Monday, December 30, 2013

Goals for 2014

The New Year is upon us and everyone is busy with plans for a renewed chance.  Strange how we only consider changing ourselves or getting our act together at the end of a year.  I figure it could be at any time when we realize we need it but then again, I guess it wouldn't be as big of a celebration.

So what did I want to accomplish in 2014 that I didn't do in 2013?  Of course there are all those silly, simple ones we repeatedly chant each year: Eat healthier. Lose weight. Stop smoking. Ease up on drinking. Enjoy the family. Be more forgiving.

Okay, for the record, I actually was able to stop smoking way back in 1985... at least that is the last time I inhaled a cigarette that I held.  Sometimes when I attend a bingo hall with my wife, I inhale a lot of smoke that is not of my making.  Sure, they have non-smoking area but that's a farce.  Just like the restaurant I was in where the left side was non-smoking and the right side was smoking. The only partition was a 15" glass divider between the middle row of booths.  Really?  Like the guy sitting on the other side of the glass who was smoking, that smoke wasn't going to come to my side - less than a foot away?

Oh, and over the years, drinking has diminished, too.  Last year I can safely claim that I had about 4 beers, 2 coolers and a swig of something somebody claimed was white lightning.  I still think that it was gasoline.

So, this year I will repeat the annual mantra - eat healthier, lose weight, enjoy the family, be more forgiving.

BUT I really need to up the ante.  Goofing around on the computer, checking to see what has taken all the 300 Gigabytes of space -- well, I discovered a lot of stories.  Oh, I knew they were out there -- I wrote them! But I wasn't doing anything with them. They were sitting, lingering - no, loitering there in cyberspace. Exactly what am I talking about.  Almost twenty (20) novels resting in cyber parking spaces, awaiting me to do something.  Some were complete and needed editing.  Others were in different stages of completion. As I looked at each directory I was able to see that I had outlines which showed the completed tale.  Many of them had been written during National Novel Writing Month - a November writing exercise.  Others were started stories yet to be completed.

I happened onto a Linked-In writing group and the topic was about goals.  It was then I realized what I needed to get accomplished during 2014.  Some of these novels needed to be addressed - final edits and get them published.  One of the members suggested I research each novel, ascertain its potential, create chart and then plan an attack - starting with the ones with the least amount of work to accomplish publication.

Some of these stories were written in Word Perfect going back to version 5 which was from the olden days of DOS. Some had been written on a Unix machine and were now in a converted text version.  A few were written in Word 2.0.  Fortunately, I was able to open them all and over a couple of days, move them all to a new format of Word 10.  Of course, I couldn't delete the old, I'd held onto them too long. So, I gently moved them to a storage space on my 1 Terabyte backup drive.

Finally I began the process of analyzing each story and where it stood in completion and evaluated what it would involve to finish the process.  Then it was simply a matter of looking at the numbers and deciding which story was going to be first, second, third, etc.

It wasn't an easy process but I finished and now have a schedule and goal for 2014.  IF I can stay on plan, I will be able to release four books this year.

But, we all know the realities of those New Year's Resolutions.  Usually within the first 2 to 4 weeks, they are broken.  I figure I'm good for at least 2, maybe 3 books being released.  I took an aggressive stance in my goals.  Yes, I have 4 books I'd like to see published but I also know that my co-author is currently reviewing and editing book 2 in our series.  That was something I didn't put into the schedule.  Also, I have a book out with an agent and he is actively seeking a home for it.  Again, once the agent comes back with a sale, I'm sure there will be some edits.

Therefore, I could cheat and if those 2 books were to get published in 2014, I could count them as part of my goal.  Or, if I stick to my guns and hold true to my resolutions, I could have 6 books out this year.

Decisions.  Decisions.

So what are your goals?  2014 is waiting.  It could be a great year.  What are you waiting for? Make a plan.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, December 23, 2013

What Happens When...

You post something many will consider offensive in the wrong place?

I have two separate accounts on Facebook - one for my author stuff, the other for my personal things.  I attempt to keep the two completely apart.  In other words, my author account I try to keep professional and not clutter it with personal essays, rants, or other snarky items.

I failed.  Failed?  Oh, miserably.

Here's the link.

My wife read a post on her Facebook page about Duck Dynasty star, Phil Robertson.  Well, I got a little soapboxish about it.  Seems if somebody says something somebody else doesn't like, that show gets cancelled or the person removed. So I ranted.


I failed to accurately check to see what account I was on when I started my rant.  I thought I was on my personal account.  WRONG.  I was on my author account.

Now, several comments later, I discover the error of my ways.  It is too late to take corrective action.  I must now live with this mess on my author page, my professional page, where it flaunts my personal emotions to the world.

As I've stated, one should always keep personal and professional lives as far apart as possible.

Well, that theory and objective is now screwed.  Sure, I could delete it, but that's the coward's approach.

So, to make things short and sweet -- Why can't we all just get along. If you don't like purple, I guess I'll just have to learn to accept that. But, if I wear purple, you, the purple hater, must learn to deal with it, too.  It's all about give and take and personal likes and dislikes.  Unless your glass house is made of unbreakable panes, you'd best not be throwing stones at the others around you.

Plus, I'll be the first person to admit that I am far from perfect. I have flaws.  I make mistakes.  (If you even mention this to my wife, I will deny I said it!!)  Hell, some people think at times I'm a bigot, snob, a goody-goody-two-shoes, a pain and a jerk.  They also think I'm the nicest person they know, a friend, a confidant, buddy, and an all-around great guy goof-ball.

Sometimes you may not like what I post or have to say.  In my defense, I will tell you this --

You have your right to your opinion.  I may or may not like it.  Either way, I will defend your right to voice your opinion.  OPINIONS!  Not actions.  Slurring a black person is one thing -- burning a cross in their front yard or worse is action.  Voicing what you think of a gay lifestyle is an opinion, but denying them a proper burial or a chance of commitment of their lifestyle (marriage, insurance, etc) is not acceptable.

As I was taught many years ago: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me.

It sounds quaint and simple but I also know that names can hurt and cut very deep.  But, over the years, I found I can walk away from name-callers.  To those who tend to get more assertive and aggressive, it isn't as easy to ignore.

As my parents taught me - Learn to pick your fights and just ignore name-calling - it will go away. Calling a person a name, yes it hurts, but it's only the first step in the escalation if you rise to the bait.

I was called a name, a name I despised. At first I reacted and from one kid calling me that, it was now three kids.  Finally I found the gumption to ignore their petty name calling.  It took about three months, but it tired for them since it no longer got a rise out of me. If I'd continued to fight, argue and bring attention to their actions, more would have joined them.

Opinions are nothing more than a fancy name for name calling.  If you don't make a fuss, it will quietly go away.

Yes, Phil made a comment.  People reacted, including me.  We should have ignored his remark and nobody would have been the wiser.  Do we blame Phil for making the comment or GQ for bringing it to the world's attention?  Remember, he was answering a question.  It was a planned strategy for action.

BUT, I will definitely be more cautious in the future to look to see which account I have open before I engage my fingers and attempt to keep my professional and personal lives apart.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Getting In Touch With Your Inner Self

We've all heard that phrase.  So, is getting in touch with your inner self really all that great?  Does it make you a better man?

In the past month I have had the privilege to visit our local hospital for different surgeries and procedures a total of FOUR times.  You would think by visit #4 that the staff would have all the answers and not really need to repeat the time-worn chants.  Especially when visit #3 ends and when visit #4 starts are less than 36 hours apart!  But, I digress.

Take for instance, the one nurse who came in and started the procedure.  Her first question was my name and birth date.  I rattled the answers back without thinking.  She handed me my gown and had me sit on the bed, etc. She never left the room but turned her back on me to get a document.  She turns back to me and... Yes, she asked my name and date of birth.  I told her but in the back of my mind I was wondering if she could see or was senile?  I mean, neither of us had left the room, nobody else had come into the room. Exactly who did she think was there?  I'm not Houdini.  But, to her defense, it was that way every time somebody came into the room to do something - I had to repeat my name and date of birth.  I truly considered getting a recorder to play and rewind as needed.

Of course, they played the same game over and over.  We've do an extended version of Twenty Questions which was closer to One Hundred Questions.  Each time I would reply the same since my marital status hadn't changed, as well as my medications, my smoking and drug abuse, etc etc.

By the last visit, I was bold. They kept repeating the same question - Do you have any allergies? Is there anything you're allergic to?  I repeatedly answered: Needles.

Did that stop them?  NO!  It was like a huge invitation and they'd immediately begin an IV in the back of my hand.  It felt like they were breaking a steel rod in half inside my hand. Okay, IT HURT!!!  What part of "Needles - Allergic!" didn't they understand?  Obviously I don't like needles but they ignored the fact. LOL.

With a total of four trips to the hospital for different procedures - first was a double scope AKA upper and lower GI.  Second was the right eye cataract removal which went really well since I was for all practical purposes, totally blind in that eye.  The cataract was so bad, all I saw when I used that eye was a milky-white blur and an occasional shadow.  Third trip was my gall bladder removal which had been bothering me since mid-July and I'd had several different checkups to validate and verify.  It took a sonogram which told us nothing, followed by another really fancy check with radiation. At least the result there showed that the gall bladder was working.  Since there was really no results, it was the need for the double scoping which started the visits.  Anyway, with the third trip, the gall bladder was removed and the culprit was discovered. It was the gall bladder eventho it was working properly, it was badly infected and causing all my stomach pains.  I was asked if the gall bladder pain was gone.  Hmm?  Let me explain it this way.  You have a stomach cramp.  Now I hit you with a baseball bat about six solid times.  Do you feel the cramps?  I will have to await the healing process to finish to know if the stomach cramps are gone.  I feel they are but with five incisions, who really knows?  Of course, visit four was quick on the heels of the bladder removal.  I went in on Monday for bladder surgery and was back on Wednesday for the left cataract eye surgery.

So, with all these different procedures, I have been the lucky one.  I have seen more of the inside of me in the last few weeks than I have in the last sixty years.  Did I really want to get to know my inner self?  Not really.  Am I a better man for it?  Well, I can see like a Hubble telescope.  My vision is crystal clear and just amazing.  When the swelling finally recedes, I'm sure I will feel much better and be a lot healthier.  Why?  To start, the doctor put me on a diet.  Some of the pictures he took had some nasty patches of fat and he said it was not good fat.  Hmm?  Is there such a thing as good fat?  So I am cutting back my intake of fat.  My FFF (Fish Fry Fridays) are now a thing of the past.  I'm still allowed my popcorn but only 3-4 cups - not the two gallon bowl I used to eat.  My days of being the garbage disposal are over.  I eat what I am allowed and no more.  If there are leftovers, so be it.  If not enough, then it gets tossed out.  I get more salad, less oil.  There are a few things I am going to miss, some very much, some not so much.  I'm suppose to drink 1/2% milk. That is NOT going to happen.  I have gotten to where I can drink 2% and I'm not going any lower.  Creams and gravies are a no-no on my diet.  As is ... OMG!  Chocolate. My food will be either broiled, baked or boiled - not fried.  Having had a boiled hamburger ONCE, I will grill my burgers since bland, gray meat is not on my eating agenda.  My culinary skills will be tested to make sure that my foods taste good but healthy.  I know I can do it.

I was restricted from the bicycle and treadmill.  Starting today, I am allowed to try them again but with caution and care.

We'll see where this goes.  Will I be a better man?  I certainly hope so.  I've seen my inner self and it was not a pleasant view.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, December 9, 2013

This Could Hurt the Brain

I was killing time, surfing Facebook, reading what all my friends were posting... when I stumbled onto this one post which caught my eye.  Well, actually, it was 'his' eyes that caught my attention.  I read the blurb to the left and as I sat there thinking about the concept, my brain started to hurt.

Just trying to wrap my mind around the whole idea starts to open so many ideas that, well, it hurts me and I have to go lay down.

Men In Black SPOILER ALERT.  Sorry, but I'm going to reference one of my favorite mind-blowing movies. Men In Black. Yes, the original.  The movie revolves around the MiB finding "the galaxy" on Orion's belt.  Finally it is discovered that the galaxy is inside a small bauble dangling from a cat's collar. Yes, the cat's name is Orion.  We, the audience are informed that not everything has to be huge to be important as Kay explains it to Jay.  A peek inside the bauble reveals a whole universe with galaxies.  At the end of the movie, the camera pans back out of NYC, back from the Earth, the moon, the solar system, our galaxy and finally our universe and discover it is also inside a marble and an alien is playing with it to shoot another marble with a universe inside it.


Now, about that card above.  Think about it.  Is it possible?  How many times have you found yourself doing something and wondering why you're doing it?  Why not the idea of an author backspacing being the reason for a person to forget what they were saying? Maybe our lives are already choreographed.

Imagine the possibilities of writing a story where you create a world that ... wait a minute, that is what we, the authors, do every day as we write.  We create the story.

But what if we are nothing more than characters to a bigger author who is writing about what I'm writing? In other words, you're the character the author is writing about and you happen to be an author. So is your story really yours? Or his/hers?

And, if you take the example one step larger -- what if the author writing about me writing this is actually just another character by a larger author.

I once read a short story about miniaturizing a man and it going bad.  They had a radio attached so the miniaturized man could communicate back to his partners.  I think he was placed on a brick.  Due to something going wrong, he continued to miniaturize.  The man saw holes develop in the brick and suddenly he was falling into one those holes. He continued to become smaller and smaller. As he did, he moved toward new universes, seeing distant solar systems which he attempted to move toward. Of course, he kept getting smaller and smaller as he fell toward the solar system and a planet where he continued to miniaturize and continue to fall through strange items there.

At one time, an atom was considered the smallest possible item. Then it was discovered that an atom had 3 parts: electrons, protons, and neutrons.  Of course, we've since discovered the neutrino to be smaller and I'm going to go out on a branch and say, there is something smaller than that.

There are opposites to everything.  Does it scare you to think of something larger than you? And I don't mean an elephant.  I mean something so large that to see you they would need a very powerful microscope.

Okay, my head hurts again. I didn't realize backspacing could be so painful.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Confessions of a NaNoWriMo Junkie

Hi. My name is Bob Nailor and I'm a NaNoWriMo junkie.

I have done this thirteen of the last fourteen years. I have finished successfully the last twelve years.  Would that be considered bragging?  Each and every December I claim I won't be doing it next year and then, well, when the NaNoWriMo season hits, I straddle the fence (which by the way is very uncomfortable) until I finally cave and join in writing frenzy.

BUT, this year was different.  This year I started and I wrote with no planned intention of finishing.

WHY?  Simple. I had many things on my plate, both writing and health so I just knew it wasn't going to be one of those years I would complete.  My mindset was established and I wrote when I could. There was no pressure, no panic, no concern.  If I did my word count, good, and if not, no worry.

I worked on and off with my WIP - The Treasure Within - putting text to the cyber paper.  I really wasn't keep track.  Oh, sure the first couple of days I went onto NaNoWriMo's website and put in some word count and then well, I just didn't bother.  Again, my mindset was simple -- Don't waste your time on NaNo, you're not going to complete so why compete.

So when I thought I had a few minutes, I would open the project and I'd write.  I found the story exciting and fun and I happily typed along.  I didn't pay any attention to word count.  Why should I?  I totally ignored NaNoWriMo.  I didn't attend any of the meetings. I didn't get involved in the drama of any of the online topics and discussions. Yes, I basically ignored that even existed.

I continued to write.  And write.  And write.  I was scheduled for cataract surgery on 11/27 and for all practical purposes, was basically blind in the right eye and a small cataract on the left eye.  For me to read my screen, I had to use a 6" magnifying glass or set the font to some ridiculously large size which only allowed about 30 words on the screen at any given moment.  So I kept the font regular sized (small) and just typed away with horrendous typing errors slipping in constantly.

The book would have to be edited, I could correct spelling at that time since I wouldn't be doing that until after New Years anyway and my eye surgery would be over and I would be able to see again.  Surprising how having just the right eye back to great vision has allowed me to see again without too much trouble.  Oh, and those typing errors are worse than horrendous.

Back to the issue at hand. On November 29, in the wee hours, I noticed the word count of the story...almost 44k.  I had all of 11/29 and 11/30 -- less than 48 hrs to complete the 50k required.


NaNoWriMo fever kicked in.  I was so close I could taste the finish line and I knew 6k in two days wouldn't be that difficult.  Obviously not since I'd been writing all month and not really keeping track of date and-or word count.  I was going for it.

Before the midnight hour of 11/29, I had the word count to say I'd finished NaNoWriMo.  The story isn't finished but the word count was over 50k.  I verified my words at NaNoWriMo and for the twelfth consecutive time, completed and succeeded in finishing the task.  Surprisingly, this year, I won't be deleting the last 15k words as trash writing.  Okay, the last 6k might be gamey, at best, still, it is a lot better than many of my previous years writing.  I remember one year deleting almost 30k when I finished only because the story took a turn I didn't like, the writing was atrocious and well, it was crappy.

To view the 1st chapter of my entry this year.

So, now, here I sit, once more an addict, wondering why I did it.

Hi, my name is Bob Nailor and I'm a NaNoWriMo junkie.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Reading What Isn't There

I am constantly editing my writing and silently sitting there reading what I've written to make sure that you, the reader, will enjoy what I've written.  It is amazing how many times I can silently edit the same sentence over and over---only to discover that it has an error, either a missing or added word or even worse, a misspelling.

The mind is a complicated mechanism.  It can see what is or isn't there, as needed.

Using an example which irks me repeatedly...

A certain insurance company has random people reading a signs that says:

15 minutes can save you 15%.

But, the person reading the sign, always, ALWAYS says...

5 minutes can save you 15% on car insurance.


I've stopped the ad (froze the screen) and carefully checked to make sure I am seeing what they are saying and never once have I ever found those last 3 words.  Yes, I realize it is just a commercial, but it proves my point.  The reader is giving us more than what is printed and this holds true for almost anything a reader will peruse.  Or, in the case of me editing and/or writing.

I did a reading of another author's book at a meeting.  I have no idea how many times I'd read the couple of paragraphs making sure I was familiar with the piece so I wouldn't screw up when I stood in public.  The moment of truth came and as I read the segment aloud, I stumbled twice on poor sentence structure that my mind had blindly fixed for me within my mental readings.  In one place, an extra word was added, the other place, a word had been left out.  After the incident, I had a friend read the segment and he said it sounded just fine.  I then had him read it aloud. He stumbled at the exact same spots.

I'm sure you've had the email sent to you which has the words misspelled... well, actually, not misspelled, the letters are arranged incorrectly.  You raed tihs snetnece wtihuot truolbe.  The mind rearranges them to make it sensible to you. The same holds true if a word is missing or added. Your mind fixes it on the fly.

Always make sure what you read is what is written.  It can change the whole concept.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Writing Workshops and Conferences

For me, it is exhilarating to attend a writing function like a workshop or conference.  Why?  To mingle with other writers and learn the craft.

I've been a very fortunate person.  I've not only had the pleasure of attending these functions, but for several years I assisted with a writing conference and then became the coordinator.

Talk about being on both sides.  Wow!  As an attendee it was exciting to rub elbows with published authors, meet agents and publishers and glean so much knowledge from the sessions.

Then, as an assistant to the coordinator and a speaker or presenter, I really got the adrenalin pumping.  When the coordinator stepped down, I was offered the reins and I was flabbergasted at the honor.  Little did I realize the amount of work that is involved.  I learned.  I survived.  And finally, due to unforeseen issues, I had to step down.

But that doesn't mean I can't attend these functions or be a speaker.  The past couple of weeks have been an adrenalin overload.  I was a guest speaker for a writing group and discussed Deep POV.  Uh, that's Point Of View for those who don't know what POV means.  Then last weekend, I was a guest presenter at a writing workshop.  Again, adrenalin pumped in my veins and I was on a high.  This time I spoke about Looking Inside the Corners of the Box to learn more about your character. I did my session and had a hands on segment that was well received -- the participants actually were willing to share their off-the-cuff writings. Also, the following presenter loved my presentation since it was the prefect segue to her session.

As a published author with over 17 books to my credit and countless articles and short stories written, one would think I would find it difficult to learn a new trick or two.


The other two speakers at the workshop who followed me were exciting and knowledgeable authors themselves.  At each session I was able to glean a couple of tidbits to use to my advantage and increase my writing and marketing skills.  I don't believe anyone ever learns everything. To think that would be pompous.

As the current year begins to finalize its cycle, I highly recommend that each writer who is reading this, take the time to research any local workshop or conference on writing next year and attend at least one, if not more.  I figure I can drive upwards of 200 miles to learn a secret or two about writing to help me in my success as a writer.  One lament I heard that I want to squash in the bud is this: There's a workshop nearby but it's by a romance group and I write horror. What could I learn?  WHAT?  

Review the syllabus of the workshop. You'll be surprised what you will learn to make your horror writing standout.  A session on 'character depth' is valid whether it be for romance, horror, science fiction or even westerns. Character development is critical. By attending a -- okay, we'll call it off-genre -- workshop, you will learn and become privy to a new trick or two that you can add to your repertoire.

Also, not every agent or publisher attending a romance workshop or conference is purely there for romance. Agents and publishers do multiple genres and you might just stumble onto one who is willing to discuss your latest horror endeavor.

Worst case scenario of the above would be -- you'd meet some wonderful writers who might become lifelong friends.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Adult Writing

We've all seen those seedy places, those stores with the covered windows, IF they have windows. The only way one truly knows what is inside is by two methods: 1) going inside, and 2) reading "ADULT BOOK STORE" on the outside.

But exactly what is an Adult Book Store?  Sure, it has porn. Well, D'OH!!  What makes an adult book store an adult store?  I guess it is because only adults are allowed inside.  Maybe the merchandise is part of the aura inside.  Yes, I've been in an adult book store.  Look at this way, I was a sailor and it is a necessity and rite of passage for most sailors.  To say it was an experience would be an understatement.  I didn't know some of that stuff even existed.  Even today, I sort of wish I didn't know that it did.  Unlike the "adult theater" - and yes, I've been to one of those and it was one of the most hilarious times in my life - the hottest scenes were visible outside behind the glass advertising the movie.  But I digress.

I was raised in a fairly strict family.  I didn't cuss.  I was a rural country boy who was very active in his church - with Catechism twice weekly, youth meeting, choir practice, Saturday school (yes, Bible and religious training on Saturday mornings, Sunday school.  On Mondays, I got to go to Scouts and it wasn't at the church. Whew!  And this wasn't while I was 6 or 8 or 10.  This was for my Freshman through Junior years in high school. Catechism ended during my Junior year and I no longer had to attend Saturday school.

So, to put it bluntly, even if I had a mouthful of it, I still wouldn't say it.  I didn't cuss and blushed when certain words were used in my presence.  Talk about naive.

I told my father I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.  He didn't tell me not to be one.  He basically sat me down and let me know that most writers struggle to make ends meet and lead a very drab life.  The only way to really make money as a writer was to write heavy sexual or porn type novels.  Can you say "Henry Miller?" In the 60s, his trilogy novels of The Rosy Crucifixion: Sexus, Plexus and Nexus, were the scandal of the day.  It was a big seller but nobody read it openly in public.  My father informed me that to be a good writer, I would have to fight with myself to decide which route I would take to make a living: good writing or porn.  My dad was a man of few words.  His final words on the subject were simple: Write what you want, but make sure it is something you're proud to let your mother read.

WOW!  Talk about a guilt trip and laying it on thick.  I have lived with that over my head for what feels like eons although it really has only been about five decades.  I was like 17 then.

I wrote fantasy and science fiction which basically eliminated all sexual aspects. Spacemen don't have sex and elves and fairies ... well, they're elves and fairies.  Sure, there might be some attraction but it can be written off easily without a lot of detail being spent on the romance aspect.  Then I started to write horror. Again, it can be sexless but when a werewolf shreds the blouse, suddenly sexual innuendos seem needed. Face it - Men are men (human or werewolf) and the bottom line is simple: women have boobs. When I co-wrote Ancient Blood: The Amazon -- I kept wanting to tone down the sex.  My partner wanted just a bit more.  We "discussed" this topic over and over.  Amazon went out a tad spicier than I would normally write and is now published. We have finished book two in the series and it definitely has more sex inside the covers.


I grew up. My mother read Ancient Blood: The Amazon and thought it was a great story with a little racy segment here and there.  She was amazed I'd write anything like that but also stated it was well-written without a lot of dirty porn aspects.  I wanted to ask her how she knew that but decided there are some topics that a mother and son should NOT discuss - this was one.  She has since passed, as has my dad.

I've matured.  I can use terms (both slang and biological) for genitalia in a book without turning fifty shades of red. I can cuss. I didn't spend five years in the Navy and not learn a couple of terms.  I came to realize that just because my character is a little raw, rough and on the edge doesn't mean that I am.  As a writer, I had to learn to discern the difference between the character I am writing and me.  My buddy in Texas, Mitchel Whitington, taught me how to write a sexual encounter using "afterglow" [see my writing tips] to reveal the event.  Another friend of mine explained the difference between sensual or erotic and down-right porn.  His words: Consider it like a movie: and the angle of the camera. For erotic, you see the characters from afar and tell what they are doing. For porn, you shove the camera in at the knees or closer for the action shot.  I found his interpretation rather graphic but it does explain the difference.

One is tasteful.  The other, uh, more graphically detailed.

I don't want to say I write erotic scenes. I prefer to say they are sensual, sometimes a little more graphic but only for a line or two, not for pages.  And most definitely, not for gratuitous sex.  I feel if I write a brief sex scene, it is necessary for the story.

Yes, I'm a biggy boy and I was good, so I get a lollipop.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Math - Old Math

Exactly what is it with this 'new math' and all this "Common Core" base they've established for first graders?  NY state (see article here) has embraced it and from what I can see, is having some issues with incorporation of it.  (see actual test by 1st grader)

I went to school - elementary - back in the 1950s - and yes, I walked a mile in the snow, each way, to attend school.  But that's a different rant... uh, story.

I don't understand all this new way of doing mathematics.  My granddaughter has called me several times to assist with her homework. I can get her the correct answer but not be able to show her the way using her method - that method makes no sense to me.  Yes, I love math and aced all my math courses, both in school and college.  In fact, even today I can go to the grocery store with my wife and be within one dollar of the bill prior to taxes. All the math is done mentally.  But, again, I digress.

What happened to the simple question of "I have 6 pennies. I give 2 to Billy. How many pennies do I have?"

Who gives multiple choice answers to a first grader?  And exactly how does one wrap their brain around the concept of 5 pennies and 1 cup of coffee?  I mean, for math?  If they want to toss out mixed metaphors, why not go with a question like:

I have 2 peaches, 1 apple and 3 grapes. Jenny gives me 2 pears. Amy gives me 1 cherry and 1 banana.  How many do I have?
1) 2 peaches, 1 apple, 2 pears, 1 banana, 3 grapes and the prized 1 cherry.
2) 10 pieces of fruit
3) Fruit cocktail
4) 6 different fruits
5) Makings for a mixed-fruit smoothie

At least the kid is correct, no matter what answer picked.

It is my belief that we've moved away from the basics of mathematics for some esoteric methodology of math that nobody can understand.

I was not allowed to use 'stick figures' to count.  If one of my teachers saw any indication of having used 'sticks' on the paper, it was immediately marked wrong.  Back in the 50s, erasers really sucked and left shadows.  Of course, being six and pressing down on the pencil with no less than 3 tons/sq inch of pressure didn't help matters.  The groove left was like the Grand Canyon. Shadows were to be expected.  In fact, I'm not sure but we may have been using real lead back then.  Maybe a mixture of graphite.  Not sure.

Note: I had a self-developed "stick" counting routine. I used DOTS.  1 had 1 dot in the middle of the number. 2 had 2 dots, 1 at each end. 3 had 3 dots, 1 at each left hand end-top, middle, bottom.  4 had dots at the 4 points, 2 at top, 1 where the horizontal bar crossed the vertical bar, and of course, then bottom of the vertical bar.  And so it went.  If I had to count "sticks" - I counted my dots that were hidden within the numbers themselves.  As long as I didn't use anything over 50lbs/sq inch pressure - I was safe.

But now today's youth are allowed to have calculators in class.  Why?  So they can be familiar with the cash registers at McDonalds and other fast-food joints.  If your meals comes to $3.78 and you offer the clerk $5.03 ... I'm going to bet (unless the clerk is over 50 yrs of age) that you'll get back 2 pennies, 2 dimes, 1 dollar AND the three pennies you gave the clerk.  Why?  Because they saw the $5 and immediately slapped that amount into the cash register and know the exact change to give you - 2 pennies, 2 dimes and 1 dollar. Those 3 pennies you offered just confuses them - so they give them back.  How do I know this?  It happened to me. I tried to get a quarter out of the clerk but she only saw me trying to cheat her. The manager finally stepped in and I thought it was going to be settled.  He looked at my change and said "You have the correct change, sir. I don't see the problem."  When I told him I wanted a quarter, he informed me that I had a quarter's worth of change and he wasn't about to open the register to make change.  I gave up.  As I took my place to the side to await my order, the other clerk, a "mature" woman well over the age of 40, leaned over and said - "My register is open if you'd like to get rid of the extra change." She held up a quarter. I grabbed out the change and gave it to her. She leaned in close. "I'm amazed they realized it was a quarter." Oh, btw, McDonalds only sells chicken tenders by the piece.  In other words, you can get 6 tenders but you can't get half-a-dozen.  They don't come that way.  Honest!

I'm told that they no longer teach the 'times tables' in school. They teach multiplication but they don't memorize like we did back in the 50s. I loved to sit at my desk and recite 1 times 1 is 1, 1 times 2 is 2... 5 times 5 is 25, 5 times 6 is 30... 8 times 9 is 72, 9 times 9 is 81... Oh how I loved doing that.

At least I have the brains and mathematical know-how to realize when something is $.30/ea -- that 3/$1.00 is NOT a buy.  Or when something is $2.98/ea and offered at 2/$5.00 - I'm saving money.

Maybe we should consider going back to our roots, back to the way things were taught in 1950.  Yes, progress is good, but not always for everything.  Some things are basic and should remain that way.  Of course, there are shortcuts in everything.  298 X 3 = 894.  It can be extrapolated in 2 (two) different methods - 3 X 8 = 24, carry the 2. 3 X 9 27 + 2 = 29, carry the 2. 3 X 2 = 6 + 2 = 8. Voila! 894.  OR 300 X 3 = 900 - 3 X 2 = 6.  OR another example, one can say 275 X 4 = 1100.  Extrapolation - 4 X 5 = 20, carry the 2, 4 X 7 = 28 + 2 = 30, carry the 3, 4 X 2 = 8 + 3 = 11  Again, voila! 1100.  OR  75 X 4 = 300,  200 X 4 = 800, add 800 + 300 = 1100.

See?  If one knows the basics, one can move forward.  But don't give me 5 pennies and 1 cup of coffee and expect me to figure out the difference.  All I see is a cheap cup of coffee, or a lousy tip.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Who Humbug's Halloween?

That's right. Bah!  Humbug!

Those were the words spoken to me by my 13 yr old son many years ago.  We'd just moved to Maryland from rural Ohio.  I worked 'on the Hill' in Washington, DC... but that's another tale.

My wife and two youngest sons came to pick me up at the train station since the boys wanted to go Trick-or-Treating and we needed to get a few things for the spooky visitors to haunt our front door. During the ride from Brunswick to Frederick, MD, I innocently asked what each of them were dressing as for Halloween.  I think it was like maybe 2 or 3 days before Halloween.

My youngest, who had just turned 11 in the middle of the month informed me he was going to be a ghost and wear an old sheet.  Actually, he wanted to be a headless ghost.  More on that later.

The older boy informed me he was going as Dracula and showed me the vampire teeth he'd found from the prior year's bounty of party favors.

So far, so good.  Cheap costumes. Now is when things got a little more complicated... back to the headless ghost.

"So, Dad, I got this belt that I can wrap around my head and if I tie a stick to it, it can be the arms holding out the sheet.  All I need is a hat to cover the top of my head."

I wrapped my mind around the concept and it seemed feasible and doable.  "That should  be a great costume.  I can help make sure the stick is tied securely."  I figured an investment of maybe $2 or $3 for a stupid derby hat at the costume shop and I was still Scott-free of an expensive Halloween costume.

"All I need is a cape and walking cane, Dad," came the response from the older son. "It will make me look just too cool."

"Can't you use the black cape from last year's Batman costume?"  My penny-pinching kicked in.

"Yeah, but I still need the cane."

"But Dracula didn't have a cane."

"Sure he did, Dad. All counts have canes.  I gotta have a cane to look cool."

We bantered back and forth - him FOR a cane, me AGAINST the cane.  Finally, he relented.  Well, sort of.

"I guess I can go without a cane, but if I fall, somebody better help me up. I'll be like HELP! I've fallen and I can't get up. Somebody, help me.  I'm a vampire and can't walk without a cane."

I tried to keep a straight face as he continued...

"I'll tell them 'My dad wouldn't buy me have a cane.' so they know why I keep falling."  By this time the youngest is snickering uncontrolled and my wife is fighting a losing battle.  Even I am feeling myself smiling.

"Then I won't go Trick-or-Treating anymore and when I get older, kids will come to my door and ring it and I'll answer it and tell them to 'Go away!' and chase them off my porch.  I'll tell them 'My dad wouldn't let me have a cane so I could be a vampire. I don't believe in Halloween.  Bah.  Humbug!  Go away!' and then you'll feel so bad because you know I love Halloween."

"Do you really think a cane is all that important?" The words barely made it out of my mouth without me laughing. I was losing control as he continued his rant.

"Help! I've fallen and can't get up. My dad wouldn't buy me a cane. Get away! No candy for you! I'll just drag myself from door to door this year.  People will ask 'What are you?' and I'll reply 'My dad didn't let me have a cane so I'm a vampire who can't walk.' and then what do you think the neighbors will say?"

By this time, as he continued his rant, I was near tears laughing.  I actually considered pulling the car over to the side of the road - just for safety's sake.  He knew he had the car's occupants at his mercy and he wasn't about to let them go.

Even today, over 20 yrs later, all I need to say is "You still humbug Halloween?" and he will reply "Did you buy me a cane?"

FYI:  He didn't go as Count Dracula - he went a The Mummy.  I'm not sure that was a wise choice since it took several rolls of toilet paper to create the "illusion" and he didn't come home wearing his costume. I did notice the next day that a few neighborhood homes had been TP'd but I'm sure it wasn't due to the fact my son's costume molded and fell off at those particular locations!

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 21, 2013

NaNoWriMo Time

It's almost upon us again.  That's right - National Novel Writing Month or as it has lovingly come to be called - NaNoWriMo. I'll detail a little about it but if you want more info -- go here:  NaNoWriMo Webpage

A little history:  NaNoWriMo started in 1999 with about 20-some participants.  I joined the fray in 2000 at the urging of a friend from Portland, Oregon. There were only about 140 of us. I had a blast, I didn't finish, mostly because I attempted a cookbook which makes for a lot of timely formatting.  I did about 39k words which I thought was good. (Hint: Don't do a cookbook for this!)

I didn't do it in 2001 due to my father's death in October.

In 2002 I was approached by another friend, this time from Toledo, Ohio.  He dared me.  Well, I don't back down too often from dares and I found myself once more in the race against time with words.

BUT, this time, I was organized.  I created a small daily word count chart so I knew where I needed to be each day.  This way I would know if I was ahead (ha, ha, ha) or behind.  Now, 50,000 words divided by 30 days equals 1,666.66666(forever) words ... or rounded up, it would be 1,667 words per day.  I am not the type of guy who likes to play with funky numbers so I rounded it up to 1700 words per day and that makes it come out to an even 51,000 words.  That gave me a 1k cushion.  Something I can live with.

Also in my arsenal was an outline, a character list and research material.  But event he best of plans can go astray and I found myself needing more names and doing a little research on the internet.  If you're like me, that means getting sidetracked and then, well, time is gone.

At the start my writing was clean, concise and very well executed.  I was falling behind.  So, even though I can type 100+ words per minute with pretty good accuracy, it was my only savior.  I still needed to think faster.  According to my typing ability, I only needed to spend about 20 mins a day typing in that day's required word segment.

Okay, I'm back.  Even I couldn't keep a straight face with that last sentence and was on the floor laughing my ass off.  Twenty minutes?  Really?

So, I fell a little behind after the first few days.  I fell behind a little more a few more days later and then before I knew it, uh, I was BEHIND big time!!

Thanksgiving Day!

I'm sitting at about 36k and only a few days to finish.  I work a full-time job and have a family.  There are only 24 hrs in a day!  I have a 4-day weekend.  And now you know why it is called Thanksgiving!!  Other than a short time away from the keyboard to eat the delicious meal that my wife prepared and be minimally sociable with the family who had come to visit, I was locked in the backroom typing.

I worked into the wee hours of the morning.  Slept.  Okay, being honest - my eyes closed and I conked out on the keyboard.  Woke up and started typing.  By Sunday night I had the novel finished and I was sitting at well over 51k words.  And definitely in need of a long, hot shower!

2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.  Uh, I retired at year's end in 2006 and now would have a lot more time to spend writing during the month of November.


2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 always found me finishing up during the Thanksgiving weekend.  BUT, each of those years, from 2003 through 2012, I finished.

Now for some more truth.  Those last 5k to 15k words were pure, absolute diatribe.  Meaningless sentences of complete nonsense. How do I know this?  I proudly allowed a friend to read the unedited, finished product.  He thoroughly enjoyed the scene where the old Indian is dancing in the backroom with blood all over him. The young lady is talking to the detective. "Ignore the man back there. He's just doing a rain dance."  Now exactly how many detectives do you know who would see a bloody man dancing and think, Hey, he's cool... and move on?

After that, I learned to finish my novel, get my word count approved and NEVER show the story to anyone without first going over it and giving it a cursory edit or two.

Is NaNoWriMo worth the effort?  Yes.  My entries:  "2012: Timeline Apocalypse" and "Vamazonia" are now in print and available.  Of course, "Vamazonia" has been re-titled to "Ancient Blood: The Amazon" which has received great reviews.  In fact, it is now book 1 in a planned series.

There is still time to join the hundreds of thousands who attempt NaNoWriMo each November.  Just click the link and sign up.  You won't be sorry.

This year I'm still undecided if I will participate or not.  I mean, I've got about 3 books outlined, character cast and some research done.  I'm ready if I decide to.  Maybe I'll see you there.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Do You Know What I Know?

Just paraphrasing the well-known Christmas song - Do You See What I See?  One of the things a writer is repeatedly told - write what you know.

Now just exactly what does that mean?  What do I know?  I mean, that I can put into a magazine article or book or whatever?

Remember that jerk who cut you off at the intersection or parking lot in their race to get to that location of whatever?  Today I had the luxury of driving 70+ mph (speed limit was 70 - and I was definitely over it!) when I realized the semi-truck in front of me was not traveling at the same speed.  So, since it was a 4 lane highway, I moved to the left land to pass.  From out of nowhere a black car zoomed up to where I had just been mere seconds earlier and in the -- I kid you not -- about 22 feet of open space between the end of the semi and the front of my car - it zipped into the magical zone and then sped ahead.  My 2 sons were following me and when we arrived at our location, the first words out of their mouths were: Bet the f#@%! asshole in the black Lexus gave you a near heart attack.

To say my heart practically skipped a beat would be an understatement.  But, being the professional that I am, I did not slam on my brakes.  Well, actually, I didn't have time to even consider that option.  He broke speed limits and he almost broke a scientific law -- two body masses can't occupy the same space.

It was an experience.  That is something I can write about.

Last month I had to go in for some lab work - I had an EKG, a CT scan, an ultrasound and a fancy hemo-something scan.  I also had blood work drawn.  Now there is an experience.  I hate being jabbed and stuck with a needle.  It never fails, it takes 2 or 3 attempts and sometimes it takes more than 2 people to each have their try at the guy with no veins.  Again, something I can write about.

Ever watch a chick hatch out of an egg?  Or on an extremely boring day, sit and watch a bean seed sprout?

Or how about when you're sitting on the couch watching TV and you listen to the those infamous lines, all the while hoping some day to hear something different?  What am I talking about?

Game Host: Who is this beside you, Brad?
Brad: This is my beautiful, loving wife, Janice.
Game Host: Who is the person standing beside you, Janice?
Janice: This is the father of my 3 adorable children and the love of my life, my husband, Brad.

Really?  Wouldn't you just love, just once, to hear...

Game Hose: Who is this beside you, Brad?
Brad: Well, Tom, this is Janice, a dumb blond I thought I knocked up and married.
Game Host: Who is the person standing beside you, Janice?
Janice: This is Brad, a jerk who thinks those 3 delinquents I gave birth to are his.

Okay, sometimes stating the obvious is not a way to go in writing.  I have a very dear friend and she is great to be around but there are times I just have an extremely difficult time keeping my tongue about me.  An instance - we were traveling through a hilly area.  She noticed a mailbox along the road with a small gravel road disappearing down over the ravine.  Her words, honest to God. "Oh, look!  A mailbox. I bet somebody lives down there."  I so wanted to say, "No, Barb, they live about 3 blocks from the post office but like to get their mail delivered in the countryside."  I kept a civil tongue, more out of fear she might believe me.

Therefore, you can write about anything around you that is real.  Sharing it in a story will add a depth of realism.  Characters are more than just the leads in the tale, they must have a soul that makes them real for the reader.  By sharing what you know of the people around you - even a an unknown idiot in a Lexus - that can give the texture to your story to make the character come alive.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ideas - Where Do They Come From?

I was asked a question at my last book signing.  Why do I mention it? This blog is released on Monday morning and on Tuesday night I will be at another book signing, doing the Q & A.  But back to the question...

Where do you get the ideas for your stories? The reason I ask is I read that an author should write about what they know. How do you qualify your skills to write in the genres you do?

Since that book signing I have had the time to reflect and review, honing my answer.

I write science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal.  How can I relate any possible qualifications of my life to my writing?

I've always enjoyed science, both ancient and futuristic and try to keep myself informed with new developments in technology while also studying past revelations.  Yes, from archaeology to space exploration.  That, in and of itself, also lends to the paranormal which runs a parallel rail with science.  That which was spooky and unfathomable mere years ago can be easily explained today.  Sometimes.  Of course, fantasy is just a step away from the paranormal. One only needs to use an aspect of the paranormal, twist it, and suddenly you can weave a tale of the fantastic.  Horror?  Who doesn't like to get the s#!t scared out of them?  That alone qualifies.

Let's take horror.  I go into the doctor's office and have blood drawn.  How far of a stretch is it for me to tell in gruesome details the agony of the needle injection?  In fact, the lab where they do this work has a row of chairs - 4 of them - in a line and people are 'confined' by a front shelf being dropped down.  Add a smirk, a side glance and a sudden curl of the lip.  Tension builds.  It only takes a wrong turn and instead of the arm, the technician is now jamming the needle into the neck.

So where do the ideas come from?


As a child I day dreamed a lot.  I saw things differently.  I spent many hours laying in the grass on a summer day staring at the clouds, seeing what they reminded me of from reality.  We lived in the country but not on a farm so my brother and I had to make up our own games - my closest neighbor was over 1/2 mile away. My brother preferred to play cowboys and Indians.  I always got to be the Indian.  Again, imagination was critical since it was back in the 50s and fancy outdoor playground toys didn't exist.

I loved fairy tales as a child.  In middle school, I was intrigued by the Tarzan movies and read all the Tarzan books I could get from the library.  Edgar Rice Burroughs created Tarzan.  In high school I discovered he also created John Carter of Mars, Pellucidar, and several other series involving distant locales.  I read as many I could get my hands on. From there it was a short jump to Fritz Leiber, Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, J. R. R. Tolkien and several others.

So how do I justify my "ability" to write in the genres I do?  How can I say "write what you know" as advice to a new writer?

I have fifty-five plus years of reading in the genres.  In no way am I saying I know it all.  But, I know one thing I have that many of today's youth seem to lack.  An imagination.  Today's youth are involved with all the electronic gadgets.  No matter how advanced technology moves ahead, I don't believe it will ever match the imagination.  As a friend once said: No matter how many shades of gray a computer can define, it still comes down to either 0 or 1, yes or no.  Maybe doesn't exist.

I feel very sorry for whoever asks me the question tomorrow night regarding where I get my ideas and/or how I can write in the genre.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, September 30, 2013

Security Stupidity

We see the ads constantly for LifeLock, Norton, and the others. Secure your computer, your data.

Yeah, yeah.  I don't have anything of value. If somebody comes in and steals my identity, maybe they can make a better go of it than I have.


I sat down to my computer at 10pm on Tuesday night.  Surprise!  I got an email from China stating that my purchase had been declined and I should re-attempt it.  HUH?  The next email was form PayPal stating that the payment had been made. WHAT?  Next email was from the person in China again, but this time it was a thank you for my purchase.  WTF??

Not using any of the links in the emails, I opened a new browser window and checked my PayPal account. As expected, the balance was zero, just as it was suppose to be BUT there was a payment made only about 30 minutes earlier -- and to China.  It wasn't a huge sum but a tidy sum and more than I had in my bank account.

OMG!  PayPal had taken the money to pay this person from my checking account and now I was over-drafted.  Not good.  Not good, at all.

A panic call to PayPal and the worst nightmare was confirmed.  My money was in China.

After a lengthy discussion with an agent I was passed to a security person at PayPal.  First step - change my password.  Done!

Now I am patiently waiting the outcome of this endeavor.  I have claimed it to be an unauthorized purchase.  PayPal will validate my claim.  We wait.

Bottom line.  Change your passwords at least every 90 days.  I'd let my password for PayPal remain the same since I joined ... oh so many years ago.  Plus, my email password was the same as the day I set it up back in the early 90s.

I always assumed I didn't have anything anyone would want and jokingly would say "I ain't got nothing and they're welcome to it."  Well, somebody obviously took me up on my offer and took it.

Today I went to the bank, bright and early, to start the process there.  Not much to do but hang in there.  Came home and spent a lot of time going through my files to see what passwords I should change.  At first my thought was "just the important ones" but then realized, even the lesser ones have stuff to sell and whoever had my password, could use it to purchase something.  So I'm changing passwords where I can remember them.

That's the horror about passwords.  You're not suppose to use the same password for every place.  Really? I go to 73 locations -- I need 73 different passwords and remember who has which one?

Obviously somebody got into my computer and retrieved my passwords.  I have now removed my passwords, changed them, and no longer let my computer save the passwords for me.  HACKERS!!

I may just have to be more discreet on which sites I sign up for and need a password to access.

The above is just a word to the wise...

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reader Peeves

I'm a writer and hopefully, some will consider me an author.  I love to write and I also read books by other authors.  Sometimes I don't like what I read.  Trust me, that is not a sacrilege!

For instance, I read a fantasy. It was one of those "quest" types where a group go on a journey to gain/claim something of value and in the meantime, learn about themselves.  I was enjoying the story - a wizard, an elf, a dwarf, a knight and of course, a page.  The group encountered many chills and thrills.  As I continued to read, I started to notice that the end of the book was nearing quickly page by page.  I got nervous. "Don't tell me this a series!"  I quickly checked.  It wasn't.  Whew!  Finally they reached the destination and the wizard went to fight the bad wizard. The bad wizard is overcome by the good wizard and the item needed was retrieved.  Up to this point it had been a good book but there are like only a few pages left. And now this motley group needed to get home.  The wizard raises his hands over his head, claps them together three times and in a magical whirlwind, carries the group home where they discover the page is actually the lost son of the king, the elf is a princess and they marry.  Uh, the end?

I felt cheated.  If the wizard could transfer them so easily why the hell did I read 200 pages of trials and tribulations to get them to the bad wizard's lair?  None of the group fought the opposing wizard - it was wizard on wizard.  Other than the group fighting to get the wizard to the bad wizard's castle, they were of no other use.  So why didn't the wizard just whisk himself to the other wizard's domain, take care of business and call it another day at work? Why the long journey?  Why the quest at all other than to make a story?

When I was writing one of my books, my critique group reviewed it and the general consensus was: you're cheating the reader. You tease with a battle three separate times and it never culminates.  I was told battle scenes were like sex.  There is foreplay.  I had three sessions of such "foreplay" and then walked out of the room leaving the partner (reader) still wanting.  My choices were simple - either have a battle scene or trash the book.  I added the battle scene and was really glad it wasn't a sex scene!  Whew!  Of course, that was another point of discussion but I wasn't writing a romance novel and saw no reason to add anything beyond a touch, glance or the hint of a tryst.

Another pet peeve I discovered is formulaic writing. You start reading and quickly realize A->B->C and know who the killer is and why by the second chapter.  My friend loves murder mysteries but has found he prefers books written by men vs women since they tend to kill off the ex-boyfriend and 90% of his friends right at the beginning and, of course, the killer is always the ex-girlfriend.  He claims most male authors twist things a little more to keep the reader in suspense to the end.  Those are his words, not mine.

Some readers have mentioned they despise repetition of facts. It seems to them the author is beating them over the head to make sure that one fact is definitely lodged in their brain.  Readers are smart people and don't need this over-dramatization.  Trust me, the readers get it. Authors don't need to recap everything every time.

Have you ever heard a reader say they just finished a book that didn't have an error in it?  Imagine being able to do that - read a book and not find a spelling, grammar, punctuation, dialog or plot error. Imagine the chagrin of a reader who gets involved with a lesser character who gets shot but not killed. From that point on, the character is dropped from the story.  What happened?  Did s/he survive?  A plot line dead ends and the reader is left with no resolution.

Other pet peeves of some readers were unique: banal character names, lazy beginnings, stupid plots, and fluff writing.  Banal characters.  Interesting.  Your lead is Fred.  Really?  Why is his name Fred?  It's a romance novel and Fred is the lead?  Brock, Hayne, Patrick, or even Jasper are stronger names that give a connotation of a rugged character who takes charge.  Fred?  As to lazy beginnings, I, too, despise a story that starts out with three pages of description regarding the town setting and the house where the action will take place. Is it really critical for the reader to know that the northern brick wall has moss that is trickling early morning dew?  Unless that diminutive detail is vital to the plot - a moss-covered brick wall is all the reader needs to know.

Stupid plots was one that I thought interesting. I'm sure you've read a book where a plot is inserted into the narrative and, as described by the person telling me about this pet peeve, spackled into place in an attempt to make it work.  Having and adding a plot to have a plot at that point is... well, stupid. That is on the same level as fluff writing.  Fluff writing is when the author adds a lot of extra words to the story in an attempt to increase the word count.  An example: We watched the golden sun set in an azure sky filtered with streaks of fire red, smokey purples and harvest yellows over the distant dark blue ocean horizon. Yeah, fluff.  Why not: We watched the sun set in a sky of reds, purples and yellows over a serene ocean.  Sometimes the author tries too hard to paint the image in his mind into our mind for us to see.  Readers do have imaginations, let them use it.

These are a few pet peeves that authors should take into account.  Will they?

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Truth in Waisted Words

Sometimes you read a misspelled word in an article or story and snicker because it suddenly seems more appropriate than the proper word.

I saw a sign that read:

Your An Idiot. Learn to spell. Insult correctly.

I thought it quite humorous until I was reading another article and saw "Your never wrong if..."  Huh?  What editor let that slip by?  It should have read "You're never wrong if..."  

With today's smaller texting screens and the internet with all its acronyms, it is a wonder our children even have the slightest idea of how to spell anything.  In fact, most kids today would write the following sentence much differently.  You're too funny.  It would be: UR2funny.. In a way, it's ironic -- You're becomes UR.

There are homonyms, homophones and homographs. All the same yet each is different. 

Homonyms:  Same word sound, different meanings.
      Scale:  a) Step on the scale.   b) Scale the wall.
      Fair:  a) Go to the fair.   b) It is a fair deal.

Homophones: Words that sound alike, but spelled differently
     Flour / Flower:  a) Use white flour in the recipe.   b) Roses are a pretty flower.
     Sweet / Suite:  a) Sugar is sweet.   b) The wedding suite is available.

Homographs:  Same spelling but different pronunciation and meaning
     desert:  a) The Mojave Desert is in California.   b) He would desert his friends quickly.
     bow:  a) The bow of the ship.   b) The bow on the present.

Sometimes it can get a little confusing because some words can be in more than one category.  For instance, the word 'present' can be both a homonym and a homograph.
     a)  Here is your birthday present.  (Homonym)
     b)  Today is the present, tomorrow is the future.  (Homonym)
     c)  May I present Mr. Adams?   (Homograph)
     a) The Mojave Desert is in California. (Homograph)
     b) He would desert his friends quickly. (Homograph)
     c) The dessert was delicious. (Homophone)

I feel today's youth are losing the fine lines of the English language and in doing so, losing even more of themselves. I know the English language is transitioning but are we blurring the lines?  I've noticed more ebooks available with improper spelling or usage of words.  One website that is frequented by young writers offers their scribblings and I cringe when I read improper English usage. "Where it like a blouse." "Your the one who nose." Yes, I cringed.

In my attempt to lose weight, I found that sitting around to wait for it to happen, just wasn't going to work. It was over too many years of having kids that I gained all this excess baggage.  Okay, my wife really delivered them, I was just there for moral support.  As the father of four sons, it was my job to make sure there was food on their plates.  My attitude was, I worked to earn the money and 'By George, if you aren't going to eat it, I will.'  That was the beginning of my demise.  I wasn't about to throw food away.  Unfortunately, it didn't go to waste but it did go to my waist.  Now, twenty years later, I'm trying to get rid of it.  Wish me luck.

How many homonyms, homophones and/or homographs did you find in the above true paragraph?

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Perfect Book

You've written the novel.  You've edited the crap out of it. Your friends have gone over it. Your professional editor has gone over it. You finally read it aloud for final pass. Surprisingly, you find several errors that were glossed over and correct them.

You send it off to an editor who jumps at the chance to publish your novel. Again, more edits.

Finally!  The book is printed. Perfect. Flawless.


If you think that your book will be printed and be flawless, think again.  Any writer worth their merit will agree that by going back over the novel once it is in print is pure agony and shame.  Most of them know that some glaring error is going to blaze out of the page at them.  Many authors of published books agree that the worst thing a newly published author can do is to read the book.

I didn't believe that poppycock any more than you.

OMG!  They were right!

Within just a few pages I saw errors.  Some mine, some not.

Let me step back.  To begin, the publisher and I had gone over the edits more times than either of us wished to even count.  Finally, it went to print and the publisher received a "preview" copy.  He was horrified.  The printer had called to state that there was a problem.  Seems there are more shades of black than one.  The cover had three images and text.  Surprise!  The images were on black backgrounds and yet, when placed on the full screen background of black, they appeared to blend but when broken down into their respective CMYB components.  Okay, that's when it all fell apart.  In the RGB spectrum, they were fine.  But it seemed that the black on each image had a slightly different amount of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. This made each image stand out separately from the standard background black.  With some work by the art department, the colors were corrected and all the blacks were of the same quality and shade.

As stated, we'd worked the text and massaged the edits until it was a wonderful manuscript worthy of print.


There was a spelling error, an incorrect verb tense.  Oh my!  There was POV issues, not to mention tense issues.  Error after error literally glowed on the pages as I read.

Where were these errors in the drafts?  Did the alphabet gremlins attack the work when somebody wasn't watching?  Was the final copy lost or misplaced and an older version used?

After validation that the correct version (final) was used, all I could do was what other writers do.  I moved on, started writing on my next opus, ignoring the errors.  It was done. It was over with. There was nothing I or the publisher could do.  The book was in the public eye.  In other words - Live with it!

Surprisingly, many well-known authors experience the exact same thing.  They finish their work, get it published and move on to the next project.  Some may read the printed version.  Many won't.

A writer's life is about writing.  Not strictly writing. They are also readers.  A writer who doesn't read is a writer out of touch with trends.  So, most writers are voracious readers.  Just like web designers keep up with current design trends and new tools, so must a writer.  Any tax law attorney worth their weight will be current with new laws which means they read.

So, as a writer, read.  Just don't read your stuff.  Read other authors and then work on your next manuscript.  Yes, make it perfect so the next time you're published, you won't find any mistakes.

Even the best fantasy books printed (they come out every January) which are labeled "Seed Catalogs" have errors.  Imagine my surprise when I saw "Enjoys full shade. Plant in full sun."  Now, maybe this flower does enjoy full shade, but I am not about to plant something out in the full sunlight, if the plant loves shade!   That's giving "Full Shade" a whole new meaning.  If it had been a creeper-type plant, maybe I could have bought into the idea that it moves itself to the shade after it germinates.  No, I couldn't buy that.  Just like the home I saw for sale.  It had an out building with a new 6' cement floor.  I'm sure it was supposed to be six inches, not six feet. That's a lot of cement!

Typos occur.  I'll be going back over this entry to make sure I try to clean most of them out but I already know, more than likely, something will slip through.  Enjoy the fact -- I'm human.  I make errors.  Of course, I'm still fascinated by the six foot thick floor. I've heard of "cement boots" and wonder just how many bodies are in that floor. Maybe somebody got over zealous with their work?

I'm finishing up edits on a WIP.  Just found a sentence with ".. a the man..." which we all know is wrong.  It is either "a man" or "the man" and I corrected it.  This, after several edits by me, my beta-readers, and a professional editor.  It was still there.  I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't been asked to "up the word count" and was attempting to fluff the story.  Imagine my chagrin -- I'm adding words and had to delete some.  Uh, yes, I found more than just one error.

Wow.  Maybe this will be the perfect book!  Now quit giggling... it could happen!

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Long, Lonely Writer's Journey

You've seen those looks. That special smile somebody gives you when you announce "I'm a writer." or boldly say "I'm an author." to an acquaintance.

Of course, the next words heard are: Have you written anything I may have read?

Really? You just read without looking at the author's name?  It would be like reaching up in the library, grabbing a book and saying "Oh, let me read this." If you don't know the author, how do you make the judgment to read it? Yes, sometimes a reader must pick up an unknown author but remember, the author is only unknown until read.

I may not remember every author's name of the books I've read over the years, but I do believe if I heard the name when being introduced, it would ring familiar.

A writer at a party always gets the same response, repeatedly.  "What have you written?"

But let's step back a little.  Forget that many authors are intimidated by the possibility of any type of interaction with another human.  Not really, but since we, as authors, tend to work alone, most people consider us hermits.  Trust me, we are far from the stereotype, nervous ninny who bangs away on a typewriter.

I mentioned the lonely life.  Authors work alone and therefore are considered loners.  But, in truth, we, as authors, are not alone and we don't work alone.

Think about it!

You write an article.  What is the first thing you do?  Okay, you go back over it to do edits. THEN you send it to a friend or two for their reviews and insight.  You aren't done yet.  You take the feedback and fix parts of your project. Plus, you aren't finished.  You now send it off to a professional editor - that person who will rip apart your little baby and leave you feeling like the loser in the boxing ring.  That feeling is only a fleeting moment when the edits are realistically evaluated and you decide that some of them are of actual value.  Yes, as the author, you have the right to accept and reject those edits.  Now you send the article to a publisher... or two... or three.  You get accepted and again, you deal with another editor who suggest changes that must be made.

Did you catch the two operative words in that last sentence?  Suggest?  Must?  This is the publisher and unless you can validate your reasons for not making their suggested changes, they  must be made.

So, other than in the creative process -- a writer is not alone.  A writer has anywhere from one to perhaps twenty friends to work with as the process moves forward.

Therefore, in reality, only to an outsider does a writer's life appear to be a long, lonely existence. To those in the know, we have a rich collection of friends and acquaintances whom we are in daily contact.  Maybe many of them are cyber connections but I know, in my life, several are those who I visit, relax with and discuss writing issues - theirs and mine - over a wonderful cup of coffee. (And a muffin, if I'm lucky!)

When confronted with that look of sympathy as a poor, lonely writer hermit, I can hold my head high and smile inwardly, knowing I have a wonderful existence, filled with fantastic people who share my excitement by blending words to create a marvelous work to read.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Nom de Plume

Pen names!  Exactly why does a person have a "nom de plume" or pen name instead of using their real name?  The answers are interesting, to say the least.

1) Hidden identity is the most popular reason.  Yes, keeping the true identity of the author a secret is the perfect reason for a pen name. There are many reasons for keeping an author's name hidden.  The most typical, and first to mind, is the obvious. The writer pens erotica and would prefer to not have the family, church and/or community know it. Of course, it could be another reason completely.  S/he\ is a branch manager of a firm who prefers that their employees do not 'moonlight' for other income.  Or, perhaps the company thinks it is a conflict of interest.  The author is a programmer and has just written a book about how to write programs in XXX language or how to do this or that with YYY operating system. There is even the possibility that a writer could feel his/her credibility would be questioned if the public knew they wrote a certain genre. For instance, a family counselor who writes about broken homes or the Harvard professor who writes children's nursery rhymes.

2) Specific identity is another reason.  If an author is writing horror and decides to write romance, it might be better to use an alias - that nom de plume -- for the conflicting genre.  Some authors are proud of the fact they can work in multiple genres while others prefer to keep that particular talent hidden.  My co-author uses an alias for our horror series - Ancient Blood.  He writes action/thrillers under his real name and uses an alias for horror.  A friend of mine writes science fiction under one name - not his real name - and writes romance using a woman's name.  His true name is used in a completely different genre.  As he says -- would you read a trashy romance written by Max Whitman (not his real name) or Samantha Murray (not his fake name) when picking a book?

3) Publication.  How's that for sounding obscure?  One of my oldest writing friends uses an alias.  She writes in her real name and she also writes using her maiden name. Many authors use pseudonyms, pen names, to be able to have more books available.  As one person so aptly noted -- libraries can only purchase so many books by a certain author unless you are very lucky to be one of the top 10 authors. So, if you use a 2nd or 3rd or even a 4th name, you can have more books available to purchase and/or read.  That doesn't mean to write a book using your real name, and then another book with a 2nd name.  Publish 4, 5 or even 10 books in a name, then start using a new one.

4) Public vs Private.  Some authors prefer to keep their personal lives just that - personal and private.  The popular authors, like Stephen King, are in the limelight.  Writers like him have problems going into the public and not be noticed.  Some readers believe that what they read by the author is based on the author's life. Sometimes it is, usually it is not or at least, not completely.  Authors would prefer to keep the two lives separate, if not for themselves directly, but perhaps for their immediate family.

5) Miscellaneous.  This will be a collection of reasons.  One of the most unusual is pride or humility. An author may publish under a pseudonym just to make sure that their writing skill is truly valid.  A well-known write questioned if he was being published because the book was good or because his name was on it.  He sent the story to publisher under a fake name.  The story was accepted, published under the fake name and well received by the reading audience.  The author was humbled.

Soooo... Who has had or is using a pen name?  Try to match the Pen Name(s) to the Real Name.

Pen NameReal Name
1. Anne Rice, Anne Rampling, A. N. RoquelaureA. Howard Allen Frances O'Brien
2. George OrwellB. Eric Arthur Blair
3. George EliotC. Mary Anne Evans
4. VoltaireD. Francois-Marie Arouet
5. Lewis CarrollE. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
6. Richard Bachman, John SwithenF. Stephen King
7. Anson MacDonald, Lyle Monroe, John Riverside, Caleb Saunders, Simon YorkG. Robert A. Heinlein
8. Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb, Jill March, Sarah HardestyH. Eleanor Marie Robertson
9. John Lange, Jeffery Hudson, Michael DouglasI. John Michael Crichton
10. Robert Jordan, Reagan O'Neal, Jackson O'Reilly, Chang LungJ. James Oliver Rigney, Jr.
11. Patrick Mac Conaire, Steve Costigan, Patrick Ervin, Patrick Howard, Sam WalserK. Robert E. Howard
12. James Tiptree, Jr., Raccoona SheldonL. Alice Hastings Bradley

Would you believe? The pen name(s) is/are on the same line as the real name!

Years ago I read an article about an author - I believe he resides in the South - who had over 100 books (and it might have been even much higher) published.  He had something like 30-40 pen names, some male names, some female names.  The names were driven by series, genres, and chance. I do wish I could remember his name. It was a wake up call to me.  I wanted to just get one book published but after reading that article, I wanted to be published many times over and with different names.

Yes, I do have at least one pen name I'll admit to - Sydney Dunne - but don't go looking for the name since it hasn't been used too often as yet.  Uh, there are other "Sydney Dunne" entities out there on the internet and they aren't me..

Until next time I decide to ramble on...

Monday, August 19, 2013


Momma Mia!  We all remember Colin Firth's character and his search for spontaneity or his claim that he was acting spontaneously.

We all, writers included, tend to stay in safe waters, holding close that which comforts us.  It's true.  Seldom do we push ourselves to that next level unless shoved by another force.  Years ago, when I started writing, somebody passed me a list of genres and how they all are basically the same in theory and plot.

Romance: Boy finds girl. Fall in love. Boy loses girl to another boy. Boy fights enemy, wins. Gets girl back.
Sci-Fi: Boy finds girl. Fall in love. Boy loses girl to alien. Boy fights alien, wins. Gets girl back.
Western: Cowboy find cowgirl. Fall in love. Cowboy loses cowgirl to Indians. Fights Indians, wins.  Cowboy gets cowgirl back.
Fantasy Dwarf boy finds elf girl. Fall in love. Dwarf boy loses elf girl to elf boy. Dwarf boy fights elf boy, wins. Dwarf boy gets elf girl back.

I think you see the theme.  It is the same, monotonous story line with just a couple of different twists to make each book somewhat different.  If you've ever listened to some music, many recording artists get a hit and then use the same tempo, beat, melody, whatever in the next big-hit wonder.  Working on what worked.

We've all watched the horror movies and it seems, without a doubt, at some point, a young blond damsel will run from the house, shrieking and only wearing the sheerest and smallest possible panties to stay above the "X" rating. She WILL get killed.  Just like the running joke -- If you're on Star Trek and wearing a red shirt headed down to the planet -- uh, don't make reservations for the evening meal, you're not coming back. You will be the fodder to save the stars of the show.  A Navy buddy of mine had a brother who was offered a part on a 1968 television Star Trek show.  He wore a red jersey, went planet-side and never returned.  He thought it was his "big" chance - or as his agent had told him "with the possibility of a recurring role."

So what with the spontaneity title?

You've written your G.A.N (Great American Novel) and hope to hawk it and make a bazillion dollars... or at least more than $1.98.  It's an epic fantasy in the style of J. R. R. Tolkien.  Okay, not quite that elaborate, more of a simpler fantasy where a knight, an elf, a dwarf, a has-been wizard and village orphan go on a quest to gain the knight's right to marry the princess.  Ho-hum.  Oh, wait, a twist.  The orphan is really the king's long lost son.  Ho-hum.  Another twist!  The wizard will be reborn or find he is the great and powerful Merlin.  Ho-hum.  It is so typical of quest story lines.  There has to be something more, something to make this story stand out from any other.

How about the elf is really the princess in a disguise and she is able to see the knight's true self.  He isn't the hero she thinks he is, but instead a thief and sneak who lets other step up to the task at hand and then take the glory at the end?  He takes the last of the food, pockets extra gold and is a hard-ass to those around him. And, at the same time, she discovers that the orphan is really a better man, all the while, trying to fend off the lusty advances of the dwarf?  All this is happening while on the quest for a scale of the golden dragon to impress the princess who is supposed to be sitting, pining, back at the castle.  Now THAT is a story with some kick.

Now that I re-read that last paragraph I have come to realize that I've written a pretty good story there.  So guess what I'm going to be doing when I finish this blog?  I got me a kick-ass story to write. LOL.

Again, spontaneity is necessary in writing.  You can't just rewrite the same ho-hum story with a little twist here and a tweak there.  Yes, sparkly vampires were a new twist, but really? Vegetarian?  Vampires are suppose to scare you, not be something dreamy that you want to become.  The same holds true for the werewolf.  They are a person who is tormented by the beast within -- not some muscle-bound hottie you can't wait to sleep with.  Next thing, you'll see Frankenstein doing a soft-shoe tap on stage ... oh wait, it's been done already.  Great Gene Wilder movie!  Now there was some spontaneity.

As I have mentioned several times before, when I write, sometimes the characters will take over the writing and scene. That is spontaneity. Let it flow. With my one book, it added another five chapters to the story with some great scenes and action.  One of my beta-readers said it was the best part of the book and kept her so enthralled at the doctor's office, she almost missed her name being called.  Again, spontaneity!

So, in your book, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back.  Try something new, add a twist.  Boy meets girl. Boy tries to lose girl. Girl walks away. Boy wants girl back and HE CHASES HER until SHE is ready to CATCH HIM.  See?  Spontaneity.  Something different.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Going Back In Time

A few days ago, Sunday, August 4, at 7pm, to be exact, I was the guest author at The Writer's Chatroom ( and was bombarded with questions over the two hour event.  I had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed the time which passed oh, too quickly.

I was asked some pertinent writing questions, some somewhat personal questions and some very profound questions.

One of the questions -- If you had a time machine and could go back to when you were just starting out as a writer, what would you tell yourself?

What a great question.  To be honest, I was stumped and really had to think. A flip answer was not going to suffice.  I stalled with "...thinking..." to give me some time and let the group know I was still there. Then I began to type furiously.  What would I tell myself?

My writing began to take off at the turn of the century ... Wow, doesn't that make one sound old?  Anyway, call it late 1990s, early 2000s.  I started writing back in high school (circa 1961-65) and struggled on and off over the next few decades (aka not submitting due to a rejection in high school)  If I went back today (2013 - almost 48 yrs later) and could give the sagely advice I gleaned over the eons -- okay, decades -- I might have been a big author during the 70s or 80s.  I could have been the next Stephen King or maybe Steve could have been the next Bob Nailor!

I stumbled onto my mentor back in 1995. She helped me and has guided me over the last couple of decades, aiding me in my path to publication.  I haven't hit that BIG time yet but I have 19 books with my name in them and hopefully another coming out soon to make it 20.  IF I'd found her back in 1965 rather than 1995, I am sure things would have been much different.

Another question asked was "Have I ever done something I was ashamed of doing or saying?"  Hmm?  That was getting rather personal but it was quickly amended to "in regards to writing."  Whew!

I am sure there are many things I should be ashamed of that I did in writing but the only thing I could think of was -- I promised an agent a project by mid-month, no later than end of the month.  Almost a week plus after the promised last due date, I still was working on the project.  I always, ALWAYS tell new writers that you must learn to adhere to deadlines and meet them, no matter what.  And, like my mentor, when I asked her about things I noticed in her writing that she always nailed me for -- Do as I say, not as I do.

Don't you just love that?

So, before I mosey on, I now ask you -- What would you tell your younger self if you could go back in time?  What sagely advice would you offer?  Would you even want to go back?

Until next I --

Oh, wait a minute... Starting next week, 8/19/2013, this blog will be updated/released on Mondays rather than the usual Tuesday.

Now!  Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Parasite

Today was a day of reckoning. I discovered something about me that left me, well, shocked. I almost loathe myself and am feeling very ... okay, I'll admit it.  I should be ashamed.

I am a parasite.  Actually, to describe it even better, I am a writing parasite.

So what is a parasite?  It is, as defined by - a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another.

Well, that is one part of the lengthy description.  Hmm?  Colorful, but not what one would call complimentary, to say the least.

So how do I see myself as a parasite?

Simple.  I write.  I love to write.  I share.  I love to share my stories.  I love to let others read what I have written and bathe in their glorious adulation of my works. My soul soars to unknown heights with each word of praise.

Where is my humbleness?  Where is my shame?

Parasites have no shame.  They live only to seek the nutrients they need.  I write so I may hear a total stranger compliment my writing, spouting words of praise, approval, and admiration. As this stranger speaks, in the background, I can hear choirs of angels singing.  I want to write more.


My editor (the person I pay big bucks to fix my errors) returns this wondrous manuscript I have created. This fantastically coalesced collection of words to amaze all readers who are lucky enough to see it, is returned with corrections.

I start to peruse the edits.

The editor has dumped a 55 gallon barrel of blood all over my document.  In fact, it is still dripping with wetness as I allow it to slip out of the envelope.  What sacrilege is this?

The parasite is mortally wounded.

The cover letter from the editor was suppose to say "Bobbo, it's some of your best writing! It is truly amazing and I could only find a couple of itty-bitty fixes."  But, in reality, the cover letter is "Okay, here it is. You have a lot of POV jumps and punctuation issues. I tried to mark them all. Don't cry when you see the red."

It has been a week.  The parasite is weak.  There has been no influx of praise.  I've barely been able to face the edits.  I have struggled through a few pages.


At the bottom of a page there is a note. "The story is strong, the theme  interesting and you've done a good job of creating your lead characters. Do this assignment <assignment deleted> and it will help not only your characters but this story.

Could that be praise?

"I am a parasite! It sure sounded like praise to me and will take it as such.  Edits, here I come."

Yes, I am what I am. I am a writing parasite who lives on praise.

Until next I ramble on...