Friday, December 29, 2017

Perspective

Had the opportunity to think about perspective the other night.



Every year for Thanksgiving when my family gets together we draw names from a hat. The person's name that we draw is then our "person" for Christmas night. On Christmas night the entire family gets together and we present our "person" a gift using an original poem (see below), a skit or a re-mastered and re-lyricked song. I usually do the poem, although there have been cases where I chose singing.

I remember one friend of the family when they heard about this said, "Oh, that's so much fun. You are so lucky that you get to do that!"

Lucky if you like singing and dancing and skits. I do not. I do not consider myself lucky. After twenty years of doing it, I think we've seen my swan song (again, see the poem below . . . my last).

One thing I noticed this year, thanks to some perspective gleaned from someone else in my family, was that most everyone did their song, dance, or poem about their "person." One person didn't. It was a stunner to perceive, and all of a sudden it was like blinders were thrown open.

I won't bore you with any specifics, except to tell you that I find it interesting that one person can open your eyes to so much that you've been missing throughout the years. I think we naturally tend to enjoy the blinders on our eyes, it's only when they are forced off that we notice the previously rose colored world aint so rosey.

Nevertheless, my poem to my "person", my Aunt Meg, is below.

So I guess it's my turn to stand up and speak
A poem about my person to present these gifts so unique
 
These presents you can see are huge, magnificent, stupendous
And like her, these gifts although great, are not at all pretentious
 
Two packages from work, from vendors, towers that I've regifted
All the billing girls at work will be quite upset that I lifted
 
I won’t sit here and attempt be cagey about my person
We can all agree that the longer I go the more these rhymes worsen
 
So I’ll only say this woman has meant a lot to me throughout the years
Shes a mom, grandma, aunt, "Elfin Glitzer" and "Sex God and Me" pioneer
 
Yes, Aunt Meg it's time for me to give back to you
A hard thing to do because generosity you have never eschewed
 
As her nephew from her I’ve gotten a lot
Old belts left at her house, underwear and socks
 
But more than those she and and Susan both gave me their time
Movies and lunches, for an awkward teenager all that was fine
 
Parties before heading off to Europe, and for marriage she has been a part of those show casies
She was even a half financier of these boots, twenty year old Lucheses
 
And three years ago she gave me this amazing camel hair blazer
With it on I'm as dapper as a crane, you pick, either Niles or Frazer
 
There is not gift by which I can properly express
Everything you've meant to me and help me be a success
 
Aunt Meg, in terms of best aunt, the race is down to you and Aunt Sue,
I hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy new year too

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

ROI

ROI . . . Return On Investment is my blog post today. It's a bit of a follow up to the change management (here) and task condition standard (here) posts from a couple of days ago. This one is about Return on Investment.
A loyal work friend blog reader, my co-worker Betsy S, pointed out a problem in my reasoning and logic. In my post on remembering my father's death and controversy at work I wrote (here) that adapt and overcome is the mantra I follow. A never quit attitude. A few days later I wrote here that I was giving up on a book (here), Rob Sinclair's Dance with the Enemy.

This co-worker, loves to rib me. She is the reason for my success at work lately and I hope I'm the reason for hers, so naturally we like to kid. She wanted to know, "Why did I quit "dancing," when I had just written that I never quit." Took me a second to understand she was referring to quitting Dance with the Enemy, but for that whole morning it was a topic.

I think I'd boil it down to ROI. What am I getting out of Dance with the Enemy for the amount of time, money, effort what have you that I am putting into it. In this case, I was expending my time. It's a valuable commodity and in my world I believe that time can be monetized, which makes it even more valuable. The government holds my time hostage in terms of taxes I have to pay. I pay them through my work, my time spent at work. It takes more than 4 months to reach tax freedom day (April 24th) . . . that's a lot of time. I can't spend that time on bad books. What I was getting out of that book was not worth the investment.

I remember listening to a radio psychologist the other day talk about ROI for men. He described for an hour how it's only men who have this philosophy toward all of life, not just finances and money. Men look at ROI for relationships, for things they do around the house, towards romance and family outings. Everything for men is based on ROI. Women not so much. He pointed to the "Honey Do List" as a proof. There can be a long list of things that the wife wants the husband to do. She expects them all done eventually. For the man there's an ROI assigned to each of the tasks. It can change throughout the day, and those things with the greater ROI are higher up on the list. Those tasks with no ROI, may never get done. This is where the differences between the male and the female mind kicks in and makes problems for the couple.

What's the point? And more specifically how does it deal with writing and this blog?

Well it's a follow up from a reader (Hi Betsy S!) and it helps me to put myself into other peoples positions. Character Modeling again. One of the great things about writing is that as a writer I get to try and put myself into my characters shoes and see how they are thinking and create their motivation. It's insightful. Already I've built a main character dedicated to task condition and standard and I betcha he'll be a devotee of ROI as well. Everything that the character does will have to have some return on his time investment or he won't do it.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Running Back to an Old Standby

I'm reading Comeback, by Dick Francis, I think "again." I feel certain as a teenager I read this one. I must have loved it. There are few Dick Francis books that I don't love (see here). After giving up on Dance with the Enemy (here) I'm looking forward to Comeback.


Even the first line has me excited:

I’m Peter Darwin. 

Everyone asks, so I may as well say at once that no, I’m not related to Charles. 

I was in fact born Peter Perry, but John Darwin, marrying my widowed mother when I was twelve, gave me, among many other things, a new life, a new name and a new identity. 

Twenty years rolled like mist over the memories of my distant childhood in Gloucestershire, and now I, Peter Darwin, was thirty-two, adopted son of a diplomat, in the diplomatic service myself. 

As my stepfather’s postings and later my own were all at the whim of the Foreign Office, I’d mostly lived those twenty years abroad in scattered three- or four-year segments, some blazing, some boring, from Caracas to Lima, from Moscow to Cairo to Madrid, housed in Foreign Office lodgings from one-bedroom concrete to gilt-decked mansions, counting nowhere home. 

Friendships were transitory. Locals, left behind. Other diplomats and their children came and went. I was rootless and nomadic, well used to it and content.

Francis, Dick - Comeback

"Twenty years rolled like mist over the memories of my distant childhood in Gloucestershire," . . . what I wouldn't give to be able to write like that.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Can't Do It

As as kid I would read each book to finish it. No matter how good or bad the book was I would read it and make myself finish it. Having grown up I've learned that life is too short for bad books, so I'm giving up on Rob Sinclair's book Dance with the Enemy.


I know that my writing isn't award winning, I know that it can be juvenile and jejune at times. I realize that I still have a lot of work to do to become a "good" writer much less a "near great" or "great" writer. Hell, most of the time I don't even consider my writing to be "mediocre," but I feel I can say confidently that my books are better than Dance with the Enemy.

The story was well staged, but the character's decisions were illogical, some of the scenes were absurd. The actions that the characters took were ridiculous and even someone with no experience would tell that they were. Worse, the writing was just bad. It wasn't the only instance, but I pitched it in when I read the following:

After a few minutes of driving, he started to calm again. The trembling in his hands stopped and the fog began to clear. Still, he was left with a sour taste in his mouth. Mackie was the person who had pulled Logan into this in the first place. Not just this case, but this entire life. If anyone was responsible for the direction Logan’s life had taken, it was Mackie. Now he was talking to Logan like he was no longer the right man for the job. And that hurt him.

It was "And that hurt him" that got to me. Telling the reader what the character is feeling. He just spent a paragraph explaining the guys feelings, why throw in that final "and that hurt him?"

Like I said, it wasn't just this, it was a multitude of things. Life is too short to waste time on books that don't call to you and make you want to read, make you want to get to the end. Reading to find fault, noticing mistakes, feeling that the motivations and actions of the characters are ridiculous takes the reader out of the story and gets you pitched. On to the next one.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

You Have to Love an Author who Edits While he Mops

I read with great interest this piece (here) in the WSJ about Enrique Ferrari an Argentine novelist and janitor. Yep . . . Janitor. Combine that tidbit with the fact that he’s an award winning novelist on his sixth thriller and really the man could become his own character in a pretty interesting work.



Mr. Ferrari, a 44-year-old janitor who works nights in the Argentine capital’s metro, has spiky black hair and a Karl Marx tattoo. He didn’t go to college or study writing but his novels have won literary prizes in Europe and Cuba. His sixth book, to be published in the spring, is “If You Are Reading This,” about a man who travels back to 1940 to preemptively kill Leon Trotsky’s assassin.

I have written before about writer’s ennui and finding inspiration to keep on writing. I remember an old post I wrote on road marches (see here). In that post I tried to discuss writing in terms of a road march and the feelings that both inspire. This article about Ferrari inspires those same thoughts about road marching.

I remember many road marches when I was in the military where I felt like I couldn’t continue. What kept me going? Looking up at the front of the line to the people who were twenty meters, fifty meters, even 100 meters up ahead of me. If they could get to that point where they are walking up there, and we all started at the same place, then I can at least get to that point to. So I would make it to that point, look up, and repeat the process. A never-ending cycle that kept me in the march.

Here I am, an executive with a nice office, a home office, a nice computer or three that I can write on, all the comforts I could hope for and I’m not writing nor am I editing. Then there is Mr. Ferrari. He’s a janitor who composes and edits his work while he mops.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I did not enjoy King’s On Writing as much as much I had hoped. I remember though that King wrote about how he was constantly reading. In the doctor’s office waiting for his appointment, he would whip out his book and read. In the car he had books on tape. He was reading reading reading, in an effort to perfect his craft. If you aren’t doing that, he argued, what are you doing being a writer? I liked that.

Perhaps I should quit and become a janitor.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Task Conditions Standard

The other day (here) I wrote briefly about Task Condition and Standard. In the Rangers we would perform each mission, exercise, briefing, everything with a plan and a part of that plan was Task Condition Standards.

"We are going to run three miles, around the air field, need to be done in less than twenty minutes." Boom! That quick.

"We're going to work at this range, everyone has to shoot through the obstacle course after running a mile in full kit, and everyone has to shoot a 90% or better." Boom!

"We're jumping on this airfield, we will take it over and have our "air lando commando's" on the ground in three hours time." Boom! Task, Condition, Standard.



The other day I had to deal with someone and this came to mind. For purposes of anonymity, I'll say this was a client at work. This client and I had worked extremely successfully for many years then all of a sudden things went sour. No matter how I tried to adjust, adapt and overcome, things still continued to circle the drain. What's worse is that I felt like instead of addressing the issue, this client had a passive aggressive tendency to avoid the problem and allow the problems not just to continue but to actually become greater and deeper.

Finally I confronted the client and the long and short of it is . . . we are no longer doing business.

Now, here's the crux, one thing that she said was "I don't think you can do what I need anymore."

This hit me. The whole of that last year or more I felt like I was trying to salvage this work, I was giving task condition standards to myself and her. I was constantly adjusting and trying to get back on a solid footing. Hearing that she didn't think I could get there, it hit me that she had turned from someone I admired for her positivity to someone who was fatalistic and pessimistic. Previously she had talked about doing business for forty more years, now she was dropping our business after only a week. Still, it was that one thing that she said that hit me . . . that she had never given me her own tasks conditions and standards.

Is it my fault to a degree for not knowing? Sure. But I know that for months (and more likely years) I had told her to tell me what I could do to keep her business. I had been asking for that task condition and standards. In the absence of one I assumed that she wanted business as usual. But, like I said, I asked, alot. I believe it's on her to take the onus and be able to express just what she wants and what I can do as a vendor to help her get to that point. I was perfectly willing to do business however they wanted to get back on a solid footing.

I take task condition standards to all of my vendors. I have a vendor calling me and I can't address him at the moment. "Hey dude, we got a lot going on right now, can you call me back in six months?" Task condition and standard. "Hey, I need you to be able to do this and I need it next week." Task condition standard. It's everywhere in my life so I was surprised it had been so absent in this relationship.

Still, it's funny, I know that I should learn from this and adapt and overcome and go seek out new clients, but you never forget or give up on your most meaningful business relationships. It's hard to create that type of atmosphere, that seamless a relationship, that type of quid pro quo and perfect (well near perfect) understanding. I wish that I had asked her more pointedly for a task condition standard, and wish more that she had expressed one. I know I would have done everything in my power to make it happen.

Business is funny. Other clients are out there sure. But you learn from each interaction.

What's this have to do with writing? Character modeling! (see here). I'm creating a character who has trouble adapting to non-military life. Who wants to bet there's a ton of task condition and standard in that character.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Short Story Sunday

Although I've been working with my Kenyan thriller novel, I've started a new tradition, Short Story Sunday. I have a library of short stories, some finished (here), most unfinished. Worse than unfinished stories are stories not even started. I've decided to fix this by dedicating Sunday morning to short story writing only, and Monday's to giving snippets of those stories to this audience. So, enjoy:

 Breakfast With the Lifers
By Dick Hannah
If asked, I doubt if I could pin it down to just one action or happenstance. Maybe it was the shades, maybe the good cooking, perhaps like so many odd coincidences in this world it was just a series of unrelated incidents that coalesced to create one huge, crazy, pre-midlife drama for me. Like so many other things in life what happened to me was probably not the result of one event, or even two, but a combination of many small things. It could have been Michaelson talking too much, my apartment being in a flash in the pan neighborhood where shops and people drift in an out of favor as quickly as teenage pop stars, or it could have been my not putting my a stop to things quickly enough, but one thing is for certain, Hoffman opening the shades that first morning was the pivot point, and if not it certainly acted as the catalyst that started the whole Rube Goldberg like mechanization that led to my restaurant.
I never wanted to become a restaurateur, I never had that calling. I’ve thought about it, thought about it a lot, and it boils down to the fact that it is just too risky. There is no safety net, no assurances, the customer base is too fickle, the market is too precarious, too many avenues where things could go sour. I like my life planned out and orderly. I rejected the idea of owning or operating or even working in a restaurant a long time ago. I’ve patronized too many establishments too often, and regarded them with a practiced eye toward failure potential, to make the mistake of investing in them myself. I don’t gamble. I go into all my ventures, few they may be, with a wealth of research and always a well thought out plan consisting of a feasibility phase, a production phase, closure, extraction and so on.

(if you'd like to read the rest, please follow this link: here)

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Dose of Absurdity

I have a wonderful post to complete my ersatz series on change management. It is about defining Task Condition and Standards. But it's too much for today. Got too many things going on for that type of post. Today, with a with done with her job, a series of problems at work with no goal or destination, a friendship dashed against the rocks and sinking beneath the waves, and needing to get to the hospital for surgery this morning, there's just too much other stuff for a Task Condition Standard post. So instead I offer this absurdity:

 

Seriously, Chicken's in Sweaters is a thing. Whenever I wonder if this blog is silly. Who reads it? Who want's a failing authors ideas on writing and publishing? What's the point? I see something like this and realize that not only is my blog NOT absurd, but it may not be absurd enough for this world.

Task Condition and Standard can wait till next week.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Does "It" Have to be "What It Is?"

Yesterday and the other day I wrote about change management (here and here) and today may be no different. I had a call with my co-worker the other day where she got upset about how quickly everyone in our company tends to be rolling over to the demands of the company we merged with. "It is what it is," she said. I found myself in a situation the other day that she would have enjoyed being a part of. When confronted with a director who didn't want to make a change I had a make a case for the change, and execute. I found out later that he has been working behind my back toward his own ends, so I had to confront him about that. Fireworks ensued.


The "is what it is" comment hit me. I have another (wonderful) friend, E, who loves using this turn of phrase. I hate it every time she does. "It is what it is" is such a passive acceptance of events. I don't believe in that philosophy she uses so quickly. I believe in overcoming. I believe in making my own destiny. I believe in being upfront with people and discussing things and coming up with a plan to get over whatever obstacle happens to be in the way. Maybe it's my military foundations coming into play, but in my unit, there was no retreat. There was no, "Well, we were supposed to go this way, but someone is shooting at us, so we better just turn around." Nope. The unspoken motto was "adapt and overcome." If one thing doesn't work, try another, if that doesn't, try another, and another, and another, until you succeed. Quitting isn't an option and "is what it is" is a sop for quitting.

Confronting my director the other day reminded me of my father. Not only was this fellow someone who refused to try something new, to innovate or adapt and overcome, he was duplicitous and conniving. I think about my father and his death two years back (see here). I think about how I have acted in my life. Have I acted with integrity or insincerity? Have I been upfront with people and truthful or have I been meek and fearful? Have I worked to be supportive and helping or have I undermined and been corrosive in my actions? Can I place on my tombstone "No Regrets."

I know from having dealt with my father that he was all of the positive aspects listed above. He was too gentle and truthful a soul to be otherwise. It's my job to try and be the same. To set the same example and surround myself with people who have the same desire to be that type of person.

There is a culture clash at work in my office. Do we obfuscate and knuckle in to the culture war, and to the challenges that face us in life and in this instance at work, or do we innovate, adapt and overcome and never quit on things we believe in. Using my father's example and understanding how quick life can be over, I think I know which I'll choose.

I look forward to providing both sets of characteristics to characters in my book. The "is what it is" character who will fail for not having tried, and the "adapt and overcome" character who may not win but who will be able to look back on his actions with pride and no regrets. I hope fireworks ensue.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Change Management

I've been dealing alot with "change management" lately. My company recently merged with a competitor and it's causing a culture clash of a magnificent nature. Lots of ruffled feathers, lots of stress and anxiety, hard to get things done. All the things people tend to love about work.

The first thing I did when I knew this was coming was to talk to the man whose job I shared. He was moving to a new position and I would be taking our position for both of us in the new company. One of the things he recommended I do is read "Who Moved My Cheese." I did. It's silly but makes a point. What I find funny is that all the things he promoted to me by asking me to read the book are all things he is doing the opposite of. He's the mouse continually going to where the cheese used to be, hoping it will return, refusing to try new things and look for new cheese.

I know in many ways we all tend to live in the past. I know that there are time and moments in my life where I wish I could live in the past in my own life. I'd like to push the ole pause button at several points in my life and just remain right there in that moment forever. But we can't do that. Pushing pause isn't an option. Pushing pause is impossible. It's a fallacy that we can push pause and things will just remain the same when we come back. Life moves on regardless of our desire to remain in one moment.

I like to think a hallmark of my working life is that I'm an innovator. I am definitely not a craftsman. . . I don't have the patience. I'm not an intellectual . . . again, that patience thing. I am an innovator. I will use technology or new processes or anything to make life easier for me and those around me. I am finding that many of the people in this organization we have merged with are content and happy just to have things remain the way they've been for ages.

One of my favorite classes in graduate school was "Organizational Behavior." I believe I loved it not only because the professor was engaging and compelling, but the subject matter was one that I had never considered before and found intriguing. This merger of our two companies would be a wonderful paper for an Organizational Behavior thesis. There are so many political positions and cultural differences all clashing at the same time. Fun stuff unless you have to live through it.

Finally, the reason for all of this today goes back to themes. Yesterday I wrote about the theme of addiction that cropped up in my latest draft novel. Now that I'm working on "Kenyan Night Sky" (working title) I'm looking for a theme or themes there. Maybe change and living in the past would make a good one and help me navigate the changes taking place in my life.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wag and Prudence

I had a coffee date with my long time friend and former/still might be, co-worker, C the other day. Two things popped up in our long and ranging conversation that would make the date notable for this blog. The topics included: home grown inventions (Popquiz Password), life hacks (Styrofoam coffee pot timer) applications (Wag . . . an incredible Uber for the dog walking world), Eastern philosophy (who knew she was into that), and series 7 exams (again, who knew!). But the two that made a dent in the writing world were: children’s books and addiction.


C has recently written a book about her dog, Prudence (pictured above), that she wanted to talk to me about. Naturally I foisted upon her my own book, and we didn’t discuss publishing to the degree she might have wanted, but it was a topic. My take was the same that my writing friend Allie from years ago told me; we live in an age with an amazingly low bar to enter the market. The ability to write and publish a written work and produce it, advertise it, and market it for an audience is easier now than it has ever been. There are multiple channels for printing, print on demand, and an amazingly quick and inexpensive creation ability. This was the reason I eschewed the typical, literary agency mode of publishing. There’s just no benefit for the hurdles one must endure. If I had the date to do again, I’d go back and talk more about this. Still, way to go Prudence.

The other factor that came up quite a bit was addiction. C and I have a mutual friend who is facing some stiff challenges in terms of addiction, either to pain killers or drinking or perhaps both. My latest novel draft that I have just completed for NaNo had a theme of addiction and how to deal with addiction. Thankfully, I’ve never had a problem with addiction so it was tough to write about, but I expanded my horizons and looked at my life outside of the typical addictions and I was able to find some “unhealthy” things in my life and realize that I had a hard time giving them up even though my life would be better if I did.

It was over that cup of Joe that C both gave a word of thanks that we weren’t addicted to anything.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Great First Line

THE SMOKE CARRIED UP FROM THE Cahuenga Pass and flattened beneath a layer of cool crossing air. From where Harry Bosch watched, the smoke looked like a gray anvil rising up the pass. The late afternoon sun gave the gray a pinkish tint at its highest point, tapering down to deep black at its root, which was a brushfire moving up the hillside on the east side of the cut.

Connelly, Michael - The Black Ice



Yep, I am back to writing out the first lines of books. Micheal Connelly's first lines are just as good as Lawrence Sanders who I think is the best of them all.

In these first few sentences Michael Connelly does all of the things that I find both intriguing and irritate me about Californians. Connelly (and most Californians) are obsessed with the nomenclature of their area and particularly so when discussing traffic patterns and highways. I despise this but I suppose he is trying to immerse the character in the writing and the setting.

The other thing that Connelly does that Sanders does as well is use color in the imagery. That "gray anvil" or "pinkish tint" and "deep black" are all there giving more depth to the sentence. I like the fact that there is that next level of modifiers in first sentences. These tell me that Connelly, unlike other sentences and passages that just move the story along, this first sentence is crafted and tuned to what it is now.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Greatness of NaNo

So I finished the 2017 NaNoWriMo successfully and it's a great feeling to have accomplished that. Is it a complete novel? Far from it. In fact I remember it was Vapor Trail (here) that made me realize that writing isn't "writing" . . . writing is "re-writing."



I wrote Vapor Trail as a NaNo submission back in 2013 or 2014. I only published it last year. It takes a lot of re-writing to get a NaNo submission into a publishable book . . . and even what I think is publishable is still a long way from perfect.

Still, it's nice to have a draft. Am I working on Sunset Perfect now? Nope. Not even considering it. I have a great 50,000 word draft, but it will be another year or two before I work on it and want to try and publish it.

What am I working on now?

I'm working on my 2015 NaNo submission. I wrote a thriller about an orphanage in Kenya, and a team of mercenaries who are hired to protect it. The great thing about NaNo is that I have absolutely no recollection of ever writing that draft. None whatsoever. It's like picking up a completely foreign manuscript and being able to work on it. It's a great feeling to be so far into writing a novel and already be so far along.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

First in the Trilogy

My new best friend, B, recommended a book for me. B likes long winding novels with lots of plots all going on at the same time. I'm happy for the recommendation, Ken Follet's Fall of Giants.


I've been a fan of Follet's for years. I read The Pillars of The Earth way back in my early twenties I believe. I've read and reviewed several of Follet's books since starting this blog five or six years back (see here).

Fall of Giants was a lot of fun to read but it certainly is the beginning of something much much longer. It reads like just the introduction for a larger story. That's low hanging fruit to predict since the entire Century Trilogy has already been published, but I'm looking forward to Winter of the World.

My favorite parts were not the descriptions of trench warfare on the Western Front, which were fun to read, nor were my favorite parts the story lines about turn of the century British nobility, a la Downtown Abbey. Not even the secret love affair between Maud and Walter, which I thought was well weaved, my favorite part to read. The portions of the book that called to me the most were those that dealt with the Eastern Front and the Bolshevik Revolution.

I remember taking a Russian History class back in college. What I liked about this story was that it simplified and made the Bolshevik Revolution understandable. Follet uses a foil, Grigori, to show how the revolution took shape and to show the reader how Trotsky and Lenin were able to take power. Easily the most interesting parts of the novel.

If you enjoy long, historical novels with winding story lines like a soap opera, then this is a great book for that. Can't wait for book two!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Still Hanging in There

So we are less than a week away from the end of NaNo and I'm still in there.



I got alot of writing done on the flights and at the airport. Over and above that I was able to wake up super early before the family got up to work on my novel as well. With today's fifteen hundred words moving me along I've hit 41,800. What's great is I still have lots of story left to write. I'm barely 60% through the story. I feel quite confident I'll make 50K and not only that when this story is complete it will easily meet my past standard of 90K words.

Things are looking up and I'm plugging along. The finish line is in sight. Just need to power through.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Characters All Around Us

Yesterday I wrote about Composite Characters (see here) but today I was reminded about characters in general; those characters who are all around us everyday.

This week I've been in some terrific "people watching" places. A couple of airports (I'm writing from one now), buses, trains, mono-rails and amusement parks. A plethora of characters have passed by me. All of them insanely interesting and incredibly compelling, crazy wardrobes, interesting walking styles, funny faces, incredibly engaging (sometimes hostile) attitudes.

Apparently, I'm a character myself. There was a family in line with us for a ride at the amusement park. The line was an over two hour wait. That's not hyperbole. It was two hours and fifteen minutes of slow walking, needing to use the restroom, needing water, waiting in line. While waiting I chatted with the cute couple from Mississippi next to us. Just little chitter chatter to do something. We never really met, just joked about the line mostly. Today, I'm getting a coffee at the airport and up comes the mom from the cute couple to flirt. Made my day! Apparently I'm a memorable character to her.

But that's not the point of this post.



Today as I was walking throught the security line on Thanksgiving day, I took out my clearly metal money clip and put it in the dog bowl that the screeners use to put loose things through the x-ray device.

The TSA screener stopped me and said, "You shouldn't put you money through the x-ray. You should hang onto that."

"But it's metal," I replied.

"Then just hold it in your hand and don't let them see you do it."

Cracked me up. Here is a TSA security screener telling me to hold some metal in my hand and hide it from her co-workers. Not only that she told me to take some metal through the metal detector. It was absurd on so many levels. What did I do? I put it in the dog bowl and put my hat over it so no one could see it. Better than being dinged at the walk through screener and having to tell the security agent why I was holding a piece of metal in my hand.

That lady would be a perfect character for a thriller novel.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Composite Characters

In each of my novels I like to include as many characters as possible who have compelling and interesting back stories. I don't remember where I read about it, but I remember reading that plot can only take a book so far. Readers don't read a book for the plot, they read a book for the characters. It's not the distance or route traveled that readers want to know about, it's the story of the people on that journey that is important and compelling.

I create composite characters. Madison and Wynn in Toe the Line, Joe in On the Edge and Stubby and Elizabeth in Vapor Trail are all composite characters of people that I've known. It's not just one person but a whole host of people encapsulated in one character. But always there is a basis for that character. One single person who inspires the character. For Sunset Perfect one of the cornerstones for one main character is going to be my wonderful friend and neighbor, Marianne.



Marianne is a terrific neighbor. I've yet to see her down or depressed. She is perhaps the best cocktail party guest in that when she arrives for a visit she always brings something (usually many things) to help make the food and drinks, and she doesn't drink so she's a cheap date too! She's the best and I can't wait to use here as the foundation for a terrific character. Sure it may not look like much, those characteristics up there, but they will be enough for me to create someone that readers are drawn to and want to know more about. She's a terrific angel, or white knight to come charging in to help the main character with his problems.

You'll notice that I've labeled this post Composites, so I expect to write more of these in the days to come to discuss some of the other characters who will be showing up in Sunset Perfect.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Expelling Demons

No update today . . . only that I'm on track and ahead of schedule already and I'm not even on the flight or waiting at the airport. Things are trending up.

Today it's about getting rid of ghosts. One thing I love about writing is that it lets a writer put himself/herself into the mind of a character and really expel some demons and ghosts that may be lurking there. My character is dealing with a breakup, a slow, agonizing one that he doesn't want to have to face but is forced upon him. Working him through that is really helping me through some stuff, but it's not enough. Today I found myself asking, "What more can I do to really screw this guy up."



One of my favorite books that I've read lately is "The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August" by Claire North (here and here). One of the things I loved about the book is that the author put her main character through so much pain and suffering. To put it simply he relives his live over and over again and remembers all of his previous lives. There's a lot more to the plot than that, but she kills Harry off in some spectacular ways. The death at the hands of his arch enemy in Russia is particularly unnerving.

I loved the movie The Butterfly Effect because I enjoyed the idea of someone being able to change the world and their own timeline through small changes in their life. I also enjoyed the movie 12 Monkey's for the same reason, the paradox of people going back in time and making changes that affect the future. Groundhog Day with Bill Murray (which savvy readers will know I've written about many times before and even contacted the author, see here) is also a favorite of mine, although I think the movie is a bit too light hearted. Harry August leaves them all in the dust.

Still and all it's a love story as well as a great story about friends and enemies. It was always the love story that appealed to me because the main character was not only able to meet the love of his life, but also to shape his next life to make sure he marries her. Sadly, it never worked out the way he hoped with her, which I suppose was Miss North's way of saying a person can never truly find and manufacture true love, still that was the part that drew me in the most. Perhaps it will be something I find time to explore in NaNo 2018!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Barely Keeping Pace

The fastest mile I've ever run was five minutes and eleven seconds. I ran it when I took running in college. We would go out to Research Park early in the mornings and the instructor had set up a course and I remember the foggy, cool morning when I ran that five-eleven mile. Sadly, I was not elated by my time. I came in second out of a class of about twelve, so I should have been proud. I weighed about two-hundred twenty pounds and a five-eleven mile was unheard of carrying that much weight, so I should have been proud. Why wasn't I proud?

Cause the guy who won came in with like four twenty-nine time. He was a blaze of speed. All leg muscled and stick frame upper body.

That's how I feel right now. Not proud but at least glad I finished.


I am barely keeping pace. I wrote about 1700 words today and as you can see from the table that's about two hundred twenty-three more than I need to keep things in the black.

It was fun writing. Got a lot of things out on the paper. The meaning behind the title, the interaction between the main character and his former love interest. Very invigorating to write but I didn't rack up the numbers like I had hoped to.

Tomorrow I have a long plane ride so I hope to knock out several thousand sitting in airports and on planes. I better, if only because I doubt I'll have much time during the next week.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Still On Par

So I am proof that NaNo does work. I did NOT want to write today. Been busy at work. Distracted by closing on a house. Got personal issues that I'm contending with. All sorts of reasons not to write . . . but write I did. Why?

This whole time I've been writing I've been ahead of par. I didn't want to fall behind.


I am still just above par at seventy-seven words over 25K. Tomorrow will be a true test. I don't think I'll have time to write much less the inclination.

I have come up with several knew themes for this novel. My last novel, Vapor Trail had several themes that dealt with family loyalty, friends vs family, secrets, and the nine circles of hell. This new novel, tentatively titled Sunset Perfect, will be dealing more with perspective and how two different perspectives can see two completely different events in amazingly different ways. This will be good to use by having the short story about my novel at the end of the book. It will literally be the same novel from a different perspective. But all throughout the story I'm going to play on this theme of differing perspectives, particularly in the MC's relationships and his working with issues in his own life. So all in all it was a good thing I wrote today.

And like I said, I wouldn't have written if not for NaNo and just having the little bit of mass hysteria to prompt me forward.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lots of Change

My life is filled with change at the moment. My company has been merged with another larger company (our HR Dept has asked us to eschew the term "been bought by") . . . friendships, some of them quite close are dissolving before my eyes . . . moving forward in many ways with the family and our future . . . and even my own job is on the verge of changing drastically.

It's nice to note that among all the change there are still some things that don't change. Among the non-changer's in my life . . . NaNoWriMo (see here). Yep, it's National Novel Writing Month and it's nice to embrace the constancy of that event.

I've been working on a novel for the past year now. After suffering through Vapor Trail (see here), a novel that took three or four years to complete, but that finally came out and has been my most well written (see here), my fourth novel is turning out to be as much a marathon as my third novel. As much trouble as I was having with this fourth novel, NaNoWriMo has certainly helped me get over several hurdles.



So far I am on par for finishing the 50K words by the end of the month. I'm looking forward to writing the second 25K words as much or more than the first 25K. I usually work as a (seat of the) pantser, not a planner, but this novel is based on a short story I wrote almost fifteen years ago. I'd share it with you here, but then the mystery that is woven throughout the novel would be immediately ruined. I am thinking about including the short story at the end of the novel just so the reader can see a different perspective on the same story.

Nevertheless, back to change. Before the "merger" I made sure to read "Who Moved My Cheese" to try and get some perspective on change management. Change happens. It's nice to reminese on the Golden Moments in our lives but things never stay the same. It's nice to find consistency and constancy in our lives where possible to help overcome the challenges of change.

Onward to the next 25K.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Been Some Time

I realize that it has been a long while since I posted here, and for a long time this blog was turned off (unbeknownst to me) but, in my defense there was a setting that wasn't correctly clicked that stopped the site from being made public.

That being said, I've been doing quite a bit of writing in my down time. Not a ton, but quite a bit (naturally "quite a bit" is less than "a ton" but more than "a fair share"). What have I been working on? Well, it depends on what I'm reading.



When I read a Frederick Forsythe, which I'm about to do, then I work on my thriller novel about the mercenaries who are out to safe the African elephant orphanage.

If I'm reading a first person mystery/thriller, like the Dick Francis novel I'm reading now, then I work on my next mystery novel, this one revolving around the NFL and our foster kiddo, Anthony (see here).

If I'm reading anything else I work on that romance I've been plugging away on. That one is probably the most polished of the bunch, but also, strangely, has the furthest to go.

What's been most frustrating is that just the other day, when I'm on the cusp of going fully cloud capable, my dang window gets busted out at my workout and my computer is stolen. That same week, still reeling from that, my hard drive with all my backups craps out. I've lost a good 20 thousand, perhaps as much as 40 thousand words toward that NFL story. Not a huge loss as it was still such a rough draft, but still now I have to go back and rewrite all of it.

I find it interesting that I don't care about that loss more. I think it says something about my writing process and my drafts. I believe I read that Dick Francis worked on just one draft. He might do one or two edits, but his first draft lead directly to his final. He was definitely a planner. Robert B. Parker who wrote the Spenser novels did the same. I know I read that somewhere.

I am a "pantser" . . . I write by the seat of my pants. I'm beginning to believe that may not be the best use of my time and effort. Perhaps with a bit more planning I could knock out better novels, quicker. Then again, if I was to have it stolen from me again, I'd care a whole lot more than I do now.

Now that I'm fully on the cloud and the only thing that could wipe out my drafts is an electro-magnetic pulse that fries tons of servers all over the world, I don't see myself losing anymore drafts, so perhaps this is just the kick in the pantser I need to become a better planner.