Tag Archives: author

The 7 Secrets of Great Writing

I saw something the other day that a friend wrote on facebook, and I wanted to share it with you my friends, print this and put it by your “writing device.”

from Peter

I thought about that for a few moments. Then I told Peter I was going to share this. When we think back to our most successful works, regardless of our field or genre we have done this; columns, articles, books, stories, poems. Sometimes we are surprised with the success of something we have written. However, if you take Peter’s concise list in hand, and compare it to your work I think you will find you followed his advice, even if you did not know you were doing so at the time.

Write when moved. We have all had these moments. Sometimes we know exactly what we are going to write. Sometimes we only know the essence of what we are going to write. Sometimes the idea just hits us, all at once, and we begin to write. Other times it is something that nags at our conscious for days, something vague and yet specific. However it starts, when we begin to write it flows, at times it is all we can do to get the words out fast enough. When we are finished, before we begin editing, we look at what we wrote and marvel at how fast it all came together (wishing to ourselves that writing was always like this).

Be grown up. Mmmmm, be grown up. Well, first off, the kind of writing we are talking about is for your public, your regular readers. That is whom I write for. We are not talking about a letter to a lawyer who thinks you are negotiating when you are just trying to do what is right. (A word of advice, do not ever try to do what is right when dealing with a lawyer. If you do, they will not be content, and will continue pushing until they are taking the food from your mouth. Then they will tell you they are letting you off the hook, and you are lucky they are so generous.) Since you are writing for the public, and it would be nice to attract new readers, stay on the positive. There is always a positive and a negative to everything. If you do not see both, keep looking, they are both there. All of us have enough negative in our daily lives. Your readers do not need to turn to you for the negative. They can drive in rush hour traffic and get that. Give them the positive. If you can find the positive where most people miss it, that is even better. Be grown up — stay positive.

Know how to distribute. There is no easy answer for this, you learn over time. Start with a blog, a social network, and some site that will let you publish e-books at no cost to you. Then link them all together. It does not matter what kind of writing you do, you need at least those three. I will give you two examples:

1)      I am a blogger, I am not an author. That may be true. However, no matter how well you map your blog, at some time it will start to become difficult for people to navigate their way around 300 plus posts just to find their favorite posts. When your blog gets to that point, take you most popular posts (the ones with the most views) and put them together in an e-book. You regular readers will appreciate it. Make this e-book free or .99 cents, you are doing this as a gift for your regular readers to show your appreciation of them. Do not put a $14.99 price tag on this e-book, you are not doing this so you can buy a new Porsche, you are creating value for your regular readers. This will expand your regular readers, and show them how much you appreciate them.

2)      I write books, not blogs. That may be true. However, your regular readers have made an investment in you. They have given you their time. Time they could give to loved ones or other interests, but they have chosen to give it to you. So, once a week, or once a month, let them know what you are working on. Take your most popular book and tell your fans how you came up with the idea for their favorite book. Take some of your notes and drafts for a book and let your readers see how that book became the e-book on their e-reader. Let them inside the process. Also, always, always, give them a chance to talk with you. Listen to what they liked and did not like. Answer some of their questions. This will expand your regular readers, and show them how much you appreciate them.

Be heard. There is no magic formula for this, but if you give your readers value, and you appreciate them. You will be heard. How do you do this? Well, you provide value to your readers by teaching them something new, giving them ways to save money, encouraging them, or entertaining them. If you can do several of these at the same time you are doing even better. There is one more though that is a must, no matter what else you do, you must be passionate. I am not talking about romance, love, and sex. I mean you need to be writing about something that is important to you. Poetry, history, blogs, fiction, it does not matter what you write, write what you are passionate about. You cannot fake passion, you can try, and you may pull it off for a while. But, eventually all your readers will see through the ruse. When you write about subjects you are passionate about, you are taking a small part of you and giving it freely (this is not about price), willingly, openly. This is not about 1,000 downloads on Amazon. When someone reads what you wrote, it is an intimate one-on-one conversation — writer and reader. They want your passion; they already have too much in their lives that lacks passion. Why is Norm Abrams so successful? There are many others who can tell you how to build a deck for your house. Norm is successful because he is passionate about home improvement and working with wood.

Be recognized. This is something else that you cannot do very much about, directly. You can enter contests. However, the personal tastes of the judges have more to do with who wins. The type of recognition you should be concerned with is from your readers. When your readers enjoy your work so much they tell others about it, or provide links to your work so others may enjoy it as they do, THAT kind of recognition is exhilarating and humbling at the same time. It is the best kind of recognition you will ever receive.

Be a mover. When you write with passion, believe me, people will be moved to action because of your words. Historical, poetry, how-to, fiction, it does not matter what you write. If you write with passion, you will reach your readers, and they will take that passion and act on it in their own lives.

Be warm. You should never write for “the mob” or the “demographic group” you are shooting for. The United States has more than 350,000,000 people living in it. Just one percent of that is 3,500,000 people. Warmth has to do with passion and intimacy (once again this is not romance, love, and sex). Intimacy is being open and vulnerable it is a one-on-one connection. You do not get that by writing for 3.5 million people. You get that by writing for one person, you get that by holding nothing back, you get that by being positive. You do those three things and the warmth will come through. You do those three things and your readers will become important to you, individuals that you care about, and those feelings will create the warmth. Painting, sculpture, writing these are intimate expressions of you. Be intimate one-on-one with each reader and you will succeed one person at a time.

Now a word about my audience. Writing “how-to” books are always talking about “know your audience, write for your audience.” Those noble educators of the craft of writing are talking about a demographic group. You know, a certain; age, sex, race (sometimes), political view, religious view, and et cetera. This nameless, faceless group is the supposed consumers of your work. Therefore, of course, I do not follow this tact. The group I write for is very specific, and (fortunately for me) gains more faces than it loses.

There is a man who is about my age whom I share much in common, but we have just enough not in common to complement each other.

There is the talented historical author breaking down her own barriers by being both black and female, while possessing a real talent for history.

The poet who bares her soul for the entire world to see, inspiring the most dejected among us while doing so.

There is the couple restoring an historical home, a home that our government should have assumed care for a century ago.

There is the sea captains wife, though she has never said so specifically, I suspect she uses some of their precious, limited time they share to tell him about an occasional column I have written.

There is an extraordinary woman who just lost her soul mate of many years. She has shared the loss that she and her children feel, with her readers. She is dealing with this one day at a time. Some days are not too bad, and the not too bad days are slowly increasing in number. One day she will be back to normal. A new normal, her life will never be the same again. A part of her will always mourn her loss, but she will smile again, and laugh again. Knowing that her husband would want her to, will make it easier for her.

There is a young feminist, an old feminist, and a former feminist, a couple of artists, and some other writers as well. Some are as young as 7 and some as old as 70. I have left out many, but it would take a book length tome to do real justice to them all. They are really a neat bunch of people, whom I treasure. Some leave comments, some send e-mails, and some just read and smile. As I said I do not follow what the experts say we should do to build an audience, I do not have a narrow faceless group of 3.5 million people for whom I write. I write for an individual, someone I care about, someone I celebrate with when they win, someone I cry with when they hurt, someone I care for and pray for, even though they may be an atheist.

The audience I write for is too narrow, I know that. However, it works for me. I did not start writing for just one person. I started writing for this 3.5 million person demographic I wanted to reach. It just did not work for me. If it works for you, use it. But, there will be something else, just one thing all the experts say you should do, one thing you just cannot do.

That one thing robs you of the voice inside you screaming to get out. Follow what the experts say, but when that one thing you are not supposed to do presents its self, follow it. This is what makes you unique; it is your style, your voice.

It will come to you, do not force it, do not say, “I am going to do this and it will be my style.” If you do, it will come across as contrived. Contrived is fake you want genuine. Follow the experts until you reach that point where you say to yourself, “I do not care if I lose all my readers except my mother, I cannot do this anymore.” Then follow your spirit.

You may lose readers, and it may take a long time before you begin to gain readers again. Do it, do it anyway, and do not ever go back to what you did before (remember, if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got). What you did before silenced your real voice that is why you left it. Your new audience will come, do not worry about them. They are searching for you right now, waiting on you to find that voice deep within you. They will find you. They will not quit searching for you until they find you. Be patient and as Shakespeare said, “to thine own shelf be true.”

If you have ever studied art seriously, you know that there are certain “rules” of painting. These rules have evolved over centuries; they are really observations of what make paintings attractive to the viewers. Ever see a painting you just do not like? It probably violates several of the observations. Good paintings make you feel at ease, calm, all is right in the world, they follow all the rules. What sets off the good from the great? One observation, one rule … just one. The artist had just one thing he could not bring himself to do (or her). The artist knew to break that one rule could mean disaster for them as an artist, it did not matter. “To thine own self be true.” The truly great did just that. Following all the other observations, they broke one rule and that is what sets them apart from the crowd, that is their style. They said to themselves, “If no one ever buys another of my paintings I do not care. This is what I must do.” You cannot force it, but in time, it will come to you too.

Thank You !!!

Thank You !!!


Filed under books, Cup-O-Joe, New, notes, writing

Blog Hop

What’s a blog hop? Well this one was started by Scott’s friend Arianna. It is an interview, a list of ten questions. Each writer answers the ten questions and then selects five more writers they would like to interview. While learning something about those we like to read (and what they are working on now) it introduces our favorite writers to a wider audience of others who also might like their work.

Thank you Scott, I appreciate the opportunity. So, without further ado here we go:

1-      What is the working title of your book? The Quitter.

2-      Where did the idea come from for the book? Everywhere and nowhere. The main premise just popped into my head one day and I started toying with the idea in my head. All of my work begins with just one idea that percolates in my mind for days, weeks or months. Then I begin to talk the idea out, by the time I actually  put “pen to paper” I already know the whole story, and it is just a matter of getting to the details.

3-      What genre does your book fall under? I am not sure, I usually read either non-fiction or classic fiction. If I had to guess I would say probably adventure drama.

But, the strong connection between Ron and his ex-girlfriend Sara plays a big part in Ron’s transformation. Sara intuitively and intimately knows Ron. She is the only person in Ron’s life who has ever known him this well. His loss of Sara and his desire to tell her how sorry he is pushes him as a much as his desire to live.

4-      Which actor would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Ron, Craig Sheffer as Bill and Jennifer Connelly as Sara.

I actually answered this question last. I didn’t want to give the usual Brad Pitt answer. I thought about what kind of recommendations I would give to a director. I wanted people who “looked the part.” The part of Ron I felt was the most crucial. You learn about his life through flashbacks, but the real action is Ron alone trying to survive nature while re-living a life of mistakes and missed opportunities. Ron’s attitude, emotions and drive swing quite a bit during the story and I ended up thinking no one could pull that off better than Philip Hoffman.

5-      What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  A tragedy in the wilderness brings a halt to Ron’s life of running away, but is it too late to save his life, and his relationship with the one woman he truly loves?

6-      Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Neither, I have a publisher in the United Kingdom that read a sample, and wants to publish it.

7-      How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? A lifetime.

8-      What other books would compare to this work within your genre? Well, I don’t usually read books in this genre so I can’t really say. But if anyone out there has any suggestions after reading it I would like to hear them.

9-      Who or what inspired you to write this book? My dad was always telling me I was a failure and couldn’t do anything on my own. Sometimes I would not try my best at the things I did. If I didn’t try, then it wasn’t that I lost, I just didn’t try, and dad was wrong. But, when I began to get over this, I saw it in other people around me both strangers and people I know. People who lack self-confidence, and don’t try their hardest because they believe they will fail before they even start. Ron is someone like that, who finds himself in a situation where he has to try or die.

I think people are amazing and that EVERYONE has a great talent within them. Most people when they lose, someone else did not beat them, they beat themselves.

10-  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I think Ron’s hand-to-paw fight with a grizzly bear is a dramatic point, both for the book and for Ron. I spent a month reading nothing but grizzly bear attack reports. If Ron was killed by the bear, there would be no book. But I wanted a scene that could happen, something believable. It was a hard scene to write and took longer than any other scene in the book.


The writers I tagged are: Each author below is totally different from the other four. Sheri is also the only poet in the group. There were so many others I wanted to add, but I stuck with the foremat of five.

1- Sheri, The Other Side Of Ugly

2-  J.G. Burdette, Map of Time/A Trip into the Past

3- Deborah Rose Reeves, First we Read Then We Write

4- Barry, The Way I See It

5- K C Leighton

I recommend you check out all their sites as they are incredible writers and people. They all inspire me to become a better person!

Message for tagged authors: Rules of the Next Big Thing

***Use this format for your post

***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)

***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Hope you all have a wonderful start to your week and take care!



Filed under books, New

2012 in review — Thank You ! To all of my readers!

I don’t normally post this kind of information. I view this site as a Sunday morning conversation between us, and stats cannot possibly tell THAT story. So if you feel the same, don’t bother with this, but if you are curious WordPress did a really good job with this report. I want to take this opportunity to say Thank You to ALL of you. I hope in 2013 you follow your dreams and have a GREAT year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 26,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.


Filed under Cup-O-Joe, history, New, notes

Our 2012 Awards

Reader's Choice Best Guest Author Award

No not the ones we have received the one we are giving. This is our first complete year and it has exceeded our goals. That would not be possible if not for the authors of our articles, we don’t just mean Joe either. To show our appreciation we will be presenting one guest author our “Readers Choice Best Guest Author 2012 Award.” (This is the first annual)

The Rules (everyone has them):

  1. Joe is not eligible.
  2. Authors of re-blogged articles are not eligible for the re-blogged articles (but are for any guest articles they wrote for us).
  3. Every author with one guest article for us is automatically nominated for that article.
  4. If an author has two or more guest articles with us, then Joe picks one article for the nomination.
  5. This is an annual award given to one and only one author. There is no other way to be nominated or to win.
  6. The winner is chosen by a vote of our readers. Everyone can vote.
  7. The winner, as chosen by our readers, will be announced the first Sunday following the end of voting. Readers will be able to vote for one week (midnight friday to midnight friday New York time) and will only be able to vote once.

This years nominees are:

E.Walsh for “Operation Live Well: Promoting Health and Wellness in the Military Community”: (go here to read http://wp.me/p1MLkF-WS )


J.G. Burdette for “The Elusive Lady : The Discovery and Exploration of RMS Titanic”: (go here to read http://wp.me/p1MLkF-gw )

If you would like to be eligible for next year’s “Reader’s Choice Best Guest Author” award, contact us with your idea for an article that helps, inspires, encourages, or a new or unique look at something historical.

use a subject line of “Guest Author” and email to:


Señalización de lugar de votación en Californi...

Señalización de lugar de votación en California. 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Filed under Cup-O-Joe, history, New

Skip to the Lou My Darling

I did something impulsive and silly last Sunday. I, a 50-year-old man, while walking down the wide center aisle of our local Target store, began skipping down the aisle. My daughter and I were there looking for supplies to create a Christmas cartoon. We were walking hand in hand when I just started skipping, and Elizabeth joined me. The two of us going back and forth:

“You’re copying me!”

“Nuh uh, you’re copying ME! I started skipping first,”

“Nuh uh, I did. I’m telling your Mama you were copying me when I take you back.”

“Nuh uh. I’m telling my mama you were copying ME.”

We found what we were looking for, paid for the purchase, and skipped out of the store, through the parking lot to our car; back and forth all the way about who was copying who. We received more than a few looks from other customers (and a few smiles). I hope that encourages some of those other people to do something spontaneous and silly too. I saw a sign once that said, “we don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.” Maybe, and maybe that is why older parents seem younger than some of their peers. Or, maybe it is just because we have not been through those teenage years with our children yet. Who knows, but does “why” really matter.

This morning (Monday morning, while waiting for school to start) my daughter said to me, more of a statement than a question:

“I can’t tell anyone about yesterday, can I?” a small frown on her face.

“The skipping? Sure you can.”

Her principal was nearby; he was the first one she told. He pointed out that the security cameras probably caught us on tape. She smiled big at that thought.

There are several unrelated reasons why I am telling you about this. First, it put a smile on my daughters face and did not cost me a dime. She smiled when I started skipping, and when she joined me. She smiled when we skipped out of the store. She frowned a little when she said she shouldn’t tell anyone, but the smile came back in spades when I said she could, and even grew as she told her principal about our escapades from yesterday.

I also believe doing silly, unexpected things with people you love not only makes them smile (or should), but it strengthens the bond between you and them. I know it does for me. I can remember telling a story about my grandfather at his graveside. There were people, who did not appreciate me telling such a story at such a somber moment (I wrote about this in my e-book A Grandfather’s Legacy), but I saw a few smiles and it made me smile again. I think my grandfather understood my tears, but I also think he would have liked the smile that was there too. I hope that when my daughter stands at my graveside she remembers skipping through Target with her daddy when she was 7 years old. I hope that a little smile accompanies her tears as she remembers that moment.

We will all die one day, and some of you believe death is the end, there is no afterlife. I believe in an afterlife, you do not have too, but I do. Even if you do not believe in an afterlife, your influence does not stop at the grave. You still love the people you have lost, that does not end at the grave.

One of my favorite authors, Robert Fulghum, has this quote from the storytellers creed in a note to the reader at the beginning of his book ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.

That myth is more potent than history.

That dreams are more powerful than facts.

That hope always triumphs over experience.

That laughter is the only cure for grief.

And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

Amen, Mr. Fulghum. I did not ask his permission to include that, but in this case I do not think he will mind (hey I’m not making money on it, and maybe some of you might check out his books too).

My daughter knows both of her great-grandfather’s. My Maternal grandfather died in 1977 and my paternal grandfather died in 1995. Elizabeth was not born until 2005, but she knows them both very well. She has seen their photographs, my maternal grandfather’s gold pocket watch, and the small table that sat in my grandparent’s house since before I was born (it now sits beside my bed). She also knows what my grandparents kept in each of this small table’s two drawers.

But those are just symbols of the man, something we can touch, something they touched. More important than the “things”, she knows their character. She knows you tell the truth and do the right thing, even if you have to pay a price, because it is good and right to do. She knows that my grandfathers did this and taught me to do this. She also knows some of their failings as men. No one is perfect. But, what she has learned from them, through me, is that when they made a mistake they did not let the mistake define them. Their mistakes did not become their new character, they apologized when it was called for, and held true to their integrity.

Elizabeth knows her great-grandfathers were great men (though neither of them would consider themselves great men). She has received a great gift from her relationship with them. Their gift to her is a knowledge of the greatness within herself, compassion for others, and permission to be an imperfect person. She knows that it is ok to try and fail, but we should never stop trying. She knows that when you tell the truth or do the right thing, you do that for yourself and the people who love you, as much as for other people. This is why it is important to do the right thing, even when no one is looking. She got all of that from two men that she will never be able to hold hands with, but she holds them in her heart.

When you see the influence these two men have had on my daughter, can anyone say they are dead? No, they will live in the heart of Elizabeth all the days of her life. So it is with those people around you, your friends, family, and people you will never be able to hold hands with. Do not doubt me; I know I am correct about this. You see your own faults, and sometimes that is all you see. Others see your gifts, strength, and heart as well. Even if I am wrong about you (and I am seldom wrong about people, a gift from my grandfather), you can do something about that. Tomorrow has not yet happened, and you decide who you will be tomorrow.

Next year will be a year of great opportunity for you. There will be trials, but learn from them and move on as quickly as possible. Thomas Edison said he did not fail at making a light bulb 1000 times, he just learned 1000 ways not to make a light bulb. I promise you (and I never make promises), whatever your new career is next year, you will become the success you were always meant to be long before you go through 1000 learning experiences.

Just do not forget to be silly once in a while along the way. It lightens your heart, puts a smile on your face, and makes memories for people you will never get to meet. Happy memories, memories that will make it possible for those people to go through their learning experiences and become the people they were born to become.

You are great and no one is insignificant. Be thankful in this season of thanksgiving, I am. I am thankful for my grandparents, my daughters, my friends, all those I love greatly (and the ones I do not love greatly), and I am most sincerely thankful for you and the time we spend together for a few minutes on Sundays.

Have a great week and thank you.


Filed under Cup-O-Joe, family