Category Archives: Progress Reports

What, are you kidding? We got ourselves an e-book here!

It’s live on Amazon.com.

You can get it for the Amazon Kindle, and if you don’t have one, you can read it on a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android or Windows Phone 7 with Amazon’s free Kindle Application.

And it’s only $0.99, for a limited time.*

So check it out on this site’s new Store page or on Amazon itself.

And remember: You folks are my 401(k)!


* That is, until Desperate Measures is released.

Something is Happening

Okay, it’s finally time to say something because it’s all getting close.

I’m in for a writing career reboot here, and it’ll likely all start happening by the end of the month. The retooling of this web site some months ago was the first step, but now there are others. I’ve slowly been putting things into motion, but it looks like they’re all going to converge at once.

So I have not one, but two major announcements — and a minor one.

First, my new novel, …and that’s the end of the news, is almost done. I mean it for sure this time. After 10 years, a long hiatus to take care of my mother (during which time I tried to re-imagine myself as a songwriter and learned that I hated performing live) and four drafts, I’ve gotten the book where I want it, where it should be. So it’s soon to be going out in search of an agent and/or publisher.

This book has been with me for so long that it’s hard for me to look at it as “the new book”, but it’ll be new to the 99.99% of you who haven’t had some kind of preview or were pressed into service as an early reader. Anyway, once and/news goes out into the marketplace, it will be time to start what really will feel like a new novel. This will likely be the project that I have discreetly code-named “The UFO Novel.”

Which brings me to the minor announcement. Just for grins, I thought I would post very short excerpts from The UFO Novel as status updates on my Facebook Fan Page. There’ll be one excerpt from each chapter as I finish writing it, and there will be lots of chapters. It should be fun. Or not. Tantalizing, perhaps? That’s the idea. So become a fan now and get miniscule glimpses of a book in progress (or be tormented by them – your choice).

So now it’s time for Major Announcement number two. If you’re one of the lot who has been to my Facebook Fan Page, you may have seen the fanciful logo for an outfit called Thief Media (you can see it now in the upper right hand section of this page). That’s the imprint that I have started to release my old, out-of-print novels for the Amazon Kindle and in epub format for all the others. This will begin with my first published novel, A Death of Honor – which I hope to have out by early March – to include all 7 novels over the course of the next year or so.

(Actually, they will appear as only 6 novels – Ferman’s Devils and Boddekker’s Demons will be issued as one novel, which was my original intent.)

A Death of Honor's new look for the e-book market.

All of the novels will have new cover art, and all except for the Angel’s Luck trilogy will have some kind of bonus material included. A Death of Honor will feature the original epilog that I cut from the book before publication. The Company Man and Ferman’s Devils will feature short stories that overlap into the respective book’s universe.

In addition to my out-of-print titles, Thief Media will also be releasing two previously unpublished JCF novels. The Mushroom Shift is a profane and darkly funny novel about police work that was written between Honor and Company and will be released between them. Trust is a political thriller written in hopes of being published in time for the 1996 election. It will be released before Ferman’s Devils.

To celebrate this in a small way, I have changed the graphic in the banner above to a section of corrected page from the third draft of …and that’s the end of the news. There may or may not be other surprises and releases, but I’m going to leave things at this for the time being. After all, I have a lot of work to do right now.

Just Another Night at Wal-Mart

Finished episode two of The Amazing Secret of Omi La, after struggling against weeks of interruptions and time burners. Two more and we’ll have us a VBS play.

Meantime, here’s an excerpt from the novel I’m on the verge of finishing up, …and that’s the end of the news (except when I’m calling it Drawing Down the Moon). I’m not sure why I am doing this, except perhaps that it makes me feel better to do something nice for people when I’m feeling lousy and downtrodden. On the other hand, I’m not sure if you’d find this a nice thing to do or not.

But doing it makes me feel better.

So here is Ricky Gold, after having traveled halfway through hell, as he prepares to run an important errand in one of America’s shopping meccas.

He bailed out of the car and walked quickly into the store, breath held. Once inside under the white fluorescence of the store’s lighting, he exhaled and relaxed. Everything seemed so… normal.

Just keep it that way, he told himself. Keep things normal and don’t attract attention to yourself.

Gold made his way thorough housewares and pet supplies, past the electronics department that normally would have been a magnet to him – Wonder if the new Shyamalan is out on DVD yet? – and wandered into the sporting goods department. He slowly wandered up and down the aisles, looking closely at what the shelves held. Fishing lures, roller skates, soccer balls, archery supplies, camping equipment, flashlights, batteries, but nothing resembling—

“May I help you sir?” It was a heavyset woman in classic Wal-Mart Blue.

“Bullets?” he asked.

“They’re behind the counter,” she said, pointing. “I can help you.”

He followed her to a glass counter filled with knives and binoculars. Behind it, glass cases full of rifles and shotguns. Beneath the weapons, in a low case, was row upon row of boxes in the familiar colors he had seen at Earl’s Place. “Well all right,” he said.

“What do you need?” asked the woman.

Gold set the small bullet down on the counter. “Some of these.”

The woman stared at him for a moment, then looked down toward the bullet. Her eyes stopped before they got there, locking on Gold’s right hand. He looked at his hand and saw what she saw; the skin a deep ochre with a network of cracks across the palm, up over the fingers, and across the back of his hand. It looked like an ill-fated creek bed damned by a blistering sun and a summer of drought.

“This?” He pulled his hand away. “I, uh—“

“How many,” she said quickly.

“How many?”

She picked up the bullet. “Of these.”

“Oh.” Gold thought about it. The sign in Earl’s Place showed between fifteen and twenty-five dollars for fifty rounds. How much should he have to keep Nighthorse at bay if the need arose? “How about…” He drummed his fingers on the glass countertop, trying to act nonchalant. “Fifty bucks worth.”

“Fifty dollars worth of .22 long rifle?”

“You can go over a little if you have to,” Gold said.

“Any special brand?”

“Something dependable.”

The woman turned to the glass case and pulled a ring of keys from her pocket. Gold wandered down the counter, looking at multi-bladed knives and what looked like small walkie-talkies boasting secure code channels. He wondered if he should get a set.

“You’re doing some major plinking, then?” the woman asked.

“Real major,” Gold said, hearing the beeps from the cash register.

“You been in here before?” she asked.

He swallowed. “Not this time of night.”

“What brings you in at this hour?”

“I’m on my way home from work. Got done early for a change.”

“Where you work?”

Where do I work?

“The dairy,” he blurted.

“Hmmm,” the woman said. “You look familiar.”

“I do?” His fingers started to rattle on the glass and he forced himself to stop.

The woman nodded. “Cash, charge or check?”

Gold handed her three twenties.

“Which dairy you work at?” the woman asked, punching the amount into the register.

“You watch television?” Gold asked.

“Television?” She hit a button and the cash drawer popped open.

“I think you’ve seen me on television,” Gold said.

“You? On TV? Really?” She pulled change out of the till at a glacial pace.

“Well, not really me,” Gold smirked. “But people tell me that I look like the Big Boy restaurant kid.”

The woman gave him a blank stare.

“Never mind.” Gold held his hand out for the change. “It was a joke.”

“Sorry.” The woman counted the change into his hand and then hefted the bag with the ammunition. “Let me double bag this for you. It’s heavy.”

Gold cleared his throat and tapped his foot while she went through the excruciating process of finding another bag, holding it open, placing the original inside the new bag, then closing the whole mess off and stapling the receipt to the outside. He took the bag by the handles and then put one hand under it for support when he felt how heavy it was.

“Thanks,” he smiled, and turned to leave.

“Hey,” the woman said, and his stomach jumped. He kept walking. “Hey mister!”

He stopped. Swallowed. Then turned.

“I figured out who you look like,” she said.

“You did?” he croaked.

She nodded happily. “My second husband. He had hair just like yours, only redder.”

“It took you that long to remember your second husband?”

“We weren’t married long. You know a guy named Jamie Pikeman?”

Gold shook his head. “I’ll keep my eye open for him.”

“You don’t have to look any farther than the Mount Pisgah cemetery in Ponca City, Oklahoma. We were married three weeks and he started getting action off of some little trailer park waitress.”

Gold smiled. Why are you telling me this?

“He got drunk one night and went to meet her in her mini-van at a chained-off auto park entrance. Took his head clean off.” She drew her finger across her throat for emphasis.

“I think I would have remembered that happening to one of my relatives,” Gold said, shrugging. “Sorry.”

“Happy shooting,” the woman said.

“Thanks,” he nodded, then turned and walked away.

He couldn’t get out of the store fast enough. As early as it was, there were enough people inside to make him feel uncomfortable, like they were staring at him, trying to think of why he looked so familiar, and then when it hit them, pronouncing him guilty with their eyes.

Kada wasn’t in the lobby at the pay phones, so he hurried out the door. He spotted her walking across the asphalt to the Camaro.

“I got the stuff,” he called.

She turned at his voice and waited for him to catch up.

“Did you make the call?”

“I told them the name of the motel and the room number and I told them to be careful. We’ve got to move.” For emphasis she pointed out at the street. A police car whizzed by, running with lights but no siren. “That’s the second one I’ve seen.”

“I didn’t think of this,” Gold said. “Will that make getting to the interstate a problem?”

She shook her head. “It’s the other way. And you got the bullets?”

He held the bag up and she took it from him. “How many did you get?”

“Fifty dollars worth.”

“Why fifty?” She opened the bag and peeked inside.

“When I was at—“

“Richard, are you expecting to fight a war? You have two thousand rounds of ammunition.”

“No,” he said. “There should only be about a hundred, hundred and fifty.”

Kada stopped at the car and pulled out one of the boxes. “There are five hundred rounds in this box. And you have four boxes.”

“No, no. Three boxes at the most, fifty rounds in each, fifteen dollars a box—“

“Twelve dollars a box, five hundred rounds a box. You were thinking of bigger bullets for bigger guns.” She laughed as she unlocked the car. “A hundred-fifty rounds of .22 ammunition would only run a couple of dollars.”

Gold exhaled and looked around the parking lot. “I didn’t know,” he shrugged. “Let me take some of it back. Maybe I can hear more stories about the clerk’s headless alley cat husband.”

“That’s all right,” Kada said. “You’d better get in the car.”

“You don’t think I’m a stupid idiot? What if we need the money?”

“We’ll be fine. And I think you’re very sweet to go to such great lengths to protect me. Now we’re ready for anything.”

He watched as her smiling face turned and disappeared into the car. Then he looked out at the street as another police car sailed by, silently, overhead lights flashing.

Amazing. Molly would’ve dragged me back into the store and told the woman horror stories about my screwups while she processed the refund.

The passenger side door opened. “Are you coming, Mr. Argent?”

He climbed into the car. “Arizona?”

“Arizona,” she said.

Slowly I Turn…

So just to catch up on what I’m doing, I am currently working on the this year’s play for our Vacation Bible School program – a knights of the round table themed epic called The Secret of the Castle Omi La. I don’t think it’s going to be as big a scale as everyone expects since I have a small cast and limited budget, but I should have at least one person in armor before the show is over, drawing its inspiration as it does from both the life of Joshua and the Full Armor of God, as mentioned in the book of Ephesians. So that’s what I was working on tonight.

There’s no page count because I’m using Scrivener, a Mac-only application for writing novels that also doubles for writing screenplays, comic book scripts, TV scripts, and play scripts. It doesn’t really give you a running page count, although it is possible to get running words counts – although that doesn’t seem to be supported in an unobtrusive way when writing a play script.

No problem. Scrivener for writers is worlds ahead of the increasingly bloated current version of Word, and so far the scripting runs rings around Final Draft, which I’ve used before, but seems to be consistently buggy.

So I probably have a couple of pages on the manuscript tonight. Also worked on my continuing project of tagging and categorizing all the posts I imported – nearing the halfway mark! – and also on bringing over non-blog pages from the old web site (Precious Cargo rejoined the family tonight).

It’s all going to get there. But not much more tonight. Thunderstorms heading in, perhaps with residual tornados from the western half of the state. So pulling the plug. Now.

Some Pages

A Father Christmas
Act Two, Scene One
Pages, 3/25/06: 4
Current Total: 95

What can I say? Trying hard to keep the streak alive. The defense finished with the antagonist, and just put the protagonist on the stand. He’s explaining what he does for a living. Basically, he’s an insurance salesman. But of course, the play isn’t about insurance.

Listening:
Well I know, I know, you’ll probably scream and cry
That your little world won’t let you go
But who in your measly little world
Are you tryin’ to prove to that you’re
Made out of gold and can’t be sold

(via iTunes shuffle play)

The Clock Hits Ninety (More or Less)

A Father Christmas
Act Two, Scene One
Pages, 3/24/06: 3
Current Total: 91

Nothing exciting to report, no breakthroughs or anything like that. I did get a timely e-mail from Tom the Author giving me some legal advice as I write the cross-x scene, which I’m trying to keep in mind. The grilling of the antagonist is about over, though – another page or so and it’s the protagonist’s turn.

In typical Faust fashion, I’m running long. Hitting page 91, I’m reminded that I thought this play would come in around 90 minutes – 45 minutes an act. Well, when I was in Barefoot in the Park last year, it was a good two hours long with the pacing cranked all the way up. Yeah, I know, it was Neil Simon, but this was early Neil Simon. He hadn’t yet become the 800 pound gorilla of theater.

So I’ll write the show long enough so I get to the end. Then I’ll edit it, then have friends over to do a read through and edit again. If the show goes into the next season with me directing, I’ll no doubt do some revising and cutting in production. We shall see where it all goes.

Listening:
Well I’ve brought the same piece of chicken in a bag
To work every day for the last twenty years or so
And I really don’t mind work assembly line
Got an intercom blasting the news and the latest on the baseball scores
Come around every Friday, well, I get a paycheck
Take the same road home that I come to work on – heck, it’s a living

(via iTunes shuffle play)

Insert Your Own Title Here…

…because I’m too tired to insert one of my own.

Yesterday was a date day between my wife and I. We ran around and spent gift certificates we’d gotten for our 25th anniversary – managed the entire day without spending any of our own money. This included lunch at shopping at Arkon’s fabulous West Point Market and sneaking off to a matinee of Walk the Line at the local Cheap Seats theater. No words last night.

But words tonight. The plaintiff’s lawyer finished up her questions for her client, and now our protagonist’s defense attorney is taking her turn with the antagonist (if, indeed, he is actually an antagonist).

More cross-examination fun tomorrow, no doubt.

A Father Christmas
Act Two, Scene One
Pages, 3/21/06: 5
Current Total: 88

Listening:
Remember the days
We’d run away
Laughing among all the fields
You looked at me
And all I could see
Were your eyes a shinin’ so real

(via iTunes shuffle play)

Back to Where it All Started

Friday night when I got home from work, I found out my daughter was apprehensive about driving herself to rehearsal for the play she’s assistant directing. After all, it was not just any Friday night, but the evening of St. Patrick’s Day, probably the second most popular drinking holiday after New Year’s Eve. She batted her eyes and asked me to drive her in, reminding me that I had said I ought to start going to the theater with her and sit in the auditorium and write, since that’s how I started A Father Christmas.

(Besides that, the whole genesis of this project happened at this theater. I went to a Christmas show that my wife was in and was talking to another cast member after the performance. She commented that it was really hard to find a good Christmas show. Apparently most of them available are adaptations of A Christmas Carol, or a general goof on the holiday, or are older than dirt. I thought to myself, “I bet I could write a good contemporary Christmas play.” And after sending the idea back, it kept returning with friends until I finally started work on it.)

So I unplugged the iBook and went. And nailed down some good writing time. It was a real inspiration to be able to look at the stage – even if it was set for an entirely different play – and “see” my set and the actors on the stage.

So Friday I got three pages – but it was heavy going. The opening statements of the lawyers for both sides of the court case, so it was long and text heavy.

A Father Christmas
Act Two, Scene One
Pages, 3/17/06: 3
Current Total: 78

I worked on taxes Saturday, but Sunday I carved out a couple of hours in the afternoon and batted out more pages. For some reason, it felt like I had written ten, but the number was actually half that. No problem, still five more pages than I had before I started. The lawyer for the plaintiff questioning same.

Act Two, Scene One
Pages, 3/19/06: 5
Current Total: 83

Hopefully I’m rolling again. I’ve got a commitment tonight, but tomorrow… well, let’s just say that House is not on tomorrow, so the odds are looking really good.

Listening:
Endless nights on an endless sea
Where nothing lives between us
Just the breakers on the ocean
Separating you and me

(via iPod Shuffle)

The Return of the Thing

January 26th – before the darkest month began – that was the last time I worked on A Father Christmas. I don’t know, maybe next year I’ll experiment and plan to not do anything in February – not even blogging – and see what happens. On the other hand, perhaps not. It might be the only thing that keeps me ticking for those bleak 28 days.

The point is, since coming out of the inertia coma, I feel motivated again, so I once more started work on the play. I only got two pages, but it’s a start, and it’s 100% more than my one page a day minimum. Besides, there were distractions. For one, I had a whole ton of e-mail to answer that I’d lagged in answering during the darkest month.

For another, when I opened the file to work on the play, there was the matter of figuring out the formatting for switching from Act One to Act Two. I’m using my copy of Final Draft to write the play, and I don’t have the command over it that I do over MS Word (which I’ve been using since 1986). When I tried to insert an Act Break into the script, it reformatted pages and sent text all over the place. I tried working around it, but eventually had something of an Inigo Montoya moment – “You keep clicking that button. I don’t think that button does what you think it does.” So I ended up with a perfectly acceptable workaround that served me well through the first act, and when the time allows itself, I must open up the PDF and Read The Fine Manual.

The writing was also slow last night because I was describing a new set – a courtroom in which this scene takes place. That always takes me longer because I have to stop and mentally see the set, then put myself onstage so I can get the Stage Lefts and Stage Rights correct (they’re from the POV of the actor, not the audience, which makes sense if you’re an actor learning from the script), then put myself back in the auditorium and watch the play and write down what I see.

(I actually thought about buying a bunch of Legos and building a mockup of the set with them so I could visualize it easier. That would be cool when going into production – instead of sketches, show the set builders my cool little model of what things should look like, then smile while they give me looks that say, “Okay, we’re theater nerds here, but this guy is just plain over-the-edge.” Okay, maybe that wasn’t such a hot idea. But it made a grand excuse for me to think about spending some money on Lego products. I may yet do it.)

So in the two pages I got through last night, I got all the characters into the courtroom, the judge began speaking, added what might be considered a funny moment to establish a character’s attitude toward the proceedings… now the stage is set (so to speak) for me to start rolling on the actual custody hearing. Tonight.

A Father Christmas
Act Two, Scene One
Pages, 3/6/06: 2
Current Total: 75

Listening:
Like the time I ran away
and turned around
and you were standing close to me

(via iPod Shuffle)

It Ain’t Over Even When it’s Over

A Father Christmas
Act One, Scene Three
Pages, 1/24/06: 4
Current Total: 68

Act One is finished. At least that’s what I would have said last night, as I hit the dramatic high-point that I had planned to end the first act.

Today I’m not so sure. My wife made some comments about it not being in quite in character, and she’s right. I could make it in character, but the more I think about it, the less I think that this act ending works. I think what I’m going to do is go with my original idea for ending the act, a transitional mini-scene made up of characters talking on cell phones. This will hopefully have the effect of getting the audience to think about the custody hearing between acts. Then the second act can jump right into the hearing without the cell phone scene to slow it down.

Besides, doing it this way maintains the script’s internal consistency – at the end of each scene so far, the protagonist addresses the audience with his assessment of what is going on.

Yeah. I think that’ll work better. Even if it means I’m retreating back to what I originally planned to do.

That’s part of the mental game you play when you’re writing. You bounce ideas off of yourself. Or, if you’re blessed like I am to have a spouse with impeccable editorial instincts, you can use them as a sounding board. My wife knows that I won’t always take her suggestions. She reads my early drafts chapter by chapter (or in this case, scene by scene) as they come out of the printer, so she’s not privy to some things I planned to have payoffs later.

But then there are cases like this where she proves to be an absolute lifesaver. Well, a plot saver. Script saver. Whatever.

So the play is rolling again, and the first act was almost finished. But it’s not, not quite yet. But it’s getting there. It’s getting there.

Listening:
There was Fanny dyin’
While a hundred men stood cryin’
And the angels up above were cryin’ too
When seven horses started draggin’
Fanny’s coffin in a wagon
Through a dusty Californian avenue

(via iPod Shuffle)

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