The Preacher Likes the Cold

12 Jan

“You know the preacher likes the cold; he knows I’m going to stay.”

I’m sure you’re all familiar with that line from the classic rock song “California Dreamin’”

It popped into my head the other day as I was preparing to walk the dogs on a 36 degree, drizzling day.  We have a different cold here in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Western Washington.  It’s a damp cold.  It’s a cold that seeps into your clothing, somehow, some way, and finds the marrow of your bones.  It’s a cold that sucks the last remnants of warmth from you, leaving you chilled throughout the winter.

I know, I know, it’s colder in other places. I’ve lived in Vermont and minus twenty, the snow glistening in the sunshine. I’ve lived in Alaska, minus forty, moon dogs floating in the air, defying logic, air crystals frozen, other worldly type of stuff.  But good God, there ain’t enough fleece to keep you warm, in Olympia, when the skies are weeping and your breath plumes, day in, day out, dampness the default setting for everything you see . . . everything you touch . . . and how many more goshdarned days until April?

That might be the first time I’ve ever written/typed goshdarned.  What’s up with that? I can cuss like a sailor, so goshdarned stretches the limits of believability and authenticity, don’t you think?

I think about that when working on a novel.  Is this authentic?  Is it believable?  Supernatural thrillers like I write, The Shadow Series, I’m pushing the limits of believability right out of the gate, so I want my dialogue to be believable if nothing else, you know?

Of course you do!

You do and I do, for better or for worse, till death do us part, and there goes my mind again, taking another side-trip down the Word Association Lane, wondering where I’ll end up next, might be a dead end or it might be the beginnings of a story, or novel, a seed planted in the womb of fertility, growth or abortion, picketers around the abortion clinic, shouting their slogans, anti-protestors opposite them, shouting their slogans, no one really listening, a wall of sound, and that takes us to Phil Spector, Motown, 1964, music history in the making, smoke-filled studios, engineers, experimenting with a sound soon to become classic, and isn’t this fun, playing with words, creating on the fly, no nuns to slap my hands if my grammar is broken?

You bet it is!

Happy 2021 to you all! Let’s rebound in a big way, put this darkness behind us, warm up after the cold, put those preachers out of business. 😊

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Staring At A Bleak Landscape

16 Dec

The evergreens, sixty feet in the distance, are gray in color, embraced by the low clouds. Their limbs constantly weep.  No breaks in the clouds can be seen, a smooth carpet of pewter overhead.  It is nearly impossible to say where they end and the landscape begins – disconcerting, depth-perception malfunction, messing with my feng shui.

The gray seeps into my writing studio, layers upon my head, seeps inside, cloaks me with melancholy, a blanket of somberness, making it difficult to summon uplifting thoughts.

I’m drowning in the drabness of a Northwest winter.

A high of forty-five, low of thirty-five, set the selector for repeat, and repeat, Shannon on the local news telling us a series of systems await offshore, all aimed towards us, ten days into the future, a future of soaked clothes, soaked shoes, soaked psyches and soaked dogs.

And winter ain’t even upon us yet! Heaven help us all!

Turn on the news, COVID twenty-four seven, another blanket of gray upon the mood, trying to remember what shaking hands feels like, what hugging feels like, what discussing anything without the filtered masks of protection feels like.  Twenty-twenty, you are no longer welcome, thanks for the visit, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Neighbor across the street, Joel, house-husband and new father, wheels his son, Fritz, I swear to God the kid’s name is Fritz, outside in the stroller, both bundled against Nature’s wrath, and off they go down the street.  Anna, eighty-something and frail, pushes her recycling bin out to the curb, raingear clutched, her walk so much slower than when I first met her.  Alana, from down the block, walks her poodle by, sees me in the window, waves, shakes her head, throws up her hands to the sky, in supplication, a statement without words.

Life goes on, through the storms, through the pandemics, day-to-day stuff, terribly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but crucial to our grasp of sanity, one foot in front of the other, always moving forward, doing what we need to do to simply survive one more day, waiting for Shannon to greet us one night, nightly news, and tell us brighter days are ahead, the storms have ceased, the sun will shine.

My wish, for all of you, is a day of sunshine! Blessings to you all this holiday season!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

New Novel Published

24 Nov

Just a quick note to let you all know my new novel has been published, and you can find it by following this link.

So far I have only published the paperback. There are some issues for the ebook, and right now I don’t have time to deal with those issues. I’ll let you know when I work it all out.

This is the 6th in the Shadow series, and I think the best. It was fun to further develop some of the main characters.  Now they get a break while I work on a stand-alone novel which has waited patiently for its turn.  In six months, I’ll return to the Shadow series, I’m sure.

Anyway, there you have it. Thanks in advance if you purchase it, and thanks always for following this blog.

Be well, be safe, and for my American friends, Happy Thanksgiving!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Odds and Ends

17 Nov

A quick moment of self-promotion: “Shadows Across The Pond” is coming this week. I thought it would be published by now, but the review process on Amazon is taking longer than usual.  Stay tuned!

BLOGGING

How many of you have a blog? I’m just curious.  Why do you have one?  What value do you get from it?  You can answer in the comment section if you want; or don’t! I started out blogging as a way of adding to my writing platform. Today, though, I simply blog because I enjoy it. My following is small, but I’m fine with that. It’s just for my enjoyment, and the interaction with others is a pleasant bonus for this introvert.

How about vlogging? Podcasting? Facebook Live? Do any of you do any of that?

I still think I’m going to do a podcast one of these days. Self-deception is a wonderful thing. It’s like taking hallucinogenic drugs without taking the drugs.

YOUTUBE VIDEOS

A confession: I’m a Youtube junkie! I love videos about tiny houses and farming. Right now I’m hooked on two in particular: “Farmhouse Vernacular” and “Gold Shaw Farm.”  The farmhouse video in particular is entertaining and habit-forming because of the young woman who produces and stars in it.  She is simply a delight to watch. Very little of what she says about their farm applies to my life, but I enjoy her enthusiasm and her willingness to take on any job with a childlike spirit of adventure.  Plus she’s kind of a goofy dork, and I like goofy dorks.

Anyway, I mention those two because they have huge followings on YouTube, and I suspect the huge followings are because of the delivery and personalities.  You have to be able to sell your own work, whether you are a YouTuber or a writer or an artist.  Without self-promotion, you are doomed to languish in relative obscurity.  Now me, I’m quite comfortable living in obscurity, but there may be some of you who would enjoy a little limelight, so that’s why I mention it.

REFLECTIONS

From a writer’s standpoint, I wish I was younger. I wish I had started this writing journey twenty years ago, when I had the time, desire, and fortitude to really dive into it and make a success of it.  Today, well, I just write because I enjoy it. I doubt seriously if I’ll ever find fame, but I’m fine with that.  It would be nice to receive a sizeable income from my writing, but the effort it would take, today, to make that happen just isn’t something I’m willing to expend.

I’m just being real!

I know I can write. I know I can write well, and that’s all the confirmation and affirmation I need.

It’s nice to be that secure.  It took me a long time to reach this point of inner-security in my life, but I finally made it, and for that I say “HOORAY!”

I hope this finds you well!  Have a fantastic week, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you down the road of life.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Trudging Along in Relative Obscurity

20 Oct

I haven’t written on this site for a while.  It’s not like I’ve taken a break from writing. The opposite is true, actually, I’ve been so busy that this blog just wasn’t important to me.  Besides, it’s not like I have thousands of followers, so I didn’t feel like I was disappointing throngs of people by not writing here.

No followers here

How the hell do people get thousands of followers, anyway?  It blows me away, really.  I was watching some Youtube channels last night, and one woman has like ten-thousand followers for her channel, and the whole thing is about renovating an old farmhouse in Kentucky.  Now granted, she’s a good-looking woman, and I hope I doesn’t sound sexist but that has to help, right?  But still, ten-thousand loyal followers?

And the leader on Youtube in 2018 was a seven-year old kid who did toy reviews, had millions of followers, and made $22 million that year.  A seven-year old kid.

Anyway, I have a couple dozen, and I’m grateful for them.

THE BOOK

One more read-through and then “Shadows Across The Pond” will be complete. Give me a week after that, and it will be published.  So let’s call it a November 1st Publishing date.

I had plans to then write a stand-alone novel about growing up in the 60’s, but my wife, Bev, had other plans for me. She wants me to re-write my very first novel, “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday To Today,” in my writing style today. In fact, she wants me to write a trilogy based on that original book.

So that’s what I’m doing. The working title of that new, old book, is “Resurrecting Hope,” and I’m kind of excited to do it.  It’s a fantasy about climate change, and the environment, which is actually what my other blog, “The Art of Living Simple,” is about.

There are times when Bev knows me better than I know me, and that’s a bit frightening.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. I wish I was younger, if only because I would do this writing thing a bit differently. I would take social media seriously, and use my marketing degree to help me self-promote and actually, like, make an effort to sell my writing.

But that just doesn’t interest me now that I’m seventy-two. I write now for my enjoyment, and if others find my words to be of interest, fantastic.  If not, well, I’m still having fun.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Finding Inspiration In Everyday Places

22 Sep

Occasionally I come across a comment from one of my followers, and the comment goes something like this: “I’m just not feeling inspired lately, so I haven’t written in a while; I can’t seem to think of anything to write.”

And I want to scream at that person, “For the love of God, inspiration is all around you,” but then my kinder angels intervene and allow me to be a bit more understanding.

The thing is yes, there is inspiration all around us but, still, there are competing forces which block that inspiration on a daily basis.  Our muse is constantly doing battle with the bills which must be paid, and the job that must be found, and the kids who need meals fixed for them, and trips to the Vet and family members who want to talk and phones and social networks and bad health and deaths and taxes and . .

I’m exhausted! How about you?

So, this is a message for all of you who are experiencing constipation of the mind: It’s all right!  Don’t fight it!  Allow inspiration to wash over you at its own pace.

I WAS WATCHING A DOCUMENTARY THE OTHER DAY

I watch a lot of documentaries, so the fact I was watching one isn’t news. This particular doc was about a husband and wife who took a rundown piece of property, about five acres, barren and unused, and turned it into a lush forest/jungle with twenty years of loving determination.  It was inspiring and it gave birth to an article idea.

OUT TAKING A WALK

Lady passes by, going the opposite direction, takes a look at my dog Maggie, and asks what kind of dog Maggie it.  “Northwest Farm Terrier,” I reply, “a fairly new breed started in Port Angeles about thirty years ago,” and the woman remarks she is thinking of buying a dog for her son, who is autistic, how she’s thinking a loyal dog companion would help her son to navigate through life.

I guarantee that woman will be in a short story or novel one of these days.

LISTENING TO THE OLDIES

I’m sorry, but I’m stuck on the Oldies. I will occasionally listen to some current music, but I would guess 90% of the time, it’s music from the 60’s and 70’s I listen to as I go about my day.  And the thing is, I can pretty much tell you the year of every song I hear, and I can relate to you an event in my life which happened while that particular song was playing way back then.

That’s how important music is to us all.  It’s like a time machine made up of notes.

Inspiration through music – we all are capable of it if we can just find a way to clear our minds and allow it to happen.

AND THAT’S REALLY WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT FOR ME

For this writer, finding inspiration is really as simple as allowing my mind to go blank, and being open to the messages being sent my way.  Now granted, that’s easy to say, but not nearly as easy as do. Back to those bills and dwindling bank accounts and illnesses and deaths, the everyday stuff which overloads us, at times, and prevents inspiration from flourishing, and I understand totally, but still . . .

Where do you find your inspiration?

PODCAST UPDATE

I wish! I just can’t carve out the time to do a podcast.  It’s still there, waiting for me to do it, and I better figure it out soon. I ain’t getting any younger.  The good news, though, is that I’ll be finished with my newest novel, “Shadows Across The Pond,” in two weeks, and then I’ll begin the process of formatting it for publication on Amazon.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Creating A New Reality

6 Aug

Let me take you back to Tacoma, Washington, 1960.  I was twelve years old when I received a new transistor radio for Christmas.  For those of you who are far too young to know what I’m talking about, a transistor radio was about the size of a cell phone, a little bulkier, and it ran on batteries.  It was a big thing back in 1960. It meant I could listen to music while riding my bike and, in my case, I could take it to bed with me and listen to my favorite baseball team, the Tacoma Giants, play games long after my bedtime without my parents knowing it.  Sneaky little bugger I was.

The play-by-play announcer for the Giants was a man by the name of Don Hill, and I loved listening to his broadcasts.  Like any good sports announcer, he made the game come alive, giving the listener a great experience without having to actually attend the game.

Neither the Giants nor the radio station, KTAC, could afford to send a radio announcer to “away” games, places like Portland or Hawaii or Sacramento, so Don and his wife would “call” the game from the KTAC radio studio.  Gail would be on the phone with some person at the Hawaii game, that person would tell her every pitch and all the action, and Gail would relay that information, on notes, to her husband, who would then call the game as if he was seeing it.  He would clap two pieces of wood together to imitate the sound of the bat hitting the ball.  He had “canned” crowd noises so it sounded like the crowd was really into the game.  You could hear vendors yelling out “Peanuts, popcorn, cold drinks,” and I swear, even though we knew Don was not in Hawaii, it was as if he was.

Great memories!

Which got me thinking, the other day while out walking the dogs, that Don Hill’s call of the game was similar to what we do as fiction writers.  We create a reality out of practically nothing and, if we do a really good job of it, people will feel like they are actually experiencing the action with the characters.

Just something to think about on this lazy summer day.

Be well, be safe, and do all things with love.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The End of a Joyful Life

28 Jul

An obituary I came across the other day:

Jean Kennedy Jean was born on August 21, 1931 in Blackpool, England. She passed away in Olympia Washington on July 2, 2020. She was a loving mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister and friend. She was born to parents William Henry Jessop and wife Margaret of Blackpool England. Jean’s two sisters were: Barbara Alton of Vancouver B.C., husband Derek, daughter Diane and son David; Margaret Moore of Blackpool England, husband David, son Graham and wife Linda, son Lawrence. Her Children were: Daughter Barbara Haskell, husband Michael Haskell; granddaughter Kelle, husband James, two great granddaughters; grandson Brian; grandson Randy, wife Christina and 4 great grandchildren. Son Michael Kennedy, wife Evelyne; grandson Robert, wife Nicole and great grandson; granddaughter Jamie, husband Anthony, great granddaughter and new baby on the way. As a young woman she moved to the united State to be married to Warren Kennedy of Colville Washington, the two met while Warren (Pete) was stationed in the UK and Europe while in the US Air force. After a career as a mother and home maker she worked for the retail clerks union in the grocery / bakery business in Yakima Washington. She retired from work in Yakima and a few years later moved to the Olympia Washington area to be closer to family and friends. She loved home decorating, entertaining and various social functions. She enjoyed playing cards, bowling, bingo, doing puzzles and walking along the water front of Olympia as it reminded her of her early years living along the Irish Sea in Back pool England. Blackpool is a beautiful costal town along the western coast with a famous scenic promenade walkway that goes past the Blackpool Tower. She always did a daily prayer for all of her family and friends that were always on her mind and in her heart. Her smile! Though her smile has gone forever and her hand I cannot touch, I still have so many memories of the one I loved so much. Her memory is my keepsake with which I’ll never part, God has her in his keeping and I have her in my heart.

 

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.

 

I didn’t know this woman.  In fact, oddly, I didn’t even realize people still wrote out obituaries for their loved ones. I just thought this was something that went the way of the dinosaurs.

An entire life summarized in what, three-hundred words?  Eighty-nine years of living, succinctly shared with the reading public, all that is left of this unremarkable, remarkable woman.

Dust to dust!

I’m sure, if it were possible to sit down with Jean right now, she would tell us all that those eighty-nine years went by in the blink of an eye.  She would express wonder in how it all happened so quickly. I’m sure she would have a few regrets.  I’m sure she would beam if asked about her loved ones.

One life among seven-point-eight billion lives.

Death is the ultimate lesson in humility, don’t you think?

Seven-point-eight billion, but here’s the remarkable thing:  Jean was unique, a one-of-a-kind treasure among all of them, just as I am, just as you are.  There is no one else like me, like her, like you, the most precious treasure in the world, and that makes us all priceless gems.

Just random thoughts by this introverted writer on a day when reflections flow like sweet honey.

Have a great day, unless you’ve made other plans.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Engine of a Story

14 Jul

More naps these days

If a child cries in a loveless home, does he or she make a sound?

Can love be given if never experienced?

Does evil exist, or do people simply do evil acts?

Can violence ever be justified?

And what is justice in a “civilized” world?

Can love conquer all?

THE BIRTH OF A STORY OR NOVEL

That’s how my short stories and novels begin – with a question – and from there I build a story surrounding the question.  Truthfully, the whole creative process still baffles me some, but I’ve learned not to fight it. I just let it flow and trust my muse to take me where she wants me to go.

CREATING A MEMORABLE CHARACTER

Have you ever watched the television show “Blacklist?”  The main character in that show, Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader, is one of the most unique characters I have ever seen.  He is a complex man, good and evil, with a quirky personality.  He’s one of those guys you want to hate, but he’s so entertaining you can’t bring yourself to reject him.

It’s that type of character I love to create.  It was with that in mind that I created Eli Baker and Striker in my Shadow novels.  These are stone-cold killers, but likeable killers with a code of justice.  Baker spouts philosophy and is, at times, tortured by life and his character flaws.  Striker is not a man you want to meet in a dark alley, but there is a loyalty about him which makes him compelling.

Or so I hope!

THE STORY OR THE CHARACTER

So what propels a novel, the storyline/plot or the characters?  In my mind it is a combination of the two.  A good story needs fascinating characters, but the characters need a blueprint to follow.

Matt Scudder, created by Lawrence Block . . . Dave Robicheaux by James Lee Burke . . . these are greatly-flawed characters who give us an insight into the frailties of mankind, and I love that kind of creativity.  The characters are so dominating that they can carry even an average plot.  And yet you take some fairly normal characters, like the ones found in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and you put them in a brilliant plot, and that works as well.

Great stuff!

Anyway, I’m rambling. I have a front porch to put back together now that I’ve taken it apart, so I’ll stop here and let you all get back to your creativity.  Have a brilliantly happy day, unless you’ve made other plans.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Painting a Picture

23 Jun

I’m not artistic!   Not in the way of picking up a paintbrush and doing a portrait or still-life, that sort of artistic; I might have some bones with word artistry, but no way with painting or sculpting.

But lately I have noticed that I am more aware of my surroundings, like my “artist’s eye” has suddenly been enhanced.

My wife and I, and our two dogs, were out walking along the Chehalis Western Trail the other day.  It’s a walking/biking path along an old train track route, and it stretches for many, many miles.  The Olympia leg of the trail is about six miles long, but then it continues past the Olympia City limits and moves through countryside all the way to the city of Tenino about, gosh, maybe twenty miles away.

Anyway, it’s a wonderful thing they have done, the county planners, paving this trail, a safe place for walkers and bikers.

So we were on it the other day, a good day for walking, cool but dry, and we were surrounded by nature, and I was noticing that the “greenery” was actually comprised of many shades of green.  They call our state the Evergreen State, referring to all of the evergreen firs and pines we have, but I think that does Mother Nature a disservice.  Green is an inadequate word, you know.

The dictionary tells us that synonyms for green include: grownleafylushluxuriantovergrownverdant . . .

But even that doesn’t paint an adequate picture. How about different shades of green, which would include jade and mint and aquamarine and emerald and pine and teal and . . .

So I was overwhelmed by the majesty of it all, and my inability to accurately capture a simple forest setting in words.  And yet that’s my job as a writer, to find the perfect words which capture the perfect settings which surround us daily.

It is a sacred quest we are on!

COACHING

Working with other writers as a coach has helped me to appreciate writing on a higher level.  Many of my students just want to tell the story. They are in a hurry to just get the facts down, the bare-bones “outline,” if you will, of a story that has been rattling around in their brain for a long, long time.  Most of the work I do, as a writing coach, is to help my students to “flesh out” the details of the story, to help them to set scenes and paint a picture with words . . . and . . . to interject the emotional component to their writings.

It is a job I love, teaching, a job I take seriously.

Writing?  Not a job at all.  Writing is a passion, one I also take seriously.

Go forth and create!  Paint a picture with words and dazzle the world with it.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”