We have a few people descending on our house this weekend for my wife's annual family reunion. It's an outside picnic, weather permitting, so we've been busy cleaning the patio, prepping the outdoor furniture, and trying to pull the million weeds infesting my yard. We'll have potato salad, fried chicken, baked beans and tons more food. Oh yeah, and I'll be cranking some homemade ice cream. All the things families do for their summer parties. Why do we have fried chicken and not hamburgers, brats and hot dogs?
The last two weeks have been exciting. I'm making substantial progress in editing book 3 in the Mountain King series. Only a few chapters left to go and then off to the editor. It might be at the editors for a couple of months, depending on what other books they are working on for other authors. Then I make any recommended changes to the book, followed by a quick trip to a proofreader and beta readers, and then we publish. It's looking very positive to be published in 2022. Yay.
I've been cleaning up my home computer desk and decided I needed to make my docking station stand on its side, instead of sitting flat on the desk. There are two reasons I wanted to do this. I think it will make it easier to add flash drives, monitors and other devices that might need a USB port or an HDMI port.
Second, I thought when it laid flat on the desk that the piece took up a lot of room on the desk. This made it difficult to move around and hard to add or remove flash drives and stuff.
I put it on its side on Friday and it stayed up throughout the weekend, but I was worried that it would just fall over if I bumped the desk.
I was visiting with friends over the weekend and we got to talking about life and how we reached our present positions. As we talked about our histories and career paths and goals achieved and failed goals, my friend asked, "What's the best advice you have ever received."
Wow, what a question. I had to stop and think. I've worked for forty-six years in good jobs, okay jobs and bad jobs. I've changed jobs/careers five times depending on how much you slice it and I've had great mentors and poor bosses. In a career that long what is the best advice I've ever received?
It actually came at an early stage of my life. My first job allowed me to work with a bunch of characters. I think that's the best way to categorized them. They worked hard and laughed harder. They were old school, some had seen action in World War II, others lost parents and siblings in the war. Some had worked the same job for their entire lives. Some told jokes that I can still remember and laugh about today.
We were watching Treehouse Masters on TV the other night. You may be familiar with the show, where someone asks the master treehouse builder to build them a treehouse. Pretty simple concept and I was amazed that someone could produce a TV show around that concept. And the show ran for eight or more seasons. Watching the show brought back memories of a treehouse my brothers built when I was a young boy.
The Treehouse I Imagined
Some of the treehouses the master treehouse builders make look like the picture to the left. This is how I imagined ours looked in my mind's eye. Better looking than some homes. Ours didn't look like that.
It's fascinating watching the masters build their treehouses. They have tools, equipment and the right materials to get high in the trees, and equipment to secure the treehouse without damaging the tree. As a kid, you might not have those resources at hand. More likely you'll have some old loose boards lying around from a project your father did a few years ago. Some children can get their hands on nails and hammers, and maybe some decent strength rope.
My brothers decided to build a treehouse . . .
The United States has landed another research vehicle on Mars this past week. I suspect most of you have heard the news. The landing strategy NASA employed with this vehicle is amazing. There were four stages to the landing and as far as I'm concerned, something you might have read from a 1950's science fiction novel.
Launches can be Dangerous
Even though we launch a number of rockets and satellites into space, the launch itself is very dangerous and can fail. Then if it reaches Earth orbit, there's a risk the control facility may not be able to communicate with the unmanned object. It flies around the Earth a few times and in some cases might be sent to Venus to use Venus' gravity to gain speed to go to Mars. Anyway, seven months later the Mar's spaceship carrying the Mar's lander can be found orbiting the red planet.
Ground control is communicating with the orbiting spaceship, but it takes fourteen minutes to send a message to the spaceship. And another fourteen minutes for the spaceship to send a message back to Earth. This will require the landing party of robotic car, helicopter (drone) and scientific experiments to pretty much be able to land the craft all by themselves without human intervention. The investment to send this craft to space is enormous reaching the hundreds of millions.
I awoke this morning at 4:30 AM. That happens sometimes. I looked out the kitchen window before I turned on the kitchen lights. The half-moon shone brightly on our snow-covered backyard. Three days before, six to eight inches of snow piled up in the yard and still clung to many of the landscape bushes and pine trees. It's amazing to see a sight like this early in the morning. There weren't any clouds in the sky and light from the moon cast shadows from the large oak tree across the snow. I stared at it for five minutes just amazed. I'm sure this isn't relaying the beauty of the scene, but I was definitely enthralled by it all.
Writer Inspiration Where do writers get inspiration for scenes in their novels?
After many months of writing, editing, beta readers' reviews and re-writing, I'm happy to announce that Zita's Revenge. is available at all your favorite book stores. I started writing Zita's Revenge in 2019 and finished my first draft of it in the spring of 2020. Most people don't realize how much work goes into writing a novel.
In my case, it takes months to write a novel. Well, the writing part goes pretty fast. A writer that is writing two-thousand words a day, it still requires fifty days of writing to finish a one-hundred thousand word novel. Zita's Revenge comes in at one-hundred and fourteen thousand words. I'll let you do the math. Writing is the easy part. After the book is written then all the editing and proofing takes time.
How much time does editing take?
Like most people, I'm happy to see the year 2020 walk out the door and never return. It has been a love / hate relationship for me with 2020. I'm an introvert at heart and I've enjoyed not being forced into social situations; but I've also missed hugging friends and family members. Being at home allowed me to write, A LOT, so I enjoyed that. We didn't take a vacation trip in 2020, and that really bums me, we had a couple of great trips planned that had to be cancelled due to COVID.
I realize not everyone sets goals for their lives. Many people make New Year's resolutions that aren't worth the napkin they were written on. I set goals, but I like to think I'm flexible in my implementation of those goals. How's that for wriggle room? LOL. As an author that would like to write a number of novels before I die. Here are my writing goals for 2021.
Time is flying through the Christmas season this year. It seems I'm busy all the time despite the fact we aren't going anywhere or meeting up with friends or family members. The pandemic has made the holidays anticlimatic. I have wrapped all the presents. Well, to be honest, my wife wraps all of them and I just wrap hers. But they're completely wrapped and under the tree.
My Writing Desk and Computer
I thought you might be interested in seeing where I do all my writing. I have the computer on the desk, a computer I built a number of years ago. It's an old, clunky pig of a machine these days, but still quite adequate for my writing needs. I have two monitors. Why does a writer need two monitors, you ask? I place my current manuscript on the monitor on the left and then the copy of the manuscript my editor sends back on the right monitor. Then I go through her comments and corrections and make the corrections on my current working copy. I can't imagine trying to do that all on one monitor. Though I would if needed.
I hope your Thanksgiving Day was enjoyable. The day for us opened with the smell of turkey, sweet potato souffle and pumpkin pie. My wife's a great cook. Too bad, we didn't have anyone to share the meal with since here in Illinois we're back on Coronavirus Lockdown. The day after Thanksgiving, we began putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the house for the Christmas Season.
Elf on a Frog
My wife set her two Christmas elves on the frog's leg. Here's a photo of one of the elves with an Amaryllis blooming in the background. These elves have been in the family long before the elf on a shelf craze started. Both elves lost their hands and lower arms somewhere over the years, but they're still adorable.
What kind of fun ornaments, elves or family tree toppers does your family make sure is somewhere in the house each Christmas? Do you scare your children with the elf on a shelf meme to keep them in line during the holiday season? Are you one of those people who . . .
During the month of November writers go crazy and join this writing thing called NaNoWriMo. As a reader you may or may not have heard of it. NaNoWriMo stands for National November Writing Month. The goal is for writers to stop being lazy and sit down in a chair and write an entire novel.
Well, not really an entire novel. The goal is fifty-thousand words, and depending on the genre the author writes in that may or may not represent a full novel.
I write in the fantasy genre, which on the low side is ninety-thousand words, so way short . . .
This time of year you can't predict what the weather will be in the Chicago area. A couple of weeks ago we had overnight freezing and this week we're experiencing unusual warm weather. I thought you might enjoy this contrast in weather through photos.
Bird bath is frozen overnight.
Imagine my surprize when I looked out my kitchen window and saw my birdbath frozen in late October.
I had to check it out and take a picture. The sun reflected off the ice and a leaf fell into the bowl before the water froze. When I reached the birdbath I tapped on the ice expecting it to crack easily. Many times I've seen instances where ice is thin and a quick tap will cause it to crack. This freeze was a hard freeze and the ice didn't crack when I tapped it.
The day warmed and by noon the robins returned to the water taking their baths as they migrated South.
Last year we received two inches of snow on . . .
I finished writing the first draft of Zita's Revenge late March 2020. I've gone through a number of iterations of the cover, but finally decided on this image. I had one that was a strong contender, but I thought it leaned toward being more appropriate to horror genre, than fantasy. I like this image, because it contains some strong components of the story, with a treasure, sword, skull and golden crown.
I'm finishing the last round of edits, and will post it for pre-order in December, with a release date of January 1st, 2021. Part of my process is reading the manuscript on my Kindle, which is the device I read fiction on. It gives me a chance to enjoy the book and find errors that I don't see when I read it on the computer screen. Here's the image and a little story teaser . . .
Sometimes readers forget that authors are just like them. We make mistakes, drive too fast or too slow, we vote, buy groceries and even take care of chores at home. You know the chores, cutting the grass, keeping the bird feeder clean, vacuuming and all that stuff.
This week, I'm working hard to finish the fourth edit for Zita's Revenge. Reading each chapter, still finding typos and sentences that don't make sense. Verifying that the foreshadowing is done in a fashion you don't notice until you reach those last few chapters and remember mention of that object or event way back at the beginning. I'm keeping at it, but a home issue from last week re-surfaced this week. I hate when that happens. You think you have everything fixed and when you check a few days later . . .
Twenty-Twenty the year of the Corona Virus. Some people are wallowing in self-pity, others are living day by day, and a few are still working hard to reach their goals.
I've had days where I've wallowed in self-pity and days I'm hoping to make it through the day, but in October, I've worked hard to reach my goals. My current project is to complete book two of the Mountain King Series, Zita's Revenge. I've made great progress on the book. I finished the first draft back in February 2020, and immediately jumped into writing book three of the same series. I didn't want to publish book two without knowing if changes might be necessary on book two foreshadowing events happening in book three.
The company I program for is in the entertainment industry and because of COVID they have cut way back on expenses, including putting me and 75% of the employees on ...
This is a continuation on a series of writing stronger scenes for a talk I gave at my local library to young adults. In this article I talk about the scene promise, producing the payoff and the resulting impact.
The Promise - Romance
When writing scenes you are making a promise to the reader. The promise may be action, suspense, theme, an attempt to bring two potential lovers together or a compelling plot point. The promise part of the scene sets a wish fulfillment in the reader’s consciousness.
Will your scene leave the readers feeling breathless with excitement or sad that the adventure ...
This is a continuation on a series of writing stronger scenes for a talk I gave at my local library to the young adults. In this article I talk about dialogue as action, dialogue as suspense and dialogue and a character's past.
Dialogue is a great way to create suspense and action. Wait, dialogue as action? Let’s go back to happy people in happy land. You have two people sitting at a kitchen table and their dialogue goes something like this:
Dialogue as Action
Sally said, “I’m going to the store for the party, do you want anything?
Bill said, “Your family likes the chips, the ranch and onion flavored ones.”
“Okay, and I’m getting a birthday card for Uncle George.”
Sounds like there’s a party for Uncle George. But this is boring dialogue, when one person says something and the next person...
This is a continuation on a series of writing stronger scenes for a talk I gave at my local library to the young adults. In this article I talk about characters how to introduce them, how to make them likeable and giving a character a secret.
Why should I like your character? What makes someone likeable? In the first scene of the Incredibles, we find Mr. Incredible racing to stop a bad guy and just about the point where he will capture the bad guy a little old lady asks for help with her cat stuck up a tree. Mr. Incredible saves the cat and still stops the bad guy. We as readers like Mr Incredible.
Or you can have a woman find a lost dog. She takes it home, feeds it, cleans it up and then makes the effort to find the owner. We as readers will like the character.
Imagine a man in a large city like Chicago. He is going to lunch and happens to overhear a conversation a mother is having with two little children. She tells one of them ...
Do you want to make your settings stronger, richer, and a more integral part of the story? Here are five key points to improve your scenes.
Describe the Characteristics of the Setting
Tell us about the setting. It can be a hospital waiting room, crowded with sick people. Or two angry men in a small studio apartment during a snow storm. One of the two men would be willing to stalk out the door, but there is nowhere for them to go. The room turned smaller when Gregg stood up.
Describe the scene, the plants, the smells – most writers miss the smells, but the sense of smell is one of our strongest memory senses. One of my strongest smell memories is ...
Sometimes the goal of the scene is obvious so you don’t have to show it.
You don’t want to go into detail about the scene so you summarize that it occurred off screen. Maybe a violent act occurs. Down play the event or summarize it at the beginning of the sequel. Suzy sees her boyfriend walk into a restaurant with another woman. The reaction scene will be Suzy’s reaction to the event, we don’t have to see what happens at the restaurant. It is Suzy’s reaction that matters.
What is the purpose of your scene? Is it to provide information important to the plot? Do you need to tell us more about the character? Is it a section of the novel where you expound on a point important to the theme? Are you trying to heighten suspense?
As you create your scene you need to think about the purpose of the scene. You should vary the purpose of your scenes. ...
Suzy is standing counting the boxes and she just found out she’s missing five boxes of books. What’s going through her mind? This could be a character breaker. Will she melt down? Is she strong-willed and will get through this set back? How does your character react? We don’t just tell the reader, Suzy was distressed, tired and cried. Boring. We show the reader how she feels.
Suzy collapsed to the floor. Sweat ran down her face, rivulets of fatigue, worry or a heart attack? Her left arm felt numb as she tried to determine if she had fainted. Should she call an ambulance? ...
Our POV character enters the scene. Why is she in this scene? What does she want to get out of the scene? Does she have a problem to solve? Is there something she’s trying to find or accomplish? Does she want to meet someone and fall in love? Or solve a murder or interview a potential witness or maybe a suspected murderer? Is she running for her life and needs to hide from the person stalking her? Is she interested in taking karate lessons in an attempt to protect herself from the creepy man that sleeps under the lamppost outside her apartment?
Before you get too far in creating the scene you want to have a reason for the scene to take place. That is the goal. Your character’s goal.
Let's say, your character, Suzy, is trying to start a business, a bookstore. Your character has ordered a few boxes of books to stock her shelves and is expecting the shipment to arrive today. She is opening her book store tomorrow so she’s anxious to receive the books today.
The goal at the start of the scene is she wants to receive her books and stock her shelves before tonight’s closed door opening celebration with friends.
The second part of a scene is conflict. You don’t want your scenes to be happy people in happy land. Many beginning authors make this mistake. You want to give the reader a picture of the happy childhood the character had before the bad person entered the picture. But happy people in happy land (yes even one chapter) is boring. People read books to see how people similar to themselves handle conflict, pain and suffering. Your job as an author is to be mean to your protagonist, your hero. Readers will read to experience emotional change. They want to feel and by reading your novel they will live as someone else and experience emotional heartbreak, the joy of winning a championship game or the satisfaction of putting a killer behind bars.
So we’re going to be mean to our new bookseller.
Characters are the people the story is about. You will have good characters and bad characters. Most stories have a principle character, known as the protagonist, we will follow throughout the novel. The novel is about the protagonist reaching her goal.
To make an interesting novel you will have someone trying to prevent the protagonist from reaching her goal. This character is known as the antagonist. Your antagonist can be an evil dictator, a friend vying for the same love interest or a parent preventing a teenager from going to the basketball game on Friday night.
Bob and his middle school best friend, Joe, wanted some jelly beans and headed out of Joe’s home to the local Seven Eleven only five blocks away.
About a block from their house the rain started and Joe said, "We should get out of this rain."
Bob listened to the rain drops pitter patter on the summer leaves still protecting them from getting wet as they walked on the neighborhood sidewalk. He turned to go back to the house as drops of rain became bigger and more numerous.
"Wait, where are you going?" Joe grabbed Bob's arm.
"I thought you wanted to go back to the house before we get wet. We're only a block away, we might be able to out run it." Bob knew he would get wetter than athletic, Joe. Bob's large frame and too many hamburgers, cookies, ice cream and fries didn't lend itself to running fast. He pushed his glasses up his nose.
Joe pointed to the street and said, "There's another way. We can go underground and the rain won't touch us."
I read this quote the other day and it is so true. An author sits at his desk with a pen and paper or computer and begins to plot out a story. Maybe it began from a single image, event or person the author met that day. She puts a little thought into the story and decides whether it can be a short five hundred word story, a fifteen thousand word short story, a twenty-five thousand to forty-five thousand word novella or a full blown novel.
Then the novelist pecks away at the story a little everyday, finishing a chapter after a few days or a couple of weeks finishing a scene. Maybe as the story progresses the author sees the need for some research about history, clothing, time period tools, deep space concepts, math or people and customs and stops their writing for two, three or more months to immerse themselves in details important to the story. Then back to writing the story.
Interruptions will occur in the author's life including . . .
Forty-six year-old Vince Butler walked out to the end of his driveway Saturday morning a few minutes past eight to retrieve his newspaper. The time was an hour later than normal for Vince because it rained all night and into the morning and he didn’t feel like getting the paper in the rain.
Right away, he noticed the parked car in the street at the curb in front of his house. Somebody must have left it there this morning because the car’s back lift gate was raised and a small spare tire lay on the lawn next to the curb.
Dark clouds hung low, still prophesizing rain as Vince retrieved the newspaper. As he shook the plastic covered newsprint, droplets of water splashed on his red, plaid, pajama pants. He thought, someone should be at the car since the lift gate is open. The next rain shower will leave the car trunk filled with water like a kiddie pool.
Lightning flashed in the distance followed by thunder. Vince glanced at the empty car and hurried to the house.
The pills called to Cheryl as she stared at the medicine bottle on the table. Would tonight bring the relief she craved?
Her husband, Bill, was out late again at work. A lie he maintained even though she knew he spent time with a female lawyer from the office downstairs.
Cheryl was tired of the lies, the promises to be home on time, the apologies and the heartache. The kids were grown and long gone from the home she had built. Bill convinced her they should move to New York for his career. She never liked the big city, she was a small town person, comfortable with a tight group of three friends. New York overwhelmed her and she hadn't found close friends in this uncaring metropolis.
She imagined what Bill's first words would be when he found her lifeless body, "Finally, the witch is dead."
I'm listening to the book, Personal by Lee Child.
Jack Reacher and the person who's working with him, Casey Nice, have just broken out of a tense situation where they were captured. They need to leave before more bad guys get to the location.
Before they leave Reacher wants to look for something he's sure is in the building. (Read the book if you want to know what they're looking to find.) Jack is looking and he knows and Casey knows the bad guys are on their way to capture them or even kill them.
Casey said, "Hurry Reacher"
Jack keeps looking.
Jack keeps looking, Lee child does a good job describing how Jack searches for the object he desires. A detailed list of corners, cars, cabinets, desks, etc.
"We gotta go now."
Jack thinks to look somewhere else. Lee Child describes Jack's thought processes as he searches.
Casey nearly screams, "They'll be here any moment, let's go."
See how Lee Child uses a couple of techniques to ramp up the tension?
The clock is ticking and you get lulled into the search process, but then the clock dings again, Casey Nice tells us, "they're coming for us." Imagine a whole chapter where the reader thinks the next paragraph Reacher will leave the scene before the bad guys get there. But, Lee Child doesn't let go, he keeps ramping the tension. The reader is almost yelling with Casey Nice each time, "Come on Reacher get out of there, you're in danger." The reader feels the emotion, begins to breathe deeply, adrenaline rushing through her body.
Wow, what a weekend. Over the last three months I have spent time reviewing my book for editing errors, formatting errors, concept errors and just looking for anything I might have missed. I created the e-book cover and received my wife's approval, a huge win. I read everything I thought I needed to know to publish my book on Smashwords and Amazon. The time is ripe, I'm ready, let's do this.
Smashwords has specific criteria and formatting that they recommend before you publish. When you are ready to publish they recommend you have your file in a Microsoft Word document. And the formatting instructions are quite specific about how you should format chapters, break points, copyright info, back matter and any images in your book. I spent probably five hours following the formatting instructions preparing my book for the Smashwords' meatgrinder.
What's the meatgrinder? It is a translation tool that takes your Word document and formats it into mobi, ePub, pdf and multiple other formats that make the text pleasing to people using eReaders. "The Meatgrinder" is a horrible name that strikes fear in the hearts of self-publishing newbies like me. No matter how much time you spend editing, reviewing and worrying, there is that terrible question in the back of your mind, is my manuscript worthy to pass through the meatgrinder?
I find that when I'm listening to friends and co-workers talk to me I have an internal dialogue going on. Yes, I'm listening to what they're saying, but in the back of my mind I'm evaluating their clothing choices, wondering how tall they are, wondering how they get their teeth so white and thinking about something happening in the background that the speaker can't see.
If the person wears a college or professional team jersey or sweatshirt, I may look at the logo and think about the team and whether I like that team or not. Anyway the reason I bring this up is because this might go on inside a character's head while they speak with another character. You don't want to have your protagonist thinking random things at least not often. What you want is the experience to be something that relates to the story later. Here's a list of six reasons to describe your characters.
Over the years I have written short stories for my own enjoyment and started a couple of books, but never had the fortitude to finish the books. I found myself distracted by work, family and other business ideas that I thought were more important than writing.
But one day an idea came to me about a boy who wants to rescue a girl and finds that going through a cave he is transported to another planet. A planet where magic is real and the dangers of wild animals, strange people and bizarre customs are just as real.
Zach Hammer laughed as he overheard his co-worker, Paul, talk about the twenty-fifth anniversary of some billionaire inventor sending a car into space driven by a dummy known as Starman. Zach didn't have time to hear the rest of the story about how the car revolved around the sun in an orbit between the asteroid belt and Earth.
He left work to pick up his daughter and hopped in his Tesla self-driving car and set up the work bench to finish the reports his boss wanted completed by nine tonight.
Zach missed the part of Paul's story where the space car hit an asteroid ten years ago.
He reached home in time to pick up his daughter, Lynn, to take her to piano practice. He flirted with the piano teacher, Ms Morris, each session and hoped to ask her for a date soon.
Ken Brown is an application web developer by day and author by night.
Over the years he has written short stories for his own enjoyment and started a couple of other books, but never had the fortitude to finish the books. Ken found himself distracted by work, family and other business ideas that he thought were more important than writing.
But one day an idea came to him about a boy who wants to rescue a girl and finds that going through a cave he is transported to another planet. A planet where magic is real and the dangers of wild animals, strange people and bizarre customs are just as real.
Dabney Wilson woke in darkness. He felt cold to his bones, his fingers so cold he couldn't feel them. Where was he? Why is it so dark? He reached out with frozen fingers on his right hand and felt a wall. Doing the same thing with his left hand another wall. He brought his hand to his mouth and blew on his fingers trying to warm them.
He couldn't remember how he arrived in this situation. He lay on his back in the cramped quarters with no room to move or change positions. Three days ago he remembered meeting two men at a cancer clinic. They were strange men, but they were going to help him? How?
Did he have cancer? Yes, that's right, he was at the clinic to have his cancer removed. But, these men weren't doctors. They had funny accents and said they could help him with his cancer, but how? Claustrophobic in the little box that felt very much like Dabney thought a coffin might feel. Did the men kill him or think they killed him and buried him still alive?
Dabney pounded on the box lid and yelled. "Help me, I'm trapped, help!"