Tag: blog

Success Secrets: Measure Twice, Cut Once

I’ve sawed it off twice and it’s still to short!

Wisdom is a key to success.

Where do we find the wisdom to achieve success? For me, one source was listening to the wisdom of my elders.

I spent many wonderful hours as a child with my grandparents. During those times I learned many valuable life lessons, tidbits of wisdom, and humorous stories. My grandfathers were very different, but each had a great deal to offer their grandsons. This should certainly not be taken as to make light of the influences my grandmothers had on me as well. They were both incredible women who worked very hard and sacrificed so much to get their families through a very tough period in our country’s history. Their influences were very strong as well. However, this particular post is about one lesson from one grandfather.

The experiences of my grandparents, growing up and raising families during the Great Depression and World War II gave them a unique view of the world. They had a real down to earth wisdom that seems to be so often lacking today. It saddens me sometimes to see intelligent people make serious miscalculations because they simply don’t take the time to look twice.

I remember working on a project with my grandfather that involved cutting 2 x 12’s for floor joists. My grandfather was supervising my work. We were in the early stage of building our family camp in the Adirondacks. My grandfather had a lot of practical life experience in building projects, and had also built their camp down the road. He was a jack-of-all-trades kind of man.

Measure twice, cut once …

The actual circumstances are a bit fuzzy. This was many years ago. But, I remember that I had just cut a 2 x 12 to fit as the next floor joist to be put in place. Unfortunately, I had cut too short. So short, in fact, that it could not be used and the 2 x 12 had to be discarded. If you have been involved in any building projects, you just might know how expensive 2 x 12’s are.  I don’t remember my Dad saying anything, but that meant another trip to the lumber yard for one more 2 x 12. My hope is that we were able to use the “now too short” 2 x 12 some where else in constructing the camp. I am sure we did, but really don’t remember. It would have been pretty expensive to use it as firewood!

Surprisingly, I was allowed to continue in my “saw man” job. Maybe they figured I “needed to get back up on that horse that had thrown me.” As I picked up the tape measure to cut another 2 x 12, my grandfather quietly commented, “Measure twice, cut once.” I followed that advice and the next joist fit perfectly … success!

I know this phrase did not originate with him, but it was the first time I had heard it. It stuck with me my entire life.

Save your self some grief.

successSo, the next time you are tackling some kind of a problem or working on a project, or you reach for that saw, you might remember the phrase, “Measure twice, cut once,” and take a step back to double-check that what you are about to do … actually fits or corrects the issue at hand. You might find that your success rate indeed goes up!

Shameless plug!

And, be sure to check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot, on amazon.com!  It is getting rave reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads!  It must have something going for it. I am busy at work on the sequel. Feedback so far has been terrific and I think it is going to be great!

Book Review: American Assassin by Vince Flynn

American Assassin: An exciting read from start to finish!

Mitch Rapp is a trained assassin on a mission. His mission is to rid the world of terrorism one terrorist at a time. Since reading this book, I have learned that the Mitch Rapp series first appeared on bookshelves in 1999 with the release of Transfer of Power and that this book along with Kill Shot are prequels to the earlier books. I really enjoyed this book as an action-packed adventure tale. While certainly not a literary masterpiece, it moves well and keeps the reader interested. There are also some good examples of spy trade-craft as well.

Plenty of Excitement and Action

The story moves like a roller coaster ride, If you are an action junkie, this book will keep your interest. You will not want to put the book down but only to turn to the next page to see what happens next. Past administrations have gone soft on terrorism and their policies have allowed terrorists to really take hold, establish fund raising activities, and indiscriminately attack innocent victims around the world. The new CIA director has had enough, and realizes that they only way to beat terrorism is to eliminate the terrorists and the criminal activities that support them.

The CIA director creates a organization whose job is to recruit and train assassins to work off the grid. This gives the U.S. government “plausible deniability.” Mitch Rapp is one of these assassins. A young man, he was a successful college student and a nationally recognized athlete with a girlfriend who is the love of his life. When she is killed by terrorists who blew up Pan AM Flight 103 over Lockerbie, his life ended. He was a man lost. Then something changed. He found a new purpose in life. That was to kill the terrorists responsible for this evil attack.

My Recommendation

This book is not a “great work” in the classic sense. But, readers who enjoy counter-terrorism yarns will love it. I do plan to read the other books in this series as time allows.  For my recommendation, I give it 4 out of 5 stars, because I love stuff like this and I couldn’t put it down. It may not be suitable for young readers due to the violent content.

Oh! And, don’t waste your time on the movie. It did the book no justice at all!

Also, if you have read this book and did enjoy it, you should give Serpents Underfoot a shot. I bet you will enjoy it too!

Adirondack Bear Tale #4: Donny Trees A Bear!

Donny Trees A Bear

donnyIt gets dark early in the Adirondacks. The night’s fire was just about burned out with only a few glowing embers left in the stone fireplace. The two young boys had already brushed their teeth and were ready for bed. They unzipped the mosquito netting and entered the large canvas cabin tent their father had pitched on a wooden tent platform followed by Donny, their 35-lb Spanish pointer. Zipping the netting behind them, the boys crawled into their sleeping bags. They had air mattresses underneath the sleeping bags and were comfortably settled in for the night. Donny settled down between them. Soon all three were sound asleep. Full days in the crisp Adirondack air made for good sleeping.

A little while later, their parents entered the tent and prepared for bed. Their sleeping bags were laid out on canvas folding cots and air mattresses. It was also a very comfortable arrangement. Soon all five were contentedly sleeping away. Tomorrow would be another new and glorious day. The boy’s grandfather was going to take them fishing over in the northern part of Raquette Lake in his beautiful Thompson Chris-Craft boat. It promised to be a grand adventure.

 

Sometime during the night, Donny awoke and let out a terrible growl. The two boys and their parents instantly sat up in their sleeping bags.

What was that?

There was another growl from Donny, and he was up like a flash. A second later he had torn through the mosquito netting and took off like a shot; snarling and growling like a wild animal protecting its young. Suddenly, there was another growl, and it wasn’t Donny. The boy’s dad was now up with his flashlight unzipping the mosquito netting to see what was going on while the rest of the family dug for their flashlights. Everyone kept a flashlight handy just in case. They could hear the dog barking wildly just a few yards away from the tent.

A few seconds later all four flashlight beams were shining in the direction of the growling and snarling dog. Donny was at the base of an old rotten beech tree about 30 feet from the tent. He was growling and barking ferociously at something up in the tree. Raising the flashlights beams a bit revealed a big black bear. The bear had scrambled up the old rotten trunk to get away from the crazy dog. The tree and its bark were rotten enough that the bear’s claws could not get a good purchase. The bear would begin to slide down the tree which would cause Donny to renew his barking and growling frenzy. This, in turn, would cause the bear to scramble a bit higher; only to start slipping again.

The bear, much bigger then the dog that was barking at him, could easily jump down and deal with the barking dog. Fortunately for Donny, the bear did not decide to do this.The barking, scrambling, and slipping went on for several minutes. Suddenly the bear completely lost its grip on the tree and tumbled to the ground. Rolling over the bear jumped to its feet and took off into the north woods with Donny right behind him, barking and growling as he went. The boys and their parents called after Donny.

Donny, Come! Donny, Come here!

But it was no use. Donny, chasing the black bear to who knows where, was long gone. Eventually, the two boys and their parents went back to bed. They wondered if they would ever see their dog again.
Donny was not back the next morning when the boys left to go fishing with their grandfather. He was not back that afternoon when they got back from their fishing trip to the northern part of Raquette Lake. That evening, the boy’s Dad finished patching the hole in the mosquito and still, Donny had not returned.

But later that evening, as the family sat down for a supper of Ravioli, bread and butter, and some of Mom’s homemade raspberry cobbler, Donny came trotting up to the picnic table with a delighted look on his face. In fact, it looked like he was grinning from ear to ear! Donny was utterly covered with Adirondack marsh mud, pieces of twigs and leaves, and he smelled like Adirondack swamp water. Donny had also worked up quite an appetite during his chase and was darn hungry! But, he was undoubtedly a hero … having saved the cooler from being raided by the prowling black bear.

Did you like this Adirondack Bear Tale?

If so, check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot, a military action adventure / counter-terrorism thriller available at Amazon.com!

Promoting Your New Book? Have You Tried Libraries?

Book Promotion 101

promotingYou are a self-published author and you have published your first work. Unfortunately, it is not flying off the shelves at Amazon.com. You are selling some books and getting some great reviews, but real success seems to be so slow in coming. Establishing yourself as an author takes time and hard work. Now, is when the real work begins. You have to begin promoting your book. There are a lot of ways to do this. Amazon.com offers promotion tools. You can join Goodreads, BookBub, AuthorsDB and other online book promotion communities. I am sure you have a website. a Facebook Fan Page, and a blog. You do book signings when you can.

What else can you do to promote your book?

Have You Thought About Promoting Your Book Through Libraries?

People who read often go to libraries. I have been donating copies of my book to any libraries that are interested and so far, they have all been. What I am after here is name recognition. You want people to check your book out from the library, read it, and enjoy it. Then you want them to tell their friends how much they enjoyed your book. This library idea is something i am currently trying. And, to be honest, I am not sure how well it will work. But, it certainly can’t hurt!  If anyone else has tried this, I would be happy to here their comments or suggestions.

So far my book, Serpents Underfoot, is in four libraries and will very soon been available in several more. It is currently available at the Inlet Public Library in Inlet, NY, the Raquette Lake Library in Raquette Lake, NY, and the Old Forge Public Library in Old Forge, NY. It is also in the Southern Regional Library in Durham County, NC. In addition, it will soon be available in the Wake County Library system, the Knoxville Public Library system in Knoxville, TN and the Clinton, Oak Ridge, and Norris public libraries also in Tennessee. Getting your book placed in the “Local  Authors” section of your local library can’t hurt either!

Another Benefits Of Using Libraries

Another benefit I can see is that many libraries purchase books through Ingram Spark. I used Ingram Spark to produce the hardcover version of my book. If your book gets good circulation, I think you can be pretty confident that these libraries will be open to purchasing future works by you as they are published.

Any Experience With Libraries You Want To Share?

Again. this is basically an experiment on my part and I am not sure how well it will work, but I believe it has real potential if you can handle donating a few books now for success later. I will keep folks posted on whether or not this works out for me. Also, I am interested in hearing of your experiences if you have tried this and you are willing to share. Promoting a book as a self-published author takes time and effort. Anything you can do to help is probably a good thing. I believe it is a lot of trial and error to find out what works for you. You try a lot of ideas over time and some of them work. If you throw enough mud at the wall, some of it surely will stick!

Adirondack Bear Tale #3: A Trip to the Dump!

The Dump at Raquette Lake. A Friday Night Hot Spot!

dump

It’s Friday evening in the Adirondacks. So, what do you do? What kind of entertainment venues were available to vacationers in the north woods? One of our family favorites was to go to the dump! Yep! I am serious. We would go to the dump to watch the bears. It was quite popular among those in the know. The bears would come out in the early evenings to feed on all the delightful morsels we humans would throw away.

The Raquette Lake Dump was located a mile or so down an old dirt road that headed out of Raquette Lake Village and into the north woods wilderness. This road was initially an old rail bed for the private railroad line owned by the Vanderbilts. The Vanderbilts built an Adirondack great camp, Camp Sagamore, near Raquette Lake. They and their guests would take a private train from Utica, New York up to Raquette Lake. There they would board a boat and steam across South Bay to head up the South Inlet. A mile or so up South Inlet, at the falls, where it became impassable, they would board a stagecoach and travel along a road that ran past the Vanderbilt’s power-house and a small dam, to the smaller private lake South Inlet flowed from. This was their destination. They would begin to enjoy their stay at Camp Sagamore.

But, I digress. This is supposed to be a bear tale.

This particular Friday evening my brother and I were headed to the dump with our grandparents. They had an AMC Hornet, and we sat in the back. We turned down the old dirt road that lead to the dump. Being an old railway bed, it was a pretty straight shot. As we approached the dump, my brother and I were excited to see that there were already several black bears, an assortment of ages and sizes, out prowling around among the garbage bags looking for tasty tidbits.

My Grandfather pulled up pretty close because he had a bag of trash to add to the pile. Grandpa told us all to stay in the car. He would throw the garbage out and then we would back up a bit to sit and watch the bears. Grandpa got out and retrieved the bag from the trunk and started toward the piled bags of garbage. He wanted to get close enough to throw the bag onto the pile.

One mid-sized bear spotted Grandpa making his way toward the trash heap and saw that he was carrying a new bag of possible snacks. Naturally, the bear made his way toward Grandpa. Now, our Grandfather was not a pushover. He was a big man, strong and stubborn. That bear was not getting the garbage until Grandpa threw it on the pile. The bear, however, had other ideas, and that garbage bag quickly became a major source of contention.

Grandpa saw the bear coming, so he yelled at it in an attempt to “bluff” the bear into backing off. However, the bear was just as stubborn as Grandpa, so just he kept coming. Soon the bear was between our Grandfather and the trash heap. Grandpa took another step toward the bear and clutching the garbage bag tightly, yelled again. The bear, unimpressed, took a step toward our Grandfather. Then the bear took yet another step. Our grandfather, realizing that the bear was not intimidated in the least, began backing up toward the car. The bear followed. This scared our Grandmother who reached up and locked both car doors.

Grandpa backed up all the way to the car with the bear following him every step of the way. Keeping his eyes on the bear, he made his way to the driver-side door and reached down to open it. It was locked!

“Boots, unlock the door,” he yelled. He called her “Boots” because of the fancy boots she was wearing when they first met. We called her, Nanny, of course.

“Erwin, Get rid of the garbage. Let the bear have it,” Nanny yelled back. Grandpa was now circling the car with the bear following him. It was very exciting for my brother and I sitting in the back seat.

“Boots, unlock the door!” he yelled again.

“Get rid of the garbage, Erwin” Nanny yelled back. Grandpa had, by now, circled the car several times with the bear in dogged pursuit. Finally realizing that something had to give, as he came around again to the front of the Hornet, Grandpa hurled the bag of garbage as hard as he could toward the heap of garbage bags about thirty yards away. Nanny reached over and unlocked the driver-side door and Grandpa, jerking the door open, slid into the seat and slammed the door closed. The bear, however, had already headed off in the direction Grandpa had hurled the bag and was now sniffing speculatively at it.

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence in the car. Finally, Grandpa spoke.

“For the love of Pete, Boots, why wouldn’t you unlock the door.

“Erwin, I was not letting you in here with the garbage. What if the bear tried to get in here too!”

“Oh, for heaven sakes!” Grandpa retorted. Needless to say, the bear watching was cut short, and it was a hushed ride back to their camp at Burke Town.

Check out my other Bear Tales!

In addition, if you like  these Adirondack Bear Tale short stories, check out my novel, Serpents Underfoot! Available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million.

Goodreads Reviews: Do They Matter? Of Course They Do!

Goodreads Reviews Do Matter!

goodreads reviewsDid you know that you Goodreads reviews appear on much more than just Goodreads? Goodreads also exports reviews to Google Books, Powells.com, USAToday.com, as well as others. While book reviews on any site help, Goodreads reviews seem to go a bit above and beyond others!

It is for that reason that I appreciate so many folks taking the time to review Serpents Underfoot on Goodreads! So, thank you, Jeffery Gordon Pearce, for your 5 STAR review. And, thank you, John Karlson, for your 4 STAR review.

Chasing reviews is a waste of valuable time that could be better spent otherwise promoting your work. However, there is no doubt that good reviews will help spark reader and buyer interest in your work. So, by all means, keep tabs on those reviews. Just, don’t let chasing those reviews become your primary goal. After all, you should have writing projects to work on as well!

Special Offer

If you order a personalized copy of Serpents Underfoot before August 31 and use the promo code, SEAL, on checkout, you will get 20% off the cost of the book and free shipping! Why the heck are you waiting?  Just saying!

Thoughtful Solitude … A Source Of Strength!

Thoughts in Solitude

Some of my readers may have noticed I took a small break in posting to my blog. Sometimes life can take the wind out of our sales and we simply need some time to get our feet planted firmly back under ourselves. I recently found myself in such a state. That is because my mother recently passed away. This came as an unexpected, sudden shock to us all. Diagnosed with lung cancer just before Easter, she went to be with her God on Sunday, June 10th. Needless to say, my mind has just been elsewhere for the past few weeks. Solitude can sometimes be a helpful, healing thing.

While Mom will most certainly be deeply missed, the purpose of this post is not to engender sympathy or condolences. My mother was a strong woman and led an amazing life. Growing up in the small town of Ilion, NY with blue collar parents, she became a registered nurse at Albany Medical Center and then later, an excellent mathematics teacher. Quite the artist, she specialized in pastels and watercolors and was a member of the Fine Line Art Gallery for 10 years. A lover of music, she sang in choirs, and served as a choir director at several churches. Mom also sang with several choral groups and performed on concert tours in Central Europe, Turkey, at Carnegie Hall, and the White House. She traveled most of the world and much of the continental United States and Canada. She embraced life firmly standing on her own two feet and she lived her life to the fullest.

Quiet Faith

Mom was a woman quietly strong in her faith. She accepted her situation with grace, strength, and courage, and when the outcome became clear, her faith and courage made things easier for the rest of her family. How many of us wonder how well we will handle things if we find ourselves in such a situation. How do we hope to find the strength to deal with situations like this? It is seeking an answer to this question that is my motivation for writing this post. I do believe that, like my mother, I am a person of quiet but strong faith. I certainly do not attempt to push my beliefs on anyone; nor will I argue with people about their beliefs. That is what “Freedom of Religion” is truly all about … not the political manipulations we see all over the news today. I can only hope that when my time comes, I can meet it with the same grace, strength, and courage exhibited by my mother. So where does that grace, strength, and courage stem from?

Solitude and Reflection

Shortly after my mother died, my father discovered a quote my mother had saved to a folder on their computer. He shared it with my brother, my mother’s sister, and me. With the grief over my mother’s death still very new and raw, I must admit reading it brought real tears to my eyes. While it was difficult to read, at the same time, it had a very different affect on me. I suddenly understood so much more about my mother and the source of her strength and courage.

I seem to remember that my mother spent a week at some kind of retreat which I believe was held at a Trappist Monastery. It was a week spent in silence, prayer and personal reflection. Maybe this was where she found this quote … or maybe it came later from reading inspired by her experience. I am not sure. However, when I read the quote, I was struck by the simple, open honesty of the words, and the trust in a pure relationship with a loving God. I cannot help but feel that such a faith could only be beneficial to whoever kept it.

The quote is from Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk of the Abbey of Gethsemane, KY.  Merton was a prolific poet and writer on spiritual social themes. He lived from 1915 until 1968.

From “Thoughts in Solitude”

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead my by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Is that not a powerful statement of faith? I do not normally share such personal things on my blog, but in this case, and especially if it helps someone else find the hope, courage, or strength they need, I think my mother would approve.

Healing: A Trip To The Adirondacks Is Good For The Soul!!

 The Adirondack Park in upstate New York

healing

I had a need to take trip to upstate New York this weekend. I flew into Syracuse and drove up to Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Park. My family has a small camp (called a cabin in the South) at Raquette Lake. We built it ourselves when I was a young teenager. My family has a history at Raquette Lake that spans several generations, and I understand I made my first camping trip to Raquette Lake when I was about six months old.

How Raquette Lake got its name … maybe!

The origin of the name is uncertain. One account is that it was named for snowshoes (raquette in French) left by a party of Tories led by Sir John Johnson in 1776. Traveling by snowshoe while fleeing American rebels, the spring thaw caught up with them. The snow was gone when they reached the lake. They left their snowshoes in a pile on the shore.

Back to the camp …

Sometime ago, we added a screened in porch to the camp. It has two skylights. One is leaking, so I flew up to take some measurements and see what materials might be needed to repair the problem. Every time I visit Raquette Lake it seems to have a healing effect on my soul. Whenever I drive into the Adirondack Park, it is almost like someone drew a line across Hwy 28. The air changes and I can breathe freely again. It is really quite a remarkable feeling.

healing

Hwy 28 North from Utica

Once you leave Utica and head north, it is a short distance to the Adirondack Park entrance. From there the drive becomes a trip down memory lane. It is very beautiful in a desolate sort of way. You pass through small towns like Remsen, Alder Creek, Otter Lake, Thendara, Old Forge, Eagle Bay, Inlet, and then Raquette Lake.

The Fulton Chain

You pass the Fulton Chain of lakes which are eight lakes formed by damming the Moose River. The chain starts near Old Forge and ends with Eighth Lake. The next lake is Raquette Lake which is a natural lake.  The Raquette River flows out from Raquette Lake winding its way northward to the St. Lawrence Seaway. Raquette Lake has 99 mile of shoreline, making it the largest lake in the Adirondack Park. Eighty percent of its shoreline is owned by the State of New York and is constitutionally forever wild. It is truly a wilderness adventure.

The Tap Room

Once I got my measurements and figuring done, I headed to Raquette Lake Village for lunch at the Tap Room. I also need to drop a copy of my book, Serpents Underfoot, off at the Raquette Lake Library. The librarian, Carolynne McCann Dufft, a friend of my parents, was kind enough to add my book to their collection. After dropping off the book, I had a great burger at the Tap Room. The Tap Room is a historic place … probably as old as the village itself. It can be found on the backside of the Raquette Lake Supply Co. While it can get a little loud in the evenings (it is a small place), the food is really excellent and it has a genuine rustic Adirondack atmosphere.

The Library!

I should also mention that the Raquette Lake Library, while small, is quite nice. Like the post office, it is a newer new addition to the village. Other than the post office and the library, the village remains pretty much the same as it was when I was a child. I love that. Maybe that accounts for part of the “soothing” effect it has on my soul.  The village, the lake, the air, the memories … all has a calming, peaceful feeling that recharges me like nothing else I have ever experienced.

Unplugged

healing

Another positive (or negative, depending on how you look at it) is that I can’t get a cell phone signal at all when at Raquette Lake. Sometimes, if you walk out on the end of the dock, stand on one leg, each as far out over the water as you dare, you can get the glimmer of a signal. But, I could never actually make a call from that position … never mind send a text or read an email.  For me at least, that is a good thing. We all need to unplug from time to time.

Where do you go for healing?

We all need a place to go to unwind, to de-stress, and recharge our batteries. It is important for maintaining both physical and mental well-being. For me, Raquette Lake is that place. Raquette Lake provides solitude, peace, and a great rustic atmosphere. I hope you find the time to find your own “Raquette Lake.”

Also,

Personalized copies of Serpents Underfoot can now be ordered directly from my website. Just click here!

The Ninja: Death on a Moonless Night

A return to Flash Fiction … 500 words this time.

Death on a Moonless Night.

It was a dark, moonless night. The humid air lay heavy, almost suffocating those trying to sleep after the day’s long battle. A lone Union sentry, posted about twenty yards from the general’s tent, shifted his tired feet. He glanced nervously around. He could feel it … an unconscious foreboding nagging at his conscious mind. There was a sense of death on the night air.  His post was deep within the Union encampment. A safe enough post. The sentry listened … hearing only the buzz of mosquitoes and the constant chirping of crickets.

In the tent, a mosquito buzzed the general’s ear. He swatted at it futilely, then rolled over on his cot.  Despite the heat, he pulled the wool blanket up over his head … protection against the buzzing insects. Grant was exhausted. Today, he’d sent three divisions to push the Confederates from Big Black River Bridge. They’d captured over 1,800 enemy soldiers. Tomorrow, he would lay siege to Vicksburg. Grant’s mind kept churning over the many important preparations for tomorrow’s action.

Damn Mississippi. Nothing but swamps, rebels, and mosquitos, he thought to himself.  Gradually, the physical need for rest overpowered the general’s brain, and he drifted off into a fitful sleep.

Saitō was the night. He was invisible, a lethal force hidden in the darkness; unstoppable. The sentry died. A small shuriken, its points dipped in deadly toxin distilled from chrysanthemums, nicked his neck. The poison did its work. Saitō caught the sentry as he fell, dragging him into the tree line. Saitō crept up to the tent where Grant lay sleeping. Concealed in the shadows, he listened to the snoring emanating from the other side of the canvas. His target slept. Time to complete his task.

Saitō scanned the encampment. All was still quiet. A living shadow, Saitō moved stealthily toward the front flap of the tent. An imperceptible movement of the flap and he was inside.  Saitō rose silently from the plank floor of the tent platform, sliding a tanto from the scabbard in the small of his back. He approached the cot where the general lay sleeping. The tanto was poised, ready to stab downward. Grant’s death would breathe new life into the Confederacy. It was why he’d been paid.

“I wouldn’t,” a voice spoke from a corner of the tent. Even in the dark, Saitō could make out the seated figure of a man, his feet propped up on a wooden whiskey keg. The man’s hand rested on his right thigh inches from his holstered .45 Colt Peacemaker. Moving like the wind, Saitō whirled, changing his grip on the tanto, ready to kill the impertinent fool interrupting his work. The man’s hand flashed. The colt barked, a bullet stuck Saitō, centered between his two black eyes.

Grant sat up in his cot.

“What the … ?”

“It’s alright, Sir. I’m Agent Jim West of the U.S. Secret Service. President Lincoln assigned me to keep an eye on you. You’re safe now.  Better get some more rest. You’ve a big day tomorrow.”

 

Memorial Day Giveaway Reminder

My Memorial Day Kindle giveaway of Serpents Underfoot has been a huge success so far. Over 150 fans have downloaded Kindle versions of the book. A few hours remain … click here get your copy now while they are free. There are no gimmicks or requirements. I am simply holding this giveaway in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country free.

 

 

 

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Stephen King is a master of the craft!

While traveling to Washington, D.C. recently, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio-book version of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.  I could literally hear Stephen King’s “voice” in my head as I drove to Quantico, VA and then boarded the train to Union Station. That may have been because he narrated the book himself. To be honest, it was not what I expected at all.

Memoir of the Craft

This “memoir” was broken up into several sections, with the earlier sections devoted to different parts of his life. The last sections are devoted to his advice on the craft of writing. The chapters are preceded by three forewords. This memoir was fascinating to listen to. I was amazed by the way that King wove stories of his life, his craft, and advice to new writers together through the pages. It was inspiring to listen to what he went through to become the success he is today and to hear about how he struggled and worked hard for that success.

King’s advice on the “how-to’s” and “what to avoid” were very practical to a new writer. The term “actionable” comes to mind. It was also very interesting to get his views on writing classes and groups. They mirrored a decision I had recently come to. The important thing is just to write, as much and as often as you can. You should also read a great deal. I liked his comments about those who want to be a writer but are too busy to read.

Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, is a fascinating and helpful book for both aspiring and experienced authors. It explores writing, the writer’s tool box, and the writing life.  I enjoyed listening to this book very much because I have always loved to read  … and now love to write.

On Writing: A Few Tools for the Writer’s Tool Box.

I am not going to go into great detail here. If you want that, read or listen to the book. But here are a few tips that might whet your appetite.

  • Identify your ideal reader. That one person you are writing the story for. For Stephen King, it’s his wife Tabitha.
  • Shut the door each day and keep it shut until your goal is met. Television is a distraction and a great time waster.
  • Plot and theme may not be the “be all and end all” of successful writing. Create a situation and let the story unfold. Let your characters tell you the story.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but I wish I had read his book before starting my novel, Serpents Underfoot. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a great read, if I may say so myself. And, everyone who has read Serpents Underfoot seems to agree. In fact, I wrote my novel more or less in the way he describes writing should be done. It is just that there were a lot of tips and advice in his book that could have made the writing process smoother and given me a greater understanding of my initial faltering steps in developing my own skills in this craft called writing. These tips will certainly help in my future projects.