Saturday, September 29, 2012

Confession Time: Why The Videos...

Greetings all.  I'm sure everyone has been noticing I've been putting up more and more videos lately as opposed to my usual entries.  Well, part of the reason for this was to get more traffic to come to my Vlog on YouTube.  But there is another reason.

Those of you who watched the video on my last entry: will already know what I'm about to say.  I have a chronic pain condition.  I can still see the doctor who diagnosed me with it 12 years ago as he gave me a sad smile and said, "The good news is that it won't kill you.  But you'll be in pain the rest of your life."  The condition is known as Fibromyalgia and based on my own research over the years and from speaking with experts, I've had this since childhood.  I've always suffered pain more readily and easier than my peers back in grade school.  No one ever believed me when I told them how much I hurt especially after one of the numerous bully assaults because of my apparent weakness and vulnerability.  I was never good at sports even when I tried my damnedest to get good.  My muscles never responded correctly.  I was clumsy and awkward and on rare days when I was feeling 'good' I was able to excel in ways no one could believe.  But then a day or so later I'd be back to my usual lower performing standards no matter how HARD I tried to push myself.  I was tired a lot as well, which comes with being in pain.

Now let me point out that the pain levels I normally experience are the kind of low (somethings off but it's not going to get in my way) kind of thing.  They can take their toll but I've found exercise routines that really work for me without exacerbating the pain.  I've taken a lot of dance and have learned a lot of core and endurance building exercises that have helped a lot.  But even these are no match for when the Fibromyalgia comes out of its remission stage and goes into "FLARE".

During "Flare" the pain levels shoot up and my motor skills become clumsy and awkward.  I feel terribly drained and even have to resort to using a walking stick to get around (even inside my home).  Even putting my thoughts together can be difficult, as if I were trapped in a fog which is why this particular symptom is referred to as FIBROFOG.  Overall, it's like having a terrible case of the flu with the deep body aches and fatigue, without the high temp or other symptoms.

Now, what does all this have to do with the videos?  Simple.  I have limited energy reserves during these periods.  And what little I feel up to doing is getting through my college classes and my daily life period.  I budget my reserves and try to focus on writing my novels as best I can (the Fibrofog can mess me up on that front something fierce and I can't really write some days even though I want to).  During periods like the one I'm going through now, it's easier to sit and talk rather than type.  And since I don't want to neglect all of you who've been so kind and generous with your comments and views, I've been resorting to the videos.

So, now you know what's really been going on.  I hope you all understand and I hope this particular 'Flare' will soon pass.  Until it does please bear with me.  I will still be posting in one form or the other.

In the meantime I'm going to take advantage of my being a writer to bring up another subject.  In my earlier entries I talked about giving your characters skills, hobbies, talents you have or someone you know has to help make them more real to your readers.  The same still holds true with bad stuff.  Losing a loved one, a bad childhood, an unhappy relationship, or having a health condition.

Now I've already started using my personal knowledge of dealing with Fibromyalgia with one of the characters in my novels.  Her name is Cassandra Elliott, a billionaire heiress with a heart of gold.  With looks, beauty and money, she would seem to have it all.  But Epstein-Barr plagues her, depriving her of love of dance and other activities by making her bed-ridden for days or weeks at a time.  She hates the feeling of helplessness and being an invalid at times.  But how she deals with her condition helps shape the person she's become and her drive to be as normal as possible especially around her new love interest.

We're all shaped by our experiences.  Good or bad, how we react to them helps make us the people we are.  So look into your own life sometimes for sources of material to help shape and make your characters into real people.  People your readers can relate to and want to keep reading about and cheer on.

Thanks for reading, sorry this post is so long, but I felt it necessary to address some of the concerns I've been reading in the comment sections or in private messages.  Take care everyone and I hope to have another entry up shortly.  Keep writing.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

More About Drawing From Life to Create Realistic Characters...

This latest installment not only deals with creating characters, but also explains a bit why I haven't been making as long an entry as I'd like lately.  I hope to do a more proper entry shortly.  Thanks...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Creating People, Not Just Characters...

The move is over, I'm settled in.  It's time to get back to the business of blogging and writing.  Thanks for all your patience everyone.  In today's Blog/Vlog installment, you'll get to meet an artist who helps me explain how to create characters in your stories, who feel more like real people.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Think I May Be Doing Something Right....

Wow, my latest video seems to be my most popular one to date. It's sitting at 65 views in just 3 days. It took weeks for any of my other installments to reach that number. If you haven't already checked it out please do. I'd like to see it r
each 100 by the weekend. And if you enjoyed it, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and also spread the word to help me reach more viewers. Part of a writer's job is to get their name out there and this one of the methods I'm using to make that happen. Thanks everyone and I'd be happy to return the favor, just ask.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

When Life Inspires Art...

This was going to be a Vlog entry about settling into my new home.  But it quickly went into a very different direction.  I did not plan this, it just happened and I ran with it.  I hope you enjoy this video.  It wound up inspiring an idea for a scene in novel #3.  It's just too good to not use.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Stealth Writer's Block

Well, we're mostly settled into our new place in the Monterey Bay area, so the dust is slowly settling from all of that.  Still unpacking and organizing where we want things to go and how, but that's just normal after a move.

But sometimes figuring out how to organize your story and where you want certain events or revelations to go can also be pretty tricky.  It can even lead to problems I'd never thought about, like Writer's Block.  Or, as it was with me recently,  STEALTH WRITER'S BLOCK!

Now what I mean by that is a kind of Writer's Block you aren't even aware of.  To give you an example, this is what happened to me.  I had finished a particular scene in my current novel and had moved way beyond it with the rest of the story.   But for some odd reason, I kept finding myself going back to that scene and wondering about it.  It would happen every so often then I'd get back to where I actually left off writing.  But soon enough I was back to that scene again.  And slowly my whole writing process came to grinding halt as I kept studying that scene and dwelling on it.  It took me a week or more to realize what had happened and that I needed to fix that scene in some way to make the rest of the book make more sense and feel complete.

At this point you can see what I called it "Stealth Writer's Block", and I had a bad case of it.  I kept turning that one scene over and over in my mind, like I was working on a Rubik's Cube.  I got so desperate I turned to a Magic Eight Ball and started juggling it just for giggles.  Giggling at this point is not a good sign.  If you find yourself suffering from this, please see a doctor at once.  Preferably "Doctor Who", I find watching something I really enjoy sometimes helps me get past writer's block.

Anyway I finally realized what was wrong with the scene, nothing.  It was fine as it stood, it even worked well with the overall feel of the novel.  So what was bothering me about it, you ask?  I could expand and change it ever so slightly to important provide foreshadowing for events coming later in the novel.

So I went back and made the adjustments I envisioned and cranked out between 3000-7000 words in a couple of days.  I even cut down the overall word-count for the novel at this point leaving myself room for extra scenes I had in mind for the climactic final battle.  For those who are wondering why I'm worried about word-count I'll address that in one of my upcoming blogs.  It is something all writers have to be aware of when you are creating the final version of your work which you intend to send to agents or publishers.

Now I have my book back on track and its looking much better.  The story seems more gripping and the overall flow feels more natural to me.  So beware of the dreaded "Stealth Writer's Block", it may appear at any time.  It may even have its claws sunk into you at this moment, if it does I have this advice.  Take two episodes of whatever is your favorite show and then call your manuscript in the morning by giving it a really good going over and see if any tweaking might be needed.

Until next time, keep writing.

PS:  If you're looking for more advice about how to deal with Writer's Block keep an eye on this Blog.  I'm planning a special video to demonstrate how to deal with this dreaded enemy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Final Installment of "My Setting Is Changing"

I created this video with the YouTube Video Editor because my cell phone will only allow me to e-mail videos only once and I accidentally lost all of them on my laptop.  So I just sent all the vids to YouTube and edited the puppy here (

Anyway, this is the finale about my setting changing.  I know you all have been supportive and maybe wondering a little bit about why I chose to do this series. Well here's the answer, setting affects people.  Especially it affects your characters.  Their drives, dreams, motivations, how they feel (excitement, boredom, anger, resentment, etc.)  And changing settings can have a huge impact on them and what choices they make with their lives and how they react to it.  You've seen me go through a range of emotions and seen some parts about me I've never revealed to you before (like saying goodbye to a place and thanking it for all it had done for us).  Can a place be sentient or aware?  I like to think so.  But you would've never known about it until this video.  So give more thought about the settings in your writing and how it affects your characters and their world views.  And make sure there is some interaction between them and their setting you can wind up with some powerful ideas you never thought about before.  Thanks for watching.

My next video will be about my new setting and the joys of unpacking.  And trying to find where some of our stuff landed up when we need it.  Take care and thanks again.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Here is part 3 of my 4 part video series on my wife and I moving from Santa Cruz to the Monterey Bay area.  The experience itself has given me loads of ideas and I hope it's been doing the same for you.  You've seen me going through a range of emotions and hearing how I feel about leaving the place that's been home and my inspiration for the last 4 years.  But with any new experience you can find a lot of ideas if you just keep your eyes and mind open.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hobbies, Talents, Characters and Me...

Well, my wife Helen and I have finally finished moving into our new place.  I'll be posting some more videos from my Vlog about that shortly, but I wanted to focus on another subject today.  Hobbies, talents, things people do for adventure, enjoyment and relaxation.

Now in creating characters that seem real to the audience I've found that the more real and reachable the characters are (i. e. they're like people you know or might meet) they're the ones that the readers seem to really relate to and even come to love.  Now one method I've used to make my characters seem more human and real is to give them traits that are familiar, and even somewhat odd but intriguing.  I've given characters hobbies or activities I've tried.  When they are finished with what I've written, some have even gone and done research of their own on the activity.  Some have even taken it up and made it a part of their lives.

But how did that happen?  Simple, whether it's playing a sport, roller-blading, painting, dancing, singing, or whatever, you have a wealth of experience and knowledge from those activities to draw upon.  How does that activity make you feel while your doing it?  What's going through your mind?  Is it something you share with others and if so, what's happening inside your head at that moment when you unveil your talent/hobby?  Are you nervous?  Are you proud?  How fast is your heart racing?  Do you have any nervous ticks or tap fingers or anything like that while you're waiting for a verdict?  If it's a positive reaction, what happens to you?  And even more importantly how do you take criticism or a well-thought critique?  Here you have a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw upon.  I like to take some of that and bestow it upon my characters.

Now I want to point out, that the activity or skill doesn't have to be one you've done persoanlly and know a lot about.  I mean let's face it, I don't know how to do macrame or glass-blowing.  But the thrill and intensity of the emotions of creation are still the same.  If I'm writing about something I'm really familiar with I'll throw in some personal knowledge and techniques into the scene, but it's not a pre-requisite.  However, when I'm writing about something I'm not familiar with I do my research.  I learn some of the jargon and get some rough ideas of what goes into the skill.  And if possible, I try to find someone who actually does it and get their thoughts and insights (and with their permission use some of it in my writing).  It's okay to get input from elsewhere folks, don't be afraid to ask questions.  Most artisans, athletes, or whoever are usually more than willing to share a bit about their talent with you.

But in the meantime, look upon your own experiences in life to find the emotional highs and lows, the frustration, the concentration, the nervousness and lend some of that to your characters.  Believe me, it makes them more human and real to the reader.  Because from their point of view they are watching someone who is dedicated to a craft, even if the character is a supposed "Expert" the emotions and intensity is still the same as they create.  I've seen artists working on a piece that I thought was exceptional, only to have them turn away in disgust because it's not up to what they envisioned.  I've even known a few to trash what they've done completely to start over.  Not a pretty sight sometimes I can tell you.  But when they get to that point when the new piece is reaching the pinnacle of what they had in mind, the expression on their face and the energy in the room is something else.

Now all of what I've been talking about today has been going through my head for months now.  And it has lead me to some decisions and thought about myself.  I'm planning to try and have more adventures and experiences in the coming months/years.  There are things I've thought about doing but never tried before such as Kayaking, I've never done it before but I have a friend who raves about it so I'm going to give it a try.  Plus my wife keeps talking about trying it as well, so it's in the planning stages.

Another thing I'm thinking about is Para-Sailing and Hang-Gliding.  Now I'm not good with heights, but these activities are available in and around where we're living now.  And they take place on and above the sandy dunes near but not over the water (because the undercurrents are treacherous around here).  And from my point of view, sand is a lot better to possibly crash into than solid ground or a stony canyon so I'm willing to give it a go.  Even if the entire experience scares the hell out of me, I'll have something knew to write about and use with a character down the road.

In the meantime, I'll be sharing some videos soon about hobbies and things I'm already very familiar with very soon.  And in the process I'll be letting you know a bit more about me and who I am and what makes me the person I've become.  So, please stay tuned and KEEP WRITING!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Part 2 of "My Setting Is Changing"

And here is part 2 of "My Setting Is Changing". This time we're starting to say farewell to some very close friends...