Tag Archive: writing



Greetings everyone.  I wish to make a couple of announcements.

First, after careful consideration and evaluating where things are at, I’ve decided to aim for releasing the book in time for June. This way people can enjoy it as part of their Summer reading.

As a result of this decision I’m declaring the Kickstarter a failure and ended.  Mind you, I am not angry or upset by this. In fact I think it may be a blessing in disguise.  I will have more time to rework the book and possibly have some Beta-testers read it to get a better idea how my unpaid team and I do at getting it edited as best we can. If there still seem to be a lot of problems, then I may try another Kickstarter or find another way to raise the money for a professional editor.

I’d like to take this moment to thank everyone who did pledge to the Kickstarter.  The Kickstarter was not going to succeed, but I do appreciate your belief in me and your support.

Remember “THE SHIP” is still coming. I am not giving up on it. I’m just giving myself more time and breathing space to get it in the best shape possible. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks.

ALSO: I will be appearing in an anthology being printed over in England soon, so I’ll keep you all appraised about that as I hear more on that front.

On a final note, I will also be releasing another book later this year. “THE VAMPYRE BLOGS” which is destined for a Christmas release, since that will be the time frame of the story.  In the meantime, you can read entries by the characters on my blog that is dedicated to that novel. Keep in mind, the entries you read online will NOT be appearing in the novel. They are merely to help prospective readers become a little more familiar with the characters and their histories, before the book comes out.   After all, I can only fit so much into one book. (grin)

Thanks for your attention and support. Take care and keep writing everyone.

Writing and Rubik’s Cubes…


Okay fellow writers, here’s a question for you all.  How many of  you find yourselves working and reworking a scene because something just isn’t right?  In your mind, you know what you’d like to happen, but something just doesn’t seem to be working right.  You make a change here, then a slight a tweek there and suddenly everything goes KAFLOOEY!    You suddenly hit a dead end, or the entire plot has taken a detour to No-wheres-ville.  When this happens to me, I get the same feelings I had whenever I tried to solve a Rubik’s Cube.  I know all the parts and where I think they should go, but they’re just not in the right spot.  And trying to get them in their proper place can be a nightmare some days.

 

Now this has happened to me on a number of occasions.  Some people tell me to have an outline, but that never works for me.  Why?  Because my characters start going in other directions by saying or doing things I hadn’t originally planned.  Admittedly I let them get away with it, but only if what they’re doing seems to be working better than what I originally planned.  Sometimes this works, but not always.  When it doesn’t I do one of two things:  I’ll delete it completely and try again OR  I’ll save the scene in a separate folder on my computer.  You never know when an unused scene can be useful later in your present story, or could wind up being perfect for another book entirely.

 

Personally, I kind of like it when I can just delete the scene because then I get to point and laugh at my characters saying, “See?  I told you this wasn’t going to work… NEENER-NEENER.”   Unfortunately, I tend to do this out loud and get some really strange looks from anyone within a 30 foot radius.    It’s at this point my unseen characters got to point and laugh right back at me, which is really annoying because they know I still need them and can’t kill them off.  Damn, my creations can be annoying at times.

 

Anyway, getting back to my original point.  Writing a scene can be quite frustrating and difficult at times.  But, there are many ways   of tackling this problem:

-You might change who’s in the scene, keep the ones who are most poignant and add someone else from the cast.  This can change the tension levels and the entire feel of the moment.

-Change the location where the action is happening.  Maybe the setting is the problem and you can get more out of a different location.

-Is a major piece of information about to be revealed in this scene?   If so how much of it do you really have to unveil at this moment?  Maybe you should only reveal a portion of the information.  You can whet the appetite of both the characters and the audience with this method.  By doing this your characters can go off half-cocked, which can make for some very interesting scenes as they make any number of mistakes or jump to wrong conclusions.  I personally like this because the character who isn’t perfect, and learns from their mistakes, is someone the audience can really relate to sometimes.  On the other hand the characters can aware that something is still missing and we can follow their efforts to learn more which can lead to some very tense and exciting scenes as well.

 

So, don’t be afraid to tear apart a scene that’s frustrating you.   Try some really different ways of reworking it.  And if you find yourself still hitting a wall, ask yourself  if the scene is truly relevant in that particular point of the story.  Maybe it can be replaced by an entirely different scene that can serve a similar purpose.    Who knows, you may wind up with something that opens new avenues for your plot that are even more interesting than what you originally had in mind.

 

What other methods or tricks have you come up with?  I’m sure everyone reading this would be  interested because we’re all trying learn from one another when it comes to writing.  So please leave your experiences and suggestions down in the comments section below.

 

And for the record,I did finally defeat the dreaded Rubik’s Cube.  Mind you I did not remove the decals and change them around (which is something my wife did when she was kid).  Nor did I take the cube apart and reassemble it so the colors matched up.  What did I do?  Simple, I spray painted the entire thing silver and used it for a paperweight.  A very creative solution, don’t you think?

Thank You, “Doctor Who”…


Today, I’m going to be setting aside progress on my writing and giving advice to praise one of my all time favorite shows that just turned 50 years old, “Doctor Who”.  This show has been a part of my life since I was 3 years old at least.  How can I be so certain?  Because it was way before I entered kindergarden that I saw a creature that captured my very young imagination, a Dalek.

Daleks

It is said among the Doctor Who fans you never forget your first Doctor, for me I never forgot my first villain. These oversized ‘Pepper Pots’ fascinated me to no end.  So every time I happened to run across them again, I was able to realize a show I’d loved had come back.  Or rather I’d found again.  Being so young I’d had no concept of time and what day of the week it would be showing again.  My first Doctor was Hartnell.  Mind you I’d also caught the Peter Cushing movies, but when I saw him in the role I thought, “I remembered the Doctor as being older with white longer hair.”  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I was watching the show from the day it started.  I was still inside my mom when the show began, plus I was in America not England.  No, I’d caught some re-broadcasts that had come to America I’m guessing.  In either case, I was hooked.

 

However it wasn’t until the early 70′s that I really could keep up with things.  Once more I spotted that familiar blue police box while changing channels and out came the Doctor.  Still with white hair, but much taller and agile.  I’d discovered John Pertwee, the 3rd Doctor.

Tardis

Again I was entranced and was soon introduced to the concept of regeneration and Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor.  The problem with the show for me was of course it disappearing from time to time from the TV stations in New York.  I found Tom again during the Pyramids of Mars.  Then the show was gone again.

Tom Baker

Luckily, after moving to California I found the show once more on PBS.  Tom was still doing the Doctor, but the show was being interrupted by a PBS Pledge Break.  At first I was annoyed.  I thought, “Here we go, scrounging for money for television…yadda-yadda…” But then I saw the phone banks were filled with people in costumes from the show.  It was the Sacramento Doctor Who Fan Club.  Having just moved I had no real friends and was wondering how I could meet some.  Thanks to Doctor Who, I’d just found a way.  I found out where they met and began attending meetings and quickly joined.  Not only did I make a bunch of life-long friends,  I alsoI met the woman who would become my wife Helen Henry.  Over twenty years later we’re still devoted to each other and are still watching the show with all the enthusiasm we had back then.

Soon I found myself doing costumes and working pledge breaks as one of the shows villains, “The Master”.

the master

Sadly, I do not have any photos of myself in costume to share right here, as most of my stuff is in storage after we moved to Santa Cruz and then Marina in the last 7 years.

In any case, the group also introduced me to conventions, which captured my imagination even further.  I made more costumes and even a replica of the Doctor’s mechanical dog K-9, but with a twist.  Since I was doing the Master, I made a black and silver version which had moving ears, light up eyes, the head went up and down and it could move by itself thanks to the remote control tank I’d used for the basis of it.  It made a huge hit at the conventions and on the pledge breaks.
FYI, as soon as I can get my old VHS tapes out, I’m going to transfer all the pledge breaks I have to my computer and post them onto YouTube for all my old friends who lost their copies.

Anyway, to continue.  Doing all these fun things got my mind working in another direction as well.  Writing, I did my first Fan-Fiction piece about one the doctors showing up on the set at one of our pledge breaks and mayhem ensuing partly thanks to me being dressed up as the Master.  NOTE: The Doctor’s companions make great plot tools especially if they’ve only heard a description of the Master, and said companion is a female warrior who’s always spoiling for a fight.  Needless to say I was not the hero of the piece as much as the comedy relief.  In any case, this was my first journey into writing and I found I enjoyed it.  Over the years that followed more fan-fic’s came into being and I soon joined other sci-fi fan clubs and did more ‘very amateur’ fan-fics for them as well.

Eventually though, my writing style matured more and I realized I had come up with so many different stories and ideas that many of them did not fit either Doctor Who or another favorite show from my childhood “Dark Shadows”.  In fact, I could easily leave out established characters and create completely original ones to go along with my original storylines.  (Sorry for the repeat of the word there, but it’s  the only way I can describe what happened)

Now, several years later, I’m a published Indie Author.  My next book will be out in early 2014 as many of you are aware and eagerly awaiting.  But my origins as an author go back to Doctor Who.  That funny little man in a blue police box, and TV’s first good-guy vampire Barnabas Collins in the original “Dark Shadows”.  But it mostly goes to the Doctor.  So, on this day, 50 years after he first landed in an old junkyard on Foreman Lane, I want to say “Thank you, Doctor.  You made a huge difference in my life and I can’t wait to see where you lead my wife and I, and all our friends, next.”  

12 Doctors

Short Story Sunday….


Today, instead of a one of my usual posts I decided to change gears and try something a little different.  I thought some of you might like to see a sample of some of my other writings that are not related to the Para-Earth Series.  So here’s a piece I did for my creative writing class a couple of semesters ago.  The premise was to write a scene where something unexpected happens.  Well, I went beyond that and created an entire short story.  I hope you enjoy it.

BAD HAIR DAY

By

Allan Krummenacker

Jane couldn’t believe it, the call had come.  They had wanted to see her the next day.  She had spent the previous evening going through her clothing for just the right look.  Glancing over at the corner of her bedroom, she could still see the pile of rejects she’d tossed aside during her quest.  They seemed to glare at her with resentment for being treated so poorly.  She promised to give them all a good washing and to put them away nicely when she got back.  Right now, she had to get ready.

Quickly she moved over to the sink in the bathroom to fix her make-up.  Everything had to be just right or she’d be sunk.  Everything was lined up just as she had left it the night before.  Lipstick, eye-liner, blush… all of it was just waiting there for her.  Then she looked up and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and cried out in horror.  Clutching her chest she backed up into the wall, eyes wide, mouth gaping… BED-HAIR!  But not just ordinary bed-hair, no this was possibly the worst case on record.

“Why, why today of all days?” she wailed and sank to the floor.  The interview was in an hour.  What was she going to do?   Pulling herself together she grabbed a brush and went at the tangled mess with a vengeance.

No good.  Instead of taming the wild look, her frantic efforts had only made things worse.  She looked like a poodle who’d tried pissing on a power transformer.  Dropping the brush she made a dash back to the bedroom in search of a hat.  That might at least help calm things down.  She searched high and low but only found a baseball cap.  That wouldn’t do… or would it?  No, with her luck, the interviewer was probably a fan of a rival team.  No she’d have to think of something else.

Maybe she could shave her head and say she’d been going through treatments?  No that would be disrespectful of people like her sister-in-law in Tennessee.  Not that she ever cared for the woman, but still.

“What am I going to do?” she moaned and sank down on the bed.

She could see it all now.  As soon as she walked in the receptionist would take one look at her and hide behind the desk.  One of the other candidates would smirk and ask her long it took her to get her finger out of the electric socket.

Or even worse, they might take one look at her and ask security to remove the homeless bag-lady that had wandered in.

Oh what was she going to do?

Just then there was a knock at the front door.  Groaning she started heading towards it while the pit of despair grew larger and larger in her mind.  Then suddenly she stopped.  What if it was someone who could help her?  Maybe it was one of her friends?  A fairy-godmother, come to render aid in her hour of need.  Hour… she looked up at the clock, only 45 minutes until the interview.

Panicking she raced to the door and found a man in a UPS uniform standing on her stoop.  He had a pleasant face and was holding a package, along with a clipboard and pen.  “Unnnghhh….” was all she managed to say as he greeted her warmly.

“Oooo… that’s some hairstyle you have there, Miss,” he chuckled.  “I haven’t seen a case of bed-hair that bad since my days in cosmetology school.”

Jane perked up. “You did hair?”

“Well yeah but…”

Grabbing him by the hand Jane hauled him inside and closed the door and locked it.  Leading him to the bathroom she babbled an incoherent explanation of what was at stake and how she needed his help.  Then she handed him the scissors and comb and told him to get to work.  If he was fast enough, she’d still have time to make the appointment.

The man tried talking but she told him they could talk after he was done.  There was an edge to her voice that she hoped would block any further protests.  It worked.

With a resigned shrug, the fellow went to work.  Ten minutes later he stepped back and let her take a good look in the mirror.  Jane screamed.  The sides were uneven, her bangs were lopsided, it was worse than before.  She hadn’t thought such a thing was possible.  “I thought you said you went to Cosmotology School!” she cried.

“I did,” the man explained backing up.  “But I sucked at it, that’s why I wound up getting a job with UPS.”

The wail of frustration Jane uttered took them both by surprise.  She never knew she could hit such a high note with her voice.

As the for the failed-hairdresser, the he stumbled backwards into her bedroom and wound up tripping over the pile of discarded clothes.

Jane watched in horror as the world slowed down and the poor guy fell backwards and cracked the back of his head against the corner of the nightstand and then the floor.  He did not get back up.  Nor did he move.

Eyes wide Jane started to let out an unholy, “OH MY GO…”

“THAT’S GOOD, WE’VE SEEN ENOUGH!” a voice from out of nowhere announced.

Turning toward the front of the stage, Jane stared out at the darkness where the director, the producer and the playwright were sitting.  “Could I do that last part again?” she asked, “I don’t think I really captured the mood when Tony went down.”

The director waved a reassuring hand, “Don’t worry.  You were great.   In fact you’re exactly the person we’re looking for.  You’ve got the part.  Why don’t you gather your things and we’ll see you back here tomorrow at 2 o’clock.”

Delighted with this turn of events, Jane squealed with glee and rushed off the stage.

Once she was gone the trio slowly made their way onto the stage and glanced down at the still unmoving figure in the postal carrier outfit.  “It worked,” said the producer.

“I can’t believe it,” said the director.

Only the playwright smiled, “Well, you won’t have to worry about your little blackmailer anymore.  It will be ruled as an accidental death.  See, I told you I know how to write killer scenes.”


As most of you probably know, my beloved laptop died a few weeks ago and I have yet to replace it.  I will be getting a desktop computer towards the end of the month luckily.  But in the meantime, it’s been hard not being able to access my novels and work on them.  At least, that was the case until yesterday.  I am now able to continue work on book #2 “The Ship” and am in no danger of losing any changes I make to it (at least as far as I know).  And it’s all thanks to my G-mail account.

Now a lot of you are probably thinking, “Well duh, you simply mail what you wrote each day to yourself and it will be safe in your e-mail.”  That is definitely a method that a lot of people use, but I have a tendency of deleting or accidentally deleting e-mails due to clumsy fingers or a computer acting strange.
What I’m going to talk about today is Google Drive (aka Google Docs).  Now I know Google had provided a  “Cloud”-like service for all who use Google but I didn’t know a lot about it.  It is very similar to Amazon’s Cloud system, where you have a huge amount of storage in cyberspace to save photos, documents, etc.  But I’m one of those who does not jump on the new-tech bandwagon right away.  I always hang back and let time pass for others to give these services a test run and see if there are any bugs that need working out first. After I’ve heard more about the new technologies, then I’ll give it a whirl.  I hate to try things and lose stuff because there were issues that needed to be fixed.  Especially where my writing is concerned.
So, when my laptop started acting strangely I backed up all my writing files onto memory sticks (flash drives).  My wife then urged me to transfer some of the docs from the sticks onto Google Docs, informing me that I already had an account with Google because of my e-mail.  So I proceeded to do as she instructed.  I uploaded my writing files and could access the novels that way thinking I could access the novels on any other computer I could get my hands on.  Right?  Wrong!  Because I uploaded the novels in MS Word, I could not bring up the novels on computers that did not have MS Word.  Our new laptop, which is primarily for my wife’s university schoolwork does not have MS Office or Word on it.
I told my wife about this and she informed me that the files she’d put on Google Drive were easy to access and she could make changes to them.  Long story short, she finally realized how I’d uploaded the actual files in their original program.  Whereas she had simply copied her files and pasted them into a Untitled Google Doc, which is the first option that comes up when you enter Google Drive.  That Google Doc is always accessible from ANY computer and you can make changes, edit, or add to a doc.  So yesterday I got onto a computer that had MS Word, opened my original document and then copied the entire book into a Google Doc.  Then I went home and tried to access it and make changes on the new laptop at home that did not have MS Word.  It worked.  I can now access the novel, make changes and continue to finish writing the first draft while I wait to get the desktop at the end of the month.
I’m back in business and it feels great.  So check out Google Drive (aka Google Docs) and start saving your files over there gang.  Remember, if you want to be able to make adjustments to your doc, copy and paste the file into a Google Doc template.  If you simply want to have a back up copy, then upload the file in its original format.
This is a great tool and I’m so glad it’s available.  You can also make certain files accessible to others like Beta-Readers or your editor through Google Drive.  PLUS… you can make it that no one can tamper with the document while it’s on Google Drive.  They can read but not touch it.
Check it out, it’s really worth it folks.  If any of you have other advice about Google Drive or other similar services please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.  That’s all for now.  Take care and keep writing.

One Size Does NOT Fit All…


Okay gang, guess what I’m up to this week?  I’m redoing “The Bridge”…AGAIN!

Let me clarify, I’m reformatting “The Bridge” specifically for Kindle e-readers.  Last night I got a 3 star review on Amazon, which I’ve been anticipating for some time.  I mean, in spite of all the 4 and 5 star reviews, it was bound to happen right?  Of course.  But when I read the review I was stunned to see where some of the problems were for this reader.  They considered the story itself a 5 star read.  But the editing and formatting were barely 1 star.  Now I’ve known about the editing for some time and have plans in the very near future to get the book the professional edit treatment it needs.  I’ll finally have the funds to do it, I’ll explain how that happened in another post.

But the formatting issues that were raised stunned me and I couldn’t help but smack myself in the head for being a fool.  Especially, when I went over to Amazon and took a look at the sample of what the book looks like in Kindle form.

I had made the cardinal mistake of assuming that when I first created the book on Createspace and used one of their templates, that the system knew what it was talking about when it offered to send the finished product to Amazon for Kindle.  BIG MISTAKE!

Now please understand, I do not own any type of e-reader.  I’m still a “Turn-the-paper-page-by-hand” Man.  So I never considered what the format might look like on an e-reader.  What works for paperbacks does not automatically work for e-readers.

First off, I have a tendency to use space gaps to indicate when I’m changing points of view in any scene.  But I also use those for entire scene changes.  In paperback this is forgivable, but in e-reader format it can be confusing to the reader.  And if the change happens between the bottom of one page and the top of another, it’s even more confusing for which I apologize folks.  These things never occurred to me.

Plus, I got a good look at how the indentations appeared in the Kindle version.  I nearly screamed.  I had no idea the system would reformat things so unevenly.

So I’m reformatting the entire book right now specifically for Kindle e-readers.  I’m also trying to do a bit of editing along the way, but it’s still a far cry from the professional job this book needs.  Yet, I’m also close to having the money to get that done, which leaves me with a quandary.  My KDP Select ends in about 10 days.  Should I just go ahead and take the book down and send it off to be given a proper professional editing job and then put out a really good 3rd edition, along with the new formatting?  Or just reformat for now and then have that much less to do after getting the book professionally edited?

I ask you all for your opinion on this.  Personally, I’m leaning towards doing the reformat now AND then sending it off right away to the editor for a good makeover.  Then re-releasing the book to Kindle, Nook, Sony the  works as soon as the work is finished.  My only concern is that this will leave me with no books on the market in the meantime.  But a part of me thinks it might be worth the risk.  What do you all say?  Please leave your thoughts and comments below.  I really need some feedback on this one.

Thanks.  Take care and keep writing.


For those of you who haven’t heard yet, my father-in-law has been fighting cancer for the last year.  Unfortunately, he’s fought the good fight but due to masses of blood clots in his head, they cannot finish the job.  So he is now in hospice care at home.  As you can imagine my wife, myself, and our family are devastated and are trying to spend as much time with him as we can.    So I won’t be posting as much, but I don’t want my readers to be left without much new here.

 

So I’m offering you all the chance to post articles about writing here on my blog.  Feel free to push a book or books of yours, but please offer some tidbits or story about an aspect of writing and how it affected that particular book(s).   I’m looking for insights into plot, editing, characters, development, rewrites, cover art, publishing, agents, self-publishing, etc.  Again, all I ask is that if your pushing  book, make sure the article connects to it.

 

I look forward to hearing back from those who are interested.  And by the way, if you have an old entry from your own blog that fits what I’m looking for and would like to update it or just reproduce it for the audience here, that would be okay as well.  Just let me know.

 

Thanks and take care of yourselves everyone.  I’ll be posting and keeping you all updated on what’s happening with my father-in-law and the family.


I’ve been on a roll recently with novel #2 “THE SHIP”.  I mean I got some serious wordage down, like over 10,000 words in a couple of days, which I thought was impressive.  But then it happened…  I hit a wall.  Not literally of course, just figuratively.  My story suddenly ground to a halt and I had no idea how to get out of the corner I’d put myself in.

 

Sometimes, writing can be like going through a maze.  You go straight, come to a junction turn right, go a ways, make a left, straight, another left, etc. and you really feel like you’re making progress.  In fact, you’ll be out of this thing in no time… then you come to a dead end and you have no idea what went wrong.  Sometimes, you can pull out a hammer and chisel, or a huge drill like Wile E Coyote in the old Roadrunner cartoons and make your own way out.

 

At first I pulled out the ACME Super-Atomic Laser Drill to get out of my current dilemma and get the story moving again.  Unfortunately this led to a new problem.   My efforts did not FLOW with the rest of the story.  In fact it felt forced and was throwing the book out of whack.  And it was going to be very obvious to the reader.

 

So, I chose another route.  I took a few steps back and retraced my path to see how I got into this mess in the first place.  I wound up losing a lot of the word count I had been so proud of, but it was necessary in order to find the problem.  It turned out I was adding in too many characters into the story.  I already had a fair number of people who were already more than adequate and able to fulfill the same function as these newcomers I’d created.  Now I had a choice to make.  Should I be using the new people just to give them a cameo and then have them disappear from this story, in order to use them in a bigger role in another book?  For this had been the plan.  The problem was where I was inserting them.  The timing was all wrong, I was putting them in a the wrong spot.  Furthermore, I had to ask myself, were they really needed at all?

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you may want a character(s) for a cameo in your current work because you plan to bring them back in another work where they will play a more major role.  But you have to place them just right, especially if their role is not critical to your current story.  This is what happened to me.  Where I was placing them in my story, would have logically necessitated their continuing appearance and involvement in the story.  It wouldn’t have made sense to just bring them on and then dump them afterwards, especially when they’re the parents of one of your two main characters.

 

So, I looked over the scene where I brought them in and asked myself, how can I simplify things?  Do I have characters available (including my current batch of supporting ones) who can fulfill the same function without causing a major disruption?  The answer was yes.  In fact, the ones I chose actually made the transition to the next scene much easier.  So that’s the route I chose.

 

Now, I know that in real life we meet a number of different people every day, who may or may not play a major part in our day.  But that’s different from a book.  In a book, your audience is already trying to keep track of a number of characters you’ve already created.  It’s not always a good idea to overload the reader and expect them to be able to juggle who’s who and where they came in.  So little cameos that serve no real purpose can be a problem.

 

However, if you’re laying down a hint of something major to come later in your current story or a future one,, that’s different.  But even then, the timing of the cameo must be just right to make that character’s cameo memorable.  Plus you may seriously want to give the reader a major hint there is more to this person and we we will be meeting them again one day.  I did this with one of my two villains in “THE SHIP”.  He showed up a couple of times in “THE BRIDGE”, and the way I did it left my readers fully aware that this was the start of a series and he’d be back.  I got a number of e-mails asking about him after people had read “THE BRIDGE”, which let me know I had done a good job.

 

So sometimes we need to keep things simple, not just for the readers but for ourselves as well.  Make your story enjoyable and easy to follow.  And if you are writing a series, it’s good to leave your readers with hints or mysteries that more is to come.  But don’t overwhelm them by leaving too many mysteries unanswered at once.  You may wind up confusing or disappointing your readers when you don’t follow up on the one they wanted you to explore.  It’s important to play fair, remember without loyal readers and fans, you may wind up without an audience.

 

So be careful about how you load up your story.  Keep it simple enough to follow, without losing the complexities and twists that keep your readers coming back for more.

 

Until next time, take car and keep writing.


Okay gang, I’ve got something different for you today.  A writing exercise.  I shared one of these a while back on my other blog and it was well received.  I hope this one will also be as popular.

Sometimes when we’re writing, pacing can be an issue.  We have characters who can’t (or won’t in some stubborn cases) leave a room or a scene which winds up becoming stagnant and boring for the reader.  As writers, it’s up to us to keep things interesting with every scene.  Other times we rush through a whole bunch of events within a few pages so things become a mish-mash of actions that might have been better off being spaced out across the entire story instead of clumped together.

So pacing your story becomes very important.  And I found this little exercise to be both a challenge and a lot of fun.  It’s called “Keep The Engine Running”.  The rules are as follows:

1 – Have two characters in a vehicle, with a destination in mind.  The driver of the vehicle will never get out or turn the engine off at any point of the story.

2 – They must stop 5 times and interact with another person or group of people at each stop.

3 – They will never reach their destination. (You must tell us what happens to prevent this)

4 – The entire story will take place in/or around the vehicle.

 

Keep in mind,  the people and things they meet will prevent the original characters from reaching their destination.  See how your characters are changed by their encounters and what they learn.  This is a good way to explore and get to know your people a little better.  Below you will find what I created for this exercise.  I hope you enjoy it and get some ideas for your short story.  Make sure you leave comments and even a link to what you create so me and the other readers of this blog can see what you did.  Remember, the idea behind this whole blog is to help each other learn and grow as writers.    Have fun:

 

KEEP THE ENGINE RUNNING

by Allan Krummenacker

 

“Thanks for driving me today Rookie,” my passenger says, “Those damn eye-drops the doc used are going to affect my vision for at least another hour to two.”

I smile, “No problem Old-Timer.  Glad to help out.”  That earns me a glare that has made many of my fellow officers wilt.  But I can get away with it.  Roy and I were partnered up back in New York City twenty years ago when I was a rookie cop.  A few years after he left the city to become Chief of Police here in New Swindon, he invited me to join him as his second-in-command.  And with all the cops who had seniority over me at the precinct, I jumped at the opportunity.

“Cracks like that can get you demoted missy,” he growls.

I can’t resist.  “You know that scowl would be more intimidating it you weren’t squinting to see me clearly.  Besides, if you demote me who will you get to help you keep the rest of the squad in line?”

He growls and then falls silent for the moment.  Out of the corner of my eye I see him squirm a little.  “Need a pit-stop?” I ask.

All I get is a grunt, but I know what it means.  So I pull the patrol car over to a nearby restaurant.

“Keep the engine running, just in case a call comes in,” he tells me.

“Like I’d forget to do that,” I reply innocently.

This time a large smile crosses his craggy face.  “Remind me to go down the list when I get back, Rookie,” he tells me and heads inside before I can respond.  I wait until I see his broad shoulders and iron-grey head disappear through the doors before replying.  “I can name few times you did it too, you old fart!”

Just then the radio attached to my shoulder crackles making me jump.  For a second, I wonder if I’ve left the microphone open again and he heard me.  Instead it’s just Pam, our dispatcher back at the station, checking in to see how our boss made out at the eye doctor.  I tell her he did just fine and that she can call his wife  to let her know he actually went this time. Men can be such babies about doctor appointments.

We chit-chat for a while, since there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on today.  She asks about Alex, my ‘Boy-Toy’ as everyone calls him.  I can’t blame them.  I was leaving high school when he was just entering kindergarten.

“Oh, he’s doing fine,” I tell her.

“Really?” she replies, then follows up with, “Because when I saw him earlier I could’ve sworn he was walking a little funny.”

“We got a little enthusiastic last night,” I tell her and leave it at that.

There’s a pause.  Then I hear, “You are one lucky lady, Sarge.  Oops call coming in.  Talk to you later.”   With that the radio falls silent.

“Don’t I know it,” I mutter quietly, trying not to think about the 15 year age difference between me and my love.

But before I can dwell on my romantic life, Roy emerges from the restaurant carrying two coffees and a bag of food.  “Compliments of the house,” he tells me, as he gets back into the car.

“Someone trying to get a parking ticket fixed?” I ask checking out the contents of the bag, hot sandwiches and pastries.  Nice.

“I don’t operate like that and you know it, Sergeant,” he tells me stiffly.  But I can see the amusement in his eyes.  We cap on each other all the time, like a couple of teenagers.  But only when we’re alone, we’re careful not to do it in front of anyone else.  We can’t afford to lose that air of authority.

I back the patrol car out of the parking lot and get us back on the road.  The station is only about ten minutes away and we can eat more comfortably there.

We get about two blocks down the road when I see a slender, blonde-haired man walking along the sidewalk.  I instantly recognize his backside, since I’ve grabbed it enough times.   A smile crosses my face as I consider whether or not to hit the siren and give him a little scare.  But before I can decide, Roy grabs a bullhorn from under his seat and rolls down his window.  “All right Hill, hold it right there and keep your hands where I can see them,” he barks and then tells me to pull over.

Suppressing a grin I do as I’m told.

The pedestrian in question has already come to halt and even dropped to his knees, while putting both hands on his head.

“Oye I ain’t done nuthin’,” he complains in a fake cockney accent.  “I weren’t no where’s near that crime scene, I wasn’t.”

Towering over him, Roy growls, “Which one was that then?”

My boyfriend looks up at him and suddenly stands up saying, “Oh well if you haven’t found out about it yet, then I got nothing to worry about.”  His British accent isn’t quite so thick now, nor is it Cockney.  Born and raised for the first part of his life in England, Alex has never lost that way of speaking.  But occasionally he loves to amuse everyone by using some of the other accents from his place of birth, just as a New Yorker may fake a Texan accent over here.

“I’ve still got a bone to pick with you,” Roy tells him with annoyance.

Alex glances over at the patrol car and sees me.  A wicked grin crosses his face.   I shake my head.  He’s about to get smart with my boss, and my hearing is very sharp.  So I get to hear everything.

“Oh do you now Chief?  Tell me, will it get me tossed in the back of the patrol car?  And if so, can you throw your driver back there with me?  She’ll get a confession out of me in no time.”

I feel my face turning as red as my hair.  At 45 I certainly don’t look my age.  Many people mistake me for being in my mid-30’s, which is how I landed up with Alex who just turned thirty last month.  We’ve been together three years now and he’s even more devoted to me in spite of our age difference.

Now I’ll admit, I’ve kept myself in good shape.  You have to when you’re a cop otherwise the bad guys take advantage of it and get away.  So my figure still turns heads fairly often.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons why he loves me so passionately and frequently.  He’s always seems more than willing to prove it by getting me out of my clothes.  Sometimes he doesn’t wait even that long.

Not that I’m complaining, I feel the same way about him.  But how long can it last?  How soon till he starts noticing the first hints of lines around my eyes, or that I’ve gotten my first grey hair?  What then?

Knowing him, he’ll probably propose again.  God he’s wonderful.

Meanwhile I can still hear Roy raising his voice outside the car.  Apparently it was my Boy-Toy’s fault that he had to see the eye doctor today.

“All I said to your wife was that you were complaining that you were having trouble reading reports lately,” my love explains.

“Yeah well next time keep MY complaints to yourself, all right?” Roy tells him and climbs back into the patrol car.  I can see Alex standing on the sidewalk with the most puzzled look on his face.  I can’t blame him.  How do you keep someone else’s complaints to yourself?  I’m tempted to ask Roy but he’s already buckled up and telling me to get going.

I blow a kiss to Alex and take off.

We go another couple of blocks only to be stopped by a traffic light.  I hate this particular one.  It’s the slowest one in the whole damn town, or at least it feels that way. And since there are two lanes going each way, whoever pulls up next to you will naturally roll down their window wanting to talk to you.  And today is no different.

Off to my left I hear and engine roar like someone wants to race.  I turn and see my current partner Steve Patell on his motorbike. Even with the helmet and sunglasses, his big moustache is unmistakable.  He’s grinning at me now and revs the engine again.  Apparently he hasn’t seen who’s in the car with me.  I roll down my window.

“Hey, cut that out or I’ll site you for noise pollution,” I yell to him.

“You and what army, Sarge?”

I can’t resist.  I lean back and let him get a good look at our boss who’s glaring at him.

The smile disappears from Steve’s face faster than you can say “Book ‘em Dano!”

A car behind us beeps.  The light’s changed and my partner is already taking off.  Not too fast, but enough to stay out of reach for the moment.  He knows he’s going to get chewed out at the office.  Poor guy, I almost feel sorry for him.  But then again he keeps dropping hints for me to dump my Boy-Toy and take up with him.  Like that’s ever going to happen.  He’s only a few years older than Alex.  What is it with me attracting younger men?

“Patell would make a great cop if he’d stop horsing around so damn much,” Roy grunts.

“He gets along good with the high school crowd,” I point out, coming to my partner’s defense.  It doesn’t help though.

“They like him because he never grew up.  He’s got the same mindset as they do,” Roy replies, staring straight ahead.

I can tell further defense of Steve will only result in more annoyance so I decide to let things drop.  Roy has a point, but so do I.  My partner and I get along really well with over 90% of the high school crowd here in New Swindon.  And they are willing to come to us with problems, especially when they’re afraid to turning to Mom and Dad.  Which makes sense since all we can do is talk them to death.  Their parents can ground them.

For the next five blocks Roy goes on and on about the importance of keeping up a good appearance and authority.  We’ve just turned down a residential street and I spot Frank Marshall, one of the town’s older residents struggling with his groceries.

I pull over and Roy gives me a look but doesn’t say anything.  After working together for so long, he can read me like a book.

“Keeping up appearances, huh?” he growls.

I smile innocently at him..

“Keep the engine running,” he mutters and gets out.  As soon as the door closes he pops his head through the open window.  “And for your information I was going to tell you to stop anyway.  He and I are supposed to go fishing this weekend.”

I frown, “And who’s going to be minding the station?”

“You, you snot-nosed Rookie,” he grins evilly.  “That’ll teach you to be a smartass,” he adds and then disappears.

My mouth hangs open.  Damn him, I was hoping to spend a good part of Saturday in bed with Alex.  Now it’ll just be Friday.  Sunday we’ll be going over to New Haven to be part of a Ballroom Dance exhibition.

I watch Roy with Mr. Marshall and the two of them are having a grand old time talking.  ‘Gee, I can hardly wait to hear the stories about the ones that got away,’ I think drily.

The rest of my musings are cut off as Pam’s voice comes over the radio..  A car’s been stolen and a chase is already under way.  The vehicle isn’t too far from here.

I pop my head out the window and tell Roy what’s up.  Within seconds he’s back in the car and telling me to hit the sirens.  We take off.

I give him the full run-down on what’s happening and he grabs the microphone to help coordinate the pursuit.  Roy knows every street in and around the town.  You don’t stay Chief of Police for over twenty years without knowing your territory.  He tells me where to turn and within moments we’re right behind the stolen car.   It’s a metal blue Impala. And from what I can see of the driver’s head, it looks like they might be on something.

“Terrific,” I mutter, “a stoner going for an afternoon joy-ride.”

“Probably headed for a Chop-Shop,” Roy grunts.  “We’ve been getting reports about one over in Canaan.”

“That’s just over the state line,” I point out.  “If he takes the next right, that’ll put him on Route 44 and he’ll only be about 10 miles from it.”

“I know,” Roy nods and tells me to keep close.  “Just keep on his ass.  The Chief over in Canaan’s already got a welcoming party waiting for him if we can keep him busy.”

I floor it and we get right up to the Impala’s bumper.   This makes the guy nervous and he takes the right onto 44 just as planned.

We stay right behind him.  In this area, the road is only one lane each way.   So there aren’t many places our friend can go.  But it gets twisty in some areas, and we’re coming up on one of the bends.

The car thief is definitely on something.   He almost doesn’t make the curve.  With tires screaming he winds up compensating too much and swings over into the opposite lane before righting the car.  I don’t have that problem.

“Keep on him, Ronnie.  He’s going to have to slow down and pull over, or do something really stupid,” Roy tells me absently, as he leans forward in his seat.  It’s obvious he’s totally loving this chase.  That’s one of the great things about him.  He’s never been one of those people who enjoys being behind a desk all day.   Getting out on the street, meeting people, taking the pulse of the town, that’s the way he likes to run his station.  And it works.

We’re almost on top of the Impala again when the guy suddenly swings over to the left lane.  Luckily there’s no oncoming traffic.

“Shall I give him a tap?” I ask Roy, hoping to force the guy over or spin him out before someone comes along and gets hurt.

But before my boss can answer the guy suddenly swings back into our lane, and the front end of my patrol car.  Both our cars start to spin out.  It happens so fast I don’t have enough time to avoid the ditch on the side of the road.

The next thing I know the world through the windshield flips over amidst a loud thunderous crash.

It takes a few seconds for my vision to clear and I see the world outside it upside down.  Luckily I don’t feel any pain.   I look over at Roy who seems to be okay too.  He grins at me and pats the built in roll-bar above our heads.  Without it, we probably would’ve been crushed.  Carefully we get our seatbelts undone and manage to crawl out through the side windows.

Getting to our feet we see the Impala wasn’t as lucky.  It flipped a couple of times before landing right-side up.  However our friend who led us on this merry chase wasn’t wearing his seatbelt and got ejected.  We find him a few yards away from where his stolen prize landed up.  Miraculously, he’s just got a few bruises and a cut on his forehead.

We put he cuffs on him and call for back up using our shoulder radios.

A noise in the background catches our attention.  Turning around we see the patrol car’s back wheels are still spinning.  Roy gives me a look.

I shrug and say, “Hey, you told me to keep the engine running.”

Inspiration From History…


Roanoke The Lost Colony

 

CROATOAN

A lone word carved on a pillar of a fort that had once housed a colony of 90 people from 1587 until 1588 or ’89 perhaps?  Who can say, because in 1590, there was no trace of the colonists who had made the isle of Roanoake their new home.  No sign of a struggle or battle could be found, and the local native Americans on the island proclaimed no white men had ever settled there.
Roanoake, or “The Lost Colony” as it has come to be called, is an actual mystery right out of early American history.  Many ideas and theories have been put forward to explain the disappearance of the nearly 100 settlers, but no hard evidence has been discovered to say exactly which theory if any is the correct one.  As for the word carved in the lone pillar “Croatoan”, what did that have to do with anything?  Well according to those who’d come to check on the settlers in 1590, a plan had been set in place where that word would be left in plain sight if the settlers decided to pull up stakes and flee to another nearby island.  The name of that island was Croatoan (today it is called Hatteras).
But again, there has been no solid evidence found to prove the settlers did indeed go that island.  They might have been lost at sea, or changed their minds and dispersed elsewhere.  No one knows.  Again, it remains a mystery.
So what does this have to do with writing.  Two words “inspiration” and “ideas”.  With an unsolved mystery like this, a writer can have a lot of leeway to build an entire story around what might have happened.  Now I was first introduced to the story of Roanoke when I was in grade school.  Naturally I was immediately fascinated by the story and kept wondering what might have happened.  Of course, being so young I never really did anything with it.  But the idea of coming up with an explanation, even a fictional one always stayed with me.
Today, as I’ve gotten about 3/4′s of the way through my second novel, I’ve finally found a use for this historical mystery.  The story does not focus around the mystery or Roanoke, but does utilize it in a very effective manner.  Without giving too much away, I’m using a fictional scene of what happened to help demonstrate the power and age of the ‘Big Baddy’ in my novel.  Something that has lasted for over 400 years and is still creating new terror in modern day.
But one does not have to simply rely on unsolved mysteries from history to get ideas.  Oh no.  History is chock full of events you can focus on or have play a part in your story.  Disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York 1911, is another example.  According to the records the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, LOCKED and BLOCKED all emergency exits, effectively locking in their workers to make sure they got a full day’s work out of them.  The conditions inside the factory were attrocious and extremely unsafe.  Literally a disaster waiting to happen.  And in 1911 it did.  A fire broke out and raced throughout the building.  And of course with the doors all locked, no one could get out.  Many jumped to their deaths from the upper story windows rather than burn.
Now there is no mystery to what happened in that factory, just simple facts.  But a writer can build a story around the circumstances leading up to and including such a disaster.  It doesn’t have to be Triangle Factory fire.  A fictional factory or place under similar conditions can be created along with reasons for the disaster.  What if it had been done on purpose?  Lives sacrificed, but for what reason?
History gives us a lot to work with.  You only have to look into a subject that is of interest to you.  Maybe it was a rumor or event you read about when you were a kid that always stuck with you.  Or perhaps just curiosity or a fascination with a subject you have.  Explore that subject through history and see if you get some ideas.  There’s plenty for us to work with folks.
Until next time, take care and keep writing.
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