Reading at Malvern Books

Austin is awesome for reasons many. Malvern Books is one of them. Like a micro, pocket-sized Strand Books. They host a number of events, and Austin Writers Roulette is one of those that drifts from place to place in the area. Enjoy the story!



I’m juggling too many books that aren’t finished. “Last Run” needs a 40% diet, and I’ve been plowing away at edits. “Zepps” has a hit list of dozens of changes (see my previous post: Knotted!) I’m wandering around, like a Shakespearean actor in a Dr. Seuss play, shouting “what’s my motivation” in the various voice of my characters.

Oh, and I’m sending, via agent mine, the first salvo of agent queries to editors. So I’m writing up tip sheets in additional to customized queries, to make life faster for her.

That’s not to say I’m done with the final flourishes on the novel I’m pitching (“A Day at the Zoo.”) Aside from my awesome writers group, Chris Brown (author of Kansastan and ArmadilloCon #40 had a few suggestions.

Baby Novelist Issues: Writing Myself Into a Knot

I’m 116,000 words into a SF novel. It’s got great tech, interesting characters, action and thrills… and no motivation for bad guy actions. Well, it did, when I started. But the pitfall of pantsing is getting pulled off course, one degree at at time. (And when writing about matters aeronautical, there’s three dimensions to those degrees. But I diverge from the point.)

Part of how I got here is because of the aforementioned fun aspects. It takes time to tell those complicated battle scenes, the points where relationships change, key threads weave a novel together. And writing little notes to myself on the virtual margins on what to change on the first draft edits kept up my velocity. I just needed to remember all the facts and events changing in their later retelling from their initial description earlier in the book.

For instance, I realize in scene thirty that Maura’s got to have combat experience. She’s already written in with anger issues, but when her background was discussed in scene five, that big deal didn’t come up. No problem: write a note to rewrite history.

However, when “change requests” for the manuscript get past a certain point, the rewrite gets uglier and uglier. Which brings me to a pile of actions and plot twists now blowing in the breeze of a torn zeppelin at forty thousand feet, as the gore of two shootouts and two bombings dry in the thin air. What was worth their conflict, their deaths? What drives them to continue, at so high a human cost?

Oh, you don’t know either? Some fourth wall you all are!

I need to bite the bullet, put in all the noted changes (84, from trivial word or location replacements to “why’d they do it” types of changes), and then take a look at character motivations and see how it all fits together. {picks up chainsaw, chisel, flamethrower, and flyswatter and heads back in…}

A Progress Tool

Recently I posted a graphic showing words per day. (I’ve used it before: you can see posts here and here.) It’s part of my musings about writing velocity and general “feeling like an author.” I’ll tee up a few posts on that in the future, but for now I wanted to provide a Google Sheet, called Writing Progress, open for anyone can copy, then modify on their own account as they see fit. Once you’ve got it you can try exporting it to Excel (see pix at end of post.) The Microsoft version needed tweaking, especially on the timeline sheet, with might not be worth fixing vs. recreating, provided you have basic pivot table skills.

The goal for the sheet is twofold. First, to share something folks have asked about, because that’s what some authors do.

Second, it does for free, and with little grief, that thing that I paid Aeon Timeline $ome $illy $um of $50 to have and then to puzzle over. It integrates with Scrivener, which I (very reluctantly, see here, here, and here) use, but has been too much trouble to set up and keep linked. And if you don’t use Scrivener, I don’t see much reason in buying Aeon.

So head out to the Writing Progress sheet and see it for yourself. (No login required to check it out, but I’m guessing you need Google Drive to copy it.)

Screen Shots of Writing Progress Sheets

Novel Progress page

Timeline Entry Page

Screen shot of Excel Export

Progress page as an excel export

Heads up on posts

Item the first

Facebook has cut a publishing connection between’s JetPack tool and sites that use it (mine included, even though I self-host my site). I’m not sure this’ll be going out, and if it’s not, and I can’t (I can’t believe I’m saying this) find one myself, I’ll need to write one. Anyone have plugins that work without JetPack as an intermediary?

Item the second

Between ArmadilloCon and events during/since, I’m putting together a big post (set of posts?) about it and my work since. Let’s see if I can’t get it to work on my page without having to tussle with TB/T too much.

Item the last

Between on that, I’m putting together a post for today providing a copy of my writing progress Google Sheet. Look out for it!




Can’t have 4k EVERY day!

Yesterday was a word count bust: under 500 words. But! I spent a good three hours doing some (don’t tell folks) plotting to complete Zepps, my sci-fi novel in progress. After that an excellent workshop with the White Gold Wielders. Ain’t nothing like feedback and encouragement from folks who Know What They’re Doing.

Today’s another olio day: reviewed the excellent Deana Roy‘s presentation on Indie publishing. Meeting Jack Conner for lunch to translocate his very successful publishing strategies to my brain. Then I can get down to the business of getting to the thriller at 40,000 feet that is Zepps.

On a separate business-of-writing note, I’ve noticed that my hours per day of writing and editing have skyrocketed over the past month. I’m averaging 7-9 hours per day, seven days out of eight. Just like writing’s a muscle—the more often you write, the more you can write in a day—editing works the same way. I can knock out 20-30 pages of line editing (mowing through the 765-page monster:my post-apoc novel Last Run). And 5k of another two or three stories for other writers.

Austin’s a great place for writers, and I’m lucky to count several as friends. There’s something really cool to see a published author in their new-book-release glow. Wanna. Just… wanna. ArmadilloCon is less than two weeks away!

; (semicolon)

Semicolons were my stock in trade, until enough experience and feedback convinced me that shot, clipped sentences make for better prose. Erika Dreifus has a thrice-weekly newsletter, and in the current one she references an article by Adam O’Fallon Price on why semicolons can be a good thing. In the spirit of hearing all rational sides of an issue, here’s his piece. And while we’re there, let’s give The Oatmeal a soapbox of his own.

Miscellaneous Blog Post Day

Keeping Things Updated

I was chatting with a cover artist today and after giving him my web site URL he asked me how my novel “Last Run” was coming along, since it showed I was 22% complete. Hmmm… old news. So I updated that page to reflect some of the kreative kaos underkway.

So the novel page got a rewrite. I’m meeting with a photographer Monday for an author head shot (may her camera not shatter). About a cover (for Last Run) I’ve already tipped my hand. That’s also going to need help from a marketer and editor, because I just don’t have the cycles for all of that myself. So, this web site, formatting and all, will likely change radically in the next couple of months, making it more focused on writing and easier to update and maintain.

Last Thoughts on the 2018 WLT A&E Conference

The 2018 Writers League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference was very helpful. More this year than last but more because I’m more aware of all that I don’t know instead of last year’s version of feeling smart. So yeah, worth going if you’ve never gone. Helpful, but also showing me how much more organized I need to do, and how much have have yet to do while still looking for an appropriate Daye Jobbe (as the late author Jay Lake would put it). Trello’s good at organizing things, but the real problem—and not just for me—is load paralysis. Too much to do? Play solitaire! Y’all know that one? Yeah, me too.

…But I’ve got…my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped

So, to summarize: I’m writing one novel while editing three others, marketing a fourth to agents and a firth for Indie publishing (well, one of the three under edit, but hey, numbers!). Oh, and I’ve still got four more ArmadilloCon manuscripts to go over before the end of the month. (All hail that fair venue!)

Writing Velocity

Today (Saturday) was a 4,000-word day, and that brings me to 4,2500 words written in my last ten calendar days (including this past Thursday with no writing done). Years ago I thought 1,500 wpd was a good chunk. The Shmuley Myers books were written on an average daily cadence of 2,500 words. Zepps is cruising along at 3.65k per day and I kick myself for goofing off for a couple of those days. A pair of 7ks and a few 5+s in the mix, there.

Sure, for anyone who’s done a NaNoWriMo novel challenge, there’s no quality like massive quantity. Fellow Austin writers might remember my little video clip from the early 2000s, humble-bragging. Daughter the Elder, lying face down on her bed, was typing blind to finish her 50,000-word “novel.” (Hint: her fingers were off for five thousand of those words. We’ve sent the results to the NSA for decryption and haven’t heard back yet.) 7/17/18 Update: DtE avers that she was really blind typing. She. Scares. Me.

At these speeds there are chunks I’ve had to simply tear out because they were crap, or took the plot off a cliff. For example, over 11,000 words from the second Shmuley Myers book, An Uncertain Allegiance, because I turned an explosion into a runaway, Skyscraper meets Armageddon meets Mothra kind of even. Fun to write, and I’ve got it tucked away, but horrible. Aside from blowing up the plot it created over a dozen characters two thirds the way into the book, and… well, let’s never speak of it again.

But they’re replaced with better ones. And it’s better to get the words out, then edit, and maybe remove, and then later maybe use somewhere else, than not to write them at all. Plotters might disagree, and say that if the plot’s sufficiently laid out in detail, then wild writing sprees aren’t necessary or good. But I submit that a plotter would get perhaps more and better WPD than even I. After all, we pantsers tend to make it up as we go along, more or less.

Thoughts, anyone?

Being Able {mumble} to {mumble} {mumble} and et cetera

Grumping from home today, ill after some travel. I’d applied for a health insurance policy after the end of my last consulting gig. I’ve been very pleased with the coverage until now, and the cost. While insurance companies do their best to obfuscate the actual cost to an insured person, and folks conflate catastrophic with normal health care, I’ve found it to be, not reasonable, but comparable to, say, similar COBRA-offered plans. (The COBRA cost reflects the actual cost of insurance, instead of the portion that, as an employee, I would pay when employed.)
This time I applied, then was told that although I qualified they needed to see my COBRA eligibility document, along with dates. Okay, got that. Sent ’em. Then I got a voicemail (see below). Mellifluous and unperturbed, the caller might have been threatening me with defenestration, or that my HOA dues for the house I don’t have were paid in advance. No idea. Hopefully I won’t get my dog forcibly flossed because I didn’t respond to the message.

This is a phone communications. Yesterday, trying to find my phone and being told that I couldn’t log into my Sprint account unless I typed in a code sent to said missing phone, I called support. While I’m sure he thought he was speaking English, and thought he was hearing, it wasn’t at all clear to me that Eliza couldn’t make better answers to my questions. After requesting (after 30 minutes) a supervisor, he then continued, unabated and without a break for feedback, to tell me things. Probably to him important things. I hung up after he ignored my attempts to break into the monologue to say I couldn’t understand him.

As a geek lately in the gig economy I get “opportunities” passed my way. The method varies, but it’s some riff on calling me twice in a row, then sending me an email with the opportunity, then another call an hour later. When I do make the mistake of answering I am assaulted by a melange of syllables and quick breaths that approximate, I presume, English, as spouted in a room full of other call center agents all doing the same thing at full volume.

If someone’s making an attempt to be understood I’ll go through hoops and do my best to understand them. But these are the verbal equivalent of pop-up ads on my phone. They want to get to the end of their spiel and find out if I’m interested in whatever that job they pitched. Usually I have to ask them to slow down and repeat themselves. Usually to little avail.

Nota bene: I block/report as spam companies and phone numbers (usually spoofed) that do this.

Commoditization of the employment process has been happening since at least the seventies. One of my first big-money consulting gigs was getting a networked set of Z-80 computers (well before PCs) talking to one another and using a common database at a talent agency office in downtown Manhattan. That they had their own database was already a huge deal for a ten-person agency. American recruiters can’t compete with foreign boiler rooms and calling based on unintelligent keyword matching. This is a non-lethal analogy to carpet bombing versus targeted strikes. While US-based companies have the edge in terms of personal relationships with companies, the gig economy, with a high demand for cogs in machines instead of people at positions, apparently loves this cheap way of doing business.

Whew. Okay. Back to polishing the query letter, putting out feelers, getting (for the last time, damnit!) A Day at the Zoo printed up for beta readers… And making the initial blocks for the third novel in the Shmuley Myers series ready. And, on the employment front, awaiting the results of a couple of interesting positions.