Monday, December 5, 2011


It’s been a stretch since my weekly-blog-that-turned-into-a-monthly-blog-that-turned-into a-whenever-blog has had a new entry. What inspired me to finally post a new one was that I started thinking about some of the people I’ve had the good fortune of calling my friends. Most of them don’t know each other, but they all share one thing in common. They’re talented.

There is something wonderful knowing people who can do things beyond the average. It’s intimidating, inspiring, and at the same time comforting knowing they have ruffled collars, flat tires, credit card bills and sometimes eat unhealthy food.

This is a random list, and I’m going to leave out a lot of people that warrant a mention, but these are the ones that were swimming in my mind when I wrote this.

Talent, as we all know, rarely equates to fame and fortune. What these people have besides a great gift, are an unbridled work ethic, determination, love of their craft, and to boot, are just plain nice.

This isn’t about name recognition. This is about people I know who struggle because they have to, because something inside them dictates it, regardless of whether they reach whatever their definition of success is. These people are far from household names, though if you dig a little bit you’d find info on some of them.

As I said, this is far from a complete list and never should be. At times it may sound like I’m plugging them but, you know what? They deserve it.

As a disclaimer, let me state that if I upset anyone by mentioning, or not mentioning, their names, it wasn’t my purpose to do that.

In no particular order I’m going to start with Lisa Cattoretti. She is one of the most tasteful guitarists I’ve ever known. Everything she touches has a sliver of something she once told me she calls the heart notes. She doesn’t play fancy, she plays tastefully. It’s a talent that comes from within. Her band, Blue Sky Drive, has just released a four song CD. Listening to it, her wistful guitar lines left me feeling as if I were in a field of wheat reaching out to my childhood.

Michael Gavaghen. He’s a writer who has the ability to create characters that are practically polar opposites and yet are just as much of each other as the sun is to the earth. He also has the ability within the chapters of his writings to lower, lift, and snatch away everything you thought you knew about the story. He’s a master conductor who is in some ways as tasteful as Lisa.

Gus Aviles, Jr. A guerilla filmmaker who never quits. He scrounges money, hits up friends for favors, films between his regular job, does his own writing, editing, promotion, dialogue replacement—whatever it takes to get the job done. Somehow, he always manages to come up with a product that is stirring and delightful to watch. It’s a physical and mental strain that would crush anyone who didn’t have the sheer willpower that he has.

One of the bravest and most talented writers I know is Corey Ginsberg. Though she writes in most genres, what strikes the most awe in me is her non-fiction pieces. She refuses to back down from the dark corners of her life. Not only does she write about it, she expresses it with power, grace, humor, and poignancy. This is an achievement that only comes from hard work, dedication and a belief in what you're doing. On top of that, her relentlessness in getting her work to publishers is a lesson every aspiring writer should learn. I use her for my inspiration in that department.

The list in my head contains others, but I don’t want to drag on too long and I don’t want to toss out names without giving each person their due, so I’m going to put the rest on the back burner for another entry.

The one thing I’ve noticed about walking in the midst of giants, it makes me stand taller. And for that, I thank all of my talented friends who have allowed me into their world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Drum roll – Scott S. Colley was chosen from over 600 entries as the winner of the Die Laughing signed book giveaway sponsered by Goodreads! He's the author of the fantasy novel Mythica Genesis. Congrats Scott, your signed copy is on its way!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


A while back I talked about the fantasy genre and how I was unfamiliar with it. I mentioned a blurb I read of Mysti Parker's A Ranger's Tale and how intriguing it sounded. I finally had the opportunity to read it and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed. I found a lot to like in the story.
Caliphany, a head-strong young elf defies her domineering father and sets off to find her own destiny. Set in Tallenmere – a fantasy world – this intriguing tale is part Captain Blood, and part Gone With the Wind
I particularly enjoyed Parker’s method of storytelling. She uses one of three first person narrators for each chapter. To add to that, and what particular was clever, is that when she shifts p.o.v. it becomes a continuation of the story, not just the same scene retold through another person’s eyes.
            Enough of the technical side, what really made for a great read was the trouble, and Caliphany finds plenty of it quickly.  Besides physical tribulations, there’s also emotional hardship. Caliphany must endure not only her father’s harsh punishments but his rejection of her when she defies his wishes to find her own way in the outside world. Her journey leads to ferocious battles with ogres, traitors, and mages. It also leads to her soul mate, Gallidan. In Parker’s world, nothing comes easy, and Caliphany must deal with hard decisions. The pair’s relationship is crossed with bliss and misery.
This was my first fantasy novel. I wasn’t sure if I would be comfortable in that genre. After reading A Ranger’s Tale, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable anymore without visiting the genre.

Happy writing, everyone…and reading!

Monday, August 1, 2011


I know, I know, it’s been too long between this post and my previous one. Now that Die Laughing has moved from the aspirational to the concrete stage, it’s been a totally different, and time consuming experience for me. I’ve been pounding the pavement – virtually and physically – the last month or so trying to drum up interest in my book.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Lesson one: There are some incredibly nice authors out there, willing to help a first time novelist like myself.
I asked two well-respected authors if they’d read the book before it was published and write blurbs – both, very busy, agreed.
I asked an author for advice on how to start the promotion process. She put together a lengthy and detailed step-by-step procedure that I’ve adapted as my blueprint.
A local author shared his contact info on sources for book readings and signings.
Three more authors took it upon themselves to interview and/or post reviews of my book on their blogs. They did this without prompting, strictly as a gesture to help attract attention to the release.
To all of you, my deepest thanks, and a promise to pay it forward.

Lesson two: Wait until you have an ISBN number out for the book before approaching bookstores.
No matter how many times you tell a bookstore proprietor not to look for the book on Ingram, Baker/Taylor until the actual release date, the first thing they will do is look for it. Ingram, Baker/Taylor are the distribution sites for every publisher printed book in the universe as far as I can determine.
When they don’t find it listed there, they will determine that you are a self-published author no matter how much you repeat that it won’t be released until the beginning of the following month. They will then consent to a book reading only on a consignment basis, which basically reduces my profit to zilch, and in one case I actually lose money on the deal.

Lesson three: Sometimes you have to bite the bullet with bookstores and lose money for the sake of promotion.

Lesson four: Comic book stores are owned by, and employed with, some of the coolest people around.
Because Die Laughing is part sci-fi I approached comic book stores about carrying the book and doing readings. Nearly all were enthusiastic to help out. They agreed to carry the book and/or do book readings.
One place, who’s going to carry the book, but doesn’t do book readings invited me to participate in their indie creator weekend.
An employee at another comic store told me he’d make sure to personally insert one of bookmarkers in each bag of merchandise he sold.

Lesson five: There are wonderful people out there who devour books.
These bibliophiles are eager to read, discuss, and talk to you about your stories. They are friendly, generous in praise, and happy to help spread the word by writing reviews. I’ve gained much respect and admiration for them.

My lessons continue. I have to admit I’ve travelled some interesting and enlightening roads. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s around the bend and sharing them with you.

Next up: my first book reading (and yikes I’m nervous about that!)

Happy writing (and reading) everyone!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


On the verge of the release of my sci-fi novel, Die Laughing, I thought it might be of advantage to other writers to hear my approach on how I got it published.

This has nothing to do with the quality of the story (I’ll leave that to others.) This is strictly a pragmatic approach that I used, which may help you to formulate your own plan.

I put together a tier of objectives, starting with what I thought should be my main goal, which I figured would be the best way to lead to a publishing deal with a major publisher. (Aim for the stars, settle for the moon.)

On top was to get an agent. I put together the best query letter and brief pitch that I could (constantly refining them.) From there I scoured and the Internet in general for agents related to my genre. I went through everyone I could find. I had some nibbles but no bites.

Next on my tier was to have the large and mid-size sci-fi publishers who would accept unsolicited manuscripts read mine. There aren't many, but I sent it out without any success.

The next step was to send out my query letter and pitch to the smaller legitimate (and check carefully!) publishers, which I did. This is where I started hitting pay dirt. In a short period of time I had five positive responses. The first one to make a concrete offer was IFWG Publishing, which I was pleased to accept. They're small, but spunky.

Had I not gotten any bites at that level I was faced with a choice - to hold back until my next novel was completed, start the process over with the new novel, and then present my first novel to whoever accepted the new novel (providing someone accepted it) - or to self-publish. I'm not sure which direction I would have taken.

The advantage to a tier system is that when I signed with IFWG it was with the knowledge that I was taking the best offer out there for my book.

The entire process took about a year and a half. And I’m happily sitting on the moon.

There is one caveat; it takes more than a plan. It requires perseverance and commitment.

Good luck and keep writing.

Monday, June 13, 2011


First a big congrats to fantasy author Mysti Parker. She just celebrated her 5,000th hit on her blog “Unwritten.” I’ve only got about 3,400 more hits to catch up with you!

Secondly a big thanks to my friend Debbie Orta. She’s not only a mom, a great vocalist and an actor, but also a proofreader. Debbie volunteered to go through Die Laughing. It’s amazing how generous people can be. Deb, I can’t thank you enough!

Speaking of Die Laughing, I finally set up a Facebook fan page for my book. Take a look at it. I’ve got my promo video – where I try to channel Rod Serling – on there. I’ve put up movie posters of 1950’s sci-fi movies that influenced my writing of the story, and I’ve even got a quiz asking what your favorite movie of that era is. If you like the site, “help a poor alter boy out” and hit the ‘like’ button. (That quote is from The Exorcist, if memory serves me correctly.”

Okay enough of the plug, back to the topic.

Before Deb’s proofreading I went over the book twice more myself after it being proofread at least four times earlier. This is humiliating to say, but I still had characters being called by different names! I had Hoover Dam spelled like Hoover Damn. I had one character, Francis, referred to once as France. Sheesh – how embarrassing would all that have been? In my blog on the Nuts ‘n Bolts of submission, I stressed the importance of proofreading, well here I am a classic example of why you can never overdue the process!

It’s the publisher’s turn to proof it again, and then I’m going to go through the galley. Anyone want to bet there’s still more correcting to do?

It’s a headache for sure, but nowhere near the pain of having your work published with errors in it. And really, who do you blame? After all, as the author, the buck stops with me. Keep writing everyone…and keep proofreading!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


In the writer’s group that I belong to I’ve been reading a fantasy novel.

I’ve written sci-fi and horror but I’ve never ventured into this particular genre. Not knowing the rules to these kinds of books I wasn’t sure how to properly critique it.

I eventually went to my old friend Wikipedia for help. Wiki says, “Fantasy is a genre of fiction that uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in fictional worlds where magic is common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of (pseudo-)scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three (which are subgenres of speculative fiction).

As I read the chapters I did indeed experience the various elements listed in the above definition, but as I read more and more chapters I discovered that what really mattered to me beyond the wonderful settings and other-worldly characters was whether I cared about the protagonist or not. This got me to thinking, isn’t that pretty much the case with any genre?

Shakespeare once said, “A beer by any other name would still taste as sweet.” Okay, maybe he didn’t say it quite like that, but the point is no matter where the story takes place or who the characters are, it nearly always boils down to whether we – the reader – have an emotional interest in their outcome.

Here’s an interesting blurb from fantasy author Mysti Parker for her book A Ranger’s Tale

In the world of Tallenmere, the high elf – Caliphany Aranea – who is nearly a century old, has never been allowed to travel farther than a few miles out of the capital city of Leogard.

Her father, Sirius, leads the Mage Academy. After losing his only son, he expects Caliphany to take his place one day. The trouble is, she doesn't want to study magic and doubts she'll ever be as good a wizard as her father.

She dreams of leaving Leogard to explore the world and strike out on her own. When two brutes at Leogard Harbor attempt to kidnap her, half-elf ship captain and ranger, Galadin Trudeaux, comes to her rescue.

She and Galadin will face more adventure, more love, more heartache, than they ever thought possible. Through it all, Caliphany must decide where her heart truly lies.

This certainly has all the elements of the fantasy genre, and just as important seems to have a central character that is determined to make her own way, yet is torn over her obligation to her father and her country. Caliphany sounds like a character I could care about.

Mysti Parker's book can be found at: A Ranger's Tale.

Now pass me a beer, or whatever you want to call those things.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I took my Nuts 'N Bolts of Story Submitting seminar on the road to Design and Architecture Senior High in Miami. DASH is one of the premiere high schools in America. I gave the lecture to two writing classes. The students were amazing. I wish I was half as on the ball as they were when I was their age. I posted a picture on my website

Two of my short stories appear in print this month. "The Lord Was My Shepherd" in a Scottish magazine called Pushing Out the Boat, which they read at a writing festival that featured Margaret Atwood, and "The One Cupper", which appears in The MacGuffin Magazine.

And it keeps getting better...

I've been going through the line edits of my sci-fi book, Die Laughing. As nerdy as it is, I actually enjoy it. I get to scrutinize each and every word that's already been scrutinized by IFWG Publishing. Sometimes we go back and forth on quote placements, he saids and she replies, and what is and isn't crossing the line on sex scenes.

To add to the fun my author bio page is up and running on the IFWG Publishing site: And I saw the cover to the book. I'm hyped up about it! The artist - Laura Givens - did a fantastic job.

This kind of pleasure is few and far between, so I'm enjoying it while I can. But just to keep a check on reality, I also received three rejection slips for one of my short stories the other day.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

04 21 11 The Nuts ‘N Bolts of Story Submission. Part IV : IT’S TIME TO SUBMIT!

This is the final installment of my four part series, The Nuts ‘N Bolts of Story Submission.

In part one I discussed the reasons for submitting, in part two I talked about pre-preparation, in part three I talked about getting your game plan together, and now in part four IT’S TIME TO SUBMIT!

The most convenient way to find publications is through online search engines.

DOUTROPE’S DIGEST is my favorite. It has a great search engine with many criteria options. It’s extremely convenient and the search results are listed similar to a data sheet so there’s a lot of info. Numerous publications are on the same page. As with all the online search engines there are links to the publications included.

POETS AND WRITERS - Not as convenient, but Nearly 600 Literary Journals Are Listed. The link is: look under their Tools For Writers menu.

NEWPAGES.COM – Again, not as convenient as Doutrope, but it’s geared toward university and indie publications, and indie publishers. The link is:

CRWOPPS: Creative Writer’s Opportunity List - Allison Joseph’s yahoo group. Emails are sent to members daily. It’s mostly geared toward fee based contests, and occasionally submission requests. To join go to:



If you’re looking for a print publication, check to see if they have a subscription page. If they don’t they’re probably online only. Make sure their version of print is your version of print. I don’t count a downloadable PDF file as a print publication. Some of them do. Check when the last issue came out to make sure they’re active.

ALWAYS READ THE PUBLISHER’S GUIDELINES before you submit to them. If you don’t, you may be rejected for not following the rules. You may be accepted in a publication that you’ll regret later.

SUBMIT TO A PUBLICATION THAT’S APPROPRIATE FOR YOUR STORY. You may have a great story, but if it’s not the type the editor is looking for you’ll be wasting your time.

ONCE YOU GET INTO THE HABIT OF SUBMITTING IT’S IMPORTANT TO MAINTANE: make submitting part of your writing regimen. The best way is to put together a weekly routine or goal. DON’T MAKE IT STRENUOUS.

Maybe devote an hour a week to it. That’s less than 10 minutes a day.

Maybe have a number goal instead: six submissions a week: that’s less than one a day.

IT’S VITAL TO KEEP THE BALL ROLLING. Don’t get discouraged. I went nearly a year from my first fiction acceptance to my second one. Remember that it’s a subjective process. What doesn’t work for one editor may work for another, but you have to get it to them so they can make that decision.

Submitting – done properly and routinely – is your best bet at achieving success in finding a home for your stories. Good luck, get to it, and take that leap into the pool. It’s not so cold. Stay in, don’t give up, and eventually it’ll pay off.


I hope you found this series useful. I look forward to reading your work online, on my eReader and/or in print!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

04 12 11 The Nuts ‘N Bolts of Story Submission. Part III : SET TO DO BATTLE

This is Part III of my four part series The Nuts 'N Bolts of Story Submission. This installment is called SET TO DO BATTLE.

In Part I, I discussed the reasons that you, the writer, should submit your work. In Part II, I talked about the importance of pre-preparation.

The current discussion has to do with deciding who you’re going to send your work to.

To do this there are three terms you need to know, which will be in each publication’s submission guidelines. The first is SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS: this means you can submit to other publications at the same time your work is being considered by the current magazine or journal you’ve sent it to.

The second is NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS means you can not submit until the work has been rejected by the current magazine or journal you’ve sent it to. Usually paying publications and the upper echelons have this policy.

The final one is MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS means that you can submit more than one piece to the same publication at the same time.

As part of your battle plan you need to decide a few things – though they’re flexible decisions: HOW DO YOU WANT YOUR WORK TO APPEAR? Do you want your work to appear in print only? Online only? Or in both?

WHAT PAYSCALE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? Do you want your work to appear in pay only publications? If so, do you want only pro rates, semi-pro rates, or are you okay with contributor copies (when in print) as payment? Are you okay with having your work appear without pay?

HOW DO YOU WANT TO SUBMIT? Electronically, snail mail, or both?

WHAT KIND OF PUBLICATIONS DO YOU WANT YOUR WORK TO APPEAR IN? Only the top selling Magazines and literary journals? Are university journals okay? How about local and regional publications, or fledgling publications, or anyone that will have you?

There’s a give and take with each decision. Realistically, with the prestigious and the top payers, the competition is going to be near impossible. You may be competing with Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Monroe and William Trevor. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, it just something to think about. The other consideration, as I said earlier, is that most of the prestigious publications don’t allow simultaneous submissions. You have to wait until they reject (or accept) you before you can send it to someone else.

A good alternative may be to start with a few from the top ones and work your way down. The criteria I set for myself was that number one I wanted to be in print, for a couple of reasons: I just liked the idea of it, and more importantly I want to try and get my short stories published as a collection. I’m afraid if my stories are available online publishers won’t be interested in putting them out in print.

The second decision I made was I wanted to be able to simultaneously submit, I didn’t want to wait around for rejections. I also decided I liked the idea of Literary Journals and magazines. I had no problem with local and regional publications as long as they looked professional. Finally, I made the choice that I wanted to submit electronically – it’s quick and doesn’t cost a dime, which eases the pain if you’re rejected. It’s important to mention again that these choices are a rule of thumb. Don’t be afraid to vary or experiment. It’s a process meant to develop and mould over time.

Once you’ve decided on a basic game plan, IT’S TIME TO SUBMIT, which happens to be the title of my final install. It will appear here next Tuesday. I’ll point you towards what I consider to be the best submission sources and why I think so.

See you next week!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

04 05 11 The Nuts ‘N Bolts of Story Submission. Part II : PRE-PREPARATION – THE KEY TO SUBMITTING

This is part two of my four part series on The Nuts ‘N Bolts of Story Submission. I call my second installment PRE-PREPARATION – THE KEY TO SUBMITTING.

In a response to Part I, a reader mentioned that it can get expensive to submit because of reader’s fees. Good point! I don’t submit to contests or publications that charge a fee. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t if you feel strongly about the magazine or contest. It just means that there’s a route to go that doesn’t cost a dime.

Now, on to Part II : PRE-PREP – THE KEY TO SUBMITTING. I’ll go through how to line up your ducks in order to save time and effort in the long run.

With submitting, PRE-PREPERATION is the key. It’s a one time set-up, that takes a while but in the long run it’ll save you lots of time and increase your productivity.

The first thing is GO OVER YOUR WORK WITH A FINE TOOTH COMB. If you’re sure your piece is free of typos and grammar errors, check it again, and one more time after that. Nothing says amateur – and rejection – louder than sloppy work.

Next, save your story in multiple formats: save it as a word doc, an rtf file and a pdf. Also save them – in all formats – with your name on it and without any name on it. Depending on what each publication wants, you’ll already be prepared to send it.

DO A WORD COUNT of every one of your stories and post a paper of the results where you can see them (mine is taped above my computer screen.) Every publisher has word restrictions. It’s a guaranteed rejection if you submit a piece that doesn’t fit in their category. I always include word count in my submissions.

WRITE A COVER LETTER. I recommend one that isn’t frilly, “I enjoy Oreo’s with my cat, Fluffenuffer.” Save that for the ‘get to know the author’ page.
DON’T EXAGGERATE your credentials. It’s not necessary, and it’s pretty easy to spot the ‘enhancers.’
INCLUDE A BRIEF BIO, with writing credits if you have them. If not, it’s okay to say ‘I’m living in Miami, but originally from Kansas where most of my writing inspiration comes from.’ Keep the bio under seventy-five words. If you’re accepted they’ll probably want you to keep it anywhere from 30 to 50 words.
INCLUDE COMPLETE CONTACT INFO: name, address, email, phone. Do the cover letter in first and third person. Again – depending on the demands of each publication – you’ll already be prepared to cut and paste it into your submission.
MAKE IT APPEAR PERSONALIZED. I think editors look for “shotgunners” people who submit willy-nilly and it turns them off. Dear (fill in the publication’s name) Submission Editor, is fine.

The last thing in pre-preparation is to MAKE A DATA SHEET to record your transactions – including vital info such as DATE SUBMITTED, PUBLICATION, STORY SUBMISSION, CONTACTS, RESULTS, ETC. I use an excel sheet. At first I did it by hand originally, but it was too cumbersome.
A data sheet is important because the info it contains will prevent you from submitting the same stories to the same publications. It will let you know when you submitted to them so you don’t waste time submitting in the same time period – which most publications don’t allow.
A data sheet will let you know who you have to contact in the event that you get accepted and you’ve submitted the story to other publications. It’s your obligation to let the others know it was accepted so it can be withdrawn from their consideration.
It tells you who’s getting back to you in a timely manner and who isn’t – in other words their professionalism, which is their obligation. That way you can decide if you want to submit to them again.
And it gives you an idea of your progress, and may suggest which stories to go back and tweak. I’ve tweaked some after long spells of rejection, and to my surprise and joy, had a few of them accepted a short time later.

Whew! I know pre-prep is somewhat of a task, but when it’s over you’ll be glad you did it. In the long run the work you put into pre-preparation will be gained back over and over again in time and effort saved during the actual submitting.

With pre-prep over, you’re ready to step into the stadium. I call my next installment SET TO DO BATTLE. I discuss terms you need to be familiar with, and how to determine who to send your work to. See you next Tuesday. Keep the feedback coming!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

03 29 11 The Nuts ‘N Bolts of Story Submission. Part I - Why the F*#k Submit?

This is part one of my four part series on submitting. Each part will come out the following Tuesday for the next month.

In part one I attempt to answer the question: Why the F*#k Submit?

Okay, you’ve written a short story, had it critiqued in workshops, revised it a few times, maybe had it critiqued again, revised it again and now you feel like you’ve got something pretty good. What’s your next step? Show it to your significant other? Read it to yourself? Or maybe just toss it in a drawer with the others you’ve written, dream about them being published and move on to the next piece.

The other alternative is to make the attempt to get them into publications. I’ve read many stories in workshops that I thought would make terrific additions to literary journals and magazines. I also thought that some of my stories would do the same thing so I decided to give it a try.

I’m here to attest that the system works! I’ve had, or will have, eight stories in print. I’ve had a poem in print, and nearly a dozen online articles. I’ve had a second place winner in no-fee poem contest take second place. It carried a big payout:  $764.00. I’m soon to have a story come out in audio. And, I have a sci-fi book coming out in July.

I’m not saying this to brag on myself – that’s what my website’s for. I’m mentioning this for one reason: my writing isn’t any better than a lot of other writers out there, but the difference is I make the effort to submit. And as more proof I’m not a literary genius, it’s
taken me around 300 submissions to get to where I am.

I know a lot of great up-and-coming writers who toil at their craft but for some god-awful reason won’t send their stuff out, or if they do submit it’s such a minimal effort that nothing usually comes from it.

This is something I don’t understand. For me, it’s akin to a musician who toils day after day after day in his room but never plays in front of the public.

Hopefully, what I’ve learned about the process will remove any fear and encourage you – the writer – to send your work out, and save time and energy while you’re doing it.

Submitting isn’t necessarily a hard process but it can be tedious, time consuming and intimidating. So why do it? There are several reasons: The biggest is probably the thrill of being accepted and seeing your work in print or online. You get a sense of pride and validation. You get bragging rights. You build up a resume and in the process provide agents and publishers a way to gauge your commitment and credibility. If you’re lucky you get a little bit of money. On the bittersweet side it teaches you to deal with rejection. I think that’s probably the number one reason people don’t make a serious effort to submit, followed closely behind, as I said, by intimidation, and then laziness or a lack of determination.

On the subject of rejection: Yes, it hurts, but the hurt lessens the more you do it. I compare it to jumping into a cold pool. It stings really badly at first, but then you get used to the temperature and the blow softens, though I don’t think it ever completely disappears.

A major factor in overcoming rejection is to constantly have something out there for consideration. It’s that ‘another fish in the ocean’ philosophy. The main thing is to take that first plunge and to stay in the water.

Are you ready? God I hope so because I can’t hype this anymore.

Next Tuesday we start with PRE-PREPARATION. It’s the key to your success. See you then.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I performed at a reunion concert a couple of weeks ago with a band I used to play bass guitar for. With our rehearsals and having to get myself – playing wise – back into shape, it started me thinking about the relationship between music and writing.

Let me state up front that I’m not a great musician, but I’m a good one. I wasn’t blessed with the golden ears that greatness requires. None-the-less playing music all my life has given me an awareness of traits that I’m just now beginning to realize are also important in writing.

Authors tend to equate novel writing to symphonies, in particular the flow of the movements and how they relate to the flow of the novel. I don’t disagree, it’s a key element. I’m a rock guy, and as I said, a bass player. My comparison comes from that perspective.

Because of that, one of the first things that come to mind is the rhythm of words, and sentences, and even paragraphs. As a bass player, one of my jobs is to lock in with the drummer: to keep the beat. Writing has its own beat, too.

Rock music is based on the two and four beats. Because of that, I tend to, unconsciously, favor the iamb. The iamb is a word pulse with the accent on the second syllable: baBUMP baBUMP baBUMP. Something like, “I WALKED aLONG the ROAD.” Though I also like “WALKing aLONG the ROAD.” A slight rhythm variation, but it’s the variations in rock music that give it its lift, too.

Rhythm in writing, of course, is more than that. It’s also about speeding up or slowing down a scene through use of action, description, suspense, dialogue and on and on. I don’t want to get into the methods for achieving these time changes. That’s a discussion for another day.

One way a great album will achieve that movement is through song placement. A classic example is Abbey Road. The song order is no accident. It starts with the grungy rocker “Come Together” pulls us back with “Something” and then builds back up and ends side one with the crescendo “She’s So Heavy.” If that didn’t compel you to flip the record over (back in the day) then you were probably too stoned to get out of your bean bag chair. The point is, and what I want to emphasize, is the awareness of the importance of tempo changes and how they add emotional feeling to a piece. Playing music has given me that.

Jamming is a natural part of playing in bands, particularly original ones, which I mostly played in. When I’m jamming I don’t consciously think too much about playing. I just feed off of what’s going on at the moment. Things just happen, and that’s the beauty of it. Granted, afterwards I might think about how I slurred from middle E to D because it sounded sexier than separating the notes, and decide to reuse it.

I don’t know about you, but when I sit and write – and I’m really cooking – I fall into a rhythm. It’s a sort of rush. Like jamming, it’s nothing I think about, or am even aware of, until it’s over. I think of it as “letting my fingers do the walking.” The phrase comes from an old telephone book commercial. I just start typing away without too much thought to it, which is what I’m doing now. Like jamming, things happen. Eventually I’ll go back and polish. And yes, I’ll keep certain things because they sound sexier.

Finally, and probably most importantly, just like music it’s crucial to be constantly practicing, which to a writer, means writing. And like music there’s no substitute for listening. In the case of the writer, it’s listening to other writer’s words via reading. Any musician worth his salt constantly listens and analyzes how other players approach their art. The same applies to authors. The best writers I know constantly examine how others in their profession approach their craft, and how they can learn from it.

As a final thought it’s interesting that “notes” are an important tool of both writers and musicians.

Happy Writing!

Friday, January 28, 2011

01 28 11 - WRITING - A Short but happy one!

Today my revenge story, "Morrison's Last Autograph" was just released in Bete Noire #2. Yay!

Here's the link:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

01 15 11 - WRITING - A Fight to the Finish

In the past couple of days I’ve had conversations with writers who are struggling to get to the end of their pieces, which seems to be the case with everyone. My advice to them is – and always will be – finish it up! I don’t care how you do it, just get there.

Yes, it’s difficult as hell. I compare it to crossing an unfinished bridge that you have to build further each time before you can take another step. But the payoff is a big one: Once you make it across you get to go back and rewrite.

I love the process of revision. To me, with the rewrite, you have something concrete. Sure, the bridge might need shoring up here and there, or maybe it’s too wide in spots or too narrow in others, or maybe the balance is off, but you have it, and you know when you step on the bridge what awaits you on the other side: now, it’s a matter of utilizing that to your best advantage.

Nothing’s easy in writing, but now – and this is the part I love best – you get to go back and fine tune all those echoes and shadows that lead to bigger echoes and shadows. You get to polish your characters until they feel like living people. That’s when the story comes alive. God, I love the smell of revision in the morning! (Or something like that.)

My point is, if you don’t get to the finish, you can’t get to the revision, you can’t put together a query letter or send the letter out to agents. You can’t send your MS to publishers; you can’t submit your short story to magazines and journals, and contests.

My last and most compelling reason for finishing up your work: I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t filled with a sense of accomplishment and joy when they finally made it to the end of a first draft. Have you?