Rabbit Holes

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m prone to falling into rabbit holes while I’m working on a project.

When I was actively making animated films, I’d take a break in the middle and spend a day looking for the right music, or working on an animated title sequence. With the Night and Day Series, breaks usually involve firing up iClone –  build a nice 3D scene, save a screenshot, do the cover in Photoshop, spine (for the paperback) and the blurb on the back.

This weekend’s rabbit hole involved the first three books in the series.

After finishing up Chapter Six of Blood for Blood Friday night, I did some skimming of various writing forums as I often do, mentally mocking people for their stupid questions (“I really want to write but I don’t have any ideas. Can somebody help me?”)

I came upon a few threads talking about moving the print copies of people’s books from CreateSpace to Amazon. I’d been vaguely aware that Amazon had started offering their own printing for  physical books about a year ago. It had seemed interesting enough, but since CreateSpace had worked fine for those few readers who wanted a physical book, it wasn’t a high priority –  I sell 20 ebooks for every one paperback.

But people were talking about how easy the process was to move from one to the other, and how happy they were with the Amazon printed copies, so I decided to give it a whirl. Did Night and Day first, a few clicks, and it was done. Saturday morning I went ahead and did the same with Bleeding Sky and Bandit’s Moon.

Then…

Saturday morning, after getting the two books moved over, I decided to do a little more forum browsing before I got into Chapter Seven. Saw people talking about an amazing program called Vellum. It’s basically just a book formatter, but as I’ve discussed in the past (like here and here), formatting can easily kill a couple of days or more. Vellum does it in minutes, for both Kindle and paperback, and includes a lot of nice formatting stuff (like drop caps and little graphic flourishes) and handles all headers, footers, page numbering, and that kind of thing as well.

So, hey, let’s take a look.

Oooops, it’s Mac only. But it looks so good….

Because my brain is mostly mush, my first step is to see how much it would cost to pick up a used Mac laptop. Then I’m looking at new Mac Minis. But then, because there are some solid particles in the mush of my brain, I realize that I used to run a Mac virtual machine on my computer (basically a fully-functional Mac in a window on my Windows desktop) and still have the files. So I get a new copy of VMWare Player and try to load the old virtual machine. Too old. Won’t even load in the new version of the player. And then I realize it’s too old for Vellum, too.

So, off to find a more recent version of MacOS, hopefully in virtual machine format, and I find one. High Sierra, the latest version (until they release a new version this year). Load it up, and after some fiddling, get the virtual machine working.

Then I throw Vellum on there. Vellum requires Microsoft Word .docx files for import. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been using WordPerfect for 30 years, prefer it to Word, and though I have Word as part of an Office 365 subscription (primarily for Outlook and OneNote), I almost never use it.

Let’s convert the WordPerfect file of the entire Night and Day to Word. Oooops, the new version of WordPerfect, released a month or so ago, doesn’t have Word conversion yet, because Microsoft discontinued their Word conversion package that other companies use. Fine, I’ll load the WordPerfect doc into Word, do the conversion there.

It sucks.

All kinds of problems with the converted text, that would take me hours to fix manually. So after playing with it a good long while, I decide to try exporting to rich text format (to strip out the WordPerfect stuff) and then import that into Word. And there we go.

So last night, I did Night and Day and got it uploaded –  new Kindle and paperback versions. Today I did Bleeding Sky and Bandit’s Moon. The more I use Vellum, the faster it is, since I know exactly what to do to get what I want. I think Bandit’s Moon took me less than an hour, from conversion to moving files from PC to virtual Max to finished product.

All of the newly-formatted books are up on Amazon now, and should be live in the next 24 hours or so. I’ve already checked out the Kindle versions on both the computer and tablet, and they look great. Later this week, I’m going to order a couple of paperback copies of each book (having given away my copies) and check out both the Amazon printing and the Vellum formatting.

And tomorrow morning, I can get back to Chapter Seven of Blood for Blood.

Countdown

Everything is done. Bandit’s Moon has been gone through a final time. The files are uploaded and in place to go live tomorrow/Wednesday.

Right now, Night and Day is in a Kindle Countdown promotion. You can pick up a copy for $.99 until Thursday morning or somewhere thereabouts. After that it goes to $1.99, and then back to $2.99 at the end of the week.

Watch this space tomorrow (wherever you watch it from…) for a chance to pick up all of the Night and Day series books for the usual price of one, give or take a few cents.

Breaking Through

Yeah, it’s the middle of the night here right now, but such is the nature of my 24–Hour radio show prep – laid down at around 8:30 last night, hoping to grab about 6 hours of sleep – was unable to fall asleep for 2 hours, thanks to people coming and going and hollering and laughing outside my bedroom window…

If only it was two nights ago…

Snow2a

Wouldn’t be outside laughing and hollering in that, would you? Huh? HUH?

In truth, I really can’t complain – I mean, it wasn’t like it was late or anything. Early evening. Why would you be quiet? Because some idiot might be in bed?

So I got up around 2:30 this morning – which is actually good, since I hope to be able to fall asleep around 1:30 tomorrow afternoon so I can get a good 8 hours of sleep before the the show. Couple of beers beforehand, and I should be able to sleep.

But hey, this isn’t about my sleeping schedule. It’s about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award thing I mentioned in passing last time.

Like I said, I don’t necessarily expect to win. On the other hand, I wouldn’t enter if I didn’t think I could win. Not necessarily the big grand prize, but maybe one of the four first prizes. Arrogant? Well, yeah, what’s your point?

Most of what I need to submit Night and Day, I already have. An excerpt (3000–5000 words – in my case, Chapter One and a big chunk of Chapter Two – basically from the beginning to when Welles goes back to his office – 4300–ish words). The full manuscript with any identifying stuff like my name, etc. removed.

What I don’t have yet, and what I hope to be working on this morning is my pitch.

I’m using, as my starting point, the original “pitch” that I’d planned to use when I was still thinking of shopping the book to an agent. The heart of what was to be my query letter.

Five years ago, life in the United States changed forever when swarms of vampires overran the country in a war that dwarfed the carnage of the American Civil War. Many died, others were turned into vampires, and the survivors were rounded up and sent to massive internment camps for the next three years.

Five years after the war, ex-cop turned private investigator Charlie Welles is the day-side investigator for Night and Day Investigations. His partner, Joshua Thomas, a vampire and Charlie’s trusted friend, handles the night business

When a seventeen-year-old runaway Welles is tracking is found drained of all her blood in an Uptown dumpster, it seems like the sad ending of another vampire-related missing person case. But after his partner is murdered and the bodies, human and vampire, start to pile up, Welles discovers a web of police corruption, organized crime and dark medical experiments in a case that may cost him far more than his life.

To find who killed his partner, and why, Charlie Welles must struggle to find elusive truth in the darkness of Night and the light of Day.

(By the way, it’s also the promo text on Goodreads and Amazon – I’m nothing if not a cannibal of my own material)

I may incorporate some of my other promo text…

In the near future, someone else is at the top of the food chain, and man is no longer the master.

Humans call them Vees, bloodsuckers, leeches, skeeters.

They call themselves what they are.

Vampires.

But in a city turned upside down by unimaginable horror, a man still has to make a living.

Charlie Welles is a private investigator. When his partner is murdered, he must go into the darkness to find answers.

And when Charlie Welles is on a case, he goes where the evidence takes him, and talks to whoever has the answers.

…and see if I can come up with something that’s really, as the kids used to say, tight. Or as they used to say a long time ago, far-out.

So that’s the plan. It’s five am here in beautiful Birmingham, Alabama. I need to go out sometime later in the morning to grab some bread (my meals during the 24–hour show consist of tuna fish sandwiches and potato chips, washed down with coffee and Pepsi Max. Protein, fat, soft, crunchy, caffeinated. Everything you need to get through 24 hours of talking…). Between now and then, I’ll work on the pitch.

And if I’m happy with it, I’ll submit the whole mess during the first break at around 1 am tonight. The break is thirteen minutes, 42 seconds, so I should have plenty of time.

Men of Honor

(and I’m not talking about the movie with De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr. – that’s way too heartwarming and feel-good for me…I feel just fine without watching it…)

I’m talking about gangsters. Mobsters. Organized crime. Who like to think of themselves as “men of honor”.

Organized crime in my unnamed city was a part of Night and Day. But the only ‘gangster’ that the story spent any time with was Eddie Gabriel, who is not a stereotypical kind of mob boss. He’s a small timer who was probably not directly connected with any of the organized gangs prior to the war with the vampires. An independent. He knew mobbed up guys, maybe even did some work for them from time to time, but he was never on the inside. So when he sees his opportunity in downtown after the humans are released from the internment camps, he’s working without a script – and ends up a mixture of Mafia Don and small-time hustler.

The rest of the mob bosses mentioned in Night and Day were just mentioned – you never got to spend time with them, though Arnie Kaiser even made a quick appearance on-screen, so to speak. It was more the idea and existence of mobs, and their corruption of the police department and other aspects of life that was the focus of Night and Day.

In Bandit’s Moon, I’m back in that territory, though in a different way. In this book, mobsters are allies for Charlie Welles against a greater threat. And so I’m going deeper into their world.

But what world?

The Godfather (book and movie) painted a picture of mobsters that was,to a great extent, glamorized and not especially close to reality (and I’m not using the term “Mafia” or even the in-mob preferred Cosa Nostra – because there were and are Irish mobs, Jewish mobs, Russian mobs, etc.) Real mobsters of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s were not the ritualistically polite, honorable, family-oriented guys of the movie. They were killers and thieves, and usually pretty brutal about it. Not at all courtly.

But when you get into the 80s and beyond, The Godfather began to have an effect on the real-life mobsters, especially the younger ones coming up through the ranks of whatever crime family they were part of. They liked the movie. They liked the idea of how mobsters were portrayed in the movie. And so as they became higher ups in their organizations, some “became” the kind of mobsters they’d seen in The Godfather. Not inside, of course – inside they were the same lying, cheating, thieving, murdering skeeves that they always were. But they had the veneer of Don Corleone.

The Night and Day series takes place…well, say 5–6 years from today. Or tomorrow. Or next year. And the United States after the humans are released from the camps is a snapshot of the day before the vampires came. And in that snapshot are those who were in the organized crime business. Some are still human, some are vampires. But the way they run their business, the way they play their parts in the mob, is going to be very similar to the way they played the part before the war.

What are they going to be like to interact with? Well, some are going to be like Eddie Gabriel. Outside guys who are now inside guys. Making it up as they go along. Others are going to be post-The Godfather mobsters, guys with that Don Corleone veneer who go through the motions of honor and politeness and respect. Though the veneer may be kind of thin.

I know it’s going to seem derivative. Like I’m just basing the characteristics of some characters on The Godfather (movie or book), or using a thousand other mob movies and books as my template. Which is why Welles says, at one point, “It took a lot to keep a straight face while I listened to this Godfather-inspired bullshit that a lot of mob guys liked to use because it made them feel like they were the real deal.” He knows it’s just an act. I know it’s an act.

But it is fun to write. Makes me feel like…Mario Puzo…

Anniversaries

It occurred to me this morning as I was drinking my first cup of coffee that it was four years ago today that I entered the ranks of the retired.

I was unprepared.

Not so much to stop working and find things to fill the long, empty hours of the day. Filling time has never been a problem for me, and I always have something on the go. Frankly, I’d been counting down the days to when I could empty my office, drop off my passcard, and drive through the gate out of the parking lot for the last time.

I was mentally unprepared for the transition from making a boatload of money to making half a boatload of money. I’d always spent money like a drunken sailor, and after December 9th, 2009, I continued to spend money like a drunken sailor. That didn’t work out for me.

So I ended up going through almost two years of financial turmoil, until I finally got my head on straight.

What I should have been doing was applying a final polish to Night and Day and getting it out the door. I should have focused. The book was, for all intents and purposes, done. Readthrough, final polish, and done – pretty much what I did in August of this year.

As you can see if you walk down memory lane here on the blog, I did start in that direction in the summer of 2010, stretching into October. And then I just stopped. Because another project caught my eye.

When I was working, it was actually easier to stay focused, because my writing time was limited to evenings and weekends. The early entries here reflect that. Come home from work, write some, watch a movie, go to bed. Hammer out a bunch of words on a weekend, watch a movie, hammer out a bunch more words. Because my time was limited, I had to focus and be disciplined if I was going to get to the last line…“I started the engine and headed back to the city.”

I lost that focus and discipline when I suddenly had all day, every day to write. If I didn’t write today, I could always do it tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month. Plenty of time. And I was working on machinima movie scripts, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t writing. I just wasn’t writing what I should have been writing. I had Night and Day standing by the door, ready to make its way into the world, and I just left it standing there.

It took another three years before I opened the door for that book. In mid-August of this year, it suddenly occurred to me that I wanted to get back to the Night and Day series. Actually I’d spent the early part of the summer doing some pre-work planning on the project that distracted me from Night and Day ten years ago. And in the middle of that, I realized that I already had a book about ready to go, and that there was no reason not to go with it.

The other project is still there, just on the backburner. It’s one that requires a lot of historical research. It’s there along with a few other things – adaptations of machinima scripts produced or unproduced, and a few other ideas. My writing stove has a lot of backburners.

I even took another look at a book called Foxtrot – probably one of the best books I’ve ever written. You can read what happened to that right here, but it’s travails don’t diminish the story and characters. It would take some retrofitting to get it into a printable state (unless I wanted to do it as a historical, which I don’t). It’s technology driven, and unfortunately it’s the pre-Internet technology of the 1990s. But I think with some research, I can tell the same story, with the same characters, set in the present. Something else for the backburner.

But that’s all in the future. My head is finally on straight and I’m having a ball writing the Night and Day books. Can’t wait to finish this so I can get back to work on Bandit’s Moon. The music of writing Bandit’s Moon will be be-bop rather than the Von Karajan classical of Bleeding Sky. I’m streaming right now, but I may eventually put together a playlist of a few hundred, maybe a thousand songs to make sure I get through the whole book with limited repetition.

And because you’ve hung with me through this self-referential post, here’s a look at the latest iteration of the Bandit’s Moon cover. Still a work in progress, and there will be more changes and redos, but it’s getting there.

BM Small Cover 2