Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Write More in 2015

Not sure my writing total of a bit over 100,000 words was enough this year. In the past couple of weeks I have read two posts by authors that wrote over a million words in 2014.  Not sure I could ever get close to this but am hoping to get close to 250,000 in 2015.
 I have an advantage over many writers and would be writers, because I don’t need to sell anything. I live comfortably on retirement and occasionally substitute teach in the local district to pick up what we old folks used to call, “a little pin money.”
I have been lucky to publish many short stories and travel pieces over the years but still have high hopes for a novel. So 2015, will be the year!
At present I have a non-fiction, local history, being edited with publishing coming, I hope, in February. When that is complete, I will work on the two novels I have completed and two completed volumes of short stories.
 Who knows? If everything goes great I might get a few books out this year – and maybe write a bit more.
“I was sorry to hear my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well myself.
- Mark Twain

Freezing up North of Town

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

170 Year Old - A Christmas Carol - The Story

 In the past few weeks I have watched all or parts of several versions of the Charles Dickens story, “A Christmas Carol.”  Some newer movies kept the Dickens title and others have been renamed, Scrooge or Scrooged along with many other names that relate to the original story. Dozens of other short stories, books, television programs and movies are loosely based on the Dickens tale.
Dickens wrote the story as a commentary on greed in Britain at the time. His character Ebenezer Scrooge, became one of the most well know names in all of literature because of the story and likely because he was such an uncaring person throughout the first part of the story and changes as his life is revealed to him.
Dickens wrote the 80 page novella fairly fast, starting in September and finishing six weeks later in early December. Publishing it 170 years ago today- December 19, 1843 it became an instant success. The only problem was that Dickens needed money and hoped to make much more on the book than he did.

Dickens, “The Christmas Carol.” Has been continuously in print for 170 years and still sells well, especially around Christmas, throughout England, America and numerous other countries around the world.

Merry Christmas! 
Corner of Our Family Room

Monday, December 15, 2014

Snow Day

Now that summer is officially over with snow yesterday and last night, guess I can get into my normal grumpy winter mood. Here in the cowboy state we get most of our yearly moisture in the form of snow. It reminded me of this line from a C. J. Box book -

Wyomingites, Joe had observed, didn't know what to do when it rained except get out of it, watch it through the window, and wait for it to go away.” C. J. Box - Open Season

With snow on the ground today, I couldn't wait to get outside. By afternoon the wind was gone, the sun peek-a-booed in and out and the temperature went to 30. Another great day out west.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Maybe That Old Boy Hemingway is Right

Ernest Hemingway gave the following advice to help with writer’s block. “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.”
Some of my writer friends and I often write until we are stumped then go to bed and sleep on it. Funny that seems to never work. I have a tough time stopping if I am on a roll. Seems Hemingway thinks you quit when you are ahead. He seemed to do okay, maybe he has something here.
By the way my checker didn't like Hemingway using good instead of well.
That’s my two cents for today time to ride off into this evenings Laramie Range sunset.
Photo Taken Four Miles Northwest of Town

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Old Cowboys and New Westerns

Last evening I finished reading, A Texas Ranger, by William Macleod Raine, written more than 100 years ago but still a very good tale. Some of these older westerns seem to be somewhere in between all the pulp westerns that were so well read a half century ago and the newer, truer western of a few years ago.  The difference between the new and the traditional westerns was summed up by Elmer Kelton, an all-time favorite of mine, when he said that Mr. L'Amour's characters ''are always seven feet tall and invincible, mine are 5 feet 8 and nervous.''
Seemed to me that much of the action, in westerns today, is still the seven foot tall and invincible style but grittier in modern westerns. That’s why I read them, love the action, that’s why its fiction, it’s over the top. If I see any big changes in newer western novels it might be the removal, at times, of stereotypes of Indians, women, Mexicans and some religious groups. (See Zane Grey)The so called formula western is still alive with a fair following, the one that puts the good guys against the bad guys. More and more westerns seem to be of the romance variety and these new westerns seem to be dominated by women writers, nothing bad about that, just an observance.
Type in “Westerns,” into an Amazon book search – most interesting. You will find a mix of new and old, romance and traditional and many very cheap or free on Kindle stories. 

And like any good cowboy in the end I will ride off into the sunset.

Great Sunset Over the Laramie Range December First 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Writing Tips - I Don't Have Any

Like so many of us that find great joy in scribbling down a few words I find reading writing books and tips interesting.

I stay away from ever giving tips as I really don’t have any but I sure do read a lot of others. Have you ever noticed that if you don’t like one writer’s expertise on how to write you can simply turn to another, and then another if need be, until you find one that writes the way you do? Things like, write what you know, or never edit as you write a first draft come to mind. I remember reading somewhere that if we write only what we knew there might not be so many murder mysteries for sale. Hemmingway re-read and edited each morning before he started writing again for the day, seems like it worked for him.

So where am I going with this? The one thing that all writing experts seem to agree on – writers need to write. Pretty simple, writers sit down and get to work, might do it many different ways and at different times but they all write. Me, I dream about writing, and think about writing, and sometimes I get around to writing.

Snow Clouds Roll in over Guernsey Lake
Guess it’s time to sit down and write.

Wish I had a poem for the winter sky last evening.




Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Western Bestseller

I still read many traditional westerns each year. Seems like not too many of us still do, although there seems to be enough of a niche market for old time shoot-um-up westerns.     

Today’s westerns, at least after perusing the Amazon bestselling lists, seem to lean more to modern time stories set in the west, usually more mystery than conflict of characters.  Historical, Romance and Young Adult westerns all seem to still be popular and in some demand today. None are bad areas and all seem to sell.

Oddly it seems when westerns are listed in categories of mystery or romance they are more acceptable to the mainstream – just my thoughts.

Now I am going to set down and start writing my, all new, young adult, mysterious historical western – hope it will become a best seller. Tentative title, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. 
She Disappeared in the Mountains, Just Like Her Grandma –Aliens?
Early Snow in Wyoming - Anywhere from an Inch to a Few Feet.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Readin', Shootin', and Spittin'

Reading two recent mysteries I was surprised by how, unlike real life, the dialog sounded. I remembered reading this tip, and jotting it down, somewhere, a few years ago. I couldn’t remember it all, but the internet is such a great resource to find needed information.

“If you are using dialogue–say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.”  John Steinbeck

Great advice and so simple. This is also a great tip if you are self-editing, read it aloud. If it sounds funny and it’s not supposed to might be time to – revise.

Some western writers have a great passion for dropping the ‘g’ at the end of words. I think it sounds all right most of the time but am not sure it is always needed.   Ridin’, eatin’, drinkin’, fightin’, shootin’, can get to be too much for me as a reader. Read it aloud, does it sound natural or forced?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What is Historical Fiction?

Storytelling, lies, truth distortion, stretching it a bit, what is historical fiction? I just finished reading two books, one a modern day western, with historical flashbacks, and the other from the genre of historical fiction. In many cases I can’t tell the difference between westerns and historical fiction.

I often read through various online review sites and found some interesting reviews of the two books. Below is a summary of what I found – just the bad stuff.

1.    People complain that it doesn’t tell the whole story (It’s not a history book)

2.   It didn’t really happen that way (fiction)

3.   Plays too much with the facts (?)

4.   Varies from history (yep)

5.   Spelling and grammar errors (This should be fixed, but I did not notice much in my reading – might be some readers are looking for errors and not the story)

6.   Not enough research (This is what makes historical fiction great, an author can do as much or as little research as they want. Then run with their version of the story)

My point to this post is simple, it’s historical FICTION, not nonfiction. My Idea, at least what I like to read, of historical fiction is this – a story based on something real, a historical event. After that it’s up to the author. I am not crazy about mixed up time periods in historical fiction, but other than that I like every good story.

        What about fiction or westerns with no, real, to them, love them. Sometimes truth is better than fiction, but I can get completely lost in a great story. In the end it is still all about the story!
A notch in the Haystack Mountains of the Laramie Range Wyoming - This could be the basis for a good western story.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Great Western Line

Not sure if anyone ever rated, The Proving Trail, as one of Louis L’Amour’s best novels. I like to read what I classify as western mysteries and this is a good one.  I love this line from the novel, to me it is one of the best lines that late Mr. L’Amour ever put on paper.

“The way I see it, every time a man gets up in the morning he starts his life over. Sure, the bills are there to pay, and the job is there to do, but you don't have to stay in a pattern. You can always start over, saddle a fresh horse and take another trail.”
In my life I have done that a couple of times, changed directions, took another trail and you know what? Never regretted it. Who knows? Maybe I will try it again, just because I am retired, it’s never too late to saddle a new horse and ride a new trail.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Maybe I Am Not Who You Think I Am

Are any of you, like me, trying to decide what penname you will be using after you become famous and want to write as someone else? Just kidding, but I find pennames to be an interesting study. Why do people use them, to remain anonymous I suppose, but why? Seems I know more writers that would like to be famous than those who would like to remain unknown.

Mark Twain might be the most famous of all, but many other writers, some quite famous, have written with names other than their own. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Benjamin Franklin, Nora Roberts, J. K Rowling, And Charles Dickens among hundreds of others wrote at times with pennames. Some, which no one would ever suspect to have used pen names, like Agatha Christie and Emily Bronte also used pseudonyms when it suited them.

A few years ago I was flabbergasted to learn that two of my favorite western series writers, Dana Fuller Ross and Donald Clayton Porter were one in the same – Noel Bertram Gerson. I guess this falls under the heading of, you learn something every day.

Now I am beginning to think many of you that I follow are likely famous and using aliases on line so that I will not find out.

Or - probably not!
 Saw this little guy last evening just before dark

Monday, October 6, 2014

Home At Last

Maybe that's the best part of going away for a vacation-coming home again.” ―  Madeleine L'Engle, Meet the Austins
The North Platte River a few blocks from HOME
It is always nice to be back home. For me, two weeks away is too much. I love to see and experience new places, always learn a lot. But am always ready to get back home usually after a few days.

Have you ever noticed how plain things around you are? Then you go away and come back, and everything looks extraordinary. If for no other reason that is a good argument to take a vacation. We didn’t go far, not by today’s standards, but for us quite a trip.

The highlights? The Vicksburg Mississippi Battlefield National Park, and a riverboat ride in Branson Missouri. 
Southern Cemetery at Vicksburg - sobering
Questions I would like answered from my trip.

1.    Are there any live armadillos? I sure saw a lot of road killed ones. I have a theory that all armadillos are dead and there are no live ones, not sure but could be – maybe not.

2.   Are speed limits just a suggestion? Sure seems that way.

3.   Does Louisiana have more trees per acre than any other state?

-New to me, food, on this trip-

1. Jambalaya – not bad, surprised me, I kind of liked it

2. Southern Blackened Chicken – too hot for this ol’ Cowboy

3. *Arbuckle Fried Pies at Turner Falls, Oklahoma – now we’re talking, very good

The red beans and rice with cornbread - good both times I tried it, as always.

*Not my first rodeo here, love this place.

        Well there it is, my vacation report – Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Oklahoma. Now its home until February.

The sun sets over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg
“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”  William Faulkner



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Becoming a Famous Writer

Combing over the nonfiction section of a book store recently it looks to me that famous people write lots of books. Most of these titles didn’t tempt me much, not much at all. Funny how, not many authors get famous, but many famous people fancy themselves as authors. It does do one thing for the writing profession, it keeps authors willing to research and ghost write busy.

 I have been told that the average self-published book sells less than 100 copies and that the smallest of publishing houses often sell less than 100 of a title also. That’s not many books, the competition is fierce, but I still believe that well written fiction or nonfiction can sell if properly promoted. Therein lies the answer to most self-published authors selling so few books, marketing. If someone is already famous and has instant name recognition the selling part is easy.

Seems like I saw more unknown authors that were trying to sell fiction and how-to books than nonfiction. Not sure why, just what I ran across in my most recent visit to a book store – and it was an independent.

Oh – did I buy anything? One paperback by a midlist author that I like, I have read a half dozen or more of her books. When I read unknowns, I always download from Amazon. My price range for these unknown author books, free to $2.99.
Just Looking for a Good Book








Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Canvas of Our Time

Although there are quite a few western writers whose stories I enjoy as much or more than Louis L’Amour, his, Education of a Wandering Man, is one of my favorite books regardless of genre.

My favorite quote from the book:

“A mistake constantly made by those who should know better is to judge people of the past by our standards rather than their own. The only way men or women can be judged is against the canvas of their own time.”

In all my years in front of my classes I constantly reminded myself, and my students, that judgment is best left in its own day and age and Mr. L’Amour certainly said it most eloquently.
Another Time and Place

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My All New, How to Write Book

Type, writing books, into an Amazon book search and you will get hundreds of books, yes hundreds. Seems how to write books are popular. Some are by famous writers, some by semi-famous writers and many by unknown writers. I googled a few of the authors of what I thought, were obscure books, about the art of writing, and you know what I found? It appears some have written nothing or very little other than the how to write book.


Humm, seems odd, writing books by people that are not really writers, or have very little writing to their credit. Think I will continue my practice of googling authors and reading previews of their work before buying. In the meantime I am working on my new writing book, How to Write a Writing Book, should be a best seller. Believe I will talk with my banker in the morning about where to invest my millions.


If this plan doesn’t work out for me, see my next book – How To Play In the NFL and Make Millions, Without Working Out, Regardless of Your Age.
Nice Wyoming Photo – just for fun.

Parade Grounds at Fort Laramie


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Good Edit

Getting a good edit is important. Do it yourself or hire someone, it doesn’t matter. But be careful of random editors soliciting on the web.

 I just read an advertisement from a, so called, editing company that bordered on unbelievable. I hope writers are not this gullible. The article explained why a cheap edit was a bad edit, and writers should hire this company to get a good and correct edit. The problem? In one paragraph their math said editing eight pages at two dollars per page netted ten dollars.

Hum –

8 X 2=10, new math I guess.  They also used the word here for hear and rambled so bad that their entire argument for hiring them seemed laughable.

My take, edit. But do it yourself, research and find a good professional editor, or with good luck, get a book contract and let them edit.

Good Luck!

**NOTE – If you find errors in my stuff, the above is an unedited post, but then again I do not claim to be an editor.

But then again, if you want to send money my way, oh never mind.

Fort Laramie Officers Quarters

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writing a Better Book - Like Building a Better Mousetrap

I have been a fan, most of my life, of the works and words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Recently I, once again, heard someone quote him as saying, “if a man can build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to his door.” The meaning? If you do something better than everyone else, or better than most everyone else, you will be in demand, along with your product. I think authors are the same, if they produce a better product, book, than everyone else, the world will read it. I might add here, if it is marketed well.

J.k. Rowling and Lee Child have proved over the last few years that a writer can build that better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to the bookstore. How do they do it, like Emerson, write about the world through yourself? Create great characters and put them in situations as if you were there, then get them out.

 Seems to me that all great writers have one thing in common, at least one great character. Much like Rowling’s, Harry Potter and Child’s, Jack Reacher, a great character drives the story. I love great characters in novels and will often read every book the author has about a character that I like.

And for today’s, by the way, moment. Emerson said, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor the world will beat a path to his door.” Unfortunately Emerson was long gone, having passed away several years before, when this quote was widely attributed to him. So my guess is he probably never said it.

 But he did say, “If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.”

Write On!



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is It Good Enough?

Two questions that every author asks -- When is it finished and is it good enough?

There are two, cult classic, movies that I have watched at least a dozen times, Eddie and the Cruisers and Eddie and the Cruisers II. The movies center on a 60s rock band that is ready to break through to the big time, but Eddie, the band leader, is not sure they are ready. In one scene the bass player says, “We’re not great, we’re just a bunch of guys from Jersey, and Eddie says, “If we can’t be great then there is no reason to make the music.” I am paraphrasing from memory here, but those words are close enough to get the meaning of the scene.
Who is right and how does this apply to writers? Do writers write to be great, or do they write with just a hope of being good enough to sell something? I have two complete novels, one complete non-fiction historical, two collections of short stories and various other finished and unfinished works. All are unpublished. Why? Not good enough, not by my standards anyway. One novel I have edited at least a dozen times, I like it, like it a lot, but the beginning is weak, too weak for me.

I have paragraphs that I rewrite every time I edit, never satisfied with what I have on paper. In my mind there seems to be no definitive end to when it is finished. I want perfect, not sure that’s going to happen. And in case you are new to my posts, I have published a dozen short stories, travel pieces and news articles in the past few years. Somehow I have hit publishing block with the longer stuff.

So what do I do? Write a new story for my grandkids, they love them all, and for them I don’t care if it’s perfect, just want to make it fun.
My Idea of Perfection - Wyoming Sunset Aug 10, 2014

Write on!



Monday, July 28, 2014

Who's Reading Now?

Nice Spot to Read a Good Book

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of American adults did not read or listen to a single book last year. Seemed like when I was a kid everyone read books, but that was back in the 60s, the one channel on television and no internet days. The same report says that in the last 25 years the percentage of non-readers of a single book in a year has nearly tripled. That is a lot of people not reading, and only about a quarter of Americans say they read 11 or more books in the last year.

Why are people reading less? Too many other things to do for entertainment? Maybe, or maybe not enough good books to get people excited about reading again. Like them or not, the Harry Potter books, the vampire romances and books like 50 Shades, have certainly got, at least, some persons excited about reading.

Do we just need better books? Unfortunately too many books attempted to copy these best sellers and most didn’t work. But that has always been the case with success in every venue.

So what is the answer? Write something people want to read. But the question, what is it that will get both readers and nonreaders alike excited about reading again?  Most genres are too narrow to appeal to those who have given up on reading, so it must be something new and exciting. Or maybe not.

Good stories, good writing, great promotion might help. Seems like word of mouth is still what sells the most books, even traditionally published books need help from word of mouth and of course social media.

But it is still about the story. The last three fiction books I have tried were no-goes. I give them one or two chapters, that’s it, too many books to read a bad one. I get authors promotions touting their great new book, and in some cases, they are just, flat-out bad.

So it’s still the story, if it is a great story and the author promotes, word of mouth/social media should take care of the rest.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

5 Reasons I Don't Write Much In The Summer

Not sure I like doing much serious writing in the summer. I do keep up, barely, with my numerous blogs, https://plus.google.com/+NeilWaring/posts?hl=en, but little else. I am still editing and re-editing my book on the Civilian Conservation Corps and adding some information I stumbled on after the first draft. It might have been the second draft I can’t remember, its summer.

I do have a fiction book ready to go but have not settled on a cover yet. Other than that I am nearing completion on a long story, not sure it is long enough to be a novella. It is Young Adult and about 10,000 words. My nine year old grandson has helped me with this, reading each day whatever I have completed.
I realize that so many writing experts say to not let a reader have it until it is ready, but this seems to be fun for both of us.

So, how do I spend my summers? Gardening,

playing golf, hiking in our wonderful state park, and reading in the evening

After much time and effort, about three minutes worth, I have identified why I am not a productive writer in the summer.

1.  I love basking in the sun, sitting on our deck.

More than 30 years of teaching kids to play. Part of this years bunch.
2.  Playing golf five days, or so, a week takes some time.

3.  Digging in the dirt is fun and rewarding – I have a passion for gardening.

4.  Grandkids, we love having them here, makes us feel young.

5.  All the great summer events, from speakers to concerts, fairs and great summer get-to-gathers.

6.  I’m retired, I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to.

I know, I know, my list has six instead of five but remember, I’m retired, I don’t do much, and I only count what I want to.

I love summer, but don’t get much writing done.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What's In A Plot ?

How many stories can be told, how many plots are novels made from? According to Christopher Booker’s 2004, The Seven Basic Plots, there are, well seven.

·        The Quest

·        Voyage and Return

·        Rebirth

·        Comedy

·        Tragedy

·        Overcoming the Monster

·        Rags to Riches

Looks good to me, if placing books in large enough categories it looks like everything would fit within Booker’s list.

Ronald B. Tobias identified 20 plots in his 1993 book,

20 Master Plots.

·        Quest

·        Adventure

·        Pursuit

·        Rescue

·        Escape

·        Revenge

·        The Riddle

·        Rivalry

·        Underdog

·        Temptation

·        Metamorphosis

·        Transformation

·        Maturation

·        Love

·        Forbidden Love

·        Sacrifice

·        Discovery

·        Wretched Excess

·        Ascension

·        Dissension.

With this list of 20 seems like most any book should fit, not bad.

This topic, plot, has been talked about and rehashed since the times of the ancient Greek writers. Looks to me like most agree there are only so many plots a novel can follow. The difference then, in a good book from a bad, is story, and how well it is told. Two books may follow the voyage and return plot, but how the story is told makes all the difference.

Seems to me that in the western genre the most used plot lines seem to be, quest, voyage and return, revenge and underdog.

You know what? Doesn’t matter to me, I just like to read a great story, with the possible exception of tragedy. I like to escape in reading not feel depressed. Sorry Shakespeare!