My 5 goals for 2017

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One thing holding up my writing career is the obstacle course I must negotiate to get into my home office.

Exactly one year ago today, I pledged to deliver a trilogy of novels about a huge beast from the sea, with the first one due May 11. I was later forced by my wiser nature to walk that beast back to the sea whence it came. I wish I could say “I didn’t say May 11 of what year,” but you can see I plainly intended to deliver the whole trilogy by July 1, 2016.

Wiser men than I have spoken of SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and within a certain Time line. The goal of writing a novel by May 11, 2016, and two more by July 1 was clearly SMT but not so AR. Continue reading My 5 goals for 2017

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A writer of stories and encouraging words

I never took advantage of my bully pulpit as small-town newspaper editor to promote the books I have written over the last eight years or so. It didn’t seem fair to leverage that audience when others had to buy ads to do the same.

But now that some of that audience has followed me here, wondering “What happened to Warren? What will he do next?” it behooves me, as young Chris Carter does at the end of every X-Files episode, to declare, “I made this!”

I promise I won’t engage in blatant advertising every day. This website is mainly the place where I deposit fragments of thought and potential stories, and offer some encouragement against the rampaging tides of Dark Silly that threaten your calm every day.

When I sat down some time ago to create a personal mission statement, the words that emerged were short and simple: “I am a writer of stories and encouraging words.” And that is the mission I aim to fulfill every time I sit down at this keyboard. Continue reading A writer of stories and encouraging words

A roomful of life

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Buried in bookcases are vast collections of words assembled to charm, to excite, to soothe, to inspire – words arranged in explosive patterns, gentle patterns, magical and mysterious patterns. Wordsmiths through the ages have agonized and raced and sauntered along wooded paths with their words, tapping the imaginations of their readers to create an image …

(What the –?) And just now, as I scrawl these words with pen into a journal, do I recognize that the words image and imagination have the same root. Imagination: The process of generating/creating an image. Of course it is.

Pull down a book off the shelf and open it and, deciphering the words, plant an image in your brain – or, more precisely, transplant an image from the writer’s brain to yours – or, most precisely, create an image in your mind that mingles your memories with the writer’s to generate an entirely new experience unique to you.

That’s a reason why we have different favorite authors: While Bradbury resonates with my experiences, perhaps Faulkner or Dickinson strikes your fancy in a more pleasurable way – for that is the joy of reading, having your fancy struck in a most pleasant fashion.

Do I wish to travel to strange and fantastic places? Here are Oz and the plains of Mars. Commune with a fellow traveler or challenge my point of view? Here are the political commentators and philosophers of the moment or years gone by. Know what it was like to stand in battle at Little Round Top? Here is a description and/or a dramatization – You may never “know” that moment, but you can immerse yourself in an echo.

A little book about freedom

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I’ve just approved the final version of a new print edition of my novel The Imaginary Revolution.

The people of Sirius 4 tried to overcome tyranny the old-fashioned way: by force. It turned out to be an imaginary revolution, replacing one violent regime with another. Raymond Douglas Kaliber suggested another way: that free people living by a spirit of non-aggression could live in peace and prosperity with one another. Before he could launch that bold experiment, however, he had to defeat the greatest tyrant of them all: his best friend.

Yes, it is available on Amazon, but I chose to keep going with the print-on-demand service Lulu, which I have used since I started my publishing adventures, rather than the Amazon-owned service CreateSpace, because the product printed by Lulu is closer to what I want in my books. That puts me in the minority among independent authors, but so be it. Both companies will sell you the book, but I recommend you support the little guy and buy it from Lulu. (Yes, I will get a higher royalty if you pick Lulu, but my main reason for recommending Lulu is that your purchase supports a quality enterprise that puts out a great product.)

Of course, you can forego the costs of printing and mailing by downloading the book directly into your Kindle app. (And you should question any publisher that charges you more for the electrons than for the physical book.)

I wrote this book in 2012, and it seems its themes are more relevant than ever:  No one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatever; nor should anyone advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else. Love your neighbor as yourself. Interact with love. Give more than you receive.

As we are besieged daily by the latest pronouncements from the major candidates for New Boss, it seems a good time to re-offer a little book that envisions a world where individual freedom determines the outcome. Thanks for giving it a try.

The power of noncooperation

irevolution 2016New cover. In preparing the print version (available by the end of this month), I don’t know if this is the best book I’ve ever written, but it’s the one that makes me most proud.

The people of Sirius 4 tried to overcome tyranny the old-fashioned way: by force. It turned out to be an imaginary revolution, replacing one violent regime with another. Raymond Douglas Kaliber suggested another way: that free people living by a spirit of non-aggression could live in peace and prosperity with one another. Before he could launch that bold experiment, however, he had to defeat the greatest tyrant of them all: his best friend.

This story was in my brain for years, and when Ray Bradbury died in 2012, something turned and I started writing, publishing the finished novel five months after his death. I have kept thinking about rewriting and revising, but prepping this edition I realized it already says what I wanted to say. Best to look forward to the next project than endlessly tinker in the past.

I’d be honored if you’d take a look, either now or in a few days when the paper book is ready.

The beast still lurks out of sight

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Are you enjoying it so far? I’m referring, of course, to Krayatura: Beast from the Sea, which I promised would be released May 11, the first in a trilogy that would be complete by July 1.

The answer, of course, is you can’t enjoy what hasn’t been released on time.

Well, let’s file it among stretch goals that were a little too stretchy. I keep setting these goals as if there were no day job, no Dip, no Resistance and no life.

Rather than focus on the fact that the novel is nowhere near ready for prime time, let’s look at the positives.

I have a general outline of the three books, which allows me to plant seeds early that will germinate and bear fruit at the climax of the trilogy.

It also helped me recognize that the random guy I introduced when the beast first made landfall wasn’t so random after all.

I know and love the family at the core of the story, and I recognize that my job is to make you love them, too.

I know what the beast looks like, why it rose from the sea, what it will take to kill it, the consequences of killing it, and what happens next.

I know, if I execute it properly, this can be a rousing and entertaining story.

So: Am I disappointed at this stage to have barely a half-dozen finished chapters in my first draft? Holy crap, “disappointed” doesn’t begin to describe it. With all of the groundwork I’ve laid, more than this should have been accomplished.

But it wasn’t. Boo hoo. In the general scheme of things, I’m the only one who really cares, right? If I missed a deadline this badly at the day job, there would be consequences to pay.

What I need – and let this be my caution for others who aim to turn professional as writers – is to adjust my mindset so that I feel the pain of missing a personal deadline with the same anguish I would feel missing a day job deadline.

Because (and here’s the bottom line) the day job, like all day jobs, can go away for reasons out of my control. This job – the stories, the essays, the blogs, the podcasts – is all mine. All I need to do is please you, the reader and listener, and the sooner the better.

I have a new deadline. I’m going to keep it to myself until I’m more confident I can make it. I’ll let you know if I miss it, and wow, you’ll know if I make it.

The Fall of the Gatekeepers

Morgan_as_The_GatekeeperI posted a link to what I thought was an interesting article about the Academy Awards ceremony the other day on Facebook.

Most of the responses to my posting were “Meh.” It seems people lost interest in the Oscars a long time ago, and many of my friends and acquaintances had other plans for their Sunday night.

I’ve always kept track of the awards. I have made a point of seeking out most of the Best Picture winners and watching them over the years, although I’ve been less faithful to that goal recently because the Academy and I have drifted apart in terms of what we think is worthy of two or more hours of my time.

Therefore I pretty much “aced” an online quiz that gave me the Best Picture nominees for the past 25 years and asked who won – my only misstep was when I said the brilliant As Good As It Gets had won the year the overrated bloat Titanic was the actual recipient. Come to think of it, 1997 may be the year I started losing interest.

My friends’ reaction to the Oscars made me suspect that the Academy is one more gatekeeper that has bitten the dust.

Once upon a time, we relied on gatekeepers to determine which books got published, which movies people went to see, what songs people will hear. But our digital toys have made the gatekeepers less and less relevant.

Instead of brilliant novelists telling stories of being rejected 30-odd times before a publisher finally took a chance on their masterpiece, we have stories like Andy Weir, who published The Martian on his own and was approached by a traditional publishing house only after the book became such a massive success it could no longer be ignored.

Once upon a time, the same applied to the music industry. Artists worked their butts off to grab the coveted recording contract (and often then got ripped off by everyone who wanted a piece of the pie they baked with their artistry). Now they can chart their own course on iTunes and YouTube.

In those days we watched Siskel & Ebert on TV or bought Leonard Maltin’s movie guides to determine the movies that deserved our attention, and the Best Picture nominees and winners were worthiest of all. Even before that, movie theater operators stood at the gate to determine what films we would even see. We’d have to take their word that these were the creme de la creme.

But now films have a more direct path to the marketplace, and we can see for ourselves that Citizen Kane is a more brilliant work than How Green Was My Valley, that E.T. the Extraterrestrial is more moving than Gandhi, or that As Good As It Gets has more heart than Titanic.

Websites like Rotten Tomatoes – where the collected opinions of thousands of movie goers have as much weight as our favorite movie critics – help us to choose, and we have access to the films that aren’t even nominated in case we want to sample something altogether different.

And so the Oscars have become increasingly irrelevant. The movie that most people were talking about this year – Star Wars: The Force Awakens – wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. Of course, that sort of thing has happened so many times over the years that, well, people have lost interest in the out-of-touch gatekeepers who choose these prizes.

To be sure the Oscars have the function of calling attention to well-crafted films that we might otherwise have passed by – but so does Rotten Tomatoes and Facebook and any number of sources out there.

Who needs a gatekeeper when it’s become so easy to get through the gates?

P.S. The Martian. You didn’t ask, but that was my favorite of the movies I watched this year. I have a soft spot for Tomorrowland, the severely underrated fable with Britt Robertson and George Clooney, but Ridley Scott’s adventure with Matt Damon is the best movie adaptation of a great novel since To Kill a Mockingbird.