the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

National Novel Writing Month 2006

I barely managed to make my goal today, and became a winner of NaNoWriMo 2006 a day before the deadline. In the process I've learned a lot about writing, including how to keep writing under any and all conditions, and how to balance a pad in one hand and write with the other while doing nearly anything. Typing passages you've already written is much faster, so when I don't have access to a computer and can write, I've been writing.

I've also been working incredibly hard, so this will be a very short post. I am drained, empty, and a bit let down now that it's over. But, lest you feel too sorry for me, I have a number of scenes (50,000 words wasn't enough to finish the novel) that, while they may need editing, are worth working on and shaping up into a novel I'll publish myself (thus avoiding the "three book" trap conventional publishing now sets).

I've had very little time to visit the blogs I enjoy, and almost none to leave comments. The fact Blogger has been, if anything, more cantankerous than usual has hardly helped. I expect to be tremendously busy with work for a little while, then things should slow down and I'll visit and comment again.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

the Wandering Author's Thanks This Year

On Thanksgiving Day, it seems appropriate to pause and give thanks, at least briefly, for those things we may not always appreciate as fully as we should. First, of course, I am thankful simply to be here on this earth. Most of us take it for granted, but life is a precious gift, and one without which we could not enjoy any other. I am thankful for Zachary Michael, my grandson, who was only recently granted this gift.

I am thankful for Andre, my son-in-law, who joined our family this year. I am thankful for Carol, a cousin who lives in Ireland and who I met for the first time this autumn, and for the rest of my family, those I'm close to, those I've met, those I've only written to, and those I've never had the chance to meet. I'm thankful for all the wonderful cats I've had the pleasure to know and love over the years, and especially for those who are sharing my life now.

I'm thankful no one lost their life, or was even seriously injured, in yesterday's explosion in Danversport, a result that seems miraculous. I'm thankful for all the writers and bloggers I've met this past year, as I began my own blog. I'm thankful for a wonderful new job, doing something I believe in. I'm thankful that it seems there may be a slight chance I will be able to finish NaNoWriMo after all, and that the novel I'm working on, although it will require extensive editing, does seem to have the potential to be an interesting book.

Finally, I'm thankful for so many little things it is impossible to list them all, tiny little bright spots. There are so many things in our lives that we enjoy but seldom stop to give thanks for. For various reasons, I'd given up using fountain pens a few years back, and just bought new bottles of ink and filled a few of my old pens so I could use them again a month or so ago. I'm thankful for fountain pens, and especially for my brand new, beautiful transparent amber Pelikan M250 fountain pen which arrived on Tuesday.

It may not seem like much, and there certainly are greater things to be thankful for, but whatever your "fountain pens" are, whatever holds that place in your life, don't forget to be thankful even for the small things, for the birds chirping in the bushes as you stroll outside, for the taste of a chocolate eclair, for a bottle of root beer, for whatever little things make each day a joy. Take the time to notice them, to enjoy them, and to be thankful for them.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Short and Sweet

I wanted to let all my readers know about a new, and different, contest for writers. Over at Short Short Fiction, DBA Lehane is hosting the Short Short Short Short Short Short Fiction Contest. The twist to this contest: all entries must be shorter than the contest title itself!

That's right. The contest title has eight words in it. The longest entry allowed will have six words. Not possible, you say? Head on over to the official contest rules and see the example, courtesy of no less a writer than Ernest Hemingway. It is probably fitting he was known for his brevity.

The idea is an intriguing one, and I hope all of you will at least head on over and consider it. As the post announcing the contest says, anyone can enter this one. You don't have to be a master of plot or dialogue, you just need to figure out a story you can tell in six words.

My own personal suggestion? Since only one entry is allowed per person, save up your ideas, then look them over and send in your favourite. Just make sure you get your entry in on time. When this year ends, so will the contest. So stop by and say hello to Lehane for me.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

To Pet A Tiger

These cute little creatures, comfortably cuddling each other, are my two kittens. They're slightly over a year old in this picture, so technically not kittens, but I think of them as my kittens anyway. They came as tiny orphans who had to be bottle fed.

I wrote an earlier post about one of their adventures. Since I have almost no time to write a post tonight, I thought some of my readers might like to see what they look like. The tiger on the left is Tristan Brighteyes, Hero; the tiger on the right is Stargazer, Miss. Chevious (a name I selected after I realised the phonetic spelling in the earlier post was open to misunderstanding).

As you can all see, I can have the pleasure of petting a tiger whenever I would like. Tristan loves to greet me, whenever I come in, calling out to me, his tail high in the air. Miss Chevious likes to drop by while I'm working on the computer, to see what tips she can pick up. One day, she will be blogging on her own (without any human to type for her, either - I've had some smart cats, including one who would try to speak over a dozen human words, and this girl is smart.

For those of you who are wondering, I still intend to finish the novel, but my hopes of completing 50,000 words by the end of the month are about as bouyant as the Titanic. Of course, the novel would be longer than that, and will require editing. All in all, I don't expect it to make an appearance in the world until sometime next year. I hope to have it out by spring or summer, but as always, life has a habit of changing the "best laid plans of mice and men."

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update

I took a moment tonight to review my progress to date. At the beginning of NaNoWriMo, every participant needs to average 1,667 words per day to reach the goal of 50,000 words in a month. I had originally hoped to manage a few more words per day, for a total of 80,000 words in the month. That will never happen now; I would have to finish the novel in December.

I have managed to write, to date, 6,975 words. That means that, if I could write at a pace of 2,689 words per day, I could still "win" NaNoWriMo. With all the other things I have to do, I sincerely doubt that will happen. I'm a little too old to live on one night's sleep every three days. Yet, there is still a slight chance I will catch fire, and write so quickly in the few moments I can snatch I will be able to keep up.

On the other hand, I may only mange a dribble of words, a few per day, as I've done so far. I'll keep you posted, but please don't expect too many long posts while I struggle towards the finish line. I'll try to manage a few, but most of my posts will be short, one or two paragraph updates. I'm sure some of my readers are curious about my novel; it will, of course, require some (and probably a great deal of) editing when it's finished.

Once I have it edited to my satisfaction, I will put it up on - before it goes on sale, I'll probably offer free e-books to a select group of loyal readers. I wish I could promise that to you as a Christmas gift, but there is no chance I will have time to finish editing so soon. I hope at least a few of you will be looking forward to its release, however.

It is not the sort of book a mainstream publisher is likely to ever want to handle. It has elements of steampunk science fiction, fantasy, and some more serious issues thrown in. The plot is too complex to tell you much in the few moments I have right now, but it is about a blind assassin and a rather studious princess. I fear my description sounds awful; you'd have to read the book to understand how I pull this all together.

In many ways, it is an experiment, an effort to shatter genre walls, and to challenge the reader's preconceptions. I am very sure it will not be remembered as my greatest masterpiece, but I hope to learn something from writing it. Writing is a process of continually learning and stretching boundaries. If a writer does nothing but recapitulate what they've already written, where is the point in a new work?

In a completely unrelated footnote: first, I want to apologise to those of you whose links in your comments disappeared. That occurred during the changeover of my blog to Blogger Beta, and I had no control over it. I didn't even realise it would happen until I noticed a link that had worked that morning was not there...

I also want to apologise to many of you whose blogs I read. I have left some comments that never appeared (and on unmoderated blogs, so that wasn't the problem) and in some cases, I've tried to leave a comment, but the "comment box" opens completely blank, so I'm unable to do anything. I can think of at least five or six blogs I've tried leaving comments on, some multiple times, without any luck. So I'm sorry if I seem to be ignoring you. Blame Blogger...

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Last Night's Rant, and Other Things

I would like to thank all my loyal readers. First of all, yes, I do think Zach is an unusually cute baby. It was good to learn you agree with me. All grandparents seem to believe their grandchildren are exceptionally cute. Now I have proof others noticed the same thing! So I am not being biased. :<) I can't wait until we're able to meet him in person.

I am also grateful to all of you who pointed out the world has not lost hope. It is good to hear, but I think my footnote left one point unclear. I was not depressed; rather I feared my rant might depress you when you read it. I'm not afraid of how Zach will turn out, I worry about the mess the world he has to deal with might be in by then, if we don't do something.

I haven't abandoned hope. I think one of the reasons there is still hope is because now and then people get fed up with the foolishness around us and fight against it. I am not disputing any of the things any of you said, but I am also fed up with the distractions politics offers us instead of real answers. I'm not going to turn this space into nothing but a series of rants, but I did want to clear that up.

I may be a grandfather now, but I am still learning. One reason I posted nothing in late October was because I was trying to get as much as I could out of the way before November. I signed up for NaNoWriMo, hoping to 'stretch my writing muscles' by producing a novel in a month. I had worked out an interesting idea, and I wanted to be able to do it justice. Various complications kept me from doing as much as I intended.

Then an opportunity came my way (on November 1st!) that will keep me too busy to manage the number of words I'd need to write each day to finish by the end of November. As of today, my word count is barely over 2,000. Still, I'm not giving up, and I have learned one lesson from participating. I may not be able to write 50,000 words this month, but whenever I have a spare moment, I do what I can.

It has taught me I can struggle harder to get more of my ideas on paper. For the moment, my project of reworking my old manuscripts is on hold; that will take more work than writing a new book, due to the editing needed. But I will keep learning how to accomplish more in less time. That won't end with the month of November. Planning to write a book this month left me determined it will be finished as quickly as I'm able, even if I don't meet my self-imposed deadline.

I will have to slow down my writing efforts when contest entries come in, and when I'm working on editing and typesetting the winning entry, but I won't stop altogether. I am learning to expand what I can do, and that is always a valuable lesson. I also do intend to go ahead with my blog on writing, which some of you indicated an interest in working with me on. That simply needs to wait until my contest is over, so I have time to do it justice.

Finally, I was planning to overhaul my template and update my link list in late October, along with writing a post announcing my intention to take part in NaNoWriMo. That never happened, thanks to a false alarm that had me scrambling to ensure I had a reliable, up to date backup. I won't be able to do it all at once, but I will be putting in new links and improving my template as I have the chance. I'll also be adding tags to my old posts (if Blogger allows) so they will be easier to locate.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

What Will His World Be Like?

Now that I have a grandson, I find myself looking at the world in a slightly different way. I won't say my opinions are different, but the angle of light shed on those opinions is not quite the same. When I consider the state the world is in, I wonder what it will be like by the time Zach is a man. Right now, I'm not happy with the answers that occur to me.

I have never believed in the old fashioned Victorian idea that things will just keep on getting better. Even in their day, it is hard to see how anyone believed this. I do think things turn out better or worse depending on the choices we as a society make. Right now, when I look at those choices, I think our society deserves to be locked up in Bedlam - before it was reformed.

Not once has any of our leaders ever really faced up to the magnitude of the problems we face. They scare us into voting for them under the foolish assumption they can somehow save us, then they fob us off with fake solutions that, at best, allow us to pretend the problem has been confronted. Back in the Industrial Revolution, when such tactics were first invented, voters might have had some excuse.

What is ours? How do we explain the fact that not once in decades have we ever elected leaders who really took care of the problems that needed to be addressed. The last leader I can think of who did that was Winston Churchill. He warned everyone about the Nazis for years and they ignored him. Only when the danger was so great they had no choice did they listen. And he stood up to the Nazis, and beat them back.

The "War on Poverty" left us with as many poor people as before. It just let us pretend they were being taken care of. The "War on Drugs" was an even bigger farce. We've poured more and more money into education; the result of that is that graduates know less than they did years ago. The "War on Terror" has been remarkably effective at giving more people reason to join the terrorists.

I will admit this most recent election hasn't been the most absurd ever seen; voters did show as much sense as they ever manage to. But the Democrats aren't all that different from the Republicans. They use the same old tricks, they suggest different answers that get the same poor results. What is wrong with us? What have we done? Can it even be fixed any more? What will poor little Zach's world look like?

Postscript: I know this is a depressing post. I'm sorry about that. I really do think these questions need to be answered, and soon. I want Zach to grow up in a world that, if not better than ours, is at least not far worse. Now and then, we need to confront the hard questions, to find answers, however hard they may be, and fight off depression not by ignoring it, but by banishing the things that cause it.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Review: American Cemetery by Mike Cunningham

The first entry received in the Wandering Author Short Fiction Contest is a novella entitled American Cemetery by Mike Cunningham. It focuses on an American bomber crew flying out of Britain during World War Two. The work is a testament to the ability of its author. I am convinced this has the potential to be expanded into a full length novel if the author ever wished to do so.

In common with nearly every unedited manuscript, there are a multitude of tiny points that need to be fixed. I think the author would be surprised to see how much more smoothly his prose would flow just by trimming a few superfluous words here and there. Such a polishing would make this story a real powerhouse.

One of the great strengths of the story is the fact the author draws characters the reader can care about. A few small changes might make it even more compelling, but it is worth reading as it stands. Of course, an author may develop one area of his skill to the extent it leads him astray in another area. The only real weakness in this entry is due to such a cause.

The author was so careful to develop his characters the story starts and builds up very slowly. It is still worth reading, but more impatient readers might discard it before discovering its merits. With an effort to introduce more action in the beginning, something the author clearly has the skill to do, the story would take off like a Spitfire off to intercept Nazi bandits coming in over the Channel.

I am not ready to declare a winner without even having received the rest of the entries, but American Cemetery is a worthy contender. When Mike gains just a bit more skill, I have no doubt he has a shot at a career as an author. Publishing is too uncertain an industry to say for certain he would succeed, but finding his name on the bookstore shelves some day won't come as any surprise to me.

Some of my readers may wonder why I haven't included any excerpts from the story. Since it does develop so slowly, the portions that most aptly display its true quality are those which fall close to the climax of the action. Quoting from these pages is all too likely to spoil the story for later readers, so I felt it best to refrain from doing so.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Wandering Author's Journey

I had hoped to post again long before this. One minor problem after another distracted me, and stole my time. I need to update my links; I haven't forgotten those of you I owe links to. I hope you'll forgive the delay. I originally intended to put in all the new links and add a new post, all at one time.

Of course, this would have required even more time, which was just what I've had so little of lately. Genealogy faces more and more hurdles as records are closed; the fact it is absurd, for example, to limit access to records from the 1800s due to concerns about "privacy" or "identity theft" doesn't matter. If you complain, you must "support the terrorists".

While I am opposed to anyone who would kill as recklessly as all terrorist organisations do, I find it hard to believe any of them intends to masquerade as a centenarian. Nevertheless, no individual can hold back the tide. Other difficulties, as well as a desire to return to writing, made me consider a new career.

Still, writers must eat while they work on their novels. Not long ago, an opportunity came my way which was more than I'd hoped for. I am not free to say much until all the details are worked out, and the agreements signed. However, I don't betray any confidences when I say simply I've been given the chance to work on a blog professionally.

It is not a writing blog, but it is something I consider worthwhile, for reasons I will explain once I am free to do so. It will also keep me busy writing, a practice that is always valuable. In addition, it is, simply, a choice I am convinced is the right one for me.

This is keeping me quite busy right now. I have not forgotten my plans, or my contest. So far, the entrants are few enough I should be able to judge it within a reasonable time. I already have one entry, and will be posting a review shortly. Eventually, when I am sure I can do so, I will go ahead with my plans for a blog focused on writing.

And well before any of that, I intend to be back here, adding the links I owe some of you, and posting at least fairly regularly. There may be times, when my work demands it, when there is still more of a gap between posts than I'd like. I hope that you, my loyal readers, will forgive me and continue to visit whenever you can.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Welcome, Zachary!

Readers, rejoice! Zachary, the Wandering Author's first grandchild, entered the world in Illinois on Saturday, weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces. He and his mother are doing well, despite a scare just before his birth. I am writing this later, but have set the time of this post to honour the exact moment Zachary first saw the world.

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