Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Ah Ha moment

The fabled Ah! Ha! moment.  We all have one, once in a while.  Einstein was thinking about an elevator and Ah! Ha!- he understood gravity.  He didn’t need an apple to smack him on the head.

Dorian Sagan (Carl’s son) provided one of my life altering epiphanies.  His book Into the Cool let me see life and creation as being driven by thermodynamics.  It is a scientific theory, and just as the rabidly religious claim the proof of God is faith, my proof of a universal creative force is faith in the scientific process to continually validate or disprove this theory.

I have abandoned all belief in an anthropomorphic god.  The ancient white guy on the marble throne in the clouds throwing lightening bolts at me for SIN doesn’t work.  Religions don’t work; an excuse for the barbarism with which we treat other cultures. 

I can’t comprehend the enormity and complexity of the universe.  The concept that some altruistic being is even aware of a barely complex life form dissipating energy on an insignificant speck of dust we call earth, is beyond my capacity to believe, prove, disprove, or have faith in.

On my journey through life my other Ah Hah came from the writings of Lao Tse.  Little is known of this man, just as little is known of the man Jesus.  He was probably a contemporary of Confucius.  His life boiled into a series of short thoughts about the balance of life- the basis for Yin/Yang, and the concept of the Tao.

The Tao and Thermodynamics are the same.  Over the next few months I’ll publish my interpretation of the Thermodynamics of the Tao.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

In the Zone

Yesterday at one or my writing groups we got into "the zone".  The group focused on one of the readings and group think occurred- everyone had an idea, an opinion, a continuation of what had already been said.  Social rules, group etiquette, and boundaries were all forgotten.  WE had the solution, and by gosh (for those other athiestists among us), we were going to be creative.  We were in the collective zone.

Centuries ago Lao Tse taught of the Tao- the zone, the balance.  You can't define it- if you do it's not the Tao.

When I first start to write, I create crap, as my mentor would say, with the idea of going back and fixing it in the re-write process.  As the crap flows I eventually get into my zone, my Tao, as the energy overtakes me.  My mind goes to a place I can't describe and the words, the story, the emotions, the characters all take over.  The story flows from this point.  OK, OK- still crap, but creative crap.

It might be minutes, it might be hours before I arrive.  But when I'm there I know it, and nothing stands in the way.  Energy flows from this Tao and the creative process happens.

I feel the pull to the Tao and plan a getaway next week to find my zone, get my butt in chair, and words on paper.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Books on tape all night long

I've recently stuck buds in my ears and turned on my WMA player to listen to books on tape. I now do this all night long.

I fall asleep easily, I don't hear my obnoxious cat yeowling for food at midnight, and over several nights I "read" a book.

As a writer I've discovered two things with this technique:

1. I listen a while, sleep a couple hours, wake up and listen to more of the story, then sleep some more. Even though I miss a section, it doesn't seem to matter- I still get the plot, just missed the details along the way.

2. Lee Child, who writes the Jack Reacher series, tags every person who speaks every time they speak. When I read his novels I am not aware of the tags. When I listen to the narrator say, "said Reacher, he said, she said, etc." with each line of dialogue, I am painfully aware of them.

So? How does this make me a better writer? Who knows, but knowledge is power.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Computer crash

It's true. Not if your computer crashes, but when. Fortunately I was backed-up, but not the last 30 days. Lost several chapters worth of editing. Oh well.

Purchased a new PC Laptop- tried using a MAC for a couple years, but could never get it to talk to my PC or work like I expected. Now I am convinced that Bill Gates secretly hires and underpays minions to sit up all night thinking of ways to frustrate me. They are very good at their job.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


One of the friends in my writers group finished reading his book. Took a year and a half, but it was exciting to reach the end. Another friend finished his thriller last month. A third member finished a wonderful short story. All were exciting and satisfying in their own way.

The challenge, as a writer, the group presents is being a constructive critic. It’s easy to be a cheerleader. It takes trust to point to another's weakness, and acceptance to hear my own.

We celebrate each other; commiserate over a character’s loss, brainstorm plot issues, and switch persona from writer to reader as we each tell our tales.

My lesson: The story we finished I had been following as an adventure story- a rogue DEA agent sails off on his own, takes out some bad guys, is chased, steals the bad guys money and gets away with it. As I pondered the last reading this week I realized I missed the real story. The protagonist fell from grace, slipped into the Dark Side, and sailed away into a lonely sunset of his miserable life.

Sometime the ending is Ellery Queen explaining the subtle clues of the mystery; sometime the heroine kills the monster; sometimes the hero saves the world from destruction. Sometimes it’s just a human who tries and almost succeeds.

The unexpected ending is the most satisfying for the reader.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chapter titles v. numbers

When I first started Kelly’s Reef I assumed that I would start with chapter 1 and write to the Epilog. So I numbered each chapter in sequence. Some were CHAPTER, some chapter, some Chap., and others chap. No rhyme or reason.

I quickly learned that I needed to go back and add plot details as I went. I became hopelessly lost in my own writing.

Ah, Ha! I went back and relabeled the chapters as CHAPTER #__ in a larger font. Now I could use the find function in Word. Still couldn’t find my way through the story, but at least I could find each chapter.

Next evolution was to a descriptive chapter name after the CHAPTER #. Now I knew what was in each chapter.

As the edit, rewrite work began I found myself cutting my ‘darling’ chapters⎯the crap that had no business in the book. So much for numbers on the chapters. Then I moved an entire section from the middle of the novel to the beginning.

I was terrified to delete a chapter I had rewritten⎯what if I really wanted to put the junk back in?

Solution? Each chapter became a separate Word document. CHAPTER 1.1, 1.2, etc. Then the fool in me decided to renumber the chapters into the current sequence. Now I couldn’t even find the old chapters.

The point of this diatribe you ask?

DON’T NUMBER THE CHAPTERS AS YOU WRITE! When all is said and done, you can add numbers just before you send the manuscript to the printer.

Currently I have CHAPTER- description at each heading. I can find my way around the manuscript and switch things any way I want without a problem. Now when I do a re-write/ edit I save the newest copy of the entire manuscript with a date.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chaos Theory and writing a plot

In chaos theory there is a very simple mathematical law that explains much of the phenomena in nature. It’s called the power law.
Expressed mathematically it is 1/F squared

Put simply, small things happen frequently, huge events happen rarely. Imagine the sand falling through a small hole in an hourglass and the pyramidal pile below it. Frequently a few grains run down the side of the pile. Occasionally a small landslide occurs. Once in a while a tipping point is reached and a massive sand slide happens.

How does that relate to writing? As I read the adventure plots I enjoy, I see the same pattern. The hero has many small actions. Occasionally there are a bigger actions. In turn a final huge climax. Chaos theory in writing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Networking Ephiphony

OK, I think I get it⎯finally. Social networking.
The hermit in me has come out of the cave to interact with a singular purpose⎯get an agent and sell my book. That expanded to writing a personal blog(s); a way to rant at the world and share my writing. Carefully, very carefully I’ve let the hermit talk to the world, but he has remained suspicious of Facebook, all the public data issues, and privacy.

Then the hermit started playing My Tribe. Initially a mindless way to waste time, he found that to progress in the game requires adding “friends”, i.e. complete strangers who also play the game and need to remain unknown.

After seeing LMAO on so many boards and emails, the epiphany occurred. Laughed My Ass Off. Got it.

A side feature of the game is a tribe member having strange thoughts when a player highlights them. Somebody created a discussion topic for players to have fun; posting silly, humorous, and suggestive thoughts.

The hermit really LHAO and shared perverse humor with thousands of total strangers. Networking!

The Hermit still DGAD (doesn’t give a damn) about who likes who or what treasure someone found. But it’s a start.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Spaminator

Coffee cup griped in my hand, I opened my morning e-mail. The nice thing about opening e-mail-- you don’t get paper cuts. Three swallows and a bite of bagel later I all 213 vitally important communications downloaded. I suddenly had 186 new friends, 27 Re: ‘s to mails I never sent, and a note from a cousin I’ve never met.

I love SPAM⎯thin sliced, covered with Velveeta and tomatoes on toasted rye bread.

Sgt. Perry needs urgent help--he sent the same e-mail four times within four minutes. Sgt. Perry is in the military (he didn’t specify whose) protecting a deposed government official who has millions of dollars that he needs to get from Nigeria to the U.S. London Barrister Arthur sent the same request! So did Sister Mary Margarita, but she represents 300 Christian individuals, stranded there. Oh Yeah—starving too. I swelled with pride to know they selected me for this economic opportunity over all those other ‘undisclosed recipients’.

I immediately opened e-mails from Amex, UPS, CitiBank, and Western Union and sent the required information to access my bank accounts for the necessary transfers. I can’t wait to get my check(s)! This is better than playing the lottery.

And since I felt so good I bought some mirikil peenis pils, a lifetime supply of Hoodia, and an herbal, organic life extender. My new Russian wife will arrive next week. She’ll be happy to know I refinanced my home at 1% below the Dubai prime.

Now, I need to respond to that website that will remove my tattoo- the one on my forehead that says PMUHC.

Call me arrogant. Call me Ishmael; but my IQ is exponentially superior to anyone who spams. I don’t know anyone with the return address of sjweodfhxn@weirdnet.WuWu. And please use a spell checker, you moron. It’s not spelled mirikal peenis pils, unless they come equipped with Kondumbs.

Let me be perfectly clear! I am a monogamous, happily married male who does not suffer from ED, does not need to impress a girlfriend, does not have an embarrassing penis, and does not enter lotteries in foreign countries. I don’t want to buy drugs from you! I don’t care if it’s cheaper somewhere else, organically grown, or inflatable. NO!

If The Psychic Hotline can’t pick stock, why do you think I’m stupid enough to buy a stock based on anything you have to say?

I don’t want a fake watch, a whirligig, a free camera, a $100 Bermuda Vacation, a timeshare, a chance to win anything by just logging into your website, a new magazine subscription to Idiots are Me, or a seminar on anything.

I don’t believe that I can refinance my home for 1% with no fees- nobody does. Nor do I believe you are eBay, the Bank of Nova Scotia, the CIA, or the IRS needing to double check my personal information because it’s reported stolen. Give me a break!
If anyone is stupid enough to believe this garbage: caveat emptor.

SPAM costs about $3.00 a can. SPAM also costs my country $millions in lost productivity. With the current economic challenges, mainstream business can’t afford this junk e-mail Tsunami. The cost passes to you and me. SPAM is free to the spammers. You and I pay for it. Anybody can send thousands of emails a second to anyone they have in their address book or purchased from another spammer.

So here is my sacred vow to spammers. I’m coming after you for wasting my time and clogging my bandwidth with your garbage. I am the Spaminator.

I am an advocate for a tax on the Internet; one that charges a penny per e-mail. I’ll gladly pay my tax burden to see you vanquished! I demand legislation requiring a time delay after every e-mail. I will never notice a few seconds or even a minute between my e-mails. The Nigerian Prince sending hundreds of thousands a day will disappear.

I want a return mail program from Microsoft, AOL, or Send me a Viagra ad and I want to send it back to you a thousand times (seventeen minutes with a 1 second delay). I want to clog your bandwidth the way cholesterol clogs the fat man’s arteries.

Legitimate businesses will still use e-mail marketing to be successful. If I receive advertisements from a company willing to pay to solicit my business, I’ll open it.

Yes, there are technical issues, but damn it—we’re the technological leader of the world. We can do this.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Writing has always been my Rage Against the World, not to be mistaken for gangsta rap music.

Days like today I want to vent; I want to ripe the throat out of a chicken and spit it at some jerk I've encountered. I want to send all the spam back to the spammers and to each other. I want the Viagra sellers to deal with the bra sellers and mortgage lenders. Take that!

But writing today is taking a deep breath and thinking about incorporating those emotions into a story. Thinking about using the negatives of the nitwits in an antagonist character. Thinking about how my hero can get even and make my readers cheer.

My favorite story scene is when Mr. Spock goes back in time and rides a bus with an Alpha Hotel playing a boom box. The Vulcan sleep touch left the other bus riders cheering. Boy, I wish sometimes I could do that.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Time Travel

Imagine that you could move forward 1 hour in time and return, or 1 hour backwards in time.  My new novel is based on that idea.  Here's the opening chapter:

The Pocket Watch, by James Burke

I first met Samuel while he was hunting for his missing arm.

“I’ve lost my pocket watch, “ he said without looking up, as he continued to paw through the weeds with his left arm. His right arm was missing⎯the stump spurting arterial blood, draining his life force.

“Sir,” I said, “you’ve been injured in a car accident. Let me help you to the ambulance.” I reached for him.

“Sonny,” he said, slapping away my hand, “either you help me find that watch, or go away. There isn’t any time left, and I need to get back.” He continued pawing through the weeds, reaching in to pick up a bloody hand and arm. “Good. The watch must be nearby.” He tossed the hand aside, reached deeper into the over growth and retrieved a dull pocket watch.

“Quit staring at me like I’m crazy. I don’t have time to explain. Take this,” he handed me the watch, “and set it back an hour. I can’t do it with only one arm.” He looked at me, waiting.

“Then will you let me get you to the hospital?”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever⎯just set the damn watch back an hour, OK?”

I looked at the watch he handed me. Bent, corroded and missing the hour hand, it deserved a final resting place among the weeds. I twisted the stem. A rainbow engulfed me.


“Ah, that’s better. Thank you Sonny, couldn’t have done this without your help.”

I was riding down Skyline Blvd. toward Portland in an antique sports car looking at Samuel, both arms present and accounted for.

“Look,” he said, “isn’t that you over there loading someone into that fancy ambulance of yours? Coulda been me, but that’s not for another hour⎯this time.”

“My name is Samuel, and we need to talk. You look like you could use a stiff drink,” he said.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Facebook thoughts

My daughter Moira dragged me kicking and screaming into this century by convincing me to join Facebook. My internal hermit doesn’t want to socialize, doesn’t talk on the phone, thinks a twitter is a ditz on steroids, and rants about e-mail spam.

Then the epiphany: Before I hire a new employee, I check them out the old fashion way⎯a criminal and credit check. I instinctively rejected one young person who walked in the door of my store in torn Levis, a face of iron gadgets, and tattoos on the neck. Call me an old fogey, a bigot, or xenophobe; I couldn’t tell if this thing was male, female, or other. It was armed with a computer generated half-page resume that I dutifully received so said thing could document It’s honest attempt at obtaining gainful employment.

Prior to feeding my shredder, I noticed It’s prominent asset was “knows how to do Facebook.” WOW!

So I looked It up. Didn’t need to spend money on a background check⎯it was all there , blazing in the profile for the world to see. There was also a photo essay of the other tattoos. Don’t get me wrong⎯I think skin art is neeto-bezeeto, but I won’t hire someone with KISS MINE on It’s ass. I don’t want to see that live and in person when I fire It for ___________ (fill in the blank).

I also found an applicant with a professional image, a profile of diverse interests, activities, educational growth, and a positive philosophy. I was too late- somebody else hired her.

So I got faced. I want the world to know my hermit. I want to excite. I want to stimulate. I want to challenge. If I rejoin the workforce, I want my image to sell me.

After class Tuesday night, I want to use this blog and Facebook to self-promote my book.

My point? Facebook is a double edged sword. Be careful what you say. The world is listening.

Facebook is the social equivalent of Newton’s second law of thermodynamics: High quality energy reduced by entropy to the heat of society. That heat can sooth or destroy.

Moira, for her doctoral thesis, is demonstrating the value of Facebook for improving the human condition. Please take a minute to read five reasons why Facebook is good for your health.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The time factor v. spam

I love to write. A friend described my first novel as Hawkeye Pierce meets Robin Cook. {That’s a blatant marketing ploy!}

The hermit curmudgeon in me would prefer to sit in isolation and write. I write for me, to rewrite my history, and relive the fun of my life. But, I possess that gene that wants to share me with the world. To satisfy that need, I find blatant marketing necessary.

There is a fine line between sharing this blog with selected friends, and being one of those obnoxious people spamming the world. If I step over that line, yell at me.

Writing takes time. Now that I blog, and get faced (I still refuse to text and tweet), time is lost in the ever expanding social universe. Linda Clare, my writing mentor, presented a great paper last night re: the reality of time spent on social networking that can be easily lost to other book sale activities and practicing the craft.

I use to think e-mail was great. I can avoid my native dislike of talking to a faceless voice on the phone, and assure what I want to communicate is accurate- or rant if I feel like it.

Then, that damn prince in Nigeria wanted to give me millions of dollars. After a year of pretending to be Billy Jim Bob, dying of a brain tumor, and having Bobby Joe Suzy, his cousin, worry about what to do with the life insurance money, this crook thought he had a major fish on line. Great material for another novel.

There is a price tag, however. This morning I have over 200 e-mails from an amazing cross section of humanity, banks, the FBI, and a wounded veteran Christian minister who is also an English barrister. They all want to give me something. They all take my most valuable asset- time.

The blessing of e-mail is also a time curse. I can’t wait to see what all those Facebook friends will do to my daily routine.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Garison Keilor declares publishing dead.

I read a very disturbing article by Garrison Keillor (of Minnesota fame) who has decided that the future of authors, those tortured souls that we are, will no longer be in the hands of agents, editors and publishers.

See: Garrison Keillor for his essay.

Apparently everything is going to Kindle, Amazon, and EPUB books.  Our children can no longer turn a paper page and only absorb literature through plasma screen radiation.  If the Chi'coms ever drop the big EMP (electromagnetic pulse for those in Loma Linda) and we lose the internet, our children will be immediately struck dumb.  May be too late for that, but don't get me started.

He cries about why a person would buy a $30 book, if it is free on the internet.  He bemoans the purity of the craft if anyone can self-publish without an editor to throw out the junk.  OMG, we even arrogantly blog!

Gotta tell ya, Garrison- you're right and you're wrong.

I buy books because I want to feel the paper in my fingers, fold over the corner and fall asleep on the couch with an open paperback on my chest.  I want to give that lump of sawdust to a friend to enjoy- I don't want to txt him.  I can't turn a page on my computer, nor do I want to read the spam and advertising that comes with free electronic books I have to spend hours surfing for.  I like walking through the book store, smelling the Starbooks coffee, and seeing who else killed the forest to make a book.  Trees regrow/recycle, mercury in circuit board kills.

Friends in one of my readers groups have self-published.  Their work is excellent and I've enjoyed reading the paper product.  I loaned their efforts to someone else- networking for the baby-boomer.   Maybe an agent or a publisher wouldn't have taken their manuscript, but that doesn't mean it's crap.  It means that in our economy we have limited resources to publish all of the millions of new authors- nor should we.

Self publishing is American enterprise.  Write a book.  Publish it.  Sell it.  Get rich and famous.  Or fail.  No company back-up, no bail-out, no guarantee.  You work, you sweat, you worry, you market, you sell, you push, you win.  Or fail.

You blog or self publish junk and I agree with Garrison- three sentences of nonsense and I'll change channels.  Excite me with you work and I'll sell for you.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Writers Group

Our group met yesterday and had a very positive experience.  We share a broad writing background- a re-write of a Young Adult historical essay, a very powerful personal memoir, and my action thriller.

Although I would not normally read some of the genre of our group, I learn from them about the basics of what does and doesn't work in a manuscript.

The group had excellent feedback on one of my action chapters.  What did and didn't work.

Enough blogging- back to writing.  Time to edit that chapter.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Class Night

Tonight we dove into the reality of social networking. Little did I know when decided to write a novel that I'd have to come out of the cave and network.

E-mail was wonderful until I reached 200 spams a day. I really don't need Viagra, a mortgage, Russian girlfriend, or money from that Nigerian Prince.

Now I'm "faced". Today that means being on Facebook. In my day it meant something entirely different. But I really don't want to know that someone I'm barely familiar with is now friends with a total dork I don't know and don't want to know.

Now I'm going to ping the world with this. WOW!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Dreaded Synopsis

I have been struggling for a long time writing a complete synopsis for my novel. The book cover blurb- I got, the elevator pitch- can do, the teaser- read it and you can't wait 'till I'm published.

But the synopsis of the complete story with ending and in 500 words or less- brick wall.

I've tried to "junk it out" several times and am not even close. At a coast retreat last month I wrote a short summary of each chapter. 23 pages later...

I've tried to distill that into 2-3 terse sentences per chapter. I've slashed every character that isn't (IMHO) critical to the plot from the synopsis and still it runs thousand's of words. I dropped two entire chapters that I realized weren't moving the plot forward- a positive result of this assignment.

Problem: I've written a complex mystery/thriller with several sub-plots that all come together at the end. There are three twists to the ending and each of those relies on a sub-plot. The manuscript, as with most thriller/ mysteries is all about the ending- surprise, revelation, gotcha's, and resolution.

A brief synopsis doesn't allow for even a cursory description of the sub-plots and twists that give the ending meaning.

Solution: Figure out what sub-plots can be minimized or deleted and still allow the ending to happen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Extraterrestrial DNA

Life on our planet began billions of years ago. (I refuse to apologize to anyone who believes that an anthropomorphic, magical spirit 5000 years ago created all the variety of life I experience.)

Newton’s second law of thermodynamics requires the universe to transverse from high quality energy to low quality energy. Life accomplishes this by taking sunlight and converting it to heat. It has to happen to obey the law. That’s entropy. If you choose to believe in a creative force, entropy works.

On this speck of rock in the unimaginable vastness of the universe, life began as a single, simple cell. That cell reproduced and dissipated energy. It was alive. Simple and elegant.

Every cell on this planet evolved from this Ur cell. The information contained in this first cell passed to every cell thereafter. RNA and DNA provided the framework for the information that evolved. The question you must ask: how do I know there was a single cell that started it all.

DNA, as you know, makes a code based on a ribonucleic acid chain. A G C T; four simple molecules that combine to create the famous double helix.  Three pairings of these complimentary molecules combine with complimentary RNA molecules and pass the code. RNA’s job is to take that three letter code and attach an amino acid in a chain. Viola’, a protein is formed.

Here’s the catch. Those three letters carried by RNA always translate to the exact same amino acid in the chain.  Every time, in every cell. The translation table is universal, unaltered, and present in every cell on this planet. It has been the same translation table from the first Ur cell.
Jake’s issue in Kelly’s Reef is that he has found DNA that doesn’t translate properly. The virus contained in his “blue globes” uses a different translation table and creates abnormal, defective proteins.

Since all DNA/RNA uses the exact same translation table for life, as we know it on this planet, Jake has found proof of extraterrestrial reproduction. This is the basis for the science fiction in this science thriller.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Write Guys

One of my writer's groups met Wednesday evening and I had the opportunity to read a chapter to them.  As always the feedback was positive and constructive.  They see plot boo-boos I miss and appreciate scenes that are strong, point out the weak scene.

Time together has given the group a level of trust to allow honest feedback that transcends the ego.  I also find the challenge of critically reviewing someone's work helps my craft.

I am fortunate to belong to two readers groups and find the dynamics fascinating even when the feedback is diametrically opposed.  One groups is primarily male, the other predominately female.  Different view points, different advice.  But when both groups agree, I pay close attention.

Case in point:  In a scene at Kelly's World Famous Bar and Grill in Djibouti, a terrorist attack is foiled, but just before on of the bad guys dies, he spits blood into Kelly's face.  She wipes the smear with a finger and touches the tip to her tongue.  Both groups grimaced, but confirmed that it fits with Kelly's fearless, killer personality.

I had considered taking it out as too gruesome, but such a strong reaction from so many readers convinced me that it works.  I want the readers to react strongly to her character, and they did.

If you're a writer, join a group or form a group.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Junking it out

Kelly’s Reef, my first novel, is close to finished. After years of re-writing the first 50 pages, my Mentor, Linda Claire, told me to just “junk it out”⎯write the story, then worry about fixing it.

It took all my will power not to fall into the red-dashed underline trap and stop mid-thought to correct a typo. Every time Word screamed at me about what an idiot I am, I stopped, reversed, and compulsively fixed. Then I had to fire up the thought process again and struggle back into “the zone”.

Hint: For the new author, turn off the spell check and grammar check. Let your fingers fly and try to keep up with the story as your mind creates it. No time to polish. No time to fix. Open the gate and let the story flood.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finding my old journal

As I ponder To Blog, or not To Blog, I found an old journal I kept while stationed on the USS Carl Vinson- a nuclear aircraft carrier where I practiced medicine.

Pop Quiz: What was there before Windows? Answer: Frameworks. This was the precursor to windows and I used it to keep a daily journal of my sea duty. Fortunately I printed it out, because the original data can't be retrieved from the black hole of programing obscurity.

Looking back, the journal was written for one reader- me. More a diary that a record, I explored the boredom, fear, astonishment and insanity of life aboard a carrier. I didn't consider myself a writer then, but now can see the progression of my ability to express emotions on paper.

I spent time in Somalia and Djibouti that I wrote about. The boondoggle I write about in Kelly's Reef is based on that journal.

Maybe this blog will be about this adventure, That's enough.


This is my homework assignment for The Business of Writing class I'm enrolled in. I write because I write. For me it's a joy and a challenge, but not enough. The writer in me seeks confirmation and ego stroking. I want my work published, read and adored by the public- every writer does.

This blog is a first step.

At a deep level I am a hermit. I don't get this social networking stuff. I don't see the social capital of having high numbers of Facebook friends, or having this blog read by every thinking human on the planet. I just don't get it.

But if it gets my manuscript to the printing press, so be it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The adventure begins

To layout and storyboard or not to layout and storyboard? Kelly’s Reef began as an obscure idea Dr. Alder Fuller taught in our biology of the cell class. How would we know if DNA came from outer space? Using my background in Obstetrics and reproductive biology I took the idea a step farther. What would an alien DNA do to a human pregnancy. My writing was freestyle- I knew the concept and started writing. I had no idea where the story was going to take me until I was half way through.

That’s where my writing mentor’s advice to “junk it out” made sense.  I had a vague idea of the ending ( which changed three times before I was finished ) and just kept writing until I got there.

A month in the life of an author

The process of writing a novel has been an incredible adventure.  From the ego telling me, "Hey, I should write a novel, get published, famous, and rich to reality has been eye-opening.  From idea, to story, to manuscript,  to marketing, to the pitch, to an agent, to a publisher- 'what a long, strange, trip it's been'.

Over the next month, I'll journal the adventure and what I'm doing to get to print.

Hang on Dorothy- this ain't Kansas anymore.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Creating the HOOK

Re-write of Chapter 1. I've rearranged the order of the chapters so the books begins during the mission to Djibouti. Now I'm trying to get the first page exciting enough to hook the reader.

CHAPTER: Somalia Two Years ago

“Tally Ho!” I heard the pilot shout above The Village People singing YMCA into my headphones. The Navy helo carrying us fell from the sky while my stomach took up residence in my throat. The desert sand raced to meet us and at the last moment Lo Ball, the kamikaze flying this tin can, feathered to a kitten gentle touch down. This was the third touch and go he’d performed, all to confuse the Somali rebels out there waiting for us.

Three hours ago, I’d been sleeping in my rack.

“Yo, Bones. Get your butt outta bed. We gots us a boondoggle.” My roommate JB shook me.
I had stretched out in my upper bunk, staring at the steel pipe six inches above my head. Another day aboard the USS Carl Vinson, CVN 70, and I well into my daily power nap before afternoon sick call. I was at sea on a Westpac tour, bored senseless with get up, eat, go to sick call, send the deadbeats back to work, walk around, take a nap, see more gold bricks, train corpsmen, eat again, nap some more, go to bed. Repeat tomorrow.

By way of introduction, I’m Commander Jake Matthews. When asked what I do for a living I tell strangers that I spend my days talking to naked women about sex. As a gynecologist that’s true, but it always garners attention. At 5’ 4” and 130 pounds, I was too small to be a pilot. Just as well, since I hate to fly. My wife Julie would like for me to wax the hair on my back. I consider shaving my head sufficient depilatory activity. My passion is scuba diving.

The Carl Vinson is one of the Navy’s nuclear aircraft carriers and I was her newest GMO, general medical officer, assigned to a year of sea duty with six thousand men. I had just completed my surgical internship and OB/GYN residency, illustrating Naval intelligence at its finest. I should be in a hospital, but here I was, anchored in the Arabian Sea, sweltering, with nothing to do. Not a woman for a thousand miles. Once a day we weigh anchor, float around for an afternoon while the pilots practice take-offs and landings, then drop anchor and sweat some more.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


My memories of English class in school are nightmares of diagramming sentences. Now, as I work on this first novel I find I need to learn rules. Rules such as "Don't use 'ly' words; its, it's, and its'; do I write "Hello, this is the Matthews's home" or "Hello, this is the Matthews' home" or Hello, this is the Matthewes home". I'm going to cop out and answer, "Yah? Wadda ya want."

Good news though-- I found an editor who taught English in schools for years and promises to be brutally honest as she edits the manuscript.