Saturday, July 26, 2014

Unlearn Your Limitations

A while back I tweeted two simple sentences that popped into my head while I was scrambling eggs:

Know your limitations. Then shatter them.

Yes, that could easily have been one sentence, but the eggs told me to use a period instead of a comma for dramatic effect (see my post on commas). This morning I sat down with my cup of coffee and had every intention of writing the next scene in my fourth novel (which is a sequel to my first novel), then I opened the blinds and looked out the window and recalled those two sentences.

Can you really shatter your limitations?

We all have factors that limit us. Some of us are not athletic and couldn't excel at sports no matter how hard we may try. When I was in high school I was smaller than most of the girls (yes, even the girls) in my class, so it would have been suicide for me to try out for the football team. Yes, I suppose I could have been like that kid Rudy and dedicated myself to making the team, but I didn't even like football (I didn't even like the movie they made about Rudy). Like it or not, we all have true limitations, but most of us probably never get close to bumping up against those because we also have learned limitations.

Learned limitations are constraints we place on ourselves, most likely branded on our brains when we were kids. Like sitting in the back seat of the family car when you are so young you barely remember it, and having your father tell you he is ashamed to be seen with you because you are ugly. He tells you to stay in the car. You do. You remember. Reinforce that description of you with an entire childhood of equally hateful adjectives (stupid and worthless come to mind), and you emerge into the adult world so screwed up you can barely function around people.

Learned limitations.

Sharon and I live on about thirty acres of land in the middle of nowhere. We have goats to help keep the weeds down. Goats, by nature, like to browse. They don't stand in one spot and eat until the grass is gone -- they wander, eating a little here, a little there, so you have to confine them to the area you want them to maintain.

Electric fences are fairly inexpensive and easy to erect. They are also easy to move, which we do quite often. They also only work if the goats fear them. Once they get zapped a time or two they know the fence will hurt them and they stop trying to cross. But electric fences are also prone to fallen limbs and are easily broken by other animals that wander into them (like deer and dogs). They break a lot, and since the strand is one long wire charged by a single device, any break renders the entire fence useless.

But the goats don't necessarily know that. As I type this, our fence has been unplugged for weeks, yet the goats stay happily within bounds, because they have learned the fence will zap them. At this point, the fence is a learned limitation. Easily shattered.

Shatter your learned limitations. Unlearn. Don't allow yourself to be fenced in by the actions of others.

I write novels about people dealing with their limitations, real and learned. I hope, in the process, to also entertain. To learn more about my novels, and for links to purchase (or sample) them, please visit my website at

AND for a look at a cool YouTube video my son and two of my grandsons made for me, look here, or here.

Side note: I used the picture of the wintertime fence because it's hot outside, and we rarely get snow in Mississippi, and because I love that picture and have wanted a reason to post it for a long time.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words

Homegrown Fiction

One of the hardest things for me to do as a writer is describe what my books are. What other books do I compare them to? What genre do they fit into?

I don't know.

As best I can tell, I write contemporary fiction, but what does that mean?

I'm not sure.

After writing The Night Train, I came up with the slogan, Vampire-Free Fiction! (the exclamation point is part of the slogan, not the sentence conveying it). I had fun with it. Even designed a display card that garnered more than a few positive comments at book signings and speaking engagements. The idea came from my belief that the market had become overly saturated with vampires and zombies. Bookshelves dripped vampires and zombies. My kids loved them.

A few weeks ago I set out to come up with a new slogan. Something equally fitting, yet something that hinted at what my books are, instead of what they are not.

Enter, Homegrown Fiction.

What do you think of when you hear that phrase? Hopefully, you think of the type of realistic, character-based novels that I write. My only hard and fast writing rule is that my stories, my characters, must be realistic. You won't find any levitating bodies, no Dukes of Hazzard car stunts, and no beyond-the-grave beings that can only be "killed" by blunt force to the brain. What you will find are characters like Jayrod Nash (The Night Train) -- a young boy who escapes his abusive father by hopping a freight train, and Pap Jones (Norton Road) -- an eccentric old man who takes on a giant (a wealthy industrialist, not an abnormally large human), and Dale Criss (Blinders) -- an ex-con who finds life on the outside to be more than he bargained for.

Yesterday my wife slipped away undetected, spread a blanket on the ground, and somehow managed to capture the essence of what my books are with her camera. When I look at the picture above, I can almost see the faces of Jayrod, Pap, Dale, and all the other characters who come to life on the pages of those three novels. If I sound a bit like a doting parent, yeah, it's almost like that.

Writing, for me, is a journey. Come with me, and let me introduce you to people you won't soon forget.

* * *

To learn more about my writing, visit my website. To connect with me, and keep up to date on what's going on in my writing world, like me on Facebook.

Monday, May 12, 2014

7 Age Milestones

This morning I turned 50. The big five-oh. It's no great accomplishment, really. Lots of people did it before me. Lots will do it after me. But I'll never do it again.

There are seven age milestones we all know well.

1) Turning thirteen is a biggie. We all remember becoming a teenager, innocently thinking it would be a completely positive experience, then learning it is anything but.

2) For girls there's the Sweet 16 milestone. No such thing for boys ... or maybe there is. By that age we've started to appreciate our Sweet 16 counterparts.

3) Then there's the biggest-until-now milestone -- Eighteen. Back in my day that meant we were adults. Today it's more like adult-on-probation, with limited benefits until you get used to the real world.

4) Twenty-one comes next. You can drink alcohol now, though you've probably been doing that already. At twenty-one you're all grown up. You can start proving your parents wrong on all those senseless things they told you.

5) Forty. People dread turning forty, perhaps because it's been so long since your last milestone. So much has happened. You've married and had kids. Maybe divorced, remarried, and had more kids. That stretch between 21 and 40 is when we settle out into a career. We set goals. Big goals, because, hey, we've got our lives ahead of us. Forty is when we begin the process of redefining our goals to better match our abilities. We begin to inventory our achievements, and our failures. We tweak, because we still have time. We've also realized our parents weren't as dumb as we thought they were, and we are trying desperately to pass that intel on to our teens.

6) Fifty is the big one. If you make it to fifty, you know there's probably more years out the back glass than through the windshield. Fifty is when we start to worry that maybe we should've saved more and spent less, or worked harder toward those goals we set back in the day. If you're lucky, you've found that special someone who loves you no matter what. By fifty you probably have grandkids. Grandkids are a do-over. We know what we did wrong raising our own kids, so we can constantly tell them what they are doing wrong with our grandkids. You can spoil grandkids because you can send them home, and you won't feel guilty about it because your hard-headed kids won't listen to your child-rearing advice, but be careful. They are like boomerangs -- they come back. Spoil them carefully.

7) The final milestone for most of us is 65. Retirement. After that we coast. Nothing to do but fun and sun. Spend all that money we saved. If that's not entirely true, don't tell me. Let me keep that RV lifestyle in my head. I'm still young. I'm only fifty.

Visit my website for details on my novels, and Like my Facebook Page to keep up with everything else.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

4 Words That Make Me Cringe

I'm a writer. I love words ... most of the time. There are some words that grate on my ears, like fingernails on a chalkboard. I'm not sure why. Here are four, in no particular order:

1) Cobbler -- but only when used to describe a pie (i.e., I have a peach cobbler in the oven). Cobblers mend shoes. People eat pies. The depth of the pie dish should not be a factor.

2) Pie -- when used to describe a pizza. Don't ask me why.

3) Novelist -- I write novels, so yes, I am one, but that word makes me cringe. Why? I don't know exactly, maybe because it sounds snobbish to me. Call me a writer, or an author, or an SOB, but please don't call me a novelist.

4) Hate-Speech -- Okay, that's two words, but when used together they make a dangerous phrase. How do you define "hate speech"? More importantly, WHO gets to define it? Let's agree to disagree without assuming we hate each other, okay?

This post was originally titled "5 Words That Make Me Cringe" but I could only think of four. I'm a writer. I love words.

What words make you cringe?

Visit my website for information on my novels. Like my Facebook page for everything else.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Comma

Regardless what you may think, I DO know when and where to place commas in a properly formatted sentence. Problem is, when I put on my author hat, I don't always properly format my sentences. Sometimes my sentences are not sentences at all.

Few people use properly formatted sentences when they carry on casual conversations. Reading a novel should be like being on the receiving end of a casual conversation. Sort of. Creative use of words is an art. Alternating long and short sentences helps keep a paragraph flowing, assuming the paragraph is delivering something useful or entertaining. Entertainment is useful, right?

Don't you hate it when you watch a commercial where all the "real people" talk like they are reading a paper for English class? Do you sit there and shake your head and say, "real people don't talk to each other like that"? I do.

Sometimes my fiction omits commas because I don't want the reader to pause just yet. Sometimes I use a period instead of a comma. Commas say slow down. Periods say stop. Exclamations say stop dammit! Art.

Until a few weeks ago, I thought the practice of omitting commas in fiction was a fairly new trend, but I picked up an old copy of The Grapes of Wrath for a third (fourth?) read. John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath in 1939, and he didn't use a lot of commas. Perhaps there was a shortage of commas in 1939. Maybe, just maybe, William Faulkner used them all up.

Visit my website to learn more about my writing, and join me on Facebook to interact.

Friday, May 2, 2014

New Release -- BLINDERS

A while back I decided to blog only when I have something to say. Part of the problem with blogs, in my opinion, is that there is too much rehashing of the same information (or lack thereof).

The internet is full of advice for writers (insert almost any other category here and the statement still holds true). Most of that advice is probably well-intentioned, though often misguided, and almost always a repetition of a repetition.

But I digress. I have something to say.

In March, I released my third novel, Blinders. Don't let the title fool you, it's not about horses wearing blinders. It's the story of two men -- Dale Criss, an ex-con who comes home to a small town that hasn't forgotten his crime, and Trap Malone, a no-nonsense sheriff who believes the line between right and wrong is clearly drawn. Dale Criss is innocent of the crime that cost him twenty-five years in prison. He wants revenge more than justice. Sheriff Malone is fair but firm. Unrelenting. Both men have a lot to learn about life, but first they must take off their blinders.

As with my two previous novels, The Night Train and Norton Road, Blinders is crafted around strong characters. By the time you finish reading, I hope the characters I've created will stick with you, like friends you've known, or enemies you can't forget.

All three of my novels are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple's iBooks store, Smashwords, and various other outlets. Visit my website for more information, including how to get your signed paperback copy.

And don't forget to join me on my Facebook Fan Page.

If you like my books, please don't forget to leave a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. And please, don't forget to tell your friends. Heck, tell your enemies, too.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Checking In

I've been so busy lately that I've ignored the blog. My third novel, BLINDERS, is chugging toward a March 2014 release. My fourth novel is underway. There simply isn't enough time in the day to work a day job, write novels, and blog.

For the most up-to-date info on my work, follow my Facebook page.

For a chance to win an e-copy of NORTON ROAD, check out this page.

Happy reading.