Archive by Author

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.”

It’s A Thing, You Know!

2 Jun

IT’S A THING, YOU KNOW

So I’m out walking one of our two dogs, Toby, aka Mister Mellow, and he’s on a long leash, minding his own business, sniffing grass, sniffing dog poop, that sort of thing, and I note a woman approaching us.  She is on the same sidewalk, so I guide Toby over into the street.

A mental picture if you will: I’m in the street, Toby on leash, Toby moves slightly over towards the woman, to check her out, new sniffing to be done, and as we pass each other I estimate Toby is about three feet from the woman, wagging his tail, quite happy to make a new friend.

And I hear these words:  “Your dog really isn’t practicing social distancing. He’s supposed to be six feet from humans.  Social distancing is a thing, you know.”

I don’t have the time to relate to you all the things I thought about saying. I do remember thinking this woman is lucky I’m not forty years younger, because my younger self was not nearly as forgiving and calm.

What did I say to her?  “Courtesy and paranoia are things too, you know.  Have a great day!”

Toby, he was pretty much unaffected by it all.

I was amused.

REFLECTIONS

There are seven-point five billion people on this planet.  I was thinking about this the other day.  Every single one of those seven-point-five billion is living life right now. They are facing problems. They are having successes. They are laughing and crying and pondering and fretting. They are living a life which, to them, is pretty damned important. They are tucked into their own little universe, trying to traverse a bigger universe.  They are products of their lineage. Their DNA is wired in such a way as to make them unique among their species and yet quite similar.

It’s amazing we all don’t go to war daily when you think about it.  It’s really amazing to me we get along with anyone.

That woman I met? She obviously had an agenda. She was worried.  She was worried to the point of being a bit “over the top,” a bit paranoid, if you will, and she allowed that paranoia to cloud her thinking.

I’ve been there and done that.

The seventy-one year old Bill sees things a bit differently than the thirty-one year old Bill, and thank the gods for that small favor. I have mellowed considerably over the years. I like to think I’ve grown a bit wiser during that same span. I now have a muffler I can use to prevent my “instant thoughts” from escaping my lips, and that’s a good thing for all around me.

So I felt a bit bad for even saying what I said to her.

But I also felt justified and pleased.

We humans are complicated, you know!

Writers of the world, poets of the world, this is what we do.  We observe. We ponder. We reflect.  And we try our best to capture this thing called life with our words.

A NEW FRIEND

I started following this young woman’s blog the other day. She is fifteen years old and she writes about philosophical questions and dilemmas.  At fifteen I could barely spell “philosophical,” let alone ponder any philosophy.  It gives me hope, reading her thoughts.  Her name is Saania Sparkle . . . you can find her on Facebook if you’re interested, and that should lead you to her blog.

Wishing you all a brilliant day of capturing life with your words.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Sun and the Moon

26 May

I see sunshine and beautiful colors

COMPLETE RANDOMNESS

The sun no longer smiles upon me,

The moon, cold and uncaring.

Two lines which popped into my head at six a.m. four days ago.

I have no idea where they came from or what inspired them, but there they are, staring at me from my online page, with nowhere to go.

I’m not a poet, so chances are they will go nowhere at all, but that’s how my muse works. I call her Hope, my muse. Why? Because why not!  It’s as good a name as any; better than many.  Anyway, that’s how Hope works. She will toss random words and lines into my brain. Some I catch, like a lazy flyball on a summer’s day, the outfield grass soft underfoot, a gentle breeze, the ball settling softly into the web of my mitt, and some scream beyond my glove, exit velocity one-oh-nine off the bat, rising as it approaches me, well-beyond my reach, over the wall, a grand slam homer for some other writer.

And so it is for many of us who write, the uncertainty and wonder and randomness of it all.

I love it!

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

The things is, and I don’t know why, but I look at those two lines and I absolutely guarantee I could write five-thousand words about them in a short story.  But a poem?  That’s not happening!  It’s just not the way my writer’s brain works.

It’s been interesting working with other writers in my coaching duties.  We all have different perspectives. We all seem to have a specific slant to our writings. We can look at exactly the same thing and see fifty different things, and transform those things into prose or poetry or soapbox rants, meandering our way through a half-million words, piecing together, sorting through, finding just the right one, discarding many, like a pile of Legos becomes a structure or a weapon or – or – or

And God help me, I love it all!

RANDOM THOUGHT WHILE WATCHING THE VOICE

I was thinking about it all, this writing journey, while watching American television viewers pick the wrong finalists on The Voice.  Don’t get me wrong, Micah seems like a really nice kid, but one of the Top Five? Really?

But I was thinking, there is probably a miniscule chance, at best, that my writing will ever “go viral,” as they like to say these social media days.  Most likely my writings will go the way of the dinosaur.  There will be evidence that it existed, but it will be fairly difficult to see proof of that fact, none of my books on bookshelves, none in libraries, and none on any of the bestseller lists. And my articles? Floating around the web, they will be, forever bits of information, available to anyone who manages the correct search query on Google, but few will actually be read ten years from now.

And yet I write, just like those singers on The Voice who were rejected, and just like the street musicians and street artists and any other creatives out there who follow a voice no one else hears, and follow it because they must, for writing feeds my soul, and writing brings me enjoyment and satisfaction and quiets the inner demons who would have me follow a much-more dangerous path

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT

The sun no longer smiles upon me, and yet it does, those words not applicable in my real life, not now, not for thirteen years, not as long as I continue to write and continue to love.

Just random thoughts on this May afternoon, a quick summation of the creative process for yours truly.

Does anyone remember The Walker Brothers from the 60’s music scene? “The Sun Ain’t Going To Shine Anymore?”  Randomness!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

Background Noise

12 May

Background noise drives me bonkers.  Blither, blather, blah, blah, squeaks and talking heads and horns and kids playing, all diminish my concentration and render me useless.  As a writer, I need quiet. I need to be sequestered in a sound-proof booth until the writing is done.

My step-daughter recently bought me a coffee mug which has these words printed on it: “Fu*# Off! I’m writing!” That pretty much says it all about me and writing.

What’s weird about all of this is during my years as a teacher, background noise didn’t bother me at all.  Thirty kids in a classroom didn’t faze me one iota.  The chaos of a playground during recess was music to my ears.  But that was then and this is now, and I’m absolutely no fan of background disruptions.

And we seem to be bombarded by it more now than at any other time, or so me thinks.  Televised media and social media and increased traffic and congestion and, and, and, and, I long for peace and quiet more now than at any other time in my life.

Just shut the hell up!

And most of it is doom and gloom, and that sure as hell doesn’t help, a barrage of warnings and complaints and arguments and demands and my God, people of the world, could you just take a deep breath and let a wave of tranquility have its moment on the planet?

My folks didn’t complain.  I can remember that clearly. They did not have it easy, not by a long shot. They worked for every damned thing they had; they faced hardships; they had some serious reservations about politicians and lawyers and corporate heads; but they did not complain.

“You make your own way in life, Bill. Don’t expect help.  Complainers are people who are looking for sympathy, plain and simple, and in this household you’ll find sympathy between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.  Find a way to get it done and then do it.”

God bless my parents!  They were old school all the way, and there was nothing particularly wrong with old school in theory.  An independent spirit and a philosophy of hard work and determination will get you through some pretty tough times. So I was taught and so I believe.

But the problem with all-inclusive philosophies is they are destined to fail.  One size does not fit all. There are people in this country who are incapable of getting it done on their own, for a variety of reasons, literally millions of people who cannot get by without assistance, and that’s the rub with my parents’ philosophy of isolation and independence.

Just random thoughts as one day flies by, welcoming another, and I ponder my day under eighty-degree skies.

I hope you have a good one and, as always, I’m grateful for your visit and friendship.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Remembering You

23 Apr

The statistics just keep on pouring from the radio and television.

Allan Finder . . .

498 dead in New York City last night,  move on, a couple hundred in Detroit, Memphis had a bad night, look out, Boston, the numbers are rising, can’t get that damned curve to flow downward yet, but hope springs eternal.

Lorena Borjas . . .

And I hate to admit this but hey, someone has to, I am so accustomed to all of the death statistics that they barely register with me now. It’s like background music in a dentist’s office, you know.  I hear the sound but the actual tune is nebulous at best.

Bob Glanzer . . .

The thing is, and it’s something I’m trying to absorb today, is that each statistic is someone’s brother, someone’s wife, someone’s aunt or uncle or father or mother or child.  Each statistic is a loved one to someone, you know, and I think it’s crucial that we remember that fact.  I don’t ever want to reach the point where those statistics mean absolutely nothing to me.

Janice Rodman . . .

I think back to the Vietnam War, and how television really brought the realities of war to us all.  While eating our Swanson TV dinners, on our folding tv trays, we could turn on the news and watch as body bags were unloaded from transport planes, and witness,  up close and personal, the anguish on the faces of soldiers, thousand yard stare intact, as they grabbed a smoke on some numbered hill in the middle of some country none of us had heard of ten years prior and  God almighty, the pain we saw on those faces, and the burning corpses and amputees and rivers flowing red after the airstrikes.

Ron Hill . . .

And they built memorials for those soldiers, black granite walls for all to see, for all to remember, and hopefully for all to learn from,  but . . .

Time has a way of muting the memories, now doesn’t it, and I wonder if, when this is all over, we’ll go back to the way it was, or will we wake up, snap to attention, and let this lesson sink into our gray matter, change the way we go about our lives, and appreciate the sweet wonder of life itself.

And will the dead be remembered, those sons and daughters, wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, will there be memorials for them, the victims of a faceless enemy, one who crept into the night and filled so many with dread and nightmares . . .

Wishing you all good health and happiness

Love,

bill

We Can Do This!

9 Apr

We can do this lock-down thing!

Repeat after me: WE CAN DO THIS!

Let me tell you a story about my dad.

On January 22, 1944, Dad and 36,000 other Allied soldiers landed on the beach at Anzio, Italy.  Their landing was unopposed and basically undetected by the German forces.

Anzio Beach was reclaimed marsh land, and it was surrounded on three sides by hills.

The plan from High Command called for a swift landing, an even swifter establishment of a beachhead, and then an advance on Rome.  Somehow, though, the orders from High Command were either misunderstood or ignored by General Lucas, commander of the landing forces.  Lucas felt it important to fortify the hastily-constructed beachhead, so valuable time was spent doing that in anticipation of a counterattack.

That valuable time gave the Germans time to occupy the surrounding hills and begin dropping shells down upon the Allied forces, who were trapped on that beach for over a month.  For thirty days the Allied soldiers lived in trenches and hoped that the next shell did not have their name on it. Day and night the German big guns fired down onto that beach, and day and night the casualties mounted and hell on earth visited those soldiers in my dad’s corps.

Mind you, my dad enlisted in the Army because fighting in a war was a guaranteed paycheck, something my dad hadn’t seen in nine years because of The Great Depression.

We can do this lock-down thing!

Of course this pandemic is unsettling and difficult, but it sure isn’t like having explosive shells falling out of the sky.

WE CAN DO THIS!

Be safe, my friends!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Sister Hope

31 Mar

More naps these days

I’m tired of talking about COVID-19.  I don’t even like that name.  Whoever thought of it lacked imagination in my humble opinion.  Lol

How about a writing exercise?  You don’t have to do a thing.  I’m just going to play with words and see what happens.  It’s kind of nice to have all this extra time to hone my craft.

Should I go dark or upbeat? Let’s see what happens!

Uncensored and unedited, here we go . . .

A WRITING EXERCISE

I figured I had seen pretty much all there was to see on these mean streets.

I was wrong!

Nighttime arrives early on these streets, not so much an act of nature as a shadowing of evil.  Humanity changes when the light ebbs and the obsidian darkness blankets us all in West Oakland.

They call me Professor, a reference to a former life, a life derailed by black tar and a weakness of the soul.

Walk with me any night and you will see a new species shuffling among the detritus and waste of the forgotten.  Mules and pimps, snorters and sniffers, AB’s and ballers, gang bangers and peckerwoods, flying the colors, ridin’ the rails, strapped and ranked, all leading to tear drops and ten toes down in the Wild, Wild West of Peralta Street.

You want it, you got the cash, you can buy it, simple as that, my friend, angel dust to fallen angels, and a twenty will get you both when there’s a downturn to the market, a market run by the 98 Crew, the 500 Locos, and a dozen other affiliates looking to cash in on the two-headed cash cow, drugs and sex, as old a story as time itself, and lead flies often, bodies tumble in the gutter, rats feast, and the cops continue a hands-off policy for self-preservation.

In the middle of it all, one night, July 8th, so damned hot that night, stood Sister Hope, swear to God that’s what she called herself, right there on the street corner, wearing a flowing white dress, as pure as the snow sold in dime bags ten feet from where she stood, Sister Hope, smiling at all who passed her, greeting them with “Blessings and peace to you all,” and the locals giving her space, thinking maybe the crazies could be transmitted by breathing her air.

Late twenties, early thirties, golden hair flowing over her shoulders, an unblemished face, maybe five-four, one-ten at most, intimidating in her vulnerability, you know, none of the soldiers knowing what to make of her, and not willing to be the first to find out.  One, two, three, four nights in a row she appeared,  origin unknown, same corner, the whores standing aside, making room for her, and “Blessings and peace to you all” coming forth to all, a smile which could melt butter, bringing light to the darkness, and I’ll be damned, man, but for four nights the drive-bys ended, the rapes ended,  the muggings and beatings and degradation ended, and it was like a new universe, you know, like we were all beamed down into, what do the mystics call it, Nirvana, yes, some state of inner peace, strangest damned thing I’ve ever seen.  It was on the news, check it out if you don’t believe my chatter, four nights, four days, all quiet on the west side, cops totally baffled, not sure what to make of it.

On the fifth day, Sister Hope was gone.

 

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Hope you enjoyed it!  Remember, if you need a writing coach, I’m available.

Be safe and happy!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”