Friday, December 30, 2016

Thank you, Big Bill Shakespeare

Sometimes there's nothing like a good education.
Just keep writing. (And mind your manners.)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

'You're thinking about . . . what!'

A friend can be a little, uh, caught off guard when you say you're thinking about writing a book.
Just keep writing. (And forgive your friend.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Therapeutic Novel-Writing

A character's similarities to a real person can be less than "purely" coincidental.
Just keep writing. (And avoid lawsuits.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fear of (Living on) Writing

Poor, sweet baby. It'll be OK.
Just keep writing. (And dry those little tears.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Most Times, Persitence Matters More Than Talent

Talent is lovely but persistence gets more books published.
Just keep writing. (You can take Christmas off.)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

If You Write You're a Writer

"Published" will come if you're persistent.
Just keep writing. (And submitting your work.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Decaf Is for Editors

Caffeine, nectar of writers around the world.

Just keep writing. (And have another cup.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Writer's World: True Love

And don't get him started on alliteration.

Just keep writing. (With stars in your eyes,)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Motivational Friends and Family

"Tough love" comes in many forms.
Just keep writing. (And maybe cut back on the talking about writing.)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Editors: A Look Behind the Curtain

Can be a little, uh, disconcerting to actually meet an editor or visit a publishing office. On the other hand, you want someone to really know where and how you write? Yeah. I didn't think so.

Just keep writing. (And judge not lest ye . . . well, at least keep your opinions to yourself.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Living with a Writer

Living with a writer has (more than) a few . . . challenges.
Just keep writing. (And showing kindness.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Writer's block? Go for a walk

Writer's block? Take a walk. Stop thinking. (You can do that, right?) Something good will pop into your head.
Just keep writing. (And walking.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Sometimes Price of Honesty

Write what you want to write, but realize there can be consequences.

Just keep writing. (And know it's OK to be gentle.)

Friday, December 2, 2016

True Friends Tell You the Truth ... Gently

Having a friend or family member who's a writer has its own challenges.

Just keep writing. (And -- at least try to -- accept honest criticism without pouting.)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

'Gang aft agley' -- Go right down the tubes

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,

--"To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough," Bobby Burns, 1875

Just keep writing. (You can text later.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Caregiving: A living prayer

My latest at Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly.

Caregiving: A living prayer

Some of you may know in 2005 my late wife, Monica, and I founded the Friends of St. John the Caregiver. I've continued that work since her death in early 2013.

Her death is why I wrote "Mildred Nudge: A Widower's Tale."

Just keep writing.

A Gathering of Writers

I'm late in thanking Emily F. of the (beautiful!) Monroe Library, in lovely Monroe, Washington, who invited me to give a presentation last week. It was part of the Sno-Isle Libraries' "Write Now" series.

I was really pleased five brave souls showed up on a dark November night for "How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks." Three had questions about novel writing and two were working on non-fiction books. All had interesting plots and topics.

My goal was to share some tricks and techniques that work for me and -- probably more importantly -- let them know that, yes, they can write a book! Beginning. Middle. And end.

Just keep writing. (My advice to those five ... and you.)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Writing about Saints, Sin and Satan

"There’s no need to mention here that Satan is an equal-opportunity tempter. Plenty to go around for all."

From my latest article at Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly.

"Saintly Advice on Kicking Sin to the Curb"

Friday, August 12, 2016

God is laughing at you. No. Wait. With you.

My latest, on God's sense of humor, at Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly.

Just keep writing (and laughing).

Revamped Website (Not to speak ill of the old vamp)

I've updated my website which had been running on Windows 95. No, not quite. It's now mobile-friendly but its owner remains a little cold.

It is interesting to note (a phrase used here so I'll sound more academic than I ever have  been or will be) there has never been a vampire in any of my novels. Perhaps it's time for:

The Prodigal Vampire

A Tale of Two Vampires

Jonathan Livingstone Vampire

Vampire and Gretel

How the Vampire Stole Christmas


Just keep writing. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sittin' but Doin' Sumpin'

I was a little concerned with "the expert's" in the headline but then realized it could mean an expert at sitting around the house.

My latest article in Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly:

The expert’s guide to an armchair pilgrimage

Just keep writing.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Grandpa clothes

“Does Grandpa always wear the same clothes?” my 7-year-old granddaughter recently asked my daughter.
More here, my latest on Fathers for Good.

Just keep writing.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Give the editors what they ask for!

I pitched this article as "10 Ways" but then got too wordy and ended up with only 8 to get the word count right.
It's good to stick to word counts if you want to keep editors happy. As a magazine editor, I had freelancers submit material that was a good 50 percent above the word count. One told me, "This is longer than what you asked for but I assume it's easier for you to cut copy than have to add it.
No-o-o-o-o . . .
It's easier for me if you give me what I asked for.
Just keep writing.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Caregiver's Summer

My latest "Dear Friends" letter at That site is part of the non-profit my late wife, Monica, and I started in 2005. That's when we began the Friends of St. John the Caregiver.

Just keep writing.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Eucharistic 'Fun Facts'? Well, Kind Of

On the eve of Corpus Christi . . . my latest in Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, including the 13th-century nun who got the ball rolling for this feast.

"10 things you don't know about the Eucharist"

Just keep writing.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Write What You Know; I Know I'm Old . . . -ish

Here's the opening from a piece I did for Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, titled "Faith and fulfillment during 'Act III'":

The numbers don’t lie, but they can offer a false sense of security.
If I’m “only” 50, then I’m middle-aged, right? Yes and, probably, no.
Yes, that’s the common term for anyone that age; but no, it’s not likely you’re at the halfway point in your life. That’s in your rearview mirror.
These days, “young” can slide all the way up to 40, and it’s commonly accepted that “middle-aged” is 40 to 60. But 60-plus is ...
Uh oh.
Some say 60 to 80 is “young old.” And 80 and up is “old old.” That makes sense, and not just because those in their 80s consider those in their 60s “pups.”
But the truth is, those of us who don’t die young or middle-aged will, at some point, begin to realize — and grudgingly accept — that the curtain has opened on our personal Act III.
And there we are: center stage.
 You can find the rest here. (And speaking of rest, I believe I'll go take a little nap.)

Just keep writing.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dining with the Little Ones

This is from an article I wrote for FathersForGood:

But when I think back to Sunday dinner with Grandma . . . When my children speak of Sunday dinner with Mom and Dad . . . There’s a feeling, a tenderness that colors everything. A love was shared between the youngest and oldest generations. The food and drink satisfied the body, but it was that loving relationship that filled the heart and soul. We all need that love at every stage of our lives.
Simply put, the first and second corporal works of mercy can be a lot more than corporal.
More here.

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Outlining vs. Winging It

After 40-plus years of writing books I realize I make an outline for non-fiction and pretty much wing it for fiction.

That’s because there’s little or no room for surprises in non-fiction so the research and outline matter. A lot.

But with fiction . . . For me, there’s far less chance of an entertaining story if I’m locked into a “Section I, Subsection 1, Sub-subsection A” approach. One of the great joys of novel writing is having a character suddenly say or do something you had no idea he or she was going to say or do.

(Yes, that sounds crazy. And, yes, a lot of novelists report it happening. And really liking it.)

I suppose for non-fiction it’s rely on a GPS or use a map or ask someone for specific directions.

For fiction, it’s . . . road trip!

When a Character Refuses to Obey You
This may not have happened to you yet but I wanted to put it near the beginning of this book so that you’ll recognize it when it does happen. If it happens. Don’t be frightened but there may come a time when one of your characters—even a reliable one, one you really like—will say or do something on his or her own. 
It’s . . . aliiiiiiive!
I’ll give an example. In my novel Pope Bob, two recovering alcoholic priests are talking about how their drinking influenced their lives and their ministry. The older of the two, the one who’s helping the younger, says: 
“During that particular blackout, I missed my mother’s rosary on Tuesday night and funeral on Wednesday morning. I was to be the celebrant. I was going to say the Mass. One of my sisters never forgave me and I never held that against her. She was right. Three years later she was killed in an automobile accident and hadn’t set foot in a church since Mom’s funeral. Wanted nothing to do with a religion that had a priest like me. And still I drank.” 
I, the author and creator of that character, was astounded! I had, and have, no idea where that came from. Yes, it came from me but . . . . What he shared was so sad! There’s been nothing in my life like that. Nothing I recall reading about that’s similar to it.
But there it was. 
In some ways, writing a novel is nothing more, and nothing less, than putting some people into a situation and watching them try to get out of it. And eavesdropping on them as they do it.

More on “outline or not?” at NY Book Editors here.

(Did Charles Dickens really say “stinking outline”? Well, no. The quote, about a play, is: “I am quite satisfied that nobody can have heard what I mean to do with the different characters in the end, inasmuch as at present I don’t quite know, myself.”)

Just keep writing.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

BIG can be a BIG mistake

Some advice from Little Willie Sockspeare:

Writing a piece to demonstrate your knowledge of a huge and impressive vocabulary is easy. You simply pen: “These are big words that I know: . . .” And then go on to list them.
If, however, your goal is to tell a story well, then you would be smart to avoid letting that huge and impressive vocabulary get in the way of telling the story in a way that your readers can understand it. So that they can even enjoy it without tripping over those impressive words.
I’m not saying to dumb down your work.
I am saying don’t choose a word in some sad attempt to prove how bright you are.
And, naturally, keep your reader in mind. If your piece is for children in middle school don’t use all the more advanced vocabulary words that you might use for a novel directed at adults. This seems obvious, doesn’t it?
So then . . .
Eschew obfuscatory verbiage!

Little Willie is right.

Just keep writing!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

RIP: Two Good Writers, Two Very Different Styles

I think the last time I had felt a personal twinge at the passing of a writer was Robert B. Parker’s death. He had a Ph.D. but didn’t let it get in the way of his writing dozens of fast-paced, entertaining detective novels

I truly liked his writing style. And, I suspect, stole some of it as best I could.

Then, earlier this month, another twinge with the news that Pat Conroy had died. I suppose I felt a kinship with him because of The Lords of Discipline. I’m a sucker for a story about a boarding school, having lived in one from age fourteen through nineteen.

(Or as some classmates now point out, survived one. Truth is it was a good choice for me. One I’m very glad I made.)

Conroy’s style was far different from what I usually enjoy reading and it’s one I never tried to follow. I use a pretty sparse style when it comes to description. I think I’d do a whole book in dialogue if I could get away with it.

(Uh, isn’t that called a “play”?)

Both writers had really well-developed characters and memorable scenes. And those characters and scenes always moved the story on its way (forwarded the plot). They weren’t there just to be there or to show the readers “ooh, look what I can do with words!”

That can be a temptation and it can easily get in the way of telling a good story.

Of you telling your good story.

Just keep writing.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Novels & Dogs

Lovely advice from Canadian novelist Michael Winter except . . .

Walk a dog.

That would be a deal-breaker.

We are not a dog (or cat) person. (What? You could already tell that because I . . .?)

This from the Q. and A. article:

"As a student it's hard to make the time to write. I find that I have to capture bursts of creativity and inspiration as they come, but it's not a very effective approach in trying to compile a body of work. How can I find opportunities to write and hone in on my craft?" - Michelle, Brampton
Throw away your television, disable your laptop's Wi-Fi and go to bed earlier and get up earlier and write. Drink less alcohol. Party less. Find a dog you can walk and write down what you see on your walk. But best is to write before you do anything else in your day. Write when no one else is up. Preferably in the morning. You'll feel superior all day. Also, you'll feel like you're a writer. Much better to do this than wait all day and be grumpy that you haven't written and then trying to write when you're tired at two in the morning. That's doomed to failure and also your friends and family will think you're just a lousy human being. I say that because I've been there, been called a lousy human being. It hurts. No, best to get up with the sun rising and write. Walk a dog. It's hard, just as it's hard to throw yourself into cold water and swim. But once you're in the water, it's the most wonderful feeling on earth. So, write in the morning!

The whole interview is here.

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Creative Writing’s Holy Trinity: Walk, Coffee, Window

I came across a writing app that gave me the heebie-jeebies. Don’t keep pounding on the keyboard and everything you’ve written in that session . . . poof. Is gone.

This, obviously, violates creative writing’s holy trinity: Go for a walk, drink some coffee, stare out the window. Those can be applied in any order at any time in the writing process. And repeated often.

Yes, you have to “keep writing” to get your book done but I have my doubts that “creativity by the clock” will give you good results. (And if your work went poof because you had to take a pottie break . . . .)

Note to those in the U.K. and India: You can substitute tea for coffee.

Just keep writing.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sit Down, Shut Up, and Write

The chair on which ("on which" -- ooh, grammar!) JK Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter books is up for auction next week. Should sell for a ton of money but here's the good news. It's not magical. Your chair works just fine for you writing your novel.

Just sit in it (the chair).

And write it (the novel).

There are no shortcuts. Heaven knows I've looked.

Just keep writing.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Right Here, Right Now: Write Here, Write Now!

This was an interesting interview – “Fran Lebowitz, A Humorist at Work” – but what I really liked was her last line:

“Writing is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Notice she doesn’t say full time. Or it’s the only thing she’s supposed to be doing.

If you have that feeling, too, it’s a pretty good indication that writing is what you’re supposed to be doing.

So, uh, do it.

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Where Do You Write?

After reading an article on “The Writer’s Room: authors offer a glimpse into the space where they work,” I’ve decided:
--Most writers are borderline hoarders when it comes to stacks of papers, books and God only knows what else.
--Pretty much all writers have fancier rooms than mine. (The only antique in here is me.)
But, as Little Willie Sockspeare pointed out:

You can write a great book without having that “cabin by the lake”—your holy of holies, your retreat, your sanctuary—in which to write it. That’s good news, isn’t it?
I assume you’re not at that lake right now. Not looking out the huge picture window to gaze on a vast expanse of lake and forest and . . . . No! Wait. French doors. Looking out those French doors, which are open just a few inches so you can feel the breeze, take in the pine-scented fresh air, listen to the . . . Blah, blah, blah.
If you did own that “perfect” cabin, you’d have to worry about taxes and insurance and a leaky roof and . . . . 
Does that cabin have indoor plumbing? No? Then you might end up doing some suffering there on a cold, dark night when nature calls and you have to head for the outhouse.

Here are two views of the 8x8x8-foot cube-of-an-office my father-in-law built for me in 1988. In my garage. Not fancy but . . . I've written dozens of books in here, cranked out countless articles and columns, and spent an unimaginable amount of time staring out the window.

Here is my "real desk" -- buried in stuff.

And my "writing desk" -- with room on the left for a reference book or plate of donuts.

Just keep writing.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Everyone just starting out is unsure

I came across an article today about wannabe writers in India. I especially liked one young woman's "confession":

"You need guts to write. I am planning to get my book published soon, but as a young writer I have apprehensions at times whether my writing is good enough to be published,"

I remember that feeling. The simple, and scary, way of finding out is to do the best you can, finish it, and submit it for publication.

You can read the whole article here.

Just keep writing.