I've noticed that several of the bloggers of SIS have blogged about what's going on in their lives. Well I guess now it's my turn. I'll try to keep it short and to the point, and hopefully after I'm done you will read it all the way to the end, and out of the kindness of your hearts, offer me some advice which I may or may not take.
I was born with a birth defect called Spina Bifida, which is the most commonly occurring birth defect. Most babies born with it will end up permanently in a wheelchair. I was not one of those babies. I took my first steps when I was four and have been walking ever since. More like waddling, I would say, but it got me to where I needed to go. I played youth soccer for a year in my teens, and that was the pinnacle of my body's strength and stamina.
During the years that I went through puberty, I developed scoliosis, which is a side to side curvature of the upper spine, and lordosis, which is a front to back curvature of the lower spine. My right hip, which was malformed when I was born, slowly became arthritic. The curvatures of my spine stopped just short of the point where surgery would have been necessary. The past several years I have been walking with a cane, and for longer distances or when a lot of standing is involved I do have a wheelchair I use. Using the chair for long periods of time causes my shoulders and upper back to ache.
Fast forward to now. Every day is a crap shoot, and I never know what part of my body is going to hurt or how badly. I have very little feeling in my feet, which makes it easy for me to trip and fall on things like doorways or table legs or something of the like. There's nothing like tripping and falling to magnify the pain you already feel.
The way I see it, I have two choices. Try to ignore the pain and get as much accomplished as possible, which might cause more pain. Or take the meds I have for pain and get loopy and not accomplish much. I've done both and neither is a very good solution. It's getting very depressing for me and frustrating for my wife, because there's very little that she can realistically do to help.
I guess that's pretty much all you need to know. Some of you don't really know me that well, but I'd still appreciate any advice you could give me. Thanks.
From the back cover:
In a snug New England town, Charlie St. Cloud tends the lawns and monuments of an ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. After surviving the car accident that claimed his brother's life, Charlie is graced with an extraordinary gift: He can see, talk to, and even play catch with Sam's spirit. Into this magical world comes Tess Carol, a captivating woman training for a solo sailing trip around the globe. Fate steers her boat into a treacherous storm that propels her into Charlie's life. Their beautiful and uncommon connection leads to a race against time and choice between death and life, between the past and the future, between holding on and letting go - and the discovery that miracles can happen if we simply open our hearts.
As someone who is fascinated by death, I found this novel to be a hauntingly beautiful story about the love of two brothers and a women who comes into their lives. This story will teach you to live in the now. ( WARNING: This story is a tear jerker! )
My son just started a new book yesterday. It's called The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. It's Rick Riordan's first novel and they've made a movie based on it which is now appearing in theaters. My son is thoroughly enjoying it, he read over one hundred pages yesterday.
While he read, I could see the excitement in his eyes, the enjoyment on his face, and even heard a few giggles here and there. I took great pleasure in watching him while he was reading and wondered what was going through his mind. I can tell that he'll devour this book in just a few days and be on to the next one.
I teasingly asked him if it was better than mine (he's read the first chapter of my WIP and says he loves it) and being the kind-hearted soul that he is, he answered no. I know he was just trying to make me feel good and I love him for that. But, now I can't wait to get my hands on that book so I can see what it is about the book that has him so enthralled.
For me, my enjoyment of a book is primarily based on the first few chapters. I'll admit it. There are plenty of books that I have tossed aside because they didn't grab me in those first chapters. It's a shame, because there have been books that I've forced myself to push through that ended up being great reads.
I like a lot of action in the first chapter. That's what grabs me. A lot of action that leaves me with a lot of questions. That's what makes me want to read more. I guess I don't need to learn tons about the characters right off the bat. I just like that initial excitement of the character being caught up in some sort of predicament.
So, in a few days, I'll be getting my hands on The Lightning Thief and picking it apart to see if I can gather any information that will help me in developing my novel and making it a great read. Maybe my novel will be so exciting that they'll want to make a movie based on it! One can only dream!
What is it that reels you in when reading a new book. Do you need a lot up front or can you wait for a story to slowly develop? What books have you read that you would like to see as a movie?
We have a tradition. One I inadvertently started about 7 years ago. Each year I take the kids "camping". Why the quotes? My idea of camping is probably a lot different than yours. We have a nice cabin known as a villa. It has air conditioning for the summer and a beautiful fireplace for when we choose to camp in the fall. It has running water, queen size beds and two TV's, which we only turn on in the morning to watch country music videos while cooking breakfast. So, you know...CAMPING!
Each year we have a great time and bring back a bundle of memories. This year was no exception. I'd like to share a couple of the best parts from our 2010 Jellystone Camping Trip.
Saturday evening we were all sitting around the campfire cooking burgers, brats, dogs and chicken when the foreboding clouds started to roll in. We'd been hit two nights in a row with TERRIBLE thunderstorms. Milwaukee was totally flooded and many have lost their homes. Granted, we were three hours away, but the thunderstorms were almost as bad. We decide to move dinner into the cabin and scramble to get all the food and drinks and children in. But wait! We didn't roast marshmallows yet. The raindrops start to fall and I yell for the kids to bring the mallows before the fire goes out. They laughed and laughed at the mad dash to cook as many as we could. No lightning, no thunder, just rain. So I decide it's time for a rain parade. I ran to the truck and grabbed 4 umbrellas. Why would I have so many? For just this very reason. The other adults love the idea so they also grab umbrellas from their cars. We take off our shoes and splash our way up and down the cul-de-sac, singing Elvis and The Judds the entire time. I only wish I had pictures of this. Our colorful umbrella parade is seared in my mind, never to be forgotten.
After about an hour the rain stopped and we got the fire going again. At about 11:00 we put the kids to bed and then my friend and I (let's call her Teri because that's her name) decide that we are going to go on a mission. You see, Teri just bought one of the cabins and she needs more landscaping. We tell her sister that we're going to go dig up some plants. Her sister laughs and says we'll get arrested. We say "No way. We'll be very covert."
(Me and Teri in front of our cabin)
Now Teri has 2 sons, the oldest is 21 and the other 18. They both brought friends and they were all off riding bikes, but we knew they'd be back soon. So here we are, creeping through the wet grass and over to Teri's new cabin (2 doors down). Teri proceeds to lay on the ground and roll up her sidewalk while I crouch between cars and laugh so hard I wet myself. I'm trying to keep this story short, but it's just too funny. She grabs the shovel from her porch and beckons me over. I walk as low to the ground as possible. Side by side, we tip toe between the other cabins. Oh, no! People are still awake. Time for the sniper crawl. Picture both of us on our bellies with a shovel and a poking stick (and for some reason, Teri also has a spatula) in tow, crawling under the windows so we're not detected. I told you...very covert. We make it two blocks over to the ghost town portion of the grounds. After the recession hit, some of the villas haven't been rented out, but things are looking up!)
Now one would think that if you want to make sure a building is unoccupied, you'd quietly peek in the windows. Oh, no, not Teri. She walks up and knocks on the door. I tell her that she's lost her mind and a good burglar would never knock. She says, "Good point." We look around to see what plants we want to steal. Of course we're not really going to do it. That would be wrong, but no way are we going back empty handed. Teri asks me for my hat and after I say what for, she snatches it off my head and puts it on the shovel. She said it's for her new friend. So now it's me, Teri and her new friend making our way back to her cabin. When we get there we grab the two potted plants she had bought at Wal-Mart earlier, put the shovel back and then creep around the back of the cabins. Two doors down and we can hear her sister and the boys on the front porch. Picture this, folks. Teri and I put the potted plants in front of our faces and pretend we are moving plants. It takes forever before they finally notice (I can't believe they didn't hear us laughing) but when they finally do, it was well worth it. They laughed and laughed and laughed and begged for us to take them on our next excursion. They said they had no idea we were so cool. They still thought we stole the potted plants which even added to our coolness. I confessed about an hour later because, well, stealing would be wrong.
The best part? It gave me an idea for a new book!! Major bonus!!!
So how about you? What's the most childlike thing you've done recently?
To those that know me well, it's no secret that when I do read for pleasure I usually prefer to read something supernatural or paranormal. I have been interested in both of those, in novels and real life, for as long as I can remember. From playing Dungeons and Dragons in my childhood to my first exposure to magick and witchcraft in my teens, the supernatural and paranormal have always fascinated me.
Of particular interest to me are the creatures themselves. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons, you name it. I am fascinated by every aspect of them, from how they developed throughout human culture and history to how it could be possible for them to exist in reality in today's world. Which brings me to my point.
My wife asked me last night how I would feel if I was suddenly faced with undeniable proof that vampires and werewolves really existed. Would I be be intrigued and want to know more? Would I run for the hills? I honestly didn't know at first and had to think about it for a little while before answering. In the end I decided that it would be both for me. I would be fascinated to know more about them but would also be very leery and cautious.
How would you feel if you were to discover that the mythological creatures you've read about were real? Choose any creature(s) that you identify with.
This is a repost from my personal blog. I'm on a mission to spread the word, and since I hardly ever post at my blog anymore, few people visit. Hence the repost. Enjoy!
I've been working extremely hard on several new projects. I hope to share some details about those soon, but in the meantime, I have a new book coming out in September! That's just 39 days from now! For those who like to preorder, you can do so by clicking here for Amazon or here for Barnes and Noble or here for Borders.
Behold my awesome new cover and a mini sneak-peek of INTO THE WILD...
Excerpt from CHAPTER TWO
Cajamarca, Peru, South America
Altitude 8,900 ft.
“What do you mean they canceled the shoot?”
“An executive decision.” Spenser McGraw thumbed his cell to vibrate and placed it beside his empty beer bottle as Gordo Fish, his friend and professional sidekick, dropped into an opposing chair. The popular café buzzed with good cheer, offsetting the men’s grim expressions.
They’d flown from the Scottish Highlands to South America to film an episode for the popular cable show, Into the Wild. Spenser was the talent. Gordo was the one-man camera/audio crew. Now instead of exploring The Legend of El Dorado, instead of searching for a lost city of freaking gold, they’d been ordered to cool their heels in Cajamarca until the show’s new producer and a board of equally young turks hammered out the details of a new adrenaline-charged adventure. Spenser met his friend’s baffled stare. “They want to introduce an element of danger into the show.”
Gordo frowned. “You’re kidding.”
“Something tells me Necktie Nate is behind this.”
The nickname they’d given to Nathan Crup, their new Armani-suited producer. “Probably.”
“Has that asshole watched even one episode from the past five seasons?” Gordo complained. “We’ve battled extreme elements and hostile people. Survived mudslides, cave-ins, avalanches, and assorted injuries.”
“None of them life-threatening.”
“Like hell. What about the time I got food poisoning in Cairo?”
Spenser found it amusing that a man who’d endured extreme temperatures, snake bites, and altitude sickness would label the time he’d hugged the porcelain goddess in a ritzy hotel room as a near death experience. “You weren’t even close to dying.”
“I ended up in the hospital.”
“Because you called an ambulance.”
“What I didn’t puke up shot out the other end. For three frickin’ hours. I’m telling you . . .” Gordo trailed off when he noticed the young woman standing next to them. “Sorry.” He squinted at her name tag. “Yara.”
Earlier, the sultry waitress had lingered at Spenser’s table, flirting outrageously as most women did, until he’d received the phone call from Los Angeles. Now she was back, and though she spared Gordo a glance, her focus was on Spenser. He winked, encouraging the infatuation. Yara’s pretty face and voluptuous curves were a welcome distraction from Necktie’s disappointing mandate.
Gordo cleared his throat. “Why, yes, I would like to order something. Thank you for asking, Yara.”
Spenser smiled at the woman then spoke in Spanish. “He’ll have what I’m having.”
“What are you having?” Gordo asked in English.
“Beer and tamales.”
“Forget the tamales.”
“They’re locally famous,” Spenser teased, knowing Gordo was still fixed on the Cairo incident and the ‘locally famous’ molokhiyya.
“Just a beer, please,” he said in Spanish. “Make that two. No, three. Two for me, one for him.”
Beaming at Spenser, Yara nodded and left.
Gordo rolled his eyes. “You’re hooking up with her later, aren’t you?”
Never one to screw and tell, Spenser just grinned.
“Why aren’t you more upset about the canceled shoot? You’ve been hot on exploring the possibility that El Dorado is located in Peru and not Columbia for months.”
Spenser shrugged. Granted, at first he’d been royally ticked. Not just because Nate had pulled the plug on El Dorado, but because that piss-ant had called his Indiana Jones’s schtick old hat, insinuating in the next breath that Spenser was over-the-hill.
A) He didn’t do schtick.
B) Since when was thirty-seven old?
Shaking off the insults, he now saw the hole in the producer’s new angle. “When the board reviews Necktie’s brilliant idea, they’ll squelch it.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because it’s been done.”
Gordo narrowed his eyes. “What does Necktie want us to do exactly?”
“To canoe down the Amazon, hack through the jungle, and to somehow connect with a fierce tribe—preferably cannibalistic.”
The small town I live in is known for its amateur circus. Every July local children perform amazing feats like the trapeze, high wire acts and many more. Not only is the circus going on, so is the festival. Half of downtown is closed off and they set up rides and vendor booths on the streets. I have been to our circus only a couple of times. Three hours of sitting on hard bleachers is not for me. If it was a little shorter I would go every year.
My favorite part of the festival is the food. Elephant ears, The Lions Club tenderloins, lemon shake ups, corn dogs, and of course cotton candy. Good thing I only go for one night. Imagine if I ate all of that every night for a week.
My girls love the rides of course. My oldest will go on anything, the faster the better for her. My youngest would rather go on something very slow. I still love the fast rides and use the excuse of not wanting my oldest to ride alone so I can enjoy them as well.
What about you? Do you like the circus, rides and fair food? What are your favorites?
I came across these quotes about writers and writing and thought I would share them with all of you. Enjoy!
I keep six honest serving men. (They taught me all I know); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who. - Rudyard Kipling
Agatha Christie has given more pleasure in bed than any other woman. - Nancy Banks-Smith
Make'em laugh; make 'em cry; make 'em wait. - Charles Reade
The pen is mightier than the sword. - Edward Bulwer-Lytton
This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again. - Oscar Wilde
What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.
- Logan Pearsall Smith
Take care of the sense and the sounds will take of care themselves. - Lewis Carroll
Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him. - Mel Brooks
The beginning is easy; what happens next is much harder. - Anonymous
Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead. - Gene Fowler
Your manuscript is both good and original; but the parts that are good are not original, and the parts that are original are not good. - Samuel Johnson
Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends and society are the natural enemies of a writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking. - Laurence Clark Powell
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it. - Ernest Hemingway
Which of these quotes speak to you? Do you have any to share? My favorite is the quote from Gene Fowler. It really made me laugh.
So sorry.... late with my post again!! I am in Washington again this week. The time difference always screws me up! Being late goes so well with my topic of the day, right?
I am a firm believer that the activities and such that we are involved in as children can really impact our adult lives. Even when these activities have no direct connection to our careers they still teach us things that can make us more successful and productive.
Growing up, I was extremely involved with horses. There were many responsibilities that came along with that. There was the everyday feedings and cleaning of horse stalls. I had to train almost everyday and the horses had to be kept clean. We even had to help bale hay... that's a hell of a workout!
All of this really taught me responsibility. It taught me to be a hard worker, to be dedicated, to set goals... self discipline. To be well rounded adults, we must have a good sense of self discipline.
I am on this subject because of my oldest daughter. She has never been very involved in any activities. Earlier this year, she tried out for color guard. She made it and seemed to really like it. The schedule is pretty tough, though. I think it's wearing her out.
The other day, she decided she was gonna quit. I was very disappointed. I just wanted to see her follow through with something. I think she needs this to instill the ever-important self discipline. We had talks about the commitment she had made. It effects all the other girls on her squad. The band director and even the principal got involved! In the end... she did the right thing. She's staying on the squad!
What activities were you involved in as a kid? Do you think they help mold you into the person that you are today?
I've been working hard on my paranormal lately. It's getting to the part where I have to really move the story forward, start to wrap things up and ultimately get to the Happily Ever After. My goal is still the end of this month and while I'm not 100% positive that I'll make it, I'm going to try my best to get there.
It's interesting though. I found out this weekend that if I take the time to read amidst the writing, I write more and what I write is better. So get this! This weekend I wrote a ton of pages AND read three books. THREE! These were all written by the same author and while I devoured them for inspiration and research (how to become a better writer) I enjoyed them immensely.
This amazing author is none other than the fabulous Heather Graham. As many of you know, she is my all time favorite. Many of her books feature a cast of ghosts that can rival any corporeal being out there. They're haunted, tortured and many times hilarious. I'm left sad when some of them find closure and move on. They make me want my own ghost to hang out with. Um, maybe not...but then again, do I get to pick my ghost? Could be interesting.
Anyway, here are my recommendations: Ghost Shadow~~The Bone Island Trilogy. This is the first in the trilogy. It's a good one, folks. It takes place in the Keys and Ms. Graham did a great job of setting the scene. I felt as if I had been to the Florida Keys many times, when in fact, I've never been. It also has the perfect mix of romance and mystery. Book 2 comes out later this month and Book 3 is then released in August.
Nightwalker takes place in Las Vegas and this town I have been to. But I've never been to Indigo. It's a ghost town and a heck of a lot took place there many, many years ago. But what happened there is about to repeat itself...
And last but not least is Suspicious. Genetically altered alligators in the Florida Everglades? Murder? Greed? Sizzling romance? Oh yeah! There's that and much more in this 2005 release from Heather Graham.
What are you reading? Is it purely for pleasure or do you have an alterior motive?
Two important qualities that a successful author should have are creativity and imagination. Although I don't think that I have a very creative mind when it comes to coming up with fresh and new ideas and sustaining them into a full blown story or novel, I do have a very active imagination. One thing I am able to do quite well is to fully immerse myself in a book, TV show or movie that I like and imagine that I am actually there. The real world simply fades away and I'm transported into another realm.
I've been able to do it since I was very young, and can remember watching cartoons like 'Looney Tunes' and the Charlie Brown holiday specials and actually feeling like I was in a cartoon world and the action was happening around me. Everything seemed so innocent and simple there, so unlike the real world. Movies like the 'Star Wars' or 'Indiana Jones' series or 'Avatar' were also enjoyable to become immersed in because of the exotic locales and action, and TV shows like 'Twin Peaks' and 'Xena: Warrior Princess' were also fun to fully experience (A bad ass medieval chick in leather? Helllooo). Two of my favorite novels to lose myself in were 'A Christmas Carol' and 'Interview with the Vampire', both of which deal with the supernatural. Go figure.
If you could choose a novel, movie and/or TV show that you could literally be transported into and experience first hand, which one(s) would you choose and why?
No, I don't mean writing about passion (although I do do that). I mean writing with passion. For passion.
There was a time when I dreamed about writing for a living. I clung to that dream for a good many years. I worked hard to make that dream come true. So far it hasn't happened and I've sort of lost faith that it will. The publishing industry is in a tailspin. If you belong to any writers' loops, read writer or publishing blogs, or follow the publishing industry through internet or trade articles you know how this tailspin is effecting authors.
There is a current wave of writers scrambling to convert their backlist novels as well as unpublished stories to Kindle, Smashwords and the like. Smart since the ebook market is exploding. But I don't own the rights to any of my backlist nor do I have any completed unsold books lying around gathering dust. Yet. That could change and if it does then I will be exploring these self-published ebook avenues as well because, bottom line, I want to share my stories with the world.
I've experienced a lot of highs and lows in my writing career over the last couple of years and one thing I've learned is that I can't write for the money. Thus far concentrating on how much money I make via advances and royalties has only led to a sense of failure. I am not a failure. I don't want to feel like a failure. So I have to concentrate on the writing. If I want to be happy I need to write what makes me happy, what inspires me. I need to write for the passion.
I recently set aside a proposal I was working on because I felt I was forcing something I didn't feel. I delved into another proposal, something darker than what I typically write, but it's flowing and I feel it so I'm going with it. My goal is to finish and send this proposal to my agent by Monday. If all goes according to plan I will then have two proposals making the rounds in NYC. Two proposals that I feel very passionate about. I hope they both sell, but if not . . . I'm open to exploring new avenues, markets and genres. Because for me, it's all about the passion.
Farmers Market that is. I have been hitting farmers markets in search of some early fresh treats. Green beans, corn, tomatoes and lots of other goodies. We even found some home made dog treats for our dog. They smell just like the peanut butter cookies we eat. He loves them. They sell home made baked goods as well. The banana nut bread was delicious.
My favorite thing from the farmers market are the green beans. I love to snap them. It brings back childhood memories of sitting on Grandma Childers porch snapping green beans with my sisters. I love how green they are and how they still have a little 'snap' to them after you cook them.
Now you may ask why I don't grow my own veggies or bake my own banana nut bread? That's easy to answer. I have a black thumb and I don't like the kitchen enough to spend hours slaving over a hot stove and oven. I'll will let those who are best at it do it for me. Besides, it's nice to support local farmers, gardeners and bakers.
I can't wait 'till August when the farmers markets will be in full swing. I need to learn how to can so I can enjoy the food all year long. First I need to redecorate my kitchen so I will enjoy being in it. I already know what I am going to do with it. I just have to get motivated enough to tare down wall paper and start painting,
Do you go to farmers markets? If so, what do you enjoy most? If not, give it a try and eat locally.
This goes on and on and then finally a decision is made. Inevitably, as soon as my youngest finds out what we’re having for dinner, he announces that he doesn’t like it. I say “tough, you’re eating it anyway”, but then I always end up making him something that I know he likes to go along with the food he hates.
It seems as though I make the same dinners every week and I am in great need of some new, QUICK meals. Not to mention that we have two extra people living with us at the moment so these meals need to feed six. Well, my teen-aged son can eat enough for two or three so really these meals need to feed eight. And it would be nice if they were something that everyone in the house would like. Okay, I’m probably asking for too much. Just some new recipes would be nice.
Is dinner time at your house the same sort of hassle? Are you a wonder cook and can create meals that EVERYONE likes? Would you like to share some meal ideas with me, please?
P.S. On a side note….Today is my puppies birthday…He’s 1! Happy birthday to MOOSE!
I'm currently working on the tail end of my paranormal. I can't wait to get to those last two words. "THE END." It's not that I'm not enjoying the story. It's just that I want to be able to say I completed it. SIS Beth sent me a link yesterday that really inspired me and gave me some ideas for not only getting to the end but making it more interesting. Many of you are familiar with the Romance University site and after reading this post: Paranormal Romance: Hot or Not, I know I'll stop by more often.
What I learned most was that I can't hold back. If I have an idea, even a crazy one, I should go with it and see where it leads me. Authors are coming up with amazing characters in the paranormal realm and I want mine to be just as fantastical, just as amazing! So I've now given myself permission to be a little weird, a little bizarre and a lot crazy.
How about you? Do you hold back in life or do you allow yourself to let loose? Writers: When you've gone a little crazy do you find it makes for better writing?
I was listening to the radio in my car this afternoon and they announced an upcoming concert by a band that I listened to and liked back in the good old days but never saw live in concert. I won't say exactly when that was, but suffice to say that it was during the heyday of so called 'hair metal' bands.
It got me thinking about all the different bands I used to listen to and have seen live in concert. There are quite a few, but unfortunately almost all of them were in the last ten years and not when they were in their prime. My wife and I together have seen Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Queensryche, Judas Priest, Tesla, Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio, Alice Cooper and Collective Soul, and my wife has seen Poison, Three Dog Night and B.B. King by herself.
I don't regret seeing any of those bands past their prime, but there are many more that I never got to see live in their heyday that I would have liked to: Pink Floyd, Rush, Iron Maiden, Journey, Foreigner, Aerosmith, and the list goes on and on.
What musicians/bands would you like to have seen in their prime? What was your favorite concert?
Hi, all! I'm standing in for SIS BJ today. Ill-prepared, I dug through some old files that I keep for inspiration and education. I don't know about you, but I'll take all the writing advice I can get. It doesn't mean that I'll use it all or that it will work for me, but it always sets my mind working in new or broader ways. Here's a reprint of an article written by the incredible crime writer, Elmore Leonard. If you're not familiar with Mr. Leonard's books, be sure to pick one up soon. Riveting. Several of his novels have been made in to films. Two that spring to mind are Get Shorty and Out of Sight. The latter being a favorite of mine. Love the dialogue and chemistry between Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney. But I digress.
Take from these tips what you will. I'm particularly smitten with the word Hooptedoodle! And my favorite tip? Number ten. What's yours?
Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing
Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle from the New York Times, Writers on Writing Series. By ELMORE LEONARD
These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.
1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
2. Avoid prologues.
They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.
There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s “Sweet Thursday,” but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .
. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”
5. 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.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories “Close Range.”
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)
If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character—the one whose view best brings the scene to life—I’m able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what’s going on, and I’m nowhere in sight.
What Steinbeck did in “Sweet Thursday” was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. “Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts” is one, “Lousy Wednesday” another. The third chapter is titled “Hooptedoodle 1” and the 38th chapter “Hooptedoodle 2” as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: “Here’s where you’ll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won’t get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.”
“Sweet Thursday” came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I’ve never forgotten that prologue.
Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.
from the New York Times, Writers on Writing Series. By ELMORE LEONARD
Songs? Check. Name? Check. Equipment? Check. Web-site? Check. Promo package? Check. Gigs? Not so much.
What the heck? I’ve been singing for over 25 years now and you’d think I should be able to get a gig somewhere. There are plenty of places that offer live entertainment, so what’s the problem? Well, let me name a few.
Times are hard, so a lot of venues cut back on what they would pay a band causing most 5-6 piece bands to dismantle and form duos. There are a multitude of groups out there now all vying for the same spots. To make matters worse, most musicians just want to be out there playing so they really don’t care if they’re making any money at it. They just want people to hear their music and they want the adulation that goes along with it. They’ll go and play for a dinner and some beers.
Club owners have happened upon a wonderful idea. They buy some cheap back line equipment, (i.e. bass and guitar amps, microphones, inexpensive drum kit) and they invite musicians to come and “jam”. Asking a musician if he wants to jam is like asking a kid if they want candy. So the musicians all flock to these “jams” and these clubs benefit by getting free entertainment. It’s maddening!
I’ve been out and pounded the pavement, passing along our promo packages to club owners. One of the first things they ask is “where are you playing?”. Nowhere at the moment! We need a gig!
One café owner said we could come and play for free for a night and then he would ask the clientele if they enjoyed us and then he would think about booking us. He would give us sodas throughout the night. Now, I’ve done showcases (basically a 4-5 song audition), but this guy wanted an entire night for free. This is how he gets his free entertainment.
We have played two different venues and they loved us at both. One will book us when they get an opening. Their calendar is quite full at the moment. The other closed for renovations for a week and a half. That was over a month ago. They assure us that we’ll be playing there when they open, whenever that may be.
I’m not discouraged though. I know it will happen, it’s just a matter of time. In the meanwhile, any suggestions on different ways we might approach the matter?
Last week, Omar and I still had the Brady Bunch all together. We went to Dallas to see some family for a couple of days. Tuesday evening we headed out for our 4 hour drive back to our Texas house. Most car rides with all of the kids can be pretty frustrating. This time though, we had a blast!
Towards the end of our trip, everyone started dancing in the car. We had the music blasting... the kids loved it! Once in town had to return a movie to the Red Box at Mcdonald's. Omar decides to be Mr. Silly and gets out of the car. He starts dancing for my youngest. She jumps out to join him and the fun begins...
Next thing you know, all of the kids are out in the Mcdonald's parking lot breaking it down (with the exception of the oldest boy - he was quite embarrassed of the rest of the group). I sat in the car laughing so hard I couldn't breathe!
We then hit four different gas stations in town. We'd pulled in the lot, crank the music, and jump out to boogie down. I joined in the dancing and had a fantastic time. The kids were so excited - they kept saying "This is the best night ever!!!" Except for the embarrassed one who was getting mad at us by about the 3rd stop.
Everyone got quite a kick out of our antics. The gas station clerks loved it! Customers were yelling for us and honking. We gave everyone quite the show! Watch out... our drive-by dance show may come to your town soon. All the kids are ready to do it again. I think Omar is itching to also!
It felt really good to just let everyone be goofy like that. We all had a great time and shared lots of laughs. It is an evening we will probably never forget!
It's been planned for months. We've talked about it, counted the days and now it's finally here. Our family vacation! We try to take one a year and many times will either pick SIS Bren or SIS Beth's states because we rarely get to see them, plus they have the added benefit of living in places where there's tons to do!
This year we chose "The Sunshine State". A few days with Bren, a few days with Mickey (mouse) and a lot of fun in the sun. And now, I'd love to share a few pictures of our vacation so far:
I kid you not! It has been raining relentlessly. The sun has forgotten to shine. We drove to the beach yesterday for a little sight seeing. The rain started to pour so hard, we could barely see to drive. We (meaning my husband and I) have decided just to laugh about it, because really, what can we do? For me, it's just great to spend time with my sister, her husband and my nephews. My children, on the other hand, are a little peeved and a lot sad. I'm trying to teach them to have more positive attitudes, but I really do understand their disappointment.
Happy 4th of July weekend everyone! A sure sign that summer is well underway, this holiday means different things to different people, whether it's a backyard barbecue or pool party with friends and family, a day of sun and sand at the beach, catching your favorite sports team on the boob tube while drinking a cold one, or 'oohing' and 'aahing' as you watch fireworks light up the night sky. But there's one thing that always has been and always will be associated with the 4th of July: Patriotism.
American history is full of examples of patriotism, many of which have led us to where we are today. If not for the courage of many men and women throughout our history, this country might not exist at all or might be something much different than what it is, and not necessarily in a good way. I could list many, many names here, but suffice to say we know who they are and truly appreciate them.
Nothing stokes the fires of patriotism like celebrating the birth of our country, except perhaps an epic battle of sports teams against a hated enemy. I will always remember watching the 1980 Olympic hockey team defeat the Russians on their way to the gold medal. Did that one game really change anything in the big picture? No, but back then you couldn't have told any American that. We were on top of the world and it felt good.
Politicians are also adept at stoking patriotism, usually to their own ends and for their own gain. It still amazes me that so many people, from all political parties and walks of life, fall for it. It seems like all a politician has to do nowadays is mention God or the 'good old US of A' that somehow has been hijacked by the enemy, and people are hooked and go nuts.
What are your thoughts about patriotism? What does it mean for someone to be patriotic? Do you know any real-life patriots?
I'm at a bit of a crossroads in my writing career. Currently, I am not under contract which puts me (and my agent) in the position of pitching new story ideas. Some writers (and readers, I suppose) are under the assumption that once you publish that first book the hardest work is over. That one sale guarantees another. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. Many factors weigh in. Your sales record and current trends are just two. Others could be that you wrote a fabulous proposal, but your story idea comes too close to something else out there or an upcoming release. The list goes on.
I've spent the last several months working on a new story that's ingrained in my heart and mind. An urban fantasy with romantic elements. Different for me, but I sincerely believe it's some of my strongest writing yet. My agent believes in the story as much as I do, I'm happy to say, and the proposal is currently circulating among various publishers. The feedback thus far has been extremely encouraging, although the story has yet to find the right home. I have faith (as does Amy) that it will. However it could take some time.
That being the case, we recently decided that it would be smart (business wise) for me to set 'Zoe' aside for the time being and to work on a new proposal. Perhaps something more traditional. Fortunately, I have several ideas tucked away. The trick was deciding which one to pursue. The 'paranormal super-hero' series? The 'historical Victorian with hints of Steampunk' trilogy? The contemporary 'James Bond-ish' adventure? Or the straight ahead contemporary romantic comedy?
I have to say, the first three call to me greatly. Probably because it's fresh territory for me. But that's also the reason I decided not to tackle any one of those at this time. 'Zoe'--is fresh territory for me and, will not only require an incredible amount of time for research and worldbuilding, but it will also mean developing a new readership. Were I lucky enough to sell two proposals (call me optimistic), I believe it would be wise to keep one foot in familiar waters while the other navigates uncharted seas.
That said, I'm happy to report that four days ago I dove into the familiar and, instead of feeling like I was treading stagnant waters, felt inspired! The more I explore and map out this rom-com the more I discover the potential for a madcap romance with tender (and serious) undertones. It's what my former writing partner (Cyndi Valero) and I use to call the A&F factor. Angst and Fluff. Creating a story with just the right balance of angst and fluff is a challenge in itself. Although, it seems to come naturally for me. It would be silly not to embrace one of my strengths.
Summery of this ramble:
*Never put all your eggs in one basket. Keep a file of story ideas so that, if need be, you can immediately work up a new story.
*Be flexible. I could list many reasons for this. Let's just say things don't always go according to plan. You'll experience less stress and more success if you're willing to bend here and there, to explore alternate avenues, to go with the flow and build from there.
*Don't jump on the trend band wagon unless you have a serious passion for and/or natural ability to write that trend. Always write from the heart.
*Although we must challenge ourselves in order to grow, never forget to utilize your strengths.
*Never give up! Believe in yourself, in your passion, and persevere!!
Have a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday weekend! Celebrate freedom of speech and the freedom to pursue our dreams!
Who are we? Six creative souls (five sisters and an honorary brother) who lead double lives. Join SIS Beth, Brenda, Barb, Brandy, BJ, and BRO Krys as we explore the chaos and wonders of life in pursuit of our dreams. For more info, check out our pics and bios at SIS Scoop!
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, red wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, "WOO HOO what a ride!"~~author unknown
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