Books 5 & 6 Progress Report

I rolled over 10,000 words on Book 6 today. Just blew right past it. It feels good to be writing again, to put words on the page that I’m (mostly) happy with. The story is shaping up pretty quickly, and I’ve got most of the book plotted out in my head already.

I’ve also commissioned a cover for Book 5. Yeah, I don’t even have it edited or formatted yet, but I don’t see why I can’t get a cover image figured out ahead of all that. I already knew what I wanted it to look like, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on getting that started. The plan is to have it ready to publish by the end of November.

All of which is to say: things are progressing. Things are progressing very well, and I’m looking forward to the start of November and NaNoWriMo (when I’ll really kick the Book 6 work into high gear). Wish me luck!

Book 6 Underway

Good morning (or afternoon or evening or whatever. It’s morning as I write this, so “morning” is part of the salutation)! As you may recall, I recently completed the first draft of Book 5, which is fantastic news and gladdens the very cockles of my heart. But did you know that I have already started writing Book 6? It’s true! I’m about 5,000 words into it, which doesn’t sound like much (and, frankly, isn’t actually that much), but this is coming off of a stretch where getting any words to page was a big victory, so I’ll take it!

Book 6 sees a lot of the status quo shaken up. I don’t tend to let things sit for too long in the story if I can help it in general and I’ve been building to this particular book for quite some time. I’ve got a lot of the broad strokes planned out already, and a few fun subplots to keep things interesting while I turn Hazzard’s world upside down again. And all of that leads to Book 7, the culmination of the Hazzard Pay story. Does that mean Book 7 will be the last we hear of Eddie and company? Heck no! Just that the story I’ve been crafting has a definite end game in mind, and we’re moving towards it. In the meantime, I’ve got a dozen or so short stories I’d love to get out there in the world, like Bad Press. I’ll eventually collect all of those into a single volume, too (or maybe two volumes; let’s see how many of them get out there).

All that being said, I’m hoping to have Book 5 ready to go before Christmas. Wish me luck!

Book Five Complete!

Today, I finished up the first draft to Book 5. It’s the shortest book I’ve written, at just about 45,000 words, but it’s all killer, no filler. I talked with my editor this afternoon and have arranged for it to get edited at the beginning of November. That means I should have the finished product ready for release by Christmas! Just in time for stuffing all your stockings.

This has been, in many ways, the hardest book I’ve ever written. Anxiety and depression are much to blame for that, unfortunately, but I feel like I’ve come through whatever block I was experiencing and I’m back in my groove.

In fact, I spent some time this afternoon plotting out Book 6. It’s gonna be pretty epic, and it picks up right where Book 5 left off.

I’m feeling pumped and ready to write more. It’s a good feeling.

New Short Story Available Now!

Starting today, you can pick up an electronic copy of my short story “Bad Press” for only $0.99! That is literally less than a dollar. It’s currently available (as of September 10th at noon) on iBooks and Barnes & Noble, among others, and should pop up on Amazon within the next day or two.

Here’s the brief description of the story:

Eddie Hazzard’s name is being smeared in the press, and he’s going to get to the bottom of it. To restore his honor, he’ll have to contend not just with the reporter who impugned him, but with a whole host of violent enemies who want him dead. It’s just another day in the life of Eddie Hazzard, Hard-Boiled Detective, in this speculative¬†fiction version of a cassingle. Remember cassingles? Man, those were awesome.

Go give it a read while you wait for Book Five!

On Absence and the Impossibility of Book Five

I’ve been…absent for a while, I know. Missing in action. Lost.

Well, it’s time to blow the cobwebs off the site and get to writing again.

I was…stalled on Book Five for most of the last year. I was about two-thirds done with it, with all the major beats written (or at least plotted out) and how I wanted it to end figured out. “I just have to connect the dots,” I’d tell anyone who asked how it was going. “It’s almost done,” I’d add.

But…I wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t feeling the urge, the desire, to write, and so I…didn’t. I went several months — most of last year — without putting a word on the page.

Every time I’d open up Dropbox and look at the Hazzard folder, I’d see the file sitting there, daring me to open it and type a sentence. Or a paragraph. Or even, God forbid, a whole page. Can you imagine, a whole page? But I’d open it, and stare at the words already on the page, and I’d come up with…nothing.

Just absolutely nothing, for months at a time. And then I looked and realized I hadn’t written anything here, even, for several months. I’d sort of abandoned all writing, except for my daily webcomic, and even that I took several extended breaks from in the past several months.

I felt bad about it. Really bad. Embarrassed and annoyed with myself and just angry that I couldn’t sit down and finish this damn book, or write a blog post describing why I couldn’t write. And there were an endless number of reasons I couldn’t put words on paper, though most of it boiled down to (1) depression or (2) apathy.

And I feel bad about that, too. Not the depression part — I have depression, it’s something I have to live with, and sometimes I just don’t feel like doing the things that bring me joy. The apathy is probably tied up in the depression, if I’m being honest.

As much as I hate to admit it, though, those are only part of the reason I stopped writing Book Five. I also stopped writing because of reader apathy.

Now, this isn’t an exercise in passing the blame. If readers aren’t flocking to my books, lavishing me with praise and million-dollar Hollywood contracts, that’s probably on me. I don’t do marketing, like, at all. And in the indie publishing game, if you aren’t hustling 24-7, you aren’t gonna find your readership.

All of which is a long way of saying: I was dormant for a long while, but I’m getting back in the swing of things. I’ve added a few thousand words to Book Five, and I’m hoping to have the first draft done in the next few weeks. I’ll try to post more consistently here as well.

Reconsidering the Strokes

Back in the day (2003), I purchased the Strokes’ second album, Room on Fire.

And I absolutely hated it. Despised it with every fiber of my being. I ranted and raved about it, ripped it to shreds to anyone who would listen, and refused to listen to their stuff for the next, oh, almost 16 years. The vocals were buried in the mix, the bass was weak, and I thought the lyrics were insipid. If this was the future of guitar rock, I reasoned, it was time for guitar rock to die.

Earlier this month, I downloaded their first album, Is This It?, on a whim. I listened to it a few times, and something has happened to me since those early days of 2003: I kinda liked it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think the whole “saviors of rock’n’roll” nonsense is just that: nonsense. But maybe an older, wiser me recognizes what they were trying to accomplish now, and can appreciate it for what it is: damn fine garage rock. The guitars are chugging, the vocals (while definitely buried in the mix) are evocative and fitting, and the songs are tight and almost hyperactive (their first two, 11-song albums clock in at around 30 minutes each).

Are these albums going to become my go-to for rock’n’roll? No. But they’re damn fine examples of the early-aughts garage rock revival aesthetic, one that I like more now than I did at the time.

Tom Petty, “Built to Last”

I’ve been on a Tom Petty kick lately. Not that it takes much to start one of those: usually, just thinking about or listening to a single Tom Petty song leads to a reconsideration of his catalog, or at least a couple of favorite albums. This time around, I’ve been listening and relistening to Into the Great Wide Open, his Heartbreaker-backed follow up to Full Moon Fever. If I’m being honest, I think Into the Great Wide Open is the stronger of the two albums, but I’m not here for that debate today (though ask me again tomorrow, I might be up for it then).

No, today I’m here for the album closer, “Built to Last,” which I believe is one of the single greatest songs Petty ever wrote.

On the surface, “Built to Last” is a simple, simple song. It only uses, like, three chords. It’s a straightforward “I will love you forever” song.

Somewhere out my doorway

Somewhere down my block

I can feel her heartbeat

In rhythm with my clock

The song is filled, though, with everything that makes a Tom Petty song great: the soaring vocals in the bridge, the sparkling guitar work from Heartbreaker Mike Campbell (still one of the all-time greatest guitar players ever, by the way), and the heartfelt lyrics delivered so effortlessly by Petty.

We were built to last

On until forever

The world is changing fast

Oh, but our love was built to last

It’s the chorus that always gets me. Those couple of mournful guitar notes after the first line just kills me. “No matter what happens, we will continue to love each other,” Petty says. It’s put forward simply and earnestly, as only Petty can do it, and the song just leaves me a soppy puddle every time I listen to it.

Tom Petty wrote a lot of amazing songs, all with an eye for the working stiff just trying to get by to the weekend and survive. He was never as cynical as Bruce Springsteen or as esoteric as Bob Dylan. He was always just himself, and you could always just about hear his grin when he was playing and singing. “Built to Last,” with its simple rhythm and guileless lyrics, is the epitome of the Petty writing style, and one of my all-time favorite songs.