Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What I Did On My Vacation


What I Did On My Vacation is the title of a flash fiction story I wrote a few years ago. It was published by an online magazine called Another Realm. It was a humorous look at aliens who visit Earth on their vacation. Let me know what you think about it. You can find it here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Heart-Stopping Beauty


Sometimes I like to write horror stories. I wrote Heart-Stopping Beauty several years ago, and it was published in The Harrow magazine. Some people say it reminds them of "The Hunger", the David Bowie movie from a few years back. It gave me a chill to write it. I think it's a horrific horror story, but I'd be interested to know what others think.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Flannery O'Connor's Stories

Flannery O'Connor is one of my favorite writers. No matter how many times I read her short stories they still make me laugh out loud, or send shivers down my spine. Her stories are visual, dry as toast, revealing, and they pack a wallop. One of my favorites is "A Good Man Is Hard To Find". It's hilarious, but also scary in a very fundamental way. Here is a quote from it. 
Alone with The Misfit, the grandmother found that she had lost her voice. There was not a cloud in the sky nor any sun. There was nothing around her but woods. She wanted to tell him that he must pray. She opened and closed her mouth several times before anything came out. Finally she found herself saying, "Jesus. Jesus," meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it sounded as if she might be cursing.

"Yes'm, The Misfit said as if he agreed. "Jesus thown everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me except He hadn't committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me. Of course," he said, "they never shown me my papers. That's why I sign myself now. I said long ago, you get you a signature and sign everything you do and keep a copy of it. Then you'll know what you done and you can hold up the crime to the punishment and see do they match and in the end you'll have something to prove you ain't been treated right. I call myself The Misfit," he said, "because I can't make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment."

Lord, I wish I could write like that.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Complete Sherlock Holmes


When I was 11 or 12 years old I discovered Sherlock Holmes, and it was a beautiful thing. I'd curl up with a book of Sherlock Holmes stories and read for hours, fascinated by the workings of this brilliant man's mind. I loved how his keen powers of observation helped him to solve mysteries. It was almost magical, how he'd be able to identify a murderer by the type of dirt on the man's boot, or the color of a twig sticking to the man's coat. It's been a long time since I read a Sherlock Holmes story, but I'm getting reacquainted with the great man because my daughter bought me a collection of the complete Sherlock Holmes stories for Christmas. He is one of the most fascinating characters in all literature, to my mind.
I know there's a new Sherlock Holmes movie out now, starring Robert Downey. The great detective has been portrayed many times on the silver screen, but I don't think anyone has truly captured his essence. For me, he'll always be more of a mind than anything else. A keen intelligence that cannot be pinned down to a mere actor playing a role.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Celestial Motion

I started submitting my stories, poems, and articles to online publications in the late 1990s. It's been great fun to get published this way.
Here's a poem, called Celestial Motion, that I wrote seven years ago, and it was published in a magazine called Astropoetica.
It's fun to do a Google Search on my name, and find my writing years later.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Markets For Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is short. It fits today's hurried lifestyle. Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Readers love it.
If you write flash fiction, here are some markets where you can get it published.

Use New Thought Principles For Success

New Thought is a name for a spiritual movement that started in the 19th century in the U.S. There are many branches of New Thought, but they all share a belief in the power of positive thinking to change one’s life. Here are some tips for using New Thought in your life.
. Banish negative thoughts. New Thought recognizes the power of the mind to change our lives. Our thinking determines who and what we are. Negative, defeatist thoughts lead to defeated lives. Our thoughts magnify our reality, which means that if bad things happen to you and you brood about them, everything will get worse.
. Visualize positive outcomes. Since our thoughts determine our reality, New Thought says that we should think positive thoughts in order to achieve our goals. The simplest way is to picture yourself having already attained whatever it is you want. Do this on a daily basis till you achieve your goal.
. Believe that there is a force greater than yourself that will help you attain your goals. You can call it God, Universal Mind, the Universe, or whatever, but New Thought teaches that there is a benevolent force that is bigger than ourselves, and it will help us attain our goals if we only ask. Prayer and visualization help us to ask for these benefits.
. Self-improvement is a lifelong journey. New Thought says that we are here to improve ourselves and make daily progress toward becoming the best person we can be. By using positive thinking, daily positive affirmations, visualization, and other techniques, we can get better and better each day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How to Find Great Bargains Online This Holiday Season

This is a story I published in eHow.

Trying to be more frugal during this holiday gift-giving season? You can find many ways to do it online. There are great bargains, discounts, and coupons galore to help you be a smarter gift giver. Here are some tips for finding great bargains online.

. Research products.
If someone on your gift-giving list asks for a digital camera, for example, you can research the best models online. Go to consumer review sites like Consumer Reports and read the product reviews. Remember, the most expensive product is not always the best one. You may find a cheaper product that actually has better quality and more of the features you want.
. Look for coupon/discount sites. Sites like Dealio have hundreds of new discounts, coupons, and deals every day.
. Visit auction sites. You can find great bargains on sites like eBay, but you have to know what you’re doing. If you’ve never used these sites, join one early in the holiday season and spend some time learning the ropes before you actually bid on an item. The more you use these sites, the more great deals you’ll find.
. Don’t forget Craigslist. People post 40 million ads a month on Craigslist, selling thousands of products and services. These are usually not new products, but many are in very good condition. You can be kind to your budget and find great bargains if you search Craigslist wisely.
. Check out sites where individuals can sell their wares. Want something unusual, that you can’t find in a store? Visit sites like Etsy, where people sell handmade arts and crafts, or Caf├ęPress, where folks sell t-shirts, mugs, calendars, artwork, and other unusual gifts they have designed. You can find some great bargains at these sites. In many cases these items are cheaper than what you’d pay in a store, and they’re a lot more creative and unusual.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Money From EBooks?

Here's a good story about how eBooks are changing publishing. Why Indie Authors Will Break Traditional Publishers actually has some hard numbers from an author about how much money he's made from eBook publishing. I was especially interested to see how much more he's made from self-publishing his eBooks.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My first eBook

Well, I did it. I'm officially an eBook author now. My book is called The Christmas Gift, and you can read a sample of it here. It's at Smashwords, and my author profile is here.

It's a short little book, only six thousand words, but it's a good read for both children and adults.

Let me know what you think.

John

Thursday, September 24, 2009

101 Best Websites For Writers

Writer's Digest has been the bible of freelance writing for a long time. I started reading it in college, and I devoured every article in every issue. I also sent away for some of the books put out by their publishing company, and I thought they were useful, to varying degrees.

Art Spikol, an ex-boss of mine, wrote a column for Writer's Digest for years. Art's column, like the magazine, was full of practical advice for freelance writers.

I don't subscribe to the Writer's Digest magazine anymore, but I do visit their Web site. And this particular page, The 101 Best Websites For Writers, is one I have bookmarked. It's got some very useful resources in categories like Agents, Jobs & Markets, Writing Communities, and Fun for Writers (every writer needs to have some fun!). It's worth checking out this site.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

100 Best First Lines of Novels


The editors of the American Book Review have published a list of what they say are the 100 Best First Lines of Novels. I love first lines of novels almost as much as I love first lines of short stories. The first line of a good short story hits you like a slap across the face, and then pulls you along to the conclusion. The novel is a longer form, of course, and the first line is more like an invitation to enter the world of the novel, something that piques your interest enough to make you want to spend some time in this new world.

The list from American Book Review has some classic first lines in it, and some that left me baffled. Some of the first lines are as long as a short story, and that's not my personal taste. I like the short ones, like "Call me Ishmael". Now, that's a great first line!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Writing The Old-Fashioned Way



I heard crime novelist James Ellroy interviewed on NPR this morning, and he said he doesn't own a cell phone or computer, and he's never been on the Internet. Plus, he does all his writing in longhand. He's not the first fiction writer I've heard of who spurns technology. Elmore Leonard, a pretty successful novelist himself, writes his novels in longhand. And William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, the first great cyberpunk novel, claimed for years that he didn't own a computer and even when he did finally get one, he didn't use the Internet.

Is this possible? Isn't every writer obligated to be plugged in these days? How can you write whole novels in longhand, with that most ancient of writing instruments, the pencil? Isn't that a really slow way of writing?

Well, yes. But it's actually a very satisfying one. When you write with a pencil, you have to slow your thoughts down to the pace of the scratching of the pencil on paper. It allows you to examine each individual thought, hold it up to the light and see what it's really made of. You're not in this mad rush to get your thoughts on the computer screen, your fingers flying across the keyboard almost faster than your mind can think.

And writing, good writing, is all about thinking. Gibson once said in an interview that he composed much of his first novel while sitting in a rocking chair looking out a window at his house. He worked it all out in his mind first, then wrote it down. Maybe that's why his vision of the future, written in the early 1980s, has been so eerily prescient. Gibson predicted networked computers, the Internet, virtual reality, and many other technological innovations that have since come true. He took a look around at his world and then thought deeply about it, and came up with a vision of the future that has been amazingly true.

I remember reading a story about the novelist John O'Hara, where late in his career he went on a vacation to Bermuda. He wanted to get away from writing, so he didn't bring his typewriter, or even a notepad. However, he got an idea for a short story, and it wouldn't leave him. He began to work it out in his mind while at the beach, and on the last day of his vacation he asked the hotel he was staying at if they could provide him with a typewriter. When he got the typewriter he sat down and wrote the story, word for word, from the mental work he had done all week. He typed rapidly, as if he was just taking dictation, and when he was finished he didn't change a word. He had written and edited it in his head, and there was no need to change a thing. It was published shortly thereafter.

A well-trained mind is still a writer's best tool. It beats a computer any day.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sleepy Thoughts


I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight.

That’s because today I got my CPAP machine. CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure”, and this little machine helps people like me with sleep apnea. What it does is pump a stream of air up my nose, so that I don’t have to wake up many times a night like a fish gasping for air on a boat deck.

I was tested for sleep apnea, and the good doctors at my local sleep center hooked me up to an array of monitors and other equipment that showed I was waking up on average 45 times an hour because I couldn’t get my breath. Apnea occurs because of muscle tissue that relaxes and blocks the airway during sleep. This interrupted breathing can occur many times a night, and in effect a sleep apnea sufferer is waking up all night long, gasping for air. You’re not conscious of most of these episodes, but they’re still disturbing your sleep patterns.

And you can’t wake up all night long without paying for it the next day. Sleep apnea sufferers are chronically tired, even fatigued. When I was diagnosed recently, it made me realize that I’ve been feeling tired for years now, and there are many times during the day when I get sleepy sitting at my desk.

On top of that, I wonder if it’s affected my mental sharpness. Have you ever read about those studies where people are kept awake for 24 or more hours, and tested periodically to see how the lack of sleep is affecting them? The first things to go are your creativity and your higher mental function. Miss a night’s sleep and you’ll have a harder time doing algebra problems or writing a coherent essay. When I think of all the disturbed sleep I’ve had over the last 10 years, it makes me wonder if I could have written the Great American Novel by now if not for that danged apnea.

Well, we’ll see -- if I have a sudden burst of creativity and write three novels, a collection of poems, and a screenplay in the next year, it’ll be due to the fact that I’m finally getting a good night’s sleep.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

10 Ugly Truths About Modern (American) Journalism

Some of these points are hardly new or earth-shattering, but 10 Ugly Truths About Modern (American) Journalism is worth reading to see how journalism has changed, much of it due to the Internet.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

13 Writing Tips

I haven't read anything by Chuck Palahniuk, but he has some good advice here, at 13 Writing Tips.

Lessons From John Updike


Here's an article I wrote when one of my favorite writers, John Updike, passed away this year. I took some lessons from his long and productive career, and offered them to readers. Here it is:

How to Write Like John Updike

Friday, September 11, 2009

Complete Your First Book with these 9 Simple Writing Habits - Dumb Little Man

Here's a post from another blog that has some great tips about writing. Writing habits are highly personal, so these tips may not work for everyone, but there's enough good advice in here that it should benefit just about every writer:

Complete Your First Book with these 9 Simple Writing Habits - Dumb Little Man

How To Exercise Without Moving

By John McDonnell


Did you know there are exercise classes where people simply stand and do nothing for ten, twenty, or even thirty minutes? And then leave feeling refreshed, as if they just had a vigorous workout?

It may seem strange, but it’s true. There really are classes with people standing motionless, and they do feel refreshed afterwards, and they are in better health.

This form of exercise is called Zhan Zhuang. It’s a Chinese form of fitness that grew out of martial arts and Taoism. In its basic form, Zhan Zhuang involves simply standing for a period of time, usually with arms held as if they are wrapped around a pole, which is where the name Zhan Zhuang comes from (“pole” or “post” standing).

The way it’s done is to bend your knees slightly, relax your shoulders, hollow your chest, and pretend you’re holding a large inflated ball. You breathe through your stomach, and simply try to relax the tension out of various parts of your body. Most people can’t hold the posture for more than a minute in the beginning, because their muscles tense up and may even start to tremble. Gradually, however, your body can handle longer sessions, as your muscles learn to relax.

This type of “standing meditation” has been used for hundreds of years in Chinese martial arts practice, and it offers many benefits. Martial artists say it helps them to gain awareness of their body’s “qi”, or energy, and to control it. They also say it helps to strengthen their body and give it stamina, as well as increase mental clarity, patience, and balance.

There are scientific explanations for what happens when you do Zhan Zhuang, involving the strengthening of the deeper, postural muscles in your body, and there are books and Web sites you can explore to learn more about this. What most people like about Zhan Zhuang is that it is exercise that doesn’t hurt, makes them feel stronger, and gets rid of their stress effectively.
And those are pretty good results for any exercise program.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


There has never been a better time for writing than right now. Never before in history has it been so easy for writers to get their words in front of so many people. The power of the Internet means that thousands of people can read your work within seconds of you publishing it.

I love this!!!! There are so many opportunities now, and more are showing up every day. I want this blog to be a celebration of Internet writing, a road map for you to find out where the opportunities are, and a tutorial to show you how to get your writing in front of the largest amount of people.

I don't care what type of writing you do, there are historic opportunities to get it published RIGHT NOW. So, let's make this a blog that celebrates and promotes online writing! I welcome your input, and look forward to all the new developments that are coming online for writers each day.

ALSO. . . this blog will be a place where I can post some of my latest articles, poems, thoughts, and whatever else comes to mind.