Tag Archives: #amwriting

Tips, Tips and Observations on Writing

Do you identify with your characters?

If you don’t, how do you expect your readers to? Well, OK, of course you identify with them. You write from life, don’t you?  Some people say you should talk to your characters. I try, but most of the time they don’t answer. You remember Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters–it’s dangerous to get too far into your characters.

But lately I’ve found myself talking like my characters, more than to them. It started with the ones on TV series or movies we watch on TV.  What happens when you’re around people from a different part of the country, speak with a foreign accent or have a cultural vocabulary wholly apart from you. Do you become a verbal chameleon, emulating them?

If you can do that, you can build better dialogue. You can better identify with your characters. Caution–be careful trying on the verbal tics of others, they might find it a tad offensive. Duh!

OK, back to TV and scripted shows. Did you watch this year’s eight episode installment of “True Detective” on HBO. Outstanding for me and frustrating for her. The continual time shifting between 1980, 1990 and 2015 drove her crazy. Truthfully, I did find it confusing at times–OK, more often than I’d care to admit. All right, enough background–on to the writing tips (through the television lens).

Wayne Hays, played by the outstanding Mahershala  Ali, has episodes of dementia/Alzheimer’s in 2015. Watch those parts to see how you might write a character with that problem (or, heaven forbid, you have family or friends who have experienced either of these and you don’t need the show).

Watching the final  episode, I saw Ali stagger in confusion a bit during an incidence of the disease. But it wasn’t just that, it was aging. It brought the memory to me of an introductory/survey course to Theater decades ago. The professor illustrated how an actor portrays age–showing the effects of gravity on his or her limbs. Ali did that. Unless you’re adding illustrations to your stories, you must find words to show that aging. Words like ones I’ve used in the past:

He had attained that age in a man’s life when the hair on arms, legs and chest grows brittle and breaks off while other hairs sprout and flourish mysteriously from nose and ears.

For more of this aging sketch, see the rest here.

I would be remiss in failing to mention the irony. Wayne Hays spends much time digging deeply in the recesses of his mind for memories of the case that bedeviled his partner and himself. Things pop into his head that explain it all, better than Clarissa. So, as I am watching the show, Wayne’s walk takes me back nearly 50 years to Arthur Ballet’s class–a teaching moment that I clearly visualized. No, I’m not on the verge of Alzheimer’s but there was an odd sensation. A reminder of how amazing the human mind of memories is.

You can find incidents in your life, moment by moment and day by day that will enrich whatever you write. Trust me on this.

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First Book Review of 2019–The Hat, C.S. Boyack

My reading goal for 2019 is thirty books–The Hat is a novella, a quick read.  Get it here.

The HatThe Hat by C.S. Boyack
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very funny and quick reading story. A creative writing showcase–with a magical and thinking hat that carries on conversations with the inheritor of it. As an author myself, I’ll take it as a good reminder of how to use my imagination to make even a very outlandish concept come alive. Also nice that it’s an afternoon read!

View all my Goodreads reviews here.

With such a short review, here’s an update on my 2019 determinations (resolutions for those of you still calling your annual goals by that term).

  • Already connected with some new bloggers–following more people
  • Added some new followers and a friend on Goodreads
  • Did first drafts of three flash fiction stories and one short story for my next collection coming this fall–plus made a good start on another story

Despite obstacles that may arise–like an encounter with an unfriendly agave, I will not be deterred :). Best wishes to all of you in this New Year on achieving your goals!

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#Happy New Year

2019 Here We Come—Big Plans for a Bigger and Better Year

Quote from Daisaku Ikeda and "make resolutions that succeed"

I’ve lived enough of them to know that some years are more challenging than others, even when they are successful. 2018 had only a few goals achieved. Various obstacles (mostly health) obstructed other objectives. More on that below. 2018’s off year won’t stop me from making and achieving some very ambitious determinations for 2019. I will try again to make resolutions to succeed—more on that below as well.

Before I let you in on some highlights for 2019, I want to thank those fellow writers and bloggers who steadfastly followed and commented on posts here, despite some lack of reciprocity on my part. That, by the way, is one of the major goals for 2019–connecting more with all of you in that group and supporting your own efforts.

Some  of my 2019 Determinations:

  • Writing, blogging and social media
    • Follow and interact with more writers/bloggers
    • Make the most of Goodreads (see below about Google+ and Facebook)
    • Publish the 2nd collection of short stories in late 2019
    • Work diligently on a novel to come out late fall, 2020
    • See more on future writing goals here
  • Travel
    • Puerto Vallarta for a few days
    • Canada for a few weeks, with our dog—with some distraction free writing time
    • Florida for a few days in December to the FNCC
  • Maintain my weight loss and keep muscles in tone

2018 Challenges:

Mental fatigue impacted my writing—a CPAP machine helped but didn’t clear it up completely while doctors have no clue. A one-off cardiac event interrupted my writing agenda as well as other goals. After much testing—no invasive procedures were done. No new drugs and no changes in exercise were needed either. As the Simple Minds song goes, I amalive and kicking.” I plan on staying that way for years to come. I’ve done as Ikeda urged and didn’t give up.

Goals met include:

  • 29 books read (surpassing a goal of 24)
  • A decoratively curved patio/walkway for enjoying the view from our hilltop home in sunny New Mexico
  • Completing a two-year weight loss goal, 80 pounds off—I am not even overweight.

Goals unmet:

  • Didn’t expand my networking with fellow writers/bloggers and others
  • Didn’t join Facebook (not sure now if I still want to), expand use of Goodreads or the dying Google+
  • Took no vacation and didn’t publish that book by the same name (The Vacation)

If I couldn’t conquer those obstacles in 2018, how can I win in 2019—with much more ambitious goals? Nichiren Daishonin, founder of the Buddhism I have practiced for 41 years, says

“Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other.”

By this he means use the practice first, not last. When medical treatment doesn’t cure a problem, then practicing one’s faith is a rational choice. Once I made a stronger, more focused prayer to be clear headed, the brain responded with focused energy much more of the time.

My wife and I have achieved too many goals (that some might say were impossible) to list them here. You can find many of them in Waiting for Westmoreland. My recent reminder about the tired mind confirms that I can achieve victory in 2019.

Whether you find Buddhism or any other faith a means for achieving success, having a clear process for accomplishing goals is essential. We’ve put these steps out in prior New Year’s posts, but here they are again.

Making Your Resolutions Come True

  • Don’t call them resolutions–call them determinations
  • Make an action plan to attain or achieve them
  • Execute the plan
  • Monitor your progress
  • Forgive yourself for occasional shortfalls
  • Never give up
  • Reinforce your confidence with recollections of past victories
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Acknowledgements: Quotation from Daisaku Ikeda on https more...

Possibilities–A Book by Herbie Hancock, Reviewed

Possibilities–Grab Them Like Herbie Has

I read and reviewed Herbie Hancock’s book last year. I post this review now because it is ineluctably linked to my own writing goals for 2019 and beyond. (See the last line of this review)I’ll post those  goals on my other blog late on New Year’s Eve. Check back here early next year for more on how I’ll make those writing plans come true–along with other New Year’s Determinations (no, I don’t call them resolutions–that’s a tired cliché satirized ad nauseam).

Herbie Hancock: PossibilitiesHerbie Hancock: Possibilities by Herbie Hancock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must confess to being both bewildered and inspired reading this book. I’m bewildered because much of what Herbie talks about in this book is Greek to me—I am not a musician and the details he offers about the evolution of his own musical techniques makes less sense to me than a discussion of the finer points of calculating interstellar trajectories using advanced mathematics.

I’m inspired (and a little jealous) of his many successes. He started on his musical career as a child and continually refreshed his style and knowledge of music. The title, Possibilities aptly describes his refusal to adhere to a status quo but always to innovate–no matter what learning curve might be required. Like Herbie, I am a practicing Buddhist. Forty-one years for me this year–more for him. Much of his success–his many Grammys, an Oscar for the musical score of Round Midnight, his Kennedy Center Honor, his record sales, etc., has to do with his practice of Buddhism. From it, he early on recognized that we are in control of our own destiny and that only surrender to doubt or the obstacles that occur in life will keep one from achieving whatever one sets out to do.

I had the good fortune of meeting Herbie in 1982 when he, Tina Turner and Patrick Duffy–among others, were preparing to perform at the “Aloha We Love America” event on the mall in Washington, DC. I worked in the control center, in L’Enfant Plaza where we did our morning Buddhist prayers (Gongyo) around 7 am for several days. All those celebrities were among the twenty or more people doing Gongyo there every morning. Herbie was an incredibly sincere and devoted member. He told the organization’s General Director to let him know whatever he could do to help. One of my tasks was to drive Herbie and his wife Gigi around Washington, DC. They were without pretension and without condescension. He was a star and I was no one of great stature but that mattered not at all.

The book touches only briefly on his Buddhist practice, just enough to establish its importance to him without a heavy handed push to persuade them to practice. Still, there’s enough encouragement to anyone open to this belief system to learn more. As it happens, I was among a large group of fellow Buddhists attending a conference in Florida when the Grammy for Album of the Year was awarded to Herbie for River: the Joni Letters. The first time in the history of the Grammys that a Jazz album had won this award.We watched the award show that night and rejoiced with him.

I too wrote a memoir, Waiting for Westmoreland, which has quite a bit more to do with what the practice of Buddhism has meant to me in reforming my own life and working to make the world a better place. I am envious of Herbie only because my career as a writer has begun at such a late stage in my life. It will be very difficult to acquire fiction writing skills comparable to Herbie’s skills as a musician in the years that I have left. But, inspired by his success and confident in the power of my Buddhist practice, I will make my mark in the next decade or two.

View all my Goodreads reviews here.

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Happy New Year! and Resolutions That Work

Happy New Year! Hope you had a great 2017 or at least survived it and look forward to a wonderful 2018.  😀 

Like the blog itself, this will be an eclectic post. Often, the posts here are about my thoughts or opinions–it is my blog after all.  😉 In 2018, we’ll try to reach out and involve others more. What are friends for after all?  😛

Here’s what’s in this New Year’s first post: 

  • A thank you to the friends I grew closer to and valued more, as well as some new ones who I discovered or who discovered me
  • Accomplishments we have made in 2017
  • A blessedly brief reminder of the most frequent topic here in 2017–Trump and the GOP (Greedy Old Plutocrats)
  • A very short synopsis of and link to a post about resolutions that has graced Views before–the point being to regard them as real as you want them to be and how to make them happen
  • My own goals and determinations for 2018–in other words, not what I wish for but what I will do [if you want to skip ahead, it’s at the end of this longish post]

Thank you

Getting more engaged with more fellow writers–a resolution that I didn’t make expressly clear in my own mind but succeeded at (somewhat) in 2017. So thank you to all that visited here or elsewhere among my blogs and websites. We helped one another this year. I will extend myself more in 2018. The value of that became evident to me as I launched The Fountain short story collection and a tenth anniversary edition of Waiting for Westmoreland.

So thank you to Debby Gies, Sally Cronin, Chris “The Story Reading Ape” Graham, Nicholas Rossis, June Randolph, Tina Frisco, Byron Edgington  and many more. For those I didn’t name, please don’t feel slighted; the memory isn’t what it used to be and time is running short to finish this. 🙄 Many of you launched new books this year as well. I will try harder next year to be of more help to you. I know the 80-20 prescription–I just need to follow it.  😉

2017 Revisited–i.e., mostly victories 

  • Lost more than 23% of body weight (nearly 60 pounds), substantially exceeding the goal I set
  • Exercised more consistently than ever
  • Unexpected bonus–the change in our eating habits that made weight loss possible also saved big bucks on the grocery bill!
  • As noted above, published a short story collection and a tenth anniversary edition of Waiting for Westmoreland
  • Made more connections with other writers
  • Made more sales of my books (thankfully, I’m retired and don’t need to sell books to meet expenses, hahahaha)
  • Gave away many more books than ever before, see above 😎
  • My wife and I made a trip back east to visit family and friends that we greatly enjoyed, while the traffic and human congestion reminded us why we don’t miss the DC suburbs
  • Victories were many and defeats few–most of the latter were minor home maintenance issues which themselves were covered by warranties (hurrah)

Trump and the GOP

Just do a search and you’ll find 30 or so posts on them, just last year with more in 2016. I will try to restrain myself to one per month in 2018. Let’s do the first one right now–very short.

  • Let’s make a new fairy tale for the 21st century–“The President Has No Sense.” Today, the GOP sycophants all praise the mindless Trump as if he has wisdom. We all know differently. His tweets reveal the truth.
  • David Rothkopf said this morning on MSNBC, “It’s not hyperbole to say Trump has lost it.” Not hyperbole, just mistaken. Trump couldn’t lose what he never had. How can anyone run a casino into bankruptcy?
  • Steve Bannon says the June Trump Tower meeting with Donald Junior et al, was “treasonous” and that Mueller will “crack him like an egg on national TV”. Quite possible.
  • Consider Junior’s own words, there are people “at the highest levels of government that don’t want to let America be America.” Exactly, people like himself, his father and other members of the White House–not to mention the members of Congress who want to destroy the FBI and other institutions. Trump and many his supporters in the GOP would rather America be like Russia.
  • Do you suppose Trump will throw “his own son” under the bus during the Mueller investigation? Take a close look at the jet black hair and the face on “junior.” Was there a sperm donor way back when? Junior somewhat resembles Ivana, but not his supposed father. May make a difference when the fecal matter hits the fan!
  • Did you happen to watch the Bill Murray classic “Scrooged” this holiday season? We did and couldn’t miss this line while Mr. Cross (Murray) found himself below a street grate with an ice-covered Herman (Michael J. Pollard)–“Where are we, Trump Tower?” This movie was released in 1988! Trump Tower opened five years before!
  • To paraphrase Ivanka, there’s a cold place in hell for people who rob from the poor to give to the rich–and saddle grandchildren and great-grandchildren with a massive deficit to pay for. They’re the Greedy Old Plutocrats who passed the “Tax Scam and Millionaire and Up Wealth Enhancement Act of 2017.”
  • Finally, who has the smaller hands and shorter fingers–Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump? We know the latter is worried about the size of his manhood by the tweet about nuclear buttons don’t we? Maybe there’s been more than one sperm donor along the way, eh?

Make Your Resolutions Come True

  • Don’t call them resolutions–call them determinations
  • Make an action plan to attain or achieve them
  • Execute the plan
  • Monitor your progress
  • Forgive yourself for occasional shortfalls
  • Never give up
  • Reread my Resolutions Revisited post from last January–I planned on losing 36 pounds–I got there by the end of July and kept on losing.

2018 Goals, Determinations, Plans

  • Reconnect with our daughter (a blindsided estrangement that happened late summer of 2017–at her instigation)
  • Lose 30 more pounds and tone up the muscles on a home gym
  • Connect with many more fellow writers and bloggers–to support them and gain wisdom from them; I’ll flesh out some target numbers of subscriptions, follows, etc. by February 1st to make this real
  • Make more effective use of Goodreads
  • Read at least 24 books and post reviews of them
  • Transition from LinkedIn to Facebook mid year and retain 500+ connections
  • Publish a novel, The Vacation, for the 2018 holiday season–at 35,000 words of a first draft I have a long ways to go!
  • Post less political stuff and more writing tips here–subject to the winds of change  🙄
  • Continue posting snippets of works in progress on John’s Writing
  • Continue publishing the Eagle Peak Quarterly
  • Take at least one great vacation, location TBD, and a few short excursions
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New on the Shelves–The Fountain Featured on Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore

In case you missed this wonderful feature from Sally Cronin on her website, Smorgasbord–Variety is the spice of life, here’s a re-blog of what she said about The Fountain and my first book, Waiting for Westmoreland.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – The Fountain Short Story Collection by John Maberry

Welcome to John Maberry who is joining the authors on the shelves in the bookstore with two books.. One is his memoir Waiting for Westmoreland and the second, The Fountain, his recently released short story collection.

About Waiting for Westmoreland

Surviving poverty and the deaths of loved ones, the author remains hopeful as he exits childhood. then comes the draft that sends him to Vietnam. With innocence lost and illusions shattered, he seeks answers. College courses are intriguing but offer no solutions. Eventually, hope returns in the form of a life philosophy that comes from a chance encounter at a party. It’s all about cause and effect. Events happen not by chance but as a result of karma. Unseen connections have surprising consequences.

This knowledge comes in the nick of time, as he faces his most serious situation since the perils of Vietnam, the threat of death from a prospective father-in-law. He must take responsibility for the matter, despite being unaware of the underlying reason for it, reform himself and seek only her father’s happiness.

One of the reviews for the Paperback book

I’m apparently about the same age as the author and am always curious to hear someone else’s experience of the times I’ve lived in. In this case, Mr. Maberry and I couldn’t have lived more disparate lives if we’d tried. I don’t think I could have survived Mr. Maberry’s life and I appreciate his sharing the way his inner life as well as his circumstances have unfolded to this point. He survived things that have only scared me from a distance and he has achieved things I’ve only dreamt about from a distance. I’m so impressed with the way he has developed his life. I’m especially delighted to have read his account of his experience of the ’60s and ’70s, two decades I didn’t fit into very well.

Like Forrest Gump, Mr. Maberry made me re-evaluate that era in a more favorable light. In fact, this book made me re-evaluate a lot of things. Even if this were a big book, I would highly recommend it. It would be worth your time. But it’s a small book and reads very fast. No matter what your own experience in life, I think you will find this book interesting and impressive, and it may just lead to a whole new life for you, a new awakening.

A review for the Kindle version

Waiting for Westmoreland is an excellent memoir of John Maberry’s life as a kid growing up in the Midwest, Vietnam War vet, ant-war protestor, law student, pot smoker, and devout Buddhist. The author offers a poignant and eloquent account of the events that shaped his life leading to his enlightenment through Buddhism. I was particularly moved and educated by his observations about the politics involved in the unpopular, yet long-lasting Vietnam War.

The quality of the author’s writing is excellent – it is descriptive and clear. This independently-published work rivals the quality of work produced by the professional publishing houses. I found the story fascinating and it held my interest throughout.
NOTE: I’m posting this review on the Kindle edition because that is what I purchased although I noticed that the paperback has several other reviews.

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/John-Maberry/e/B002BM82FU

Also by John Maberry released on 10th July

The Fountain and six more fantasy & Scifi stories.

Humor, twists and more in this collection of seven fantasy and sci-fi short stories. Karma can be painful in “The Fountain”–when a plunderer meets a long-dead shaman. A family adopts a retriever with special talents in “Lily, an Amazing Dog.” A vampire has a strange problem, in “Alfred’s Strange Blood Disorder.” A perennial favorite, dimensional travel, with a strange twist in “The Closet Door.” What could that column of fire be, rising from the Atlantic off the Outer Banks? Read “The Flame” to find out what it meant to troubled writer Carson. A wizard casts a spell that works well for a princess, but will it be as good for him? Check out “The Wizard.” Finally, “The Fribble” offers an alien encounter of an odd sort, to a pharmaceutical company rep searching for new drugs in the Amazon Rain forest.

One of the early reviews for the book

If you enjoy short stories in fantasy/sci-fi genres, and stories that make you think then look no further than Maberry’s tales which will engross you with stories about karma, greed, time travel, aliens and muses.

In this book you will read stories about: a dog with extra sensory perception, a writer battling his own sub-conscience, a wizard who wonders if the spells he casts for others will work for himself, a man who experiences 2 lifetimes by opening a closet door. These are just a few of the stories to stimulate your reading appetite.

Maberry is a prolific writer who knows how to keep a reader captivated till the end and finishes his stories with an unexpected twist. This book also offers an excerpt to the author’s next upcoming novel. As in true Maberry style, he leaves us hanging in anticipation with more to come. A great read!

Read the reviews and buy the collection: https://www.amazon.com/Fountain-more-fantasy-sci-fi-stories-ebook/dp/B071KLTTJR

Read all the reviews and buy both bookshttps://www.amazon.com/John-Maberry/e/B002BM82FU

Follow John Maberry on Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1210538.John_Maberry

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