Lurching Forward Slowly

A Savage Meeting

A Savage Meeting

Zombie-like I continue to lurch forward writing stories. I’ve actually been pretty productive and yet feel that I have little to show at this time. Ideally, what I’d like to happen is that several of the following projects all come together at once and I release them in a tidal wave of awesomeness. Or they drop into a black hole. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

In my last post I talked about a couple of stories I was starting and I’m afraid it kind of exploded from there. Note the long list of WiP graphs to the right. Note also that most are not close to being finished. Basically, I got thinking about possible stories and bam, all these ideas sprang into my head demanding that I write them. So, lots of new starts and I’m going from story to story and adding verbiage to each as I can. Someday I’ll actually complete one. Hey, it could happen.

One additional thing I’m trying to do is apply some old fashioned formulas to the stories in a further attempt to make them more readable and satisfying to the reader. Basically that means I’m trying to apply Lester Dent’s Master Plot formula to every story. Lester Dent wrote for the pulps and is best known for writing the Doc Savage series as Kenneth Robeson. So the man knows what he’s talking about.

First, let’s talk about the new stuff.

  • A Savage Meeting – Tywynn’s version of her first meeting with legendary hero Skar Doorishmurk.
  • An Angry Mountain – Next we follow Skar and Tywynn as they journey to Worldheart and their encounter with an ancient evil.
  • Killer Economy – a new sci-fi story about a future America where an assassin MMO game becomes the driving force behind the US economy.
  • Cursed of Broalle – How Skar’s clan reacts to his delayed return.

Next up, rewrites of older stories that somehow never quite jelled. In new found bursts of inspiration I’ve taken a new approach to both of the following stories in an attempt to finish them once and for all.

  • Cold Justice – Reworked the main character’s psyche and made changes to the mood of the story to help the conclusion have more of an impact.
  • Spirit Healer for Hire – A new take on this urban fantasy where the final resolution is a lot less confrontational.

Finally, we have the ongoing mystery story that continues to progress. Am busy rewriting the initial chapters to improve the story while trying to complete the initial final chapters where everything comes together and the reveal is complete.

  • Built for Murder – Trying to bring together the last few chapters for a satisfying conclusion.
  • Festival of Murder* – the second adventure of Erich Rambles based around the annual Austin Music Festival is being plotted and character arcs expanded.
  • Staged for Murder* – the third Erich Rambles story will occur during the annual SXSW  conference.

That’s it for now. Looks like I actually got a post done for this month, yea! Now back to work.

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2014 Was a Good Year for Reading

Following up last year’s review, here is a count of the novels I read or listened to this year:

Digital books: 101 (-15)
Printed books: 17 (Travis McGee series, misc other paperbacks)
Audio books: 12
Total: 130 (115)

So, slightly less than last year but I don’t feel neglected having dropped from 131 reads in 2013. Looks like I’ve been pretty steady in my reading habits. Got a host of digital collections I’ve yet to read through yet as well. I bought a 14-book collections of fantasy I’m only one book into, and another trilogy that I’ve haven’t gotten to book two yet (but I will).

Some of my favorites for the year:

Of them all The Martian earns my highest rating. When I told people about it I summed it up this way, “MacGyver on Mars”. nuff said!  A hard science near-future novel with an interesting premise and main character with an attitude that made it a delight to read and when I got the audiobook version, to listen to as well. I’ve now read it twice and listened to the audio version three times and loved it each time. The narrater rocked as the character, hands down.

Creativity, Inc. tells the story of Pixar, my favorite creative company of all time, even beyond what Disney had done during the rest of my life. I take personal days to slip into the first screening of a new Pixar movie simply because the stories are so damn good. Now that they are part of Disney and their creatives are in charge, the story level of Disney releases has also raised to a more enjoyable level.

Hopefully I’ll find enough interesting reads to keep me on track for 2015.

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A New Year, Yet More Work

Well, 2014 didn’t end up like I had originally planned. This is both good and bad.

While I did do a lot of writing this year it somewhat lacked direction and focus, something I was sure I had in abundance and yet the old 90/10 rule struck me hard. 90 percent of the work happens in the last 10 percent of the project. It’s easy for me to start new projects but sometimes impossible to complete them. While some projects do get finished, they are not of the high quality they should be for release and so get filed away. Then I move onto the next new exciting and shiny project on my mind.

This year, completion has to be the focus. Without that, I’ll never know what chance my work has for acceptance by my audience.

Some of the issues included:

  • Write and release 1 short story a month – never happened! See sidebar for list of WiP stories yet to be completed, sigh.
  • Complete one fantasy short (Storms on an Opal Sea) and release a book of fantasy shorts called The Three Realms – didn’t happen.
  • Complete a new draft of An Empire Forgotten – sidelined due to plotting issues.
  • Complete Built for Murder before Thanksgiving – didn’t make it.

Generally, it’s been a slothful year of writing. Too many starts and definitely not enough finishes to make the year even notable. Did manage over the holidays to revise all of my released books to bring them up to date as regards to cross-marketing my stories, but that’s about it.

For 2015, I once again start with high hopes.

I recently began several new short stories; a SF future-tech story on live gaming, a biographical story from my childhood (not sure what to do with that one), and a sequel to the Skar Doorishmurk story began in A Painful Blessing, as well as working on a Flashman-type sexual adventure definitely NSFW. In addition, there are only a few chapters left to complete the first draft of Built for Murder and some ideas on the second book in the Erich Ramble series.

Here’s hoping 2015 turns out better from a writing perspective.

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Happy Birthday Marines!

usmc logo

US Marine Corps patch

Today is the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, a day of celebration and comradery with all current and former Marines. After serving 12.5 years in the Corp I still remember those days with great fondness. In many ways I lucked out in that my time in service straddled the years between the end of Vietnam and the start of Desert Storm.

Happy birthday Marines!

On the book front Built for Murder progress continues. With only a minor bump the writing has been moving along well. I’m up to chapter 19 as of today and almost at 45k words. Got one little section of chapter 15 where I want to pursue the Furtado sub-plot but am stuck on the next phase for that story line. Not a big deal but it does leave a divot in the story at that chapter.

On the good side the separate stories are moving along well and the hope is the plots begin to come together or conclude as planned. Am thinking hard about the big finish and hope the clues drop where expected and the tension begins to rise as we near the end.

Wish me luck!

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Still Plugging Away

Worked on chapters 16 and 17 today, almost 1900 words total. Chapter 15 is 2/3 completed and just waiting for me to decide how to handle one of the plot lines. Today’s PDF came in at 131 pages with 38,559 words. The mounting word count is both reassuring and daunting in some ways. Having never written so much so quickly is just a continuous amazement to me. But I’m loving it.

At this point I’m trying to work out the main clues, the red herrings and sequences that leads to the final confrontation, so last Friday I worked on writing the final reveal where Erich explains how and why the killings were handled. So now I’m alternating between writing scenes and trying to complete chapters in sequence as quickly as possible.

In addition, both chapters 1 and 2 have been critiqued by others necessitating some changes to clarify problems they found. Some wonderful feedback on things that I should have considered and yet never occurred to me. For example, one reader thought that Erich was too take-charge in the initial chapters. Her take was that for a ‘catering guy’ on a live set to take charge like he did just didn’t make sense. In my mind I knew why he was acting the way he was (former Marine vet, trained to react, and a reluctant leader) but I hadn’t explained that to the reader. So excellent feedback that was easy to fix.

As an aside, one of the best ways to fix grammar in a story it to read it out loud. I do that with dialogue all the time to get the cadence and words right and to hear the characters talking, but just get worn out doing longer readings aloud. Basically, you print it out, then read until something doesn’t sound right, stop, find it on the printed page, make a note of the correction, then try to regain the rythym of the story again. Rinse, repeat, rapidly run out of steam to continue. To complete the cycle you have to go into the manuscript and find and repeat the corrections so the next printing can include them.

So, I found a good solution in re-discovering the Text-to-Speech capability on my iMac. Now, I select one or more paragraphs and have it read it to me. I can sit there following along with my manuscript and make the corrections as I hear them. Much easier, much faster and with less distractions and stopping.

The Turquoise Lament by John. D. MacDonald

The Turquoise Lament by John. D. MacDonald

I also dug out my collection of Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald and began rereading them with an eye on how he built the story and moderated Travis’ observations. I found myself cynically commenting on issues that I consider important and that I don’t see in other novels I’ve been reading. I kind of missed those those quirky observations  in today’s novels and so I dug through several packed boxes filled with unshelved paperbacks to find them.  Anyway, I’m now working my way through the 5th book in the series and noting how dated they’ve become over the last several decades. They’re still wonderfully written books but with my writer’s eye some issues just jump out at me.

Still, ideally I’d like to hit a style for Erich Rambles that combines a bit of Travis McGee, some Spenser, and a bit of Parker. Who knows how close I will come to achieving that but a person can hope.

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