Looking for Recommendations

I’ve been reading a lot of Detective Novels (fortunately, it is what I love to read) and Westerns.  If you have recommendations in those fields, okay.  Chances are…in the Detective genre, I will know of them.

What I’m really interested in are some other genre recommendations, and I’ll share a little about what I’m interested in to help in those recs:

Space Opera – preferably stuff that is focused on a small cast of characters rather than jumping through the galaxy following the exploits of multiple casts… also I’m okay with series, but I like each book to be self-contained enough that if I jump on a Book 2, I can still enjoy the story.  (examples in TV/movie – Firefly, and to a lesser extent the original Star Wars)

Cyberpunk – I like Gibson, and (to a lesser extent) Stephenson. I’d be particularly interested in a more contemporary look at the genre…what does cyberpunk look today now that some of the original stuff has sorta/kinda come to pass?

Sword and Sorcery – similar to my request on Space Opera, I am not looking for sprawling, epic sagas. I’m looking for gritty… I’m looking for stories about a “hero” and possible small cadre of comrades doing things that may only affect them…i.e. the fate of the world isn’t hanging on their actions… I have no clue whether there is much of this type of fiction still being written.

Fiction that you think is Literary – I don’t subscribe to the notion that there is a Literary fiction genre.  But I am interested in hearing about anything in any genre that you think is “Literary.” I.e. spectacular, memorable work.  As an example, I’m currently reading the Western Lonesome Dove. It’s pretty damn good (though holy smokes is it long), and I’d say literary.

On this last one, I’ll play along with a couple of “baseball” novels –  The Brothers K by David James Duncan  and The Celebrant by Eric Rolfe Greenberg.

So, whatcha got?

— TD





Not much of a post tonight, I’m afraid.  But things have been good.

Over the weekend, we had a small gathering of writers get together for a write-in.  It was a good time, as it most often is when writers get together. Good conversation, and words were added to the current work.  One of our writers shared a little about the fantasy novel she is writing, and I was awestruck by the creativity…the idea. Another shared how he had submitted a story to the New Yorker. Freakin’ cool.  Dream big or go home, I say.

Then today I met with two other local writers for lunch, and it was more of the same without the adding words to the current work. Two hours later, we decided it might be best for the two of us workin’ for the man to get back on the clock. The other is a professional writer, who makes his living at it… and makes his own hours.  His work can be found here:


I guess the point of this post is that the support of the writing community and really any artists’ community is a beautiful thing. The positive energy…the way we lift each other up…all inspiring.

— TD


Resist the Resistance

“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is the sitting down to write.”  Steven Pressfield in The War of Art.

Pressfield then goes on a long explanation of what Resistance is.  Not a political movement in this case.  Rather that internal force that keeps us from doing the work that we profess to love. He has a great list of all types of activities that elicit Resistance.  My favorite is:

Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.

(Grin).  But true.

In the writing community (on social media), it’s rare for a day to go by without someone posting some humorous meme about all the ways we writers procrastinate…all the things that get in the way of the writing.  They are humorous in the same way most comedy is…because, we are able to see the truth in them.

Of course, they are also sad… because, we are able to see the truth in them.

Pressfield’s The War of Art is an excellent book. Like most books like these I don’t agree with it all, but there are some great takeaways to guide my journey.  One of those is that Resistance is Internal.  The world is not trying to keep me from work, Resistance just wants me to think that.

(Note: things like extreme stress, physical recovery, and grief, I do believe are worth allowing the effort to get through, before battling Resistance, because that war would be like taking a dinner knife to a gun duel.)


*I wrote this on a short break at ~1,000 words on today’s work.


Kristine Kathryn Rush posted this in regards to the latest publishing scandal:


Sad stuff.

I wonder if this individual started out with the typical artist’s dream of doing her work and finding an audience, and got sucked into the “beating the system” mentality when things didn’t take off like she had hoped.

Or did she just start out seeing an opportunity to make a quick buck, and wanted to strike while the iron was hot?  I guess the way people get sucked into Ponzi schemes.

Obviously, the first one is more depressing to me.  I’ve noticed this trend of engaging others to write your series books among indies…to push the building of the back list and staying constantly in the churn of Amazon algorithms.  The ghostwriting thing isn’t indie-exclusive, of course… but, ah, what do I know…

I guess I know my perspective. Writing is fun. It’s why I do this… publishing is intermittently fun and not fun…but never as fun as telling stories.  For that reason, I could never see me hiring ghostwriters to churn out work with my name on it to chase a dollar. (I could actually see me ghostwriting much easier than hiring the ghostwriter…though, that doesn’t really appeal to me, either.)  This is one of those cases where I just find it hard to put myself in another’s shoes.

And I haven’t really even touched on the plagiarism.  It’s interesting that this person appears to feel she is not at fault, because it was hired out to ghostwriters and it wasn’t her who actually did the cutting and pasting.  I assume her name is on the copyright, which means she probably has a rude awakening coming.  Yet, she doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there is something a little skeezy in what she was doing to begin with.

Again, I know traditional publishing has implemented ghost writers for ages.  Somehow this seems different…or maybe not.  Because what do I know?

Other than what I will do and won’t do.

— TD


Rough going

I haven’t written in a couple of days.  I think it’s starting to make me ill.

I’ve had couple of reminders of my brother this week. Which reminded me of Mom.  Hell, it’s reminded me of the Uncle that lived with us, who we lost as well.  Grief is nasty. I get some time when the pain eases, and then it yanks the cover away and there it is… the huge gaping hole…where my mother used to reside…where my brother did…

I had migraine-like headaches last night and woke up with them today. I had a couple of job placement events I participated in today…mainly because I don’t want to get in the habit of skipping them. Of course, it didn’t do much for my disposition.  But at least the headaches have subsided…

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to force my butt into the chair and work on God’s Golden Shore. I left off at the discovery of a body…so, one would think I have some interesting work ahead of me.

Tonight?  I’m going to re-visit some Pressfield, because Resistance is a bitch, but it can me tamed.

Btw, excellent post on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog tonight, as he posts a blog he wrote in 2010 about the changes in the publishing world. I wasn’t writing much when this was all going on… but I found this bit of history fascinating.  Here it be: https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/a-glimpse-back-almost-nine-years/


Check out some books:

Everything is Broken


North County Girl


Step back with me, if you will, to the early 90’s where a young Tony DeCastro is toiling away in architecture school.

My education as an architect was fairly common in that it centered around Design Studio, as it should.  To not do so, would be akin to the Iowa Writers Workshop centering their coursework around Reading Comprehension.  Design Studios occurred three-times per week, 4-hours per class.  We were on the quarter system, and generally you took one studio each quarter…. Each studio, typically, comprised one large design project. Sometimes you would take what was called a Couplet. This meant you took the same professor two quarters in a row with the understanding that you would work on a larger, complex project over the course of two quarters.

During studio, you worked on your project while you awaited the professor to visit your desk for a desk crit.  This may seem like a lot of time to work on a project 12-hours per week, but you’d be wrong.  At least twice the amount of time was spent after class hours.  You may also think, “that’s a lot of crits.”  You’d be right, and wrong.  It is a lot, but it also is only scratching the surface.  In addition to the desk crits every class, you also had scheduled juries, where you post your work in a gallery and other professors, classmates (sometimes from other classes), and often outside professionals were invite to give you feedback on your work.  There were also peer crits, which happened pretty much whenever you sat at your desk…and were impromptu.  As I understand it, this is pretty much the universal way of architectural education.

One of things that I recognized even as I was living through this was the result ended up being that forward motion on the project was difficult.  With three desk crits a week, and no telling how much advice outside of class time, it was pretty much guaranteed that the last week of the quarter was armageddon trying to meet deadlines.  Why?  The work was endlessly criticized and then revised.  Finishing took a lot of effort.

Another thing I noticed, some design ideas were repeated throughout the studio class.  I’ll never forget a second year studio, where I was designing a residential bank with walk-up tellers.  I had these tellers arranged in a “fan”, and the professor complemented the idea.  In the coming weeks, it was amazing (and depressing) to see “fan”-shaped tellers show up in designs throughout the class.

Other things I recognized years later:

  • We spent a lot of time on single projects.  The Architects Registration Exam’s (ARE) design section basically required us to do the same level of design in ONE day. (some of presentation-levels we were asked of in school admittedly exceed the exam requirements)
  • Almost all of the advice given in crits came down to taste.  Less about whether something actually worked, more about whether the critic liked it.
  • Most of the time, juries resulted in severely conflicting opinions.  Again taste.

Towards the end of my education one of our professors adopted a “no crit” approach to his studios. The only advise he really gave was whether he felt the student was on track for completing the work, and if there were some objective “wrongs” about the design (i.e. the vehicular traffic on site was driving on the “wrong” side of the road).  At the time, I thought this was crazy talk, as did a number of my classmates.

Looking back, I think he had it right.  And I hope that he continued to teach this way.  And I hope what this meant was that instead of one design every ten weeks, maybe he had five.  After all, when you spend no time chasing the holy grail which is an individual’s taste, things should go quicker. Also, think of all the PRACTICE this results in…more projects, varied scope, diversity, etc.

My professors were some of the most intelligent and talented individuals I have met in my life. They helped me see the world, especially the built world, in a new light. I’m forever grateful. But I hope this one professor’s method of teaching design has caught on…

I only started to appreciate this years later when I got serious about writing. Of course, this meant I took up peer critiques in earnest, because this how it is done.  And how else will I learn…

Then, I started seeing things like:

  • Sameness
  • Conflicting advice
  • Never-ending revision of works in progress
  • Projects taking over a year with no end in sight, despite writing 50,000 words in less than a month

To borrow a phrase from Yogi Berra, “It was like deja vu all over again.”  This time, it ground my creativity to a halt. It was after attending a meeting for one of the largest peer writing groups in the state… a “workshop” that I stopped writing for years. I can’t recall saying I’m going to stop writing.  There was no decision. It just sort of happened.  And when I think back, it happened right after this meeting, where a bunch of peers got together to tear each other’s work down or pat each other on the back or both.

Today, I am back writing. It is fun. I am productive.  And readers, not writers, occasionally tell me what they like (or not) about my stories.  I am a “member” of a couple of local writing groups that are mostly focused on critiques. I only make it to the other meetings. I admit that it sometimes saddens me, because I like the people…and I love to talk about writing. I have tried to figure out a way to make it work for me.  But I always come back to what I’ve learned in the past… plus, I can’t for the life of me figure out how the timing could ever work for a novelist.

So, for now, I will remain home telling my lies for fun and (hopefully sometime in the future) profit. The work itself is more enjoyable than it’s ever been.





Writing Blogger Extraordinaire K.M. Weiland posted on her twitter account a day or two ago her question of the day:

What if your favorite part of the process?

This was a head scratcher for me. As a reminder, my process looks like this:

  1. Write to the end, while cycling.
  2. Send to a reader. (Start next story)
  3. Address the reader concerns, that I agree with.
  4. Send to copy-editor.
  5. Correct that which I agree with.
  6. Format book.
  7. Covers.
  8. Publish.

I suspect K.M. isn’t really asking about formatting or covers as part of the process. And I can’t imagine anyone answering that addressing edits is their favorite part of the process. How could writing not be the favorite part of my process?

It occurs to me that my simplified process probably appeals to the Project Manager in me. There isn’t a lot of fat in it. (To be brutally honest, my weeding out of some of the other processes appeals to my contrarian nature as well.) But I realize, that most writers also have things like Outlining, Character development, Rewriting as part of their process. I can’t imagine any of that being more enjoyable than writing the story, though.

So again, head scratcher.

So, tell me fellow writers, are any of those other pieces of the process (and I’m sure I’ve missed some… so share those as well) actually your favorite?

*BTW, I often do not agree with K.M. Weiland, she’s big on plotting ahead and stuff I don’t do. She’s also wrong about Boyhood ;).  But, I still find an awful lot of great insights on her site. And I have never seen anyone communicate Dwight Swain’s methods as well as her, including Mr. Swain himself.  Considering Techniques for the Selling Writer is my favorite writing craft book, that’s saying something.  Her blog is definitely worth a visit.


You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold.

I’ve reached the end of Heinlein’s Rules. Though, I somehow feel I’m still at the beginning.

The world is different than it was when Heinlein wrote his “rules.” But I think I can apply this one as an independent publisher.

Here’s how:

Keep my work on the market! Ha.  Seriously, all I have to is just leave my books on the market. In today’s world, the work will not go out of print. It will sell. It has sold. All I have to do to follow #5, is keep it there.

And what if I decide to go down the Traditional Publishing route?

I’m going to remember my hero’s story:


I’m not sure I’m interested in  traditionally publishing my book length works, but I am considering hopping on the submittal train with short stories.  And I’ll keep Burke’s story in mind, if I do.  Hell, who am I kidding, he’s a hero for a reason. His story of persistence works for any route in a writer’s career…hell for any pursuit.

And it is the perfect depiction of Heinlein’s Rule #5 in action.

I’m still early into this, but this rule seems simple. If you’re further down the road and I’m missing something that makes this rule difficult, PLEASE SHARE.



My work on the market:

Everything is Broken


North County Girl


I hit the Weekend, just like a freight…


Okay, so not really. I had a pretty relaxing…laid back weekend. At least as relaxing as they can be these days. Job seeking isn’t my favorite thing in the world…

All in all, though. It wasn’t bad…

Saturday, I met some local writers at a coffee house down the road from my place for an impromptu write-in. Always fun for me to meet-up with other writers, and pound out some new story.

Saturday night, I listened to the new Hayes Carll album on NPR First Listen, while playing some Tabletop Baseball games.  This is one of my favorite hobbies, which has taken a back seat the last several months due to the work of publishing, writing, and working.  I am in early June of my replay of every game of the 1976 major league season… yes that is a shit ton of games, but it’s fun (to me) and relaxing, and it’s nice to be back rolling the dice.

Jill made baked ziti and chocolate chip cookies, too.  Two of my favorite things…and now, I’ll have to be a good boy the rest of the week to shed the consequences.

Sunday, I slept in!  Watched some Deadwood, which is becoming a favorite series of mine, despite the fact that I see some depressing similarities to the business practices on the show and the independent publishing scene. More on that some other time… maybe. I’m in too good of a mood for that now.

Played some more tabletop ball. Tapped out some more words on the new book. Settled on a working title…finally.  God’s Golden Shore. 

Ate some more ziti. And while writing this listened to one of my favorite ‘Weekend’ songs a couple of times.  Enjoy ye some Dave Rawlings!

I hope y’all had a great weekend.