Now on sale!

How They Scored is now on sale. Get it -- it's funny, sexy, and you're probably in it.

How They Scored is a book about how straight men think and talk to each other about sex. Set among a group of friends as they meet at the remote vacation lodge of a software tycoon to talk about a new business idea, the book also explores issues of privacy and surveillance in the 21st century.

Hap, who works in the periphery of the software industry as a technical writer, has a gorgeous girlfriend and a great apartment in San Francisco, but he's just learned that the owner of the building plans to sell, and it's unlikely he would be able to afford another apartment in the city. He's afraid that moving out of the city will mean the end of his love affair.

Called to a gathering of friends he's known from college and from jobs in Silicon Valley, he has to decide whether saving his apartment and his love affair is worth mortgaging his soul as the newest employee of Dreedle, a fiendish corporation devoted to selling out the privacy of every individual to the highest bidder. In the meantime, the seven men who convene in a posh mountain retreat fill the days trying to outdo each other's stories of sexual adventure.

How They Scored mixes speculation about the loss of privacy in the 21st century with a journey through the beds of the bohemians of San Francisco and Austin, Serbian fashion models, Las Vegas wheeler-dealers, and a "landscape artist" whose life work is a hole in the ground in the middle of the desert.

Read a reader review of the book, or read more about the author.


Some of the blog entries below talk about the issues of privacy and surveillance explored in the book. Other entries narrate the genesis and writing of the novel.

22 December 2009

Uncovering a mysterious blogger

This article on Streetsblog, a progressive pro-bicycle and transit website, is fascinating. The lengthy piece, worth reading in its entirety, explains how Streetsblog staff uncovered the identity of a hyperactive negative commenter with his own website, Commuter Outrage. Evidently the man behind Commuter Outrage, a twenty-something conservative who works in a civilian job at the Pentagon, was digging up material for his screeds during work hours using his employer's (and the government's) resources, and Streetsblog's questions about these practices quickly led the secretive fellow to disappear the entire Commuter Outrage website.

Instructive were the easy-to-understand steps taken by Streetsblog staff to uncover the man's identity, along with evidence that suggested he was blogging on his employer's time. Also interesting was the fact that the attacks by Commuter Outrage and its putative staff (really just this one fellow, apparently) were not some right-wing conspiracy, but just some really energetic (if error-prone) work by one angry little man. It's amazing how much one angry, energetic little guy can do on the internet.

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13 December 2009

Reader review: 'Unexpected... a diverting read'

My friend Lisa B wrote a very nice review of HOW THEY SCORED. An excerpt:
After the men gather, the plot picks up steam and their interactions increase, with Pritchard quietly portraying a shifting dance of male alliance and competition. Their picaresque sex tales start to cast a subtler light on their characters. The story of the Serbian fashion model ends poignantly. A tale of a threesome takes an unexpected turn, with the storyteller unable to perform, feeling both sentimental about an old girlfriend and ambivalent about the suddenly aggressive behavior of his current one. In short, the scorekeeping of these men becomes less about tallying up sexual conquests and more about assessing their own strengths and weaknesses -- and the elusiveness of their desires.
Wow, thanks Lisa!

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16 October 2009

More oversharing

Just in case you wanted to have a standard system for bragging to the internets how often you bang, now there's Bedpost, an online sex tracking tool.

The rest of this post writes itself.

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Choosing between a job and a social networking identity

According to this article, some employers not only are searching the internet for discouraging information on you, but a few companies have asked interviewees for their passwords to their social networking accounts.

What in holy Christ.

For many people, I think the choice would not be whether or not to give up this information. It would be whether or not to reply calmly, "Why do you want that?" or flipping the bird and walking out.

I accept that whatever I put on the internet has to be regarded as public knowledge. If I post it, it's there for anyone to see. I might put a warning on it, or I might hide it behind an obscure or invisible link, but some search bot will find it and display it on search results. I accept that. Indeed, I'm more concerned about someone getting me mixed up with the other Mark Pritchards of the world than I am of someone finding something I did in the past. That's because I've always lived an open life. I'm bisexual, I write porn, I go to church, I've done drugs in the past, I like singing, I used to be a high school teacher. All a matter of public record.

But my life at work is separate from all that. I hope people are adult enough to understand that. I'm not surprised that some fundamentalist Christian academy is not; that a Montana city behaves the same way is only a little less unsurprising. This is another reason I live in San Francisco.

But I mean: asking for your password?? People just have no shame.

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11 October 2009

Datamining your Twitter feed

Just as I predicted in How They Scored:
Twitter is in advanced talks with Microsoft and Google separately about striking data-mining deals, in which the companies would license a full feed from the microblogging service that could then be integrated into the results of their competing search engines.

-- Kara Swisher, All Things D

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28 September 2009

Authentication

Here's a nice discussion of authentication, an information technology concept I mention in "How They Scored," and its implications for online identity.

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25 September 2009

Now with a nicer cover

I redid the cover so it's nicer, and I also fixed a page bug so that all the chapters properly start on odd pages. Man, this self-publishing thing is a lot of work.

I really like the picture of the highway, which I took from a State of Texas government website. The whole first half of my book is a road novel so I thought it captured the feeling. The trip is not to Texas but to the mountains of Washington state, but I really like this picture.

23 September 2009

Why do people report on themselves?


Not long after I started using Twitter, I started to wonder: Why?

Imagine the familiar movie scenario where a detective is desperate to track and find a suspect, or where a detective is hired by a suspicious spouse to trail their errant husband or wife. Or an alternate scenario from the Cold War, where the secret police manipulate ordinary citizens to inform on one another (cf. the film The Lives of Others, pictured at left). Or the horrible situation of a controlling husband who wants to know where his wife is at every minute of the day. In those situations, one person wants to track another; the person who is tracked would rather not be tracked and sometimes would do anything to avoid it.

Now consider yourself, or any ordinary bourgeois, and how much you are tracked on a daily (and sometimes minute-to-minute) basis. Credit card companies and credit reporting firms register every purchase you make with something other than cash. Airlines, grocery stores and other businesses with rewards programs know where you've traveled and what you've bought. The phone company knows, within a few hundred feet, where you made that cell phone call from, and if you have GPS enabled, they know within a few meters.

And so on. Any modern consumer knows all this, so there's no need to go into it at length -- though the Wired story Gone Forever: What does it take to really disappear? is somewhat of an eyeopener, in that it communicates the ease with which some modern-day gumshoes, such as private detectives working for bail bondsmen or insurance companies, can locate you through the databases compiled by airlines, Amazon, Visa and others.

You may or may not feel comfortable with all that tracking and archiving of data about you, but there's not much you can do about it. After all, you "agreed" to it when you signed up for whatever credit card, rewards program, cell phone, etc. etc. you use. Just check your "End User License Agreement."

If this makes you feel just a little bit creeped out, then I would ask you: Why do you have a Facebook page? Why are you on Twitter? Why do you post your name, address, preferences and picture online on any number of sites, from Amazon to Yelp? In my novel How They Scored, I put it this way: Why would you even need an East German-style secret police these days when people are putting so much effort into reporting on themselves, compiling their own dossiers? (We call them online "profiles.")

There's no need to be needlessly paranoid about this. No one (unless he or she is actively stalking you) has hired a private detective to compile a report on the details of your quotidian doings. But they could. Because your life's an open book.

I'm aware of all this and I still tweet what I'm doing, what I just ate, where I am. I still blog about books I read or music I listened to (facts which, if they were in the records of the public library, would require a court order for anyone to access, but I give them away for free). I still have my picture online in a dozen places, along with the neighborhood I live in, and so on.

But I still rebel in small ways. For example, I don't have a Safeway card, but I still take partial advantage of their program. How? I thought to myself, probably most people in the neighborhood of this store have Safeway cards. All I have to do is type in the local telephone exchange and four random numbers. For the Safeway on 29th and Mission, in my neighborhood of San Francisco, that's 415-824-xxxx. And it almost always works. I get my TV dinners 4 for $10 and whoever actually owns the account gets some points toward the purchase of ... whatever Safeway gives. That's my big protest.

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21 September 2009

The problem of writing erotica from the perspective of straight men

When I was asked to write a book of sex stories in which the narrators were all straight men, I faced a challenge: What was interesting about straight men?

For years I'd written erotica in which the whole point was to blur the boundaries of traditional sexual identities, to take people who thought they were all one way and show how they could, given the right situation, go the other way and enjoy it. I showed straight men blowing other men, gay men getting off on women watching them masturbate, and tops opening up to being topped by somebody else for the first time. In other words, people losing their inhibitions and having new fun -- the basic currency of erotica.

But what could I do with a group of straight men sitting around talking with each other about sex? (Every time I write that sentence, I start out by saying "talking about sex with each other," then have to reorder the clauses.) Men who really are straight, who won't get all hot and bothered by the storytelling and get it on with each other. Getting it on with each other was not what the book was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be about these men getting it on with hot women.

I also faced the challenge of developing several straight male characters who could be distinct from one another for the length of a novel. Shit, I don't even know that many straight people, outside my job. Most of my friends are gay; I'm bi. I dealt with this challenge by going to one of the original source tales showing a bunch of straight men sitting around with each other. No, not the Gospels. Not the Knights of the Round Table. The Seven Dwarves.

The Seven Dwarves (I'll let you name them for yourself, ready? go!) provide the key to the book's characters. Happy is Hap, the main character. Dopey is Denny, a drug addict. Sneezy is Seth, who has allergies and works in biotech. Get it?

Once that was taken care of, I still had to make it hot at book length without, again, having the Seven Dwarves get it on with each other. Of course I could have done that, but that wasn't what my publisher asked for. I found myself dredging up details of practically every opposite-sex relationship I'd had over the years, and made up several I didn't have. I reused a story I told in nonfiction form in Best Sex Writing 2006. I turned people I knew, and some I'd barely run into -- such as the annoying salesman type who sat next to me at a sushi bar in Las Vegas in 2004 -- into characters. And I did it all in six months.

So to return to the original question: What was interesting about straight men? The way they shove themselves cheerfully into situations without much thought. The way they think everything revolves around them. The fact they'll do anything to get laid.

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18 September 2009

Companies rated for privacy reputation

A survey rated companies on privacy, with Google "conspicuously absent" from the top 10. I love that the US Postal Service was included. Frankly, I do trust the post office more than, say, Google. A vast bureaucracy plus a unionized workforce equals nice slow responses to court orders.

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16 September 2009

Why do people believe in highly improbably conspiracies?

This article in Scientific American says:
The problem with government conspiracies is that bureaucrats are incompetent and people can’t keep their mouths shut. Complex conspiracies are difficult to pull off, and so many people want their quarter hour of fame that even the Men in Black couldn’t squelch the squealers from spilling the beans. So there’s a good chance that the more elaborate a conspiracy theory is, and the more people that would need to be involved, the less likely it is true.

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14 September 2009

The book is now on sale!

How They Scored is now on sale from the Lulu Print on Demand website. They produce a nice product, and it's a book I'm proud of. Buy the book. It's funny, sexy, and you're probably in it.

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Assuming another identity

This story on wired.com, about the difficulty of losing your identity and taking up another, is something I wrote about in How They Scored.

The characters are looking at the business possibilities of a proposed business named Dreedle, which would compile vast databases of consumer behavior; the narrator reflects on how such databases would make it difficult to disappear, as you used to be able to in the old days.
There were plenty of things about me I didn't want rolled up into some online repository. One or two of these things I might confide to a lover -- that I liked to watch a certain kind of porn, for example (though I wasn't sure Meeghan was ready to know that). Another, less embarrassing detail I might write about on a blog -- my appreciation of the Giants infielders, say, or my enthusiasm for Russian composers. Other things I wouldn't mind mentioning in a phone call to my mother. But put them all together, combined with the records of everything I buy, books I read, music I listen to -- no. It's already creepy enough to see my house from space on Google Maps, to see on Amazon that people who live in my zip code read scads of self-help books...

And then there's the American fantasy of disappearing. ... I might merely want to start over. I love the idea that you can move to a big city or a small town and get lost. Isn't that what hundreds of people did after 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina? -- claimed that all their papers were lost, whether or not it was true. Got new ID with a new name, moved to another state, faded into the woodwork.

You can still do that in America -- barely. But with Dreedle, no way. That dead guy whose ID you stole probably liked completely different music, wore completely different clothes, had totally different jobs. Once I started buying Shostakovich CDs and had them delivered to a zip code the dead guy never lived in, a red flag would go up. A complete change in shopping habits combined with a change in address equals the probability of identity theft. That's what it would be called. Not "starting over."

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23 January 2008

Microsoft's data mining idea

This is just the kind of thing I wrote about in my book:
Microsoft ponders offline profiling of Web users

By John Letzing, MarketWatch

Last update: 7:02 p.m. EST Jan. 23, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Microsoft Corp. is developing a method of using personal data such as credit-card information to target Internet users with advertising once they connect to the Web, according to a patent application filed by the company.

In an application disclosed earlier this month, a Microsoft team including Chairman Bill Gates presents a method of collecting information about users' "cell phones, geolocation systems, credit-card information" and other data sources to select and display "targeted advertising."

The technology described in the patent application touches on a delicate issue for Microsoft and other online companies such as Google Inc.

Microsoft and its rivals have all sought to gather increasing amounts of personal information about Internet users to deliver advertisements more likely to draw attention. That's because the companies generally earn revenue only when a user clicks on an ad.

Microsoft director of privacy strategy Brendon Lynch said patent applications don't necessarily indicate product plans for the company. But if Microsoft does develop a product based on the new patent application, Lynch said it "will first be reviewed against our privacy standards to ensure that privacy is protected."

Google is currently facing questions in Europe about its own collection of user data.

Bill Gates is listed as an inventor on the patent application, alongside members of various Microsoft research units.

The European Parliament held a public seminar Monday to discuss the privacy implications of technology used by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others.

"We put great effort into building privacy protections into our products and systems," Google privacy counsel Peter Fleischer wrote in a blog post related to the seminar.

In addition, the European Commission is considering the approval of Google's acquisition of online-advertising firm DoubleClick, a move that many say would unfairly expand Google's store of user data.

In Microsoft's patent application, the company describes a technology that can first better align search results with a users' offline behavior. Then, according to the application, "an advertising component employs the user profile in connection with the delivery of an advertisement."

Offline behavior can include credit-card information such as types of purchases and "payment history," according to the application.

Data relayed by cell-phone towers can also be tapped to locate users, and "tailor search and advertising during online experiences so as to better interpret queries to search engines, to better target advertisements," the application said.

In addition to cell-phone and credit-card use, other offline behavior that can be monitored includes TV-watching habits, the patent forms say.

"If the offline behavior indicates the user was watching a college football game ... if the user goes online during or just after such activity, then an inference could be made that the user is interested in seeing more information about the game as well as being receptive to advertisements selling college-team memorabilia," according to the application.

Gates is listed as an inventor on the patent application, alongside members of various Microsoft research units.

It increasingly has become common for Gates to be listed as an inventor on Microsoft's patent applications, according to public filings. Gates, who co-founded the company in 1975, is expected to step back from his day-to-day role at Microsoft in July to focus more on philanthropy.

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13 January 2008

Let's get on board with Technorati

I have a Technorati Profile.

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30 December 2007

Outsourcing users to Bangalore

An American startup is paying people in India to sign up for its service so it can show it has 1000s of users.

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29 December 2007

Second full day in Chicago. I didn't get much done yesterday; I was feeling kind of sleepy. I managed to go through a number of Christy's comments, but I didn't even finish them. Actually, Christy's individual comments are not what I'm concerned about; most of them deal with small issues and are easily dealt with. What I'm concerned about is the rewriting I have to do, and yesterday I didn't do any of it.

One of the scenes that needs reworking is the story about "Cara" in chapter 10. I based it entirely on C___, and I think it's too close to reality. What I have is a French immigrant who wanted to be monogamous and I have put in all the intimate details of her sexuality. I need to change the former so I can keep the latter. It doesn't matter that the character be a French immigrant, what matters are the compelling details of her body and her sexuality. Since I have a few hours free, I'll try doing that now.


7:00 -- I made it all the way through Christy's comments, and I also rewrote the Cara scene so that it's about a Porteño instead of a Parisienne. Now all I need to know is the Porteño equivalent of "Viens, viens!"

A.: If she was from Madrid I'd have no problem telling you.
Me: I know, but..
Together: I've/You've never been to Madrid.
Me: While I have been to Buenos Aires.

Another thing I need to rewrite is the opening scene. Christy said it seemed strange, that the guy would be rushing off while his hot girlfriend is begging him to do it one more time. Just shows she hasn't lived with a guy.

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27 December 2007

I'm in a hotel in downtown Chicago, and will have a few days here to work on HOW THEY SCORED. It's a version of the retreats I've taken in past years -- almost always in December or right before or after New Year's -- to work on or finish books. The difference here is that I'm staying in the hotel room of A., who is in Chicago to attend a conference. ...

Since I finished the first draft 12 days ago, I haven't worked on the book at all, except for a couple of hours yesterday. Christmas intervened, and before that it was the tech manual project that refused to die, so that my initial plan of taking much of the week before Christmas to goof off and work on this book was a complete bust. It was a good thing I finished it on the 15th, because I sure didn't get a chance to even look at it between the 15th and the 26th. Well, the break was good.

It occurs to me that one of the weaknesses of the book is that the whole theme of privacy and security is not integrated with the sex stuff at all. I guess if it were, it would be a really different book -- it would be impossible to have all the sex scenes from a variety of perspectives wind up somehow being about security and privacy.

Still, I want to make the book as smart as possible. While I'm here -- and I should have a good three days to work -- one of the main things I want to do is polish and possibly enhance each sex scene, make them hotter and more pornographic, give them more of a wow factor like my previous books. Right now I think they risk seeming rather vanilla, and I don’t want to disappoint people who are familiar with my other work.

Sometimes instead of thinking about the content of the book, I think about what it means in my career. It will be my first published novel, and I'm keen to get the [erstwhile] publisher to classify it as fiction first and erotica second -- if at all. I don't want it to be pigeonholed. On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if instead of fighting it, I shouldn't just be embracing the fact that my genre work has succeeded, thanks in large part to the same publisher, where my other work has not. Plenty of writers make a career out of doing genre work; I shouldn't look down on it. On the other hand, I really do want to write books of general interest.

Well, perhaps Bangalored will open that door for me, once this book is put to bed and I have a chance to give my India book another go.

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25 December 2007

Dream

I had a dream that I was at a place like Holden Village, the church camp that is mentioned in passing in How They Scored. It's a Lutheran church camp but in my dream an Episcopal priest I know was there, offering armloads of peach pie to all comers -- a dream of abundance and hospitality.

I visited Holden Village in real life three times, the longest for a six week stay which I recorded in the form of an edited journal I posted on my main website. While I was up there, I was working on my first (as yet unpublished) novel Make Nice.

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23 December 2007

'He who controls the "default option" writes the rules'

From a NYT column on advertising and marketing by Christopher Caldwell:
In early November, Facebook's 23-year-old C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, rolled out an advertising program called Beacon. It would track users onto the sites of Facebook's commercial partners -- Coca-Cola, the N.B.A., The New York Times and Verizon, among others -- and keep their friends posted about what they were doing and buying there.

Did it ever. A Massachusetts man bought a diamond ring for Christmas for his wife from overstock.com and saw his discounted purchase announced to 720 people in his online network. What if it hadn't been for his wife? What if he had been buying acne cream? Pornography? A toupee? You could go on. Researchers at Computer Associates, an information-technology firm, discovered that Beacon was more invasive than announced. MoveOn.org started a petition movement against Beacon that rallied 75,000 Facebook subscribers. ...

The Beacon fiasco gives a good outline of what future conflicts over the Internet will look like. Whether a system is opt-in or opt-out has an enormous influence on how people use it. He who controls the "default option" -- the way a program runs if you don't modify it -- writes the rules. Online, it can be tempting to dodge the need to get assent for things that used to require it. This temptation is particularly strong in matters of privacy. For instance, the "default option" of the pre-Internet age was that it was wrong to read others' mail. But Google now skims the letters of its Gmail subscribers, in hopes of better targeting them with ads, and the N.S.A. looks for terrorists not only in the traditional manner -- getting warrants for individual wiretaps -- but also by mining large telecommunications databases.

So it is with Facebook's Beacon. We used to live in a world where if someone secretly followed you from store to store, recording your purchases, it would be considered impolite and even weird. Today, such an option can be redefined as "default" behavior.

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20 December 2007

'Privacy meltdown' feared from Google-DoubleClick merger

From an interview with a privacy expert on the Google-DoubleClick merger:
There are two key elements to a profile. Most people tend to focus on the Big Brother data collection side, and that's simply taking information about a person from different aspects of their private life: their medical records, their financial records, where they go online, what they put in e-mail, who they call -- all that kind of information that can be put together to create a detailed profile of an individual.

But the second part -- which I don't think people think about very much but in many respects is becoming more important -- is the algorithm that is put on top of that data and the decisions that are made [based on an analysis of the information]. That's actually an area that EPIC is spending a lot more time on these days, because if you look at such questions as which banner ads an Internet user sees when they visit a Web site, or whether an airline passenger is pulled aside for secondary screening, what's really happening is a type of profiling that involves not only the data collection, but also some decision-making process that treats one person very differently from another person. That's also something that turns out to be secretive. Companies will not explain their proprietary algorithms for serving banner ads, nor will the Department of Homeland Security tell us why certain people are pulled aside for secondary screening and not others.

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Phone to track your 'health'

This prototype phone from Nokia would be able to track your health and other "conditions." Apparently you strap on a sensor that monitors your vital signs, sends the data to the phone over a wireless signal, and then God knows what happens to the information.

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RFID to track your magazine browsing in waiting rooms

This is just astonishing:
The next time you visit your doctor for your appointment and flip through the pages of the magazines kept in the reception room, you might not be aware of the fact that a watch is being kept on your reading habits using RFID. Mediamark Research & Intelligence and DJG Marketing have come together to use RFID for measuring magazine readership in public waiting rooms.
More here. RFID is the little bitty chip already used to track library books, merchandise, and in some localities, children.

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15 December 2007

I should totally finish today

I should totally finish the first draft today. I'm just not really up for it. As I just wrote on my blog, as part of several hours of work-avoidance:
I meant to finish the first draft of HOW THEY SCORED last weekend, but I stopped a couple of pages short. I didn't want to rush into it, and -- typical -- I had to be somewhere in the early evening, so I cut my writing day short.
Then I thought I would be able to grab a few hours during the week, ideally on Monday, and finish. It was only a few pages. But instead I got utterly hammered at work. In my 12 years in the high tech industry, I don’t think I've ever been as snowed under as I was this week. In fact, I'm seriously considering going in to work on Sunday just to get a head start on the next week. ...

Meanwhile, I read a little piece of this book I'm working on for the first time last night to a few people at a dinner. It was a very interesting experience. When you're reading out loud you can instantly tell which sentences are well constructed and which sound awkward -- which is why they tell you to always, always read your stuff out loud before considering it finished. It made me remember how, in my past experiences at LitCrawl (2006, 2005) I closely edited the piece I was about to read with a mind to how it would sound read out loud. I didn't have the opportunity to do that last night, and it was good to be reminded of how important it is.

So on to the last few pages of this book, which I will subsequently spend as much time as I can rewriting.
Of course, I did not then immediately start writing; I didn't even turn to this notes file. I did more internet time-wasting.

The small reading was at Christy's, at an event she and her girlfriend intend to hold monthly: they serve a soup and bread supper and invite people to read a little something. Christy had already read the first two-thirds of my book, of course, and knew the passage I read: the bit about how Greg discovered Growler's most interesting side effect. The two dykes at the party who were strangers to me seemed a little put off by the bukkake at the Glitter Gold Girls Club, and it was at that point I realized that I might have prepared people more in advance. Fortunately Christy's enthusiasm overpowered any discomfort.

All right... I really must think about this thing and just finish it.

In the ending, I mean to have a nice bit about how Meeghan's body is "home" for Hap, the narrator. However, this is a manifestly sentimental idea, and not made any less so because that feeling has been very real for me in the past with certain lovers. It has to be handled just right; otherwise it will sound stupid and shallow, not to mention fundamentally sexist and narcissistic.

I think one way to handle it is to show Meeghan is truly independent, that she has a life apart from Hap -- something there is no hint of yet. Another is to inject a little bit of darkness at the end. It is, of course, stupid to think that your feeling of being truly "home" depends on being able to fuck someone in particular, since no matter how sincere the feeling is and how much both people want to maintain it, bodies are fragile and love, not to mention one's feeling of being truly home, must ultimately depend on something more substantial.

OK, a walk to the café, then down to work.


1:09 pm -- I actually begin working on the last section.


3:45 pm -- Finished. 1600 words for the day. Grand total 85,293.

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The driving force behind technology innovation

I found this interview with author William Gibson, who like many science fiction writers is a futurist who uses fiction to explore his ideas rather than non-fiction, very pertinent. My favorite quote:
Technologies don't emerge unless there's someone who thinks he can make a bundle by helping them emerge.
One of the things I explore in How They Scored is exactly that dynamic: a software entrepreneur senses he can make a bundle -- to use Gibson's apt phrase -- on a certain idea he had about data mining and aggregation. During the book's action, he recruits both money and expertise from the other characters.

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09 December 2007

Right, I handled that with no problem. I got all the way home with Hap and Meeghan about to go to bed for the final time (in the book).

When I went to bed last night I told myself to think about Chapter 10, the chapter where Hap relates his failed marriage to Cara. All along I've been thinking that the best thing I have in real life to use is , of course, my failed marriage to C___. Most of the external details will change, i.e. the whole foreigner-green card marriage aspect, but I want to keep the intimate details. I've never written about C___ before and this is an opportunity to do it in a respectful and complete way. I want especially to use the tender details I remember about her body and her reactions during sex, and also to use her emotional goodness and sweetness. The one thing I don’t have is the exact way they break up, though I might simply use what is close to the truth: instead of Je___, use the affair with S___ that broke up my relationship with S___.

It's 9:00 a.m., I'm going to the store and I'm coming right back to do this.
3:35 -- I worked until about 2 pm, writing 2500 words. I thought I wrote a great first draft of that chapter. It was a little shorter than I expected it to be, but it’s so heavy that it doesn’t have to go on for long. Lots of sex too.

I'm so close now to finishing the draft. All I have to do is write the ending. Of course, I got started on it yesterday but didn’t really get there... I got right up to it... but I think I need to back off and start fresh, at least for the part that's set back in San Francisco. I liked the last scene with Denny on the boat, where I quoted from "Masculin-Feminin."

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08 December 2007

Who stays with Don: Bart, Seth (because of Bianca)

Who goes down the mountain: Seth drives; Hap, Greg, Shaun, Denny.

Q: What is the conversation with Denny on the boat home about?
A: I have no idea.
Q: Why do you even want to show it?
A: I want to give readers an idea of what happens to Denny, where he goes next.
Q: And where is that? What do you want to demonstrate by it?
A: I think I just want to remind people of the idea of "home" that Hap takes advantage of later. Maybe I'll have them bring up the grad student girl.

05 December 2007

While reading Henry Miller tonight -- I'm almost to the end of the Rosy Crucifixion, which I have inhaled, along with the Tropics, in order to give energy to my voice in "How They Scored" -- I had the idea that I can skip the entire trip down the mountain. What a bore! Instead, end the current chapter 12 with Bianca popping out of Seth's room, and then cut to the boat. There you can have one last conversation, with Denny -- because I have an intuition that Bart stays behind with Don to lay plans for Dreedle -- while Greg tries to make time with some hikers. Then the whole trip home in two pages -- no, one! The point is to get to the end.

I see it clearly. The conversation with Denny can set up, to some degree, the ending, the thing about where your home is. But not too much of that. Lightly, lightly.

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02 December 2007

Man, really hard to get started today. I wore myself out a little bit yesterday, perhaps.

It's after 3:00 already, and in the three hours I’ve been here at my office at Bob's, all I've done is a little additional cleanup of the reorganization of chapters 10-12. At this point I can either:
  • write the long bit on Hap's marriage to Cara (I did decide to spell it with a C, other notations notwithstanding)

  • or:
  • go on in chapter 12, which is where I am.
I really should do the latter. I think the Cara thing will have to require special circumstances, such as me taking a whole day off work and going to a motel or something.

OK, so onward in chapter 12. They've just eaten dinner and the chickens are about to come home to roost.

I had a moment today when I thought -- maybe it should be Don who gives the "Citizen Kane" speech. But no -- Denny has clearly been established as the person who makes film references.

Note on (c) from December 1 -- "Hap finds himself recruiting Bart despite his resolution not to." What I need to do is make Bart say, on announcing he's going to work for Don, that it was something that Hap said that made him finally decide. Hap is surprised. Bart explains. This leads directly to (d) -- Hap gets credit for it. In Don’s terms that means he’s going to make sure Hap is able to buy his building (though there might be a cavil that "it might be necessary" for Don to buy it actually and then lease it to Hap -- which is not the same thing at all, though Don will represent it as the same thing).

Q: What is that thing that Hap says that moves Bart?

A: Maybe just the suggestion that "it's a risk" (moving to Dreedle, that is) to which Bart replies "I like risks."

Q: So how exactly does Bart announce his decision?

A: I think it should be right after a sex story.

Q: We just had one by Hap -- the voyeurism thing. Will that suffice?

A: Hmm. Not really strong enough.

Q: And yet?

A: It brings up the whole privacy thing. Could make it work.


10 pm -- I had a fairly bad day of work in my office at Bob's. I procrastinated like crazy. I finally managed about 700 words... but I was pretty much where I left off yesterday.

When I got home, however, Cris was reading and she let me work, and I did another thousand words and wrote the climactic scenes that bring the whole software plot to a head. I still have to go back and rewrite chapter 10 for Hap's relationship with Cara. I should do some thinking about that this week so I can get right down to it the next time I can work.

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01 December 2007

I'm working at home one more day. Since I have a date tonight, I don't want to be gone all day. Tomorrow I'll try to work from my office at Bob's, where I haven't worked in like three weeks.

I had this thought the other day: Once Don directly asks Hap to recruit Bart, instead of the way I have it now where Hap goes straight to Bart and does that, it should go like this: Hap should do everything he can to keep from doing what Don wants. He runs the other way because he already doesn't like the Dreedle idea. But the comedy is that Bart actually asks Hap for advice, and does it in a way that Hap finds himself talking about the advantages of joining Dreedle. Then later, even though he's tried to do nothing to encourage it, when Bart does announce he’s joining Dreedle, Hap gets credit for it. So in summary:

a. Don asks Hap to recruit Bart.

b. Hap doesn't like the idea, and does the opposite.

c. Hap finds himself doing it despite himself.

d. Hap gets credit for doing what he didn’t want to do.

e. In frustration, Hap does to Denny and says let's do the wi-fi thing.

f. That's when Denny has the climactic conversation with Hap, Citizen Kane references and all.

This works much better -- it's funnier, it makes more sense, it clarifies Hap's character more, it forces him to make a harder choice, and it leads directly to the scene 6 where Denny tells Hap the wi-fi thing isn't going to happen.

Thinking for the moment about whether I should just push on from where I am now, or go back and rewrite with this in mind, I think I'm going to go back. Even though it will stall my word count progress, it will make finishing everything easier. And the word count progress is meaningless. The good thing is, I don't have to go back too far. The sequence starts in 10b and in my last work session I only just started writing chapter 12.

The other thing I have to go back and do, I have pretty much decided, is in 10a, remove the stuff about S____ and S____ (called Cate and Suzee) and substitute a new passage in which he recalls the story of his marriage and breakup with Kara. This is something I've known I have to put in somewhere, haven't found a place to do it, and in the last several days realized this is the place for it. However, it isn't necessary to do that before I make these other changes in 10b and forward.



5:50 pm -- I ended up cutting about 4300 words, rewriting the scene with Bart and other material in chapters 10, 11 and 12. I still have the story about his marriage to Kara to write. That will take some concentration.

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25 November 2007

I did manage to do 1200 words yesterday -- mostly between about 4 pm and 6:30. That was after taking S. to the airport and then distracting myself with several other things. Now it's 2:00 pm -- I've squandered the last three hours or so and it's really time to think about working. I haven't wanted to push myself too hard because I know from experience it's difficult to get things done on the fourth day working in a row. So my plan will be to make notes until I'm really clear on what I need to do.

Yesterday I covered points 1 and 2 in the list I made yesterday. (Not to be confused with the list of scenes from 10 November, which I referred to right up to the point where I made the new list.) I think my challenge today is to think through the decisions that Hap makes and break down 4 and 5.

I'm a little worried about the homecoming business too, but I'll deal with that when I get there.

So let's see. The first problem with (4) is that I'm not quite sure why Bart decides to go with Dreedle.

Q: What has Bart been thinking up to now?
A: He's interested in the idea. We also learn that he seems to have no moral objections. He can see both sides of it, but he's mainly interested in the renown and the fame that might result from participating.
Q: Why does he finally decide to do it?
A: What about this: Bart tells the story that Cris suggested -- the voyeuristic thing. No, not Bart... Shaun. Shaun tells the story and then maybe Greg one-ups him, perhaps saying he watches his neighbors' porn postings on YouTube. This leads to Bart deciding to go with Dreedle.
Q: Why exactly does he decide that?
A: He comes to the conclusion that people don't even want privacy, so why make such a big deal out of protecting it?

 
Late -- I did about 2000 words, covering a scene that prepares the reader for (4). Cris suggested the idea of a voyeur scene, and it fit in nicely with the theme of privacy. Not quite sure it all fit together, but I can work on it later.

However, I still have to transition into (4) and then work out all the changes leading up to (5). And this is Sunday night... so it's not likely I'll get a chance to work on this for a few more days. Maybe Thursday...

24 November 2007

Thanksgiving weekend. Working Thursday and Friday, I got in 2800 words, going over the 75,000 mark. That means it's officially a novel-length manuscript. That took four months from the time I wrote the first words; almost five months from the time I began making notes. Not too bad for something I hadn't the slightest inkling of before receiving the call from Felice in April.

I finally completed the 4th point from the above list, which means I have 1-5 done. 6 and 7 are somewhat trivial, so with some additional work today and tomorrow, I absolutely should finish the first draft by next weekend.

I should say that the work this week has taken place in the context of Thanksgiving, a visit by S., who stayed overnight at our place for three nights (I just got back from taking her to the airport), and the cast on Cris's leg. So I did all this work at home in the office. For somebody with a cast on their leg, Cris was great about letting me work. Letting me sleep is another matter, but I'll leave that for my personal diary.

My plan is to make some notes and then go to bed for a few hours, due to the disruptions last night.

I think maybe my best strategy should be to bring things to a fairly quick conclusion. It's been drawn out enough.
  1. Greg can't believe Hap is ambivalent. Might be a good place for a Greg story that highlights the notion of striking fast.
  2. Don might check on Hap, give him more pressure.
  3. The next morning, Bianca emerges from Seth's bedroom with him. Everyone thunderstruck. Seth story.
  4. Bart makes it clear he's going with Don's idea.
  5. Something makes Hap not want to go with Don -- even though he'd now get credit for it. He goes to tell Don, but Don is talking to Denny, who announces he's decided to throw his money behind Dreedle as well. Don still doesn't know Bart is coming along. Even though he could now get on board with Don, Hap impulsively decides to reject the Dreedle idea and Don's money, or promises of it. He tells Don and Denny.
  6. Denny and Hap have the Citizen Kane conversation in which Denny tells Hap why he can't save him.
  7. In the car on the way down the mountain. Everyone's all excited about Dreedle, except Seth, who simply wears a dreamy, satisfied expression. Finally they ask Hap if he's joining Dreedle, and he says no. When Bart says "But what about your apartment" Hap says there is more than one way to buy a house. He'll figure out a way to do it.
  8. Coda showing his homecoming in SF.
I guess that's all right. I'll sleep on it now.

 
1:40 pm -- Becalmed. I went to bed for a couple hours but didn't sleep much. I did think idly about this book but not much came to mind except stuff I'd already written.

It's always harder the third day in a row that I work on something. I think the best pattern for me is to make notes on Friday night, sleep on it and then start fresh right away on Saturday, get a lot done, then come back Sunday and polish it off with another 2000 words or so. That's the way to do a consistent 5000 words a weekend instead of the closer to 4300 I've been averaging.

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21 November 2007

Okay, continuing with that brainstorming about Denny. I'm going to copy it over here so I can continue.

Q: What is the important thing to think about w.r.t. Denny, in addition to the main plot points?
A: His subplot.
Q: Which is?
A: His wife Marianne has just left him, he's started using junk again, and he has to decide what to do next. Because he is indomitably wealthy, it's not a matter of how to survive financially, only emotionally and physically.
Q: How will going back on heroin affect him?
A: It won't, in the short run -- i.e. for the purposes of the book.
Q: So do we have to talk about it?
A: Only in passing, perhaps as we take leave of Denny for the last time.
Q: So the main thing to think about is what?
A: His emotional state with his wife leaving him.
Q: But that's affected by...?
A: His emotional state is affected, i.e. muted, by going back on junk. So we'll have to acknowledge that.
Q: Then what's the main thing?
A: As I've said before: he's searching for meaning in his life -- more so now, since he's lost two relationships -- and for some sort of redemption.
Q: How does he express this search for meaning and redemption?
A: He already expressed it partly by getting involved with Marianne and trying to kick for her. By trying to do that relationship better, he was in some way trying to atone for his relationship with Marinka.
Q: Note the similarity in names.
A: True. I never quite noticed before how similar the names are.
Q: Anyway, sum up.
A: He tries redemption with Marianne. Doesn't work out. Now searching again for meaning and redemption.
Q: Is the wi-fi thing really a strong enough impulse?
A: No, not at all. Needs something else.
Q: What will that something else be like?
A: Has to be something he can do with his existing resources. Could be a relationship. Could be something he's doing with his money.
Q: Contrast with Bart.
A: Bart is already on the boards of non-profits and stuff.
Q: Why isn't Denny?
A: He probably is -- I can include that. But it should be something a little more daft and impractical and not as community-oriented as what Bart does. Like the Long Now Foundation.
Q: Perfect.
A: It does something "for the future" that's totally impractical. And in addition let's invent some artistic thing that's similar. He's on the board of a foundation that supports a single middle-aged artist whose project is an earthwork artist whose project is deep underground in a remote desert location -- the height (or nadir) of inaccessibility.
Q: Beautiful.
A: I could link this in "Knock Yourself Out" too -- that artist could be a character in that book!
Q: OK, OK. Focus. This is presumably stuff that Denny has been doing for the last while. What's he doing in addition, now?
A: Well, the wi-fi thing. That's his new thing.
Q: How does Dreedle reflect or match that?
A: It's the dark side of his redemption-through-investing-in-the-right-things strategy. In fact, I can have him considering various applications from "green technology" firms too.
Q: What does this say that you haven't mentioned?
A: That people are always coming to him for money.
Q: Should put that in now.
A: Right... OK, I put that in.
Q: Why are we thinking about Denny right now anyway?
A: Because he's one of the most interesting characters and his subplot is the most substantial, we're trying to figure out what plot points in that subplot need to be developed, and how they fit into the themes of the book. And because his ultimate decision about whether or not to give money to Don, or to support the wi-fi thing, has directly to do with Hap. That decision has to be well prepared for.
Q: OK, so what's next?
A: I did have done idea, to launch directly into another story by Greg. I think it would recharge the book's energy. I think it sort of needs it at the moment.
Q: What about another idea -- develop this thing that Denny's into in the desert.
A: Hmm, have Denny tell a story about being in the desert in support of this artist character? Some kind of erotic encounter down there?
Q: Reminds me of what?
A: The unfinished story set in the desert with all the converging story lines.
Q: Does that really help?
A: Probably not... I might mention one or two of the settings. I can mention the crater and the Marine Base maybe... Just the setting. Not characters.
Q: What do you want to show about Denny at this point?
A: There's this point -- 4. Denny again speaks to Hap, holding out the possibility of an alternative that isn't so morally objectionable. It doesn't involve the possibility of riches, but it does involve Denny buying Hap's building and letting him stay there. -- and I need to link this to an emotional place that Denny is in.
Q: So you should do what?
A: Have Denny come to Hap instead of the other way around.
Q: What happens?
A: Denny talks to Hap on the porch again. For some reason the porch is Denny's territory.
Q: But...?
A: But I can't have Denny straightforwardly offer the whole arrangement to Hap, because then it's too simple for Hap to just take it. Denny has to approach things obscurely. (In fact -- work that more into his character.) And hap has to be somewhat confused about what Denny is really offering. Don't draw this out too much, though. We already had Don draw out the whole Dreedle thing somewhat. (Of necessity, however, because of its complexity, and to create a sense of mystery.)

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20 November 2007

Last working session I arrived at one of the turning points in the book. Don has revealed his idea for the business, and now he reveals to Hap why he's up there and what Don wants from him: to use his influence to recruit Bart for Don's business, Dreedle. In return, Don will promise to solve Hap's problem with the apartment.

As I see it, there are only a few important plot points that remain:
    Shaun finds out that Hap has been asked to recruit Bart, and tries to dissuade him, warning of the political implications of Dreedle.
  1. When this doesn't work, Shaun attempts to sabotage the business somehow. But he ends up getting turned around by Don, who convinces him to invest all of his nest egg, about $4 million, in the company.
  2. Seth is telling Hap to go for it. But Seth is also disgruntled that he wasn't thought to be as important as Bart to the new enterprise.
  3. Denny again speaks to Hap, holding out the possibility of an alternative that isn't so morally objectionable. It doesn't involve the possibility of riches, but it does involve Denny buying Hap's building and letting him stay there.
  4. Hap tries speaking to Bart about it, but Bart is slippery. This might be the occasion for Bart to tell his big sexy story about working at chain.com.
  5. Don asks Hap about his progress.
  6. Greg can't believe Hap is even hesitating.
  7. Hap decides he's not going to try to use his influence with Bart anymore, in fact decides to take Denny's offer.
  8. Denny informs Hap that he's decided not to pursue the wi-fi thing, to go with Don instead. This is where I bring in the "Citizen Kane" reference.
After that I'm not quite sure what the resolution is. Man, that's a lot of scenes... I'm going to have to write more than one a day if I'm going to finish this in another 5 writing sessions.

Better get to it. I've wasted two hours and I have to stop by 5:00.

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19 November 2007

A bit at a loss, my attention fragmented. I've squandered the morning time when Cris is still asleep, and now she's up. I'm working at home all week, but there's not much virtue in that, as most of my attention is taken by Cris, the house, the cats, etc. -- which is why I have an office. But as I'm here, I really ought to try to pay attention.

Q: What is the important thing to think about w.r.t. Denny, in addition to the main plot points?
A: His subplot.
Q: Which is?
A: His wife Marianne has just left him, he's started using junk again, and he has to decide what to do next. Because he is indomitably wealthy, it's not a matter of how to survive financially, only emotionally and physically.
Q: How will going back on heroin affect him?
A: It won't, in the short run -- i.e. for the purposes of the book.
Q: So do we have to talk about it?
A: Only in passing, perhaps as we take leave of Denny for the last time.
Q: So the main thing to think about is what?
A: His emotional state with his wife leaving him.
Q: But that's affected by...?
A: His emotional state is affected, i.e. muted, by going back on junk. So we'll have to acknowledge that.
Q: Then what's the main thing?
A: As I've said before: he's searching for meaning in his life -- more so now, since he's lost two relationships -- and for some sort of redemption.

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18 November 2007

Since writing the above list of scenes, I've felt both constrained and energized by it, to the point that I do little thinking about how to go forward except to work out how to get those scenes on paper. By now, at the beginning of chapter 11, I've covered 1 through 3 and also 5. I guess I need to do 4 next. Of course, I also have to work in the sex...

This is also a period when I'm stuck at home. Cris got ankle surgery two days ago and I'm home taking care of her. It's just as well, in a way, since B. has family at his house; he warned me last weekend that it would be noisy and difficult to work there.

Yesterday was Saturday and I only did a few hundred words. I told myself that it was all right, that things would work out so I would be able to get things done. Even more important than sheer progress is not to get too anxious at this point.

 
I wrote, basically, one scene all weekend: 11a, in which I covered point 3 above. The next thing I have to do is point 4, or maybe I'll write something intermediate to set up point 7. None of these have to go in exactly the order listed above, as long as point 9 is the last one.

The only other thing I accomplished was to go through the whole manuscript and change two-thirds of the occurrences of the word "just" to alternatives including "simply," "only," "exactly" and so on; or to simply cut out the word as needless. I left it in dialogue more than I left it in narration. When I was done I felt better about having cleaned up something that is one of my weak habits.

But I need to think about the main thing, which is to get the scene with Denny off the ground, and to think about another sex scene. Maybe tomorrow.

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03 November 2007

Went to bed early! Woke up early! -- it's 7:24 a.m. and I'm getting at least a three hour head start. Of course I'll probably have to stop three hours early too, but at least I'll get something done.

I went to C_____ last night for a reception for F1, who is relocating to London while continuing to work for the press. I chatted with F2about the book, and I was relieved to find her still very enthusiastic about it. In fact, she gave me leave to include at least one bdsm scene, and when I told her that one of the characters was a network nerd at chain.com, she said that sounded perfect. So that gives me an opportunity to open things up a little.

I also talked to the women who is doing promotions for them about promoting the book when it is released. I got a chance to tell her I wanted to be very involved, share costs, and generally do everything I could to promote it, and she was receptive. Now if I can only remember her name.

I need to look at my outline to see where I am... Oh, right, Denny is telling about Marianne. Let's see, I need to sex up that story a lot. I need to think of an erotic detail about her personality that will help...

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26 October 2007

I got an idea for the resolution of the book. My idea up to now has been to have Denny hold out an alternative job idea to Hap and then yank it away at the last minute. Tonight I had an idea of how that could happen. Denny, the former film student, starts talking about the scene in Citizen Kane where Joseph Cotton passes out drunk at the typewriter and Kane finishes his brutal review of Susan's opera debut. When Cotton wakes up, he's told "Mr. Kane is finishing your piece the way you started it.... I guess that'll show you." And then Kane fires him. And Denny goes on to say something that compares him yanking the job away from Hap to that -- something about loyalty to him and not to the friendship... or vice versa.

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21 October 2007

Sunday. Yesterday I did 2500 words -- though that figure is cheating slightly, since I had done 300 of those during the week but did not count it as a working session -- and by the end of the day I still had a whole social evening to go to (of course I had to stop early because of it). And by the end of that I was completely exhausted. I decided to skip church this morning and sleep in, and I was glad I did, since I slept til 9:00.

I'm in the middle of chapter 9 and I'm about to do the first sex story told by Don. There might be only this one from him. I'm over 55,000 words.

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14 October 2007

Whew -- well, I managed to squeeze out 2000 words yesterday -- exactly 2000. That leaves only 4000 for today. Since I'm doing a Greg story, it might not be that hard. The most inspired day I've had so far is when I wrote the chapter about Greg and Growler. However, I have to differentiate it from my own experience as far as possible, and I have to make it typically Greg -- suspicious, aggressive, insistent on getting what he paid for. I think it would be interesting to make it representative of the business approach of a certain type of person, and in fact the original impulse I had for Greg's character fits into this perfectly -- the obnoxious business type I encountered in Las Vegas whom I overhead saying: "I'm gonna make about $2000 on the deal. Hey, I figure, he charges me for his labor, so I'm gonna charge him for my money. If he worked for free then I could do him a favor." Implicit in this view of the world is the notion that everyone else is bound by the values you yourself subscribe to. But there's a particularly delicious irony I could bring out: On the one hand, Greg feels he pays prostitutes to do whatever he tells them to do. On the other hand, he says to himself that the prostitutes are independent contractors who will, as he does, strive as hard as they can to get the most out of the transaction. If I'm good, I can make his approach representative of a certain kind of sexual ethos in addition to the business ethos; I can make the business ethos stand in for the sexual ethos even in a sex scene.

I also want to think about what happens after this scene. As a rule I think I need to alternate three types of scenes:
  • Sex stories
  • Scenes that relate to the business-y plot
  • Internal/narrative passages without dialogue.
Ever since "Make Nice" I have been wary of writing dialogue scenes that go on and on. And I generally need more lyrical passages. The last bullet allows me to avoid dialogue -- I think it gives the reader a break and a change of pace -- and include descriptions and ideas.

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13 October 2007

I had a good weekend last weekend, with just over 6000 words, and I start this weekend at 47,000-plus. Yet I'm increasingly worried about my deadline. If I average 5000 words per weekend from now til Thanksgiving, That will only bring me to 78,000. What I really need to do is average 7000 per week -- nearly impossible without working a four-day week at my job. So perhaps what I'll have to do is "work at home" one day a week.

And it would be a good idea to start that on Monday, since Cris has delayed her return from vacation by a day and will not be returning until late Monday night.

All right, what am I going to do today? The book is completely out of my mind. I should have prepared by catching up on it yesterday, but I spent the whole evening doing laundry and listening to the ball game. I'll have to catch up now. This is an example of how I still am inefficient when it comes to use of my time.

It occurs to me that I still don't have an outline, and that it would be good at this point to put one together to allow me to see where I am.

 
Still sort of at a loss -- and yet I have the feeling I need to move the plot, such as it is, along much more. The part in bold dark red in 7e is where the main arena for conflict of the book is mentioned for the first time. -- aside from the source of Hap's anxiety, i.e. whether or not he gets to keep his apartment. In addition to sex, I have to keep in mind to have lots of scenes with the whole business plot moving forward.

 
1:18 pm-- Man, I'm not focusing. I'll take a tiny walk and then come back and read a little.

 
3:36 pm-- I went and did an errand, coming back an hour later. Now I've spent more than an hour reading. No closer to knowing anything about what it is I have to write today; I only know that I'd better get revved up and do it. I would have done better to go to a film early today than to do what I have done, which is worse than nothing.

All right, I'll concentrate. It's quite simple, really. I must explicate the plot machinations between the characters while doling out generous amounts of smut. The plot machinations themselves I have not really planned out, because they don't matter much. Nevertheless, I'll have to have some idea where they're going.

I seem to remember I had mapped something out several weeks ago. Let me see if I can find it...
  1. Don explains idea for company. Hap considers the attractiveness of going to work for Don -- the pluses and minuses.
  2. Don wants Denny's money. Denny considers investing in Don's company versus doing the something else.
  3. Denny indirectly encourages Hap to think there's an alternative to going to work for Don. (Problems here -- why shouldn't he go to work for Don anyway? What's stopping him? Must make it some kind of moral objection.)
  4. Hap has to decide, and he finally decides to go with Denny.
  5. But then Denny decides to go ahead and invest his money with Don anyway.
And:
Make it clearer that the apartment represents freedom for Hap. Keep that word in mind. Contrast it to the period when he owned a house with his wife Kara. He rents now but is freer.


And finally, I have never addressed this:
Perhaps the subplot does have to do with Denny's own internal struggle -- his motivations for competing with Don, for coming up with an alternative, for inveigling Hap. Something to do with the way his yearning for redemption competes with his weaknesses.
My sense is that the other subplot has to have something to do with Seth, who has not come to the fore at all yet.

Oh... Hmm, I said last weekend that the subplot had to have something to do with Bart and the wi-fi for all thing, and should be comic.

Okay, I have an idea. I'll open the action on the day following 8a with a scene between Don and Bart that Hap overhears. After a few moments he becomes uneasy and manages to get away without them knowing he has overheard them. Then he finds Bianca and exchanges a few more words with her. Finally, he joins Greg in replacing the outhouse on its foundation; this gives us an opportunity to hear another sex story from him.

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07 October 2007

Early Sunday evening. I did a good 3000 words yesterday, and 900 today to finish that scene, which I interrupted in order to go out with A. Now I want to write the next sex scene, because there hasn't been one in a while, and for that reason it also has to be a good one to reward the reader for sticking with it.

It's either Shaun's, Denny's, or Don's turn -- Don hasn't had a sex story yet. I'm inclined to let him go next after this one, which is at the beginning of chapter 8. (I'm over 45,000 words.) I think it should be Shaun. Let's see... something in keeping with his character... Suppose he met a girl at some anarchist conference. (Earlier I had made a note about him telling a story that takes place at Burning Man, but I think I'll leave that to Seth, the over-achiever.) Hmm, I'm finding that the only person who could tell the Orna-cum-Amnesia story is Shaun. Bart is also the type, but I'm establishing him as someone who (against type) likes really straight women. And Greg would never wind up in bed with two women he hasn't paid. So it has to be Shaun.

Of course, it could be Hap... hmm. No, Hap has to tell the story of his marriage eventually, and that'll take up a lot of space. OK, so it's Shaun.

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06 October 2007

So, that day on the train was a bust in terms of writing my book -- aside from getting to read as much of "Sexus" as I wanted to. I got most of the way through it.

Now I'm staying at home today, Saturday, instead of going to Bob's house, because Cris isn't here and it's less hassle than getting over there, given that I have to stop early AGAIN. This time because I have symphony tickets and I have to get dressed and meet Anna for dinner beforehand.

OK, THINK ABOUT THE BOOK.

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05 October 2007

board the Coast Starlight en route to Oakland.

I was hoping to get some work done on the train, but all around me people are talking, the motion of the train is unpleasant -- unlike the local train which I took from Ventura to Santa Barbara which apparently used new equipment -- and there's no power for my laptop. The noise of people talking is the worst; I can't think well enough to compose. But maybe I can make some notes.

Hap has gone out onto the deck to talk to Denny. I have to find some use for this conversation.

Q: What are some of the things they can talk about?
A: Small talk -- what are they both doing lately -- use this to show moods and attitudes. Of more use -- Hap can ask Denny to buy his building, and Denny can reply with news about what he's doing lately, his wealth, and might hold out some hope that he can fulfill Hap's needs by either buying his building or possibly doing something else even more glorious but vague.

Arrgh, can't think at all.

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30 September 2007

We spent six hours putting together one of the three bookshelves yesterday. We finished at 10:30, both exhausted and sore from squatting, kneeling, bending, and standing up.

Today I would up with only about four hours in which to work; I went home so we could start another bookshelf, perhaps both of the remaining two, at 4:00. But Cris found a damaged piece on one, which meant we could only complete the other. Still, it only took us two and a half hours instead of six.

So because of the bookshelves project, I wound up with only 3350 words for the weekend. I did, however, get over the hump of finally having all the characters present in Don's lodge. It only took me 39,000 words to get there.

Today I wrote a farcical scene in which Greg wrecks a cabin and gets seemingly penalized for it. I introduced Don as a sort of Donald Trump character who likes ordering everyone else to do ridiculous things which, at least at first, they do without question.

By the end I had set up a scene with Denny. Hap's going to ask him to help with the apartment problem. Then maybe we'll get Denny's perspective on one of the other characters.

I'm having fun. I just need more time to work. Fortunately Cris is about to go away for two weekends, from the 4th to the 14th. I'll drive down to Southern California with her and then ride back on the train. That reminds me, I have to buy my train ticket, don't I.

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27 September 2007

10:10 -- getting a bit of an early start, for once. Just read a little from the middle of "Sexus." It makes me aware I'm not doing much with these characters at the moment. I have to think more about their inner lives -- or, rather, I should say I have to allow them space to lead their inner lives.

In general, I have to spend a great deal of time on characterization. The sex stories matter only if you know the person telling them.

Anyway. I'll finish the chapter I was working on last Sunday when I had to stop, and then I'll try to get right into the next chapter, introducing the Bianca character.

 
2:30pm -- I did about 2100 words and I'm going home. Cris hasn't called me yet but I'll just go home anyway. Bob is having some kind of "debauchery" here and I'm at a good stopping place.

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23 September 2007

I wrote about 2800 words yesterday, a not-too-bad start to what is, essentially, the second part of the book -- the part where they will all be in one setting. I say not too bad because it reads all right the way it is, and yet I'm conscious that the second part of the book is that which must build to a climax and since I don't really have a sense of the shape of the narrative arc -- though I have mapped out some conflicts -- I can't say I have done well to start that arc at the beginning of chapter 6. All I did was introduce Seth a little more and have a sex story set against the background of an abortive prank where they're gathering fallen wood to make a sort of sculpture. Silly idea but... It's hard to judge. It seems more important to keep tearing onward.

And today, Sunday, I have a shortened day. Cris expects me back at the house in less than four hours to work on some bookshelves. I just became aware I haven't had enough coffee so I'll make a few notes, go get the coffee, and attempt to begin. Though I have no idea what to write next.

I suppose I ought to introduce Bianca, though I don't feel quite ready to. The thing is, it's late in the evening and I want to have one more scene before the morning comes and I introduce her. Perhaps what I'll do is make it not quite so late. I'll have a few of them sitting up having a nightcap and then have a story.

The question then is which story. I just used up one of those I thought of including: the story Stacy told me of how one night she switched beds with her housemate and they fucked each other's dates. That story still tickles me; I could have done more justice to it.

I also realized this morning that I must do more to make each female character somewhat memorable. They can't just be a parade of cunts, they have to be really alive. Doing so will not only be more honorable, but it will make the book more interesting once the reader gets used to the idea that the book consists of sex story after sex story.

So again, which story should I tell -- instead of asking who should tell it. Bart hasn't had much screen time lately so maybe it should be him. And what do I have for Bart to tell? I thought of having him tell about something from Burning Man. Also, he can tell about an event that took place in Bangalore... I thought of having him tell his version of the story about fucking Jennifer the HR lady. Actually I think that would be more fun.

One thing that's interesting -- I thought it might be hard for me to maintain interest writing mostly about straight vanilla sex, but so far it's been pretty easy, and at times inspired. There's enough variation, like the business about the women switching beds -- so far.

 
4:25 pm -- must knock off. Made good progress though, got well into the scene between Bart and Jennifer. Hee hee.

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22 September 2007

Saturday morning -- once again, 11:15, though I have to say I managed to get to my desk before 11:00 at least. I spent the last 25 minutes nostalgically reviewing photos and news stories in my "Dear Prudence" -- I mean "Bangalored" -- folder. Having met with Elise a few days ago to talk about what the book needed before she felt comfortable putting it out there, it's been on my mind.

But last night while I was falling asleep I got a halfway good idea for how to do the next chapter, which is chapter 6.

After this weekend, there are 8 weekends before Thanksgiving. If I keep up a pace of 5000 words per week, that's another 40,000 words, which would bring me close to 75,000. But if I can average closer to 6000 words per week, that's a lot closer to 90,000 for a first draft -- and that would be much better. But since my current average per week for the first 7 weeks is 4738, I will need to push myself and also take as much time off work as I can. Since my next project at work is supposed to GA in late November, maybe I can take off the whole last week of the month. Then no one is likely to be around in the 11 days between Saturday, Dec. 22 and Wednesday, Jan. 2...

None of that matters. What's important is to do as much as possible, as soon as possible. And I'm finally at the beginning of the group scenes at the lodge. I'll have to write six or seven 6000 word chapters set up there.

Even before really getting into this section -- which is the meat of the book -- I'm wondering how I can shake it up. I mentioned "The Thing" before, a movie that impressed me with the way it kept three steps ahead of the audience by constantly shifting the source of the main conflict. I need to see it again to refresh my memory, since I haven't seen it since it came out in like 1982, but as I remember it, it starts out with these polar researchers vs. the elements and a government or corporate bureaucracy, and then they're fighting what seems like an epidemic, and then it turns out to be some kind of space alien that assumes the shape of whatever it kills, so that at the end there are only two guys left, and neither can prove that he's not the alien and the other is, so they're just sitting in the snow with guns drawn, and that's how the movie ends. I've always admired how the movie keeps the audience guessing, even before you get to the stalemate at the end. So I've been wondering how to shake up the middle of my book.

The bones of the premise are not dissimilar: a group of men marooned in a remote location. Perhaps I could have sort of a set of subplot conflicts running beneath the surface:
  • Seth vs. the wilderness
  • Shaun tries to subvert the dominant paradigm, but Denny is more of a natural trickster; he can't compete with Denny if Denny decides to do something subversive
  • Greg constantly competing with Bart. So is Seth, in different ways.
  • Hap feels that Bart is somehow too soulless, focusing only on technical problems -- that Bart's main motivation is to seek an outlet for his expertise and skills, regardless of the social or political implications which Hap would like him to consider
  • Don wants Denny's and Greg's money. Greg has little resistance, but Denny the trickster initially sets up a competing venture.
That's all good, but I think I need Hap to have a dominant conflict throughout the book. Somehow it seems his fear of losing his apartment isn't quite strong enough. He has to be in conflict with whatever is happening at the retreat, in some way.

Let's see. He's happy -- that's his dominant personality trait. He should be known by the others for this. And it should go beyond the simple fact that he's getting laid by a great girlfriend; he should be happy with everything in his life. It's not that his life is more perfect than anyone else's; it's just the way he feels about things.

The others envy him somewhat. And yet it's also important to them that he be a happy character, the way some long term relationships are important to a group of friends of the couple, friends that would be crushed if the couple broke up.

I dunno, there doesn't seem to be that much there.

I want to go back to the idea that something about the whole gathering bothers him. I can't think what, though.

He didn't really want to come to this thing. Why?

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16 September 2007

Today, to start with, I want to do a couple of things. First, I'm going to go through all my notes and make lists of all the possible sex scenes I have thought of so far. And second, I'm going to put in a few things about Hap's anxiety about his apartment. That always has to be uppermost in his mind -- that anxiety should drive the book, like Yossarian's anxiety about going on more bombing missions.

List of characters along with stories for them to tell:

Hap:
  • This is the one most likely to be in a suburban setting, and why not. A little reminiscent of John Updike, complete with the anal sex.
  • Also should have something about his wife, Kara -- or probably three stories with her.
  • Meeting her, honeymoon
  • Peak of sexual relationship
  • Scene which carries the seeds of the destruction of their relationship
Don:
  • Sex with a co-ed at the conservative film festival on campus (!)
  • He might talk about something that's happened there at the cabin. Maybe in the past he brought up strippers. As a smart scientist type, he wants to break loose, but observes -- has trouble joining in, maybe.
Denny:
  • Must have at least one extended monologue about Marianne
  • Let's say it starts out suggesting a dark, urban mood, but actually takes place in a bucolic setting, against type.
Greg: This guy's story has to be about a prostitute, someone he hired. Perhaps he has a customer service issue with her. Or maybe something to do with the mob in Vegas.

Seth:
  • Possibly the thing about Stacy and her roommate, whose name I totally forget -- the time when they switched beds and fucked each other's dates. Show: Seth's sexual superiority to Shaun; second, the way Shaun fucks things up by being passive and uncertain and, above all, by dealing with fantasies rather than the reality. Something about the girl who was Seth's date that brings out Shaun's nascent political romanticism -- like the girl is Spanish and Shaun wants to talk to her about the Spanish Civil War.
  • Must have at least one extended monologue about Marianne
  • The O.-cum-Amnesia -- about how the second resembles the first, etc.
Shaun:
  • Something hippyish here. Or no -- burning man! Two sisters maybe?
  • What about putting N. in here -- maybe N. and Sy., just for contrast. But actually I could use any six-foot tall skinny girl with big tits in a cowboy hat.
Bart:
  • Something from the Chain Tattoo world
  • As shown by his attraction to Jennifer, he seems to like women who are very straight -- or maybe that's just one of the types he finds attractive. I should think about why he was attracted to Jennifer, the annoying super-straight HR manager, and not Stella, the kooky San Francisco girl. Perhaps Stella is too similar to all the girls who are naturally attracted to him, whereas Jennifer, strangely enough, represents -- not a challenge, but something different. Similarly, he has also had an affair with the bored wife of a Chinese-American dry cleaner. In fact, taken together, all these represent a quirky, eclectic bunch, even if alone set against American culture they are anonymous and straight. Hmm, interesting -- explore.
 
4:15 pm -- I rewrote the opening of the book, cutting 300 words and writing 1500. I expanded the opening sex scene and then made the whole thing about the building being sold much clearer. I also changed it somewhat -- now it's that the building is being put on the market, with the implication that Hap himself might be able to buy it -- if he can come up with an insanely large chunk of money. The larger the cost of the building, the better.

 
5:05pm -- I wrote a few hundred more words, smoothing out the scene at the end of chapter 5 and finishing the chapter. Now I have to start the next chapter with a proper group dialogue scene. Here's where the book gets difficult -- scenes between large groups of people. I think I'll try reading Catch-22 tonight to see if I can find how Heller handled it.

I wish I could work more for the day; I've only done 3300 words for the weekend. If only tomorrow were a holiday, or I could take off work. No chance -- I have, like, three meetings about the release notes, and by the time the day ends I'll be pooped. Fucking job!

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15 September 2007

A little after noon; I have been here reading for almost an hour. I am at the point of the book where all the men have arrived at Don's mountain lodge.

In my last session I had such a good time writing about Greg that it's made me think I should go back and make the rest of the book, or at least parts of it, more antic and absurdist. But I don't think I'm going to try to do that now; I want to keep forging ahead.

So I'm at a point where normally I would get very bogged down in a sort of slow-motion scene: They go upstairs to meet Don... They have drinks and talk and then have dinner... They have the first wide-ranging conversation.

Instead of doing that, I ought to do something that confounds the reader's expectations. What if Don is somehow missing, and they have to kind of deal with that? He shows up the next morning and it's all meant to keep them off-balance and demonstrate that he's at the top of the pecking order.

I still need to introduce a subplot or two and I have no ideas that I can remember... Time to look back on my notes.
Perhaps the subplot does have to do with Denny's own internal struggle -- his motivations for competing with Don, for coming up with an alternative, for inveigling Hap. Something to do with the way his yearning for redemption competes with his weaknesses.
My sense is that the other subplot has to have something to do with Seth, who has not come to the fore at all yet.

Oh... Hmm, I said last weekend that the subplot had to have something to do with Bart and the wi-fi for all thing, and should be comic.

Okay... I'm going to get started. I have some scene-setting and exposition to do anyway.

 
6:10 pm -- I managed to work most of the afternoon, except for taking a break halfway through for a sandwich, getting in 1500 words, but I don't feel very happy about them. Basically I got the guys into the house and did a little bit of exposition. Dull.

At home tonight I hope I can do some real thinking about what to do next.

 
11:30 pm -- I only just now looked a little through notes again. I happily note that I already have loads of ideas for sex stories from most of the characters. I ought to calm down and just have them start telling them.

Hmm, I wonder if I can work Bart's chain.com job in somehow. Or does there have to be a justification for all the sex stories?

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09 September 2007

That whole thing with Hap having to chose between Denny and Don -- I was thinking about the Denny part as a subplot. It's actually part of the main conflict. I need more subplots.

I ought to have a subplot centering on Bart, who has a comic aspect. Let's see... I think I could take the "wi-fi for all" concept and give it to Bart instead of Denny... It's too optimistic for Denny. It also fits into Bart's community-oriented work: in addition to serving on the board of the non-profit arts center in Seattle, he's also doing this wi-fi for all thing. It's like what Meraki is trying to do, only in a non-profit community oriented way.

 
6:15 pm -- I wrote what might be all of chapter 5 -- all about Greg. I took the idea I'd had before about how he is starting an energy drink business and totally ran with it. Even though I didn't get a start until after 12, I had a great day -- 4350 words.

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08 September 2007

The subplot (or maybe it's the main plot) about Denny trying to get Hap to join his initiative rather than Don's company -- the important thing about it is that this alternate initiative has to represent something important for Denny. It has to represent a true alternative for him personally, a different road than he's taken before. And when he decides not to do it, it's not just him fucking with Hap and moving his money to Don, it's a huge personal defeat and turning point for Denny.

I wrote above:
What's Denny doing? Could he be doing some kind of nonprofit thing? I can steal the "wi-fi for all" idea -- it's not that unique an idea. Maybe Denny surprises the others by having an idea that competes with Don's for attention.
However, don't forget Denny is a drug addict. He's probably not doing anything. Maybe the wi-fi people have him on their board or something. And ... Denny is half-heartedly trying to recruit Bart, but basically he doesn't give a shit.

Another thing I have to do: go back and make it clearer that the apartment represents freedom for Hap. Keep that word in mind. Contrast it to the period when he owned a house with his wife Kara. He rents now but is freer. I need to evoke that whole Henry Miller type feeling of freedom and then create a feeling where it is threatened.

Well, why not: Have a scene where we actually see him preparing to leave. Meeghan is going to leave the apartment a few minutes before him. The mail arrives and he opens a letter from the landlord saying the house has been sold. Meeghan asks what it is and Hap says "Nothing," but then goes on to explain to the reader, as he leaves town, the import of the letter.

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07 September 2007

Yesterday I developed another pink eye infection. It meant I couldn't work at all. How frustrating it was to have a three-day holiday weekend and not be able to use one of the days. Today, the holiday, was not shaping up to be great either, because I was going to have to spend much of it at home due to the fact an electrician was coming to work at the house. But strangely, with all the disruptions, I actually did about 2500 words, writing the end (or almost to the end) of chapter 4 with Denny's story about Marinka. It felt good and weighty and very interesting without being too dirty; I only hinted at the outré stuff without actually going into it. I'm at almost 25,500 words.

Tomorrow morning the guy is coming back, so I went tonight to work and got my computer so I can work at home tomorrow. The release is slipping a week so it shouldn't be a big deal.

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01 September 2007

Saturday -- again, as long as I allow myself to sleep as late as I need to (since it's the only day of the week I can do so) and perform a minimum of errands before getting to my office, I wind up sitting down to work between 11:00 and 11:30. Perhaps part of the issue is that the neighborhood is so pleasant early in the morning, and my office is do dreary. It's very dark during the morning and gets increasingly brighter, due to reflected light, during the day. An hour before sunset the room is brilliantly lit by sun reflecting off the walls of the airshaft, even though it never shines directly into the room. Then the sun goes behind a row of trees across the street and suddenly the room becomes twilit again.

So when I begin work in the morning I'm bound to turn on lights. I imagine that during the winter the problem will be much worse, since the sun will not climb high enough even to reach into the airshaft and will set behind the buildings across the street earlier. Plus, it will be cold, probably very cold. I'll have to take steps such as get a heater and perhaps even a heated cushion for the chair.

Anyway. All that is neither here nor there. To the book.

Q: What does Denny offer? It has to be related to his character, "desiring release and redemption."

A: Perhaps it's not something as quotidian as a job to rival Don's putative offer. Perhaps it's something that actually does not give Hap a way to keep his apartment and his lover, but something that Hap still wants because all middle-aged men want it: a chance for complete escape and starting over again. Perhaps Denny even holds out the possibility of Hap bringing his lover along.

Q: What is important here about the remote setting?

A: Hap can't phone Meeghan and talk excitedly about it. In fact, that's the main reason Don brought them all up there: because there's no communication.

Q: Shouldn't you make that very clear?

A: Yes, I can bring it up shortly. Perhaps Hap can have a conversation with the ghostly hippie he glimpsed boarding the ferry, and the man can tell him a little about life in Shattermine -- specifically the remoteness.

Q: Why is it important that Hap (and the others) can't discuss what's going on up there with others?

A: Don doesn't want them to until he settles who's working for him. (I should have him get them all to sign NDAs when they arrive, though -- humor.) But in terms of the narrative, I want the environment to be more like a pressure cooker, so that the only resources the characters have are each other. This is important not only for atmospheric reasons but so the characters are deprived of information and support from outside; this plays into the hands of the characters who are willing to be more manipulative, which is almost everyone except Hap.

Q: What else do you need to establish that you haven't?

A: Bart and Hap are good friends. This is necessary for the plot, as I explained above: Don intends to reach Bart through Hap.

Q: One more thing to think about?

A: I have to take care in revealing Denny's story -- which parts to reveal when, for what advantage.


3:00 pm. I've written about 1400 words, covering several small issues. I went back and introduced Greg very briefly so I could bring him up in the middle of ch. 4 where I find myself right now. And I wrote more about the remoteness of Shattermine and of Don's lodge. Chapter 4 is now 3100 words so there's time for a nice long passage at the end. I'm of a mind to write a long story about Denny. There are some main parts of his backstory I need to cover.

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31 August 2007

Friday of a long holiday weekend. I should have come straight here to the office after leaving work, but I felt some resistance. In fact, I spoke of it last night to A.: I said "I actually don't want tomorrow to be Friday because I don't feel like working on my book already." After I left work I went home, took a shower, tried and failed to nap, and left the house; but even then I drove around unwilling to go straight to my writing office. Nevertheless, I drove up the block, and there was no parking place, and I felt vaguely hungry, so I finally drove to Noe Valley and had something to eat at Pomodoro, a chain Italian restaurant on the corner of 24th and Noe. It's cheap but good, and neighborhoody enough that I don't feel bad about going in there wearing only a t-shirt (while I would never wear just a t-shirt to Bar Bambino).

After eating I felt more like working, so I came to my office at Bob's house. I have a couple of hours to make a few notes, and then I have to take S. to the airport.

So let's see. I was thinking in the car that I can just skip the rest of the ferry trip, elide it, and get right to the mountain retreat. I could do that. But the important thing is to decide what I'm showing in this chapter. Surely I'm not just staging this chapter so I can show the ferry ride. It has to have a purpose, like:
  • Demonstrating the relationship between characters
  • Telling us parts of the characters' backstories that are essential to understanding parts of the book
  • Introducing and/or forwarding plot elements
Hmm, perhaps I should be doing more plot. I was just thinking of the Peter Plate novel I read, how it had cryptic plot and character elements suitable for a mystery -- basically it was all atmosphere, with these plot elements to drive it forward.

Brainstorming:
  • Don's main motivation is to recruit Bart for his new company. He's willing to take others if it means he gets Bart, but only Bart is essential.
  • Thus others are motivated to make alliances with Bart.
  • Greg, of course, would do anything to be part of it. His natural niche is sales, but strangely he finds himself competing with Shaun, who actually has done sales for one of Don's companies in the past.
  • Shaun doesn't really care about getting hired by Don except to the extent it fits into his own trip, which is, pretty much, self-aggrandizement and making himself a celebrity but doing it through the unlikely vehicle of being a leftist revolutionary. It makes sense to him: leftist revolutionaries are his only heroes, therefore he wants to be like them. Of course, the main things he wants to emulate is the fame and hero status. He's not really down for the years of solitary confinement in prison and such.
  • Denny is searching for some kind of forgiveness for the death of his girlfriend... does she have a name? Marinka -- and also for a release from his other demons. Plus, Marianne has just left him. He is a sort of negative seeker -- he really seeks only a release. How could this fit into any decision to join Don's company? It wouldn't. Probably Don only wants his money.
  • The prospect of investing money may also be a draw for Shaun, for the typical reasons of a middle-aged man with what he feels is a sizeable stake -- it's only a few million but the temptation is to pull it out of the politically correct investment fund and give it to Don.
  • Of course, Hap wants to keep his apartment (or get another one), but his price is low. All he wants is a job that pays a lot more than what he makes now.
  • Seth wants to be recruited because he wants approval. He might even secretly feel he's still in competition with Bart.
  • Greg feels he can possibly use Seth, so he flatters him.
That's a good collection of motivations and relationships vis-à-vis the new company. But I feel there has to be another subplot. For this, I suspect the most interesting character is Denny. He seeks a release, I wrote above. What does that mean? I don't know, but it occurs to me that Denny has to offer an alternate temptation to Don's. Hap will have to choose at the end. Of course it has to be that the job, or whatever it is, that Denny offers will be less financially secure than what Don is offering.

But remember that Don wants Denny's money. So let's say there's a competition for that too. Could be like this:
  1. Don explains idea for company. Hap considers the attractiveness of going to work for Don -- the pluses and minuses.
  2. Don wants Denny's money. Denny considers investing in Don's company versus doing the something else.
  3. Denny indirectly encourages Hap to think there's an alternative to going to work for Don. (Problems here -- why shouldn't he go to work for Don anyway? What's stopping him? Must make it some kind of moral objection.)
  4. Hap has to decide, and he finally decides to go with Denny.
  5. But then Denny decides to go ahead and invest his money with Don anyway.
Seems kind of like a classic dilemma: A is attractive but morally repugnant, B is less attractive but more morally acceptable, you make the "moral" choice and decide to go with B but then B is taken away. But instead of going with A as the "only" choice, you say fuck it and choose C -- whatever that is.

A little like Catch-22. But I'm sure no one will notice the similarity.

In order to make this work, I would need only to make the various choices clear. It must be that A is less in keeping with Hap's character than B, so that accepting A would be a sort of betrayal of himself. In order to make that clear, I have to make Hap's character clear, and I have to do this from the stories he tells.

Similarly, I have to make Denny's character really clear too: his moral ambiguity.

The only problem... hmm... Who is the more morally interesting character -- Denny or Bart? I've always said that "Bart is fundamentally amoral." And yet I also feel Bart has more potential for corruptibility, while Denny does not. Denny feels more like the lost soul. Perhaps Bart isn't really amoral, but he's never actually been forced to make a truly moral choice.

That means the stakes have to be really high for Don's venture. The moral and political stakes, that is.

I can show Shaun to be interested only in himself. Don will appeal to Shaun's vanity.

To sum up:
  • Don wants Bart
  • Goes through Hap to get Bart (therefore I must make Bart and Hap close friends)
  • Hap is tempted by $$ but finds Don's venture morally objectionable
  • Denny, seeking redemption, has an alternative.
  • It's more in Hap's nature to take the morally good alternative and to refuse the $$ advantage.


So I need a complication.

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About the author

Mark Pritchard is the author of a pornographic novel,
Lesbian Camp Girls, as well as two collections of short stories about sex, Too Beautiful and Other Stories and How I Adore You, both released in 2001 by Cleis Press. He has lived in San Francisco since 1979, participating in queer activism, Christian and Buddhist organizations, and the literary scene. With his partner Cris Gutierrez, he published the seminal sex zine Frighten the Horses from 1990 to 1994. He has been at work on novels for several years.

His personal website is Too Beautiful, and he blogs from time to time on San Francisco Metblog and The Rumpus. He's also on Twitter but not on Facebook, LinkedIn or MySpace. See more about Mark Pritchard.