Monday, June 16, 2014

Question and answer time


1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON? 

   I just finished writing a novella about love and redemption entitled The Road To Yesterday. I am excited about this book because I found it somewhat similar to a love story I wrote three years ago, Sarah Of The Moon. Of course, being who I am, I just had a add a little mystery into the mix (and just a touch of the paranormal).
   I hope to have the novella available in July, 2014.
   Next on the agenda is the final chapter of the Pirate Wars Trilogy, Fire And Thunder. Then, It's back to a new Jake Stanton adventure.     


2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE? 

   I'd like to think that my books are somewhat unique in the sense that I like to write characters that I become attached to (and, yes, that includes villains). I try to give my characters traits that I can relate to, and hopefully my readers will feel the same. I guess what I'm trying to say is that my books are character driven. I doubt that makes them unique, but hopefully it makes them interesting and readable. That's all I can ask for. 

3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO? 

     I write in many different genres. My wife is constantly on my case about this. "Stick with one genre. Write serials. Develop a character and explore him or her in several books." 
     I'm sure she's right, and one day, probably in the near future, I'll do just that. Until then, my genre hopping. Sorry, but I need to get it out of my system.

4. HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK? 

   I'm what's called a 'pantser'. I'll admit it. I write by the seat of my pants. I always, always, make up my stories as I go along. Often, I'll come across an image that I feel would make a great book cover, then I'll write a book around it. I did this with A Girl Of The Paper Sky and Morning Star.
   For me, writing is an adventure. I step off a cliff and hope that my fall is a gentle one, or I write myself into a corner, with only words as my weapon of escape.
    Adventures. You gotta love em.              

5. AND THE OTHER PART OF THIS QUESTION, HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS NOT WORK?

     I write in spurts, and only when I feel like it. As I've said in another blog, I write for the thrill of it. If it becomes a job, I'm outta there. Some days I'll write two, three thousand words, other days, none.
     I will say this however, once I begin writing a new book and start to get into it, I usually write pretty steadily. I feel guilty if I don't. 
    So, in summary, I live to write, but only when the mood strikes.

   Thanks to fellow author, Wayne Stinnett for providing these questions. If you haven't read any of his Jesse McDermitt series, do so immediately. You won't be sorry.
       

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Writing As A Hobby

   I  came to the decision a while back that for my own piece of mind I would write as a hobby and not as a business.
   Actually, that is the way I started out four years ago when I began writing The Boys Of Northwood. I wrote that book because I felt the need to put the experiences of my childhood on paper as a legacy of sorts for my grandchildren and future generations. I wanted to leave something behind, a small scrap of the person I once was.
   As I worked my way through my childhood. I realized that writing was an excellent way to return to those days. I had found a time machine hidden on my computer's keyboard. Words, my words, that I created, suddenly took on a magical quality. They had the unique ability to take me to another time, another place. For the first time in my life, writing had enchanted me. I was hooked.
   And so I moved on to my first fictional novel, Sarah Of The Moon. I had written the beginning and the end of the book many years before, problem was, I had no story in-between. So I made it up as I wrote, and as Sarah came to life on the pages, she took my hand. "Don't worry," she told me. "I remember the way it happened. I'll show you." Of course, that became another thrill, letting my characters lead me through the pages, trusting me to get it right.
   I didn't stop there. My next book was Letters From Long Binh, true stories of my experiences in Vietnam, based on the letters that I wrote home to my girlfriend throughout the year of 1967. Afterward, the books came as quickly as ideas for stories came to me. I was having fun doing something I enjoyed, and here's the best part, I actually started making some money selling my books. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to give me the incentive to continue to create books and market them.
   That became part of it; the marketing and promotion of my product. Selling my brand. If I didn't promote constantly I would have been swamped by the wave of new product available. Hundreds of new novels weekly. Thousands a month. I didn't think I would enjoy that part of it and was pleasantly surprised when I did. It became a challenge of sorts to experiment with different advertisers and social media to see what strategies stuck and which were a waste of time. Thankfully, at some point in the last two or three years I built a solid base of loyal readers who stuck with me because although they may not have liked a genre of a particular novel, they liked my style of writing enough to read the stories I wrote.
   Like every aspiring author, I'd like to think that one day I'll be discovered. I'd like to think that one or more of my books will go virile and sell enough copies to be noticed by someone who could take the book to the next level. But although I'm a hopeless dreamer. I'm also realistic. Lightning may strike but more than likely it won't, and you know what, I can live with that because I write as a hobby. If I make money, fine. If I don't, that's fine too. I will write because I enjoy doing it, I enjoy the thrill of creating characters and worlds of fantasy. I enjoy creating a situation that looks hopeless but that my characters will somehow find a way to muddle through.
   If or when the day comes that writing becomes a burden I will stop doing it and move on to another endeavor. Until then, more often than not you'll find me by my computer's keyboard indulging myself in a trip to the past or a fantasy in another place or time.
   Life is short and I don't want my legacy to read: He tried. I want it to read: He succeeded.      
   

                   
 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

                       THE 1964 NORTHWOOD SCHOOL FAIR

     By the summer of 1964, I had stretched out my adolescence to the breaking point. The following summer would find me working in a warehouse in downtown Baltimore, the summer after that, boot camp in Fort Gordon, Georgia, the next summer, Long Binh, Vietnam.
     Many events and adventures with the Northwooders were yet to come, but the summer of ’64 was my farewell to the enchantment of the season, before work and responsibility pushed the magic aside. Thankfully, it was a great summer, maybe the best of my younger years. It began, as every summer did, with the Northwood School Fair.
     The Northwood School fair was the event that marked the official beginning of summer vacation. Our school semester ended the third week in June. The school fair was always the last Saturday of that month. The contingency plan was to have it the first Saturday in July if there was a rainout, but, to my recollection, that never happened. That Saturday was always a beautiful early summer day.
     The fair was held mostly outside (the candy and plant sales were indoors) at the rear of the school.
     I guess you could say it was sort of a combination flea market/amusement park. Tables were set up around the school's perimeter for selling contributed items like clothes, tools, and even records. There were also stands selling hot dogs, sodas, snowballs, and cotton candy. There were pony rides and various beanbag-tossing games.
     The fair opened at nine AM, but my brother and I would get there early to help a friend's mom set up the tables. After that, we were on our own. The gang would start showing up one or two at a time during the morning hours until all were present and accounted for.
     Let me say right now that it was never our intent to create mischief at the fair. We started the day in a courteous and polite fashion. But by early afternoon, after checking out all the tables, playing most of the games, and eating a couple dozen twenty five cent hot dogs, we were getting restless. Sitting on the crest of a grassy hill, watching all the action, some of us noticed a child open a rear door to the school before being scolded by his mother.
      The Northwooders happened to know that door was always locked because we had often tried to enter it on weekends. We simultaneously looked at each other with the same thought in our heads; a hangout.
      We raced down the incline and into the door. We found ourselves on the first floor of a stairwell. For a while, we were content to lounge around on the steps, listening to the commotion outside. Before long, we became restless, tired of sitting and talking, and decided to explore a bit.
     At the top of the stairs was another door. It too was unlocked and, to our amazement, opened up into the school gym.
     We couldn't believe our luck. What started out started out as a somewhat forgettable stairwell adventure had now suddenly developed into much more. The gym had ropes hanging from the ceiling and tied down to the walls. An assortment of balls littered the floor from small dodge balls to huge medicine balls. A large piano occupied one corner of the facility.
     I'm not sure to this day the purpose of a piano in a gym. It was an elementary school so maybe the kids climbed ropes to Beethoven or Mozart. At the time nobody paid it much mind. The ropes held most of our attention.
     Once untied, we began to swing around the room with wild abandon. It was such a unique thrill to have a fully functional gymnasium to ourselves that one of us went outside to spread the word.
     Soon the gym was filled with boys taking advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. All the ropes were being used by at least one boy. Some had two or three hanging from them. Balls of all sizes flew about the room, some aimed at the swingers, others at the walls and ceiling.
     At some point, it was decided that the piano would make a good launching pad for the ropes. It was rolled out to the center of the gym and while one talented young man played a medley of Jerry Lee Lewis standards, others jumped off its surface, swinging out on their improvised Tarzan swings.
     It was around this time that we realized our shouts, yells, and off key rendition of 'Great Balls Of Fire' had drawn the attention of a few adults. We saw them crowded outside the door that led to a school hallway. Fortunately for us, that door was locked from the inside.
     They were trying desperately to get in. From the door's small glass opening we could see their mouths moving frantically, but the din in the room prevented us from hearing their words. One woman in particular seemed in obvious distress. Every time a guy would mount the piano she would open her mouth wide in what looked like a scream, but, as I said, we couldn't hear her.
     Suddenly, it appeared that a light bulb turned on simultaneously over all their heads. They had figured out our point of entry.
     As fun as this was, no one really wanted our day to end with police officers escorting us home.
     We took off in a flash, at least thirty of us, leaping down the stairwell and out the door. Adults outside scattered to avoid being trampled by the onslaught. It was several seconds of sheer chaos.
     Most of the guys mixed into the crowd, heavy panting the only obvious sign of their shenanigans. Our gang headed back up the hill in time to see several quite angry adults enter our former hangout.
     The remainder of the day was a rather normal affair. A couple of us were kicked out of the plant room after a shoving match knocked over some azaleas. One of our gang took a pony ride when he thought we weren't looking. But we saw him and gave him grief throughout the summer. But mostly we ate hot dogs and cotton candy and talked about how we'd spend the rest of our vacation.
     I can't remember how many more years the Northwood School fair continued. It wasn't many. It was, despite our occasional ill behavior, a unique social event that defined the innocence of the sixties. Like many memories from that time, it was irreplaceable.
     Oh and by the way, that door was tested many times during the course of the summer, but it was always tightly locked. 


Sunday, December 22, 2013

THE BEST CHRISTMAS

                 
      I don't know about you, but for me Christmas was the best day of the year (the last day of school before summer vacation comes in a close second).
     Christmas morning was always great fun for my brother Steve and me. I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was seven or eight years old, but I still believed in getting presents no matter who or what the source.
    My parents were happy to oblige us. They were always generous in their gift giving, and never failed to keep us busy, in the early hours of December 25th, opening presents.
     I don't mind saying that nowadays, though still exciting, Christmas is a lot less the event it was back then. These Christmas mornings my wife and I usually sleep in then enjoy a cup of coffee before opening up our gifts.
     There happens to be one Christmas I remember quite  fondly. My parents lacked adequate storage areas in our row home. This particular holiday my brother and I received a couple of larger items, a pool table and a couple of bikes. One morning, about five days before Christmas, we saw that there was a sign on the basement door. It read 'KEEP OUT'. Because our basement door did not lock, keeping us out of there would have probably required an armed guard. About thirty seconds  after reading the note, we snuck down there and were overjoyed with what we saw.
     Of course on Christmas morning we acted surprised as hell when we tore down the basement steps and once again laid eyes on our goodies.
     One quick note about the pool table. It was not one of the fancier models. In fact, it was somewhat cheap. We had to keep putting stuff under the legs to keep it level (eventually it became about a foot higher then when purchased). Then to top it off, the surface beneath the felt was some type of plywood, which didn't hesitate to warp in our humid basement. After a while, Steve and I became rather adept at playing on the crooked thing and supplemented our allowances playing against friends unfamiliar with plywood surfaced pool tables.

     Warps and all, my brother and I loved that pool table, and, once they were able to conquer the tricks of its stubbornly uneven surface, our friends did too.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

My Distant Relative Was Not The Hero Of The Civil War!

TRANSCRIPTS OF THE QUESTIONING OF PVT. SAWYER IN RELATION TO THE POSSIBLE COURT MARSHALL OF PVT. COLUMBUS MIXTER-4TH INFANTRY REGIMENT, MARYLAND VOLUNTEERS.
DATE:  OCT. 3RD, 1862.

Col. Ekhart: You and Pvt. Mixter were bivouacked on Plower’s Hill, Virginia on Sept. 19th, Is that correct?

Pvt. Sawyer: Yes sir.

Col Ekhart: And you were in fact dug in, with General Taylor’s brigade, on the mountain’s crest awaiting the presence of enemy troops.

Pvt. Sawyer: Yes sir.

Col. Eckhart: Please tell me in detail what transpired next.

Pvt Sawyer: Well sir, we was waiting on those rebs. We could hear them in the distance shouting and swearing. Pvt. Mixter was behind a rock next to me. He asked me if that was them rebs yellin’ and swearin’ up a storm. I told him that it was those rebel boys making that racket. This seemed to upset Pvt. Mixter and he proceeded to pull out his family paper.

Col. Ekhart: Excuse me, his family paper?

Pvt. Sawyer: Yes sir. Columbus had some problems with remembering things, like his wife’s name, if he had kids, where he lived, stuff like that. His family paper helped to remind him of his life before his enlisting. I believe he had a map on there showin’ him how to get home also. 

Col. Ekhart: Go on.

Pvt. Sawyer: Anyhow, after he remembered his wife and such, Columbus decided he was gonna surrender.

Col. Ekhart: Up until this point, not one of our brave lads had surrendered to the graycoats.

Pvt. Sawyer: Yes sir. I guess Columbus was determined to be the first.

Col. Ekhart: What happened then?

Pvt. Sawyer: Well he kinda just put down his rifle and stood up with both hands in the air over his head.

Col. Ekhart: Where was the enemy at this time?

Pvt. Sawyer: They were yet to show their faces at the bottom of the hill.

Col. Ekhart: It pains me to ask what happened next.

Pvy. Sawyer: Well sir, Columbus started yellin’ “WE SURRENDER! WE SURRENDER!” at the top of his lungs. I believe he spooked the rest of the men pretty bad. At first, they yelled at him to get back down, but he kept right on insisting we would all die if we didn’t lay down our arms.

Col. Ekhart: According to General Taylor, Pvt. Mixter somehow convinced our boys to throw down their weapons and surrender to a faceless enemy.

Pvt Sawyer: Yes sir. He convinced them alright. Every single one of us gave up right there on the spot. We all raised our hands in defeat.

Col. Ekhart: Please relay to me what happened when the graycoats finally showed themselves.

Pvt. Sawyer: They took it as a joke seeing that there was only about twenty or so of them to our hundred and a few.

Col. Ekhart: So you outnumbered them five to one.

Pvt. Sawyer: Something like that. They said they were huntin’ squirrels and found us instead. Of course General Taylor had long since skedaddled, but them southern boys were tickled pink to have found such willing prisoners.

Col. Ekhart: Where was Pvt. Mixter during all this?

Pvt. Sawyer: Old Columbus just told them rebs he quit. I recall one of them helping him with directions on his family paper, then he up and left. I believe that he’d had enough of this here war.

Col. Ekhart: You do know that Columbus Mixter had been with the Maryland volunteers for three days when he surrendered?

Pvt. Sawyer: I guess old Columbus weren’t much of a fighting man.



The remainder of this transcript has been damaged and is unreadable. Further investigation shows that the court martial of Pvt. Columbus Mixter never occurred, due to the fact that Pvt. Mixter never remembered surrendering nor did he recollect ever being in the Maryland Volunteers. As of this writing he lives comfortably at home with his wife and children. He thinks. 



    

   

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Adventures In Writing

   There was a time, not that long ago, when I gave serious thought to putting away my keyboard and moving on to ventures other than writing. I had become discouraged, not with the creative process, but with the marketing and promotion necessary to independent publishing. So much time, so little gain.
   I also thought that perhaps I didn't have the thick skin needed to withstand criticism of my books. Like every author I know, I thought each and every one of my books were minor masterpieces, worthy of nothing but high praise. I was wrong, of course. My books, like many others, are flawed. I came to this conclusion not too long after the brashness of my dreams gave way to the harshness of reality.
   Now, I am fine with the knowledge that some readers will love my books, some will like them, some will think they're nothing more than okay, and others will intensely dislike them. I also realize that I will most likely never get rich, or even make a decent living, writing novels. In such a competitive field, one must have great talent (and maybe a little luck) to rise above the masses and produce a best seller.
   Yes, I've fallen back to earth with a thud. I rise a little bruised, but otherwise unharmed. I will continue to write because I enjoy it. To me, each book is an adventure. I rarely know where my characters will take me. Sometimes they even have the audacity to put me in situations of jeopardy and dare me to find a way out.
   That's why I write, for the thrill of the journeys into the unknown.
   This summer I am aboard a pirate ship on the Great Eastern Seas, on the brigantine The Scorpion, being chased by the ruthless pirate, Coronado. It's difficult to give up adventures such as these and I won't even try. One more book to write this year and hopefully three the year after.
   For now I am content with a keyboard on my lap and a summer breeze at my back.
   Let the pirate wars begin!
   
 
     
         

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fighting Time

     I have made up my mind. Tomorrow I will drive to Northwood again. The neighborhood where I grew up. Northwood is an odd place to visit. In some spots, time has stopped, frozen in place for years. In other spots it has lurched forward, reluctantly I would imagine, a stubborn trailer full of memories fighting the car that pulls it.
     Here is the way it happens. Here is how time deceives the earth into thinking the old must die to make way for the new. Time makes promises, tempting promises, and then breaks them with the ease of someone who believes in their own lies.
     However, in its haste to patch the scarred and replace the decayed, it always leaves a trace behind, fragile monuments to what once were and will never be again.
     They become more difficult to find with each passing year, but they do remain. The Northwood woods shrunken and worn, still survives, as does the Northwood Elementary School. But not for long. Plans are in the works to bring it down and build a new facility in the field to its rear. The patio by the school's front doors still remains for now, holding fast. A handicapped ramp splits its center, but the patio remains.
     The house I lived in for thirteen years, from five until eighteen, still looks the same for the most part. My memory protects the bricks and paint.
     The alleys that surround it, much like the woods, have shrunk, constricted into narrow walkways, no longer suitable for games of handball and tag. The old clothesline pole at the end of my house's backyard near the chain link fence still stands. There were days when I ignored the back gate and swung out on that pole, through the air, over the fence and on to the alley.
     The ride through the neighborhood will offer no surprises. Not yet at least. If I waited years maybe, months, no.
     What once was nostalgia has become need as I grow older. I need to see how things were once. I need the places I see to match my memories. It's sad when they don't, but not in a bad way. Instead, it's a sadness that come with the passing of time. I sometimes think I'm the trailer of memories being pulled by the car, not knowing where I'll end up and fighting to remain on familiar ground.
     Sometimes the years surrender to time, too tired to fight back. Sometimes, however, they hold their ground. Those are the years I'll see when I revisit Northwood tomorrow, the strong sturdy ones filled with enough memories and places of my youth to welcome me home as an old friend might.
     And time can wait.