Please, Excuse the Mess…

Whatever it takes.

That’s the writer’s motto.  The artist’s motto.  WHATEVER IT TAKES!

Whatever it takes to put the words on the paper.  What ever it takes to finish the rough draft.  Whatever it takes to pick it back up and wrestle with the characters, plot, descriptions, style, genera expectations, voice, and readability until you have a finished product.  Whatever it takes to get it published and into the hands of readers.

My stories are movies playing inside my head.  They morph and change as I delve deeper, but it’s still just a movie playing in my head.  I have to find the words to explain the story to you.  Have you ever had someone tell you ABOUT a movie IN DETAIL?  It’s usually terrible.  Have you ever listened to a good/professional storyteller?  There is a huge difference between those two experiences.

I think I’m getting a better grasp of the words, and how to make them go.  How to hold back what the reader wants, make them work for it, give just enough to keep them hooked.  And I can see the big picture hidden in the words.  Themes and morals, sometimes hidden even from me until the full rough draft is done.  But meshing the two, good-enough words and a big story, escapes me.

I’ve got a lot of rough drafts lying around.  I’ve chosen one to learn how to tell a story on.  It’s a robust story, with everything I love about the universe in it.   The Main Character is a side of me I can easily access, so she frequently tells me to pull my shit together and finish the fuckin’ book!  She’s a strong motivator.

I’ve tried to take it farther than just a rough draft, but I can’t seem to get my head around the seventeen pages…  Wait.  THIRTY-ONE PAGES of notes on changes, OR to apply the advice of the books I’ve read about storytelling.  Like everybody else, I have commitments, work, family, and anxieties to deal with.  And I deal with them, but then not a lot of energy for writing is left over.  So, another year has slipped away from me, unpublished.  Part of me wants to give up, and just write something new, something exciting, always rough drafts, and never bother to publish.

But, I’m a stubborn person.  I WILL create a finished product.  I just need the right tools.

I think I’ve found a couple more tools in the last few months.  With ways to tinker, and lay out, and get more story off the page and into my hands.  I’m good with my hands.  I think with my hands, and I’m a visual person.  I didn’t realize there were tools for that kind of brain.  It’s kinda like outlining, kinda like story board, kinda like art.  Lets see if it will help my get a handle on my revisions.  Then I can begin the rewrite, choosing the right words to tell a story, instead of telling you about a story.

I’ll share the tools with you, once I have a firmer grip on them.  I can’t be the only writer with these kinds of problems.  For now, my writing is “Construction Zone! Please, Excuse the Mess!”  (Hint: The tools are more books, but that really shouldn’t surprise you at this point.)

Happy Writing, y’all!




There is Still a Chance to Influence the Future!

Ok, I’m going to put myself into another uncomfortable spot.

I’ve carefully followed my Christmas budget, and I’ve laid out my plans to work extra hours the next two months, and I have wonderful family members who will help me out in a pinch, but…

I’m afraid some unforeseen bill or expense will ruin my chance to take my daughter on her class trip.

The OCP class has had some good donations, but final payment for the cabins is Jan. 10.  After that will be figuring out how to get us all down to embarkation (thirty-ish kids and adults).  Will we be pooling vehicles and drivers, or will we charter a bus for the group?  Will we drive all night, or be able to get a hotel?

The teachers have been encouraging smaller donations from friends and family, like Christmas or Happy New Year cards sent directly to the class with a donation enclosed.  (That was exciting to see.)  Allstate is offering $5 to the class for every name/address/phone/e-mail contact that agrees to go through an insurance quote, but the quote has to be completed before they donate.  (Personally, I’d rather just donate the $5 directly to the class.)  One of the other class parents,  Mr. Coggeshall, has set up a place to donate on his Facebook page.  (The link isn’t working, but you can find it on my FB page.  I’ll keep fiddling with it.)  The class is sponsoring a “Hat Day” in the school, where students get to wear a hat all day if they donate $1.  (I’ll post a picture if I can.)

Here is the local news report for the trip.

So, rather than just corporate donations, we are pleased to accept any help at all, no matter how small.  The school address is River Bluff High School, 320 Corley Mill Road, Lexington, SC 29072, and make sure it’s marked Attn.: Occupational Credential Program Class Trip.  The teacher’s contact information are Benjamin Dangerfield at and Karen Rozmus at

Just so you know, I promised myself I’d never monetize my blog, or my exploratory writing in general.  Although I admire the people who have the self-confidence to follow that path, I won’t accept payment for my writing until I have proof-of-concept in the form of a finished product.  Anything I post here is purely to help other writers, even if it’s just to NOT make the same mistakes I have.  I had a “bootstrap” upbringing (for better or worse), and while I have been able to ignore it when it comes to the help other people NEED, I an unable to escape it in my own mind.  This plea is about as close as I can stand to asking for help, because it’s for her, and all the other kids with big dreams.

Happy New Year, y’all, and Happy Writing!

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A shy Kitsune girl displays a banner on two of her tails for the big cruise boat. (Kitsune is a Japanese fox spirit with multiple tails.  AJ brings me more mythology information each day.  I love it.)

On Rabbits and Religion

Religion is like a book.

(A writer is comparing something to a book!  Call the Simile Police! Dial 418! Hurry!)

Maybe we should have been talking about politics and religion all these years.  What if we could have avoided some of the problems we are currently having IF we had been a little more open to the exchange of ideas.  Or, maybe, I just like having a soapbox to stand on.  Please, just bear with me.

Religion is like a book.  You could read just one.  But, why?  You could follow just one.  But, why?

Consider rabbits.

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Two books with rabbits as central characters influenced me as a child.  What if one of them had been the holy writ of my heritage?  Would my Gods have blue coats with brass buttons, as told by of Beatrix Potter?  Or, would my Gods have existential dread, along with fierce loyalty, by way of Richard Adams?

Is the world working to destroy me, or just making it hard to get enough to eat?  Am I being controlled by parental favors, or nature and survival of the fittest?   Am I guided in how to live in simple parables, or complicated and counter-intuitive laws?  Are the rules for being clothed strictly enforced, or non-existent?  Would my punishment for transgressions be blood and violence in the dark, or chamomile tea before being sent to bed early?

Which rabbit gods are the Righteous Rabbit Gods?  Or should we completely stay away from stories of rabbits, altogether?

When it comes down to it, I believe these stories tell us far less about rabbits and much more about humans.  I feel the same about religion.  You can really understand a person when you see how they practice their religion, or lack of one.  Do your gods wield hammers and lightning, or shame and guilt?  Is the religion of your lineage the Right Way, or just the most comfortable and familiar?  Did you read a different book at some point in your life, and decide to follow other gods?  Or did you decide such things were only for children?

Books shape us, both the religious and the secular.  Even the books we don’t read shape us, because they shape other people, and those people shape the world we live in.  This is why I read books about many kinds of rabbits, and many kinds of religions. To learn about rabbits and religions, of course, but mostly to learn about humans.

Humans see everything as a reflection of ourselves, and then we write stories about what we see.  A continuous loop, of learning and life. Like a reader becoming a writer, and a writer who reads even more.

I may have to amend my first statement.  Life is like a book.   Or, perhaps writers are like a book.  SOMETHING is like a book.


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Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 7 BUY MY BOOK!!!!!


This sweet puppy wants you to buy my book.  How can you say no?

Assuming you are going to publish a book of some type (and it doesn’t matter if it’s self or traditional) you are going to need buyers.  Readers, preferably, but anybody’s money works just as well.  So, where do you find those walking moneybags in a tight economy?  Everywhere and anywhere, you just need to not frighten them away with heavy-handed techniques.


Scan_20171129 (6)First of all, you could consider your local arts scene.  Everyplace has one, and the more it gets suppressed by the locals, the more fiercely it burns.  Ariel Gore is a teacher of this promotional method, most easily found in her ‘How To Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead’ (Three Rivers Press, New York 2007).  With lots of tips for self promotion and conquering your introverted fears, she divides the concept into bite-sized portions, then presents them as fine cuisine.  Don’t just wait around for a chance to read your work in public; create that event, find a musician, get some puppets!  Give people a memorable show.  Don’t wait for someone to publish you; write a story or poem, draw a picture, make it a ‘zine (small run, independent magazine), sell it to friends and strangers.  Now you’re published!  Add it to your bio!

(Ok, to be honest, all that in-person self promotion stuff terrifies me, but if I have learned anything about life and WRITING, is to go toward the things that frighten you.  It’s the only way to live authentically.  I’ll update y’all in the future on how this goes.)

If, like me, introversion is your north star, you might be better served by the Wide World of Interactive-at-a-Distance Social Media.  We will assume you currently have some kind of presence, since you are reading this blog, but is it the kind of presence that will get you readers?  Will they Buy Your Book when you publish?  Will they flee from your constant begging?

If you dig around on the internet, there are tons of articles and blogs discussing this problem.  I advise you to just absorb all that you can stand, let it stew, then follow your instincts on how and where to spend your energy.  If you are going to continue to write, you have to save enough of your limited energy for that.

There are also a few Amazon e-books that have helped me:

Kristen Lamb’s ‘Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World’ (WANA International 2013) is a clear-eyed look to the future of self-publishing and the age of on-line personas.  She also heads a writer’s co-op, and blogs about the challenges a writer faces.  She’s fun to follow on Facebook, too.

Brian Rathbone’s ‘How You Can Sell More Books: Proven Audience Building Strategies’ (White Wolf Press 2015) is from his experience in the fantasy genre, but could be applies easily to other genres as well.  He’s a tech-minded guy, so some of it went over my head, but could smack you right in yours.  He delivers lots of sane advice for writers in general, and plenty of bad dragon jokes if you follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

If you want examples of how to mix the two types of self promotion together, then follow successful authors on social media.  Some of my favorites are Sam Sykes, Chuck Wendig, and Kent Wayne on Twitter or Facebook.  They are funny and promotional without being annoying about it.

Sorry that this is all I have on this topic, for now.  I’ll pass along any thing else I find in the future.  If you have a good resource for self-marketing and would like to share with the rest of us, feel free to drop a suggestion or link in the comments.

If you found this blog of interest, there is more in my over-ambitious Low-Budget Writing Program:

  1. Butt in Chair
  2. The Monster in My Manuscript
  3. Take over the Literary World!
  4. When the Manuscript Goes Into the Garbage
  5. Fear is the Mind-Killer
  6. Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the YEAAAAAAARGH!


Un-named blog host has lost–and I have re-written–this post FIVE TIMES.  I’m rough draft posting as a workaround.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

UPDATE 1: Ok, FYI there is no Low-Budget Writing post this week because haven’t finished the books for the next few topics.  It’s that time of year when things are stacked up and glitchy (<cough><Blog-host-that-shall-not-be-named><cough>), and there’s not nearly enough hours in the day.  Carving any creative writing out of the day is nearly impossible, and most days I’m too tired to edit in the evenings.

Still, I did submit a short story last week, which brings me to a grand total of TWO submissions.  Yikes.  It’s better than zero, but I have a looooong way to go.

I also re-started an exercise program, so the chances of living until I get published are marginally better.  That’s good, I guess.

I’ll keep this short and pointless (much like my writing) so we can all find something more productive to do.

Happy Holidays, and Happy Writing!

UPDATE 2: I may have angered the internet gods when I named-and-shamed my blog host.  Edited, so please let people see my post, now.  Please.  PLEASE!




Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 6 Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!

I am the last person who should be giving anybody grammar and punctuation advice, but I will tell you about the books that have made my self re-education slightly easier.  You could, of course, go right to one of the style books, but there are over a dozen, and many more blogs, columns, and other sources.  I was looking for something that would entertain me into better usage.

Of course, when it comes to usage, there is the question of whether you side with the followers of linguistic prescription (the rules are always correct) or linguistic description (actual usage is more correct).  There is no right answer, by the way.  Just MANY different opinions, and most people fall somewhere in the middle.

‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will disappear”

-Lao Tzu

This is a motto of mine.  All of these books were found in used book stores, gifting me with their timely appearance when I was on a strict budget.  Since I have been avoiding writing this post successfully–for a year–you are getting the added bonus of which book actually stuck around in my unreliable memory the longest.  Lucky, lucky you.

Scan_20171127 (36)Angels sang and the sky lit up with glorious rainbows when the prophesies came to pass, and I finally came across “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White (Forth edition by Allen & Bacon, Massachusetts 2000).  It was a shockingly thin book. (Six different publication dates, 1935 the earliest.  That is some serious staying power.)  I’m not sure why it took me so long to find a copy, since every time I’ve gone to the book store since that day there have been at least five copies to choose from.  I guess I was not ready before that day.

The word ‘style’ in the book’s title is not an accident, and that style is concise. If a writer wishes to be clear and bold with the English language, then this is a benchmark to guide you. Even if your style is wordy and obscure, it will still make an excellent base for writing in general.  (I, personally, got a huge kick out of the older ‘misused’ words, but I’m a total word-nerd.)  White’s added chapter five, with its twenty-one approaches to style, is worth serious study.  I may not keep a copy of the book in my pocket, as is suggested, but it sits on a shelf, close to hand.

Scan_20171127 (30)“Mortal Syntax” by June Casagrande (Penguin Group, New York 2008) is next on the pile. Clever and funny, this book is actually a defensive rant about all the things the author was accused of being wrong about–repeatedly–while she ran a grammar column.  (This is actually her second book, and I’m keeping an eye out for the first.)  In these pages I learned there were several style guides, and they didn’t always agree with each other.  No wonder the arguments get so heated, for there is no One True Way.  I enjoyed her biting humor, but the funny stories stayed with me longer than the actual grammar advice, and that wasn’t for very long, either.  My search continued…

Scan_20171127 (34)“Words Fail Me” by Patricia T. O’Conner (Harcourt Brace & Company, New York 1999) is another good and clever book full of anecdotes, but the rules she tried to convey were quickly forgotten.  It’s a good writing style book to try on, like a rambling conversation with a knowledgeable writer while wearing comfy yoga pants and sipping tea, and worth it if your brain remembers rules better in this way, but of limited use to me in the long run.

Who is the clear winner, and the book I will read again to brush up on rules before self-editing?

Scan_20171127 (32)“My Grammar and I… Or Should That Be Me?” Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines (The Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, NY 2009) is the closest to a school textbook, and it shocked me that that was what I actually needed.  I guess logic-brain wins this round, when I was putting my money on creative-brain all along.  Now, don’t be fooled thinking this is just dry rules.  The authors sprinkle in just enough Sahara wit to keep you from nodding off at your desk, then drooling until the bell rings and startles you awake.  Most importantly, I came away with a working knowledge of grammar and punctuation, which was the whole point of this project.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a year since I read this, and while I may have retained enough to get by, I definitely need to read this, again.  Soon.  An added bonus will be when I self-edit, I will know what to call the things that went wrong.  (Other than “Bastard,” that is.)  “Compound conjunction” and “irregular verb” will mean something, and not be just static in a confused brain.  I’m getting giddy just thinking about it!

Well, that’s the best advice I can give to date on this topic.  There’s nothing to fear about grammar and punctuation, and I’ve run out of time for the bears (maybe next time).  Don’t go off thinking you can go straight to self-publishing after this.  This should be just enough to not get you laughed out of the publisher’s office, or make a complete fool out of yourself online.  Self-publishing is going to require more eyes than just yours!  Either find some highly skilled (but free labor) beta readers, or your going to have to come up with the money for a good editor. Don’t trust yourself to catch every thing!  Even professional editors go to another editor.

While hanging out with other writers online, I found a grammar/editor blogger named Thomas Weaver who is fun, interesting, and does a daily Writing Glitch series that is great for testing your knowledge.  Follow him if you like a challenge, or if you might need something professionally edited in the future.

You may have missed the other posts of the Low-Budget Writing Program:

  1. Butt in Chair
  2. Monster in My Manuscript
  3. Take Over the Literary World!
  4. When the Manuscript Goes Into the Garbage
  5. Fear is the Mind-Killer
  6. Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!

The Future May Be In Your Hands

Today, I’m not talking about myself and my struggles to become a writer, or trying to organize what I have learned to benefit other writers.  I’m going to talk about some kids. (Or, more specifically, my own kid, who wants to be a writer.)

ocp flyer 002My daughter is in the Occupational Credential Program at her high school.  Kids end up in this program for different reasons.  My daughter loves old movies, comics and manga, video game lore, cryptozoology, world mythology, cosplay, bad puns, and scaring people.  She also has autism, with a combination of issues that make it too hard to get a standard diploma, and it’s unlikely she will go to college.  This is why she is in the OCP.

OCP flyer 001She wants to be an artist, and a writer, and a video game researcher/developer.  We’ve had “the talk” with her, about how artists and creative people usually have a day job until the creative work starts to make money.  She understands and accepts this unfortunate fact of life.  But she’s a teenager , and she has dreams…

The wonderful teachers for the OCP have organized a job shadowing opportunity for the kids on a cruise ship…   I know it sounds weird at first–I was very skeptical–but Mrs. R explained that she hoped such a huge break from the everyday life of a regular town would really open the kids eyes of the possibilities for jobs out in the wider world.

And she’s right, of course, but it’s also a chance to expand their horizons, quite literally.  My artistic, sensitive child will get to see a sunset at sea, watch the movement of waves and wake, experience a diverse population of many cultures and languages, have a little fun, and who knows what else.  These new experiences could re-shape her perspectives, and be the meat and potatoes of her future artistic life.

But it also costs money.  While I imagine the parents will find the money to send the OCP kids on this trip, along with a family or school volunteer, we are also asking for sponsorship from businesses and corporations.

ocp letter 001letterbackbk-001-e1511230497608.jpgI’m not asking for money from individuals, because so many of my friends are in the same tight circumstances as I am.  I just don’t have any personal connections with businesses practicing this kind of inclusive sponsorship, and I thought one or more of my friends or followers might.  (Maybe a comic publisher, or a game developer.) And I don’t normally ask for post sharing or likes, but that’s how social media works, so I would really appreciate it this time.  More eyes on this post could make all the difference for someone having difficulties raising the money.

Questions about sponsoring the OPC Job Shadowing Cruise should be sent to:

  • Benjamin Dangerfield at
  • Karen S. Rozmus at

And tell them it’s for AJ and all the other kids in the OCP with big dreams!

Jak and Daxter! (My favorite cosplay picture of AJ!)

Until next week, Happy Writing!