This Heat

I just looked, and the thermostat in my house says ‘GTFO,’ which is definitely scientifically accurate. I didn’t just ponder the idea of it, but actually called several hotels to see if I could transplant my family to the cool embrace of some suite for the next two days so that we might ride out this unnatural heat wave. Some would call that a big, fat waste of money, and they’d be right, but that won’t stop me from offering up my middle finger as a pacifier.

I think it’s at least two or three jabrillion degrees in here, which is not a measurement of heat. Nothing I can do about it, though. Nobody in the Bay Area has an air conditioner, myself included, because the sun is not supposed to take a holiday in these parts. Except, it has, and we’re all scrambling. Home Depot and Orchard and every other hardware store within a 100-mile radius sold out of portable cooling units as though they were the last bottles of water on the planet. Now, there’s a surreal, dystopian feeling around the city as people sit outside and pray for a wind, terrified of returning to their homes. Makes sense. The coolest room in my house is the garage, and that shit ain’t right. My poor, miserable dog–a Siberian husky mix–looks like he’s on the verge of irreversible psychosis.


I’m sitting on the floor now, trying not to stick to it and failing, as I type up this post in an effort to distract myself from all the symptoms of a monumental heat stroke. It’s not looking good, people.

Sophistication and New Book

So I’m typing this on the new iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard cover while I watch the latest episode of the Unabomber show on the Discovery channel. The latter part is probably irrelevant, except to acknowledge that the series is quite good and recommend it. The former is impressive. Never thought a tablet and cover could replace a desktop or laptop, but I’m teetering on the edge of saying good-bye to traditional hardware in favor of something truly portable.

Anyway, I’m in the middle of some revisions to Sophistication. I survived this on Dead Weight, too, and once again, it is the worst part of the creative process. The part I dread the most. Not because it’s particularly difficult, but because it feels wrong. Like coloring over your colors. But it must be done and hopefully–fingers crossed and say a prayer–it’ll make the novel that much better. Deadline is September 15. That’s when I’ll resubmit to a publisher and sacrifice a lamb or two to the dark gods so that the folks on the receiving end of my outbox find a shit to give.

The third book. I’ve been meaning to write about it a bit more. I already said that it’s inspired by a friend with a problematic eye issue. I wrote five or 10 pages and liked the cynicism and comedy of it. I started to learn about the main character. That he hates his job. That his grandmother is unwell. That the stress of keeping his broken family afloat in an expensive city is about to overwhelm him. That’s really where the narrative begins.

The way I form stories may or may not be similar to other authors. I’ve never really bothered to check. I see scenes–moments–and eventually a narrative begins to form.

Picture the main character in his shitty, dilapidated, rent-controlled apartment with his anorexic grandmother. She’s from some old country, speaks a single word of English, and it is the only word she ever says. Hungry. Or maybe it’s Hungary. Imagine the main character, barely a man, washing her hair in the kitchen sink under the dim lights as she stares up at him and smiles. Maybe she says hungry and maybe he nods back to her as he scrubs her thin, gray hair and tries not to think about what’s going to happen to them if he loses his job. His head aches and his left eye throbs and all he wants to do is curl up into a ball and hide. But that’s not an option.

I don’t write straight fiction, so of course there will be much more to this picture. But that’s a post for another day.

Five or 10 pages. Written third-person present tense. But about a week ago I started to think I should scrap the opening and rewrite everything in the first-person. Never written a first-person novel before. It sounds… easy, to be honest. Prose tethered to inner monologue. The idiosyncrasies of the way the character thinks and acts. You can fuck it up bad, too, obviously. But I’m eager to try it. It’s new and interesting. So we’ll see where it goes.

Couple Things You Should Check Out

Taking a break from editing to post about a couple of my latest fixes in books and TV. Distractions, yes. Inspirations, yes.

First up is Denis E Taylor’s Bobiverse series. It’s an imaginative and oftentimes hilarious trilogy about sentient spaceships. You’re thinking that sounds super nerdy, and I won’t deny it, but it’s surprisingly accessible and equally charming. It’s also read by Ray Porter, who is the absolute best.

Click on me to go to Audible and get started


I’ve also been watching Mr Mercedes on DirecTV’s Audience channel. Yeah, that exists. I was just as skeptical as you probably are reading this, and still I gave it a try. Turns out, was a smart choice. It’s based on Stephen King’s story. Wonderful acting. Good pacing. Well made so far. Sample the first two episodes here:

Click on me to go to some weird AT&T page to watch first two episodes




Publishers Weekly Reviews Dead Weight

I’ll know I’ve made it when something in the books industry moves fast for me. Or, at the very least, at an average pace—I’d settle for that. So far, no such luck. Agencies and publishers seem to exist within a bubble of space that time can’t access.

Take the latest example, Publishers Weekly’s review of Dead Weight, which, happily, posted today. A lovely surprise, and I’ll get to that below, but first I must tell you how long the 150-word write-up took the reputable outlet. Not days. Not weeks. Months. And months. And months. I submitted a typo-ridden first pass of the manuscript to PW back in November of last year. If you’re counting, that’s nine months! The book’s been out for seven, for crying out loud.

About three months ago, I received an e-mail from PW that explained Dead Weight was under consideration for review. Oh, that’s cool, I thought, as any author would. After all, PW is the premier outfit for book reviews, and they’re picky about the reviews they do. To quote them directly, “Of the hundreds of self-published titles received each month, only a handful of the very best are selected for review.” Simply being chosen for a possible review therefore is something of an honor. A month or so go, I learned that they had decided to review Dead Weight, which was also a thrill. And now the review is posted.

I’ve read horror stories about PW reviews, especially as they relate to self-published authors. Words like vicious and relentless and demoralizing were thrown around in blog posts and message forums, and as a result I’ve braced for the worst. But here we are and the finished write-up is generally pretty positive. Some highlights, minus all the spoilers.

Dead Weight featured front and center by Publishers Weekly

A “… gritty, cinematic post-apocalyptic thriller.”

A “… tense journey.”

“Despite some loose ends, the work will broadly appeal to fans of breathless end-of-the-world action sequences.”

The harshest criticism in the review is that the premise is “almost absurd.” Which, if you’re a cynic, yes, it’s true. In the same way that most fiction is pretty absurd. One of my favorite books of all time, I Am Legend, is about a dude who singularly battles vampires at the end of civilization. Also, you know, absurd—until you read it.

So that’s two reviews. Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. The two most reputable places out there. And Dead Weight survived. It’s a win, people. I’ll take it.

One last note about the PW review. The bulk of it is not a critique. It’s a summary. With spoilers. That shit ain’t cool. If you’re okay with that, here’s a link:

Checking In…

Quickie here. Sophistication went to a publisher, which had some feedback. I’ve got three weeks to respond with some significant tweaks. Working on that now. It’s more work, and I’m itching to start the next thing, but the silver lining is that I agree with all of the feedback and it’s bound to make the story better.

And–you know–hopefully it’ll land me a publisher, so there’s that.

For some time, I’ve been telling myself that my third book would be The Deep, Dark, Down, and then a strange thing happened. My friend was talking about his bum eye–long story, but dude’s got some vision issues–and inspiration struck. I jotted down a fifty-word synopsis later that night. Now I’ve got this other narrative whispering at me and it’s started to speak louder.

So I might write another book before The Deep, Dark, Down. Shit happens, I guess.

Summary. It’s mid-August now. Sophistication should be redelivered to the publisher by early September. Then I’ll start this untitled work and try to finish it in a few months.


Sophistication is Finished and Here’re Some Thoughts

I wrote a version of this post last night, and then WordPress ate it. As you can imagine, I wasn’t particularly happy about that outcome, so tonight I’m in Pages.

Anyway, Sophistication is wrapped. Kind-of-sort-of-mostly. It’s the first draft, which means that any potential agency or publishing partner will have feedback. But there’s a beginning, middle and end, and that means I’ve wrapped two novels. Hurray for me!

Dead Weight, which is about 100,000 words, took me five or six years to write.

For real.



I completed Sophistication, 120,000 words, in just under two.

If you’re scratching your head thinking, sheesh, this dude’s really goddamned slow, you have every right. Thing is, the snaillike progress had little to do with my pace and everything to do with my discipline. For Dead Weight, I would write a chapter or two and then I’d disappear into booze, video games, movies—life—for a year and a half. My momentum on Sophistication was better, but I still allowed a dozen or more monthlong lulls.

That’s not how you write books, and frankly, it’s amazing I ever finished the first one, let alone the second. What it’s taken me years to understand is that you can’t step away. If you want to be a writer, you have to write, always. Every night. Even if you feel like you’re forcing it, write. Even if you think your story sucks, write. You could be penning the most offensive trash ever conceived. That’s fine. But write.

It’s when you decide to take a day or two off from the process—and I know this from experience—that the days turn into months and even years. One evening you’ll find yourself back at the keyboard, knuckles cracked, rearing to go, and you won’t even remember what you wrote before because it’s been too goddamned long.

Anyway, deadlines help you find your discipline. Case in point, I wrote the last third of Sophistication—more than 40,000 words—in about a month and a half. If I had kept that pace all along, this novel would’ve taken me four and a half months to complete.

All right, enough about length and time. /tirade

Sophistication is an interesting book and I hope readers and listeners will enjoy it. It’s certainly been a challenging novel to write and very different from Dead Weight. For instance, DW was told from the perspective of a single character and written in past tense. Sophistication, meanwhile, unravels from the perspective of at least five primary characters (plus a ton of secondary ones), and it’s written in the present tense—which, by the way, I love. There’s an immediacy to present tense narrative that is, I think, hard to duplicate with past tense. Finally, one is dystopian fiction and the other is a lot harder to classify. Like, a shit ton harder.

So, it’s done. Now what? Good question—thanks for not asking. Well, the short answer is that I wait. The novel is in the capable hands of a major publisher now and if I’ve done my job well enough, good things will come—I’ll keep you posted. And if I haven’t, I’ll keep trying.

Speaking of, I’m planning to kick off work on my third novel, The Deep, Dark, Down, in the next week or two. (I know, write every night, but I’m between books—cut me some slack.) I’m going to do my best to practice what I preach and keep the discipline. I’d love to finish it by the time the Christmas holiday rolls around, but let’s just say it’ll be done by this time next year. That’ll still be a significant leap over my previous efforts.

1:02 A.M.

Important thoughts that I need to remember.

  • Dog is taunting me; he barks at me whenever I concentrate on anything; need to find a way to reestablish human dominance.
  • Second novel at 110,000 words and nearly done. I hope it’s nearly done, because my deadline is 24 hours away. I’m not worried–what’s the worst that could happen? Not even God himself could fuck this up, etc. Right? [Fast forward three days, and somehow I’m in prison.]
  • iPad Pro at 5% power after three hours of video-conferencing with hardcore, Leaving Las Vegas-level alcoholic friends.
  • In three weeks, I join said friends in Vegas, at which time they will try to soak me in a life-giving alcohol pool not unlike the one from Cocoon.  Yes, I’m referencing Ron Howard’s Cocoon, which is the first time in human history that anybody has cited this film for anything, including his closest family members.
  • It’s super hot at 1:04 A.M. in San Mateo. Normally, this area is cold and colder, so we don’t know what to make of the heat apocalypse, but surely it has something to do with zombies.
  • David Bowie. He knows.
  • Fortitude is a show that needs to be seen by everybody.
  • Booker’s Bourbon reminds all other bourbons that they are insufficient.
  • Jumanji sequel seems unnecessary. Original Jumanji also seems unnecessary.

Sophisticated Problems

I’m taking a break from writing to post an update on the status of–well, everything. I’m going to bullet-point this one for the sake of my time and yours:

  • Somewhere down the page, it says Sophistication is coming June 15. That’s a big, sloppy lie. It’s not even done yet. What kind of person would promise such a thing and the–oh right.
  • It’s almost done. That’s a writer’s promise, which means next to nothing. But I have to hand it in to a publisher July 10.
  • Seriously, though, it’s almost done. I’m writing the final two chapters. Honest.
  • I’m also camped out at an Elks Lodge for eight hours during each of the next four days in order to assure that I finish.

I figure I’ll be done by 110,000 or 115,000 words. Here’s proof of progress. See? Almost.
Messages Image(1372572201).png

Home Sweet Home

I was supposed to spend another 24 hours in my hotel room, but I just couldn’t do it. So this morning I checked out a day early and drove home.

I wrote 20,000 words in about three and a half days. Sophistication is now 95,000 words and the story is really, truly nearing the conclusion.

But I needed a break. Yesterday was particularly grueling, I think because for some reason I didn’t sleep well the night prior. And when I woke up this morning, I just knew that I needed some downtime.

So back to a thousand words a night.

Reminder to Myself: Don’t

I just wrote ‘blissfully unaware.’ It made sense. It completed the paragraph. Then I looked at it again and realized that I’m a gods-damned jackass.

If you’re blissfully anything, you are in a state of extreme happiness.

In this case, someone was ‘blissfully unaware’ that another person was about to suicide bomb them from a nearby skyscraper. Reads fine, right?

But stop.

Think about it.

Are you blissful as you make your way to work in the morning? Are you euphoric, smiling, singing, dancing your way across the street with a big, dumb grin plastered across your face?


‘Blissfully unaware’ should be banned from all books.

Matt–don’t forget.

That’s all.