I hope I never run out of things to say!

Hi there. It’s been a while. I’m very happy I’ve returned to talk a spell.

Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep this blog fresh. I’ve written about the act of writing, story telling and how it’s done. I wonder sometimes if my topic of conversation is getting a little stale. I could change the focus of this blog to “The State Of The World As We Know It,” but I’d get depressed. There would be, however, enough shit to talk about that I would never run dry.

Ultimately, I’m a storyteller. That’s what I do. I do it here. I do it in my short stories and novels. I do it everyday with my customers. I’ve been harassed at regular jobs for telling stories, even though they were not fiction. In the end, every writer is a storyteller. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I think some who wish to write forget about the act of storytelling because they are enamored with the idea of being a writer.

It’s easy to do if you think the act is more special than the product.

I, however, don’t subscribe to the idea that writing, as an act, is more important than the story being told. One can blame a lack of narrative flow on someone else, but it’s usually lack of education on the part of the writer. One must know how to create a flow and follow the story to its conclusion. If you don’t know how, find out. Writing without knowledge is like stumbling around in the dark trying to find your keys instead of turning on a light. The switch is by the fucking door. Use it.

I read a lot and, of late, have found much of what I’m reading is lacking in narrative flow and development. The characters in many of the stories are flat and the story ideas, while compelling at first, become repetitive and lacking even an indignant grace. There’s a fine line between good storytelling and bad storytelling. There are good storytellers who have no talent at writing. That’s where training can make a difference. If you have talent as a storyteller, you can learn to do the act. But a story that is incompletely written is kind of like sex without release. You leave your readers frustrated and wishing they had never consented to journey along with you.

Journey. This is what a story is. It’s a journey that allows the reader to see a little of what runs around inside of you. Not spending the time to learn your craft is not acceptable. That journey is dependent upon you, as the writer, properly unearthing the story elements and putting them together in a way that satisfies. In the end, your own ego will tell you the story is fine, but that’s when you need to really go back and rip it apart and make it better.

I truly believe the act of writing is cathartic, but it’s also about entertainment. There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing you’ve pulled something off in a story. When you can go back and read something you’ve written and find yourself caught up in the story, you’ve done what you set out to do. You’ve succeeded.

Check out Darwin’s Sword, my first novel. It’s available at Amazon.com or locally in Reno, Nevada, at Grassroots Bookstore. If you’re a writer searching for good training, you can sign up for my workshops at Lerue Press by going out to lrpnv.com or calling them at (775) 356-1004.

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Miscues in Modern Writing – Part 2

If you didn’t read my last entry, please do before reading this one. I wouldn’t want to lose you.

I’ve listened to criticism of my last entry, most saying that all I do is snipe at those who cannot speak nor write above third-grade level. I disagree. One person said I was being elitist. I’m simply pointing out things that I observe. In answer to these criticisms, I will put forth a few suggestions in this entry to help the problem. Now, you might consider what I’m about to say is indelicate, but the time for polite discussion is over. It’s time to kick ass.

I hear many people blaming teachers for this decent into ignorance. I would agree there are some teachers who need to consider other careers, but most are dealing with insurmountable problems. From revisionist lunatics who want to dumb down textbooks, to union hating politicians who cut funding for schools, teachers and school districts face an uphill battle. I know teachers who pay for supplies out of their own pockets because of budget cuts. This must stop. Politicians need to triple funding for education and stop interjecting conditions on that money. George W. Bush dictating how kids should be taught is like a heroin addict dictating a rehab program while they’re still using. It’s time teachers had the resources to produce a better educated child.

Parents deserve some blame here as well. Now please don’t groan, I’m not throwing you entirely under the bus, but frankly someone must take responsibility. Some parents push their kids to find a career as early as middle school instead of encouraging them to learn. They focus on tests, like schools and politicians, instead of teaching kids. It’s times to shut off video games and make sure they spend more time with books in their hands. As Stephen King once said, “television stifles creativity.” My suggestion is to cut it off. I know it makes a great babysitter, but we’re raising kids who can’t interact. Also, your kids don’t need every new toy. Buy them a fucking book. And interject yourself into what they read. There is bad fiction everywhere. But you must know the difference between good and bad fiction, so educate yourself.

I go to book signings and hear many people say the following: “I don’t read fiction. I read biographies and history books.” That’s terrific. Usually, when I ask what the last book they read was, they either A.) Can’t tell me or B.) Will list either Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh. This blog isn’t political, but these fucktards want to dumb down both kids and adults. By the way, if you bought Rush Limbaugh’s history books for little children, please take those books and hit yourself in the head. Revisionist history has gotten us where we are now. Buy your teenagers Poe, not Twilight (sorry Stephanie). Get your kids Jonathan Swift and Treasure Island. They worked for your generation and, if you press things, they’ll work for your kid’s.

The following suggestions might turn this trend around.

First, we need more funding for education. Teacher’s salaries must increase and we need to entice the smartest among us to teach our young. Stop bitching about their retirement.

Second, stop making your kids victims by telling them there are no losers. This is making your kids believe they are exceptional when they aren’t. Be realistic. If your kid needs help, for fuck’s sake, help them. I know you’re tired, but they are your responsibility. Teachers are not responsible for turning your kids into responsible human beings, you are.

Third, we need to take the country’s educational materials out of the hands of uneducated morons who think politics and religion belong in school texts. That must end.

Fourth, good fiction belongs in schools. Teaching classics as well as modern fiction is important to help children’s imagination.

Fifth, we must stop arguing that teachers make too much, when Wall Street thieves make billions. Here’s an idea, let’s fine the shit out of Goldman Sachs and these other greedy fucks who crashed the economy and put the entire lot into school funding. A few extra billion and our kids may make it above drool level yet.

Sixth, DO NOT delude yourself into thinking the Bible is a perfect way to teach your kid reading. This does not constitute education. It isn’t a textbook.

Seventh, encourage your kid to read actual books, not just graphic novels (comic books). Picture books are fine for little kids, but graduating to books without pictures, as they get older, is a good idea. I read Exodus by Leon Uris when I was in the sixth grade. I got it and proved to my teacher I got it. Within reason, don’t scare your kids into avoiding good writing because you don’t like the story. Most importantly, stop preparing your kids for a career in grade school. A good part of learning is varying your intake.

Finally, encourage your kids to use their imagination. Don’t castigate them when they daydream. Daydreaming is where writers are born. School Districts need to hire educators to run schools, not accountants. We need to spend time and money helping our kids learn, not squashing individualism. We must teach children to fight for their rights to a good education. Their problem is, they have no right to fight. Much of the time, their main opponents are the very people who are supposed to advocate for them. We must stop this and work on their behalf. Don’t blame teachers. Blame politicians who think funding oil subsidies and investment banks is more important than funding schools. Vote out any politician who supports gutting education. Vote out any politician who interjects political rhetoric into education. Science is fact. If you don’t believe in it, then stay the hell out of education. You have no business there.

Okay, I just tossed some gas on this soapbox and pitched a match into it. It burns brightly in the morning sunlight.

For a great summer read, check out my debut novel, Darwin’s Sword. Pick it up at http://www.amazon.com or http://www.lrpnv.com.

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Miscues in modern writing – – Part One

I use Facebook for most of my book marketing. Anyone who reads this blog regularly probably gets notified, through Facebook or Twitter, every time I post something new. The other day, while surfing FB, I came across a new video by Weird Al Yankovic. It’s called “Word Crimes.” If you haven’t viewed the video, you should. It points out, in an entertaining and funny way, just how silly our diction has become. This fact is not lost on me because I hear people talk all day and many of them sound like they’ve never had an English class in their life.

Before you say I’m throwing people I don’t know under the bus, listen for a minute. I’ve made some blunders in my time. I’m not above leaving a dangling participle or two, but I put a lot of effort into editing everything I wirte. HMMM. I mean write. The thing is, no one’s perfect. I understand and am not asking for perfection, just that everyone make an effort.

Here’s an example. I was sitting outside the Reno Rodeo a few weeks ago and in the darkness (waiting for a taxi ride not stalking horses) and I hear a conversation take place amongst a group of 14- or 15-year-old girls. Here is the gist of said conversation:

“OMG IDK I thought he was into me and he said he was into me but then he said I was into that other guy I mean WTF? GTFOH. I wouldn’t touch that guy if he had a million bucks but this guy was all over it saying I know you’re into that FG and I said no, you’re the FG but then I thought I don’t want to F anything up with my guy, so I offered him a BJ and he turned me down. WTF is that all about?” First girl.
“You offered him what?”
“A BJ, you know,” first girl does hand motion around her throat, causing the rest of the girls to scream and giggle.

First, she actually spelled the phrases. I wasn’t sure about GTFOH, but I was certain if I sat long enough I could figure out what she said. Her friends seemed to know. I left out the punctuation because she never stopped to breathe or even wet her tongue (unintentional pun) before saying the next word. My first inclination was to tell her if she was too embarrassed to say what she offered this guy, then maybe she shouldn’t offer it. Here’s my issue. What the hell happened to communicating? This conversation reminded me of standing in an elevator in a Los Angeles hotel, listening to a Russian couple speaking behind me. I could no more understand these girls than that couple.

I believe in words. Words have power. They enable communication, to make someone laugh or cry, comfort or hurt. Words are sustainable. I catch hell all the time about my text messages being too long because I use complete sentences. I don’t give a fuck. I was raised to speak and to write, not abbreviate. Anyone who has known me a while knows I was in the computer industry. I hate acronyms like the clap. If I have something to say, I’ll say it without abbreviations. You can bet on it.

I think the guy who invented Twitter had no idea of the shit his invention would cause. I hope he thought limiting people to 140 characters would cause them to write more concise sentences instead of creating acronyms that confuse the shit out of anyone over 25 years old. If he planned this then may he rest in hell.

My desire in saying this is not to claim superiority, only to point out the more we dumb ourselves down, the faster we speed toward eventual slavery. You can show your individuality with tattoos, sewing spools in your ears or puncturing you face with a railroad spike, but our individuality rests in our unique ability to communicate. Or maybe I should just STFU.

Get Darwin’s Sword, a great poolside read at Amazon.com, or locally in Reno, NV at Grassroots Books. You can also call Lerue Press at (775)356-1004 and order a copy.

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Writing and Publishing Bravely

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future that awaits me as a professional writer. All the years I’ve wanted to become a full-time writer, I’ve avoided taking a chance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written a story and stuck it into a desk drawer, allowing it to languish inside a manila envelope for years. It has been my modus operandi for years. I think all writers got through this at some point.

I don’t even know why. I guess fear of failure had a lot to do with it. I had a phobia of editors saying I should try flipping burgers instead of bothering them. I wanted to write and publish, but fear and doubt held me in check. I had a few successes in the late eighties, but I also suffered a lot of failures. I never relished in the successes, just held court with the failures. As the publishing industry tightened, I stopped trying.

When my novel, Darwin’s Sword, was accepted for publication, my attitude changed. All of a sudden, I began to see a ray of light in the darkened world that was, to that point, just a hobby. I saw an avenue to release stories I thought were quite good. Stories like Naomi, Midas, The Road to Hell, The Table Turned and more, all of a sudden gained a new life.

I sent off Naomi to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine for publication consideration, about a week and a half ago. I’m working on sending out quite a few more. I’ve finished a short story called The Site, my first foray into occult. I have a lot of stories to market, I also have written many short stories and have many more ideas for both short and long fiction. Writing is what I do best, and what I enjoy the most. I spend about half my time working on new stories, editing older stories and others work. It is my new career and I plan to embrace it. I highly suggest, as I’ve said here in the past, those writers amongst you do the same.

Fiction writing as a hobby has been left behind, replaced by a new career that has become my life. I’ve lived a lot of years and this job is where I feel most at home. I look forward to writing and publishing more good stories and entertaining you all with new concepts and story ideas. I’ll brave those pesky editors with a new found bravery that, heretofore, escaped me. As these stories are purchased and published I’ll let you all know.

On another note, I attended the wedding of my former assistant, Erin today. She was lovely and Rob, the Marine she married, looked resplendent in his dress uniform. I’m proud of them both and wish them well. I miss her assistance in research, but that’s really minor. In many ways, Erin is a member of our extended family and my wife and I felt like extended parents. We were so happy we were included and we wish them both only the very best of times.

If you’re a writer who needs help with editing services or need to learn more about the craft, contact Lerue Press at http://www.lrpnv.com. I give workshops and perform editing services for any kind of writing. You can pick up Darwin’s Sword at http://www.amazon.com, the above website, or locally at Grassroots Books on Grove street.

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Back to the Blog

I’ve been away for awhile and haven’t blogged in a few weeks. Unfortunately, I’m trying to establish an identity for this blog. I’ve been told this isn’t so much a blog as a column of sorts, so maybe I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. But I’ve decided to press on and not worry about those who disagree.

First, I want to point out that The Horrors of Writing And Publishing is about (surprise!!!) writing and publishing. I try to write insightful and educational pieces about the publishing business and the art of writing fiction and non-fiction. All of this stuff is my opinion, but it comes from a long-term relationship between writing and myself. Writing, in my not-so-humble opinion, is about storytelling. While I learn something new every day, I also know my shit, as the youngsters say today.

So, here I am. I want to continue to impart quality information to those writers out there who choose to follow me, promote authors’ work that I feel deserves it and generally talk about the things that drive me as a writer and author. Publishing is a hard business. It’s a hard way to make a living, but there is nothing on this planet that is more satisfying than completing a story, letting people read it and finding them entertained. There is no compliment a writer loves to hear more than “it kept me on the edge of my seat.”

Writers rarely need a reason to write. They just do. I write when I’m sick or healthy, when I’m tired or well rested. Hell, I write when I’m not writing, which is why I often have trouble sleeping. I spend countless hours going over the stories I’ve produced to ensure quality. I make mistakes about whether a story is good or not, so I entrust first readers with telling me whether I have fucked up or not. I write what comes to mind, cull out the stupid stuff and hopefully what I’m left with is good literature. Oh, and don’t mistake what I do as anything but literature. I don’t believe in that bullshit argument about whether popular fiction is real lit. IT IS! So anyone who wants to argue it should go elsewhere. Poe was popular and is considered lit today.

Onward and upward. I’m also taking independent work as an editor. If you’re a writer and wish to have my services, drop me a line at paladin@dwacons.com. I’ll let you know how much I charge and how to send me your work.

Check back here for more posts in the coming weeks about writing and publishing. I’m sending out some short stories for consideration and I’ll be posting some of the feedback I get here.

If you’re new to this blog, or you haven’t done so yet, check out my debut novel Darwin’s Sword. It’s available in digest-sized paperback on Amazon.com and in Reno at Grassroots Books and Lerue Press.

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Spring Cleaning my Writing House

I talked in my last post about having trouble getting to certain writing tasks. I’m not talking about writer’s block (first, I don’t believe in it, and second, I have no trouble writing), I’m talking about motivation and time. I’ve had trouble recently putting writing on the front burner.

This week, I’m making a pledge to myself to finish two projects. One is my submission to a horror anthology. A story called The Site. It shouldn’t be too hard to finish since I’ve had the thing rolling around in my head for months. The second thing I plan to finish is the rewrite of White Death. These projects are very important to my future as a writer and it’s time to get them done.

The problem with this is the same as it has been for the past few months. It’s not dedication, it’s motivation. You would think with writing, I would be in a hurry to get projects done, but it’s easy to let life step in your way. I won’t get into details, but time is a problem right now.

My issue is, I feel as if these are all excuses for avoiding my duties as a writer. It’s easy to say, I’ll do it later, or I don’t feel like it right now. This is my lesson to all of the writers who read this blog. Stop procrastinating. There is no time like the present. As I said earlier, I plan to take my own advice and get to work. I’ve cleared my schedule for the week (except for my regular job) and I plan on getting some real work done. I have a potential for some editing side work coming along, so that may help my situation as well.

Now, for all new writers out there who are developing a plan to write novels or short stories, here is my advice, for what it’s worth. Take the time to learn your craft. Get help where you need it and remember no one is perfect. Join a writing group to get help developing you work. But most of all, please take time out of every day to write. Writing every day is the only way to get better. Writing fiction or non-fiction is like learning to play an instrument. It requires practice and that means spending time every day putting words to page. Even if what you write is something you’ll never want anyone else to see. Write down fantasies, images in your head, memories, whatever. It doesn’t matter what your write as long as it is narrative. It will help you along in your journey as a writer.

The second thing I can recommend is BE BRAVE! Don’t worry if someone will like what you’ve written. Just get someone to read it. Hire a good editor. Learn to edit yourself, but hire someone with professional experience as an editor and get his or her help. It’s nice to let your friends read your stories. Remember, your friends will rarely tell you the truth. Neither will your family. TRUST ME! Unless they are not afraid of alienating you, they will tell you it’s great. You need someone to tell you the truth. If it’s great, awesome, but a good editor will give you suggestions about how to improve your work.

Now for the PSA. For those in the Reno/Sparks/Carson City Nevada areas, I’ll be at the lit fest in Carson City all day Sunday, June 8, 2014. Come by and say hello and pick up your copy of Darwin’s Sword. I’ll sign your book and we can talk about what makes you want to write.

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Remembrance of a great woman

I was going to write a post-mortem to my Horror Con visit from a few weeks ago, but I decided to move on to other topics.

First, I heard this morning that Maya Angelou had passed away at the age of 86. I read her autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings when I was in college and was impressed; that while I have no way of experiencing what she experienced as a black female growing up in the segregated South, I felt a sort of kinship because the story wasn’t just about her experience, but decried any type of bigotry. Anyone who has ever been discriminated against for any reason, whether for they way they looked or just bullied in general would find solace that they weren’t alone. Maya overcame amazing odds to give us poetry and leadership in a subtle and brilliant manner. Her poems were literary gems and stated the realities of life with grace.

We could all learn from her. 

I began to look back over the past few months and realized I’ve grown lazy. “Not you!” You say? Yes, me. I’ve let outside pressures get in the way of my writing. I haven’t updated my blog in a while. I’ve completed a couple of short stories just in the past couple weeks, but as far as any meaningful progress on anything new, I’ve just fallen down on the job. I’ve focused on Darwin’s Sword and nothing else. That must change and I know it.

I’ve been trying to work on two novels at once, which has precluded me from making progress on either work. I’ve written about a third of Into The Darkness and only three chapters of Shadow Watchers. In the midst of this drought, I also began rewriting my next novel White Death, which I’m not making quick progress on. Sorry for spending time verbally slapping myself, but I can’t help it.

Now, I have had somewhat good reasons for my lapses. I’ve spent a good deal of time promoting Darwin’s Sword, especially in the last few weeks. But it’s still no excuse, so I must get back to work.

Returning to our loss of Maya Angelou. I don’t know if she would have read Darwin’s Sword, or if she had whether she would have liked it, but hers is a mark we all strive for. Whether you write poetry or short and long fiction, originality and message should always be a part of your focus. I also don’t think she would have accepted excuses for not writing. I think she might have smiled and said, “get your butt to work.” I didn’t know her, but I have a feeling that I’m right about that.

If you haven’t yet done so, pick up Darwin’s Sword at Amazon.com, contact Lerue Press or if you happen to live in or come to the Truckee Meadows, get it at Grassroots Books on Grove Street. Make sure you support writers as much as you can. Read lots because gems are out there. Sometimes, something you wouldn’t have normally read might make an impression on you that will never fade.

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