If It’s Broke, Fix It!

31 Dec

More naps these days

MEMOIR UPDATE

A slight delay.  My buddy, who does all of my book covers, Mike Friedman on HubPages, will have the cover done around January 10th, give or take, so the end of January is my target date for the book’s release. Thank you for being patient.

WHY A WRITING COACH?

A writing coach is someone who understands the struggles that accompany a writer, and they are someone who can help you to overcome the challenges you face.  A good writing coach will not pull any punches. They will be honest with you in their appraisals, and they will be encouraging every step of the way.

DO YOU NEED A WRITING COACH?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you consistently missing your goals?
  • Do you need help with grammar, spelling, sentence structure or story formation?
  • Do you need help in developing a stronger writing voice?
  • Are your characters or plots weak?
  • Could you benefit from constructive feedback?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then a writing coach just might be the answer.

WHAT I WILL DO FOR YOU

Here are a few of the things I can do for you as your writing coach:

  • Help you to identify your writing goals
  • Keep you focused on those goals and projects
  • Help you to overcome whatever challenges you face
  • Improve your writing through helpful suggestions.
  • Give you an honest critique of your writing
  • Help you to tighten your writing and make it lean and mean.
  • Help you to find your voice

Yes, you can afford me.  $50 per month, unlimited contacts each month, no minimum.  Seriously, you can’t find a better deal.  For fifty dollars, in one month, we can iron out the kinks in your writing and open up possibilities you didn’t even know were available to you.

It comes down to this: how important is your writing to you, and do you have the disposable income?

I’m only taking on six students per month, so let me know soon if you want a cheerleader in your corner.

Happy New Year!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

My Problem, My Life, and Much More

17 Dec

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all of you who passed on kind words and love following the death of my best friend.  I am fine, truly, sad but fine.  I had time to prepare for this. I was able to visit Frank and say goodbye in person.  So today I am filled with sweet melancholy, and I am celebrating a beautiful friendship of fifty-seven years. What a gift he was for me!

What a gift you all are.  It is still amazing to me that I have caring, loving friends from around the world, friends I have met, many I have not met, all connected to me through writing, but also connected to me through our common humanness.  Quite remarkable!

WRITING COACH

I will be announcing a January special for my writing coach services.  If you have ever wanted your own, private, one-on-one writing coach, a great opportunity is heading your way. Stay tuned!

MY PROBLEM

Do you want to know what my problem is?

Well, one of my problems . . .

There is too much I want to do, and I fear not enough time to do it all.

I really, really want to start a podcast.

I really, really want to finish my memoir, then write another Shadow book, then write a retro 60’s book, then re-write the 12/59 Shuttle, then write the sequel to that novel, then . . .

And I have another blog I want to start, and then there’s this whole social-consciousness thing, where I feel I should get out in society and make a difference for some cause.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it all, and frustrated to the max.

Welcome to my life!

In truth, this is nothing new for me. I’ve always felt like I don’t do enough, that I fall short of my potential, and that I should be arrested for wasting time.  I’ve always had an aversion to just sitting and doing nothing during the day.  I’m like a shark. I must keep moving in order to survive and yes, you can toss in my addictive, compulsive tendencies and, well, that’s where I find myself today as Christmas rapidly approaches.

ELIZABETH GILBERT

I was watching, for like the 10th time,  a TedTalks program featuring writer Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the bestseller “Eat, Pray, Love,” or I may have those three words in the title mixed up.  Obviously I’ve never read it, but it did spend a ridiculous amount of time on the NY Times Bestseller list in 2006 and 2007.  Anyway, during this TedTalk, Gilbert talks about the fame of that book, and how some people have asked her if she’s worried that the best is now behind her, if at forty she reached the pinnacle and it would all be downhill from there.  Should she keep writing, knowing she will never again reach that kind of success, or should she, like Harper Lee, just quit while she’s on top?

Gilbert’s response was two words:  writers write!

That’s what we do . . . we write!  If there is a passion for writing, it makes no difference whether fame is found, or whether the best is behind you . . . writers write!

Brilliant!

FROM MY UPCOMING MEMOIR, “AND THE BLIND SHALL SEE”

No talent there . . . or is there?

I look back now and I’m blown away.  I beat some rather considerable odds.  Lady Luck has been in the passenger seat of my vehicle for the entire trip.  As I navigated through a blizzard of rather questionable decisions, I still managed to get a couple of them absolutely right at the absolute perfect time, and maybe that wasn’t luck at all.

I’m a big believer in the Butterfly Effect.  You know, a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and two months later a blizzard occurs in Sioux Falls, that sort of thing.  I extend it to cause and effect within an individual as well.  I fart when I’m ten and thirty-two years later I sign divorce papers, that sort of thing, nothing occurs in a vacuum, it is all related and it is all crucial as our life’s mural is painted.  What I did at ten directly affected what I did at twenty, at thirty, at forty, and still today, at seventy-one. It can all be traced, gone over with a magnifying glass, seen for what it was and what it would become, connective tissues holding the host together.

It would be incredible if we could see the entire chess board as we lived our lives, like looking down from a thousand feet, perfect vision from above, able to see what each action will lead to, and what that will lead to, and that . . . but what I’m suggesting would literally require an extra-sense, or an intellect so well-tuned as to represent the equivalent of perfect pitch in music.  The best we can hope for . . . the absolute best . . . is that we are aware and that we eventually understand our role in the greater picture.

Most of us have pretty good hindsight.  It’s our foresight that sucks, but for years I chastised myself for not seeing it all approaching, for not preparing for it, for not being aware, and for not making better choices, when in fact I was just doing what humans do.

 

Have a great week!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Just A Writing Exercise

5 Dec

JUST A WRITING EXERCISE

A cold fog has settled over us this morning, damp, chilly, and unforgiving, the bane of drivers, the bane of anyone who dreams of Florida vacations in the winter, a reminder that I’m just a bit off-center, for I love fog.

I have always loved the fog, like a favorite comforter lovingly sewed by a loving grandmother, it wraps itself around me, shrouds me, and provides nourishment for my muse.

The fog delivers fodder for the imagination.  Colors are muted.  Sight is veiled, the obvious becoming mystical, the safe becoming foreboding, each step during walks more measured, each curve in a path providing doubt where once there was assuredness.  It is a primal thing, this fog, snatching us from our comfort zone and delivering us to the unknown, to the inexperienced, and to the unexpected.  Confidence is scrubbed clean of its luster, replaced by rusty coats of indecision, and thoughts of Freddie Kruger and Michael Myers flash through our minds, uninvited and unwanted.

Scraggly pines tower above us, monoliths from ancient times, or prehistoric monsters, or reminders of twin towers which once stood back east, now stripped of their leaves, stripped of their skin, stripped of their gleaming glass.   Scrub maple six feet in height could be anything, awaiting vivid imaginations or the not-so-vivid practicality, danger lurking, mystery shivering as a breeze picks up, the fog swirling now, dispersing, transporting, confusing, and yet oddly comforting.

THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT FOR NOW

Do you do little exercises like the one above?  What do you do to improve your writing? I’m curious…asking….maybe I can incorporate something you do, learn from you…so if you feel like sharing, please do.

I have so much I want to write. I actually have another blog idea I might do.  I also want to get into podcasting.  And of course the next two novels once I finish my memoirs….sheez, does anyone have some extra time to loan me?

Anyway, thanks for being here. I’m toying with the idea of writing a poem.  Maybe I’ll write the first line today, and then the second line in a month or so.  No need to rush into it, right?  LOL

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Sharing Talent from Across the Pond

26 Nov

More naps these days

I don’t know how much blog-hopping any of you do.  I follow maybe ten blogs.  Time, or lack thereof, prevents me from following more, but at least the ten I do follow are of high quality, and at least I am able to show some support to ten talented writers.

I would like to give a shout out to one of those writers today . . . Andrea Stephenson . . . and her blog “Harvesting Hecate.”  You can find it by following this link:

https://harvestinghecate.wordpress.com/

Andrea is a gifted writer, and I don’t write those words casually.  Perhaps I relate to her writing because there is a somberness, or melancholy,  underlining everything she writes, but I prefer to think it’s because she is a true craftsman (or is that craftsperson?).

From her recent offering, Wounded, I give you this excerpt:

“I have always appreciated the power of the dark and the things that are revealed there.  Darkness is fertile ground, a place for dreaming.  But this season I have dreaded it.  I have dreaded that long spread of days when the only daylight is diffused through my office window.  And yet in dreading it, I have embraced it.  At the year’s turn, I stood in darkness and welcomed it and it hasn’t been something to fear after all.”

As you well know, the internet is overflowing with wannabe writers, so it really is a joy to come across someone who respects the art of writing, who obviously works at it, and who continually churns out work of very high quality. I strongly recommend you stop by Andrea’s site and take a look at what great writing looks like.

That’s really all I’ve got for you this week.  My memoirs are stumbling along. I thought I would be done with them by year’s end, but now I see I have to re-write a couple chapters, so I may have to revise that timeline.  Oh well, it will be done when it is done and not a minute before. J

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for your friendship!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Awareness on a Fall Day

14 Nov

The first rain in fifteen days arrived today.  Driest fall in sixty-seven years in this neck of the woods, or so say the experts.  The dogs are on the floor, in front of the wood stove, drying off after their walk.  They look quite content and in no hurry to go anywhere, thank you very much.  Me, I’m thinking this is a good morning to do some reading, in front of that same wood stove, as snug as a bug in the rug, a shout out to my dad, who said that often when tucking me in at night.

When tucking me in at night . . .

Makes me think of all those kids out there, in the big, cruel world, who have no bed to be tucked into, all those kids who have no parents to do the tucking, all those kids who would do just about anything to trade places with me.

I was watching a documentary last night about drug lords in Mexico, all of the random deaths, citizens in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I followed that cheerful documentary up with one about poverty in Jamaica, five miles from Five-Star resorts, and I thought about the randomness of it all, how some of us are just plain lucky while others wouldn’t even know how to spell luck.

5,000 people in England stood in the rain for hours, waiting their turn to take a swab test to see if their blood matched the blood of a dying child badly in need of a transfusion.  Random strangers reaching out to help a child they do not know.  I cried without shame when I read that . . . fake news?  I doubt it, but even if it was, it’s the kind of fake news I prefer to read these days.

People often ask me where my ideas come from.  Are they kidding?  On any given day, if I open my eyes and ears, inspiration is waiting for me.  It’s on the news, on the streets, from every corner of the world, just waiting for me to notice it and write about it in story form.  Some of my novels have graphic violence, and I didn’t have to dream it up. Check out the latest on Mexican drug cartels and the murder of innocents south of our border.  Check out the random acts of violence on American streets.  My novels may be fiction, but they are definitely based on reality.

It comes down to awareness and empathy for me. I suspect most writers are overflowing with both qualities.

Random thoughts on this Monday morning as the drizzle drizzles and the woodstove smoke rises above it all.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Interesting or Not!

5 Nov

A friend of mine recently asked this question:

“Here is a related question. In this Mailbag, you shared an excerpt from your memoirs—you bared your soul to us. Does your writing rise from that place? How has your writing changed as you have healed inside? These are personal questions, but you have already shared so much with us.”.

I really think this question is crucial for all writers.

I have no idea how many articles and books I’ve read during my lifetime.  Easily the number is in the thousands if not the tens-of-thousands, right? I am, after all, seventy-one years old. I was a teacher, I’ve attended college for five years, and I am an avid reader, so it’s safe to say I’ve read a bunch.  I can divide that huge block of reading into two categories: interesting and not interesting.

Now what makes an interesting article or book?  And why are some not interesting?

I think one criteria is the subject matter.  I love mysteries. I also love history.  Pretty much anything I read which is a mystery or a historical writing will be found interesting by me.  But what about all the rest? What keeps me interested in an article about cooking? I’m not terribly interested in cooking, so it’s going to take a bit extra to get me onboard with a cooking article.

Which brings us to writing style . . . voice . . . approach . . . and I think this is where a writer can take control and hook just about any reader.

For me, a major portion of my writing style/voice comes from my willingness to let my guard down and show you who I really am. That means sharing the pains and the joys.  People respond to my writing because of that honesty and in-your-face approach.

It’s not for everyone.  Many writers are not comfortable with that kind of brutal honesty.  I am!

Just random thoughts . . .

Have a great week!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

What Makes You Happy?

22 Oct

I just read an article written by a friend on HubPages.  The title was “What Makes You Happy,” and I thoroughly enjoyed going through the list in my brain.

Just a partial list of mine would include the following, in no particular order.

My wife makes me happy. Daddy didn’t raise a fool. I made sure I made this #1.  LOL  But seriously, Bev is my reward for finally getting my act together and living a life I can be proud of.  There are days I am completely clueless as to why she stays with me, but I thank the gods she does.

Writing makes me happy.  It is my release, and a beautiful release it is.  Writing provides me with the opportunity to connect with so many people, but it also allows me a forum where this awkwardly shy human being can speak his mind and share his randomness.

My son makes me happy, my friends make me happy, and memories of those passed on make me happy.  I am surrounded . . . I have been surrounded . . . by people who, by their very existence, have given me strength, joy, understanding, support, and love. That makes me a rich man without the dollar signs.

Life makes me happy.  This is a statement which would not have been made twenty years ago, but today I say it without hesitation. I am in love with life.  I am blessed with ridiculously good health. My mind is clear of alcohol and I can experience freely the joys which surround me.  I know how syrupy that sounds but it is true. I’ve seen the dark side of life, and it was me. Today I see only warm fuzzies.

And I make me happy, and that’s also a statement I never could have made twenty years ago.  I am proud of myself. I have fought the good fight. I did not surrender to superior forces, and I have stopped my retreat.

What makes me happy?

The whole enchilada, thank you very much!

INTERESTING QUOTE

From author George R.R. Martin:

“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”

There is no doubt I am a gardener.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Magic of Smell in Writing

8 Oct

Really connecting

I recently mentioned in my Writer’s Mailbag series that I have certain smells which instantly transport me back in time to my childhood.

I loved the fall season as a kid.  It just seemed like the best season for smells around our neighborhood.  Mr. Conrad burning a pile of leaves . . . Mrs. Shaffer baking bread . . . my mom frying chicken . . . drives in the country and the smell of fertilized fields . . . I’m sure there is some medical or psychological reason why this happens, but I’ll leave that to those much smarter than me . . . I just know it happens.

Someone mentioned in comments the smell of freshly-mowed grass . . . most definitely!  And someone else mentioned the smell of the air after a shower . . . again, that is a smell which is hard to describe but you know it when you smell it . . . and that’s the point, we all know it when we smell it, we can all relate to it, and it could be used in a story or a novel with that in mind.

The writer’s job is to describe a scene for the readers, and to make that scene instantly relatable to the readers.  It requires talent and hard work to do it.  Let me share with you a scene from “The New Iberia Blues” by James Lee Burke:

“Her living room was tiny, the doorways hung with beads, an ancient Victrola against a wall, the couch and stuffed chairs maroon and purple and tasseled, incense burning in a cup on the coffee table.  Bella wore sandals and jeans and an oversize Ragin’ Cajuns T-shirt and a gold chain around one ankle, a charm balanced on the top of her foot. I could smell ham and eggs cooking in the kitchen.”

One paragraph, carefully crafted, sights and smells categorized, and as a reader I am there.  The description is sparse and yet it plays to my imagination, leaving me to fill in the blanks and make some assumptions, which is also the mark of a master craftsman on the job.  Regarding smell, Mr. Burke chose incense and ham and eggs cooking, two smells most of us can relate to, and that’s an important distinction . . . most of us can relate to it.  I can come up with some rather bizarre smells I remember smelling during my life, but not all of them are relatable, so I probably would not use them in a story or a novel.

Just something to think about before you craft your next scene.

Someone recently asked me . . .

How do I notice all of these things in order to make my scenes realistic?  For me it comes naturally. I’ve always been a shy observer.  For others it takes work and practice.  Remember the senses. What do you smell? What do you see? What do you hear?   We all share the senses, so make them work for you.

Have a great week! If you need me, I’ll be outside soaking it all in.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Embracing Sweet Melancholy

10 Sep

I was watching a movie the other day . . . Elizabethtown . . . for maybe the third time, possibly the fourth.  For a variety of reasons that movie touches me, reasons I don’t need to go into at this point, in this place . . . but there was one scene where the girl tells the guy to go take his trip and allow sweet melancholy to overtake him.

That line has always stayed with me. I just love that phrase “sweet melancholy.”

Many of you know I’m a recovering alcoholic.  In November I will celebrate thirteen years of sobriety, and one thing I have learned over those thirteen years is that I need to avoid depression.  I cannot allow my mind to dive back into the deep pools of darkness.  For me it is a matter of survival.

But I can allow sweet melancholy, and that is what I’m feeling now.

A little over a week ago I made an unplanned trip down to Ashland, Oregon, to see my best friend Frank.  When I say “best friend” it is a bit weak in describing him.  “Brother” would be closer to the truth. I have known him since 1962 and I truly love him like a brother.  He is one of the few people on this planet I feel at ease with, and one of the few people I can be myself around.

Frank is dying.  He was diagnosed with spinal cancer four years ago, and a few weeks ago he called me and told me we are now down to weeks rather than months.

So I made the trip to Ashand to see my brother and to say goodbye to him.

Sweet melancholy!

We sat as old friends sit, and we reminisced.  We laughed about shared memories, and we cried.  We found the time to tell each other how important we were to each other, and we expressed sincere gratitude for the connection.

And then it was time to go, and I said goodbye!

It is so rare that we humans make that kind of deep connection with another human being.  I am grateful and blessed that I found it with Frank.  I am grateful and blessed that I can write about this without wanting to drink.

I am grateful for sweet melancholy.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Show Me the Passion

27 Aug

I see sunshine and beautiful colors

What are you passionate about?

What makes your heart sing?

In a world of seven billion people, I would imagine there are some fascinating answers to that question, including the answer “nothing!”

Truth: I have a good friend, someone I have known for decades, and I’m guessing his answer to that question would be “nothing.”  I have never known him to be passionate about anything. I have never heard him speak about such a passion. Oh sure, he’s interested in many things, but his heart singing?  No way have I seen evidence of that, in him, in all the years I’ve known him.

But if you were to ask that same question to him, about me, he would most likely tell you that I was once passionate about teaching and that I am now passionate about writing.  He knows me well enough to answer that way, and that would be the correct answer.

When I was a teacher, I lived and breathed teaching. I woke up every morning excited about going to school. I could hardly wait to share a lesson with my students, and I went to bed each night thinking about classes the next day. I found incredible joy in that work, and today I find similar joy in writing. The process of creating an article, a story, or a novel is thrilling for me, just as teaching was at one point in my life.

But to be passionate about nothing? I can’t even fathom how that is possible and yet I am quite certain there are many people like my friend . . . and that’s okay!  There is no requirement for passion in life. I make no judgment one way or another. I just find it interesting, being an observer of people.  I’ve seen some people so beaten down by life there is no way they can find the passion.  I’ve seen some abused, some totally ignored, some rejected, bullied, beaten, and some trapped in addiction.   There are countless reasons why passion would be missing.

I’m just curious.

And then there are those who are passionate about being a parent, or passionate about being married, and I can see that as well.

How about you?  What is your passion?  Do you have one?

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”