Everything has been Done Before

What is so bad about a cliché?

I see the comment sometimes in critiques — “This is a cliché.”  Some people say it so much that pointing out a cliché has become a cliché.  Is that like the pot calling the kettle black?

My first response is usually, “So what?”  I guess I don’t get why people get all in a tizzy about it, especially if it’s in dialogue.  People do still use clichés when they speak, don’t they?  Or is it just us older people who are stuck in our ways.

So what is a cliché?

A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought, a stereotype or electrotype.

It sounds bad, right?  Or is it?  I think originality can be overemphasized in some literary circles over telling a good story.  The best storytellers know and use every trick in the book.  Old or new expression, does it really matter as long as you tell a good story?  After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, right?

Maybe it’s because I live in the south.  We like our clichés down here, and they’re as numerous as fleas on a hound dog.  It’s part of the vernacular.  Telling a southerner to stop using clichés, is like trying to teach an old dog new tricks.   You might as well be talking to a fence post.

So my advice is don’t get your knickers in a twist over clichés.  Just go with the flow and enjoy the story.  The occasional cliché won’t hurt anything (unlike this post).

Oh well, it is what it is.


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Filed under Culture, musings, Philosophy, Writing

I’ve Created a Monster!


No, this isn’t a six-foot-tall Frankenstein’s monster that runs amuck and attacks unsuspecting villagers.  She’s about five foot nothing and sneaks in a “joke” when you’re not looking.

Used to be, I was the one being a smart-ass, telling jokes, and making light of the world around me.  Of course, my children inherited my sense of humor and we’ve formed an alliance of like-minded mockery.  My wife has always been the down-to-earth no-nonsense person that kept us on the straight and narrow.  She was the straight man to our comical antics.

I blame myself for her slide into tomfoolery.  I thought she was like the Rock of Gibraltar in her resistance to our raillery, but it turns out even the strongest stone has its limits.

It started out with the odd joke (and I do mean odd) at the dinner table.  All forks would pause, and three sets of eyes swiveled to study this strange creature who had appeared in our midst.  The jokes escalated into quips, then wisecracks, and finally into full-on mischief-making and horseplay.  I swear if she slides into punning I’m moving out.  A man has to draw the line somewhere.

Now she’s telling jokes and laughing hysterically, and I’m the one with the straight face wondering how this came to pass.  Doesn’t she know her role?  She’s supposed to roll her eyes when I say something stupid, not the other way around.

This straight man gig is for the birds.

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Filed under Humor, musings

Move Over Shakespeare


Wouldn’t it be nice to have a rich patron to support your artistic endeavors?  No more can’t-afford-to-quit-my-day-job blues.  You could be like Shakespeare and have your writing supported by the Queen of England, or maybe Michaelangelo, who had the financial backing of the pope.  Imagine the heights to which your art will soar.

Or maybe, you’ll just waste even more time on the internet.

Patronage for the arts got its start Renaissance period.  It was a status thing for the artist—the richer the patron, the more esteemed the artist.  The patron also got status points for supporting the artist’s work because it was seen as a civic, or even religious duty.  Of course, it also let everyone else know just how rich and powerful the patron was.

So Shakespeare had Queen Elizabeth (among other patrons), who can a modern writer turn to for patronage?  There are endowments and fellowships out there, but it seems most of them are linked to academics.  I haven’t seen any Hollywood stars, rich athletes, or socialites offering to fund your next novel.  It seems today’s patrons are ordinary people.

Lately, I’ve seen quite of few anthologies and magazines being funded by Kickstarter or something similar.  People pay upfront for a future product.  Then there is Patreon, which seems to be the newest “thing” for writers to raise money.  It is based upon the patron concept, but instead of a single rich sponsor, you have many fans who donate to your work.  In return, you can give them early access to stories or special content.

I have mixed feelings about Patreon.  First, I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity that could help me with my writing, but this seems like just another thing to take time away from actually writing.  Second, and my biggest issue, is that it feels more like begging for money than having a patron.  Don’t get me wrong, I like money, but publishing isn’t that expensive in this Amazon era.  It seems like just another way to get money out of people instead of selling books (Not that I’m selling a lot of books or making any money, but I figure that’s my issue to deal with not anyone else’s).

I guess it’s my old-fashioned desire to not owe people money.  Patreon still feels like taking a loan to me.  As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; / For loan oft loses both itself and friend.

Of course, whenever I think of this line it comes out in the Skipper’s voice from Gilligan’s Island.

I would like to think that if the next Shakespeare is out there, he would be easy enough to spot and would be successful without the need of a Patreon page.  Or maybe not.

Anyone out there using Patreon?  Please let me know your thoughts.


Filed under musings, Philosophy, Writing, Writing Process

What’s Wrong with Playing Ostrich?


I’ve been practicing my ostrich impression for the last week or so — burying my head in the sand to avoid writing and other people.  It’s not that I’m unsociable,  it’s more like I needed time to recharge.

I don’t really get extroverts.  Supposedly they feel recharged when interacting with people.  How is that even possible?  Wait a minute!  So that’s where all my energy goes when I’m around other people.  It’s you extroverts that are sucking it all away.  So that means that introverts are actually powering the world of human endeavor.  We go off on our own, recharge our energy, and then run across an extrovert that takes it all away.  Where would the extroverts be without us?  I feel a story coming on.

Anyway, It’s been really nice here in Charlotte for the past week — good weather to recharge.  Also, the kind of weather that gets me thinking about springtime and the garden.

I mowed the lawn for the first time, and put out the citrus trees:

Lime Tree 2018

Went hiking on a greenway and saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles after they filled up on pizza:


And hung out in the yard:

Pear Tree

Marvelling over the daffodils:


And the first stalk of asparagus of the season:


Wow, I feel refreshed.  Maybe it’s time to peek my head back out of the sand and see what’s been going on.  Anyone want to buy a book?




Filed under Books, Citrus Trees, Gardening, Lime Trees, musings, Nature, Pictures

The Perfect Snack

We all have our dietary weaknesses.  That one food that tempts you more than any other.  Maybe it’s a cheeseburger, or pizza, or ice cream.


I know it will come as a shock to anyone who’s read this blog, but Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my dietary Achilles heel.  I mean, whoever came up with this perfect snack food should be canonized— Saint Harry of chocolate-peanut butter goodness, patron saint of snack time and hyperactive children.

Harry Burnett “HB” Reese invented the snack in 1928 in Hershey, PA.  He worked for The Hershey Company as a dairy farmer but was inspired to start his own candy company.  Inspired is the only way to describe this delicious treat.

images (2)

As a fantasy author, I’ve been asked what historical period I’d like to live in if I had my choice.  The answer is easy— anytime after 1928.  Can you imagine life without the peanut butter cup?

“Hey Georgie, finish your porridge and you can have a nice piece of fruitcake.”

No thanks, I think I’ll stay in the modern world and use fruitcake as a doorstop like any sensible person would.

If you have never eaten a Reese’s cup, don’t deny yourself any longer.  Head to the nearest store and grab a pack.  Don’t be fooled by all the choices either.  The standard double-pack is the only way to go.  These standard size cups have the perfect ratio of chocolate to peanut butter.  The minis have too much chocolate and the Big Cup has too much peanut butter.  And don’t worry about the white chocolate, dark chocolate, crunchy, or any other variant.  Why mess with perfection (Although the Reese’s Fast Break bar is pretty good too if for some unfathomable reason the store is out of cups).

I could go on until the Hershey dairy cows come home, but now my mouth is watering and I have to run out for a little bit of chocolate-peanut butter heaven.

“Hey, you got chocolate in my peanut butter!”



Filed under Culture, Food, musings

Free Book Marketing?

Deciding how to spend your marketing dollars on your indie book is tough.  After paying for an editor and book cover, now you have to decide how much to spend on marketing.  You’re already in the hole, and you wonder if your book will ever earn enough to recoup what you already have in it.  So how much more money do you spend on marketing, and will it make a difference in sales?

Well then, it’s time for some free marketing, right?

Unfortunately, nothing in life is free (Somebody famous said that I’m sure).  The majority of the free marketing sites I’ve run across require you to give your book away for free to join.  Most of them want you to have your book free on Amazon.  Basically, you have to be in KDP Select to really take advantage of these opportunities.  So it’s more like: If you want something for free, don’t write a book.  Yes, these sites are free for the reader but lost revenue for you.

The philosophy is that you need to get your name out there in order to build a following and eventually sell books.  Another philosophy I’ve heard is to price your book higher so that readers feel it has value and will buy it.  So like every other aspect of writing, there is no one path to success in marketing.

I’ve had my books on Amazon and Kobo and recently entered a few giveaways on Goodreads and Instafreebie (I also did an Amazon ad campaign).  I’ve been giving away book one of my series for several months to build readership.  I’ve given away about 600 copies of The Order of the Wolf.  I’ve also sponsored a Blog tour for my series and a book blitz for my new book release.

The net result of my efforts is three new book ratings/reviews on Goodreads, one on Amazon, and one on a review website.  I have sold a few copies of The Eastern Factor that just released, but not enough to get excited about.

My take away from all this is that people are more than willing to download a free book.  In fact, I think a lot of people are grabbing all the free e-books they can get their hands on.  Whether they read them is another matter.  I’ve actually heard people brag about how many books they have on their e-reader—more than they’ll read in their lifetime. If they read your book, they have to like it in order to rate it or buy the next book.  Finding readers to take your book isn’t so hard when you’re giving it away, but finding the right readers that will want to read more is the key.

Takeaway number two: I need to do more with ARC reviews and pre-order sales.  Much of the marketing is targeted for this period vs. after the release.

Another takeaway is that I need to have my giveaways on Amazon to harness the power of, well, Amazon.  I’ve resisted KDP Select for awhile, but I recognize that it is the best marketing platform to use when you’re trying to get established.  So this week I’m taking my books down from other sites and switching my series over to KDP Select and I am going to use their marketing features going forward.  Well, at least for the next 90 days.

I’ll admit, I’m a slow processor.  I have to mull over a problem for a while before deciding which way to go.  My wife says I’m hard-headed and will argue with a wall (I am not!), but I do eventually work out a path forward.  Let’s see where this one leads.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to get your copy of The Eastern Factor.    You’ll find it on Amazon.  And you can buy the complete Kingdom of Haven series there as well if you’re so inclined.

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Filed under Books, Marketing, Writing, Writing Process

What’s Your Age Animal?

An old guy called me Sir the other day and I about fell over.  What the hell!

Okay, he was probably younger than me (maybe?).  I admit I suck at guessing ages, but he was definitely beyond middle-age and had no business showing me old-man respect.  Yeah, so my hair is more grey than black these days, and I’m sure my hairstyle is what they call vintage, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to be put out to pasture (Actually, that doesn’t sound so bad).

I just don’t feel that old.  I was talking to my mom about this the other day, and she said she doesn’t feel her age either.  I don’t think this is uncommon.  According to a (fairly) recent study:   Older people tend to feel about 13 years younger than their chronological age.

Okay, that makes sense.  So even if this guy was ten years younger than me, I’m thinking he’s older.  Not because I’m hung up on age, but because I’m just as deluded as the rest of the old people out there.  That (kinda) makes me feel better.

To be honest, I rarely think about age, or how old I am.  My wife says I lie about my age all the time, but I really just forget that I had another birthday (or two).  And this isn’t a new thing.  I was thirty-five for something like five years before I remembered (she reminded me) that I was older.

This thinking I’m younger than I am stuff is too confusing.  I think I’ll just come up with my own aging methodology.  If I feel younger than I am then I’ll just start using another scale.  You know, like human years vs. dog years.  They say one year for a dog is like seven for a human, but that’s not quite right.  There’s an actual chart and everything.  While my wife says I’m a dog sometimes I’d be about 8 if I went by the dog chart.  So I decided to look around at the different animal-to-human age comparisons to see which one works better:

  • Sheep – 10 — Still a bit young and I’ve not ever been one to follow the herd.
  • Pig – 10 — All men are pigs, right? Still too young though.
  • Donkey – 17 — While I’ve been known to act like an ass a time or two, it’s still a bit young (Although 17 wouldn’t be bad, I doubt I could pull it off).
  • Elephant – 32 — Now that sounds more like it.

So from now on, I’m going to convert my age to Elephant years.  It makes sense in a way because the older I get the more round I become (It has nothing to do with the Reese’s Cups), and besides elephants are my wife’s favorite animal.

I’m all set for the next time some fortyish dude calls me Sir.  I’ll just give him a look and say, “Yo, I’m thirty-two bro.”  Then I’ll stomp past him trumpeting in triumph.


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Filed under Humor, musings