Thursday, December 29, 2011

On Procrastination

Rather than read through a short story I finished well before Christmas, I thought I'd put together a handful of sayings about procrastination. I was going to add some of my own, but I didn't get around to it. Maybe tomorrow.

"Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task." William James

"You may delay, but time will not." Benjamin Franklin

"To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing." Eva Young (So very true. Never plan to write anything. Just write it. Now.)

"The best way to get something done is to begin." Unknown

"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow." Mark Twain

"Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it." M. Scott Peck

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." Will Rogers

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written." Mark Twain

(I'm writing this a stone's throw from Twain's boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Poem Placed

Just learned last night that I sold a poem to Eye To The Telescope. It'll appear in the online zine's third issue, out soon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Few Obscure Yet Tasty Words

Pavonine: Like a peacock
Carnose: Fleshy
Fungible: Interchangeable
Proximo: In the next month
Quittance: Recompense
Doltish: Stupid
Indecorous: Unbecoming

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Simple Koan

Worried, the student asked the master, "What if it's a disaster?" To which the master replied, "Yes, that's it too."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween Poem

My Halloween poem is up at the Science Fiction Poetry Association's website. It's a recording, so no reading required. And it's short. Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Poems

It's been a productive three months.  I've had 16 poems accepted in various magazines and journals. Today I got word that a humorous haiku (senryu) was accepted at Beyond Centauri, and a few days ago I placed my first long poem (50 lines or over) at Nightblade Magazine for their special poetry issue (out in November or December I think). Should be a good one. There will be a limited edition print run as well as a PDF.

Ideomancer also accepted one of my poems, and any day now I should have "Sentient Shadows Rise" up on the halloween page of the SFPA. That one's in audio, and thanks to Garage Band, in a much deeper,  sexier voice than my own.

Friday, October 14, 2011

On Writing

Say much with little, or little with less, and if you've nothing to say, say nothing at all.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cooking Good Stories

“You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.” Julia Child


She might have been giving advice on writing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Best Poems

The best poems aren't those you have to read more than once, but those you want to read more than once.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Delicious Words

My poem Hypnogogic Grace was born when I was reading Jung not long ago. Hypnogogic refers to the state just before or after waking, when auditory or visual hallucinations are most likely to take place.

So many of the most delicious words have fallen out of favor, or are part of a jargon to which few will ever be exposed. In most of our lives it isn't important to know that a scroop is a rustle of silk, that to be impecunious is to have no cash or money (I should know that word by now), or that to be gambrinous is to be full of beer (another word with which I should be quite familiar).

And were you aware that a spermologer is one who collects trivia?

Just because the RAM of our modern brains has become so saturated with the minutiae of "civilized" life, doesn't mean we shouldn't indulge in the more esoteric of the bon mots at our disposal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Quote of the Day

"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind." Khalil Gibran

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Announcement

Check out issue #2 of inkscrawl on September 7th for a new poem. It's a great journal for minimalist speculative poetry.

Quote of the Day

"It's better to be the worst of the best than the best of the worst." Me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so." Gore Vidal

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Don't let schooling interfere with your education." Mark Twain

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Quote of the Day

"You have wakened not out of sleep, but into a prior dream, and that dream lies within another, and so on, to infinity, which is the number of grains of sand. The path that you are to take is endless, and you will die before you have truly awakened." Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall." Ray Bradbury

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." Douglas Adams.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eating Poetry (By Rumi, translated by Robert Bly)

My poems resemble the bread of Egypt--one night
passes over it, and you can't eat it anymore.

So gobble them down now, while they're still fresh,
before the dust of the world settles on them.

Where a poem belongs is here, in the warmth of the chest;
out in the world it dies of cold.

You've seen a fish--put him on dry land,
he quivers for a few minutes, and then is still.

And even if you eat my poems while they're still fresh,
you still have to bring forward many images yourself.

Actually, friend, what you're eating is your own imagination.
These are not just a bunch of old proverbs.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Scifaiku Senryu

"xkaquoz"

scrabble massacre
seventeen dead on Centauri
never challenge Mot 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Something you're not likely to hear this year

Why of course you can borrow my mustache wax. Do you want the neutral or tinted?

Scifaiku Senryu

Andromedan ale
warm spice, a sharp bite, and regret
what ship am I on?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mysterious Flower

Does anybody know what this flower is? We happened upon this morning on our walk, and I think it's gorgeous. It would make a nice tattoo. (Thanks for the photo, Ann!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Scifaiku

I think I may have an addiction to writing speculative poetry. No really, I can't seem to stop. Maybe I'm just avoiding the book. I think I heard it growling at me the other day. Every time I sit down to finish it, it snaps at me and hides under the coffee table.

Just as well.

I'm putting the finishing touches on a science fiction short story that I adore, and filling the world with threads of mind that crawl from my eyes and drop onto the page like little word spiders.

Had another poem accepted this morning, this one a scifaiku (science fiction haiku), but you can't read it until May, 2012. God, that's so far away. I wonder if I'll even remember I wrote it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Haiku

Why do you waste breath
Stringing words like precious bells
Tin cans sound fine too

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Advice on Life from Stephen King

"When you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic." (On Writing)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More Writing Advice from Mark Twain

"To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."
- Letter to Emeline Beach, 10 Feb 1868

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quote of the Day

"When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy." Rumi



Writing should always be from the soul.  The head will only muck it up.   

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." Mark Twain

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Quote of the Day

"It's well we cannot hear the screams we make in other people's dreams." 
 Edward Gorey

Monday, May 9, 2011

Every Writer Should Have One



If not an ultra high-energy dog like Sophie here, then some other reason to get the feet moving every hour or two.  Walking lubricates the brain.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Douglas Adams on Adverbs

"Funny,” he intoned funereally, “how just when you think life can’t possibly get any worse it suddenly does.”

Mark Twain's Rules For Writing Fiction (Modified from his essay on James Fenimore Cooper)


  1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. 
  2. The episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. 
  3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. 
  4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. 
  5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. 
  6. When the author describes the character of a personage in the tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description. 
  7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it. 
  8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as “the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest,” by either the author or the people in the tale. 
  9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. 
  10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. 
  11. The characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency. 
In addition, the author shall:


  1. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
  2. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
  3. Eschew surplusage.
  4. Not omit necessary details.
  5. Avoid slovenliness of form.
  6. Use good grammar
  7. Employ a simple and straightforward style.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beating the Block

No two writers experience writer's block the same way.  Some see it as little more than a mild annoyance, or a lack of motivation to get the day's work done.  For others it can be a crippling blockage, clogging the vital arteries of the writer's creative heart.

The blockage usually resolves itself with time, but sometimes the blockage can impact other areas of the writer's life in negative ways.  In such cases intervention may be required.  

Here are 5 simple techniques to keep in your Writer's Toolkit next time the pipes gets clogged:

  1. Switch to longhand, or if you already write longhand, switch to the keyboard, blackboard, cardboard, anything that's completely different than what you're accustomed to using.
  2. Move to a new location, preferably outdoors if weather permits.
  3. Free associate on paper.  This is also called brainstorming, and can be a great way to break out of the box and through minor blockages.   
  4. Write something else.  It's not necessary to put away your novel and start another.  Try a short story or a piece of flash fiction.  Writing a piece that's under 1000 words is a great way to get the creative juices going.  If you can't think of a good story, it doesn't matter.  This isn't for publication.  Pick an object or objects next to you and build a story around them.  Think of it as writer's improv.    
  5. Try journaling, either about your day or what you're feeling, or you can journal about your writing.  John Steinbeck had a fascinating process when he worked on East of Eden.  He wrote longhand in bound journals.  On the left facing page he documented his day and his aspirations for the day's writing.  The whole things was published as Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters.  I highly recommend it.     

If you're still having trouble, consider that you may be blocked for a reason.  I've found that when I'm having difficulty, it's often because what I'm trying to write doesn't work.  I realize it on a subconscious level, but bringing it into conscious awareness is too painful.  The ego resists, or we're pushing too hard to see alternatives.  In this case it's important to stop pushing and let go of the resistances that are keeping us from seeing the forest for the trees.

10 Nontraditional Ways to Promote Your Book

Here's a link from Galleycat with 10 tips you mind find helpful.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

I'm sure you have, but if you haven't, check out Stephen King's book On Writing:  A Memoir of the Craft.  It's really one of the best books out there on the process.  A real master class in the craft.

I'd read it many years ago, and last year I decided to download the audio version.  It was great.  The author reads it himself, and his conversational tone gives the impression that he's sitting across the table from you.

King not only talks about the his process, but he also discusses the rejections, his long road to success, and also the accident that nearly ended his life.

It's definitely worth a read or a listen.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Perils of Working on Multiple Manuscripts

Some writers have no problem with it, and if you asked me a few months ago, I would've said that I never worked on more than one project at a time.

Then something happened.

Another idea.

This isn't an unusual occurrence, I assure you.  I have ideas all the time.  Some are great, and some are shit.  Some that I think are great turn out to be shit, and some I first think are shit turn out to be great.  Either way, I just wrote them down with the intention of breaking them after I finished whatever I was working on.

I was three-quarters through the novel when it came.

I'd been working on this book for a while, several months already, so my motivation had long since waned, but I kept pushing.  The finish line was in sight.

But I couldn't cross it.  Not with this great new idea staring me in the face.  So I told myself I'd take a break from the book, and fiddle with this new story, just until my mojo returned.

Then something happened.

Another idea.

Then another.

And another.

Pretty soon I had eight documents opened on my dock, and I wasn't getting  anything done.  Oh a few words here, a few words there.  I changed the opening of this and cut a few paragraphs of that.

I'd broken my own rule.  No dithering.

Now instead of running the marathon in a slow and steady gait, I find myself trying to sprint in fits and starts, not just in one marathon, but in many.

If I could write 5,000 words a day, or even 2,000 words consistently, this might not be a problem.  In fact, it would be a distinct advantage when it comes to getting more product out into the world, but I have not yet learned the great secret of hyperproductivity.  If I do, I will share it.  Oh, and if you have, please feel free to share it with the rest of us.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

David Sedaris in Santa Barbara

We drove North to Santa Barbara to see David Sedaris at the Arlington. He's on a crazy 38 city tour in 39 days.  The show was great, the venue was awesome, and dinner beforehand was even better.  Once I saw they served Brother Thelonious Ale, I knew we were in good hands at Jane.

We stayed in Montecito, at the same amazing hotel as David, but we never bumped into him.  Even more disappointing was the fact we couldn't get a last minute reservation at Bouchon.  I haven't been, but I must, must, must go.  Vennison, duck breast and confit of thigh, grilled wagyu flat-iron steak.  Nuff said.

One of the most interesting things about David's show was when he took the time to recommend a book.  It wasn't even a new book.  Tobias Wolff's The Barracks Thief, a 112 page novella, was published in 1990, and he couldn't say enough good things about it.

This was an upstanding thing for one writer to do for another.  We've seen similar things from Joe Konrath and others, and it reminds me that we're all part of an artistic community, and when we help each other succeed, we help our whole community thrive.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

E-Book Cover Designers

Here are a few names to consider if you're looking for someone to design your cover:


And here's a book trailer producer in case anyone's interested:

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Short List of Editors

If you're in the market for an editor, here are a few reasonably-priced professionals that have come to my attention.

Of course editing and proofreading are optional for the self-publishing author, but then purchasing your book is optional for the book buyer.    

Derek Prior of Homunculus Editing Services

Hazard Editing Services

Red Adept Editing Services

Lyn Worthen @ Camden Park Press

Diana Cox

edited to add:

Jodie Renner

If anybody else has any names, feel free to include them in the comments section.  I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On Writing and Writers with Roald Dahl

  • A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.


  • A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.


  • A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not.


  • The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn't go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him.


  • The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. He wants a drink. He needs it.


  • Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained. For those two hours he has been in a different place with totally different people.



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Another Verse From the Tao Te Ching

#24

He who stands on tiptoe
doesn't stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn't go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can't know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can't empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.

If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.

(Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Verse From the Tao Te Ching

#9

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

(Translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Names For Old Things

It's amazing how many new words are being created or repurposed lately. Take the term "indie."  A few months ago an "indie" author was anyone who published with an independent or small press.  Now many are using it to describe any person who self-publishes.

Here's another term for the self-publisher I picked up this morning.  It's my favorite new portmanteau -- "nongatekept author."

I suppose then that a "traditional author" publishing with a "legacy publisher" might be a "gatekept author," which sounds rather ugly, doesn't it?  Like a shackled prisoner who's locked up for 18-24 months, forced to sign noncompete clauses, and when they're finally let out, have to perform like some sort of zoo animal in exchange for peanuts.

Let me know if you come across any others.    

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Power of Nine

It's a phenomenon known well and exploited by most marketers who deal with price.  Price tags ending in the number 9 often compel shoppers to open their wallets, while a slightly lower price that ends in zero may not.   In light of the recent e-book pricing debates, it might be interesting to take a look at why 99 cent and $2.99 price points are so prevalent.  Yes, 99 cents is the minimum Amazon will allow an author to charge, and $2.99 is the minimum to receive a 70% royalty.  But why did they pick those numbers, and might it be possible that $3.99 or even $3.95 is a more compelling number for e-book shoppers than $2.99?  Check out this article from Psychology Today and experiment for yourself.

 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Winner: Most Amazingly Similar Book Covers

I came across these two titles while browsing the Kindle store today.


It's easy to see how this can happen.  Just google "Magic Book," and you'll be amazed at how many similar stock images you'll find--open books with sparkles and magical effluvia and various otherworldy emanations.      

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fantigue

Here's a question I have.  When writers who are building a fan base, or writers who already have a fan base, start inundating them with "e-book" shorts, novelettes, novellas, co-written novels, shorts into novellas, unrated or "director's cut" versions of previously released works (even when the original works were only released a few weeks before), might we start to see sign of fan fatigue?

The key to making money as a self-published author is volume, there's no doubt about it, but how much volume is too much?  At what point does it all just become noise?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Lies You Believe

Here's a great post from the folks of The Literary Lab.  We can all get caught up in these lies.

Powers of Ten

If you've never seen this great short film from Charles and Ray Eames, you must.  It's a classic and gives a great sense of perspective.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0&feature=player_embedded


And here's a really cool site to accompany it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mark Twain on Writing

I conceive that the right way to write a story for boys is to write so that it will not only interest boys but strongly interest any man who has ever been a boy. That immensely enlarges the audience.
- Letter to Fred J. Hall, 10 Aug 1892

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.
- Letter to Emeline Beach, 10 Feb 1868

Let us guess that whenever we read a sentence & like it, we unconsciously store it away in our model-chamber; & it goes, with the myriad of its fellows, to the building, brick by brick, of the eventual edifice which we call our style.
- Letter to George Bainton, 15 Oct 1888; (first printed in
The Art of Authorship: Literary Reminiscences, Methods of Work, and Advice to Young Beginners, Personally Contributed by Leading Authors of the Day. Compiled and Edited by George Bainton. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1890, pp. 85-88.)

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.
- Letter to D. W. Bowser, 20 March 1880

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Michaelangelo's Brain


The picture above is from "Concealed Neuroanatomy in Michelangelo's Separation of Light From Darkness in the Sistine Chapel" by Suk, Ian BSc, BMC; Tamargo, Rafael J. MD, FACS in the May issue of Neurosurgery, the official journal of the Congress of Neurosurgical Surgeons.

Michelangelo Buonarroti was not only a master painter, but a master anatomist, and these neurosurgeons believe they've discovered his 500 hundred year old secret; one that was hidden in plain sight.

Here's an excerpt from their abstract:
"In the winter of 1511, Michelangelo entered the final stages of the Sistine Chapel project and painted 4 frescoes along the longitudinal apex of the vault, which completed a series of 9 central panels depicting scenes from the Book of Genesis. It is reported that Michelangelo concealed an image of the brain in the first of these last 4 panels, namely, the Creation of Adam. Here we present evidence that he concealed another neuronanatomic structure in the final panel of this series, the Separation of Light From Darkness, specifically a ventral view of the brainstem. The Separation of Light From Darkness is an important panel in the Sistine Chapel iconography because it depicts the beginning of Creation and is located directly above the altar."
They believe that Michaelangelo, a religious man, intended to document his anatomical accomplishment (apparently one of his hobbies was dissecting human cadavers) by hiding the neuroanatomical rendering of the human brain within the image of God.

Could it be true, or is this just another case of seeing brains in clouds?

Monday, January 24, 2011

"If you type two spaces after a period, you're doing it wrong."

Damn. I spent years NOT using two spaces after a period, and was told this was absolutely WRONG. Now I'm told THAT is wrong. Sweet Jebus. Here's the article from Slate.com if you're interested.

Eye Candy

Water Sculpture from Shinichi Maruyama on Vimeo.

Friday, January 21, 2011

13 Minutes of Brain Candy

For anybody who has a few minutes and would like to see some pretty fantastic optical illusions click Here.

Let Them Eat Cake


My father had quite a surprise for his 74th birthday earlier this month. A party with quite a few familiar faces and a cake that should look familiar to some.