Milestone Reached

So I keep promising I’m gonna finish this third book of mine and I’m still almost finished.

But I’m also not finished.

Still.

Dudes, I’m slow. I’m sort of like a lazy fish-stuffed walrus trying to waddle across a motion walkway running in reverse. I might get there eventually but it’s gonna take a while.

All of that said, I reached a milestone with this thing. The screenshot below shows a lot of numbers. The one that matters a lot, I suppose, is the overall word count, which now stands at 100,444. I think that puts the book at about 400 pages depending on font size and whether or not it’s got a bunch of doodles in it. (I’m not saying it doesn’t.)

Anyway, I’m also writing the last chapter. Said chapter won’t end. In fact, if the chapter could spring to life as a meme, it would certainly be this:

Words I Hate

It’s a little after 10 o’clock on a Wednesday night and I’ve had a couple bourbons. In the former world, I would qualify this with something like, it’s been a rough day, but in the Covid age, who gives a shit? I haven’t changed my pajamas in like six days and I gave up on underwear a straight month ago. (JKJK. Or am I?)

This is where I promise that my third book is almost done. Still true, but also still not done. So I won’t bother with the details except to say that it’s progressing. More as soon as it’s post-worthy.

Instead, I’ll use this space to discuss words I hate to see in novels that are totally fine in every day life. And the caveat here is that my opinion is obviously subjective, which I’m sure the internet will point out. Anyway, here are a few:

Went. As in, “Bobby-Joe went outside.”

Grab. As in, “Cletus grabbed a Coke.”

Very. As in, “Mary-Lou was very pissed off.”

The problem I have with went is that it’s a second-rate word. All sorts of other verbs are more descriptive. Bobby-Joe crawled outside. Ran outside. Dove outside. Fell outside. Whatever. Went gets him there, but it doesn’t show us how. And even when the how is unimportant, would it kill you to offer up that detail when it’s the same word count?

The issue I’ve got with grab is that it’s too often misused. If Cletus grabs a Coke, there’s a good goddamned chance it’s going to rupture in his grip and make a right mess. But that goofy son of a bitch can sure as shit grab the thief before he escapes. Okay, yes, grab is used commonly to replace took or picked up or collected, but it’s a harsher verb. It means to snatch something. To seize it. Do you ever seize your soda can? Because if so, I’m kinda okay with that.

Do I really need to explain why very is pointless? I’ll just let Mark Twain do it below:

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” In other words, it’s filler, adds nothing, and never belongs.

Life Imitating Art

Scary days, people.

I’m listening to Year One by Nora Roberts and although it’s a fantasy novel set in a post-apocalyptic America, it’s hard to ignore the setup, which begins with a super virus that wipes out two thirds of the world.

This is obviously not the same as the Coronavirus, which at this point in time is a danger to some and a nuisance to most, but the temperature sure feels dystopian at the moment.

The shelves are empty at Trader Joe’s. My friend told me that she was walking through Costco and a customer stole toilet paper out of another patron’s shopping cart. Straight retail victimized her. And the victim in this case was a sweet old lady. I haven’t seen a bottle of hand sanitizer in weeks. And several restaurants have closed in my neighborhood.

This shit’s for real.

Our president, of course, called the Coronavirus a Democratic hoax less than a week ago and now he’s declared it a national emergency. There aren’t enough face-palms.

We’re either all overreacting or under-reacting. (And why the fuck is overreacting a compound word and under-reacting hyphenated?) I hope it’s the former. I do. Because in that scenario, this is just the flu, as so many have argued, and it will fade to memory by summer.

What worries me is the other possibility. That feels like the beginning of a post-apocalyptic novel. Or a zombie movie. Both start with a virus or an infection that nobody takes seriously, and neither end well.

What strikes me is that our real-world behavior–our collective shrug in the face of a pandemic–mirrors the dumb, willful ignorance on display in your average zombie movie. Italy is in the middle of a health crisis. Doctors are warning us to wash our hands, to stay inside, to do everything we can to stop the spread of this highly infectious virus. And what’re we doing? Going to the local mall, the movies, and Disneyland. Doing whatever the hell we feel like, basically. With a level of arrogance typically reserved for the gods.

If another author had written this opening, I’d have thought it lazy storytelling. But here we are. And it seems we really are that goddamned stupid.

My kids’ schools have closed down for five weeks. I’m tempted to grab my bug-out bag and hit the woods with family in tow. (I don’t actually have a solid bug-out bag, and I can barely glamp, let alone survive in the woods.) So that’s as far as that plan goes.

No point to this post. Just letting the fingers get a few things off the chest. Stay safe out there.

Sophistication 2

So it’s not going to be called that, obviously, but yes, a sequel to Sophistication is planned.

A few notes. 1) The first book is a self-contained fiction that can be enjoyed on its own, so please enjoy it. 2) That being true, there’s more adventure to be had for many of the characters, hence the second book. 3) And yet there will be a necessary wait for the next chapter.

More on that last bit. I’m wrapping up Degenerate now. Then I have another book planned for 2020. It may be called The Deep, Dark, Down and it may be called Dust and Fury. I haven’t decided which story I’m going to write just yet. After I write this next thing–whatever it is–I’m coming back to the expanding universe (literally) of Sophistication.

SPOILERS ARE NOW COMING.

SPOILERS ABOUT SOPHISTICATION AND SOPHISTICATION 2 BELOW.

DO NOT SCROLL THIS PAGE IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY READ SOPHISTICATION.

The Sophistication series is a space opera, people. This was always the intention. And the first book was just the setup.

If you read it, you know a lot more about the so-called Cloaks and Miyuki, Kevin and Carl, and you probably have a lot of questions about alien artifacts and advanced technology and prophecies and alternate dimensions and a whole bunch of other shit. The first book gets you to these questions and if I’ve done a decent job, maybe you had a little fun along the way. The second book, and possibly the third if the story requires it, begins to explore the answers.

Miyuki, Kevin and Carl know there’s something out there on that fucking moon, as Bone Foot herself put it. They think they know how to get it. But will they actually go through with it? And what, if anything, will some of their enemies have to say about it? Lots to cover. Lots. But before we get there, two other stories need to be told.

I’m sorry. I am.

While you wait, a small compensation–some new artwork of Bone Foot taking a knee.

Degenerate Update

We’re close, people. Just hit full-novel word count and feeling the groove. Lots of fun parts to write still, but the key word here is fun. A lot of the hard stuff is in the rearview.

I’m not gonna finish this book in December. January is within reach. February seems a certainty unless I’ve really miscalculated how many words I’m going to need for the final stretch. (This has happened before, so I’m not ruling it out. I thought Sophistication would be wrapped in 90,000 words and it took me 130,000 to get there.)

Still, I have some small measure of confidence in my ability to finish up soonish. Already started to spin up talks about the audiobook version. Will reach out shortly to my go-to copy editor. And I’ve got a list of about 10 agents / publishers with whom I’ve developed something of a rapport over the last couple years, all of whom will get the manuscript.

I’ve come so close to representation and publishing deals with my first two books that I could taste it. Would be lovely if the third time is the charm. But if not, no big. I ultimately write books because I fucking love writing books. Everything else is gravy.

More soon.

It’s Brew Time

Epiphany: I’m never going to finish this book unless I take drastic measures.

Related epiphany: Sadly, neither marathon TV nor video games will help me finish this book.

Answer: The triumphant return of cold brew coffee. Well, that and writing between the hours of 10pm and 4am while highly, borderline-illegally caffeinated.

Update: I just drank two cold brews.

NanoWriMo and The Devil!

PSA: It’s National Novel Writing Month.

If you’ve no idea what the hell I’m talking about, this really is a thing. Authors descend upon the internet every November and try to write 50,000-word manuscripts over the course of the month.

I don’t know why the goal is 50,000 words because–as far as I can tell, anyway–these are too short to be novels. But whatever gets those words flowing, I say.

Simultaneously, it’s become clear to me that this is the Devil’s work.

One, because only Beelzebub himself could hatch a scheme to challenge notoriously lazy writers to break the bonds of their habitual lackadaisicalness.

Two, because the proof is clear as day in the math. If you divide 50,000 words by 30 days, you get the number 1666.66666667. True story. And this is the mark of the Beast, people! He’s out there laughing at us, pointing, mocking our efforts to write 1,666 words a day. Rubbing it in our collective faces!

My version of NanoWriMo is a little easier. I’m only doing 40,000 words these next 30 days as I finally wrap Degenerate. What’s 40,000 divided by 30, you ask? 1333.33333333. Which means ya done lost, Lucifer. Not today you don’t, so keep moving.

I’m not actively engaged in the official shenanigans of NanoWriMo, but I’m watching from a distance and allowing its inspiration to shine down upon me. All of this to say, end of the month, this book is finished. And then begins the super fun, highly recommended process of trying to sell it. It’s a process right up there with ripping off an infected toenail on the overall enjoyability scale.

About Degenerate. I’ve come to a decision about the storyline, but first I need to provide a little context. When I wrote my debut novel, Dead Weight, and then Sophistication after it, I constantly had to ask myself, are you sure you want to really go for it? Which is to say, throw away any semblance of traditional narratives and really swing for the fences with something weird and out there. With Dead Weight, I pulled back. Tried to stay grounded. Attempted to operate within the accepted norms of traditional post-apocalyptic science-fiction. With Sophistication, I didn’t give a shit. I wrote whatever my fingers told me to write, and the resulting storyline was at times a bizarro-fest. I’m cool with that. I hit the crossroads with Degenerate about 10,000 words ago and decided on pure insanity. So here it comes.

Funny Negative Reviews

I used to shake my head at authors who said they valued negative reviews as much as positive ones. Always felt disingenuous to me. But now I get it. Usually, anyway.

Okay, first, some negative reviews are just idiotic and that’s always going to be the case. For example, people so pissed off that Sophistication is too profane or violent that they actually lowered their review scores based on those two measurements alone.

Welp, sorry guys–you really should’ve read the description, which literally says it’s both of those things. Look:

Step into a near-future America overrun by competing tech giants and widespread social decay in this raunchy, violent, hilarious and disturbing science-fiction thriller. 

See the words I bolded? That means there’s going to be blood and f-bombs. Not sure what else to tell ya.

Anyway, as I’ve noted, most readers have liked my first two books. That’s awesome. It’s incredibly satisfying to read positive reviews from readers who not only understood, but also appreciated something I had planned and hoped would jump off the page.

Sometimes, though, a critical review will point out something really insightful. A while ago, a customer review of Dead Weight noted very accurately that my knowledge of firearms is, shall we say, subpar. And yes, that shit is true. True to the maximum. I love being called out for genuine mistakes. The good part about the digital age is that if I really care enough, I can go back and edit tweaks back into the original work, re-publish, and then pretend as though I got it right from the start. (Joking, kinda.)

But occasionally negative reviews come from so far out of left field that I’m left scratching my head or even giggling. This is one such example, and it’s spectacular:

Author’s note: Name and parts of review blurred to keep the anonymity of the customer and also to avoid any spoilers for folks who haven’t read Sophistication.

All right, so never mind that this person clearly voted for Trump. Whatever. Sure, the man’s a proven pathological liar and conman, but I respect your idiotic decision even though it’s probably based on fear and hate. Good for you. And the WOKE stuff (in all caps) isn’t a bad way to attack a book that supposedly falls on the wrong side of your political beliefs. I lolzed a few times at the comments.

But then we get to the end where video game journalists are apparently automatically “Social Justice Warriors” and “a group even worse than journalists in general.”

Mike, you hate the free press? Do you also hate democracy? Candy and rainbows? Love?