An Alternative to Detail Story Outlining

An Alternative to Detail Story Outlining

By: Leo N. Ardo

Are you a detail outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?

At a recent writer’s conference, this question was posed at a breakout session. The room was split, about 60:40 (outliner: seat of pants). What followed was more interesting.  As the writing progressed—the outliners drifted away for their meticulous outlines and were winging it. The seat of pants writers lost valuable time as they reviewed earlier text to find continuity details. Many wished they had outlined their story.

The early days of my writing career were influenced by a manufacturing environment typically driven by procedures, forms, and lists. I began looking for similar items in the writing “industry”. The search led to forms that were nothing more than a labeled sheet, to forms with so many small boxes that even coded notes would not fit.

Offered here is a middle of the road, flexible alternative.

Characters drive stories. Magazine articles, how-to books, and blogs recommend that writers have a solid understanding of the lead and secondary characters. Some authors spend weeks defining their story’s characters before they write the first word.

A Character Map (a spin-off of Mind Mapping) is a great way to define characters and their interactions. (See attachment).  It’s simple, does not stifle creativity, and can be fun to create. The two recommended office supplies are 11×17 paper, and colored pens. Draw a center circle and print the story title inside. Draw a line from the circle toward the paper’s edge. Near the circle label the new line with a character’s name. At will, begin writing character notes and connect them to the main “branch”. Sub-branches can be used for different scenes, or to provide more detail about a particular character feature. Feel free to doodle.

A Story Summary is recommended. Add as much detail as you wish that will fit on less than two pages. (See attached). Recommend wider margins for notes as you change the summary—lately, I have found three inches on the right side should be enough.

Before writing the first word of each chapter take time to joy down notes of what to include. This can be as detailed (or not) as you want. Include key information, actions, what character details will be revealed, etc. A blank tablet, pencil, and eraser (for me, this gets more use than the pencil) are the only supplies needed. (The attached is a typed version of my handwritten notes).

This system is not for everyone. But, it does provide:

–       Character details

–       A flexible summary that can act as a guide

–       Freedom to take story in any direction one chapter at a time

–       Reference material

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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                         Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

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The H. P. Oliver Interview

The H. P. Oliver Interview

(Interviewed by Leo N. Ardo)

I was a rooky tweeter when I replied to a tweet about weird car names. Having read a story on Rolls Royce’s introduction of the “Wraith”, I suggested adding the Wraith to the list. His reply reminded me that their clocks were too loud. What followed was the most entertaining two hours of banter: 70’s gas wars, V8’s, classic cars, standard vs. metric coins, and so on. Thinking anyone with such an unpredictable and classy sense of humor must write good books, I bought Pacifica by H. P. Oliver.

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Within a few pages I was hooked, and rescheduled a golf outing to finish Pacifica. There are healthy doses of action and suspense appropriately sprinkled with humor. Johnny Spicer, ace gumshoe, tells his own story as only he can.

It’s about here where you would expect to find H. P. Oliver’s biography. To comply with convention and maintain as much space as possible for the interview, please feel free to click the link below—after you enjoy the interview.

http://www.hpoliver.com/BIO/index.html

Be sure to catch the Revolver excerpt after question 6.

Question #1:

Readers sometimes wonder where writers get the ideas for their stories.  For example, your last book, Pacifica, was a tale of international intrigue set at the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco.  What was your inspiration for that story?

H. P. OLIVER:  Most of my novels are born when one of the story ideas floating around in my head strikes me a particularly nifty yarn worth telling.  Pacifica is unique in that it began as a set of criteria in search of a story.  When I decided to “star” Johnny Spicer in his first novel-length caper, I had little more to go on than a general date that fit with the chronology of his first two novellas (Johnny Spicer: The First Capers).

The timeframe I had was simply the year 1939.  Since I often base my stories on historical events, I began by looking at what was going on in the world then.  One of the biggest news items of the era was the continuing Japanese invasion of China.  That seemed like a good opportunity to throw Johnny into a mystery with some foreign intrigue, but Spicer is a Hollywood detective, so I had to figure out how to bring the Sino-Japanese war to California.

That challenge was simmering on a back burner while I was researching another project in the University of California’s Bancroft Library Historical Photo Archive.  That’s where I came face-to-face with the solution.  What I found was a collection of snapshots made at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco.

The GGIE was a world’s fair focusing on trade through exhibits from countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, including China and Japan.  Sensing I was hot on the trail of a good idea, I dug deeper into the exposition’s history.  The more I learned, the more certain I became that I’d found the perfect setting for a tale of international intrigue set in California.

The book’s title, Pacifica, comes from the exposition’s theme sculpture—an eighty-foot deco statue of a woman who supposedly represented the spirit of the Pacific rim countries—or something vaguely along those lines.  That statue, created by sculptor Ralph Stackpole, was called Pacifica.

While a breathtaking monument, especially when illuminated by multi-colored lights at night, Stackpole’s statue did not receive critical acclaim in the art world.  It seems many agreed with Johnny Spicer, who described Pacifica as “. . . a gigantic statue of the ugliest woman I have ever seen.  What this big, ugly dame had to do with the Pacific Ocean escaped me, other than the possibility that the bottom of that ocean might be a better place for her.

Question #2:

Your Hollywood gumshoe, Johnny Spicer, is a unique character.  How did you happen to “meet” him?

H. P. OLIVER:  Character development is essential to good fiction.  The folks who populate our stories must be crafted to fit their roles believably.  It’s also important for writers to know those characters intimately.  If I don’t love or hate my characters, they aren’t likely to illicit much emotion from readers either.

I write mostly in a genre’ I describe as a blend of pulp and noir fiction, so I set out to craft a protagonist who fit into that scheme of things.  I wanted a hero with some smarts who was also fallible—a guy who makes mistakes just like the rest of us.  Moreover, I needed a character who was a product of his time, the 1930s and ’40s.  Among other things, that meant a fellow with the black and white view of good and evil typical of simpler times.  In connection with that, he needed to be an ethical man who knows he must live with the consequences of the decisions he makes.  Finally, my character had to have qualities that made him unique and interesting.  I chose a cynical point of view and an appropriately dry sense of humor as two of those qualities.

So that was the beginning of Johnny.  From there I developed about a three-page dossier on him so I knew his life story up to the point when I “met” him.  Then we started working together and, to tell the truth, I wasn’t sure I liked Mister Spicer at first.  He got on my nerves a little, but as I learned what makes him tick, we became the best of pals

Question #3:

Based on your thirty-some years of writing experience, what advice do you have for those just beginning a writing career?

H. P. OLIVER:  As a general rule, I don’t do how-to tips.  There are already far too many folks doing that, and most of them fall into George Bernard Shaw’s category of people who can’t do so they teach.  I have, however, three basic writing tenets in which I firmly believe, and I’m happy to share those.

First, life experiences are a significant part of who we are and what we write, so go out and live!  The Internet and TV only give us predigested, secondhand versions of the world.  Turn them off and go see the world in person.  That’s the only way a writer can prepare to write realistically about life.

Second, learn your craft.  Stephen King said something like, “Writing cannot be taught, but it can be learned.”  While I seldom agree with anything Mister King says or does, he got that one right.  I think what he meant is we all write differently, so we each have to figure out the way to write that works for us.

But, as Jessica Bell so aptly points out, “You must learn the rules, so you can break them intelligently.”  So, by all means, learn the basics—sentence structure, grammar, word usage, and so on—from knowledgeable teachers.  Once you’ve learned those rules, however, no amount of time and effort spent on writing coaches and seminars will help you develop your own unique writing style.  That you must do by studying the rich heritage of our craft, making your own style choices, and writing, writing, writing to refine those choices.  That’s how you grow as a writer

Third, never forget that, as a fiction writer, you are a story teller, plain and simple.  That’s your job.  While just about anyone can think up an interesting plot, the art of spinning a good yarn is in the telling of the story.

Question #4:

What are your thoughts on the “indie” publishing world and how to succeed in it?

H. P. OLIVER:  You don’t ask easy questions, do you?  I’m no expert, but I know without a doubt that independent publishing is a two-headed coin.  On one side is the benefit of giving talented writers who have escaped the notice of agents and publishers an opportunity to connect directly with readers who will enjoy their work.

On the other side of the coin is a situation in which anyone who can find the space bar on a keyboard can become a published “author.”  This is a problem for both writers and readers because it results in a ratio of something like a thousand pieces of poorly-written garbage to one well-crafted novel.

So, until outfits like Amazon establish some standards for writing quality—NOT CONTENT—and insist writers meet those standards, success in the world of independent publishing hangs entirely on the writer’s ability to make a well-crafted novel stand out from all the garbage around it.  Achieving that goal requires becoming known to as many readers as possible and racking up positive reviews.

To make matters even more difficult, those who must operate within the scope of a budget are limited in the ways they can make their name known to readers.  And most of those ways involve the use of social media—websites like Twitter, Good Reads, and to a lesser degree, Face Book.

Using social media effectively involves creating a personality—a brand, if you will—readers associate with quality writing in a genre’ they enjoy.  I think the best Internet tool for this purpose are custom-built website on which writers present their wares in an environment tailored to their style of writing.  Once you have such a website, the most beneficial use of social media is urging readers to visit and revisit your site.  That also requires keeping your website dynamic by constantly updating it with fresh and interesting with new features.  I think my website (http://www.HPOliver.com) is a pretty fair example of a web presence that fits those criteria, but then I might have just a little prejudice on the subject.

Regardless, I’d bet my fedora that those who successfully use social media to sell their products put as much time and effort into promotion as they put into creating the books they hope to sell.

Question #5:

Speaking of fedoras, you’re looking quite stylish in yours today.  What’s the story behind the hat?

H. P. OLIVER:  My fedora is part of who I am, so why not use it as a kind of signature?  It might also be my small way of reintroducing a sense of style and class to a society in which being who you are—a unique individual standing apart from the crowd—seems contrary to the interests of Corporate America.  But that’s another story for another day.

Question #6:

Rumor has it Johnny Spicer’s next adventure is coming out soon.  Can you tell us anything about that?

H. P. OLIVER:  It just so happens I can.  At this moment we are in the final production stages of Johnny’s second novel-length caper.  The title is Revolver, and it’s scheduled for release in paper and Kindle editions at the end of this month.

This time around, Johnny tackles a mystery right in his own backyard.  Someone is sabotaging the making of a film on Warner Bros. Burbank lot, and Jack Warner hires Johnny to make the problem go away.  Spicer’s investigation has him traipsing all over southern California and dealing with a cast of characters that reads like a 1930s Hollywood Who’s Who.  As usual, I’ve tried to give Johnny a challenge worthy of his gumshoe talents and, hopefully, I’ve provided his fans with a mystery that will keep them guessing right along with our hero until the final chapters.  There will be more about Revolver on my website when the book is released.

– – – – –

Leo N. Ardo: I want to thank you H.P. for taking a few moments from the busy schedule that accompanies releasing a new book.

H. P. OLIVER: Leo, this interview with you has been swell fun.  Thank you for the opportunity to talk a little about our craft and maybe hustle a few books.

Website: http://www.hpoliver.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/HP_Oliver

– – – – –

Excerpt from Revolver:

I slid in behind the steering wheel of my Chrysler and was cranking the engine over when I heard the sound of screeching tires somewhere to my right.  I looked down the side street just in time to see Diana Dean’s bright red Cadillac convertible burst out of the hotel’s garage entrance and swing in my direction.  I heard the powerful sixteen cylinder Caddy engine straining under full throttle as it accelerated up the hill, then there was more tire squealing as Diana Dean shot into the intersection and wrenched the big steering wheel around to her left.

The Caddy’s engine was almost up to full steam by then, and it propelled the massive machine past me and up Ocean Avenue like an express freight train.  After a quick look for oncoming traffic, I cranked my steering wheel all the way around into a U-turn on Ocean and pushed my accelerator pedal to the floor.  Diana Dean’s Cadillac was already halfway through the next block.

My Chrysler is no slouch when it comes to power, but the Cadillac had a ten cylinder/eighty horsepower advantage on me.  I thought I could hold my own, but if Diana Dean kept up at the rate she was going, I wasn’t going to overtake her.

I watched the Caddy slew around to the right at a major intersection up ahead.  A young man on the sidewalk jumped back as Dean cut the turn too tight and her right-side tires jumped the curb.  I made the same turn and noted the street sign she’d barely missed.  We were northbound on Pacific Avenue.  I was still nearly two blocks behind the Cadillac when it arrived at PCH.

Without slowing, Diana Dean flew past the stop sign and fishtailed through a left turn, narrowly missing a Studebaker that skidded to a stop just in time.  The Studebaker driver was still trying to restart his engine when I sailed by a few moments later.  Now Dean had open road ahead of her, and the Caddy had room to stretch its legs.  She was easily opening her lead on me.

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

What I Learned from Jack Bickham’s The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

Book Review by: Leo N. Ardo

 

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The stars have aligned, and you want to become a published fiction writer. Your dream is only 60,000 words away from an editor’s approval. Writing club members, family, and friends “really like your story,” so you dedicate extra time to writing. Your book is complete. Pride oozes from your soul as your manuscript is mailed to publishers. Then the rejection letters begin to appear in the mail. What do you do?

A suggestion is to read The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), by Jack M. Bickham (1930–1997), an accomplished author and journalism professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Jack M. Bickham published seventy-five novels—some under the pseudonym John Miles, Jeff Collins, and Arthur Williams. Two of his books were turned into movies: Apple Dumpling Gang, and Baker’s Hawk. Bickham also wrote seven instructional books about fiction writing.

He was an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma beginning in 1969 and achieved full professor standing in 1979. The University of Oklahoma recognized him with their highest honor for teaching excellence: a David Ross Boyd Professor.

“In more than twenty years of teaching courses in professional writing at the University of Oklahoma, I think I’ve encountered almost every difficulty an aspiring writer might face. … So, despite the fact that I’ve chosen to write this book from what seems a negative stance, telling you what you shouldn’t do, please don’t fall into the trap of thinking negatively, or backwards, about my writing. … But my message is positive—always.” (From the Forward of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

“Bickham chose the word ‘Forward’ to replace ‘Foreword’ to emphasize two vital points: All good fiction moves forward; all good writers look ahead.” (From the Forward of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

This well written, well organized, and to-the-point book is a great reference for any writer. A sampling of the thirty-eight writing topics includes:

            – Writing vivid compelling characters

            – Getting started

            – Writing to readers

            – Patience

            – Perseverance

            – Using “said”

            – Conflict

            – Avoiding coincidence

            – Clarity for readers

            – Point of view

The chapters cover everything from getting your project started to preparing a manuscript package for an editor, and finishes with encouragement to start writing and keep writing.

Several entertaining chapters deal with character development: “Don’t Use Real People in Your Story”, “Don’t Write About Wimps”, and “Don’t Duck Trouble.”

Bickham offers guidance on who to seek advice from:

“But to ask a club member, relative or friend for criticism is mostly a waste of time for at least two reasons: they won’t be honest; they usually don’t know what they are doing anyway.” (Chapter 30, pg 85).

“A good writing coach is not just a teacher; he is an advisor, handholder, slave driver, critic, friend, psychologist, editor, even inspirational guru.” (Chapter 31, pg 89).

The chapters are one to three pages in length, and concisely describe common writing mistakes, and correct methods. Bickham has filled the 112-pages with valuable information, exercises, and examples. The book is a great addition to any writer’s reference library.

“Where are the problems? Editors rarely take the time to map them out, so Jack Bickham has. In this book, he spotlights the 38 most common fiction writing land minds—writing mistakes that can dynamite story ideas into slush pile rejects.” (From Back Cover of The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes)

I think “minds” is a typo, but it works well—much like the use of “Forward” for “Foreword.” “Minds” emphasizes that good fiction is born from the application of the writer’s craft, quality, knowledge, and understanding.  As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, good fiction is in the skilled mind of the writer—and reader.

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 ImageHoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                                        Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals of: culling terrorists from the company’s employees, maintaining employment, ensuring that products ship to the armed forces, and eliminating the shipments to the enemy.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

 

 

What I learned from Agatha Christie!

What I Learned from Agatha Christie!

By Leo N. Ardo

Ashley a charming young lady on Google+ introduced me to Agatha Christie. I knew little about Agatha Christie except that she was the queen of modern mysteries. Ashley proclaimed Agatha as her favorite author. She listed several books, but recommended And Then There Were None as a good choice for a newbie like me.

Being a writer I read the book for its entertainment value, and evaluated the writing style. Agatha Christie has sold more books than anyone except Shakespeare and the Bible. I thought this was a good opportunity to improve my writing by analyzing the writing style.

My first discovery was the abundant use of the word ‘said’ and ‘asked’. Being a rookie writer, I was shocked. Here are the results of a random five-page sampling from the book:

“said” only                                         61%                … ,” he said.

“said” with a single modifier           36%                … ,” he said gently.

substitute word for “said”               03%                … ,” he murmured.

Other writers have provided cheat sheets with 400+ ways to say ‘said’. The sheets were created to add variety and make the writing more interesting. Based on feedback from proofreaders, writing groups, and class instructors: Agatha Christie has broken one of the writing rules—avoid using the same word repeatedly.

But, “It works!”

Recently, a good friend pointed out how this simple technique should be used by authors to keep the action in the sentence and avoid it spilling into the attributive. She also endorsed the use of ‘said’ and ‘asked’ exclusively with the occasional modifier, or substitute.

Dialog was ninety percent of the book. This was the second discovery. It came after reading “he said”, “she said”, “he asked”, or “she asked” about twenty times.

She’s a clever lady that Agatha Christie. She chose a writing style that took longer to tell the story leaving the reader more time to ponder the ending. In the conversations she sprinkled clues, exposed character flaws, kept the action moving, had the reader guessing, and nudged the suspense up another notch on every page.

And Then There Were None is an entertaining and engaging book. It is a book all mystery fans should read. As there are ten characters and ten murders, it is probably okay to provide one clue—The butler didn’t do it.

“Ashley, good choice!” I said.

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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                 Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals of the secretive Zeta Consulting.

I write for a couple purposes, 25% of Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series profits go to Parkinson’s disease research and education, and writing is on the bucket list. Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth, and can tell a different story to each of us. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, and what to eliminate. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit the website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

The First Detective/Mystery Story

The First Detective/Mystery Story

By Leo N. Ardo

Before the first words were input for this post the debate over the first mystery book has engaged many critics and scholars. The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), written by Edgar Allan Poe, has been credited by many as the first detective/mystery book, but it was technically a short story. Could the first novel length story have been The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins in 1859; or was it The Notting Hill Mystery, by Charles Felix in 1862? “It’s a mystery,” to quote a line from the movie Shakespeare in Love.

The inescapable fact is The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe defined the standard.

A brilliant detective and a baffling crime, which requires superior intelligence to solve. Helped along by a doting friend or colleague who chronicles the case. The police initially assume a position of skepticism and disdain only to be humbled and amazed as the case is unfurled before them at the end.

R.D. Collins, 2004, Classic Crime Fiction, www.classiccrimefiction.com

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The first detective, C. Auguste Dupin, appears in two other Poe stories: The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842) and The Purloined Letter (1844).

Edgar Allan Poe established the genre. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mastered Poe’s “formula” with Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet (1887), The Sign of Four (1890), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901), The Valley of Fear (1914), and fifty-six other short stories.

Edgar Allan Poe’s life (1809–1849) was short. Many of his literary works were published anonymously or under the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet. His life was also a series of misfortunes:

– His father abandoned the family in 1810.

– His mother died from tuberculosis in 1811.

– His foster family did not formally adopt him.

– While attending the University of Virginia, his fiancé married another man (1826).

– Unable to support himself, he joined the army as Edgar A. Perry (1827).

– He was discharged in 1829 after finding a replacement to finish his enlistment.

– He was admitted to West Point in 1830 and then disowned by his foster father at the demands of his new wife.

– In 1831 he tactically sought a court marital. He was tried, and found guilty, for gross neglect of duty.

– He was unable to get published because the publishing industry was pirating British books rather than paying for American works.

– Virginia Poe, his wife, was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1842.

– Received a total of nine dollars for his popular poem “The Raven” (1845).

– Virginia died in 1847.

– Mystery surrounds his death in 1849.

Source: Wikipedia – Edgar Allan Poe

Sadly, Edgar Allan Poe lived only forty years—the average lifespan for his time.

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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                       Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life we had. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals of culling terrorists from the company’s employees, maintaining employment, ensuring that products ship to the armed forces, and eliminating the shipments to the enemy.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1,000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in, I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: Luck has blessed me with the girl of my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Writing Contest Listing – June 18, 2013

Writing Contest Listing

Updated: June 18, 2013

Here is a list of lists for writing contests. It is not a complete listing, but more than 600 individual writing contests are contained in the nine sites.

There are contests for poetry, fiction, non-fiction, creative writing, short stories, and many genres.

Various browsers may require cutting and pasting the address. On a few sites, a “Contests” or “Competitions” button needs to be clicked. Some require signing-up for membership.

The last website has helpful articles for preparing, avoiding scams, and entering writing contests.

Feel free to copy this listing, add more contests, and share.

Writing Contests

http://www.writersdigest.com/competitions/writing-competitions

http://www.freelancewriting.com/writing-contests.php

http://www.fanstory.com/contests.jsp

http://writingcontests.wordpress.com

http://www.writers-editors.com/Writers/Contests/contests.htm

http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/creative-writing-contests.html

http://christianwritingcontest.com/contest2013/

http://www.creative-writing-now.com/creative-writing-contests.html

http://con13.tennesseewilliams.net

The following site has articles on how to prepare for writing contests.

www.writing-world.com/contests/index.shtml

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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                                        Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals.

I write for a couple purposes, 25% of all Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series profits go to Parkinson’s disease research and education, and writing is on the bucket list. Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth, and can tell a different story to each of us. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, and what to eliminate. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. We call Utah and Wyoming home to be near our families.

Leo

Visit the website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

It’s The Stories …

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Fifty years ago, I read my first book. The title was The Winning Basket, or something like that. Twice that summer, it left the public library; I was the only one to check it out. Fascination with my imagination’s power and the emotional attachment to a new hero best describes my discovery that summer.

Later that autumn, “Big John, Big Bad John.”  A story told musically, by Jimmy Dean, on the black-and-white television. (Yep, the same guy selling sausages today on the Hallmark Channel . . . so I’m told.)  The 45-rpm record purchases at the local Woolworth’s store are similar by comparison, and the best description is stories set to music.

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The first exposures to AM radio were stories in the form of weekly serials with abundant sound effects, or in today’s lingo, books on steroids. The small one-AM-station town attempted to service every audience and were fairly successful: early agri-news, daytime serials, big band and Welk on Tuesday evening; country music on Monday and Thursday evening; Wednesday was—I forget; sports on Saturday afternoon; but Friday and Saturday nights were rock n’ roll.

I was hooked on rock music, and lay-away provided the path to the latest in technology if suggestions for birthday and Christmas gifts were not successful. Equipment and media stockpiling in the storage room included stereo hi-fi, 8-track, quadrophonic 8-track, 33 1/3 LP’s, FM radio (piped-in on the local cable system), cassettes, and cassettes with Dolby. Storytelling continued to be the central theme of choice. The Moody Blues, Doobie Brothers, Dan Fogelberg, and some country western artists (hidden in the trunk) filled the portable 8-track case and home’s LP shelf.

In college I discovered that instrumental music was pretty cool. Notes, instruments, volume, and speed let the imagination visualize what the composer is trying to “say.” Like a book, the imagination is given greater latitude to create the characters and scenes.

Imagination began requiring less effort when the V’s became a major entertainment source: VHS, VCR, video rental, DVD, and MTV. Followed by the colors: Redbox and BluRay. The latest is downloading movies from the comfort of our homes. A powerful combination of music and storytelling is a movie theater. Running a close second is a movie on a large screen television with surround sound. (Video technology is advancing so fast that an announcement of two new formats or delivery systems might happen before the end of this post.)

Until recently, books are books and available in a favorite version: hardback, paperback, or used. The three versions are still strong, but technology options are entering the book world: e-books, e-readers, audio books, podcasts, downloads, mobile devices, and so on.

From AM radio to 8-track to cassette to DVD to e-readers, none of this technology matters without the stories or, said another way, without the stories why do we need the technology advancements. Technology has enhanced the delivery of stories, but it’s our imaginations guided by the craft of the author, composer, or performer that makes the stories interesting, suspenseful, joyous, compelling, . . . entertaining. Without their skill, life would be pretty dull.

Maybe The Winning Basket will come out in audio form so I can listen to it on my 200-watt, eight-speaker surround sound car stereo. I can enjoy my first imaginary hero swishing the winning basket. (I promise to keep my hands on the steering wheel as the ball goes through the net.)

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Author Pix - Leo N Ardo - medium

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

                                                         Leo N. Ardo

As a young boy, I can recall sitting with my father at the local gas station listening to the stories, and thinking what a wonderful life. In reflection, I realize we had everything that mattered: good friends, comfortable life, sense of community, … and good stories.

Now I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. Jon Hersey, the hero, battles terrorism on American soil. He must be a ghost to accomplish the goals of: culling terrorists from the company’s employees, maintaining employment, ensuring that products ship to the armed forces, and eliminating the shipments to the enemy.

Several short stories can be found at the blog listed below.

Another passion is photography, which I find to be similar to writing. A photograph tells a story—1000 words worth. Like an author, the photographer has to make judgment calls when framing—what to include, or exclude. Altering the position of the camera changes the exposure and may reveal flaws, much like a writer’s pen enlightens the reader by revealing character flaws.

When the world is closing in I pack up the fly-fishing gear. Fly-fishing has a required calming rhythm to cast a fly where it needs to land.

Saved for the happy ending: luck has blessed me with the girl in my dreams. We enjoy family, movies, travel, reading, golf, and biking. To be near our families we call Utah and Wyoming home.

Leo

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Dopamine

ImageDouglas Lindquist founded Lindquist Plastics & Design fifteen years ago. He and two employees operated those three machines twenty-four hours, six-days a week. Douglas was a hard working, sincere, and logical owner that loved his employees. Problems were handled in a calm practical manner and as an opportunity to provide employee training. His employees were his extended family.

In three years Lindquist Plastics quadrupled its sales and capacity. The demands of the business forced Douglas to spend more time as the company president, and he performed engineering duties on the side—opening positions for a salesman, Bill Lewis, and an accountant, Raymond Heuter.

Bill was a personable salesman that established customer relationships quickly and did a masterful job of communicating “his” customers’ needs to production.

Raymond was a quiet person, but when he talked everyone listened. His deep voice added credibility to his thoughtful contributions. Everyone noticed Douglas went to Raymond’s office to discuss business behind closed doors. Raymond’s office was open to anyone, and as the company grew, he became the company “shrink.” The employees admired his honest nature and calm disposition.

A few months after Lindquist Plastics & Design had celebrated its tenth anniversary, Douglas began making four or five trips per day to Raymond’s office. The employees gathered in huddles and speculated what the abnormal behavior meant. Their curiosity was satisfied three months later when American Molding Enterprises (AME) arrived at the facility to announce their intentions to purchase Lindquist Plastics.

Fear became part of the employees’ environment: “Will AME lay me off?”, “Are they going to reduce my pay?”, “What are they going to do with the benefits?”, and “Will they close us down and move the equipment to their plant in Indiana?”

It was during a consoling session with the risk-adverse buyer that Raymond first noticed the twitch in his right thumb. If he held his hand in certain positions, the thumb would vibrate slightly.  After the session, he placed his hand, palm down, on the desk. The thumb vibrated wildly.

The soonest he could see his doctor was next Tuesday. The time went by fast as Raymond, Douglas, and three AME directors poured through the Lindquist Plastics financial statements, production reports, and sales plans. They worked through the weekend at the office, and Raymond took work home each day to stay ahead of the three directors. On Saturday afternoon, he noticed his handwriting was curving up to the right and growing smaller with each letter. Sunday evening Raymond’s wife, Gwen, got mad, saying, “You are working too hard. Your voice is even tired.”

By Monday, the intense meetings were beginning to take their toll on everyone. Douglas suggested they quit early on Monday and arrive late tomorrow to “Make up for leaving early today!” They had a chuckle and agreed to start at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

After the AME team departed, Douglas went to Raymond’s office.

“So, will the 10 a.m. start give you enough time?” Douglas asked. “Because, I can drag it out if you need more time.”

“The doc has two hours. That should be enough time. Thanks for helping me out,” Raymond replied.

“No problem. Leave the work here tonight. If they have to spend an extra day, so be it.”

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Raymond did not sleep that night. All the stress, long hours, and concern about his vibrating thumb had him on the brink of exhaustion. After the nurse escorted him to the examining room, he fell asleep on the examining table. Startled when the doctor opened the door, he apologized for sleeping. The exam lasted ninety minutes. It was the craziest exam he had ever experienced: tapping his thumbs and first fingers, turning his hands about the wrist, stomping his feet on the floor, and flexing his fingers in and out.

“Raymond, I think you have Parkinson’s disease,” the doctor stated. “It explains the tremor on only your right thumb, the insomnia, lack of energy, and the stiffness in your right arm and leg. Has your writing changed lately? Do people ask you to repeat a lot?”

“Yes, and yes.”

“Let’s get you an appointment with a neurologist. I had the nurse call. If we do it, they might schedule you sooner.”

Parkinson’s disease. The last ounce of vitality left Raymond like a right jab from Mohammad Ali. With the little energy he had left he requested confirmation, “Doc, are you sure it’s Parkinson’s?”

“Pretty sure, but let’s wait until a specialist examines you. I could be mistaken. It might be familial tremors. But the movement of your right side seems to be impaired compared to your left side. Tremors typically show in both sides.”

“What do I need to do between now and the appointment?”

“Nothing. But, I recommend you start figuring out how to improve your sleep and reduce the stress in your life.” There was a knock on the door. “Come in.”

The nurse handed a small card to Raymond, indicating his appointment at the neurology clinic for 3:00 p.m. next Thursday.

Raymond drove back to work, his mind jumping randomly between Parkinson’s disease, AME directors, Parkinson’s disease, telling his wife, Parkinson’s disease, and telling Douglas. What does this mean to my wife, my family, my job . . . ?

He arrived at the office at 9:55—enough time to gather his reports, binder, and computer. Douglas could tell by Raymond’s posture and stone face that the doctor visit was not good.

The refreshed AME directors were in a good mood and kept the meetings moving along. There was even a joke now and then. Raymond was able to focus on the AME information needs and was surprised at 4:30 p.m. when the AME team said they had all they needed and could use a taxi. Douglas instructed Bill Lewis to drive them to the airport.

Douglas locked the conference room door before he asked, “What did the doctor say?”

“He think’s it might be Parkinson’s,” Raymond replied.

“When do the test results come back?”

Raymond chuckled briefly before he explained, “There is no diagnostic test. It’s all an educated judgment based on a bunch of hand movements, foot stomping, the doctor’s knowledge, and the doctor moving your limbs about. It’s kind of comical if you don’t think about it too much.”

“Raymond, we will work with you. Just let us know what to do.”

“Thanks, Douglas, I really appreciate your support.”

They had worked together for seven years. Douglas knew it was better to direct the conversation toward the AME purchase proposal. It was too early to have a productive conversation about Raymond’s potential diagnosis, and it was better, for now, to keep Raymond’s mind busy.

* * * * *

Thursday, 3:45 p.m. The nurse had drawn blood to eliminate other possible Parkinson’s-like conditions. The neurologist put Raymond through a battery of movement challenges.

“We have one more test we would like to do,” the neurologist requested. “We have some drug kits for you to take home and try for a couple weeks. If it’s Parkinson’s the kits will make you feel better. If it’s not, you will still notice the thumb tremor. Come back in ten days so we can discuss your reaction to the test kit.”

“What’s your thinking?” Raymond asked.

“I am 95% positive you have early onset Parkinson’s. You are young enough to slow the progression with medication, sleep, diet, and exercise.”

“How will this affect my life?”

“Uncertain. Everyone’s journey is different. One good thing is—if you want to classify it as good—early onset PD typically progresses slower than Parkinson’s developed later in life. You could have a reasonably normal life for fifteen to twenty years on medication.”

“Who should I tell?”

“That’s your call. Some people tell everyone, some people tell no one. Do what you think is best.” The doctor waited to see if Raymond had other questions. “Okay,

let me get you a test kit. The nurse will help you with the instructions in the box. See you in ten days. Have the nurse give you the contact card for new patients, in case there is an emergency.”

On the drive back home, Raymond stopped at the park near his home and walked for eighty minutes before it started to rain. That evening at dinner he told Gwen and their two sons. The conversation lasted more than two hours as they looked up information on the Internet together. Raymond wrote down all the unanswered questions for the neurologist. Raymond invited Gwen and the boys to his next appointment.

At nine o’clock the phone rang. It was Douglas. “Hello, Raymond. What did he doctor say?”

“It looks like early onset Parkinson’s disease. The doctor thinks I might have twenty good years with medication. I have a test kit to try for the next two weeks. The kit is the last piece of the puzzle for the doctor,” Raymond answered.

“Take tomorrow off. We can discuss what you want to do about work on Monday. Do you need anything? Can I help in anyway?”

“Everything is fine.” Raymond paused for a few seconds then added, “Douglas, I would like to keep this a private matter.”

“No problem. See you Monday.”

* * * * *

The business marriage between Lindquist Plastics and American Molding Enterprises was approaching its fifth anniversary. The two businesses had benefitted from their relationship in the early days, but as time passed, it was more difficult for both groups to find common ground.

AME was having similar problems with other companies they had purchased. The AME board decided to replace the president with Benjamin Patterson whose reputation was that of a blunt bulldog with a take-no-prisoners management style. For Benjamin, nothing was out of bounds, or spared his scrutiny. His previous employer was on the verge of extinction before they promoted Benjamin to president. In six months they were recording profits and had avoided bankruptcy.

Benjamin was making his first visit to Lindquist Plastics tomorrow.

Raymond knew he was making a mistake, but his addiction to make a good impression with the new boss impaired his judgment. The perfect storm was headed for Raymond. He’d only had a protein bar for dinner, it was 10:00 p.m. with a 45-minute drive to home, his stress level was increasing as the Benjamin Patterson meeting approached, and his medication “on” period was shortening. Then, there was the conversation with Douglas earlier today.

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“Benjamin is going to insist we furlough four to six staff members. I am not suggesting anything, but have you decided what your plans are for working, retirement, or consulting?”

“I would like to continue working as long as I can contribute. We need a little more money before I retire.” Raymond thought, then added, “Are you trying to tell me something?”

“Oh no. I want to have you here in some capacity. Just wanting to know how we should present staffing in the accounting department. Benjamin will go after your bigger salary and recommend we promote Sally to your job.”

He thought about the progression of the Parkinson’s disease taking control of his body like the compound interest calculations he performed each month. Every day, something makes it more difficult: more medication, more difficulty with fine motor skills, more insomnia, more symptoms in the mix . . . Lately there is the depression which I have not discussed with anyoneGwen doesnt even know. Is this fair to Gwen? Maybe I should consider part-time?

Wednesday, 4:06 a.m. Five hours to Benjamin. Raymond’s total sleep was about two and a half hours in several ten- or fifteen-minute naps. He was already exhausted.

4:57 a.m. Four hours to Benjamin. Raymond takes his medication. It’s the first of four doses.

5:27 a.m. Three and a half hours to Benjamin. The presentation slides look good. He made a couple corrections to the script. He decides to do some stretching to loosen up his stiff muscles.

6:10 a.m. Less than three hours to Benjamin. Breakfast was two eggs, one toast with jelly, and a banana. Gwen entered the kitchen and sighed when she saw the coffee pot was empty. Raymond apologized, “I am sorry. I forgot to make the coffee.” In his mind he asked the same questions: Is this really fair to Gwen? Maybe I should work part-time? I could help out around the house to make Gwen’s life easier. After the meetings with Benjamin I will have a better idea of what to do.

7:07 a.m. Two hours to Benjamin. Raymond cranked up the hot water in the shower to relax his aching, stiff muscles. He practiced his presentation while the heat from the water penetrated his body.

7:52 a.m. One hour to Benjamin. Raymond shivered in the car while he waited for the heat to replace the cold air. In two months he had developed an uncontrollable shaking when his body was cold. He decided he should not drive while his body wasn’t under his complete control.

8:40 a.m. Twenty minutes to go. There was a strange car in the visitor’s parking stall. He is already here!

8:44 a.m. Fifteen minutes to go. As Raymond entered his office, he saw Benjamin in Douglas’s office. Benjamin was pacing, and his gestures were exaggerated. Occasionally, Douglas would roll his eyes when Benjamin turned away. Raymond’s stress level increased as he thought, Benjamin must be off the mark if Douglas is rolling his eyes. Benjamin made eye contact with Raymond and checked his watch. A twinge of paranoia rippled through Raymond’s body.

8:54 a.m. Six minutes. Raymond thought, It will be ten minutes before everyone was seated. The room was silent except for Benjamin talking on his cell phone.

8:58 a.m. He forgot to take the Levadopa tablet. Raymond had planned to take his second dose before the meeting. It was earlier than his regular schedule, but he wanted to be at full capacity during his presentation. He was about to take a quick trip to his office when Benjamin ended the call.

“Gotta go, I’ll call you later when we have a plan.” He pressed the end button, set the phone on the table, and began, “Good morning. I would like to start with a little story about my grandpa. He was a dirt farmer in the Texas panhandle. Grew mostly wheat and cotton. When times were tough, he had to make hard decisions about how to manage their meager funds. When times were good, I knew, because he would give me seventy-five cents for a show and popcorn.” As the tardy team members entered during the introduction, Benjamin would point at an empty chair. He wanted everyone to know he was in control. “Well, times are tough, and we need to decide how to manage our meager funds. I am here today to work with you on reducing our overhead and staff so that money can be used in manufacturing. Raymond, you’re up.”

The presentation went well for about twenty minutes, then the medication’s effectiveness began to wane. Raymond’s body was battling the stress by consuming dopamine at a serous rate as it was converted to adrenaline. Douglas knew what was happening to Raymond and glanced over to see Benjamin lift the top page on the tablet, write something, then put the top page back. Aware of the early warning symptoms, Raymond pushed to finish the presentation.

Benjamin thanked Raymond without eye contact, picked up the agenda, and said to Bill Lewis, “Okay Bill, you’re up.”

Raymond left the conference room to take his medication.

Benjamin made another note on page two of his tablet.

The meeting continued into the lunch hour. When the group split up to eat, Benjamin and Douglas were alone in the conference room.

Benjamin asked, “Why do you need Raymond? He is doing a good job, but can’t we promote Sally the controller and get the job done for less? He has a sizeable salary. Did you hear the shaking in his voice this morning?” Bill Lewis entered the room. Benjamin said, “We can continue this later this afternoon.”

The afternoon meetings were conducted in smaller groups but were more intense. The mid-afternoon break was delayed to finish the draft of the new business plan. Raymond was an hour past due for medication. His hands were slow and shaking as he tried to keep up with the discussion. The mistakes were projected onto the screen from his laptop, and he was scolded each time Benjamin found a mistake—more stress, more adrenaline, and less dopamine. His symptoms were almost in full bloom, and he could feel the scrutiny targeted at him from Benjamin. He was finding it difficult to keep up with the multiple conversations, his focus was impaired, and his voice was nearly inaudible.

At the break, Benjamin waited a minute then wandered toward Raymond’s office. He was about to enter when he saw, through the gap between the window blinds and frame, the bottle of medication on Raymond’s desk. A bottle he knew all to well—Levadopa. Just like Angie, his wife. Raymond had Parkinson’s disease.

He stared a minute at the bottle, then began walking toward Douglas’s office. He thought about how his wife, with great desire and effort, worked to be normal, the tremendous effort she mustered each day to keep Parkinson’s under control, and the sacrifices she made to rest her body.

He entered Douglas’s office. Douglas asked, “Do you want to finish your discussion about Raymond?”

“No. Were you going to tell me about Raymond’s Parkinson’s?”

Douglas let the question float in the air for a few seconds. “Did he tell you?”

“No. I saw the medication on his desk. Same stuff my wife takes. I completely understand. He is functioning at the level that we need, but I am guessing he is working way too hard to keep up. He must be dead tired preparing for this meeting. What can we do that would benefit him and us?”

Douglas had an answer, but the surprise turnabout from Benjamin caught him off guard.

“Here is what I suggest . . .”

* * * * *

Benjamin was in the conference room preparing for his quarterly review at Lindquist Plastics. Sally, the new finance director was visibly frantic. She was about to make her second presentation to Benjamin, and the first one had not gone well.

“Sally, relax. You know this stuff. You are doing a great job. He will notice the difference,” Raymond said to calm her.

Benjamin walked into Sally’s office. “What he said. You know this stuff, and I am happy with the progress we are making. I’ll see you in the conference room.”

There was an awkward moment while Sally realized that that was her queue to leave.

“Yes, see you in the conference room,” she acknowledged.

She closed the door as she left.

“How are you doing?” Benjamin asked.

“Good. Started biking again. That really helps,” Raymond replied.

“It really helps Amy. I can tell the difference if she misses a day. She started kettle ball classes a few weeks ago. So . . . How long are you here today?”

“Until two o’clock.”

“Think you can make it until four or five? I would like your perspective. And you have a calming effect on Sally.”

“I’d be happy to. No problem!”

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Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

Rocky Rookie wRiter

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Launching was the right word—not: methodical, well planned, orderly, logical, or designed. Previously, the total summation of my writing was memos, business reports, and travel journals which contained observations of people, humorous encounters, and a little about the destination. Excerpt from Un-Launching a Writing Career.

The first year of my writing career started out as great fun. Later in the year, I began an unwelcome process of re-writing portions of books brought on by charging ahead of my skills.

ImageAmong friends in golf, a mulligan is typically an unscored extra drive because of a disappointing ball flight. The first ball has sliced, or hooked, so far out of bounds that it lands off the course, or maybe it dribbled across the ground and stopped twenty yards up the fairway.

At times, a writing mulligan would be nice. The following is my writing mulligan. If I began to write today or offered advice to a new writer, this would be my recommendation.

Read, read, read . . . Anything in a favorite genre, books by favorite authors, how-to books on writing craft, articles about successful authors, blogs on writing, genre e-zines, etc. And then, on that morning when the desire to write is driving the soul, it’s time to replace some of the reading with writing. Reading needs to be part of the routine, forever.

Practice, practice, practice . . . Write what’s on your mind—short stories, a journal, articles, paragraphs and single pages to file for later use, the church bulletin, fiction, non-fiction, etc. Have favorite writings critiqued by family, friends, an editor, college literature majors, or your high school English teacher. You might have to pay for some of the reviews. No word limit/target. When the quality of the work, and the feedback make you comfortable, it’s time for the next step. One caution: be sure to use family members and friends that will provide honest feedback. Okay, two cautions, you must be open minded about the feedback—the reader is always right!

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Take a writing class . . . Learn how to outline books, develop a writing style, keep a writing journal, improve your craft, develop characters, overcome writer’s block, improve readability, work with publishers, etc. Hopefully, critiquing will be part of the class or a separate class. If not, start a group that meets for coffee between classes.

Using your preferred process, outline the entire book and combine it with everything you have learned to write the best first chapter possible. Entertainment, craft, and quality are important! Take the time to do it right—if needed, twenty drafts are okay. When you are happy with the first chapter, place it in a drawer for a few weeks.

While the first chapter is curing, find the nit-pickiest reviewer(s) possible: someone that can evaluate your writing style, plot, grammar, content, sale-ability, etc. It’s possible the reviewer may want three chapters, and it may require a couple of people to provide a well-rounded evaluation. This process will probably require payment.

Blow the dust off, then proofread it until your inner voice says, “Give it to the reviewer already.”

While the chapter is being scrutinized, prepare for the evaluation. An editor told me that less than 3% of books initially pass editorial review. Read the evaluation without judgment. Put the evaluation and partial manuscript in a drawer for up to two weeks, and then with an open mind evaluate the evaluation.  Compare your writing to published authors. Determine if the comments are technical or entertainment related. The technical problems can be corrected by hiring an expert, attending night school, hiring a tutor, etc.

At this point, there is enough information, review, skill, and feedback to make an informed decision.

ImageRobert Frost wrote “The Road Not Taken.” Much like Frost’s decision, there is a moment of truth for writers. Is the feedback promising? Is the desire to write filling your soul? If you don’t care about the long days, lonely work, or the hours to be spent agonizing over three words, then you are a writer.

“The Road Not Taken,” by ROBERT FROST (click here)

Also check out Cristian Mihai blog post “Rules, Rules, Rules” at cm.net/2013/04/26/rules-rules-rules/

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Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.

We call Utah and Wyoming home.

Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com

Blog: LeonardoStories.wordpress.com

Like us at Facebook.com/TheLeonardoStories

Follow us on Twitter @LeonardoStories

Hoping life blesses you with good stories!

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