Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So you want to write...

In my experience everyone has at least one good story in them. Maybe you want to write your personal history for your family or you want to create a memoir to share with others. Eat, Pray, Love was one woman's odyssey that turned into a multimillion dollar book and movie deal. Your memoir may never make it that far, but if you are planning to write something it's good to get the basics down first. Good grammar, correct spelling and the right period or comma in the right place will make all the difference in your finished work, no matter who ends up reading it. I received the following via e-mail recently. It reinforces the importance of something as simple but critical as capitalization.

"Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse."

Crude but it makes the point. Getting your written work as close to right as possible makes all the difference in the world. I say as close to right as possible because I know, having spent years writing for various publications and as a community developer writing reports, proposals and other communications, you cannot put hundreds and thousands of words out there and not have an error two; that's what proof readers and editors are for.

If you would like to see more examples of anguished English check out the books of Richard Lederer. Here are a few examples from his past Anguished English tomes:

On the subject of astronomy:
"Comets...are thought to be ruminants from the beginning of the universe."
Headline: Is There a Ring of Debris around Uranus?

On the subject of birds...
"In 1957, Eugene O'Neill won a Pullet Surprise. Each Thanksgiving it is a tradition in our family to shoot peasants."
News dispatch: "The crime bill would reinstate the death penalty for certain violent crimes: assassinating the President; hijacking an airliner; and murdering a government poultry inspector."
"Can anybody explain why Kiwi International Airlines is named after a bird that cannot fly?"

On the subject of botany...
"The pistol of a flower is its only protection against insects."
"I don't want to cast asparagus at my opponent!"
"Wanted: Unmarried girls to pick fresh fruit and produce."

So you get the idea of why it is important to get intimately acquainted with the basics of writing.

There are some good websites where you can get free writing instruction. One of them is Daily Writing Tips. It even has tests you can take to evaluate your proficiency. Yes, the site is selling something, but in the process you learn quite a lot about words and how to use them.

For those who argue that creativity must be paramount I would suggest that if people can't make heads or tails of your brilliant prose it may not be all that brilliant.

I love to write. An editor I am not. I did the editing of my first three books—The Ballad of Bawdy McClure, Not Just Another Day and Future Imperfect. Errors got past me and into print. The content is great, but errors make people stumble and sometimes stop reading. As  I read recently on the Daily Writing Tips site, the end result is about prose, not about product.

Having said all that, do not let anything keep you from writing if that's what you want to do. All those technical skills can be learned. The fire of literary creation burns hot and fast. You sometimes have to just get it down and then go back later and fix it. Natalie Goldberg talks about that in her book, Writing Down to the Bones. It is one of the finest little books on writing I have in my library. You can get it from any online retailer and I'm sure Tome on the Range has it in stock. If not they can order it for you.

If you have writing tips you would like to share, please leave your comments or e-mail me at

For more information about my work or to order my books, go to

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Poetic Justice

Old Things
by Sharon Vander Meer

Old things
Once new, of no value
Past their use,
Purposeless in the now.

Touch them
Memory springs forth.
Another place,
Another time.

What now?
Where will these objects go?
From the clutter
of a dusty basement.

Long ignored
Each piece a record
Enjoyed in decades past,
Scabbed with neglect.

Beloved books
Swollen with water damage,
Spotted with mold,
The stench makes me sneeze.

So much
Gone to seed,
Growing old,
Like me.

Poetic Justice
Anyone know what that means? says it is the rewarding of virtue and the punishment of vice, often in an especially appropriate or ironic manner. I guess my latest poem could come under that heading. The virtue of cleaning out the basement lead to coming to grips with the aging of everything, including me.

Poetry continues to intrigue me. I don't like everything I encounter, but I like a lot of what I read. My internet friend Steven Fivecats has written three books of poetry, each different in one way but quite similar in others. I'm not a student of poetry. Tell me iambic pentameter and I'm apt to roll my eyes so far back in my head its like I'm looking backward. Haiku? Well, I know what it means and I like Haiku, but so far I haven't figured out how to do it.

Where was I? Oh, right, Steven. Deep Dark Winter So Cold, A Collection of Thoughts, is exactly what you might imagine, a revisiting of the past. His style is somewhat loose and easy but the thoughts written in poetic form are evocative. He doesn't use caps, and punctuation is sadly missing, but the point is never lost. Here are a couple of his poems from this collection of writings.

The Trenches of the Saints
by Steven Fivecats

to the bitter edge of darkness
where down looks like up
and the sorrow of all your tryings
has brought its bitter cup

hopeless seems so endless
and the joy is just a dream
where tomorrow ends in dying
and your cries become a scream

just remember Jesus' been there
through the trials and the pain
He's the one who's bore your sorrows
and the one whose triumph reigns

so don't get down my child
lose heart and drop and faint
cause you're only passing through
the trenches ofthe saints

so if you're tired and weary
cast your eyes to the cross
and Jesus will lift you higher
than all your burdens will cost

just remember Jesus' been there
through the trials and the pain
He's the one who's bore your sorrows
and the one who's triumph reigns

so don’t get down my child
lose heart and drop and faint
cause you’re only passing through
the trenches of the saints

by Steven Fivecats

the flame,
it comes from a small spark,
igniting into a raging
torrent so consuming
it will burn to cinders
all who would come near.
it is always there,
small, flickering,
dancing in the breeze.
it is a flame
that can destroy lives
in a quick flash.
we must guard the flame,
because it may destroy us
as well.

Steven's other books include Tea Room Musician and Buffaloes, Beads and Indians, A collection of Poems. All the books are available at major online retailers.

One more, just for good measure.

by Steven Fivecats
(from Tea Room Musician)

i told you once before
that i was always around,
whenever you need me.
but tomorrow i shall
go away and then you will have
no one, what then my dearest
i have gone and there is no one
left for you to call on, for
you have spent yourself.

To order Steven's books go online to any retailer and type in his name. It will pull up the books he has available. The cost ranges from $10 to $12.50.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Don't tell me people can't make a difference. The hue and cry over fireworks closed down tents and got dangerous explosives off store shelves in Las Vegas and across New Mexico. My thanks to all who showed good sense by refusing to sell fireworks this year.

We don't need loud noises to celebrate Independence Day or the danger of setting something on fire. What we want is for everyone to be safe and for our military personnel to come home. In this global society it only makes sense to be... well, sensible.

It's difficult to believe that in this enlightened age we can't all agree to live and let live. You don't have to be like me to be okay, nor do I have to be like you. All I have to be is the best person I know how to be and to treat others with dignity and respect. I can't speak for the rest of the world or make decisions for anyone else, but what I do and how I do it can make a difference, just as all those who spoke out against fireworks this year made a difference.

Still want to set off some fireworks? Make your 4th of July sparkler be a kind word, your bottle rocket a hug and your firecracker a smile. You'll set off a cascade of happiness.

Free e-book of Tiger Lilly
I'm looking for honest reviews of Tiger Lilly written by independent reviewers. If you're willing to read Tiger Lilly and write a review, send an e-mail to I'll send you a free PDF of the book. All I ask in return is a review of the material which will be posted on my website and on other appropriate sites. This offer is limited to the first seven people who respond.

More to come
Writers Bloc, I hope, will indeed become a platform for writers to comment and share their thoughts about writing, publishing and getting their work read. It's an uphill battle in a small market. With the internet that market is broadened considerably, yet still presents major challenges. I read recently on a credible website that more than 500,000 e-books have been published in the last twelve months. Wow. Bound book publishing numbers are less, probably because the cost is greater and odds of success of any book in this age of digital publishing is equivalent to the odds of winning the lottery... times ten.

I'm not discouraged. I believe there is a place for my books in the library of anyone who likes a good story and great characters.

Follow me
Please follow Writers Bloc. Whether you are a writer or a reader you will find interesting content on this blog and on my website Look for upcoming events that will include how to write press releases, develop an ad campaign, create a work plan for stay-at-home moms and other subjects.

On-site workshops will be held in Las Vegas, NM at $25 per participant. Details will be posted on my website three weeks prior to workshop dates. A minimum of five participants will be necessary to hold a class. If you are interested in any of these subjects, e-mail me at