Category Archives: Writing Updates

ANNOUNCEMENT: I finished Big Pharma!

I just finished writing the novel, “Big Pharma,” which I’ve been working on (And mostly fighting my anxieties about) for a bit over a year.

About a year and a half ago, maybe a little under, my friend James Stephen Graham told me he was dying. He’d written several space adventure novels in an ongoing series, and there was one that he was about 4/5ths done with, which he’d obviously be unable to finish. He asked me if I’d do it for him. I said, sure, of course, I’d be glad to.

Since then I have taken a *SHAMEFULLY* long time finishing the manuscript. (And, as I said, mostly fighting my own anxieties about doing justice to my late friend’s work). I read and re-read his other books, took extensive notes, wrote, got frustrated that I wasn’t really capturing his voice, started over again, got frustrated. It wasn’t hard work, all the details and outlines I could need were given to me, but I was basically fighting myself. I do that a lot.

Anyway, the manuscript is done. Now I need a British friend of mine to translate my portions from American to British (You know, spelling, weirdo quotation marks, etc) so it’s not a jarring transition for the reader. Then a quick formatting edit, and then it’s online.

This also ends my self-imposed exile from writing.

To all Jim’s fans, and his wife Vivien, I truely, deeply apologize for the delays.

You can find Jim’s other books here https://www.amazon.com/…/B0…/ref=bseries_auth_1_B006OM9GX0_1

I just came up with the greatest Zombie story of all time.

I. Just. Came. Up. With. THE. BEST. Zombie. Story. Concept. Since Max. Brooks.

Normally I don’t brag or praise myself, but oh my gosh, bolt of lightning to the head, a huge idea, then another, then another, then another. and the core of a novel is laid out before me in the matter of maybe seven minutes. And it’s unlike anything else anyone is doing.

I have to use it, right?

Once I finish my late friend Jim’s novel (he’d written about 85% and asked me to complete it for him), all my other projects are on hold until I do this zombie thing.

I’m giddy

MY DIARY: Day 18,257 (Finishing Jim Graham’s Manuscript)

I’ve been overthinking this.
 
I just finished Jim Graham‘s incomplete manuscript for “Big Pharma,” which he asked me to finish for him a few weeks before he died. I cheerfully agreed to do it, and he was pretty happy, since he always said he liked my writing, and I was his first choice. That’s a huge honor, don’t you think?
 
It was also our last conversation.
 
I probably should have torn into the project the moment I got the manuscript and the notes, but I decided to hold off until the first of the year, during which time the specter of doubt had time to grow. Stupid, Randy, stupid. I generally work best when I leap before I look, getting something done before I realize how difficult (or easy) it was.
 
Now, “Big Pharma” takes place in the middle of a fairly intricate continuity involving three other books. I had to make sure I didn’t have a character survive who’s dead in the book that takes place after this. Likewise, I can’t add anyone of significance because they wouldn’t be in the later installments. I wouldn’t do that anyway, as it’s way too Mary Sue, but you get my point. I also can’t introduce any huge events that logically would be spoken about in subsequent stories simply because the subsequent stories are already written, and it’d be distractingly odd if, say, I blew up the galaxy in this book, and then in “Army of Souls,” the galaxy is suddenly back.
 
In our last conversation, I asked Jim how it all ended, and he said he didn’t want to tell me. He said that he knew how the book would have ended had he been around to finish it, but that it suited his present frame of mind to just hand it over to someone else and let them take it where they will.
 
Ok. No ending. Great. Still: I can do this.
 
So I started re-reading Jim’s books. I had to reacquaint myself with the characters, the events, the *feel* of the thing, right? And I took notes. Far too many notes. Far, far too many notes. You can get addicted to that sort of thing. As I said, I was overthinking this.
 
I worked my way up to the “Big Pharma” manuscript. I read it slowly. In my mind I went back to the beginning several times. I took days off. It was slow going, which just made the whole thing more intimidating, you know?
 
Well, just now I finished it, and I was certain that, yes, I can do this. And that I really *should* leap before I look, because I’m just better that way.
 
In the last few chapters of the manuscript, it changes from a 3rd person omniscient narrative to terse present-tense outline-styled notes on what happens in each chapter. There are also a few completed scenes in there which I can insert in the appropriate locations. The bulk of what happens in the unwritten portion is an action scene, and that’s cake, since I’m actually really, really good at actions sequences. I can do him proud there. And I even know how it ends! He actually did have that burred in the tail end of the manuscript!
 
So I’ve been overthinking this. Now I start actually *doing* stuff.
 
Here’s what happens:
 
– The writing starts very soon.
– I don’t think it’ll take me long to finish. It’s just shy of 90,000 words right now, and I can probably bring my portion in at 20,000 words or so. I work fast, so I can easily do that in a week. Maybe less if I get in a groove, which I often do when writing action sequences.
– I’ll send my portion (Approximately the last 20% of the book) to a British friend of mine who will help me convert any Americanisms into Anglicisms, and maybe suggest places where British slang would be likely to turn up.
– I will *probably* add a list of Dramatis Personae (There are a *lot* of characters in this book, some of whom are easy to confuse with others) and a glossary (There’s a lot of invented terminology in here, and it’d just be handy for the reader if he forgets the difference between a PIKL and an RAV).
– I would also like to include Jim’s map of Go Down City. He did such a wonderful job of realizing a nonexistent city that feels real. I think his fans would enjoy that.
– Then I’ll send my portion off to my editor.
– Then I’ll send the whole manuscript, including my portion, to Jim’s widow, for her to forward to his editor and do whatever else needs to be done to get it published.
 
And there you go. I don’t want to pin myself down to a timeline, but I think things should move very quickly from here on out.

My Diary: Day 18,198: In which I realize I’m Overwhelming

I realized yesterday that I’m overwhelming. Not in the “Oh, he’s so wonderful,” sense, but more in the “Randy is exhausting, and I just can’t deal with him,” sense.

There’s any number of examples: I’ve been in and out of bands and writing songs and making music since 1988. Why? When I started out, obviously, I hoped I’d get a big break and be a rock star. Everyone does. By 1990 or 91 I’d realized that wasn’t going to happen, but I kept on doing it. Most of my friends had already given up on that sort of thing by then, but I kept going.

My goal? Never clear. Mostly, I think I just wanted to include a song or two on the mix tapes I sent my friends to let ’em know I was still doing this. I never did, of course, because making music and recording it are very different, and recording it in 1991 was way harder than now.

Oh, and let’s take the mix tapes, shall we? I made ’em. I made a lot of them. I was very interested in very many very different kinds of music, so I made mix tapes that I sent my friends. Two or three a year. If you were unlucky enough to be my girlfriend or on the shortlist of best friends, you got more than that. We called it “The Randy Records and Tapes Club.” Eventually I switched to CD.  I slowed down a bit, to one or two a year.

I got less and less response every time, and had to keep needling people to find out what they though of “Astronauts,” by “Desk,” featuring backing vocals by Aimee Mann, or a long-lost They Might Be Giants B-Side, or a Cold Water Army song or an unfinished Roy Orbison track or my Ska obsession or what have you. Oh, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins! I don’t think anyone on the planet likes him but me, and BOY was I vocal about it.

Finally, around 2007 I sent out a really good double-disk mix, and I didn’t hear back from anyone. Not a peep. When I pressed, I was angrily told that it was just too much, that we were all 30-ish now, and weren’t interested in hearing new crap, and please knock it off. Depressing.

So I knocked it off. I started actually recording my own music, and eventually started putting it on youtube and nobody cares. If I get 13 views, that’s exceptionally popular for me. Again, if I push people, they get mad. “Nobody wants to listen to your stupid songs about Ocelots, or your weird-ass instrumentals, Randy!” Depressing.

Oh, and I write. A lot. I always have. I was head writer for Republibot for five years, and no one cared. When I quit, it folded, and nobody cared. I have this site you’re reading, and I’d be surprised if 5 people read it a month. I also had a fanzine (“Rampant Boingophrenia”) and eventually another one for heretical religious matters called “Sacrilege, Ho!” (Obviously I put a few of these online eventually) and my endless movie reviews and chat rooms and stuff. Nobody cared about any of this. Actually, I was irritating and/or scaring them. Depressing.

Then I started writing books, and NOBODY wants to have anything to do with you if you’re self-publishing books. Seriously: your friends who’ve talked about that novel for 25 years, but never actually got around to it hate you. People who actually write ignore you because they’re busy writing. People who don’t care about such things find it pretentious. People who do care about such things generally have more interesting stuff to check out than my nonsense.

Yeah, you might get a couple people who will buy the first book out of politeness, and never read it, or skim it and give you a nice “It had a good beat, and you can dance to it” review on Amazon, but after that, you’re done. I’ve got, what, eight books, seven of which are pretty good, and one of which is terrible. (No, seriously: It’s my crappy poetry. Stay away from that one) I’ve got four more in various stages of completion that I hope to have out this year.

That’s a lot of stuff! Nobody cares. Depressing.

Added to which I am reputed to be (As one person put it) a “Vigorous conversationalist.” What that boiled down to is (As another person put it), “Requiring way too much energy to talk to.” I can see that. I probably am a lot of work. I never talk about normal stuff like sports. I’m always on about whether or not Saul of Tarsus was part of the Herodian Royal Family, or my latest project that no one cares about, or what I’d do if I was making Galactica for a third time.

So, bottom line: I’m overwhelming. I produce more stuff than people can keep up with. And people don’t want to keep up with it. They want to read Dan Brown novels and listen to whatever was popular whenever they were in High School, and not have me wildly speculating about theology, or the Apollo program, or why Venus is better than Mars for colonization.

AND I CAN NOT FAULT THEM FOR THAT.

Nor do I. Maybe 1 or 2 percent of people are really interested in the giddy thrill of thinking or experiencing or seeing or hearing new things after their 20s. We’re all pretty set in our ways by the time we hit 50. We’re actually neurologically wired to enjoy learning less by that point: We’re supposed to have learned everything we need to by then. I never felt like I’ve learned anything.

This is not arrogance or elitism on my part. I don’t think I’m any better than anyone else. I’m just a flibbertigibbet. I chase after any new shiny object or idea that catches my eye, and I talk about it. A *LOT* Way too much. It’s my failing, not theirs. I don’t have a lot of impulse control in that regard.

OH, and I forgot to mention my mood swings. My mania and depression, and frequent unpredictable behavior. That’s tiresome as well.

So the bottom line here is that I’m just exhausting.

I get that now. I really do. I’m not depressed about it or anything, I’ve just finally identified the problem, and I’m a little excited about that.

The question, then, is what I do about it.

I got no clue. Please sound off if you’ve got any ideas.

Why I Don’t Tend To Collaborate More

I have this fictional character that I invented as a minor support character in one of my stories. Later I decided to tell some “Spinoff” stories about just him. At that point I wasn’t in a position where I could write, and a friend (Who’s name I am deliberately not using) wanted to do some collaboration, so I gave him-or-her my one-sentence rough outline for a short story, and he-or-she wrote it, and it wasn’t bad, despite him-or-her flat out not understanding the concept of ‘climax.’ (“And then everything was just better”).
 
I fixed the end, and we published it online. He-or-she did another one, based on another one-sentence outline, which was just horrible. I fixed portions of it, he-or-she un-fixed them, I fixed ’em again, he-or-she unfixed ’em. Finally I said screw it and we put it up on the old website.
 
I gave him-or-her the outline for story #3 and he-or-she just stalled for more than a year and said “Well, I’m not feeling it,” so I wrote the story myself, which incorporated details from his-or-her two stories. I gave him-or-her a 4th to write, based on a one sentence outline, and he-or-she started working on that (Which I assume means spinning paranoid theories about the Catholic church for a couple years and not bothering to look at the story) and I got irritated and wrote it myself.
 
He-or-she didn’t seem to care about that, and flat out refused to write another one-sentence-outline, so I wrote that one myself.
 
He-or-she got pissy and siad that this character should be his (or hers) to do with as he (or she) wished because I (Randy) created the character and the universe and he-or-she (co-writer) had had so little input, despite me trying for about four or five years at this point to get my friend to actually do crap. He-or-she then insisted on changing the direction the character was going in, his whole plot arc, including the concrete point we’d always agreed on for the conclusion of the story in favor of the vague notion of the character becoming “Kind of a planet” which contradicted any number of already-established details in OTHER stories. (I eventually argued him or her to “King of the Asteroids.” Ugh. Stupid.)
 
Anyway, sick of the situation I said, fine, whatever, just get through the story outline I gave you and then he’s yours to do with whatever you want, so long as you don’t break the rules of the universe.
 
Another year goes by, nothing happens. I talk to him-or-her about it, and he-or-she doesn’t have the slightest hook on the story. So we spent two hours on the phone where I help plot the thing out. I don’t tell the story, I just said what needed to happen, and what couldn’t happen, and my friend simply couldn’t get a handle on the technical aspects of it. I worked those out myself and handed ’em over. He or she said “Cool, I’ll get right on this.”
 
Six months later I checked in, and it turned out that not only had he-or-she not written a single letter, he-or-she didn’t even remember our looooooong conversation. I was upset and said “Get your ass writing!” He or she said, “Well, I can’t, because I have to rewrite those two stories you wrote first.”
 
“What?”
 
“Yeah, the long one, and the other one. The other one is a conceptual nightmare.”
 
“You mean the one that got like a hundred online compliments?”
 
“Yeah, that one. It’s terrible. I need to do so much rewriting on that that I don’t even know where to begin.”
 
So here’s where the actual conflict of the story begins: Harlan Ellison has said that you can do whatever you want with a story while you’re writing it, change stuff, add stuff, remove stuff, whatever, but once it’s published it belongs to the reader, not you. You can’t go on editing the story once it’s on the bookstands. You can’t “Greedo Shot First” your story. It’s not fair to the readers, and it’s just a cheat, a sloppy, sloppy cheat.
 
I wholly agree. If something you don’t like makes it into a story, you just work around it in the next one. Star Trek never did the whole “Well, episode 15, where Riker came to grips with his homosexuality, never happened. Instead he’s straight as an arrow with a bad back, same as he’s always been” or whatever. Yes, you can “Bobby in the shower” away an entire season, but it’s a horrible thing to do, and you bleed ratings because of it. You should never never do that.
 
No matter how much we argued – actually argued. We never used to argue – he-or-she insisted that my already-published stuff had to be thrown aside entirely or massively rewritten to basically retcon his-or-her story which, by the way, he-or-she hadn’t written or even plotted out at that point. He or she couldn’t grasp the concept of *not* ripping the rug out from your readers’ feet. He-or-she would much rather gut two stories that were in actual books by that point in favor of the vaguest daydream of a story he/she was never going to write anyway.
 
Unacceptable.
 
Knowing that he/she was never actually going to write anything, I said, “Sure, whatever,” and ignored him/her from that point on. Later on, I came to realize that a lot of this was because he/she honestly believed anything done by anyone else to be just inferior crap, despite the fact that in the course off two decades my friend had only written, I think, three stories, and two of them were me kicking his/her ass to do it. Not a writer. Thinks he/she is a writer. Ugh.
 
This put me in a terrible situation, though: my friend is litigious. I was TRYING to put together a compilation of all the stories involving this character, but now there were two I just couldn’t use. This meant I had to ditch his/her stories, and write new, completely unrelated ones, to fill the gap. Which means that because goofus couldn’t comprehend the ‘don’t edit after you publish’ concept, I now have to do the vastly worse thing before I can put this damn book together.
 
Predictably, the project has now been on hold for 2 years, and I’m pretty depressed and unmotivated to finish it. I even had cover art drawn up for it, but it’ll probably never happen now. Fucker.
 
So that’s why I don’t tend to collaborate much.

I’M GIVING AWAY FREE COPIES OF ALL MY BOOKS!

IF YOU WOULD LIKE A *FREE* COPY OF SOME OF MY BOOKS, they’re available at Smashwords.

I was gonna space this out over several days, but what the heck, these coupons have an expiration date on them, so let’s get it all out of the way at once

Just go here to find a copy of my book, “It’s Not Rocket Science.” All ya gotta do is go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/591078 and then use the coupon code VF97F when you’re purchasing it. “It’s just that easy!”

“The Care and Feeding of Nightmares” is my most recent collection, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/571923 and use the code NT98B

“Ice Cream and Venom” is my first collection of short stories. Go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/591073 and use this code VZ84U

“The Bones of an Angel” is another collection of short stories. Available here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/591080 and the code is PM79U

“The Undead at War (And Other Stories)” is my most popular book. Just go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/591076 and here’s your code MJ37R Larry Niven even blurbed one of the stories in that book.

“After Conquest” is a novel I co-wrote. Go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/584212 and the coupon code is UW73B

There’s also a book of my poems and lyrics on there called “Everything is Something’s Food,” but I’d reccomend you all avoid that one. It’s pretty bad. No coupon for that one, it’s always free. I couldn’t actually take money from people for that one in good conscience 🙂

If you have friends who you think might be interested in this stuff, please feel free to spread this information around.

Thank you for your consideration!

If you’ve been curious about my books, but didn’t want to shell out the cash, now’s your chance to check it out! If you didn’t know that I wrote, well, hey, what the heck, it’s free, right? Might as well check ’em out.

The only thing I ask is that if you do grab a copy of a book, and if you actually decide to read it/them, please post a review on Smashwords and/or Amazon (You don’t have to have purchased a book on Amazon to review it). I don’t even mind if it’s not a particularly glowing review, just please post something no matter how short.

I’m Giving Away Free Copies Of All My Books!

If you’ve been curious about my books, but didn’t want to shell out the cash, now’s your chance to check it out! If you didn’t know that I wrote, well, hey, what the heck, it’s free, right? Might as well check ’em out.

The only thing I ask is that if you do grab a copy of a book, and if you actually decide to read it/them, please post a review on Smashwords and/or Amazon (You don’t have to have purchased a book on Amazon to review it). I don’t even mind if it’s not a particularly glowing review, just please post something no matter how short.

What I’m Writing In 2017 (God Willing)

Good morning! Happy New Year.
 
After taking last year off from writing, I am officially working again as up about half an hour ago.
 
Some of you may recall my friend Jim Graham, who was the author of the “Scat” series surrounding the increasingly bizarre adventures of a 23rd century US Marine. If you don’t, the first couple books are currently free, so check ’em out. 
 
Anyway, he was about 80% of the way through the fourth book in the series, “Big Pharma.” Several months ago he told me he was dying of cancer, and asked me if I’d please finish the novel for him. I said, sure, obviously, and that was the last time we spoke before the end came.
 
Anyway, my friend’s book is the priority above any off my projects. I sat down this morning with a copy of the first book, (“Scat”) and started reading it. By the end of chapter 1 I had two full pages of notes.
 
Basically I think I’m going to re-read the entire series before I set pen to paper (“Finger to Keyboard?”) because I want to make sure I don’t introduce any continuity errors. I want it to follow his story, his style, his vision. I want it to be his book, not mine (Though I’ll gladly accept the “With Randall Schanze” co-credit on the cover that he promised me). Also, it’s British. I don’t want the novel to suddenly turn American. I want it to maintain the cadence and feel of something written by a Brit (Even if that does mean the American protagonist regularly says things like “Bugger” and “Sod off.”)
 
It’s a little daunting. Generally I write and that’s it. It pops out of my head. I write involving stuff I know, or stuff I just make up on the spot. Having to do a ton of research isn’t my normal style. I can do it, I will do it, but the length of time between me deciding to write one of my own stories, and actually starting on one of my stories is seldom more than a few hours. Here it’ll likely be a week or two, assuming real life doesn’t get in the way.
 
And I’ve still got no idea what the plot of “Big Pharma” is. I have the manuscript. I started to read it, but decided it needed to re-read everything from the beginning so I could be in proper context and mindset when I started.
 
Let me give you an idea what a great guy Jim was, though: As he was dying, he said that he had a pretty loyal core of fans who read all his books – moreso than me – and that he hoped my name on his project would increase *my* readership. No, really.
 
It’s an honor to be working on this.
 
In the larger scheme of things, I have several projects I’d also like to have finished this year, to make up for taking last year off. After Jim’s novel, I intend to finish my own longsuffering, way-too-ambitious novel, “The Fall of St. Grissom,” which I haven’t touched in more than two years. I’m going to be co-writing a sequel to “After Conquest,” I’ve got my obligatory annual book of short stories, and possibly a novel about my time in the very weird Accelerated Christian Education system in the 1970s.
 
Time permitting, I’d also like to revise my book of lyrics and poetry, “Everything is something’s food,” to be a little less sucky and a good deal longer, and re-issue that as a kind of second edition. I’m toying with the idea of a short book *about* the deservedly-forgotten series, “Man from Atlantis,” and I’ve toyed with the idea of putting out a book of grade-zed movie reviews, a’la “The Golden Turkey Awards,” which I thought might be fun.
 
We shall see.
 
Anyway, “Scat” and Jim come first. Check back here for progress reports. I’d like to thank my readers (I’m hesitant to claim I have fans) for their continued interest and their patience in 2016.