The Writer’s Craft

You don’t wake up one morning and decide to be a writer.

The need to communicate is in every creature’s genes.  Its physical attributes dictate the way it can communicate.  All creatures communicate if only to ensure or extend survival.

Social media has expanded the technology that enables humans to communicate.  Positives and negatives abound on both sides of the equation.

A writer takes the need to communicate a step beyond that which drives all humans to express themselves.  A writer writes because he has something to say, is driven to share it, and is compelled to say it with words.

I write every day.  I have several book-length manuscripts in some stage of development – one, nonfiction and a handful of stories, two are sequels to previously published works.  I do not anticipate completing any of these manuscripts in 2021.  I write, edit and manage four websites – two of my own, a friend’s business website, and another friend’s non-profit website.  I contribute articles to one other website.  I advise two businesses and this mandates weekly reports and annual reports.

I write every day.

Stephen King advises writers…

“Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.”

In my words, if you don’t read, you can’t write.  The two activities go hand in hand.  You can read and elect not to write, but if you want to write well, you must read.

I’ve told you what I am writing.  Here’s a taste of what I’m reading…

  • In the last several years, I’ve read seven of Wendell Berry’s ‘Port William’ novels. I will read the final two – That Distant Land and Andy Catlett – this year.
  • I am currently reading Stephen E Ambrose’s 1975 dual biography Crazy Horse and Custer, The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors.
  • I read two quarterly magazines: Parabola and Plough.
  • I am looking forward to Steven Pressfield’s new novel in March, A Man at Arms: A Novel, described by the publisher as “an epic saga about a reluctant hero, the Roman Empire, and the rise of a new faith.”
  • I am reading the World Wildlife 2020 report “The Living Planet.”
  • I am reading Pope Francis’s 2015 ecological encyclical Laudato Si!
  • I am reading Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1938 and am halfway through Alabama.
  • I am reading the archaeological record “Petroglyphs of the Picacho Mountains, South Central Arizona.”

My extended ‘to read’ list includes…

  • Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
  • May the Road Rise Up to Meet You by Peter Troy
  • House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  • The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  • The Man Who Walked Through Time: The Story of the First Trip Afoot Through the Grand Canyon by Colin Fletcher

I read slowly, and that list will ensure I lack nothing to read in 2021.

Whether you are a published author or a frequent media participant, I encourage you to continue writing and to improve your skills with a strong dose of good literature each and every day.  It’s as essential as eating an apple.

 

Year’s End

 

My 501 jeans fit tighter as 2020 draws to a close.
A year after losing 20-pounds sharing an unplumbed shack with my dog Clarence,
Ten have returned, but that trade has been a positive one.

I prefer living in a rural environment,
But my neighbors here are good, and the neighborhood quiet for the most part.
One of the little girls next door screams too much, but I’ve grown tolerant and more patient, too.

I want for nothing,
And concoct ways to feed hungry children.
No one cares.  Self and faked needs take priority.

A sign hangs in my kitchen.
“I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.”
I want to be the person my granddaughters think I am.

I read Wendell Berry.  He is good for the soul.
Haircuts are inconvenient.  I allow mine to grow longer than it has ever been.
I’ve added a few more prayers to the ones I prayed as a child.

Life requires good deeds, not good intentions.
Let that be the legacy of a life well-lived.

Dziadek

 

Chapter Seven, Nagasaki

Originally published three years ago, I want to share it again…


In a recent lecture I attended at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, Professor Christopher Simer stated, “Crisis? What crisis?” as he opened a discussion on the nuclear stalemate between the United States and North Korea. I tend to agree with the good professor. Regardless of personalities involved, I consider the purposeful use of nuclear weapons remote amid these days of continued brinkmanship that characterized the Cold War years that I grew up in. Of course, as Richard Bach told us in Illusions, everything I write may be wrong.

Nuclear weapons have been purposefully employed just once – twice if you consider two bombs were dropped three days apart on August 6 and 9, 1945. I want to believe that humanity has learned much since the United States ‘cried havoc and let loose the dogs of war!’ I will have faith and pray that it has.

The birds still sing.

Tree Rings, Chapter Seven, Nagasaki

A Different Easter

Many of us are making our pilgrimage through fasting, praying and almsgiving – three spiritual pillars common to many religions.  In these challenging times, we may pray more, fast more – though not necessarily by choice – and offer more kindness and understanding to our brothers and sisters than we have at other times.

“Easter will be different this year,” my neighbor Rebecca says.  She is correct. Continue reading A Different Easter

FREE Olympian Audio Books

I was pleased with the email I received from Audible this morning announcing that during this time of challenge, Audible is making hundreds of teen and children’s audiobooks available for free as long as schools remain closed.  Great move by a good company.  That got me thinking…

The Sixth Day
Alistair McKenzie – actor, composer, playwright, director, producer, screenwriter

In 2013, LA actor, producer and director Alistair McKenzie and I collaborated on two audiobooks offered on Audible:  The Sixth Day and The Olympian.  Since then, Alistair has produced two other audios for this website that you can download from the ‘Complimentary Offerings’ page:  “Rosie, A Tale of Redemption” and “The Christmas Story” from Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ.  I will forever be indebted to Alistair and the way he has brought my manuscripts to life through his spoken words! Continue reading FREE Olympian Audio Books

The Soul of the Book

According to Wikipedia, an epigram is a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising statement.  This literary device has been employed for over two millennia.  Epigrams often appear as Epigraphs at the beginning of a book to suggest its theme.  The only books in which I did not employ an epigraph was my first, The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas, and my cop thriller, DWI: Dying While Intoxicated.  I subsequently added an epigraph to the Kindle edition of The Olympian.

The epigraph captures the soul of the book. Continue reading The Soul of the Book

An Editing Tool

Rarely can I read a book and not find a typographical error.  While that may be an overstatement, it is to say that despite every editor and publisher’s best intentions, the pesky typo is apt to exist in the best of manuscripts.  Spelling errors, grammatical errors, double words… I’ve seen them all, I’ve seen them in my books, and I’ve seen them in books by my favorite authors published by the most prestigious publishing houses. Continue reading An Editing Tool