There is only one thing that makes a read (or a movie) interesting and that is the challenges to the hero. Usually these are in the form of problems he or she needs to solve and there is one problem which stands out as the ‘mother’ of all. That is the “Big Other.”

If you don’t have a big other in your writing there won’t be peaks and valleys, which need to exist to hold someone’s interest.

In “Blaze Motors” the big other was the oppressive government agents, first in the form of the Nazis and then the Polish Secret Service. There were many other challenges, such as the flight from Poland to the USA by the families and the enigmatic statements of a secret diary, bu the “Big Other” was the government interference in freedom.

casablancaIn more familiar territory (for people who haven’t read Blaze Motors) in Casablanca Rick has to deal with the bureaucracy of a divided city in North Africa, but the real Big Other in the story is the love triangle between Rick, Ilse and Victor. How will Rick overcome the circumstances and allow Ilse to escape and have love in her life?

Look at your story and make sure there is a defined Big Other (along with a series of connected or unconnected ‘little others’) to make sure the story has victories and challenges built in for the heroes. If not you may need to add them.

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I wrote this a few years ago when I was on the set of an independent movie. I played the priest. I capture small vignettes of circumstances. You never know when the thoughts of that moment might come back and be useful. Maybe they will come into play down the road or maybe they might just be a writing exercise. Either way it’s a good thing. Keep writing. That’s the lesson today…

So. We travel back in time to 2010.


The average person hasn’t been on a movie set, or at a remote shot. But there are pictures in your head, if you are curious enough to watch the ‘extras’ on many DVDs. But that still doesn’t give you the feeling of being there.


The cemetery was quiet and cold. Faintly trains could be heard in the background. They contributed a slow rumble, which was accented by the occasional buzz of a car speeding past. Two cameras were capturing the magic that was happening near the weathered statue of Jesus. Eulogy


A eulogy scene was being shot, and the total screen time would probably be around two or possibly three minutes. Cameras are rolling, but these days are totally silent, so you wouldn’t know if they were on or not. A boom microphone hovered overhead capturing even the slightest sound.


Lines were delivered. There were a half dozen in total, and then a shift in the camera angles. We have little to say in between the takes, which number in the teens. We stand, hopefully in the exact same poses as the lines are again delivered. This time it’s close up shots of the mourners, next time it’s a tight shot on the priest’s face. A cold breeze blows and we are aware of the below zero wind chill factor as our fingers slowly become numb.


Finally, after two numbing hours, it’s a wrap on the scene. We trundle away, trying to push blood to our feet and failing. A half hour later in my car I finally feel warm again. It’s an independent film, which means, most times, that there is no pay, but the experience is worth the time. Actors are an odd breed. They are an eccentric collection of people from all levels of society and of all ages. Some have always had confidence, some have gained it from many appearances on stage or screen, and some have to fake it, every time.

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I was talking with a friend of mine, name of Isabella, who is in the process of writing her first book. Her mother had asked me to take a look and give her some advice; words of wisdom or something along those lines.

talkingIsabella has written about, oh, I don’t know, maybe thirty pages and that is a lot. Maybe I should have mentioned that Isabella is 12 years old or somewhere in that neighborhood, so to stick to something over time and put down words that are somewhat coherent is quite a task.

Kids hardly write any more and with the ‘instant  gratification nation’ that we’ve become it is refreshing to see this sort of thing. But Isabella is just twelve, so her work is rough.

She knew it … I knew it … her mom knew it. But what to do?

She needed to review and rewrite, but didn’t know where to start.

My advice? Read it out loud. Seriously. Take any written work and read it out loud. You will hear the clumsy language or the poor sentence structure. Don’t get me wrong. We all speak in broken English.

“That boy did good.” Might sound alright out loud, but looking at it written down, you know the boy did well. (Or you should.)

But between the two mediums you should be able to sort things out. You are your own first editor.

A note on this. You may want to record your verbalization and then go back and listen to it. It might give you a little distance and allow you to be a bit more critical.

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I belong to several writer’s groups; some online and some that ‘meet-up’ at coffee shops and bookstores. Although I don’t participate in person very often I feel that online forums and emails sometimes help in the writing process and lately my one meetup group has been having a discussion on character development.


Each character a unique voice

A problem many writers have is using their own voice when they write dialogue. Early on I would think, what would I say if I was a detective and this was the situation, or if I was the criminal? But my break-though was writing character sheets. I don’t spend a lot of time of front on this, but I try to write down, in a separate document, a character’s age, race, weight, weight and a little background. (I do this same thing with locations – what does it look like, what is the floor layout, etc.)

As the story and the character develops I add more details. This might include education, place of birth, college and other more telling facts. My personal ‘cheat’ is to assign someone I know to the character. I have a friend from Boston. If I have a character from that area I will write down his name and then that character’s voice becomes Steve’s voice. Maybe their physical characteristics might morph into Steve’s, but not normally. But in my head I am saying ‘how would Steve say this line? Does he have verbal crutches?” Someone from Canada might say ‘eh’ while someone from Australia might use the term ‘mate’ etc.

These generalities aren’t in place in our society for no reason. People sort of expect a Canadian character to say ‘sorry’ a lot.. It carries a bit of comic effect sometimes, but at least it makes them unique inside your story.

Do they have an education? That increases vocabulary. Are they a baker? Maybe they use terms unique to their trade. A mechanic has oil under his nails. Does he nervously clean them when he is uncomfortable? Does that cause awkward pauses in his speech pattern?

Character development and differentiation is important to make your story and your characters believable.

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As the author of five books and a former ghostwriter I know a lot of ways to get quality writing done quickly, but most people don’t ever consider this one weird trick on how to write a book fast. It’s an old trick which pre-dates computers and even word processors and it has been used by everyone from Isaak Asimov to Fyodor Dostoevsky.

scuba writerWhat is this one weird trick? It is (hold on to your hat) persistence. That’s right, persistence. One thing that all prolific writers have in common is a dogged perseverance to get the job done. Asimov did not go to Fiverr or E-Lance and farm out his work, and neither did Arthur C. Clark. They wrote on a regular schedule. And Einstein? Who knows what E would be equal to if he would have gone off-shore for cheap labor?  It wouldn’t have been mc² that’s almost for sure.

If you do some research on any writer in any genre you will find that this holds true; they wrote on a schedule and likely did not take extended breaks away from their writing. In fact many writers start to get cranky when they can’t get the words out of their system. It’s sort of like blowing up a balloon. It can only take so much before it bursts and prolific writers are the same way. Putting the words on paper (or into some word processing program) is the pressure release valve.

Okay, maybe it’s not a weird trick, but it’s amazing how people think that writing is about tricks and gimmicks. It’s not about tricks at all, but about crafting words to make them do what you want.

Questions, comments? please let me know.

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Blaze Motors is my second novel and is available on Amazon.
Blaze MotorsThere is a pretty interesting back story to this and that is the reason that I am sharing. All good stories have some basis in truth. I think that humans can tell when a story is fake and it ruins things for us. Even the most far fetched tales are based on truth.
For example, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was based on WW2. Sauron was Hitler; Saruman Mussolini, etc, etc. Some people may argue that, but there is enough evidence, even from the man himself.

So the skeleton of the story is true, which helps us to believe that the rest of it could be, or at least that it feels real to us.

So how can you get story ideas? talk to your friends and family. I would advise this in any case – talking is good. But you never know what story you might uncover or what story you might miss. Years after my Father died I had a short conversation with my Mom. (Somehow I believe it was connected to a documentary we were watching on the telly.) We got on to the subject of the Hindenburg disaster. Casual conversation and she just drops this tidbit in. “Your father was there when that happened.”

Holy shit! One of the most talked about disasters in the history of the United States and my father happened to be on the airfield and witnessed it. What a story that must have been. But I missed it. I didn’t know to ask the question, and honestly he died suddenly. I thought I had plenty of time. You never know.

I was talking with friends of mine, Barry and Elke Fisher and she knew I was a writer, so she often told stories of her family and of her early years bumming around Europe back packing. And she told me the tale of an ancestor who had an auto factory. To keep the Nazi’s from taking the factory and turning it into a war machine they buried the car parts in fields outside the city they lived in.

I took that story and placed the factory in Bialystok and turned it into a truck factory. A fire made the story more interesting and a strong male lead with a love interest was paramount. The skeleton is true. An outline was provided and then I researched Bialystok and emigrants fleeing Nazi persecution and threw in a few more points of interest.

In my head this was all scenes and it was very visual, so I wrote a screenplay. I then converted that into the novel. One idea, multiple projects and potential streams of income.

It’s an idea, and I think one that is worth exploring for anyone considering writing a novel, whether it is their first or tenth..

I hope this inspires you to pursue your passion for writing. Questions and comments are welcome.

Until then,


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I don’t do much promotional stuff here, you may have noticed. This site is more about writing and techniques for organization and thought processes. There is a reason for that. Down and dirty how to use Amazon’s Kindle for publication is covered in my book Write Here, Write Now, No Excuses. So no need to get into that.

ThinkingAnd the detailed explanation and much more is covered in Geoff Shaw’s Kindling program. Those are the best sources I can recommend and I recommend them both whole-heartedly. Start with my book and if you want more, move to Geoff’s program. It is well worth the investment…

Now, get back to work and quit surfing the web. That book isn’t going to write itself.

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One challenge that faces many writers is getting the job done. If you are like many other writers out there, hoping to move on to the “professional writers” group this is something you need to take to heart. So with no further ado here are three tips for writing success.

multi taskWork on one thing at a time until it is finished. This should be a simple thing, but in today’s multi-tasking world it isn’t. This is especially true when you think about writing. We all get ideas and get very excited about them. ‘Caught up in the moment’ is a phrase that comes to mind.

When speaking of writing, new is exciting. New is that squirrel we end up chasing; that shiny light, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Getting bogged down in sections of a long project (your latest book, screen-play or musical) can drive you to distraction. Distraction is a welcome relief, but doesn’t help you get to completion. Only drive and tenacity will get you to those final two words: the end.

Skipping ahead in a project is one way to stay on track without moving into a new project. You may have a transition section of your book that is proving elusive. You know the end game, but steps three, four and five are proving to be cumbersome.

Move on to section six. This is a sure way to distract yourself from the muck and mire, while still forging ahead towards completion. Just as you will often wake up at three in the morning with the name of that elusive song, or television show, you can distance yourself from a section of your book and suddenly the answer (and plot points) will jump into your conscious mind from your subconscious. An aha moment can be found more easily sometimes when you stop looking for it.

Point two – Start no new books or articles until the last thing is complete. This is a hard and fast rule, except when it isn’t. The exception comes down to income or marketing (which turns into income eventually.)

If an opportunity to make money from writing comes down the pike while you are still working a regular job – take it. This can lead to greater opportunities and/or getting your name out as a writer. Consignment jobs (ghost writing, article writing, co-authoring) can also help to build your confidence level as a writer and nothing drives people more than a looming deadline. ‘Get it done and move on.’

Finally point three – Don’t sweat the details on a first draft. So many people get caught up in getting it right that they never get it done. A fantastic writing exercise is ‘stream of consciousness’ writing. Put your pen to paper (or your fingers on the keyboard) and just write. If you can’t think of anything to write, write ‘I am having trouble writing because…’ and fill in the blanks. No one really has writer’s block ever. We just have a block towards certain writing. Plow your way through your writing and go back and edit. Get it done. Get out of your own way.


I had a few folks asking me about reading “Kindle” books if you don’t have a Kindle. Well, there are aps for any sort of device – PC, iPad, iPhone, or whatever. (couldn’t imagine reading on an iPhone, personally. Screen is way too small.)

But anyway, you can download a free app for any of those devices from Kindle. Visit here.

Your account amazon

Once you’ve downloaded it, you can get your digital purchases delivered. Sign in to your amazon account and go to digital downloads. You’ll have to scroll down until you get to this section here:

Manage your kindle

Once you click on that you’ll see a section called your Kindle Library. You want to click on the “actions” button on the right side of the screen next to the book you want to read. (After you do this once it will be in the library on your tablet or computer.)

. library

Once you do that, you can click on the “deliver to my” option.


So close. This takes way longer to explain than it does to actually do…  After that you simply use the drop -down to select what device you want the book delivered to. PC, Tablet, Kindle. One purchase and you can send it to all your devices..

Then click “Deliver” and you are set to read..

deliver to

Of course you’ll want to be reading Blaze Motors and Someone Else’s Tomorrow. If you’re an aspiring author, there is also “Write here, write now, no excuses.” All three cost a grand total of $6.97.







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Hemmingway quote

Too often I find myself needing this advice from Hemingway. I think what helps is to identify characters as people I have known in my life. Then I can think, “what would he do in this sort of situation?” It can help to keep things grounded and real.



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