Friday, May 31, 2019

Somewhat to my surprise, I picked up my story, "Castle LaMagie."

I've retitled it "Spell Realm," which is too good a title not to use. Unfortunately, since I came up with that title for a different story a few years ago, a book has actually been published called "A Spell Realm." But I'm going to go ahead and use it anyway.

I never seem to know what I'm going to do next until I do it. Weird. It just always happens that way.

Anyway, this is a fun little story, and it's two/thirds done, so I've just decided to finish it.

I have three different novels playing with the same idea--a world of technically created magic that becomes a world of real magic, and I've love to have them as a series, but the dynamics are different in all of them.

I tend to flounder with fantasy and SF because of the need for world building. So I get halfway through and realize I haven't grounded the dynamics well enough.

The next actual book being published is "Eden's Return," and while it has a SF setting, it's mostly a survival story with metaphysical underpinnings. Because it's somewhat allegorical, if you will, I decided not to try to explain what's going on. It's more of an elliptical, elegiac type story.

Frankly, the science in any of my SF is only an excuse to tell an adventure story. I'll admit to that. I'm never going to be a hard science guy.

I liked the tone of "Eden's Return," which I think I successfully maintained.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Doubt isn't an indicator of quality.

For about five years I went merrily along writing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, however I wanted.

When I finally slowed down last year, doubts set in. See I've always known I have the imagination to tell a bunch of stories, but I wondered if any of them would stand out.

I can say that most of my books are better than I expected to be able to do--regardless of whatever anyone else might think. They were fun to write and I learned something each time.

But I've felt for a long time that I'm not quite getting there, as far as reaching people is concerned. I'm not sure this is all my fault. I think the system is tough and somewhat broken. Nevertheless, if I had written something that blew people's socks off, that would be noticed, right?

(This assertion is debatable and unknowable.)

So I decided to think on it for awhile, and the longer I think on it, the more second-guessing I do. The more doubts set in. The more I've created perhaps unachievable goals. The more susceptible I am to writer's block.

I'm losing that innocence to just let my imagination go.

Maybe not the best time to be working on stories that didn't quite make the grade the first time I wrote them. Heh.

I'm not sure these stories aren't as good as the ones I've released. They just needed a little work to get them right. The Catch-22 of this is that the more I work on them, the more doubts I have.

Doubts aren't really the indicator of quality, frankly. I've finished plenty of first drafts that I thought were stellar, only to come back and improve them greatly upon reflection. I've had other books that I struggled with, put out when I couldn't think of any other way to improve them, and then had them be my biggest successes, as far as sales and reviews go.

The doubt is really a problem in motivation. It is hard to get myself going when I start having them. I tend to dither a lot, not accomplish much. I don't think I've lost my mojo. I still write an occasional full chapter that I think is pretty good. It's just sustaining that momentum that I've having trouble with.

It doesn't help that I don't really enjoy rewriting or research, no matter how helpful they are.

Objectively I can tell myself that it will only take a couple of weeks or a month to finish something--then I dither and dither for months and months.

When I finally get to work, it only takes a couple of weeks or month to finish something, just as I predicted, and I have to kick myself for procrastinating. Ugh.

Anyway, it's a process of motivating myself, getting myself started and sticking to it.

I finished the rewrite of "Takeover," changing it in the ways I wanted to, and it works--at least better than the previous version.

Now I need to do the rest of my unfinished projects. Just tick them off, one by one.

(Since I wrote this a few days ago, I've already finished "Eden's Return" and made some headway on Castle LaMagie, which I've retitled to Spell Realm. It was two/thirds finished, and when I started reading it, I was intrigued. Back to writing!"
Reading "Eden's Return" was interesting. I set this aside quite awhile ago, thinking it needed to be beefed up, maybe a bit of philosophical underpinnings.

As it turned out, it's fine the way it is. Really, beefing it up would be a mistake.

I decided not to explain the metaphysical underpinnings. That would undo the whole story. The love story and the plot are much more subtle and elliptical than I usual try to do. I liked it. A gentle story that is nevertheless a full-on adventure. A romance based on meditation and Tao. (Or my meager understanding of...)

Just a nice, complete story. Contained in a simple plot.

Something different.

Well, I sent off "Eden's Return."

I liked it. I think it needed a light touch, so I stayed away from rewriting it. Maybe I'm just fooling myself, but I often think my first draft is my best draft. In this case, I think it's true.

Monday, May 27, 2019

So after all that, I finished the changes to "Eden's Return" in one day.

I'm going to give it a final read, and I need to write a synopsis, but it's mostly ready to go. What the hell was I waiting for?

Just in Limbo. Limbo. Limbo.

It's a relatively simple story, and short, only 53K words. A short novel, just what I intended. I was getting a little tired of books with a million characters and plotlines. I like the feeling of it quite a lot. Very philosophical, but action oriented, contemplative, but hopefully romantic.

Getting two books ready within a week or ten days of effort is very encouraging. Onward!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Finished the rewrite of "Takeover." It is now a sequel to "Deadfall Ridge."

It's better, without a doubt. There is a main protagonist in Hart Davis, who is more sympathetic than the character he replaced (or at least, more empathic for me). There is an easier-to-follow beginning. So I think the story is substantially improved.

The problems come from the format I chose to tell the story. I'm not sure if it works or not. The readers will decide. But I do think it has merit, and was something worth trying. I was trying something new, stretching a little.

I'm going to ask Lara Milton, my personal editor, to take a look at it.

Then I'm going to move on to "Eden's Return."

(UPDATE: While taking a shower this morning, I realized I have a fix for the big geographical problem with my novellas, as mentioned below. So I'll probably do that next.)

Then the three finished "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities." All I need to do with these stories is make the geographical information consistent.

And I think the four "Lander" books could be made ready relatively easily.

Truth is, I tend to let the whole rewriting process intimidate me. I spend more time fussing about rewriting than I do actual rewriting. When I finally knuckle down, it usually isn't as hard or time-consuming as I think it will be, and it always improves the story. Research is always immensely beneficial, but for some reason I don't like doing it. I like winging it, basically, even though the stories benefit from time and effort. Damn.

So it's just time to get it done.

I'm not really ready to start a new project yet, so this is a good time to catch up.

(When fixes miraculously appear in my brain while taking a shower or brushing my teeth, I know my creative subconscious is raring to go. The creative well if overflowing.)

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Now that I've rewritten the beginning of "Takeover" and decided to carry on with the original 1st-person epistolary format for the rest of the book, I can probably finish it within a few days.

It's impossible to fix the problems completely. While the beginning now makes more sense, it makes the random nature of the first person accounts that follow feel even more out of place. Suddenly, each now chapter, someone is talking who is either a new character or someone heretofore barely mentioned.

I can't really tell if it works or not.

Trying to turn it into 3rd person took most of the flavoring out of it, and the flavoring is what this format had in its favor. I think the plot really takes off after a few thousand more words, so there is just this sophomore section that people need to get through, and I'm hoping the new beginning will provide enough momentum.

I don't have any real faith anyone is going to read it anyway, nor "Eden's Return," which is also very close to finished.

I thought "Fateplay" was a damn fun book, and almost no one bought it, even after the relative success of "Deadfall Ridge." I'd hoped that selling a lot of one title, while at the same time getting good reviews, would mean the next book would sell better than usual.

There was little or no carryover, which is hard to figure, even when the fact that it is a separate genre is taken into account. At the moment of my biggest triumph, I feel the most let down. To put it bluntly, it doesn't matter how good the book, it only matters how good the promotion.

I understand that ultimately it falls on my own head. If I write something spectacular, the problem takes care of itself--or not. (If not, how would I know?)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sorry about not posting for awhile. I'm in some sort of limbo, which I've been in many times in my life, especially after a long burst of activity. Don't know what it connotes, but I just go along with it. It means I'm not ready to take on any projects just yet.

I found online poker the other day and spent two days playing it. I've been consciously staying away from it ever since. I know an addiction when I see one. Better just to opt out now. I figured out the quirks of the programs I was playing so that I was winning most of the time, even at the expert level. But not because I was playing poker well, but because I figured out the hacks. Heh.

Most of the time I spent in depression was in limbo, just reading and watching TV. This isn't depression, which has a distinct feeling to it. This is just sort of--I've done a lot of writing, and maybe I should kick back for a time and let it all sink in.

Linda totally relaxes into retirement. I've been trying to follow her example.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Story, story, story.

I guess maybe you know you have a book when a chapter is written that just imparts the basic information needed to progress. That is, no filler whatsoever. Not that there should ever be filler. It wasn't elegant, but it was all there.

Styles really are different. I'm reading a Thomas Perry book right now, and as usual really enjoying it. Minimal extra stuff, straightforward plot. Extra descriptions or interior monologue unnecessary. I also just finished an Alastair Reynolds SF book, and as usual I enjoyed it too, and this one was full of description, SF tech and so on.

In other words, it isn't necessary to be one or the other.

My own feeling is that I need to write my straightforward plots, but in the rewrite try to add some more mood and color and description. Not overboard, but enough to give the story flavoring. I try to signal character and location through telling details. I telegraph it, and I like to think that it takes skill to be subtle.

I was conscious in reading the Thomas Perry book, "The Old Man," that he'll spend a few pages explaining who someone is and what their motivations are--so that's a fair technique too,  as long as it isn't overdone.

I don't think "overdone" is something anyone can accuse me of. I am pretty sparse, and it is up to me to add a bit of bulk to my novels to make them feel fuller and richer. I'm interested in story, and I"m interested in the characters expanding the story.

I have to ask myself consciously on the rewrite--where I can add some telling detail, where a characters need a little fleshing out, when I should describe something a little more fully?

But the one overweening thing I've learned over the last six years is that most people judge most books by their stories. Almost no critique of the actual writing.

Of course, writing is what makes the story, but I'm not sure how aware most people are of technique.

I like to have a little flare if possible, some nice turns of phrases, some alliterative mood setting.  But I no longer start out with that as my goal. Instead, I start off with story, continue with story, and then try to make the writing enhance the story when possible.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Well, I can't do it.

Well, I can't do it.

I mean, writing three fresh new chapters, that was a good idea. They're much better than what I had before. I plan on writing a fourth new chapter.

But the idea of turning it all into Hart Davis, and/or 3rd person accounts is proving to be just too difficult. I either have to write the whole book from scratch or go back to the original format, with improvements.

Just having Hart and Nicole in the book is difficult by itself, but I think manageable.

So either this format works or it doesn't, but the book doesn't exist without it. I tried to convince myself otherwise, but it is not to be so. Changing it to third person loses most of the original flavor. It was meant as first person and is written that way. I can keep the content, but not the tone.

So I'm just going to have to put a disclaimer close to the beginning, explaining that it is all transcripts and witness testimony, and hope that works.

But in the process, I did very much improve the narration of the first ten thousand words, and that's a big improvement.

So it was all worth it. A book deserves a little work and attention, doesn't it? I mean, it was never supposed to be easy, right?


I've started yet another draft, and this time I think it's really going to work!

Where have I heard that before. heh.

Whether this book works or not, I guess will be up to the reader. But I do think this is the best version of this book, much better than it was before. It is much more accessible, and the continuity is much stronger in the first third of the book, which was always my biggest worry.

A book with merit, a bit of an experiment. I guess we'll see. But I know I tried to make it as good as possible.

I think I had to re-familiarize myself  with the format, and as I did so, I became more comfortable with it. I think the problem wasn't so much the format, as the choppy way I did it at the beginning. By smoothing that beginning, I think I've made the book better.

So the format will have to stand or fall on it's own, but the execution of it now makes more sense.

I don't know what that means for the reader that I had such a hard time. I'm neither a first time reader when I rewrite, nor as familiar as I am when I'm finished. I'm sort of in-between. So the hope is the first time reader won't have the same difficulty.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Trying to talk myself into not talking myself out it.

I've walked every day for 20 days now. I'm trying to keep that streak alive. One hour, 3 and 3/4th miles. Which means, in 3 months I will have walked the equivalent of to Portland and back. 😇

I'm a little perturbed that such diligence didn't forestall my heart attack. In fact, a couple of weeks before I had the actual attack, I had some heavy symptoms on a walk. Now at least I'd recognize the signs...and I carry a tiny water-proof jar of nitro in my pocket for just such a thing.

But nowadays I'm walking as much for mental health as for physical health.

Plus, if I can ever get back into regular writing, it's always been helpful.

The heart attack inspired me to get things in order. New glasses, dental, new clothes, updating legal papers with lawyers, that kind of thing.  Very time consuming, along with the doctor visits. Pretty much a couple times a week, which makes it hard to write. We're helping Linda's brother out with his house, and that's been complicated. With Panga gone, we plan on traveling more and have already had a couple of trips.

So writing isn't the number one thing now. It's still a good number two, though.

I'm also consciously trying to get out into the world more. I seem to be fitting in with people much more than I used to. I've been accepted somehow by the old people crowd. Heh.

What nobody who hasn't had a real phobia doesn't understand is how miraculous a simple little thing like sitting in a restaurant and being comfortable is. Just relaxing around other people--strangers. A little thing that no one even thinks twice about.

Sometimes I need a little pill, a low dosage, and of course, having Linda with me, but really, it's become a new thing for me. A 66 year old guy who only now is comfortable shopping, eating, walking in public.

It's a true joy.

I'm also trying to get a little more comfortable spending money. You have to understand--I NEVER spend money. I wear clothes till they fall off me. I have one pair of good shoes. The last time I really bought something for myself was a big TV ten years ago, which was malfunctioning.

We're all right, as long as we live modestly. But I'm always putting everything off into the future, like a good McGeary. As they say, life is what happens when you're making plans.

I have a whole pile of marshmallows in front of me, if you catch my drift. It's time to eat a few.

I'm even allowing myself to buy the occasional meal and/or gifty knick-knackity thing. I mean, it's a struggle, and I have constantly talk myself out of not talking myself out of it.

I feel more relaxed, frankly. So the heart attack actually had a beneficial effect, in a weird way.

I was going to cash in my life insurance when it became vested in a couple of years. but I've decided to keep that going.

I'm holding off until 70 for SS, but only because I'm getting half of Linda's SS in the meantime, and I'd like to leave her with a higher SS if anything happens. (Mine is a good third more than hers.)

Anyway, I'm trying to live in the moment a little more. Trying to relax.

Monday, May 13, 2019

I mentioned on Facebook that I thought the current chapter is the most important of the book.

It came out all right. Better than it was. Maybe even "good enough." But I suspect I'll come back to it a few more times to try to make it better.

So those first five chapters were mostly all new material, and they feel like a real book, instead of an experiment.

I believe that Hart Davis (with a little help from Nicole) can provide the narrative spine down the middle of the book. In fact, I may transition a few other chapters into his viewpoint, if possible. So that will be the difficult part. Other than that, though, it's simply a matter of moving from first person to third person for all POV characters but Hart. Not easy, but not impossible either.

So I'm going to try for 20 pages a day minimum, get it done this month.

OK. Now that I've gotten to page 40 in the rewrite, I see I have one more original chapter to write. Then I should be able to meld the rest together. (Of course, I thought that before...)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Writing after an attack.

I mentioned I would address my writing in light of my heart attack later.

Here it is.

Surprisingly, it seems to have reduced my urgency, instead of increasing it.

If you had asked me in advance, I would have assumed that I would be in a hurry to finish everything I've started, but when I was riding in the helicopter, taking stock of my life, I realized that I'd already done what I set out to do.

I have 23 books up for sale right now. All of them as good as I could make them. I've finished 10 or 12 others. (Is it bad when you lose count?)

Before I started writing again 7 years ago, I had assumed that if I ever got a dire diagnosis that I'd be compelled to finish a book. At least one.

So by the time it actually happened, I was way beyond that.

That helicopter ride was memorable, probably because it was the only half hour of time when I didn't have nurses and doctors scurrying about asking me questions, pulling of my clothes, sticking needles in me, that kind of thing.

For a couple weeks after, I was amazed by how calm I was about the whole thing. Then it struck me--I was doped up! Of course I was calm!

But that's not it. I think even intellectually I was content. I'd had a good run, and the bad stuff? That shit happens and is gone.

That's exactly how I thought it: "I've had a good run, and the bad stuff? That shit happens and is gone."

Anyway, I'm back to writing, and sure I'd like to finish all the projects I started, but I don't feel a super urgency about it. If anything, I want it to "feel" right, instead of have artificially imposed deadlines. Although, artificially imposed deadlines are how I got so much done.

So this whole writing thing will probably be slower, but hopefully feel more natural from now on.

So far, improvement.

Wrote half of chapter 5 after puzzling over it almost all day. I think it's much more personal and involving that what I had before, even though I'm not trying for action. The second half of the chapter will be all action.

I figure after this chapter, I probably have one more original chapter before I transition into the plot as written. I will be turning all POV's other than Hart Davis, the protagonist, into 3rd person. But other than that, it's simply a matter of adapting.

I think this is going to work. By the time I'm done, I figure about the first tenth of the novel will be all new material. The rest will be as originally done, if rearranged and rewritten.

It's coming together well, I think. Turning into a real book instead of an experiment.

I've also thought of a way to maybe change the POV to Hart Davis on a couple of other chapters. Originally, I had a few chapters that got into the politics, and some of them I don't think are all that necessary.

I'm just taking it a step at a time, I guess. So far, improvement.

I've now walked 16 days in a row. I want to keep that streak going.

Weeded by moonlight tonight. Turns out to be a really good way to do it. I'm pretty sure I got 90% of it, so will fine-tune it tomorrow. So one more patch of garden that needs to weeded and edged, and then it's just a matter of keeping up.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Reading vs Speculating vs Collecting.

Without me really being aware, speculation has re-entered the comic market.

When I started at Pegasus Books 39 years ago, a big part of buying comics was expecting some of them to go up in value. I wasn't able to shed that impression until the big collapse in the mid-nineties. I looked around the wreckage and realized that the only people still buying comics were those who were buying them to read.

I came up with a mantra: "Readers keep reading, speculators always quit."

There is a middle ground, what I call "collectors." They buy comics to read mostly, but also harbor the secret ambition to have a very cool collection. What I've noticed though is that they are usually not surprised that their comics aren't worth big bucks. It seems perfectly valid to me to want to be a completest and to keep your comics in good shape and to pass them along.

Anyway, after the big collapse of the mid-nineties, which wiped three-quarters of all comics shops, a bunch of publishers, and all but one of the distributors, I decided I would cater to readers only. I wouldn't pay any attention to the after-market. Collecting is what happens after they leave the store.

I personally don't believe that speculation is winnable. There are just too many variables and by the time you add up the work and time, it probably is a net loss. There is theoretical value in some things, but it's very tricky realizing that value.

Another phrase I coined: "Antiques Roadshow has a lot to answer for."

By making this choice, I emphasized the importance of graphic novels and collections. Occasionally, for number ones and perhaps significant issues, I might have bumped up the after-price a couple bucks here and there, but even that faded over time.

We became what I call a "retail" store. Whenever anyone asked for discounts, we'd just say, "Everything in the store is retail." That is, we don't lower or raise prices, but go mostly with suggested retail price. The only exceptions, really, are toys which have such low margins that we usually have to bump them up a little. And we offer a volume discount on magic cards--because we have to.

Our market has become self-selecting. Those who don't like our terms don't come back, but those who stay are solid. From there we built our inventory to the point where it became more or less self-sustaining.

Anyway, over the last decade or so, all the bad habits of publishers have come back: shiny gimmicky covers, stunts, cross-overs, endless number ones, and most egregious of all, variant covers.

We simply haven't played along. We've continue to buy for readers and whatever was available to us at regular prices, we would order.

Turns out that during this time, speculation was becoming a thing. (My not knowing this is a function of me not working everyday.) Apparently, websites have popped up touting certain issues as "valuable." Even more to my dismay, many of my fellow comic retailers are playing along.

I think this is really bad idea. I don't trust some of these websites not to be pump and dump operations, for instance. And I think when these speculators find out they can't actually sell their comics for what the websites are claiming, they'll flat quit--again.

At the same time, I don't want people who aren't regular readers to come into my store and strip me of these supposedly "valuable" comics--if for no other reason than it deprives my own regulars.

What to do?

We've already put in a policy of no more than two of the same issue for any one buyer.

If I was working the store everyday, I'd probably put some effort into figuring out what comics are "hot" and set aside a few issues from my regulars. If the regulars don't snag them, I might bump them up a few dollars.

But I've so indoctrinated my longterm manager Sabrina on the dangers of speculation that she simply refuses to countenance it.

I'm so proud. Really, she was listening!

And she's right, bless her.

I'm not sure if it is coincidental or not, but monthly comics have been falling for the same two years or so. Not just for us, but for most everyone.

When that started happening, we had a choice. We could dive back into researching comics, figuring out the problems, doing the heavy lifting that might help ameliorate the problem.

Or we could let comics find their own level, without catering to the speculators, and double down on the reading aspects of graphic novels.

We chose the latter, and it has worked out really well. Our graphic novels sales are increasing steadily, compensating for the comics--and whatever we're missing by not catering to speculators.

We're doing the right thing and doing well by it. Phew.

Friday, May 10, 2019

That Health Thing.

I've been hinting about a health episode, but I've decided this blog is of no use to me if I can't be candid.

So I had a heart attack three months ago. I'm fine. A stint was put in and I was out of the hospital feeling normal within a couple of days. No damage was done to the heart. The chances of recurrence are low (but add up over time.)

But it certainly changed my perspective on things. It's been a slow process of integrating this new circumstance into my life, my emotions, my plans. I'm pretty sure I'm not done with that process.

First of all, I was surprised. I thought I was pretty healthy. I knew that me and cholesterol didn't get along and I've taken statins for years. I was walking every day, I wasn't terribly overweight, I don't eat lots of fast foods or red meat.

Years ago, when the cholesterol levels were first diagnosed, I asked the doctor if I needed to change my diet. He said, "It doesn't matter what you do. You're genetically predisposed and only medication can make the difference."

Now I'm taking four times the statin dosage, plus low blood pressure meds, plus a baby aspirin, plus medications that have to do with my stent. Some of these may be changed when I see the cardiologist in a couple of weeks. (My blood pressure is so low, I'm barely alive.)

The thing that has surprised me the most is that instead of pushing me into being more diligent about my writing, the opposite has happened. I'll explain more of that later.

I do seem to be living in the moment more. I have always had the tendency to live in the future. "When I get to this place, then I'll do that" kind of thing. It's a McGeary trait.

Also, emotionally, I seem to be more in the Warren Zevon mode: "Enjoy every sandwich." I actually feel much more relaxed for some reason. There's the lingering sense of "borrowed time," but it has just made me more willing to enjoy the smaller things.

I've been on a tear to shape up. I was good about my diet for one month. I've gotten back to walking diligently. I'm sleeping more, worrying less. I've lost 20 pounds since Christmas and I'm keeping it off. (Maintaining 180.)

I'm trying to shape up stuff I've been putting off. I need new clothes to fit my 20 pound lighter frame. I've gone in for new glasses for the first time in seven years. I finally went to a dentist-- and instantly had a crown put in, plus two smaller cavities, plus cleaning. All this costs a ton of money.

I've decided that we're financially secure, though instead of cashing in the vested portion of my life insurance policy, I'm keeping it going. Heh.

So the biggest takeaway?

Well, the biggest takeaway is how much I love Linda. She's magnificent.

But the second biggest takeaway?

I was feeling somewhat guilty about not working more at the store. I was out at least $25K per year by having a manager and not working. So over six years, that's a significant amount of money.

When I was in the helicopter being ferried to Bend, I had one very clear thought.

Thank God I chose to do my writing.

Working till you're dead ain't no way to go about things if you have a choice.

It always amazes me when a writer says that "re-writing" is their favorite part of the process. I think I know what they mean. It's the last step in crafting a story, when it all comes into focus, and all that.

But fundamentally, it uses a different part of the brain, the part of the brain I turn off when writing a first draft--the critical judgement part. Apparently, some people's creative and judgemental parts are better integrated than mine. Heh.

I love the imagination of the first draft. I love the scenes coming alive in my mind's eye. I love living in a different dimension.

But once the words are down on paper, they are more words for me than visualization. I'm hoping that the original vision is transferred, and I understand that there is craft shaping words for the maximum effect, but it isn't enjoyable the way writing is.

Going backward is work.

The reader should probably expect me to work. That doesn't mean I have to like it.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Just as I started getting rolling on my book, the necessities of life caught up to me--all scheduled when it looked like nothing was happening.

Eye-doctor, dentist, store, regular doctor, taxes, kids, and on and on.

As I said before, in the first few years of writing NOTHING stopped me. Now it seems like EVERYTHING does.

I'm slightly worried, but not terribly worried. This story has got me, and I can feel it lurking, and I'm pretty sure when this week is over, I'll be back to it.

I've now walked for 12 days in a row, so I'm going to keep that string going, no matter what. I've found a back entrance to the nearby walking spot which was closed off. I'm skirting no-trespassing zones, but not directly defying them. (I'm weirdly sign-obeying.)

They've neatly closed off all entrances to the nearby BLM land, which is probably strictly on purpose, heh. 

There may be an unexpected benefit. Since the roads are closed off to motorized vehicles, the only way in is from Lower Bridge Road, and my walking spot is at 4 or 5 miles from there, so there is much less likelihood I'll run into people. On the other hand, I have to walk ten minutes just to get to the part I really want to walk.

I've decided that I've got to have Hart be the one who makes the mistake, to have it be a reaction to the breakup with Nicole. Without this, there is no drama. So that means basically starting from scratch, though following the same basic plot.

It also puts Hart front and forward for the first part of the book. So as many chapters as possible have to be written from his perspective. Then...I'm going to try to write the other chapters in 3rd person. This is going to be a lot more work; and it may not be possible. So the smarter thing would be to just keep the whole plan to myself.

Anyway, I'm going to write the second chapter to today and see how it turns out.

I've decided a need a Nicole chapter setting the scene before I go back to Hart.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Throwing out the whole book and starting over from scratch.


I think my subconscious has been gently leading me to this conclusion.

I wrote a whole new first chapter for "Takeover" and liked it a lot. Then I futzed around with the next ten chapters or so and improved it greatly, just wasn't working.

I copied and started cutting drastically, which led me to the inevitable conclusion that it had to be redone, and then the idea for the second chapter came to me and it was good.

And now I'm ready to admit that the solution is to write the book from scratch.

See, if I'd thought this when I started, I would have thrown up my hands and said, "Screw that. I'll write a different book."

But the truth is, the plot of this book is good. Better than just about any I've done. It's the execution that doesn't work. Not even that really, it's the format--the stupid epistolary form--that doesn't work. But a complete plot isn't really that easy to come by--and here I've got one, so I might as well use it.

Plus--it will be a Hart Davis Strawberry Mountain Mystery--a real sequel to "Deadfall Ridge."

The epistolary format was a worthy experiment. My interest in it got the book written, resulting in some good characters and plotting--but it just never became completely readable.

The tone of the new first chapter is what I was after. As soon as I realized I could continue that tone, the die was cast. So here I go, completely writing the book from scratch. As I've been saying, about a third of the way through I can start using some of the material, but I'm going to turn it into standard third person.

Starting tomorrow, down the rabbit hole.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

I'm sticking with this rewrite of "Takeover," though it isn't easy. I'm not trying to force it though. I want it all to feel right.

I need to write a fresh chapter, detailing the immediate relationship between Nicole and Hart, with Granger also in the scene. I think it probably best I just write it fresh, without reference to what I've already done.

One thing I didn't really realize is that--since 1st person is usually a device to bring characters closer--when everyone is 1st person is a bit distancing. It makes it hard to maintain a single tone long enough for the reader to relax into the story. I'm trying hard to fix that, but I think it is an intrinsic feature of the epistolary format.

The last 2/3rds of the book works better because by then I was intent on the plot and on scenes. The first third were character sketches.

If I can go back and try to turn as much of this into plot and scenes, then the whole thing might work.

I'm pretty sure I'll release this book, because I believe it has true merit, but I also know it won't be everyone's cup of tea, and I'll brace myself for negative reactions. One hopeful sign is that even the previous version seemed all right with the three or four readers I had, so if I can make it better, then maybe it will all work.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Avoiding mainstream publishing.

I made an early choice to avoid mainstream publishing. In fact, the only way I was lured back into writing at all was because I could dodge that whole process. (I had three mainstream mass market books published in the early 80's--but it was such a huge hassle, I decided it wasn't worth it.)

But like many people I talk to, I assumed self-publishing was a vanity thing.

My friend, Jared Folkins came in with a short story starring a drunken spaceship captain named "Duncan McGeary." I thought it was really good.

"Keep writing," I said, "and when you get an agent, hook me up."

Jared then proceeded to explain to me the new world of publishing, which completely opened my eyes.

Nevertheless, when I finished "Led to the Slaughter" and thought it pretty good, I sent sample chapters to over 100 agents, In return, I got 60 form rejections and 40 non-answers.

I was stunned. I'd been published before, I'd had an agent before, and most importantly, I'd told enough people the idea of combining the Donner Party with werewolves to know that it was a pretty good idea,

Here's the thing. I didn't necessarily expect any agents to take me on, but I did expect some interaction. Having the door slammed in my face was the shocker.

Anyway, I thought to myself, "Fine. I'll do it myself like I planned."

Eventually, I did go with smaller publishers, because I simply have no way to promote myself. But I was blissfully ignoring "The Big Five" (five publishers who encompass most of mainstream) until the executive editor of the sixth largest American publisher contacted me, told me he thought "Led to the Slaughter" was a "brilliant premise and beautifully written" and asked if I wanted to try to write something for him.

I ended up selling him a "ghostwritten" book for an author who--and I'm not exaggerating--whose every book makes it into the top ten mass market best sellers (despite the author having been dead for years. Heh,) Got paid pretty well for it, too,

I'd hoped this would be a entry for a book under my own name. I offered him "Deadfall Ridge," which I thought was a good book.

No answer, Not a rejection...just no answer at all. I asked him if he was interested in "anything I've sent" him. Apparently, that was too uppity because I've now not heard back for two years. Meanwhile, the book I sold, which was incredibly timely when I sent it, has been gathering dust.

So that was my current experience with mainstream publishing. Meanwhile, "Deadfall Ridge" went on to do very well for itself.

So that's the end of that.

But now, I think: "Thank God."

1.) The demise of Baker & Taylor is yet another indication that mainstream publishing is struggling.
2.) Barnes and Noble is rickety, and if they go under, it will be another dagger in the heart.
3.) I see authors all the time swallowed up by mainstream publishing, trapped by the slower schedules and lack of promotion on the part of the publishers. I see authors being dropped when they don't hit it big. I figure many of them just give up.
4.) I felt I was treated badly by the mainstream agents and publishers in my first writing career, and this latest experience, if anything, has shown that matters have gotten worse.
5.) The irony is that we'll all--mainstream and indie writers alike--will be dependent on Amazon. So why not cut out the middle man and go directly to Amazon?

But mostly, I love writing the books I want when I want and seeing them in print relatively fast, with at least as good covers and editing as mainstream, and probably no less promotion that I would get from the Big Five, and with immediate communication with my publishers (along with encouragement and respect),

Like running my own business for the last 35 years, I love the independence of it, and I suspect that I'm much happier than I would be dealing with mainstream publishing.

As a writer I have a tendency to tie everything up in a nice, clean storyline, with a beginning a middle and an end. Everyday events, life events, family stories, work history, whatever.

I know in reality is wasn't so neat; and in some ways, consciously and unconsciously, I'm adapting the narrative to suit my needs.

This blog, for instance. They are always written to tie up loose ends; they usual have a consistent theme.

And life doesn't work that way.

Maybe not, but that the way I treat life.

I've plopped down four blog entries that have accumulated while I was narrating my life. Heh.

In and Out of the Writing Zone

The difference between me now and five years ago is that back then nothing could distract me from writing and now just about anything can distract me.

I knew at the time that I was in a zone. Starting with "Freedy Filkins," which I wrote as a lark but which I still like, it seemed like the stories just kept coming. There were difficulties here and there, but mostly I was in a zone.

I was amazed. I thought with every book that the creative energy would dry up, but I just kept going. I'd spent 30 years convincing myself that the world didn't need another writer--but apparently, my creative energies were just being stored up.

I knew that it wouldn't last forever because of my previous career. Once I wrote the final draft of "Star Axe" (after five years of struggling) I felt inspired, and "Snowcastles" and "Icetowers" quickly followed.

Then I hit a wall. My third and fourth books were bad. I struggled with them. I broke free with "Deviltree," which was not too bad, and then met Linda and we produced "Sometimes a Dragon," which was a chaotic mess but had a lot of good ideas.

Then real life caught up with me--Linda and the boys, Pegasus Books, making a living....and the thirty years whipped by in a fog.

So from the beginning of this renaissance, I knew that it could come to a screeching halt

I wouldn't say that it has, but the urgency has passed. Since finishing "Eden's Return," I've been focusing on previously written material, which needed to be done anyway, but rewriting has never had the same appeal to me.

I don't think I've hit a wall, but I've perhaps drifted from the zone.

I've rewritten "Takeover" up to page 60, or about 20% of the way. But it was by far the hardest 20%. It should be much easier from now on. Almost all the chapters that don't include Nicole or Hart will be fine as they are. The relationship between Nicole and Hart is what has to be changed, In the original version, they don't know each other. In this version, they are already an estranged couple with a history.

It's a tricky thing to change. First solution is just to throw out anything that doesn't fit. If the passage contains information needed for the plot, then find another way.

Second solution is to write new material that is more in line with the new story.

I'm not sure how hard this is going to be. Anywhere from easy to impossible. Just need to start in and see what happens.

Tried reading the first three or four chapters of Takeover and immediately got bogged down.

So I broke two of them in half, making them shorter.

I don't know, maybe this book isn't readable. Not because of the story or the writing, but because of the format I chose. I looked at turning into a 3rd person account, but it simply doesn't work. There is too much 1st person specific in it.

I'm going to just keep on trying until I can't think of anything more to do. Then, if it still isn't up to snuff, I'll set it aside and start in on Eden's Return, which at least is readable.

I'm going to go for my walk to clear my head, and give it another try. And I'm going to stay away from the first few chapters for awhile. Go to the end of the book before coming back and trying again. Otherwise I'm in danger of causing the old Wordjumble, the point of no return when I can't just the value of wor

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Avengers Endgame, no spoilers.

Finally saw "Avengers: Endgame". Good movie. Kudos for handling so many characters, while at the same time focusing on the main Avengers group. It helped that all these characters were familiar to us from previous movies.

It reminds me of what my Mom--who was anything but a SF fan--said about the Star Trek Whale movie. "It was like visiting old friends."

So now I don't have to worry about spoilers. I did catch a whiff of some things that would happen, though I was only half right in my guesses.

So I'm caught up on Game of Thrones and Avengers, thus fulfilling my nerd duties.

Still blows my mind that a movie about Avengers could earn 1.5 billion in the first week, while we sell maybe 15 copies of Avengers in our store. I can't even guess what minuscule percentage of local movies goers that covers. But that is something I came to terms with as far back as the first Spider-man movie.

I do believe there is an overall halo effect from the movies, but they probably help graphic novels more than monthly comics, and that's perfectly all right. We probably sold 40% more graphic novels than comics last month.

We're beating last year almost every month--except February, and the crazy snow makes that kind of an exception.

Meanwhile, I've decided from now on to make all my new book orders from Ingrams because I need to keep up my discount levels, and perhaps even increase them slightly. I really wish B & T would hang in there--they were doing a good job right up to the announcement, which is unusual for a business that is having trouble.

I'm not quite ready to open accounts with individual publishers.

Just have to keep adjusting. Amazing the amount of change in the last few years.

Oh, oh. That's not good.

Got an email yesterday from my main new book supplier--Baker & Taylor--that they are getting out of the wholesale to bookstore business. This leaves Ingrams, which is the biggest wholesaler.

This is like Ford giving up the field, leaving it to General Motors. In a way, Ingrams will have a monopoly, which is always worrisome.

I've been dealing with a monopoly in comics for 25 years now. Diamond Comics is a benevolent dictatorship, if you will, but the potential for disaster is always there. All the eggs in one basket, so to speak.

It's been Diamond or nobody ever since the boom and bust of the mid-90s in comics. As it happens, they've been a positive force, helping keep the industry afloat right after the bust, and then never really taking predatory advantage of their monopoly.

But I'd always prefer to have alternatives--just in case. What happens if ownership of Diamond changes? What if they get into trouble?

Anyway, over the last fifteen years of so I've slowly but surely moved into selling new books. When I first approached the book wholesalers, the biggest Ingrams, wouldn't give me the time of day. But the second biggest, Baker & Taylor, was welcoming.

After a few years, Ingrams came to their senses and started welcoming "comic" shops. For one thing, there are a ton of graphic novels, and some of them sell very well, especially the young adult ones.

I've always been about 2/3rd B & T, and 1/3 Ingrams, even today. B & T's search engine is much easier for me to navigate, and they give me 4% better discount. They are two days shipping versus the one day shipping from Ingrams, but that didn't seem much of hurdle.

Even more importantly, neither distributor has all the books I want. I figure I can usually get about 70% of the books I want from B & T, and if they are out of stock, I can pick up 80% of what's left from Ingrams, so that overall, I get like 90% of the books I want.

Now I'll probably have to settle for about 80% of what I want. The hit on the discount isn't great either. But mostly, I'm just worried about the power a monopoly gives to Ingrams.

I can order direct from publishers, but all of them have minimums and shipping, and it complicates ordering quite a bit. I'd much rather deal with one or two companies.

Anyway, I guess it shows how competitive the business is, probably due to Amazon. If Ingrams falls, that might mean the end of most indie bookstores, just as if Diamond falls, that would almost certainly be the end of most comics stores.

There will always be survivors, people who are willing to take an extra measure. But damn, as if it wasn't already hard enough.