What the Hell is Wrong with Me?

What the HELL is Wrong with Me?


I’m a member of The Write Room Blog, a young, growing community of over thirty writers.  We are a diverse group, no two of us the same, and we have many creative activities.   On The Write Room Blog, one of our activities is to write two different blog posts a week, some of which are revealing, inspiring, and disturbing, occasionally at the same time.  

This week I’m the author of the blog post on The Write Room Blog, and my subject is a mysterious disease that almost killed me.  What is this mysterious disease, and why is a hunk of bread featured at the top of this post?  Click on the link below and find out.






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I’m a member of The Write Room Blog, a young, growing community of over thirty writers.  We are a diverse group, no two of us the same, and we have many creative activities.   On The Write Room Blog, one of our activities is to write two different blog posts a week, some of which are revealing, inspiring, and disturbing, occasionally at the same time.  Below an honest woman shares her demon, alcoholism, and her long, difficult battle for sobriety. Read about it in The White Room Blog.   http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=1903


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Honeymoon-Rhodesian Style

Honeymoons – Do you remember yours?  Probably your Honeymoon didn’t – or won’t – feature an adventure quite like this.   (No, it’s not like the picture below.)


I’m a member of The Write Room Blog, a young, growing community of over thirty writers.  We are a diverse group, no two of us the same, and we have many creative activities.   On The Write Room Blog, one of our activities is to write two different blog posts a week.  Below is the blog just written by Trish Jackson, an emotive romantic suspense writer.   Click on the link below and it will take you to an experience on our site you will not soon forget.






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1. THE-MERRY-GO-ROUND MAN.  To be published soon by Crossroad Press at http://www.crossroadpress.com.  Below are the two excellent covers by Clarissa which were done with somewhat different objectives and readerships in mind.  Here is the summary the publisher provided the artist: “Three boys grow up in Ohio – discovering themselves, sex, and their futures.  Main character is a Jewish boy who can box, and nearly wins the Golden Gloves tournament – and can also draw and paint, and wants to be an artist.  There is also an Afro American boy who first robs a delicatessen, and then ends up working for the old man and owning it – and the third boy – very good looking, well off, who seems able to get any girl (and then woman) he wants but seems also addicted to doing so… The cover should be about the artist, boxer, though…if possible.”

Can you guess which cover we decided on?


Here’s the second cover:


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A NEW Kind of SUPER Hero

Super Heroes with Super Powers . . . We got ‘em!  They can leap tall buildings at a single bound and twist into all kinds of shapes while flying through nine different dimensions.  And all this while looking Super Hero Handsome, Beautiful, Sexy, or just, well, imposing.


It seems that human beings crave all kinds of spectacular and god-like beings to save them from their humdrum lives and daily problems.  It just seems to me that in addition to Superman, Iron Man, and all the rest, we need a few with a few more practical and down-to-earth powers.  For example:

1. Politico Man (or Woman) – This Super Hero would look like Mr. Peepers or your Maiden Aunt and with a wave of the hand would cut through all the bulls*it and bloviating in Washington.  This person would change our representatives’ minds and attitudes and enable the President and Congress to work together, enacting sensible legislation in a timely manner that would actually help the country and the economy.   Can you imagine that?

2.  Hacker Man – You know what happened to customers’ credit cards at Target and other stores.  Well, Hacker Man would Hack the Hackers and crunch the cyber-criminals.  He would sniff out these sleazeballs before they could breach our data and commit nine kinds of financial and identity theft. Finally, he’d bring them to justice.  

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3.  Grammar and Composition Man – Have trouble matching subjects up with verbs or constructing a decent sentence?  If so, the three or five paragraph sentence is probably light-years beyond you.  If so, Grammar and Composition Man or Woman would fly by at just the right moment and be your Muse, whether you are speaking in public, filling out an application form, writing a twenty page paper for that exacting professor, or what-have-you.  Whatever the case, English, or whatever the language, would become your favorite subject.

4. Mr. or Ms. Right or Wrong Man – Can’t make up your mind whether to go out with that guy or gal?  Just ask Mr. or Ms. Right or Wrong Man and save yourself a lot of potential headaches.  Why invest weeks, months, or years in someone who will ultimately prove to be a loser and break your heart and wallet?  This SUPER Hero can take one look at somebody and tell you the score.  C’mon, isn’t that better than a hundred Marvel comics?

5. Number 5 is for you, Dear Reader.  Can you add to this list of practical SUPER Heroes that we need more than the often silly ones who fill our childish fantasies?  If so, comment on this site, and I’ll both publish your comments and add them to this post.


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Weirder than Weird (Writers, That Is)

Weird Writers and Their Weird Habits!  

There are four winners in the contest for Writers with Weird Habits. To refresh your memory, just check below.  I said I’d give a free copy of one of my stories to the winners and would post the winning subs.  Here, as promised, are the winners and their subs.

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1.  Loren writes that just as Victor Hugo locked away his clothes in his house to finish the The Hunchback of Notre Dame, “I recently hit on a similar technique when I lent out my car for a few months.”  Now, some of us might consider this to be a bit extreme, but it worked and she got her car back!

2.  Kate Larkindale says, “I don’t think I have any super-weird habits like these [the writerly habits in the last post] but I never finish work for the day at the end of a scene or chapter.  I always write a few lines into the next one so I know where I was going when I pick up again the next day.”  Hmm, sounds sensible and practical to me.  What’s weird, though, is often in the eye of the beholder.

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3.   Rhea Rhodan writes, “When writing a draft, I employ Kate’s technique as well. For generating ideas (either between or during stories), I often use a (randomly drawn) pair of tarot cards as writing prompts. One such scene prompted my most recent release (The Legacy of Buchanan’s Crossing), and I used several tarot-pair generated scenes in it as well. I blogged about it last week here: http://clarissajohal.blogspot.com/2014/02/mixed-up-tuesday-guest-blogger.html ” 

Rhea concludes by asking, “Does this count?”

I informed Rhea that it most certainly does, and I urge you all to click on her link and visit the site to see what she means.  What beautiful graphics!  It would be hard not to feel some kind of inspiration upon beholding them.  I might add that writing prompts, whether of graphics, posters, sentences, or what-have-you, have been often used to inspire creativity.  

4. Last, my friend Jas Calhoun writes, “I have a really strange habit.  I send stuff to you.”  Stuff being poems, etc. he writes.  And I guess sending stuff to ME is even stranger than being Jas Calhoun.


Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is sometimes known as “The Recluse of Amherst,” for she lived most of her lonely life alone within the four walls of her home.  Her nearly 1800 poems contain no titles or dates.  Talk about her neurotic and eccentric habits which I won’t go into except to say they are often part of the price one pays for being a creative genius.    

Kelton Reid, in “8 Strange Rituals of Productive Writers” (http://www.copyblogger.com/writing-rituals/) writes:

“Charles Dickens and Henry Miller both used to wander around Europe trying to get lost, a technique that psychologists say can foster creativity. 

“My friend and prolific travel journalist Adam Skolnick used to write only in a sarong.

“Steven Pressfield uses an ancient ritual of reciting Homer’s invocation of the Muse before he types a word.  He’s in good company, as they were invoked by Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer too.”

Enough strange habits and rituals for now.  Perhaps sanity and conformity are the true weirdness.

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I’ve often thought my method of writing was STRANGE.  I’m a pantzer, which means I make it up as I go along, and I keep multiple copies on my computer, so if I title my file Tomorrow1, I may keep adding longer versions until I reach Tomorrow8, Tomorrow9 and so on.  Another habit I have is to go into a particular Barnes & Noble and just wander about, letting my mind drift and my eyes go here and there.  I’ll see something–often a book cover, title, or something even less substantial–and sometimes INSPIRATION WILL STRIKE and a whole story idea will just leap into my head!  I’ve written over a dozen good stories this way and sold them, too!

But great writers have even weirder, quirkier creative habits, and I’d like to borrow some examples from Maria Popova’s The Odd Habits and Curious Customs of Famous Writers which can be found at  http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/09/23/odd-type-writers/ She in turn derives her examples from Celia Blue Johnson’s Odd Type Writers: From Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors.

*** Edgar Allan Poe, for example, “wrote his final drafts on separate pieces of paper attached into a running scroll with sealing wax.”  

Edgar-Allan-Poe-9443160-1-402*** Jack Kerouac liked scrolling, too.  In 1951 “he wrote On The Road in one enormously one strip of paper,” something which made his editor ask how they could possibly edit it.

*** James Joyce “wrote lying on his stomach in bed, with a large blue pencil, clad in a white coat, and composed most of Finnegan’s Wake with crayon pieces on cardboard.”  But he basically had to do it this way because “he was nearly blind.”

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*** Virginia Woolf . . . Popova writes, “In her twenties, she spent two and a half hours every morning writing, on a three-and-half-foot-tall desk with an angled top that allowed her to look at her work both up-close and from afar.” Apparently, though, this “trendy standing desk was less a practical matter than a symptom of her sibling rivalry with her sister.”  Kind of like which writer has the better, more impressive computer, laptop, etc. ? 

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*** “Truman Capote wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, would change hotel rooms if the room phone number involved the number 13, and never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray, tucking the extra ones into his coat pocket.”  TALK ABOUT SUPERSTITION.

*** But then Jack London “wrote 1,000 words a day every single day of his career and William Golding once declared at a party that he wrote 3,000 words daily.”  Maria Popova states that “Many authors measured the quality of their output by uncompromisingly quantitative metrics like daily word quotas.”  If you who are reading this post happen to be an author, does her statement apply to you?  If so, how and in what way?

*** Victor Hugo… What a strange case!  Facing a “seemingly impossible deadline” with The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831, he “practically put himself under house arrest for months.”  The poor guy “locked away his clothes to avoid any temptation of going outside.”  Popova reports that “He finished the book weeks before deadline, using up the whole bottle of ink” he had bought “to write it.”  Talk about dedication!

*** Finally, Friedrich Schiller let apples rot in his desk drawer so the “aroma produced” (probably methane gas) would inspire him to create.  His wife Charlotte said he “could not live or work without it.”

Hey, do NOT try this at home!

****CONTEST ALERT: These are just a few weird, quirky, and bizarre writer habits.  I’m sure there are some even stranger and far beyond Jupiter.  Scribblers, I’ll make you a deal.   If you have any strange, odd, or outlandish writer traits, please send me a comment of 200 words or less describing them either at this website or at my e-mail address, jroseman@cox.net.  I’ll not only PUBLISH the top five I like best, but I’ll send you a FREE E-BOOK of one of my short stories.  This CONTEST will last one week, until February 21, at midnight.  Until then, keep writing weird!****

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I like to make it up as I go along.  I like to write dangerously without an outline and Roman numeral sub-headings and almost always knowing what comes next.  If I’m surprised, the reader may be too.  It’s exciting and risky to see what my characters and story will do and to write without a safety net. How, as a writer, will I get out of this plot problem when the time comes?

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I’ve gone to writer’s cons where panels featured writers who either carefully plotted their novels in advance with outlines, index cards, character sketches, etc. or essentially winged it on a shoeshine and a smile.  I understand the virtues and strengths of both approaches.  I did write an outline for one of my published novels, Speaker of the Shakk (Mundania Press), but while it was helpful, I found there was so much I couldn’t anticipate or foresee concerning the final story. When I write a novel, I find I’m like a driver of a car in a heavy fog.  I have a sense of where I’m going, but there’s so much about the journey or terrain ahead which is uncertain.

It’s that journey ahead which bothers plotters.  They want guarantees and fear the unpredictable.  For instance, if they don’t plot ahead . . .

images (5)How did THIS get in the story?  Or . . .

images (6)How did their PANTY FETISH get in?  Or . . .

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Yes, it’s always chancy to be a Pantser.  Things may get out of control, the book may fall apart, and they may lose their way.  I certainly don’t recommend it wholesale for everyone.  Different strokes for different folks. Sometimes it’s wise for a writer to try a combination of both approaches for a chapter or two.  If you’re a pantser, try being a plotter for a change.  If you’re a plotter, let your imagination take wing for a spell.  You can always ground it and go back. Both types of writers should experiment a little with the other’s style and orientation. Come to think of it, many writers naturally use a combination of the two approaches anyway.

As for me, please don’t get me wrong.  Though I’m a pantser, I do have some kind of an overall plan when I sit down to write a novel.  And I do admit it’s risky to do it my way.  It’s just I’m not God, and I’m simply not good enough to see in advance all the things which I keep discovering should go into one of my books, which is a major reason I don’t outline in advance.  In addition, this approach often enables me to experience the joy when my muse surprises me by giving me a creative gift.  

For example: just recently, in the sequel to a sequel in progress, Defender of the Flame, I suddenly realized that a bit player in the background was not a bit player at all. Instead, she was a major player and she should kick-start the hero and the plot in a new and more interesting direction.  Man, was I surprised and delighted.  And in Book II, Kingdom of the Jax, Turtan, the hero, foolishly promised young Sky they’d not only defeat the enemy and live, but he’d cheer like a drunken hyena at her graduation. No way I intended he’d do anything with his promise, especially in a major way.  But in Book III, he does!

I guess there are Pantsers and Plotters in all kinds of activities, not just in writing.  Some of us make it up as we go along, just go with the flow and screw up or not.  And some of us carefully plan just about everything in advance. It can apply to the way we dance, make love, live our lives, you name it.  What about you?  Where do you fit in the wheel of life?  Are you a Pantser, a Plotter, or somewhere in-between?


For one great essay on this subject, read Cindi Myers’ “Plotter or Pantser: The Best of Both Worlds” at  http://www.autocrit.com/editing/library/plotter-or-pantser-the-best-of-both-worlds 

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              Using Your Imagination to Write about Places You’ve NEVER Been        

I like to write about places I’ve never been.  It’s liberating to use your imagination and take real chances, and it’s an experience I recommend to other writers, both beginning and more experienced ones. You don’t have to write only about what you “know.”  You can write about places in this world (and others) you’ve never visited.  Have faith in your abilities and don’t second-guess them all the time.

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                                          (This and other books can be found in the MENU above.)

But wait a minute, you ask.  Don’t you have to visit places you write about?  Don’t you have to step on another country’s soil, smell the air, mingle with the inhabitants and interact with their culture in a thousand different ways in order to write about it authentically?  Otherwise, isn’t the process no better than a well-crafted, well-researched lie no matter how believable it seems to be?

Well, maybe.

And then again, maybe not.

The fact is, research, imagination and empathy can carry you a long way.  Also, while it’s nice to visit another place, it’s sometimes expensive, time-consuming, and may not always be practical.  One does have to make a living, after all.  Besides that, some countries may not let you in, for political or other reasons.

I teach at a historically black university.  I sometimes ask my students, “I’m an old white guy.  Could I write about life in the hood if I did a lot of research?”

Some of my students say no.  Others say yes.  I say, if I can make it believable to those who know firsthand about life in the hood and pull them completely into my fictional dream, why not?  As Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, what’s primarily necessary is to create “that willing suspension of disbelief . . . which constitutes poetic faith.”

Okay, here’s a couple of examples from my own writing experience.

One day years ago I started to read Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, which is about the often destructive influence of English colonialism on Nigeria.  That book, plus its sequel, No Longer at Ease, and other research inspired my longest novel, A Senseless Act of Beauty, which is available at Crossroad Press (http://store.crossroadpress.com/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=1&keyword=senseless+act+of+beauty).  A Senseless Act of Beauty focuses on a beautiful African-type of planet that more civilized worlds seek to conquer and exploit in a brutal, oppressive fashion.  History repeats itself, in other words.

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One of the stories in the novel, “Eyes of the Leopard,” stems from an idea that I found personally intriguing.  What if a radical, impressionist painter or artist were born into a Nigerian village circa 1900 and fell in love with the chief’s daughter?  Here is the way I began it:

One day, Ekwefi, the proud daughter of the tribal chief, decided she wanted to be especially beautiful for the Feast of the New Yam.  She thought and thought, and then she smiled.  Perhaps Amadi, the odd boy who drew such strange pictures, could help her.

            So she told her doting father, and a servant went to summon the boy.  Now the name of Amadi’s father is not important, for he was an efulefu, a lazy, worthless man who neglected his crops and preferred to drink palm wine and fashion flutes from bamboo stems.  Of all the huts in the Nigerian village, his was the meanest and poorest kept.  Indeed, it was considered a disgrace by others even to visit it.  So when the servant, a tall man of aristocratic bearing and many airs, announced himself and entered the cramped hut, he looked about in distaste, his nose crinkling at the dust and odors.

I hope I’ve captured the flavor of such a place and time, and discouraged the reader from wondering how a Jewish boy from Ohio could write such a thing.  The tribal story-telling style (e.g., “Now the name of Amadi’s father is not important”), and the local dialect (efulefu) contribute, I trust, to the local color and verisimilitude of the story.


Here’s one more example: several years back, I became fascinated by Nauru, an island in the southwestern Pacific.  Again, research was key, as well as imagination.  I wrote and published three stories that take place in that area, and recently, one of those stories, “Bagonoun’s Wonderful Songbird,” was republished by Gypsy Shadow Publishing (http://www.gypsyshadow.com/JohnRos.html#top/).  The improbable love story involves a fifteen-year-old girl and a man who is nearly seventy.  Emet wakes Bagonoun up and asks him to tell her a story.  Annoyed, Bagonoun finally has an inspiration, one involving local lore and tribal astronomy.

Ah, he remembered!  “Once there was a young girl,” he said, “who lived in the sky.  She—” 

             “What was her name?  You must say it!”                   

              Bagonoun made a face.  “Eyount.”

              “Pretty!”  She made a pleased sound and moved closer so her arm grazed his.

              “Anyway,” he went on, “Eyount’s parents decided to gather together some young boys so their daughter might choose a husband.  And when they came, there were many.  They all stood in a row so she could see them.  Being young, they were mischievous and liked to play games, especially the one in which they switched magic headbands made of stardust.  When they did this, they switched faces and bodies as well and tricked their friends into thinking each was the other.  Now two of these boys decided to play a prank on her.  One of them was named Demagomogom and the other . . . ”

So that’s how I write about places I’ve never been: I do research, use my imagination, and try to feel sympathy and even empathy for my characters, try to see the world through their eyes.  Granted, being born in a place or visiting it is better, but being creative and willing to take chances can accomplish miracles.  Fellow scribblers, I urge you to take chances and to be willing to fail.  Don’t reject that fictional idea just because it occurs in a place you’ve never been.  Go there in your imagination and make it real to your readers.

(originally published [changes added] at http://storytellersunplugged.com/Dec. 13, 2009)


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Teasers, Twooks, and Taglines – also click on Media Room and my books in Menu above

“Sex in a steam room, blindfolded with an irresistible woman—what is she trying to hide?”

See that above?  It’s a tagline or teaser, a short, punchy, hopefully grabby hook for my short story “Steam Heat.”  It’s intended to summarize a key part of the tale, tantalize the reader in under twenty words, and tempt them to purchase it.  Does it catch your interest, at least a little?  Writers often use such techniques, often by raising questions such as Why or What?  Here, why is the man having sex in a steam room?  Why is he blindfolded?  What is the woman trying to hide?  Here’s Nika Dixon’s cover for “Steam Heat,” which is supposed to arouse your interest as well:

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Sometimes a longer hook will be called a blurb or teaser, and it will consist of two or more paragraphs which summarize the plot.  You’ve no doubt seen them on book jackets, often on the back cover.

Here are some more of my taglines for MuseItUp Publishing.  All are short enough to be sent by Twitter.  Use an appropriate #hashtag and it’s called a Twook:

“Across four millennia, Turtan, our greatest hero, battles to save all humanity from invincible aliens.”  (Inspector of the Cross, Novel, First in the series; 15 words). Science Fiction.  http://tinyurl.com/d3hbm8g 

“A man sacrifices everything to save humanity, politics and emperors be damned.”  (Kingdom of the Jax, Novel, Second in the series; 12 words).  Science Fiction.  http://tinyurl.com/d3hbm8g

“Dax fights to save intelligent aliens and a dying human outpost as WWIII rages back on Earth.  (Dax Rigby, War Correspondent, 17 words).   Science Fiction.  http://tinyurl.com/cfa8yyy

“Rachel has a mysterious disease and everyone shuns her—what will she become?”  (“The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes,” 14 words)  P & E  SF Winner.   http://tinyurl.com/7r7tunl

“Kan can revive the dead, read minds, see invading aliens, and he’s just found love.”  (Dark Wizard, 15 words)  Paranormal Romance http://tinyurl.com/7ftgtwg

“An expedition discovers a beautiful planet with empty cities—what terrible danger lurks there?” (More Stately Mansions, 15 words)  Science Fiction http://tinyurl.com/6o7vb9o

–While you’re here, check some pages in the menu above like “MEDIA ROOM”


Sometimes a “hook” will be more substantial, a “blurb” that consists of a couple of sentences or two or more paragraphs.  Often it will be a summary found on the book jacket and designed to give the reader an idea of what the story is about and interest him or her in buying it.  Below is the blurb of my 115,000+ word African SF novel A Senseless Act of Beauty, published by Crossroad Press and available at Amazon.com.  http://tinyurl.com/mbvltcm

Aaron Okonkwo, a Nigerian bio-botanist, travels to Viridis, an exotic world filled with scientific  wonders left by a godlike race.  There, he is ensnared by the delectable, deadly beauty of Nightsong, an enchanting alien female. His supreme test comes when the Confederation sends 200 ships to conquer Viridis for its boundless resources, just as the Europeans once did in Africa. Can Aaron prevent history from repeating itself, or will his efforts be A Senseless Act of Beauty?


 *** BE MY GUEST AND VISIT THE POSTS BELOW OR ANY OF THE OVER TWO DOZEN PAGES IN THE MENU ABOVE SUCH AS “MEDIA ROOM” or “AUDIOBOOKS.”  I hope there’s something here for everybody.  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think — pro or con.  ~ The Author





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