January 25, 2017, 9:21 pm
That's right. Crossed the 50,000 word mark. In just over ten days.
Also, I changed my writing program a bit. The icons for chapters were cute, but I kept finding myself pausing (and pausing when you're writing this much is a waste of time) to try to remember what was in which chapter. I'm the kind of reader where a few words from a chapter can remind me everything that was in that chapter, so I decided instead of icons for chapters, I'd have a little preview of the first few words in the chapter:
That makes it a lot easier for me to keep the rhythm of the book going the way I want it when I'm adding another chapter.
So yeah, I'm getting pretty pumped about Father of Malice. I think I may have it done before Robby the R-Word goes on sale, even!
I think around the same time, because I've been improving the WriteEverywhere program as I'm using it for this book, it should be getting close to ready for beta testing from other writers.
UPDATE, Jan. 27: It looks great on an iPhone, too. (And you'll note I passed the 60,000 word mark:
January 22, 2017, 11:23 pm
When lyricists can't figure out what words to put to a melody, they use nonsense words like "yeah" and "oh," which is what Bruce Springsteen was doubtlessly doing in the lyric I quoted in the headline to this entry.
But when I say "I'm on fire," I have two pictures to show you.
On January 15, seven days ago (at least seven days ago when this entry was started), Father of Malice had a grand total of 4,448 words written.
On Jan. 22, seven days later, Father of Malice had just 28 words under 33,000 written. That means I wrote 29,000 words in a week. UPDATE: After I wrote this entry, I went back to the novel and the word count now stands at 33,739, which means I wrote 29,291 words in the last seven days.
That's 4,143 words per day, on average. When I'm writing, I try to hit 2,000 words per day. So essentially, I'm doubling that with this novel. I think that's a testament to the story itself, which is some crazy stuff, and I think it's going to be something everyone will want to read.
I usually aim for around 80,000 words in a novel, which means at 33,000, I'm almost halfway there. IN A WEEK. I know people who don't read novels that quickly. It would be nice if I could finish it up in another week, but I don't think that's being realistic. I'm glad for the output I've had so far, but I'm not going to count on it continuing.
That said, the entire story is pretty well mapped out in my brain, so maybe. Here's hoping, at least.
I think some of the credit goes to my writing program, too. The worst part of writing a novel is being away from my family. But when they're watching something dumb on TV (usually, that's what they're watching), I can sit on the couch with them and write on my phone. Then, when one of the kids wants me to get up and pour them some apple juice, or make microwave popcorn, or fetch Cheez-its, or look at the latest drawing they've done, or cut a heart out of construction paper, or, or, or, it's no problem, because I'm right there with them, and as soon as the task is done, I can get back to writing while they watch the aforementioned dumb programming.
It's the perfect situation!
January 22, 2017, 12:00 am
In the post below, where I say I've written 10,000 words this week, I was wrong.
I've written 20,000 words this week.
The book, which started out around 4,000 words early this week, is now at 25,000 words. I'm no mathematician (also apparently no speller, since that took me like three times to spell without Safari complaining about how dumb I am), but I think that officially means I've written a shit-ton of words this week.
Hell, five thousand of those were today.
I love it when a story is just begging to be told. The average novel clocks in at 80,000 words, so I'm more than a quarter of the way done, and I've really only been working on it a week. I think (but am not empirically sure) that's a personal record for me.
So I feel comfortable telling you the project is Father of Malice. I have so much more to say, it's almost painful for me to take time out to write this blog post.
I feel like Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man, when he's typing away at an ATM keyboard, and since he's been in stasis for like 60 years while the government has been imposing hacking skills into his brain, he looks at his hands, which are typing commands faster than he can think of them, and goes, "I'm possessed!"
Father of Malice feels like a story that is demanding to be told, and the only holdup is the speed of my typing. I haven't felt like that since Robby the R-Word, so I'm happy about the way it is working itself out—which is even faster than Robby was.
January 18, 2017, 10:22 pm
Anyone who's been following along for the last little while knows I've been bouncing between projects a lot. I love all the projects I've got going, but none of them were really demanding that I write them. So I never developed enough enthusiasm for one to take it much past a few thousand words.
Well, I hit an artery this week, and I won't tell you which project it is, because the title will mean nothing to you, so why bother. But the fact is, I've written more than 10,000 words on it this week, adding to what was already there, and that's quite an accomplishment, given that I haven't really staked out any significant time to do so.
Generally, when I'm hot and heavy writing on a project, I force myself to write 2,000 words a day, come hell or high water, and sometimes it really does feel like I'm having to force myself to hit that total.
This week, however, it's just flowed. And I'm not blocking out time to do it. Because of my writing program, I'm doing it when I'm sitting on the couch, half-watching some forgettable show. Or I'm doing it between programming projects, or in a few minutes of down time. And somehow, I've met the 2,000-word-per-day benchmark without even trying.
The best stories seem to write themselves, as if the characters and situations exist in some other dimension, just waiting for me to put my hands on my keyboard or on my phone and type them into existence. That's how this one is doing right now.
It's not an exact metaphor, however, because I've been turning these ideas over in my head for quite some time, and then, like a snap, it just all clicked and the pieces fell into place in my mind, so the story refused to continue not being written. I feel like I've hit my stride; the copy looks clean to me, and so far, I've only had to back up and delete stuff twice, backing myself out of corners that were created by fuzzy plot points in my mind. Now, however, everything is clear, and like when I'm reading a good book, I can't not write, because I want to get to the end. I have to get these characters onto the page, the situations written out, so the characters can reach the climax, which is going to be pretty cool. This is the only time, I think, that I've had an ending in mind when I started writing the book, which I think is a good sign.
One of my favorite writers (OK, my favorite), Stephen King, sucks at endings. He's horrible at it. For all the virtuosity in his writing, the unparalleled storytelling, the maddening perfection of his craft, I have rarely liked the ending to one of his stories. And I think that comes from the chaotic way he writes, which I also happen to do.
But in this case, the story just popped into my head from the pieces floating around in there, including the ending, and I'm hammering away to make it a reality.
This is new for me, so let's see where it takes me.
January 14, 2017, 5:17 pm
I created my writing app (WriteEverywhere) for a very specific purpose: I wanted to be able to write from my computer or from my phone without worrying about whether what I had written would actually synch up, regardless of which device I was using. This is a surprisingly difficult problem to address. The reasons are complicated, but most of them have to do with determining which version of the document is most recent (if you edit on an iPhone and then edit again on a computer, the two devices struggle to tell each other whose version is more recent).
I solved that problem by storing all my documents on a web server and then using the app to edit, regardless of whether the app is on a computer or a phone.
Anyway, that was all well and good, but I still had a problem: the app looked like crap on an iPhone, and it was tough to use because of the way iPhones handle certain types of input.
So I cracked down, and above is what you see when you launch the app (a list of books you've created).
Then, clicking on a book produces this:
And, of course, when you select a chapter, it produces this:
And it all works great. I still have a few things to fix before it's completely useable, but at this point, I can actually write on my iPhone again, which had been stopping me from writing as much as I used to, because if I'm using my phone, I can write and still hang around the family, "watch" TV with them, that kind of thing.
So I'm excited.
And yeah, as you can tell, my attention has switched back to Father of Malice as my current project, and I think I'll stick with it this time, because I've stumbled across a great plot, and that's like hitting an artery—the gush of words just won't stop.
Here's my new plot overview for it:
A snarky big-city newspaper editor gets fired and finds himself having to move to small-town America to get another job. Once there, his new paper discovers a strange cult outside town that worships a mysterious, emaciated man who seems to pop up in whispered tales of horror throughout history.
I think it's a great plot, and I'm going to be writing it pretty quickly from here out now that I don't have to sit at my desk to do it.
UPDATE: Still working on it. I fixed the editing interface to make everything clearer:
The formatting buttons are all now clearer, and you can tell which chapter and book you're working on.
January 10, 2017, 8:20 pm
If President Barack Obama had deep financial ties to Russia, if his campaign had made contact with the Russians and it was later determined the Russians had actively used their spy network to compromise the American election, if the Russians had a sex tape of Obama that they said they could later use to control him...
Well, the man never even escaped the blatant lies about him that he was a Muslim, born in a foreign country and wanted to take all our guns. Imagine how right-wingers would be freaking out if just ONE of those Russia ties happened to Obama.
Just the specter of possibly colluding with a foreign hostile power in order to win the election would be enough for the entire South to be demanding a lynching.
But listen. You hear that? Crickets. Nothing from the right, except for brave Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham, who says this shit needs to be sorted out, like YESTERDAY.
Look, I don't like Trump. But I like Pence even less. I don't want Mike Pence to be our president. But I also don't think, if any of these things are true, that Donald Trump should be president. If he helped the Russians help him cheat to win, he is a traitor and guilty of treason.
If he has financial debts to the Russian government, he isn't allowed to serve as our president, according to the law. If there's a sex tape of him banging Russian prostitutes—well, that's not illegal, but it's still pretty damn embarrassing.
Look, as a liberal, I'm chowing down the metaphorical popcorn watching this shitshow.
But as an American, I fervently hope this stuff isn't true. Donald Trump won the election. Hillary lost. I get that. I'm over it. I don't think he'll be a very good president, but I hope I'm wrong even on that. And I hope this Russia stuff isn't true. Because even though my side lost, I love this country, I love what our elections stand for. And I don't want the idea that they were compromised by a foreign power to be true.
It was so nice to have eight years with no scandals.
January 9, 2017, 11:23 pm
I dunno what I was expecting when my mom requested a copy of Minister of Justice over Christmas when she and my step-father, Charles, came to visit us and the boys.
My mom, you understand, is a fundamentalist Christian. So is Charlie. Charlie's a super-nice guy, but he's fundamentally opposed to my opinions politically and religiously. That said, and I repeat, he's a super-nice guy. And my mom, given all the water under our bridge, turned out to be pleasant on the visit, and like I said, requested a copy of Minister. Which she finished today.
Great book, Leif!
Seriously, the last three words I thought I'd hear from her. Not that I don't think it's a great book. Narcissistically, I do. I really do. I just didn't think she would think so, since the Minister of Justice himself, Steve Samuelson, is a VERY liberal kind of minister, embracing all the things fundamentalists generally stand against, and the book is chock full of cuss words, underage sex and pretty much every other craziness you can dream up, including an Amish guy who figures out people's darkest secrets so he can hoard gold.
Apparently, my mom doesn't hate the word "fuck" as much as she used to, because it's probably on every other (at least every third) page in the book.
It was brilliant. Can't wait to read "Robby the R-word." The first chapter really sucks you in.
Again, shocking. I guess I'm never too old to be surprised.
January 7, 2017, 1:01 am
Robby the R-Word is coming this spring. That means I have to have another novel written by the time it's out in order to get it published before 2018 ends.
I've been struggling to fall in love with any of the projects I have going.
Until I was working on my writing program today, and I stumbled across something I had completely forgotten I wrote, called "Pathetic Prophet."
It is absolutely horrible—and I mean that in the most complimentary way. It's essentially a guy saying all the things you want to say but don't because of social conventions.
It's kind of vulgar, but again, it's social convention that keeps us all from being vulgar. I mean, what if your Id could simply run amok without the filters your life training has put on you that stop you from blurting out what you really think? Now add to that some sort of mysterious power of precognition, and you can see how the main character here might not care much about how he delivers his message.
Then add the fact that everyone he talks to, he sees their past, present and future without the gloss of the lies we tell ourselves to justify our past and present missteps. Being jaded might be the only way he could deal with that sort of knowledge, I would think.
Anyway, I love the idea of telling the story of a guy who seriously does not give a shit about what people think about him. The precognition isn't even the main plot point, I think. It's more a side attribute. I think he might be the most interesting character I've come up with so far.
So maybe I'll write on that for awhile. If I can ever get my writing program working again. In the meantime, start chomping at the bit to read Robby, because it's the best writing I've done so far.
January 4, 2017, 11:23 pm
When I earlier talked about bad publishing deals, here's what tf I meant. See the part highlighted in the picture above? That's from the first chapter, first page of my novel, Minister of Justice. (I've written two novels since then; my openings have gotten a lot better) The original manuscript read like this: "The body the station had just shown..."
But, in their infinite and cut-rate wisdom, the publisher and editor decided I used the word "had" too much. "It makes it too passive," they said. So I painstakingly went through the manuscript and changed the majority of instances where "had" appeared. But I left that one, because, um, it needed to be there.
So they went through, and I shit you not, used find-and-replace in Word to get rid of every single instance of the word "had" in the manuscript. And in the process, changed a perfectly good sentence into a FIRST PAGE MISTAKE.
I pointed it out to them.
But if you pick up a printed copy of Minister of Justice (and you should, because despite their worst efforts, it's still a good novel), you can still see that mistake in the first page. And there are numerous other mistakes throughout the manuscript, some of which are mine (I type fast, and when I'm writing on an iPhone, autocorrect is not my friend), but most of which were introduced during the editing process.
I can't tell you how frustrating that is.
All of this came up because my mother is now reading the book. Whenever someone I know reads my work, I go back and re-read it to see what they're seeing. OCD much? Yes, thank you.
Of course, her first instinct was to defend herself against what she saw as attacks on her in the book:
The "mostly fiction" thing is something I wrote when I signed her copy of the book. So much for trying to be funny. Still, I don't blame her. No one wants to see themselves through the eyes of someone whose view isn't completely positive. I guess she got her revenge by calling me greasy-haired (completely untrue, for the record):
Yeah, you read that right. My mom told me to make my novel's mom a "sexy vixen." Is it any wonder my mind isn't right?
Still, her reading the novel made me go back and look through it, and I really do like it. Love it, even. Despite the fact that buying it would cause money to undeservedly go into the pockets of the publisher, I still think you should buy it, because I want you to read my work. I have not made a single dime from that publisher on Minister, (I have made some respectable money selling it on my own) but that doesn't matter. I just want people to read my books. I have a good business; I don't need to make a lot of money on books. I just want people to read them.
That sounds pathetic, so for the record: I made good money on Deadly Vows. In person-to-person sales, I made good money on Minister of Justice. Though I hate to give that publisher any money, fact is, Minister is a good book, and I enjoyed reading it to see what my mom was reading.
You will too. If you can't afford 14.95 to buy the paperback on Amazon (and man, that's a lot of money for a paperback), the Kindle version is a lot cheaper. Doesn't make me any difference, as long as you read it. The shady-ass publisher isn't sending me any cash either way, so just get the cheapest version and start reading!
My mom appears to love it:
(Troy is my brother. Candi is my older sister)
Also, have I mentioned that my mother came here for Christmas, and immediately made an impression on my kids?
I was surprised when Axl asked this morning, "Why did the grandma leave?"
And then, tonight, as April and I were watching season three of Girls (an excellent show, by the way), he kept coming in and pasting stickers to my head:
His reason? "I love the stickers the grandma gave me." I didn't even know she had given him stickers. Apparently, they were in the first page of a coloring book she had given him.
Ah well, he had fun. By the end of the night, I had something like 20 stickers on my head.
More importantly, my view of my parents is colored by my perspective, my prejudices, my peculiar psychology. By all accounts, my father, who was horrible to me, was an excellent grandfather. And my mother clearly made my children feel special.
Regardless of the real or perceived slights we have all experienced, we owe it to our children to let them experience a world unencumbered by our prejudices. I can be grumpy about my upbringing, but in the long run, my kids should have the opportunity to develop their own opinions, even if those are divergent from mine.
My parents weren't malicious. They did the best they could to raise their four children, and it's easy for me to sit back, using modern understanding, and judge them. I would have done it differently. But I wasn't a parent in the 1970s. I was a child. I'm a parent now, and my parenting style differs greatly from theirs. In 40 years, my kids will be bitching about what a horrible parent I was, despite the fact that I'm doing the very best I know how to do.
So I'm going to give my parents a break, at least as far as my kids are concerned.
My mom made my kids love her. And I'm happy about that.
January 3, 2017, 5:17 pm
Sister Wives. As the late, great Joan Rivers would say, can we talk about this bullshit? OK, I get it, polygamy. Sure. Interesting and whatnot. One dude, four butterfaces, fun show.
For about three episodes.
How in the world are we here, ELEVEN seasons later, and this is still a thing? I truly, honestly, do not get it. My wife and I tried to watch an episode from a recent season (it was forgettable enough that I'm not even going to try to research which one), and it was unwatchable crap. Like, why does anyone care about any of these people?
They cry on a dime, all act like sad-sack halfwits, and somehow someone is still paying them to expose their ridiculous lives for a weekly TV show.
Look, I knew a polygamist family really well. I even wrote a book about them. I get that it's interesting. But after a few minutes, you just think, "OK, that's crazy, I'll move on to some other subject before I lose my shit."
Actually, I just read the "four butterfaces" line again. Totally inaccurate. Because "butterface" implies that everything "but her face" is good to go. In no way is that true of any of his four Droopy Dog manatees. A true butterface is someone you see initially and go, "oh, hell yes," and then you see her face and go, "holy shit, talk about false advertising!" Sandra Bernhardt. She was a butterface. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's daughter from Dancing with the Stars. There's a butterface. These sacks of Mormonism and Xanax? ButterEVERYTHINGS. But I digress.
And don't think I'm a misogynist; I'm just trying to clarify the "butterfaces" thing. Bah. Screw it. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd delete the whole thing and start over. The point is, they're boring. Ugly, too, yeah, but dreadfully, painfully, excruciatingly boring. That's the main point, I'm pretty sure.
The point is, the show is horrible. And always has been. Which goes to show that TLC will run a show about anything, and apparently people will watch it.
Meanwhile, the winter lull of shows led me to watching Timeless, largely because it showed up for free in my new TV app on the AppleTV.
And, to my surprise, after I was able to suspend my disbelief with the help of single-malt Scotch, it's a pretty damn good show about the Butterfly Effect (does it seem like there's a lot of butter in this entry? Not on purpose. But I use the real stuff on my toast every morning), and unlike most shows that deal with that theoretical phenomenon, this one tramples all over it, and we have yet to discover what sort of consequences that will bring.
Lincoln, assassinated not by John Wilkes Booth, but by a time-traveling douchebag. The Hindenburg survives, only to be torched a day later. The great letter from the Alamo written by another time traveler. Benedict Arnold being killed by several time travelers instead of living out his life in peace in England.
What changes will that bring in the future? Who knows? But I'm certainly in for watching. It airs, I think, on NBC, but I forget what day. Sorry. Look it up.
January 3, 2017, 10:10 am
Good programmers are rarely also good interface designers.
When I designed my writing program, I designed an interface that worked perfectly on my computer, but on a phone, it just didn't work at all, because phones are vertical and computers are horizontal. Here 'tis:
I needed an interface that worked both places, so I went back to the drawing board. In the old interface, when you load the program, a list of books appears on the left. You click one of those and a list of chapters in that book appears next to the list of books. Click on a chapter, and that chapter opens in the editor on the right. Like I said, great for a desktop, horrible for a phone.
So instead, I decided the interface should be designed for a phone first, because that form tends to work on a desktop as well. Above is what I came up with. A list of books still appears first, but it fills all the horizontal space on the program (assuming there are enough books to do that). Then, clicking one of the books (Throckmorton Creek is clicked above) opens up a new space underneath that book containing all the chapters in that book. Clicking a chapter will cause the entire interface to disappear, replaced by a full-area editor with links at the top to allow you to go back to the list of chapters or the list of books.
I think that's a lot simpler, and better-looking, in my never-very-humble opinion.
I think however, I'll make the icons bigger. Right now, it looks like 1995 Windows.
There. That's better.
Of course, there's a lot of work still to do, and the monochrome color scheme is on purpose: Writing works better for me if the background is dark (but not black) and the text is light (but not white). Other users will, of course, be able to adjust that.