When you are ready…

I’ve read it. I’ve said it. I’ve proved it true… You will get what you need when you’re ready for it.

I actually almost wrote about this last week, but the experience was a little too fresh and I guess I needed a little more distance…

As regular readers of this blog know I’m working on a young adult novel. The novel (actually the series now… Hard Way is the second book) has to do with a teenage boy trying to sort out his life. He is trying to sort out who he is; who his family is; who his friends are; and what he really believes. As the writer, it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’m willing to take. It’s a challenge I am taking.

I’m editing the second book and learning a great deal in the process. I’ve accepted that the third book (which I’m starting the first draft of next month…) is going to be even more of a challenge for reasons I’ve discussed here (link) among others.

I’m working hard, putting all the pieces I can into place. And yet, there are things missing. There are things that I can’t seem to find (on my own at least…). And then it happens…

Out of that tangled web we call the internet the girl I cared about back in high school, the girl my wife and I are both grateful to for having the courage to introduce me to the gospel of Jesus Christ, contacts me on facebook.

At the time I needed it most, the moment I was ready to receive it, someone from my past appeared and gave me what I needed. Someone provided the trigger to the memories I needed to get through the project.

You can get what you need to achieve any worthy goal dear readers. You need to be worthy of it. You need to look for it and prepare for it dear reader. But, whether you choose to call it a loving God or just a bountiful universe there is a source out there that will provide what you need when you are ready for it.

So dear reader, figure out your worthy goals. Figure out what you need to achieve them. And then get started. What you need will be there for you when the time is right.

I’m grateful to Susan and her family for really helping me when I needed it. And whether she knows it or not she’s helped me once again (Thank you Susan).

(A note for anyone wondering… No, neither one of us is going to allow anything inappropriate to come out of this. I love my wife. Susan loves her husband. I’m just telling the story of my adventures and thanking an old friend for some help along the way. (Oh, and my wife is nearly as good a shot with a handgun as I am…))

That’s it for this one dear reader. See you next post.

P.S. In an effort to become more social I’m going to be trying to respond to likes, follows and comments more consistently in the near future…

Last week I approved the proofs for the paperback edition of Johnson Farm

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I’ve talked about the book here, but I’ve never really introduced the hero and his family here. That should change…

So…

John closed the book and looked out through the windshield. One of the green freeway signs was just coming into view. Interchange coming up in three miles… “Dad, why can’t we stop at Craters of the Moon?”

John’s father, Lieutenant Commander Donovan Johnson United States Navy, looked straight ahead and kept both hands on the wheel. He wore the look he used when dealing with ‘official businesses’ at work, or with his family. “Because we need to get to the farm. Theo will be waiting.”

We haven’t seen Uncle Theo since my second birthday. How much of a priority can he be?  Besides, Craters of the Moon is on the way.  “We’re going to be driving right down the middle of them,” John muttered.

“So you will get to see them.”

“No Dad…” John flipped the switch for the door lock. “I want to get out and see them.” If we stay on schedule we’ll get to Uncle Theo’s around two. There’s plenty of time. It’s not like Dad wants to get there either…

John looked over his shoulder at the garment bag that held Dad’s dress uniform and John’s suit, his new black suit. “It’s not fair,” John said, “We were supposed to be going deep sea fishing.”

“That’s life John. We have to go. We’re expected.”

‘We’re expected…’ How many times have I heard that before? Every time Dad has some party, ‘We’re expected’… Every time Dad’s lady of the moment arranges a date, ‘We’re expected.’ Every time it’s what someone else wants, ‘We’re expected’… But when it’s something I want… Or need… Or care about…

“It’s a funeral John.” His father didn’t look at him, there was a van to pass. “It’s important for the family.”

John rolled his eyes. Uncle Theo, Aunt Mary, Uncle Harley, and some guy that was dead now, that was ‘the family’. Mom didn’t count, not to Dad. Her side of the family hadn’t counted since the divorce. Dad rarely talked about the people he did count as family, especially Uncle Harley.

It doesn’t matter. Can’t do anything about it anyway. Two more years and I could drive myself back to Craters of the Moon. Dad would probably claim I stole the car… If it was summer he could have been at Moms, and Dad could have gone without him. Does the custody agreement cover that?

John turned back to his book and let the miles fly by. The story of the Lost River has to be better than this…

At least the trip got John out of school for a few days, even though he had to do a book report. Roadside Geology of Idaho would be easy enough to report on. He’d been collecting rocks for years. And I’m actually getting to see some of the stuff I’m reading about…

When he finished the chapter he flipped through the book looking at the pictures. He stopped on a shot of reddish sandstone. There’s a lot of ancient seabed around here, and fossil fish…

We should be fishing right now… Deep sea fishing was supposed to make up for the Padres game when Dad ended up with CDO watch. And the game was supposed to be to make up for… It doesn’t matter…

John went back to flipping through the book. He stopped on a picture of some rhyolite. “Couldn’t we have come up through Nevada?” John asked.

“I’d rather stay on the fifteen,” Dad said, “Some of the stretches through Nevada are pretty desolate. Besides there’s probably still snow.”

That was true enough. There’d been unmelted patches as they went through the Milad Pass. But, there were a lot of places to stop for rocks on the Nevada road. Not that we would have stopped… Dad didn’t see the value of ‘digging up rocks’.

Sometimes Dad talked about the ‘rock machine’ he and his brother had when they were kids. That was about all he said about Uncle Harley, that they had a rock machine. He hadn’t even said that much since the divorce.

Mom could have gotten Dad to stop. Before the divorce…

Mom did a lot of things before the divorce, she was a stay at home mom then. Now she was dating some guy from work and going to events with some ‘office professionals’ organization. But, beyond the delusion that the 1950’s were still cool she didn’t really do much anymore. Who would believe that staying with Dad was better?

“Look, basalt,” Dad said.

John looked up. They’d reached Craters of the Moon. He laughed when he saw the sign. “No Hunting. Yeah, take a shot out there. That’s a self-correcting problem.”

Dad almost laughed. “What?”

John rolled his eyes again. “Look at all the rocks Dad. If you took a shot out here it would probably ricochet back and hit you in the head.”

Dad shook his head and went back to watching the road. “I don’t think…”

John scanned the scenery. There was a little scrub, but more lichen on boulders than real plants. “Besides,” John said, “what is there to hunt around here?”

Dad pointed. John followed the line from his finger to the doe that was disappearing between two boulders.

There really are things to shoot out there… “Hey Dad,” John asked, “Think we could get some shooting in once we get to the farm?” A deer’s too big, but there’s got to be rabbits and stuff.

Dad flinched just slightly. John almost missed it.

“Can we?” John asked.

“We’ll see,” Dad said. He muttered something under his breath. All John could catch was “Harley” and “Last time.” Probably shouldn’t push…

John watched the terrain, looking for more deer. He spotted a couple rabbits between the rocks. He’d brought his air guns, the rifle and the pistol. If he could elude Dad and the uncles for a while he could get in some shooting whether they liked it or not.

The rocks were beginning to blur together. You can only look at so much basalt, even when you’re a rock hound. There was no help for it. John laid back and tried to go to sleep.

His mind wandered. Some blond girl was waving at him.

The next thing he knew Dad was shaking him.

John pushed Dad’s hand off his shoulder. “What?”

Dad pointed, then turned at a sign that read ‘private road’.

They were in rolling hills, more dirt than rock. But still some boulders though… There were fields, some short and green, others just rows of dirt. There was some kind of irrigating rig in the field just to the left. Ahead of them was a cluster of buildings. A couple of barns stood off in the distance. The houses were closer.

The smallish house on the left was faded avocado green. Between the peeling paint and the aged wood of the porch it could have blended into the surroundings, or been written off as abandoned. But, the roof was too new, red and black asphalt shingles.

The house to the right was bigger, newer, and painted the same red as the barn behind it. Someone had even used the same white for the trim. The chairs on the porch were done in a floral pattern that Mom would have loved. Real 1950’s escapees…

John’s eye was drawn to the thing between the houses. So, what is…?

It looked like a cross between a chicken coop and a little girl’s playhouse. But, whoever she was, the girl had been gone a long time. The coop’s faded avocado paint had pealed, revealing a faded blue underneath. Where the blue paint had peeled away there was old, worn wood. Above the walls the roof was brown and vibrant green, old wooden shingles playing home to lively moss.

“Dad, what’s that?”

Dad ignored him. He stopped the car in front of the red house and pointed to the door that was just opening. “They’re waiting.”

Johnson Farm is available in E-book form here and from other major online sources. The physical book will be available as soon as they get here from the printer.

Thanks dear reader. See you next post.

Don’t write (all) your obsessions!

One of the first, and best, pieces of advice young writers are given is: ‘write your obsessions’ (you can substitute passions for obsessions if you must). It’s good advice, but it’s a guideline with a dirty little secret.

You should write things you are interested in, things you know about, care about, and are willing to spend time with. Those are the things that you do. They are part of your natural way of going. Those are the things you know enough about to write them well (or at least you are willing to learn about them to a high enough degree to write about them well).

Writing about things you really know and do saves you a lot of time in research because you know the basics already. You know the language of what you’re writing about. This is a good thing, but it will also require you to think about what you’re writing and who you are writing for.

“Well Farangian… I’m already thinking about those things!”

Yes, but sometimes the way you have to think about things to write about them is different from the way you think about them to actually do them. You have to think about audience. You have to think about presentation, formatting, packaging, grammar, narrative structure… Sometimes you may even find yourself trying to work up projects just so you can write about them.

And there dear reader is the dark secret. If we write about our obsessions, if we write about the things we love, it can easily turn what we love to do and do for enjoyment into work. Turning what we love to do into work can kill our enthusiasm for doing, and for writing.

The way out is to write about your obsessions, but not all of you obsessions. And definitely do not write about all of your obsessions all the time.

Yes, if you love pottery you can write pottery books. But, when it gets to feel like work you might need to back away for a while. That may mean putting the writing down, or going to work on some other interest (for a while at least… Don’t give up entirely on you obsession, or your writing). It may be a good idea to separate what you love from what you write, or spend some time with another interest that you’re not writing about (at least for a little while).

Sometimes time away from a project is the best thing you can do for it. To achieve that ‘step away’ time you need to have something you’re not writing about (Gasp! I know… It scares me too!)

So, yes dear reader, write your obsessions. Just don’t write about all of them all the time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I think Delta and Echo companies need their commander…

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See you next post!

Whine or Do?

Occasionally when you are working on a project you get to learn something. If you’re lucky you might even learn something about yourself…

I initially wrote this on Tuesday after finishing a little work on Going Home the Hard Way, my next novel (and my most recent NANOWRIMO project). I’d just finished going through chapter 1 for the fourth (fifth?) time. While I was feeling pretty good about the chapter I was a bit worried about my hero being a bit of a whiny brat (he is fourteen…)

I realized that, for the character, occasional bouts of whininess are to be expected (again, he is fourteen and from a broken home…). John growing out of that whininess is part of the story I’m trying to tell. The important part of things is to not let myself (as a theoretical adult) be a whiny brat.

It is easy to complain about the ‘breaks’ and chance you didn’t get. It is easy to say “if only I had what he/she has, then I could succeed!”

One of the miracles of our world dear reader is that we have the ability to change. We can become more than we have been.

Another miracle of our world is that we can achieve our worthy desires. Maybe not in quite the way we initially see them, but we can achieve them. We will be given what we need to do so, if we will do the work and be ready to receive what we need when it is given.

It takes thought and effort, but we can really achieve our worthy desires.

Stay tuned dear reader, and see you next post.

No sequels…? That’s two sequels!

About a year and a half ago I started on a book, a flat run write it in thirty days book…

Well, that book has changed a few things for me.

First, as I’ve already announced I’m involved in my first successful team up. Sariah Anne, a talented young artist created a cover for me. (link)

Second, in the process of working on the Kickstarter campaign I really pushed myself to develop this whole social media presence thing. The Kickstarter is closed now, but its legacy lives ono in my website and social media plan.

Then there was the Kickstarter itself. It didn’t fund, but you know what? That won’t stop me. Like they said in Serenity (link), “…You can’t stop the signal…” The book is still coming out, just not quite the way I planned.

Speaking of not quite the way I planned…

The biggest thing (for me) to come out of this book is the sequel that was never supposed to happen (but really has to!). When I started the story in 2015 I told myself I was going to ‘break the pattern’. The story was a one off, a straight forward story that I would write, publish, and be done with. Well… when I picked it up to start editing I realized sequels were not only possible, but at least one was necessary for me to reach closure on the story.

I started the second book as a NANOWRIMO project in 2016 and as I’ve started the editing process on it I’ve realized that another sequel is necessary to really explain some of the things in the book. If I’m going to really finish this generation of the family’s story a ‘sequel’ is necessary and can only be done in a certain way.

I use quotes because the ‘sequel’ isn’t really a sequel. It also isn’t a prequel. It is a parallel. It is also going to be a story that stretches me as a writer.

In Johnson Farm I introduced a character, Jamie. She’s one of the people that helps the hero figure out what he has to do. She’s also a character with a secret and she’s really not willing to tell anyone…

She won’t tell anyone (yet), but I as the author have to tell someone (the reader). Fortunately I tend to favor a ‘close third’ perspective. I am not writing the series first person, but I’m close enough that the characters thoughts bleed into what I’m writing. And that is why this one is going to stretch me… To pull off the third book I have to write the parallel story at least in part from the point of view of a 14 year old girl (God help us all…).

A different gender? A different language set? A different way of thinking from the protagonists I’m used to? Yep, I’ve got to master it all for the story to work…

So here we are dear reader, on the brink of a new story that will stretch me to new heights as a writer. If I can get away with it…

Wish me luck dear reader, and see you next post (I hope…).

 

Postscript…

Next post probably means next week as my wife will be defending her doctoral dissertation on Friday…

You should at least try…

At some point today a Kickstarter I set up for a Forever Mountain Publishing novel (worse, one of my own novels…) is going to close without funding. Yes, it is a temporary defeat. But, you can’t let the temporary defeats get in the way (Napoleon Hill said that back in the 1930’s…). In fact, as an author and as editor in chief of Forever Mountain Publishing, I have gained a lot through this process…

Since the Kickstarter got started I managed to get the website for FMP up and running; I found and started my plan to rework the social media presence for my company; my wife (who is graduating with her doctorate in Education this semester) discovered a part of the company that she could participate in; and I got to give a talented young artist her first shot at a book cover. A variety of other positives have come out of the process as well.

But, the Kickstarter didn’t go…

No, it didn’t, but the Kickstarter was an avenue, not the only avenue. In truth my wife and I had a backup plan in place a week or so ago. We could have pulled the Kickstarter last week and still had a way to publish the book (I am starting a publishing company after all…). I let the Kickstarter run because it gave more people a chance to feel like they were participating in the launch. It was an avenue to show support that resonated with some people, and it would have felt more like a defeat to admit defeat and pull the campaign than to ride it to the end.

Even though the campaign didn’t completely go the way I hoped, I gained ground. Positive things happened that outweigh the negatives.

Yes dear reader, sometimes we fail. Sometimes we are defeated. But, if we never try we never succeed. (For those who want to pull out “Do or do not, there is no try”, or any other variation I will be dealing with Yoda and Mr. Miyagi at another time…)

The saddest defeat is self-inflicted. The saddest defeat is caused because you never tried.

There are other elements, dear reader, knowledge, planning, resources and other factors all have their place, but you never succeed if you never try.

That’s it for this one,

See you next week…

The secret art of stepping away

Earlier this week I found myself talking to a friend who is getting ready to go back to college. I gave her the usual advice that my wife and I give to all our college bound friends, make sure you take a fun class every semester.

Contrary to what some might think, we don’t give this advice just to make sure the person has fun. The reality is it helps with their other classes.

Why stepping away helps

Taking a fun class, or taking a day off from your big project to do something else, helps you because it changes your focus and lets your conscious mind rest from working on the class/project. We see the same effect with studying. You see better outcomes if you shift subjects every so often and come back later. (How long is a ‘so often’? That depends on the individual and your mileage may vary. For me it’s about an hour to two hours (for studying))

The key is to get enough in, and enough time in, to make a worthwhile step forward without spending so much time that you become counterproductive. In fact we can see the same principle in play in physics and chemistry when painting or putting a patina on metal. It is often a good idea to put on multiple thin layers rather than trying one thick layer that goes on all at once.

The multiple layers allow for better drying and damage resistance while the thick layer gets gloppy, takes longer to dry, and is more prone to chipping. Biologically multiple contacts and repetitions help build neural pathways and muscle fiber in ways that are very different from the patterns developed by the one shot approach.

Growth applications

We see the same principle in a lot of self-help and personal growth applications. This is why goals and affirmations are to be put up in visible places, so you can see them frequently and they get ingrained. It is much more effective to do it this way than the “think really hard about it once then go out for pizza” technique.

I know that this isn’t easy dear reader, but I also know it works. That’s why even though I’m up to my eyeballs in book stuff it’s a good idea to get away once in a while and do something different (even… Gasp… something that has nothing to do with writing a book!).

That’s it for today dear reader. Keep working on those projects, but remember to take some breaks along the way.

See you next week.

1000 words? 10,000 hours? Doing what needs to be done.

 

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There are writing teachers that tell me I should write 1000 words a day to get a book written. Sometimes I do less. Sometimes a do more (NANOWRIMO…).

My wife likes to cite Malcom Gladwell who tells us you need to do something for 10,000 hours to reach proficiency.

This is probably true, but what about beginners luck? What about natural talent? As a writer would the 10,000 hours include the time I spend thinking about my story or just the time I spend with pen to paper or fingers to keys?

The realities…

The reality in writing (and life) is it’s a bit of both. Sure, if you churn out 1000 words a day you’ll eventually churn out enough words to make a book. Actually if we take the NANOWRIMO target of 50,000 words you should churn out 7.3 books per year at 1000 words per day. But… they probably wouldn’t be good books.

There is more to be done than hitting a word count to make a good book, just like there’s more to being a Super Bowl quarterback than playing with your ball…

Similarly, 10,000 hours flogging a keyboard doesn’t make a book, not any more than flying coach for 10,000 hours makes you a fighter ace.

The reality is you do need to write if you want to be a writer. And 10,000 hours working on anything should make you better at it. But, it’s not just an arbitrary time or word count that leads to success. It’s the effort and learning that matter. Effort and learning usually take time. How much time isn’t easily dictated (or determined).

The truth…

Everyone is different. Every story is different. That means everyone has a different path or process to achieve success (the differences may be slight but they exist). Every story, painting, sculpture, football game, business deal, potato crop, or (insert your own item here…) has its own unique requirements and needs its own attention.

Today’s project might need 1,000 words and 10,000 hours. The next one might need 2,000 words and 3,000 hours. The one after that might need 550 words and nine months…

Each project we do and each goal we achieve changes us and helps us grow. Each one also has its own challenges and quirks. To succeed dear reader you will need to learn and deal with each project as itself, not as some predetermined quota. You need to do this every time.

During the next three months I will be working heavily on finishing a novel (My NANOWRIMO project from last year). I will also be stopping in the middle to write the sequel (My NANOWRIMO project this year). I’m not sure how often I will be getting to the blog in that time. But I will be here from time to time.

Until next time dear reader…

Success in all your good endeavors, no matter how long they take (or how many words…)