Friday, October 20, 2017

More tips on organization for writers from Randy Ingermanson

Organization: Attacking the Day
Getting stuff done is a matter of attacking each day like it’s an obstacle course in a mud run. Because that’s pretty much what it is.
You can attack your day any way you like, based on the way your brain is wired and your own personal style of getting stuff done.
Today I’ll toss out for your consideration the way I attack each day. If you see some ideas that might work for you, feel free to use them or adapt them to your own way of doing things.
As I’ve noted in previous columns, I manage my tasks and projects in Evernote. (A “task” is something you can do in one sitting. A “project” is a collection of related tasks that may take days, months, or even years to complete.) 
Evernote is great for keeping track of all my pending tasks and projects. Each task or project can be in its own “note” that can be assigned to a “notebook” of pending tasks or projects. When they’re completed, they can be moved to a new notebook of completed items.
However, for keeping track of what I actually did in my life, I keep a work journal in Scrivener. Scrivener is a word-processing tool in which you can work on many text files, folders of text files, and folders of folders, as a single project. 
I have a 2017 folder at the top level which contains a folder for each month. Each month’s folder has a text file for each date, and in that text file, I track what I planned for the day and what I actually did.
Scrivener has a very nice template feature. You can create text file templates that are structured exactly the way you want them. I have a template named “Daily Plan”. Every day when I sit down at my computer, the very first thing I do is open my work journal and add a new text file to the current month, using the “Daily Plan” template. Then I fill it in, based on what current tasks and projects I have pending in Evernote.
My thinking is that a Daily Plan needs to give you context on the big picture of your life. So my Daily Plan has some standard things to remind me of exactly what my big picture is. Here are the five items that show up in my Daily Plan:
  1. My Life Theme
  2. My Learning Project
  3. My Monthly Habit to Build
  4. My Plan for This Quarter
  5. To Do List
Click through to the Advanced Fiction Writing Magazine to read more about each part of the Daily Plan!

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 16,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visitwww.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sage advice from Randy Ingermanson

Organization: Do Hard Things
Everybody has projects in their life that they don’t want to tackle. Hard things. 
Maybe there’s a part of your yard that’s overgrown with weeds, and it just gets worse and worse and worse every week.
Maybe your garage is overloaded with junk you don’t use, don’t want, and don’t even dare look at because it’s too depressing.
Maybe there’s a relationship in your life that’s gone south and it seems unfixable.
I call things like these “the swamp.” The swamp is any part of your life that you don’t dare touch because it just seems overwhelming. Because it’s too hard.
There are two ways to handle the swamp.
·        You can ignore it forever.
·        You can go through it to the other side.
Those are the only two ways I’ve ever found for dealing with the swamp. Ignoring the swamp is easy. Going through it is hard. 
But doing hard things builds character. (It’s much easier to say this when you are not about to enter the swamp. But it’s also true, so it bears saying.)
Here are a few other things that are also true:
·        The swamp doesn’t go away by itself. 
·        The only way to go through the swamp is to go through the swamp. You can’t go around. 
·        The first time you go into the swamp is the scariest. 
·        The swamp is never quite as terrible as it seems. 
·        There is no feeling as wonderful as coming out on the other side of the swamp.
This is a short column because there’s really not much to say about the swamp. You can either hide from it or you can go through it to freedom. You get to choose.
Do hard things. The characters you write fiction about are in the business of doing hard things. The more hard things you do, the better you’ll be able to tell their story.
Homework
  • What is the swamp in your life, right now?
  • If you decided to go through the swamp, how long would it take?
  • How would you feel when you came out the other side?

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 17,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Heading for the 'Last Roundup'


Class of ‘62

It’s what may well be ‘the last roundup’ for the San Angelo Central High Class of ’62.
I’m not big on reunions, although I’ve attended a few--the 20th, the 30th, the 50th, and now this 55th. There are a few necks I really want to hug, and I can’t do it from several hundred miles away. So…I’m off soon.
We were the largest class to graduate to date--some 456, I believe. Fifty years later, a quarter of us were gone, and more have left the corral in the past five years.

Good memories

I liked school. I wasn’t part of the ‘elite’ group, but then--I often think “Thank goodness, I wasn’t!” I worked on the school newspaper, the Campus Corral and was appointed editor of our yearbook, The Westerner. For whatever reason, my mother didn’t want me to accept the job--but for once in my life, I didn’t listen to her and plowed ahead--and I’m glad. I had a great staff, and our sponsor, journalism teacher Ed Cole was the absolute best. Behind his back, we affectionately called him “Uncle Ed”. He used to say he didn’t know if he was an old newspaperman teaching school or an old teacher working on the newspaper. He did both with a professionalism and integrity that puts modern “journalists” to shame.

One more time

Some are already talking about “The 60th”, but I personally feel when it’s time to say goodbye and turn loose, it’s time. I suspect, if there is a 60th, only those who live in our hometown will be there! But for now, I’m anticipating the days ahead--and I’ll blog about them later.




Nothing new under the sun...

Photo from DeathtoStockPhotos


Like a healthy diet

a balance of reading materials is also a good idea. Everyone leans to a particular genre in fiction, be it romance, thrillers, mystery, adventure, time-travel, western, historical, science-fiction…and the list goes on with “new” genres being invented all the time. But for every fictional book, there’s a corresponding non-fiction work which builds a background of factual information to enhance the lighter side.

Every fictional character

has walked around “for real” whether in boots or hoopskirts, wearing a backpack or packing the tools of the spy trade. We just think our characters are made up!

Settings actually exist

whether they be in outer space the antebellum South, the old West, a dark back alley waiting for a murder victim, or a period house complete with ghost. When we put our characters in a setting, they’ve already been there done that.

You simply can’t

come up up with a character who hasn’t actually lived or a place no one’s seen, a crime that hasn’t been committed or a battle which hasn’t been fought, a love which hasn’t been challenged or a sin which hasn’t been committed. The old question, “Which came first--the chicken or the egg?” might be changed to, “Which came first--fiction or real life (non-fiction)?”

We can agree that in many ways

each human being and each place in our beautiful world is unique. But there are more similarities than differences. When you come up with a brilliantly “new” story idea and populate your “untouched” world with remarkably distinct characters, they’ve already inhabited the planet. “Truth is stranger than fiction”, I believe the saying goes.

But as writers


we keep on keeping on. As readers, we do the same. And like water rushing over rocky falls, the books keep coming. Just remember: “There’s nothing new under the sun”. 

Tip of the Day

If you ever write something which sounds vaguely familiar and wonder if you actually came up with it yourself or--horror of horrors--read it somewhere and inadvertently plagiarized the words, here’s one tool among many to help you make sure you’re not guilty!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How do you do what you do?

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

What’s your writing style?

Some writers can just sit down and knock out a few thousand words, then get up and go about their business. If you’re one of them--go for it!
Then there’s the age-old debate about which is better: being a pantser or a plotter. Most writers would probably confess to being a little bit of both.
And finally there’s the dilemma of where to write: coffee shop, your own office/study, mini (or longer) writing retreat, library, or some off-the-wall place which just happens to inspire you.

I confess…

to being able to write on the fly--sometimes
to being mostly pantser with some pre-planning just to keep myself on track
to setting up the perfect atmosphere for a long writing session in my own study

What’s perfect for me?

Music--classical (I find wonderful CDs for pennies on the dollar in the book sale room of my local library)
Aroma--scented oil (sometimes seasonal) or candles (always seasonal).
Light--strategically-placed lamps rather than the overhead light
Mood--if it’s raining slow and steady or even storming, I love to open the blinds and curtains and let the outside in
Tastebud inspiration--hot cocoa in the winter, Diet Coke the rest of the time (not a coffee-drinker)
Time frame--Mondays are my office days: backing up the computer, taking care of personal business, maybe errands. If I’m in for the long haul, I want an uninterrupted day when I don’t have to put on makeup or even dress!
Regular breaks--walk out to the mailbox, make a quick lunch, read a while on my Kindle, just sit and think about what to write next and how to write it

Tell me about your perfect writing time!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The story before the story...

A little background…

Each month I post a free read on my website--a short story just the right length for a quick lunch, a wait at school for the kids, or something to do when you just need a break from whatever. “Them Bones Gonna Rise” sprang from a prompt for the May 2017 StoryADay challenge--Day 8 to be precise. THEN on Day 19, I faced this prompt: Imagine the first meeting between your protagonist and a secondary character. Back to Day 8 when Joyce Ketchum, looking for information on an old house she’s thinking of buying, walks into local historian Jeremiah Jackson’s establishment on the square.
You’re about to read the story before the story.



Jeremiah Jackson didn’t really leave a impression on me the first time I met him, nor the second. In the end, however, I came to understand just how formidable a character he truly was. All I knew about him--for a while--was that he’d grown up in Brookings, left to further his education and pursue a successful career as a mining engineer, then at some point retired to his hometown and became its local historian. I had a feeling it was in his final role as keeper of the town’s beginnings and development--and its secrets--that his star shone the brightest.
I never asked him how he knew so much about so many people both living and dead, but each time I visited the old hardware store-turned museum and archival repository--I learned something new about someone. But I never learned much about Jeremiah himself, not until I found the bones in the basement.
He looked old enough to be my grandfather even though I was almost fifty when I moved to Brookings after my husband’s premature death. Tall and gaunt with a fringe of soft white hair around the top of his shiny bald head, he wore what I’d always thought of as old-people glasses--clear, no frames and gold nose and ear pieces. Clearly he dressed for comfort in wrinkled khakis and soft long-sleeved shirts open at the neck and missing a button or two or three.
But I had to admit he displayed amazing agility as he climbed the rolling ladder which ran along a rail at he top of built-in shelves to retrieve boxes of records or pictures for the occasional researcher. He lived, he said, in the back, though someone told me he’d built his mother a spacious home near the lake. She’d lived there until she died at an advanced age toward the end of the previous century.
Someone else offered the information he’d been married once, a long time ago, and not in Brookings, but they didn’t seem to know if he were widowed or divorced. Yet another person said she’d heard he had a son somewhere, but no one had ever seen him, and neither did I.
On my first visit,  found him sprawled in a canvas chair reading a battered copy of Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Sulky Girl. Later I’d reflect in a moment of déjà vu, the name of the book could have been a forerunner to my quest to learn whose were the bones in my basement. He put the book aside with a hasty, almost apologetic explanation of his fascination with the eminent counselor, Perry Mason.
But that morning I’d only come to learn more about the history of the house I was considering purchasing. The old Randolph home built by the town’s pre-eminent citizen just over one hundred years earlier. And Jeremiah Jackson knew all about it. I spent much longer than I intended pouring over vintage pictures and photocopied newspaper articles.
“Come back any time,” he called after me as I left through the glass door above which an old bell still jangled to announce customers to the long-deceased hardware merchant. Ballenger Hardware--the faded letters still graced the windows in need of a good cleaning. “Sterling Randolph left his mark on this town. You’ve only scratched the surface. You’ve only seen what’s written down or photographed.”
“Thank you,” I replied without looking back. At that moment, my curiosity satisfied, I never intended to return for another session with Jeremiah Jackson who smelled of Old Spice and the mustiness associated with old records.
But, of course, that was before I found the bones in the basement.



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Known but to God...




While I was writing about two Civil War ancestors this week, I wondered how many of those who fought in that war not only never came home but were actually unknown. A little research came up with the information that 25% of the 622,000 known dead were never identified. Neither side was prepared for the horrors of the battlefield, particularly the aftermath. Rotting corpses and hastily-dug mass graves appear to be the method of coping.

Though dog tags didn’t become mandatory until 1913, some Civil War soldiers made wooden tags for themselves and wore them fastened on thongs around their necks. Harper’s Weekly touted gold or silver pins inscribed with names and units. (The same article puts the percentage of unidentified Civil War dead at a whopping 42% instead of 25%. See History of the Dog Tag.)

Click through to The Great Unknowns for more statistics on the unknowns of other wars. The number steadily decreased until there were no unknowns for the Viet Nam conflict and subsequent actions.

Even today we read the occasional article about remains of WW II service members being recovered and repatriated. In most cases, the only family remaining are younger nieces and nephews or grandchildren. In 1998, the remains of a Viet Nam soldier were disinterred for DNA testing and identified. Lt. Michael J. Blassie had for a time rested in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Suggested reading and viewing

Known But to God by Quentin Reynolds

“The Unknowns” (video) narrated by Jason Robards

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Grave Unknown

Two months after Texas seceded from the Union, (February 1, 1861), Thomas A. Shepperd enlisted for twelve months in the Cherokee Calvary, so named for his home in Cherokee County, Texas. He took with him
·        One horse ($140)
·        One gun ($40)
·        A knife ($2.50)
·        Saddle and blankets ($30)
·        Saddlebags ($5)

Unfortunately, his records were filed with those of his uncle (inferred) Thomas R., so the information on his movements is sketchy.
However, following his death in Tennessee on May 20, 1862, his father Isaac (my great-great-grandfather) petitioned the court for letters of administration for his son’s “estate” in order to apply for and receive the $150-$200 owed his deceased son by the Confederate government. Thomas’s “estate” consisted of one horse worth about $135 and some dozen hogs.  
Assuming his possessions were sold following his death, his family was owed the $150-$200 stated in the petition. They never received it. Five years later, Isaac petitioned the court to be relieved as administrator saying the horse had been sold and most of the hogs died!
I have searched in vain for his name on a grave registry, but if he indeed died in Tennessee, he’s still there somewhere. That’s all his family knew, too. Did he die in action or as the results of wounds? Did he die of disease which scourged the Confederate Army everywhere? If I want answers now, how did his mother and father feel then? Did they ever get any answers to how and where?
In 1870, Isaac and his wife Sarah packed up their unmarried children, including my great-grandmother, and headed for Hood County  to join their oldest daughter who had married in 1860. The story goes they
·        Started too late in the year and contracted pneumonia OR
·        Became ill with typhoid from bad water on the trip

Five graves, dug within days of each other and marked with hand-inscribed names bear witness to the death of the parents and three of the five children who accompanied them. My great-grandmother Susan, who was about 13, survived along with another sister who has been lost to time. 


Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Grave in Mobile...echoes of the past



Under this stone, among over 31,000 others, lies the mortal remains of Pvt. Carey S. Leatherwood, a member of the 5th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Company E (also known as the Pettus Rebels). He was the fourth son (born 1827) of my great-great-grandfather Isaac Leatherwood. The information at Find-a-Grave states he was killed in action March 24, 1862, and buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile Alabama.
While I can’t find any information on a battle around Mobile at that time, the regiment was at the Battle of Shiloh (Tennessee) in April of that same year. I did learn, however, that early in the war, Admiral David Farragut blockaded the port of Mobile. I’m left wondering, however, how the regiment covered the approximate 360 miles between Mobile and Hardin County TN between the end of March and the first week in April.
But I digress.
Carey left a wife and child and a widowed mother, Delilah. His father, Isaac, died in 1860 before hostilities erupted.
My great-grandfather, Carey’s just-older brother, served for a time. The unit served in Georgia, notably in the battle for Atlanta, but I don’t know if he was actually there. I haven’t found records for the military service (if any) of three other brothers. But the youngest enlisted in September 1861--and died of measles in Virginia scarcely four months later. I found his grave enumerated in Union Cemetery at Leesburg but no photograph of a marker. He was just 21 years old.
His mother Delilah, who lost two sons, moved with my great-grandfather’s family to Texas and died there sometime after the 1880 Federal Census. I can find no trace of her grave.
My grandfather (born in 1873) remembers evenings after dinner at his grandfather’s home when family members would sit around refighting the Civil War and declaring, “We’ll lick ‘em yet!” But mostly he remembers Delilah, who smoked a corncob pipe, and how she’d send him to the fireplace for a tiny coal to light it.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

An unfinished life...an unfinished story



September draws to a close this week and so does StoryADay for September 2017. Did I write a story every day? No. Did I write any stories at all? Yes. Did I carefully save all the prompts for future reference? You bet! (See September 25 blog about story sources)
I came up with an idea of my own when one daily prompt didn’t rattle my cage. Months ago, doing some genealogical research in a file of old death certificates, I found a heartbreaking tale waiting to be told: during the Depression, the mayor of a town jumped to his death from the sixth floor of a bank building. The notation ‘suicide’ cited ill health and financial reverses. He left behind a 19-year-old daughter.
It seemed to me there had to be more to the few lines explanation for ‘cause of death’ on the official certificate. In essence, it was an unfinished story because the man’s life was unfinished. So, too, is my fictional story. There’s no title…and no ending. So take a few minutes to read and tell me how you would tie up the loose ends of this tragic tale.

We’d weathered the worst of the Depression, or so I thought. It was just Papa and me since my mother died in ’22 when I was four, and the house was ours free and clear. Papa had sold the car and walked or took the streetcar to town to his office, and I could walk to school in ten minutes.
His law practice didn’t lack for clients, just those who could pay him in a timely manner if at all. But we managed. I did the cooking and cleaning after we had to let Mrs. Varney go, but I didn’t mind. Papa often bemoaned the fact I spent so much time engaged at home, but most of my friends were up to their necks in the quicksand of economic hard times, too. We made our good times when we could.
Then last year Papa decided he had enough time on his hands to run for mayor and won hands down. Our small town didn’t take much running, but he enjoyed organizing on-the-cheap holiday celebrations, handing out ribbons at sports events, and presiding over social functions at civic organizations.
That last morning I made oatmeal as usual and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top the way he liked. “You going to the ball game after school?” he asked when I brought his coffee to the table. We had to play during daylight because the school couldn’t afford to light the field.
“With only eleven of us in the pep squad, I’d leave a hole if I didn’t,” I replied.
“Eleven? Who dropped out?”
“Ellen Waters’ family moved to Canton. Her father got a job in a factory there.”
“That’s good.”
“They were pretty hard up. She didn’t want to leave right at the beginning of the year, but they had to go.”
“Well, of course, they did.”
“What are you going to do today?”
“I have an appointment with a new client.” He unfolded his napkin a little belatedly and spread it in his lap. I noticed the lapels on his suit appeared more threadbare.
“A paying one, I hope.”
“I hope so, too. He’s not from around here, but his family owned some land south of town. He’s trying to get a clear title to it.”
“What’s the problem?”
“I’m not sure, to tell you the truth. He wasn’t very clear on the phone yesterday.”
“Well, you’ll be able to straighten things out for him.”
“It doesn’t sound too complicated.”
I walked out on the porch with him as usual and kissed his cheek. “Good luck.”
“Thank you, darlin’. I’ll come over to the school for some of the game if there’s time.”
“Okay, I’ll look for you.”
He patted me and strode down the walk, his shoulders squared, and his head held high. He didn’t look or act like a man planning to jump out of a seventh story window at the bank--but that’s what they told me he did.
~~~~~
I’d known the police chief ever since I could remember. He was a deacon in our church, and his wife had been my Sunday School teacher for a couple of years when I was younger. So when they both showed up together in front of the stands where the pep squad sat and beckoned me down, a knot of dread formed in the pit of my stomach.
For some reason, probably because I didn’t believe what Chief Goins said, I didn’t cry. “No,” I said, “you’re wrong. He didn’t do that. He planned to meet with a new client, and then he was coming out for the rest of the game.”
Mrs. Goins put her arm around my shoulders. “I’m so sorry, Charlotte.”
I pushed her away. “No, you’re wrong. You’re just wrong.” By this time the whole pep squad had stopped cheering and stood there looking at me in silence. “You’re wrong,” I repeated. “Wrong.”
“Come on home with us, honey,” Chief Goins said, taking my arm. I tried to shake him off, but he held me fast.
~~~~~
Papa had been in the ground by Mamma for four days before I accepted he was gone forever. Then I cried. And then I got angry. No matter what anyone said, my father hadn’t taken the elevator from the third to the seventh floor of the City National Bank where he kept an office, opened a window at the end of the corridor on the front, and hurled himself to the sidewalk below, narrowly missing a few passing pedestrians.
I stayed mad for the rest of the school year. Since I was seventeen and due to graduate in the spring, no one argued with me when I insisted I was going to live at home. Mr. Farmer at the bank said Papa’s account had enough money to pay the bills and buy groceries if I was careful. “But you’ll need to think about selling the house this summer before the taxes come due.”
 I didn’t tell him selling the house was the last thing I planned to think about. I went back to school the next week. My friends didn’t ask any questions, just stayed close to me. But I knew there were whispers about how my father died, and I didn’t want to hear them.
My teachers told me I didn’t have to make up the work I’d missed, but I got the lessons from them anyway. Then I went to Papa’s office--Chief Goins had returned the keys found in Papa’s pocket--and started emptying his desk.
As I put things into the brown paper shopping bags I’d brought along, I noticed his appointment book wasn’t among them. It wasn’t in any of the drawers either. Or among the folders in the battered metal filing cabinet.
“Charlotte.”
The voice breaking the silence startled me. “Oh, Mr. Parker, it’s you.” Owen Parker, one of the two other attorneys in town, had been a close friend of my father--the one he trusted most.
“Do you need any help?”
“I’m just cleaning out Papa’s things. You don’t happen to know where his appointment book would be, do you?”
“It should be on his desk.”
“It’s not.”
He came the rest of the way into the small office. “He never too it out of the office. Not that we had too many clients these days, but it was a permanent record of who came and went. His older books should be in the bottom drawer.”
They were all there dating back to to 1920 when he hung out his shingle, but the one for 1935 wasn’t among them. “He had an appointment with a new client,” I said. “Do you know who it was?”
“Not the name, but Walter mentioned he was from out of town.”
“He was trying to get a clear title to some family land south of town.”
“That’s right.”
“Did you see Papa…that day?” I choked a little.
“No, I didn’t. I was filing some petitions with the court that morning, and when I came back, I noticed the light was off in his office, so I figured he’d finished for the day and gone to play mayor somewhere. He really enjoyed that, you know.”
“I know. Mr. Parker, what about all these files? What about Papa’s clients?”
“I know you want to get out from under the rent in this office, so I can have the file cabinet moved across the hall to mine and notify people to come pick up what’s theirs. Lord knows, I have plenty of time.”
“That would be nice of you.”
“I expect a lot of those files belong to people who’ve passed on. I’ll burn those after six months or so.”
“Thank you.”
“Mr. Parker, Papa didn’t commit suicide.”
He looked away from me.
“He was pleased about the new client, and he said he’d see me at the ball game if he was finished here. Nothing was different about him that morning or any other time. You knew him. You knew what he was like.”
“Charlotte, honey, I’m not sure we ever really know another person.”
“I knew Papa.”
“Well.”
“The seventh floor isn’t occupied, is it?”
“Not for a while.”
“And the elevator operator would’ve wondered why he was going up there, wouldn’t he?”
“I guess so.”
“I know a lot of people have taken their own lives these last few years, but that’s happened mostly in the big cities. Papa talked to me about it once. He said nothing was ever so bad that a man had to just give up.”
“He was an optimist, that’s for sure.”
I piled the old appointment books in a paper bag and placed my mother’s framed picture on top. “He loved her a lot, didn’t he?”
“Yes, he did. She was a lovely person. If he hadn’t had you when she died, I’m not sure he’d have been the person he is…was...”
“He still had me, and he’d never have just one off and left me like this.”
I heard his breath leave him in a long, sad sigh. “I’m just so sorry, Charlotte. He was a good man. A good friend.”
“And a good father. He didn’t jump out that window on his own. I don’t know why everybody is willing to let things go.”
Owen Parker helped me carry the bags to the elevator and out back where I’d borrowed a neighbor boy’s wagon to haul them home. “You know you can come to me if you ever need anything, don’t you?”
I nodded. “I need to find that appointment book.”
“Maybe it’s at home.”
“I’m going to look.”
He hesitated as if he were going to say something, but then he nodded and left me alone in the empty office.




Sunday, September 24, 2017

The best source of stories is...

Short and sweet:  there’s no one best source, but here are some I depend on:


  • Old family stories
  • Old family pictures
  • Family heirlooms
  • Obituaries
  • Overheard snippets of conversation
  • Magazine/newspaper pictures/articles
  • Newspaper ads (the personal column)
  • Observations in airports
  • Old buildings
  • Old houses
  • Past traditions and customs not seen much any more
  • “Ghost” stories
  • Travel brochures
  • Travel experiences
  • Songs (but be careful not to use anything beyond titles unless they’re in the public domain!)
  • Events in history (notably WW II, the Depression)
  • Reminiscences about old towns (especially my hometown “back in the day”)
  • My own memories
  • Story starters (e.g. StoryADay)
  • Causes I espouse
  • Injustices I want to expose
  • Mysterious events
  • Tombstone symbols, inscriptions, dates, names (related: Find-a-Grave)
  • Genealogical research (birth, marriage, death certificates)


If you take this list and sit down with pen and paper (or keyboard) and write a few words about each idea, you’ll probably find you have enough ideas to keep you busy for the next five years!

Let me know which ones you’ve used, and add any more you’ve found useful. C’mon--share!





Friday, September 22, 2017

The Writing Journey: Different Roads



Since entering the wild, wacky world of writing and publishing (both traditionally and independently), the one thing I’ve learned is that everyone has his own opinion on just about everything. That blanket statement includes me--yes, I’m opinionated! However, I’m also selective.

I started out 

like everyone just wanting to be published--online, in print, whatever. With some success under my belt, I found I’d scratched my itch. In other words, I wasn’t writing for publication anymore, just for my own personal satisfaction.

Then I found…

And that’s where I parted ways with many writing groups, both physical and online. A few reasons being, they are too often
·        crowded with egos
·        self-serving
·        unsupportive of newbies who need the most support of all
·        focused on their own vision of writing and writers
·        cliquish
·        horn tooters
A few conferences, a few group book signing events, a few physical club meetings…let’s just say a little bit goes a long way!

A positive spin…

Now--lest I come off as totally negative--I’ve also found in person and online
·        support
·        good advice (not do-it-this-way-or-else)
·        honest folks who are not interested in being the star attraction, only who they are
·        writers who are willing to share their own early experiences with newbies
·        people who can laugh at themselves and therefore with others
·        writers who see themselves as part of the pack rather than the leader of same

I don’t know where you are in your writing journey or where you envision your final destination. I’d like to suggest that, for me anyway, the final destination became finding out who I am, what I want,  being able to take satisfaction in my personal successes, and laugh/learn from my failures.


What is your final destination as a writer? How will you know you’ve reached it?