Monday, October 23, 2017

Greg Owen #3 - The Prodigal Girl

This morning I begin work on the third mystery in the Greg Owen series, this one’s called The Prodigal Girl.

I’m keeping all plot details to myself, because I consider just about everything that happens in the book to be a spoiler.

The Greg Owen novels tend to run 60K and this one will be no different. I’ve got a high-level outline prepared and am feeling good about the story and character arcs.

I think I can write the first draft in 7 days.

Now that goal comes with a caveat. I have jury duty on Thursday. Because of my legal background, one or both attorneys on the case will want me nowhere near the jury box, so it's unlikely I'll get selected. But still, I will probably spend a chunk of the day Thursday at the courthouse, during the time I would otherwise be working. In the unlikely event I am selected for jury duty, then my goal of writing this book in 7 days goes completely out the window.

Either way, I’m off to the races again. It took me 3 weeks to write (not edit) a fantasy novel, so you might be wondering why I think I can write a Greg Owen book in 1 week. Here are some reasons why it’s do-able:
  1. I don’t have to create a whole new universe. Greg Owen’s stories take place in a world that’s exactly like ours. No magic, no strange creatures, no people/clans/lands/religions, nothing like that I have to give serious thought to and invent myself. He owns a pool hall, has a daughter, and is trying to make a living in a real-world setting. All things I can relate to.
  2. This book will be half as long as The Bastard’s Refuge (TBR).
  3. I’ve written a ton of mysteries already, so I understand the formula on a more intuitive level. TBR was my first heroic fantasy novel.
  4. I know who Greg is. I know who the supporting characters are. With TBR, I had a general sense of the characters before I sat down to write but the first draft was as much about discovering who they were and what they would do as it was telling the story.
  5. The Prodigal Girl is already up for pre-order! Now if that’s not reason enough …



Time to get cracking.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Latest Insane Idea

Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. It carries none of the sentiment other holidays do. People get to act wacky and break from the routine of being their "normal self" for the day. That character from that movie I've always loved? Tonight I get to pretend I'm them for a few hours. It's a lot of fun. And I love a good scary movie too, though good scary movies are difficult to find.

Anyway, I'm toying with the idea to write a horror novella and release it on Halloween.

Yes, today is October 20th and I have not written a word of it, nor do I even have an idea of what it would be about, so it's an absolutely, utterly ridiculous idea.

But, ohhhhhh, is it tempting.

I love giving myself random challenges like this. And in this new world of indie publishing, I could do it too. It's possible to write, edit and release a novella in 11 days on Amazon.

Could I do it?

I think so.

Should I?

That's another question, with probably a different answer. Or at least, a much more nuanced answer.

Going to give this a lot of thought today ...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Off-Topic: Sixers Fans Need To Chill Out About Markelle Fultz

76ers fans, I'm here to tell you that Markelle Fultz will grow into a good NBA player and it's WAAAAYYYYYYYYYY too early to worry about him.

Here are three reasons why you should not be worried.


  1. It's the NBA. Fultz is only 19 years old. All rookies experience an adjustment period where they learn the significant differences between the college and pro games. Fultz missed a chunk of Summer League due to injury and then missed half the preseason due to injury. Like all other rookies everywhere, he just needs time and reps. Do not make the mistake of comparing his rookie campaign to that of Simmons or Embiid, both of whom got to sit out for 1 and 2 years respectively and study the game, before lacing them up.
  2. He's changed his shooting form. I don't know whose idea this was, but if I was the shooting coach of the 76ers (Brian Colangelo, please give me serious consideration for that role if you need somebody.) I would NEVER have tweaked Fultz's form. He shot at a 41% clip from deep in college! With all the open looks he will get on this team, due to Embiid's ability to warp time and space on the court and courtesy of Simmons's uncanny vision, Fultz can thrive in this environment. Admittedly (and oddly) Fultz was a below average free throw shooter in college, so perhaps that's why he/they/someone getting paid a lot more money than me thought this was a good idea, but rather than tinker with a form that is good deep and fundamentally change the way he shoots, why not just see if his foul shooting improves over time? Even if he's only a 70% - 75% free throw shooter, that's okay on this team. Redick and Embiid are both great from the charity stripe and we've got other good foul shooters that can come off the bench if the other team employs the Hack-a-Shaq style at the end of the fourth quarter in a close game.
  3. He's playing off the ball now. In college, Fultz was the guy with the ball in his hands. He created scoring opportunities for himself with his change of pace, herky-jerky style of movement. Now he's on a team where he's not the primary ball handler and has to find scoring opportunities while moving off the ball. That means learning how to run off screens like it's a track meet and also learning how to catch and shoot. Yes, Fultz was always a scorer, but this is a different kind of scoring, a different way of literally thinking about the game and seeing the floor. It requires a change in mindset and habit, and a trust in his teammates that they will get him the ball to score. All of these things take time. (If somebody asked me to write a romance novel, for instance, I could get it done but it wouldn't be on par with my other work.)
(Speaking of which, if anybody out there wants to give me a six-figure advance to write a romance novel, here's my email address: ronaniswriting@gmail.com.) 

If Fultz were facing only one of these challenges, it would be reason enough not to get alarmed by his (extremely limited) play so far. But Fultz is facing all three, at the same time. Adjusting to the NBA game while changing his shooting form and learning how to play off the ball? Frankly it's amazing he's played as well as he has.

Give him some time! One day Fultz could be the 2nd option on this team, maybe even the 1st. Only time will tell. Until then, trust the process. If Embiid stays healthy and the kids learn to play together, the 76ers make the playoffs this year and, in a diluted Eastern Conference, might make some noise when they get there.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What now?

Over the past month I've built up a lot of writing momentum. Writing is inertial, so rather than take some time off I've decided to pivot immediately to something else.

I've mentioned this before, but earlier this year I wrote a psy thriller, The Young Woman Next Door, that I wasn't crazy about. While working on The Bastard's Refuge, a few ideas came to me that would make the psy thriller so, so much better. So that's what I'll be working on this week. The changes will only require a few days to make. If I keep pushing, The Young Woman Next Door should be ready to launch in November.

I also want to finish book 3 in the Greg Owen series, this one's called The Prodigal Girl. I just put it up for pre-order on Amazon. Here's the cover:



I don't want to give any details away about the plot, because EVERYTHING is a spoiler.

Last but not least, I'm exploring marketing options for The Bastard's Refuge. I want to launch that story in November but I need to build some anticipation for it before I do. I've got a few different ideas ;-)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/14/17 (Day 28)

Editing Time: Zilch.

Didn't get to the book yesterday and that was probably a good thing. When I woke up this morning, I thought of a couple tiny things I wanted to tweak, but those can wait till after the proofing is done. These are really minor, minor changes, ones that don't significantly impact the story. As in, ADD THIS ONE THOUGHT HERE and OVER THERE.

But honestly, I could publish the story without making those changes. Between now and when I release, I'll continue to get ideas about how to "improve" the book but I know from past experience that this will happen no matter what. It doesn't mean these things must be done to make the story "perfect." Hell, I still think about how I should have done XXX in the 2nd book in my paranormal thriller series, and that story has been out for 3 years now and it's doing just fine.

Any more changes I want to make at this point to The Bastard's Refuge are probably just my subconscious's way of stalling.

So with that said, the book is effectively done.

I failed in my challenge. It took me 28 days instead of 21 to write a publishable book. Oh darn ;-)

It's funny when I look back at the first post I wrote about this challenge. It's either prophetic, or just a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I quote:

"So what if I fail?

If it takes me 28 days as opposed to 21, I'VE STILL WRITTEN AND EDITED A FULL LENGTH NOVEL IN A MONTH."

Maybe my brain knew all along I'd need a little bit longer with the book than I thought. When I set out, I was picturing a 90K story. The book grew into 110K.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/13/17 (Day 27)

Editing Time: 4 hours

I'm happy with where the manuscript is, though the story is wearing me out. I had planned on editing for 6 to 7 hours, but I just didn't "have it" yesterday.

Now this is where you might be thinking, "Evan, you should have set the MS aside and come back to it later. You've only edited for a week and you're already burned out!"

To which I would respond, "I always get burned out editing, even when I set the book aside for a month or longer. And by quick check, I've spent ~50 hours editing this mofo. I suspect that, no matter when the editing happened, I'd be burned out after 50 hours of it."

Today I won't get much time to edit but that's okay. To borrow an artist's expression, I feel I'm tickling the story at this point. So I'm ready to step away from the book and fire it off to the proofreader. I don't want to look at this story again till I hit PUBLISH next month.

Because this is a new genre for me and I'm releasing it under my real name (which has no other writing credits on Amazon), I do need to do a ton of marketing before the book launches. I'm considering trying Instafreebie for the next 30 days to build up some anticipation for the release. After the launch, I'll try some ads as well.

That's all for now.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Coming Next Month

HF Novel Update 10/12/17 (Day 26)

Editing Time: 5 hours

I was hoping to get more work done yesterday, but I crashed "early" last night. Cumulative fatigue. I've been burning the candle at both ends, staying up way too late after the kiddies go to bed to get work done. So last night I punched out at 10:30.

Through the weekend I'll work my way through the manuscript again. At this point the story is right, everything is where it needs to go, and the characters are fleshed out. My goal on this pass is to fine-tune the language and cut out the fat, hopefully turning a 114K manuscript into a 100K - 105K novel.

Later today I'll post the cover ;-)


Thursday, October 12, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/11/17 (Day 25)

Editing Time: 6 hours

I didn't get through a huge chunk of the story yesterday, but the edits were quality. Several paragraphs were simply tossed out. In many places, five or six sentences became three or four, with the ideas expressed much more clearly and powerfully. All good stuff.

Today I have a couple rewrites then will finish the "3rd" draft. For the next three days (Day 26 - 28), I'll go through the book one more time from beginning to end and tighten things up as best I can. I'm also considering getting a proofreader. The Bastard's Refuge is almost twice as long as the other books I've written, so I suspect I'm missing twice as many errors.

Onward.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/10/17 (Day 24)

Editing time: 6.5 hours

I'm mostly through the story for the third time now. Smoothing out some of the rough edges, catching continuity errors, and cutting anything that disrupts the flow of the story. I keep saying it, but this book is close.

On target for having a publishable draft by Day 28.

The cover art should be done today. As soon as I have it, I'll do another quick post where I share it. Very excited.

I am thinking about making the book available for pre-order on Amazon, with a release date right around Halloween. This is strictly for marketing purposes, not to give myself more time to polish the manuscript. I've never released a fantasy novel before and I'm doing it under my real name, so I need to build some awareness before the book goes live. I'll do that mostly through social media and maybe targeted ads as well.

Monday, October 9, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/9/17 - (Day 23)

Editing Time: 6.5 hours

Total Word Count: 113,470

This book is coming along. I’m in that weird creative space right now where I fluctuate between thinking it’s awesome and terrible. The truth lies somewhere in between (and hopefully more toward the awesome side).

I spent a lot of time editing today. Every time I cut out some of the fat, though, I find a stretch that needs a little more. Clarity around a character’s motivation. Description so the reader isn’t just picturing a couple talking heads in space. Oh yeah, THIS happens later so I need to foreshadow that a little better HERE. Oh wait, this character hasn’t shown up in 75 pages so I need to remind the reader they exist so they care about him/her.

So, it’s going. Like I said, every time I cut words I find something else to add. That's why the Total Word Count is hovering right around 113K. I had expected the book to be shorter, but it’s looking more and more like it will be around this length. 

I would LOVE to find ways to get it down to 100K – 105K because there is a part of me that thinks fantasy readers would appreciate a “shorter” read than usual. No 750 page door-stopper that’s the first in a series of undefined length. I might be way off in that belief, but there’s only one way to find out.

I’ve decided to publish this book under my real name. The cover art will be finalized in a day or so, though I still don’t have a good Series Title yet. Titles are hard.


That’s all for tonight. Go Sixers.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/8/17 (Day 22)

Didn't get to the book today. Reality happened.

Deo volente, I will edit for an hour tonight.

***

While passing the time doing chores, I thought a lot about the psy thriller I'm reworking as well as another one. And then an idea for the third book Greg Owen book came to me too. This always happens. My brain is like that airport in Die Hard 2. All the ideas are circling overhead, dangerously low on fuel and impatiently waiting their turn to land before they crash and burn. I can't bring them in fast enough. If only I had a proverbial John McClane to (SPOILER ALERT FOR A 27 YEAR OLD MOVIE) light up the runway for me using a lighter and airplane fuel.

This is not to say all these ideas are good ones. A few won't get past the initial holy-crap-this-is-awesome stage, and a few won't get past the outline stage. That's how it seems to go for me. With all that being said, I've never understood when other writers complain about not having any ideas. I have the opposite problem. My brain looks for ways to turn everything into a story.

As I was watching Bladerunner 2049 this weekend, I thought, Wouldn't it be a cool story if a guy made a perfect copy of himself so he could observe and see himself as others do? Then he would be able to notice and improve all his flaws ... but what if he couldn't deal with watching himself. And what if the copy couldn't deal with Prime Guy watching him all the time either? After a while, all they both see are the flaws and they become totally depressed. Prime Guy realizes that it's better to have a partly-delude sense of self and Copy doesn't want to be like Prime Guy ...



 



Saturday, October 7, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/7/17 (Day 21)

Editing Time: 4 hours
Total Word Count: 112,624

I can feel work beginning to slow on this book now. The second draft is done. Now I'm going to spend a few hours each day and whittle away. My goal is to have something publishable in a week. I think that's do-able.

Working title: The Bastard's Refuge
Series title: Dunno
Author Name: Still not sure

HF Novel Update 10/6/17 (Day 20)

Editing Time: 6 hours
Total Word Count: 111,414

Yesterday was a productive editing day. The total word count keeps going up, which I did not expect, but I'm finding out that I don't have to cut as much story as I thought and the tweaks I wanted to make required more story. My best guess now is that I'll have a second draft that comes in around 115k.

At that point the story will be "right" and I'll start polishing. With a manuscript that long, I'm sure I can chop out 10k. Maybe even 15k. What I've found over the years is I tend to overwrite, sometimes by a wide margin. Figuring out how to reduce a six sentence paragraph into four sentences or shortening a 25 word sentence into a 15 word sentence almost always improves my story. Or just remembering that Character A's motivation was already made clear in the last chapter, and I don't need to take a paragraph to remind readers here.

That's just how I work. One day I hope I can write more cleanly, but isn't that every writer's dream?

***

10/7/17 marks Day 21 of the challenge. My original goal was to be done today, but that's not going to happen. I still have story to add and then I'll be at the point where I'm analyzing every word and trying to tighten the prose up. After a while (or pretty quickly, depending on how cynical I'm feeling) the law of diminishing returns rears its ugly head. I could spend weeks, if not months, tinkering with a story but I wouldn't significantly improve it in ways that readers are going to notice.

So gazing into my crystal ball, I think it will take me another week to truly finish the book. That means I should be ready to publish by 10/14/17, or Day 28, of the challenge.

I love failing when it means I've written in a book, especially one this long, in a lunar cycle.

***

In other news, I am wrestling with the idea of publishing this book under my real name. I don't want to start another pen name (because it's a pain in the arse) and readers have come to expect a certain type of book from Evan Ronan. I'm not sure my thriller / mystery readers will be interested in sword and sorcery for the most part, so from a branding and marketing perspective it might make sense to have a clear separation.

Not sure yet.

Working title: The Bastard's Refuge


Thursday, October 5, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/4 and 10/5 (Days 18 and 19)

Editing Time: 10 hours
Total Word Count: 107,037

10/4 Update -

Yesterday I only edited for a couple hours. What I realized, going into the editing phase, is that I don't have a specific plan. I know there are about 11 big ticket items that need to be fixed from a story perspective, but rather than attack them one by one, which would require jumping all over the place to different parts of the manuscript, I just started reading the book from the beginning. Got about 50 pages through, fixing typos and the big picture stuff as I came across it. It was slow-going. Real slow. I realized that my brain needed a break from the story. So I switched gears and went back to tinkering with a psy thriller I've decided to fix and publish.

10/5 Update -

Already got 5 hours of work in as I'm writing this and plan to do another 3 hours after the kiddies go to bed. It was a wise decision to take a break yesterday from this story. (Sometimes I get it right!) I was really fresh today and the editing hummed along. I've gotten to about the halfway mark of the story. The prose still needs tightening up in many places, but I'm saving that for my next pass. The big picture stuff (oh yeah, the characters decided to do THIS instead of THAT) is more important than the prose in this stage of the process. And, arguably, in every stage of the process.

***

Editing is a strange thing. I both love and hate it. When I'm thinking about it and not actually doing it, editing seems incredibly daunting. The internal monologue goes like this: Oh, right, I have to fix that. And then that. Oh crap, there's also that other thing in Chapter 5. And this. And that. And I should really go back and add this. AND CUT THAT OVER THERE! And I just got another idea! The last line of the book should be "X, Y, and Z." And this over here ...

When I'm not actually editing and only thinking about all the things I have to do, my mind is focused on what's wrong with the story, instead of what's right. It also feels like I have to fix a million things and it's going to take forever. The To Do List continues to grow in my mind till it feels like the book will never be finished, or finished satisfactorily. It skews my perspective and so it should come as no surprise that I get incredibly down on the book.

But then I stop thinking about editing and start actually doing it. And suddenly my perspective changes like somebody flipped a switch inside my brain.

This morning before I started, I thought, "This book needs so much work! I have to change almost everything!"

But then after I got to work, I thought, "The beginning is actually pretty good. So is the transition to the 2nd act. And the fixes have been relatively easy, most of them quick and painless."

Sometimes I think the hardest part of being a writer is just figuring out when to listen to your internal voice and when not to.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What slowed me down during the writing process?

For the last 19 days now, I've been full steam ahead on a heroic fantasy novel. As mentioned in yesterday's post, I finished the first draft yesterday. Very pleased with the quick turnaround.

I had planned on getting back to the book last night to begin editing. That didn't happen. After 18 days of living, breathing, and working my way through the story, my brain needed a rest from it. I left myself plenty of notes, maybe 10 to 11 big ticket items that need fixing or tweaking. I'll start on those later today.

One of my goals during this process was to document things that slowed me down. After writing a 105k first draft in 18 days, I honestly don't know if I could have gone significantly faster than I did unless I started using speech recognition software. (I've given this some thought in the past.) But here are some things that slowed me down, some of which I had planned for, others which I didn't anticipate.


  1. Names. I knew going in that names would slow me down. God, I hate names. They're like that annoying kid who watches everybody play video games and points out what they're doing wrong, but who will never pick up the controller themselves because they have no hand-eye coordination. I'm not sure that's exactly on point, but come on, you know what I'm talking about. It's not just names of people that slow me down, it's also names of places, of buildings, of religious sects, of lands, or parts of lands, of peoples, of rivers, of mountains, etc. You get the idea. There is nothing worse than being in the flow of a story and getting snagged on something that's, IMHO, relatively unimportant such as a name. I could call the main character Eddie or I could call him Stan ... hmm, let me think about that for 20 minutes while I'm busy losing my train of thought and not writing the story, and oh yeah, readers won't care what the person's name is if they like him. It's frustrating. I'm in the middle of writing a great scene where two characters are arguing and a new, third character comes in to interrupt them and ... oh shit, what's his/her name ... I don't know ... it can't sound like any other names in the story or readers will get confused ... well, what are they like ... what were their parents like to give them their name ... oh hell what was the next line of dialog going to be? To somewhat alleviate this problem, I used free online random name generators BEFORE I started writing the book so I had names for the principal people, places, and things ready to go. There are a ton of these free resources out there on the interwebs. I rarely use exactly what the generator spits out, but I will combine elements of different things the generator(s) give me.
  2. Descriptions. What does the Abbey of Bronze look like? Beats me. It's an Abbey that's nestled among a snow-capped mountain range. That was all I knew going into this story and all I could think of while writing it. Same went for Shadowkeep, the ancient ruin of a castle buried deep within the Kirc Woodland. The keep should be awesome to behold, imposing, and slightly alien to the characters, as if some advanced race built it thousands of years ago and then disappeared. Other than that? I had no clue what it looked like. Same goes for people. He looks like Gary Oldman in such and such movie. I don't have a great solution for this general problem of descriptions. That's one of those things I leave for the "second draft" or editing stage. Fill in a little detail over here, and oh yeah, during the big battle at the end THIS HAPPENS, so Shadowkeep needs to have a THIS AND THAT. Again, I hate getting bogged down by description, especially when the setting of a particular scene is not vital to a story. If I were to write, "The detective walked into the hospital ..." you already have an idea in your head of what it looks like. I don't really need to tell you. But if there's a murder attempt at the hospital, you would need to know that "after hours, the nurse's station was the only space lit on the entire floor, and the detective couldn't see into his client's room when he stepped off the elevator ..." 
  3. WAIT! I GOT A NEW IDEA! Sometimes you get ideas that diverge from, or conflict with, the outline. More often than not, these new ideas are better than what you had originally planned to happen in the story. The problem? You don't always know if it's going to work until you've committed to the idea, and then you have to make adjustments to your outline and keep changing things that happen before and after and all of a sudden you've gone down a rabbit hole and sometimes, albeit rarely, you realize the new idea isn't going to work. That happened to me in this book once. Not sure what the solution is here.
  4. Fatigue. I'm not talking mental fatigue, though there is obviously that to deal with when you're grinding away at a story at a pretty fast clip. I'm talking pure physical fatigue. When I write more than a couple hours per day, my typing quality begins to deteriorate. As in, it basically falls of a cliff. There is a typo in almost every sentence, if not more than one, and I see these as I'm writing and so I go back and fix them as quickly as possible because I don't want to lose my train of thought. On those long days where it's ass-in-chair for five or six hours, my fingers are no longer at their peak and I'm missing keys as I'm typing.
That's all I can think of now. More to come on the editing front, which begins today. Stay tuned.

***

To give myself a break last night, I revisited a psychological thriller I'd written earlier this year but shelved because I wasn't thrilled with the end product. It was a nice change of pace and got my mind thinking creatively in different ways. And something really cool happened--I think I figured out how to make this book better and worthy of publication. It involves some rewrites and probably the addition of 5k - 10k words, but I think I can do it quickly. I had written this book off but now I'm chomping at the bit to fix it.

Working title: The Young Woman Next Door

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

HF Novel Update - 10/3/17 (Day 17)

And that's a wrap on the first draft. I can't believe it! This morning, another idea came to me for one of the characters I was thinking about cutting from the story. I can now keep him because I have something important for him to do at the end. So I need him to pop up in a couple more places earlier in the book and then come back in close to the climax. It should work.

Drafting: 3 hours
Daily Word Count*: ~5,000
Total Word Count*: 105,815

* Before I wrote this post, I started cutting scenes I knew had to go, so today's word count is an approximation. If you were to do the math, today's numbers and yesterday's numbers won't jive. If that upsets you, please email me at therearebetterthingstodowithyourtime@gmail.com.

I'm excited to be done but still have a lot of work to do on the story. One or two characters need to come out, and I'm not sure if I can keep the epilogue or if it has to be moved into Book 2. But the good news is, I have a pretty good idea what needs to be fixed. At this point, I don't think I'll have this monster edited in 4 days, but I'll give it a go and see what happens. Like I said before, I won't be upset if I "fail" to write and edit my first heroic fantasy novel in 21 days. If it takes a few days or even a week longer than expected, I'll count that as a win.

Going to take a break from this story for now but plan to come back tonight and start editing. I want to test my theory that editing can be done right away AND might even be easier and produce a better quality product if it's done right away.

Monday, October 2, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/2/17 (Day 16)

Here are the numbers for all you folks playing along.

Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 11,612
Total Word Count: 102,291

I didn't finish the novel tonight. All I have left to write is the final battle scene, which should be no more than 3k - 5k. Too tired to write anything else tonight.

Peace out, girl scouts.




HF Novel Update 10/1/17 (Day 15)

No time carved out to write yesterday, so didn't get started till 9pm last night. Worked till I fell asleep.

Drafting: 2.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 3,365
Total Word Count: 90,679

Of course I wish I got more done this weekend but with a lot of life happening and no specific time carved out to work, I did manage almost 5k in two days. That's nothing to scoff at.

I think I've got another ~10k to go, which would bring the book in at a good length for this genre. So it's once more into the breach, dear friends. With a big push I think I can finish the first draft tonight.

In terms of next steps, a few scenes have to come out, but a few scenes have to be added, which will include a nice new conflict, so it will all likely even out. After those cuts and additions, copy editing might bring me down another 3k - 5k words. I enjoy this part of the process because I know the story forwards and backwards and can whittle away unnecessary plot points and characters.

If I do a find on the word "just" and cut that out wherever possible, I'll probably trim 1k words.

I just can't stop using the word just. It's just so difficult.

The book will run short compared to Game of Thrones and other similar stories, but it's not significantly shorter. Plus, as I'm new to this genre, I think readers will be more likely to give Evan Ronan a try if the first book isn't a door stopper.

Working Title: The Bastard's Refuge

***

While writing this book, I got an idea for a psychological thriller. (I know, right? Why can't I just stick to one thing?)

The psy thriller combines a lot of popular elements today: do you really know the people living next door? past trauma, strong female lead overcoming fears, danger to children, etc. I might blog about that one too as I write it. Not sure right now if that's the next book I write. I should probably get to work on Greg Owen #3. The first in that series is doing really well on Amazon (knock on wood) and the second is up for pre-order. I'd love to build that funnel of books out, so readers can read one, pre-order the next, read that one, pre-order the next, etc.

It would be nice to get both of the psy thriller and Greg Owen #3 done in October.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

My Ken Bruen Fanboy Moment

I love getting emails from readers. I answer each one. Always.

I think most writers feel and operate the same way. We spend so much time working in the proverbial dark, by ourselves, some of the time wondering if the story we're working on is any good, often thinking it's garbage. Then we publish and cross our fingers and wait for reviews. Percentage-wise, very few readers take the time to leave reviews. I understand why. They don't read books so they can then carve time out of their busy lives to leave reviews, which take time and thought. Readers just want to find the next book.

If the percentage of readers who leave reviews is 1%, then the percentage of readers who contact authors directly is even smaller. Maybe 10% of that 1%. At least that's been my experience. The mega bestselling authors almost definitely have a different experience. But still, when a reader email  comes through, I'm always excited and happy to respond.

Long before I was a writer, I was a voracious reader. These days I don't read as much as I'd like because I'm, you know, writing in my spare time. But at heart I'm still a reader and always will be.

Like other readers, I rarely review. These days, I only leave reviews or blog about things I enjoy (might do another blog post on why that is). Even more rarely do I email authors directly. I've heard horror stories about SO-AND-SO being really rude to readers and BIG NAME WRITER being a dickhead, and I don't understand that. Readers are our customers. There is nothing more loyal than a happy reader. If they take the time to email, I should take the time to respond, even if it's only a hi-nice to hear from you-this and that-have to get back to work-hope you enjoy the next story.

Anyway, this is a long wind-up to sharing my experience with Ken Bruen.

This was a year or so ago. At the time I was kind of drifting as a writer. I'd tried doing books under a different pen name to chase a trend and saw some success with that, but I felt like I wasn't writing the kind of stories I was really passionate about. I had just read one of Ken's Guard books (seriously, pick one up if you haven't already), and was so taken by Ken's poetic, punchy style of writing that I felt recharged as a writer. Here was a guy who wrote with style, who wrote noir, who could make you laugh and make you think. He wrote books for adults. No superheroes, literal or figurative here. His books are such a joy to read.

So I emailed to tell him all that. I knew he was hard at work on the next book and didn't expect a response.

Of course he got back to me the same day. He was touched by my compliments and wished me success in my own writing, even asking what my pen name was and where he could find my books. I had reached out to thank him for writing such great stories, telling him that he had shown me what was possible with prose and narrative in a mystery/thriller book, and he turned it right back around to support me.

***

Ken Bruen has written many books, all of which I'd recommend. My personal favorite are his Guard series, featuring protag Jack Taylor. He's an ex Irish cop who was kicked unceremoniously off the force (for doing the right thing, naturally) and now finds work as an unlicensed private eye. Bruen's prose is a thing to behold. Spare, punchy, cutting, and insightful. He writes great books that one inhales as opposed to reads.

They've also made a TV series out of the Guard books, starring Game of Thrones's Iain Glen in the title role. Glen is fantastic as Taylor, a hard-drinking wreck of a man with an ear for poetry, a tendency to self-destruction, but ultimately a strong sense of right and wrong. The TV series has a different feel than the books, but both are excellent. Last I checked, this show was available on Netflix. Give it a try, you won't regret it.

***

And if you're hesitating to email your favorite author, don't. Most of us love hearing from readers and will respond.


HF Novel Update - 9/30/17 (Day 14)

Life happened yesterday. Needless to say I didn't get much done. Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 1 hour
Daily Word Count: 1,128
Total Word Count: 87,314

Today's productivity is anybody's guess. I have no specific time blocked out to write and a lot of things to do with the family and around the house. I might not be able to write until later tonight and then would only have a few hours to work.

The good news? The ending is close. I know what happens and mostly how it has to happen, so I'm not stopping to think much as I work. I'm just in the flow now. 

The even better news? Just because I couldn't write yesterday didn't mean I wasn't able to think about the story. And a funny thing happened ... there was a plot thread I had started earlier in the book but had forgotten/never bothered to pick up. I was thinking about scrapping it during the editing phase. But just as a thought experiment, I decided to play the what-if game. (I talk to myself a lot.) 

Soooo while in the shower (again, why do ideas always come to you in random places?) I thought of a way to pick that thread up. By doing so, I'm able to up the stakes for everybody, add a dimension to one of the main characters, add more conflict between the different good guys in the book, and turn one of the heroic fantasy tropes on its head. 

Now this means some teeny, tiny revisions have to be made earlier in the story, but I think those will take me no longer than an hour or two max during the editing stage.

The opening pages of a book are the most fun to write, because the idea is still new and fresh and you've got a ton of energy about what you think could be the best book ever!!!!! But then you get deeper into the story, realize you have to change this, remove that, move this to earlier/later, wonder why this character is even in the book, begin to question whether the book is crap and why you thought it was such a good idea in the first place, etc.

The second most fun to write part of the book for me is the stretch between 85% to the end. Usually everything is figured out and based on what has already happened, the book almost HAS to go a certain way. You understand your characters and at this point you're sprinting downhill just to get everything on the page. That's where I am now.

Good times.

Friday, September 29, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/29/17 (Day 13)

I'm very close to the end of this book and can see everything else that happens so at this point I'm almost on autopilot. What's strange is, I wrote a lot of words today (6,250) but now that feels like chump change because I'm comparing it to what I've done on other days this week. 6,000 plus words is really good and instead of feeling ho-hum about it (funny how quickly we get used to things), I should keep in mind the long game.

If I wrote 6,000 words a day, 5 days a week, that would be 1,560,000 words per year. Novel lengths vary by genre, but let's say on average my books will be 75,000 words long.

That's 21 novels a year, rounding up.

This weekend will prove challenging. I won't have any large blocks of time to work and pretty much will only be able to write after the kiddies go to bed. So I am not going in to the next 48 hours with any expectations. I hope I can write another 10k -15k over two days and finish the book off, but realistically the first draft won't be done until Monday night. That would only give me 6 days to edit my first heroic fantasy novel, which sounds really daunting.

But hey, I got myself into this mess so I can't really complain.

And tonight's winning numbers in the Pennsylvania Lottery are:

Drafting: 4.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 6,250
Total Word Count: 86,186

Thursday, September 28, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/28/17 (Day 12)

Too tired to type much here, cumulative fatigue just catching up with me. I've been putting in a lot of hours, about 50% of them coming after the kiddies go to bed so I'm averaging about 5-6 hours of sleep per night. When I was in college that was par for the course, but these days that just ain't enough.

Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 9,900
Total Word Count: 79,936

I've got about 10k - 15k words left to write leading up to the climax, and the big finale itself will probably run about 5k. So this first draft is trending toward 100k, which is good. After a tight edit, I'll probably chop off about 5k, I'm guessing. I can already think of a couple things I planted earlier in the story that never came back up later (and I don't really need them to at this point).

Gentlemen, to bed! And sleep the sleep of a thousand martyrs!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

HF Novel Update 9/27/17 (Day 11)

Another huge day.

My good friend and fellow author Nate Green has a saying, "Writing is inertial."

Truer words were never spoken.

Today I wrote over 14k words! That's ridiculous but it didn't feel unusual to me while it was happening. It just flowed.

Here's why I think this happened. I've moved into the final third-ish of the book. The end of the dreaded 2nd act is close. Everything is coming together, and at this point I understand the characters much better than I did at the beginning of the story. I know what they're going to say and how they're going to react to situations without having to think about it too too much.

At the same time, I got to introduce two new characters who are a lot of fun to write and who added fresh conflicts to the story. So at this point, I can see the ending, I know how I'm going to get there, and all the characters in the story are on a collision course that will culminate in the climax. I feel like I've crested the hill of this story and now am running downhill as fast as I can, almost out of control. At this point I can't write quickly enough and, as long as I stay out of my own way, this first draft will be done very soon.

To my buddy Nate's point, WRITING IS INERTIAL.

The more you do it, the more you do it. The less you do it, the less you do it.

Now, that's an oversimplification of course. I don't know if I could maintain this pace for an extended period of time, though if you believe the stories this is what many pulp writers did in the early to mid 20th century. And I happen to know that many indie authors (who tend to be the more successful ones) do this as well. So it's been done before and it's still being done now.

Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 9 hours (three big chunks of writing time)
Daily Word Count: 14,029
Total Word Count: 70,036


New Thriller Coming This Week!

I talk about The Board, in my latest YouTube video. I'll hit publish on that book tonight, and then Amazon will do its thing behind the scenes, which usually takes a day or two before the book is live in their store.

Here's the cover for The Board:


Writing this book was such a great, fun experience for me, because I got to co-author the novel with Jim Gott, a good friend and former work colleague. The oh-my-god-why-isn't-this-already-a-movie premise was Jim's fabulous idea. It's high concept and we feel has the potential to really break out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/26/17

Monster day today.

After deciding to scrap PLOT DEVELOPMENT yesterday, I was freed up to get on with the story. I managed to write my way through two set pieces and am now halfway through the 2nd act of the story. Our hero has made some mistakes and has grown, and I just gave him his first mini-victory.

Now the story gets really interesting. We meet new characters and the overwhelming force of the enemy is closing in. Hero has to assume a larger and larger role among the people he's protecting, and I'm chomping at the bit to get to his Cave Moment, where he confronts a mythical monster. All of this is leading me to the end, which I can almost see now. I don't have all the details yet, but I can feel the general way to get there.

Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 9,007
Total Word Count: 56,007

Monday, September 25, 2017

HF Novel Update 9/25/17

So I ended up deciding to scrap PLOT DEVELOPMENT. After re-outlining the remainder of the book, I realized how much story there was left to tell and that PLOT DEVELOPMENT wasn't adding much, didn't factor as much into the larger story as I had previously thought, and was just slowing me down. Put another way, I'd invented a problem in the story that didn't need to be there.

The deadliest trap is the one we set for ourselves, as Raymond Chandler once quipped.

That being said, I had to spend a significant chunk of time figuring out what had to go earlier in the story, what had to be rewritten, and where I could pick up from. The numbers below are broad estimates of how I spent my time today in the overall creative process. They're probably not even close to matching the reality, because rewrites bled over into new content, which bled over back into outlining, which ... you get the idea.

And, because I was both cutting words and writing new ones today, I'm ballparking my daily word count. The total word count is an approximation also, because there are still things to fix, rearrange, and probably cut.

Okay, disclaimers out of the way, here are the numbers:

Pre-Production: 1 hour
Rewrites: 2 hours
Drafting: 2.5 hours
Daily Word Count: ~5,000
Total Word Count: ~47,000

HF Novel Update - 9/24/17

Yesterday I got some words in but I'm not sure I'll keep any of them.

As my characters headed to PLOT DEVELOPMENT, I began to question my decision to send them there. I felt the story was losing momentum and that I was also putting an unnecessary complication in front of them - since there was still plenty of story left to tell, jam-packed with more and more conflict.

Even worse? The obstacle they were about to face was shaping up to be very similar to the NEXT PLOT DEVELOPMENT, so everything ground to a halt as I struggled to come up with ways to make THIS THING different from THAT LATER THING.

I couldn't come up with a solution yesterday. After I woke up this morning, while engaged in some mindless activity (why does it always happen like this) I think I figured out what I'm going to do, and it will allow me to keep most of what I wrote yesterday but damn I hate this feeling. I'm getting to the dreaded halfway point of the story, that strange and daunting space where I know how I want the last quarter of the book to go but don't yet have all the answers for how I'm going to get there.

Here are the numbers. Hopefully I keep most of these words so the day isn't a total write-off.

Pre-Production: 0
Drafting: 3.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 4,636
Total Word Count: 42,007

***

When it felt like I was just spinning my wheels last night, I shifted gears to something else. Rather than just get frustrated without little to show for all the hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing, I focused on editing The Stalked Girl, the second book in my new mystery series. The great news? That one's ready to go now and I don't have to think about it. It's up for pre-order now on Zon.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/23/17

The stars must have been in alignment yesterday ... or something.

Because it's the weekend and I have no specific time carved out for work, I did not give myself a word count goal yesterday (and won't today either). But I managed to write periodically throughout the day. It helped that the kids entertained themselves for two different long blocks of time. That doesn't always happen.

I've ended up building a lot of momentum with this story and now I'm trying to use that to my advantage. Nearing the halfway point of the novel, I've only got four or five major turns in the story left to figure out. A lot still has to happen, but the pacing of the book so far feels right so I can see this coming in around 90k. So far, I haven't been plagued by any big problems with the plot or characters. I will round them all out a little bit more during the editing because by then I'll understand the whole story much better.

Anyway, here are the updates for yesterday:

Pre-Production: 1 hour (while at the playground with the kiddies, I thought a lot about the scenes I wanted to write)
Drafting: 5 hours
Daily Word Count: 6,998
Total Word Count: 37,371

Friday, September 22, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/22/17

Had a really productive day today and now am too tired to blog in detail about it.

September 22nd

Pre-Production: 0
Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 10,135
Total Word Count: 30, 273

What slowed me down today? Nothing. If I had more time to write, I could have gotten more done. I'm well into the 2nd act of this story now. The hero has crossed the threshold. It will be difficult to get in a lot of words this weekend as I plan to spend my time with the fam. I would love to be at 40k come Monday, but that's probably not realistic. I'll take whatever I can get this weekend and then hit the ground running next week. Not sure I'll have any updates tomorrow or Sunday.

***

In other exciting news, The Dead Girl reached #26 on the free list for all Amazon today. Very excited about that. It switches back to paid tomorrow. I'm hoping readers like it and pre-order book 2 in that series.


HF Novel Update - 9/21/17

This is going to sound ridiculous, but I tried giving up caffeine and this affected my output. Normally I will get a couple thousand words after the kids go to bed, but last night I zonked out not long after they did so I lost some time to work.

I might get back on the caffeine. Probably wasn't the smartest idea to try to give it up while in the midst of a 21 day novel challenge on my first heroic fantasy. Ah well.

September 21st

Pre-Production: 0
Drafting: 3.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 5,121
Total Word Count: 20,138

What slowed me down? I wrote a surprise attack scene and an escape scene today, which you would think should go really fast. These two events are the end of the 1st act, serving as a major turning point. Loads of action here, lots of characters, opportunities for great dialog, this should have been easy writing. But it wasn't.

Here's why I think I struggled. I had a general idea about I wanted to happen in the story: Hero joins the battle, Hero kills a few bad guys, Hero finds and rescues the children, Hero flees to safety. It's a pretty basic formula with each beat leading to the next naturally. But then the million little questions started popping up.

How much time should Hero be in the midst of battle?
Should he kill anybody?
How do I get Hero and Wizard to meet, without either one ending up dead?
What is everybody else doing?
Can I introduce 2 or 3 new characters during a battle?
Etc.

Again, I'm not sure I could have anticipated every single question that would arise but probably a little more planning on my part would have reduced them.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

HF Novel Update 9/20/17

I had one of those unusual days where I didn't expect to get much done, but ended up getting a ton of words. Funny how expectations work sometimes.

The same thing happens to me at the gym. There are mornings where I feel awful, run-down, and weak, but I go in anyway because I can only get there at certain times and on certain days. And you know what happens sometimes? Those why-the-hell-am-I-even-here days end up being my best ones. I PR'ed on my deadlift a couple months back on such a day, where I was stiff as hell and exhausted just from walking into the gym.

The opposite also happens too. There are days I get into the weight room, just raring to go, feeling like a forklift, but then ... I can barely bench what was easy last year.

Bottom line? Expectations aren't very accurate. Your worst days can actually be your best days, and vice versa. So maybe the lesson here is just to ignore how you're feeling and just see how you perform. This is not to say you should try to squat when your knee is aching in a strange way and it feels like your ACL is about to pop. Or to try getting 10,000 words in when you've got a 103 degree fever. This is only to say, don't let your expectations dictate what actually happens, because they're often way, way off.

Anyway, here's today's update:

September 20th

Pre-Production: 30 min
Drafting: 5.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 7,337
Total Word Count: 15,017

What slowed me down? Nothing seemed to slow me down today. Though my productivity after the kids went to bed was miniscule compared to earlier in the day. That comes as no shock. But like I said above, I went into today with low expectations and ended up killing it. I'm tempted to lower my expectations tomorrow and see what happens, but I also want to be careful there. I do have a word count I want to hit and I fear if I create a habit of lowering expectations, then subconsciously I'll start telling myself it's alright if I slack off. We shall see.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Heroic Fantasy Novel Update

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, I'm challenging myself to write AND edit a 90k - 100k historical fantasy novel in 21 days. Yes, this is unreasonable. But to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, only unreasonable people can change the world.

September 18th

  • Outline for 3 hours
  • Pre-Production for 2 hours
  • What slowed me down today? Editing two other books. No cure for that, shit's gotta get done. Hopefully this little experiment proves to me you can write and then edit what you wrote right away, so in the future there is no gap between the two processes.
September 19th
  • Pre-Production for 3 hours
  • Drafting for 5 hours
  • Daily Word Count: 7,680 words
  • Total Word Count: 7,680 words
  • What slowed me down today? World-building. What does the Abbey look like? What does the refectory inside the Abbey look like? What would they eat for dinner? What does the Mark of the Bull look like? Should it be a coin or should it be something else? Descriptions bog me down. What should the training room look like? How else could I describe the stone floor, other than "cold" and "hard"? The answers to these questions aren't life-and-death but they still need to be provided to the reader. Our characters can't go from "a room" to "another room." They also wear clothes. CLOTHES! Do the warrior-monks residing in the Abbey of Bronze wear habits? Or would they wear armor all the time?
  • How can I solve this problem? More pre-production next time. I will look ahead in my outline and try to better anticipate these issues. But I feel like these things will always come up. The goal is just to reduce the amount of them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Can a book be written AND edited in 21 days?

I've written some books of my books in less than 21 days, then followed the conventional wisdom about setting them aside for a few months to gain some objectivity and distance from the material before editing.

And here's what happens when I do that--

That novel that took me only a couple weeks to write has now sat on its ass for months and the editing ends up taking foreverrrrrrrr .............. the book I just released, The Dead Girl, was written in March and now here we are, in the middle of September. Did sitting on the story for that long make it significantly better?

As the writer, I'm probably not in the best position to determine that but a big part of me has a sneaking suspicion that the answer is no. Or at least, the book isn't significantly better. Instead I could have finished writing The Dead Girl, then gone right back to page 1 to start editing. All those glaring typos, unconscious echoing (I've used the word "just" 15x on this page alone), word choice, continuity errors, etc, would probably have jumped off the page just as obviously.

What I have found is that waiting that long to edit a story TAKES ME OUT OF THE STORY. Yes, I have some distance but too much distance isn't a great thing. When I wait a couple months to edit, I'll get to, say, page 30 and then larger question pops up. It goes something like this with my internal monologue in italics:

There's a plot thread I wanted to work out here, but I don't remember if THIS and THAT happened later. Or did I decide NOT to do this and instead DID THAT OTHER THING?

Or did SOANDSO meet up and SAY THIS?

But wait, I did THIS THING OVER SOMEWHERE I think, and so do I really need THIS and THAT here?

When questions like this pop up and I don't know the answer right away, I'm no longer in editing mode. Now I'm in search mode and also in danger of entering the dreaded rewrite mode. I get bogged down and the editing grinds to a halt. If there are significant rewrites, then I feel like I need to set the rewrites aside for a period of time to gain distance and ... you get the idea.

I suspect these same larger questions would still arise if I edited right away. But I also think they'd be easier to answer:

Wait, didn't I want to ... oh no, that's right I did X, Y, and Z later in the book. Good to go.

Oh yeah, I wanted to change this. That means I have to tweak THIS, THAT, and THE OTHER THING OVER HERE. Okay, I can do that quickly.

I can't help but feel the process would become lightning quick if I started editing right away BECAUSE I'M STILL IN THE STORY. I'm much more likely to remember all the ins and outs, creative choices I made, and also much more likely to remember where these things are.

This is just a theory of course, a theory that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But so-called conventional wisdom has been wrong before, and it will be wrong again, and I'm going to test my hypothesis on the heroic fantasy novel I'm working on right now.

I think I'll be doing a series of videos on this to chart my progress. Other authors have done 21 day challenges before so I can hardly claim to be the first, but I thought it might be helpful to share my process and discuss the things that slow me down with the goal of bringing these problems into the forefront of my consciousness so I can solve them. I'm not doing this because I think my writing process is more interesting than anybody else's. I'm doing this because I want to show other authors it's possible to write AND edit a book quickly, much more quickly than is commonly thought possible.

I outlined the story yesterday over the course of three hours, using the famous Disney memo about the Hero's Journey as a reference, and my goal is to write a 90k fantasy novel in two weeks and then turn right around and edit it in one week. I think this is doable. And the best part?

So what if I fail?

If it takes me 28 days as opposed to 21, I'VE STILL WRITTEN AND EDITED A FULL LENGTH NOVEL IN A MONTH.

If that's failure, I'll take failure every time.

Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the things I did to speed up the writing process before I got started. Maybe a video too. We shall see. I have a word count to hit ;-)




Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Insane 2017 Publishing Experiment Has Already Begun

Hey readers - Been a while since my last post, but I have a good excuse: I've spent a good chunk of my time actually writing. And you know what happened when I did that? I actually wrote some books.

Many, in fact.

As anybody who has tried to indie publish knows, it's getting more and more difficult to gain visibility on Amazon. To put that in laymen's terms, I simply mean it's getting harder to be noticed by readers.

Big name authors, i.e. those hard-working and fortunate enough to have gained a significant following already, are somewhat immune to this increasing difficulty as they have large readerships who are willing to purchase or borrow just about anything they put out. Think Stephen King and Lee Child. They can release a book per year and be just fine. Other big-time indie authors can do the same thing and still see significant sales.

As for the rest (most) of us ... well that just doesn't work. If you're lucky enough to score a breakout, record-smashing bestseller, then you can join the ranks of the elite on Mount Olympus and publish fairly infrequently. The chances of this happening to any author are about the same as winning the lottery.

It seems that Amazon's latest version of algorithms (how it directs readers to books, and how the website influences a reader's purchasing decisions) strongly favors new releases. This incentivizes writers, especially those looking to break through to the next level, to put out quality books as quickly as possible.

So that's my game plan for the rest of 2017. Write, edit, release, repeat. As quickly as possible. So that's why:

The latest Eddie McCloskey novel launched August 29th.

And one week later, the final comedic mystery, Not Safe for Work, in my Close of Business series was available too!

And in the next day or two, the first in my new amateur sleuth series will drop. Here's the cover:



The plan is to release several more novels this year and sprinkle short stories in between book launches. The goal is to utilize Amazon's algorithms to my advantage and increase my visibility. Fingers crossed this works, and I'll strive to send out periodic updates about my progress.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Board - first two chapters

Fellow author Jim Gott and I have been working on this crime thriller, which we are getting ready to shop and/or indie publish. I've described it before on this blog so loyal readers will know it already. So I'll summarize with my Hollywood-like pitch.

The Board is a crime thriller that brings Corporate America and the Irish Mob together in one fast-paced, darkly humorous, suspenseful romp. This story is raw and energetic and doesn't let up. We like to describe it as Wall Street meets The Departed.

Here are the first two chapters (still in beta draft) of The Board. Coming soon to a bestseller list near you - and to the theaters in a few years!

(RATED R!)



One

My name is Nate Charles and I’m very good at what I do.
At least most of the time. Right now I’m sitting in the public garden, my favorite lunchtime retreat, struggling to come up with a metric that tells the story I want to tell so we can close out this project and cut the final invoice.
Here’s the deal.
The client has no additional capital, works with unstructured data, and half their staff is feeding me shit information because they want my company to fail. The other half wants to hire us.
Welcome to the world of consulting.
I block out the noise of the city while the flora all around me knocks out the stink. In my mind all I can picture is a simple PowerPoint graph, the same slide everybody’s seen not quite a billion times before they reach the age of thirty. I close my eyes and try to clear my mind of the noise, of the distractions, of that infrequent sinking feeling I get about my fiancée, of that one thought I’ve had ever since I joined McAuliffe Consulting a very short seven years ago:
I want to be a member of the Board.
Nobody as young as me has ever been appointed to the Board. But I’m on track. If I can close two or three more major deals I’m in and I’ll have something to show for all the seventy-hour weeks I’ve been putting in.
I take a deep breath and remember the words of my boss and mentor, Lawrence.
It’s all in how you tell the story. We can talk about volume or we can talk about spend, or we can actually tell the truth, which is, the most value is in getting it right up front before we consultants come in and charge hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The PowerPoint slide in my mind morphs into a new, dynamic graph.
And I realize: what they need is a ratio.
I’ve got it.
The ratio tells the story.
This is where the action is, the million synapses firing at the speed of light in the grey matter filling the six inches between my ears. That grey matter helps me work in the grey area between truth and fact. What Lawrence calls the narrative. We all do this, every day, all day. We all make up the story of our lives in a way that makes us happy, or at least comfortable.
I like to talk to myself too. “All we have to do is show them—”
“There the fuck you are!”
The beautiful graph I’ve got pictured perfectly in my mind dissolves and the garden comes back into focus. Enter my boss, Lawrence Heller, well-dressed as always. Lawrence is a member of the Board and just beginning to show his age in his late thirties. All at once the city’s chorus of car horns, people, electricity, and sound hit me full force.
I get up. “Afternoon, Lawrence.”
“I’ve been trying to get a hold of you.” Lawrence waves quickly, signaling me to hurry. “Are you ready for the Board?”
I’m about to say, yes, I’m ready to join the Board. But before I say that, I realize Lawrence means something else entirely.
“Come on, kid. Don’t tell me you’re not ready for the meeting,” Lawrence says.
“I was born ready.” I smile. “What meeting?”
“I sent you the invite.”
I check my phone. No invite. “I don’t see it.”
Lawrence feigns surprise. I know he’s feigning because he always does this. He’s great at many things but God-awful when it comes to keeping his people in the loop. “Don’t tell me you didn’t—I know I sent it—IT was supposed to fix—everybody’s been complaining about Outlook not working. They really need to get on top of it.”
I keep smiling, but inside I’m thinking that my Friday night has just gotten shot to shit. I’ve been working my ass off the last month, barely seeing my fiancée. She’s great, but lately there’s been a noticeable distance between us. Jessica and I have reservations at a swanky joint downtown where I hope we can talk and spend some quality time together. But I know this is a long shot. Jessica has some interesting sexual habits, including quasi-public expositions.
You might think that’s pretty cool. And it is. The first hundred times. But anymore it seems like Jessica only cares about having more sex and more money.
With all this going on, I want to call bullshit on Lawrence sending me the invite but I can’t. He’s championing me for the Board, a position that would triple my salary and set me up for life. He has a bad habit of dumping work on me last minute. Smaller minds would complain but I prefer to see these situations as opportunities. The more he needs me, the more I’m worth.
I leave the garden and meet Lawrence on the sidewalk. It’s one o’clock and everybody is hustling. Taxis redefine traffic lanes, and the air feels dirty and stale.
Lawrence says, “You remember the St. John’s Healthcare presentation you put together?”
“We showed them how to account for claims with micro-adjustments. It was a good one.”
“I fucking loved it. But I had to completely change it.”
“Okay … so what are we presenting to the Board?”
“Are you listening? St. John’s Healthcare! I tweaked the slides and figured since you were closer to the material, you’re in the best position to speak to it. And it’s a great opportunity for you to get face-time with the Powers-That-Be.”
I motion for Lawrence to follow. “I’m across the street.”
Lawrence doesn’t follow. “Wait, are you still driving the convertible?”
Here we go. “You’re not going to bust my balls with your theory about convertibles again, are you?”
Lawrence points at me. “Two guys should never be seen together in a convertible. It’s eh … you know.”
“You mean gay, right?”
Lawrence pretends to be offended. “Did I say gay? I did not say gay.”
I smile because we both know that’s what he meant.
Lawrence raises a hand. “Taxi!”



Two


Lawrence has his phone to his ear. “Tell Melanie and the Board we’ll be ready.”
So we’re in the back of a taxi because Lawrence thinks two guys riding in a convertible is a threat to his heterosexuality. But that’s not as annoying as the fact that I’ll have to swing by here after work to get my car.
But you know what? Lawrence Heller gave me my shot in consulting. Where I am at my best and where I am meant to be. I remind myself of that every time he does something that’s kind of dick. The guy could have picked a blue-blooded bastard with familial or country club ties to the Board members, but he saw me and decided to go with the diamond in the rough.
“Yes, have the St. John’s deck ready.” Lawrence shoots me a look. “We’ll be putting on a show.”
Most of our consultants went to Harvard, Northwestern, Stanford, you get the idea. Despite my 1400 on the SATs, the Ivys wouldn’t touch me. Two things going against me: I wasn’t from the right side of the tracks and I wasn’t a minority. Screwed because I wasn’t the right kind of underprivileged.
Senior year I decided to crash an entrepreneurial fair at another university. Lawrence was there to recruit some four-point-oh, silver-spoon, stuck-up douchebag but Lawrence was running late—classic Lawrence—and he missed the captain of the prep squad’s presentation. Lawrence happened upon mine instead, a slide deck I put together ten minutes before I left my dorm on innovations at start-ups.
He was impressed.
I later found out Lawrence had followed some co-ed into my presentation. If I could find that girl today, I’d thank her a million times over. Courtesy of her bubble ass, Lawrence stumbled into the right room at the right time and here I am, seven years later.
Lawrence demanded I take him to the local watering hole that night where he complimented me on my gift for making shit up and sounding convincing, two important skills that are all too often mutually exclusive, and he went on to wow me with stories of consulting, bragging about all the money and women he’d scored as a result.
A week after I graduated (and sobered up), I was working for Lawrence. In seven years, I’ve accumulated seventeen years’ worth of experience. My first project was with an Internet start-up. Like most start-ups, the idea behind the company sucked balls but we managed to bilk these geeks out of half a mill of their VC seed money.
I picked up database encryption on that gig and Lawrence turned right around and sold me as a database encryption expert to his next client, another Internet start-up. This company was going nowhere until I figured out how to tie data tables together from totally different data warehouse systems.
From there Lawrence sold me to an old school, brick and mortar, manure manufacturer that was merging with a waste-water treatment company. I ran two teams of IT programmers, 6 interns, and a bunch of lovely (and cheap) Indians that worked on programming while the rest of us slept.
I quickly learned that “yes” in Hydrabad English actually translated to: “I don’t have a fucking clue.”
Soon enough I was waking up at three in the morning to tear Patel, Patel, Patel, and Jeff (don’t ask) a new one over Skype, then catching the mandatory quickie with Jessica, then sleeping, then hitting the gym at five AM, then shit-shower-shave and lickedy-split back to the client site by seven in the morning. I’m no IT expert but I got their data merge done three weeks ahead of schedule and McAuliffe reaped a nice little bonus.
In twenty-four months I went from analyst, to consultant, to manager. I kept up the insane pace and worked my ass off and here I am. Now a senior director.
A fucking senior director.
“The St. John deck!” Lawrence is yelling into his phone. “You know the one!”
I shoot Jessica a quick text to give her a heads-up that I’ll be running late. Her response comes through a minute later:
Tonight I want you to dress like the FedEx guy.
The FedEx guy? Not a FedEx guy? I’m instantly on alert at her choice of words. Is it normal to wonder if your fiancée orders from QVC so she can bang the FedEx guy? Last fucking thing I need right now is to worry about Jessica’s fidelity.
“Hey.” Lawrence nudges me. “You got your thumb up your ass in your head in Idaho. Did you hear a word of what I said?”
“I got it all Lawrence.” I wink. “The Board wants to shop my St. John’s success story to every hospital chain.”
“Whoa there. St. John’s is my client and our job is not finished there yet. Not by a fucking long shot.”
“Not finished?”
The cab stops in front of our building. McAuliffe occupies the twentieth and twenty-first floors of the skyrise. Lawrence hands the cabbie a fifty and tells him to keep it. To Lawrence, money is as disposable as toilet paper.
“You got shit in your ears?” Lawrence is walking so fast, other people have to dive out of his way. He pulls open the door. “It’s not over.”
“But we fixed that place.” I’m really confused. There’s nothing left to do. I even got my genius but major fuck-up brother, John, a nice little gig there where he earns but doesn’t have too much responsibility and isn’t required to manage anybody.
“Whole new ballgame, Nate. James and Vaughn want to push the software for seat fees and licensing to St. John’s.”
“By software, you mean that piece of shit, untested Parallax?”
From no less than twenty yards from the bank of elevators, Lawrence in typical fashion shouts, “Hold up!” We can’t even see if an elevator is open, but this is one of Lawrence’s many endearing habits and describes him to a T. The world waits for Lawrence.
We find a pretty blonde-from-the-box holding the doors for us with pixie glasses and a sharp suit. I’m expecting the stink-eye for Lawrence’s yelling to hold the doors from such a great distance, but he flips her his sly grin and she kind of bats her eyelashes and I know with certainty three things in this life: death, taxes, and the fact that Lawrence will make a pass at this woman fifteen years his junior.
“Thanks so much,” he says, laying on the charm, invading her personal space so he can push the button for the twenty-first floor. With his eyes still on her, he says, “Nate, we need to hire more bright, pretty ladies, don’t we?”
“Wouldn’t hurt.”
Even though I’m a pretty good-looking guy and keep in great shape, she completely ignores me. Lawrence is busy holding that lascivious grin and basically eye-fucking her as the elevator climbs to twenty-one. We’ve got a meeting with the Board in a few minutes but he acts like he doesn’t have a care in the world.
Me, on the other hand, I’m shitting kittens. Parallax, our latest software offering is a complete and utter piece of shit. I can sell fleas to dogs, but even I can’t sell this program.
We reach twenty-one and Lawrence says his goodbyes to the blonde, slipping her his business card and promising an interview if only she’ll call.
You’d think the fact that the software is shit would be my biggest problem in trying to sell it.
But it’s not.
Nope.
The bigger problem is, nobody can come out and say it’s shit.
If it were possible to have an honest conversation about the merits (very few) and the issues (very many) with Parallax, we could try to come up with a real solution or, more likely, kill it and move on to something else.
But nothing in the corporate world is that simple.