Sample from my upcoming memoir: Week 6

As promised in the 16 Week Writing Challenge, I will be putting up samples of work I did from the preceding week.


From my memoir in progress, Down Ladder: A Submariner’s Tale.


           “Well, Clark, I got one question for you, and you’d better answer honestly, or there will be serious consequences. Understand?”

            “Yes, chief,” the ball in my throat popping out my lips.

            “Clark” he said, doing that fucking leaning in close shit they must teach somewhere at military intimidation school.

            “Yes, chief?”

            “Are you a fucking Russian spy!”

            “No! I swear, I don’t know what that form is. I really have no idea. Honest, chief, I’ve never seen that shit before in my entire life. I swear to Christ, I’ve never seen it before!”

            “Is that so?” he said, standing back up straight. “Well, that’s funny shipmate, because your signature is on the bottom of it!”

            He flicked the paper to me. It landed on the deck. I picked it up. My signature, unmistakably penned in my own stick-fence handwriting, was signed on the bottom. The date stamp told me I had signed it with PO Krotsky, back when I was enlisting. The rest of the document was, indeed, typed in a foreign language. They thought it was Russian. To me, though, it looked more like a computer made up its own secret language one day, just to curse its human masters.

16 Week Writing Challenge: Week 6 (the bathymetry of word)

The metrics:


  • 2 chapters complete
  • 6,795 words typed
  • 971 (average) word count per day
  • 15:53 spent writing total
  • 2:16 (average) spent in daily writing
  • 67,106 total word count


  • 2 novels in-progress
  • 1 novel complete
  • 278 pages read
  • 6:06 spent reading
  • 52 min.(approx. average) spent in daily pleasure reading


  • 0hrs

All my writing stats went up this week: word count – up 1,500; total time – up 2 hours; daily word count – up 200 words; daily writing – up 20 minutes.


My reading stats, however, plunged. Like, Marianas Trench deep. That’s what happens when all your professors, probably with only evil intent in mind the bastards, simultaneously assign great swaths of new books to read, which accompanies the even greater tracts off homework-landfill you must complete. I wish I was Jewish just so I could, with proper dignity and right, shout “Oy vey!” heavenward. But, my fists aren’t that strong.

College: The most expensive book recommendations you will ever receive.

Thanks, Oprah.

Anywho, till next time, you crazed hounds.

Keep writing, keep reading, keep fighting!

Easy does it…but do it.


Sample from my upcoming memoir: Week 5

As promised in the 16 Week Writing Challenge, I will be putting up samples of work I did from the preceding week.


From my memoir in progress, Down Ladder: A Submariner’s Tale.


I’d heard off the Kursk accident as well, which killed all 118 hands on board, but that was Russia’s business — not ours. Somehow, though, I’d never heard of these total tragedies from the past. I simply can’t imagine the impact losing a submarine today would have on the national conscious. When the Thresher went down, it was big fucking news. The nation mourned. President Kennedy made a statement. The national ensign was ordered at half-mast for three full days.

The truth was, from triumphs to tragedies, you couldn’t get away from U.S. Submarine Force history on base.  Most of the roads are named after WWII era submarines that went down in battle, or others that were lost at sea. In fact, each street marker lists how many hands were lost when she went down. You see their sacrifice at every turn, and every intersection.

            That’s reverence, America. True reverence. Get it?

16 Week Writing Challenge: Week 5(and the Vonneguts claim another)

The metrics:


  • 1 chapter complete
  • 5169 words typed
  • 738(average) word count per day
  • 13:42 spent writing total
  • 1:57(average) spent in daily writing
  • 59, 694 total word count


  • 2 novels in-progress
  • 315 pages read
  • 10:15 spent reading
  • 1:56 (approx. average) spent in daily pleasure reading


  • 0hrs

This data does not include things I have to read and write for school, the writing time I spend on this blog and other projects, or the reading time spent every morning in meditation & prayer. The only data accounted for is the writing done for my novel, and the reading I choose to read.

So, I’m back on track this week. Last week was all catch up, and the week before that saw life kicking me down a well. I’m happy to “be back up where we belong” (you’re singing it, admit it.)

The numbers aren’t really comparable from last week, due to the catch-up pace I ran at. I”m at an hour deficit though, due to my son’s strep throat, a cold, and actually seeing my family for a few fleeting hours this week. I did notice that some of my writing  was slow, measured, even weighted at times these last few days.

I dealt with some heavy subject matter the last two chapters. It took some serious thinking to work through what I needed to, and I’m no philosopher. I found myself thinking on the page more than once, a normal occurrence for me. When that happens I get prose-drunk, and can’t leave a paragraph, sentence, or word alone, till it’s nice and toxic. Those lines should never drive home, but dammit, that’s the most powerful stuff I got. So, I indulge. 

‘Afore me knows it, two hours are gone, and I have to study for everything that is not what I want to do—such is college.

McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is spellbinding. Yet, at times, I find myself asking “how come you don’t have to use quotation marks, or normal punctuation,” and “there is a limit to how many times the word ‘and’ can be used in a sentence, and you, sir, have exceeded it!” Alas, Harold Bloom never seems to be wrong, and he lauded Blood Meridian as the modern Moby Dick. I can’t put it in that company, I refuse to put anything in Melville’s company actually—even DFW— but the book is mind-boggling. I could read it for its prose style alone. Now throw in perhaps the most “beautiful” violence ever in a book (trust me), and a madman that does indeed have smacks of Ahab about him, and I’m hooked. If you haven’t read it, and you want to be a literature snob like I, get to it.

On the other hand, Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest, Here I Am, is painstaking (most of the time) to get through, which is a real drag because Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was the first great post 9/11 book on the topic. A masterpiece through and through. Everything is Illuminated is wonderful as well. But this one… I dunno. Seems he might be succumbing to the Vonneguts— that is, the crotchetiness of writers as they grow older. 

This is a miserable tale, told in almost sitcom-esque episodes. Not horrible, but man, it’s rough going to finish. Foer has an incredible knack for tying pathways far back in history to what’s happening in the present, real or made-up, no matter. This time around though, it doesn’t seem there will be any catharsis, and if there is, the price is too high. Perhaps that’s what he’s going for, but how much misery can one take before saying enough? I’m at my limit, but have very little to go to finish. Who knows, perhaps he’ll pull it off in the end.

I sure hope he does, because he is one of our best. Period.

That’s all.



Sample from my upcoming memoir. Week 4.

As promised in the 16 Week Writing Challenge, I will be putting up samples of work I did from the preceding week.


From my memoir in progress, Down Ladder: A Submariner’s Tale.


        At first, the sermons Chaplain Scrubbin’ Bubbles gave were distant, far away. The stories he’d preach on were like fuzzy marbles, ricocheting around my memory banks from long ago. They’d tease my synapses, just a hair, but would leave again as soon as they came. The things I did recall from my boyhood were small, childish. Jesus wanted people to be nice to one another. They didn’t want to do that, so they crucified him. He was resurrected on Easter, and born on Christmas. Noah brought animals aboard the big pirate-ship. There was a rainbow. A garden at the beginning. Adam, Eve, Cain, Able—they were all people that did stuff. I remembered a drawing I saw as a kid of David slinging a rock at Goliath. I guessed that was important. Definitely knew the whole water into wine trick. Thought that was about as righteous as it got.

Persevere, or Perseverate: Week 3 of the 16 Week Writing Challenge

This was a rough one. All my numbers went down. Abysmal, really. I only got about half the word count from last week finished. My reading hours were also cut in half.

So, what gives?

This week was relentless. My son got an ear infection. He isn’t supposed to get these anymore because he had tubes inserted, but one fell out. Now, back to  infections. The transmission on my car went. Lucky lad that I am, I had enough green to cover the cost of a rebuild. It took it all though, savvy?

The main reason my numbers are so poor this week, why my long-face should certainly be screaming through my words by now, is I had to put my dog down last Friday. That’s her pictured above. Bella was her name. She was fifteen years old.

The last six months of her life, watching her march toward death, were agony for my family and I. She suffered from end-stage liver disease, and breast cancer. The tumor on her belly ballooned to the size of my palm. On such a little dog as she (miniature dachshund ), that tumor weighed her down all the way till the end. She could barely see or hear anymore, and many a morning I awoke to clean up her shit, piss, and vomit off the living room floor.

There isn’t a thing on earth I wouldn’t give to clean up her mess right now.

My family and I have taken the blow rather hard, yet we persevere. Life keeps moving, no matter how bad I try to nail the fucker down. We keep on, and deal.

It is not my intention to eulogize my beloved Bella here. I haven’t the words. The point is that I kept writing, everyday, through the whole ordeal. I can hold my head up high for that.

Now, the problem. I’ve come up 4:15 short of my weekly writing minimum. I shoot for two hours a day, everyday of the week. If I don’t hit this mark, I run a deficit until I get caught up. By Sunday, I should have at least put down fourteen hours of solid writing time, my bare minimum. This, did not happen these last seven days.

I see three options to take. You may see more, but this is how I’m running it.

  1. Forgive and forget. Hey, no one will blame me for cutting myself some slack for a death in the family. None, that is, except me. I don’t like that. This one, is out.
  2. Stay up late to get the writing done. If I started right now, I would finish at 3:06a.m. I wake up at 5:30am every weekday. If these lack of writing hours were due to my own negligence, then I would inflict this penalty on myself. They aren’t, though. Life was out of my hands this week, and there was nothing I could do. So, I’ll put this one away till needed (hopefully, never.)
  3. Carry over the hours into next week. I’ve got to make up the writing time somehow, and I think this is it. So, I start out the week with a 4:15 deficit. I’ll get caught up. Just have to take it one day at  time.

I wish you all well this coming week. If you’ve got a pet, maybe give him or her an extra squeeze tomorrow. Love them with all your heart. Keep writing.

Till next time.



16 Week Writing Challenge: Week 2

The metrics:


  • 2 Chapters complete
  • 7095 words typed
  • 1013 (average) word count per day
  • 15.25hrs spent writing total
  • 2.25hrs (average) spent in daily writing


  • 3 novels started
  • 1 novel stopped
  • =2 novels currently
  • 396 pages read
  • 8:58 total reading
  • 1.25hrs (approx. average) spent in daily pleasure reading


  • 0 hours

This data does not include things I have to read and write for school, the writing time I spend on this blog and other projects, or the reading time spent every morning in meditation & prayer. The only data accounted for is the writing done for my novel, and the reading I choose to read.

So, how’d I do?

Well. I’m down a little over 2k in word count from last week, but I finished two chapters this week as opposed to one. My total writing time went down approximately 6hrs from last week. That’s ok, because those six hours were spent Sunday finishing one behemoth of a chapter in one crazed writing session. I don’t advise these mammoth sessions, they’re very taxing on the nerves. If you have a family (like me), this time-suck will certainly piss them off, which only aggravates you in the long run. Yet, at times, it’s unavoidable. One condition of this project is that I turn in, at minimum, one chapter of new writing by Sunday evening, every week. I did what I had to do, got it done, and now that monster chapter is  behind me. “Proud, Donnie.”

Taking out the time spent on that large chapter, as it was out of the norm for me, I’m still averaging 2.25hrs of writing everyday. My word count per day just tops 1000. I don’t write for word count, though. Some days I’ll get a few hundred words done, and others a few thousand. So be it. I’m more concerned with time. Hitting a daily word count is like meeting your quota in a factory. I don’t want to think of writing like that, so I don’t. Time is what I need to make it sing, and time is what I take to get the prose there—not word count. But hey, if word count is your thing, get after it. It’s not for me is all.  I keep a tally just to have a ballpark of what I’m accomplishing a day, but I won’t sweat it if my totals  are paltry. If those words are solid, I’m happy.

I strive for 2 hours of writing a day. Sometimes this can’t be accomplished. When this happens, I’ll run a deficit until I can get caught up. Say I only write for 1 hour a day (which is my absolute, barebones, can’t-sleep-till-I-do-it minimum), I will add the remaining hour I didn’t do on to the next days work load. If I don’t get it done then, or I add to the deficit more, I keep adding  on until I complete the hours. This might (and has) resulted in a six-hour day of writing, but I get caught up eventually. And though I run a deficit when I need to, running a surplus is right out! If the mood hits me and I have the time to write for eight hours, that’s fantastic. This doesn’t erase the two hours I need to do the following day, or the following day after that. In other words, I don’t bank hours one day so I don’t have to write the next.

No way.

All in all, I’m happy with my progress.

As for reading, you’re probably wondering what novel I stopped reading and why. I was reading “Running with Scissors,” and I made it through to about the 100 page mark. It’s a memoir about a child in a very fucked-up upbringing. I can usually take these sort of memoirs, but after a while I was just sick of being uncomfortable. When the author described walking in on his mother having sex with another woman, the minister’s wife no less, and the lackluster response his mom gave him (and his equally blasé response), I’d had enough.

I’ll only quit a novel for three reasons: style, content, or aimlessness.

I couldn’t take the content of this one any longer, not so much that it offended me or anything like that, but I didn’t believe the responses the characters were giving to the traumas all around them. Also, after 100 or so pages, this book wasn’t going anywhere, wasn’t going to reach any catharsis (or one that I cared to read about), so I wasn’t about to board the train to  nowhere along with it. There wasn’t anything really bad about the book, we were just never meant to hang out together. I never feel bad about dropping a book like a corpse to the grave. There are too many good reads out there to let a bad one hold you back.

The other books I’m reading are “The Call of the Wild / White Fang” by Jack London, and “Odd Thomas” by Dean Koontz. I’ve always wanted to read London but never got around to it. I’ve finished “The Call of the Wild,” and it was wonderful. I’m about to finish “White Fang“, which has me floored. Reading London is like a masterclass on how to ratchet up tension in your novel. Incredible. Koontz intrigued me, primarily because he’s been dogged as a Stephen King clone, but missing some of the most important pieces. Intrigued, it was time I made up my own opinion.

I find this claim totally unfounded. Koontz has a style all his own, and his work is very readable. I’m not saying Kind doesn’t have either of those, but I struggle to find the similarity. The only thing I can think of is “Odd Thomas” has a protagonist that interacts with the dead, and tries to help them. This is similar to the main character in King’s “The Dead Zone”, but, as far as I can tell, that’s where the similarities cease. Anyhow, if you’ve always been curious about Koontz, give him a try. So far, reading him has been all pleasure.

Reading is the one area I need to carve out more time for. It’s imperative to read as much as you can while you write. Otherwise, you’re running blind in a field of razor blades. Look to those whom have gone before you to lead the way.  That’s what I’m working  on this week.

How about you?





16 Week Writing Challenge – Week 1

First off, the stats:

  • 9,331 words written
  • 1 chapter complete
  • 20hrs, 53 min spent writing
  • 2 novels read
  • 2 novels finished

I’m averaging about two hours of writing every week-day, three hours on Saturday, and almost six hours on Sunday. I’m reading constantly.

I love it, but I’m exhausted. That’s the pace, though. I’ll get used to it as time marches on. “Fear does not exist in this dojo!”


I’ll write more next week when I have more time, but right now homework, and life, are calling.

I wish you all, everyone one of you, a week filled with joy, laughter, and hope.


Write a novel in one college semester (like me!)

A Christmas Carol, As I Lay Dying, and  A Clockwork Orange were all written in a few weeks.

I’ve given myself sixteen.

In my senior year of college.

I…am not so smart.

But, damnit!, I’m driven like hellfire to write this book.

So, the deal is that I write a chapter a week and hand it in for credit as an Independent Study, in lieu of an internship. I must complete my novel by May 5, the end of the semester, for this venture to be a success. Along the way I will be keeping writing and reading logs to account for how much work I’ve done.

Yes, I said reading logs.

One of the stipulations is that I watch no T.V. Whenever I want to watch a show, I must write, or read, instead. If you don’t think reading is as important as writing, as a writer, then you’re building a house with no foundation. It will crumble, people will die, and you will go straight to federal prison for criminal negligence—and good riddance I say!

My biggest distraction is T.V. Last summer I watched all the classic X-Files (202 episodes), all of Star Trek: The Next Generation (178 episodes), every Justified episode (78 total), the complete Breaking Bad series (62 episodes), and every Doc Martin episode (54, including a movie). That’s (roughly, of course) 575hrs spent in front of the tube. There were only 2,208hrs total last summer. That means that a little over a quarter of all my time off, my final summer before I have to go back to work, was spent in PASSIVE entertainment (not to mention all the movies I watched, either.)

I stopped when I started into Dr. Who.

I have a problem.

T.V. had to go. There was no way I was going to get anything written if I stared at the boob tube for that long. For many, their distraction may be social media, or video games, or a litany of other time pillaging endeavors. They’ve got to go if you want to get down river in your novel. Need proof?

Since the beginning of the semester, last Monday, I’ve written over 6,000 words.

There will be other stipulations, too, which my professor and I will hammer out this Tuesday at our first meeting. Speaking of the Good Doctor of Writing, his name is Dan Williams, and here’s a link to his blog. Check him out.

Every Sunday I’ll report on my progress with all you good people, and put up samples of the work I did that week. My hope is that I might inspire you to turn off the T.V. yourself, and put pen to paper. Remember, no one else is going to write your novel but you.

Isn’t it time we got to it? A-hmmm?