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.