The Journal, Saturday, 8/22

The Day

Ray Bradbury’s birthday. Ray Bradbury is the guy who knew at 12 years old what it took me 62 years to learn. Glad I didn’t wait until I was 63. Blessings, Mr. Bradbury. And thank you so much.

Rolled out at 3 this morning. Checked email, got my coffee and had to go run off a bunch of coyotes. Ugh.
No walk again today. Just writing again today.

Listen, if you’re publishing your own stuff through your own publishing company, check out

I wrote a new short story today. When I went to publish it to Smashwords, for the first time EVER (153 books) my story didn’t convert to any format at Smashwords. I nuked it, tried again, and it still didn’t convert, which tells me it pretty much has to be their problem. So I sent them an email to that effect.

Then I popped over to D2D. I’d heard about it before, but hadn’t tried it. All within about a half-hour, I signed up for an account, uploaded my book and cover, and it was published in PDF, .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (everything else). It was just that quick.

And the quality is incredible.

In my opinion, you still need to do some basic formatting (or have it done) but the service itself is great.
D2D does not have their own online store, but they do distribute to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, Tolino, and Oyster. These are all individual bookstores, and some of them have subsidiaries. I’m going with D2D from now on for these venues.

I’ll also continue to publish with Amazon KDP (but not Select, not exclusively) and with Smashwords mostly for their online store.

Now for a break, then back to writing.

Topic of the Night: Write What Scares You

Stephen King advises writers to “write what scares you.” Sounds right to me.

Bear in mind, this isn’t just for horror writers. The good writer will evoke emotions from the reader. The stronger the better.

Now when I say write what scares you, I don’t mean the “they’re only zombies so I know it isn’t real” kind of scary.

I mean you’re tied up so you can’t intervene, your eyelids are sliced off so you can’t close your eyes, and you’re forced to watch as an intruder uses garden shears to lop off the leg, just above the ankle, of a two year old child.

The intruder looks at you, sneers, then turns back to the baby again.

The child, wide eyed, screaming, automatically reaches down to grab the stump and— Oh! Oh no! No! Snip! Her little hand and arm are gone halfway to the elbow.

Wider eyes. Wider mouth. Louder screams.

Just when you thought louder screams weren’t possible.

Notice that you don’t have to “imagine” the child’s eyes stretched wide in disbelieving horror. You can see them, can’t you? And you don’t have to imagine the screams either, do you?

And I’m just messin’ around here, givin’ you a f’rinstance.

Now, y’know those coyotes I mentioned before? I have nightmares sometimes about a song dog carrying off my baby girl. Seriously, nightmares. Obviously, that’s something that scares me.

So following King’s advice, I wrote a very similar scene in a short story called “A Natural Study of the Scream.”

Now I’m just enough of a scientist that I actually noticed, writing that scene in that story created an odd, almost paradoxical sensation. First, it was easy to write. I would have thought it would be difficult to put on paper, but it wasn’t. It was easy. The writing almost raced away without me.

But it also left me trembling, physically. I was upset to the point that I had to pour a couple fingers of Jameson’s to sooth it away. That was the first drink of alcohol I’d had in a very long time.

Writing that scene in that story was an experience. One I both dread and will most definitely repeat.

Because that’s good writing.

Today’s Writing

Wrote for a while on Book 9, still struggling with tight stuff and otherwise getting started.

Left that for awhile and wrote the first new story of my challenge. I took a brief break, came back, sat down and wrote Pete & Repeat. Then I skipped a couple lines and just started writing whatever came through my fingertips. MAN that feels good!

It will publish under the Free Short Story of the Week tab on Monday morning. Felt good to create a new story and a new cover. And the story was FUN. Read it. You’ll like it. No garden shears or anything. (grin)

Feeling a little under the weather and a lot of things up in the air right now. Hard to get settled in. I got a little done on the novel, but not a lot. It’s coming. Stay tuned. (grin)

Fiction Words: 2685

Writing of “Pete & Repeat” (story of the week)
Day 1…… 1662 words. Total words to date….. 1662 words (done)

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words
Day 2…… 1046 words. Total words to date….. 4259 words
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 18371
Total fiction words for the year……………… 460771

The Journal, Friday, 8/21

The Day

Rolled out at 2 this morning. Checked email and saw that several revised/rebranded covers and Book 8 of the series were ready for proofing. So I got my coffee and started that process. Finished an hour or so later. Still amazes me that I have eight books out in that saga. Who’d’a thunk it?

Last night I figured I wouldn’t walk today. I would use my early morning hours to get a jump start on this novel. I would finish the slug work I mentioned yesterday and get into it. Okay, so that means no walk, no interruptions. Just writing, punctuated with occasional breaks.

Here begins the section on The Best Laid Plans.

Not going to walk today, I made an early breakfast (hash browns, eggs, sausage and dry rye toast). And one extra cup of coffee.

I’d already let the ladies outside. No sooner was my breakfast on the plate, cut up and all mushed together, than coyotes started howling. Coyotes have a really odd sense of humor, and impeccable timing.

Roughly an instant later, my little girl siamese was standing at the door separating the kitchen from the dining room asking politely to come inside until the coyotes stopped being rude. Good girl.

I let her in, then put my breakfast plate on the cabinet and covered it with a pan lid. I grabbed a flashlight, slipped on my flip-flops and went looking for the other girl, who is blacker than night and not easy to find even with a flashlight.

I circled the house twice. Yes, inside a fence, but the fence surrounds about a third of an acre and is filled with natural desert brush. You know that passage in the bible about wailing and gnashing of teeth? Yeah. It was like that.

Halfway through the third circuit I finally found her. In the dining room. At the door. Waiting to come in. Acting as if she’d been right there all along. Okay, good girl. Whatever.

Ate my cold breakfast, played two games of spider solitaire (the game should be outlawed), then answered some more email. And here I am, at 6:30 a.m., doing this and about to turn to the writing ‘puter for the first time. I’ll write the topic of the night later.

I’m going to try to keep better tabs on my writing/break habits. This is probably not innately interesting, but I’m hoping it will help me take a break every hour or so. Those of you who have been following this for awhile know I’ve been working on the concept of taking a break every hour or so for awhile now.

By the way, I received a nice acceptance email for a short story I sent to The Scribe, the magazine of the St. Louis Writers Guild. The magazine is free and has a lot of neat stuff in it. If you’d like a copy, visit Smashwords and download it in PDF, .mobi (Kindle) or .epub (all other readers).

By the way, the story in this issue is the very first short story I wrote by completely trusting my subconscious and writing off into the dark. If you read it, be sure to read the About the Author blurb afterward too. I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

Oof. MAJOR lightning strike on my position. Literally the loudest, sharpest sound I’ve ever heard. Not exaggerating. Man, that’ll get your ticker pumping. And no rain.

Took a break to hit the PO, then back here for lunch and a few minutes doing nothing, then back to the novel.

Topic of the Night: Writing Off Into the Dark

Very briefly, when you do this, you’re simply trusting your subconscious to tell the story. Believe me, it knows MUCH better than you do what needs to go into the story. Just trust it. And yes, saying that is much simpler than doing it. But once you learn to trust it, You Will See Miracles in your characters, settings, stories.

All of this was prompted by a comment from Bonnie, who complained that the killer in her WIP was not the person she thought it should be.

In my response, I reminded her to just write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, etc. and eventually the situation and the characters would reveal to her who the killer actually is.

And since it will be a surprise to her, it will also be a surprise to the reader. True dat.

Bradbury even once said if you can’t surprise yourself as a writer, how in the world do you expect to surprise the reader.

So again, learn to trust your subconscious. Nothing good in literature ever came out of the conscious mind.

Sit down, put your fingers on the keyboard, and just write the next sentence. And above all else, have fun. (grin)

I encourage you to read the exchange between Bonnie and me in the comments on yesterday’s post.

Today’s Writing

Wrote at several different times today for various lengths of time. Also did a lot of reading for various reasons. Came up with the name of an important horse, for example. That took close to an hour.

His name is Vuelo, by the way, which means Flight. He comes from the sacred cliffs (los acantilados sagrados) so it’s a good name for him. But it took awhile to get there. So that’s how much of the writing day went, which translates to another day with a short word count.

I took several short breaks during the day, so no fatigue from writing. But I did drag myself down with “necessary” things I had to do for the story.

This is going to be great fun for me when I break through the opening several pages. Looking forward to that.

Fiction Words: 1858

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words
Day 2…… 1046 words. Total words to date….. 4259 words
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 15686
Total fiction words for the year……………… 458086

Passive Voice

Hi Folks,

Note: Before I begin this post, I wanted to point you to an invaluable resource I recently found. At your leisure, please check out It’s a blog home of several best-selling authors. I’ve found some great advice there already on pacing.

Also I want to offer you a free SF sampler from Lightspeed Magazine. I received it only this morning. To download it in PDF, just click Women Destroy Science Fiction (Sampler). When the file opens, click File (upper left corner of your browser) and then click Save Page As and save it to your desktop.

Okay, on to passive voice—

There are so many misunderstandings regarding passive voice, that first I’m going to explain what it is not. Then we’ll go into what it is, along with some examples.

Back when I was copyediting, clients continually told me they’d heard that they should always

  • avoid using words that end in “ing” (gerunds);
  • avoid using has, have, and had
  • avoid using state-of-being verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been).

They’d been told, INCORRECTLY, that if they used any of those, they’d be writing in passive voice.

Wrong. Let’s take them one at a time.

Gerunds (“ing” words) have nothing whatsoever to do with passive voice. In one manuscript I edited, the author, because someone had told him to avoid “ing” words, filled the manuscript with sentences like this:

As the sheriff entered the saloon, several men stood at the bar. Other groups of men sat at tables, and still others ascended or descended the stairs.

Sentences like these can give the reader the perception that the men suddenly leapt from their chairs (“stood”) or dropped into them (“sat”) at the moment the sheriff walked in, which of course was not the case. To provide a sense that the action was ongoing, recast those sentences like this:

As the sheriff entered the saloon, several men were standing at the bar. Other groups of men were sitting at tables, and still others were ascending or descending the stairs.

Sometimes past-progressive tense (e.g., “were standing,” “were ogling,” etc.) is necessary to indicate ongoing action.

Have, Has, and Had are “helper” verbs, and they have nothing whatsoever to do with passive voice. In another manuscript, because a local writing instructor had told her using the word “had” creates passive voice, a lady wrote sentences like this:

I sat at the kitchen table and looked out over the back porch to the beach. My dad ran along the beach as a young boy, laughing and chasing seagulls. Later, a cigarette poised between his first and middle finger, he walked alongside my mom as they dreamed of the house they would build on this spot.

I would recast those sentence to read like this:

I sat at the kitchen table and looked out over the back porch to the beach. My dad had run along that beach as a young boy, laughing and chasing seagulls. Later, a cigarette poised between his first and middle finger, he walked alongside my mom as they dreamed of the house they would build on this spot.

These changes make it much easier for the reader to understand her father wasn’t actually on the beach in the present time, that she was imagining him being there much earlier in his life.

State-of-Being Verbs are part of passive voice, but they do not create passive voice by themselves.

Because state-of-being verbs do not show action and do nothing to advance the story line, I tell writers to avoid them whenever possible, but it isn’t always possible. There is no other way to describe a state of being. For example, there is no other way to write “Tucson is a large city in southeast Arizona.”

In a passive construction (passive voice), the writer lets the subject avoid responsibility for the action of the sentence by using the rightful subject of the sentence as the object of the preposition “by” in an actual or implied prepositional phrase. I call this a “by-phrase.”

Here are a couple of my old examples. The by phrase is underlined.

Passive: This event is sponsored by Arizona Mystery Writers.
Active: Arizona Mystery Writers sponsored this event.

Passive: The pizza was delivered by Harvey.
Active: Harvey delivered the pizza.

Note that even if the by-phrase is only implied, it’s still a passive construction that enables the subject of the sentence to avoid responsibility for the action of the sentence. The first example is an old one:

Passive: The package was delivered on time.
Active: UPS delivered the package on time.

The second is a living example from the New York Times a few days ago in a contemporary (July 2015) news story. According to Politico’s Dylan Byers,

“The New York Times modified its article about a potential criminal investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of her private email account in a ‘small but significant’ way at the request of Clinton’s presidential campaign.”

See, the intent here is to use a passive construction to enable the actual subject of the sentence to avoid responsibility for the action of the sentence. As you will see, it works. This time, I’ll provide the active example first. In the passive example, I underlined the part that renders the sentence passive. Note that the by phrase is only implied:

Active: Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information on a private email account she used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.

Passive: Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.

In short, if a sentence doesn’t contain BOTH a state-of-being verb and an actual or implied “by phrase,” it isn’t a passive construction.

Hope this helps. Until next time, happy writing!


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The Journal, Thursday, 8/20

The Day
Rolled out at 2:30 this morning. I started this journal entry over a cup of French vanilla cappucino. Yeah, it’s a weakness. Nice to have every now and then.

Okay, now it’s 4 a.m. (after I wrote the Topic of the Night below) so time to release the babies (a hyper nervous chihuahua and two lady cats who relish the savory flavor of rare chihuahua meat, he thinks) so they can run and play. Let the day begin. (grin)

I already know I’m going for a walk this morning, so I’ll piddle around until then. I’ll leave about 5 a.m. When I get back I’ll shower and change clothes, then write. Sure feels good to be back in the saddle alongside Wes.

Got back from a good 4 mile walk in a sandy bottomed arroyo (good workout). After a shower and changing clothes, I realized I had to run (well, drive) to the grocery store. So I got that done, then came back here, put on the first of two loads of laundry I want to get done today.

Then finally I turned to the writing ‘puter. Trudging today, but it’s still great to be back. To steal a line from a bumper sticker about fishing, even the worst day of writing is better than the best day at work. (grin)

Topic of the Night: Productivity as a Writer

I’ve received several comments recently from writers who feel disappointed in themselves when they can’t “keep up” with me in their own writing. I do understand because I’d like very much to write at what Dean Smith calls “Pulp Speed.”

Pulp Speed is at least one million words of publishable fiction in a year. Chances are I’ll never pull that off. But if I don’t, that’s all right.

The point behind me posting my numbers is NOT to challenge you to keep up with me. Believe me, compared to some writers out there (and to ALL the old pulp writers) I’m slow.

But I post my numbers here only to show you that even though I set goals, I sometimes fail to reach them. And That’s All Right.

I want you to understand that failing to reach a goal is not necessarilly a bad thing. I want you to know it’s entirely possible to “fail to success.”

My own long-term goal on January 1 of this year was to reach 1,095,000 words by December 31. I won’t make it. In fact I won’t get anywhere near it.

But if I hit 600,000 or 700,000 words by then, I’ll take it. I will have failed, but I will have failed to success.

Here are the numbers:

My daily writing goal is 3,000 words of publishable fiction per day.

If I hit that goal exactly, and if I do that for 365 days in a row, I will have written 1,095,000 words in a year. Over a million words.

But I don’t. My average (arithmetic mean) before this horrible month of August was around 2500 words per day. And even if I hit 2500 words per day every day for 365 days in a row, I’d still fall short of my million words at 912,500 words.

Amazing the difference 500 words a day (a half hour per day) can make, isn’t it?

But I also realize a lot of you have jobs or careers or other interests, so let’s talk about your own personal reality.

If you want to increase your productivity as a writer, do this:

  • Step One. Figure out how much writing time you have per day. The best way to do that is keep a journal. Break your waking-hours day into quarter-hour or half-hour increments, then write down what you were doing during each increment. (If you were watching a football game for example, that knocks out several increments in a row.)
    • Keep your journal for at least three days. A week is better. Don’t cheat. Nobody’s gonna see it but you. This should show you when you can carve out time to write.
  • Step Two. Figure out how many publishable words you can write in an hour. Hint: Don’t “think” your way through every phrase and sentence. That isn’t how good writing happens. Bradbury himself once said nothing good in literature ever came from conscious thought. Instead, sit down at the keyboard, put your fingers on the keys, and Just Write What Comes. Then write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence. Don’t worry about where it’s all going or how it’s connected in the future. Just Write.

Note: I write about 1000 words per hour. That probably sounds like a lot, but it’s only 17 words per minute. That leaves a lot of time for staring off into space, don’t you think? (grin) Seriously, if you aren’t writing 700+ words per hour, check in with yourself. What are you doing during that hour?

  • Step Three. When you know how often you can write and how many words per hour you can get on the page, don’t let your conscious mind (fear) make excuses for you. Sit down and write. I’ll do a topic on fear another time.
  • Step Four. (I recently re-learned this one the hard way.) Set Goals. And be dogged in your determination to achieve them. I’ll write more about goal setting in another topic soon, but for now, here are a few tips:
    • Be specific. Don’t say you’ll write a novel. That’s like saying you’ll eat an elephant. It’s an overwhelming thought. Instead, say you’ll write 1,000 words (about one hour) per day. Every day. (Or 500 words per day, or 2,000 words per day, or whatever suits you.)
    • Set goals that automatically re-set. If you say you’ll write 1000 words every day, that goal re-sets every morning when you get out of bed. If you miss a day or fall short one day, the next day you still have to write only 1000 words to hit your goal.
    • Tell people about your goals. This will help you hold yourself accountable. Tell your writing group or friends. Don’t tell people who will downplay what you’re doing or who will not support you unless you’re wearing your criticism-proof underwear.
    • Set up a streak. How many days in a row can you write 1000 words per day? The longer you go, the more power the streak has and the less likely you are to break it. Streaks feed goals and goals feed streaks. Try it. You’ll like it. I promise.

If you decide to write two days per week or five days per week, you can still set up a streak. How many weeks can you go without missing your assigned days?

Share your results with me in the comments section if you want. I’ll always be supportive. Yes, even if you write 4000 words per day and shoot past me like I’m stapled to a tree. (grin) I’ll applaud you and work like crazy to catch up. (grin)

Nah, I’ll just keep doing what I do.

Now let’s look at numbers.

If you write 1,000 (one hour) words per day, and you write only five days per week, that’s still 5,000 words per week.

That’s also 20,000 words per month, 60,000 words per quarter, and 260,000 words per year.

Even if you choose to take off two weeks for vacation every year, that’s still 250,000 words per year.

But what if you “can” only write a half-hour per day, five days per week? (I’ll talk about setting priorities, the “can” factor, in another topic sometime too.)

Run the numbers. That’s 500 words per day, 2500 words per week, 10,000 words per month. It’s 30,000 words per quarter, and 130,000 words per year unless you take that two week vacation. Then it’s “only” 125,000 words.

Science fiction grand master Jack Williamson, whom I was fortunate to know for awhile, had trouble writing more than 100,000 words per year. Amazing, eh? Look him up sometime and check out his bibliography. At age 94 he was still writing two novels per year for TOR.

Finally, realize that if you miss your goal, Absolutely Nothing Will Happen. The goal will simply re-set and you can go for it again.

So there you go. If you need help with any of this, please let me know. I’d be more than happy to help. I’m not kidding.

Today’s Writing

It’s perfect that I picked Productivity as the Topic of the Night above. And it’s perfect that I mentioned that failing to meet goals is all right.

Today, like yesterday, my daily goal was to write 3,000 publishable words of fiction. I failed miserably.

Now, I am in that stage of the novel in which I have to nitpick my way through it, making sure I get the names right, making sure I include enough backstory so the novel stands alone, but also adding enough new stuff to keep the story moving for those who have read the entire saga from the beginning. It’s a rough balance to walk.

So that’s my excuse, and it’s a valid one.

Still, I know me. And I know there’s no reason I couldn’t have done that (very slow writing) AND still met my goal.

I just didn’t. (shrug)

But that’s all right. The novel is still farther along today than it was when I got up this morning.

And tomorrow morning around 2 or 3 a.m. I’m gonna roll outta the rack and have a brand spanking new daily goal: 3,000 words. And that’s what keeps me going. (grin)

Fiction Words: 1046

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words
Day 2…… 1046 words. Total words to date….. 4259 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 13828
Total fiction words for the year……………… 456228

The (Resurrected) Journal, Wednesday, 8/19

The Day
Well I’m back. I decided to fire up this journal again.

When I shut down this blog 11 days ago, I wrote, “over half of the subscribers aren’t interested, so why bother detailing my daily journey as a writer?”

What a stupid question. And the answer is “Um, well, because I was doing it more to hold myself accountable than for any other reason. And the half who ARE interested make it worthwhile.” So my apologies to those of you who were/are interested.

When I shut it down I even wrote that I could “keep the numbers myself.”

Yeah, well, I could, maybe, but I didn’t. And I won’t. I know me, and that’s something I won’t do.

Anyway, since then I realized that stopping this journal was stopping part of my writing ritual, and that’s just insane. More on that in the Topic of the Night below.

Recent History
I haven’t written any new fiction to speak of since August 8 when I finished The Battle of Tres Caballos. I piddled around, wrote about 2500 words on Book 9, then tossed it. I also started two short stories, then tossed both of those openings as well.

Of course, today is only August 19. That’s a break of only 11 days, inclusive. But that 11 days seems like a world-ending eternity. Especially coming, as it does, so soon after ANOTHER break of 11 days that spanned my trip to Indiana. What is it with me and 11-day breaks? Ugh.

So here we go. I’ll read back over a few of my journal posts and absorb some of my own advice. Then I’ll read back over some other stuff to get the feeling of writing again. Then I’ll set a few goals (at least a couple of those will automatically re-set) and start writing again.

Okay, so I rolled out a little after 3 this morning. Did little or nothing the first few hours of the day, except thinking. I did a lot of that.

No walk today. Ate a good breakfast, then came here to put down a few of those thoughts.

Topic of the Night: Enduring the Perfect Storm
I just endured (and barely survived) my own personal perfect storm. All within a fairly short time period,

  • For some inane reason I intentionally ended a streak of writing a short story every week. That streak had lasted for 66 weeks and 71 short stories; then
  • I finished the eighth novel in a saga; and then
  • I stopped publishing this journal, which was holding me accountable to others and myself.

Each of those is an inertia killer.

Each of those sends the wrong message to the subconscious. And as you know, the care and feeding of the subconscious is all-important to a guy who writes off into the dark.

By ending the short story streak, I effectively discarded a goal that re-set itself every week. No goal = no incentive. Discarding that goal also helped dilute the importance of meeting my daily goal of writing 3000 new publishable words of fiction per day.

By finishing the novel and not immediately starting the next one (or even a short story since I no longer “have” to write a story every week) I also at least dampened any inertia I had built up.

And by ceasing publication of this journal I was no longer holding myself accountable.

So no real goals, no writing inertia and no accountability— Seriously? No wonder my subconscious decided to take a vacation for awhile. It was probably out looking for a real writer. (grin)

Gotta change all of that. I’ve already fired up the journal again. Now I’ll set new goals and get back to having fun telling stories.

Okay, I almost forgot I had to drive into Benson to do routine blood tests for my doctor. I’m back, so I’ll finish this now. It’s just after 10:30 in the morning at this point.

So here are my new goals:

At least 3000 words of new publishable fiction per day— Same goal, reestablished, reaffirmed.

At least one new story every week— I’m taking up the story a week personal challenge again. Besides helping with discipline, it’s a great deal of fun. As I mentioned earlier, if anyone would care to join me, just email me to let me know. Either way, I look forward to it. I’ll post the new story (or one of them) each week on the website under the Free Short Story of the Week tab.

Finish two more novels before October 25— I’m only setting this as a goal because October 24th will be one year from the date I started writing my very first novel. If I can pull this off, I will have written 11 novels and a novella during that twelve months. This is NOT a major goal. Just something interesting to keep me on track, and there’s absolutely no reason I can’t do it.

I’m (re)starting Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga today. I won’t be using anything I wrote from the earlier opening. I was gonna start tomorrow morning, but that’s just my old conscious mind trying to drop a cloud over everything.

Okay, so on to the writing. I’ll fill in the blanks below later.

Today’s Writing
Finally got my priorities straight as I detailed above.

Before I began writing I did some preliminary stuff. Came up with twenty-two new character names (all Mexican males and one newlywed female) and assigned six new jobs. All of that took a little over an hour.

Then between noon(ish) and about 3:40 (as I write this) I had three good writing sessions during which I knocked out the word count you see below. Can’t tell you how good it feels to be back on track. Is there a better job in the entire universe? I don’t think so.

Fiction Words: 3213

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words

Total fiction words for the month…………… 12782
Total fiction words for the year……………… 455182

The (Final) Journal, Thursday, 8/13

The Day
If you read this earlier, I’ve edited it.

Rolled out a little before 3 this morning.

Had a fairly good walk, mostly asphalt, with some heart and lung-pumping hills. Only a little over 4.5 miles, but the hills made it a good workout too.

Had a trip to Sierra Vista for groceries and cat stuff and a new coffee maker. It was early afternoon before I got back and haven’t written a word of fiction today. That’s all right.

Checked out Dean’s site. I recommend it.

NOTE: In Addition To the new chapter every day on his next nonfiction book, How to Write Fiction Sales Copy, he’s also posting his daily blog. It is very similar to this one, but better. You’ll find the daily blog post just below the new chapter. So when you get there, scroll down if you haven’t been. Really good stuff, complete with a separate topic of the night. Today’s topic was “Massive Deadlines,” in which he talks more about this wonderful new world of publishing.

Go. Read. Learn stuff.

Topic of the Night: Shutting Down

Before I edited it, this topic was “Shutting Down, Perhaps.” I’ve decided to remove the possibility and make it a fact.

Last night here I talked about knowing when to hang on and when to let go. I was talking about a particular piece of writing.

But that goes to things like blog posts also.

I’ve been posting to this particular blog (The Journal) ALMOST every day since October 19, 2014. To date, that’s 171,275 nonfiction words.

Well, 171,275 nonfiction words is a bunch of words. Seriously. And that’s only on THIS blog. It doesn’t take into account my regular blog post, which comes out every ten days and most often contains around a thousand words per post.

Thing is, for this blog (The Journal) I currently have only 30 subscribers. Not good, considering the effort I put into this thing every day. (grin)

Of those 30 subscribers, most of the time not quite half (13) even open the post to read it. That means slightly over half of the subscribers are seeing the email in their inbox and deleting it without even opening it. Talk about a vote of no confidence. (grin)

One of the main reasons I started this was to share my personal journey as a prolific professional fiction writer. I hoped it would help motivate others to write. But apparently now, over half of the subscribers aren’t interested, so why bother detailing my daily journey as a writer? (shrug)

Another reason was to keep myself accountable and watch my own publications grow. I’ve done that. And frankly, I can keep the numbers myself without posting them to a daily blog. I think I’m gonna ask my friend Dawn to help me create a spreadsheet like hers (or maybe just copy hers myself). (grin)

So I’m seriously considering shutting down this Daily Journal blog. Yeah, I was just considering shutting it down, but I’m gonna do it.

In a few cases, at least, I know it has served its intended purpose, motivating other writers. If you’re one of those, I’m happy for you. If you aren’t, well, sorry I failed you.

Okay, so if you are reading this and you are NOT signed up for my main blog (Pro-Writers Blog)—and if you want to stay in touch—I urge you to sign up. For your convenience, you can simply click this link: Then follow the directions.

This will be the final edition of this blog, The Journal. Maybe I’ll see you over at the other blog. Until then, take care.

Today’s Writing: Nothing today except this blog post.

Total fiction words for the month…………… 9569
Total fiction words for the year……………… 451969

The Journal, Wednesday, 8/12

The Day
Rolled out a little after 3 again this morning.

No walking today, that’s for sure. Tomorrow morning should be a good walk again if it isn’t raining.

Spent the better part of the morning rearranging my office. I got rid of some stuff and placed some stuff where I want it. The rest I just stored in the corner of my office until I’m in the mood to go through it. At any rate, it’s all out of the living room, where it’s been ever since my wife painted my office. Ugh.

Checked out Dean’s site. He’s still posting a new chapter every day on his next nonfiction book, How to Write Fiction Sales Copy. Invaluable stuff, and he’s posting it free. Later he’ll take down the posts and sell the book, so get it now if you want it.

I turned to the writing ‘puter a couple times during the morning, but there was nothing there. I think Wes wants a breather, so I’m gonna back off him for awhile. I’ll return to the saga later if Wes chooses to share anymore of his life story with me. If not, well, then the saga will have ended with Book 8, The Battle of Tres Caballos. Either way is fine. We’ll see.

I’m not overly concerned. Since I started the first novel on October 25, 2014, I’ve written eight books in that series, totaling 323,478 words. During that same span of time, I also wrote another novel and a novella, totaling 79,199 words. And the short stories I wrote (only since October 25) total 131,377 words. So that ain’t too shabby. Since October 25, 2014, I’ve written 534,054 words of published fiction.

Over a half-million words since I wrote the first word on my first novel. I’m a happy camper. (grin)

Plus I compiled and published thirteen collections of short fiction. And designed 60 or thereabouts book covers. (grin)

I’ve been a very busy boy for the past almost ten months. (grin) But I don’t know, maybe now I’m gonna slow down a little. Or maybe not. Shrug.

Remember, I practice Writing Off Into the Dark. I never want to direct my characters, force them to say and do things. I want to have fun. I want to run through the story WITH them. I want to simply be there when they say or do things, when things happen to them, so I can write those things on the page.

So for now, I’m going to enjoy writing short stories, get caught up on publishing a few collections, and maybe wander off into another novel in another genre.

Or if Wes decides he’s ready to continue, we’ll continue.

For now, I’m going to chuck what I’ve already written on Book 8. It’s only less than three hours’ work, and it isn’t wasted. It brought me to the point of knowing it wasn’t the right opening.

Topic of the Night: Knowing When to Hang On, When to Let Go

Remember Kenny Rogers? He was a singer, initially with The First Edition where he “slipped on a cloud and fell eight miles high” and then “tore [his] mind on a jagged sky.” And all of that led him to say he had “just stopped in to see what condition [his] condition was in.”

But later he was a solo country-western singer and then starred as The Gambler. And in a combination of those roles, he once sang, “You got to know when to hold ’em [and] when to fold ’em.”

Yeah, I know that’s a long way to go to set up a topic of the night, but I like nostalgia.

Anyway, regarding Kenny’s advice, that’s all well and good, but HAVING to know when to hold ’em is one thing. But knowing HOW to know when to hold ’em is something else entirely.

I mean, it’s a good idea to know HOW to know whether to hold ’em, fold ’em, or just chuck the whole shebang into the river and start over.

This is an important concept in writing.

So how do I know when to let go of a novel or story or series and when to hang on?

Simple. If I feel like I’m having to “think” my way through it, I back away. Period. The conscious mind never did anything good for literature. I take a break (from a few minutes to an hour or more) and then come back.

I put my fingers on the keyboard. If nothing comes, I let it go. I fold ’em.

If words come, any words, I hang on for the ride and let the characters lead me through the story.

After you learn to trust your subconscious, it’s precisely that simple and it’s precisely that easy.

Today’s Writing
No writing today. I’m taking the rest of today off, period. Fresh start tomorrow with all possibilities open to me.

Fiction words: XXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 9569
Total fiction words for the year……………… 451969
Stay Tuned!

The Journal, Tuesday, 8/11

The Day
Rolled out closer to 2:30 this morning. Still tired from the trip, I think.

Well, I woke up in the mood to “take some air,” as we used to say, and I set out to go for 6 miles.

But just as I reached the two mile mark, I realized the large, severe storm I’d been watching to the south was closing on me. Just so you know, I DID look at that lying weather radar before I set out. Nothing threatening on it.

So anyway, I called it a half-walk at two miles and headed for the pickup, two miles back the way I’d come.

Now I’ll cut this tale short. Once it got wound up, the rain was ice cold, horizontal and stinging. Had about a mile and a half of that, though it finally settled down for the final two tenths of a mile or so.

I was drenched pretty much to the bone and exhausted. Then again, it was an experience very few people have had. So there’s that.

Overall it was like watching your great-grandmother take a bath. It was really wet, but otherwise it wasn’t all that interesting. (grin)

Back to the house, a shower, a hot breakfast, then writing this. Now to chill for a few, then to the writing ‘puter.

Other things ate up part of the day, plus I’m really dragging. The storm took it out of me today.

And I checked my story of the week and found I didn’t have one posted for next week yet. So I did that. Just finished. Now I’ll turn to the writing ‘puter to play with Wes and the guys for awhile.

Not getting much in the way of comments on the stories, so I might cut that story of the week stuff off. A little less to do, more time to write.

Topic of the Night: No topic tonight. Except seriously, if you aren’t going to Dean’s site, he’s running a great series over there on how to write sales copy for fiction (cover blurbs, descriptions, etc.).

BUT DON’T take everything he says for gospel. Just visit the site and glean what you can, what’s useful to you.

Today’s Writing
Worked a little on Book 9, but not a lot.
Fiction words: 1009

Writing of As Yet Untitled (Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga)
Day 1…… 1511 words. Total words to date…… 1511
Day 2…… 1009 words. Total words to date…… 2520

Total fiction words for the month…………… 9569
Total fiction words for the year……………… 451969

Stay Tuned!

Action Verbs

Hi Folks,

In the previous two posts I mentioned using action verbs in brief descriptive narratives. The same goes for longer narratives, of course.

There are three kinds of verbs: state-of-being verbs, linking verbs, and action verbs.

State-of-being verbs do not show action. As their name implies, they are used to indicate a state of being.

The state-of-being verbs are am, is, are, was, were, be, being and been. These are often accompanied by have, has, and had.

Linking verbs (and state-of-being verbs can act as linking verbs) do not take a direct object. They take a complement, which they link to the subject of the sentence; hence, their name.

A linking verb, when it is not one of the state-of-being verbs listed above, is a sense verb: That is, it gives the reader a sense of action rather than letting him see the actual action in a mental movie. Sometimes it actually invokes the reader’s own physical senses. In the examples below, the linking verb is underlined, and the complement appears in italic font:

Bill Clinton was the president. (See how “was” links Bill Clinton and the president?”

I feel angry. (Angry modifies the linking verb “feel.”)

I smelled hay and became confused. (Became links “I” and “confused.” Smelled is an action verb and hay is its direct object.)

Notice that in every case, the complement either describes the subject (the complement is an adjective) or could take the place of the subject (the complement is a noun or pronoun).

Action verbs are those that actually enable to reader to experience the action through the character and the narrator.

Whenever you write a noun, you place a picture in the reader’s mind. When you follow the noun with an action verb, the picture moves and enables the reader to see for himself what’s going on. This is why you often hear fiction instructors say you should show, not tell, the reader what’s going on.

When you use action verbs, you’ll also need and use fewer descriptive adjectives and adverbs. Any unnecessary ones will fall away of their own accord. This means you don’t have to “watch” for adjectives and adverbs.

The successful writer will, in effect, show a movie in the reader’s mind.

I’ve long believed the best way to teach a concept is through example and illustration. To illustrate why you should avoid state-of-being verbs and use action verbs whenever possible, consider the following:

John was angry.

This sentence contains a subject, John; a linking verb that’s also a state-of-being verb, was; and a complement that describes John, angry. Now, what do you know about John? What do you see in your mental movie? If you have a picture of John in mind at all, is the picture clear or vague?

John was very very angry.

How about now? Now do you have a better mental movie going on? Remember when I mentioned that using action verbs would reduce your dependence on adjectives and adverbs? Okay, now let’s try a sentence in which we allow the reader to see John’s anger for himself:

John kicked the door down, stormed across the livingroom, and smacked Steve in the mouth.

How’s that mental movie now? Is there any doubt in your mind that John’s upset? (But notice that the words angry or upset or mad never appear.)

If you choose to add adjectives or adverbs to the example, they will only enhance it. For example, he “kicked the solid oak door down” is more powerful than “he kicked the door down.” Then again, would you need “stormed angrily” instead of “stormed”? Nope. It’s redundant. “Stormed” conveys that anger connotation without the adverb.

BY THE WAY, if you haven’t been following Dean Wesley Smith over at, over the past few days he’s been posting some EXCELLENT instruction on how to write sales copy (blurbs, descriptions, etc.) for fiction stories and novels. I strongly advise you to check it out. You can copy the chapters of the book he’s writing on that topic and paste them into a Word document to read later. He doesn’t mind. It’s why he posts them live.

Until next time, happy writing.


Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks! If you can’t make a monetary donation, please at least consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. Again, thank you.

The Journal, Monday, 8/10

The Day
This post is longer than usual, but you wanna read it, I promise. (grin)

Rolled out late this morning at 3:30. Weird. right at 2:30. Things are different when I get up later than usual, especially a whole hour later than usual. Messes up part of the routine.

Barely had time to wake up before I had to let the pets out. Then I started getting ready for my walk, so no writing early.

Good walk, although short at just under 4 miles. Then I had a shower and breakfast and came here to open the journal entry.

Still thinking about my personal goals (writing and otherwise) and putting things away after painting my office and squaring away things from the trip in addition to getting back into writing. There are also some big changes coming up in my life, so that’s on my mind some too.

Nothing’s easy, eh? Then again, if it were easy, how boring would that be?

Topic of the Night: Walking and Writing

No, they aren’t in any way the same thing, but they are the same process.

In walking you just put one foot in front of the other. Those steps become a tenth of a mile, then two-tenths and so on. And those tenths become a mile, then two, and so on.

Moreover, walking doesn’t require conscious thought. Your nervous system and your muscles know what to do. They, aided by the gyroscope that is (I guess) your middle ear, act in concert to propel you, usually in the direction you want to go.

In fact, walking is endlessly more pleasurable if you DON’T give it conscious thought. I’ve gotten considerably stronger, improved my breathing and lost more weight more quickly when I was “just walking” than when I walked “as a workout,” “trying” to improve my health. Seriously.

Letting go and Just Walking is easy. Just let your subconscious take over and do its thing while you enjoy the view.

When I just walk for the pure pleasure of it, I call it “touring.” It isn’t a workout. I’m simply enjoying the rhythm of walking.

I’m also noticing in greater detail whatever scents are on the air and whatever sights are (slowly) passing by to either side. If I see something interesting, I stop and investigate. If I see a great photo, I stop and take it.

And when I walk like that, I go a lot farther with a lot less stress than when I “try” to work out by walking. In fact, “just walking” is so stress free that if I begin to feel fatigued I think, Wait a minute. It’s just walking. There’s no rush, no hurry.

Plus there’s no rule that says I can’t sit down for a few minutes before I get up and continue.

Okay, so what about writing?

Well, let’s draw some parallels. In writing you just put one word in front of the other. Those words become phrases and clauses and sentences. Those become paragraphs and scenes and stories or chapters. Those become a book, either a novel, a novella or a collection. Cool, eh?

Moreover, writing doesn’t require conscious thought. Your conscious mind has absorbed all it needs to know to write a story at your current skill level. That knowledge has seeped into your subconscious, and your subconscious has been telling stories since long before you learned how to form the letters of the alphabet.

In fact, writing is endlessly more pleasurable if you DON’T give it conscious thought. I’ve written considerably better stories, improved my writing rhythms and story telling skills a lot more quickly when I was “just writing” that when I was writing as a workout, “trying” to perfect my skills. Seriously.

Letting go and Just Writing is easy. Just let your subconscious take over and do its thing while you enjoy moving through the story with your characters.

When I just write for the pure pleasure of it, I call it “playing.” It isn’t work. I’m simply enjoying the settings and the characters and their reactions to the setting and the situation. In other words, I’m enjoying the rhythms of writing.

My characters cause me to notice in greater detail whatever scents and sounds are on the air and whatever sights are passing by to either side. If they see something interesting, they investigate and I write it down. When they show me a great scene, I write it.

And when I write like that, the writing goes a lot smoother with a lot less stress than when I “try” to write with my conscious mind. In fact, “just writing” is so stress free that if I begin to feel fatigued I think, Wait a minute. My characters and I are just telling a story. There’s no rush, no hurry.

Plus there’s no rule that says I can’t take a break for a few minutes. My characters know I’m not as young as most of them are. They don’t mind.

Imagine the stress involved if I tried to force my characters to say and do certain things. Ugh. How can that possibly be any fun at all? Well, it can’t.

Today’s Writing

Even with all the stuff going on that I talked about under “The Day” above, I did finally get some writing done.

When I sat down at my writing ‘puter I was still thinking about setting some new goals and so on. But one phrase kept slipping into my head: Book Nine.

My subconscious wants to continue Wes’ story, so for at least part of my writing, that’s what I’m gonna do. ‘Cause seriously, only a complete and utter moron ignores the subconscious when it’s time to tell a story. (grin) And I am a moron, but I’m not so good as to consider myself “complete and utter.”

So I wrote two short sessions on Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga. Not bad at all given all the background stuff I have to do at the beginning of each book. And this one is bringing back two big characters from earlier in the series. (grin)

Anyway, all of that led me to set a goal.

I started what turned out to be Book One of the saga on October 25, 2014. My goal is to have finished Books 9 and 10 in the saga on or before October 24, 2015.

I also realized recently that when I was writing a new short story every week, that process invigorated my writing in other ways as well. So I’m starting that self-challenge again, and it’s perfect timing.

Today is Monday. Before next Monday I will have written and published a new short story. This is in addition to whatever I get finished on Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga.

Should any of you want to join me in this challenge, let me know. I’ll do anything I can to help, except writing them for you. (grin)

Fiction words: 1511

Writing of As Yet Untitled (Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga)
Day 1…… 1111 words. Total words to date…… 1511

Total fiction words for the month…………… 8960
Total fiction words for the year……………… 451360

Stay Tuned!