Tag Archives: writing tips

Just Playing Around With Words

9 Jul

More naps these days

Just playing around with words, seeing where they lead me, that sort of randomness.  Maybe this guy will show up in a novel one of these days . . . or not!

 

Those who understood him best were knee-deep in the life themselves.  Grifters,  hookers, money washers, brunos, fakeloo artists, street dips, shylocks, old-time petemen, hypes, all respected him. Alkies and needle embracers had no beef with him.  Strong-arm robbers, those who would impose their wills on others through violence, the child abusers, wife-beaters, button men, all feared him.  When his anger was unleashed he transformed into a Greek god, anvils for fists, arms swelling, splitting the stitching in his clothes, fire spewing from his mouth, havoc the only path he traveled when the River Styx was in view.

He dropped a San Diego pimp from the top of a high rise.  He grabbed a corrupt Teamster official by the ears and tossed him into the tar pits at La Brea.  A bag man with a penchant for beating women was drowned in a toilet bowl, and he took out a sex-trafficker in Miami with a fire hose switched on full.  There was the time in Portland when he filled a corrupt politician’s car with cement, and the time in Dodge City when outlaw bikers were rushed to the E.R. with pool cues rammed up their asses.

He protected the weak and innocent, tossed scat at the strong and guilty, and somehow came through it all unscathed.  His appetites were enormous, for booze, for drugs, for sex and rock n roll.  He loved Van Gogh, for obvious reasons, but hated Shakespeare for reasons forever locked in his child-man’s mind.  To some he was simple-minded, but I knew him to be one of the most intelligent men I had ever known.  Saving others was his purpose on earth, as was his penchant for self-destruction.

And he was, and is my best friend!

 

I love to play around with words, with phrasing, and with images.  I never know where I’m going with any of it, but the journey is a blast!

Thanks for hanging out with me. Have a great week!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

A Piece of Me

2 Jul

How about I share a section from my upcoming memoirs, “And the Blind Shall See?”

They all did the best they could with an impossible situation.  We are all wired differently.  One size does not fit all with human beings, and that’s just the real of it.  It took me decades to come to that realization, and another decade after that to forgive myself and accept the fact that the same rules apply to me. I did the best I could with an impossible situation.  There are no qualifiers with that statement, no buts or howevers.  I did the best I could.

No talent there . . . or is there?

I don’t know how others view their parents.  I suspect my impressions are shared by many.  When we are young, our parents are all-knowing, all-wise, and all-loving.  There is no fault within them. They understand the world; we do not; it’s as simple as that.  We assume their decisions are based upon some warehouse of knowledge we are not privy to as children, but it turns out our parents are just skin and bone, marrow and muscle, indecision and concern, nightmares and fear, just as we all are.  Just as I had no “Adulthood for Dummies” book to reference, the same can be said for my parents, my sister, and all my other relatives.  My mother was pregnant and married at fifteen, divorced at sixteen, and barely functioning at forty-seven.  My sister Darlys lived her own “hell on earth” life as a child, married and pregnant at seventeen, and was trapped in unhappiness at thirty-one.  My dad worked hard, played hard, and fought hard, constantly trying to outrun beatings as a child, and horrors of war no man should ever see, and he was dead at forty-nine.

How wise were any of them?  How all-knowing?  Or any of us?

The truth of the matter is this: we are all moving forward blindly, uncertain of our next steps, constantly concerned that our decisions are incorrect.  We buoy ourselves up with bravado and an air of confidence, both of which have the consistency of an under-baked meringue, but then we chastise ourselves when we make poor decisions when in fact the odds were against us from the very beginning.

“Trial and error” isn’t just a catchy three-word toss-away.  It is, in fact, how we all learn the most valuable lessons in life, and that’s scary as hell . . . and yet, necessary.  It seems to me, in the year 2019, parents spend far too much time protecting their children.  It’s natural to do so, for sure, but I also see it as harmful.  Children need to occasionally fail, and children need to occasionally feel pain, and they need to understand that neither are the end of their world.  Failing a test is not the worst thing that can, and will, happen to you.  Breaking a neighbor’s window while play ball is certainly not a joyful experience, but it also is not the worst fuck-up we will do and, in fact, on the “fuck-up” scale it barely registers.  Losing a girlfriend to a rival sucks, but life goes forward, and losing a loved one to heart disease can be crippling, but even those with walking impediments learn to be mobile.

Philosophical discussions, like this one, are enjoyable and, at times, enlightening at the age of seventy.  At the age of twenty, having just lost my Rock of Gibraltar, my father, philosophy was just a four-syllable word.

I was scared shitless and determined to never show it.

 

Do You Feel What I Feel?

25 Jun

More naps these days

So I was watching “America’s Got Talent” this past week . . . oops, before we get to that, we have this:

“Humans aren’t as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were ‘reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.” ‘ Neil deGrasse Tyson

So now, back to the show.  The last act of the night was some children’s choir from Detroit, Michigan.  It was a big choir, probably thirty kids of various ages, all lower-income, inner-city, underprivileged kids, all living in a dead-end part of a major U.S. city with very little hope for the future.

The choir director started the choir as a way of giving these kids something to do, something which would give them a sense of purpose, a sense of value, a distraction from the bleak existence they had been born into.  His mission was one of love, volunteer only, giving back in a way someone had given to him when he was a child.

The choir sang.  They sang beautifully, and then they were voted on to the next round and I swear, their reactions, well, about 4,000 people in that auditorium cried as did Bev and I.  I have no doubt most of those kids had never been on an airplane.  If I know anything about inner-city poverty, I’m willing to bet most of them had never been out of Detroit.  It is entirely possible that the trip to Hollywood, the performance, and the applause will be the highlight of their entire lives.

I’m telling you, it was impossible to watch that sequence and not feel elation for those kids.

That’s empathy, folks!  We need more of it, and as writers we need to call upon it to make our writing relatable and real.

TOTALLY UNRELATED

I was sitting down to continue working on my memoir, and the intro to a new “Shadow” book popped into my brain. I guess I’m now working on two books at once. I wish my muse would make up her mind!  LOL  “Shadows Across the Pond” is the working title.  I’m taking murder and mayhem over to Engliand.  Great fun!

Just some random thoughts on this Tuesday . . . have a great day unless you’ve made other plans.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Fading Summers

18 Jun

The heat slowly pushes northward, from the Simi Valley to the Redwoods, across the Rogue River to the Mighty Columbia, and finally to Olympia, capitol of Washington and home to new, and faded, dreamers.  Pushing the envelope, they say, record temps they say, an oddity for sure, clouds and heat, oppressive by mid-morning on this twelfth of June, a dog day afternoon approaching, thunder heads forming on the horizon, and time slows for us all.

Colors are muted in the heat.  Voices are quieter, movements slower, and chores cut short.  Children race through sprinklers or slide down sheets of plastic, road crews battle dust, visions of an iced cold one waiting at the end of their shift, and the elderly shed their coats and prepare for a game of chess in the park under spreading maples and elms.

Dogs call a postponement of all games, their tongues lagging, bees rejoice in the flowering berry bushes, hummingbirds are oblivious, wings beating furiously, and chickens head under the shed, not to be seen again until the cooling evening. Streets shimmer, wisps of white hang suspended from the heavens, and somewhere in the distance Mungo Jerry sings about summertime and women on his mind.

Memories of long ago, flip flops and drive-in movies, snow cones and sizzling burgers, bike rides with friends, all convinced the sun would never set on our multi-act play, “Help” by the Fab Four playing on  KJR, 950 on your dial but #1 in your hearts, long summer days, hot summer days, ball games and talking ‘bout girls, showing our plumage and not knowing a damned thing, clinging to a rapidly-fading innocence, hoping against hope, knowing it’s a fool’s game to do so, no chance at all of it all lasting.

Reminiscing plus a couple bucks will get you a cup of coffee, the truth of the matter, and yet the value of it is priceless as time grays the hair and shortens the stride.  We are the summation of those memories, walking, talking time machines, straight out of Jules Verne, with a few more miles of tread left on those tires, and memories can soothe us, keep us company when the summer fades and the shortened nights of winter wrap around us, stealing the heat needed for survival.  Those memories are peaceful now, their sharp edges worn smooth by time, and forgiveness, and they spread over me like my favorite toddler blanket of long ago.

Wishing for you all that same peacefulness!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

We Are Such Complicated Creatures

11 Jun

On the television news last night, they had a video of two guys who ran towards a burning car to pull out the woman driver.  They saved her life.

They ran TOWARDS a burning car.

There was also a story about Scot Peterson, the security cop in Florida who is going on trial for neglecting his duty during a mass shooting. He allegedly hid outside while the shootings occurred.

Two separate acts involving life and death situations. Two completely different reactions.

We are such complicated creatures!

In 1997 I was teaching middle school here in Olympia when one day we had a pretty sizable earthquake.  Light fixtures were swaying, desks toppled, you couldn’t stand up, that sort of earthquake, and it was scarier than hell.  I saw a student, who was outside on recess when the earthquake began, run into the school building to see if he could help someone.  I saw a teacher run outside screaming.

We are such complicated creatures!

Doing volunteer work in Louisiana, circa 1970, teaching the underprivileged how to read, I saw a “hanging tree” in New Iberia Parish.  You can guess why it was called “the hanging tree.”  I saw a group of black children walk unconcerned underneath that tree on the way to school.  Ten minutes later I saw a middle-aged white woman in a beautiful white gown step out of her car, kneel at the base of that tree, and say a prayer.

We are such complicated creatures!

Writers convey these things to their readers.  We make these scenes come alive for those who did not see them, or if it is fiction we present it in such a way that it seems real.  We give voice to the human condition,  and by doing so we form connections among us all.

Don’t you dare take for granted the abilities you’ve been given.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

That Which We Are, We Are

4 Jun

“That which we are, we are.

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate

But strong of will.

To strive, to seek, to find

And not to yield.”

 

I memorized those lines from “Ulysses,” the sprawling work by Tennyson, back in my college days.  They spoke to the younger version of me in 1969, and they speak to me today.

The human struggle we all face!

I was about two months removed from losing my father when I read those words.  “And not to yield” . . . my dad always told me growing up to never lose ground, that ground won should never be lost, to never retreat.  Tennyson’s words echoed the words of my dad, and even today they hold special meaning to me.

The human struggle we all face!

For me, as a creative writer, that is what writing is all about.  I seek to tap into that human condition, that human struggle, and give my readers something they can relate to.

For me, as a human being, that is what living is all about. I seek to tap into that human condition, that human struggle, and relate to others based on shared feelings and emotions.

We are all 95% similar and 5% different.

Why do we concentrate so hard on the differences?

Just random thoughts on a Friday morning.

Have a great week! I will leave you with more Tennyson:

“For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!”

 

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Back to 1967

28 May

Let’s go way back, to 1967, back to Seattle, Washington, back to my college days at Seattle University.  Frank, my best buddy, and I were enrolled in a Sociology class.  Our Quarter project was to go into the community and help the underprivileged.

Back in those days Seattle University was on the fringe of the Central District, and the Central District was primarily low-income, black in color.  After brainstorming for a week or so, Frank and I decided we were going to volunteer to help disadvantaged kids to read.  We went to the local community center, tossed our idea to the Center supervisor, he gave his approval, and two weeks later we had started the Central District Reading Program.

I remember working with fourth and fifth graders who had the reading level of 1st grade . . . see Dick run . . . see the cow in the field . . . watch Bob run fast . . . that sort of thing, and wondering how in the holy hell it was possible that there were kids in the Public School System who were that poorly educated.  What kind of disadvantage that must be, at that age, to be unable to read.  What are the chances of success when a kid is basically facing an impossible struggle at the age of ten?  How friggin’ lucky I was . . . I am . . . to have grown up in more supportive circumstances.  And the contrast was so stark: an institute of higher learning literally three city blocks from a community center where kids couldn’t read.

What we as writers do is important.  We are the guardians against widespread ignorance.  We are the other end of the spectrum.  We signify hope and advancement for society.  We tell stories, we report on events, and we explain how things function.  We take readers to far-off lands, and we take them to imaginary worlds.  We are a healthy escape for those kids in poor districts who have stopped dreaming of ever making it out of the Hood.

The day you take your writing talents for granted is the day you should stop writing, because at that point you will have forgotten just how lucky you are to be doing what you are doing.

See Dick run indeed!

Just something to think about!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Keeping Secrets

21 May

More naps these days

As I dive into this memoir thing, I’m coming to the realization that I knew very little about my adopted family.  Is that odd? I don’t know.  I can only recall a scant number of facts about their backgrounds, and after that I have to basically guess about it all.  It’s too bad, I guess, this gaping hole in my ancestral background, and I’m not sure who to blame for it.  We all love to blame, don’t we?  Should I blame my adopted parents for not telling me, or blame myself, heaven forbid, for not asking enough questions during my first twenty years?  I sure don’t want to blame myself although, truth be known, I’m comfortable doing so.

I’m in the process of building a fence in the backyard between us and our neighbors to the north. It’s been a long time coming, one of those chores that just seem to constantly fall down the to-do list.  This fence is eight feet tall rather than the customary six.  That was a purposeful decision, of course, as all are.  We have gone a good number of years with zero privacy back there, and a good number of years enduring the arguing young couple and their countless guests and loud parties.  I can’t do anything about the sound, but I sure can do something about the privacy.

And maybe those first two paragraphs are related.  Maybe my parents just wanted privacy and so did not share their past with their only son.

Finding the reasons for actions, or inactions, is important, don’t you think? It’s something I’m trying to do more of as I grow older and hopefully wiser.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve opened up so much about myself in my writings.  “Why keep secrets” is my mantra.  In truth, nobody can hurt me as much as I hurt myself in the past, so judging me will be like water off a duck’s back.  I might as well just open up and have at it, and perhaps a better understanding about me . . . and perhaps about you . . . will come from it.

There really is a great freedom which comes with growing older and not giving a shit any longer.  I wonder if my parents would have been more forthcoming if they had lived longer?

Knowing them, I doubt it!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

It’s All About Me?

7 May

More naps these days

Writing one’s memoirs is an interesting exercise.

My first reaction is one of resistance. It all seems so self-serving, directly opposed to the humility I wish to convey and live by.

It all seems so silly, the concept that my life might be interesting enough for a full-length book. Who would ever find my life to be fascinating?

And yet I see the value in it and, as a writer, I understand that every memoir written is not only written about the author but also about every single person who reads it, because we are all so much the same.  We strive for individuality, from the make-up we use to the clothes we wear to the thousands of possessions we purchase over the years, and yet, at our core, we are the same.  Events which have happened to me are relatable to a great many people.  We all have suffered loss. We all have struggled.  We all have had great personal triumphs, all have loved, and all have similar fears.

So my story is, in many ways,  your story, and perhaps that is the greatest value of a memoir, to show others that they are not alone in this world, that they are not strange in their thoughts, and that they are not mistakes of creation.  We are all stumbling, bumbling, mistake-prone jumbles of emotion, and we are all, in our own way, miracles.

And so it continues!

Bill

A Fly-by Update

30 Apr

I’ve been quiet online for a couple weeks now.  Just too much to do to devote any time to blogs; I’m afraid this will be a short one as well, but I think it’s important that I take a moment to thank all of you who purchased my latest novel, “The Magician’s Shadow.”

In truth I have no idea how many have sold.  I doubt I will ever know because I don’t follow up on stuff like that.  It’s enough for me to know I have written a novel and that people have enjoyed it.  So thank you!

Someone suggested recently that I write my memoirs (thanks a lot, Zulma!).  Actually my wife Bev has suggested it for quite some time as well.  I fought it for awhile; discounted it as silly for another while; now I’m going to do it. Who knows, I might find some healing in the exercise.

The working title of that memoir:  “And the Blind Shall See.”

Anyway, just a quick howdy and thank you!  Have a brilliant week!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”