Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Friendship and Blogging

I've been thinking about the friends I've made through blogging--virtual friends, yet real people. I feel connected to many of them, more so than just reading about them. They put their thoughts and feelings, sometimes their fears and desires, out there for the world to see. And I try to understand them and know them. But we really don't know each other, do we? I know that if I met them in person, I'd give them a warm, heartfelt hug. It would feel so good to do that, and hopefully they'd hug me back. After that, then we'd really find out if we're friends.

There are just some things that can't be experienced through the Internet, through blogging. You can't touch the person to feel their warmth. You can't hear their speech patterns, the sound of their voice (although YouTube makes that possible). It's hard to know how tall they are, how sincere they are through just the written word and a photo or two.

Some bloggers want to remain anonymous. Maybe they feel they can be more honest and genuine that way. I know that I keep a lot of things to myself, because I'd be embarrassed or I might hurt someone's feelings if I talked about them. But, if I were using a pseudonym, I could be more open. But then, would you really know me? You might know more about me, but you wouldn't know me, that is, who I am. And isn't that a part of friendship, knowing both about each other and each other the person? I think so.

I would like to meet my virtual friends. But it's also a scary prospect. What if we really didn't like each other? Then what?

What are your thoughts on this? I'm itching to know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"How I Write, The Secret Lives of Authors" Edited by Dan Crowe (2)

Here are more snippets from the book How I Write.

Alain de Botton: relies on a large desk (five meters long) on which to place books, articles, whatever, to anchor him down to work.

Luis J. Rodriquez: has a statue of the Hindu Lord of success--Ganesha--on his desk. It reminds him of the spiritual nature of his work.

Gina Ochsner: has a picture she got in Prague of a musician playing a violin. She looks at it every morning to remind her of the kind of writer she wants to be--one in tune with something larger than herself.

Melissa Bank: writing originates in her subconscious mind. She doesn't control the process. She lets it arise from within.

David Baddiel: has a signed photograph of Simon Wiesenthal on one wall beside his desk and a montage of the Simpsons cartoons on the opposite wall, reminding him of the full range of his work.

Anthony Bourdain: can write only while continuously smoking cigarettes. Smoking aids his concentration.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Page Views, by the numbers

I'm the first to admit that I really don't know exactly what Page Views are but, because they're recorded by Blogger, I assume they are good. I suppose they are unique visitors to my blog (first-time visitors, perhaps); I really don't know. If anyone wants to explain it to me, please do so. I'd like to know.

I went through my list of blog posts and found the ones that have the highest number of Page Views. It's quite surprising. Here are the top five:

1) Mind Mapping a Book: 211 see it here
2) Kathan's drawings: are they art?: 144 see it here
3) Mind mapping and fiction: 98 see it here
4) First Campaigner Challenge: 72 see it here
5) How engrossed do you get in a book?: 63 see it here

From this list, it appears that the topic of writing does not draw nearly the Page Views as other topics do. Most of my posts about writing seem to get in the 30-50 range.

How should I interpret this? Should I aim for more posts about non-writing topics? I'm beginning to think so. There are writing blogs I've seen that have 2000-3000 followers, but not very many. There are non-writing blogs I've seen that have much higher numbers of followers: 20,000, 30,000, and higher. I guess it depends on what you want your blog to do. Do you want to stay in a narrow range of topics, or do you want to expand them? Is it important to you how many followers and/or Page Views you have? Are you happy having a small group of followers, or do you want to reach the whole world?

I think this is an important topic, one you should take seriously. I'm taking it seriously from now on.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My blog turned two in November. How did I miss it?

Somehow, I missed noting my blog's second anniversary. How did that happen? I was so excited when my blog turned one year old that I wrote a post on it. This past November, I didn't even think about it.
What does that mean? I really don't know. I'm not even sure what I was doing in November that was so important.

Reading over the post I did for my first anniversary, not much has changed about me or my blog. I'm still a bit eclectic, writing whatever seems interesting to me at the time. I think I've not reviewed as many people's writings this second year as I did the first year. I'm not sure how many novels or stories I will review in the future: a few, probably, but not many more.

Writing fiction has been difficult for me this past year. I've done some, finishing one novel I'd been working on, but decided to shelve it after a Beta reader read it. The suggestions for change she made are not difficult in and of themselves, just difficult from a psychological point of view. I've grown tired of reading and re-reading the story. I need to put it away for a while. I'll come back to it later. Actually, that's the case with two novels Beta readers read. I'll look at them again sometime in the future.

I've followed a more diverse range of blogs, not just writing blogs. I follow various photography blogs, movie-review blogs, arts-and-crafts blogs, book-review blogs, baby-boomer-aimed blogs, and some blogs written by men primarily for men. I hoped to pick up a more diverse group of followers. That really hasn't happened. But I enjoy the blogs, so I'll continue to do so, branching out even more.

One thing I've noticed is that it seems like some of the bloggers I've been following since the beginning are not posting as much as they did two years ago, some not at all, which is OK, because I can hardly keep up with the ones who are posting regularly.

As for this third year, I have no particular blogging goals. I'm happy doing what I've been doing. My goals are more fiction-writing goals. I want to get two or three more books self-pubbed. Hopefully, I'll do that. If it doesn't happen, I don't think I'll agonize over it much. I'm not that stressed about it. I'm now more content with my writing life than I was two years ago. Maybe that's a good thing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"How I Write, The Secret Lives of Authors" edited by Dan Crowe

I've been reading snippets from How I Write, trying to glean any pearls of wisdom that might lie therein. Some of the offerings do tell us something about how these writers write. I'll briefly summarize some of them.

Jonathan Franzen: he's hoarse at the end of the day from reading his dialogue out loud.

Will Self: puts millions of post-it notes on his walls with random bits of dialogue, scenes, ideas for stories, etc., etc. Then they get organized into notebooks, then into books. Sounds pretty organic, doesn't it?

Benjamin Markovits: relies on a warm cup of tea to keep him occupied while staring at the blank screen.

Tom Robbins: keeps a poster on his wall with two sayings, one by Stanley Elkin reminding him to go as far out, to be as original, as he can be; the second saying is from Nelson Algren that decries, apparently, those who plan out their work (plotter) before doing the writing.

Janine Di Giovanni (a journalist): you have to be there to get the story. You have to take chances.

Eric Chase Anderson: has a cork board on his wall with pictures of famous writers; also, photos of actors he used as models for his characters.

There are many others. I'll share them with you as time goes along.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Writing Like Nicholas Sparks

I wish I could write love stories the way Nicholas Sparks writes them. I've only read one of his books, the one about the teenage girl at the beach and her stained-glass artist father. I enjoyed it. But I see all his books lined up at the bookstore, and thumb through them, and read their synopses, and I truly wish I could write like that. I've been doing this same thing for years now. But, for some reason, it doesn't happen. Those kinds of ideas just don't arise for me.

I don't think I envy Mr Sparks. Envy is a sick thing, a deadly sin per the Catholic Church. But I do admire him and his achievements. He seems like the nicest man in the world. He profusely thinks everyone he's associated with. He seems to be a devoted family man. He achieved success at an early age. I presume he's doing what he loves. Isn't this what most of us want in life? Why is it so elusive for most of us. What's missing? Is it just a matter of I.Q. and hard work? Is it a matter of love? Is it a matter of talent?

So many questions, so few answers. Still, I wish I could write love stories the way Nicholas Sparks writes them.

Is there a writer you feel similarly about? I'd like to think I'm not the only one.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing and Drawing "In The Zone"

I'm nearing the end of my first course in drawing. Yesterday, I did something I hadn't done before except in a sketch book. I did a drawing en plein aire. I took my easel, flimsy as it is, and my large drawing pad and other supplies to a cemetery and drew a picture of the trees and tombstones and vases of flowers. Being the first time, it was enchanting indeed. In fact, after a while, I realized I was in a zone, a drawing zone. I was so wrapped up in drawing, time was not a factor. The goings on around me were not a factor. I was one with my craft.

That got me to thinking about writing. Do you ever get in a zone? Do you ever become so at-one with your writing that you zone out on everything else? The writing flows, writes itself, and you're just a medium for putting words on paper.

This is a quality of all creative work, I think--zoning out. The idea of being in a zone is not original with me. I've read a book on writing that talks about getting in a zone, the way basketball players get in a zone and they hit every shot. I did a Google search for writing in a zone and found a couple of websites incorporating the word: readwritezone and buffys write zone. I'm sure musicians and potters and painters and computer program designers and, well, almost anyone in any type of work can get into a zone.

And what occurs to me is that it is almost a spiritual experience. What do you think about all of this?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I'm in one of those places I don't like being in, trying to decide what to do next. That is, what to work on next. I've decided to shelve my two WIPs for now. I've worked on them so much, I'm too close to them and, frankly, kind of tired of them. I want to move on to something new. But what?

I'm looking into some kind of genre writing. Serious fiction just doesn't sell. While I write for more reasons than to try to make money--I do enjoy writing for it's own sake--I also want to see my work published and read by a decent number of people. It's a lonely occupation. Having a book purchased and read by more than one or two people, I mean, maybe by thousands or hundreds of thousands of people is a kind of group hug. I'm sure it gives a writer a warm feeling knowing people enjoy his work and respect it enough to keep up with his publications. It's a warm feeling if even one person does, so it must be exponentially warming if more people do.

Of course, a writer has to earn it. There's no easy way that I know of. It only looks easy. It ain't. Not for me, at least.

So, what to do next? I'm reading books on writing in different genres. I'm trying to apply some stories I've already thought about to the genres they seem to belong to, and see if I can come up with something. It's a tough assignment. My previous plots don't fall easily into any specific genre. I may have to try to create something brand new (from my point of view). I've been reading about plotting from fairy tales, Bible stories, mythology, and other subjects trying to discover what interests me. I've hit on a couple of things, but not strongly enough to wrap me up, at this point.

Perhaps solving this dilemma is one of the reasons writing is such a challenge, and so rewarding. Hitting upon something that works is exciting.

Is this something you struggle with? If you already have your genre chosen, how does it feel, and how do you come up with new plots, characters, etc.?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mormon Writers

I recently did a post about Mormon writers. I have since come across this website:  Mormon Artist in case you're interested.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Plotting from previous plots

I've been reading a couple of books about plotting novels/stories. These books say basically that there are no original plots, only old plots reworked over and over again. The authors claim that many of the current best sellers are based on plots already in existence, taken from all sorts of sources--the Bible, mythology, previously written novels, Shakespeare's plays, and so forth. The novelists just dresses them up differently, maybe giving them a new spin. The authors seem to claim that even if we do not consciously use old plots, we do so unconsciously.

I have never consciously used previous plots to plot my novels. But I am leaning toward trying it. In fact, I am trying to construct a novel now based on Master Plot #3: Pursuit from 20 Master Plots and how to build them by Ronald B. Tobias. I'm trying to combine it (not yet successfully) with Master Plot #4: Rescue from the same book. I am trying to follow the Planner/Plotter model as opposed to the Pantser/Discovery model. (I've always been a pantser.) In other words, I'm attempting to plot out the entire novel before I start writing it. There is no time limit for getting it done. I'm just thinking and writing possible scenarios, hoping I'll hit on an exciting plot. Once I've worked it out, I'll begin writing.

This is difficult work for me. It doesn't seem natural. But I can see the value in it. I think I can also see how doing this might make it easier to write the query letter, the synopsis, and the pitch. Anyway, I'm giving it a try.

How about you? Have you consciously used existing plots as the basis of your stories? And, if you have, how has it turned out for you? I'll let you know how it turns out for me as time goes along.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

To Publish or Not To Publish? That is the question.

I've been writing a series of books for about ten or twelve years now (and the book that actually is the first in the series, and spawned the others, was written back in 1974, the first year of my marriage). Of course, I've been unsuccessful in getting an agent, and have begun self-publishing. The first one is already self-published (Only The Lonely). It has some formatting problems that I need to fix, and my plan is to try again to do that before long. I have two more books in the series that are basically finished. Here's what I'm dealing with, and I'm seeking some advice.

The books are pretty well written. But there is one problem with both of them. According to people who've read them, they're a bit boring in places. One of them, my wife said she would have stopped reading after the first couple of pages. Obviously, this concerns me. I don't want to publish books that are in the least bit boring. Yet, to fix the boring parts would be another round of revisions and having people read them again, and who knows what that might lead to. So, I'm contemplating just trying to fix them up a bit. Try to fix the boring parts without re-writing the entire books, adding new plot elements, etc., and taking another one or two years to try finishing them, or just publish them as they are, boring parts and all.

I have a third book in the series I'm revising now. When I publish it, that will give me three novels and a novella in the series. And there are potentially many more stories in the series.

I want to move on to newer things, whether within the series or completely new work.

Should I publish them as they are, boring parts and all, and move on? Or, should I go through another round of revisions? Another round of revisions is no guarantee they'll be better, and might lead to even more revisions.

While I'm in good health, I am turning 66 soon. I'm eager to write well and write as exciting stories as possible. How long do you labor over the same thing, with no guarantee it's going to get any better, or perhaps only marginally better? And not everything every writter has ever written was a masterpiece. Poets write thousands of poems to get to maybe a handful of great ones.

So, what to do? I'd like to hear your opinion.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Writing Disillusionment

I've been reading The Hunger Games. As I'm reading I'm asking myself "What makes me think I can be a writer?" I mean, the writing is grabbing and engrossing. It's not Shakespeare or James Joyce, but it's not trying to be. It's just being what it is. And it's riveting. That's the competition we writers are up against. Not that it's a competition between writers for readers, but a competition between just writing, writing well, and writing superbly. It's a competition within yourself to reach for a higher goal. No doubt, Suzanne Collins had a team of editors, proofreaders, etc., to help her book reach the peak of perfection, which most of us don't have--yet. But, still, the book is hers; the idea, the execution, the final product is hers. I feel so much like a poor, inferior writer compared to her. Is that a dangerous thing for me as a writer? Help me to understand.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mormon Writers

Something I've noticed. A lot of writers I follow are Mormons. Many of them live in Utah (naturally). What is it about Mormonism that creates so many writers? And most of you seem to be YA/Scifi writers. What's with that? Please respond. I'm curious.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Humpty Dumpty

I clearly have the memory, around age 4, of lying in bed in the dark. I believe my parents and sister also slept in their own beds in the same room, as it was a very small house. As I looked toward the window, there was Humpty Dumty sitting on the window seal, filling up the window.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Did I exist?

Tanya Reimer brought up a good point in her comment on my post. If you don't remember it, does that mean it didn't happen? So, I'm in a dilemma here. You see, I don't remember anything from age 3 or 4. Does this mean nothing happened? Does it mean I didn't exist at that time? I think something did happen at age 3 and 4, because my parents tell me so. (Does that give me legitimacy?) They tell me they bought me a dog. They called him Jip, because they paid so much for him. And I ran over him with my tricycle (he lived, no serious injury). I do not remember this. It did not happen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Memories. Mind Over Matter?

When I was three or four years old, I was playing in the sand outside the three-decker house I lived in. It was a nice sunny day, not a foggy day, or rainy day, or dark day, but a clear warm day in Jacksonville, Florida, and I was playing in the sand with another boy, a black boy. I remember this distinctly. There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind. My parents say it never happened. In 1949 or 1950 it would have been highly unusual. But I remember it. Did it happen? Or is my mind playing tricks on me? Am I confusing one thing with another? Am I merging memories that have nothing to do with each other? Is this an example of mind over matter? The logical person would say, 'Richard, it never happened'. A more imaginative person might say it did happen. I consider myself both logical (with some fallacious thinking along the way) and imaginative (I write fiction, after all). I say it did happen. How do I know? I remember it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Giving Birth is Hard; Being Born is Easy

I'm participating in a blog hop from Jane Ann Mclachlan called October Memoir and Backstory Blog Contest (or, at least, I'll participate in some of it; we'll have to see if I make it all the way). So, here is my first post (concerning age 1-2).

I clearly remember the day I was born. It was a cold day in November. Everyone was nervous: my mother, the doctor, the nurses. (Where was my father?) They were all worried but me. I knew everything would turn out all right. I was so happy to be born. I knew I would have a magnificent life, full of exciting adventures; by the way, being born is the first great adventure, is it not? (And, yes, those adventures did come true, but that's another story.) All they could think about was will I be a boy or a girl. Ha, ha. I kept them waiting and guessing until the last second. All I could think about was why is this happening. Why all this fuss and bother? What's so special about being born? Everyone's born, right? We all move from darkness to light, right? (Of course, we all move from light to darkness, eventually, but that's another story.) There is so much to say about being born--the noise, the wetness, the pressure, the cry--yes, the cry, the first sound we make--that makes everyone happy and relieved. At first, crying is a wonderful thing. Your mother, your father, everyone, comes to you when you cry. (There's a time when that changes, but that's another story.) So my first day of life was a great adventure that made everyone happy. Isn't that the point of being born?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Art: It's in the details

My art teacher (Hillary Hogue) tried to explain to us that we are drawing too quickly. We need to slow down. She said, "Beauty is in the details." She explained this by stating there are many shapes within one's eyes, maybe thirty or forty details just in the eye. You can't capture those details if you're going quickly. Slow down; look; see. Then draw.

About writing, John Gardner in The Art of Fiction says, "In all major genres, vivid detail is the life blood of fiction." ...vivid detail... Have I been writing too fast? Am I visualizing, seeing, my characters, inside and out? Am I seeing my scenes in full color? Am I choosing words that show, that bring to life, yes, bring to life, my story? After all, isn't that what the reader wants, something that lives?

The differences in the arts aren't necessarily that different after all. We're all trying to get at the same thing: that which is real, that which lives.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Art: It's About the Journey

I'm currently taking a drawing course--the first I've ever taken, a basic course.

Last night I was talking with my teacher (Hillary Hogue) about the drawing I was working on in class--a self-portrait (all the students were doing self-portraits)--and I had a few questions. She could tell I was focusing on the outcome of the drawing. She explained that drawing is about the journey. When you go on a journey, it's not about the photographs you bring home, it's about the journey. Drawing is about the journey, the getting there, not the final product. Drawing is being in the moment. It's the experience along the way that counts.

I took what she said to heart, using it the best way I could. Low and behold, my self-portrait turned out to be a pretty fair likeness of myself. From now on, I'll try to be in the moment when drawing. It's about the experience. That's the joy of drawing.

Isn't that also the joy of writing? It's the experience along the way, the being in the moment, that matters.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gearing up to get an agent: meet and greet

Questions for the Meet and Greet

Hello to you who are part of this venture. Let's hope we all succeed in getting an agent.

-Where do you write?

Most anywhere. I often go to the public library or the college library near my home. Yes, I often write in longhand. But, I also work at my computer at home. I took my laptop to the library one time and decided it was too much to carry around. I've written in doctor's waiting rooms, fast-food restaurants, sitting in my car. You name it, I've probably done it. Oh yes, writing while lounging by my swimming pool is best.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?


-Favorite time to write?


-Drink of choice while writing?

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
I prefer silence, but when I do feel like listening to music, it's classical music I like.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
That's a very long and complicated story. Long story short, it grew out of another book I wrote.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?
Don't wait for inspiration to hit to write. Write everyday, if you can, and write as much as you can.

Short bio:
I'm a 65 yr-old retiree who's raising his now 3 yr-old grandson. I've read a lot in the past 40 or more years. Most of my reading now is non-fiction. I really enjoy a good biography. I also enjoy art, and am now taking a drawing course. I've self-published a couple of books.

Good luck to you all.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Get Organized. Keep a log book.

For a while now I've seen this Composition book lying around, one my daugther had when she was in college, you know, the kind of book with the black or blue cover and the pages have double-spaced lines. You buy them at office supply stores. (Hey, this would even work with your computer notebook or Scrivener, I think.) I've always wanted to put the Composition book to some use, but could never decide on what to use it for.

Then it came to me. When I was in the navy, we kept log books on the bridge. Everything that happens on the brige gets written down. No relying on someone's fuzzy memory about what happened three months ago, or three years ago. Just go to the log.

Now why wouldn't this work for a writer. Keep a log as you work. An idea comes up for the story you're working on, write in the log. You've finished for the day, write down in the log where you stopped, and what you need to do next. You realize you need to make a change to an earlier chapter, write it in the log.

Faithfully keep a log book and you should never forget anything. No sticky notes to lose (just don't lose your log book).

Here's the first entry in my new log:

What do you think? Are you already doing something like this? Do you think it's a good idea, if you don't already have some such method?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Life is always full of changes

I retired two years ago, but I've struggled to get any writing done, because I've been caring for my grandchildren. I love my grandchildren dearly, but it was frustrating not being able to get much work done, very frustrating. I always knew that they would eventually be in school, and I would have more time to write, but that wasn't enough to make me happy. Afterall, I'm getting older each year. Who knows how much time I have left? I certainly don't.

All of that has changed now. My daughter and her family moved to Georgia. And my grandson Kathan started preschool yesterday. I was so out of my element yesterday, I almost didn't know what to do. I had trouble letting go of the stress I've been under for the past two years. Believe me, if you don't know it, raising todlers is stressful, especially when you're in your early sixties. I rarely sat down for more than one or two minutes at a time without having to jump up and do something for one or all of them. My days of caring for them started early and ended late. I've listened to and watched more Sesame Street, Dorothy The Dinosaur, The Wiggles, Caillou, etc., etc., than I ever want to see again.

I was worried about Kathan going to school. I was afraid especially that he would cry when I left him, and his going to school would be stressful for me too and I'd feel guilty about it. No way. Not only did he not cry when I dropped him off at the school, he was happy and joined in with the other kids in their activities without even a look back. Last night, when I put him to bed, he said he wanted to go to school again. This morning, as I was unbuckling him from his carseat at school, he said, "Thank you for bringing me to school, grand pe." It almost brings tears to my eyes as I write this.

I'm still having trouble dealing with the freedom. I mean, I can really do things without trying to get them done in a hurry, without little kids hanging on me, without worrying that I've only got an hour to work, so I must get something done. I mean, this is unreal. I worked two solid hours on my writing yesterday, and I've worked for an hour or more this morning. It's just incredible. And I still have several hours ahead of me to do what I want. I mean, I feel like I'm free. And freedom feels good.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Writing versus Blogging

Lately, I've been writing more and blogging less. I still keep up with the blogs I follow and try to comment when I have something to say. But, honestly, I'm much happier getting some consistent writing done and blogging less. Hopefully, I'll have something new to post before long. I don't want to lose touch with other bloggers.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Guest post on Strands of Pattern

Today I'm doing a guest post on Jeff Hargett's strands of pattern. Jeff has proven to be one of the sincerest and brightest bloggers I've come across lately. I had the pleasure of beta reading part of one of his novels, and I can say he writes at a high level of professionalism. I'm thankful for the opportunity he's given me to do a guest post. The post is titled "The Power of the Positive Reception of Critism". Hope you have a chance to visit Jeff's blog and become a follower of his if you aren't already. Have a great day today.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Author As Visual Artist

This weekend I came across the art book Doubly Gifted: The AUTHOR As VISUAL ARTIST by Kathleen G Hjerter. It's a collection of art work by writers. There were many represented: Goethe, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot, and Hart Crane among others.

I was particularly impressed by Hart Crane's "Trees", an oil on canvas featuring strong blues and blacks. Even more impressive was August Strindberg's wonderful oil painting of a stormy sky over a bay, "The Town". E.E. Cummings was quite the watercolor artist. Hermann Hesse made a strong showing too. Among the more popular writers was James Michener, Colleen McCullough (acrylics), and John Updike.

I was uplifted by the collection. Many writers have also been painters, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, William Faulkner, and Dylan Thomas. Some of the quots by the authors indicated strongly that painting helped them in their writing.

I was beginning to have some self-doubts about beginning drawing and painting courses (although, for this first course I plan on just taking drawing). But seeing this book has given me new confidence.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Critique of my work in progress

Today, the first 250 words of my novel The Battlefields of Love are critiqued by Kelley Lynn at falling4fiction. I'm impressed by her reading and comments. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Following Your Dreams

I'm beginning a new adventure in August. I've wanted to be a painter off-and-on for years. While I've practiced drawing, I've never attempted a painting. Now I'm going to start on my artistic adventure. I'm signing up for the classes that senior citizens can audit at the University of North Florida. Classes start in August. I intend to take drawing and painting--the basic level courses.

I've always been reticent about drawing and painting. I'm such a dedicated writer that I've been afraid that painting would take over my mind so that I would stop writing. I've been afraid I'd stop writing and be a poor painter. I know that many writers have also been painters. And vice versa. But the time is right to try doing both.

My plan is to continue writing as I have in the past, but to add in drawing and painting in odd hours. Maybe I'll give x number of hours a day to writing and x number to painting.

I love looking at art books and visiting art galleries. My imagination races when I go into an art supply store. It's almost overwhelming, but I feel a connection with what I see. I want that connection to come alive.

I like reading about painters' lives. I enjoy fictional versions of their lives, too. They seem to have the most interesting of lives. Right now I'm reading The Bauhaus Group. I've enjoyed reading about the impressionists and many of the modern painters. I find Kandinsky fascinating, as well as Jackson Pollock, and many others.

I'm a dreamer. Always have been. I'll continue to dream for as long as I can.

Friday, July 6, 2012

What writers need now more than ever.

What we writers need now more than ever is each other. We need to form groups that work together to help each other reach her potential as a writer.

As critique partners, what do we need? We need double-blind critiquing. We need middle men to dish out authors' writings to anonymous readers. Neither the writer nor the reader knows who each other is. We need honest, no-holds-barred critiquing.

I think each writer who submits work through such a system needs to preface the work with what his intentions are. For example: I'm writing a historical romance that I hope will make the bestseller list. Or: I'm a literary writer. I don't care about plot so much as writing that is engaging and explores xyz (some aspect of the human condition). Or: I'm a YA writer of supernatural thrillers. I want the reader to be wrapped up in a world like none he's ever known. By doing this, the critic will not be trying to get the writer to write what the critic thinks she should be writing, but helping the writer accomplish what she is trying to accomplish.

As a critical reader, we need to do our best to give honest, constructive feedback. We should try to read as editor's would read: spot the problems and point them out for the writer to fix.

This could be a long-term endeavor. No one should enter into it who isn't willing to do his best to stay for the long haul. But any one's situation can change and, after starting, finds that he cannot continue. Then he can discontinue without any negative repercussions. Of course, any writer can quit any time for any reason.

What do you think? Do you think this is a good idea? Would you participate in something like that? I don't know that this will go anyplace, but I'd like to hear your thoughts about it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Sometimes, I've just got nothing to say. Have a happy July 4th.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Killing Time Productively

"Killing time" is an awful waste, especially for those of us who are passionate about our art, in my case, writing. The last thing I want to do is waste time. Time is a precious commodity (Is it a commodity? It certainly can't be bought and sold. It can't be saved up or stored for the future; oh, my, if we could do that.... I suppose Einstein might have something to say about that, but he's not here. At least, I can't stretch or contract time. It is a constant; it's always in the background, and sometimes in the foreground, of my life).

How to best use time? Yet, I can't work every second of every day. I must give myself to other activities at least some of the time--actually, most of the time. Overall, I give very little time to actually writing. And the past couple of years, it's been a struggle to get any writing done. Sometimes, it's a battle within myself as well as a battle with the "elements of life."

Yesterday I was at my opthamologist's office and had to kill some time. I didn't know how long I'd be waiting for my appointment, but it seemed to be taking awhile. I wished I had brought my notebook, or a novel, or some of my manuscript with me to work on while I waited, but I hadn't. I did have a pen with me, but no paper. I wanted to do something. Then I saw a painting on the wall, one of a European town I think. I got the bright idea of describing the picture I saw in words. I picked up a medical leaflet like you find in doctors' offices and wrote on it.

So here is what I came up with:

I walked down the brown cobbled street that glistened after the 3 p.m. rain shower. The awnings along the storefronts cast downward shadows that cut the glare. The tall narrow buildings overlooked the river with shining windows decorated with brown and yellow curtains. The alleyways between the buildings were blocked by whitewashed brick walls with locked wooden doors. I wondered what kinds of people lived behind those closed doors, occupied the narrow buildings. What did they see when they looked out the windows at the street and river below? Did they see what I saw? Did they see the crisp quaintness of their little town, or had that faded from view and now all they saw was a familiar sameness that didn't register--that passed through their minds like wind through a window?

The one thing I learned from this excercise was that I couldn't just describe what I saw. I had to interpret it. I had to give it meaning, or see the meaning within it, but the meaning I saw was what it meant to me.

Was this a useful way to kill time? I think so. I surprised myself by seeing the beauty right before my eyes.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Answering the call from Falling For Fiction

I saw this post from FFF and decided to answer the call. I've sent them the first two chapters of my work in progress. I'm excited and eager to see what these ladies have to say. They might be sorry they asked for it, because I just might send them the entire ms over time. I want them to make me write a bestseller. I know they can do it. Give it your best shot girls.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Genre Fiction: Is this the way to success?

I have to be honest. I've been toying off and on for years with trying to find a genre that I like enough to want to write for it. I started a P.I. type novel that I grew bored with after a few chapters. I've wondered if Westerns would be something I'd like. No. I like Western movies, but not books. The Thriller is big today. The novel of suspense, I think. Some of these are so closely related and overlap that they could fall into more than one genre. But, whatever the genre--vampires, paranormal, sci-fi/dystopian--that's what sells today (that makes the NY Times bestseller list). Sure you have the occasional The Help. But they are really far and few between.

So, I ask myself over and over again: am I missing the boat? The only thing I write that even hints of genre is Historical Fiction. And I don't consider myself a Historical Fiction writer. I just happened to write a contemporary novel back in the 1970s that, by its evolving offshoot stories, moved back in time to WWI, The Great Depression, and WWII. And because it was never published until I self-pubbed one of the offshoots (Only The Lonely) until 2011, my 'contemporary' novel by default became an Historical novel, I guess. I don't think I've seen a true Historical novel on the best-seller list in a very long time. It's almost all genre fiction.

So, again, I ask myself: am I missing the boat? I majored in English in college. I grew to love Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Melville, Hemingway, Joyce, Yeats, Keats, Shelley, Thomas, and so on. I love great writing. I just came to realize one day quite a few years ago that I'm not a great writer. If I were, I'm sure I would have been published a long time ago. So, I'm just an average Joe of a writer. So why can't I find a genre to write in? Why is it so difficult? It's enough to make me want to scream sometimes. I guess I'll just continue on with what I've been doing. My books will never show up on the best seller list, assuming I can get published by one of the big six anyway (and being that I don't write for one of the well-known genres, that's not likely to happen either).

Do I care? Obviously, I do care. I wouldn't be writing this and pouring out my heart and soul like this if I didn't. The problem is how to find happiness in an unhappy world. The happiness comes in doing what you love irregardless of the outcome. If you love a certain genre and write in it, then you have a better chance of reaching the heights. Otherwise, you just have to be happy being yourself. And that isn't so bad, is it?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Publishing Demands/Jody Hedlund, D. Garrett

Just a short post. I urge you to go to Jody Hedlund's blog today. Besides being a timely post, the video of David Garrett playing Vivaldi's "Summer" from the Four Seasons is phenomenal.
David Garrett playing "Summer" from The Four Seasons

Friday, June 8, 2012

How To Increase Your Intelligence At Any Age (1)

Would you like to grow smarter? Would you like to know more, remember it longer, and access it quicker? I know I would.

I do not think of old age as a time to shrivel up and die. It's the golden opportunity many of us feel we missed out on in our lives. You do not need to have a million dollars in the bank, although I don't think it would hurt. You can get everything you need at your local library. The books and resources there are amazing, and they're there for free.

But, here's the deal. You have to work. There's no magic pill or food or hocus pocus. Just plain old work. Is it fun? I don't think you classify this as fun. Is it painful? Well, how do you define pain? Is it satisfying? How do you define satisfaction? I don't think of learning as fun, but I do find it satisfying. There's something inherently satisfying in expanding our consciousness and our knowledge. There seem to be no limits to our mental capacity. The neuroplasticity of our brains seems to be practically unlimited. I think our minds are actually hungry for knowledge. The more we feed it, the happier it  becomes.

Some of this is learning (working our brains) for the sake of it. It's work. And yes we can become tired and need to know when to quit. But the work is satisfying; I think our brains get a certain enjoyment out of working. Look at elementary school-age kids at work. You see something that is fascinating. You see happiness and eagerness to do more of it.

But the real questions are: Is it worth it? What's in it for me?

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Power of Sleep

Sleep is a vital component of living; without adequate sleep, we remain tired and grumpy, perhaps even lethargic and/or depressed.

 It appears that adequate sleep can be different for different people, but I'll assume the tried-and-true 8 hours per night is adequate. The key word is "adequate". Being a person who suffers from sleep apnea and uses a cpap machine to get adequate sleep, I have experience with the problem of lack of adequate sleep. Before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, perhaps 15 years ago, a 12-hour night of sleep left me exhausted and practically unable to function. I fell asleep at work more often than I want to admit. Fortunately, I had understanding co-workers and didn't get fired. I still need about 10 hours of sleep per night to feel alert. So, just to function in a busy and chaotic world, we need adequate sleep.

But adequate sleep has other benefits than just keeping our energy level high. For the creative writer, it may be an important component of our creativity. An article in the April 23, 2012 Time magazine "Shhh! Genius at Work" discusses the importance of sleep to creativity. Several scientific studies support the connection between sleep and creativity (and problem solving). The article mentions that Mary Shelley came up with the idea for her novel Frankenstein from a dream.

I think most writers can attest to the power of sleep for our writing. I see on blogs a lot of talk about sleep. Mostly complaints about not getting enough sleep, even complaints of coming up with ideas in sleep and waking up. But, really, this is a positive effect of sleeping well. Our minds are free from the restraints of our awake consciousness. This freedom of the mind to try out different solutions to problems while we're sleeping allows for more options: greater creativity. Many, many times I've awoken in the middle of the night with the solution to a problem in a story I was working on, mainly problems of plot. I've always valued ideas generated when I was asleep. I've written dialogue, even entire scenes in my mind while asleep, woke up, and wrote it all down at 2 a.m.

This tremendous benefit of sleeping may actually become a liability for many writers. And I think this is the primary problem for many of us. This waking up in the middle of the night causes us to be tired during the day when we have to work at our full time jobs. It helps make our workday unhappy, and this causes dilemmas for us. It probably kills more writing careers than anything. We just can't do both, write well and consistently when we're tired. Time management also becomes a big issue. But that's another topic. (This also goes for stay-at-home moms, who are also writers, with young children to care for.) The obstacles to writing are so great for both that many just give up.

But the full time writer, especially without children to care for, who can sleep as late as she wants, can reap tremendous rewards from waking up in the middle of the night to write down her inspirations. It's just too bad the vast majority of us can't live without a full time job. Most of us don't want to live in poverty, especially if we have families. Plus, in the USA, our jobs are our source for health insurance: no job, no insurance (not good). Unfortunately, we opt for our jobs, security, and suffer the unhappy consequences of hating our jobs.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Wrestler, re: John Irving, 12 May 2012 Time

I read with a great interest the article in the May 12, 2012 issue of Time magazine entitled "The Wrestler" concerning the writer John Irving. No doubt a successful and highly acclaimed author, Irving is now 70 years old, five years older than me. He is dealing with his declining powers as a writer as he gets older. Apparently, he feels that being in top physical condition will help him to retain his powers as a writer and perhaps increase his longevity. He has a pretty rigorous workout schedule. I for one hope it does help him to live and write for many more years.

I'm facing the same issue of declining mental stamina. I'm in the opposite situation in that I have not achieved success as a writer. I'm still attempting to get my work out there. I have no illusions of being a famous or highly successful author at this point. I'm not even sure it matters any longer. I just want to finish what I've started and maybe a little extra.

In an earlier post on this blog I believe I mentioned that I want to write shorter works now. I don't want to spend years and years working on one book any longer. I'd like my novels to be no longer than around 85,000 words, and less would be okay. In the article, Irving said, "I am writing shorter and shorter novels...My grasp of fictional detail and chronological story is worsening, so I must work with what I have to make sure I'm fully cognizant of what I'm creating." That goes for me as well.

It shows, though, to what degree we value and love our creativity. Perhaps we fear losing it and will do whatever is necessary to keep it. When art is what you're about, you want to do it until the day you die.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I wish I were an optimist.

I'm so impressed by some of my blogging friends that I wonder if I'm not some kind of dullard. I suppose I am. One of the things that separates them from me is their optimism and their positive attitude. They seem to have no worries in the world. And I wonder why I'm not like that.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm a miserable wretch. I just see life as full dangers and impossible to understand events. The dangers don't bother me personally. I've lived a long time now and I've about seen it all, experienced a lot of things I don't care to discuss. I've had a lot of happiness as well as sadness. I've know success and failure. But I have a hard time understanding why bad people seem to win most of the time. Am I wrong in that view of things? I don't know. It's just the way I see it. Yes, bad people often come to an unhappy end in the end. But, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they just seem to win and win and win. Maybe they're not really bad people. Maybe they're good people who make the most of a bad world. I just don't know. Like I said, I don't understand.

Why is it that most of the great artists--writers, painters, mucisians--lived pretty destitute lives while the mediocre thrived? Am I right in that, or am I misinformed? I don't want to ramble on. I just want to know what other people think. I love to read the blogs of the optimists. It actually makes me feel better to read them. But why am I not able to become an optimist? It just isn't me. I've tried. I've read The Power of Positive Thinking. I've read many books on self-improvement, from Depak Chopra to Wayne Dyer. I've studied Hinduism, which seems to be the source of positive thinking, and some of its off-shoots, some of the positive-thinking religions. Nothing works. I am what I am. I keep seeing the negative side.

Isn't that sort of what yin-and-yang is about. We're a mixture of all opposites. To be heavily one or the other is to be out of balance isn't it. Maybe it's a slightly stronger leaning to yin or to yang that makes the difference. Maybe it's just a matter of degree. 51% yin and 49% yang is all it takes to be dramatically different from 51% yang and 49% yin. It's all such a mystery.

Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Sholes Key by Clarissa Draper

Sophia Evans is a cryptanalyst who is recruited into doing undercover work, work that turns her life upside down.

The Sholes Key by Clarissa Draper is a modern-day mystery that will keep you reading well into the night. Sophia Evans is presented with bizarre cryptograms that test her skills to the utmost. Vaguely familiar to her (she feels she's seen the series of numbers before, but can't remember where), deciphering these cryptograms is the key to stopping a serial killer, who has left them at the crime scene, perhaps daring the police to catch him. Knowing that the killer will strike again, believing that she is perhaps his next target, Sophia must work fast to save someone's life, perhaps her own. Aided by DI Theophilus Blackwell (a well-drawn character), Sophia begins solving the case. Little does she know, the key to doing so is very close at hand.

You can visit Clarissa Draper at her website Clarissa Draper.
You may purchase The Sholes Key at

Friday, May 4, 2012

How engrossed do you get in a book?

One day, when I was maybe 20 years old, I took my mother downtown. While she went shopping, I sat in the car, which was parked along a busy street in Jacksonville, Florida. While waiting for my mother to return, I read a novel. I guess I was pretty engrossed in it, because all of a sudden I heard sirens. I looked up and there were fire trucks parked between me and a house that was on fire. I couldn't believe my eyes. Had I woken up from a dream. Nope. It was real.

How about you? How engrossed have you gotten into a book?

Monday, April 30, 2012


I've been reading Annie Dillard's An American Childhood and thinking about my own childhood, remembering it, trying to put a name to it. I asked myself: What did it mean to be a child? I decided that the one thing it means for sure is that I (the child) have no memory. When I was born, I had nothing in my brain (memories) to fall back on, to tell me what was going on, and that was the case for quite a few years.

As an adult, I can remember my very first memory. I recall it vividly. I was walking down the street, holding my father's hand. I had a diaper full of doo-doo. On the top of the fence pole, there was a large Lincoln Head Penny.

I was potty trained when I was two years old, so I had to have been two years old or less. I walked at around ten months of age, so they tell me, so I might have been one or two years old. Was that my first moment of self-realization? Why did that memory stay with me for the rest of my life, and nothing much else until I was older? What was so memorable about it? I can't say. It just is. Just like a child, I just was.

Being a child means learning how to remember--to remember without remembering. We forget almost everything we remember. Yet, we remember it all. It is within us. We just don't remember it. So being a child is all about memory.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What do you do when you know you're running out of time?

I just downloaded to my Kindle free of charge 30 or 40 of the classics that I've never read, or would like to read again. Yet, I know there's probably no way I'll ever read all those books. Oh, I could if I put my mind to it. But blending reading the classics with reading contemporary books, blogging, writing my own books...well, it just isn't going to happen. I'm 65 years old and who knows how much more time I have left. I'm in excellent health, really, for my age. I can see myself living another 30 or so years. That's a lot of time. But it's nothing like having 60 or 70 years ahead of you, as I once did. You just cannot make up for lost time; at least, I can't, not with all I have and want to do.

Fortunately, I have a lot of work to finish that's in various stages of completion. But I also have the nagging desire to write new books. I do have a few stories floating around in my head. How to get it done? What am I to do?

I have a three year-old-grandson I'm raising. He can't be left unattended. Even when he's older and, until he's an adult, he can't be left unattended for very long. You can never stop being vigilant in caring for your children. That comes before everything else. So I have to squeeze in all this other stuff around caring for my grandson. It's hard to do. But I must do it. Somehow I must find a way.

Which brings me to thinking about those of you in high school, or even college. You have a lot of time left, but you really don't. The necessities of living will rob you of much of your time. It's a rare person who can attain their dreams at a young age. That's especially hard for writers. (I've discussed this in other posts.) So, what are you to do? Most of us live our lives without much planning or looking ahead. We tend to live for the moment. Carpe diem. And there's nothing wrong with that. Unless you can somehow find the financial means to write fulltime for a few years until you can become financially self-sufficent writing (and that's hard to do), you'll have to squeeze your reading and writing in around your living for the day. In other words, part of your living for the day must incorporate reading and writing. If you don't, it'll all evaporate over time. It's a tough challenge. Only a few can succeed at it. Part of carpe diem is "do it now."

But, I also believe that do it now (writing) can wait until your formal education is completed. If you want to experiment with writing while in high school or college, that's fine. Experiment. But put your education first. Finish that part of your life first.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Which is better...generalist or learned specialist?

I've been pondering this for a while now: which is better for a writer of fiction, or poetry for that matter, to be, a generalist or a learned specialist?

Quite a few doctors and lawyers have turned to writing fiction, and I would consider them to be learned specialists. And they seem to be quite successful as writers: Steve Berry, Michael Creighton, Robin Cook, Frank G. Slaughter, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and many others. I'm sure that many successful authors were also generalists: Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and many others. Of course, I've done no study of this. I'm just speaking off the top of my head (I'm a generalist and don't have any special knowledge; I have a BA in English, I studied and obtained a certificate in computer programming, and I worked for a while on an MBA, before deciding that running corporations wasn't for me). I'm more of an autodidact and have read about almost every subject under the sun. I'm a jack of all trades and master of none.

It seems that being a learned specialist is valuable. If nothing else, her dedication and concentration on one subject for a number of years lays the foundation for the discipline necessary to be a writer. The subject of study perhaps doesn't have much bearing on it, just the fact that she's studied something assiduously for six, eight, ten years has prepared her for working on novels for long periods of time and seeing it through to the end. To me this is a distinct advantage.

As a generalist and autodidact, I wander from one subject to another, never mastering anything. Perhaps I just have a short attention span (and I do). Jumping around from one subject to another gives the illusion of being learned. I can talk about most anything up to a point, then I have to shut up. When confronted with a specialist, who doesn't need to b. s. anyone about his subject matter, and doesn't have to b. s. about subjects he knows nothing about, I must shut up and listen.

Does this mean it's better to be a learned specialist before turning to writing? I wonder. What do you think?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I've been tagged: The Lucky 7 Meme

I've been tagged by Elizabeth Varadan (her website) with the Lucky 7 Meme. Honestly, I don't think I've ever been so lucky in my life.

Now I have to:

go to page 77 of my WIP, go to the 7th line, and write out the next 7 sentences. So here it is from my novel The Sendoff:
            Sarah was a born musician. She played the piano expertly at age five. She didn’t seem to want to do anything but play music. She took up several instruments while she was growing up. But it was the cello that she enjoyed the most. When her father bought her the first cello, she began playing it with tenderness and a depth of emotion that stunned him. Her talent was so deep that she and the cello complemented each other, the instrument fulfilling her creativity, and her creativity fulfilling the range of the instrument’s possibilities.

I now have to name 7 people to tag and let them know.

Tim Greaton
nick hight
erin summerill
jessica salyer
kerry freeman
Maeve Frazier
jenna quentin

Now we have seven more lucky people. I can't wait to read your WsIP.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Write Like The Masters" by William Cane (5) George Orwell, "1984"

In my continuing endeavor to learn more about what makes master writers masters, I've re-read 1984 by George Orwell, keeping in mind William Cane's discussion in Write Like the Masters.

First, let me say it now. 1984 is the most harrowing book I've ever read. Part of what makes it so harrowing is its plausibility. I so identified with Winston Smith that I felt his confusion and horror. I could very well see myself living in the insane world of Big Brother, Ingsoc, and doublespeak. So this supports Cane's discussion of Orwell's use of limited third person point of view being part of the power of this story.

Cane points out that Orwell uses penumbra, i.e., characterizing individuals through indirect and "more ambiguous suggestion" than through direct positive statements about individuals. In truth, penumbra pervades every character in the book. Smith (and the reader) can never be sure of whom to trust or believe.

According to Cane, Orwell uses a very simple plot. It is simple, but in a complex way. The complexity arises from the the subtext and gives the simple plot extra energy and meaning.

Cane says Orwell makes good use of repetition throughout the novel. The story constantly, in vaious ways, reiterates its themes--the ambiguity, the paradoxes of Oceanian society: War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength. What is so harrowing is that all of this is accomplished by making the past the present (or the present the past) in such a way that there is no past. This is accomplished by obliterating memory.

Cane stresses how Orwell makes the villain not only bad, but also good. Of course, what is good and bad has been turned upside down in Oceania. Who is the villain? It's Big Brother. It's your neighbor. It's your employer. It's your friend or family member. Perhaps it's even yourself, and what can be more harrowing than that?

Friday, March 23, 2012

I've received the famous "Liebster Blog *heart*" award.

My new blogging buddy Jeff Hargett at Strands of Pattern  has honored me with this award that I admit I needed a lot. He knew I was getting lonely in my little corner of the blogosphere.
Thank you, Jeff.

The rules are that you must

  1. Thank the person that nominated you on your blog and link back to them.
  2. Nominate up to five other blogs for the award.
  3. Let them know via a comment on their blog
  4. Post the award on your blog
Who will my victims be. They must have less than 200 followers. That leaves out a lot of my blogging friends.

1. Calling Shotgun
2. Diane Fordham
3. Jackson Porter
4. Kamille Elahi
5. Liam Guiney

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Living Half Free" by Haley Whitehall

It takes a skillful writer to step into the roles of another person's skin and culture. Haley Whitehall has done it well. She enters the antebellum life of a black slave and the society of the Cherokee Indians. What is refreshing about this is that Whitehall's story is free of stereotypes. Each character is an individual, unique in his or her own way. The humanity, and sometimes inhumanity, of her characters shines through.

Living Half Free is the tense and thoroughly engrossing story of Zacharia, a slave who passes for white and marries a Cherokee woman Lillian. But his slavery past haunts him, even in his marriage, influencing his every decision. But his top priority is to be free. Zacharia is a humble man who wants to do the right thing in a world where wrong often prevails over right. After adjusting to the complicated and bewildering white man's world, adjusting to the Cherokee world brings new challenges to his sense of dignity and self-worth. This struggle is complicated by his love for his wife (his future) and his love for his mother and sister (his past) and these two aspects of his life converge and clash, leading to a bittersweet ending.

Living Half Free is available through, as well as other sources. You can visit Haley's Whitehall's website at

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My very first post revisited.

I just read my very first post, which I wrote over a year ago, in which I muse about living and writing and wonder if we writers are insane. (see it here if you wish, it's quite short) The question of insanity still seems relevant.

At the time of my first post I was still in the traditional publishing mode: write a book, query an agent, receive a zillion rejections, then give up. Or, miraculously get an agent, then get rejected by every publisher in the world. Or, miracle of miracles, get accepted by a reputable publisher, and, after a lifetime of struggling, actually see my book get published. Then, like 80% of all books published, it doesn't even earn back the royalties I was paid. All the while, working on my next project. It does seem a bit crazy to devote thousands of hours to such endeavors. But I was doing it and, to some degree, I still am.

Then I discovered self-publishing ebooks. I thought about it long and hard. Should I do it? What does it mean if I do it? Will I be the scourge of the publishing world? Will I lose all my friends? Will I be looked at as a failure? Is self-publishing a form of suicide? Well, a lot of people were doing it, and some were even making a living at it. Then I wondered what have I got to lose. I mean really, who cares how your book is published, as long as it's out there? Right? I don't know. All I know is that I saw no future whatsoever in the traditional model. So, I self-pubbed a book of short stories, just because. Just because I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to learn the ropes. And learn them I did. And now I've self-pubbed a novel. It seems like the publishing world has turned upside down between the time I published my first book and my second a year later.

I'm now part of a growing fraternity of self-publishers. I no longer feel so insane. In fact, I feel as if I've found sanity in an insane world. Of course, the insane don't know they're insane. That's the beauty of insanity. So, maybe I'm insane and just don't know it, which might be a form of sanity. Anyway, it's been a fantastic year and a marvelous journey. And it ain't over yet.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness

I am not really into basketball. But my daughter wanted help in choosing brackets, so I came up with my bracketology to the Final Four. I know they're hard to read, but if you have the bracket breakdowns, you can probably follow my flowchart. Yes, I'm picking FSU to win it all. I'm looking for some upsets along the way. What about you? Are you playing this braketology game?

I have to tell you, my daughter graduated from FSU, so we're a little biased. By that logic, I should be choosing USF to win it all, because I graduated from USF. But who uses logic?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I'm happy today.

Yes, I'm happy today. I'm happy with the way my blog is going. I enjoy reading blogs I follow, and I enjoy reading the comments left on my blog. A lot of times I re-read my blog post after it's been up awhile and has a few comments. I like to see how I've connected with someone else. It is time-consuming, but I enjoy it or I wouldn't do it.

I'm happy today, because I had a good night's sleep. I suffer from sleep apnea and use a cpap machine to sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the morning just as tired as when I went to sleep. Doesn't make for a pleasant day.

I'm happy today, because my grandson and granddaughter are playing well together this morning. I'm raising my almost three-year-old grandson and I babysit my slightly younger granddaughter. Some days they drive me crazy and I get no work done. I won't get any work done today other than jump on the internet now and then. I like taking them to the park. They love it and I've met some pretty interesting people there. I've gotten to know one of the wives of the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff. She had a baby last month, so I probably won't see her again until the fall. I've seen a Jaguars player and his family there. I get to talk to other grandparents who are babysitting their grandchildren. We share stories as if we were two young mothers instead of retired grandparents.

I'm happy that I've now self-published two ebooks. I think I'm just as happy as if they'd been published by Random House or Scribners or any of the big boys.

How about you? Are you happy today, or is it a less than ideal day?

I've revealed a little bit about myself, because Rachna Chhabria Her blog asked for it. How about it? Let's keep it going. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Descriptions from "The Man With the Golden Gun" by Ian Fleming

In my quest to see more of Ian Fleming's work, I read his novel The Man With The Golden Gun. Besides being filled with a lot of witicisms, the book was a fairly interesting read. There were a few coincidences to move things along. The Bond of this book isn't much like the bond of the movies. This Bond has feelings and fears and the book is a book, not a rewrite of a movie script.

Here are a few of the more remarkable descriptions in the book that I liked.

The prairie fire of the sunset raged briefly in the west and the molten sea cooled off into moonlit gun-metal.

Instead of the severe shirt and skirt of the days at Headquarters, she was wearing a single string of pearls and a one-piece short-skirted frock in the colour of a pink gin with a lot of bitters in it--the orangey-pink of the inside of a conch shell.

Two birds fly into a cafe.
They strutted up and down imperiously, eyeing Bond without fear from bold, golden eyes and went through a piercing repertoire of tinny whistles and trills, some of which required them to ruffle themselves up to almost twice their normal size.

Scaramanga shoots the birds:
The explosions from the Colt .45 were deafening. The two birds disintegrated against the violet back-drop of the dusk, the scraps of feather and pink flesh blasting out of the yellow light of the cafe into the limbo of the deserted street like shrapnel.

Bond is wounded and scrambling through a mangrove swamp.
Bond dropped to one knee, his senses questing like the antennae of an insect.

I hope you find these quots as interesting as I do. What do you think? Is this better than average writing? Do you think Fleming should be considered a master storyteller?

Monday, March 12, 2012

My novel "Only The Lonely" is free today.

My novel Only The Lonely is free today on See the slideshow on the right for a link.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Apology: My novel "Only The Lonely" is NOT free today.

I'm sorry but something has gone wrong and my novel Only The Lonely is not showing up for free on I assure you, I did set it up, but it isn't free today. I will reset it for Monday. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this has caused anyone.

My Novel "Only The Lonely" is free today.

My novel Only The Lonely is free today. See my slideshow to the right for the link to

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Battles and other stories is free today

My collection of short stories is free on today. See the slide show on the right for a direct link to the book.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Download my books for free

Well, I finally did it. I've self-published Only The Lonely on Now I have two books available: OTL and Battles and other stories. I'm offering them for free: Battles will be available on March 8th and Only The Lonely will be available on March 9th.

Unfortunately I had a formatting problem with OTL. It's certainly readable as is, but most paragraphs are not indented. I attempted to fix the problem, but I don't think it worked. I believe the problem lies in my Word program. Somehow in trying to set my book up for Smashwords awhile back, I set my program default to Normal, which seems to be causing problems on Amazon. I've been unable to unset it from Normal. If anyone can tell me how to fix the problem, I would be grateful.

BTW, I'm published under the penname R Patrick Hughes. See my slideshow for links to Thank you.

I hope you download each book and give them a read and let me know what you think. A review (good or bad) on Amazon would be appreciated.

I hope to have a third book out by this summer.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Quandary resolved--"The Sendoff"

I want to thank everyone who commented on my quandary about what to work on next. It was a tough decision at first, but I decided to listen to my heart, and my heart says The Sendoff. I love that book. It's something I want to publish.  When I made the decision Friday night in my sleep, and woke up Saturday morning and began revising the first chapter of the book, I was excited, thrilled. I knew I had made the right decision. Thank you all.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Write Like the Masters" by William Cane (4) Ian Fleming

Cane chose Ian Fleming as a master writer for a variety of reasons. The main reason I like Fleming is for his use of details. Besides creating suspense and excitement, Fleming uses "sumptuous details." To see for myself, I read Fleming's short story "Octopussy." (Don't you wish you could come up with titles like that? I wish I could.) Of course, it's a James Bond story--and Bond is one of my favorite characters from the movies, and maybe now from literature--but the story has little to do with James Bond. He's a minor character in the story.

Even though it's a short story, "Octopussy" is full of Fleming's attention to details. Some of his detailed descriptions are fairly long; e.g., he uses about 200 words to describe the deadly scorpion fish (a major player in the story). Fleming mentions that scorpion fish are the source of "the rascasse that is the foundation of bouillabaisse." When Smythe (the main character) eats some sausage in the mountains, Fleming writes "Oberhauser's (another character in the story) sausage was a real mountaineer's meal--tough, well-fatted and strongly garlicked."

Fleming's use of details isn't limited to food-related subjects. When Smythe looks at the case containing gold stolen from Germany during WWII, Fleming writes "There were the same markings on each--the swastika in a circle below an eagle, and the date, 1943--the mint marks of the Reichsbank."

When Smythe and Oberhauser reach their destination in the mountains, Fleming writes "Directly above them, perhaps a hundred feet up under the lee of the shoulder, were the weather-beaten boards of the hut." What struck me about the sentence was 'under the lee of the shoulder' and 'weather-beaten boards,' two wonderful details I would have not thought of.

The last description I'll mention that sturck me as something I would have missed is when, after Smythe shoots a man in the mountains, Fleming writes "The deep boom of the two shots that had been batting to and fro amoung the mountains died away." I thought the double-entrendre on 'died' was clever.

One thing Cane doesn't mention that I found interesting is Fleming's use of character names. Of course, we all know James Bond. But the names of the other characters in this story are interesting as well: Dexter Smythe, Hannes Oberhauser, and the Foo brothers.

What does it mean to me as a writer? It makes me want to try harder with details. It means more research and greater visualization of scenes and finding the words that make it the best description I can make it. And maybe a greater consideration of characters' names.

What do you think of these examples of description from "Octopussy"? Do they strike you as better than average? Also, do you find the characters' names more interesting than the usual?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I'm in a quandary.

Yes. I'm in a bit of a quandary. I've basically finished Only The Lonely and hope to publish it soon. The quandary is: what do I work on next. Maybe you can help me decide.

 I've got perhaps 80-85% of a sequel to Only The Lonely already written called Battlefields of Love. My crude estimation is that I can finish it in 3-6 months, maybe even closer to 3 months. In some ways I think it's a better book than OTL. It will be about the same length, 75-80 thousand words.

I've got another novel that I wrote maybe 8-10 years ago that is probably 99% complete called The Sendoff. It has nothing to do with the OTL saga I have planned. I crudely estimate finishing it in 1-2 months. In some ways, I think it's the best book I've ever written, but it's from when I was first transistioning from literary writing to a more popular vein of writing. And it's somewhat, though not entirely, different from OTL. It's probably a bit shorter than 75,000 words, more like 50-60 thousand.

So, there's my quandary. Which do I work on next? Which one would you work on?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I've been tagged by Kamille Elahi

Hi, Everyone, I've been tagged by Kamille Elahi. She's a vivacious, wise-beyond-her-years, 19 year old college student in England. Check out her website.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer the 10 questions I created at the bottom of this post. Tag, and notify that you've tagged them, five people. Finally, create 10 questions you'd like them to answer.

Here are the questions I had to answer.

1) When was the first time you travelled away from home?

The first time I travelled away from home by myself was when I was nine years old. I flew from Jacksonville, Florida, to my grandparents home in North Carolina. Flying (prop plane) was quite an experience for me.

2) Did you ever dream of the ground eating you?


3) What's the best meal you can cook?

Ham, eggs, and grits.

4) Have you ever met an author?

yes, several

5) How cool was meeting that author?

no big deal

6) What is your secret ambition?

To go to heaven, if there is such a place.

7) Who is the scariest person you have stood up to?

A muscle-bound neighbor with whom I clashed.

8) Have you ever tasted sea water?

Sure. Lots of times.

9) What's your favourite song and why?

I don't have a favorite song, because songs come and go like crazy.

10) Blogging or Writing?


I must now tag five people.

tanya reimer

terri talley venters

gabriel a lessa

jackson porter


These are your ten questions:
1. Where were you born?
2. Do you speak more than one language? Which other?
3. Do you play a musical instrument? Which one?
4. Which is your favorite city in the world? Why?
5. Who is your favorite author?
6. What was your favorite subject in school (high school, college, whatever)?
7. At what age did you first become aware of yourself as a person? How did it come about?
8. Would you like to travel in outerspace?
9. Do you believe in astrology?
10. What is your astrological sign?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

John Locke and publishing

Today, at the supermarket, I saw one of John Locke's self-published ebooks now in paperback. I looked inside and saw that he owns the copyright, it was published by his own publishing company, and a statement that he'd sold over 1.5 million ebooks. He has set up some kind of marketing and distribution deal with one of the bigger publishers to publish his ebooks as paper books, apparently without giving up his rights.

This shows the kind of evolution the publishing industry is going through. People who self-publish ebooks certainly have a future in paper books as well. And the business models are changing. John Locke's deal is one model, maybe the best. Who knows at this point? But I think it shows that self-publishing ebooks is a viable option for many of us.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Write Like the Masters, by William Cane (3) Honore de Balzac

The first master writer that Cane discusses is Honore de Balzac. Cane points out that Balzac is an expert in the use of emotional tags ("little references to the feelings of his characters"). However Balzac does not tag just any emotion; he tags the deeper emotions. To get a first-hand view of this, I read Balzac's Eugenie Grandet, paying especial attention to Balzac's use of tags. There were quite a few times that he used them, and he actually didn't seem to use tags for any other reason than for emotions. He didn't use them for descriptions of sunsets, or clothes, or much of anything else.

The first use of such a tag that I noticed was when Eugenie falls in love with her cousin (Charles), whom her father doesn't like, and she realizes her father disapproves of him.
The distant hopes in her heart bloomed suddenly, became real, tangible, like a cluster of flowers, and she saw them cut down and wilting on the earth.

Mr. Grandet is an extreme miser. This is how Balzac describes Mrs. Grandet's feelings after her husband tells her they will have their discussion in the morning concerning her spending too much money.

The poor woman went to sleep like a schoolboy who, not having learned his lessons, knows  he will see his master's angry face on the morrow.

Mr. Grandet has given Eugenie a great many gold coins as a savings for her future, perhaps a dowry, but she has given the money to her cousin, Charles, whom she loves, to help him recover his reputation and settle his dead father's debts. When Mr. Grandet finds out, Balzac writes:

"You have not got your gold!" cried Grandet, starting up erect, like a horse that hears a cannon fired beside him.

There were others, but these are enough to get the idea. The tags are clever and reflect the emotions of the characters. They are very visual and contain the element Balzac is trying to convey: in the first one, Eugenie's new-found love dying just after it blooms; the second suggests the trepidation and fear of what will happen; and the last describes the shock Mr. Grandet feels.

This use of tags was very revealing to me, showing me a more powerful way of using tags than just describing everyday things. Perhaps this will be useful to you.

Do you already use tags this way? Do you think it would strengthen you writing if you used them in this fashion?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Write Like the Masters, by William Cane (2)

After reading Write Like the Masters, by William Cane, I selected the writers whom I felt most related to my own way of writing: Honore de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, William Somerset Maugham, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Margarate Mitchell, Ian Fleming, and Philip K. Dick. Cane nicely explains each writer's major stylistic elements, his or her specialness. There were many other authors he discusses, so there is a lot that I did not care for for one reason or another, though someday they might appeal to me.

As an aid to seeing the big picture, I created a mind map of my favorite authors' techniques.

I can also summarize in a paragraph, especially without mentioning the particular author the technique came from, what I believe the mind map says:

As writers of fiction, we should strive for strong characters (especially conflicting characters, perhaps based on architypes) who are faced with life-defining, catastrophic events in which strong emotions (positive and negative) are highlighted (tagged) through the conflict, making the reader laugh, cry, and wait for resolution to these conflicts, all of which contain some elements of mystery, surprising the reader, and in which the character changes through an epiphany (ah-ha moment) that is foreshadowed in the fast/slow, rising/falling pace of the action, using sumptuous or strong details of description with a big background (Civil War, WW II, the Great Depression, etc.) and a strong element of romance (with obstacles to that romance) that flows in a pattern of the characters preparing for romance, participating in banter (romantic play) that is followed by the first kiss, preferrably told through the third person limited point of view of the protagonist.

Did I get it all in? Obviously, this is not a blueprint for writing. It is an aid to writing. I doubt that I or anyone else would have all these elements in the same novel, though I'm sure it's possible. But when you're thinking about and writing your story, these are elements that may enter into the story, that may increase your ideas and strengthen your story.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Word Count: Six Months Later

Yesterday I finished the revision of my 117,000 word novel Only The Lonely based on Tanya Reimer's comments on reading the entire book.

I've trimmed the book down to about 81,000 words by eliminating some of the subplots. I consider my work on the book about 95% complete. I rewrote some chapters, added a few new ones, and combined some chapters. The 5% of the work I have left to do is polishing the revisions, possibly adding one small element, and making sure the book flows properly. Hopefully, I can get that done this month. Then it's on to self-publishing the book.

I need to come up with a book cover. The one I have works, but I may look into doing something different. I'm undecided.

The subplots I eliminated are not lost or wasted effort. They will be the basis of, or part of, one or two sequels I have planned.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Is it me or is Blogger acting up again? The past few days, the links don't seem to be working properly. I click on the name of the post and I'm taken to the page, but  it doesn't populate. I click on comments, and it goes to the page, but it doesn't poplulate. I waste a lot of time with this problem, and I end up not reading the post or making comments. Anyone else having this problem?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I had a dream about William Butler Yeats

I had a dream last night. I was in William Butler Yeats' house in Ireland. It was amazing. His living room was sunken and lined with books and it had the quality of an amphitheater. He sat there reading his poetry and his voice boomed through the amphitheater, his words resonnating. I thought, this is how a poet should live.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Write Like the Masters" by William Cane

For a different kind of writing advice book, try "Write Like the Masters" by William Cane.

Mr. Cane reveals some of the writing secrets of 21 great writers. Would you like to know what Stephen King did not write about in his book "On Writing?" Would you like to know what you can learn about writing from a dark writer like Kafka? How about Edgar Rice Burroughs, Margaret Mitchell, George Orwell, Charles Dickens? All of these writers were experts at certain aspects of writing, much of which can apply to almost any kind of writing. The very first writer Cane discusses, Honore De Balzac, immediately gave me ideas on how to improve my writing. There is something you can learn from virtually every one of the 21 writers he discusses. "Write Like the Masters" is a book that will open your mind to new and different techniques. You'll be pleased by what you learn.

"Write Like the Masters" is available on (see my slideshow).