Category Archives: Writing


I attended ConCarolinas yesterday with my daughter.  It has become somewhat of a tradition for us to attend cons.  We shoot for the smaller local cons because they are typically more intimate than some of the bigger ones.  We started years ago with MarsCon out of Williamsburg, VA; tried out RavenCon in Richmond, VA; StellarCon in Greensboro, NC; and now have zoned in on ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC.  Now that we live in Charlotte, ConCarolinas is definitely the most convenient to attend.

My daughter likes to cosplay at times and likes to talk to people at the convention, where I am the proverbial stick in the mud.  Yes, I’m the author.  Yes, I’m supposed to mingle, and meet other authors, and promote my books.  Yes, I suck at it.

I always make the rounds and talk to the authors hawking their wares.  I typically buy a handful of books from said authors, not the bookstores in the dealer room.  I hope they will do the same for me, in the future—next year.

I will be releasing the third book in my trilogy this winter (in time for Christmas), and next year will be the big marketing push to promote the series.  I plan to attend as many conventions as possible in 2018.  I’ll be the one sitting behind the table watching people walk by and hoping they’ll stop and talk.  I won’t lie—I’m a bit apprehensive about it, but excited at the same time.

Stop by and say hi.  It won’t matter if you buy a book, I’ll be happy to see you.

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An Early Christmas Present – For Me

My short story “Santa Doesn’t Work Here Anymorewill be coming your way this Christmas.  It will be appearing in the anthology Short and Twisted Christmas Tales sponsored by the North Texas Speculative Fiction Workshop.

This story has been sitting in my pile waiting for the right venue.  It feels good to get it out there.    I understand the anthology will be released in November.

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I just started submitting short stories again.  No excuses—I stopped sending stuff out to focus on my novels.  Okay, that was my official excuse, and I’m sticking with it.  Looking back, it wasn’t the best plan.  Be that as it may, it’s been a few years since I submitted stories.  I’m guessing I’m not alone in disliking the submission process.  Well, I used to really dislike it, but now it’s so much easier.  Everyone has gone to online submission forms.  I like it!

Still, Something about the word submission irks me.  What does it mean exactly?  I decided to see what old Merriam-Webster had to say, and because I’m rather simple, I opted for the kid’s definition:

1:  the act of putting forward something (as for consideration or comment)

2:  the condition of being humble or obedient

3:  the act of giving in to power or authority

I recognize that the first definition is appropriate for this discussion, but why does it feel like the other two seem to hit closer to the mark?  No matter how thick-skinned you are, or how well you handle rejection, it feels like you are submitting a piece of yourself along with your story.  Then you have to be humble when you receive said rejection, and obedient to the whims of the publisher.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think it is a conspiracy.  Sending in your story is called a submission to put you in the right frame of mind.  Be prepared to submit to the authority of the publisher, all yea who enter here!  It can’t be a coincidence.

Anyway, I’ve sent out three submissions:  One was rejected within a day, one was accepted within a day, and the last is still out there.  Not bad odds.  Maybe I should have started submitting again sooner.

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Cliff Hanger or Cheap Trick?



A couple of recent season finales have made me think about how to do a cliffhanger right.  To be honest, the last season finale of The Walking Dead pissed me off enough to stop watching the show, and it made me think about how they did it wrong.

To do a cliffhanger correctly, you have to entice your audience to want to see the next scene without pissing them off.  It is about building anticipation in the audience to the right degree that they will come back for more.  It is also a way to build tension in your story.  This is often done through some type of revelation or twist to the storyline that happens as part of the cliffhanger or at the beginning of the next scene.

An example of a good cliffhanger was the end of the season 5 of The Game of Thrones.  Jon Snow is stabbed multiple times, and the season ends with him lying in the snow, but is Jon Snow really “dead” dead?  The way the scene ends with Jon lying alone in the snow leaves the option open that he survives.  Also, there were enough hints in the story to that point (people brought back to life) that he could possibly be revived from the dead.  This is enough to leave the audience guessing and to build the tension for the next season without alienating the audience through the use of a “cheap trick.”  The reveal comes later, early in season 6, when the audience finds out if Jon Snow lives.

In contrast, the end of season 6 of The Walking Dead was a cheap trick.  The Walking Dead crew is lined up on their knees with no possibility of escape.  Negan is counting out with his nasty baseball bat, and the audience knows one of their beloved characters is going to die—then the scene ends and the audience has to wait until next season to find out who gets it.  Yes, there is tension.  Yes, there is anticipation for what comes next.  But unfortunately, the audience is left gnashing their teeth in frustration.  I call this artificial tension, where the writer withholds information to create tension with the audience.  Unfortunately, this type of tension creation causes the audience to feel like they are being tricked somehow.

To me this is a cheap trick that turns me off from a story.  The Walking Dead is one of those shows that goes hot and cold from season to season as it is.  This artificial tension season finale was the last straw to make me lose interest in the story.  It was not the zombies or the characters that killed the most popular zombie show for me—it was the writing, and the improper use of a cliffhanger.


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How Many Drafts does it Take?

Tootsie owl

I’m working on the 3rd draft of my latest project. I still don’t have a good title for it, right now I’m calling it Wolf Book 3. As I was sifting through reader feedback, I wondered how many drafts it normally takes for me to get that completed feeling.

I looked back at the last couple of novel projects to see how many drafts I wrote and the magic number is 5. Here’s the breakdown:

Draft 1 — This is the true first draft, where I write it and let it sit for a bit. I typically like to wait at least a month before draft 2.

Draft 2 — Here is the first rewrite. In the past my 1st drafts were pretty bare bones, and I would add quite a bit of detail in the 2nd draft, but lately I’ve had to cut stuff out instead. After this draft, I send the manuscript out for reader comments and/or to a critique group.

Draft 3 — This is the draft where I incorporate feedback that I receive from readers/critiquers. I typically make changes based upon the feedback but don’t dive into a total rewrite.

Draft 4 — After I let the reader feedback percolate a bit, I come back and do my final re-write. This is where I print it out, read it aloud, and re-write until I can’t anymore. After this draft it goes to the editor.

Draft 5 — I make changes based upon editor’s comments and do a final proofread.

We all know that there is no correct way to do this stuff, but this is the way that seems to work for me. How about you?

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Editing Anyone?

I finished the UCSD Copyediting certificate program.  The program consisted of four quarterly classes: Grammar Lab, Copyediting I, II, and II.  The editing project for the last class was pretty challenging.  I recommend this to anyone who is looking to improve their grammar skills and who wants to learn how to use copyediting marks, style sheets, and all that other editor stuff.

This is just one step forward for improving my own writing and helping my fellow writers.  Eventually (sooner rather than later) I plan to dive into the editing side of the business.  In the meantime, I would like to practice the skills I learned.

Any writers out there looking for an edit?  I prefer to start with smaller works.  I would rather look at short stories or essays than a novel at this point.  Yes, this is a freebie, but I am not adverse to trading edits.  I have a few short stories that could use some feedback.

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Procrastination Station


I’ve been sitting in Procrastination Station for too long.  I don’t have a good excuse except for that pesky elephant that’s been smirking at me from across the room.

You know that old joke: How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

This one is a whopper and has been daring me to take that first bite for a couple of months.  Being a coward, I chose to ignore his invitation.  Instead, I played Fallout 4 until I dreamed of robots and synths and started looking at my wife funny.  No, I’m sure she’s not a synth (now), but she did threatened to hide my Play Station more than once.

The elephant just laughed at me.

I also watched enough anime to last me for years to come, and still the elephant was left uneaten.

I completed the last class to earn my editing certificate. This, I reasoned, was kind of like writing.  It counted, didn’t it?  The elephant shook his head sadly and offered me one of his massive foot pads to take that first bite.

My elephant is the third book in my series.  It is in need of a major rewrite.  I have comments back from readers.  I have reviewed it enough to know that this is no little “baby elephant” revision.  This is a over-grown 10 ton pachyderm with an attitude worse than a busload of middle school teenagers.

Today, I finally took a deep breath, pulled out that mass of marked-up pages, and opened my mouth wide for that first bite.

Hmm. . . tastes like chicken.

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