Monday, December 19, 2011

MMWUC - Silence is Golden

I knew this day would come, but I didn't think it would happen so soon. I have nothing to say. I'm too busy writing about the affect of snow on the perception of the perfect Christmas. But I guess to be politically correct, it would be a perfect "holiday" season. I do like snow, and miss it here in North Carolina, despite the fact that the average kid gets 7 snow days a year. Want a snow day? Just get the forecaster to put it in the forecast three days in advance. But expect to lose some playing time being dragged to the store for milk, eggs, bread, and maybe some poptarts. Where was I at? Oh, yeah. It is a darn shame though that there are so many holidays jammed together in the cold of winter, right when we have the shortest days of the year, and the seasonal temperatures are still battling so that the snow is probably slushy, or icy in the south, or just a damn, cold rain. Religious leaders should get together and sprinkle these holidays out during the warmer months, so we can enjoy them more and pay attention to the message a bit more without freezing to death in a snowbank. I didn't have much to say, and like most pundits on radio and television, I guess I proved my point.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Stocking Stuffers

Try these new books in 2011 from mostly new authors to stuff stockings:

* Beneath the Dunes by Walter Ramsay - Mystery
* Child of My Heart by Shelia Rudesill
* Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite
* Hungry and Naked by Ashley Memory - Mystery with a touch of humor
* The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman
* Little Mountain by Bob Sanchez - Mystery
* Marina Melee by Lynne Hinckley - Mystery with a touch of humor
* Penelope and the Birthday Curse by Ron D. Voigts - YA
* Penelope and the Christmas Spirit by Ron D. Voigts - YA
* Penelope and the Ghost's Treasure by Ron D. Voigts - YA
* Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie (Shamus Award nominee)
* The Gospel According to the Romans by Robin Helweg-Larsen
* The Stasi File: Opera and Espionage by Peter Bernhardt
* The Teaching Man and Other Tales by Nell DuVall

* The Unhewn Stone by Wendy Laharnar - Historical Fantasy

* Trail of Destruction by Linda Johnson - Political Mystery

Saturday, December 10, 2011

On Memories These Days

There was an old man who wrote a book.
And an old lady who took a look
She got a surprise
And widened her eyes
The story was her life that he took.
Did I write this or just imagine it? Sometimes you find things on your computer that no longer remain in the brain. Be careful what you read, it can kill you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nothing from Nothing is Nothing

Sydney is asleep on my knee, deeply asleep for a 20-year-old cockatiel. But alas, I have to go to the bathroom, really bad. Those seven diet cokes are catching up to me. His current peacefulness is that of a child after a long day of sickness, and he had a rough day yesterday. I accidentally pulled out a tail feather. It had blood on the end of it. He screamed. Hollered. Howled. Shook. He even flew a few feet before turning around and looking at me, cocking one head to the side, accepting, but questioning.

I had to hold him for hours on my chest as he cuddled up under my chin--the knowledge of how he ended up in agony long lost by his simple forgiveness (and short attention span) and superseded by the pain that hurt whenever he moved. I could hear him, 'Daddy, help me.' How can I disturb him now for my own sake? I'm in discomfort now; he's in peace. He's so innocent; I'm an ogre. I need to make him some comfort food: mashed potatoes and cheerios. I just wish I would have put on some Depends this morning.

Do you make your protagonist dig or feel so deep? If not, why not?

Monday, December 5, 2011

MMWUC - Back to Writing Basics

Writing basics - having an idea, inspiration, or thought about what you want to write. Just read an interesting tidbit. The oldest canned food ever opened and eaten was meat. It was 114 years old. It's sad that the article didn't indicate where it was canned or kept all that time or the type of meat (probably SPAM), or who the lucky person was who had the honor of eating it. At nearly the same moment, there was a NOVA story on the difficulty of various aspects of a manned flight to Mars. Fuel, air, water (very yucky), and food. Food seemed to be a particularly difficult issue to overcome. Not sure why. I had some great twenty year old WWII rations when I was in the army. But then again, I imagine the astronauts might get a bit bored of their food. These people should have consulted with the people who had the 114 year old can of meat. Oh, the secrets they could have shared.

Now, I'm thinking of a dystopian novel where a cache of really, really old food is found and what my seven survivors might do with it.

What weird ideas have slammed together in your head that lead to a story.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Do You Believe In Christmas Miracles (True Story)

For about an hour on Monday, I thought I would lose my mind. I also thought I'd ruined our Christmas. The day starts well enough with a trip to the doctor's office for a physical. Total cholesterol - 132; HDL - 55; Triglycerides - 143; blood pressure - 140/80; Pulse - 42 (I have an amazingly low pulse). Also, I drop off the office's homemade Christmas caramels. My other medical complications are in check. His advice. "Lose weight." He needs a parrot. He's been telling me that for years. Next, on to the in-laws at the assisted living center to gather packages to mail for them - check. I drop off more homemade caramels at the dentist's office. This always makes me feel evil for some reason.

Around the corner, I hit the bank for some spending cash and lots of cash for my wife. I hope it's for my present. Onward to Michael's for a box of special plastic baggies and find the last one. I head to Party City for some party trays to be used for house plants and notice the clouds thickening. I get the last three. The drive to my dermatologist, whose kid I feel like I'm personally putting through college, is uneventful as cars slip off the highway and clear a path for me. I drop off the office's Christmas caramels to a staff member who squeals with delight, remembering them from the previous years. Every light is green as I head back towards town and the Chinese store to pick up the last of the supplies for our annual New Year's Day party - our holiday present to our friends. I'm way ahead of schedule, though a few big drops splat on the windshield. I get out of the car, check my pocket, and find no wallet. The rain begins in earnest.

I panic. No wallet in the car, under the car, near the car. I drive away. No wallet at the Dermatologist's office. It's not lying comfortably on the ground, dangling in the bushes like the last bloom, or floating toward the sewer like a downed and drowned leaf. I'm ill. Nearly $600, credit cards, bank account numbers -- mine, my homeowner's association, ours. I try to center myself. I drive to the Party City with the closed satellite Police Station next door (budget cuts). It's not a bad area; it's just not a good place. It's the downside of the mall with seasonal stores featuring Halloween items no one wants at 90% off and a cornacopia of Christmas collectables of dubious quality, offices with no apparent clientele and stick-on signs, and stores with vacant-eyed associates. The wallet is not in the parking lot. I head for the door of Party City in a drizzle and walk in. A sleepy-eyed man in his early 30's stands near the unattended cash register. He looks bored stacking a few hundred boxes of candy canes.

"Do you believe in Christmas miracles?" I say to him without any preamble.

He looks at me surprised. Perhaps he thinks he misheard. "Huh, what?"

"Do you believe in Christmas miracles? Yes or no."

"Well, yes." A hint of a smile pushes out cautiously from the corner of his mouth. Is it really there or is he just humoring the distraught looking old, fat guy wearing a soaked, off-white USA sweatshirt and green gym shorts.

"Good. I'm looking for a wallet."

"Yeah, we found one." He walks to the register. "Your name."

"Rick Bylina."

Some of me must still be in the wallet. "Here you go." He hands me the wallet.

"Do you know who turned it in?" I want to give the person a reward or take him or her out to lunch.

"Nope." He walks back to the display.

I leave as the drizzle turns to a light mist. Back in the car, I let out a breath I have been holding and open the wallet. Everything, everything is there. I sit. The sun slices through the overcast as a parade of Santa's pass by, heading into one of the seemingly empty offices labeled "Santa Training." One waves as he walks past. I automatically wave back. He winks then bellows a hardy "Ho-ho-ho. Merry Christmas" before he slips into the office.

Yes, I believe in Christmas miracles.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cyber Monday on MMWUC

This Monday Morning Wake-up Call includes a sale. ONE PROMISE TOO MANY and A MATTER OF FAITH are on sale for Cyber Morning for $.99. Why shouldn't I make you spew coffee with such a wonderful deal on your MMWUC? Do sales and gimmicks work? How the heck should I know? I'm just a marketing babe, but I do know that for one day, ONE DAY , the books are discounted at 2/3rds their retail price.

As far as writing the next book during NANOWRIMO, well, I'm going to all a bit short this year. With my wife's schedule eating away at mine, November has turned into a very bad month for me to write. However, I have about 30,000 words of a good story running with three possible endings and a very unusual bad guy. It does make me pause though and question is there any bad guy that hasn't been singled out yet for being written about? I'm thinking next time that a demented guinea pig goes about killing joggers because of the pig's repressed memories of being stuck in an exercise wheel that he couldn't get out of. No matter how fast he ran, it just went faster until one day.... I digress. Buy my book or two. :-)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Breaking Dawn - There's a story in all this.

It's breaking dawn, no, not the movie, the time of day. I was sleeping nicely after a frenetic Thanksgiving Day when my presence was requested at the local Home Depot by my wife to come and get "my" ten poinsettias for $1 per plant. Dutifully, I slip out of my heated waterbed and trundle outside to the frost-covered car and drive to the store to help out.

Upon arriving home, I scan the disaster that is my home. After eight hours of cooking two turkeys, 20 pounds of potatoes, making home-made stuffing (3 batches), and enough gravy to float a small boat, I washed and dried dishes for four hours. Sadly, there's still four hours of dish washing to go. I guess that's what happens when you have 26 relatives for the meal and everything is homemade and no automatic dishwasher. The turkey carcasses are being boiled down into broth for the next turkey day in April. We did bag 2,000 caramels in bags last night much to the chagrin of my visiting Wisconsinite nieces. And the Sheepshead card game was lively. It was nice to watch the 85-year-old Alzheimers-afflicted patriarch beat the pants off of his daughter, son, two grand-daughters, and a great-granddaughter (more interested in chewing and drooling on the cards than playing the game). Alzheimer's, such a weird disease. He can't remember what he ate two hours earlier (turkey dinner on Thanksgiving), but knew what each player had in their hand instantly and counted trump without fail.

The sun's up, and now I won't be able to sleep until the circadian rhythms overtake me around 2 p.m. It's a perfect fall day and there are plenty of leftovers for sandwiches, but not for at least a day, I'm full, and I have words to write before I sleep; words to write before I sleep.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Follow the Super Committee Example: Define Goals Then Fail

Super Committee
Does not exist in D. C.
Grade school fantasy


When I write, I try to follow the methodology I learned where the POV character of each chapter has a goal that is not attainable by the end of the chapter, thus putting themselves further from completing their quest and achieving their story arc goal. I don't always know what it is myself at times during the first draft, but when I edit what I've written, I find or insert it, and make sure it's there. The trick is not to necessarily let your reader know what the goal is on first reading, but to recognize it when the POV character fails to achieve the goal at the end of the chapter. It's kind of like subliminal goal setting. This doesn't mean hiding it in something like the last "5" in a Sudoku puzzle. The POV character may even state it explicitly (and I salivate when I put it out in plain sight).

Monday, November 21, 2011

MMWUC - The Message Is Simple

I've been spray painted with a lot of platitudes about writing lately, and I've been guilty of shooting off a few myself as I twitter my brains away on the social media platforms. But it's important to remember...

If you're a writer, the bottom line is:  Writer's write.

I need to remind myself of that basic simple rule every now and then.  That's the Monday Morning Wake-Up Call. If you're a writer, don't lose your sight of the lighthouse beacon guiding you through the rocky shoals of distraction to the port of creative development.

If you're not a writer, support your local writer, and find your own bottom line.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Australian Invader - Guest Blogger

Rick's vacationing over at Ron D. Voigts blog this morning, writing about the lessons learned from self-publishing, part 7 - What is Success? Join him there. Meanwhile, Sydney, Rick's 19-year-old cockatiel is guest blogging here.

"Got mashed potatoes? No. What kind of cheap outfit is this? Stop flashing that light in my face? I bite you know. Why am I here? I hatched. No mystery. No, I'm not from Australia, but mom was. I've never been out of North Carolina. I write, well, type. Gotta do something around here. Oh, wait! A good one. You're safe for another twenty minutes. Anyway. Here's a story I wrote. Took a year.

Dr. Frankenberry stared at the jellyfish and wondered if they were staring back.

"They're beautiful," he said to Inga.

"Oh, let me go, you’re mad." Inga, clad in a leopard skin bikini, which the doctor bought from Macy's using a seasonal coupon, jingled her silvery chains. "Pretty," she said, before remembering her situation.

"Just think," the doctor said, filling a needle with fluid from a jellyfish that writhed in obvious pain, "if this works, you'll be young and beautiful forever."

"I want to be free," she said emphatically.

The doctor added a yellow fluid into the needle then injected her. He waited. He waited for hours. Nothing happened. Inga finally went to sleep and snored like the town drunk on Sunday morning.

"Drat!" He turned to his desk then sat. He immersed himself in his notes, looking for what could have gone wrong. Hours passed.

He pushed his glasses up his nose. A squishy sound erupted from behind him.

He turned.

"My God!"

Inga slipped out of her silvery bracelets and approached the doctor, stinging him repeatedly before consuming him. She turned to the wounded jellyfish in the tank, slipped inside the aquarium, and made sweet love to her wounded hero.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

If William Shakespeare Can, I Can

I'm going to read in public, specifically at Davenport & Winkleperry’s, 18 E. Salisbury St., Pittsboro, NC. on December 13, 2011 sometime between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.. Since it is open mic, I need to get there early. Maybe I'll be late. Maybe it'll snow. This will be different from when I read at my Book Launch Party. Then, the 100+ persons in attendance were my guest, most on good behavior, none drunk. This time, I'm hoping it doesn't end up like a medieval egg and tomato throwing contest. I don't read in public, but now I must. But what to read? A snippet from a currently published novel? A few lines from a new novel? A short story? A poem? Haiku?

Grounded and forlorn
Bare oak down from nameless storm
Treeless vultures morn

I only have eight minutes. I could run a mile in eight minutes. That should be far enough to get away from any eggs and tomatoes thrown.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I'm having this incredible tussle with the evil internal editor (EIE). I write, and the EIE twists my words and makes the all sound like fingernails across the blackboard in school. "They vill be edited. And they vill be edited, now," is the commanding voice. I fight. Honest, I do. But yesterday, the muse, so patient, so kind, so full of ideas, and sometimes baloney, finally spoke up. "SHUT UP!" She offered a compromise. For the next twelve months the EIE will leave me alone, then, during NANOWRIMO 2012, the EIE is in charge.

So, as long as the EIE can play nice as of Monday, next NANOWRIMO is the anti-nanowrimo. I'm to offer up 112,327 (don't ask how we came up with that number) words, and the EIE has as a goal, the opportunity to cut 50,000 words out of that novel of 112K+ words in one month. We're all happy for now.

So, what kind of crazy deals do you make with your internal and external demons to get a story completed?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Big Bra

Every now and then, a story pops up that catches my eye for no good reason. This model is wearing a bra advertised as costing $2.5 million. Have I even made $2.5M in my lifetime? I mean I could have read about Paterno (sad in so many ways) or Lindsey Lohan (just sad) or even the big Alaskan winter storm (bad, real bad). Yes, the model is cute, but I bet after this gig she eats a whole turkey like a Viking returning from the sea so that her body doesn't shut down from malnourishment. But a $2.5M bra! Who buys these things? Some how, some way, there's a story waiting to be written about this bra. And, at what point did wings become part of a bra? I must have missed that when Mr. Hayes taught Sex Education and Leon A. kept asking questions to which he already had the answers. But I don't think he asked about bras.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Self-Published Marketing

Well, it's challenging - Twittering, blogging, co-blogging, swap-blogging, Linked-in, Facebooked, reviewing, face-to-face showing, book clubbing, independent book store cajoling, little sleeping, some writing, sanity questioning, interviewing, articling, Book Launch Partying (well, that was fun), writer meeting, calling, writing, emailing, texting, selling (sold two in an assisted living center - relax, it was staff), visiting (sold 7 on vacation in the Wisconsin woods - woowoo - who knew bears read mysteries), praying, singing (praises), next comes You-Tubing. If you're gonna be a self-published author, be prepared to wear a lot of hats, and always, always, carry a copy of your book along to sell.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NANOWRIMO and Losing My Religion

Not sure why the title of this post came to mind. Perhaps I heard R.E.M. last night before going to sleep. Or, maybe it's because I'm starting to wander into that no man's land of novel writing. That area somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 words where the original inspiration for the story starts to flag and the "really neat" stuff you planned for later in the book can't happen yet. It's the point where the reader starts to lose interest in your underdone book and lays it down. "How was it Myrtle?" Myrtle shrugs her shoulders and starts yammering about the latest image of Jesus she found in the crabgrass. The writer's goose is cooked. Forget about word-of-mouth marketing by Myrtle.

So, after 14,007 words, I did something drastic to my character that I'd not thought about doing before that moment of inspiration when the Muse whispered in my ear at 11:27 p.m. last night as the caffeine fix waned and the call of the pillow trumpeted brain-dead salvation. Muse, thou has not forsaken me yet. And the religion of writing is not lost. Write on! Write on!! Brothers and sisters, amen. Write on!

Monday, November 7, 2011


If you're a writer, you probably know that NANOWRIMO is upon us. I struggled on Sunday, but I managed, in between cutting 672 caramels, meeting with neighbors about neighborhood security, fighting off the shrill sounds of four hours of seven recorder players finalizing thirteen holiday tunes, making (and cleaning up afterwards) enough gung pao chicken four a family of eight, to raise my total number of words to 12,081. For NANO, that's about a quarter way to the finish line. For the length of novels I write, that's about 1/7th of the way. I need to write shorter novels. Herein, without fanfare is the first scene of the first chapter of my mystery novel that has not title yet. It is the fourth novel in the Detective Stark mystery series (or maybe the fifth), and I had no idea what the story was about when I started, but I do now. Writing, even for an anal-retentive, Capricorn, German/Polish, former project manager like me is sometimes organic in nature.
Chapter 1

I leaned my head out the window of the idling Ford Explorer to see a man in shorts and a parka running toward my car yelling, "Rabbits. They're everywhere. Huge rabbits." He dashed past my rented vehicle and kept on going for fifty yards before he fell down attempting to turn down a dirt road. He rolled over twice before he bounced up and sprinted from sight into the Newfoundland maritime forest.

Facing forward again, I shook my head. My stomach growled in response. I was hungry and ready for some good seafood, but fifteen or so cars clogged the road ahead of us. About ten of them had been in front of us since we had gotten off the last ferry run of the year at Argentia. The lead car held us captive on the squiggly highway 10A across the Avalon Peninsula for forty miles. I could not see the problem around the slight bend in the road, but, I hoped that whatever had blocked the slow parade of traffic would be gone soon.

I looked at my wife in the passenger seat. "Mary, are the rabbits really that big up here?"

"Yep," my wife answered, holding her forehead with her fingertips. Eyes closed. Lips curled up in a sardonic smile.

"Bunnies," Robert yelled from the back seat.

Mary turned to face our two-year-old son. "That's right. Bunnies." She laughed and poked Robert playfully in the belly before adjusting the car seat.

I stared straight ahead again. "Bunnies." I put the car into park and unbuckled my seat belt.

Mary reached for my arm, but I opened the door and slipped out of the driver's seat before she could grab me. "And just where are you going?" She positioned one arm akimbo, wrinkled her brow, and pouted.

I flashed a winning smile. She didn't formalize the question by including my name into her query. Good. Her fake anger at my inquisitive nature, when we were so close to our destination, was a good sign. The long flight from central Pennsylvania to Bangor, Maine and the fifteen hour ferry ride form Nova Scotia to Argentia hadn't taxed her stoic good nature to its limit. "There might be an accident. Besides," I said in a serious tone while shrugging into a warm jacket, "there might be bunnies."

"Bunnies," Robert yelled again then laughed.
Y'all have a great day, and hope you made it to work on time.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I should be blogging about NANOWRIMO (I'm doing it), revising (I'm doing it), marketing my novels (I'm doing it), cleaning out the garden now that veggie season is over (I'm doing it), doing household chores (I'm doing it), fixing the cars--new battery for one; tires for both (I'm doing it), critiquing some chapters (I'm doing it), writing Sydney's biography (I'm doing it), spraying anti-deer stinky stuff (I'm doing it, although the last time I sprayed myself and even the mosquitoes didn't come near me), and cleaning house (I'm doing it).

However, what has taken top priority is getting my passwords and accounts in order. The computerized world has just gotten a bit out of control. I now have over 100 places that want me to have a user name/ID and password. And they all want me to change it on a regular basis. Yeah, I'm doing it, but it's taking a long time. Perhaps there's a story in it, but who has time to write it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

MMWUC - Adrenalin Junkie

Can the coffee; stash the soft drink; close the bag of chocolate. Having a Book Launch Party for my novel, ONE PROMISE TOO MANY, as the official kick-off to my new full-time career as a writer is the best adrenalin rush of all. Otherwise, how can I write this at 5:20 a.m. after having knocked off 238 emails since 11 p.m. Sunday night? The reality of the hard work will soon settle upon me. The two-headed beast of production (writing) and marketing (street book pusher) will force me to make tough decisions about the time commitments in is new life, but for now, I rush forward into this brave new world armed with a book and one heck of an adrenalin rush.

And the Monday morning wake-up call for today...never lose sight of your goal. In ONE PROMISE TOO MANY, Detective Stark has to fight through a lot (disappointments at home and work, lots of unknowns, and the number of hours being awake) to reach his goal. So what does your protagonist have to overcome to reach his goal? What stokes his adrenalin rush? Are you making it too easy for him?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Launch Party, ahoy!

Saturday is my first ever Book Launch Party (BLP). I invited Stephen King, Amy Tan, Salman Rushdie, Clive Cussler, and many others in my head. But, knowing that they are busy writing, hobnobbing with the rich and famous, and the famous who are famous for being famous, think Kim Kardashian, I'm excited that my friends, family, and boosters of my career are going to be there with me. It's amazing what you can do when you have support and encouragement. Make sure you encourage someone who has a dream today, tomorrow, and every day. That's how dreams really come true. Yeah, I'm sloppy with sentiment this morning, but I'll fix that. I've got to put my protagonist in harms way, and it's not going to be pretty. Someone dies. You'll find out who in about 18 months.

Get out there and make this day count.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Tribute to Writing 101

Character's bold; first lines that incite.
Stow back-story, drop clues in plain sight.
Far flung locales with twists dynamite.
Readers want more through the darkened night.

Scene and structure; a voice to ignite.
Arc, spark, and start, motivated flight.
Injured hero with poisonous bite.
Readers need more through the darkened night.

Compose words spare; type sentences tight.
Sling power nouns, strong verbs flexing might.
Byzantine plots with dialogue slight.
Readers crave more through the darkened night.

Nostrils aflame; taste buds burning bright.
Sounds cascading, exploding eyesight.
Fingers aglow with textured delight.
Readers cry, "More!" through the darkened night.

McGuffin twist; obscure victim's plight.
Elusive clues, raising tension's height.
Solutions wrong with thoughts not quite right.
Readers plead, "More!!" through the darkened night.

Mirrored images; good/evil insight.
Black moment bleak, then climatic fight
Lessons revealed with dénouement's rite.
Readers scream, "More!!!" at morning's first light.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waiting out the Bad

Finally, the rain cleared and the clouds parted at sunset yesterday. We paddled around the lake, catching up to a mom and pop pair of eagles; one dipped and caught a fish bigger than any I'd caught since I'd been up at the lake in the cabin in the woods in northern Wisconsin. A yearly followed behind, begging for food that they probably didn't give him. "Find your own," mom yelled. No otters this year, but some loons dove under the silent canoe near a small island in the lake as the dull sunset burst into oranges, reds, and purples to match the changing leaves on the shoreline. You'll have to take my wife's description of the colors; I'm colorblind. A bat skillfully dipped near us to capture unnamed bugs hovering in the wake of our relatively warm bodies. Soon it was almost dark and the owls started. I do a good owl impression and had a lovely chat with a Bared (sp) owl until he realized I was also a boy. Fifteen minutes later, he had impassioned love with a cutie. They screamed like monkeys in a jungle. Then the stars revealed themselves slowly. The first one for a wish, and then they all clamored for attention. A few even fell to Earth, streaking across the sky. Finally, time to dock and for once, she didn't dump me into the cold water. "Make me a fire." She batted her eyes. I did. A glass of brandy later, she was out like a tired sled dog after the Iditarod. Some times you just have to wait out the bad to get to the good.

Monday, September 26, 2011

MMWUC - Tighten Up

No, this post is not about Archie Bell and the Drells and their signature song. It's about tightening your story. It is my #1 guideline, because, well, because (yeah, that can be tightened) most writers I critique haven't done so. I've not perfected tightening yet, but I know it doesn't happen on the first draft. Don't throw that first draft out for critiquing, put it under your pillow for a week. Gain distance from the love you have for your words. Then, after you've taken out the awkward sentences and confusing words, you might get a critique that will really help your budding piece. Following the guideline to resources that can truly help you out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Define Success

Aside from personal satisfaction, I wonder now what would be considered the threshold for success for a self-pubbed book (electronic and/or paperback). Before the onslaught of electronic and paperback self-pub options that exploded on the scene 4-6 years ago, I read that 500 sales was considered a best-seller for vanity press -- with most of those successes being cookbooks not novels. After only a two months with a published book and watching the rise and fall of rankings on various sites, I can believe 500 would be considered a best seller. 500 sales, I'm hoping so with ONE PROMISE TOO MANY and more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Other Half Speaks Up

My better half has finally finished NAKED AND HUNGRY by Ashley Memory and PENELOPE AND THE BIRTHDAY CURSE by Ron D. Voigts. She enjoyed both calling Naked and Hungry an entertaining read and just the right length for a long plane ride. full of those "special" characters you'd find in any southern town. Penelope was a humorous, page-turning read that kept you guessing who the murderer is. She found it a refreshing tween read that returned her back to her younger years in spirit, but found the story enjoyed as an adult. So, there you have it from the north woods of Wisconsin. Page turners for your enjoyment.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I see my NANOWRIMO friends getting eager to write by a slow increase in the email chatter for kick-off meetings. "Hey! Write now." They shouldn't wait; they should write all the time. Lecture over.

But, for those who don't know about the NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth, it's a month long competition to write a novel, generally considered to be 50,000 words in length, in a month. It has mutated over the years. It's as much about the journey of writing and the camaraderie of writers, along with the celebration of anything related to writing. I've participated since 2003, and even though I haven't "won" each year, I always get a good start on a new story. A MATTER OF FAITH was a 2005 winner of 68,000 words and is now a published novel, alongside ONE PROMISE TOO MANY. METEOR MAGIC got its start in 2009 and will be out in early 2012. The stirrings of an idea for this year has begun. The biggest point: I will have published two books more than Snooki.

Are you making the leap into NANO writing? Is there a book eating your brain before zombies get to it?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Voices in the Wilderness

As comes as no surprise to anyone, I've been tweeting. I can't believe the number of writers out there in the twittervesre: wannabe writers, good writers, bad writers, writers begging you to read their masterpiece, writers wanting to help you (usually for a price), writers frustrated (stand in line), elated, cute ones, and desperate ones (buy my book or I'll kill myself). I didn't buy the book. He's still out there tweeting.

I'm this tiny voice in a vast arena with what I think is a good book, as do all authors think about their books. I guess I'll have to run naked through an airport screening in a couple of weeks when I return to North Carolina so I can get on the evening news and attract a larger audience.

So, what are you going to do to get that bigger audience?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

To Kill A Mocking Herd

Me and the four Ms. Daisys returned from a Ham Hock and Blood Sausage eating marathon (I had chicken.) at Dixie's Dinner in Antigo and found both doors to the cabin locked and us keyless. So I call sister-in-law. "Oh, there's no hidden key to the cabin." I've been searching around the cabin for five minutes while the Ms. Daisys (85, 84, 83, and 78 years old) unfold themselves from the car, gather canes and walkers, and uneaten food in boxes. They're conspiraring: the usual multi-decibal chatter has dulled to the click-clicks of some African tribe that you catch on a public TV special. Eventually, the decision is made. Bust in the screen on the only window left open. After retrieving the ladder from the garage, the fight is on for the honor of making like a second-story criminal on a one-story house. All had reasons to want to go: "I'm the oldest." "I'm the youngest." "Well, I take yoga." (She bends to pick up her cane to demonstrate her flexibility.) "It's my cabin," my mother-in-law screeches, making her way with her walker from the outhouse. Thank goodness we still have the two-seater. I'm no spring chicken, but I'm up the ladder. I win. I didn't want to bend any window parts, so I work on the screen methodically while wondering how theives would get it. Finally, brut force wins. The screen pops inward, and I tumbled in through the window. The geese honk; chipmunks chatter; loons call; the heard does some weak redition of Arsenio Hall's "woo-woo." No one asks if I'm hurt.

I find the keys in the pocket of the shorts I changed out of just before we left hours ago. It is my fault, and now, I'll never be able to live it down. Too many witnesses. Unless...

How does your antagonist go about getting rid of unwanted witnesses to a crime and what's the best way for me?

Monday, September 12, 2011

MMWUC - Do Writers Really Vacation?

I don't think writers really vacation. How can you? I'm here in the northern woods of Wisconsin. A placid lake reflects sunrise's promise of a gentle warm day when a hodag emerges from a nearby cave and devours a carelss chipmunk, chirping like a leaky faucet announcing a call to a breakfast he'll never eat. But this is a baby hodag and an eagle swoops down to carry him off for her babies, born too late in the year though they are nearly as big as she. Excuse my wandering mind.

Chipmunks chatter
Echo leaky sink
acorn clatter
noisly kerplink.

Old cabin groans
legacy years past
honeymoon moans
ensuring it lasts.

I really need to get some food in the cabin, but this is story, and to keep the tension high, a cannon goes off deep in the woods. I'm under attack from the boy scout camp down the road. They're actually zombie boy scouts looking for little old ladies to help across the street and chomp down on their well seasoned brains (don't get mad at me! that's what zombies do). They're in luck. Four octogenarian women are coming to visit me for five days and extol the benefits of blue hair, walkers, and favorite memories of hodags they have known. Perhaps therein lies inspiration for the next story. I guess writers really don't vacation.

And how are you falling into your next story?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Life Grabs Rick

A writing lesson this morning in trying to do too many things at once. Must write now about these feelings of having to be in two places at once. In the book, of course, there's a huge disaster. His mom gets killed, but he saves his kid. In my case, if the leaf mulch is dumped in the wrong spot, my wife kills me because we'd never get it moved in time for the Book Launch Party for my two novels, ONE PROMISE TOO MANY and A MATTER OF FAITH. The opposing event, there's a sale that ended at noon at the grocery store for Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream and the mulch guy comes at the same time as the end of the sale. Naturally, I saved the ice cream. It will be the fuel to help me move the mulch during the middle of the night. Sometimes a win-win is really a win-win.

Remember, put your protagonist in a can't win situation. It's painful, but you need the squirm factor in your novel.

Monday, September 5, 2011

MMWUC - Labor Day

What does your antagonist do on labor day? In ONE PROMISE TOO MANY, mine is executing the crime of the decade no matter what Detective Stark does. In A MATTER OF TIME, mine was planning the murder of a rich man. Just what do master criminals do on holidays? Okay, I'm stretching things here, but my power keeps going on and off for no apparent reason, and the letter "f" refuses to cooperate.  I had to type that one four times.

Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, one of the Obama girls, me.  What do we have in common? All will release a book in 2012. Michele O'Bockman will call for a congressional inquiry over the Obama girl book. Nancy Pelosi will fall down a flight of stairs while reading Lady Gaga's book. Justin and Celene Dion will hook up. There I've made my predictions. Now, time to make breakfast since I can't whack weeds.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Blathering Badly?

I'm in the early stages of marketing my books, "One Promise Too Many" and "A Matter of Faith". It takes up a lot of my time and energy being restrained and not overly blabbing about them on Facebook (but I'm pretty darn excited about it) or blogging each time about them (but I'm pretty darn excited about it) or shouting about them on Twitter (but I'm really darn excited about it). Well, actually, I think that's the purpose of Twitter. It's the ultimate social media where the primary purpose seems to be shouting about "me, me, me" and how clever I am, even if most of it is just bad banal blathering. Other sales avenues are slowly opening up. But the question remains...

...what do you do to ensure the rest of the world knows you have written the best book ever?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Box in the Mail

I received a box in the mail today. Books. My books. My books that I must sell. "Yippee," and "Oh, crap," collided in time and space like two electrons going around the CERN Superconducting Laboratory and trying to occupy the same slice of bologna that some careless worker left behind. It got me thinking though, as most things do in my overly-charged brain, about having a character in my story receive a mysterious package.

How would your protagonist react to a mysterious package ending up on his/her desk? Open it like a Christmas gift or call Homeland Security to blow it up?

P.S. I also can't believe this is the last day of the summer months.

Monday, August 29, 2011

MMWUC - Rain with that Hurricane?

Hurricane Irene came and went. The outer rain bands stopped at the county line, about 1/2 mile from my house. I got .15 inches of rain and two downed branches. Thirty miles to the east, they got 3 inches and some trees down. Near the coast, one town drowned under 19 inches of rain in just over one day. Reporting on Irene has been weird and reaction weirder. I could say, "Irene, a bust." I had to water my plants the next day. However, some of the media and individual-centric comments about the storm have been, well, stupid, calling Irene, much to do about nothing. Lift your head people. Just because your little island of reality wasn't affected, millions were. Just water your plants or ride your bicycle and be very, very thankful the storm didn't creep over the county line and put your life on hold for the next few months.

Writers: How have you used the weather in your story to enhance the readers experience?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Writer

Hurrican Irene. 'Nuff said. Write your hurricane story. Make your voice heard. If you're somewhere else, write an anti-hurricane story.

Eye of the Storm

I stood near the open garage door, as a garbage can flew past me. "Close one," I yelled, over the huffing and puffing noises. I should really take shelter inside and wait until this blows over, but I was hypnotized by the rage and fury. I wondered what next? I didn't have to wait long. A sturdy shrub, that had grown millimeters into my neighbors yard was yanked out the ground. Dirt and twigs slammed against the side of the house, then slid down like a figther who'd take his last punch. Paralyzed the the display, I squinted in defiance. A cop car cruised down the street, eyeing me. Without warning, a calmness overtook the entire scene.

My nextdoor neighbor came over. "I'll clean up the mess, but next time," he leaned into me, "make sure your herd of hamsters poop on your yard, not mine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Inspiration has struck in the midst of trying to get A MATTER OF FAITH prepared for publication on Amazon, CreateSpace, and Smashwords. What if -- A dozen people are trapped in a high-rise building after an historic earthquake while a powerful hurricane barrels towards them, and one of them is disposed dictator bent on revenge. Oh yeah, and another one is a hunky vampire. Oh yeah, and there's the famous newly-weds who are paparazzi-crazed, because, well, that's all they're famous for, being in public. And don't forget the two old, fat, white guys who can't agree on any solution to their problem. It's like this story was ripped from the headlines. Can I have the NBA now?

Monday, August 22, 2011

MMWUC - Is Your Protagonist Is Mad At You

Book #2, A MATTER OF FAITH, is officially done. No more revising, editing, or tweaking. It's production time on Monday, which will spill over into Tuesday and finally wrap up on Thursday. In between, I have to replace the car that died on me, take another in for maintenance, visit my dermatologist so she can tell me I have more skin cancer, find an endocronologist, and prop up the loofahs that are overrunning the garden. Lots to do, but I really should spend some time with the co-protagonist (he really hates to be a "co"...thinks he can carry the whole book) of my next book. He's lonely and swears he won't cooperate with the writing.

What do you do when your protagonist won't cooperate? Bribe? Spank? False praise?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Nothing about Nothing and That's Something

I'm going to rest today. I'm going to build an arch under my loofahs, weed whack weeds, finish mulching a section of the bush bed that is 95.34% complete, and I may even cut some errant small trees and the one that feel during the windstorm the other night. I may go to the dump. I may even move some of the dirt pile at the end of my driveway...yeah, right...dirt. It's good old, heavier than gold, red clay. I've got to have a day away from the computer. Will I be successful. Probably not. My name is Rick. I'm an addict. It has been three hours since I last touched my keyboard. The shakes aren't too bad, but...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Scaring Yourself With Sounds

I have a dentist appointment this morning, so why am I thinking about Marathon Man! You know the scene with Dustin Hoffman, the 64th scariest scene of all time. It's the type of scene that would make everyone cringe, except, of course, Jack Nicholson in the original The Little Shop of Horrors. (Not to be confused with Susan Goodwill's Little Shop of Murders, a most excellent cozy mystery novel.) There's something very unnerving about that high-pitched, whirling sound with which most everyone can associate.

What other universally disturbing sounds are there that make your readers cringe?

Monday, August 15, 2011

MMWUC - This the doctor in the house?

It's the start of the parade of doctors. I'm fasting for the blood test. Then comes the physical, dentist, eye examination, dreaded anal probe (I'm down to only three years in between pooper patrols), and dermatologist to slice and dice away more and more of me. Could be worse. Could be adding in a cardiologist or some other specialized -ist doctor. It's a real time suck to the schedule, but now I can use one of the marketing tips I've learned. I can leave behind my business card with the nurses and doctors and future patrons in the waiting room. I can sit there, waiting to be probed, while reading ONE PROMISE TOO MANY and extolling its virtues to anyone who passes by. Hmm. Maybe I should schedule more appointments.

How does health affect your protagonist or antagonist? Does a painful toothache cause them to react out of character?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Rush of Publication - The Drag of Marketing

The e-book is on Smashwords, Diesel, B&N, and Amazon. It may be on Apple, Srollmotion, and other sites that I don't know about. The ratings have all been 5-star so far, and the private emails have all been upbeat, especially with regard to the portrayal of the schizophrenic suspect. The feeling last evening, when ONE PROMISE TOO MANY started to show up in all these places, was like a runner's high. Now, I'm waiting on the birth of the paperback. As a do-it-yourselfer, meeting the cover requirements was (is) difficult. But I know the hard work has just begun. I can't do anything more about the story, it is what it is, but it's time to make my book rise above the mass of well-done, poorly-done, and fakers, and attract an audience of readers beyond friends, family, and my meager following. The future is positive and daunting at the same time. I love it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Self-Publishig Struggles and Satisfaction

Successful self-publishing is not for the timid, tired, or easily traumatized writer. Two weeks into the ongoing adventure to self-publish "One Promise Too Many," I'm trying to do it without help. Professional help would be easier, but cost a few bucks. Using standardized templates and such would be easier, but I'd not stick out in the growing forest of quickly thrown-over-the-fence books by frustrated writers. So, I cobbled together my own cover, had the book edited a dozen times by sincere and helpful friends, and got lucky with Ron #2, 35 years of AP experience as an editor. I formatted the book nearly flawlessly the first time (I do read the instructions in the box). The real challenge is the paperback cover sans help and the $550+ recommended software. Did I do it right when I sent it at midnight last night? I will find out from Createspace today, then the book will be on Amazon. And then marketing plan phase 2 can begin.

It all reminds me of when I designed, drew the blueprints, engineered, and was the general contractor for my house with no "industry" experience. Terrifying, but ultimately, very satisfying. When was the last time you or your protagonist stretched their abilities and tasted the sweetness of surviving a hard fought challenge.

Monday, August 8, 2011

MMWUC - Inopportune Adventure

"The fan for the air conditioner was making this terrible racket," my niece said. She stood in the shade with three kidlets in tow when she showed up at her mom's house the other day as we were unloading a truck full of my in-laws worldly goods in 99-degree heat. "Dad's driving up to fix it. We'll stay here. I just shut the fuse and left." A couple days went by, and like Paul Harvey used to say, "And now for the rest of the story." Her dad, an expert handi-man drives 100 miles to her house and opens the super-deluxe air conditioner. Two beady eyes stare back at him. Then, he finds the decapitated body in the air duct. Not good, but on a positive note, the air conditioner isn't broken. The decapitated head was just rolling around in the unit smacking into the fan blades at irregular intervals. Seems that the intruder chose an inopportune time to get stuck, and when the suped-up fan started, off came the head. Yep, mice get into the strangest situations.

I can think of several plot lines out of this. Ever have a home repair that lead to a good story?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Changing Lives - Story Fodder

One week ago, I became an author when I published "One Promise Too Many" on Smashwords. It'll be available on Apple by this time next week. The paperback might be out by this time next week also. However, the most important event this week was Big Red's disintegration. Big Red was my 20-year-old Ford Explorer, a wedding present between me and my wife. It decided to try and burn up because a locked brake mechanism shot searing hot fluid against the engine causing a gray smoke screen. After being towed to the garage, the mechanic looked at it, spit on the ground, and said, "Shoulda burnt up. You was mighty lucky." Barreling down the street sans brakes in traffic trailing a smoky, gray fog didn't feel so lucky to me.

So, where did you get your latest story idea? Mine is about a guy whose car catches on fire, crashes into gas pump, and causes an inferno trapping four fleeing bank robbers who now risk capture or death while helping other people trapped with them in the aftermath. Maybe I'll blog about this again sometime in early 2013.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Moving Experience

The deed is done. The truck full of my in-laws possessions is emptied. 7-9 a.m. at my house, 9-11 at my nearby sister-in-law's house, and 11-12:30 at the assisted living center where my in-laws now reside, happy to have a modest portion of their worldly goods at their side. Then, the drive to my other s-i-l's house to unload the rest of the "stuff" that she gets. Thankfully, the third s-i-l said to leave her meager portion at the second s-i-l's house. Got that? Then, it was a mad dash to the rental dealership to turn in the truck and an even crazier drive to get the #2 s-i-l to work, which is the same place as my wife. So, after slugging it out in upper 90-degree heat, I slump in the passenger seat of my wife's car. She says, "Well, let me tell you about my crazy day." I pass out. There's bliss in the eternal darkness of an exhaustive blackout. No dreams. Sweet bliss.

Monday, August 1, 2011

MMWUC - Your Inner Voice

At six p.m. Saturday night, I flew from Raleigh to Chicago then took a bus to Georke's Corners (Waukesha, Wisconsin). At Six a.m. Sunday morning, I and a friend drove back to Raleigh, NC in a 26-foot rented diesel-guzzling truck full of household possessions of mostly emotional value that my parental in-laws were giving away to their eight kids, including my wife, because the in-laws are now living in an assisted living facility and the old homestead is sold. 959 uneventful miles later, we arrived on my street and turned into my driveway at 2:01 a.m. After 19 long and noisy hours of driving, I got stuck at the bottom of the driveway. It's now 3:43 a.m., and we've just dislodged the beast. The Monday morning wake-up call. Listen to your inner voice. Three hundred miles from home I said to my friend, "You know this truck is going to get stuck in my driveway because of the small dip. The loading ramp will get hung up." After 300 miles of listening to him, "No way," "Can't happen," "Trust me," we were stuck, because I didn't listen to what I knew was true. Don't make my mistake and get your protag stuck at the bottom of the story's driveway because, you didn't listen to your inner voice about what makes sense. See you in the afternoon. I'm tired.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Will Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber Buy My Book?

Well, I've been trying to restrain myself from posting on the weekends, because last time I had a blog, it was the monster that took over my life, and my writing suffered. But I have to say thank you to everyone who congratulated me. It's been such a long journey to authorship, and I appreciate the kind words. I can't imagine how Jon Konrath and others manage. I wonder if Prince William and Katherine have a blog. "Knighted six people today, but my beautiful bride wore the same pair of shoes to two of them. I love her. She's so practical." (And Billy, she's gorgeous.)

Okay, back to the grindstone.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I Am An Author

I AM an author. Though the ebook version of "One Promise Too Many" is not in all distribution channels as of yet and the paperback version is two weeks or so away from availability, my first novel is available at Smashwords. Next up, "A Matter of Faith" coming in September.

Today, however, I rest, listen to the fat lady sing, let Jack Getze smoke a cigar for me, tip back a beer (it's supposed to be 104 degrees here today), and think quietly about the next book -- I have this Alzheimer's patient who has vital clues about a murder, but no one will believe him until he goes missing, and...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

To Be Is To Fart

In the porcelain library, I'm reading a book, "Words of Wisdom - Philosophy's Most Important Quotations and their Meanings." It's taking me a long time to get through it. I don't like philosophy, but I've noted that philosophers lived long lives, that is, unless they killed themselves or offended the Pope and were disemboweled. This realization is making me rethink my natural inclination to have brain farts when I read long-winded philosophical arguments. Maybe I need to be more philosophical so I can live longer, maybe my characters need to be philosophical so they can have an enduring character trait. I can hear my detective, Roger Stark: "It's not the crime. It's the criminal." I don't know what that means, but it's a philosophy.

What philosophical gems do your characters spout?

Monday, July 25, 2011

MMWUC - It's My Party, And I'll Cry If I Want To

I'm having a book launch party. Why? Two reasons: (1) After busting my butt on ONE PROMISE TOO MANY for eight years to get it in publishable shape, I deserve it. (2) I need to be a marketing whore. I've googled book launch parties, and have asked for good and bad experiences related to the parties. Some party venues are out of my league, like renting a boat for a Chicago River cruise. Some have games not relevant to my book, like gnome tossing, though that does sound like fun. One caterer wanted $10K to do it. Not! I want to join Janet Chapman on the NYTimes Bestsellers list. So, I'll just do the best I can, have it at my palatial estate, call in favors from friends and family, hope the turkeys don't gate crash, and that someone comes.

Did anyone out there do a Book Launch Party? If so, how'd it go?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Letting Go

In three weeks, I'm supposed to birth my first novel, ONE PROMISE TOO MANY. I think I'm feeling like a parent getting their child ready to leave home for good. "I've read all the books on how to do things correctly." "I went to workshops and conferences on new and exciting ways to ensure success." "I talked to experts in all the right fields." "I have done all that I could!" The novel will just have to stand on its own merits for I can only encourage from afar, make introductions, open contacts new people, renew old contacts, and shout proudly, "I am an author. Hear my story's roar."

Oh wait, is that a typo on page 264? How could I fail my protag?

How did it really feel the first time you saw your book up somewhere for sale?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So Misundersood

My wife read part of my short story collection last night. Then, I was forced to sleep on the couch. "It's just a wild imagination," I pleaded. "It's not a psychopathic urge." Even Sydney didn't want to stay with me, preferring his cardboard box next to the oven. Sometimes writers are just misunderstood for no reason.
- - -
"Are the knives sharp?" Frank put on his coat.

"They could split an Adam." Johnny chuckled.

Frank looked over at Johnny. "Atom."

"Yeah, Adam."

"Whatever." Frank opened the door, and they departed.

After they dispatched Adam, Frank tossed the knives down the old well just as an escaping Higgs boson God particle from the CERN facility passed by. The explosion could be felt five hundred miles away.
- - -
Is your writing ever misunderstood by a loved one?

Monday, July 18, 2011

MMWUC - The Copperhead vs. The Carrot Top

I worked in the garden yesterday. Not shocking since I work in it every day. It's a nice break from staring at the computer. On the good days, ideas come together in a magical fashion. But that mental exercise can come at a price. The somnambulistic gardening work progressed while my mind played with the possibility of an alien detective on his home planet, which has different morals and laws than humanity, worked a murder case. I reached for a clump of badly decayed leaves bunched in the spring onion bed and grabbed the tail of a copperhead snake. I'm a red-headed, fat, tired, lazy, semi-old man with arthritis, gout, bursitis, cancer, poor eyesight, a bad cold due to cough, and a six-inch white man's jump, but Bob Beamon never jumped as far or as fast as I did. The battle with the snake lasted 2.2 seconds. I beheaded it with my trusty hoe. Now, some may say that the snake was just doing its thing, but he should have done it elsewhere. Black snakes, garter snakes, and even hog-nosed snakes I'll pick up and move out of the way, but poisonous snakes enter the yard at their own risk. Can't they read the signs I have posted? By the way, the snake gave me an idea to incorporate into the story.

So, the question is: So what's the biggest shock you've ever given your protagonist?

Friday, July 15, 2011


My dreams often start off semi-normal then devolve into angry, nonsensical, and frustrating experiences, but last night, something different happened.

Most people know I have a 19-year-old cockatiel named Sydney who loves me dearly and rules the house with a strong beak. Well, Sydney has two pets. They are Frick and Frack, two parakeets. Frick is blue-speckled and psychotic. Frack is a bluish-shade of white. He's a bit less jumpy than Frick and nips a lot less. Still, neither of them are people friendly. No hopping on the fingers, no sitting on the shoulders, no interacting with Sydney. It's our fault really. For the first five years of their lives they were the caged birds in the room because the few times they got out, they refused to go home. Then, they were clipped. I hate clipping birds' wings, but sometimes it really is for their own good. And parakeets aren't the brightest birds. They've been known to die of starvation, because they didn't realize that food was just below the shucked seeds in their feeder. Well, about five years ago, I started letting them out more because I sensed that they were unhappy in their luxurious wired condominium. It was a struggle at first. They'd flop to the floor, then learned to fly here or there, leaving unpleasant little presents and chew on everything. I'd have to catch them because they'd be too pooped, er, tired to fly back home. But I didn't put them into their cage. I'd sit them on top their cage and let them go back inside. Finally, after about a year, they figured out they could fly anywhere as long as they landed back at the cage. They sing more, eat more, and in a way, they seem happy. Sometimes when I talk to them, they actually look at me like they want to hear what I say.

Last night I dreamed about Frack. I walked outside via the sunroom door, and a white streak flew outside past me. He flew around the yard, soared far above the tree tops, dove with abandon, did somersaults in mid-air, and glided past me chirping excitedly. This went on for a long time, and just when I thought I'd lost him forever, he cruised back into the house. He landed softly on top of his cage, crawled around to the front door and entered it. I stood in front of the cage as he took a long, long drink. After his drink, he jumped back onto his little bar and almost seemed to be smiling. He tilted his head to one side and said softly, "Thank you."

I was so stunned, I woke up. I have to admit, I'm a wuss. I had tears in my eyes over his joyful flight. Was my subconscious projecting what I wanted to hear, or can one really sense when birds are truly happy?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday's Just Another Spot On The Calendar

The opening scene from "Throw Momma From The Train" played out in my office this past evening. Everything was banal. Even when I finally got chocolate, the words dribble out. "It was the best of times, but I still felt crappy." It wasn't even a "dark and stormy night." It was hot and wet, or moist, or humid or something. Heat lay over me like hot things that weigh you down. So, I gave up. And therein is the lesson. Just like the old mounds candy bar commercial used to intone (with a certain degree of literary license): "Some days you feel like a nut; other days it's confirmed." I went to bed, because, after all, tomorrow is another day.

What is the wildest thing you've ever done to get the juices flowing?

Monday, July 11, 2011

This is a test.

This is a test of the emergency blogging capture device. This is only a test. If this had been a real blogging emergency, you would have been redirected to the previous blog on this site. However, since you are already here, you might as well read your Monday Morning Wake-up Call anyway. This is only a test.

Rihanna fire, Mila Kunis, Mario Lopez, Monica wedding, gas prices.

MMWUC - Coffee with that bourbon?

Mondays are hard. Never mind that you stayed up too late Saturday night trolling the bars, quaffing beers with the boys until Bobby fell out of the chair and into the lap of the girl who won the wet tee shirt contest (her linebacker boyfriend was not laughing with you), or sipping wine with the girls until the hair-pulling began over some guy in tight jeans that no one would dare approach. All that caused you to sleep late on Sunday. Breakfast, yeah right! You barely made it to brunch before it closed at 2 p.m. And so, your entire routine for the day was shot. Sunday night's rejuvenating sleep didn't come until 2 a.m.; Monday's shrill alarm at 6 a.m. Coffee, intravenously, now. Mondays are hard. For some, they are kick-off bliss for new possibilities. For others, Monday is a reflective dump of what didn't I get done that now I have to pile onto this week?

So, the question is: Does your protagonist look for new possibilities or look at the pile of stuff on his desk and say, "Expletive deleted?"

Friday, July 8, 2011

What the Bunny Said!

I'm naked in a vast courtyard surrounded by impressive, brooding Gothic architecture and trying to find the class I forgot about my senior year in college. It's the last day of school, and I can't remember where the class is, and then I can't remember what the class was about. Was it German? American Novelists Before Vespucio? Dissection of Icky Creatures? I just can't remember. My heart races. I jump on a bicycle...not a good thing do when you’re a naked guy. I pedal uphill. I wake up in a pool of my sweat...okay the sheets are damp. Somewhat relieved, I lean over and say to my stuffed bunny, "What if nobody wants to read my book?" He responds, "Kind of like throwing a party and no one shows up." My sphincter clenches tight. "Right, I did that once." Then, I really start to panic.

Does any of this happen to you? Or, am I alone in the universe with my stuffed bunny?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Would Lady Gaga Like My Book?

On the Internet Writing Workshop, CM said that Nancy Pearl suggested that readers choose books based on the following hierarchy (most to least common): story, character, setting, and language. I thought the correct hierarchy was: ISBN #, publisher, dedication, how cute/handsome the author is (I'm screwed!), and the color of the paper. I asked for feedback on this question. The final tally was: (1) recommendation, (2) story line, (3) genre, and then everything else. So, I guess if you have a great story in a popular genre and the right person (Sarah Palin or Bill Clinton or Lady Gaga) recommends it, your numbers are going to be good.

I've forgotten the point of this poll, but in sum, a good writer who wants to be successful leaves no stone unturned when trying to create a positive reading experience. Don't go naming your thriller FUNNY STUFF HAPPENS AT THE BEACH instead of WHERE THE BEACH BLEEDS RED. Everything counts when you're looking for an audience. Where do you line up on this very unscientific poll?

REMINDERS -- On Thursday, I'm blogging over at Ron Voigts' site. He's the author of the just released YA mystery novel, PENELOPE AND THE BIRTHDAY CURSE. Y'all come over and sit a spell. On Sunday, Bob Sanchez pops in here to teach you how to make pigs fly while writing.

Monday, July 4, 2011

MMWUC - How Big Is Your Stuff?

I suspect that this question is more easily answered by a plotter (the writer who plans everything) than a panster (the writer who lets it rip). Do you target the length of your scenes, chapters, and book?

The first book I ever finished, SECRETS, had five chapters of around 22K words each. Each chapter represented a major shift in the plot. I felt the structure helped the story, but I caved to conventionalism. Now, words are sequestered in 2000 (+/- 300) bit-sized chapters. It works, but for what might have been. I AM conscious of book length, trying to fit into the 60-90K range for newbies. I failed. "One Promise Too Many" is 95K; "A Matter of Faith" is 102K. This length also hurts me with POD pricing, but that's a story for another day. Now, I find myself tuned into the 2,000 word goal for chapters. Am I bad for doing so?

To what extent, if any, do you pay attention to the length of your stuff when writing or revising?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Freaky Friday <-- cliché?

My long-suffering wife is sometimes scared after I dash off one of my wild emails (the weirdest ones never get seen). "And I sleep with you?" she'll comment. On Wednesday, I made an innocent, snide comment about an article in Publisher's Weekly, and I finally ended up, a few email exchanges later, with my 25-word synopsis for a new novel that I almost feel obligated to write, because it'll hit all the correct high-selling genre groups in the article. I give you: INTERSTELLAR CHRISTIAN WARRIOR -- A classic thriller in which an alien cowboy, spreading the Christian message throughout the universe, is hunted by his vengeful love child with Talia Shire. There it is: classic, thriller, murder, revenge, love, christian, sci-fi, and western.
Critical reviews are already coming in..."Yo! Alien." - Sly Stallone
Where do ideas come from?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday Madness is Wednesday's Plot

Tuesday was a butt ugly, terrible day. My new Droid, with the hotspot I depend upon to reach the Internet, crashed for the second time in two weeks. Customer service is sending me a new phone and are mystified by the software glitch. "It shouldn't do that," the friendly technician said. The replacement arrives tomorrow. Then, really bad things happened to drag me down to Dante's seventh ring of Hell. No details, but I've been dragged through enough dirt, innuendo, back-stabbing, lies, half-truths, legal posturing (always by people who don't have a law degree) to plot my next book. It'll be PEYTON PLACE meets AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY meets WATERGATE, but will probably sound more like THE HARPER VALLEY PTA. Every two or three pages, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne will turn to each other and say, "How dumb can someone be?" Well, maybe not dumb, but certainly misguided and insensitive beyond belief.

So, from where are you getting material and thoughts for your next novel?

Monday, June 27, 2011

MMWUC: Lesson's Learned

Whether you've been to the Writer's Retreat Workshop these past 10 days, are cutting grass, promoting your upcoming novel, "Naked and Hungry", or have just released your 5-star debut novel, "Penelope and the Birthday Curse," you've done and learned something. That's what life is all about. From one moment to the next, everything changes. Even if you're semi-conscious on your pink couch, drinking warm Rolling Rock and eating old pork rinds, while watching a C*O*P*S episode for the fourth time, and wishing for Tyra Banks to join you, nothing is ever the same from moment to moment. And so it is with your stories. If your story is not moving along, if your protagonist isn't getting closer to attaining (or failing to attain) his/her/its story-arc goal, that is, the quest that they're on throughout the entire story (and every story is a quest for something), then why am I bothering to read your novel?

How are you moving the story along? For my book, Detective Stark is cutting his grass, because it's long, and he ruminates about his latest case, making connections of clues that he can't do when his brain is occupied with the steady stream of life. For me, it's time to pick the garden.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Mystery of a Mystery

I've been cleaning out computer files, paper files, nail files, and forgotten files this past week. Sometimes, I come across something I wrote a long time ago. It usually triggers a happy memory, shortly before I bury it again in another file label, "Not Until After I'm Dead." But one file I came across is an outline for a mystery, complete with some character sketches, and an almost complete outline. It's an electronic file, and I can't imagine someone sending me something so clean, if a bit incomplete, for a critique. But, I have absolutely no memory of having written this in 2005. I'm afraid to pick it up again and work on it, fearing it might actually be someone else's and all the work I do with it might be for nothing.

Has this ever happened to you? If so, what did you do about it?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it."

Wednesdays to a week, are like the middle of a novel to a finished novel. The excitement of starting a week refreshed from the weekend has worn off, but the rush to the end of the week hasn't begun yet. In the midst of readying two novels for self-publication, that's where I am with a third one. The middle drags like pulling in a pile of seaweed on your fishing line at the beach. Lots of work. No joy. No pay-off. I should step into the story, and bitch-slap the protagonist like Humphrey Bogart (Sam Spade) to Peter Lorre (Joel Cairo) in "The Maltese Falcon." "Listen here Detective Stark, when you're slapped, you'll take it and like it." Maybe then he'll do something of value in the story. I just have to remember that "tomorrow is just another day." And, it is one day closer to the end of the week, and with each word I write, it gets me closer to the Black Moment, Resolution, and Dénouement. Gee, I'm feeling better already.

So what do you do when you find yourself flagging in the middle of the story?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

MMWUC: To Whom Does Your Antagonist Turn?

Yet again, a line of thunderstorms so powerful and ugly looking that visions of end days passed through my mind. It rumbled and shock, lightening knocked out power to three major malls, and fear ran deep through Sydney's body, as he squawked, fluffed feathers, and sought shelter in his cardboard box next to the oven. And then, the sun peeked out. One mile north of here, they received four inches of rain. At my brother-in-law's four miles south of me, it was a torrential downpour. But, and you've probably already figured it out, I got nothing. Twenty-two straight days and several terrific downpours throughout the area, and I have nothing. So I asked God what he wanted. I thought he said, "First born." Sydney closed the door to his cardboard box.

So, when your antagonist has a moment of doubt, to whom does that person ask for guidance and how does your antagonist as for that advice?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Is It Really Friday Again?

Yes, it is. And I'm still plowing ahead, working on my books, trying to get them ready for world-wide consumption, and having a bit of a panic attack. There's a lot to do when you're the writer, editor, graphic artist, publisher, marketer, and just plan, in what do I do next. My mental inbox of new ideas for new novels is starting to get filled up again, but the reality of wanting my current material published (yeah, I DO want to make a few bucks from it) weighs heavily. Fortunately, I've found final readers for the books who are now sharpening their pens, electrons, and wits to give me feedback. Maybe this weekend I can jot some ideas down in the electronic idea box I keep online for story ideas. How do you handle your overload of story ideas? Just do it? Give them away? Allow them to decay naturally?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Steve Jobs & Lady Gaga United

I'm up to my eyeballs wading through marketing options for my books due to come out starting this summer and through 12/21/2012, the fall of civilization, according to the Mayan Calendar. Social media (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) are necessary time drains that I have to address. And then, a writing friend sends me this link to Lady Gaga and Steve Jobs of Apple and their potential joint venture to tie all the social media in the world into a cloud or mist or thunderstorm or something. We are all connected, at least, that's how some of us feel. And it is especially true for those who have disposable income and want to dispose of it in my direction once I figure out how to leverage social media to my advantage. But what about AtuAtuzuwatta in Botswana? Does he feel connected, too? Does he want to read murder mysteries set in Pennsylvania or North Carolina?

Can you make sense of this article? Or, is this the 21st centuries version of snake oil for which we are all gaga over?

Monday, June 13, 2011

MMWUC - Sydney Ate My Homework

Animals. My wife insists I must have a lovable/evil/faithful/treacherous animal in every story because there are so many pets and pet lovers in the world. People are drawn to pets. People will hate the villain when he/she/it hurts an animal...even more so than when he hurts the human protagonist. They are so vulnerable, helpless (well, except for pit bulls, alligators, and pit vipers), and often cute. So, after one book with only a couple of walk-ons by Rin-Tin-Tin and a hapless rainbow trout, I hereby promise to include an animal in every book from now on. Sydney, my pet cockatiel currently sitting on my shoulder, agreed and said, "Me first." Wise guy. We'll see. So do you consciously put an animal in your stores or do they just happen to wind up there because the story went in that direction? Inquiring guppies want to know.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Penelope And The Proud Poppa

I met Ron Voigts in January, 2001. We've shared a journey full of critique groups that came and went, rejections, disappointments, and finally, for Ron, a place in the sun. His first published book, Penelope and the Birthday Curse, is up on Amazon for your ebook consumption. Though it was first out on Smashwords (SW) two weeks ago, the sight of it on Amazon seems to carry a more official stamp of legitimacy. This is not a slam on SW, but a perception that I have based on Amazon's consider weight in the marketplace. Penelope is a YA/Tweener mystery that has enough adult humor and action to be an enjoyable read on the beach while creating a home for melanoma; during an eight-hour, weather-delayed flight on the tarmac in Riga, Estonia; or sitting in the dentists office, trying to decide if you should wait your turn or flee. Congratulations, Ron, and here's hoping y'all will take a look at a book that came within a whisker of being swooped up by several publishers. It's a five-star start to a promising career.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Writing With Your Leg

It's Wednesday, so it must be physical therapy day for my leg. I've been at it now for almost a month, and the leg is responding though I'm still stiff and in pain and can't go downhill and, and, and, well, it's a pain in the butt, literally and figuratively and monetarily. However, it's also helping and that's were I need to keep my focus, on the end game, not the daily pains and small gains in the interim. It's like revising. I am so very tired of revising and editing one of my stories that I could puke. Yet, each time I set the "finished" product aside for a month. I come back to it and find ways to make it better, more publishable. Each time, there's less and less red ink. When no one notices my limp, I'll know that the trials and tribulations of physical therapy will have been worth it. It's the same with the revising. When my final reader can only find tiny, insignificant little nits, I know I'll be ready to release my baby into the world of publishing, not just to limp along with the teetering mass of less than stellar novels, but at a full gallop leading the herd.

In this age of technology, would writers under the age of thirty understand the red ink analogy?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What Are Your Characters Reading?

The good Judge Susan Baker ( ) recently asked, "So what are you all reading this summer?" Good question. Some good answers popped up. And they increased, in an odd way, my anxiety that I'm not reading enough or possibly not reading the right stuff. But the real question is, as your protagonist fights your antagonist, "What are these characters reading this summer?" My studious Detective Roger Stark is reading "Crime and Punishment" while Faith Moreno sinks her teeth into "The Kingdom of Childhood". My evil turkey in "The Turkey Chronicles" is reading "To Serve Humans," a book he found made famous on the 1962 television show, "The Twilight Zone". Supposedly, we taste best stewed.

So, what is your protagonist or antagonist reading?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Scary Stuff

Changed the name of my blog today. I hope like heck that I didn't loose my followers (all four of you) or confused everyone else out there in cyberworld. Once my books get published, I'm hoping that this will make it easier for people to find me, read my thoughts without the need to mind-meld (did Spock even once use one of those handi-wipe towelettes that you find near grocery stores before you take a shopping cart to prevent picking up germs from someone who just had eboli or the flu or even the common cold), and, well, brand my name a bit. Perhaps the other 576 Bylinas in the world will find me now. So much to do; so little time, but I'm loving it. Just wish Mother Nature would back off on the late Spring heat and spread the rains around a bit more evenly. My tomatoes are thirsty.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cutting Loose Your Babies

When are you done? When have you found the bottom of the error pit and are now just massaging words? When do you cut your baby loose? I think I'm looking for perfection and perfection doesn't exist. I've excised every typo so that I've gone through it twice now without MSWord or I finding one. No individual lines are unintelligible, at least I don't think they are. I've beat it with my self-help books and checklists, and fear flattening it to the point of dullsville, but yet I still wince at appropriate points (am I too much a weeny), get emotionally choked up at certain points (did I take estrogen by mistake), and can't find any loose ends at the end of the story (except those I manufactured for selected reasons). It has to be ready; it must be ready. But how do I know it's ready? Burping it doesn't seem to help. Ink just dribbles down on my shirt. Is there an acid test other than the obvious down the road, a rejection from an agent? I guess it's like a father after his son has left for college and turned the corner and driven out of sight: "I've done the best I can, and now I get to make his room my man-cave." I guess letting go does have some advantages.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

I'm looking at all angles to ensure my books sell once they start getting out there later this year. Right now, I'm obsessing over book covers. As we know, we are never supposed to judge a book by its cover; however, we do. We also judge by titles and blurbs. This is especially true when we are stuck in an airport and we need something to read prior to our 13 hour flight to Bhutan. So I made covers for my seven books to get a feel for what friends and other strangers like, dislike, or otherwise wish to burn me at the stake for creating. So far in my test marketing: (1) the favorite cover is also the most disliked, and this is by a wide margin over the competition (controversy good-boring bad); (2) humor is subjective, the one I think is very funny is stuck at the bottom; (3) iconic content representations seem to work better than collages, collages are to busy and slow down the decision-making process. All my titles seem to past the smell test, and the fake (and someday hopefully real, one-liner blurbs) are universally helpful. Test marketing continues, but I have to reassess my humor. The critical cover question is: "Do Yetis fall in love?" The response: "What's a Yeti?" Do you know what a Yeti is? Do you think they fall in love? Inquiring minds and book marketing whores want to know.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rawalpindi, Pakistan Calling

It still amazes me how widespread the Internet is, and the level of connectivity with others in the world we can potentially share. Yesterday, I was viewed from Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Now, I've been viewed from that part of the world before, particularly India, because I have writing friends there. However, Pakistan is another matter, as was my hit from Mongolia a few years ago. But then again, maybe it's not so strange. Osama did some web surfing, as did his followers, so why not some second-hand book store owner in Rawalpindi who's only looking to increase his stock? He may have even googled the title of the second book I plan to publish early this fall, A MATTER OF FAITH, and thought it might be a religious treatise on how to acquire 17, 70, or 72 virgins or figs or whatever the correct translation of the Koran indicates. The book is actually a murder mystery wrapped in a question of faith. Whatever the case, it is unlikely I will ever get to that part of the globe to see things for myself. However, I wish this person would have left a virtual calling card. It would have been nice to know what's playing at the Bijou Theatre in downtown Rawalpindia and swap tales of taking dates to the movies. Would our experiences be the same? That reminds me of a story...well, maybe later. Have you ever left your virtual calling card somewhere exotic and had an interesting exchange of life's happenings?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Can Social Media Alone Market Your Book?

Attended a Saturday night session for about a dozen writers (after we were sure we weren't saved) seeking new ideas, a safe place to read, and companionship not of the four-legged kind (i.e., cats, dogs, horses, deer, rodents, and cicadas--although I guess they're six-legged). We ate great potluck food, yakked about the writing business, then read from some of our babies. Some people were published; some are ready to be published; some just needed acknowledgment that they have something that can be published in the future. But the most interesting thing to me, mostly because I'm pulling together my marketing plan for when I publish this summer, is this condensed thought: a great deal of the social media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) only gets your books bought by close family and friends, if them. Real marketing needs to rise above just having social media. It is the active engagement of the social media married to word-of-mouth and just the plain gumption to get out there and be in front of people at wherever people gather that will carry day. Social media can't do it alone. True? False?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Skipping Centuries

My communication systems have arrived in the 21st century. After years of a 56K modem that rarely got better than 33.2K, I'm dabbling around high-speed Internet via a Droid 2 smartphone for a dumboperator. Yes, I'm pulling the plug on the landline and the eight energy vampire phones scattered around the house. Yes, I'm pulling the plug on the dial-up connection. Yes, I'm listening to Cat Stevens' Angelsea over RadioIO 70s Rock with 3bars. Also, goodbye to the digital rabbit ears and the four channels I get for DirecTV and 150 channels, of which I will watch about six. Yep, straight from the 19th century to the 21st century. Now, if only I can figure out how to answer the damn smartphone. Missed my first three calls. Too many features. Too many apps. And what the heck is a DLNA? I feel a short story coming on about a man so intimidated by the new technology, that he hides in a shack in Montana (or somewhere out west) and threatens to bring down society with a secret stealth weapon. Ah, the irony. Rebelling about technology while using to its fullest. Paul Simon "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard". It's time to write, but the muse is downloading a YouTube video. Shushes me away. "Write," she yells. And so I must.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm Back!!

Wow! It's hard to believe that I haven't posted anything in over two years. Well, lots of good stuff coming up, so stay tuned as I launch project: Author.

Yep, I'm going over to what once was considered the dark side -- self-publication. Not that it ever was really the dark side, but that publication through the traditional path (agent-editor-publisher) was the validation I sought. Now I realize, the only validation I need is from the readers. If they buy my books, I'm validated. If they don't buy my books, I have to write a better book. Still, it would have been nice to have the pair of professional eyes giving the thumbs up or down (and boy do I have that over 500 times) on a particular novel.

So now, come with me and join the ride, as I reach for my ring while on the publishing carousal. First novel should be out in late summer, and I'll keep you posted along the way. I'll also try to clean up the links on this blog. There are a lot, and a lot with still good information.