Friday, July 5, 2013

WRITING a NOVEL START to FINISH, Entry 16: I Am a Whore. Sort Of.

So I've been going through this sort of writer's block.  I guess that's what it is.  That is to say, I still have good ideas, great scenes, characters, etc bouncing around in my head.  Pushing against my skull,trying to leak out my ears to the page.  But I can't.  I can write a short story still.  Just wrote a good one.  A fucking love story from the guy who hates love stories and will most likely never experience a love truth.  But that's another blog entirely.

I just can't pull the trigger on this book though.  I've tried writing my way out of it. I KNOW the novel is the best writing I've ever created.  I KNOW this can be great.  It never will be if it's never written then shared though.  And that brings me to my owning up to being a whore.  In a sense.  

I've identified the problem.  

I don't have faith in myself. My first novel I submitted the hell out of. This was met with mixed results.  Some houses wanted to see it.  Some agents were interested.  I even got to speak to Dominik Abel--Dean Koontz's agent.  But, in the end was met with rejection.  I was even prompted to write a short story about rejection which was then published.  It would seem I'm an expert on rejection.  You see, I'm not a romantic.  I'm not going to pretend for one goddamned second that I write for me only.  I'll never say, "but at least I got this story out of me."  That's a lie.  I write for praise. Without praise, my writing is just a hobby.  I'm not deluded.  A lot of writers are.  They self publish, convicting themselves, friends, and family that, "This is the wave of the future. This is Me sharing my story with everyone."  If everyone includes that same captive audience.  

A whore may be as such for a variety of reasons.  Attention, enjoys it, gets paid, mental mumbo jumbo.  I am for all of the above.  I want it all.  Form a train and drive, drive!  But I'm met with puritans.  So to speak.  And maybe it's because my writing isn't good enough.  Maybe it's for lack of luck.  Or both.  

But it's hard to write a novel knowing it may never be read.  Friends, family:  I don't want to whore out myself to you.  That's gross.  I've decided that today I will submit, submit, submit before I continue writing TUG.  Perhaps every now and again when a scene takes shape I'll jot it down.  But I need my confidence back to be the whore I always dreamed of being.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013



The Curse of the Chinese Finger Trap


            I’m tired of being stuck.  I’m at a part in the novel that has me, I guess, not at all that excited.  I’m afraid this will show in the writing which has been flowing well up until I reached this point.  Here is my issue.  The first 10,000 words are moving the story along, setting up future events, and building characters up.  Then I get to a point in the book where what I must write is simply that—a scene of necessity.  Not sexy, or future building, or character driven.  In short, it’s boring.  I’ve been trying to use as little narration as possible and this scene requires all narration.  You see, I believe that when a novel relies on long periods of narration it’s a sign the author is writing out of his ass.  It’s easy to get going narrating and get sucked into your own words, alight on the pretentious artsy wordage and description.  I hate that. 

            So I’ve come up with a solution to get un-stuck.  Because the harder I try getting out of this by staying in this scene, the more stuck I get.  It’s a Chinese finger trap.  Like a finger trap, I’m wagering that the less I try, the easier it will become to get out of this.  Not writing is not an option, the book won’t write itself.  I’m jumping ahead to scenes I’m excited about.  I’m stepping backwards to spruce a couple scenes I’m capable of improving. 

            I don’t like the stepping out of order, but it must be done. 

            I’ve let this entire logjam distract me completely in my writing.  I’m already seeing some success with this finger trap approach despite not having written on TUG again just yet.  I’ve thought of a new short story—not an idea that a story must be built around, but a complete story, a short-short story.  I’ve decided to slop it down as soon as I’m finished with this (the kids are with friends so I must seize to moment) to see if it further spurs the ole writing legs to get moving again instead of limping along like a zombie. 

            So I’m getting off here.  Writing on the new idea.  Writing tomorrow on a few scenes:  the climax, Thaddeus’ first day down in the mine, sprucing up a description of the town of Humphrey to fit in with an overall theme of the novel metaphorically (but not too pretentiously or artfully so), and anything else I pull—quite neatly—out of my ass.

Sunday, May 19, 2013





            In re to the last entry, I really want to believe I’m good enough to be great.  Great at writing.  But it's truly hard to convince myself of that when the writing isn’t, well, being written.  Last Sunday, when I get the lion’s share of writing done, was Mother’s Day.  I shifted it to Monday.  Monday arrived and I didn’t do it.  I can’t tell you what I even did.  So it must’ve been worth it.  I’m at a point in TUG where the real work begins.  The first 10,000 words were like the first few days of dating someone new, those days where you get that fluttering in your chest and everything between you and her is possible.  Bills due don’t matter, the clunking in your car is nothing, the ex-wife really isn’t all that bad after all…  But then reality hits.  Those little flaws in someone’s character or your own surface and start to play tricks of doubt upon your once departed brain.  The heart isn’t enough to carry thing alone.  The door is parted allowing the light of hard, cold logic to cast upon the floor and promising of unknowns.  Will things work out as once known? 

            It’s funny and pissy that writing a novel can play with your emotions and confidence.  It’s become work.  And no one who is being honest enjoys working.  Unless you’re a porn star maybe.  Even that gets old I’d assume though.  I don’t want to be that porn star.  Well, actually it may be nice to get that experience.  But on screen it ain’t going to happen.  Instead, I must make it happen on paper—or screen.  Screen first, then paper—hopefully—later.  Which brings me to the point of why I’m not writing today. 

            This evening I do that other portion or writing work that no one enjoys.  Gee, why don’t I strain my confidence and create a unique cover letter for each prospective publisher or agent, then send it off, wait for months, then get a form rejection letter.  Unfortunately, I need to operate within this business model.  After all, I did choose to write these two other novels to be read by someone other than me.  But here’s another reason I’ve been avoiding it:  Do I really want my confidence to take all these hits as I’m creating something new?  It’s the equivalent of a man thinking of baseball to last longer—except it’s completely different?   Thinking of baseball will numb the senses, prolong something pleasant.  Getting rejection has no positive benefits, but it does numb the creative process.  And the fun, the ecstasy is in the creating—when you get off your lazy ass and do it that is. 

            So to sum up, writing is, at first, like falling in love.  Then it becomes a relationship, rife with all its potential pitfalls, and logic guidance—work.  Then you wish you were a porn star.  Then you decide to think of baseball.  Now, doesn’t that make a lot of sense?  I will write tomorrow.  After work I work again.  There will be no cameras or boom mikes or lubricant.  Just me and coffee and currently intact confidence and ideas.

Monday, May 6, 2013





            Finally!  It’s been a great week writing on TUG.  I’ve surpassed the 10,000 word mark which seems like a big deal, even if it’s just a number.  But 10,000 words sure sounds like progress.  I’ve introduced, physically I mean (he’s been spoken of) my antagonist.  Jimmy Snadus is a wonderful piece of shit.  As I’m writing it I just want to bring him to life and kick his ass.  So that’s good. 

            Taking a step away, as mentioned in the previous post, has really helped.  So I’m to be doing that from here on out.  Screw my self-imposed deadlines.  Why force the issue?  I’m at a point in the story I hadn’t really thought about so I need to think.  And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  Letting the story breath on its own.  No CPR, no AED device.  If it dies, it dies.  Hopefully, each weak it takes another breath and keeps kicking it with me.  Hopefully, each and every week I want to kick Jimmy Snadus’ ass.  And maybe you will someday as well.  Fuck him, right? 

            Apart from creating a good antagonist I wrote something very sweet.  I’ve had sweet moments in my fiction before, but the difference with this developing story line is it’s ultimately about life.  Nurturing.  Growth.  Love.  Fatherhood and responsibility.  So, in keeping balance, I’ve also introduced Harry, a boy that Thaddeus is going to mentor.  I wrote a scene I’m a bit shy to admit, made my eyes water.  It’s a genuine sweet moment.  A moment I wish I would have had as a child. 

I also nailed my through line.  Sure, it was always there from the beginning but when Thaddeus tells Harry:  He grasped Harry’s shoulders.  “Look at me.  Look at me, boy.  But I can promise you this:  everyone is good enough, good enough to be great.”  It kicks up the characters, the goals, the spirit of what I’m trying to accomplish.  It left me with a sense of elation.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Want to Get Closer to Your Novel? Take a Step Away


Want to Get Closer to Your Novel?  Take a Step Away

I didn’t do much writing this week.  Writing, that is, on paper.  I was getting too hung up on a word goal which is something I’ve said I wouldn’t do.  I was experiencing a bit of a mental logjam.  I had all these cool ideas, great scenes, and plot devices planned but couldn’t seem to connect the dots.  So, instead, I just thought about TUG.   A lot.  By thinking about the next scene’s setting—not necessarily the scene itself—I was able to formulate how the entire a scene will unfold.

Something I realized I was doing right off in this book that needed correcting was the settings.  You see, I had all these ideas for scenes which were mostly dialogue driven.  Action propels a novel, not ideas.  Yes, I have a goal of keeping the narration down to a minimum, letting things be shown through dialogue. I was overcompensating though.  To keep with my goal, I need to entertain the reader, as well as using this neat dialogue and these interchanges between characters to show what is going on.  One way I can entertain the reader is to keep the scene settings unique.  True, every novel has a main set, a main few sets.  However, now that my main story has been thrust into motion, it’s time to expand the boundaries these characters are at risk of being confined in. 

So the next scene is set at an empty football field.  Two major characters are introduced there.  I can’t wait to write it.

I also got in touch with my main character.  As Thaddeus is essentially me, boy he is mentoring is my son.  I guess I didn’t realize it to the degree that this is true.  But thinking of this next scene, a mentor spending some crucial time, experiencing a potential life altering moment THRU conversation, really struck me.  I want to take my son to the football field with me (as soon as it stops raining one of these days) and sit there.  Sit there exactly as I have pictured.  Realize that this, albeit is research in a way, is also a moment in his and my life that is so little on the surface, but so much more.  Someday. 

So I’ll write this scene this week.  It’ll be good.  Distance has gotten me closer to all these words. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Changing Names to Protect the Innocent
Let Me Have It


            I went to a writer’s group the other day at the invitation of a fellow writer (I won’t mention the group name because they feel they're pretty special-advertising in the free newspaper and all to have these huge turnouts of seven people) I was tentative in attending as a professional editor had told me I’m searching for feedback too early.  I admit, I’m curious.  I write something I feel is good, really good, and it’s exciting to see what others may think. 

            It was a waste of three hours.  After awaiting everyone else’s read, I went.  I read five pages from Tug, the most recent pages which I’d written in a coffee shop before attending.  I had four pages that were relatively polished I was going to read, but decided I’d test this group’s mettle by reading five pages of mostly shit.  I read.  When I was finished I asked, “Did the words come together right?”  The guy who is running the show, Mr. Pretentious in his ill-fitting suit, the guy who critiqued others and read nothing, says, “Yeah.  Pretty much, I think you got it.”

            I felt like calling him on his bullshit.  That’s not critique.  I didn’t come here to get jacked off.  I came here to get feedback.  Instead, I say, “Thanks.  That’s good to hear.  Anyone else?”  Silence.  Then, you used the word ‘retire’ three times.  That’s it?  Really?  Waste of time. 

            So I’m listening to Catherine Rankovic, the editor, and not putting myself out there for feedback.  Except this one last time.  I’m going to post just a touch of what I read and see what the feedback through here is, if any.  Does anyone really read this?  If you’re not a writer, a response of THAT’S PRETTY GOOD, or THAT SUCKS DONKEYS, or IT NEEDS SOME WORK will suffice.  If you’re a writer, maybe elaborate on the above.  If you’re a writer, we’re in this together, why not support one another by being honest, by spending a few minutes in a writer’s groups or providing real feedback when handed something to read or being emailed something to look over. 

            As far as the progress on Tug goes, I’m going to update my Tug consistency key today, and break 10,000 words.  I hope.  If the “words aren’t coming together right,” I’ll stop.  It’s best not to get hung up on self-imposed deadlines if they weaken the quality of writing.

            I’m growing a bit concerned about the closeness of the story.  The story, as I’ve said before is my story.  As such, a great many of the people in the story are people I really know.  This book involves infidelity, death, drug addiction, prison time, fractured families, and other happy things.  To use the cliché, names have been changed to protect the innocent.  Except, some of these people are far from innocent.  Let me rephrase, names have been changed to protect my own ass.  It is concerning though, that my story takes place in this town, and I do still need to live here.  Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.  Maybe this never gets published anyhow and the only visceral effect it has is on myself.  It’s a problem, a good problem, for another day.



Thaddeus and Uncle Johnny sat on opposite sides of the hospice bed like, Thaddeus thought, the proverbial angel and devil would straddle one’s shoulders.  Except he wondered which he’d be.  The thick smell of Jim Beam rolled from his uncle like the fumes from the latrine duty Thaddeus had been so often saddled with in the army.  Even in the dim light from the just lit kerosene heater he could see from Johnny’s red rimmed eyes that his uncle would be retiring into a drunken sleep soon enough. 

“You don’t have to stay here, you know.  Me and your grandma, we got this.  He just gets all real kinda bad nights is all.”  Dusty’s breaths came shallow, his death seeming to arrive with every exhalation before another evil breath took in oxygen.  Furthering the agony.  “All this talking today just sapped him is it.”

“I went looking for you today.  I’m tired of hearing all about your help.”

Uncle Johnny feathered back his greasy hair and snorted a laugh.  “It’s a good thing you’re a head taller than me, boy.  Who do you think is mopping these floors, cutting the grass in the summer, taking grandma to the store?  It ain’t you.”

The kerosene heater popped as the metal heated up.  Before she retired to bed, Helena had insisted it be lit to keep the chill off Dusty.  The wavering flames shot coven shadows of the two of them along the brick façade of the dining room. 

“And I know what you’re up to, young one.”

“You know what?” 

“Stephanie got on me for that morphine.  Your grandma said you was having a little talk with her before coming in.  I bet you’d like to tag that fine little piece wouldn’t you?”

“What’s your point?  I talked to a nurse.”

“I know’d she gave you some more.  She don’t like me, don’t trust me.  Some things you just know from looking someone in the eye.”

Thaddeus nodded agreement then squatted over to the heater.  He dialed the flames down a notch before stepping in to the living room and waving his uncle over. 

Johnny patted Dusty gently on the side and bent to whisper something in his ear.  He stood there staring down at Dusty in the heated glow.  “I love him too, you know.”  He said as he joined Thaddeus in the cool grayness of the other room. 

“I know.  We shouldn’t talk like this in front of him.  What if he can hear?  He’s all locked up on the inside there, probably hearing every word.” 

“He’s my dad.  Let me do it.  I swear, I’ll give it to him as ascribed.”


“Thaddeus, please.”  Uncle Johnny nodded down at Thaddeus’ pocket.  “Fish it out and hand it over.  I understand now.  I know.  I do.”  Thaddeus committed a flinch as Johnny’s blackened hand rose out of the dimness toward his face, only to come to a clasp atop his shoulder.  “What I done was bad.  Please.” 

“I can’t trust you, Uncle Johnny.  Not anymore.”  He stepped out of his uncle’s clasp as tears began streaming down the man’s face.  “Go to bed, sleep off what you’ve drank and we can have a cup of coffee in the morning.”

“Fuck you.  He’ll be dead in the morning.”  Uncle Johnny swiped weakly at Thaddeus’ face, then walked to one of the three standard boxy rooms of the house which he’d taken up residence in since his release from prison.  

Thaddeus turned and leaned in the doorway, stroking the bulging of the morphine bottle in his pocket, taking in the calmness of the glowing room.  “Let things take their course.”  He expected his uncle’s shadow to appear rising up behind him.  When it didn’t, “Goodnight, Uncle Johnny.”

“Thad.”  Thaddeus tilted his head.  “I know you don’t understand, son.  I’m in pain too.”

“Goodnight, I said.”

“Fuck you.”  His uncle’s door clicked shut.

Despite not being cold, Thaddeus went to the heater and stood over it, playing his hands in the flowing heat.  It was only 10:00.  The rest of the night weighed on him in a black doom like the evil sick inside his grandfather.  It was time for the first dose. 

Thaddeus went to his grandpa’s bedside and stared at the old man’s chest.  It seemed, again, as if he were dead.  He brought a steady hand to the old man’s ribs, rested it there, fingers on ribs—a butterfly on a sun bleached corpse.  An exhalation...and, yet again, a hateful intake of air.  

He dug the vial from his pocket and again played it across his callused hands.  Were it to fall and break he would be crushed.  Were it to fall and break he would be elated.  Another intake of air, this time jagged.  Thaddeus closed his fingers around the vial and turned to the side table.  He pinched the sponge tipped stick from the table then placed the vial down.  The eyedropper sat there—an unloaded .357 awaiting bullets.  Carefully, he drew up the dosage Stephanie had given him.  For some reason, he thought of when Miles was a baby and had been sick, giving him antibiotics via an eyedropper.  But this wasn’t going to cure anything.

This eyedropper, this tiny amount of chemical infused liquid held a mercy, held a promise to take everything—everything—away forever.  All the sunny days, and grassy fields, and blue skies, and lovely man defining black coaling tunnels.  And pain.  Thaddeus brought the eye dropper to Dusty’s mouth and pulled down on the old man’s whiskered chin.  Snaggle-toothed mouth and swollen tongue, breath smelling of a slow ending of all things inside.  He was suddenly afraid.  Afraid of everything:  Uncle Johnny sneaking up behind him and snatching the vial away; Helena padding into the room and witnessing what he was about to do; Dusty knowing what he was about to do and screaming against it—all locked up on the inside; if the old man had “found God” at some coherent, weak point in the day, but had not been read any sort of last rites like they do in the movies because everyone was sure he was recovering…

So he’d read him last rites of his own.  With each and every dosage, a last ministry.

“You always kept a good garden, grandpa.  I remember those huge red tomatoes you had that one year.  They put one in the newspaper—grandma was so proud of them, she sent the Breeze a picture.  I remember you complaining they tasted like cat shit from grandma’s cat getting in the garden.”  Thaddeus found himself smiling.  He pulled down again on the old man’s jaw, his mouth having closed and his lips setting like a bad weld.             

Don’t ever be scared…of nothing.

He lifted Dusty’s tongue with the dropper and squirted the medicine in.

“It was a good garden.”

At midnight Dusty’s lips reacted to the eyedropper like a baby to a nipple.  And they revisited the streetcar Dusty had told him he’d rode once in Saint Louis while looking for a job.  He’d rode his first escalator that day in the Peabody building.  Taken in a ball game.  Ate toasted raviolis and got drunk off Busch beer. 

At two a.m. they strolled across the open fields abutting the western edge of town, shotguns cradled across their arms, icy cold breeze of that day, a minty dip of tobacco in their mouths and their eyes wide for sign of quail, that trilling of spooked bird as they took to the air.  The old man had bagged well over the limit and put some in Thaddeus’ pouch so his father could fry it up for supper later. 

Thaddeaus worked a crossword puzzle to while away the long minutes in between doses and even longer moments in between breaths.  At some point, Uncle Johnny needed convincing, again, that he was really okay to stay through until breakfast. 

“Go home, squirt.  I can’t sleep.” 

“Go to bed, asshole.  I can’t sleep either.  I’ll be here until breakfast, when grandma’s up.” 

Uncle Johnny stood above him, arms crossed, hair a mess, his reading glasses askew and eying the morphine.  Thaddeus leaned forward casually and capped the bottle tightly.  “Goodnight.”  He deposited it into his pocket.

His uncle scoffed and shuffled away.  Thaddeus stopped him as he exited the warming glow of the dining room.  “Hey.”  His uncle turned.  The glow from the heater cast evil an yellow onto his lenses.  “You didn’t ask how he was.”

“How is he?”  

“He’s fine.”

Without a word, he entered the dark of the front room and was seen no more that morning.

 And at four in the morning, after revisiting Dusty’s wedding day, the old man breathed no more.

Sunday, April 7, 2013




I only wrote about 600 words this week.  But I’m well satisfied.  I had a fellow writer ask me the other day how to write a necessary scene that is emotional for personal reasons.  I gave her the immortal words of Harry Crews:  Put your ass in the chair and write it.  I did that today to embarrassing consequences.  I’d driven to a café to write as home represented more yard work and another load of laundry to do.  I’m writing a scene where Thaddeus is at his grandpa’s bedside at the time of his death.  And it’s my own story.  It’s embellished very little.  And it’s, as could be expected, gut wrenching to write.  I’m writing and my eyes get all watery.  I look away, think about baseball or some such, then go back at it when the tears subside.  Then I’m all teared up again when the barista comes to my table and asks how my sandwich is.  I look up at her.  Embarrassed.  I tell her the sandwich is fine.  She asks if I’m fine.  I say, “Allergies.”  She, I’m pretty sure, fakes understanding.  Within a few minutes, I pack up and leave. 

            I put my ass in the chair.  I’d been avoiding the writing of this scene, and it’s not done yet.  It will be, later today.  When I’m at home.  I’d told the other writer some advice I’d pulled out of my ass—hey it’s nice to be asked advice via a private message on Facebook—I’d told her, “Arrange a reward for getting it done.”  Well, I don’t have a reward arranged.  I don’t have anything arranged.  I have more of the same to do later.  It will bum me out.  When I’m writing this scene, I’m there again.  I’m at his bedside dropping morphine into his mouth and listening to the jagged breaths, watching the rise and fall of his chest and expecting it to stop at a rise or a fall and never move again.  It fucking sucks.  My only hope is that I can convey just how much it fucking sucks to the reader.  Great progress though.          

Tuesday, April 2, 2013



(I've said this once before)


Jesus Hector Christ, it’s been a supremely shitty writing week.  I almost gave up on TUG.  Several times.  From the virus, to the purported fix—then not fixed—to the new issues…

I had backed everything up on my external hard drive when all the trouble began.  No problem.  This way I was protected just in case my computer needed reset.  When I got my computer back “repaired” I realized, to my horror that nothing had saved.  But that’s all mentioned before in post eight.  So I rewrote what was gone.  I put it into my machine and, as I suspected, it was much better.  Then my computer started acting up again.  Nice.  I printed it right away.  I returned my computer to the “repair shop.”  They promised it’d be back in two days at most.  And I have this hard copy and the re-saved new version on my external hard drive.  I went to a winery (for the first time) and had a really nice chat with the owner about writing.  She even offered to host a reading for me sometime.  She kept insisting she’d love to read what I’ve written and seemed well-read (ie: she doesn’t care for Stephen King).  So I’m kind of buzzed on wine and go out to my car and grab my copy.  Besides, it’s saved on my ex hard drive. 

Later, when I return home, I plug my drive into my daughter’s laptop only to discover that the file exists—with 0 bytes.  And my only copy is in a winery an hour and a half away (probably in their trash can).  And the guy at the computer shop says he may need to reset my laptop.  Well, suffice it to say, “Fuck.”

I went to Best Buy and bought a new computer.

I returned home, plugged in my drive and started writing from the last save point.  Yes, I think it’s better again.  All I have to do is have shitty luck to have good writing luck.  I’m still awaiting the fate of my old laptop. 

Now, on to writing stuff…

I’ve definitely quickened the story.  Remember that timeline I made?  It was just a guide and is now pretty much useless.  But it did serve a purpose in allowing me to marshal my thoughts.  I’m midway through chapter three and events originally scheduled for chapter five are occurring now.  This is good.  I stopped writing tonight at a very (hopefully) moving place in the story.  It was a good writing evening because I’m feeling down in the dumps and this is a sad part of the story.  Getting down in the dumps always helps me write better.  It makes me not live in the moment so much, causes me to become overly introspective.  Sometimes the dreaded future of things seems so clear that I feel fortunate to have clarity, any clarity.  This clarity seems to help me to focus on the past, present, and future of pretend characters in a pretend story.  Being as this story is, basically, my story I can tune in to the mood so easily. 

So bad luck and sadness are my key.  Lucky me.  Performing a psychoanalysis of myself causes me to believe that the more I want my story to succeed, the more I’ll determine ways to maintain this melancholy.  That’s a pretty stupid statement.  But it just might be true. 

Three and a half chapters into things and I’m thinking of taking a risk in chapter four.  I want all these goals, subplots, etc to be established by the end of chapter four, that’ll be about 40 pages in.  I’m trying to keep chapter length consistent at 10-12 pages.  The reason I feel this is a risk is that it’s going to be a lot of information in a short space.  Again, I want things organic.  I’m avoiding as much narration as possible.  I think I can do this through dialogue and by my antagonist finally making a physical appearance in the story (I want all the major characters to be introduced as well by the end of chapter four).

I only wrote about 700 NEW words this week which isn’t bad considering all the down time and frustration.  I look to have hammered out the rest of chapter three then get a good start on chapter four.  

At 7000 words and getting my pace back.  Again, screw that asshole hoodoo bad mojo monster.  He’ll lose.  He always does.              

Monday, March 25, 2013




A horrendous week of writing.  I’m being stalked by a bad writing hoodoo monster.  It seems to happen when working on a massive project—everything goes wrong at once.  It’s almost like potential success is sometimes stalked (too much alliteration there) in flurries of bad luck.  The Michael Meyer of ill will has his eyes set on crushing the spark of hope and drive and ambition.  He can kiss my ass.  This week the following has occurred with my writing:            
--computer virus hijacked my computer
--lost my emergency back-up flash drive
--my printer was suddenly “not read” by my printer
--dropped my outline which blew away in the wind and down the street
--spent 100.00 to fix my computer
--my computer shut down after over an hour of highly productive work (after “being fixed,” mind you) and everything was lost despite my compulsive periodic saving
--my “consistency key” has vanished off my hard drive and, despite being saved on my external hard drive, exists only as the title “Tug Consistency Key.”
So now I’m getting pop-up errors about not being able to auto save.  This thing will probably shut down again on me.
BUT!  Some good things did happen.  I have remembered my tweaks and new stuff I’ve written and am going to do it all again—on paper.  I finally got it to print and will take out a pencil and get busy.  It may do me some good to reflect on the potential changes.  The new stuff I did write and manage to save is really progressing the story.  I decided to speed things along a bit. 
All the major information about Thaddeus will be developed in the first two and a half chapters.  I feel this is important.  Tug isn’t going to be an epic length book.  I like it like that.  Otherwise, I’m writing just to write and ripping off the story.  And the readers.  Whoever they may, hopefully, be. 
I will re-write my consistency key as well.  I realized errors I made in my first two books most usually center around consistency.  Even though I’m a fantastic liar, I even need to keep my facts straight.  But above all, I have a lot of characters in this story.  I arranged my characters sort of end of movie credit style, in order of appearance.  For the more major characters I limited myself to one sentence about them.  What is their most important element they’re bringing to the table? 
I’m at 6300 words now and going strong.  Strong except for that asshole hoodoo bad mojo monster.  He’ll lose.  He always does.  Poor guy.  Go harass Stephen King.  Please. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013



I’m not writing this week.  I haven’t been in the frame of mind for the story.  I can’t even seem to picture the characters in my head, see them in scene, predict their present—much less their future.  This seems to happen when I’m on to something good.  I get to this point where I realize it is good, may even have potential to be slightly better than good.  But what if it’s not.  What if I blow it?  You can have a fantastic start at anything then let everyone down. 

The thing is, I know where I’m at in the story.  My timeline has been modified to speed the beginning of the story along.  But I’m nervous.  It’s like crossing a frozen pond.  Right off the shore where you can fall and clutch at the land should you need to, you’re all guarded confidence.  Further out in the middle of the freeze you’re just fucked if something breaks.  Getting to the start is impossible.  You can die there, covered over by your horrible miscalculation. 

I’m going to try to stop thinking about it.  I’ll go for a drive with the music off.  I’ll review those cool ideas I had earlier in the week.  I’ll bring up my laptop and stare at the blank screen, white and pristine as the proverbial frozen water.

Yeah, maybe that will work. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013


The Entry Where I Confess

The great Harry Crews once said, "A writer's job is to get naked, to hide nothing, to look away from nothing, to look at it," he wrote. "To not blink, to not be embarrassed by it or ashamed of it. Strip it down and let's get to where the blood is, where the bone is."

And that’s exactly what I’m doing with “Tug.”  I look forward to those stolen moments throughout the week where I can revisit these characters, this down-trodden town and the pursuits within.  But I don’t miss the characters.  It’s not a happy story.  It aims to happy in the long run, but it’s not a bullshitter story.  It pulls no punches on the human condition.  Most of all, it’s me.  It’s my story.  My story too lacking of anything truly outstanding to warrant as a memoir, but too full of literary quality to ignore.  There is art all around us.  Take a look at a situation—any situation you find yourself in—and find the literary stuff that it’s made up of.  Find some catharsis in your situation and write it down.  Each and every week, I’m back at the events that made up last year.  Tonight, I cried.  Well, I guy cried.  I was back in this particular moment that had me welling up then and now.  So I write it down. 

But there’s a danger inherent to writing so full of personal emotion:  will YOUR experience translate as meaningful onto the page?  I think there’s this rule to not write fiction with you as the character.  Well, fuck that.  If you’re a good enough writer, go ahead.  If you can make your story someone else’s, do it.  If you can connect with a reader through story, write anything!  If you can control the power of your words, channel that feeling into words that nail another reader in the gut—write on (pun {or double entendre?} intended). 

 "If you're gonna write, for God in heaven's sake, try to get naked, “Harry Crews said. “Try to write the truth. Try to get underneath all the sham, all the excuses, all the lies that you've been told."

Yes, try to get beneath all the lies and excuses you’ve told yourself about yourself.  Forget all those rationalizations.  Show the dark side of yourself.  Grab onto that shit in your life that made that dark side of yourself and embrace it.  Without all that darkness, you probably wouldn’t be writing darkness in the first place.  So love on it.  Cherish the darkness.  I should thank being locked and duct taped in a closet oftentimes as a child.  I should thank quite possibly being diddled by some man and fearful that I’ll remember it someday.  I should thank being tiny and booger nosed all the time.  Messy hair, afraid to speak, in silent worship of all the other kids who were bigger and braver than me.  I should thank being told by a parent, I wasn’t able to be loved.  I should thank the mystery visitor I’m denied having ever existed who brought me toys and asked me if I wanted to live with her.  I should be happy that the tension in my house pressed upon me each and every day and begged of escape. 

For now, I’ll just write on.  I’m at 5097 words and it’s going well.      

Sunday, March 3, 2013


I'ts not the size that counts.  Doing my very small part to take out a forest.


 I ended the week at 3,999 words.  I’ve printed this thing out, read it, read it again, crossed this out, enhanced that, went back and back—which is against the rules of writing—to the same material before moving on.  But screw that rule.  I CAN’T move on until I have what came before it in an ACCEPTABLE place.  It’s not perfect, but I have all my material lined up.  I MUST have my characterization consistent, their actions, the time of day, the weather, the goals, the dialogue, the freaking color of shirt their wearing—everything—consistent.  Writing anything of length is like telling the biggest lie of your life.  You’re on trial for murder and you did it.  Shit, THEY know you did it.  But you have to keep all these details in your innocent story straight, you must maintain your credibility in at least one juror’s mind.  For all it takes, is one to believe in you.  Same thing with trying to get published.  I have to convince just one agent or publisher to believe in me.  I must have them read past five sentences in my book, maybe even read a paragraph.  Then maybe a page, then maybe the entire first chapter.  Believe in me!

So, yes, I break that little rule.  It is a good rule though, if followed correctly.  You don’t want to lose focus of the ends you mean to meet but spinning your writing wheels (unnecessary alliteration) with editing.  I’m talking about consistency, getting your traction back into the meat of the story before moving on.  Your voice, your feel as you write.  Hell, think of it as stretching before a run.  If you don’t run, think of it as foreplay.  Ha!

Print it out, take a pen to it, input the changes and enhancements, ignore the grammar.  Print it out again, take it to work in your lunch bag.  Take it onto the toilet with you.  On the bus.  To the gym when you jog or sit in the sauna.  Just keep it with you and in your mind.  Keep printing, keep scribbling. 

 You can’t be a writer and want to save trees.  To hell with them.  You want to see an en masse printing of your novel, you want the National Park Service pissed off at you.  So print away. 

As I was running through my first chapter I thought about what sort of feedback it would receive.  A writer should do that.  What is the reader going to think?  What assumptions will they make about the next thing to happen?  What do they think of Thaddeus?  What do they want for him?  Most importantly, is he likeable?  Writing is a business that tests your trust, you’re faith in others.  On the one hand, you want positive feedback.  On the other, you want honest feedback.  But who do you trust?  And if they are kind enough to give honest feedback which highlights negative aspects of your piece or areas they feel can be improved, who are they to say so?  What credentials do they gave.  If they’re a college professor, are they a good one?  Have they been published anyway?  If so, was it a good book?  Does earlier said positive reader just want to get in your pants?  Are they afraid of giving anything less than positive review because they want a positive review from you?  Are you just masturbating your own ego by providing it to people you know will give you a glowing review?

--I just said masturbating in a blog about writing…

Talk about the trust and rejection, the irony of wanting to trust for honest feedback, but the ire at sometimes hearing it.  You’re an unsatisfiable bitch.  So, I’m posting just my first two paragraphs.  I would appreciate some honest feedback.  If you’d like to read more, let me know.  I won’t let you, but let me know.  If you’d put this book back on the shelf and forget it before you’ve finished checking out with your new issue of MAD magazine in hand, let me know.  And if you’d like to offer me your first paragraphs of anything you’re writing for my honest feedback, I promise, even if you destroy my first paragraph with brutal honesty, if yours merits a glowing masturbatory review (that was completely unnecessary and illogical) I’ll let you have it.

                Until next week…


 Wind lashed at Thaddeus Pulliam, the driving rain cooling him as he pulled the mud heavied rope against the young tree.   His lungs burning and hands gone numb, he allowed the fat rope to sag momentarily as he recaptured any remaining strength.  Slapping rain from his eyes, he stared proudly, determinedly at the white spot of naked tree, the bark long ago worn away smooth by the rope and his pulling.  Lightening strung about the sky and Thaddeus imagined the energy infusing into his body, charging him like a battery for another pull.   Quickly, he dug into the mud with the side of his military boots then braced for the next pull.  His lungs burned and his forearms twitched.  In truth, the last thing Thaddeus wanted to do was pull the rain slickened rope another time.  But he’d not win the tug-of-war without training and the tree had not been worn smooth by thinking about another pull.  And he had to win.  At all costs.  He wouldn’t face another day knowing he’d given up with another pull left inside.  He’d never pull the tree down, he was fairly certain of that.  And that was fine.  He’d damn sure try though.  Thunder sounded against his back prefacing a lightening strike behind the shed, a mere 20 yards away.  Thaddeus yelled at the rain and the mud and the tree, squatted and pulled.  The tree bent and Thaddeus screamed at it, smiling as he took another inch of ground from it in a sidestep.  He pulled, stepped, and fell hard onto the tore up ground.

The back porch light flashed the usual two-times code.  It was time to come in.  With a growl, Thaddeus released the rope and stumbled to the back porch.  The muscle tissue in his legs pounded, all flushed with blood as they began an immediate recovery.  All the exertion gone, it became suddenly apparent to Thaddeus that this was a cold November rain.   Under cover of the porch, he stripped off his boots and sweat suit, stopping at his underwear.   The door parted open and without looking at him, his daughter handed out a towel.  He dried himself then stepped inside. 
            “Thank you, hon.”