Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Writer's group didn't love my book last night.

That's it, I quit! (just kidding.)

The criticism was in three parts.

1.) Too many characters.
2.) Moving away from witness statements to actual scenes.
3.) Not enough action.

Thing is, all three are legit critiques, and...I have no intention of changing them. You have to understand--I'm usually willing to change most anything I write. For some reason, this book is different. This book is more personal somehow.

1.) Too many characters. I've done this over my last several books, especially with "The Scorching," "Snaked," and now "Takeover." I see it as a kind of disaster movie ensemble. It keeps it interesting to me and keeps the plot moving.

2.) Moving away from "witness statements" to actual scenes: guilty. I made this conscious choice to move into "plot" at this point in the book. I simply didn't see any way to progress the story without doing so. One of the writer's group people more or less winked at me and said, "Maybe you can get away with it."

The idea of having the witness statement "lead" into a scene doesn't really work, I think. A little too tricky. Most of the statements and the scenes are too interlinked and I'd have to find a way to denote the two techniques and I can't see a way to do it without being intrusive.

So I will indeed be trying to get away with it.

3.) Not enough action. When I made the decision to try to make this as "real" as possible, I more or less precluded the idea of Hollywood action scenes every few chapters. I'd hoped the character development would be enough. I'm not going to change that now.

I suspect if I send this to editors, I'll get pretty much the same criticism, so I'm thinking of skipping that part. Just sending it raw to the publisher. The flaws in this book may be inherent. I think I'm over my head.

It also reads very smoothly. Not as much editing there needed. So...

At the same time, I really like what I've done and feel that is good as it is. I understand that my feelings don't count, it's the readers feelings that count, and I could tell about 12 pages in that the writer's group was bored, and I stopped short of the 16 pages I intended to read. But I wasn't bored, I liked it.

I'm going with this book the way I want it and if that means it doesn't get published, so be it. I think it's a good book the way I wanted to write it. That's really what I ask of myself.

For some reason, I'm being stubborn on this particular book. I think I've got it right.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Never worry about length.

I've learned to never worry about length.

I used to, and I'd sometimes go on tangents, or look for plot complications, to make sure I had sufficient paint to cover the walls. But I've slowly learned that the books almost always end up at the proper size. I suspect my subconscious is constantly making adjustments.

Not worrying about length allows me to go straight for the ending as fast as I can.

"Takeover" has reached 78,000 words, with at least four thousand to go, probably more. I usually add a good 10% in a rewrite, which will almost make the book too  long. I really don't want it to pass 90K words for a thriller. But I'm not going to worry about it.

It will end up being as long as it needs to be.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Last chapter willies.

One chapter left to write, but it's a big one. Lots of action, a lot of head hopping, a lot to wrap up.

I admit, I'm intimidated by the idea. I think the plot has worked up to this point, but none of it works if it isn't brought home hard.

I used to rush the endings. I remember knowing I was doing it but unable to help myself. Stupid. Strange though that I've kind of gone in the opposite direction; slowing down as I near the ending. It isn't that I don't want to finish, it's that I want to really nail it. 

I spent a week on the penultimate chapter because I couldn't figure out a "trigger." I finally realized whose point-of-view it had to be and that helped, and then I realized the approach. I'll need to do the same thing with the last chapter. Feel it strongly before I start writing it. Have the scene completely blocked out before I start.

I suspect there will also be an epilogue of some kind. The thing about epilogues is that they are best written after some time has passed. I change epilogues most often when the story has had time to settle and I realize what really needs to be said to sum it up.

My twilight canals walks have been very inspiring, for some reason. But it also means I have to wait until the end of the day and then hope something happens. I'm going to just think about the last chapter today, not actually try to write it. Go on my twilight walk and if it happens, great, if not...I still have 3 days to finish it.

Four days for one chapter is like 4 times my normal time, but this is probably 4 times more important.

I have the ending more or less in my mind, though not how to get there. I'd love it if a surprise popped up. I purposely held off really thinking about it much in hopes that a twist would emerge. It may still.

Then again, the entire focus on this book has been to be as realistic as I can make it. Therefore the twist would have to be realistic, and twists by their nature aren't.

Except the good ones.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Boring process blog.

For the second day in a row, I went on my twilight canal walk and an entire chapter came to me. I rushed home, went to my room, and wrote it down. And this was the chapter that I'd been stalled at for a full week. I just realized that it needed to start as a conversation between two friends and everything else followed.

Not having my computer with me gives me time to cogitate a little longer. I'm probably losing a few ideas, which is unfortunate, but that might be made up for by the precognition. So I think that makes three strong chapters in a row, after several chapters that I thought were adequate.

The pace feels a little odd. Not so much that it's building to a crescendo as that it just has been a steady pace of inevitability. 

I'm up to 73K words. I figure I have about 2 or 3 chapters left, a couple of them relatively short, and then one long action sequence at the end. A little bit of postscript.

I want to make a trip the the John Day Fossil Beds and soak up the atmosphere, write some descriptions. And then do a little research on guns (a weak spot for me, considering this is meant to be a thriller) and maybe hostage taking procedures. Find another couple of longform articles on Malheur and Bundy ranch, maybe Waco and Ruby Ridge.

Make sure the book is at least 80K words. As always, I need to flesh out the book. I believe it's important to get the plot down, the skeleton of the story, and then go back and explicate it. I keep reading on Facebook of fellow writers who are doing 150K words, which is pretty amazing. I believe this book works at 80K or slightly longer. It would be easy enough to add more, but I don't think it's necessary.

Almost done. I was hoping to be finished by September 1, and I think that will probably happen. But these last chapters are important and I don't want to push them.

I'm kind of not thinking about the last chapter. It will need to be figured out, what each character is doing, who lives, who dies.

Action scenes are easy to do, but hard to do well. So I want to be sure it all works and that it all feels right, and maybe even includes a little pathos.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A plot driven by dialogue.

Spent most of the day thinking I wasn't going to get anything written. Went on my twilight walk, and a chapter formed in my head. Rushed home and wrote it. Bonus!

This is the second time I've written a chapter further into the book than where I left off. I was thinking about how maybe I just didn't like the ending, but I thought about the ending, the ending started coming to me, so maybe I liked it after all. It appears to be these intervening chapters that I'm having trouble with.

Ah, well. Almost done.


Last night chapter was written almost solely as dialogue, and it made me realize how much of the plot of this particular story has been driven by dialogue.

Which means, I think, that the plot is driven by characters and their motivations, and that's probably the best kind of plot of all.

I've noticed that so much fiction nowadays is written for the cool moment, that cool scene, the really neat piece of action, the nifty idea, the surprising twist.

Trouble it, no one wants to spend the time to develop the characters and plot to where that moment has meaning. There is no context, only the moment, but the moment is empty.

That's why I think plot formulas don't work well. They are artificially constructed, instead of arising out of character motivations. Living characters make decisions while you're writing, often surprising you. In fact, some of my best characters, the ones I like the most, have come out of nowhere to take over a story.

So as I reach the end of this book, there is a lot of action. The time for character and plot development is done. It's as if the director of a movie comes to a page that says, "GUNFIGHT" and it's now his job to block out the action, to come up with as many cool moments as possible.

Which work because you care about the characters.

It's as if writers want that ALIENS moment when Ripley says, "Get away from her, you bitch!" without spending the time to show the relationship between Ripley and the little girl.

I came back to writing thinking I'd concentrate on those cool moments, only to discover that I was inclined to write old fashioned storytelling. I thought that would doom me, but I think it works. A slow build is not such a bad thing, if you can get away with it.

I'm  just not sure how much you can get away with it, unless you are already a trusted writer who the reader believes will deliver the goods.

Friday, August 25, 2017

"Snaked" is availble for preorder.

I've got high hopes for this. It was my best book when I wrote it, and with the help of the publisher, it got better.

Cohesion Press is very active right now, with some excellent books in their roster, so I'm pretty honored to be included. They also back their books with promotional efforts, which I appreciate.

If you want to preorder it:

Wish me luck, folks!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer's been good.

Worked at Pegasus Books for a few hours yesterday.

We're selling the hell out of books. All these tourists seem to believe we're a bookstore. Literally outselling both comics and graphic novels (but not the two together.) That is truly astonishing, especially since so far I've made little effort to carry current bestsellers. It makes me believe that I could be a full bookstore if I needed to be. But then, why? I like comics and graphic novels. It's all one big compendium of words and pictures, as far as I'm concerned.

Magic sales are down, because of increased competition, I think. It reminds me of sports cards in that there always seem to be so many people selling magic and so many people discounting. space. Not at all sorry to be foregoing that.

Toy sales are up, which I've made a concerted effort to do.

Games are down a little bit, but not bad considering how much competition we have these days.

Comic floppies are down this month, which is the first time we're really seeing what the rest of the industry has been reporting. But graphic novel sales are up, almost compensating.

Overall, we're going to beat last year for the second month in a row, which I think is due to paying more attention to books and toys.

Anyway, this huge increase in book sales more or less confirms what I've been thinking---that filling the store with good books, interesting books, books with a history and books without a history, but just doing the best I can to fill the store with books, results in sales that are not dependent on competition but result from being downtown when there is lots of foot traffic.

That we can do.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse business and a digital sun.

Our sales were actually pretty good. I'm going to say average and since we were having a good month before the eclipse, that's not bad at all. Cameron wondered if we should close on Monday, but I said, no as a matter of routine we stay open, always. I think one of the things Pegasus Books can offer is reliability and steadiness, which means never closing except for Christmas day and Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, Marvel has concocted a plan that forces us to buy 150 to 200% of the numbers we usually sell in order to qualify for the versions of the comics that the customers will want. So we're ordering roughly 35% more Marvel comics normal for Sept/Oct. We'll probably offer the regular covers for regular price, or the special covers for regular price WITH the purchase of a regular cover. Hard to see how we won't lose money otherwise.

This is the kind of gimmick that almost destroyed the comic market in the mid 90's and if we weren't doing well I wouldn't even attempt it. But the 3D covers are cool, and I don't really want to go without them, so I'm taking the chance.

It's very possible there will be an event hangover the next few days. Then again, maybe the locals will come out of their bunkers.

Oh, and the eclipse itself was one of the cooler things I've seen in my life. Linda and I live in Redmond, so we got the totality for about 50 seconds. Awe inspiring. 

But it was so crisp and neat it made me feel like I was living in a computer game, Pac man world. Heh.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Just write the damn thing.

I've been hovering over the next chapter for about 3 days now, trying to find a strong entry point, trying to figure out which character's POV has the strongest voice, and just wanting it to be great.

Wanting something to be great is a the surest way to block yourself. 

I wrote a chapter that happens later in the meantime, just to make some progress.

Went on my walk last evening along the canal (I tend to alternate between day walks where I actually write and twilight walks where I just think) and asked myself, "If I were to write this chapter right now, how would it come out?"

Then proceeded to write the chapter in my head and think, 'Hmm, that's pretty good, actually."

So today I''m going to write it for real.

Rapidly approaching the end of the book. It's funny, but in the old days I couldn't wait to wrap up a storyline: nowadays I always have this final hesitation, an unwillingness to really get to the end. Not sure why. But I'm pretty sure the delay is beneficial, mostly.

Waiting for inspiration at this point is hard. The story has more or less been written in my head. The initial excitement has dissipated. The discovery isn't there, except in the execution.

For the last three days I've been waiting for inspiration. The dilemma is, the longer I wait for inspiration, the farther I am from the last time I wrote and the harder it gets. A kind of Catch-22.

So I'm pushing forward, trusting that the story and the characters are strong enough to finish this book.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Snaked: Deep Sea Rising" available on pre-order.

It's coming out September 28.

Warning: Word Count. Process post.

This is one of my lovely process posts that I like so much and which must bore the hell out of everyone else.

I got to 66K words yesterday, with the ending still quite a ways away. I'd originally thought the first draft would be about 60K words, or if I was lucky, 65 or 70K. Now it's pretty clear I'm easily going to pass 75K.  Just goes to show that I shouldn't worry about length.

It will happen. Second drafts are usually between 10 and 15% longer, as I add needed development, description, continuity transitions, and telling details. When the whole apoc-eclipse is over, I'm driving over to the Fossil Beds to get some first-hand description in place, do a bit more research to see what I can fit into the story for verisimilitude.

I managed to get a chapter written yesterday, despite a family get-together later in the evening. I wrote a chapter out of sequence, because I wasn't quite ready to write the very important next chapter.

I suspect that I'm going to lose Sunday and Monday completely, as family is coming to our house in Redmond to see the eclipse. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to write Friday and Saturday as usual.

I was getting a little worried at the mild tone in the last few chapters. Many of the radical characters have been removed from the scene, and the newer even more radical characters aren't point of view characters.

Talking it over with Linda I said, "Wouldn't it be great if I could have XXX come in and be all crazy and stuff." And then immediately figured out how I could do that. That's the chapter I wrote on my walk and it was very satisfying.

Meanwhile, I changed the emotional tone of one of the "mild" chapters, so it seemed to carry a bit more punch.

Here's the problem. I've got a cast of characters, each of whom I've given multiple chapters. As I come up on the resolution of their individual story arcs, the temptation is to give each of them their due, but I can't afford to give them each a full chapters. So either I leave their endings implied or unresolved or I give them a partial chapter.

Which means head hopping in each chapter, probably among two or three characters. (Most often, a character gets an entire scene to him or herself.)

Since most of what's left are action scenes, head hopping is a bit more acceptable, I think. If I've done my job, I've established their characters, so now I can just show them in action. Action sequences are more staccato anyway, to be effective, even down to shorter sentences and paragraphs. So head hopping will probably work if I don' overdo it.

I'm still really happy with this book. I think it hangs together believably. The motivations all make sense. The plot is exciting.

At least, I think it's exciting. Had a reader tell me it needed more "edge" which made me feel insecure about the first half of the book. There is no real "action" per se for much of the book, though I hope there is enough tension and suspense. I see no way to write a "realistic" novel, which was my main goal, if I'm having gunfights from the beginning (or anything else radical.) To make this book work, there has to be a build. I do have several murders along the way, about halfway through. But...

Well, if it turns out it doesn't work because I don't have that kind of action, so be it.

My third attempt at a thriller will be a flat out effort to do a Lee Child, John Sandford kind of story. I think. Unless it bores me too much.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sea Monster Trilogy from Cohesion Press

"Snaked" comes on the heels of two other sea monster books by Cohesion Press, so I'm appropriating their success, jumping their bandwagon. Both "Fathomless" and "Primordial" have done very well.

And they all have beautiful blue covers!

"Snaked: Deep Sea Rising" is due out on Sept. 28, and it looks like Cohesion Press is nicely behind it. It's my idea to think of it as a thematic trilogy, I hope they don't mind.

What fun!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wondering if my book is too politically polarizing. Damn.

"Takeover" will be my best book, without a doubt. The "good" book I've been striving for. As I say, this is my own estimation and may not be matched by others opinions, but it doesn't matter.

I think it's good.

However, I think it's probably a problem book not because of the quality of its story or writing, but because of the content.

There is no way to write about what I'm writing about without polarizing one political side or the other. In fact, I sort of have the dreaded feeling that I'll probably polarize both sides!

But I knew that going in. It was what attracted me to the story in the first place. There is some meat on those bones, some real world meaning. So I went ahead and expended my best efforts on something that may in the end be unpublishable.

As I say, it doesn't matter. I've succeeded in doing what I set out to do.

No missteps so far.

I've never gotten this far into a book without feeling like I've made missteps--missteps that couldn't be fixed. Fundamental errors that couldn't be removed without destroying the story. Usually, I have to try to ameliorate these missteps, make them manageable.

There are probably too many POV characters in "Takeover," then again, that is a feature of the book. It might take a little paying attention on the part of the reader, but I don't think it's too much to ask. 

I've held off thinking about the ending, not wanting to shape the book in a direction that the characters didn't lead it.

Finally, yesterday, the ending started leaking through my mental blockade, but that's probably all right since I'm almost to the point where I was planning to allow it anyway.

I want to be sure to do this right, but I think that the ending I've come up with is realistic as well as dramatic.

In other words, no missteps to the end of the book. I'm very excited.

Sorry about that.

I've been blogging just about every day for 12 years. Mostly because I figured no one was paying attention anyway. I could write boring process posts about writing. Or be vague about my plots. Or simply comment on the weather. Nothing spectacular, not exactly literary. A personal diary, if you will.

I decided recently to up my social media presence a little. Went from 350 FB friends to 850. Went from 300 Twitter followers to 450. I'm going to pause at 1000 friends and 500 followers. Maybe if I have a hit, it will be easier to get more people to follow me. Otherwise, it's mostly in the horror community, which is a comfortable place to be. But it's tiny numbers in the scheme of things.

It's harder to get people to follow you on Twitter, but I figure if they don't follow me after I follow them, then we don't need to continue. I'm not interested actually in following famous people, who most of them probably spend less introspective time than I do.

My Facebook feed is clogged today with political stuff. I'm pretty good at scrolling through these fast, since they pretty much all say the same thing. My decision not to vent politics on social media is confirmed.

The point of this post is a defiance to the sudden pressure I feel to write something deep, or important, or inspiring, or entertaining, or consequential.

I'm going to write as I've always written. About the real stuff of life. No memes or tropes, no pandering to clicks. Just this. My boring life of walking in the woods, reading and writing, watching TV, going to the occasional movie, talking to Linda and a few friends and family, and working at my bookstore once in a while.

Sorry about that.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A day in the bookstore.

Working the counter at Pegasus Books is exhausting. I don't know why. It's not really that hard on the outside.

People? It was really fun to mix it with people yesterday after my solitary endeavors.

Anyway, I come home and immediately need a nap just to decompress.

New books are selling really well. I think we'll have a record month. I'm preparing to remove used books this fall and make room for more outward display of graphic novels, moving the art books over to the comic half of the store, and opening up room to carry more new books.

Despite tales of troubles in the comic world, they seem to be holding their own in our store.

Surprisingly, new books outsell used book about 5 to 1. Who knew? After all the horror stories about how hard books were to sell, it turns out to be relatively easy compared to say, comics. Order good books and they sell. Heh.

Of course, I have the luxury of not depending on them to pay all the bills, but still. 

It wasn't as busy as I feared (hoped) after what Cameron said about the day before. I kept asking people if they were there for the eclipse and none of them were. Too early. Just a busy summer, I guess.

Sold a "Vampire Evolution Trilogy" set and a "Led to the Slaughter." Wow. I seem to be able to sell at least one or two books of mine every time I work. So I could sell hundreds a year (Making 50% on them!) if I wasn't writing them in the first place. A real Catch 22, that.

It's still amazing to me that I worked the store 90% of the time for decades, and 100% of the time for many of those years.

But it also seems pretty damn obvious why I didn't write. I'm drained.

Meanwhile, I keep coming across articles in the paper that confirm some fictional element of a story I've written. The latest is that sea snakes slough off toxic chemicals in their skins from pollution!. (Wish I'd thought of the pollution angle...)

Amazing how often that happens. Inexplicable, really. Extrapolation is a powerful technique.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Go away, ending. I'm not ready.

First this happens, then that, then this, then that.

It's logical, event following event. Consequences and all that.

But life doesn't work that way.

The best example is, we've all had the experience of a practice dialogue in our minds, exactly what we were going to say to another person, and imagining that person's response, and then our response to their response. All very logical and orderly.

So how did that work out?

In fiction, you have the luxury of doing exactly what you imagine. But if you do, then you become way too predictable, too easy a solution, too pat an answer.

I learned a trick a long time ago. In dialogue it is sometimes good to throw in a non-sequitur on purpose. Usually, I come up with two pieces of a conversation and instead of transitioning them, I simply put them together. Amazing how often that works.

Just as in, when writing scenes the temptation is to over-transition. Spend time trying to logically connect the dots. Sometimes, though, you should just let the reader make the jump with you. You can trust them, most of the time.

When editing, people see these gaps, these illogical things, and they naturally point them out. You have to be careful not to smooth everything out. Not everything needs to be perfect. If the story goes sideways on you, most of the time that's good.

Especially endings.

So I'm coming up on the ending of "Takeover." Hit 55K words yesterday, and the plot as I've figured it out will probably take me to between 60 and 65K words.

Then the ending. Which I haven't thought through. In fact, I haven't thought about it at all. Oh, I can catch glimpses of the logical conclusion, the pat answer, and I'm trying hard not to let that climax form into solid words.

I want to let the subconscious come up with something unusual, something I don't expect, therefore the reader won't expect.

Often these type of ideas come in the state between awake and nodding off. Little wisps floating by and one will kind of materialize for a moment and say, "how about me?" and then drift on by. Some of my best ideas come this way, and I think it's because they aren't logical--like dreams--they may even have nothing to do with the story at hand, but my mind seizes on them, that little wisp, and says, "how could this work? what does this mean?"

So I'm actively fighting even thinking about the ending except in these very general terms. "Go away!" I cry whenever a thought passes through. As long as I don't glom onto them, it's still cool. The minute I let them crystallize, I'm doomed. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Eclipse, time-travelers, and aliens.

Time travelers and aliens and the Eclipse.

I'm reading "Transitions," by Iain Banks, one of my favorite writers. He makes the case that the best time to seek out time travelers or aliens is during an eclipse.

The exact fit of the moon into the sun, he asserts, is a mystery and a wonder and probably unique in the universe.

I mean, what are the odds? They'll be coming from everywhere and everywhen just to catch a glimpse. And lots of them will be awkward, you know. Tourists, after all. Catch them out while you can.

I don't know about the science of that, but it's a funny idea.

So not only will I be wearing approved Eclipse glasses, I probably need to put on some 3D glasses over them just in case any aliens are around. Maybe a little tin foil to catch their reflections out of the corner of my eyes.

That will work, won't it?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stop reading bestsellers!

If I really had the courage of my convictions, I'd quit reading bestsellers. I'd seek out books I'd never heard of but which sound interesting.

I recently read "Ready Player One" and while it was very enjoyable I had the same reaction I often have; does this book deserve to suck up all the oxygen in the room? Reading bestsellers is hit or miss, sometimes good but not special, sometimes just ok, sometimes pretty bad.

So if it's going to be hit or miss anyway, why not take chances on other books? Look at the subject matter and the style and try something out that is unexpected.

I already stay away from bandwagons when I perceive them as such. Sometimes, I find an author I really like who then becomes a bestseller, George R.R. Martin for instance. I'd read every book he'd ever written before Game of Thrones, which I almost passed on because I as burned out on fantasy, but Linda read it and loved it so...

What becomes obvious from both the buying and selling aspect is the publishing world is focused on the big book. They want bestsellers or nothing at all.

Every reader ought to have the experience of buying from book liquidators. They're available to the general public, but I don't know if many people use them except stores. Anyway, when you see book after book after book that is trying to be Twilight, or Lee Child, or Gone Girl, it gets a little nauseating. I know from personal experience that in many of these cases the author isn't at fault: the publisher is probably positioning a book that is close in subject and trying to wedge it in. Though, sometimes a few years after a big bestseller, there is an avalanche of copies which can be blamed on the authors, poor saps. What pride do they have?

Classics are a little different. They've passed the test of time.

As a science fiction reader, I can point to a couple of dozen authors who are good, sometimes great, and yet have never gotten their due. I recommend them and the customers often look at me blankly and say, "Do you have the newest..." whatever YA is the flavor this year.

Sadly, some of these bestselling authors just start phoning it in. Whatever made them interesting is gone. Trapped by their successful formula; but formula it is.

I'm trapped somewhat as a store owner, but I don't have to be trapped as a reader.

Leaving the ending for last.

I've hit 50,000 words on "Takeover," which is the number where I think a book is irreversible and inevitable. Hard to see what could stop it now. Knock wood.

I've got it mapped out another 5 to 10K words, then...well, I've purposely avoided thinking about the ending. I want it to be fresh, like a new start. I've prepared the story, the characters, the plot, and all that is required is resolution.

Of course, the ending is supremely important, after all it's what people will remember most when they finish reading.

This is total trust in my subconscious.

The reason I'm holding off is that once I've figured out plot, it loses some of it's freshness to me. Once I know what happens it's a little like coloring between the lines. It's almost preordained. There are always little surprises, but it's hard to completely change a plot once I've come up with one.

So...I have the book plotted up to 55K words. The last 15 or 20K words will probably be mostly action, which is relatively easy to write. (As always, when I say "easy" I don't mean easy to be good. If that makes any sense.) The final 10 or 15K words will come in the rewrite as I fill in the book with adequate description, telling detail, and clarifications.

But I want to leave the ending blank until I'm ready. By then, I'm hoping my subconscious will be excited to deliver. I intend to research the endings of all the various takeovers--Ruby Ridge, Waco, Bundy ranch, and Malheur and figure out a killer ending.

Going into Bend to garden the house there, which is a mess. We probably set the house price too high, trusting that people would see the good bones, but that was probably silly of us. I'm stubborn though. I'm pretty sure houses in Bend will continue to go up, even if we don't rent the place it might break even.

Lawn care is ridiculously expensive. I used to do that for a living, and the current prices make no sense to me. I just can't stand it.  I know that mowing takes 40 minutes, tops. I can probably weed the entire place in a couple of days, 3 or 4 hours per session.

Or I can pay someone like $500 for it, whenever they happen to feel like showing up. I mean, these guys appear to be getting between $50 and $75 bucks an hour, and yes I know they have the equipment, but that should make it all that much easier.

I'll just skip my long walk over the next two days and weed instead.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Drinking while writing.

I've all but stopped drinking. It's not that I have a problem, it's just that I'm married to a woman who's had two drinks in her life. I watched her struggle to drink half a wine cooler once. Also, it has a physical impact on me that isn't cost effective.

Besides, I just fall to sleep.

So mostly, since I'm not terribly social, the only time I might drink anything is when I'm with my family and they're having wine at dinner.

35 five years ago, I drank beer and wine all the time, especially while writing. I found it a big help. It seemed to loosen me up, let my imagination run wild. Sometimes I'd sit at the desk with a few beers and lose myself for hours in the fictional dream. Writing and drinking just went together.

This time around, I was hoping for the same booster effect, but it doesn't seem to be there. Whatever insights or loosening I glean I'm already getting. I've learned to access the same fictional dream without the artificial support. This isn't by any means a holier than thou thing. I really wish I could drink and get that same effect. It would make things easier.

I do feel that drinking can sometimes give me some insights and clarity, cut through the confusion. In vino veritas and all that.

Anyway, Linda is off to camp for a week, so I sat on the back patio and drank some wine last night.

Woke up this morning with these four lines written on my notes:

1.) "Do a Kristen Chapter, with her response."

2.) "Bring in the Feds POV? Think about it."

3.) "Need more description: Do a trip to John Day."

4.) "Research, research, research."

Like I said, I'm pretty sure I would have come to these conclusions already. In fact, I really already had, only they felt so much more important last night.

I really don't like to do research. When I got my bachelors degree I was really burned out on higher education. I swore I'd never go back to college. I read like crazy, as much as anyone, and I read all kinds of books, but I stopped reading "How To" books. Not saying this is a good thing, (though books about writing are so contradictory and idiosyncratic that they can lead you astray, I believe. Besides, I read every book about writing there was in the library at the time.)

This time around I'm trying to be true to myself, find my own way, take advice and criticism whenever offered, but follow my instincts. Because I read so much, I still pick up pointers all the time, I just don't seek them out anymore. Again, probably stupid on my part, but whatever gets me writing is what I need to do.

But...I'm very good at assimilating real information into my stories. I forced myself to research for "Takeover," and now that I'm about 60% of the way through, I've used every bit of that research in my book and it has enhanced it no end.

The idea that I need to do further research is probably the most important of the above insights. So back to the drawing board. Read some long form articles on Bundy Ranch and Malheur, and probably Ruby Ridge and Waco as well.

Not looking forward to the work, but looking forward to the results.

As far as the drinking is concerned. Linda is gone for a week, so I'll probably have another little drinking session. I woke up this morning between the blankets over the sheets, still wearing my watch and ring. I'm out of practice. I didn't walk into any doors, tho.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Ready Player One

Have I ever mentioned I managed an arcade for six months?

When Pegasus Books was still on Greenwood Ave., and I was still working part time for Mike Richardson, and I was still trying to be a writer, the landlord opened an arcade next door and put me in charge.

Owning a comics store for 35 years, running an arcade, having books published: makes me sound far cooler (or nerdier) than I really am. But it was great that I was courting Linda at the time, and her two boys, Todd (12 years old) and Toby (11 years old.) Looked like a hero to them. 

The job really amounted to not much more than counting quarters at the end of the day, counting games played. Learned that most new machines earned a lot of money until about 2/3rds the cost of the machine and slowed radically after after that.

A few games were evergreen: Galaga for instance.

I was given free play, and I concentrated on two games. Asteroids and Galaga. I couldn't play any of the other games worth a damn, but I became the best Asteroids and Galaga player I ever saw. It frustrated the hell out of me that I had the 2nd highest score on Galaga and some guy had a score that was impossibly high above me. Couldn't figure out how that was even possible.

With Asteroids I just accumulated so many ships I'd just have to walk away. Hours worth of ships. That's a pattern for me: be persistent on a few things until I master it. Otherwise I'm lazy as hell.

A little story: before this, I'd stopped in a 7/11 one day and watched this guy play Asteroids. I'd never played games before, probably plunked a quarter in Pac Man and lost it in seconds, NAh,  Nah, Nah....

The guy hung around and he mocked me on my playing. Mocked me!

Couldn't have done a better job of encouraging me. So I got good, really really really good. I'd get in a zone and just couldn't be killed. Heh.

So one day I'm in a 7/11 showing off and the mocker comes in and watches me for a while and walks away shaking his head and muttering to himself. Most satisfying thing that's probably ever happened in my life, I tell you. JUSTICE! You know, that never happens.

Bought the store soon after, and became very conversant with pop culture, and stayed that way for far longer than most people at my increasing age. Kept me young. (Interestingly, I didn't try to follow video games because I was already trying to learn everything there was to know about comics, books, games, cards, and toys. I figured I had to let something go or my head would explode.)

So "Ready Player One" is right up my alley. I got all the references--as I'm sure most of your did--so it is very satisfying that way. Of course, there is not enough time in a lifetime to know all the protagonist and his friends were supposed to know, but the book was a lot of fun to read. I didn't realize it was a young adult novel; that caught me by surprise.

Spielberg has a movie coming out in March of next year, and that could be huge.

As usual with one of these culturally conquering books, I feel like it's a pretty good book, but I don't understand why it's THE book. I mean, there are so many good books that are ignored, and then one comes along and seems to glom onto the entire market. I mean, good for them, but it seems all out of proportion.

I've stocked up on the book at the store. I have a feeling it's about to be Hunger Games sized.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

My WIP, "Takeover," is such rich material that I:

1.) Am certain someone has or soon will write a similar book.

2.) It is probably beyond my ability to give it full justice. At the same time, it is probably the best writing I've done.

As always, this is my book and my idea and it really doesn't matter if someone is doing it or doing it better. I always say, you could give the same idea to a hundred writers and they'd all come up with something different.

All I know is that this book is coming together so naturally that it is mean to be, somehow. I'll imbue it with everything I got and maybe it will transcend my natural limitations.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Is "Takeover" coming too easily?

Went for my walk early, wrote 1500 words on "Takeover."  Back on track after a couple of days doing errands.

This is the easiest a book has ever come to me. That's a good sign, I think. It's when I struggle that I go off track. So far, everything is just falling into place.

If I tap into the correct narrator's authentic voice it will continue to be easy.

I can't tell if others will think it's good, but this is the first realistic novel I've written. In fact, I don't think I ever believed that I could write a realistic novel. When I finished "Led to the Slaughter" I realized that I could have had a good story even without the werewolves, but even then there was a hundred fifty years difference in realism, so I could get away with some things.

In fact, the final challenge of this book will be to get the legal stuff right, to smooth away anything that doesn't seem real. I'll probably need help for that. As usual with thrillers, I struggle with the guns and the law. Those are two things I have to research.

There is a whole lot of Sagebrush Rebellion stuff to include too, but I don't want to overdo it. It's a thriller not a political tract. I'm sticking to personalities, not politics. But the politics do add a little meat and consequence to the story. I worried a lot about whether I was writing something that the political polarization of our society would make impossible to read. But I think I've been fair to both sides, and I'm bringing in some really bad guys, extremists as the final villains, so if someone want to root for them, fuck them anyway.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

It is pointless to complain about the publishing industry. At best, people will just think it's sour grapes.

I'm writing something that I think is pretty good. I believe in a fair world it would be considered. As it happens, I actually have someone to send it to who will probably take a look at it.

Lucky, that.

My guess is that I'll have about three tries with this guy before I strike out, and I've already got one strike. But, really, if this book doesn't fit the bill, I'm not sure what will. It's at the higher limits of my capabilities.

The publishing industry as a whole contracted just as the tsunami of new books and authors struck. So the volume of books went elsewhere, to self-publishing, to Amazon, to smaller hybrid publishers. Which would be fine if it wasn't so bloody difficult to get noticed.

Weirdly, its the practical ease of writing and producing and communicating books that is mostly responsible for this in my eyes. When I was writing in the early '80's the physical process of writing a book was intimidating in itself, never mind the usual difficulty of creation. 

Anyway, I think it takes herculean effort, or pure luck, to stand out in this tsunami, but that most of us will just get washed away in the tide. Lots of advice out there on how to break through, in both the traditional and non-traditional avenues, but most of it is pure bullshit.

I just put blinders on and keep on trudging ahead, keep on writing, knowing that at the very least there is the ability to put my books online. Whether I want to try to scale the walls of traditional publishers, or even small indy publishers, is a future question for now. I've got two books coming out from publishers who have made the step into mass distribution. That will be 15 books that I've sold, to 5 different publishers.

Which sounds great, but it's a good thing I still own a bookstore if I want to eat.

I've done my part.

I'll probably publish "The Last Fedora" myself in the spring, and I've still got a couple shots at producing a thriller worth publishing.

If all this strikes out, I'm not going to be too hard on myself. It's just the way this industry has shaken out and it's no one's fault.