Friday, July 25, 2014

Those Mid-way Mid-draft Blues


Writing is such a weird business. You go days, weeks, months (sometimes years) thinking of nothing but the story you are working. Everything you read, watch, think is basically related to these characters and their world – even when it isn’t.

 

You crawl through the muck of that first draft. Dragging every godawful little word out one by one. Then finally you’ve got something coherent enough to be called “a first draft,” and off it goes to your editor. Who swallows bravely and tries to make sense of it before she bounces it back.

 

There is incredible jubilation after that first draft. Partly because nothing is more difficult than carving that “think” out of the concrete block your brain turns into. But then comes the second draft. That is when you feel the power and the glory (such as it is) of what it is to know your craft. The second draft is the fun draft. It is really, in my opinion, the only joyful part of the writing process. When you take that raw material, look at it with fresh eyes, and you suddenly understand what you were struggling to say.

 

The more time between drafts, the better, in my opinion, but modern publishing doesn’t really allow for this. If you steal yourself an extra week somewhere you are doing great (and giving production teams nightmares).

 

The first draft is just about…getting there. Arriving muddied and bloodied on the doorstep. The second draft is about writing. It’s about how you will shower, dress, and seduce the reader into losing her or himself in the story. It is about clarifying theme and refining characterization, it is about nitpicking every adjective (Dear God, how many times have I said dryly this time? – PLEASE tell me no one “swallowed hard,” etc.) It is the one stage in a long process where you feel like you maybe know what the hell you’re doing.

 

But then you hand that second draft off, and there is a real sense of letdown. Almost depression. Because no matter how hard you tried, the infinite possibilities for this story are gone. The story is what it is. It is now limited in what it can be and what it can achieve. And from this point on the changes are minor ones – you did not explain how Character A knew Character B was stealing eggs from the Farm at C. You repeated a phrase too many times. That kind of thing. The fate of the story is now determined. It is the kind of story it is, and you can already hear both the praise and the criticism.  

 

There is definitely relief – great relief. The book is done. If you were to die at this point, the book could still go forward. It no longer really even needs you. Anyone can do these edits.

 

And so there is a kind of letdown. We start every story with a sense of excitement and endless possibility. Whether you outline or not, every story begins with endless possibility. But by the end of the second draft, this story has narrowed to a particular set of events with a determined outcome. You know how it ends.

 

And that’s where I am this morning. I sent Fair Play off yesterday afternoon and today I feel…meh. I loved writing it. I loved researching Washington and the Puget Sound and the anti-war movement of the 1960s. I learned about Black Bull whisky and Montreal and organic farming. But now it is done and there is a definite letdown.

 

We talk about reader addiction, but I think there is writer addiction too. And that is never more clear than when the rewrite is handed off and that particular high is finished. Done. No amount of accepting commas and removing echoes can bring it back.

 

But there is always the next story…

 

And in the meantime, I thought you might enjoy seeing the cover reveal for Fair Play!

 

Friday, July 18, 2014

SUMMER - Five Things I Love

It's time for our quarterly Five Things I Love update. Of course, we do this daily at Goodreads and weekly on Facebook as well, so there is never a shortage of reminding ourselves that even on the most frustrating day you run into, there is still plenty to be glad about.

So what do I love about summer?

1 - Swimming. Usually every evening, sometimes in the mornings. I love the water. Love, love, love the water.

2 - Barbecue. We grill a lot of food during the warm months of the year. Mostly a lot of salmon and veggies, but also fish and shrimp for tacos. Delicious.

3 - Stars in the night sky. Granted, the stars are there all the time, but we're not outside at night so much in the winter, so we miss a lot. There is nothing like gazing up at the night sky to remind you of your place in the scheme of things. (Which is to say, less than the blink of the tiniest pinpoint of light.)

4 - Fried food. (Wait! How did fried food pop up again? It is everywhere lately!)  It is so bad. It is so good. It is so BAD.



5 - Getting smashed and waking up with a roiling stomach and pounding headache. HAHAHAHAHAHAAA. NO. Having mostly, finally learned not to give into moments that lead to mornings like that. Yes, in some ways I do love -- LOVE -- getting older.

So? What about you? Five things you love about the summer?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sneak Preview - FAIR PLAY

No cover art yet, but I'm currently working on the edits for Fair Play, and I thought maybe you'd enjoy a snippet for today's blog.




Elliot’s phone rang as he was climbing into his car.


For maybe the first time in his life, he was disappointed to see Tucker’s name flash up.


“Hey.”


“Hey yourself. Where are you?” Tucker asked.


Bellevue.” Elliot stared out the windshield at the distant blue of Lake Washington. A very nice neighborhood with its lofty views and safe distance from downtown Bellevue. “Where are you?”


“I’m here. Home. I’m on Goose Island.”


“You’re early.”


“And you’re…where? You’re not here. Your dad’s not here. What’s going on?”


“It’s kind of a long story.” But Elliot condensed it into a couple of sentences that left Tucker sounding winded on the other end of the line.


“You think your dad went underground. And you’re…what? You’re trying to find him by talking to his former revolutionary pals?”


“That’s about the size of it.”


“What the hell, Elliot.”


“What does that mean? What the hell?”


Tucker made a sound of disbelief. Not quite a laugh. And certainly without humor. “You know better than anyone how a civilian getting involved in an investigation can hinder --”


“I’m not just a civilian.”


“Yes, you are. Worse, you’re an emotionally involved civilian.”


It wasn’t easy, but he managed not to lose his temper. Or at least not let his anger show in his voice. “How do you think this should work? Someone tries to take out my dad and I sit around grading papers and painting miniatures?”


“How I think it should work is you take a step back. A big step. Like it or not, you are a civilian now. You’ve been out of the field nearly two years. You need to leave this to Seattle PD.”


“I’m not getting involved in the investigation. I just want to know where he is.”


“Bullshit. He told you to stay out of it. And the fact that you can’t stay out of it -- your inability to respect parameters -- is the reason he left.”


Elliot sat up so straight he almost hit the ceiling of the Nissan. “My inability to respect parameters? What are we actually talking about here?”


“We’re talking about the fact that your father is a grown man capable of making his own decisions. He wants you to stay out of this. You need to respect that.”


“My father is nearly seventy. Someone is trying to kill him. I get that you don’t always understand family relationships, Tucker, but even you ought to be able to follow that I can’t stand aside and not make any attempt to find him.” That time Elliot didn’t bother to hide his anger.


Tucker didn’t usually raise his voice. When he got mad, his voice went deeper, lower. The chassis was scraping the pavement as he growled, “You know, you can really be a condescending prick sometimes.”


“You know what, so can you. And you don’t even have the justification of caring about anybody.”


“I care about you, you asshole. Which is why I don’t want you getting any further involved. Your father made his choices. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.”


Die by the s-s-sword?” Elliot was stuttering in his rage. “Are you fucking kidding me?”


“Not literally, obviously! I just mean --”


“I can’t wait to hear it. Actually, I can wait. I’ve got people to see. I’ll talk to you tonight. Unless you decide to stay at your own place again.”


“No way,” Tucker said. “I’ll be here. And you’re damn right we’re going to talk.”


They disconnected simultaneously and forcefully, in fact, had they been pressing something other than cell phone buttons, there probably would have been a detonation.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

4th of July is sort of a special holiday around Chez Lanyon. This is the first holiday the SO and I celebrated together as a couple. Following that first year, we've hosted a family BBQ every 4th for the last twelve years.

It's never anything fancy. Hot dogs, hamburgers, Italian sausage (well, there was the crazy rib feast one year -- we ate ribs for a week!), corn on the cob...tons of food basically all finished off with root beer floats. In the beginning we could watch the fireworks right from our balcony, but now the trees around the house are so tall we can't really see much in the way of fireworks anymore. But that wall of trees is its own delight.

Do you have a summer holiday tradition?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Author! Author! RHYS FORD

This morning we have a little treat for you. Another installment of Author! Author! This month with one of my very first online friends, the adorable Rhys Ford.

Rhys was one of the very first readers I had contact with when I first stumbled into online interaction (back in the days of LiveJournal!). She was always friendly, supportive, and very funny. And now she's a talented writer in her own write...er...right. If you don't know her work, you should -- especially if you enjoy crime and mystery novels.

So without further ado...



Where did we first meet? Wasn't it that funny little café in Monte Carlo? Weren't you running guns at the time?

 

I think it was in Paris. It was raining. You stole my espresso from the waiter’s tray and told me I’d ordered it for you, I just didn’t know it at the time.

 

Wow. When did we first meet? I think I dropped you an email after I read Fatal Shadows when it first came out. Wow, long ride, no?

 

 Last movie that made you cry? STOP CRYING, YOU BIG BABY!!!

 

Huh… Brave? I tear up like a big baby at movies. Hell. Commercials sometimes get me. Dog rescue videos…yep, bawling.

 

Are you a full-time writer?

 

Yes and no. I do graphic design work on contract. Writing…ah, it sucks the brain, doesn’t it but oh so addictive. Heh. I write a hell of a lot.

 

What's the last piece of music you listened to? Did you sing along? Were you in key?

 

Last piece of music? Misirlou as played by 2cellos (Sulic & Hauser). Nope I didn’t sing along…no words. But um… last song I sang along to? Metallica’s Outlaw Born…and yes I sang along. And define in-key.

 

We play Rock Band a lot. I’m the designated singer. Mostly because the scrolling up streams for the instruments make me motion-sick.

 

What do you think is the most important thing to remember when creating fully realized main characters?

 

Make a personality. Fill in the back story. Even if I never show it on page, a main character should have a back story. But write to the personality. Fill in the blanks and hell, define even some of the little things like coffee or tea? Emboss characteristics and traits. Flaws as well as virtues.

 

 What's with all the nekkid in your newstream? Come on, explain. Don't hesitate to use visual aids.

 

I’m not even sure how it happened. One day I found myself in this daily posting thing of hot men. It’s an odd thing. Suddenly, it became a thing. :D

 

Um… David Gandy is always a favourite.

 

One of the great strengths of the Cole McGinnis series is the way you your own cultural heritage is reflected in the characters of Jae and Cole and Miki and Kane. Was this a conscious decision or was it instinctive? What has the response been from readers?

 

For the Dirty Series, it was deliberate. It’s actually harder for me to write for Cole because it’s first person and I’m writing it from the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t know much about Asian cultures. A lot of Cole’s responses and reactions are borrowed from friends who were experiencing things for the first time.

 

Most responses have been positive although a few times people have left me comments asking why I didn’t just choose “normal” names for the Korean characters. But really, everyone’s been welcoming of the culture clash between Cole and Jae.


The Morgans are… they’re really fun to write. It’s a good sprawl of a family and I’ve enjoyed bringing them and their brash Irishness to life.

 

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had a ghostly encounter?

 

Ah, there’s too much in the world for me to say there’s no such thing as… whatever. Ghostly encounters? I’d say boo-wiggly things but nothing definitive. But oh, I can spin you a few old tales from my people.

 

Would you describe the Sinners series as mysteries or crime novels?

 

Wow. Crime? Suspense-thrillers? There’s a bit of romance in them but oh, I’d say crime.

 

Can you cook?

 

I’d say yes. No one goes hungry at my table. I like cooking. It soothes the savage beast. I actually enjoy cooking a lot. It’s like therapy. Food is always a unifying thing among people.

 

I love that you've really pushed yourself to try a variety of things -- steampunk, for example. Is there any genre you'd like to try but are kinda, sorta afraid of?

 

Contemporary. I’m writing one now and man it’s kicking my ass. I keep thinking… you know what would be good right now? A nice murder! A dead body! Really. Always a good thing.

 

I do want to stretch out and try new things on. I’s good for the soul and mind. *grins*

 

Do you still own that crazy classic car?

 

Oh yes. He’s my baby. Not crazy at all. It can do the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs. Heh. I just did a road trip up to Ontario, Ca from San Diego. It’s a good car.

 

What scares you? Does that fear ever find its way into your stories?

 

So much fear. Probably leaving nothing behind of worth. I think I work that into my stories. Fear of relationships, trusting — a lot of those trails in my books. A lot of people have those fears and I think by exploring those issues, it brings characters to some kind of closeness to the reader.

 

What are you working on now?

 

That contemporary I’m cursing out right now. Down and Dirty—Bobby and Ichiro. Then after that, a new series I’m currently trying to let cook in my brain.

 

Tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us! 

 

I like canned peas and mayo.

 

Wow…um… I have a fondness for really bad reality shows about fashion.

 

 
Thank you, Ms. Ford. It is always a pleasure! :-)

Thank you for having me along for the ride. Now get to work. I need some new Lanyon to read :D

Friday, June 20, 2014

Halfway Home

As we're halfway through the year -- my second year back from sabbatical -- I thought this might be a good time to take stock. There is good news and bad news here, depending on what you like to read and what you were hoping to see from me in the future.

I keep reading bizarro comments about how I've barely been writing since sabbatical, but actually I think my output is pretty much back to normal.


Written on or since sabbatical:


Green Glass Beads (this was actually completed at the point of my most extreme point of burn-out, when I could not bear to write, could not stand to even think of writing -- yet no one seemed to see this in the work, so maybe it WAS all in my head)
Perfect Day
Blood Red Butterfly
I Spy Something Christmas

Haunted Heart: Winter
In Plain Sight
The Parting Glass
Kick Start
Merry Christmas, Darling (Christmas Codas - various)
Stranger Things Have Happened: AE CYOA
Stranger on the Shore
Everything I Know


That's everything, I think.

Okay, well, I guess it looks like I'm writing less in general -- partly because I'm trying to stick to my sabbatical-conceived rule of taking enough time off and keeping the creative well filled. (Oh, and getting exercise.) And of course, I did always mostly write novellas, but I always did short stories too, and the sole post-sabbatical novel is longer than most of my other novels -- and there will be two more full-length novels this year -- so I think my output is back to normal. It's more a matter of smoothing out the production schedule now that I have so many other things to deal with.

Maybe I'm experimenting more? Yes, probably. With formats (the CYOA book) and content (Blood Red Butterfly). Some experiments are more successful than others, but everything has earned out. So far, so good. That said, experiments are kind of tricky because while we all, as readers, pride ourselves on being open and even eager for creative experiments, the truth is...are we? Of course not! What addict wants a supplier experimenting and getting creative with their fix? What we readers really want is for our favorite author to keep writing our favorite book, only make it somehow new in this version. In other words...can you somehow up the dosage?
 
And the answer is no.

But then again, I've always experimented with genre, theme, format. A Vintage Affair was certainly experimental. The White Knight. The Petit Morts. I like to try different things.

So maybe it's just back to status quo? Only now I'm a lot more relaxed? I'm having more fun?

I can see from the enthusiastic response to Stranger on the Shore that readers want more novels and they want those novels to be classic mystery novels. Which works for me. It's what I most enjoy too. I just have to time everything more carefully than I did this year. Six months between releases and then a flood of everything coming out in the final six months of the year is not ideal. Yes, I did notice that!

So taking a look at the remainder of 2014 and what I had initially hoped to do, I think realistically I'm cutting everything in favor of the two remaining novels.

Fair Play
Boy with the Painful Tattoo


Fair Play is November. BWTPT will likely be September/October. (And yes, it is half-written now, so it is really happening.)

Those are the two releases you can rely on for this year. Everything -- if there is anything -- else is bonus. And that leaves...a lot of very disappointed readers, I know. I'm not happy about that either.

So the newly revised Coming But I'm Not Giving an Actual Date list is:

Winter Kill
Ill Met by Moonlight
Slay Ride
Bite Club
The Mermaid Murders
Shadow on the Sun
Blind Side


These are things I know will be written. But I'm not giving dates. That just makes us all crazy.

There are other projects that I want to do -- the sequel to The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks (oddly turning out to be my most translated title) a number of holiday stories, etc. One thing post-sabbatical is I have so many ideas, and there really is not going to be enough time to write them all. And, in honesty, probably they all aren't worth writing anyway. Not every idea is strong enough to carry a coherent story.

And some of the ideas -- like the short story about a guy who is recovering from a stroke and is haunted by a ghost and ends up dying...I'm going to guess you probably wouldn't be too terribly thrilled with (genuinely creepy though it is).

Anyway, moving forward I'm going to try not to officially announce anything I'm not absolutely positive will be completed within eighteen months. I think that's less wear and tear on all of us. One project a year will be through a publisher and the rest will be through my own publishing imprint.

So that's where we are!  What do you think?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dis, Dat, and Da Other

Once again, this is not the post I had intended to write for this week, but there have been a slew of little updates, and I'm deep into Fair Play right now, so maybe we'll just do it this way.


Speaking of Fair Play, here's a little bitty snippet...






“Have you read the book?”
“No.” Elliot grimaced. “I forgot about it, to be honest. After he got that agent, he never really talked about it again. I figured nothing had ever come of it -- until he suddenly had a book deal and the damn thing was going to be published.”
“So you have no idea what’s in it?”
“Zero idea.”
“Any guesses?”
“He’s always talked about stirring people up, rattling a few cages. Christ knows what that means. He might mean cages in general or he might have a few specific cages in mind.”
“How much of a badass could he have been? I know he got a certain amount of notoriety from a string of arrests, but he never did any major jail time and he never made the Most Wanted list.”
“I know. I can’t imagine anyone reading the thing, let alone feeling threatened enough to kill him over it.”
“You could ask to read it.”
 “True.”
“The cops will ask to read it.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it. The prevailing theory is that this is just another right wing nut outraged at the idea of a high profile leftist memoir.”
“It’s not a bad theory.”
“No, it’s the obvious theory, but I can tell that’s not what Dad thinks.”
“But he’s not telling you what he does think.”
“No.”
Tucker slid between sheets and groaned with relief.
Elliot tossed the report aside and leaned over him. “Welcome home, sailor.”
They kissed.
“What a long ass voyage,” Tucker muttered.






Fair Play is now available for preorder at Amazon. Hopefully soon at other places as well.


Also now available for order is the print edition of Fair Game. Remember, this print edition is an experiment for Carina Press, and therefore the clock is ticking as to how long it will remain available.


In other news, Stranger Things Have Happened, the Adrien English CYOA novel is now -- AT LONG LAST -- available for Kindle. Yes, it does have those gorgeous (black and white) illustrations by Catherine Dair.


And finally, a bit of good news for audio book lovers, This Rough Magic narrated by Jordan Murphy is now up for sale at Audible. (It should soon be available at iTunes and Amazon.) Regular viewers may recall that Jordan was the narrator who came in second place with voters during the Armed and Dangerous vocal death match.


Oh! I almost forgot. Next week is the release of the Male Male Contemporary Box Set from Carina Press which includes stories by LB Gregg, Libby Drew, KC Burns and me. (My story is Icecapade.) This is a great way to sample some excellent M/M stories from writers I'm pretty sure you'll really enjoy.


And I think that's it. I will be very hard to find on line for the next couple of weeks while I plow through the rough draft of Fair Play, so if I am slow in responding, the good news is I'm writing one of your most requested stories.