Archives for October 2013

Playing Ball

So with all the hubbub involved in having a house guest, I didn’t have time to blog earlier today. No, I’m not talking about Conchita, my shiftless housekeeper from Florida. I’m speaking about this guy…

Carlos

His name is Carlos, and he really likes to play – almost demands it. While his owner is doing woman-type things, he’s sitting there, staring at me. I tried the old “tell me clearly what you want and I’ll do it” routine, but he was having none of it. He just sits and stares, until I finally break down and take him outside to play ball. It’s pretty non-demanding for me. Toss the ball. He then takes it and tosses it himself, then chases after it. If I approach, he grabs it and runs. After 20 minutes or so, I clap hands and open the door. He grabs the ball and runs inside. The most impressive thing of all is that he’s playing ball with a thirty year-old racquet ball ball from when I’d play racquet ball in the back of the bays at fire stations with other guys on duty. Sometimes you’d get minor cuts when you lunged into the back of a fire engine or tanker truck, which formed the left wall of the “court”.

After the round of racquet ball, I can get some work done.

I did finish the first (actually second) pass on Bleeding Sky before I went to the airport yesterday. 101,000 words and change. A little under a thousand words added in the rewriting. Having had a chance to actually take a good look at it over the two and a half days it took to run through it, I’m pretty happy with it. A couple of sections may need a little more work, but that’ll come in the runthrough next week.

So on to the video book trailer. I started setting up the first scene I’ll shoot today – got the set together, played with the lighting, got a couple of characters in. Tomorrow I’ll add the third character and start animating it. There’s a good chance that I’ll have the scene finished tomorrow, assuming I can avoid extended ball playing session.

Still no ideas for the cover of the book – I still have five weeks till release, so it’s not critical, but I still would like to have some ideas to play with. Looking at the list of scenes that I have planned for the trailer, I don’t see any that seem right for a still picture that I can make a cover from. That may be the problem – I’m trying to do as I did with Night and Day, grab the perfect still image from the trailer that makes a great cover. If I let that idea go, I can start thinking about something else, a good cover that isn’t necessarily something from the trailer.

Perhaps I’ll give that some thought tonight. If the tiny demon doesn’t want to play ball in the dark…

A Busy Day Ahead

Today is going to be an annoyingly busy day.

Leg

First, my shiftless Moldavian housekeeper, Conchita, is flying in around 1:30 this afternoon, along with her little dog Carlos (she was last mentioned here in 2010 when she was reading Night and Day aloud to me as part of the rewrite process – I blame her for the delay in getting it out because, hey, has to be somebody other than me, right? Right?!?!).

So around 12:30ish, I’ll have to stop what I’m doing, grab a shower, drive to the airport, wait, wait, wait, find the car in the parking garage (when she was last here in the spring, because I was unfamiliar with the new layout of the Birmingham airport, we couldn’t find where I parked – ultimately an airport guy, who apparently drove around looking for idiots who couldn’t remember where they parked, loaded us in his jeep and we drove till I saw the car), then drive home.

Then I’m sure the rest of the day will be filled getting her settled in for however long she’ll be staying and then entertaining her. With folk dancing or whatever.

So this morning marks the end of the solitude I enjoy for an indeterminate period. But I won’t let it slow down Bleeding Sky.

And hey, speaking of Bleeding Sky, the first pass is going along very well, probably because it’s not the first pass but the second pass. As I think I mentioned during the writing, my process during this book was to reread the previous chapter and clean it up before starting the next chapter. It helped get me into the groove, the “voice”, the rhythm before writing. And it also took care of the most egregious errors.

So I’m not finding a ton of “bad things”, as I think of typos, misspellings, missing punctuation, etc. Some, but not a lot. Which makes it move relatively quickly – maybe a chapter every half hour, 45 minutes.

I’ve done 23 chapters, leaving me 4 chapters and a half-chapter-length epilogue. I should be able to do that well before I have to get ready to go to the airport, as long as I don’t waste a lot of time doing other things. Then let it sit for another week or so while I start some serious work on the book trailer – which I may be mostly done with (assuming Conchita is not too disruptive…I can say that because she doesn’t read this blog) by the time I go back to making the final pass on the book in manuscript form (I’ll do one more once I convert it into an ebook) – and if not, I’ll have plenty of time to polish the trailer and do all the other pre-release stuff.

So I guess I better get on that, huh….

You Don’t Have A Novel In You

I don’t mean to be harsh. But it’s true. You may have enough words in you to write a novel, though even that may be up for debate. But just as a pot of hot dirty dishwater is not soup, no matter how many carrots and potatoes you toss in, so writing 50,000 words in sequence does not a novel make.

Why am I saying these hideous, elitist things? Why am I crushing your nascent dreams of telling your story to the world? Because it’s probably true. And because in a couple of days National Novel Writing Month, also known as Nanowrimo, begins. (And I’m not going to give you a link – finding out things on your own is part of the writing process…)

Let me frontload this post by saying if you want to write 50,000 words during the month of November, and call the output a novel, go for it. Really. I’m being 100% serious here. Go for it. If it’s a personal challenge, to see if you have the cojones and discipline to churn out an average of 1600 some-odd words a day for 30 days, good for you. Like the folks at Benchmark Chrysler-Dodge here in Birmingham say, “I’m with you down the road.”

But please – for your own sake – don’t confuse that with being a writer. I can hammer a nail into a piece of wood, but I don’t imagine that I’m a carpenter. I can pull a weed out of the ground, but I am not a gardener. Doing the things that others do does not make you them. The physical act of writing sentences and paragraphs does not make you a writer.

There’s an unease in the Kindle forums I lurk in. It’s the fear of the coming Nanowrimo surge. The millions of participants who will actually finish their 50,000 words, then upload the Word document to Amazon, use the Amazon cover creater thing to make a bland, generic cover, and BOOM! There it is, another book to disappoint readers and scare them away from the higher-quality indie works out there. I saw somebody describe it as “a sea of debris, the slush pile made visible” (for those unfamiliar with the slush pile, it’s the pile of manuscripts on an editor’s/agent’s desk from unknown writers – usually close to the trash can, so you don’t have to waste a lot of effort when you toss it after skimming through and realizing how bad it is).

As I was talking to my thoughtful, conscientious, good writer pal Nick last night, we talked about this for a bit because Nick is a Nanowrimo municipal liaison in Australia, one of those plucky people who wrangles the local participants into meet-ups and group events, who shows them that they’re not alone, that they can do this. A writing motivator.

Nick understands and agrees with the unease I’m seeing in the Kindle forums. He agrees that December-March is going to be awful, as the wave of badly written Nanowrimo “novels” floods the marketplace (and I put novels in quotes because a 50,000 word novel is like a 63 minute movie. Yes, I do know that 50,000 is sort of the accepted minimum length for a novel – below that, you’re in novella territory. I also understand that getting people into Nanowrimo would be more difficult if you told them that to “win” that they would have to write 80,000 words (2600 words/day average) or even 60,000 words (2000 words/day average). Even the 1600+ words/day of a 50,000 word “novel” is a stretch for a lot of people – not only because of writing aptitude, but because they have other things going on in their lives – work, school, family, etc. – I could do that number of words pretty easily even when I was working because I am a relatively fast writer. Of course, I’ve been doing this for a looooong time – I sold my first short story 27 years ago…it was an “adult” story for a “men’s” magazine…you can fill in the blanks…)

Again, I go back to what I said. If you want to write, you have to write. If Nanowrimo gives you the push you need, go for it. You may not even hit 50,000 words. If you do finish, your Nanowrimo “novel” may be crap. But I’m all for you giving it a shot. But please, don’t imagine that if you do it, it will be worth sharing with other people, or turning into an ebook and selling. It most probably won’t be.

And I don’t share the unease of the others I mentioned, because my personal secret of life is to not worry about things I can’t do anything about. Like I told Nick last night, the Nanowrimo tsunami is coming. I can’t change that. All I can do is write the best book I can, edit it as well as I can, create the catchiest, most attractive cover I can, format it for a good reader experience, and put it out there. Whether it’s bought or not, I can’t control. Whether it’s surrounded by a sea of debris, the slush pile made visible, I can’t control. So I don’t worry about it. I have a book to edit.

(and this post is 918 words long – more than half a day’s output to reach 50,000 words a month. It is doable. But like my musings here, not necessarily worth reading. Game. Set. Match.)

Looking Into the Future

As I begin the first rewrite/edit/polish pass on Bleeding Sky, I’m thinking about what’s next in the wonderful world of the vampire apocalypse – well, it’s apocalypsal (probably another made-up word – hey, I’m blazing trails in the English language here, so back off!) in the U.S. at least.

Big-blue-moon-of-san-diego-water-sky-city-hd-wallpaper-409163

Bandit’s Moon will undoubtedly be next – I’ll probably start writing after Bleeding Sky is released on December 6th (idle hands, devil’s workshop, etc.) and it should be done sometime at or around the beginning of February – so then released maybe late March, early April. The plot is coming together, thought I still don’t have the key fact for that first chapter when things kick off. I’ll come up with something, but for now, I’ve backed off on thinking about that and have been playing with some supporting characters – one has morphed from male to female, but may morph back to male as more of the story plays out in my head.

As I’ve been thinking of the entirety of the Night and Day series, I realized how egalitarian this world is, and not just because I’m pretty egalitarian myself. The setting demands it.

In the United States of this world, there’s really only two kinds of people – human and vampire. And that’s what determines your place in society. Not skin color, not gender, not religion, not sexual orientation, not any purely human attributes. They don’t matter. If you’re a black, white, or asian vampire, what’s the difference? You’re a vampire. You weren’t turned because of any human characteristic. You were turned because they needed you, for your skills, your position, your knowledge, or because they needed another cold body during the war.

And if you’re human, what does any of that mean anymore? You may be black, or a Jew, or gay, but at least you’re human. Fifties science fiction films loved to show the world coming together to fight an alien threat, regardless of differences, and I tend to think that’s a valid supposition. When you’re worried about ending up tapped dry in an alley, that’s the problem – not if there’s a black human guy living next door.

So that’s the world I’ve been writing, in Night and Day, in Bleeding Sky, and in the ones to come. What will this character I’m working out in my head be? Maybe male, maybe female, maybe white, maybe Hispanic, maybe straight, maybe gay. The character will be whatever works best in the story, and whatever seems right for that character.

After Bandit’s Moon, at this point I’m thinking of moving on to Poison Blood, though that’s still up in the air. I may do another Night and Day series book, but right now I’m leaning toward Poison Blood. Yesterday I started looking at all the research stuff I did back ten years ago when I was first looking at Poison Blood. And guess what, a lot of the web links that I had collected while doing the research and hashing out the plot are dead. Dead! Gone. 404, page not found!

But, archive.org, The Internet Wayback Machine, is your friend and mine. I checked a couple and was able to bring them up from the past. Well, at least the ones I checked. I’ll check them all in the coming weeks, and then start looking for updated information in areas that need it. Hell, I was even able to find the very first website I ever built  (it  was for a MUD I was an administrator on – yes, it has lots of animated gifs, image maps, and other stuff that was popular in the mid-late 90s, and sadly they didn’t archive the staff pictures (though they did archive the picture and page of my then-girlfriend – what a sap I was…and it’s there FOR ALL ETERNITY!!!) – my name on there was Parsifal, so go look if you like…or not).

After Poison Blood, it’s the as-yet untitled Bandit’s Moon sequel (Night and Day, Book 4) and then either some more Poison Blood if warrented or Night and Day, Book 5, which has a direct tie-in with some of the stuff in Poison Blood). That should get me to around this time next year.

Planning – I hate it when I writing, but I find it does have it’s uses in life.

What I Thought Bleeding Sky Would Be About

Yesterday I discussed what Bleeding Sky is about in a non-spoiler-ish way. Today, I tell you what I thought it was going to be about when I started it. They’re not the same thing at all.

Since I finished the first draft of Night and Day 10 years ago, I always knew that the “big event” would be the arrival of the former German ambassador, Dr. Konrad Heymann. In a OneNote note from December 27, 2003, I have his name, the name of the European vampire accompanying him (Anna Thodberg, a Dane) and the name of the American Army captain with them (then Owen “Fitz” Fitzmorris, changed to Ron Clay when I introduced him in the actual writing).

So that’s the event, the thing (like Joshua’s murder in Night and Day) that kicks it all off. And I quite naturally thought, then and in the ensuing years, that the story would be about protecting the ambassador. That would be the A storyline, the main challenge Welles would have to overcome.

But like the shark in Jaws, the alien attack in Independence Day, the little black bird statue in The Maltese Falcon (and I’m talking about movies rather than books because there’s a better chance you’ve seen them, or at least are familiar with them), those things are not really what the story is about. Jaws is about the effect the great white shark has on a community, and the journey of three men to kill it. Independence Day is about the people affected by the alien attack, and how they will defeat it. The Maltese Falcon is about the people wheeling and dealing to get their hands on the statue.

Events are events. Stories are about people.

And though executive protection (bodyguard work) is a valid job for a private investigator, there’s not much mystery in it. And the Night and Day series is, after all, a mystery/thriller series set in a unique world. So I needed to get some mystery into it, something other than Welles standing around, waiting for an attempt on the ambassador’s life. (Look at Quinell’s Man on Fire or the later movie versions, first with Scott Glenn in the lead and then Denzel Washington – his principal is kidnapped and he spends the rest of the story trying to get her back – or even Kostner’s The Bodyguard, which includes a romantic angle between bodyguard and principal – actual personal protection isn’t that interesting unless you introduce something that the audience (reader or watcher) might actually enjoy…)

Man

So there’s your B storyline – Welles’s investigation into the antagonists in the story, the Resistance and the vampires who want to stop the ambassador’s mission in its tracks.

Originally there were no vampire antagonists – the Resistance was it. The Resistance is interesting enough (and Bandit’s Moon, the next book in the series, will be centered on it to a great extent), but in this book, in that role, just way too hard to work it in effectively – and let’s face it, Welles is human, the Resistance is made up of humans, they want to kill vampires and rid the country of them – for Welles, not quite like hunting down the people who killed his partner in Night and Day

But the vampire antagonists, and their plans to stop Heymann…that was interesting. I mentioned some of the questions their existence raised yesterday. So they became the B storyline (there’s still Resistance stuff in there, important stuff, but it’s not the focus of the B storyline).

And as the writing went on, the B storyline became more and more interesting, more mysterious, than the A storyline. It let me introduce uncertainty in Welles’s relationships with people. Anybody could be on the other side. People might not be who they seemed to be. It’s a regular theme of mine, and though there was some in Night and Day, there’s a lot more of it in Bleeding Sky.

As the book went on, that became more important than a simple “protect the ambassador” story – it’s part of that story, that story is the reason it’s happening, but the internal vampire politics and more importantly their ramifications became central rather than a side note.

I did do a couple of things I wanted to – tell the reader more about what’s happening in the rest of the world, more about the US military outside the continental US, more about vampires, more about why and how the vampires took over the country. But it’s from the perspective of outsiders (Anna Thodberg and Ron Clay) and their knowledge is speculative or based on incomplete information. For the full, unbiased story, you’ll have to wait for Poison Blood.

If you’d asked me 10 years ago, or even two months ago, what Bleeding Sky was about, I would have said it was about protecting the German ambassador. Today, I know that’s only part of the story and not the biggest part.

That’s why I keep my mouth shut about plot points until the book is finished…