Job and Oswald

This month I stepped outside of my usual morning reading of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes into the book of Job. Just to shake things up, though admittedly it falls into the same wisdom literature category as the previous two books. I have been reading all of these books to understand the concept of wisdom, and the meaning of life from a Biblical perspective (Ecclesiastes being the strongest book in the Bible about meaning for life).

“But if a man lives many years and rejoices in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. All that is coming is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 11:8

Sober words right? No I am not trying to be a downer, but one of the points of wisdom is a clear look at reality. There is no glitter and unicorns here, but there is appreciation and wonder for what is before us everyday. That was part of the reason for jumping into Job, a book about a man suffering and being counseled by three friends who all accuse him of being guilty of doing something wrong.

On this back drop I picked up “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers, a classic daily devotional book I had not read in more than 5 years. For January 21 it posed all sorts of questions about whether I was loving God and showing the same passion for Him as I was when younger in my faith. Fair enough, age is often a jading process more than a shining one, but one phrase stood out bold as I read through it-

“Am I there now, or have I become wise over loving Him?”

This rang out to me because of another statement in Ecclesiastes about not becoming too wise or it can lead to destroying your life (Eccl. 7:16), just as too much folly can kill you young. What has this got to do with Job?

Job and his friends were often speaking under the guise of being wise, but there was one element missing-LOVE. I think that is the part that gets lost in all of this, the loving part. There is an intellectual divide between the Old and New Testaments with regard to love and wisdom makes this stand out for me. Jesus is to be our wisdom, so the New Testament states, and in that embodiment there is love incorporated.

I guess in my attraction to the concept of wisdom I have often forgotten that it is meaningless without love. Sure it is practical to be wise as wisdom gives us a better use of knowledge. However my own life grows stale if I only focus on it and my perception of caring and loving of others, and by extension my activity in my church, begins to recede instead of increasing.

Love is partly what Jobs friends were missing in judging their friend. They didn’t help, they only caused Job more pain which was Satan’s plan all the while I could imagine.

So Love, got to get more of you in my head!

Keep reading and writing, it’s good for your soul.

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Snow in the City

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Nonoichi is a city of 50,000 souls now blanketed in a layer of snow. The first real snow of the year has fallen and turned all to white. I was surprised when I got up this morning and looked out the window, as any first snow spectator might be, wondering at what point I would have to head out and start shoveling. I am still not out the door yet!

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Snow falls heavy and moist here in Japan, with big clumpy flakes that pile up quickly and melt almost while they are laying on the ground. Moist is the key word for Hokuriku, the middle four prefecture on the west coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu. It’s a nostalgic, poetic kind of snow. Or a great miserable mess if you aren’t of a artistic bent!

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Luckily I am more nostalgic than practical much of the time. Another day in Japan.

Keep writing.

Reading Noir

As I have just written and published a murder mystery of my own I am still on a reading safari of the noir vein. Recently I have read through:

A Deadly Shade of Gold (1965) John. D MacDonald

Follow the Saint (1938) Leslie Charteris

The Big Kill (1951) Mickey Spillane

Nothing in Her Way (1953) Charles Williams

As most of them are fast reads it is easy to run through them at the gym where I exercise more often than not. Currently I am on Williams’ book and I am enjoying his turns of phrase, very Raymond Chandler-esque in how he builds scenes with visual expressions. This is all food for my mind as I am working up to write my next novel Wise Cracks, set in New York City and featuring my character Doc Dickens.

There is a fatalistic bent to most of these writers, save for Charteris, who has the distinction of telling stories about a buccaneering Saint, Simon Templar, a character that is a self described genius and unflaggingly sure of himself. American anti-heros are always doubtful of their own grip on reality and ability to control anger. They are flawed and often bitter, but try and do the right thing despite the fact that life is tough. So it is an interesting bi-polar read at times as I switch between the British and American fiction styles.

What am I reading for, besides entertainment? As I mentioned above, it is food for my MUSE, helping me think in the way I want to write. I am optimistic, and love a good joke, so my writing style will be different from the fatalistic bent of the American 50’s and 60’s post war writers, but they had skill and I will absorb and learn from it. Even when I am enjoying a read and not paying attention to writing styles my mind is subconsciously taking it in and revolving it around the wrinkles.

Many of the authors I am reading were mentioned by James Scott Bell in his book Writing Pulp Fiction. His work is a great pick-me-up and I am taking a lot of his advice and punching out the pages. But reading builds vocabulary muscles and senses so I have been hitting the books at the gym as much as my legs have been hitting the pedals of the recumbent cycle I use during reading for my heart. It’s all preparation and activation people. Let’s get writing.

Keep writing!

Mushrooms in the Backyard

About a year ago my student gave me some spores and logs to grow some shitake mushrooms. Finally it looks like they are coming to fruition!

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Hope they’re not poisonous!

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Keep looking at life, and writing, yeah writing!

Counting the Cost

I went through and added up the time spent writing my last novel, Doc Dickens Back on the Hudson. Yes, I kept a fairly detailed tally of my writing times in 20 minute increments. Totaling everything I did 113 20 minute sessions, or 37.7 hours of writing. Add to this another 3-5 hours of edits, formatting for Kindle and cover work.

So +40 hours from initial writing to publishing. Admittedly that is a really fast amount of time, and it would be greater that that-just as with any job there are unrecorded times where you are technically “working”, but I am satisfied with the results. A tight, funny and fast paced piece of fiction!

How much was my time worth? Wel……..

I’m just going to keep writing!

Details

So my next novel is set in the Big Apple, Gotham, NYC baby!

Doc Dickens is gonna get up to trouble again with the second installment of his trip south and I am itching to get the fingers on the keys and hammer out the newest outline I have drawn up. Good stories are built, they just don’t materialize out of thin air. Case in point as the characters, the details, have simmered on the back burner of my mind for the past few days and finally worked themselves up to a boil.

This and James Scott Bell’s wonderful book on writing titled How to Write Pulp Fiction kept me focused on making a story that will really move the reader along. I am not interested in getting bogged down, but I am interested in having funny characters and villainous ne’er-do-wells jump out at the reader and make them laugh or cringe. Bell’s book introduced me to some of the greats of the last century, which sent me on the adventure of writing that was Doc Dickens Back on the Hudson, my latest novel.

Today is a new start, a new page. I’ll stand in front of my typewriter (yes really! I use a typewrite to draft my novels and love it!) and make those pages burn if I have to. Maybe I’ll end up burning them anyway, but I’ll know I at least tried and will keep my hands warm one way or another!

Keep writing, you know I am fish-face!

Setting the Seuss Loose

Recently, as part of reading books to my daughter at night, I worked though a collection of Dr. Seuss stories and found them to be very entertaining. The Massachusetts native was a word-smith of the highest order and disorder, one who my daughter found intriguing at times. The Cat in the Hat was actually my least favorite of his stories mainly because the cat acts quite like a jerk in the children’s home.

Kids need people to read to them, they need to hear the voice tilt, the humor pour out and the words become imaginations spinning out before them. They need us, the grown ups, to give what we got as children, before the TV and the games, before the Internet and the WiFi. They need the stories.

I write partly because I was read to by my mother. My brother and I were very lucky, fortunate and blessed, to have a mother who chose exciting books that sparked our imaginations. My imagination still hasn’t stopped, the Lord bless her for this truth. Now I pay it forward with my own child.

It’s the sweet distractions, babe.

Yes, I suppose it is, but in the case of the fairy tale or the fable it is worth it. Read to your kids if you’ve still got ‘em. They will thank you if only in doing for their own children.

Keep reading. It’s the fuel of a writer’s life.

Getting into the Algorithm

It seems that my sales for books have been rather flat, even with the publication of a new novel at the end of 2018. I have an inkling it all boils down to algorithms, those pesky for all of us formulas that companies on line use to focus what they show us in order to tempt us to buy, spend time or follow as we are in the great big www. out here.

As I want people to find my books and buy them, after all I did spend a considerable amount of time making them, how to I get my material into the wave? Obviously having more material out there to catch readers would be the biggest way, but I have a feeling there are other ways. So I am aiming to build this up through posting fliers here in Japan that have my Amazon author page qr code on them (for Japan of course) so people can scan and see that page.

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Will this sell more books? I don’t know, but the more people check that qr code the more Amazon will recognize that something is going on with the traffic there and offer my material to those who fit that criteria of a reader. It’s worth a shot!

Keep Writing, you know I am!

The Two Powers

There are two things in my life that are of great importance: My words and my actions. After publishing my latest novel at the end of last year I have been plotting out the next installment in earnest, working up a story that will both entertain and hold up under editing pressure. I am in the action stage of making the story organically develop out of my imagination. The more I get done the more my words, that internal voice that will speed the plot forward, takes over and eventually a new work of fiction is produced and I will get it out the door and to the public.

Actions and words, words and actions. I am pulling on the imagery of the pulpist of old in order to produce as much as possible. The more in the market for my works the more others will be able to find them. Doc Dickens is my latest character and I am looking forward to following his adventures and life or death antics over the next few years as I attempt to have his coast down the coast become a thrill ride for everyone (including me!).

Posting might suffer, blog readers I apologize, but this too is an area that has given me much in the way of tangible rewards. People tell me they like what I have written and that does feel good. It feels better than FB likes! But my point is to get writing done. Why?

Because I love it! It really is its own reward more often than not. When my story comes out feeling fun for me to read, the characters are more familiar and real to me, then I hope that rubs off and is the experience of the reader. What joy that can be!

So Keep Writing, it’s what blogs are for.

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