Big doin’s in SageLand….

First things first: a HUGE mea culpa for not posting anything these past many weeks. I’ve been extraordinarily busy. However, I’m going to try and make it up to y’all. A little at a time, most likely, but that’s the best I can do.

cover hi-liteThe good news: I’ve finished The 12,000-year-old Whisper, and it’s available now in both paperback and e-book formats. I’ve also finished one of two extraordinary memoirs, though I don’t yet have permission to promote either of them.

Lastly, a great friend of mine, and a truly gifted writer, has had her first novel accepted by Amazon Scout. This terrific new program gives authors the chance to not only have their work published and promoted by Amazon, it pays them an advance as well. Imagine that–real money! Doris Reidy was one of my first students when I started teaching classes on fiction writing, and she was convinced–way back then–that fiction writing simply wasn’t in the cards for her.

ebook cover 3Boy, was she wrong! Check here and see for yourself. Oh, and while you’re there, PLEASE vote for her book, Five For The Money. It’s a story everyone can both appreciate and enjoy.

Full disclosure: I took a little time off. Along with my bride (and partner in crime), I went to the Black Hills of South Dakota, with friends, for about a week. We hit every touristy thing we could find, and enjoyed ’em all. Can’t say enough wonderful things about the incredible people living in South Dakota, despite the winters. <shiver> As far as I’m concerned, they’re all honorary Southerners, every last one. Anyway, we’re back, and we have the photos to prove it. Bring bourbon, and we’ll share ’em.

I’m (sorta) rested, and things are now happenin’ faster than I can keep track. I must’ve spent too much time with my dentist son. Now I’m checking the20150928_095025 dentition of (hopefully) extinct critters. (See photo.) This one clearly needed a root canal, or maybe a lobotomy. <shrug> I’m also deeply concerned about the cra– er, stuff leaking out on the stand.

Next up: changes to Sage Of The South. A brand new page called Special Offers has been added. Now you’ve got a convenient and easy way to score free reading material. What could be better?

Look for updated Free Fiction in the next few days. I’ve got a brand new short story going into an anthology that’s due out early November, and I’ll be posting a copy here, too.

I’m currently knee-deep in teaching classes and editing memoirs, so I don’t know how often I’ll be able to update the blog, but I haven’t forgotten it, I promise! (And there’s a rumor floatin’ around that a new textbook on memoir writing is in the works: The Naked Truth. More later.) Oh, and I’m getting closer and closer to starting my next novel. Another Little Primitive tale? A sequel to Resurrection Blues? I dunno, yet. We’ll see. Any requests?

Thank you for your patience. I’ll climb back in the blogging saddle soon, I swear.


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Is Anybody Out There?

Just popping outta my hole in the ground for a split second, ’cause that’s about all the time I have. HOWEVER, I couldn’t let this wonderful opportunity slide. A dear writer friend of mine has been kind enough to feature Write Naked! on her blog page. She says some very nice things about it, too.

Kathi is a fine writer, and hardly needs what’s in the textbook (except for the chapters on commas and semi-colons), so I doubly appreciate her willingness to take the time not only to read it, but to comment on it as well.

So, everyone, please head on over to Kathi’s website. Sign up to get her future posts, and find out what you’ve been missing in the wonderful world of humorous textbooks. That’s right, I said humorous textbooks. For real!

Here’s the link:

More soon, I swear. Go here; read this!


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If you want to be heard, whisper…

hallelujah-squirrelI’m still behind schedule, and still covered up with stuff I have to do right away, but… I’ve made some progress on several different projects. And I actually finished a couple. So, let’s hear a hearty hallelujah!

Unfortunately, I’ve still got too much on my plate to dig back into the audio memoir series I started a short while ago. Never fear, I will get back to it, but I have to get some other work done first. Sorry. Commitments, y’know?

On the plus side, I finished the first draft of my new Cover 1 smallnovel, The 12,000-year-old Whisper. I’ll be making it available as a pre-order from Amazon and Smashwords, but that’s still in the works.

Also still in the works is a final cover. I’m working with Nolan Boyce, a talented young artist from suburban Chicago. (Sorry, publisher buds, I got ‘im first!) The lad is doing his best to interpret my feverish ravings about what I want in a cover. Meanwhile, I’ve cobbled together a substitute so I’ll have something to post for folks looking to pre-order the new book. That option should be available soon, and I’ll post something here when it is.

Thanks again for you patience!


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Mea culpa

Dollarphotoclub_21773956 txtIt’s time to admit the awful truth: I can’t keep up. Between editing jobs, the need to finish my novel by the end of the summer (The 12,000-year-old Whisper is at least a couple thousand years behind),  and maybe about a million other things, I can’t afford the time to research my blog topic and write posts on a timely basis.

The lawn hasn’t seen a mower blade since last year; the front yard is a wilderness nightmare, and the decks haven’t been visible since I blew off the debris back in ’09 (or thereabout). And the pond–oh, my Lord–the poor pond. The fish hate me, and the neighborhood is now infested with billions of froglets which are normally transported elsewhere before graduating from tadpole school.

So, that’s it. I’ve fallen behind, and I don’t know when I’ll get (caught) up. I’m trying, but it doesn’t look good. If you’re waiting for something from me, I’m afraid it’s gonna be content txtdelayed a bit longer. And all you new projects out there–you know who/what/where I’m talkin’ about–I still feel the allure. I’ll get to all of you, eventually.

Just be patient while I mollify the fish. And the yard. And my wonderful, patient, and ever-so-understanding bride.


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Audio memoir — getting started

Congratulations! You’ve decided to do an audio memoir. That’s awesome. And, if you think about it, pretty darned brave, too. It’s not something just anyone can do. But, before you rent time on an MGM sound stage, or get another mortgage to convert your spare bedroom into a home recording studio, it might be a good idea to do a little warm up, first. This is what folks who know mean when they say, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

You can start with the free software that comes standard on most home computers. If you’re using a machine with a built-in camera, then you’ve almost certainly got a built-in microphone, too. Neither may be state-of-the-art, but who cares? For now, you’re just stretching and flexing.

If all you want to do is hear yourself, crank up the sound recorder program that came with your computer. You may have to search for it, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find. If you just can’t find the darned thing, consider casting aside your technical shyness and ask someone who knows your PC (Mac, whatever) a little better than you do. Don’t be concerned if they smirk and tell you how miserable the built-in stuff is. Right now, that’s not important. You’ll eventually learn a lot about recording audio. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, right? For now, just suffer through the commentary, shoo the interloper from the room, and crank up the program. If it asks for permission to use your built-in microphone, click “Yes.”

This dreadful screen is from Windows 8.1. Let's pray  that version 10 will be better. God knows, it can't be worse.

This dreadful screen is from Windows 8.1. Let’s pray that version 10 will be better. God knows, it can’t be worse.

Suddenly, you’re looking at a screen you’ve likely never seen before. With any luck, it’ll be fairly free of clutter (buttons, dials, controls and whatnot). In fact, there’s probably little more than a microphone graphic on the screen. That’s enough. Click on it and start talking. Feel free to yack about anything that comes to mind. It doesn’t matter. Now, while you’re doing that, notice that the dot underneath the line is moving to the right. That means you’re actually recording something. It could just be the sound of your breathing, but if you’re actually talking, words are being recorded! Whoa — who knew it was that easy?Skinny

When you click on the circle symbol that replaced the microphone thingy, the recording stops. Click on the triangle in the lower left-hand corner of the screen to hear yourself. Note: it could be painful.

[Pause for sharp intake of breath]

I’m guessing one of two things just happened. Either you didn’t hear anything (or it was so faint it amounts to the same thing), OR you realized your voice sucks. It’s too high, or too low, too soft, or too raspy, or it sounds like someone is trying to make fun of you. Alternative One is easy to fix; just crank up the volume. Alternative Two? You’ll just have to live with it. For now, anyway. Later, with better recording tools, there might be some hope.

You’re not done yet, however. It’s time to read something out loud. Maybe it’s a part of your memoir, or your notes for your memoir, or maybe someone else’s memoir. Whatever. Just read it and record it. Remember, we’re just playing around here, trying to get used to the idea of making a recording of your voice. The likelihood that you’ll want to actually use what you record now is remote — seriously, like Easter Island remote.

Skinny notWhen you’re done, save it. Depending entirely on the freebie recording software you used, this could be a simple task, or not. Again, if you need help, ask your techie pal for it. This would also be a good time to figure out where you’re going to store the stuff you intend to put into your audio memoir. While you’re working on it, there are going to be many, many (did I say “many”?) audio files. You’re going to need to identify them — in order — so when the day finally comes you’ll be able to assemble them in one grand pile. Maybe with photos and charts and diagrams, too. And other sound effects.

We’ll be talking soon about all of that, and some really good audio recording software. Best of all, you’ll be able to afford it, no matter what your budget looks like.

For now, get busy working on what you intend to record. If you’re not sure where to start, try reading through some of these suggestions. If you still can’t think of anything to write about, it could be a sign of something more significant. To be brutally honest — another way to say “blunt” — if you haven’t got anything to say, why open your mouth?



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An *audio* memoir? R U nuts?

CharicatureI have one good recording of my father’s voice. He made it just a few years before he died, and I’m sure he had no intention of leaving it as a way to be remembered. Instead, he did it to practice a speech he would be giving at his local Toastmaster’s club. I made copies for my brothers and sister on cassette tape — high tech at the time! — and gave them as Christmas gifts.

The real gift, however, came from Dad. Hearing the laughter in his voice, the way he pronounced certain words and paused between others still CA smile 1974brings a tear to my eye and a smile to my lips. A sad one, to be sure, but one I have never, ever, regretted.

Lately, I’ve thought a lot about that recording but not because of its mechanical “quality,” complete with coughs, the rattle of paper, and the clink of a coffee cup in a saucer. None of that matters. What does matter, is the voice. His. And except for that recording, it’s gone forever.

Some of my memoir writing students have expressed concerns over their grammar and punctuation. They’re concerned that people will see the flaws in their writing and think less of them. My assurances that grammar gaffs are easy to spot and fix haven’t convinced them. That’s when I suggested a way around the problem: an audio memoir.

One of the great things about a recorded voice, is that few people get to see the script the speaker’s working from. When I suggested to my students that they consider recording what they’ve written, it provided a way out of their syntactical dilemma. Forget the less-than-perfect grammar andDollarphotoclub_33938903 sm punctuation; instead, cut to what’s really important: the story, delivered in the only voice that matters!

For the next few posts, I’m going to focus on creating audio memoirs — tips and techniques for “telling” stories, software and hardware to consider (though most computers these days have everything you need built-in), and how to take advantage of digital media to add photos, video, and music.

So, here goes….

One of the easiest ways to get started, without actually committing to a “real” memoir project, is to take advantage of a recordable storybook. These have been around for years, and the prices have dropped significantly. Hallmark sold the first ones for $39.95. Now you can get them from Amazon, among other places, for less than $10.

In addition to the usual story fare like “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” there are both scripted and non-scripted recordables that allow you to tell either “a story” written and illustrated by someone else, or your very own story. If you have small children or grandchildren, these alone may satisfy your needs.

My hope, however, is that such kit-form books will only whet your appetite for the real thing — your story, as only you can tell it.


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It’s never too early, or too late, to start writing

Lexi Jrnl 1My oldest grandchild, Alexis, who just turned nine, found a way to shock me this past week–in a most wonderful way. She told me she’s been keeping a journal for the past year. It’s chock full of her thoughts, jokes she’s heard, stories she’s dreamed up all on her own, and observations about the world and her place in it.

Unfettered by concerns about grammar, punctuation, and spelling, she launched herself into the written world–in her own way and on her own terms. Her stories may echo elements of books she’s read, and her comments may not match the depth of the world’s greatest minds, but she felt confident enough in herself to record them. Even more than that, she felt confident enough to share them. (So, hats off to Mom and Dad, too!) Writing, it turns out, can be a lot of fun.

I typically work with folks on the other end of the age spectrum–boomers, mostly, who all too often believe they have no story to tell, or worse, no skills with which to tell it. I wish they would tackle their own writing projects with the same enthusiasm and disdain for the niceties that my darling granddaughter managed. I can only imagine how much they could accomplish.

In a Fisherman's LanguageLife is So GoodIn that regard, there are some outstanding role models. Look no farther than James A. Henry or George Dawson. These men didn’t even learn to read until they were in their 90’s, and then they wrote books of their own. (Both are available at

In their innocence, children often display a degree of courage that seniors lack. They haven’t experienced enough of life’s roadblocks and sucker punches to know what they can’t do. Instead, they just do it.

The primary goal for any beginner, should be to finish a first draft. Editing and error repair can come later. The hard part is getting the story down, and maybe not even all of it, but enough that one can sit back, breathe a sigh of relief, and say, “It’s done. At least for now.”

Sadly, the greatest hurdle for beginners is the exact same thing: finishing a first draft. The reasons for failure are legion: too little time, too many distractions, too little training, too much to do, too little this, too much of that, and on and on and on. Spare me!

Lexi Jrnl 2The only way to get it done is to sit down and write. It’s not magic. It’s work, but it’s not always unpleasant work. Quite the contrary. And it certainly doesn’t have to be done all in one sitting. Or ten, Or a thousand, for that matter. But it does require dedication and a belief that what is being written is worthy of being read. That applies to writing in the broadest sense–fiction, of course, but all that other stuff, too.

So, if my 9-year-old granddaughter can do it, and if at least two gentlemen in their 90’s can start doing it, there ought to be hope for the rest of us. We can tell our stories, write our memoirs, record our jokes and recipes and poems. We can make a statement.

We are writers.


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