Archives for September 2013

Book ’em

Late start on writing today – we’ll see if I get through Chapter 14 before I go to bed. It should be a pretty fast-moving chapter to write, and though I haven’t been actually writing this past weekend, I have been thinking about the next two chapters. So we’ll see.

Like I mentioned Friday, I ordered 5 copies of the paperback version of Night and Day last week, 1 for me, 1 for the Halloween comp on TMunderground, and 3 for Goodreads giveaways leading up to the release of Bleeding Sky. I wasn’t expecting them, frankly, till early next week, but they arrived about an hour ago.

Book

I have to say, I’m impressed with the printing and binding.

But not so impressed that it will keep me from writing.

Thoughts-O-Matic Vol 1

A place for random thoughts that don’t warrant their own post…

Progress – I’m at just under 50,000 words, so I’m roughly half complete, assuming things fall out the way I think they will. The chapters are a little longer than those in Night and Day, seemingly around 500–600 words per chapter longer on average. So there will be fewer chapters (maybe 27–29 vs 37), but each will be packed with even more goodness. Or so I hope.

Weekend Off! – Because I’m moving along at such a good clip, I’m taking the weekend off this weekend. My goal was to finish Bleeding Sky by the end of October, let it settle for a week or so, then dive into intensive editing and polishing to have it ready for release by the first week of December. Just a heads up – it will make a wonderful Christmas, Channukah, Kwanza, Festivus, or whatever the hell you might celebrate in December gift. Maybe it and Night and Day for that favorite somebody, eh?

Giveaways – I’ve ordered five copies of the paperback. One is for me to have and hold, stick on the bookshelf, and show visitors if I think they might be even marginally interested. One I’ve promised to a friend as a prize for an upcoming Halloween machinima event. Signed and inscribed if the winner wants his book defaced by me. As I told someone who bought the paperback last night, feel free to scrawl my name in it and write a nice dedication. I won’t tell. The other three copies will be given away on Goodreads in the weeks leading up to the release of Bleeding Sky. Get thee over there and signup, if you’re not already a member. I’ll let everyone know when the giveaways begin.

More Giveaways – I also plan to do a Facebook giveaway of a copy or two in November, either kindle or paperback as you wish. Like me on Facebook. It doesn’t mean you have to actually like me and hey, nobody who knows me would believe you liked me anyway.

Amazon Matchbook – Okay, it’s called something like that. I could look, but why bother. It’s basically a program that lets you get the kindle version of a book very cheap (or free) if you buy the physical book. I signed up Night and Day in the program yesterday, and I think I set the kindle version as $.99 if you buy the paperback. I may change that to free. If you buy the book, you should have the freedom to read it as you wish.

And that’s all that comes to mind today. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you right back here on Monday.

Condensation

I’ve been doing something (and contemplating doing something in today’s chapter) in the last couple of days – condensing  conversations.

Condense

But unlike some delicious condensed cream of mushroom soup, there’s no adding water to expand these scenes. And they’re not gloppy. Hopefully.

As I’ve probably mentioned, I’m an instinctive writer. And I generally trust my instincts. If I feel no need to detail something, I might skip it entirely. Chapter ends, next chapter begins at some point later. Welles goes back to his apartment at the end of a chapter, next chapter maybe begins in his apartment the next morning, or sometime later in the day. It’s not real-time. I turn the camera back on, so to speak, when there’s something for you to see.

What I skip, where I come back, none of it is planned ahead of time. I just go with what feels right at that moment of putting fingers to keyboard, what seems like it will keep the story rolling.

It’s nothing unusual – anyone with any understanding of the “craft” of fiction writing does this to one extent or another.

But I’ve been doing (and contemplating) something that I don’t believe I did in Night and Day. (Well, maybe once, when Welles gave some instructions to Takeda about his planned visit to the Uptown police station and I didn’t share those instructions with the reader – but that was about not revealing what would happen a chapter or two later.) I’ve been, for lack of a better term, summarizing some long conversations and having Welles, in his role as narrator, give the results of the conversation without actually detailing the back and forth for the reader.

For example – a couple of days ago, a chapter ended with Welles asking Takeda about something that is very germane to the plot. The next chapter opens with Welles telling what he learned in that conversation. Four-five paragraphs of the information he received and his take on it. You might call it an info-dump, but it was a relatively short one, not eight pages of exposition about something I could have shown you in five.

Theoretically, the reader would have expected to read the actual conversation when the chapter ended and they turned the page to the next. Welles asking questions, Takeda answering some, ignoring others. Back and forth. Back and forth. For however long it took for him to get his questions answered.

I didn’t do that. I considered it, but when I started writing I realized that I didn’t need to. It would have taken up “space”, but not added to either the reader’s understanding of the information/plot, or the reader’s understanding of Welles or Takeda.

They’re major characters, but there have been many opportunites to learn about how they think and who they are in this book, as well as the previous one. And there will be more to come as this story goes along. I think that’s why I did it this way. How they interacted wasn’t important. Who they are wasn’t important. What was important was the sum of the content of the conversation, and so I SUMmarized.

Next couple of chapters I had similar extended sequences, and kept them in – one I talked about yesterday. I could have summarized both in a similar way, but there was a reason to keep them in. In the first case, I thought it was time to get Welles’s fire and ice mojo working….

Fire ice

We hadn’t seen a lot of it in this book, so I kind of figured readers might enjoy seeing it again, especially if they had already read Night and Day, to remind them that it’s always bubbling below the surface. And it let me do a little more character stuff with some other characters.

The second one in the chapter yesterday was pure info and character. A chance to get, as I think I mentioned yesterday, some answers but learn about important secondary characters through the retrieval of those answers.

Which brings me to today – I have a conversation that’s important plot-wise, but the character Welles is talking to isn’t that important. He’s important, certainly, to the story, but he himself not so much. I could let the conversation play out. Maybe a chapter’s worth. But again, that wouldn’t add a lot to the story or flow, other than the information the reader would get either way. So I’m leaning quite heavily toward a little talk, then summary and out. Because I have something else I need to do in the chapter, and something even more pressing in what should be the events in the next chapter.

That stuff should be interesting. This stuff, even if well written, is just information.

We’ll see how it plays out. I may go back and add water to the condensed conversation soup in the second draft…

Happy Days

(and no, not the 70s TV show – there will be no vampiric Fonz in the Night and Day series – if I want that, I will not turn away from TV commercials with Henry Winkler selling reverse mortgages or colostomy bags or whatever it is he’s shilling for these days…)

Those happy days when the whole day’s writing just seems….really good.

Admittedly I’m a fan of my own work – somebody has to be, right, so I take one for the team time and time again. And if it isn’t going well, I have no trouble starting again. I like my own stuff, but only if it clears some minimal internal bar.

It has to, at the very least, be serviceable. It has to do the job, even if it’s not in the most elegant or pleasing way. I can always shine it up down the road as I get closer to the final draft. And if it still lacks luster at that point, then I start cutting and rewriting.

So sometimes a day’s writing (a chapter, usually) is “okay”. It gets the job done. It moves the plot, it introduces a character, whatever it was supposed to do. There might be some good lines of dialogue, a clever transition, something unexpected for the reader. But when I finish, I’m just glad to be done with that part of the story, and ready to move on to the next.

But sometimes, it goes (in my mind, of course) well beyond that. I not only enjoy the way it plays out, I enjoy the actual writing of it, even more so than usual (because I do enjoy the writing all the time, even when I’m lurching around, stumbling, trying to find the hook I need to pull me forward).

Yesterday was a good day, and I think that was because of a couple of things. First of all, it was a sequence that had just come to me the night before. I needed to get Trooper Lita Martinez to a certain physical location so she could continue to flower (so to speak) as a character. I’d played around with a couple of ideas and I knew where she had to be, but didn’t know how I could credibly get her there (so the reader doesn’t see through the background machinations of me moving characters around on the chess board). Night before last, a way certainly hit me, so I gave it a go yesterday.

The second reason I think it worked was because it gave Charlie Welles his first opportunity to be fire and ice for the first time in Bleeding Sky.

Up to this point, he’d been pretty even-tempered, because the situation didn’t warrant anything different. He’d gone through a range of emotions, certainly, but none of them extreme. Until this point.

Anyone who read Night and Day knows that he has a tipping point, where he goes from reasonable to very angry to icy cold. As he says in this chapter, “A lot of people think I’m relatively calm and easy-going. Those people haven’t seen me get angry.” This chapter gives him a chance to let loose. And though I enjoy writing him in full on rage/cold vengeance mode, I have to be judicious in my use of that side of his character. That’s not him all the time, or even the majority of the time – if it was he’d be somebody else, not the character I’m writing about.

So it was good yesterday -solved the Martinez issue, gave Welles a chance to spread his wings and rain down hellfire on those deserving of it, and managed to get in more than a few nice bits in the process.

Today will go in a different direction, though it may also turn out to be another happy day. Because today I start revealing the answers to some of the questions about the Night and Day universe that readers were probably asking from the beginning. What’s the deal with these vampires, and how did we get here. As I said in the note at the beginning of Night and Day, “The follow-up to this book, Bleeding Sky, will answer a lot of the questions, though from a different perspective than Poison Blood.”

That begins today.

 

Research (On The Fly)

I was writing until 10 o’clock last night to finish Chapter 10, which is about 2–3 hours later than usual to finish a chapter. The culprit for the delay was on-the-fly research.

I do two kinds of research with any project. First is the overall “world” research, where I fill in the blanks in my knowledge about major aspects of the world I’m creating.

For Poison Blood, the prequel to the Night and Day series, I did 2–3 months of research, working out the locations, hows and whys of the genesis of the “vampire apocalypse” I’d be writing about. And then, of course, I pushed the whole damn thing to the backburner and changed my focus from big to small with Night and Day.

For the still-in-research Kripo series, I spent about 18 months, and bought approximately 150 books for research – which is actually my main reading list at the moment, since I do eventually want to get to that project in the next year or two.

So that’s “world” research, the broad strokes, the environment, the world. For a reader to accept the fanciful aspects of the story, the stuff I make up, it all has to be rooted in some kind of consistant reality the reader can identify with. I make the rules, and I can’t break them because they’ve become inconvenient. Some writers do that. And when I, personally, see it, that’s when I put the book back on the shelf.

But within the broad strokes, there has to be a certain reality as well. That’s where the on-the-fly research begins. I’m rolling along, and then I reach a point or a character says something, and I realize “I don’t know the reality of that.” In this case, it was German cigarette brands.

I have a character who’s been stuck, so to speak, in Europe for the past five years with no access to his regular brand of American cigarettes (figure it out…). He’s looking to score some real American cigarettes and is complaining about what he’s had to smoke.

Now, I don’t smoke cigarettes. Never have, though I have smoked a pipe for 40 years or so. My only personal experience with them was when I was in radio and had to go out on personal appearances, that kind of thing. Bringing along a couple of pipes and some tobacco was a pain, so I’d sometimes smoke cigarettes. Not to inhale, but for the taste in my mouth. Because I wasn’t inhaling, I went for cigarettes that gave me the most taste bang for the buck. Usually it was those clove cigarettes that were (and perhaps still are) popular among the hip. I wasn’t interested in my hip factor – I just wanted something that tasted better than the average cigarette, and they did have flavor.

So other than knowing popular American brands, and some of the bigger European brands, I was clueless. I could have had him say “I just can’t stand those European cigarettes”, but that would have been a copout. So I figured…how hard can be it be find out the popular German cigarette brands.

It was harder than it seemed. Apparently they like Marlboros. Not American Marlboros – ones made in Europe.

Marlboro

I have no doubt there are actually local German cigarette brands with colorful names. But every avenue I traveled to find them left me with little information and unsure if putting a particular name in would date the story because, hey, they don’t make that one anymore…

I went down that road for about an hour, hour and a half. Following links, going to tobacco company websites, cigarette review websites, watching video reviews of cigarettes (“Now let me take a deep drag to the bottom of my lungs and see how the kick is…”) When I finally surfaced, I did sort-of end up with a copout, speaking of “Gauloise, Players, and Marlboros made in Russia or Moldavia.” I’d basically wasted my time (though I know a lot more about cigarettes -and by a lot more I mean more than I’ll every need to know). I already knew about the Russian Marlboros – one of the woman I used to know at work bought them on the Internet – at very low prices.

After all that, I went and got the cheese I mentioned yesterday. It was so good, I might have another cheeseburger tonight…