The Beauty of Clean Tight Lines… In a Book

The curve of a sports car.

A silhouetted woman’s form. Or man’s.

A whippet in motion.

Strength, simplicity, power. It comes from tight, focused, and uncluttered composition. It is that wow factor, that comes from seeing something that seems almost effortless, but comes from a lot of behind-the-scenes work, whether that’s Tesla’s engineering department, a person’s well-used running shoes and weights, or the many squirrels that a whippet pursues in its joyful life.

We should aspire such an outcome in our writing too.

I’m not saying I’ve achieved that plateau. Or that it’s easy. In fact, it’s hard. It shouldn’t be so hard, but it takes a lot of polishing to get that kind of effortless perfection. And lots of false starts. Kind of like my early dating life. 🙂

But as my significant other is small and wonderful, so too should be your paragraphs.

(That should get me in the good books for an hour or two. At least until the mess by the kitchen sink is discovered…)


This image is a 30 minute doodle while I was watching the Voice. 🙂 Of a whippet obviously, which was the breed of our last dog. They are beautiful to watch in motion.

On the personal life side, I got swamped with house selling and buying and work, to the point little creative stuff was happening, but managed to tidy up an entry for Writers of the Future yesterday, and I also finally finished binge reading Robert Parker’s Spenser series. All 40ish books in about 3-4 months, I think. 😀 So I am hoping to have a bit more creative time this summer, maybe even do some drawing.

I’m a bit torn on StoneDragon, as I’m not feeling much creative drive to work on it, but I do want it finished, in the best shape it can be, or else I’ll feel even worse for leaving it half-finished. So I’ll try to kick my butt into gear on that too… It’s a good story, but I’ve lost perspective on it, and it’s a grueling thing to do so many edits. Oh well, hopefully I look back on it one day as a worthwhile exercise, one way or the other.


You don’t sand a tree to get a table (Priorities)

My first job was in a woodworking company, which made custom cabinets and furniture. We lived in a small town and I was fifteen and wanted to save up for a car, so I walked around town, handing out my carefully thought out CV (grass-cutting for allowance money, etc). The family-run woodworking shop must have had the same cutting edge attitude as I did, because they said ‘sure’, and put me to work right away—literally. I dressed up for what I thought was an interview in a nice sweater and they put me to work on a big belt-sanding machine right away. At the end of my efforts, they hesitantly told me to dress more appropriately for the next shift.

So what has this got to do with writing? Well, what I quickly learned was that you do things in a certain order. The company would get great big sheets of wood, then plan what the pieces they would need to cut out, cut it on a great ban saw (I saw that saw fling a chair across the room once, when someone wasn’t holding on properly, so cool), sand it, dowel it, seal, and stain or lacquer it. And that sequence never changed. Because it would be a waste of time or materials to do it any other way. You measured and planned what pieces you needed first, so you didn’t waste the great sheets and people’s time experimenting with different sizes and seeing how they looked. You cut the wood down before sanding, because why would you sand what you never planned on using? And in fact, I once got in trouble for sanding a part of a table that no-one would ever see or touch. Why waste the time they were paying me for to do that? It was a waste of money and time. No-one would ever know the difference.

It’s taken me a while, but it’s finally sinking in that it’s the same with writing. It’s very tempting to write the chapter of a first draft, then go back and polish the language. Make the dialogue better, correct the grammar, tighten words. It makes me happy. But it’s also wasting time. My time has an opportunity cost. If I was paying me by the hour, like my old woodworking boss did, I’d be livid. Because the scenes are not yet cut to size, or attached in the right order. It’s like I’m cutting down a tree, giving it a few swipes of sandpaper, then taking out the chain saw. It’s the wrong order. It doesn’t hurt the project, but why on Earth am I wasting the energy and time? There are better uses for it.

So when you’re writing: plan, write, do big picture edits (chopping, resizing, shuffling things around) and THEN polish. Tighten your words, dialogue, and shine at the end, not the beginning.

And if you do get an interview at a small woodworking shop, you may not want to wear your nicest sweater. 🙂


An oldie but goodie image. I like this little dragon a lot. If I had more time, I’d do more art like this (posed more dramatically), but work is very consuming right now, as I may have mentioned. Not that it’s bad, just a lot to manage, so I’m struggling even to keep my StoneDragon edit going. Art has unfortunately taken a backseat. Hopefully that will change at some point…



A hard weekend. Unreasonable expectations. A writer’s life.

I love to create. Art and writing. Even at my work, this I enjoy crafting a good report, a clean spreadsheet. I like building things. I love a good story. So it stands to reason that I always wanted to write. Not that I always have, but it’s always been a dream. But except for the lucky few (maybe), it is a difficult, fairly thankless road. My wife thinks I’m crazy to have a hobby that makes me depressed on a regular basis, as rejections come in for stories that I have spent hours, days, months, or even years on (I’m not always the most productive, granted, so my years might be another’s weeks). I crafted a fun story late last year, with a cool world, cool ideas, and cool character (I think). It had a neat twist, and had reasonably good reception at OWW. And it was rejected for the anthology it was written for.

And that hurts.

It was a crazy high profile anthology, for full disclosure, with high profile authors. New York Times best sellers anchoring it. Only a few slots open. I knew, even before the response, that it was unreasonable to believe that the story would make it in. Yet… I kind of did. I think it was a good story. Sigh.

I know the motto you have to submit to get accepted, that 100% of stories that aren’t put into the world never get published, that you should have a rhino thick skin and play the numbers. But getting rejected also throws off my writing confidence and enthusiasm. It can stall me for days, or longer. I got rejected Friday night and haven’t completely shaken off my depression. Granted, a tough day at work didn’t help and I’m feeling a little under the weather, too.

So forgive my whining, my lack of fortitude, my bad weekend. But I think it’s unrealistic to assume that no one has them. Most writers do. It comes with the writing life. I just wish it didn’t.

Tonight I’m doing some art instead. Still creating, but not trying to drum back up that writing confidence. Waiting for that bruise to fade, and the well of confidence to fill back up (warranted or not!) 🙂

Hope your weekend went better.


The featured image is a sketch I made for the StoneDragon book, which is slowly plodding along. I actually really like having the art to go along with, even to inspire me as I’m writing. I’d like to do some more coloured pieces, but we’ll see what time allows. This image is Karen Waters, the daughter of a sea god, a god who is losing a battle and hiding from his enemies. Karen will take a foolish but brave action which sets everything in motion…

Cover reveal, story hints, and a Benedict Cumberbatch sketch

Melissa must be a better detective than me, because she has some clues as to the other writers’ stories. I can’t wait to read them all myself! (the sinister time device is me, though, he he). So here is a link to a fellow Improbable Truth anthology writer’s post…

COVER REVEAL! An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I’m going to copy her blurb too, cause I liked the sound of it:

In An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 14 authors of horror and mystery have come together to create a unique anthology that sets Holmes on some of his most terrifying adventures.  A pair of sisters willing to sacrifice young girls to an ancient demon for a taste of success, a sinister device that can manipulate time itself, and a madman that can raise corpses from the dead are just a few among the grisly tales that can be found within these pages.

Curl up with a warm cuppa and leave all the lights on.

This is not your grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes.


For the record, this featured image is a rare case of the artwork not being mine. This was done by the talented Anne Rosario instead.

For fun, though, I’m playing around with doing a Benedict Cumberbatch painting for the site. I don’t think that would get me in any copyright trouble, as long as I’m not selling anything attached. And I think it would be funny. We’ll see if I have enough time to finish it. 😉 Maybe just a teaser pencil sketch???

He he… Ok, I shaded it in a bit, so that it’s a bit more than a teaser. Enjoy.

Benedict Cumberbatch

I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it, but… “Time’s Running Out, Watson” as cast by the BBC. 😉


Time’s Running Out, Watson (Good News!)

A month or so ago (here), I mentioned taking some time out to write a quick short story. For a little more context, I was reading a Magical Words post (here) that referenced a submissions call for “An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes”, an anthology from Mocha Memoirs Press, edited by A.C. Thompson, an author and Sherlock Holmes fan herself. The collection was intended to have a fantasy/horror flavor and be a twist on the original detective novels, spurred by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate’s decision to release copyright on the characters for public use.

I have been recently watching Sherlock Holmes (the BBC production) on Netflix, which is great, and I very much enjoyed all of Mr. Doyle’s original books, as well as obviously loving fantasy, so the idea struck me with a bit of adrenalin, even though I probably should have been editing my novel instead. 🙂 So I had some fun diversion time writing a story in that vein, then workshopping it on OWW.

And last week… it got accepted! 😀 Whoop, whoop.

I am very jazzed. This is my first fantasy-related acceptance, and I’m thrilled. It will give me something to put in my cover letters for fantasy writing as well, which never hurts!

Hopefully people enjoy both the story and the book! I’m looking forward to seeing both. I believe that the publisher is hoping for an October release, but we’ll see.

Here’s hoping you get your own great news soon!


In an ironic twist, I actually had a Sherlock Holmes themed pencil sketch (even if it doesn’t look like the iconic figure), because it was an exercise for a SCBWI conference in Ottawa that I attended a while back. The exercise was to try and create a YA-vibe cover for a Sherlock Holmes story. I never finished it up, but you can enjoy the line work here, done in about half an hour during the conference workshop. On a side note, I learned a very important lesson about YA covers at the same time. Plan for the text BEFORE you do the piece. Luckily, in this case, no text required. 🙂

I am polishing up the first three chapters of my fantasy WIP, now called StoneDragon (previously the Broken Cowboy and a few other things) and will probably put them up on OWW for feedback. Lots of writing and polishing for that novel still required, but it will be nice to have the first few chapters done and edited, as those are the most stressful ones. If a reader gets past chapter three, you’re rocking and rolling. 🙂