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Category: Writing (Page 1 of 8)

Ulysses S. Grant – A Badass to the Very End

General Ulysses S. Grant managed to put Robert E. Lee in such a tight spot it forced him to surrender, thus ending the Civil War. During the signing of the surrender treaty, Grant showed up at Wilmer McLean’s house in Appomattox Court House straight from the field.

He was looking a little rough around the edges, his uniform speckled with dried mud and dirt, while Lee showed up in his best dress uniform. Grant treated his now former foe with the greatest respect and offered generous surrender terms to Lee’s vanquished army.

After the war, he took on the very tenuous task of Reconstruction, which continued into his two-term presidency. In the process, he worked to protect the rights of African American. As president, he ratified the 15th Amendment which prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.

After a difficult presidency, he went into business with a friend of his son’s. Unknown to him it was a Ponzi scheme and he lost everything. He was essentially broke. Then Grant found out he was dying from throat cancer. With just $189 left in the bank, he set out to write his memoirs in an effort to save his family from ruin after he was gone.

He started writing from the place his family was staying in Manhattan, but that summer of 1885 was so hot it added difficulty to his failing health. His doctor told him to get away from the heat of the city and go out to the country.

He moved his family to a cottage home in upstate New York. He was made offers for his memoirs, but the best one came from his friend Mark Twain, who would give his estate 75% of the royalties with $50,000 up front.

Grant soon lost his ability to speak and was in almost constant pain, but he continued writing his memoirs. The man wrote 10,000 words a day, on paper with pencils he sharpened with a penknife. Let me say that again, and let it sink in. This dying man wrote 10,000 words a day – in pencil! He wrote for five straight weeks.

Three days after completing his 600 page memoir, Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885, surrounded by his family. He was 63.

His memoirs were an instant hit. His wife Julia received about $450,000 in royalties, which equates to over $11 million dollars in today’s money. Ulysses S. Grant – A total Bad-Ass.

I Want To Be A Writer

“I want to be a writer. I want to write a book.”

This is what I often hear from people when I tell them I’m working on a book and becoming an Authorpreneur. When they say it they have this dreamy far away look in their eyes. Imagining fame and fortune, going on TV shows and signing their name on copies of their books. I give them the same advice I’m gonna give you, in the same way my mentor gave it to me.



“No, you really don’t want to be a writer. It’s frustrating, lonely, and hard.”

Despite what some people think, the reality is writing as a profession is not an easy path to success or wealth. If you think it’ll enable you to pay a mortgage on a big house, and you’ll be driving your kids to a private school in your Mercedes SUV, then I’ma smack you upside your head…again.

For most writers, you’d be lucky to afford rent on a double-wide mobile home, and feeding your kids store brand mac ‘n’ cheese…every day. Writing is a lot of work with little financial reward.

People who have a need to write don’t have a choice. It makes us feel good when we’re writing in a “flow” state (see runner’ high), and when we’re not writing we feel guilty, and lousy about it.

If you’re good with this and saying, “I don’t care, I want to write, I need to write,” Alrighty then this is what you need to do.

Several years ago, I attended a presentation Stephen King was giving at the Harvard Memorial Church.  He was promoting a book of short stories. After the talk he held a Q&A session, and inevitably one young college aged lady asked, “What’s the best way to become a real writer.”

Stephen King, having heard this same question thousands of times before, mustered the ability to not look bored with the question and responded, “To become a real writer you need to take these two very important steps:

1. Read a helluva lot…

2. Write a helluva lot

That’s it.”

Ask any successful writer and they’ll tell you the same thing. While every writer’s journey to a successful writing career is different, these rules are carved in stone.

Read a lot. Write a lot.

I amazes me when I meet someone who talks about wanting to become a writer, but the only thing they read and write on a regular basis are text messages, Tweets and Facebook entries! Really? Seriously?

If you want to be a writer, you actually need to write something other than text messages. Instead of just talking about writing (which we all love doing), you need to write something good, something involving thought and creativity – almost every day. Produce a paragraph with substance or an entire page at minimum.

Like most folks, you set a block of time in your day to go to a job on a regular basis, because you have to. If you want to be a writer then you have to set a block of time every weekday day to write, BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO. It’s your part-time job.

If you want to do this as a profession, you need to act like a professional. If you make writing a secondary or tertiary avocation – then forget it. Stop wasting your time. You aren’t a writer and don’t want to be. It’s just a hobby at that point.

To me, being a writer means this is your avocation, your passion and you intend it to be your main means of making a living. You know there’s a component of art to it, but you also know it’s a business and you need to give it that level of consideration. If you approach wanting to be a writer with anything less, then you’re just dabbling. Do you dabble at your job?

When you write something, you have to finish it. Period. End of story… literally.

After you’ve been writing for a while and people, other than your family and friends, tell you they liked what you wrote, it’s time to consider publishing your stories.

If you really feel the need to see your name on a book cover in a book store – knock yourself out. Go for it. Just know it’s a long road, fraught with frustration, rejection and disappointment. The traditional publishing route is nothing I’m going to cover in this blog. Currently traditional publishing is an obsolete business model sorely in need of a total overhaul.

I’m a big Authorpreneur advocate. Best-selling author Hugh Howey’s research at Author Earnings is proving your chances of making your dreams of becoming a full time writer, are far greater traveling down the Indie Publishing road.

Get Out of Your Own Way

Deal with the irrational fears holding you back from becoming the writer you envision. Writing is hard, but it isn’t life and death – you can do this. Most writer’s have a catalog of disempowering fears and negative emotions about writing. We must face them, and realize they have no basis in reality and exile them.You don’t have time or place for them in your life.

You have dreams to fulfill. Get into a state of passion for writing, and it will push doubt and low self-esteem aside, and allow you to put words on the page.


9-11 The 13th Anniversary

The images, sounds and experience still feel fresh, but not as raw as it once felt.

I still get sad and angry when I think about it, but no longer filled with melancholy and rage.

This year I have absolutely no interest in seeing the pictures and videos of the buildings burning, the plane hitting, the people jumping, the buildings fall and people running in stark terror. Those images are branded indelibly in my mind.

I prefer to see the World Trade Center how they looked, how I like to remember them. Like the clear blue skyline picture of Manhattan on my desktop at work.


I also prefer to see the pictures of the stunning Freedom Tower and the beautiful and touching memorial park and reflecting pools in the footprint of the original towers.



I’ll never forget the victims of that day. They were everyday, ordinary people like myself, my family and my friends.

I’ll never forget that Guy managed to escape the North Tower, just before it collapsed. He also experienced the bombing in 1993, but 9-11 changed him forever.

I’ll never forget the man who was talking to his very pregnant wife as she stood in her office. Her final utterance suggests she saw the jet just before it hit the tower right where she was standing – completely obliterating her and their unborn child.

I’ll never forget watching the man trying to shimmy his way down from the upper floors of the burning tower between the structures framing the windows. It wasn’t shown, but there is no doubt he eventually fell to his death.

I’ll never forget the desperate faces of hundreds of people hanging from broken windows attempting to breathe in life-giving air as superheated smoke billowed through the opening behind them, trying to build up the courage to jump before they burn to death.

I’ll never forget the sound of Kevin Cosgrove with a 9-1-1 dispatcher. He and a few others were trapped on the top floors of the South Tower. It was hot, they were choking on thick smoke. In utmost fear and panic he demanded that first responders rescue them. The dispatcher did all she could to keep reassuring him. I’ll never forget Kevin’s scream as the building collapsed and the line went dead. Kevin’s wife and children were fortunate his body was recovered, to give them closure, where the remains of over a thousand victims have never been recovered.

No, I will never forget. I can’t…I don’t want to.

How to Write Fiction In Five: How Long Should A Book Be?

When writing your fictional stories, they will take shape in one of the following basic forms, each varying in length/word count:

  1. Novels
  2. Novellas
  3. Short Stories
  4. Flash Fiction

The obvious difference, for the most part, is their word count/length. There are subsets of each of these, but these four are the main types. However, at a deeper level there are other differences – just as there are differences between bourbon and Scotch whiskey.



Novels and Novellas

The main distinction of the novel is the breadth of its scope. Novels contain multiple characters, incidents, settings, and moods. It’s really an entire world. If you’re writing a novel, you need enough “stuff” to sustain reader interest through hundreds of pages.

Novels traditionally run between 150-300 pages in published form. On occasion they run as long as 1,000 pages. For those counting, the average traditionally published novel is at least 80,000 words, which are 320 double spaced pages in a 12 point Times New Roman font. A novel can run as low as 40,000 words which is about 160 pages.

With the ever evolving ebook format, the standardization of novel lengths, a formula established by the increasingly obsolete traditional publishing model, is changing. It’s becoming more subjective. The importance is more about telling a compelling story from beginning to end – regardless of whether it’s done in 150, 350 or 1,050 pages.

A shorter version of the novel is the Novella. It contains all the elements of a novel, but in shorter form. Some of the best literary works in history are novellas. The word count typically runs from 15,000 – 40,000 words.


Short Stories and Flash Fiction

The key to a Short Story is focus. Short stories usually stay focused on one or more of the following:

  • A single character
  • A single incident
  • A single time
  • A single place
  • A single mood

Short stories usually span 1,000 – 15,000 words, which is 60-70 pages double-spaced in a 12 point font. Short fiction was once very popular in most mainstream magazines before interest waned. But as ebook popularity grows, combined with time-pressed readers with short attention spans, Short Stories are enjoying resurgence.

Flash Fiction has also become very popular as of late. It has the same elements as a Short Story, but now you need to be laser focused, and grammatically economic to tell a complete story in 300 – 1,000 words.

If you’re just starting out as a fiction writer, short stories and flash fiction are the best entry point. It’s not that they’re easier to write than novels and novellas; in fact, most agree the extreme economy makes them more challenging to do well. But when writing a short or flash story, you’ll spend less time drafting and revising the piece, and this will give you a chance to get the hang of the whole process.

A good analogy is learning to pilot a boat. It’s much easier to learn all the basics going across a bay than going out into the open Atlantic Ocean to sail down to the Caribbean. Your short or flash story can serve as a warm-up to a novel. Or if you find your short story really needs to expand, you can always take it into a longer form. Another idea is to collect a series of relatable short stories into an anthology.

For the purposes of this series, it’s recommended you begin writing in the short fiction form.


How to Write Fiction In Five: What Is Fiction?

Fiction by definition is a lie – something made up, a fabricated story invented to entertain.

Simply put, writing fiction is the skill of telling true lies.


Fictional stories are born with the full intent to deceive the reader into suspending disbelief, but the cool thing is there’s a smattering of truth woven into the fabric of the story reflecting the way things are in real life.

You, the fiction writer are God of your story world. You are the creator of the characters in the story and engineer of the world in which their story takes place.

That’s pretty freakin’ empowering stuff ain’t it? You are God of every story you create, and as a fiction writer you are obligated to lie.

Good fiction portrays a world so convincing, and so real the reader is tricked into believing that world really exists. Even if a story deals with an alternate or fantasy reality. Just talk to the raving fans of Game of Thrones or Star Wars. When you talk to them, you could see something going on behind their eyes saying, “Oh those worlds are real alright, they  are  real!

This is what your goal as a story teller is – to fabricate the most convincing “true lies.”



How to Write Fiction In Five: Short, easily digestible to-the-point articles covering the basics of writing fiction stories. Each article will take five minutes or less to read, but provide you with the core understanding to the subject matter.

D-Day + 70 Years

June 6th, 2014

During the 70th D-Day Commemoration, I looked upon these old men, these veterans of World War II.

The camera shows their faces softened, rounded, and wrinkled by time. Their hair is white and sparse, and the head and hands of some shake subtly and uncontrollably. They wear medals earned in battle on their tired, sagging frame. None are able to stand for very long, most use hearing aids and almost all have canes. Their eyes, however, their eyes look sharp with remembrance.

I see beyond what the camera shows. I see young men in their teens and twenties, with hard angular faces, and lean, hard bodies standing erect, proud and prepared for battle. They have heads of thick, rich hair, and eyes of stone, quick and ready. The things they experienced and did, formed their character, affected their lives and stayed with them always.

To me these young-old men are heroes. As much as those who gave their all during the war, and the ones who have since passed on. This The Greatest Generation, saved the world from tyranny in the greatest conflict mankind has ever known. With luck, it will remain that way…


CNN did a segment on a man named Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. On June 6, 1944 he parachuted into Normandy with the 101st Airborne, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Company G.


His company landed right in the middle of German reinforcements heading for the coast. He said it was a “slaughterhouse”. To commemorate that historic day, at the age of 93, Pee Wee suited up, boarded a C-47 Dakota and jumped out of a plane over Normandy one last time.


One of the things I took away from that segment was when Pee Wee said after the jump, “I just wanted to show everyone you don’t have to sit and die just because you get old.”

Jim is a Certified Bad Ass!


The other thing that stayed with me from the segment was when they were giving Jim a tour of a D-Day museum. In one display they had an American helmet with a hole in it. The correspondent said, “This was the helmet of Don Francis, he was right next to you…” and Jim finished, “When he got shot.”


I wanted to know more about the young man who wore that helmet

At 4:30 am, on their way to secure a couple of bridges, Cpl Donald B. Francis and Jim found themselves pinned down in a field near the River Douve. Their only cover was tall grass. In the dim light of the early morning, a German soldier saw the white painted ace on Don’s helmet and used that as an aiming point. The bullet entered the left side of his head and exited through his right forehead. Don Francis never regained consciousness and died in the Fortin Farm Aid Station on June 7th.



Donald Francis grew up in Rochester, New York. When he died he was not married and had no children. He was only 23. This is the house in which he grew up. I imagine that one day he gave his worried mom a hug and a kiss, said goodbye to his family, walked out that front door, across the porch, down the steps and into history – never to return.


When the telegram about his death arrived a few days later, it’s hard to imagine what the Francis family went through.

Don was the same age as Jim. One got to go home fall in love, raise a family, have a career and live to be an old man. All the hopes and dreams of the other ended on a field in a foreign country, 70 years ago. Don never got to know what it was like to fall in love, and know what it was like to have a family of his own and experience life to the fullest.

Now Corporal Donald B. Francis, G Co 506th PIR, forever lives in Plot E, Row 17, Grave 18, Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Colleville-sur-Mer, France


It’s good to see that someone still remembers young Don Francis.

It’s my hope that we never forget the young men who gave their all to defeat a tyranny we never had to know.

Our Time In The Sun

I was in the Nashua Town Hall on Main Street, waiting for my wife to complete some official business. I stared fascinated at a mural sized picture from the city’s past.

The picture was taken from a high vantage point on a building that no longer exists, next the Main Street Bridge that spans the Nashua River. I figure the picture must have been taken around 1910 or so.

There were work horses on the street walking along side a trolley car that has long since vanished. The weather looked to be warm and sunny. There were lots of people on the sidewalks and street. They were far enough away where their faces were nondescript. The women wore long dark dresses and most of the men were dressed in Sack suits and straw boater hats. Of the things in the picture, it was the people who stayed with me.

After business was concluded in the Town Hall, we walked out onto Main Street. It was a warm, sunny day and we walked down the street toward home. I reveled in the wonderful weather, and thought how good I felt and how much I love and enjoy life.

As we approached the Main Street Bridge, the image of that picture played in my mind. Nobody, not one person from that picture exists here today. None are left on this street where they were all once caught in a photograph going about their lives.

They, like I do now, cannot envision a point in time 100 years from now, where we no longer exist. In a future time where no one remembers you, or cared that you existed, or even has the knowledge about you to give you a passing thought. That you now only exist as an anonymous, nondescript figure in an old photograph.

I thought of all those people I can never know. All those stories lost to history. I tried to imagine their faces. I thought that some of the people in that photograph may have very well felt exactly the way I did at that moment. I wondered about how they lived out their lives. How they lived and loved, laughed and cried and how they inevitably left this world.

I thought how 100 years before, they walked the same place and occupied the same space as I. The same sun had shined upon their faces and cast their shadow onto the sidewalk is it was now doing mine.

Now the sun shines upon them no more. Where do they all lie now? What became of all those souls?

No, try as we might, we just can’t envision a day where the sun will never again shine upon us. A time where we no longer exist – and no one cares that we did.

This is our time in the sun. Live life to its fullest, care about it and enjoy the heck out of it. If your life is important enough to live, it’s important enough to make a record of it. Leave this life completely used up and know that you did exist – and you mattered…


Why I Journal

Simply put, I journal so I won’t forget.

“…if your life is important enough to live, it’s important enough to chronicle.”


If you’re the type of person who prefers to get out and about instead of just sitting in front of a TV or video game for hours on end, then you will have lots of life experiences. Most will be mundane. A few might be bad, but many will be good and others will be awesome. Whenever anyone has a memorable experience, we don’t forget the overall fact of the experience, however, with the passage of time the details of those experiences fade, alter and are sometimes forgotten.


I’ve been journaling on and off since I was nine-years-old. I believe if your life is important enough to live, it’s important enough to chronicle. I also believe it’s only our experiences we take with us when we leave this life – so I want to fill it up with as many experiences as I can.


To preserve the details of a noteworthy life experience, I like to journal it as soon as I can – typically within a few days to a week.


A few years down the road, when remembering a life event from the past, I can go to my journal and read what I wrote about it back then. I’m often amazed of the details, and even the sequences of events, I’ve since forgotten when reading an older journal entry. It serves to help me create a rich tapestry of pictures in the theater of my mind, which then becomes a full sensory mind movie. The colors, sights, sounds, feelings, smells, time of day, and the weather all come back to me. It’s very cool.


The more detail I add to the journal entry, the quicker the whole experience comes back to me.


When I journal, I write to three different people.


First I write to myself so I can relieve the experiences in immersive detail. Second, I write to someone I know who is interested in and likes what I write.


Lastly, when I journal I think of a person 100 years in the future. Most people today could care less about the journal entries of my life experiences – and I’m okay with that. What I do is imagine someone like me, a person interested in history, discovering a 100 year old journal and eagerly begins to read it. This person is keenly interested getting a glimpse what life was like long before they were born. This reader wants to get to know the writer of the journal and see how he lived out his life in a bygone era. As this person reads the journal they learn who the writer was, who they loved, what they did, felt and thought. The reader gets to live in the past vicariously, through the writings of a person who once was.


Why do you journal? If you don’t – why not?




Get Ready to Write A Novel

The Summer is over and Fall is here…You know what that means. Get ready to write a novel.

The National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us again. Do you have any story ideas you’re developing for those 30 days of writing mania?


Are you a Plotter or Pantser?

I found out years ago I need to outline. As a Pantser I’d never get too far with a story. I’d get stuck and stop. I finally succeeded at completing a novel length story as soon as I worked from an outline – even when it went off in new directions.

From the Homefront

I hope you all had a good summer. It wasn’t one of my favorite. We normally go on some road trips and weekend getaways in the warmer months, but it didn’t happen this year. This summer was about work – and not the writing kind.

My wife Loly and I spent the spring and summer renovating my old house, to get it ready for sale. We dedicated all our free time to the project, weekdays and weekends. I’d go there to work after getting out of my job. Loly is a teacher and she used her entire summer vacation to work on the house…every – single – day.

We turned a diamond in the rough into a gem. We poured our time, hearts, souls and a fairly large chunk of money into that house. When it was ready we interviewed realtors. Each of them provided market comparisons.

The results of the reports were a HUGE letdown. It showed that even with all the work we did, because of the current market here, we could not list and sell the house for what we needed it to sell for. Even worse, we couldn’t even make the money back we just invested in it. (Insert string of colorful expletives here) This took the wind right out of our sails. We were dispirited. It felt like all our time, effort and money were wasted.

At the same time I was working a job that was causing me tons of stress, paralyzing anxiety and sleepless nights.  I’ve never been treated this poorly in my professional career.

There were some serious obstacles to overcome.

I did a lot of soul searching.


Turning Things Around

Loly and I re-grouped on the house. We weighed all our options and decided to rent the house for a year or two until the market increased to the point where we could sell it. It was listed last Friday and we already have three prospects. One of them was even good.

Several years ago I worked a job I dreaded going to every. I put up with that for six years. Once I decided to get out of that situation I vowed to never again put up with a job like that. I decided there and then what I would and would not allow in my life.

Six months was long enough this time.

On Friday the 13th I gave my 2-week notice. I had no other job lined up.

The same day I gave my notice I began networking and applying for other jobs. I interviewed for two other jobs within the last week. Both look promising.


Writing Resources, Books and Self-Publishing News


Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been a fan of Stephen King’s books since I was a kid. For those who don’t already he recently released his latest novel (his 56th), Doctor Sleep.

It seems I’ve been reading about this coming for years now. It’s the sequel to The Shining. The little boy from that story, Danny Torrance, is all grown up now and he’s fighting more than just supernatural demons. Once I read it I will post my review of it here.

The Guardian (UK) recently interviewed Mr. King about the book. It’s a good article, but more interestingly he throws some verbal barbs at Twilight, The Hunger Games, and 50 Shades, but he does give kudos to J.K. Rowling’s latest novel The Casual Vacancy  – give the article a read, it’s very entertaining.



Ever hear of J.S. Scott? She was a respiratory therapist with no professional writing experience, but she had a passion for writing and romance. She was a complete newbie to self-publishing and had to learn everything. Now she’s a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with her The Billionaire’s Obsession series.

Oh, and by-the-way. Jan just started self-publishing in April of 2012!



For those of you who like to write collaborative stories and novels, there’s cool online app you’ll want to check into. Editorially is a word processor and plain text editor, this is also a great collaborative writing tool.

  • Multiple writers can update a document or manuscript at the same time.
  • Invite friends and colleagues to view the manuscript and provide feedback
  • It prevents version control issues. Save versions on the fly. Compare them to see what’s changed
  • Take a look, it’s Free to sign up and use!


Keep Readin’  and Writin’




10 Rules for Writing A First Draft

This comes courtesy of Coppyblogger – one of my favorite blogs.

I like this – it makes perfect sense…to me ;)

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

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