Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Brief Escape-- It's Okay, They Know You There

One of my favorite writers, Edgar Allen Poe, only produced two novels during his career and only one in his lifetime. He did produce hundreds of poems and short stories that he called tales. During his life, he was not well known as a writer but more so as a critic. Now, most people know him as a writer and don't realize he was a critic in less you take college-level American Literature. Another of my favorites, Mark Twain, wrote eight novels aside from Tom Sawyer in Huckleberry Finn. In addition, Twain wrote many short stories, essays, and produced several collections of his works as well as an autobiography. Several movies are based on short stories that were written by Stephen King. King is also a prolific producer of short stories. Why the history lesson? It is a good lead-in to this entry about short stories.

I was in the seventh or eighth grade when I was introduced to the short story genre by Ms. DeLong it was not a direct introduction, but occurred because of her reading aloud assignments during class. She would start at one end of the room and each person would take turns reading aloud a paragraph or two of the current selection.  Some people were better readers and others, I was lucky enough to be a good sight-reader. When the process was slow down by someone who is not good at reading, I would flip to other pages in the book and read other stories. The selections that were my choice were primarily short stories because I could read and finish one of them without getting caught and before it was my turn.

This led me to discover many authors who later became my favorites. It also led me to seek out collections of short stories in the library and in the Scholastic Books flyers we got every couple of weeks. I still like short stories, most are self-contained quick escape with literary gratification within a page or two.

Now, as a novelist, I find myself wanting to produce short stories myself. The short story is challenging for an author. A writer must very quickly lure the audience into empathizing with the story’s characters and, at the same time, push a plot forward that is always just a page or two from the ending. Simultaneously, it gives an author a lot of freedom to write a framework that allows the reader to fill in the blanks and expand a few words into thousands.

My first short story collection is titled Pimping Out My Sister-In-Law* Volume 1 (* A Collection of Short Stories That Has Absolutely Nothing to Do with the Title or Cover Art)  The volume contains four short stories.

This compendium's title comes from the answer I’d give people when asked what my next book title would be. It became a running gag over the past few years, and when I decided to put this collection together, I could think of no better title to use. I can guarantee you that none of these stories have anything to do with pimping anybody. The cover photos also have nothing to do with any of the stories and are not of any sister-in-law. You will find a collection of short stories from various genres to keep you entertained for a brief bit of time. Some are shorter, some are longer, but all fall within a short story's basic guidelines. Here is a brief description of each of the stories 

Words Ever Unspoken

Years have passed since Carson and Melissa broke up. Even though time has passed, both still dwell on the last time the two were together. Was that night a way of marking the end of their relationship, or was it a desperate attempt on both their parts to prevent their breakup from being permanent? Neither of them said a word during that last time together. Will either of them be able to find the words to express what is going on inside their minds and hearts today?

It's a Surreal Thing

He was deep into that summer between being a kid and being a teenager. She was the kind of woman that was the building block of a young man’s fantasies. As he sat there alone, she walked up behind him unnoticed and for a brief moment became the center of his universe when she made a simple request… a swig of his Coke.

Just Down from Rimpy’s Bait Shop 

Peter’s grandfather brought him to live on his farm during his most turbulent years. As the man he loves succumbs to the deterioration of age, Peter is increasingly frustrated as he is forced to deal with the aging man’s belligerent and sometimes dangerous behavior. Fertilizing a section of the lawn should be a simple chore, especially when there are explicit directions. But then again, maybe not.

A Scents of the Virus 

A sleepless night filled with the boredom of the COVID19 lockdown, a distracting ad on the Internet, and a credit card leads to the purchase of a Hollywood star’s latest vanity project: A candle with a unique scent. The first time Munro smells it, he begins to recover a memory.  It is a memory he suppressed for years of a woman and relationship his heart and body cherished. Now, whenever the aroma surrounds him, he is immersed in a world where she and the relationship still exist.

Unlike my novels, I chose to serialize the collection into three volumes, to be released over the next year. The volumes can be read in any order, just like the stories within each volume. After all the volumes are released, they will be combined into a single tome and released in paperback.

I hope the stories provide you with a brief escape from where you find yourself at this moment. Each will allow you to leave this reality and take a quick trip into a different one. Have no fear. It’s a nice place. Even better, they know you there.

eBook available now, Audiobook coming in January 2021...


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Where Ya Been, Where Ya Goin'?

I heard this song the first time when I was on the duty train going from Frankfurt to Berlin for an extended TDY. To say I'd been having a wild time on my tour of Europe would be an understatement.  But I discovered* the song when I was re-examining who I was and what I should be doing versus what I was doing.  At 23 or so, it was the right thing to be doing at the right time.  It took a few more months before I calmed down and took my self-discovery to an action level.  

This song always reminds me of that ride through the stark German night contemplating the person I needed to become.  Never regret your past; it makes you who you are now, only regret not taking time to consider the things that might need to change to let you discover yourself.

* The song truly was a discovery, it was part of a bootleg mixtape I bought off some guy for a couple of DMs on the platform in the Frankfurt Haupt Bahnhof just prior to getting on the train.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Worst Episode Ever, I Loved It!

I received my first review for a performance, in the first grade. I had just performed for the first time publicly as a toy soldier in the Christmas play. My Mom said I was outstanding. Maybe it was the review, or maybe my high school drama teacher, Katherine Goodwyn, that drove me onward to perform many times in community theater starting with my role has the Dead Body* in The Real Inspector Hound and ending with my role as King Arthur in Camelot. Almost all the roles I brought the stage would at some point be reviewed. Some were good, some were bad. I even won a few awards. 

My point is that I was used to having other people tell me what they thought of what I was doing. When I wrote my first book, I found there were many people willing to tell me what they thought of the words I put on paper. Just like my stage roles, some were good, some were bad, and I even won a few awards. I will admit that I take most reviews with a grain of salt. I recall getting a one-star review on Goodreads for From Within the Firebird's Nest, after reading it I discovered the reviewer did not like the fact I used italics. Suppressing the desire to lash out, I instead read some of the person's other reviews. What I noticed was a trend. The reviewer seemed to be a frustrated copywriter who also had issues with people who used ellipses too often, asterisks, and hated the Oxford comma. The one very big thing lacking in the reviews was anything about the book's content or storyline. Essentially, because of his obsession with punctuation and typeface, all the joy of reading had been sucked from him. Pity.

There is one basic truth: a review is just one person's opinion. When I first released Blood Upon the Sands, I was expecting my character Maksim Fillyp Bondreovich to be noticed. I was quite proud of him, even though he was an evil villain. I spent a lot of time and effort crafting ways to make him sadistic and easy to hate, to include lengthy internal monologues about how he was enjoying the evil he was doing. That attention did not go unnoticed, as I got two Amazon reviews back to back. One called him a great villain that was so memorable he might cause nightmares after reading the book - Yea!. The other said that Maksim was too mean, and too much time was spent inside his head providing his viewpoint as he shredded other characters - Uh Oh. Same book, same character but two different opinions. 

Now that my book Ferdinand's Gold has hit the streets and reviews are starting to come in, I have to say I'm pleased with most of what I've read so far, even the ones that didn't like this or that.

One reviewer stated that they loved all the detail of military procedure that was talked about in the front of the book as it helped them more fully understand what happened as things went on. The next day, a different reader felt I spent too much time on that sort of thing. Anyone who has read my books knows that I lay in a solid back story for each character at the beginning of the book as things start to happen. This allows the action to go on later in the book without interruption since you fully understand the character.

I'm happy to read in most of the reviews that the dialogue was appreciated as was the depth of each of the characters. I like a book with multiple characters where you can pick and choose which one to identify with but are still provided by the author with enough detail on the others to understand them. Therefore, it is the way I tell stories.

I will admit that the reviews I like best are those that notice things I try hard to achieve, like characters that are not caricatures. References to time and place so the reader is not confused within the setting, believable dialog that is unique to the character, and more.

This excerpt is from a review that is one of my favorites because of the reviewer seemed to find all the things I had put into the story: 

“I also appreciate (minor spoiler) that Angel was handled so wonderfully. I’m always apprehensive of queer and female characters in military stories because not a lot of people flesh them out more than stating their queerness, or womanhood. She was a great character; she went through some tough shit and came out on top and for that I’ve gotta give this writer props ★★★★★” Meranda, Amazon

I love getting props for good storytelling.

Aside from everyday reader’s, I have received a few from professionals:

"A riveting combination of fact and ingenious narrative ability that throws surprises at the reader on a regular basis Ferdinand's Gold proves a taut and exciting read with Charles leveraging his own experiences as a decorated Air Force veteran to good effect...Sure to be met with approval by fans of the War and Military Action genre, Ferdinand's Gold is a must-read and is recommended without reservation!"  BookViral Reviews

"This novel is fascinating in its historical detail, but also woven together with fictional elements that make the story leap off the page. Charles is able to bring a barracks to life, even for someone who has never stepped foot in one, just as easily as he depicts a flurry of action or violence - confident, specific, and memorable. With increasingly high stakes and a powerful narrative voice that makes it hard to put down, Ferdinand's Gold is a tumultuous ride that is a perfect afternoon escape for fans of military thrillers and adventure fiction." Self-Publishing Review

“At its climax, the story offers gripping ultra-violence, offset by a surprisingly satisfying denouement. Overall, readers will find a tasty mix of criminal conspiracy set in unfamiliar territory, all spiked with political intrigue.” BlueInk Reviews

“Air Force veteran Charles’ novel feels entirely authentic, and his extensive knowledge of military aircraft and procedure lends weight to Dex’s exploits… The author’s prose style is largely crisp and direct… every player proves memorable nonetheless—especially for such a relatively compact narrative. A fast-paced adventure with some emotional weight.” Kirkus

While the reviews are all fairly positive, each has a differing viewpoint – one person, one opinion. I have seen one bad review destroy somebody’s aspirations for the future. I guess because I’ve been hearing feedback on things I’ve done for so long, I take each review with a grain of salt and try to learn something from each of them. If you were to lay any of the Evan Davis tales next to Ferdinand’s Gold you would see that I use considerably fewer italics than previously. But you would also notice that I threw in a couple of ellipses that really were necessary as well. As an author, I always get the last word...

* Kevin Costner's first role in a major motion picture was portraying a dead body in The Big Chill. So, I was in good company.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Sir Issac Newton Only Had the Plague to Worry About

Sir Isaac Newton and a great many others did their best work while quarantined – – let's just say it didn't do a thing for me. Writing is a solitary thing. You dream up a story and then set down to put it all on paper -- at least that's my process. You would think, given the way the quarantine is supposed to work COVID19 would be the perfect environment for a writer and it might be for some. COVID19 was a huge disrupter to life as we know it and it also disrupted and delayed the completion of my last book Ferdinand's Gold. The book was finally released at the beginning of this month, but not without a lot of stops and starts over the last six months. 

It is very satisfying to have this story completed. I was part of the events that occur in the book on Guam in 1986 and the story came to me shortly thereafter. I have no idea why this was not the first book I wrote, I guess I was waiting until I had something else written before I went back and grabbed what I knew was going to keep the audience in suspense. Of course, like any story from the past, the ending is mostly known upfront, but it is how you get there that matters. 

From the back cover:

As the son of a disgraced army deserter, Dex Kevan has struggled to escape the dark shadow of his father’s past and his own bad attitude. An air cargo specialist for the US Air Force he spends his days counting crates, filling out paperwork, and trying to hold onto his girlfriend as his career prospects crumble. It’s 1986, and the Philippines is undergoing the ouster of kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos. While Dex quietly continues his work at the Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, he’s oblivious of the maelstrom taking place across the sea. 

When an unexpected flight arrives carrying a weary flight crew and a colossal secret –a cache of stolen gold bars – a series of events finds Dex and his associates embroiled in a plot that puts a bullseye on their backs. Tempted by the wealth and a future full of riches blinding them, the four Airmen commit to sneaking a portion of the treasure off the plane.

Unknown to them, the plunder belongs to Col. Talan Madulás, the head of a secret death squad. But the conspirators fail to consider what kind of person would steal and then smuggle such a treasure, and what lengths might they go to, to get it back.  Madulás’ bloody reign is over, his president fleeing. When his gold nest egg is stolen, he doesn’t hesitate to step back into his dark skills to hunt down the thieves. 

Based on an incredible true story, Dex Kevan and his fellow thieves will learn that a man’s thirst for revenge can be just as dangerous as his greed and that no amount of wealth is worth an early grave.

Some early reviews of the book:

"... a fun weekend read. It's got adventure, mystery, and is quite thrilling. The author, Charles, is a rather skilled story teller with his ability to use his descriptions to make the words come to life off the page, I ended up reading this in 1 sitting. ★★★★★" Rory, Amazon

“★★★★★ A well-crafted espionage thriller with perfect pacing! Ferdinand's Gold had every element a good story should have. An intriguing plot, attention to detail, but best of all fleshed out, well-written and well-rounded character development. There’s an abundance of well-illustrated scenes that make you feel like you are right there in the story…It’s one of those stories that come along once in a while that makes you want to read it non-stop until you get to the end.” Piaras Cíonnaoíth, Emerald Isle Reviews

“Sheldon’s very brief synopsis offers the bait to seduce us into this terrific novel…once opened, the action and events and premises are so compelling that pausing the experience is not likely. Highly Recommended” Grady Harp, San Francisco Review of Books

"★★★★★ Each page keeps you gripped as you turn page after page, curious to know just what is going to happen next. The emotional grip of greed, mystery, and revenge all weave together wonderfully with the author's descriptive words"  Jason Mann, Amazon

As with any large effort, it is easy to label it the best you've ever done upon completion. I'll wait and see what a few more folks say before I give this book any such label, but I do think it is an excellent story with enough twists and turns to keep a demanding reader entertained.

I hope you will consider adding it to your late Summer/early Fall reading list. It is available in Paperback, EBook, and shortly Audiobook.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

36 Years Later, Here We Are

This entry includes spoilers for George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949. You've been warned.

When I was in college in 1980, I noticed a copy of George Orwell's book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, on my girlfriend's bookcase. I'd never read the book before, so I picked it up and began reading. The book was and still is the most disturbing piece of fiction I've ever read. I will preface all of this by saying I don't have problems with dystopian books, and I've watched many dystopian movies without carrying away much afterward. Also, I was not deeply troubled by the Big Brother sees all concept in the book like many people were. I grew up as a military dependent and living on a base. I was used to the idea of somebody else watching everything I did and reporting it as they saw fit. Taking it one step further, probably wasn't as scary to me as it might've been to someone growing up in a different environment. What bothered me about the book was the ending; there was no light. Everything remained as dark as it was.

In the end, Winston Smith gave up his rebel ideas and sexual freedom by giving into Big Brother. Without going too deep into the events that led to it, he gave up. He sold out everyone he loved or cared about. When I got to the end, at first, I was mad, and then as I thought about it more and more in the weeks after, I was bothered by the fact that in the end, no one escaped. I wasn't looking for a Hollywood ending. Still, I was expecting a conclusion that at least provided for some level of freedom. At the very least, if he genuinely loved Julia, why did he trade her to save himself? As the song prophesied: "Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you, and you sold me"

At one point, I set about trying to rectify it. I wrote almost 200 pages of a follow-up novel I was going to call Two Thousand-Three. In the book, the diary that Winston kept is discovered in a trash heap by a young man.  He has been assigned this mundane job but internally seeking the truth and a way to cope with them the society as it exists. During the course of the book, he finds out that he is Winston and Julia's child and eventually leads a revolt against Big Brother freeing Oceana. As I think about it today, whereas the storyline isn't bad, it was egotistical of me to think a twentysomething college student could write a sequel to a George Orwell novel. Somewhere, there is a box with those pages, and it, at the time handwritten was the only option I had. The box is probably in an ex-girlfriend's attic or maybe in a trash heap somewhere waiting to be discovered someday.

My point is, it bothered me bad enough to try and do something to rectify and fix it. In a lot of ways, what has gone on so far in 2020 leaves me with the same feeling of dread and darkness. So many events that are coming and going so fast you barely have time to digest one before the next crisis arrives. I'm not alone in feeling you eventually stop trying to digest anything new, hoping you can at least figure out one thing that has already been thrown at you. But then, maybe not. By the way, I lived through 1968. This is nothing like 1968.

George Orwell wrote disturbing books. It is not hard to find people on both sides of the political spectrum pounding on the covers of those books and claiming it is a prophecy about what the other side is doing. I don't think the solution is that easy. It is much more complicated. You have a populace running in opposite directions without realizing or wanting to know that all the answers being sought are somewhere in the middle. At some point, you have to stop demonizing the other side long enough to realize that if you don't start moving toward the middle, there will be nothing left. There is absolutely no way for one side to demand a right to speak and act with a claim of absolute infallibility if there is any hope of unity in the end. Both sides have to be able to speak freely without fear, and both sides have to admit the only solutions are those negotiated between differing viewpoints. Indeed, when you reach the furthermost edges, here there be monsters.

The last line of the book is a realization that Winston has after his spirit has been destroyed, and whatever is left inside him is a shriveled bit of nothingness without feelings: "He loved Big Brother."

No. Just no.


Monday, April 20, 2020

LockedDown Like Me

It's 3:45 in the morning on Sunday (4/19/20), I wake up fully alert and for some reason, I want to watch an episode of Dead Like Me. Maybe its a symptom of too much COVID19 running around, I don't know.

After searching my TV database, I find I don't have it digital. I then searched all sources (Netflix, etc) and could not find it. I knew I had it on DVD but I was wide awake but not energetic enough to go looking for it. Anyway, after checking the temperature in Berlin (65) and the weather in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Rainy), I went back to sleep.

The next day, I found my DVD version of the show and digitized it so I could watch it on my system. Fulfillment.

Dead Like Me is a 2 season - 1 movie series about an 18-year-old woman named George Lass.  She is a slacker who is selected to become a grim reaper after she dies from being hit by the falling toilet seat from the Mir space station. Totally plausible. It is quirky and fun with a level of dark humor any veteran would fully understand and appreciate. It also features the best character name I have ever heard: Daisy Adair - a blonde reaper who used to be an actress and lacks awareness of anyone and anything but herself. She always introduces herself as "Daisy. Daisy Adair." (upper left in pix)

If you liked Pushing Daises you will like this too. I heartily recommend it at 3:45 or any other time. Get it now, so you won't be left checking the weather in Europe because it is not available. Perfect for a Corona Virus LockDown.

Note: No one in this show ever dies from COVID19.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Whose Music Woke You Up Today?

I listen to a huge variety of podcasts, radio shows, and read a lot online as well. So, forgive me for being able to relate the source of this advice because I'd like to give them credit. I'm not even really sure what the official topic of the show was. Still, one of the announcers was talking about the attitude of your day been determined during the first few moments after you wake up. What they recommended was listening to music when you first woke up for a few minutes before you throw back the covers and get out of bed to start your day.

From the time I was in junior high until I stopped living on my own, I owned clock radios that allowed me the choice of alarm, music, or combination of both. Because I was a typical teenager growing up, I used both and at full volume to ensure that I was up in time to greet my day. Because of the way the device worked, I had no choice as to what music would play much of the time it was something like a transmission repair commercial.

Now, I have several devices that can wake me up and do so to a specific song if I choose. I was an early adopter of the Amazon Echo, and now my house is populated with these devices as part of my smart home set up. Several months ago, I replaced my last clock radio with an Echo Show device.  It has many alarm options including things like the ability to play whatever song you want to wake up to or a selection of songs by a particular artist. Being someone who is always preferred variety, I choose to select the artist and have kismet determine the title.

I will say that I have chosen a wide variety of things to wake up to in the past few weeks. I went from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Linda Ronstadt to Santana and even the Mamas & the Papas. Then I played folk music for a few days, including Peter Paul and Mary, John Denver, Harry Chapin, and Jim Croce. Most of the time, I would wake up in the first notes and immediately recognize the song. Still, a few times, I've had to ask Alexa to tell me the title I was listing to. None of that matters, I am reconnecting with a lot of old music I had forgotten. The part that matters is the difference in the way my day has gone since then.
On the whole, I have felt more positive heading into my day – – which is saying a lot given the current condition of the world. Sometimes, I'm left with the tune running through my head, requiring me to feed my brain more songs by the same artist. Other times, I'm flooded by remembrances of events associated with the song. I let my mind wander off to people and places stowed in the deep recesses of my memory. I think all of this is a good thing.

Anyway, try it out for yourself. Many devices can help start your day with whatever music you want to awaken you. The only rule, if you can call it that, is that once the song starts playing, you let the entire tune play before you get up and get out of bed. Unless you're playing In A Gadda Da Vida or American Pie you only delay your day by three or four minutes – no biggie. Give it a shot for a week. See what it does for you.


Thursday, March 5, 2020

Croce, the Ultimate Singer, Songwriter, Storyteller

Shortly after I turned 14, Jim Croce died in a plane crash. I'm not sure if it was before or after that I first heard him actually perform one of his songs. I do know that the Muppets were the ones that turned me on to his music with their version of You Don't Mess Around With Jim. Actually, I'm using Muppets in the broadest sense because Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson were performing as The Country Trio. What I loved about the song was the storytelling. Not only that, the story was funny and had a good turn around at the end.

Something to ponder while watching this: The song is about a man named Jim, written by a man named Jim, sung by a character named Jim, performed by a man named Jim.

As I got older, I sought out more and more of his songs. Many of them were stories set to music in the most amazing way. Roller Derby Queen, Bad Bad Leroy Brown, RapidRoy (The StockCar Boy), Speedball Tucker, and more. Each of them filled with memorable characters and a quick glimpse into their life. As a wannabe storyteller who was learning to play the guitar, I found great joy in the music of Jim Croce. Then, as adolescence took firm hold, I began to find meaning in his other songs.

People sometimes call his music melancholy as if it's a bad thing, it isn't.  I've always maintained there's a bit of warmth to be found in melancholy existing nowhere else. Among these,  were leaving songs like Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels) and One Less That a Footsteps. There were also songs celebrating the happiness of love, like Time in a Bottle and I'll Have To Say I Love You In a Song. and the, dammit I'm being treated wrong by my girlfriend" songs like Lover's Cross.

What I really like about all of the songs, stories, and love ballads, was that they were within my vocal range.  Even though I wasn't trying to emulate Croce, when I sang them they didn't sound half bad. Also, because of the sparse music accompaniment (one or two guitars)  in his music they didn't sound hollow when performed as a solo.

Later, I discovered his posthumous album The Faces I've Been.  the double album was a collection of traditional folk, This Land Is Your Land, and segments of him telling stories. The man could tell a narrative story every bit as well as he could tell one in song.   it was the first time that I became aware of how varied his life experiences were and how they contributed to his music and stories. He held dozens of part-time jobs while trying to get a break. The result is in his music. I wore out two copies of that album before I switched it over to digital.

How did I end up with a blog entry gushing over a musician who's been gone since 1973?  Recently, someone posted an entry online about him and included a recording of him singing Operator. That song holds a special place with me, it was the first song I ever played and sang before a crowd larger than two or three people.

During my high school's Spring Concert in 1977, I got brave enough to walk on the stage by myself and perform that song. While I was reflecting on that bit of history another bit of history slapped me in the face. When I lived in Kokomo, in the spring of 1989, I performed a Coffeehaus at Dad's Deli. I played four or five original songs and told a few stories, but the last song I played was Croce's song Railroads and Riverboats, harmony performed by Melanie Kenner. As of today, it is the last time I've performed in public for more than two or three people.

Looking back on that realization, I think it is only an appropriate set of bookends that my first and last performances were both written by Jim Croce.

If you are not familiar with Jim Croce, I encourage you to look him up on YouTube or somewhere else and discover his music.

If you are a glutton for punishment, I have provided links to both live performances. Keep in mind both of these were recorded with a portable cassette recorder using the built-in microphone. When I had it digitized, they were able to clean up some of the noise but it is still rough.

Railroads & Riverboats


Monday, February 10, 2020

Squiggly Lines...and Beyond

I am finally back to steadily putting words on paper. The morning after I created my previous entry, I managed to put down 3,200 words before my keyboard caught fire. After beating down the flames with my mouse and pouring my Diet Coke on the flaming mouse, I gave up for the day. Many times when I have such a burst, later review results in me deleting about half of them, this time it didn't, I added another 200 words to what I had written, for clarity, and now the dynamite passage. It tells how one of my characters went from being a sincere and loyal man to one with secrets– deeply in debt and coerced into doing many things he would never have considered previously.

The storyline for Stealing Ferdinand's Gold has been in my head for a long time without making it the paper in some form. I've told the basic story many times over beers with friends but have never taken the time to put the words on paper. Now I am, and I have found this book required more research than others because of the need to keep the timeline straight. The story is set inside actual events, so I have to mold my narrative around events and ensure events remain in the proper order. The easiest way for me to do this is to be utterly familiar with all of the events taking place to ensure I am clear as to which egg came before which chicken and vice versa.

This book is a break from my Evan Davis series, which I've decided will have at least two more books before I make any significant character changes. I have some great ideas that will wind up in those two books and look forward to how the story comes together when I sit down to create it. I hope followers of the series will enjoy where I take these next two stories.

In addition to Ferdinand's Gold, I am working on a few short stories as well. As soon as I get to a dozen or so, I plan on releasing them together. I enjoy writing short stories; the problem is getting anyone to notice and read them.

When I was in ninth grade, I remember buying many anthology-style books from Scholastic Books. Each had a dozen or so short stories by various authors with a particular theme. These introduced to Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, and the written works of Rod Serling. The last time I saw Scholastic Books flyer, it was more about Harry Potter than anthologies.

I think short stories are ideally suited for the kind of world we live in, where we are trying to fit a brief bit of entertainment into the time available. Of course, if you look at a lot of what is being sold as novels by independent authors on Amazon, you will notice they have page counts of 100 or less, technically this is a novella, but it might also be considered short story based on word count.  Previously, a short story was between 7500 and 20,000 words, now it goes down to 1000 words. Anything less is called flash or micro-fiction. Now you know.

What I like about short stories is that I can devour one in 15 minutes to an hour. This kind of speed allows the story to hit me very quickly, and depending on the work, it can be anything from a roller coaster ride to a trek up the mountain, only to find a cliff on the other side. I love the variety. Plus, they are all self-contained, you begin with nothing, and an hour later, you now have enjoyed a completely new story — a quick escape from the real world.

Writing short stories is how I maintain writer's discipline between books. It gives me something creative to keep that part of my mind humming while I'm dealing with other things. I used to consider these bits and pieces starts for new books, but realized most were finished within 10 to 20,000 words. So, I started making short stories out of them.

Alas, it is time for me to get back to work and create more of a world where you can take a few million dollar's worth of gold easily during a confusing situation, but once things calm down, it becomes almost impossible to hold on to any of it.


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Squiggly Lines On a Page -- NOW

When I finished my ramblings about the Lynyrd Skynyrd Memorial Project in November, I  jumped into a short story that had been playing through my mind.  The story, entitled Words Ever Unspoken, is the tale of two former lovers who meet to exchange some property which one had left with the other when they broke up years before. Eventually, it will become part of a short story collection to be released later this year.  Creating that single-story took an emotional toll as I worked my way through both characters creating the conversation they were having with each other as well as the one taking place internally. After extensive editing, and finally declaring the missive done, I found myself needing to get away from putting words on paper.

The timing was good because with family goings-on during the holidays, it would've been challenging to find time alone to write. Now, after the first of the year, I find myself creating and conniving reasons not to sit down at a keyboard. The constant flow of story ideas which I have been blessed with has not stopped, just the desire to make them more concrete than a wisp of smoke in the wind. The only positive thing about this is that other activities I had procrastinated about are finally getting done.

For those of you playing armchair psychiatrist, this is not the winter blues. I usually discover creativity hidden somewhere within the blues. Overall, my mood is excellent. I don't want to do the writing thing at the moment.

To snap out of it, I opened a document and wrote almost 3000 words describing the stuff sitting upon my desk. It may seem like an odd exercise, but I was hoping I would burst into a story about one of the action figures or something else in the bizarre collection of memorabilia with which I surround myself. After all, I keep all of these things around to inspire creativity. No such luck, although I now have a detailed inventory of the items on my desk should I ever need one for insurance purposes.

I know that this will pass. I want it to pass more quickly. Just like I know my lack of production will pass so will the availability of time to create. I hate to lose the opportunity I have right now.

In interviews, I say I've never had Writer's Block. I've never been without words or lacking a story to tell. That is still true even now. I have an entire humorous story in my head, the beginning of my next book about Evan Davis, and the next three chapters of my crime novel about stealing a dictator's treasure. What I lack is the motivation to put squiggly lines on a piece of paper.