How to use Formulas for Writing

How to Write, Part III 
How to use Formulas for Writing

With an infinite range of characters and plots, how do you consistently make the storytelling interesting for the reader?  Think about a scientific book about the first trip to the moon. The most amazing event of mankind! A feat of engineering genius! The pinnacle of evolution! Yet, your eyes droop, your mind wanders, you reach for the remote. No plot is compelling in its own right. What matters is how it’s told.

Over the years, I've noted some of the techniques other authors use to spruce up their stories, plots, and character development. You’ll forgive me if I make as many film references as I do novels. Scriptwriters are writers too, and in many ways even more attuned to keeping an audience enthralled. Here they are, in no particular order:

How to Escape from Zombies

How do you survive a zombie apocalypse? Are there any tricks you can learn before it happens? Are you ready? 

An explosion in obstacle courses follows that age-old question: are all those hours in the gym making us any more competitive in a Darwinian sense? Joining Tough Mudder, Spartan Beast, and Warrior Dash is new kid on the block Run For Your Lives, a straight up 5K obstacle course with a twist of zombie. Like many keyboard pushers, I thought I'd test myself against the real undead. 

Run for Your Lives complicates a 5K endurance obstacle course with ambling, flesh-eating zombies. To ensure realism, I did not train prior to the event. I haven't run 5 feet in as many years. When there's a fire, I'm the guy walking, not running, for the exits. I wanted to know if I could get up from my keyboard, off my pudgy ass, and run like hell if the occasion called for it.

The Ghosts of Prague

That Prague exists in tangible form somehow escaped my imaginings. Prague has always been the dark heart of fantasy, shrouded in mist and rhyme, colourless. So I wept, overpowered by reality, when I reached out my hand to touch the base of St. Peter on Charles Bridge, wept as I did at the Kremlin wall, to find myself standing on the very stones of history. Prague does exist outside of novels and photographs, rime a-plenty, invaded as it were by the colors of tourism. Modern humanity juxtaposed against spiritualism seems more unnatural than any gruesome tale of Kafka. I am touring the husk of a long-dead beetle. I am out of time, walking among ghosts without the reverence of fear.

How To Write: Part II

The greatest enemy to your unwritten project is you. Your fears, your insecurities, your priorities, your procrastination all block those stories from being told.
Unlike anything else in this crazy world, the written word is always black and white. You're either writing or you're not.
Writers operate under the Newton’s First Law: an object at rest tends to remain at rest until acted upon by an unbalanced force. Journalists have deadlines, authors have editors, copywriters have clients. For an independent or freelancer, getting that push from someone other than a spouse can be hard to find. Who do you have?

How to Die in Florence

Florence. When the temperature drops below 50, that chilling memory sets in.

Italian chianti empties faster closer to the source. Two bottles stand between me and my memories of the day. Night found me wandering the streets with my involuntary companions.

Alcohol is a vasodilator. It drives blood to the surface. The Italian night shears off that fuzzy warm heat like a barber looking for lice. Cold burrows into bones like zoster, happy to find a permanent home. I had to get indoors.

What It's Like to Be a Dad

Here's what it's like to be a Dad:
We're at the M&M store in Times Square. The sales lady fills my kid's hands with tiny chocolate manna. She asks, "Is that enough?" My kid hands her back all but one M&M and says, "I only need one. I can't have too much candy." Then he says,

Why Christmas Hates Me

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love it. It hates me.
I still believe in Santa Claus, but he's starting to piss me off. In five years Santa hasn't left one present under the tree for my son! He's a good kid. He doesn't deserve this. Santa hasn't brought me anything either, but I understand. He's neglected me ever since I moved out of my parent's house.
I thought this was supposed to be a cheery holiday, but every year the wild hordes

Red Sand Book Launch a Success!

Thank you to everyone who suffered a bitterly cold New York night to attend my book launch. As a writer, I spend long hours in front of a computer screen with nothing but Netflix for company. It’s nice to see other human beings once in a while. It was a great night with beer, friends, and frivolity. I admit I really enjoyed the attention! It’s good to see stacks of Red Sand in print, and even better to see those stacks dwindle into eager readers’ hands. My little books have started their journey. Like a sail, they’re meant to unfurl, not to decorate the deck. My aspiration is to spot my work in a used book store someday. A book that holds value through several hands is a success, and only time makes it so. For those of you who missed it, I’m planning another launch in January. Until then, Cheers!

Why We Love the Mayan Apocalypse

With Dec 21 just around the corner, I won’t bother to do any Christmas shopping. 
We’re not afraid of the end of the world; we’re looking forward to it. Disaster movies make great blockbusters, the Second Coming fills the pews, and historical figures from Nostradamus to the Mayans become news again. But why? Why do we love the idea of The End?

Red Sand Book Launch Party

You're Invited!
The best part about spending months alone in front of a computer writing books is the party afterward.Come to the Red Sand Book Launch Party! Get an autographed copy of Red Sand and have a beer with me!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
6:00 - 8:30 PM
The Caulfield
119 East 27th Street
New York, NY 10016
Edmont Room
Please RSVP to

How To Be A Man

Not a carpet - pine needles.

There’s an old Swedish saying that lays out three steps on how to become a man.
Bear a son, build a house, plant a tree.
In the old days, a son meant your family line continued, a house meant you owned the land you worked, and a tree meant you aimed to stay there. 
As I reach middle age, I’m reflecting on my own progress. Wanna know how I'm doing?  I write all about it in "How to be a Man" over on The Scrib.  Check it out here.


I am now an ordained minister.

A friend of mine asked if I could officiate her wedding. I told her, as an atheist, I would have to become a judge first. Could she wait that long? No, and, thanks to the internet, she didn't have to.
After about 15 seconds on the Universal Life Church website, with little more than my name and address, I became an ordained minister, capable of marrying and giving last rights. For only $34.99 more, I can get

My "Cabin in the Woods"

Two years ago I bought a cabin in rural Pennsylvania. It may not have an elevator to ancient subterranean gods, (I wish), but it does fulfill every writer's dream of a retreat far from the madding crowd. After three years combing "Farm for Sale" advertisements on the internet, I found the perfect one. The old man who died there owned it as a retreat from his wife. She wanted nothing to do with it. She didn't even clean it out. As a result, I became the proud owner of

How to Write a Book

My writing desk. If only we had time to write long hand. 

After Red Sand came out, friends and strangers have been asking me, "How did you do it? How did you write an entire book?” With almost 1.8 million book titles on Amazon, I’m hardly unique, but not all of those authors are sharing advice.

I think everyone has a book in them. My only goal with the following information is to inspire you to write a book of your own. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. But first, here are a few tips:

Rule Number One

Brooklyn Brewery Tour

I often tour breweries and distilleries - the source! I've coursed through  Oban's amber heaven in Scotland and shouted "Davai" in Russia's Baltika brewery, so I can't believe it took me 13 years to gett around to touring the Brooklyn Brewery right here in Williamsburg.

The other night I scheduled a tour. After a two pint warm-up of Radeberger at The Gibson on 11th and Bedford I stumbled over to that red brick warehouse. Erin and Justin ushered me past the big red doors into the tasting room (Mecca) for a glass of one of four flavors in a souvenir glass. I had the privilege of downing

The Big Pumpkin

My son heard me talking about my new book, so he decided to write one of his own - by himself. Bean just turned five. The only thing he asked for was a little spelling help now and then.


Photo Credited to Shadowhaze (Does anyone use their real name anymore?)
It isn't often you see the genesis of an urban legend. Slenderman has been described as a supernaturally tall man with no face and, sometimes, tentacles, dressed in a suit who stalks and captures children and teens. He prefers foggy, woodland areas and seems to turn arson when the need arises. The Mythical Creatures Guide reports: "It would stalk the victim for long amounts of time causing what is known as


After years of cogitation and nine hard months of writing, my first book, "Red Sand", is now available for download and purchase! Buy it for any e-reader device on Smashwords now, or check our a print version on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble or wherever books are sold.  It costs less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks and it lasts a lot longer!
What is it about? It's a thriller, a suspenseful roller coaster that will leave you gasping for air. Not enough? You need to know more before before plunking down little more than a one-way trip on the NYC Subway? Okay. Here it is:
The cruise ship Princess Anne sinks under mysterious circumstances. A handful of survivors find themselves rescued by rickety old lifeboats and strange white-haired men, one of them without a tongue! They are carried to a desert island where they are welcomed as "guests" but treated like slaves. Promised a speedy salvation, they instead disappear one by one. Something lives beneath the sand, something even the natives fear. They live behind a great wall on the lava flows, but the survivors of the Princess Anne do not. Why? What is stalking them? When will they leave? As the political structure of the native's camp disintegrates, and a hurricane approaches, the few remaining survivors realize they have only one choice - get off the island at any cost.
Hooked? Buy it here!
I followed a simple formula to write it:
Fear the Island.
Fear the natives.
Fear each other.
Fear yourself.

I guarantee you will enjoy it more than that cappuccino, and certainly more than that subway ride.

Shipwrecks of the World

I've always had a fascination with shipwrecks, which is why they figure so prominently in "Red Sand". There is something majestic and terrifying about these tempest tossed relics of man's inferiority. Once proudly sailing above, now crushed by their own vanity, these rusting hulks represent man's neverending struggle against nature. What is a storm but the personification of man's frailty before nature's wrath?
I'm partial to shipwrecks that remain above water. To sink at sea is one thing, but

Strange Sounds

How did I miss this?
On January 11th and 12th thoughout the Northern Hemisphere, people reported hearing "strange sounds" coming from the sky. Here is a Canadian Television report on the phenomenon. Viewing the videos on YouTube, they sound like a fog horn or a blatting trumpet coming from everywhere at once. While the scientific explanation is simple (electromagnetic waves similar to the Aurora Borealis cause resonance), the sound is extremely eerie. It bears a striking resemblance to the aliens in War of the Worlds and at 3:40 in this video has a striking similarity to the film YellowBrickRoad. Good in a movie. Not so much, though, when you hear those sounds in real life.
I'm a simple guy. I like the simple explanation, but I can't help feeling like a caveman in the dawn of time when I hear this noise. It hits you a primeval way. You just drop what you're doing and wait for whatever horrible thing must be coming next.
It's rare to find something so horrifyingly real on the internet. But I'm sure it didn't scare you.

Where to Drink in New York City

I put the finishing touches on my book Red Sand at Kenn's Broome Street Bar in SoHo, so I thought I'd share with you the five best places to get a beer in New York City. In a city with $18 appletinis, the most important rule to remember is: Never trust a bar that doesn't have beer on tap. You’ll be overcharged before you cross the threshold. Go to the right place, like PS450 on Park, and you can still get a good pint for 4 bucks. Here's where you'll find me and the best places to drink in New York:

New York Renaissance Faire

Up front: I despise Renaissance Fairs. First, they're hard to spell. Second, they’re typically designed to attract two types of people, troglodytes and cash-laden tourists, neither of whom I usually associate with. Here are the types of people I expected to see:

1. Twelve year old boys in the “Knights and swords are cool!” phase. That’s the one that comes after dinosaurs and trains, but before girls. Typically indicative of art school aspirations.
2. Dungeons and Dragons players. The actual game, not video games. These people crawl out of their mother’s pot hazed basement for an annual dose of Vitamin D.
3. LOTR fanatics. If you know the acronym, you are one. 
4. Comic-Con rejects (if there is such a thing without being a tautology).
5. Grossly overweight faeries. 
6. All of the above. Grossly overweight LOTR fanatic Comic-Con reject D&D playing boys.

Needless to say, I was not looking forward to getting dragged to the New York Renaissance Faire. So, in apology to all of the above, let me first say I was pleasantly surprised.

Don't Blog Drunk

"Everything mankind does is much, much easier if you're ever so slightly drunk." - The Mitchell and Webb Look.

Don't blog drunk. The reason is, you will write something to regret later. Why? Because society is unforgiving when it comes to our weaknesses. You don't care? You disagree? Certain people disappoint you? You are finding it hard to cope with reality?
Well, fuck all that. Blogging is about expressing yourself. Your true self. The part of you that other people don't hear on a daily basis.
So why blog drunk?

How to make Soap and a Hot Shower on a Desert Island

How do you make soap and a hot shower on a desert island? In "Red Sand", survivors stuck on a desert island struggle with natives, sand fleas, a mysterious killer, and certainly hygiene issues. The mechanics of a hot shower would have slowed down the plot, but if you read it wondering, "How did they stay clean?", here's the answer.
Surrounded by stinky castaways? You're not the first. Among the travails of marooned mariners, hygiene typically gets the short shrift. It's hard for us modern folk to focus on famine, disease, and elemental exposure when the guy next to you stinks to high hell.
Luckily, even the rudest island has all the ingredients necessary to take a hot shower with real soap.
The following recipe

How to Stop Dating Married Men

I once endured an uncomfortable situation where a single woman asked me, “Why are women attracted to married men?” on an elevator in front of the married man, my boss, she was currently shtupping. I remember stammering out some grand theory for about fifteen seconds before I decided discretion was the better part of employment.  

I’m sure many unfortunate women are wondering the same thing, so, having given the pros and cons several years of thought, both as a married man and not, here is my best attempt at a diplomatic and balanced answer.

The Antidote to Viagra

Don't you wish you could calm down once in a while? I do. I wish I could look at the hottest woman in the world and, instead of thinking what every man on Earth would be thinking at that moment, say to myself, "Gee, I have some writing to do." Sadly, the Red Pill hasn't been invented yet. For those of you too young and vigorous for Viagra, here's the antidote, as published on "The Scrib".

Travel in the Dominican Republic

Note shotgun and machete. 
The trip from the Santo Domingo airport to the Renaissance Jaragua hotel reveals a microcosm of the Dominican Republic.
Immediately upon leaving the airport, poverty and chaos engulfs my ruined taxi.
Burnt-out, mangled cars line the road as frequently as mile markers. Enterprising souls abscond with the mile marker husks, paint them, and continue to service the airport-hotel circuit. I suspect my driver is one of them. Most of the mini-busses in operation appear to have literally “hit the road”. Taxis are invariably Toyota sedans bulging with eight or more passengers. One gets the sense that Toyota shipped its first line of vehicles to the Dominican Republic as a gift when the Japanese started producing cars, and have not done so since. 
After an eternity spent crawling past densely packed, crumbling concrete block homes with rusted currogated rooftops huddling below palm trees, I arrive at 

Witty Movie Reviews

I watch a lot of crappy horror movies on Netflix. In fact, it's hard to find any horror films with more that two stars. That's why I like the warnings people leave in their reviews. Far better than most films are the witty observations of those braver than I. I've started to collect them (none of them mine). It doesn't matter what the movie was; you'll get the joke. And you can always guess. Enjoy!

The Annoying Habits of Women

Published again on What a great site! Here it is:

The Annoying Habits of Women

I narrowed it down to five because otherwise you'd be reading all day. Enjoy!

How to Blog

Writing a blog is like being stranded on a desert island, writing a message, putting it in a bottle, and throwing it out to sea, except the island is the entire earth filled with people, the message is electronic so it technically doesn't physically exist, the bottle is one of trillions already in the sea, and the sea is a black hole.

But it doesn't have to be that way.
I haven't been blogging long, but I'm learning, and I'll share what I know with you.

Kids are Retarded

Kids are, basically, retarded. First, they have no respect for our advanced knowledge. You say, “Don’t touch the stove, don’t touch the stove, don’t…” But now they’re crying because they touched the stove. And then tomorrow… they’ll do it again.
They have no sense of self preservation. Which is fine with me. I can make more.
My son will test me...

The Human Animal

We are still animals, tied to our animal instincts. We think we’ve evolved, but we still wince when attacked, can’t sneeze without blinking, still yawn, still can’t overcome imprinted fears, remain subjugated by reproductive urges, still eat, sleep, shit, and dream. We are still tied to our environment, still driven by circadian rhythm, even in space. We have not learned to unlock our genes, unable to regulate our own psychology through epigenetic manipulation. Legacy systems predominate over innovation. We resist change, even when we know change will benefit us. We hold each other back. We still hunt and gather, though money substitutes for food. We are symmetric. Our DNA runs uninterrupted to stardust. We are creatures of habit. We are social; left in isolation we go insane. From the outside intelligence only slightly greater than our own, we would appear as predictable as ants. And we know it. We are cognitive animals who can clearly contemplate our own inevitabilities, yet we are powerless to do more.

Learn to Love Stupid

I used to think the world was someplace that needed fixing. It wasn’t the Four Liberal Horsemen that irked me (War, Environment, Poverty, Inequality). No, it was the lesser riders, the Four Mules – Inefficiency, Stupidity, Sloth, and Hedonism. These were most frustrating because they appeared so easy to fix. If people would just turn off the television and talk to their family, perhaps we’d have a better society. If the person next to me read a book or two instead of listening to raving lunatic news commentators, maybe we’d all get along. If people thought before they spoke, or considered the needs of others, or thought about improving the process, or….

Do Arranged Marriages Cause Disease in Children?

I just finished the fascinating book “The Science of Kissing” by Sheril Kirshenbaum. This little red book discusses the newly discovered science behind our ancient and universal custom, including the role it might play in choosing a mate. I was thrown off on a tangent as I realized that throughout human history, women have not traditionally had the luxury to choose their mate. Could this social inhibition against pre-marital kissing have somehow damaged our genetic makeup as a species?

The Ascendant Man

How can we distance ourselves from Man as Animal? So much of what we do, the choices we make, our opinions, our aspirations, have in fact nothing to do with our individual personalities. They are instead reactions to primal instincts, ingrained in our behavior from the time we were not just hunters but hunted. If we are conscious of these internal, genetic, and biological influences, can we escape them? Would we be happier, calmer, more fulfilled if we did? Or would the friction between ourselves and the society around us be too great? What would a society built on this knowledge look like?

Road Trip to Yosemite and the Redwood Forest

A Coyote in Yosemite

I drove over a thousand miles in the last week, most of that on hairpin mountain roads on the edge of a cliff. Yosemite, and then the Redwoods, with the Big Nothing of the Sacramento Valley in between.

Have Faith in Man?

My uncle recently told me, “When you spend time in business, you learn to be disappointed in people. But that's okay,” he said, “because we have faith in something greater than man.

Well, I don't. I'm an atheist.

Every day I’m frustrated by the failings of other human beings. My frustration is all-encompassing  specifically because I don’t believe there is more to this world than what humans can accomplish. If I can't have faith in humans, the paragon of animals, the apex of evolution, the master of the known universe, then we're just pretty much fucked. In that case, what is the point of trying? It is a most depressing thought.

And that's when it hit me. The epiphany...

Top Ten Peeves

Top Ten Most Annoying Things

On my way to work this morning, I was thinking about all the things that annoy me. I decided to make a list:

Drinking Civet Coffee in Macau

I always wanted to try Civet coffee, so when I found myself in Macau in front of a coffee shop offering it, I had to have it. Don't know what Civet coffee is? Allow me to quote Wikipedia:

Hunting in Wyoming

Hunting the Grasslands of Wyoming
A friend of mine owns several thousand acres of prairie out in Wyoming. When he asked me to go hunting, I couldn't turn him down. Chasing antelope across the range with the reward of many good meals to take home - who could resist?

I prepared myself for weeks of stalking, camping, and living off the land. The idea of tromping through the cold wilderness with nothing but a rifle, a sleeping bag, and a camp stove to cook whatever we managed to catch or kill, well, that's what men are for.