Warming Up

Got a little more than half a chapter done today as I resume work on Blood for Blood. I probably could have finished the chapter (it’s not like I don’t know what’s gonna happen…), but decided to make sure that where I was going with it was where I wanted to go with it –  the experience of a trash-canned chapter will do that to you.

Though actually the chapter I had to discard contributed to this “new” Chapter Eleven. I went looking through the unused chapter for a character name that I would mention in passing as I summarized in a couple of paragraphs what I’d written in excruciating detail last time around. And while doing that, I found that there was a nice section in the last third of the “bad” chapter, a scene in Hanritty’s, that wasn’t so horribly pedantic and which actually set up something for later. So I grabbed it.

Of course, that messed up my idea for the opening line of the chapter. “I tossed the wallet on the desk. “Not loansharks, Jimmy.”” That had to get bumped back a thousand words or so.

I tried to keep it. A technique I occasionally use is to start a chapter “in the now”, so to speak, then go back in time for a few paragraphs to summarize stuff I don’t need to show in real time. I like it because it catches the reader’s attention, fills him or her in, then gives them some background and gets back to the story. When I grabbed the 700–800 words from the discarded chapter, I tried sticking it in right after the summary of the boring stuff.

Sadly, that had me open with Charlie’s line to Jimmy Mutz and then go off on a thousand word tangent before the conversation continued. Not good. Confusing.

So the “recap” and scene in Hanritty’s ended up leading off the chapter, and then we pick up with the conversation between Welles and Mutz. I’m sorry. I tried.

But other than that minor disappointment, the writing went well. I’m ready to finish up the chapter tomorrow morning then move into the next one.

It’s good to be writing again.

Ready to Write

The readthrough on the first third of Blood for Blood is finished.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with it. In the last chapter I wrote before I stopped, there was a hook for a little sub-plot involving a minor character (one who ends up dead in the next chapter, as a matter of fact) that probably seemed like a good idea at the time. In retrospect, it would have been more words for little effect. So I whacked it out.

But other than that, there wasn’t a lot of rewriting –  a few places where my original wording was unclear or not as precise as I wanted it to be. Just normal editing/rewriting stuff that I would have caught and changed when I did the first readthrough after completion.

That final chapter had a slight whiff of the problems that would come to the forefront in the full chapter I trashed when I stopped. Talking about stuff that really wasn’t interesting. In excruciating detail. Things that didn’t move the story forward. That were just words for the sake of words. I trimmed that up in Chapter Ten, while leaving just a little of it in to show the technological savvy of a character.

And I think it gave me some insight into my state of mind when I stopped three months ago. I wasn’t feeling well, but I felt compelled to keep on pushing through and finish the book. So I became very detailed. Even pedantic. The ideas weren’t flowing as well as they usually do, so I worked what ideas I had. Not good.

But that’s all behind me now. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, about two weeks after I stopped, I realized how to get out of that funk and actually wrote the first sentence of Chapter Eleven. But I REALLY wasn’t feeling great at that point, so I decided to let it sit there and be the jumping off point when I got back to it. Which it will be tomorrow.

All of these life changes have changed my scheduling, of course. The novelization of Last Rites is on the backburner right now. I’d like to finish Blood for Blood by late August and get it out in early September. Then on to Crimson Star and the eight-chapter mini that I’ve spoken about in the past. Four chapters immediately before the vampires overrun No-Name City, four chapters detailing Welles’s last days in the internment camp. Which will be part of the box set of the first three (or four) Night and Day books, and also available for free to those who subscribe to the mailing list.

Then on to the next Night and Day book.

I’m also going to build in some downtime –  instead of doing four books a year, maybe three is enough. Even when I’m back in the ”pink” of health, I want to make sure that I don’t burn out again.

So tomorrow…it’s the second sentence and more of Chapter Eleven…

The Rest of the Story…

As I said yesterday, here’s what the last three months have been like…

So, three months ago tomorrow, I took a short “break” from working on Blood for Blood. I actually thought it was going to be a week or two or three, and then I’d get back to work.

I was cooked. I’d been sick, off and on, for about three months (and in retrospect, my illness probably contributed to the darkness of Bandit’s Moon, particularly the latter parts of the book). My storytelling was suffering –  not the writing so much (I write the way I write) but the way I was telling Blood for Blood. As my last blog post indicates, I reread the chapter I wrote on April 8th  and it was awful. I thought a little break would clear my mind - watch some movies, do some reading, relax, recharge, and get back to it.

On May 5th, my mystery illness was no longer a mystery when I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Cancer is a scary word (even more so when two years earlier my younger brother’s prostate cancer diagnosis began the journey that led to his death from lung cancer a year later). As it turned out, my cancer hadn’t spread, it wasn’t especially aggressive, and would be easily treatable. That was a plus.

The minus was that my swollen prostate was causing what my urologist called “overflow incontinence”, which he likened to water flowing over a dam. The “water” being urine, the “dam” being my prostate. We worked that, through medication and hormones designed to shrink the prostate, for about a month, with limited success. My bladder was extremely swollen (the “water” behind the “dam”) and my kidneys were not functioning properly (the “river” that was feeding the “water” behind the “dam”).

It was so bad that either he had to get a catheter in there to “drain the lizard” as they say, or he would have to open me up and put in a stent or something to do it. On June 5th, he was finally able to get a catheter past my swollen prostate and manually drain the bladder completely. I don’t recommend it. When my swollen bladder collapsed as it emptied, the pain was horrific. And as a bonus, all the blood vessels in my bladder began to “pop” so I was peeing what seemed like pure blood. That was unnerving.

So I left the doctor’s office with a catheter and a bag strapped to my leg. A bag that kept filling with what appeared to be pure blood. Blood for Blood indeed.

The next evening, a blood clot in my bladder apparently blocked the catheter and it began to “leak” around it. Distasteful at best. So it being too late to go back to the doctor, I figured I’d drive over to a local hospital emergency room, have them do whatever they had to do to “fix” it, and then come home.

No.

They took a blood sample, checked my creatinine levels, and determined that my kidneys were failing. They did “fix” the catheter problem (push water in there to break the clot, then manually drain the bladder –  yes, it was just as painful as the day before…). Then they admitted me to the hospital with acute kidney failure.

I spent a week there. And six of those days consisted of laying in a hospital bed, drinking lots of water, peeing into a bag, watching TV, sleeping, eating three meals a day, and being interrupted by nurses every three hours or so to check my vitals, etc. It was like a strange vacation.

Finally got out, back to the urologist, they check to see if I could pee without the aid of the catheter…no go. More hormones, more meds, in an attempt to continue shrinking the prostate. A few weeks later, back to the urologist again for urodynamics, to test my bladder function. The bladder was functioning normally - it just couldn’t push the “water” past the “dam”.

But continuing with the catheter and bag on my leg wasn’t really an option. In the roughly a month that I had it, I had to empty it every two and a half hours. Day and night. Which meant setting alarms when I went to bed to wake me every two and a half hours. Not very restful.

My choices were TURP (as the urologist described it, it was like “coring an apple”, the apple being my prostate) or intermittent catheterization. I chose the latter, at least for now.

When I need to “bleed the lizard”, I shove a catheter up there, I pee, I remove it, I get back to my life. It’s not an optimal solution, and I continue to do the hormone/meds thing to shrink the prostate (and the cancer) with the idea that eventually it will shrink up to the point that I can pee normally. In time, if it doesn’t shrink enough, I may think about TURP.

But otherwise things are back to normal (well, except for the catheter thing…) and I feel good and ready to get back to work.

So, after those 800 some-odd words, my point is that I’m back to work on Blood for Blood. The plan is to spend a couple of days going through the first third of the book that’s written, see how it reads, get up to speed, make changes as needed, and then by Monday get back to work on the next chapter. The four chapters I went through this morning were actually enjoyable to read, and only required a few limited wording changes.

I even have the first sentence of the next chapter written, done on April 28th  when I thought my break might be over…  “I tossed the wallet on the desk. “Not loansharks, Jimmy.””

It definitely feels good to get back to work…

Who’s Back? Me….

The vacation is over.

I just wrote a 900 word post describing what’s been going on since April 11th, when I went on “break”. That post vanished into the ether when I attempted to save a draft and then post it. Gone.

After spending the better part of an hour on that (and it was a good post – informative and amusing), I just don’t have the will to rewrite it right now. Maybe tomorrow.

In short, I was sick, I’m better, and tomorrow I start rereading the first third of Blood for Blood as I prepare to get back to work on it by Monday. Get into the flow, make changes as necessary, and then pick up with the next chapter.

I’m looking forward to it.

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.