As I began work on Northcoast Shakedown, I was reading a novel by Neil Gaiman called American Gods. Aside from leaving me with an clear impression of what an acid trip must be like, it also led me to Gaiman’s web site. There, I discovered that his on-line journal. A friend on an Internet discussion group began referring to my new novel as “Rumproast Wrapdown.” The name stuck. I began writing this in February, 2002, while I did the planning for the book. I hope this gives some of you an insight into the insanity that is writing one’s first novel. If that’s not enough to dissuade you from months of self-torture, then by all means, start banging out that opus.

And now…

Holy Sheets #6

June 7, 2004

Well, it’s happened. I started on Bad Religion. Actually, I started on May 27, nine days ago, and I’m up to over 16,000 words. With both Northcoast Shakedown and Second Hand Goods, it took me about a month to reach this point. This is different. Two outlines, albeit abandoned outlines, have helped. But the itch is really there on this one. Amazingly, I think this will actually be a longer novel than the first two. Who knows?

This book feels different from the first two Keplers. For starters, it seems to “breathe” more. Secondly, the action starts much sooner. It flows more naturally and has a somewhat bigger scope than its predecessors. It’s funny, because I’ve started thinking about Kepler #4 (tentatively titled Anya), which seems to be a much “smaller” book. We’ll see.

For the most part, it hasn’t been hard getting out 1000 words a day with this one. I suppose I’ll pay for that when I go back and read through the manuscript in the fall, but I really love the way this story is coming out. I find myself knocking off for the day not because I’m tired or because the tank is empty. Instead, I’m stopping to do other things.

Without a single shred of guilt.

There’s something about having two completed novels under your belt. They blow away your preconceived notions of what a writer is supposed to do with a book. Gone is the idea that I shouldn’t read PI fiction while writing a PI novel. Currently, I’m reading Evanovich’s Two for the Dough (not quite the same as Nick Kepler, but from a similar neighborhood). Laura Lippman’s Charm City is on deck. (Ms. Lippman is one of the writers I want to be when I grow up.) I read Lehane’s Darkness, Take My Hand all through the first 10,000 words.

Also gone is the idea that I should focus on the novel, only the novel, and nothing but the novel while doing the first draft. Uh-uh. No, I have plans. I have short stories I want to write. And I’m blogging for crying out loud. It seems like the more I write, the more I want to write. I may actually earn a living at this some day.

As I said in my last entry, there were suggestions that won’t make it into Second Hand Goods that I’ve kept in mind while writing Bad Religion. I like that, because it helps change the flavor of each book, letting the style evolve.

I’ve already run into one major change. Originally, I was going to set this story in the very real town of Kirtland, Ohio. However, one of the characters was a police officer who responded to the discovery of bodies from a cult killing in 1990. The killing actually happened. The officer is fictional. After about five chapters, it occurred to me that I was stepping on toes that didn’t need to be stomped on. So now, the story takes place largely in the fictional small town of Chamberlain, Ohio, close enough for the character to have been a deputy sheriff at that very real tragedy, but safely away from Kirtland to avoid exploiting it.

In case you’re wondering where I got the name, I decided to tip my hat to the king of fictional small towns, Stephen King. Now, Castle Rock, Derry, and Salem’s Lot all would be obvious references to King’s work, to the point of unrealistic. Chamberlain, however, is the ancestor of Castle Rock, Maine. Named for a former governor of Maine and Civil War hero, I thought it was perfect, since one of my regular beta readers is an admirer of Mr. Chamberlain.

Now for the tricky part. I write in real time, though I’m being vague about the dates. Bad Religion will take place in June of 2004, and I’ve managed to fix that into the story more discreetly than in the previous two novels. However, no one could have predicted the death of President Reagan and the shadow it will obviously cast over the events of the rest of this month. Do I work it in? Granted, it’s not as agonizing a question as 9/11 was, but it’s there. It also would reveal a lot about several of the characters, including Nick, a child of the Steel Belt bust during the Reagan years.

So much to figure out. Hope I get it sorted out before I actually finish this draft.