The night before Christmas, looking back on a writing year.

This has a been an amazing year for my journey in writing. I almost gave up writing. Not that I didn’t love to write, it was that I wasn’t getting any readers.

I hadn’t figured out the mystery of Amazon and its mighty search engine, therefore, readers couldn’t find me, buy my books and give me feedback.

That all changed several months ago. I put my first book, Polar Bear Dawn, permanently free on Amazon. To my amazement, people began downloading my book. They even read it! Then they posted reviews, and most of them liked what they read, and they bought my other books – and they liked those as well.

The result was, I’ve become an author who has an audience. That is a very nice feeling. For those who liked my Bernadette Callahan RCMP Detective series, there will be a short story, a prequel and another in the sequel to Pipeline Killers coming out in 2017.

I’ll also be publishing a narrative non-fiction of my journey of finding a half-brother I never knew about. The book will be called Half Brother Blues, Chasing my Mother’s Ghost and finding her secret son.

Next year I’ll be changing my website, offering another free short story and building a mailing list where readers can get notification of my new stories. Yes, this is a whole new world for me, and I thank the readers who got me here.

A writer without a reader is Turkey with no stuffing, eggnog without the nutmeg or…okay, I’ll stop, as I’m making myself hungry. Safe to say, that a  writer need readers and readers need writers. When we find each other, it’s a wonderful thing.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and happy reading to you wonderful voracious readers who make the world of writing possible, and happy writing to all you writers who live in your own heads and make the magic happen on paper.

 

 

 

The gift of a wave in Hawaii.

I was in Hawaii a few months back and as always I’m  impressed by the local Hawaiians. Most of us never see how the locals interact amongst each other, we’re too busy marveling at sunsets or checking when happy hour is for cheap MaiTais.

But there is a feeling of Aloha here, that isn’t in the greeting that the desk clerk gives you or the guy trying to sell you a time share on the beach in Ka’anapali, the real Aloha is much deeper than that, it’s often the gift of sharing or giving.

I witnessed this on Waikiki beach, on our second day in O’ahu. My wife had never been on an outrigger canoe to do a surf ride. These things are marvelous in the water. They can weigh over 2,000 pounds, but when an experienced Hawaiian oarsman is on the tiller, they   can be made to ride the surf almost to the shore.

We found a captain, Dennis, who took us out on a 6 man outrigger with his crewman. My wife and I took in instructions as we dug our paddles into the blue water out to the surf break.

Then we waited with other surfers for a wave. Captain Dennis watched each wave come, and when he saw the right one, he yelled “Nalu,” in Hawaiian which meant wave. We dug those paddles in as hard as we could and then we could feel the waves pick the big boat up. With paddles raised high, we road that massive outrigger towards the shore.

I didn’t notice the old man on his surf board until we came out the second time. I’d seen him walk by us on the beach sometime before. He was thin, his skin an almost ebony with long grey hair and gentle face. He wore a simple swim suit that did nothing to hide his bony frame. I couldn’t tell if he was Asian, Hawaiian, or a Caucasian who’d been out in the sun all his life and just baked a hard and brittle brown.

Our second time out, Dennis said, “here comes a really big wave, you’re going to love this one.” We both waited, paddles raised for the command to dig hard. It never came, the big wave passed under our boat.

The old man paddled hard and caught the big wave and we watched him ride it like a magician towards the beach. He was light and masterful, his feet moved on the board as if he was playing music.

We caught another wave. I have no idea how big it was, but it was sufficient to move our big boat. We had another great experience. My wife loved it.

When we came back out for our third surf with the boat, we paused in the line of surfers. The old man was there, he called out to Dennis, “I thought you were going to take that big wave.”

Dennis said, “No, I left it for you.”

The old man simply said, “Thank you.”

And that was it. I witnessed this spirit of Aloha, and giving that happens amongst Hawaiians. Many of them have lost their land, and had to fight to retain their heritage, but here on the ocean, one Hawaiian could give the gift of a wave to another.

I learned later from a local who was renting a kayak to me in Ka’anapali that the truest form of respect is to give. This is the sincerest form of what Aloha means to Hawaiians.

I thought about this on my return flight back to Canada. Hawaii has so much to offer in it’s shops and classy stores. On Waikiki Beach you can purchase a Rolex watch or a special handbag for thousands of dollars.

But to give the gift of respect to and old man, to allow him the feeling of joy as he takes a perfect wave towards the shore…that is priceless.

I hope you enjoyed my little story. On my website, www.lylenicholson.com I have left the first three chapters of all my four books for your review.  Thank you for reading my blog.

 

 

 

 

Steve Martin and I have one thing in common – we’ve both killed books.

I don’t put myself in the same category as Steve Martin. He’s a great comedian, actor, and  accomplished writer.

I’m a highly unsuccessful Indie writer and Steve Marin…well, what can you say, he’s written over forty novels and numerous screenplays. My favorite of his novels is Shop Girl and L.A.Story. There are some who love his campy, The Jerk, I admit I’m one of them.

The one fascinating thing I learned about Steve Martin in an interview he gave was how many times he dropped a book that wasn’t working. Now wait a minute. How is that possible? Isn’t every book idea we have incredible?

Well, apparently not. Steve Martin recognized it, and over the years, I’ve come to the same conclusion. When I first heard him say he dropped book ideas, I was amazed. Then I heard the phrase, “kill your darlings,” which is highly used by writers, and I got the message.

I have written and published four books. I have two sitting in a drawer gathering dust that will never see the light of day. What happened to them? They didn’t make it beyond my beta readers.

A Beta Reader should be an author’s first sounding board.

My wife is my first beta reader. If she likes it, I run the book down to the hill to one of my friends who is a quick and voracious reader. If it makes it past him, then it’s time to make numerous copies and have those read by several more readers.

I always wait for feedback to see what my readers think, then I go from there. Why would I do that you ask? Why not just go with my own intuition, my own gut feeling, and critics be damned, just publish it?

Well, that perhaps is why we are ending up with so many Indie titles that are not getting read and are having no sales. Someone has to read what you wrote to give feedback.

Writers need beta readers for feedback like Chef’s need tasters.

Have you seen the television shows where the budding Chef prepares a dish and one of the judges proclaims, “This is awful, did you taste this as you prepared it?”

That’s when the camera pans in on the poor Chef whose shoulders are now scrunched up to his or her ears, the sweat pouring off their brow and they mutter a “no, I didn’t taste it.”

The music sounds a death knell and we see the frown of the judges turn to shaking of heads with the commentator pronouncing the early exit of the Chef.

The difference between the writer who doesn’t get a readers feedback and a chef who doesn’t taste their own dishes and get other’s to taste them is the same. Readers give feedback, the same why a Chef’s taste buds tell him or her if the dish is palatable.

Feedback gives us clarity and direction.

If a plane leaves London, heading for Chicago and the plane is just one degree off course, the plane will  miss  Chicago by hundreds of kilometers.

Imagine that. One degree. Isn’t that the same when we read a book that doesn’t end well. Somehow the book went off course. The writer lost his or her way.

Those are the very books that need to be either dropped or revamped. Somehow, however, we writers feel we have so much invested in an idea, that we have to finish it. I’m all for finishing a book. Sometimes I just want to see where it leads.

But do I publish all of them? No, some of them I just write to see where the story goes. I’ve done the same with short stories. I write them, some of them I send off to magazines or newspapers and see if they get any attention.

Some of my short stories sit here, and then over time get sent out. I call that my aging process. Like fine wine. I had one that rested for fifteen years. Then one day I found a magazine for it and it got published.

What I’m saying is, some writing has to die for the eventual sake of our art. We need to try all the time, but not everything should get published. Especially in the realms of Indie writing, where, somehow authors think everything they write should see print.

I think if we all take a moment, let the writing rest, let a group of our best friends and critics see it, and then decide. And if we do kill our darlings’, we’ll do it softly and quietly then move on to the next project.

I wish all readers happy reading, and writers many hours of happy writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have 57,204 readers on TripAdvisor, and only 5 of my new novel. Now What?

I opened  my email this morning and was delighted to see a report from TripAdvisor. “You have 57,204 readers of your reviews.” I’ve posted some 78 reviews, and received 56 helpful votes. How nice is that?

I then opened my Amazon account where my four books reside. My most recent one, MisDiagnosis Murder, was published several weeks ago, and I was hoping to see some results.

What did I see? 5 sales in four weeks! Then the red line that signifies sales dropped to zero. If you’ve ever watched the heart rate monitor on medical shows you’ll know my experience.

The red line on the bottom, it denotes no sales. No life, as in nada, zip, zero. Yes, in the words of Billy Crystal from the movie Princess Bride, “the patient is not all dead, just nearly dead.”

Is there a point where you should  give up as a Writer?

I think every writer asks this question. I did give up an earlier career in freelance writing for magazines and newspapers when I found the returns dismal for the effort I put in. You’d think I’d want to walk away now, when the returns are even worse.

But in every writer, there is the need to express on the page what is inside them. They never know what it is until it’s on the page. They discover the story, just as much as the reader does, and they become a part of it

The returns for writing can be poor. Back in my business career, I had this motto, “Return on Investment.” That was the king. If something did not return a profit in a certain period of time, I would drop it.

Why don’t I drop it now? After all, I’ve spent over 5,000 dollars in the past four years in publishing my books, with very little return. Shouldn’t I just give up?

Well no, I’m not done yet. There are more books inside me, and I’m sure there are inside of all the other independent writers.

Are the Naysayers right about Indie (Independent Writers), is this is fools game?

When I started writing and publishing four years ago, Indie Writing was just taking off. Many said it wouldn’t last, and some said it would be a way for editors and book designers to make money, while writers make very little.

Some of that is true. But I’m glad that book designers and editors are making a living. Why shouldn’t they? After all, if it were not for editors, some of the writing you’d see would be objectionable. And, for the book designers, I think they are worth ever penny.

Is there a way for Indie Writers to actually make a living, or at least make back their costs?

At this point in time, there are numerous people out there banging a drum to tell Indie writers that all is not lost. They will find us those ever elusive readers.

You have to understand that the writing world has taken on Tsunami like proportions with the implementation of e-books, and print on demand. Amazon’s Kindle was probably the largest game changer since the Gutenberg printing press was invented in 1440.

The stats are that some 600,000 ebooks and print on demand books are hitting cyber space every year. This is wonderful time to be a reader. For the writers who are trying to make a living. Perhaps not so much.

There is a tendency to be washed out to sea by this Tsunami. I mean, really? How many more romantic zombie books can be written? Or how many more shades of grey are there before everything turns to black?

Is there help out there for Indie Writers, or just people who are trying to make money off of us?

Back in the days of the gold rush, they claim the only ones who made any money were the people who supplied gear to the miners. Want an example? How about Levi Strauss. You may be wearing his jeans right now.

In my short four years of writing, I have found some very honest writers who want to help other writers. K.M. Weiland and James Scott Bell come to mind as two successful writers who are sincere in their efforts to help writers. It shows in the excellent books they’ve produced on the writing craft.

For books on marketing, I’m a big fan of Joanne Penn. However, when I listened to her last webcast, she claimed the key to success was writing 20 books.

Here is my slight problem with that math,I’m just turning 63. I produce a book at a snails pace of one per year. I need 16 more years on the planet to get that number. I’ve decided I’ll take up the challenge, eat more oatmeal and reduce the amount of olives in my martinis. Here’s hoping for book number 20 on my 79th birthday!

Taking the title of Highly Unsuccessful Writer, and owning it!

In all this, I’ve decided I will take on the title of highly unsuccessful writer. Many people ask me what I do. I  say, “I’m a writer, but a highly unsuccessful one.” It’s kind of a joke, but it’s okay.

Owning that title, makes me want to move forward, to write more, to get better, to see if over time…maybe I’ll sell 10 books next month! Okay, that’s a lie, I do want to sell more books and achieve a wider audience. All writers want that. It’s how we justify what we do.

For those of you who want to see how a truly unsuccessful writer does, you can see all my books on my webpage at www.lylenicholson.com.

for those of you who want to know where to find the best Mai Tai on Oahu, you can check me out on TripAdvisor. Apparently I have quite a following.

For any writers out there who would like to comment, or admit they too are highly unsuccessfully, and owning the title, please leave a comment.

 

 

 

How a story of MisDiagnosis of Cancer became the idea for my new Novel.

I heard this story of a cancer misdiagnosis many years ago. A man, who lived in England was told he had inoperable cancer and given a short time to live. He sold everything he had, then wound up his affairs. He didn’t want his passing to be a burden on anyone.

Then he got a call. He was told, “sorry about this, but your records were mixed with someone else’s. You’re going to live.”

Now, the man was happy that he was going to live but distraught that he’d lost all his possessions. If he lived in America of course, there would be lawyers lined up at his door to help him sue the hospital.

The reason I chose this idea for my book is that we are so ready to accept what doctors tell us. The moment we are in their office we are putty in their hands.

I have a doctor friend in the town where I live, who does a few days a week at a walk in clinic. He tells me how people are just so glad to see him.  He stands there in his white coat, with their file in his hands. He told me he sometimes says, “very interesting, I’ve never seen anything like this!” Just to see their expression. Then he tells them he’s joking. He tells me it breaks the ice. I’m sure it does.

The strange thing is, medicine is a science. And they call it the practice of medicine. So why are we so ready to believe what doctors tell us? Scientist who deal with the physical earth tell us that if we don’t do anything to stop global warming that all those on the coast will be wearing hip waders in the near future.

It seems that a large percentage of the world’s population refuse to believe those scientist. But what if a doctor (who practices the science of medicine) told those same people they were about to die. What would those same people do? Get another opinion, or tell their loved ones they should’nt buy any green bananas, (sorry bad joke) but you get my meaning.

Do I have a problem with doctors? Absolutely not. I think it’s the way we think of them. That is what makes for a great story idea. That they are somehow infallible in our minds.

If my character, Carson Winfield, had got another opinion in my book, I wouldn’t have a story. So, I wish all of you good health, good reading, and yes, keep buying green bananas.

If you would like to read the first three chapters of my book, Misdiagnosis Murder, you can do so for free on my website at www.lylenicholson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Books that define us teach us or send us on journeys. Here are some of mine

After reading a great post from K.M. Weiland about books she thought were the best she’d read for writers this year, I thought, well, what about some of the books I’ve read that have defined my life. Some have even sent me on journeys…and I thought I’d share a few in this blog.

I grew up reading books. My father was an avid reader and so was my mother. My dad, as a Canadian of Scottish heritage read the collected poems of Robert Service. From him I learned of Canada’s harsh north and ballads of the World War I.

The poems were both beautiful and gruesome in their nature. Robert Service was the first “Cowboy Poet,” and his poetry spoke of both the beauty of life, and how life could be cruel.

His best-selling poems were, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” and the “Shooting of Dan McGrew.”

I perhaps attainted a taste for black or gallows humor at an early age. My father died when I was 15, and I would find my own books. I embarked into the world of books, not as entertainment, but to taste the world. You can do that through books, even more so than through television.

I would read the books of Leon Uris and his Mila 18, and Exodus. I have no idea why I’d read books on the struggle of Jews. I’m not Jewish, had only two Jewish friends, but their struggle spoke to me.

At the age of 18, in 1971 I’d taken planes trains and automobiles to Tel Aviv, and lived on a Kibbutz, (collective farm) and would work in the orchards, the chicken houses, and would fall in love and have my heart-broken by several Israeli girls.

I doubt if that was the intention of Leon Uris in writing his books, but that’s how it worked out for me. The struggle of Israel was very real when I was there. The Egyptians threatened to “have Israel in the ocean,” by New Years, and the Israelis said, “Let them come, this time we’ll march to Cairo!”

I got to see all of this first hand, just by being inspired to go on a journey of exploration from reading books. I wouldn’t have another great inspiration until I returned home and went to College.

My time in College was brief. A total of 18 months, but it was awash in books and ideas. In the early 70’s Marshal McCluen was telling us, “The Medium was the Message,” in his books, and Leonard Cohen had come out with his book, Beautiful Losers.

There were also numerous books regarding spiritualism. Herman Hessee had written Siddartha, about the journey of Buddha. I read that and numerous other books and would take another journey, but this one only had me closing my eyes to look inside, to the world of meditation.

I would spend 5 years in an Ashram, also know as a Monastery from 1973 until 1977. Great years of studying silence, and also of reading the Bible, the Koran, the Bahagavita, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the works of Lau Tzu. What did I find? They all seemed to point to the silence within.

Some would think I was sidelined, or went on a detour for all those years, but really, I spent time that many will pay great sums of money to go to retreats and sit in silence, and try to achieve a quiet mind.  Okay, I have to admit there was no sex, which can put a damper on things and is probably the reason I left after 5 years and got married.

I would then enter the world of business and sales. Yes, I think I was called the “talkative Monk,” in my Monastery days. A trait that would serve me well as I delved into a career in sales and marketing.

I’d read books like the One Minute Salesman, and realized that  you only have seconds to get someones attention when talking to them. I actually became a good salesman.

My sales business made money, and then I read books on investing in real estate. I made money at that to. Funny how some knowledge when applied can work.

Then somewhere in all of my selling, and business of investing and working with real estate, I got back to the world of fiction. Who knows why. I think the real world is wonderful, but the world of fiction tugs at the outer edges of our imagination, and makes us dream bigger.

I started to read writers like Kurt Vonnegut Jr.. I was actually reading him again. He was one of the writers I read extensively in my brief College career.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. reminded me of Robert Service, the Cowboy Poet of Canada, the man with the gallows humor. Vonnegut was also spoke openly against war, against governments who sent people to war, and his books detailed a world were people went off into other existences, like Slaughterhouse Five.

My wife introduced me to Douglas Adams. His books were the HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life the Universe and Everything, and So Long and Thanks for all the Fish.

Why was I so enthralled with these books that many thought were almost slapstick? I really couldn’t tell you. But I do know from my 62 years on this planet, that we are the sum of all of our experiences.

It could have been my father’s cowboy poetry, my four months in Israel, (wandering on the Kibbutz to look for bomb shelters, and find they’d been made into photography dark rooms,) or my years in silence in the Ashram. Who knows?

I now write my own books. And strangely enough, they are dark humor. I tell my readers that,”People die, but only those that deserve it, or didn’t see it coming.”

Am I trying to emulate Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams? I don’t think so, I think they were such unique individuals that no one will ever perfect their style. I believe all writers can develop a unique style if they allow themselves to delve into what makes them individuals.

I wish all writers great writing, and all readers great reading. May your reading take you on journeys of discovery or just provide you an adventure from your armchair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The power of vulnerability for writers and readers.

There’s something that writers don’t want to talk about, but invariably they can’t help themselves. It’s how vulnerable they feel when they give their work to finally be read by an actual reader.

That single most important person, is after all the reader, unless a writer assumes they will  leave all of their manuscripts to age like fine wine in a dark cellar – never to see the light of day. In that viewing there is the vulnerability, but also the magic.

That magic is where the reader gets to see how the writer has taken characters and revealed them. Hopefully the writer has taken a character through some kind of journey. It could be by space ship, cruise ship or time warp, or perhaps a journey of spirit.

What I’ve learned over the past few years of writing, is all readers love to see the vulnerability of a character revealed, then made into a strength, then solve some sort of problem or situation. Essentially, this is called the story arc.

In a writing class from James Scott Bell he had us watch a segment from Casablanca. He showed our class how Humphrey Bogart who is shown as this hard night club owner shows vulnerability in saving first a young lady from the commandment, then Ingrid Bergman and her husband. Yes, a classic love triangle, but we eat it up. There is vulnerability there…and we love it.

In another movie, James Scott Bell showed Harrison Ford in The Fugitive in a hospital scene. Here is Harrison trying to get out of the hospital, but he stops to help diagnose a sick kid, then he escapes. You can hear the audience melt in the room.

James Scott Bell had a term for this, it’s actually a writers or screen writers’ term called “pet the dog.” This is where a character shows vulnerability and endears themselves to the audience or reader.

Do readers fall for this, this obvious vulnerability scene? Well, yes it seems we do. As a reader who consumes two to three books a month, I love when I see an obvious “pet the dog,” scene. I know the writer is bringing forth another element of the character, one that will make the character seem vulnerable, but in revealing it, we see the real strength in the character.

Character strength is something that writers agonize over. Too much and you have a Cyborg in the Terminator, and too little and we’re talking Sponge Bob Square Pants.  I’m sorry for those of you who think Bob is a strong character.

The essence of the struggle a writer faces was laid out to me in an article in Writer’s Digest  by Grant Faulkner called NAKED (ON THE PAGE) AND AFRAID. His lead quote was;

Good writing requires courage – first to give voice to the truth at the heart of every             story, and then to share it with the world of readers.

Grant went on to write that it’s a common fear that one’s life will be confused with the text on the page. I couldn’t agree with him more. In every book I write, I wonder if someone will see some kind of vulnerability in a character in me, and yet, to be true to the work, I need to put that vulnerability out there.

That is what readers really demand. They demand real vulnerability. If they didn’t then the   multi-million dollar industry of true romance wouldn’t be what it is. Sorry I can’t write true romance, but if I could, I’d start with a vulnerable character and build them up until they consumed the world, but have them do with grace, charm and probably really good shoes…yep…I can’t write true romance.

The strange thing about vulnerability is no one wants to show vulnerability, yet we love to see it revealed in novels that have characters overcome their failings and prove their worth. Do all readers see themselves in this. Are we all the voyeurs that I think we are?

Someone who has totally nailed this topic is Professor Brene Brown, she did a TED talk several years back called The Power of Vulnerability. Did people like it? How about over twenty million views! I’d say people were interested.

I’d suggest, now this is just from my point of view, that you take the twenty minutes to hit Youtube, and check out this talk. That is if you aren’t one of the twenty million that have seen her already.

Dr. Brown gave a very refreshing look at what we see as vulnerable. To me, what she revealed is that when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we allow ourselves to be creative.

Perhaps that is because we come from behind our masks and shields to where creativity really lives. This is how it feels to me, that old adage is the “turtle only gets ahead when it sticks it neck out,” is perhaps the essence of what I’m getting at in vulnerability.

My goal, is to keep surfing the edges and then to dive into my own vulnerability as I write, perhaps it will access deeper creativity. Who knows, what lies ahead when I and everyone else sticks their necks out…perhaps we’ll all just move a few paces forward.

I wish everyone happy writing and happy reading.

Everything is fine until you’re in water over your head! A swimming lesson that could be used in life.

A few weeks ago I watched my wife approach the deep end of the pool with her swimming instructor. She’d just learned to swim, finally after 55 years, and this was the test – the deep end.

She got as far as the yellow line in the pool where the depth changed from 1.4 metres to 2.8. My wife is about 1.93 metres tall. She had to make up the depth difference by treading water or swimming.

The previous week she’d learned the forward crawl with the proper breathing technique and to float on her back and even tread water. The swim coach taught her some drown proofing as well.

I was impressed. These were things I’d learned years ago, but as my wife was being taught, I started to practice them again. Like learning it for the first time.

But that day at the deep end was too much for my wife. Her face was set in a grimace of tension as she treaded water for a quick 30 seconds and swam back to the safety of the shallow end where her feet could touch the bottom.

What had happened I asked? She told me that the very fact of having  no pool to put her feet on panicked her. I understand that. Some 50% of North American’s do not know how to swim, and of those that do, a great percentage will stay in shallow water for fear of drowning.

Notice when you go to the pool, or the beach, just how many people are in deep end or swimming effortlessly out in the ocean. It’s actually very few. We as humans seem to have this fear of being in over our heads.

This strange notion came to me as I realized that 70 percent of our earth is made up of water, why are we not naturally taken to the water. Does our fear keep us out of the deep? Or is it our lack of knowledge of water?

SURPRISE – WE ALL FLOAT

I learned this from a site called relaxnswim.com , that the buoyancy of water reduces your body weight by 90%. Also, a full lungful of air acts like a ballon in your chest keeping you afloat.

Then I read further on this website, and had that “ah ha moment,” it said, “Feeling buoyancy in water is all about presence in one’s body – feeling while swimming – is most valuable when a swimmer is not distracted by the pool bottom.”

There it was, the reason we keep ourselves out of the pool. We’re worried about where the bottom is – or isn’t.

A CONVERSATION WITH A 74 YEAR OLD SWIM COACH.

One day, my wife an I were in the pool, and she was doing her laps to improve her swim stroke and work on that treading water technique – the one to get her over her fear of the deep end.

We met Jamie at our local pool. Turns out he’d been on a swim team at a major US University in his youth, then taught competitive swimming. Jamie was great, he went over the techniques of swimming with my wife, and talked about how we humans are all born to float. He said, “It’s just that we don’t know it.”

Jamie would teach people to swim by first telling them to try to stay underwater with a full lungful of air – none of them could. What he taught them was the law of the human body, water and psychics. If we have air in our bodies we’ll float.

“Then how do we drown?” I asked.

“Simple, we get excited  and take in water.” He said.

MY OWN SWIMMING LESSON BEGAN FROM ALMOST DROWNING

My wife asked me how I learned to swim, and I told her it was from almost drowning. I was about 5 years old, and wading in a lake, it had a serious drop off that I obviously did not know about, or forgot.

I still remember to this day, walking off that edge and my body plunging deep into the water. I could see the light on the surface growing dimmer as I went deeper. I even remember my life flashing before my eyes, fortunately for me , at 5 years old it was a short flash.

I started kicking and clawing my way back up to the surface. A lungful of air never felt so good. I ran back to my mother, probably cried my eyes out and my dad taught me to swim that afternoon. He held me while I kicked my legs and thrashed my arms – I was a swimmer.

DEVELOPING NEW TECHNIQUES TO GET OVER OUR FEARS

So, why am I talking about the deep end and the need to learn the techniques of floating to get over our fears? I know, I thought it strange myself how this fits in with my fiction writing, but this blog is really about learning things to overcome our fears.

If it’s true that all people float, but 50% of us won’t even try, then what does this tell us about so many other things in life that we never attempt because we think we can’t do it.

It could be the writer too afraid to show people their writing- that would be that fear of the deep end. Or that career or business you wanted to start but were afraid you’d fail – losing touch with the bottom of the pool is what that might be called.

Perhaps these are over simplifications of things, but in the sense of overcoming our fears, it really comes down to the basics, learning new techniques and trusting ourselves.

THE FINAL CHALLENGE

I’m happy to report that my wife did finally swim over that dreaded deep end. As a matter of fact she swam a few lengths. When she tired, she just flipped over onto her back and floated leisurely towards the shallow end.

“How did it feel?” I asked.

“Fantastic!” She answered. My wife now loves to swim, and is upset if we travel to some place that doesn’t have a pool.

 

Writing my 30 day novel. How I cheated and let the characters do it for me.

If any of you saw my post back in October, I said I was going to enter the 30 day challenge, which is called NaNoWroMo, which means write a novel in the month of November.

It does seem daunting. I mean, 50,000.00 words? That works out to 1,666 words per day, and I mean every day. There can be no days off unless you drink major quantities of caffeine and fire off 5,000 words one day so you can coast the next day.

So how did I do it? Well I had help, yes and I hope the folks at NaNoWriMo don’t find out that I cheated, because you’re supposed to do it alone. What I did was put together an outline first – no that’s okay – that’s not cheating. And then I put together a list of the characters, and all the things that they do, and what they look like – again many authors do that and it’s okay.

But when I got three chapters into the book, which is called CIRCLING THE DRAIN, I found this amazing thing. The characters started to interact. They were talking to one another and all I could see were scenes that they were in. I couldn’t see words I needed to write, I could only see scenes that needed words added to them.

Everyday I woke up at 6am, and I was in my chair by the window, overlooking this lovely golf course pond in Palm Desert in my rental unit, and from 6am until around 10am I would pound out my scenes.

Sometimes I woke up earlier. I told my wife that my characters were bugging me – wanted to get to the next scene to get some things resolved. Some of them had issues with one another. They just needed me in the writers chair to give them life – to put them on the page.

Sound a bit crazy? Well it does, but if you ask many writers who write on a regular basis they will tell you the very same thing. Sometimes we have to take control, because we see a character wanting to go off in a direction that we don’t think suits the outline we gave them.

Sometimes we just let the character go off and explore, and we see if we like where they’re going. Kind of like what you’d do with your child, only hope they weren’t making a bee line for the road or the water. Yes, it is kind of like that.

So, there you have my confession of how I wrote my book in 30 days. I wish I had learned this several years ago, as all my previous books, such as Dolphin Dreams, Polar Bear Dawn, and Pipeline Killers were words that became scenes. Each of them took so much longer to write.

I will now go into the wonderful world of edits, where every author must dwell in the grueling task of ensuring each sentence means something, and everything is spelled correctly, and more importantly if the facts are straight.

This is also a great time for me, as I get to see all my characters again. I will be hanging out with this entire crew until you get to see this new book in print in about 3 months from now. But please don’t tell anyone I cheated in the competition…let’s keep it between you and me.