Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Story

I've added a new page to my blog. It's a short story I wrote some years ago. If you have time to read it, it's not long, and you can see my wry sense of humor.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wonder: The Essence of Childhood

Wonder is a combination of thought and emotion. It's a form of illumination. It rises from the center of our being, our need to know. Children are filled with wonder. Everything is new. The world appears to the child to be well organized. Seeking the connections within this organization is a constant mental activity. The child has to put the world together, one experience, one discovery at a time. She has to discover reality. Reality is learned through experience. Wonder is born from the realization that there is more to reality than what we see. What is the reality behind reality? When we realize that what we see isn't reality, and that there's a reality behind the reality we know, wonder ensues.

What is the main source of wonder? It's mystery. It's the unknown and feeling connected with the unknown, feeling oneness with mystery.

Wonder, connecting with the mystery of the unknown,  is a central component of childhood, one that tends to disappear as the child grows older. Adults may still have flashes of it, through which it manifests as inspiration, particularly through works of art. Unfortunately, many adults experience less and less wonder and inspiration as they grow older. Becoming "set in their ways" they stop growing. Life becomes rather humdrum, perhaps boring, and filled with passive living. Watching T.V. becomes a way of life. A little travel can re-leave the boredom. But coming home is returning to boredom.

Continuing to experience wonder, to be thrilled by mystery, as we grow older is a form of staying young (or growing young). It can be a central component of the older adult's life if we do not become 'set in our ways'. Not becoming set in our ways should become an objective for us all. It requires openness, honesty, and even courage. But the reward for this is to continue to experience the joy of wonder.

God's greatest gift to mankind is joy, and the joy found in wonder is the greatest joy of all.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happiness and Optimism

I won't hide it. I've been fairly happy this year. And I have also, at times, been optimistic. This has led me to wonder, which comes first, happiness or optimism. Is it being happy that leads you to being optimistic, or is it being optimistic that leads you to being happy? I've never been able to force myself to be happy, and I've never been able to force myself to be optimistic. Both seem to arise from a source separate from me (certainly separate from my ego).

Is being happy simply the absence of being unhappy, or is happiness some kind of force that pushes unhappiness out of the way, and vice versa? Is our mental state dependent on our thinking, or is our thinking dependent on our mental state? Can we think ourselves into a state of depression and think ourselves out of it? How powerful are our thoughts?

I'm of the opinion that we cannot think our way into and out of these states. If it were that simple, I think most of us would choose constant happiness. So, if thinking is not the source of either happiness or unhappiness, what is? Where do they come from? Are they part of some kind of teeter-totter within our psyches that tips to one side or the other? A pool of positive and negative emotions that bubble up and down, one or the other influencing us, depending on other factors within our lives at the time? Are they parts of our neurons firing and misfiring? Are they some kind of chemicals in our brains that organize and re-organize haphazardly or by some influence, such as thinking?

This is all so puzzling. I just know that when I feel unhappy, that's the way I feel, and it just goes away on its own, and when I'm happy, I'm happy until I feel unhappy. And I don't know why.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lucid Dreaming: the heart and soul of writing.

Dreams (our indestructible desire to do, or be, something we find important), I think, emanate from our fantasies. The question then becomes, from whence come our fantasies? One of the definitions of fantasy is illusion, illusion being a mistaken idea, a misconception, a misleading visual image; hallucination. These definitions suggest a negative connotation. Yet, there seems to be nothing negative about my dreams. They seem positive and encourage me to act on them. So, perhaps, our dreams do not emanate from our fantasies.

If they do not originate in our fantasies, from where do they come? Maybe I should ask, which comes first, the vision or the dream? I have a vision of a scene and feel thrilled by it; it calls to me to save it. Don't let it die, because it has a life of its own. Does that vision morph into a dream and I act on it? I, therefore, start writing and fulfilling my dream. Is it the vision of the scene or the resulting dream that leads me to write?

Writing scenes is a pretty elemental part of writing fiction. In many ways, scenes are the heart and soul of fiction. They are the life of the story, the reason for everything. Everything the writer does is to make the scene come alive to the best of his ability. How does this relate to dreams? Visualizing scenes is a form of dreaming: lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a positive form of fantasizing. For me, lucid dreaming is the thrill of writing. How does this form of dreaming relate to the big dream, the dream of being a writer? I think it's pretty obvious, the one flows from the other. The dream of being a writer is birthed in our lucid dreaming, in the satisfaction, should I say joy?, of lucid dreaming.

Is it a form of wish fulfillment? Another question for another time.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A few of my paintings from this summer.

The use of color  in my paintings this summer was self-taught experimentation. I came up with the idea of basing some of my paintings on books. I based the following four paintings on the Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyers.

Twilight (oil pastel on paper)

Eclipse (oil pastel on paper)

New Moon (oil pastel on paper)
Breaking Dawn (oil pastel on paper)

The following painting is based on a book by the religious mystic St. John of the Cross.

Dark Night of the Soul (soft pastel on paper)

This is an attempt to attain a three-dimensional effect in color.

Fish (soft pastel on paper)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Growing Old: Growing Young

The Baby Boom generation is now entering its retirement years.

Having been born in 1946, I'm among the first of the baby boomers to retire, which I've done. I actually retired at age 63; I'm now 66. One of my reasons for retiring was not one of the normal ones: to help raise my grandson, who is now four years old. Yes, I'm raising another generation. But, I well know that most baby boomers will not be retiring and raising a young child at the same time. Many will be retiring to a life of leisure, travel, and to looking for ways to remain relevant to the world.

This is one of the directions my blog will now take: how do we retirees remain relevant to the world?

This is certainly not a new problem, if indeed it is a problem, beginning with my generation. It's probably been an issue for many retirees in the industrialized civilization. Living on the farms, I imagine, kept one busy and relevant right to the day of death. I'm sure a farmer's work is never done. But when accountants, doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, police persons, teachers, garbage workers, real estate agents, sales people, truck drivers, etc., retire, they are often possibly confronted with another lifetime to live. It begs the question, what do I do now?

I certainly cannot tell someone else how to live his or her life in retirement or during any other time period. I can only relate my own experiences and what I learn from others and from research. And there's a lot of research from which to learn. Learning is nice and suffices for its own sake, but doing (being, in the philosophical sense) is the essence of life. What we believe and what we do from day-to-day is important. How we live is perhaps the most important component of living. That's what I hope to explore on my blog in the future. It's a vast territory with many theories and possible answers, and that's part of the beauty of retirement, I can begin a new journey, and perhaps fulfill some of my unfulfilled dreams. I suppose there are others like me.

So, I hope you join me on my new journey: to remain relevant to the world.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Blogging: Absent, but not gone.

I haven't posted much or written many posts lately. I have some in rough drafts that are not finished. But, the fact is, I'm still around.

What have I been doing? Drawing and painting mainly. My Two-D Design course takes up a great deal of my time. This is the only course I take, and I'm retired (sort of), so I can bring my course assignments as close to perfection as I like. But that takes up a lot of time. Art is about details, and they take time to perfect. (Really, how do full-time art students perfect their art projects when juggling four or five courses at the same time? I feel for them.) But I enjoy it so much that I can spend hours working on a piece of art and not even realize I've been working for hours. I've always been a perfectionist (which isn't necessarily a good thing), so I'm right at home with this artwork.

I haven't been writing. This is a dilemma for me. Where does my future as a writer lay? Do I even have one anymore? I have several books that are highly polished and I could self-publish them pretty much as they are, but I don't feel connected to them right now. My writing imagination is somewhat dormant these days, although I've been feeling some rumblings in the background. The desire to write isn't dead in me yet. But I'm not sure when I'll put pen to paper again.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What it's like being a retiree taking college classes with teenagers.

I'm into my second year of art classes (I take one class a semester; this is my third class) at the University of North Florida. The first two classes (Drawing I and Drawing II) were taken in the evenings, and I was not the only older person enrolled in them, so I didn't feel out of place. But this class (Two Dimensional Design) is a day class, and I'm the only older person in it. Even the instructor Laura Colomb is much younger than me. This is the first class in which I've felt out of place.

I'm pretty amazed by the young people around me. Some of them are clueless about their lives, like elementary school children. They are smart. The requirements for enrolling at UNF are stiff. Yet, some of them seem like they'd rather be doing something else, like texting on their i-phones. Some of them miss classes or don't do the required work. When the teacher says that, if you miss the class critique you're automatically dropped two letter grades on the assignment, and several of the students don't show up, I wonder why. They probably didn't do the assignments and stayed away. Some of these students just don't have their priorities in the proper order.

Some of these students are pretty darn good artists already. Seriously, they don't need this elementary art class, but it's a requirement (I think) for the program. It's a good class. It's foundational to the various art majors. Maybe some of the students are bored by it (but none of them seem bored). Some of the students seem to have trouble staying awake. I think back to my college years and wonder if I was so sleepy in my classes. Maybe they're overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do in all their classes. Or maybe they're tired from staying up late partying.

I had quite a bit of interaction with the students in the first two classes. In this class, I've tried to strike up conversation with one or two of them. It just doesn't go very far. They talk to each other okay. But I think they see me as an outsider. I don't think they object to me being there. They are friendly all the time. But what can we possibly have in common? Of course, we have the art class in common, and we do discuss our art work to some degree. But that's about it.

Here's the thing, though, because I'm so much older than them, I feel that I should be a model student. I want to mentor them in some way. I want to reach out to them and help them. Of course, most of them do not need my help. But maybe one or two I could help. But, we don't talk. So I pretty much stick to myself and my work. Maybe that's the way it should be.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reverting to my childhood?

I have been reading young adult/children's literature lately: Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and now James and the Giant Peach. Why? I want to see what makes for classic children's literature, what children/young adults are reading. I've checked out from the library Deenie and tales of a fourth grade nothing by Judy Blume and a few more recently written YA books. Hopefully, I'll be able to read them. Who knows, maybe they'll tickle my inspiration.

Back in the 1970s I read a book Growing Young by Ashley Montigu. He cited studies that show how as we grow older we become more like children again. I was greatly impressed by the book and read it several times. Now, as I'm growing older, I see it happening in myself. I'm not unhappy about it; in fact, I think it's kind of neat. So, maybe this has something to do with my reading YA. When I was a child/adolescent I never read books. So, I missed all of these good children's books. Reading them now, and finding them somewhat interesting, is a pleasant surprise. And, yes, in the back of my mind I'm thinking "maybe I can do this, write children's books." I'm not sure it will ever happen, but it does offer me a semblance of hope.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer is gradually coming to an end. Is my writing?

I like summertime. It's a chance to swim in the pool on hot days. It's a chance to swim at the beach. Many plants flower during the summer. And I've had a good summer. My daughter, who moved to Georgia from Florida a year ago, has moved back. I had my three grandchildren around me for much of the summer. I painted in the hot garage almost everyday, my grandchildren right around me, also drawing, coloring, and painting. They produced many masterpieces, which are hanging on my garage walls. But it was hot in that garage. I came inside the air-conditioned house, sweat dripping off me, my shirt soaked. And I didn't mind it at all. The grandchildren are back in school now, so I have more free time. I'll be signing up for another drawing class, which starts next week.

The one thing I didn't do this summer was write. I wrote hardly a word of fiction. It was a thinking, reading, and wondering kind of summer. To be honest, the wondering has been about whether I'll continue trying to write fiction or give it up. My characters used to live inside my head; I temporarily became each character, feeling their feelings, thinking their thoughts; I became a different person for a while (actually, many different people), which is an amazing, emotionally satisfying kind of experience. That doesn't happen anymore. I don't become my characters. I'm not sure which is the mental illness: being able to become someone else, or not being able to become someone else. This is a serious issue. Not being able to become someone else leaves me with nothing to write about. I feel as if there's no life in what I'm writing. And, if there's no life in it, what's the point? This is what I'll be trying to figure out this fall, whether there's a reason to write anymore.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How many "sexy" books can we read?

One thing I've noticed through my blogging/FB/Twitter, blah, blah, blah, is the abundance of books that have "sexy" as part of their description. By "sexy" I believe the blurb is saying that there is a good deal of overt sexual activity that takes place in the book. The question of whether the sex is an integral and necessary part of the plot probably isn't important; it's the fact that it's there, and probably in abundance, that is important. The assumption is that sex sells, that readers want a good dose of sex with their books.

I wonder if this "sexy" aspect is important as a marketing ploy.

Do you write sex into your novels just because it adds to the book, maybe even making an ordinary or so-so book more attractive? Do you include it just because you feel it's a requisite of books today?

I think many of us writers do believe it's needed, and we add it for the extra oomph we feel it gives our books.

What do you think?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Having Nothing To Say

It's somewhat baffling to me that lately I have nothing to say. I could post stuff just to be posting, and there's nothing wrong with that if it accomplishes what you want with your blog. But I don't find that appealing. That's just work, possibly without inspiration. I'm used to writing from my emotions and deeper thought processes. So, what does this mean? Have my emotions and deeper thought processes dried up? I don't know. I only know that I have nothing to say right now (although, ironically, I'm saying something right now, but I think you know what I mean).

What does this mean for my blog? Is my desire to blog dying? I don't think so. I still read a lot of blogs, or at least take a look at them. But truthfully, I've read enough author interviews to know that we're all experiencing the same things. Some authors succeed while others struggle on. I don't think I'll learn a whole lot new by reading more author interviews.

I've read quite a few book reviews. But they're usually not books I would ever read. I've attempted to read some of the books that I read about that were highly praised, but usually couldn't get past the first few pages. Of course, there are some successes, that is, some books that did capture my interest and I read them all the way. So I usually don't read book reviews on blogs. (Goodreads is a different story.)

I've  read enough "Should I Give Up?" posts. Of course, we should never give up. (And the truth is, maybe some of us should give up and move on with our lives.)

To be honest, I've done no fiction writing for several months. I think this is probably why I'm not writing so many blog posts: I'm not sure that I'm still a writer. I wonder sometimes if I'm one of those people who should just give up and move on with my life? The desire to write is still there, but, like my blog posts, I've always written from my emotions and deeper thought processes, and they seem to have disappeared. So I could just write to be writing, but I'm not sure it would be satisfying.

My blog reflects my writing life in general. Fortunately, I've been doing quite a bit of art work. That's something I find interesting, even fascinating. So I still have an interest in creativity, still exercising it to a good extent.

This is one of those posts that writes itself. I'm just along for the ride. I hope you're still enjoying the writing process. I hope you succeed. I'll be waiting to hear about your success.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Organizing Social Media Sites

We're almost all suffering from social media overload. I know I am.

I'm more or less organically organizing my social media like this.

I'm keeping Facebook for family and friends now. I'm not adding writer friends anymore.

I'm using my blog primarily for writing and some art and general info that comes my way.

I'm using Bloglovin' for keeping up with my writer friends.

I'm using Google+ primarily for art; I have some writing friends on there, but I doubt I'll add any more.

There is some blending, but it can't be avoided, I guess.

I don't do anything hardly at all on Twitter. I've yet to see anything on Twitter that I give a damn about. It's mostly people pushing something. In my case, it's their books or their editorial services. Oh yeah, there are girls pushing their bodies (or pictures thereof); for a price, I suppose.

There are many other things that I just don't bother with anymore. No time, and they don't seem to help me in my life, anyway.

I've come into this organization (by default, I suppose) in the past week or two. We'll see how it goes. Social media is not living your life. It has it's usefulness. But it has to be in the background of your life. Your actual daily living comes first, way first.

That's my take on it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Goodbye, Columbus, The Quintessential Movie of My Generation

[Goodbye, Columbus, movie review]

I've certainly not seen every movie made during my years of living, so someday I may feel differently but, for now, Goodbye, Columbus is the quintessential movie of my generation. Nothing I've seen with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, or any other actor comes close to qualifying. Their movies are genre movies for the most part and do not reflect the essence of my generation's cultural concerns. Goodbye, Columbus does so in spades.

Goodbye, Columbus works on several levels. It portrays the American version of the class system. It reflects my generation's concern with authenticity. It asks the question "Who's responsible for birth control?" It even dips into racial relations. And it all works together brilliantly. The movie is a close version of the novella by Philip Roth, a story I read and reread several times in my youth.

In some ways it's stereotypical: the frivolous rich versus the  self-conscious middle class. But the psychological precision of the conflict between Neil and Brenda, who "love" each other, raises it to a universal level. These are two people who love each other for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps they don't really know what love is.

And which person is responsible for birth control, the man or the woman?  This is not an irrelevant question even today. I think today, we'd say both are responsible, but back then it was assumed that the woman would be. The pill had liberated women and given them control. So it was their responsibility. At least that the way it was in the early years. In reality, it still may be so.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pilgrimage: Our Lives Are Not Fixed Until the End

I recently finished reading the travel book A Sense of Direction, Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful, by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, a most interesting one. I'm taken by one paragraph that seems to say a lot about pilgrimage and life in general.

"There is no such thing as knowing, once and for all, where you stand with someone. Life has no fixed points. But pilgrimage does; that is the point. And the fixed points of a pilgrimage allow people to exist for each other in motion."

Life is constant motion. Two people, or even a group of people, can never be doing anything but meeting each other in motion. We're either moving toward each other, away from each other, or walking together in the same direction. Even when we meet, it's only a temporary meeting. We can never know each other except as fleeting, perhaps even elusive, beings.

If we buy into the concept that life itself is a pilgrimage, then we learn to live as if we're on an adventure, a journey, along with other people. Yes, our lives have a beginning, a middle, an ending. It may even be scripted out in advance without our knowing the script. So we're discovering ourselves all the time on our pilgrimage, our journey through life. There is no one event, no one experience, no one moment that defines us. We're constantly being defined by our journey. We're constantly discovering who we are.

Of course, we need to realize that our fellow human beings are also on a pilgrimage, one that may or may not coincide with ours. We need to honor that in each other. We're all still discovering who we are, and will be until the end.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Painting: what it's teaching me about writing

Untitled (Oil pastel on paper) approx. 7.5 x 10.5 inches

I'll make no bones about it. I love drawing and painting. I'm loving it more and more everyday. I feel alive when I'm painting, more so than in most other activities. Even writing. But the desire to write is still within me, and what I'm re-discovering is that like painting--painting what excites and interests me--writing also needs to be based on what excites and interests me. Trying to write for the market just hasn't worked for me. I just cannot write to a formula, at least, not well. I need to return to the way I wrote maybe fifteen years ago, or earlier. Write what moves me and seems important to me, not necessarily what moves and is important to other people, which is most likely a prescription for not getting published. But, I want to be in love with writing again. I want to be passionate about it once again. Hopefully, I'm moving in that direction.

Untitled (Oil pastel on paper) approx. 7.5 x 10.5 inches

Friday, June 14, 2013

Herbivore, Mon Amour

I've chosen the title for my painting (help-me-name-my-painting). I like all the suggestions. Herbivore by itself didn't work for me, but with the add on it did; I like the rhyme and the "meaning". Thank you all for your suggestions. I think I'll seek your help in the future.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Help me name my painting.

I finished this the other day. I thought of calling it Self-Portrait as a Bug, but I don't have red eyes. I'd love to hear suggestions for a title from you. Please put your title in the comments.

Oil Pastel on paper, approx 7.5 x 10.5 inches.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Every Sunset Is Also A Sunrise

I was reading Julia Hones' blog post this morning (Everness) when this thought occurred to me. I do not believe I've ever heard it before, although someone has probably already said it. "Every person's sunset is another person's sunrise." Maybe that's what Jorge Luis Borges is saying.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Is It Time to Call it Quits?

Back in 2011 I wrote this blog post (read it if you wish) about losing my muse. Until I lost my muse, writing was so automatic, so real, the words and scenes and dialogue so vivid, that writing was really very easy for me. Then I lost my muse, and it's never returned. This loss happened just a month or two before I retired from the world of work. The loss of my muse was a terrible loss. Before very long it became apparent that it wasn't coming back, and it hasn't.

Despite that, writing was all I knew. It was still my dream, and I had (still have) much unfinished/unpolished material to work on. For the past three years I've been living off that surplus; yes, I've been living off the past. My short story collection The Gunman in Black was the first original fiction I'd written in three years. I've also written three more stories yet to be published. This appears to have been a temporary burst of creativity, because I've been unable to write anything new since February. In fact, I've been unable to write anything except a few blog posts and entries in my journal . As far as fiction goes, my mind seems to have become completely blank. I fear that my ability to write fiction has died.

The question has been floating around in my mind for a while now. Is it time to call it quits? The thought of trying to write a novel, to spend months and months, possible years, on it, struggling with every sentence, every scene, with all the complexities of creating a novel, seems an impossible task now. Lately, I haven't been able to even grasp the possibility of doing so. It just seems too difficult now. So, is it time to call it quits as a writer?

The desire to write still comes and goes. But it doesn't lead to action. So, I've been trying to accept the reality of my situation. Maybe it is time to call it quits.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Portrait of the Artist as a Novice Artist

A few of my drawings and paintings.

Blind Contour Self-Portrait (pen and ink)

Wine Bottles and Mask (charcoal and conte)

Father and Child (soft pastels)
Street in France, or someplace in Europe (soft pastels)
Desert Moon (oil pastels)

The Studio (pastel and conte)

Mask (oil pastel)

Hope you enjoyed a few of my paintings and drawings.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Painting is amazing.

As some know, I took two drawing courses this past school year at the U of North Florida. (We senior citizens don't have to pay tuition, just parking, supplies, and lab fees.) I completed Drawing I and Drawing II.

Now this is very basic drawing, drawing what you see, perspective, value, line. Almost all the work was done in graphite or charcoal. We also worked  a little with black and white conte.

My first course was a real eye opener about drawing. I didn't feel that I was very good. But I learned a lot. That course was pen and ink, then graphite, and some color pencil. I learned about such things as contour drawing and blind contour drawing and one-point and two-point perspective.

My second course concentrated on value using charcoal. I did not enjoy working in charcoal until near the end of the course, when it finally dawned on me the value of working in charcoal, learning to recognize value. Then I began to enjoy using charcoal. I've used it a little since the second course ended.

In both courses, we had to produce a portfolio at the end of the course. This was a valuable experience. Showing a range of work, and seeing how your work looks, and receiving criticism from your classmates and instructor, is critically important. It was not something I expected to have to do when I signed up for the first course. It was an exciting experience. As an artist, you must be able to take criticism. It's a great way to learn.

Some of the students were amazing artists, although every single picture by every single artist had something that could be improved. And we all knew it.

Here's the thing. I enjoy drawing much more than I thought I would. I can stand in front of my easel for hours. I've been working mostly in pastels. I'm particularly drawn to oil pastels at the moment. I'm working with still lives and abstracts. I have so much to learn. I've barely scratched the surface. I can't wait to take more courses.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Before Sunrise, or pride preceedith a fall

[movie review: Before Sunrise]

For me to review a movie, it must have something special about it. It's not just entertaining. It must have a thematic element that goes beyond mere plot and entertainment. Now, it doesn't have to be deep. It doesn't have to be astoundingly brilliant. I really don't expect those elements from a movie. But it needs to have a subtext that I find intriguing. Before Sunrise has that element, and it's an interesting one, one that goes beyond those of most movies.

The concept is intriguing. Boy, who is on his last day in Europe, meets girl. They fall in love...or do they? He asks her to spend the rest of the day with him. Their love grows...or does it? At sunrise, he must go back to the states. What will happen? This is not a trivial matter? Well, I won't spoil the movie for you. But, the subtext, the struggle for the truth about love...well, I won't spoil it for you.

Now this is a movie for fan fiction. I'm telling you, Before Sunrise begs for fan fiction. Maybe I'll give it a try.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

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Google Reader Is Going Away

As probably the whole world knows by now, Google Reader is being discontinued in July 2013. I'm solving the problem, at least for now, by following my favorite blogs by email for those that offer the option. Some don't; all should.

I'm asking that all my followers, if you want to continue being notified of my posts, to please sign up to follow my blog by email. It'll add another email to your inbox, and multiply it by all the others you follow by email, your inbox will become much larger. That is the main drawback. But you will not have to rely on a third party to tell you what's going on.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Love New Orleans, a city risen from the dead

This past weekend I visited my daughter who lives in New Orleans. It was the first time I'd been there since about one-month before the city was struck by Hurricane Katrina. I didn't know what to expect, although I'd heard the city was pretty much back to normal. What I found is much more than what I had expected. New Orleans is a city risen from the dead.

My daughter lives on Napoleon Avenue near the corner of St. Charles Avenue, in the Garden District. Napoleon is a wide street divided down the middle by a large green median. On either side the street is lined with huge Live Oaks that spread their limbs out over the street like sheltering arms. It was an overcast rainy day when I went for a walk along the street, which was perfect for the mood I was in. There is so much sensual material to deal with as you walk along that you don't know what to pay attention to first.

One thing you have to deal with is the broken sidewalks. The tree roots are so large and high that they've broken and lifted the six-foot-wide concrete sidewalks into an uneven surface, perhaps dangerous to some, although the joggers, of which there are many, don't seem to mind. These roots and jagged sidewalks add character that says Nature rules.

Opposite the trees along the sidewalk are the iron fences, many of them covered with white-flowering jasmine bushes that fill the air with their pungent odor. There are also brick or concrete walls dividing the street from the front yards of the two- and three-story Victorian mansions. You can't help but sneak a peek through the cracks in the walls at the gardens within. Most of the gardens are filled with flowering plants of all  types and colors. Patios and fountains also abound. And, as I looked at the mansions, I longed to sit on their large porches and balconies. I wanted to live in one of those houses. Here and there between the houses are the old school buildings and churches, such as Touro & Sophie B. Wright Synagogue & Charter School. I also came upon St. Elizabeth's Asylum, first built in 1865 and renovated several times. They are both huge buildings with lush green landscaping.

I passed the restaurant we had eaten at the night before, the Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar--New Orleans, with its triangular shaped gas lights projecting from the walls and the window seal flowering pots filled with white and purple Periwinkles. While I was there, a trolley rolled by on St. Charles Avenue.

Near the end of my stroll, I came to 1812 Napoleon Avenue, which made me think of  Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, commemorating Russia's defeat of Napoleon's army. I could hear the drums and violins and cellos and other instruments, and the fireworks exploding overhead. It was a fitting end to my journey: New Orleans has been victorious over Katrina. It is more alive now than ever.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers (2): Magic or Madness?

Late one afternoon, I received a phone call from my daughter. She had a flat tire and had pulled over on the side of the road, and would I come help her.

I drove to where she was, which was only two or three miles from my home. I parked my car in front of hers and opened the trunk of her car to remove the spare tire and the jack. I also found the triangular reflecting emergency stand I had bought at a yard-sale for a dollar, and set it up. I took out the tire, then I began trying to remove the jack, but it was wedged beneath a cross-over bar that held it in place. It was getting dark as I pulled, and tried twisting or lifting, the jack, but it would not come out from beneath the cross-over bar. It was stuck. A car pulled up behind me and red and blue lights started flashing. It was a police car, giving me some added protection. I returned to trying to remove the jack, getting more and more frustrated, feeling like a fool. My daughter and her friend stood off on the side of the road watching me, waiting.

A car pulled up beside me. In the near darkness I could see a man with a woman passenger. The man got out of the car and walked up and asked, "Can I help?" I said, "Well I can't get this jack out." He reached down, picked the jack up, and handed it to me. "Anything else I can help you with?" I managed to stammer a "How did you do that?" He didn't answer. I said, "No, that's it." He walked back to his car, got inside, and drove away as I stood there dumbly holding the jack in my hand.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

I find it humbling that I have benefited from the kindness of strangers more than once. This story is one instance that is pretty amazing to me. It's rather mundane, I suppose. But to me it was a miracle.

My wife Susan and I were parked outside of a major chain home supply store. We'd just finished shopping. I couldn't get the car started. The ignition would not turn over. The battery was probably dead. A few rows of cars away, there was a group of men, construction workers, one of whom saw us in our dilemma. How he knew what this dilemma was, or that we were stuck, I do not know. He came walking over to us. He was Hispanic, who knows, maybe an illegal alien, I don't know. He didn't speak English as far as I could tell. He motioned for me to get out of the car, which I did. He got in the driver's seat and stared at the dashboard. He turned the ignition key part way and looked closely at the instrument panel. I'm not sure what he was looking at, although I imagine he was looking at something to do with the battery. After thirty seconds or so, he leaned closer to the dashboard and, as if now was the right moment, he turned the ignition key and the engine started running. He got out of the car and in broken English told me I needed a new battery. He walked back to his group of men while I stood there dumbfounded. I got back into the car and drove directly to an auto-supply store. I've often wondered if this man was a real person or an angel. All I know for sure is that he was kind to me and my wife for no reason at all.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lawrence Durrell: Travel Writer Extraordinaire

I've been reading from The Lawrence Durrell Travel Reader, edited by Clint Willis. The book contains selections from several of Durrell's travel books. Durrell lived quite a while in the Greek islands just before and long after World War II. And he wrote about his experiences.

Besides being interesting stories in their own right, it's Durrell's power of description that amazes. He is one hell of a writer. I'm sharing with you a few of his magnificent descriptions. This is writing at its best.

This first quote is perhaps Durrell's philosophy of travel writing.

"It is here [in the landscape of a place] that the travel-writer stakes his claim, for writers each seem to have a personal landscape of the heart which beckons them."

The author is in a ship in a storm:

"Throttled down as far as she would go the HDML skidded along the surface of the sea with the waves breaking over her in a series of stabbing white concussions. We braced our feet firmly and listened to the dull whacking of the hull against the water, and the dismal sound of crockery being smashed in the galley. From this time forward we lived on all-fours, crouching like apes whenever we wished to move about the ship."


"The dawn came up as thick as glue; westward the sky had taken on the colour of oiled steel. The storm had passed over us, leaving behind it only a heavy sea propped up in an endless succession of watery slabs."

Here is a description of Kalymnos:

"Never has one seen anything like it--the harbour revolving slowly round one as one comes in. Plane after stiff cubistic plane of pure colour. The mind runs up and down the web of vocabulary looking for a word which will do justice to it. In vain."

Here is a description of Leros:

"The harbour is choked with sunk craft, and the little town has been very badly bombed. A miasmic gloom hangs over everything. God help those born here, one mutters, those who live here, and those who come here to die."

And Leros again:

"The evening comes down, smudged with rain, from a sky of dirty wool. We stand at the great bay window and watch the skirls and eddies roar into the landlocked harbour and dance like maniacs in the riggings of the caieques."

Finally, perhaps ironically, he writes about his years in Corcyra:

"How can these few hastily written words ever recreate more than a fraction of it?"

Yet that's what travel writers do, try to express the totality of their experience in a few words. Durrell comes close to doing so.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Travel: It's The Journey That Counts (Travel Story)

When I was in Europe back in 1971, I rode in a hovercraft across a body of water. It was a commuter hovercraft with maybe twenty passengers. I was completely focused on the experience. It was a thrill riding in this air/boat in the shiny glittering choppy surf. I felt as if I were the only passenger and that this ride was a special gift from Providence. And it probably was, because I've never forgotten it.

Here's the thing, though. I cannot remember where this body of water was, nor which country it was in. My inclinations say it was in England. But, I'm not sure. Did I cross the English Channel in it? I think not. Was I in Scotland or France, even Spain or Italy? I cannot remember. What I do remember is the excitement, the wonder, I felt at riding in that amazing craft.

I think this reflects the notion that it isn't the destination that matters--it's the journey. Where I was and where I was going then aren't important today. What is important is the experience and the memory of it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fan Fiction: How Exciting

I've never read fan fiction. I've only heard about it and how some authors have turned their own version of other writers' stories into a fortune.

I've come to this post because of another blogger's post: JeffO. Jeff has some qualms about it. I don't share his worries. I'd be excited to see my characters take on new lives. I'd be flattered by it. Would I want a piece of the pie, should the author achieve monetary success with it? No. More than likely the fan fiction would probably entice new readers to read my stories. If not, oh well.

Characters in stories, movies, whatever, become public property, so to speak. They belong to everyone. Readers conjure up in their own minds while they're reading a story what characters looks like, who they are, where they're from, what their motives are, so on and so forth. And each reader has a slightly different view of a character. And that's probably where fan fiction originates, from a desire to see the characters in that reader's fantasy world.

One of Jeff's concerns is originality. Piggy-backing off another writer is not being original. But don't all of us writers piggy back off of what we see and read. Someone said there's nothing original under the sun and that the Greeks said it all. So we're just retelling old stories, sort of. I know, when I'm reading a novel, I often imagine a different scenario for what's going on. So, that scenario becomes my story, should I decide to write it. That's probably what fan fiction is.

Anyway, I have no problem with it. I think it's a fantastic way of viewing the world.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Erotica: It's A Woman Thing

I recently read a romance that was a gradual titillating buildup to sexual gratification--at last! It took a hundred or so pages to get there. And, when it finally got there--wow. I don't know if this is the way all erotic romance works, but I suppose, based on random sampling, it is, with a thousand variations, I imagine.

Here's the rub. Men cannot read like that. Not in public anyway. The constant tension on the sexual organs is too much for a man. Too much for this man, at least. I've read that e-readers are excellent for women. They read this stuff off and on during the day. No one knows what they're reading, and they are being sexually aroused all day long, I suppose. The female body can handle it. Men have a tendency, perhaps even a need, for immediate release. The woman needs a lot of foreplay. Erotic romance is perfect for this.

I look at the books in the erotica category and go to various websites: it's populated mostly by women, it seems. Women authors. A man can't very easily compose this stuff. Again, it's the tension on the sex organs. It can get downright painful after a few hours of thinking about the sex act and all it's variations, I mean painful to the sex organs. Apparently, women can write about this and think about it all day long, and it doesn't hurt their sex organs. Apparently it actually gives them great pleasure.

I've often read that female is the superior gender. In this case, it seems to be true.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Be Thankful For What You Have (Travel Story)

On a recent trip to visit my daughter in Stockbridge, Georgia, my wife, grandson, and I stayed at a motel. It was a cheaper one run by Indians (from India). The motel advertised a Continental Breakfast. When we came to our breakfast in the ten-by-eight dining area with two or three small tables, we found a few boxes of cereal, some bagels,  milk, and coffee. A man who had also come to breakfast said, "It's a real smorgasbord." A woman nearby said, "He should be thankful for what he has."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux

I'm reading a most wonderful book: The Tao of Travel by Paul Theroux. He is one of my favorite travel writers. His memoir Sir Vidia's Shadow is my favorite memoir and one of my favorite books, period. In many ways, Theroux has lived the kind of life I wished I had lived, and I have managed to live in small doses. (Pico Iyer is another one of my favorite travel writers. Actually, there are many.)

I've done a little travel writing and would like to post the articles sometime. I just don't know if I should do it as a part of this blog or set up a separate blog devoted to travel writing. For now, it'll be here. How many blogs can I maintain anyway?

I relish reading travel writing. It always conjures up memories of my own travels. Sometimes it summarizes better than I can what I've been through, too, and sometimes I fill in from my own experiences what that writer missed. So, reading travel writing is a shared journey with the author.

Some of the most wonderful results of traveling are the anecdotes, the stories inspired by our travel experiences. They are more interesting than the places we've traveled to. After all, a travel story is the essence of travel. That's why we travel--to bring back our stories.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Painted Veil, or how good can a movie be?

[Movie Review: The Painted Veil]

I know I've watched a special movie when I wake up in the middle of the night reliving some of it's scenes, thinking about the characters, and what it all means?

The Painted Veil is a deep movie: deep on an emotional level. The entire time I watched it, I was engaged in the characters, and how these two pretty ordinary people (Dr. Walter Fane and his wife, Kitty) became involved in a dangerous event. The tension between them is riveting, the outcome undecided until the very end. The ending of the movie was not surprising, although a bit ironic and, in some ways, satisfying. But everything before it was extraordinary.

This is not the kind of movie one wants to see; it's the kind one wants to live.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Baby Boomers, What Are We To Do?

There's a new genre of writing developing called Boomer Lit, What is boomer lit?, apparently being brought to you by the same people who developed, or for whom, YA Lit was developed, us Baby Boomers. Now that we're aging (retiring), what are we to do? How are we to fill our days? What is expected of us? What do we expect of ourselves? Of course, our writings will reflect the answers to those questions. But actions speak louder than words. So, what are we to do?

Are we to sit back and luxuriate in the large and small fortunes many of us have amassed over the past forty years? Are we to pat ourselves on the backs and watch T.V. off into the sunset? Do we go out with a whimper or a bang, to borrow from T.S. Eliot? We came into the world rather quietly, I believe. I don't think our parents realized what they were doing, what they were unleashing on the world, when they produced us out of the goodness of their hearts and love for each other. Our parents were the products of The Great Depression and WWII. We children shared in the spoils of their victory.

My father was a U.S. Marine who fought in the Pacific. He was never one to boast about the war. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard a single WWII veteran boast about what he did. They were too busy getting back to living. The war was their launching pad to a new era and a new way of life. Like so many of the men who fought in WWII, my father came off the farm to live a different life than his parents had lived. He experienced too much in the war to ever go back to just struggling on the farm. And there was no blueprint for my father to follow, or for many of the men back then to follow. They had to figure it out for themselves. And they did. We are a part of their experiment.

I plan on writing more and more about Boomer Lit and living this end-stage of my life. Hopefully, I'll be better in old age than I was in my youth.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Breakfast at Tiffany's, or Holly Golightly's heavy heart

[Movie Review, Breakfast at Tiffany's]*

The 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany's has, no doubt, one of the most beautiful musical scores in "Moon River", an opening song that intimates the delicacy of this movie. If the movie lives up to this score, then a high level of success has been achieved.

Holly Golightly is a confused, heavy-hearted girl, who hides her confusion and sadness behind a happy-go-lucky, frivolous mask, a mask that has to break if she is to become a genuine person. Her agent, OJ, calls her a phony, but a genuine phony, because she believes all the phoniness. She is living a life totally different from the one she knew as a child, while, deep inside, she is still that child.

Holly's childhood, which is at the crux of her problems, is not dealt with much in the movie, which is perhaps its chief weakness. We simply have to take Holly as she is without knowing much about her. Deep inside, Holly is afraid to love. She substitutes having fun for living. She simply doesn't take life seriously enough. And when she meets up with love, she runs away from it instead of running toward it. How to change directions is at the heart of the movie. Will she change directions? Will she stop running from love and start running toward it? Finding out is really the joy of this movie.

I felt genuine empathy for Holly Golightly. And the movie indeed lived up to the musical score. I could watch it again and again.

* This is a new venture for me: reviewing movies. A lot of writers do so on their blogs, and sometimes I just want to throw my two cents in. Ninja Alex has just run a blog hop in which people list their top ten movies. Pretty interesting to see the lists. Some movies pop up over and over again. Most of them I've never seen, so I've got some catching up to do. Happy movie watching.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The ups and downs of writing.

To be honest, I haven't written anything in about three weeks. After a fabulous Jan. and Febr., I've run out of steam. I guess I'm facing the old writer's block. Going out of town for a few days and getting sick didn't help. But now it's just plain writer's block. How do I get the wheels spinning again? I've seen many posts that help you break out of writer's block.

I know the only real way to do it is to start writing: just write anything to get the juices flowing. But, right now, I'm just unable to do it. The past few weeks, I've told myself "Monday I've got to start writing a story". But the past few Mondays have been tied up with doctors' appointments for either me, my wife, or my grandson. Just can't get started. Then Tuesdays haven't been much better. Oh, I have a thousand excuses. The truth is that I just can't do it right now.

So I've been doing some other things.

I've started developing my website. It's nowhere near ready to go live. I'm just beginning to format the first page. So far it says R Patrick Hughes as the title and the next line says Author. That's it. That's as far as I've gotten. But it's pretty thrilling to see that I've actually got something, that it is possible to do it. It'll probably take me months to finally go live with it.

I listened to a terrific interview between authors CJ Lyons and Joanna Penn. the creative penn (I tried to link up to the actual interview, but couldn't figure out how). Ms Lyons doesn't blog, tweet, or participate in any social media, if I remember correctly. She only has a website. And she has millions of sells. She says blogs are for writers (not your readers). Websites are for your readers. Readers aren't interested in your writing life; they are interested in your product, and that's what the website is for. So I'm jumping on the website bandwagon. I just can't afford to pay someone two or three thousand dollars to do it for me. So, I'll just do it myself.

If I'm truly suffering from writer's block, I at least want to spend the time productively.

How about you? Have you suffered from writer's block? How do you overcome it? Do you have a website? Do you want to set one up?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

When you've bitten off more than you can chew....

Writing a short story a week for 50 weeks was way overly ambitious. Not that I haven't done it, because, thus far, I have. But last week's story was very short, less than 2k words. And this week's story is nowhere in sight. I was out of town over the weekend, and I came home with a bad cold, perhaps a touch of the flu. Writing a story this week isn't going to happen. So, I'm revising my plans.

The story a week was putting too much pressure on me, anyway. I don't need it. I'm now on the "I'll write a story as I can" mode. Hopefully, I'll be working on something continuously more or less, but no more deadlines. I'd still like to try writing a minimum of 500 words a day, but that absolutely was not happening. There are just too many activities going on in my world to manage it. But I still think it's a worthy objective.

Hope you're meeting your objectives as writers.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Writer's Brave New World

Today's world of e-publishing gives writers a chance to publish all forms of fiction and a place to publish them. The number of publications before e-publishing that accepted short stories and short novels were few and far between. Now, there's a place for almost anything a writer wants to do. To my way of thinking, this is a tremendous improvement over the pre-e-publishing world. Until recently, there was little point in writing short stories, because so few magazines wanted them, and the few who did want them were extremely selective. Your story had to fit their orientation. Today, your short story can fit your orientation, and possibly a lot of readers' orientations as well.

RaShelle Workman wrote a post on her blog Rashelle Workman "the-novelette-and-novella-rule" about the advantages of writing novelettes and novellas. Basically, they're short (novelette 7.5k-17.5k words, novella 17.5k-40k words). Like novels, they have a plot arch or character arch, but they are fast-paced, with little back story and few or no subplots. And, according to her, characters should be drawn vividly.

Recently, I've turned primarily to writing short stories. I hope to write about forty to fifty of them this year, and self-publish them in several e-books. There's always the possibility that one or two of these stories will turn into novelettes or novellas. I'm open to any possibility. I'm no longer tied to the old model of querying literary agents, who query publishers, and then publish as a novel or possibly a collection of short stories if you're a NY Times bestselling novelist. I write what I want to write and self-publish it in the best format possible.

I know several other writers who are writing and self-publishing short novels as e-books. I've seen single short stories self-published as stand alone e-books. It's a new world of publishing. You have the choice of following the old model or the new or some blend of the two. The key is to write as much as you can and put it out there, and to do it as professionally as possible. We no longer have to wait and follow a tortuously slow publishing process.

To me, this is the writer's Brave New World.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Writing More Short Stories

Now that my collection of short stories has been out there a week or so, I've gotten back to writing. I'm still trying to write one short story a week. This week, I'm nearing completion of a new story. Looks like it'll be about 2-3,000 words. I have until tomorrow to finish it for this week, a Monday-Saturday week. I have several other stories in mind and new ideas appearing all the time. So, I'm happy.

I'll say that I'm extremely happy with the sells of The Gunman in Black. Granted, most people would die laughing if they knew how many sells I've had, but I'm ecstatic that I've sold a few copies. I'm amazed, really. The future looks bright to me.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement. It's going to be a great year.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Gunman in Black is now self-published on

My short-story collection The Gunman in Black, 5 stories of crime, is now live. It took me two weeks to proofread, edit, copyright, and upload. I'm happy with the result. There are only one or two formatting mistakes and they are minor. Because the two weeks of editing was more work than I had imagined, I was unable to write a new short story a week. So, my goal of writing fifty stories this year might not be do-able, unless I hit a strong writing streak. But, I'll be happy if I can finish forty or so stories. I have some ideas, and now I can get back to writing.

The cover image fonts had to be reset over and over again, because the words on the cover were not readable as a thumbnail. The present cover seems to be the best.

A new cover can be added at any time, but I'm happy with this one for now.

The biggest challenge was in converting the .docx to Web Page, filtered. It's necessary to make this change in order to insert hyperlinks to allow a reader to go from the index directly to the story she wants to read without scrolling through each page to get there. Actually, switching to Web Page was relatively easy. What confounded me was going back in new files to .docx. I spent hours trying to figure that one out. I finally joined Microsoft Community, explained my problem, and within a few minutes someone gave me the answer. I was so relieved, you can't imagine. There is so much help out there if you just look and ask.

If you get a chance to read the stories, I hope you enjoy them. And, please send me a comment via e-mail, or on this blog, or a review on about the stories. I'd like to know what you think.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cover Reveal (2)

Based on feedback I've been getting, I've made some changes to the cover. Unfortunately, I do not know how to use Photoshop, or any of the imagining programs. So, I'm pretty limited in what I can do. I hope this cover is more appealing. Please let me know what you think.

Cover Reveal for my short story collection

I've decided on the cover for my upcoming collection of short stories. The title of the book is The Gunman in Black, which comes from the title of the lead story. I would like to hear your feedback on the cover and suggestions you might have for improvements. I hope to publish the book in a week or two.

So, what do you think? Please let me know.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Writing Short Stories (2)

My plan this year to write about fifty short stories and publish them in a series of collections of about 12-15,000 words each is coming along. I've just finished writing the fifth story for the first collection, which will be about 13,000 words altogether. I now have to revise and polish these stories, design a book cover, and publish them on Amazon. I'd like to get it done within one to two weeks. I also hope to write one or two new stories for the next collection while I'm finishing this first collection. It'll be a challenge. But I'm up for it.

I haven't felt this much excitement or optimism about writing in a very long time. I've basically accomplished my goal thus far. I'm eager to see how it all plays out. Sometimes, I wonder if I'll ever work on a novel again. This is just so much more pleasant. The requirements for a short story are much different than those for a novel, much looser. I guess the question is, do I have fifty stories in me. A couple of months ago, I wasn't sure I had even one story within me. So putting out five in about five weeks has surprised me, pleasantly. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Writing Short Stories

Until recently, I had not written a short story in quite a few years, ten or twelve, maybe longer. Late last year, I found myself at an impasse. I was burnt out on writing novels. The two or three or four I'd been working on for several years had grown tiresome. Revising was a struggle. Late November, I decided to take the rest of the year off. However, I got an idea for a short story and started writing. It went smoothly. In less than a week, I had a finished it. The following week, I wrote another story. The next week, I wrote another one. The week after that, I started another short story and finished it the following week. And now I'm sold on writing short stories. I feel as if I can cover more territory in less time. I've been reinvigorated.

I know that writing novels is the mother load of writing. It's what gets you noticed. It's what sells, much more so than short stories. But, I'm beginning to think that maybe, with the ereaders, short stories will sell again. Reading something on your ereader that you can finish on your work break or while sitting in the doctor's office is desirable for some people. Whether it's a huge demand, or just a slight demand, there is probably a market for it. In fact, I'm sure I heard this from other writers.

I have no idea whether short stories will attract many readers. But, I'm willing to try. So, my writing plan now is to write short stories for a while, maybe the rest of this year. I'd like to publish a book of short stories every couple of months. I'm trying to write one story each week. That should give me about six to eight stories for each book. It should give me close to fifty stories for the year, and six books. Can I accomplish this? I'm not sure, but I will give it a try. I know, a positive thinker would say, I will do it. I will accomplish my goal. OK, I'll give it a try. I will accomplish my goal. There. Now you have it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rebirth as an Artist.

I'm excited with my new approach to writing and blogging. Thus far, I'm satisfied, even a bit ecstatic, over my new writing of short stories. I'm finding new inspiration in some of the new blogs I'm following. This reaching out to different blogs focusing on different subjects--philosophy, art, poetry, music, photography, self-discovery--plus my second drawing course, has rejuvenated me. I feel reborn: a new person. I'm happier now than I have been in a long, long time. Stepping out of your old ways into new ways of viewing life and doing things is powerful. I highly recommend it.

It amazes me that, at 66 years old, I can feel this way. It's not a 66-year-old feeling. It's a childlike one.

My drawing courses and my attempt to work with pastels has taken a bit of time out of my days. But, it's a time I'm beginning to look forward to more and more.  My artistic talent is minimal, but it feels huge in my mind. Perhaps it's a delusion. But I'm having fun with it.

Tanya Reimer told me I should write for men, men's stories, which is part of my move to crime fiction. That's a man-thing, isn't it? I know, a lot of females write crime fiction.

I don't know where this fascination with criminal minds comes from. I think it's in part because we know, deep down inside, committing a crime is something we'd all do if the right circumstances came about. Many of us have already committed crimes during our lives. Perhaps they were petty crimes, stealing something from a friend, beating someone up, breaking something that belongs to someone else. Perhaps some of us have committed more serious crimes. There's a dark side to everyone, a shadow side, and to ignore it is to do so at your own peril.

How long and how deeply I'll delve into crime fiction is yet to be determined. All I know for sure is the ideas are swirling, and that's a good thing.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Write what I like, or write what readers like?

As a writer, you have to decide if you write what you like and hope readers will like it, too, particularly today's readers, or do you write what you think today's readers like, and hope they  will also like it? Of course, if your mindset is "I like writing horror," or whatever, and many readers love horror, then you have the ideal situation, that is, you and the readers enjoy the same thing. Of course, I'm talking about writing for publication and financial survival. If you don't care about either, then the point is moot.

I've come to the conclusion that the majority of fiction readers today do not care much for nuances, subtle variation, or poetic language. What do they care about? They want extreme emotion: extreme hatred, extreme love, extreme sex, extreme friendship and the extreme straining of that friendship (maybe it's always been that way, now that I think about it [Sophocles, Homer, Shakespeare, Hugo, Camus, and on and on and on]). The more extreme the better. Of course, it has to work as a story and, preferably, a fast-moving story.

Perhaps it's the result of the television and motion picture industries that we've come to the point we're at now. Slow moving, "normal," has become boring. Abnormal has become appealing. We want our characters to be bigger than life, and their struggles titanic (and violent). We want our characters to be beautiful, but flawed, but beautiful just the same. We want our stories to enthrall.

This is a pretty tall order. But it is doable. We writers have to realize the reality of today's literary marketplace and go for it. Otherwise, our chances of being published and reaping financial success are limited at best.

I'm attempting something that is, for me, new. I'm venturing into crime fiction. I've completed three short stories that I will self-publish as part of a collection when I've written enough to complete a decent-sized collection, say a total of twelve- to fifteen-thousand words. Right now, I've written almost eight-thousand words with the three stories I've completed. I've written a story a week for the past three weeks, and am planning a forth one now. I'd like to write a story a week to reach the five or six or thereabouts stories, revise (proofread primarily), and self-publish. Hopefully I can have a Beta reader or two. But I'm really not too concerned about that. I'm following what I perceive as the Jack London plan of action: just write it; don't worry about perfection. Not every story written by every great writer was a masterpiece. As long as the reader likes it, that's what matters.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Battles and other stories" is free today on Amazon for Kindle.

My short story collection Battles and other stories is free today on It's under R. Patrick Hughes and the title of the book. Please feel free to download.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writing Anew

I've read many times in many places the saying, maybe by Albert Einstein, I'm not sure, that failure is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. I've been thinking about that during the past month or so, trying to determine if I'm caught in that vicious loop. I've decided that maybe I am. I've been writing the same kinds of stories (novels) for ten or fifteen years, and getting the same results, which haven't been satisfying. I know, many writers are successful writing the same things (thematically, or genrewise, or parts of a series). But it hasn't happened for me. Perhaps it's time for a change.

So, I've decided on a new approach to writing. What is this amazing new approach? It's following in the footsteps of Jack London. Write 2000 words a day, everyday, without worrying about perfection. Just get the story down. Keep writing. It's kind of like automatic writing, I suppose. Some of it will be sucky, some of it will be good, and maybe some of it will be great. But don't worry about that. Just write your 2000 words per day, come rain or shine.

I'm not sure I'll aim for 2000 words a day. My days are pretty cramped with life responsibilities, like house cleaning (yeah, I do some of that), chauffeuring my grandson back and forth to school, taking drawing classes (I started my second class yesterday), collecting art (I'd love to be an art dealer), blogging/reading blogs, doctor's appointments, shopping for groceries (yeah, I do that, too), and a thousand other things I can't think of right off hand (mowing the lawn, maintaining the pool, etc.). So maybe I'll be happy with 500 or 1000 words a day.

With that in mind, I did something during the past few weeks I haven't done in ten or fifteen years. I wrote a short story. I just wrote it. No worrying about whether it's any good. No worrying about which genre it belongs to. No worrying about anything other than finishing the story, which I have done. It's about 2300 words long. I'll have to get a Beta reader for it. But that will come in time, hopefully. I'm thinking I'll write some more short stories: just write them. Polish them as they are, more or less, and move on to the next story. Publish them as a collection, eventually, once I have a decent number written.

I'll apply the same approach to any novels I might work on or write in the future.

Yeah, I like the change. Hopefully, the results will be better.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Only The Lonely" is free on Amazon today.

I guess I got my dates mixed up. I see that Only The Lonely is free on Amazon today.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Only The Lonely giveaway not working

Something has gone wrong with my give away of Only The Lonely today. I'll figure out what went wrong and redo it. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Friday, January 4, 2013

"Only The Lonely" free on Amazon Monday Jan. 8

My self-published novel "Only The Lonely" is free on Amazon on January 8; one day only.

I haven't been offering the novel for free because it has a formatting problem with paragraph indentations. I've wanted to fix the problem, but my attempts failed. But when I read it, especially on the Kindle Fire (I love the back lighting), it looks good enough to read.

My short-story collection "Battles and other stories" will be free on Amazon on January 15; one day only.

I hope someone reads them and gives me feedback, especially a review on Amazon and Goodreads.

I hope to add a book or two this year. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"How I Write, The Secret Lives of Authors" Editied by Dan Crowe (3)

More 'secrets' of various writers on how they write:

Siri Hustvedt: found a group of keys on a key chain with the label "Unknown Keys" that belonged to her deceased father. She keeps them as symbols that unlock the various "dream spaces of fiction" in her mind.

A. L. Kennedy: keeps a pocket-sized notebook for the book she's working on and carries it everywhere she goes to note everything about the story and characters.

Willy Vlautin: writes between races at the horse race track . He feels at home there.

James Flint: drinks copious amounts of Yerba Mate (a drink from Argentina), which is said  to relax the muscles and stimulate the mind.

Jane Smiley: when she doesn't know what to write next, she takes a hot soaking bath, and what to write next comes to her.

Hanif Kureishi: Has various rituals for writing--obsessions. If you're not obsessive, you're not a writer, she says.

Michael Thorne: spends a lot of time walking and thinking.

Michael Faber: listens to music, but music that is not connected with what he's writing. E.G., he might listen to jazz while writing about Victorian England.

Hope you're noting all this down.