Sunday, April 29, 2007

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

Great news … I decided it was high time I designed the book cover for In The Foothills, the collection of short stories and poetry I'm planning to published next February. I think it came out great (see the topic bar on the right). I'd love to get YOUR feedback, though, so please comment or email me with your thoughts.

American Chronicle

I wrote two articles for AC this week. The first one is called "No Conflict Here," a piece where I defend that one can both be against the war in Iraq and still support the troops. Without presenting my entire premise here, the two concepts are definitely mutually exclusive. The other article, entitled "PC or Not PC - The Scourge of Political Correctness," is fairly self-explanatory.

I enjoy writing for American Chronicle and hope to be able to keep up my level of production with them in consideration of my other projects.

In Verse

I completed three poems this week, but have not published them yet. My self-imposed retreat from uploading work to EditRED continues. As long as I have all these writing commitments, I have no spare time to critique others' writing. No new uploads, no critiques are needed. Also, I'm still waiting to find out if my story "Gennaro's Son" won the City Smells competition (or my other pieces will be published in either of their anthologies).

Short Fiction

I temporarily put aside "Dylan's Prayer" and instead, I've been working on two other pieces. One, called "Macdougal Street" is a story that takes place in NYC. The other, called "Tiny Treasures," is a flash fiction piece based on a challenge I put out to the other EditRED writers. Here it is:

"Here is a flash fiction challenge that may be a bit unique for some of you.

A "MacGuffin" is a plot device that was first cited by Alfred Hitchcock that his studio used to create storylines. It's a person / object / information / place of crucial importance to characters in the work (and often for different reasons). The item isn't important so much as what the characters will do to get the item (different motivations, desires, etc.)

Example: the falcon in The Maltese Falcon.

Challenge: 500 words or less where the MacGuffin is an old toy car made of tin. You must have a minimum of two characters. To make the story interesting, they should want the tin car for different reasons, preferably in contrast with the other(s). Whether any one of them ends up with the car isn't important, but what they do to get it (and the underlying reason why they want it) is.

Anyone interested?"

Unfortunately, it wasn't one that caught the imagination of too many people. Maybe when I post mine …


I'm back to editing A Perfect Tenant and it seems it was a good thing I took time away from it, too. In the pages I reviewed so far, I found errors I can't believe I didn't see in the first round of edits. The experts are right … sometimes you need to put the work away for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes. My goal is to get the second third draft ready for review early this week.


I'm back on Chris Vogel's book, The Writer's Journey, which I had set aside for a while.


In my real life, I completed an article and submitted it for publication. My editor only made a few changes and it will be in the June edition of the magazine. As has been my custom, I'm keeping that part of my writing separate from this one (Michael C. Cordell is my pseudonym). Someday, the real me will reveal the fake me, but that won't be until I have commercial success with the latter and I'm ready to retire from the former's career.

That's all for this week. Thank you for your feedback and encouragement, as always.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

American Chronicler

As I already mentioned last time, I got a new writing gig this week. Okay, it's not a paying one, but it's one that will get my (fake) name out there, this time in the non-fiction world. My wife sent me a link to American Chronicle, an online news/opinion site which said they were looking for writers. I emailed them and soon had my own account. I've already published two articles there and I have ideas for several more. You can find my site at American Chronicle.

In a similar vein, I signed up with Helium, but I have yet to submit an article to them. I'm trying not to over-commit myself, one of my flaws. I get so enthusiastic about things I love that I tend to go overboard.

In Verse

I completed four poems this week, but have not published them yet. A few trusted readers have had a chance to read them, though, and I got some good feedback. This was especially important since I was experimenting quite a bit this time out. Why not? It's not like I can't test some ideas or anything.

I completed pulling all the poetry I had published on EditRed save for the few pieces I mentioned last week. This has been a good way to cut back on my reading / critiquing, too, since I'm not getting new reviews of my own work which oblige me to do the same for others. One method to avoid over-committing.


I put Chris Vogel's book, The Writer's Journey, aside for a while. Instead, I finished reading Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. This was an outstanding book - hell, I wish I wrote it! I emailed Moore to tell him what I thought of his novel and he was kind enough to reply.


This week I finally designed and uploaded my website, I decided to take the easy design way and used the web builder program on's site. Eventually, I hope to be able to post press releases about my books and such (and excerpts, etc.). One step at a time.

As you can see, it was a pretty light week of writing for me, at least compared to previous weeks. I've been a bit under the weather, I'm afraid, and I've been less than enthusiastic about writing as a result. All I can say is appreciate your health when you have it, friends. All too often, it slips away and then you have nothing.

That's all for this week. Thank you for your feedback and encouragement, as always.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

On Tap: Production

This was the week of major crises in the non-writing front (see for details), so good scribbling time has been lost and therefore, some impact on production. Ah yes, production is the word of the day here on this blog.

After outlining "Mexico, NY" and estimating the length - a true novella, I think - I decided to return to "Dylan's Prayer," the piece that was originally supposed to be a flash fiction story, but I decided to take it to the next level. I outlined that one, too, and now I'm writing 'er down. It's going to be a couple more weeks until I have a draft for review. I'm trying to make this one sort of a message piece, but I hope I don't get too tangled up in the details and forget the flow. It's hard for me to be objective about that kind of thing. I'm sure I'm not alone.

In Verse

This was a big week for poetry for me. I completed "Jabberwocky 2007," a political satire based on the poem by Lewis Carroll. This was the only one I uploaded this week for public consumption. All the rest I've kept in "private" mode until I'm ready to trot them out. Other titles include: "Concrete & Cactus," "Tormented Boulevard," "City Slumber," "Genesis Reborn" and "Concrete Silhouette."

I also write a piece in memory of Kurt Vonnegut, one I call "Good Night, Dresden." I didn't make that piece readable by others, either, at least not yet.

In addition, I've been pulling some of my pieces from availability that have been up on EditRed for a while. These are works I completed and either got few critiques, never ended up on anyone's bookshelves or I hadn't submitted them to the EditRED anthologies.


Nothing to report again on On A Gelding's Trail. In fact, I haven't given it too much thought since I was so gung-ho on it a few weeks ago. Part of my production issues (see Editing below), but also I want to write everything I can when I have the time and there is only so much time to write.


Not one blessed edit on A Perfect Tenant this week. Too many personal crises to manage and some lack of ambition in that department. I swear, though, I'll be hitting it hard this week.


I cut back on my reading significantly this week, including turning down several reader requests on EditRED. I found my production was SO down compared to what it was before I joined the site and that wasn't good for my short story collection. As much as I appreciate getting (and giving feedback), there has to be a balance. Spare time is a premium and I don't want to spend it all reading and critiquing the work of others. At the same time, I appreciate the feedback, too, for my own curiosity and self-checking. Anyway, it is what it is.


Still going through Chris Vogel's book, The Writer's Journey, though it's been slow going. The book is very informative and insightful, but it's not a casual read. I'm learning as I go through it, which is good. Meanwhile, for fun reading, I started Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. I love irreverent religious parodies. This one is right up my alley.

Writing for Hire

My wife sent me a link to American Chronicles, an e-zine. They are soliciting contributors for no pay, but an opportunity to get published and get some notoriety. I decided to take a shot at it and sure enough, they emailed me they were interested in adding me to their stable. I don't know how much I'll be talking about that here since I may just end up publishing under my given name, but at the very least, I can describe some of my experiences.


As I mentioned above, Vonnegut died this past week and it makes me sad in a way. Not the kind of sad you feel when a close family member dies, of course, but more like an uncle you see from time to time who always makes you laugh or think long after you part company. I read many, many works of Vonnegut and he wasn't overrated in the least. He was a genuine writing phenomenon, one whose shoes won't be possible to fill. We just need to buy new shoes and make sure someone can occupy them.

So for you, Kurt: you lived; you wrote; you died. So it goes.

That's all for this week. Thank you for your feedback and encouragement, as always.


Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Weak Week

Like many other writers, I'm prone to procrastination. This week, it's been all about that for me when it came to my new short story, "Mexico, NY." I think it's because I know it's going to be complex with all the characters I'm including and it probably won't end up being a short story anyway (more like a novella). I think I'll continue writing the other short story I started ("Dylan's Prayer"), one I started writing for the flash fiction challenge about "omnipotence," but I think I want to make it longer.

With "Mexico, NY," I'm outlining the plot now since it's going to get a bit crazy at some point. I'm only bringing in the characters right now so the reader gets to know them. I will be writing a brief character sketch for the main characters, too, in order to help me along.

In Verse

One poem I wrote, "Slender Island," was about Eleuthera, our favorite island in the Bahamas. I felt experimental and wanted to stretch my alliteration chops in this one (several metaphors and double meanings, too).

"Slender Island" is definitely more complex than the other one I wrote, "Chocolate Jesus." This one was inspired by an article I read about the life size, anatomically correct, Jesus exhibit at some museum that caused a ruckus. This poem has some wryness to it and the feedback I got from my EditRED friends was positive.


Nothing to report with On A Gelding's Trail. It sits like a comatose soldier, waiting patiently for me to awaken it in time of war.


I was able to make some progress editing the second draft of A Perfect Tenant. I consider that to be a good thing in light of all I didn't get done this past week.


I continue enjoying my editing that I'm doing for other EditRed writers (and I appreciate their critique of my work). I've taken to copying the recommended changes to OneNote so I don't forget them. I'm still amazed by the broad base of talent in the amateur writing community.


Still going through Chris Vogel's book, The Writer's Journey. The two other James N. Frey books on writing arrived, so they're in the queue, too.


I decided to break down and buy Alphasmart's NEO, a mini word processor. My tablet, though small, is too big for typing on the bus or in bed, so I decided it was better I get this device and transfer the text to the computer than doing it by hand. I'll still be handwriting ideas and such, but the NEO should give me what I'm looking for in portability and convenience. When it comes, I'll give a more detailed review.

That's all for this week. Thank you for your feedback and encouragement, as always.


Sunday, April 1, 2007

Then There Was a Micro Flash

Lat week I mentioned the joy of writing flash fiction. In fact, not only did I write a 1,000 word piece in answer to another EditRed writer's challenge (I called it "Under His Thumb"), but I decided I wanted to take on a second response in the same vein. The topic: write a story about someone (an average person, it is assumed) who finds himself / herself omnipotent one fine day.

So, what about this micro flash as far as fiction is concerned? I don't know if there are any hard and fast rules, but on the EditRed site, the challenge was to write a piece of fiction in exactly six words. Apparently, Hemingway was an aficionado of the art form (or he downright invented it, not sure), but an example of one of his:

"For sale.
Baby shoes.
Never worn."

These were the ones I came up with:

"Are you sure this is lava?"
"I thought YOU checked the parachutes!"
"Bob, meet Larry. Bob, it's over."
"initiate sequence." "Launch missiles." "It's over.
"Man the lifeboat! Oh no! Leaks!"
They kissed. She sighed. He woke.
"Touché! And me, without my sword.'

Other Short Works

I'm currently in the midst of writing my newest planned short story "Mexico, NY." I decided that this piece will have several cast members and the challenge will be to not have them trip over themselves and still keep the length reasonably short. I tell you this, though … if it turns out to be too long, I just may turn it into a novel or even a treatment for TV show. That would be interesting.

As I mentioned earlier, I started writing another flash fiction story on the same topic of suddenly acquired omnipotence (called "Dylan's Prayer), though I suspect it could go longer than 1,000 words. No worries, though, if it comes out okay, I'll add it to my anthology to be published next February.

Today I wrote a 500 word piece - the limit on this fiction challenge sponsored by the owners of the EditRed site called "Gennaro's Son." The topic was to focus on "city smells." After getting excellent feedback from another EditRed writer, I posted it for review by the court of public opinion.


I wrote three new poems this week: "Dark Silence in Morning Light," "The Girl She Never Was" and "Plastic Metropolis." In this latter poem, I decided to play with structure a bit. As always, I'm enjoying writing poetry and reading the work of others.


Yay! I finally finished typing in the redlines I had one, leaving me with the second draft ready for editing. I'm still debating whether I need to have a professional read and edit it for me. It would be a major step in my development, but would cost me some serious money to do it. We'll see.


I decided to make everything I have on private and concentrate exposing all my new stuff to my readers on EditRed. The problem is that the former site is very sterile (not really a community, probably because they're too big), while the latter includes a number of closely connected writers. Besides, I don't have time as it is to read and edit the works the EditRed writers publish there let alone take on the duties for folks at another site.


Woe is me, I haven't gone back to my novel in a few weeks now. I'm ashamed and I admit, I could be better at time management.

Books I'm Reading

I'm really enjoying Chris Vogel's book, The Writer's Journey. I recommend to anyone who is planning to write long pieces (novels and especially screenplays). It's all about the different archetypes that are found in most good storytelling, beginning with the earliest written epics.

I liked James N. Frey's How To Write A Damn Good Mystery so much that I purchased two other of his books written in a similar vein. I'll be sure to report on them once I read them.

That's all for now from here, folks. I appreciate all your input and love to hear more about your own creative ventures.

For now,