Gonna Need a Train

Bruv, not that. Get your mind out of the gutter, you filthy pig.

I mean a literal train.

My brain is stuck in work mode and I can’t get it unstuck. It wants to do business development deals and rearrange spreadsheets, not write fiction, so I’ve no choice but to take drastic measures.

AKA: Train. Trip.

Up to our Seattle office, maybe. Hop on a train. Write. Write some more. Have a drink. Write more. Doze off. Write some more. You get the gist. Eventually, arrive in Portland, pick up a colleague, and continue on to our Seattle office. Write more.

I can’t let Degenerate slip into 2022. It’s a matter of pride now–what little remains. And as I’ve stated repeatedly, last chapter and all that. But for real, though, last chapter. It should be easy breezy to finish, no? Mayyybe. This is a weird novel, ya’ll, and it’s only getting weirder.

A Little Something

By now we should all know that my brain isn’t fully formed and therefore I like to work on potential new stories even before I’ve finished my latest novel(s). This would be a huge problem if I had a publisher waiting for my next book, but we’re not quite there yet, people. Meantime, shrug.

At some point—I can’t remember when because it was probably late and there was a good chance I was drunk—I wrote up the beginnings of what would be a far future post-apocalyptic story called Dust and Fury. I wanted to create a first-person novel, which I hadn’t done before, and then my fingers did that thing they do. Type, in case that wasn’t clear.

Not sure I’ll ever come back to this. Maybe. Maybe not. Right here and now, it doesn’t call to me. That’s probably because I’ve got a few other ideas that have my immediate attention. (Yes, after Degenerate.) There’s an innocence and mystery to the main character in Dust and Fury that I do find quite genuine and intriguing, though. So anyway, here’s an excerpt of a story stuck in time.

1

Before my sister turned wrinkled, saggy and brittle, in the days when the wind still smelled of sulfur, she would sing to me. Back then her voice was fresh silk, skin like milk, eyes as blue as the iciest spring, and heart not yet scarred by the blades of time. She would part my hair, stroke my locks, and sing the old songs from the old world, and I would lay my head on her lap, stare up into the orange sky, and sing back.

Sometimes we argued about silly tasks. Whose turn it was to replenish the purifiers in the garden. How many apples to eat and how many to freeze. When to light the bonfires so that we might ward off the mud demons.

And yet, for all of the suns I’ve seen since, I still remain a student of my favorite memory. I cherish it. I protect it. She, with her long, curly hair as bright as fire, singing, and me singing back.

She lives in the soil now. Like most of the others. Before she moved, her teeth fell out of her mouth and her hair took silver and thinned away to nothing as the fat melted off her bones. She started to forget the world, me included, and when I looked into those once-fierce blue eyes and sang, she only smiled her gums and nodded, but she didn’t sing back.

The biggest, ripest apples grow above her now and I think it’s because somewhere down below she’s finally found her voice again.

She once told me that the reason I don’t grow saggy and frail, too, is because some smart people cracked my head open and dropped a crystal inside me when I was a baby. She said the crystal tells bubbles in my blood to keep me ripe like an apple forever. I know this is some manner of science, just like the rusty turbines on the Great Bridge use science, but nobody really understands it. And if you don’t understand it, is it still science, or is it magic?

I don’t know.

There are some books with thousands of words in them in the city treasuries, and I’ve heard they tell of the First Ones and all of their peculiarities. They say they had big, whopping machines that drank black water and farted smoke. Windows that shone imagined realities. Carriages that traveled so fast they left sound itself in their wake. Elixirs that made them strong as giants.

Sometimes I think they must’ve been gods. But gods don’t die. And they’re all in the soil with my sister now.

Welp

I’m writing this update mainly to push the post below it further down the scroll. Like, for real, my previous post was in 2020? Embarrassing.

Okay, who can blame me? After all, who’s got time for a blog when you’re fighting to survive the viral apocalypse and then in the middle of all that some dudes in Viking helmets try to overthrow your government. Etcetera, etcetera, right?

Real talk: I’ve been slaaacking. Hard. At least when it comes to writing books. Yes, I am running a video game publisher by day and I’ve got like a thousand kids plus a forest of dogs and my wife’s got chores and anywayyy: Slacking. Hard.

Big props then to the San Mateo writer’s group I belong to—AKA lead, but since I’ve missed basically every meeting in the last six months they’ve just decided to move on without me. I finally caught up with them a week or so ago and the guilt of the reunion compelled me to bust out a new chapter about 90 minutes before we met. True story.

So I’ve got a new chapter. Fun things happen in it. I don’t think it’s a huge spoiler to admit that piss plays an important role. Yes. Urine. Because I’m a man-child with an underdeveloped brain. I’m not gonna keep explaining this—if you’re reading these updates, you must have figured that out by now.

But seriously, though. Piss.

So, you know, please look forward to that.

I’m still planning to finish this book soon, but of course why would you believe that when I’ve promised the very same 10 times over the last year? The last chapter was supposed to be the last chapter, but now we’ve got another last chapter instead. And it has a big, piss-filled development, which is likely to require more chapters to fully flesh out. And yes—I intentionally chose the word ‘flesh’ to follow ‘piss.’ That’s what we authors do. We build art one letter at a time.

Another quick thing that’s unrelated but nevertheless important. Coca Cola set clear guidelines when it established both Diet Coke and later Coke Zero. They were different sodas with unique formulas and to this day they coexist quite peacefully. Diet Dr. Pepper and Dr. Pepper Zero are the same. They’re all in the same family, but they’re not twins.

But now Sunkist is taking a page from 2020 and doing whatever the hell it pleases. Just found out that Sunkist Zero is, in fact, Diet Sunkist. Exactly the same formula. They just rebranded it.

What the shit is that, Sunkist?

Merry Holidays

I don’t know. Who knows anymore? It’s 2020 and everything we thought we knew was melted in a 365-day-long dumpster fire. I just hope you’re home and safe and exercising the most fundamental shred of common sense to stay that way.

Now, though, you’re here, which means you probably want to know what the eff’s happening with my previous stories or latest novel.

Previous stories: nada. I will go back eventually, but new stuff first.

New stuff: Stuck on the literal last gods-blasted chapter. I should’ve finished this sucker weeks months ago. The kicker is that it’s not writer’s block. Whenver I sit in front of a keyboard, I’m a word vomitter. But the problem has been getting to the keyboard.

I have a day job that’s been keeping me stupid busy. Also, I’ve got kids.

And I’ve got excuses.

Two weeks off from the job now. I’m hoping to finish this third book before 2021 because the fourth one is tugging at my mind.

I will also try to be a little more transparent here. Meantime, please look forward to my next post, which will (all the gods willing) be celebratory in nature.

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.