Tag Archives: fiction

No malice aforethought

3 Jan

I feel like I’ve been insulting Raymond Chandler.

Not deliberately. But given his tough-guy persona, I’m pretty glad he’s no longer alive to hear my insult.

What insult?

I’ve been telling people that when I write the Nascent Payne mysteries (The sort-of Murder of Fiona Galloway, The Man with Two Eyes and the upcoming The No-Good Book), I’m channeling my inner Raymond Chandler.

But I’ve been reading the Kindle version of Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake and I feel put to shame. Here’s a sample from the opening chapter:

I went past him through an arcade of specialty shops into a vast black and gold lobby. The Gillerlain Company was on the seventh floor, in front, behind swinging double plate glass doors bound in platinum. Their reception room had Chinese rugs, dull silver walls, angular but elaborate furniture, sharp shiny bits of abstract sculpture on pedestals and a tall display in a triangular showcase in the corner. On tiers and steps and islands and promontories of shining mirror-glass it seemed to contain every fancy bottle and box that had ever been designed. There were creams and powders and soaps and toilet waters for every season and every occasion. There were perfumes in tall thin bottles that looked as if a breath would blow them over and perfumes in little pastel phials tied with ducky satin bows, like the little girls at a dancing class. The cream of the crop seemed to be something very small and simple in a squat amber bottle. It was in the middle at eye height, had a lot of space to itself, and was labeled Gillerlain Regal, The Champagne of Perfumes. It was definitely the stuff to get. One drop of that in the hollow of your throat and the matched pink pearls started falling on you like summer rain.

A neat little blonde sat off in a far corner at a small PBX, behind a railing and well out of harm’s way. At a flat desk in line with the doors was a tall, lean, dark-haired lovely whose name, according to the tilted embossed plaque on her desk, was Miss Adrienne Fromsett.

She wore a steel gray business suit and under the jacket a dark blue shirt and a man’s tie of lighter shade. The edges of the folded handkerchief in the breast pocket looked sharp enough to slice bread. She wore a linked bracelet and no other jewelry. Her dark hair was parted and fell in loose but not unstudied waves. She had a smooth ivory skin and rather severe eyebrows and large dark eyes that looked as if they might warm up at the right time and in the right place.

And sprinkled throughout the book are gems like this one from later in the same chapter:

The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips.

Chandler was a master at massaging words into sentences never seen before, so if you like mysteries and good writing, I highly recommend The Lady in the Lake.

On the other hand, I feel sometimes like I’m doing well if I avoid tired old chiches. Like, “tired old chiche.”

Sorry, Mr. Chandler.

About that gap in posting …

24 Sep
Writing

Sometimes this is what writing feels like. (Photo courtesy of Bundesarchive)

Yes, I’m back.

I did not just stop posting. And I certainly didn’t give up on writing. I’ve been writing and editing for something like a thousand years (at least it feels that way sometimes), so I’m not about to stop now. But for about three months, I wasn’t posting, I wasn’t writing fiction, and none of my books were available.

What happened?

Let me start at the beginning.

It was brought to my attention that at least one “scene” in The Hall of the Prophetess crossed a line I did not want to cross. I was trying to show the strength of Karia’s character. Whether I succeeded or not, I went too far.

Of course, the scene did not occur in a vacuum. I needed to re-evaluate the whole of the third book of the series The Day Magic Died. And of course, that meant I needed to think through the entire series. In addition, I wanted to re-evaluate my other series as well, the Nascent Payne mysteries.

So I withdrew all my books from sale. (I guess that’s one good thing about independent publishing – I get to make decisions like that.) Then I started through the books one at a time.

Books 1 and 2, The House in the Old Wood and Karia’s Path, were pretty much the way I wanted them. Oh, I found just a couple of things like this, from Chapter 52 of The House in the Old Wood:

No matter how much padding there is, it’s not possible to sleep in the back of a moving wagon. And Karia’s parents did not have a lot of padding. (I’m not sure how much good it would have done to pad her parents.)

But after fixing literally two or three goofs like that, those two books seemed ready to be re-released.

Then I hit Book 3, The Hall of the Prophetess. Oh my. Besides the issue I mentioned earlier, I found myriad problems. I mean, the spelling, grammar and punctuation were good. But beyond that? Ugh.

However, rolling on through Book 4, The Dwarf’s Legacy, and the unreleased draft of Book 5, The White-Silver House, my discouragement turned to encouragement. I now knew why I was having such trouble completing the fifth and final book.

I really messed up in Book 3.

And I learned an important lesson:

Don’t rush.

I rushed to complete Book 3 and get it out, so I could promote the series by offering Book 1 free just before a Christmas season. It worked in the short run: I saw my greatest sales in the next couple of months.

But Book 3, I now see, is where the wheels came off. Many of the problems with Book 5 stem from decisions I rushed in Book 3. For example:

  • In the first draft of Book 3, two of the important characters, Ni’ika and Tika, were basically the same person. I rushed to differentiate them, and they shifted more toward caricature than character. That error becomes quite an issue in Book 5 (though I can’t really elaborate without spoilers – sorry!).
  • The central dialog in Book 3 takes place between Ni’ika and Karia, and in the first draft, it was too clear. It did not make sense that Ni’ika, a woman who looks down on other races, would know the language of those other races well. I rewrote her dialog … and made it an absolute chore to read. In my fourth decade as a writer and editor, I know that if readers hit something that’s hard to read, they stop. And somehow, in my rush, I forgot. It’s bad enough that this derails readers. But it also obscures some of the important things Ni’ika says in Book 3, and that can damage how readers understand Book 5. (Yeah, sorry, I can’t explain that either.)
  • My mischaracterization of those two key people in Book 3, Ni’ika and Tika, makes it difficult to create a believable relationship arc for Karia with each of them. That’s not evident in Book 3, and in my rush I missed that. But it became quite problematic by Book 5. (Slight spoiler there, but you probably missed it, so I won’t say anything.)

However, perhaps the most important mistake had little to do with characters and everything to do with the storyline. The story turns in Book 3, and it should set us on course for Book 5. But it’s ever so slightly off course. At first – and in fact, all the way through Book 4 – that wasn’t much of a problem.

But finishing a series this long is sort of like steering a ship across the ocean. A difference of one or two degrees makes a big difference where you end up. And I was in such a rush to get Book 3 out, I released it before I knew precisely where Book 5 was going.

I’ve mentioned before that I wrote the ending of the series before I completed the first book, so I’d know where I was taking you. And I’ve told you the ending changed over time. I rewrote it several times as the story twisted and turned.

Yet in my rush to get Book 3 released, I wrapped up the writing and editing before I went back to the ending. By the time I got to the actual ending in Book 5, there were some fissures in the storyline. And now I see where those cracks and gaps began: in Book 3.

So what does all of this mean?

It means I need to take Book 3 apart and put it back together again. Then I’ll need to make sure Book 4 reflects the changes in Book 3. And after that, I can work through the fifth and final book.

That’s going to take some time. But in the end, the series will be far better because of it.

Take two looks …

25 May

Take a look to the left, and a look to the right. See something twice?

Yes, it’s The Man with Two Eyes, now available for Kindle and in paperback.

The second Nascent Payne mystery sees our eponymous hero investigating the death of the daughter of his former commander, only to find out he’s been here before.

What’s that mean? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out. Get your copy

Still in the works

12 Mar

The White-Silver HouseTwo books are still in editing.

In late November, I completed the final drafts of The White-Silver House, which is the fifth and final book of the fantasy series, The Day Magic Died. Soon afterward, I also completed The Man with Two Eyes, the second Nascent Payne mystery.

I turned those over to my team of critical readers for their input. I have not received input from even half of them yet.

I don’t blame them, however. For one thing, they’re all volunteers. They’re doing this to help me.

It’s also important to note that four of the five had major life changes in the last few months: an unexpected move; a new child; new jobs; etc.

The Man with Two EyesSo I am trying to prod them without being a pest – which is a tough balancing act when you’re already sort of a pest like I am. I’ll keep you posted …

A chance meeting in Austin

10 Mar
Photo by Daniel Mayer

Photo by Daniel Mayer

I’m headed back to the place where everything changed.

Two years ago I was well along in drafting my series, The Day Magic Died. I just had no idea what I would do with it.

It seemed it would be problematic for publishers. I was a first-time novelist, and it’s tough to break into book publishing. It’s also not so much a series of five books, as it is a single huge story in five volumes. I was thinking I probably had to at least have a couple of the volumes written, and all of them drafted, before a publisher would look at them.

Even then, it seemed unlikely that a conventional publisher would commit to publishing all five books.

That’s where my thinking was when I went to South by Southwest, and met Hugh Howey.

I didn’t know who he was until I went to a panel on the future of publishing. He was on the panel, representing independently published authors, because he was — and is — a highly successful independently published author. I was intrigued by what I heard, so I went to his book signing afterward. There weren’t many people there, so I was able to talk with him for a while. Maybe too long. Eventually he told me that he had to go use the restroom.

But what I learned was enough for me to decide to publish my series, The Day Magic Died, for the Kindle and in paperback, myself.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: