Sunday, May 30, 2010


Last week’s assignments: I completed my work for Wayward Writers, and did what I think is a nice job revising the prologue, chapter one and chapter two of Catch a Falling Star. I still have chapter three to polish, and the three submissions to make, though I did assemble a nice list of possible agents. I’ll complete those today and tomorrow, then move on to the next.

My Reflections

I wrote my first short story over thirty years ago, and it was so bad even my kind girlfriend closed her eyes, grimaced and shook her head when asked how it was. The humiliation just leaked out of whatever gland it comes from and drowned all of my enthusiasm and desire. Both of us had built me up as a writer extraordinaire. We should have added the word “potential,” but honestly, folks, as bad as that story was, and it was wretched, it wouldn’t have mattered.

Which brings me to craft and a quote from author Joyce Carol Oates. “Inspiration and energy and even genius are rarely enough to make ‘art’: for prose fiction is also a craft, and craft must be learned, whether by accident or design.”

From that point, I took twelve years to learn the craft of acting, studying with such amazing talent as Spencer Milligan, Adam Roarke, Loren Bivens, and James Best. What in the name of creativity did I think it took to make a good writer?

The next dozen years found me learning things blind and by sheer, dumb luck, like character development, dialogue, setting a scene, but a number of things kept eluding me. Things like tight writing and story structure, things I’m learning now, but not so blind about anymore.

As I’ve mentioned, a number of wonderful eyes are helping me. Watching for me. Keeping my eyes focused on the work. I am grateful and will, over the next few weeks, be spotlighting them and what I’ve learned from them, craft and otherwise.

I’m still fighting the intense desire to move onto other projects. Two in particular strike me as wonderful beyond belief. One, oddly enough, is a non-fiction work. I’ve always wanted to write fiction because if someone caught me in a lie, then so be it. That’s what fiction is, bald-faced lies where the reader is in on the joke and lets you get away with it. The beauty of fiction is the truth under the lies. And my hope is to achieve that and much more.

But non-fiction scares the bejesus out of me. I have to be truthful and entertaining at the same time because people are watching, waiting for me to cross an imaginary line in the sand that they, themselves have drawn. And what’s the truth, really? I read somewhere once that there are three sides to every story; your’s, mine, and the truth. So, maybe it won’t be so bad.

Hmmm. I just said that it scares me, but that’s not true. It excites me, really. Has me thinking about topics to explore. And I already have about one tenth of the material I would need already written. Of course, the chemical reaction in the body to fear and excitement are identical. Perception is what determines what it is, so ... I’m excited.

We’ll see how that goes.

This next week’s assignment is to complete last weeks and to polish the next three chapters of Catch a Falling Star and three more submissions. And, of course, to keep up with Wayward Writers homework. If I have time, I’ll outline a few chapters of my new novel.

Take care, everyone. I’ll let y’all know how I did. And, in the words of Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Taking the Plunge

Last week’s assignments: I completed and submitted my assignments to Wayward Writer’s Literary Kitchen. Finished a short story called “Days of Ice Cream” coming in at 1,600 words or so. I have not submitted it because it needs another draft. But contests and magazines abound. I will try and find a place for it, just not this week. And I smoothed two chapters from Catch a Falling Star.

For this week I need to learn to take a plunge ...

In March 2008 my amazing friend Dawn and I attended a retreat in Fiji studying with author Steve Berry (and others, students and staff). Paraphrasing an old saying that “all work and no play makes Jack and Jill dull,” what was known then as the Maui Writer’s Conference scheduled a river tour for those who wanted to take it.

Dawn and I did.

It changed my life.

I’ll save the first part of the tale of our journey up a river to a beautiful village and the Kava Ceremony for another time, and say that the second leg took us farther up that same river to a spot secluded in dripping, lush greenery. My heart rate slowed by three or four beats per minute from the peace. The two boats pulled up an inlet to a primative dock. We all disembarked and followed the trail, some of it making for interesting navigation, up a steep hill to a beautiful pool with a waterfall.

We indulged in some swimming and good times and one by one began our trek back down ... to the plunge. True Fijian warriors took the plunge, a jump of about twenty feet from a landing to a calm, gentle pool below. By the time I made it down, my friend Dawn and the author James Rollins had already jumped, had become Fijian warriors if you will.

They tried coaxing me down. I shook my head not convinced that they had actually taken it. The next person to arrive at the landing, literary agent Susan Crawford, took it without a pause. Just stepped right on up, and off the ledge she went. One, two, three ... splashdown.

Okay, I thought. I’ll do it, but there were too many variables to consider. How deep was the water? How far out did I need to jump? Did I have the courage to do this? A large muscular arm wrapped around my shoulder, our Fijian guide. He looked down at me and smiled.

“One. Two. ...”

I jumped on three, and became a warrior upon hitting the water. It was such a rush, I climbed back up and jumped again, this time with no fear or hesitation.

Which is the way I should have done it the first time.

Two weeks ago, I started this blog. That represented me walking up to the edge, looking down to see the conditions of the jump. Too much thought. Way too much thought.


Because I have to jump without thinking, you see. Just say to myself in the bass voice of the strong Fijian warrior, “One. Two ...” and submit. I made the commitment to you and me to make it onto the New York Times bestseller list.

So jump I will this week. Here’s how I will begin.

One. In addition to keeping up with my Wayward Writers assignments, I will polish the prologue and first three chapters of Catch a Falling Star. Two. Submit to at least three agents. It doesn’t matter that I still have to finish draft thirteen. If I get a nibble or two, I can .... Three. Jump into completing it.

Maybe I need that heart racing deadline on my way down to the water.

See y’all next week and I’ll let ya know how I did.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Those Things in My Favor

So, let’s take stock of the situation.

I have five completed novel length manuscripts. One, called Catch a Falling Star, is oh-so-close. This current draft is lucky thirteen, and with a little bit of that luck will be the one that takes it into the loving hands of an agent. I completed the first draft in 1999.

Of the four remaining, two have potential, but need a lot of work. We’ll set those off to the side for the time being. I’m actually more enthused about a story idea that keeps haunting me to the point of ignoring everything else, including Falling Star. And there’s the rub, the trap, because I soooo want to start the new one. Am convinced that it’s a wonderful story that will resonate if I do my job.

Focus, Rock. You must remain focused on the prize.

So what else?

I have three short stories making their rounds to magazines and contests. More on that later.

After more than fifteen years at this, I understand the importance of luck in this process. Not the “when preparation and opportunity meet” kind of luck that motivational speakers praddle on about while making a ton of money telling you how to make a ton of money. In fact, that’s not luck at all. It’s fate. True luck is when random chance operates in your favor.

I’ve also learned over the years, that it’s a numbers game. The more people who know your work, the better chance of getting published. And that’s one of a number of areas I’ve failed at over the years despite the number of rejections I’ve received. I haven’t really flooded the market at all.

Three hundred rejections really amounts to thirty rejections a year. In other words, thirty SUBMISSIONS a year. And that won’t get it done, folks. It just won’t.

Of course, in my case, that could be a good thing. My work probably wasn’t ready at the time. I think it is now. I hope it is now. We’ll see. But my intent is to continue revising Falling Star, writing short stories, entering those in contests and submitting to magazines.

Gotta also let you know that I’m not alone, and doggone happy I’m not. I’m a proud member of The Writerie along with Kathy, Glenna, Jane, and Shirley, and a four term member of Ariel Gore’s Wayward Writers all of which offer amazing support. My wonderful friends Dawn, Heather, Jill, Chris, Colleen, Beth, and others I’ll introduce you to along the way keep me from drowning.

So, my goal this week is to keep up with my assignments for the Wayward Writers, compose a short story of up to 3000 words, and revise two chapters of Falling Star. A worthy goal.

See y’all next week and let ya know how I did.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Howdy folks!

Welcome to my blog.

My intent is to submit at least once a week (Sundays), with occasional excursions into topics other than the main one. That being said, what will be the weekly topic from which the occasional excursions deviate?

I thought hard about that one, folks.

On the one hand, I thought to do a “weight loss” blog, where I, in front of you, get to lose weight (or not) with you as witnesses through my eyes. Sounded good. Kinda like Julie and Julia in that, instead of cooking with butter, I’d be olive oiling my way to a slimmer me. What drove a stake into the heart of that idea was that I would have to do a “before” and “after” picture, and I’m not willing to pose for the “before.” I kinda like the one I’ve posted, taken in Fiji in 2008 by my wonderful friend and fellow writer, Dawn Ius.

Then came an epiphany. I’m an unpublished writer whose has been at it hard and steady for more than fifteen years. One who stopped counting rejections at three hundred when George W. battled John Kerry for the leader of POLITICS.

This blog, then, will be about my journey to publication. My ultimate goal is to publish a novel, but I will submit short stories, and poetry, even songs. And all of those experiences I will chronicle for you and me, the sad and joyous. The laughter and tears. The celebration and loneliness. You will have it all, I promise.

But this blog will only reach its climax when I have a novel on the New York Times best seller list. Then comes the ultimate celebration. Will you join me in the journey?

I’m a story teller. That’s how I define myself to the world. How I represent myself to you. How I see myself.

I’m half-a-man, right now. I can only be complete when people get to read my stories in print.

I’ve given up a lot for this opportunity. Marriage and family. A career. Perhaps my soul.

I will be 53 in September. It’s too late to go back. I’m set upon a road I have to follow to its end. I hope you’ll join me. It may be a bumpy ride for all of us, but I promise an exciting ride.