Off-the-Wall Books for Writers

Creative writers own books on writing. Those books are easy to find, but there are other books that writers can learn from, ones you may not think about and I am here to help.

Games People Play by Eric Berne. It is a basic book about transactional analysis. STOP. Don’t get scared and run away. This book has sold millions and was published back in 1964. The title says it all. People play games; life games, marital games, sexual games, underworld games, and on and on. None of it on video by the way. This is how people interact, the games we play with each other. This is good for writers to develop characters. What type of person is your character? How about the “If it weren’t for you game.” A character who blames other people for holding them back in some way. A writer can learn how the game is played and how the person plays it out and use that trait in developing  a character. An insightful book on human behavior, one that can make a writers characters real.

I will pause here before continuing to scary books for advanced writers.  Spunk and Bite by Arthur Plotnik is not only a fun read, but one whose message is we should forget the classic book on writing style “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White  because it is wrong, at least for today’s writers. And when you read the book you will agree. Crisp, witty, perceptive, Plotnik makes the profound simple and delightful.

And now for post graduate work.

Berne’s book will work for any creative writer. but if you want something more advanced and you want to write something complex, say along the lines of Dostoyevsky you may want to dive into Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. It won a Pulitzer Prize winner and is in one word-challenging. The book talks about the philosopher Kierkegaard, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, how we deny death, psychology, religion, and the heroic individual. You can run away now if you like, or you could read Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung. An excellent book for reading about dreams, symbols, deep psychological and cultural meanings. This is a book for those who seek metaphor. So if you have a bent for James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and the like this book will be helpful.

Or you can pick up any book on mythology and use those cast of characters to draw from, giving them new names and new stories and in doing so, you create a new mythos using previously created symbols and metaphors. And you can bypass those ‘heavy’ books. Aren’t you glad you didn’t run away?

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The frustration of translating dreams into digital adventures

Writers can relate. So too can anyone who has tried to write a story.

It begins with a dream, an idea, a thought, a fragment, a vision, a nightmare; it begins in some form within the writers brain, a sometimes partner, but more a landscape like that of the moors in “Hound of the Baskerville’s,” foggy, swampy, and empty, where the writer as detective searches out storylines, but finding none let’s his mind go, then without seeking, ideas bounce around in his head like and ball caroming off walls on a handball court, fast and furious, coming at all angles. Stop. Let me catch one.

Then more frustration. The writer sees in his mind the characters, he can see what will happen, he know where and how it will go. It is all played out in his mind. That is the fun part, the imagination given free reign, a daydream the writer escapes into. But how to accurately translate what is in the writers brain onto paper or the digital magic of Word is the problem.

The language must be precise. What is the right word? There might be a better word that more acutely gives the proper nuance. Sometimes the writer knows the word is there someplace, but it is elusive, just out of his mental grasp. Search the Thesaurus. But while doing that the rest of the thought, the rest of the paragraph may dissipate like morning fog when the sun comes up. Gone. What was I going to say? Exactly.

The brain works faster than the writers hand can write, faster than the writers fingers can type. And while writing, typing, trying to translate with perfection the thought, the description, the dialogue, the everything, it can never be perfect. Frustration. Something, no matter how slight the shading, gets lost in translation. It is never perfect. But it can be in one sentence. It can be in one paragraph. Here and there something comes out exactly, or as close to exactly as possible, but on the whole, in its entirety, the translation is never what was racing through the writers landscape.  

Even in rewriting, the art of clarification, of rhythm, of making sense, the writer has a chance to make the dream whole and complete. But he is merely fixing, not realizing. By the end of the story, the origin of the daydream, the vision, what is left is the ghost of the story, but often it is good enough.

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Oscar Wilde, abandoned books, and us

Oscar Wilde said, “Books are never finished. They are merely abandoned.”

I know what he meant. If you have read Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, or even “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace, you know there are writers who write long, thick books that take a year to read. They love their characters, they love to see what their characters will do, and they love to escape into the world they created for their characters.  The real world can not be controlled, it is out of all our hands. But a writer can create a world, he can control what happens.

Using myself as an example. When I finished my first e-novel “Loonies in the Dugout” I realized, in part because of the ending, and in part because I loved my two main fictional characters, that I could not end their story. I had to abandon the book, it was finished, at least that one, so I took my two favorite people and placed them in a new story 11 years later in another town where I could hang out with them some more.

In the course of that e-novel “Loonies in Hollywood” I created another character, a flapper named Clancy. I fell in love with her as well, so when this book was abandoned because it must come to an end, I had to write a third e-book with all three of my friends. “That was “Silent Murder.”

Once that was abandoned I started another e-book with the same three characters. So I understand what Wilde meant. At least my interpretation of what he meant. He could also have been talking about the agony of rewriting and proofreading and that the writer reaches a point where he says ‘enough.’ But I think it has more to do with never wanting to escape the world the writer not only created, but inhabits with his characters, sharing their adventures. The writer is the fly on the wall.

Writers and readers do share a common bond and that is we both like to escape. The writers escaping into his world with his friends, secretly hoping to never have the story end, to write about them forever. And the reader escaping into a time and place, the world created by the writer, one the reader can also escape into. Perhaps we can find each other in this world. If you spot me, say hello.

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The mysterious disappearance of bloggers

In my previous post I told of how there was a gremlin on my “Loonies in Hollywood” page that show at the top of this site’s header. I am unable to create a space between paragraphs. Every other page I can do that, but this page will not cooperate due to the gremlin residing in there, somewhere.

But there is another gremlin at work as well. Over time I have clicked many blogs to follow. They showed up in my inbox or they were in my e-reader. But I noticed of late that many blogs I received have not been showing up. Yes, I read them. Most of them anyway. And My e-Reader which had dozens of blogs suddenly had only about five.

I have no idea why or how you disappeared. And I miss reading what you had to say. Most of you anyway. I frequently clicked like. And yes I commented when something worthy inspired conversation.

I feel lonely. My digital friends have disappeared. It’s not like I have real ones.

It is true that some tire of blogging, take a break; others are victims of alien abduction (I saw the movie) or who knows what has happened. But I can’t believe so many have quit or been abducted.

Gremlins? Conspiracy? Or some problem with WordPress?

But I do know that I am going to write down on something called paper the blogs that still exist, and add to the new list, on this paper thing, new blogs that I follow and make a log when your last blog was posted and see how long before some of you disappear. I must see if there is a pattern to this madness. It must stop.

I have not abandoned you, I have been cutoff. I will leave no blogger behind.


Are you, like me, plagued by a digital gremlin

In my previous blog I wrote about trying to create the perfect ‘pitch’ the description writers use to make their book sound appealing and interesting. Now I really don’t know how many visitors to this site look at the top header and see the ‘who I am’ dropdown, or the titles of my books, but  the page of each book has a description, my pitch to see if anyone is interested in reading the story. However one of them is wrong.

I don’t mean wrong as in a lie, or a mistake. It just does not look right. If you click on any book and scan the page-or better yet, read it-you will see a space between paragraphs, nice and clean. Not so with “Loonies in Hollywood.” I have tried everything I could think of, but for some reason, it (whatever gremlin ‘it’ is) will not allow me to have separation between the first three paragraphs.

I try to have a professional looking site, but sometimes the digital world sets out to sabotage you and succeeds. I have tried deleting and rewriting. Nope. I have tried writing in Word and doing a copy and paste. Nope.

So I apologize if that page does not look correct, not neat and clean.

If anyone has any ideas I am open to trying to fix it. I dislike going to forums and searching to see if someone had a similar problem. It takes a lot of time going through threads that may or may not apply and I rarely have found a solution in the past. It can be frustrating at times, like trying to find a vampire with a suntan.

When you are trying to build an international empire where you sell 1,000,000 books a day-an hour would be better- every little gremlin can destroy your hopes, dreams, aspirations and so forth. If I find him I will stomp out it’s digital life. I hope the little bugger reads this.

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My quest for the perfect ‘it’ and why

Whether it is called hook, logline, blurb, selling point, promo copy, or the old fashioned description, a writer needs to create something that entices, lures, snares, traps or otherwise induces the innocent to tap or click the buy button to download  the writers self published e-Book, a book that will enthrall, entertain, dazzle and delight. The writer needs the ‘it.’

In truth it is a calling card. Write a good description, one that shows some degree of writing ability and the potential reader is likely to make a purchase. If you write good copy then it follows the book must also be good. But writing that brief description is the hardest part of writing for many, myself included.

Over the past few years I have rewritten, edited, and changed the copy for all five of my books innumerable times and like the Great White Hunter of Bigfoot, my search continues. I revisit my descriptions to see what is wrong, how better can I make it. The following is an example for “Loonies in the Dugout.” 

The book is a fictional account of the mysterious Charlie Faust and how he influenced the Giants to win the pennant. His story is told through the eyes of rookie Chet Koski who is trying to woo chorus girl Eveleen Sullivan while trying to figure out big league pitching. A satire on fame and celebrity based on a true story in which Chet and Charlie meet Bat Masterson, George M. Cohen, Damon Runyon, and many others.


I did not think so at the time, but with fresh eyes I see how dreadful it is. It is flat, matter-of-fact, does not engage, does not indicate a sense of style. I recently changed it to the following.

How does a 21-yeard old rookie off a Minnesota farm figure out how to hit big league pitching in New York when he is trying to woo chorus girl Eveleen Sullivan? Harder still when you find yourself becoming the guardian angel for the mysterious Charlie Faust who believes apple pie gives him pitching strength, even though he never pitches. Based on a true story about the 1911 New York Giants and the influence of Charlie Faust, featuring Bat Masterson, Damon Runyon, George M. Cohan, and the New York Giants of 1911.

Is it perfect.? No. But it is an improvement. It poses a question that engages the reader to think-however briefly. Within the first sentence it is indicated that this kid is in the big city, is trying to ‘figure out’ pitching and wooing, indicating perhaps a coming of age story. The next sentence indicates the kid is good guy because he is looking after a strange man, posing another question, a mystery of who this Charlie Faust is. Why does he love apple pie? Why does he think it gives him pitching strength-and he never pitches. And silly, yes maybe, but. . .it is based on a true story.

I think the second description is more colorful, less dry, more engaging. But of course, in a few months I may look at it and go “Yuck!”

But this is what writing is. Rewriting. And you are not stuck with your novel either. Yes, you can rewrite that as well. Mary Shelley did that with “Frankenstein” changing the nature of the good doctor and cutting a scene or two in a revised edition. Usually a writers first instincts are best and her original story is far superior.

But that is not true when searching for the perfect pitch to your novel.

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Why vampire lovers should thank John Polidori

What we know of vampires in today’s culture through movies, television, and books, are not the vampires of ancient folklore. No, the vampires of old were far different, often bloated, monstrous looking creatures. They had no charm. There was nothing sensuous about them, nothing seductive, nothing like Count Dracula; in fact they were not sexy at all, far from it.

If you think Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” published in 1897 changed all that you would be correct-to a point. The book first published in England was not a best seller. It became one over time and movies helped, especially “Nosferatu” in 1922. In fact Stoker died nearly broke in 1912. His widow was forced to sell Stoker’s notes and outline for the book at an auction in 1913 and got around two pounds. And how much would they be worth today?

So it was movies and stage plays that got readers interested in “Dracula.” But literature, like folklore is built over time, and often on the shoulders of others. This is not plagiarism, however, it is literary evolution. A writer gets inspiration from another writer and advances the mythos. Whether Stoker read the short story “Vampyre” by John Polidori I don’t know, but Polidori’s story, published without his permission, nevertheless saw print in New Monthly Magazine, 1819, in England.

Polidori created his vampire, Lord Ruthven, from a character Lord Byron created in his unfinished vampire tale “Fragment of a Novel.” It could be that is why Polidori, and Byron,  did not want the story published. For Polidori, perhaps he was concerned he might have been plagiarizing-the story was first attributed to Byron- and for Byron, perhaps he had plans to finish his story. 

The Polidori story came about during that famous summer when, according to Mary Shelley, she, Percy Shelley, Byron, Polidori, told ghost stories one weekend, out of which grew Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” It was believed this is where Polidori got the idea for his story.

This is where literary murkiness creeps in. Stoker gets credit for the modern vampire, yet Polidori wrote a character who was a nobleman like Dracula, but that character was based on a character created by Byron. All three can make claim to creating the modern vampire. And, of course, there are others in the wings, who were creating the ‘new vampire’ about this time. But I will stick with these Byron, Polidori, and Stoker, for their fangs are sharper.

If you are interested in the stories that came out of that weekend, including “Frankenstein,” “Vampyre,” along with both Byron’s unfinished story and Percy Shelley’s unfinished ghost story and have an e-reader, you can click “A Dark and Stormy Night.”

No vampires in my stories below, but you can still get spooked. Cemetery Tales or More Cemetery Tales


Yale students want Shakespeare banned

An Ivy League university like Yale should be the epitome of higher learning. Yet in these hallowed halls the ivy is browning as a petition surfaced that demanded the English Department drop Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Wordsworth, John Donne, among others because studying ‘white writers’ creates a ‘hostile environment for people of color.’

Now this could be a prank. The author of the petition is anonymous. This of course means he or she can hide while watching the national media pick up the story, laughing all the way to class. 

But considering the age we live in, a time in which a segment of the population, whose perception of injustice to minorities over centuries is nothing short of umbrageous hypersensitivity, then one can understand there are those who believe this an honest attempt at protest.

What purpose of dropping Shakespeare and other ‘white writers’ from the English curriculum serve? It is illogical, inane, and let’s be honest. It is racist. Racism, after all, is not the sole domain of the white race. It exists within the dark hearts of all races, nationalities, and genders.

It is not as if people of color are ignored at Yale. The most popular course, according to the article and the Fox news interview, is “Race and Gender in American Literature.” Yale also teaches classes on women writers, African-American writers, Asian writers, to name just a few other options.

I am annoyed that I even have to post a blog about a petition that is so outrageously stupid. Even if it is a prank it is stupid. I question whether the originator of the petition is even in the English program. The study of centuries dead white writers has nothing to do with race and everything to do with art. There is not one word, not one scene, not one iota of proof that the writings of these men could create any ‘hostile environment to people of color.’ One might as well argue Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” shows hostility to aliens from other planets.

And nowhere is there an explanation-I repeat-nowhere in the petition is given any explanation as to why or how these writers create a hostile environment. No theory, no premise, no thoughts. Merely unpedantic demagoguery. In other words-bullshit. This is why I think it could be a prank, or a hoax.

If not, it is someone’s ill-intentioned, misinformed, unintellectual, ill thought, distorted thinking-or lack of thinking, misdirected prevarication that serves no purpose for people of any color. If the author of the petition-if that is the word for it-truly believes what he/she wrote, they do not belong at Yale. One must ask why the person is in a higher institution of earning when they show an inability for basic critical thinking. But the person does need to be institutionalized.


Writers are diseased-and there is proof

“Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds.”

The above quote comes from Decimus Lunius Luvenalis, but we know him as Juvenal, a first-second century poet know for his satires that are considered a scathing indictment of Roman life and culture, not to mention politics. He may have been trying to be funny in the above quote, but it turns out he may be right.

There is a disease called hypergraphia. Fyodor Dostoyevsky suffered from it. He was a compulsive writer who suffered from epilepsy, a type of epilepsy in the brain that compelled him to write, write, and write, not just novels and novellas, but short stories,  journals, and of course, what writers frequently did in the days before email, write letters. He believed his best writing came when he was sick.

Writers of fiction write because they want to communicate. Consider the  narrator in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He stops a young man on his way to a wedding. It was rude of him to waylay that young man, but he was compelled to tell his story and that man was going to be his audience, come hell or high water. As Joan Didion once wrote, ” In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, to see it my way, change your mind.”

Storytellers must tell their story and if said storyteller is an extroverted gregarious sort, he will not be a writer, but a big blowhard who never shuts up. But if the storyteller is an introvert with a sensate personality he tells his story in fiction. And how nice of him not to bother young men on the way to weddings. Though if he is clever, the writer will slip his book into the young man’s jacket pocket; the equivalent of an Amazon promotion where you give your book away for free for a limited time.

Most fiction writers are methodical,  keeping to a schedule, or trying to, but few of us have the mad disease that compels us to write, forsaking family, friends, and cats. Few of us are as sick as Dostoyevsky, but we writers must communicate, and because we write better than we speak, we put our words to paper-or digital algorithms.  We are introverts after all. We like to speak from a safe distance, the better to control our type of madness.

To learn more about hypergraphia there is a book by Alice Flaherty, who is both neurologist and writer. She writes from her experience with a postpartum mood disorder. The book is “Midnight Disease.”

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Need a plot for your mystery novel-try this


If you want to write a murder mystery, or something more mysterious click/tap here for a list of unsolved murders and deaths dating from before 1800 to present day. If one intrigues you then take a hand at solving the murder on your own. I did this with “Loonies in Hollywood” in which I took the true life, unsolved murder, of silent film director William Desmond Taylor, and using the crime scene evidence, the most mentioned suspects, I chose the one mostly likely-to my thinking- and ‘solved’ the murder. 

Edgar Allan Poe also used the unsolved murder of Mary Rogers, a popular young woman, perhaps the first to became famous for doing nothing other than being so beautiful, that she attracted dozens of men each day to the cigar store in which she worked, attracting so many that newspapers began writing about her. For doing nothing. Poe took the story and using all the evidence wrote “The Mystery of Marie Roget.”

Those are but two examples and if you do a little research you will find many murder mysteries written by authors who based their story on an actual murder. They, like you, can do the research, examine the crime scene, take a look at the suspects, come to your own conclusion, and  then write the mystery. The benefit is that the story ingredients are all there for you, ripe for the picking that you can pluck straight off the tree and cook up the solution. It makes coming up with an idea on your own a mute point. And if it is a famous case, you will tend to sell more books, because famous cases, no matter how old, have followers.

I offer this as an option. I wrote “Silent Murder” based on nothing but my imagination, and if yours is hyperactive then drain your brain of all it has to offer. But if you get stuck for an idea, by all means, use the resource by clicking/tapping here.

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