How the sense of smell can knock the stuffing out of writer’s block

The other day I was trying to come up with a feel for a scene. I could almost see it. I could almost touch it. But as luck would have it, it slipped through my fingers.

I decided to call it a day and run some errands. One of those errands required a run to the grocery store. The produce aisle, to be exact.


I remember turning down an aisle surrounded by berries and melons. Suddenly the scene I had given up on came alive.

Now I could see it. I could hold it in my hand. But most of all I was there.

The smell of berries reminded me of my hometown and because of that my mind turned to the direction it needed.


So what just happened?

Why did this tiny little experience get me over the hump? The berries had nothing to do with my story, nor did my hometown.

But somewhere in the darkest corner of my mind an emotion was stirred and with it the scene I was looking for came alive.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work every time but when it does I’m on top of the world. Give me the smell of sawdust or raspberries or certain perfumes and you will witness the disintegration of the world’s largest writer’s block.

explosion 1

Yes, it’s messy.


A Mind of its Own

But this wonderful mystery plays by its own rules. A sense of humor if you will and in a blink of an eye it will disappear. Sometimes for weeks.

But I don’t mind because it always comes back. Sure, its little game of hide and seek is annoying but I’ll take it. Sometimes a surprise visit is better than no visit at all.

So the next time your story is at a standstill follow your nose. Seek out that smell from yesteryear. It may have nothing to do with the work at hand but it will calm you and take you down the path you need.



Happy Friday Everyone!!!


Dempsey’s Grill – A Look Inside


books 7

Side note: Last week I introduced the protagonist of my novel, Gibson Baker. Today I’m introducing to you the man the novel is named after.



We all knew this guy

When I created Gibson I knew he would need someone to fall back on. Someone from his childhood or, in this case, his teenage years.

Enter Dempsey.

Dempsey was Gibson’s comfort zone. The type of guy who made things better the longer he was around.

At least for a little while.


Black hair – Blue eyes and forever 19

When I first wrote Dempsey I tried to visualize what he looked like. I saw a tall raggedy hair guy who was quite pleased with his appearance but not exactly arrogant. For reasons unknown I saw Tommy Lee of Motley Crue.

Poor Dempsey.

Along with his tall raggedy hair look, Dempsey displayed a trademark boyish grin and a non-stop man-child attitude. When I say man-child I’m leaning heavily on the child.

Dempsey is 29 years old but unlike Gibson he never had a career. He was one of those guys who seemed destined to stay 19 no matter how hard he tried.

He was someone you may have met once or twice in your life. He was always starting over, always convinced the next big thing was right around the corner.

Like some of us who finished our 20’s with little to show, a feeling of dread and fear was rapidly growing inside of him.

We either were him or we knew him.


Dempsey’s Last Chance

When Gibson came home Dempsey had just inherited some money. With his 30th birthday within sight he made a decision to take a chance. He would open a restaurant and name it Dempsey’s Grill.

This time there would be no starting over. This was the real deal.

But there was one small problem: He had no clue what he was doing. But sometimes fear makes us do crazy things and sometimes it makes us brave. In Dempsey’s case he had a dash of both.

Dempsey was the kind of guy you’d want on your side when things were at their worst. When he wasn’t chasing a dream or a girl he was listening. In Gibson’s case this was the best friend to have. 

Welcome Home


I write in a ridiculous place

Every now and then I will see a picture of a writer’s perfect writing place. It’s one of those settings complete with nice fluffy pillows, comfortable chairs and a large window within reach.

Reading 1

The crystal chandelier is a nice touch too.

For some reason it’s always sunny or stormy. Nothing in between.

The view consists of a lake or trees. The trees are full of birds or wildlife running nearby. Curled up next to the window is the writer churning out amazing words with ease.

Oh, and one more. If it’s winter there’s always a cozy fireplace nearby.



And then there’s me

Chairs 1

Yes. This is where I write every day.

But it wasn’t always that way. A while back I came up with a great idea. I would turn my man’s den into the perfect writing extravaganza.

man den

What’s not to love, I remember telling myself. I have the computer, my cool cup full of pens. My weight bench, a laundry basket, a dead bug or 50 and a live bug or a 100…..damn, I need to take care of that.

But there was one slight problem. Whenever I sat down to create, the ideas dried up.

Sure, I had my computer. I had my resources at my fingertips. I had my privacy and my really cool TV and movies on hand and endless video games at my call.

I’m now beginning to see the problem.

So what is it with these magical places that stir our creative minds? Are we tapping into the stories pipeline? A wormhole to their world?

But most of all why is it when I sit in my little corner of the kitchen it all comes together?


Mysteries are Good

On one hand it’s probably good I don’t know the answer. Sometimes we need unsolved mysteries in our lives but on the other hand it would be nice to have a clue as to why everything comes together at the kitchen table.

So here I am, knee deep in ideas and novels and all that good stuff. Sure, I have to share a spot with the cats and I always lose my place come dinner time, but I don’t mind.

It works.

So if any of you have that odd little place in the corner of your house that doesn’t make any sense, don’t worry. Your creative mind is working and that really cool wormhole where all the magic awaits is all that matters.

Enjoy your special writing place.


Happy Friday Everyone!!!

Dempsey’s Grill – The Protagonist

For those of you who are new, this is a series that I’m writing for my upcoming book, Dempsey’s Grill. I want to give a little insight into who these people are and all the good and bad stuff in their lives.





Who is this guy?

Dempsey’s Grill is told through the eyes of Gibson Baker. A down on his luck 29 year old.

He is at the age where most of us believe we should have it all figured out. The lucky ones do but as for the rest of us, we’re left searching for answers.

Gibson is the rest of us.

With his girlfriend kicking him out, his high-school teaching career terminated and his dream of living the good life in Seattle over he returns home to Mom and Dad in Eugene, Oregon.

Like so many of us in times like this Gibson experiences defeat, followed by fear. But most of all he experiences an odd smell from the spare bedroom he is forced to sleep in.

To add to his misery his mom turned his old room into a nursery.


Dempsey to the rescue

With his defenses down and his hope for the future bleak, Gibson is offered to be partners in his friend’s new dream.

Gibson’s high-school buddy Dempsey has big plans. A restaurant of his own. His name in lights and home of the best burgers in town.

Realizing Dempsey will fail in this new found adventure Gibson accepts the offer. Aside from moping around what else is he going to do with his time?


There she is

Gibson follows Dempsey through town recruiting employees. They both know they haven’t a clue what they’re doing but that doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s good to be lost with company.

Dempsey drags Gibson into a bar near the University district. It is in that bar where everything changes.

Her name is Gail. His best friend when they were little. The love of his life when they were teenagers and the cause of his broken heart when she moved away.


Gail changes everything

Working in a dive bar Gail quickly accepts Dempsey’s offer. It didn’t take long for the three to realize they are in the same boat.

The unlimited losers club.

In no time at all Gibson realizes he never stopped loving her.


The Antagonists

But the losers have an antagonist. Actually they have two.

Gibson’s older sister, Hope. A bossy, ultraconservative living in a liberal town who is not exactly pleased that Gibson has moved home.

The second is Lourdes, Gibson’s famous ex who gave him the boot. Or did she? Lourdes enjoys playing games and Gibson’s heart is so tempting.  

Both are power hungry, demanding and see nothing wrong with snacking on our three favorites the way you and I would snack on a salty chip.


Learning to survive

With determination, love and friendship Gibson survives and while he survives he discovers a strength he never knew existed and a love that he thought was lost.


Dear Query, I hate you.

Query 2

 The other day I was on the lookout for a new show to watch. I’m always looking for that hidden gem and every now and then I find one.

I was scrolling through a list of shows when I came across something called Last Man on Earth. The title didn’t grab me but the description did.

The year is 2020 and after a deadly virus has swept the planet, only one man is left on earth: Phil Miller. He used to be just an average guy who loved his family and hated his job. Now in his RV, Phil searches the country for other survivors. He has traveled to every city, every town and every outpost in the United States, Mexico and Canada and has found no one. As he returns to his hometown of Tucson, Phil comes to the painful realization that he is almost certainly the last living being on the face of the earth. All he wants is for someone, anyone to find him in Tucson. Preferable a woman. 

 In just a few words, 116 to be exact, it told me everything I needed to know and because of that I was sold.

About this time I found myself traveling back to an age old question that I could never answer. It goes something like this:

Why am I the worst query writer ever?

A while back my good friend KM Allan wrote an excellent piece on this topic. For me her post was a reminder on everything I do wrong.

No matter how hard I try and no matter how many novels I may write, chances are pretty high I am going to struggle with this damn query writing gig for the rest of my days.

So why is that? Why do I struggle with something that should be so simple?

Query 1

As time moved on I have spoken to others and discovered I’m not alone in this. True, they’re not as bad as me but their struggles and frustrations are real.

In a way I feel we’ve created our own little club.

Welcome to the ‘I Suck at Query Club’! Members please sign in. Donations accepted. Please help yourself to snacks. Today is BBQ chip day.

If I had written Last Man on Earth there is no way I could have written a query like that. Now you would think it would be easy. It drew me in. The story line was perfect and by the time I fished I knew the protagonist.

But let’s face it, mine would have been a wreck and you would have moved on to something else.

So I finally came to the conclusion that I am to heavily invested in my story and because of that I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Have someone else write it.

I have a mind that can write a novel but I do not have a mind that can write a query. So if you’re like me have your editor or beta reader or something with a natural talent to write it.

It’s not their story. They are on the outside looking in and sometimes when you’re in the middle it’s hard to see the forest from the trees.

Some of us are naturals at this and some of us really suck at it. If you happen to be on the sucky end of things embrace the reality. And while you’re embracing it find someone who is better at it than you.

Happy Friday Everyone!!!!!

Query 3

My First Novel

Dempsey 5

Sometime this August my first novel Dempsey’s Grill will be released. I’ll go into details at a later time about my publisher and the amazing people who brought me in. I’ll also tell you all about my two talented editors who pushed me to the limit, forcing me to tell the best story I can.

But until then I thought it would be fun to write a series about my book and the characters involved. My goal is to have you get to know them and hopefully care about them as much as I do.

They have a way of growing on you.


How it all started

I always thought I would write a book full of action or maybe something scary but here I am writing a novel full of comedy and romance. The world is full of surprises, isn’t it?

So much of what we write comes from within. A lot of me and the people from my past and present spilled into this novel so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised in the way it turned out.


Who – What – Where

Dempsey’s Grill takes place in the summer of 2008. Our lead character is a guy named Gibson and the story is told though his eyes.

He was living in Seattle with his girlfriend. They were living in a house owned by her dad. In one swift move she admits she’s bored. In a blink of an eye Gibson is single and homeless.

Oh, and one more thing: He was a high-school English teacher but do to budget cuts he was let go earlier that day.

To say Gibson was having a bad day is a pretty accurate statement.

Part 1 ends with a soon to be 30 year old Gibson Baker homeless and nowhere else to turn but his hometown of Eugene, Oregon and the dreaded phone call to mom and dad.


Rock Bottom

One of the things that intrigued me with this idea was starting over. At one time or another many of us have faced this. Some of us more than others.

My 20’s, for example, was one giant do-over. I’m pretty sure I hold the world record for false starts. But for as bad as Gibson’s situation was I wanted to show people that moving home and starting over is not always a bad thing.

In Gibson’s case, returning home was a blessing in disguise.

I’ve always been a believer that bad things have a way of opening our eyes, helping us grow and showing us what really matters. Looking back that’s the main reason I wrote this novel.

Gibson returned home financially and emotionally broke. It was the last thing in the world he wanted and the best thing that ever happen.


The Cast of Characters

Besides Gibson three main characters are introduced. His best friend from high-school, Dempsey. His first love, Gail and his ultra conservative older sister, Hope. I’ll introduce you to each of them in the coming weeks. I have a feeling they will write most of it.

It was an amazing experience to be a part of their lives. In no time at all I was dictating. I was surprised how fast they took over. At the same time I’m not all that surprised. Characters have a way of doing that, don’t they? Soon we’re standing by as our pens and keyboards magically take over.

So here I am, a few months away from having my first book published. It took a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and a whole bunch of little things that would take me all night to write.

But most of all it was fun. And that’s a good enough reason to do anything.

Dempsey 6



Cheeseburger my Enemy


To start with I made a typo that I happily discovered moments before I hit the publish button. Instead of writing Cheeseburger my Enemy I accidentally wrote Cheeseburger my Enema.

Now that would have been an interesting post.


I curse you dear photo

In the summer of 2009 I was looking through a collection of pictures that had recently been taken. Suddenly a picture of me flashed before my eyes causing me to gasp.

I was no longer thin. No longer trim. No long anything that starts with a T and no longer anything but fat.

Not long after this shocking development I had my yearly physical. The doctor suggested I lose ten pounds. I upped the wager and said twenty.

I remember later that day, while visiting my favorite burger shop, I wondered what exactly the problem could be. As I looked down at my favorite cheeseburger dripping on my favorite shirt I realized in that moment that I wasn’t the rocket scientist I claimed to be.



The Master Plan

The solution was simple: Instead of a cheeseburger every other day reward myself with one per week.

Simple, right?

Well, not exactly. At the time the kids had lots of activities which required a lot of driving. It was then that I noticed all the burger joints in town.

For a while I was convinced the cheeseburgers were following me. Wendy’s and McDonalds were running neck and neck while the always beloved Five Guys was gaining speed.

Their signs were big, beautiful and oh so welcoming. I swear they were calling my name. It was in that moment of name calling and sweet beautiful sign images that I realized just how hard it was to eat healthy.


The world is my deep fryer

burger 2

It wasn’t long after this that I realized I no longer needed my belt. My shirts were snug and my back was constantly killing me.

Somehow I forced myself to turn away. No more Tuesday’s two for one specials with a side milkshake. Now there was this weird dish called a salad. This funny green thing called a cucumber and a red object I once saw on the Wizard of Oz the locals call an apple.

But the most shocking thing of all was the discovery that there are actual things in this world that are not deep fried.

I know, weird.


Mission Accomplished

By the end of the year I dropped twenty-five pounds. As the years have passed somehow I have kept the pounds off.

I won’t lie, every now and then I give in to a pizza on a Friday night but I do it in moderation.

I have actually learned to develop a fond taste of salad, red peppers and raw carrots. Sure, a juicy cheeseburger is hard to pass up but somehow I keep my head down and keep moving.

A salute to all of you who are able to run away from those tasty cheeseburgers. Keep your head down and continue the good fight.

We’re in this together!!!!!


Happy Friday Everyone!!!

The day I listened to the protagonist

A funny thing happened

Character 2

The other day I was looking over the topics of today’s post. I always keep a number of items on hand and I know all I have to do is pick one. But something happened the other day that I would like to share.

As some of you may know I have been struggling with my second novel. For the longest time nothing seemed to work.

It wasn’t the storyline. I can only write what I want to read and this particular story was exciting to me.

So what was the problem? Why was this so hard?


It was all so easy

When I wrote my first novel I wrote it in first person. The unreliable narrator as we like to call them. Looking back I could have written it in third person and nothing would have been lost. But I purposely keyed on one person.

The weakest in fact and it worked.

But when I decided on novel number two I was determined to do it in third person. This would be a good experience for me, I convinced myself. It would broaden my scope and display a well-rounded writer.

But there was one problem: I made it all about me. Not once did I listen to the story or the characters.


My biggest mistake

In these last couple of months my focus was on finding ways to make myself better. By moving from first to third I might impress the agents, the editors or a publisher.

By now you can see where this is going.


The author’s greatest gift is listening


Novel number two centers on a guy who loves the spotlight. In a nutshell he’s an egomaniac who will crash and burn and slowly pick himself up.

Last week out of frustration I gave in and wrote a scene in first person. I didn’t plan on keeping it. To be honest I had no idea what I was going to do but by the end of the morning I had over 2000 words all in his voice.

What the hell?

Suddenly it no longer felt like a job. I was actually having fun.

So what does all this mean? I haven’t a clue.

On one hand maybe I can only write in first person but on the other maybe I’m following what the story dictates. What he dictates.

What I do know is this: A writer needs to listen to their characters. The stories we write are not about us, they are about people and places and things and for reasons unknown they chose us to tell them.


It took me a while.

My egomaniac protagonist pushed away the third person version that I was trying to tell. No matter how many times I tried to gift wrap it he saw through it and stomped it like a bug.

So now I’m knee deep in his voice. He is telling me where this story will travel and surprisingly he has opened up and allowed me to see his world.

Doing it my way was a mistake I hope I never make again. Check that: Will Never Make Again.

Like I’ve always said: Characters come to us so it only makes sense that we listen and write their adventures their way.  

Characters 1


The Catcher in the Rye – A look back


Weeks ago I discussed my experience when I first read Catcher in the Rye. I loved Holden when I was 15 and hated the kid when I was 20.

Now, a little older and a tad bit wiser, not to mention a father of two teenagers, I was curious how I would view Holden the third time around.

The results were interesting.

Before I started I had planned on taking a lot of notes and at the beginning I did but I soon discovered it took away my concentration and overall feel of Holden and his journey.

So I decided to read it like any other book, give it some thought and write my conclusion in the most honest way I know how.

Keep in mind this is simply my opinion of this young man and my conclusions can be as right as it is wrong but regardless of right or wrong I saw him through a father’s eyes.

My eyes, that is.

The book was published in 1951. I read somewhere it took JD Salinger about a decade to write it but I pretended the days spent with Holden were from the year it was published.

1951 America was a conservative time. It was post World War 2. We were involved in the Korean War and the threat of communism had dug itself into the heart of most Americans.

I wasn’t around in the 50’s but I have a feeling the way people dealt with emotions, particularly the loss of a loved one is far different than the way we handle it today.

In today’s world we are much more open, our feelings are expressed and encouraged but in 1951 something tells me the opposite took center stage.

The story was told in Holden’s words. He had an older brother, a young brother and the youngest, a sister.

His little brother Allie died in 1946 of leukemia. He was eleven years old. This tragic event made me believe that this was the heart of the story.

JD 2

Most of Holden’s grief was dealt with internally. I kept getting the impression the family swept their emotions under the rug resulting in a volcano ready to erupt.

The older brother lived in California, Holden was sent off to college in New York City while leaving his little sister behind. The story opens with Holden being expelled for bad grades and I feel his bad grades were calculated.

He wants to go home to grieve and to protect his little sister from death. 

I can understand why the book was shocking for its time. He questioned religion, talked about sex and used lots of profanity. All of this taboo in 1951.

JD 3

Most of the topics Holden discussed were whispered behind closed doors in the 50’s. I can’t help but wonder if people saw themselves when they first read it and were ashamed or embarrassed at what they saw.

If this book were written today I doubt it would have received the same attention it did back then. But that’s a good thing. It shows how much we have grown.

As a father I wanted to tell this young man to stop running. Embrace your emotions, Holden. Cry. Take care of your little sister and never be ashamed of anything.

You deserve the right to miss your little brother, to protect those you love and to be mad at death for what it did to you and your family.

In other words get it out. Scream from the roof top and tell the world how angry you are that the grim reaper took away your little brother.

I’m happy I read it again. I now have a new appreciation for JD Salinger and the courage he displayed. I have a feeling it became a trying time for him once the book became popular.

This might explain why he became a recluse.

As for Holden, I’ll come to my conclusion some other time on what I feel happened to him in later years. If there’s ever a fan fiction that needs to be written this is it.

JD 1


Happy Friday Everyone!!!!