3 Books Changed my Life in 3 Months

3 Books Changed my Life in 3 Months

I’m not exaggerating.

The first book to impact my life was Stephen King’s book titled, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I’m sure every writer or wannabe writer says this book inspires them. But I wager that few writing lives and habits changed as dramatically and irrevocably as mine after reading it. The crux is, King’s personal journey and his writing habits became habits I needed to emulate.

The second book is titled, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. In it, Currey gives us 161 mini-biographies; snapshots, about the habits and rituals of writers, poets, painters, dancers, etc. Artists! I was spellbound by how fellow artists worked. All different, yet I found three common threads among most of them. 1) They wrote every day, mostly in the morning, 2) they took long walks for exercise and/or inspiration, and 3) they maintained their schedules unapologetically and without compromise.

The On Writing memoir and the mini-biographies in Daily Rituals put me on a solid path. I went from writing anywhere from zero to 179 words a day to cranking out 1700 to 2200 words a day. I told you! I got serious. I not only say I’m a writer these days, but I KNOW I’m a writer.

The third book is my own novel of course, Born of SinIMG_9709. My debut novel. My launch baby. My first entry into the world of authorship. I’m proud of it.

I’ve just reached the 100-pages point in the sequel, titled Born by Fire. With my current writing pace, I intend to finish the first draft by mid-March. That gets me to publishing it in August or September, if all goes according to plan. I’ll keep you posted.

My goal is to write at least one novel or non-fiction piece per year, for the rest of my life. I want to have a career like Stephen King’s. I’m doing my level best to write as close to 2,000 words per day as possible, and even walk four miles a day like he does.

My recommendation to you is to read all three of these books, for obvious reasons. I pray they inspire you and impact your life just as they’ve done for me.

Steady. Surely. Unapologetically and God willing, I intend to stay on the path, with my eyes on the prize.

Write on!

Eww. Seriously? That is so harsh.

Eww. Seriously? That is so harsh.

My writers’ group, organized through www.meetup.com, is in its seventh month of meeting. I’m proud that it continues to gain momentum. We have 32 members with about nine active participants. The group is diverse, too, which I’m proud to see.  On average, three white males, one black man and four black women represent the composition of the group. Diverse groups give a better set of critiques because the comments come from many perspectives and mind-sets.


You’ve already heard me say that it’s great to be a part of a writers’ group–for a few reasons.  A writers’ group:


  • Gives writers an assembly of like-minded people who inspire each other
  • Helps improve your writing from the constructive critiques
  • Makes you accountable to the craft so you write more often, and
  • Exposes and helps you gain appreciation for other voices and genres.


Tonight, it was my turn to get critiqued. The group already read my first two chapters so we discussed my third one.  They gave me great feedback.  But many of the comments weren’t what I expected or wanted to hear.  In my defense, let me say that my characters are complex—just as people are complex.  No one person is completely good (other than Jesus), and no one is completely bad (other than Satan). We all have varying degrees of goodness and evil running through our veins.


That said, the group said they enjoyed reading my chapter. Really liked it, even. But they cited things about a character that wasn’t believable to them.  I’ll accept all those comments and re-write much of what they suggested to me. My book is a fictional slice of the African-American experience. But check this out: Although the black woman is part of my expected demographic to buy the book, one of the black women in my group had the most constructively critical comments from the lot.  It was the older white man who identified with my character. He loved my storytelling, he said. He’s the one who “got me.”


The most crushing comment of the night was, “I could tell a woman wrote [this chapter].” The comment referred to a conversation in a bar between two of my male characters.  I suppose I’ve never been privy to a conversation solely between two men. Men often temper the way they talk when women are around–. So I must have only ever heard watered down conversations, I suppose. Even still, I thought I was better at composing dialog. I thought I knew how to get into the heads of my characters, men or women, geriatric or child, to give the appropriate voice and tenor a conversation.  Obviously, I need more work.


Tonight’s session was humbling. Sigh. The good part is, it’s better for my group to give me a brutally honest critique than to read a harsh critique on line, right!?



Write On!


Analyzing the Master Dickey. Author Eric Jerome Dickey, that is.

Analyzing the Master Dickey. Author Eric Jerome Dickey, that is.

Audio books are on my list of favorite things. I’m currently listening to Eric Jerome Dickey’s series of books about a character named Gideon. Gideon (no last name) is a powerfully sexy yet emotionally tormented contract killer. I just finished the book, “Dying for Revenge,” and have “Resurrecting Midnight” on standby to load into the car CD player. Gideon and his conflicts are compelling to me. I’m still thinking about him–and all the other characters, even though the book is over and I know he is safe now.

Listening to Dickey’s books has made me consider the impact of my own work on readers. I’m not comparing myself to Dickey’s talent, style or genre. Not at all. The similar part I want to achieve is to have my work be as compelling as the stories he writes. Well, no, that’s not true–. I want my stories to be even MORE compelling than his. I remember reading a quote that said something like: If your story is lagging, you can always add excitement to it by brining in “a man with the gun.” My book is character-based so I’m not sure I can introduce a gun-wielding scenario that would make sense for my story–. Instead, I will continue work on improving my own voice, my own style, and my own overall talent.

While contemplating Dickey’s success as an author, I came up with a few tips that may help the rest of us struggling writers.

• Write and publish tens of novels and plays like Dickey has done. We can accomplish this by writing and publishing continuously for nearly 25 or 30 years. Your writing, although probably good now, will continue to evolve into greatness. Just pick up the pace and become more devoted toward improving.

• Create endearing, complex characters that can transcend among other books. Better yet, create characters that are compelling enough to lend themselves to a series of adventures in future books. How? Refer to the first tip. Practice begets perfection.

• Travel and see more of the world so your books’ settings can be authentic. When Dickey’s characters travel to exotic and exciting places, his readers travel there too. But he doesn’t stop the action to describe the pretty or gritty street scenery along the way. Dickey brilliantly USES the scenery, i.e. the bridges, the streets, and the indigenous corner store in his stories, to further his action.

• Pay attention to people along your daily path. Take notes about strangers who have unique traits. Use the distinct nuances about them to help make your own characters distinctive and memorable.

We may not be Dickey or Morrison or Tan or Steinbeck–. But you are [your name here]! And you, and I, are going to be great soon.

Write on!