Saturday, March 31, 2018

MOREGONE, a blog story, 4.)


4.) “Go away.”
Marston sat alone at the long bar, though a crowd filled every other table in the establishment. There wasn’t anything outwardly threatening about him, but most people instinctively sensed the danger, looking sideways at him, continuing their conversations as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
Yet, there he sat, alone in the middle of a brightly polished mahogany bar. The bartenders stood back, not quite looking at him, no doubt wishing he’d go away so they could get their usual tips from the throng.
He was a small man, hunched over, quiet and reserved. He had a nice smile, but the emerald eyes never changed, always cold, always observing. He was dressed in all in white, his long blonde hair seeming part of his get-up.
I plopped down next to him, waved off the bartender who reluctantly approached.
“I’m not talking to you until you’ve had at least three drinks,” Marston said.
I signaled the bartender back, order a glass and a bottle, and with my back to the mirror, consumed my quota in silence. It was quite companionable—until I glanced over at Marston and then the conviviality vanished, replaced by a vacuum.
I looked away again and concentrated on getting drunk.
I felt the skin around my eyes loosen, my neck become slightly wobbly. “I am sufficiently inebriated,” I said.
“Good… now go away.”
“That wasn’t the deal. Hear me out, my old friend.”
“We are not, and have never been, friends.”
“By the Mirror God, you can hold a grudge!”
He finally looked at me, and I felt a chill at the back of my neck, running halfway down my spine. It was a good sign that it didn’t run all the way down my spine and into my legs and feet, that I wasn’t already halfway to the door.
I decided a fourth drink was in order, and immediately after, a fifth.
With the courage thus supplied, I looked at him again, stared into his eyes, and grinned. “I am your only friend, Marston. Isn’t that worth something?”
“I have no friends. I want no friends.”
“Fine, whatever. I have a proposition for you that has nothing to do with friendship. I intend to lead an expedition beyond the Shield Wall.”
I could tell there was just the tiniest flicker of curiosity. “Why?”
“Moregone has vanished. I don’t think it’s right for one of the principalities to disappear without someone looking into it.”
Marston straightened up, drained his drink. He was the first person I’d told who acted like he’d actually heard of Moregone. “I like that place. It’s the end of nowhere.”
“Then we are agreed. The world needs the end of nowhere, otherwise we are in the middle of everywhere.”
He smiled and I thought I saw the faintest glimmer of life in his eyes. “There is nothing you could have said to me that would convince me to help you. Except that.”
“We leave from the Gate of Rust at dawn on Friday next,” I said.
He merely nodded and took a sip.
I left him alone in his hellish solitude.

MOREGONE, a blog story, 3.)


3.) Tomber hung naked and upside down, hooks in his heels. I knelt so that I would not be addressing his nether regions.
He spoke first. “Have you come to gloat?”
“That would be unjust of me, would it not?”
“Oh, I think that would be exactly what Evard Just would do. Save your puns for someone who appreciates them.”
The rogue does not know how much dignity I have already afforded him by not spewing my breakfast over the dungeon stones; by not turning heel and walking away; by addressing him in a calm voice despite his wretched state.
I yell over my shoulder. “Guard, my eyes are turning upside down trying to speak to this man. Would you please put him on a level where I can address him properly?”
The guard, who was little more than an elevated prisoner and unlikely to take pity or to disobey orders, didn’t even look at me.
I sighed. “Has all the blood to your brain brought you to your senses, Tomber?”
“I must have admit, my qualms have been stronger than usual,” he said. “For instance, that I thought you would not care if I took that goblet. I merely wanted to drink some wine.”
“Did the gold and emeralds make the wine taste sweeter?”
“It seemed so at the time,” Tomber said. There was genuine regret in his voice.
“Your regret is perhaps misguided,” I said. “I did not report you to the authorities. It must have been someone else.”
If possible, his red face got even redder. “She wouldn’t have…”
“If we are both speaking of the same lady, it is more than likely. I tried to warn you, my friend.”
The iron doors clanked open behind us. The guard slammed the butt of his spear to the stones and stood at attention. Cambral stood at the entrance in all his glory, an orange doublet, with blue leggings and a ruby colored cloak, clasped by a golden chain.
“By the Mirror God, what is that stench! Is he already dead?”
“Already?” Tomber said. “Has any man lasted as long as I have?”
“Release this…man,” the Prince said, pausing on the last word as if uncertain if it was correct.
The guard turned to chain that wrapped around a hook near his station. He let it go.
Tomber tumbled headfirst into the muck. He lay there on his back, breathing deeply. How he could stand the smell of the excrement he lay in I couldn’t understand. I extracted the potion from my cloak and held it over him. He reached up with shaking hands and I made sure he had a firm grip before I let go. “Apply this to your wounds. I’ll be back in few days. Be ready for a long journey.”
He laughed. “Gladly. As long as we move at the pace of my crawling.”
“Trust me, the tonic you now hold will heal anything. It is worth more than everything you have ever stolen, Tomber.”
“Must be an important journey then. But where do I go while I await your return? I don’t even have clothing.”
I hesitated, then removed my own cloak and dropped it over him. “Try the lady of which we spoke earlier. In my experience, she is easy to anger, but also easy to forgive.”
I walked away as Tomber tried to rise.
His scream followed me down the tunnel.

MOREGONE, a blog story, 2).


2.) “Moregone is missing.”
“Who?” Jonder Maze looked up from his papers, quill pen dripping. He was dressed in three layers of robes, all of them frayed because he was too cheap to pay for heating.
“The Eleventh Principality,” I said.
“How does an entire principality disappear and how come I have not heard of it?” He slid the quill into the ink and shook off the excess absently.
“Have you done business with Moregone?” I asked.
He stared at the tip of his pen as if the answer was there. “No, I don’t believe I have.”
“Well, there is your answer. Moregone is a…modest…realm, which does not call attention to itself. Its people are quiet and hardworking.”
“Sounds stupendously boring,” Jonder Maze said, shaking his head.
“But safe,” I answered. “They have not been in a war in their history.”
“Must not have anything anyone wants,” the merchant answered, shrugging. “Why do you bring up this benighted realm?”
I had been standing in front of his desk, and even so I could barely see over the piles of manuscripts. I leaned forward, lifted a stack, and laid it to one side. Then I pulled the chair up to the gap and sat down. I could barely see Jonder Maze’s eyes.
“I don’t believe a missing principality is something we should ignore. What if the Tenth Principality was to disappear? What about the Fifth?” Jonder Maze was the richest man in the Fifth Principality, though he would have been a minor merchant in the First.
“I believe I would know if I was missing,” he said.
“You may not know this, Jonder, but I have a summer home in Moregone. I quite like the place. They grow the most magnificent artichokes and have a hundred ways of serving it.”
For the first time, I had Jonder Maze’s full attention.
“They are the only source of artichokes in all the Principalities, sir.”
“This is quite alarming!” the merchant cried. “We must mount an expedition immediately.”
“Such is my intention. Prince Cambral has pledged half of the necessary funds, and I am looking for a second benefactor.”
I’d decided, after much thought, that being in debt to another Prince was not something I should enter into lightly. Prince Cambral was already in my debt, so his patronage was not troublesome. No, I’d much rather owe a rich man than royalty. They tended to see the practical side of things.
With noticeable effort, Jonder calmed down. Realizing he’d been too eager, he sat back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. I looked up. There was nothing there but soot and spiderwebs.
“I, of course, will need to get seventy percent of all profits,” he said.
“Agreed,” I answered immediately. When all was settled, I knew that I could talk both the Prince and Jonder Maze into accepting fifty percent—since it was likely it would be fifty percent of not much. Then again, I had enriched both men more than once and they could afford to take a small loss.
I had found the one person in all the Principalities who cared if artichokes disappeared. I didn’t even have to lie about red obsidian. Prince Mackey of the Third Principalities was quite fond of apples, but I wasn’t sure if crabapples were high up his list.

MOREGONE, a blog story. 1.)


1.) Moregone was the smallest and least important of all the Thirteen Principalities. When it disappeared, it was some time before the rest of the world noticed. It is thought to have happened in the Fall, sometime between the artichoke and crabapple seasons.
The Eleventh Principality is tucked between the Shield Mountains. It is possible, nay prudent, to travel the Pilgrim Road directly from the Tenth and Twelfth Principalities. Few travelers have reason to turn onto the winding muddy roads to Moregone, and since the demand for artichokes and crabapples is limited at the best of times, those reasons usually entail visits from family members who escaped the clutches of Moregone long ago, but feel duty bound to return occasionally and check on their forlorn relatives.
The founders of the Principalities originally envisioned twelve realms, completely forgetting the existence of Moregone. It was only because Rupart the Perceptible, the greatest of all of Moregone’s rulers—well, at least the only one anyone could ever remember—reminded them.
Personally, I like Moregone. No one bothers me there. I have a small house on a cliff, accessible only by foot, and I’m never visited by the neighbors who believe me to be a monk of the Mirror God, since who else would be crazy enough to choose to live there?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was away on business when Moregone vanished. Indeed, I may have been the first to notice it was gone.
I was thinking about other things when I turned aside, so when the road to Moregone circled back to where I started, I thought at first it was my inattention. I paid much more notice to the second attempt, and still ended back on the Pilgrim Road.
I stopped a passerby. The fat merchant had three bodyguards who eyed me warily as I approached, but I am an unimposing figure when I wish to be (though, of course, an imposing figure when necessary).
“Excuse me, sir. Do you know what has happened to the road to Moregone? Have they moved it?”
His face screwed up in puzzlement. “Moregone?”
Moregone is not so much a Forgotten Land with all the romance of that moniker, but more a land that people just didn’t remember.
“The Eleventh Principality,” I prompted.
“Ah, I have always intended to visit, but I always seem to forget. No, sir. I have no knowledge of such a thing.”
I resolved then and there to resolve the mystery.
As it happens, I am an unofficial advisor to the Fourth Prince. I requested an audience with Cambral and after a short wait, I was ushered into the grand hall. He sat disheveled, unshaven and unbathed at a little desk in the corner, covered by papers weighted down to keep them from being blown away by the winds of the cavernous room.
He heard me out, and then shrugged. “You probably just forgot where it is.”
I must admit, this had been my fear at first. Years went by without remembering my vacation home. It usually took some traumatic event to remind me of its peace and oblivion.
“I assure you, Your Highness, I have searched most assiduously.”
“Well, I’m sure it will show up one of these days…”
I decided to appeal to the only thing Cambral cared about—commerce. “But in the meantime, there will be a shortage of artichokes and crabapples.”
“Oh, dear,” he said in the most mild of tones. “What do you want of me, Just?”
Evard Just is my common name, the one I prefer. I adopted it when first arriving in these lands, before the Principalities even existed. It was so long ago that it took some effort to remember some of my earlier names.
“I would like to mount an expedition,” I said. “Perhaps come at it from the other side of the mountains?”
“You wish to circle the Shield Wall?”
“If necessary.”
“Why? If this realm is so unimportant that no one misses it.”
“It is not well known, for the inhabitants of Moregone are a humble folk who wish only to be left alone to farm, but there is—at the very farthest corner—a red obsidian mine which has not yet been completely excavated.”
This wasn’t true, as far as I knew, but I doubted artichokes and crabapples were enough to interest a Prince.
“Red obsidian?” The precious stone was the only material that could harness the dragons. That there didn’t appear to be any dragons left in the world only made the stone more desirable. A Prince with a red obsidian broach or hilt or shield was considered a first among equals.
“And more, who know what riches and wonders we might find beyond the Shield Wall?”
My own knowledge was hazy, lost in the past, though I seemed to remember great cities and nations, most of which made the Thirteen Principalities appear provincial.
“I will pay for half such an expedition if you can find another Prince to subsidize the other half. But in return, for being first, I want seventy percent of everything you bring back.”
“Fifty percent,” I countered.
I bowed my head in agreement. Prince Cambral could change his mind with tick of a clock.
A second investor might find those terms to be onerous, but then again, I didn’t need to mention it. It would be all sorted out upon my return. I could, if necessary, supply the other half of the expedition’s needs, but I have a rule against using my own money.
There was someone else who I thought might want to save Moregone.

A little side project: Moregone, a blog story.

The little blog story of "Moregone" has sort of taken off on me.

My intention was to write a little 250 to 750 word spurt every morning, just before or just after I write in my blog, bringing the same sort of energy, and not worrying about a thing. Just little it flow. Not writing it until I get that little nugget of an idea, and then writing it without any filter whatsoever.

I have no idea where this is going. Or if it will peter out.

But my sense is that it is going to turn into a novella and because of that, I've decided to go ahead and publish it section by section on this blog.

I'm hoping some of you will enjoy it.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

When the creative is compulsive.

So I finish "Shadows Over Summer House." I tell myself to take a week off, or longer, recharge my batteries, make sure whatever project on embark on is the one I want to see through.

Hell, I'm still doing a final read-thru, not even done.

Wake up this morning with a "Tale of the Thirteen Principalities."

The story of Moregone, a land not so much forgotten, as simply not remembered. 1000 words later, I'm tickled. It's fun and a little funny and intriguing.

So much for giving myself a break. This seems to be my pattern. I can't let more than a day or two go by without writing something. I'm not forcing it, it just happens. It doesn't even matter if it goes anywhere, as long as it is creative.

What's really weird is that I managed to spend 25 years running Pegasus Books telling myself that the world didn't need any more books, that no one would miss my books, that all is vanity, all is forgotten in the long run.

All true.

But...once I came back, I've been compulsive, the need to spin words just overtakes me.

I've written a blog for about 12 years now, and for the first six years or so it was a creative outlet for me. Not fiction, but still words. It probably even spurred me to writing fiction, as the compulsion took hold.

So whether my books sell or not, of whether anyone read me or not, it doesn't really matter.

The compulsion to be creative is overwhelming.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The "Ready Player One" backlash.

I read "Ready Player One" and enjoyed it and wasn't quite prepared for the critical backlash. Yes, the constant cultural references were annoying at first, but I just skipped over those. Yes, it was all fanboy wish fulfillment, but what's wrong with that?

The problems with the book are bigger than that.

SLIGHT SPOILERS, overall story arc, no details.


It has a young white boy, who is completely marginalized by his nerdity, who revels in his nerdity, who because of his esoteric fanboy knowledge, wins the game, and fame and fortune, and most importantly the magic pixie dream girl.

So I can see-- if you really want to over-intellectualize it--that might not be politically correct.

I would suggest if you want to filter this book through political and cultural criticism that you ignore the book, don't read it, it's quite obviously about as unrealistic a novel as could be written.

At the same time, strangely, I have had a similar problem with science-fiction novels for a long time now.

This first started happening about twenty years ago as I started to realize that many of the Heinlein-esque novels I was reading had the tendency to glorify elite skills--not only that, but to actively disdain anyone who didn't have those skills.

These were the same ideas the pervaded the Golden Age of SF, lots of it coming from the John W. Campbell version of the universe, where the good guys are always white men overcoming all obstacles, all aliens, all other cultures.

What had been fun and triumphant when I was younger starter to feel off as I got older. I'm not technological proficient, but I still feel like I bring something to the game. And this overwhelming sense of superiority started to seem more like defensiveness, of getting back at the larger culture who didn't understand them.

At the same time, a sense of insularity, of "WE" have our own little world that is better than everyone else but no one understand us.

This has metastasized over the last few years, with Gamergate and Rabid Puppies and other movements that are toxic.

As a reader, I do find some SF to be relentlessly preachy, but I don't have to read it if I don't want to, and I feel like these writers have every reason to exist and are in fact an antidote to the culture that has dominated SF for so long.

Meanwhile, what I actually read probably falls mostly in the middle of these two extremes, or if I read books that are out of my comfort zone, I give them a pass.

It will all settle out in the end, I'm sure.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Final Read Thru

Going to spend the next five days reading "Shadows Over Summer House."

I'm trying not to see this as a chore, but as a pleasure. Just read, not really change anything unless it leaps out at me, try not to rush it, just try to get absorbed.

This is very hard for me. I've always had difficulty reading my own books.

When I used to pick up Star Axe or Snowcastles or Icetowers and read a page at random, all I could see were the things I did wrong.

I will say this--if I read a random page of "Snaked" or "Tuskers" or "Led to the Slaughter" or almost any of my modern books, I don't have that reaction. In fact, I often think, "Wow...I wrote that. That's pretty good. I don't remember writing that!"

But I don't believe I've ever sat down and read one of my books beginning to end after I was finished with the writing process.

Linda is reading the Tuskers series right now. Just started reading it, which is amazingly affirming.

This latest book came out the way it came out. I'm not going to argue with it. I'm going more and more with what comes natural and not second guessing it. Sometimes being intellectual about a story works, but just as often it doesn't.

I trust that it works.

Monday, March 26, 2018

This is the book the way I want it.

I know I said I was done with "Shadows Over Summer House" but I still had 18 epigraphs to write. I figured I'd do those slowly, maybe over the course of the month while the book was with my editor, Lara.

But started on them yesterday, got a couple of good ideas, and ended up writing 17 epigraphs in one day, so I now have enough to cover all 37 chapters. 2800 words, making the novel 93,000 words so far.

The epigraphs tell a parallel story that is pertinent to the main story, but also completely separate. It could have been a novel in itself, if treated as an outline.

To me, it adds just enough extra flavor to make the book better.

Today I'm printing out the 37 epigraphs, cutting them out, and lining them up in the order I think they should be. Kind of an old-fashioned method I remember using a lot when there were no word processing programs. 

So, well dang me, but I really like this book. At the same time, I can see how it might not work with other readers, for various reasons.

Don't matter. This is the book the way I want it.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


I like to stick little epigraphs at the beginnings of chapters. I've done it on a few books so far. I suspect going forward that it will be more common.

Epigraphs are easy for me to write and sometimes I think they're rather clever. They can import information, or mood, or contrast the happenings in the story.

To me, they are often short, short stories, with a beginning, middle, and end.

The reason they are so easy to write, I think, is that they are a lot like blog entries. I've written on this blog now almost every day for 12 years (hard to believe.) So I've had some practice, but even from the beginning I tended to construct my entries as little stories as much as I could.

Anyway, even though I've finished the first draft of "Shadows Over Summer House," I still have about 12 epigraphs to write (out of 37 needed.)

Not rushing them. I'm letting them come to me. Then I have to decide in what order to insert them

The funny thing is, taken as a whole, and read in order, they are like a little separate short story running parallel to the book.

Very fun to write.

I got a weird idea, that probably won't pan out, of trying to think of a theme for a story, a premise, and then writing a little blog entry each day telling the story. Just a little side project. I'm not sure why that wouldn't work, since I always have this little bit of nervous creative energy in the morning.

Not sure it will be readable, but that's why it's an experiment.

I'm thinking I might revive my "Ye Old Time-travel Shop" idea. Pretend I'm in the store and my customers are aliens.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Writing comparisons are invidious.

Started my rewrite of "Shadows Over Summer House" yesterday.

As it happened, I also started a new book to read. (I read at least an hour every night before bed.)

I examined my bookshelves and saw the James Lee Burke book, "House of the Rising Sun," and asked myself, "Do I dare?"

I took a chance and started reading.

You ever have the experience where you think you're pretty good and you've done a pretty good job and then someone comes along who makes you feel like you're an amateur?

Yeah, well.

Beautiful writing, heavy characters, lots of action and drama and atmosphere, and brilliant dialogue.

Fuck me.

If anything, it's almost too much. He can load a scene with so much that it can sort of overwhelm things--or maybe I'm just aware as a writer what he's doing.

Oh, well. There will always be someone better at what you do than you are.

I'm not sure what it is I do?

I just get these ideas and the urge to tell a story, I see them in my head, the words come and I put them down on paper. I enjoy it and the stories seem to make sense and the words flow, so why wouldn't I do it?

I have no idea if I'm any good or not. I have no idea even if I would read my own stuff given the chance. I can't expect people to read me just because. I can hope for that, hope that people enjoy it, but other than doing my best, I have no control over that.

I guess I can aspire to that level of writing, and at the same time enjoy and admire it.

I like writing and it's very fulfilling so I'll just keep doing my best.

Friday, March 23, 2018

First draft of "Shadows Over Summer House" is done.

John Grisham says to never start a book without an ending already worked out.

All the way through the book I had only the vaguest outline in my mind, especially the ending. But when it came time to write the ending, it spilled out. In fact, I had three chapters to write and when I went on my walk, I finished the first of those chapters, thought out the last two chapters, came home and wrote the second the last chapter (which meant two chapters in one day, which I don't normally allow, but there was no way to push it back).

Woke up the next day knowing where the last chapter was going, and the epilogue.

The book took twice as long as usual. On purpose. I didn't want to force this book, I wanted to allow the occasional day off to do things nothing at all.

Of course, I rewrote the first 20% of the book from scratch. Once I did that, the writing was smooth sailing. There aren't any parts of it that feel off.

The biggest dare was just writing it in the casual first person way I did. I don't know if it works. It was certainly pleasant to write it that way.

No one can accuse me of writing one kind of book. This one started off as a hard-boiled heist, then became half a Gothic romance. Not heavy on the hard-boiled or the romance parts, but that's how I thought of it.

I think it works pretty well.

I kept the supernatural out until the last three chapters, which surprised me. I'm sure readers will pick up hints. I really need to find someone who knows nothing about the book to read it to get an opinion.

The book is currently at 88,000 words. I've got little Diary portions at the beginning of each chapter, and I've only written about 1/3rd of them so far. I also tend to expand when I rewrite, so my guess is this book is going to end up between 95,000 and 100,000 words, which is one of my bigger efforts.

It's probably not commercial, and there is probably no point in sending it to the big publisher I've been trying to entice with a "thriller." He's made it clear he doesn't do supernatural.

This was a declaration of independence in a way--because the story could have stayed non-supernatural, but I just don't think it would have been as satisfied with it. So I did it the way I thought it should be done.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

High Desert Dusk

Alone at dusk,
the high desert quiet,
even the ravens have stilled.

The sunset on fire,
a long way away,
red glow over white branches.

Dust on my legs,
twigs snapping,
hard rock beneath my feet.

Stillness over everything,
trees, rocks, grasses,
and most of all me.

That rock, that tree, and me,
equal in the eyes of nature,
all but moments of time.

The world empties of sound,
of movement, of thought,
A frozen eternity.

I stand in the glow
of peace and silence,

Award winning boring SF.

Started reading an award winning S.F. novel last night.

Started off pretentious. "Keep going," I told myself. Maybe she drops the pretentiousness of the prologue, the endless confusing prologue.

The story starts off finally; it's in present tense which I find distracting.

I keep reading, some pretty wordplay, some deep themes, great characterization, interesting ideas.

40 pages in, after she has introduced a couple of new characters, I realize that the scene keeps going, I turn the pages and see that even though she's pretty much covered what she needed to cover, this interaction goes on for five more pages.

I realize I'm bored.

I quit reading.

40 pages in and nothing is happening. Worse--things are happening, big things, but they are all off stage. We see the aftermath of all the action.  

She never shows us any of it. 

The upshot? This book does a lot of the things I'm thinking I want to do (other than the pretentiousness) and I didn't like it. I could tell this was an attempt at a "literary" SF, and the action and pacing weren't going to be what I like these days.

I've noticed before that literary genre books tend to skip the action. I don't see any reason why, except they maybe don't want to be accused of actually writing the genre they're writing?

I wrote one of my first scenes in my first book as the aftermath of a giant battle. The main character walking through the wreckage. My writing teacher said,

"Show us the battle."

I've never forgotten that.

I've decided not to mention names--writing is a hard gig, so I won't slam any writer--but I also noticed this on another book that is famous, that has had a TV show, and which totally frustrated me. A great premise that the writer seems to avoid fulfilling all the way through the book. Magic, but no magic. War, but no battles. Utterly underwhelming.

Beautiful language and characterization and description, all in service to a story that refused to do anything. 

I feel so out of step with the world.

So my stories are fast moving and spare. You know what? Maybe I should go with that. Maybe I should embrace it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Saving all the drama for dramatic moments makes them melodramatic.

Just spent another 1000 words in small steps. It's the theme of this book. Explicating the steps, showing the day-to-day activity. There is something innately interesting about that process. At least I hope so. And how else do I show motivations if I don't have time to let them show during the course of a day?

Saving them up for dramatic moments only makes them melodramatic.

The danger is that I'm repeating myself. Certainly, I've seen that in other books, but it also tends to lend a little depth to the characters, reinforces what is important and what isn't important.

I don't know, maybe this is all hogwash. I'm admittedly experimenting. But I really wanted to try this and so far I'm actually kind of liking it. I'm feeling more like I'm living in this world, and if I feel that way, then maybe the reader will too.

I'm letting myself fill in some of the "in-between" spots. So, for instance, in the latest chapter the protagonist is driving to the heist, unexpectedly accompanied by a goon assigned to watch over him by the crime boss. So on the way they are feeling each other out, I'm providing information, I have some inner dialogue and some description.

All this might have been passed over in a previous novel. I probably would have gone directly to the heist.

But I really like what I said above: Saving up all the drama for the dramatic moments only makes them melodramatic. 

It's better to have the character think to themselves over several chapters--"uh, oh, this is a bad development," then "if I don't watch out I'm going to get trapped," then "how am I going to escape this?" to "I'm trapped!' then to have it suddenly happen once in the middle of a scene, "OH, MY GOD, I'M TRAPPED!!!!"

I'm also letting myself use words. That is, I'm not trying to be as spare as usual. This would normally be a bad thing, but I write so sparsely that I usually have to add in the re-write. I'm just letting things breathe a little more.

Like I said, I don't know if this works, but it seems to work for me. I'm feeling as if I'm personally in this book more.

All of this is my perception. The book isn't probably all that different. Linda sort of confirmed that. But at least in my mind, I'm trying something different. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

How do you make a heist interesting?

Sounds like a stupid question, after all how many books and movies are based on that very idea?

But unless the heist is the actual focus, it's pretty hard to make a heist interesting these days. I mean, unless you want to spend chapters coming up with twists and turns.

Which just goes to show that the heist isn't the point of "Shadows over Summer House," but more of a plot device that motivates the characters. A McGuffin so to speak. 

Really, this is just a strong-arm robbery. Busting in, tying people up, grabbing the money and running.

So, yeah, I can have everything go wrong. The bad guys show up, one of the robbers betrays them, and so on and so on.

But really, it's just a fucking heist.

I could probably say the same thing about the gun battle at the end--but I have a nice little trick up my sleeve on that one.

So I've spent one day already mulling over my heist, waiting for something that really clicks, that will make the scene interesting and involving. I know it's out there somewhere, but I'm not writing it until I've got it figured out. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The true test of finishing a novel.

The true test of a novel is whether I'm absorbed by it all the way through.

I have half a dozen books that are between 30% to 60% finished. A couple of them were interrupted by other events, but most of them simply lost steam. It's hard to let 20,000 or 30,000 or 40,000 words go to waste, but if the stories can't engage my interest, there is no reason to believe they'll engage the interest of a reader.

Better to move on, spend my efforts on something that absorbs me in a way I can't deny.

I've run into writer's block before while still believing in a book. Usually that just means I need to figure out where I went off path and a different way to proceed.

A great example was "Led to the Slaughter." I managed to get the Donner Party all the way to the mountains and then couldn't figure out how to move the story forward. How do you show the cold and the hunger in a narrative way? They're stuck there. There needed to be lots of repetition to get it across and that couldn't be allowed to get boring.

It wasn't until I figured out that I could use day-to-day journal entries to get it across in a fresh way that I was able to keep going.

Anyway, with "Shadows over Summer House" I've been absorbed by the story all the way through--enough, even, to rewrite a full 25,000 words from scratch. I'm nearing the end and it all seems to be falling into place.

I don't know if this means it's any good, only that it has engaged my interest all the way through, and that would seem to be a true test of worthiness.

 * * *

I have reached the final chapters. All that's left to do is the actual heist and then write the big climactic fight.

What's very cool is that I've managed to keep the Big Twist to the very end, which I didn't expect. I mean, I suspect many readers will figure it out, but I think I've played fair, giving enough information and avoiding outright lying. (The lying, such as it is, is what the main character sees--or doesn't see--and that's part of the twist).

These last chapters are action scenes--which for me is always easier to do. Or to be more precise--they are easy to do and at the same time hard to do well.

I'm flying blind right now--this is about as far as I've gotten without detailed plans. Heist and Big Reveal and Big Fight. That's about all I know.

But it's there. I can feel it.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Secret corridors aren't as easy as they sound!

Spent most of yesterday afternoon drawing up the floorplans to Summer House. Probably would have been nice to have these diagrams before I started, instead of 72K words in, but most of this stuff I didn't know I needed until I wrote it.

I will have to change the narrative a little to fit the floorplans. Secret corridors and rooms aren't as easy as they sound! I'm still not sure I've got the fine details right, but at least the general directions and dimensions are close.

Trying to finish "Shadows Over Summer House" by April, but I don't know if I'll make it. Lara is prepared to take on the editing that month, so I'm going to try.

Goosed my "major" publisher again, and again no response. It is time to give up, I guess. This was sort of my last hurrah.

What will happen to the ghostwritten book I sold them a couple of years ago, I have no idea. The subject matter has been very topical for the last few years, and I worry they're letting opportunity pass.

I'm tempted to give the money back...if that is even possible. I know that I'm not terribly interested in re-writing it for someone else. It was never about the money. The only reason I sold it was because I thought I'd have a better entry into the publisher, but instead they can't even be bothered to acknowledge my emails. I mean, even a, "Hi. We see hear you," would be nice.

So, right or wrong, I take away from my experience that my writing is good enough for the major publishers, but my name and social media presence isn't. 

I got Mike Corley to adapt one of the covers I'd already bought (for the book I ended up selling as a ghost book), and used it for "Deadfall Ridge." Thanks, Mike, for doing that. Looks perfect for the story, so at least I didn't throw that money away. But it also means I've given up that the publisher will ever get back to me. "Takeover" same thing,

I'd thought to send "Shadows Over Summer House," but not hearing anything, along with the fact that there is a bit of "Turn of the Screw" type supernatural to it which the publisher had made clear he wasn't interested in, means I probably shouldn't bother.

Disappointing but also indicative of how the "major" publishers treat most writers. This was the kind of stuff I put up with 30 years ago, too. It was only the opening up of Amazon and small publishers that brought me back to writing.

I like my current publishers. I can write to my heart's content, send the finished stories off to them, and actually get responses and results! Amazon, you magnificent bastard! (Says the writer part of me--my bookstore and reader part are still a little leery...)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Taking my time writing this time around.

Against all current advice and common wisdom, I'm taking a more measured--dare I say, leisurely--pace to "Shadows Over Summer House." This applies both to the actual process of writing it and to the story itself.

I want to inhabit this world for a while, feel it out. In order to pull this off I need three things.

1.) A strong narrative voice.

2.) A sturdy plot.

3.)  Plenty of atmosphere and mood.

I chose to write this in 1st person, with just one POV, so the narrator needs to be someone interesting enough to stay with. I'm trying to add more interior dialogue then usual to keep this going.

The sturdy plot is what pretty gave me the latitude to try to slow down. There are two almost completely different genres here, about half and half, and maybe it doesn't work, but it certainly carries a lot of potential. I like the mix.

I'm purposely stretching time. What could potentially be done in a week of time I've expanded to a couple of months. I want the sense that they are living this, one day at a time, and not every day something major happens.

The mood and atmosphere  is something I'm trying to include as I go along, but will also be the major focus in the rewrite--trying to get down evocative descriptions and telling details.

None of this may work, but I've written so many books that I think it is essential that I experiment, that I try new things, that I take risks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reading "Takeover" all the way through to the Farewell Bend Writer's Group.

I write so fast, I rarely get a chance to read more than a third of any WIP to writer's group, so they've heard a succession of the beginnings of novels.

That seems a little unfair, and of course I never get the wisdom of their advice on the latter parts of my stories, but what else can I do? The beginning is probably the most important part.

Anyway, with "Takeover" I decided to read it all the way through to the end, even though I'm almost finished with the next book. Partly, I wanted to write "Shadows Over Summer House" without any input from anyone else (except Linda, of course, and she is incredibly simpatico to my writing and never discourages me.) But also, I thought it might be more fair as well as interesting to read an entire novel.

It's probably only the second or third time I've done so in the 38 years the Farewell Bend Writer's Roundtable has existed.

The writer's group is pretty loosey-goosey. We generally have about 6 or 7 participants, and 2 or 3 readers.

(I think we could probably do with one or two more members if there is anyone reading this in Central Oregon who'd like to join. We are very welcoming, our critique is constructive. We meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at 7:00 P.M. at the East Bend Library branch's meeting room, so come on by. You don't have to read anything, by the way--there are lots of people over the years that just come to critique. We're mostly old foggies, but we'd love to have new younger blood. Hmmmm, tasty.)

The last two times I've read, the group has basically just said, "It's good. There's nothing we can find wrong with it." Which I can tell you rarely happens. The end of "Takeover" is some of the best writing I've done--and I only wish I could have managed to do that in the set-up of the first half of the book. I'm probably going to need to go back and do something about that, because the book is worth improving.

Linda teared up during my reading, which to me is always a "Score!" All of the members mentioned how strong that chapter was--which was interesting, because I had no clue that it was anything out of the ordinary.

Anyway, one more session and I will have read the whole book, which is kind of cool. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

There is no good way to ask someone to buy your book.

There simply is no good way to ask someone to buy your book.

You have to come at it sideways. But of course, that doesn't really work because you're trying to overcome inertia, which is pretty hard to do, like pushing a car with a feather. Some authors are really good at the sideways promo; though usually they are banking on previous success.

I think you have a chance to be somewhat aggressive with your first book. Friends and family are excited for you and will support you. Even then, I went too far testing the boundaries. I was forgiven mostly that first time, though I had a couple of people get mad at me.

I learned not to do that.

Strangely, I can sell books at my store. Person to person contact. I try not to be too aggressive. Usually the subject only pops up after I've already had a nice conversation going. I'll just casually mention, "Would you like to see the books I've written?" I lead them over to them, put one in their hands, give them a short synopsis.

Mostly it's, "Huh...interesting." Walk away.

But every once in awhile someone will act interested. I'll say, "Hey, I'll sign it!"

I started to worry that I was pressuring people by my presence, so lately I've added, "Please don't feel like you have to buy the book. You know, you can go home and buy it as an ebook and it's just as good."

And a good percentage will take that out--though I know they won't buy the book that way. I don't want to feel like I bullied someone.

So like I said, there doesn't seem to be any good way. You don't want to seem too needy, too desperate, too...whatever.

You try to be clever, you try to find tangential prompts--pictures of wild pigs are good, for instance--but that doesn't do all that much either.

Anyway, I really don't want to be that cousin who shows up at a wedding and tries to sell everyone life insurance. The moral high ground is to let people decide on their own whether your books sound interesting.


Yeah, the moral high ground is the worst promotional technique in existence.

"The Last Fedora" is live!

Crossroad Press has published "The Last Fedora: The Gangster Golem Chronicles." (Cover by Mike Corley.)

This is probably my personal favorite book. There's something about it I really like. The main protagonist is a ten year old boy: in fact the book could almost be called "A Boy and his Golem." It has a young adult feel, but also has elements that are probably too severe for it to be marketed in that category.

I've sat on this book for several years because I wanted to find the perfect home for it. Since I've decided to release my unpublished novels through Crossroad, this was the perfect book to start.

I do believe this story is original. This was when I started realizing that I was writing books that maybe didn't fit any particular genre completely--and that was all right.

I hope everyone who has read a previous book by me will give it a try. I think you'll like Tony and Jacob and Greg and Maria.

Please go and buy it right now and equally importantly post a review! Love you all, and thanks for supporting me.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Time to release the Kraken!

Have I mentioned I've written a lot of books? A lot?

I write almost every day, usually between 1500 and 2000 words. I'm very disciplined. That's a lot of words over the course of a year. It may seem like too much, but I maintain if you are spending all day writing and can't produce that many words there is something wrong with you. Seriously. What are you doing?

(Jesus, this sounds like a parody. "The Best Words." But you know, also true.)

It also seems to be the best pace for me, producing the best results. I have noticed that if I take twice as long, which I've done a couple of times as an experiment, that the quality isn't any better. In some ways, writing a book in one fell swoop keeps the story momentum strong and focused.

I believe writing a great or classic book is an accident. You don't know starting out how a book is going to turn out. Each time you think you've got it. You don't turn on or off the "classic" button. I suspect I'm more likely to stumble across a classic by constant writing than by somehow bearing down and producing a turd.

NOTE! ****The above number or words, written once an hour for 8 hours, would be a very productive day. I mean, really, how hard is that? ****

I believe I write entertaining books--at least, I hope so. You can't please everyone, of course, but I don't release any story until it is as good as I can make it.

Rewriting doesn't take me all that long either. Too much rewriting for me is more of a problem than too little. I have to be careful about not getting obsessed with changing the story and words around and ruining it.

Sometimes a book just doesn't work. I have about 10 books that just aren't ready for primetime. But I have a dozen or more that are mostly finished and which I quite like. I've been sitting on them, trying to figure out the best way to proceed.

I've decided I need to get going.

Crossroad Press has expressed a willingness to look at what I send them. Their attitude is, once they've decided to publish you, they are trusting that what you send will be good. So it's up to me.

I was pretty impressed by the first month royalty statement from them, considering these were already published books, some of which had stuttered starts.

So I've more or less decided to start releasing most of my books through them, including my already self-published novels.

I'm still more than happy with Dragon Moon Press for my Vampire Evolution Trilogy and Amber Cove for my Virginia Reed Adventures, and I intend to continue writing for them if they'll let me, but it's just time for me to start releasing what I've already written and Crossroad Press seems to have the system that can accommodate me.

So...most of my books under one banner for maximum effect.
Cover and editing services.
An established platform.
Monthly royalty statements.
Openness to what I've written.
Timely responses. 

Hopefully, this will allow me to concentrate on writing and nothing but writing.

First up. Probably my own personal favorite, which I finished a couple years ago and have been sitting on because I wanted to find it a good home.

"The Last Fedora."

Have signed a contract with Crossroad, so it should be out soon.

What fun!  I'm excited to finally get my stuff out there.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Tricky turn.

All along, the trickiest part of "Shadows over Summer House" was going to be the Big Reveal. When and how I reveal the "twist."

The twist has to be believable, but it can't be telegraphed too much. At the same time, I have to play fair and let the reader guess.

I was pretty amazed that I got roughly 60,000 words into the novel without revealing the twist, but I was rapidly coming up on the point where it would or wouldn't happen.

So yesterday I started off with a chapter whose main purpose to was prepare the reader by hinting at what might happen through atmospherics and mood. But not quite coming out with it.

But what happened, to my great surprise, was that I more or less revealed half the twist. That is, the reader now thinks the twist has happened, but in reality the bigger twist is further into the story.

At least, I hope so.

So now I'm going full blast into a couple of mood/atmospherics chapters, then back to a few heist chapters. Probably soon after that, the Big Reveal will have to happen, but I may be able to keep it until the very end, the last 10% of the book at worst, maybe even the last 5% of the book.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

The introverted store owner.

I had to work today for the first time in a long time. (Cameron is off the a comic convention in Seattle.)

I found myself getting nervous and even excited. Dealing with the public for 8 hours can be a challenge.

So I did it for several decades, I put on a very outgoing persona to get through it, sometimes more outgoing than others. I mean, the outgoingness is genuine, but not usually called for in the rest of my life, and for the last few years I've been writing, which is a loner activity. So talking to so many people is both energizing and enervating.

Anyway, the day went smoothly enough but now that I'm home I feel like I've been run over by a truck. It's just not my normal life anymore, it's not a routine that I can simply fall into. I think because I'm there so seldom I tend to over engage with people, therefore burning all the energy I have.

At the same time, I like it. I mean, it wears me out but I like being around people like that where I'm in my own place and I'm somewhat of an expert and I can talk about books and comics and movies and Bend and such.