Tag Archives: writing tips

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.”

A Jumbled, Blurry Mess

16 Oct

While someone else sees darkness and muted colors

It’s foggy this morning as I write this.

I like the fog.

It’s mysterious, is it not?  Sounds are a bit muted, which I also like.  Shapes are distorted, and I find that interesting as well.

It’s a fascinating phenomenon, really, especially if the fog is really thick.  The obvious suddenly doesn’t seem so obvious. A tree you have passed by literally thousands of times suddenly looks sinister. A mail box, from a distance, looks like a little child.  Our imaginations play tricks on our minds.  What we think we see we actually don’t see, and what we have always seen morphs into something never seen before.

Pretty incredible, really!

“Red is gray and yellow white, and we decide which is right . . . and which is an illusion.”

As a writer I see certain parallels with the fog.  Whenever I try to critique my own work, or do an in-depth edit of my own work, my view of that work is distorted by the fog caused by my closeness to that work.  My logic becomes shrouded.  My analytical skills suddenly lose their edge because, after all, we are talking about MY work, and I am attached to that work emotionally and, well, emotions have a way of muddling the whole affair, or so it seems to me.

What’s the old saying . . . a doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient?  It’s like that, me thinks, when trying to critique oneself.  Objectivity goes right out the window and is hauled off with the weekly garbage.

Just random thoughts as the sun burns away the last of the morning fog.

THE SAME MOST OF MY LIFE

I find it very hard to be objective regarding any of my work or accomplishments.  I tend to hold back praise of any sort.  I tend to be the harshest of taskmasters when judging something I have done or accomplished.  Whatever I have done is never going to meet the standards I have set.  Never!  According to a little voice in my head, I never should have published or posted any stories or novels, because none of them were “perfect.” I should still be editing them and trying to find the perfection I chase in vain.

Silly, right?

But at some point I just have to recognize my silliness, bite the proverbial bullet, and publish what I have done.  I have to accept that perfection is a fool’s quest, and I have to embrace the fact that I am a spiritual being having a human experience.

And I don’t have to like that fact.  Acceptance is the key for me, but being satisfied with acceptance is not always possible.

And I’m fine with that!

I’m a jumbled mess, and I’m fine with that as well.

Anyway, the fog has lifted, and it is time to head to the farm and take advantage of this unseasonably warm October we are having.

I wish you all peace of mind and heart this week.  You deserve it!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

 

Simple Complexities

2 Oct

I graduated from Seattle University in 1970 with degrees in Economics and Marketing.  I understand the marketing game.  I just don’t like it.

I make a living as a freelance writer, spending about twenty hours each week writing sales pitches for various corporations.  I’m good at what I do.  I just don’t enjoy it.

There are several ways to look at marketing, I guess, but to me it is manipulative and a bit underhanded.  If I do my job correctly, as a freelance writer, I will use the perfect combination of keywords to entice the buying public to purchase my employer’s product.  That’s my job!  Mind you, I’ve never been within spitting distance of any of these “products” I market, but in the marketing world that isn’t terribly important.  My job is to make those products attractive enough so that people will put down money for them.

Period!

It’s a job I really don’t enjoy, and I find myself turning down more jobs than I accept of late.

AND THEN IT GETS PERSONAL

And then we have the marketing of my own products to consider.  I write novels when I’m not promoting the latest commercial real estate offering or beauty salon, and if I want one of my novels to have a chance of selling, it is necessary for me to promote those novels.

And I don’t enjoy that either!

My philosophy regarding my novels is buy them, don’t buy them, it simply makes little difference to me. I write novels because I love writing novels.  If people buy them then great; if they don’t buy them then great.  Life will go on!

There is no purpose to my mentioning all that.  It’s just a peek into my psyche as a writer.  You probably have completely different viewpoints about marketing and that, too, is great! I wish you well with your endeavors.

ONE MARKETING GIG I DO ENJOY

Oddly, I enjoy marketing the farmers market I am involved with, not because I want people to buy my product, but because I believe strongly in the farmers market movement in this country.

So it’s all a bit complicated inside my brain.  Lol  I realize there is a conflict there, and I’m fine with that as well.

SO WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Well, today is Saturday, and I don’t plan on doing anything about it today, quite frankly. I have chores to do in preparation of winter, so I’ll be heading out to the farm soon to start in on those chores.  At some point I’ll lay down under the trees and watch the clouds float by.  I’ll probably feed some grain to the horses, and most likely I’ll stop to pet the baby goats.

There is no conflict in that at all.

Have a great week and remember, please, to do all things with love.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Don’t Quit Before the Miracle Happens

25 Sep

I see sunshine and beautiful colors

A PLEASANT SURPRISE

I’m still laughing as I write this  . . .  life is truly a magical mystery tour.

I picked up the mail a few days ago, just as I do most every day.  Sorted through it . . . looked at a catalog explaining Teamster retirement benefits . . . thought it was a strange thing for me to receive, thought nothing more about it, went on my way with the rest of my day.

A tickling in my brain several hours later . . . why am I receiving a catalog from the Teamsters regarding benefits?  True, I had once been a Teamster, way back in the late 60s and early 70s, but that was another lifetime ago.

Kept thinking about that; something didn’t seem right, you know?  So I retrieved the catalog this morning, called the toll free number, asked why I was receiving catalogs about benefits, and lo and behold, I am a vested member and I have retirement benefits due to me.  LOL

Who woulda thunk it?  Somehow I accumulated enough hours to qualify under the Ten Year rule, so I have a little paperwork to fill out and then I’ll receive monthly retirement checks . . . and Bev will receive payments after I die.

A very nice surprise, one which got me thinking and reflecting once again . . .

AN OLD SAYING I REMEMBER

“Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens”

That saying was shared with me twelve years ago by a mentor.  I was struggling at the time, trying to give up alcohol, one more attempt at shedding the demons, one more attempt to get my life back.

“Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens, Bill,” Ralph said to me.  “Just hang in there long enough to see the miracle unfold.”

That was twelve years ago and, for this recovering alcoholic, those words came true.  The miracle has happened, and continues to happen each and every day.

So, if you are a writer . . . or if you are anyone going through a struggle . . . don’t quit one second before good times arrive. One thing I know with certainty is that I know nothing about the future.  You know that old joke . . . if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans . . . that perfectly applies for this boy in this lifetime.  I have no clue what is going to happen tomorrow.  As a writer I have no clue if tomorrow is the day a publisher falls in love with my work.  As a human being I have no clue if tomorrow will bring me riches, or heartache, struggles or smooth-sailing.

My job is to be ready, and to never quit trying.

MY DAD

It’s funny, thinking back.  One of my Dad’s favorite sayings was “Always move forward, Bill.  Never give up ground you have gained.”

He and Ralph must have been soul-brothers. Same message, different words.

Have a great day, all of you, unless you’ve made other plans.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Fighting the Demons

18 Sep

I was in a car crash back in 1972.  I was sitting at a stop light, waiting for the light to change, and a gentleman, seriously inebriated, plowed into me from behind doing over sixty-miles per hour.  His car pushed my car through the intersection and my gas tank ignited.

I remember fumbling with my seat belt, which had jammed, as flames started in the back of the car.  I remember the heat, and smelling my hair start to burn, and I remember the sheer panic as I tried to get that damned seat belt to unlatch.

Obviously, since I’m writing about that memory, I survived.  I came out of it with a seriously sore neck, burned hair, and a couple second-degree burns on my hand and neck, but all in all it turned out much better than it could have.

The reason I mention that car wreck is because for months afterwards, when I went for a drive, I would not use my seat belt.  I absolutely refused to use it because there was no way I was going to get caught in that frightening situation again.  Intellectually I knew that seat belts save lives, but emotionally and psychologically all I could remember was that seat belt trapping me while the fire raged.

My reaction then reminds me of the reactions of some writers now who are afraid to publish because they have received negative comments about their writing in the past.  Months and years after receiving a negative comment about some story or article, they are still affected by that negativity and cannot pull the trigger and publish again.

It’s totally illogical, but it is a very real fear.  None of us want to be attacked for what we wrote.  Most, if not all, of us do not like negative comments or mean critiques.  It is only human to want validation and positive strokes.

But we cannot let that stop us.  If writing is a passion . . . if you derive pleasure from writing . . . you need to buckle up and go for a drive again.  There will always be haters.  There will always be negative people.  That’s why God gave us middle fingers.  LOL

TWO WEEKS TO GO

Can you tell I’m excited? Two weeks of farmers markets to go and then I can return to creative writing. I am beyond pumped for that moment to arrive.  My brain is overflowing with ideas. I plan on finishing my current novel, “The Magician’s Shadow,” and then tackling a novel I’ve been thinking about for years, a 60’s memory which is inspired by “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  Stay tuned!

CAN YOU FEEL IT?

I just watched the latest news coverage of that hurricane back east.  The scenes of loss are heartbreaking.  The scenes of neighbor helping neighbor are heartwarming.

Watch the scenes . . . file it all away . . . use it in your creative writing.  This is the human experience, for better and for worse, and writers need to capture the angst and the jubilation that is unique with being human.

Can you feel it? How would you feel? What would you do?

WELCOME TO FALL

I love this time of year.  There is inspiration in the air, a time of change, a sense that something exciting is approaching, something which will affect us all.  The lethargy of hot temperatures is being pushed aside by the winds, and the smoke of burned memories is washed from the air by the September rains.

I love this time of year!

And I love all of you.  Thank you for joining me once again.

Remember to do all things with love.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Peace, Quiet, and Creativity

11 Sep

FROM YESTERYEAR

Back in 1980 we moved back to Vermont . . . previous wife, previous life . . . we rented an old house in a town named Northfield when we first got there, but eventually we purchased a log home in East Calais.

That log home was beautiful!  It was on five acres with a year-round stream flowing through the property (and a waterfall); it had a daylight basement and wraparound deck, and the whole home was heated by a big woodstove down in the basement.

Back then Vermont did not have many people living in it; still doesn’t I’m sure.  And the town of East Calais probably didn’t have more than a hundred or so residents.  I remember there were no street lights at all.  The homes were so far from each other, most tucked into the woods, so that at night there really was no light to speak of.  I could step off our porch and not be able to see twenty feet in front of me.

Now I mention all this because at night, on a clear night, the stars were vivid.  There was no ambient light to ruin the show, as it were, so I swear every star in the sky was visible.  It was spectacular!  Of course, if we turned the porch light on, the stars were harder to see, and if we had a patio party at night, with lanterns and such, it was also harder to see the stars.

The less distractions the better!

The less we interfered with the natural order of things, the better!

Do you sense a metaphor at work here?

JUST TALKING ABOUT ME RIGHT NOW

More naps these days

I do my best writing in a peaceful setting. Too much noise makes Bill a fidgety writer.  Noise beyond the acceptable level makes Bill a crazy man.

It’s just how I’m wired.

It’s the same when I’m reflecting on life, or when I have an important decision to make.  Drop me down in the middle of a virgin forest and I’ll pull up a stump and solve the problems of mankind.  Stick me in a crowded room, or a busy restaurant, with wall-to-wall noise, and I’ll only add to the problems of mankind.

I need to allow my senses to embrace the moment. I need to smell my surroundings, to hear my surroundings, to taste, really see, and to touch it all.  In so doing, my mind is freed of chains, and I am then allowed to absorb it all and find clarity.

I don’t know how you rock n roll, but that’s how this boy enters the creative process.

A QUESTION FROM A WRITER FRIEND

On my weekly series “The Writer’s Mailbag,” someone asked me about marketing and in particular online marketing on social media.  He asked if it was all right to befriend someone on Facebook in order to promote your writing.

To me no, it isn’t.

I will make mention of the new novel I’m writing from time to time, but that’s only because some people want to know about my progress made.  I actually don’t care if anyone buys it in 2019 or not.  I’m certainly not going to ask anyone to buy it.  I write my novels because I love to write.  I love to entertain people, and I love to toss out my thoughts and reflections about life in a way which is less overbearing.  If people purchase those books that’s nice; if they don’t, that’s nice as well.

It’s all good, folks!

And with that I will bid you a fond farewell for this week.  I wish for you peace of mind and heart this week and beyond.  Treat yourself, and treat others, with compassion and love.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Good Luck, Bad Luck, No Luck at All

4 Sep

CONTINUED RANDOMNESS

Way back in another lifetime I (we) owned an Arabian mare.

She was a majestic creature, unbelievably beautiful, and one seriously willful animal.

On early mornings I would grab a cup of coffee, go out into the pasture, and sit on a stump to enjoy the peacefulness of it all.  I could always count on Regal walking over to me, air pluming from her nostrils, the sun slowly rising in the east over the fir trees, the sounds of the countryside rising in volume, and I would reach into my pocket and pull out an apple for her. She would then nuzzle my shoulder, man and animal, joined together, finding a common bond of trust . . . great memories!

I’m reminded of those times every day now when I got out to our son’s farm to feed the chickens.  They have three horses there, plus about fifty goats, and there is always someone seeking attention from this human.  It’s real hard not to smile when I’m at the farm . . . I don’t even try to frown.

I like the relationship between farmer and farm animals.  We really get down to basics . . . I will feed you and provide shelter, and in turn you will provide what I need, whether it be food, fibers, meat, or just companionship.

I’m a lucky man!

ABOUT LUCK

Some say there is no such thing as bad luck or good luck.  Others say you make your own luck by the choices you make.  I guess I straddle the fence on that one and take the road less traveled. I don’t like the word luck.  I think we greatly affect the outcome of an event by doing the necessary work in advance and yes, that applies to a writer and his viewership/sales.

Most of you, I’m sure, will agree with me when I say writing a book is the easiest part of selling that book; without marketing and determination, sales will be limited to family and close friends.

And maybe that’s fine with you.  It is with me. I have no illusions of great sales, no expectations, and no dreams.  If it happens it happens; if not, I’m secure and happy in my life. And I find that to be a very cool place to reside.

So I don’t much need luck as much as I need the wisdom to continue doing what I’m already doing.  Why rock the apple cart when the pavement is perfectly smooth?

THE MAGICIAN’S SHADOW

It’s been a year!  It really is hard to believe I’m even typing those words.  It’s been a full year since I worked on my latest novel, The Magician’s Shadow.  As many of you know, it is half-done, and it has been patiently waiting for me to continue for twelve long months now.

That time is now four weeks away.  I can feel the creative juices flowing in my veins in anticipation.

Here is the prologue to that novel:

“Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.”

He sang as he continued with his work.  He considered it vitally important that a person enjoy his or her work.  How boring it must be, he thought, factory workers who do the same thing, day in, day out, week after month after year, mind-numbing work, spirit-breaking work, and at the end of their fifty years they receive a plaque, a series of handshakes, and the heart attack follows shortly.

That would not be his fate, for greatness does not fade into oblivion.

It began, for him, shortly after his tenth birthday.  A dream had come to him, and in that dream he was The Magician, not a magician as in a description of his craft, but The Magician, the greatest ever, a man of such incredible talent as to defy all laws of nature, to defy all logic, a man who could not be described by mere labels such as “illusionist, enchanter, or conjurer,” for how does one describe the impossible?

He stood on the shoreline and looked at his latest work of art. It was perfect in every way.  The young girl was exquisitely staged.  The authorities would come to the scene in a matter of hours. They would look for evidence.  They would hold countless meetings where they would share theories.  They would hold press conferences and assure the public that the case would be solved soon, but to themselves they would admit that they were stymied, completely in the dark, for how could such a thing have happened?  And how could it happen three times?

They would call in other experts, and more theories would be postulated, and more meetings held, but still no answers would arrive, (for the impossible has no explanation), and then their greatest fears would be realized.

It was all perfect in every way, but he expected nothing less of himself.

He was, after all, The Magician!

############

As you can see, this will be another lighthearted romp through the mind of a serial killer.  LOL

I have to run. There’s painting to do outside while the weather is still cooperating. Have a great week of being human.

Bill