A Change of Lifestyle

December 13, 2015Blogging

Yes, you’re at the right blog. What happened to the minimalist look? I needed a change. Well, to be honest, I mulled over the last few months to make this site more than my novel writing trials and tribulations. I’ll still write about craft, and my missteps with Julius, but I’ll be adding more features.

Like what?

I see the Simply Scrivener peanut gallery is here. Well, I’m dismantling Alvah’s Books and bringing it over here.

We’re here because you’re not there. So why the big change? We’re not crazy about change. We’re still having a hard time adjusting to Scrivener 2.7 and those crazy new icons. 

Get over it.The icons have a cleaner look. But to answer your question…three blogs is more than I can handle. I figure this can be your one-stop reading on several topics.

Hmm, you mean you won’t be yammering about the Spanish Civil War anymore?

Oh, I’ll still be writing about that, but I’ll also write about veganism, fitness, health and wellness, and some creative projects I plan to tackle in 2016, as well as personal finance, and adjusting to living alone after the death of a partner.

Truthfully, it’s a means to showcase that I’m more than a writer who’s obsessed with the Spanish Civil War, the Blacklist, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Now that I’m depending solely on myself, I need to step out of that comfort zone and try a new approach that ultimately will bring in more work and clients.

So what can you do? 

Oh, lots of things.

C’mon be a more specific.

Okay. I can run and manage social media campaigns. I can create content for websites, newsletters, brochures, and press releases. I can edit and rewrite copy. And if you need me to revamp your website, I can do that too. As you can see, I did it here.

Looks good.

It’s a work in process. I still have more to do, but I’m proud to say I’ve added menus. In the next few days, it will be better organized.

What are you envisioning?

My goal is to turn it into a lifestyle site that also has a business component. If more readers come here other than my usual writer friends, I might be able to offer sponsorships and advertising.

Oh, good grief, you’re selling out. 

Not at all. Will I write a sponsored blog about a product I’m not crazy about? No.

Are you still keeping that Marx quote?


Huh, let’s see how well that sits with corporate America. 

Don’t be so cynical. When Bernie Sanders is sitting in the Oval Office, you’ll be whistling a different tune.

Dream on, sister. 

The Scrivener Experiment Part 2

December 10, 2013Blogging

On Thanksgiving, I launched the niche website Simply Scrivener|Tutorials For Scrivener Users. I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of traffic, but it’s been averaging  nearly 154 visitors per day. That’s more than I expected. When Scrivener announced it on their Facebook page, traffic jumped that day with a nice residual the day after. However, it’s been steady and I’ve been getting emails and comments. The next step is to set a firm goal and that is during the next two months increase traffic to at least 10,000 visitors per month that includes both unique and returning visits.

Apart from the website, Simply Scrivener also has a Twitter handle, @SimplyScrivener, which I’m hoping will be more active. To be honest, I really haven’t determined what the strategy will be there. I suppose I should see what @ScrivenerApp and @ScrivenerCoach tweet.

But right now to keep people visiting, subscribing, and commenting, I need to write a lot of content—at least three blog posts per week. I still want to provide videos. Those take me a long time to get right because I haven’t mastered the screencasting technology, but I also flub my lines.

A major concern I had was that people would be bored because the tutorials are, at this stage, very basic; but it doesn’t seem to be an issue because it appears that I somehow unearth a tidbit that’s helpful. So I’m encouraged I have readers who find these tutorials worth their while .

The one area I think that might be fun is to show readers how to use the program when they’re planning out a story, by actually writing one. So I’ll be creating a serial while teaching how to use the program, and hope they actually like what they’re reading.

And on that note, it’s time to write a tutorial…

A Writing Education via Blogs

May 15, 2013Blogging

For the past few years, I’ve been reading a number of blogs that focus on writing. I wish I had discovered these before I spent thousands of dollars taking workshops.

For the purpose of this post, I want to discuss three recent topics that resonated with me. The first one is from Writer Unboxed titled “Rules and Tools” by Dave King. Dave writes of suggested guidelines and the danger of turning them into rules (Never write a prologue! Don’t include a flashback! Sentences should be no longer than a tweet!). Dave succinctly says:

Rules are made to be obeyed. Tools are made to do specific tasks. They’ll do one thing well, and another not so much. Once you know what various tools can and can’t do–what’s in your toolbox–you can pick the right tool for the job.

One the rule that  is always on the top of a list to avoid  is the prologue–a rule that Elmore Leonard  stated in his “10 Rules of Good Writing.” But Dave says the following:

Prologues are certainly the wrong tool for the sort of terse, immediate writing Leonard usually does. But for other kinds of stories, they can foreshadow some key event and generate tension as readers anticipate what’s to come. A prologue showing some major development that happened before the main story begins can be an efficient way to lay in background. Dick Francis started Whip Hand with a prologue that did nothing more than introduce the main character – through a dream sequence, no less. (“Avoid dream sequences” is another popular rule.) Prologues can be useful tools, depending on what you want to do. And so can dreams.

If you’re a frequent reader, you know that I open Julius with a prologue. I’ve been going back and forth whether it should be a prologue or part of a chapter, but after reading this post I feel justified to keep it as I originally intended: a prologue because it sets the foundation for the story.

The second blog that had me nodding was Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. Today’s post was 25 Things You Should Know About Outlining. Chuck writes pretty much what I’ve encountered, especially point nine:


It’s okay to leave room in your outline for things to change. It’s even okay to leave sections of your outline with big blinky question marks and hastily scrawled notes like NO I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS HERE BUT IT INVOLVES VAMPIRE SEX AND KARATE. An outline must bend with the winds of change, but it must not break.

I tend to take things too literally so when I began to outline and the story drifted into a different direction, I panicked because it wasn’t following my strict outline no matter how much I was forcing the story. I finally determined that I needed to be flexible because what I had envisioned wasn’t logical (and I learned not to force things, but in general that’s a guideline we should always follow with just about everything in life, right?)

Beyond the Margins post was a special treat. Erika Robuck, author of the new novel Call Me Zelda writes of the importance of objects in a story and what they symbolize:

Using a physical object in fiction as a manifestation of theme can act as a hand extending from the page, pulling the reader further into the story. Physical objects trigger multiple senses: an old pink sofa with worn arm rests might smell like one’s grandmother’s perfume or a college dorm after-party. If it is placed well, the object will serve the story.

In Julius, Corinne treasures a signed, first edition of Alvah Bessie’s memoir Men in Battle. Corinne admires the men of the Abraham Lincoln Brigades, for their bravery, for fighting that “good fight” to beat fascism, but most of all,  she admires their loyalty, keeping true to their convictions no matter the betrayals they later encountered during the Cold War.

As I continue through my rewrite, I’ve discovered much what other writers have blogged about and shared, but for the individual who wants to try his or her hand to write a novel, this is what I suggest: Before you spend money on courses and how-to books (like I did) —STOP. Check these three blogs, read the posts, check their blog rolls, and subscribe to these sites via an RSS reader.

All your questions will be answered about craft, tools of the trade, and much more. I wish that I had saved myself the expense of signing up for classes (with the exception of one where I made a very good friend). They were expensive, and I didn’t learn much (plus I always felt that there was a mean-spirited competitive vibe going on between the instructor and the other students. So not a good experience for me, but that’s a completely different story).

And there you have it. Read, learn, and write.