Words To Remember During a Terrible Week

RFK quote

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Smokey Writers 2016 – Day 7

house5I’m sitting in the terminal at the Knoxville, TN airport, waiting for a flight that doesn’t leave for another four hours. When someone offers you a free ride to the airport, you take it, regardless of how early it is. It’s Easter Sunday, and Smokey Writers 2016 is officially over. We had a group breakfast at a Gatlinburg pancake house. Many hugs were exchanged and goodbyes said. Hard to believe it will be a year before I see most of them again.

Yesterday was much like the other working days of the retreat. A day of writing, followed by readings at 6:00 pm, followed by food, drink and fun. I spent a good deal of time wrestling with plot problems, but by the time I finished for the day, I had produced 3,005 words. For the week, I produced 17,688 new words plus the changes I made to the ghost story book. That’s an average of just under 3,000 words a day, a level of productivity I’ve never achieved before. I’m very satisfied with that. Next year, I won’t be. If I’m not getting better, I’m getting worse. Continue reading

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Smokey Writers 2016 – Day 6

novelWe’re in the home stretch here at Smokey Writers. I had a terrible time getting going yesterday. I made the mistake of checking my work email for a few minutes, which set me back. I didn’t do any actual day job work; a colleague from a committee I’m part of needed a link to a court decision (he called and asked for it on Tuesday), so I re-sent him that email. However, the temptation to skim my messages proved irresistible. I did it just long enough to remind myself why I’m on vacation.

If I was home, I would have attended church services on either Holy Thursday or Good Friday or both. Since I’m ensconced in the mountains, I tried to compensate by listening to St. John’s Passion by Bach as I worked yesterday. Not quite the same, but it did remind me that Smokey Writers isn’t the only thing happening this week that’s important to me. (Of course, everyone in the house is aware of the horrible events in Brussels this week.) Continue reading

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Smokey Writers 2016 – Day 5

house4After the free day Wednesday, it was back to regular business on Thursday of the retreat. I had a bit of a slow start (as in staring at the laptop screen and trying to figure out how I was going to start the sequence of events.) However, I got on a pretty decent roll before lunch. I did in fact kill off a character, though not the one I’d originally planned on offing. The end result was 2,716 new words for the book.

Hastening my character’s demise required me to do some research that may attract the attention of the NSA. For future reference, I was last sighted near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Continue reading

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Smokey Writers 2016 – Day 4

thumb_Photo-1The fourth day of the retreat was a bit different from the others. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, it was a “free” day. There were no evening readings scheduled, so people could hang out at the house and write or go into Gatlinburg, or basically do whatever they wanted. There was no expectation that we would produce new content, though there certainly was nothing stopping anyone who wanted to work.

After I published yesterday’s post, my relative lack of sleep for the past several days caught up with me, and I snuck in a much-needed nap. After that, I got to work, and while I have yet to repeat Monday’s 5,000 words plus output, I was happy with the chapter I wrote. I finished with 1,986 words for the day, all of them for the new book. I didn’t work on the ghost story at all. It was warm enough outside that I worked for a long time on the balcony outside the dining room, at least as long as my laptop battery held out. It may theoretically be possible to grow tired of that view, but I don’t think it’s likely. Continue reading

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Smokey Writers 2016 – Day 3

house3Three days of Smokey Writers are now in the books. I did not achieve Monday’s word count heights yesterday, but it was still a satisfyingly productive day. I wrote 2,629 words on my new book. Essentially, one new chapter with two scenes.

After that, I dove into detailed edits of my ghost hunter novel. I recently hired the always-awesome K.T. Bryski to do a substantive edit of the book, and she did not disappoint. I was looking for constructive advice on how to improve it, and I got it. Therefore, a good chunk of yesterday afternoon was spent mulling over her critiques and rewriting certain parts. There is much left to do – one character may end up on the cutting room floor, I need to do some tweaks to setting, and the whole tone of the book needs revision. This is the perfect place to get started. The 6:00 readings last night were great. I was in a group with Tee Morris, Rosemary Tizledoun, Piper Drake and Amy Sisson. We heard some dark material and some that made us all laugh out loud. Continue reading

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Smokey Writers – Day 2


I’m posting a bit late (like, a day late), but I wanted to give a quick report on how the retreat is going. Yesterday was the first full day of writing, and I am very happy with my progress. I decided last week that my daily goal would be 5,000 words, a level of output I’d never achieved before. By the time I stopped yesterday, I had written 5,034 words.

As a personal incentive, I promised myself that when I hit certain milestones, I’d take a guitar break. So, in the morning, when I hit the 1,000 word mark, I went up to my room, closed the door and played three songs (quietly so as to not disturb people who were working.) After lunch, I did the same thing when I got to 4,000 words. It’s a nice little reward system as well as a good way to re-focus, so I’m going to do it again today. Continue reading

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Smokey Writers 2016 – Day 1


I’m writing this from a beautiful house in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee. I am here with 20 friends for the third annual Smokey Writers retreat, a week-long gathering where we can focus exclusively on creative writing. This is my first time at Smokey Writers; others are comfortable veterans. For seven hours a day over the next week, we will work on our various projects, share at night what we’ve written during the day, eat, drink, and enjoy our surroundings and each others’ company.  I can’t describe how happy I am to be here (I know, ironic for a writer.)

The house is 7,000 square feet, sleeps 22 people, has multiple hot tubs, video and pinball games, foosball and pool tables, and balconies off the dining room and every bedroom. During dinner tonight, a raccoon wandered up to the glass doors off the dining room and checked us out. No sign of bears yet, though I’m told they’re just coming out of hibernation. I’m also told they can’t climb, and my bedroom is on the fourth floor, so it’s all good. Continue reading

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How To Get Unstuck

Are you feeling stuck, at least in some areas of your life? I know that I always feel like there’s some part of my life that’s not progressing the way I think it should be. Writing, weight loss goals, career growth – at various times I feel stuck in these and many other areas.

I found this Slideshare deck to be interesting. There’s a little bit of a sales pitch for the creator’s Web site, but most of it is advice worth considering. If you’re feeling like things are going nowhere, you might find some of this helpful.

Now, if I can just make a breakthrough on that novel I’ve been writing …

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Farewell to the Thin White Duke

Sometimes, this blog feels like a series of obituaries for musicians I’ve admired. I guess part of getting older is seeing your old favorites pass away. So it is again today, with the news of David Bowie’s death from cancer yesterday at age 69.

When I was in junior high and my first year or two of high school, everything was new – clothes, girls, and especially music. I read music magazines voraciously, and there was always someone new to discover. I was an innocent kid in a small town, and the rock stars I read about were a little scary and exciting at the same time. I wanted to hear all of them – Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Hendrix, Clapton. And in the summer of 1974, I first heard of David Bowie.

The first Bowie album I bought was Young Americans in the summer of 1975. Looking back, that record wasn’t close to representative of his music; it was a brief fling with soul music. It had the great title song, the disco-tinged rave-up Fame, a seriously bad version of The Beatles’ Across the Universe, and not much else that I remember. Continue reading

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