Building These Dark Satanic Mills

This has been an interesting morning so far, mostly because I’ve know what I wanted to write about since before crawling out of bed, and with coffee in hand I’ve been getting myself worked up towards said writing of post by tuning into the Brain Salad Surgery, more specifically track one of this recording, which is Jerusalem.  In case you’re not aware of that song, it was originally a poem written by William Blake in 1804, and later turned into a song by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.  And when you’re recording one of the seminal albums of the 1970s, why not open with your own version of an English hymn?

It’s from this song that the expression “Chariot of Fire” comes, and I’m certain you’ve all heard that one at some point, usually with Vangelis playing in the background.  It’s also where I get the title of today’s post, which has nothing to do with darkness, mills, or even Satan.  No, it has to do with a reader question, and this comes from one of my Facebook Hodgepodge Crochet buddies, Debbie Wisely, who asked the following:


Do you have characters in mind and then build a story around them or do you have a story in mind first and fit your characters to the story? How do you pick what city/state or country they reside in? Do you write or type the original work?


This is sort of a crazy question, and I’m going to answer the last question first, because it’s the easiest.  No, I don’t write by hand:  I type everything,  If I didn’t type I’d still be working on my first novel from over twenty years ago, because my handwriting is Teh Sux.  I can also type a lot faster than I can write by hand, and given I can’t spell worth a damn, or that I’m always making mistake when I’m writing, I’d be lucky to churn out a few hundred handwritten words a day.  So typing it is.  There you have it.

As for the other two–oh, boy.  Those are good.  So let’s talk about one of  my other novels that some of you might remember me writing, but which hasn’t seen the light of day.

I’m talkin’ Suggestive Amusements.

This was written from 31 December, 2012, to 26 March, 2013, while I was in the process of doing something before publishing Her Demonic Majesty.  I blogged about the writing of this novel back in the day, and I remember the finishing of the novel was memorable because of a dream I had when it was all over, a dream I can still remember today–but that’s not why we’re here, yeah?

How did this start?  Well, I had time on my hands because I’d just finished NaNoWriMo 2012, which I’d won by writing Kolor Ijo.  I was thinking of things to do, and if you want to know how I got this story going, it was with a vision of two people, a man and a woman, sitting in a living room.  The man was on a computer writing, and the woman was on a sofa looking at the guy while she was crocheting.  Seriously.  That’s the genesis of Suggestive Amusements:  guy writing, woman crocheting.

But who were they?  They guy writing–that’s pretty simple.  Or is it?  There’s more to his story, sure, there has to be, just like how at that time there was more to my story.  I drew on my own experience as a programmer/writer and sorta made the male character in question the same kind of people, only single, untroubled by gender issues, and a huge-ass slacker.  There you have him:  Keith.

Who’s the woman then?  Ah, well, that’s easy:  she’s there to inspire him.  She’s . . . I know!  She’s a muse, a real muse, like thousands of years old, creature without a real beginning, being that’s there to bring you inspiration muse.  That’s Erin.  Not her real name, of course, just like her sister’s name–Talia, who you get to meet in the story–isn’t her real name.  but do you want to call them by the Greek names by which they’re remembered?  Nope, it’s too much of a mouthful.  So Erin it is.

Something else was needed, however.  I mean, come on, we know what’s needed:  a love triangle!  I need another woman, and she shall be called Elektra, because I like the name.  And since we’re dealing with these ancient muses who are known mostly through Greek Mythology, why not stay with that Grecian naming motif?  So there you are, Elektra.

With this novel–with most of my novels–I have the characters in place first.  I get to know them, who they are, what they need, what they’re looking for, and once I know that I start building the story around them.  I have the basic idea of what’s going on with the characters, so it’s now a matter of building the plot–

But as the second part of the question indicates, how do I know where the story takes place?

And the answer there is whatever strikes my fancy.  In this case I wanted a place that I knew something about, but not a great deal.  And that place was Las Vegas, because what hit me was, “I’ve never written about the desert area, and just about all the stories of Vegas revolve around casinos, gamblers, the mob, and Nic Cage drinking himself to death with help from a friendly whore.  Why not build a fantasy there?”

That’s how Las Vegas and the areas surrounding the city became the setting for the novel.  But wait!  While writing the story, I started to think about Elektra’s backstory, and realized she was like a lot of people in the city, she came from somewhere else, and she blew into town with a lot of baggage.  After a lot of thought and consultation with Google Maps, I decided that Elektra was a New Mexican woman from the Alamogordo, a place known as “The Friendliest Place On Earth” and the home of a whole lot of giant ants.  And in that process of knowing where she was from–and trust me, I knew–I set up an adventure for her, traveling from one end of New Mexico to another, before eventually heading into Arizona and onward into Nevada and my main setting.

I came about all these places because I just felt it was right.  I knew, because by that point I knew my characters, that this is where they were from, and why they were here.  I do this with everything:  when I’m setting up places for my characters I start looking at maps and I wonder, “Where would these people live?  Where would they work?  Why are they here?”  And little by little I start putting it together until my thoughts reach a critical mass and it becomes real.  Just like I did with my current story:  why did the Salem Institute for Greater Education and Learning end up where it did?  Because it is supposed to be there.  I know this because I know this.

And now you know how I usually start putting my stories together.  Maybe not the same way every time, but close enough that if you wanted to know how I get the writing party started, you now know.

And I leave you with sunlight breaking through to the dark Satanic mills, because the alternative was giant ants, and no one wants that.

And I leave you with sunlight breaking through to the dark Satanic mills, because the alternative was giant ants, and no one wants that.

One last thing, however:  while I was working on Suggestive Amusements, a slight break in the action occurred in the 1 March, 2013 post titled The Sofa by the Hearth.  And there you’ll find mention that I was missing a couple of characters from my life, and I was thinking about an event that happened to them every weekend, and, well, maybe it was time I started writing about them–something I’d start doing in earnest eight months later.

That was truly the moment, almost two years ago, that I’d decided to begin work on their story.

If I’d only known then how that was going to turn out . . .

Comfort in Numbers

The Formatting of Part Two has commenced.  I opened up the file and started in on it, and just as I was getting ready to head off to bed, I was through with the chapter.  The next awaits me tonight, and I’m going to try and burn through three or four this weekend.  My intention is to get through as much of Part Two before next Monday, then get into Part Three next week, and try and finish up as much of Her Demonic Majesty before the end of the month.

No promises, but if all goes well, I could have the final version heading up through Smashword’s Meat Grinder on 4 May–and not because of any “The Forth Be With You” shite, because that is shite, but but because that would be the first Saturday where I’ll have time to send it up after I finish with the formatting.  If there are issues during the upload, I’ll have the opportunity to fix the problems and send it up again.  And again, if necessary.  But if I get up to Smashwords okay, then I can upload to Amazon as well the same day.Finished-sm

So the first weekend in May is my target publication date.  If it slips–hey, stuff happens.  Oh, and just so you know–I have a second cover!  Just look over to the right and you’ll see it . . .  So the plan now is to use one on Smashwords/Barns, and the other on Amazon, and then after a few months switch them.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe I’ll do like Marvel, and offer variant covers, so if you want them you have to buy everything.  Before you know it, I’m offering the equivalent of the copies of Firestarter with the asbestos covers that once sold for $250.  Not sure how that’s gonna work with ebooks, though . . . maybe that’s where I get the hard copies of the books printed . . .

There is a strange sense here, watching it all come together so quickly.  A month back I was in the doldrums, feeling as if I was getting nowhere fast.  I’d been on Suggestive Amusements since the end of December, and the novel was crawling to an end–or so it felt to me.  I was speaking with a friend the other night, and in discussing my publishing plans this year, I said something along the lines of, “I don’t feel I’m writing now as much as I did last year.”  They asked about what I’d done, and I replied, “I did that novel, that’s about seventy-two thousand words; and I’ve done about seventy thousand words in the blog . . . add a couple of articles, and I’ve written about a hundred and fifty thousand words since the start of last December.”

There was a slight pause, and then came their reply:  “What?  You think you’re not writing anything?  Are you kidding?”

Being so close to the center of the storm, you lose track of what’s going on around you.  Yeah, I know there are some who say blogging isn’t writing, but then, what is it?  Nose picking?  Here’s what it is:  it’s a continuation of the habit that is writing every day.  You need an idea, you need to get it down, you are writing.  And then novel–enough said.  It’s figuring out characters and creating a story and making sure your plot doesn’t fall apart on you.  It’s work.  It’s a lot of work.

And even when you think you’re slacking, you’re probably just kicking yourself for no reason.  As I’ve said, writers are their own worst critics, and this is the pudding full of proof.

So keep on keeping, I say.  Set your goals and work them.  And when you think you’re falling behind–check your data first.

You’ll likely be surprised.

Q1 and Done

It’s the end of the month as we know it, and I feel fine, save for the soreness in my legs.  Too much time on my feet, too much time laying on a bed that hurting my calves for some reason.  Or maybe it’s me:  maybe my weight is pressing down on my lower extremities and causing problems.

Last year this time I was lamenting over writers, people who usually make things up for a living, being unable to make up the names of towns and people.  I read this post over last night, and was struck by the fact that most of the people who I’d written about don’t seen to write these days.  When I joined a few writing groups on Facebook back in 2011, it seemed as if there were  hundreds of people posting about what they were going to write, what they were writing–and then, how they couldn’t finish what they started.

Today, those same groups seem to be inhabited by a few dozen hard core members, and a few dozen more people who flit in and out when they decided to pick up their book and get back into The Great and Not So Loving Game.

Writing wears you out.  I managed to edit two chapters of Replacements last night, maybe twenty-seven hundred words total, and when I was finished I wanted to write something new, but couldn’t.  I was starting to nod at the computer, and trying to crank out anything that would have made sense wouldn’t have made sense at all.

In his March 30 blog post, Neil Gaiman offered a few simple words for writers:  “Write.  Finish Things.  Keep Writing.”  Sure, you’re thinking, “That’s easy for you to say, Mr. Last Cybermen!”, but at one time he was just like everyone else, working hard to get into the biz.  He’s now in the biz, and he still works hard, only now he does it full time, whereas most of us need another job to play the bills.

My biggest problem was always finishing things.  I’d jump into a story with both feet, burn through ten, twenty thousand words, and then–nada.  I’d get disappointed, depressed, defeated:  the story before me had to be crap, so why bother?  It’s not like anyone’s going to read it . . .

I’d say that’s a mindset that it not just unique to me; I’m almost certain there are others out there who end up feeling the same way.  I even get that feeling still, only it starts kicking in about forty-five thousand words into a novel, and it screws with me until I’m about ten to fifteen thousand words from the finish line.

And then I find the strength to make my way to “The End”.

I’ve told people I know that one of the reasons I keep a blog, one of the reasons I write every day whether or not I have anything interesting to say, is that it keeps me thinking, it keeps the mind going, it keeps me writing.  Without it I might not ever bother pulling out a manuscript and doing anything with it, and just become another of those left by the Writing Wayside.  That’s not completely true, but I do feel as if my blog keeps me anchored and focused on my goal of becoming a full-time writer.

Back on December 1 I detailed what I’d written up to that point over the course of a year and change.  At that point, with everything from the end of 2011, and all over 2012, I’d calculated I’d written approximately 568,000 words.  What I should say is that I wrote and finished that much, because I don’t consider the story worthwhile if I haven’t finished it.  During 2012 I started a story for someone, got about five thousand words into it, and then put it away, because what I was writing wasn’t me; the story didn’t feel right.  And to have went on would have meant doing something that I wasn’t going to enjoy, or take from the work any pride.

Since I wrote that last post I’ve written another novel, and blogged every day.  Suggestive Amusements ended up running just over seventy-one thousand words, while the blog has averaged about five hundred fifty words a day for 121 day, or right at sixty-six thousand, five hundred fifty words.  Add all that up, and at the end of Q1 (the First Quarter of the year, as we call it in the business world), I’ve another 137,550 finished words added to my total.

Plug in the numbers from before 1 December, 2012, and we have a new total:  705,550 words.  Ding, ding, ding!  We have a winner!

Yes, there is marketing and editing and getting a great book cover, but the above is the real heart of the issue:  writing and finishing.  You wanna walk that walk, you gotta do diligence.

You gotta write; you gotta finish; you gotta write some more.

Which reminds me–

I got some writing to do.


Uptown Saturday Write

We come to this place in the sun, there local that I call “Breakfast”, and I express my thoughts for some to read.  Today I tell you that I’m on the last chapter of my work in progress, Suggestive Amusements, and if I’m exceptionally lucky, I’ll finish the story tomorrow.  If not, I’ll finish it Monday night, but in the next three days, rain or shine, hot or cold, the first draft is complete.

I look at the text card in Scrivener that’s going to be Chapter Eighteen, and I know what’s going in there; I’ve seen it for a few months, and I’ve been waiting to get to this point for many weeks now.  I know, with Scrivener I can just write when I feel like it, I don’t have to do everything in sequence.  Scrivener makes the writing experience like making a movie:  as you film all your particular scenes when you are on the right set or location, you can write your scenes as the need arises.  Need to write the last chapter now?  Do it.  Need to add a scene that makes sense?  Do it.  Scrivener liberates you to do that–

If you so want.  I don’t.  I’m too old school, in that I have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and I do them in that order.  Which is not a bad thing  to do for a first draft, because there were things I did in the last few chapters that have minutely changed events in the last chapter.

If I didn’t want until the end to write the end, I’d have to rewrite.  I hate rewrites.  Best to write it correctly the first time.

Chapter Eighteen is on tap for this weekend.  Three thousand words, put it a little over the seventy thousand word line, and finalize it with the big finish.  But . . . that’s not all.

I’ve decided to write an article today.  I’ve passed off a couple of my old game reviews for a friend who runs another site, and he’s posted one, and will likely post the other in a few days.  A long time back I promised him an article, so today is a good day to write said article, and it’ll be a far better usage of my time than playing Facebook games when I’m not word slinging.

I don’t know if this article-writing thing is going to be something I want to get into all the time.   My friend was asking about the possibility of doing a few articles on spacecraft propulsion systems, both real an imaginary, and I was like, “Well, yeah, I could do one of those . . .”, but the brain often says what the fingers can’t deliver.

However, I’m going to be in a lull for a bit.  I’ll be waiting on a book cover, and I’ll find myself mostly editing throughout April.  With that in mind, writing a few articles to keep the brain sharp might not be a bad idea.

If nothing else I might just entertain someone with what I have to say.  Or piss them off.

Isn’t that sometimes the same thing?

Trauma Night Confessions

It’s fuzzy head time, brought about by getting up about two AM and not being able to do anything but drift in and out of something that felt like napping, but wasn’t.  There was a bit of pain in my legs and some churning in my tummy, but mostly what I have is a lack of sleep brought on by too many things going on in my brain.

I know there were dreams, but all I remember of them was being in an open area where I had to rate people who looked suspiciously like the Mother of Dragons, only a lot more jail-baity like she is in the novels rather than the more grown woman in the television series.  Why was I rating people like it was a wet tee shirt contest?  I have no idea.  My dreams don’t often tell me what they have in mind; I just roll with the madness.

Perhaps it’s a combination of things.  I have things on my mind that are keeping me . . . not troubled, but worried.  I also finished Chapter Sixteen of my novel last night, and with it ending on a downbeat, that means Chapter Seventeen, the penultimate chapter, is going to start on a downbeat.  The last chapter promises to be better, but this new chapter is going to be somewhat depressing, as well as somewhat confessional.

You bring together the three main character of my story, add in a little something I picked up from Chapter Fifteen, and you have a bit of a mess–one that I created because, hey, it’s how I roll.  Conflict is easy if you remember to follow The Manga Rule, and set up the dynamic of one guy, two women.  Dance them all around a bit, and before you know it something’s going to break . . .

Probably someone’s neck.

So I picked up in a place where the lights are down and there are pools of darkness, and Erin isn’t feeling all that chipper because of something she did.  And that’s where she gets a visit from–lets call her one of the bosses, a top goddess that comes to hold her hand while they work out what’s going on.  It’s this character, the one who is stepping onto the stage for a bit of limelight, that really gave me the idea for this story, because this new character was the subject of an erotica story I wrote for the hell of it maybe ten years ago.  It ended up on a website for a short time, and may still be out there somewhere, because nothing on the Internet ever dies.

There will be talking; there will be sadness.  There won’t be blood, because I can’t see someone getting their brains bashed out with a bowling pin, and I’m not serving milkshakes.  But there will be a bit of hand wringing, because guilt tends to do that to people, even if they are eight thousand years old.

Another six thousand words, maybe more, maybe less.  That’s all that remains for Suggestive Amusements.  Good or bad, it’ll be over, and I’ll move on to the next project.

We’ll see where my muse takes me.

I just hope it isn’t to the place I’m writing about.


Into the Fire

Chapter Fifteen of Suggestive Amusements is in the books, so to speak.  I only needed a few hundred words to bring the chapter to a conclusion, and they came to me last night after my one evening of watching television.  When I was finished I went to the computer, put on some music, and wrote what needed to be wrote.

End of chapter, end of that story.

The writing has been a lot better of late.  Part of it is getting past my own doubts of the last few weeks.  Part of it is knowing that I’m about ten thousand words away from the end of the novel.  Part of it is knowing that I have an idea for another story that is part erotica, part silliness, part “I just wanna see if anyone buys this shit”.  Oh, yes:  I want to dip into the Bad Smashwords Dashboard Porn, and put something up for no other reason than to see if people buy the damn thing.  Oh, and because I think it might be a good story in a sexy sort of way.

Which is to mean, my normal writer self and the things I write.

This idea actually woke me up this morning.  I was half asleep, right before the alarm went off, and I could swear there was a conversation going on in my head between the three character that will be in this story.  They were talking about something one of them had read on Facebook (surprise!), and it was something I’d mentioned last night to a friend that I had to include a certain line in my story.  (What was the line about?  Vampire writers, and not the good kind.)

So this is stuck in my head like a bad habit, which means at some point–after I get one of my stories ready for the mill that is online publishing–I’ll get that story going.  It looks like I’ll do it for Camp NaNo in June, unless I can’t still these voices in my head and I have to start the file on it before long.

Speaking of long . . .

My idea file tells me that I started Suggestive Amusements on 12/30/2012.  I believe there are ten to twelve thousand more words to write, and at the rate I’ve been progressing, that’s ten to twelve days of writing.  It is now 3/15/2013, and in twelve days it’ll be 3/27/2013.  If I don’t write a lot on Thursdays, then I finish the novel on the twenty-ninth or thirtieth of March.  The way it looks now, I’ll finish the story three months after it was begun, which is more time than I usually take for a novel, but seemed to be about the average when you think about it–which is what most writers tell you.  Seventy thousand words in ninety days, while working full-time: it’s not a bad deal.

The days are better, the nights seem to work with me rather than against.  The stories are getting written, and the ideas are still coming, even if some might think they are not worthy of me.

Lingering in the Past to Come

Finally, finally, finally, I have finished Chapter Fourteen of Suggestive Amusements.  Lots of strange things, lots of kinky sex, lots of things left hanging at the end.  I thought I had some hard chapters to write in Diners at the Memory’s End, but this last was eight thousand of some of the toughest words I’ve ever penned.

It’s behind me.  On to Chapter Fifteen.

I have found a few moments during the work on Chapter Fourteen when I’ve wondered if this story should just go away.  I spoke with a friend the other night, and they told me to put it in a drawer and walk away.  I told them that wasn’t an option, because I’m over fifty thousand words into the tale and the Good Doctor Asimov always said to finish what you start.  They told me I was stubborn;  I told them I’m a writer–which is sort of the same thing.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt like walking away at some points.  I like the story, I like the world, but the characters are really sort of dicks in their own rights.  Am I projecting some of my own feelings?  Hell, yeah.  They’re my characters, so they have a little bit of me in them.  Which means they’re not always good people, because I’m not always one.

This winter has been a pain in the ass, however.  It started out being out of work, then finding something after completing a seventy thousand word novel, then falling into a lot of long hours with work, travel, and more writing.  It’s taken a bit of a toll on me, as I’ve been tired, ill, and generally feeling as if I’m out of energy.

It’s easy to want to give up.  I’ve done it before, so why should now be any different?  I’ve given myself some crazy things to do, chasing after banners I may never catch.  I have little or no support on my end for my creative endeavors, and if I do get any props it’s to keep workin’,  ’cause gotta pay those bills, yo.

I felt a bit of elation last night, though, because before I got into the last thousand words of Chapter Hell, I helped someone through the process of formatting a project that will eventually become an ebook, and the juice you get when you lend your creative ability to someone who is using theirs, it’s a good feeling, and one that I needed–for I haven’t felt that way in a while.

Before I headed off to dream land, I played a song that I’ve heard many times . . .

Undertow is a song by Genesis found on their album And Then There Were Three . . ..  I had this album when it first came out, because prog rock, you know, and I was a Genesis fan back in the 1970’s.  I listened to the album many times, and as the years grew on I stopped listening–mostly because I lost all my albums at the end of my first marriage, some twenty years ago.  Then I discovered all this stuff out on YouTube, and once more started listing–

Undertow is one of those songs that I’d heard, but never gave a listen.  When you’re young it’s just a song, something you can kick back to and mellow out when you’ve had a hard day being a teen or early twenty-something.  When the album the song appears on came out, I was just three weeks short of turning twenty-one, so thinking about what was ahead of me wasn’t a big issue with me.  I knew . . .

Actually, I knew shit.  I didn’t have much, I had no understand of what I wanted to do, and I knew I wanted to write, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t bring myself to do it–just as there were so many other things I couldn’t bring myself to do.  I went through life thinking I’ll deal with shit tomorrow, ’cause there’s always tomorrow.

I played Undertow for the hell of it last night, but this time I started listening.  Something happened, because when I work up at four AM today, it was playing in my head.  It was still playing as I drove into work.  When I got my system set up just before seven AM, it was the first thing I played.

It moved me to tears.

There was a connection in the words so powerful that, during the first part of the chorus, I could see myself in those lyrics.  But the second stanza–oh, that’s where the song reached out, grabbed me by the ear, and said, “Sit down, fool; I got something to say”:


Laughter, music and perfume linger here
And there, and there,
Wine flows from flask to glass and mouth,
As it soothes, confusing our doubts.

And soon we feel,
Why do a single thing to-day,
There’s tomorrow sure as I’m here.

So the days they turn into years
And still no tomorrow appears.

Better think awhile
Or I may never think again.
If this were the last day of your life, my friend,
Tell me, what do you think you would do then? *


Then after the question, Tony Banks comes in and kicks my ass with words and melody so powerful that it’s hard to hold back the tears:


Stand up to the blow that fate has struck upon you,
Make the most of all you still have coming to you, [or]
Lay down on the ground and let the tears run from you,
Crying to the grass and trees and heaven finally on your knees

Let me live again, let life come find me wanting.
Spring must strike again against the shield of winter.
Let me feel once more the arms of love surround me,
Telling me the danger’s past, I need not fear the icy blast again. *


Damn you, Anthony.  Damn you for making me feel.
Despite what they may say in Westeros, winter is over.  Life is hard, but if you want something you don’t have, work towards getting it.  These damn stories won’t write themselves, and if I want them told, I gotta tell them.  I’ve spent enough time lying on the ground crying, and I don’t want that anymore:  I want what I can take from what I have left, and I want that all.

I want to live, I want to move on, I want to kick the icy blast in the ass and leave it behind.  That I can do.  That is always possible.

As for the arms of love telling me the danger’s past?

We’ll see, won’t we?  We’ll see . . .



* Copyright: Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing.  Written by Anthony Banks.