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best minimum wage job a middle aged guy ever had

Last Build Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2018 00:30:51 +0000


Sun, 21 Jan 2018 18:38:00 +0000

I'm a third of the way through "Gangster Gothic." It's the kind of book that will have to be honed. I will need to clarify the style, make it snappier. But meanwhile, I'm focused on the story.

Yesterday, for the first time, I wrote a chapter that I'm not completely satisfied with. There is nothing particularly wrong with it, but there isn't anything particularly outstanding about it either. It is also a chapter that could almost be paraphrased in a single paragraph; almost but not quite. It has some procedural elements that are needed, but even procedural elements can be presented in an action manner, and this isn't, except for a vague threat.

I'm trying to layer in levels of threat here. What occurs to me is that I can bring in the bigger threat, and that they could be suspicious of the hero, and that might add a little spice. Linda mentioned that the hero's alarms could go off as well, which I hadn't thought of. (The options available to a writer are endless...)

Anyway, I'm going to go back and see if I can't beef up the writing. I've resorted to a couple fights early in the book, and they're appropriate, but I can't keep going to the same well, so the threat will need to be something else, probably more subtle.

I'm listening to the little signals from inside me that there is more to be had there. I think I'd lost touch with those signals a little over the last few books. Maybe because I don't feel like there are any deadlines, I'm letting this evolve a little more instead of pushing it. 

Thrillers are another form of fantasy, dressed in different clothing.

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 17:32:00 +0000

I've had a bit of an epiphany lately.

Thrillers are just another form of fantasy, just dressed in different clothing. I used the word "fantasy" advisedly, but it's a better description than "fiction" because there is almost always an element of the fantastical.

I've written four thrillers so far. The first two had broad storylines, lots of characters and events. More like disaster movies than anything else, but with no supernatural elements. (The last draft of "Snaked" had a bit of it, due to editor demands, but it reads well without it.) They were fantastical in scope.

The next thriller was "Deadfall Ridge" and I purposely brought it down to a human street-level. It never altogether satisfied me and I wondered if I was just missing thriller chops.

"Takeover "was meant to be even more realistic, though I sort of threw in the towel in the second half of the book and layered in a plot. Weirdly, I felt it was the best characterization I'd done and yet the characterization fell short of the requirements of the story.

The new thriller, which has the working title of "Gangster Gothic" was meant to be hard-boiled Noir, action packed, straight ahead banger.

Of course, it's already gone off the rails. I've added a supernatural element but it is pretty subtle.

But the main point is that the protagonist is a tough guy, a loner, a heist artist. And in the course of inhabiting his skin I've realized that he is a power fantasy, a wish fulfillment. I've always been intrigued by the idea of the perfect crime--could I do a bank robbery, a heist, a murder and not get caught? How would I go about disappearing?

(I asked Linda if she ever had those fantasies and she said "no." So maybe I'm just a psycho.) 

The epiphany was that all of these thrillers I read are that. It seems, the more popular, the more fantasy they are. Lee Child, John Sandford, Tom Clancy, and so on. These are superheroes in thriller clothing.

I think this might be true of all genres. (Which is what I read.) Escapist literature.

One of the things that has always bugged me about writer's group are those members who beg off critiquing by saying, "I don't read that kind of thing."

But a story is a story is a story.

There may be different tropes, different levels of characterization, different approaches to plot, different styles but...

A Story is a Story is a Story.

This realization about thrillers has just freed me up to write what I want to write. I think what is going to happen is that in the rewrites I will bring in the description and detail to ground it in reality, but as far as the story telling is concerned, it's anything goes.

I'm enjoying this book so far and it FEELS right, which is the most important indicator that it will turn out all right.

When the hero is an a-hole.

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 03:12:00 +0000

Or more precisely, the moment I turn against a character and therefore an author.

I'm not talking anti-heroes here. Or even outright villains. I've read any number of books were characters are less than admirable, even despicable, or at the very least unreliable narrators.

That's fine. I get it. I don't normally apply ethics to whether I enjoy a story.

In fact, the examples below of when I did turn on a hero are in some cases pretty minor offenses in the scheme of things.

But they were the moment when something turned off inside me and made me not like either the book or the writer.

First example is a pretty well known mystery writer with a female antagonist. The hero solves the crime and does her thing and that's all good, but toward the end of the book, she goes in and messes with the finances and credit ratings of her boyfriend's ex-wife.

Now this ex-wife is never portrayed as anything more than just shallow and annoying.

The 'hero" and boyfriend chortle at how they've screw up her life. In my eyes, at that moment the hero turned from a savvy, diligent detective to a malignant narcissist. What's more, I get the distinct impression from the specificity of the story that it is what the author wishes she could do, or worse, may have done.

The 'crime' in the second example is even less substantial, and yet I may never read the author again. Because the crime completely offended me.

So this character is a secondary character, but almost as important as the main character--in fact, a case could be made he is the main character. So we know he's a thief and liar and murderer, and all that I accept without questioning.

Near the end of the book, the two main characters are talking and at the end of the conversation, the guy throws his beer bottle over his shoulder and it shatters into some rocks.

I turn against the bastard right then and there.

Who does that on your own property? But more, who does that at all?

I walk in the woods every day for an hour. No matter where I go, someone has dumped trash, vandalized, littered, graffitied and...broken grass. It pisses me off every time I see it.

So I immediately question whether the author thinks this is ok? Don't laugh, but at least murder and robbery have reasonable motivations, but vandalism and littering and tail-gating? Fuck those guys!

The third example I'm pretty sure everyone will disagree with, because it's a well-loved book; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Now this is a great book in almost every way, and yet---I came away not liking it or the author.

This is my memory from reading it as a teenager, which means it might be slightly unreliable, but also remarkable that it has stuck with me all this time.

Actually, there are two examples here.

The first is that female narrator has a ner'-do-well uncle who at one point in the book is so defeated by life he takes to his bed and won't leave.

The scorn and ridicule that is rained down on this character's head was distasteful to me at the time. When, less than five years later, I have a bout of severe clinical depression myself, where I can't seem to get out of bed, well, I hated the anecdote even more.

The second example is when the protagonist goes to work in a mill and is ostracized and picked on. Another character at the mill, who is a real sad sack, befriends her.

But the hero isn't accepted by the others until she not only rejects the sad sack, but does it in a way that seems cruel to me.

That stuck will me, all these years. To be fair, one of the themes of the book is how hard the life of an immigrant is and how you can't afford to be a whiner or malinger or a loser. But still...

I guess you never know what thing is going to turn an author into someone I never want to read again, but there it is.

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 20:33:00 +0000

Over the twelve years I've been doing this blog, I've rarely done reviews, though that would have been a natural thing to do.

For one thing, to do it well requires more work than I'm willing to do. It doesn't help anyone for me to just say, "I like this" or "I don't like this."

Anyway, my only New Year's resolution was to pick up the pace on reading. I'm trying for one book a week. In doing so, I've also decided to look at each book from a "writerly" point of view. So reviews, of a sort.

I just finished "Jaguar," by T. Jefferson Parker. I already mentioned the "Crocodiles." I finished the book and there were a few other weird things. One of the major characters looks like he's in big trouble, and then the next scene whatever the trouble was seems to have disappeared. That's a good trick. I do think the reader makes the leap usually, fills in the blanks.

I really like how in a regular thriller, the author has managed to stick in a purely supernatural element that is totally intriguing, leaving a backdoor so that the supernatural can be denied, if you wish.

The other thing I noticed is the style is very Hemingway-esqe, though without the deep resonance. Still, it's an attractive style. Very few commas, I also noticed, which is a reminder to me to try to restrain myself.

This "writerly" viewpoint is carrying over to some of the stuff I'm watching, too.

I watched an 6 part French murder mystery called the "Frozen Dead." (I already mentioned that absolutely no one smiles in the entire series...)


It was very effective in atmospherics. Set in the mountains, the cold and wet is conveyed very nicely.
But it was unsatisfying in the end. Could see it coming and sure enough...

The main problem I had with it was the lead character. I think he was supposed to be a tortured fellow, and they added in a subplot about his failing health and his getting his partner's wife pregnant, and that had absolutely nothing to do with anything. Just there to make him interesting, I suppose.

But he was the stupidest detective I've ever seen. Clues go flying over his head, he goes after red-herrings, in fact he spends most of the show running around in a red Fiat. The main bad guy is supposed to be a mastermind, manipulating behind the scenes, and the detective goes and interviews him, asks one question, or makes one statement, and then walks away--multiple times.


Toward the end, he goes to visit the mastermind, who's been established as having contacts inside the prison/hospital, and tells him that the cops are on the way to arrest the final suspect. Of course, the final suspect gets away.

I mean, who does that?

So atmospherics and gloomy characterization and a stupid and meandering plot.

Linda and I watched "Girl on the Train" last night. Besides the fact that there suddenly seem to be hundreds of books that are copying "Gone Girl" this wasn't a world I recognize. Actually, however, I thought the motivations made more sense in this movie, and it was saved by Emily Blunt's all-out performance.

Nothing, however, is more boring to me than middle-class suburban existential crisis. None of these characters were likeable.

Time to pick my third book of the year.

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 17:31:00 +0000

So far, I've enjoyed this new story. It's all over the place, because I'm allowing lots of changes early in the book. This is dangerous, it could be a problem--so much so, that over the last five years I've had a rule against it.

Finish the first draft,  has always been my rule. No major changes until that is done.

Most of the time, this has worked out, but in trying to write thrillers I've run into problems. See, I discover plot by writing. Over the last couple of books, I felt like I meandered perhaps a little too much in the first first half of the books before the stories truly kicked in. When I came back two months later, I was able to correct some of this, but by that time I'd already sent off the books.

New rule--two months minimum of waiting before a final rewrite.

Anyway, I think what is happening in this new book is that I am totally into the first person narrator. He's me, only...

He's not the me that is a mundane, risk-averse, rule following Loner.

He's the me that is a bold, risk-taking, law-breaking Loner.

It is basically a form of power fantasy.

I've always wondered if I could pull off a heist, if I could get away with murder, if I could disappear as a fugitive.

Doesn't everyone? I asked Linda and she said "No" to the heist and getting away with murder, but yes to the disappearing, so maybe I'm just weird.

Anyway, I'm just indulging fully in this fantasy of being a tough guy. I've often said I don't like doing first-person because it is almost invariably me, and that always seems amorphous, but in this case, I've got a pretty good sense of who this guy is. Plus, I need it to be first-person for my twist to have any chance of working.

It's me in a fantasy world, a Noir, Hard-boiled, Gothic thriller.

Yes, it's set in the real world, and yes I want it to feel real, but that isn't the main reason for doing it. The main reason is to inhabit this bad-ass persona and enjoy the power fantasy.

My main task in the first half of the book, which I've mostly thought through, is to get enough action and intrigue to keep the reader interested until the twist happens. Hopefully the twist will keep them engaged for the second half of the book, which will be mostly action.

So I'm adding Crocodiles, as many Crocodiles as I can dream up. Complications that ramp up the pressure on the protagonist, then..BAMM!...the twist, which will hopefully blow their minds.

So my main entrance to the story everyday is to lay down, try to inhabit the main character, and then just let him talk.

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 17:40:00 +0000

After 35 years, my two early 80's fantasy novels reprinted in one volume, with their awesome Romas covers. Very nostalgic for me. It's so cool to be able to get these back in print!

Don't Forget to Add the Crocodiles!

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 18:30:00 +0000

I'm reading books with a writer's eye this year.

One: I'm reading books. I'm going to read every night, at least for a little bit. I'm hoping to read a book every week or so. I read so few books last year I'm ashamed.

The second book of the year is by T. Jefferson Parker: "The Jaguar."


So he has this character who is delivering a ransom to a cartel leader in Mexico. He's carrying around a million dollars in a suitcase. The competing cartel is trying to kill him, (gun fight!) as well as random crooks (gun fight!) and corrupt cops (gun fight!). Along comes a hurricane, and the warning that 200 crocodiles from upriver have escaped.

So the hurricane arrives, and the building he's in crumbles, and he rides the suitcase, (meanwhile saving an 8 year old boy) and the danger just keeps ramping up, but finally he lands in swamp.

He's in a clearing with a line of logs and then one of the logs moves: CROCODILES!

Adding the crocodiles was a little funny to me. Like turning the dial up to 11.

OK. So the rule is--anytime you have a chance, you add action.

So that's going to be my code phrase from now on.


Fri, 12 Jan 2018 17:39:00 +0000

Didn't write yesterday and had no good reason.

Didn't walk yesterday; it was raining.

Today, no excuses. What's really happening here is that I've decided that writing only on my walks means that I'm going to miss too many days, because of cold, snow or moisture. But working at home is a little problematic too. Linda is home most of the time nowadays, and that's thrown me off. I didn't realize that her working 5 days a week had given me a lot of psychic room.

But she is fully retired, so I have to work around it.

I have an office, but I spend most of my time with my computer at the dining room table. I really need to change that.

So I'm going to concentrate on writing in my office. I don't know how long it will take to get a new routine installed, but it needs to be done. The writing while walking will be extra, instead of the main impetus. If I can get my office to be the creative trigger, than I'll be set.

I figure it will be 3 steps forward and 2 steps back for awhile. Yesterday I closed the office door and then played solitaire for hours. I lay back on the couch trying to think of ideas and fell asleep.

But I think it needs to be done. I have a whole office that isn't being used. I have books I want to write. I need to merge the two. 

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 17:39:00 +0000

Oh, yeah. The supernatural twist in the WIP makes the story much more interesting and fun. I told Linda about the twist and her eyes lit up and she started spinning off scenarios. (I'm not above taking suggestions.)

It's going to require a lot of rewriting of the first 8000 words, but it also becomes a much more straightforward progression. Instead of jumping back and forth, I'm going to make the story sequential, except for the first chapter which is a flash-forward. That makes the book better.

I'm going to have to think up some action sequences, but that usually isn't too difficult.

I'm reading "Takeover" all the way through at writer's group. It's amazing how dialogue heavy it is.

Over the last few days, I've been editing the scans of Star Axe and Snowcastles. It's clear to me that I was avoiding dialogue as much as was possible when I started. It's mostly narrative. Chapters are 20 pages long. I'm not sure I was thinking in terms of "scenes." The whole writing thing was still pretty amorphous to me, despite having taken classes in writing from Dwight Newton and reading a bunch of "how-to" books.

Somehow the process became much clearer to me this time around. Now my books are made up of scenes with a few transitions, and there is almost always dialogue unless it's an action scene. Still don't know if my dialogue is any good, but I'm no longer afraid of using it to fill out the characters and advance the plot. 

Once again, now that I'm into a book, I realize that I don't tend to second-guess myself when I'm writing. When I'm writing, I'm confident. It's when I'm not writing that I tend to start to have doubts. I just immerse myself in the story at hand.

It also reminds me that when I'm writing a book, I'm doing the best I can and that I don't release books until I think they are good. That is, when I'm finished, I really like what I've done.

But after I finish book, I tend to move on, and over time, little doubts start to set in. I think this is just because I'm removed from the book. It's much like when I'm not writing--doubts begin to assail me.

What I have to remember is that at the time I put the book out, I really liked it, I really thought it was good, and I think I need to hold to that notion and not let time and distance create doubts.

Really, when you're writing you realize that this is what you're capable of--this is what you do. Every book is a bit of a crapshoot. Sometimes the plots and characters just come together, sometimes you have to struggle, sometimes there are intrinsic problems that can't be solved but aren't so bad that they completely negate the book.

Rarely does it all come together: the great premise, the writing, the plot.

Each time I start a book, is a chance to get it right. 

Star Axe back in print.

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 18:46:00 +0000

In my early 20's, I had a sleepless night dreaming up a fantasy story. It took me five years to actually finish it, and it was published in 1980.

Star Axe.

It was a mass distribution paperback, selling all over the country. Pretty exciting.

Many years later, I tracked down the original cover artist and bought the art, intending to put it out myself. I scanned the book, but it was such a mess that I only got about 2/3rds of the way cleaning it up.

Crossroad Press, who bought my Tuskers series and Snaked, specialize in reprints, so they took it on and scanned it and this version was easy to correct, took me a few hours.

And now it is up for sale.

The cover blurb is "Classic Sword and Sorcery Novel Back in Print at Last!" which is admittedly a little cheeky. I feel like I'm a much better writer now, but people seemed to like it at the time, so I decided it wasn't fair to change something that people have already read. It is what it is.

I would really dig having a physical version of the book, but I've sort of decided to let the publishers do whatever the publishers want.

I'm going to be over here writing.

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 17:46:00 +0000

So I thought about my little supernatural twist in my thriller on my walk, figured out what I could change to make it possible, and then did it.

So I guess I'm committed.

In a way, this is a declaration of freedom. I know that I have very little chance with the editor I was going to send this book to if I added anything supernatural.

But it makes it a better book, both for the reader and for the writer.

I'm not sure how long I can keep the twist under wraps. I'm guessing maybe halfway through the book. Damned if I know what happens after that. I just know that it intrigues me so much more than what I was already writing. It's that little bit extra that every book needs.

Twists are tricky. For one thing, if the reader doesn't encounter the twist until near the end of the book, the story has to keep the readers interest until they get there. Which means, in effect, that the twist is extra, it's the cherry on top, it's a little added bonus for the reader.

Anyway, like I said, while it makes it a better book and a book that will maintain my interest and hopefully the interest of the readers--this makes it less commercial.

So what I'm doing, in effect, is saying a better book is more important than it's commercial prospects.

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 20:35:00 +0000

I just realized how I could make this a better book, if a less commercial one.

The whole point of me writing thrillers is to try to catch on with a mainstream publisher. I have, or I used to have, a big editor who was interested in my writing and encouraging me to submit non-supernatural material.  "Deadfall Ridge" and "Takeover" were my first two attempts.

Never heard back from him.

The WIP is my third and last attempt, this time a sort of Noir-hardboiled storyline.

I'm about 6K words in and the big worries I have are: it is pretty much a pastiche of all the hardboiled books I've read in my life. And I'm not sure there is enough plot.

Ultimately, this is how I felt about "Deadfall Ridge." There just didn't seem to be enough zing.

In the past, I simply would have added a supernatural element to the story. It wouldn't have to be overbearing. "The Last Fedora: the Gangster Golem Chronicles" is like that. Mostly a thriller with a Golem involved.

Or "Led to the Slaughter" which is three quarters a straight story about the Donner Party, and maybe a quarter about werewolves. "The Darkness You Fear" which is about abuse and murder, with ghosts only moderately involved. (Ghosts who Hauntings are to elicit real-life emotions.)

"Blood of the Succubus" started off as a story about a female serial killer, then morphed.

And so on.

That seems to be my natural inclination, where I'm most comfortable. The real world with a touch of the uncanny.

I'm seriously considering, if I can ever find the time, of going back and adding Bigfoot to "Deadfall Ridge." I sort of teased at the idea but never went there. But I can see a way to include it. Change the name to the setting: "Bigfoot Ranch."

With "Takeover" I'd bring in some sort of Indian curse, because the occupiers dig up a graveyard.

As it happens, a major part of the plot for the WIP is an old Victorian house that is being renovated. It occurs to me that there is a bit of gothicness to the idea. The twist would be that what the main character sees isn't real. The house is broken down and dilapidated, the neighborhood kids stay away from it, but the main character sees something else, interacts with the woman who is renovating, but only he can see it or her.

Sort of "Hardboiled Haunting." (Possible title?)

If I do this, it probably makes the book unsaleable to the big time editor.

But damn it, the book is way more interesting that way.

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 19:44:00 +0000

With "Takeover" I attempted 'real life,' so to speak. I tried to get into the head of 'real' people, speak in their voice, have the events be completely believable. Of course, in the second half of the book, I went full plot, which was much less believable.

In hindsight, the second half was better than the first.

With this new book, I'm not even going there. This is a Noir-ish, hard boiled story, in its own little world. I'm trying to maintain the same tone all the way through, a story alone, consistent. But I realized yesterday that it is sort of in the eternal gray territory, that it could be set in the 50's or 60's or 70's or today.

It's a bit of world building, just without the supernatural elements.

Is this really so different from what Lee Child, or John Sandford, or Robert Crais do in their stories? Are these any more than a fantasy? I'm reading a T. Jefferson Parker novel right now, and it barely skims the surface of believably. It doesn't spend a lot of time with depth, just a quick easy story.

And isn't that why I read them?

Hard boiled land is a pleasant place to be. You can work out all your aggression with no real cost. You can pretend to be a bad ass. To meet the femme fatale. To stand up to the Bad Guys. None of it real. Just create it a world, spin a story, that the reader can comfortably sink into. 

Sun, 07 Jan 2018 18:22:00 +0000

Woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the book I just finished reading. It's by an author I respect and who is a Facebook friend, so I'll keep the title to myself.

Anyway, it was a very strangely plotted book. I could tell it was his first book, or close to his first book, because his later books are much better. It had lots of red herrings, dead ends, and superfluous material, it was told almost completely in flashback and more often than not in a simple narrative form instead of vivid scenes.

And yet the author's voice was enough to carry me through. It goes to show, I think, that there is no one way to tell a story.

After that, my mind turned to my own current WIP. In some ways, the story has already gone off the rails. Roughly speaking, I'm writing chapters set in the present alternating with chapters in the past, or as I may end up labeling them; "Spring" and "Fall."

I don't know if this is confusing or not. I think it is probably a matter of making sure the first paragraph of each chapter orients the reader.

But this is the way the story is being told to me. Not to get all mystical, but I'm letting my subconscious have its way.

I figured out a wrinkle to the story which may or may not be a good thing. I mean, it will complicate matters but I think it's a welcome complication. This is a straightforward Noir story. I'm trying not to be cliched about it, but it is definitely a pastiche of all the hard boiled fiction I've read.

The biggest thing is that it's engaging my attention. As long as that happens, I have a book. Complications help me keep engaged. As long as they don't stymie the book.

Sat, 06 Jan 2018 19:05:00 +0000

The first sentence of my new book is "I work alone," so the Word program used that as the de facto title to the book. It'll do for now.

The story is already going in some weird directions. Basically, I've got a current chapter, followed by a flashback, followed by a current chapter, followed by a flashback. Don't know if that is going to continue. Don't know if it really works, mostly because some of the events are similar just at different times. The big crime boss calls him to his presence, once because the hero has a confrontation with the crime boss's obnoxious son (flashback) and once because the boss is demanding that he do a job for them (present.) So don't know if that works.

But I figured out yesterday that I just need to "follow the story." Not so much to "create" the story but to "follow" the story that is already there. The main requirement is that I be "plugged" into the story, that I'm feeling it and sensing it and seeing it. There is a sense that the story already exists and all I'm doing is following it as it is revealed.

I've put too much pressure on myself, I think. It was the lack of expectation that let me be so prolific for those first few years, and I need to get back to that feeling. Just let the story spin out, follow the leads, let myself be constantly surprised. Do some jiggering when it is all done, but trust the process, trust my subconscious to uncover the story.

I have tried and tried and tried to plan ahead, to outline, and I just can't seem to do it. Even being too locked into the "premise" or "theme" can get me off course, because then I don't let the story dictate where it wants to go.

On the other hand, it helps to feel like there is enough meat to the story to make it worthwhile doing, to carry me through to the end. That is just an instinct, a feeling for the character and for the tone of the story.

I'm writing this in first person, which I swore I wouldn't do again, but that's how the story revealed itself and so far I'm comfortable in the skin of the hero/anti-hero. I can feel him. Frankly, I never could quite feel Hart Davis in "Deadfall Ridge." Hart was more of a stand-in for me and when I do that it always feel really amorphous in the same way I can't really figure my own self out, too complicated, too contradictory, too close.

When I have a separate person as narrator, someone not me, I'm much more comfortable.

I'd hoped to have this book be nothing but action, let the plot and characters fall where they may. But of course, I'm already developing plot and characters and that doesn't always mean action, but the overriding principle is to "follow the story." 

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 22:32:00 +0000

Right or wrong, I've started my "Shoot 'em up." (I don't have a title yet.)

This is my third attempt at a thriller. I've decided to go all out.

My goal is to have at least one action scene every chapter. It needs to start with a bang and just keep banging. It is admittedly a plot that's been done many times before, but hopefully I can bring something new to it.

I want to have fun, maintain a consistent tone all the way through. If nothing else, it's good exercise. I don't want another one of these books were the first 50 pages meander, even if done well and for reasons.

I'll have to see where it leads. I sometimes don't know if a story is going to peter out until it does. I don't have a sense of where this story is going, which isn't proof of anything. Some of my best stories started off this way and just took off.

I'm hoping the stricture of having at least one action scene each chapter will keep the invention going.

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 20:37:00 +0000

On my walk today I decided that the mistake I've been making is being too influenced by the idea of being published, instead of just doing what I want to do.

I started off with the concept that I would write what I wanted to write when I wanted to write it.

So for instance, "Deadfall Ridge" plays around with the idea of Bigfoot but never really brings him into the story. What would happen if I bring him in? Call the book "Bigfoot Ranch." Have Granger be the main character. (Just substitute him for Hart Davis, make up another character to be the Granger character. Maybe a guy named Hart Davis?, heh.)

The main thing, I think, is to quit trying to be mainstream. I'm not any good at it and I'm not that interested. I like the supernatural/fantasy slant to things.

It would probably make even more sense to just go on and write something new, though.

I still want to attempt a shoot 'em up. Start with an action scene, follow it with an action scene, then write an action scene and then another action scene. You get the picture. Make Richard Stark's Parker my model.

So he needs to be a anti-hero, but with a code of honor. Proficient with guns. A thief. Works alone. Is pulled into a job against his wishes; job goes south, they come after him. He turns the tables and goes after them.

Pretty simple. Just enjoy the process of it.

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 20:36:00 +0000

Apparently, I've turned mortal.

I can't seem to get started. It's the whole idea that it needs to be a hit instead of just the idea of writing another story. But it's really not a bad question to ask. What's the point if it isn't going to get anywhere?

Whatever I choose I need to commit to. I can't be stalled a third time. That would be deadly.

Tue, 02 Jan 2018 18:44:00 +0000

One of the things I told myself coming back to writing was to be patient. To make sure the manuscripts were ready before sending them off or publishing them.

When I ran into trouble with my first two attempts, "Faerielander" and "The Reluctant Wizard," for instance, I set them aside. I didn't publish until my third book, "Freedy Filkins." It was hit or miss after that, but mostly hit.

But there were some clunkers along the way.

As of now, I have written 13 books that I haven't felt were ready for primetime. Someday, maybe, I'll go back and work on them some more, see which ones can be saved. But in the meantime, I've forged ahead.

When I had an opening with a major publisher for some thrillers, I wrote first "Deadfall Ridge" and then "Takeover." In both cases, I thought the books were ready. In the same way I thought my "Tuskers" books and "Snaked: and my "Virginia Reed Aventures"  and my "Vampire Evolution Trilogy" and all the books I've self-published were ready.

But for some reason, after three or four months, it became clear to me that I'd made some missteps with both thrillers. I don't think it was because I was impatient. Maybe it's because they are thrillers, very plot oriented, without any ability to liven up the story with supernatural elements, but time gave me a new perspective.

I mean, I thought the books were good when I sent them off. It wasn't impatience that got me but for some reason, these particular books turned out to have some ready fixes that I simply hadn't thought of...that I hadn't even known were necessary.

I will no longer send off any book without sitting on it for at least 3 months, even though in most cases, I'm not sure it will be necessary. But what this has taught me is that I won't always know if it is necessary until it happens.

Maybe I'm just second-guessing myself on these books because they weren't immediately accepted. Maybe if I applied the same analysis to my earlier books, I'd have come to the same conclusions. But I don't think so. There were a couple of books that had some weaknesses that I regretted, but I didn't have any choice because of the publishing schedule. But that was done with full awareness, and the weaknesses to me also had some interesting elements.

I suppose the same thing could be said to the weaknesses of "Takeover." I like what I did, but I need to admit that perhaps they don't serve the story.  Time has given me the ruthlessness to remove those elements and see if the story works better.

The interesting part to me is that what doesn't work on "Takeover" was the same reason I wrote the book in the first place. That is, if I hadn't done those character chapters early in the book, I wouldn't have written it at all. If I hadn't included the politics, the book would have seemed shallow to me.

But, I just didn't have the particular chops to make it work.

I suppose the lesson might be that one shouldn't try to write beyond one's means.  I certainly tried with this book, but I fell short. But I think I can fix it by sticking to what I do well.

The second half of the book is fine. It's the first and second acts that need to be refined. I'll just have to see if it is even possible.

Mon, 01 Jan 2018 18:22:00 +0000

I'm still not feeling compelled to start a new book. I think part of the problem is that I have two stories I've left hanging 2/3rds of the way through: my novella "The Wyvern Riders" and the little fantasy I started in November called "Castle La Magie."

So I've decided to finish these before I do anything else.

I also want to attempt a rewrite of "Takeover."

The first  step will be to simply take out those scenes that I don't think work or which are only there for character development. I can take about four out of the first five chapters and take snippets of the character development and add them to later chapters that are part of the plot. I have one character who is a poet and I've inserted 3 poems in the book which I will take out. Things like that.

The parts that aren't working are mostly the interface between the politics of the book and how it is presented in the book to the public. Things like news conferences and declarations. They just didn't seem altogether convincing to me. Either I cut these completely or refer to them obliquely or paraphrase them somehow.

Thing is, the action parts of the book work really well, actually, and I went in and added enough of this action to the first half of the book to maybe not need all the other setup.

So what I'm going to do is simply remove every scene that strikes me as lacking and see how it reads. I'm hoping there is still a story there that can be saved by new transitions.

I think about 2/3rds of this book works very well. But the 1/3rd that doesn't work is dragging it down. If I can just simply cut the 1/3rd and still have a story, well, there you go.

I doubt it will be that easy.

I will keep a file of the current version just in case.

Sun, 31 Dec 2017 18:34:00 +0000

Climbed quite a ways into the south edge of Henderson Flat OHV area. Weren't any OHV's but about halfway up was overtaken by a trio of galloping horse riders. Went a little further and ventured off the trail, (I'm more and more willing to do that as long as I can keep track of where I am). I tried to reach some awesome looking pinnacles in the distance. Basically, if you kept traveling along the same hills that have the Smith Rocks for a fair distance north, it would be like the last outcropping.  Had to go hike straight up an extra mile, following a dry creek bed, and even then came up short.

Spending these last three days of the year trying to think about what I want to write.

All I know is that there has to be some substance and I have to want to write it. Other than that, I'm waiting for inspiration.

The woods are amazing. It's probably weird that I'm so willing to walk about by myself, but it always feels good. The weather is just right; the sun shining but cool enough. Completely silent, no traffic sounds, no motors, no planes, no gunfire, no internet. The ground is moist but not muddy, soft to the step. What a wonderful place to live--innumerable out of the way places less than half an hour from town. More than Bend, frankly, so it really has turned out to be a good thing to have moved here.

I've trained myself to write on these walks, which may explain how come so many of my stories are taking place in the High Desert. It's just a natural background.

Sat, 30 Dec 2017 21:06:00 +0000

Walked the ridge above Lake Billy Chinook from Overlook Park south. No trail, but soft ground and impossible to get lost. One boat in the water which whirred away as I sat here. A warm day, almost 60 degrees, a bit of wind.

Gives me a bit of the willies to be sitting so high. 

Going to start exploring this area more. Try to find some trails and or unused roads. This is the first time walking in two weeks because I've been sick. Even today I'm coughing, but damn I needed to get out of the house.

Still undecided what to write starting the first of the year. Hoping something will come along and announce itself.

One thing I've learned from writing Deadfall Ridge and Takeover. In both books, after 3 months passed by I figured out how to improve them. It's not only that I see the structure more clearly, I'm also more willing to be ruthless in cutting and consolidating.

But by then, I'd already sent them off. I went ahead and sent the revised Deadfall Ridge and I'll send the revised Takeover, but I doubt the editor is willing to read them more than once.

So I've learned. It seems to hold true of my thrillers most of all, probably because they are even more plot-oriented than my horror.

I've decided that from now on, no matter what, any finished first draft is going to be set aside for at least 3 months before looking at it again. I should be able to start putting this into some kind of schedule. Write one book, set it aside, write another book and then come back to the first book. After the initial delay it shouldn't hold me back at all.

I've proven I can write books, that I can finish them. But I'm wondering what the point is if I can't get anywhere with them. So that gets me thinking I need a "killer" idea. But...well, that just means I don't write anything at all.

I need to make a choice and just start writing.

Starting Tuesday, I'm going to start and I'm figuring that it will become clear to me what to do.

Mon, 25 Dec 2017 18:55:00 +0000

This has shaken my confidence in my overall health. I've been sick for 10 days now, still coughing and hacking, still sleeping heavy. I'd just gotten a clean bill of health from the doctor, not a single thing wrong with my 65 year old body, feeling lots of energy from my walking an hour everyday, feeling immortal.

Just a simple cold, but a reminder that the body is fragile.

Boys are home for Christmas in the living room watching The Last Kingdom with their mom. They are both looking good. Good guys. Waiting for Linda's brother Dave to come over from LaPine so we can open gifts.

Linda went out at the last minute and got a tree and decorations and the kitchen is packed with food and Walt the dog and Panga the cat are getting along and all is well. They didn't cancel Christmas at Pegasus Books again.

Had decided even before I got sick that I'd start fresh with my writing in January. I'm still a little undecided whether to attempt another thriller or to go ahead with the Virginia Reed adventure. Whichever one I choose, I will immediately start in on the other when I'm finished.

Going to try to stay away from checking sales and rankings and reviews next year. The reviews that are trickling in now are sometimes good and sometimes bad, but I think they emanate from the general population and not from people who were more or less well-disposed toward me, so they're trending  a little more down than they used to. Also, I'm just more established and I think people tend to be harsher on established writers. So for instance, Stephen King's Carrie, Pet Sematary and The Gunsligher, are all just below a 4 rating. Not that I'm any Stephen King.

But the main thing is my wish for a pure writing experience, where the expectations of the book come from inside not outside. It's probably not possible to reproduce that first year, or even that second year, where it was all about the writing and everything was possible. But I can at least turn the focus back inward again.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Fri, 22 Dec 2017 19:04:00 +0000

Apparently, the Black Death arrived on our shores. I took to my bed for the last 7 days and thus did not see it. I'll have to take Linda's word for it.

Good thing I had my flu shot.

My head is still stuffed with webbing, my eyes are red slits, and my throat is threatening to burst, but I can type.

Went to see The Last Jedi and through the haze I liked it.

Boys are coming home for Christmas Eve, so I have a couple of days for the last of the pustules to pop.

I do not wish to spread the Black Death.

The room is spinning. Good bye.


My inspirations.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 21:35:00 +0000

I was twelve years old when I read The Hobbit. In 1964. Yeah, I'm that old.I was thirteen when I read Lord of the Rings. My brother Mike was home from college and playing in a summer stock Fantasticks, so that soundtrack was on the turntable the whole time I was reading the trilogy. Nothing is more achingly nostalgic than "Try to Remember."I'd always read science fiction in my mix of reading, though our house was full of all kinds of books. Tons of books. (Many years later Linda and I started the Bookmark with my parent's books as the seed stock.)I started looking for fantasy like LOTRs and damned if there was any. Hard to imagine now, but there wasn't anything like it. Oh, there were Victorian type fantasies, but they just didn't have the same feel to me. I found Weirdstone of Brisingamen and other what would now be termed "young adult," books and of course there was Narnia. Some S.F. authors had a fantasy feel like Andre Norton and Jack Vance, but nothing that really hit the mark. Finding the Conan books was a pretty good stopgap.I still remember being at the U of O bookstore during a debate tournament and seeing a Frazetta cover from across the room. Next thing I knew I was staring down at it in my hands with a weird frisson running down my spine. I think it was another five years before I came across what I considered a real fantasy in a bookstore, Red Moon, Black Mountain, by Joy Chant. There might have been slightly earlier ones, but I didn't see them. So in that five year span I conceived Star Axe. Because I had to. It was the only way I could fill the void. (I had no idea there'd be a movie called Star Wars.)I'd always wanted to be a writer but I didn't have the first clue how to go about it. One night, as I was laying in bed, I said to myself "Tell yourself a story" and the whole thing bloomed in my mind in one sleepless night.It took me another seven or eight years to actually complete the damn thing, with many a deadend. I really struggled trying to learn even the basics. But eventually I finished it and sent it off.Meanwhile, lots of fantasy was coming out. All of it inspired by Lord of the Rings. I remember reading Sword of Shannara with its elves and dwarves and such and thinking, "You can DO that?!!" See, I'd tried to stay away from using those motifs thinking Tolkien had the market on those.Idiot. To my own surprise, a publisher took Star Axe. They labeled it as "sword and sorcery" but that was all right. I loved that genre after all. And I wasn't about to question a publisher. They did zero editing, they published my synopsis word for word, and it was a different experience than I expected.But I enthusiastically started writing Snowcastles, which they also accepted. Then hit a roadblock with Icetowers, but eventually got it to where they liked it.I ran out of steam after that. My fourth book was a disaster, my fifth book not much better, so I tried to be different with the next book, Deviltree. It almost got accepted half a dozen times. I came soooooo close. It was heartbreaking. I wrote Sometimes a Dragon as a reaction to having to rewrite Deviltree so many times to the dictates of editors. I was very self-indulgent, so it was both a book I loved and was probably unreadable.Then I married Linda, had an instant family, and bought Pegasus Books and that was the last time I wrote for 25 years. (Or at least, finished anything.)Sometime during those 25 years I so[...]