Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wonder Why You Can't Get Any Writing Done?

I use Sundays to write. I have the whole day if I skip church, and it's usually the first thing on my mind when my feet hit the bedroom floor.

... Well, the second thing, right after watching all my Sunday Morning shows.

So around noon, when I stop yelling at the TV and the talking heads on the Hi-Def, 40-inch screen, I switch off the power, and head to my office. And since I have to pass the kitchen anyway, I take a moment to whip up my third cup of Bailey's laced coffee to loosen up the ol' gears.

Yesterday, we returned from a successful Oxford book signing. Following the hour drive, I felt a bit lightheaded when I got out of the car. Maggie said that worried her. She wanted me to see the doctor because it could be a blood-pressure problem. 

So naturally, I thought about dying. 

Then I wondered if she would be able to decipher my computer filing system and find all my completed manuscripts so she could rake in the potential fortune after I move on to the great writer's office in the skyor wherever, now that I've skipped church. I decided that with my cryptic and scattered filing system, she wouldn't be able to locate those potential "great American novels" … not without spending a great deal of time—time she could use to spend my fortune. I decided to create an easy-to-find file just for completed manuscripts. Then I would knuckle down and get to work on the new book.

As I began sorting through files, I stumbled across an old short story I just happened to discuss with a colleague while at the book signing yesterday. I decided to send it to him so he could get a better feel for what we had discussed. But it was years old, so I had to read it first.

… and then re-write it.

That complete, I sent the file and turned back to the writing awaiting me. As I “back arrowed” through the files, I saw one titled, “List of video trailer post sites.”


In it were sites I had noted years ago in the event I needed places to post a book trailer that I didn't have at the time. Since I had one now, I naturally wondered if they were still there.

Oh, they were there alright. Each and every one of them. So I started with Google Video.

I discovered my existing Google account got me in, and when I logged on to the site, I saw Facebook-like posts of people I know, posting things that they've done, and I wondered why I had nothing there. So I read their posts and decided I needed to add something.

A reader had posted a very nice review of Chain of Evidence on Amazon and Goodreads, among others, earlier in the day, and I thought I should post it on this newly discovered Google site. So I did, and then I went ahead and posted it on a few Facebook sites as well. Then I read a few posts before remembering I wanted to post the trailer on the video site. But before I did that, I had to help the wife carry in the groceries. And cobble together a vodka and coke.

That completed, I had to find the trailer. It was on my computer somewhere, I was sure.

A few minutes later it was back to Google to post the clip. But wait. What’s’ this? Google Play? Maybe just a quick detour.  

“What do you want for dinner?” Maggie calls. I look up. I swear someone moved my clock ahead.

With another Sunday shot, I went back into my office to close up for the day, thinking about all the writing I didn't get done. But just as my computer was spinning down, I remembered that I forgot to create the Completed Manuscripts file.

So I scribbled it on a Post-it note and went to bed.

Sound familiar?

Best Regards,

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Book Signing in a Quaint Little Town

As any author will admit following several vodkas or their libation of choice, after their dream of being published for the first time becomes reality, their fantasies turn to their first book signing and the throngs of adoring fans that will be in attendance. They picture long lines of readers that come in all varieties of shape, size, age and denomination, eager to have the book they just purchased signed and personalized by their now most favorite author. 

Of course, that’s why they are called fantasies.

One has to work for such a privilege, and the first book signing is just one of the first steps in a long series of appearances and interviews that will hopefully take the author along a road toward becoming a household name. My first bookstore signing happens this Saturday, June 28, at Mystery Loves Company Book Sellers in Oxford, Maryland. They had asked if I had a poster they could use to promote the event, and since I hadn't been to the store, or to Oxford in several decades, I decided to drive the poster down.

Oxford is a sleepy little resort town at the mouth of the Tred Avon River just off the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s eastern shore, and as I rode into town, the first thing that caught my attention was the 25 MPH speed limit. In today’s fast-paced rat race, I was glad for it. The speed allowed me to drink in the scenery as I made my way down the town’s main, single lane street.

It was as if Time had overlooked this small berg, with people walking dogs or riding bikes at a pace where, it would seem, they had not a care in the world or a place they had to be. In many ways it reminded me of the neighborhood where I grew up; tree-lined one lane neighborhood streets where, if two cars approached each other from opposite directions, one had to pull over to let the other by. I passed several small country stores that catered to tourists and residents alike; antique and nick-knack shops, and a real estate office that fit into the scheme of the town like a puzzle piece. I found myself wondering what a little house on the water might cost in a historic town like this. 

Then I answered myself.

“More than you have or ever hope to have.”

 I found the bookstore and chatted with Kathy, the owner, for a bit, and then took a drive through town. The colonial architecture was a step back in time to the days where people used horse & buggy to travel back and forth, and as I made my way around, I pulled over many times to take in the charming country porches with their rockers and hammocks, and the white picket fences running along the inlaid brick walkways. It seemed a majority of the narrow side streets led to the water’s edge, and at the end was usually a bench or several big lawn chairs in which to sit, and let your troubles go as the tranquility washes over you. 

                   I parked the car and sat on one of the benches … just for a few minutes.

There are B&Bs here too, and I fully intend on taking advantage of one in the very near future. But for now, I am focused on the signing this Saturday. So if all this sounds like a place you’d like to come and visit, or take a swim, or just have a nice dinner at one of the restaurants, maybe you’d like to stop into Mystery Loves Company Book Sellers to say Hi, and maybe find a book or two that strikes your fancy. If mine happens to be one of them, I’ll be there this Saturday, June 28th, from 1 to 3 pm., and I’d be happy to personalize it for you for a small fee.

OK … I’m only kidding about the fee.

Come down, say Hi, and treat yourself to a day from your childhood.

Best Regards,

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"The difference between the right word and almost the right word

is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

Mark Twain

When I started writing seriously in 2005, everyone who loved me (all two of them) encouraged me in a similar way. My daughter Danielle bought me a Merriam-Webster Word Calendar for my desk so I could learn a new word every day. Maggie, on the other hand, subscribed me to Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, and I began receiving an email on a daily basis, each with a different word. The object of all this was to help me grow my vocabulary, because everyone knows that being a writer requires a vast knowledge of words.


Poppycock - \POP-py-cock\ Noun: Foolish words or ideas, empty talk or writing.

For a while, I actually tried to memorize the words flowing across my sphere of consciousness. I found I couldn’t memorize them any better now than when I was in school, except for the ones I liked. I didn’t remember their exact definition, but I understood the words and knew how to use them. Some of the others I tore from the calendar and stuffed in a drawer, or saved away in a file for later use. On occasion, I’d roam through those saved words and dust my manuscript with a few here and there; words like:

Wax - \wax\ intransitive verb (what the hell is an intransitive verb?):
1     :  to increase in size, numbers, strength, prosperity, or intensity
b :  to grow in volume or duration
c :  to grow toward full development
2   :  to increase in phase or intensity —used chiefly of the moon, other satellites, and inferior planets
3   :  to assume a (specified) characteristic, quality, or state :  become <wax indignant> <wax poetic>

“Wax” is the opposite of “wane.” This is an archaic word seldom used in regular discourse, but I read it in a book somewhere, liked it, and decided to see if I could use it. The dialogue, as I remember it, went something like “… he waxed poetic, memories of Sunday school.”


How many people could I have scratching their head on that one?
But I never actually found a place to use it. The odd thing was, I started hearing it every now and again. Weird!

I did, however, use this one:
Cupidity - \cu-PID-i-ty\  Noun:
1:  inordinate desire for wealth :  avarice, greed
2:  strong desire :  lust
It’s neat how words can mean different things depending on how you use them. When I used it, it was all about the Lust.

It’s true that a writer needs a decent vocabulary in his toolbox, so I still pay attention to the word-a-day emails. When I see one I like, I may go back and substitute it for something I used earlier. That’s not cheating because I learned something new, but because I’m not constantly trading new words for words already written, I realize that being a writer isn’t about using a vast quantity of “nickel” words; it’s about how you use the ones you already have.

Some of the most powerful and endearing quotes are just good ol’ fashion English, and there ain’t nothing fancy about ‘em.

“Ask not, what your country can do for you.”
“Honor is doing the right thing when no one is looking.”
“There’s no crying in baseball.”

See what I mean?
Do the best with what you got … grammar notwithstanding.

Best Regards,

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Illustration used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at