Happy Thanksgiving!

This time of the year is very busy for a pastor/writer. There is so much to do to prepare for the holidays. So I simply say, Happy Thanksgiving to you all. God has blessed me by allowing our paths to cross and I don’t take it for granted. That’s just another way of saying I’m thankful for you. Enjoy the holiday!

Picture This

It’s that time again! Time to kick around some writing ideas as the clock continues to tick nonstop. I hope you had a great week, as did I, but with the holidays not far away, things are getting busy. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so tell me, what are you most thankful for this year? It’s been a hard year, a unique year, but dig deep. There is as bunch of good there, too.


Finally, the rough draft of The Marisol Deception is finished. Now, the fun begins – editing, rewriting, formatting, all the stuff that needs to be done before publication. Give me a couple of months. You’ll be the first to know when it’s ready. While I’m finishing up the details of Marisol, I’m also working on my next project, Black. You can read Part One of the rough draft here.

Dwell on the above picture for a moment or two. What kind of emotion does it create for you? Think about the detail. Notice the man, the tree, the light, the weeds, the total darkness of the edges. Then ask yourself some questions. Who could the man be? Who might be hiding in the tree – and why? Where is the light coming from? What deadly creature might be crawling in the weeds? What lies beyond the total darkness?

Now, how do you get the emotion from your brain to keyboard? I think the best way to do that is to envelope yourself in the scene. YOU become the person. How would YOU react to the light in the darkness? What would YOUR reaction be in the black of night, sensing someone was watching you, but you couldn’t see them? Are they in the tree? Are they in the weeds? How would YOU handle the situation? YOU hear a noise in the bushes. What do YOU do?

I’ll leave you with the questions to answer, and I’ll see you next week. Write on!


What’s Holding You Back???

I can hardly believe it! Central Pennsylvania is experiencing a late Indian Summer, as they call it. The middle of November rarely affords us temperatures in the mid-70s. Color is still on the trees that are usually bare by now. But I’ll take it. On another topic, yesterday (November 10, 2020) was the 45th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The fated iron ore carrier sunk 535 feet beneath the waters of Lake Superior near Whitefish Bay. They lost all 29 crew members.

Moving on to happier things, let’s look at some things to avoid when writing, things that may interfere or slow you down.

1. Realize there is no definitive playbook you need to follow. Another way of looking at it is to do what works for you. No two writers are the same. No two methods work the same for different writers. Keep the general rules in mind, but never be bound by them.

2. Don’t get bogged down with “to outline or not to outline”. I’ve written books using detailed outlines, and others I’ve written without. Let your “feel” be your guide. You may or may not need to use an outline. Allow the story to determine how you will handle it.

3. Keep your creativity flowing. When it’s time to market your book, continue to work on ideas for your next project. You may need to work on your pitch, your book cover, or several other post-writing endeavors, but keep the new ideas coming. Rest. Reward yourself with some time off – but not too long. Creativity dies quickly.

4. Be open to criticism – especially if you ask for it. Every agent, publisher, or beta reader will have a different opinion and criticism of your work. Don’t plan on pleasing everybody because it will never -and I mean never- will happen. Take what you can. Improve on the areas you need to improve and let the rest go.

5. Don’t lower your guard with the basics. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the story is. The twist might be the greatest ever, but if the grammar stinks and the punctuation is terrible, it just won’t fly. Spellcheckers aren’t that difficult to use and take very little time. Grammarly or ProWritingAid can be a tremendous help, and there are free versions. There’s no excuse for sloppy writing. (So my question is this – Is spellcheckers” one word, two words, or hyphenated?)

Okay, chew on that awhile and I’ll see you next Wednesday!


Post-election Thoughts

Welcome to another Wednesday! Please forgive me. This post isn’t about writing. It’s about responsibility. Well, maybe that is part of writing. Let me explain.

As a patriotic American, I took my turn at the polls yesterday. They heard my voice. How about yours? It surprises and saddens me at the same time to know thousands of Americans who could vote, simply didn’t. At the time of this writing, I’m waiting for the race to be called. It’s anybody’s guess who will lead this great nation for the next four years.

And it really doesn’t matter. Of course, I have my preference, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that I exercised my right to vote. As a nation, we have given away far too many of our rights. We can’t afford to lose this one.

The thought has crossed my mind: – do we really elect the president or are the results already decided by something much bigger? Can you say Illuminati? Maybe they choose two candidates. They would be content to have either win. We just get to vote on which one, but either way, they win (maybe that’s a story prompt). Honestly, I think that’s a possibility, but it doesn’t release me from the responsibility of voting.

Maybe the results are decided by Someone much bigger (and they are). The God that owns and rules the universe also rules over the election. Ultimately, the one He chooses will win, but that doesn’t free me from my God-give responsibility, and yes, privilege to vote.

So what about responsibility and writing? You have a responsibility to your reader to write quality material. You have a responsibility to give them uplifting material to read. You have a responsibility to entertain them at a high level. You have the responsibility to educate them with facts. You have the responsibility to leave them better off than before they read you. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice who you are as a writer. If you write with the reader in mind, it will improve your writing tenfold. I promise you, give to others first, and it will return the blessings over and over.

Don’t run from your responsibilities. In the end, they will catch you. Until we meet again – see you next week!


What’s Prompting You to Write?

I had a wonderful surprise last night. My youngest daughter showed up unexpectedly from Connecticut. She’ll be here for a couple days, so I’m sure we’ll have some time to catch up. The kids grow up and move. I guess that’s what they are supposed to do, but it doesn’t seem too long ago they filled the house with noise and chaos – in a good way. Okay, let’s move on.

“The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds will be much colder . . .” – Jeff Wayne from War of the Worlds

That pretty much sums up Central Pennsylvania this time of year. The removal of daylight savings times this weekend will even more emphasize the point. Anyway, we need to get to the point on this Wednesday Update. And the point is – writing prompts.

We all know about them and use them from time to time. A typical definition of writing prompt goes something like this. “A writing prompt is a word or two, or a very short phrase that sets your mind off on a journey that inspires your creative energy.” That may be true, but does it have to be a word or two, or a short phrase?

I relate more to visual prompts than to words. Take a look through Google Images, Pixabay, or any of the other online photo galleries. I think you’ll find a wealth of material to get the creative juices flowing. There has been more than one scene I created from a picture, so take advantage of the gift of photography.

But my favorite prompts come from music. Machan’s Tale results from the song, Ghost of a Rose. Cadyrn’s Tale is the result of the tune, Pilgrim, with lyrics by David Byron. The lyrics above from War of the Worlds inspired my story, Forever Autumn – A Short Story (https://letterpile.com/creative-writing/Forever-Autumn-A-Short-Story), and Scarborough Fair – A Short Story developed from the English folk tune by the same name (https://letterpile.com/serializations/Scarborough-Fair-A-Short-Story).

So continue with your writing prompts, but don’t neglect music and art as possibilities. You may find some things that move your story dramatically forward. Hey – that’s it. I’ll see you next week. Have a great one!


Why Write???

Here´s hoping you´ve had a great week! Mine has been rather peaceful. Peaceful is always good, don´t you think? Have you noticed how some stories seem to write themselves and others are almost painful to write.

The Marisol Deception is one of the painful ones for me. It´s been almost a year since I wrote the first words, and I´m still not done with the first draft. Ever run into that problem? It can be annoying, but yet I know I have to work through it. Give me another year and a computer that works.

So let me ask you. What´s that story that keeps nagging you and keeps you awake at night? Over the next few weeks I want to give you some things to think about before you ever put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard.

Fundamental and foundational to your book is why are you writing it at all? If you don´t know, you can bet your reader won´t either, and they probably will not get past page one.

It´s important to know why you can´t let go of the idea. Why does it drive you? Why is it pushing to get out? Why is it more prominent than other stories that pop into your mind? It´s insisting to be told, but do you know why? If you can put into words, it will show up on every page. Your reader may not be able to point to it, but it will drive them because it drives you with a solid purpose. So often writers write without a clear answer to the question why, and it shows.

So how can you find the why?

Before you write your tale, take time to write out the why. Is there an injustice you want to set right? Is there a hurt or loneliness you want to bring to life? Has something angered you? Do you want to linger on the days of innocence? Why? Why? Why are you writing the story? If you don´t clearly understand why, it will never fly with your audience. Take the time to write a page or two explaining why you are writing. Seeing it in your own handwriting will help to reinforce the idea in your mind.

Also, before you begin to write, you need to know what your goals are. We will look at that next week. For now, dig deep into the why.


Getting Away

Welcome to another Wednesday! Autumn is in full swing and the foothills are ablaze with color. The mountains shimmer in beautiful yellows and reds. A Pennsylvania autumn is like no other, and I´m fortunate to wake up to it every morning. The air is crisp and clean – a sign of things to come. It won´t be long until the winter winds will be sweeping through the valley bringing on the need for scarfs, boots, gloves, hats, and . . . well, you get the idea.

The church has been keeping me busy lately. There is always something going on with the family. Occasionally health issues surface. And of course, as has been the case for the past several weeks, I´m working with borrowed equipment, All this has slowed down my writing. Maybe that´s a good thing. There is more to life than writing, but I must admit, I´m getting a little antsy. I miss my community on HubPages. I really need to finish my present project, The Marisol Deception and so many other things. The borrowed computer lacks much of what I need to use. Anything of length would be a waste of time to try to accomplish, so I wait.

In the meantime, I´ve thought about the many authors that isolate themselves to write. Maybe it´s a cabin in the woods or a rental near the water. Maybe it´s a room on the 17th floor of a New York City hotel. Anywhere there is quiet and peace. A place that is tranquil and allows the mind to wander into uncharted territory.

I´ve not done that, but maybe it´s not a bad idea. Still, with my schedule, I doubt it will happen any time soon. But that´s okay. My life is more than full, and I´m quite happy with the way it´s going. This is the only chance I get at this thing called life, so I better make the best of it.

Anyway, I´d love to hear from you. Have you ever locked yourself away to write? How did it work for you? If not, what are your thoughts on writing in isolation? Let me know. I did an internet search on the topic but didn´t find much, so let me know your first-hand thoughts. Okay, enough said. See you next Wednesday. Have a great week!!!


Just philosophizing

Hope you have had a great week! I certainly did. Celebrating 40 years of marriage (October 18), we made a trip to Washington D.C. to visit the Bible Museum and take in Jonathan Cahn´s The Return Event. What a fantastic day!

We later traveled up north to see giant elk in their natural habitat and lastly visited the Civil War battlefield n Gettysburg, PA. To think that my feet were standing on the blood-soaked ground where brother fought against brother was a strange feeling. I was also saddened to think brother is still fighting against brother. This time, it´s not the North vs. the South but the far left vs. the right. You would think we would learn from the past, but yet it seems we never do.

Well, it´s been over a month since my computer crashed, and I´m still struggling. I´m limited to certain functions on borrowed equipment so I haven´t been able to continue writing The Marisol Deception. you may have noticed I have to skip a space to type an apostrophe. What´s up with that? No pictures or videos either.

Anyway, it got me thinking. Do you remember writing on the old typewriters? I really thought I was something when I got my first electric typewriter. It was so neat! Even though I grew up in the days of typewriters and black and white TVs, I can remember writing by hand. I began to think, there really is no excuse not to write. Then I wondered, do they still teach hand-writing in the schools? It wouldn´t surprise me if they don´t.

Have you noticed, the more conveniences we have, the busier we tend to get – or maybe it´s just me. Maybe returning to the stone age would be best. Just a thought. See you next week.


My Planned Vacation

A couple weeks ago I shared with you about my unplanned vacation due to not having a computer. Beginning September 25, I´ll actually be on a planned vacation – but I still have to borrow a computer. I haven´t figured out how to post pictures on this machine, so all you get is text. To all you that I follow on HubPages, know I´ll be back to read your wonderful posts as soon as I have a full-time laptop again. I miss all those great reads.

That being said, there will be no weekly update next Wednesday, and I may not be around much to answer any emails or comments. Don´t take it personally. I need to detox.

Okay. So let´s play the What If game. Just some silly thoughts that might help you develop part or all of a story line or you can use them as a writing exercise.

What if . . . COVID-19 was intentionally invented by a mad scientist who already had a vaccine ready to sell to the world? (Who knows? This may not be fiction – lol).

What if . . . an old high school sweetheart made contact with his/her old flame after many years? What if . . . he/she was married to an overly jealous husband/wife?

What if . . . your protagonist was gifted with the ability to see the spirit world around her/him. What kind of danger might she/he be aware of that others are not?

What if . . . a young married couple ready to start a family suddenly finds out one has a terminal disease? What heartaches or victories might they go through?

What if . . . Your protagonist witnesses a murder and is threatened to keep quiet – or else? What kind of moral/ethical dilemmas and danger might that present?

What if . . . your protagonist is captured by your antagonist and is programmed to do the antagonist´s bidding?

What if . . .you shared some of your ¨What ifs¨ in the comments below. I would love to read them.

Well, that takes care of things for this week. See you next time and have a great couple of weeks!


Negative Reviews – A Given

Fall is falling in Central Pennsylvania. The air is crisp and fresh. The skies take on a different hue of blue. It won´t be long until the mountains are ablaze with gorgeous color. Without a doubt, this is my favorite time of year. My prayer is that you all are safe from the wildfires and hurricanes and are enjoying this time of year wherever you are.

Did you ever write something you thought was really good, and then a bad review shows up? If you haven´t, you will. It´s bound to happen. Negative reviews are just a part of writing. Nothing will ever change that, but there may be a way to lessen unwanted feedback.

I came across a story about an airport that constantly got bad reviews for slow service at baggage claim. They came up with a unique idea, and the negative reports slowed considerably. What did they do? Well, they could have emphasized speed on the service – make sure everyone is hustling and pushing things through faster.

Instead, they simply moved the baggage pickup to a further carousel. People would have to walk further, which would take longer, which would eliminate them standing around waiting and complaining. What’s funny is, it took the same amount of time for people to get their bags. But because they were walking (and not “waiting”), the complaints dropped significantly.

The moral of the story is maybe you don´t have to rewrite your story (you can be sure someone won´t like the rewrite, too), but change the way you frame the book. The reason people give negative feedback is because their expectations have not been met. So, meet their expectations.

How about this? Is your book longer or shorter than most? Let your audience know ahead of time.

Got clean or explicit romance scenes? (Hopefully, it´s clean, or at least, not too explicit). Tell them.

Is your writing more technical or more inspirational? Make it known.

There really is a market for just about anything you write. Some will love it and others will hate it. That´s just the nature of the beast, but when you identify from the get-go what the book is about, you´ll have a better chance to eliminate those unwanted reviews.

Just some thought to ponder and that will wrap it up for another week!