Category Archives: Writing

Anniversaries, Writing, and Fat-boy Pants

Yesterday was my 30th wedding anniversary.  As I tell my wife, it’s been thirty looong glorious years.  It was also her birthday (I’m not saying how many, because I want to live to see another day), and my parent’s wedding anniversary.  As if that wasn’t enough, I finished the latest revision of my book (Now called Quarrel) and am preparing to send it to my editor.

We are up in the North Carolina Mountains with some friends, at our favorite getaway spot.

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I love visiting the mountains.  It is so peaceful and rejuvenating, especially after the past week.

What are Fat-boy Pants?

I mentioned about a week ago that I popped the button on my shorts while preparing to attend Supercon in Raleigh.  To add insult to injury, the next day I was trying on my dress pants in preparation for a trip to the corporate office.  A few pair were a bit snug in the waist.

I told my wife that the elves must have snuck in at night and adjusted all my pants.  In my defense, I’ve had some of those pairs of pants as long as I’ve been married (style, what’s that? You mean it actually changes?), but it still stung.  Of course, my wife’s solution was to say, “Just pull out your fat-boy pants.”

I have one pair of pants that is a size bigger than the rest.  We call them my fat-boy pants because I only break them out when the others are feeling a bit snug.  Another reason that I call them my fat-boy pants is that breaking them out gives me the incentive to say no to the sweets.

Unfortunately, I had cleaned out my closest last year and got rid of the fat-boy pants.  I think my words at the time were, “I never wear these things.  I don’t need them anymore.”  Ahhh, somebody’s laughing at me right about now.  Oh yeah, it’s my wife.

Laughter is the key to a long marriage.

When I asked my wife why she’s stayed married to me for so long, she said, “Because you make me laugh.”

I guess popping buttons and giving away my fat-boy pants are just another day filled with laughter for her.  Of course, one of her primary missions in life it to make sure I stay with her to the end, so she only laughed for a moment and then told me that we’re going to start walking farther on our daily walk, and that I needed to get back to the gym.

Right after that, I got on a plane to the corporate office.  And wouldn’t you know it, my first morning there they had the most awesome looking donuts I had ever seen.  Yes, I resisted them, and the cookies for lunch every day, and the Panera Bread chocolate brownie.  Man, getting old sucks.  I used to be able to eat all that stuff and still thumb my nose at those fat-boy pants.

Luckily, all the rules are off when we’re on vacation (Not to mention for our anniversary).  Since we’ve been in the mountains, I’ve had a couple of donuts, ice cream, and some candy.  I know I’ll pay later, but what the heck, you only celebrate your 30th once, right?

And don’t forget the Writing.

I’m also celebrating the last revision on Quarrel.  I finished it up yesterday morning.  I say last revision, but, it’s not over until I get the comments back from the editor.  Still, getting the thing to the editor always seems like the biggest hurdle in the process.  Be looking for Quarrel around Christmas time.

One last thing for yesterday.  My free book giveaway for the Order of the Wolf ended, but you can still get Stenson Blues and The Eastern Factor at a discount until August 9th.

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Filed under Books, Editing, Humor, musings, Philosophy, Writing

Hey, I’m Revising Here!

I always feel bad when I’ve let too much time pass between blog posts.  Trust me, I have plenty of excuses.  Unfortunately, I was raised on a diet of “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” and “I don’t want to hear your excuses.”  So even on a blog, where you can’t see my face, I just can’t bring myself to make up lies give excuses.

What have I been doing besides blogging, you ask?

  • Working — Yep, I still have a day job and it takes up at least 40 hours a week.  I’m currently leading a department reorganization, so it’s been busy (Of course, busy is a multifunctional word that can mean doing anything besides what you’re supposed to be doing).
  • Reading —  I read in spurts.  In the last week or so I finished reading The Warded Man by Peter Brett.  This is a great fantasy novel–best one I’ve read this year.  It is one of those books I wish I had written.  I also read The Great Santini by Pat Conroy.  If you grew up a military brat like me, this book will probably bring back some memories.
  • Watching — I’m watching Babylon Berlin on Netflix.  The show is set in post WW I Germany and features the different factions from the Russian revolution fighting it out in the back alleys of Berlin. (I must admit I got lost on YouTube a few times as well, but I’m trying to pretend like that didn’t happen.)
  • Writing — Besides my standard critique group meetings (two in recent weeks), I’m working on the final revision of my latest novel.  I would tell you the title if I had one, so instead, I’ll give you a little snippet:

The sword hung on the rough-hewn wall. It was a rare blade, a hand-and-a-half sword sheathed in black leather. The sword had been famous once—some stories said the blade was cursed, while others insisted its power saved the Norwood. Many seasons had passed since the last curious neighbor had stopped by for a look. Now it collected dust instead of eager eyes.

Edmond was the exception. The sword fascinated Edmond. He longed to pull it down from the wall and expose the blade, but his father had decreed the weapon remain untouched.  

I will be doing some fast and furious revision in the next few weeks to get this thing ready for the editor next month.  I’ll be announcing the title in the near future, and hopefully, reveal the book cover by the end of August.

So now when someone asks me what I’ve been doing, I have a good answer:

Hey, I’m revising here!

Oh yeah, I also spent some time sitting on the back porch and staring at my yard (What can I say? I’m easily entertained).  Here’s my favorite hibiscus bush:

Hibiscus

 

 

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Filed under Blog, Books, Humor, Writing

Where are your Writing Roots?

Charlotte is my home.  I love it here and don’t want to live anywhere else, but I still feel out of sorts on the Charlotte writing scene.  It’s not the other writers I meet here, it’s me.  My writing roots lie in a small town to the east.

I started writing in 1993, the same year I moved to Roanoke Rapids.  I worked, raised my children, and learned to write there (I would say “grew old there” but I’m barely past the half-century mark).

My son was born in Roanoke Rapids in 93, as was my first novel.  Now, he’s out of college and working, and that first novel is collecting dust in a drawer.  I like to think that this means I had my priorities straight, but it probably means that I had a lot to learn about writing. (And let’s face it—you’re never ready for parenting.  You just do the best you can and there are no re-writes.)

I joined my first critique group in that little town around 1995.  I still thought my first novel was ready for a Pulitzer Prize and was working on my second novel (Which is also sitting in a drawer).  That first critique group helped me to realize how much I didn’t know about writing.

I left town for a couple of years around 1998, and when I came back the group was disbanded.  I call this my online period, where I joined several online critique groups like Hatrack River, Zoetrope, Critique Circle, Liberty Hall, and Notebored.  I met several fellow writers in these forums from all over the world.

I’m a face-to-face person at heart though and decided to start the Roanoke Valley Writers Group back up.  I’m guessing that was somewhere around 2002.  I published my first book (The Order of the Wolf) when I was a member of this group in 2012.  They were a great bunch and are still going strong.  I’ll admit, leaving this group was the hardest part about moving to Charlotte.

Another first for me was doing my first book signing.  This happened at the Riverside Mill in Weldon.  It is a huge antique mall and consignment shop (there are no books stores in the area).  The staff of the Riverside Mill was very supportive when my first book came out.  I had a book signing there, and they still carry my books for sale to this day.

I will always be grateful to the folks at the Riverside Mill for their support.  That’s why you’ll find me there this Friday afternoon and Saturday signing books (hopefully) as part of their Endless Yard Sale.

Stop by and see me, buy a book, or just shop till you drop.  There’ll be plenty of other merchandise to choose from.  Of course, none as good as my latest novel.

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Of course, you can always find my books on Amazon if you don’t want to come out and shop.

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Filed under Author Appearance, Books, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Process

Get it While it’s Hot!

Last weekend was nice here is Charlotte.  I spent the day working in the yard and got the vegetable garden planted.

2018 Garden

My wife is especially excited about the spinach.  I can’t let her have too much of it though or she might go Popeye on my butt.

Spinach

Of course, a nice day outside isn’t complete without a fire.

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I’m not stirring up that fire for my health.  The pan on the bench in the background is the smores fixings.  They’re not quite Reese’s Cups, but they’ll do in a pinch.

Speaking of fire, this is the last day of my red hot book sale on Amazon.  Head on over and get my Kingdom of Haven series for a great discount price.  The Order of the Wolf is still free until the end of the day and the rest of the series is discounted.  Free is good, but a discount isn’t bad either.

Ahem, after last weekend, I need to buy some more marshmallows.

 

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Filed under Books, Fantasy, Free, Gardening, Writing

It Takes a Village?

I’ve heard the expression: “It takes a village to raise a child.”  This isn’t entirely correct.  Children are raised every day by single parents or a set of parents with no external support.  Some of those children turn out fine, and some children who grow up with a huge support network have major issues.  While the adage isn’t totally correct in all instances, I believe it is a good concept.  Basically, we all need help at some point or another to succeed.

But when should we ask for help?

For me, the “It takes a Village” concept is hard to put into practice because it appears to be in direct opposition to another important concept: the Work Ethic.

Work Ethic:  a belief in work as a moral good: a set of values centered on the importance of doing work and reflected especially in a desire or determination to work hard.

While the definition of Work Ethic does not say “do it alone,” it does imply a person should work hard as a moral obligation.  The way many of us interpret the idea of Work Ethic is that if only I work harder, I can attain my goal.  I do believe this can be the case in many instances, but there are times when hard work alone will not get you there.  Sometimes you need help.  Unfortunately, a person with a strong work ethic equates asking for help as weakness.

Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

I’ve seen this expression thrown around by people who advocate for the “It takes a Village” concept.  It doesn’t quite ring true for me.  In order to ask for help, you must first recognize your weakness, acknowledge it, and then seek help to overcome it.  Because of this, I prefer the following quote:

Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.

I have a hard time asking for help, because of that Work Ethic thing (Yes, I will drive around the block as many times as it takes before I’ll ask for directions, but that’s a different issue).  I do normally recognize when I need help, but I get stuck in that “if I only work harder” line of thinking.

Writing is one of those areas where you can’t do it alone.  Of course, you can sit alone at your desk or in a coffee shop to write, but you cannot learn to write a great novel alone.  It takes the help of fellow writers either through critique partners or some similar means.

I’ve recently come to realize that I cannot promote my books alone either.  Yes, I can hire someone to run a blog tour, and give away free books, but that only goes so far.  In order to truly promote my writing, It Takes a Village.

So this is my request.  If I am to reach my goal and make writing a full-time adventure, I need your help.

Friends, neighbors, and (dare I hope) fans, if you haven’t yet purchased any of my books you can find them here.

Hey, I’m a bit on the frugal side. If you’re anything like me, you probably wait for the sale before you buy.  Well, it just so happens that I have a 5-day promotion on Amazon starting on April 15th.  The Order of the Wolf will be Free, Stenson Blues on sale for .99, and The Eastern Factor for 1.99.

 

Kingdom of Haven

If you are one of the few who has bought a book of mine or the not so few who have received a free copy, please leave me a review on Amazon or Goodreads. (or anywhere else where I can find it)  Reviews are worth more than gold in the writing world.

If you are looking to join a village, you can join my newsletter mailing list here.

Also, my next book, Half-hand will be published in time for Christmas and I am currently seeking Beta Readers.  You can sign up here.

Writing is my passion, if reading is yours, give my books a try.

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Filed under Books, Marketing, Reading, Writing

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

Move Over Shakespeare

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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.

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Filed under musings, Philosophy, Writing, Writing Process