Best Writing Advice?

I’m feeling a little lonely here lately, so I thought I’d post something you all might want to comment on.  I’m interested in hearing what is the best writing advice you ever received?  It could be from a book, from the web, from critique, or from a teacher.  What advice have you been given in regards to writing that has most impacted your work?

Mine would have to be, “If you want to write, just write.”  We hear that a lot, but it really does relate to me.  My best writing comes when I turn off my inner critic, turn off my doubts of planning or whatever and just write.  It may be crap at first, but it is progress.  There is no such thing as someone who wants to write.  You either write or you don’t.

Please post your advice in the comments of this message.

A Trip to the Zoo – Part 2

When we last left off, we were eating lunch at King’s Family Restaurant and my daughter had trashed the place, spreading her food all around her (for those who don’t know, my daughter is 13 months old). On with the story. Here is a link to Part 1.

3:00 PM – I make my first major mistake of the day right before we leave the restaurant. I call my aunt on my barely functioning cell phone and tell her we will be at her house in about an hour. I have a bunch of family that live in the Pittsburgh area and we decided to add a visit into the trip. Plus, my grandma was just getting out of the hospital and really wanted to see us.

Anyhow, according to mapquest, the trip should have only taken 45 minutes and I patted myself on the back for building in fifteen minutes of buffer time. I’ve failed to mention one key detail: the directions I had printed out the day before were from the zoo to my aunt’s house, not from the restaurant to my aunt’s house. We’ll figure it out, I thought to myself.

3:30 PM – After getting “lost” twice I finally agree to stop at a gas station while my wife asks for directions. A small part of my manliness dies. Of course getting the directions helps us find our way. However, I would’ve found it myself, dang it!

4:30 PM – We arrive at my aunt’s house about a half hour late. Luckily my family is nice and they were just happy to see us. We spent about an hour and a half there, while my daughter and my cousin’s daughter (a little over a year old) played in the sandbox together. They particularly had fun sprinkling sand on their heads.

6:00 PM – We get in the car again and drive to my Grandma’s house. This time we know the way. There, several other members of my family have gathered and we have an impromptu meal. I don’t know how they conjure up such excellent food from seemingly thin air, but that is what they did. It was also great to see my Grandma and for her to hold my daughter. She seemed weak, but we think she is doing better.

8:00 PM – We say our goodbyes and start on our final journey of the night, to my wife’s sister’s house, which is about a 45 minute trip. It was also at this time my head began to hurt.

8:15 PM – My began to hurt so bad I nearly got sick. I tried closing my eyes while my wife drove, but nothing helped. Absolutely the worst pain in my life, even worse than the time I broke my thumb playing basketball when someone fell on my hand while going for a loose ball.

9:00 PM We arrive at my in-laws and my daughter is asleep. We gingerly try to get into the house and put our daughter to bed without her waking. My head is ready to explode and I’m nearly in tears from the pain. My nieces (ages 4 and 2) run up to greet us and wake my daughter in their enthusiasm. They are so cute, though, so I can’t blame them.

11:00 PM My daughter finally falls back to sleep thanks to my wife rocking her. It has been a long but enjoyable day and we are all happy to finally be able to sleep. I fall asleep hoping to sleep in until 8:00 AM, remembering the days when that time was considered waking up early.


We wound up waking around 6:50 AM, later than the day before but earlier than I would’ve liked. That next day we had fun playing with our nieces, visiting my wife’s sister and husband, and eating cupcakes that were baked inside ice cream cones. We left at 8:00 PM to begin the three hour journey home. I wonder why I was so tired on Monday morning?

Robert J Sawyer interviewed on Ficlets Blog

Yesterday John Scalzi posted an excellent interview with science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer on the Ficlets blog. Mr. Sawyer comes across as a very intelligent guy in the interview, offering up his thoughts about writing, science fiction as a genre, and Canadian vs. American writers. The part of the interview that really got me thinking, though, was when he described meeting an old woman who had just read science fiction for the first time. Here is the quote:

A few years ago, the Region of Waterloo, which is close to a million people in Ontario, Canada, did my Hominids for their community-wide reading program. And at one of the public events I did, an old woman came up to me, and she said she’d made it to ninety without ever reading science fiction, but had loved my book and regretted now that she’d never even tried the genre earlier; mine had been the first SF novel she’d ever read, and, she said, it was also, because she had so little time left, going to be the last.

Wow, there is something about there that really makes me think. Could you imagine thinking to yourself, “This may be the last book I ever read”? I guess I would take a little more care in what that book would be.

Anyhow, check out the interview. I think you will enjoy it.

A Trip to the Zoo – Welcome to my World


This past Saturday my wife, daughter, and I traveled to the Pittsburgh Zoo to meet some friends. As you are about to read, it was quite the busy day. I thought I would our day with you, just to give you a glimpse into the like of the strugglingwriter.

6:00 AM – The alarm goes off and I just want to cry. My daughter and I had to take a drive at 1:00 AM (maybe she gets nervous about travel like I do), so I am pretty tired. However, I know the only way we will make it to the zoo at 10:00 is if we leave the house at 7:30, so I soldier towards the shower.

6:30 AM – I leave the shower and wake up my wife, reminding her about the 7:30 departure time. I begin to get nervous that we won’t leave in time. Adding to my anxiety is the fact that I dropped my cell phone the other day and it now has extremely limited reception, meaning if we are late there will probably be no way to let our friends know.

7:00 AM – I wake my daughter and we head downstairs for her breakfast. I normally have a hard time eating when I first wake up, but I force down some of her “O’s” (Cheerios) while she eats her cereal, yogurt, and Puffs.

7:54 AM – This is out actual departure time. Despite our best efforts to pack the night before, we always forget something and have to pack in the morning. As we start on our journey I can’t help but think we’ll be late. I hate being late.

9:50 AM – Thanks to some fast driving (I normally don’t drive too fast) and a hint from my dad that Parkway East would be closed (we hopped in the PA Turnpike insteas), we arrive at the Zoo, excited to see all the animals and amazed we are on time. A small section in the underworld freezes over.

10:00 AM – 12:00 AM – We start on our journey around the zoo. My daughter particularly enjoyed the “kitties” when we were able to get her to look at them and not at all the people. We were able to get a nice picture of the Elephants.


12:30 PM – Having not eaten since my “O’s”, and after not getting much sleep the night before, I begin to feel like this guy:


This guy had the right idea and decided to get a little drink. I was lucky to take the picture when I did, catching him in action.


2:00 PM – We leave the zoo and head over to Kings Family Restaurant. My daughter ate mashed potatoes and gravy, lasagna, some tomato, and some other stuff I can’t remember. She also trashed the place like the tiny rock star she is. I left a little extra tip for the cleanup.

Look tomorrow for part 2 of this epic tale as our adventure is far from over. It is fraught with excitement (seeing family) and peril (getting lost for a half hour and developing the worst headache of my life).

Painting Complete and Two New Skills

Well, the painting yesterday went very well. My dad, my wife, and I patched and painted our front and back porches. It is truly amazing how much of a difference $22 in paint and a few hours of hard work (in the scorching hot sun) can do to make something look new again. Next up, our side porch.

After painting we all went to my softball game. My daughter’s favorite part of the game, other than looking at all the interesting people, is the clapping. She claps every time the bat makes contact with the ball. She also likes to call everyone Dadda, though she does get more excited when she sees me.

My daughter has learned two new skills. The first is she will take a drink of milk and then let the milk trickle out of her mouth. She thinks this is great fun. The second thing she has learned is to do a “raspberry” with her mouth. This is kinda hard to explain, but basically she puts her lips together and blows out, making the “raspberry” sound. Then we all crack up laughing. Sometimes she even combines these two skills, putting milk in her mouth and then doing the “raspberry”. Messy, but fun.

Not Much From Me Today

You probably won’t be seeing much of me today (Monday).  I had a late night travel Sunday night and will be spending Monday painting various porches of my house with my Dad’s assistance.  Look for me on Tuesday definitely, though I will try to post more later in the day Monday. I hope you all had a nice weekend.

Site News and a Baby Update

I doubt if you noticed the little counter in the sidebar on the right, but this blog hit the 20,000 page view mark yesterday. Yay me! Thank you all so much for stopping by here every day. It really does mean a lot to me. I doubt I would keep doing this without the interaction with all of you. 20,000 views in a year and a half (I’ve been posting since Jan. 2006) isn’t too bad, even if some blogs get that in a day. Here’s to 20,000 more.

I haven’t talked here about my daughter very much lately, so I thought I would tell you some of the things she has been doing lately. First of all, she is now 13 months old. I can hardly believe it! It seems like only yesterday I was posting a half awake announcement here that she was born.

She has been walking for almost a month now. At first she would just take a few steps and fall into our arms. Then she would be able to go a little further, then tilt to a side and fall down laughing. Now, she can pretty much motor around the house on her own, though we still follow her around due to her tendency to fall directly onto her head.

In the talking department, she seems to be picking up so much. She is now able to say her name, which sounds so adorable and beautiful coming from her. She even answers the question, “What’s your name?”. Her other favorite words include “bubble” and the new one “cheese”, the latter is used when she wants cheese or if she is getting her picture taken.

Finally, she has begun to sing. For a while she was singing a song that we thought she must’ve made up. After a while, though, it became a little more clear. She is singing Frère Jacques, or Where is Thumbkin or whatever words you want to use. She hums the rhythm almost perfectly even pausing in the proper places. The amazing thing is she does it from memory. The cute part is she picked the song up from her Glo Worm.

As you can tell, I’m a pretty proud Dad.

The Future of Autograph Signing

John Scalzi had an interesting blog post on the Ficlets Blog today about the LongPen, which is a device that allowed him to be in New York and sign autographs for people in Anaheim! We truly are living in the future.

The way the setup worked was that he sat in front of a monitor and chatted remotely with fans as he signed his autograph with the LongPen device. Once he pressed the Send button, the robotic pen in Anaheim would sign his autograph. He states in the post he would prefer to sign autographs in person, but that the technology is cool.

As far as my own thoughts, I would prefer to have an author’s autograph in person, written with the author’s own hand and ink. I know he technically signed those books, but it all feels to close to a rubber stamp for my taste. I agree the technology sounds amazing, though.

iPod Meme

I spent a few hours last night using a gift card to download some songs to my iPod. Looking back at what I now have on my iPod, I see some songs I’m a little embarrassed to admit, but also some songs that rock. I thought what I have there might make an interesting blog post, as almost everyone has an opinion about music. Therefore, even if I’ve forgotten again how to pronounce Meme, I thought I would create one so I could read what all of you are listening to. One more caveat: I actually tend to like Punk and Alternative music more than what I have listed here, but those are all on CD and I haven’t had time to rip them.

Here are the rules:

  1. List five songs on your iPod you are proud of and five that you are not so proud of. Explanations are welcome, as are links to the songs or YouTube videos
  2. Tag somebody if you want
  3. Post a comment here with a link to your site so we can all read about/laugh at your song choices


  1. Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing. Check out the guitar at the 4:34 mark of the video:
  2. Dave Matthews Band – Crash Into Me. Every time I hear this song I’m back in college, sipping a beer in a particular bar on a Thursday evening.
  3. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody. You simple can’t beat Freddy Mercury’s voice or Brian May’s guitar. Just ain’t happening. I have many other Queen songs, but this is the only one I don’t have on CD.
  4. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – I Won’t Back Down. I think it’s the line “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down” that does it for me. Very motivational.
  5. Jim Gaffigan – Beyond the Pale (the complete album). This one is a comedy album by an insanely funny comedian named Jim Gaffigan. Chances are you have seen him on T.V. somewhere. Very funny stuff.

Not so Proud

  1. 3 Bon Jovi songs! Livin’ On a Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name, and Wanted Dead or Alive. I know 80’s is cool now and therefore so is Bon Jovi, I think my early 90’s version of myself would kick my butt for this one
  2. Banarama – Cruel Summer. Hey, don’t laugh. This was in Karate Kid.
  3. Notorious B.I.G. – Mo Money, Mo Problems. I guess this isn’t one to really be embarrassed about, but I’m not a big Hip Hop fan, so this one is unusual for me. I downloaded it because it reminds me of college and my college friends.
  4. Scorpions – Wind of Change. I think it’s the whistling at the beginning that draws me in. I’m so lame.
  5. Mr. Big – To Be with You. Ugh. Shut up!

I tag Mike, paperback writer, Chris, and whomever else would like to participate.