A milestone, I guess

I just left the post office, where I sent off four packages. Two were to fairly large magazines, and two were to literary agents. It was a pain in the ass figuring out all the different do’s and don’ts, and it ended up being much more time-consuming than I had imagined. What I thought would take a couple of days sucked up my whole week. I wish I had numbered the drafts of the letters for the agents, the number would be very high now. Cover letters accompanying my fiction were simpler, but I hope in the future to hone them to let my personality shine through a bit more. (Carefully crafted casualness.)

I didn’t include mention of my media empire in the letters, and now I’m thinking I should have. It could be an important asset when it comes to promoting my books. Or… something like that.

An anecdote you won’t give a rat’s ass about:

I spent several hours agonizing over a two-sentence description of Hunter for my brief description of The Monster Within. I had a longer version and one that came across as glib. After quite a bit of sweat I came up with a compromise that didn’t bother me too much. Then it was time to review the synopsis, and right there in the second paragraph was the exact sentence I was looking for. Should have known to look where I had already made a compact version of the story when trying to come up with a compact description.

I managed to avoid revealing the Big Plot Twist until the third sentence. There wasn’t much more I could do about that.

I’ll be getting one more short story out tomorrow, then I’m gonna take it easy for a while.

By the way, a special thanks to Jojo – not only is she a fine beer slave, she has been providing lots of valuable information and encouragement. She made things much easier for me this last week.

Yet-to-be-hatched chicken counting

Things are going really well for me right now. I finally got the punch in chapter one of The Monster Within that I was looking for. Finally. There’s a minor ripple effect I have to deal with, but finally the prologue goes Bam! I feel good about that. That story, man, it still gets me. Even if no one else likes it, I sure as hell have enjoyed reading it, and it hasn’t gotten old.

I was testing some of the database functionality in Jer’s Novel Writer and was cleaning up the characters who aren’t in the story anymore. Nothing like deleting the memory of a dozen once-significant characters to make you think about how far you’ve come. And about the sequel.

Jer’s Novel Writer is gaining traction as well, and I’ve decided to press hard to get a version ready for this year’s Apple Design Awards. It’s got “Think Different” written all over it.

So I’m sitting here chicken-counting. The eggs haven’t even been laid yet, but I’m thinking about taking time out from shooting Pirates to accept my major software design award in Cupertino. On the way back to Prague I’ll stop in New York and entertain the agents clamoring for my attention.

You know what’s cool about this fantasy? I can hit on only a tiny part of the dream and things are still grand. Things are happening, things are moving, and if it was only hard work that mattered I would be automatic. But I have chosen fields that are more that just hard work, although hard work is still the biggest part. (Hensley once told me that in response to the question ‘how did you get so fast?’ Oscar Peterson, one of the greatest pianists ever, said ‘If you spent eight hours a day playing, you’d be fast, too’. That’s a misquote of an incorrect memory, so, you know, don’t go dropping that line in jazz clubs where you want to appear to be intelligent. If you can find a jazz club that actually has jazz.)

Right. Back to the chickens, Any individual project seems like a huge long shot. All put together, it’s almost too much to handle. It is the classic American irrational exuberance, that annoyingly cocky confidence in self, combined with the drive to get it all done. That’s what pisses people off about Americans the most. Except, well, invading all those other countries with purely hypocritical justifications — that makes them hate us too, but the real reason they hate us, (aside from our intolerable arrogance, and well, our loudness in bars) is that they want to be us. They want to Get Things Done.

Man, I’m going to catch hell for saying that.

You know what makes you an American? Your car. If you drive a car every day, you’re an American. It doesn’t matter where you live.

Although drivers here pretty much suck. You could argue that Romans are better drivers than Americans, and I’m up for explaining how wrong you are. I admired those guys once, but Americans are just plain better drivers, except in Los Angeles and St. Louis. Maybe New York. Those guys in New York are such bitchy little victims it has to show in the way they drive. Saint Louis, I have no explanation for that one. All I can say is if you’re in a car there your top priority should be getting your wheels the hell out of there. People just… do things. No cause, just simple random effect. Great hurtling tombs of steel and plastic fling themselves about, blind and oblivious. St. Louis, in the middle of everywhere. It’s like Death Race 2000 there, only five better.

OK, I’m done now.

Monster News

Recently I went through the exercise of distilling a 500+ page novel down into an entertaining 20 double-spaced pages. Dang. It’s not a place for my ramblin’ style; it’s all about being to the point, moving along, yet still creating sympathy for at least one character and providing a good read. At the heart of it is the question, “If I could have written it in twenty pages, don’t you think I would have?”

But it has been a rewarding exercise. That came home tonight as I worked through the comments from people who provided feedback for the synopsis. The most magical moments were when I read comments that forced me to distill into a few words the key moments in the book. With that understanding I can look back on the big fat pile of prose and see where I missed opportunities, or simply didn’t articulate what I meant to say. There are now parts of the synopsis that serve as criticism of the larger work. When I am sure the distilled ideas of the synopsis are sharply represented in the novel, I’ll feel much better about the whole work.

I have read long, disjointed, incoherent works from established writers, and I wonder if the novel would have been different if the writer had been forced to write a synopsis. It’s a hell of a chore, and when I’m big-time and I don’t have to do it any more I’m sure I won’t. So please, when the third novel comes out with my name bigger than the title on the cover, but you read it and it kind of sucks, drop me an email and say, “maybe you should write a synopsis of the next one, and pass it around.”

Seeing the holes in the story I feel better about it than ever. I am filled with an arrogant self-deception, an optimism that says if I fix all the problems all that’s left is art. It’s a silly conceit when put that way, but the business is 90% perspiration, right?

One thing I’d like to ask the real writers is, “How do you keep the art through endless revisions?”

All right, I rambling now, in a muddled way, and it’s time to stop.

And there it is…

Yep, I wrapped it up just tonight. More than 13 months of writing, rewriting, trimming, expanding, head pounding and proofreading have led to this one moment. I hit save, and looked at what I had wrought. The beast weighs in at around 152,000 words, and will fill 560 pages in a paperback book (possibly more). It’s a fairly big novel, larger than publishers like to see from first-time authors, but in this case there isn’t much left I would consider fat.


“Done” is a slippery thing when working on something like this. I’m sure there are sentences that could be cleaner, minor inconsistencies, and perhaps still the occasional anachronism. As I develop the synopsis and begin my marketing campaign I’m sure I’ll tweak a few things. But at this moment I am ready to start that process. I have reached the milestone where the beast is of high enough quality to start shopping around, and I can move on to the next project.


I feel like this milestone should be met with more floral prose on my part, and maybe if I let this episode stew for a while I’ll come up with something, but prosadasically I’m dried up right now.


Many of you helped me get to this point as well, either materially by reading and providing feedback or through moral support. I really couldn’t have done it without all your help, and you have a right to share in the joy and pride of this moment. Thanks to all of you.

Perhaps this is the word I’m looking for: WAAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOO!


Addendum: I should mention that anyone who would like to read the final version can just let me know and I’ll slide you a copy. In fact, since I’m going to be sending it out soonish, now would be a great time to catch those little (and not-so-little) mistakes that have slipped past me.

The Best 2004 Ever!

Well, I guess that about wraps it up for 2004. It’s been a heck of a year overall. I’m not going to recap it now – if you want to review it you can go back over the last 310 or so episodes. There are a couple things worth noting, however, looking back and looking forward.

I think over the year the quality of the writing here got better. I look back at some of my earlier favorite entries and they just feel a little sloppy. Sometimes sloppy is good—I’ll have to be careful not to become sterile, and there are certainly still some pretty crappy episodes—but overall readability has improved, I think. You might disagree. I think I was able to produce higher-quality episodes back then, but I didn’t take the time. Or did I? I don’t have anything else to show for those months. It’s all a blur now…

And hey! Check this out! This is a graph generated by Sitemeter that shows my traffic this year:


There’s still a few hours of December left, so it’s easy to imagine hitting 1800 visits this month. The red line is my more conservative estimate of the number of people who visit on purpose. The actual number may be higher; it’s difficult to estimate between all the hits for eggs, alcohol, and sex. The red line is you, the people who actually read this stuff and leave comments and contribute to the community that this has become. The people who leave personal messages for each other in comment threads. As I sit here in a far-off land I still feel connected to you.

Hardest to estimate are the lurkers. I know there are some. Hello, lurkers! Thanks for stopping by! Come back again real soon!

(I was planning to do a fancy interactive thing with a comment for each month as you rolled over that column, but that started sounding an awful lot like work.)

I will not finish The Monster Within by midnight tonight. Part of the reason for that is I’m devoting more energy to smaller bits I can get published and build up a publishing credits list. The other part of the reason is that I’m lazy.

The smaller bits are coming along, though. That may affect the blog as well; some of the creative writing pieces that I had been starting to put up here may go to a different outlet instead. I’ll still put up fragments, but if something is more or less complete I’ll be shipping it elsewhere instead. Moonlight Sonata, which I posted here a while back as “a good start to a short story” now is a short story, and will be appearing soon over at Piker Press. Also, a vastly modified version of the american road myth will be appearing over there. So, obviously, there is still a place for my blog in my creative writing, but it may evolve.

As for New Year’s resolutions, I have but one: Get the pizza crumb out from under the “r” key.


I’ve just reread the ending I rewrote for The Monster Within and I’m going to have to rewrite it again. This version sucks less than the previous, which is encouraging, but it still has a way to go. The fact that I already knew I was going to be rewriting it again didn’t help. I put it aside for a few days just so I could see the flaws more clearly.

I am looking at a long uphill slope, and the boulder just keeps getting heavier.

“This is the challenge I’ve taken up,” I remind myself. “If I’m going to make a career of this, I have to get through the tough parts.” Lots of people start projects, many get through the middle stages, but finishing is what sets the successful apart from the… uh… not successful. I’m going to finish this bad boy. Still, I look at the only-incrementally-better ending on my story now and I know there’s a lot of throwing away in my near future.

Well, I’d better get to it.

Addendum: before I even post the above I have new news. Sitting over the ending all afternoon, writing without typing, I have discovered not one, but two things that were missing to bring emotional resonance to the end of the story. Damn! It’s gonna be good! I wrote some of it tonight and it just plain feels right. Still a long difficult way to go, every sentence a challenge, but finally I feel good about the end.

Pants, let me know when you’re getting to the end so I can ship you a new one. Hot sweaty dang.


The Monster Within update

I’ve been working very hard on the next update for The Monster Within which is the main reason I haven’t been getting much up here lately. There’s only so many barin cells left, and when I burn them all up on the novel I end up saying “maybe tomorrow” when I fire up the blog.

I don’t know how many of you want a shot at the next draft, but there are certainly some changes. I wrote the missing chapter – the one that demonstrates how bad one of the guys really is – and that led to a rework of another part, giving it much more BAM! Now I’m making my way through the last third of the book, because you can’t go BAM! without causing an echo. The end is also dramatically reworked, and the epilogue no longer mentions people you’ve never heard of before.

I’ve also found a few places where people seemed to have oddly forgotten something they already knew. *sigh* Once I get the continuity issues worked out, fix the search feature in my word processor so I can get all the names right, rewrite all the new bits a couple more times, and do the hokey pokey and shake it all about it’ll be ready for further review.

Let me know if you’re interested in the next draft. Don’t worry, my feelings won’t be hurt if you’re not interested in reading an unfinished novel for a second or third time. But if you missed it the last time or you’re really a glutton for punishment drop me a line and v 0.5 of The Monster Within is yours!

The Monster Within Reaches Puberty

Yes, the novel is undergoing changes, reaching maturity at a frightening pace (some days frighteningly slow), and is beginning to turn from potential into reality.

As the fuzz on it’s electronic chin starts to look more like the goofy and pretentious little beard that Lit majors inevitably sport at one time or another, the story’s purposes and goals seem clearer. Still, there are the bad days, when it despairs as it looks in the mirror and sees zits everywhere, and it’s voice seems to crack and change with every sentence. On those days it wails in despair: How am I ever going to meet a nice Chick Lit looking like this? It hangs its head as each word of the lament is in a different octave.

But the novel has friends, many of whom will likely read this, and the book knows that with their guidance and faith it will reach a noble and fine maturity, one that will make us all proud.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a bunch of zits to squeeze.

Random stuff

My parents have been married forty-five years. That boggles my mind. It’s longer than I’ve been alive. (Wait for it… wait for it… bingo. You get it.) They’re planning to whoop it up for their 50th, and why the heck not? Turns out there’s an eclipse just then, so the party will be off the shore of China. Count me in! My parents are very good at being married. They’re so good at it that they are constantly working to get better at it. They are the Tony Gwinn of marriage; they take batting practice every day.

Does a one-eyed dog dream in 3-D? Does a blind man dream in color?

My cousin John opined (if you knew John, you would know that ‘declared’ is a more appropriate verb) that the electric guitar is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. It sure made protest music louder. When the man has a microphone, turn up the amps. When the man has a media empire, no amp will be loud enough. The Internet is the next electric guitar. Carry on, Dr. Faustroll! Carry on, Dr. Pants! Médecins Sans Sanités! The fate of the republic rests on your shoulders! Oh, yeah, and I’m a candidate for president. (Note: that was mock French. The actual phrase for sanity is not as graceful.)

I just heard Transvision Vamp on the TV radio. I think that’s the second time I’ve heard them when I wasn’t playing the music myself. It was Baby I Don’t Care (not to be confuesed with the You’re so Square song by some other band), which is an OK tune, but further over on the pop side of the spectrum than the tunes I like the most. If I figure it out, I’ll give you a little slice of the love with a music posting á la Pants. If only learning weren’t such hard work.

I’m thinking that perhaps blasting East to hang with Jesse in his pre-fatherhood, pre-travel days, then working my way back west might make sense.

I am stunned, flummoxed, and amazed that anyone still wants George W. Bush to be president. Are you not poor enough yet? Do you not realize that being in debt is the same as being poor, and that government debt is your debt? Aren’t you tired of the billions and billions he’s spending on his war ending up in the pockets of his buddies? Have you not noticed who benefits from high oil prices?

The Czech Republic has now played hockey for exactly 1/3 of the time they’ve been on the ice. Now they’re going to have to play all 60 minutes to get past Sweden or Finland. At least the ice won’t be the slush pile it was in Prague. Those guys were wading, not skating. With so many NHL players the Czechs should be comfortable on the smaller ice, but they’ve built a team almost exclusively of skaters, and a fast rink can only help them. I really missed the mikes down on the ice while watching the Czechs demolish Germany. None of the voices of the skaters, none of the smack when stick strikes puck, and none of the crashing of skulls into boards after a good check. And, the best sound in hockey, the sound of the puck bouncing off the pipes.

According to Sam-I-Am Lujan, Rio Arriba County is where rookie state troopers are sent. “They’re all rookies. They don’t know crap.”

I still haven’t deleted the epilogue from The Monster Within. It has nothing to do with the rest of the story anymore; there are characters that don’t show up anywhere else, and obviously some history of events that never happened, but I like the way it feels. It’s a nice way to exhale at the end of the run. I guess I’ll discuss it in more detail over at the hut forum so I can put spoilers in.


The Monster Within – Feedback

I decided to put it over there for a few reasons. First, comments can be much longer over there, so you can go into much more detail. Second, the threading is much better so if you want to comment on someone else’s comment it’s easier to keep things straight. Third, I can control access if necessary. Finally, I can set up better polling to build a questionnaire.

The downside is that things will work best only if you go through the short sign-up process. In the end, though, I think if the discussion grows at all it will just plain be more fun over there.

Once again, here’s the link. To add your own review, click “New Topic”. You’ll get the hang of it.

If you would rather send your feedback another way, that’s fine too. Jesse did a major markup on a previous version and I can’t tell you how helpful it was. Please, though, be careful of spoilers if you comment here. Even if you saw through the surprises long before they happened (and I hope you tell me if you did), I don’t want to ruin it for people who aren’t as bright as you.

Finally, if you missed the boat last time around and would like to read the latest (somewhat improved) version, drop me a line and I’ll send it to you.

Oh, and thanks! I’m really looking forward to hearing both the good and the bad.


I’ve been working on The Monster Within and the section I was going over yesterday was just plain sloppy. I think you’ll know when you get to it. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone over that area, but it simply lacked polish. Lots of misspellings, awkward dialog, references to a character who doesn’t exist anymore, stuff like that. I also think there are a still a couple of chapters that are either redundant or distracting.

Overall, though, I’m glad I bucked up and sent copies to some of you guys. I wasn’t at all nervous about it until after I sent out the first few copies. Then I got more and more jittery as I realized how many people were reading it and now when I find a mistake or a problem I know you’ve seen it too. I don’t know how many times I’ve said to myself “How did I ever miss that?”

It’s an important step for me, though, to get comfortable sharing my work with others. (I think strangers will be easier, but less constructive.) I’m considering making a questionnaire that covers some of my concerns for the story and to help you provide feedback. The questionnaire would contain spoilers, so I certainly don’t want you guys to look at it while you’re reading. If you would rather provide feedback another way (or not at all—I have this awkward image of a friend feeling the urge to lie and say they liked it when they didn’t, which doesn’t help either of us) that’s fine, too. Remember, I want both the bad and the good. It probably goes without saying, but if you post commentary about the novel on this site, please be courteous to other readers and avoid posting any spoilers.

Late breaking news: The Epilogue makes no sense whatsoever now. Please disregard. Also, I have recovered from the really stupid idea that just like in real life, people you meet in books could have the same name. I had wanted to create a parallel, but let’s face it, that’s just confusing.

The Monster Within

While the poll is at a dead tie I can release the story and not tell you whether I’ve fixed the glaring errors or not. That way you can decide. Leave a comment here if you want me to email you a copy. Don’t put your email address in the body of the message unless you want the killer spam robots to see it. If you have a mac, tell me if you would prefer RTF or Jer’s Novel Writer format (with JNW, you will see my margin notes and stuff, which might taint your judgement, but you might find interesting anyway.)


  • Although I have deleted big problem chunks, some problems still remain. I will be working on them even as you read this draft.
  • I expect criticism from anyone who reads this draft.
  • The second part of the story (Part 3 if you count the prolog) just went through a major rewrite, and still doesn’t flow as well as the rest of the story.
  • There are likely to be continuity problems after my big delete-o-rama. It is difficult for me now to catch all of them, because I know what happens, even if I deleted that part. It will be particularly helpful if you point out the places where you said “huh?” as you read.
  • While I have started to correct spelling and stray commas, there are probably quite a few places that still need help. Feel free to point them out.

And finally, to give the horse one final whack, the whole reason I am asking for readers is to get criticism. Criticism is what will turn a draft into a manuscript. Feel free, though, if you run across a part you particularly like, to mention that as well.

So step right up, folks! Be the first on your block to come to grips with The Monster Within.

New Poll!

Hunt it down and kill it! In the last two days the beard demise lobby pulled off an upset victory after trailing for the entire poll. Therefore, I will be going to Las Vegas clean-shaven. Just when I was starting to like it, too. Maybe I’ll grow it again in Prague.

The new poll reflects the loss of momentum I’ve had on The Monster Within. I know there are several people looking forward to reading it, and hopefully feedback from you guys will give me the boost I need to finish the thing. On the other hand, it will be a much more enjoyable read (i hope) after I fix some obvious problems. (There are whole chapters that have to go. They have their good points but overall don’t add to the story, and in one case there is a major continuity problem.)

So anyway, for those of you out there interested in giving an unfinished work a read, which would you prefer?

Sports Bar?

Location: Charlie O’s (map)
Miles: 845.6
Padres magic Number: 152

My fourth, and probably last, time here on this visit. Wednesday is cheap you-call-it night, and there are a few more people here. The bartender knows me well enough now to not need to ask me what I want. I have never had to correct her on the “need vs. want” question. I would not be in tonight except that the deadline was moved for the project I’m working on. I decided to allow myself false complacency and come and write rather than work late.

In the bar area there are four small tables, and I have sat at the same one each time. When The Fish or The Monster Within sells a bazillion copies they can put a plaque here. Over at the bar, they are talking an older lady into trying Patron, a better-than-average tequila. I get the feeling that it could be Tequila of the Gods and she’s not going to enjoy it. There is only a tiny bit in the glass. Her friends are saying things like, “you don’t even need a lime.” I don’t think that will be the issue.

Wait for it…

“It burns my lips,” was her judgment. Fair enough. If the others are disappointed, it is outweighed by their appreciation that she tried it at all. On the other hand, I suspect that any discomfort she suffers over the next week will somehow be the fault of the tequila.

I believe that the Padres are playing the Giants right now. Barry Bonds is threatening the all-time record for consecutive games with a home run. The Giants are worshipped locally. This is a sports bar – it says so right on the sign. The game is not on. I’m not complaining, mind. I could ask them to put the game on and I’m sure they would. It’s just an observation, is all. They’ve got Jimi Hendrix playing right now, and I’d hate to interrupt that.

The game is on now, but the music still takes precedence. Playing right now is “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Mott the Hoople. I’m pretty sure that the only time I’ve ever heard that song in my entire life has been when I was playing it. I threw away that tape, along with almost all my cassettes, April 2th, the day I began the tour.

Holy crap, what is it with dudes and cologne in this place?
Padres magic Number: 151