The Wrong One

So…I’m again rewriting the historical mystery.  Thought I was done with this draft and had only to await the edits from my most excellent agent, but alas, I have this impish ethical streak that won’t let me just slide…

Basically, I came up with a minor, almost throwaway, solution to a tiny plot problem as part of the whole revamp and happily sent the novel forth.  But then that solution began to grow in my imagination, like a tumor, until I realized that I had a much bigger problem arising from the solution.  Not to worry!  It would form the basis for the next book in the series!

That settled, I went about doing other things.

Only my unconscious kept churning on it and wouldn’t let me drop it like that.  I had created a growing organism within the body of my novel that had to be dealt with.  Argh!

Yes, I said argh!  because I wanted to get on with other things.  But.  Not to be. The coup de gras came last weekend over an excellent dinner with my friend Carolyn Gilman (who has a new novel out and you really ought to go get it and read it ’cause it’s really, you know, good).  Carolyn works for the Missouri History Museum and her current project is the Revolutionary War in the West—exactly the place and period in which my novel is set.  In the course of the conversation we stumbled on some little-known—no, that’s an understatement—some previously unexamined aspects of the Battle of St. Louis and George Rogers Clark and all that which irritated my tumor into full-blown eruption and I realized that I had to do this rewrite now!

This made me a bit nervous, as Stacia, my agent, has had what we thought was the second to last draft for a few months now and I had no idea how deep into it she’d gotten and I had to tell her to hold off—

The revisions will make this a much better book and when I described them to Stacia she was not only supportive but excited and so now I’m a hundred pages into a new draft.  I’ll just give you a little hint as to what was wrong and if anyone remembers this after the book comes out you can ask me about it and I’ll recount the tale.  Basically I had the wrong murderer.

Embarrassing, I know, but hey, not even the historical facts I learned from Carolyn are particularly well known and the interpretation she’s putting on them are unique, so I don’t feel like a total slacker.

Anyway, if I’m not posting here much in the next few weeks, this is why.  So have a happy, healthful Turkey Day, everyone.

Bouchercon 2011

So I have now attended a Bouchercon.

I’ve attended so many SF conventions that they’ve become, if not normal, at least comfortable.   I pretty much know what to expect.  Bouchercon, while in many ways similar to an SF convention, is different enough that I felt like a newbie and a bit like an outsider.  I don’t know the players, I don’t know all the rules, and I didn’t know what to expect.

There were no costumes, no gamers, no room parties (at least not open room parties), no art show, and an absence of what I like to think of secondary and tertiary effluvia in the dealers room—that is, tables of jewelry and fake weapons and action figures and the like.  The dealers room was almost all books.  There were a few DVDs and CDs, but 95% of it was books and magazines.

By Saturday I felt pretty comfortable.  These are people gathered together for the love of a genre and some of the conversation on the panels bridged the gap to SF, confirming that the critical divisions are not between genres but with an Academic snobbery that basically says if it isn’t James Joyce or Hemingway or Pynchon, it’s garbage.  I understood that and subsequently I could talk to these folks without a translator.

I got to chat (briefly but not frivolously) with Val McDermid and Laura Lippman.  I did attend one publisher’s party, but I ended up leaving soon after arriving because I simply couldn’t hear in the crowd.  An age thing, I think, I’m beginning to lose the ability to separate out voices in groups.

Bought too many books.  Again.  But then I brought more than twice as many as I bought home—there is a big publisher presence in the form of free copies.  I have stacks to go through.

As to that, I feel like I’m starting over.  I am profoundly under-read in mystery and thriller.  I recognized many names but then there were so many more I had no clue about.  But that makes it kind of exciting.  I really do have ideas for this kind of fiction.  It will be great to have a chance to write some of it.

As to whether or not I’ll go to another one…that depends on the status of the career.  Next year’s Bouchercon is in Cleveland.  The year after that, Albany, then Long Beach, and then Raleigh.  If I’m doing well enough, quite likely we’ll go to couple of them.  Wish me luck.

New Directions

I’m attending Bouchercon this week, here in St. Louis.  In the last few years I’ve been drifting toward crime fiction, partly in an attempt to cultivate new fields with a view toward getting my rather stagnant career moving, partly because I’ve always written something like it.

The Robot Mysteries were, as advertised, mysteries of a sort.  Crime was happening in them, investigators investigated, macabre stuff occurred.  There was a bit of it in Metal of Night and a couple of major thefts (and murders) were integral to Peace & Memory.  Certain Remains was a mystery, even with noir elements, and the one, poor orphaned Terminator novel I wrote, Hour of the Wolf, was very noirish in tone.

The alternate history, now making its newly-launched circuit in search of publisher, is very much a murder mystery, wrapped around a bit of steampunk.  I moved on from there to write a novel set in the 18th Century that is pretty much a murder mystery and the last book I finished is a straight up and down contemporary murder mystery.  Plans exist to continue all three into future novels.

So when I wondered to my agent if I should maybe attend Bouchercon (after being reminded by good pal Scott Phillips that it was, y’know, right here in town this year) I got a loud, forceful “Well, yeah!”

So in view of a potential new career, I’m updating my image a bit, trying it on for size, as it were, and seeing how it fits.  I asked Scott what to expect and he said “Well, for one thing, there are no costumes.”

“Yeah,” I said, “but really all we have to do is dress well and we’re in costume.”

To which he laughed and informed me that on average the women dress to the nines and the guys show up in jeans and t-shirts.

Well.  I think I’ll just go as myself.

But there are so many of them that it can be hard to choose…

Tonight the festivities kick off with a pre-Bouchercon get-together in University City at a place called Meshuggah’s where monthly readings take place, a gig called Noir at the Bar.  I’ll be there.

So will my new agent. (One of them, that is—I have two, which is kind of…wow.)  Yeah, despite my attempt at a cool demeanor, I’m jazzed about that.  Of all the “agents” I’ve had, I have only ever met two of them, both shortly before they left their respective agencies and me.

Anyway, I probably won’t post anything till next week.  I’m stepping off the platform to head in a new direction.  Here’s hoping it takes me where I want to go.

Just Getting Up In The Morning

Really, I’ve been up since 5:20 already.  We have company coming into town, so most of the day so far has been taken up with cleaning the house and arranging the guest room—which is at all other times my office.

But I sometimes feel that just being able to get up in the morning and do anything constructive is a minor miracle.  Oh, nothing significant about that thought.  Usually it’s a matter of choosing among several options and then deciding whether I have either the imagination or the energy to tackle any of them.  I often have a period of enervation after completing a novel and the older I get the more intense they seem to be.

I didn’t go to the gym this morning as I normally would have because of the incoming company and other scheduling conflicts.  I’d decided that before I found out about the company, but now I wonder if I’ll manage it Wednesday.  It is too easy to get into a habit of blowing off certain tasks for later.  For instance, I keep meaning to write a new short story (started one yesterday, much to my dismay) or pull out the half dozen I have in rough draft and get them in shape.  As long as there is a novel in process, I can feel righteous about putting them off.  But I have no excuse now other than just not feeling like it.

Not to mention all the things around the house that need tending to.  I do a fair job of keeping up with the entropy, but some things slip by and when I get around to them they have grown in size to unmanageable proportions.  I have to work up to tackling them.  So far, I always do, but there may come a day…

I’m going to Bouchercon.  Since at least two of the projects I have under submission to my new agent (did I tell you about my new agent?  I’m sure I did) are mysteries—though in truth at least half my oeuvre to date has been a hybrid of SF and mystery (I mean, it even says so on the cover of Mirage, Chimera, and Aurora,  an Asimov Robot Mystery), and there are even some noirish aspects to Remains—it seemed sensible to bite the bullet and go to the mystery convention, especially since it’s going to be here, in St. Louis.  The plus also is I get to meet my new agent (did I tell you about my new agent?  Oh, yeah, I did) face to face.

It’s been feeling like this year a number of things are going to get fixed.  All this getting up in the morning has to count for something, right?  But one thing I’ve discovered for certain, and it’s something that had been bothering me—I still love to write.  Since March I have been working long days on two of my novels, both of which have received major revisions.  Hell, the first one was gutted like a fish and rebuilt almost from the bottom up.  But because it felt like it was going somewhere, that something was going to come of it, I dived in and had a ball.  This was important.  I needed to know this, thought I’d been putting off even asking the question.

So getting up in the morning, while still occasionally a pain, has renewed meaning for me.  There’s a point to all this effort and that makes a huge difference.  Good may yet come of all this.

I do need to make better use of my time.  But that’s always been true.  So for now, adieu.  I’m off to make time bleed a little and get some more done.

Playing Around

I’m trying another new theme.  One of these days I may build something all my own…or, at least, watch while someone who knows how to do it builds something for me at my direction.

But I like this one, I think I’ll leave it alone for a while.  It’s more in tune with what I like to think myself all about—broad vistas, cosmic scenery, special effects.  Well, maybe not so much special effects, but, you know, skiffy.

From what I have seen so far, I’m very much liking the new WordPress.  Of course, that means I’m distracted.  This is not the sort of writing I need to be doing just now.

I particularly like this feature, inserting images and adding text alongside.  This may be old hat to a lot of seasoned bloggers, but till now I haven’t been able to do it.  It’s more the sort of thing I’ve been wanting to do.  I have a lot of images that will serve fine as accent, but I don’t want them as the main attraction.

It’s Saturday and once again Donna is at work.  Audit season, we don’t see much of one another.  For the time being, that’s okay since I do have a book to finish.  Once I get done telling you all this, I have to go back to the 1780s and get with it.

I finished the first rewrite for my new agent (in case I haven’t mentioned that previously).  The alternate history is out the door.  My door.  She still has to pass on it and tell me it’s brilliant.  Meanwhile, I’m working on the historical mystery, and this week I ran into the chapter from hell.  One of those miserable pieces of writing that has a good deal of parts I don’t want to love, but embedded in a marsh of motionless gunk.  I finally figured out how to fix it, but it requires throwing a lot of what’s already there in the can, and I am loathe to do it.  As this is Saturday and my love is nowhere near (hell, even the dog is out of the house, at the groomer’s), I have no excuse.

So enough.  I have a couple of more studied posts I want to do later—one in particular on the new Yes album, which after three weeks I still quite like—and maybe some more political kvetching, of which there is ample to kvetch about.  But I must end this playing around now and do some serious work.  Really.  Right now.  I’m going.