The Three Hundred and Eighty-Eighth Post: The One Where I Ramble About Pens…

Some of you might know, I have an interest in fountain pens. I went out Sunday to buy a bottle of ink for one of my pens at a local art supply store. They didn’t have the ink I was looking for (Lexington Grey), but I felt like I should get something because I searched high and low for this place and I was not going to leave empty handed. I grabbed a Leuchtturm 1917 small notebook (high end) for about $10. Since I got a notebook, it would not do to get another fountain pen.

It was there I saw disposable fountain pens.

You want to ride the highway? You gotta pay the toll, know what I’m sayin’?

Seeing them was heart breaking. Pilot pen (makers of the only ball-point pens I will ever use) had taken what I loved and adored and turned it into something cheap and worth only the trash can when done. They had taken the notion of a high-end geisha, dressed her in fishnets, a vomit-stained t-shirt and hole riddled cut-off shorts and shoved her out onto a street corner. I was heart broken over this plastic soiled dove.

I bought it. It wasn’t even extra-fine tipped. It was medium. It felt like I was writing with a Sharpie. There was no way I could change the ink or the nib. Holding this pen, I felt almost nauseous. It made thick lines.

Yes. I am a pen snob. My favorite pen manufacturer is Monteverde. My favorite ink maker is Noodler’s Ink and the only nib I will use is extra-fine as I write small and I need for it to be clear. A pen to me is not only a tool, it is a work of art. A cheap pen for me is $36. I own a pen that I bought for $125. I’m saving up right now for a pen that is $1,000. My wife’s caught me (guiltily, I admit) admiring a $7,000 pen. I told her I would like to have that pen for Christmas.

Her laughter was rich, full and very, very harsh.

Anyways, I still have the pen in my pockets with my notebook, and I take it out and look at it. It doesn’t write bad – the ink doesn’t feather or bleed through on the pages. The barrel of the pen looks nice with the geometric pattern on it. It would look better if it were engraved on a metal barrel, but it’s esthetically pleasing to me. It writes smooth for what I got. It’s no Ritma, but it’s not a Bic roller ball.

Did I learn something? What the hell does this have to do with writing?

It has everything to do with managing expectations. I’m not going to write one draft of a book. I let someone read the rough draft of Romance with Advantage and they told me they couldn’t get through the first seventeen pages for all the errors. Rather than be hurt, I know I have a second draft to write. Should I hang up the notion of one draft? No. I should work and aim for that. If I miss that goal, I shouldn’t give up and toss the manuscript aside (like I’ve been tempted to do several times). I must manage my expectations. I get the chance to improve on the tale. Just because I have a disposable fountain pen that was less than $10.00 doesn’t mean I can’t write a good tale with it.

Just because things didn’t turn out right doesn’t mean you should quit.

If only I can remember this all the time.

Well, have a good day everyone – make art with the tools you have. Stay positive and live well. I’m off to work someone on my second horror novel: a haunted house tale called The Truth Will Out. See you all next week.

The Three Hundred and Eighty-Seventh Post: The One I Might be Composing from the Bathroom Right About Now…

I’ve read a lot of books on writing. I’ve gotten a lot of advice and some practical tips on structure, plotting and description. I feel as if I could write my own book (“Confessions of a Writer: I Don’t Know What the Hell I’m Doing, Either! A Beginner’s Guide” by R. K. Clark). The first two bits of writerly advice I would put up would be some of the few bits of advice born out of experience:

  1. Stay Healthy! For pity’s sake…this one is easy. Try not to die before a deadline. Get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy(-ish). Stay hydrated, and by hydrated, I don’t mean watering down your bourbon. See a doctor if you get ill. Which leads into my second piece of advice…
  2. If You’re Sick, Rest!  This is another piece of advice that sounds really common, but you’d be surprised.

The only reason why I bring this up is because I was sick recently (last weekend). Apparently, I found the one cow that, before getting a bolt through his head, stood up on his hind legs, raged against the heavens and shouted, “FROM HELL’S HEART, I STAB AT THEE!

Because, brothers and sisters, he raged all the way through my body.

I took a day off work since I did not feel good enough to work, which people will tell you, means I am close to death. As I woke up Monday morning, I thought: ‘I can work on my novel. I won’t have any problems or interference. I can crank out a page or two. I have the will to work.’

My stomach violently objected, feeling that my work can wait a day. So, I collapsed on the couch (please extend your wishes for wellness to my couch) and watched a couple of shows I had waiting on my DVR – ghost shows so that I can say that I was researching for my novel. I rested, didn’t think about anything but convincing myself that I could eat bananas and dry toast three times a day. I felt bad because I wasn’t working. I furiously chewed on my banana snack, convinced that I could work through this misery. I tried to channel my inner Stephen King-like work ethic.

I took a nap.

I woke up thirty minutes later with a bit of a realization: I can miss a day and not feel bad about not working. Yes, I am on a bit of a deadline in that I want to have this book on the shelves by October. However, If I don’t take care of myself this book won’t get out at all. So, I rested and watched a little TV. Today, I’ll get back on the stick and write as much as I am able. I can get back onto the hardcore schedule in a few days.

Some of you may be asking why am I writing about this?

As a lot of readers know, I have a very obsessive personality. I will latch onto something and ride it to the point of self-harm. I could have written. I could have pushed myself, but I also knew that I would be erasing those words later, undoing all that work and getting madder for not putting forward my best effort that day.

So, I rested.

You should rest, too. As the song lyric says: “let the world turn without you tonight”.

The Three Hundred and Eighty-Sixth Post: The One Where I Try to Scare You Before I Finish the First Act Break…

So, I’ve begun my next new project – a haunted house story called The Truth Will Out – and it’s become a bit of a slog for me already. I might try a different approach to this and write all the good scenes first and try to stitch them to—

No. I’ve done that before, and it doesn’t work. I’m just one of those people that must start at the beginning and work my way through it. I had a ex-girlfriend who would read a series in the middle to decide if she wanted to continue. Makes no sense to me. Oh, well.

I’m trying to take the approach that Stephen King took when he wrote The Shining. It’s not about the haunted house, it’s about the people in the haunted house. The terror isn’t in the ghosts, ghoulies and those unknown bumps in the night. It’s in not really knowing the person standing next to you in the dark. The secrets of the living, not the revelations of the dead, is what should scare you.

I’ve also fantasied about sending a copy of my horror novel to Stephen King. I was going to do it with Valentina’s Feast, but I just don’t feel it’s really worthy of such a notice. This is the book that he’s going to get. So this one is going to be mulled over and tweaked to death. After that, it’s going to be The Agonizing Alibi Day and The Catastrophic Christmas Party. While I love horror, I’m kinda digging in some dark places for this, and I might need the break.

I’m still waiting on the editor to send my manuscript back. Not stressing. Nope. Not me. hahaaahahahaHAHAHAHHAAAA! *ahem* Excuse me. I am so ready for this book to be done. Just a couple of last-minute tweaks to keep everyone in character and it’s done. Still aiming for the end of month release, but if there is a delay – it was unavoidable, and I apologize.

Well – that’s really all for now. Just structuring one novel, waiting to release a second one and trying to figure out a third and fourth. Thank you all for your patience, I hope for it to be amply rewarded in due time. Check out the books on the right – those written by me and dear friends.

Have a good day.

The Three Hundred and Eighty-Fifth Post: The One Where I Fall to my Knees in the Rain…

All I am waiting on now is for the editor to get back with my second manuscript. Once that’s done and the changes are made — I AM DONE WITH “VALENTINA’S FEAST” AND IT’S GOING ON SALE!

I am really happy about this — I also realized I’ve written four books with a fifth shortly on the way and I am working on a sixth one right now (haunted house if you can believe it). By the end of this year, I will have written four books and maybe have them all published — being really optimistic about that, but I’ll have three of them out there for sure.

Maybe this is the year things turn around for me in a literary sense?

In other news, I have finally settled down on a haunted house story so I can finally say that watching that Ghost Adventures marathon was really research. Haven’t settled on a title…or cover art…but I am trying a different approach this time and mapping everything out. Outline, equipment lists, maps — the whole nine yards, in hopes that this will help. When I tend to write, I don’t stay very specific when it comes to locations, maps and other things like that. With this story, since it is a “closed set” (no one can leave the house for three days), I want to make sure that I keep everything in line. Most of my writing is done with a loose outline in my head and “ice cream” scenes already there. Going to see if this works. If everything is copacetic, look for a Hallowe’en release. If not…well…maybe next year.

There is nothing else really going on. I’m just happy that I’ve got one book finished, going to have a second one done on the heels of it and might have a third and fourth done by the end of the year. I feel like this is going to be my singular breakout year.

Thanks for reading, feel free to grab a book or two to the right and keep an eye on that list. It’s going to grow. 😀

The Three Hundred and Eighty-fourth Post: The One Where I Wonder When It’s a Healthy Focus…

I’m about halfway through edit Valentina’s Feast. If everything works out, I am looking at a late June release (depends on how fast my editor can turn around reading it). I can’t state how excited I am in that I’ve finally finished another novel and I am getting another one beta read to make changes (Romance with Advantage), that one might come out closer to the end of the year, depending on things. Everything is finally coming together.

I’m focusing on getting these two novels done – so everything else has been pushed back to either the end of the year, or just doing it during Pander-monium. That will be the real test for me. Basically, it’s twelve Nanowrimos one right after the other. I’m not gonna lie…I’m a little intimidated, but I can do it.

OK – enough about that.

I’m mad at Amazon, right now. I put in an order for a subscription for Digital Photography in January. I understand that it was going to not get here until May. I wasn’t happy about it, but I accepted it and waited…then the week of delivery came…and nothing. I sent a message. I waited another week. Another message…nothing. A third message and I talked to someone in customer support.

“It looks like it got lost in the mail.”

I’m mad that this was just turned off with a “sorry, dude” and “we’ll give you store credit”. I was looking forward to the magazine, and I got nothing.

I guess I’ll try to find it in Barnes and Noble. Let them get my money.

Sorry – not happy. Also, not learned my lesson because I ordered Dead Kennedy’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and the best time I can get is “by 10 PM today”.

Yeah…this is going to be fun.

Enough of that.

I can’t wait for the movie theaters to re-open. The saddest thing I have ever seen is the empty parking lot of my local movie spot. I miss the smell of popcorn, the lights going dim. I even miss teasers. I still watch movies at home, but it’s not really the same thing.

There’s not much else here. I’m laser-focused on Valentina’s Feast to the point of mania, and I’m letting everything else go to the wayside for now. I’m mad at Amazon and running out of good podcasts to binge.

Other than that – I’m doing fine. Thanks for dropping by, and I’ll try to have more for y’all next week. Please bear with me. Thanks.

The Three Hundred and Eighty-Third Post: The One Where It All Starts to Come Together!

I thought I was going to work on The Agonizing Alibi Day, but it just didn’t feel right in my head. For a while there, I was wondering what this book was going to be about. The first book, The Dreaded Day Job, was about a typical assignment. I was tossing the plot around for the second book. I wanted to do something more than a look at his work life, so after a few minutes I realized that we don’t know that much about his life outside of work, and how he manages his whammy during the off-hours.

Now that, that’s done, I’m letting my mind come up with other things, and in the meantime, I’m working on a book that feels far more done in my head: Resurrectionist’s Blues: One and Done. This one doesn’t have the tight deadline the other two have (almost done!), so I can kinda take my time with it. I might even – time permitting – go on ahead and work on the second one to give Alibi Day some more time to ferment. I have a good feeling about this particular novel.

I’ve been working on photography, and I wish I had a good picture to show…but I discovered the usefulness of the correct ISO (sensitivity to light) in pictures. I had a very well composed shot and what I got was a very dark square. Still well composed, mind you, but also still a dark square. I’m going to re-try it later with what I hope is going to be the right set up.

There isn’t a whole lot of new things going on. Still editing down Valentina’s Feast and waiting for the beta readers to finish Romance with Advantage. I heard good news about the Black Widow movie – July 9th is the release date on both Disney+ (with a premium charge, of course) and in theaters. YES! Phase 4 looks interesting from what I’ve seen. I can only hope that nothing else catastrophic happens to get in the way.

It’s looking like my August deadline can remain intact, and that pleases me greatly. The one thing that really stresses me out is setting a deadline, even a realistic one and not following through. Both books (Valentina’s Feast and Romance with Advantage) are nearing completion with the last major hurtle will be getting the covers set up…please see my prior paragraph concerning my photographic prowess. Thankfully, I found a website that allows you to buy royalty, free-use pictures for covers and I found one that works perfectly with Valentina’s Feast. Well – it would be even more perfect if I could get Melissa Benoist on the cover.

That’s it for now. Things are delightfully converging for me and I hope to keep it going through the halfway point in the year. Feel free to donate some coffee to the cause, buy a book or just drop a line to say hi.

Until next week.

The Three Hundred and Eighty-Second Post: The One Where I Talk About Big Mo

No…not this Mo

Well, I have good news – I finished the first draft of Romance with Advantage and it’s off to several people to have it beta read and edited down. I’m really trying to grab on to this momentum to carry me on through the final set of edits for Valentina’s Feast. I really needed something like this to buoy my spirits. It feels nice to see all this work start to come to fruition. Between this and my current binge listening to these guys – life feels kinda good again.

I’m looking ahead to the next project: Agonizing Alibi Day. It’s the next book in Lucky Evan’s Life series. With this one, we get to see the inner workings of Evan’s company Tyche Solutions. I like writing Evan because he’s positive and the whole series is a comedy, which is a switch up from the normal and serious material I normally write. After that, I should get Calamitous Christmas Party finished and then work on the big literary work Gaze Unaverted, Staring Blankly Ahead. I’m just trying to keep my line-up for work in my head so I can go from one project to another.

Speaking of projects – I just saw the Marvel phase 4 trailer! I Cannot Wait! I’m shaky about a couple things (The Eternals) and eager for a couple (Black Widow, Spider-Man) and really, really curious about others (Black Panther?). The only thing I’m still anxious about is the Mobius film coming from Sony. It’s going to be easy to fall into the anti-hero tropes with The Living Vampire, but I’m hoping they’re going to give it the horror flavor it deserves. Also hopes it makes the transition over to the MCU.

The other outstanding news is that I got my haircut. The last time that happened, I didn’t have to wear a mask…and let me tell you – it feels good. I also look much younger, which never hurts.

That’s all for now – re-cutting Valentina’s Feast, waiting for news on Romance with Advantage and it looks like I might hit my August deadline! Hope y’all have a good day!

The Three Hundred and Eighty-first Post…The One Where I Can’t Find Enough Aspirin…

This book is starting to get on my nerves. I find one thing wrong, fix it and think I’m done. Flipping through, I find another…and another…and another. Right now, I’ve completely ripped out on chapter (“Morale Check”) and I am just going to re-write it. I feel like I’m falling behind with this book, but don’t worry – I am going to finish it and finish Valentina’s Feast on time (August this year). I’m going to cut back a little on the first set of re-writes and focus on chapters that are under 2,000 words because I know those are unfinished.

One of the great things about Pander-monium is that I am going to be on such a tight schedule as far as writing goes that I’m going to have to do more editing as I write and less waiting until I am done. Maybe that this is the way to go. The great rule of writing is that there are no rules. I need to see what works for me as far as keeping busy. I think writing a month solid will be a good idea because that seems to be as long as I can hold interest in a project. The ultimate goal in this is to get a better catalogue in place.

On a different front, I’m still abiding with the ‘no TV, no stream’ rules. I don’t really miss anything, but my reading has increased as has my writing (see above). I’m also listening to a lot of podcasts. I’m liking this a great deal. I’m a fan of true crime, and paranormal podcasts, so I’m burning through Last Podcast on the Left, Extraterrestrial and Conspiracy Theory. When my wife wants to watch baseball (which I’m listening to online), I hike on back to the study and continue doing whatever I was doing. Getting a little more done, but I’m running out of podcasts to listen to while I am writing. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

I got my second vaccine shot and let me tell you…those side effects are no joke. When they say they make you feel like you got the flu – they are being optimistic. They make you feel like you wish you had the flu. I was sore all over like I had just compressed a year’s worth of workouts in just an hour. I was too tired to do anything, but I still got the laundry done (having to walk two blocks to the laundromat because I really needed the exercise…stupid, stupid, still fat me). After that, I went to bed at 8:00 pm, skipping my regular Sunday night game. Bleh. On the upside – you’ll get the best sleep ever, I promise. I think my home state is getting ready to lift the mask restrictions…in time for Derby. I mean, it’s only fair to the horses.

That’s all for now. Check out my wares to the right, click on a sponsor’s ad or just drop a line to say ‘hi’.

Take care.