Remission: No More Excuses

running

(CC) BY-SA Tomas Fano

Winter has finally gone away in most of these United States. (Canada is still waiting. Sorry, Canada.) Which means the weather is finally warm enough to run. Am I doing it?

Yes. No. Maybe. It depends.

Day-to-day life has a lot to do with it. Rain had a lot to do with it. When you’re fully engaged in running with a schedule to keep, a torrential downpour might be a reason to stay inside.

Of course, I’ve had an interesting spring, dominated largely by buying a new car. The test drive and ultimate purchase occurred on a rainy Wednesday night when I originally planned to run. Too bad The Princess (my old, needy 2005 Neon) was not cooperating. So I retired her.

OK, genius. You have a new car. That took one night. What about the rest of those nights?

Ya caught me. I’ve been a bad boy. I should have been out there pounding the pavement, but after a long winter layoff, it’s hard to get back into it. This is the part where you expect me to say I’m not making excuses. Oh, bullshit. I’m making excuses.

It’s a bit dumb of me not to run because the exercise does so much for my health. Just this morning, I spent about an hour working on a proposed article for cracked.com entitled “5 Things Diabetics Are Sick of Hearing.” If I’d stick with the plan, I wouldn’t have to hear them. Or if I did, I could go, “It’s in remission, sweetie. Now save me a cupcake. Daddy’s got a grueling 10-mile run later, and he needs the carbs.” (People hate it when you beat a serious disease, but I’ll save that for the article. Maybe it’ll become a blog post here.)

It’s more than blood sugar, though. When I run, my blood pressure drops. When I run, my good cholesterol rises and the bad cholesterol falls. (I don’t have a problem with triglycerides, the third evil in the cholesterol axis. Treatment for that is its own special kind of hell.) I sleep better. I feel better. I look better.

Then I have to remind myself of a promise I made years ago. I am going to run the Flying Pig Marathon the week of my fiftieth birthday. Well, I have far less time now to slack off and start over than I did when I made that decision. And it’s getting harder to get my numbers back to normal.

So it’s back to the grind. Even if a mile and a half is a challenge right now.

 

Done With The Red Ink. Now What?

red-inked manuscript

(C) 2008 Nic McPhee, used under Creative Commons

I finished my own pass through Holland Bay last week. One thing I learned is that I really should have printed it out last time. There are things like missed words and sentences that were cut and pasted together that needed tweaking. And of course, I had all that repeated information I needed to weed out.

I’m not sure why we don’t see these things when we reread electronically. It’s the same text, and every word processing app worth mentioning displays it as black text on a white background. Yet there is something about having to flip pages and marking them up with a red pen that lets us catch more errors. When it comes time for me to edit other people’s work, I’ll probably print out their work. I’ll have to put the notes in electronically, but I don’t see that as an issue.

So, I’m done, and all I have to do is put in the revisions. Right?

Wrong. I’m trading edits with someone. Deep edits. The kind you pay a professional about a lot of money to have done. To simply go on my own is asking for trouble, and I’ve got too much into Holland Bay not to do the work. Holland Bay is going to be the first novel I take down the traditional route since I shopped Road Rules about eight years ago. Some might ask why I would do that when independent publishing is all the rage.

Simple. Independent publishing requires a lot more work than I have time to do. I not only have to write the book, I have to have it edited, formatted for both print and ebook (and two formats on top of that), and sell the thing. It’s hard because I live in a town where the crime fiction community is nihl. Hence “My Dick is writing a novel.” I can do science fiction much easier here than I can crime.

Plus crime is so fragmented these days, and no one wants to cross genres, or should I say subgenres. Noir fans aren’t interested in police procedurals, and police fans want nothing to do with PI fiction. PI buffs can’t stand cozies, and the cozy fans don’t like the Elmore Leonard/Carl Hiassen capers.

But crime is a writer’s genre. While we get very insular about what we read, it’s not unusual to go to Bouchercon and see Lee Child and SJ Rozan sharing a drink. When your chosen field operates like that, you almost need a traditional publisher to take on the task of marketing and spreading the word. Once you’re out there and known, then indie pub becomes doable. For me, it’s more like the guy in the Greek myth rolling the stone up the hill only to have it roll back down from just shy of the top.

I suppose part of this is my fault. I chose to set Nick Kepler, my original series, in Cleveland, a city four hours away and one where I haven’t lived since 1990. By the time I had a feel for Cincinnati, I’d already written the first three Kepler novels. Starting over again wasn’t feasible. I suppose I could do it now. Cincinnati would love it if someone would set a series here. In crime, that hasn’t happened since Jonathan Valin’s last novel in 1995.

I digress. Holland Bay, set in a fictional Lake Erie city based on elements of both Cincinnati and Cleveland, is a bit of a sprawling story. My touchstones were The Wire and Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series. The city derives its name from the old mystery-based soap opera, The Edge of Night. Edge, up until its final two seasons, featured a shot of the Cincinnati skyline in its opening credits. So how to market that? Well, a bigger publisher or one with decent marketing can play with that. Right now, I need to make the book worth their time. And yours. Because sooner or later, this epic is going to get out into the wild, and I want it to do well.

I hope to have this thing packed off to an agent (Not saying who just yet. Not until the paperwork is signed.) by mid-summer. By then, I’ll be back into the SF novel and even blogging as “Dick,” who himself will have a funny name for me. (Not “Dick.” That joke’s worn a bit thin.)

And of course, there’s one or two more Keplers I’d like to finish. You didn’t think I forgot about him, did you?

Friday Reviews: The Undesirable by S. Celi

The Undesirable
S. Celi

Charlotte Walker lives in a future America that looks nothing like today. The state runs television. Everything is for a war effort against Canada, which has cut off the Keystone Pipeline. There is no president or Congress. There is only the Party. And Maxwell Cooper, the Supreme Leader.

This is the only world Charlotte has known, and the Party manages to turn even that upside down. Humvees roll into Harrison Corners, a small town in northwest Ohio that, up until now, has been isolated from the turmoil gripping the US. She, like her neighbors, are forced to work in a factory making shirts for the war effort. But there’s more than war production behind the occupation. As Charlotte points out in the first chapter, she’s just found out she is Cooper’s bastard. What follows is a clandestine escape to Canada, followed by a harrowing rescue run back to Harrison Corners.

Two authors came to mind as I read this: Stephen King and John Scalzi. Like Scalzi, Celi makes her future familiar. However, whereas Scalzi’s Earth in both the Old Man’s War series and The Android’s Dream is actually a decent place to live, Celi’s America has more in common with Susan Collins’ Panem, minus any bloodsport spectacle. (Yet. This is a series after all.)

The King comparison comes from the desperate vibe that permeates the book, which echoes The Running Man (the book, not the movie), The Long Walk, and shades of The Stand. The status quo is bleak, hopeless, and insidious.

There are nice touches here as well. Cooper is described as an Ohio native son who bears a resemblance to a certain House Speaker who hails from nearby Butler County. But whereas Mr. Boehner usually looks like he has a migraine (Wouldn’t you with the current Congress? Even if most of them are your people?), Cooper solves the problem of gridlock with a coup. But on a more mundane level, the Humvee has replaced the limousine and the Army Jeep as the ride of choice for the powerful.

Still, anyone can make a new universe, altered reality, or dystopic future. Celi, however, has an affinity for romance (which is the bulk of her subsequent books). The real story is Charlotte, who already has to be a survivor thanks to a neglectful mother, and Fostino, a fellow student who has had a crush on her. Fostino finally sees a chance with Charlotte when he is drafted into the Homeland Guard (Cooper’s storm troopers) and takes her under his protection. It’s this relationship that drives the story. Charlotte must leave Fostino behind as he is part of the occupation, then must go back for him when the government betrays its own citizens in Harrison Corners.

I liked this story for its quick pace and its spanning of three genres (YA, science fiction, romance). This is Celi’s first novel, and a very fine effort for a debut. I look forward to more in this series.

The Return Of Nita Ritas!

Spring has sprung, and with it, time in our backyard. Right after Nita and I got married, we lucked into a wonderful discovery. You don’t need Triple Sec to make a margarita. You can use Jameson. Or rum. Or Jack Daniels. Or…

We wanted margaritas one night to sip out on the back deck of the old Rancho Winter, but we had no Triple Sec. We did have Jameson. So in went the Jamie.

Delicious.

We tried it with rum and Jack and Beam and… Yeah, we taste tested a lot of these ritas. But it’s not really a margarita without Triple Sec, is it? No, it’s not. It’s a Nita Rita, and you, too, can enjoy responsibly.

Nita Ritas are 3 parts Cuervo margarita mix, 2 parts tequila (We recommend Cuervo Especial, but I really want to try Cabo Wabo one of these days), and one part… Well, what kind of Nita Rita do you want?

Irish Nita Rita: Jameson

Jamaican Nita Rita: rum

Nuclear Nita Rita: Bacardi 151 dark spiced rum

Tennessee Nita Rita: Jack Daniels

Kentucky Nita Rita (legal): Jim Beam

Kentucky Nita Rita (illegal): moonshine

Canadian Nita Rita: Crown or Seagrams

Jaeger Nita Rita: Dude, that’s just insane. Don’t ever do that. Trust me. It’ll end badly. Agave and absinthe’s cheap cousin do not mix.

So there you have it. The Nita Rita, invented by my wife, the incomparable Nita.

Nita hammock

Self Editing Blues

thissucksSince I finished the SF novel (Since Dick completed his debut novel), I’ve switched to writing first thing in the morning. Some days, I only write 500 words. Some days, I can get in 1000 or better. Quite a few days, I’ll wake up my wife to get her shower, sit back down, and realize, “Idowannastopwriting!”

Those are good days. In the evening (like in a few minutes after I post this), I do hooks for new and existing stories. For shorts, that doesn’t take long at all if I know the story. If I don’t, I write sketches and come back to them later.

And then we get to Holland Bay.

I am pleased with this book overall, but this time I printed out the novel (while waiting on an edit I’m trading with someone else). And…

editing-with-apathy

Header from SJ Aisling’s blog.

Yeah, I should have printed this out the first time. One thing I’ve noticed that I did not notice during the previous read-thru, which was electronic, is that I tend to repeat information. Somewhere in the process of drafting, I forget whether I mention some piece of information pertinent to the situation. Such as a suspension bridge being built in the city that looms over the titular neighborhood in Holland Bay. I describe it in some detail early on, then think, “ZOMG! Did I mention it’s going out to the island where one of the city’s boroughs lies?” Yes. I did. Several times.

So we cut again. And cut. And cut. The blogger from whom I pilfered the image above (or to the right. All depends on how you’re reading this.) calls editing “pruning.” I know of editors who cut for the sake of cutting, which really annoys me. If you’re default position is to cut, what happens if the writer left something out? If a cut makes the story better, then out a passage should come. If a cut is just to get to that mythical 10% quota, you are wasting the writer’s (and the reader’s) time and, most likely, money.

Editing is usually the last thing I do in the evening at the moment. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the manuscript. Early on, I excised whole paragraphs and made “WTF” notes on a lot of scenes. Now we’re getting toward the end where, at least in this version of Holland Bay, I knew the story better. Now the errors are more leaving things out, sometimes whole scenes, but more often a word or two of dialog. “He crossed the to the stadium.” The what? The railroad tracks? Hoover Dam? The universe? Things like that.

I am two weeks from the end the semester at school, which means I will have more time to revise. During this time, all new writing is short fiction, maybe a novella or two, and articles where I find the opportunities. I’d state a goal to finish revising here, but I’ve done that before in this and other spaces. I envy local author Sara Celi (whose book The Undesirable will be featured here next Friday.) She’s probably busier than I am, and just announced hitting the 50,000-word mark in one month on a new book. (Helps when the book grabs you by the lapels and screams “Write me, damn you!” For me, that only happened with Road Rules.)

I’ll be finished with the red ink this weekend. And then it’s off to reread “Gypsy’s Kiss” for a serious reworking. (Not happy with that one. Call that writer’s remorse) and outlining a prequel novella for Dick. What’s that? Well, I never told you the title of the SF novel (let alone Dick’s real name), so I’ll give you this tantalizing tidbit: The novella’s title, premise, and, while we’re at it, marketing gimmick is Only the First One’s Free.

Speaking of free, how would you like a free book? I’ll give twenty people a copy of Road Rules or The Compleat Winter if they promise to review it honestly. I’m not bribing you to write a good review. I’m bribing you just to talk about it. Fair enough? Ebook copies only. We’ll look at a contest for print editions, especially when I make an announcement about Road Rules later this spring. Hit me up at jamesrwinter@yahoo.com if you want a copy.

Who Is…?

One of the things the experts (The real ones like Kristen Lamb or Dean Wesley Smith, not the idiot telling you to bombard people with eighty promos a day) tell independent authors and traditional authors alike is to identify yourself. Call it branding, but when you put your name out there, even a pen name (especially a pen name), you should really have a sense of what you want to reveal to your readership.

So…

For the six readers across the world who have enjoyed my books, and those on the fence about buying them, here now is…

WHO IS WINTER?

  • Winter is snarky.
  • Winter writes dark, depressing stuff and makes you love him for it.
  • Winter is an angry man who has little patience for angry people.
  • Winter knows that certainty is a myth.
  • Winter will kill you fictionally if he thinks there’s a good story in it. Nothing personal.
  • Winter spins stories with bad language, gratuitous sex, and irrational violence.
  • Winter ain’t got time for that.
  • Winter loves your sacred cows. Over a gas flame with his wife’s secret spice blend and served with a baked potato and an ice cold beer on his patio, followed by a Nita Rita.
  • Winter thinks Karl Marx and Milton Friedman were the biggest pinheads in history.
  • Winter does not believe in Zeus.
  • Winter has no brand loyalty. (Though Volkswagen is making a really good case for an exception.)
  • Winter does not keep up with the Joneses. Screw Jones.
  • Winter is rock and roll.