Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ah, To Be Back at Full Stride

It took awhile for all the dust from the carnage of my job loss to quiet down. Now that it has, I have settled back into the routine I love, the one in which I spend several hours a day being an author. It is good to have a certain degree of normalcy in my life.

No author will give details about what he or she is writing, but I will give a brief overview. I am a West Coast guy, so I focus my plot in familiar surroundings. There is not a single place I write about I have not visited or been exposed to by stories of people who have lived there. Part of that is because of one of the central tenets in my writing -- make the settings so familiar to readers that they can easily identify with them. I am a fan of Stephen Spielberg's early films, movies like "Duel" and "E.T.", because they take average folks in average surroundings and make them face amazing circumstances. The viewer then is taken along for the ride.

I owe part of that tenet to writers such as Harlan Coben. His "Live Wire" is about a top sports agent representing the rich and famous, and he adds rock stars and Mafia folks and the stuff of elevated reality. But he surrounds those people in the familiar surroundings of his New Jersey, right down to listing stores at big malls and scenes along highways in the area. Any reader familiar with that section of New Jersey -- and let's face it, there are millions and millions of readers familiar with it -- buys into Coben's details and the novel as a whole. I hope to do the same with my Western U.S. settings.

I also have adopted a new pace to my writing. I used to write huge section after huge section, then wait to review and rewrite after my novel was complete. I don't do that anymore. I have adopted something closer to Joe Lansdale's way of writing. He says he spends just a few hours a day writing and produces maybe three to five pages of manuscript. He writes, then reviews and rewrites that single section. I am doing that, and it works.

So, I have borrowed part of Jeffery Deaver's method of outlining the novel first, and part of Lansdale's pace of writing. Now, if I can only match their success. At least I have the weight of worry about job loss placed on the back burner where it belongs and can concentrate on being an author. Happy days are here again!!!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In Middle of Chaos, A Novel

I did it. The urge finally got too strong, and I had to do it. I sat down and wrote two chapters in my third novel!!!! Maybe that doesn't sound like much, but it's a pretty good achievement considering the rest of my schedule lately. Losing your job puts a considerable crimp in a normal writing routine.

I have been feeling like a juggler who gets tossed a new task every day. Sending out queries for my second novel. Job applications. Questions about a new job at The Post. Sending out resumes. Using my reporter skills to get a good handle on what exactly happened at The Post in those maddening days when the company needed to collect severed heads in a basket and call them "voluntary resignations." It's not a pretty story in some instances ... but that's to be saved for another time.

Why wait? Because I'm back to writing the stuff I love to write. I will forge on with another chapter or two today, then I will get back to continuing the outline for my story. This is a totally different way to approach the task of writing, but it has worked well so far. (Of course, I am only two chapters into what will become a pretty lengthy novel.)

I will give a short glimpse at my first chapter. I knew the novel would open on a southern California beach, but I didn't want just any beach. It had to look a certain way. It had to have a sweep of land where the ocean left a nice strip of sand pressed against a cliff. It couldn't have lots of condos towering above the beach. It couldn't be so accessible that the sand was tossed around by large amounts of human activity. I wanted a nice, pristine beach. I searched, and searched, and searched. I rejected idea after idea after idea. Then it all fell into place ... Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. It was perfect, and the scenario I wanted was there.

Here's where I got my surprise. I told my wife about my choice and she immediately said she knew the place. I knew her grandparents owned a home that looked over a beach somewhere in the area north of San Diego, but I wasn't sure which beach it was. It was Moonlight Beach, and my wife and her sister spent time there as children. How strange is that? Of course, what I have happen on Moonlight Beach isn't anything they viewed as children, or at least I hope not.

I am going to be happy when this job thing is resolved. They say that losing a job is near the top of stress-producers, not far behind losing a family member. I agree. The mental toll is exhausting. I have tried to keep up a brave front, but there have been times of anger, and times of tears, and times of feeling far too alone. There have been times of emotional numbness. I am ready for a break. I hope it comes soon.

But, hey, I have a writing session to look forward to today!!!! How great is that? It is therapy for the mind and soul. Lord, I need that.