Tag Archives: on writing

World War 1, Flanders Fields, and Second Chance

While I’m working on the new books, I’m going to be discussing the ones that have already been released, since often the questions I get from the books clubs and fans are about what is already out there.

The Noah Chance series consists of two books at this point, with a third in the pre-planning stages now. These books are about a remarkable young man with Downs Syndrome who, in Second Chance, has just graduated High School.

As many of you know I actually started writing No’ Chance, the first book in the series, back in the mid to late 90s. I’d write a paragraph here and a paragraph there, mostly when I was on the road trying to establish myself as a trial lawyer. Then, on an absolutely beautiful late summer day, I was waiting on the members of a jury we’d picked to arrive at the courthouse so we could start a trial and the judge called the lawyers back into her office and waved at her television and we saw the world changing before our eyes and suddenly many things that had seemed scary were not quite so scary anymore as we watched the World Trade Center buildings fall to the ground over the next while.

Trial lawyers spent the next couple of years trying to figure out how the events of that day and what followed would affect the viewpoints of the jurors and I found my time for writing was even more limited.

By the time I was ready to release No’ Chance, I was already well into writing Second Chance, and it seemed we had been at war with someone, somewhere, forever. I had always been fascinated by the stories told to me by veterans of WW II but when I started reading about WW I  the realization hit that what was called The War to End Wars had probably been as horrible as any before or after and yet you didn’t hear much about it. That’s particularly interesting when you consider we’re not in the 10 year anniversary of it happening. 

I said all that to say this, a part of that war made it into Second Chance, a book set in the beautiful locale of Galveston Island, Texas, a place I knew well since I had visited there every weekend for many of the summers of my early life and as far removed from the WW I torn landscape of Flanders as it was possible to be.

The Noah Chance series are each standalone novels, but I strongly suggest you read them in order. Just as I was growing as a writer, so the characters grew as people and sometimes a few lines of a letter home or, in this case, a poem from a young doctor who had been at Flanders after the battle, did a lot to depict the horror of war.

I’m closing out this post, as I periodically do, with a YouTube video. This one is The Bloody Fields of Flanders, played on bagpipes. While some say that bagpipes sounds to them like a bag of cats being strangled, many of us feel a stirring in our soul when the keening starts, showing that while out family may be generations from the green hills of Scotland, the blood still runs true.

Working Atmosphere for Me

When I visit with people at the various book signings I attend, some new authors or people who want to try their hand at writing are always curious about the environment in which I write.

In his book, On Writing (which I highly recommend), Stephen King mentions that he normally and prefers to write in a room with the door closed but with some type of classic hard rock (AC/DC) blasting from speakers.

I'm a little different. I have a multiple monitor setup and often when I'm writing I will have some movie or television show playing on one monitor while writing on the other. Whatever I'm streaming is usually something I've seen before, often a series where I particularly like the writing or characters. An example of this would be Showtime's Shameless since I've seen all of the episodes repeatedly and I think 90% of the work on the show is genius level (by everyone involved from the writers to the actors).

Sometimes I feel like listening to music and so I will imagine that the novel I'm working on has been turned into a movie, and try to pick out some songs which would fit on the soundtrack. For instance, I'm working on a book about a supernatural or weird western twist on the Doc Holliday story. My playlist for that one includes the songs in the list below (in case you don't know them I'll also put the YouTube video for it and then the link to where the song can be bought on Amazon if you'd like) as well as some others. If you'll notice, the genres are mixed but each of them fit a scene I have in my mind. Often, if I know I'm going to work on a certain book on a day, I'll listen to the playlist songs to get me in the mood and to start the ideas flowing.

The Worst Part of Writing

The most frequently asked question to those of us who write is "Where do you get your ideas?" The answer, of course, is everywhere. People you see, things you hear about, dreams (or nightmares) anything that gets the hamster in your mind to start running on that wheel.

But the question that you rarely hear is "What is the worst part of writing?'

It's not the writer's block, we all get that at times, it's not the boredom, it's not the panic of a deadline, it's not the research that you have to do.

For me, the worst part of writing is the rewriting/editing.

Right now I'm in the editing/rewriting phase of getting  The Bottle Tree,  Junebug and The Body, and  No' Chance  in their final form for the print editions and it is draaaagggggiiiinnnngggg on. The people who know me also know that, as a rule, I'm pretty laid back. However, a lot of that is a holdover from my lawyer days when I didn't want the other side to see me sweating so while I may appear calm on the outside, on the inside I may be just about to have a nervous breakdown.

But what very few people know is that sometimes the littlest things drive me nuts. I know, I know, that seems odd given my penchant for torturing people who are a little OCD. For instance, my best friend is OCD to the max. When we took trips together and shared a hotel room he would always place his items in a certain order on the bathroom vanity. When we got ready to leave the room I'd always move a couple of things around and then tell him about it as the elevator started moving or as we left the hotel, just to make him twitch. Occasionally I'd have to wait in the lobby until he went back to the room and put the things back the way "they were supposed to be".

I'm finding that, as a writer, I'm getting like that. In reading over the proofs I find myself compelled to correct problems that no one else will notice. For instance, on one page I noticed that there was an extra space in a sentence. Even though it meant the entire print process would have to be redone, I found myself unable to allow that extra space to stay there. In another, I spent an hour researching a point of grammar that I assure you no one else would ever notice.

That doesn't mean I can't use bad grammar, write in "the vernacular", or purposely break all kinds of rules, but I just can't allow myself to do it unless it was intentional.

Because of this I am now on my third printings of the proofs and edits. But, hopefully in the next week the prints will be ready.

Unfortunately, I'm now stressed about what is going to happen when the proof has been approved and then I spot another mistake.