Goodnight and Good Luck

This will be my final post here. I’ve found a new home that I can focus on writing what I love – stories, not “lessons” on how to write.

I invite you to join me at, where we can assemble new stories from the mangled remains of “dead” pieces that otherwise would lie in a drawer somewhere – unfinished and unread.

Sad, if you think about it — which I did and vowed to give them a second chance.


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This Blog Is On Life Support

It’s been a while since I’ve stopped by, judging from the layer of dust. Between work, home, school, and the novel, I guess I let time get away from me and for that I apologize. I’ve also neglected the one thing I love most (next to my family) and that is writing. Sure, crafting college papers is a thrill, but nothing beats the fun of watching your little seedling of an idea unfold into a beautiful orchid-like story and then setting it free to be found by readers.

It is time, I think, to say adieu. This blog helped me find a voice when I needed to speak. What I need to do now is less rambling and more storytelling.

Starting May 1st, I am setting up shop on a new blog where I can focus on giving readers what they (and I) want – something interesting to read.

Looking for some good old-fashioned storytelling? Can do.

What about posts on the nature of theme or creating tension in a scene? I’ll recommend a few other blogs that can do it better, but I’m done with those.

Keep watching and I’ll add a link to the new space when it’s ready. In the meantime, I’m taking requests for the next story post…

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New Fiction in Ten Days

I had so much fun last quarter participating in Amy Souza’s SPARK project, that I volunteered again, despite a full work load of two accelerated online college courses and a draft novel in dire need of editing.

My artistic partner this time was the talented Christina Brockett, who uses a camera to capture the world around her in ways that I never could. I reworked an earlier piece for a more contemporary setting that I called “Dockside” and received the following snapshot to use as inspiration for my response:

Photo by Christina Brockett

Ten days – not much time to get an idea, flesh it out into a story with compelling characters and engaging theme, then polish it into a short story to share with the world. You know what I found out? Deadlines are a tremendous motivation.

  • I had my rough idea within the first five minutes of seeing the picture, but how do you turn strange etchings on a gold watch into a viable story?
  • I tried to imagine who would etch unrecognizable symbols on a watch – someone who didn’t want the words discovered by the wrong person, or maybe someone who didn’t have enough room to write everything they wanted. I also realized that a pocket watch is the kind of thing that gets passed down from one generation to another when someone dies.
  • Plot came next: some kids examine an inherited watch and discover strange writing (greek) on the inside lid. They translate the writing and find clues that lead to a website message from a dead parent. Cool.
  • As I wrote the story, minor flaws developed and I made changes like a good little writer. Boys became college students, the clues became plausible links, and the message was properly sad.

At the end of ten days, I had a finished story I wish was better, but it’s done. We exchanged works: my story “Time’s Cruel Sands“, and Christina send me this photograph that I feel really nailed the mood of “Dockside”:

Photo by Christina Brockett

Amy plans to have our works up on her site soon, and I highly recommend that you give it a look. There were 90 entrants this time and no doubt you will find some truly creative works much better than my own. Next quarter, I hope to do this exercise in madness again and maybe we’ll have a chance to work together. Ten days of hell that I find absolutely worth every second.

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Want to Critique My Synopsis?

I’ve been working to wrap up my submission for the 2010 MWA Novel and Short Works Contests. The novel is done (middle still needs polishing), which leaves the one-page synopsis.

What’s it About?
Sent to rebuild America’s nuclear pulse-damaged infrastructure, a recovering alcoholic must defy orders to save an isolated Midwest town from a local militia’s sinister agenda.

What Can You Do?
I am looking for volunteers to give my synopsis a read-thru and let me know where I can improve it. It must not exceed one page, double-spaced, so I need to make sure that every word counts.

Thank you to everyone who offered comments and suggestions for making my synopsis better. I submitted this one-page synopsis for the 2010 MWA Novel contest.

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How Do You Prepare to Read In Front of an Audience?

Microphone Icon (red)
Problem: I agreed to participate in the SPARK exhibit in Alexandria, VA with a reading/reception of work from Round 6 this Saturday, January 16th. I’ve never really read my stuff out loud to an audience, family and friends excluded. I’ve read before a local writing critique group, but each time I sounded like a lame teenager reading his summer essay before a snickering class.

Background: For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SPARK Project, it is a fantastic opportunity for pairs of writers and artists to collaborate on a project “sparked” by the creative work of their partner. I had the great fortune to work with a great impressionist painter named Marty McGihon and look forward to next round this spring.

Does anyone have advice to offer? How would you prepare yourself to read before an audience who will only remember you if your story is dynamite (or you totally crash and burn by freezing up/stammering/sweating profusely)? It’s only a short story, so shouldn’t take more than the allotted 7 minutes…


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Who changes more – you or your characters

At the end of a story, the main character usually has changed in some way. What about you as a writer – have you changed as well?

I found that getting to know characters as I write about them changes how I look at people in my daily travels. Not in some “he’s-lost-his-grip-on-reality” way, but by understanding how people change over time as life happens.

A while ago, I decided to add depth to one of my characters by making him an alcoholic. It would have been easier to stick to the scripted paths you see in countless TV shows, but as he grew in the story he felt too real (to me) for that to work. I wrote each scene with him normally, then made changes to his actions and emotions based on two desires – his need to atone for past mistakes, and the fear of succumbing to self-destructive habits. The results left me sensing a hint of fear behind my character’s decisions and brought forward his sometimes desperate push to maintain a sense of control, especially during stressful encounters.

Did I end up with an accurate portrayal? I can’t really say. I may not have nailed the struggle that alcoholics face each day, but I cannot deny that I think and feel differently about it.

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Attention on Deck

Today marks the 24th anniversary of my enlistment into the US Navy. That’s right, on a wintry evening long ago I was stepping off a bus in Great Lakes, IL, and the start of what would prove to be one of the defining periods of my life when it led to sixteen years of military service with four different branches (if you count the National Guard as a branch).

So much has changed since that day. Besides getting older, fatter, and ambulatory disabled, that young hick from Iowa learned how to plan for more than the next twenty-four hours, fix most broken equipment, trust strangers with his life and in turn save their lives as well. If I were a character in one of my stories, there would be enough material to cover several books in the series just from military service alone.

I credit my current position in life to December 3rd, including my pseudo-career as a fiction writer. My first published work was written as I stood on watch in the wee hours of the morning. Each subsequent piece built upon places I visited and people I met along the way, like the time I laughed non-stop for almost an hour as two crewmen taunted each other over their accents!

“… say Baah-ston,” the NY native would crow.
          His rival from MA would shout back, “Say Law-ng Eye-land….”

I haven’t used them in a story yet, but I’m sure they will end up in one some day.

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