End of A Long Week…

I’m at sixes and sevens, waiting for Donna to read the manuscript and give me her notes.  I sort of want to work on something else, but I also want to clean my office, but I also want to read about a dozen books, and I can’t settle on any one thing, so I end up doing a great deal of very little. I should be used to this, but I’m not.

Once this book goes out the door it will be the first time in about four years that I will not be working on a novel.  (Yes, I do still have two novels “in process” and I can go back to work on either one of them, and I will, but I don’t have to.)  It’s been that long since I’ve actually had down time.

I’ve been futzing with electronics.  A couple weeks back I bought Donna a new computer.  She wanted a flatscreen, but her old computer was quite old and I wasn’t altogether sure a new screen would connect to it.  But she also wanted a CD burner, which we lost when I got my new computer.  After pricing what I thought she wanted and the software to run it and this and that, it was only slightly more expensive to just replace her whole system.

And she’s been using it.  Especially after I then went out and bought a router and got her connected to the IntraWeebs.  Which was a chore.  “Oh, you won’t have any problems with this,” the helpful techie at Best Buy said,  “it’s plug-and-play.”  Three and a half hours on the phone with my ISP and it works.  And works well.

I then made the mistake of buying another piece of electronics online.  I know better.  We have never bought anything electronic mail order that worked right.  Never.  But Donna’s car stereo can handle an MP3 component and with her new computer we can do that, so I ordered one.  The damn thing didn’t work right at first and then ended up not working at all.  This morning I packed it all up and sent it back.  We’ll got to a store, with a People, and buy it there, so we get explanations that haven’t been translated twice from some language barely within the IndoEuropean group.

I now have to do some serious thinking about the future.  I have a couple months of unemployment left and still no book deal.  This is becoming seriously annoying.  I have had some nerve-wracking news, but no sale.  With this novel, there will now be four of these things knocking on doors, bringing its sad bowl up to the front, plaintively  saying  “Please, sir, may I have a contract.”  So I have to start thinking about a new day job.

I really don’t want to go there.  I’ll think about that next week.

This morning I booted up an old short story that’s been lying in my hard drive, incomplete and forlorn.  I don’t know why I can’t get a handle on these anymore, they just don’t go where I want them to.  Granted, what I always wanted to be was a novelist, but even so…

It is Friday.  We have a weekend ahead of us.  Next week…

Ah, next, March 6th—-this is rather stunning to contemplate—is our anniversary.  One of them.  Our First Date.  March 6th, 1980.

Yes, folks, Donna and I have been “going together” for…*gulp*…three decades!

Breathtaking.  Yes, it is.  Thirty years.  If you’re impressed, think how we feel.  Three decades.  And you know what?

I still like her.


Coming down to the last two chapters of the final draft of (drum roll, please)  The Drowned Doll.

The title may change before it sees print, but that’s what it’s called now.  It ties into the plot, trust me.  My first shot at a contemporary murder mystery.  In describing it to my agent, she termed is “a cozy” which I gather means it’s in the vein of Nero Wolfe or Hercule Poirot rather than Thomas Harris or James Lee Burke.  Minimum of gore, emphasis on problem solving.  Except for a smidgin of bad language and the fact that there is, y’know, some sex (none on stage/page), kids could read this.  (Actually, I think adults are far too worried about what kids read, as if they couldn’t handle it—I was reading Harold Robbins at 13.  Of course, considering how I came out…)

Anyway, I’m going to take pains with the last two chapters, so I probably won’t have this draft done done till, say, Wednesday.  At which time I print it out and hand to Donna, who insisted on one more read-through before sending it to my agent.  Two weeks tops, I think, before it leaves the house on its lonely journey into the world of savagery that is modern publishing.

Just wanted to let everyone know how it’s going.  After I mail it I’ll have a few new bits of blog for the Muse.


Last night I went to the coffeehouse at which I’ve been playing (after a fashion) music for the last few years.  This is not a grandiose thing.  It’s a church basement.  Two bucks at the door, open mic, lots of folks bring a tray.  But joy is where you find it.

The ringleader of this musical congeries, a gentleman named Rich, who plays marvelous guitar, sent an email a week ago to a horn player named Russ and me with the chords to that exegesis of 20th Century smooth rock, the Atlanta Rhythm Section’s Spooky.  Later he sent us a rough chart for the arrangement and I spent a week working on my book and occasionally practicing the tune.

I arrived early and Rich and I ran through it.  Russ showed up a bit late and there was no time for another run-through.  He looked at me with some concern and resignation.

I have to tell you, the performances at these things have gotten better since I started going.  Not that I think I had anything to do with that—let me be clear immediately about that, this is serendipity, I ain’t that good—but I have noted that fewer karaoke performers step up now than when I began and there are more musicians.  Some of them real musicians.

There is a drummer now.  Last night she brought her new kit.

For whatever reason, last night was mostly ensemble.  I got to play on a few (we did Nights In White Satin, with a very good floutist) and it just…

Well, the groove was there.  And when we started doing Spooky it really seemed to come together, because suddenly we had a drummer laying down a very good line, and just like that I felt transported back to when…

Not to get too overworked about this.  We had fun!  I did.  You know how I can tell I was playing somewhat better than normal?  Because it is now the next day and I cannot remember a single line I played.  It is the case that when I play fairly well, I never remember what I played.  When I play badly, I remember every damn note.

Russ played trumpet well.

Weather kept a lot of people home.  So for a very select audience, last night was a bit of cool music they can tell everyone else they shouldn’t have missed.

Thirty-five years ago I stopped playing, for variety of reasons, and didn’t touch a keyboard for seven or eight years.  (I noodle on guitar and that never stopped.)  I have forgotten a tremendous amount.  This once-a-month gig gives me a chance to pretend to be a musician again and my efforts seem appreciated.  Last night someone said that listening to me was better than toking on a doobie, which is a first for me in terms of compliment.  At least, I took it as a compliment.  It’s nice to sit down and feel the vibe like that again.

But mostly, it’s just a lot of fun.

Buy Books Elsewhere

IndieBound  is a website that helps connect people to independent bookstores.

Why am I putting this link up?

Because this nonsense between Amazon and MacMillan is the latest in a long history of corporate warfare that results in hurting writers more than it does in hurting the corporations involved, and despite what the Supreme Court said recently, corporations are not people.  Corporations are enormous digestive tracks that use people for nourishment.  They take them in, churn them up, dismantle their constituent parts, and shit out the excess they don’t use.  We really ought to get over the idea that corporations are good citizens.  They are not.  That many of them do beneficial things is not at issue—the fact is they are not designed to do beneficial things and if they do such things it is only because it is easier for them to function by so doing than otherwise.  The instant it becomes in their best interest to function maliciously, they do.

Political screed done.  For the moment.

This situation is directly impacting authors.  You can’t go buy certain books from Amazon because Amazon is having a control dispute with a major publisher.  John Scalzi has a very sensible recommendation at his site.  He is dead on, I think, about the idea of boycotting as a useful tool.  That just hurts authors more.  What needs to be done is for people to pay more attention about who they buy from and how that money funnels through the serpentine system to the people who need it.

Go find an independent book dealer.  I mean it.  Get off you duffs and go to a bookstore.  You do two things that way—you support a local business and you keep money going, eventually, to a writer.  This is important for two reasons.

The first is, the fewer independent book dealers there are, the more entities like Amazon can control our book buying choices, which eventually leads to their controlling the publishing scene in general.  We’ve already been through all the nonsense of superchains becoming so powerful that they can dictate what books publishers buy.  It hasn’t resulted in quite so dire a situation as the doomsayers predicted, but it’s been bad enough.  The publishing model in the last thirty years has changed so much that many previously supportable authors can no longer publish through national or global entities because the numbers mitigate against them.  You might feel that this is only natural, since if something doesn’t sell, maybe it ought to be left to dwindle away.  As far as it goes, this is true, but we haven’t been talking about work that doesn’t sell for a long time, we’ve been talking about work that doesn’t sell well enough, and the fact is the numbers are partly arbitrary and partly tied to leveraged debt.  If corporate stomachs hadn’t gone through a massive period of cannibalism and gobbled each other up in leveraged buy-outs, the debt burden of the resulting super stomachs would not be so high that previously moderately-selling authors could no longer get a slot in the next catalogue.  This situation is not helped by near-monopoly command of market-share by a small cadre of retailers.

So go support a local bookstore.

If you really don’t want to get out of the house and visit a brick-and-mortar store, many of them nevertheless have online sites and you can buy from them that way.  It may not be as cheap as Amazon, but paying a little extra can start to alleviate the situation where publishers can’t make enough from the retailer (Amazon) to keep many of those authors on their lists.

On that aspect, go find some small press sites and buy books directly from them, bypassing the retailers entirely.  Small press is the future of independent publishing.  They need your help.  If you don’t want to do that, order small press publications through your local independent bookstore.

Corporations are very efficient at making it easy for you to screw your longterm benefit by buying from them.  Mind you, when I say “Corporation” here, I’m not talking about a mom-and-pop shop that is doubtless incorporated, making them, legally, A Corporation.  I mean those entities that are large enough to be commonly known as corporations.  You all know who they are, I don’t have to list them.

Start by going to IndieBound and setting up some accounts with some folks who know what a book is all about.  It may seem like a struggle over a just cause, this frakkus  between Amazon and MacMillan, but believe me, MacMillan isn’t getting pissy over ebook pricing because it wants to give the authors a little extra.  These are just two big dinosaurs ripping at each other, unconcerned about the scurrying little mammals trying not to get crushed in all the stomping.

Oh, the second reason buying local is a good idea?  Getting out of the house occasionally is good for you.  Especially when it’s to buy something as important as a book from a real live flesh-and-blood human being.  It’ll keep you from being digested by a corporate stomach, at least in this instance.  And who knows?  You might decide to start doing all your buying locally.  And that can’t hurt.

Bridges In Need Of Crossing

Busy stuff today.  It’s warm enough (again) to go to the gym, but I have to get an oil change in Donna’s car (which means I get to drive the new one!) and then run a grocery errand.  Donna is doing a quick review of her second go-through on my new book, which means some time this week I’ll be starting on final draft stuff.  So I have to get a few things out of the way.

Last night I had a phone interview for a job.  I have serious problems with this, of course, but that’s a post for another day.  Suffice it to say, I need Book Deal sooner than later, but that’s like (apparently) forestalling the advance of a glacier with a hair dryer.  Grr.

Which brings me to my image for the month of February.  This—


—was shot in Chicago, back in 2000.  I like it.  There’s symmetry, there’s detail, there’s iconic inference.

February is my month for crossing bridges.  Sometimes you get stuck in the middle of a bridge that needs crossing because it seems like such a cool and safe place to be.  Solid.  You know where you are.  The other side?  Not so much.

Cross it, though.  You’ll be glad you did.