Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Writing tools

Being a technical writer by trade and new author of fiction by choice, I find it interesting that there are so many different authoring tools out there. When I first started writing, oh so many years ago, I was using WordPerfect.  With a change of positions and working for a Microsoft shop, I soon learned Microsoft Word and that has been my writing tool ever since.

I am quite happy with using MS Word for all of my writing needs. At least I have been until going through NaNoWriMo last November ans seeing the myriad other writing tools out in the world.  I now wonder if I am giving up some key functionality or time saving  feature by not using another application.

Right now I am sticking with Word since that is where my novel currently lives and it is where I am editing it.  I'm looking for opinions of regarding other tools, though.  All of my computers run on Windows so that is the first consideration, but do you have a favorite writing tool and if so, why is it your favorite and what does it do that Word does not.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Thank you!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Novel Excerpt number 3

Here is another excerpt from my novel "A Quarter Ton to Kona":


Since I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer I had not been back on the bike.  Not even for a short ride around the block.  Recognizing that I could be off the bike for a while, Saturday morning I decided it was time for a ride.  I didn’t have a plan for how far I might go, but I wanted to get out and enjoy it.  It was supposed to be hot, but my plan was to head out early and try to beat the heat.
I got up at 4:40 and got dressed for the ride.  The sun was due up about 5:25 and I hoped to see it rise while I was riding.
I grabbed some PowerAde along with a couple of Honey Stinger waffles for breakfast and headed into the garage.  I aired up the tires, put a stick of gum in my mouth, grabbed my helmet and gloves and was out the door before 5:00.  My destination was somewhere to the west.  I wasn’t sure how far I would make it since I haven’t been on the bike in a month but it didn’t really matter as long as I get to ride today.
There were just a couple of wisps of cloud in the sky, catching fire from the sun just below the horizon as I swung my leg over my steed and I headed off to the west.
I tried not to ride too fast but as I started going I just felt like I needed to push it.  It was if I was trying to run away from something and the harder I pushed myself the better I felt.  Shortly my breath was coming in ragged gasps, but I kept at it.  My world collapsed down and all I was aware of was my breathing and the turning of the cranks.  I felt the pain start in my legs, a burning ache that would normally make me back off, but today I needed to feel that burning.  I needed to push as hard as I had ever pushed. 
I passed Fort Apache Rd and Grand Canyon Drive and I kept pushing.  Ahead of me I saw the sun start to light the tops of the mountain peaks.  I pushed harder and the burning intensified.  My breathing was nothing but gasps for air, but I didn’t want to let up.  I made the slight turn along the kink in the road to the left and knew I was only a mile from the intersection of route 160.  I kept the hammer down, but knew I was running out of steam.  I down shifted a gear and then another as my legs were giving out.
I was to the traffic information sign, less than a half mile to go.  I dropped down to my middle ring and it was too easy, I was turning the cranks too fast, but that didn’t last long.  I was slowing as the turn approached.  I downshifted again and hit the slight downhill before the climb to the turn.
I was on my middle ring and upshifted a gear, then two to keep my momentum into the climb, but my legs were weak, I had nothing left and quickly had to down shift, one, two, 3 gears.  I was in my second to lowest gear ion the middle ring and barely able to keep moving forward but I was still moving.  I made it up the incline and around the turn. The road leveled out a bit here and I stopped for a moment to catch my breath and take a drink of PowerAde as the sun cleared the eastern horizon.
In that moment I simply enjoyed the breathtaking view as the sun light the landscape.  As the light flooded the valley I appreciated the subtle differences in color, the browns, tans and taupes all looked rosy in the light from the rising sun.  I knew it was a good day.  How could it not be?  I was here, enjoying the sunrise, having gotten here under my own power, riding my bike.
The moment was fleeting.  As the sun rose into the sky the temperature started to climb as well.  I felt the drain the exertion had put on my body.  I started riding again, heading slowly down the road for another mile or so before I recognized that I was in no real condition to go farther.  It had been stupid to push so hard so early in what I had hoped to be a long ride.  I was cooked.  I was done.  Fortunately it was downhill back to the house and I had to do little more than steer the bike as I was exhausted and barely hanging on.
I got to the house, put the bike in the garage and staggered into the house.  I collapsed into my chair.  It took a while to regain some strength but it had been worth it to be out there and see that sunrise this morning on the side of the road with no one else around.
I realized I had forgotten to stop my Garmin when I entered the house.  Fortunately I had it set to pause whenever I stopped moving.  I stopped it now and curiously put it into the cradle to download the file from my ride.  I had no real expectations for the number but was surprised when I looked on Strava. Seems I had set a personal record on the segment from Fort Apache to Route 159. Looking at the numbers I realized that I had done that section a full minute faster than I had done it before. I guess going all out on the bike does have its benefits.

After that I was tired and ended up nodding off for a couple of hours until Linda woke me to go get ready for some breakfast. It was a good morning.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

To be a writer

In my mind, I've always had the ability to be a writer.  I can sit down and churn out many words about this or that topic almost at will.  Primarily these words are in the form of instruction manuals or training aids - what I would normally think of as "technical writing."  This is the easy stuff.  It has a specific purpose, a well defined framework and it has a very specific structure.  Where I falter is in the realm of fiction.

I love a good story.  I love to read stories where the underdog saves the day and does so through various trials and feats of self-discovery all encapsulated within a tale full of humor and light.  Piers Anthony is one of my favorite authors because he has a great sense of humor and incorporates that into his work.  I would love to write like him, but I am not as clever nor as quick with a quip as he seems to be.

My goal is to explore this realm of fiction writing and hopefully to produce something that others might feel is worth reading.  I know there are stories I need to tell, now I just need to tell them.

To be a writer isn't all that hard.  To be a writer, all one has to do is to put words on page or on screen.  What is hard is to be a good writer and that is what I want to be.  So forgive me as I practice and refine this craft and put forth small snippets of my writing here so that I may garner a bit of honest feedback.