Monday, September 15, 2014

Visiting With Richard

Blogging buddy extraordinaire Richard P. Hughes has invited me over to his blog, Writing and Living, for the day. He's been running a series called Where I Live and Why I Like It.

Every couple weeks or so, Richard showcases fellow bloggers as they discuss the area in which they live. While my little spot in the road has a tough time competing with the likes of Australia and Hawaii (just to name a couple of the places we've seen so far) it's still a place I like calling home.

If you've not seen any of the posts then do browse a while. Richard is making it possible for us to glimpse places both distant and grand. Who knows, maybe your next novel's setting has already been showcased!

Monday, August 4, 2014

30 Years of Our Journey Through Forever

Myra and I would have celebrated our thirtieth anniversary today. Some might say that thirty years of marriage is a long time, but I say thirty years is just a brief step in our journey through forever.

Below are the two cards I selected to commemorate this milestone in our journey.

Card #1 (envelope)

Card #1 (cover)
Card #1 (inside)

Card #2 (envelope)

Card #2 (cover)

Card #2 (inside)

Happy Anniversary, Myra!
An eternity of anniversaries to come.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ten Thousand Times

Today.  Feels like it took a century to get here, but its ominous gray has loomed on the horizon for only a year. And I've made it through every single day that it took to get here.

I'm proud. I'm surprised--shocked really. There were times I didn't think I'd make it this long. Truthfully, there were times I didn't want to make it this long. But I promised her. I said I'd live and love for the both of us.

And I have.

My year of firsts has come to an end and I'm still here. I'm still living. I'm still loving our children and grandchildren for us both. I've survived the birthdays, the holidays, the anniversaries. I've faced the quiet house, the empty bed, the missing lunchtime phone calls and the absence of her I Love My Husband messages on my Facebook wall. From the "see me off to work" kiss to the night's last embrace, I've persevered without it all.

I'm doing my best to do my best, if you follow my logic. That includes my writing. I've had two short stories published since Myra died. The Orchid, the first one I wrote after July 17, 2013, was by far the most difficult story I've ever written. Every single sentence came about as easily as a wisdom tooth yanked out of my jaw. But I kept my word.

I wonder sometimes if I'd have been able to keep that promise were it not for family and friends. Your prayers, your words of encouragement, your patience and understanding, they made the difference--literally--between life and death. I am forever in your debt.

In the eyes of society, the state and God, I'm a widower. In my heart, I'm a husband and will remain so until death reunites us. The poem below, I wrote for my wife.

Ten Thousand Times.

10,000 times I've kissed your rings
10,000 times I've whispered your name
Knowing not what tomorrow brings
Wondering why that woeful day came

10,000 times I've shed a tear
10,000 times I've asked God why
All those times in just one year
Seldom a day do my eyes stay dry

10,000 times I've pictured your face
10,000 times I've struggled to smile
Knowing that you're in a better place
And I'll join you there after my last mile

10,000 words I've penned in letters
10,000 times I've prayed for grace
To endure this grief that fetters
And find true peace as I run this race

10,000 days were we on Earth wed
10,000 times has my shattered heart beat
10,000 ways will my soul have bled
When comes that day it's again complete

The first of 10,571 days "on Earth wed"

Monday, June 23, 2014

Klingon Writing Academy

Today is a good day to write.

Rest assured, writer, we will be published, whatever the cost.

Do not approach me unannounced, especially when I am writing.

There is no honor in writing without revising.

Sir, I must protest. My character is not a merry man.

A writer never breaks his promise.

You have never seen rejection? Then look, and always remember.

Writers never quit.

I've noted that some people use writing as a shield. They tell much, but show little.

Proofread this!

If writers cannot handle a little critique, how will they handle bad book reviews?

Do not think of it as a hobby. Make it part of your day...part of your routine. Make it part of you.

I am beginning to see the appeal of this storytelling.

In writing, there is nothing more honorable than finishing.

You have fully written ten chapters. You may now publish.

Good story. Nice cover.

Words come later. It is the scent that first speaks of inspiration.

Less Facebook. More writing.

If you were any other author, I would edit you where you stand.

Procrastination should be illegal.

Writers do not pursue publishing. They conquer that which they desire.

At the first sign of betrayal I will kill him, but I promise to return the manuscript intact. 

It is true. The muse has returned.

It is a manuscript, a warning. Beware, a successful author is about to arrive.

Push! Push, writer! Push!

My writing class was not like this. That process was very orderly.

You look for validation in the wrong place. The true test of a writer is not without, it is within.

He will succeed. He is Writer, a Storytelling Master. 

I have much to teach you about revision!

Writing, I will not be complete without you.

Qapla'! You are a writer. You are capable of anything!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My Dearest Myra

Sunday, June 1, 2014

My dearest Myra,

What little I know of history suggests that the "season" of mourning lasts for a year--particularly when losing a spouse. I'm halfway through month number ten now and I ponder what makes the anniversary marker so significant. Pain this severe doesn't heal in a mere year. Perhaps the "year of grieving" is intended as much for the mourner's family and friends as anyone. It gives them the option of saying, "it hasn't been a year yet" as though the mourner can be excused until then.

I'm sitting on my deck this morning and I wonder. What happens afterwards? Will my license to grieve expire? Will my mourning privileges be revoked? Does sympathy become derision, an accusation that I refuse to move past it and get on with my life? Do they expect the hurt will magically cease on the 18th of July?

To this very day, tears come from nowhere in the span of a few blinks of the eye. Even now, the agony that simmers within boils to the surface without warning or even a logical provocation. When will I reach the day that I can rein in these unexpected emotional eruptions? Ever?

Perhaps "moving on" really is just choice. I don't know. I just don't see how healing can co-exist with these memories I dare not lose. I want nothing more right now than to wrap my arms around you and squeeze forever. Nothing! Just to whisper in your ear and see the answer in your eyes, I would trade the rest of my life for that one brief moment. God as my witness, Myra, I would.

I look back on my life with you and find that I am so very grateful for so many things. As with any marriage, we had our share of trials and hardships, but we had a rare devotion, one not experienced by many, I think. Nothing separated us. Nothing beat us. Every problem we faced made us stronger, more committed and made our bond of love deeper. Our mutual triumphs brought us mutual joys and enriched our union.

I do not have many of the regrets that other widowed spouses have. I see little shame and much satisfaction in our twenty-nine years. I see how we each made the other better. I see our mutual appreciation for what we both brought to our relationship and how we each enabled the other to grow and blossom, becoming the beauty we each saw budding within the other.

Is it then any wonder why I still grieve? How can my days in mourning be any fewer than the days that lie before me? And how can I hurt less on the year-plus-one day than on the first day I lived without you by my side? Some pains lessen with time, but this ache will last a lifetime.

Eternally cherishing you,
The one whose heart you'll always hold,
- Jeff

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

WRiTE Club Submission Deadline Approaching

First off, I’d like to thank Jeff for the opportunity to talk to you today about something near and dear to my heart…WRiTE CLUB. My modest writing contest has proven so popular that the DFW Writers Conference is now considering incorporating it into their agenda for 2015. 

For the newbies out there, let me explain what WRiTE CLUB is? It’s a modest writing competition whose inspiration was derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB. There are numerous versions of this concept around the internet, but nothing like we do it. Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top. 

Over the course of eight weeks I hold twice-weekly bouts in which the winners advance to the play-offs, which will ultimately lead to a single champion. Bouts between who…or what…you ask? Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name by anyone who wishes to take part, that’s who. The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. It’s a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, without having to suffer the agony of exposure. 

And the winners are determined by WRiTE CLUB readers!

To find out how to become part of the fun just head on over to and click on the WRiTE CLUB tab. 

Submissions are open until May 31st. After that date a panel of a dozen judges will read all of the entries we received and pre-select 32 of the best writing samples to climb into the ring. Those 32 participants will then be randomly matched to compete over the next eight weeks, each of them hoping to make it into the play-off rounds and moving towards the ultimate goal – WRiTE CLUB Champion. No one (other than my wife)…not even the judges being used to pre-select the 32 contestants, will see the true identity of any sample. Unless you win, of course.

Again this year, the most exciting part is the winner of the final round will be chosen by a panel of publishing industry professionals! Judges include New York Times best-selling and multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning horror and thriller author Jonathan Maberry, Agents Katie Grim of Don Congdon Associates, Margaret Bail of the Andrea Hurst Agency, Sarah Negovetich of the Corvisiero Literary Agency, Brittany Booker of The Booker Albert Literary Agency. Also included is Candace Havens, Editorial Director of Entangled Publishing Covet line, Authors Les Edgerton and Lydia Kang, and previous WRiTE CLUB winners Tiana Smith (2011), Mark Hough (2012) and Tex Thompson (2013).

Are you willing to WRiTE for what you want? Then crack those knuckles and get ready to flex that imagination. And whatever you do, tell your friends!

WRiTE CLUB – The contest where the audience gets clobbered!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nikolas Baron Discusses Publishing Considerations

Nikolas Baron, my guest today, takes an objective look at the options available to writers aiming to publish. It's a decision too important to make blindly.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
by Nikolas Baron

The Internet has changed the landscape of writing. It used to be that a writer would finish his or her work, polish it, and submit it to a publisher, which would then review the manuscript and either accept it or reject it. If it was the latter, the writer would have no choice other than to resubmit the piece to a new publisher and try again. While the option to self-publish was certainly present, it was very expensive and often only used as a way for new writers to get noticed.

In the modern age of the Internet, however, that has all changed. Using Print-On-Demand services or an ebook format, anyone with a computer can self-publish their manuscript and sell it through popular online book retailers, reaching a potential audience in a way never seen before. But, is it the right thing to do? Truthfully, there are both pros and cons to self-publishing, even in the easy Internet age. Before a writer decides to self-publish a book, he or she should carefully consider the following:

  • Audience – When a traditional publisher is deciding whether to invest in the publication of a book, one of the major elements it must consider is whether or not the potential audience for the book is large enough to justify the cost of publishing and marketing. One of the major benefits of self-publishing is that it gives the writer the opportunity to get his or her book in front of the potential audience, regardless of how large (or small) it is. This is especially good for niche books, which will appeal to a very specific audience.
  • Timeliness – Once a writer signs a publishing contract with a new writer, it may still take up to a year for the final book to be released to shelves. This is because the book will go through a series of editing, designing, and marketing processes before the publisher decides the book is ready for the public. A self-published writer can forgo a lot of that time. He or she still needs to spend time polishing and designing the book, but the process will go a lot quicker.
  • Royalties – One of the biggest benefits of self-publishing a book is the increased royalties. Traditional publishers can take over 85-percent of the royalties from a new book, leaving the author making sometimes as little as a dollar per copy sold. With self-publishing, that amount jumps drastically, with some authors making as much as 70-percent royalties if they go the ebook route.
  • Authorial Control – When a traditional publisher's money is involved, the publisher may dictate changes to the content, voice, flow, or narrative of your book, if these changes are expected to improve sales of the book. With self-publishing, the writer has complete control over the book, ultimately choosing to publish the book in the way he or she feels is best.

  • Risk – When publishing a book through a traditional publisher, most of the risk is on the publisher's side. The publisher usually pays an advance to the author based on how much the book is expected to sell, as well as front the money for editing, designing, and marketing. If the book doesn't sell well, the publisher is out most of that money. In self-publishing all of that risk is on the author. He or she must front all of the time, energy, and money to publish the book, and he or she must be okay with the potential that the book may not sell enough to recover those costs.
  • Multiple Roles – Unlike traditional publishing, which requires the writer to primarily write, self-publishing requires to writer to edit, design, and market the book as well. While there are services online that can make these processes easier, they often cost money, and all of that financial burden will then fall on the author.
  • Competition – Since it has become so easy to self-publish a book in the Internet age, many amateur authors have chosen that route. That means any writer that throws his or her hat into the self-publishing ring has to contend with an unprecedented number of direct competitors. After all, if there are tens of thousands of books available, it becomes harder for potential readers to wade through the bad books to find the one or two diamonds hidden in the rough.
  • Higher Scrutiny – Because of the ease of self-publishing, self-published books are also held to a higher standard than many traditionally published books. While it's not uncommon for grammatical and style errors to slip through the traditionally publishing process, if a self-published book has these same errors, readers may be quick to pass the book off as the product of shoddy self-publishing. A self-published writer has to be prepared for this level of scrutiny.

Thankfully, many of these cons can be addressed by a writer settling into those multiple roles above, or at least finding substitutes for them. For example, if a writer is struggling with designing the book cover, he or she can usually find good, amateur artists online who might design the cover for considerably less than a professional may charge. If a writer is concerned with proofreading and grammatical errors slipping through the cracks, he or she might be well-served by using an online grammar check, like the one offered on Grammarly, as a second set of eyes.

While there is certainly no easy answer to the question of whether or not an author should self-publish, there are some definite considerations the author must give before making that decision. If any of these cons seem too great to overcome, the writer may be more suited for the traditional published route. If not, however, he or she may find the self-publishing route immensely rewarding.

About Nikolas Baron:

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.

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