Monday, September 21, 2015

This Needs to Stop...

I've been sitting on this one for a while, debating on whether or not to even post it, but I actually feel like I need to in order to get it out of my system. Fair warning, this one's not as carefree and light as the others I've put up here. This one is serious and contains some pretty strong language about a pretty severe occurrence in the world today. If you can't handle that, turn back now.

I keep my opinions on current events pretty much to myself. If you want to know my religious or political leanings, read my work. Bits of it creep out. Ultimately I feel such things are irrelevant anyway. But sometimes, something just hits me the right way, and it stews inside me like a pressure cooker until it finally explodes. 

I have two kids, one of which is still in high school. As such, I get emails from the school about things that are going on, simply by virtue of having my email address attached to my kid's record. To be honest, I usually ignore these.

Then on September 6, an email came in announcing the death of a student the day before, a freshman named Sherokee Harriman. It caught my attention, needless to say, but beyond verifying whether or not my child knew her, nothing really clicked other than how sad and tragic it is that someone should pass away so young.

As the next couple of days passed, I learned more about what happened and started feeling royally pissed.

I live in a relatively small town outside of Nashville. We're not Mayberry, but we do tend to have a fast grapevine that reveals all kinds of things. Again, most are irrelevant, even to the people who live here. Sherokee's situation was not one of those.

What I learned was that this fourteen year old girl had not simply died. She had taken her own life. The reason? She was a victim of bullying.

I was confused, as I always am when stories like this come out in the news. With her, as with the others, I saw her pictures and wondered why it happened in the first place. She was white, so racism probably wasn't a factor. She was pretty, and didn't appear to be overweight, so that didn't make sense either. Then I stopped myself, not because I didn't want an answer, but by trying to discern the reason she had been bullied I was no better than the punk ass kids who had done it in the first place. Reasons don't matter. The sad truth is simply that some kids who think they're better than everyone else in the world found a target and went after it. They didn't need a reason. If one wasn't evident, they made one up.

Because there's really one answer to why it happened, once you boil things down. And honestly, I can't even really put the blame on the kids who did it. They're just idiots, but that's not their fault. That can be overcome. The fault lies in the parents who don't give enough of a shit about the rest of the people in the world to teach their kids tolerance. The parents who think it's funny when their hellspawn do something bad, because they did it when they were kids too. 

What kind of fucked up mental midget do you have to be to condone your kids antagonizing another living, feeling human being to the point where taking themselves out of the equation and cutting off any chance of knowing what it means to really live is the preferable alternative? How can you look at yourself in the mirror and sleep at night knowing that you have failed your children and the world by not bothering to teach them the difference between right and wrong?

The parents all come back with the old standby that "kids will be kids". Kiss my ass. That just means that kids will test their boundaries as they grow up and develop a sense of independence. If you did your duty as their parents, their boundaries would not have extended so far as to allow being complicit in what amounts to murder. That's one hell of a boundary there, let me tell you.

As parents, our duty is to set those boundaries. If our children push against them, fine. I can accept the "kids will be kids" excuse. But if you choose to just ignore that breach, or are too disinterested in your child's life to bother noticing that they're doing it in the first place, that makes you directly responsible for every screwed up thing they do from that point onward. Children must be disciplined. That doesn't mean you have to beat their asses for every perceived transgression. It does mean, however, that you MUST take an interest in your child's life and let them know their actions have consequences.

It's not the fault of violence on television or in the movies. It's not the fault of violent video games. The music didn't make them do it, nor did the books they read. The fault lies in you as parents who want to be friends with your kids rather than be their parents. I'm forty years old. My oldest kid is nineteen. Why the hell would I want to be friends with someone that much younger than me? We might share some interests, but how can they possibly understand the things I've experienced in double their lifespan? I love my kids. I have fun with my kids. I enjoy spending time with my kids. But there is zero doubt about the roles we play. I am their father. Period.

I was called names in school. I was bullied, though not as severely as the reports I've heard lately. I was lucky enough to have friends and family who helped me realize that it didn't matter what those assholes said to me. The only person I had to answer to was myself. It didn't matter what they thought of me, so long as I was happy with myself, at least to the degree that anyone at that age is capable of it. When one of my kids began to experience similar things, I was able to pass that lesson on. The problem is that the bullies of my generation grew up. Some of them matured as they aged, and became well adjusted members of society who now understand what they did back then was wrong. Others, it seemed, saw nothing wrong with how they acted. This has allowed their children to raise the bar higher, meaning the bullying has become more severe.

I was a "nerd" and a "geek" and a "dork". But as the computer age dawned, those were the people who inherited the earth. I shudder to think what today's bullied children will inherit. From the looks of it, they're being conditioned to be bitter and resentful and isolated. That does not bode well for the future of the human race.

I grew up in the South, to parents who had lived before the civil rights movement. Racism was not defined as such for me. At the same time, they taught me to value the person and not what I saw on the outside. Because of that, I was able to grow up and not care if you were white, black, yellow, brown, purple, or green. Color was just that. It was the person you were inside the counted. It took work to overcome the native prejudice that still exists in the American South where people might mean no offense but give nothing but. Still, I did it, because I had parents who taught me right from wrong as best as they were able, because they cared.

The parents of these kids who bully people to suicide? They obviously don't. You can argue all you want that you do, look how much I do for my kids. You might as well be farting in the wind for all the good it does you. "Kids will be kids." Here's another old truism for you: "Actions speak louder than words." You can claim to care all you like, buy your kid whatever they want and call it love, but the truth is in how they act and how they treat other people. That's the direct result of your influence as a parent.

Something needs to be done, but the irony is that nothing anyone does externally will accomplish shit. Zero tolerance policies don't work. How can they, when the kids are taking their cues from their disconnected parents? Until parents wake up and realize that it's their own damn fault their kid is a little shit with no respect for anyone, nothing anyone does will help. I'm not being defeatist here, just stating the facts. I wish things were different, but the evidence doesn't support it. I wish I could slap every one of these people upside the head and make them understand that if only they would raise their kids right from the start, if only they would be the parent and stop expecting the schools or the kid's friends, or someone else or worse the fucking television to do it for them, then maybe - just maybe - this shit would stop.

I've said my peace. I would apologize for offending anyone, but if you're doing the right thing with your kids, I think you won't be offended. The only ones who will be are the ones who read this and felt like I was talking directly to them. And I hope I DID offend those people. Maybe it will make them open their eyes and stop thinking the world owes them something. I doubt it, but I can still hope.

To Sherokee and all the countless others who endured what she did, I know you're beyond caring about this now, but some of us care. Some of us want better for people in your shoes. Some of us do our damndest to make sure our kids understand how to treat other people, even if they're different. Especially if they're different. I just wish you could have known that sooner. It might not have made a difference, but then again, maybe it would have. That's what all of us who try have to live with. We failed you by not knowing what to do to fix it sooner, but please know it was not from lack of caring.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Magician's Apprentice, aka The Episode of Returns

If anyone was unsure, I am a Whovian. Need proof? There's a Doctor Who reference in Consequences. There's another couple in Demon at the Window. I didn't force them in, they just came naturally.

Anyway, as a fan of the show, I was waiting with anticipation for the start of Series 9. After seeing it, I had to offer a review.

In case you haven't watched yet, be warned. Spoilers.

We started like most premieres, with an unknown place in an unknown time filled with unknown people. As the opening scene winds down, we find a lone child, trapped by "hand-mines", one of the more brilliant concepts I've seen on the show. Childish and creepy at the same time, as befitting this British staple that was originally designed for kids. The Doctor, as normal, shows up to save the day and asks the kid his name. Once he answered, I knew I was in for a tremendous ride.

The kid's name? Davros. Yes, that one. He's back. Nerdgasm number one.

Back in the here and now, Clara is teaching class when she notices the planes have stopped. Not stopped running, but actually stopped in place in the sky, unmoving. Naturally, this is not normal to anyone except for her. She gets a call from UNIT and is rushed to their base where we see the wonderful Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is still running things. As they try to reach the Doctor, they get a message on a UNIT channel exclusively for his use, and one they think he's probably forgotten about. When they decode it, it's glorious.

You so fine.

You so fine you blow my mind.

Nerdgasm number two.

Yep, it's Missy, formerly the Master, back from death once again. Let's face it, no matter who played him before, Michelle Gonzales has claimed this role for her own, happily stealing every scene she's in and providing the perfect foil for Peter Capaldi. At this point, I'm beside myself.

The basic premise is this: Davros is dying and wants to speak to the Doctor one last time before he goes. He sends a messenger to find the Doctor and collect him, using the lure "Davros rememembers".

In the interim, we get a wonderful Clara / Missy showdown that puts Clara in her place better than either Doctor she's traveled with ever could. As Clara has to come to grips with the fact that the evidence points to the Master / Missy still being the Doctor's best friend in the universe, Missy casually points out a man and woman walking their dog to explain Clara's relationship with the Doctor: "See that couple there? You're the puppy."

The two of them team up (an interesting concept in its own right) and track the Doctor to England in the 1100's. Missy gets them there through the use of a vortex manipulator and tells Clara to be on the lookout for anachronisms. No sooner than the words leave her mouth, an electric guitar rings out over the fighting arena where they materialized. It seems the Doctor, known in this place and time as The Magician, has gotten himself challenged to an ax fight. Only he hears it as "axe" and enters the arena wailing on the guitar while riding a tank. Sounds like anachronisms to me

With this scene alone, any lingering concerns about Capaldi's Doctor are eliminated. The interplay between Missy, Clara, and himself using the guitar as counterpoint are testament to the skill of the actors involved and the love they clearly have for what they're doing.

The plot starts moving here, ending with the Doctor face-to-face with Davros. Any question about what Davros remembers are answered when he shows a recording of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor, in Genesis of the Daleks, debating whether or not he should commit genocide on the newly-made Dalek race: "...if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?"

Davros remembers indeed.

Davros shows the Doctor that Missy and Clara have escaped their confinement and gone exploring, revealing where they really are. Skaro, rebuilt and reformed, filled to the brim with Daleks once more.

Missy discovers the Daleks have acquired the TARDIS and tries to bargain with them: her life flying them around in it in exchange for not killing her. Their answer? Maximum Extermination. Clara runs. Exterminated. Then the TARDIS itself, Exterminated. The Doctor has nothing left, even if we as viewers know there is absolutely no way this will be permanent.

Snap to the final bookend. The Doctor and young Davros. Davros asks what the Doctor is doing. The Doctor responds that he's saving his friends the only way he knows how and raises a Dalek weapon to point at the child.

Then the moment that made me swear at my television and want to fly to Wales to strangle Stephen Moffett: To be continued.

You suck, Moffett. And it's a beautiful thing. The last season felt clunky in many areas, but if this start is any indication, we're in for a treat this time around. Capaldi feels comfortable in the role he spent most of last season acclimating to, and even though Jenna Coleman's Clara still feels as controlling and more important than she should be as a companion, she was more tolerable this time. That may have more to do with sharing most of her screen time with Michelle Gonzales's wonderfully insane Missy, but only time will tell for sure. We know this is her last go-around as the Doctor's companion (, so we shall see.

All in all, this episode left me more excited about the new season than last year, and considering that was a regeneration recovery episode featuring Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, it says something. We've been promised the return of Osgood and River Song this year as well, so let's cross our fingers and hope they keep up the good work.

Book Reviews in Bulk - The Splatterpunks

So last time, I promised some non-update related posts. This is the first.

While the day job was driving me nuts, I went back to an old faithful for escapism. I read. I hit up the Kindle store looking to see if anything new was out there, and lo and behold discovered not something new, but something old re-released in eBook form. In a sense, this was better.

I grew up in the eighties and early nineties. During those formative years, I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on that was horror related. Some of my favorites were the splatterpunk authors who took horror and stood it on its head. These have been followed by today's "hardcore" horror writers, but those who led the way still hold a special place in my heart. Over the years, the paperbacks I had wore out and became unreadable, though I still have some of them. But now, many of those books are on Kindle. My bank account suffered this discovery, but my heart thrilled at it.

Here's some reviews of a few of those, freshly re-read for the first time in over fifteen years, and a couple read for the first time ever.

The Scream by John Skipp and Craig Spector
This was the one that got me hooked. For me, it was the other side of the Rock n' Roll / Horror connection that Alice Cooper and those who followed him presented. I loved it as a kid, so I decided to see how it held up so many years later.

From Rock 'n' Roll. Hell. Two great tastes that taste great together. Long before Elvis gyrated on the Sullivan Show or the Beatles toiled the smoky red-light bars of Hamburg, music has been sowing the seeds of liberation. Or damnation. With each new generation the edge of rebellion pushed farther. Rhythms quickened. Volume increased. Lyrics coarsened. The rules continued to be broken, until it seemed that there were no rules at all.
And as waves of teens cranked it up and poured it on, parents built walls of accusation to explain their offspring's seeming corruption. Sex and drugs, demon worship and violence are the effects. Music is the cause. Or so the self-styled guardians of morality would have us believe.
Meet The Scream. Just your average everyday mega-cult band. Their music is otherworldly. Their words are disturbing. Their message is unholy. Their fans are legion. And they're not kidding. They're killing. Themselves. Each other. Everyone. Their gospel screams from the lips of babes. Their backbeat has a body count. And their encore is just the warm-up act to madness beyond belief.
It emerged from a war-torn jungle, where insanity was just another word for survival. It arrived in America with an insatiable lust for power and the means to fulfill it. In the amplified roar of arena applause there beats the heart of absolute darkness.

The first thing that hit me was the pop culture references, usually through brand names that no longer exist but were top of the line in the mid-eighties when this came out. This time around, I understood those. The next was the writing itself, something I can appreciate so much better now that I'm older and have tried my hand at it. The descriptive turn of phrase, the use of metaphors combining things in a way I would have never imagined, the word choice. All of it was spot on, and one of the hallmarks I remembered from Skipp and Spector. When it came to splatterpunk horror, they could make it real in ways many writers never could. And that's a good thing.

Then there were the characters. Sometimes they seemed caricature, but in those instances you almost get the feeling they were intended to be. From Jacob Hammer, leader of the eponymous Jacob Hammer Band to Rod Royale, lead guitarist for the Scream and long-distance prodigy of the Marquis de Sade to Pastor Daniel Furniss, the obvious televangelist amalgamation, they all leapt off the page and could have been sitting in the room next to you. With some exceptions, you feel sympathy for the villains and see the faults in the heroes.

The story itself sometimes wanders, but even those side trips are fun and provide some of the motivations for why the characters made the choices they did and ended up where they are at each point of the story. The ending is a bit predictable, but considering the subject matter there really was no other obvious direction to take it.

All in all, it was the same joyful read I remembered it being, only with a deeper understanding of the subtext to make it that much richer in my mind.

The Kill Riff and Wild Hairs by David J. Schow
David J. Schow should be a familiar name to anyone who read Fangoria magazine in the nineties. He wrote a column for them called Raving and Drooling where he vented about whatever was on his mind, from censorship and the MPAA to long-forgotten classic horror movies, to whatever came across his black little heart.

Wild Hairs collects these, along with several other columns and articles he wrote over the years for other publications, and offer a prime example of where he shines as a writer. In addition to these magazine articles, Schow is also a scriptwriter, having worked on some of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies as well as The Crow starring Brandon Lee. It is of this latter where the heart truly comes into his column for Fango, and you can almost feel him using it as a way to deal with his grief over Brandon's untimely death on the set of that movie.

Basically, Wild Hairs is a step backward in time to those days where the MPAA seemed to have a vendetta against slasher movies and when those who worked behind the scenes in horror became as big as rock stars just by doing what they loved. If you are a true horror fan, check it out. Not every article was a winner, but there are enough to make the purchase worthwhile.

Then comes The Kill Riff, Schow's first full-length novel. Beware, spoilers ahead for this one.

Lucas Ellington is an LA ad executive who seems to have it all before it falls apart. His ex-wife commits suicide, leaving a note that blames him. Then his daughter Kristen is killed at a concert for the heavy metal group Whip Hand. After a self-imposed stay in a mental hospital where Lucas is "cured", he emerges a new man. One who intends to take out the members of the now-disbanded Whip Hand to avenge his daughter.

The story itself had potential, and for the first two acts, it lived up to it. Then we hit act three and it all came tumbling down.

The concept of revenge killing is not a new thing. It's been around for years. The story of a man blaming a rock band for his daughter's death is well within the realm of possibility, and could have made for a nice dual plotline. As he kills the band members, he begins to heal until he no longer needs to go through with it. As a reader, you sympathize with Lucas. As a parent, even more so. The scenes with the lead singer of Whip Hand, whom Lucas is saving for last, even paint him as the spoiled rock star who is so far above it all that the little people mean nothing to him anymore.

Lucas even gains sympathy when he saves a girl who knocks on the door of his secluded cabin in the mountains after her boyfriend beat the hell out of her and left her for dead. One could argue how believable her choice to stay at the cabin with him, knowing next to nothing about him is, but in the end it's irrelevant. She practically screams "plot device" from the moment she appears on Lucas's doorstep, but Schow makes you care enough about her that you can forgive that.

Then he throws that sympathy out the window. Lucas is not right in the head, sympathetic character or not. Well-adjusted individuals do not plan and carry out assassinations of rock stars as methodically as Lucas does with no remorse. That's all fine, though. We understand this going in since we first meet him talking to his doctor before being released from the mental hospital. It's when we learn the depths of his psychosis, that he is not merely troubled but flat-out psychopathic that things go haywire.

Two things in one scene seal the deal. The girl he helped, who is perhaps the most innocent character in the story as things turn out, has become what appears to be a strange hybrid replacement for Lucas's ex-wife and daughter. She reminds him of Kristen, but there is a sexual attraction there. The turning point comes as Lucas stares into his fireplace, the girl naked behind him after the two of them have made love. That Lucas bashes her head in with a stove of wood is not the worst part, though it is the first (but woefully not the last) innocent he kills. It's a single thought that runs through his mind while they're in the throes of passion. The thought that his daughter was not this good in bed.

Um, what?

This is near the start of act three, mind you. I tried to keep having sympathy for him, I really did. But after discovering that he was an incestuous psychopath who did not give two shits who he killed, I couldn't do it. His rationalizations that she had been the one to instigate things did nothing to allay that. The protagonist was gone, in his place another antagonist.

The role could have shifted. His doctor had been slowly figuring out what Lucas was up to the entire time, so I could have dealt with a shift to her for the protagonist role. To be fair, it seemed like that was exactly what was intended, but it didn't work. At least not for me.

The doctor spent too much time bemoaning the fact that if Lucas had played her, it wrecked her chances of having a relationship with him and was apt to ruin her career. Seriously? The guy's carrying out a planned mass murder and that's your focus. Exit sympathy for her, too.

So the book ends with no protagonist, and no real sense of closure other than the covers. It becomes only a minor quibble that occasionally the character dialogue sounds more like things Schow himself might say in one of his articles and not at all like normal people would talk around their friends and family. That I can forgive. The destruction of any character worth giving a damn about, not so much.

I like Schow's writing, don't misunderstand me. His script work is good and his magazine articles are top-notch. I seem to recall reading a short story or two of his, and they were okay as well. But for a novel, he dropped the ball and that disappoints me. I'll give him another chance. It looks like he's written other novels since The Kill Riff, and I can only hope they redeem him and show what I know he could do if he put his mind to it.

And that's it for now. I'll do more of these reviews, one at a time in the future, as I finish books that make me want to praise or condemn them. Hope you enjoyed this installment!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Getting Back on Track

So the crazy stretch at my day slave job is finally reaching its end. What that means is that I will finally be able to get back into the routine I had been using to get my work in this, the fun job, done. To that end, here's a few progress updates, all thrown into one big soup.

Consequences: Not much to report here, I'm still waiting. Yesterday was the one week mark since submission, so the concept that I would have heard anything by now, one way or the other, is just wishful thinking. That's okay, though. See below for what I'm using to try and keep my mind off it.

Demon at the Window: If you remember from a previous post, my normal routine for editing was that the bulk of it was completed on Mondays. Well, since my day job killed that for a couple of weeks, I still have yet to officially begin the edits that will make the second draft of DatW. Now that I get them back, I can get going on this full steam. I'm setting a tentative target of Halloween to have the second draft finished. That may change, especially since I'm not in as much of a hurry since Consequences needs to do its thing before I consider anything more concrete for the timeline on DatW, but at least it's better than what I had (which was nothing, in case you were wondering).

Justicar: I'm starting to get a general idea of what the next scene for the story is, so I will probably get back to this one in a couple of days or maybe a week. Right now it's still gestating, so my main focus is elsewhere, but fret not! This one is not forgotten, just taking a nap.

One Last Dance: If you haven't figured it out by now, this is the next Cochran book. I've got the concept firmly in mind and have been churning away with it for almost a week now. The majority of the cast of characters have been introduced, and it's time to start plugging away at Jack's actual investigation . This is the stage where thought has to come into it, so I don't reveal too much too soon, so it may rest a bit so I can get back to Justicar while the pieces fall into place. And if by looking at the progress meter you have the idea that I'm further along in this one, keep in mind that as a fantasy story, Justicar is projected to be much longer than OLD, so the percentages will be skewed accordingly.

And that pretty well catches me up. I still have some time left on my indentured servitude for the day job, so I need to get to sleep. I will try and do a couple of other posts in the next week or so that have been rolling around in my head, some things that are either not related to writing at all or only loosely so.

Until then, sweet dreams!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Strange Things Afoot...

So I've decided to do something weird, at least for me and whatever this writing schedule I've developed for myself is. I took the day off yesterday, since I just submitted something and wanted to give my brain a chance to recharge after all the speed-writing I've been doing. Turned out lucky, since real-life got in the way and would have kept me from it at any rate (I seriously need to rethink this writing from 10 / 11 PM until Whenever thing).

Taking a day off for me simply means  I don't get any new words down on paper. I still might work on copyedits, or brainstorm, or something like that. Yesterday, it was brainstorming the next Cochran book. I had a title already, and a couple of very basic ideas for story mostly centering on locations. As I was driving around running errands, it clicked what the main villain for the story should be. Once I got home, I started researching and then grabbed a legal pad and a pen and starting making notes. By the time it was done, I had the story in mind.

Here's the problem. I'm working on something else already. That left me with two options: either I shelve Justicar again to start on this one, or I let this one simmer till Justicar is done.

I enjoy the story I'm coming up with in Justicar. I love the world I'm using, and even know some of the theme that's running through it already. That in itself speaks volumes, since theme usually doesn't emerge until I'm rereading the first draft to make edits and changes. The problem is that Justicar is a BIG story. I don't mean length, though that may come to be as well. I mean as far as the subplots and character motivations and everything attached to it that makes it a story. It's freakin' massive! All good fantasy is, but that's a post for a different time. It's not unexpected is all I'm saying. But that weight makes writing it harder than the horror stuff I've done.

My horror stories, the Cochran tales especially, are fun. They're still firmly in horror, and they aren't really a horror-comedy, but they're just fun. I love those characters. I love that looseness in their actions. Fantasy doesn't lend itself to that very well for me. Not to say my characters in Justicar are humorless, but they're pretty rigid, just by way of the world they inhabit. Horror gives me a chance to blow off steam and not think as much as I get the story out there. Fantasy requires active thought, and a lot more attention to detail to make this world that doesn't exist feel believable and lived-in.

So I leaned towards starting the Cochran book. Then I decided to make a third option and go with that instead: I'm going to alternate.

In every book I've written, there comes a time when the writing gets hard. Either I'm not sure where the story's going, or where to start the chapter, or something along those lines. I'm at that point with Justicar. I know where they need to end up, and I know their next step, I'm just not sure how they're going to go about it yet. The characters haven't told me. That makes writing it pretty much just throwing words at the page until I figure it out. That is fun in it's own right, but it can make the writing feel too much like work and not something I'm enjoying. Therefore, I'll work on the next Cochran book for a bit. Once I hit the same point there, which I know I will eventually, I'll switch back to Justicar and work on it some more. It'll make each one take longer before they're done, but at least I won't burn myself out on either one as quickly.

I've got the first scene, and maybe the second, already in mind. Depending on how it goes getting them onto paper will tell me whether or not to continue with this idea or just go back and work on Justicar till it's done. If you see a new entry on the progress meter in the next day or so, you'll know how it went.

And now on to the storytelling!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Consequences Update #5

And a long breath of relief.

Consequences has just finished its third draft. The story is pretty much the best I think I can get it now. I'll be running a final spell-check and making sure the grammar is correct as I format it for submission, which should be done tomorrow. Then, I wait.

I'll keep working on other things, of course, but by the time an answer finally comes, I think I'll be pretty close to insane wondering what's happening with it. Keep busy to stay distracted, right?

I will, of course keep everyone posted on the results, either way. Hopefully it will be out there for you all to read soon, one way or the other.

Here's the final stats:

@82,000 words (my target was 80k - 85k, so perfect there), thirty-two chapters plus a prologue and epilogue, 266 pages (in MS Word Document format at least). Total time, start to finish, just over two months. Not bad at all, eh?

Keep watching for more updates. Justicar is still underway, and I'll be starting the edits on the first draft of Demon at the Window soon, so don't expect me to be sitting on my hands.

Wish me luck!

EDIT: Or, I just won't bother waiting. Consequences has been officially submitted for consideration at Samhain Publications. Up to 16 weeks for a response, according to the auto-reply that said they received the submission. Like I said before, wish me luck, and I'll keep you posted!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Justicar Update #1

When I decided to revisit this one, I wasn't sure what to expect. A part of me feared that even though I could remember where I wanted to go with it, once I actually sat down to start back up on it I would not be able to get back into the world, the characters, or the style I was using.

I am happy to report, this was not the case.

Once I transferred the first two chapters I'd completed into a new manuscript and re-read the last chapter to get back to where the story left off, it actually came pretty easy. When I left off tonight at the conclusion of Chapter Three, not only did I remember everything I needed to, but I actually discovered that it did not play out exactly as I intended it to previously. That's a good thing. If I'm not surprised by where the story's going, how are you supposed to be?

Ultimately it was one change that I came to realize needs to happen later in the story, closer to the end of Act One. If it happened now, the cat's out of the bag too soon. I want the build up to the antagonist to be seen through the eyes of the protagonists, and if I jumped the shark, what would I have left? Set up to a fight, then the end, and I end up with a novella or short story for something that I feel deserves an epic novel.

All in all, it feels like I'm on the right track here. I won't say it's not strange, writing something so wildly different after just doing two back to back horror novels set in modern times, but it still feels right.

In the end, isn't that what matters?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Demon at the Window Update #2

And another one is finished.

The first draft of Demon at the Window is officially complete. It clocks in at just over 81,000 words and around 260 pages (in MS Word Manuscript Form, formatting will shrink that). There are some strings left untied, but that was by design. At some point, I'll be going back to these characters and telling the story of Jack Cochran's next big case.

For now, the satisfaction of another book under my belt. Once I have the timeline established for Consequences, I'll figure out a potential release date for this one too. Until then, my next step is to format, bind, and print it for my wife (my official First Reader) to read over and give feedback on. Then, editing for the second draft so I can clean it up some. This one won't hit beta reader stage until after the second draft, so if you're one of them and you're waiting on it, sorry, but you need to wait a little longer. This one is a little more complex, so I want to make sure it's right before you get it.

Well, closer to right, anyway.

For now, sleep. Next up, Justicar. The progress meter's updated to reflect this being done, I'll add Justicar to it once I have something to report.

'Night folks!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

New Project Announcement

As Demon at the Window nears it's first draft completion, I'm starting to consider what's next up on the old workbench. I decided to do something a little different, something still within the realm of what I want to do, but not something horror-related. At least not primarily, though it may have elements of it in there somewhere.

It's not that I don't like writing horror; I really do. It's just that sometimes my mind needs a break from all the violence and over-the-top gore. Hey, it happens. So for this one, I'm actually resurrecting an older project that I've been letting gather dust on my hard drive.

A little background first.

I'm an old-school RPG'er. I played DnD for the first time back when I was still a kid in single digit ages. I may stop for long periods, as my group does have real life to contend with from time to time, but we always come back to the gaming table with our D20's in hand. A couple years ago, one of the guys in my group mentioned that he couldn't find a pre-made setting for the story he wanted to tell, so he wanted to make his own. He and I spent several months world-building, and we came up with a pretty decent world to run a game in. It didn't last long (that real life thing getting in the way again), but we spent some real time on it. It's a VERY fleshed-out world.

We had the idea to co-write a novelization of the game we were doing. It was going pretty well, but with the game itself being abandoned, that project was too. I then decided to write a tale of my own set in the world, about sixty years after the game we played in it. I did two chapters, my life got hectic for a while, and, unfortunately, I stopped working on it.

My normal routine is to write for a couple of hours, then browse the net until my brain is ready to shut off so I can go to sleep. For some reason, it didn't happen that way last night. I finished the writing, checked email, and then ended up re-reading those two chapters. Suddenly, I remembered where I was going with the story. All the things I'd been working on came rushing back. I actually remembered writing those scenes, even though the writing itself was almost alien since it had been so long since I saw it last.

Then I heard the characters again. They weren't done telling me their story. And they wanted to tell that story.

So instead of the next Jack Cochran book, I'm switching gears. I'm going to let their story be finished.

This one isn't horror, like I said earlier. It's a fantasy story. I'm not saying it's the start of a series, which is what most people think of when they think of fantasy novels. I'm not saying it's not, either, but for now I only have the one story to tell. Where it goes from there is anybody's guess.

Here's what I do know.

It's called Justicar,

Forty years ago, the church-state of Watika united the commonwealth under it's banner, forming an empire. Corruption from within caused a civil war, ending with the collapse of both the church and the empire. Ten years later, a former Watikan Justicar discovers a new threat emerging on the shores of the nation of Gallia. If allowed to spread, this threat could destroy or enslave the citizens of the commonwealth who only want to live their lives in peace. It falls to this one man, scorned by millions, to save them from a fate they can only imagine in their worst nightmares.

This is not traditional fantasy, in that there are no prophecies of things to come, very little magic to speak of in the known world, and dragons are only fairy tales. I'm sure it's been done - there's very little in the genre that hasn't been - but maybe it's a new take on old tropes. We'll see. I'm curious where it ends up.

More later!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Consequences Update #4

The second draft of Consequences is officially complete. I was originally figuring a cut of about 5,000 words or so, but it didn't actually lose that much. It actually ended up just shy of 83,000 words. Still well within the average length for the genre, so I'm not overly concerned. Still, it's nice to have it finished.

Not that I'm done with it, of course.

Next up, a third draft. I added some scenes and rewrote some others, so now I get to see how badly I screwed those up. Also, I'll be working on some changes suggested by my beta readers that I thought were valid and worth consideration. Finally, I'll be paying close attention to pacing and continuity to make sure the story flows like it should without anything too distracting creeping in to pull readers out of it.

I won't be starting on that immediately, since I want to give my brain a chance to reset after the first round of edits. Too many things are still overly familiar right now, so I wouldn't be able to do it justice. Combine that with some things in my day job that are going to demand more of my attention, and it wouldn't be a pretty result.

Still, I'm on track with my initial timeline here, so I'm not in bad shape. If things work out the way I hope, the third draft should be finished by the end of next month at the latest. Once that's done, I'll give it a couple days to settle then start formatting it for submission and / or self-publication. While I'm doing that, I'll do one more close inspection, tweaking whatever still needs it so it can truly be labeled a Final Draft.

The formatting process will take a while. Different publishers want different things, so I may end up with several versions of the same draft. The eBook version for example will look a bit different than the submission version.

Why do all that work if a publisher's just going to reformat it again? Simple. If I don't get a publisher to bite, I want to be ready to commission cover art and get it to CreateSpace / KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and SmashWords as soon as the artwork's ready. This one's going into the wild, one way or the other.

Either way, traditional publisher or self-published, I can confidently say the release date will be 2016. Once I know which way I'm going, I can narrow that down a little more. If it goes the traditional route, the eBook will be out first (probably), with print edition following a few months later (based on the schedule of my preferred publisher right now). They might be simultaneous, but don't hold your breath. If it's self-published, the release date will be the same for both. Print versions will be POD (Print on Demand), but based on other books I've seen published through CreateSpace, they look just as good as anything else on the market. Yes, I'm going through an Amazon company which means the eBook will only be on Kindle, but don't worry. I may use SmashWords to get the other eReader formats, but even if I don't you can find out online how to convert a Kindle book to any format you want to. No, I'm not telling here. That would be a whole other post. But the information's there, if you look for it.

Now that this post has gone twice as long as I thought it would, I'll sign off. Hopefully Demon at the Window will get a First Draft Complete update within the next week, and then it's off to the next project. See you soon!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Final Title At Last

For those that don't know, Graduation Summer was always meant to be just a working title. No more, no less. It was a case of not having any idea what the title was supposed to be before I started writing, which is unusual for me. With everything I've ever written, the title came along with the story, if not before. This time, it didn't. I named it what I did because I was tired of calling it the Untitled Crazy Freddy story.

I tried everything. I made lists of potential titles, nothing. Asked friends based on just the synopsis, got interesting feedback but nothing that worked. Asked my beta readers to give me ideas based on what they read, again, good feedback, but nothing that fit. I was resigning myself to letting an editor pick the title once I submitted it for publication.

Then it happened. That moment of inspiration.

When I'm working on a first draft, the first thing I see is the title. Whenever I loaded it up to work on it, I saw the title "Graduation Summer" with whatever draft it was afterwards (AKA "Graduation Summer - First Draft")(For completionists out there, it's a .doc file, so you can add that to the end). When I edit though, all I see is story. The cover page is already in the manuscript box it's getting stored in once I finish the markups (see my last post for an explanation on my editing process). Since story is all I see, that's what I get to focus on.

When you edit, especially during that first or second read-through, you get more of the subtext. That stuff's not even on my radar when I write the first draft. I don't care about theme, I'm going for straight, blissful, escapism story. Anything resembling a theme or a central message is put in there entirely by my subconscious (hmmm, almost makes the case for writing as psychotherapy; may have to explore that later). When I re-read for editing, that stuff finally emerges.

For this one, I realized that every single character in the story - major, minor, or otherwise - has to deal with the consequences of their choices. That's when it hit me. Who cares about subtlety? I'm writing freaking horror novels here! Call it what it deals with!

So, after sleeping on it and still liking it, and getting feedback from the wife and a couple of beta readers, "Graduation Summer" gets to lose its working title. The story is officially titled Consequences.

One word, catchy, grabs your attention. Consequences.

Now let's hope it survives the submission process!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Progress Meter WTF Moments Explained

If anyone has noticed, first drafts on my progress meter move up at a steady pace while second drafts and higher don't move for a long stretch of time before leaping upwards 15-20 percentage points at a whack.There's a reason for that, and unfortunately it's not that I do all that work in the matter of a day.

When I'm working on a second (or third, or fourth, or whatever) draft, there's more going on than just opening the file on my computer and making changes. I print out the entire previous draft, stick it in a notebook, and grab a red pen. Then I start reading, only I'm not just reading for content. I'm looking for typos, grammatical errors, continuity errors, clear sentences that truly convey what they're supposed to, clunky dialogue, strange paragraph breaks, things like that. If I find it, I mark it with a little note on how to fix it, as it occurs to me at the time. Occasionally, as was the case with a scene in Graduation Summer that I just fixed, I come across scenes that have way too many plot holes surrounding them. This is where my beta readers usually come in, but I sometimes find them too. If so, I go to the back of the previous page and write out what needs to be added longhand. It's a lot of work, in other words.

This whole process usually takes place over the course of a week. Once I have the markups done, I pick a day-usually Mondays since I'm off from my day job-and pull up both the file for the draft I'm editing and the one that is in-progress for the draft I'm building. I copy a chapter, paste it into the newer draft file, and start making the changes I noted on paper. When that chapter's done, I move on to the next and so forth, until all my markups for the week are entered digitally. I save the file, check the current word count, compare it to my target, and update the progress bar on the website with the new percentage to completion.

As I move on to future drafts, you can expect that number to rise even faster since I'll probably (or at least I should) have fewer changes that need to be made. When I get to the final draft before I submit it, it's liable to go from 0 to 100 in a day, since all that should be needed by that point is final formatting. If an editor suggests revisions or rewrites, that total will be based on the number of changes I'm asked to make rather than a percentage of word count target completed.

For the people who think writing is not work, look back over that. First, you do a draft where you get the entire story out on paper. Then you revise it to fix your screw ups. Then you fix issues with the content. Then you do another copy edit to fix the new screw ups you introduced fixing the content. Then you format it, then submit, then probably end up fixing more stuff you never even considered the first few times around. Sound easy? Didn't think so.

Also, if I may make a suggestion for anyone who tries it: avoid self-editing the entire process if you can help it. I know freelance editorial services aren't cheap. That said, if I could afford it, I would happily pay it. Doing it on your own requires an almost ruthless level of objectivity. It doesn't matter how much you love that particular scene, or how much you justify keeping it to yourself. If it's not working, rewrite it or get rid of it. If you want someone else to read and enjoy what you've written, it's going to be for the best. If you only wrote it for yourself, or to prove you could, why bother with future drafts at all? Just let the story be once it's done and move on. Otherwise, hire an editor. You'll be glad you did.

That's not to say you can't self-edit and it come out okay. I'm doing it, and I'm confident it's doing the trick. But I wrote the thing, didn't I? So how can I know for sure? I guess I'll find out once I submit the thing. Until then, I'll keep my fingers crossed.

That's it for now! Hopefully I'll be reporting the end of Demon at the Window soon, so keep watching until then!