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.

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…

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…)

All things change (and I’m ok with that)

A year ago I had been out of the hospital for two months; I was newly diagnosed as diabetic; and I had just made some decisions… I was dropping the pretense of looking for some other job and embracing the fact that I am by nature a writer. I decided I really needed to get going on publishing. I also decided to get serious about attempting a NANOWRIMO project; writing an entire 50,000+ word novel in one month. It was a turbulent, scary time and I didn’t know what was to come.

Today, this year, I stopped at my local mega-mart to pick up a prescription… I actually know the pharmacist personally at this point. I have finished that NANOWRIMO project. I have ‘beat’ diabetes in that I no longer need insulin. I am struggling to adjust to the fact that I’m 30lbs lighter than when I went to the doctor six months ago (a full 100lbs) below my high point. And, I have a book out.

It really is a different year from last year.

I took a look around the mega-mart because they’re doing one of those “open while we’re remodeling” numbers and I wanted to see what’s new. I realized things are actually kind of new for me too. People are starting to accept that I’m actually self-employed (having books on Amazon helps). My wife is proposing her doctoral dissertation this week (I once thought I would be the one to have a doctorate). This year my ‘big question’ for NANOWRIMO is: can I actually write a 50,000+ word sequel in one month?

Things have changed a lot. Not all of the changes have been what I wanted or planned, but things are actually coming out for the better. The secret is I have chosen, and do choose, to do what I believe is right; to the best of my ability. That includes accepting the fact that I don’t do everything right; learning to do better; and actually doing (even when it isn’t easy). The other secret is the desire to be more than you are; to learn what you are and what you have the potential to be; and then honestly, actively striving to become.

Nietzsche wrote that if God didn’t exist it would have been necessary to invent him. I believe that he does exist (we can save the God is a she debate for another day). I believe he does understand us and has a plan for us. I also believe that coming to know who and what we are, and what we can do (and need to do), is a personal journey. It is not something anyone can, or should, compel anyone else to do. It doesn’t work that way.

So, yeah, my wife is getting the PHD I thought I would be getting; the bakery is inexplicably where the meat counter used to be; and I’m about to start the sequel to a book that wasn’t supposed to have a sequel. I’m ok with that. I am more than I was. I am growing and becoming what I can be.

With all the noise and strife in our world dear reader, with all the change and ‘stuff’ thrown at us every day, don’t forget the real human rights and the real opportunities to make good choices and become more than what we are.

Until next time…

Um, where did they put the magazine rack? …and my notebook? …and…

The story goes on (and on the road)

There are times when you have to ask yourself “What do I do now?” There are times you have to ask yourself “How did I get into this?” At the moment I’m asking myself both these questions.

I’m asking myself those questions, but not necessarily answering them…

I am answering a question today though…

I’m answering…

What the heck is going on?

The catch is I’m not actually answering that for my self! Parts of that answer readers of this blog already know. I’m dealing with life and trying to get two books out by the end of the year. The rest of it I can’t satisfactorily answer for you now because I’m in the middle of answering it for myself.

Instead I will answer what’s going on for the central character of my NANOWRIMO novel Johnson Farm. This is something that I’ve mentioned by name here for months. I’ve been working on it for months: writing, editing, dreaming, scheming and pulling my hair out; but it isn’t until now that I’m really working up the courage to share it with any one.

So…

The story of Johnson Farm…

It all starts when his great uncle dies… Johnathan Johnson is dragged out of his ‘normal’ life to go to the funeral of a man he’s never met, in a place he’s never been. That’s where the mysteries begin…
At first, John is fairly sure about his life. He knows what he wants and wants to do. He knows how his parents will disappoint him, and why. Then, on a farm in ‘darkest’ Idaho, John discovers that people aren’t always what they seem, that their motivations are more complex than he thinks.
Dad starts acting more like a sulky classmate than a father. His uncle Harley, who Dad refuses to talk about, is leaving hints and causing mayhem. And Uncle Theo, who everyone agrees is near perfect, seems a lot less than perfect to John.
Out of anger and then curiosity John sets out to explore and find answers. In the process he’s introduced to the grandparents he never met; the friends he’s always looked for; the girl that’s always looked for him; the fight that he has to win; and the accident…
Near the house sits ‘the coop’ which his father and uncles almost worship but will never speak of. By the pond is a stone that has no business there. In a bed lies the girl and her dream. Each is a clue and a door, but once John walks in can he get back out?

That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…

Don’t be afraid of questions. Don’t be afraid of answers. It’s the not knowing that gets you.

The Baloon Is Going Up…

There’s an old joke in the aviation community “Don’t drop the airplane to fly the radio.” They never told me what to do if I’m trying to fly more than one airplane…

As of this writing I am less than a month out from the publishing my first chainmail project book; in the middle of a short story collection; and I just finished the paperwork to hand off my NANOWRIMO novel Johnson Farm to the people who will hopefully be creating beautiful cover art for the book which I intend to have out in the fall. This is good stuff. I’m learning a lot. Unfortunately I’m learning different things with each book, that makes things complicated.

Tracking multiple projects and keeping moving on multiple projects is a challenge. Keeping track of multiple projects with new stuff going on is even harder. It would be really easy to turn back to the parts I already know and do well. I could do that and keep spinning my wheels on stuff. I would be working on a book, but would I really be progressing.

Among the things I want people to take from this blog is to keep moving forward and keep growing. This week I need to take that advice myself. So, I tell you dear reader the same thing I’m telling my self. I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. I know it’s painful some times. But, if you’re going to make it to a goal you have to find a way to go forward.

It does get better dear reader. We get better and grow stronger. We can grow to do more than we’ve ever done.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Remind me…

Why did I think it was a good idea to release a book on April Fools Day???

Yes, you get to choose… so choose wisely

Today I finished my second edition pass on my NANOWRIMO novel Johnson Farm. The first time it went from 238 pages to 247 and grew by 2000 words. At the end of the second pass it has shrunk back to 238 pages and it is 1500 words shorter than the original first draft. This wasn’t just verbal wondering, both steps had to happen for the novel to work the way I want it to.

The same thing applies in almost everything we do. We have to make choices, the best choices we can. Sometimes the choice isn’t all that happy, or nice, but we still have to make it. We have to make the best choice we can even when the options suck.

The key to this, the way we make the best choice, is to know our goals and values. We need to be honest with our selves about what we want and what the outcome of our choice will be. When we do that we can make the best possible choice.

Sure, I could leave that little gem of prose in the novel. But, it slows down a scene that I want to be fast paced. Sure, I could ignore that little detail. But, does ignoring it cause a problem later. Sure I could leave out that bit of exposition. But will that confuse the reader?

The same thing applies in real life (gasp!) outside of fiction. Sure, I could return that phone call right away. But somebody just ticked me off. I might want to calm down a little first. Sure, I could ignore the call completely. But what if ignoring it fouls up one of my own projects?

No, this isn’t easy. In the last 24 hours I’ve had to make choices about my novel (a work of love); my chainmail book (which is hopefully funding another project); a training course I’m planning (which isn’t quite ready but needs to go now); and going to visit my mother (who slipped into a coma yesterday). None of it was easy. But, if you know your goals and values; if you can make a reasonable guess at the results of your choice; you can make the best choice possible.

Sometimes it’s making the best of a bad situation. Sometimes it’s making good better. Either way be honest with yourself. Be true to who you are and what you believe; then the choice you make is the best one you can make. Then it is the right choice for you and your situation. No one can take that from you.

That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…

Well… That’s up to you!

Let the revisions begin!

Ok that title’s a slight miss statement… the revisions, and the new year, have been going on for a week.

In addition to the usual beginning of the year stuff, this is the month I’m starting to do the editing for the novel Johnson Farm (The one I wrote as a NANOWRIMO project in November). The first draft of 58201 words (in 238 pages) really did come through in 22 days writing time, not counting Sundays. And I really did need to back away from it for a month before I started editing.

I think every writing project has it’s own quirks and challenges. So far this one has a real pattern in that I can predict which scenes will need more revision/editing based on which characters are involved. If my young hero is more or less on his own, or has one family member to contend with things go pretty well…

Unfortunately his father and his father’s two brothers are in the story…

For some reason when you put two or more of those characters in the same room they seem to not only bicker with each other, but they create headaches for me as a writer. Hero alone… fine. Hero and one of the others… mostly fine. Hero and two of the others… grab a seat kids this edit is going to take a while.

Sure, it’s a headache. Sure, at times I’d rather be doing something else (actually as I’m writing this post I should really be crossing out the first 2/3 of the first page of chapter 12 and writing the whole thing over…).

However, it’s also part of the fun. I like to keep a copy of the first draft so I can see how things have changed. How things have gotten better (and worse). And, how things I never expected pop in or are brought to light from the original.

One of the fun things about fiction writing is the act of discovery. Today I’m telling you the act of discovery doesn’t have to be done until the story is edited finished and ready to go.

And then you get to pass it off for someone else to discover while you go write the next one!

It’s your story. If you’re doing it right, you learn and grow as you write it, edit it and make it the best it can be. Hopefully it helps you to be the best you can be to.

That’s it for today dear reader…

Until next time, this works on life too!

PS the fracking story has actually grown about six hundred words in spite of the stuff that’s been cut and I’m just hitting the heavy lifting now…