Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah!

I haven't blogged in a while; busy with freelance and day job stuff, and polishing up Four Dogs and my pitch for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards v4.

Still don't have a lot of time, so I just quickly wanted to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Here's to 2011 being better than 2010, and that'll take a lot, because 2010 was a very good year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Call me Ishmael

While scouring the Amazon Customer Forums, I stumbled across a discussion regarding poor spelling, grammar, and punctuation in a self-published Kindle e-book.

Here's the initial comment, republished without any sort of permission from the author or Amazon, of course.

"Poor formating in ebooks is bad but books which use the wrong words drives me crazy. Not long ago I read about a woman whaling and tonight I read about a man whose shirt collar was taught. How can someone whose vocablulary is so stunted actually write a book?"

While several other responders seized the opportunity to take shots at the complainer's own mistakes, the point was mostly missed:

We've dumbed down publishing to the point where anyone can be called an author (including yours truly, I admit).

And, alas, we see the problem with Kindle and self-publishing. There are no editors, no gatekeepers, no orchardist to keep the worms out of the apples. If you have a keyboard and the gumption to slaughter enough electrons to call it a book, you're a published author. Agents, editors, and houses get a bad rep for sending the majority of books (and authors) to the showers, but it's just as much the fault of wannabe best-sellers who are to blame for the state of the publishing world.

We've become a society of instant gratification, including the process of getting your words into the hands of the masses. Editing? Proofreading? Pshaw! There's no time for that. My words are far too important to be edited!

Another "author" recently announced "I'm new to this, but here goes. I've wrote a series of books and I don't exact;ly know how to get them out there. I need publicity on them so what do I do?"

This person has multiple books out there, waiting to be purchased and adored by her legion of fans. And the books, she claims, are so good, no one really cares that it's only been edited by "a college student with a degree in English." But where's the oversight?

The answer is: With the buyers. Despite the number of e-books and self-published tomes available, it still takes houses to make the marketing commitment, and editorial decisions that ultimately get good books the publicity they need to actually sell. Five copies of a Kindle book does not buy a Victorian cottage overlooking the sea.

I should point out, to be fair, that there are many (MANY!) fine self-published books on the market. There are writers who can't get through the door, not based on the quality or merit of their work, but because the houses ultimately care more about commercialism than literary integrity. This rant should not, in any way, take away from the good that self-publishing has brought.

And so we're left with what we have. As long as there's a venue for putting untouched letters on paper, there will be books that were written and released without so much as a second read. But, buyer beware. You get what you pay for.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Over at the DGLM blog, Miriam Goderich shares Hunter S. Thompson’s job application to the Vancouver Sun.

Hunter was the master of bravado, certain to himself that he was better than every other writer out there. Now, we all know Hunter was a bit off center, but he could back up his claims by writing amazing stories. Everything he did was intended to move the reader. Be it sports coverage or political manifestos, the reader felt. And isn't that the point of writing?

It got me thinking about confidence, and in particular, over-confidence. There's a fine line between bravado and cockiness. It's not a straight, solid line. For each of us, that line is in a different place. What one person sees as swagger, another may see as arrogance. What may be machismo to me, is insolence to you.

Personally, like most writers, I struggle with lack of confidence at times, and at other times, I find myself over-blown with a sense of self. I see some writers who I think I can write circles around getting book deals, and I think, "Has the publishing world gone mad?" Then there are times (especially after a particularly painful rejection) that I wonder if I should hang up the keyboard and find a job where my only creative input is which brush to use to clean the toilet bowl.

My questions to you, fellow writers and readers, is where to you fall on the ego spectrum? Do you try to keep your arrogance in check, or do you put yourself out there no matter the perception? Are you turned off by writers who think they can (and should) share their gift with humanity? Does cockiness help or hurt in the publishing universe?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Writing ain't free

Once again, someone is on the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards) discussion board offering writers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: Write original fiction for me, for free, and you'll get . . . wait for it . . . EXPOSURE!

I can kind of see how people who don't write for a living would devalue the written word. They don't get it, because they don't know how hard it is. But for fellow writers to ask you to write for free? Shameful.

That's not to say writing for free doesn't have its place. Charity work, for one. Certainly, if you're giving back through your talents, free is cool. Another is "Guest Blogger" where you're selling yourself and expressing your opinions, or even a reciprocal trade.

But when you give work away, you're basically saying YOU yourself don't value your work, your labor, your creative ideas and talent. There is nothing that says professional like putting a dollar value on your work. Even if it's nominal, you have to give yourself credit.

Writers used to be paid by the word, and while that's not always the case any longer, you should still think of your work in terms of dollars. When you sit down, put a dollar figure to each word. Let's say 3 cents a word, for example. When you start writing each day, think of the dollars that piece is worth. A 500-word flash fiction mystery = $15. A thousand words on your manuscript = $30.

Seems kind of low, right? I mean, $15. Surely giving away $15 worth of fiction is worth the exposure, right? Not necessarily. If a Web site, magazine, blog, or other publication can't afford to pay you $15, are you really going to get $15 worth of exposure?

You wouldn't ask a plumber to come to your house and fix your sink for exposure.

Don't write for free.

Friday, August 27, 2010

And, done.

I just completed my second full-length novel. My son and I read the final chapter together last night, and I made the edits this afternoon during my lunch break. I can't believe I finally did it.

And it only took seven years from idea to final word.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

For Sale: KY Warming Massage Oil - Only Used Once.

I'm on fire!

KY Warming Massage Oil should be banned. The label says it's safe for intimate areas.

Whose intimate areas?

Not mine. Not my wife's.

It goes from "this is nice," to "this is pure napalm on my naughty bits" in about a minute and a half. I cried during sex, which my wife thought was romantic and sensitive, but it was really me afraid I was going to be left with a charred nub for a tallywacker. It's like BenGay on your groin. Apparently they did not do enough market research before putting this out for public consumption. Was their test market a sadist and masochist retreat colony?

Have you seen the commercials? They make it sound delightful. What they should show is Mt. Vesuvius erupting and melting the people of Pompeii. Two people sitting on the couch, talking about their love life, CUT TO people running through the streets screaming "MY FLESH IS PEELING OFF LIKE LIQUID SKIN!"

I had a third-degree burn from a motorcycle muffler that felt better.

Not recommended.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Changed my mind

I was going to share an excerpt from Four Dogs, but I decided you'll just have to wait until it comes out to read any more.

That should be in about 20 years.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


There are few things work-wise that suck quite like getting back to your desk after waiting in line to use the one microwave that serves an entire building to discover that even though the outside of your Lean Pocket is hot enough to melt iron ore, the inside is still frozen.

Thinking to yourself that you can't believe it's only Wednesday, when really it's only Tuesday ranks fairly high on the Suck-O-Meter as well.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Write, dammit!

Inspired by my old friend Michael Britton, who put down 500-plus words a night for nearly a year, I'm gonna get back to work on a few projects.

My friend Gae is also pushing me.

Thanks, Gae.

You can check out Gae's blog here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day

Today we celebrate our freedom, and that includes the freedom to blow stuff up.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oh, shit, it's Canada Day

As most of you are aware, today is Canada Day in, where else? Canada.

It's a celebration of July 1, 1867 when Canada won its independence from Britain by combining two British colonies and a province of the British Empire into one big, massive block of ice and snow. Under the agreement, the new country would still be under British Rule, but they would be able to learn to speak English correctly, other than still being required to put an extra "U" in most words, such as colour, honour, and Ouctober.

One of the most popular things to do on Canada Day is go see the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II, whose face is on Canadian currency (street value $.87 US), and then go to the Gay Pride Parade. The Queen makes a yearly visit to Canada just to make sure nothing has changed in the 143 years that she's been the Queen. Because of her advancing age, the Queen only visits during the Canadian summer (June 30 - July 2).

In America, we aren't taught a lot about Canada other than it's generally north of the United States and there is an over-abundance of snow and ice. But there's so much more to Canada. They also invented Arctic Air, Windchill Factor, and Ice Beer, so named because Canadians are an industrious bunch and discovered there's no reason to let frozen beer go to waste. Canada also exports such commodities as Aluminum, comedians, and methamphetamines.

Canadian children play a traditional Canadian game for Canada Day called "What Animal Ate Daddy?" A deck of cards containing many different animals including Moose, Bear, Beavers, and Mosquitoes, are laid out in a circle. Each child in turn says "Will Daddy Come Home Tonight?" and then draws a card. If the child pulls a non-lethal animal, such as a squirrel, they stay in the game. If they pull a lethal animal, such as the Canadian Goose, they have to skip a turn, or what's known as "Going to live with Uncle for some time, eh?"

But not everything is wine and roses in Oh, Canada. Recently there has been some conflict between the English-speaking Canadians and the Fucking French-speaking Canadians. Apparently, some people in Canada were not informed until recently that Canada is under British rule and had been brought up to believe they are actually in a very cold region of France. This was discovered about 10 years ago when they went out to witness Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France (Le Tour de Sainte Genevieve) only to instead see Matthew "Skeeter" Thomas riding a two-person bike by himself through the city streets. Because of this, the Fucking French Canadians want to form their own nation which would be known as Quebec (pronounced "Rhode Island").

A recent poll taken June 16, shows that nearly two-thirds of Canadians (17 people), think Canada should not be under British rule and should form their own country, however, because Canada is a constitutional Monarchy, they would have to completely shift their form of government. The amount of work this would take (several weeks), usually puts most Canadians out of the mood for such drastic change. However, two prominent Canadians were discussing this possibility over some Moosehead, and a plan known as "No, really, we could totally do this" was sprung. Details are sketchy, and it wouldn't be prudent to go into them at this point, but suffice to say the plan includes digging a hole and hoping any British dignitary who tries to stop them "falls into it and twists their ankles."

There is also a small faction (Steve "Skeeter" Hutcheson) who feel Canada should join the United States. Unfortunately, this would never work. Most Canadians still use an archaic measurement system known as the "Metric System." Under this system, units of weight, size, and volume are measured using a completely arbitrary set of numbers. For example, Canada is roughly 3,851,787 square miles. Using a complicated algorithm, 1 foot equals about 0.3048 meters, therefore, under the metric system, Canada is about 9,976,128 square hectogramliters, which is a completely ridiculous made up number.

But that's a discussion for another day. Today is a day to celebrate Canada. Good job turning three smaller British colonies into one big heaping British colony. Good work!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Importance of a Short-Term Memory

In any relationship, there is nothing more valuable than a short-term memory. Grudges kill. Most indiscretions are forgivable, and learning to let it go is paramount to maintaining a healthy life. You can carry the baggage of past mistakes forever, or you can let it go and move on. A slight, a mistake, a misconception, a bad day, these things happen.

Sometimes, "sorry" has to be enough penance to pay.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Quality Culture

The new corporate buzz phrase sweeping the nation: Quality Culture. Everywhere you look, there are signs asking: How has Quality Culture affected your work area?

I think we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves. Corporate America hasn't created an environment where the goal is quality. We’ve created an environment where no one wants to take the blame.

We don’t go into projects saying, “How can I make sure this is the best project ABC Co., can do?” We go in saying, “What can I do to make sure I’m not to blame if this project fails?”

From a form that gets kicked back because it’s missing the date, to projects sitting at a standstill while each cog in the wheel argues over whose job it is to define what's needed, too much time is wasted pointing fingers and assigning blame.

You won’t often hear: “Let me help you,” thereby helping the company. Instead, you hear (either in words or actions) “It’s not my job.”

A few months ago, at my company, one department needed a non-standard fix to a problem. Finding a permanent solution would take months and the project would have missed the federally mandated tax deadline. So the department asked, “what can we do for a quick fix now, and then come back and find the solution when we have time?”

What they got in return was “That’s not how we do it. You need to figure out a solution for yourself.”

Today, I stood in front of the entrance to one of our restricted warehouses waiting for someone to acknowledge my presence. You can only enter with an escort. For five minutes, I stood there as no fewer than three associates walked right by me, each of them multiple times.

It was finally an associate from the other side of the building who came to help. The entire time I spent in the actual area I needed? Less than thirty seconds.

That is not a quality culture. That is a culture of “find someone to blame” but “don’t look at me.” Like most companies, everyone is looking to blame someone else, but no one wants to take chances for fear they'll be blamed if it fails.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Nothing new to update. Been away from the computer, mostly. Took the week off and just spending time doing summer things with my kids. Been to the neighborhood pool, a lot. Cleaned the garage. Played in the water sprinkler, a lot. Went to a water park yesterday, and going to the drive-in tonight to watch Toy Story 3. Good times.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pieces of peace have me puzzled

Sometimes it life, you come to a crossroads where you can keep on doing what you're doing, or you can make a change. You can stay with what you know, or you can learn something new.

I've come to that point in my life. It wasn't a moment, a spark, an epiphany. It's not like I got cracked on the head and woke up Scrooge-like with a different attitude on life. I just realized that what I've been doing isn't working, and so I have to do something else. I've been accused, at times, of being a drama queen. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I hate drama. I hate drama in friendships, in relationships, at work, at play. I hate it.

Unfortunately, my distaste for drama is often overwhelmed by my inability to sit quietly and not respond to criticism, or what I perceive to be an injustice.

Change isn't easy, but I've been weening myself away from the things in my past life that are just too chaotic, too stressful, too . . . not what I want. I've been distancing myself from the things that cause drama or don't fulfill me in ways that are healthy, or make me feel better about myself. However, from time to time, I dip my toes back in, and, lately, it doesn't take long (minutes) for me to remember why I wasn't there before. Growth is hard.

Staying in a bad relationship, or putting yourself in the same bad positions time and time again isn't healthy, and it's not the way I want to live my life. It took me a long time to understand that I control my environment. Life isn't a puzzle where everything has to fit. If I don't like the pieces around me, I can change the pieces. It's an ever-changing picture that you create based on whichever pieces you place. Don't like this one? Get rid of it. It's interchangeable with a million others that might work better. And there's no limit to how many pieces you get to try. You're not going to run out of chances.

It's not like you're stuck with your choices. You're not. "Hey, this sucks!"

Fine. It sucks.

Now do something about it. Change the pieces.

Over here, in my world, it's calm, and quiet, and peaceful. I like it here. It makes me want to live, and play, and enjoy each day. And it's because of me. It's my doing. I decided what I wanted, and I did it. I was in charge of my happiness. Why I never understood this before is beyond me.

I guess that's why they call it growth.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Busy Beyond Belief

Between work and freelance, there's been no time for me. No dreaming, no playing.

No writing.

I envy those who have the luxury of time. Lately I've been consumed by pressure from work and my various freelance gigs. It's a bit much.

Perhaps more than a bit.

People say you need to make time, but you can't make more time. There are only so many hours. Mine are filled, and to find more, I'd have to sacrifice something else. Like right now, for instance. I should be working out, but I'm taking a moment. And I feel guilty about it. Guilty because I know I should be doing something else, and I'm playing.

For just a moment.

Now back to it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Four Dogs

Added a couple chapters to Four Dogs yesterday. Felt like I needed to bridge the confrontation between Jeremy and Batu a little better. Next I'm moving on to a confrontation between J.J. and his mom. I need to give him some more conflict to make his ultimate decisions even harder.

Here's a little glimpse from the new material:

J.J.’s head filled with confusion and fear. He felt on the verge of passing out.

Behind him, the German Shepherd let out a painful yelp and then fell silent.

J.J. spun around, listening.


He turned back to look at the ledger once more.

“You shouldn’t be in here, boy.”


Jeremy screamed and jumped away from the book.

When had Batu arrived? How long had he been here, standing, listening, watching, waiting?

The old man stood in the doorway, blocking the exit. J.J. looked across at the window, wondering if he could run and jump through it before Batu could cross the room.

“I wouldn’t try it, if I were you, Jeremy,” Batu said, as if reading J.J.'s thoughts.

“Come. Sit with me.”

J.J. hesitated.

“I won’t hurt you. Unless you force me to,” Batu said.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dennis Hopper

OK. I lied. I'm writing about my birthday today.

My narcissism knows no bounds.

I'm 39 today. A pup to some, a grandpa to others. It's a big year for me. They say you discover yourself in your 20s, and define yourself in your 30s. I have one more year to define myself.

There are a lot of things I thought I would have accomplished by now; being a published fiction author not the least of them. Fame, fortune, glory. They seem to have eluded me this decade. But I have one more year. One more year to do the things I set out to do.

The question, as it has been for nine years, however, is when?

My time is running out. It's time for me to make time for me.

Keep writing,


Monday, May 10, 2010

Excerpt from Tail Ends (one of my WIPs)

Background: Alan Blakely, the MC, just caught his first "girlfriend" blowing some guy in a pool.


At times like this, a man has to step up and be a man. People date. People break up. The trick is being strong, taking the punches life gives you, standing up, brushing off the dust, and getting back out there. There's no sense wallowing in self-pity, feeling sorry for yourself, sitting in the dark with your head phones on, listening to break-up songs, and eating Haagen-Dazs straight from the container.

No, men are men. We are strong. We carry on. We get drunk and hit the bars, because, by God, no worthless bitch is going to bring us down!

"Mom," I sobbed into the phone, "Michelle just broke up with me."

"It's okay, baby," she said in that cooing motherly voice used for calming children. "Everything's going to be okay."

"You don't understand, Mom. I loved her," I wailed.

"Oh, I'm sure love is a pretty strong word. How long did you know this Michelle?"

"That's not the point, Mom. Love is love. I know what I felt. And now it's over."

"Shh," she whispered. "You just let it all out. Momma's here for you now."

I must have cried on the phone for twenty minutes, my mom shh-shing and coddling me through the worst of it. Sometimes I spoke, and sometimes I just cried.

Finally, when she felt I was getting a grip on my emotions, my mom politely asked questions, and I politely answered. I tried to leave out the sordid details, as telling your mom about your sexual escapades is probably the single most awkward thing in the entire world. However, as far as the relationship goes, it felt good talking about. It felt like closure, or at least something close to that.

We went through the history, how we met, how long we dated, how was the relationship. I fibbed at most of the details, but admitted that Michelle and I had met at a party, and that it had been intimate.

"Well, that's part of the problem right there. Any girl who would have sexual relations with a boy the first night they met, is a hussy."

"Mom, no one says 'sexual relations," except presidents and preachers. And no one says 'hussy.'"

"You know what I mean. I'm not going to say it."

My mom. The saint. When I was fourteen years old, when I found out my real father wasn't dead, but had in fact abandoned us when I was two years old, I called him an asshole. Mind you, I was beside myself with anger at the time, having just received the most crushing news of my life. My mother, instead of consoling me, flung a Bible at me, hitting me in the ear so hard, I heard a faint ringing until I started my junior year of high school.

"Don't ever use those words!" she had screamed at me. "My ears are not a trash receptacle for your potty mouth!"

I had no hope of converting her, but at least over the phone I didn't have to worry about flying Bibles and ringing ears.

"She's a slut, mother. Plain and simple."

I waited for the admonishment, but it didn't come.

"So what happened," she said instead.

I recounted how we had gone to the party, how Michelle had worn her leopard bikini and black thong flip-flops, and losing her at the party.

"When I walked out to the pool, I saw this Neanderthal in the water, leaning his head back. I could see someone under water in front of him. At first, I didn't know who it was, but then I saw the flowing black hair, and Michelle's bikini and flip-flops sitting on the side of the pool, and I put it all together. I started to turn, when he opened his eyes, looked right at me, and winked. I just ran after that. I came straight home and I've been a wreck ever since."

"Well, it sounds like you're better off without her, and good riddance. Do you know the kinds of diseases you can get from a loose woman like that?"

"I know, Mom. But this was thirty minutes ago. It's going to take some time to get over it. I just can't believe she would do this to me."

"I think she's just the type of person to do something like this to a nice boy like you."

"Thanks, Mom. I don't know if that makes me feel better or worse."

"It should make you feel better. You're a good boy, Alan. You deserve better than a girl like that."

With that, we said our goodbyes, our I love yous, and hung up. My eyes were heavy, and with the tears gone, sleep was setting in. The image of Michelle going down on some guy in a pool emblazoned on my mind, but respite eventually came, and I slept dreamlessly until dawn with a loud knocking on my door.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The overwhelming pressure to be funny

When asked why I don't write much on my blog, my answer is always, I don't have much to say.

That's not entirely true.

The truth is, I don't have anything funny to say.

As a writer of wit and humor, there is overwhelming pressure to always be on, always be funny. Like a monkey doing tricks, I'm supposed to make people laugh.

Most of the time, I'm just not that funny.

As evidenced by this post.

Being funny is a lot of work. While throwing out a quip at a party, or slapping together a one-liner in response to a straight man is relatively easy for me, it's much harder to be both sides of the conversation and create from nothing something that makes your sides hurt. I have a great deal of respect for the pros who seem to be able to do it with ease, like Dave Barry and Christopher Moore. But I bet if you ask them, it's the same way for them.

Being funny is hard.

And there's not a secret button you can push to turn the funny on. Like method actors, I'm a method writer. When I'm writing a particularly harsh scene in a book, it's easy to turn on angry music or sad music, and get myself into whatever mood I need to get through that scene. But when I'm not feeling funny, it's impossible to sit down and BE funny. I could put on a comedian who I like, but then I'm just enjoying someone else's jokes, and I find myself rehashing the same old lines someone else has already told.

Now I feel like I need a classic poop joke to give this post closure.

See? Overwhelming pressure.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Let's try this again

OK. I cleaned out my closet yesterday. Time to start fresh.

All old posts have been deleted. Let's pretend today is Day 1.