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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Another Productive Mystery Week

Just completed half of chapter 12 in my murder mystery Built for Murder. Dialogue continues to flow and the writing is pretty straightforward. I’m really liking not having to explain more then necessary and concentrating on dialogue and character interaction.

Managed a rewrite of chapter 2 as well this week and will do the same for chapter 3 in the next couple of days. I’m trying to clean up the early chapters as new ideas unfold in later chapters to make my initial draft as clean as possible. For example, Madison needed a boyfriend to soothe her, so had to rewrite the section on her manhunting ability to include at least a mention of her current boytoy. Little things, but necessary.

So, 11.5 chapters complete as of today, at 29,571 words in just 17 days.

The marathon continues…

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The Mystery Continues

Still plugging away at Built for Murder, my first Erich Rambles murder mystery. Am currently midway through chapter 9 but backtracked a little yesterday after getting some great feedback on chapter 1 from my Saturday critique group.  Based on their feedback I stayed up late last night rewriting chapter 1, revising or adding new sections to clear up confusing plot and motivational points. By the time I was done, it was about 600+ words shorter and more concise in setting up what will follow.

Still, the PDF is at 111 pages with 21.6K words in the manuscript, about 1/3 of the way to a complete manuscript. Not bad for having only started on Oct 7 and my Thanksgiving goal looks imminently doable.

Not too much work on it today. Been rereading chapters and cleaning up the prose, adding missing words, changing words to match the true intent of the passage, and editing the characters, their motivations and dialogues into something closer to what I see and hear unfolding in my imagination. As I write and learn my characters, new possibilities dawn that are stretching the story into different directions. All good as far as I’m concerned.

All this typing is leaving my hands stiff and aching. On the one hand it means I’m making headway, OTOH, carpel tunnel is not fun. I must find a balance, one that allows me to tell the story without harming myself. Dictation has been working great on my iPhone for sending text messages, maybe I’ll give it a try on my iMac.

A new week dawns and the story continues.

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The Murder Marathon

It’s now been 10 days since I started my new project, a murder mystery called Built for Murder and I have to say its become some of the easiest writing I’ve ever attempted. I’m completing almost a chapter a day and the ideas and interactions are flowing like a river after a rain storm.

Now, while I love science fiction and fantasy, the mysteries have always been a close third in my genre interests. Collecting the many adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, Travis McGee, Parker, and a slew of others dominated my library shelves. Unlike science fiction and fantasy books, which seemed to always be in short supply during my formative years, the number of mysteries seemed endless.

At its core a murder mystery is a puzzle, unraveling that puzzle is a major part of the story, almost as much as the person doing the investigation. At the start I setup a murder to appear as an accident, introduced my PI, Erich Rambles, a former US Marine and veteran of the Iraq war, now living in Austin, and sprinkled the plot with a variety of interesting suspects and their interactions. Then I turned everyone loose and watch what happens.

Unlike my “fantasy of fail” novel I don’t have to stop to explain something, I can just say “Erich’s mobile vibrated. He pulled it out to find yet another sexting message from Denise” and everyone understands what I mean. In An Empire Forgotten, I can’t just say “The evest trees soared over the city” without explaining them in more detail. This enables the reader to understand what evest trees represent, what they look like, and their importance to the rest of the story.

So far, its going well. Before drifting off to sleep each night, I think about what new information Erich needs, determine the main points to reveal, and go to sleep. The next day its a simple matter to translate the plot points imagined last night into today’s chapter.

So far, its been a joy ride.

So I’ve revised my plan. I’m planning to finish a complete first draft before Thanksgiving. It’s not quite up to NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month speed, but still quite a healthy pace for me.

Wish me luck.

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