Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hard Choices

I’ve been cruising through my latest novel and have surpassed the 40000 word mark, which is the magical half way point.  But if I’m honest with myself, I’ve cheated a bit, and that cheating is coming back to haunt me.

You see, three years ago, I started on a book, got twenty pages into it, and stopped.  It was one of those cases where I had a good scene in mind, but no plot to go with it.  It was my first real attempt at writing in half a dozen years, and while that story didn’t go anywhere, the act of writing directly led to me buying a laptop and starting to write on the train, which led to ‘The Forgotten Road’ and my enormous success since then to come.

But that scene and that character stuck in my brain, and last winter, when I was brain dumping plots out into my ‘What If’ file (a file I keep of one sentence ‘What If’ scenarios that might drive a plot), I what if’d a great little idea that could use that scene I had in those 20 pages.   So all along, from the time I started the outline until today, I planned to have that scene in the book.

Well now those 20 pages are in the story.  And they’re bad.  Spilling yogurt on the crotch of your pants at work first thing in the morning bad.  You can get away with it, pretend no one can see it, and cover it up with your jacket all day and say you’re cold, or you can go to the store down the street and buy yourself a new pair of pants and be done with it.  You know you’re going to need a new pair of pants eventually, because blueberry doesn’t come out of light tan Dockers.  And you can pretend all day that no one sees that white crusty smear on your pants, but everyone does, and they are all wondering… what IS that smell?

So this scene, and the premise of this scene is spilled into my story, and the blueberry is sinking in, and the yogurt is curdling, and I’ve been sitting there, knowing I need to rip it out, and take the five to eight thousand word hit, and do it right, because not only is the scene out of place, the writing itself is bad.  My writing is so much better now than it was three years ago, it’s not even funny.  And not only is the writing itself bad, the scene forces the characters to do things and act in a way that they just wouldn’t do based on the rest of the story.  It’s gummed up the whole mess, destroyed the flow, and made a mockery of my outline.

And yet, I can’t figure out exactly what to do different… yet.

So even though I’m at the halfway point of the book, I need to take a step back, and read and edit from the beginning, and see if the momentum picks back up, and see how that scene can be removed.  I need to by new pants.

Of course I’ll make a backup copy first… and I’ve still got that original scene, just in case I can find another place to put it.   I never throw anything (except adverbs) away.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Website Update

It’s a nice day in the PNW, so what do I do?  I upgrade my web site to ASP.NET MVC 2.0, .NET 4 and VS2010. Not too hard, but needed to be done.

I needed to get this done in order to prep for the 2010 PNWA Conference in July.  I’ve updated some information there, including posting a new short story that I entered in the Wil Wheaton/John Scalzi Fan Fiction Contest to Benefit the Lupus Alliance of America contest.  You can read ‘Under a Molten Sky’ on my short story page.  If you don’t read about the contest first, your first question will undoubtedly be “Why?”, or maybe it’ll be “What the hell?”, but it was a fun contest to enter, and who knows, maybe something good will come out of it.

I’ve also updated the first two chapters of ‘The Forgotten Road’, pending another major edit coming in August, and released the first working title (but no details yet, sorry) to my next novel ‘The Unexplored Territory’.  The title is not the final one.  In fact, I don’t like it at all, but I had to call it something.

So go out, browse, peruse, enjoy.

And by all means, let me know if you find any mistakes or broken things, and let me know what you think of the new first chapters to ‘The Forgotten Road.’

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Quick Howdy

I haven’t been writing here lately, because I’ve been writing elsewhere a lot lately.  As in my latest novel.  I’m hovering around the 35000 word mark, which in the world of 80000 word novels, is, you guessed it, almost halfway done.   I’m not going to spill the beans on this one yet, but when I read what I have done, it is easily my best work ever, and I think, really freaking good.  It is coming so fast, that if I could sit down and write all day, I could knock out the final 45000 words in less than 10 days.

Because I’ve been writing, I haven’t been reading as much, though I did read John Scalzi’s ‘The Ghost Brigades’ (good book, worth the read as the sequel to Old Man’s War).

I’m also reading a book my sister-in-law’s husband gave me for Christmas last year called ‘The Devil and the Dervish’, which is translated from Bosnian, I think.  I can read four or five pages at a time, and it’s 500 pages, so it may take me a while.  It’s not exactly Grisham-esque in its pace, but it is not…bad…

I’m also reading a collection of short stories called ‘Steampunk’ to become more familiar with the genre… not that my new book has anything to do with that…, and the stories are quite interesting.

Movie-wise, we watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” last weekend, good movie, a trifle long at times, but so worth it to see Grace Kelly.  I admit it, I have a crush.

The weather here in the Pacific Northwest currently sucks bull testicles.  It’s that bad.  Epically bad.  Atrocious.  Rain.  Cold. Rain.  Rain.  Rain. Rain.  Rain.  Rain.  More Rain. Sun (tease), Rain.  Rain.  Rain.  You get the picture.  The least amount of sun in Seattle since 1953, and we’re an inch of rain away from the all time wettest May-June ever.  And we still have 9 days left, with rain in the forecast for every one of them.

To keep our cheery dispositions, we’ve taken to watching uplifting TV series like HBO’s Dexter (Season 2), and the current season of ‘Deadliest Catch’.  Nothing like Miami serial killers and arctic storms to make you feel good about where you are.

In other news, I will be attending the 2010 Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Conference in July, and I will be moderating the session entitled ‘Working to a difficult deadline’ which will be given by Gordon Kirkland, a Canadian author and humorist.  Two Canadians at the front of a room full of Americans.  Last time that happened, their names were Bob and Doug Mackenzie.

Lisa is heading to Denver this weekend for her first dance competition of the year, so I’ll be alone with the little ones by myself for a few days and nights.  We haven’t broken the news to them yet (so don’t tell them), since Lorelai freaks out when Momma goes for a twenty minute walk at night.  I may be heading to the store on Saturday morning to buy a bunch of movies if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

I was going to write – write tonight, but I had to reinstall a bunch of software on my PC, so you get this update instead.  Consider yourself lucky.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Reading and Reviewing

As I said in my last blog post, I’ve been reading a lot lately, at almost a dangerous pace.  So much so fast that it seems I could have a reading crash and injure my dictionary.  But I still am not as bad as my wife, who I caught reading while she was walking down the stairs two nights ago.  In a house with kids, not watching where you are going is really not a great idea.

So what’s been on my reading list?

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  This is a pretty famous book about a computer science professor from Carnegie Mellon University who is diagnosed with cancer, and the inspirational last lecture he gave to his students and the faculty there.  It’s a quick read, but it isn’t always easy, and if you’re not careful, it may just change your life.  You should also watch the video of his last lecture (either before or after is fine)

I got a lot lighter in reading after that.

The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans and Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Yes I read all three of these in the past month).  A series of novels about a private investigating family in San Francisco.  The books are good, pretty funny and a quick read, but they have one really annoying flaw that drove me nuts.  Footnotes.  Not footnotes as in references to other books, but parentheticals that constantly distract from the flow of the story.  As a writer, I’ve learned to never distract the reader and disturb the flow.  A couple of times, this might be fine, but, to do it so constantly is just annoying, and were it not for my OCD and the fact that my wife recommended the books, I would have stopped after book one.  My hope is that Lutz stops this practice going forward, or at least minimizes this device.  I’d like to read more about the Spellmans, but I’m on the edge about actually doing it if I have to fight through the distractions.

Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer – A great Young Adult Apocalyptic fiction book that will have you restocking your pantry by the last chapter.  We bought this book at John Scalzi’s recommendation.  Lisa loved this book and so did I. 

The Inside Ring – Mike Lawson – A disclaimer here, I’ve met Mike a couple of times at PNWA functions and got him to autograph this book.  This is a political thriller revolving around the attempted assassination of the President of the US.  It’s a good book, but I can tell that it is a writer’s first book, and it has a couple of flaws that I noticed as a writer, that the average reader my not.  I’ll read more of Mike’s work, and from what I hear, the writing gets better in the next book.

As for Movies, with the death of the 2009-2010 TV season, I’ve had more time to watch movies.  So here are the recent ones.

Seven Pounds – Will Smith – 3/4 Stars.  If you don’t tear up at the end of this one… then you weren’t sitting where I was last night. This was a much better movie than I expected, and I really liked it.

The Enforcer/The Dead Pool – Clint Eastwood.  Two movies in the Dirty Harry series.  I’ve been watching these to say that I have, but I was really glad they were only about 90 minutes of my time and that I watched them when I couldn’t really do anything else. 0/4 stars.  Keep those three hours of your life and use them to take a bath or something.

The Blind Side – Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw – A true story about a white family in Tennessee who takes in a disadvantaged black kid from the projects who goes on to play in the NFL.  Not a bad movie, and worth a watch, especially since I’m a big NFL fan and watched the draft where Michael Oher was drafted.  Bullock was good, but McGraw stole scenes with some great lines. 2.5/4 stars

The Hurt Locker – Oscar winning film about bomb disposal techs in Iraq.  Great movie, with really well done visuals and movie effects.  It is about the Iraq war, and there are a number of scenes that might be hard to watch.  It doesn’t drown you in them, but it doesn’t let you into a false sense of safety either. 3/4 stars

Crazy Heart – Jeff Bridges in another Oscar winning role.  Don’t expect to be uplifted by this, but the story isn’t bad, if not a little cliché at times. 2/4 stars

Notorious – An Alfred Hitchcock classic with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.  Good flick which seems a little cliché now… but it’s cliché now because everyone copied  them.  Every time I watch a Hitchcock movie, I gain appreciation for what he did. 3/4 stars

Surrogates – Bruce Willis – A pretty good, pure science fiction movie that I really enjoyed, but I like both SciFi and Bruce Willis, so this one may have been ideally tailored to me. 3/4 stars

The Lovely Bones – A slightly disturbing but good movie about a serial killer in the early 1970s, told through the eyes of one of his victims.  Based on a highly acclaimed book by the same name.  I haven’t read the book, but I still might, if I have time. 3/4 stars

The Commitments – A young man from Dublin forms a soul band to try to find a way out of poverty.  A great movie, but you’d better be able to understand the Irish accent to watch it, and you’d better like music.  3/4 stars

I think that’s pretty much it, for now.  It’s Saturday morning and it’s time to get some stuff done around here, so I can read more or write more or watch more this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Gettin Wordy With It

It’s been almost a month since my last post, and I’m on the train, so his may be a bit jumbled.

The biggest news is that Reece has finally come to terms with potty training.  We spent a weekend really close to the bathroom, took away his diaper, and set a timer to go off every half hour.  We gave him a warning five minutes before the timer was going to go off.  We had a few accidents the first couple of days, but Lisa was quick on the draw when it came to recognizing the early signs of the type of accident that would have forced us to abandon our house and look for a new home to live in.  After a couple of days of hard effort, the general idea seemed to have sunk in.  The days have been getting easier and there have been fewer accidents, so it looks like we’re soon going to be on the hook for all the things we promised him a few months ago.  You know, the bike, the scooter, the baseball glove, the fire engine, the moon.

Lorelai has been really supportive of Reece getting potty trained because when he is going potty, and she goes potty, they both get mints as a reward.  That reward had been phased out for her a few months ago, but it came back when he started going.  And they also believe that mint rewards carry over from day to day, so if you went potty 4 times yesterday and only got 2 mints, you have two coming to you right after breakfast. 

The kids have really gotten into doing jigsaw puzzles of up to 100 pieces, though they’re a little better off doing 75 pieces and smaller.  They’ll do the same ones over and over again, and love it.  More importantly, we love it as it keeps them busy for hours.

Reece has become a computer geek, and somehow he learned how to type the 3 letter password I put on his login account on the computer, and he’ll sneak into the office and play pretty much any time of the day or night.  I blame Lisa’s brother, Eric for that.  Because I can.

The rainy weather in the PNW the last few weeks has put a damper on the outdoor fun with the neighborhood kids, so last Sunday we bought the board game ‘Candyland’ to try with them.  I knew I was in trouble when the board came out and Lisa disappeared upstairs to ‘do laundry’, leaving me with two of the cheatenist kids you ever did see.  It was like they didn’t even care about the rules.  All they wanted to do was to get to the ice cream cone.  And if their card said to go past it, they stopped on it and refused to move.  Daddy almost won the game and put an end to the madness, but I pulled the Gingerbread Man card on what should have been the last play, and I ended up back at the start.  The game went on until I helped Reece to win.

Lisa and I took a night to celebrate our 5th Anniversary in Seattle recently.  We went to a movie (Ironman 2… better than I expected), and were supposed to eat at a restaurant called ‘The Flying Fish’ but they decided to relocate, and failed to tell us that when we booked the reservation.  Since we had already paid for parking, we went across the street to ‘The Queen Street Diner’.  The food was pretty good, but not the best I’d ever had.  I wouldn’t be opposed to going there again, but it’s not at the top of my list.

The next morning we ate at Lola’s in Seattle for breakfast.  If you get a chance to go there, do it.  The donuts are amazing, and the potatoes incredible.

I’m back to normal hours at work after a couple of months of long hours trying to get some projects going.  We still have a lot going on, but I just couldn’t sustain those hours forever, and the switch back to normal hours is already having positive effects on my writing.  The words are coming easier, and my current book is coming along nicely.  I’m at about the 1/4 pole, and the plot line is holding to what I had planned out.  At this pace, the first draft should be done by the end of the summer.  I do have to go back and do some editing on ‘The Forgotten Road’ in preparation for the PNWA Writer’s conference in July, but that should only take me a couple of weeks, and depends on the availability of my ‘Book Doctor’.

One of the side effects of spring is that my TV watching drops down to almost nothing, and my book reading and movie watching (not the same as TV watching, even if it is watching a DVD) goes up.   I’ll cover the books and movies in another post, but I’ve been reading at almost a dangerous level, and it feels good.

The garden is just barely starting to produce a few leaves of spinach.  The weather has been down right cruel, and things are way behind.  We need some warm weather and some sun.   I had the sprinklers set up a few weeks ago, and I had to turn them back off as the gardens are just big mud pits.

Lisa is getting ready for a dance competition in Denver later this month, so I’ll have a weekend by myself with the kids, which should be… interesting.  I hope the weather is nice, but even if it isn’t, we’re getting out of the house at least one day, and doing something outside.

Anyway, I’ll recap books and movies later tonight, because, as always, my OCD requires I document my reading.