Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Zoom, zoom

Booker T. Washington said, "Character, not clothes make the man."
Mark Twain claimed, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

Travis says, "Ask most men what they'd rather have - a nice suit or a sweet ride, 99% will pick the car every time."

Guys tend to think of their vehicles as an extension of themselves. Consciously or subconsciously. And his choice of dream wheels depends on the man himself.

An outdoorsmen will demand a 4X4, maybe with a lift kit, a gun rack, a front-end winch or even a wench, depending on his state of loneliness.

Others want to go fast. They tend do fantasize of things that are sleek and curvacious. Okay all of us fantasize of things that are sleek and curvaciosu but I'm talking cars here. Porsche's, Ferrari's, Lamborghini's.

Others drool over pure unadulterated horsepower. Truck that can pull mountains, and growl like a sixty-year-old, chain-smoking Waffle House waitress. The kind of truck that can't pass a service station without stopping.

No man, I repeat no man. Dreams of driving a mini-van.

That does not mean sacrifices are not made. A real father will trade in his cherry-red Camaro for the sake of getting his kids to soccer practice. But he won't like it. Sure his buddy will tease him and toss around terms like henpecked, ball and chain, neutered,a nd maybe even the dreaded P.W.

But he'll take the abuse and dream of the day he can get rid of the mini-bus and once again show what kind of man he really is.

Now the advice. Most of my readers are female but some of you are guys. Regardless of your gender please pass this message along. Guys DO NOT try and make a statement anyway. DO NOT say I am going to make the best of a bad situation. DO NOT over compensate - for anything. Regardless of what your shortcoming are.

I've typed all of that to tell you two stories. One new, and one old.


Yesterday, I'm sitting at a stop light. I glance over and notice a guy about my age . He's wearing a ball cap and a blue mechanic-type shirt. The kind that usually has the wearers first name sewed on. Really nothing out of the ordinary.

But then they catch my eye.

Flames. Big green ones, painted down the side ...

Of his black Dodge Caravan.

Dude, it's till a minivan. I didn't suddenly think now that is one cool minivan. I thought No there is a guy who lost an argument with his wife. A guy that shoudl have invested in a TV is he really didn't want to trade in his Harley for a capable of holding a few car seats. A guy desperately clinging to something he has obviously already lost.

Face the music. You are Fonsie no more. Welcome to Richie Cunningham land. maybe you will be cool again someday, but DO NOT highlight the fact that today ain't that day.

The Old

This story happened a few years back but i consider it to be one of my wife's wittiest moments, and she has a great sense of humor so that is going some. Of course anybody willing to marry me had better have one heck of a funny bone.

We were on the way to a friend's house. Driving through a residential area when we came upon a giant red truck. I'm talking the bottom of the door was a good three, three and a half foot off the ground. The wheels were huge and had aggressive off-road tread. Paintd in the tinted back windshield in bold red letters were these words. NO FEAR

And standing at the bumper was a wee little fellow that belonged on the back of Secretariat, or guarding a pot o' gold beneath a rainbow. He had his arms folded across his chest. The ball cap on his head was cocked a shade to one side, and the smirk on his face said, "Napoleon had nothing on me."

I was about to open my mouth and say something about the sight when my wife held up her pinky finger and said, "Big Red Truck, small pink weenie."

So let me hear the most ridiculous cars that you have seen. Not necessarily;y the ones trying to be ridiculous like those who paint their van to look like The Mystery Machine, or paint a rebel flag on the roof in Duke boy fashion, but the ones that say look at me and then when you do the only reaction is a chuckle or a cringe.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who Give's a Flying Shatner

William Shatner irks me to no end. No, I'm not going anywhere with that. It is just an observation.

Matter of fact this entire post isn't going anywhere. Yep, it is that time once again. Follow the bouncing ball through my random thoughts.

My oldest son just may have stumbled upon the next great innovation in automobile features. You have in car DVD systems, GPS navigational tools, heated seats, dual control heat and air, and a whole bunch of other contraptions that seemed crazy back when I lay, unseatbelted in the ample back dash of my mom's old Ford LTD. I use to love it when she's hit the brakes and make me roll forward. No days that is child abuse but that is another blog for another day.

From the mind of a seven year old I give you ... The Convertible Hand Spanking!!!

What is it you say? Well Our new car has this hand free gizmo that will make calls and what not for you by voice command. One day last week my youngest son was pestering the oldest, so he said, "Dad tell the car to give Z a convertible hand spanking."
"Just do it Dad." Say convertible hand spanking?"
"So a hand will come pout and give Z a spanking."

Okay, I have no idea why he included the word convertible but wouldn't that be a great inventions. A robotic hand to intervene when the kids are in the back seat fighting. More than one wreck has occurred that way I'm sure. Maybe you'd get a break on your auto insurance like you do for anti-lock brakes.

I recall my mom once taking her show off and flinging it into the back seat to break up me and my brother. Of course the backseat in that old LTD was in another county.

Actually my mom did an incredible job of raising us given the fact she was a single mother on a very limited income so I don't want to portray her as Mommy Dearest. But all parents lose it at one time or another. A friend of mine's mother actually stabbed him in the forehead when he and his brother were fighting at the kitchen table. There was blood and everything. The tines penetrated enough that he had to reach up and pull the fork out of his head.

I'd rather duck a flying shoe myself.

Speaking of flying. Here is a picture I took of a V-22 Osprey over the skies of Amarillo. These particular aircraft can take off and land like a helicopter, but then the rotors tilt to fly like an airplane. There final assembly takes place in Amarillo so it is not uncommon to see them circling the skies above the city. For a closer look at one follow the link above.

This song from Kevin Fowler makes me laugh every time I hear it.

Don't Touch My Willie

She showed up at my house at half past nine
In a low-cut dress with a bottle of wine
She said this will be a night you won't forget
She poured us some drinks to get us into the mood
I reached for the lights, she reached for my tunes
She pulled out that Red Headed Stranger,
I stood up and said

Don't touch my Willie
I don't know you that well
Help yourself to some Haggard or some Jones
Hell, or anybody else
I don't know what you heard
I ain't that kind of guy
Yeah so don't touch my Willie
We'll get a long just fine

She said she never met a man like me in her life
Who wouldn't share his Willie on the very first night
I said it's nothing personal, don't take it so hard
I don't pull out my Willie for just anyone
There's a lot of other records that you can choose from
So let me make myself clear before you go too far

Don't touch my Willie
I don't know you that well
Help yourself to some Haggard or some Jones
Hell, or anybody else
I don't know what you heard
I ain't that kind of guy
Yeah so don't touch my Willie
We'll get a long just fine
Keep your hands off my Willie
We'll get along just fine

I hope you hear a song that makes you smile today, and I hope the North wind isn't gusting over fifty miles an hour the way it is here in the Texas Panhandle.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Better ... Or Worse. A ... or B

Richard over at smartlikestreetcar tagged me with a meme. I have done a similar in the past, but it has been a while so I am going to do it again. Besides, it is either this or nothing since most of my free time has been dedicated to plundering booty. Ninety-nine percent of y'all get that but if you are new here my current novel in progress is called Plundered Booty. For those keeping track I'm now officially 2/3rds of the way done.

On to the meme ...

Six Random Facts About Me

Yes, believe it or not there are at least six things about me that have as yet to appear on this blog. (good thing the meme didn't specify they actually be interesting)

1) I was in honors classes starting in fifth grade and continuing through high school, but for fifth grade they called them enrichment classes and they were by far the most fun. Our teacher was great and she made learning fun. At the end of each year the class had an election where we as peers chose class leader, class genius, class athlete, and a few other things. I still have the four certificates I won as class clown and class motor mouth both of those years.

2) My first and very short lived job was as a sacker for Albertson's grocery store, but I quit when the bosses would not let me off to attend a stock show. At the time, made $3.25 an hour sacking. At that show I won and sold my pig for $14,400.00. I would have had to work a little more that 4,430 hour, not counting taxes to make that much at the grocery store. That's better than two years of 40 hour weeks so I count that as one of my good choices in life. ***addition*** To see a picture of me and that pig click here.

3) Not long after I won that money I, along with friends, consumed 2 two liter bottles of purple passion. On the way home I became violently ill and I crawled on my hands and knees out out into the middle of dark and desolate farm to market road. The cold black pavement felt good on my flushed skin. My worried friends tried to drag me back over to the shoulder so any coming traffic would not run me over, but even then I weighed too much to be easily drug. They kept yelling at me to get up before I got ran over. My response - "Good, put me out of my misery."
No cars came, but I still consider that to be one of my poor decisions. Combined shortly thereafter with another dumb drunken decision I did not drink any alcohol for five or six years after that. Have I told that story before?

4) I got a flat tire the night of my bachelor party. One of the lug nuts was stripped and it took me forever to get it off, so I ended up being two hours late to my own party. At that same apart a coworker of mine passed my soon to be father-in-law a joint. The guy thought Jennifer's dad was the "entertainment's"chaperon, but then again he never was to bright which led to him being fired from the post office. Far as I know no one else was toking up that night though I have had my share of questionable friends over the years so I can't say for sure he was the only one. Good thing my father-in-law had already known and liked me for five years at that point.

5) Yes, I was in the room when both of my sons were born, but unlike most men I do not cherish the moment as being the most spectacular of my life. I was a nervous wreck. I hated every last minute of it and to this day I consider it be one of my most torturous experiences. Both were born by C-section and no the blood did not bother me in the least it was just having to stand by helplessly and watch that I did not like. Afterward, I was torn wanting to be two places at once.
I'm envious of the days when the fathers got to stand in the hall and them pass out cigars afterward.

6) I can't read the big E on an eye chart without my glasses or contacts on.

As far the title of the last post I meant it to refer to the lyrics of the song A Boy Names Sue which I references but upon further reflection I think they say cut off a piece of my ear instead of bite. I could have looked them up then, or know, but I'm too lazy.

Here's a random question. what is your favorite Johnny Cash song and why? I'll answer in the comments sometime tomorrow. Also I'm going to start throwing out obscure title for my post that bear some kind of connection to something in the post just to see if any of y'all can get them. Not for every post, but some. I'll let you know when. There may be prizes involved.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Let Me Bite Off a Chunk Of Your Ear

Merry Monteleone, the blogger former known as Jelinek, has assigned me the task of writing a satire. Deciphering that symbol Prince came up with a few years back was easier than it has been for me to land on a subject, but here goes. I'm keeping with my recent trend on names. And bonus points to those who can tie in the name of this post with my little essay below.

Roll Call of Responsibility

Listen to the presidential candidates rattle on. You here them talk about the economy, the war, the business of politics in D.C. You might even hear them talk about gun control, abortion, fiscal responsibility. But, have you heard them discussing education this year? Chances are the answer is no, or if you did hear education mentioned, I'm betting it had to do with the rising cost of four years of college.

Is the cost of a college degree a problem? You bet your sheepskin it is, but the real problem in education starts way before a young man or woman sets foot among the hallowed grounds of higher learning. The real problem starts in Elementary School and without the fundamentals of basic knowledge no child will succeed. Yes, Mr. Bush every child will be left behind.

The problem is a lack of qualified teachers. And why is their a shortage on teachers. Low pay? a factor, but no. Disrespectful kids and lackadaisical parents? Another straw yes, but one the humped back of education can readily bear.

I know! I know!

Put your arm down Horshack. Thanks for paying attention, but no, the lack of quality teachers is not due to the cost of obtaining a college degree, but it does have to do with sheepskin. Only I'm not talking about the kind with fancy letters like B.A., or M.F.A, Phd, or the like printed on them.

I'm talking abut the kind of sheepskin people fail to put on in the heat of passion. The kind of sheepskin, that breaks at the most inopportune time. The kind of sheepskin that leads to population growth in our entire school system.

That my friends is where the root of this problem begins. Actually it is nine months later, or the time in between when would-be parents start coming up with these "unique" names.

Rianna, Kianna, and Fe Fi Bohanna. Jaden, Jaxon, What-kind-of-crack-is-your-parents-ona.
Aiden, Briley, Colton. Dagon, Eliora, Flora. Gavin, Hanna, Ian. Jasmine, Keagan, and Liam too. Madison, Naylor, why not Opie Taylor? Peyton, Quinn, Reagan. Sebastian, Taryn, and Uriah. Vista, Weston, Xander, and Zoe.

You think teachers have time to run through the alphabet and call out twenty six individual names? In my day they could call out Jennifer, Michelle, Mark, and Steve and wipe out three-quarters of the class. Sure you had a few oddballs. The kids whose parents had a little too much fun in the sixties, but there wasn't all this need to stand out. To be an individual, instead of one of the herd.

What's next? I'll tell you. These kids have a name all to their own and pretty soon they start to think they are somebody important. Pretty soon they want a bit of the teacher's individual attention. Where does that leave the other twenty-five Callie and Kaden's? Clamoring for their bit of spotlight, that's where. Teachers don't have time to foster the spark in each and every kid.

Once upon a time Johnny Cash sang about A Boy Named Sue and we thought that was weird. Now society accepts an odd name without batting an eye. If we keep traveling down this road it won't be long before we stop assuming every one with a tattoo is a Hell's Angel, or that every woman with short spiked hair is a lesbian, or that everyone with an, I heart Tom Jones sticker on their car is an overweight, over fifty year old woman.

Hell, before you know it we'll have to start judging people by their action not their look. And who has the time to stop and get to know each individual for who they are. Not me. It's time to avert this tragedy. Name your kid, John, or Paul, or Karen, or anything but Elijah, Caitlyn or Merry.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Not All Pearls Come From The Ocean

Are the kids gone? ... Good.

Do you find some topics offensive, or embarrassing? Or maybe you expect this post to have something to do with writing. ... If either of those scenarios fits you you might wanna skip this post and come back in a few days.

Is it just us legal, slightly depraved adults left? In the words of Mr. Burns ... excellent.
So what was that blogworthy mission that my wife enlisted me for? Get on with it Travis, no more beating around the bush.

I went dildo shopping.

There I said it. Not let me give you the set up.

My wife and I are fortunate to have a solid group of friends. There are three or four married couples as well as a couple of confirmed bachelors in this mix. Most weekends the majority of this group of about a dirty dozen end up together. We eat, drink, play a variety of games and just generally have a good time cutting up with each other.

Recently a member of our group decided to be an ass. He made and continues to make one bad choice after another. After twenty four years of marriage he decided that being married was no what he wanted to do. Needless to say his wife has had a hard time adjusting to the new life he chose for her.

Like myself my wife is tried to take a happy upbeat take on life and she has accepted as her personal mission to take care of this recently abandoned friend. Not that she didn't before, but now those efforts are more concentrated and planned. And my wife is not alone. others in the group have made certain that she stays included and that she is still very much a part of our gang.

One of the ways our group shows love is by teasing you. If you can't take it you don't belong and if you don't get teased then you have not been truly embraced.

So there has been a fair amount of comments about our friend's mood and the fact she no longer has an easy way to relived tension. My wife threatened weeks ago that if she didn't get in a better mood then she was going to buy her a stress reliever. One thing led to another and now this woman can not leave the room to visit the restroom without some one saying upon her return, "How come the lights dim when you go the room." or "Do you need some help kicking starting Captain America's replacement."

No her husband wasn't really Captain America but that's what I have decided to call him. Let me say the mere mention of a marital aid turns her cheeks pink. So like a shark in bloody water the group decided to pitch in and buy her a little present for her birthday today.

But my wife and another female friend didn't want to do this shopping alone. And since I was the only husband who got of early enough to complete the mission before dark I got enlisted.

Their plan? To drive out east of town the the seedy adult stores out by the interstate truckstops.

Lonely road weary truckers, sex toys, and dimly lit fantasy stores inside of old grain elevators (I'm not making that up. Places like that really exist outside of town) is not what I had in mind so I suggested an alternative.

The Music Box.

This is a place in Amarillo that has it all for those who do not wish to conform to the norm.

Want a body part pierced? Any body part? The Music Box will gladly jab a piece of metal through your skin if that is your thing.

Tattoo? Yep.

Need a bong ... er I mean a decorative flower vase? The Music Box hears you.

Hookah Pipe? Toke away at the Box.

Nine Inch nail poster? Got 'em.

Need a t-shirts? They have a fine selection, including these ...

And if you need a purple, five-inch jackass replacement called a, Pearl Shine ... well, they have those as well.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Names Revisted

Thanks to all of you who took the time to weigh in with thoughts on the names I listed. And Debbie posed the question of what kind of image the name Travis conjures. That's easy - Suave, Debonair, Stunningly Handsome (in a rugged sort of way) - Okay, probably not, but since William B. Travis was one of the fallen heroes of the Alamo I do like to imagine the name his decidedly Texan. Yes, I am aware he wasn't a native Texan, but not many were in those days, except for Native Americans, of which I have a fair amount of blood myself. And there is a saying about transplants that eventually earn the right to call themselves Texans.

William Barret Travis might not have been born in Texas, but he got here as fast as he could.

Nowadays, among younger kids and adults, Travis seems to be a fairly common name in Texas. I had two on the hockey team I coached a few years back, but the entire time I went through school I only ever encountered one other Travis. And he was kind of an ass, but then again he probably says the same thing about me. But enough about me. Ont he the names I threw out their for y'alls take.

Hank Petty Zybeck - A car salesman. Tall, redheaded, a good ol' boy and the first person narrator of Plundered Booty. Here is the excerpt where the reader learns his name ...

Here’s what I can tell you. My name is Hank Petty Zybeck. Hank, after the greatest country and western singer of all time. My dear departed daddy's description, not mine. Petty, for the king of all racecar drivers. Again, my daddy's opinion, but one I happen to share. And Zybeck, because I'm my father's son. Least that was my momma's claim to her dying day.

Fiona Meese - I shouldn't have included the last name since I never actually use it in the novel. As I said Hank tells the story and he is not the kind of guy to use last names often. I can't tell you her exact role in the story but Fiona is a complex character. Both mild mannered and meek, like the librarian B.E. Sanderson envisioned and shrewed, stiff and unrelenting when backed into a corner.

Betty Raintree- Nearly everyone agreed she was Native American, Cherokee as a matter of fact. In the beginning of Plundered Booty she oversees the car lot's finance and title clerk offices. Plump, a bit of a hypochondriac she is anal when it comes to numbers and sloppy mistakes.

Rex Austin - Until the new boss takes over he is the dealership stud. Here is the way Hank describes him ...

Rex Austin was the stud of the lot. Early forties, with brown, sun-streaked hair and a dark golfer’s tan. Athletic build. But his shiny appearance and salesman demeanor turned some people off. ‘Course he bragged about lots of women, but he too, was married.

That wraps up the characters I threw out from my WIP (work in progress) Plundered Booty now those from my finished novel, A River Without Water.

Sergio Ochoa - Yep I screwed up and misspelled his name in the original post. Sergio/Sergei they do tend to give the reader a different ethnic background of nothing else. Sergio is actual a minor character a temporary antagonist. A former boxer, current professional poker player and cocaine addict. He is actually a minion of another character and one agent told me to cardboardish and predictable. But I still like the name so one of these day I'll go in a tweak him enough to take away the stereotypes.

Blue Riggins - The male protag of A River. Former champion steer wrestler turned pro poker player a tragic figure who engages in a good bit of self destructive behavior as way to punish himself for what he views as past failures. Other people look up to and even idolize him but he's definitely a glass half empty kind of guy ... until a wily female changes his perspective. A modern day cowboy who secretly relishes playing the hero but is hit hard if he fails at the role. I priginally spelled his name Bleu, after a Texas singer named Bleu Edmondson but one editor said that reminded her of the French or bleu cheese whereas blue made her think of true-blue and steady dependability like denim blue jeans, So I changed it.

Donnie Yates - Blue's best friend and former rodeo sidekick. A wiry little bullrider with a big ego, a larger heart, and an even bigger taste for women. A scene where Blue talks about Donnie ...

“Sometimes I envy Donnie,” Blue said when they were back out on the lonesome highway.

Lindsay turned in her seat to face him. “Why?”

“He doesn’t have a care in the world. He can travel a thousand miles to an event, get bucked off right out the gate, and still get up from the dirt with a smile on his face. He’s always happy.”

“Trust me. No one is always happy,” Lindsay said with more conviction than he’d ever heard in her voice.

The tires hummed against the pavement.

Blue took a deep breath. “Maybe not, but Donnie comes a hell of a lot closer than me.”

Ruby Riggins - Blue's older sister but at seventeen years older she's more like a mother. She is raising Blue's young daughter. She runs the family's highway-side cafe Riggin's Restaway. Her long time boyfriend Buster gave Blue his start in the rodeo world but these days the two men are at odds and Ruby is stick in the middle with her life put on hold to take care of everyone else's problems.

A River is hard novel to describe, but here is the premise. Blue a man whose wife died shortly after childbirth travels across the country with a woman who blames her father for ruing her life by forcing her to have an abortion. Blue never comes out and says it but there is a part of him that wishes his wife would have had an abortion after the doctors warned about risks because of her blood clotting condition and the female protag, Lindsey wishes she never would have had an abortion. Neither knows of the other's past but as things slowly reveal themselves both Blue and Lindsey are forced to see that the grass isn't always greener and that no matter what happened yesterday, it is today and all the tomorrows that really count.

Still here? man you are either bored or glutton for punishment. This might be my longest post ever. The next four are from a WIP I abandoned to concentrate full time on Plundered Booty. I will go back to it once booty has been plundered to its fullest extent. Like Booty it is also mean to be funny. the character are not quite as developed as the others since i have only composed thirty or forty pages and some brief sketches of characters and scenes.

I do not have a name for my female protag yet but the working title of the novel is If Only He Knew and it is about a forty something woman whose life is being ruined by sex from every angle.

Royce McEwan - Her cattle rancher husband. A blowhard.,fast talking womanizer.

Rose Devine - The protags Shirley Maclaine-esque nymphomaniac mother. Sure she's in her upper sixties but with the availability of Viagra and Cialis there are plenty of men at the retirement village willing to indulge her. Problem is she is at at staunch Southern Baptist ran retirement village and there have been enough complaints from other women that the former preacher turned administrator is threatening go kick her out. If that happens Rose will have to live with the protag and no way does she want that.

Joe Ray Pearson - Royce's ranch foremen. Loyal to a fault. A good ol' boy.

Luann Pearson - His gossipy and well meaning, but destructive wife.

Okay, I'm tired of typing and it is my bedtime. Adios amigos.

My wife has just informed me that tomorrow, she has a mission planned for me. A blogworthy adventure, so stay tuned for Thursdays blog and the gory details.

P.S. Don't let the kids read it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Church Lady's Evil Bidding

Church Lady has organized a little get together in honor of Evil Editor and his new book. She asked a bunch of us to share a picture of what we thought the evil editor might really look like. I have two. The first probably fits any editor at the end of a long day. The second well looks like a fella intent to hide his image and come across as being meaner than he probably is.

Continuing with today's linkage love, I 'd like to direct y'all over to Patti-O's blog. She recently posted a list of seven things about Texas and Texans that is both accurate and funny.

And thanks to those who have chimed in so far on yesterday's name post. For those who haven't there is still time and tomorrow I'll reveal what I was shooting for with those characters.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

You Name It

Scarlett O'Hara, Huckleberry Finn, and Stephanie Plum all have something in common.

As do Boo Radley, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Hannibal Lector.

Ok, Captain Obvious, I know they are fictional character but beyond that the share something else as well. Their very names hint at their character. And that is what a character name should do if possible.

Let's say you have a protagonist that is the privileged son of a U.S. Senator. Go ahead name him John Smith. It might work, but he dang sure have some extraordinary characteristics or I'm gonna forget him as soon as I close your novel. And you as a writer are going to have to paint a much more vivid picture of him than you would had you named him Spencer Throckmorton.

Throckmorton sounds senatorial and aristocratic to me whereas a generic name like Smith conjured nothing.

Sometimes authors go over board. Depends on the type of book(seems like comedies, mysteries and detective books can get away with a bit of cartoonish names) but if you throw in an auto mechanic named Axle Wheelie and cop named Justice Law I'm not going to take your words very serious.

All I'm saying is make the name, fit the personality.

What's that you say? What about Harry Potter? He had a plain-jane name and look how memorable he was.

You are correct, but didn't J.K Rowling go to great pains to show us the very thing Harry wanted most was to be a normal boy. In his case the generic name played right into that set up. Who expects a young boy living under a staircase with a name like Harry Potter to be an entire society's lone hope of survival? Ms. Rowling did a great job of using names. Lupin, Nymphador Tonks, Sirius Black. Her names did an excellent job of giving the reader an image and a clue about each character.

I know a few writers who give no thought to naming a character. They grab the phone book and pick put a name with no more regard than to make certain it doesn't start with the same letter as one of their other characters. LAZY!

Think about it ponder your names. I'm not saying it has to be unorthodox. Sometimes a common name can conjure an image. Or so I think. Maybe I'm way off in this name thing. To find out let's try an experiment. I'm going to throw out a few names from my own stories. If you have time chime in with the briefest of things the name conjures. Age, occupation, physical attributes, demeanor, whatever comes to your mind. And don't cheat. Those of you who have read the work that the character is in do not respond. Some will be easier than other and not all or POV characters. Feel free to comment on one, or all, or none and simply tell me what you think about my name theory.

Hank Petty Zybeck
Fiona Meese
Betty Raintree
Rex Austin

Sergei Ochoa
Blue Riggins
Donnie Yates
Ruby Riggins

Royce McEwan
Rose Devine
Luann Pearson
Joe-Ray Pearson

Friday, January 18, 2008

You Rang

A few posts back I asked all of y'all what you expected from me. Free beer, particularly Shiner was mentioned. I'm an accommodating kind of guy so I'll buy a beer for everyone of you who shows up at the Frontiers In Writing Conference here in Amarillo this next June. The dates are June 13 & 14 2008. The conference offers the chance to learn from multi-published authors as well as literary agents and editors at a reasonable cost. Registration cost vary depending on meals and pre-conference workshops, but generally are between $100 and $150. If you can't attend think about entering the contest and get your work critiqued by published authors in the first round and either an agent or acquiring editor in the second. The deadline is March 1st.

Someone also mentioned they wanted to see more song lyrics, and with this being an election year I thought I'd have some fun to the tune of The Addams Family theme song. (Actually I didn't have to change all that much to make it fit)

They’re creepy and they're kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They’re all together ooky,
The Candidates.

Their issues are hidden.
Other people do their biddin'
The truth it is forbidden
The Candidates.



The Parties

So head to a polling place.
Pick a favorite in the race
Even though their all two-faced
The Candidates.

Guess the old adage is true, be careful what you ask for.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Anal & The Banal

I've been writing a good bit and when that happens this blog tends to suffer. Bear with me, I'm bound to hit a rocky patch where the words cease to flow as freely. Unfortunately, these smooth stretches never last long enough.

But in the meantime let me share a few things that have recently occurred to me in my frantic state to get the plethora of thoughts in my head down on paper.

The word hustle is used fairly often. He hustled to catch the bus. But have you ever seen the word bustle used on its own and not paired with hustle? The hustle and bustle of another frantic day forced him to stop at the liquor store and buy a bottle of rum.

SOB, or S.O.B? Has the acronym been used long and widely enough to now be a word all of it's own or do you need the periods to set it off so as not to think it is simply sob (as in to cry) in caps? The me the punctuation in it seems out of place in dialogue it looks awkward. Here is the context from Plundered Booty in which I use it. Which do y'all think is clearer and looks better

After a bit Frank said, “He sure is a brazen SOB.”

After a bit Frank said, “He sure is a brazen S.O.B.”

I realize this is not the type of thing that would keep the work from being accepted, but it is the ind of thing that slows my writing down while I ponder the best way to do it. Yes, I can get anal about my writing. I am extremely disorganized and haphazard about most things but not my writing, or the arraignment of my fishing tackle box. Guess we all have to be anal about something.

While the posts are in stink mode I'll try to add at least one picture to keep things interesting.

This is a shot of the Amarillo skyline as viewed a couple of miles southeast of town. Okay, so that's not all that exciting either, but this is my view every morning on the way to work so I thought I'd share it. Guess it beats the exhaust smudged window of a dirty bus or the unending string of taillights that many people are forced to look at during their trek to work.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Shipment From Acme

This isn't the greatest of pictures, but do you know what that bird is.?I took this shot through the slats of my neighbor's rail fence. I tried to get a better picture, but the sucker wouldn't stop running, so here is a better photo for your inspection, but not one I personally took.
I'm sure some of you can identify this creature, but maybe it is new to a few of you who have not traveled, or lived in the west. If indeed this isn't an animal you recognize then I am going to bust your bubble.

This bird does run rather fast.
This bird is not however, blue.
This bird does live in arid places.
This bird is not anywhere near as big as a coyote.
This bird does make a noise.
That noise is not Beep-Beep.

This bird is in fact a genuine roadrunner and bares very little resemblance to the cartoon character that plagued Wile E. Coyote all those Saturday mornings of your youth.

They are great birds to have around as they love to dine on ticks, snakes and lizards. Lizards I got no beef with and snakes I can tolerate as long as they leave me alone, but ticks are just plain nasty and while I appreciate nearly every aspect of nature and the balance it takes to survive, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if a bit of Darwinism kicked in and ticks were not among the fittest.

No this did not have a point except I saw this roadrunner dashing around the other day and I happened to have my camera. Lana Gramlich posts many a great nature shot from her regular hikes as does her husband Charles, though not as often. Inspired by them I have decided to try and capture a bit more of my world to share with y'all.

Remember my post a few days back about the liars reality show? Well, Erica Orloff brought it to my attention that there is a new reality show in which people win money by telling the truth. My understanding is that the contestants are hooked up to a lie detector and they are awarded money for every truthful answer. Of course they put the player on the spot by asking them questions like, Would you cheat on your spouse if you knew there was no way you'd get caught? Of course the man's wife is right there so he'd better say no. Sure he might lose out on some money if he's lying, but he just might save himself some attorneys fee's. And if he said yes and won more money chances are his wife would get half plus he'd have to fork over more cash for alimony, child support and what not. Unless he really is a faithful husband in which case he has nothing to worry about.

Anyway I told Erica that the biggest difference in that show and my idea is that they are rewarding honesty where I wanted to find the most skilled liar. I envisioned a show where the best liar got to stick around and ultimately claim the top prize. Then it hit me we already have these kind of contests. Most people call them elections.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Pinhole tagged me with the chore of stating what I hope to gain from this blog. His tongue in cheek in cheek answer was great, as was WordVixen's, but for once I've going to take the question serious and try to answer accordingly.

First and foremost, a shred of name recognition. I'm not naive to think that having this blog is going to make agents start clamoring at my door, or say yes, the instant one of my queries lands on their desk. Matter of fact I doubt any, even the most popular of blogs have that kind of influence. But I do think that leaving comments and participating on agent blogs gets you a bit better of a look when you query those agents. And lets say you already have an agent. When they approach and editor they can say look this person might be a first time author but they have a readership of ???? that visits their blog regularly. Has to help at least in a small way. And then lets say your book hits the shelf. Having your name out and about in the world has to increase sales if only by a few copies. And you have to sell that first one before you even think of a best seller list.

Then there is the hope that this blog gives me a better chance. Let's say I query an agent. Maybe there is something about the material that they like but yet they aren't completely sold. At least having the blog gives them a place to check out more of my work.Yes, the blog is riddled with bad grammar, poor punctuation, and shoddy editing, but I firmly believe my voice is pretty much the same. I believe in myself and my abilities and the whole act of acquiring an agent is sort of like dating. Sometime you don't have to be the best looking guy in the world or have the firmest of bodies to land the object of your desire, if that person gets a chance to know the real you. That's all I want is a chance and if the blog gives me that that any effort I've out forth is well worth it.

Camaraderie. I could talk fiction all day. Writing it, reading it, deciphering it. This blog has introduced me to many like-minded people. Some live in here in the US, some in Canada, others in France, and Germany, and New Zealand. Sure we write different stuff, read different stuff, and go about the process in different ways, but I still love talking shop. Then there are the non writers. Some read a lot, some not so much. Some are funny. Some educational. Some are just flat out entertaining, but they are people I never would have met in any way or form without this blog. My hope is that one day I will be in a position to go out and do some sort of book tour. At that point I expect y'all to all show up if I pass through your neck of the woods. Sure, it would be cool and flattering if you bought a book but I'd be just as pleased if you simply stopped by to say hello.

One unexpected but great side affect of this blog is the outlet it has provided. Sure there are times I'm posting when I could be working on my fiction but sometimes this blog is the very thing that gets my creative juices flowing.

I started this after hearing several agents mention that writers need to start promoting themselves long before their books hit he shelf and I honestly have no regrets.

Instead of tagging someone with this I'm going to turn things around on all of you. and ask, What do you expect from me? What do you click on here hoping to find? What brings you back? What keeps you away? What do you want to see more of? Less of? You get the idea. Now chime in because another thing this blog has done is transform me into a comment whore.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

You Shoulda Seen The One That Got Away ...

Thursdays meeting went well for all those answering. I got a ton of great feedback, a good bit of constructive criticism, and the pleasure of some like-minded company. I'm telling you fellow writers out there, don't hole up in your house and forget an entire world exists beyond your computer scree. There is nothing that refreshes my writerly batteries like spending face to face time with other writers. Sure, I'm in a weekly Monday night critique group with three intelligent ladies who are talented writers and now I'm going to make the Thursday morning trio a weekly thing as well. You know I've never been in a crit group where there was another man, at least not one that showed up regularly. I consider Plundered Booty to be much more of a "guy" book than my previous novels but I'm pleased to say thus everyone, male and female alike, has gotten the humor. Let's hope I can keep it that way. I really am fortunate to live in such a strong writing community where so many talented people are wiling to share their knowledge.

Friday the weather here was gorgeous, high in the upper 50s with not a stitch of wind. So I took my boys fishing. The state of Texas stocks Rainbow trout in several places including a small pond/lake int he midst of Amarillo's medical center. It is a great opportunity to take the boys without spending a lot of money and time getting to a larger lake. Here are a few pics I snapped.

This is our catch and our supper. My seven year old hooked and reeled in the trout on top and the five year old caught the bigger one on bottom. Yes, he made certain to point out that his was bigger. matter of fact he is still reminding his brother two days later.

No the other shot is not from the remaking of the Hitchcock film The Birds. Those are Canadian Geese that winter int he area. It is a wonder they can fly at all after all the bread people feed them but just as we were leaving about three or four hundred of the large birds took off and flew right over our heads. We stared up and watched them go making sure to keep our mouths closed.

Blogging may be sporadic this week as I concentrate on my fiction while the words are flowing. But I have a few more pics to share so look for my posts this week to be more of a visual nature.

Here's to happy, writing, cooperating fish, and soaring wings to you all.

*by the way. I joined Facebook so look for me there if you have an account.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wait Until You're my Age

Thanks for all the great comments to my last post. I really thought most people would think my idea for a biggest liar show was too weird, especially given that I didn't do a very good job of explaining th idea. And no, I have no real plans to pursue the idea. was simply spouting off. for one I'd have no clue how to go about such a thing and for another all my free time is geared towards developing a writing career.

Matter of fact, as I write this post I am sitting in a coffee shop waiting on two fellow writers to show up so we can pick apart each others work and talk about the craft of fiction. I will be reading the first bit of Plundered Booty for them and I am eager to get their thoughts. I think this a project that people will either love and buy into or absolutely hate. Lets hope I can find an agent and eventually an editor that falls into the former.

And yes, for those who asked, that Elvis line in my last post came right out of my thick noggin and I actually used a very similar line in my second novel.

Here's a random thought I had this week.

Wait until you're my age.

There are no crueler words in the English language than those. Here's why ...

First off, you never believe them at teh time they are spoken. you're young dumb and absolutely certain you'll never fall into the trap of using your age as an excuse. Twenty, thirty, or forty. you'll still be able to stay out all night drinking Jagar Meister and still make it to work the next morning. You'll still be able to play tackle football and walk without a limp the day after. You'll still care more about whose going to win next weeks playoff than next weeks presidential primary. Least that is what you tell yourself.

But years later the truth hits you harder than a NFL linebacker.

Then you start to think about all the other times people have told you ...

Wait Until you're my age ...

and you realize ... Damn, They're probably right about everything else as well.

Now you've got a whole new list of stuff to worry about. You kids becoming teenagers and driving, getting up to pee every other hour at night, the possibility of little blue pills somewhere in your future, joint pain, you're wife hitting menopause. aching knees every morning, social security woes, regrets that the nightly news doesn't some on at eight so you can be in bed at night.

I'm thirty five. Not old by any stretch, but old enough to reevaluate things. Old enough to realize you can't fight off old age by plucking the occasional stray gray hair from your goatee. Old enough to know better ... but still young enough to do it anyway.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Liar, Liar Pants On Fire

You know what the world needs? Another, reality show.

I'm not kidding, but not just any old reality show. Yes, I have a concept for a new reality show.

Still working on a title but maybe Liar, Liar Pants On Fire, The Biggest Liar, or The B.S. Test.

Here's how it would work. In the beginning stage you give each persona scenario they have to carry out. A mission that only a skilled bullshitter could carry out. Maybe he's gotta talk his way backstage at an Oprah taping. Or maybe a woman has to talk another woman into revealing her true dress size. Or maybe it as simple as talking their way into getting their money back for a Whopper at Burger King. This stage would be a way to introduce the major players and weed out the pretenders. I'd compare it to those horrendous early auditions in American Idol.

Then the real fun would begin. The lie off.

Through a series of challenges each week two contestant would face off in an elimination battle. The first would tell a totally made up story. The other would have to top it. This would go on until one one contestant failed to top the story or the audience drowned them out by yelling bullshit. Entertaining stories and humor would be needed to keep the audience off your back.

Sure it sounds ridiculous but I'd rather watch that than a bunch of grown men cram fifty-bajillion hotdogs down their throats in a five minute span. Or the Rock, Paper, Scissors national championship live from Vegas. Yes, ESPN does show both of those.

And yes, I want to be a contestant. Heck, I think I'd be one of the favorites. Now a brief story, which is a true account of my abilities to spin a tall tale.

Several years back me and group of friends headed north to Colorado for a week of Elk hunting. For those who've never spent time in a hunting camp let me tell you, the truth gets stretched tighter than the waistband of an Elvis suit in the later years. A bit of bragging and boasting is not only acceptable but expected. Stories are swapped and everyone tries to outdo the other hunters. Feel free to sing the song from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

No one hunts like Gaston.

No one dances like Gaston.
No one fights likes Gaston.

Be sure and throw in adequate fist pumping.

So there were six of us. Five all knew each other and the sixth was a friend of the newest member of our group. We shall call him Gaston. He flew in from Florida to joint the hunt.

Problem was he was a jackass of the highest order. He spent all of the first day giving me marital advice. In all fairness he did have more experience than me since he was on wife number seven whereas I've only ever had one.

The second day he told all of us how stupid we were for hunting this particular area of the mountains. Sure, he'd never shot an elk but he had gone once before some ten odd years ago.

Day three he talked about how bad the food was that we ate and brought along. Never mind the fact he didn't bring anything but his own clothes and hunting equipment. Oh and his gun was far superior to the crappy weapons we carried, and his walkie-talkie reached twice as far as ours.

By day four we were tired, cold and hungry so we headed to town for a steak dinner. While Gaston got ready I told the others that I was going to have some fun with him tonight.

So we sat down and sure enough Gaston started in with a story of how wonderful his hunting lease in Florida was. I one-upped him and spoke of the monstrous mule deer in Texas.

Back and forth we went and ever time I took his outlandish story one level higher. After a gang got to snickering so I had a hard time keeping a straight face, but I maintained control just to see how far this idiot would go.

So finally he tells this ridiculous story if a guy he knew he kept a pair of deer antler with him at all times that had screws inserted into the basis. That way he could shoot a buck or doe and simply screw the antlers on to fool the game wardens since only bucks were legal game.

His tale had more holes in it that a desolate stop sign in redneck country ... but instead of questioning him I launched into my own sordid tale.

This guy I knew was out hunting on the last day of Elk season. He hiked seven or eight miles up into the mountains. Dark was closing in a storm was moving down from the north and he was all alone above the timber line. He should have quit and turned back hours ago but he'd been trailing a monstrous bull elk all afternoon. Finally he stalked within rifle range, but then it hit him. He could never drag such a large animal all the way back to his truck by himself. Not before the storm hit. So he pondered the situation until he began to shiver and then it came to him.

At this point I'd lowered my voice and Gaston leaned closer to hear more.

So he raised his rifle, took aim, and shot the huge seven by seven Bull Elk.

Gaston nodded as if he'd known it all along. Smugly he leaned back as if this story held no merit. "Bet he had fun dragging the big bastard all by himself. He probably got frost bite before he made it back to his truck."

I smiled. I'd reeled my fish in.

Oh, he didn't drag the elk back. He only shot to wound it enough so he could catch it. Then he hopped on its back and rode the things down to his truck where he finished it off with a shot to the head from his pistol.

Gaston opened his mouth to speak and for one brief moment I though he was going to try and top the story then he stopped and said, "Awww, Bullshit. You expect me to believe a story like that?"

Of course everyone else dies laughing, but I merely raised my hand in victory and said yes, "Finally a story that not even you are willing to try and one up."

He never went hunting with us again.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Good Times

Yeah the picture stinks, but all I had was my cellphone and after a few pitchers of Shiner Bock my hand wasn't as steady as it should be. This is the stage, small as it may be, of my favorite nightspot in all of the world. The Golden Light Cantina sits on part of historic Route 66 and they only sale beer and wine so if you want anything harder you'll have to bring your own. Yes, they do allow that.

Anyway, This shot is from Friday night and the fellows up on stage call themselves Rusty Sheriffs Badge. One played the acoustic guitar and the other the mandolin. I believe they said they were from Wichita Kansas. I knew right away they were not from Texas since they were drinking Lone Star Beer.

*Hint* For you non Texans. No one native to The Lone Star state actually drinks Lone Star beer. The stuff is nasty. It is for tourists and movie purposes only. Of Texas brews, Shiner Bock is by far tastier and more widely consumed than Lone Star. At least in this day and age so if you ever stop in for a visit don't order a Lone Star unless you want everyone to know you're a foreigner. Yes, anyone not born and raised in Texas is a foreigner regardless if you hail from Oklahoma, Delaware or Poland.

The band was pretty good although I'm not a huge bluegrass fan and that was their direction. They did a solid job on the classic song Long Black Veil and they added enough dysfunction with songs like Cocaine Gonna Kill My Baby Dead to make it fun. It was a bit too smoky, but the Shiner was cold and the friends were good so overall a fine night with some live music. I highly recommend it if you ever get this way.

For more about the Golden Light and to read about my other adventures there read this post about my life of crime.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


I don't talk about my kids much on here. After all, there are lots of blogs that do a much better job of detailing the ups and downs of parenting. But for those who do not know I have two boys. T is seven and no that does not stand for Travis Junior. His name is much weirder than that. And Z (strange name as well) is five. As seems to be the case with most siblings the two are as different as ... Night and day? Oil and water? Nope. Just because I'm switching from my writing hat to my parenting hat for this post doesn't mean I'm stooping to cliched phrases. So, they are as different as ...

Water and Ice.

Yeah, yeah I know. Water and ice are the exact same thing in different forms. Well so are my kids. They're both little boys. They're both the offspring of me and my wife. They're both both cute as all get out if I do say so myself. But that's where the similarities end.

T, like water is fluid, graceful and always moving. Like the liquid form of H2O, he tends to choose the path of least resistance. Sure he can be destructive at time, but for the most part he is tranquil although a bit needy at times. he loves to be the center of attention and gambling to get it. Karaoke, no problem. Being the only boy in tap and ballet. Never has fazed him. Now he's decided that he'd like to act in a play or something. And you know what he'll be able to do it just as certain as water flows downhill.

Z is the harsher element. If he were an adult some might describe him as having an icy personality. He talks only when he want to and then only says what is on his mind. He is content to sit in one place for hours. But give him a crack and he'll worm himself in. He especially likes to torment his brother and he tries to break part that small crack and turn it into a full blown fight. But he is a studious observer of people and things. The questions and comments he comes up with floors me. His attention to detail will make him a great writer should he choose to go that direction. In many ways he is an easier child to care for than his brother because he is so fiercely independent and determined to do things for himself, but he also has a stubborn streak and temper that he most assuredly inherited from his mother. ;)

Why am I pondering and pontificating all of this? Because of the new car.

You see in the old room to waste SUV the boys were a bit farther back. Sure they bickered and carried on but they couldn't really reach each other since the second row also had bucket seats. In the new car they fight constantly;y and they can reach each other to inflict actual damage. And all of this takes place only a few feet behind my head. Last night as we went about town showing the car off I thought, This is going to be the death of me. My head started pounding and by the time I got home my nerves were rattling like a tin box full of marbles.

But parenting is never as bad as it seems in the worst moments. Once we got home and things settled down The boys reeled me back in with their charm, wit, and tender innocence.

I sat down on the ouch, turned on the Steelers - Jaguar playoff game and the boys sat down beside me.

"You like football, huh dad." Said T.
"Uh, huh"
"Me too." He snuggled a bit closer. "You now why?"
Me : "No, why?"
"Because you do."

Now how could I stay mad after that? I had spent the last several hours getting after them constantly, but they didn't care.

Then at halftime, I started flipping through the channels. I come to one of the many ESPNs and they are showing figure skating. Z groans and says, "Not this. I don't want to watch skating."
Me: "You don't like skating?"
Z : "Not the pretty kind. I just like hockey. It's much more better."

Ahhh ... that's my boy.

I wouldn't trade either of them for all the gold in the world or a million dollar book deal.

Friday, January 4, 2008

You Filthy Stinking, Caucus.

I'm over half way there. That's right I'm just past what I'd call the halfway point of my novel in progress, Plundered Booty so I decided to take a break and share my good mood with all of y'all by rambling away about a few things on my mind.

Isn't Caucus a strange word? It has kind of vulgar, almost eastern European feel to me. I'm sure any of the many knowledgeable readers of this blog (Alex is my guess) can tell me the real origins of the word, but I can imagine it as a Russian cuss word. I can picture Ivan reaching for a bottle of Vodka when his hand slips and he drops the bottle onto the cold granite floor. At which point he would exclaim. "Son of a Caucus!"

On a related note, I have no idea who I'm going to vote for this year. I am one of those middle-of-the-roader, undecided people that are said to control every election, yet generally I end up voting for some odd character that has no real chance to be elected. Yes, I voted for Kinky Friedman in the last Texas Gubernatorial race. I have a relative who says voting for a president is easy. he claims that you should simply ask yourself one question. "Am I better off now that I was four years ago.?" His theory is. if you say yes, vote for the incumbent party, if no vote for the other party.

But I think the two party system is the primary reason why I never find a candidate that I truly can rally behind. Working for the Post Office and being active in my union (I am actually in the middle of an election myself right now, but unlike Hillary, Rudy and the gang I'm spending zero dollars campaigning) logic says I should vote Democratic. But there are several issues in which I disagree with the Democrats stance. As there is with the Republicans. I hate to be forced into voting for the "best of the worst."

And that my friend is the end of my political talk. So what else is on my mind?

I've had a run of weird dreams as of late. The other night I was driving around in my car and int eh backseat was a woman. Now in my dream I knew this woman well but in reality she was no one in particular that I know. Anyways this woman wad dying and moaning with pain and I decided in my dream state that I'd get in trouble if she kicked of in my car so I drove out to a field and threw her out in the weeds. As I drove away she was calling out, "Please don't leave me I don't want to die here, all alone." I kept going.

Then I woke up in a guilt ridden panic. and It took me a good half hour to calm down and convince myself it had only bee a dream. I hadn't really abandoned some poor woman to die alone in a desolate field. Anyone have any logical interpretation of that one. Have y'all ever had a dream and then felt guilty for your nocturnal illusion? My wife once got mad at me for something I did to her in her dream. Has that ever happened to any of y'all?

Told ya'll this was going to be a random filled, rambling post.

I recently read Carl Hiasson's novel Skinny Dip. Overall It kept me reading and eager to see what would happen next but I expected it to be funnier. I'll definitely read more of his work but someone had recommended him as being hilarious and while I did chuckle a time or two hilarious is not the word I'd use to describe the novel. Right now, I'm reading, The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose. I'll let you know what I think when I'm finished. What have ya'll been reading?

How about I close with another random photo from my computer. This shot is of a young mule deer buck taken in my front yard back in September. For those who might not know that fuzz on his antlers is called velvet and sometime in late fall, after the antlers are through growing for the year, the velvet begins to come off in bloody scraps. I'm always surprised how many people do not realize animals with antlers (deer, elk, moose) shed their racks every year and grow new ones, while those with horns (cows, goats, sheep) keep their horns year after year.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Sometimes, Yesterdays Wine is Bitter.

I've been trying to stick to an every other day time frame for posting, but I feel compelled to break that routine and get another round of my blatherings out. First off I hated yesterday's post and I'm ready to push it a few rungs down the ladder. Also, I have new things to report as well something I meant to mention yesterday but forgot once I lost my train of thought.

We have a new car. After nearly fours hours of dealing with an entirely different set of salesmen from entirely different dealership we have officially kicked aside our gas guzzling SUV and moved to a much smaller Dodge Caliber which gets just about twice the mileage. Make no mistake the new ride is my wife's. Sure, I'll get to drive it from time to time, but for the most part I'll still be behind the wheel of my beat up old Blazer. Here is a pic of a very similar model. The dealership is bringing ours in from Kansas so it will be Friday before it arrives.

Now to the stuff I meant to include in yesterday's post but forgot when my mind clouded over. Last week Merry Jelinek bestowed upon me The Roar for Powerful Words award. I've never seen a purple lion but who am I to doubt the fine folks over at The Shameless Lion Writers Circle.

Per the rules I am supposed to list three writing tips,(We all know how that went yesterday) and then nominate five bloggers who are deserving of this award based on the powerful words they post on their blogs on a regular basis. Or that is how I understand this award.

The Tips

1) Don't be Scared -
This applies on many levels.

Level One -First don't be scared to try. I know many people who have said, I'd love to write but I wouldn't know where to start, or I love to read and I have some good story ideas but I don't know all those grammar rules and stuff. HELLO PEOPLE! You ever read this blog? Neither do I but that doesn't stop me. Jump on in the water is a bit turbulent at time but refreshing just the same.

Level Two - Don't be scared to write what is on your mind. Or put another way. Write like your momma is dead. You can't be filtering your potty mouthed characters dialogue simply because your mom or grandma might one day read your novel. So what if you sex scene is a bit kinky? Who knows? Maybe gramps and granny could use the pointers. Through Viagra all things are possible. And I once had an agent tell me in a workshop, If you're not writing strong enough to piss someone off then chances are you aren't writing strong enough to really reach anyone.

Level Three - Okay, you wrote something. A few pages, a short story an entire novel. Don't be scared to let someone read it. A friend first a fellow writer you met on the internet. A critique group you found via your local writers group. Even your spouse can give you feedback but be prepared to take constructive critique. No one is perfect and regardless of what you intended to write if the words confuse someone else they are confusing. Re work it polish it let someone else read it and then send it out int eh word to agents or editors. No one is going to knock on your door and say, "Hi, I'm Johnny Editor from Random House and I heard you have a stunning novel tucked away with the dust bunnies under your bed. I want to buy it and all those unfinished stories languishing on your hard drive." Just write. Don't Be scared.

2) Find a Comrade -
I have been blessed right from the start of my writing adventures to have a number of friends, and mentors help me. I encourage you to join an on-line writing community or your local writers group. And if you are just starting out I strongly urge you to find a critique group. If nothing else find a fellow soul who is hitchhiking down the same stretch of lonely road and commiserate, bounce ideas off each other. Chances are you're going to need a friendly shoulder to cry on a few times and you'll want someone who truly understand how hard success is that first time you hear yes.

3) Read - Not simply as a reader, but as a writer. Take a few of you favorite books grab a highlighter and sit down. My advice choose novels published int he last five years or so because no matte how great To Kill A Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby are they aren't exactly like the things getting published today. Focus on the current market. Highlight the first time you really liked the protagonist and then ask yourself what made you like them. OR take a pertinent plot point and ask yourself why did the author reveal this now. How would the novel have changed if I'd known this on page 1 or not until page 200. How did the author handle letting us know the female protagonist was raped at the age of thirteen, or some other bit of relevant back story. There are a million little questions you can ask yourself and explore in order to see what make a good book good. I'm not saying to then copy and write your book in a formalistic way based off of others, but if you do this with two or three novels you will begin to see many things in common with great story telling. A word of caution . Use paperbacks because if you do this right you are going to ruin the copies with notes highlights and torn pages.

I hope at least one of those three points helps someone out there.

Now a list of others whose powerful words I enjoy reading. A lot of the bloggers I read have already done this so I'm going off my shaky memory and trying to hit new people, but if I screw up and pick someone who's already had this ... Too bad, do it again.

Bluefingers aka Cicily Janus - Stop by and explain to her why blogger is so much better than myspace. You'll never convince her, but it will give her something to do just the same. Cicily is a very talented writers with a twisted take on most things. She has a story on Underground Voices this month and a poetry review on Eclectica.

WordVixen - Freelancer, fiction writer, crafter, and my source of info for web gizmo's and page creation info, WordVixen is indeed one industrious gal.

Tena Russ - Writer, artist, and dog lover extraordinaire, Tena's blog is as refreshing as an ice cold beer on a hot August day.

Alex Keto and Sherry over at Sage and Thyme have already won this award but I felt compelled to give them both a shout out here just the same.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Writerly Stuff and a Brief Rant

Man am I glad to holidays are behind us. Not that I am Scrooge or anything, but I'm ready to get back to normal. Normal? Is there even such a thing when you really get down to it?

A writing post is coming but first a short rant. WARNING : This could turn into a very long post but the rant should be short lived.

I'm trying to buy my wife a new car. One that will be a bit more dependable as the Ford Expedition she currently drives is getting way on up there in miles. Not to mention it cost more to keep it full of gas than it does to feed a pack of fat guys at Red Lobster.

Now correct me if I'm wrong but the term salesman has the word SALE right there in it. So shouldn't that be the primary function of these peoples job, to sale? Not to act like pompous jackass's. Not to tell me what I need instead of what I want. Not to antagonize me with their smug attitudes until I'm ready to yank the camel hair coat of his back and strangle him with the sleeves.

Okay rant over. Time to segue into the writing aspect of this post.

So many of you know the novel I am writing is titled Plundered Booty. Dang near every character in the book either works at a car dealership or is married to someone that does. Until my recent car buying venture I worried that I'd make too many of the salesmen despicable. I thought maybe the whole thing was a bit too over the top of the sleaze factor of these individuals. Now I'm thinking I might have to add in more derelict behavior.

Speaking of characters. How do y'all feel about physical descriptions? For the most part, I'm not a huge believer in detailed physical descriptions. Sure if you protagonist is missing an ear or has one leg cut off at the knee you might wanna mention it, but a reader is going to form their own mental image fairly quickly so unless there is a huge or highly relevant feature I say stick to the basics and then move in.

Stay with me follow the rambling. I hope to make sense in the end.

I recently finished a novel a pretty good novel in fact but ... the author waited until a hundred or so pages to tell me the female protag was blonde. By that time I already had her pictured as a brunette so when he finally got around to describing her his words clashed with my imagined image. It wasn't a huge deal but it did make me stop reading and start puzzling over why I thought she was brunette. I even went back to see if he'd screwed up and changed his description. This is just one minor example but the most recent one I can think of.

Here is my list of Do and Don'ts when it comes to describing your characters.

Do describe them as early as possible, Before your reader has formulated a bunch of notions on their own.

Don't have them look at themselves in the mirror and then describe themselves. That my friends screams LAZY writer.

Do give your reader enough to form a mental image. It is hard to relate to anything you've never seen or heard so give the reader enough to build that image.

Don't mention every last detail. Yes, detail adds character but hearing about the mole on their neck, the scar on their chin that they got when they were six by tripping over the pot full of geraniums on their granny's front porch,and the ringsize of their big toe is jsut a bit much. It's all in the dosage and relevancy.

Don't fall back into telling while giving description. Frank is fat.

Do show. The plaid fabric stretched tight across Frank's beer gut had me longing for a pair of safety glasses. At any moment those buttons were liable to go, and the with the force of his lard behind them those suckers could put out an eye.

Do use words that fit your tone and scene, just like you would any other time. Writing a contemporary romance? You don't want to say ... Her lips were as red as the skin beneath a freshly peeled scab. That doesn't conjure romantic thoughts. Her painted red lips parted just enough for me to feel her warm breath on my neck. At least that has a bit of action to it and it adds to the mood.

Don't jar the reader out of your scene. Slapping the dust from his jeans he stepped down out of the stage coach and smiled. His teeth gleamed like a chrome bumper. That's bad for several reasons but chances are if you're writing a scene that has a stage coach in it mention car parts is a very bad idea.

I think I'm rambling so I'm gonna stop now but since many of you are much more accomplished writers than me how about adding a few dos and don'ts in the comments.

And being writers some of you might be interested in this contest. It is affiliated with the conference of my local writers group. It is a good chance to get some feedback. the first round is judged by published authors and the finals are judged by either a literary agent or an acquiring editor. I know of several projects that have sold via this contest and I have had an agent read a full as a result. The entry fee ($20) goes towards acquiring speakers and funding the conference.

I'd love seeing some of you at the conference this coming June but at the very least I expect to hear some of y'alls names announced at the awards ceremony.

This is why I don't really like to do these writing craft p[sots anymore. I have a head full of things I want to get down but when I'm done and read back through what I said it seems like asinine, sophomoric gibberish. Maybe that says more about me than I'm willing to admit.