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.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Who's going to read this?

I got back the edits to "Fateplay" from Lara Milton, my personal editor. She does a very thorough job. I've been lucky from the start that she's willing to do my books.

Normally, I'd just accept her edits, then add whatever changes I've made, but this time I've made so many changes that I'll have to add her edits one by one to my version. Which is going to be a long process--probably take at least one full day, maybe two.

When I'm done with that, I'm pretty much done. There was a bit more editing I'd hoped Lara could do, but she's out of town for a few weeks, so I'll just have to do the best I can on my own.

I'm pretty good, actually. I don't make all that many mistakes, but then...typos are almost impossible to avoid.

So...I'll have another book done.

I feel like I'm slowing down, and then I realize that I've written a couple of books that are only now finished and ready to go, and the "slow down" is obviously relative.

I'm 15K words into "New Brave World," but I'm purposely not pushing it.

Frankly, I think I've worn out my faithful readers who are simply not responding to my new stuff. I hope the publishers will stick with me. They are supporting me by doing covers and editing, and I'm hoping my sales are enough to reward them.

I've made writing central to my life and I don't think that is going to change. There isn't really all that much I want to change--the constant tinkering with process is the big thing.

And, though I always go off in whatever direction appeals to me at the time, maybe I should be doing a little more thinking in advance.

I've never been strategic in my writing choices--it's always been "write what I want to write when I want to write it." Hard to argue with that.

Though sometimes I finish a book and realize it is probably so quirky that "who's going to read this?"

I don't think anyone can out think the market. You just have to hope that whatever you write is appealing. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Shadows Over Summer House is Live!

"Shadows Over Summer House" is live!

 It's a bit of Gothic Noir, if you will. Some romance and some hard-boiled heist and a touch of supernatural.

Something a little different for me.

Hope you guys haven't grown tired of me and will give it a read.

Thanks to everyone for keeping me going.


No one could have seen it coming?

An anniversary article in the Bulletin about the Great Recession, basically saying that no one could have seen it coming.

By the time they are talking about, circa late 2007, I'd been writing my bubble blog for almost a year. And I was probably late to the party-pooper party. It was pretty clear for years that we were in a housing bubble, especially in Bend.

Not that anyone in the real estate business was listening--except Brooks Resources. They seemed to react very quickly and effectively. But there were plenty of people shouting out warnings.

Not your chicken little types either. For instance, I've not seen what I consider to be a bubble in the stock market or housing market or the economy as a whole since. (Except for bitcoin.) Overvalued is not the same thing as a bubble.

I prepared for the crash, eliminating all debt, making sure I wasn't committed for future product, and cutting expenses--and came through it pretty well. (As well as anyone can do when sales drop by half over a three year period. Heh.)

See, by that time, I'd seen at least five major crashes in the stuff I sell; where stuff that nobody had heard of the day before became something that everyone wanted now and by the time I got a full stock in no one wanted anymore.  Sports cards, comics, beanie babies, pogs, and Pokemon, to mention a few.

Housing showed all the the same signs. The arc is usually the same if you're watching for it. The first crash put me in debt for a decade, the second crash added a few years to that debt, and the third fad we made good money at, and the fourth we made better money at, and the fifth was lucrative too.

And crashes are a good way to get healthy, in a sense. You get down to priorities, figure out what really matters, and what you really want to do. As long as you budget correctly, small drops can be very profitable, and big drops don't have to be destructive.

Most people get that one big bubble in their lifetime and they learn from that. Then, of course, it never happens again. Heh.

I was lucky in a way that I'd been through several bubbles before, even if they were for things like pogs, because I'd already learned my lesson.

But I still feel the need to call out the fallacy that no one saw the Great Recession coming. There were dozens of us talking about it in Bend alone on blogs. But when you're in a bubble, it's hard to see outside of it until it's too late.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

I've been stuck for a few days with New Brave World.

I'm writing this blog to try to sort through the problem. You don't mind, do you?

I sort of know where I want it to go, but I'm not sure how to get there--or more to the point, how to get there in an interesting way. I have a squad of soldiers in an isolated place and I need to kill them off one by one, until only the main male protagonist is left, naked and near death, so the main female protagonist can save him.

But once I start down the road of killing them off, it will become pretty obvious to the reader that's what I'm doing.

I asked Linda and she said to make sure I flesh out all the victims first, so that their deaths mean something, which is good advice.

The second possibility is having something else going on at the same time which adds to the mystery. But that may be something that occurs to me later.

I think what I'm going to do is something I've never really done before.

I'm currently 44 pages in. I think I'll go back and add at least a paragraph to each character as they are introduced to delineate their characters. This is something I never do; it falls into the problem of telling, not showing. But showing is a very long and delicate process, and with telling you get that information out there right away. In truth, I've begun to notice that lots of writers do it and that it doesn't really bother me as long as it is subtle.

I'm willing to try new things, and this will be a bit of an experiment. If the descriptions don't work, or slow down the story, I can always go back later and cut them down.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Coming soon to a computer screen near you!
This is my Gothic Noir novel.

Started off as a straight ahead hard-boiled heist book, then as the big Victorian house became a character and a love story ensued, it become a Gothic love story.

It was fun to write.  I'm continuing to explore new genres.

Crossroad Press has been working on the cover for a few days. They had a great Gothic looking house, but the book is pretty specific about it being a Victorian, so we searched for a few days for a good candidate. The final picture is perfect. Even it being at an angle is helpful, because the towers in the house are on different corners and this picture makes it look like it could be any corner.

This was in the middle of my trying to write straight-ahead thrillers, which I enjoyed, but I feel like a little supernatural or SF always spices up a story, so I don't know if I'll stray from that again. In fact, I've been writing science-fiction over the last two books, which I never thought I'd do.

I do hope I still have some readers who will give this a try. May not seem like it, but it's been awhile since I put out a new book.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Wrote a couple of new scenes for "Fateplay."

Even though I'd hoped I was done. Even though I've had it edited.

One was a scene I'd already envisioned, but I'd just run out of energy in the rewrite before I could get it out. So when I got back some beta-read suggestions, I took that opportunity to write out the scene.

The second scene I hadn't thought of before, but became obvious after the beta reader suggested it.

You don't know what you don't know. It's very much like what the editor made me change in "Snaked." He pointed out that I'd pretty much dropped the snakes in the second half of the book. It was very clear once it was pointed out, and it was a problem that could be corrected.

Usually, a corrected problem is an opportunity to correct other problems.

So I had a couple of loose ends that I tied up in a new scene.

The only problem I have is that I'm worried that I'm packing in too many things at the same time--if that is possible.  But well, at least everything is addressed.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Been a little stuck over the last week on "New Brave World."

I think I was putting too high expectations on the story. I don't seem to have the same sort of urge I've had over the last 6 years or so to write every day. I could see myself stalling on this, which after stalling on "Castle LaMagie" and "The Wyvern Riders" would be a worrisome trend.

So this morning I told myself to cut to the chase--write the story straightforwardly without any embellishments, don't worry about length or depth, just get it done.

That seemed to free me up. I have a plot of sorts in mind, but was trying to figure out how to get there. Well, I get there by getting there. Just do it.

Crossroad Press has come up with a cover for "Shadows Over Summer House." The house doesn't much resemble the house in the book, and it probably accentuates the horror more than the Noir, whereas I think the story is more Noir than horror, but I'm not sure I'm in a position to be demanding. I did send a picture of a truly Victorian house, but I'm fine with the cover the way it is.

As soon as I'm done with "New Brave World" I'm going to finish off my "Lander" series once and for all.

Faerylander and Zombielander are done, but I'll need to read them one more time. And I then need to adjust Wolflander and Ghostlander to the changes in the first two books. It really shouldn't take more than a month or so.

One month = 4 books. I need to get on that.

Same with my "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities." Almost done. In this case, more like two weeks = 4 novellas. Stupid of me not to do that.

Than, hopefully before the year is out, get a good start on the next Virginia Reed story.

For the rest of September, it's writing "New Brave World" and seeing what the editor and beta readers have to say about "Fateplay" around mid-month. I'm going to send that story off soon after.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

I've been half deaf in my right ear for a couple of months. More than half deaf at first, which was alarming of course, but I figured it was wax buildup and would clear. It seemed to clear for awhile, and then came back.

So I tried some home remedies, but those didn't seem to do much.

It says online to check with a doctor if it doesn't clear up because there could be an underlying problem, so I finally went in a couple days ago. (Nice to have Medicare).

Yep, hard wax covering my eardrum.

Basically, the remedy is roughly the home remedy I was already doing, but with the proper syringes and something a little more potent than hydrogen peroxide or vinegar and rubbing alcohol.

So far, nothing is working. But it's good to know what the problem is, and the doctor didn't seem too concerned.

Still half deaf.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

My handwriting has fallen apart!

I've been taking notes for my WIP and my cursive handwriting is horrible. My fingers don't seem to want to do it.

I would have thought handwriting was like riding a bicycle: you never forget. Instead, I have to actually concentrate on writing legibly.

I guess I've been typing on computers for the last 20 years, except for short notes here and there.

Very strange. How can one forget how to write? I can do it, but I almost have to put in a conscious effort for the handwriting to look at all even or pleasurable to look at. Otherwise it's all crimped, with lots of false starts and curls in wrong directions.

I'm wondering if I should get back to doing it more often so I don't forget completely!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Wrote a complex scene yesterday with lots of dialogue and multiple characters. This is not something I could have pulled off when I started writing. It gave me a good feeling and I went to bed feeling like I'd really accomplished something.

Earlier in the day I wondered if the scene was coming too early, that I might want to hold it off, but then decided to go straight forward with the story. There is more depth to be had in this story, in theme and characterization, but again the plot is preeminent and every time I delay a story in order to get some thematic stuff in I've later felt I slowed down the story.

It seems like every book I write now needs revisions in the first 50 pages or so. But it's best to wait until I'm finished with the book before I do them. I'm also pretty much committed to sitting on books for a couple of months after finishing them. This is new and I found it very useful with "Fateplay" going back and adding detail, streamlining the story, filling in the characterization and motives.

Did some research on the "Noble Savage" philosophical concept. If I was a deeper thinker I might be able to really dive into that. As it is, even the Wiki level was a little overwhelming. Heh.

That's a choice. I could overreach, really delve into the idea, try to structure a theme, have the characters personify or expound on the ideas.

But that's for later if I do it. For now, I'm focused on story and plot, moving it along, with the concepts in the back of my mind--even, as I write it--mindful. Then I'll come back and see if I can't enrich the story a little by being more specific in the philosophical concepts. Just a bit of seasoning, not so that it overwhelms the story.

Today is fun with Linda day and we're probably going for a drive since there aren't any movies we want to see.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Back on my routine. 7 days of walking, 10,000 words written on the new story.

The new story in no way resembles what I thought I was going to be. I thought it would be a sort of take off on "Brave New World," but instead of the drug Soma, I was going to stipulate VR called Stimu.

Along those lines. Thus the title "New Brave World."

I still think there is a story there, but this ain't it.

Instead of being about where the characters are going, so far, this is more about where the characters have been. At least a third of the book is going to be  set in the "Stasis" or "Refuge." A survival story,

The "real" world is the Second Republic, where the environment is totally destroyed, the oceans have risen, and the country is controlled by The Founders, who pretend to be inheritors of the First Republic but who are in fact tyrants.

There is a rebellion going on, and in the midst of this comes the heroine of the story, who has spent her entire life inside the "Stasis" or "Refuge" with only her mother, at one with nature. A noble primitive, if you will.

No terribly original, but's all in how you do it. More of a "Stranger in a Strange Land" than "Brave New World."(Though there are similarities even there.) Lots of low-grade philosophy.

This is the second straight out SF novel I've written, after avoiding the genre my entire career.

To hell with it. I'll try to have the science make sense, but dammit, I want to tell stories. Soft SF, I guess you'd call it.