NaNoWriMo success

November 28, 2012

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Yes, that is right, I have successfully completed the 2012 National Novel Writing Month challenge. I have captured 50,000 words of a novel titled “Return to Normal: Volume 1 of the Holleran Chronicles”. I know that this is a pretention title, presuming that there will be additional volumes, but I do have plans to keep writing on this theme. I have a long way to go to actually complete this novel. My first NaNoWriMo attempt took an additional two years to get into a form to publish. That book, “A Changed Man” is available on Amazon – free until the end of the day on Friday.


It was important that I finish the challenge early if I was to finish at all. We had guests in for Thanksgiving, which had me worried, and my work schedule is going to be crazy the rest of the year. I was lucky in that my guests let me write every day, in fact they encouraged it. I had all of my duties for the Thanksgiving meal completed by mid-morning. I have to set the formal table and make the dressing. Once the dressing is in a dish ready to go in the oven, I am no longer welcome in the kitchen. Too many cooks are a bad thing.

So, here is a synopsis of the book. The main character, Cole, is released from the army and sent out to grow crops and grow children and protect the roads. After exploring the country, he finds a location to settle down. He meets a woman, first known as Ish, later as Hon, and gets married. Ish/Hon’s past is left nebulous intentionally as I plan on making her the main character of volume 2. They have children and have to interact with people moving into the area, some with good intentions, some with bad. A settlement is started near their home as others try to fulfill the kings command of being fruitful and multiplying.

This work differs from my first work, which was a romance, in that there is a lot of violence and no sex. Obviously there are relations as they have children, but I did not include any descriptions, only innuendo. This was actually a lot of fun to write versus the detail of a man and a woman together. The action scenes were also fun.

I attribute my success to several thing. First, this was not my first attempt. I avoided the urge to edit and rewrite, I will have time enough to do that later. Second, I have been thinking about this story for almost a year. Third, I set aside time to write and since I have been under a lot of stress (work, kids in college, election, etc.) I have used the writing as a method of relaxation and transfer of emotion (you know you just cannot pull out a sword at work now-a-days).

I don’t know if writing can be used as relaxation for everyone, but it sure works for me. My wife prefers exercise which would be my last choice. That is one reason she is healthy and slender, while I, though health, am far from slender, can we say obese?

A note on statistics: 50,000 is about 75 pages of 11 point text in MSWord. The plan to follow is about 1,667 words per day to finish in 30 days. Here is a graph of my progress this year.

What you get if you succeed is a printable certificate and a selection of Icons to use in facebook, in your book, on your web page or on emails. Here is one of the icons that I got for completing the event.

Even if you do not get to 50,000 words, you still have the benefit of capturing your ideas on paper (or on your computer). Keep writing!


Notre Dame Closing In On National Championship?

November 19, 2012

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This weekend was wild in the world of football. First on the college ranks, the championship picture went topsy-turvy. Both number 1 Kansas State and number 2 Oregon fell. Now Notre Dame is the only undefeated (that can compete for the championship, so we cannot count Ohio State). That makes one half of the game easy to set, but now there are eleven one loss teams that want that other spot. Now we should be down to six after conference championships, even there are three contenders in the SEC and a couple of other conferences that do not play championship games. (I have always had the opinion that if you do not win you conference, you should not be considered for the BCS championship game.) So, unless there is another shake up like this week, there will be plenty of people complaining about who gets chosen for the other side of the championship equation.

This last weekend also means that my Notre Dame friends will not be cheering for Texas on December 1 when they play Kansas State, unless of course they are afraid of playing Kansas State in the championship game.

In the NFL, the picture is getting much clearer as teams separate. On the NFC side, although not done with much strength, the Atlanta Falcons continue to lead. Chicago is keeping ahead of Green Bay and the Giants and 49ers are the default leaders of two week divisions. On the AFC side, Houston is leading again without a lot of punch this week. Baltimore is in the driver’s seat for second with New England and Denver as the default leaders of two more week divisions. The wild cards are also almost set in the AFC with Pittsburgh and Indianapolis making some separation even though they both lost. The NFC wild card is a bit more difficult with Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Seattle all in the hunt. This is way to early in the season to actually predict the final standings, but the character of all of the teams is becoming much clearer with only six games left.


We are past the half way point of the NaNoWriMo. We only have one more weekend left, so you actually need to be much more than half way done. There have been a number of pep talk emails sent out by the NaNoWriMo staff. This is the point in the effort where you have captured most of the ideas you had floating around at the beginning of the effort. No what? You are not alone, even professional writers hit this plateau. This is my fourth effort, so I have been thing about this story line for most of the year, especially since I failed last year. I am at 35,000 words, which is well ahead of schedule. This may sound great, but now I face the Thanksgiving holiday with guests arriving any minute, and kids coming back from college. I just cannot plan any large batches of time to write, even if the ideas keep flowing.

Whether you are a NaNo or not, keep writing. There Is nothing to fear but blisters on your fingers.

NaNoWriMo: Ahead of Pace

November 12, 2012

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I am at the half way point of my NaNoWriMo effort. I got to 25,000 words over the weekend, which is the best I have ever done it the four years I have been participating. But this is where the hard part begins. I have captured most of the ideas that I have had swimming around my head before November started, so now I have to come up with the next part of the story.

I hope that each of you is writing and having some success. The point of this competition is to get your story captured, or at least started. You are actually only competing against yourself and the calendar. I have to be brief so that I can continue on my novel. Like most of you, I do not get much time to write. I have mostly been grabbing the hour to two after my wife goes to bed which results in a very tired Martin at work. This weekend, once chores were done, I had the luxury of several hours to write. I hope to have more success next weekend and Thanksgiving weekend. I will be taking vacation from work the week of Thanksgiving, but that will not necessarily result in additional hours to write. We have people coming into town and we have to prepare for the holiday.

My first NaNoWriMo effort is available on Amazon: A Changed Man. It will be available for free download later this month, we will post it here. So good luck and good writing.

On college football, I must say it even though it is difficult (being a University of Texas graduate), but way to go Aggies. First loss for Alabama in how many years? Good work.

On professional football, to all of my Atlanta Falcon friends, good run. You had to expect to lose eventually, too bad it was to the Saints. Here’s hoping that you do not see another loss until you meet my Steelers in the Super Bowl.

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NaNoWriMo Update (Plus Football)

November 5, 2012

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Kosmo and I are both are deep into the NaNoWriMo effort. I have not seen Kosmo’s update, but so far I am on track with this year’s event with 7828 words so far. This is just barely above the 1667 words per day. It has been fun. My one piece of advice is based on my lessons learned. For the actual NaNoWriMo effort, do not spend time reviewing what you have already written. I have spent many hours in the past reading and editing my work with very little progress to the 50,000 word goal. That is only advice for the month of writing. When you are trying to create a novel, most of your time is reading and rereading your own effort to knock the edges off of the sharp corners and make sure the work in internally consistent.

This year I started with a four element outline, just four major events that I am trying to weave together with a good connecting steam of actions and descriptions. I am almost a fifth of the way into the work with the joining of the first two events underway and background for the next event already sort of in place.

To keep up the pace of writing, I have been trying to get two uninterrupted hours each night. The weekend days provided several writing opportunities, but many more interruptions than the week nights. I have even snuck in a couple of minutes typing before heading to work. I hope all of you are getting similar opportunities.

On Football, the traditional power houses are slowly floating to the top, both in college and in professional ranks. In College, Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon are the major undefeated with Louisville being the ugly duckling undefeated. In the pros, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago, the New York Giants, San Francisco and New England are back in the top. Denver, Atlanta and Houston are new comers, but not very surprising.

I have noticed plenty of chants for the replacement referees. A little sooner than I expected, but it just depends on if you think your team is being short changed. We are in the final stretch for the college teams and the half way point for the pros. Now we should start seeing the games in the mud and snow, which to me is real football weather. I personally cannot wait for Johnny’s college update.

NaNoWriMo 2012

October 31, 2012

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It is that time of year again. National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us. It is time to sharpen you pencil or warm up you keyboard. The goal is 50,000 words captured during the month of November. The rewards are tremendous; bragging rights, nifty icons, and your novel captured.

I have participated in NaNoWriMo each of the last three years. The first two saw success. My first effort was finally complete and available for the public early this year. It is a romance, and nothing like what I had originally planned. I am planning a freebee week during November, and will advertise it on The Soap Boxers. My second effort was also a success in that I reached 50,000 words. It is still incomplete, a science fiction effort that I have really enjoyed writing. My third effort fell well short of the 50,000 words and will likely never be finished. It is a teenage adventure fantasy involving fire breathing ninja squirrels from outer space. I thought it would be the easiest of my attempts, but I was wrong.

This year I am planning a fantasy word epic that I think can actually spread across several books. Of course you have to finish one before you can have a second.

Some of you may not have heard of NaNoWriMo before. It is an event sponsored by the office of letters and lights at The site provides plenty of encouragement, examples of success, and the opportunity to support writing at all levels, from kids to professionals. There are writing communities that can be joined either electronically or locally. They schedule write ins and web casts. The official word counter is provided so that you can gauge your progress and claim your prizes.

I hope that each and every one of you participates. It is not really about winning the day, it is about writing. It is about capturing your ideas in written words, and if you choose, to share them with others. It is not a contest to see who is the best, strongest, or most long winded. It is not an election or a game. This is an opportunity to have fun, write, and be with others trying to do the same thing. It all begins on November 1. If you want to participate in the actual event, log on to and set up your profile.

Let the writing begin!!!!!


The Writing Continues – Or Does It?

November 14, 2011

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This year I have again challenged my readers to join in the writing frenzy known as the National Novel Writing Month ( This year, my attempts have been an abject failure. The goal of the challenge is to capture 50,000 words towards a novel in the 30 days of November. We are at the half way point and we should be at 25,000 words. I am just shy of 10,000. I have thrown away two weekends that should have provided the time to get ahead of the curve. My only chance of meeting the goal is to use the time off that I have planned for Thanksgiving.

I have written several articles on how to stay focused, break through writer’s block, and various writing techniques. I have failed to heed my own advice. The cares of the world (work, family, yard work) have interrupted my writing and my chain of thought. The weekend days, those days that should provide the best opportunity for writing, have been the very days I have not written at all. I certainly hope that each of you has fared better.

So if I cannot really write about writing today, I have another topic to bring up. As most of you who have read my other articles are aware, I am a college and professional football (American) fan. I have an observation, not just from this weekend, but an over all consideration for the season. Both at the collegiate level and the professional level, effort are underway to make the game safer by implementing a helmet to helmet contact rule. What I have observed in the application of this rule. If the defender lowers his blow to strike the chest or midsection and the offensive player also lowers and initiated the helmet to helmet contact, the defender is flagged.

I understand the difficulty in determining intent or over aggressiveness. In the cases that I thought were incorrectly called, there was no net effect on the game. I believe that they will work out the system, similar to the way they have incorporated a good system for calling spearing (launching oneself head first). I also understand that the officials are erring on the side of safety. There is one part of this rule that I like, fines are assessed on players even if there is no penalty during the game. This action will teach the players that even if they get away with a dangerous hit during the game, reviews will still result in corrective action after the fact.

I diverged from writing to write about sports. I should return to writing. I hope that you do too.

Writing Frenzy

November 7, 2011

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If you are participating in National Novel Writing Month (, then you should be writing up a storm. By now, you should be at about 10,000 words. I have not been keeping up the pace. Luckily, there are several more weekends and the Thanksgiving Holiday before the end of November. To make the goal of 50,000 words before the end of November, you basically have to keep up a steady pace of writing. Do not allow the every day distractions to keep you from creating a story like now other.

If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, I would suggest looking at the news. There are so many stories available. This weekend alone, the Royal Couple announced they would be moving into a new “family friendly” castle, there was an Earthquake in Oklahoma of all places, and there were plenty of politicians saying silly things. Remember, real life can just provide the setting or characters, your story can go where ever you want.

As I have recommended in the past, you can start each night just recounting your day, from first cup of coffee, to struggling to stay awake while you are writing. This should at the very least get the writing juices going. I you still can’t get going, take a breather. You can always pick it up again tomorrow.

The NaNoWriMo competition is for fun. Writing is for fun as well. If it becomes a chore or a second job, the fun will just drain away and the river of words will dry up. This is a short post today, I have to get back to my novel.

Start Writing

October 31, 2011

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Tomorrow, Tuesday November 1 2011 is the start of National Novel Writing Month. Are you ready? This is a great opportunity to test your skills, develop you ideas and enter the realm of writing. Your topic can be serious or whimsical, topical or fantasy, personal or political. In this case, it is actually all about you. You choose your topic. You choose your message. And you choose every word that you put down. If you choose to participate in the organized event sponsored by the Office Of Letters and Light at, then you can work within a community and get fancy (symbolic but no actual dollar value) prizes. The goal is set, 50,000 words in 30 days. That is 1667 words a day on average.

I have participated in the challenge for the last two years and will be again this year. Why did I even think of participating? Well that is a mixed bag of suggestions, distractions and loneliness. A co-worker first showed me the NaNoWriMo challenge. I hesitated for several years. My kids encouraged me, but still I did not jump in. Then in 2009, I was on an extended work trip in California with nothing to do in the evenings. I had a computer and lots of time, especially on weekends. The result was a romance novel titled A Changed Man. It was not what I originally planned, but it is what I ended up with.

Why did I do it again? That answer is much less complicated. I really enjoyed writing the first work and Kosmo had invited me to relate my experience on The Soap Boxers (then know as the Casual Observer). Basically, I got addicted to writing. It was fun and I could write down anything. The second effort is Science Fiction titled Out There. To date, it is at about 100,000 words and only about 2/3rds of the way done. The Romance was about 150 pages in standard 5.5×8.5 binding. The Science Fiction will be about 400 pages. Both of these are about average for their genre. I did not aim for a specific length, these are just the results of my efforts.

What am I going to do this year? Well, this year is a response to a request by my sons. It will be an almost comic book story to be titled Fire Breathing Ninja Squirrels from Outer Space. I think the title alone gives you enough to put a picture in your head. I have the location picked out already, northern Minnesota. I have also thought about the heroic kids who are much smarter than any of the adults, the evil invaders, the loyal dogs, and the native squirrels torn between their love of home and allegiance to the invading species. All in all, this one should be fun, and easy to keep up the word count.

Remember the rules, no actual writing of the novel until November 1. Good luck and happy writing!

Join NanoWrimo 2012

October 24, 2011

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This is my 100th article on the Soap Boxers. We have had a number of milestones over the last few weeks. Johnny had his 100th article two weeks ago and Kosmo posted the 1000th article for the site last week. I was originally brought on board for two reasons that I remember; to write about writing and to help fill in as a regular while Johnny was on a leave of absence. Although I have strayed into politics and sports on occasion, I have been regular in my postings, published articles on writing and provided short stories and chapters from larger works. It is almost two years since my first post, and if you search back into the archives, that post was to publicize an annual writing event called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.

It seems appropriate to return to that beginning. November is National Novel Writing Month. It was not designated by congress, nor is it recognized by any religious organization that I am aware of. It is a competition established by the office of The Office of Letters and Light. The idea is rather simple; during the month of November write a novel or at least part of a novel. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. If you succeed, you get some pretty nifty download stuff; icons and logos to show off on social media and an official winner’s certificate. No money, just the reward of actually writing, and some electronic recognition and bragging rights.

So why would anyone want to do this? That is also simple; to write just to write and have a lot of other people doing the same thing at the same time. NaNoWriMo has a community of other writing enthusiasts in regions across the globe. There are local groups who get together at coffee shops to provide companionship, encouragement and generally hang out. Registering is easy, you provide as much information as you are comfortable with and you write. I would recommend signing up now so that you are ready to hit the road running on November 1. You can participate in regional activity at what ever level you desire, attend all the meeting live or go it alone. Periodically through the month, and defiantly on the last day, you paste you work into a word counter to get an official tally and earn your rewards. None of what you copy into the site is saved, so you work is yours and yours alone.

The completion is to get people to write. Publishing is your own responsibility, although there are several helpful articles to get you going in the right direction. I have personally participated for the last two years and succeeded in getting to the 50,000 goal both times. My first effort will be released here on The Soap Boxers before Christmas (I know I have been promising release for a year now). My second effort is still a work in progress. Although well past 50,000 words, it is still far from complete.

Reaching the goal of 50,000 words is not as hard as it may seem. First, remember that everything you write does not have to end up in the final product. The idea is to encourage writing, even if some of it is trash. To make the goal, you have to average 1667 words per day. That may seem like a lot, but consider that this article is well over 800 words and it has taken me less than an hour to write. The beginning of the effort may be a struggle, but once you start putting words together and a story or multiple stories start popping into your head, it will get easier. In several of my earlier articles, I have put forth suggestions for plot development, character development and fighting writer’s block. If you have trouble writing one night, just start itemizing your day. In this way at least, you will be adding to your word count and practicing writing and who knows, some of it may end up in a best seller!

I hope that many of you choose to take up the challenge. Even if you do not formalize your writing efforts through NaNoWriMo, I hope that you try your hand at writing. At the very least, take the opportunity to post comments on the various articles here on The Soap Boxers. Each of us has written at least one controversial or at least provocative article over the years. What ever your passion, there is always something to write about. In his 1000th site article commentary, Kosmo related that I had stated that I should be paying him for the opportunity and forum that he provides for my writing attempts. I do believe that I owe him much more that he owes me. He provides this platform, not just for me, but for all of his writers and for all of the visitors to the site. All you have to do is write.

Exploring Celtic Knots With Brett Garrett

January 10, 2011

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After several weeks off for the holidays, I am establishing my goals for the year 2011. These are not resolutions, those are far too easy to break or forget about sometime around the first of May. The goals that I wish to identify involve writing and getting the written word distributed to as many people as possible. I truly believe that our culture is enlivened through writing, bringing the past into focus, exploring the myriad of possibilities and eventually guiding the development of the future. Fiction or not, reality or fantasy, all written works stir imagination and thought.

With that in mind, I am embarking the recording of my first full length novel, now a full year old and no longer being edited. I should have that effort completed by spring. I am going to complete my second novel by the end of summer. I will participate again in the National Novel Writing Month in November. These are three very ambitious goals for one year. I hope that all of the aspiring writers out there establish similar challenging goals.

In addition to my own personal work, I have the opportunity to assist in the distribution of a pair of existing books. The chance to review and offer judgment on another author’s works is both exhilarating and daunting. The books that I am referring to were written by Brett Garrett. They are studies of the Celtic knots carved into crosses and other stone in the British Isles. Both of these books are available for sale as hard copy books at the Hyrax Publications store  under the printed books section (you can always access the store via the tab in the navigation menu).

The first volume, Celtic Knots: Exploring with J Romilly Allen, Method and Matrix, explores the stones and crosses in Wales. Brett systematically models the various knots, to validate and compare them. There are several designs that are repeated across many stones while others are unique. The models expose the fact that the knots are not a single thread, but can be two, three or even more. Additionally, all of the knots can be ‘tied’ using cordage, suggesting that the stone renditions are a more durable representation of knotting practiced on an every day basis.

This volume is beautifully annotated with color graphics and pictures taken by the author. It was originally published in 2007 and has only a limited number of copies available.

The second volume, Celtic Knots with & beyond J Romilly Allen, contains all of the technical information of the first volume expanded to include stone work from Scotland, Ireland and England. The additional works re-emphasize the original premise and provide additional beautiful examples of the art of Celtic knotting.

This volume is printed in a larger format and is in shades of grey (keeping the cost down). More models and more photographs fill the additional space. Both works take the study of these stone artifacts beyond the conclusions of the 1950s. The reality of the stones is explored separate from modern mysticism, allowing the systematic discovery of the purpose and meaning of the knots and possibly bringing us closer to the people who carved them.

Since Knotting is a highly visual art, an audio version of the books does not seem feasible for now, however, Brett will be making her models and various knot work available in electronic format in the near future.

[Kosmo’s note: This is the first time Hyrax Publications will be involved in the sale of printed books, although the store has offered eBooks (fiction and non-fiction) and audio books for quite some time.  At some point in the future, we may work with other authors who are seeking a place to sell their books.  While Brett Garrett’s books can be found other places on the internet, I think you’ll find our prices quite competitive.  A glance at Amazon finds Celtic Knots: Exploring with J Romilly Allen, Method and Matrix priced at $104.44 for a new copy and $49.50 for a used copy this morning … compare that the the $29.98 cost at our store.]

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