Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Two Bits Worth 25 Writing Tips from Fiction Authors

Two Bits Worth

25 Writing Tips from Fiction Authors

Writing success boils down to hard work, imagination and passion—and then some more hard work. Here are 25 writing tips from some best selling fiction authors.

Print a copy to put on your desk, home office, refrigerator door, or somewhere else noticeable so you can be constantly reminded not to let your story ideas wither away by putting off your writing.

Tip1: TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies says,  “Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.”

Tip 2: "Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you." — Zadie Smith

Tip 3: "Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution." — Michael Moorcock

Tip 4: "In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it." — Rose Tremain

Tip 5: "Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever." — Will Self

Tip 6: "It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction." — Jonathan Franzen

"Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet." — Zadie Smith

Tip 7: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: Memoir of the Craft

Tip 8: "Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear)." — Diana Athill

Tip 9: "Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." – Anton Chekhov

Tip 10: "Listen to the criticisms and preferences of your trusted 'first readers.'" — Rose Tremain

Tip 11: "Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 12: "Don't panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends' embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there's prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too." — Sarah Waters

Tip 13: "The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can't deal with this you needn't apply." — Will Self

Tip 14: "Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!" — Joyce Carol Oates

Tip 15: "The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 16: "Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful." — Elmore Leonard

Tip 17: "Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong." — Neil Gaiman

Tip 18: "You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished." — Will Self

Tip 19: "The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter." — Neil Gaiman

Tip 20: "The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’" — Helen Simpson

Tip 21: Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it.” ― Lloyd Alexander

Tip 22: “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” ― Stephen King

Tip 23: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Tip 24“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”  – Mark Twain

Tip 25: “There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way.

One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day.

Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles.

The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.” ― L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New Dialogue tags vs Descriptive Beats

In any good ‘how to write fiction’ book you’ll find at least one chapter if not two on the use and formatting of dialogue. Since dialogue can reveal a writer’s strengths or weaknesses, crafting good dialogue can be difficult. There are many pitfalls that writers can stumble into with dialogue.

There are skills you can develop to strengthen your dialogue. I would like to offer some insights into dialogue tags, descriptive beats in place of tags, and how to punctuate them. While these mechanics aren't actually dialogue, they do draw attention to it and can influence how your readers will read a character’s dialogue and draw a reader into your story.

Accepted writing practices change over time. When Jules Verne wrote Journey To The Center Of The Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, etc or Wells wrote The Time Machine, the mode of writing for the time was 'Let Me Tell You A Story'. Throughout the narrative Verne and Wells tell you what each character is doing and thinking.

As I said writing practices change over time. Go to good writers conference and listen to any book editor. The word said is the acceptable dialogue tag. Any good editor will tell you the word asked is less acceptable  now-a-days. Ask that editor about authors like Asimov and he or she will tell that the author of over 4000 book not could get published under today writing standards.Why, because writing styles have changed. Among those changes are the use of dialogue tags and descriptive beats.

This is let me tell you a story.

Three year old Reese walked up to his grandmother and asked for another drink of milk.

Now a dialogue tag.

 "Grandma, can I have some milk?" Reese asked.

The dialogue tag 'asked' is redundant here or anywhere. The dialogue by Reese already tells the reader it's a question. But how old is Reese? By the above sentence you have no way of knowing Instead you could put an action in to enhance the scene and let your reader know more about the child..

Reese held up his sippy cup. "Grandma, can I have more milk?"

Here your reader can tell Reese is a young child, because of the style of cup he presented for a refill.
To make the scene even clearer, you can put the dialogue into a child's language.

Reese held up his sippy cup. "Grandma, more milk pease?"

Now can you show Reese is very young  without telling the reader anything else. By this simple method the reader can figure the child is about 3 years old.

Dialogue tag: A manner of speaking. Comes before or after dialogue.

she said.

I find there are two common mistakes or misconception we all have with the use dialogue tags.

First: Being afraid to use said.
Second: Believing said becomes repetitive.

As a result, many writers have their characters constantly, stating, shouting, mumbling, murmuring, whispering, responding, commenting or commanding. When we feel the need to explain how a characters says something, then his or her dialogue isn't strong enough. At the other end of the spectrum, if your dialogue is strong enough, then your tag only repeats to the reader what your character has just shown them.

There is a time and place for non said dialogue tags. The excessive use of these tags is considered weak writing.

I've asked and heard the question asked, "Doesn't the use of ‘said’ become repetitive and boring?"

The short answer is: No. As writers we are attuned to words. We pay attention to them. But if you’re doing you job right, the average reader is engrossed in the story and connected to the characters. A reader's eyes tends to pass over ‘said’ or ‘asked.’ If these tags stand out, it usually means your narrative isn’t being woven sufficiently into the dialogue.
Another mistake is over using the said or asked tags when there are only two characters in the scene. An occasional tag should be used in a long scene of dialogue to help the reader keep track of who is speaking. In scenes with more then two characters a combination of dialogue tags and descriptive beats will keep the story moving and the reader engrossed.
In his book ‘The Sixteenth Man" Thomas B. Sawyer’s entire manuscript is written without a single dialogue tag. Rather, Tom effectively uses descriptive beats for two person dialogue and for scenes with multiple character

Descriptive beat: A sentence before, after, or breaking up dialogue that describes a character’s response or action.
Janet finished brushing her hair. "I’m ready for my close up."

Len held out a steaming mug. "Coffee, Mark?"
These examples are very basic. You can effectively eliminate all or most dialogue tags by weaving descriptive beats into your dialogue. However, any writer must be cautious about the use of descriptive beats. You need to pick quality descriptions, ones that reveal a character’s personality, motivation or adds to the setting and feel of the story. Having a characters make too many meaningful glances, or smiles, or nods will make your descriptions feel repetitive and unoriginal.

Another area easy to fix, that will strengthen your writing is punctuation.
Dialogue tag: "Hand me that book," he said. (Comma inside the quotation marks)
Descriptive Beat: He pointed to the tome. "Hand me that book." (Period inside the quotations)
It’s as simple as paying attention to what you’re writing. Ask yourself this question. Is this a way of speaking? If yes, then punctuate with a comma. If no, use a period.
A final note, there are always gray areas. Groaned for example, is it a way of speaking or a noise made?
"Oh no," he groaned.
"Oh no." He groaned.
This is where you, the writer, has ultimate control of your story, by determining the best way to use the rules of the craft to tell your tale.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Once in a while I come across an article that nails the subject I'm working on better then I ever could. This is one of those articles. The following is taken directly from, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. I refer this PDF extensively with working a difficult scene. It is quoted word for word. (Reformatting is mine)

By definition, nonverbal emotion can’t be told. It has to be shown. This makes it difficult to write because telling is easier than showing. Here’s an example:

     Mr. Paxton’s eyes were sad as he gave her the news. “I’m sorry, JoAnne, but your position with the company is no longer necessary.”
     Instantly, JoAnne was angrier than she’d ever been in her life.

This exchange is fairly easy to write—but not so easy to read. Readers are smart and can figure things out for themselves. They don’t want to have the scene explained to them, which is what happens when a writer tells how a character feels. Another problem with telling is that it creates distance between the reader and your characters, which is rarely a good idea.

In the preceding example, the reader sees that Mr. Paxton is reluctant to give JoAnne the bad news and that JoAnne is angry about it. But you don’t want the reader to only see what’s happening; you want them to feel the emotion, and to experience it along with the character. To accomplish this, writers need to show the character’s physical and internal responses rather than stating the emotion outright.
       JoAnne sat on the chair’s edge, spine straight as a new pencil, and stared into Mr. Paxton’s face. Sixteen years she’d given him—days she was sick, days the kids were sick—making the trip back and forth across town on that sweaty bus. Now he wouldn’t even look at her, just kept fiddling with her folder and rearranging the fancy knickknacks on his desk. Clearly, he didn’t want to give her the news, but she wasn’t about to make it easy for him.
     The vinyl of her purse crackled and she lightened her grip on it. Her picture of the kids was in there and she didn’t want it creased.
Mr. Paxton cleared his throat for the hundredth time.
     “JoAnne…Mrs. Benson…it appears that your position with the company is no longer—”
      JoAnne jerked to her feet, sending her chair flying over the tile. It hit the wall with a satisfying bang as she stormed from the office.

This scene gives the reader a much better opportunity to share in JoAnne’s anger.
Through the use of sensory details, a well chosen simile, specific verbs, and body cues
that correspond with the featured emotion, readers can see that JoAnne is angry, but they also feel it—in the straightness of her spine and the cheap vinyl in her grip, in the force it takes to send a chair flying across the room simply from the act of standing.
An example like this also reveals a lot about the character. JoAnne is not well-to-do.
She has children to support. She may be angry, but she’s also strong minded, family
oriented, and proud. This information rounds out JoAnne’s character and makes her more relatable to the reader.

Showing takes more work then telling, as word count alone will indicate, but it pays
off by drawing the reader closer to the character and helping to create empathy. Once in a
great while, it’s acceptable to tell the reader what the character is feeling: when you have
to pass on information quickly, or when you need a crisp sentence to convey a shift in
mood or attention. But the other ninety-nine times out of a hundred, put in the extra work and you will reap the benefits of showing.

     • The grin that stretches from ear to ear.
     • A single tear pooling in the eye before coursing down the cheek.
     • Quivering knees that knock together.
Clichés in literature are vilified for good reason. They’re a sign of lazy writing, a
result of settling on the easy phrase because coming up with something new is too hard.
Writers often fall back on clichés because, technically, these tired examples work. That
grin implies happiness as certainly as knee knocking indicates fear. Unfortunately,
phrases like these lack depth because they don’t allow for a range of emotions. That
single tear tells you that the person is sad, but how upset is she? Sad enough to sob?
Shriek? Collapse? Will she even be crying five minutes from now? To relate to your
character, the reader needs to know the depth of emotion being experienced.

When writing a certain emotion, think about your body and what happens to it when
you’re feeling that way. Excitement, for example. The heart races and the pulse quickens.
Legs bounce. The speech of a methodical person becomes fast paced with streaming
words. The voice is pitched higher and louder. For any given emotion, there are literally
dozens of internal and external changes that, when referenced, will show the reader what
your character is feeling. The lists in this thesaurus are great for providing ideas, but your
own observations are just as helpful. Watch people—real flesh-and-blood specimens at
the mall or characters in movies. Note how they act when they’re confused or
overwhelmed or irritable. The face is the easiest to notice but the rest of the body is just
as telling. Don’t overlook changes in a person’s voice, speech, or overall bearing and

Secondly, know your character. Individuals do things differently—even mundane
activities like brushing their teeth, driving, or making dinner. Emotions are no exception.
Not every character will shout and throw things when angry. Some speak in quiet voices.
Others go completely silent. Many, for various reasons, will cover their anger and act like
they’re not upset at all. Whatever your character is feeling, describe the emotion in a way
that is specific to him or her, and you’re almost guaranteed to write something new and


If all emotions were of average intensity, they’d be easier to describe. But emotions vary in strength. Take fear, for instance. Depending upon the severity of the situation, a person might feel anything from unease to anxiety to paranoia or terror. Extreme emotions will require extreme descriptors, while others are relatively subtle and must be described as such. Unfortunately, many writers make the mistake of assuming that to be gripping, emotion must be dramatic. Sad people should burst into tears. Joyful characters must express their glee by jumping up and down. This kind of writing results in melodrama, which leads to a sense of disbelief in the reader because, in real life, emotion isn’t always so demonstrative.

To avoid melodrama, recognize that emotions run along a continuum, from mild to extreme. For each situation, know where your character is along that continuum and choose appropriate descriptors. Just as extreme emotions call for extreme indicators, temperate emotions should be expressed subtly. The indicators for intermediate emotions will lie somewhere in the middle. It’s also very important that your character follows a smooth emotional arc. Consider the following example:

     Mack tapped his thumb against the steering wheel, one arm dangling out the window. He smiled at Dana but she just sat there, twisting that one loop of hair around her finger. “Worried about your interview tomorrow?” he said.
     “A little. It’s a great opportunity but the timing’s awful. There’s too much going on.” She sighed. “I’ve been thinking about cutting back. Simplifying.”
     “Good idea.” He nodded along with the radio and waved at the biker who thundered past on his Harley.
       “I’m glad you agree.” She faced him. “I think we should break up.”
     His foot slipped off the gas pedal. The air grew heavy, making it hard to breathe. The car veered toward the middle line and he let it drift, not caring whether he lived or died.

Unless Mack has a psychological reason for doing so, he shouldn’t jump from placidity to depression in a matter of seconds. A realistic progression would be to move from contentment to shock, then disbelief, and finally to grief. Done thoughtfully, this emotional arc can be shown with relatively few words:

     “I’m glad you agree.” She faced him. “I think we should break up.”
      His foot slipped off the gas pedal. “Break up? What are you talking about?”
      “Mack. We’ve been headed this way for awhile, you know that.”
      He gripped the steering wheel and took deep breaths. Sure, things had been rough lately, and she kept talking about taking some time, but she always came around. And she’d definitely never uttered the words, “break up.”
     “Look, Dana—”
     “Please, don’t. You can’t talk me out of it this time.” She stared at the
dashboard. “I’m sorry.”
     His insides twisted. He darted a look at Dana, but she was curled against the window now, both hands resting easy in her lap. He gaped at her. They were totally breaking up.

Make sure that your character’s feelings progress realistically. Map out the emotional journey within the scene to avoid unintended melodrama. All of this is not to say that real life doesn’t produce extreme emotion. Birth, death, loss, change—some situations call for intense responses that may go on for awhile. Many writers, in an admirable attempt to maintain believability, try to recreate these events in real time. This results in long paragraphs or even pages of high emotion and, inevitably, melodrama. Though real life can sustain this kind of intensity for long periods of time, it’s nearly impossible for the written word to do so in a way that readers will accept.

In these situations, avoid melodrama by abbreviating. This method is often used for other real-life scenarios—conversations, for instance. Small talk is left out to keep the pace moving forward. Mundane tasks are also cut short, because the reader doesn’t need (or want) to see the entire car washed, a piece at a time, while Bob ponders a problem at work. In the same way, extensive emotional scenes should be long enough to convey the appropriate information, but not so long that you lose the audience. Write the emotion well, develop empathy in your reader, maximize the words that you do use, but don’t overstay your welcome.
Because nonverbal writing is so hard to master, it makes sense that some writers shy
away from it, choosing to rely more on thoughts or dialogue to express what a character
is feeling. But an over-reliance on either leads to problems.

     “Are—Are you sure?” I asked.
     “Without a doubt,” Professor Baker replied. “It was neck-and-neck right
up to the end, but you came out ahead. Congratulations, William!”
     “I can’t believe it,” I said. “Valedictorian! I’m so happy!”

Word choice is important in expressing emotion, but it will only go so far. After that,
the writer is reduced to weak techniques like telling the reader what’s being felt (I’m so
happy) and over-using exclamation points to show intensity. Without any action to break
up the dialogue, the conversation also sounds stilted. On the other hand, conveying emotion solely through thoughts has its problems, too.

     My pulse was pounding somewhere in the 160 range. I did it! Valedictorian! I was sure Nathan would come out ahead—he was a phenom in the physics lab, and he’d been a ghost at school all month, practically living in the library.
      I threw my arms around Professor Baker. I’d think about this later and cringe with embarrassment, but right now, I didn’t care. I’d done it! Take THAT, Nathan Shusterman!

Technically, there’s nothing wrong with this sample. Bodily cues, both internal and
external, are included. It’s clear to the reader that William is excited. Yet it doesn’t ring
true. Why? Because this monologue screams for verbal interaction with others. Professor
Baker is there and has clearly been talking to William. For William to be so incredibly
excited and not say anything comes across as…odd.

Internal dialogue is an important part of any story. There are many scenes and
scenarios where a paragraph or more of contemplation is appropriate. This isn’t one of
them. For this scene, and for the majority of scenes, emotion is much more effectively
conveyed through a mixture of dialogue, thoughts, and body language.

     My pulse jittered somewhere around the 160 mark. No, I’d heard him wrong, been tricked by an over-active, sleep-deprived, twisted imagination.
     “Are—” I cleared my throat. “Are you sure?”
     “It was neck-and-neck right up to the end, but you came out ahead. Congratulations, William.”
     The leather chair squeaked as I collapsed into it. Valedictorian. How’d I beat out Nathan, who’d been a ghost all month, practically living in the library? Not to mention that B- I scraped in physics.“But I did it,” I whispered.
     The professor stood to shake my hand. I jumped up and threw my arms around him, lifting him off the floor. Later, I’d remember this and die of embarrassment, but right now I didn’t care.
     “I did it! Take THAT, Nathan Shusterman!”
     “Knew you had it in you,” the professor said in a strangled voice.

When expressing emotion, vary your vehicles, using both verbal and nonverbal techniques for maximum impact.

Every character is unique, influenced largely by events from the past. One surefire way to gain reader empathy is to reveal why a character is the way he is. Take the movie Jaws, for example. The first glimpse we have of shark hunter Quint, he’s raking his none too-clean fingernails down a chalkboard. Hardly endearing. As the movie progresses, the viewer’s dislike is justified through his crass manners and bullying of young Mr. Hooper. But once he tells his story of the sinking of the Indianapolis and his five days and nights treading water with the sharks, the viewer understands how he became so hardened. His behavior hasn’t changed and we still don’t like him very much, but we empathize with
him now. We wish him better than what life has served up to him.

This is just one example of the importance of back story in building reader empathy. People are products of their past. As the author, it’s important for you to know why your characters are the way they are and to pass that information along to readers. However, it’s hard to know just how much to share. Many writers, in an attempt to gain reader empathy, reveal too much. Excessive back story slows the pace and can bore readers, tempting them to skip ahead to the good stuff. Undoubtedly, Quint’s path to crusty and crazy contained more than that one unfortunate event, but the rest didn’t need to be shared. That one story, artfully told, was enough.

In order to avoid using too much back story, determine which details from your character’s past are necessary to share. Dole them out through the context of the present time story to keep the pace moving. For inspiration, consider your favorite literary characters, even those who may have been unlikable. Revisit their stories to see what clues from the past the author chose to reveal, and how it was done.
Back story is tricky to write well. As is true of so many areas of writing, balance is the key.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi., is available in downloadable PDF format here: http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/  As well as on Google, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords.

This is a must have for anyone needing help finding ways to write and emotionally charged scene. (And we all do.)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Do YOU need an Editor?

Do you need and Editor?

I'm constantly amazed at writers who come to our writers group or any group with a story they've written to have it critiqued. From the first it's easy to tell whether they've really serious about having others opinions or they just there to have their egos stroked.

They sit there stone faced, nodding while the members provided honest observations about problems they see in the writing, the story or both. Some listen, go home, work on incorporating the comments they feel are most helpful into the next chapter. Some listen, but return with little if any improvement. The ones I really feel for are those who get their feelings hurt and don't return. Instead they go elsewhere, looking for someone to tell them its a great novel. If that's what you need, have your mother read it.

If you are one of the lucky few accepted by a publisher, tuck your ego in your in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. The redlines, corrections, deletions, and changes have just begun. In case you don't know, a traditional publishers employs an army of people who will go over your book. Content, line, grammar editors and proof readers, stand between you and publication. So you work has just begun.

Case in point. A woman came to Mystic Publishers a few years ago with a novel she wished to self-publish. She was asked if she'd had the manuscript edited. She replied that her family had read it and it was ready for publication. Most self-publishing houses would have said great and sent it to press. After reading the first two chapters, the people at Mystic suggested they have an editor look at it. What the author received back shocked her. Every page had some much red on it you have though the story had tried to slash its wrists. The author hired the editor, made the corrections, but never bothered to have someone proof read it. She insisted on printing 500 copies. He son bought a copy and returned it the next day the book's errors all red-lined. Almost every page had errors. Now the author has 500 units of fire starter.

Three years ago I joined a writers group to share my work. For one reason, to a better idea of what I'm doing right, but mostly where I'm going wrong. I soon learned that while theses are good people and good writers, they're not there to stroke anyone's ego.

Case in point. My first book, I published in a vacuum, so to speak. Wrote it, talked a few people into editing it and made the corrections. No one else saw it until it hit the market, (and didn't sell). A friends wife read it and handed the book back to me with sticky tabs on numerous pages. Close to fifty typos.  When I started sharing it with the group I learned very quickly what show don't tell really means. I went back pulled the ISBN number and rewrote the story. The first half was just released by NewLink Publishing, titled, Dreams and Deceptions. (ISBN # 978-1-941271-00-1) It's on Amazon and available for the Kindle and available in most other eBook formats on Smash Words. Part two Plots and Prophecies will be released early in 2015. I'm busy working on books 3 & 4

So, do you need and editor?  John Grisham, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, JK Rowlins, Sue Grafton, and Orson Scott Card all have editors, Heck, Even in the make-believe TV world of Jessica Fletcher and Richard Castle, and Tim McGee, they all have editor. What makes us think we don't.
Don't get discouraged, to turn a good story into a great novel takes hard work and dedication and at least one decent editor.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Just released Dreams and Deceptions

What can one obscure man do against powerful unseen forces trying to depopulate his world.
Find out what ancient journals reveal about Kalen's struggle to preserve himself, his world and the freedom of the colonies spread across a far quadrant of the galaxy.

Translated and just release, Dreams & Deceptions, the first book in The MacKenna Saga. Available at Amazon in Paperback and for the Kindle.


Available at Smashwords in all e book formats epub, kindle, etc.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Food for thought.    

Lou Holtz states the basic philosophical difference between the policies of the two principal political parties of the USA.     

If you do not like this analysis, I'm sorry but that is the way it is..........................

This is absolutely powerful, insightful
This tells what is going on better than anything I have seen!
Subject: Two Americas - Lou Holtz nails it
The Democrats are right, there are two Americas. The America that works, and the America that doesn’t. The America that contributes, and the America that doesn’t. It’s not the haves and the have not's, it’s the dos and the don'ts. Some people do their duty as Americans, obey the law, support themselves, contribute to society, and others don't.  That’s the divide in America.

It’s not about income inequality, it’s about civic irresponsibility. It’s about a political party that preaches hatred, greed and victimization in order to win elective office.   

It’s about a political party that loves power more than it loves its country. That’s not invective, that’s truth, and it’s about time someone said it.

The politics of envy was on proud display a couple weeks ago when President Obama pledged the rest of his term to fighting “income inequality.”  He noted that some people make more than other people, that some people have higher incomes than others, and he say that’s not just.  That is the rationale of thievery.

The other guy has it, you want it, Obama will take it for you. Vote Democrat. That is the philosophy that produced Detroit.
It is the electoral philosophy that is destroying America.  It conceals a fundamental deviation from American values and common sense because it ends up not benefiting the people who support it, but a betrayal.

The Democrats have not empowered their followers, they have enslaved them in a culture of dependence and entitlement, of victim-hood and anger instead of ability and hope. The president’ premise –that you reduce income inequality by debasing the successful –seeks to deny the successful the consequences of their choices and spare the unsuccessful the consequences of their choices.  Because, by and large, income variations in society is a result of different choices leading to different consequences. Those who choose wisely and responsibility have a far greater likelihood of success, while those who choose foolishly and irresponsibly have a far greater likelihood of failure.  Success and failure usually manifest themselves in personal and family income.  

You choose to drop out of high school or to skip college – and you are apt to have a different outcome than someone who gets a diploma and pushes on with purposeful education. You have your children out of wedlock and life is apt to take one course; you have them within a marriage and life is apt to take another course. Most often in life our destination is determined by the course we take.

My doctor, for example, makes far more than I do. There is significant income inequality between us. Our lives have had an inequality of outcome, but, our lives also have had an in equality of effort.  While my doctor went to college and then devoted his young adulthood to medical school and residency, I got a job in a restaurant. He made a choice, I made a choice, and our choices led us to different outcomes.  His outcome pays a lot better than mine. Does that mean he cheated and Barack Obama needs to take away his wealth?  No, it means we are both free men in a free society where free choices lead to different outcomes. 
It is not inequality Barack Obama intends to take away, it is freedom. The freedom to succeed, and the freedom to fail.

There is no true option for success if there is no true option for failure. The pursuit of happiness means a whole lot less when you face the punitive hand of government if your pursuit brings you more happiness than the other guy.   Even if the other guy sat on his arse and did nothing.  Even if the other guy made a lifetime’s worth of asinine and short sighted decisions.

Barack Obama and the Democrats preach equality of outcome as a right, while completely ignoring inequality of effort.

The simple Law of the Harvest – as ye sow, so shall ye reap – is sometimes applied as, “The harder you work, the more you get."

Obama would turn that upside down. Those who achieve are to be punished as enemies of society and those who fail are to be rewarded as wards of society. Entitlement will replace effort as the key to upward mobility in American society if Barack Obama gets his way. He seeks a lowest common denominator society in which the government besieges the successful and productive to foster equality through mediocrity. 

He and his party speak of two Americas, and their grip on power is based on using the votes of one to sap the productivity of the other.  America is not divided by the differences in our outcomes, it is divided by the differences in our efforts.

It is a false philosophy to say one man’s success comes about unavoidably as the result of another man’s victimization.

What Obama offered was not a solution, but a separatism. He fomented division and strife, pitted one set of Americans against another for his own political benefit.  That’s what socialists offer.  

Marxist class warfare wrapped up with a bow. Two Americas, coming closer each day to proving the truth to Lincoln’s maxim that a house divided against itself cannot stand. 
"Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it."

Lou Holtz
Leo "Lou" Holtz (born January 6, 1937) is a retired American football coach, and active sportscaster, author, and motivational speaker.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Records, The promised future post

The book I held in my hand is the oldest record yet is the best preserved. The cover is a burnished silver metal, approximately eleven by seventeen inches. Despite its age it has lost none of its sheen. When I opened the case the pages were not made of paper, or parchment. They are made of a thin, semi-opaque film that resembles vellum. I could remove any page with a gentle tug. When reinserted they reattach to the spine. the odd thing is they can only put back in the proper place.

While I scanned the first pages of the strange journal the old gentleman explained what they had so far translated..

"As near as I can figure this history predates our own by eight thousand years. They call their world Aspera, a planet on the far of another galaxy. That record you’re holdin’ speaks of endless battles between the Killan Kingdom and the Quinta Empire. Not so different from our own medieval history."

“The war between the Killan Kingdom and the Quinta Empire started over a broken trust. A lie told by some politician. It caused the start the class wars and plunged the two nations into chaos for a thousand years. The lulls of peace were short-lived. Battles between the two nations were long, heated and bloody. After a century of carnage, only the two nations remained. Even hardened veterans sought their gods and plead with them for peace. In the start of the second millennium of war, a year long, bloody battle between the kingdom and the empire leaves the king's youngest son, Tyree the royal family’s only survivor. In that year a young untested boy of seventeen took the throne, guided my his uncle, the Baron Colin McCalin.”

“With no male heirs to assume the Quinta throne, eighteen, Mirasol Santiago, the Emperor’s only daughter, becomes Empress under the watchful eye of her guardian the Countess Sofia Rancaño.”

“For two years a battlefield truce maintained the status-quo and many hoped without hope it would become a permanent peace Then messengers from the Empire and the Kingdom brought word to each of the leaders guardians the other was are ready to talk. The accords were to be forged and signed in the fabled valley of the Silvia people.”
“Against her will, Marisol is taken on the journey to the Silvan valley to meet with King Tyree. By the time they come face to face, however, they both have dealt with treachery and attempted assassinations.”

“That as far as the records take us so far. The rest is still in need of translation.”

"How soon will you complete the work," I said.

"'Twill take several more years, He said. "What we have is enough ta get you ta start writing."

I sat down and started taking notes.

The first draft of the book was issued in a small run for reviewers. Te one common complaint I received was the novel was too long for Science fiction. After conferring with the owners of the journals was split the book into two parts and did and extensive. With the translations completed I can now proceed to finish the entire saga. I hope you'll pick up a copy and enjoy the story as much as I did writing it

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The MacKenna Saga

Just finished the last read through of  Dreams & Deceptions, the first book in The MacKenna Saga. NewLink Publishing should have it available by May 15th in most E Reader formats. By the end of May it should be available through them and myself in paperback. The second  book Plots & Prophecies is going into final edit and proof read and the third book Rescues & Revenge and the fourth Vindication and Loss are finished and ready for the NewLink editorial staff editor. The plan is to release one book every 4-6 months, until the full series is released.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The records

In 1997 while my co-author Jo and I continued to evolve the Tyranny Series, I began to consider various ideas for a series of my own I wanted to develop.  On the third day of a science fiction convention I attended, I found my attention riveted on an amusing conversation between a group of five self-proclaimed alien hunters. They were in the midst of a heated discussion about what if anything Area 51 holds, the supposed aliens at Wright-Patterson, the Dulce Papers and the granddaddy of all the alien conspiracies, Roswell, New Mexico.

I listened until someone behind me said, “They all sound a bit off-center, wouldn’t cha say?”
Right away the brogue caught my attention. I turned and stared an elderly man.  The first thing I noticed about the old gentleman was his stature. Just a bit shorter and I would have thought I was being addressed by a leprechaun. His eyes were a mischievous, luminous green, his smile merry and infectious. His full head of dark red hair made me jealous and yearn for my youth.

I shrugged. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

“What are your thoughts about visitors from outer space?”

“I have a far different idea about life beyond this world.”

He winked, pointed and said, “I overheard you speakin’ ta that man earlier about human life on other worlds.”

I winced. “I thought I’d kept that quiet.”

He laughed, “Not so you’d notice, and me age hasn’t affected me hearing.”

We fell into a conversation that had me skipping the next two lectures I’d signed up for. I have to tell you, an Irish brogue has always fascinated me. Shakespeare may have written English masterfully, but it took the Irish to make it musical. After two hours listening to this man’s stories, he came around to his point.

“If you’ll be stoppin’ by the place me grandson and I are rentin’ ‘til the end of the week, I’ll be sharing with ya some records of people from outside this world. I promise you ‘tis a worthy trip for a tale worth retellin’.”

I laughed. “What’s the catch? How much will it cost me to see these records.”

The old man gave me a patient smile, no doubt developed by dealing with other belligerent skeptics such as myself. He pulled out a business card and wrote an address on the back. “"Tis the chance of a lifetime lad. I’ve approached three other authors and I’ve been laughed at in the same manner. You’ve ‘til Friday and then we’re gone.”

He rose and I watched him turn the corner and disappear.

Ax murders, con men, aliens in disguise? Something in the old man’s eyes and his story rang true. I ran to my room, emptied my wallet of everything except a few twenties and my drivers license, just in case. I grabbed my laptop, decided the elevator was too slow and raced downstairs I got directions at the front desk and was waiting when they arrived home.

A smile spread across the old gentleman’s face when he saw me. He invited me in and without any delay took me to a bedroom set up as an office. Across one wall, a bank of IBM computers squatted on metal baker’s racks. The machines whirled, lights blinked and the display screens were all busy. In the far corner sat a large, upright trunk, hinged down the center. After the grandson checked on the computers, he stepped over to the trunk and pulled the two halves apart. I stared, open-mouthed upon their treasures of old scrolls, journals and one very unusual book. (More on that in a future post.)

The scrolls and journals were old. How old will never be determined as I said, the owners will never allow tests run on them. According to these men these records have passed from father to son, mother to daughter, uncle to nephew, aunt to niece, and cousin to cousin for more than 1500 years. Each generation has added their experiences and memories to the family's collection. The records grew until the volumes and materials have become so numerous they were difficult to manage. Some so fragile they cannot be handled except with extreme care.

With the advent of computers these men began the arduous task of scanning all these records into digital files. The project took years and consumed a huge amounts of storage back then. Even with today’s hard drive standards the capacity needed is huge. Due to their fragile condition most of the original manuscripts and scrolls have been preserved and hidden away.

The earliest scrolls, such as the ones I now gazed upon, were written in an unknown language and remained a tantalizing mystery until 1996. In August of that year, the grandson discovered the key, his Rosetta stone as it were, to decipher the language. With the aid of these computers, the process of translating the scrolls was well underway. The work of converting the ancient runes and other symbols to English yielded some startling revelations. With the first few scrolls translated,  grandfather and grandson realized that the ancient manuscripts were more than just family history.

While many argue, theorize and postulate about the possibility of life beyond our planet, the presence of these journals proves, at least to us who have seen and handled the original materials or viewed the translations, there is human life on other worlds. There is no doubt some of those people long ago traveled to Earth and left behind records and more. I was asked to put the story of their lives in their universe, their accidental journey to our planet, their entire story into words.

That I have chosen to start this account with Kalen MacKenna’s story, in a place that is considered the middle was a choice left up to me. 'Dreams & Deceptions ' is by no means the beginning of the MacKenna Saga, it is to me the place where the Saga begins.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Until, ‘til and till

Until, ‘til and till
Our discussion today is about the use of these words started in our writers group one evening when one of the members was reading a Nordic tale he written and his sentence read something like, “Wait till Papa comes home.” While this member insisted that his use of “Till” was proper, most of us disagreed.  Since the long form of the sentence is, “Wait until Papa comes home.” Most of us felt the proper form should have been,  “Wait ‘til Papa comes home.”, a truncation of until, with the missing un marked by an apostrophe.
Open-and-shut case. Except that it’s not and it’s been bothering me. I had some spare time, do I did a little research.  I had seen people use till in that context? Why would they do that? I looked the word Till up and found a completely different meaning.

As a verb: tilled, till·ing, tills-- To prepare ones land for the raising of crops, as by plowing and harrowing; cultivate.

First off, let’s look at some proponents of each form: ‘Tils:
A Narrative History of Black Power in America:  Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour
Aimee Mann’s 80s band, ‘Til Tuesday, Aimee Mann, an American rock singer-songwriter, guitarist and bassist, best known for fronting the Boston New Wave band.
Brad Garrett’s follow-up to Everybody Loves Raymond  ‘Til Death.
In these titles the un is left out and the apostrophe is inserted to indicate shorting of the word ‘Until’

Use of Till
The British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part,(Surprise! it’s the Brits again.) paved the way for our American Sitcom All in the Family 
American Movies (1940, 1944, 1946,) Till we Meet Again,(Talk about remaking a movie different stars, different plots."Hollywood will remake movies until they get it wrong.")  From Dusk Till Dawn,  (Some writers and film makers on this side of the pond never get the word.)

As I once told my writers group, Shakespeare may have used English masterfully, but it took the Irish to make it musical. So when penning Irish dialogue, words truncated are written this way
'Tis, It is.
'Twill, It will.
'Twould it would.

Til is hard to find attestations of — people seem to be pretty good at remembering to put apostrophes at the words when the first syllable is removed.) So why would anyone spell it till if it’s coming from until? Well, it turns out that till isn’t derived from until.  Till and ’til are actually two different words with two different etymologies. Till is the earlier form, attested as early as 1330; Until is actually derived from till, not the other way around as in ’til (a back formation which showed up much later).  Both are common, so it’s up to you which one you like.  Till is commoner in Scotland, where it can be used like dative to in some situations, while ’til is commoner in the U.S.  Take your pick, but for me 'Til is the proper substitute for the word until.