Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks

Like most people, Thanksgiving is a time of reflection for me. I try to be grateful every day for the blessings in my life, but Thanksgiving Day offers a reason to be more diligent and thorough in my introspection.

I’m thankful that I’m sober, first and foremost. I’d be dead or institutionalized by now if I hadn’t been blessed with the moment of clarity that allowed me to see the certainty of this. I’m thankful that upon having this epiphany, the desire to drink miraculously dissipated. I mean, it just went away. Poof. Gone. This truly is a miracle. I’m not the only one who’s been blessed with this miracle, I know many others in the AA fellowship who have had similar experiences. If you’ve ever lived with the burden of an addiction like alcoholism, you know how dark that life can be. Mine was a life without hope, and without spirit. I had drawn the curtains on life, and was just waiting for the last remnants of light to flicker and go out completely. Which brings me to other blessings.

I’m thankful for the friends and family I’m blessed with. It was my friends who saw the flame was dying out, and they had the balls to take action. And it was my family – my parents and sister and her family – that nursed me back to health. I won’t be seeing my family today, but I’ll be spending the day with several of the friends that saved me. I’ll make sure that I take each one of them aside – individually, casually – and tell them that I love them.

I’m thankful for my health. To the best of my knowledge, I’m in pretty good health. I get out of bed a little stiff in the mornings, but I don’t hurt too bad. I might have lost a step or two on the basepaths, but I still move fairly well and my reflexes are pretty damn sharp. I can do most anything I want to do, physically, and do it better than I did ten years ago. This is truly a blessing.

I’m thankful for opportunities. I’m at a crossroads in life right now, and I have some decisions to make in the near future. But thanks to three and a half years of sobriety, and trying to live life right, and do the right thing and make good decisions, I have opportunities now, and choices. Will I choose to follow the entrepreneurial instinct that has been nagging at me most of my life? I think I might. I get excited thinking about it. A new challenge, doing something I’ve often thought about doing. I’m gathering information now, and it looks promising.

I’m thankful for the opportunity, desire and ability to write. I’m thankful that I’m passionate about it. I may never find an agent or a publisher for my work, but maybe I will. I have the opportunity to try. I love to write, I’m learning about the publishing industry and what it takes to be a published novelist, and I’m getting better. I’m improving, and honing my skills. I’m working at the craft. And I’m extremely grateful for this blessing.

I’m grateful for a relationship with a God of my understanding. I’m thankful for those rare moments of insight, when things just happen in a way that I know it has to be God’s doing. I’m thankful for the awareness, and those moments when the lightbulb flashes.

I’m thankful for a lot of things, some of them are:

A cool autumn morning
The little townhouse I call my own
A ten foot putt that drops in the side door
A blazing purple and orange sunset
A gentle ocean breeze
A bank shot on the eight ball that drops like a feather into the corner pocket
The pretty, gentle little older woman whom resembles my mother and makes me think of her
The guy in traffic who waves me over when I’m trying to merge
Living near the ocean
A drive that stays in the air and flies right down the middle of the fairway
Green lights all the way to work
The good looking girl in the car next to me at the light, who smiles and waves and makes me feel a little younger
Penman Road
The American troops that make it safe for me to pursue my happiness

Happy Thanksgiving and turkey, dressing and gravy for all the good people…

Monday, November 20, 2006


Okay, I've got a decent start on the plot for the new story. I know how I'm starting out, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how I arrived at this point, and thus, where the hell the story is going. I know where I want it to go, but I'm missing a compelling motive for the antag. I know who I want the antag to be, but I'm having difficulty figuring out why she does what she does. I've come up with several possibilities but they unravel under closer scrutiny. It has to be intense because the plot is fairly complex. If I don't come up with something soon I may have to find a new antag and a different plot. Which would suck for me because I like what I've got so far. More brooding and contemplation. I'll give it another week. I can go ahead and finish most of the first scene, so I'll work on that and see if it triggers any good thoughts on motive.

I'm just about ready to start another round of queries for Fool's Gold. I feel like such an idiot about this manuscript. I've been billing it as a mystery. Well, it's not a mystery, not by the definition of the genre that the publishing industry uses. The main plot doesn't revolve around a murder and it's solution. I've written a story that falls into the "thriller" genre. No wonder the requests for additional pages were so few and far between. I state in my query that I'm pitching a mystery and the query doesn't mention a murder at all. Talk about a rookie mistake. This might be beyond "rookie" and slip into "just plain stupid". Oh well, I'm sure the agents I've queried in this manner will have forgotten little ol' me by now, and I won't be querying the same ones right now anyway. I'll narrow down the list of agents I'll be targeting - it'll be a short list - and I'll send out some snail mail queries next week. Although I'd prefer to send email queries, it seems that hard copy gets the agent's attention before e-queries. Not necessarily positive attention, it's just a notch higher on the priority list for most agents, or so I've read.

I'm reading a lot of mystery authors right now. I pulled out my Raymond Chandler collection and I'm reading Red Wind, one of my favorite short stories. Awesome prose. I'm also reading Barrier Island, by John D. MacDonald. I think it's the first JDM book that I've ever read. I'm enjoying it so far. I'm having a hard time finishing Tampa Burn by Randy White. I like a lot of White's prose, but his story isn't all that compelling, and the characters strike me as less than authentic. But who the fuck am I to say. I'm just a guy that can't come up with a motive for his antagonist.

It's a beautiful autumn day, crisp and cool and not too much wind. I have the day off, and I'm going to dwell on motives, ever alert to one that might be so obvious I just haven't seen it. Peace and good coffee...

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I made it through what could have been a difficult week. It actually turned out to be a pretty good week, and I'm very grateful for that. The details of why it could have been a difficult week aren't important, it's the reasons why it was a pretty good week, and the lessons learned, that matter.

I've known for a long time that "attitude" is important, but knowing it and applying it are two different propositions. For me they are, anyway. Just because I realize the implicit truth of a matter, doesn't mean I'll allow my actions to be influenced by that truth.

That's one of the great frustrations of my life, and one of the great perplexities. In the last few years I've been better about doing the right thing, because I've made it a concious effort. I try to apply the "would God (my God, not yours) be smiling or frowning" test to big decisions, and small ones too, if I have doubt about the course of action I'm taking. And when I do the right thing even though it might not be what I want to do, I have to try to do it with the right attitude. Sulking while doing a favor diminishes the value of the action.

When I take a sober look at my life as it is today, I feel pretty good about things. My life just a few years ago was so dark and empty that it had no value for me or anyone else. I was an existence that was drawing to a close, withering and succumbing to a complete lack of spirit. I didn't implode, there wasn't sufficient energy for that. I folded and collapsed. But thanks to some friends and family, I had a life altering experience, and in a moment of clarity I realized the core, the truth, of what needed to change. I was tremendously grateful for this epiphany, and I started trying to live my life accordingly. I had to change my entire perspective, starting with how I viewed myself.

It had to start with acceptance, humility and gratitude. I started a new approach to life with the perspective that I probably should be dead, and every day is a gift. This was easy to do in the beginning, as my near-death experience was so fresh and raw. But as the days go by, the freshness of that experience fades, and it's easy to go back to the same old perspective of "Why aren't things going my way?", and start having an attitude of expectations and entitlement. When I allow myself to start thinking this way, inevitably I get into a rut. I'll start thinking that I deserve better. My immaturity starts to exert itself, and self pity soon follows. Then every little thing bothers me, and I go through the day grumbling and moaning about the state of my existence.

The fact is, if I got what I deserved, I'd probably be in jail or dead right now. That's the truth of the matter. So if I want to live in the truth, I need to be grateful for what I've got and just keep trying to do the right things, with the right attitude, and accept the outcome for being what it is supposed to be.

My attitude is the one thing I do control. It's the one thing that I bring to the table that no one else can fuck with, unless I let them. It's my decision whether I will have a positive attitude, a negative attitude, an "I don't give a fuck" attitude, or any other. My choice.

I find that it's easier to have a positive attitude if I keep my expectations for the behavior of others on a realistic level. My happiness is often in inverse proportion to my level of expectations. This has been my experience, it is a truth that I know. So why is it so hard to remember? It perplexes me.

So once again last week, the truth was reinforced for me. If I approach the day with a positive attitude, be willing to accept what happens regardless of the outcome, and just do the right thing, the day will generally turn out okay and I'll get a good nights sleep. It's a pretty simple concept, but so hard to apply.

I'll see if I can get it right again this week.

Peace, and five alarm chili for the brave and bold...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fool's Gold

I'm thinking of changing the title of my manuscript, for the fourth time. Now I'm thinking Fool's Gold sounds like a good title. And it's thematic. It's not a title I'd considered before. I don't know why it never occurred to me, but I like the sound of it, and I think it sounds marketable. I'd buy it LOL.

I'm making some progress with the new story, starting to get the characters fleshed out. I've got a pretty good picture of the protag and sidekicks, and some good ideas about the setting for the two primary action scenes. Still working on the plot. I've got some pliable ideas but I haven't really gotten down to a good motive yet. That's what I'm working on now. I have some characters in mind for the victims of the crime and the actual crime itself, but I don't have the bad guy yet, nor his motive. I wonder if this is how anyone else goes about starting a new mystery? It seems an ass backward way to go about it, but it's just the way it's going for me right now. I'm putting down on paper the things that are coming to mind as I think about the good guys and exploring ideas for the settings. I've been doing some research on the Okefenokee Swamp, and I like it for the major action scenes. Tension is part of the nature of a swamp. It's fucking kill or be killed in a swamp, the way I think about it. The food chain in action, and Darwin's theory being excercised in all its brutal glory. The formidable creatures; alligators and snakes and bears, leeches and insects, huge birds. Quick sand. Danger. Awesome setting for the opening and most of Act IV.

I'm going to try to plot the story first, working it from the culprit's POV, from the beginning, then write the story from the protag's first person POV. It's a new method for me. When I wrote Fool's Gold I knew where I was starting, and I had an idea of how the story would end, and the underlying theme, but that was all I really started with. I created a few main characters and started writing, letting the characters and the story unfold as I wrote what came to me. It was organic, and I liked it that way, but it did lead to a lot brooding, and tons of revision and heavy editing. Perhaps this method will save time once I've got the crime plotted out. The story will still be organic because I won't have such a pre-conceived notion of the story once Chuck Stone gets involved. The antag will try to outsmart Chuck as he solves the crime, and there will be plenty of paths to explore, but I will have a good road map to follow. It has to start with an excellent motive, though. The characters I'm not worried about, they'll be complex and interesting, thoughtful and humorous. The motive has to be compelling and awe-inspiring.

So, now it's back to brainstorming for a good motive and an intriguing crime.

Peace and good coffee for all the brooding scribes...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

New Material

Well, I don't know if Gasparilla's Gold is finished or not, but I'm putting it aside for the time being and working on the next project. So far, I have the main character, a bounty hunter who retires shortly after the story opens. I've got the first plot point figured out, but that's about all so far. I'm really just trying to flesh out some interesting characters at the moment, I haven't given too much thought to the plot yet. I like to populate it with a few interesting characters and let the plot ideas sort of flow from there.

The assistant protag is an older retired bounty hunter who serves as a mentor for the protag. The assistant lives in the swamp and is appropriately named "Gator". There will also be a prostitute - a high class call girl - and a stoned out surfer dude. That's what I'm starting out with. Now, I'll mix these folks up and see what kind of crime they have to solve.

I submitted a query letter to the Evil Editor blog. If he decides to critique it, I'm sure to be humiliated LOL. That's okay. If I get some solid advice and ideas, I can deal with the bashing I'll take. I'm sure some of the commenters will cut it to pieces. Some of the regulars on that blog have never seen a good query, and probably can't write one, either. Other regulars make insightful and constructive comments, entertaining and educational. Those are the ones I'll look for.

Now I'm back to fleshing out these characters. Coffee and donuts for the lucky ones...