black_coffee: Blog

4/27/12 Entry (The Gunny and Lenore)

April 27, 2012
Posted at 8:51 pm

Where to start?

The title came from the pair in the story, but there was also a 'Gunny and Lenore' pairing in Scipio's Summer Camp. Obviously, no relationship between the characters. I'd had Lenore in mind for a very long time by that point.

The story is leading to the real action part, a fictionalized account of the hunt for Pablo Escobar. I have plans to add the Battle of Mogadishu as well (Ben in the Rangers…). I'm about 33,000 words into that - but I have been at that point for the last four years.

Why am I stuck? In a word, it's the economy. Circa 2007 things were still good, I had little hope of advancement, and my job was still relatively easy. The company I worked for started downsizing and making crusty layers of calcified strata between me and the top crumble (there's a nice image for you). Many people left for 'greener pastures'. Me, I figured I'd stay, since the pasture I was in was still well-protected from the thunderclouds over the horizon… The events of 2008 and the bursting housing bubble proved me right.

The business I'm in is in high-tech infrastructure, and no, I won't get more specific here. Spending is driven by waves of technological innovation; then add in an amazingly recession-proof product (not mine) which sees massive sales, and it doesn't matter if it's not a great time to spend money to upgrade infrastructure to handle that product or not - the people I sell to have to do it.

So, with a huge business demand and a small workforce, I'm busy. But it gets worse… the company I worked for sold my division to another company, one with headquarters overseas, and in my frank opinion, my senior corporate leadership are drunk, stupid, and arrogant. Two of those three may be survivable, but not all three… I digress. I work for the part of the company that actually has profitable customers, and is responsible for about 60% of revenue. I 'own' the biggest customer, and am running our biggest development/delivery programs (I own both phases). We're talking billions of dollars for each.

As a youngish executive type, I really, really don't have time to write. Plus, writing requires a certain relationship with depression (or a bottle), in order for me to get the real emotion into it. I'd like to think I do that part well, but the depression part I can't afford. Maybe if I get laid off…

Oh, and I don't do sex scenes well. I do OK with innuendo, setting the framework, you know what's coming. The descriptions, not so much.

Lenore and Sandy's story, I want to finish. I also want to finish Autonore's story, Ilse's story, and Lonnie Argenbright's story, each of which I'm several thousand words (about 24-30k each) into. And Lynne DiPietro's got a story teasing me. Sable wants a sequel someday, too, but that's not a burning priority.

Mmm, some comments about The Gunny and Lenore: my writing style for this story was labeled 'terse' by some, but it's far, far more verbose than the early parts of Sparks. Remember, I was starting out with Sparks, and the whole 'third part' of Sparks was actually part of The Gunny and Lenore. I deliberately set out to mimic WEB Griffin in some respects, just because I felt I could join the legions of his ghostwriters (his son doesn't even do that anymore). Think of it as a milieu, a canvas with rules. After a while, I really didn't notice it much, except for a few turns of phrase here and there ("I will be dipped…").

I read your feedback, though I don't always have time to respond. Usually, I get to read it from my phone while on the rental-car shuttle, and waiting at the gate, or if I'm home, then late at night when I'm not going to get to respond. If I reply in the morning, chances are it's actually 11 at night in whatever city I'm in…

Lenore was a 7-month long project, started in late 2006, right after McAllister. I was fairly overweight and drinking a lot at that time, hating my job, hating the lack of advancement. I'd spend long hours in chat on the Internet, and had a pretty good friendship with Jo Beller (screen name). She helped me work through Lenore, and with constant late-night chat shared our frustration with our jobs. Misery loves company… anyway, I needed some Navy detail that Dave P was kind enough to share (and he helped clarify some more-creative turns of phrase also). I owe both a huge thanks.

Dave and Jo's input aside, I really have no 'traditional' editor. The version you've read here is much-reduced from the text I 'finished writing', but probably not in the way you think - many words were contracted (please don't argue with me about 'it's' in some situations, I'm not changing the story). Many phrases were reduced, etc. I pulled about 26,000 words out of it by such 'tricks'. Moved about 25,000 more to the 'rewritten Sparks' as part 3.

Interestingly enough, Mack the Knife (remember his Feldare stories?) was the only one to ever ask me to be his editor. I don't have time to do it now, obviously, so I apologize to anyone who might want to ask.

On a different note, a reader shared with me the thought that Lenore was 'reasonably close' to life in the military. Brought a smile to my face, veteran of two branches of service that I am. Interestingly, neither was the Navy nor the Marine Corps. I suggested that the distortion may have been as I told the story through Lenore's eyes… from her perspective, she's a total fraud. From anyone else's she's a stone cold fox with a stone cold will.

SEALs. Don't buy into the Chuck Pfarrer or Steven Segal bullshit. I've painted them as you'd see them day-in-day-out. If/when I ever get to finish the next book in Sandy/Lenore, you'd see Novotny (in particular) doing SEAL things in littoral waters, and Liesandro and others doing observation and a tactical exercise that has lead flying downrange, making headlines back home.

"Seal Team Six" may once have existed circa 'Nam days, but now is a convenient hero to tag for media consumption, IMO (your opinion may vary. I'll stick with mine). I have Oscar platoon laugh about it in the story.

My other military story (you haven't seen yet) is about young Lonnie Argenbright falling out of the sky and landing on a (random) part of Sicily… and where things go from there. Jack Kostowe has a role in this story, but only a brief one. I think this one will get more ink-time than any other for now, whenever I am stuck at a family gathering or some other enforced-fun. That's about the only time I have to write, and the only time I'm in the mood…

Back to Lenore. I made the novel 'novel length' and divided the chapters where they were supposed to be, thematically. Some chapters were shorter… and I kept consoling myself with the thought that readers who came in after seeing several weeks' worth of posts would check it out, then get engrossed, and stay.

I'm fairly certain some (most?) readers will say, "That's IT? Where's the beef?!?" or something to that effect. It's in the next story… but now, you know exactly why Lenore and Sandy can pull the shit they do (when, of course, they do it… :) I know I'm evil…). I HATE the modern convention of an 'action-adventure page-turner' where the hero/ine is just thrust at you with no background, and immediately is immersed in an improbable heavy-weapons firefight in Times Square (yeah, Lee Childs, I'm talkin' to you).

Anyway, there it is.