Archive | May, 2016

A Stumble Here, A Bumble There

31 May


The truth is, I stumble and bumble just like all other writers.  There is so much to learn and that’s on top of trying to perfect one’s craft, which is never-ending, or at least it should be never-ending, right?

I’m still trying to learn how to make a podcast.  Well, I can actually make one now, but what I want to do is make a quality podcast, one I can be proud of, and that takes considerably more time. So hang in there and be patient with me.

I have so much I want to do and so little time.


“Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

This has always been a struggle for me….enjoying every moment.  I’m too busy to enjoy it, damn it!  LOL  But I’m learning, slowly, to step away and enjoy the process of life.

I’ll never be perfect.  The logical part of me accepts that but still, I’m driven to be perfect, and therein lies the struggle.  No matter how good I am on any given day, it is never good enough.  I’m not sure where that comes from but I know it is true.

No matter how much I do it will never be enough.  Illogical but again, true!

Maybe it’s from watching my dad die in my arms when I was twenty.  Maybe it’s having a dear friend fade away from Alzheimer’s, or having my best friend recently be told that bone cancer was killing him quickly.  These things weigh on me, and drive me on, and there appears to be no shut-off valve….and in truth I’m not sure I want such a valve.

I believe we are here on earth to achieve a higher purpose than just breathing and going through the motions.  I’ll have more than enough time to rest once I die.  For now, I’m among the living, and the living should, well, live like their tail-feathers are on fire.

Am I the only one who feels this way?


Again I want to point you in the direction of a new website started by a friend of mine….John Hansen is involved in the site, The Creative Exiles….stop and take a look at it. I think you’ll find it worth your time.

And another shout out to Mike Friedman for his wonderful work on my book covers.  He is quite good at this book cover thing as well as being an excellent writer. Check out “The Carriage Driver,” available on Amazon.


I  guess that’s it for this week.  I’ve got quail to feed and ducks to laugh at…and then there’s the ghostwriting gig I’ve got going on, and the latest Billy the Kid novella, and articles and learning about podcasts and sweet angels above, where does the time go?


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Literary Thieves Are Slime

24 May


I was looking at a printout of my collective works for the writing site HubPages, and in particular I was looking for the little red C symbols which mean an article of mine has been plagiarized by some other person.

I found seventeen with that symbol.  That was both good and bad news.

The good news is it’s only seventeen out of eleven-hundred, so I feel pretty good about that low percentage.

The bad news is it’s seventeen articles I worked hard to produce which were stolen.

Welcome to the online world of writing!


“Stealing is stealing. I don’t care if it’s on the Internet or you’re breaking into a warehouse somewhere – it’s theft.” Patrick Leahy

So here’s the thing:  how can anyone who steals look at themselves in a mirror?  I simply don’t understand….okay, let me amend that….a person starving who steals eggs from a barn so he can have a meal to eat, that I understand to a certain degree….but

A person who steals an article and then posts it with his/her name attached?  How can that possibly be justified?

But then I say the same thing about people who steal packages from doorsteps or people who swindle the elderly out of thousands of dollars….how do they justify that at night when it’s just them and their thoughts while in bed?


It’s going to happen to you.  It’s unavoidable, friends, so get used to that reality.  There is no way to stop this sort of thing from happening if you are posting your work online.  Sure you can fill out forms and report the thefts, but while you are doing that millions of other articles are being stolen by cyber thieves who have zero conscience.  That’s just the way it is.


I have to give another shout out to Mike Friedman for the wonderful work he does on my book covers. If you need a book cover at a reasonable price, hook up with Mike.  And check out his ebook “The Carriage Driver” on Amazon.


My latest in the Billy the Kid series, “Home is a Dangerous Place,” will be released in June. This is a brand new Billy the Kid installment, never before seen in short story form on HubPages.  I hope you’ll check it out for your summer reading list.town_877


My buddy John Hansen is involved in a new website for writers….here it is….please take the time to check it out and sign up for his newsletter.


Each week I publish an article called “The Writer’s Mailbag.” In it are questions other writers ask me and my sloppy attempt at answering those questions.  One question that keeps popping up with great regularity has to do with how I stay so focused.  Evidently there are a lot of writers and wannabe writers who have a very difficult time sticking with it and actually accomplishing anything because they are so easily distracted.

I’m probably the last person on earth to give advice about this topic.  I’m about as anal and organized a human being as you are likely to meet, and I’m married to one of the most distracted human beings on the planet. This question directly relates to Bev and she really does struggle with it.

I wish I could help her and I wish I could help all of you who have similar problems.  There are a number of great articles online written by behavioral experts and I suggest you read some of those articles.  I recognize it as a real problem for many of you. I just don’t have a good answer for you.


Busy times around here with the quail and gardening and writing and on and on and on….and that’s all good because it’s life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have a great week of life and thanks so much for taking the time to read my ramblings.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”



Focus and Hard Work

14 May

003I’m still looking for a way to produce more hours in the day.  I’ll let you know when I solve that puzzle.

I’ve been busy!  How about you?

I’m in the middle of an edit for a friend’s children’s book, and I just took on a ghostwriting project for a real estate client.  The money is good, and our urban farm needs the infusion of cash but my goodness, as noted before, there aren’t enough hours in the day.

I think I need some positive energy.


“True health infuses positive energy in the mind, body and spirit; it is a main focus in my life.” Maximillian Degenerez

Mary, a friend on the writer’s site HubPages, recently asked me this question:  “I was wondering if you have any mantras to keep you focused or do you think all that positive thinking stuff is just nonsense?”

No, I don’t think positive thinking stuff is nonsense, and I’ve been known to read self-help books as needed….but the thing is….I’ve never really needed mantras to stay focused.  This is something I was probably born with, and it was reinforced by my parents and in particular my dad.  He believed in hard work. He was very goal-oriented, focused and, quite frankly, a little anal in that focus.  I guess some of that rubbed off on me.

I get it that not everyone is focused like I am.  Heck, Bev is at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to focus.  She is helter-skelter, all over the place, bouncing off walls and heaven help anyone who tries to follow her path.  She eventually gets to the end goal, but it drives me nuts trying to watch her…and I’m sure it drives her nuts being around Mr. Anal as well.

Whatever works, my friends.  If you need focus then try the mantras, or try some other method.  Break your task up into small chunks and tackle one small chunk at a time.  Don’t think in terms of the mountain of things you have to do but rather on the immediate task in front of you.

It’s hard for me to give advice on this topic because it is completely foreign to me, so take what I say with the proverbial grain of salt.


I’m in the early stages of ghostwriting this real estate book but it’s going to be fascinating for sure.  The topic is a snoozer to me but it’s a topic I’m familiar with, having written blogs for this guy for four years now.  What is fascinating is the fact that, even though the topic is a bit dry, he is as excited about his book as I am about my novels….and that’s how it should be.  This book will be a part of who he is….it will be a statement by him about his career and about him as a person…so my job, as the ghostwriter, is to capture that passion through my words.  It is a huge responsibility and one I take very seriously.

Someone asked me recently how to get ghostwriting jobs like the one I’m working on….my answer sounds flippant but it’s not meant to be….you have to work at it.  I’ve been doing this now for five years. This is my business and I treat it as my business.  A lot of hours came before scoring my first ghostwriting gig.  Anyone out there looking for a quick score from writing is in for a very long search.


From my friend, his first historical fiction…..give a shout out and some support to Bill…..Back to the Homeplace, the debut novel of William Leverne Smith, is available on and elsewhere, both in print and Kindle editions.


I am currently working on the 4th Installment of the “Billy the Kid Chronicles,” this one titled “Home is a Dangerous Place.”  It should be out in a month or so and it will be brand new, completely separate from the short stories I have shared on HubPages.  The 3rd in the series, “Ashes to Ashes,” is now available through Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

And that’s all I’ve got for today.  I hope you are all well and, as always, I look forward to your comments.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”



Following a Plan for the Future

3 May


I have a long-range plan.

I really do, despite all appearances to the contrary.

The problem with a long-range plan, though, is the long-range part of it.  The goal is distant, which by definition means it is way out there, beyond the horizon, not to be accomplished anytime soon.

So it can be aggravating and, at times, annoying.

But still we truck forward!

When I decided to pursue my dreams of becoming a writer, I sat down and mapped out the journey.  I’m anal that way.  I write a long-range calendar, for lack of a better term….it includes writing goals, marketing goals, steps upon steps upon steps as I climb this ladder.

The good news is I’m right on plan.  The bad news is, at times, the struggle seems endless.


“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” John Quincy Adams

I really am right on schedule.  In five years I have written four-full-length novels, one non-fiction book and three novellas.  I continue to write articles and soon my first podcast will be offered for your listening pleasure.town_878

Sales are picking up on my books and I attribute that to a steadfast approach to keep cranking out books and building upon earlier successes and efforts.  Soon I’ll move on to the next stage, which will be an increase in public readings and book signings.  Now that I have a body of work I’m proud of, it’s time to take it to the people, in person.

And this fall I want to teach several creative courses.

I’ve done some of this in the past.  I need to do more of it.

So how about you?


Do you have a long-range plan?  If not, do you think you might benefit from one?


Do you really find creativity?

If you asked me forty years ago if I was creative I would have immediately said no and honestly, I wasn’t.  I showed no signs of the writer I have become today.  During the forty years that followed, though, I experienced life and I became more aware of life around me. town_881

Today I suspect creativity was in me long ago but it was dormant, a sleeping giant just waiting to erupt from me.  The time was finally right, five years ago, for me to write and release that creativity.  I don’t believe I found it.  I don’t know that I did anything special to find it.  It just happened when my muse allowed it to happen.

Don’t try to force creativity.  Allow it to happen.  Baby steps and willingness will go a long way.


Yes, a new Billy the Kid is being written as we speak.  Here’s a preview of that upcoming novella.

There’s a story that circulated around the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City when I was a teen.  You know, urban legend sort of shit, origin unknown, veracity questionable at best but still, it was worth taking note of.  The story was about Val Checkers, nickname for Valentino Agnelli, the Checkers for his love of the game, which he played with neighborhood kids daily in Central Park.  Peaceful setting at first glance but definitely deceiving.

The surname Agnelli means “timid person” in Italian but let me tell ya, there was nothing timid about Val Checkers when I knew him.  Val was a made man in the Italian Mafia, his area of expertise prostitution.  The Italians were splitting up the city with the Russians, Chinese, Jamaicans, Mexicans and a few other nationalities, all scraping out a living from illegal endeavors.  It was agreed, long ago, to work under a flag of truce rather than fight it out daily, and for the most part that truce still works today.

Anyway, the story goes there was a pimp, Fat Boy Jerome, who worked the area around West 179th, near High Bridge Park, just off of Amsterdam, and like any low-level pimp he had visions of grandeur, him thinking he was going to squeeze some extra fat from Valentino’s royalties and it would go unnoticed.   This went on for several months but, as any street rat in the Heights can tell you, eventually there are no secrets.  Val found out, to the surprise of no one because, well, Val had a thousand eyes and ears in the neighborhood, and he requested a meeting with Fat Boy.

Over the span of the next two weeks, every low-level pimp in the Heights received a package, delivered by UPS, and in that package was one of Jerome’s body parts and a checker.

I wasn’t there to witness it but I have no doubt it happened.town_877

Agnelli is one of those guys who always looked old.  He looked old twenty years ago when I ran numbers for his outfit, me being thirteen at the time, and he looked the same old last year when I saw him eating linguini at Momma’s Kitchen.  He has a peaceful face, a gentle face, a grandfatherly face, the kind of face you imagine at church bake sales, but get closer to that face and you’ll be forced, eventually, to look at his eyes, and one look at those eyes will tell you all you need to know about Val Checkers.

The eyes reflect his soul, dark pools with no reflection.




We had a new hatch of quail chicks last week, sixty total, all seemingly healthy, but five days after the hatch one of the babies died.  I held it while it was taking its last breaths and there was something very profound in that moment we shared.  If you don’t understand that you probably never will.

Life is precious!  We writers imitate life and bring ideas to life.

Pay attention to those special moments when life, and death, speak to you.


Call on my buddy Mike Friedman and he’ll fix you up at a reasonable cost.  You can find him by following this link.


It’s getting closer, I promise.  When I do finally post my first podcast it will be called, appropriately, The Writer’s Mailbag.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by.  I’ll catch you down the road of life and at that time we’ll share more thoughts about life and writing.

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”