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It Has Been a Long, Long Time

Well, here I am again, back at the wall I wail to.

Older, but no wiser,

I consider this a place where I can jump-start

past the brain fog,

the false starts,

and procrastination driven stops,

the video game grave

where I bury my mind

and waste my time.

So it’s me again.

If you are listening,

(anything’s possible)

let me know.

Condensing the Words

compression of a written or spoken work into a more concise form.” Merriam-Webster

The water cycle wherein moisture in the atmosphere condenses into droplets of rain, dew, or fairy frost flowers on a cold window is known as condensation.

An analog of the water cycle exists in poetry where we condense a line by removing words that are unnecessary or redundant to the meaning and theme of the poem is also knows as Condensation.

How does that work, exactly? Let me use the previous statements in examples.


The Water Cycle

By M. Frank Darbe


Atmospheric moisture condenses

Rain’s drops,

Morning’s dew,

Winter’s steamy breath,

Fairy’s frosted windows

Nature’s Artworks


See what I did there? I condensed a somewhat dry sentence explaining the Water Cycle into a poem.


Water Cycle’s Analog

By M. Frank Darbe


Poet’s passion condenses

Word drop lines,

Morning’s passion,

Lover’s steamy breath,

Lipstick on wineglass

Emotion’s artistry.


Condensation is a poet’s tool used to create crisp images. We could fatten these brief poems with conjunctions. Using determiners like the, I, she, and others, I could expand the poem’s waistline and stretch out its seams. If I were to convert those poems into a line of prose, those words would be necessary. The strict rules of grammar are not needed for a poem.

Poetry, in most cases, is not prose. If you can make the images created by your work sing without unnecessary words, then exile them to Webster’s darkest realms.

To Not To Be: Eschewing Passivity-A Writing Prompt

Passive verbs are like Bilbo Baggins, (Paraphrased) “To be! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!” (The Hobbit: J.R.R. Tolkein)  Though perfectly good words, they act as literary parasites sucking the life from our prose.

Recognize Literary Parasites
Wanted “TO BE”
DELETED or “RARELY” useful: “RARELY” useful:

“DELETED: Hunt these words in your prose and DELETE them with a sharp stick.

The Zombie Test

The Zombie Test taught me in a creative writing class provides a simple test for passive sentences.
Adding “by zombies” after the verb.
Example: Joan was kissed (by zombies). Disgusting, but it makes sense.
(If you like zombies go for it. I don’t judge.)
Example: The Zombies kissed Joan (by zombies). Still digusting, but it makes no sense.

“RARELY” useful.
(Case 1) When writing the first draft, it is often the philosophy to throw words at the blank screen until “THE END!” At that point, real work begins.
A Second Draft forges a book. Like a Sword; tempered your prose in fire and blood. (Plese do not stab people with sharp verbs. )
PRO TIP that can be used by anyone.
Try writing actively in a first draft. Deleting “to be” before writing it develops literary efficiency.
Real people use passive constructions in a dialog.
I’m = I am (to be)
It’s = It is (to be)
Use them as necessary. Dialog is about characterization.

The Prompt: write a piece of Flash Fiction or a brief article of no more than 500 words without using “to be” verbs.

Writing a short Flash Fiction piece or a paragraph provides a simple exercise and develops active literary muscles. My solution appears below:

My Solution to the No To Be verbs.

Women’s Magic by Frank Darbe ©

Ghana sat cross-legged in a circle of oak roots illuminated by a sunbeam holding a red rubber ball and five jacks. No memory of arrival touched her mind. No concern for leaving shadowed her heart.

She examined the objects in her hands. A red rubber ball nestled in her palm. Ghana squeezed and found the ball between hard and squishy, bouncy. The jacks, parts of a game from her great-grandmother’s storied childhood “before them computers and phones stole your mind.” And with spoke words, grandma appeared between two of the trees.

Ghana tilted her chin up and glanced down her nose, not comfortable with Grandma standing. “Really?”

Grandma entered the circle and sat cross-legged. “Never talk to me that way!”

She bounced the ball. “Sigh! This a dream?” 

“Why you think so?”

“Uh, sitting on the floor without your electric chair.”

“Dreamtime, not a dream. Learn the difference.”

Ghana tossed the ball and jacks in the dirt and walked off between the trees. Just like Bam, she sat cross-legged in a circle of oak roots, ivory die in one hand and five nubby bones in another.

Grandma smile and sipped her tea. “Hot chocolate, sweetheart?”

“Bones and dice, really?”

“The magic child.”


A cup of hot chocolate appeared beside her knee. “Knucklebones and dice, like jacks but old, child.”

“Like you?”

“Ha-ha-ha-ha, you tickle me green sometimes.”

“Another of your magic tricks, Grandma.”

“Leave if you think you can.”

Ghana knew better. Grandma talked about Dreamtime and her childhood. Talked about women’s magic old as time. Remembering sparked feelings, wonder, joy, awe.

“Why teach me magic, now?”

“Birthed three daughters and four sons. Two of my girls died in childbirth. My youngest, Sheila, disappeared with some traveling man and never came home. My sons fathered grandsons.  Thought I would die without passing the skills. Your mama said you started bleeding?”

“Menstruation, grandma.”

“People make up all kinds of words. Simple ones work best.”

Ghana faced palmed Grandma. “Yes, I bled. Why teach me now.”

“Doctor gave me six months and not good ones.”

Ghana dropped the knucklebones and threw her arms around her Grandmother. “No. No!”

“We come and go, hon. Life. Now, I pass it on.”

Ghana rubbed her face dry. “Women’s magic.”

“Throw the knucklebones, Sweetheart.”

Just Finish the Darn Book

Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

Walking Shadows

At fifty-four-thousand words, Walking Shadows is close to the end. It has been a long trip, starting, stopping, starting, stopping due to depression, grief, doctors, medicine, and recovery,. Better, I see it within no more than two weeks of “The End.”

I’ve avoided picking it up again because of a bad habit. Hit a rough spot in the book or emotionally, and I start something new. Chasing the new and shiny story is my worst habit as a writer.

Worse, I avoided it because I lost the narrative thread, and because the ending no longer made sense to me. Realizing last night, I was being both unprofessional and a fool, I dusted off the data file. After dithering, I realized that I know how it ends, I just was not sure how to get there from where I last wrote. I started the novel project of writing the last three or so chapter from back to front. It sounds backasswards (one of my favorite words form my Oklahoma childhood) but I can set down and write the last chapter without a hitch, and once I get that done, I will extrapolate backwards until I reach the point where I stopped writing.

And there is something very comforting in writing the last chapter of a long work.

Walking Shadows: After Able Ruse’s mother dies, he is forced to leave the religious community where grew up and live with his strange Grandfather in Scapula, California, haunted by Walking Shadows that stea the souls of children and and and take over their lives.

Writing a Scene? Frist Ask the Right Questions.

I found myself off track with my current Work In Progress (WIP) and was forced to back up, regroup, and figure out where the story was going. I lost time because, in writing, I was doing improvisation instead of focused acting. I finished a great scene and started knowing that my purpose to introduce the main antagonist, show the conflict between the main protagonist, explore two characters Tau Tepe and Vyre Gauz (allied antagonists), and explicate and aspect of the Dramatic Question of the novel. For a first draft, I think it is successful.
I moved forcefully to the next scene without stopping for a minute to consider those for characteristics of a scene and just asked, what is the POV doing next.

Scene Word Cloud Created by Frank Darbe

Purpose? Conflict? Characters? Dramatic Question?

A scene is the basic unit of a story or a play presenting continuous action, a dramatic situation, dialog, or love scene in one place. A scene must propel the dramatic arc of the plot, character, or both towards the denouement of the story. To fulfil the purpose of the scene, a writer needs to know answers to the questions to above. It is possible to improvise a scene by the seat of your pants, but the danger in such a case is to fall into the trap of following the character in the midst of doing nothing.

Purpose: How Does This Scene Propel the Plot Forward?

The end of scene four and five fixed the purpose of scene six in the story. I had placed my Protagonist in a holding cell in a sky city awaiting a Competency Exam by Robot Medical Staff before his trial for piracy and murder. I started in the bleak holding cell with his conflict with other prisoners to establish his place in the pecking order that defined his existence from how much food he could eat to where he could sit. Though I felt that was an exciting beginning, none of the characters he interacted with had a bearing on the dramatic flow of the novel. The purpose of the scene to get him into his Competency Exam failed and did not move my plot forward at all.
The answer was to change the location to the exam room where he the reader will see him interact with other characters important to the story.

Conflict: What Struggle Propels the Story Forward?

Conflict in literature is a struggle between opposing forces. It can be a fight to the death with an enemy, an attempt to control an aircraft about to crash, a disagreement with a friend, a seduction of two lovers. A scene to determine the main character’s competency to stand trial, demands that the characters be those who will make that determination. The answer in this case was to move the scene’s location and place my character in direct conflict with the authorities who would make that determination. Not a single one of his fellow prisoners, or the inside of a holding cell would focus the narrative on the conflict.

Characters: What Specific Characters Belong in the Conflict?

Answering those first two characters went a long way to set up my scene so that it would work to propel the plot forward. My protagonist facing trial and immediate execution if he is found competent must be in that examination room. Medical Robots who perform all physical and mental healthcare tasks in the universe created for the story are the authorities who determine competency. There must be more to the competency hearing that just sanity. The character in conflict with antagonists has something they want. Tossing him out of an airlock puts what they want forever beyond their reach. Vyre Gauz or his Allie the Alien, Tau Tepe, is the focus of the conflict. Knowing the answer to the first two questions helps me answer the third. Vyre Gauz works behind the scenes at this point in the novel, so in order to get what they want from the protagonist, Tau Tepe must convince the Medical Professionals of the characters lack of competency.

Dramatic Question: What Part of the Question Planted in the Readers Mind Must be Answered?

In any novel or story, the writer places a question in the readers mind that is the core of the novel’s plot. In a Romance novel, it might be, will my protagonist find love and sexual fulfillment with the devilishly gorgeous person with whom they are attracted? In my novel, the Dramatic Question asks, why did unknown forces steels the protagonists ship and his crew but keep him alive? Every scene must contribute to that answer. The Competency is recognized as a sham by the protagonist, and discovering that nugget propels the story forward. Why do the people who stole his space craft want him alive?

Getting To Work!

Going through the four questions allowed me to fine tune the content of a critical scene in the novel. By the end of the second question, I felt I had enough information to move on with writing. Only by following up with the final two did I understand how this scene fits in my overall story. With Purpose, conflict, and characters, I know how the scene helps or hinders my readers form answering the dramatic question. That, along with entertainment, is the purpose of the story.

Writer’s Log 01.25.2019-1826

Not a particularly good writing day, 3 out of 10, and will make 5 out of 10 if I finish a thousand words in Starjackers.
This story is not completely a pantser, I have a general plan, but it has changed. Yesterday, I added a Romance subplot, which changed the way the story will go and lengthened, and the time it will take to write. I think I still have a good shot for March, but March 12th is a bit soon. I wrote a good post, “Thoughts on Paranormal Romance: Pride Mates – Ashley,” on my observations on the beginning of Jeffifer Ashley’s Pride Mates. I think it is a good post, and it very likely will influence how I write.
I understand that changing characters will alter the story, but I have realized that I did not have a sufficient plan. Now, after the first disaster, Oza is trying to find a way to get a ship and get off the planet. He has met someone that he doesn’t know if he can trust. He has thrown down the gauntlet for the Bandaged Woman.

You can’t write a book by relentless asking what happens next. At some point, you will always reach a place where what’s next does not work. How do pantsers do it? Face it, no matter what I said in the above paragraph, and the fact that I have an idea who it will end, I don’t know shit about what is next.

It’s been going well, you know, the writing. I am close to ecstatically happy or was until today. Maybe I am tired. I stayed up until 0100 last night. Tired this morning, after writing a bit I slept on the couch for an hour. My mind doesn’t want to work.

I need to back up two scenes/chapters and plan where it goes.

(1) The Canto Secundus transiting through hyperspace arrives at their destination, a red dwarf star that Captain Oza is visiting to pay back a debt incurred during the war. They arrive in system, and find three ships waiting ofr them, something that should be impossible. The Canto Secundus takes damage and only Captain Oza Survives.

(2) Oza wakes in a body bag shared with the corpse of a friend, and manages to escape through the panicked uses of his blaster. He is taken for a medical checkup, and when he is found to be mostly in good condition, he is tossed in jail.

Writer’s Log Supplemental 01.26..2019 – 0918
Wrote this late last night under a deep sense of despair when I realized a few things I will not on my next post.

Goals, Milestones, and Deadlines

It occurred to me that I need to start setting goals, milestones, and deadlines. (Wouldn’t that be a clever title.) My intent here is to keep a running list of things I can do to push my career forward. If I don’t keep a list, I fear I may forget.

(1) Publish Knowledge’s Ashes: Starjackers (March 2019)
(2) Publish Spell Thief: Old God’s Shadow (April-May 2019)
(3) Write a Medium Article on Indie Writer’s Associations.
(4) Write a Medium Article on Theme.
(5) Write book 2 of Knowledge’s Ashes
(6) Figure out if Twitch, youtube, and streaming video is something for you.
(7) Twitter often.
(8) Blog Daily
(9) Continue Marketing Research
(10) Develop my own Book Launch Check List
(11) Begin Knowledge’s Ashes: Song of the Founders
(12) Begin Spell Thief: Book 2
(13) Begin Knowledge’s Ashes: The Nephellim Gene

“Shift” by Frank Darbe

Shift – A Science Fiction Novel by Frank Darbe

Writer’s Log – Martin Luther King Jr Edition

A Writer’s Process: Holidays are like Sundays, but more so. Not only are they family days, but we have this expectation of big things, or at least middle sized things. We are expected to prioritize those expectations.
Perhaps if I were younger I would look see holidays are a time to kick back, relax, let my hair down. For me, I have this intense drive to write, to get things done, to work.

My time on earth is short, and I’ve grown too old to surrender to lazy.

Intimations of mortality aside, Starjackers consumes my mind and energies. I know how it will end. I have a trilogy of Novella’s planned. but as a first draft, I feel I am finding the story, like a rare coin left in the dirt.

Forgot to publish, so here it is now.

Writer’s Log 01.19.2019 – 1006

Just a short note, because I wrote a whole blog today about disasters. Go read it. It is great.

Today, I overcome the sudden realization that I had no idea who was behind the entire plot against Suri Oza. Now I know who the big bad is. The novel has also expanded to 9226. words.