Really for the first time, I feel blocked. I've been struggling with Ruby Red and the Robots.

Last night, I decided it was because I just haven't got enough of the story in mind; nor a real theme; so there is not much of a destination. I loved the tone of it at first, but tone is not enough.

I thought of a big twist last night--so big a twist, it might be too much. But it would also provide a theme.

So I'm going to mull over the story over the next few days, and if that doesn't unlock the writing, then I'm going to move on. would be the third or fourth effort recently that I didn't finish. For the first four or five years, I had only one abandoned story.

Hiring a Wizardess.


a rare breed female wizards with magical powers to transform internet content."

I'm hiring a wizardess.

With my BookBub coming up on December 26, I decided it was time to get my Duncan up to date. I've neglected it forever.

I need to update it to current publishers and titles and links, if nothing else. What I'd really like to do is link this blog to the first page so that there is constant new material. Not sure if that is possible.

Anyway, I called my internet Wizard, Aaron, and asked for help. He directed me to his high school aged daughter, Chloe, who "is better at it."

Hopefully she's coming over to help both Linda and me with our internet troubles. If not, I'll tackle the site myself and at least make it presentable.

I haven't been writing. I'm sort of stuck with "Ruby Red and the Robot."

I've got 20 books currently up for sale online, with eleven paperbacks. "The Darkness You Fear" should soon join them again, and Fateplay has been sent to be edited and a cover done.

So, you know, no hurry. That lack of urgency is not completely a good thing.

BookBub happening on December 26, instead of 25th.

For some strange reason, the people at BookBub don't want to work December 25th, so my "Featured New Release" for Deadfall Ridge is happening on December 26.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday about BookBub and it was exhausting. Not so much the BookBub itself but all the things they do tangentally. They started throwing around jargon about different methods and I didn't have a clue.

The amount of work and thought these authors put into promotion is mind-numbing. I mean, I get it. I don't think writing is enough. You have to play the game or you won't score.

Fine. I mean, I'm willing when the opportunities arise. But it sort of reminds me of how I've had to handle certain product lines in my store over the years: either you're all in, or you may as well get out. The moment you start slacking or backing away, the whole thing falls apart.

Some projects require complete immersion.

What's weird about writing--and probably most of the arts--is that you have to be totally immersed in the art, and at the same time, totally immersed in the promotion of that art.

There are not the same thing. They are two different worlds.

As I mentioned yesterday, it's really the equivalent of taking on a full time job. Not even counting the writing.

I keep having these unexpected advances in my career. That is, I do put myself forward when I see a chance, but I'm not thinking about it all the time. Who knows, maybe as I learn more, I'll do more.

The other thing happening is that many of the promotional  techniques that have worked in the past no longer work. It's changing all the time, as new players get in and old players change the rules. If something works and everyone does it, then it no longer works. And so on.

Like I said, it requires complete immersion and constant monitoring to keep track.

My timing was a little off. If I'd jumped in the pool about three years sooner, it probably would have been a bit easier. Or, as another author mentioned, if you weren't established by 2000 you have a much higher hill to climb.

I swore I wouldn't get hung up on this stuff. I mean, the writing is the thing. As always, I want my publisher to do well, I want them to make their money back.

What I want, when I want.

It's funny. Here I am, probably about to sell the most books I've ever sold, and I'm not currently writing. I'm reassessing my writing "career." (I had a book promotion a few years back for Led to the Slaughter, and it got several hundred downloads in a few days, but that one was free.) I hope Book Bub comes through for Crossroad more than anything.

But it got me thinking about what a "career" means. Thing is, I came back to writing to prove to myself, if no one else, that I could do it. Finish a book and put it out in the world. The secondary goal was to write a "good" book. The actual sales and reviews were more or less a third goal.

So the writing took off enough that I needed to fulfill some commitments. I needed to finish the Vampire Evolution Trilogy. I need to finish the Tuskers Sage. I wanted to keep the Virginia Reed Adventures going.

Even that felt a little bit like an imposition. I mean, I loved all those books and I enjoyed writing them, but it was still done with a bit of the "need to be done" about it.

So from the start, I've told myself to write "what I want, when I want." And that has been very freeing. Strictly speaking, I haven't been that concerned about strategy and or tactical placement. For instance, choosing better selling genres or settling in on one lone series, both of which are proven techniques of growing an audience.

I did start writing thrillers because the mainstream publisher I was dealing with didn't want to do SF, Fantasy, or Horror. But that was OK because I wanted to try that anyway. Thrillers are mostly what I read these days.

The mainstream publisher bought a thriller from me, as a ghost written book. This was definitely strategic in that I thought there was an implied promise that they would accept another book from me under my own name. Two thrillers later and no response--Not a rejection, but No Response--I gave up on that idea. (Meanwhile the ghostwritten thriller I wrote three years ago, which was extremely topical when I wrote it, has now become almost dated. I am flabbergasted by the lost opportunity...)

So that road was one I never really contemplated. I was invited in. The editor got in touch with me and asked. So what the hell--I thought thought something might happen, but I was fully aware it might not. My previous experience with New York publishers back in the 80s had been disillusioning. I'm not surprised the same thing has happened.

But that's what drew me back to writing. The wonderful opportunity to ignore the big guys and still find an audience, no matter how small.

So my goal was relatively modest.

And that has brought me to a realization. A full-blown "career" in writing means being fully engaged. Not in writing--I'm perfectly fine with that--but with everything else involved. I mean, if I can write "what I want, when I want" and it takes off and I'm allowed to keep doing "what I want, when I want," it, that would be a fine career.

But I don't think it works that way.

So here I go back to my real career as a small bookshop owner. I made this choice 35 years ago and fully committed to it--at first just trying to survive and pay off the loans, and then to make it work, and before I know it, I had a "career." Somewhat accidental, but I had put the work in. I'd done all the things I needed to do, whether they were things I wanted to do or not. I made the choice--and did the necessary things.

Over the years, I've often had people say to me--"Oh, I've thought of doing that as a sideline." Whether it be a game store, or a comic store, or a bookstore, or Magic, beanie babies, whatever.

And my ready answer was: "Do you believe that I could do your job as a sideline and make a go of it. Not put in the amount of work and effort and stress that you do?" And the answer, obviously, is probably not. Those kinds of jobs--that ones that don't actually lose money--require full-time commitment. (Another little saying I have: "If you aren't trying to make money, you are going to lose money.)

I've been in this game long enough now to observe full-time writers and their careers, and I can see how much work, effort, and stress they are putting into it. Lots of interaction with their fans, online and in person, lots of tactical decisions, lots of promotions, lots of planning and working.

And this doesn't even count the actual writing!

Well, that makes sense, the same way the commitment I made to Pegasus Books--and still so--makes sense.

So the truth is, if I was presented with the opportunity of a "career" and all that demands, I'd have to take a step back and go, "Whoa..."

The answer is yes---but only if I can keep doing "what I want, when I want." I mean, hey, maybe that will work. There are probably a few writers out there that get away with that. But taking it on with the kind of energy I gave to Pegasus Books? That probably isn't going to happen.

I guess I'm hoping that I can keep on doing "what I want, when I want," and have it all work out. But I know that would probably be a miracle.

The only trick I've learned about bad habits is to give myself a break.

It's almost impossible to change in the moment. But if you break away, think about it for an extended time, figure out what and how you want to change, then fix a future date and prepare for it, that seems to work.


I remember way back when I was trying to quit smoking. I read something about sometimes it's better not to keep failing. So I quit trying to quit, but thought about it, figured out all the mistakes I'd made, then pinpointed a date to make a "real" effort.

I've gone through different approaches to employees over the years, and I've been pretty terrible about it sometimes. So during those times when it all fell apart and I couldn't afford employees, I had a chance to think about what I'd done wrong and to try and correct it. Each time, I've gotten a little bit better.

When I quit writing in 1984 I had so many bad pernicious habits that it was overwhelming. Over the next 25 years I thought about it, tried to figure out how to fix them. Frankly, if I'd come back to writing too soon I probably would have got it wrong.

When I finally did dive in, I had winnowed it down to one rock solid rule: Finish the book before engaging in re-writing.

Once I started writing, I found a freedom to write more often than I'd ever contemplated before. I wrote what and when I wanted, and gave myself permission to "do it all."

So now I think I've reached a point of diminishing returns. I want to take another step upward, but I'm not sure how to do that. So it is probably time to give myself another break, even if it's just a few months. I have actually identified things I should do--researching, outlining, and planning, rewriting--but "in the moment" I haven't been able to install these new habits effectively. 

I've written a lot of words over the last six or seven years. Each book has been different. It's often been a case of three steps forward and two steps back. Sometimes the improvements are hard to identify, and sometimes a book just doesn't work. I'm not sure this can ever be fixed.

But I can identify my strengths and weaknesses, refine the process, and try a fresh start. It's a little messy. I have unfinished projects I want to finish. I'm in the middle of a book (See above #1 rule.) But I'm kind of working toward one of those breaks, giving myself time to absorb it all, and come back with a sharper focus.

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

Dorothy Parker

I don't actually completely agree with this. I like writing, but I do love "Having Written."

Linda is on book four of my Tuskers series. She turned to me and said, "I'm glad Paco is alive. I thought he was dead."

That got me to thinking about the complexity of this world I created. I'm amazed. It's a weird feeling of "I Did That!"

So I don't know if this is egotistical of me, but I'm impressed by what I've done. I mean, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, or what kind of reviews I get, or how many I sell--I'm amazed that they came out as well as they did.

What I'm saying is--these books are better than I thought I could do. I had a jaundiced view of my abilities. I still do. I still think I could do so much better. I read other writers and think, "I could never do that."

But I measure this view of my writing with what is actually out there and I think, "Well, that turned out better than I expected."

It's more a matter of "I finished this Marathon at a faster pace than I expected," than "I won the Marathon!"'

I reached my goal and exceeded it.

When I wrote my first three books, I could never read them without seeing all the flaws. Now I read one of my books and think, "Hey, not bad." I see small things I would change, but mostly I think they came out the way I wanted.

My books being judged for the quality of "The way I wanted" is different than being judged for a book that isn't "The way I wanted," if that makes sense. 

I'm at a point where I've written so much, I'm starting to rest on my laurels, which is probably a dangerous place.

But it does spur me to try to think more about the next book, what I can do to improve.

A couple of days of not writing.  I got all excited about the Bookbub thing. (Buy Deadfall Ridge on preorder for 2.99--it all counts on the day it is released, Dec. 18...)

I've decided these breaks actually serve a purpose--my subconscious is saying, "Wait a minute..."

So today, as I picked up my computer, I realized that I need to figure out some things. I'm 10K words in, and I like the characters and scenario, but this morning I realized it was missing a few things.

1.) I need a Big Bad--someone who is behind the Strike and the berserk robots.

2.) There needs to be an urgent reason for Ruby to get Antony to Kunlun Mountain. Some kind of time limit.

3.) She needs to be chased. The Bad Guys know who she is and what she's got.

So I need to ponder those three things. I'm not going back and rewriting what I've written. I'm proceeding as if those things were there from the beginning.

Later: Figured out that the start of the book could come with a messenger telling them these exact same things--followed by an attack. After that Ruby is on the run.

Snagged a Bookbub.

So it appears that "Deadfall Ridge" will be a "Featured New Release" from Bookbub on Christmas Day. It will be under the "Action and Adventure" category, and this is a pretty big thing.

So what's Bookbub?

It's the premier book promotion site.

So I probably should explain a few things. The "Featured New Release" is a newer thing for Bookbub, been around about six months. It's a "Featured" thing, that is it must go through a submission process and is curated. But it is not the famous "Featured Deal," which Bookbub is most known for.

This is more about being "New" than being a "Deal," though Crossroad Press has lowered the price to $2.99. 

The Daily "Deals" go out to millions of readers. Authors submit established books at lower prices, usually free or .99.

In return "Featured" books usually get tens of thousands of downloads. Bookbub charges a significant amount for it--based on the genre--but from all accounts, even though the book is often free or very low priced, the author more than evens out from extra sales.

The real problem is that is almost impossible to get accepted by the "Deal." Less than 5% are accepted, or something like that, which may not sound that impossible--but remember, included in that 5% is every author you've ever heard of.

My understanding was that it was easier to hook up with Bookbub if you were a new author five or six years ago. But with their success has come the major authors.

Bookbub has recently started the "Featured New Release," which is similar to the Deal except that it refers to new books, and isn't required to be discounted.

It is still very hard to get into: only about 20% are accepted, according to their own website. Its costs are similar to the Deal, but because heavy discounting isn't required, it probably doesn't need the tens of thousands of downloads to break even.

So this is validation of a sorts. I think "Deadfall Ridge" is a good book, and it's nice to see it accepted by some tough gatekeepers. I'm also proud that Crossroad Press has enough faith in my writing to take the risk.

Christmas Day is interesting. Not sure how that will work out. But no matter what, I'm proud that this is happening.

"Deadfall Ridge" is already available for pre-order on Amazon, and the paperback is already published (I'll have it in my store in the next few days...)

The preorder is now only 2.99 and the preorder determines the all important rank of the book on day one.

I guess I need to just treat this as a diary, which was my original intent. Not much of marketing tool, that's for sure.

Wrote another chapter of "Ruby Red and the Robot." This is a purposely light book, pretty much a young adult novel.

I've arrived at a very simple, straight-forward style. I think there is nothing wrong with this--in my rewrites I often want to add more, but I'm wondering if that is necessary. Clear up some of the continuity problems but leave the writing mostly alone.

Or maybe I'm just lazy. I do know I enjoy the inventing, the telling myself a story.

I'm not feeling any urgency, and I think the seriousness of purpose I had those few few years probably propelled my writing. Now...I'm just enjoying it, dabbling in it to some extent, so the pace has really slowed down.

I have books lined up for publication, so it's not like it's a problem.

Trying to get some momentum.

I'm hoping you'll help me out on "Deadfall Ridge," so I can get some momentum.

See, the way it works--and there is no reason you should know how it works, but here it is--whatever your beginning sales determines your sales arc, because if you can get a chunk of sales in advance, you enter the charts higher, and the higher you enter the charts, the more people notice you, and so on.

At the beginning of my writing, I was pretty aggressive, asking people pointblank to buy my first book. I think you can get away with it the first time, because you are genuinely proud and people are intrigued enough to help.

So I started off with a relative bang and was able to keep that going for more than year, because putting out a book every 3 or 4 months is what you have to do to keep momentum. You can literally watch the charts and see books dropping after that time period.

So for the first year, that was good, but then my publisher went MIA. I had other books written, but didn't plug them into the four month slot because I didn't want to step on the publisher's toes because he said he was going to do it any day.

So the chart drop happened and kept going and publisher didn't put out the next book for a year.

So that was the first time it happened.

So I started all over with another publisher, was aggressive again for my first book, and again there was great momentum for two books, and then that publisher decided to go mainstream and a year went by while they set up, and again, I watched the momentum fizzle.

So then I started again with a third publisher, who was already set up to be mainstream, and he seemed excited and had done some great promotion on books very much like mine, and again I asked people to buy the book, and it started off good.

And then that publisher decided to step back. Pretty much without any warning.

Momentum lost. I have 3 new publishers. I don't know why, but I do seem to be lucky that way.

One of the publishers, Crossroad Press, is being very proactive, and they are behind "Deadfall Ridge," so once again I'm asking all of you to please buy this book, so we can try to get some momentum on it, which then will pull up all the other books.

If you were ever thinking of buying a book of mine, now is the time. This is a thriller, for those of you who don't read fantasy or horror or science fiction. It's based in Central Oregon, and I think its an enjoyable read.

So there you have it. I'm asking. Please.


For the pre-sell on the ebook, here's the link:

If you'd rather read the paperback, here's the link:

Deadfall Ridge Paperback

"Deadfall Ridge" will be available as a paperback next week, which is somewhat unexpected. The ebook version isn't due until December 18th. Not sure how that works.

Anyway, I'll have it in my store soon.

It's a thriller, set in Eastern Oregon, about a wilderness guide who is being hunted in the winter mountains by ruthless mercenaries.

My publishers are being very proactive--covers, editing, ebooks, audio books, and paperbacks. It's nice to see.

What I'm hoping is that they'll be rewarded for their efforts. If any of you read me regularly, please give me a little support here and buy a book for Christmas. Maybe as a gift?

For once, it's not supernatural in any way--straight ahead thriller.

I feel really responsible for my publishers--that I want there to be a good show for them, that their efforts on my part will be rewarded. I'm grateful for what they're dong.

Anyway, here's the link if you're interested:

Worked at Pegasus yesterday.

Couple of bright eyed guys come in, "What about Stan Lee!"

I shrug.

Not the reaction they expected. I'm either the Comic Book Guy, or I'm a disgrace to my profession, or both.

What's really fun about me being there once in a while is that people seem genuinely happy to see me. It's very gratifying. And I'm happy to see them (even if I sometimes can't remember their names.) I often see grown up versions of people I saw as kids.

All my grumpiness is gone, I'm as fresh as a daisy; I suppose the day to day aggravations are now Sabrina's.

I'm like an institution in downtown--or I should be in one.

The store is at a peak, really. It's always interesting after a big weekend of sales how the store looks as packed as ever. Book sales are good, taking up some of the slack from the comics drop off.

Looking to re-up my lease. It's nice that the store has found an equilibrium that works.

Ruby Red and the Robot.

I've decided to forge ahead. Make notes of the changes I want to make, but keep the story going forward. The quick pace and the lightness are what I'm after. The problem with making revisions is the danger of being bogged down. Plus, I've learned that some revisions aren't necessary when all is said and done. Some aren't even beneficial.

It's another SF story, so it has to be logical, which is not my strong suit.

As to why I'm even writing it...

I'm just addicted to storytelling, I think. If for no one else but myself. It's a bonus that Linda always seems to like what I'm doing.

Art for art's sake, I suppose.

As Stephen King said, (I'm paraphrasing), "Fuck reality."

It is possible in this day and age to live in an alternate reality if you so chose, if you can just manage to get food and shelter taken care of.

"Ruby Red and the Robot."

5000 words winging it, which is the freedom you have when you start a story. But now I'm realizing I'm going to need to plot this out a bit more. For one thing, I have only two characters and that's not enough. For another, there is an action scene in the first chapter, but none in the next two chapters, which means I need to concoct a couple of scenes.

Plus the motivation. I have a general idea that Ruby's robot companion, Antony, is the McGuffin. The thing everyone is looking for. But meanwhile, I have Ruby find a computer disk early one, which she uses as an excuse to go looking for the fabled place her father talked about.

But since the computer disk was picked up at random from a dead guy, why would it be significant? What would be the odds?

So as a red herring, it might work, but why would Ruby need a red herring? Perhaps she knows more about Antony than she's willing to admit (hard to do when it's first person narration) and she's trying to protect him.

And so it goes...

When I first came back to writing, I had a hard rule not to change anything until the book was finished. But I'm allowing myself some mid-course corrections these days. Dangerous, but...

Sunk Costs in writing.

I'm already over 5000 words into "Ruby Red and the Robot" in two days and I'm realizing a couple of things.

1.) That I'm having a lot of fun.
2.) It's good the first draft. It won't require a whole lot of rewriting. I'm getting pretty good at doing this.

So if it takes just as long to rewrite something that doesn't work as it does to write something that does work, why would I do the former?

Sunk Costs.

“The sunk cost effect is the general tendency for people to continue an endeavor, or continue consuming or pursuing an option, if they’ve invested time or money or some resource in it,” says Christopher Olivola, an assistant professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business and the author of a new paper on the topic published in the journal Psychological Science. “That effect becomes a fallacy if it’s pushing you to do things that are making you unhappy or worse off.” Time Magazine.

It is incredibly difficult to give up on something I've spent years of my life writing. I have hundreds of thousands of words--at least ten novels--that I should just give up on. But damn...

Started a new story  yesterday called, "Ruby Red and the Robot."

Like "Eden Returns" it's just me keeping my writing going. I just like being in the middle of a story. I'm not going to do any stretching or heavy lifting. It either comes to me or it doesn't. Have no idea how long this story will be, or even what it entails.

Post-apocalyptic, starring a young woman, with lots of robots. Heh.

I've gotten my Big Idea for my Big Fantasy. It's such a basic idea that I'm sure it's been done before, but I've decided that doesn't matter. My version is likely to be vastly different.

I can either make this an alternative history, or use the real history as an analog to my fantasy, changing names and events, but using it as a template.

I've come up with an opening scene, but I just jotted down rough notes, purposely not writing it more fully. I'm going to try hard just to think about this whole story instead of sitting down and writing it. There is no hurry. I want as much of this thought out in advance I can.

I may even write other books in the meantime. At the very least, re-write some books. If I don't start this book for a year or two, that will be fine.

I've got a number of books set aside for research for this project. There are many more I could get. It's a big enough idea that I think I can play with it in my head for awhile.

The problem in the past has been--I think of a scene and feel like I need to write it before it's gone. Especially if the words start flowing. So the trick is to write down the essence of the scene, but not let the words flow.

It's a bit like the trick I learned early on: instead of sleepless nights, when I'd get an idea while going to sleep, I'd just say to myself, "Tell me tomorrow." And sure enough, usually that worked. I just needed the kernel and I could extrapolate from there.

I'm going to let this be wide ranging in characters, time, and distance. Either with a lot of flashbacks, or make it multi-generational.

Or--I may try to have one main character enter the story fairly early on, and follow him or her.

The whole point of planning this out in advance is to figure these things out.

I finished the rewrite of "Faerylander" and I believe it is vastly improved. Moving it to the sidekick's POV was the right thing to do. It makes the main character a little more mysterious and powerful.

When I got to the end, I realized that the ending I'd been pointing toward, adding another action chapter to the already three ending action chapters, wasn't necessary, because Parsons was now the POV character, and his being hurt was more impactful, which explains Cobb's renewed strength to win the battle.

I have no idea if this books works at all, but I do believe it's better than it has ever been before. I have to decide what to do next.

Much of what I'm doing with this rewrite of "Faerylander" is removing all the overlying crust. It was as if I had a painting and I kept trying to fix it by adding more layers of paint, and now I'm removing those layers.

I think I was trying too hard to imbue the story with emotion and depth, and most of that doesn't work. Most of it should remain unspoken. Let the story tell the story.

There's a simple solution to bad writing: You don't try to fix it, you just remove it. Then if there is information that needs to be saved, you rewrite it from scratch. Most of the time, you find out you don't need it. That's why it's bad writing.

Managed another 10 pages. Again, I cut almost a full page of stuff that was false drama. I'm getting pretty bare bones. What's clear to me is that my writing is more evocative now than it was 6 years ago, mostly from practice, from learning to let myself write. I have the time to set this aside when I'm done, and come back to it, since I have at least 3 books lined up to be published.

I'm either going to tackle a rewrite of "Takeover" or of "Zombielander" next. Probably take me most of the rest of the year. The first third of "Takeover" was a narrative and POV experiment, that didn't quite work, especially compared to the last 2/3rds, which is a standard but comparatively well-written thriller.

Then do the rewrite of "Eden's Return."

I never know what I'll be in the mood for, so after that it's murky. 

I'd hope to finish the rewrite of "Faerylander" by the 15th of Nov. I'd also hoped it would be the last time.

I'm still committed, though it is hard to get myself to sit down and do it. Harder the farther in I get. I figure I have 3 or 4 days at this pace left.

The word for this is: I'm grinding it out.

This doesn't mean it's not good, necessarily, just that it is something that requires self-discipline. I think it's a warning sign that any rewrite of an early book isn't going to be easy.

I feel like what I've done is made the narrative better and taken out all the clunky parts (and many of the clunky parts came from previous rewrites.) But this version might be something that would benefit from one last go-over--- if--if--I can find the right voice.

What's happening overall with my writing is I'm letting things get in the way.

For the first two years I wrote, nothing but nothing got in the way. I was certain I wouldn't have much time, that I needed to get all the creative energy out on paper. The third and fourth years, I was still pretty damned disciplined. The last couple of years I've let things get in the way, whether important or not.

I'm ahead of the game, really. I've got books lined up to go, and other books that won't require the massive effort I just put into "Faerylander" to get ready.

I'm about to sit down and grind out another 10 to 15 pages. I'm at page 200 of a 235 page book.