dean Koontz, Lee Child, Diana Gabaldon, and so on and so forth.

Amazon Singles only publishes something every couple days, which is far less than most major publishers. (Just looked up Random House, and they publish 2500 books a year. In other words, the odds are about 90% less than Random House.)

I saw no fantasy. 

Forget about it. What a joke. This is like taking my local flag football team and taking the field against the Green Bay Packers. 

But I didn't need an agent...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Burning down my hometown. 'cause I can.

Originally, I figured I'd burn down Sonora, California. I had a couple of minor characters I thought I could spin off for a chapter.

I had to work a couple of days at the store, and today I suddenly realized I had a much better town to burn down: Bend, Oregon. I'd already pretty much set it up, both the good guys and the bad, and it comes at the right moment in the book. Besides, I know the terrain without having to research.

It seems so obvious...now.

This has been the one advantage to taking so much more time on a book. It gives me time for these things to really settle in, and for my subconscious to come up with an answer.

I'm going to spend the next 8 days researching and adding details, then I'm going to do a quick rewrite. I probably will go ahead and approach some agents, but it has to be on my terms...though I'm sure I have nowhere near the clout to ask for my terms.

The terms are; the representation if for this book, only. That is, I don't wish to be tied up while this book is being offered. Probably a moot point, since agents have shown zero interest in my ideas or my writing.

I'm going to put this out in late spring, in time for the fire season.

Still don't have a title I love. "Terror by Fire." I don't know why, but it still doesn't do it for me.

Monday, January 2, 2017

For some reason, I felt like tackling the timeline yesterday.

Went through and tagged the chapters of the last day by hours and minutes.

Then I moved all the chapters to meet the timeline.

I didn't like it. I like the order I have the chapters now, even if they don't follow the timeline exactly. Thing is, putting things in order like that made it possible to see if it all fit. There were a couple of places where I had night and it should have been day, but mostly I had it right.

So now I have three choices.

1.) Stick strictly to the timeline, rearranging the chapters to fit.

2.) Stick to my original order, but go ahead a tag them with the correct time, even though they jump around.

3.) Not have any timeline noted at all.

I'm inclined to do #2 and hope the reader goes along with a slight mental adjustment. These chapters were put where they were because I wanted a certain amount of action, a certain amount of character development, and so on. It's more by feel than anything.

I have to work the next two days, so I'm setting "Terror by Fire" aside to think about it. I think I'll have this research done by around the 10th or so, and then I'm going to do one last beginning to end rewrite.

Also undecided about adding another chapter with the destruction of a town. I've already got four semi-climaxes, so not sure I need a fifth one. Maybe I can figure out a short half-page addition to a couple of chapters, sort of mentioning it.

Meanwhile, I'm concentrating on making the first three chapters as tight as I can make them, then sending them off to agents. This is a doubtful activity, because I'm really only offering this one book. I don't want to get tied down.

In the last rewrite, I want to concentrate on the last 5 chapters, so I may start there and then go back to the beginning.

Proud of myself for making the extra effort.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"Terror by Fire"

Read "The Big Burn," by Timothy Egan and realized that I was missing something.

I don't show individual houses threatened, though in the size of the fires I'm describing, it must be happening all over. Nor do I have a town get destroyed. (I have a couple of towns escape, but I'm thinking I need one destroyed.)

There is a scale and size in the Big Burn that I'd like to try to get into my book.

Problem is, I've already got four or five separate plotlines, so trying to burn down a town would add yet another.

I slept on it and realized I have a couple of secondary characters that would work really well. Have one of them realize the old homestead is going to burn, barely escape, reach a town and have the town start to burn as well.

So I may just attempt to write a chapter, and see if it fits.

Also realized I'm not entirely happy with the last chapter. It has a couple of different tones. Half the chapter was originally the first chapter, as flashforward, and the other half was written as climax.

I'm thinking I can split it in two. Again, I can give this a try and if it doesn't work, then go back to the original setup. At the very least I need to concentrate on rewriting it.

I've also decided that I need to have the bulk of the action happening in one day: Once the action starts, it happens fast.