Writing to Write…

It’s been almost nine months of steady writing, editing writing, editing, and I’m due for a short break.

The reason I know this is because what I’m writing is telling me that.

That last awful chapter I wrote a few days ago. Initial thought was the chapter ending was kind of weak. When going over it, I realized the whole damn thing was weak. Reworked it. Waited a day, reworked it again. Still sucks.

Now I’m thinking that I just need to get rid of the chapter. Not rewrite it. Just get rid of it. Because the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s just words for the sake of words. Writing for the sake of writing. It doesn’t move the story along perceptibly.

It’s interesting enough, I guess (I’ve already established that Welles’s office phone line is tapped – the majority of the chapter concerns the team of guys who arrive to find and remove the tap. Then a quick trip to Hanritty’s, oh look, there’s Tom Castle who will become important later in the book, and out.). But in the end, it’s just blah blah blah. We don’t need to meet Rafferty, Willie, and Bert, the three specialists who remove the tap. They show up, they do their thing, there’s some chit chat, they leave. Not coming back. Probably never see them again in any Night and Day book. Don’t need to see Tom Castle at this point in the story, since he doesn’t do anything.

My writing is usually pretty good at telling me when there’s a problem. When writing the second Scavenger book, I had what I assume others call “writer’s block” for the first and only time in my life. Hit a point in the book and could not go further. Write a few pages. Throw it away. Write a chapter. Throw it away. Every attempt to move forward sputtered out.

After nearly a month of banging my head against that particular wall, I realized what the problem was – about 20–30,000 words back, the story had gone in an unanticipated way. Just a little zig when it should have zagged. Follow that zig out for 150 pages, and I was in trouble. Nowhere to go. Not telling the story I wanted to tell. So I had to get rid of 150 pages and start again from where I’d gone wrong.

The chapter in question isn’t on the same level. If I left it, it would just be useless. It wouldn’t affect anything down the road. No more than empty, pointless words. But I don’t write just to write. If it’s not telling the story, or adding something to the story, I don’t need it.

I can summarize everything that happened with the guys and the phone tap in about a paragraph or less, at the beginning of the next chapter. Don’t need to bring Tom Castle in at this point. When it’s his time, a paragraph or two for those who either don’t remember him from Night and Day or who didn’t read it.

So I’m on break till Monday or Tuesday. Relaxing. Watching movies. Consuming rather than producing. Then it’s back to work.

I Spy

Last night I was watching The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, an excellent 1965 cold-war spy film which I’ve seen many times before.

And while watching it, I was lamenting the disappearance of spy/espionage fiction as a market for a writer such as myself.

Back in the day, I made a sale to Espionage Magazine…

espionage

…a short-lived magazine that missed the mark, timing-wise, with the winding down of the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union in the mid-80s. The story was called Blue Moon and as I recall it now, almost 30 years later, it had something to do with a Soviet double-agent with the code name Blue Moon, a Moscow subway ticket, and much trickery. Wrote it when I was still with the fire department, still selling short stories – it was a month with a Blue Moon (two full moons in one month – second, I think is the “blue” moon), I heard about it, came up with the idea, wrote it.

Spy/espionage/nobody is who they seem to be fiction is actually a favorite of mine – I enjoy reading it, I enjoy writing it. Unfortunately, for the same reasons that Espionage Magazine ceased publication, there’s no real market for it anymore.

You can do it as a historical. Writing today about the back-alley warfare in Europe in the 50s and 60s. But the audience is really limited. It’s probably even more limited than writing about spy stuff during Word War II. At least there’s a certain percentage of people who will still buy books about Nazis. Bulgarian assassins with poison-tipped umbrellas? Not as popular.

It’s possible, certainly, to write modern-day spy fiction, but it’s usually more about technology and a reluctant hero. Think Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels. Interesting, but not the same thing. Not the so-called “Great Game”. Middle East spy stuff? Mossad vs. whoever? Sorry, really not that interesting. The SVR, the Russian successor to the KGB? Just doesn’t have the same feel.

You can do espionage through other genres – science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy. But still not the same.

I’d like to do something spy/espionage-like with a Night and Day book down the road, and may even figure out a good way to do it. I’ll have fun with it. It might even be good. But it won’t be the same.

I’m sorry. I miss the cold war. I miss low-tech human intelligence instead of real-time satellite feeds, drone strikes, and gizmos.

When I finish Blood for Blood it may be time to pull out the Le Carre George Smiley trilogy again (Tinker, Tailor, Solder,Spy/The Honourable Schoolboy/Smiley’s People)…

Rising Creeks

Didn’t get any writing done yesterday thanks to a 4:30 am phone call from a friend telling me that he was being evacuated from his apartment complex due to flooding…

m4

m6

I miss that kind of excitement because I live in an apartment complex on the side of Red Mountain, and rain runs down to…well, where my friend lives…

So he came over here, and that killed most of the morning – after lunch, he headed out, and eventually I went to sleep and that killed most of the afternoon. And then I was busy with other stuff last night.

I hope this explanation was credible and satisfactory, and you will not hold my lack of productivity against me…

On the other hand, last night while doing other things, I did start to go through the chapter I’d written Sunday.

Awful.

Not just “not as good as it could have been”. Not “needs a little work”. Awful. I don’t think a pair of pruning shears or even a machete is going to be enough to trim the awfulness. I may need a flamethrower.

What I wanted to accomplish in the chapter is there, but it’s meandering and dull (and if you find most of what I write meandering and dull, imagine how bad this must be…).

It’s not a total loss. I spent about half an hour last night slowly cutting my way through the crap. I’ll finish that today and move on.

Right Terminology, Wrong Terminology

There are right names and wrong names for things.

For example, let’s take that church that I mentioned last time. The fictional one that I wanted to firebomb in Blood for Blood, that looks sort of like this..

St james

(I don’t want to give any spoilers as to whether I figured out a way to do it, but…get a bag of marshmallows when you read Blood for Blood…)

Churches have specific terms for specific things in the church. Depending on what kind of church it is, denominationally speaking, even the “right” term can change. I know some of these terms. I don’t know others (but that’s where my on-the-fly research comes in).

But even if I know the correct term, I am not the guy “telling” you the story. I’m writing it, but Charlie Welles is telling it. And Welles’s knowledge (or even use of language/terminology) is only a subset of my own.

I knew there was a term for the main part of the church, where the worshipers sit during services. Not being in the religion business, or even practicing organized religion since I was a kid, I didn’t know what that term was. So I looked it up. It’s the nave. So then I knew it, and I thought it was okay for Welles to know it to, and use it.

I also know that the area at the front of a Roman Catholic church, where the priest speaks from, is called the sanctuary. The altar and some other things are within the sanctuary. Charlie Welles, not having a Catholic priest second cousin who was the chaplain of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, doesn’t know that. So when he describes it, he called that area the altar. Close enough. Works for him, works for the reader, and maybe the reader, like me, knows that it’s actually called the sanctuary.

But let’s get away from the church example and on to what triggered this thought.

Clip. Magazine. The thing that you load an automatic pistol or rifle with. It holds the bullets.

They are not the same thing, though people do sometimes use them interchangeably.

Magazine

A removable magazine usually allows bullets to be fed into it until it’s full. A fixed magazine often requires that bullets, in a clip, be inserted into it. And that’s your Guns and Ammo moment for the day.

The point being that, as I said, people sometimes use the terms interchangeably. It’s not correct, but they do it. Charlie Welles is one of those people. And that’s a deliberate decision on my part.

Welles isn’t a “gun guy”, though he’s familiar with weapons (from his Army service, his police department service, and now his private investigation business). He knows the proper terminology. But there’s a throwback element of the hard-boiled private dick in him, as he’s written, and I’ve chosen to have him use one term, or the other, or both as the sentence (dialogue, description, whatever) requires. For story reasons. For narrative reasons.

I understand that somebody who knows this stuff might read it and think that I don’t know what I’m writing about. That I don’t know the difference between a magazine and a clip. And I’m okay with that. I’m not writing non-fiction, or gun porn adventure stories. I’m writing about a fictional character who might even think Jimi Hendrix is singing “’Scuse me, while I kiss this fly”…

Because it takes all kinds to populate a world…

Thoughts-O-Matic Vol 4

Yes, it’s that time again. Little bliplits that aren’t long enough for a full post. I actually do have something to do a full post about, but I can’t remember what it is at the moment. It’ll come to me in time….

Benny the Night Security Guard – Benny’s a minor character that’s been around since Night and Day. We first meet him when Welles has to threaten him to get some information about who’s in the building. The inference is that he’s a relatively new hire, who has never seen Welles coming in and out of the office and doesn’t recognize him as somebody who works there. He doesn’t have a name – he’s just the night security guard. Even after he saves Welles’s life later in the book, he doesn’t get a name.

I rectified that in Bleeding Sky when he gets his name in the couple of “in passing” scenes that he’s in. He’s not in Bandit’s Moon (but then again, Welles isn’t in the office except at the beginning of that one). He’s just popped up in Blood for Blood – and though it’s another small scene, while writing it occurred to me that maybe some future Night and Day book might have more for Benny to do. I can’t see him becoming a major supporting character, but he’s done yoeman’s work there behind the security counter at night, so maybe he deserves a little of the spotlight. Yes, I do occasionally think about things like that.

Crimson Star – The new, improved name of the fifth Night and Day book, the one I was formerly thinking of and talking about as the awful Bloody Star. Or maybe The Crimson Star. I mentioned the title to somebody recently, and wrote “The” in front of the name, and the instant question was “Is The Crimson Star some kind of cult?” Well no, it’s not, but it could be. A cabal of five humans who drink vampire blood (or six, if it’s a Crimson Star of David). Or five humans who drink human blood hoping to become vampires. Or something else. But it’s not. It refers to something else entirely.

Though there’s a chance that the sixth or seventh Night and Day book might have some culty stuff. You know, the one with Philly, the Underpants Man.

Villains – I really try to mix up the nature of the bad guys in Night and Day. Sometimes they’re human, sometime they’re vampires. I, myself, an human (more or less). The readers of the Night and Day series are presumably human (it’s really hard to crack the vampire market – there aren’t a lot of them – yet – and they mostly stay away from each other, so word of mouth is out…) My protagonist, Charlie Welles, is human. The easy way to go, the obvious way to go, would be to make the vampires the villains of each book in the series.

But I can’t do that. Because I have an ambivalent view of the vampires, not so different from Welles’s. Yes, they are inhuman monsters that drink blood. But they were once people, and much of the “people” they were is still there. So they’re good and bad. Some are evil. Some people are evil. Some are misguided. Some people are misguided. Most are a mixture, as are most people. Night and Day had vampire villains. Bleeding Sky had a vampire sort-of villain. Bandit’s Moon had a human villain. Blood for Blood has a human villain. Crimson Star will have a vampire villain. It all depends on the story. People can be monsters too. Sometimes worse than real monsters.

The Short – Still don’t have a snappy title for it, yet. But I have been giving it a fair amount of thought, in between other things I’m thinking about. It’ll be eight chapters long, approximately 30,000 words, half taking place in the last four days before No Name City is overrun by the vampires and Charlie Welles is scooped up/interned, half taking place in the last four days before Welles is released from internment, along with the other half million people in Camp Delta-5.

There have been bits and pieces about the events of those eight days in various series books. But this will be the story. The fall of No Name City. Life in the internment camp. Welles getting together with Joshua Thomas. I hope to get started on it after I finish up Blood for Blood and before I start Last Rites. And I hope to finish before Last Rites is released, so I can release that and the first three Night and Day books, along with the short, as a box set. More as I get closer.

Blood for Blood Progress – I’m about a third of the way through. It’ll be smooth sailing for another six or seven chapters (i.e. I know basically what will be happening). I also know where I need to be at the end. That leaves me 10–12 chapters that are, at this point, a mystery to me. I know some things that will be happening, but what I know won’t fill the 30–40,000 words that will need to be filled.

Of course, I’m sure that at this very moment I am unconsciously planting seeds that will blossom into thousands of compelling words. If not, I’m sure I’ll come up with something before I get to the abyss.