A Word About Writing What You Know

I remember my first creative writing classes in college. (If at this point you’re already ready to X out of my blog, I know how absolutely boring and smothering college reminiscences are. Trust me. Only professors and students believe their college lives are important. Bear with me and we’ll get through this together. I promise.)

We were given the most ludicrous advice since Shakespeare had Polonius tell his son, “This above all to thine own self be true.”   The line has been praised by students and teachers all over the world, by the way, though no one ever bothered to ask one important question:

What if you’re an idiot?

In that case, being true to yourself would seem to be a bit of a rotter.

And honestly we’re all idiots sometimes. If you don’t believe me, look at some of the Deep Thoughts your friends have been saying on Facebook. I guarantee you that some your own Deep Thoughts have probably been just as bad.

Colleges and even classrooms of secondary education are a lot like this. Loads of bad advice sicklied o’er with the pale cast of happy-happy-joy-joy diversity Styrofoam.

Years later in a graduate class focused on teaching students to write, a former professor rhapsodized about helping students find their Own Style.

Find their Own Style! Like it was waiting right around the corner!

Wait a minute.

No. It wasn’t.

Instead, the professor told the class that it was a gem of rich potential burning in the souls of America’s youth.

Nevermind that the youth are a mob of under-educated barbarians (frequently taught by mobs of graduate-degreed semi-educated barbarians)

The sum total of this farce is that colleges and high schools pump out graduates whose thinking skills are a match for writing skills that lack enough substance to stick to the bottom of a toilet bowl.

If you think I’m talking about you, sit back and relax.

I probably am.

This lesson she preceded with the pithy wisdom that in order to accomplish this magical, happy-happy-joy-joy feat of pedagogy, future educators should no longer teach students with the attitude that they were, “The Sage On The Stage.”

No. Under the new enlightened order promulgated by university thought clones, teachers were supposed to act as a student’s “Guide On The Side.”

Students have voices of their own, and we were supposed to guide them along the yellow brick road of happy-happy-joy-joy self-discovery.

The only problem is that students aren’t prepared for it.

Many adults aren’t prepared for it, either.

What they get is advice like I got.

Write what you know.

The problem—and students always make funny faces whenever they’re told this—is that they don’t “know” very much. And they KNOW they don’t know very much.

When I was told that in my writing classes, I felt like I had been had. Mostly what I wound up writing were stories about college life. Most of my classmates wrote stories about college life. Even one of my professors wrote a novel about tenure track within the University.

Drip . . . Drip . . . Drip . . . Drop . . . Drop . . . Drop . . .

Do you hear that?

That’s what my brains sounded like as they ran out of my ears. Chances are, if you’re a student (or even adult), if you Write What You Know, you’ll probably give me—or anyone reading your work—an aneurysm.

So if I’m telling you NOT to Write What You Know, what am I telling you?

If you want to write a good story, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW EMOTIONALLY. You do that, and you’ll come closer to hitting your goal.

Now with that said, if you want to do an emotionally poignant story about a dark and brooding, emo-goth neurologist that finds a cure for multiple sclerosis while battling his vampyric addiction to blood, I hate to break it to you, but you’re kinda going to have to know a bit about neurology.

The good news is that if you’re a student, you’ve probably experienced the pain of loss and humiliation. You’ve been down the road of dashed hopes. You may even know what it feels like to win a sports tournament or break four boards all at once in your taekwondo class. These are things that can be transubstantiated into fine stories.  Why?  Because the emotions are what get your readers ten out of nine times.

I promise.

You’ve emotionally experienced enough to spin a good yarn, even at a young age. As you go through the laborious and time consuming task of gaining the specific levels of knowledge to help you to Write What You Know, when you stick to the more familiar grounds of writing what you know emotionally, you can more than make up for the rotten advice of Writing What You Know!

Look, writing is not easy. It never was supposed to be easy. Why do you think even some of the smartest people you know become dithering idiots on Facebook? I know my message in this blog entry may be something of a downer, but I really want you to consider what I’ve said.

Until you’re fairly competent to write with your head, start with your gut. Do that. Try it. Then I want you to let me know how it worked for you.

In forthcoming blog posts, I will touch more on this subject. I will also discuss such goodies as Mood, Tone, Conflict, Setting, and Personification. I’ve got ideas about those—at least ones that have worked for me, and I’m sure if they don’t work for you, we can figure something out that will.

Until then, write from you guts and Write What You Know Emotionally.

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Plot and Story

Dear Reader,

One thing that many novice writers spend too much time agonizing over is the topic of Plot.  I’m not surprised about this, because they regularly confuse Plot with an even more important term:

Story.

Story happens when your protagonist is forced to respond to plot. Many people confuse the two terms—Plot and Story. Do not get carried away with crafting an intricately bedazzling plot that would be the envy of Agatha Christie or James Patterson.

Why?

Your story will suffer, and it’s Story that deserves your focus. Not the Plot.

Why is that?

If you think about it, Plot doesn’t happen in real life. Stephen King said that, and I agree. We usually find ourselves swept up in an ongoing chain of events.   Plot is merely the flow of action from a story’s beginning to its end. The only thing that makes Plot necessary is the fact that your readers need it on order for the tale you are crafting to make sense.

And if you want your readers to keep coming back, this has to be the target you shoot for.

Looking at it in these terms, I think you’ll understand why Mark Twain once said, “It’s no wonder truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” One sure-fire way for you to lose your reader is for them to get lost in a senseless flow of action. Many novice authors make this common mistake.

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Why?

Because their story is confusing. I’m sure if you lived within a novice writer’s mind, things would make sense.  After all, they know what they’re talking about. Let me give you an example of the difference between Plot and Story.

I once found myself in the middle of a department store shooting. If I wanted to tell you about the progression of events leading to the horrifying and tragic moment, I might begin by describing my morning. I woke up around 6:00 a.m. and yawned. After stretching, I got up for my morning shower. Following that, I only had one thing on my mind: Chipped beef over toast! My grandfather used to make that for me, and every time I ate it, I felt a little bit closer to him, despite the fact that Papaw had been dead for decades.

He used to eat it in the army. He served in Germany near the end of WWII, you know.

I could go on like this, couldn’t I?

If I did, the detailed minutiae of my plodding Plot might finally bring us to the moment the gun goes off and I find myself running for my life while trying to shield a frightened elderly lady from harm, but too much exists between waking up and hearing the .45 roaring like a cannon to keep a reader’s attention.  This is an example of what happens when Plot goes wrong.  Your story gets lost, just like it did in my example where my Plot is vague and overthought.  Too many breadcrumbs scattered in too many directions and Hansel & Gretel never make it out of the woods.

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Plot is the selective use of relevant facts that build your Story and keep your reader hooked. One of the most common complaints I hear readers make is that author X looses them mid-story. Even great authors have this problem.

Think back to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Many people have complained that her Plot got in the way her Story.  In Order of the Phoenix, did the House Elf Winky’s alcoholism add much to the storyline, or did it, as some have complained, slow the novel’s pace unnecessarily?

Me? I found the overall story worthwhile. Many didn’t, though.

This is the line you straddle, so if you want to be a novelist, pay close attention to this short blog post:  Make sure every scene in your novel adds to the rising action of your story, and in some way these actions, event, episodes, thoughts, or feelings contribute to the Story you are trying to tell.  Why?  They give us a progression of events we can follow and make sense of.

Then you’ll have your Plot—which comes in a moment of Zen-like wisdom. You achieve Plot only when you let it go.

Sounds like rubbish? Just tell a damn good story. That’s it. That’s where your focus ought to be. Aristotle said that all good stories have a beginning, a middle, and in end. (I’m sure the ancient Greeks probably called him Captain Obvious behind his back.)  You do that . . . you plan that out . . . and you’ll have your Plot, and with patience, talent, and practice, you may spin a good yarn.

When I return later this month I will talk to you about one of a story’s basic necessities–Conflict.  Without it your story will be as dead as a graduate candidate’s doctoral thesis.  Also, I want to touch on the advice high school and college instructors have been spooning out since long before many of us were born:  Write what you know.

Do  you remember when I told you in one of my earlier posts that I am something of an apostate as far as writing instruction goes?  I’m going to leave you with this one gem of wisdom, and it’s going to have every writing teacher I’ve ever had sticking pins in voodoo dolls with my names on them.

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For the love of all that’s holy, DON’T write what you know!!!

Come back in a week, and I will tell you why.

More Books On The Way

Hello there, readers!

I have three more books on the way for you, and I wanted to give you a sneak peak at what you’re in store for.  The first is the third book in my Demon’s Playground series, I Scream of Genie.

In it, you’ll find that high noon has come for a showdown between Jack & company and the demon behind all of his most recent misfortune.

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Only, the things he’s up against would give Wyatt Earp a collective case of the willies, wouldn’t they? Plus his guns would never work.  Not on the things Jack has to face.

You will be relieved to know that he’s still trying to hammer out his relationship with a stubborn Succubus that has . . . we’ll call them issues and leave it at that.  Soon you’ll be able to get the book through our friendly online retailers at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo.  I will let you know when it’s out.

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In addition to the book cover above, I wanted to share the next work in the Demon’s Playground series coming out.  I cannot say anything about it yet, but you can get a sneak peak by reading the back cover information if you like!

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Feel free to let me know what you think!  This isn’t all, though.  The Sorcerer’s Fury: Part II will also be out in the near future.  Niam and the gang will continue in their pursuit of the sorcerer burning a path of destruction before them.  At the moment, they are facing an array of enemies.  Some they know, and some that crouch in the shadows, harboring terrible plots that could spell doom for the world.

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Again, I’m not ready to divulge any spoilers, but the back cover does offer an exciting preview.

 

Prewriting and Delays

Keeping with my theme of prewriting and other headaches novelists (and other story writers) encounter, I decided to do something I told myself I would never do on this blog.

Today I am going to whine and complain.

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Except I’m a guy, not a girl

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And I’m 44.   Unknown

Okay.  WRONG kind of whine. But I think you get it.  Last night I was looking over my most recent blog entry and I thought maybe I should tell you a little about the prewriting process that went through with my first novel, The Dread Lords Rising.

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If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it at the following sites:

Amazon:

Barnes & Noble:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dread-lords-rising-jd-phillips/1126162536?ean=2940157536671

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727221

The idea for this book came to me in 1996.  My son wasn’t even a year old yet, and he had been up crying for so many hours I felt like I wasn’t even a year old yet.  To pass the time–and help keep myself sane–I had the kernel of an idea about three best friends faced with a series of terrifying situations.  One friend (Niam) was slowly loosing his mind as their situation deteriorated.

My son had been WAILING away for about six hours, and I was honestly about to lose mine.  You’d never know the fellow now.  He’s quiet, reserved, and barely makes a sound.

Go figure.

And so the idea was planted in the somewhat fertile fields of my mind.  Unfortunately it stayed there for MANY years until I needed something to keep myself sane through the first days of a divorce.

The takeaway message here–and I KNOW it may depress you–is that sometimes it just takes time to get a story going.  To be honest, though, I waited too damned long to begin writing the book.  Why?  I was afraid I wasn’t good enough to write a novel.

Honestly, if you are waiting until you feel capable of writing a novel, you’re an idiot and it won’t get done.  If that depresses you, let me know, and I will help you find therapists in your area to help you through the grief.

The ONLY way to write a book is to shut up and do it.  Once you do, cuz, in my book you have every right to whine and complain once in a while.

Once in a while.

What’s driving me absolutely bug nuts today is that the third installment in my Demon’s Playground series is behind schedule.  About a hundred pages behind schedule.

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The novel Will be done soon.  I promise.  The book series originally wasn’t a series.  No.  The Demon’s Playground, in its original incarnation was a 600 page novel.  After writing another 600 page monster (The Dread Lords Rising).  I decided to offer my readers shorter installments that I hoped would be easier reads.

Additionally, the original manuscript for The Dread Lords Rising topped out at 835 pages. Friends and neighbors, let me warn you, editing a whopper like that is a bigger chore than writing the novel in the first place.  You think you’ll feel a grand sense of accomplishment if you write something that large.  But once you begin the editing and rewriting process, you’ll be about damn ready to burn the thing halfway in

So by all means, please do feel free to whine.  I know I do.

I am.

But right now I have to take the next step and get back to the heavy work of finishing the bloody thing.  And then I have to finish part 2 of The Sorcerer’s Fury.  I hope and pray the work is worth it.  After all, I am writing these books for you, dear reader.

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Prewriting Part 2

First a note: Please don’t forget as you read this that when I talk about the writing process, I am mostly talking about novel and story writing. I do realize that many of my readers are students—and kiddos, I promise I’ve got your back.

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This is important because if you are a student, you are probably more concerned about churning out a five-body paragraph essay with a three-part thesis than you are about writing a tale involving a vampire that mistakenly bites a junkie and suffers a psychedelic but emotionally crushing acid trip.

Essay writing IS an important skill, and just like Luke Skywalker couldn’t become a full-fledged Jedi Knight until he faced Vader, you my young padawan, MUST conquer essay writing before becoming a Jedi Writing Master.

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Solly Chollie. Sad but true.  (Please, though . . .do try to use your powers for good!)

I will write more about essay writing before the school bells start ringing mid-August. I advise you to pay attention.

*

Now, we’re concerned with getting down and serious about the real writing that puts a spark in the bones of your reader. And that brings me back to the aforementioned topic of prewriting.

Let’s face it. Writing can be damned hard business. Just setting the first paragraph of a story down can make pushing a steamroller uphill while wearing cement boots easier by comparison.

Can’t it, though?

The same goes for writing an academic essay.

There may be a number of reasons for this, and below are some of the biggest blockages I suffer from, no matter the kind of writing I am doing:

  1. Maybe the story’s not ready yet. It might just need more time in the oven before the dinger goes off. Some novelists have spent years before starting to write a story. J.R.R. Tolkien comes to mind. Unknown-1
  2. If your personal life is crazy, don’t be surprised if trying to write is making you crazier. Distractions can impair your writing process. I know they do mine.
  3. You might be putting too much pressure on yourself. Why do you think so many artists suffer from drug problems? (Steer clear of those, friends and neighbors. You won’t get any good writing done in rehab.)
  4. You might need to look at your goal from a different angle.

Prewriting is all about getting the juices flowing. And if you relax a bit, they can and will flow. A few things that help me include:

  1. Just giving the story a bit more time to percolate: This is sometimes one of the hardest things to do. And to be honest, the fact that you’re suffering from writer’s block might boil down to the fact that your story plan isn’t clear enough. If that’s the case, the other options listed here will probably help you with that.
  2. Freewriting: This is an interesting tool to use because as a writer you can safely “take the gloves off” and write freely for five or ten minutes in any style or manner of your choosing. I’ve found real gems by freewriting. This is a quick and easy way to stir up the sediment floating at the bottom of your subconscious mind.
  3. Questioning: This is a valuable skill to use no matter what. Getting into the habit of asking hard questions about your story elements can quickly clarify where you want your story to go and how to get it there. Throughout my writing process, I do this to refine my ideas for my stories.
  4. Making lists: Great way to clarify and find depth to what you already know you want to write. The benefit for me is that I can do this anywhere. I’ve often found myself making lists on napkins at restaurants.
  5. Preparing a scratch outline: Outlining has always been suggested in any kind of writing project, especially when working with multiple plots and characters. I use them all the time for this reason. Scratch outlines also help keep your ideas in logical, sequential order.
  6. Building an idea board: An idea board works much like a scratch outline, but it gives me a chance to move and think as I put my board together. Once I’m done, it gives me a chance to look at what I have and contemplate where I want to go with my story. Both idea boards and scratch outlines help me prioritize ideas and keep them in hierarchical order.

Bestselling novelist Elaine Calloway has a blog that can be useful for writers off any level.  I suggest you check it out.  And while you’re there, take a look at her novels.  They are fun and engrossing.  The day I started No Grits, No Glory, I became an instant fan.   I think you will too.

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You can find her blog at:

http://www.elainecalloway.com

Prewriting Part 1

For today’s post, I want to talk to you about the writing process, because if you are here, you either like my writing and want to know more, or you are interested in improving your own technique.

If you are thinking about writing a book, or if you are thinking about writing a term paper, the first step in the process is what we call the Prewriting Phase.

This deceptively simple term can be anything but.

In fact, this is where most writers from students to professionals get bogged down. Minds rebel when people become frustrated, don’t they?  No sooner do they sit down to write than they often begin to fidget.  I know that happens to everybody.

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This happens to all of us.

We start to look for other things to occupy our attentions.  The temptation to turn to the Internet grows large. Facebook calls you. Within the space of twenty minutes you’ve gone from on task to fifteen likes, four cute animal videos, and you’ve unfriended your ex because you just found out they’re in a wonderful new relationship.

So stay off the Facebook.

You’re supposed to be bogged down. Be jealous later.

Why did I say you’re supposed to be bogged down? The answer to that lies in biology. Blame God or Charles Darwin. Seriously. The difficulty with the Prewriting Phase comes from the fact that hundreds of thousands of years ago many challenging activities involved danger for your ancestors.

We’ll call them Ogg and Thagg.

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And I don’t mean these were the modern kinds of dangers we face today, like watching a repeat of Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance. No. These were far more personal and existential.

Every time Ogg and Thagg thought about climbing down from their trees and leaving their caves, they had to face a bewildering array of threats. Ferocious Lions. Hungry saber tooth tigers. Gigantic bears the size of horses. Dishonest journalists and politicians. Those kinds of things.

Many of us would be lucky to face only the lions, tigers, and bears (Oh my), but we still have this residual fear from our far off days warning us that climbing down the tree or exiting the cave might be unwise. Better to stay in and paint on the walls. There’s less chance of failure that way. And for our ancestors, failure often meant being eviscerated and eaten alive by predatory animals.

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(Ditto the journalists and politicians)

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The feeling you get when you first begin to contemplate your written project is natural. Only, we’ve come a bit of a way down the dusty old road of time, haven’t we? The antediluvian portion of our brains throws us off. It is still trying to get us to stay safe inside our caves, maybe eat some mastodon with Ogg and Thagg. When we’re exposed to stress of the unknown, the primitive brain cannot make a distinction between term papers, short stories, and smilodons. It never had that luxury.

Have you ever wondered why it was sometimes sooooo hard to get working on your projects? This is why. You’re not lazy. You’re not flawed. Or stupid. Or incapable. You just have this evolutionary throwback inside your head working for (and against) you.

Remember that.

Later this week I will write more about the Prewriting Phase, and I will discuss strategies you can use to work with it. Thank you for reading this. I cannot wait to hear from you.

College And The Desire To Write Well

     Good evening dear readers.  Tonight I posted the second adventure in my Demon’s Playground fantasy/Humor/Dark Romance series, The Things That Stalked Me.  I have another installment coming soon.  I hope you read it, and I hope you like it.  For those of you that saw my initial post on the book’s release, I’ve changed the cover, and holy crow does it look better.

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     What do you think?

     (The book can currently be found on Amazon, and it will soon be available on Barnes and Noble.)

     This week a number of students I work with told me they wanted to be writers too.  When they asked me how to begin, my immediate response was to tell them this:

“Well . . . the first thing you do is pour yourself a nice cup of coffee and find a quiet place to sit.  Then you fire up your word processor.  Once that’s done, for God’s sake, don’t spill your coffee on the keyboard. And next, you start with a capital letter.   This has to be followed with a varying number of lower case letters intermixed with punctuation marks—all of which will occur between the capital letter and a period.  Then you do that over and over again until you’ve achieved your goal.”

 

     I stopped short of saying that.  High school kids aren’t ready for reductio ad absurdums like that.  Especially not without a lot of follow-up.

     They deserve better.

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     I think my off the cuff remark was a response to the enormity of what the students were asking me to tell them—kind of like asking Magellan for a short answer to this: “How do you sail around the world.”

“Well Jenny, you find yourself the biggest log you can.  Make sure there’s enough room for at least hundred and ninety days of food and a crew to help you survive.  Push your log into the water and head east.  Keep going until you’ve made it all the way to the California coast.  When you get there, call your parents for an airplane ticket home.  Oh, and don’t kill any of the natives along your way.”

 

     My real answer was just too big.  And what sucked about it was that the answer wasn’t all that complex.  Not really. Even though shelves of books have been written on the topic.

     How do you write a novel?

     You just do it.

     If you want to throw something hard and pointy at me, I’ll understand.  Before you do, please bear me out for a while.  My intention over the next series of posts—aside from promoting my novels—is to tell you about the processes I use for my projects.

First, a word about universities.

     Some of you may like what I have to say about higher education.  I hope you do at any rate.  Others won’t.  Especially some educators—because when it comes to writing education, you’ll find I’m something of an apostate.

     [Will somebody please queue Queen’s Another Brick In The Wall?]

     Here goes J. David Phillips’s thoughts on college and the craft of writing. We’ll call my approach The Apostate Learning Method (TALM for short).  The first premise of TALM is simple but important: You don’t need college to learn how to write well.

     What you DO need is to be able to read well.

     Colleges and universities CAN teach you how to write.  Yes they can.  But I’ve found they more often than not kill creativity and stifle the urge to rise above the kinds of academic sophistry peddled in higher education.

     If you want to write well, finding a good mentor to help you has myriad benefits, and I suggest it as one of the many strategies to consider—and I will write about that topic later.  But again, you do not need college for that.  You can and probably will find your mentor elsewhere.  Now, stop right here.

      Time out.

     Am I telling you not to go to college?

     Nay nay.

      What I am telling you to do is apprentice yourself to someone that has written and written successfully.  If you find that at a college or university, consider yourself lucky.

     There is another option at your disposal, however. It’s an important one.

     The best guides for good writing exist in books, beginning with the classics.

     You need to read.

     Read, read, read, read.  The greats are great for a reason.  And as far as reasons go, there are plenty of reasons professors have never written anything worth reading . . . or even writing in the first place.

     Why?

     Ask yourself that once you’ve spent a few hours in a literary Marxist criticism class.  Or better yet, a three-hour-a-week yawner called Self, The Other, and Effects of Patriarchy and Colonialism On Gender Identity.

     You won’t learn to write well.  I guarantee you that.  You won’t even come away able to think well.  You might not even come away sane.

     The best many professors—even writing professors—can teach you to accomplish is a thesis paper that is about as drab and stale as a plate of Styrofoam biscuits.  100% gluten free and positively tasteless.  You’ll figure them out soon enough if you go to college.  When you encounter them, cutting your feet off, coating the stumps with iodine, and running away as quickly as possible might be the best option you have.  If it is, take it.

      Unless you are lucky enough to find a flesh and blood writer that knows what he or she is doing.  This is why you need to read, read, read.

     Go to school at the table of Chaucer.  Eat at the banquet of Shakespeare.  Fill yourself up on Tennyson’s poetry.  Drink Hopkins until you are sick.  Swallow stanza after stanza of Yeats if that takes away your heartburn.  Learn to apprentice yourself to them.  They are the masters.  Memorize their works.  Create a library in your head.  Absorb Ray Bradbury’s style until it becomes a part of you.  Do the same with Dean Koontz and Stephen King.  C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton.  Or maybe Tammy Hoag and Harlan Coben.  Let the greatest writers show you how to employ the craft of building metaphors, similes, and personifications.  Mimic the ways they construct themes, settings, and dialogues.  As you can see, you don’t have to confine yourself to writers that died centuries ago.

     Gregory Roper is one of a rare breed of college professors that shows students how to do just what I’ve written.  I highly suggest that if you want to become a writer, your time will be well spent on purchasing his book, The Writer’s Workshop.

     Start there.  Get the book.  If you don’t come away from the exercises and lessons he provides, let me know.  I’ll buy you a coffee and we’ll sit down and find out why together.

A Few Irreverent Words Before We Begin

Hi. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but none of them ever seemed to work out very well. I got a job once. I thought I was going to be working with sails, so I showed up for training wearing a life jacket, greeting everyone with a big smile and a hearty, “Ahoy there maties!” They kicked me out of the building before I had a chance to say anything else. Honestly, I should have known something was wrong the moment I saw everyone else dressed in suits.

Apparently, the job was working in sales.

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Geez Louise.

So after a string of epic fails like that one, I finally figured out that the only thing I was competent to do was write. And I wasn’t always competent to do that.

Really.

Typing? That never sounded too hard. Until I got a laptop and tried loading paper and an ink ribbon into the damn thing.

Geez Louise. But it still worked out better than the “sails” job. Plus my MacBook Pro didn’t kick me out of the office. It didn’t wear a suit either. And that was good because by that point I was too poor to own a suit. At least until I was in a car wreck several years ago. It was my fault. Things didn’t go my way in court, so now I am the owner of one really expensive suit.

That’s the nice thing about writing. I don’t have to drive a lot when I’m doing it. Except when I’m texting.

Seriously, I’ve spent all of my life thinking up novel worlds, strange characters, and stranger situations. If you knew my ex mother-in-law you would understand why.

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I’ve also spent much of my life living with the fact that earning an English degree only prepared me for jobs paying below minimum wage.

Yep.

So now I write.

And unless I type out something people really want to read, I earn less money than an English major. With job choices it all goes down to competence, but like I said, I don’t have a lot of that.

I still persist, though.

When I’m not working on my novels, I work in the local school system in Brunswick County, North Carolina. I love the kids. They’re amazing. I write for them. In fact, this blog is for them. It’s also for all of my readers, and for anyone else who wants to read about my life and feel better about himself or herself. I’ve heard it said before that behind every writer lies a string of tragedies and heartbreaks.

Ain’t that the truth, friends and neighbors?

That’s why I love working with students. I don’t care how old they are, building skills reading and writing never fails to be beneficial—and to avoid the sting of tragedies and heartbreaks. To that end, the two things I’m most passionate about—education, reading, and writing—are entirely synonymous.

Wait a minute . . . I said two things, didn’t I?

Geez Louise.

Thank God I didn’t get a degree in Math.

In this blog you’ll find out about the art and craft of writing I practice as I work on my novels. You’ll also find out about the novels themselves and loads of interesting trivia. I will offer contests, free book giveaways, special prizes, author interviews, and advice for students and writers on how they can improve their skills. And hopefully along the way I will convince people to keep reading my books. Hey, I like to think that’s a win/win for everyone.