Saturday, December 29, 2018

Turning "Takeover" into a Hart Davis book.


Awhile back, I wrote a book about the fictional takeover the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, based on the Malhuer standoff. The first half was an experiment in storytelling, pretending to be first hand witness accounts by the various players.

The second half turned into a regular thriller.

I ended up liking the second half better. I mean, I liked what I did in the first half, but it just didn't really come together as a complete book. It needed a lead narrator, really, to tie it all together.

I've been thinking about it ever since. I know which character could do the best job of it. I would have to have him as the POV in the first two or three chapters, then I could seed in the other 1st person accounts--or turn those into 3rd person accounts.

The only reason to do this is that I think the story is pretty good, but because of the way I wrote it, the current book just doesn't work.

So I always had the intention of rewriting the first part of the book.

With "Deadfall Ridge" doing so well, I'm wondering if I can't turn the main character into Hart Davis, the protagonist of the latter book. I've sort of figured out a way, I think.

It also kind of excites me to try to do it, which is the crucial factor in any writing endeavor. So now I know what I'm going to be doing in January.

Friday, December 28, 2018

BookBub is a hell of a thing.

BookBub is a hell of a thing.

It really works, like nothing else works. I mean, I was happy just to be selected, because I knew that wasn't an easy thing.

It's doing better than I expected, really. Amazing.

As you may have noticed, I've stayed out of the way while the BookBub promotion is going on. Fortunately, I did a little research in advance so wasn't nervous about the time-lag. I think I've been superstitious about jinxing it.

I can get a general sense of how things are going from the rankings. David Wilson from Crossroad emailed me mid-afternoon to say they've already covered it, so I'm happy about that.

I'm exposing myself to a lot of new readers. With any luck they'll check out some of my other books.

It's interesting that I've gotten these encouragements on a regular basis--not too often, but often enough--to keep me going. I've sold out of my physical copies at the store, needed to order more.

So it's back to writing full-time next year, pretty much the same way I've been doing it. The writing is the thing, though I don't mind seeing some results once in awhile!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Many of you are reading this blog on the front page of my new namesake website, thanks to my wizardess, Chloe Leis.

What I like best about it is that this blog is that is now front and center on my homepage. I've written on this blog almost everyday for over 12 years now, so there will always been something fresh. (There does seem to be a time lag, but this post will get there soon enough.)

For those who are new here, I mostly talk about my writing process these days. Sometimes I talk about my business, Pegasus Books, in downtown Bend, which I've owned for 35 years.

The impetus to finally get this up to date is my newest book, "Deadfall Ridge," which has a Featured New Release from Bookbub on December 26th, 2018, which is pretty exciting. (For those who don't know what BookBub is, read my earlier blog post.)

So welcome everyone, and thanks to all who have continued to read this blog over the years. There won't be any change to those who come to "The Best Minimum Wage Job a Middle-Aged Guy Ever Had" site.

So to everyone discovering this site, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Working at Pegasus Books.

I worked the first three hours yesterday at my book store, Pegasus Books, and felt completely overwhelmed. I'm sort of out of the routine these days. People were calling and asking obscure questions, which I would normally try to answer, but I had to resort to "We're insanely busy. Could you call back a little later?"

One of our busiest days ever.

I was tied to the register for a couple of hours, not really able to go out onto the floor and ask if people needed help.

It seems like Christmas spending takes off later and later every year, so it's a bit nerve wracking. What if something happens? Several feet of snow? National emergency? But I think people are determined to at least have the happiness of those last couple weeks of the year.

I'm really thankful for Sabrina and Dylan, who are so cheerful and do such a good job.

I came into the Christmas season certain it was going to be a slow one. So far, it's been good, a little better than last year, though it might be hard to do as well the last week. Still, I was keeping my expectations slow.

I also sold almost all the "Deadfall Ridge"s I had in stock. Too bad I don't work at the store all the time, because I could probably sell some of my books every day. But then I wouldn't be writing.

I'm giving myself a break this season, not worrying about whether I write. What it reminds me of was the pure creative surge I felt those first few years. Absolutely nothing got in the way of my writing--I was a maniac.

Now that I've accomplished much of what I set out to do, that mania is dying down. So it will be interesting what happens from here on out.

I will be writing, without a doubt. I'm too addicted to it now. 

Friday, December 21, 2018

Holiday break.

I'm taking the holidays off. I've been kinda stuck on "Ruby Red and Robot" anyway, so giving it more time to percolate isn't a bad thing. Todd and Toby will be home for Christmas.

I figure I'll probably be glued to the computer on December 26 for my BookBub promotion for "Deadfall Ridge." I mean, I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much. It appears to really help some books, but other books fall between the cracks. Since I'm not particularly known, nor do I generally write in this genre, and because it is a stand-alone, I probably should keep my expectations low. If I have real guts, I'd just ignore it and let whatever happen...happen.

But I don't think I can pull that off.

Saw an old friend at the writer's group X-Mas party and gave her a copy of "Deadfall Ridge" and she wrote back and told me she'd read it in two sittings and loved it. It pleased me a great deal because it's hard to get friends and family to read my stuff. (Understandable because I've written so much.)  And I respect her opinion. Sometimes that's enough to keep me going. Also got a 5 star review from Sandy in Texas, who was my first real reader, and I'm really grateful for that. 

My wizardess, Chloe, and I are still working on updating my site. We're going to use a different provider in order to place this blog on the front page. Lots of details to fill in. It's not something I could have done on my own.

I'm hoping to get back to my regular walking and writing routine next year. They work so well together. I've been losing weight, but not because of a diet. I'm not eating anything before noon, which was always true, but now I'm not eating after 6:00. In between, I'm eating when I want to, but being moderate about it.

Poor Panga's belly is swollen. She doesn't seem to be in pain. We're watching her carefully. She still seems to have more good days than bad. But I fear the end is near.

Going to work today to put away books. Always an exciting time at the store. Also meeting my wizardess to work on the domain site some more.

Trying not to get too frightened by national affairs. (Oh, my poor IRA!!)

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Hiring a Wizardess.


a rare breed female wizards with magical powers to transform internet content."

I'm hiring a wizardess.

With my BookBub coming up on December 26, I decided it was time to get my Duncan up to date. I've neglected it forever.

I need to update it to current publishers and titles and links, if nothing else. What I'd really like to do is link this blog to the first page so that there is constant new material. Not sure if that is possible.

Anyway, I called my internet Wizard, Aaron, and asked for help. He directed me to his high school aged daughter, Chloe, who "is better at it."

Hopefully she's coming over to help both Linda and me with our internet troubles. If not, I'll tackle the site myself and at least make it presentable.

I haven't been writing. I'm sort of stuck with "Ruby Red and the Robot."

I've got 20 books currently up for sale online, with eleven paperbacks. "The Darkness You Fear" should soon join them again, and Fateplay has been sent to be edited and a cover done.

So, you know, no hurry. That lack of urgency is not completely a good thing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

BookBub happening on December 26, instead of 25th.

For some strange reason, the people at BookBub don't want to work December 25th, so my "Featured New Release" for Deadfall Ridge is happening on December 26.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday about BookBub and it was exhausting. Not so much the BookBub itself but all the things they do tangentally. They started throwing around jargon about different methods and I didn't have a clue.

The amount of work and thought these authors put into promotion is mind-numbing. I mean, I get it. I don't think writing is enough. You have to play the game or you won't score.

Fine. I mean, I'm willing when the opportunities arise. But it sort of reminds me of how I've had to handle certain product lines in my store over the years: either you're all in, or you may as well get out. The moment you start slacking or backing away, the whole thing falls apart.

Some projects require complete immersion.

What's weird about writing--and probably most of the arts--is that you have to be totally immersed in the art, and at the same time, totally immersed in the promotion of that art.

There are not the same thing. They are two different worlds.

As I mentioned yesterday, it's really the equivalent of taking on a full time job. Not even counting the writing.

I keep having these unexpected advances in my career. That is, I do put myself forward when I see a chance, but I'm not thinking about it all the time. Who knows, maybe as I learn more, I'll do more.

The other thing happening is that many of the promotional  techniques that have worked in the past no longer work. It's changing all the time, as new players get in and old players change the rules. If something works and everyone does it, then it no longer works. And so on.

Like I said, it requires complete immersion and constant monitoring to keep track.

My timing was a little off. If I'd jumped in the pool about three years sooner, it probably would have been a bit easier. Or, as another author mentioned, if you weren't established by 2000 you have a much higher hill to climb.

I swore I wouldn't get hung up on this stuff. I mean, the writing is the thing. As always, I want my publisher to do well, I want them to make their money back.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

What I want, when I want.

It's funny. Here I am, probably about to sell the most books I've ever sold, and I'm not currently writing. I'm reassessing my writing "career." (I had a book promotion a few years back for Led to the Slaughter, and it got several hundred downloads in a few days, but that one was free.) I hope Book Bub comes through for Crossroad more than anything.

But it got me thinking about what a "career" means. Thing is, I came back to writing to prove to myself, if no one else, that I could do it. Finish a book and put it out in the world. The secondary goal was to write a "good" book. The actual sales and reviews were more or less a third goal.

So the writing took off enough that I needed to fulfill some commitments. I needed to finish the Vampire Evolution Trilogy. I need to finish the Tuskers Sage. I wanted to keep the Virginia Reed Adventures going.

Even that felt a little bit like an imposition. I mean, I loved all those books and I enjoyed writing them, but it was still done with a bit of the "need to be done" about it.

So from the start, I've told myself to write "what I want, when I want." And that has been very freeing. Strictly speaking, I haven't been that concerned about strategy and or tactical placement. For instance, choosing better selling genres or settling in on one lone series, both of which are proven techniques of growing an audience.

I did start writing thrillers because the mainstream publisher I was dealing with didn't want to do SF, Fantasy, or Horror. But that was OK because I wanted to try that anyway. Thrillers are mostly what I read these days.

The mainstream publisher bought a thriller from me, as a ghost written book. This was definitely strategic in that I thought there was an implied promise that they would accept another book from me under my own name. Two thrillers later and no response--Not a rejection, but No Response--I gave up on that idea. (Meanwhile the ghostwritten thriller I wrote three years ago, which was extremely topical when I wrote it, has now become almost dated. I am flabbergasted by the lost opportunity...)

So that road was one I never really contemplated. I was invited in. The editor got in touch with me and asked. So what the hell--I thought thought something might happen, but I was fully aware it might not. My previous experience with New York publishers back in the 80s had been disillusioning. I'm not surprised the same thing has happened.

But that's what drew me back to writing. The wonderful opportunity to ignore the big guys and still find an audience, no matter how small.

So my goal was relatively modest.

And that has brought me to a realization. A full-blown "career" in writing means being fully engaged. Not in writing--I'm perfectly fine with that--but with everything else involved. I mean, if I can write "what I want, when I want" and it takes off and I'm allowed to keep doing "what I want, when I want," it, that would be a fine career.

But I don't think it works that way.

So here I go back to my real career as a small bookshop owner. I made this choice 35 years ago and fully committed to it--at first just trying to survive and pay off the loans, and then to make it work, and before I know it, I had a "career." Somewhat accidental, but I had put the work in. I'd done all the things I needed to do, whether they were things I wanted to do or not. I made the choice--and did the necessary things.

Over the years, I've often had people say to me--"Oh, I've thought of doing that as a sideline." Whether it be a game store, or a comic store, or a bookstore, or Magic, beanie babies, whatever.

And my ready answer was: "Do you believe that I could do your job as a sideline and make a go of it. Not put in the amount of work and effort and stress that you do?" And the answer, obviously, is probably not. Those kinds of jobs--that ones that don't actually lose money--require full-time commitment. (Another little saying I have: "If you aren't trying to make money, you are going to lose money.)

I've been in this game long enough now to observe full-time writers and their careers, and I can see how much work, effort, and stress they are putting into it. Lots of interaction with their fans, online and in person, lots of tactical decisions, lots of promotions, lots of planning and working.

And this doesn't even count the actual writing!

Well, that makes sense, the same way the commitment I made to Pegasus Books--and still so--makes sense.

So the truth is, if I was presented with the opportunity of a "career" and all that demands, I'd have to take a step back and go, "Whoa..."

The answer is yes---but only if I can keep doing "what I want, when I want." I mean, hey, maybe that will work. There are probably a few writers out there that get away with that. But taking it on with the kind of energy I gave to Pegasus Books? That probably isn't going to happen.

I guess I'm hoping that I can keep on doing "what I want, when I want," and have it all work out. But I know that would probably be a miracle.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Changing bad habits.

The only trick I've learned about bad habits is to give myself a break.

It's almost impossible to change in the moment. But if you break away, think about it for an extended time, figure out what and how you want to change, then fix a future date and prepare for it, that seems to work.


I remember way back when I was trying to quit smoking. I read something about sometimes it's better not to keep failing. So I quit trying to quit, but thought about it, figured out all the mistakes I'd made, then pinpointed a date to make a "real" effort.

I've gone through different approaches to employees over the years, and I've been pretty terrible about it sometimes. So during those times when it all fell apart and I couldn't afford employees, I had a chance to think about what I'd done wrong and to try and correct it. Each time, I've gotten a little bit better.

When I quit writing in 1984 I had so many bad pernicious habits that it was overwhelming. Over the next 25 years I thought about it, tried to figure out how to fix them. Frankly, if I'd come back to writing too soon I probably would have got it wrong.

When I finally did dive in, I had winnowed it down to one rock solid rule: Finish the book before engaging in re-writing.

Once I started writing, I found a freedom to write more often than I'd ever contemplated before. I wrote what and when I wanted, and gave myself permission to "do it all."

So now I think I've reached a point of diminishing returns. I want to take another step upward, but I'm not sure how to do that. So it is probably time to give myself another break, even if it's just a few months. I have actually identified things I should do--researching, outlining, and planning, rewriting--but "in the moment" I haven't been able to install these new habits effectively.

I've written a lot of words over the last six or seven years. Each book has been different. It's often been a case of three steps forward and two steps back. Sometimes the improvements are hard to identify, and sometimes a book just doesn't work. I'm not sure this can ever be fixed.

But I can identify my strengths and weaknesses, refine the process, and try a fresh start. It's a little messy. I have unfinished projects I want to finish. I'm in the middle of a book (See above #1 rule.) But I'm kind of working toward one of those breaks, giving myself time to absorb it all, and come back with a sharper focus.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

I hate writing, I love having written.

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

Dorothy Parker

I don't actually completely agree with this. I like writing, but I do love "Having Written."

Linda is on book four of my Tuskers series. She turned to me and said, "I'm glad Paco is alive. I thought he was dead."

That got me to thinking about the complexity of this world I created. I'm amazed. It's a weird feeling of "I Did That!"

So I don't know if this is egotistical of me, but I'm impressed by what I've done. I mean, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, or what kind of reviews I get, or how many I sell--I'm amazed that they came out as well as they did.

What I'm saying is--these books are better than I thought I could do. I had a jaundiced view of my abilities. I still do. I still think I could do so much better. I read other writers and think, "I could never do that."

But I measure this view of my writing with what is actually out there and I think, "Well, that turned out better than I expected."

It's more a matter of "I finished this Marathon at a faster pace than I expected," than "I won the Marathon!"'

I reached my goal and exceeded it.

When I wrote my first three books, I could never read them without seeing all the flaws. Now I read one of my books and think, "Hey, not bad." I see small things I would change, but mostly I think they came out the way I wanted.

My books being judged for the quality of "The way I wanted" is different than being judged for a book that isn't "The way I wanted," if that makes sense. 

I'm at a point where I've written so much, I'm starting to rest on my laurels, which is probably a dangerous place.

But it does spur me to try to think more about the next book, what I can do to improve.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

"Wait a minute..."

A couple of days of not writing.  I got all excited about the Bookbub thing. (Buy Deadfall Ridge on preorder for 2.99--it all counts on the day it is released, Dec. 18...)

I've decided these breaks actually serve a purpose--my subconscious is saying, "Wait a minute..."

So today, as I picked up my computer, I realized that I need to figure out some things. I'm 10K words in, and I like the characters and scenario, but this morning I realized it was missing a few things.

1.) I need a Big Bad--someone who is behind the Strike and the berserk robots.

2.) There needs to be an urgent reason for Ruby to get Antony to Kunlun Mountain. Some kind of time limit.

3.) She needs to be chased. The Bad Guys know who she is and what she's got.

So I need to ponder those three things. I'm not going back and rewriting what I've written. I'm proceeding as if those things were there from the beginning.

Later: Figured out that the start of the book could come with a messenger telling them these exact same things--followed by an attack. After that Ruby is on the run.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Snagged a Bookbub.

So it appears that "Deadfall Ridge" will be a "Featured New Release" from Bookbub on Christmas Day. It will be under the "Action and Adventure" category, and this is a pretty big thing.

So what's Bookbub?

It's the premier book promotion site.

So I probably should explain a few things. The "Featured New Release" is a newer thing for Bookbub, been around about six months. It's a "Featured" thing, that is it must go through a submission process and is curated. But it is not the famous "Featured Deal," which Bookbub is most known for.

This is more about being "New" than being a "Deal," though Crossroad Press has lowered the price to $2.99. 

The Daily "Deals" go out to millions of readers. Authors submit established books at lower prices, usually free or .99.

In return "Featured" books usually get tens of thousands of downloads. Bookbub charges a significant amount for it--based on the genre--but from all accounts, even though the book is often free or very low priced, the author more than evens out from extra sales.

The real problem is that is almost impossible to get accepted by the "Deal." Less than 5% are accepted, or something like that, which may not sound that impossible--but remember, included in that 5% is every author you've ever heard of.

My understanding was that it was easier to hook up with Bookbub if you were a new author five or six years ago. But with their success has come the major authors.

Bookbub has recently started the "Featured New Release," which is similar to the Deal except that it refers to new books, and isn't required to be discounted.

It is still very hard to get into: only about 20% are accepted, according to their own website. Its costs are similar to the Deal, but because heavy discounting isn't required, it probably doesn't need the tens of thousands of downloads to break even.

So this is validation of a sorts. I think "Deadfall Ridge" is a good book, and it's nice to see it accepted by some tough gatekeepers. I'm also proud that Crossroad Press has enough faith in my writing to take the risk.

Christmas Day is interesting. Not sure how that will work out. But no matter what, I'm proud that this is happening.

"Deadfall Ridge" is already available for pre-order on Amazon, and the paperback is already published (I'll have it in my store in the next few days...)

The preorder is now only 2.99 and the preorder determines the all important rank of the book on day one.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Treat this as a diary.

I guess I need to just treat this as a diary, which was my original intent. Not much of marketing tool, that's for sure.

Wrote another chapter of "Ruby Red and the Robot." This is a purposely light book, pretty much a young adult novel.

I've arrived at a very simple, straight-forward style. I think there is nothing wrong with this--in my rewrites I often want to add more, but I'm wondering if that is necessary. Clear up some of the continuity problems but leave the writing mostly alone.

Or maybe I'm just lazy. I do know I enjoy the inventing, the telling myself a story.

I'm not feeling any urgency, and I think the seriousness of purpose I had those few few years probably propelled my writing. Now...I'm just enjoying it, dabbling in it to some extent, so the pace has really slowed down.

I have books lined up for publication, so it's not like it's a problem.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Trying to get some momentum.

I'm hoping you'll help me out on "Deadfall Ridge," so I can get some momentum.

See, the way it works--and there is no reason you should know how it works, but here it is--whatever your beginning sales determines your sales arc, because if you can get a chunk of sales in advance, you enter the charts higher, and the higher you enter the charts, the more people notice you, and so on.

At the beginning of my writing, I was pretty aggressive, asking people pointblank to buy my first book. I think you can get away with it the first time, because you are genuinely proud and people are intrigued enough to help.

So I started off with a relative bang and was able to keep that going for more than year, because putting out a book every 3 or 4 months is what you have to do to keep momentum. You can literally watch the charts and see books dropping after that time period.

So for the first year, that was good, but then my publisher went MIA. I had other books written, but didn't plug them into the four month slot because I didn't want to step on the publisher's toes because he said he was going to do it any day.

So the chart drop happened and kept going and publisher didn't put out the next book for a year.

So that was the first time it happened.

So I started all over with another publisher, was aggressive again for my first book, and again there was great momentum for two books, and then that publisher decided to go mainstream and a year went by while they set up, and again, I watched the momentum fizzle.

So then I started again with a third publisher, who was already set up to be mainstream, and he seemed excited and had done some great promotion on books very much like mine, and again I asked people to buy the book, and it started off good.

And then that publisher decided to step back. Pretty much without any warning.

Momentum lost. I have 3 new publishers. I don't know why, but I do seem to be lucky that way.

One of the publishers, Crossroad Press, is being very proactive, and they are behind "Deadfall Ridge," so once again I'm asking all of you to please buy this book, so we can try to get some momentum on it, which then will pull up all the other books.

If you were ever thinking of buying a book of mine, now is the time. This is a thriller, for those of you who don't read fantasy or horror or science fiction. It's based in Central Oregon, and I think its an enjoyable read.

So there you have it. I'm asking. Please.


For the pre-sell on the ebook, here's the link:

If you'd rather read the paperback, here's the link:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Deadfall Ridge Paperback

"Deadfall Ridge" will be available as a paperback next week, which is somewhat unexpected. The ebook version isn't due until December 18th. Not sure how that works.

Anyway, I'll have it in my store soon.

It's a thriller, set in Eastern Oregon, about a wilderness guide who is being hunted in the winter mountains by ruthless mercenaries.

My publishers are being very proactive--covers, editing, ebooks, audio books, and paperbacks. It's nice to see.

What I'm hoping is that they'll be rewarded for their efforts. If any of you read me regularly, please give me a little support here and buy a book for Christmas. Maybe as a gift?

For once, it's not supernatural in any way--straight ahead thriller.

I feel really responsible for my publishers--that I want there to be a good show for them, that their efforts on my part will be rewarded. I'm grateful for what they're dong.

Anyway, here's the link if you're interested:

Monday, November 26, 2018

"What about Stan Lee?"

Worked at Pegasus yesterday.

Couple of bright eyed guys come in, "What about Stan Lee!"

I shrug.

Not the reaction they expected. I'm either the Comic Book Guy, or I'm a disgrace to my profession, or both.

What's really fun about me being there once in a while is that people seem genuinely happy to see me. It's very gratifying. And I'm happy to see them (even if I sometimes can't remember their names.) I often see grown up versions of people I saw as kids.

All my grumpiness is gone, I'm as fresh as a daisy; I suppose the day to day aggravations are now Sabrina's.

I'm like an institution in downtown--or I should be in one.

The store is at a peak, really. It's always interesting after a big weekend of sales how the store looks as packed as ever. Book sales are good, taking up some of the slack from the comics drop off.

Looking to re-up my lease. It's nice that the store has found an equilibrium that works.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Addicted to storytelling.

Ruby Red and the Robot.

I've decided to forge ahead. Make notes of the changes I want to make, but keep the story going forward. The quick pace and the lightness are what I'm after. The problem with making revisions is the danger of being bogged down. Plus, I've learned that some revisions aren't necessary when all is said and done. Some aren't even beneficial.

It's another SF story, so it has to be logical, which is not my strong suit.

As to why I'm even writing it...

I'm just addicted to storytelling, I think. If for no one else but myself. It's a bonus that Linda always seems to like what I'm doing.

Art for art's sake, I suppose.

As Stephen King said, (I'm paraphrasing), "Fuck reality."

It is possible in this day and age to live in an alternate reality if you so chose, if you can just manage to get food and shelter taken care of.

Saturday, November 24, 2018


"Ruby Red and the Robot."

5000 words winging it, which is the freedom you have when you start a story. But now I'm realizing I'm going to need to plot this out a bit more. For one thing, I have only two characters and that's not enough. For another, there is an action scene in the first chapter, but none in the next two chapters, which means I need to concoct a couple of scenes.

Plus the motivation. I have a general idea that Ruby's robot companion, Antony, is the McGuffin. The thing everyone is looking for. But meanwhile, I have Ruby find a computer disk early one, which she uses as an excuse to go looking for the fabled place her father talked about.

But since the computer disk was picked up at random from a dead guy, why would it be significant? What would be the odds?

So as a red herring, it might work, but why would Ruby need a red herring? Perhaps she knows more about Antony than she's willing to admit (hard to do when it's first person narration) and she's trying to protect him.

And so it goes...

When I first came back to writing, I had a hard rule not to change anything until the book was finished. But I'm allowing myself some mid-course corrections these days. Dangerous, but...

Friday, November 23, 2018

Sunk Costs in writing.

I'm already over 5000 words into "Ruby Red and the Robot" in two days and I'm realizing a couple of things.

1.) That I'm having a lot of fun.
2.) It's good the first draft. It won't require a whole lot of rewriting. I'm getting pretty good at doing this.

So if it takes just as long to rewrite something that doesn't work as it does to write something that does work, why would I do the former?

Sunk Costs.

“The sunk cost effect is the general tendency for people to continue an endeavor, or continue consuming or pursuing an option, if they’ve invested time or money or some resource in it,” says Christopher Olivola, an assistant professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business and the author of a new paper on the topic published in the journal Psychological Science. “That effect becomes a fallacy if it’s pushing you to do things that are making you unhappy or worse off.” Time Magazine.

It is incredibly difficult to give up on something I've spent years of my life writing. I have hundreds of thousands of words--at least ten novels--that I should just give up on. But damn...
Started a new story  yesterday called, "Ruby Red and the Robot."

Like "Eden Returns" it's just me keeping my writing going. I just like being in the middle of a story. I'm not going to do any stretching or heavy lifting. It either comes to me or it doesn't. Have no idea how long this story will be, or even what it entails.

Post-apocalyptic, starring a young woman, with lots of robots. Heh.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

I've gotten my Big Idea for my Big Fantasy. It's such a basic idea that I'm sure it's been done before, but I've decided that doesn't matter. My version is likely to be vastly different.

I can either make this an alternative history, or use the real history as an analog to my fantasy, changing names and events, but using it as a template.

I've come up with an opening scene, but I just jotted down rough notes, purposely not writing it more fully. I'm going to try hard just to think about this whole story instead of sitting down and writing it. There is no hurry. I want as much of this thought out in advance I can.

I may even write other books in the meantime. At the very least, re-write some books. If I don't start this book for a year or two, that will be fine.

I've got a number of books set aside for research for this project. There are many more I could get. It's a big enough idea that I think I can play with it in my head for awhile.

The problem in the past has been--I think of a scene and feel like I need to write it before it's gone. Especially if the words start flowing. So the trick is to write down the essence of the scene, but not let the words flow.

It's a bit like the trick I learned early on: instead of sleepless nights, when I'd get an idea while going to sleep, I'd just say to myself, "Tell me tomorrow." And sure enough, usually that worked. I just needed the kernel and I could extrapolate from there.

I'm going to let this be wide ranging in characters, time, and distance. Either with a lot of flashbacks, or make it multi-generational.

Or--I may try to have one main character enter the story fairly early on, and follow him or her.

The whole point of planning this out in advance is to figure these things out.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

I finished the rewrite of "Faerylander" and I believe it is vastly improved. Moving it to the sidekick's POV was the right thing to do. It makes the main character a little more mysterious and powerful.

When I got to the end, I realized that the ending I'd been pointing toward, adding another action chapter to the already three ending action chapters, wasn't necessary, because Parsons was now the POV character, and his being hurt was more impactful, which explains Cobb's renewed strength to win the battle.

I have no idea if this books works at all, but I do believe it's better than it has ever been before. I have to decide what to do next.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Much of what I'm doing with this rewrite of "Faerylander" is removing all the overlying crust. It was as if I had a painting and I kept trying to fix it by adding more layers of paint, and now I'm removing those layers.

I think I was trying too hard to imbue the story with emotion and depth, and most of that doesn't work. Most of it should remain unspoken. Let the story tell the story.

There's a simple solution to bad writing: You don't try to fix it, you just remove it. Then if there is information that needs to be saved, you rewrite it from scratch. Most of the time, you find out you don't need it. That's why it's bad writing.

Managed another 10 pages. Again, I cut almost a full page of stuff that was false drama. I'm getting pretty bare bones. What's clear to me is that my writing is more evocative now than it was 6 years ago, mostly from practice, from learning to let myself write. I have the time to set this aside when I'm done, and come back to it, since I have at least 3 books lined up to be published.

I'm either going to tackle a rewrite of "Takeover" or of "Zombielander" next. Probably take me most of the rest of the year. The first third of "Takeover" was a narrative and POV experiment, that didn't quite work, especially compared to the last 2/3rds, which is a standard but comparatively well-written thriller.

Then do the rewrite of "Eden's Return."

I never know what I'll be in the mood for, so after that it's murky. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

I'd hope to finish the rewrite of "Faerylander" by the 15th of Nov. I'd also hoped it would be the last time.

I'm still committed, though it is hard to get myself to sit down and do it. Harder the farther in I get. I figure I have 3 or 4 days at this pace left.

The word for this is: I'm grinding it out.

This doesn't mean it's not good, necessarily, just that it is something that requires self-discipline. I think it's a warning sign that any rewrite of an early book isn't going to be easy.

I feel like what I've done is made the narrative better and taken out all the clunky parts (and many of the clunky parts came from previous rewrites.) But this version might be something that would benefit from one last go-over--- if--if--I can find the right voice.

What's happening overall with my writing is I'm letting things get in the way.

For the first two years I wrote, nothing but nothing got in the way. I was certain I wouldn't have much time, that I needed to get all the creative energy out on paper. The third and fourth years, I was still pretty damned disciplined. The last couple of years I've let things get in the way, whether important or not.

I'm ahead of the game, really. I've got books lined up to go, and other books that won't require the massive effort I just put into "Faerylander" to get ready.

I'm about to sit down and grind out another 10 to 15 pages. I'm at page 200 of a 235 page book.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

I'm not completely happy with some of the writing in "Faerylander." I suspect that I'll have to completely rewrite from scratch at least a couple of chapters.

But for now, I'm just working on getting all the technical details right. Get the right POV, put the chapters in the best possible order, work on the motivations and descriptions of the characters.

When and if all this is in place, what I need this is a good solid voice. A little bit of art.

I have a book, "Deviltree," that I wrote in my first career. It came oh, so close to being published. I won't go through all the details, but it was little bit heartbreaking.

Anyway, in my struggle to answer publisher critiques, I made the book technically good. But when I read it now, I think I took my own voice out of it. (Part of this was letting another--professional--writer have at it. He took out all the quirky stuff.)

But to me, it reads dry now.

So anyway, I'm just struggling to get this book all together--THEN I'll worry about the tone and the mood of it.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Spent most of yesterday on "Faerylander" changing tenses. I moved a couple of chapters starring Cobb and Lillian up, and then changed them to 3rd person and then went back and changed all the Cobb POV's to 3rd person.

So the book is now being told almost completely from the 1st person point of view of Parsons, which should be easier now, because Parsons is in almost every chapter from now on.

I don't know if any of this works. I don't think I'll know for sure until I've set it aside and come back to read it later.

Reading"Deadfall Ridge" again was an interesting experience. Enough time had passed that I could actually read it the way a reader would read it.

I think I've got so much material written at this point that I can have this luxury with every book.

I really need to be patient. The last version of "Deadfall Ridge" was the one I should have presented to the mainstream publisher--the two versions I sent before weren't ready and just by sending two of them, I probably burned my bridges.

Just as well, probably. I think Crossroad Press, who seems to be genuinely supportive, is a much better fit for my writing.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Owning a comic shop, one of the things you learn is that "universes" are complicated. They're extra complicated because every time DC or Marvel tries to "fix" those universe's continuity, they just make them more complex. Things tend to boomerang back to the way they were, with yet another extra layer added on.

Sort of like "Faerylander." The original concept was probably relatively complicated, especially since I probably didn't have it completely clear in my own mind. At the same time, it was relatively shallow.

I've been trying to fix it ever since. And every time I try to "simplify and deepen" it, I think I just make it more complicated.

I finally broke the book in half it was getting so unwieldy, but that created its own set of continuity problems, which I tried to fix by adding new material.

So the whole book is awkward. At the same time, the world building has continued until it's pretty clear in my mind. The weird part is, despite my dislike of rewriting, for this book I seem to be willing to do it again and again.

I like this world, and I like the characters. Each of the 30 versions or so was an incremental improvement in world building and character motivations. Some of the writing is improved, some becomes "over-written" which I then try to fix on the next version.

But the structure has become--as been for some time--awkward.

I know what's going on, but I'm not sure I'm getting that across to the reader.

I keep moving things around, explaining the moves by new transitions, and the book gets even more ungainly. 

It's a gordian knot that I'm unwilling to slice.

"Kill your darlings?" It's all darlings.

I'm up to page 137 out of 215 pages. With only five days left in my original writing period. I'll probably go a few days over. But, spending 20 days on this book still feels like a good thing to have done, even though I may end up setting aside--yet again.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Crossroad Press sent me the PDF of "Deadfall Ridge" to check over.

They're going to offer a paperback version for sale in advance on Amazon and also submit it to Bookbub, which shows some faith on their part.

Really, the book is pretty good. I was a little surprised. This is my first all-out thriller, nothing SF or Fantasy or Horror about it.

Especially reading it in book form. What's interesting is that it was the last draft that came together. I mean, almost by definition the "last" draft is what people see, if done right. But for me, it's always interesting to see how draft one has 80% of what's needed, draft two has 80% of what's needed, but only overlap by 60% and draft three takes the best of both versions and gets 90% of the way, and then some last minute revisions get's it all the way.

Which means most of the advance readers and even editors don't really see the complete version.

This book especially came in strong at the end, and I think it's because I gave it time. Combining the best of the three drafts created the best book.

I guess I've been far enough away from it that I can now read it like a book, and it comes across very well.

It's strange. Every time I almost lose heart, I'm reminded that I'm not all that bad.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

I think there is a chance to make "Faerylander" a good book. So I may spend more time on it than I thought.

For one thing, I think there is some better writing in some of the earlier versions--simpler and clearer. I'd like a chance to pick the best writing out of all the different drafts. That would take some time.

I also think I need to make Cobb's journals into 3rd person, so the only 1st person narrator will be Parsons. That should clear away some of the confusion.

I'm thinking I might be able to figure out an action first scene--the aftermath of which, Parsons shows up to pick up a drunk and unconscious Cobb.

Hold the Edgar Allen Poe chapter until after they visit the black elf. "The first of the writers who started him on his quest for the Dark Realms."

Hold the Tolkien chapter until later--or save it until the next book.

All right. Worked all day on the beginning, moving the Edgar Allen Poe chapter from the first and starting the book with a short action scene.

I'm trying to make this reader friendly.

None of this may work. I'm going to finish the rewrite, but I might set it aside yet again.

As Martha said, this has been one long soap opera for the last 7 or 8 years. I can't seem to let it go.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Worked through the technical problems I had the previous day. It's all about keeping Parsons POV as much as possible. The book is still unwieldy, but having a consistent narrator should help.

I'm up to 110 pages, so if I can manage an average of 10 pages a day for the next 9 days, I should be done by mid-month, which was my goal.

There is a lot of bad writing in this book that I'm trying to fix. Lots of good ideas, some good scenes, some real invention. I like the premise and the characters. The plot is too full, with too many things that stall the momentum. This last problem is the one I've always struggled with the most. Putting in suspense when there was very little suspense.

I keep figuring out some basic things, things that would have been nice to have as part of the plot from the start.

Oh well, it's a chunky book, but it's got enough really good things in it that I still want to try to save it. I can't tell at all if it's any good anymore. I lost that perspective around the 10th version or so.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Had a rough time on my rewrite yesterday. Did a few pages but it just didn't feel right. So I broke off and I'll try again today.

Part of it was that I was called into town to unlock the door for Sabrina. Just as well, I probably needed a break anyway. Took the opportunity to visit the Open Book and Big Story, to buy a few books. (I never leave a bookstore without buying at least one book.)

Saw my old friend Jerry Opie at the Sole Shop while I was getting a battery for my ancient Seiko watch. (Woke up this morning with it being an hour off--so I may have to finally get a new one.)

Going to focus on writing again today, at least until dinner time.

Do I dare watch the news? I doubt I'll be able to avoid it.

The main thing, I think, is to continue to be in Parsons head. As long as I can manage that, I think the book will work. It's been a real challenge, but there is always a solution.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Managed another 15 pages in the rewrite, so I'm up to 95, or almost halfway.

It's a difficult thing I'm trying to do, plus--to be frank--some of the early writing just wasn't very good. I was trying too hard. I've been spending half my time just trying to fix that.

Meanwhile, I'm kind of being forced to push Parsons to the forefront, which means really rewriting certain parts of the book. I was hoping I could slip Parsons POV in sideways, but it is actually requiring me to completely rewrite parts. The book will be better for it. And I can spend an entire day to do 15 pages, I can still get it all done in two weeks. 

So I'm going all in on the Parsons POV, which requires completely rewriting the rest of the book, instead of just adding a few transitions here and there. Wrote an entirely new scene that will make the ending of the book go down easier. I'm contemplating another whole scene later that will do the same thing. (Have Cobb pulled into Cthulhu for a few minutes--see his brethren flying toward him.)

The bulk of the material is there, though, so it isn't impossible. If I can manage 10 pages a day, then I'll be on track. Hell, I can write 6 pages a day in original material, so I should be able to do that. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

As you can tell from my blog, I analyze the shit out of things.

I had a friend in high school who told me I was wishy-washy. But that ain't it. I mean, yeah, I change my mind a lot but only because I have a new thought or new information. (OK, so maybe I'm wishy-washy.)

This has served me well at the store. I constantly monitor things, make changes, tinker, try again, change course, go back, change my mind again--because in this process I eventually arrive at the best answer.

Personally, I think the most important attribute of a small business owner is to think for yourself. Absolutely follow your own intuition and reasoning. Yes, pay attention to what others are doing, but be sure that you arrive at your conclusions on your own.

So I do this with my writing too, obviously. But these days, instead of doing it within one book, I'm changing course from book to book.

"Faerylander" is more like the way I used to write. Constantly changing things--it drove Linda crazy when we tried writing "Sometimes a Dragon" together. I ended up screwing up that book so much it's probably never going to see the light of day. Same with "Bloodstone" and "Changelings of Ereland." Both those books were fiddled with until they weren't viable, and meanwhile I wasted way too much time on them.

This is why I've had a hard and fast rule this time around. Finish the book before making changes.

That one rule has saved my life.

At the store, I constantly disrupted the business model, constantly got myself in trouble, constantly overreached.

But you know what? I think ironically, that kept us in business, because I was constantly scrambling trying to save the business I learned to think for myself. (The biggest problems I had with the store was overexpanding even though my instincts told me that sports cards and comics were exploding way too fast. Yep. After that, I knew better. Great Recession? Saw it a mile away. heh)

I tend to be a loner, and ironically that has made me a little bit immune to group think, which I think is the downfall of so many businesses. Everyone tends to make the same mistakes because everyone is making the same mistakes, if that makes any sense.

Of course, with writing it's not a matter of survival, except in the sense that I want to keep my creative urges intact. I love writing, I'm addicted to writing, and what the fuck happens after I'm finished with a book simply isn't up to me.

So I try to satisfy myself with every effort, and I never quite get it all the way right, and I take what I've learned and apply it to the next book. 

I like what I've written through 80 pages.

Looking ahead, I'm a little more worried. I just have too many disparate elements I'm trying to throw together. This is the basic structural problem that has been there from the beginning.

I've ameliorated this problem somewhat in the first 80 pages by having a consistent viewpoint character.

It's going to be much more difficult from this point on to have Parsons be the POV.

So that is the challenge. Can I find ways without twisting myself into a pretzel of having Parson continued to be the main narrator. The longer I can do this, the more willing the reader will be when the story goes in different directions.

So that's the challenge.

That challenge also makes writing the book more fun.

One thing I learned early in writing is that when I'm stuck, it's often because I don't have the right POV. Sometimes just switching the POV is all a scene needs.

However POV only works if the character is there. So I either have to change the story so that Parsons is somehow present, or explain how is POV is still there. I have him being able to read minds, which is sort of cheap trick, then again, I am talking about Faery here, so it's not that outlandish.

But I don't want to stretch the credulity too far.

So that is the big challenge. I need to take just one chapter at a time and see what I can do. For instance, the next chapter is about Cobb meeting the guy who originally hired him to look into a murder. In this chapter, I insert how the two of them originally met.

So to keep Parsons (who is on a bus going somewhere else) as the POV,  I'm going to include him in the flashback scene, before it goes the present. So it at least keeps Parsons involved to that point. So yeah, I think that will work.

Just have to keep trying to get Parsons voice in there.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Third day of rewrites. Managed to do 13 pages, most of this time spent on the first five pages. I had to take two chapters of material that no longer worked and completely redo them into one chapter. So that wasn't easy.

But--it is more or less the last roadblock to finishing. Now it's just a matter of changing some of the material from 1st to 3rd and other parts from 3rd to 1st POV.

I'm pretty sure the organization is right for the rest of the book--which has always been the hard part. The first third of this book is like a hard, thick kernel that has to go down in order for the rest of the book to happen. So what I've done, in a sense, is tried to lubricate this hard kernel so it's easier to take. (Ouch, that sounds terrible.)

But the hard, dense kernel is kind of what makes the book interesting, so the trick is to keep it and just make it more palatable. Heh.

The rest of the book feels relatively loosey goosey, which is my usual style. So it's more like a normal rewrite, where I set a pace of about 20 pages a day. I'll be done well within the two weeks I gave myself. Then I'll jump right into "Zombielander," the second book in the series, and finish that off in about another two weeks.

Wolflander and Ghostlander will take more work, but I'll tackle them soon. Still undecided whether I want to write a fifth book, Cthuhlulander (for which I have a cool cover.)

I'm pretty stoked that I've managed to save this series, which I've always been extremely fond of.

A story worth the frustrations.

Rearranged chapters of "Faerylander" again, ended up going through another 25 pages, which puts me 67 pages into the story. Or about a third of the way.

I'm pretty committed to this lineup. I'm calling all bids in. This is it, no more messing around.

Basically what I've done is made Parson, who is main character Cobb's sidekick, and made him the narrator of the story. It's been amazingly easy to insert Parsons into chapters where he wasn't, and then to use his mind-reading ability to have him relate chapters he isn't in.

In short, Parsons is the framing device, and as such his main job is to creates smooth transitions between the various parts of the story.

I had a lot of parts in this story that worked well on their own, but didn't flow. That is, putting them end to end simply didn't create any forward momentum. Each was well written and interesting, but didn't connect really well with the chapter before or the chapter after.

Especially the famous writer chapters. The conceit of the book is that Cobb is suspicious that Earth is on the verge of an invasion from the Dark Realms, and he's convinced that authors such as Tolkien, and Robert E. Howard, and H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe, and others have seen these Dark Realms, so he goes to interview them.

I loved writing these chapters, trying to get the essence of the authors and melding it into my plot.

But every time I inserted one of these chapters into the narrative, it stopped the story cold. And yet, they are too good to leave out.

So Parsons' job as narrator is to smooth the transition between the flow of the story and these informational chapters. It's working well, I think.

This is not going to be as easy a read as many of my books, but I think it will reward the persistent reader more.

I like the density of this book. By rewriting so many times, I've worked out the mechanics down to details that I normally skip. It in some ways is what I always figured writing a book was like, reworking and rewording and rearranging until you have the best possible combination.

Ironically, my storytelling is much more intuitive, as it turned out, and I'm very focused on the pacing and flow and having interesting things happening, and not so much in world building.

So "Faerylander," as frustrating as it has been, has been a valuable experience of what it is like to slave over a book. Again, I'm not convinced this produces a better book in most cases--most likely I'd quit before I got there--but this story had enough continuing interest for me to go through all the frustrations.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Finally, finally, FINALLY: a fix to "Faerylander."

I do believe that I have finally, finally, finally figured out how to "fix" "Faerylander."

This book is some ways my magnum opus. I've written four books in the series, and outlined a fifth book. It's a fully developed world, with characters I like.

But it was the first book I wrote coming back to writing full time. The first draft was weak in all the ways beginning books are--and I compounded the problem by forcing an ending because my main goal at the time to freaking finish. I was pretty sure, after all the false starts I'd had over the years, that if I didn't manage to finish my first big effort, I might not continued writing at all. 

I handed the first draft over to a couple of friends, who were lukewarm in response, including the comment, "All the characters sound like you." Ouch.

Anyway, I went back to this book again and again, until I have 30 versions in my computer--and those are only the versions I kept.

I rewrote the first book in the series so much that I finally split the book in two, using most of the new material for the second book.

Which still left me with the weaker writing in the first book.

I did improve the book, but there were structural problems I just couldn't seem to overcome. Frankly, even this newest draft has some structural problems, but--I do believe I've figured out a new way to tell it that will make the problems less noticeable.

A while back, I figured out that to really make the book work, as well as the other books stronger, and which would really set up a good ongoing series, I needed to have the narrator be the main character's sidekick, a sort of Watson to Holmes.

It seemed impossible. Might as well write a new book.

But the other night, I started asking myself how I could do that. And I was still coming up with ideas at four o'clock in the morning. I woke up the next day and dove in and didn't look up until late that night. I'd transformed the first 40 pages.

It finally feels like the book it should be.


I had to work yesterday, so the momentum was broken, but I'm going back to it today. I'm extracting a strong chapter out of the second book and using it, because I'm pulling out all stops to make this first book work. (I'm not worried about the second book, which has a basic workable structure and more mature writing. I can fill in the part I took out.)

I may still run into some roadblocks. There is a large chunk about halfway through that doesn't nestle comfortably in the flow, but every trick I've tried to break it up or position it somewhere else has only made things more complicated, so the hell with it; I'm just plunking it down there.

Not a perfect book--it was never going to be a perfect book--but a nice readable story, given a little leeway by the reader. Heh.

I'm not sure why I didn't just give up on this book, but there are parts of it I love and I just can't quit it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

I just finished a book. I'm setting it aside for a month to mellow, as is my new procedure.

This is a good time to think about what I'm trying to do.

I can write no end of stories, apparently. And maybe that's what I'll do. I seem to be almost addicted to the process. Life feels a little empty when I'm not writing.

But I'm not sure what I'm accomplishing.

I mean, writing for my own well-being is a worthy goal and in the end maybe all that matters. But there is no way to break through to a wider audience that makes any sense.

I figure if I did all the marketing I could do, the chances of having a good result is maybe 10%. Better than the 0% if I don't do any marketing, but not good enough to spend all the time and effort and social cost.

I've always had the idea that if I wrote a good enough book that word-of-mouth would take off. Well, either I've not written that book, or word-of-mouth isn't going to do the job.

I've had more success than I expected. I've been published (paid) by 10 different publishers in my career. So it's not a fluke.

And if I do say so myself, they are a lot better than I thought I could do when I started.

It has been my decision from the start not to try very hard to break into mainstream publishing, which I think is a snakepit. I was invited in--and sure enough, it didn't go well. Someday I'll tell that story--but I rather thought it was an abusive relationship and who needs that?

I've allowed myself to write what I want when I want. I think this is the right decision. I don't chase the marketplace--in fact, often when I start a book I'm aware it isn't very commercial. I'm also trying to allow myself to experiment.

For instance, this latest book is more about mood and ideas than it is about action. The mood and ideas are hanging on a very lean action plot, which I think is cool. But I'm not sure it works. That's the point--not being sure what works and what doesn't but trying anyway.

So philosophically, I'm not sure what I want to do next.

More practically, I have a series of books that I either didn't quite finish or which need extensive re-writing. So far, as long as there was a new book in the works, I've done that instead. But someday it would be nice to set aside some time to get those other books ready, even if they need to be published under a penname.

But re-writing is actually harder for me than doing a new book, and if these books are weak, the equation has always been--write a new book and try to be better.

But....seeing 10 stories that I liked and which I thought had potential just sitting there is kind of maddening.

I basically want to get drunk, run them through a quick rewrite, and get them out and damn the quality. But...

So anyway, as of this moment I'm probably going to pick up my first book again, Faerylander, and give it one more try. Really try to assert my author's voice, see if I can't make it work.

It's a daunting task.

A lot more daunting than just taking a kernel of an idea and starting a new story.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Eden's Return, done.

So without really meaning to, I've finished another book. This one is more a result of just writing everyday and reaching a conclusion than a goal to write another book, if that makes sense. Just looked for an interesting theme to explore and chipped away at it. It took twice as long as normal and is shorter than usual, but it's a complete story.

Passed 50,000 words on "Eden's Return," which just goes to show that I should never worry about length. By the time I finish the second draft, I'll be beyond 60,000 words, which is fine.

I wanted this story to be shorter.

I have one chapter and the epilogue to go, which I think I can finish today.

There are plenty of concepts to explore here. I don't want the theme to overwhelm the story, but I'd like to add a little depth to it all. Just going to tinker with it, try to find ways to introduce the concepts.

FINISHED: It ended up at 52,400 words. I figure the rewrite will add about 15% as usual, so it may end up close to 70,000 words, which would be great. Anything above 60K would be fine.

Different than what I've done before. I like it, though I think it will need some strong rewriting. I want to delve into philosophy, though I'm not sure how I'm going to do that. That's my intent, at least.

 I'm moving more and more into fantasy and science fiction, rather than horror or thrillers.

Not sure what to do next. I'd intended to rewrite and that's probably what I should do, rather than write another one. But...I never turn down ideas.  

Sunday, October 28, 2018

This book has been different. All books are different, but this one has been really different.

The plot is extraordinarily simple. Small squad of soldiers sent into a forbidden zone who then have to try to get out.

Within that simple plot, I had a theme of the Noble Savage, of innocence lost.

Each part of the plot had some philosophical goals. Each of those goals needed to be manifested by mood and dialogue, both inner and outer. In each section, I waited until I was "feeling" it.

It's this last goal which has been incredibly difficult to do.

For instance, by the end of the books I wanted the two main protagonists to fall in love. I've reached that moment where it needs to be manifested, but there is literally no plot to hang it on. As far as the main male character knows, he's the last survivor. She saves him, nurses him to health, they talk a bunch, they fall in love.

How the hell do you do that?

In the past, if I had two characters fall in love it was through the mechanism of plot and I tried to let it develop naturally. But now they are suddenly thrown together and I have to show them falling in love.

I've got four days to write those scenes and make them believable, then onto the climax, which is short and plot oriented and I think rather satisfying.

I figured out another reason this book is different. The penultimate chapters are contemplative, not action oriented, which is the opposite of normal. The last chapter will be action again, but the fact the book slows down and takes a deep breath at the end--that is different.

Friday, October 26, 2018

2nd draft equal in weight to 1st draft.

I hit 46,500 words on "Eden's Return" today with 5 days left in my writing period. I originally estimated that I'd finish up the first draft at 50,000, but I think it may end up closer to 55,000.

It was planned purposely short. The idea this time was to streamline the pace of the story and get it down. I have some philosophical concepts I'd like to play with and I figured the faster the story, the more weight it will hold.

That's the theory, anyway.

Every book is different. I mean, the process of thinking about today's writing, then going on an hour walk, where I stop every half mile or so and do some writing, then going back home and doing whatever embellishing I need to do--that hasn't changed. It's been very effective for me.

But this time I allowed myself more time between sessions. Basically, I'm spending almost 10 weeks for something that would usually take no more than 5 weeks. Mostly because I wanted each section to be natural, without being forced, so I decided I'd wait for inspiration.

I'm purposely leaving a lot for the second draft, whereas I usually try to get as much of the final book as I can in the first draft. In other words, I'm giving equal weight to the second draft. 

I'm focused on the theme of this story more than anything. But the plot and characters need to naturally expose the theme, not be forced into convolutions.

This book has lots of potential if I can figure out how to bring some depth to it. I'm not sure if I have that depth. I've never been particularly subtle. If I have something to say, I just say it. I certainly have always  relied on straightforward storytelling, and this time I'm being a bit more ambiguous.

Because the concepts I'm playing with are by their nature ambiguous.

Really great writing would have the philosophical concepts embodied by the language and actions of the characters.

I don't think I'm quite up to that, but I'm trying.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The lottery and magical thinking.

I just bought a ticket to each of the three ongoing lotteries. I went to one of those "cafes" which specialize in gambling, because it was nearest to my house. There was a guy standing there playing Keno, another lady who was buying fifty dollars worth of scratch-offs.

I bought the two big lottos, and Keno guy said, "What, are you going to skip the million dollar one?"

I laughed and said, "You're right. That would be better anyway. Giving away a billion dollars would be too much trouble."

Earlier, I'd posted on Facebook: "Here's how lazy I am. A billion is too complicated. A million would do just fine."

Of course, I know there is a near zero chance. But I'd always wonder. (What difference a billion makes, I don't know. There are million dollar prizes all the time and they don't entice me. My rational brain knows the odds.)

I'm as susceptible to magical thinking as the next guy. Maybe more so. I think it goes along with the creative imagination.

I read an author once who advised against "daydreaming," contending it was useless. I couldn't disagree more. Daydreaming fueled my early writing. My first book got published, which only reinforced my daydreaming. Of course, the reality played out differently. Not much money or fame came from that book or the next two books, but by then I was fully hooked on the fictional dream.

I kept on daydreaming despite being fully aware that it was nothing more than wishful thinking.

At the age of 32 or so, I dismissed my magical thinking and got serious about my future. I chose to buy Pegasus Books and try to make a living that way, because I saw what a crapshoot writing was. I was convinced that it didn't matter how good the book I wrote was--it was a gamble. Someone early on said to me that success in writing was due to "luck, timing, and who you know."

And after writing for five years, I was pretty much convinced it was true. Plus, I had this nagging suspicion that I was "almost" good enough. I told myself the world didn't need any more books, and that was also true.

Over the next 25 years, I'd get the creative urge once in a while, which was usually banished by some financial crisis or another. Those financial crisis's never stopped.

Anyway, I came back to writing with no intention of going for the brass ring. Oh, I wanted people read me. I hoped they would like what I wrote. But I knew I was going to write because I wanted to write. It was a challenge to myself, one that I've fully enjoyed.

I'm still susceptible to daydreaming, but I don't take it seriously.

Surprise, surprise, I didn't win. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Well and truly stuck.

I'm stuck at 38,000 words with "Eden's Return."

This is rare for me. It's happened a couple of times before, but in both cases I was aware of the problem and was just trying to figure out a solution. This time I'm not sure what is wrong.

Went on my walk yesterday fully expecting to break through, but managed only about 500 words. By the time I got home I realized that I'd have to throw the whole scene out.

I'm not going to push this. I'm going to try to tease out the proper solution. Give my subconscious time to come up with it.

I was telling Linda I was stuck, and then I said, "I want the story to go like this..."

I detailed the rest of the plot, and she chuckled and said, "I LIKE it!"

So there it is. I've cut the Gordian Knot.

But the problem hasn't been the plot. That I've had pretty firmly in mind. That and the themes. It's the "filler" that I'm having trouble with. All those little details that make up a story. I've always been able to come up with stuff, but right now I'm having trouble visualizing scenes.

So I'm not sure if I'm "unstuck" or not.

I can just push forward with the bare bones of the plot as a placeholder and come back in a month to try to fill in, but I'd prefer to have a nicely fleshed out story to start with.

I'm going to give it a few days to see if the words start flowing.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Form before content.

I think I've know what's slowing me down with "Eden's Return" and why it's so hard to get a handle on it:

I figured out the theme and where I wanted the plot to go and then tried to fill in. That is--I figured out the form before I figured out the content. I know what I want the characters to talk about, but until the last few days I couldn't think of a way to make it seem natural.

So now I've created a couple of new characters (or adapting existing characters, actually) that I will focus on, so that will possibly work. Though the motivations for the discussions may have to be worked out.

I have two themes I want to explore and research more and see if I can't beef up the content of the story a little.

1.) The Noble Savage. This was the original conception and it still holds. I need one of the characters to be an intellectual type, who can expound on the concept.

2.) The Garden of Eden and the loss of innocence. I'm adding a religious character who can spout some Bible verses.

I think I'll probably just riff on the themes--the philosophical content--and write them down, and then figure out which character says them and where. I don't know if this will work. I don't know if it will be lifeless, or will fit into the story. But I think I can probably pull it off. This is more of a crafting of a work with some intellectual ideas, tacked onto a purely action story.

Which I think is a good thing. The purely action story is just having the characters try to survive. The dialogue is basically, "Watch out!'' "Run!" that kind of thing. So it certainly could exist on that level alone and be fine. But I'd like to have some content that deepens the interactions a little more.

So for example--I've killed off more than half the characters, but the two main characters have only interacted up to now in a distant way. I need to draw them closer together. So I'm going back to the chapter I wrote yesterday and putting in a meeting with the two.

Now why is the girl helping them? Gratitude?--I haven't had them do anything for her. Just natural kindness?--well this works better because I make her a pure innocent. Curiosity?--definitely this. Loneliness?--this is probably closest to the mark, so I need to establish that.

But none of this seems quite right--or all of them.

Anyway, what I know is that I like the plot, the theme, and the main characters, which is pretty much the basis for a good book. I can fix the writing, I think.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"Eden's Return" is coming slowly, but I'm determined to finish it this month. I can't have another incomplete story after abandoning "Castle LaMagie" and "The Wyvern Riders." In fact, when I'm done,  the next job is to finish those two stories as well.

Now that I'm 35K words into the story, I'm realizing I need certain characters to make the story work. Fortunately, I have a squad of 12 soldiers, so I can just adapt a couple of them to the necessary plot points.

Even when I don't do much writing on my walks, I'm figuring out the plot. I think I have a satisfactory ending now.  Maybe a little too on point, but there it is. If you're going to write about Eden, you probably can't be too subtle. 

I can't seem to suss all this out in advance. Fortunately, this time a least, it's just a matter of insertions to get the job done, instead of rearranging. I've had to completely rewrite the beginnings of both "Shadows Over Summer House" and "Fateplay." It actually was all right in the end, but I'd prefer not to have to do that.

So at least half of the quality of "Eden's Return" is going to have to come from the rewrite. This percentage seems to be varying for each book, anywhere from getting 50% right to 90% right.

I'm going to muddle through on these three stories, but the next time I start a new story, it's back to the old process which worked so well. I experimented with a slower pace and it didn't work.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Busybody that I am.

Sometimes it seems to me that I can see clearly what others should do, in both writing and in storefronts.

I can walk into a store and figure out a dozen ways to improve it instantly, without a huge amount of investment, just by reorganizing.

I can read a story and instantly figure out a dozen ways to clean it up, sharpen it, and make it much better.

Or so I tell myself. (I hereby formally recognize the caveat that I might be wrong.)  

Can I do anything about it? Hell, no. In fact, I have to be careful not to say much at all. People don't appreciate it. Either I couch it in such a diplomatic way that they pay no attention, or I try hard to convince them, which repels them.

Even in writer's group, which is more or less set up for this purpose, I have to be very careful and selective with what I say, and with the knowledge that they probably won't take my advice anyway.

So here's the thing: what if there are people out there who can do the same thing for me--both in my writing and my storefront? How would I accept it or reject it?

I think I have a rare turn of mind, frankly. Analyzing constantly. Cutting to the quick. So the truth is there probably aren't that many people who can do it. And those who can, are constrained by the same problems of diplomacy as I am. But most of all--everyone is busy with their own stuff, you know? Including me--so that if anyone actually did take me up on my offer, I'd probably find myself over my head rather quickly.

It drives me nuts sometimes. Especially in bookstores. "Just do this," I want to say. "Try it!" I want to go in and start cleaning and organizing and straightening. I want to pull books from the back and highlight them, and take other books and file them differently.

In writing, I want to take a red pen and slash and burn.

Last week at writer's group, I took one paragraph of a story and had my way with it. The story itself is very interesting and fun but the writer is a little addicted to modifiers and adverbs, so I went through that one long paragraph and cut them all, then read the result to her.

To me, the whole paragraph was vastly improved. She nodded her head as if she understood, but I never know whether they actually change things.

Obviously, it's much, much harder to see my own failings, in both business and in writing. I don't know what I don't know.

It's just that there are things I know, and I can see how some of those things could help others, and I have to just watch as they--in my opinion--do it wrong. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Give me my SF and Fantasy straight, man. Don't dilute it.

I want to like Doctor Who, really I do. I want to like Terry Pratchett, really I do. I want to like Douglas Adams, really I do.

It would make things so much easier.

The humor escapes me. I mean, I love the bon mots of Buffy and Firefly, the Marvel movies, and so on.

But when it comes to straight SF or Fantasy the quirkiness pulls me right out of the story.

Linda and I watched the first episode of the new Doctor Who. I noticed that Linda was chuckling throughout the show but it got nary a chuckle out of me. It seems very light, not much to invest in. I mean, I've seen snippets of Doctor Who, such as the Van Gogh story, that were powerful, but when I watch the show itself I'm just sort of not interested.

Linda has shows she watches, and I have shows I watch, and I have shows that she watches with me, and she has shows I watch with her, and then there are shows that we both love.

Lodge 49 was a show that Linda watched because I was watching it. But by the end, she was fully into it.

"How can you not be?" I said. "It's kind and gentle and down-to-earth, just like you are."

I mean, talk about quirky--but I loved it.

So I can't explain my resistance to humorous SF and Fantasy. I 'm not altogether consistent--I loved Good Omens, for instance, which is Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. But mostly, I'm turned off by it.

Give me my SF and Fantasy straight, man. Don't dilute it. 
The overall story mystique of "Eden's Return" has me in its grips. But the story itself--I'm struggling. Oh, I could write it. I have the basic framework in mind, but it wouldn't be remarkable in any way. It would be predictable and pedestrian.

The idea deserves better than that.

I'm trying to coax the inspiration out. I'll spend a couple of hours each day just hoping that a single thread of original thought will come to me. I've spent several days with nothing coming. I'm hoping for something a little more.

I basically have two story threads--one is reality based, a struggle for survival, the crew being picked off one by one. I mean, the reader would know by now that that is happening, so the only suspense is how exactly they get picked off and who, if anyone, is going to survive.

Even that, I'd like to bring something surprising to, but that may not be possible. This is more a matter of crafting the action, making it interesting and evocative.

The other storyline is more mystical and strange--and that's the part I want to fly. So far, I've had an "imaginary" friend, who is a manifestation of the Refuge, or Mother Nature, or whatever force created the Stasis.

So that was satisfying, and I'll be able to bring Artemis back when I want to.

The second mystical thing to happen is that Shani astro-projects, sees what is happening to the soldiers. That was also satisfying.

So far I don't think I've missed anything, but it is coming slowly, and I want to continue to have that feeling that I haven't missed anything. The moment I'm not satisfied is the moment I stop and try to coax out something different.

I haven't always done this. I've continued to write stories at a certain pace, and sometimes plot lines develop that I'm not completely satisfied with, but which fits the needs of the story and so I've gone with them.

I'm not going to do that anymore. Each choice needs to be one I feel comfortable with.

It is taking a lot longer--waiting for inspiration--but I have the time. I've written so many stories by now that I no longer fear being stuck. Something will happen, and I'll wait for it to happen.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

More luck than planning.

I like the plot of "Eden's Return"--such as it is. It's very simple. More thematic in structure than twisty.

The simple is hard.

I have two viewpoint characters and I'm alternating chapters between them. My guess is that part one will come in at about 50K words. If there is a satisfying climax, that may be the whole book, allowing for a second book. If not, I'll need to continue and just make it a longer book.

50K means that it will end up around 60K because my rewrites always add about 15% to the total. 60K is more like the length of the books I wrote when I started out. When I thought I might be writing for the mainstream, I pushed myself into the +80K territory, and ended up with several books +100K, culminating in "Fateplay" which was 120K. 

It's been slow going, which is fine as long as I can keep my focus. My focus comes from really feeling like I've got the right action. So I've been inching my way, making sure I feel good about where each scene is going.

The writing is kind of clunky. This isn't one of those books where the first draft is close. But I've become resigned to the process of rewriting, of doing thorough second drafts. I think I'm even starting to like it, kinda, slightly, at least the results.

I'm purposely slowing down from the pell-mell pace I was going at for several years.

It's weird how I constantly feel like I'm just learning enough that maybe this time I can write that book that will have everything. Because that's what it takes. Everything you have, all the brains and emotions and experience you have.

The luck factor even in creation is much bigger than I'd have ever thought. That is, you need a good premise but you can't always tell what a good premise is until you write it, and then the process needs to work out, where you can really focus, then the plot has to go in the right direction, which doesn't always happen, and then you need a couple of characters to take over the book, and a surprise twist that you yourself didn't see coming, and then...well, like I said, everything has to come together and that seems more like luck than planning.

One thing is for sure--I need to have a fictional dream in my life or it feels empty, so not writing is simply not an option.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

This has been slow going with "Eden's Return." I feel like there is a real book here, and that I haven't taken any missteps, but to go forward I need a couple of dramatic turn of events.

First of all, I need for Shani to manifest some of her powers. How, what, and why? I also need to continue to explore her spiritual side.

Secondly, I'm pretty relentlessly killing off the squad, one by one, and the reader by now must know that is happening. So how do I keep that fresh?

So those are the two problems. Normally, if I tease at these kinds of problems for awhile, the answers come to me. But not this time. I think maybe because I want the solutions to really elevate the book. I could easily come up with something, but I don't want to settle for anything but that "Wow" feeling I get when I think an idea is special.

So I'm going to continue to worry it, tease it, twist it and ponder it, and hopefully, the right turn of events will pop into my mind, full-blown and magnificent. Heh.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Metaphors need not apply.

One of the frustrations of my earlier writing efforts was people warning me away from genre mixing. I couldn't see any reason why romance and fantasy didn't go together for instance. If only I'd listened to my own instincts.

The other frustration was my efforts at SF and Fantasy were almost always knocked down because I didn't explain everything.

The current story, which is called "Eden's Return" has a lot of logistical things I'm not trying to explain, events that don't necessarily have a neat solution. (As you might guess from the title, there is a lot of symbolism going on.)

I've created a scenario where a bubble has formed over the Pacific Northwest and all the humans have been kicked out and nothing man-made can cross. It is pure nature inside, without mankind's interference.

I'm not explaining the how and the why of it.

There is a current member of my writer's group who is very concrete minded. She keeps asking, "Where are they? What are they doing? Why this? Why that?"

Metaphors need not apply.

I'm going forward. I know the story needs to have internal consistency, but that doesn't mean everything has to be nailed down. To me the story makes an intuitive sense and by the end, I'm sure I'll know more and can go back and maybe do a little explaining.

But dammit, if I want to put in a few anachronisms, I will.

 Go with the flow...or don't.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Going Full Tolkien.

Strangely, I don't read much fantasy these days, even though it is my first love, my first impulse. I find myself dissatisfied with most fantasy, and this has been true since I read LOTR's at 13 years of age. Of course, back then, there was very little of what we now call fantasy, and what came out was pretty bad at first. There have been some modern fantasy writer's who do it pretty well; Martin, Rothfuss, Bujold.

But most mess the mark.

I started reading a well regarded fantasy trilogy last night, and immediately had that familiar feeling of disappointment. On reflection I think it's because the world just isn't fleshed out. It just feels too arbitrary.

This is what has kept me from writing fantasy. I don't like world building (except by writing) and yet I feel it is utterly necessary for the full experience.

Another reason is that I've always been afraid of being too derivative if I indulge in my impulse--there have certainly been plenty of fantasy that I think has shamelessly copied Tolkien.

Tellingly, I haven't even attempted to write heroic fantasy in this second go-around.

But I've been working up to it. Someday I'm going to go full Tolkien, just indulge in the deep nostalgia I have for that period in my life. In a way, all the writing I've done up to now has been leading me to this.

I'm not as worried about being derivative because I've learned that I tend to put my own spin on things no matter what.

The important thing is to tap into that life-changing feeling I had with LOTR's. Here I am, a bookstore owner and fiction writer and life-long nerd. I may have been that way anyway, but LOTR's sealed my doom.

It's like--I'll know when I'm ready, and when I'm ready I'll go all in.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

I always like my stories when I'm writing them. When I'm in the throes of a fictional dream, I can convince myself that what I'm writing is special. I suppose that's why I keep writing.

It's only before and after writing the story that I have doubts.

Before, I doubt the premise; I wonder if it's commercial, whether anyone will want to read it; or whether it is a strong enough idea to continue to the end. Does it have enough weight and is it also entertaining?

Usually, after puzzling about these things, I just forget it and do what I wanted to do in the first place, and sure enough, sometimes when I'm finished I realize it's a little too quirky. Occasionally it doesn't have enough heft for me to even finish (though this is rare; like I said, I like the stories when I'm writing them).

And then after I'm finished, the real doubts start. I start to see the flaws, the missteps. Some I can fix, some I can't. They rarely come out perfectly the way I wanted them. (Strangely, it's the middle book in my Vampire Trilogy, "Rule of Vampire," that I remember that way.)

Between books I'm reading other authors, and I always feel like I suffer in comparison. (Never compare?)

But while I'm writing, I'm thoroughly enjoying myself. It is very much like reading a book, finding out where it goes, being surprised, being pleased by what happens.

So in the end, it probably doesn't matter what happens commercially.

The truth is, I need to write for my own well-being. It's good for me; intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Bookstores in Bend.

I've now met and talked to the owners of all the indie bookstores in Bend.

They are all good people and they all have excellent stores.

Roundabout Books in Northwest Crossing has a great selection and wonderful store layout, and she does signings and all that and has some stuff to drink and eat.

Big Story on the corner of 3rd and Greenwood is a fabulous store, very cool, with a really good selection of new and used books.

The Open Book, across the way on Greenwood, has always been a deep and knowledgeable place, and I thought so even when we owned the Bookmark just across the street from them.

Dudley's has a very cool atmosphere with a nice curated selection of new and used books, and of course, lots a space to sit and soak it all up and have some drinks and food while you're there.

Bend is really lucky to have all these stores--and I'm lucky they are all nice people.

They all are unique and individual and own by locals and deserve all the support we can give them.
I've been given free Audible copies of "Led to the Slaughter," which I'd like to give away to any  of you who want it.

If you've ever wondered what my writing is about, here's your chance to do it in the most painless way possible.

I'm hoping you'll do a review. Now by review I just mean a short statement, "I really liked it. Neat, cool...(whatever)." Long reviews are not necessary.

If you would like a copy, just email me at and I'll send you the code and instructions.

You'd be doing me a favor.

Monday, September 17, 2018

"Fateplay" is finished.

"Fateplay" is a bit more ambitious a book than usual for me. It's long, 120,000 words, and science fiction, more or less, and has been worked on longer, beta read and edited, and rethought more than most of my books.

I like it, but I also have those nagging doubts I always have.

I really have done my best on this. Didn't stop working on it until I thought I'd worked out all the kinks I was aware of. Took the extra time, which is the one element I can think to give that can improve my writing and my stories.

It was originally inspired by "Ready, Player, One" but quickly went in a different direction. It's first person and a lot will depend on the Zach, the narrator. If my author's voice doesn't work with this character, if the reader doesn't identify with him, the whole book will fall apart.

Early on, the original protagonist was nowhere near as sympathetic, and I'm glad I made the effort to completely rewrite the origins.

I like the big "twist" at the end, and how I was able to go backward and incorporate the elements of that twist earlier in the book.

I like all the characters.

So...we'll see, I guess. As I said, all I can do is my best.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Bigger the Ego.

Took me most of the day to get half the edits into the main manuscript of "Fateplay." Will do the other half today. About 20 pages per hour, or roughly 17 hours total, with some breaks in-between.

But once it's done, it's done. I'm not sure if this is my longest book at 119K words. If not, it's close.

I'm catching little continuity errors that no one else saw--probably because I recognize what are vestigial remnants of the first draft.

It's funny. I've been working on cutting down on commas as much as possible, which I think is the modern style. I guess I've succeeded because Lara added a bunch back in. 

This story isn't exactly believable, but I'm hoping it's fun. It's amazing how much character interaction and dialogue I do these days. Looking back on "Star Axe," my first book, I avoided both of those things as much as possible. Spent a lot of time doing action or describing scenery.

Then I finish for the day and sit down to read Michael Moorcock's "Gloriana" and think, wow, that's some great writing.

Then again, the story is kind of dry. I have an appetite for the ironic, slightly detached stuff--like Jack Vance or Michael Swanwick or Norman Spinrad or Michael Moorcock. But they aren't anything like my simple little stories. 

As always, I wish that I could operate on a slightly higher plane; deeper, smarter, more skilled, more emotionally accessible. Like if there was some kind of magic pill I could take. So close, I sometimes feel. I get flashes of that, a really good description or bit of dialogue or emotionally resonant scene. But continuing that kind of inspiration all the way through a book is probably impossible.

My stories are valid, I think. Hopefully entertaining. And every time I start a new book I have a chance to get it completely right.

That said, I think I'm lacking the massive ego of some writers--and I've noticed those massive egos actually seem to sway people. Which is kind of irritating. The same kind of thing you run into everywhere else. In running a store, you can have a big ego and fail miserably, or a small ego and succeed, because it ain't about the ego. I was able to prove it by doing it.

(Advice from a high school friend--if you take yourself seriously, others will take you seriously. Ugh.)

In writing, the bigger the ego, the more narcissistic you are, the more notice you get. Some writers can back it up, but most can't. Sigh.