Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dusting The Place Off

A large, steel door opens flooding the pitch black room with white light. A large silhouette stands in the doorway, inhaling the musty smell of staleness. A switch is flipped and light fills the room, revealing what looks to be furniture draped in old sheets. The figure steps in and starts pulling the sheets off the furniture, making sure to avert his face as to not catch a snootful of dust.

He looks around, scratching at his newly grown beard, and grimaces. 

"Well....looks like it's back to square one....", he says quietly while walking over to a big, red "BLOG ON" button recessed into the wall. He presses it and stands back as the room starts humming to life....


Sometimes, after a blog absence, it seems like I'm starting over and I guess, in a way, I am. It's been over two months since my last post and I've seemed to grow into a blogosphere recluse. Scratches beard again with long, Howard Hughes-esque, fingernails

Actually, it's not all that's just a matter of life and the holidays mugging me and taking up all my time :)

I hope you've all been well and that you had a great holiday. Mine was interesting, to say the least.

Thanksgiving with my wife's family was, as always, a good time, but the source of a bit of stress. Her mom passed away two days after Christmas which, sometimes, gives my wife a melancholy feeling around the Holidays. We went to her brother's house (an hour drive South) and they had a huge feast. Good times were had, but some underlying drama stuck in my wife's craw.

So, it was decided that Christmas would be different.

We had planned on heading North, to Kentucky, to spend Christmas with my family. A mixture of worrying about the reliability of taking our vehicle on a 2k mile round trip and my wife not being able to get all the time off work needed, had us looking at other options. In the end, we opted to spend Christmas at one of our favorite places, the Cabana Bay Resort, right next to one of our favorite theme parks, Universal Orlando.

I had expected it to be pretty dead there, but it was quite the opposite. There were a ton of people who, like us, had decided to "get away from it all" and spend Christmas differently. Lots of decorations, poolside movies every night (we got to see two of my faves, It's A Wonderful Life and White Christmas) and turkey and ham on Christmas Eve and day. We even took a day to 'Christmas Shop' (for stockings that we brought with us) at the park. Granted, both of us went way overboard but that's par for the course.

If nothing else, it was very relaxing and nice to spend the holiday at our pace, not worrying about having to be at such and such place at such and such time. Don't get me wrong, we love our family, but it was also nice to do something with just our family.....the wife and myself.

Anyway, we had a great time and will definitely be doing it again, in the future.

"White Christmas", poolside

On the 'good news/bad news' front, NaNo was a bust for me (again!) this year but, on the positive side, it did give me quite a few good story kernels to work with. Now it's just a matter of digging in and getting them to take off. I'm sure I'll give it another go next year and, who knows, maybe I'll actually "win" this time.

I say that every year, though.

Besides holiday related things, there's really nothing interesting to report. My job search continues, I'm writing when the mood hits me, reading, and trying to regiment myself to be a passable CP for one of my blogger pals. I have a ways to go, but I'm working on it.

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve and I'll see year! :P

Monday, October 27, 2014

All NaNos Eve...

This Friday isn't just Halloween....or "All Hallows Eve"'s also the day before November 1st....which is also the eve of National Novel Writing Month.

All Nanos Eve. <cue eerie music>

Sounds sort of ominous, eh?

Even though it shouldn't be something to "fear" (it's, actually, a lot of fun), it is something to prepare for. At least, for me. I've been participating since 2011 and, oddly enough, that's the only time I ever "won". In subsequent years, I've always started, but found excuses not to finish.

I'm, usually, a seat of the pants (or pantser) type of writer. I don't outline...I don't make very many notes and the ones I do make, I seem to forget about. Two years ago I found some notes for my abandoned story a few months after NaNo was over. I'm not sure how much of a difference those notes would have made, but they might have added some spark to the flame.

Who knows?

Anyway, I'm a bit (not too much...just a little) more prepared this year.

I decided I would work on some notes and see where that might get me. I wound up coming up with ten good story ideas that could carry me through to the finish line and, hopefully, to a completed book.

I also decided to do things a bit differently this year. Instead of one story, I'm going to work on a compilation of short stories. Hopefully ten. That way, I only need to do five thousand words per story. Now, should one story take over and I go to town, all the better.

If you're doing NaNo, this year, I wish you luck and let me know how your progress goes. If you'd like to 'buddy up', you can find me here.

If you're not participating this year, say a little prayer for those of us who are :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Survivin' and Thrivin'!

There a lot of ways we can make our stay on this Earth better. One of the most important and one that contributes to the amount of time we're here is taking care of ourselves.

Hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, Stephen Tremp, Michael Di Gesu, and Diane Wolf  the focus of this blog hop is to bring awareness to disease prevention and early detection, as well as touching on things we can do to improve our overall health.

I don't really have a "cause" to discuss, per se', but I do want to talk about one of the greatest means of preventative medicine.

Eating right and exercising.

About a year ago, my wife and I watched Hungry for Change on Netflix and it really changed our life. For the first time we really started paying attention to what we were eating. This was just the start of our journey, though. We then checked out Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead , which was another eye opener. The success stories we saw motivated us to give juicing a try and, while we could never get the full grasp of the "juice cleanse" (the furthest we got was four days), we still gave it a shot and it helped build on the foundation of getting healthy.

Then, about two months ago, my wife's job hosted a health fare for their employees (and spouses...which would be me), so we went. They gave us a battery of tests from circulation to cholesterol, to heart and stomach screening. We also talked to nutritionists and health coaches about diet and exercise.

All in all it was a good experience....until we got our test results. Most of the results were within 'normal' ranges, but there were some high numbers there. Cholesterol and blood pressure, which was deemed "pre hyper tension" and something to keep an eye on. While my wife's numbers were better, we decided to make some drastic changes....starting with how we eat.

We had flirted with the "Paleo" diet in the past, but it was a short romance and all that meat wasn't settling well with our digestion. After some more discussing and research, we decided to go with what I can only describe as "Vegan-esque". True vegans abstain from all animal products. If it comes from an animal, they don't eat it. For us, though, this means no red meat or chicken and no diary products. We're still eating fish and eggs, but the staple of our diet is fruits and vegetables. I've found that I don't really miss meat and there are tons of great alternatives for dairy...from coconut milk to Natural Balance butter. We're wanting to get to the point where we can ditch the processed substitutes and all that sodium, but that's further down the road.

Right now, we're transitioning nicely and losing weight as we go.

They say that the key to being healthy is "80% what you eat and 20% exercising", so you can't really talk about getting (and staying) healthy without discussing exercising. On that front, we've been doing a lot of walking (neither one of us have ever been big on running) and we bought Fitbits to help us track our progress. We've also been working with kettlebells and our Total Body gym to help cover the 'weights' portion of our regimen.

In my mind, enough cannot be said about eating right and exercising as preventative measures for getting and staying healthy.

So, I wish you all good health and I'll leave you with a couple of things that have really helped me in my journey for wellness: (I know I've mentioned these before, but they bear repeating)

1. MyFitnessPal: Experts are always saying that you should keep a 'food diary' if you want to lose weight, and they're right. MFP is an excellent tool to not only help you keep track of what you're eating (calories, sodium, etc.), but it's also a great way to keep track of your progress. You can also have 'friends' to help you along. I know I've posted this before, but you can find me here.

2. After researching a few of the 'smart pedometers', we decided to go with the FitBit to help us keep tabs on how far we're walking and being active each day. I also like it because it can track your sleep patterns. You can also link it up with MyFitnessPal to get a bigger picture of your goals and progress.

3. If you don't feel like putting a ton of money into weights or just don't have a lot of room for a bench and bar, kettlebells are a good alternative. We've been starting slow with the below video:

 It's a nice primer and even includes warm-ups and cool-downs. I've also mentioned the kettlebells a few posts ago, if you want to check that out, as well.

Best of luck and stay healthy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dream Big!

When my wife and I are out and about, I sometimes look around and think 'How did this person wind up with that person? What's the circumstances that brought them together?' Many times it's obvious, but other times...not so much.

I'm sure my friends probably thought the same thing when they met my wife. Personality-wise, we seem to be polar opposites. Even though we both have a great capacity for imagination, mine is more grounded in reality where my wife's is.....well, not. For her there is nothing that isn't possible. The only thing ever standing in her way is minor obstacles.

She's definitely a 'glass half full' type where I'm still wondering how the glass got there and who's going to empty it.

We started out as a long distance relationship. I lived in Northern Kentucky and she in Vero Beach, Florida. A place I had never even heard of, much less knew where it was. When we first started talking about taking our relationship to the next level, I was stumbling over logistics while her first statement was, "We'll make it work."

And we did.

When I (hesitantly) told her about my writing ambitions, she didn't scoff, laugh, or roll her eyes. She got this huge grin on her face and said "I can't wait to read your first book and then see it in the movies!" She's behind me, on whatever I want to do, 110%.

She's not only a dreamer, but she's a BIG dreamer. Initially her attitude had me flummoxed, but the more I was exposed to it, the more I started thinking along the same lines she did. While I still think my ground in reality is still more stable than hers, I'm learning to let some of it go and really wonder just what might happen if we dream big. When I saw the picture above, my wife was the first person I thought of....for many reasons.

As long as I've known her, she's been talking about getting an RV and travelling around in it. Now, when she first brought it up, I mentioned things like money, working around a job schedule, things like that. Her reply was, "Yes, I know....we can work that stuff out later."

And I'm sure we will.

Lately, I've found myself applying that same attitude towards my writing. Finish 'that book'? Of course. No doubt about it. How can I be so confident? Well, as a wise person once told me....

"We can work that stuff out later."

Blessings continue to abound.

Hope you all have a great week.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thank You!

I managed to....just barely ;)

First of all, I'd just like to say a huge Thank You! to all of you who stopped by and blitzed yours truly yesterday. It was great to see all the encouraging words and fun comments (Alex Cavanaugh's was priceless). I especially appreciated those who stopped by and joined up.....I hope I won't disappoint you, too much :D

Secondly, a big thank you to D.L. Hammons for organizing and masterminding the whole "Blog Blitz" phenomenon. He also does a lot of other cool blogging activities, so go check him out if you haven't already.

It's always nice to see a reminder of just how great the blogging community is and how blessed I feel to be a part of it.

Again, thank you all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG: October, 2014

Man, do these first Wednesdays of the month creep up fast. And speaking of ninjas, I have to give a shout out to the Ninja Captain, himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh. The father of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Thanks again, Alex, for coming up with such a great venue for writers to share their writing dilemmas as well as support their fellow word spinners.

This month, Captain Cavanaugh's sidekicks...some might call them co-hosts...are, the kinetic Kristin Smith, the enigmatic Elsie, the spectacular Suzanne Furness, and the fantastic Fundy Blue! Drop by their respective corners of the blogosphere and show them some love, if you're so inclined.

Oh, and I almost forgot....happy One Year Anniversary to the IWSG site and Facebook group. You'd be hard pressed to find more hard working and helpful writers anywhere on the 'Net. Thank you all for your efforts and support.

Slow month as far as insecurities are going, I'm happy to say. Not only am I getting words out there on a couple of old projects, I'm still gearing up and prepping for NaNoWriMo, as well. It's only a month away and I have a lot to do. I think this is going to be the most prep I've ever put into a NaNo, so I had better be crossing the finish line. If not, though, it'll make for a heck of IWSG post in December....haha.

Anyway, not much going on here so I'll be dropping by and seeing how you're doing with your insecurities....if you have any. If not, I'll just say 'howdy'. :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Five.....Follow Up!

Two weeks ago, I mentioned five things going on in my life. Nothing very interesting, mind you, but five things nonetheless. I thought it might be even more (or, possibly, less) interesting to follow up and let you know how things turned out.

1. The job search still goes on. I've sent in a few, believe it or not, for a weekly food critic column and the other for a county clerk assistant. Again, I'm still very thankful that I'm in a position to be able to be choosy on this front. I haven't heard anything back from either (and not really expecting to), so the quest continues.

2. It's been over a month since I've had any red meat and I'm not craving it in the slightest. The lack of dairy hasn't been missed, either.....besides my cream cheese dip. The non-dairy version just doesn't cut it. I guess because we never really tried much of it, I'm really enjoying sticking with fish for the moment. Salmon, cod, grouper, talapia....all very yummy stuff. I've also lost about nine pounds, which is always a plus. Or a "minus", depending on literally you look at it.

3. Scrutinizing our eating habits has led to more exercise. More walking as well as working on the Total Body machine has me feeling more energized that I've felt in months. I picked up a Fitbit to monitor my walking so, if you're using one too, add me there if you want. The Fitbit links up nicely with MyFitnessPal, so you can find me there, as well, if you're looking for more friends. I also went out and bought some kettlebells. Trust me, the exercises with them have been a lot harder than they look. I only did the three shown below and am so sore, it's not even funny.  Wow...

4. The visit from my mom was great and, even better, I didn't wind up getting picked for jury duty (whooo hooo!). I had to go down for one day and it was interesting sitting in on the process, though. Two drug related cases and one stalking/cyber stalking case. The first guy was accused of growing and selling weed. I don't think he even spoke English because he had headphones on while a translator (I'm assuming) spoke quietly into a mic as everyone else talked. The second case was the stalking one and, I hate to even say this, but the guy looked creepy as hell. Even dressed in the nice suit, he still looked like a stalker type. I know you shouldn't judge people by how they look, but I just couldn't help it in this case. The third case was a guy accused of selling cocaine. There was a lot of questioning of us, the prospective jurors, as to any prejudices or preconceived notions we might have concerning each case and the accused. Luckily, I was boring enough to fly under their radar, so I wasn't chosen for any case. Before I went, my brother in law had said I should have gone in with a rolled up newspaper and waved it around while shouting "Pick me! Pick me!". He said that's how he got out of it and, knowing him as I do, I totally believe that. 

5. Not much has changed on the writing front, which is good in a way. Still plugging away, still taking down notes, and still prepping for NaNoWriMo in November. At this point, I have a pretty good jump on things and anticipate a check in the "win column" this year. Oh, and I'm also still reading King's On Writing. Good stuff abounds. 

Hang in there and have a great Friday.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Be Prepared, Son. That's My Motto. Be Prepared."

The above line is from one of my favorite movies. A movie that I find to be one of the true, underrated, classic films of the early 90s.

The Last Boy Scout.

When I saw Alex J. Cavanaugh's Underrated Treasures post, this film was the first thing that popped into my mind.

Starring Bruce Willis as his usual, down and out-type character....ex-Secret Service agent (for President Carter...hey, it was the 90s) / do-gooder turned private investigator and Damon Wayans as Jimmy Dix, an ex pro football player who was fired for snorting his paychecks, The Last Boy Scout was one of those quirky films that, sort of, sneaks up on you.

I had never even heard of this movie before seeing it at Blockbuster (yes, I first saw it on VHS...hey, it was the 90s). The advertising budget must have been minimal, even with headliners like Willis and Wayans....who weren't exactly Hollywood lightweights back then. I also don't remember ever seeing any trailers for this at the movies. This is the "ignorant bliss" we enjoyed back in those pre-internet days.

There were quite a few stars in this one, as well. Halle Berry, Billy (Tae Bo!) Blanks, and Bruce MacGill had small parts and Noble Willingham (You'd know him if you saw him) played the 'baddie'.

For my friends and I, this film was one of those "quotable" flicks. One where we'd try to insert a quote into any conversation we could. In my circle of friends, this was one of those 'cult classics'. I'd love to quote you some but, unfortunately, most of them involve some pretty off color language and this is a PG-13 blog ;)

There is one, though, that I can share. Wayan's character screaming at Willis' character as they engage in a car chase.

"Joe if you go any faster, we're going to travel back in time!"

It's your typical action/dramady genre film, but one that impressed me so much because it, sort of, just appeared. Besides my circle of friends, I rarely come across anyone who has even heard of it, much less seen it.

Truly, one of the underrated treasures, in my book.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Friday Five!

It's the day most of us look forward to all week long. The day that signals the start of a couple of well earned, relaxing days with no commitments and no worries....most of the time.'s Friday! <cue triumphant music>

It's been a while since I've done a Friday Five post, so I thought I'd jot down a few things that have been happening in my life. Not that anything all that interesting has been happening, but nonetheless....

1. My job search continues while I help my wife and her sister with their business. It's been a slow process and there's not much out there, job-wise, at the moment. I'm just very grateful that my wife's new job gives us both medical and dental benefits and she's making decent money (plus the money the business is bringing in). I'm also grateful that I have the opportunity to really look for something I'd like to do and I'm not forced to take the first thing that comes along, like the last time.

2. Once again, my wife and I are on the journey to get healthier. A few months ago, my wife's work had a health fair that we attended. When we got our numbers back, mine weren't as good as they had been and it was a bit troubling. The light bulb flickered on one night as I was checking out Netflix for something to watch and came across Forks Over Knives. Just like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, this was an eye opener, of sorts, for me, so I told the wife about it. We sat down, watched it together, and she said..."You know, I think we could do something like this". So, for the past three weeks, we've given up red meat (we used to eat a lot of ground beef), chicken, dairy products, and sugar while going for a more plant based, whole foods, type diet. We still eat fish and whole grain products. The toughest thing, so far, has been doing without dairy products, but we've found a ton of great alternatives. While my wife hates "labels", I would have to classify us as going "semi-vegan", at this point, as we're doing it for health reasons and not out of compassion for animals.

3. In other health related news, we finally got rid of our weight station (or the "eyesore", as my wife called it) and replaced it with a Weider Total Body machine. I had one of these, years ago, and really liked it. I was in the best shape of my life and it was fun to use. Even's also easy to move.

4. My mom is coming down for a visit this Monday, coinciding with my first day of jury (ugh) duty. She hasn't been down in a while and we haven't had the chance to go North, so it will be great to see her. She says all she wants to do is kick back and relax. I told her that's what we do best, so no problem. Now, if I can only get lucky enough to get dismissed from my jury duty like I was a couple of years ago, I'll be golden.

I won't be holding my breath, though.

5. The writing is going well. I'm not doing as much as I'd like, but doing more than I was. Still getting through King's On Writing and taking some notes. Like I've said, I'm not a big fan of his writing, but his pearls of wisdom in this book are great.

Those are my five for this Friday. Like I mentioned, nothing all that exciting and, if you've got this far, I salute you =)

Hope your Friday is good and the weekend even better!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

IWSG: September, 2014

The IWSG is the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh and is a forum for writerly types to vent their fears/frustrations/problems with writing and publishing, among other things. This month's co-hosts are Mark (Melvin) Koopmans, Sheena Kay Graham, Laura, and Shah Wharton. Drop by and send them all some love, won't you?

Ever have too much of a good thing?

You know what I'm talking's like eating too much ice cream and getting an 'ice cream headache' or drinking enough coffee to cause you to tremor more than the San Andreas Fault.

That's sort of where I'm at in my writing, now. When it rains, it pours.

Not so much with my blogging (sorry about that), but with story ideas. I'll be chugging along with one idea and then, BAM!, another will pop into my head. Or I'll start coming up with dialogue between characters I've yet to create. I'm sure this isn't strange for some, but it's not how my writing process usually goes.

Maybe it's time to embrace that change?

Even though life does it to me, all the time, I'm not that great with change. I like routine, I like order, I like predictable. I'm not the most spontaneous sort. I think those are some of the reasons that I enjoy's a process and I have my own little routine.

And that could be my problem. Maybe I'm too entrenched in my routine to be fluid enough for writing?

It's something I'll need to think on and investigate more but, in the meantime, I'm going to ride the "bolt" for as long as I can :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Waiting on The Bolt (Again)!

Just what is "The Bolt", one might ask. Is it some new superhero? A new "Monster"-style drink, chock full of caffeine goodness?

Some may know it by it's more common name. "The Muse".

My problem is, though, I hate calling it "The Muse"'s just too....'Xanadu' for me, ya know?

Not that I didn't like the movie Xanadu or anything like that...I just don't want to put the picture of a roller skating, 1980s era, mythological movie creature out there when I'm trying to describe the creative process. And, invariably, when I mention a muse, I think of Olivia Newton John. Not that there's anything, AT ALL,  wrong with thinking of the lovely songstress, I just don't want to distract anyone.....including myself.

No, I prefer to call the process of trying to be creative "The Bolt". You know, like lightning. Something that strikes quickly, out of the blue, and makes your hair stand on end. That twenty-one gigawatts that really gets the creative juices flowing.

Well, that's how I look at it.

Sometimes my wife will ask me what I'm doing when I'm reclining back in my desk chair with my eyes closed, hands on my head and feet propped up. I'll tell her that "I'm waiting for The Bolt".

The reason I even bring up the silly concept of The Bolt is because it struck me hard a few days ago. I'm not talking twenty-one gigawatts, even. More like one hundred and five gigawatts. What little hair I have on my head did stand up on end and my bloodshot eyes twinkled like a couple of fireflies.

I won't reveal the particulars here, but I gave a hint on my Twitter  feed a couple of days ago.

Here's a has absolutely nothing to do with me trying to grow a beard. If it pans out, though, it could really give me a leg up with this years, NaNoWriMo!

Sticks a metal pole out the window, waiting for the next visit from The Bolt!

Friday, August 15, 2014

So Long and Thank You....

I usually don't do posts like this, but I thought it fitting given, my fondness for movies and television shows of bygone days, to share some memories of two Hollywood greats.

This past week, we lost two amazing talents. Both can be remembered for superb movie and television roles. They were masters of their with amazing improvisational and comedic abilities and, the other, a smoldering, dramatic, leading lady who just oozed "class".

On a more personal level, I've always been a fan of them both and will always remember them for helping to make my life just that much brighter.

It was 1978, I think, and you probably couldn't find a bigger fan of the show Happy Days than a little, blonde headed, ten year old me. If it was Tuesday at 8pm, you could bet our t.v. was tuned to ABC to watch Fonzie, Richie, Mr. and Mrs "C" and the whole gang bring back the 1950s in true, situational comedic, style. This particular episode featured an alien character....Mork from Ork....who wanted to take "humdrum" Richie back to Ork for further study. Of course, it was up to the Fonz to save Richie and that meant going toe to toe with Mork. In reality, it's said that it was more like Henry Winkler trying to keep a straight face while working with Robin Williams at his manic best.

It was my first look at a young Williams and, to be sure, not my last. They gave the Mork from Ork character his own spinoff show....Mork and Mindy. I was totally on board and loved this one almost as much as Happy Days. The more I watched Williams work, the more I came to appreciate his rapid fire wit, sense of humor, and ability to tie it all together to make us laugh. It wasn't soon after that Williams started getting more and more movie roles. From Popeye...a film I didn't care for, but also believe that no one but Williams could have pulled Good Morning Viet Nam to Hook to Aladdin to Good Will Hunting, Williams continued to impress me with his range as an actor.

Robin Williams was one of those "one of a kind" type performers. Before he burst onto the scene you hadn't seen anyone like him and, now that he's gone, I'm certain you'll never see anyone like him again.

Rest in Peace Mr. Williams and thank you for the laughs.

The other loss, in fact it happened just the day after Robin Williams' death, was that of Lauren Bacall.

The first time I ever saw Bacall was in a commercial which I can't, for the life of me, remember the product. I do remember thinking how gorgeous she was, even though well into her late 50s/early 60s. This was a time before I started getting into old movies, so I hadn't yet grown to appreciate her for anything more than a pretty face.

Mrs. Bogart and Mrs. DiMaggio
Then I saw, I think it was, Key Largo and that was it. I was a bit smitten. I could see how Bogie could fall for a dame like that. In her younger years she was downright beautiful. A gorgeous face, alluring eyes, and that Bogie ranks up there with Joe DiMaggio as far as "famous guys who married WAY up" go, in my book.

I saw Bacall in many roles after Key Largo and was always impressed by her range of emotions and how she could just draw me into any film she did. She was smooth, cool, and always struck me as someone who was just in love with acting. She was a fashion icon and did everything with such flair.

I also think, as she got older, she wasn't afraid to try new types of roles...even if they were on television. She did a two-parter on The Rockford Files and even ventured into animated work, voicing a character not only on a new Scooby Doo movie, but also on Family Guy.

As the song said, she really did "have it all". Rest in peace Ms. Bacall, old Hollywood will be that much poorer for it's loss and you will be missed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

IWSG: August, 2014.

The IWSG is the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh and it's purpose is to give writers a place to vent their insecurities as well as comfort fellow writers in their own. This month's co-hosts are Sarah Foster, Joylene Nowell Butler, Lily Eva, and Rhonda Albom. Thanks guys and gals!

Usually when I sit down to write my IWSG post, just after I remember it's the first Wednesday of the month, I sit here staring at a blank screen for a good while.

Not this month, no siree.

This idea came to me just after writing last month's post and it revolves not around the practice of writing as much as what I'm writing.

When I first did National Novel Writing Month, I was really jazzed. I was going to write my novel and take a huge step towards being a "real" writer. I flew by the seat of my pants, determined to finish and "win" (which I did) with my over 50k word count. When I was done, I was really proud of myself. Seriously. I don't do much in the way of patting myself on the back, but in this I did. I proudly told my wife I had finished and, I think, she was just as proud of me as I was.

Then it happened.

We were down at her brother's house and she proudly told him and his wife that I had written a novel.

He seemed genuinely impressed (Mike's a great guy, very laid back and supportive) and then asked me THE question.

"What's it about?"

Right then, it all collapsed in on me. Not that I hadn't really expected this question....I did...I just didn't expect my own reaction to it.

Growing up reading comic books and being interested in sci-fi/fantasy had ingrained in me a certain reaction by others (mainly my parents and extended family) when I told them of my hobbies. You may know what I mean. That eye rolling, smirking, "Oh, that...." response that "normal" people give when they ask what sorts of things you were into. Because, if it's not related to sports or watching sports on t.v. or going to sporting events, it really doesn't "count" and isn't, really, socially acceptable.

Uh huh.

Not that I wasn't used to this sort of response, by all sorts of people, growing up but I hadn't even prepared for it coming up in relation to my new novel. The novel that I was so proud to have done...even though it wasn't quite 'finished', it was still a good start. Right?

That pride turned into quasi-embarrassment.

Here I my mid 40s...and I had been reduced to my childhood, trying to "explain" my interests.

"Well, it's about this.....ummm....robot back to the 1940s's called....uhhh....The T.E.M.P Agency....and...."

I felt myself becoming more than a bit embarrassed in telling him what my book was about. That insecurity grabbed me around the throat and really throttled me. What was I doing? I was proud of this thing, doggone it!

Of course, my brother-in-law seemed genuinely interested....which helped...but I couldn't believe that, in all the month I spent writing about a time traveling robot who gets stuck in the 1940s, I'd be gun shy telling others the characters and background I had created.

What did I think was going to happen should it ever be published and strangers were, actually, reading it? To this day, I'm still a little surprised how out of left field it all came.

On the bright side, I've gotten over that little hurdle and feel proud to say that "I'm a writer"....regardless of what I'm writing. I've even taken the true test....telling my parents.

They loved the idea, by the way.

Moral of the story: Write it loud and write it proud!

One insecurity down....about a million more to go! :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sleep Blogging....

I had a very strange and, seemingly, real dream a few nights ago. One that stuck with me, even after the fog of sleep had lifted...something that, usually, never happens.

Somehow, I’m not even sure how I knew it, but my wife and I had time traveled back to the 1950s and we were at Disneyland….but it looked, pretty much, like it does today. Just more...retro.

We were in a cafeteria…typical 50s style…..eating and I started talking to a security guard (or, maybe, he was just a cop) who told me he was on this brand new thing called “The Internet”. He went on to talk about how exclusive it was and about this thing called "e-mail". I asked him for his email address and told him I would email him “when I got home” because I, too, had the Internet. He laughed and I had the sense that he didn't believe me, but he still gave me his email address. Later on, my wife and I were watching the nightly Disney fireworks and started talking about emailing the guy when we returned "home", to the present. I had asked him his age and he said 35, even though he looked much younger with his crew cut and big, horn rimmed glasses.

We became sad realizing that, when we got back to 2014, the man would ,probably, have already passed away.

I actually woke up still feeling a bit sad, before the realization that it had only been a dream set in. It felt that real.

I've always read that dreams were your subconscious' way of working something out that was bothering you. Now, as to what my subconscious is trying to tell me through this, I have no idea. Maybe "stay in touch with those close to you before it's too late or maybe it's "don't time travel if you get the chance".....I'm not sure.

Ever have a dream that seems so real that you woke up wondering if it had been? 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Five!

It was a tough week trying to come up with something viable to write about for this post. Not that this is really "viable", but it's the best I could come up with, so be gentle. On the's short :)

Five things I do every morning.....without fail.

1. Make the bed: We have two bathrooms in our home. One by the guest room, the "public" bathroom, and one in the master bedroom....the "private" restroom. Our bedroom is closer to the game/computer room, so that's the bathroom I frequent....and have to walk past our bed in doing so. I've been (self) diagnosed with mild OCD and seeing an unmade bed all day would, probably, start making me twitch. Plus, it starts my day off with an accomplishment, as small as it may be.

A mug from The Keys
2. Drink a cup of coffee: My mom started me on coffee when I was eight years old. No kidding. She would always make some to dunk her toast in and, me being a kid, I wanted to try what mom was having. I started drinking the coffee after the dunking and, even with the floating crumbs, still found it to be something pretty tasty (yeah, I had weird taste). So, after getting up and getting my bearings, I fire up the Keurig and have a cup of java.

3. Kiss my wife:  To me, it's just as important to kiss your spouse goodbye as it is to kiss them goodnight....and welcome home from work....and "I missed you"....and 'Happy Wednesday...and,well, you get the idea.

Princess Jasmine
4. Pet the cat: Our landlord cat is pretty demanding. She demands a tribute, every morning, of treats....then "lovies". My wife gives her her treats and I supply the "lovies". She likes to stand, walk in a circle, then hunker back down to accept her tribute...purring all the while.

5. Write:  Whether it's something as simple as an email, social media post, blog post, or something to do with one of my current projects, I write something.....anything. The thing to work on, now, is to make it more of my projects and less of the other stuff.

So, there you have it. Five things I do every morning. Why five? Well, any more and I'd have to bring my other hand into it to figure things out :)

Anything you do every morning? Besides wake up, that is.... =D

Monday, July 28, 2014

Staying In Character

I've been thinking of doing this for a while, so I guess now is a good a time as any. A brief character sketch.....emphasis on "sketch"....for one of the protagonists of my ongoing project, Last Chance. It's sort of a mixture of The Avengers and The Wild, Wild, West.

Nothing really to do with the character (besides the Steampunk angle), but just thought it was a cool pic

Alistair (Albert Muldoon, in the States) Moore: A British expatriate on the run from the law for a crime he didn't commit. Deciding to use his knowledge of steam technology to fight crime, he poses as a 'Yankee' sheriff by day and a masked vigilante by night.

Born and raised in London, Alistair's father was an up and coming stage magician and his mother, a very capable escape artist and magician's assistant. He was raised in the wings of the stage and picked up various tricks of the trades from not only his father, but from visiting magicians, as well. By the age of 17, he was almost as good a magician as his father, though lacking the flair for the dramatic. His lack of dramatic flair was due, partly, in his grounding in scientific endeavors. A prodigy from a young age, he began working with the odd technology known as "Steam Tek" as soon as he was able.  

One night, while walking home from one of his father's performances, Alistair heard struggling in a nearby alleyway. Always one to do what was right, he investigated and found an abnormally large, brutish man mauling a young lady. Approaching the man from behind, Alistair hit him with a lead pipe he found lying against a building. The shock of the impact ran up his arms as he struck hard, waiting for the man to fall flat on his face. Instead, the man slowly turned to confront Alistair....a smile on his face. He quickly backhanded the young lady, caving her skull in before knocking Alistair across the length of the alley. Before the haze of unconsciousness took him, he saw the large man take the lead pipe and dip the tip of it into the oozing ichor of the girl's skull, then throwing it next to Alistair's, now limp, form. 

The next thing he knew he awoke in a jail cell, having been charged with the murder of a young prostitute. What was worse, they had an eye witness.....a frail, thin, and respected, doctor....a Dr. Jekyll...who had seen the whole thing. Not knowing what had really happened, he knew one thing for certain. He didn't want to be around when English law played this scenario out. Using skills he picked up from his parents, Alistair escaped and managed to grab some money he had been saving to open his own steam tek shop. Hopping a freighter to a "land of opportunity", Alistair made his way to the "colonies", then to Wyoming where he stumbled upon "Last Chance".

Ole' Alistair still needs a lot of work as well as a lot of fleshing out, but it's a start.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Social Media Fun!

The other day I was asking for some blog post ideas on Google Plus. I had a few, but none were really grabbing me and they seemed pretty bland. "How To Spice Up Macaroni and Cheese", "Rethreading A Zipper", and "Teaching Your Cat To Play Fetch" just weren't inspiring me. I needed something new. I needed something different. Basically, though, I needed an interesting topic.

I never got the post idea but, instead, got something much more entertaining. A, sort of, shared story made up on the fly by different commenters.

Each line was a comment from one of my circlers.

A shutter was banging in the back room

No, it wasn't a shutter banging.  Something was hitting the back door.  Hard. THUD-THUD-THUD!  The door slammed open.

At first it was just a glimmer in the window, but as the glow got closer, I realized it was............... 

He stood there dripping wet with a bleeding gash across his forehead.

and boom,there he was.+mark means

...Wearing a children's pirate costume off the dollar store rack. He had no idea how he wound up in those clothes. The last thing he remembered was...

...the last thing he remembered was a dripping wet, gargantuan man charging into his kitchen with the kitchen window's decorative wooden shutter in his hand.

It was the next door neighbor, Stan.

He had accused him of stealing his cat. He was clearly off his meds. Stan didn't even own a cat.

However, his wife was named Cat...... da da dum.......... 

And the Cat got his tongue.

And twisted it. While the storm raged. 

It's pretty safe to say that I follow some very witty, imaginative, and creative people on Google Plus.

Have you ever written a "shared story"? If so, how did it go?

Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Big Two O....Oh!

Believe it or not, I just noticed the other day that this was going to make my 200th blog post on "Left and Write". It was August of 2011 that I decided to start up a "writing" blog and really "get serious" with my writing. I probably shouldn't put " " around 'get serious' because I have gotten a lot more serious than I was about my writing....just not as serious as I think I should be, at this point. That's another post for another day, though.

Anyway, I thought and thought about what I should do for my 200th post. I mean, it's a pretty big milestone for me and one that only comes along once in a blogtime.

I thought I might do 200 situps. And, then again, I might just puke my guts out.

I thought I might write about a 200 year old piece of feminine hygiene equipment that was recently found in a trash heap under Manhattan's City Hall Park. Nah, something smelled funny about that one...

I thought I might talk about when America turned 200 during it's bicentennial, back in 1976....

Nah, I'm sure its been done before.

Maybe talk about the Daytona 200? I've never been much of a gear head, so no.

Then, it hit me. A very simple solution and something I don't do near enough.

I could thank my 200 (plus 3) followers (as well as everyone else who stops by and leaves comments) for sticking with me, giving me great feedback and helping me along in this writing journey. I really appreciate the time, effort, and community you've all given me over the years and here's to 200 more. Blog posts, that is...I don't think I'll make it another 200 years ;)

Thank you all....I couldn't have done it without you.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Friday Wrap....

It's been a hodge podge past few weeks around here and I thought, in lieu of writing anything substantial (ahem), I'd break out the dreaded "bullet list" to illustrate just how hodgey podgey (is that even a word?) and wrap things up.

On the writing front:

  • I've been doing pretty well with my 'top sekrit' blogging schedule and have actually managed to do some commenting on other's blogs as well as keep up with replies to my own....for the most part.
  • I broke out my old notes for Last Chance and have been working a bit more on that as well as alternating with my "Unnamed Lucha Libre Wrestling Mystery".
  • Some of the reactions to last Friday's post got me interested in checking out Stephen King's On Writing. I'm half way through it and really digging it. While I'm not a huge fan of his work (besides The Stand), this I like.
  • I continue to use Yarny for my main "cloud" writing app. Anyone else still using this or is there something better I should know about?

On the "everything else" front:

  • Updating a resume is a pain in the rear. Seriously. Especially when you're having trouble fitting everything on one page. 
  • My wife's niece has been staying with us and we're corrupting her in "old school" fashion. And, by that, I mean getting her hooked on old t.v. shows like "The Love Boat" and "The Honeymooners"....while I continue to preach about how In My Day, We Only Had Three T.v. Channels....Four, If We Were Lucky! She's a good sport though and a great guest in that she makes her bed everyday....a big thing, for me. Oh, we are also getting her hooked on the Nintendo 3DS (she's, usually, not so nerdy)
  • Speaking of "old school", we've been playing one of my favorite board games, Clue. My wife came home with some new, hipster version (it seems to be the only version available in stores, now), which just didn't cut it for me. I was forced to order the Vintage version and like it much better. And for those of you who don't think there's a me...there is.

Seems they have no clue...

That's more like it....

  • In the world of comic books, both Thor and Captain America are undergoing radical changes....that is, until the next movie comes out and Marvel switches everything back to how it was. Just my opinion, though. Who knows?
  • The Archie comic sure isn't how I remember it when I was a kid. All I'll say is that I'm glad I don't really read comics, that much, anymore. 'Nuff said.
  • Oh, and yeah, comics still cost over $3.00 an issue....sheesh. That's nothing "new", just an observation.
O.k, I think that's about enough shots from this "bullet list" and it's time to put a bow on this "wrap up", as well as a sticker saying "Do Not Open Until Christmas!".

How's your writing going?

Have a favorite version of a classic board game?

Does the world seem like it's, sometimes, passing you by?

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Office Space....

Where the magic happens....sometimes.

I've mentioned, before, my pseudo-voyeuristic appeal to reading other people's blogs and one of the coolest things I like seeing is other folk's "creative areas"....or "office space", as some might call it. I wouldn't call it that, though....I hated that movie :)

Whether it's the place where they read, write, or even game, I like seeing how people personalize a space and make it their own.

The above shot is my desk where I read, write,  It sits in the corner of our "Gaming Room", with my wife's desk facing the opposite wall. It's great for late night or weekend World of Warcraft gaming or just relaxing while we peruse our favorite social media.

The only bad thing about this certain space is that there's not a lot of privacy. There's no door to close should I want things a bit more quiet, so I can work on some writing. It's nothing a nice pair of headphones and Pandora can't help with, though, so I can't complain too much. Besides, at this point, it's only my wife and I so there aren't really that many interruptions.

The room from a few other views....
Not much wall space left...

The wife's side of the room.

A few objects d'arte...or however you say it...

Fun and games...
One of the main objectives of the area was to have a place where we could come to relax that also would also help in jump starting the imagination. The trade-off of privacy for creativity was one I was willing to make, and the space is much larger than the spare room where my "office" was before. There's also the added bonus of not having to relocate every time we have visitors (which is quite often). Plus I can always turn on the stereo (I, usually listen to talk radio) or t.v. if I need some background noise that's not music.

So far, it's pretty much done what I've needed it to do and I'm happy with the results.

What's your "office space" like?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Question of the Day.

I read a lot of writer's blogs and follow a fair amount of writerly types on social media. A recurring theme seems to permeate any sort of advice writers give to new, aspiring, or even older, insecure, writers.

You have to read in order to write....or, at least, write well.

But, do you really? I ask this, not in a rhetorical sense, but as a legitimate question.

I mean, don't get me wrong.....I enjoy reading and think kids should get into it as soon as possible. In fact, if family legend (my mother) is to be believed, I taught myself to read before entering Kindergarten on a steady diet of comic books, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, and Sesame Street. I still remember those old issues of Sad Sack and Richie Rich strewn all over my bed. Even with that achievement under my belt, I don't think I like reading near as much as some people who blog or use social media. And there's nothing wrong with these people, either. I'm a very strong advocate of reading, especially critical reading. The type that makes one think or forces someone to question something they might not have, had they gotten the information from another medium.

I just feel a little......inadequate....I guess is the word I'm looking for...when some feel the need to discuss how many books they've read or have on the burner.  Like when someone says they've read twenty books in a month.


Not that I'm doubting them, but I have to wonder where they get the time and what sort of books they're reading. I'm hard pressed to find a handful of books that can catch my interest and draw me in, much less twenty in one month. Maybe I'm more finicky as a reader? Maybe I need to expand my "reading horizons"? I don't know.

Grabbing my Kindle Fire, I can scroll through the carousel and see, probably, around ten books I've downloaded. Of those ten, I'm in the middle of (and have been for a while now) Save the Cat and The Vault of Walt (about Walt Disney), and have just started Gaiman's American Gods.

While I wouldn't, necessarily, consider myself a "slow reader", I feel like I'm chugging uphill in trying to finish these books.

Going back to my question, though, does reading trump actual writing when trying to become a better writer? I would think that reading other people's work, while I can certainly see some benefits in it, doesn't really do much towards helping you hone your own writing style. Maybe I shouldn't even say "trump"....maybe it's something that goes hand in hand with writing and honing your own abilities as well as finding your own style?

I don't know.

I also don't want this to come off as some sort of "anti-reading" type of's not. As I said, I'm extremely pro reading....I just question as to whether it's imperative to be a good writer.

What do you think?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Another Five Word Review Post!

Having a wife who enjoys going to the movies has me seeing quite a few of them. The good thing is, we share a lot of the same tastes in films, so I can't complain too much......and she doesn't mind going to matinees.

So, seeing as how we've made a few more trips to the movie house, I figured this was a good a time as any for another "Five Word Review" post.

So, here it is....the Five Word Review, comin' right at you! (With apologies to The New Zoo Review)

In no particular order....

1. X-Men: Days of Future Past: Lots of fun, worth seeing.

2. Muppets Most Wanted: This one was least wanted.

3. I, Frankenstein: Interesting concepts, but poorly executed.

4. Kick Ass 2: I'd replace "kick" with "suck".

5. Pacific Rim: Love giant robots....this...meh.

6. Transformers: Age of Extinction: Prime riding Grimlock....'nuff said!

As always, with any "review"....regardless of word count....your mileage may vary, so always check out a film for yourself before taking anyone else's word.

Who knows, you may just find a gem that you really enjoy.....or the reviewer could be right ;)

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