Thursday, December 22, 2011

Whether to finish what we've started or to start something new.

Last year I wrote a blog about this topic: I discussed the value of polishing and finishing what we've started over going to something new before finishing what we've already started. So, here I sit, a year later, still working on the same novel. Is that patience, or what? And when you consider that I've actually been working on this novel in one form or another for over five years, well, that's a lot of patience.

Once again, I'm chomping at the bit to start something new. I so much want to do so. I so much want to move on to new characters, new ideas, new schemes, etc. But is it wise to do so? Is it better to keep working on this same novel, especially when I'm pretty close to finishing it? Tanya Reimer has read it and given me valuable feedback, which is what I'm now incorporating into the, hopefully, last draft. It is really, only months away from being finished if I can just keep working on it, not give up.

This novel is pretty long, though it'll be shortened a bit, thanks to Tanya's sharp eye. But in the future, I want my novels to be shorter. Say, about 80,000 words max. I want to be able to finish a novel within one year, maybe even six months. I'm sixty-five years old, not getting any younger. Am I running out of time? I hope not, but you never know.

I wrote another post: I praised the value of making it when you're younger, which is difficult to do as a writer. It's lack of life experience (which is a debatable topic, to say the least, but it's the way I feel). Making it young as a writer is getting published (by the traditional method) maybe in you late twenties or early thirties. But, you can make it any time, really, in your fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, and, with the aid of collaborative authors (James Patterson, and many other older writers are doing it) you can write until your dying breath. But, the value of making it when you're younger is unsurpassed for a comfortable writing life. But, that's out of the question for me. I'm no longer young. I am "running out of time." That's one of the reasons I've decided to self-publish from this point on. The years it takes to go through literary agents, if you can find one, and then the agent to find a publisher, if she can find one, then for the publisher to actually produce a book...well, I don't want to go that route any longer. Yet, I want my writing to be well done, as well as I can make it. So it's back to patience. Patience is priceless. I can only hope I don't run out of time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My retirement ain't what it's supposed to be. (1)

I'm sixty-five years old and retired from the 9-5 rat race. For the last several years that I worked, I thought a lot about retirement, actually looking forward to it, because I would then have the time to write that I've always dreamed of having.

How would my day go? Sleep until I feel like getting up (sleep has been a problem for me for the past fifteen years--just couldn't get enough of it). Drink coffee and settle down to my computer and start writing. Or, go outside and sit by the swimming pool and read and write--my favorite thing to do. Work for two or three hours, have lunch, take a nap, then write for another two or three hours. The rest of my time would be for whatever I want to do. I'd finally get published and make enough money to pay off the bills and do some traveling. My wife, who's six years younger than me, could quit her job if she wanted to, or just work a couple of days a week (she's a dental hygienest).

It would be the life I've always wanted to live. Give me fifteen or twenty years of good health and writing and I could accomplish my dreams.

But reality has a way of being quite different.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Book Covers

 I'm in the throes of trying to design a book cover for my novel that I'll self-publish before long. I've already self-published a collection of short stories, Battles and other stories. I like the cover. The problem is that the image isn't large enough to qualify it for Smashwords premium catalogue. I downloaded the image from a free stock photo site. I have no idea how to increase the size of the image, or if it's even possible. Add to that the fact that I know nothing about Photoshop, or any other image processing system.

I have now designed a cover for the novel I will self-publish pretty soon. However, I put it up for evaluation at AgentQueryConnect (see image below) and received some negative opinions of it. Again, part of the problem is that the image seems to be too small, and not enticing to people to look further into the book. (I just noticed that volumn is spelled wrong. It should be volume.)

I've been playing around with designing my own covers with the limited tools I have to work with, and this is what I've come up with.

I'm trying to create something that is unified and would be my signature style.

I have to admit the plain versions with no pictures are not very interesting. They give no hint of what the books are about. I really prefer having pictures.

What do you think?

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Imprisoned: Svetlana Garetova's Memoir" by Ann Carbine Best

Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in fairy tales? If you don't, you might after reading Imprisoned: Svetlana Garetova's Memoir by Ann Carbine Best.

"Imprisoned" resonates with Best's well-sculptured prose that says more between the lines than many books say within their lines. But this story is not about Best, it's about Svetlana.

Svetlana's memoir engrosses you with the story of the brutality that strikes her unexpectedly, and how hope and promise turn into despair and futility. But it is Svetlana's response that turns despair and futility back into hope and promise. It's the story of a Russian immigrant escaping the Russian mafia and searching for a new home, but who finds a prison instead, and once again must escape from someone who might kill her. It is through her courage, and perhaps a few miracles as well, that she finds her freedom a second time.

While this is a story that disturbs, with it's honesty, it is also a story that shows that you can survive and find freedom and happiness after all.

Imprisoned: Svetlana Garetova's Memoir is available at both Smashwords and Amazon at the links below.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"The Fourth Wish" by Elizabeth Varadan

The Fourth Wish, by Elizabeth Varandan, is a novel for teens that almost defies description. The theme of “real” magic versus “fake” magic takes the reader on a journey she doesn’t want to quit.

The main characters, Melanie and Arthur, spar throughout the story. One feels sure that they are made for each other despite their verbal jabs. But each grows in his or her own way.

Children, especially, believe in magic. The illusion of the tricks being real is hard to refute. But older kids know there’s a trick involved, if they can only figure it out. Melanie and Arthur each come up with their own conclusions. Melanie discovers that “magic” can be deceptive when she falls for a boy who turns out to be other than what Melanie thought. Arthur discovers that “magic” has a reality of its own when he realizes there is something about magic that is real.

At the center of the struggle is the mysterious Mrs. Seraphina. It is her magic that turns the children’s world upside down and leads them to discover that there is magic after all, and it’s in the most obvious place of all, if you only look.

The Fourth Wish is available in paperback and as an e-book through and While it’s a book for teens, adults can enjoy it, too.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"The Foreign Language of Friends" by Nadine Galinsky Feldman

What do you get when you put four very different women together in a conversational Spanish class? In The Foreign Language of Friends, by Nadine Galinsky Feldman, you get a journey into friendship and growth.

Each of the women are so different from each other as to be opposites, yet it is in their oppositeness that they're able to help each other in their times of need. Each woman faces a crisis and is only able to pull through it with the help of her new friends. Each person's crisis is like notes in a musical score--each contrasting with the other, yet working together as a beautiful piece of art.

The themes of the novel are varied, but also weave together nicely. They involve divorce, death, work, and loneliness. The one constant in all of the women's lives is loneliness--each in her own way is isolated and friendless. Finding themselves in their new, unlikely, friendship speaks volumes about who they are, about who we can all become.

The Foreign Language of Friends is told in a language that is polished and clear, leaving no doubt about the meaning of friendship.

The book is available at

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Friends Passing Away

Last month, I turned 65. When you're this old, a lot of people you've known have died, and it only gets worse the longer you live. Every time I get an email from my high school's website stating that another person has passed on, I stop and reflect, especially about people I knew well who are no longer living. Unfortunately, there are quite a few of my high school classmates who are gone. As far as I know, none of my graduating class died in Vietnam, though some of my other classmates did. Cancer seems to be the number one cause of death.

The first person who ever died that I knew was a neighborhood boy named Lamar. He died of Leukemia while we were quite young. I was perhaps eight or nine years old at the time. The next person was a boy named Arthur Hyatt, a classmate of mine in the 9th grade. He was killed riding a motorcycle. His locker was next to mine and he had given me rides on his motorcycle. One time he lost control of it, throwing us both into the middle of the street. Fortunately, there were no cars passing by at the time. The next person was named Billy Priest, a classmate who died in a car wreck the year after we graduated from high school. That one hit pretty hard, because I'd known him since grade school, and it just didn't seem possible. He was one of the smartest people I'd ever known.  It made me realize that there are no special people in the world. We're all susceptible to death.

Many other classmates of mine have died, but the two deaths that seem to give me the greatest pause are a couple of buddies of mine that I went to college with.  I didn't meet Victor Hood or Frank Martin until my senior year in high school. We got to be friends, particularly when we decided to go to college together. We rented a house together during our freshmen year in college, but went our separate ways after that. Victor died perhaps twenty years ago. From what, I don't know. Frank died just within the past few days due to a complication from surgery. I ran into Frank perhaps a year or two after our freshman year in college. He was working in a tobacco shop and said he was very happy doing that. We never met again.

Why am I writing about this? Of what interest is it to you? Perhaps none. But dying is just as real as being born. I've often wondered what difference it has made that I've lived as long as I have. Has my life been any more valuable, have I gained any greater understanding than I had at a younger age. In other words, if I had died at fifteen or twenty or twenty-five, would I have lived just as full a life as I have now? Or would it have been less of a life?

I guess it gets down to quality of life. Is it possible to have a high quality of life and die young, and be just as fulfilled as someone who has lived longer, had more experiences, and died in old age? This is something I struggle with. This is a question I've asked myself many times. I really don't have an answer. But maybe you do. I'd like to hear what you have to say about it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Word Count, Three Months Later

This is a continuation of posts concerning the progress on my WIP.

Week Oct 19-22  7,950 words
Week Oct 24-29  5,417 words
Week Oct 31        4,213 words Draft Completed.

I finished the complete draft on Oct. 31. Total word count was a little over 116,000 words. I ended up eliminating two or three chapters that I decided did not move the story forward in the main plot line. So, I finished earlier than expected.

Tanya Reimer agreed to read the ms, and the feedback she's giving me is phenomenal. She could easily be a professional editor if that was what she wanted to be. I honestly believe her advice will take the book to a new level. So I will not be publishing the book at this time, but will be working on it a while longer--possibly two or three more months.

Am I disappointed, because I wanted to self-publish the book this year? Absolutely not. I'm tickled pink to have the opportunity to make the book much better. Tanya's advice is so exhaustive as to leave no leaf unturned. I'm truly amazed.

Thank you, Tanya.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One Year Old

That's right. My blog is now one year old.

What a fast-paced year it was. How have I done? I know it's been all over the place as far as subject matter. It started off in one direction, then moved in other directions depending on my mood or whatever I was involved in. I like writing in that way, but I think it's probably better to have clear themes that you work with, that recur. At least, that's the way I feel at the moment. But I don't seem to have any themes that I'm attached to except the theme of writing. Yet, what can I say that so many other blogs haven't already said about writing? I'm not sure I have anything to add, although I know that each person's way of expressing the same ideas can be quite different. There's always variety. It's something I'll think about for the second year of my blog.

What have I enjoyed most about blogging? No doubt, expressing my ideas is important. That's what a lot of blogs are about--expressing one's ideas. I've certainly done that on occassions.

But, just as importantly, I've enjoyed the many bloggers I've met through blogging. There are so many talented people out there. I wish we could all get together and have a big convention, or maybe just a party would do. But it would be a big party. Now there's an idea. How can I have a big blog party on my blog?       

Come to my party--everyone's invited.

Tanya, you bring the wit and wisdom.
PK, you bring the party favors.
Valentina, you bring the champaign. Oh yeah, Suzie Campioni sounds like fun too.
Scott, you bring the time-machine.
I'll let Michelle and Elizabeth bring us back to reality.
Dave, bring your zombie friends.
Oh, everyone, just bring yourselves.

Who knows, maybe we'll have fun.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rule of Three Contest, Fourth and Final Week

Here is the last segment of the Rule of Three Contest. Below are the links to the first three segments.
week 1
week 2
week 3

For this week, I used the prompt:
There is a new arrival in town

This segment came in at just under 600 words.
Here is the continuation of "Welcome to Renaissance"

            "Why are you snickering?” I asked the barmaid.
            “You are such a child.”
            “What do you mean?”
            “You are na├»ve, my lady.”
            “If I’m your lady, then I command you to explain.”
            “It’s the Rule of Three. There are three of everything. Three dimensions, three kinds of beings, three lives. You see: three-three-three.”
            “The sign said the population is three hundred and thirty-three.”
            “Always. Any other number is out of balance. Currently, Renaissance has three hundred and thirty-four. The balance must be restored. You’ve entered the dimension of death. You have been reborn into Renaissance. You are our newest member. But someone must be eliminated.”
            “Someone has to die. You must decide who.”
            “Me? Surely you jest.”
            “My lady, I am honest. You must choose between Prince Giovanni and Head Knight Benevento.”
            “How am I to do that?”
            “It’s up to you.”
            “But I cannot condemn either man to death.”
            “Yes you can, and you must.”
            “I can’t believe it.”
            “Believe it, my lady. Believe it.”

            I waited inside the tavern, afraid.  
At sunset, Prince Giovanni came inside, his green eyes glowing. “My lady, I’m here to guide you.”
Benevento entered. “I’m here to protect you, my lady.” His eyes glowed brilliant blue.
The barmaid smiled. “Soon we’ll be sisters. You have so much to learn.”
“I can’t do this,” I said. “I’ve lied. I’m not brave.”
“You must be brave, Camilla,” Giovanni said. “You have nothing to fear.”
“Time is wasting, my lady,” the barmaid said. “The sun has set. The moment of truth has arrived.”
The prince led me outside, the head knight and barmaid following. We headed toward the mountains. In the darkness, they appeared to be miles away, but we reached them in minutes. A sign said, Old Silver Mine. We entered the cavern alit by torches burning in several places, shadows flickering on the walls.
“It’s time, my lady,” the barmaid said. “This is your special day. Make the right choice and you will know happiness. Make the wrong choice and you will know misery.”
My tears were too thick to see clearly.
Prince Giovanni said, “Choose me, Camilla, and you will know happiness.”
“He lies,” Benevento said. “If you choose him, you will know misery.”
“Camilla,” the prince said, “he is a rogue—a villain. You must believe me. I’ve been sent here to guide you. I will not let you down.”
“He’s a liar, Camilla,” head knight said. “His blood is not pure. I’ve been sent to protect you from his kind. You must believe me, my lady. Choose me. You will know happiness.”
My heart beat wildly. The prince’s brilliant green eyes were like jewels. The knight’s eyes were like diamonds.
“Choose, my lady,” the barmaid said.
“Choose me, Camilla,” the prince said. “Please, for your sake.”
“Yes,” said the knight, “choose Giovanni. I must lay down my life for you. I am an honorable knight. Even if it means your misery, I must die for you.”
“He’s lying, Camilla,” Giovanni said. “It’s a trick. He’s using reverse psychology. His nobility is a lie.”
I saw the nobility in Benevento’s eyes. He must be the one. I looked at Giovanni, the royalty shining in his eyes. Who will it be? I turned to Prince Giovanni, knelt down, and said, “My lord, I am yours.”
At that instant, Benevento burst into flames and disappeared.
I fainted.

            I awoke in a magnificent canopy bed with silk sheets and soft pillows and transparent curtains.
Prince Giovanni stood at the end of the bed and bowed. “Camilla, my lady, welcome to Renaissance.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Word Count, Two Months Later

This is a continuation of my reports on how I'm doing on revising my novel, based on word count. I last posted on Sept. 19

Sept. 19-Sept. 24:     3,144 words
Sept: 26-Oct. 1:       10,302 words
Oct. 3-Oct. 8:          12,449 words
Oct. 10-Oct. 15:        2,689 words
Oct. 17-Oct 18:                0 words

Total for month:  28,584 words

I've now completed 99,770 words of the novel. I estimate I have about 25,000-27,000 words to go. So, it appears that I have about another month's work to do to reach the end.

I'm happy with this progress. The last quarter of the book is much more polished than the first three-quarters of the book was, so I hope that the work I have left to do will present no big problems.

It's pretty incredible when I look at the 445 pages I've already done and realise I have about 100 pages to go. I never imagined I'd ever write a book this long. Most of what I've done in the past has been more in the 300 page range, or less. So, for me, this is a big project. None of the future books I have planned are this long.

I've also narrowed down a few pictures to use for the cover image.

I suppose there's a chance I'll self-publish the book in December, but I'm not pushing for that month. I want to do it right. I'll take however long it takes.

Rule of Three Contest, Week 3

This is my third submission for the Rule of Three Contest.

I'm using the prompt "Betrayal is in the air."

My second week's post is here: .

             “Camilla, you look confused.”
            “I am. I don’t know how I got here or why I’m here. I know nothing about Renaissance. Prince Giovanni says he’s my guide, and then he leaves me.”
            “The prince is not who he says he is. If he were, he would not leave you.”
            I stared into my goblet and began crying.
            “My lady,” he said, “all is not lost. I’m here to help you. I am Benevento, Head Knight of Renaissance. I’ve been sent to protect you.”
            His intense blue eyes had a friendly glow. He smelled of apple-peach cologne. Yet I didn’t know if I could trust him. “The prince said you’re a rogue—a villain.”
            He held his palms open to me. “Do I look like a villain, my lady?”
            I wanted to be truthful and say no, but I was afraid. “I don’t know what to say. The prince said nothing here is as it seems.”
            “He would say that. He is a liar. He wants to take advantage of you.”
            “But why?”
            “It’s a secret, my lady.”
            “Why is everything a secret? This is madness. It’s worse than Real World.”
            “Real World is not real, Camilla. It’s a trick of the vampires and werewolves.”
            “Do you mean Real World doesn’t exist?”
            “It exists, but it is not real.”
            I buried my face in my hands. My tears were hot. I was so afraid.
            “What is wrong, Camilla?”
            “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
            “Then you are brave, aren’t you?”
            I looked at him, hoping to not betray myself. “I’m not afraid, Head Knight Benevento.”
            “That’s all the more reason you need my protection.”
            “Why do I need protection?”
            “As I said, the prince wants to take advantage of you. That’s why he’s taking you to the abandoned silver mine. That’s why I must accompany you.”
            “But how do I know you’re going to protect me? How do I know you’re not going to take advantage of me?”
            “As Head Knight of Renaissance, I’m honor bound to protect you from all harm. I’ve sworn an oath to protect all the innocents of Renaissance.”
            “But how do I know that, Head Knight?”
            “You are brave, are you not?”
            “I am brave, Benevento. I fear nothing.”
            “Then I will accompany you to the silver mine at six-forty-six tonight—sunset.”
            “But, sir—”
            “There’s nothing more to be said, my lady.” He stood and bowed with a sweeping of his hat in front of him.
            “But, sir—”
            He walked out of the tavern and disappeared, the smell of his apple cologne lingering in the air.
            I gripped my goblet, my hand shaking. The golden bowl was empty. The beautiful barmaid looked at me, snickering.
            What have I done?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rule of Three Contest--week 2

Today is week two of the Rule of Three contest, in which we post the continuation of our short stories for the contest. My first post is here:

I used the prompt: a character lies to another in an important matter.

Here is week two's entry:

            “Hello,” said the man on my left. “It’s a pleasure having you here in Renaissance. Please let me buy you a drink.”
 He had the most intense green eyes I had ever seen. Having no money, I had to accept his offer.
            “What would you like, Miss …?”
            “My name is Camilla.”
            “Camilla,” he said, straightening his red silk tie, “I’m Prince Giovanni. What shall it be?”
            “I’d be happy with a glass of wine.”
            “A goblet of wine for my lady,” he said to the barmaid. The beautiful young woman gave me the most curious smile, as if she knew something I did not know.
            I studied the prince carefully as I said, “I’m grateful for your generosity, my lord.”
            “It’s nothing. It’s my duty and pleasure. I’m here to guide you through Renaissance.”
            How is this possible? I wondered. How could he have known I was coming? “Why do I need a guide, my lord?”
            “Renaissance is a beautiful place, but it is not without its dangers.”
            “Prince Giovanni, I assure you, I am not afraid.”
            “You are brave then?”
            “I am afraid of nothing, my lord.”
            “That’s all the more reason you need a guide. Nothing here is as it seems.”
            “What do you mean, my lord?”
            “Take that man on your right. He seems friendly enough, but he is a rogue—a villain.”
            I looked at the man on my right. He had the most intense blue eyes I had ever seen. He did not look like a villain. I turned back to Prince Giovanni. “What do I have to fear of him, my lord?”
            “I cannot tell you, Camilla. It’s a secret.”
            My nerves began to tingle. My true fearfulness was beginning to assert itself. Maybe I did need a guide. “How do I know you’re not a rogue—a villain?”
            “I am a prince. I’m of noble blood. My blood is pure.”
            “How am I to know that, my lord?”
            “I will take you at sunset to the old silver mine just north of town and show you.”
            “My lord, how am I to know in advance that it’s safe to go there with you?”
            “Did you not tell me you’re afraid of nothing?”
            “That’s true, my lord.”
            “Then it’s agreed. You will go with me at sunset.”
            “But, my lord--”
            “I must take my leave, Camilla. You can trust me. I will meet you here at six-forty-six—sunset.”
            “But, my lord,” I said as he bowed to me, strolled out of the tavern, and disappeared.
            What have I done? My hand shook as I picked up the golden goblet.
            The barmaid began to chuckle, looking at me as if I were a fool.
             I took a long drink of wine from the golden goblet. The wine tasted sweet. It began to steady my nerves. Thank goodness for wine. Without it I would have revealed my true nature.
            I heard shuffling on my right and looked over at the man sitting there.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rule of Three Contest

The Rule of Three contest has begun. You can check out the rules at

I took as my prompt 'someone might fall in love'.
It's about 500 words.
One of the things about Renaissance that wasn't mentioned in the rules, but was a part of the description of Renaissance, was that everyone there has secrets. So, I tried to work that in. Anyway, here's my first entry:

Welcome to Renaissance

            I found myself in the town of Renaissance, as if I had awoken into a dream, as if I had left the real world behind. I walked down Main Street, admiring the statues and frescos and listening to the troubadours singing love songs. This was better than Real World, where there was no happiness. All I had wanted in Real World was love, and all I had gotten were vampires attacking me like swarms of mosquitoes on a hot summer night. I hated it. So, here I am in Renaissance, which means “rebirth.” Have I been reborn? I hope so.
            The sign outside the town had said: Welcome to Renaissance, Population 333. How can a town know its exact population? Do they put up a new sign with a new number every time someone dies or is born? I guess, with only 333 people, there probably aren’t many births and deaths here in any one year, maybe not for years at a time.
My life is a mystery to me, one I’ve been trying to solve for a long time. My one big question is: why do vampires like me? What’s in my blood that attracts them, makes them want to feast on me? They never bothered me until I began my menstrual cycle. When my scent was released into the air every thirty days, the vultures would circle in the sky over my head. Is that why they call the female’s monthly flow of blood the woman’s curse? Whatever it’s called, it’s the real world, and everywhere you look in Real World, things are after you. Some things want you alive so they can suck out your essence, and some things want you dead so they can eat you whole. And the two things fight over you. And, if you’re weak, in their fight they will tear you apart. That’s just the way it is in Real World. I only hope it won’t be that way in Renaissance.
Everywhere I look here, the people are beautiful. The women wear the newest fashions. The men wear the smartest suits. I’m disturbed that I’m dressed in worn out blue jeans with holes in the knees, and a cowl neck sweater. In Real World, I was chic, but here, I’m a fright. But everyone looks at me, smiles, and says hello. Everyone seems friendly. I’ve got to get to know these people. The one thing I don’t want them to know, though, is that I’m afraid.
I came to a tavern and, being hungry and thirsty, decided to go inside. There were two men sitting at the counter, drinking beers and eating sandwiches. I was immediately struck by their handsomeness and their politeness—they both stood up and bowed to me when I came through the door. I was taken aback. They smiled and waited for me to sit down at the stool between them before sitting down themselves. My heart fluttered. Maybe I had been reborn.
(to be continued)

So, there it is. Where to go from here? I have a good idea, but rather than keep writing, I decided to wait for the next set of prompts, and hope they work for my story.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Platform-Builders Campaigner Challenge #2

Rachael Harries 2nd challenge.

The Challenge is:
Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:
  • include the word "imago" in the title
  • include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional and included in the word count), make reference to a mirror in your post.
For those who want an even greater challenge (optional), make your post 200 words EXACTLY!
NOTE: I could not find the word 'oscitate' in the Webster's Unabrided Dictionary or through Google.
I assume it's a verb form of oscitant, meaning yawning, drowsy, lazy.

This is my entry (#117 on the list)

Imago: A Prose Poem On “The Apparition (Self-Portrait with Muse),” A Painting by Marc Chagall
What I see in the mirror is the truth of what I am: a fractured soul in love with shape, form, and color. The three qualities collide within my mind, creating a miasma of reality. Soft blues and gray-white blend in with my muse and oscitate above me in the lacuna of space-time. Within the disarray of flat space and broken time emerges a harmonious synchronicity--a portrait of myself that is beautiful in a way that cannot be explained.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Platform-Builder Campaigner Challenge

I want to congratulate all the winners of the Rach Write's Campaigner Challenge. You did some great writing. I made some new friends. I think it was a great success.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Word Count: One Month Later

On August 19, I posted the word count on my WIP. So, now, one month later, I'd like to give an update.

Aug. 22-27:            5,582 words
Aug. 29-Sept. 3:     7,841 words
Sept. 5-10:             5,535 words
Sept. 12-17:           3,668 words

Total:                    22,626 words

On August 19, I estimated I had about 90,000 words to go out of a 110,000 word novel. I have to keep changing estimates, though. Now I feel the book is probably closer to 120,000-130,000 words in length, and I'm about, maybe just a little over, halfway. I've completed over 70,000 words, so I have about 50,000 to 60,000 words to go. (I'm not sure this math adds up, but, what the heck.)

I'm pleased with the progress I'm making, although I'm not sure I can finish the book during October. It's looking more like sometime in November. I'm thinking of self-publishing it in January or February 2012. I have some decisions to make, one of which is developing a cover for the book. I'd like to hire a professional firm to do that. I'm not sure how long it takes a firm to work up a suitable cover. Over and over again I hear and read that an eye-catching cover is crucial. So, that will be an important undertaking for me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rule of Three Writing Contest

I've been invited to join in on the Rule of Three writing contest, in which a short story is written over a period weeks using the rule of three. The setting of the story is a town called Renaissance, and it has a history. If you're interested in taking part in the contest, go to . I haven't written a short story in years, maybe ten years or more. So it will be a challenge. I'll be using the story I started on the Platform-Builders Campaigner in a previous post of mine. At this point I have no idea where this story is going, but I'll do some thinking, planning, and executing soon. It'll be a challenge for me, but one I think I'll enjoy. It looks as if I'm going to be writing in a genre I've never written before (except for a story I wrote in high school back in the 60's--that tells you how old I am)--horror. Yikes. I would never have believed it. But, what the heck. I'm so fascinated by Roland Yeoman's blog that I want to try it. Anyway, I'm hoping some of my friends will take part. See you there if the forces are with us.

Monday, September 5, 2011

First Campaigner Challenge.

The first challenge for Rachel Harrie's ( Platform-Builders Campigner Challenge is to write a 200 words or less flash-fiction short story. It must start with the words: The door swung open....

Here is my entry.

An Open and Shut Door

The door swung open even though I had locked it. What the…? I pressed my back to the wall. Footsteps in the darkness. One foot dragging along the floor. What the…? There was grunting with each footstep and drag.

“Jack?” I said, barely audible. “Is that you?” My chest heaved, my breasts stiffened.

Another footstep and foot drag.

“Jack, if that’s you, I’m going to kill you for this.” I slid along the wall until I bumped into a side table, knocking something over, breaking it. Without looking at the table, I felt around in the darkness until I felt a saucer-sized piece of broken glass.

A large shadowy figure with large shining yellow eyes appeared before me in the darkness. What the…? “Jack, this isn’t funny.”

The yellow eyes were beautiful. They were alluring. I couldn’t stop staring at them. They offered warmth. But I knew they were alluring for all the wrong reasons. “What are you?” I muttered. “Keep back.”

“I want you,” the gravelly voice said. “Please let me have you.”

What the…?

“I need you,” he said.

Those yellow eyes…I wanted them. They were beautiful. “Okay. I’m yours.”

All of a sudden, the door swung shut.

That's it. Exactly 200 words.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Which is your favorite T.V. show?

I used to practically never watch television. But, since I've retired, I've watched a few programs that I enjoy. One is Ancient Aliens, another is Dancing With The Stars (I've only watched one series, but I enjoyed it quite a bit; I would love to have been a dancer, I guess.) But, as rediculous as it sounds, my favorite show is...Project Runway. Can you believe that? I mean, how lame can I be? But the show is just so full of interesting human interactions, tension, stress, hopes, dreams, true emotions...I love it. I've only watched one series (I'm now watching the new series that started a couple of weeks ago) but I looked forward to each show and who would win. Oh well...what's your favorite T.V. show, and why? Let us know.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thank you, Valentina Hepburn!

The most amazing things happen when you're blogging. One of those is receiving awards, and I've received two from my British blogging friend Valentina Hepburn,
Valentina is one of those multiple personality types, only each one of her personalities is sweeter than the other. I think she has a little bit of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell in her. She sprinkles pixie dust wherever she goes.
The Versatile Blogger Award and Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award

Seven random facts about myself:

1) I'm a versatile blogger
2) I'm irresistibly sweet
3) I lived in New England for fifteen years and loved it
4) I was not validictorian of my high school class.
5) I served in the US Naval Reserve
6) The first car I ever bought was a  canary-yellow Chevy Nova, back in 1972 or thereabouts.
7) I've been white-water rafting; it was amazing.

Five deserving bloggers:  Deb Shucka is without a doubt one of the most thought-provoking bloggers I know of. I've always wondered what the p k stands for Teenagers like her give us hope for the future. KLo is a survivor Mindy McGinnis just seems to be so alive.

There you have it. Thank you again, Valentina Hepburn. Sprinkle a little of pixie dust on all of us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Creativity is messy.

This is a page from my work in progress. And this is perhaps the fourth draft of the novel that I'm working on. You would think that by the fourth draft, there would be nothing to change. Yet, there you see it. It looks messy, doesn't it.

Yes, I've come to believe that creativity is messy--all kinds of creativity. From painting, to sculpture, to writing, to photography, to music, to dance, to sex, it's all messy. Yet for the people involved, it's the greatest thing in the world.

What do you think?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Word Count

I haven't posted anything lately for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is that I'm concentrating on revising my novel. I've never counted words before as a method of tracking or motivating myself. But I feel that at this point it's beneficial.

I'm working hard now on the final draft of a novel I estimate to be 110,000 words. I started reading the book aloud as the final draft a couple of months ago. Earlier in the year I had hoped to finish the final draft by the end of August, but that became unrealistic. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I estimated I had about 90,000 words to go. I calculated that if I could finish 692 words a day six days a week (I don't work on my writing on Sundays), I'd finish the book around December 31. Then I figured that, if I could finish about 1,153 words a day, I could finish it in three months or around the end of October. So I decided to keep track of the words each day and week that I finish. Thus far, the results look like this:

August 1-August 6- 2,621 words
August 8-August 13- 3,766 words
August 15-August 18- 7,036 words.

It looks like I'm accomplishing more and more as the weeks go by. Part of the reason for that is that the remainder of the book is already highly polished. I added quite a bit of new material to the beginning of the book when I started the final draft, so I needed to do more work to polish it than on the rest of the book. I'd certainly like to continue at the 6,000 to 7,000 word mark each week. If I can finish the chapter I'm revising now, which is over 1,000 words long, by tomorrow, I'll have finished over 8,000 words for this week. That's probably about the best I'll do on a weekly basis. But that should finish the book sometime in October.

Another reason I'm accomplishing more each week appears to relate to the fact that I am keeping work count. I feel motivated during the day to work on my book rather than do other things. Yes, I appear to have a goal.

Another reason for accomplishing more is that the modem on my computer died and I had no internet for over a week. At first, I was totally lost. But then it became easier to find time for writing. It's only common sense that eliminating as many distractions as possible frees up more time for writing. It reinforces everything you read about controling your time. And, putting writing ahead of all the voluntary distractions we indulge in is a huge benefit.

So, at least for the next two or three months, I'm buckling down to writing. I'll try to blog every so often, and I'm still reading a lot of blogs I follow, but in this case less is more.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I haven't posted anything lately. I'm just not into it right now. Busy with revising my novel and too many family issues to think about it. I do look at the blogs I follow and try to think of something relevant to say. I guess right now I'm in a blog-funk. I have a few rough drafts of posts, but can't decide about posting them yet. I want to do a review of someone's blog, but I just haven't had the time to read all or most of her posts, yet. That is something I like doing (I've only done it once, thus far: "The Wit and Wisdom of Tanya Reimer."), but I want to do it right, so I'll wait until I have more time.

I'm really enjoying some of the blogs I follow. I mean, you girls are something else. Some of the ones I love are ,,, and, just to name a few. Don't feel bad if I left you off the list; I enjoy you all.

Oh well, maybe I'll think of something neat to write about someday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Which is your favorite movie?

There have been many, many movies that I've enjoyed, and I enjoy all kinds.

I like movies that take me places I've never been. I hate to admit it, but I like movies that make me cry, but I don't like people seeing me cry, so I prefer to watch those alone. Which movies have made me cry? "Julie and Julia". (I think that's the way the title goes.) What made me cry? When Julia Childs receives the manuscript of her first book. I could feel the joy she felt. I loved it.  Another one: "Letters to Juliette". Yes, I'm a bit of a romantic. I love damsels who fall in love, think they've been jilted, then discover they haven't been (or something like that).

But I'm more serious than that at heart. My two favorite movies of all time are "Papillon" and the "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". Choosing the absolute best one, I think I have to go with "Papillon" because of the locale. When he is put on Devil's Island, it was like a mystery, an oasis; he was like a monk on a Greek island. And the escape was brilliant.

So, which is your favorite movie, and why?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Which is your favorite city in the world?

Choosing between Boston and Paris is a struggle, but Paris wins out. Paris is a labyrinth of memories. Not only those of millions of people over a thousand or more years, but also my own. The streets of Paris are a labyrinth that I've walked through and memorized without realizing it. The memories pour out of the buildings, the statues, the monuments, and the imagination. I remember Paris for many reasons, but perhaps the best is that it touched my soul.

Which is your favorite city in the world? (140 words or less, or thereabouts is good enough.)

Which is your favorite...?

I've decided to start a series called "Which is your favorite...?" I will tell you which my favorite is, and hope you will tell me which your favorite is and why.  The "...and why" is important too. I want to know what you feel and think and admire about your favorite. It can be a tall order, but it has to be expressed in 140 words or less (I believe that's the limit of characters for Twitter).You can also include photos and illustrations. I hope you'll play along.

I came up with this idea from reading a post by Valentina Hepburn in which we discussed London. It made me think about which is my favorite city in the world.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tanya, thank you

I've had the honor of receiving two awards from my blogging friend Tanya Reimer  Tanya and I have followed each other almost from the beginning and I've learned a lot from her about how to work the blog (like add these pictures, and add links). So any versitility and sweetness comes from her.

One of the conditions of accepting this award is that I have to link back to her blog, which I've done. Another condition is that I reveal seven things about myself. So, here goes (I'll leave the good stuff for my memoirs):
1. I've been married thirty-seven years.
2. I'm a slow reader.
3. I love blogging.
4. I wonder if I'll ever get my writing published in the traditional way.
5. Less than a year ago, I didn't even know what a blog was.
6. I have a Kindle.
7. I have three wonderful daughters and three wonderful grandchildren.

The final condition is that I pass these awards along to five other bloggers: Elizabeth Varadan is an outstanding book reviewer and writer of her travels in Spain. Juliana L. Brandt has an interesting take on life. R. C. Lewis is a star in the universe. Jolene Perry is an up-and-coming YA writer. Ann Best is the best memoirest.

And there you have it--a list of sweet and versatile bloggers.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I just finished Scott Niven's collection of short stories TWILIGHT CANDLEFLIES. I was first drawn to the book by the beautiful cover. It reminds me of a German Expressionist painting. And the stories inside, being dystopian sci/fi, have that same expressionistic feel--that somewhat odd but engrossing aura.

All three stories end on a somewhat ironic note, which flows naturally from the stories' plots and themes. So, all three stories, while whole and complete in themselves, leave you wanting to know more, more about this dystopian world.

The story I'll discuss in more detail is a perfect example. The title itself, "This Is Not Your Mother's Earth," sets up the tone of irony. Is the title directed at the reader or at the story's subject matter? It works either way, but with totally different meanings.

And what about the main character? He's an eighteen-year-old man who's life is filled with irony. Has he been bred to be what he is? Is this the fate of all boys on this planet? And who's in control? Chaos is an intregal part of his theme. Is chaos in control? It's doubtful, but maybe.

This is clearly a world without love, yet love is at the center of this man's life. Unfortunately, he can't have what he loves. And his love is drowned out by the roar of falsity. And the notion of what's heroic is definitely a lie.

There is much that can be said about this story and the other two as well. The writing is excellent. Scott has taken great pains to master his craft. I don't read much sci/fi or dystopian literature, but I think the quality of his stories places them at a higher level of performance than the average literature in this genre. If you like this genre, you will be enthralled by Scott Niven's collection.

You can visit Scott Niven and learn more about him and his writings at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rebecca Kiel, blogging on the farm

Rebecca's is another blog on which I cannot leave comments.

I wanted to say:
A very interesting post. It's got to be hard but rewarding work--organic gardening. And you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  But Blogger won't let me.

Again, as in the previous post, if she switches to pop-up window for comments, I and perhaps some others can leave comments.

Author Karen Walker, Following the Whispers

Following the Whispers is one of those blogs that Blogger won't allow me to make comments on, so I have to make my comments as a post. Her post this morning is about the movie "Departures". My comment was
"I've seen the movie, and it does affect you. It's a rare kind of movie." But, of course, I couldn't post the comment. I would email her the solution to the problem, but I can't seem to email her either. Here's the solution (several people I follow had made the change and it worked): switch from the full-page format for comments to the pop-up window. It's simple to do. Go to Settings, Comments, and select pop-up box. Maybe she will see this post and make the change.

 Others I can't leave comments on are The Intern, Ellie Great, and Amanda Barrett.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kathan's drawings. Are they art?

When I watch my two-year-old grandson Kathan drawing (he calls it "colors"), it's obvious something is going on in his head. He's total concentration. What he's thinking, I have no idea. I suppose he's discovering as he draws--he's one with the drawing. There' no separation between him and the act of drawing and the drawing itself; it's all of one process. It's as William Butler Yeats says in "Among School Children":

             O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
             How can we know the dancer from the dance?

I'm sure Kathan's not working from a planned design. I don't think he thinks of what he's doing as art. I think he's fascinated by desgn, shape, color, and relationships without thinking about those concepts. He has no such words in his vocabulary. They are just automatically within his range of understanding.

To an adult, it may look like scribbling. I don't think I could scribble as well as Kathan 'scribbles,' if that's what it is. When I scribble, I'm aware that I'm scribbling, and I try to make it beautiful, graceful, colorful, and I may succeed. Or, I may not. Kathan succeeds every time.

I've heard it said that children are natural born artists, and we adults kill that natural talent. It takes a special adult to let a natural artist work. We want to implant our notions of art into them. We want them to do it our way. Maybe we should be doing it their way.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Tanya Reimer

I've had the pleasure of knowing Tanya Reimer almost since I started blogging. Her posts are in a class of their own. Her blog is called Life's like that, which hints that the unexpected is usually what you get in life. Her blog touches on many subjects, but best of all, it does so with wit and wisdom. I think she should consider writing humor, because she definitely has a gift for it. One of the accomplishments she listed after winning an award was: "I wrote ten novels and I'm still happily married." How many of us can say that.

It's clear that Tanya has a high regard for her family, and her family has a high regard for her. She has given her children the gift of reading, and they wanted her to read to them something she wrote. "And so, I told my tale and this time--my family gave me a gift."

Tanya's the first to admit that she has a problem.

"I wrote my first draft about six months ago. (Gee when I write it like that, it comes off a little like an AA meeting introduction.-- Maybe I should start a blog for Writing Addicts.)"

"Yeah, I have a problem. I'm addicted to writing. It's not so funny, it took me a long time to admit that. I should sleep but it nags at me until I get up and satisfy the craving. The laundry needs to be folded, but honestly, can't we wear it out of the basket? I mean, come on! It's been sitting there so long it's already wrinkled!"

She believes she has special powers:

"In life, we deal with specialists all the time. Professionals. The guys and gals who KNOW their stuff. They come in handy for work, writing, even as a parent. Yet, five minutes with my very informed doctor makes me wonder if she knows I have magical kisses that heal boo boos. Because I really do--they even impress the hell out of me."

She's not only witty, she's also a philosopher.

"It's how we survive that matters in life, not what we know. Now go write about what little you know. It'll be fun to see how brilliant you can be."

Those are just a few of her gems. Please visit her blog (even if she already has hundreds of followers, what's a few hundred more?) Lifes like that. You might meet the unexpected that is also true.

Hard time reading books?

I've heard a lot of writer's say they don't read the way they used to read before they became writers. A lot of times, they just can't get through a novel they're reading, because they're too critical, not reading the book like a non-writing reader reads--just for the pleasure of reading the book and enjoying the book. This is a problem for me as well. I can't tell you how many times I've began a book, even best-sellers, only to quit reading them, because they just don't measure up to what I expect from a book.  Obviously, the problem is mine. I'm too critical.

I know a way around this problem, where I can once again "read" books just for the pleasure and enjoyment. How? By listening to recorded books. There's a world of difference between listening to someone read the book and reading it yourself. Your inner critic turns off, unless the book is just not your cup of tea. I've listened to many, many books that I couldn't or wouldn't normally read: Meet Me Under the Umbu Tree, Last Voyage of the Valentina, (those two are romances), many thrillers, James Rollins among others, Maeve Binchy, The Horse Whisperer, biographies, science books, just hundreds of different books.

Listening to recorded books may return you to that innocent state in which you can read a book just for the pleasure of it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish & Beta readers

(Again, I can't post a comment on my own blog.)

Elizabeth Varadan stated the difficulty of finding a Beta reader. No doubt about it.
A couple of places to find an intermediary between the writer and Beta reader might be a college professor who knows another professor or student who likes to read or someone you know in a club that might know someone who likes to read. It's difficult, and I've never really tried to find one, but I've not reached the final draft that I'd want someone to read--yet. But soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

CM Smith & Beta readers

CM Smith asked how do you know if the Beta reader is any good. (It's pretty bad when Blogger won't allow me to post a comment to my own blog, but yes, it has happened, so I'll answer it as a post.)

That's a good question, one I never thought about. I guess I assumed the person would be good. But you know what assume means. My quick answer is that the intermediary would know good people to ask to read your work. But, I suppose that's no guarantee the Beta reader would be good.

A further elucidation of a Beta reader is that the best Beta readers are not writers. They are just people who love to read books. They are not critiquing your work. They're just answering the question as to whether they liked your book and what they liked about it, or vice versa. In other words, they are representative of the general reading public that does not write books. It's certainly not science. It's subjective feedback that attempts to be objective.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Is it art? These are two drawings by my two-year-old grandson Kathan. I see balance, organization, symmetry--in short, I see beauty. I'm a doting grandfather. I'm blind to the truth, whatever it is.

I'm not asking you to tell me whether Kathan's drawings are art. I'm merely using them as an example of the difficulty we have in knowing whether the fiction we write is excellent, good, poor, lousy. We need the help of others. We really don't want to go it alone. We need validation.

Finding true objectivity comes from those who don't know us. Those who know us are not usually objective enough to give an unbiased assessment. Yet, that is exactly where most of us begin seeking validation. We begin with ourselves, using the most objectivity we can. Then we usually turn to friends and relatives, who usually 'love' what we've written. Then we turn to non-family members and strangers. This last step is crucial. We can skip it and self-publish, and we might be okay. But it's probably a poor decision. Finding true objectivity is difficult. In the final analysis, it's the reading public who gives the final answer.

Writing groups can be helpful in the writing process, but even they are not objective enough to give an unbiased assessment. One of the best things to do is to find a Beta reader to read the finished product before seeking publication. The best Beta reader is a sort of double-blind situation. The writer doesn't know who the Beta reader is, and the Beta reader doesn't know who the writer is. This requires an intermediary. I've yet to find a Beta reader who meets that final requirement. The closest I've come is entering portions of my writing in contests, and that is very educational. That's about as "real as it gets."

What would Kathan say about all of this? Just look below.