Wednesday, April 9, 2014

 The Would-be Life of a Touring Blogger. Another Opportunity -  Lost ?

  I do admire the outpouring of writers who also blog, on a regular basis. And the promise of eager new readers just itching to snatch up the latest morsels before flipping over to the 'Buy NOW' button on whatever this week's social networking device is, to purchase my book.
Those were the starry-eyed promises I momentarily considered before I accepted the kind invitation of an anonymous ex-Pat, ex-Navy, ex-Editor to join him aboard the Bloggers Express to fame and fortune.
Unfortunately the scheme ran out of steam before it could include us aboard to reach our destination.
Like - that's never happened before!
Sometimes we live and learn - and sometimes we should be  satisfied to just keep on living.
The premise was a selected group of writers would be asked to respond to the same four questions; following a brief biography.
As dear old Winnie was wont to say: "Sorry, I did not have time to write a short letter."
Time taken from writing is begrudged.
However, the work was done and no writer likes to waste words so, this may serve a purpose in bringing you up to date on my past and current activities.
[Only the names have been XXX'd out to protect the identity of the innocent.]

Thumbnail bio & Pic:
British Journalist Jack Owen's UK news beat included Broadmoor Institute for the Criminally Insane, and Sandhurst Military Academy. Those extremes provided many Stop Press stories for Fleet Street newspapers. Later, as a crime reporter in the USA, his years spent upstairs and downstairs in the Palm Beaches, Florida, led to publication of Palm Beach Scandals - An Intimate Guide. It debuted on the Joan Rivers Show and was featured at the ABA (American Booksellers Association) Miami convention.
Owen has also dealt in antiquarian book sales, piddled around in boats and partnered in a catering company for the social set.
Thanks to XXX XXXXXX's savvy as a social network maven who urged me aboard...rather like being Press-ganged ;^}

What am I working on?
Currently roughing out the first draft of Book II in the David Porter saga - only five more to go.
America's Porter, a child of the 1776 Revolution, hero of the War of 1812, a pirate killer who rid the Caribbean of their ilk from his newly-created Key West base, He adopted the boy David Glasgow Farragut of “Damn the torpedoes – Full Steam Ahead!” fame. Porter has been my pet project for decades.
As a born-again procrastinator, it recently became apparent my library of Porter'iana and related characters, fascinating as it is, will not transform itself into the seven books I envisaged. Every few years a new, Non-Fiction, version of Porter will emerge. C.S. Forester even based one of his books on some of Porter's exploits, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
But Porter has more hutzpah than Hornblower and is quite a bit hornier. Porter did not got the good press of John Paul Jones. He's certainly colorful enough for today's tabloids. He was impressed as a youth by the Royal Navy, and escaped. He was charged with murder in Baltimore and acquitted, He was imprisoned by Barbary pirates and freed (during the USMC's first covert wartime overseas operation, on the shores of Tripoli. He was fired following a courts martial, reinstated, quit, then was pursued by assassins hired by Mexicans upset at the way he handled their war. As US Consul in Constantinople, Porter anticipated the political tsunami which lead to the Crimea War.
Quite a lad!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Its less formulaic and predictable, just like life which is stranger than fiction, than most market-driven books.
I inhaled the entertainments of Forester, Reeman, and Stockwin. Montserrat and Shute, Christie and Fleming, Wodehouse and Wylie. But eventually I overdosed on those favorite authors. A voyage too far, a clue too cute and a quip too slick.
It seems forever-ago now, but Truman Capote's In Cold Blood upended the true-crime genre of magazines and books, once consumed by cops and reporters alike. His fictionalization of the facts which everybody knew, was spellbinding. A darn good read. (I'd love to read the villains impressions of him.)
Millions of words have been printed about Porter. Monuments, streets, towns bear his name. His wide-spread family tree could create a cottage-industry based on his name and namesakes. (One member of a writer's feedback group I'm in, is a great-great-etc granddaughter of Porter. She tends to refers to his fighting frigates as, 'the family yachts'.)
Because he was a hot-head and un-PC, long before that term was in vogue. Because he was unpredictable, both a hero and a villain in the same breath, and because of his contrary traits, he will continue to be a source of many stories to come.

Why do I write what I do?
I write what I want to read. If what I write for pleasure finds fellow-travelers – Bingo!
The difference between being a staff-writer for a newspaper, or subject-specific freelance-writer, means following a format dictated by a general-interest readership or focus on one subject. The combination of having a short attention-span and an inquiring mind served me well in both fields. Empty pages between the advertisements, require interesting and entertaining prose to draw readers eyes through the gamut of peripheral temptations.
If there were no news stories or titillating features, whatever could one do to prevent all those advertisements bumping into each other?
Being rewarded for sustaining a book-length story, with no guarantees of sales in sight, is an act of faith in ones own abilities to achieve a goal.
The standard answer mountaineers give to people who ask why is. “Because its there.”  Apply that reply to writer's, too.
Completing a book is satisfying and perhaps, a challenge to others to try as well

How does my writing process work?
Living beyond my means is a great motivator.
I spent a lifetime working against deadlines 24/7. Breaking news does not respect a time-clock And editors do not forget missed deadlines. My mantra to all wannabes is:You can't Edit an Empty Page.
One of these days I'll turn it into a Tee-Shirt!
I tend to overload on information, absorbing every morsel into all pores. Time and space will determine story size. But, while mindfully pruning material to fit,  that spiked copy emerges by some sort of osmosis, onto the page. A reader will instinctively know when a story is padded with extra prose.
One day, just for giggles, line up the same story snipped a daily broadsheet (if there are any left), a weekly newspaper, and the supermarket tabloid rack. The basics are there – and so are those phantom facts slashed by the editorial red pen.
I know, you know, what I know ;^)

Monday, April 7, 2014

How To Turn Readers into Writers - A Talk for Wannabes

 All you accomplished authors can ignore this listing. It just outlines a few tips picked up during the past half-century - or so - from being in the business of writing for a living.
On the other hand, if you've ever thought YOU could do a better job than the author of  the latest book you read, or movie you saw, this blog couldn't hurt - much.
Too often those half or hour-long addresses to groups blow off with the wind, unrecorded. Its a pity because not all the life experiences of someone can possibly be committed to paper. That burning question you've always wanted to ask may not have been included in the books you've read. 
A living source could provide an answer.
That was my premise. Prime the pump, stimulate a Q & A session for readers who wanted to become writers, but did not know how.
Here's the gist.

How To Turn Readers into Writers [1,800 words ]

Talk for Hawthorne Public Library Readers, March 22, at Two


It is said it takes 10,000 hours of practicing something before one becomes proficient at it.
Lucy you!
By the end of this session you will only have 9,999 to go!
By some calculations that's about eight years. BUT...and there's always a BUT – is that a lineal, uninterrupted, 10-thou' where you did not take time to sleep, eat and take care of other bodily functions. Or, is it the actual time spent practicing, learning, honing, improving the task you have undertaken?
Like so many sayings, and cliches, it needs to be taken... with a pinch of salt!

Most articles and books about writing – written by name-authors – advise READING as a path to Writing.
Most of you ARE readers already. The difference between reading for Pleasure – and reading to Learn – will hopefully become apparent, soon.

There are people in this room who can throw together a dinner party for eight at eight in a flash. And others who have no difficulty describing the toppings, on a take-out pizza ordered by phone, to comfort all participants in the feast. These are acquired skills, And, with the right spin, could be passed on to others through communicating by an article – or several articles – which in turn, could become: a BOOK!
You are within reach of becoming an author. Just by utilizing those untapped skills acquired while you accumulated YOUR 10,000 hours of credibility.
Wow... I bet you didn't know, when you arrived, you were just a heart-beat away from...CELEBRITY !
And now, for a dash of reality.
We all know how to ride a bike. But we don't possess the desire and devious dedication of Neil Armstrong to become a World Champion of the Tour de France.
The good news is – we also don't share in his downfall from grace.

Not all writers have Pulitzer Prize potential. When was the last time you heard of the author of a famous cook-book, such as Julia Childs, winning that award? The actors who played her, and writers who claimed her in biographies, did. They were the ones who re-created a personality the viewing public, and cooking audience, was not prepared to say good-bye to, with her passing in 2004.
There are also audiences for John Paul Jones, Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston and – coincidentally – an American hero of history I have recently written about: Midshipman David Porter – In Harms Way. The world may not know about him yet...but they will by the time Book SEVEN is in print!
Porter may not be my path to a Pulitzer Prize. BUT, I already consider myself singularly successful amongst writers. I am the only one to have been awarded the exclusive “Pulitizer Tummy-Rub”... from Roxanne. Of course, that was BEFORE she read the contents of my book, Palm Beach Scandals – An Intimate Guide.

It is NOT necessary to become a murderer to become one. Court records are filled with chapter and verse of horrific homicides to chose from. The task of the writer is to present the facts in a way which will make readers want more.
Many readers become writers when their favorite character(s) die off or become so formulaic they have shifted from 'comfort' reading to a predicable irritant. At that stage, in order to sustain the pleasure of their company, the Reader creates a replacement protagonist. It may not match Hercule Poirot or Miss Marples – but its a start.
By the way – anyone know Miss Marple's first name?
Its Jane!

But (there we go again) as you walked through the library into this room you passed the stock-in-trade of most publishing houses, which are the Non-Fiction bread-and-butter books of realism. NOT not literary escapism.
The comfort of cozy mysteries, romantic Renaissance historical heroines, mysteries, vampires, wolverines and horror stories only provide 30-per-cent of all books published. Though their mega-copy sales by top writers like Harry Potter's magical creator R.K. Rawlings...the first to nett One BILLION Dollars, the supporting cast of characters like thee and me would probably have a tough time making the mortgage payments.
As Dirty Harry posed in that classic shoot'em-up cop-flick, “You gotta ask yourself, are you feelin' lucky?”
That is part of the equation but practice, Practice, PRACTICE is needed [did someone say 10,000 hours? ] as well.

And – WHY do you want to write? To see your name in print? Make money? Teach the world? Leave a legacy? Show THEM!
Motivation – inspiration and PERSPIRATION are all called for if you want to become a writer; whether its for personal satisfaction or to answer a calling. Like the insurance-company agent's cell-phone reminder of an overdue payment date [or the librarian's notice; it is time to return that book you've been using to prop up the leg of the wobbly table.]
My motivation was a way to explore the world that interested me – and get paid to do it.
It was an era devoid of journalism schools. There were classes for typing. There were classes for shorthand. The only class available to teach How-To find a story was through observation and a curiosity about everything. The theory was...if it interested YOU then, properly packaged, it could capture the interest of READERS!
Journalism, in the days when every community in every country in the world relied primarily on newspapers for a news-fix, seemed like a good idea at the time. It enabled me to get first-hand exposure to everything from Mushroom-Farming to Murder. Those experiences, translated into pithy prose, became the “stop-press' call for street-corner newspaper-boys, wire-service feeds and sometimes, a front-page headline for Fleet Street.
Inspiration can come from anything, anywhere, BUT – the writer has to be AWARE...of potential for a story. Plus WHERE and for WHOM it will appeal.
Of all the writer guides available in glossy magazines, costing upward of $10.00 each, only a tiny amount of space can be devoted to potential sources of sales for freelance writers. However, a professional Writer can get all the information needed, quickly and cheaply by merely searching the magazine he/she has in mind, and finding the 'Writers Guideline' field. Usually buried way down on the editorial page, it states who the publisher, editor, art-director, copy-boy, coffee-girl are.
There's even an online web-page available, now, which indexes submissions by category, at:
However, the editorial guidelines are only an educated guess to the mind-set of the current editor. Keep in mind, the staff of magazines are as ephemeral as the products themselves. Today's cutting-edge crusading crew may be dispersed on the next tidal-wave of conglomerations seeking to 'Rule the Publishing' world.
I once worked for a newspaper who encouraged me to dig deep into the workings of a local Sheriff. When my multiple-chapter series was turned in for editors and lawyers to scrutinize before publication – they killed it.
The new owners – from a far off land – AGREED with the politics of 'their man' on the ground.
Another job-change for me, though!

Few who have ever visited a doctor, dentist or vets office can be unaware of dog-eared copies of Reader's Digest. It is published in 49 editions, 21 languages and reaches a readership greater than 40-million.
Guess how many original stories this DIGEST prints?
But every year enough people buy stamps to mail off their newly-birthed Vampire Mom and the Wall-Mart Wolverine manuscripts to support the GNP of a small country!
They spent their money on postage...instead of an ice-cream...BECAUSE ?
They did NOT read the 'Writers Guidelines' section of the Reader's Digest editorial requirements which states: Please note that Reader’s Digest does not print poetry or fiction.
It will print original items from freelancers in its various department sections: Making it Matter; My View; My Story, but its a very limited market. knew that was coming – what they don't say is the person writing the story has to be the person IN the story.

For every brilliant singer, scientist, golf-pro and soldier there is an opportunity for a writer. Not all professional or skilled people have the ability, or time, to write the book the public yearns to read.
A writer who can strings words together, in the right sequence, combine facts with entertainment and titillation, CAN vicariously live in someone elses shoes – for a little while. Beware, though. The glamor aspect wears through QUICKLY. The grunge and grunt reality of getting the facts, then assembling them in an entertaining and informative sequence – which also meets with the approval of 'X” ( and handlers) - can be INTERESTING!!!

The scariest thing for most writers, beginners and pros, is the blank page or screen.
The longer one looks at it the harder it is to start.
One writer I know employs the “Letter to my brother” ploy. He begins to type a catch-up letter, outlining familiar family situations, then tells about his latest commission and begins to outline the story idea he has, then CHOPS everything out - not relevant to his story. Then... he Writes ON!
Remember – You Can't Edit a BLANK PAGE


When you leave here 95% of what you heard will float off and next time you sit down to write that blank page will still be staring back at you.

Writing is a lonely business. Here are some “CRISIS” Links to get you started.

Florida Writers Association
It has branches throughout the state. The 'Ancient City Writers', based in St. Augustine, is the most active one locally. It regularly meets the THIRD Saturday of the month at the Main Library. There's also a group in Ocala and one based at Palm Coast. Check it out.
FWA also runs seminars, a state conference, competitions, publications and creates awards following writing competititions.

Closer to home, an active group of wordsmiths based in Gainesville called WAG – Writers Alliance of Gainesville – holds regular meetings at Millhopper Library. They also feature PODS; groups of like-thinking genre-specific writers who informally gather to discuss, critique and give help and feedback to new material. Check it out at:

Be sure to leave your name and Email – LEGIBLE – before you leave. My Email is And remember – the Library is your Lifeline to the writing life!