Art mirrors life.

There. I’ve said it. If what you put on the page strays too far off from what your readers expect, then you have a lot of work trying to explain yourself. If you explain too much, you’ll lose your crowd. Also, just as in life, your protagonist must make decisions.

Decisions are central to a narrative, just as they are essential in life.

Duh, you say. Of course.

No, it’s no duh. People have trouble making decisions, I know I do. Your character in your story needs to make decisions, even if they are seemingly minor, because decisions reveal character.

God knows I’ve made some bad decisions in my day. I’d like to say I’ve learned from them, and I’ve progressed as a person, but some days I wonder. Of course, I think I’ve made some pretty good decisions, too. See photo above. There’s a story there.

On that day me and my guys captured a mountain of ammo and bomb making supplies from the bad guys. It wasn’t easy, but the job got done. What decision did I make, you wonder.

One of the hats I wore was Counter Improvised Explosive Device team leader, or the C-IED guy. We captured a ton of explosives, so it was a bit of a question what we should do with the junk. An option was to dump it all in a field and have one of the circling Apaches drop a Hellfire on it.

It would have disposed of the ordnance.

In my opinion, it would have also toppled a few structures and shattered every pane of glass within half a mile. I didn’t doubt then, or now, that someone innocent would have gotten seriously injured.

My boss asked me for a decision.

I made one. With multiple pissed-off groans, we ended up humping the explosives out of there on our backs. There was limited vehicular access, but the infantry has doubled as mules since the dawn of time.

Ten years later, and I am still convinced it was the right choice.

As my boss back then told me, no decision is also a decision.

A person who has never done anything has it easy when it comes to criticism. I am reminded of this when I watch the feeding frenzies on Internet personalities. I ask myself what decisions have these people made, what risks have they taken?

Chances are, few. Good old fashioned jealousy and schadenfreude seem to be the chief motivation of some.

Now, I am not saying to go out and make bad decisions. And some feeding frenzies are richly deserved. But that’s not the point of this piece.

What I am saying is that when you’re crafting a story, even if it is one that no one will ever read, the action is propelled forward by choices, good and bad. Be conscious of this, identify the various catalysts in your narrative. Make your character someone who acts, not someone who is passive, who is acted upon.

No one wants to read that. Also, no one wants to be that, either.

Start making decisions, whether it is a fictional narrative, or your personal journey.

It’s the stuff of life, and it’s what people want to read.

The Very Beginning

All, so I have embarked on a new trilogy as discussed in the last post.

Something I promised a long time ago was that I would discuss my writer’s journey as it unfolds. Well, something I learned back during my first trilogy was that before you do squat you need to have a coherent outline. Pictured above is a real outline of a book that I have completed. Using just those skeletal prompts pictured, I write entire novels.

This approach may not work for you, but it works for me. I guess the broader point is that if you want to write a book, you need some form of plan.

It doesn’t have to be an outline. It doesn’t have to have any type of formal shape. It just needs to be.

A plan. Without one you are probably whistling Dixie.

OK, so here’s what I do. I learned this from a master, and from the professional reading he assigned me. It works very, very well, and I really don’t know what I did before I learned the THREE ACT STRUCTURE.

In a nut shell, here’s what it is.

Act I

Opening ImageThe world before the story begins.

Theme stated. What is this story about

Set up. Hero at home, at work, at play.

Catalyst- set things into motion.

Debate- Hero doubts.

Act II (Twice the size of Act I or III)

Break into two. Hero must make a choice to step into II. Now or never.

B-Story activities.

Fun and games. Explore new worlds. Promise of the premise.

Midpoint. Stakes raised. False victory, defeat. Time clock. Pace accelerates.

Bad guys close in. Hero team issues or bad guy threats.

All is lost.

Dark night of the soul. “Whiff of death.”


Break into three. Hero steps up and goes all the way.

Finale. Final exam. Does hero learn lessons.

Gather team, load up.

Storm the castle.

Hightower surprise.


Execute new plan.

Final image- the world after. Cocoon- butterflies.

At the top of my outline segments, I leave the “beats” that a given act must fulfill at the top as a reminder. It is not a slavish guide, and I frequently diverge from the outline if I sense that the flow or structure needs something. Seriously, though, my two sentence blurbs turn into about 2k-2.5k chapters. This is how I roll.

But before I set a single word onto the manuscript, I MAKE AN OUTLINE!

The outline is the skeleton. It forms a frame upon which you hang all the squishy bits. There is a reason that most higher life forms have a skeleton- those stony, hard bits protect the nerve bundles and jelly stuff that makes you, you.

Trust me, you need a skeleton.

Now, as I said, your skeleton can look vastly different from mine. What would work well (and I should experiment with this) would be a white board with sticky notes; but because I’m a boring, stuck in my ways type, I like a column of ideas arrayed in a linear fashion upon a Word doc.

As I said, whatever works for you. But please, learn from my experience and make the outline in whatever form. My first book had some mistakes I could have avoided if I would have simply followed this basic step.


So that’s what I’m up to right now- I’m doing something familiar (making an outline), but I’m doing it in such a way that is entirely new.

What do I mean.

I’m making an outline, all at once, for a new trilogy. About 120 planned chapters, and I have to make it all work within a given structure.

Curious how this works. Should be OK, but I don’t know.

Something I run up against all the time is I make a chapter outline, and then I think “Those two sentences sum this up. How can I expand this without putting my readers to sleep?”

Kinda having this now with this mega outline. I know where I want to go with the trilogy, what terrain I’d like to cover. But there are important questions.

Who are my enemies? My friends? How do the circumstances shape my characters, what drives them forward? How do they live, and how do they die?

All of these are questions that need answered.

The answers lie in the outline.

Once that’s done, all I have to do is write.

2021 release of… something!

Pictured above are some hardcopies of my first trilogy. The last book in the series, Immolation, was published in May, 2017.

That’s four long years ago.

Since then, I have been busy. I have written in shared universes, and I’ve created one of my own, an alternate history.

The shared universes are exactly that, they are shared. They do not belong to me.

Long time readers know my publisher went belly-up a couple of years ago. This may have been a left-handed gift because if they were still around, I probably would have released my alternate history in a knee-jerk fashion.

News flash: I would have lost money on it. Unfortunately, that seems to be the cold hard truth for 99.9% of indie authors.

You will lose money.

It’s so easy to look at the sheer volume of the competition out there and get discouraged. At times I want to throw up my hands and say the hell with it, that this is a fool’s game and a massive waste of time.

But then I read through some really positive stuff that some people have had to say about my work, and it makes a difference.

Years ago, after my first book, I had sold something like fifty copies. The thing was going nowhere. It embarrassed me, my thoughts were “hey, I did this. I said I would. Now it’s done and no one wants to read it. I’ll never do this again.”

I walked away.

But then a curious thing happened. First, I was contacted by a fan who said he really liked the book. He asked me when I was going to write the sequel; I told him I hadn’t really thought about it.

But then I did. Then I heard from an author I was in occasional contact with, John Birmingham. He told me the book was a good read. I was blown away to hear this.

So I sat down and I wrote the second book in what became a trilogy. By May of 2017, it was done.

Then I got involved in a bunch of projects, lost my publisher, and finished another trilogy.

By now, April of 2021, the dam is about to burst.

I want to release my alt history trilogy so bad it hurts.

So I come back to what has sustained me throughout the years, my readers and friends. I have a question to pose to you. A series, really.

Here are my dilemmas.

First, I don’t want to go thousands of USD into the hole again. But I also don’t want to publish an inferior product. So the pure indie route isn’t that attractive. Sorry, Amazon, but for most Indie authors you are a money sink, not a revenue generator.

Second, selling the trilogy is still a possibility, and it’s by far the most preferred one. I consider my current trilogy to be locked up in this process for the time being. However, one must always have a back-up plan.

Here it is.

I really admire John Birmingham’s Patreon page.

This. This seems to be a sure-fire method of getting my work out to you all, and I would be paid some small amount per month to do so.

I take this question to you readers directly: would you be interested in paying a few dollars per month to see my latest and greatest? What would you like to see? How much would you be willing to pay?

Hell, how many of you would actually cross the threshold and join the Cool Kids Club?

I need answers to these questions.

Something I could do is begin work immediately on a NEW TRILOGY, one that’s not tied up in commitments. A new sci-fi universe, just for my readers.


At least once a week you would get a new chapter to chew on, and we could hang out and talk it over. At the end of each book, you’d get a complimentary e-book copy.

What do you think?

This is something I’m interested in.

But who cares about me.

The question is: are you interested?

I’m all ears.

The Battered Helmet

Hey, readers. Welcome to the North American spring, boy, am I glad that the better weather is finally here.

Well, with good weather comes flea markets and what are known as “garage sales,” sometimes I go to those. You never know what you can find. I attended a large one in this area recently on a sunny but cold day, and what do you know, I found this battered helmet for sale. The price was reasonable, so I decided to add it to my collection.

Kooky, I know. During the lockdown things got a little weird. I wrote A LOT. Plus, I spent tons of time on the internet. At times I made purchases; I decided to start collecting helmets.

Now, I already had a small collection. There were a few I had inherited, plus there were a few that I got in the service.

See below.

I see the helmet as a signature clothing item for a soldier; a piece of protective wear that signals what it is that you do for a living.

In this case, the helmet protects against flying bits of metal, blunt force trauma, and under the right conditions they will even stop a bullet.

The US has eighteen million living veterans, so that means that there is a lot of this type of junk to be found at yard sales. Much of it has a story, good or bad. The helmet I found a couple of days ago had obviously seen hard and long service, it was produced by McCord in late 1944. It was covered in several layers of brushed on ugly green paint, and what was cool was that in places traces of the original WW2 paint was visible.

This helmet has a story. To make things even better, a soldier’s name was carved in the paint on the inside, along with the name of a tiny town in Tennessee.

I googled the name, the gentleman is still alive. He is of the Korean War generation.

This. This is history. The price of admission is low, a couple of twenty dollar bills.

Maybe it’s odd, but I find this sort of thing to be fascinating.

This interest in history translates into writing; it blends well with science fiction. Mix it up, then puke the words onto the page and you get an alternate history trilogy.

My chief goal for 2021: Get the trilogy’s first book published, no matter what.