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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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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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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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The “Spark” of Creativity is Unleashed, Part One

Last post, I introduced the Spark Project, currently completing Round 6. I submitted a short story to my assigned partner, Marty McGihon with the understanding that I would take one of Marty’s paintings and write a story. I’ve jotted down a couple of notes to explain how I arrived at my final work, but you work differently that I (which is the point of the Spark Program – use what you’re good at and see how others do their thing.)

Life Isn't Always Easy

Painting by Marty McGihon

I started with Marty’s picture, “Life Isn’t Always Easy”, which I studied from every angle until I saw an image that I felt I could use. If you turn the picture so that the dark edge is across the top like I did, you may see a woman with a blue face wearing a red shawl on the left hand side. There appears to be a tall yellow cliff on the right with a red waterfall and some green brush in the center. Where the woman’s hands would be are two reddish orange circles that I imagined were her palms filled with magical fire.

A short amount of research (wikipedia) revealed Morgan Le Fay, a legendary Irish sorceress that would make an excellent subject to write about. The only problem was finding a unique setting. For that, I used the yellow cliff and saw the possibility of setting this story in the old West, where orange and red cliffs abound. More research revealed that there was a mass migration to the Americas in the late 1830s due to a potato famine, which I could use to explain why she would have left Ireland to come to the old west.

This project was quickly becoming too big for a mere 1500 words and I sought a reasonable way to cut it down a bit. I discovered that the primary entertainment of the time was the “dime novel” which serialized the exploits of the time. You can find real text from the old dime novels online (which I did courtesy of the Stanford University Libraries collection) and hopefully I’ve captured their essence in this tale.

One thing that I really enjoyed was trying to capture the dialogue and pacing of the dime novels, as well as incorporate Irish/Gaelic phrasing gleaned from a sampling of Celtic folklore. If there are any errors, they are due to my haste or deliberately placed to not anger supernatural entities that typically wander the internet looking for trouble. Without further ado, here is my finished story submission…

THE LA FEY SISTERS, or Eyewitness to a Sorcerous Showdown
Chapter One: High Magic on the High Plains

Before you ask, there is no Chapter 2 (yet). I suspect there will be more in the future and if I do write them, I will put them up right here for you to read.

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15 minute writing drills

This last three day weekend promised to be a boon to my halted writing, but deciding on where to start proved near fatal.

I’d spent the last couple of weekends nibbling around the edges of my novel rewrite by creating index cards for each of my plotted scenes that still needed writing. On each card was the setting, POV character, some lines about the conflict and goals, and the following scene. All seemed ready for writing, but I still faced the dreaded blank page.

This lone condition is both my writing nemesis as well as my favorite part of writing. It can only be vanquished by sheer force of will, an external deadline, or a crazy exercise I picked up during the 2007 NaNoWriMo.

How does this miracle work, you ask?

Fifteen Minutes

Fifteen Minutes

Simple. Set aside 15 minutes of time when you can work without distractions, choose your topic or scene, and begin writing non-stop until the buzzer goes off. Do not waste time with editing or punctuation; you can fix errors afterwards. Just write what you feel works best, even if you never use the material in your finished story.

Based on this technique, I am proud to say that I have four text segments to start my unwritten scenes. I don’t know what or how I will continue from where each segment ends, but now the page isn’t empty.

The next time you find yourself staring down a blank page; try it. It cannot be worse that not writing at all.

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