Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Click and the Dead

Countdown over. Should I have reached the conclusion, it would have meant the end to hummingbird feeding season. It also would have meant that I must not have a writer's soul by not feeling the pain of the absence of writing for nearly six months. As it is, I'm putting my chair into fighting position against the desk and firing from all pens. Bring on the vivid verbs, annihilate anemic adverbs, assess active adjectives, and look for muscle beach, iron pumping nouns.

Did you read the story about the protagonist who had no motivation?

Probably not. And it ain't happening here either.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

God versus the Chicken

It's 7 a.m. I don't have to pick the garden vegetables, because I did so last night. Living large off the garden in summertime. To get chickens next or not get chickens is the question. Free eggs aren't free, I argue. Aside from the small cost to buy the original four or five chickens, it's the daily chore of scooping up the eggs while being pecked to death by a lethal weapon. While the poop is great fertilizer, I bet the deposits will be like Sydney, our pet cockateil, presents--distributed indiscriminately and often on my shoulder. I swear I can hear him chuckle, "I want more mashed potatoes!" Then there's the foxes, raccoons, and wild dogs. One more reason, they do not need to climb over or burst through the fence that seems so impregnable at the moment. And I know they will be named, and there goes any hope of a free Sunday dinner.

Nope. I have to draw the line at chickens once again and enjoy the guest bedroom for a few days will I chicken scratch a few more words on the topic of God's grace in my next novel.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Recorders versus Blogging

Hard to blog at 28.8 modem while downloading massive YouTube recorder concerts for your wife. The tropical storm fizzled and missed us. No large amounts of rain as desired. Now the furnace is turned on for the next two days, 100 or so. Time to hibernate inside after picking vegetables, chopping wood, pullling weeds, moving mulch, stacking concrete, running from moisquitoes, slapping at horseflies, shooing away deer, drowing squirrels, feeding fish and birds, and weedwhack the weeds. Hey, at least the late summer corn crop is growing like a weed. I cannot believe it, eight days planted and six inches high. Must be the potent squirrel poop in that part of the yard. Oops. Gotta go throw the laundry in the dryer and pretend I've written 500 words today. "Really, Mr. Barretta. It's all in my head."

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Mafia and My Garden Wall

76 days to go...Hauling concrete chunks from a nearby construction site so I can continue work on my garden wall is my equivalent to working out at the gym. I just wonder when I'm going to find an arm or a leg or a decomposing Mafia hit. Why do they always show up buried in concrete?

Snakes? I've seen a few. One or two brown haired rodents, also. Mice or rats or muskrats, I don't know. The wall is starting to take good shape after years of working on it. And yes, three days ago she approached me with the inevitable, "Can we move this thirty foot section of the wall six inches in this direction so I can put in more daises?" I'm beginning to understand the Mafia a whole lot better.

Come on rain. I don't want to water tomorrow.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Third Graders and the Playboy Centerfold

77 days to go...Okay, I finished Elizabeth Lyon's book, "Manuscript Makeover" today in between scoring Connecticut third grade narrative papers about the most exciting day in kid's lives. Can you say these kids have yet to live, well, except the kid who's been to the moon, Jupiter, and Pluto causing NASA to re-establish Pluto as a planet based on the space debris he brought back to earth. That kids been around.

EL's book has be almost excited to revise my three completed novels. Need to chose one and make a go of it. Her book is excellent, and it is dogeared worse than a teenager's copy of Playboy with Barbie Benton inside. Bonus points for anyone who can tell me who BB was without goggling the Internet.

Also cut all the grass along the road when I got home. Zen and the art of grass cutting. Did mine, the common area, my next door neighbor, and kept on going and did the guy's down at the end of the cul-de-sac. Then I cut my yard, weed whack a sensitive area, burned some invasive weeds in the burn pit, watered a new area where I planted corn six days ago. The corn is already four inches high! Thems some good seeds.

My foot hurts. A gout attack is in my near future. It is off to bed I go to dream about monsters, snakes, and clam bakes with a girl named Becky. (Don't tell my wife.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Writing and Shouting

78 days to go...Man, that teleportation really messes with the ability to write. Anyone doing any writing worth shouting about?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Teleportation Achieved

93 days to go...

...I believe I've sufficiently recovered from my drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Apex, North Carolina to report that I drove the 2,236 miles in 38.5 hours. Why did I do it so fast? I don't know, but I told my wife I would stop once I got tired. That didn't happen, however, until Charlotte, North Carolina. That's when I found out that the car had a teleportation device button. Next thing I know, I'm home in the driveway. Now I'm mad at my niece for not telling me about this device. Now, my left wrist hurts. I'm not sure if it is from the drive or a lingering affect of being teleported those last few miles.
* EATS: What a shock! Only three diet cokes and two candy bars consumed for the entire trip. That's an amazingly low amount of caffeine.
* TOLLS: There were no tolls along the roads I took, though I did see a troll under the Mississippi Bridge at Vicksburg.
* FASTEST SPEED: 82 mph while getting out of the way of a car approaching from behind traveling over 100 mph. Her curly blonde locks were corralled twenty miles down the road by the state police. Hope she shows up on C*O*P*S.
* WORST CITY: El Paso...Nasty accident and zero options to squeeze by because the town hugs the mountains/desert and the Mexican border. Runner-up, Shreveport, LA. One butt ugly town, twisty roads with quick speed changes; however, it is a small city and the pain is over quickly.
* ODDEST SIGHT: From a distance, the lights of Florence, Texas seem to flicker on and off. Once you got right up to one of the lights, you realize it is hundreds of wind turbines with their nightlights flickering off and on in an enormous display of pale yellow-reddish Christmas lights.
* ANIMALS SEEN ALIVE: Ostrich (hundreds of them), two jack rabbits trying to pace me, a huge alligator turtle trying to cross the Interstate, an armadillo sniffing for clues at the scene of a crime (dead rabbit), a hawk eating a rat on top of a cactus, llamas, alpacas,
* ANIMALS SEEN DEAD: The usual suspects (squirrels, rabbits, turtles, domestic animals) and an alligator.
* Texas never ends.
* The Mississippi was really high, but everything else looked parched and all rivers looked low.
* BIGGEST SURPRISE: How lush and productive the Rio Grande Valley is from Las Cruces, NM, until I left the river valley 100 miles later. Lots of produce, trees, and cows where nothing would be without the river.
* WORST DRIVERS: Atlanta...Yeah, I know that there are a lot of damn Yankees there, but the indigenous population has accepted the awful driving skills. Atlanta drivers are as fast and dude as anything I've seen around Chicago or Boston.
* PHOENIX-to-HILTON HEAD FUTURE TRIP FOR THE LEONARD'S (niece and hubby and kids): Go the southern route. The roads are better; the traffic less. Maybe you'll get a tail wind like I did to smooth out the ride. The northern route (I-40) is almost guaranteed a crosswind. Gas is generally cheap by 5-20 cents a gallon in Texas compared to the northern road. Passage through the major cities is fewer and generally better. As always, go through them during off-peak hours.
* BEST SCENERY: Toss up between AZ/NM border area and where I-10 heads away from the Rio Grande in Texas. Panoramic majesty for both. And I saw my first real mirage. I could swear the lake was there, but there were dust devils coming off the surface of the "water". A true indication that it wasn't water I was looking at.
* BIGGEST BUMMER: No alien encounters or hot, gorgeous hitchhikers. (The two ZZ-top look alikes under a bridge in Mississippi don't count.)
* BIGGEST REALIZATION: You CAN jog in the driver's seat to prevent blood clots in your legs if you're inventive enough, but expect other drivers to give you weird looks and drive far away from you.
...Hey, let's do this again sometime soon.
According to Webster's, soon is an adverb meaning "...really, not in this lifetime." ;-o

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Road Trip

98 days to go...Heading to Phoenix in nine hours to drive a car back to North Carolina. (Doesn't this family ever drive cross-country in say, October! My mind is occupied by road songs and novels.

"Radar Love" by Golden Earring comes burst to the front for the songs. "I've been drivin' down the road, my hands wet on the wheel..."

As far as novels, "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac jumps in front of "Blue Highways" by William Least Heat Moon. Never read "Travels with Charlie" so I can't compare it. My character in "Turning 51" (223 rejections) takes a trip from Raleigh, NC to central PA to Boulder, CO in an effort to unravel a mystery. Yeah, I've done that route more than a few times. Lots of memories, but not any exciting romantic interludes with six-toed blondes with eyes of blue ice. That only happens in Germany, but that's a story for another day.

Got one to share...either novel or song?

P.S. Decided the southern route I-10, I-20, and I-85 since I've only hopscotched that area of the country versus the northern route I-40. I've been on every mile of I-40 from Barstow, CA to Wilmington, NC, and most of it several times.

P.P.S. Obviously this means no entries until I get back home. I know, I know. Disappoint is cluttering the pipelines of the Internet.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scoring New Jersey

1oo days to go...Hard to believe. Better get cracking' soon.

Seventh grade New Jersey students are still trying to persuade me at work where they should go on their field trip, and I continue to score those papers. So where does a 7th grader want to go on their field trips when they think know one will ever know? Six Flags Great Adventure (I'm shocked, not), Dorney Park, Hersey Park, Franklin Museum in Philly, and the Science Museum in Newark, surprisingly large number for Ellis Island with a side order of the Statue of Liberty. Of course, the Jersey shore (or beach) gets many nods, Clementon Park, Stokes, Wildwood, Seaside Heights, Sandy Hook, but surprisingly few mention Atlantic City, except the 13-year-old that knew about the assortment of alcoholic beverages dispensed there. It is nice to see the Natural History Museum in NYC getting copious nods along with the Museum of Modern Art. NYC, in of itself, garnered numerous papers because, by gum it, it's just one fun town.

Some of the more geographically challenged youths opt for day trips to Washington, D.C. along with an afternoon jaunt to Mt. Rushmore. In fact, outside of the tri-state area, D.C. gets quite a few nods. But I won't slight Baltimore. It's aquarium gets mentioned often. Boston gets some nods, along with Niagara Falls. Some local colleges get the nod for a day field trip: Princeton, NYU, Rider, State College of New Jersey (which I believe used to be Trenton State where I spent three semesters in the dark ages).

Even more geographically (and time management) challenged were students expressing the desire for day trips to Disneyworld, California, Texas, Canada, Slovakia, Uzbekistan, Paris, Rome (multiple times), Italy (yes, I know Rome is in Italy), Greece, Guatemala, and Finland. The country of Africa gets mentioned once in a while. It's only a few hours away.

Smarter kids realize that they can't do these foreign trips in just a day. Persuasive students have suggested longer stays in Canada, California, Hawaii, Australia, the country of Europe, Portugal, Spain, and China. An enterprising lad thought a multi-week trip around the world would enlighten his classmates to the multiplicity of cultures. The teachers could pay for it all. I want a job on that staff.

Of course there are kids out there who are smoking the wackyweed a bit younger than my generation did. I've read to outstanding arguments for a trip to the moon, and one that made a passionate case for being the first school kids on Mars. (Not to mention the first people.)

There were many financially conscientious students who indicated that their schools didn't have the funds for a trip and that we should just have a nice day in the cafeteria or the field next door or the park down the street. They made me want to offer the school some of my meager funds to get these kids inspired to greater heights. These kids should go to the movies with the number of kids who suggested the movies were the correct field trip, and then bowling afterwards.

And then there were the more self-absorbed kids. " the MALL, and the school can give each of us $100 to spend." I'm surprised by the number of uninspired kids who thought the mall is an educational trip. Other uninspired educational trips included: 7th street (not sure what town), Burger King (" we can learn a trade..."), the skating rink ("...because it's fun to laugh at the kids who don't know how to skate and fall down a lot..."), a professional sport's game ("...because I love the [Phillies, Giants, Jets, Rangers, Yankees, Mets, Titans, Patriots, etc.]...") and I only noticed that one of these was a girl. Sorry guys, but 50-yard seats for a Giants-Patriots game in 2008-2009 isn't going to be had for $50.

It's been interesting, and don't get me wrong. Out of the 5,000+ papers I've read, I have read some brilliant essays by 12 and 13-year-old kids, written in forty-five minutes, that would have challenged any Pulitzer Prize winner to exceed.

"There is nothing more important than expanding our knowledge on a field trip to become better human beings and improve society."

Right on, kid, whoever you were.

Monday, June 23, 2008

MMWUC for June 23, 2008

101 days...I've been hiding from my writing computer. It stares at me. It looks lonely. It's off. Two more days of work left, then unemployment strikes at the heart of the wallet again. On Saturday, I fly to Phoenix to drive back my sister-in-law's car. I'm unsure of my route back. I-40 all the way or the southern route on I-10, I-20, and I-85. I'm unsure how fast to go. I once did Denver to eastern PA in 29 hours solo. I'm not sure that marathon driving efforts remain in my blood. Should I take my time and soak up the triple-digit heat of the southwest? Should I go through southern Missouri to Memphis in time to catch the crest of the latest and greatest Mississippi flood. (Yo! It's not the heavy rain, Army Corps of Engineer dudes. It's the funnel dikes and the lack of swamp/wetlands to absorb the excess rain to replenish those wonderfully rich flatlands.) Do I know anyone on either route with couches? Skippy's gone from western Oklahoma to Seattle. A rich millionaire wearing dirty overalls and a hayseed hat once helped me out in Missouri when a strong wind damaged my car once. Wonder if he's still there in Jonesboro? If he is, he's probably pushing 90. I used to know some people in New Orleans, but they're gone with the tide. I met a girl in Winslow, Arizona. Such a fine sight to see. Oh wait! That was the Eagles, not me. (Blogger is acting up. Autosave isn't working. Oh well.) I met a nice girl in Richardson, Texas (not far from Dallas off of I-40). It was just before I met my wife. I doubt that either one would appreciate me dropping in like a WWII paratrooper in northern France in June, 1944.

Maybe I'll just sing my way across Texas...El Paso to Beaumont. Should only take me a day or so.

As for the rest of your wrangling writers, let's make each word count.

Monday, June 16, 2008

MMWUC for June 16, 2008

One hundred and eight days...Elizabeth Lyons, sub-God, (God status if I get published) says in her book that I mentioned a few days ago to practice writing riffs (small little sections of writing). Okay, I will. Wanna know what riff writing is...get the book, you won't be disappointed. Or return tomorrow and see an example.

Otherwise, make time for your writing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blank Sunday

One hundred and nine, how time does fly, or how flies the time. I ain't got nothing today. Waddya you got?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Are we there yet?

One hundred and ten days...

Still reading more of Elizabeth Lyon's "Manuscript Makeover". Can I find improvement in my "finished" manuscripts based on her words of wisdom? Yep. Do I find things that she's suggested that I've done? Yep. Brings up the question that I've addressed before at some time. When do you know you're done? How do you honestly know that you've accomplished the tasks? I guess we never really know and that's why people like the young woman that runs The Rejector blog continually gets queries from the clueless submitting the dregs of the earth as though the dregs were really National Book Award winning material.

Write on! Write on!! Brothers and sisters, amen. Write on!!!

P.S. Shannon...Have you written today? Get on with it!

Friday, June 13, 2008

13 Black Cats are under the Ladder

Where is eveyone today? Must be Friday the thirteenth that has them all spooked. Call me shocked. I saw no new advertisements for another "Friday the 13th" movie.
Jason uses his walker with deadly accuracy only to forget why he the elderly woman is at his feet and smashing his toes. When he remembers, it's too late. He's in his own worst nightmare on Elm Street relieving Halloween over again each night in his dreams. "Friday the 13th: 88 ain't Great"

Mulch Madness

One hundred and eleven days...

Yippee! My new pile of mulch arrived today. 19 cu yards of worm food and weed smothering delight. I know it has nothing to do with writing, but my wife has turned me into a farmer, so this is nearly as good as finishing a piece of flash fiction.
On April 1st, God smote Satan. Satan went to Hell. The damned wept; angels rejoiced. Gas prices still rose.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Don't Like Spiders and Snakes

One hundred and twelve days...

Mosquito bites. "Umm. Just love to scratch them," Ned Flanders said to Homer Simpson. He can have them, along with the spider bites and poison ivy. I hit the trifecta the other night and now I'm scratching like nobodies business, but the silver lining is...I'll get back to you on that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rollcoaster Writing

One hundred and thirteen days...

Where is the love? Some of the persuasion papers I'm scoring at work from seventh grade students in New Jersey that they have to write in forty-five minutes are better than what I can do in a couple of hours with my dictionary at my side. But then again, I don't have a burning passion to convince my principal that Six Flags, Dorney Park, or Hershey Park are educational field trips to examine the extent of their knowledge of gravity, g forces, and the friction cohesion of roller coasters.

Oh yeah, and never forget about all the great and nutritious food you can get at those places that render the cafeteria food "...putrid and poisonous portions of poorly planned poop on a plate." Kid gets an A in my book.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dolores and the Blond

One hundred and fourteen days...

No breeze stirred for weeks. Four weeks. Travis marveled how dust had accumulated on the porch without leaving in the same manner the minute particles had arrived. Ants marched single file across the sand dunes of dust in search of drops of sweet tea he'd allow to fall. He marveled at their persistence then sprayed them with a can of ant and roach killer.

Another line. A think lined of dark clouds lined the edge of the horizon. They quickly ate the sun, and the promise of showers edged closer until darkness became full and the distant bolts of lightning began with the faintness of the bug. Work had drained him and the promise of rain, the first streak of lightning, and finally, a low rumble that didn't come from the direction of the tracks to the east kept him in his chair.

He heard the first breeze before he felt it. The cottonwoods chimed a hundred yards away, and then the breeze swept across the porch, chilled a bead of sweat, and swept the loosest grains of dust off the porch. He reached up and flicked off the porch light. The house was dark. The breeze pushed again. He checked the chamber. Two rounds. He was ready for Dolores.

Monday, June 9, 2008

MMWUC for June 9, 2008

One hundred and fifteen days...

It's hot, sticky, icky, muggy outside. Find the a/c and fire up your computer. Stick your protagonist outside in the broiler and write about him/her.

Okay, weak, but I'm suffering from chocolate milk withdrawal.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dolores and the Blond

One hundred and sixteen days...

Dolores sucked on the Budweiser bottle loud and noisy like a starving baby, even dribbling some of the nectar down her chin and onto her turquoise blouse. When she came up for air, she slammed the bottle down and burped triumphantly. Her long fingers, red painted nails with a spot of yellow in the middle (her signature), rose to her lips in an unspoken apology as though she were a countess and committed a faux pas at a state banquet. The twelve old men failed to notice; they feasted on the only other woman at the end of the bar who wavered on her stool with downcast eyes, young and supple, a redhead in the sea of gray, white, or peppered heads.

Quinton, the bartender, took away the spent soldier and a replacement stood at attention on the coaster. "After a month in the joint, you better go slow."

Dolores hesitated. Four weeks ago, the dirty dozen would have tripped over themselves to buy her a drink for a chance at a peck on the cheek or more later in the night when she was too tired or too drunk to care. She dug into the pocket of her jeans. Two crumpled dollars fluttered to the bar as she eyed Quinton. "After a month in the joint, I have a lot of catching up to do." He walked to the end of the bar with her gaze locked on his tight butt. "Yeah, I've got a lot of catching up to do." Dolores had no mind for long-term planning. Revenge suited her better. She milked the second beer for a long time...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Really, it's just a question of sanity.

One hundred and seventeen days...

It's Saturday. Do you know where your protagonist is? If your protagonist is not in jeopardy, he/she/it isn't working hard enough for you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

"Hot Fun in the Summertime" - Sly and the FS

One hundred and eight teen days...

So, I've put out a fair number of ideas to steal. Anyone take up any of them? If so, how's it going?

Near or over 100 for the next 3-4 days. Can't say I'm all that excited about that. It'd be okay if we'd get a thunderstorm every third or fourth day, but there's not a drop of rain in the forecast for the next seven days, and we've only had less than a half-inch in the last three weeks in my rain gauge. I guess the politicians calling the drought over was more political than reality. Come on, where's a good ol' fashioned tropical storm?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Waterworld Without Kevin Cosner

One hundred and nineteen days...

...and I'm behind schedule by a week.

I've been thinking about the future and writing. Yemen will be out of water by 2020 (NPR report a few years ago). Desalinization plant that Saudi Arabia is thinking of building on their side of the border is tentatively schedule to go on like in 2023 (Something I read from an online UN report years ago). Sucks if you live in Yemen, but I wonder if a proliferation of desalinization plants for the thristy corners of the world will off-set the rising sea water caused by global warming? (Rick skips the sensitive issue of its causes and cyclical nature.)

With the population and farming sucking up more and more of the available fresh water, I would have to think that desalination will have to start on some massive scale. Imagine central Australia watered and a breadbasket to the world. Imagine the interior African countries getting their water via pipelines from the ocean. Maybe Lake Chad (once the fourth largest lake in the world now the size of a large pond) will be filled up again. I'm sure I smell a corporate conspiracy and a different wave of water terrorism coming out of this as well as some hope in some far off desert country who discovers it has a 120B barrel oil reserve and bargains for the water.

Write on, writers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Ice Cream Overload in Summer's Heat

One hundred and twenty days...

Afloat in an ocean of words, I am. Sam. Ma, I swam to near a swanky swan in summer swimwear. Moose Tracks ice cream has frozen my brain. I don't care. Are you even there?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

If at first you don't succeed, try again darn you

One hundred and twenty-one days...

You have only 2-3 days left to read this for free. This Chronicle of Higher Education article holds in the middle a lesson in persevering in order to get your baby published. Maybe I should send out my flock of babies to another couple hundred agents.

Monday, June 2, 2008

MMWUC for June 2, 2008

One hundred and twenty-two days...


Need more?


Still more inspiration?

Revise. Research. Review. Read and embrace "Manuscript Makeover" by Elizabeth Lyon. Run five miles. Rewrite your 25-word synopsis. Re-evaluate your protagonist's motivation. Read "To Kill a Bird That's Been Making Fun of You". Send me a chocolate candy bar. Write. Keep sending out queries--you aren't in the game if you're in the stands.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away."

One hundred and twenty-three days...

RIAA picked the top 25 songs of the century. While I can't really argue against any of them (they are all great songs), it's disappointing that the Beatles didn't have any in the top 25. I found that odd considering that I remember reading an article a few years back. It stated that "Yesterday" was the most covered song in history. That alone should have knocked something out of the top twenty-five. But picking the top 25 songs is like picking the top 25 of anything. It is a difficult task and will never satisfy everyone because we all come to the table with our taste buds set for our own tasty treats. I don't know what my top 25 for anything would look like, but I know these would end up there:

Song: "Jungleland" by Bruce Springsteen
Book: "Ironweed" by William Kennedy
Movie: "The Sixth Sense" by whatshisname Night Shyamalan (of course, if you know anything about me, you know that "Casablanca" is the greatest movie of all time.)
Place: northern Wisconsin in the fall
Food: Chicken soup with kluskies

Do you have a top 25 item that you can't see the so-called experts leaving out of their endless lists?

"Somewhere, over the rainbow..." And the studio heads were going to cut this song! Sheesh!!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Shrubs, Closets, and Suspicions

One hundred and twenty-four days...

The oppressive heat of summer has arrived, and I still have fourteen more shrubs/trees to plant. But, I got the cotton in this morning. ("Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton...oh wait, I am!") I should write a story about a man that goes nuts putting in shrubbery ("SHRUBBERY!") obscuring his house and life from those around him leaving everyone to wonder what he does all day and why there is a steady stream of UPS, FEDEX, and US Mail trucks winding their way up his driveway every day. Soon rumors start, especially after some kids are injured while climbing over a fence and falling into a Fire Thorn bush. Two dogs go missing. A child disappears for an evening and an angry mob grows until she is found sleeping in the closet at her Grandmother's down the street.

"Mommy and daddy where yelling at each other again," she laments as the cop brings her home.

"It doesn't matter that HE didn't have her. He's up to something, and HE should be stopped." The loudmouthed man threw down his spent cigar the angry in him seething as much over HIM as his son who left home after an argument over a used soda straw.

The cops break up the crowd, but soon the neighborhood quiet is disturbed by the clatter of metal and a humming noise that often starts as early as six a.m. It goes on for two months and one night a Molotov cocktail explodes against a line of Korean Boxwood's left to grow up to eight feet in height, the popping of sugary sap sounds like tiny firecrackers on the fourth of July. Though it is extinguished quickly by the fire department, the homeowner is never seen.

And then it happens...

...writing about strange places to live, check out this daring woman with no where to live but in a strangers' closet. I wonder if that show that builds new houses for people will go international and help her out?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Just Watch Which Finger You Grow!

One hundred and twenty-six days.

This article describes an amazing new technique for regrowing human tissue. If you can't develop a plot out of this article, you aren't a writer or you believe Philip Dick wrote all the possible futurist (speculative fiction) stories.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Job or is it Job (the guy in the Bible)?

One hundred and twenty-seven days.

A government funded service offered to help me re-write my resume for better effectiveness for free. Better to have me fully employed I guess, instead of seasonally employed as I am now.

I thanked them for showing me how to use the TAB key to move the dates on my resume from after the job title to the right side of the page. This is really going to help strengthen my job search.

Maybe I can get a job there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Orifice Outrage

One hundred and twenty-eight days.

Long night last night. Wifey with food poisoning. Rather disgusting. Got little done. Asked her to describe her feelings so that I could write them down in a story. The frying pan to my head only caused a small bruise. Never did get the feelings. But now I've got a few of my own.

Monday, May 26, 2008

MMWUC for May 26, 2008

One hundred and twenty-nine days.

Holidays can screw up your sense of what day it is. I knew without consciously realizing it that it was Monday as I drove to pick up two pick-up trucks worth of oak from a fallen tree at a friend's house. Still have to split it, but I'm sure there will be a 50 degree morning sometime soon. (He snickers at his own thought knowing full well that the 50s are not a number on thermometers in the South in the June, July, and August.)

In the afternoon, I went to the concrete graveyard near me to pilfer a load of concrete slabs from some broken sidewalk that met the sledgehammers blows without dignity. It's for the ever larger garden wall. Loaded up, I started my Ford Explorer and drove toward home, a mere four miles away, only to find smoke rising within the car. Oh great, now my car's on fire in the middle of nowhere. Long story short, I stopped the car and let it air out and flagged some guy on a bike who happened to have a cell phone (Yes, I one of the great unwashed without a cell phone.) Called brother-in-law, who is not familiar with the area, to get my wife and come to my stated location. It was a long wait. He went to our house, but couldn't find her. Went home. Never really understood this part. Changed cars. Came back to my house. Went back inside to look for her and couldn't find her. He leaned on the horn to see if she would respond. She didn't. Finally he went to the back side of the house and found my wife in the full sun with near heat stroke. "Didn't you hear the car horn?" "Oh, yes!" "Well." "Well what. I knew it would stop soon." (She sometimes plays Gracie Allen to my George Burns.) So they get in the car to come assist me. (I could have walked home by now.) "I think I need to puke," Gracie says turning a whiter shade of pale. "Not in my car," erstwhile brother-in-law says. Meanwhile, I'm wilting in the hot treeless plains of another developer gone mad PUD. "Come for the rural living." The sign shows a picturesque area of lakes and trees and a brick two story with 2.5 kids in the nearby community swimming pool. I'm always hoping that the .5 kid isn't being sucked into a pool drain like a Japanese beetle (who are arriving late this year by the way). Where was I? Right, I'm melting on the plains of destruction; brother-in-law is driving the car in which heat struck wife is threatening to regurgitate like a momma bird with a brood of ill-tempered Cow birds; sister-in-law is coming now in her car for moral support; thirteen motorists, two motorcyclists, six bikers have passed my propped up hood with my car doors open without stopping to check on the half-naked guy sitting on the curb and wrapped in a dirty sheet to keep the rays of the sun off of him. If fact, the only thing that seems interested in my are six red-headed turkey vultures whose circular pattern is down to the top of the telephone poles. I need to move, but I have to go to the bathroom so I'm concentrating hard.

They arrive. B-i-l checks under the hood. "I've suspected by now that it is the fan blower motor that is causing the problem," I kibitz with all the knowledge of a newborn speculating about brain surgery. He tentatively agrees. I start the car and drive home, the smell tolerable by now. They follow, and when we get home, I empty the concrete while B-i-l tries to see if he can get the fan blower motor out. He can't. Ford Explorers were built to incur expensive repairs. Tomorrow, I search for a inexpensive mechanic who can fix the blower fan on a 1992 Ford Explorer.

Have a happy remainder of the holiday.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

End Days

One hundred and thirty days.

Is the world as we know it coming to a crash? I see the slow growth of a survivalist mentality around me, and I admit that my own ability to survive has taken an uptick in recent years, but it was not provoked by the ideas in the article.

So what does the near and long term hold for us in your stories?

Most of my future based stories show a future of increased polarization: technology-driven societies versus self-sufficient masses, true believers versus non-believers, and cooperative driven individuals versus armed hordes with the vast middle-ground sacrificed to either sides goals and all leading to a world-wide dilemma that ultimately reduces the overall population to half of what it is now...and cycle repeats again.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Early Bird Class at WRW08

One hundred and thirty-one days.

"I'm sorry, but I have a problem with my novel. I don't have a plot. I can't visualize my protagonist or the girl he must save. She's kind of like Molly Ringwald, but not so tall because she has to squeeze into a Magician's Box to escape from someone at sometime and go somewhere to do something for someone. Dialogue seems elusive and the scenes flat. I don't know where it really begins, but I absolutely know how it ends...I think. It's set somewhere where there are mountains, plains, oh, and a desert nearby, and there are blazing hot days and a blizzard that mounds snow higher than Dolly Pardon's (is that how you spell her name) boobs. I've tried to use all five senses, but have trouble with smell and sometimes hearing, although there is a fire-snorting dragon that you hear coming from far off. With those big floppy wings to keep them aloft, dragons will never be accepted to the Navy Seals program. Oh, yeah I forgot, there's two massive armies, and one's not human because they came here from outer space using teleportation device which is who they got the dinosaurs to help them. It doubles as a time machine.

"But my real problem is the 25-word TV-guide pitch. Can you help me?"

Wise John contemplates for a minute at the 7 a.m. Early Bird class at the Writers Retreat Workshop 2008 in Marydale. Writers enter the room as he does so dressed in various personal codes of dress. Some where PJs; others look ready for a business casual meeting. John rubs his semi-bald head, clears his throat. "How about: A bitter dragon battles olfactory obstructions while aiding Rick save the red-headed princess from aliens, dinosaurs, and humongous breasts in order to cure Mother Nature's insanity."

Rick stares at the chapel/meeting room/class room/dance floor. "No, I don't think so. That's 26 words."

Writers picky to the end, ah, I mean finish, finis, --30--.

Friday, May 23, 2008

NANOWRIMO, are you there?

One hundred and thirty-two days.

Memorial Weekend...The weather will be gorgeous. I wish I were at the Writers Retreat Workshop in Erlanger, Kentucky at the Marydale Center for the next ten days, but I am not. I will have to pretend I'm there, writing, resting, learning, drinking (did I write that?), hob-nobing with published authors, agents, publishers, and other wizards of the publishing world.

I will just have to hunker down with "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues" and in-between social engagements and picking snow peas, maybe, just maybe, get some writing done.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

MIA I am or was or will be

One hundred and thirty-three days.

Missing in action the past few days while trying to score seventh-grade New Jersey persuasion papers. Yeah, I see some new generation wise guys coming out of the school system up north in my home state in which I haven't lived for four decades. (Darn it, that makes me sound old.) "Hey, why don't we take our school field trip to Australia. We can brown bag it, and the entire trip will only cost $1,000. And don't worry. The animals are slow and friendly there, plus they have hospitals." This kid ever see the snake specials on Australia? Four of the top ten deadliest in the world, plus the #1. Secretly, I'm jealous. I want to go, but I'd have to mooch off of all the writer's I've met over the Internet for housing.

I was going to go into deep seculsion this holiday weekend and write until I dropped, but my social director has me lined up for other things. So many bushes to plant (don't worry Robin, your bushes are reserved on the side) and so little time to do it before the oppressive heat of summer arrives and turns the Carolinian red and gray mud into something just short of concrete. Maybe I can do some flash fiction.

The telephone pole didn't provide enough stopping power for her Nissan's engine, so she backed up and deflated the air bag with a hat pin. "Hat pin," she mummbled. "Who the heck carries hat pins anymore?" She trudged followed with the engine emitting a coughing noise. A deer jumped over the front hood with a spoon in its mouth followed closely by a raccoon without his mask. She shook her head, but it only hurt worse--the headache from the air bag took root. She weaved down the empty road until she saw the lights. "Country Kitchen. Here I come." She paused in the parking lot as the engine died four minutes after she turned the key. She glanced at the familiar cars, but didn't see Rupert's Oldsmobile. "Damn," she yelled, sinking to the ground. "I'm too late, he took off with Mabel. Oh, to be 76 and hot again.

A brown corvette pulled up with a deep growl. "Car problems?" She thought it was Omar Sharif. She patted her hair and rose from her Sunday kneeling position. "It just stopped," she said, a shy smile showed the new dentures. "Hop in," he said. She did. They roared off. "I had a date with this Mabel woman, but I guess she stood me up. How about the Radisson for the breakfast buffet. She swooned.

Monday, May 19, 2008

MMWUC for May 19, 2008

One hundred and thirty-six days.

To be in the business, you must have a product. Here's a cheer!

Go Write,
all day and night.
Hit those keys
Bring 'em to their knees.
Plotless prose
Hit it on the nose.
Go Write
Till each line's tight!

Okay, it's 6 a.m. time to go to the garden and pick those snow peas.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Secret Weapons for WW2 - Blue Herons

One hundred and thirty-seven days.

Another secret weapon from WW2 just revealed. When will the revelations end? This would make a great TV movie, but I have a hard time plotting this for a book.

After 14 years, a blue heron has discovered my goldfish pond with its 147 goldfish. Yesterday, he ate Tom, Dick, and Bartholomew, three large (about ten inches each) goldfish in about ninety seconds before the heron saw me watching him. (Not much meat on a heron, so I didn't pursue him like a hungry escapee from a Gulag.) Put two four-foot tall statues of storks out there. My supply of pink flamingos being low. It didn't sway him from returning. Maybe I'll sic my attack parakeets on him next.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Burn baby, Burn!

One hundred and thirty-eight days.

I know this has nothing to do with writing, but it is an interesting story about an amazing 107-year-old light bulb that has been burning 24/7 for all those years. Check out the explanation in the comments. Talk about a green bulb that would kick the damn energizer bunny's butt! Makes me think about the episode on the original Star Trek series when they found Vger (Voyager) which had been retrofitted by an alien culture to wipe out imperfect life forms but stops its incredibly long mission temporarily when it erroneously thinks that Captain Kirk is its pappy. (Makes me wonder how many children Kirk really had in the universe.) Shame they had to use the basic same plot in the first Star Trek movie.

But, what if an alien race had visited here in the past. What if they had a ship programmed to return here. What if they all died enroute. What if the seemingly benign ship misinterprets a programming message and starts to eradicate life on Earth. Would Hezbollah lie down with the Massad in order to create a counter-attack like in "Independence Day"? Or would there be a Congressional Hearing while the Earth burns to find out why Condeleeza Rice didn't create a plan to deal with this eventuality when she was in office? I'm thinking we send it the Texas Rangers to deal with that unruly alien computer.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Off-beat and Unusual

One hundred and thirty-nine days.

Okay, here's an exercise that might lead to publication since agents are looking for the off-beat and unusual. Combine the five top stories on "Odd News" for yesterday into a plot for a story. It will probably end up looking like a cross between Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut.

* Michigan girl scout, age fifteen, sells 17K boxes of cookies.
* Nine-year-old girl finds twin in her stomach.
* Giant beetles seized at Pennsylvania post office.
* Ten-year-old college student amazes.
* Foul-mouthed cabbie fined.
* Man sues Jet Blue for being forced to spend flight in toilet.

After being fined for a foul-mouthed tirade directed at a bragging father, cabbie Omar Sharif mails giant beetles to Harry Sheepshead, the offending father. A postal inspector, Harry is nipped by one of the beetles. Heading to Atlanta to get inspected by the Center for Disease Control, Harry is locked into the toilet after his one arm sprouts a dangerous claw, killing the passenger next to him. Harry rants in the toilet that he needs more toilet paper and that he'll sue the airline. Meanwhile his genius ten-year-old son gets word of his dad's predicament, but is torn between saving the life of his nine-year-old girlfriend by performing a delicate surgery or going to his dad's side. Meanwhile, Harry's other daughter has just sold a record number of girl scout cookies. She has to chose between a shot at stardom on "The Apprentice" and a job with Donald Trump in order to raise money for her dad's situation or a trip to Paris with her troop and a chance to be Paris Hilton's assistant for two weeks. "Think of the shoes," she whines to her brother. "I think dad's missing the upside to the claw appendage. Red Lobster could pay millions," the brother suggests. Will dad come to his senses? Will the cabbie be fined yet again? Will the boy find love? Will the girl where Prada to Paris for Paris and popularity.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Screw the Volcano Jimmy Buffet

One hundred and forty days.

While the article is a bit over the top with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese and many of the comments are more insipid than a Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle conversation on nuclear energy, the list of places in jeopardy due to global warming could be used as a jumping off point for the next novel on the affects of global warming.

Jack and Janet Jones jumped at the chance for a once in a lifetime trip to the Galapagos islands. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided that the decade long heat wave needed to have a signature event and allowed the entire land-based portion of the Ross Ice Sheet in Antarctica to slide into the ocean after several decades of creating and under-ice river. The resulting tidal wave wiped out most coastal cities along with the the twenty-five foot rise in the ocean level. Half of their twenty-five member party died over night and now the real fight for survival begins with the remaining members of the party and some seriously annoyed native species. Can mankind pull itself together? Can the Jones' survive? Can Tiny Tim make a recording comeback?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Global Interest

Wow! Hits from four continents (N. A., Europe, Australia, S. A.) in one day. Now, if only those penguins would learn to access the Internet.

Scrub Those Queries

One hundred and forty-one days.

Writing buddy, Ron, has alerted me to another place to test drive your query before having your dreams shattered unnecessarily. Query Shark, which seems to be the pet project of Janet Reid, seems like a gentler, kinder Miss Snark. (For a while, Janet was suspected of being Miss Snark. She has also rejected yours truly three times. Maybe now I'll find out why.)

Write on! Write on!! Brothers and sisters, amen. Write on!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Bandits" by Elmore Leonard

One hundred and forty-two days.

Published in 1986, it seemed like everyone in "Bandits" by Elmore Leonard was a bandit with the good and bad guy distinctions blurred by each person's justification for their unsavory actions. The contrived plot had the messy Nicaraguan situation as the backdrop to Leonard's traditional mystery genre with the usual suspects: a likeable ex-con, two hot dames, a few quirky sidekicks, and a bad guy who really deserves justice. Character growth, or the lack of it, overshadowed the make-it-up-as-you-go plan to relieve the bad guy of some money. Leonard rendered the potentially rich New Orleans setting to slightly more than tourist guide references. Not his strongest novel, it still had the twists and turns along with the crisp dialogue that you expect in his stories. I'd like to give it a four, but I'm forgetting it already and senility is not a problem I have...yet. So, it is a strong three from me.

Monday, May 12, 2008

MMWUC for May 12, 2008

One hundred and forty-three days.

Chicago's O'Hare airport is a nice place to visit, but it felt like I was living there until I remembered that Tom Hanks movie, "Terminal", where he did live in an airport terminal. important in a story. What is unique about your setting that will capture your reader's attention?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Monsters in the Closet

One hundred and forty-five days.

I'm in Wisconsin, the Badger state, the frozen north, the setting of my first unfinished 65,000 word novel that is the one that all novelists hide in the closet waiting for Silverfish to eat or that they burn in a fit of despair (I'm close) or that they hope will be the "I told you so novel" later in their career or that when they do pull it out once they've "made it" they remark how naive they were about what it takes to write a novel or how badly written it was.

Four days ago when I reread portions of it, it was poorly written, but, ya know, the plot still held together. Unfortunately, I still have another 70,000 words to go to finish out the complex plot. Oh, well. I'm good at delusional thinking.

Only one minute left on this computer, gotta go.

"Thank goodness," you whisper.

I heard that, smart aleck.

Friday, May 9, 2008

"Turtle Moon" by Alice Hoffman

One hundred and forty-six days.

It took ten years, but I finally finished "Turtle Moon" by Alice Hoffman, an off-beat magical, romantic, mystery journey that several characters embark on after a runaway wife is murdered and her baby taken. Some reviewers called this novel suspenseful and thrilling, but its beat sways to the lazy, hot weather in Verity, Florida, where emotions drip like the sap from a gumbo tree and relationships are as messy as the squashed turtles on the road in May. One must wade through a muddled beginning, but the story line eventually straightens out, clarifying the obstacles each character must overcome. Some wonderful moments and insights, especially concerning "...the meanest boy in Verity," kept this reader reading on. However, spread some pixie dust to believe the resolution of the plot, the murder, the kidnapping, and the redemptions. Through all this, it is a good read, and I anoint with a 4.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fruitful Adventures

One hundred and forty-seven days.

My wife just returned from a trip to Paris. Once we arrived home from the airport, I held drag her suitcase into the bedroom for the unloading.

"What a bear," she said, unzipping the bag with a hard pull. "I barely made it to the airport in time." She turned the bag. I stood with a mixture of empathetic travel frustration and a selfish concern over the contents of her bag. She always brought me something from her travels. I'm a big kid, and she knows it. I'm easily amused, and just as easily excited. And even more so, easily disappointed.

She twisted the bag one last time and the three-sided zippered monster's lid was flung open. She grab a green grocery bag and held the contents in her palm like a softball pitcher struggling with an oversized ball. She smiled coyly with unparted lips, a dimple forming like a hint on her right cheek.

"The last one," she said and tossed it to me.

I opened the bag and grinned just short of a Cheshire Cat.

She undid the top button of her fitted, white blouse and pushed the bag off the edge of the bed.

"So," I said, flipping off the light switch, "is it time for the last mango in Paris?"

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What Guys Know. Do Women Care?

One hundred and forty-eight days.

Esquire has an article about the 75 things guys need to know.

This article is loaded with ideas for stories, or rather, those little points in the stories that can make it touching or poignant or something like when some nasty villain's heart is melted for a moment when he snatches a baby from a captured princess and receives a smile from her because of the naturally impressive way he holds the child giving the good guy an opportunity to impale the evil villain. Tender moment then justice.

Other things that a guy REALLY should know...

* How to steer a car down a road with their knees at50 mph because they have to get their shirt off to...
* How to drink milk from the cartoon without their mate catching on to the fact they do so.
* How to hit a golf ball like Tiger Woods while drinking like John Daly.
* How to do laundry really bad in public so the cute redhead in the corner rescues him.
* How to wield a sword in case you encounter a really evil dude.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One Thousand Words is worth one picture

One hundred and forty-nine days.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

MMWUC for May 5, 2008

One hundred and fifty days.

Write. Just_put_down_one_word_after_another.

"Hey there Little Red Writing Hood..."

One hundred and fifty-one days.

Thanks to Melissa, you now know that the Encyclopedia Britannica online is offering free 1 year subscriptions to anyone who "regularly publishes online." That means if you have a blog or a website, you qualify. Go here!

Yes, I have red hair and I write under a hood (actually more like a cone of silence) so that evil thoughts sent out by squirrels and chipmunks don't invade my writing. The hood makes the turkey's sad. They have so many interesting thoughts to send my way, and I often see them passing by giving me a hopeful glance, either that or there are a lot of good to eat bugs on the edge of my lawn.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

"Blow me down. Yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck." - Popeye.

One hundred and fifty-two days.

A twig snapped behind me as I stood at the edge of the vegetable garden. I whirled around.

"Crikey, a T-Rex," I mumbled too afraid to scream.

I remembered reading that the ugly brown and red, drooling beast with twiggy arms and smelly breath flowing out of his slobbering mouth have poor vision. I stood still as a naked mannequin in a downtown department store window on a day so cold that grandfather said we had to have someone watch the fire to make sure it didn't freeze. It roared like Jackie Gleason after eating a Thai pepper that Norton had given him. His yellow eyes stared at me like I was a tuna surprise, yet I did not move a nostril hair. He sniffed me like a florist in a rose garden. The foot-long teeth had yellowed over time and the urge to floss them with rope rose in me. Suddenly, the fifteen foot high beast leaned over into the garden and pulled up a row of my early surprise corn and chewed it up. He sucked up twelve stalks of okra, and the sound of satisfaction dribbled out of his mouth like Dom DeLuise at a breakfast buffet table.

"Are you going to eat those carrots," he asked, imitating a Sean Connery brogue.

I shook my head and moved aside just as he scoped up fifty or so carrots and relief overcame me. "You're a vegetarian?"

"Well, my cholesterol is a bit high," he said slurping down the last of the carrots, "I mix things up most days." He smacked his lips and bent over.


Friday, May 2, 2008

A Dinosaur Roars in Connecticutt

One hundred and fifty-three days.

What if there was an Earth-like planet that didn't get hit by a dinosaur killer asteroid? Would the dinosaurs have made much progress in the additional 250,000,000 years? Would Raptors evolve thumbs? And from where would they get their fossil fuels? Would there an equivalent to Madonna in the dinosaur world? Would Jesus have been a Brontosaurus. "Please, my brothers, pass the fern."

I'd write this, but it'd have to include a murder mystery aspect.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport"

One hundred and fifty-four days.

Aside from already established links on the right-hand side of the blog page for help with queries and critiques, check out Elizabeth Lyon's youTube five minutes on how to write an effective query. I've broken bread with her at the Writers Retreat Workshop in Kentucky, and she knows her stuff as evident in her latest book "Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction writer Can Afford to Ignore" which is getting glowing reviews.

Watch, learn, grow.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


One hundred and fifty-five days.

Found an editing service wanting my business that had "acheive" misspelled on their Home Page, when writing about what I could accomplish with my writing. Should I use them?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Don't chase the dream; grab it; hold it; make it your own.

One hundred and fifty-six days.

Monday, April 28, 2008

MMWUC for April 28, 2008

One hundred and fifty-seven.

My wife's birthday. I bought her a ho-ho (yo-yo in some places) so we can split it since she's all worried about gaining weight. Then, she thought it was some statement about what Santa's can't say in Australia. I assured her, it wasn't. Aborigines have been there for 50,000 years, and that movie "10,000 B.C." has more inaccuracies than Mallards have feathers, which they groom each one every day to ensure their oils are intact.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. Just write for ten minutes extemporaneously and see where your thoughts lead.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Yes, we have no bananas

One hundred and fifty-eight.

Back in 1923, George Kalke dialed the phone number of some girl he met the night before. He didn't get her, but ended up talking a blue streak to Mae Bulhalter, finally asking her out on a date to the Milwaukee Zoo. Throughout the day, he kept serenading her with the latest hot tune from Irving Cohn, "Yes, We Have No Bananas". My wife says her grandmother only married him when he promised never to sing that song again.

I serenaded my wife with "The Coconut Song" by Harry Nillson. You know "...She put de lime in de coconut, she drank 'em bot' up...". And so the saga of the serenading fruit lives on.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hey Booboo! Let's go steal some picnic baskets.

One hundred and fifty-nine.

Friday, April 25, 2008

To the moon, Alice!

One hundred and sixty

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Golllllly, Sargeant Carter

One hundred and sixty-one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


One hundred and sixty-two.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


One hundred and sixty-three.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Serutan spelled backwards is Natures

By the fourth day, insomnia is no longer funny.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

How to Get Yourself Rejected

I've been known to get frustrated that I can't get the novels out of the driveway, but this Canadian author has really decided to incinerate bridges to ensure he's never looked at seriously again. And his novel has only been rejected 65 times. Hell, I can get rejected that many times before I pull on my boxers in the morning. Yeah, it hurts, but then again, maybe they're right and you're wrong. Y'all have a productive weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Memoir: Open All Night

Before the trend is over, I think I'm going to write my memoir with enhanced incidents, a few that didn't even really happen, and some of the truth. I'll make some money, get caught, act contrite, and then build on that incident by writing a book about how bad I felt writing a bogus memoir. I can use all of the following incidents to help me along. Only one of them is bogus.

1. I jumped out of a three story window on a 25 cent dare, didn't get hurt, but got stiffed on the payoff.

2. I bumped into Mick Jagger accidentally after the 1975 "Rolling Stones" concert in Berlin with Billy Preston ("Will it Go Around in Circles?" It did for twenty-five minutes) and caused Mick to drop his bag of drugs into a sewer drain. Stoned, he only said, "Bugger," and walked away.

3. I sat at the intersection for 24 hours one summer day watching the only light in the small town change because I was so bored. Nothing happened.

4. I told a playmate that what he found were hummingbird eggs and that he should squish them between his fingers because Hummingbirds were a pest like mosquitoes. They really were rabbit turds. When he found out, he swung at me, missed, fell down and broke his nose. The bullies thought I was cool. The playground teacher gave me two weeks of detention. My mom yelled at me. My dad whooped my butt.

5. I drove 1112 miles on Christmas Eve to be with a girlfriend, meeting her parents for the first time when I arrived, and nearly fell asleep under the Christmas Tree waiting for her to come home from work at 1 a.m. on Christmas morning. When she arrived, she stomped around the house angry that I hadn't shown up for Christmas to surprise her and went to bed refusing to come into the living room where I lay. Her parents eventually dragged into the living room.

6. I broke the heart of a beautiful runway model who was the only heir to a multi-million dollar department store fortune when I broke off our relationship because I felt the ring in my nose before there was ever a ring on her finger.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mysterious Matters to Mull

This blog struck me as interesting for the mystery writers that stumble through here. Take a peek. You might find something there that you need to know. Or, it might just keep you from watching reruns of "Gilligan's Island", the world's greatest mystery, and get you inspire to write something yourself.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

Guest YA author Ron Voigts has dropped in with a book review...

If you’re looking for a book to improve your writing skill, kick start writer’s block or just inspirational, this is not the book for you, but if you have a novel or two looking for an agent or publisher, this should be a must read. Betsy Lerner has divided the book into two parts. The first covers writer types spanning the “Natural” to the “Neurotic” and everything in between. Although interesting, I didn’t find any archetype I could identify with, but the second half of the book covers the gamut of the business from literary agencies (including rejection) to publication. You get a first hand look at the business and what editors are really looking for. The book is packed with anecdotes, stories to make you think about why you want to be a writer and the hope that you can succeed.

Monday, April 14, 2008


TAXES, taxes, SEXAT, taXes, taxes, TAxeS, Texas? Just coincidental? Taxes!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

MMWUC for April 14, 2008

"If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?" - Pink Floyd

"If you don't do your taxes, you can't have a refund. How can you have a refund if you don't do your taxes?" - Uncle Cletis

"If you don't have a chicken, you don't need an egg. How can you have an egg if you don't have a chicken." - the farmer in the dell

"If you don't have strong characters, you don't have a plot. How can you have a plot if you don't have strong characters?" - I. M. Wrighter

"If you don't write, you can't get published. How can you get published if you don't write?" - the voices of a million unpublished writers who know the truth, but don't step up to the keyboard.

I like my philosophy with eggs, bacon, and toast.

Is Blogging a Deadly Addiction

Blogging may be a deadly addition according to this article, especially if you're a journalist or someone who thinks that if you're not always on that you might miss something. Some truth to it methinks. All the time blogging and not writing could squeeze your already precious time so that that stress you feel comes from leaving your characters alone. How long can they live without you breathing life into them? Will they ever grow if you don't pay attention to them? Will they eat? Will they find true happiness, a girlfriend, a lover, a life, the fresh packet of underwear you left for them in the chapter you haven't written yet? Is the blogging bug blocking your book? I hope not, but the other day, my protagonist refused to speak to me, and my antagonist locked up my "e" key. I promised I'd blog less and write more. They forgave me for now, but am I failing them?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Little Shop of Murders" by Susan Goodwill

The second novel in the Kate London series starts out like a mad rush to get Elvis concert tickets and then picks up speed. Kate, her Aunt Kitty, and a gaggle of friends take on undercover agents, a biker gang, a giant man-eating plant, a childhood rival, rebelling actors, and a mumbling President Clinton to recover Kate's advanced-ticket sales stolen by a crazy octogenarian bank robber who happens to be dating septuagenarian and former movie star, Aunt Kitty. Oh yes, the murder of a crooked banker must also be solved. And that's all in the first three chapters. From there, Kate unravels a complex plot with zany twists worthy of a Mack Sennett movie to save Kate's production of "A Little Shop of Horrors" at Mudd Lake's historic Egyptian Theatre during the pandemonium of the town's Sausage Festival. And she must do this in four days while balancing the love interest of Sheriff Ben against the tingling sensation brought on by a past lover. I got so many paper cuts quickly turning the pages of this five star humorous cozy, I can only applaud with my feet.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

101 Best Websites for Writers

"Writer's Digest" came out with their annual list of the 101 best websites for writers. Unfortunately, I'm not on it, but there are some excellent resources listed, and I do have links to some on my blog.

Planting Fertile Thoughts

It's 10:04 a.m. I've made and eaten breakfast. Washed, dried, and put away a load of laundry. Feed the assorted inside and outside birds and fish. Two guppies died overnight. They must have been old. The rummaging raccoon will dine tonight. I planted six camellias and two gardenia bushes. This is no small chore on the edge of the woods, roots grasping at every earthen slice of my shovel. Then it's the hauling of mulch, permatil, and top soil to the hole to mix it up before gently sliding the two-year old cutting into promising terra firma, embraced by a surrounding mound of mulch. Then the watering of them and the plants I put in yesterday. I'll shower in a minute. (Aren't you glad the Internet doesn't have smell-a-vision currently.)

Writing! Oh, yes. A memoir to look at and the second installment of a YA story...yeah, that's you Ron...await before my writing begins around 3 p.m. today. Unfortunately, Sydney, my cockateil, will interrupt me at 4 p.m. He cannot abide a day without Judge Judy. He has a crush on her. Either that, or the music appeals to him.

Later, the writing will continue. I can't edit my own stuff until I hit a thousand words. Perhaps this scenario of the writing life is backwards, but the air is cool in the morning, and my brain doesn't warm up until the afternoon. Such is life. Now, get out there and write.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Old Fart Publishing

Are you trying to get your novel into the mailbox, but AARP magazines keep you from putting in your query? Read this article first. It may help you out.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Dam is Breaking

1,218 words in 22 minutes for Chapter 8. That'sa lotta words for me in a shot span. I think the idea dam that's been clogged is about ready to give way. I can't wait.

If your dam has broken in the past, what kind of productivity did you have?

Monday, April 7, 2008

MMWUC for April 7, 2008

I must remember my own rule: writers write. Sometimes the truth is so simple.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

"Big Money" by Jack Getze

Austin Carr gets into more trouble than Dennis the Menace, and Getze's latest novel has more twists than a pretzel factory. It all makes for one great read for those who like wise-cracking protagonists, a slew of beautiful and deadly women, and more bad guys at the Jersey shore than in Rahway Prison. Carr is left in charge of his investment firm. Immediately, he becomes the booby prize for a plethora of bad guys as they stake their claim to the firm hoping to be rewarded with financial rainbows. Getze has improved over the first Carr novel, "Big Numbers," with more cliff hangers than a 1930's serial while Austin escapes one tight situation after another with his gift of gab or famous grin. Getze gives us more of Jersey, more unique characters, and a bit more character depth. And he saves the best twist, like all classic mystery writers, for the very end of the story. Getze didn't pay me big money for this review, but I'll give him a big number for the novel. How about a 5.

All Points Bulletin

Damn you, muse. Where are you hiding? I've looked all day. Read. Wrote. Dug dirt. Planted bushes. Drank, and then DRANK! Hoped for an LSD flashback. Talked to my collection of stuffed bunny rabbits (be careful, I have a double-barrelled shotgun). I sniffed all nine blooms on the walking iris. I went to every website people recommended. Exhausted, I sat on the couch contemplating the wet lint in my belly-button from a hot-cold-hot shower. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the first hummingbird of the year sipping sugary nectar from one of the two feeders I put up on April 1st. He spotted me and hovered near the window and eighteen inches from where I sat. I smiled. He flew away.

NOTHING. The muse was still missing. Maybe she'll be here tonight in my dreams. After all, tomorrow is another day. Hmm. That's a pretty good line. ;-)

Friday, April 4, 2008

"The News from Paraguay" by Lily Tuck

Unrelenting sex drives, senseless murders, a brutal war, intriguing foreign locations, unconscionable acts, out of control masturbation, insanity topped by humiliation like a pineapple perched on an ice cream sundae, and consternation of purpose must be the elements necessary to win the National Book Award. This novel had it all and won that honor. But it lacks a sense of continuity, character depth, and an overarching theme. Passages of extraordinary beauty dot the novel. Small empathetic scenes drove me to tears. But in between, you had to suffer the hop-scotching 1854 to 1870 story told mostly by Ella Lynch. As the Irish-born lover of the President for Life, Franco, Ella bears him many children while he leads Paraguay into a ruinous war for unclear reasons. The last line in the book saved it from a lower rating. Ella's final realization is that he is as dead to her in her in memory as he is in life. This historical love story, a great labor of love, fell short of its promise and earns a three from me.

NOTE: I was stunned to see that on Amazon, this story has a 2.5 star rating.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

No fooling

It is April 1st, and I was going to have an April Fool's post announcing that I've sold a novel, but I figured the only person that would be a cruel joke on would be me.

Bracketology: 69 points. Pathetic, but I had three of the final four correct.

Too soon to complain about the four days of drippy weather? Not me. After 18 months of the Carolinas doing their imitation of the Sahara Desert, I'm just fine being a bit damp while doing some outside chores. Besides, I always seem to be quite productive from a writing stance in dull gray, wet, windy weather. Must be the negative ions. Now, if I can only find the spine to the latest story, I'd be more than happy. But I am happy nevertheless. I think I've hit upon a format for a mystery series that I haven't seen out there yet. Yeah, I know, read more Rick, you'll find its already been done...ah, but is it like mine. More on this later in the summer.

So, come on now. What are you up to with your writing?

Monday, March 31, 2008

MMWUC for March 31, 2008

EXERCISE: Who needs a writing exercise? Just write your own story based on my escapades. I feed the birdies. Every six months or so, I get overrun by rats with good PR, that is, squirrels. They're the main reason I'm poor. They eat all the bird seed, and I have to buy more. Have you seen the price of sunflower seeds lately! Anyway, yes I trap the squirrels, but they only become lunch meat for the hawks and owls. The circle of life continues albeit sped up a bit by me and the sacrificial alter at the edge of the woods.

Something has been digging in my garden. Coyotes? Opossums? Rabbits? Voles and moles? Wild dogs? Naughty little children from down the lane? The mystery may have been solved. In my squirrel trap was a huge and fat raccoon. He'd been dining somewhere this winter that was good to him, because he should be lean this time of year. Big enough, he was, that he couldn't notice the open door of the cage because he couldn't turn around to see it. So ornery. He didn't back down after repeated attempts to push him back with the butt end of the broom only meet ferocious attacks. So I let him be. And he sits. I think he's going to sleep and dream about fresh water clams down at the stream and leftover barbecue from a spit.

Me. I'm going to eat breakfast. Your exercise...finish my adventure.

MUSING: Ever happen to you? Tell someone you write and immediately they have something for you to write or edit or co-write or critique or read. Even Fedex guys with Amazon deliveries have notebooks with scribblings that, "You've just got to read this passage." From now on, I'm..."Joe. I body double for the guy on The World's Most Dirtiest Jobs. Let me shake your hand."

Everyone get out there and write!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Where have I been? What have I learned?

I've just finished scoring 2,548 of the almost 200,000 tenth grade persuasion essays from one of our great states. Flashes of brilliance graced some pages. Painfully inept, immature, and inane self-serving thoughts on other pages made me want to stab my eyes with a sharp #2 pencil. Pro and con arguments inspired by the prompt question surprised me, and more than a few students rose above the prompt, suggesting that great leaders and thinkers in our society are still to be found in our public education system. I'm feeling better about our future.

"Ring, ring, ring...." "Bong, bong, bong...." "Clang, clang, clang...." Over twenty times these two-page essays started off with nearly identical openings for the first one, two, three, or more sentences with an alarm clock waking up Johnny or Susie or Jose to start a new school day. Many times I swore that I'd already read the paper (inspiring some deep-seated worries of classroom-wide conspiracies of copycatting). If that many students come up with the identical lines of thinking (and writing), uniqueness is doomed! MY writing is doomed!! With the millions of other writers out there, I AM DOOMED!!!

Finally, I'd find some tale tell difference in the essay, and I could score the paper based on strict guidelines on its own merits and not some lingering vestiges of prior papers of the same ilk. Some papers earned Bronx cheers and some were ready for Pulitzers.

Balance restored to the universe, I'm less worried about someone stealing the totality of my story lines, but more worried than ever that anything I write is utterly thematically not unique. And both worries are traceable back to these essays. It makes me wonder how many unique stories there really are? Yes, yes, I know. Depending upon who your guru is, there are really only 1, 3, 4, 9, or 15 plot lines (themes) for stories, but infinite ways of writing them. Or, is it infinite? Are those monkeys really out there pounding on a million typewriters for 10,000 years and creating Macbeth? It's keeping me up at night worrying.

In these essays and all stories, the overarching theme is: Someone wants something but must overcome obstacles to succeed. How can I possibly come up with something that a tenth grader hasn't already created?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Swami has Died

NCAA Bracketology: No swami am I this year (39 points vs. 57 last year). Worst year of picking ever. Yuck. Phew! Still, the final four is intact as are 6 of 8 Elite Eight. Villanova? San Diego? At least I warned you about Davidson. Are screenwriters already writing the screenplay? "The Cinderella Year" or will it be another case of deer in the headlights syndrome in the sweet sixteen for these teams.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

March Showers Bring May Flowers

The bridies is; in the oak tree; one took a wiz; and surprised me.

The Easter bunny will bring chocolate and my writing will get sharp again. 16 hours sleep today will help chase the sickness away. Man, this stuff just lingers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Vernal Equinox

Spring has sprung; the grass has riz; I wonder where; the birdies is?

"Falling Man" by Don DeLillo

I had high hopes for this novel based on the author's stature and the penultimate event of my lifetime as the subject matter, but the stories surrounding the lives of the three principle characters before, during, and after 9/11 were flat. The story and writing meandered, which may be some sort of statement implied in the story, but it just didn't work for me. The one character I best understood was the terrorist, riding the plane toward the towers, bleeding, and concerned with nothing other than the complete conviction of his actions. Yeah, lives were devastated from the affects of the attack, unfortunately, I can only feel so much for these characters because they were all somewhat to seriously flawed before the attack for unclear reasons. The results of the attack only made them flawed in other directions. The saving grace is the exquisite language he often uses, rescuing this novel to a 3.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NCAA Bracketology

Since it isn't about writing, so I've posted my hoop dreams on my secondary blog. For those only needing the end result: Kansas edges past UNC while UCLA beats Texas. UCLA struggles but beats Kansas to win the 2008 tournament. I guess the Bear eats the Jayhawk.

Two teams that could destroy many brackets for basically the same reason -- when they get hot nothing really stops them. Davidson could be a giant killer if they take out both Gonzaga which I think they will and Georgetown which I don't think they will. The other team is Duke which I have bowing out at the Elite Eight. They've been fading down the stretch as people figure out how to pound it inside, but there are so many shooters on this team that if they catch fire, a six game run to the championship is well within their abilities.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Free Reviews of Your Book

Under the hard-to-believe news, is short on books to review. It appears to be a free book review site. I don't know how you published or nearly published or POD-published people procure prolific pontification praising your prose, but here's another one to add to your list.

List? Hmmm. Is there a list of places to get your book reviewed? I imagine agents/publishers have one. I want one!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Doctor is in the House

C.J. Lyons is special guest this week on Pix-N-Pens and is willing to comment on your 500 word or less medical scene. CJ Lyons is a physician trained in pediatric emergency care and an award winning author.
John grimaced. One hand held the elbow of the other arm. "Doc, it hurts when I move my arm this way.

John's anguish rose as he raised the arm over his held.

The doctor looked worried. "Well. Don't move your arm that way. That's $437."

MMWUC for March 17, 2008

EXERCISE: Read this blog about blogging versus writing. If you have the discipline, great! If not, consider brain surgery. It's easier than writing.

The leprechaun made me do it. Now, where is my green beer?

Paul, thanks for the inadvertent link.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fever Poem

I'm drinking fluids as Far suggests
But something still sits right on my chest.
I'm thinking fever inspires writing
The purple prose is so frightening.

One-oh-three doesn't sound very bad
But the rib cracking cough makes me sad.
And I wrote and found a thousand words
Spewed disorganized like cattle herds.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Burning Books?

Thrown drafts of your novel into the campfire later? I have. Try joining script month writing in April with NANOWRIMO's ScriptFrenzy for a change of pace. Perhaps you're just writing in the wrong medium.

Friday, March 14, 2008

How to write a fake memoir

How to write a fake memoir. Lessons here at Slate magazine. Yeah, that's all I've got today. Wanna make something out of it?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Remember the Pain, or Maine, or something

Baby flu: too sick to feel like doing anything; not sick enough to stay home from work, especially since I don't have any sick days

I know. Write down how I feel and use it in a story someday. Yada, yada, yada.

I ache. Hot. Cold. Small fever. Lethargy invades my soul. My fingers hurt. Cold sweat on my brow that feels slimy when I wipe it away. My back hurts. Where? All over, idjit! I blink, and my eyelids scrape over a moist yet still crusty layer covering my eyes. My nose is not sore yet, and I wonder when the body will stop creating this green slime. I don't swallow. My invisibly swollen throat won't tolerate the abuse. There is no nausea, yet, but there's an inch of water in a nearby plastic, and now I notice, puke green pale. It's enough to make one sick.

The fire's been stoked. It's back to bed I go. I owe. I owe. It's back to bed I go. I feel the brain cells slowing shutting down, and in my head I hear Sinatra singing, "It's my town; its' my town."

MMWUC for March 10, 2008

EXERCISE: "Drop and give me ten." Writing students looked at each other unsure what to do. "I said, drop and give me ten. Are you people deaf?" Students popped out of their seats, looking for space in the classroom to do ten push-ups. The instructor came over to one boy and grabbed him by the belt forcing him up and down. A girl giggled. "What are you giggling about? How'd you like to do an extra twenty?" "Uh, no, sir." "In your seats," the instructor shouted. "Grab pen. Close eyes. Breathe deep. Relax." His tone mellowed. "Now, take ten minutes and write, 'My surprise exploded...'."

MUSING: You can't wade into a story even if you are tapping the ready on the shoulder. Something must be presented that will make the agent, editor, or reader sit up and take notice that a story worthy of their time is now open in front of their face. It is a lesson I don't seem to grasp in my heart yet, but I will, in my next story.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Fowl Play" by Patricia Tichenor Westfall

Even after fifteen years in southern rural Ohio, Chicagoan Molly West still feels a bit like an outsider despite her involvement in the community helping to run Meals-on-Wheels type business. When a local woman is murdered and several roosters go missing, the investigation flutters into her lap due to her scratching at clues and pecking holes in the stories locals tell. Soon she's dragged deep into the investigation along with the seventy-year-old matriarch of the area. The writing is fine, the murder case is thin, some of the humor okay, and the dignity of the people kept up, but Molly's sociology professor husband, Ken, crows too often and too long about the Appalachian culture for my tastes. Still, it will keep you occupied on cold, cloudy day. For cozy lovers, it's a four. I like more meat on my chicken and old roosters don't taste too good, so it's a three.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Haiku for You

I worked hard all week

But can not write, read or sleep

Chocolate, I seek

...and now back to our regular programming.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Book according to Rick

George Harrison once wrote a song that had so few lyrics that it was lampooned on SNL as a song with only six words just rearranged. I want to write a novel like that, shove in two hundred blank pages with a fancy ambiguous picture on the cover and blurbs from Stephen King, Amy Tan, John Grisham, Cormac McCarthy, Evil Knievel, Jr., and Oprah tauting its brilliance.

Let me try...

God gave. Left. Returned. Cried forever.

At least I don't have a graven image of him/her/it. (I've got to stop watching "Dogma".)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Paper Cuts Can Kill

I had too many characters in my new novel. I wrote each name (other than the protagonist) on a separate piece of paper and then tossed the thirteen pieces of paper into a hat to let fate decide who was to die. I pulled out a name. Mary B. No not Mary. I can't kill Mary. She's the protags new love interest and the romance angle to the story.

Doh! Mary was perfect to kill off. That would really throw off the reader.

Next. How? Gun, knife, poison, poison dart, strangulation, car accident, electrocution, paper cut infection, blunt trauma, hanging, disembowelment, run over by a train. That seemed be enough.

Next. Where? And so it went with my own personal game of Clue.

Tell me. How do you decide which right-angle turns you want to throw at the reader?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Blood Moon Lovers" - Steal this idea

"Until the red moon comes, I'll thirst for you love." Count Vitameatavegamin kissed Lucy's fingertips before the lunar eclipse in February, 2008 concluded and she turned back into a thirsty werewolf. Their nearly four-hundred year old love affair would resume and end in December, 2010, the next lunar eclipse. Then, and only then, with a simple kiss will the curse be lifted and their unholy, unrequited union end. Their lives as young medieval lovers could move forward unencumbered.

It would happen if only they could elude the vampire hunters, werewolf slayers, and the 12th generation gypsy queen who can enslave them once again so she can live like royalty on the goods they surreptitiously must acquire for her, safe in the knowledge that neither can kill her, themselves, or live eternally apart.

--- ahem ---

How does the story unwind? I don't know. It's yours, but you better get cracking if you want someone to publish this in time with the next lunar about your tie-ins and right before the Christmas holiday season.

--- ahem, ahem ---

Extra points for the origination of the Count's name.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Safe Houses for Writers

Mexico has a safe house for oppressed writers from around the world.

I wonder if I qualify? I'm forced back into the working world by my birds who demand more and more bird seed, fish who will only eat food sticks from Dr. Foster, and an organic garden that demands only the best supplements. Do you get forced to pick tomato worms at dawn because you can't use insecticides? At least the frogs in the goldfish pond eat them. Every little weed gets picked by hand in the blazing sun. Worms are carefully transpanted from the stink pile to the garden to break down the three-year-old leaf mulch that I have to rake up each fall.

The slave labor continues by the chopping and stacking of wood to create fires to keep warm during the winter, and during the summer, I have to pick flowers and arrange them in vases for the lady of the house. Laundry, vaccuuming, dishes, dusting, car maintenance, grass cutting, and deer thinning must be done in order to receive, ah, well, favors. I guess I should be glad for small things. She doesn't know how to work a Kalashnokov.

Safe house in Mexico, heck, I'd settle for 10 days at the Writers Retreat Workshop.

Monday, March 3, 2008

MMWUC for March 3, 2008

Exercise: "Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. For the next ten minutes, write from the protagonists POV, 'I tripped the light fantastic with...'" Less than a minute later, the anal retentive members of the writing class began fainting from lack of oxygen to the brain. Some writers had written far off the paper and onto their desks. Other writers, relaxed as wet noodles, slid out of seats. "Such are the results," Dickens, ever the jokester, chortled from the raised dais, "when one follows a silly request too strictly."

Musings: In "Self Reliance"Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." I guess it can be that way when writing and trying to stay between the lines of the rules and ignoring the fact that all the writing rules are merely guidelines within which we drive our stories. Learn the "rules," and then color outside the lines to capture the attention of those who rule the writing world.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

JK Rowling Betrayed?

JK Rowling feels betrayed by someone writing a lexicon of Harry Potter. But after reading the article, I'm not sure I understand her betrayal or the suit to stop publication of the lexicon. I almost buy the explanation that she's upset because she hasn't gotten hers out there first, and I'm going to assume that she has a bunch of helping writing hers just as these guys have had and maybe their site is, in a bizarre twist, even a reference for her. Madness, I tells ya. It's all madness. What thinks you?

Friday, February 29, 2008

"Fateful Decisions"

Happy Leap Year, y'all. I'm up today on six sentences. Maybe I'll be in the New Yorker next week.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Secrets of the Highlander" by Janet Chapman

Several mysteries play second-fiddle in this romance novel, but darn I wanted more investigation into the mysteries because at times they seemed more interesting than Megan and Jack's volatile romance with baby already in tow. Jack's character was perplexing. Strong, insightful, and resilient in one scene, he retreats into his alter ego, nerdish Wayne, in the next as the Megan and Jack play ping-pong with their heritage and emotional baggage. Still, it was a very good read that kept moving forward with the mysteries and romantic entanglements effectively wrapped up by the end of the book while setting the foundation for yet more Highlander adventures in Maine. True romance and mythological creature lovers will probably give it a five, but as a genre-straddling mystery reader, I'll have to bring it down half a peg.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


John Stradling's NaNoWriMo Word Count this past year was 518,335 words in thirty days. Math wizards, that's 17,277 words per day. That's a book every three days. Were they good words? I don't know. But it makes me want to up my daily words count nano or no nano.

What to do with your NANO novel? Try NANOEDMO in March.

You'll only get published if you write and edit and date someone in the publishing industry or know Paris Hilton or can channel Ernest Hemingway...


The bear charged.

I shot.

He fell and the mountains heaved a sigh at the passing of the majestic beast that had roamed as a symbol of freedom, uncaring and unafraid for years with an unbridled thirst for life.

I feasted well and imbibed his spirit.

The woman fell at my feet. They stunk, but she didn't seem to care. I drank her lust and the tent shook as leaves in a storm dance before the climax.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On Writing Books

In the Chronicle Review of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Gina Barreca claims that Betsy Lerner's THE FOREST FOR THE TREES: AN EDITOR'S ADVICE TO WRITERS to be the best book on writing. Many people chose Stephen King's ON WRITING or Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD as most inspiration. Even the irrepressible scalawag Austin Carr claims that Carolyn Wheat's HOW TO WRITE KILLER FICTION is the "must have" book for writer wannabes.

Me. I have a host of books under Writing Resources: some inspire; some instruct; some provide the secrets to the universe of writing if you can apply those secrets.

So what's on your shelf that you grab when someone asks you to name your most valuable writing resource book?

Monday, February 25, 2008

MMWUC for February 25, 2008

EXERCISE: Cormac McCarthy shuffled up the classroom aisle outfitted by L. L. Bean. He taped a newspaper article up on the white board and slapped a hand against it. The headline read: "Country Blows Away Oscar". He wheeled around to face a classroom of eager writers. "Always write what you know and what you want. The rest will come." Oprah jumped up and down on a couch in the corner of the room, pumping her arms into the air. "Yes! Yes! I love that old man." He headed for the door shouting, "Write. Damn you. Write. And not just for ten minutes."

MUSINGS: Thank God for the Coen Brothers. I've always enjoyed their work. Now, it is time to go off to, dare I say it, work. I'd rather be writing.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Murder Sets Seed" by Janis Harrison

Janis Harrison's second book (2000) "Murder Sets Seed" is another cozy pitting Bretta Soloman, florist extraordinaire, against several people who have the blackmail and murder of an elderly high-society woman on their minds after Bretta buys the woman's century-old mansion through an unbelievable stretch her deceased husband's insurance policy. So be it. The well-written story moved briskly along with many interesting subplots; however the tangled explanation of where the seeds of murder had been set was hard to accept and I'm still not sure I understand it. And the climax was so clumsily handled that I'd lost track of one of the characters until the protagonist casually mentions the person had died, but I'm not sure how. Her second novel is a lukewarm three for me and a probable four for cozy lovers.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mountain Climbing

Science confirms it. The fastest way to climb a hill is to zigzag. Lately, that's how I seem to be writing. The bottom of the hill is the start; the top is the finish. In between, I'm going left and right with the story, writing, sitting on it, then editing, then going on to the next scene, and all the time trying to zig or zag the story in a surprising direction while still moving forward. Tough work. Expends a lot of energy and occasionally there are avalanches to watch out for, slippery slopes to navigate, and billy goats threatening to bump me off and destroy the story or bring me to my senses that this is too steep of a hill to climb and the gentle sloping hill over yonder looks easier...just not nearly as rewarding. The effort expend is worth the reward gained.

Sir Edmond Hillary climbed Everest, "...because it's there." I guess I write for the same reason, "...because the story's there."

Now, let's get out there and dull some pencils.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Muse Moment of Madness

For a writer, I don't spell well. So, I'm so pleased that my spellchecker feature is working again. It's not a panacea for writing errors, but any help to eliminate errors is a bonus in my eyes.

Evil Rockwell portrait moment last night: Brother-in-law and I spending an hour deconstructing a troublesome Kenmore dryer to access the broken heating element, and our respective spouses hovering nearby in a constant chatter about the weather, missing gold, old Jewish jewelry (I didn't follow that one at all), what makes bad and good fried rice, cancer, traveling, men's ego with regard to home repair, and the relative coldness of my southern home (it was 72 degrees inside). We got done and pulled out the offensive part. The all-knowing spouses looked at it and in unison, as sisters are want to do, "Knew all along that's the bad part. Quiche anyone?"

The muse was whispering in my ear, "Murder, most foul."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Beneficiary (2)

--- What happened Next? ---

Detective Jones and the Mutt and Jeff cop tandem had allowed a winter chill to settle in the foyer. His revelation of Beth’s death and my unexpected naming as her beneficiary accentuated the shiver that streaked down my back. Reflexively, I grabbed my coat from the coat closet to go with them.

I stopped. “Why do I need to come with you?”

“We have questions.” Detective Jones popped something into his mouth before grabbing the door knob. His gaze didn’t waver from me. The cops leaned toward the door as though it was magnetic, and their steely glances and tin badges couldn’t resist its pull.

“Why don’t you ask your questions here?”

“I’d prefer to ask them at the station.” He released his grip on the door knob. The two cops stood at ease, the magnetic pull broken.

“I’d prefer they be asked here.”

“That would be inappropriate.”



“Because why?”

He took a step toward me and split open his tan overcoat to place his hands on his hips. He stood several inches over six feet but was reed thin in his loose fitting brown suit. The long face appeared elastic and a droopy eyelid nearly covered one of his pale blue eyes making him appear older than he probably was. I pegged him for his mid-30s like me. The thin Roman nose had been broken and an impossibly large cookie duster hung like a costume prop above his thin lips.

Jones leaned towards me. “Because I said so.” His words carried the sweet smell of cherry cough drops.

“My mother used to say that to me. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. Am I under arrest?”


“Then I choose not to go. Whatever you have to ask and whatever you have to tell me, do it here.”

His eyes moistened. His mouth opened to an oval. I thought he was going to cry. He swung his arms in front of him like pendulums. His sense of authority evaporated along with my mild indignation, yet the feeling of being strong armed remained. I hung up my coat, snickering silently at his comical stance despite the underlying sadness and peculiarity of why he was here.

He pointed to the taller of the two cops and then opened the door with a jerk. “Arrest him for obstructing a murder investigation.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Novelists Must Become Actors?

The trend to make movie-type trailers from novels has been going on for some time on the social websites. Now, Simon and Schuster introduced a site,, which broadcasts short videos of authors and will also produce them.

This author stars in a video for his own books: (I hope he is making fun of himself).

Can we now expect to see videos of Jack Getze as Austin Carr ("Big Numbers", "Big Money"), Susan Goodwill as Kate London ("Briga-DOOM", "Little Shop of Murders"), or even Janet Chapman's ("Secrets of the Highlander" on the NYTimes best seller list) main squeeze as one of the heart-stopping MacKeage men?

I sure hope I don't have to appear as a character. I might have to show up as this guy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Power Writing

Most people think of power writing as plowing through a story getting thousands of words down on paper as fast as possible, racking up 5, 10, or even 15,000 words in one long session, leaving the editing for some future point in time. For me, power writing is getting the electricity back on after a harsh wind has knocked the power off somewhere up the line. I'm the second to last house own our electric grid. Anything that happens upstream, storm, car accident, Godzilla attacking the electric lines, affects my house.

It's nice to have power. I hope you kept writing. I got the garden cleaned out, some wood chopped, and the snow peas planted. The only good thing was the mild weather (70s with an unseasonable overnight low of 61.

Now, let's get out there and write.