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black_coffee: Blog

April 27, 2012
Posted at 8:51 pm

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

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.

August 31, 2010
Posted at 9:31 pm

8/31/10 Entry

Hi, all.

Been awhile, eh?

No. I don't have tons of new, completed work. Sorry.

But you can have what I have completed - Lenore. Right after I repost a rewritten Sparks.

I will tell you (shh, a 'secret') that I don't have time to write right now. I'm running some really big programs at work (you know, the head mofo in charge kind of running? The ones where, in generations past, they'd shoot you for substandard quality or missing dates? THOSE kinds of programs?).

Don't have time to write. Lots of ideas and projects incomplete. Maybe someday... but it always seems that the only time I have to write is while I'm jetting across one ocean or another.

So... Sparks. Soon. It's longer.

Then Lenore. Soon. It's longer still.




you wait some more...

and wait...

until I either become independently wealthy, or have to change jobs, or retire.

Blame the economy. Blame your favorite politico. Blame me for having a work ethic and being very very good at what I do.

July 30, 2008
Posted at 9:55 am
Updated: August 31, 2010 - 9:22 pm

7/30 Entry (by request)

I get mail from readers still, and I thank you.

Many people ask the same sorts of questions. Here are some answers.

1. Will you write a sequel to McAllister's Redemption?

Yes. But. I pulled the story down, since I had entered it into the '07 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. I got a nice Publisher's Weekly review from it, telling me to do exactly what I knew I had to do to the story: make it shorter, a little less heavy-handed, and slightly less vague in some spots. Yes, all questions got answered (mostly), but the style was high, and the camp high, and the language high. So, I made the concept a little higher (I love that term, 'High Concept'), cut 14,700 words out of it, lightened the moralism and symbolism a little, and then gave it to a publisher I met at a particular supper one evening.

She took 15 weeks to get back to me, and, not being short of material, said 'no thanks'. I then tried an agent, who was kind enough to tell me immediately he was too busy. Now the story sits with another agency - and in three more weeks I'll probably get another rejection.

Should McAllister sell in the next two attempts, you'll read any sequel in print. If not, I'll repost the rewritten version on SOL - where there is nothing precluding nor requiring a sequel. Make of that what you will...

2. What the HELL ever happened to Mack the Knife?
His job changed, his life changed, and not for the better, I think. I got an email from him about a year ago, saying he was alive, but wouldn't be writing anytime soon. That's really too bad, because:

3. What's going on with An Assumed Inheritance?
Yeah, I wrote it in Mack's world of Feldare. I am rewriting it, and adding about 60,000 words of Anathel's story (and Alspiai, Esfalan's sister). I am taking the story off Feldare, and changing some details as I go. That story, and it's sequel, "With a Mind of Her Own: Autonore's Story" I will try to publish dead-tree. It's been on the back burner since January, and I'll probably return to it when the leaves fall.

4. How about anything else new? Those short stories you wrote were kinda cool, but we think your long ones rock...
Okay, then, I'm writing a long one, another Fantasy, about a girl who commits suicide and immediately regrets it. Her people are about to have a choice: watch their own become enslaved, or fight the Saxon King, Henry IV. Her brother's best friend (a wanted man) has found a means to escape that fate, though his control is tenuous at best.

It'll be called Ilse, and I think it'll be a good one. If Amazon does another contest this year, I'll enter this one in it, assuming I can finish it by then.

The other new thing I'm writing is exclusively for SOL, and is a study in a dom/sub relationship. Now, I don't think I write sex scenes well, and this isn't a graphic story, it's a long character study. Make of that what you will. I don't know how long until I finish it, it's not getting steady keyboard time. But it will be beautifully written (natch) and exclusively on SOL.

5. Come on, stop being coy. We want to hear about Sandy and Ben.

This is a real sore point for me. I think the sequel to Sparks is probably the best thing I've written, and my wife and friends really really want me to sell it to a publisher. But Sparks is flawed - yeah, it's true, you can stop pretending to be shocked.

Sparks has to sell first, for The Gunny and Lenore to have a chance. TGaL is an action novel, though the pace is a little slower - think Michener. But Sparks has a flaw. To sell my first novel, or even my third, it has to fit a genre, and every single person in 'the industry' who's read even a little of it says 'Ah, it's an Action Adventure novel'.

But a big piece of it is Romance. And I haven't got five best-seller titles to my name to prove that I can sell by mixing genres.

Yes, we KNOW women are 90% of the reading audience. Yes, I KNOW that 90% of the SOL readership is men, and that the 10% (pulled the number out of the air, please don't write me about it...) who like long stories also like some romance.

But, unless one of you secretly IS a publisher/agent/professional editor, none of that amounts to a hill of beans in a crazy world... the middle part of Sparks is Romance and lots of character development that, frankly, makes Sandy such a cool character.

All that stuff is important in the bigger story - how Kate and Lenore interact with Sandy is a BIG part of the next novel, and what goes on with Lenore. And Lenore is a BIG part of the REAL story I'm telling - and it really really IS historical Fiction (and not Action/Adventure) - just like Michener. Really. And that's the truth.

So - I have had this crushing dilemma. Keep Sparks until I can somehow resolve this dilemma? I've edited the hell out of the story, it's way way better than what you're reading now. Wait until I sell something else, then get a professional editor (I mean the gals who do this for, say, Penguin) to help?

Or chuck it all and post what I've got on SOL, be a God amongst Mortals for a year and a half, and disappoint my wife?

Those of you who are married already know the answer.

Having Sparks hanging over my head, as it were, is really distracting me (blocking me...) from working hard on anything else. So, I'll put Sandy (and Lenore, who is REALLY not happy about it) back on the shelf for a short while, and work on Ilse.

December 21, 2007
Posted at 9:35 pm
Updated: February 27, 2008 - 11:39 pm

12/21 Entry

I posted a short, "Maurice and the Iron Matron".

It's not meant to be a serious piece, more of an anecdote.

I'm interested in your thoughts on it.

I have the next 13 days off work, so I'll be writing a lot.

Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, etc.


September 1, 2007
Posted at 10:36 am

9/1 Entry - Twice as Much

A word about Twice as Much.

As I said in the end note, it's not about a real pair of twins.

I was writing on a grey winter day, and was trying to write something a little different than the story I'd just finished (An Assumed Inheritance) and the one I was just starting (McAllister's Redemption) and the one I didn't want to write (remaining nameless). I wanted to stretch a little, see what I could do with a standard genre and do what I could to give it a compelling background and a real twist.

The Onagerian Surmise story "What Power Passes on the Muse", and the Robbie Burns poem, "Ode to a Louse on My Lady's Bonnet" ('O wad some pow'r the giftie gie us to see oursels as others see us'), turned on its head, were in my thoughts on the day I wrote this, last December 28th. It's too late for me to thank Mr. Burns, but OS is a member in many forums and chats I belong to, and he at least I can thank for the inspiration.