Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Writing Tips

Christmas Day. I’m not here right now but if you leave me a message I will get back to you as soon as I can. Actually, by the time you read this, it will have been a full month since I wrote it. I cherish these long timelines before writing something and before it goes to press. I can play with the writing, add a little, take a little—it’s very organic. Sometimes, and this happens more often than you think, I scrap the post for something entirely different.

Writing longhand
Writing longhand

It’s not my intention today to ramble on about nonsense, so I thought I’d give you a gift instead. Many times, I have felt the need to elaborate more about my writing, but I have never had the will to do that, particularly for these reasons:

  • Writing sites crop up every day, and what I offer isn’t anything you can’t gain from other sites.
  • I’ve never felt comfortable about writing about writing. I know, I’ve written three thick books that I should be proud of, but I’ve always felt unworthy to impart any information to my audience. In my mind, it seems pretentious to do such a thing, considering authors such as John Grisham, who I admire dearly, has never written about his writing. If anyone should write about writing, it should be Grisham.

Anyway, today I’d like to give you three things I do to keep on track with my writing. With this I hope to overcome this huge feeling of unworthiness that goes through me when I’m writing about writing.

All right, enough of the self-loathing. Here are the points:

  1. Schedule Writing Time—I’m a great believer in treating writing like a job. Well, for me, it is a job, so I have no choice. I clock in and punch out every day. That’s the secret as to how I get so much writing done in a day. I wake up at 4:52 every morning, wash up, have my walk, then I sit down to write while everyone is still asleep. My writing is scheduled. I don’t allow anything to interfere with my goal of getting 1,000 words done. Trust me when I say that when you become scheduled, writing will turn into a habit very quickly in your life. You’ll miss it if you do not do it.
  2. Write What You Love—Everyone has something interesting to talk about, even if it’s a silly subject like the zombie apocalypse. When I first started writing, I had no clue what I was doing. In some respect, even today, I don’t know what I’m doing. But, I’ll tell you something you may not know. If you write about things you love, you will never run out of things to talk about, either in your novel writing or on your site. I find it easy to sit down and come up with posts for my site and scenes for my books. And the only reason for that is that I love writing about the things that interest me. Fortunately, the things I love happen to be the things other people love, too.
  3. Don’t Rely on Muse or Inspiration—This is the only “don’t” on my list. Treat writing like a job. In a job, you don’t rely on inspiration to get things done. You do the job because you have to, and if you don’t get it done, you’re out of a job. Simple as that. Are you going to fire yourself? Of course not! You’re going to work hard until what you imagined in that brain of yours flows on the paper and you’re done. Yes, it will be hard, especially those days when you hear yourself saying, “I don’t feel like it.” I promise you though, if you treat writing like a job, you will never run out of anything to say.

One last thing before I go back to having my eggnog—always, always revise. Forget about the first draft. Sometimes I’ll knock out a first draft that appears publication worthy, but the usual thing I do is dump everything on paper, then revise.

Revisions is what makes your work shine. Never cheap out on spending the time with your writing to make it what you’ve envisioned.

Now, if you feel the need to write something, leave a comment. In the meantime, I’m sure at this very moment I’m getting ready to enjoy the rest of today with my family with tons of food and festivities.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What writing tips do you have that you’d like to share with everyone?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

My Playlists II

Over a year ago, I wrote a post called My Playlists that went on to describe my affinity for obsession with music playlists. After rereading the post, I thought I could add more to it in terms of what other kinds of playlists I have, and the reasons I created them. Since it’s for my Freedom Friday series, I might as well have some fun along the way.

Musical notes
Musical notes

In my original post, I talked about mixtapes and what made them so special back in the day when cassette tapes ruled media. A perfectly designed mixtape is a form of expression that captures the essence of a feeling or of a moment in time. Nowadays, the mixtape is a playlist on a music player tailored with songs that have a connection with each other. In other words, a playlist brings together songs that mean something to someone when played together in a certain order.

For instance, I have a playlist dedicated to my college years. These are songs I was listening to while in college that if I played them today would spark those memories of my trips in and out of class, the school library and study hall. I also have a playlist called High School that I love playing whenever I want to remember the times when I sat on the football field with my friends, looking at the sky while dreaming of who we wanted to be someday.

Recently, I’ve added a slew of new playlists to my collection that I could only describe as representing a feeling:

Lounge—A series of smooth jazz songs that transport me to a lounge at the top of a luxury hotel, minutes before midnight while I take in the sight of the city lights below. Yeah, pretty specific, huh?
Autumn—Songs that have a nostalgic, melancholy vibe that remind me of the reflection I go through when fall arrives. Whenever I find myself in this playlist, I’m instantly walking through the leaves as the rain pours.
Winter—I came up with this playlist as a way to enjoy the solitude of the season. Those cold winter days when the wind is blowing and no one’s around makes for a peaceful time. These songs bring those moments together in a way that enhances the frost of the season.
Love—Ah, yes. It’s all about love. My choice of songs vary, but the theme remains the same. On this playlist I’ve added songs for the tender heart.
Sports—Unlike the name of the playlist, the songs evoke inspiration. It’s the one playlist I can go to for a “You can do it!” jolt of adrenaline to spike my productivity.
Summer—Fun tunes featuring Beach Boys and anything with the word summer in its title. I’m playing this now as I write. They’re the songs that epitomize youth, fun in the sun, and explode with energy.
Power—This playlist features tunes with only one thing as its purpose—to blow away anything in its path. I mixed soundtrack songs from various superhero, car and summer blockbuster flicks in one neat little package that would evoke a big sense of adventure. I came up with this playlist as a way to kick me into action. A couple of these songs is all I need to press me to running with the bulls.

Anyway, I love my playlists. I really do. Whenever I need to focus on a certain period in my life or take an emotional journey, my music has been there for me, saving the day and pulling me to keep creating.

What about you? Do you have playlists that inspire you?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Do you create playlists? If so, what kind of playlists are they?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

The Shed

The other weekend I was tearing down the shed in our backyard and realized along with the sweat, sore muscles and tender hands gained, I was also learning a few lessons along the way. As part of my Freedom Friday series, this is what I’ve learned.

The Shed
The Shed

Tearing down a shed sounds like an easy task to accomplish. The instructions couldn’t be simpler:

1) Take hammer
2) Pull hammer back
3) Apply great force to hammer
4) Hit surface of shed where applicable
5) Repeat 1-5 until shed fully broken into pieces.

Simple. Right? Not so much.

First, the shed’s composition consisted entirely of wood, reinforced with four-inch planks, fastened together by two-inch nails that in case of a meteor assault the roof would not cave in. Second, I needed more than a hammer to take the beast down. I needed a Bobcat utility vehicle. Since I didn’t have one of those I settle on a three-foot crowbar complete with a hook that would withstand a massive beating from my hands. Last, this was not a weekend activity. I ended up taking half of it down on the weekend, leaving the rest for the week ahead.

As I was working, my brain wandered on silly things. The shed I once admired for many years had fallen apart. It deserved a final resting place before replacing it with a newer and shinier version. Similarly, there are things in my life I’ve had to remove in order to push forward. That meant replacing the bad with the good. Habits are like that. I wrote about toxic perfectionism a year ago. I had to tear apart my inner being as a means to throw away that which was causing me the greatest stress. Eventually, that old part is now gone, tossed in the dumpster. And like the shed, where I can still see bits and pieces of it littering the spot where it once stood majestically, the old self, the one wanting things in a perfect, organized box, appears every so often to remind me of the way I had once viewed life—through the doors of a rotting shed.

The remains of the shed
The remains of the shed

I also learned that with much banging of a crowbar on an immovable object, the energy I had expended needed replenishing. Drinking water. Sitting in the shade. Wiping the sweat from my brow. They all contributed to that replenishment. Again, as it is in life, I’ve had to take time away from the day-to-day grind in order to replenish my soul. Every Saturday, I disappear from Social Media and spend time with the family doing real things such as enjoying a special meal together or visiting with family and friends. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, this web site can all wait until I return online on Sunday. Saturday is mine to rest and do what I want. If I didn’t do that, then like tearing apart the shed, not taking a water break or rest in the shade, I’d collapse with a guaranteed stroke. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d like to think I have a lot more to accomplish than make my final resting place six feet under way before my time.

My final lesson I had learned that weekend is to be patient and never give up. No matter what. Slugging the crap out of a shed wall took every ounce of energy I could muster. At times, I wanted to toss the crowbar and forget about the whole thing. I stuck to it. Every hit was one hit closer to success. Every drop of sweat was one more fraction of determination spent. I would not let failure overcome my ambition to slay the beast and win the battle.

The shed died a slow death, but I learned so much from the experience. I’m sure once I raise the new shed I will also have learned something interesting about life I never knew before.

Isn’t life an amazing thing?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you had something you were doing from which you learned a lesson? What is it about life you find the most fascinating of all?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Friends, Love and Other Things

I had a Freedom Friday post dedicated to Black Friday scheduled for today, but I felt the need to push it forward a week so I could write about something else that’s been on my mind. [Update: Pushed the Black Friday post to next year.]

Friends forever.
Friends forever.

I recently visited the blog and Twitter feed of a longtime author friend of mine. In the interest of respecting their privacy, I’ll use they and them as a means of address. About this friend, I’m overjoyed to have learned they’re in good health again. They were going through a rough time last year—hospital, surgeries, going to sleep and not knowing if they’d wake up. Yet, despite the chaos, they pulled through. Today, they are healthy, exercising, eating right, and have a renewed sense of accomplishment and productivity. I admire their will to live and their ability to bounce back from such a devastating blow. To me, they are the truer hero than the fictional characters I write about on an ongoing basis.

Cancer is an insidious disease. It tears apart families and destroys lives. I hate it and wish medical research would hurry up and find a cure. Regarding this author friend of mine, their family is no stranger to the dreaded disease. And, from what I’ve pieced together, it seems to have resurfaced. I’m not sure what I can say here: I hope for the best? get well soon? No matter what I say, it never seems enough. The words sound fake, and I wish I could do more.

I guess the only sincere thing I can say is that my thoughts are with you.

Anyway, I have a few things I would like to briefly touch on for the remainder of this post.

First, Aristotle once said this about friendship:

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

I can’t say how beautiful a statement that is. It captures the essence of two people bonded to one another by a single heart. Oh, how devastating it would be if one-half was no longer there. Holidays wouldn’t be the same. Birthdays wouldn’t be the same. And the other half wouldn’t be the same.

Second, friendship and love are siblings:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

“Love never ends.”

Oh, to love and be loved in return.

Finally, the “other things” portion. As the end of the year approaches, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming to my site and offering support.

At the risk of sounding preachy, can I be so bold as to ask something of you?

Appreciate those around you. Never let them go. When they’re no longer there, it’ll be too late to say I love you. Be kind to one another and give to those in need. And—live to make every breath count.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Do you have friends you’re cheering for during their trials?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Writing

As many of you know, and as some have noticed, I don’t talk about writing. There’s a reason for that. I’m sure I’ll get my hands rapped because of this declaration, but I think it’s important to talk about, since this is the rare and possibly only occasion when I will speak freely about this.

Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

One of my family members calls me a machine. I’ll take that as a compliment. The other comment I get is I’m a workaholic. Again, I’ll take that as a compliment.

The truth is, before I started this site, I had taken an extended leave of absence from all social networking sites. I know what you’re thinking, “Nothing wrong with taking a couple of weeks off to regain perspective.” In my case, it wasn’t a couple of weeks. It wasn’t even a couple of months. Sit down for this.

I’d taken eight months off from all social networks. That’s eight months off Twitter. Eight months off Facebook. Other than email, eight months off every social network. Months prior, I’d written a three-quarters completed draft of Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse. Then I stopped. Cold turkey. For eight months, I didn’t write a word. Anywhere.

[This paragraph is intentionally left blank.]

When I came back, I had so many pent-up ideas that I couldn’t stop writing. The format for the site took an afternoon. It was that quick. This includes coming up with the categories Monday Mayhem, Women Who Wow Wednesday and today’s Freedom Friday. I dusted off my old zombie manuscript and completed it. I quickly started Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion.

Earlier, I said my family considers me a machine. Well, that’s not too far from the truth. I write every day except Saturday, even when I don’t feel like it. I don’t wait for inspiration because, I suppose, it’s now a habit.

If you’re curious, this is how I do it. I sit. I write.

Pretty simple, huh?

There’s a bit more to it than that, but I write whatever comes to mind. I’ll edit after it’s down on paper. And because I’ve established a two-to-three week buffer before publishing anything, I have a lot of time to think and play with ideas. If I don’t like an idea, I chuck it. In a year, I must have thrown away a dozen posts.

But I must say, hadn’t I taken eight months off before creating this site, I’m sure I would’ve convinced myself I needed inspiration to write. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The bottom line? I don’t talk about writing because I’m too busy writing.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What about you writers out there—what is it that compels you to write?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Ryan Stone

I have something to say about a woman who doesn’t break down during the time most trying in her life. To see her at her worst and wonder how she’ll ever survive. To know in all that she’s accountable for, she will try her best—no matter what. It’s one thing when a woman says she can fight, but it’s another seeing it done without her ever having to speak the words.

Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone
Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone

Women Who Wow Wednesday proudly presents Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), the force behind the movie Gravity.

If you’ve seen the film, then you’ll know what I mean when I say Ryan Stone in Gravity lays it all on the line to become a true hero. How else can I describe her other than someone who relies on her ability to endure in order to stay alive?

Ryan Stone reminds me of Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) from the feature Cast Away. In that film, Chuck crashes on a deserted island with little to live on and a willingness to sacrifice with the aim to live another day. Stranded, he does what he can to make it through storms, rain, famine, and the undisputed wall of challenge.

Much like Chuck, Ryan has her work cut out for her. As the lone survivor to a space catastrophe, she bucks the wave of destruction headed her way to push forward and live. One hit after another her determination gives her the optimism she needs to carry onward without complaining. If one challenge doesn’t spark defeat, another waits in the wings for her to recover just enough to hit her again.

Gravity's Ryan Stone
Gravity’s Ryan Stone

The film is a case study of a woman’s resilience to go beyond herself so as she can attain the highest form of praise available—to live. That fortitude within herself is what makes the movie so jarring. Multiple viewings provide the moviegoer a front seat to Ryan’s point of view as the protagonist with a penchant to last against unsurmountable odds.

The best part about Ryan Stone’s character is that no matter how bad it gets, she manages to pull herself from the devastation and fight back. Her character is such that she doesn’t recognize defeat, even during her lowest point. She doesn’t gripe. She doesn’t complain. She has her moment, but then she works through it to become stronger. That strength makes her a survivor.

This is not a review. This is my homage to a character filled with hope. May that hope inspire those who need it the most.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you seen Gravity? What did you think of Ryan Stone?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Motivation

What motivates you? Do you wake up, hop out of bed, breathe deeply and say to yourself, “Today’s going to be the best day of my life.” Do you? I do. Every morning I say that, even when sleeping an inordinate amount of hours on the weekend. And why not? Today ought to be the best day of our life because today is the only day that matters. That’s why for Freedom Friday I thought I’d show you what I’ve learned in the past couple of years in hopes it may move you to freedom—freedom to accomplish your dreams and freedom to become who you are meant to be.

Motivation
Motivation

I started watching motivational videos in the winter of 2012 after a long, dark period in my life. I had lost something incredibly important to me that year and it hurt bad. Those who know me know this dark season had lasted for months. Behind the smiles, the laughter and the song stood a man on the threshold of perpetual sadness.

Then, one morning I woke up thinking I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. I changed, just like that. I realized everything I thought could happen, never did. The still small voice in my head returned and I knew my life was about to get a whole lot better.

This blog began on the day I regained my life back. I knew exactly what I needed to do next.

I’ve had people ask me, “What motivates you? How do you keep the creativity going?” I simply answer, “I have a lot of catching up to do.”

When you wasted half of your life in fear of failure, there really isn’t much else to say. It’s all a matter of getting it done.

In the throes of this newfound energy propelling me forward, I dusted off an old manuscript I had written some time ago about a killer who hates zombies and would do anything to put them out of their misery. That killer’s name was Ranger Martin, and he called my name to finish his story.

Fear
Fear

If you learn anything from this post, take away this: Fear does not exist.

I’ll say it one more time: Fear does not exist.

We build this image of the future of what we’d like to become, where we’d like to see ourselves and within seconds of those thoughts, we kill the dream.

“I’m not good enough. I don’t think I can do it. I’ll fail. It’s too difficult. It’s too much work. I can’t. I’m afraid. People will laugh at me. People won’t take me seriously.”

Let me tell you, just because you hear someone say those things don’t mean you have to believe them. The only defeat we’ll feel is from ourselves. We are our own worst enemy. Once we understand that, once we see that, everything else will fall into place. I’m of the belief everyone, no matter how small or how weak, is capable of great things—incredible things that will astound those around them making others take note and say, “I want to be like that guy. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what he’s got, but I want to be like that guy.”

I challenge my readership today to take that one step that will make the difference. Take that shot to a life filled with challenges, opportunity and hope. Tear apart the bondage that renders you desperate. Throw away the shackles that bind you. Nothing in this world can say you can’t. You can say you can’t. Don’t. I know what it feels like to hear the words “I’m a failure.” I know what it feels like to think I’m no good. I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.

But I say, picture your dream and go after it. If someone tells you you can’t. Tell them, watch me. If you hear that voice in the back of your head telling you you can’t. Tell it, watch me. Then, do it. Every minute lost on a worry is a minute given to failure. You don’t want to fail, do you?

Now go out there and win. Always believe, “Today’s going to be the best day of my life.”

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What motivates you?