Thursday, March 30, 2017

Linda teared up over a chapter that I thought was a jury-rigged fix.

I'd brought in a love-interest in Chapter 20, just as an experiment. Nicole would actually show up earlier in the book, but the writing just assumed she'd been accompanying him. So the chapter turned out pretty well, and I thought, OK, this can be done. I liked that there was interaction. Plus, it added a good 20% to the word count, which I'm beginning to believe will be needed.

But, as I mentioned yesterday, I decided to write the rest of the book first, without the new character, and see how it turned out.

So yesterday, on  my walk, I took the new character out of Chapter 20. As a trick, I brought in the voice of Hart's son-of-a-bitch father; since Hart is suffering from hypothermia.

I thought it was kind of a temporary fix, and yet...

When I read it, I was amazed how effective it was--and when I finished, I looked up to see that Linda had tears in her eyes. Score!

It just goes to show you never can tell.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

After much agonizing, I've decided to finish the book with a single protagonist, for four reasons.

1.) My rule about not making major plot changes until I'm finished. I may find that I really like the end result, and more often than not, my original instincts are better.

2.) If I start adding the second character halfway through the book, it will necessitate changing the first half the book. Whereas if I decide not to change, I'm free of the necessity.

3.) I have a feeling that adding a character is easier than subtracting a character.

4.) If I decide to add the second protagonist, then it gives me some meaty working material for the rewrite, which I always like.
Adding a new character to join Hart on the run ratchets up the problem with credibility, which is making me consider about how to correct it.

The biggest problem is that while Hart's in the wilderness, I couldn't think of a plausible reason he couldn't just run further into the wilderness and loop around to safetly.

I tried to finesse that a little by having impassible physical barriers in two directions (which aren't there in the real world), corrupt cops in a third direction, and the mercenaries in the fourth direction. It was a bit of stretch, which I tried to ameliorate by having Hart hated by the people of John Day, further closing off that direction.

It was within the realm of fictional license, I figured.

But if I add another character, it means I have to figure out why SHE wouldn't be able to escape.

So with that dilemma, I think I came up with solution. The solution is so satisfying that even if I don't add the second character, I'll use it.

So this exercise is already paying dividends, making me think about the plot holes.

Having problems and coming up with solutions is sometimes the best way to plot. As long as the solution doesn't completely overturn the story and motivations of the characters.

I have to admit that the prospect of having an editor of a major publisher who is already inclined to like my stuff and who is open to considering the book has changed my approach. I'm taking more time than usual, trying to fix things that are "almost good enough." Not that I wasn't trying before, but somehow it's as if someone is looking over my shoulder and I'm anticipating his objections. 

I wrote Chapter 20 as if Nicole, the love interest, had been along with Hart the whole way, and I thought it worked really well. It's clear to me that it can be done.

Dave however thought it mollified the lone-wolf James Bond-ness of the the lead character, which had me third guessing myself.

This morning I went ahead and emailed my publisher and asked the question: lone wolf or love interest along? Figure it gives the editor the information that I'm well into a book, and maybe he'll give me a definitive answer. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Linda freaked me out a little last night.

"I'm not a fan of the wilderness stuff. Maybe the "lone survivor in the wilderness" is a guy thing. I like it more when the characters are interacting."

Here I've been trying to think of ways to extend the wilderness stuff because I felt it was the core of the book.

Have I  made a strategic mistake?

See, I trust Linda's opinion. I think she's almost always right. She tried backing away from it a little this morning, "No, I was just a little confused about what's going on." (That's been a problem too--the locations and times and logistics are always a problem with my books.)

"Honey, you don't do me any favors by backing away now. I need to know what you really think. Otherwise I can't make the necessary changes."

I immediately thought of one solution, which is for Hart to have a companion in the chase scenes. Maybe even a love interest. But I have 30K words written with Hart alone. Can I tack on another character to already written scenes?

Thing is, I think I can. I've done it before. And it seems more and more viable the more I think about it. It's a complication, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It ups the tension. It's not just Hart in danger--he has to think of someone else.  I'll have to be clever, but being clever is what it's all about.

One thing is for sure--it would make the book bigger, and I've been a little concerned about having enough material. So, yeah. I think it's a real possibility. It would also make the book more active--instead of interior dialogue, it would be conversation between two people, which is always more interesting.

But I won't attempt it until I'm finished. Let's see how it plays out first. (Though it will probably be in the back of my mind from now on...)

I'll write the entire book, then create a separate file and play with the addition of a new character. 

Weird though, how much I like the idea--which I never would have thought of on my own.  It will add a week or two to the rewrite, but if makes the book better, then so be it. I always like something new and meaty to add to a second draft, and this would do that.

So...yeah, I'm very enthused right now. But I probably need to finish the book and sleep on it before I do anything.

Monday, March 27, 2017

One reason I'm not so critical of others efforts anymore is because I know that most people are doing their best. Sure, there are lazy and sloppy people, but I don't believe anyone puts out crappy books just to write crappy books.

Willpower alone won't make you a better writer.

Where willpower enters into it, is how much time I'm willing to devote to the process. It takes willpower to clear the calendar, to sit down and start writing, to stick with it, to finish.

For me, it takes more willpower not to settle for that first version, but to take the time and energy to revise it, and even more willpower to do it again. It takes willpower to set it aside long enough to come back to it with fresh eyes. It takes willpower to take the time to send it to others to read. It takes willpower not to accept "good enough."

When I say willpower doesn't make you a better writer, that's not totally true. Because it takes willpower to create the time and atmosphere to do something creative.

I don't think you can be deeper than you are--I mean, you can't know what you can't know. Insights that don't come to you, don't come to you.

But occasionally something burbles to the top, sometimes you may even get an epiphany. Sometimes what emerges on the page is indeed deeper than you are, better than you are. Not often, but the more time you give it, the more often it happens.

Being aware and open to these gifts. If I get a neat turn of phrase, a neat insight, say once a week, then in 24 weeks I'll get more insights than in 8 weeks. So taking longer to write a book is a good thing. (Though there is a limit, a point of diminishing returns.)

I've been reading the New York Times Book Review, and I always get a sinking feeling. I realize that most of the books reviewed there are far better than anything I'll ever be able to do.

Part of it is intent. My intent is to write fast and entertaining books. But even in that realm, I know there are far better writers everywhere I turn.

But there is no point in comparing. I just have to try to make the book I'm currently working on as good as I can. Take the time for it to develop, put some thought and research into it, revise it, expose it to others, try to learn how to get better.

I made a choice early on to write as much as I could. Not to hesitate, but to write every book that came to me, to learn how to be a better writer by doing. A case could be made for working on one book, taking a year to get it just right. I understand that. But I also know I wouldn't be able to do that.

I'm pretty sure the way I'm doing it is best for me. But unlike the old days, work that might not have passed muster with the gatekeepers can now be put up for all the world to see. I've tried hard not to put anything up that wasn't as good as I could do at the time, which means I have quite a few finished works I've never put up at all.

Every book I learn a few new things, I make a few new mistakes. I can hope someday that I'll put all the things I've learned into one story, and cut down on the mistakes.

I believe--I hope-- that is within my capability.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sometimes the amount of time I spend on writing doesn't seem enough.

And yet, I've also learned a light touch is better than being forced.  I mean, I do want to get in at least 1000 words a day, knowing it will probably turn into more. But I don't want to call it "work."

A thousand words is really only about an hour of intermittent typing. Surround that by an hour or so of living in the milieu and maybe another couple of hours of cocooning that creative space, and you're still talking about 4 hours in total.

Could I do more? Probably. I could do two sessions a day, I'm sure. In fact, in the past I've done that. I'm not sure the quality suffered all that much. I did nothing but write for 2 full years, and they were very productive years and I don't regret it at all, but I can't keep up that pace forever.

But even 1000 words a day, done consistently, produces a lot of story. What this type of scheduling allows is for me to do other things.  So the 4 hours a day of actual writing is probably about right.

It just seems a little lazy. Again, it isn't how hard I work, but how smart. I figure that letting my imagination have the first draft is a good thing, even if it seems like I'm getting off lightly.

I've come to terms with re-writing in much the same way. Keeping a light touch, using intuition for changes. Not bearing down, not turning it into mechanics.

So maybe that's why it seems lazy. Because it is such a "click" thing. Here it is, it's evocative or it isn't evocative, but if I think about it critically too much it becomes a mess.

I'm not certain that treating it as "work," laboring over every sentence, will make it better. You can't force insight or poetry or depth. You can come back to it more than once, doing it once over lightly again and again, until it finally takes on a texture.

But it's done with a fine brush, not a paint-roller. It comes through feeling, not thought. The thought leaks through nevertheless, but the more I do this, the more I realize that it all comes from within, it all comes from feel and touch. I can prime that creativity by asking myself intellectual questions, but when it spews out on the page, it's all instinct.

I've learned that too much rewriting doesn't make it better. That there is a time to back off.

I do spend a fair amount of time just daydreaming about the plot, and sometimes something really valuable filters through. Again, it's just a matter of circling back again and again. I try to think about the book when I nap, or shower, or when the house is quiet and I'm just thinking. More often than not, my mind drifts, or I fall asleep, but that's OK-- I wake up and bring myself back to the book, and this may happen a couple hundred times in the course of a few days, and out of all that, I may get only 1 or 2 really good ideas. But those ideas probably would never have come if I hadn't let myself drift that way.

At the end of the day, not working at the store has allowed me to write. I may only actually do the actual typing for a few hours, but I surround it with an atmosphere of creativity. Including this blog, for instance. And talking to myself. "What needs to be done? How can I surprise myself and the reader? What would really intrigue people? Can I get away with that?"

Linda is off at church for a few hours, and I intend to get up after writing this and pace around the house and circle around and around the vague glimmerings of the story, seeing if anything pops up out of nowhere, that one thing that makes me go "YES!!"

May not seem like much, but it all adds up.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A bit of soul-searching.

I'm having one of those lull periods where nothing much is happening.

As long as I continue quietly writing, it doesn't matter. It is what it is. The main thing is to keep making progress. This is the true test of a writer--that you write without certainty, that you do it in a vacuum, that you do it because you want to. No reward or even feedback for months and months, and minimal reward at the end.

And yet you still do it.

I'll be close to half done with the WIP in the next day or two. I'm pretty sure I can finish a first draft by late April, though it may take a few days longer to go through it quickly and do a bit of touching up before I send it off for editing.

Then I'll go ahead and do something else for awhile, like move into the new house, find new walking spots. Maybe go about publishing "Gargoyle Dreams" and/or "Said the Joker, To the Thief."

I have given up on the latter with Kindle Singles. Really, it's pretty clear I'm not going to get an answer, and every day that passes (17 weeks and counting) merely confirms that. I no longer wake up with the hope...or the fear. I've almost forgotten about it, but not quite--cause here I am writing about it still...blah.

Maybe I'll write a quick story about a Fire-setting Jinn for the cover I paid for. Or finish Mother Sali. I usually don't know until I finish a book what I'm in the mood to do next. 

At some point, theoretically, Gary should be getting back to me about editing the book he bought. Who knows?

What it shows is, when I finish "Deadfall" (the new working title of the WIP) that I'll need to just forget that I ever wrote it. Because bigger publishers have a whole different time frame than I do, years not months.

I could follow up on some of the unfinished business--ask about "Tuskers IV," or ask about "Snaked," or the contract from the new publisher (which was supposed to be headed my way over a month ago.) But I'm a little dispirited about it. Fuck it. These things will happen or they won't, I'm going to go on writing.

Because in the end, that is the only thing I  have ANY control over.

The thing to remember is that there are hundreds of thousands of writers, and tens of millions of books, and how you can stand out in the morass is a real question. It seems impossible. I know that marketing is the key, but I have neither the aptitude nor the appetite to do so, and as long as that is true, nothing is going to happen except by pure luck. I'd be just as likely to hit a powerball win by buying a lottery ticket on the way home every night (actually, MORE likely.)

I put out "Faerie Punk" without any fanfare whatsoever. Fully edited,with a bought cover. It was a test, a sacrificial lamb as to what happens if I just put a book out with nothing more than an announcement. I think  it's a very decent, entertaining book. As good as anything else I've done.

I believe I've sold less than 10 copies.

So why am I spending most of my life writing?

There's no good answer, really. Because sitting at home doing nothing isn't an answer either. At least it gives me purpose. I do enjoy it. I do believe that is a mentally and spiritually nourishing and healthy activity. It's a fun hobby, it's an identity. I'm breaking even on the whole deal, at least as far as expenses are concerned.

Where I'm losing money is by not working at the store, but I was needing to step back from that anyway. I was no longer really helping the store, I was probably hurting it. It makes more sense to have Cameron and others running the store, not only to save my psyche, but also to get the store updated, because I was just losing touch. Burn out was almost inevitable after 37 years of doing it.

So that's been a trade-off.

So the point, I guess, is to keep writing--even if it means I sell 10 copies of a book I worked on for months and which I spent a $1000 producing. Treating it like I would any hobby. Fishing or Hunting or Skiing or Biking or...? Have to buy the gear, right?  It's just a different hobby than most people have.

There is the "familiarity at a distance" of the social media, which I enjoy. I like the other struggling writers, I identify with them. As I said, being a "writer" has become my identity, whether I deserve it or not.

And finally, I actually have had a few encouraging things happen. I've been paid (a little) for a bunch of books by real publishers (small, but real...)  By selling a book to a major publisher, I'm technically in the black as far as expenses. I do believe I'm getting incrementally better. So there is still a chance I could write the "great" book, the "successful book.  So I shouldn't quite give up on the possibility yet.

I just shouldn't depend on it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

I made a bunch of mistakes with my first book back. Ironically, some of them were caused by trying to avoid the mistakes I'd made in my first career.

I gave myself one firm rule. Don't rewrite until the first draft is done. 

The first mistake I made was forcing myself to finish too soon. I wrote about half the book and stalled. After several months, I went on a "writing vacation" to the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City. Since I'd spent the money and cleared the time, I pretty much made myself write SOMETHING. The book went off in a wild tangent with which I've had trouble with ever since.

The basic idea that I needed to finish the book was correct. It's possible if I hadn't forced the issue I might never have attempted another book--especially since I'd had several books where I'd gotten several chapters in before stopping.

But the book suddenly had a wildly different tone. I'd started off trying to be snarky, but they have a saying on Broadway; Satire is what closes on Saturday night. It's hard to feel for characters who are being smart-assed all the time. Plus if you're going to pull that off for an entire book, you'd better be pretty good.

I hadn't thought through the motivations of the characters. It's hard to go back and do that.

I knew I was in trouble when I gave it to Martha and she said, "All the characters sound like you."

The idea that I shouldn't rewrite was also more or less correct, but I should have allowed myself a few course corrections.

And though I don't outline a book, it's generally a good idea to try to think it through a little. It so easy to write yourself into a corner, and to go back and try to change is more difficult, frankly, than starting a new book.

At the same time I was forcing the book, I was also worried about length, and looked for ways to add, which also created unnecessary problems.

So ironically, I ended up with a mess of a book that was similar to the same messes I'd made 25 years before. Through a dozen or more rewrites, I've finally gotten "Fairylander" close to where it needs to be. I liked the idea and the story enough to try to do that.

I was really lucky to have stumbled upon writing the "fun" book of "Freedy Filkins." I did this for my own amusement: a cyberpunk Hobbit. It got me in the groove, made me remember how to tell a story. Same with "The Reluctant Wizard."

By the time I attempted "Death of an Immortal" I had a process in place that pretty much worked, and I've followed that process ever since, with a few refinements.

In other words, I had to go through the mistakes to get to the solutions.

But of course, I keep making mistakes. Every book has its own problems.

With "Bigfoot Ranch," I created a couple of dilemmas without meaning to.

The first is: I chose to do it in 1st person. I've avoided first person through most of my writing. For one thing, it feels too easy. For another, it restricts how much knowledge and terrain I can cover. It all has to come from one viewpoint, and that limits the scope of the book somewhat.

I've decided to add a second (3rd person) narrator, which will help, but is still somewhat limiting.

The second problem is that I decided to make it a wilderness "chase" book, which was a great idea. But now that I'm writing it I'm realizing that it will be difficult to sustain an entire book. It just isn't credible to write 35 chapters of escape. I've done about 12 chapters, and I can probably do another 8, but even that is stretching it. Add the 1st person narration and it becomes almost impossible to sustain a full book.

So there will be a transition at some point to another setting. Which I think will work fine.

I'm trying not to worry too much about length. I need 80K words minimum, but I often find myself reaching my word goal without any extra efforts. We'll see what happens. I tend to add between 10 and 15% words in the rewrites, since my problem isn't too much but too little.

I just keep telling myself to write the next chapter and it will all come out fine in the end.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"Bigfoot Ranch" is developing differently than any other book I've written.

I mean, very book is different. Which makes sense. Writing a book is a complicated process-- there are always going to be things that I've never done before.

In "Bigfoot Ranch," I'm spending a fair amount of time going backward and filling in as I go along. Adding locations, descriptions, even characters. Normally, I'd just take notes and try to remember, which is dangerous.

I had a firm rule when I first started writing again. Never, ever rewrite until the first draft is done.

So I've loosened that rule a little. Now the hard and firm rule is "don't change the plot" until the first draft is done.

I distinguish between "change" and "adding and subtracting." Change means that the rest of the book has to change to adopt it--which is almost always a disaster. But sticking to the overall plot as written but simply adding or subtracting--most often adding--that's OK.

It does tend to dissipate a little forward momentum, though, so I have to be careful. But when the wording and the scene develops in my mind's eye, I think it's dangerous to say, "Come back later."

I've got the plot sort of ironed out for the next few chapters. It looks like I'll get thru about 60% of the way through the book with the chase scenes--when it probably should be more like 80% of the book. But I told myself not to worry about length until I'm done. More often than not, length takes care of itself.

The story feels good to me, and that's the most important motivator.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Six mercenaries are chasing Hart. I want to winnow them down, one by one, until there are only two left.

So I have to figure out four different wilderness "tricks" to take them out.

I've thought of two so far, which aren't really wilderness tricks, but common sense. The first one is an outdoor trap, but sort of obvious, but what happens after the trap is sprung hopefully isn't.

The second trick isn't really a wilderness trick, but I'm pretty proud of it. It seems to me that it could actually work, (whereas the first trick, as in all such tricks, depends on things happening in just the right way.) It is actually based on things I know about the Strawberry Mountains and the roads up to them.

I hit 20K words yesterday, and the plot is coming along. I've figured out the contents of the box McGuffin, which I thought was rather simple and yet brilliant. I still have to figure out what deep dark secret Hart has, which Dave suggested because Hart seems too good to be true, and I have to agree.

It's just a matter of writing it.

The walk in the woods every day seems to be the trick. I have 7 spots along the way where I can sit and write some words. That's 14 overall, both ways. I mean, if I had to, I could just say--"sit here until you've written 100 words" at each station and at the end of the walk, I'd have 1400 words. Of course, what really happens is that 100 words turns into 300 words and 300 words turn into 500 words. Usually, the chapter is mostly written in the first half of the walk, upon which I can reflect on the way back and burnish and improve.

It takes a little willpower, I don't always want to do it, but if I can just force myself into the car and start the drive out there, all the rest follows.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

So I have a Facebook friend (Dave Cline) who has been providing some pretty good advice about "Bigfoot Ranch."

I'm not sure I can accommodate all the advice, but I'll need to do something close to what he's
suggesting. I think I can continue to write the book as is, because the advice all has to do with the McGuffin and the main character's motivation, which can change without changing the main character's actions, strangely enough.

Meanwhile, it looks like I might not need any super wilderness tricks after all, that some common sense evasions will be enough. I also don't appear to need any special outdoor journalist knowledge, either. I can look up a lot on Google. I'm going to still ask some people in that world to look at the manuscript and see if they have any advice, but if they can't do it, I think I can move forward anyway.

I may not actually spend as much time on the outdoors scenes as I expected anyway. I'd thought the outdoor part would be 2/3rds the book, but it may end up being more like half the book.

I'm guessing that in order to accommodate the McGuffin and motivation problems that I'm going to have to bring in the 3rd person character narration of the opening chapter throughout the book, with his own problems and adventures. I don't want him to be more than, say, 20% of the book, though.

I'm not going to worry about length. It will turn out all right, I'm pretty sure. I can usually find ways to texture in new material if I need to, and it usually actually helps the book.

It's going to be a little bit of a strange mix of humor and thriller. For instance, I have a scene where the main character is on the run, still wearing his Bigfoot costume for warmth because it has started to snow and an innocent hiker stumbles upon him and Hart jumps up and forgets he's wearing the costume and the guy screams and runs off.

Sort of funny and light. But later, Hart finds the guy dead, so not so funny. That sort of back and forth is there throughout the book. I can't help it. The trick is, I'm not trying to be funny. That would be deadly. The humor just sort of happens.

Meanwhile, my daily walk is the magic elixir for creativity. Over the last few days I've been stumped at the house, stumped in the shower, stumped at my desk, stumped napping on the bed, stumped on the drive out.

I start walking and within a quarter mile, the ideas just start flowing.

Which is both cool and scary. Because I'm afraid I've tied my writing process a little too closely to the walking, which isn't always possible.

Then again, I'm glad it's there!

Friday, March 17, 2017

I need wilderness tricks.

I've got my main character on the run in the woods, pursued by six hardened heavily armed mercenaries. So I need some believable things to happen where he manages to winnow them down one by one.

I've thought of traps, fire, rockfalls, flashfloods, bear dens, crossfire, snowfall, and so on, but whatever I do needs to sound believable.

The next half of the books things need to tighten up more and more for the hero, so that he barely survives, and is driven to more and more desperation. Then there needs to be the moment when he turns the tables on them, begins to take them out, for another third of the book, and then the final denoucement.

So far, the wilderness guide thing hasn't been as much of a hurdle as I expected, because its just been normal deer hunting, and I know how to do that.

Basically, everything from here on out is action, action, and more action.

Monday, March 13, 2017

I've noticed an uptick since the last time I mentioned this, so thought I'd give it a wiggle.

If you have Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Owner's Lending Library, you can read a bunch of my books for free--and I still get paid for every page you click!

So you can check me out painlessly.

Freedy Filkins, Fairie Punk, Blood of the Succubus, Burp the Burrow Wight, and I Live Among You, are all self published.

All pretty different kinds of books. 

"Freedy Filkins" is my cyberpunk Hobbit book, pretty light-hearted, fast read.

"Fairie Punk" is urban quest fantasy, my longest book, I thought it had a lot of originality.

"Blood of the Succubus" is sexy horror (fair warning). I do mean sex and horror.

"Burp the Burrow Wight" is a "Short Fable for Tall Children," very light.

"I Live Among You" is modern dark fantasy. Also a fast read, maybe even a little humorous?

I'm probably going to put up more of my finished books up soon because I'm realizing that going forward, I'm more likely to sell new stories to publishers than one's I've already written, strange as that sounds. 

I've allowed myself to be as quirky as I want up to now, but I'm being a little more directed right now (though still quirky, dammit.) 

 Still writing what I want but I'm paying more attention to what might sell.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"No one goes there anymore. It's too crowded." Yogi Berra.

I've been making this joke about downtown Bend for a few years now, especially when a Bendite tells me, "I don't go downtown if I can help it."

But the aphorism seems less like a joke to me now, and more like some kind of zen wisdom.

Whenever I travel to the west side of Bend, it seems cluttered and crowded. I almost breathe a sigh of relief when I reach the wider open spaces of the east side.

Paying a whole lot more for the privilege of living on the west side always seemed kind of nutty to me. The point is to find a nice place in a nice neighborhood. I guess there is the re-sale value, but if it is a final home, I'm not sure that matters as much.

Meanwhile, Redmond adds another large percentage in what you can buy. Wandering around our new neighborhood in Redmond it just feels slower, calmer, quieter, more small town.

But you know what? As far as making a living goes, there is no comparison. Downtown Bend is the place to be. I'm astounded by the numbers of customers coming in the door these days. I'm guessing a good third of them are either vacationers or newcomers. They are what make the difference between Pegasus Books doing well or not doing well.

Maybe it takes an oldtimer like me to appreciate it. I mean, I remember playing cribbage on the sidewalk with my neighbor and commenting that we could fire a cannon down the middle of the street and not hit anyone.

And that went on for years and years.

When the rents started to shoot up, I had to make a decision. All my neighbors left, but I decided to gut it out and I'm glad I did. The increased rent was covered by the increased business, which is what you would hope for. 

So complaining about traffic or parking seems sort of stupid, you know? I'm of the camp that believes that whatever capacity you create will soon be filled. So if you have an active business or shopping district, it will feel busy and crowded.

I suppose the best of both worlds is the have the business in Bend and the home in Redmond. Anyway, that's the way it's working out.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Buying a new house. In Redmond of all places.

Being a native Bendite, I never thought that would happen. Growing up, Redmond was our homecoming rivals, the other side of the tracks, hicks.

But let's face it, Redmond isn't Redmond anymore, and maybe even more importantly, Bend isn't Bend.

Bend is on some kind of ego trip.

Linda and I had the same experience we had last time we shopped for a house in Bend, 13 years ago. All the houses in our price range were crappy, or near the railroad tracks, or in a lousy neighborhood. When we walked into our present house we turned to each other and said, "This is it."

Don't know why this house was affordable back in 2004, but we grabbed it. It's a nice house and we fixed it up more and we're in a nice neighborhood. If it was up to me, we'd stay forever. However the traffic has grown over the years, the house has gotten older, and maybe it's time for a fresh start.

Anyway, Linda doesn't want to negotiate the stairs anymore on our split level house, so we needed a single story. Reluctantly, I agreed to look at Redmond--if we got more house for the same money.

In the end, we're going over our original budget by 20%, but we are getting a brand new custom built house, we're able to choose the flooring and colors and all the rest, a house that is 20% larger, a nice neighborhood on a cul-de-sac. It actually has space to go with the house, you know, real and psychic room between domiciles. (Horrifying how close most developers are building next to each other these days...yuck.)

So after circling the house for a week or so, we said yes. It had everything we had set out to find, every single thing was checked off. Now we have to assemble the financing and so on, pick all the accoutrements. It won't be ready until May 1, which is perfect, which gives me just about enough time to finish my WIP.

It's been hard to write. This is a test in a way. Can I handle real life and fictional life at the same time? I've never been able to manage it before, but then I've never been on a roll like this before. Mostly, I'm trying to let Linda handle it all, but I have to be there for the big decisions, so about half of the last ten days have been spent househunting. It's kind of fun, but impossible to write.

The commute doesn't bother me; hell, I drive the same distance everyday to to go for my walk in the Badlands. I'm sure I can find someplace new to traipse around near our new house.

I told Linda we have to reduce our fixed income withdrawals from retirement to the same exact proportion that we are overspending, which works out to a couple hundred dollars a month, and she's probably right to it's more important to have a house we really like than a couple extra hundred a month. It's not like we're world travelers.

We've been really lucky, knock wood. Things have worked out. Pegasus Books is still doing well, my writing is moving right along, we have our health mostly, and we are actually going to be able to retire with a little security (as much as anyone can have security these days.)

The one thing I'm going to spend a little money on myself is a used pickup I can go boony-stomping with, and which we can just throw our kayaks into the back of.

Knock wood again.

I'm going to try to hedgehog for the next 6 weeks or so, ignore the chaos, let Linda handle it, and just write. Probably spend a lot of time in the woods, I suspect. I'm really enjoying my new book and I'd really like to get a first draft completely done.

I had the experience a long time ago of blowing an opportunity. I'd sent Deviltree to a major publisher, and his response was; "If your next book is as good as this one, I'll buy both."

I met Linda at the same time, had instant family, bought a business. It took me two years to write that book, and then it was too late. ("I actually liked this book more," the editor said, "but I've changed my mind."

So I have an opening for a book right now, and I'm not going to let anything keep me from doing it. Get it done, do a rewrite, send it to Lara.

Then...I can devote all the time we need to the new house. 

 Meanwhile, I guess my old brag of "I"m a native Bendite" will have to be changed to "I'm a native Central Oregonian." Which doesn't have quite the same ring.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Well, shit.

My "thriller" has turned into a quirky little adventure story.


I'll go ahead and finish it because I really like it, but I'm not sure it will fit the bill. Thing is, I can always write another book. I have a lot of confidence in my profligacy. 

Should have 10K words by the end of the day. It's just rolling off my fingers. I think because it's 1st person.

Chapters 2 and 3 and 4 of "The Last Honest Man" written on the same day. Moving right along.

I've always had a suspicion that 1st person narration is too easy. That's why I haven't done it until recently. I felt I needed the discipline of writing characters that weren't in any way me, who came completely from my imagination.

No matter how much I try to avoid it, when I'm writing in first person it's my own voice, one way or another.

In the current novel, most of the events that I talk about are things that happened to me, if not quite that way.

"I Live Among You" is the only novel I've written in 1st person, after writing more than 20 books in 3rd person. I recently wrote  a novella, "The Toad King," that is not only in 1st person but in present tense, but that was somehow different.

This current character, Hart Gallegher, isn't me and yet in many ways, he is me.

So what's wrong with that? Author's voice is all important, right?

The biggest problem is that it very hard to judge the quality. I'm not quite as objective about what I'm writing. I find it harder to cut words, or add words, based on some outside measure.

I've never had a hard time expressing myself. I can babble on endlessly about anything--and that's the danger. Instead of looking for "telling details" I'm afraid that I might be providing too many. I can't really tell.

Thing is, if this actually works, it will be enormously liberating. I will be able to just tell my stories in my own voice. I'll have the tone, the characters, and the setting I can live in.

How fun.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Chapter Two of my thriller, "The Last Honest Man," is done.

It isn't going at all in the direction I expected. In my head,  I have the framework for a proper thriller, but it's coming down on paper as something else-- something lighter. But...I like it. A lot.

It more Hiaasen than Lee Child, though I would never pretend to be as funny. It just has an easygoing tone, which probably isn't what you want in a thriller. But I like the characters already. I like the set up. I like the setting.

So I'm going to write it and hope for the best.

It sure as hell wants to be written. I've finished both chapters before noon. I wanted to stick to a one chapter a day pace, but I'm wondering if I should pick it up a little. 

If it doesn't work out to the editor's satisfaction, I can always write another book. But while I'm more than willing to be aware of what the market wants, I'm not really willing to change my writing to get there, which may doom me as far as the mass market is concerned.

It isn't that I'm too proud. I just can't seem to write anything but what I write and if I did, it would almost certainly suck.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Starting my thriller today. I've line up the next 17 days to do nothing but write.

After going back and forth several times, I've decided to do my "lost box" story, with the outdoor guide/ journalist as the protagonist. As much as I'm leery of writing a Rambo/McGyver story, I think it would be cool to have some of that.

Outdoor guy against city-slickers.

The "Takeover" book was just too fraught with politics, I decided. And everyone I talked to liked the first idea better.

Linda and I spent 3 days looking at houses. There is nothing in our price range in Bend that isn't crappy, so we are looking at Redmond. Linda is going on with Anita, our realtor friend. Linda will have the ultimate say. They know what I like.

I walked into 3 different houses and said, "I'd buy this." So I'm not someone to trust with the buying trigger. I make very quick decisions when shopping.

The Bookmark has been extinguished, sigh.  They took down the signs and painted the exterior dark grey and have been working on the inside for a month. I'm betting the new bookstore, "Big Story," is going to be spectacular.

Got my Sunday New York Times and it was refreshing to read long-form journalism.

Working Pegasus for 3.5 days was educational. Most of all, I get the sense the store is functioning very well. How nice, after so many years. Part of it is Bend is going through one of it's periodic expansions, but I think it also helps to have some young guys running the stores. The customer base is trending younger, which is good.

I haven't heard from any of my publishers in a long time, so I sent out a couple of reminders this morning. I sent a novella to Kindle Singles 14 weeks ago, which is way way too long not to hear back. So I figure it got lost or I missed the rejection. (Current Kindle Singles authors are: J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, Lee Child, Diana Gabaldon, you know, losers like that....)

Well, diving deep this time. No distractions. Just the world of my thriller.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Working 5 days in a row, which I haven't done in several years. Put away comics yesterday, which I also haven't done.

It's good for me. I discovered, for instance, that Cameron's orders were spot on--maybe a little better than I used to do. I found 4 overages and shortages from our wholesalers, which seems to be common these days when it used to be rare.

A large quantity of graphic novels came in, and they were a broad mix, so that was nice to see.

I met a bunch of shelf subscribers who I didn't really know. Which is a strange feeling, because I used to know all my subscribers by name and number, what they collected, and how often they came in.

I got a sense of which parts of the stores were being looked at, or were active. I've got the raw numbers, of course, but that doesn't always tell the story. There can be strong interest just below the trigger point, and trigger points that are starting to fail.

The age and sex mix is more apparent when I'm working full time. It's pretty much 50/50, at least those that come in the door if not those who actually buy, which is still weighted toward the male, but not as much as it used to be.

I never thought I'd see the day. The store seems to be accepted as normal by everyone, which again wasn't true for the first half of my career. (I have an image of a customer realizing he/she is in...gasp...a comic store! and backing away slowly so as not to alarm the nerds.)

I was very tired by the end of the day, but I think the customer count is higher than it used to be too.

The experience has reinforced my goal to expand the books and game sections, which I think still have room for growth. Since the store is running smoothly, I think I can take a chance of ordering aggressively.  Books especially, since I know books pretty well and can see many areas of improvement.

This working for 5 days is good for me, even though it takes me away from writing. I'm reassured by the direction the store is going, so I'm very much looking forward to getting back to writing.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Read chapters 4-6 of The Toad King to writer's group last night. Among the usual grammatical corrections, Gary let slip, "Sometimes, it's almost poetic."

"What's that?"

"Sometimes it's almost poetic..."

"Yes! Thank you!"

It's amazing how even a qualified praise can have a big impact. I mean, first of all, it was from Gary who isn't prone to lavish praise. Way back when I was writing "Led to the Slaughter" Gary said, "...this almost has some real depth."

Again, qualified praise I took to heart, because he was commenting on a passage of the book where I felt I had broken through to some real meaning.

Meanwhile, one of the things I'm noticing about my writing is that the more I do, the less attention I'm paying to the outside world. I don't really want to know if others have done what I've done, or how they did it, or take advice on what and when I should write.

Part of this is my age. I've spent 35 years between writing stints and I had a lot of time to think about it, to read umpteen books, to read advice about writing. Combined with my original research of reading every book about writing I could get my hands on, and taking classes and joining groups.

 I'm sort of backing away from all that. I'm trusting my own instincts now. 

I'm retreating into my own little bubble, exploring my own psyche, writing what comes to me without regard to anything else. Trying not to second-guess myself too much. Just letting my own ideas come out and hoping they are original and fresh enough to interest people.

Fortunately, my imagination coincides more often than not with what others might want. For instance, it isn't a stretch to write a "thriller." So I'm not just writing one only because I have a receptive editor, but because it's the type of thing I was getting ready to write anyway. (In fact, two of my most recent books were thrillers.)

I retreat further and further into my writing bubble. The real challenge to me is to unlock what I think is already there in my head. The only thing standing between me and a really good book is myself, my own hangups, my own getting in the way of my imagination. It's all there if I can access it, which means being free, being focused on my own dreams, not letting any critical elements stop me.

Which isn't what I expected.