Being thankful

Let us be thankful for our mates and partners,
our children and siblings,
Red Dog Smithand all their families,
and our lives
and our health.

For our friends, enlightened
or misguided, furry
or clean-shaven,
and for our dogs and cats, too.

For work that is worth doing well,
for freedom and teachers,
for honest public servants,
and people who challenge violence and corruption,
and people who help the suffering.

For bicycle makers and fixers and pedalers,
and craft beer makers,
and good coffee
and good pizza.

For snow and rain and sunshine,
and stars in the sky.

Writing advice for the thick-skinned

Writing imageThis just might be the best writing advice I’ve ever read:

Writing advice is bullshit

My own bit of writing advice, which is not bullshit:

Find a critique group in which smart people will give you honest feedback on a work in progress, as I’ve done recently in Boulder.

One caveat: Don’t bother if you have thin skin.

Free books worth every penny

Fairness compels me to say there may be an exception every 12th blue moon or so, but in the cluttered world of ebooks it is almost always true that you get what you pay for.

Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device)
Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve sampled a few free “books” out of curiosity. So far they’ve cost me nothing but time, obviously, but the benefits of getting a free work of fiction stop there.


A few hundred words do not a novel make.

Free or not, poor writing and editing do not increase a reader’s interest in suffering through more by the same author.

The time you spend reading crap is gone forever.

Don’t bother asking for a refund.




The writing on the bus

The Flatirons rock formations, near Boulder, C...
The Flatirons rock formations, near Boulder, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing on the bus makes the commute go faster. Sometimes too fast.

My morning commute to work is complicated, which to me is a good thing. It varies from bicycle-bus-shuttle to Jeep-bus-shuttle, to bike-shuttle, to pure bicycle. If my bicycle makes it to work with me, I almost always ride it the 18-20 miles home and sometimes farther, depending on which of the innumerable possible routes I take.

Five or six times a year I drive to work.

My commute is never boring. I’m either reading, or doing a crossword puzzle, enjoying views of the Rocky Mountain foothills and the Flatirons over Boulder, or writing something.

Writing fiction, I’ve concluded, is the quickest way to get to work and back home to Longmont.

I hope those who’ve read my first Red Shaw novel will be pleased to hear that I made fairly significant progress just today on the next one. The working title is North of Grand.

Forget the crossword puzzles.

How long did it take you to write that book?

Since I published my first crime novel a few months ago, the most common question, and usually the first one that people ask me when they hear about it, is “How long did that take you?”

My standard answer is “Too long.”

For the record, such as it is, I wrote the first several drafts on a manual typewriter. I’ll let you guess how far back in the day that might have been.

English: Montage of Des Moines.
English: Montage of Des Moines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The next few drafts were in the digital age and stored on diskettes. (Remember diskettes, anyone?) I printed query letters on a dot matrix printer and mailed them out with a synopsis and some sample chapters.

An editor from one of the big traditional publishers took the bait and had me send the manuscript, which I did. An agent was interested at one point, too, but backed off when he learned about the rejections I’d already gotten by the time he contacted me. The editor who read the manuscript was gentle in declining, complimenting me on character development, but the plot of that version of the story was lacking a bit in suspense.

Fast forward to 2014, by which time the printed copies that I kept had sat on a shelf in my home office for far too long. By then I’d self-published a memoir, authored or co-authored two books for hire, and edited and published another book written by Jim McLaughlin, motivator and trainer par excellence. (More about some of that on Books.)

I came across my manuscript in the basement one day and realized why I had kept it through more moves than I care to remember. Without realizing it, I’d been waiting to be a better writer to make a better story.

Over the next few months, my wife and I retyped the original (Thanks once more, Sue!) and I rewrote and edited, rewrote and edited, added some new characters and a good bit more suspense, and rewrote and edited some more. Cousin Becky Swift helped me with some fact checking since I’d moved long ago from Des Moines, where most of the story takes place. I did an online tour of the Des Moines Register, which had moved in the intervening years but still had an integral role in the plot, and I visited some of my old haunts via Google and Bing to see how they’d changed. I saw them anew through the eyes of my characters, who said and did new and unexpected things.

One day it was ready.

That’s how long it took.