Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

New Year's Eve. What will you be doing? Shall I tell you what I will be doing?


Sitting behind a desk in front of an empty lobby, just as I have done for the last eleven years. Nope, I don't get to go party with friends, or trek to New York to gather in the cold with the mob of thousands to watch the ball drop. I don't get to kiss the pretty girl to welcome in the new year.

Yes, I know others are out there doing the same thing I'm doing. Because that's the job. Nurses and doctors and police officers and fire fighters and soldiers and, yes, thousands of other desk clerks around the country. I'm not begrudging them. God bless 'em, each and every one and to each I say, keep up the good work.

I'm just talking about me.

For a number of years, my dad brought in the new years printing gobs of reports few people cared about for the banks for which he worked. Some years, I'd call him up around midnight and wish him a happy new year as I, too, was soon going to be printing out gobs of reports few people cared about.

The next day, January 1st, I'll be sleeping through most of the football games and the parades and the only ringing going on will be the ringing of the alarm to wake me up in the afternoon.

Am I bitter or angry or depressed? Well...not really. Seriously. I guess I'm a little down being alone on New Year's Eve. You can say new and better things are coming in the days and weeks. My book, Night Shadows, is being released the middle of next month (look for links on my website, Ebook to be purchased at several fine Internet stores.). Sure, I'm excited about that event. I'm a year older and made it through another twelve months with relatively good health (not counting a minor surgery and a stupid three day cold). That's cool.


I miss the parties with classmates I attended years ago. I miss staying up with friends OR, if I chose, going to bed early.

I don't like sitting in a dim lobby reading and looking up at the clock to find midnight has come and gone with nary a firework or even a 'Whooppee!' I shrug and go back to the book.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this post. The point and all. Maybe there is none. It may sound depressed, and maybe it is a little. New Year's seems to be just another day with more darkness than daylight, little celebration of the end of the year, maybe ingesting a little leftover Christmas treat, enjoying the gifts.

But, I'll get by. I have the job to do and I'll do it. I'll greet any late arriving guests and wish them a Happy New Year. (Thankfully, I haven't had to deal with the people who've partied a little TOO much.). I'll print my reports and make my log notations.

And...if a pretty girl happens to drop by looking for a midnight new year kiss... Well, let's just say, I'll have one ready and waiting.

Seriously, have a safe and happy new year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

So, it's Christmas Eve, and although the fact shouldn't have to be said, apparently there needs to be certain reminders every year. These reminders have been done for a number of years because of certain people or groups of people.

The world has been celebrating Christmas in many a fashion for a very long time. Throughout the years the notion of a Santa Claus type personage came into being and it was a fun thing to share with the children.

However, recently there have been some people who wish to be offended at the notion of Christmas, the term Christmas, the public portrayal of Christmas. They don't necessarily mind having a tree in a public square (although some of them do), but do not wish it to be referred to as a Christmas tree. The kids taking a break from school can't take a Christmas break. We can't send Christmas cards to family and friends. Everything is to be termed 'holiday'. Because Christmas is mainly a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, some Jews, some Muslims, some atheists, some practitioners of other religions or not, or the folks at the ACLU and other such groups spout annual offenses against the Christian traditions. Every year you'll read or hear about lawsuits to remove Nativity scenes or Christmas trees and other decorations from public squares or lawns or light posts. And, normally, this is the one time of year where defenders of Christianity will stand up and say to these folks: shut up. And I'll say the same thing:


Recently, I was speaking to a Mexican family about Thanksgiving. They didn't celebrate it because it was strictly an American holiday. That's cool. I didn't begrudge them. They celebrated another Mexican holiday in their own style and that's cool. I wasn't offended they weren't joining in on the turkey and fixings. And I wasn't offended they celebrated their own holiday.

If you don't want to celebrate Christmas, fine. You have the right not to do so. If you take offense at the decorations and the hymns being played in the public square and the malls, and the Christmas tree lighting ceremonies and the Santa Claus sightings...fine. Be offended. However, you do not have the right not to be offended. In other words: shut up when it comes to allowing those who do like all of the above and more to enjoy them. If you don't believe in God or Jesus, fine. In my opinion, you have far more to worry about than getting all upset about my hanging lights on my house windows.

Why is it the offended have to be attended to?

Personally, I think Christmas is a lot more than celebrating the birth of a person and if some of these people and groups would only get past the stupidity of their lawsuits and their useless offended nature, they might see similarly.

When my family gathers to open gifts, to eat good food, enjoy the lights of the tree and the house (and yes, egad! enjoy the snow), it's to celebrate family and togetherness. To say we all made it through another year. To watch the happiness of each other receiving new toys and clothes and candles and coffee and gadgets and other miscellany. To be warm and cherished in the relationships.

If you want to add the religious aspect to it, fine, all the better. If not, why can't the fact that family is together suffice? If these offended don't want to have that feeling, fine. If they want to have the feeling on another day, or in another way, I say go for it. If you don't want to buy gifts, or want to practice the liturgy of Hanukkah, go out into the woods and worship the tree god, or even if you want to stay home and drink a six pack of your favorite brew...whatever trips your trigger. I promise you, if it doesn't harm anyone else, I won't be offended.

I'm not forcing my beliefs on you, though, but I am going to call it a Christmas tree, and Christmas cards and say, “Merry Christmas.” Because whatever your think, that's what this season is about. Christmas. However I choose to celebrate it. If you don't wish to participate, fine. But shut up and let those who do, do so without having to constantly defend it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Around the Globe with JENNIFER WYLIE

This week I have a pleasant interview with author/editor Jennifer Wylie. She wanted to go to someplace tropical, so I hopped in my transporter, picked her up at her house out in the country in snowy Ontario, and while her kids were off at a babysitter, whisked her off to Antigua where we lounged on the beach. While she sipped a strawberry daiquiri and I slurped milk directly from the coconut I asked her the ten standard questions.

1.Who is Jennifer Wylie and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
Well I live in the country, not even in a village, so I don't have a lot of people to fascinate. :D That said I'm a stay at home mom of two darling boys. When I'm not reading or writing (or editing) I putter about with various crafts. Otherwise I try to to be Supermom and keep my chaotic house in some semblance of order. Hmm I suppose I should also note I live in Ontario, Canada. Yes we get a lot of snow. I dislike snow. :P

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
Many people would be surprised I write, it's not something I go on and on about, I just simply do it. For those who do know about that, I suppose they'd be surprised to know I have about 50 birds. Now that my writing is keeping me busier I am trying to cut my flock down to a more reasonable size, but I do love my little friends.

3. What interested you to be become a writer rather than something else such as becoming the Boston Philharmonic conductor?
I started writing in public school, but really got into it in high school. It was just something I wanted to do, needed to do. I have so many stories in my head and they need to come out. I did go to university and get a degree, however things happen, as they tend to do, and I ended up being a Mom rather than finding a career. I wouldn't change that for the world. I didn't write for a number of years when the kids were little, but once they were a bit older and my brain started functioning again the need to write came back. Writing is something I can do from home, so I certainly lucked out there. :)

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
Oh my, I don't even know where to start. I love both science fiction and fantasy. I've a million favorites authors for different reasons. I love books that make me feel things. If I had to choose one, the first which pops into my head is Michelle Sagara (Michelle West). I love all of her series, she is such a diverse author!

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island (or suffering a four hour layover at the airport), why would your book(s) be great company?
They will suck you in, they will make you feel. I'm a very emotional person and this really comes out in my writing. I also like to think I tell a superb story! :)

6. Share the Wylie process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing, and number of rewrites.
Goodness, I could almost write a book about this. :) My stories form first in my head. They play out like a movie in my mind and then I write. Sometimes it will come in spurts, other times I may need a while for the perfect scene to form. The characters write themselves, though I do take notes as I write. Research is either things I know, or I use Google. For the most part I make things up. I have no problem writing a chapter out of order if it comes to me first either.

My writing schedule is whenever I have time. Usually in the afternoon, or in the evening after the kids are in bed. I used to hate editing, however now that I'm actually learning HOW to do it, I'm finding it not as bad. My writing is also improving, so I've less things to fix! My first book I went over again and again a million times. My newest which I just finished, I went over twice. I'm having some friends look it over, and then will go over it once more making corrections from their input.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
Apparently everyone writes differently. You'll need to find YOUR perfect way to write. I suggest just sitting down and writing. Try different times of the day, play music or not, just write and see how things go. My biggest advice to anyone who starts and gets stuck – make something bad happen. Kill a character. A good story has conflict, your characters can't have everything happen perfectly. The more things which go wrong the better.

8. I saw an amusing t-shirt the other day which read ‘Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
Be happy. Care about others. It doesn't take much to smile and say a kind word, but to someone having a bad day it can mean a lot.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
I don't think I could stop writing if I tried. :) I just finished a new YA novel titled Broken Aro, so will be getting it ready to send out to the publisher. The sequel to my novel Sweet Light (which comes out in 2011) is also finished and in need of edits. I'm hoping to write a lot more short stories, and I've a number of other books in progress.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
My website is Be sure to stop my blog too!

Afterwards, we lazed around a bit before I returned her to Ontario where she gave me a picture of her recently released short story, Jump. Click on the picture to check it out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Around the Globe with SAMANTHA ALLARD

This week I begin a series of author interviews. I'll be travelling to various parts of the world to talk with them (so I may max out my credit card on expenses. lol Just kidding, I make the authors pay my travel expenses. Okay, kidding again. I actually use my newly discovered transporter. Yes, that's the truth.)

I think you'll find the answers to a standard questionnaire very interesting and I encourage you to click on the links and check them out further.

First, I start by hopping across the pond to to accept and invitation to talk with Echelon Press author Samantha Allard, a.k.a. Ella Grey. We're in the Lake District, which took me awhile to find being a few hours from Scotland, but it's full of beautiful hills and grand looking lakes. After walkign around awhile I finally found her sitting under a large umbrella, dressed for December and offering hot chocolate. When I asked her why here, she said, I’ve always liked water and I like how the weather can change so drastically, so quickly. My dad wanted to take a wide shot there, three pictures shot side by side. This only took a few seconds but when he developed the picture he could see the black clouds rolling in. Things can change so quickly.

Who is Samantha Allard and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
I don’t think I’m the most fascinating person in my town, I’m just complicated but then again aren’t most people?

Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
One thing that might surprise people is that I use to collect comics, X men, Spiderman and Wolverine, which aren’t the most girly comics in the world.

What interested you to be become a writer rather than something else such as becoming an astronaut?
As far back as I remember I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Well one time I wanted to be a brain surgeon but it probably wasn’t the most realistic career choice.

Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
If I could have a meal with any particular writer it would be Stephen King. I have never been able to get into his books but I really admire his work ethic.

If I were stranded on a deserted island (or suffering a four hour layover at the airport), why would your book(s) be great company?
My book would be great entertainment because it will make you laugh. It isn’t a comedy by any stretch of the imagination but it is filled with that dry British humour that we’re known for.

Share the Allard process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing, and number of rewrites.
My process is quite simple. I start with a basic idea, usually it’s a character and then go from there. To me writing is a very fluid process, I see where the story leads me. I usually type faster then I think so there is usually quite a few mistakes that need to be fixed. Thank god for editors.

“I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
I think if you’re a writer you write. You need to find you own style because in the end I believe to a certain extent a writer can’t be taught. Your skill and style can be refined but a talent to tell a story is something that’s inside of you. You really can’t be anything else.

I saw an amusing t-shirt the other day which read ‘Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
I’m a complicated woman, that’s not much of a motto for life but the truth.

Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
At the moment I am working on the sequel to Molly O’Brien, it will turn the expectations of everyone onto its head. This one will be a heist, this time she has to go bigger and better. There is also a story in development about a girl called Art ’Artemis’ Coates. She is part of the hunters, a group mentioned in the novella.

Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

David Schlosser, Part 3

I present the final part of my interview with David Schlosser. At writers' conferences, you get time for only a greeting and a couple of questions between seminars. It’s been a pleasure having this time to go more in depth.

What does your company do? Why would someone contact you? What is an analect?

My business card claims I’m a writer, editor, and strategic communications advisor. I need to add pre-/self-/author-funded publishing advisor and publisher. That’s a lot of titles to say that I play with words. I make words do what I or other people want them to do.

- Some of my clients are individuals and companies that need help writing something persuasive, or figuring out how to get a persuasive message in front of the right audience (which may not be entirely aware it needs to be persuaded). This kind of work includes things like strategic plans and campaigns, white papers and case studies, speeches and presentations, web site content, marketing and advertising, fund raising appeals, public/media/government relations materials, editorials and opinion essays, and surveys and research projects.

- Some of my clients already have words, but their words may need fine-tuning or a complete overhaul. I work with organizations and individuals to make sure their content is as clear as humanly possible, so it can have its intended effect on its intended audience. This kind of work ranges from PowerPoint presentations and speeches, to articles and journal submissions, to fiction and non-fiction manuscripts.

- Some of my clients want words, but don’t have the time or ability to put them down, so they retain me to write on their behalf. This kind of work ranges from short to long – newsletter articles to brochures and pamphlets to entire books – and it may be credited to someone else (ghost writing), to no one (most organizational materials and Web content), or to me (journalism).

- I spend an increasing amount of time coaching writers who want to complete a manuscript, or who have a completed manuscript and are trying to decide whether to seek a traditional publishing deal through an agent or publisher, or whether to fund their own publishing venture. I offer a free manuscript review (it’s quick but honest), so I hear from a lot of writers who want to know if their work is ready to send to an agent, publisher, or self-publishing partner.

- Finally, I am starting to do some of my own publishing through Equinoctes Media. We’ve got some really fun novels planned for later this year and into 2011, and my monograph on editing and revising your own manuscript (The CT Method: Revision and Editing for Fiction and Creative Nonfiction) is available in e-book format from just about every e-book retailer.

An analect is something gathered or picked up, and most people are familiar with its plural use in relation to collections of literary fragments or extracts from the classical authors. It describes the varied nature of the kinds of writing I do.

From what I've read on your site and discussions I've had with you, this sounds like an evolution of careers. How did you grow into this particular line of employment?

My work life started in politics, and after about a decade of campaigns and lobbying, I decided to go straight. I got into pubic relations for a few years, but – of course – learned that career path was as zig-zaggy as politics (and, honestly, not as much fun). When the dot-com turned to the dot-bomb back at the turn of the century, I was working with a terrific little technology PR agency, but could see what direction the economy was moving. So I jumped out and opened my own practice focused on writing and strategic communications consulting.

I worked in and out of corporate life for a few years, including helping an author-services company called Groundbreaking Press get off the ground and managing the international PR team of a Fortune 500 technology company. Since about 2005, I’ve evolved more and more into writing and editing, since those careers are more accommodating to relocation with my wife’s corporate career track. I took a couple of brief sojourns in politics during those years, but stay pretty focused on my client’s work and my own.

If I can help any of your readers with any of those topics, they can get in touch with me through my Web site at You can also reach me through Twitter @dbschlosser and Facebook

Friday, November 26, 2010

David Schlosser, Part 2

Continuing my interview with David Schlosser. We were just starting to discuss marketing.

My books are going to be released as e-books. How does e-book marketing differ from print, or p-book, marketing? There are many choices on the Internet (reviewers, blogs, groups). How does one choose which ones to be involved with to make the most out of marketing? Where does one start?

I don’t think there’s a colossal difference in the ways you reach readers of e-books versus p-books. You need to be aware that e-book readers will tend to be more tech-savvy – which means generally younger and wealthier – than the reading population as a whole, but I think that readers are readers. Virtually all readers have access to a computer or cell phone, or both, and that’s really all you need to read an e-book. Kindle and Nook are nice platforms, but the software for reading e-books is free and available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux PCs as well as most major cell phone and tablet operating systems.

My exception to that rule is that e-books are more price-sensitive than p-books. I also have a technical clarification to that rule – what I really mean is, you can sell an e-book for very little money and not really lose any money, whereas there is a certain price below which you can’t sell a p-book without losing money. If you’re interested in volume, pricing an e-book at 49 or 99 cents will – generally speaking – allow you to move a lot of product. You won’t earn as much per book, but the math is pretty simple: a $10 book that sells 100 copies is the same as a $1 book that sells 1,000 copies.

For e- and p-books, the best place to start marketing is early: write a great book. (A corollary for self-publishers: make sure the editing, layout, and design is as good as what you’d get through a traditional publishing deal – you’ll have to pay for it, but your failure to do so will doom your sales prospects.) A great book is the surest, quickest way to get people buying, reading, and talking about your book. All the advertising in the world won’t sell a bad book – or, at least, won’t sell many copies of it.

Lots of writers will scoff at that idea, and point at a well-advertised best-selling book they consider lousy. Some of that is simply the beholder’s concept of beauty, but most of it has to do with two things:

- First, story. A great story will outweigh weak prose virtually every time.

- Second, brand equity in an author’s (or, sometimes, a character’s) name. It’s hard to believe that one of the best-selling mystery authors of all time is Jessica Fletcher (a television character), but less difficult to believe that James Bond and Sherlock Holmes continue to sell books, even if the prose is weak.

After that, apply the 80/20 rule and elbow grease in equal amounts. The 80/20 rule says you’ll get 80% of your sales from 20% of your coverage (scoring an interview with the biggest blogger, securing a review with the most popular opinion-maker), so you better put 80% of your effort into getting that interview or that review. Save 20% of your hard work to spread across the 80% of the outlets that are going to drive only 20% of your sales.

If you have trouble deciding which outlets are the right ones to focus on, ask readers in your genre about the sources on which they rely for advice about what to read next. Or, search Bing, Google, or Yahoo! – those search results will come back with the most heavily trafficked sites first.

What are some of the DONT'S of marketing?

Glengarry Glen Ross popularized the concept of ABC – Always Be Closing. That’s the biggest DON’T of marketing, especially in the Internet age.

If you’re constantly asking people to buy your book – particularly via weak-tie media like Facebook and Twitter – people will very quickly tune you out and eventually turn you off.

Instead, strive to add value to people’s lives in the form of good advice, inspirational thoughts, humor, and pithy wisdom. If you’re adding value to your relationship with them, they’ll reciprocate by telling people about you – and, by extension, your book.

Marketing can be a tedious effort. Any tips for making it easier or less stressful?


It’s hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Your best bet for reducing the stress of selling your book (which, let’s be honest and admit, is really selling yourself) is to be an extravert brimming with self-confidence.

Since that describes about 2.64% of writers, your next-best bet is to focus on bringing your audience what your audience wants (that is, adding value to their lives).

They want great stories populated by interesting, dynamic characters. If you’ve written a book that meets their craving for terrific books, you should feel wonderful about telling readers why they’ll love your book.

Note that I did not say you should feel wonderful about telling readers to buy your book.

Maintain your focus on what your readers want, and what you want will follow naturally. If your focus is on what you want, your readers have plenty of other opportunities to find what they want with an author who cares about giving it to them.

Check in next week for the final part of the the interview.

Friday, November 19, 2010

David Schlosser

This week I present the first part of an interview with David Schlosser. He is an award-winning fiction and non-fiction writer an award-winning editor. As a political and public relations consultant and candidate for public office, he has delighted and offended people around the world through such diverse outlets as The Wall Street Journal and New York Times as well as “Hard Copy” and “Inside Edition.” A native of Kansas, David went to college and grad school in Texas. After living or working in nearly a dozen states, he recently landed in Davidson, North Carolina with his lovely wife and their enthusiastic Goldendoodle puppy. He makes his living as a writer, editor, publisher, and strategic communications advisor who emphasizes the power of story to increase the impact of all forms of communication.

I met David at the 2009 Killer Nashville and in the last couple of years, I have only barely tapped into his knowledge, intelligence, and advice. His guidance has helped me to properly approach Echelon Press for submissions, and steered me in the right direction (and away from possible potholes) in marketing.

You're an author. What have you had published?

I’m fortunate to have published a range of fiction, non-fiction, and journalism in a variety of outlets (journals, magazines, newspapers) under my own name – from my college literary journal, the Trinity Review, to a profile of award-winning, best-selling novelist John Hart in the Charlotte Observer. If you read in politics/political economy, computer technology, or business, there’s a decent chance you’ve read something I’ve written (even if it wasn’t obvious I wrote it). I’m looking forward to getting my mystery novel out in 2011, as well as an expanded version of my self-editing/self-revision monograph, The CT Method (more about that later).

Where and when should a new author start marketing him/herself and the book?

As political people say about voting, “early and often.”

The specifics of any one author’s strategic plan are going to depend mightily on the kind of book and the kind of audience. Generally, though, as soon as you know your book is going to be published, you want to start telling your great news to people who will be interested.

You want this kind of message to be less about you (“Hey – I got a publishing deal!”) and more about your readers (“If you love a great supernatural romantic thriller with a satiric edge to the great theological debates of our time, I’m excited to tell you about my book.”).

The only thing that’s guaranteed to sell books is positive word of mouth (in the biz, we call that WOM, and you’ll often hear people talk about something (especially a video or a meme) “going viral”), so you want to make it easy for other people to get excited about your book, and then tell even more people about it.

Advertising is a “you get what you pay for” thing. There’s no secret deal or hidden treasure in advertising – if the rates are cheap, it’s because the exposure isn’t worth much. Before you do any paid advertising, calculate how many books you think you’re going to sell (painful truth: the number is never as high as you think), then figure out your ad cost per book and how much you’re going to make on each book. That should make it pretty obvious that advertising is a lousy investment for most books. Worse, advertising is not something people tend to share, so it actually works against your WOM.

Business cards, bookmarks, and other sturdy paper cards make it easy for you to leave a few teasers wherever readers might be (remember that bookstores are terrible places to try to sell your book – way too much competition!). They also make it easy for your friends and family to pass along information about you and your book to others.

Increasingly, readers rely on Internet-based modes of communication, so you want to start talking about your book (in an audience-focused way) online and in fora that make it easy for people to share. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, YouTube, blog, and podcast are all terms you should know and love. If you need some advice to get started on those services, use your favorite Internet search engine to look up this term:

how writers should use SERVICE

How does a published author continue keeping his/her name out in front of people?

Authors need to keep adding value to their relationship with their readers. I think that concept of “adding value” is what really differentiates an author who continues to sell books from an author who gets the surge of day-of-release sales and then trickles off.

There are countless strategies and tactics for adding value, and I encourage authors to pick a couple or a few that are most comfortable for them, then really focus on doing them well (see the conversation about the 80/20 rule later in this interview).

If you’re an extravert, think about reading/literacy programs, book clubs, public readings (especially at places relevant to your story rather than bookstores), lectures based on what your book is about or your experience in publishing it, local/regional arts festivals, and reader/writer conventions where you can mix/mingle or set up a table.

If you’re an introvert, think about blogging on the topics you researched for your book, writing articles for magazines or online news outlets about those topics or about your experiences as a published writer, and doing a tour of blogs to conduct an interview like this one with readers who have questions about you, your book, and the topics in your book.

Tune in next week for Part 2

Friday, November 12, 2010

EBooks Don't Count

As part of my marketing strategy to promote the release of Night Shadows (January 15, 2011), I have contacted several colleges and universities respectfully inquiring about interest in a guest reader, or, as a professor at my alma mater suggested, putting on a workshop with some of the creative writing students, offering critique, and editing and marketing advice. The professor I spoke with thought the workshop would be a better way to relate to the students. After my book is released, this professor will receive copy for reading, then we will talk about scheduling a visit.

On my website,, I wrote about a recent visit to William Penn University. The professor I met at this institution was ecstatic about having me attend a couple of classes. As I mentioned, the first visit, I offered my writing experience and how I became contracted to Echelon Press. Afterwards, the professor offered me a short story written by one of the students and the next time I attended, I offered some critique.

We both felt honored by the experience and the last communication I had with her left the door open for a future visit to a beginners' writing course next year.

Currently, I'm in contact with other institutions hoping to schedule future workshops. However, I recently received two rejections I feel I have to discuss. I won't name the colleges or the professors I contacted, but I was bothered by their reactions.

When I received rejection notices from publishers and agents, I chalked them up to inexperience, felt bad, but continued to persevere. I do not know how many more workshops or visits I may have at various colleges/universities, but I will keep trying.

The first rejection came via a phone call. The professor sounded bothered I had contacted him in the first place, annoyed he felt he had to call back and, in my opinion, didn't really want to listen to my proposal. He said there was no interest, “at least in this school.” before a quick termination of the call. Fine. One can only try so long before one realizes, ahem, it ain't gonna happen. Oh, that I would have realized this many moons ago when asking women for dates...but that's another story for another time.

The second rejection I received through email. This particular institution selects guest authors a year in advance and chooses only ones with “significant publications and who have won major awards.” Absolutely understandable. I researched some of their past guests. Names include: Edward P. Jones, Adrienne Rich, Ana Castillo, and John Edgar Wideman. I'm not going to put down any of these people even though I've never heard of them. I'm sure other writers and readers are familiar with their work. These authors have written some interesting material and, yes, have won some pretty prestigious sounding awards. So, I can understand this particular college wanting to have them and not me. I do not have numerous books published...yet, and I lack the far.

What really burnt my toast, however, was the first line of the email.
“E-books are not counted at the university level.” Excuse me? I'd like to know the reasoning behind that statement. Was this person saying e-books aren't REAL books? Yes, there are sites where any schmoe can put up his story, worthwhile or no. Buyer beware. But if you're with a publishing company that has a number of years under its belt with authors and editing and with some know how, then the unreality of e-books idea is not credible.

Or maybe he was thinking e-anything wasn't legitimate. I counter with: then nothing on the college's WEBSITE is credible either. Or the fact the message was sent by EMAIL might be a bit ironic. I didn't do any investigating, but I wonder how many of this college's guest authors have their own websites. I guess Stephen King and several other successful authors had better be told the news their works aren't acceptable, at least at the university level.

I've lowered my blood pressure since reading the email and took a few days before writing this post. And as I mentioned, I shall persevere. In the following weeks, I shall present some fascinating people, their thoughts, their books (e-books and tangible alike), and their successes. I think they will be entertaining and informative. Some have won awards for their work, whether written or otherwise, and all enjoy what they do and what they write. I think all of them offer advice, intelligence, and exhibit intestinal fortitude worthy of any guest appearance anywhere.

So, starting next week, let's have some fun and on the count of three, everybody give a raspberry to the notion e-books don't count. One, two...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Help Me!

This may seem a common sense concept, but let me discuss it anyway.

Writers do one important thing–they write. Okay, that's not the concept I'm talking about, but be patient.

I don't care whether you write in your local coffee shop, out in the park, or hole yourself up in your sanctum sanctorum for a specified period of time each day. You write. You create the plot, the characters, and the story.

However, you don't do it alone. You never see a writer pop out of his room after putting THE END on the manuscript and say to the world, "Look at me and the masterpiece I have created. All will now bow down and praise the work I have done."

I did that once and people laughed at me.

Okay, just kidding (or am I). My point is you have to rely on other people to finish your novel or short story. I know that's an obvious point, but sometimes authors tend to be a little selfish and defensive about their work. It's understandable and I've been there and, yes, walked away with a temporarily bruised ego.

I've written before about research. I love research. I enjoying visiting places and talking with people who are more knowledgeable than I about certain subjects. Most people, I've found, are more than willing to help. Yes, I have run into a few who aren't, who can't help me (even though I thought they should know some things), or outright won't. In those instances, I have to rely on the internet and reference books to help me with what I want to know. Or, I make it up (following rules, of course).

After I've written a story and edited it about a gazillion times (or so it seems), I can't subsequently start submitting it to publishers or agents. This is the nub of my gist. You need further help. You need to let someone else hear or read your work so that person can turn around and tell you it's crap. Yes, I said it, crap. Do you think Hemmingway and Margaret Mitchell and Stephen King wrote masterpieces first time out? No, they wrote crap. Then long after other people helped them, their stuff became legendary.

Writers' critique groups are one of the best ways to know you've written crap. Find a group who will listen to or read your work, give helpful suggestions, and even come up with brainstorming ideas to tweak your storyline. Unless you get some schmoe who can't stand the sight of your face, most critiques are about the writing. They'll let you know if something is exciting, boring, needs strengthening, needs more detail or less detail, if the characters stay true to themselves, or, as in the case with this sentence, you ramble on beyond your main point. And the best response you can make with these critiques? Shut up! Don't get defensive, don't whine and complain. Shut up, take the critiques in stride, and give some serious thought to them. Later, you can decide either to do something with the suggestion or decide the person who gave you the comment is dumber than a can of Spam.

Editing! Oh, my! I loathe editing. Now before my publisher and senior editor decide to boot me off their editing team, let me clarify. Editing MY work is tedious, exasperating, frustrating, and time consuming. This is especially true after I've gone through my manuscript umpteen times and still find stuff to improve. This is where you ask for help from others. Pay, trade, or barter with someone who will read through your novel and…tell you it's crap. No, seriously, who will correct the errors you've missed. There are professional editors who will do the job for a reasonable price. I also suggest picking up Todd Stone's book, Novelist Boot Camp, and review the section on what to look for each time you do a read through. It will help you and save time.

To get back to comforting my superiors, editing others' material is a wonderful thing. I'm not saying this to suck up. It's a learning experience. I see mistakes in what others write and learn what NOT to do with my own stories. This helps me be that much more diligent and creative with my writing.

One thing I need to express: writers need to know rules of grammar and punctuation. Do not submit anything until you are as near to 100% correct. Do not make your editor spend his/her valuable time correcting all but the fewest errors. I apologized to my Night Shadows editor because there was a problem with the version of the story she received. I take total responsibility for it and I will not allow it happen with Beta.

To sum up: Don't be afraid of critique and editing. Realize that what you have written is crap when it is crap and take steps to improve it.

Ask for help. You can't go it alone.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Details, Details...

One of the problems a writer faces when crafting a story is the amount of detail to put in each scene. Put too little and the reader is confused, wondering what the hec is going on. Too much and the reader gets bogged down by unnecessary minutiae.

For instance: if a new character is introduced, how much detail you put in the description can depend on how important that character is to the story.

A patrolman cordoning off a crime scene has little impact on the overall plot, hence you don't need to provide hair and eye color, height, weight, tattoos, facial features, specific clothing, manner of speech, etc. Maybe just a something to distinguish him. “The patrolman's size easily intimidated the gathering crowd from pressing too close.”

However, someone you see often, such as the protagonist or a supporting character, should be detailed so readers can keep the person in the mind's eye. You know early on Mallory Petersen, star of Beta (due out July 15,
2011) is a six foot attractive blonde with blue eyes. You know her sidekick/secretary, Darren, has puppy dog eyes and an innocent face.

Of course, if the bad guy is someone you're presenting elsewhere in the story, you're not going to reveal the identity in those little scenes just showing his evilness. You're going to save the identity until the end and by that time, the reader has already met and been associated with the specific character. An exception may be is if the bad guy isn't part of the regular crew but is a totally separate character presented as only bad and isn't hanging around the good guys trying to hide.

I've recently run into a few scenes where the details are lacking, improper, or I question their placement within the scene. Taking the third instance first, the scene is action oriented, with the hero battling killer vampires and in the middle of the fight, her protection spell seriously affects the one who grabbed her. She then spends three lengthy paragraphs explaining the different magical spells available in her version of the vamp/magic universe. Then she goes back to the fight. I'm not sure if in the middle of almost getting killed is the appropriate place for a lecture. Apparently the author's editor deemed it acceptable.

I'm also reading another vampire story where one of the humans is performing surgery on a vamp who has been impaled by a barbed stake. I think this is a cool and potentially powerful scene, however, the medical details and facts are lacking as well as a logical progression of action. For instance, imagine the vamp impaled by a stake. The stake has penetrated through the body and is sticking out both sides. When the person performing the surgery starts operating, the patient's angle isn't going to allow for ease of motion. Plus, the instruments normally used to open a chest cavity aren't normally going to be found in a kitchen. The author needs a little research to bring realism to the scene (realism to the surgery, not the realism of a vampire).

Robin Cook is great at medical terminology. His latest novel, Cure, is chock full of very lengthy words of which I understand about two percent. Most of the time, however, he's good at translating doctor talk into layman's terms.

The second instance-improper detail-I've read several times. It tends to bog down the story. “He walked over to the cupboard and opened the door. Upon the shelves were plates and a humidor. He took the humidor off the shelf, opened the lid and withdrew a cigar. With precise motions, he cut the end off the cigar, struck a match and lit the end. Taking deep inhalations,he held the smoke in his lungs and upon releasing it, created smoke circles in the air.” Okay, fine, but he did all this while having a conversation with one or two other people and by all this 'stuff' inserted, the reader has lost the discussion.

Two authors at the opposite ends of the spectrum for detail. The late Robert B. Parker and his Spenser novels are not too detailed, especially when Spenser is engaged in a lengthy conversation with...well, any other character. The conversation flows almost without interruption for several pages. It reminds me of the old Dragnet TV shows. “Just the facts, ma'am.” While Joe Friday just blandly stands there.

H.P. Lovecraft's stories, however, are LOADED with detail, sometimes beyond the point of sanity. At The Mountains of Madness is especially difficult to read unless you are into Lovecraftian stuff. I've read that particular story at least three times and the first two I didn't understand what I was reading because I couldn't get past the details.

Be careful with details. They're important but my advice is to treat them like candy. Give them out as treats, but hold back when the child has had his fill.

Friday, October 22, 2010

1987, Part 3

Summer 1987. Warm comfortable nights, hot days. Riding horses when my parents, sister and grandparents visited; having contests with Clark on how many rib bones we could toss into the waste can using the serving tongs…and doing so in front of the customers; getting autographs from everybody on a souvenir-and purloined-apron; playing practical jokes on Marvin; acting stupid in front of a pretty girl just to show Clark I wasn’t a dork.

July third and fourth were the two busiest days of the summer. I worked from ten o’clock each morning and didn’t stop moving until about nine that evening. We went through so many burgers and chicken it was ridiculous. I was thoroughly exhausted after those two days.

Of course, I worked during the Sturgis bike rally. For endless days, there were no cars on Keystone’s streets. I had to work nine days straight, eleven to thirteen hours per day, because I was the only one of age to be around for beer to be sold at our stand.
Where the hell Marvin was, I don’t recall, but after the bikers left, I told him I was taking two days off the following week and I dictated the specific days.

My love life went through a second short-lived experience. I don’t remember how I met the particular girl, but she lived in Sturgis. One day, I drove over to her house one day-wasting a couple of hours fixing a flat tire on the interstate (I couldn’t figure out how to jack up the car)-and going with her family to the grocery store. I think I gave her flowers, but nothing ever developed. I don’t even recall her name.

I also don’t remember the name of the girl who lived next door to the camp office where I stayed for my tenure up there. Which is really a sad thing, because, apparently I greatly impressed her. We were friends even though I don’t recall ever hanging out with her too much. On the morning I left to return home to Iowa, she had put a huge banner on my windshield saying she’d miss me. I thought that was pretty neat and I regret not remembering her name or keeping in touch.

The fourth man in our cabin stayed but a short time. Clark and Jennifer departed middle August and Paul stayed a few days longer after I left. By summer’s end, I had a month’s beard growth irritating my face (a week after the semester started I shaved the face clean. I just couldn’t stand all that hair). My father hugged me so tightly when I pulled into the driveway; I so glad to be home.

I loved that summer, mainly because I can remember so much of it. Give me a random year and I couldn’t tell you much about it, but 1987 was special. It wasn’t even my first visit to the Black Hills; we’d taken a family vacation years before. But it was a time of discovery, of laughter, tears, rock ‘n roll, together time, and alone time. I saw stupid people, beautiful people, and lost people trying to find themselves. I made friends I wish had stayed in touch.

To Paul, Jennifer, Clark, Warren, Amy, Sheila and all the rest whose names have slipped my mind (if I dig out that old apron I’d remember you better) – thanks. I wish we could all have a reunion and laugh about that wonderful summer. I’ll remember you and that summer each time I hear Steve Winwood or Lionel Ritchie.

That glorious, wonderful, exciting, summer of 1987.

Friday, October 15, 2010

1987, Part 2

Summer of ’87. Keystone, SD. Black Hills, hiking to Harney Peak, betting on the dog races in Rapid City, Bear Country, Reptile Gardens, spelunking at both Wind Cave and Jewel Cave.

I mentioned certain songs take me back to that time. Rapid City hosted a number of concerts. Starship, Blackfoot, Ratt, Poison, among others. I even met an alleged member of a sixties pop band. But more on him later.

You’re saying, but what happened after the kiss?

Oh, Jennifer, you drove me crazy. When I said to give me a chance, I meant for you to end the relationship with Clark, then come to me. Yes, that streak of honor running through me couldn’t allow Jennifer and me to betray him. I didn’t kiss her back. The incident affected her, too. She wrote me a long letter telling me about a nightmare she had had a few days later where I ended up killing Clark. She professed her attraction for me, but I think she also found honor and ended up staying with him. We all three were good friends, but I always wonder what might have been… I also wonder sometimes, where she is and if she’s happy.

Alcohol flowed like water during that summer. Parties almost every night either in trailers or some little cavern of the beaten track. Nobody monitored underage drinking; nobody cared. As I said, my supervisor was an alcoholic. One time he drank Everclear straight from the bottle. If Marvin is still alive somewhere, his liver hates him. And no, I didn’t partake. I also didn’t inhale from the water bong a group passed around one night in one of the trailers. Later that night, I realized I would have nevertheless been hauled off to jail had the cops raided the place.

My Great Uncle Lawrence died that summer. A severe stroke hit him in his early adulthood, all but paralyzing his left side. As long as I’d known him, he walked with a brace on his leg and his vision wasn’t the best. He was a dear, caring, humorous man, and I loved him very much. I cried not so much because he died, but because I was a thousand miles away, feeling like I was stranded on another planet.

I loved the mountains, the back roads, the long three miles downhill going north to Rapid City. Unfortunately, I never got to explore the Badlands or the Needles Highway–my pass didn’t include those attractions.

I don’t remember the man’s name, but he claimed to once have been a member of the band The Americans. I found one their cassettes in a discount bin. The cover showed the band and he confirmed the younger version of himself. Was he really a singer or just pulling the boy’s leg? I don’t know.

General Hospital showed up in July to film some episodes. I thought that was so cool. I got to meet Shaun Cassidy, got his autograph as well as the show’s producer and director. My parents taped some of the episodes which aired in August and I watched them when I got home. One of the funniest couple of episodes dealt with a two characters lost in Rushmore Cave and risking death from a cave-in. If you didn’t know any better, you could use your imagination and visualize their plight. They filmed the scene in Rushmore Cave, and I’d visited the attraction a few weeks before. The problem with the plot was that it is impossible to get lost. The cave goes back fifty yards along one path, then returns down a parallel path, with several opening between the two. But it was interesting to see watch the soap and see the familiar sites.

More next week.

Friday, October 8, 2010

1987, Part 1

I’d like to slip back to 1987. I do that every now and then, especially when I hear certain musical artists. U2, Kylie Minogue, Lou Gramm. I couldn’t tell you with any certainty the release year of most songs, but I do know many from 1987. I don’t remember too much about most of the year, other than I finished my junior year at Iowa Wesleyan, spent the summer in the Black Hills to try to earn money to go to Mexico the following January, and started my senior year in August.

The time in the Black Hills was a magical time. A different world. I was twenty and truly on my own for the first time. I’d applied for a job as a burger flipper outside of a restaurant in Keystone, the tourist trap town at the foot of Mount Rushmore. I met some interesting people, was paid a pittance, but was provided a room and two meals a day if I wanted. I think the whole summer would be an interesting coming of age type of movie. It certainly makes for interesting stories.

I started a week after the college term ended. Keystone is really nothing more than a mile of gift shops and food vendors on the way to Rushmore. The Ruby House Café was the restaurant owned by a tough old man whom nobody liked. I worked in the burger/chicken /ribs place attached to the west side of the café. One side street off the main drag took me back to a series of houses and trailers where the some of the few dozens of actual residents lived. I was put up in an old camp office. Paul, who attended Morehead State in Minnesota, had gotten there first and claimed the only bed. I took the top bunk in a little side room. Clark had the bottom bunk. The dresser had four drawers, one broken. The couch housed spiders and when we were at capacity, one guy slept on the couch.

Normally, I worked a rotating series of days with two off. My supervisor drank every night and teens worked the cash register. Burgers sold for 89 cents, chicken came from the kitchen to warm in the front display case. Across from us was a gift shop that sold Jackalopes. I vowed to buy one before I went home.

Off hours were spent reading or playing tennis across from the camp office. Days off, I visited the local tourist attractions with a pass for free admission to most of them. Paul and I became friends with a family down the street. He’d met the daughter. They offered the use of their tennis rackets whenever we wanted. I remember playing tennis with one guy at one in the morning on several occasions.

Paul, a good-natured, but naïve romantic, couldn’t hit it off with the townie girl and subsequently met another girl, this one from Oregon, fell in love almost from day one and talked about marriage and kids by week’s end. In July, she fell ill to complications with her ovaries. While in hospital, she accepted Paul’s marriage proposal, but the relationships was not to be. After her parents arrived, I think she wised up to her situation and his; I know Paul was heartbroken.

My love life also went through a spin cycle. Clark had a girlfriend who was extremely pretty. Blonde, perky, fun. And she was attracted to me. I kept telling her to just give me a chance. One morning, on one of my days off, when the rest of the guys had left for the day, she did. I was still in bed; she caressed my back and when I turned, she leant down to kiss me.

What happened next? Tune in next week.

Friday, October 1, 2010

24 Things You MIght Be Saying Wrong, Part 3

I’m sorry, I must be dense because I’m still not getting the fine line between That and Which, although I’m trying. Anyway, here’s the last part of words you may be saying wrong:

You might say: That

You might mean: Which

Why: "The money that is on the table is for you" is different from "the money, which is on the table, is for you." That pinpoints the subject: The money that is on the table is yours; the money in my pocket is mine. Which introduces an aside, a bit of extra information. If you remove "which is on the table," you won't change the meaning: The money is for you (oh, and unless you don't want it, it's on the table). If the clause is necessary to your meaning, use that; if it could safely be omitted, say which.

You never mean: Outside of

You always mean: Outside

Why: These two prepositions weren't meant for each other. Perfectly acceptable: "Wearing a cheese-head hat outside Wisconsin will likely earn you some stares and glares (unless you're surrounded by Green Bay Packers fans, that is)."

You might say: Each other

You might mean: One another

Why: Tradition says that each other should be used with two people or things, and one another with more than two, and careful speakers should follow suit: "The three presenters argued with one another over who should announce the award, but Ann and Barbara gave each other flowers after the ceremony." (By the way, if you need the possessive form of either one when writing that business letter, it's always each other's and one another's; never end with s'.)

8 Confusing Pairs

leery, wary: suspicious
weary: tired

farther: for physical distance
further: for metaphorical distance or time

principle: rule
principal: of your school

compliment: nice thing to say
complement: match

continual: ongoing but intermittent
continuous: without interruption

stationary: stands still
stationery: paper

imply: to suggest a meaning
infer: to draw meaning from something

affect: typically a verb, meaning "to act upon or cause an effect"; as a noun, it's "an emotional response"
effect: typically a noun, meaning "something produced," like a special effect; as a verb, "to bring about," as in "to effect change" •

Hope this helps.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

24 Things You Might Be Saying Wrong, Part 2

More tips to help your writing:

You almost never mean: Brother-in-laws, runner-ups, hole in ones, etc.

You almost always mean: Brothers-in-law, runners-up, holes in one, etc.

Why: Plurals of these compound nouns are formed by adding an s to the thing there's more than one of (brothers, not laws). Some exceptions: words ending in ful (mouthfuls) and phrases like cul-de-sacs.

You almost never mean: Try and

You almost always mean: Try to

Why: Try and try again, yes, but if you're planning to do something, use the infinitive form: "I'm going to try to run a marathon." Commenting on an online story about breakups, one woman wrote, "A guy I dated used to try and impress me with the choice of books he was reading." It's no surprise that the relationship didn't last.

You almost never mean: Different than

You almost always mean: Different from

Why: This isn't the biggest offense, but if you can easily substitute from for than (My mother's tomato sauce is different from my mother-in-law's), do it. Use than for comparisons: My mother's tomato sauce is better than my mother-in-law's.

You almost never mean: Beg the question

You almost always mean: Raise the question

Why: Correctly used, "begging the question" is like making a circular argument (I don't like you because you're so unlikable). But unless you're a philosophy professor, you shouldn't ever need this phrase. Stick to "raise the question."

You might say: More than

You can also say: Over

Why: The two are interchangeable when the sense is "Over 6,000 hats were sold." We like grammarian Bryan Garner's take on it: "The charge that over is inferior to more than is a baseless crotchet."

You almost never mean: Supposably

You almost always mean: Supposedly

Why: Supposably is, in fact, a word—it means "conceivably"—but not the one you want if you're trying to say "it's assumed," and certainly not the one you want if you're on a first date with an English major or a job interview with an English speaker.

You might say: All of

You probably mean: All

Why: Drop the of whenever you can, as Julia Roberts recently did, correctly: "Every little moment is amazing if you let yourself access it. I learn that all the time from my kids." But you need all of before a pronoun ("all of them") and before a possessive noun ("all of Julia's kids").

Final part next week.

Friday, September 17, 2010

24 Things You Might Be Saying Wrong, Part 1

The next few series of posts are not mine, but are credited to Reader’s Digest. Having trouble with the correct word in your writing? Then these may help:

You never mean: Could care less

You always mean: Couldn't care less

Why: You want to say you care so little already that you couldn't possibly care any less. When the Boston Celtics' Ray Allen said, "God could care less whether I can shoot a jump shot," we know he meant exactly the opposite because 1) God has other things on his mind, and 2) God is a Knicks fan.

You might say: Mano a mano

You might mean: Man-to-man

Why: You don't speak Spanish by adding vowels to the end of English words, as a columnist describing father–teenage son relationships seemed to think when he wrote, "Don't expect long, mano a mano talks." Mano a mano (literally, "hand to hand") originated with bullfighting and usually refers to a knock-down, drag-out direct confrontation.

You might say: Less

You might mean: Fewer

Why: In general, use fewer when you're specifying a number of countable things ("200 words or fewer"); reserve less for a mass ("less than half"). So when you're composing a tweet, do it in 140
characters or fewer, not less.

You never mean: Hone in

You always mean: Home in

Why: Like homing pigeons, we can be single-minded about finding our way to a point: "Scientists are homing in on the causes of cancer." Hone means "to sharpen": "The rookie spent the last three seasons honing his skills in the minor leagues." But it's easy to mishear m's and n's, which is probably what happened to the Virginia senator who said, "We've got to hone in on cost containment." If you're unsure, say "zero in" instead.

You might say: Bring

You might mean: Take

Why: The choice depends on your point of view. Use bring when you want to show motion toward you ("Bring the dog treats over here, please"). Use take to show motion in the opposite direction ("I have to take Rufus to the vet"). The rule gets confusing when the movement has nothing to do with you. In those cases, you can use either verb, depending on the context: "The assistant brought the shot to the vet" (the vet's point of view); "the assistant took the shot to the doctor" (the assistant's).

You might say: Who

You might mean: Whom

Why: It all depends. Do you need a subject or an object? A subject (who) is the actor of the sentence: "Who left the roller skates on the sidewalk?" An object (whom) is the acted-upon: "Whom are you calling?" Parents, hit the Mute button when Dora the Explorer shouts, "Who do we ask for help when we don't know which way to go?"

Part 2 next week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another Round Of Changes, Part 2

I was discussing changes last time and I left off with the move to the Osky radio station.

I hated radio sales. I vowed to never do something like that again because I hated having to depend on that kind of daily appointment schedule. By the end, I wasn’t really selling anything and I wanted to leave even before I was forced to resign.

Before that however, I joined the American Taekwondo Association and wow, talk about changes. I excelled and advanced and thoroughly enjoyed every change of rank and certification. ATA has been a constant throughout all the years of changes. The friendships I’ve made are priceless.

A series of jobs took me up to 1996 when I gained employment at the local newspaper. The stint lasted all but three years and when it was through, I regretted the change and still do to this day. I won’t go into details, except to say, if I had to do it over…

So, my night position has been a constant now for eleven long years. Nothing much changes here. I worked the night shift in Osky until the motel was sold, then just shifted fifteen miles west to the same position.

During this time, I’ve watched family members experience change. In careers, in marital status, in children.

I changed apartments in 2002 and found myself watching the revolving door of tenants, all of whom have been very interesting. Refer back to previous blogs about my neighbors for details.

In regards to my writing, I had written stories for many years, during the boring hours at the Kewanee radio station, off and on throughout the succeeding years and have spent countless hours during the nights shift scribbling untold numbers of pages of words. When I met Mike Manno, another change occurred. I became involved in writers’ critique groups. Refining and honing my writing skills, learning from mistakes, being hampered by rejection after rejection from agents and publishing houses, including, ahem, Echelon Press. But part of the wonderful changes was I met so many interesting people and started new friendships.

2009 brought another marvelous change as, after the Killer Nashville conference, Echelon Press accepted two of my books and after ten months, I have release dates for them both. Night Shadows is due out January 15, 2011 and Beta is scheduled for July 15, 2011. The upcoming changes are more travel time and appointments and speaking engagements and promotion and promotion and marketing and more marketing. These changes are anticipated, being planned, and I’m aching to get to them.

No change on the job front and that worries me a bit.

The location change for the taekwondo club was forced upon me and, once again, I wasn’t able to control the outcome. In one sense, I was, but in reality, the change had to come sooner or later.

Yes, I’m scared. I don’t know what to expect and I really don’t know what to do. There are several possibilities and I need to make time to think them through. I’m not as scared as I would be if I were to suddenly pack up and move to another city or state. I’ve been scared because for awhile, I didn’t have another place to go. I had a deadline that was fast approaching and I faced rejection after rejection on possible locations. Even though I managed to procure some space, I still have options out there waiting, and like I mentioned in the last post, with a little luck…

I do not like change. I’m set in my ways and I take awhile before I do something different. I don’t enjoy change being forced upon me.

I just try to make the best of it when it inevitably happens.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Another Round of Changes, Part 1

No, this is not a political post against our President, so all you liberals reading this just relax. I’m talking about changes in my life, current and upcoming.

By the time this is uploaded, Brayton’s Black Belt Academy, my taekwondo club, will have moved to a new facility. Since I took over the club back in 2003, we’ve been conducting classes at the local Y. I won’t go into all of the problems experienced throughout the last seven years-almost from day one-suffice it to say, I didn’t understand a lot of the lack of communications between several parties. But, no need to rehash trouble and promote ill will. This is about change.

Anyway, beginning September, 2010, the club changes locations and with a little luck, a little organization, a little student support, a little promotion, the club will reach new heights.

I admit, I’m scared. I’ve never liked change in the sense where I wasn’t allowed to think through matters, couldn’t control the outcome, or else didn’t have enough time to prepare myself. I don’t like to jump into anything too quickly, although there are exceptions.

I remember when my family moved from the Quad Cities to Danville. I’d had friends in East Moline, attended a fairly decent school, and suddenly I was stuck in small town Iowa. The school was smaller, the faces unfamiliar, the culture different from the urban setting I was used to. I had never known any other meaning of the word ‘combine’ except when two or more things are mixed. We had corn/bean fields behind and to the west of the house. I could ride my bicycle from one end of town to the other in fewer than five minutes. My graduating class in 1984 consisted of only thirty students.

But, I came to enjoy Danville. I cherish my classmates and miss the old two story house I called home for fifteen years. When I started attending Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, it was the first time away from home. I had responsibilities to further education and the changes were taken in stride because I was ready for them.

A big change came when I moved out on my own when I took a job in Kewanee, the self-proclaimed, ‘Hog Capital of the World.’ Almost two years at a radio station and had the boss not demoted me back to afternoons, I would have stayed longer.

Back home in Danville another major change was getting ready to happen. My parents were trying to decide to move to south-central Iowa because Dad had been hired at another bank. I was totally against the move. Danville was home, no matter where I was. But, I wasn’t in control of the situation and the writing was on the wall. I was cynical about the new town, and didn’t like the fact it was so far away from Danville. About the time my parents moved to Centerville, I took a sales job in Oskaloosa. Even though I hated the old house being sold, the move for mom and dad was the right thing for them and I don’t begrudge that. I still miss Danville a little.

Osky brought several changes throughout the years. New jobs every so often, a new apartment, new opportunities, new acquaintances.

I’ll discuss some of those changes next time.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Write It Down

I am a note taker. I have to be. If I don't write down something I'll need to remember later, invariably I'll forget, or spend a few minutes trying to remember.

One of my friends would tease me about my getting older and that I can't remember stuff, but I think I've always had the problem. If I don't write it down, I'll forget and be disappointed in myself because I forgot something that could have been wonderful to remember. Whether it's grocery lists, appointments, meetings, or story notes, I may, at first, think it's dumb I should write something down-sure I'll remember it later, it's so simple-but ten minutes later walking the isles with five out of the six items in my basket ready to go, I'll stand there in the middle of the food store like I'm an alien plunked down into one of Earth's strange cultural establishments, staring off into the distance like E.T. wanting to go home...and wanting to be home because I can't remember the sixth item. And if I then shrug my shoulders and think I'll get it next time...when I get home, it's the one item I really needed to make the next meal.

How many great ideas have I forgotten for stories or little tidbits have I wanted to include but didn't because I didn't write them down at the time I thought of them? I don't know, I can't remember.

I am getting better, though. Slowly, in incremental steps. Yes, I still forget to note down grocery items, but story ideas and extra bits I usually get down on paper. The problem I run into afterwards is making sure I remember to refer back to the notes when the time comes to write the particular scene. Normally, it's not too difficult to add the bit in if I did forget the first time around.

When I do research and am obtaining information from someone regarding a particular subject, or jotting down descriptions of scenery, I'll write down far more than what I'll use in the story. But that's ok, because I'd rather have too much than not enough and come off sounding as if I didn't do my homework.

Filing is also a problem. Well, filing is not the REAL problem, space is. My apartment is too small to have all of my writing papers in their own slots.

Currently my filing system is composed of about five large piles with-hopefully-the unimportant or past stuff on the bottom and the current stuff, or stuff I think I want to get back to soon, on top. And those little notes? Well, that would take an excavation team to sort through those or to even find them in the first place.

Of course, it's important for us writers to be organized, in our own fashion, but that's the nature of the beast and we all have our own methods of dealing with filing and note taking. If you can be meticulous, great. If you're a piler-if I can create a word here-then don't whine when you can't find something.

Either way, please don't rely on your memory; you have too much else going on to try to remember that cool little factoid to include.

Write it down!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Killer Nashville, 2010

Welcome to Killer Nashville!

Whether you’re just a mystery fan, a writer, or a published author, this conference is for you.

Killer Nashville, almost three full days of seminars, talks, freebies, books, and people.

This year’s conference began on the night of Thursday, August 19 with a trivia contest. Three teams vied for prizes answering questions regarding mystery books, movies and television shows. I was a member of the blue team named Blue Poison. After the first round of questions, we were holding onto a one point lead. In the second round, the Green Hornets pulled into a commanding lead with their knowledge of movie trivia, although, to be honest, I knew most of the answers; I just wasn’t fast enough getting our captain to hit the light. However, the third round of questions proved that most of our team were couch potatoes, but we ended up with a victory. Each member received his or her choice of a trade paperback up to $20 in value. The Hornets came in second and received another book and the losing team, The Scarlet Letters, received a ‘thanks for coming.’ Everyone, though, had a lot of fun and word spread; next year they may not have room for everyone.

I say that because last year attendance numbers ranged around 150. This year they more than doubled last year’s. The Franklin Marriott was a great hotel to hold the conference with plenty of room except for some of the seminars which ended up being SRO.

The seminars covered a variety of categories all designed to help the writer/author. Forensics, character development, surveillance techniques, police procedures, self defense tactics, weaponry. For the writer wanting published there were seminars on query letter and synopsis writing. Plus, several agents and editors from various publishing houses attended to listen to pitches and to accept submissions. For the soon to be published or already published author, several panels offered marketing tips. Internet management, networking, interview tips.

Many fans showed up to see the guest of honor – Jeffrey Deaver. Saturday afternoon and later that evening at a special dinner, Deaver spoke about his life and writing. Look for The Burning Wire, his latest Lincoln Rhyme novel out now; Edge due out later this year; and Deaver’s contribution to the James Bond world scheduled for a May 2011 release.

The conference ended Sunday afternoon with a couple of special seminars, preceded by a local Search and Rescue dog team. An Australian Shepherd, two German Shepherds and a furry five year old St. Bernard were present to be viewed, discussed, and loved.

The seminars were plentiful, educational, many with almost too much material to be given in the hour ten minute time limit. However, I think the best things about the entire three days were the people. Authors, editors, agents, writers, fans, marketers, private detectives, law enforcement officers. I met so many wonderful people and will continue an email relationship with them. Last year, I met a man who assisted me with a marketing strategy that helped me get contracted to Echelon Press. This year, I met another gentleman who agreed to look over my website and guide me in the field of internet networking. Sunny Frazier, (, is including me in her ‘posse’. That should prove interesting. A link to her will be up on the website.

January 15, 2011, is the release date for Night Shadows; Beta is scheduled for July 15, 2011. I have to thank Killer Nashville and all who were involved and attended-Clay, Beth, Sunny, Doug, Amy, Mathew, Kim, Mary, Joe, and so many others-for helping me get e-published and who will support and encourage me. I’m looking forward to doing the same for them in the future.

Keep a watch out for Killer Nashville 2011!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Urge

Do you feel it coming? It's there, you know, waiting just over the horizon, peeking at you, softly whispering its presence. It's there, getting ready to pounce. Once it does, there is nothing you can do but succumb.

Each of us feels it in our own unique way. It can come upon us anytime, anywhere. In the bathroom, at three in the morning, while eating dinner or making love (ok, I, personally have never felt it at that particular time, but someone probably has), on a train, in the rain, in a box, with a fox...Dr. Seuss help me, I'm babbling...

For me it happens a few times per week. Usually at work. I'm sitting outside or in the lobby reading a book (at the time of this writing I'm reading Firestorm, by Nevada Barr. I'm also recording The Fury, by Jason Pinter)and suddenly it leaps into my brain and my body and my blood. I fidget and try to concentrate on the book, but I know I'll have to stop reading and follow the urge.

Actually, I love it when the urge hits. You do, too. I know you do. You wouldn't be what you are if you didn't. You love to fall under its spell, thrive on the rush and are happy to let it carry you where it wants. And you pray there are no distractions to derail you. Because you love the rush, you love the high, you love the pain in your hand and the mental exhaustion after it's over. Sometimes, you have to consciously step off the track and take a breath before jumping back on again.

Name it what you will, The Zone, The Urge, The Need, The Desire, it's there and you want it. Even those who haven't felt it for awhile want it. For me, it can't be forced. I can't hunt it down and make it conform to my will. If I do, it becomes misshapen, skewed, altered and the results are substandard.
For me, I have to wait, sometimes days, let it stalk me. While I'm waiting, I'll go ahead and find a temporary Zone and ease on down the tracks on my own and that's okay, too. Taking the time, making the time.'s always out there, waiting, watching, sometimes teasing. It may touch, then pull away and leave me wondering, clutching at emptiness. But usually, it's merciful and leaps back into me in a short time.

I imagine some of you reading this post are wondering just what type of craziness is this guy talking about. Is he on drugs? Is he craving liquor?
Maybe his need is chocolate ice cream. (Well, not so much anymore with the new diet. Yeah, that's another story) What is it?

Those in the know don't have to wonder. It's been openly discussed amongst the ones who feel it. It's no secret; it isn't sheltered and hidden away like an embarrassment. There's no need to be ashamed of it.

Of course, it's the rush, the urge, the need to write. To pick up pen and paper, to open up a word document on the laptop and write. I know a man who write two hours every morning from five to seven and though I haven't spoken with him about it, I know he feels it, too, at other times during the day. I know a man who has just recently had his second book published and he feels it, too. I know a woman who is so close to crossing the publishing line, she tastes it, and she gets that urge more than I do.

It's what you do, write. It's what you are, a writer. Some are beginners, some are dabblers, some are those who can write only crap no matter how hard they try (and believe me, I've met some of them). But they all feel it at some point. The serious know what it is and know what to do with it when it comes.

You can't resist. You don't want to resist. Resistance is futile.

I only write this, because I'm feeling it now. I've gotta go.

Friday, August 6, 2010

In A Neighborly Way, Part 4

So, to recap, I've lived next to and above a drug dealer, an unwed mother and several people who are familiar with a nightly head count and who have heard the words, “Lights out!” and “Lock down.” way too many times.

The really fun people have lived below me. First up after the elderly lady (I REALLY miss her) were a mother/father/son. Before I go on, let me explain that if I stand at the top of my stairs, I can hear everything-I mean, everything-above a normal conversation's volume from the lower apartment.

It's the largest unit, but still, sound does travel. All sound, if you know what I mean. (Refer back to the first tenants I spoke of in the old apartment building). Anyway, this 'family' was the worst for fights and arguing and kid crying constantly and banging and crashing and stomping. I never heard a happy moment. Now, the interesting part comes when they up and just move out and the ex-Marine and the landlord, after a few months, go in to clean out the place. During the clean out the woman comes back and protests that she doesn't have their stuff out yet. The landlord's reply was basically, “You do now.” The tenants had destroyed cabinets, doors, door frames, put holes in the wall and literally turned the place into a landfill. The ex-Marine told me they took out six Dumpster loads and six truck loads of trash. They had found, uh, inappropriate items and, uh,-how can I put this delicately (sorry, I can't)-used feminine products in with the child's toys. I'm glad they're gone, but unfortunately, somewhere in this world, another house is being de-valued and a youngster is growing up in misery.

Next up are the (seemingly) happy family. Mother/father/son. Son laughs when dad plays with him, there are sounds (short-lived) of, uh, wedded bliss, if you know what I mean, and if by if you don't, have your mother explain it to you. Ah, but all good things... I hear some mildly heated discussions about drug abuse and infidelity and how she doesn't support his band and his dreams and soon they are adios.

A single guy moves in for a couple of months and I don't see him until about a week before he leaves. Never knew too much about him.

At the time of this writing (several weeks before posting), there is currently another threesome (bearded biker/his world weary, looking wife (who, according to another neighbor has been smoking way too much meth, the older son and sometimes his girlfriend. They are on there way out, hopefully within a week, or more hopefully within a couple of days.

I don't know too much of the problems they've had with the landlord (other than they threatened to kill him and who, by the way is an entire posting unto himself, but because I still pay rent to him, I guess, I'll forgo the details, other than to say-criminal [no unfamiliarity there], has left the place unpainted for a number of years, has been trying to install central air since April, didn't fix a bathtub stoppage for two months and a broken bathroom faucet [which HE broke] for four months. But otherwise...a niceguy.) but for the first few days after they moved in, there was a lot banging and slamming and crashing and the dropping of what surely must have been sixteen pound bowling balls. And argue? Oh, my word. Snipe a little here, yell a little there, stomp around mad and sulky for awhile, then repeat it all the next day. On the first beautiful day of this year, they started in at eight in the morning and she was still pick, pick, picking at him twelve hours later. I have stood at the top of my stairs eavesdropping on numerous occasions and still don't believe the nonsensical spats. Most of the time, he'd get fed up with her and storm out and race away on the motorcycle.

Currently, their problems have turned personal as a couple of days ago, I had trouble with a breaker tripping. I subsequently came to learn from the landlord that downstairs has had their power off for awhile and the reason my microwave kept tripping the breaker was because the rats down there have been nibbling at my cheese. Unfortunately, I probably won't get reimbursed, but I sure would like to go John Wayne on their butts.

So, what's been the point of these last neighborly posts? Well, aren't all these experiences just absolute wonderful fodder for stories? Feel free to use any characters mentioned and contact me for details if you want. The stories are so much better told orally. Now that I have them written down, I can refer back to them and pick and choose for future stories of mine. I mean, you just can't make up this stuff

Plus, unless and until I move to the next place, I predict the world will keep coming to my doorstep and the pile of usable material will just keep growing.

Friday, July 30, 2010

In a Neighborly Way, Part 3

(Note before I begin I wanted to reiterate if any current or previous neighbor/landlord reads this, please take this in the atmosphere intended, which is you're all humorous in some fashion and I mean no offense.)

2002, I moved in. The landlord was a former client when I worked at the radio station and he allowed me a cat. At the time, his son lived across from me, an elderly lady lived downstairs and I don't remember who, if anybody, lived in the mouse hole. The landlord's son owned a Jack Russell that was a barking annoyance at times, but all in all pretty good.

Everything was hunky-dory until one night around ten. I'm in my hall and suddenly, the door bursts open in the other upstairs apartment and I hear, “Police! Everyone on the floor!” The dog goes nuts and I'm wondering if I'm about to get raided, too. The cops had hidden down the alley, sneaked upon the apartment and busted the landlord's son for selling drugs. A short time after, the place sells to a new landlord but only because the man didn't have time to properly care for it. Oh, how I long for those days when he did.

That first year, the new owner mowed the lawn exactly six times during the summer and has been about as consistent in getting it mowed since. Actually, it isn't so much mowed as pre-harvested and two days later needs mowed again.

After the Tony Montana wannabe leaves, a high school mother with baby and dog moves in. Dog barks as incessantly as the baby cries. Speaking to her does no good and she solves the barking problem by putting the dog outside at the bottom of her stairs, where it still barks. Then buys another dog with a doghouse about two sizes too small for the animal. The first pooch sits forlornly at the bottom of the stairs, no food/water/shelter. After about a week, I call the animal shelter, the animals are gone and she blames the landlord for calling the cops on her. She gone.

The only sane tenant, the elderly lady, develops health problems and soon I hear the funeral notice on the radio one morning; I end up getting some of her groceries. I miss her sereneness and kindness and I was glad I was able to help her in times of need.

After mother and child leave one of the landlord's assistants is in for two weeks before bugging out for his homeland Jamaica, and I don't mean New York. Downstairs in the efficiency a youngish couple move in. Two people in an apartment only a little bigger than a boxing ring-ack! Anyway, I won't go into details, but they don't last but a year or so before the newly adopted Megan's Law (look it up for further information) affects his in-town residential status and they're gone.

In comes an employer who rents the apartment and lets ex-cons stay, while he gives them second chances at a normal life. Right up until one of them is late for work a few times more than allowed and that arrangement terminates. The current resident had previously lived in the efficiency for awhile, and again, without going into detail, breaks his probation and is back in the pokey for another stretch. During the hiatus, a Samoan-American moves in and tells me his life story one evening-unasked-and he bugs out one day leaving the door open. Dampness and mold ruins the apartment floor and furnishings. The ex-con is back and is a quiet nice guy who drinks a lot of beer and grills up some tasty smelling steaks every now and then.

Back upstairs, an ex-Marine who plays the drums moves in. Nice guy, he really was. The acoustics only allowed me to hear his drums if I was in the hallway or if all the windows were open but I don't think I convinced him he could play till he deafened himself; I wasn't bothered. I was annoyed during the summer when he played, at max volume, Bob Segar's Hollywood Nights every night for about a week. He (the tenant, not Segar) had been busted for DUI, didn’t have a license, but bought a van that never ran and kept it parked in the back lot for way too many weeks. He (again, the tenant, not Bob) played in a band and ended up moving to the band's practice area.

Next to move in was a wonderful couple who argued for hours because they liked to. There was no point to the arguments, no defined topic of contention, but who cared, it was fun to listen to them. Unfortunately, they didn't last long either. The apartment stood empty until recently when another of the landlord's assistants moved in. He's okay if he would only park his truck so that I can fit my car in and not have to park on the grass.

Meanwhile, the main apartment downstairs sees a series of lively people...

Yep, cliffhanger till next week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In a Neighborly Way, Part 2

Where did we leave off last week? I'd found this apartment house near downtown. Reasonable rent, bigger place. Methodist church east across the street. A separate living room, kitchen, bedroom, a little bit bigger bathroom. It used to be a regular house, but it had been converted to three apartments and an efficiency unit smaller than my last one. I moved into the upstairs left, the second biggest unit. Downstairs is the largest and next door to me is a little smaller. There are two connecting doors upstairs between the apartments and we share the attic. In my unit, there is a set of stairs leading down to a small balcony with a connecting door to the lower apartment just inside my door. I can see into the kitchen window of the lower unit from my outside stairs. I have a northern facing door and the efficiency is at the bottom my stairs, the lower unit has an eastern door and the other upper a western. A parking area on the west side alongside a garage.
The parking area was usually for the efficiency tenant, but none has ever owned a car, so I've parked there. The others get off or curb parking.

My living room has exactly two outlets, kitchen two and the bedroom one. Yeah, not a well put together design. The bedroom closet’s two wall don’t face each square, so the clothes rod is at an angle and can’t handle too much weight. I think the arranger was stoned when he laid out the place.

Got the picture in your mind?

Now, as for neighbors. I don't know if I can remember the exact order, but I'll be close. First, let me talk about the neighbors across the street. I live on a corner and the house on the opposite side could be a nice place if a little money were invested, but, so far, the only thing replaced throughout the years are the door and a window frame. New stuff looking out of place in a ramshackle structure. The first tenants there were odd ducks. The woman sometimes made a point of crossing the street to talk to me, even though I hadn't initiated the conversation. In fact, most neighbors usually have told me their life stories without my even asking...usually after they'd had a few, if you know what I mean. Anyway, the couple across the street ended up with legal troubles, a notice of eviction was put on their door and they were gone. Two other couples have lived there, the current owning a couple of unattractive dogs who only want to play but usually end up getting yelled at.

Next to that house is another, first painted a urine yellow, then repainted a dismal gray. The wonderful thing about that experience was the owners started painting with an electric sprayer at 7:30 in the morning, so while I tried to sleep, I kept hearing intermittent buzzes. Some younger folks lived there and didn't bother replacing the hydraulic arm on the storm door, so in and out they'd go and WHAM, WHAM went the door. Just a little annoying. The current occupants are wonderful people who I had to bring the police to because I thought (can't prove it) I heard hand smacking flesh one late night.

Next door to that house live a boring family who I rarely see. The previous occupants, though, had the cops over to chat at least once a year. Father, mother, teenage daughter. The memorable incident I remember is the father stepping outside to sit on the front steps to smoke. A few minutes later, the mother and daughter come out and scream at each other at the tops of their lungs. “F--- you!” “Well, f--- you! I hate your guts.” and similar statements, usually with the inappropriate wording. Meanwhile, passersby are getting an earful, but the humorous sight is the father sitting calmly, still smoking, not getting involved. For him it was same stuff, different day. So yeah, here come the cops and the mother screams she wants the cops to take the daughter, doesn't want to deal with her anymore. Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear the end of that family moment as the conversation's volume lowered.

Anyway, onto my humble abode and the revolving door of nutjobs I've seen throughout the last eight years.

Tune in next week, same bat channel.

Friday, July 16, 2010

In A Neighborly Way, Part 1

This week and for the next three weeks, I'd like to present a little of the world around me. No names are mentioned to protect the innocent (or the guilty, as it were) and I offer these posts up to maybe give you some ideas for your own stories and to show you where I grab some ideas for some of my characters. These posts are meant not to demean anyone, but just to show some of the humor you can find around you every day. If you happen to know some of these people or-egad-are one of the characters here...well, I hope you can get a smile out of it. Besides, I wonder what my neighbors have thought about ME...

I've lived in some interesting places during my almost 44 years. (Egads! Am I really 44 this October?) Every place I can remember had memorable and interesting neighbors. In East Moline, I lived next door to a sweet woman with a garden on one side and an irascible couple on the other. My best friend lived down the street and two houses down lived a Down's Syndrome girl. Behind us on the next block lived a great family who owned a pool and-I swear-lived in a little pink house.

In Danville, we had nobody to our right but a nice couple and their children to our left, a couple of teachers across the street and other pretty good folks up and down our quarter mile stretch of road.
In Kewanee, I knew no neighbors except the one who complained about the noise I made running up and down the metal steps.

When I moved to Oskaloosa about twenty years ago, I found an apartment complex up near the William Penn College (since upgraded to University, ooh-la-la). The efficiency apartment had one living room just over six feet long that included a kitchen, a narrow hallway and bedroom just over six feet long. The bathroom was one where you could do three or four things simultaneously it was so small. There was a covered balcony running the length of the second floor which was nice to sit on during storms. The building was situated sideways to the street, so I didn't get much of a view except the backyard of the house across the driveway. The railroad yard was my backyard and the racetrack was barely half a mile away, so you know that 'quiet' was not a situation I was associated with.

But what made the place interesting were the neighbors. I don't recall how many units there were and I didn't know anybody personally except the landlord who was a cop. In fact, at one time, four officers lived in the building; we were the safest place in town.

The tenants to my right when I first moved in were a young couple. The walls between the apartments transferred sound fairly well and every couple of weeks (in my opinion), the man and woman went stir crazy and argued. She'd yell and his voice would get low and mean. I'm not sure, but once or twice he might have pushed her, but usually, he stormed out with a SLAM of the front door. She'd then open the door, stand there for a few minutes, then SLAM it again. That was the extent of their arguments. Sometime over the course of the next few days, they would...uh...make up. I was an audio witness to every glorious moment.

They moved out and a single woman moved in who had left her significant other (I never did find out if he was her spouse or boyfriend). Anyway, the funny thing about him was that he'd call her often. I'd hear her on the phone repeatedly saying things such as, “No, don't come over; I don't want to talk to you.” “No, I don't want to see you and don't call again; I don't want to talk.” I kept thinking, Well, hang up, already. I was working night shift at the time and on one of my nights off during the summer, I was sitting outside at about four in the morning and he calls her. Similar type of conversations as always, then about twenty minutes later, he actually shows up and acting very pathetic, knocks and knocks on her door trying to persuade her to let him in. “Please, let's just talk. Well, if I call, will you talk to me?” After about ten minutes of this, I turned the porch light off on him and went indoors. As I understand, she finally went back to him.

As I said, I didn't know too much about a lot of the other tenants and except for a few things here and there, there wasn't really much excitement.

The next door neighbors were a different story. A rental house with a sloping backyard...sloping right into the house. Whenever heavy rains would fall, there'd be small creek heading right toward the house. One family moved in with kids who proceeded to litter the backyard with toys. They also owned a mutt that barked and barked and barked, literally for hours. I remember one night the damn thing wouldn't shut up and it took ten minutes of knocking on the door to wake up the owners. Yeah, I was a little upset.

One summer afternoon, I'm cleaning the house (yes, mom, I do clean every now and then). The door and window were open. Suddenly, I hear a little plink sound. I couldn't figure what had happened until the next plink and I discovered a BB lying in front of the television. The little rugrats from across the way had shot from their backyard, through my doorway. Hindsight is 20/ oh the things I wished I'd said or done. One day, though, I'm sitting there and realizing that quiet had descended in my little world, I looked out the window and the backyard is clean – they'd moved! Thank heaven.

In 2002, the college decided to purchase the building for student housing. Everyone had to leave. I wasn't sure where to go. I looked into a few places, way out of my price range (and for that matter, any reasonable person's range), but I was lucky (ahem, well, maybe not), to find a place fairly quickly. It's my current abode...and oh, the stories I could tell.

But I'll save them for next time.