These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Random Thoughts on Writing

I feel pretty confident about the Z book. I started it on March 19 and thus far am close to fifty pages double spaced. Perhaps it’s not much, but I write for about an hour or so a day and average a few single-spaced pages a night.

More can be accomplished but I haven’t sat down and done this on a regular basis in forever. It’s a discipline to sit and write and not get up and be distracted. So for that hour I am not online. I take a deep breath and go.

And when do I write? Well, most times it’s at night around midnight or so. I love writing when it’s quiet, when I have the house all to myself. The only sounds are the heating ducts popping and the vents pushing out warm air. I can handle that.

I’ve tried writing earlier in the evenign but can’t. I don’t think it’s necessarily the kids, but it’s mostly the proximity of the computer to the rest of the house. It’s right off the living room, which is a hub for activity. There is no door to block out noise of TV and kids playing. So nothing gets accomplished.

Today, was an exception. The boys were out at the aquatic center and Kayla was quiet. Dawn joined the boys. I took advantage of the time and hit the keys. It was productive. It was a critical point in the story: a shit hits the fan moment. It was an awesome feeling to write it. I enjoyed it. As I told my friend Mark today, it’s fun creating something from your imagination. I can be a crazy and wild as I want. I often am.

Sometimes we refrain from saying to writing things because we are afraid or embarrassed by what others will think. I say do it, especially with the writing. Probably a lot of us think “weird” thoughts but most are afraid to express them. I know I’m weird, so I express these thoughts through writing.

I started reading one of my favorite books tonight; it’s Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. It’s mostly a memoir of his time in Paris during the 1920s. In addition it serves as his guide to writing. It’s fun to read about the times in the ‘20s and his view on how he wrote. One of my favorite sayings about writing from Hemingway is to write one true sentence. He would do this when he was having trouble writing. He’d compose some sentences, but made sure to wrote one that was a “true” sentence and he’d discard the rest. The book always has served as an inspiration to me.

And so here I sit by the monitor in the “coputer” room. I’m surrounded by an old recliner, winter coats stuffed in a closet, bookshelves filled with office stuff and a lot of my junk, and pale yellow walls. It’s messy but I like it. It makes writing in this room very comfortable.

So there random thoughts on writing. Time to shut this donw to t

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The book

Here I sit, late once more, tired. I worked on school stuff, lesson plans for tomorrow night's class.

I did not get a chance to write today. I've been constant in my writing of my book. I pump out a few thousand words a day. Yeah, I know it's not a whole lot, but let's just say I've been away for some time from the word game. I figure as time goes by I will increase my word count on a daily basis.

For all of you who don't know, I'm writing a book on zombies. Yes, zombies. I really dig 'em. Sure vampires are cool and ghosts are freaky, but zombies mesmerize me. So about a month ago right before break I was watchign some low-grade zombie flicks and my mind started churning. Instead of stopping after a few turns, it kept on going. And going. And going.

soon, I'd created a mental plot of it in my head. I got to talking to friends about it and more ideas started forming. I soon created characters and began and finished a relatively large outline.

I took a deep breth and began. I have a prologue that I was dubious about. I was unsure if it would work or not, maybe give away something or a lot. I had a friend read it and she informed me that I gave nothing away. She liked it. I was pleased. I liked the prologue. It set up the story with some serous intrigue. I know it needs some roughing out, but as a whole, hey, it's pretty cool.

The thing about the prologue is, well, it is the end of the story. Technically a prologue might set up what's about to happen. Mine works the opposite. The reader knows that there are three people on a small boat (more like a glorified raft) on Lake Michigan. There is a man and a woman and the person telling he story (the prologue, anyway) but we don't know if it is a male or female. Then I go backward to the beginning back six months earlier.

And that's where I'm at now. I'm weaving my way through about five or six main characters and how they interact in the story and with each other. no zombies yet. I'm used t orushing head-long into things like that. But why? it's a book and it needs time for development of blot, characters and other stuff. So I'm holding off on the Zs for right now. There is, however, plenty of intrigue with the characters, at least the way I've set it up. There is that to keep readers entertained and wondering. Until they show up in the book.

Did I give away anything? Maybe only to the two or three souls who will read this. I'm sure it will remain a big secret to the outside world.

You know what? I'm enjoying creating. I think it's one of the ost fun aspects of writing. Creating gives you power to build something that is wholly in your mind. It might be fun or dark; it might delight or scare people. Ultimately you reveal dark secrets about yourself when you write, fantasies, thoughts, ideas. It's like letting everyone take a glimpse of your heart and seeing everythign that is your being. Oh well, it's OK. As I said, it's fun toe create. Let the imagination take you aon a journey through the unknown andinto lands foreign to you but that bring you peace and joy as you move ahead.

So my journey has begun and he scenery thus far is delightful. Soon it will be dark. Fun for me, anyway. Haha

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Christmas With Kids

So it's back to work tomorrow after a few weeks off.

Again, funny what a year does to a family. Last year, it was just me and dawn hanging out. I can't even remember what we did, except stay in Holland. It was low key, that's for sure.

This year the holiday was still low key. But the kids made the difference. It was rowdy all throughout the two weeks. Thought for sure that it was going to be as crazy as it was during Thanksgiving, when AJ and Kyle had issues. No. Not like that at all. Just the typical brotherly arguments.

Kayla bounced back, too. The weeks leading up to the big day, her behavior got better. She was horrid in early December and we thought that that was it. Nope, she was quite nice...and still is.

The big day was quiet. Evie, Laura, Todd and Nicholas joined us here. But it was pretty calm, compared to previous years at Evie's or Mary Ann's. I think this whole cancer situation with Oliver has impacted everyone. (Couldn't have anyone over this year because his white cell count was low.)

Nonetheless, a good time was had by all. And that was Saturday.

WE spent Sunday preparing for the trip to Texas, which was a two-day affair of traveling from Monday t0 Tuesday. Boy , was ai scared. Three kids added to the mix? We rented a van because we knew our Saturn wasn't gonna do it for the five of us. We'd kill each other in the close proximity. We joked that Kayla would go first. Her brothers would do her in.

I was surprised. We had no mishaps. The behavior was that what we get at home. Minor bickering but no biggie. The kids had never been out of Michigan adn certainly not ona huge road trip like that. So awesome.

A few minor issues occurred when AJ acted snotty and i had to get out of hte van to settle things. This was outside of Dallas somewhere in a rural area on a busy highway. I had my cell phone on the seat. When I slid off the seat, it fell onto the ground. Dawn drove off on the shoulder and i realixed it was gone. I yelled for her to stop. It was gone. I walked in the drizzle, jioned by Kyle. Nothing. AJ joined us, too. I was furious. It was his fault. If he'd been nicer to his brother and sister, it would have bene all right. I headed to the van. They stayed back and kept going down the shoulder in the mist. Dawn drove off, turned around and went back to the exit before. The boys walked nearly a mile. We approached and AJ held up his hand. He found the phone. My anger subsided. I told him it would be a bad trip if I'd lost it.

Then around the Waco area, we had another mishap. Kyle and Kayla were in the back seat. Suddenly Dawn hears Kyle say, "KAYLA!" I heard "Blurp!!" she'd hrled. All over a library book and beyond. It was mostly orange juice. She'd overeaten. Dawn pulled over and we had to change her into pajamas. Dawn was brave. She cleaned up everything. I was a wimp. I hate puke. After the 30-minute unscheduled stop, we were off. Luckily, it was later in the day and we only needed another four or so hours to arrive at the ranch. Whew!

The ranch was excellent for the kids. And for us. It was the most stress-free visit we've ever had, considering we had the 3 kids. So much fun was had by them. They ran around. I think they like dopen spaces. Kyle and Ricky played games. They formed quite the bond. Kayla and Emma played a lot but all had a healthy respect for each others' boundaries.

for me it was nice seeing my family. I hadn't been home since Aug. 2009 for Tia Mine's funeral. That wasn't much of a visit. I went alone; Dawn stayed behind. So it was good to see mom, Linda, Noel, Arnold, Meri and the kids. It always feels good to smell the wind there. It's so different than up here. It's earthy. The field, I guess.

we only stayed four days and they went quick. Still, it was good. We had a good New Year's Eve. The kids popped fireworks. We played cards at mom's house with the kids. Nice bonding stuff that I carried on to now and started to do it here.

The trip back was less eventful (no puking or lost cellphones). It was mostly sunny all the way. We did get lost after leaving Little Rock and took some back roads to reach I-55. We saw A LOT of rural Arkansas. It turned out OK in the end.

How fitting that as we entered Holland's city limits, snow began to fall. We went from temperatures as high as 83 to snow in Michigan a few days later.

It was great to be home, saw my kitty again. She was happy to see us. Took her a few days to settle down.

The kids have been in school a week and they are back on schedule. Now, it's my turn.

I know, I need to get back to this some more. Thanks for the push, Mark. I promise to try to keep this up more regularly.

Friday, December 03, 2010

"In Groups We Shrink"

This week in my English classes we discussed the dynamics of a crowd or group. We examined two essays, "In Groups We Shrink" by Carol Tavris and George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant." Orwell's essay was an example that accompanied Tavris' essay.

What the essays were saying had to do with how a person, or individual, "shrinks" in a crowd. Individuals lose who they are once they are in a crowd. Something happens that we become part of the collective. The group operates as one. I used the example of the Borg from Star Trek: Next Generation. I also told the classes a story of an incident when I was 12 or so, where we were gathered in San Jose outside one of hte houses. Two boys started fighting. Really one boy started picking on another boy. This other boy was slow. Still, we all gathered in a half circle and watched as this boy got his assed kicked around. Some spectators watched, others cheered. But no one did a damn thing to stop it. Why? WE knew it was wrong. This boy caused no harm to anyone.

We learned that when the crowd works as a whole, no one wants to step up. Reasons for this include: embarrassment, defussion of responsibility, fear of retaliation and approval of the action.

We don't want to go against the group. We can be seen as outcasts. So we sit back and watch as events transpire. It's sick , really. I remember the events of htat day in San Jose very vivid, even though it was more than 25 years ago. Events stay with you.

In his essay, Orwell talks about a time when he shot and killed an elephant that had gone rogue (he eventually killed a man). Orwell, who was a police officer in Burma which was under British rule, was sent out to kill the elephant. Two thousand Burmans showed up. He did not want to kill it, felt the elephant (who was in heat) had finally calmed. But the crowd "wanted" it, though no one actually told him to kill it. He felt compelled to do it. And if he hadn't killed the elephant, there would have been tremendous embarrassement-- he was after all a police officer (and the minority in Burma, even though Britons controlled). He felt helpless and shot the elephant. It took many shots and much time until the elephant died. He felt bad but justified thekilled because the elephant killed a man.

Crowds are dangerous.

The next time you're in a crowd, watch the dynamics of everyone. If something is occurring, would you agree with it or just following and going with the flow because everyone else is and if you stepped up and disagreed, you might become the next victim.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Today was the first snowfall of the season. We only got, oh, less than two inches, I'd say. Still, it required taking out the shovels to clear off the sidewalk and driveway. In the end, it was a pretty minor job, nothing like the monster shovel-fests I've encountered in the past.

It was also an opportunity for Kyle to help me out. All fall I've joked that now I've got sons to help me out with the snow clearing. Today that thought was put to the test. I went outside and began the task. Soon after, Kyle came out and asked for the shovel. I handed it to him and he finished off what was still left.

Later on, after another light covering, I went out again. Kyle followed me out. He asked for another shovel. He grabbed it and began helping. It was a good feeling having help from Kyle.

Over the past few months Kyle and I have bonded. He's so attached to Dawn and I let that be. None of thekids really had attached themselves to me. What has helped is my situation and Kyle's homeschooling. I work a very flexible schedule right now. I teach two days a week. The other three days, I'm home. Even on days I teach, I get to come home during the day.

This time, away from AJ and Kayla, helped bond us. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not at all like he and Dawn. But it's something. I'll take it.

Kyle enjoys physical stuff. He likes play wrestling and playing sword fights. I indulge. I play wrestel with im, put on fake wrestling moves an he just soaks it up. He pretends to hit me in the gut, so he's initiating some of the touching.

Another thing he's done is ask me to go sword fight with him outside. I even have my special orc sword. It's funny because in the past, he never invited me to play. Now, he does. A huge step, I think.

I think in the past eight months, Kyle's come a long way in our house. He can be a pain at times, but the majority of the time he is kind and considerate. He tends to put others before him, which is great. He's a funny kid, shy at first, but soon after, he is talkative.

And so today began another bonding experience with my middle son Kyle. It felt good.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


This is my first post in more than a year.

A lot has happened in that time. Obviously, I'm not at the newspaper. I'm teaching still. I'm doing a fewmore odds and ends types of jobs that makes life fun. One of the family cats, Kit (Dawn's cat), died in June. It was sad to see him die. He'd been sick for years with a thyroid problem and he lasted a long time. He was a good cat. Now, it's just Trina, queen of the house.

but perhaps the biggest change in our lives is the pending adoption of three kids, AJ, Kyle and Kayla. We started fostering them April 1. It was a rough start during the first few months trying to figure out what was going on. I mean, it took my brain a while to understand that there were three kids now living with us.

They finished off the school year and summer began. It was fun and hard at the same time. Kayla was a terror during the summer months. She decided she was gonna tear up her room and be a pain. She gave me a few gray hairs. There was lots of screaming on her part (she could be a singer in a heavy metal band). Slowly she's settled down. But she's got her moments.

The boys have been much better. Although wit AJ two years older than Kyle he's trying to find his own. He acts snotty about it and Kyle gets hurt by it. So them playing together doesn't work well these days.

I think Dawn has adapted to parenthood better and quicker than I have. I'm still adjusting to it. I make lots of mistakes. Much more than she does. Live and learn, I guess.

I'm also trying to find my inner child. I know it's there. When it comes time to play with the boys, especially Kyle, I struggle at times. I was once 12, too! Where is it, dammit!? As i said before, I need to have my jar of youthfulness near at hand. I don't want to lose it. I am capable of acting like a kid at times, but it was to be at the first time and with the kids. I am trying.

And it is late. Perhaps this will be my forum once more for an outlet for a monologue. Why not? it worked before.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

grades posted

today finished grading the few remaining final essays of the semester.

it struck me while talking to dawn earlier today that i realized why i was so stressed and tired even before i began grading these final papers.

after grading them, i was adding up the previous essays and various other things and getting their grade for the semester for my english class.

i realized that i was playing a part in the future of these kids' lives. my class was a building block to their education. one class of many en route to a degree. a degree that will one day lead toa job to which they will become productive working citizens. perhaps they, too, will teach and the cycle will continue.

i felt good that i can contribute to something that big in their lives, something positive. i wish the english 101 class of mr. garcia luck wherever the students end up in life. you all were a good lot and the experience was memorable for a first-time teacher. i don't think i could have asked for a better group of students. it made my experience positive, which contributed to their experiences, which by many accounts, was a postive one, too.

now, a bit of a rest before i tackle the next bunch of kids.