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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On Understanding Other People

He wouldn’t stop talking.

He was average height, with a gray beard and hair. He wore glasses and a Bluetooth device over his right ear. When I teach a class, I’m normally the only man in the room wearing a jacket and tie, but he was the exception. He arrived at quarter to eight for a class scheduled to start at 8:30, and he started talking.

In addition to teaching the class that morning in Albany, I also had to monitor it. For those who have never attended an insurance agent continuing education class in New York (I’m guessing that’s most of you), there are normally two people in charge – an instructor and a monitor. The monitor makes sure everyone signs in, presents photo I.D., makes the announcements, distributes completion certificates at the end, and basically deals with any issues that arise (the temperature in the classroom being the most common.) I very much dislike having to act as both the instructor and the monitor. As the person who has to deliver the content and answer questions on my feet for four hours, I already have plenty on my mind. I don’t like having to deal with all the logistical issues on top of that. Nevertheless, my employer could not find an available monitor in Albany for that class, so I pulled double duty. Continue reading

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For Your Late Summer Reading Pleasure

With just one week left until Labor Day, there’s still time to sneak in some good summer reading. Courtesy of, here is a list of 10 summer books. Take a look and discuss in the comments what they got right and wrong and what you would add to the list.

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The Art of Juggling Writing Projects

Five Salty Balls

Photo by Gabriel Rojas Hruska. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Tee Morris discusses a problem that most of us struggle with – too many projects going on:

You’ve got project upon project, and suddenly you are at the point where I find myself presently. It’s not what you want to work on but more about what you need to work on. This may seem like an easy call to make but if any of these projects-in-progress carry multiple deadlines, the decision process gets a little trickier.

And here’s the thing about us crazy, kooky creative types: we love to do a lot of things at once. It makes us feel productive. It makes us feel accomplished. It makes us feel alive. The problem comes in when you can’t make a deadline, and poor organization can lead to missed delivery dates which can lead to a reputation of commitment but not coming through on your promises. Falling back on “I am so poorly organized…” really is a lame-ass excuse, too. If you want to get organized, you’re going to have to nut up and take control of your projects before your projects take control of you; or start controlling you more than how they are currently.

Continue reading

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