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.