Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ham on Wry

If there's one thing I really enjoy in a story, it's wry humor. The Myth series, by Aspirin spring to mind as a good example. It's something I try to interject into most of the things I write, because I think it's a trait that a lot of people can relate to.

I mean, if we, ourselves, aren't the sarcastic, wise cracking, one....we all know someone else who is, right? I think the above clip (from Rocky III) is a pretty funny example. This is back in the days when pro wrestling was still under "kayfabe"...meaning that everyone in the wrestling biz acted as if it was all real. Don't get me wrong, I think pro wrestling is just as legitimate in an athleticism sense as any other sport, but as far as winners and losers go, it's all rigged.

Duh...I mean, yeah we know that now. Back then, though, it was a totally different story as this movie example of the classic 'boxer (Rocky) vs wrestler (Hulk "Thunderlips" Hogan)" clearly illustrates.

Rocky knows it's a charity event and doesn't seem fazed by the almost seven foot tall Thunderlips, but the rest of his corner crew aren't so confident.

"Why they carrying him?"

"He's walkin'."

I love the expression on Burgess (Mickey) Meredith's face after Rocky reminds him that Bob Hope would go this far for charity and his reply...."That's true..."

" better call Bob Hope..."

The best part of this clip, by far, is Rocky asking the question of how much Thunderlips eats.

"About 202lbs" Mickey says, smiling, just as Leroy Nieman announces Rocky's weight of 202lbs.

A nifty bit of writing there...especially for a Rocky movie.

I think it's the little dry quips like these that can really add a lot of flavor to dialogue...especially during a time when blatant "humor" isn't really expected. There are plenty of examples of this in many movies, t.v. shows, and books, but this exchange always sticks in my mind as a classic.

For me, trying to write out and out humor, I think, would be hard. I'm just not that 'funny'. I would consider myself 'witty'....but I'm no Rodney Dangerfield. The 'dry' type of humor is a bit more forgiving because if it's not caught, it's no big just passes for dialogue. If it is caught, though, it can really work to liven up a scene as well as be appreciated by the audience.

In your writing, do you try to interject some humor? If so, to what extent?

Monday, January 28, 2013


I happened across this cool blog hop a few weeks ago and it seemed like a great opportunity to get to know some of my fellow bloggers a bit better. Hosted by Stephen Tremp, Mark Koopmans, Elise Fallson, and C.M. Brown, it's a quick hop to get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with others in the vast blogosphere and a big 'thank you' to them for hosting this shindig.

Anyway, I've never really considered myself an "interesting" person. I've always been one to play things 'safe' and have never been a risk taker. I enjoy writing because it lets me do, with words, things I probably wouldn't do in real life.

Growing up, my dad was in the Navy and that meant travel. A lot of least in the eyes of a young boy. We moved about every two years until I was around twelve years old. The most exotic place we lived was Sigonella Sicily. Anyone familiar with the area knows it's near the active volcano Mt. Aetna. Aetna puts on a pretty impressive light show, from time to time, and I used to have a pretty neat collection of volcano rocks (which got lost in subsequent moves). A neat place to visit, but I don't think I'd want to live there on a permanent basis.

Mt. Aetna

All that traveling, though, early in my life set me up for something positive in that I found I made friends easily. It was, pretty much, a necessity going from school to school every couple of years.

I've covered, in another post, about my beginnings as a writer....but, not as a blogger. Though, I really don't consider myself a "blogger" (or really a "writer", for that matter) as much as I do "someone who blogs occasionally", it's something I'm enjoying more an more and, especially, as I start to interact with other bloggers in the community.

When I checked my blogger profile it says I've been using blogger since 2006. Really? Wow...that must have been when I signed up, because I clearly haven't been using it since then. It's only been within the past few years that I started blogging on an even semi-regular basis.

Emphasis on 'semi'.

Anyway....long post name is Mark. I like to write and create and I look forward to interacting and encouraging my fellow bloggers and writers.

Nice to meet you =)

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Friday Five

It's Friday!!

The work week is almost over (for most of us) and people are gearing up for weekend festivities. The wife is going out of town with her sister, so things will be a bit quieter around the old homestead for the next two days. It'll just be me and Jasmine the Wondercat. As for my 'festivities', I'll plan on doing a bit of writing, some editing, some World of Warcraft-ing as well as a few naps in between. 

Can't forget the naps! It's something that Jasmine can appreciate, as well.

From a writing perspective, I feel I've been fairly productive this week. To that end, here's my "Friday Five" to no particular order:

1. I took part in The My Favorite Martian bloghop. Not only was it a lot of fun visiting other people's blogs and seeing their picks, it was pretty entertaining in a few other respects. The first, and most amazing to me, was the number of people who had never heard of Ultraman (my pick) before. The second was being reminded of aliens I hadn't thought of in a long ALF and Mork from Ork. All in all, it was a great idea for a hop and I look forward to more like it.

2. I started going back and reading/editing my NaNo project, The T.E.M.P Agency. The excerpt I posted got a few kind words, which felt great, and was some nice encouragement to keep going.

3. I worked a bit more on my murder/mystery story, set against the backdrop of Lucha Libre wrestling. Fleshing out some characters and ironing out some plot points.

4. I managed not only one, but two new blog posts on my "other" blog. Nothing earth shattering, but posts all the same and a nice kick start to a new posting schedule.

5. I set up a blog posting schedule and am going to really put an effort into keeping it....doing it for no one but myself and my own satisfaction. Call it a "self imposed deadline" for keeping me on the right track, writing-wise.

So, how about you? Anything fun planned for the weekend?

Do you have a Friday Five for anything?

I hope you all have a great weekend and now...back to the blogoshpere!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The "Non Blog Post"....Post

O.k, just a quick "non post" here to do some light "house cleaning".

To try to get more into the 'swing' of writing (at least, something) on a daily basis, I'm going to try to stick to the following blog schedule.

Posted here for accountability...

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: I'll be posting something here. I'll try to keep the focus on writing, my process, my projects, etc.....'cause it's all about me, ya know :P

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: I'll be putting some sort of randomness up on my 'general purpose' blog, found here.

Hopefully, it won't be too much but will be enough to get me putting words to (virtual) paper on a regular basis.

Now...back to the blogoshpere!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The "Joys" of Editing


This is the first chapter of "The T.E.M.P. Agency", my NaNoWriMo project from 2011 that I've been looking to edit for a long while. To that end, I'm going to be spending this week re-reading the whole thing, printing it out, and then seeing what needs to stay and what needs to go.

The setting is around the 1930s-1940s and I wanted to try to capture the feel and flair of the time. Not sure how well I succeeded, but again, it's a first draft and in need of some heavy editing (as well as an ending of some sort). Going back and reading this, I'm still not sure if I've put too much emphasis on the "sci-fi" aspect (the main character's inner workings), taking away from the setting and feel of the era.

Also keep in mind that I have no clue as to how long a chapter is supposed to be. I've heard time and time again "as long as it needs to be" as the answer, but I still am not sure.

      Roland Matthews always hated waiting in line at the theater. Ahead of him were two teenage girls, giggling as they looked at the movie poster under the lighted glass. Jonto of the Jungle was quite the impressive figure at 6 foot 2 with eyes of blue.... a wavy blonde mane of hair that never seemed to move, even when he was swinging across the jungle on all too convenient vines. He reminded Roland of that Charles Atlas fella, with his leopard skin briefs and chiseled good looks. Who knew what the two girls were giggling about as they sneaked glances at Jonto's impressive build. Matthews was convinced, though, that they were giggling at Jonto's pet chimp Simba, who was perched on his left shoulder as he struck a heroic pose. Then the realization hit him. Shouldn't these two girls be in school? It was a school day after all, wasn't it? Roland remembered it was, actually, Saturday, while pulling the lapels up on his shabby looking, threadbare coat. One day seemed to blur into the next when you were out of work. The construction business had all but dried up during the Depression and Roland, being low man on almost any totem pole he was a part of, was always the first let go when times got really tough. Sighing to himself as he finally made it up to the ticket counter, plunking down his twenty five cents, and taking his bright red "Admit One" ticket.

"Let's go, Jonto...." he sighed again as he headed into the darkness.

The Majestic Theater, down on the lower east side of Manhattan was an o.k. joint, as far as movie houses went. The seats were clean and not too frayed and the ushers did a decent job of keeping the floors debris free, so that your wingtips didn't stick....too much. The house lights were already dimmed as Roland made his way into the crowded theater and there weren't too many seats left. Spying one in the far, upper corner, he sighed again as he tried to slink around what smelled like a butcher who had just gotten off work and headed for the corner.

"Let's go, Jonto..." he mumbled again as he made his way through the human maze and to the seat. 
"Pardon me.....'scuse me....pardon....'scuse me...." he mumbled as he almost stumbled through the sea of human legs, finally plopping down next to a large man wearing a wide brimmed fedora with the collar of his long, worn, overcoat upturned. Roland shrugged to himself as he settled down and the newsreel began.

"REAL LIFE 'MYSTERY MAN' KEEPS THE BIG APPLE SAFE!" Read the blurb. The narrator telling of an honest to gosh Mystery Man....just like that Shadow character from the radio show....who was bringing in crooks and saving hard working folks all over the city. A rare photo of someone calling himself "The Nimbus"...wearing all black from head to toe....shooting what looked like lightning from an odd looking gun at a couple of would be robbers.

"Gotta be a gimmick...." Roland whispered out of the corner of his mouth while nudging the man in the fedora next to him. The shrouded man seemed awfully....solid, as Roland's elbow felt like it had smacked the side of a battleship.

" talking during the show." The man whispered back in an almost monotone. 

"Huh"? Roland replied, leaning in a bit further.

A gloved hand shot up, the thumb jabbing at the sign hanging on the wall just above them where a cartoon usher asked politely.


Another sigh came from Roland as he leaned back into his seat and finished  watching the newsreel. "Still think it's a gimmick..." he grunted.

After the Little Louie cartoon, it was time for the feature. A loud voice boomed from the speakers..

"Let's gooooooo Jontooooooo!!"

Children and grown ups alike cheered and clapped as the jungle king swung the treetops, flipping around the branches like an Olympic gymnast while the opening credits rolled.

"Let's gooooo Jontooooooo!!" the children screamed in unison as Jonto punched out a snooty looking poacher with a handlebar mustache, monocle, and pith helmet. The exploits of the blonde lord of the jungle and his pet, Simba, as he rescued trapped animals, escaped dangerous snake pits, and saved the pretty girl, almost had Roland clapping along with everyone else. Everyone, that is, except the sad sack sitting next to him.

Little did Roland realize that the 'man' with the wide brimmed fedora had been coming to The Majestic, every day, for over a month. Absorbing knowledge of the world, the culture of America and her people, what to say and what not to say.  Billions of calculations were forming millions of codes as it restructured it's programming.

When the lights came up, the man pulled his fedora down lower over his face, his collar higher up around him and settled down for the next feature.

The phone rang....and rang...and rang...until he couldn't take it any longer.

"Bohlts Investigations, Templeton Bohlts speaking." he almost barked into the shiny black receiver.
The voice on the other end of the line hesitated....then spoke. 
"Uhhm...Mr. Bohlts....this is Ellen McNeary from the temp agency. You had called last week for a new secretary and we wanted to inquire as to the reason for the replacement. Was Sally inadequate for your business' needs?
"What? was fine...she was swell...a real peach. I...uh...just didn't like the way she made coffee...that's all." He was impressed in the way that he had written a sub-routine to simulate hesitation in speech using "uhs", "urs", and long pauses.
"Oh well, alright then", Ellen sighed into his ear, "we'll be sending a new girl over today. May I remind you that this will be the tenth girl we've sent? We only have so many temps on staff. I do realize that you pay extra, I guess I just didn't realize how lucrative the investigating business was."
"Yeah sister, things are going just great here. I'll be waiting for her, thanks."

The receiver landed in the cradle with a loud *thunk*. The sun was peeking out from behind some earlier storm clouds and the beams spread wide over his desk. The large, oak desk was polished to a high shine....everything on it was neat and orderly with not a speck of dust to be seen. Templeton reached over to his left, pulling open the middle drawer of his desk, past the half drank bottle of bourbon....which he had never, really, drank from...he pulled out a mirror.
"Sometimes the simplest of inventions are the most wonderful." he said to himself as he held the shiny surface up and practiced making faces in it. Smiles....frowns....looks of surprise...looks of dismay...all done to help solidify his role as just another gumshoe. The wire running from his left side to the nearby electrical outlet, though, told another story. Hearing the downstairs door open, then close, he reached down and unplugged the thin, clear, cable from the wall. The prongs of the plug receded back into the casing, then the cord quickly disappeared into Templeton's side.
The large, frosted glass, door with the words "Bholts Investigations" emblazoned acrossed it swung open. A tall, almost lanky, brunette with the walk of a woman who dances regularly entered.

"Mr. Bohlts? Hi, I'm Linda...your new temp."

"Hello Linda", Templeton stood up, offering her his hand which she quickly shook. "I'm Templeton Bholts and...."

"Oh, I know who you're _the_ Templeton Bohlts....the famous private eye!" she almost squealed.

"Private investigator", he corrected. "A private eye would entail....oh never mind that. You're familiar with my work, huh?" Templeton allowed the traces of a smile to curl his synthetic lips.

"Oh sure", Linda nodded, "I've read about some of your cases in the Herald. How you found that meteor rock that was stolen from the museum a few months back and the time you rescued that kid from a group of kidnappers. Oh yeah, I've heard of you."

Nodding his head, he motioned for her to sit down in the shiny, wooden, chair in front of his desk. 
"I'm glad to hear you've heard of me, but we have to get a few things on the board before we go on. Things such as, you're never to come in here unless I ask you're to stay out at your desk at all times....unless I call you in here. I've had some problem, in the past, with secretaries with 'nose trouble' and that leads to nothing -but- trouble in this business. Get it?"

Linda slowly nodded...the surprised look on her face showing that she did, indeed, 'get it'.

"Our relationship will be of a business nature, so no snooping around my office or my personal life.....o.k.?

Another nod told him it was 'o.k.'.

Arching her dark eyebrows, Linda noted some of the plaques on the wall as Templeton explained the way things were going to be. An Investigator's License from city of New York and signed by "Holy Joe" Joseph V. McKee, himself. There were various picture of "Mr.Bohlts" shaking hands with such famous people as John Barrymore, Louis Armstrong, and some young fellow with large ears and a thin    mustache.

"Uhmm...excuse me...", Linda said as she pointed to the picture of the big eared young man, "who's that?"

His well rehearsed speech interrupted, Templeton gave here his best "annoyed" look and nodded at the picture.

"Walt Disney."

"Who's Walt Disney?" Linda asked.

"He's in the cartoon business....for now. One of the best animatronics innovators of all time, why he will be widely regarded...." Templeton caught himself before he said 'too much'. One of his newest sub-routines was called 'Fond Memories" and, at times, allowed him to ramble on, just a bit.

"Never mind you understand the terms of employment here?"
"Yes Mr. Bohlts...." Linda replied sullenly.
"Good....oh and none of that 'Mr. Bohlts' me Max..."
"'s sort of a...nickname, I guess..."
"Well...alright....'Max'....I understand. No snooping, nothing of a personal nature...I'm just here to answer phones and set up meetings."
Templeton nodded as Linda rose to go out to her desk in the adjoining entrance room.

As she got situated, she was still wondering just what the heck 'animatronics' were, anyway.

Watching her stand and leave he went into auto-assessment mode. Height...five foot seven and three hundred twenty two and a half pounds....slight limp on her left side, calve muscle spasm....possible polio victim given the time period. The door closed behind her as he stored the information for later use.
Picking up a crisp brown folder he began leafing through the pages.....wondering.

As Templeton scanned the folder, his virtual 'mind' working through hundreds of thousands of scenarios, a rap at the door triggered his 'When In Rome' program....the one that helped him to blend into which ever society he ended up in. Of course it wasn't really called 'When In Rome', it was actually called sub-routine 1968, but he liked his name a bit better. At least -that- program was working as intended.

"Look Sweetheart, cant'cha see I'm...." The big glob of shadow from behind the frosted glass loomed larger as the door swung open wide. A large man wearing a frayed looking, blue pinstripe suit had a beefy arm around Linda's throat....his free hand had an old .45 special pointed at her temple.

"O.k. Bohlts....look here ya two bit chisler....I want what's due me, see?" The larger man, a scar running down his right cheek, barked.

"Due you?"

"Yeah.....the package......gimmee!"

"Gim-you..." Templeton said slowly as if mulling over not only the gunman's demand, but his command of the English language, as well. 

"Alright....look....don't do anything rash," Templeton said, bringing both his hands to rest flat on the sparkling clean desktop. The gunman jerking his chin at the movement...

"Hey, it there, fella....just you watch it...."

"Keep's's alright..." Templeton tried to put some soothing tones to his voice while he began slowly drumming the fingers of his left hand, rhythmically, on the large, oak, desk. Glancing from the barrel of his gun to Linda's face, it appeared that she was taking this more calmly than would be expected from a temporary secretary. Still, though, her hands hand a tight grip across the large gunman's forearm as she leaned back into him.

"Alls I want is what's due me....gimmee the package and I'll let yer girlie here go."  A menacing shake of his gun emphasized his point.

Templeton's steely blue eyes caught Linda's, he arched a brow...his fingers still drumming the desktop...drawing the gunman's gaze while Templeton glanced over at the highly polished, silver lamp to his right.
Fingers dumming.....thrrrump...thrrrump...thrrrump.....the larger man looking annoyed....

" I get it, or what?" he bellowed.

Templeton nodded knowingly...."Why, yes, I think you will..." and, with that, his right hand shoved the silver lamp directly into the beam of sunlight that shone down on his desk, reflecting it directly into the gunman's eyes.
In a flash, Templeton was out of his seat and vaulting over the desk. Whether he would have made it in time, they'll never know because Linda was already on the move. Bringing her left heel up, she slammed it back down into the toe of the gunman's weathered looking wingtip shoe.
A loud howl erupted from the man as the pain in his foot and bright light in the eyes forced him to loose his grip enough for Linda to scurry free. His arms flying out wide, the .45 special barking, left the larger man wide open for an extremely fast right hook. With Linda clear, the gunman spun on his heel and fell flat on his face...out cold.

"Wow, you're quick!" Linda gasped as she began pulling herself off the floor.

"They don't call me 'Bolts' for nothing.." Templeton smiled, extending his hand and helping Linda up.
"That was a pretty nifty trick with the lamp", Linda said, straightening the hat she hadn't gotten the chance to take off, "a one in a million shot."

"Actually, a one in a......ah, never mind..." Templeton stopped himself from completing that sentence and kicked the gun away from the larger man. 

", I mean...Max?"

"Yes Linda?" Templeton said as he began searching the man on his floor.

"You've been shot!" she gasped.

So, if you've gotten this far....what do you think? Good? Bad? Ugly? Any constructive criticism is welcomed and thanks!

Now...back to the blogosphere!

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Favorite Martian

So, the cool cats over at "The Geek Twins" blog (as well as a few others) are hosting this "My Favorite Martian" bloghop and  they're asking the timeless question....

...just who (or what) is your favorite alien? I didn't want to ask if they meant 'real' or 'imagined', so I just went with 'imagined' ;)

At first, I thought it was going to be a no-brainer. Of course I'd choose my favorite Kryptonian....Kal El.

Perhaps you know him better by his nom de voyage, or the name he travels under; Superman.--Lex Luthor, Superman:II

 Anyway, I got to thinking and figured that Ma Kent's favorite son would be too easy. So, the more I thought on it, the more it became clear that I should really honor one of the very first aliens I remember being interested old friend from one of the first t.v. shows I remember watching when I was young, and I realize I'm dating myself here, but I don't care.

My pick is Ultraman!!

Originally airing in Japan in 1966, I don't think it hit American until around 1972. I remember watching this when I was about four or five years old and it really jump started my imagination. I used to lay in bed, imagining I was Ultraman and fighting giant monsters in northern Kentucky.

For the uninitiated, Ultraman was a live action, children's (I guess it was for kids...) series about an alien from Nebula M78 who, accidentally, crashed into a vehicle piloted by Science Patrol agent Shin Hayata. To save Hayata's life, Ultraman merges his life force with Hayata and they become one being. Due to Ultraman's vulnerability to Earth's atmosphere, most of their time is spent in human form. When there's trouble, though, Hayata rushes to a clear spot, presses a button on the Beta Capsule, and grows into the giant alien.

Now, where did I leave that Beta Capsule?

Ultraman had a wide variety of powers at his disposal to combat the giant monster threat that the future, which was the 1990s (remember this was back in the 1960s) held.

If I had a dime for every time I struck this pose as a kid..
His main weapon was his Spacium Ray. A beam of intense light particles that did in most, run of the mill, giant monsters. It made 'em blow up...real good!

Ultraman could also fly (always taking off with a "Shaaaaaa!") and was a solid hand to hand combatant. I can honestly say that Ultraman probably had just a big an impact on me becoming a pro wrestling fan as Vince McMahon Jr. did in driving me away from it years later. I mean when you think about it...two guys in funny suits, pretending to duke it out....yeah, not too much of a stretch.

A full list of Ultraman's amazing powers can be found over at Wikipedia, so I won't bore you with each and every one. Suffice it to say...he had a ton of them.

If he had so many cool powers, why did he fight hand to hand? One might ask.

Well, the answer is simple <he says, putting on his Geeky Professor of pseudo-science hat>. Using his powers used his energy and, since the Earth's atmosphere drained him of that energy, he probably had to use it sparingly. Either that or the studio had a limited special effects choose :)

Besides sparking an interest in pro wrestling, I think Ultraman also helped develop my interest in comic books. Again, it would stand to reason. Good versus bad, hero versus villain, etc.

So, thank you Ultraman....for helping to ignite a young man's imagination, even after all these years.

A tip of the Space Patrol helmet to you, my favorite Martian (alien)!

Now...back to the blogosphere!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Pretty, Shiny Things

I've been up since around 9:30, in the a.m., and had every intention of trying to post something of actual substance, but it seems that my mind just isn't working that way this morning.

As I sat here, staring at the screen, I've been distracted by "pretty, shiny things" as my wife likes to call them. You know....those things that make you....

Rocket J. Squirrel


...lose your train of thought and move on to other things, when you know you should be doing something else.....such as what you set out to do in the first place.

Since I started out to write this post, I've been up and down as the PSTs (pretty, shiny things) have jerked me around and forced....yes, that's right....forced me to other things....such as...

  • Drinking two cups of coffee
  • Dusting my desk and monitors
  • Hanging two pictures and rearranging two others
  • Taking a few pictures for a future blog post
  • Cleaning up my picture folder on my phone
  • Downloading a "To Do" list app for Chrome (Wunderlist, in case you were interested)
  • Downloading a theme creator for Chrome and creating a new theme

You get the idea. I always say that I'm a pro -crastinator because I hate to be an amateur at anything ;)

I forget the quote, but someone once said something like "The way to get a writer to do all those things that need doing around the house, is to have them start writing..." or something to that effect.

And it seems to be very true!

I also wanted to give a quick plug to something that came across my reader that I thought was a neat idea. Misha Gericke over at My First Book is holding a contest (with prizes and everything!) looking to recognize different blogs in different categories. This month's categories consist of....

Most Encouraging Blogger
Best Reviewer
Best Writing and/or Inspirational Post
Beginner with Most Potential

If interested, head over to her blog for all the details. These type of community building things are always cool, in my book.

Now...back to the blogosphere!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Save On 10 Or Less

(Yeah, I made a Dungeons and Dragons reference in the :P )

Regardless of what anyone will tell you, serious writing is not only work, but it's a lot of work. A lot of hard work. And, like with anything else worth doing, you want to do it right as well as protect your investment of not only time, but mental energy.

I don't have a lot of things worth saving at the moment but ,when I do though, I want to make sure that my work is safe in terms of me not losing it to some computer glitch.

I guess, probably, the most safe method would be to write everything out, longhand, and have hard copies lying around. No handwriting is wonky enough as it is...especially being left handed. I'm not knocking this method, mind you, I know of quite a few people who still do this and there's nothing wrong with's just not for me. Of course, hard copies could also get destroyed, eaten by a dog, accidentally thrown away, etc., so even that's not a foolproof solution.

At this point, I mainly have two backup methods for my ideas, stories, characters, and the like.

My main being Google Drive, though I know a lot of people use/used Dropbox just the same. Storing things "in the cloud" lets you access it from any computer or device so you don't have to worry about a hard drive crash or any other sort of hardware incident. I really like this syncs between my two laptops and Android and my stuff is always there and waiting. I think it gives you four or five gigabytes for free and you can upgrade to more if you want to pay for the service. When I need my work, I just click on the desktop link and there it is....simple.

My other preferred method is the "jump (or flash) drive, which I really like as well. They're easy to use and you can take them with you. The downside is, as with any other physical item, they can be lost, stolen, destroyed. You can also run into the data being corrupted as well as needing a USB port to plug it into. All in all, though, I find the jump drive to be pretty reliable...the advantage of it being that you don't need an Internet connection, as you do with "the cloud".

Two of my favorite jump (or should that be flight?) drives.
What about you?

What do you like to use as far as saving your work goes? 

Do you use one of the two methods I described or something even simpler?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This Olde Blog II : Electric Bugaloo

A few posts ago (is it odd to measure time in "posts" instead of "days"?) I was trying to decide on a new look for the blog here. To my surprise, I not only got some comments (I'm still always surprised when someone stops by to comment), but I got some very good ones, at that. I really appreciate everyone's input and sharing their experiences in the sprucing up blogs.

A few folks suggested trying to migrate the whole shebang over to Wordpress as it seems to be a bit more flexible, style-wise. Having had a Wordpress blog for a while, I would tend to agree with only issue being, I didn't want to lose the Blogger format of following people as well as it's integration with Google Plus.

Then Charmaine Clancy hit upon something simple that would, pretty much, solve most of the problems I was having with my "blah blog". She suggested keeping things simple and creating my own banner as well as utilizing more pages to organize a bit better.

So, that's what I did.

I wanted something clean, template wise, and simple....which is the majority of the Blogger templates, in my view. I chose "Picture Window" but didn't like the colors nor the background. So, I checked through the backgrounds, settling on something that I thought looked like rusty, old papyrus..."Mammuth". The slight transparency of the theme lets the background show without overpowering the text, which I liked.

Then, I started playing with the color scheme and went with the 'burnt orange' look while keeping the charcoal post background and white text...which seemed easy on the eyes. After that, I started searching for banner pictures.

I hit up Google Images and began looking for something centered around writing or left handedness, you know, trying to be clever and didn't work. Most searches came up with pencils or goofy looking stock photos of a left handed figure drawing, Meh. I didn't like any of them. So, then I got the idea to try typewriters and, finally, settled on a typewriter key type theme.

A few of my early choices.....

All of these were way too big for a banner, so I took more of Charmaine's advice and checked out PicMonkey. I have to say, it was pretty easy to upload and use their picture editing software. I'd definitely recommend them to anyone looking for a free alternative to Photoshop.

Anyway, I measured my banner space and started playing a bit. I came up with dimensions that I thought looked good and tried them all out. I didn't bother with the "Corona" picture and had already eliminated it by the time I got to measuring and adjusting. The first pic was o.k, but the colors didn't blend well for me. The second and third were better, color-wise, but a bit too light for the blog title....which led to my next issue.


After trying all three, I still had a problem....the blog title wasn't very visible over the picture. I tried a lot of colors, white looked the best, but it still didn't show up as clearly as I wanted and the description was in even worse shape. This template didn't allow for adjusting much on the description. I played around some more with the pic monkey site and darkened up the second picture until the title was more clear.

I liked this and thought it melded well with the rest of the "rusty look" theme. I still had a slight problem in that the light color of the keys was blurring out part of the blog title and all of the description. Then it hit me, I made the letters bigger to where the writing sat on the dark parts between the lighter areas. Woo hoo! It worked and both blog title and description (which I had toyed with the idea of just doing away with) showed up fine.

Satisfied with all of that, I decided to implement the 'more pages' piece of advice from Charmaine and use one to make a list of links for my other social media spots. It was pretty simple to download a 200x200 logo from each and use pic monkey to make a banner. I rounded off the corners, completely, to make them look like more typewriter keys and clearing the background to have it blend in with the blog color. Easy peasy.

To clean the front page up even more, I created another page for my "Accolades" and figured it would be better to highlight my blogroll higher up on the page.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the results and, also, I can't recommend PicMonkey highly enough. If you need to edit a few pics, it's the place to go...seriously.

Again, thanks to all those who commented with tips on the previous post and, especially, to Charmaine for her simple, yet great, ideas. It was the right way for me to go.

So, what do you think?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Character Study

I always wonder if I ever truly develop my characters. I mean, as much as they should be developed.

Oh sure, I give them names, some motivations, some quirks and traits, but do I really develop them? Is it something that should be asked the journalistic questions of who, what, when, where, and why?

  • Who was their high school sweetheart?
  • What was the best day of their life?
  • When did they develop "X" trait?
  • Where do they want to retire to?
  • Why are they fascinated by ankles?

Up to this point, I've always tried guess you'd call it, approach. As the story developed, so did the character. They've been more reactive then set in stone. I know that a good character can drive the story or, for that matter, make you not really care so much about the story as you do the character's journey. All points to ponder.

Maybe I should come up with a checklist, of sorts, to help answer some of the "basics" of just who these characters are?

I forget which RPG (that stands for Role Playing Game...for the uninitiated) it was, I think it was "Traveller", but they had something called a "life path" where you would roll and the dice would tell you what happened at different points in the character's life. I always thought it was a royal pain, at least in terms of making a role playing character, but something like that would really be useful for coming up with story characters if you didn't feel like putting a lot of work into it.

Is something like this a "cheat" or a "tool" and does it really matter if the outcome is well rounded character?

What are some of your methods for fleshing out characters?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

This Olde Blog

So, I've been doing some thinking.

Frightening, I know.....but, nonetheless.....

I'm wanting to do a little sprucing up around this here blog, but I'm not a huge fan of the small amount of templates offered by Blogger (no offense, Blogger, old buddy, old pal). Given the limited scope of Blogger's offerings, I'm o.k. with how things are looking, but I'd like to see some other options.

I've done my due (Google) diligence and am still not sure what might be best as far as changing things goes. I want to make sure I don't lose any information nor the basic format I have now.

So, I'm bringing this to the blogger community......any ideas?

What are some of the must see sites regarding something like this?

Friday, January 11, 2013


For the past five, maybe six, months I've been on a 'murder/mystery' kick of sorts. No, I don't mean I've been wanting to murder someone....I'm talking about the writing genre. I've always been a fan of riddles, "whodunits", and locked room mysteries. To that end, I get my "fix" in quite a few ways.

Whether it be by listening to old time radio programs like Nero Wolfe or reading Sherlock Holmes novels or, and more recently, by watching the old Ellery Queen Mysteries.

It's been the character of Ellery Queen that has captured my imagination, of late.

Ellery Queen is, actually, a gestalt character (and pseudonym) created by two New York cousins, Daniel Nathan (aka Frederic Dannay) and Manford Lepofsky (aka Manfred Bennington Lee) who began writing the tandem mystery novels back in the 1930s. Known as "fair play" mysteries, the author(s) leave all the clues out there so that the reader has just as much chance of solving the crime as Ellery Queen does. Though, it does take quite a bit of thought.

Created in 1928, the fictional Queen is a mystery writer who always seems to get involved in helping his father, Inspector Richard Queen, solve all manner of baffling mysteries. The character has been seen in many forms, from books, to radio, to television, to movies.

I think I was first introduced to the character of Ellery Queen via the t.v. version. Back during the NBC show's run in the 1970s, when I was just a wee lad. Played by Jim Hutton (father of Timothy), Queen was a bit of an absent minded professor type, but a brilliant writer and criminologist. His father, Richard Queen, was played brilliantly by David Wayne. Another character of note, at least for me, was Simon Brimmer. An Orson Wells type radio actor and, sort of rival, for Queen in the sleuthing department He was played by John Hillerman. (Higgins of Magnum P.I. fame!)

Ellery is in the blue suit...not the scared looking guy in glasses.

A bit more recently, I remember Ellery Queen being a supporting character in the Innovation comic series, The M.A.Z.E. Agency. A great book (early in it's run) that was written, true to form, in the "fair play" style. Here, Queen was a suave, smooth, almost Sherlock Holmesian, detective and not a "fictional character". A total 180 degrees from Hutton's portrayal as an absent minded bumbler (of sorts). A very neat contrast that worked well within the dynamic of the comic.

I also had a couple of Ellery Queen novels...actual paper and ink, by gum!....lying around, at one point. Or, at least, I thought I did. I do know, though, that I started reading one and found it quite enjoyable so, I might have to use that $25.00 Kindle gift card my mom got me, for my birthday, to check out a few more EQ books.

For me, it's always been fun to try to "match wits" with Ellery the old television show used to say, and it didn't matter in which form that exercise took. One day, maybe I'll even figure out "whodunit" before The Maestro (as Sgt. Velie used to call Queen) does....

Yeah, I doubt it, too. :P

In my writing, I've always gone the "safe route", at least, for writing fiction/science fiction. There, the ideas come easy. As you can probably guess, especially if you read my previous entry, I'm trying my hand at some mystery writing. In doing that, I'm finding it much more challenging....but, in a good way.

I'm hoping that I can be the perpetrator in the 'whodunit' mystery titled "The Case of the Finished Novel" :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hemlock and Headlocks

O.k, so I've been working on a murder mystery story, of sorts, revolving around the world of Lucha Libre (Masked Mexican) wrestling.

The good thing is that I'm enjoying the exercise. A lot. It'll be no more than a short story, at best, but I find myself thinking about the plot and characters....even when I'm doing other things. I'm taking that as a good sign of interest.

The bad thing is, I want to try to make it as authentic as I can and, not being from Mexico...or a Lucha Libre wrestler....that could mean some research. I'm not sure just how much I want to do for a short story (at best!). I guess it would make for A). a better sotry and B). a better writing exercise, so we'll see. One of the definite advantages of not having a deadline.

I'm also hesitant to try to use "dialect" as I don't want it to sound cliche' or even hokey but I want the reader to have a real feel for the background of Lucha Libre, even if they've never heard of it beforehand.

Any tips/hints on how I should proceed?

While I'm mulling things over, I'll leave you with a small sample...the opening of my little tale.

The large, burly, man ducked under the glossy yellow tape that read ‘Police Line: Do Not Cross”.  As he crossed the threshold, a uniformed officer was already approaching.

“Sir, I’m sorry this is a…..oh…”

Wearing a pair of pressed, black, slacks, a matching sports coat and a crisp, white, t-shirt underneath, the burly man didn’t look too out of sorts. That is, until you went above the neckline. Doffing his black fedora, a shiny white mask covered his head with a thick, black, outline around his eye and mouth holes. The burly man stood tall after ducking under the tape….to around 6’4”.

The officer quickly stood aside. “Sorry sir, didn’t realize they had called you.”

“No worries, amigo”, the big man said, “would you like to see my i.d.?”

The officer smiled weakly and shook his head, waving the masked man in.

“El Ojo! About damn time you got here!!”

“My apologies, Inspector Martinez, my training class went long.”

“Trainin’ class? What sort of trainin’?”

The masked wrestler grinned, “Cooking. Today was flan.”

Inspector Martin just sighed. “Problem with you, Eye, is that I never know when you’re kiddin’. Anyways, what we got here is a corpse and five suspects. Each one has a reason that they’d like to see this here Prince Charmin’ six feet under.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Beginnings Blogfest

L.G. Keltner is coming up on her one year blogging anniversary and, to celebrate, she's hosting a blogfest (wooohooo!!!) centering around...well...beginnings. How did 'such and such' get their start...things like that.

In my case, I'd like to talk about how I got started writing.

Waaaay back, when I was just a kid, I used to draw. A lot. Now, these weren't necessarily good drawings...mainly superheroes and stuff...but I really loved doing it. The walls of my room used to be covered with my own "originals".

 I also liked to read. A lot. In fact, family legend has it that I taught myself to read before I entered Kindergarten by watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. My mom loves to tell the tale of how my teacher asked her what sort of 'program' she was using with me and she just laughed saying they had "bought me some books".

Both of those things, I think, sparked my imagination and set me on the path of wanting to create. Whether it be in the form of images or words, I've always liked 'telling tales'.

In high school, I took a creative writing course that most took as an 'easy credit'. I took the class seriously, much to the joy of the teacher, and was encouraged by his comments and critiques. I easily sailed through the class and kept writing in my spare time. Again, not much of note and I don't really remember any of the stories...but I was writing.

When I graduated high school, my graduation presents were

  • A suit (for job interviews)
  • An electric typewriter, with correction more white out...yay!! (for typing up resumes)
As you can probably tell, my parents were very "Go out into the 'real' world and get a good job!" oriented.

I wore the suit a few times, but really used the typewriter. To tell stories.

I used to have an old shirt gift box that served as my 'filing cabinet' for all my tales, but was thrown out in one of my many moves.

In college I randomly took an "Intro to Magazine Writing" course, the professor having been an editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer. I remember one night (it was a night course...get your mind out of the gutter), she stopped me as I was turning in a quiz.

"Hey, just curious, what's your major?"

"I'm not sure yet....I haven't decided."

"Have you ever thought of journalism? You have a unique writing style."

", I haven't...but I'll give it some thought."

After some thought, I figured it might be something I'd like to pursue, so I declared my major in Journalism. I minored in eating lunch in the cafe'.....they had some goooood food on campus.

Though I never graduated college, I always enjoyed the courses and found the whole process of writing/Journalism very interesting. After a while, though, I became a bit jaded with Journalism, dropped out of college and went to work in 'the real world'.

I'd still write every now and again, when something would spark my imagination, but never really thought of doing much with it until the past few years. Again, it's like something clicked and I wanted to find my voice and put it out there.

Out in the 'real world'.

So that's the exciting tale of how I got started putting words on paper and hoping they'd at least make sense, if not entertain.

Thanks L.G. for hosting this great blogfest idea :)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Photo prompt: Double Trouble

Photo Source:

The Man Wearing The Monocle sneered. His anger was palpable. He stared down at the three, nervous looking, men and they could hear his teeth grind. He ran his fingers through his shortly cropped, blonde hair.

"But....but....Doc...we...we...did what ya said."

"First of all it is not 'Doc'....I am Doctor Blitzkrieg...and, second of all, you did not do what I asked. Think very hard on if your lives depended on it.", the man said in his thick, German, accent. In all his years, back in the Third Reich, he had never seen such incompetence.

The moonlight shone off the shiny leather worn by the larger man. Doctor Blitzkrieg thought himself to be the pinnacle of Nazi engineering. He stood six foot three and was two hundred and forty pounds of solid muscle. Not bad for a man of eighty three....though he looked to be only in his mid thirties. Why couldn't everyone be as perfect?

He sneered down at his underlings with contempt. If he hadn't put so much effort into cloning and raising them, they would surely be dead by this point.

"What I said was to replace Chad Farnsworth with a you know what the word 'double' means?"

The three men glanced around at each if knowing what the other was thinking. Their brown hair was coiffed back, except for the one standing in the middle...he wore a baseball cap, turned backwards.

"Ummm....two?", the one in the ballcap offered hesitantly.

"No!!! It means.....", the Doctor's face reddened even more....he flexed the fingers of his massive if trying to stop himself from choking something, or someone.

" does mean 'two', I suppose. But not in this case. In this case the meaning was 'exact duplicate'!!! You were to replace Farnsworth and the DUPLICATE was to throw the game so I could collect enough money from that loathsome bookmaker to fund my next project!!"

" did that! the pic here. We're nabbing Farnsworth while his double shows up and gets the cheers from the fans. The chicks are really diggin' him."

"That's another thing", Blitzkrieg boomed, "as idiotic as this situation also managed to get photographed in the act of kidnapping Farnsworth!!!!"

The three, identical, men glanced around nervously at each other.

"If nothing else", the Doctor continued his rant,"you would have thought the picture would confirm that Farnsworth isn't black!!!"

"Now Doc....calm down. Remember yer blood pressure."

Blitzkrieg flexed his hands again, his biceps bulging and threatening to rip the leather of his jacket.

"Besides.....we did sorta notice that, but then just figgered the pic was in black and white."

The Doctor's eyes widened as the blood vessels in his forehead bulged. He began to get if he was having a stroke. Maybe it was his time. Maybe Valhalla was sending a Valkyrie to bring him home at this moment.

It didn't matter, he thought to himself as he pulled out his old, trusty, Ruger. He had three bullets left and that's all he needed.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The day after....

Last year I did a "Post Birthday" blog entry over on my general purposes blog. This year, I'm doing it over here...mainly to prove to you all that I am writing! :P

Anywho....yesterday, the fifth of January, was my birthday. No fanfare was expected (being so close to Christmas and all), though I was pleasantly surprised at all the birthday wishes I got from my Google Plus pals and Facebook friends. I turned the "big" 4-5. I figure that, these days, that's about middle aged......right??

Much to my wife's chagrin, I wanted to just spend a quiet day at home.

No visitors. No family. No friends. No real reason for it save that we've been doing an awful lot of running around, of late (granted, with good reason), and I just wanted to hang around the house.

We did venture out to go see the newest James Bond flick, Skyfall, so it wasn't a complete day of being a hermit.

For my birthday dinner, my wife made some of the best lasagna I've ever tasted. Hands down. She totally outdid herself and I was glad I had the chance to hoard it all :) On the other hand, she made the most jacked up looking cake I think I've ever seen. If you don't believe me, take a look for yourself, below....

Not that it really mattered, it still tasted awesome and that's all that matters to me.

A lot of times, on my birthday, I think about the past year(s) and wonder where I'm heading. This year was less about reflecting and more about just being thankful.

I have a great wife, family and extended family, some good friends (even though they're 1,000 miles away....literally), and live fairly comfortably. Do I have everything I want. No, of course not....there's still that little matter of jet-packs I was promised we'd have here in the future....but, on that score, I'd be willing to wait for a flying Delorean.

Anyway, I'd still like to do something with writing, maybe drawing. Making a living from it would be just icing on the cake. I say that knowing you'll never be able to get the images of my birthday cake from your mind :D

Last year was a good one and I think the upcoming one is going to be even better.

Tune in Jan. 6th, 2014 to see just how so......

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

IWSG for January, 2012. The "M" Word.

It's a new year.

It's also a new January as well as a new first Wednesday in January.

That can only mean one thing.... can mean more than one thing....but, in this instance, it means another Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

The IWSG is the brainchild of the ninja-captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh. It's a neat tool to express things about writing that make us a bit less than secure.

This month, I'd like to talk about something I've talked about before....and still haven't done anything about.


Sometimes, it gets harder and harder to get motivated. I'm not going to even say my life is "hectic" or "complicated", because it's not. I have a pretty laid back life down in here in sunny Florida,as far as things go. It's all a matter of kicking myself in the tail and sitting down to write.

One of last year's goals for the coming year was to write for, at least, an hour a day. I've fallen short of quite a lot. Again, not that I didn't have the time.....but the gumption (as they say in Kentucky) was lacking.

Lack of motivation was one of my stumbling blocks with this past year's NaNo project. That's why I leave the "participant" badge on my remind me that I fell short.

Now, not to beat myself up too much, I do realize where my weaknesses lie, but I also know there are some strengths I can fall back on. Better organization, better time management, etc. Actually sitting down with fewer distractions and some clear goals, I think, will help me jump this small hurdle.

We'll see how it goes and, hopefully, this will be the last IWSG post that mentions the "M" word.

How do you stay/get motivated?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Post New Year'

Yeah, anyway.....first post of the new year. Hopefully the first of many.

I was a tiny bit proud of having more writing blog entries this year than last. Though, to be fair, I did split some of my writing time between my other blog and this one, so that should be taken into consideration.


Overall, I think it's been a decent year in regards to writing. I've been writing more this past year than the year before, as well as (still) working on my 2011 NaNoWriMo project. Editing is a bit tougher than I thought....just sayin'.

Speaking of NaNo, it wasn't a stellar year for me in that category. I started on track and quickly fell off the boat. I could blame it on a busy month, but that's not being totally honest. There were a lot of times I could have been writing, but didn't want to put forth the effort. It also didn't help that I switched ideas at the eleventh hour, leaving behind all my preparation for one story for another that I thought would be more interesting....but wasn't. I mean, I might keep the kernel of the idea, but the overall execution of the idea wasn't as "neato" as I had hoped.

I don't really do resolutions, per se, but I do look for ways I can improve in the upcoming year.

I think I'll keep it simple again, this year as the year before that, in that I'll just try to Be Better.

A better husband, a better friend, a better person, and a better writer.

It's called the past for a's behind us. It's now time to look forward.

Now, on to adventure!
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