Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I was at a website - which I won't reveal - where many of today's young authors - or wannabe writers - hang out and share their story telling talents.  And so there is no misunderstanding when I say 'young' -- I mean those who are under the age of 20.  There are some amazing tales and fabulous writing but unfortunately, there is also excruciating spelling.

Today's electronic world has abbreviated much of our writing skills; our youth are especially embracing the shortened words ... "ur" for "your" or "you are" or "you're" and "bl8" which is "be late."  You get the picture.

But I'm not really going there.  What I want to touch on is mis-use of words by their spelling.

Their are wheys fore witch hour spelling is weigh rong  -- but phonetically correct.

Those horrible homonyms.  They sound alike but are spelled differently and give a totally different perspective to the sentence when mis-used.  Have you ever attempted to make a list?  It is almost impossible but let's give it a try... and feel free to add to the list but please check it to verify we don't re-list the same one repeatedly.

to, too, two
one, won
for, four, fore
there, their, they're
way, whey, weigh
our, hour
wrung, rung
done, dun
which, witch, wich (like sandwich)
but, butt
red, read
so, sew, sow (as to plant seeds)
no, know
see, sea
row, roe
tow, toe
creek, creak OR crick (depending on pronounciation of creek)
wine, whine
tail, tale
peace, piece
vane, vain, vein
your, you're, yore
rain, rein
find, fined
whose, who's
blue, blew
awl, all

And the list can go on and on.  Please, add your favorites.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Some People Never Learn

Over the years I have attempted to grow plants (flowers) from seed to save money with the final results being of me going to the store and buying flats of flowers to plant.  Why?  Because my flowers die while trying to sprout.  This year I had a min-indoor greenhouse and I grew flowers and some garden veggies from seed into plantable products.  They weren't the perfect specimens but still, I hope they will grow to full production size.  I realized my mistake and next year I will attempt it one last time - if it fails, I will never attempt to grow from seeds again.  I truly do believe I've mastered the art.

Still, there are some things about gardening that I'm in the dark about.  I had a fantastic crop of sweet corn growing.  I watered it and could smell the head smell and knew the raccoons would attack.  I took the precaution and plastered a concoction of tabasco, cayenne and hot chili sauce onto the corn.  The coons attacked and had a hot corn salsa fiesta that night and my full sweet corn patch was destroyed during the dark.

To say I was livid would be an understatement.  I promised myself I would put up an electric fence and not waste the time hooking up to a battery or house outlet but directly to the electric pole of 220.  The raccoons would hit that wire and be blasted into space, landing a mere 60 miles away in Toledo.  My sons convinced me I didn't need to be quite that drastic.

My wife convinced me over the winter months to give up the idea of growing sweet corn since we are so close to the wilderness, living out in the country.  I really wanted my sweet corn but agreed... well, until about 12 hours ago.  I came home from church, had a lovely dinner and then in the extreme heat of the day, decided to till up the in-ground garden.  I also have a raised bed garden.  Anyway, I blended in some topsoil and compost and went to town. 

Then, like a moth drawn to a lamp, I pulled out the remainder of last year's sweet corn seed and planted 5 rows, about 20 ft long... thus creating a new sweet corn patch.

Is there electric fence?  No.
Is there any fence?  No.

Will there be fence, electric fence.  YES!  If all goes well, I hope to have the standard electric fence, 36 inches high, placed around the gardens to enclose them.  The raised bed is fenced in but I will still put the electric fence around to include it.  Then, just inside the electric fence which will keep out the raccoons, ground hogs, and rabbits, I will place deer fencing to keep them from jumping over the electric fence.

IF the above scheme doesn't work -- my gardening days will be over at the end of this production year.  Any tomato and peppers from the raised bed will be made into salsa, stuffed peppers and stewed tomatoes.  The ground garden also has watermelon, cantelope, cucumbers and squash growing. 

IF I don't get any sweet corn this year -- the following Spring will see the area leveled and a very large, above ground pool will be installed; either 16x32 or a 24 or 27 ft circular.

IF I can't garden, then by cracky I will enjoy the area by swimming during the heat of summer.  I already know how to heat the pool for earlier usage by April and extend it into late October, early November.

Yes, I know.  I probably should have put the pool in this year but ... well, Hope springs eternal.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Finding the Fertilizer

I enjoy writing and it is a great way for me to while away my retirement days.  But, for some reason, there are days when I just don't feel like writing. No, I can't call it writer's block because my mind is a veritable turbine of chaotic thoughts; if this story is causing problems, I can move on to another. No, this is something totally different.

It is just like in the garden.  I planted peas waaaay back in mid-April and figured they'd be up and going strong by the end of April.  They didn't break ground until last week -- for a hint of my disgust, look at today's date.  I had anticipated them starting to bloom by now, not just starting to creep out of the ground.  At the current pace, the summer's heat is going to cook them peas (if I get any) right on the vines.  In other words, I probably won't get many.

What happened? Simple. I didn't water them, waiting for Mother Nature to unleash her magical storms since the weatherman kept threatening with rain.  It did rain, to the west, to the north, to the east and to the west of me... but not in my backyard.  You think I'm kidding -- I'm not.  We have rough, heavy duty storms roll into the area and I get all excited about it ... only to watch it scurry north, south as they race from west to east or dissipate completely before getting here.  Last summer my son and I could feel the weather changing as we sat on the porch; the wind picked up, it darkened and we ambled out onto the road to see what was coming from the west.  It was pitch black and he figured his house (about 8 mi away in the general direction of the storm) was being pummeled. They (the weather service) were telling us to take shelter; the alarm went off which is a mere 1/2 mile away.

Then it was over.  Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. etc etc etc

The storm had eased around us, taking a northern route of only about 2 miles away.  My nephew's house had rain so torrential he thought the swimming pool was going to overfill.  Uh, we didn't even feel the moisture in the air ... but we could smell it.  Now, by my son's house, the community had approximately 24 trees brought down, part of a building collapsed and several electric lines were in dire need of repair.  He was without electricity for almost six hours.

Anyway, if I wait for Nature to do its thing, my plants die.  They struggle to find the fertilizer and the water they need to grow.

It is the same with my writing.  There are times I feel I am writing in a vacuum very similar to my house's locale.  The ideas, the thoughts, the sparks are all there, swirling around me but just outside my reach.  Yes, my writing is like that quaint little black-and-white farm house in the Wizard of Oz, but I just can't seem to grasp that fertilizer and really make it stand out.

I want that tornado to grab my story and twirl it around in the air and shake everything loose and when it is done, drop it right smack dab in the middle of a wonderful, colorful world where the heart leaps at the turn of every page.

People will tell you not to write a lot of fluff into your story, but you know what?  If you discover the fertilizer as you stretch your writing skills, fluff isn't what you'll get -- a wondrous story filled with amazing things for your reader will come into existence.

Now it is time for me to go weed the peas, water them again and then come back and weave some wondrous words into a glorious tale.

Until next I ramble...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Writing Quiz

I had the opportunity to take a 'quick' quick of 100 questions to see if fiction writing was for me. I had to be able to answer 'yes' to every question.


I couldn't answer every one of the questions positively.  I'm not a voracious reader. I'm in and out of writing groups; currently in one. I wasn't sure about the meaning of writing tools -- a word processor? Yes. Writing software? No. Can I collaborate? I have but not always. Can I write on bad days or when I get writer's block?

Yes, you have to read tales, novels, stories in the genre you want to write but that is to keep up with the genre.  If I was voracious... would I have time to write?  Being voracious indicates going through a lot of books.  For me, reading is a pleasurable time, a relaxing time. I want to savor the writing the author has worked so hard to create. You don't gulp down a vintage wine, neither do you scarf down a filet mignon.  Think.  Do you want some stranger to flash read your story or novel?  They'll miss all those great nuances you stressed over to create the mood.

Moving on to writing groups.  I was in a writing group, my first one and it was the most self-destructive collection of writers I'd ever met.  My third meeting which my first critique almost destroyed me. They ripped up my writing, tore apart my opening, massacred my story line and I wasn't allowed to defend myself.  On my way home (almost an hour drive) I was near tears ... yes, I'm a man and trust me, this was a very abusive moment which made me question if my years of wanting to be a writer was all for naught... and when I arrived home, I informed my wife I was no longer going to write. She'd read my work and told me to sleep on it before making any final decisions. A friend of mine from the group called me the following day and consoled me, informing me I had to 'thicken' my skin for criticism. The following month they ripped her a new one and I consoled her the next day. As she said, sitting next to the frying pan is one thing, sitting in that pan is a whole different experience.  We left the group and created our own small critique group which wasn't a 'praise and pat-on-the-back' type but we also didn't destroy the author.  I moved and was without a group for several years. Joined another group, moved on; and now am with a very small group, more as a mentor and enjoying the opportunity of sharing what I have learned about writing and getting published.

Can I use writing tools?  Does that mean a typewriter? A computer's word processing program? Or does it mean something like "Storybook," "Scrivner," or "WriteItNow" to name a few.  I use word processors -- WordPerfect and Word. I did use a typewriter way back in the dark ages.  As to the writer's software; I just haven't seen a reason for it although I'm quite sure others find it very useful.

Collaboration.  There is an interesting item.  When I write I am constantly checking with my friends to see if the tale is interesting them, keeping them wanting more. But I've never considered it a collaboration of effort -- I'm still writing the story.  Now I have co-authored a novel which is the first book in a series with another author.  THAT is collaboration.  I have co-edited an anthology with another person; again, collaboration.  And I have offered my tales to anthologies which means that it will be edited and tweaked to fit the needs of the anthology per the editor's guidance.

And the worst question.  Can you write on a bad day or when you have writer's block?  Really?  When I worked prior to retirement, I had bad days. Sure, I went into the office but trust me, I wasn't what I would call "fully productive" in any way; I was there to keep my job.  As a writer I will have days that just don't work for me; so I don't attempt to ruin a bad day by forcing myself to write.  As a writer I have the luxury of controlling my time.  It might be an 'off' day but come 9pm, it might be that I have been overwhelmed by Miss Muse and can type out a blazing 5k of words before going to bed.  A writer's day is not some 9 to 5 routine.  A writer writes when it hits -- be it 8am, 5pm, or midnight.  The object is to be at the keyboard when it happens.  Some people say a writer has to produce copy each and every day.  Bullcrap.  They can but most people do take time off, have a weekend or free time for relaxation.  Writers are not the anguished group forever crammed into a little corner finding solace in a bottle and striking pen to paper.  We are professionals and some actually do write on a 9 to 5 schedule.

BTW, when I have a bad day or have writer's block, I read... but not voraciously.

So, in closing, when you take those quizzes asking if you're writing material, just remember, if you enjoy writing stories, you're a writer.  You may not be a published author, but you're a writer.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John didn't write the scriptures to be published; only to share the tale.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Author's Trinity

With a flip slip of the tongue I made a horrible discovery today.  I am a writer, somebody who puts to paper the words others will read and pray they enjoy even to the point of sharing that tale with another.

I've been writing for years but only really starting submitting the last fifteen to twenty.

But what did I realize?

There is a triangle.  There are three sides to the writing process.  Yes, there are a lot of aspects to the writing but I see three (3) distinct processes for the writer.

Writing.  Publishing.  Marketing.

Each of the above processes includes a myriad of things to do within the scope of the job.

A writer back in the 40s and 50s would sit in a room and bang away at the keys of the typewriter and create the next Great American Novel which would get edited, processed and if lucky, published.  But, the bottomline was simple.  The author created the work and then handed it off to the agent or publisher and took a few days of relaxation before starting on the next story.

Today it is totally different.  Writers are involved with what happens beyond passing it off to an agent. The writer must have a marketing plan in mind, something to give the publisher an idea of how the writer sees getting this book to the public and increasing sales.

In the 'olden' days the publisher was responsible for publishing and marketing the novel.

I am in the process of signing contracts with a publisher to print one of my novels.  In their submission rules, one of the questions I had to answer was 'how to you intend to help market this book' which took me off-guard and by surprise.  I really hadn't considered it but yes, it is part of the author's responsibility to help market the book.  No longer does the author sit quietly up in the sacred study and work secluded on the next book.  They are involved with the publishing and marketing aspects moreso today than ever before.

Hence my triangle analogy.  Authors are not only writers but also marketers and publishers; especially if you decide to self-publish.  Doing so will find yourself in a whirlwind of the other two sides beyond just writing the story.

Remember, in the olden days, the hard part was writing the story.  Today it is marketing and publishing that will exhaust the author.

No matter how you place the triangle, pointy end up or pointy end down; the flat side is 'Writing' and the two remaining sides are of equal length to create the point. They are 'Marketing' and 'Publishing' and they are pointing to the word 'PROFIT' at the pinnacle.

So, if you're a newbie just starting out and think you'll be some mysterious person sitting in that sacred study, secluded and illusive.  Wrong!  If you don't push and hustle yourself, nobody else is going to, at least, not as well as you can.

Until next time I decide to ramble on...