More delayed gratification


Do I like waiting for things? A casual study of my way of life would make it clear that no, no I do not. I self-published books 1-4 expressly because I did not want to wait for the world to ask for them. As a consequence, some may say that I rushed in half-cocked to the process and made a lot of mistakes in public. Those people are right.

What makes waiting even worse? Until I turn a book loose onto the unsuspecting public, it is only ‘real’ to me. There is no proof that I have done anything productive with my time. I know, I know, I don’t have to prove to anyone that I have actually been working, but try telling that to my insecurities.

So here’s the ironic situation I find myself in. I have, not one, but TWO unpublished books sitting on my metaphorical desk. The first draft of book 5 of the Spellbound Railway series was finished a few weeks ago (weeks? Sheesh. Time flew by.) And I have a 2nd draft, on the way to a 3rd and possible final draft of my super-secret detective thriller book.

If you’re wondering, those two books represent 2 years of work. Other than me, a total of about 5 folks have read the detective book. Not one other soul has laid eyes on book 5 yet. So much time, and fretting, and cussing has gone into these two novels that the outside world has yet to see.

I have never let a book sit un-released for a few months, much less a whole year. It’s unsettling. And now I have a second book needing exhaustive editing and revising. The to-do list is longer than it has ever been before. To tweak the pressure to get these blasted things out the door, there’s my self-imposed pressure/guilt about bringing home the bacon. Unpublished books don’t make money, honey.

But despite my natural inclination to slapdash my way to the end of a project, I am not going to hurry. I am going to act like a responsible adult doing business. Realistic timelines! Steady progress towards achievable goals! Proper nutrition! The detective book will get its next edit finished up in the next week or so. Then I will query a handful of publishers, to tell them that they need to publish this book. Maybe one of them will answer! Then it will be onto editing book 5.



Finishing things is weird

homerchapterWelp, that is that. After slogging through 10 months of various levels of productivity and distraction, I finished the first draft of book 5. And I feel…happy, I guess?

Completing a book is a strange event. It’s a lot like finishing a half-marathon. (It may be like finishing a full marathon as well, but I’ve never run one of those.) Near the end of a long run, the gas tank is empty. Your internal pep talks have become ineffectual. Everything chafes. The only thing that gets you to the finish line is stubborn determination. You force yourself to grind out the last hundred steps to get to the end.

And grind I did, to the tune of 110 000 words. That is a whole lot: in fact, it’s the longest thing I have ever written. Keep in mind, the thing hasn’t seen the merciless eye of the editing process, so the word count is going to change. But for now, the size of the book 5 word heap is 100 grand and change.

You may have noticed that I’ve referred to it by the rather uninspiring title ‘book 5’. That is because a real title hasn’t jumped up and bitten me on the nose yet. Actually, a title did present itself months ago, and I was excited to slap it on as a working title: “The End of All Things”. And then I googled it and found John Scalzi had already used it for one of his books. Dang it. (I still like the title and am tempted to use it, reader confusion be damned)

I should also mention it is the final book in the Spellbound Railway series. Not only did I finish a book, I wrapped up the whole series. You would think that I would have a tremendous sense of elation, accompanied by a wistful melancholy. It took me about 10 years to write all five books. Ten Years! A decade of work! I am getting old! Ah! Wait, that’s a different topic. Nevermind the oldness.

But even though I referred to the book writing process as a gruelling feat of endurance, this one wasn’t as exhausting as previous ones. I think my writing muscles have become stronger.  No amazed declaration of “I can’t believe I actually finished!” this time. I can believe it, because I’ve done it before, and I’ll keep doing it.

Wait a second….is this what being confident in your own skills feels like? Weird.


Why, hello there!

You know that thing, where you think you did a thing, but you actually forgot to do that thing? I did that thing.

I decided a good while ago to call it a wrap on my daily video post. It was fun for a bit, I learned a lot, but it and me were running out of steam.

I had meant to pop over here and do a blog post about it. Imagine my surprise today (weeks later) when I discovered there was no such post in existence. Whoops!

That’s the long and short of it, in terms of the videos. An experiment that had run its course. Might I do more video in the future? Ah, anything’s possible.

Here’s what I am working on:

-Book 5 of the Spellbound Railway is at 65000 words and growing. Hopefully I can get the first draft done by the end of summer, but summer is a time of anarchy so no promises

-the complicated secret project is still complicated but becoming more likely as days go by. Think subscription-based serial fiction, a chapter at a time, with additional background and side story bits for the premium buyers.

-a growing sense of dread over the deteriorating state of geopolitics.

-maybe renting some drums to be a two man band with the lad.

More of me, now in video form

First, the boring ol’ updates:

-Book 5, the final, totally last, all done instalment of the ‘Spellbound Railway’ (which most people just call the WitchKids series, despite my feeble protestations) is underway. I will finish the chapter summary by the end of this year and launch myself flailing and shrieking at the first draft in early 2018.

-secretive new project is secretly in the planning stage, centred around that detective thriller that has bad people doing bad things. Mid-2018 is when it potentially sheds its secretive skin and prances about in all it’s gory strange glory.

And on to new business!

I have advice! Writing advice! And I am going to capture it raw and fresh each work morning in a video segment I call ‘Bad Writer Advice’. Here’s the first video, explaining the whole thing.

You ask, quite rightly, why I would shove bad advice down your already engorged gullet. I would answer that all advice is bad…unless it works. And once I got over my own cleverness, I would explain it like this: following advice is like running through a maze with hints being yelled back from someone else in the maze. More often than not, their advice will lead down dead end alleys and wrong turns, chewing up time and effort. If you are lucky, you’ll pick up a few useful ideas from these wrong turns. And occasionally, the advice will be exactly what you need and you’ll find the end of the maze. Hurray for you!

So by noon each work day, I’ll have a (less than) 5 minute video prepared hot and ready for you over here on my youtube channel. Vacations will happen and you will not get videos during that time. the videos will be unpolished. They will have no production values at all. But they will be an honest look into my daily writing process, warts and all. (Please note: no actual warts will be displayed. Ew)

Making Ugly Art


I can’t pretend that high artistic aspirations have ever driven me. I aim for an entertaining story to amuse myself and the audience (such as it is). I would very much like to be the aloof creator who sends their work out to the public and sneers in neglectful disdain at the response.

But I’m not that guy. I want people to like my work, in part because it is too deeply linked to my sense of self. Liking my book=liking me. (By the way, this is an issue I need to get over, because I cannot go hide under a pile of blankets and sob each and every time someone doesn’t like my work.) Other than the routine rejections from various publishers and literary agents, though, there hasn’t been a lot of negative response. And then I wrote an ugly story.

Ugly? Yes, ugly. It is full of bad people doing bad things, to each other and to strangers (I talked about the story in this old post). It’s a good book, the best I’ve written so far, but it is rough. Violent, mean, bloody, gory, offensive, etc. Everything that I have written and foisted onto the public up until this point has been easy to consume and support. This book is not. One advance reader had to put the book down and walk away. Two others struggled to get past the first chapter (but enjoyed the rest of the book once they did).

So now I am caught between Scylla and Charybdis (as an aside, I spelled that correctly the first time and I am super-proud of my self for doing so. Tiny wins!). One one hand, I want people to have fun while reading my books. On the other hand, I have to write the story as it shows up in my mind. If I change it, I open the door to BEING WRONG, and once that door is open, the hateful imp in the back of my mind will insist that EVERYTHING I DO IS WRONG. I really don’t care for that imp.

And there is a small but feisty element of artist’s arrogance in play as well: who the hell are you, audience, to tell me what to do? Buzz off, jerks. I wrote this. It’s mine and I’ll do what I want. This is not an overly…helpful attitude to have. Some confidence is good. Aggressively ignoring feedback is not.

(sidenote: in searching for an image to feature in this post, I stumbled across the cover for the book ‘On Ugliness‘,which looks at humanity’s fascination with ugliness in art. Intriguing. )



The world’s worst query letter

The good news is that the first draft of my new book “Falstaff Gets Found” is done. The murder rainbow has reached its bloody pot of gold. Soon I will take my editorial hacksaw and mutilate the body until all the bad parts have been lopped off.

But before I launch into the grim process of editing, I am whipping up a query letter. A query letter is the way that you beg…I mean…offer your book to an agent or a publisher.  It’s like a resume for your book and for you as an author, and who doesn’t LOVE working on their resume?

There are expected formats and rules to be followed, so that your query looks professional. Or, you can get frustrated, ignore the rules, and write the world’s worst query letter. That’s what I did! You see, every agent and publisher sees hundreds of these letters a week, if not more, so even a perfectly polished one could accomplish nothing.

Below you will find the letter that should not see the light of day. Soon I will rewrite it to make it more predictable and respectable. Probably. But until then, enjoy!

“Dear Agent/publisher,

I don’t know you, and more importantly, you don’t know me. 

This is a terrible query letter. I want to be honest about that. I’ll explain why in detail further on. But the story is good. It’s a hardboiled detective novel of 90 000 words called “Falstaff Gets Found”, the first book in the “Faded American Empire” series. It’s about a coward named John Falstaff who can read the dirty little secrets written all over the faces of humanity. He can’t shut it off, so he numbs himself to the constant barrage of the awfulness of people, with whatever drugs he can get his hands on. Even when he’s high, he can’t keep his mouth from getting him into trouble. It’s a good thing he can take a beating better than most people. It’s a shame he can’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag.

He hides from the world until the loneliness and boredom become unbearable, and the money runs out. Back in reality he turns a good run at the casino into a bad end, and is dumped in the desert to die alone. A peculiar head-hunter interrupts his death throes to give him a job offer: bloodhound. Falstaff has to find a killer by sniffing out the secrets of junkies, liars and thieves. All he wants to do is find his next high.

This is the paragraph where I would talk about my previous publications…if I had any. I have self-published 4 books that very few people have read, in a young adult series that I love and will finish with book 5 in the near future.

And to explain my earlier claim: I could either write a serious and professional query, full of emboldened claims and inflated experiences, or I could be honest. I think my odds of having either version of this letter read are almost identical, so I might as well enjoy the process.

You’ve made it this far, so I applaud your kindness and tenacity. I’ll close by assuring you one last time that the book is good, which is in and of itself another of the cardinal sins of query letter writing. I’m happy to send along a sample chapter, more of a plot synopsis, or a poorly executed sketch of what I imagine the protagonist would look like in real life. Whatever works for you.”


The Story Rainbow

(Title note:Boy oh boy I hope LeVar Burton doesn’t have my legs broken for referencing “reading rainbow”. Big fan, Jordi! Totally an homage)

The fruits of the newest iteration of my work process: a rainbow of murder!


No, wait. That is a terrible name. Forget I said that. Sure, the novel-to-be that’s outlined on the index cards below is a hardboiled detective story about trying to stop a serial killer. But really, “rainbow of murder” is possibly the worst thing I’ve come up with as a title. Let’s never speak of it again.

For the fans of the process of writing a book AKA literary sausage-making, here’s what my current procedure is:

1)have a story idea (pretty obvious). A beginning scene and an ending scene are the basics.

2)write a list of chapter titles, attempting to make the titles colourful and informative. NO ADDITIONAL NOTES OR DETAILS. Then walk away for a bit.

3)For each chapter, write an index card of plot points. NO ADDITIONAL NOTES OR DETAILS. STILL! Walk away again.

4) write a 1/2 page synopsis for each chapter. THIS IS WHERE YOUR NOTES/DETAILS GO. Walk away and forget about the story for a little while.

5) If you’re ready, write the first chapter. If not, expand the 1/2 page to a full page per chapter. Chill out, hero. You’re doing it.

6) repeat step 5 until you’ve got a first draft.

DISCLAIMER: I’m only at step 4 right now, so I can’t say for certain that this is the path to a fantastic (read:less monstrously terrible) first draft. What I do know is that the stress of making a million cognitive leaps and guesses has been chopped into more manageable, bite-sized pieces. Progress, one piece at a time!