Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mall Demons Serial Well Underway & The Family's Cheering Me On!

Tell me if this has happened to you.

I was driving in Washington DC last night - the whole family in the minivan. It's just pouring rain. You know when you're near all those government buildings, the trees lining the streets. It feels like you're in a concrete valley. Well, anyway, lightning was flashing above the buildings. And the thought spilled out...

"Lightning...Or are those flashes from angels appearing on the rooftops?"

"It's Evangeline!" My wife said.

OK... don't know what I'm talking about? Well, this is an example of my fictional world spilling over into the real world. Evangeline is a warrior angel in My Mall Demons Urban Fantasy Serial which follows the spiritual battle between angels and demons at a modern-day shopping mall. Humans, of course, are caught in the middle. There's one - a chosen one - who can help save humanity from this latest demonic assault.

As writers, isn't this what we hope for? Our story taking on a life of its own. When you look out on the world, you see the two realms - fictional and real - converge. And even better, your family and/or readers share the experience.

Besides my wife recognizing my creation, my fourth grader has started writing her own fan fiction based on my characters. As I mentioned in an earlier post, she REALLY, REALLY wants me to add one of her scenes to my next chapter.

It's a great feeling to have all the moral support. Writers, we know how lonely the writing life can be. How unappreciated we can feel. So, I'm loving the zeal my wife and kids are showing for my characters and story. Support and encouragement is coming from the office, too. One of my colleagues stumbled upon the Mall Demons Serial online. She read through all three chapters (at the time) in one sitting and asked where the fourth chapter was and why I wasn't done yet. That fourth chapter is online now by the way. Chapter five and six are nearly there.

I have the first of my big battles in these next two chapters, so.... I'm paying close attention to how the scenes  flow.

If you haven't read the serial, check it out and let me know what you think.
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Are you working on a project and getting that much-loved support from family and friends? Writers always like hearing that stuff. Share your experience in the Comments below.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Do You Use Freewriting?

So maybe it's just me. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Let's find out. Here's the deal: I feel a lot of pressure to produce a masterpiece every time I sit down and put pen to paper or place my hands on a keyboard. That's when I freeze.

Like I said above, maybe it's just me. If that's the case, then you don't have to read further.

But I imagine a few of you - the aspiring writers still trying to figure this whole writing thing out - are still reading. Hi, there! Let me introduce you to my friend, Freewriting.

Freewriting is a wonderful friend. He (or she) allows you to write about whatever you want. It doesn't even have to make sense. He won't judge. All that matters is that you showed up to share your words - preferably on a daily basis.

Freewriting will help get the words out without pressure. How's it work?

It goes something like this. you just ramble on. what is ist that's coming into my head? well I'm glad I finished my latest installment of the Mall Demons serial. I think I like Meego as a bad guy. I should flesh him out. He an regenerate like a lizard so it'd be cool to have an arm or leg get clippe d;in  battle and then pop! another limb replaces it in amatte rof seconds. talk about intimidating an opponent. here you are thinking you're winning the fight. chopped of f this guy's legs and before you can celebrate bam! he's on two legs again. tough to beat. of course he's gonna need a weakness. can't be invicncible - not that incinvicplbe...or can he? 

There you have it. That's your friend Freewriting at its most real. You notice there's no worry about grammar, typos, etc. You're just getting the message down as it flows out of your creative brain. Tell the logical side of your brain to zip it for awhile. It doesn't matter if you have a singular subject and a plural noun. Dangling modifier? It's all good.

What your write is for you and your Freewriting friend alone. It doesn't even need to make sense to anyone else. So give it a shot. It's best to do it daily. Try every morning right before you have to get ready for work or school. What I wrote above took less than a couple of minutes. You have a few minutes for your writing. Don't you?
You can type it out on a computer, or use a spiral notebook and scribble away. The object is to just keep going. Write. Write. Write. No pressure to produce a masterpiece. Tell that literary critic, that grammar teacher in your head to shut up.

Think of this time as your workout or practice time. Compare it to a professional basketball player practicing that same free throw shot hour after hour after hour. The basketball player is developing muscle memory by repeatedly practicing the same shot. You as a writer must develop your writing muscle memory, verbal muscle memory, or whatever you want to call it. 

Just do it! Not only will Freewriting free up words within you, it will - through your notes - become an important resource for you.
Do you freewrite? Share your techniques, success stories in the Comments Section.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Time to Write? What Resources Do You Have Within Arm's Reach?

I'm excited because I have cleared my schedule so that I have three hours of dedicated writing time today. I will sit at my desk with my Do-not-bug-me-I'm-writing earphones on.
Other items I'll have on hand:
  • Fresh pot of coffee
  • Post-It notes, highlighter, black and red pens
  • Strunk & White's The Elements of Style
  • Edith Hamilton's Mythology
  • Two books on characters (Building Believable Characters & 45 Master Characters)
  • My research books (Fallen Angels...and Spirits of the Dark & Angels A to Z)
  • And... Stephen King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes which my mother gave me for inspiration.
I'm excited! Did I say that already? Maybe... Yes, I did. What resources to you have at arm's length when you sit down to write? Do you have a special routine? Share in the comments section.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Looking For Writing Inspiration?

The last two days I have been nibbling at another part of my Mall Demons Urban Fantasy Series (Read the 1st part by following the link). Just kinda left it on the screen of my netbook, then in between chores and other duties, I've come back to it.

Today I left it on the arm of the couch. My fourth grader saw it and decided to offer some scene suggestions. I sat down at one end of the couch watching her tap away at the keyboard. Chicken peck because she doesn't know how to touch type yet.

Funny to see her go. It was just before dinner. It was her turn to do the dishes. Usually they have to drop everything to complete their chores. This time, however, I was fascinated at what I was seeing. I told her to go do the dishes.

"OK, but I have so many ideas. I have to write them down first," she replied without looking up from the keyboard.

I sat watching her tap away for about 20 minutes. Every so often she would ask me a question.

"How do you spell 'suddenly?'"

"What else did you want the angels to do in this scene?"

"Is Evangeline in this part?"

After a few more minutes, she handed me my netbook asking whether I was going to include her suggestions. She had typed several paragraphs. I told her I would look at what she wrote.

It was inspiring. It made me grateful for my passion. To see how it has affected my daughter was exciting. I needed that today. This was the inspiration I needed to keep writing tonight. I know tomorrow morning she will wake up and ask me if I'm done with my draft. She will ask me if I used her stuff. I'll have to figure that one out.

Have you made an impact on someone with your writing? Has someone inspired you to keep writing? Share your stories in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tighten Your Writing By Going Short

As a teacher, I always get groans from students when the time comes to write research papers or essays. The groans get even louder if the writing assignment is longer than five pages. Not that they buy it, but I usually tell them that in many ways it is harder to write short than it is to write long.

I don't care what they believe. It's true.

Writers can hone their craft by writing short. You learn about the economy of words. It's easier to detect fluff. Shortness - if done right - will intensify your writing.  It's a lesson I learned as a news journalist.

I would get an assignment, and usually, a preferred length. My editor might bark something like, "Give me 20 inches on tonight's city council meeting." And so, I would gather material, interview whoever was at the meeting, then write 20 inches of copy.

Then... FLASH!!! Something would happen. Major news would break. Suddenly that 20 inches of space in the newspaper which had been reserved for my story was now going towards the major breaking news. That's when my editor would say something like, "Boil it down to 5 inches. I need it in 10 minutes!"

It happened. So, there I was on deadline ripping to shreds my story - three fourths of my story! I'm grateful now because I can boil things down (if I must, LOL).

If your writing tends to meander, drag or otherwise go w-a-a-a-a-a-y t-o-o-o-o-o long, try an exercise in shortening. Have a 5,000-word short story that needs focus, tightening? Boil it down. Turn it into a flash fiction story.

Flash fiction, if you're wondering, is basically short short fiction. Lengths really vary quite a bit. I've written flash fiction stories anywhere from 1,000 words to 100 words in length. Yes, that's right. Try boiling down that 5k story to 100 words without losing essential elements of the plot, dialogue, characterization, etc. Now there's a challenge.

Sound impossible? Nothing's impossible. Try it. You might realize that some of your paragraphs, sentences, words are not necessary. You may see areas to edit that make your writing not only shorter, but clearer. You see, it takes clarity of thought to write short. Muddled thinking leads to lengthy writing.

I use writing short as a starting point for longer pieces, too. For example, I'll write a 100-word story - beginning, middle and end. The whole she-bang. Once I have everything how I want it, I use it as the skeleton for a longer piece. I can add scenes, dialogue, etc., etc., knowing the whole time where I'm ending.

Give it a shot. Let me know how it goes. Want examples? The first part of my Mall Demons Urban Fantasy Series is about 1,000 words. Read "Death Speaks Loudest To Those Who Flee" on I also have examples in the 300-word range, too. Check out "The Fire is Out," and "Into the Fire."

Confident in your ability to write short? Why not put your skills to the test. Enter the Esquire and Aspen Writers' Foundation Short Short Story contest. The challenge: write a complete story in 78 words. The deadline is Oct. 7. You can find all the rules by following this Esquire link.

Now, write! But keep it short. 

Paying The Bills, Feeding the Family First

I was talking to a student today about the tug of war that I'm sure aspiring writers go through when balancing day jobs with their writing passions.

I want to use every waking moment to work on my Mall Demons series. I have other projects I'd love to start. But... that gets put on hold. It must be put on hold or my family starves. Sorry for the melodrama, but it seemed appropriate.

Over the last week I have been squeezing time for every drop to work on my projects. There just hasn't been enough time in the day. Lots of student papers to grade means some writing time gets sacrificed. Sigh...

I had hoped to post the fourth episode in the Mall Demons series this past Sunday. Now, I'm hoping I can get it published during the next week. 

I should catch up with grading within that time. more tug of war (at least that's what I'm hoping for). Here's to hoping. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Learning From Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast Movie Poster
I walked in from soccer practice with two of my children. When we walked in, the youngest was in the living room watching Beauty and the Beast. Over the next several minutes as I figured out what I was going to eat for dinner (leftovers), this is what happened in the movie:

  • Beast is yelling because Belle doesn't want to eat with him. She has locked herself in the room. He storms off.
  • Moments later, she comes out. There's singing, then she goes on a tour and wanders into the forbidden West Wing.
  • Beast kicks her out when she finds the magical red rose. Belle flees saying she can't stay there.
  • While on horseback, she is attacked by wolves. All looks bleak until Beast comes to the rescue, fighting the wolves away. But, he is injured.
  • Belle takes him back to the castle. She tries to patch him up and they have a little war of words. The tone has changed, however, there is chemistry brewing.
  • The scene cuts to Gaston making a deal to throw Belle's father into the asylum unless she marries Gaston.
  • Then another scene with Belle's father rushing out of the house to look for her. As he leaves Gaston arrives looking for Belle and her father.
  • Back to Belle who is on the castle grounds as Beast has the idea to do something special for Belle.
  • The next scene has him showing her a surprise, his library.
  • We have music showing the development of their feelings for one another.
  • And last, a scene with the castle servants mobilizing since there's little more than 12 hours left for the spell to be broken. Remember this is the spell that turned their master into the Beast and them into furniture, etc.

All this happened quickly. One scene after another. As I was watching, I took note: this is how energetic my writing should be - especially if I'm writing genre fiction like fantasy or sci fi. If you have the DVD, check it out yourself. You will also see how fast each scene moves to the next. Each scene moves the plot forward efficiently.

The scenes also focus on the characters feeling and acting on something we can relate to whether anger, sadness, greed or gratitude. And as all this is happening, we are reminded that the clock is ticking. There's something big at stake for everyone and only 12 hours to get it done or else all is lost forever. 

Analyzing just the scenes I pointed out above, you can see each of the characters needs: Beast and the servants need the spell broken; Gaston wants Belle; Belle's father wants to find his daughter; Belle wants to keep her promise. We see their needs, and the obstacles to meeting them. 

I know it's an animated movie musical. But you can learn something from it to apply to your writing. Do your scenes pack the same kind of punch? If not, what's missing?

Have you seen Beauty and the Beast? What else do you think a writer can learn from the movie? Share your comments below.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Using Psychology To Build Your Characters

One of the great advantages to working at a college is that you have access to its library resources. Today I spent a little time flipping through magazines and found an interesting article on character in Psychology Today.

It's called 6 Clues To Character and appeared in the June 2011 issue of the magazine. The first thing I thought of as a writer was my characters - of course. The six areas the article mentioned were intelligence, drive, happiness, goodness, friendship and intimacy.

Although the article was talking about how you can measure your mate or your child, I was thinking how I could measure my protagonists, antagonists, etc. One line in particular stands out:

"But psychology knows that the future grows out of the past, and both tend to be built on observable aspects of character and behavior."

Doesn't that get you excited! When you want to ensure a character's future makes sense, include some tie to his or her past. How do you do that? Clues again in the quote above: build scenes where readers can observe your character's behavior. You want readers to see your characters do stuff or be exposed to stuff that makes them who they are.

For example, if your character has a certain tendency for moral ambiguity, then have a scene from his childhood where his mother is cheating on her taxes or where a sibling is shoplifting and recruits your character as a lookout. Even a mere suggestion of such past experiences can help with characterization.

Check out the article and let me know what wisdom you gathered from it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Part Four of the Mall Demons Series Coming!

The work week is over finally. Well, I have one more obligation I forgot about, but that will take about two hours of my time. The rest of tonight and tomorrow will be spent finishing the fourth and fifth parts of the Mall Demons Urban Fantasy Series.

I'm shooting for publishing on Sunday. Same channel as the others. In other words, you'll find it on I have been doing a little more research, and have found inspiration in several folk tales, legends and in some of the Old Testament books of the Bible. 

I might also add that I have started reading through several Stephen King short stories. Odd how my mother started reading his books when I was just a child. I often remember seeing her through the years with book after book reading in bed. And here I am now using those books as study guides.

Do you have an unexpected link from the past to your writing now? Share it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Part Three of Mall Demon Series Published

Part Three of the Mall Demons Urban Fantasy Series is out. As the first two parts, the third part in the series is available to read for free online at

Things heat up in this part. You meet the Watcher, whose questionable past affects his relationship with the Heavenly host. Evangeline is the Watcher's chief ally. Together they are a powerful pair of warriors for Heaven. But are they strong enough to face the master demon Sargas Vak?

Want to read it for yourself? Go to, and read "In the Den of Lions." If you like it, please vote for it, suggest it to a friend. As always, feel free to leave your comment below.

Read Part One: Death Speaks Loudest To Those Who Flee.
Read Part Two: Swift To Sin, Swift To Shed Blood.
Coming Soon: Part Four of the Mall Demons Urban Fantasy Series.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Part Three of Mall Demon Series Coming... Finally!

It's been a long time coming, but Part Three of the Mall Demon Urban Fantasy Series is coming. I am performing some last-minute edits now. 

I like letting a piece sit for at least 24 hours before I push the publish button. If you want to refresh your memory, you can still read Part One and Part Two of the series on 

Death Speaks Loudest To Those Who Flee - is the Series Starter where a man tries to escape his fate. Death, however, has other plans. Here you also meet one of the key characters in the series - the Master Demon. Read Death Speaks Loudest now on Wattpad

Swift To Sin, Swift To Shed Blood - is the Second Part in the Urban Fantasy Series. Here two sisters argue over a blouse with frightening results once the demons get involved. The Master Demon is forced to make a sacrifice when confronted. There's a scene here that my wife says will keep her out of the shopping mall restrooms for awhile. Read Swift To Sin, Swift To Shed Blood now on Wattpad

Part Three - Coming Saturday. The Master Demon regroups. The forces of Heaven enter the picture. Side note: After reading this part, my wife is convinced I have a weird and eerie imagination. You can be the judge. 

Please share your comments about the stories here, or vote/like them on Wattpad. If you really like what you read, please leave a donation using the "Donate" button at the top right of this blog. It's up to you how much you donate. Donating even $1 will help. If you have Paypal, it's even easier. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Flash Fiction Online

Check out my latest piece of flash fiction just published online today called "The Fire is Out."

It is a quick scene where a couple's picnic plans go wrong. Leave a comment to let me know what you think. I wanted to write about fire as an essential element - not necessarily as a natural element in the physical world like air and water and earth, but as a human element.

So, give it a read. Great thing about flash fiction is that you can read it in one sitting.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Little Help?

OK, I haven't really asked for much help, but I'm going to come out and ask now. So, if you're the kind that doesn't want to see someone begging for help, then stop reading now.

Still here? OK. Maybe you're curious. "What kind of help does this guy want?" The great thing about it is that I have options here. I'm assuming those of you still reading might be interested in possibly, maybe, if the dog doesn't need walking, per chance lending me a helping hand.

If so, here is what I'm asking. And by asking, I do mean asking. That means nobody's obligated to help. What I'm asking for is help in three areas:

  1. Followers here on my blog.
  2. Guest bloggers if you have a topic you'd like to write about.
  3. And last but not least, DONATIONS to help me keep writing.
Followers? You can do it through Google Friend Connect, e-mail or other options you can find on the right side of the page.

Guest bloggers? Message me with your idea. You can scan my posts to get a feel for the type of content I write. It's mostly about writing, the writing life, books, etc. I am open to new stuff you don't see here. Just pitch your idea.

Donations? I know...this is a hard one, right. But think of me as the guy willing to wash your windshield at a red light for $1. I have a Donate button at the top right of my blog. The button is through PayPal. Have your own PayPal account, donating is easy. Credit cards work, too. And seriously, if $1 is all you can donate. I will be grateful for that.

There it is. Thanks to all for reading. I'm hoping to bring you more useful links in future posts. I am releasing my next part of the Mall Demons Urban Fantasy serials next week. I have other works about to be published online soon. I'll keep ya'll updated. As always, feel free to comment at the bottom of this post, or e-mail me at

Marriage Vows - An Example of Commitment For Writers

My wife and I attended a wedding yesterday. We saw two of our dear friends vow to spend the rest of their lives together.

Source: Microsoft Office Images
Only last week, my wife and I celebrated our 12th anniversary. Hurricane Irene tried to ruin it, but we still went out on a date - in the rain. But that's water under the bridge... Sorry, couldn't help myself.

Back to the wedding. It was a wonderful service. I love hearing the vows. Call me conventional, but I love the old traditional vows - especially the parts that mention "in sickness and in health... till death do us part." It got me thinking.

Vows are earnest promises, solemn promises. Pledges. Declarations that we are going to do something. "Till death do us part." Making a vow is by definition a binding act. So, how's this relate to your writing? Well, have you made a public declaration that you are going to be a writer?

Have you vowed to work tirelessly at your craft? In sickness and in health? If writing is a career goal for you, then you must commit. I have been reading a lot lately about the difference between writers and wannabe writers. Commitment is a factor.

I know as a married guy, I'm a husband 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks out of a year, so on and so on. I made a vow 12 years ago. If I am serious about that vow, then I can't take a day off saying, "I don't feel like being married today. I'm taking a break."

My beliefs and convictions won't let me. Granted, there are days when being a husband is hard. But hard times don't nullify the vow I made to my wife. Same goes for writing if you are really serious about it. Think about your commitment to your craft. Do you write every day? Or only when you feel like it?

Like marriage, it's the little things that count. Are you improving your grammar? Keeping up with trends? What about the business side of writing? Are you reading works in your field? Little things. Important things.

Make a vow today. Get serious about your writing. Need help? Reach out to other writers. It's so much easier nowadays with social media. Feel free to message me. If I don't have the answer, I'll find someone who does.

Want to be part of a writing community? Check out My Writers Circle. Writer's Digest listed it as one of the 101 Best Websites For Writers. It's a friendly community. You'll find me there.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Being a dad is a tough job. Plenty of times one kid will act up and the rest will, too. Classic case of Monkey See, Monkey Do.

Not fun. But sometimes that pattern is wonderful.

Right now, I'm watching my kids reading and writing. I told one of them she could read a book and write a report on it if she wanted. She pulled out a book on soccer, a pencil and paper and plopped down on the living room carpet.

Source: Microsoft Office Images
It caused a chain reaction. It did. It did. The baby marched into the other room, grabbed her magnetic letters and started arranging them in alphabetical order. At this stage, the alphabet song is essential to her recall process.

The boy saw his sisters in action. Here's something to laugh about: He put down his Nerf gun and ran upstairs. After a few minutes he rushed down and sat at the dining room table. He had a First Reader book, paper and a pencil and a question for me: "Dad, what's a report?"

Except for the sound of the baby singing "A-B-C-D-E-F-G..." the house is now eerily quiet. They are all working on their reading and or writing skills.

As a lover of words, you gotta just love that image. It's a beautiful thing. This is my answer to my students when they gasp in shock after I tell them I don't have cable TV. We don't tune into local TV, either.

"What do your kids do all day?!" they ask.
Microsoft Office Images

They play. But often they also read and write... and have fun doing it. You hear that? Shhhh. Listen... Now you hear it? Yes. That's the sound of three young minds - neurons firing - as they explore reading and writing.

It's a beautiful thing.

Pedro Is Still Writing

It's late at night... I am watching the news... I'm drinking a beer. I'm about to make a huge transition in life. In about t...