Monday, September 25, 2017

My God We're Stocked.

This is pure bragging. (Knock Wood.)

But Pegasus Books is stocked to the max.

The question that always put a stab in my heart was "Is this all you got?"

(Well, you can always have more and people are always asking and there are no end of things we could carry, but at least I can give a glance askew.)

For years there wasn't much I could do about it. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is a long and difficult process. I borrowed money a few times and that helped boost the business, until the debt dragged down further growth.

But you just keep pounding away at it, bringing in a little more than you sell, month after month, year after year. You accept 10 or 15% less operational profit in order to build the inventory.

And then you add another product line and the whole thing starts over again.

Eventually, Pegasus Books got so much stuff that the 1000 sq. ft. space was bursting at the seams. And still I kept getting stuff, trying to be more and more ergonomically creative. I looked for product that could be stacked: games and books. I have high ceilings so I have used most of the space over 8 feet high for toys.

In 1984, I started with comics, tried games several times, and used books, did collector cards for many years then dropped them, tried games again, and toys, and the final piece of the puzzle, new books. That seems to be the point where the store became self-sustaining, and the inventory in all the categories became adequate, and now it's just trying to make it better.

Yes, it can be overwhelming when you walk in the door. Yes, there isn't much space for outward display. I figured that we were better off having a product than being able to display it outwardly.

It would be great to display things more prominently, I could probably fill a space five times our size, but then downtown Bend did this unexpected thing.

It became popular.

I drive up to the store on an overcast Tuesday in September and the streets are packed. I mean, I could have only dreamed of that 30 years ago. There is no way I'm leaving if I can help it, which means I have to keep trying to make the space work.

But sometimes I look around the store and I'm dazzled by it.

Very cool and very satisfying.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

"I could make it longer if you like the style. I can change it 'round..."

I've now rewritten the first 50 pages of "Deadfall Ridge" three times. I'm happy with it. I cut 15 pages or 5000 words.

I've edited the next 130 pages to fit the changes, with about 80 pages left to do.

I think it's better. I know I like the main character more. Hart Davis makes more sense. That's pretty important. I think I like him enough to try another book with him as the main character. I have three books sort of in the planning for what I'm calling, "The Strawberry Mountain Mysteries."

"Deadfall Ridge."
"Butcher's Cut."
"Massacre Spring."
I believe this is enough of an improvement to send along to the publisher I originally sent it to. They haven't responded in 3 months, so who knows what's going on. But I'll take the chance that maybe they were on the fence and my improvements will tip the balance. Equally plausible is that they didn't like it and why am I bothering them with a rewrite? Heh.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting another 10 days before tackling the rewrite of "Takeover." (Which is a separate stand-alone thriller.) Even the distance I have now, which is roughly 3 weeks, has given me some fresh perspective. I have a general idea of how I can improve the first 100 pages.

"Snaked" is coming out in 4 days!!!!

"Snaked" is a good book, if I do say so myself, probably my most professional. Cohesion is a proactive publisher. I've got my hopes up a little. They've got some great selling sea monster books, but the authors are better known than me, so there's that.

"Tuskers IV" was supposed to come out on August 1. I think it's a very satisfying conclusion to the saga, and I'm pretty pleased with what has become my Magnum opus.  (I've now asked Ragnarok to postpone it for a couple of months to let "Snaked" have the stage to itself. Or it could pop up any day.)


Friday, September 22, 2017

Asking for critique is dangerous.

I'll preface this by saying the books I've released are pretty good in my opinion. Some are really good. I didn't release them until I was sure about them.

But, well, a writer can always get better.

Some examples:

1.) Editor mentions a problem in my writing, I ask him to explicate, he provides examples.


"That's exactly what I'm asking for," I tell him.

2.) I send a book to several beta-readers, and most of them think there is a specific problem. I ask the editor who didn't think there was a problem and she says,

"Well, actually, now that you mention it..."

3.) I send a book to another reader, who tells me how great I am in some parts and how stupid I am in others. "You need not to be so lazy when you can be so good."

 "It's not that I'm lazy sometimes and not lazy other times, it's that sometimes the words come...but point taken."

Overall, what I'm saying here, is after a run of getting mostly line-editings and copy-editings, I've started to ask for more structural editing, and somewhat to my surprise, I'm getting tougher critique. I've always had a few readers who were willing to point out problems, and almost all readers will venture opinions, but mostly editors and readers try to be supportive.

Turns out, if you scratch under the surface a little, these criticisms pop up. Or maybe I've just assembled a crew of readers who are willing to be more critical. 

I find myself doubting my abilities at the same time I recognize the problems.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

If I want to get better, I think it's a good thing. If it becomes too much and it discourages me from writing, then not so good. (If I sense this happening, I'll back off.)

Overall, I think the time has come to slow down. Now so much at the writing, because I've got a good pace going there, and I do believe that once in the throes of the fictional dream it's best to stay there, and the biggest lesson I've learned is to finish a book before I start thinking about substantive changes.

But I've also found that the more time that passes between the first draft and the second draft, the fresher it is to me, the more context I have, and the more willing I am to make changes. Sometimes the problems just become very clear and the solutions just present themselves.

For instance, it's been 3 or 4 months since I finished "Deadfall Ridge." I thought I was done with it, but I had some time--not coincidentally because I'm trying to give "Takeover" a breather--and I picked it up and the solution to a problem I'd sensed about the beginning became clear and I  killed my darling second chapter, rearranged the first 50 pages, tightened it up, and damn if it isn't a better book.

I've also recently had the example of "Snaked" where the publisher asked for rewrites or changes 3 times and was probably right in all of them. I couldn't see the problems until they pointed them out, but once I addressed them, I was forced to acknowledge the improvements.

In case you think I'm a wuss about this--most writers I know can't accept critique at all, much less this level. I think I'm pretty good about it, despite my grousing. 

"Faerylander" is probably the biggest example. I've been fiddling with this book for 5 years now, and each time I've come back to it--sometimes after years--I've improved it.

I don't know if this is the best thing to do for a beginning writer--I think actually writing and finishing books and moving on is probably the best training there is. But for someone who has now written 35 books, 15 of which are traditionally published, another 10 indy published (not done yet), I can afford to let time pass between releases.

I have a small "in" with a major publisher for a thriller, and I don't want that door to close (the door is open maybe half an inch, heh) so there is a little time constraint. I'm going to send the new version of "Deadfall Ridge" to him though I'd already sent a draft that was presented as finished.

But I'm going to put off the rewrite to "Takeover" for a few more weeks than I intended. The more time I take, the better. I can finish up "The Wyvern Riders" in the meantime.

I'm getting feedback for "Takeover" and by request the critique is probably more substantial than usual and as unpleasant as that can sometimes, as dangerous to my ego, I think it's a good thing.

For now...

Thursday, September 21, 2017

I'm a bookstore, too.

The Bulletin has a nice article about local independent bookstores this morning.

I feel a little bit uninvited to the party.

Pegasus Books is selling a significant number of books. Not just comics and graphic novels, but what most people would consider regular books. In fact, in August, 30% of our overall sales were books.

But few of the locals seem to know or care. I think even my regulars are blind to it. We are a certain kind of store to them and that appears to be impossible to change.

But it doesn't seem to matter.

See, what happens is that tourists walk in the door and they see lots of good books and oddly enough they think we're a bookstore. If we have books they want, they buy them. So it doesn't matter in a way what the locals think or whether the local paper covers us.

The proof is in the sales, and we've go those. The more attention I spend on new books, the more we sell. We're selling eight times the amount of books as my original goal.  I started off rather haphazard about it but the response was so positive that I expanded and then I expanded again.

All of this while retaining our reputation as a comic book store among the locals. For which I'm thankful. But we've been doing a good job on comics for 37 years now, and adding new books hasn't hurt that effort at all, in fact, it may have helped.

But the books sell only to those who wander into the store.

Why don't I advertise the fact? Because once you gain a certain reputation it is almost impossible to reverse. The Bulletin article is an example of that. No one though to mention us to the reporter. Probably because no one knows, even other bookstores.

The only proof of selling books in my store is that books sell in my store.

I doubt this will ever change, but as long as Pegasus Books is downtown with the thriving tourist trade it may not matter.

I will say that we carry only fiction. What we've got is choice. Classics, and cult books, and quirky books, and just books that seem interesting.

I kind of kick myself for being scared off of books for so many years. Books are so much easier to order and sell than comics are. Comics are considerably more complex and risky. I held off trying books for most of our existence because of the Book Barn. I didn't want to hurt our longterm neighbors. But once I started off with a small selection, I was astounded by how easy they went out the door. 

If I put a copy of Dune, or the Alchemist, or The Princess Bride, or hundreds of other titles out on the bookshelves--they'll go.

I've gotten accounts with both Baker & Taylor and Ingrams, the two largest distributors, and I now make regular orders--but I still haven't been focused on them as much as I could. I'm thinking about rearranging the store to make room for more new books. My guess it that they could be half our sales with a little more effort.

Ah, well. We don't have the "bookstore" aura, but maybe we don't need it.

All we got are books.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Am I obsessive?

Two new versions of the first fifty pages of "Deadfall Ridge" in two days.

Uh, oh. I'm on one of my obsessive quests. (Actually, I also started a third version, but broke it off because I didn't like the tone.)

Both of the new versions are cleaner and clearer than the original, but I'm not sure which one is best. There is no one I can really ask. I mean, really, asking someone to read the same thing three times? I'm going to presume on my friendship with Dave, who's the only writer I know who is as obsessed with the process as I am. If he does it, I'm going to owe him bigtime.

I've decided to give myself a full month before I endeavor to rewrite "Takeover." Time and distance are valuable, and the more time and distance, the better. Two or three months might even be more beneficial, I suppose. That would really take some self-restraint.

I feel like I either need to step up my game, or settle into a comfortable process that creates books at about the quality I've done so far. It's a cost/reward ratio.

The biggest decision I ever made at the store was to choose enjoyment over money. Well, more to the point, I realized I was neither having fun nor making money, but I had some control of the former, not so much over the latter.

So I started getting rid of things that detracted from my enjoyment, even if they made money, as long as the store stayed above the bottomline survival.

It was a bold thing to do, but frankly I would have quit if not for changing my ways.

I'm totally convinced Pegasus Books has survived 35 years because I made that choice.

Well, I have to remember that I want to keep writing, that I want it to be fun, and when I spend too much time obsessing and rewriting and doubting and risking rejection and all that entails, the less I want to write.

Hasn't come to that yet. Working hard on "Snaked" just made it a better book, and that has it's own enjoyment.

But I have to be careful.

Crippling doubt doesn't make for better books, but constantly creating books might.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

So the lesson here, I think, is that I need to take time between drafts, and to make sure the books are as good as I can make them before I send them off. If I have doubts, then hold back.

I'm much better about this than I used to be, but I still have a ways to go.

It took 3 months to see "Deadfall Ridge" clearly. I mean, early on I saw that I probably needed to jettison Chapter 2, but the information kind of went with the rest of the set-up. When I figured out how to get rid of the rest of Hart's motivation story, then Chapter 2 could be sacrificed too.

A perfect example, by the way, of killing your darlings. I really, really like Chapter 2, and feel it works as a short story. I may just do that. Put it out as a short story.

Could I have waited 3 more months? As it turns out, why not? It's not like the publisher is in a hurry.

So I'm going to read through "Deadfall Ridge" today and tomorrow, adjust it to the new beginning, and then...send it off. Maybe if the publisher is on the fence, this will sell it. Maybe he'll just be annoyed, but no harm there because that will mean he'd already rejected it.

I still have a decision to make about the order of chapters. I may move the second Sherm chapter up to be the 3rd chapter over all, and only bring in Hart as the 4th chapter. Since he's the main character, that seems a little strange. would probably make more sense. I've now built up Amanda and Sherm to the extent that it doesn't seem so very out there.

The more I think about it, the better it sounds.

(Yep, that scans. Also throw in a scene of Amanda putting the box in the back of the Jeep, then everything makes sense.)

This new version makes Hart more of a "North by Northwest" Cary Grant-like innocent wondering what the hell's going on. 

Anyway--waiting for clarity is good, and along with it come a willingness to cut and change, which is harder when I've just finished.

I've decided to wait until Oct. 5 before starting on  the rewrite of"Takeover." Give myself a full month away from it. Give myself time to see everyone's input.  Hopefully gain clarity and perspective and the willingness to make changes, to kill my darlings, to be ruthless in pursuit of a good story.

This especially works if I've sent the new version of "Deadfall Ridge" to Gary for his consideration.

In the end, the books will be better for it, no matter what happens on the publishing front.

Deadfall Ridge is fixed....(?)

I think I've fixed "Deadfall Ridge." I was never satisfied with the first 50 pages or so. After that, I thought the book was pretty good.

On my walk, it suddenly popped into my brain that I didn't need a bunch of explanations to set up the plot if I just did one simple thing.

By doing that one simple thing, I cut half of the first 30 pages, or 5000 words. Streamlined it, made it more active, and cleaned up the motivations. Works like a charm.

Of course, I've already sent the book off, but I'm going to send the revised version too since I haven't gotten an official rejection yet. (After 3 months, I figure the publisher is either on the fence or waiting to see "Takeover" before he gives me an answer...or he just doesn' like it.)  He may just ignore this second version too, but it's a better book nevertheless.

I guess I just needed some time and space away from it.

It'll take me a couple days to clean the manuscript up, make it consistent, but the shape is much more pleasing to me now.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hearing the truth about my writing.

"Takeover" is getting some heavy critique. Which I want. Really I do.

Sometimes the story and the writing come together, like in "Snaked," and the editors help me get the rest of the way there.

But other times I run into roadblocks. 

I usually feel disappointed for a a day or so, and then I mull it over, and then I try to come to terms with it. It reminds me of when I was in group therapy, and something the shrink or a group member would say would strike home and I'd go away upset but by the next meeting, I'd internalized it.

If I'm going to become a better writer, I need to have my weaknesses pointed out. (As long as it's constructive.)  One of the editors came back with a critique that included exactly the same weaknesses I've identified in myself; which is both validating in a strange sense, but also a little discouraging.

I'm aware that I don't always have the characters respond to emotional events, aware that I lack "action tags" and mostly use "dialogue tags."

I usually address this by concentrating on "telling details" in the rewrites. Trying to bring in more character movement and description, more senses than visual, more reaction to important moments. I've also tried harder to add these elements in the first draft.

I've accepted that rewrites are especially important for me. I think I need second-parties to point out where I've fallen short.

I tend to want to get that first draft down, not tarry, then try to go back and dress it up. I purposely try to add 10 to 15% to the second draft. Perforce, this usually addresses at least part of the problem.

"Your strength is in the concept and the buildup to the conclusion, not so much the tiny details."

This too, I agree with, as well as my simple, straight-forward style. (Which I strive for.)

These are problems that can be addressed--that's what rewriting is for.

It's the structural problems that give me fits, and those are much harder to fix. I've found that messing too much with the structure is problematic, and yet...if I don't...the book might not work. Sometimes I just have to accept what I've done and move on.

The problem is, I discover plot by writing, and I tend to meander for a bit before I find the story, and then I have hard time tightening up the meandering. Yes, outlines would be helpful. But I repeat: I discover plot by writing. 

So...going forward.

More attention to "telling details," more reaction to events, more streamlining the early parts of my plots. I've written 35 books, and I still feel sometimes like I'm trying to write my first book.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Starting to get feedback on "Takeover." The person who I was certain would insist on having more action in the first half of the book thought it was "excellent."

Writer's group, and two other readers thought the first half was too slow.

Duncan and Linda like the book the way it is.

But those three votes against can't be ignored.

So I'm not sure what to do.

I do know I don't want to mess up "Takeover" by screwing around with it too much. As I always say, adding and subtracting are fine. Moving things around, not so much.

I think the conflict in the first half of the book is interpersonal rather than "action" thriller type conflict. I'm trying to be realistic, setting up the ending. But I don't know how long I can impose on the reader. 

But I can see how the story might benefit by bringing some of the action up sooner in the book. If I add, say, 3000 words of new story, I can cut 3000 words that maybe aren't working as well.

Bringing up the hostage situation earlier, having one of the characters murdered earlier, both of those might add to the tension long enough to keep people's interest. But this would require changing the plot, moving things around, which is always really really dangerous for me. I mean, I can keep the version I have untouched for now, and test a new version.

Without a doubt, the idea of the FBI trying to attack earlier makes sense (and fits with the "hostage" scenario.) And I also think conflict between the original occupiers and the Nazi's is a good idea.

Bringing in earlier murder as a flashback toward the beginning of the story is more of a judgement call. It would remove some of the mystery, but then...I'm not sure it was much of mystery. That is, it would reveal one of the characters to be a villain, but I think that might be all right if the reader knows but the characters don't. Might create a bit of tension.

My feeling is that the first half of the book needs about 4 beats of action that it doesn't have, and needs about 2 beats of non-action taken out. That's pretty vague, but feels about right.

I didn't really want a situation with this book where I fuck it up by trying to fix it too much.
Without messing with the story. Which I'm not sure is possible.

I'm waiting until all the feedback is in before making any decisions.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My point...and I do have a point...

I'm pretty proud of myself.

Not only have a written a bunch of books, but they're pretty good, (to me, of course) and I worked hard to make them good. I didn't slack off. I put real effort in. I've learned a very efficient process, allowing my facile approach to be productive, and I've learned from every effort. I now believe I've got the "great" book in me, which will come out if everything happens just right. It means that I just need to keep writing.

The outside world? Incredibly complicated, and not necessarily fair.

The thing I learned forty years ago is still more or less true: "It's luck, timing, and who you know..."

You can pretty much starve to death waiting for those things to happen.

One of the writer's group members was talking about the online group she belongs to where everyone is focused on writing many many words and making money.

Why? What's the point? Really? Where's the pride? What do they really get out of that?

The vast majority won't succeed at being hacks. Not failing as a writer, that's pretty much a given, but failing as a hack. What a waste of energy and life.

How do they feel at night?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My publisher, Cohesion Press, has a half page ad in the Library Journal, featuring "Snaked" and another of their titles. Pretty cool that they are showing that kind of faith in my book. The magazine has a 100K circulation, and obviously probably reaches most libraries.

If you've read my blog, you'll know I was very impressed by how Cohesion put me through my paces, basically asking for three separate rewrites, improving the book each time. And I'd thought the book was my strongest effort already. Very professional experience.

"Snaked" is due out on September 28. It can be ordered from Ingrams, the largest American wholesaler, though I have yet to see it in Baker & Taylor. (Where I order the majority of my books--I just seem to be able to use their search engine better.) 

The book is being distributed by IPG (Independent Publishers Group), the same as one of my other publishers, but Cohesion seems to be on top of the process so I'm hopeful this time the date earmarked will the the date it actually happens. In theory, IPG has reps who visit bookstores and push their books, though I've not actually seen any evidence of that. Available for order at wholesale rates is a big deal, but no guarantee.

Cohesion has some best-selling authors who have also written some "Sea Monster" books. I'm sort of hoping my book will join them, though I'm not as big a name. I know they got my book out there to be reviewed, and I asked some of my friends to do the same, so I'm hoping for some action there too.

I'm really curious to see what happens.

This is probably my best book, so I'm willing to accept whatever comes.


Linda came with me on my trip to the Ochoco's yesterday. Went for my walk while she stayed behind and read.

I'm pretty tired. I think driving two hours a day for the last four days is a little much just to get my walk in. So it's back to canal walking for awhile (10 miles away).

Did a little writing on "The Wyvern Riders" yesterday, but wasn't focused on it. Writer's group tonight, so will read the next 10 or 12 pages. I figure by the time I turn to the rewrite, I will have read about half of the book to the group. I may turn to the final 50 pages starting today, so they'll have read the beginning and the end.

Writing my fantasy novellas is perfect for that limbo time between rewrites--but it is still kind of distracting. I'm 21K words in, and I'm aiming for 30K so I should finish just about the time I get "Takeover" back from my beta readers.

Weird waves of nostalgia.

I'm not really retired. I still have Pegasus Books, and I still need to worry about keeping it solvent. I just took a step back to do more writing. It was time to take a step back anyway, Cameron and my other employees are so much fresher, more enthusiastic behind the counter.

I'd thought I'd be more involved in the day to day, but Cameron is doing such a good job that I've been able to let go. I never was a workaholic, though I may have spent 25 years exhibiting all the symptoms. That was because it took everything I had to keep the store alive.

Once the store became self-sustaining, I was able to slack off a little, let it find its way, policies in place, and most importantly, good people minding the store.

I still felt entangled in day to day reality, though, as long as we lived in Bend. I was in a bit of rut, frankly. Moving to Redmond has uprooted my routines, made me establish new ones. It's much quieter here, and the outdoors is closer and more available and varied.

Go to the mountains in Bend and it takes 45 minutes in heavy traffic into the Deschutes National Forest to get anywhere where you might be alone. Or 15 minutes into the desert.

The feeling is night and day from my childhood in Bend. 13,000 people, almost no one when you went into the woods, turning on your brights at night and/or passing cars between Bend and Redmond. Days on the river, wandering the banks from one end of town to the other. Walking down dusty streets on the west side, skipping through empty lots into the west hills which were wild and empty.

Bend is being loved to death.

For the past several years, I've been more than satisfied being a desert rat, but now I've discovered that I'm only 45 minutes away from the Ochoco National Forest. And there is almost no one there. Huge Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs and roads leading into the hills that are alone and quiet.

At the same time, I'm back to writing fantasy. I'm back to having hours in the day where I don't need to do anything.

I'm getting these weird waves of nostalgia, remembering back to my teenage years where the days and months and years seemed endless and I'd spend entire afternoons daydreaming and reading and listening to music and just doing nothing but thinking. That weird kid in the attic reading books.

The way I'm feeling now is much closer to that young kid than to the overworked, over-stressed man who ran Pegasus Books for 25 years. (I'll leave out the "lost" decade between my teens and my thirties when I was stuck in depression and its aftermath...) With the advantage of not worrying about the future and not have strange hormonal surges.

Like I said, it's strange. Unexpected. Delightful.

Knock wood, that it will be like this for awhile. I finally feel confident enough to go ahead and delve into an epic fantasy project. Surprisingly, I feel no need to have it published. I just want to play, to daydream, to let that nostalgic warm feeling wash over me.

I've spent five years testing the publishing world. I think I have a pretty good handle on it, and I'm still open to a "career-like" approach if opportunities arise. I'm also pretty sure I don't want to bang my head on the wall trying to make it happen.

After 35 books, I feel no burning desire to prove to myself I can do it. I've made a little money, had some good reviews.

So from here on out, it's fun only.  Not that it hasn't been fun all along. But there has been the constant distraction and delays of publication versus the actual writing. I will give myself credit for writing what I want to write when I want to write it, but the writing world and the publishing world (which really is the marketing and publicizing world) can't exist in the same place at the same time. Every day I spend on the latter is a day I'm not spending on the former.

So I'll continue my opportunism, for which I've been really lucky so far.

But I'm also going to quit worrying about it.

I'm going to indulge in these weird waves of nostalgia and be grateful for it. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Weird kid alone in the attic with his books.

I'm having fun with "The Wyvern Riders." It's a bit of a mess because I'm making it up as I go along. I will need to do some sort of reference book for the Thirteen Principalities as the mythos gets more convoluted.

This story has a different story arc than normal. I don't really introduce the villains until 2/3rds of the way in, and they will be a distant threat to the end. I haven't plunged the characters into danger. I haven't done most of the things "those who know how to write" tell me I should do.

Which is fine. I'm only trying to please myself. Frankly, I don't want all the drama. I just want an adventure story.

This is sort of my declaration of independence.

I can see how I'm probably going to settle into this slower pace, this inner pace, this just doing what I want when I want. I can see how it will be both a defeat and a victory, because the defeat was doing what wasn't all that fun, and the victory is not having to do it.

I'm going to create an entire world. By writing it, by doing it. By taking note of what I've done and making sure it fits the rest of the stories. This is very satisfying in a weird, young kid alone in his attic room sort of way.

That weird kid alone in his attic room was where this all came from. In 1964, I didn't know anyone else who read fantasy. In fact, modern fantasy as we know it didn't really exist yet. Tolkien lit the fire and a million fantasy writers were born.

 I sought it out, read everything I could, went backward and forward and sideways and just studied the whole genre, especially its history. When I did start running into other SF or fantasy readers, I realized most of them had no real context, no real awareness of the history.

I got so immersed in it that I burned myself out. I walked away. Every fantasy seemed to same to me, just an endless string of Tolkien knockoffs. Spent 30 years reading everything else, mostly mysteries and thrillers, some SF, non-fiction, historicals, etc.

When I came back to writing, I thought I'd be writing fantasy, but instead found the horror genre was much more open to invention.

I still think that.

But in my heart, my first love is fantasy.

I don't really know if the fantasy of the Thirteen Principalities is standard or strange or something in-between. The point is, it doesn't matter, because I've written so much in the past six years that I can finally just delve into my stories without worrying about it.

Nurturing an entire fictional world is going to be fun. Like I said yesterday, I wanted to live in Middle Earth.

This is even better, really, because it's MY world.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Walked two miles up on winding roads into the Ochoco Mountains. It takes a 45 minute drive to get there, but it isn't wasted, because the drive is beautiful and it gives me time to think.

Then I sit down, with the idea of writing 1000 words, at least, and usually ending up with more than that. Surrounded by groves of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. Quiet, peaceful, solitary. No human sounds, not even airplanes. Chipmunks around every corner, running for cover, fat butts and tail in the air. No mosquitoes or flies. Just about perfect.

I love it.

Wrote a chapter. 1500 words.

It's kind of a goofball story, but I think that's part of the appeal. Letting my fantasy freak flag fly. I don't want to overthink it. I'm also in no hurry. I see a lot of rewriting in my future, if I can ever get around to it. Writing for the fun of it. Just building this world story by story.

It's clear to me that world building isn't my favorite thing, except as it arises in the story. So that means I have to go back to earlier stories and put that information in. I need to write this world down as I go along, so that I have a reference guide.

I need to make it internally consistent.

But I can see myself dwelling in this world for a few years, becoming completely comfortable there. In a way, I'm getting my biggest wish. I always wanted to live in Middle Earth.

Well, I can't do that, but I can live in the Thirteen Principalities. So that's like the next best thing. Maybe even better, when I really think about it.

I've been surprised at how I've written so much stuff based in the real world. I mean, I think I can tell a story and I rather like not having to build a world but using the real world as the background.

But now I think I'm ready to attempt to create a new place, like but unlike any other place. Where anything I want to happen can happen. It's a bit of fairy, really. I get lost there and time passes and the real world takes on a different look.

I'm ready for that. I can delve into that without the necessities of earning a living. I can live in the creative dream and just soak it up. Very strange.

In a way, I think I'm doing what most fantasy authors probably do. Figure it all out and write a novel or a series of novels. Except I'm doing it by writing shorter pieces, discovering more about my world as I go along. As long as I don't publish them there is no canon, nothing that has to be explained or contradicted later. I always expected to spend a few years on my fantasy opus. I just expected to write a trilogy, or something.

Which could still happen once I've worked out all the kinks.

Right now, I don't really have a Big Bad. I have the Mirror God, but the bad to the Mirror God is mankind's own behavior. I think I need something on the other end of the scale. But not your typical Dark Lord sort of thing. Something as unusual as the Mirror God.

The trick, I think, is not to worry about being published. The moment I start thinking that way, it skews my thinking. I like this living in this fantasy world on my own terms.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Not writing for 4 days, sinking ever deeper into despair. What's the use! It's all for nothing! May as well give up!

The only cure for that is to write.

Got in my car and followed the O'Neil highway to the end, knowing it ended up in Prineville, but not sure what path it took. A 20 minute drive to Prineville. Kept going, ended up in the Ochoco's. Alone with the smoke. Actually, the smoke wasn't too bad, so went for my walk.

Picked up my Thirteenth Principality story, "The Wyvern Riders," and it went off in an unexpected direction. (One advantage to coming back to it months later.) Really liked what I wrote, but on the way back home realized that I don't really have a bad guy in this story--or even a real menace.

And you know what? I'm fine with that. I'm exploring this world, having adventures, and these stories are going to be my playground.

In other words, the point of this series is to have fun. To write for my own self. I love fantasy, but I've always had trouble with the idea of writing gargantuan novels, as is normally done.  These shorter stories set in the same world are just the right approach for me. In the end, I may have as many words as some of these huge fantasy novels, but just written in shorter increments.

These are meant to be a series of novellas, set in the same world, with some of the same characters but not always, and in no particular order. So far, they've been about 30K words each, but I've decided if they go less than that or more than that, it's fine. Eventually they will all be collected. I have a vague idea of writing 13 of these stories, but that isn't necessary. 

Each story I write in this world is fleshing it out. I'm realizing that things that happen in the second story will need to be accounted for in the first book, and things happening in the third story will need to be accounted for in the first two books.

In other words, I'm world building by writing, but because I've not published them and thus bound them in concrete, I can continue to build up the backstory as I go along.

Kinda cool.

After years of avoiding shorter pieces, "FREE MARS!" and "Said the Joker, to the Thief" are two of my favorite stories. Whether they are marketable is another story.

I'm sort of trapped by my small success. I need to give each publisher their own space, make sure each book has a debut, and then support. I can't just go throwing stories online.

But someday, when the thread I've been following breaks, I'll be free to just start putting stuff up. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

"Takeover" is finished. First draft, 84,000 words.

I'm giving it a month of rewrites, and then sending it off.

I think it's a good book. It's different than anything I've done. Reality based, if you will. That is, there are few fantastical and or whimsical elements.Yet the subject matter is expansive enough to be interesting in its own right. In fact, I believe it's probably over my head to some extent, deserves more than I can give it, but I'm the one writing it so I'm giving it my best.

Even the non-supernatural books I've written: "Scorched," "Snaked," "Deadfall Ridge," still have strong elements of genre. Disaster movie motifs, whimsical or humorous bits, Hollywood-y action. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

This book is a series of character sketches thrust into a real situation, and then trying hard to get honest reactions and consequences from that initial act. It's amped up from what happened at the Malheur bird refuge occupation; with a murder and a takeover by domestic terrorists added.

I'm sending this to a mainstream publisher, but if he doesn't take it, I'm thinking this might be the book to try and go out and get an agent with.

Or maybe not. I'm not sure I have the gumption.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Another boring process blog.

Five days ago I thought I was 3 chapters and a short epilogue from finishing "Takeover." 4 chapters later, I'm 2 chapters and a short epilogue from finishing.

This is good, I think. I've always had a tendency to rush endings, and this just means that I'm fully fleshing it out. They're relatively short chapters, action oriented. The final chapter is the most important, so that's looming.

I'd hoped to be done by Sept. 1, but obviously, it will take a few extra days. New goal, by Labor Day.


Wasted a day. A relative visited and we took him out to lunch at Brother Jon's, and had a nice hamburger and the heat was so bad I didn't go for walk and the day went by and nothing.

Watched Narcos, which was great, and Defenders, which was meh.

Going for a walk early this morning while it's still cool, try to get the penultimate chapter written. Push it on through.

As I've mentioned before, I'll probably leave the epilogue until after the rewrite, since it seems to benefit from the extra time on reflecting what it all means. 

I will put this aside for two weeks, come back and rewrite the last 10 chapters first, then go to the beginning of the book and rewrite it all the way through.

I've subtly and not so subtly reminded my big mainstream editor about this several times now, hinted that I can take whatever news he has to give me on "Deadfall Ridge" and tried to entice him with "Takeover" but I've gotten no answers.

I've chosen to believe that no news is good news.