So you can read my books

Monday, April 30, 2018

The ZEN of Writing _ A TO Z

A New York Times essay recently stated that modern fiction has lost its faith ...

that Christian belief figures into literary fiction in our place and time as something 

between a dead language and a hangover.

I believe it is worse than that:  

many books seem to have lost touch with the soul, the wonder, and the magic 

without which our prose tales are shallow pursuits of sensory titillation.  


There is a land not too far from where you sit right now.

Its velvet grasses miss the press of your feet.

The billowing clouds strain to see your body walk slowly up the rising hill.

The fragrant winds blow through the lonely tree branches, 

whispering your name as they seek some trace of you.

It is where the magic lives.

That realm is lonely, wondering where you have been.

And where have you and I been?

We have been caught up in the drudgery that writing has become. 

Burdened by life's duties and our own doubts, we have lost our way.

We have lost the magic.

Did we lose it straining for that first perfect sentence in our new novel?

Looking at the blank, impatient computer monitor 

did we forget the simple wonder of just writing the first simple sentence that occurred to us?

That creative power which bubbles so tingly at the beginning of our book quiets down after a time. 

The journey becomes slower and slower, the inertia of doubt steadily dragging our steps.

Do we continue doggedly on or do we stop to refresh ourselves?

The answer to that question determines whether we find our way back to the magic or not.

How do we refresh ourselves?

How do we refresh ourselves on a long wilderness walk? We stop by a stream and drink.

Drink of those poets and writers who sparked that love of the written word spoken in the lonely heart of the reader.

As a hiker takes shade under the canopy of a huge oak, 

listen to the music of those artists who stirred you to imagine images that you just had to write and make live in your own way.

Then, you shall write as a child writes ... 

not thinking of a result but thinking in terms of discovery as if you were hiking once again where the magic lives.

It is the Zen of writing

the creation takes place between your fingers and the keyboard, 

not before in a thought or afterwards in a recasting.

The magic is there waiting for you. It will come if you but get out of its way and let it in.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The YEOMANS Brand _ A TO Z

“Style is knowing who you are, 
what you want to say, 
and not giving a damn.”
- Gore Vidal

Like you, I have a brand.

Like you, I think I know what it is.

Like you, I am wrong.

Most authors do not know what personal branding is.  

We see big corporations and celebrities botch it all the time. 

We reach out and almost touch 
the fabric of what others see in our stories, 
but we never quite make it.

Your brand isn’t your book cover,

 and it isn’t what you say about yourself. 

Your brand is your characters' values 
and how they act on those values
on every page. 

What do you think your brand is?

Saturday, April 28, 2018


{Courtesy Dave Melvin}

“When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.”
Gypsy, Ghost Cat

So there I was watching the rolling credits to ALIEN, thinking what a great human Ripley was for going back for her cat.

I was curled up in Food Guy's favorite chair.  He wasn't using it.  He was out on one of those blood runs of his.

Why do I still call him Food Guy when I can't eat?  He still puts out food for me to knock around the kitchen floor.

I coulda won the World Cup for America if they just accepted ghost cats.

I went cold as I heard hollow laughter.  

Aw, mouse turds.  

That DayStar Guy. 

Why couldn't he pick on someone his own size -- like the Statue of Liberty?

It came from the kitchen.  I padded all ninja-like to peek around the corner.  Aw, jeez.  An honest-to-acid blood Alien.

And it was drooling all over my food!

I charged it, hissing.  It hissed back.  I hissed louder, bucking my back to boot. 

"Lay off my food, Drool Lips!"

Its inner teeth shot out at me, and I dodged.

"Hey, no French Kissing on the first date!"

It lunged for me.  I twisted and ran into the front room.  It followed. 

I stopped in front of the mirror, spun around, and wiggled my rear in its face.

"Hey, Ugly!  I wear mine on the right end!"

Like I figured, the Alien darted for me.

I yelled out, "Elu, don't fail me now!!"


He lives in what he calls the Mirror World.  I saved his life once from the Sphinx of Thebes, and the Apache Shaman owes me.

I hoped he wouldn't welch on the debt.

Elu didn't. 

The alien slid right THROUGH the mirror.  I followed.  Maybe I could convince the Dildo-Headed Alien to be pals. 

Hey, it could happen!

{Courtesy Dave Melvin}

Why isn’t the word “phonetically”
spelled with an “f”?”
  ―     Gypsy, Ghost Cat

Friday, April 27, 2018

WONDER gives birth to great reads _ A TO Z

 Robert E. Howard, ghost writing ...

Yes, though I am a ghost I keep up with the evolution of words and phrases.

After all, during the Great Depression

my stories earned me an income that surpassed the local banker's in my small Texas town of Cross Plains.

So I ask you ... is your novel sexually active?

Or does it just lay there on the page?

Homer, Shakespeare, Poe, Twain -- the immortals of fiction knew it was the key to fiction:

The heart draws the eyes --

if you want your novel read, it must have love and action.

Characterization is great,

but Edgar Rice Burroughs (the father of all cardboard heroes) 

was the most translated author of the 1900's. 

He took exotic locales, a man of action, and love in jeopardy, mixing them in a stew millions and millions bought.

Those of you who know only my characters but have never read my stories, you may think of cold steel, hot blood, and sensual women. 

Yes, they were in my stories. And no, they weren't. 

The heart was there and mystery.

J K Rowling? Where's the love there? 

What heart doesn't go out to a mistreated boy? 

Oliver Twist. Wart, young Arthur. Harry Potter is a meld of those two icons.

The heart draws the eyes. The action, tension, and danger keeps the pages turning.

Your dream is to be a professional.

Yet, only the big name authors can keep to their genre of choice.

The rest of us must be adaptable enough to go from genre to genre, depending upon the demands of the market.

To sell as many stories as I did, I had to go from one genre to another: 

Westerns, Sea Stories, science fiction, horror, fantasy, even war stories.

If we are professionals, we can cross genres because we know the core skeleton of a good story:

The heart draws the eyes. Action and dread turns the pages.

We all know the core plot:

The underdog hero/heroine is pulled into a problem beyond his/her capacity to handle.

He attempts to solve it to only to find himself plunged into deeper dangers 

that grow logically out of his actions and the actions of his adversaries.

All appears lost:

 the dream is crushed, his friends are gone, and hope has died.

In this midnight of the soul, he learns a Truth about himself, about Life that re-shapes his thinking. He struggles, renewed and reborn.

He triumphs or loses magnificently ... or a little bit of both.

Some turn up their lips at the thought of formula --


if you look closely enough, you will see the core skeleton of every good story.

Love in jeopardy draws the reader in. 

The tension of what waits around the corner keeps the reader turning the pages. 

And flashes of action, like lightning bolts, spur the reader on.

Like cooking a stew, you must sift the proper balance of ingredients. 

A likeable hero. 

A dream/love just out of reach.

Danger. Tension. 

A hope of success. Series of cruel failures. 

And the last triumphant struggle.


The reader wants to be kept in perpetual anticipation,

to not be able to put the book down,

to laugh, to cringe with sympathy at cruel blows, and to cheer at the end.

Last thought: sizzle sells the steak.

Suspense is better than action. 

(And you can stretch it over more pages.)

The fear of the unknown is always stronger than the grabbling with the monster unmasked. 

Action taken against a barely seen adversary is always to be preferred.
Happy Wondering!


Thursday, April 26, 2018

VALUE of dreams _ A TO Z

"Even if you cannot change 
all the people around you, 
you can change the people 
you choose to be around." 
- Roy T. Bennett

Ghost of Mark Twain rambling by again.

I have always believed, 
and I still believe, 
that whatever good or bad fortune 
may come our way,
 we can always give it meaning 
and transform it 
into something of value.

Old Thoreau keeps telling me 

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life 

which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” 

Now as much as it galls me, I reckon I believe that.

Which means the cost of a lot of folks' dreams are darn high.  

I wonder if those dreams' value turns out to be worth it.

It galls me even more that I agreed with that scoundrel, Freud, when he wrote:

 “It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement 

that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, 

and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.” 

Personally, I believe ...

it is in the heart that the values lie ...

 a loving heart is riches, and riches enough, ... without it, intellect is poverty and wealth but rags.

 One values a thing when one can’t afford it ...

which could explain I suppose why folks value their dreams so.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018


At Meilori's, 

that haunted jazz club which is never too far from where dreams have died, 

I was playing chess with the ghost of William Faulkner.

The fog gathered near.  

The jazz murmured low in the shadows.  

The torches beckoned to all who wander lost in the dark of their soul.

I must have spoken that thought aloud, 

for Faulkner said low, 

"How do you know they are so lost?"

I smiled sadly, "On such a night, if they could be home, they'd already be there." 

He returned my smile.  "Just so.  Just so."

I asked, "Why weren't you at the poker game last night?"

Faulkner snorted, "Hemingway is already morose about November's writing contest."

"So you approve of NaNo?"

"Goodness, no!  It is a horrid waste of 30 precious days that will never come again.  

The dead know all too well how fleeting life can be."

I nodded, "Mark Twain says each day is a coin we can spend any way we wish, but ...."

Faulkner finished with me, " ... you can only spend it once."

He sighed, 

"But have those contest participants bought anything of lasting value with those 30 coins?"

"So you agree with Hemingway?"

"No.  He lived a full life and should know Mankind has always looked for the secret elixir, the hidden keys, the lost path to success."

Faulkner smiled bitterly. 

 "Not that they exist, mind you, but we want them to.  We live in denial of the simple fact 


the true path to success, whether in writing or in any other endeavor, 

is paved with courage, imagination, and persistence."

He blew pipe smoke into the shadows. "And it is a lonely road."

I sighed, "For me it has been."

Faulkner murmured,

 "So it is understandable that so many writers think they have found the key to becoming writers 

in this joint 'group hug' as Hemingway so colorfully and callously calls this contest."

He frowned as I moved my knight in a move he had not foreseen. 

 "But the truth is as elusive as smoke in the night.  Sometimes you can smell it in the air, but it slips through your fingers."

Faulkner took my knight in a move that this time I hadn't seen coming and smiled,

 "But I can tell you and your electronic friends the simple secret to writing success."

"It's not nice to tease a struggling writer."

"Oh, I am quite sincere.  The simple secret is this:

Write of an old thing in a new way."

In response to my frown, Faulkner said, 

"The oldest lodestone to literature is the human heart in conflict with itself.  

From Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams that lodestone has been the compass that led the way to riveting stories."

He tapped the chessboard with the stem of his pipe. 

"Only that is worth writing about, worth the agony, and the sweat of wresting something from nothing."

Faulkner leaned forward, stabbing my chest with the pipe stem.

"Leave no room in your writing for anything but the old truths of the heart,

 the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - 

 love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.


Until you do so, you labor under a curse.

You write not of love but of lust,

of defeats in which no one loses anything of value,

of victories without hope and,

worst of all, without pity or compassion. 

Your griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars.

You write not of the heart but of the sex glands

He wrinkled his nose as if to sneeze.  

"When I was in Hollywood, Samuel Goldwyn would point out the latest hit to me and my fellow script writers

and say, "I want the same thing ... only different."

I smiled, 

"No stories of young boys or girls fated to save the world, no wallflower girl courted by supernatural heart-throbs, no ...."

Faulkner said, 

"Dare to save your character's world in a way not seen before and with imagination not cookie-cutter formulas.'

I moved my last knight, positioning it to take his King.  "Checkmate."

He tipped over his King and arched an eyebrow, "Only a callow soul takes advantage of the dead."

The ghost of Mark Twain pulled up a seat and crowed, "Why I do that all the time!"

Faulkner snorted, "I rest my case."

Tuesday, April 24, 2018



"Lies run sprints;
But the truth runs marathons." 
- Michael Jackson

Truths are the antidotes for lies.

Especially the lies many authors believe.


They are what drives our characters to do the things that spiral into 

foolishness and adventure and wisdom won ... 

or defeat assured.


They do the same to us if we believe them about our writing dream.  

Lies can be fought with truth talk.

LIE #1



Was Emily Dickinson a nothing, a failure 

because she never gave up writing her poems her way and was never published in her lifetime?

 Creative writing is one of the best exercises we can do for the aging brain.

Don't take my word alone for it: 

Jenni Ogden, a writer AND a neuro-psychologist has found it so.

Writing adds to the intellectual and physical exercises 

that slow down the brain’s aging process most often experienced

 by the forgetting of names and words and where you put the car keys – or the car!

Use it or lose it.

LIE #2 


Oh, come on now!

A novel is more than just sitting down and cranking out a word count. 

There are those little pesky things 

like plot, and character, and pacing, and dialogue and so on and so forth. 

All of those things take time to develop.

 While you’re doing all of this as a budding novelist, 

you are also most likely doing all the other things in your days that constitute your life

A day job, spouse and family, hobbies and friends, 

reading and television and video games and even (wait for it) sleep. 

It all adds up — and it all subtracts from the amount of time you have to write.

 Writing those three or four or five novels an average writer has to burn through 

before they write a publishable novel will likely take years.

No matter who you are as an author, you pay your dues at one end or another. 

To put it another way: it takes many years to be an overnight success. 

Maybe you haven’t “made it” yet. 

That doesn’t mean 
you never will.

George Elliot didn't publish 'Middlemarch' until she was 52.

Anthony Burgess (published at 39), 

Helen Dewitt published 'The Last Sumarai' at 41,

 William S. Burroughs 
("When you stop growing, you start dying.") published his first novel at 39.

 Laura Ingalls  

("There is no great loss without some small gain.”), was in her mid-60s when she published 'Little House in the Big Woods.'

 Marquis de Sade, (Ah, let's not go there!)

 Raymond Chandler (published 'The Big Sleep' at 51)

-- all gained fame older.

Bram Stoker, too (Who didn't write 'Dracula' until he was 50)  

and said "We learn from failure not from success."  

Gee, I must be a genius!

LIE #3


Does Dean Koontz have a magic stopwatch that stops time to give him 30 hours a day to write?

Let me tell you about Robert Louis Stevenson --

A year after Kidnapped he left Scotland and southern England for America 

in search of adventure and a better climate for his tuberculosis.

Writing continued on land and sea at 400 pages a year for twenty years, 

reckoned his first biographer. From one letter home a year before Stevenson died:

    "For fourteen years I have not had a day's real health;
    I have awakened sick and gone to bed weary; and I have done my work unflinchingly.
    I have written in bed, and written out of it, written in haemorrhages,
    written in sickness, written torn by coughing, written when my head swam for weakness;

     And for so long, it seems to me I have won my wager and recovered my glove....

    And the battle goes on 'ill or well.'

     It is a trifle; so as it goes. I was made for a contest."

So what is stopping you from writing?

Monday, April 23, 2018


“My fear of abandonment is exceeded 
only by my terror of intimacy.”
 - Ethlie Ann Vare

Has Casual Sex Destroyed Our Ability 
To Think Beyond Ourselves ... 
To Love?

Our generation centers more and more on an ever-expanding growth of technology.

Once girls wore letterman jackets of their boyfriends, 

exchanged love letters, and took long walks in the park hand in hand.

Now, lonely souls search Tinder, Facebook, and 

stare starry-eyed at tiny images on their iPhones, mistaking texting for touching.

So many of the young people you see staring intently at their smartphones are slightly dead inside, 

hollowed out by a complete lack of  real human interaction.


Even talking on the phone has become foreign and uncomfortable to so many.  

We do not have conversations anymore.  

Texting is remote, less threatening, but ultimately less fulfilling.

To say "Good Bye" via Instagram is easy in all the wrong ways.

When couples meet, it is easier to let the hormones take over, 

engage in passion without purpose, 

and avoid the threat of true communication and its inherent danger of rejection of who we are as a person.

So many of us have become obsessed with the casual.  We don't want strings.

We want to drift where the currents of passion take us.

But a ship without a rudder soon becomes lost at sea.

Look at the faces of the models in the magazines:

Cool, Distant, Unobtainable

Those faces are icy.  

You could not imagine them uttering "I love you" and risk having another having power over them.


In this age of free sex so many are in chains of loneliness.

When you think of another person 

merely as an object with which you engage in external masturbation, 

you place your own desire for animal satisfaction above their dignity and worth as a person.

When you fail to see the humanity of another person, 

you lose a bit of your own humanity as well.

Do it enough times, 

and you become so hollow you start to ache inside without knowing why.

What Do You Think?