Saturday, February 28, 2009

Feb 28- I rode the BLAZING SADDLE

Day Twenty Eight. I wore a shining star.

The Blood of the Gods- 1048 words

I do so love some of the Mel Brooks movies and do so hate what they spawned.

So very tired.

A post-mortem to come...

Oh, and I'm twittering-

Progress Report, Day 27

Comics pages: 8
Prose words: 1,200

Not a bad day, but I fear this could be it for me, unless Bill totally blows it today. I feel like John McCain on the eve of Election Day, and me without even a Country-singing plumber to show me the way.

I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope for the best...

Progress Report, Day Twenty Seven

On final day minus one I had another ten point day.

Prose Writing: 0 Words.

Comics Writing: 21 Pages.

Notes: I was going to stop at 20 pages of comics script, but I had a thought and a scene that I wanted to finish. The other big work-eating call, that I was supposed to have to deal with, didn't happen, so my reprieve gave me the extra hours I needed to work through the day. Today has to be a big day too, since it's the last work day I get before I take far too much time off to move to Minnesota. I have to finish up the final two or five pages on several issues of this and that, including lots of Fables related projects, and one dangling JSA issue.
     After today boxes and packing and tossing out anything that isn't worth hauling across a continent rules my time and attention on a fairly exclusive basis. Hey, I just had an idea to make the packing more fun! We'll make a Clockwork contest out of it! For every box fully packed we get one point, and one point for every ten fragile items bubble wrapped! Two points for every heavy item of furniture hauled to the moving van! Sure, you other Tick Tock guys aren't actually moving, but you can just unpack the stuff after the contest is over and it will be great practice for the next time you do move!
     We can call it The Great March Moving Madness!
     How 'bout it, guys?

Travel Day

I'm on the road again.
Goin' places that I've never been,
Seeing things that I may never see again,
and I can't wait to get back to home again.

Insert banjo solo here.

Feb 27- Weekend Thirty

Day Twenty Seven.

The Blood of the Gods- 727 words

So very tired.

Friday, February 27, 2009

2,378 words and counting (updated below)

Still working. I've got stuff to do, and what's more, more to write. I spent part of the day working out an interview scene between Finch, MacElroy, and Paige. Normally, I don't plan out dialogue, preferring to keep it light and spontaneous, but in this particular instance, I've got to impart really specific information and dole it out, just so.
I've got some more time tomorrow before we pack up and head back to Vernon, three hours away. When I get there, I'll be diving right into movietime, so I won't get to update until late in the evening.
As this contest rumbles to a close, I feel a little irked that Real Life intruded so much, but then again, this whole deal came together at the last minute, so I guess it's how spur-of-the-moment things go sometimes. I do have in mind to write a 30-day novel, Old-School style, this year. The idea was to pick a month when I didn't have very much going on, like April, and then break out some Vintage CWSB moves. I may still do that, depending on how our annual retreat is scheduled. Anyway. There's more coming.
On the plus side, I'm thrilled that I got a jump-start on this project, even if I didn't get nearly as far as I wanted. One of my writing goals was to write and shop a novel this year, but considering how everything is playing out so far, I may well have two or even three novels to shop this year.
Here's a bit of unedited mayhem:
Something slid into the alley and landed a few inches from where Honker knelt over Caroline. He turned to spy what it was and couldn’t have been more surprised to find a coiled rattlesnake inches from his thigh, its head raised to strike. The rattling sound clinched it, and Honker jumped up and away as fast as he could.

Caroline watched, transfixed, as Honker leapt into the air and made a noise like a frightened kid, a high, keening wail. He moved left, farther down into the alley, and that’s when the man appeared out of thin air and stiff-armed Honker, who fell flat on his back with the air knocked out of him.

He had to be at least seven feet tall, dressed in a business suit and a trenchcoat, which seemed to whirl and eddy around his feet like a living thing. He wore one of those old timey hats, like Humphrey Bogart, and also...was that a mask?

He waved his hand at Honker and Caroline screamed as a real live rattlesnake appeared out of his empty hand and struck Honker in the chest. Honker screamed, convulsed and then lay still. The serpent went limp, and then retracted into the strangely-dressed man’s hands. He stepped forward and crouched down over the pimp. His hands were like snakes, seeking, probing the body, looking for God only knows what. He finally stood and pulled the lifeless form of Honker up and heaved him into the dumpster. Caroline saw her chance and took it. She got up and started to run, and damned if she didn’t run right into another man who seemed to come straight out of the darkness.

He wore a gray pajama top, like what she’d seen the Muslims wear. Around his waist was a dark red sash that belted the top, and black, baggy pantaloons around his legs. He wore a red fez on his head, and while his eyes were kindly behind the black mask on his face, his grip on her was firm and absolute. “A thousand pardons, Ma’am,” he said, “but we must speak with you.”

Without another word, Jinn turned her around and there, inches from her face, was the masked man. “My name is rattlesnake, whore,” he said. “Do you know me?”

In the six months that she’d been in New York City, Caroline had talked to a number of street people, from bums to vice cops. In that time, she’d heard a handful of tales that she instantly dismissed as stuff they tell the rubes. Stuff about a man who could talk to snakes...a guy that killed people, like a voodoo man, using rattlesnakes...part Dracula, part Billy the Kid, he helped people by killing criminals. And now, she was looking at this man, and she did know who he was. The bravado she felt with Honker vaporized the face of this, the unknown, and the tears rolled freely down her cheeks. She could only nod.

“I’ll use the language you can understand, whore. Your pimp is dead. Everything that was his now is mine. Including you.” Rattlesnake held up the knife that Honker had so recently used to threaten her. “See? His fangs.” Rattlesnake leaned in close. All she could see was his eyes, cold and dark, like a snake’s. “My fangs are worse.”

“Please,” she spluttered, “I don’t want to die. Don’t do this to me. I’m not like him.”

Rattlesnake pulled his head back and hissed, “Don’t you see, whore? Your life is mine, to do with as I see fit.”

Caroline sobbed, uncontrollable at this point. She tried again to beg for her life, but all that came out was a short, braying sound.

“I know who you are, Caroline Jones,” he said. “I will come for you with further instructions. Until that time, you will take care of your body. It’s mine, now, and I will make use of it later. No drugs, no alcohol, and no sex. Do you understand me?”

The idea that he wasn’t going to kill her was a lifeline, and Caroline grabbed it eagerly. “Yes, yes, I’ll do whatever you say,” she babbled.

Rattlesnake turned and walked away from her, right into the darkened alley, and vanished from sight. She slumped, not realizing that the other man was holding her up. He turned her back around. “Listen,” he said, his eyes wide and sincere. “You have one chance to escape him.”

“What?” she sniffed.

“You’re from Illinois, yes?”

“How did you...?”

The man pressed her purse into her hands. “Never mind that. Take this and get out of town. In your billfold is a card. It’s a woman’s shelter. You can stay the night there. In the morning, get breakfast and ask them for a ride to Penn Station. They will take you there, you get on the train, and you go back home.”

She shook her head. “I can’t go back there,” she said.

“Yes, you can,” said the man. “It’s the only way to escape him. He can’t find you if you leave the city. Go home. Whatever you have done, whatever you think you did, they will forgive you in your home.” He let her go. “It’s the only way.” He glanced into the shadows of the alley. “I have to go. We never met. I never told you this, understand?”

She nodded. “I’ll go.”

“See that you do,” he said. “He’s watching you right now.”

That was more than enough for Caroline. She took off in as much of run as she could muster with her heels on. The bus was up ahead and she dove straight into the closing doors, skinning both knees in the process. The driver started to help her up, but saw the earmarks of prostitute on her and let her struggle with the bland indifference that only city people can muster. In Fort Wayne, she mused, I could get a hand or two to help me get on the bus.

Once she was more or less erect, she found enough change in her handbag to pay the fare, got a transfer, and sat down heavily in one of the handicapped seats. She cried quietly for several minutes, until her tears dried up and she felt a little safer. She cautiously fished her wallet out of her purse and opened it. Her Illinois driver’s license stared at her, a different person altogether, taken two years ago on her eighteenth birthday. Tucked into the crease was a business card and a hundred dollar bill. She hid the money, lest anyone on the bus see it, and looked at the card. On one side was a written address and the name of the woman’s shelter. On the back, a coiled rattlesnake with four words underneath it: Don’t Tread on Me.

She shuddered and slumped down in her seat, sure that reptilian eyes were following her as the bus lumbered down the street.
4,141 words total
Got it done. Not sure I like it, but it felt right coming out. I don't want to second-guess it; that way leads to madness and death. However, I will need some editorial input, just to keep my cops honest.

Progress Report, day Twenty Six

Comics pages: 14
Prose words: 0

Astonishingly, I did exactly the same amount of work as Bill. I had no lengthy phone calls, but I did spend a few hours playing hide and seek (among others) with my daughter. So I was probably having more fun.

Progress Report, Day Twenty Six

I tried for another ten point day, but didn't make it.

Prose Writing: 0 Words.

Comics Writing: 14 Pages.

Notes: A very long work-related phone call threw a monkey wrench into the plan, robbing some of yesterday's prime work hours. I can't mention what the majority of the comic pages were, other than saying they involve a certain well-known wolf. Spent no time on Mars yesterday, except in my thoughts and plans. I thought briefly about how I could make the hero of my Mars story and the hero of my Sword and Sorcery story the same fellow, but then realized why that wouldn't work, unless I drastically altered at least one of the stories. Too bad. Ever since ERB I've had a hankering to do something along the lines of his, "As near as I can recall, I've always been a man of about thirty years."
     So, Matt, did you steal a march on me yesterday?

Roberson's Report... What day is it, again?

Did I win, yet?

Apologies for running silent the last few days. I got a good head of steam up on Sons of Dorn on Tuesday, racking up a few thousand words and looking to sprint towards the month's finish. But then Wednesday was muddled by doctor visits for me and my daughter (a routine checkup for her--she's fine--and a follow-up to see if my medications are keeping my blood pressure and cholesterol below the life-threatening levels they had reached--and they seem to be). I was back at my desk by 11AM on Wednesday, ready to get a half-day of writing in, at least. Then I read the news that Philip José Farmer had died. That pretty much took the wind out of my sails.

I won't repeat here all the things I've said about Phil elsewhere (in my blog archives are my first reaction, and a more measured response the next day), but suffice it to say that I didn't get much work done for a couple of days. I didn't even find time to post my tally for Tuesday. Yesterday, I tried to honor Phil in my own way by spending the day writing, but I'd been unable to sleep on Wednesday night, for completely unrelated reasons (I'm blaming a bottle of wine I think had gone bad, but it may have been a stomach flu), and instead spent the day thinking about my career from this point forwards, pausing for a moment to consider just what sort of writer I want to be remembered as. My immediate plans won't be changing, and I'll be continuing in the short term with all of the projects and series I've got in the works, but my emphasis will be shifting over the course of the next year or so, and as much as possible I'm going to be doing more of the kinds of writing I enjoy doing, and probably not as much of the kind that I do just because I think other people will like it.

In any event, I'm sorry that events of the last few weeks have kept me hobbled, unable to fully join the race, and that I wasn't able to demolish the other competitors as was their due. Next time I'll just try that much harder.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feb 26- The Wonders of the Pitch

Day Twenty Six. I wrote another pitch and tightened up the text for a pitch we'll be sending out in a few days. It is interesting to work with Thom (Love & Capes) Zahler in this webcomic format.

The Blood of the Gods- 742 words

Watched Burn Notice and I love how accessible it is. Clocking out early.


Progress Report, Day 10,000

Comics pages: 4
Prose words: 8,031

I wasn't going to go down without at least a single 10-point day to my name. This one took a lot of doing, as I ended up working on four different projects in order to get it done. Three of the comics pages were Jack of Fables, and one of from House of Mystery. The majority of the prose was the new novel, but the last 250 words, the ones that got me over the hump, was a pair of long paragraphs from the kids' book.

Here's a few paragraphs from the new novel:

“My name is Paet,” said Everess’s associate. “You’ve never heard of me, and I doubt you’ll meet many who have. I know a number of useful things, and I will teach you these things should you decide to accept our offer.

“And who, exactly, are you?” asked Silverdun, looking the man in the eye.

“I am a Shadow,” said Paet. “Nothing more.” He tapped his blackwood cane on the ground.

“What does that mean?”

Paet smiled, a tiny, precise smile. “Its lack of content is precisely what defines a Shadow, Lord Silverdun. That is one of the things I will teach you.”

Silverdun wanted to mock this strange man’s deliberate obtuseness, but found himself unable under the glare of those wolfish eyes.

“Here is another thing that you will learn someday, though you won’t understand it now. Shadows are not creatures of darkness. They are cast, by the sun. They are the necessary consequence of that which stands in the way of light.”

“You’re right,” said Silverdun, attempting a nonchalant smile. “I haven’t the slightest clue what you’re going on about.”

“You will,” said Paet simply.

Oh, snap!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feb 25- The Parallel Indy

Day Twenty Five. I screwed off most of the day after I wrote another pitch. I'm struggling against the burnout here.

The Blood of the Gods- 1355 words

Watched Life. It's great, but largely abandoned. I read a few tweets on twitter which would seem to be a boon to stalkers. Then I watched another one of the episodes of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. That Cordelia Gray is adorable! At first glance, I thought it would be like the 'Bridgetown' pitch that Willingham and I bullied Mark Finn into making. But it's different. And damn, those things are long.

I recently discussed an alternate Earth version of Raiders of the Lost Arc with my buddy Tim. We were discussing the one on the world run by rocks and the alternate ending where the boulder rolls down and crushes Indy at the end of the first set piece. And they we talked about how much that would improve a movie like the typical romantic comedy. Who doesn't want to see a boulder roll in from off camera and crush Kate Hudson? Or Jennifer Lopez? Or anybody who was ever on Gray's Anatomy? That could only improve movies, I think.

How long have I been awake?


Progress Report, Day Twenty Five

I knew going into it that this wasn't going to be a ten point day. Too many errands to run. I had to rush through other things just to get enough hours to do a five point day.

Prose Writing: 1,208 Words.

Comics Writing: 10 Pages.

Notes: I spent the entire prose part of the work day on Mars. Had to get some ideas down before they went away. Comics pages are likely to be the remainder of the contest for me. I wrote the history of Mister Dark today, along with a peek or two at the progress on Castle Dark.
     While running errands I spent some time thinking about things that might have been, but never were -- no doubt fueled by Chris' news (Roberson, not Oppy) that Phil Farmer died last night. He speculated quite a bit on that in his many stories. In honor of him I wanted to travel to that universe where I could read the other Tarzan books he wrote there and didn't get to write here. I also want to travel to that version of our world where Tom Selleck (be sure to watch him Sunday night) was able to get out of his Magnum PI contract and star in Raiders of the Lost Arc, and where John Wayne agreed to play Dirty Harry, where Harvey Keitel didn't get fired off of Apocalypse Now, and Bing Crosby agreed to play Columbo, and so on.
     At the same time I realize other folks like me are traveling to this version of the world from their versions, because they want to visit the bizarre world where Jimmy Hendricks actually opened for The Monkees, and Matt Sturges actually made it as a professional writer, which kept him from going into politics and plunging the western world into a World War to end all World Wars, and so on.

I'm in Canadian, Texas

No wordage today. I drove three hours away from Vernon to a small town in the Panhandle called Canadian. We're doing some life planning for the next two days. And when we're not doing that, I'm a writing fool, yo.

Some strong stuff coming tomorrow.

Progress Report, Day Twenty Four

This was a good day.

Prose Writing: 0 Words.

Comics Writing: 20 Pages.

Notes: Give me my ten points! Give me my ten points! The pages were split between the last couple of my pages for Fables 84, the last couple of my pages for Jack 34, some of the pages for Fables 86 (which is the first issue after the Great Fables Crossover, a one-issue story which features the same penciller and inker art team that will be doing a big, BIG Fables project with me), and some pages of the big BIG Fables project I just mentioned parenthetically.
     I watched no TV yesterday, except two episodes from the complete FRIENDS collection during my two meal breaks (one each per meal), and I don't want to give anything away, but Chandler finally proposed to Monica and oh how I wept and wept with joy. No, really. Those lying scum who say I have no feelings (and whose names may or may not rhyme with Statt Murges and Will Billiams) are just agenda-driven dogs of the old regime who will get swept away with the rest of the trash, come the people's glorious revolution. Tom Selleck was the villain in the second of those two episodes, which is a rare roll for him. He's the hero in this coming Sunday night's brand new Jesse Stone movie on CBS. I am very much looking forward to it. The Robert Parker books on which the Jesse Stone movies are based have some real problems, but they translate into excellent Tom Selleck movies.
     Hey, Chris (Opperman, not Roberson), Give me my ten points!

Progress Report, Day Twenty-Four

Comics pages: 11
Prose words: 0

Not a bad day, all things considered, but today I'm going for greatness. The pie in the sky -- the ten point day!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Feb 24- Shot Down in San Diego

Day Twenty Four. I had a pitch shot down today. Went from steaks to cheesesteaks just like that. Now, I need a new pitch for a new crime thing. But in the mean time, I have something of a direction for the second third of the novel. It's a bit perverse, but I kind of like writing myself into corners. One of the bonuses of being your own boss.

The Blood of the Gods- 1561 words

Watched the Season finale of Leverage and want more. And I'm on twitter now at the cool kids table. But, will it last?

Then I watched one of the episodes of An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and it was supercool in a Brit kind of way. Now, sleep.

A little bird told me (and his name rhymes with Statt Murges) that Matt was going for a ten point day yesterday, so I had to go for a ten point day too. But I didn't make it.

Prose Writing: 0 Words.

Comics Writing: 10 Pages.

Notes: In fact it was all I could do to crawl bleeding and battered (but undaunted still) across the five point line. Too many distractions yesterday. Too many instances of, "I know I'm not supposed to call you too often during this writing thing of yours, but I had to share this with you..." and so on. Thank the tired old gods that they managed to keep Sturges away from the ten point goal too. Providence isn't just a silly old TV show. Five days to go. I've gone from despairing that there are too many days of this stunt still ahead of me, to worrying how I'm going to get everything done in the too few days left.
     I can't continue this into March, because that's the month I take off to move.

Progress Report, Day Twenty-Three

Comics pages: 10
Prose words: 1,110

My big 10,000 word day was hindered by the fact that I fell asleep at 8:30, while I was "thinking" about House of Mystery. Got a few pages done on the kid's book, but most of the time was spent working on RUN!.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Feb 23- No Rest for the Wicked

Day Twenty Three. I worked away at the novel again today. Up until now, I had been writing in the nice guy side of things and today I had to go back and fill in gaps left for maneuvering by the bad guys. They're more fun anyway.

The Blood of the Gods- 3471 words

Some of the work was like trying to sprint in deep mud.

On the TV: House is no longer Must See for me because the formula is finally wearing on me. Now, I just half-track to get the funny House Bits. 24 is fun as a Summer movie that plays out over 5 months. Tonight, they hit the act break for the first third of the season and I like to watch the transition. Usually, this is where things get even more bat guano crazy.

Roberson's Report, Feb 23: 720

Got nothing done over the weekend, too busy orchestrating Georgia's 5th birthday. (Hint: It involved ponies...) Today I got started on the new Warhammer 40K novel, Sons of Dorn, but spent as much time getting everything ready to write as I did actually writing. (It's amazing how much reorganization my desk requires when I should be doing something else.) When starting new novels I usually post pretty crappy days for the first day or two, before getting up to speed, and today was certainly no exception. But if there were only 720 words pinned down today, they were 720 good words.

No samples, I'm afraid, since I don't actually own this one. But it involves a Space Marine meditating while shadow-fencing (ie. shadow-boxing with a sword), and packs in loads of backstory in just a few short paragraphs. The actual sword-fighting (and the attendant hacked limbs and such) doesn't start for another chapter or two...

Sunday's Word Count: 2,400

You've gotta be effin' kidding. I looked at the word count and thought, "hundred more words? No problem!"

Yeah, right.

Nothing to fill, nothing to add, nothing to rewrite (that usually involves subtracting words for me, not adding).

Argh! Fate! Why do you mock me so?

I've got two meetings today that will carry me through lunch, and then I'm not talking to anyone for the rest of the day. I'm shutting myself off in my room and pounding this keyboard like a chimp cracking on coconuts. Don't poke the monkey, Hoss. Not today. I gots me a word count to crack.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Feb 22- That Uncounted Work

Day Twenty Two. I wrote the lion's share of a book pitch, getting it down on paper at twelve hundred plus words, which is its own kind of creative writing but not contest worthy. Onto the score-keeping...

The Blood of the Gods- 1046 words

And I've been watching the Second Season of ROME and reading Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together (#4). They are entertaining exercises in form and content and very fun for very different reasons.


Progress Report, Day Twenty-Two

Comics pages: 0
Prose words: 7,552

Ah, and now we've finally brought Silverdun, our protagonist, into the novel. Silverdun -- as those of you who've read Midwinter already might have guessed -- does not make a very good monk.

This was not the ten-thousander that I'd hoped for. But I think tomorrow I might actually pull one off. We'll see how it goes.

Progress Report, Day Twenty Two

Not a five point day, but I had an excuse (of a sorts).

Prose Writing: 89 Words.

Comics Writing: 6 Pages.

Notes: I was asked to join the crew live-blogging the Oscars over on the Big Hollywood site. The Oscars weren't that engaging -- I'm not a big fan of any award shows -- but the need to comment often kept me from doing as much real work during the event as I thought I might be able to get to.

Progress Report, Day Twenty-One

Comics pages: 0
Prose words: 6,071

Novel, novel, novel. Today we met Madalaine Thuron, a researcher in Elemental Thaumatics at Nyelcu University, who's led a team of associate researchers and students to study the wreckage at Selafae.

Saturday's word count: 5,391 words

I took it upon myself to maroon several people, not do any of my usual Saturday routine, and in general ignore everyone to put up a good sized number. Oh boy, did that feel good!
I won't be doing that today, as I have some other obligations to take care of, but look out Monday. I got a fever, and the only prescription, is more word counts.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Progress Report, Day Twenty One

This was going to be my ten point day, but then it wasn't.

Prose Writing: 0 Words.

Comics Writing: 10 Pages.

Notes: I woke up today with a truly incandescent headache, which took me more than half the day to shake. Then I got to work. But later on Matt called to remind me I hadn't posted the previous day's word count (which I would normally do first thing in the morning -- if I didn't get it posted the previous night -- but with the headache and all I wasn't in my routine and would have forgotten to do it). After that bit of business we ended up talking about all manner of things: a cool part of his new novel that parallels something in my new novel, and how we can both take a lesson from the early books of Freddy Forsyth in what we choose to focus on in a story; the absolute wretchedness of the new series Doll House (in detail); the many strengths and few but significant weaknesses of the novels of Orson Scott Card; and the surprising revelation that we both shared a favorite novel in Heinlein's Starship Troopers (not at all to be confused with the deplorable movie). After more than an hour of this I slowly recognized that Matt was trying to keep me on the phone so that I'd miss making my 5 points today. Then again, he saved me from losing two points by not posting yesterday's numbers, so I'm not sure what sort of game he's actually playing, but I know he's up to something.
     I did take a bit more than an hour out tonight to watch the made for HBO movie Taking Chance, which I recommend to all, without reservation. It's a showcase for the power of understatement.

Feb 21- The Cold Nards

Day Twenty One, and the cold is running away 'cause I kicked it in the nards.

The Blood of the Gods- 1006 words

I have a new proposal to write and a few contracts to re-read and sign, so the output may be weak for tomorrow too. I think my last swings at the 5K mark will be on Mon & Tues. From there, I fizzle a little.

Last month, I was interviewed about the wonders of making comics for a podcast by some local guys. I drank a load of beer and yammered on about making comics and pitching projects. Here is the parking space for that extravaganza. Copy and paste, copy and pasters.

Progress Report, Day Twenty

Matt Sturges just reminded me that I hadn't posted my results for yesterday, which was a fine thing to do, since I would have forgotten.

Prose Writing: 2, 222 Words. 

Comics Writing: 6 Pages.

Notes: I actually deleted 19 words of my prose output, so that I could have the parade-of-twos result. The comics work was all on the new project I can't reveal yet, but which Matt grilled me on (during the same call in which he reminded me to post these numbers), and got the whole poop. So question him about it, if you think you can get him to spill any beans. Since Matt is a notorious bean spiller, you may in fact get something from him. I'm not entirely cheating on the more pressing work I should be doing, because the art team is ready to go on this, and can use pages to start on as soon as possible.

Progress Report, Day Twenty

Comics pages: 6
Prose words: 2,346

Back in the saddle today. The prose was split between the novel, a short story, and a new kids' book that I've had rattling around in me for a while. The kids' book is the first in a potential series tentatively called Jasper Stone's Encyclopedia of Young Persons' Knowledge. That label may be a bit bland and may confuse the target audience of bright ten-year-olds, must of whom have probably never seen or heard of an encyclopedia. Anyway, this one is called The Truth About Monsters. Here's a snippet:

I woke up early, like I do every day, so I could read a book before breakfast. The book was called A Complete History of Marshmallows. A fourth-grader named Will Oblong had told me the day before that we should all stop eating marshmallows because they’re made of eye boogers. As a fan of marshmallows, I was understandably disturbed.

At first glance, it had seemed that Will was wrong. According to the marshmallow package in my kitchen, marshmallows are made out of sugar, gelatin, and something called “tetrasodium pyrophosphate.” I was about to leave it at that and tell Will Oblong to shove marshmallow up his nose, but my natural curiosity wouldn’t let the matter lie, and I found myself at Book Universe just before bedtime, loading up my arms with books about food.

And now, the following morning, in a small footnote buried at the back of A Complete History of Marshmallows, I discovered the horrible truth. Tetrasodium pyrophosphate, as it happens, is a chemical that is added not just to marshmallows, but also to pudding, chicken nuggets, and imitation crab. And tetrasodium pyrophosphate, I am sad to report, is the scientific name for:

Eye boogers.

I rode the bus to school thinking uneasily about how many S’mores I’d eaten in my life. I finally decided that there was no use in fretting over it. Some things you probably don’t need to know.

Very rough, but it gets the idea across: one part Lemony Snicket, one part Daniel Pinkwater, and one part my own inner ten-year-old. My girls, who are eight and five, are entranced, so we'll see what happens.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Feb 20- Peace Kills

Day Twenty, and the cold is still here.

The Blood of the Gods- 3125 words

In other news, Dollhouse has a wicked sense of humor, but I'll still be shocked if it makes 8 episodes on broadcast. Last night, I finished reading Peace Kills by P.J. O'Rourke. That writer is bad for me like the third and forth tequila shots. First, he uses too many drinking references that I get. And I find his prose style infectious, so that I have to make a conscious effort not to write like that for a few days after reading something by him.

No wonder that three day novel contest is such a bastard. That's 25K words a day for 3 days!

The novel I am working on has cracked 14K words now and here is a little about it. The Blood of the Gods has an armed force trying to take over the most expensive real estate in Haliford as part of a secret plan. The missioners who enact the will of the Gods start to come into contact with each other in a bloody turf war. Its swords and spells and life in a Medieval Magical Manhattan. Here is a sample of a sequel to The Clockwork Bride. This is an interlude in a much bigger fight....

William Arterton had excelled in his studies in The University and he was without doubt at the top of his class in the information and detection arts. With his skills he could have worked for anyone on a permanent basis, but he had decided to remain independent. William valued his freedom more than anything else, so he worked with a wide variety of clients. Today, he was working for the temple of Kharvor as he was helping them look into the tragedy that had just befallen their new temple. He tried to stay out of the temple business, but they always had the most coin. And oh, how those coins talked.

He had been briefed on the carriage ride over to the organization's Oak Street location. It seemed that the night before, an assassin had entered the temple and he had killed several guards including one high- ranking member of the temple's security force that happened to be overseeing the new construction. William had been contacted in the dead of night and as he had a wife to support, he dressed and prepared his spells and met the coach when it stopped in front of his door. The temple itself had been cleaned with a neat little row of bodies wrapped by the front door. He got there just in time to see strong men get them into a wagon to cart them off. William Arterton was smart enough to forget to ask where the bodies were going.

After hearing a brief description of the events of the night before, he went to work. William cast the basic spells and found the killer by holding focus on the exit the killer had used and back tracking a bit. At the demand of his paymasters, he froze the man's image and held it so that the temple's spell casters could study him. William studied him while they worked. The man was five and a half feet tall and wrapped in grays and blacks. He did not seem to carry a weapon, but those could be hidden almost anywhere. The most unusual fact about the man was one of the details that was bedeviling his hosts. As he held the image, they tried to discover the way that the man had blurred his features. Then one of the three servants of Kharvor asked the other two where the map case was. That question triggered another argument. He was doing his best to ignore the men, but he was frozen in time with them. There was no place he could hide from the heated discussion. The spells he had cast to hold the moment were just difficult enough to require he hold his concentration on the job at hand. So here he was, listening to a family squabble.

There was a loud crack from the direction of the door and then another. He decided to drop the spell. It was simple enough to cast again and William had a bad feeling about being blind in the temple. To him it seemed cursed. When he let go of the charm, he and the others dropped back into seeing the world in real time. For a split second he was sorry he had dropped the spell. A gray skinned giant, standing a man and a half tall was swinging the largest hammer he had ever seen around the room. The double doors that led to the street bad been blown in, the hinges shattered. The creature was standing so that his deadly hammer would have the chance to strike him if he made a run for the door.

"Do something," one of the men screamed at him.

William staggered back and did the only thing he could imagine. He weaved his hands together and brought back the scene from the night before.

The giant staggered when he saw the assassin standing in the middle of his huge form. He rubbed his chin and looked at the fleeing figure that was frozen in time. "That figures," he said with a sound so deep it rattled in the spell caster's chest and drowned out the mewling of an injured man by the front door. The giant swung his enormous head in William's general direction. "Stop that," he growled. The creature staggered back a step and felt his chest and he was outraged when he saw his black blood.
William choked out a single word in a hoarse whisper. "Leave."
The giant smiled and closed his eyes. He swung his hammer in a wide arc to a chorus of screams and bone-shattering collisions that came from unseen opponents. The giant's eyes snapped open and focused on the spell caster who had trapped them in the image of that moment together. He closed the distance and backhanded the magician into the nearest wall.

In a shattering instant, William was against the wall and his spell was gone. His eyes were full of stars and then a mixture of cold sweat and blood. Then they closed for a day and a half. When he awoke, he was in a basement hospital in the temple of Kharvor across town. They took care of him for a few days before he went home to be with his family. He recovered there and took the time to consider his future. On making a full recovery, he decided to go back and teach at The University. The words of one of his instructors rang out in his memory. When he had asked one of his favorite people at The University why he had gone to a life of teaching he had gotten an answer he now knew to be true. He smiled to himself as he signed the first of many annual work contracts.

"We may have the occasional accident in the study or in the summoning chamber, but that pales by comparison to the hazards of doing field work."


I have a lot of free time-

Is it weird that the killer chimp kind of reminds me of character actor Burt Young?

I should probably be working. Or at least I should lay off the cold medication?

Progress Report, Day Nineteen

Comics pages: 0
Prose words: 0

It's astonishing how few words I wrote yesterday, considering how much time I spent TYPING. It was a day of housecleaning, revisions, notes, edits, emails, and when it was finally time to start writing, I was late to pick up the young'un from Montessori School (or Monstressori school, as I can't help but think after Avenue Q). Planned to pick up the slack after the kids went to bed, but I fell asleep with the kids, woke up around ten-thirty, and was in too much of a daze to do much of anything at all. So, bleh.

Today should be better. There's always another day -- well, there's only nine more days, in this case. But still.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feb 19- Burned Bones

Day Nineteen, and I got off to a Hellishly slow start. Okay, okay, to be totally honest, I sat down to work at 10PM CST. Still, I mowed down some words. Take that, cold.

The Blood of the Gods- 2762 words

In other news, Bones was okay and Burn Notice was excellent. Along the way, I tacked a few new notes to my page. There is one that says nice things about The Equalizer- Season One. There is one that says horrible things about a MONK tie-in book. Here is the guilty page--

And I name dropped a famous author whose name rhymes with SchMatthew Schturges in one of the posts. Willingham, feel free to throw rocks at me where you disagree. And Finn, good to have you back.

Progress Report, Day Nineteen

Today was a pretty productive day. Now if I will only start working on the projects that are most pressing, I might have a more sanguine attitude about the results.

Prose Writing: 651 Words.

Comics Writing: 13 Pages.

The prose work was just noodling mostly. Getting down a few lines that occurred to me when I wasn't actively trying to think about the various prose projects in various stages of production. But what the hell. Advancing the ball just a bit is better than not at all, or losing ground.
     The comics work was mostly on a new project that I can't mention yet. I was thinking about what I needed to do for the books I need to produce pages for, like JSA and Jack and Fables and The Literals, and that sparked some ideas for a project that isn't quite so pressing. So I did just a few pages of that, just to get the thing started. "Just to make sure I could find my way into the story," as Sturges might say. And doing those pages gave me an idea for Fables # 86, the non Bucky-drawn single story issue that immediately follows the Great Fables Crossover, and so I did some pages of that.
     But I swear, Matt and Shelly and other interested parties, that tomorrow I will do the pages I most need to do in the order in which they are most needed.

Words! 2,893 of them!

I'm still dealing with my twin tragedies, but I did get a couple of hours to myself, and got some necessary characters moving forward. It's not much, but progress is critical in a writing project, and if you miss a day, you just have to pick up where you left off tomorrow. It's the only way to ever finish anything.

Here's a taste, then, of my two new favorite people, Finch and MacElroy:

Detectives Ethan Finch and Jack MacElroy rode to their first call together. MacElroy drove while Finch worked the box of donuts. Every day with the donuts. Finch was five six and weighed 120 pounds at his heaviest. But the man could put away a dozen donuts like no one’s business and not have a thing to show for it. Every morning, he got donuts from his neighborhood bakery, and a big cup of coffee. He used to share them with MacElroy, but after six years of the same thing every single day, Mac couldn’t look at donuts anymore, cop-jokes be damned.

MacElroy watched Finch for not the first time in the morning and ruminated on the notion that if Finch was ever on the slab, they could cut him open and figure out his age by counting the rings of sugar and coffee inside of him. Mac sipped the coffee that Finch brought him; it burned his empty stomach and exacerbated his already agitated state. They were going to a murder scene.

Six years on the job, and his stomach always soured up when there was a murder. He wasn’t squeamish, not after all this time. It was performance anxiety. So far, he’d managed to close every one of his homicide cases, so in some ways, he was thankful that he still got nervous. It made him more careful.

“You sure you don’t want one?” Finch asked.

“Poso-tively,” MacElroy said.

“Charlie put a couple of cake donuts in today,” Finch said. It was part of the deal. Finch got a deal on a dozen donuts, at the discretion of Charlie. Inventory control.

“Cake donuts? Oh, hell.” MacElroy held out his hand. Finch filled it with one of Charlie’s masterpieces. He ate it quickly, not really tasting it. The donut soaked up his coffee burn, but did nothing for the butterflies.

“Who’s first?” MacElroy said. They were on the third floor of a six floor tenement, looking down a long hall. Cops had cordoned off the elevator and were sending all but the elderly down the stairs. Every other tenant on the third floor was in a small clutch at the end of the hall, being questioned by a uniformed officer. The crime scene guys, Riveria and Lowe, were busy taking photos and taping things off. Another uniformed officer popped his head out of the victim’s apartment. “Me, sir,” he said, hurrying over.

“Talk to me,” MacElroy said.

“Got a call over the wire, open door, man on the floor, phoned in by the neighbor, Mrs. Perez,” the officer said, flipping through his notebook as he spoke. “She didn’t go in the apartment because she had to walk her dog.”

“Makes perfect sense,” MacElroy said.

“We got here before the paramedics, and when we saw...well, we told them not to bother, they’d just get in the way.”

“What happened?” Finch asked.

“Uh...well, it looks like the guy stabbed himself with a sword.”

“Really.” Finch’s eyebrows rose. Half-lidded eyes made him look like a mildly interested hound.

The officer nodded. “That’s what it looks like.”

“But that’s not what you think,” said MacElroy.

“No, I think someone killed the old man and then staged the crime scene.”

MacElroy looked at Finch. “What say you, Brother Ethan? Shall we go test the kid’s hypothesis?”

“Okay,” said Finch.

They walked into the apartment and the uniformed officers parted before them. MacElroy led the way; he always led the way. At six-two, two hundred and fifty pounds, he had the shoulders and the presence to command attention. Finch, on the other hand, looked like someone’s dirty little accountant. He wore wire-rimmed glasses when he needed to see, and this gave his face a more blank countenance than normal. He just didn’t impress. But his mind was fast and agile. Mac’s brain was smart enough to make detective, but he knew who the real thinker in the team was, and he was okay with that. Mac got what he wanted through charm, guile, and physical presence, in that order. It was a set of skills that Finch never had. Together, they were one really good detective.

Finch sneaked around MacElroy to get a look at the body. They stared at the victim for several minutes as life around the crime scene slowly resumed.

“Who is the Everyman?” Finch read. He reached into his pocket for his notebook and began scribbling.

“Willie Loman?” answered MacElroy. He looked at the victim; black male, mid-sixties, pretty healthy except for the gut. He died with his eyes open, probably looking at the killer.

“Could be,” said Finch, who was leaning over the body with an unsharpened pencil and poking at it. “Well, there’s no way he did it to himself.”

The uniformed officer nodded in self-congratulatory triumph. MacElroy asked, “Says who?”

“Says his right hand. It’s broken.”

The officer’s eyes bulged. MacElroy smiled. “When you’re right, you’re right, Bre’r Finch.” Mac rubbed his chin. “Where the hell did he get that sword? There’s something familiar about it.”
Finch smirked. “You got a positive ID on the sword?”

“No, not like that. I just get the feeling I’ve seen something like it before.” The blade was thirty-six inches long, flat, but with a bevel in the center, wide at the pommel and tapering to a triangular point. Like something a knight would carry. The blade was awash in blood.

“No one saw or heard nothing, eh?” Finch asked the officer.

“We’re questioning everyone now, but so far, no go on either side of the apartment or up or down. However this went down, it was quiet.”

“Dunno, Finch, it was me, I’d be wailing like a banshee if that thing went into me,” MacElroy said. “So, what does this tell us about our guy?”

Finch made a strange face. “Maybe that he’s no stranger to pain.”

“Sheesh. Who was this guy?” MacElroy asked.

The officer on the scene pulled MacElroy aside. “Name’s Lincoln Childs. Landlady says he’s retired, living on a fixed income and the occasional settlement check, which we found in his wallet. Library card. Other stuff. Not much there.”

“It’s enough,” MacElroy said. They had done more with less information in the past. He’d never tell the uniformed kid, but there was something about this murder that made him wish he had stacks of information to sift through. “Any signs of a robbery?” he asked, even though he knew the answer.

“No forced entry, no money taken from the wallet, no other parts of the house disturbed.”

“Jeez Louise,” MacElroy said. He drained his coffee and pocketed the cup. “This is one for the books.”

Finch turned to his partner. “Anything else you want to see here?”

“Guess not,” MacElroy said. “When it hits our desk, we’ll start calling.” He fished out one of his cards from his coat pocket and handed it to the kid who’d been their guide. “Nice job. Give us a call if something big happens here.”

The uniformed officer looked at the card like he’d been stink-palmed. “Sure thing,” he said. As soon as they were out of earshot, he wadded the card up and shoved it in his pocket. “Some detectives.” He looked down at the corpse of Lincoln Childs. “You poor bastard.”

Roberson's Report, Feb 18-19: 0

Big goose eggs today and yesterday. I'm in the midst of what I call "pre-production" on the next novel, which always involves a lot of lining up ducks and such before the writing actually begins. I may be able to get a few words actually written tomorrow, but otherwise it'll be Monday before I start in earnest.

Progress Report, Day Eighteen

Comics pages: 6
Prose words: 2,119

This was a pretty good day -- it could have been an even better today, but I was out all evening doing writing group things, which is a good and important thing. I got to read my superhero short story to the group and got a lot of great feedback. I'm telling you, if you want to get better at writing, join a writing group!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Progress Report, Day Eighteen

Better today than yesterday, but it would be hard to do worse.

Prose Writing: 4,002 Words.

Comics Writing: 3 Pages.

Notes: This was going to be an all comics writing day, but then it wasn't. I seem to be in a prose writing frame of mind for now. But I have to return to funnybooks or some artists are going to find themselves out of scripts soon. All of the work today was done while some truly great movies were on in the background, courtesy of TCM's day devoted to courtroom dramas, which is one of my favorite subjects for movies. And then they launched into a series of military court dramas and I was hooked. Would have been a bigger number if not for that, but who can really get work done while The Caine Mutiny and A Soldier's Story is on? Earlier today it was Anatomy of a Murder and Witness for the Prosecution. Yum! Breaker Morant is on in two hours and I wish I had a way to record it, or I was still young enough to stay up past my bedtime.

Feb 18- Illin'

Day Eighteen, and I have the cold on the run. Sort of. My stomach hurts from coughing.

The Blood of the Gods- 3154 words

Life was excellent as usual.

Roberson's Report, Feb 17: 795

I finished "Wonder House" yesterday morning, which is what I ended up titling the new Israel-centric Celestial Empire story. The final word-count came in just south of 4K words, which means I only did 795 new words on Tuesday. (Well, actually it was probably closer to 1500, since I chopped out a bunch of Monday's work when I decided to restructure it a bit, but there's no clean way of tallying the revisions so I'm just going with the final number.)

Here's a bit from the new section, just because.
“What am I looking at here?” Yacov asked, scanning down the first of the handwritten pages, wincing at Segal’s questionable penmanship. The kid wrote in Official Speech, but was so shaky with the pen that it looked like it could have been meant to be Yiddish.

“We’ve got this idea for a character…” Kurtzberg began.

“He’s from the future, see,” Segal cut in, hands on Yacov’s desk and leaning forward eagerly. “He’s the son of the last man on Earth, and he gets sent back in this time machine just before the red sun explodes!”

Itzhak held up a pen-and-ink sketch of a muscled figure holding a car up over his head. “Come on, a car? Really?”

“Gravity’s stronger in the future,” Kurtzberg answered, a touch of defiance in his tone. “So when he comes back to the present day it’s like, what if there was a guy who was as strong as an Earth-man is on the moon… but here on Earth? He can make big jumps, pick up cars, that kind of thing.”

“I don’t know, guys…” Yacov pulled another cigarette from the pack in his pocket, and lit it from a table-lighter. “The future?”

The rest of the day was spent with administrivia, as is today. Hopefully in the next day or two I can start work on the new novel in earnest, and at least post some real numbers before the month is out.

Progress Report, Day Seventeen

Yesterday I did zero, nada, nix, nothing, no words.

Prose Writing: 0 Words.

Comics Writing: 0 Words.

Notes: I knew I was going to have a slow start yesterday, because I had to do some busy work on Peter and Max. Basically going over the edited manuscript and either agree with Shelly's proposed changes, disagree and put what I had originally back in place, and basically tend to her various red-marked questions and comments splashed like angry blood all over the manuscript.
     And then another thing happened that threw the rest of the day fully and completely right into Cloud Cuckoo Land. Someday I hope to be able to share the interesting (and not at all bad) details of my rest-of-the-day with you. For now I have to remain mum.
     This is your chance, Sturges, Williams, Roberson, Finn. Better take full advantage of it now, because there isn't likely to be another one.

Progress Report, Day Seventeen

Comics pages: 5
Prose words: 2,634

Another basically A- day. Five pages of the next issue of RUN! (which I may have to rewrite depending on if I turn out to be satisfied with them), and just over 2,600 words of The Office of Shadow, which is finally starting to loosen up and get moving. Expect lots of prose words over the next week now that the cork is out of the bottle!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Patch of Bad Road

Words written 1,628.
I was in the middle of it all when I got the news that my business partner's mother passed away today. I only got to know her these past few years, but Cathy and her go way back. She was a local institution here in town, and this threw the cart off the road and back into the ditch.
I'm tired of buying flowers for friends' graves this month.

Feb 17- Teh Sick

Day Seventeen, and I have a cold gestating in my mucus holes. It hit in full gooey fury this afternoon, and it is still amassing forces for another push to come tomorrow. I wrote some.

The Blood of the Gods- 1523 words

Pre-cold, I had a long lunch with an old friend and did a bunch of non-creative work, so not much creative work got done today. Not even 5 mins for a new photo. But I did kick ass at drinking orange juice and sleeping.

Progress Report, Day Sixteen

If only Matt had posted his numbers last night, I would have known we were so close again and been able to do the same plus-one-word stunt he slammed me with.

Prose Writing: 5,130 Words.

Comics Writing: 0 Pages.

Notes: I promised Matt that I'd get my remaining pages for our fifth JSA issue done yesterday, so that we could have it waiting on the editors' desks when they came in for work this morning. But I didn't do that, because I got distracted. Before I switched over to an all comics pages day I just wanted to get a few ideas down for the Martian Anthology story that I'd recently been invited to contribute to, Edited by the esteemed George R (and then another R) Martin, doncha know?
     But I got into it and spent the entire day on Mars. This was all free-form writing, without an outline, because it was the outline -- rather the notes and scribbles that should later be used in an outline -- that I was supposedly writing. Instead I went for actual text, with ever only a vague idea of what would be coming next. When I'd finished pouring everything I could come up with out onto the digital page, I was still shy of 129 words to make the minimum 5k. It's at that point that Matt would have gotten spanked with the plus-one-word deal that he did unto me a few days ago. But Matt didn't cooperate by posting his numbers, did he? That skunk.
     So, with only a few words to go before I could go watch an episode of the Complete Friends Collection, I switched over to the superhero story. As you can see by the word total, I did a bit more than the 129 I needed, but not that much more. This was the episode where Ross tries to flirt with the pizza delivery girl and that one's just far too funny (and far too personally poignant) to pass up. Here's one fun short paragraph from the wee bit of the superhero story that I wrote last evening:

        "I'll take them," he said. He pointed his laser finger at the approaching figures and slowly fanned a bright red pencil-thin beam back and forth through their ranks. Pieces of metal bodies began to rain down from the sky.

     As I've said often before, I'm actually almost always working. But I'm almost never working on what I should be working on, which is why I get into deadline trouble from time to time. Matt, I'll get those final JSA pages done today -- unless I don't.
     And it looks like Bill -- the other Bill -- takes the day again.