Monthly Archives: April 2016

Revising Away…

pool of starsI’m nearly through the revisions of my fourth Pathfinder novel, and you know what, I quite like it. I just finished Chapter 6 and it’s one of the finest chapters I think I’ve ever written.

Wish I had the sense that more people were reading these… I’m just not seeing a whole lot of comment about them either out there on the ‘net or even on the Paizo boards. I’m starting to think that those Pathfinder fans who’re reading the books are reading them in the order they were written and haven’t gotten to the more recent books yet, like my third Pathfinder book. And I’m starting to think that maybe people who ordinarily read lots of fantasy don’t read tie-in novels? I dunno.

Right — got to get back to revising. Have an excellent weekend!

Of Hats and Teeth

deckerI’m getting ready to switch hats and work on something else. I’ve been steaming full speed towards the conclusion of my newest book, but, as often happens, a previous book has popped up with editorial comments. This is my fourth Pathfinder Novel, Through the Gate in the Sea. The comments aren’t too extensive, so I hope to finish it before the week’s end and get back to the new book. Of course, if the other book needs more time, I’ll have to give it, because I want it to head to print in the best shape I can manage.

In other news I’ve been enjoying the fantastic weather here upon the sea of monsters. I’m heading into town in just a few moments to learn just why I have shooting pain when I chew on the right side of my mouth. It’s probably those darned tooth crowns. You see, when my wife and I were first starting out and were very badly off, financially, I thought I could save us a little money by not visiting the dentist for a few years. I had incorrectly reasoned that because I brushed and flossed appropriately my teeth would be okay.

Turns out that I was wrong. I ended up with three tooth crowns and root canals. I’m pretty sure that there’s no living root beneath this crown, so I’m not sure where the pain’s coming from, but I assume I’ll know very shortly.


More Drafting Thoughts

Howard ZebrasIn writing about rough drafts the other day I realized that I breezed over an important step — outlining.

I’ve discussed outlining on the site before (just search through my Writing posts if you’re curious) and I’ve yet to settle on any one outlining technique that I use ALL the time. I find that different approaches work in different instances.

For instance, on the Paizo books I used very detailed outlines that went on for some 10k words. I’ve scaled that way back for the current books and right now it seems to be working. I think about the main arcs and threads, who’s in them, what the challenges are, and what happens when, jot that down to make sure I’ve got track of it, and then start drafting (this is AFTER I know who the characters are, what they want, and, particularly, what the villain wants).

Rough Drafts

hulk computerI’ve continued to experiment with rough draft methods. The goal is, naturally, to get the rough draft close so that you make as few passes as possible between rough and final.

Sometimes I can get a scene pretty much right the first time, as happened with one chapter in my first published novel, or as happened with individual scenes since then, with increasing frequency. It’s one measure by which I can tell I’m getting to be a more proficient writer.

More often, though, a draft requires multiple passes. I aim for the former but plan for the latter. Here are the steps I’ve started following.

Breaking up is Hard to Do

daredevil 2Dear Daredevil TV Show,

I’m ending our relationship.

You have so many admirers and groupies that I’m certain my own absence will have no effect upon your feelings, but I wanted to air my grievances anyway.

I was pre-disposed to like you a lot, maybe even love you. Sure, I wasn’t a huge DD fan who owned all the Frank Miller graphic novels, but I like a good superhero comic or show and I have fond memories of reading all of my sister’s Daredevil comics. I even bought some myself back in the day.

(If anyone hasn’t seen the show yet, there are SPOILERS GALORE in the following. Be warned!)


skunkI grew up a city boy. Now, as a city boy in a small mid-western city I was probably a lot more familiar with wildlife than someone born in a vast urban center, but I’m still not fully acquainted with some of the life skills you need to get by in the country, even though I’ve been living here for about twelve years.

Take for instance a burn pile. I’ve never maintained one properly. Despite the wife’s encouragement to burn ours sooner, it’s probably been eight years since I did anything with it. As a result, the burn pile had become a towering mass of sticks and tree limbs. Worse, the manure pile was too close. Manure, you see, is inflammable. (We have so many sticks and tree limbs because we have so many trees. In any big storm we lose a lot of branches.)

Anyway, Sunday I finally went out and started organizing the burn pile so it was safer to burn, and then I had to dig out a safety zone away from the manure. I was out there for most of the day, fairly tired and sore, and right in the final section I found a skunk! Turns out there was a little burrow hidden on the edge of the burn pile.

House Rules

P handbookIf you’re not a tabletop gamer or have no interest in tabletop gaming you should read no further unless you want to be bored or roll your eyes.

Long-time visitors are probably aware that I’ve been gaming off and on since junior high in the ’70s, when I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons by my old friend Sean Connelly. Sometimes a couple of years will pass, but I always seem to come back to gaming, attracted by the allure of group storytelling and the camaraderie of sitting around with friends and family.

While I’ve been curious about the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons and even read through the new system books, I already had Castles & Crusades, and I remain attached to it, possibly because I’m sort of tired of learning new systems but also because it works quite well. Here’s an articulate essay on just what C&C is and how it works, if you’re curious. (I also like that you really don’t need anything more to run C&C than the Player’s Handbook and the Monsters & Treasure book. The C&C version of the DM’s guide, the Castlekeeper’s Guide, has alternate rules and add-ons, but isn’t at all necessary for running the game.)

Hard Writing Lessons 6 – Head Games

hulk thinkI’ve been writing fiction since I was in grade school, and I noticed the other day that my first published novel hit the bookstores in 2009, which is a lot further back than I realized. Yet I don’t remotely feel like I’ve “figured it all out.” I’m still re-learning a lot of lessons even as I learn new ones. To be a good writer, I think you have to constantly pay attention to story structure and characters not only in chosen genres but in others as well, not to mention other media… and then there’s studying human nature and history and… well, I could digress, but let me get this back on point.

Yesterday I was revising a scene about 30 thousand words into the next book right after I’ve switched to a new point of view character. He’s not new to the readers, but we’ve never had his PoV and we haven’t seen him yet in THIS particular book. So naturally I started with him alone and in the middle of a sort of self-assessment to get readers up to speed about what he’s doing now and what he’s thinking about.

Hard Writing Lessons 4 — Word Count

howard in chairI’ve been busy drafting the new novel but not very busy blogging. When things are going smoothly it’s easy to whip up a quick blog post and still get an 2000 words, but when things are a little more challenging — or when there are a bunch of errands to take care of over the course of the day — getting that 2000 words in AND a blog post becomes an either/or, in which case the blog post always comes in last. You understand. The blog is for fun. The writing is supposed to be fun too, but it’s also the job.

I’m often asked how many words I try to get in a day, or how many pages. 5000 words is about 20 typewritten double-spaced pages, and 2k is approximately 8. If I’m really on a roll and know exactly what my characters are doing (and I have NO interruptions) I can get 5k. I have trained myself to be okay with 2k, and even the occasional 1k if it’s a tough day or one with interruptions.