Friday, April 29, 2016

Rish Outcast 41: The Hocking Dead

This is a quick episode I scraped together to tell you a recent tale of happy fortune, sing a little song, and mention my latest story.

Next episode'll have to be about my book, I guess.

Or I could keep procrastinating.

HERE is where you'd Right-Click, if you wanted to download the episode directly.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Rish (Co-)Narrates "The Scarlet Albatross" on

I've heard nothing but compliments about my performance of Abigail Hilton's last book, "Hunters Unlucky," from a year or so ago (still available HERE, if you're interested).  So when Abbie contacted me, letting me know a superflu-like plague had wiped out every other male narrator in existence, and she could use my voice for her next book, well, I signed up.*

"Scarlet Albatross" tells the story of Anaroo, a sort of assassin stuck onboard an airship (the titular Albatross), who ends up working with her mortal enemies, led by Silas Ackleby, the ship's captain.  Actually, several characters on opposite sides of wars and conflict end up having to work together, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was one of the themes of the book.

It's a Fantasy adventure set in the land of Panimandorah, the world of Abbie's previous novels, "The Guild of the Cowry Catchers," "The Prophet of Panimandorah," "Crossroads," and "Ballistic: Ecks Versus Sever."

This project was unique for me in that Abbie also had another narrator, Lauren "Scribe" Harris, who narrated the chapters with a female point of view, while I did (with one exception) the chapters with male ones.  I'd heard it done a time or two in other audiobooks ("Gone Girl," Orson Scott Card's "Pathfinder," and "The Time Traveler's Wife" immediately come to mind), but I'd never known what it would entail before trying it myself.

What it meant was that Lauren--who did the vast majority of the book--voiced all of the characters at the start, and I had to listen (or at least make notes) and try to do similar voices for those same characters.  Scribe, it turns out, is a master of doing regional accents, so I ended up having to re-voice a character or two, since I found myself outclassed in that arena, as we went along.

I was able to sleep at night, however, knowing that Abbie felt that only one of my characters sounded like Fake Sean Connery.

Anyway, the book is very, very good, and is the start of a new trilogy.  Unless I am mercifully beheaded whilst traveling on the freeway with Big Anklevich because I couldn't reach the seat belt (which seems to be placed in a position only Elongated Man, Reed Richards, ElastiGirl, or Plastic Man can get to), causing my severed head to bounce around, knocking into Big's face, back, and crotch (as he has warned me is inevitable), I'll be back to do the second book before long.

I look forward to finding out what happens to Silas and Company when that happens.

The book proper can be found at this link.  And here is the link to the AUDIO VERSION, way over there at  Also, I believe you can hear a hefty chunk of the book for free over at Abbie's website, The Worlds of Abigail Hilton, or the whole damn thing, at her Patreon page.


*Abbie does require me to actually read the book before I record it, which I am loathe to do, for some reason, but that inconvenience is offset by the fact that she actually pays me for my work.  Which is a refreshing change.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rish Outcast 40: Abram the Ghostly Friend

This is another storyless episode, kids.  In it, I talk about a horror movie I had rented (it's called THE AWAKENING, starring Rebecca Hall and Imelda Staunton), and then about an idea I had for my own ghost story.

I never did write it.  Although if you asked me to, I might just change my mind, and let you in my life forever.

Yeah, I still like Celine Dion.  Wanna fight about it?

If you want to download the episode, you might want to Right-Click here.  Then rethink your attitude.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Book That Broke the Camel's Back

So, I set the goal for myself to have my novel, "Into the Furnace," available on by the time CAPTAIN AMERICA 3 comes out, and I was well on my way.

Then I hit a snag.

I either had forgotten to type up a particular chapter, or (even scarier) had never written it at all, resulting in a missing section and a fairly-glaring plothole.

Which reminds me: I'm kind of struggling with how to present this book.  I have friends who are writers, and have enjoyed asking them about the marketing and promotion of their work, and always come out of the conversation with the thought that I need to accurately describe the book so that those who would (possibly) enjoy it will seek it out.  But there's a couple of ways to go about that.  The first is a sort of J.J. Abrams "only reveal what you want the audience to know" strategy, in which case, I just describe my book as "a Mystery set in the old West."  Or maybe give a summary of the first chapter, which sets the situation, and let the reader choose for him/herself whether to make the purchase.

That's how I intended to put out the book and talk about it.  But another strategy--perhaps a wiser one--is to simply give away the central conceit of the story, put it front and center, and hope that that hooks readers.

For example, I've always planned to have the cover be three buttes in the American Southwest, and let people know the genre by the font I use for the title and byline.  I realized that this is a pretty dull cover, though, and thought maybe it would help to put skulls and/or bones at the bottom right of the cover, thus hinting at danger or violence, or at least death.

But that's not as dynamic a cover as simply depicting the central conflict of the book, which a) shows exactly what the genre is, and b) would sell a lot more copies.

I even started to ask my artist friend yesterday if he might prefer to do a cover like that, because they always say you've gotta have a catchy, flashy, exciting, illuminating cover in order to sell this kind of indie stuff.  And if done right, it'd be a heck of a cover.

Not that I've ever cared about such things.

I'm not a numbers man.  I don't give a fig about how many people listen to my podcast or come read my blog or purchase copies of "The Minnesota Diarrhea Ghost" or like my Sean Connery impression.  And I don't even eat figs.

But I like to hear Big Anklevich tell me that there are many fans who like (if not love) the Dunesteef, or that he's gonna send people a link to my blog so more people hear my solo stuff, or that he's got a pretty, blind country cousin who thought it was the real Sean Connery we'd gotten on our show. 

Oh, and "Minnesota Diarrhea Ghost" has never been purchased.  It's free.

But right now, in April 2016, with about seventy-five percent of the book finalized and recorded, and more than half of it edited and ready to make available, I still don't know that I want to give everything away through a summary or illustration, such as the following:

"The Sixth Sense, a novel by M. Night Nolastname.  Doctor Crowe, a child psychologist, meets a disturbed child, Cole Sear, who can see and speak to ghosts.  He helps the boy deal with his fears, enables Cole to find out the ghosts' motivations, and ultimately discovers the truth about himself."

This is a perfectly cromulent entry for that non-existent novel (though who knows, maybe there's a novelization), but it does a disservice to the story, which doesn't reveal those pertinent details until pretty far into the tale.  Or worse, think of how ROSEMARY'S BABY was promoted, and that that information is actually revealed, narratively, in the closing three or four minutes of the film.

At the same time, if I tipped my hand with the art and/or synopsis, doesn't it make the central mystery of the book a bit boring, as the reader would have to slog through fourteen chapters before finally getting that scene depicted on the more-dynamic cover?

So, back to the beat, y'all.

I reached this segment of the book, and worried about what to do about it.  I went through my notebooks, looking for the lost chapter, and it wasn't there.*  It was possible I wrote that part on my laptop and then somehow saved over it (this has happened on several occasions, because laptops notoriously hate me because of the great Powerbook Holocaust back in the Nineties. 

I was only a guard, doing what I was told!

So, I had no choice but to sit down and try to write that missing chapter, to fill in the information that it needed, and to make it fit with the rest of the text.  But it wasn't as easy as that.  There was no easy way to create a new chapter in between Chapters 25 and 27 that said the things I had not previously said in the book.  And if I did just create a Chapter 26 that says, "And then Will thought back to a conversation he had had a few days before, which was not mentioned before . . ." it would have been worse than not addressing the plothole at all.

What resulted was three new scenes that I had to retroactively place earlier in the book, as well as a couple of references to that information later on, so that when you get to Chapter 27, it's all perfectly natural.  It ended up adding almost two thousand words to the manuscript (which is nice, since I keep worrying it's barely a novel, not when my contemporaries are writing 150,000 word epics).

What's more, because I had already recorded all the previous chapters--and edited some of them--I had to go back and record all the newly-revised bits, then hope I could seamlessly edit in the new segments.  Which I was mostly able to do, despite it taking a while to get done.

Honestly, even though the book itself was written rather painlessly last year (as just a very long short story), this has been the hardest part of the whole thing.  And on more than one occasion this week, I did ask myself, "Is this worth it?  Do other writers try this hard to make their work--which is never going to be perfect to begin with--better?  Should I have sent all this out to friends or strangers, hoping they'd find the inconsistencies themselves and provide me with suggested changes to make it a little more historically accurate**?  Would it have been wiser to do several drafts of this thing, ensuring that each version is a little more complete, a little more satisfying, a little closer to a debut novel that doesn't suck?"

All good questions, no?

But Big Anklevich gave me some advice, and I'm gonna try to follow it.  He said, "Just put the book out there.  Publish it and mention it on your blog and on Facebook, and let me promote it in a couple other places.  Make it available and move on to the next thing.  And whatever you do, don't ever, ever read the comments section on Amazon."

So, we'll see how that goes.


*There was a two or three sentence summary of what happened there in my notes, which I had written during one of those stretches where I get stuck and say, "Okay, and then what happens?"  And I spitball ideas onto the page, hoping they kick-start me back into productivity.  What, you don't do the same thing?

**For example, I changed "lightbulb" to "arc lamp" having spent a few minutes researching the invention of the electric light.  Which is probably unimportant, since there are many more glaring inaccuracies in the book, and I've been told on more than one occasion that the Old West of popular entertainment didn't even exist.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

My Story "Stormy Weather" Available on Amazon & Audible

I've told you about creating cover art for stories that I never publish, right? Wasting time, just another friendly service I provide.  Well, one of those was a story called "Stormy Weather" that I wrote a year or two back.

Basically, it was a tale I wrote set in a tiny farming town (such as where I grew up) when a big snowstorm hits.  The town's mayor,* Jeremy Cooper, decides to gather the entire community together where they will be safe, but it seems he forgot about one person . . . the one town citizen he (and everyone else) is afraid of: Ugly Trudy Pitter.

This has several of the elements I love to write about: small American towns, reluctant leaders, fear, banana bread, cantaloupes, Eric Clapton, and creepy local legends.

Yeah, I've written stories like this before.  Not that I've shared them with anybody.

Well, I had whatever you call the opposite of a moment of weakness, and decided to put this one out there.  It's available to purchase over at Amazon, and I can be irresponsible and make it available on Audible soon, or continue to work on my book and worry about the audio version later.**

If you're interested, here be yon link:

*Originally, I wrote that Jeremy was the town's sheriff . . . but that's the story I'm currently working on.  Maybe they are all the same.

**Oh, snap!  Here's the link to the Audible version, voiced by yours truly:

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Rish Outcast 39: The Trouble With Zara

This is a pretty strange episode.  You remember JURASSIC WORLD?  I know, it came out so long ago, half of you barely remember it, and the other half weren't born yet.  But Rish Outfield remembers it, and he wanted to talk about the one baffling/disturbing moment in that movie.  You know the one.

If you wanna download the episode, Right-Click right HERE.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Project(s) Update(s) - April

So, I'll try to be brief here.  A few weeks back, when I listed some upcoming projects and said I wanted you to "hold me to it," I didn't expect people to actually do it.  I'm not a miracle worker, Cap'n!

That being said, I finished (last night) my third story in 2016, this one clocking in at around 12,000 words.  According to Professor Wikipedia, that would be a Novelette.  Above 17,500 words, and it's considered a Novella.  Above 40,000 words is a Novel.*

I wrote that story for a contest, but the word limit on the contest was 4,000 words, so I failed that particular test.  I have considered paring the story down to a "greatest hits" version for inclusion in the contest, but I fear I'd be doing the tale no favors, and could probably write another story entire in the time it takes me to hack 'n slash.

In other nudes . . . I'm working on getting my novel ready to publish.  I've got a co-worker I've talked about in my solo podcast who has shown a great deal of interest in my writing, and is actually edging in my mind toward being considered a friend.  Austin, his name be, and he revealed recently that he is an aspiring artist.  Then I actually saw one of his drawings:

Okay, that's sort of a joke.  I just wanted to put up a placeholder drawing in the post, and I purposely chose the crappiest I could find.  My coworker's work was actually quite impressive.  He does what he describes as "ultra-realistic art," and had the rather brilliant idea of re-working the Drew Struzan Star Wars one-sheet posters with Harry Potter characters**

Sorry, must interrupt with a different font here.  I'm typing this in the library (because it's the only place I ever actually get work done, without distractions, he wrote unironically), and a minute ago, a guy at a cubicle a few desks away from mine all but shouted, "Can you keep it down?  Jeez!"  No one around me was talking (and if they were, they immediately stopped).  We all looked at the man, and you could tell he was a crazy guy because he had facial hair (and around here, only scumbags or the Son of God have facial hair), and gave off a really twitchy vibe.  

You know the type.

A minute later, he spun around, glaring, and I considered--unwisely, believe you me--loudly asking if he needed one of us to call an exorcist.  A couple minutes after that, though, he suddenly shouted, "Hey, you, shut the fuck up!"  And I thought--wisely, believe me you--to say nothing.  I was filled with the kind of righteous indignation that only really political and/or really religious people can muster when another library patron rose from his seat and went to get security.  I kind of love that this library has security guards.  There's something quaintly urban about that.

But then, when the employee came over a minute later, and asked the man if he was alright, and he responded, "That guy over there wouldn't stop coughing," a bit of my ire diminished.  When the library employee told him, "Well, you can't control coughing, sir," the crazy man (and yeah, maybe he wasn't crazy, but he definitely was bearded, and 'round here, that's halfway there), sort of wilted and said, "I'm sorry."

It was the way he said it.  Like a child that has been caught doing something naughty and doesn't even know why he did it, but does know punishment is imminent.  But suddenly, my righteous loathing for the man disappeared and was replaced by pity.  I actually felt sorry for him, and then spent five minutes typing about it instead of finishing up my blog post.

I too, am sorry.

Okay, I'm back.  So, Austin at work is actually a really fine artist, and had done a drawing of him and his wife making a baby that made me sit up and take notice.  Alright, they were only dancing, but I sort of wanted to be shocking, now that the long-haired library shouter is gone.  But I thought it was good stuff, and remembered years ago, when I fancied myself something of an artist, but was too captivated by the idea that in a short fifteen years you'd be able to go on a computer and see phony nude photos of any famous person you want to keep practicing.  I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.

But because Austin and I have become quite friendly, I dared to ask him if he wouldn't mind doing a cover for one of my stories.  He said he would, and just like everything in my life, I let it go, never to bring it up again.  

But weirdly, Austin didn't let it go.  He brought it up the next time we worked together, and the time after that, asking what kind of cover I would want.  I racked my brain trying to think up stories that I may one day publish but have yet to get cover art for.  It was hard, since I have projects like "Romantic Interlude," "Leap of Faith," and "Stormy Weather" that all have cover art finished, regardless of whether I'll ever publish them or not.

Finally, I told him about "Into the Furnace," which is my first novel, and should've been published weeks ago, and how I had taken a photo of a butte while driving to San Diego, and photo-altered it so it looked like three buttes, and wanted that as the cover image, just with skulls at the bottom right corner.  I even went quickly to my desk and drew a sketch of what I wanted it to look like . . . but Austin had gone home for the day.  

So, I took my sketch and tossed it, as I am wont to do.

But the next time we worked together, Austin (who I probably should have given a false name, since he isn't just my co-worker, but is actually technically my superior) was after me again about the cover art, like a . . . well, like a person who isn't me, I suppose.  No wonder he's my boss already, and only thirteen years old.

He told me he had a few days off and wanted to work on the cover art during that time, which again, is totally alien to me.  And I didn't have the sketch I had done for him, so I described it to him, and bid him farewell, not expecting to hear from the man again.

But I did.  I got a text before my shift was even done, with this attachment*** in it:

At this rate, he's gonna have a lovely cover for me long before I have it ready to publish.

Which brings me to my own work on the piece.  I have been, slowly but semi-surely, working on recording the audiobook for "Into the Furnace," and that involves rephrasing, discovering contradictions, and adding details where I feel they're lacking.  Yes, I'm doing, whilst producing the Audible version, what should have been done (either by me or another capable person) long before reaching this stage.  I recognize that.  But if I did things that way, I'd just now be publishing stories which I put up for sale in 2014 (though they, granted, might be better versions than those).

Regardless, that's how it's been going, and the other night I got to Chapter 9, which I had always planned to include the free five minute audio sample that Audible makes you include.  I looked at the word count as I was finishing up, and discovered that it was 44,445 words.

I thought it would grand if I could stop right there, and nearly looked for a "did not" that I could make into "didn't," so I'd have exactly 44,444.****  

But I didn't.  Because as I go, the work gets longer, and I hope better, and it would be true bearded-guy-screaming-in-a-library madness to try to remove a word for every one that I add, just to keep some kind of OCD perfect number like that.

And then, the next night, I reached Chapter 11.

And here's another slight detour.  Since I first started doing audiobooks in 2013, from the very first novel, I've found myself narrating a chapter, only to get to the end and saying (into the microphone), "Man, that was not a good chapter."  Sometimes it's "Wow, that was pretty bad," or "Shit, that chapter sucked," but it happens with quite a few books, probably indicative of what happens when I offer my services for free.  Doesn't mean that the book itself is crap, just that there are successful chapters, and some not so much.
But on the night of Wednesday, the 30th of March, it was the first time I'd ever recorded myself saying that about one of my own chapters.

First off, the file for Chapter 11 was 58 minutes long.  And that's insanely long.  Even at my snail's pace when producing my own work, a chapter usually takes thirty to forty minutes to record (which, sadly, translates to about fifteen to twenty minutes of edited audio), but this one was way too long.  Several things happen in Chapter 11, including the second meeting between our antagonist and protagonist, the temptation for our hero toward both drink and violence (which, I'm sad to say, probably goes nowhere), and the introduction of a half-assed romantic subplot (which I shrug in admitting absolutely goes nowhere).

So, that's part of the problem.  Chapter 11 was too long.  Also, most of the things that happen in it are only cursorily gone over (or even mentioned), giving the vast majority over to dialogue between the good guy and the bad guy.  And that's another two weaknesses.  The first is that I only play lip service to the stuff I don't really care about, and do way too much lip service with the stuff I really like.

I love dialogue.  I love characters talking to each other.  I'm Kevin Smith without the wit and without the nearly-crippling marijuana addiction.  And even though my initial idea for this story was a kind of Fantasy showdown, the moment I started writing it I was all about the kinds of conversations the hero and villain could have.

And that's really the only problem I'm unwilling to address, more than likely making it the most damning.

I love dialogue.  I'll try to say it a third time before the end.  And if you look through anything I've written in the last twenty years, it's gonna be so jammed with characters talking to each other that, if you removed that, you'd find nothing more than token description, "Brittany smiled"s and "Alexis swallowed"s, and the occasional attempt at humor.

Now, I dunno if that's a dealbreaker.  If I'm good at writing dialogue, and it's entertaining to hear Hughes and Tiffany talk about humanity's problems, or Donnie talking to his uncle about Frank's crazy scheme, or Marin explaining to her bewildered husband Morgan about the wonders of the Skubbian world (that's in the story I just finished, sorry), then I'm not a failure.  Then I'm not entirely doomed.

Look at "Greetings from the Ninth Sector" sometime.  That story is one of my best, and it's ninety-nine percent dialogue.  Perhaps even more so, if you eliminate the title and "the end."

But it's definitely my priority.

So instead of getting depressed about fouling up my novel and giving up on anything that didn't include Amee Mann songs (as I used to be partial to), I went to work fixing it.  I split Chapter 11 into Chapters 11 and 12, and tried to flesh out all the parts that weren't dialogue.  I created a new four paragraph scene that starts it all out, and was even tempted to make three chapters out of it.  But I didn't.

Then I went through and re-recorded all the new material, hoping it would seamlessly edit in with the work I'd done Wednesday night (which seems to have been successful).

That doesn't mean that the problems are gone.  And it doesn't mean that I won't find another chapter with the same--or new--weaknesses.  But I am much happier with Chapter 11/12 than I was with Chapter 11, and I hope you will be too.

And I'm nearing the halfway point on the audiobook, which is a good thing too.  Right now, my goal is to have "Into the Furnace" published before CAPTAIN AMERICA 3 comes out.  No reason why, just an arbitrary day.

Man, this has been a long blog post.  Especially considering I wanted it to be quick and easy, an hour or more ago.  Sorry and/or you're welcome.

Rish "I Love Dialogue" Outfield

*Of course, within a day I will have forgotten these numbers, which seems to vex Big Anklevich when I ask him every six months for the figure.

**Hopefully Dobby will replace Boba Fett.

***That's not exactly what I had in mind, but it's so much better than my own sketch that I feel guilty asking him to change it at all.  

****Horribly, we had a power outage a couple of days ago, and when I opened the file up to do some more recording, I discovered that the novel was now at 43,560 words or so.  Which makes me wonder what was lost in between saving the file and the power going out, or if I just misremembered the word count.  My money's on losing half a chapter or something.