Poem #7: “A Child”

A month and a half into the new year, and I haven’t accomplished squat with my writing. I also don’t really feel very guilty about it, which is somewhat of a surprise. Maybe next week? Maybe not? We’ll see.

A Child

Cake batter
on her nose.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #5: “Bits and Pieces”

Unfortunately, nothing much to report again. I’m still fairly apathetic toward my writing, and I’m not sure why. Anyway, here’s another poem.

Bits and Pieces

The road…
The road…
The frost-bitten road…
The wood…
The wood…
The snow-laden wood…
The word…
The word…
The rhyme-fitted word…
The board…
The board…
The fence-mending board…
The road. The wood. The word. The board…

Now, where is the poem?

© 2018, all rights reserved.


Poem #4: “Discourteous”

I’m still sorting through things as I clean and rearrange my apartment, and one of the boxes contained printouts of some stories I wrote about 30 years ago. I’m going to go through them this weekend or next week to see if any are worth retyping or publishing. I also proofread my poetry collection, but I haven’t quite taken the next step of publishing it. I’m not sure why I haven’t, either, but every time I think about formatting it for the different e-book retailers, I get deflated and shy away from doing it. It’s a bit strange; I’m cleaning far more than I generally do and writing far less. Usually, I detest cleaning (which is why I generally don’t make messes). I have written a few poems, though, and three of them (brevettes) were published by Whispers as part of the January Activity. “Discourteous” is one of the others I’ve written this year.


Darkness before me,
behind me, to the left,
and to the right.

My car climbs the hill
like a snail on tranquilizers
trudging along, heedless
of the slimy trail it
leaves behind.

A dim funnel of light
spreads out before me
like a luminescent shadow
stretching into the night sky.

It fans out, forming
a diffuse canopy, and I
hit the dimmer switch
and wait for him
to do the same.

The pool of light
blossoms into a pair
of brilliant, piercing
haloes that stare me
down as if we are
playing chicken.

I squint into the
blinding glare and
flash the brights.

I shield my eyes and
flash them again.

He is close, now,
so close I could see
the whites of his eyes,
but my vision has been
consumed by those
blazing orbs.

He passes, and I am
thrust back into darkness.

I feel the vibration
from the rumble of my
tires skirting the edge of
the shoulder, and I ease
my car back onto the road.

My eyes adjust
just in time to see
a funnel of light
piercing the sky
above the next hill.

I cringe.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #3: “One in a Million”

Not much to report on my writing. A few more poems, some revision, and I’ve allowed myself to be distracted some more. At least I’m starting to feel a bit like writing, so maybe this week will see some progress. Also, I think three of my poems were accepted for publication (the comment suggested it, but it wasn’t clear); I’ll find out for sure next week. In the meantime, here’s a rondeau that I wrote this week:

One in a Million

“A single death,” said Stalin,
“is a tragedy, a million
deaths is a statistic.”
But is that realistic?
Was it really tragic when

Stalin died? Did his victims
mourn his timely passing?
Or were they ecstatic?
A single death—

if it is the right one—can
be far from tragic. One
less depraved, sadistic,
madman and that statistic-
al million would then become
a single death.

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #2: “With Age . . . “

I have been holding off publishing 2017: A Year of Poetry while I ponder what to do about the changes I mentioned last time. I should have it published by this time next week. I had some last minute prep work to do for one of my classes because I wasn’t sure it would have enough students to run, so I’ve already failed to live up to my resolution. However, I have been doing more writing-related activities this year than I did most of last year. Unfortunately, most of it hasn’t involved any actual writing but the kind of grunt work that goes on behind the scenes. So, aside from a few poems, there hasn’t been much wordage. Perhaps this week I’ll get back into writing fiction by proofreading and revising what I have for I Will Be King. At least I’m starting to think about that book, which is a positive sign.

With Age . . .

My age is not reflected in my years—
though they are many more than once they were—
but in the youthful eyes my students bring
into the classroom. They are so young!
And I? I am on the cusp of middle age—
and then some—with the downward slope tilting
toward the grave. I see it waiting, six
feet deep, the headstone chiseled—all except
the date. It could be years from now or to-
morrow. And them? What future will they know?
What will they see when they look back from here?
Will they blame us—their elders—for all their
problems? Will we be deserving of their wrath?
Or will we find the wisdom for a different path?

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Poem #1: “Humanity”

So far, I have been keeping to the schedule of doing writing related activities for at least an hour a day, but there hasn’t been much actual writing. Mainly, I’ve been organizing and revising the poetry I wrote last year into this year’s collection. I have it ready for a final go-through and have the cover, so I plan to publish it as an e-book this weekend. I’ll update the other books I’ve published to include it in the list of the books I’ve written, which will take quite a bit of time despite being a simple addition of one title. If I decide to make Aftermath book 5 of the Angus the Mage Series instead of the first book of the Aftermath series, I will likely do it then to save time. It will delay the publication, though, since the cover for Aftermath and some of the other books will have to be changed.

Anyway, “Humanity” is the only poem I’ve written this year; it was inspired by “The Mice,” an episode of The Outer Limits (the original series, not the remake).


the most

© 2018, all rights reserved.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Hopefully 2018 will be a more productive year for my writing than 2017. I finished 2017 with a lot less fiction than I had intended and fell short of my poetry goal by about 30 poems. I’m going to learn from that lesson and refrain from making specific commitments this year. Instead, I’m going to have a general writing goal of spending at least one hour a day on writing-related activities, whatever they might be. I think this will be more productive than not completing the things I say I will. If nothing else, I won’t feel as guilty about not finishing things.

When I was screening the comments in my blog’s spam folder, I came across one that might contain a legitimate question. Since I am not sure it is genuine, I decided not to post the comment; however, I am going to respond to it here. The question was: how do I “center [my]self and clear [my] head before writing?” The person who asked this question also writes, but struggles to be productive during the first 10-15 minutes of a session and would like some advice. So, here is my response:

  • I have obsessive compulsive tendencies, so I generally don’t have problems with focus while I’m writing, provided I have a general idea of what I want to do. In fact, I usually spend a lot of time thinking about what to write (consciously and subconsciously) before I start working on it, so much of the prewriting takes place in my mind instead of on the page. Also, I sometimes call my mom when I am toying with different ideas to see what she thinks about them, and those conversations have certainly helped to generate ideas and motivate me to continue with the novels I’ve written.
  • Usually, if I start to write, I don’t have any problems doing it; however, that doesn’t mean what I write is always good. I’ve deleted quite a bit over the years because it wasn’t salvageable.
  • One of the things I learned in graduate school is that it usually takes 15-20 minutes to become immersed in an activity. So, if you are struggling during those first 10-15 minutes, it’s pretty normal, since it takes that long for your brain to get in gear (so to speak). I have the same issue, but most of the time, it doesn’t take that long for me to get in sync with my writing. In addition to doing most of the prewriting in my head, I usually start a session by revising previous scenes in order to recapture the mental state I was in when I wrote it. Even though doing this helps a lot, there are still times when I start a story or scene half a dozen times before it feels right and I am able to finish it.
  • As for advice, don’t worry about the quality of the first draft; you’ll be revising it. The important thing is to get something down that is decent enough to work with. My first drafts are often about half as long as the final revision, since I focus a lot on dialogue and the plot sequence in first drafts. I add in descriptions and make changes as needed during the revisions. Revision generally doesn’t suffer from writer’s block the way that first drafts do, and making revisions can invigorate the creative juices (so to speak).

Poem #54: “Avocation”

It has been an unproductive year for my writing. I’ve allowed myself to be distracted by other things (mainly Slotomania), and let my mood control my writing (particularly the disappointment arising from the low sales for Aftermath, a general apathy toward writing, and my emotional response to a few of life’s obstacles). I did not come close to satisfying my writing goals for fiction, and even poetry has been far more of a chore than it has been in the past. I still need to write about 40 poems to reach my goal of averaging 5 poems per week, and that seems unlikely at this point even though I have written some of late. “Avocation” is one of them, and it will help you to understand why I need to step back and reevaluate how and why I write. That’s my New Year’s resolution: to reevaluate my writing and minimize the impact of the external factors that impeded my writing this year. I need to reclaim the attitude toward writing that I have had in the past. Specifically:

  • I need to avoid letting my book sales influence my writing. This is difficult, since I can’t afford to lose money on my writing again, like I did last year.
  • I need to avoid letting my teaching schedule undermine my writing; it should liberate it. I taught one less class this year than in past years, and it should have given me more time to write. But I didn’t use that time for writing like I would have done in the past few years. (The loss of income further compounded the issue, since the revenue from my books did not offset it.)
  • I need to play less Slotomania. This is, perhaps, the most significant obstacle, since a lot of my writing time has been taken up by this addictive pursuit.
  • I need to write what I want to write, not what I feel obligated to do, so no more promises. My readers may need to adjust to this, since what I should do is: 1) change Aftermath (book 1 of Aftermath) to book 5 of my Angus the Mage Series; 2) treat I Will Be King as a separate series or a long stand-alone novel; and 3) postpone or abandon writing The Dwarf Wars and Symptata’s Curse. However, I have made a commitment to do these books as the Aftermath series, and I am very reluctant to change that. It’s not the only mistake I’ve made, but it is a major one.
  • I need to be more disciplined about my writing by creating a schedule and keeping to it. This will be a challenge, since I’ve developed some bad habits this year that I need to break in order to do it, and my attitude toward writing is a hindrance at the moment.

To accomplish this general goal, I am resolving to do writing related activities (jotting down ideas, outlining, writing first drafts, revisions, proofreading, etc.) for at least one hour each day in 2018. Hopefully, I’ll make it to the Fall semester before this resolution crumbles…. I also intend to read for at least an hour a day, which should help reinvigorate my desire to write. What I won’t be doing is making a commitment to write poetry. It doesn’t sell, the quality declines when I force myself to do it, and it is impacted by my mood far more than my fiction is. So, I’m only going to write poetry when I feel like it, instead of imposing a quota.

I am debating not publishing 2017: A Year of Poetry, which I haven’t even begun to organize or format. Instead, I am thinking about expanding my thematic collections to include the poems I’ve written since I published them, and then publishing the results as second editions. (I probably won’t do it, though; it’s a lot of work for something that isn’t going to sell.)


I loved to write, to feel the surge
of inspiration and the thrill of finding
the perfect word or phrase.
Ideas sprang fully formed
or half-baked with regularity,
and I was driven
.            —yes, driven
.                              to develop them.
I loved the feel of the keyboard,
the sound of keys rebounding,
and the undo button.
.                  And revision!
What better way to spend the day
than by making a story better?
I loved the characters, spoke
to them, felt what they felt,
saw what they saw—even the
villains—especially the villains.
I loved the plot’s twists
and turns, and letting it take
me where it wanted to go.
Yes. I loved all that
.           really loved it—
.                                      until…
When did it happen?
When did writing change
from a joyous exploration
to a dreadful chore?
When did it become an onus?
Was it before or after
the onset of this depression?
Cause or effect?
Cause and effect?
And how do I rekindle
that lost love?

© 2017, all rights reserved.

Poem #53: “A Vice of Excess”

I wrote some poems this week, and I’m going to try to reach my yearly goal while I still can. I’ll have to write about 45 or 50 more poems, but I might be able to do it. We’ll see. In the meantime, here’s one of my recent poems:

A Vice of Excess

What is this strange affliction?
I sit for hours and hours,
pressing the button
again and again,
mesmerized by the spinning reels.
Sometimes I lose.
Sometimes I win.
But always, always, time passes by
and is lost forever.
Why do I do it?
What is this fever-filled madness
that drives me, this perverse hope
for a massive win that so rarely comes?
It’s not even real
Pavlov would love
my slavering tongue
when the bells and whistles
ring out, bringing with them
news of a bonus won.
Will it be a good one?
Will it be a bad one?
Ah, the anticipation of the thrill
or the disappointment.
There is a tiny part of my brain
that reinforces this behavior,
a little clump of cells
in the cerebellum
that gets excited
by the intermittent reinforcement
B. F. Skinner so cleverly designed.
But understanding
the mechanisms of this addiction
is not quite enough
to overcome it,
no matter how desperate I am
to stop.

© 2017, all rights reserved.