Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Monday, December 31, 2012

Mastering the Art of the Three-Section Clock

We all love Beginning Time in any thing we do.  If you've ever quit smoking, you'll smile and agree:  the opening rush is as good as it get:  that fabulous sense of adventure, the positive kick of commitment...the sure and certain knowledge that this, Yeah Baby, this is IT! And if you haven't quit the evil weed, you've quit or started something else and felt the same sensation.  You sure as hell have felt it if you've ever started a book.

But somewhere in Beginning Time,the sense of purity deserts us.  The great opening pages that came at our call...the almighty thrill of smoke-free air that made it a snap to swear Never again...We forget these things and look in horror at the looming outline of a great beast coming our way soon: the monstrous stretch of Middle Time.  Christ, Beginning Time was 50-75 pages...and now we're talking, like, maybe 200?  We see the mountains of creative earth that we must move and feel the exhaustion already.  Just as we would if we'd quit smoking and at the heady three-month mark we realized that our one-year anny was nine more months ahead.  Middle Time is where, more than ever, we need to focus on the process...and somehow learn to love the journey in each step we take.  To love the daily challenges, the little victories, even the fatigue.  If we don't love this part of the journey, our lovelessness will show in the final product:  in lack of attention to detail, loss of rhythm, missing zing.

End Time is glorious, but the temptation is enormous to hurry the process and finish the book, reach the one year anny, cross whatever finish line.  It's much shorter than Middle Time and that is sweet.  Plus End Time is attended by invigorating feelings of pride, accomplishment and joy.  But the best of it can still be lost if we let ourselves be rushed.  End Time, after all, brings us to a set of new beginnings:  the second draft...and the third...and the fourth...each of which have their three stages.

Let's enjoy each phase as best we can.  Our work will be the better for it if we treat every step of the journey with all due respect.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Meet My New Pal, Pressure

I ran into the first major hurdle since starting work two months ago on the third Boss MacTavin novel.  As you may recall, this is the first time I've drafted a book start to finish without stopping to rewrite every batch of fifty pages.  I was going  great guns and grooving on the difference when I came to a critical juncture.  Following the outline, I'I faced a heap of exposition that needed to be done.  I froze.  I couldn't kill the action, but I had to take care of this business.

In one form or another, I'm sure you've all faced the same thing.  Suddenly, faced with your Wall, you feel your confidence start to collapse...

I write by hand.  I always have.  That day though, out of nowhere, an idea occurred to me:  What if I changed the way that I wrote by hand?  What if I wrote more slowly, applying a little more pressure, getting into the feel of the tip of the pencil burrowing into the Moleskine?  I did.  The pressure forced me to concentrate on every word, savoring the language.  And at one point I paused to note that if I wrote only 6 words a minute, I'd meet my quota of 500 words in a little over an hour.  No need to hurry or worry.  None at all.  I ended up writing 1200 words and getting well over the hurdle.  And, for now at least, I keep on working at the same more relaxed speed.  

New foot work, new hand work, whatever it takes to get our books on paper, eh?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Vegan Fu Report #1: Viva, San Francisco Kid!

Eden's doors aren't locked but licked by repeated failures on two fronts:  first, memory...second, imagination.  We forget how good we had it once.  Then, tragically, we can't imagine ever having it that good again.

Way back when, a younger Reb crossed the country with $300 and dreams of finding happiness in a fabled city: San Francisco.  Within a year, I'd stopped drinking, begun working out, adapted an all-natural diet...and maybe not so coincidentally, started on what would become my first book, THE SUITING.  I grew thin, ripped and passionately committed to becoming The Francisco Kid.

I could tell you some stories of heartbreak and loss that led to the loss of that Eden.  But I'd rather focus now on getting back again inside those locked and pearly gates.  So let's wrap the past up with a neat little bow:  I married unwisely, my wife despised my writing and natural diet, we fought and fought, the fights grew worse, I left her and headed south--where, in the grips of a bloody divorce, the pressure of a new job, the grief over my father's death--I started smoking again after 12 years.  I stayed off booze, I'm pleased to say, but I was back on junk food and smoking like a chimney...and so began the great battle to kick tobacco once again while my blood sugar spiked and yo-yoed.

Enough.  No more excuses.  It is time now get back to Eden.  I've been back off tobacco for 2-1/2 years.  Off caffeine and red meat for as many.  So I've got a head start on my journey and the battle I now face against some mortal enemies:  sugar, fructose, the wrong carbs and their gang of wicked cronies.

Battle plan:  from now until New Year's, I plan to continue painting myself into the corner I want:  increasing the daily amount of fruits and salads I consume...progressively eliminating dairy and chicken--the last meat I eat...decreasing the number of my daily decafs--and eliminating cream and the sweetened flavors Starbucks adds...

Special strategies:  I work third shifts, 7 nights on, 7 days off.  This plays havoc with my energy, causing cravings for sugary snacks to keep me in the zone.  I'll need to start packing alternative snacks: especially low-calorie treats like shredded carrots and sliced apples,

Power packing:  I'll need to set out daily armed with both physical and spiritual boosts:  veggie wraps, juices, distilled water, fruits...Principles I've learned are true:  Cravings create cravings--so cultivate great cravings...Baby foods make baby thoughts--so eat like an adult to think like a man...Lose the ounces, not the pounds--and find the journey in the steps, not the destination...

Goal:  by following an all-natural diet, about 80% raw...and by eliminating entirely all meat, sugar and dairy...to return to that lost Eden.  The great joy in my heart when the Mexican bus driver sang:  'Sahn Furahn-seeeeees-cooooo!' and I saw the fabled skyline and knew my life's greatest adventure was just about to begin.

Well, here I am in Charlotte, where I rather wish I weren't.  But, God, I hear that driver sing.  And, oh, I know it's time again to crash the gates of Eden.  The S. F. Kid's come home again.

This is my report.





Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Great Freebie Jubilee: 12 free books

For two days, 12/21-12/22 you can brighten your Kindles with 12 free ebooks by 10 rising stars.  There's something here for everyone...including two holiday thrillers by, you guessed it, Reb MacRath.

Check it out at:

http://tinyurl.com/ccb25g9

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Delay by Sabotage

The Vegan Fu Report has been delayed by the slow death of my laptop, caused by the Meat and Dairy Lobbies' combined cowardly attempts to silence me. :)

But never try to cow a man who's given up on cow meat, as well as chickens, hogs and fish.  The first report--Viva , San Francisco Kid--will arrive next week.  All natural, organic and written by hand.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Vegan Fu Report Update

The first weekly report has been delayed one day because of a wonderful stroke of good luck:  I was asked by my friend Kirkus MacGowan to participate in a two-day team giveaway 12/21-12/22.  I jumped at the chance and am glad that I did because my progress on the learning curve has taken a real quantum leap.  The amount of work that goes into a properly staged event is staggering,  I needed two entire days simply to list my books with a slew of sites promoting giveaway events.  For most, I needed to approach each site three times--once for each book I'm including.  And the work's barely begun.

I'll write about this at greater length after the event, when I can compare download results with my previous solo efforts.

For now, look for the first Vegan Fu Report Sunday night!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Coming December 15: The Raw Truth and Writing

A periodic chronicle of one strayed man's attempt to regain his lost Salad Days, his first stay in California as The San Francisco Kid: the juice and raw food loving health nut who'd put booze and tobacco behind him, along with meat and flour and sugar...

How many times I've strayed since then!  Though I stopped drinking completely, I've yo-yo'ed on pretty much everything else.  In my year now without a smoke, and thirty years off alcohol, I set out now as a serious man to regain the vim and vigor of The S. F. Kid.

But you come here for news about writing, you say.  Ah, but what could be more about writing than the fuel I feed both my body and brain?  What could be more about writing than earning more time and health to compose?

I'll keep my reports short and lively.  I'll be totally upfront and candid.  Drop by on December 15 to witness my poignant, heartbreaking goodbye--and that's goodbye forever--to Dove Chocolate, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Red Baron's pizza and the whole rest of the gang.  Forget Rhett and Scarlet.  You'll hear the cellos hit low G and strings take wing.

Till then.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

One-month Report on Marathon First-Drafting

By setting, and sticking to, a minimum goal of 500 words daily, I've nearly drafted the first third of the new Boss MacTavin novel since November 5.  Generally, I've managed 700 words, occasionally 800 or 900.  From now on detailed outlines are the way I plan to fly because I enjoy the security...and the rush that always follows deviating from the plan.

Next challenge: starting the clerical duties--typing what I've written on a schedule that I must determine.  Wren Doloro has suggested Moleskine's 'EverNote' notebook, which transmits written text into digital form.  I'll use that for the next book!  Now, without sacrificing speed, I must begin the typing--or face a massi ve typing task three months down the road.

Motivational tactic:  regard the weekly typing as a substitute for things I liked about the old cyclical method:  write 50-75 pages...stop...put it through three drafts...then carry on again.  As I type I can refresh my memory on key character and plot points...determine if the pacing is still on point...etc.

What do I like best about Marathon First-Drafting?  I'm high on the sense of momentum.  I love the creative adventure, undiluted by clerical drudgery.  Each page is a fresh discovery.

And what's the greatest challenge, for me?  Going with it in the spirit of making the world's greatest mudpie--something that needs worlds of work but is a living blast to bake.  Shaking that ancient sense of right and wrong, that old fear of 'mistakes'.

I'm having the time of my life. :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

How 1 and 2 Equals One

SOUTHERN SCOTCH and THE ALCATRAZ CORRECTION are both Boss MacTavin novels...but they're very different books in terms of tone, style and character.  For readers who've downloaded both, it may be useful to know a few things.

SOUTHERN SCOTCH is a genesis story, subtitled "The Bloody Rise of Boss MacTavin".  Though Boss bears next to no resemblance to James Bond, I had in mind a three-book arc similar to what Daniel Craig seemed to have planned with Casino Royale."  When Pete McGregor, a flamed-out Scottish athlete, ends up in the wrong place in Atlanta one night, he's half-blinded and beaten terribly.  Five years later, he comes back with a new name and a new look, on the trail of the bastards who beat him.  Boss has grown in wealth and power, but his spirit is still crude--largely shaped by his passion for Mickey Spillane and his towering thirst for revenge.  This first tale is narrated by Dodge Cunningham, a young rogue who'd indirectly helped cause the beating that night.  Through other eyes, I believe, we can better see the change in Boss as the trail leads him to the heart of the Atlanta porn trade.  It's a wild, bloody ride but at the end Boss has changed and is prepared for higher ground.

THE ALCATRAZ CORRECTION takes place three years later.  Boss is partly based in San Francisco and he's doing quite nicely in business and love.  Though he still has his quirks and edge, and though he can be brutal,  he's developed a a strong code and a passion for proper Corrections.  Boss tells the story this time.  I know readers will warm to the difference.

And for those who miss the Dodge Charger that only seemed to be 'talking' in SS, there's a Hertz in TAC that's anything but 'just' a Hertz.