Tag Archives: writing tips

Randomness from Mr. Observation

15 Jan

Maggie and I went out to the farm the other day, which is not news since we do that every single day to feed the chickens and collect eggs.

Just before we reached the main gate I looked off to my left and saw the coyote which has been killing our chickens of late.  He was standing in a hollow about one-hundred yards from us.  Maggie did not see him.  So I parked the truck on the farm, now maybe two-hundred yards from where the coyote had been seen, and Maggie and I got out of the truck.  Maggie sniffed the air once and took off running in the direction of the coyote.  Mind you, we could not see the coyote from where I parked the truck, but Maggie was aware enough of the scent, carried on a gentle breeze, and she was off and running.

It was an amazing moment, really.  Of course I am aware that animals have keen senses, but to actually see just how keen, firsthand, took my breath away.

Things like that happen all the time on the farm.

Did you know that chickens have independent eyes? One eye is constantly looking at the ground in search of food; the other eye is always looking for predators.  It’s pretty cool to watch if you find yourself on a farm someday.

There’s a llama out at the farm, and the two sheep that are at the farm instinctively stay close to the llama for protection. Two difference species which somehow understand their roles in a partnership.

Walk up to that llama and the first thing she will do is put her face directly in front of your face, and I’m talking two or three inches.  She is smelling you, determining whether you can be trusted, and one thing you can do, to build that trust, is to gently blow air in the llamas face.  I swear I’m not making this up. I’ve done it, and that llama will come to the fence line to greet me whenever I’m at the farm . . . because she trusts me, and I passed the greeting ritual with flying colors.

It’s all just fascinating to me!

There are also guinea hens on the farm, and peacocks, and when they sense a predator is nearby (usually the same coyote) they will join in on a chorus of high-pitched screeching to warn all, and as soon as that screeching commences Cleo, the farm dog who lives there, will come racing out of the home to chase off the coyote. Who needs ADT Security when you have guinea hens and peacocks?

Anyway, the point is this: there is a big old world out there which is fascinating if we allow ourselves to observe, and observation is a valuable tool for a writer.  Go take a nature walk and really observe what’s happening around you. Go walk downtown and really observe the people you see.  It’s all there for you, for free, and it is all fuel for the next short story or novel.

Next week I think we’ll talk about ground fog if you have no objections.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Rows and Flows of Angel Hair

8 Jan

I was listening to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” the other day:

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and they snow on everyone
So so many things I would’ve done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Similes and metaphors . . . so very cool!  That, my friends, is beautiful writing.  You can call them lyrics, or you can call it poetry; whatever you call it, make sure you add the word “brilliant” to your description.

Here’s the thing about similes and metaphors: they have to be relatable and easily understood; if not they are simply clever writing which has very little value to the reader.  In truth, I’m not sure what Joni meant when she said “I really don’t know clouds at all,” but I also don’t really care.  The line “feather canyons everywhere” is so damned brilliant that it transcends the importance of understanding the final meaning, at least for me.  Comparing clouds to angel hair, or ice cream candles . . . man alive, that is just brilliant writing, and only a true Creative would see those things while looking at clouds.  You can’t really teach that kind of vision, and I don’t think Creatives really have to force the creative process.  It’s just how their minds work . . . how our minds work!

We are members of a very select group. We see things through decoder lenses, and those lenses are not available to everyone.

Enjoy them!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Power of Emotion

1 Jan

It’s been fifty years, this week, since my dad died in my arms.

Some dates .  . . some events . . . you never  forget.

We all have them.  Many times I’ve talked to people who remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was shot, or when the Challenger disintegrated, or when the Twin Towers were attacked.  We remember the finest details of those moments, even though we have a hard time remembering what we had for dinner three nights ago.

The power of emotion!

I remember the first kiss, the sweetness of it, one mystery unlocked.  I remember making love the first time, the frenetic, confusing energy of it, another mystery unlocked.  I remember several broken hearts, a love lost to a young death, tragedies and triumphs, slights and recognitions.  They were recorded in my memory banks, stored away, hermetically sealed in a Mason jar for safe-keeping, called upon from time to time, when story characters need a touch of humanity . . . and when I need a touch of humility.

I saw a “hanging tree” in New Iberia, Louisiana, and felt, at that time and at this time, sorrow for our  species, and I saw mangled limbs on veterans who paid the ultimate price for a government’s hubris.  I saw burned children in a hospital, and learned more about dignity from them than from anyone else in my lifetime.

Stored away . . . the power of emotion!

I’ve known addicts most of my adult life.  I’ve known hookers.  I’ve heard their stories and seen the pain on their faces, and that shit will stay with you forever, just as the testimony of the abused and discarded will brand your soul with the stench of truth.

The power of emotion!

I’ve shaken hands with Death and lived to tell of it.  I’ve comforted those who live in the aftermath of violence, and I’ve celebrated the seemingly mundane events of life with those who didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out.  I remember it all, and it all is reflected in my writing, in my voice, and in my style.

How could it not be?

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Angst and Writing

25 Dec

I was watching a program on Netflix the other night . . . “Springsteen on Broadway” . . . I think that was the name of it.  Anyway, it was basically a one-man show, Bruce Springsteen, taking us on a journey through his life and explaining how many of his songs were inspired by things that happened in his life. It was a fascinating look inside the creative process.

At one point he stated that song writers need to be ANGRY in order for their lyrics to truly be meaningful and touch thousands.  He then modified that statement by saying PAIN of any sort will do, the point being that true lyrical genius comes from a deep well of emotions.  In order to make people feel your words, it is necessary for you to feel them.

I heard, basically, the same thing on a show called “The Voice.”  One of the coaches was telling her protégé to feel the lyrics of the song . . . that only by feeling those lyrics can you make the audience feel them as well.  She went on to say that songs become powerful messages when they are born from angst or from a deep well of love.

I tend to agree with that.  I’m not going to go so far as to say one cannot be a creative writer, or a poet, without angst, or anger, or pain, but I do think that those emotions fuel the truly great writers and poets.  I know for a fact that my best writing has erupted forth from a vault of emotions I keep tucked away just below the surface of my persona.

Just something to think about as you go about your day.

By golly, it is Christmas!  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, or a very Happy Holidays, or simply the Finest Day of Love you can imagine!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

A Storm is Coming

18 Dec

I see sunshine and beautiful colors

There is a storm heading our way.  It is Friday morning, 9:50 as I write this, and the storm is due to arrive around one this afternoon.  Those weather folks and their computer programs are pretty good at this stuff, so I’ll assume the storm will, in fact, arrive and bring with it high winds and drenching rains.

The thing is, right now, as I look out the window, it is incredibly calm.  There is no hint of wind. There are no drops of rain.  Still, I don’t doubt the storm will be here shortly.

Being a freelance writer and working for myself is a bit like that.  I know there will be problems even though, at this point in time, my business is doing quite well.  At some point a customers will drop my services and my income will suffer, and then the scramble to find new customers will begin again.  Perhaps I will be sick next week and unable to fulfill my responsibilities.  I have no backup; I either perform or the bills pile up.  Luckily, so far, I have performed, but there are no guarantees in writing or in life.

So I sit here and ponder these things as the storm approaches.  I have some billing to do, and I’m grateful I am able to send those invoices out and continue to pay my bills.  I’m grateful for whatever abilities I have which allow me to make a living doing what I love to do.  And I’m grateful to my parents, for instilling in me the confidence to work for myself, and to my friends, all of you, who continue to support me and give me encouragement.

Yep, there is a storm heading our way . . . but I’ll be ready for it!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Is Time On Your Side?

11 Dec

The Rolling Stones told us, back in the 60s, that time was on our side.

I think a lot about time lately.

When I was a teacher, my life was very time-detailed.  I knew the exact date, the exact time, and exact everything related to time because, well, it seemed important that a teacher be that way.

Now, working for myself, I rarely know the exact date.  There are some holidays which sneak right by me because, in many ways, I’m clueless about time now that I am in a different situation.  On a related note, there are times(events)  I’ve completely forgotten though, at the time, they seemed very important.  What’s up with that?

I’m as likely to remember the sweet time of my first kiss, decades ago, as I am to remember to make time to take the garbage out to the curb tomorrow.

Time is fleeting, and the older you get it becomes obvious that The Stones were full of baloney, but if it is fleeting, why is it that unpleasant moments seem to drag out forever, as though the hands on the clock are stuck in one position?

And then we have Dr. Seuss’s opinion on time:

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

More naps these days

Time is running out!  Well duh!  Time has been running out since the day we were born, and yet most of us act like we have an unlimited supply of it.

Do I have time to write the novels I still want to write? Do I have time to bestow on Bev the love she deserves?  Do I have time to become the man I’ve always wanted to be.

No, Mick Jagger, time is definitely not on my side.  I’d better get busy while I still have time.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Routine Life

4 Dec

The familiar beep is annoying at best.  Ironic since I chose that particular sound because it was the least annoying.

Six a.m. on a Friday . . .

My world . . .

Stumble in the darkness, a daily metaphor, shower, toss down some orange juice, and settle down in front of the computer no later than 6:30.  That time is important to me, though I know not why.

Pound out the words, make customers happy, it’s always about the customers, check emails for instructions, communicate confusion, finally settle into a rhythm of content b.s. designed to score higher with the Google gods, what a silly, silly game I play . . . but it pays the bills and that cannot be ignored.

Everything goes smoothly, done by ten, giving me half an hour to slay some bad guys in my latest novel, and ten-thirty marks the time to clean up the kitchen and prepare for an early lunch with Bev, who is due home by eleven.

Day in, day out, sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the years . . .

The afternoons are for the farm, feed the chickens, go for a walk with Maggie, make repairs to coops, that sort of thing, thoroughly enjoyable except during mud season, and then not so much, but even my worst days are pretty damned good.

More often than not inspiration visits me on the farm.  My muse loves it out there and, seriously, why wouldn’t she?

Home by three, clean up the house, feed dogs, check emails, organize for the next day, and settle in for Bev’s return at six-thirty.  Most evenings are for us, our alone time, the time when bonding happens and the marriage is strengthened.

And that’s how my days go.  I stick to a routine because, well, life is better for me in a routine. It’s taken me a lifetime to reach that realization. Obsessive-compulsive personalities, like mine, function better when the days are mapped out and randomness is eliminated.

And I’m fine with that.  I do all right.  I accomplish things within the confinement, not allowing the addictions to roam free. It’s worked well for me for twelve years now; don’t fix it if it ain’t broken, or as a mentor once told me, adopt the K.I.S.S. Method  .  . . Keep It Simple Stupid!

What works for you, works for you.  What works for me, works for me.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

The Origins of a Literary Character

13 Nov

Someone asked me the other day where the inspiration for my character Eli Baker, in the Shadows Series, came from.

I suppose the answer would be from several people and characters I have known and/or seen in movies, but the main inspiration came from Charles Bronson and a movie called Death Wish.  In that movie, and in sequels, Bronson plays a character named Paul Kersey, and out of revenge for unthinkable things done to his family, Kersey sets out to wreak havoc on the local criminal community.

I liked that concept of uncontrollable rage AND the idea of roaming the underworld, wiping out the bad guys, and being so good at it as to be almost immune from harm or prosecution.

But I wanted that Kersey character to have more depth, and for depth I turned to a fictional police officer called Dave Robicheaux in the James Lee Burke novels.  I loved the way Burke’s characters were philosophical as they waded through the detritus of society.

And finally I wanted a paranormal/supernatural element to it all, so I put Eli Baker in touch with the spirits of victims of violent crimes, and in turn his battles were actually against Evil itself, an ongoing battle between Eli Baker (Good) and the Evil character.  Neither can be killed as they are locked in a battle which truly has no end.

Put it all together, heat at 350 for an hour, and you have my central character Eli Baker.

AND THEN SOMEONE ASKED

Do you really believe there is an Evil being, Bill?  And to that I say I am certainly open to the concept.  It would appear no stranger than believing in a character who represents ultimate good . . . aka God . . . so why not Evil?  It seems to me if you are going to hang your hat on the concept of God, you certainly should be open to the concept of Evil.

Was Ted Bundy mentally ill, or was Ted Bundy the personification of Evil?

How about the Green River Killer?

How about Hitler?

I guess we will all find out when we die.  Until then, I’m going to turn Eli Baker loose and let him do battle with Evil. I sleep better knowing he’s on the job while I sleep.  Lol  And he’s in one hell of a battle in “The Magician’s Shadow,” my latest due out in January.

AND THEN SOMEONE ASKED

How much longer are you going to write, Bill?

That’s like asking how much longer I’m going to breathe.

I am a writer.  This is what I do. I love creating.  I love communicating in this way. I love building a legacy of the written word.

Why in the hell would I stop?

Have a great week, unless you’ve made other plans!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

What We Do Matters

6 Nov

An old classmate from long ago died last week.

No, it’s all right, really.  He wasn’t a close friend, just one of thousands of people who pass through our lives over the years so please, there is no reason to tell me how sorry you are.

I mention it because, when I heard he died, my mind immediately sprang into action, remembering back, tall kid, thin, bookish, quiet, a bit clueless with regards to sarcasm, and quite concerned about the political landscape of that time.  I remember he liked classical music, and I only remember that because I knew him in the 60s.  While we all listened to The Beatles and the Stones, he was listening to Mozart.

And that is the total of my memories about him.  We never ran into each other after school. I have no idea what became of him, where his actions took him, or anything about any accomplishments.  I knew him for four years and that was it.

My other thought, and this is brutal honesty, was “whew, I outlived another one,” because seriously, I think we all have that fleeting thought, especially once we reach a certain age.

WHAT’S THE POINT, BILL?

So anyway, this all got me to thinking, I wonder what people will think of when it is my turn to pass on, and they hear about it, and that got me to thinking that we are all memories in the making.

Now, depending on how you have lived your life, there is either great comfort in that thought, or there is reason to break out into the cold sweats of regret.  Just more random thoughts, my friends . . . what we do matters . . . what we say matters . . . how we treat others matters.

I’ve talked before about our writings, our novels, our blogs, our articles and our short stories, and how they are part of our legacy forever, and how cool is that?  Hundreds of years from now our words will be read by new generations.  But there is more to us than our words.  There is more to us than the books we leave behind.

What we do matters!

Just something to think about as November slides into view.

Make life matter!

And of course November brings with it Thanksgiving, and I am so damned grateful that I am a writer.

And for those who asked, I am now halfway through my latest novel, “The Magician’s Shadow.”

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Celebrating Imperfections

23 Oct

I was listening to a friend the other day as she lamented what she saw as a character flaw of hers. The nature of that flaw is not important for this venue, but suffice it to say it really did upset her, so much so that she finally said “oh my God, I’m so fucked up!”

I could relate.  There have been countless times, in the past, when I’ve said basically those same words, and truly felt the angst associated with those words down to the depths of my soul.

The other day, though, I just listened until she was finally on empty, and then I gave her the message I think is important for all of us to internalize:  we are all fucked up!

Show me a person without issues and I’ll show you a person I have no desire to know.

An old mentor of mine said it best: we are spiritual beings having a human experience.  In other words, we are imperfect on the best of days, and always will be while we rent this particular piece of cosmic real estate.

I try to remember that when I’m creating characters for a novel. We are all imperfect and we all have issues.

I actually find great comfort in embracing my imperfections.  In my humble opinion, perfection is greatly overrated.  Imperfection is where it is at for this boy.

It is also the reason why I don’t give advice unless it is asked for. Who am I to give advice, particularly on life’s issues?  I’m a recovering alcoholic, for God’s sake.  I’ve been divorced.  I have made more mistakes than Carter has liver pills.  Old joke!  And I should tell someone else how to live?

Not likely!

More naps these days

So I’m all about love, and one reason for it is purely selfish: I need as much love as I can get, and it’s my hope that by giving love I will, in turn, receive it.

Just sayin’

Have a great day no matter your “issues.”

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”