Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taking a Break

This is the 30th. post today and I've met my goal of posting for 30 days straight.  Some were good, some were awful and some were just OK, but I had fun and I stuck to it.  It's time to concentrate on polishing the manuscript and getting it ready to submit and I eagerly anticipate starting the next book.  I have a couple of good ideas.  We'll see which one talks to me the most.

I don't plan on abandoning the blog.  I will just calm it down a bit.  The pace of writing something everyday kept me busy and at times I felt like I was scrambling to come up with something new to talk about.  So, from now on, if I feel I have something to say, I'll say it here.  If I'm busy writing, I'll more than likely remain silent on the blog.  Just know I'm cranking out the next great novel (or in my case, the first great novel).  Ha!

Talk to you soon.

Rich Hale

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Bicycle

Back in Annandale, Va. again as a kid.

The court I lived on  was a hard right turn at the bottom of a hill.  The house that sat on the corner was pressed up very close to this hilly street.  Many residents complained repeatedly that the close proximity of the house to the street obstructed the view of cars coming down the hill as you exited my court.  A number of fender benders had happened at this small neighborhood intersection, but of course, nothing could be done.  No one was going to move the house.

One of the other kids in the court had a sister.  This little sister had a bike and she had been trying to ride it for months without much success.  She had fallen so many times and scraped knees, elbows, palms, face, she was now terrified of it.  We tried to help.  We showed her the bike would balance on its own as long as it was rolling.  This was demonstrated to her by running along side the back pushing it up to speed (with no one on it of course) and then letting it go.  It would coast upright, perfectly balanced until it either ran out of momentum or ran into something.  Didn't phase her.  She refused to try so we gave up.

It gave us a great idea though.

We took her bike to the entrance of the court.  One kid hid in the bushes on the opposite side of the court entrance and another manned the un-manned bike.  It took a little practice for timing, but the 'spotter' kid would yell "Now!" and the runner would get the bike up to speed and let it go.

Now with this house up so close to the street, the blocked view worked both ways.  A car coming down the hill could not see something exiting the court until it's nose was just about into the street.  So, if timed correctly, this bike would come flying out of the court, coasting upright into the street and the driver could never stop in time.  Brakes squealing, metal crashing, the driver would always hit the bike.  We would then run!  Man, we were stupid.

This went on for a couple of days until the bike was so beat and bent up, it wouldn't roll on its own.  The kid's sister cried for 2 days.  Man, we were stupid!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Jags Part 2?

After the win on Sunday against the Raiders, it looks like the Jags just may have a shot at the playoffs.  At least, their chances seem to rest in their own hands.  For the most part.

If the Jags can beat the Colts in their own house and Houston loses, the Jags have it locked up.  Anything else happens then the deck is reshuffled.  The potential is there and it sure has been good to see them hanging in there to the end.  At times they seem like the 'Cardiac Cats' of old and sure put on a great show.  Go Jags!  Keep it up!  It sure would be fun to see you win the AFC South.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reading Your Manuscript Out Loud

One of the final tests the writer should perform before submitting the manuscript for publication is to read the story out loud.  It sounds weird, I know, but you'd be surprised what this simple process can reveal.  If it doesn't sound good out loud, it won't fly with someone reading it.

As most readers absorb a good book, they create pictures in their mind of scenes, characters, and environments.  They also will hear certain things created by the imagination.  This is why a good work of fiction is so enjoyable.  It wisks you away to a little corner of your mind where you, the reader, get to fill in all the subtleties of the story.  Dialogue will create voices in the readers head and if the dialogue is cramped, corny or too mechanical, the reader will know it.  When you read the story out loud, all of these flaws become apparent.  You'll hear the corny, cheezy, or mechanical flaws and hopefully correct them.

It does take a little getting used to.  The first time I tried it, I felt embarrassed even though I was alone.  Later, my daughter stuck her head in and looked at me funny.  I explained what I was doing and why and she seemed to understand.  She pointed out a corny line I had just read and felt somewhat proud of herself.  After a little practice you'll even begin reading the story with some emotion almost as if you were acting it out.

The most important thing you'll get out of the exercise is the ability to 'hear' what your readers are 'hearing' in their heads.  I think you'll be surprised at some of the mistakes you will find.  Don't leave this important step of the editing process out.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

To Pen Name Or Not To Pen Name

Should I write under a pen name or use my own?  I'm sure many an author have pondered that same question for one reason or another, but for me I wonder if it would improve or detract from much needed attention.

My own name seems a little boring to me only because it has been my name for 46 years now (alright, cat's out of the bag...I'm ancient).  I've asked a few people and they seem to think it's a fine name for an author.  Seems dignified, proper, and flows well according to them, but should I use my whole name or some shortened version or even a nickname?

Richard Hale
Rich Hale
Richard C Hale
Dick Hale
Dick C Hale
C Dick Hale
or just Sofaking

Using a unique pen name might be fun if I could find one, but why do some authors do this?  Are they trying to hide something or trying to remain anonymous?  Maybe they just want to write something a little different than what they are known for?  This last thing makes the most sense to me.  If you're known for writing horror and say, you want to write porn for a bit, you might need to come up with a pen name until you get it out of your system.  Something like Phil McCrackin of Heywood Jablome.  Something that would let you do whatever you wanted without the stigma of your past practices impeding progress.

If I were to pick a pen name I think I would like something that just sounded cool.  Something that almost sounded like you were a super-hero or something.  Jennings Jackson or Slate Steel or Broad Shoulders (?).  Alright, that last one was really lame, but you get the idea.  A cool handle to attract that oh so elusive book buyer.  Something to make me stand out in a crowd of mundane authors whose household names invoke a sense of wonder.  Let's look at this for a minute.  Put my name up against anyone's.  How about Stephen King's:

Stephen King or Richard Charles Hale

No Brainer.  Now how about:

Stephen King or Pouridge Livermore 


Stephen King or Jaeger Moansleeve


Stephen King or Cap E. Toll

Something to think about anyway.  Right now, I'll just stick with good 'ol Richard Hale.  Works for me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Dummy Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 you can do so here.

Since we couldn't skate on the ice or slide the furniture around, we went back to our court and each went to our houses to gather some old clothing.  We met in my backyard near the hole in the hedge and began assembling a dummy made of a pair of pants and long sleeve shirt and then stuffed it with the other old clothes and rags we had found.  Holding him up for inspection we couldn't help but giggle at what we had created.

We took George (the dummy's name) to the pool complex, heaved him over the fence and then clambered over it after him.  Jimmy had brought an ice pick and he chipped out a half circle in the ice at the edge of the pool big enough for the dummy and we took the lifeguard hook's pole and stuffed the dummy under the ice, pushing him about 3 to 4 feet away from the edge with the pole.

Through the milky white ice, George the dummy looked exactly like a body trapped under the ice.  We put the pole back and scrambled over the fence giggling and laughing the whole time as we high-tailed it back to my yard. 

We waited.

A week went by, then two.  Every day we would nonchalantly walk past the pool and one of us would turn and look.

"He still there?"  Jimmy would ask.
"Yep, still there," his brother John would say.

We couldn't figure out why no one had discovered The Dummy. 

The following week, just before dusk, we were playing kick the can in the snow and we heard sirens in the distance getting closer.  We all froze.  As they grew louder we could tell they were heading for the pool so we hauled ass, laughing and cackling to the hole in the hedge at my back yard and watched.

Two police cars, 3 fire trucks, an ambulance and a small gathering of neighbors watched for 30 minutes or so as the firemen attempted to rescue The Dummy.  This part remains frozen in my memory as distinct and clear as the day it happened:  Sound travels well over the snow and we could here the emergency vehicle's radios squawk now and then along with the frantic voices of the police and fireman.  As they rescued The Dummy, holding it up to see, everything became deathly silent as the guy holding George said:  "Fucking kids!"  and threw The Dummy to the ground.  It made a wet slapping noise as it hit the deck.  We ran.

There's a reason I posted this little clip of my childhood.  The other day Annandale popped into the news and it made me think about all the good and bad times I had there.  The town and The court I lived on were some of the most dramatic and memorable of my young life.  But what if things had turned out just a little different?  What if the prank had gone wrong?  Could be a good story in there.  I may just have to put my pen to it.  When I'm finished, I'll post it on this blog. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Dummy Part 1

I lived in Annandale Virginia when I was a kid and we had a neighborhood pool everybody swam in during the summer.  During the winter, the lifeguards and staff stored what they could in the shed, stacked the pool furniture up and locked up the bathrooms tight.  Water remained in the pool.

At the mischievous age of 13, my friends and I were always finding ways to get ourselves into trouble and during one of the 'snow days' of that winter, we had gotten bored of the snowball fights and snow fort building, and sledding, and decided we would try skating on the pool.  We cut through my backyard (there was an opening between a 10 foot hedge and our fence) and wandered over to the pool complex.  It was deserted.  All of us climbed the fence and stood at the edge of the frozen pool.  The ice didn't look very thick.

John, my next door neighbor decided to test it by putting his weight on one foot while his brother Jimmy and I held on to him.  Carefully he put his foot on the ice and leaned out over the water, slowly putting more and more weight on it until he was standing on the ice with one foot.  He looked up and grinned at us.  That's when the ice broke and his foot dropped into the water.  Luckily Jimmy and I had a good grip on him and yanked him right back up but not before his shoe and pant leg up to his knee dipped into the frigid water.  He wasn't grinning anymore.

Since sliding or walking on the pool was out, we decided to take all the pool furniture and slide it out to the middle of the frozen pool.  We thought this was hilarious since no one could go out and get it as the ice was only strong enough to hold the furniture's weight but not strong enough to hold a human's weight, even a 13 year old. 

There the furniture sat until the ice melted and then it all sank to the bottom only to be retrieved by the angry pool staff before the summer swimming season began.

The next winter was even colder than then previous one and the ice over the pool seemed thicker but none of us were willing to test it out.  The pool staff had learned their lesson and chained all the furniture to the pool deck so we couldn't slide it out on the ice again.  We had a better idea anyway. 

Part 2 tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Computer Virus

Today will be short and sweet (well, maybe not so sweet for me).  I seem to have a computer virus and though I'm usually pretty adept at handling these irritating pokes in the eye of this modern age, I find myself a little overwhelmed with everyday duties and really just don't want to deal with it.  Alas, it has to be done, because as most of us have found, the family computer seems to be a necessity these days and when it is possessed by demons of some sort, the whole household comes to a screaming halt.  So, instead of writing about what I wanted today, I must succumb to the whim of some unknown idiot, tackle the world of hackers and purge my system of its malady.  Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I've been looking for new words I'm unfamiliar with to add to the next short story or novel.  For instance, zeitgeist.  It just sounds cool.  I had no idea what it meant when I first heard it, so I had to look it up. 

    zeitgeist - the spirit of the time; the spirit characteristic of an age or generation

Now to find some way to use it.  I love the word ointment too.  It just has a funny ring to it along with the possibility the use may invoke some uncomfortable response from the reader. 

   He applied the ointment to the infected area hoping the rash would clear up before his date.

Here's another one just heard from KBJaxx in a response to this blog:  bemoan.  It's not a new word to me, I mean I've heard it before, but it's one of those words you don't hear too often and frankly I just forgot it even existed.

   bemoan - regret strongly.

I've got to find a place to put that one.  Slang words are fun too.  A co-worker told me I needed to use this in my next book

  'rug' - slang for the combination of a redneck and a thug.

I don't think anyone would get it unless you were able to explain the slang to them, but it's funny.

I'd love to hear some interesting or funny words to add to my list.  Let me know what ya' got.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Lights Part 3

If you haven't read them, click on Part1 and Part 2.

As far as the bad stuff that happened, they were thankfully few and far between, but they played a major role in my decision to give myself a break from the show.

In the first year I had a group of drunk people show up with the radio blasting and the windows open.  I had heard a few loud radios and usually they toned it down after a bit, but when I could hear my neighbor yelling at them to turn it down, I decided to investigate.  They wouldn't listen to reason and said they could listen to it as loud as they wanted.  I didn' t argue with them, just went inside, locked the doors and shut the show off.  After about 15 minutes they got the hint and left.

Then there was the neighborhood teenager in the beat up truck.  This kid really scared me.  He was probably irritated at the traffic I created and having little or no patience, would come barrelling round the corner with his hand pressed constantly on the horn.  He never stopped or slowed down and narrowly missed some car doors.  What scared me the most about this was people would be out of their cars with their little ones, standing in the street watching the show and he would never even slow down.  I tried stopping him a few times, but he ignored me.  I was on my way to talk to him one day and my wife stopped me.  "You're just going to get yourself thrown in jail.  Just leave it alone."  She was right.  I just did my best to warn people about it when I heard his loud exhaust fire up.  Luckily last year he never was an issue.  I believe he was away at school.  Thank God!

The second year was going well and I thought it was going to be uneventful, but as the crowds increased, people's patience decreased and I thought some folks were going to duke it out.  They would get angry because a car's lights were blinding them and they would start yelling, or some car was in the middle of the road and wouldn't let anyone around them.  Somebody even turned a different radio station on and then turned it all the way up.

This was supposed to make people happy not create anger and angst.

Then the software malfunctioned one night while I was at work.  It kept playing the intro over and over again, never moving past it.  I was getting e-mails on my phone at work and then my wife called in a panic. I tried to troubleshoot it with her over the phone, but we couldn't get it worked out so I had her shut it down for the night.  The next day I had 20 to 30 nasty e-mails from people.  I had a hard time NOT writing them back asking for an address so I could send them a refund.  Sheesh!

But the straw that broke the camels back came at the end of the season when I made a huge error disassembling the Mega Tree.  I somehow got the strings of lights all tangled (144 strings to be exact) and I ended up with a giant ball of lights.  I had to throw away almost a $1000.00 worth of lights.  I couldn't afford to replace them.  At that moment it just wasn't worth it to me.  I was so angry at myself I vowed to never do the show again. 

Needless to say, I've had somewhat of a change of heart.  I miss it this year and I've had a few little ones very upset at me.  I'll give it a rest this season and since I haven't sold anything yet, decide over the course of the next year if I want to do it again.  I'm leaning towards yes.  We'll see. 

If you'd like to watch some videos of the show from years past, you can find them here.

Merry Christmas!!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Lights Part 2

If you didn't read part 1, you'll find it here.

The night I turned them on for the first time, I stood in the street with this huge grin on my face.  After all the planning, building, programming and setting up, it actually worked!  A few little tweaks needed to be adjusted, like one of the arches was leaping backwards and some of the bushes weren't lighting up correctly, but 15 minutes later, everything was running perfect.  Now to wait for my audience.  Nobody came.  Ha!

It took a couple of nights, but people eventually started stopping and wondering why all the lights were blinking on and off in a pattern that didn't seem random.  Some folks didn't realize they were synchronized to music since I had the songs broadcast through an FM transmitter so the neighbors wouldn't have to listen to speakers blaring all the time.  When I pointed out the lit up sign displaying the correct FM channel, they got it and then you would see their faces light up.  Sure was a lot better with the music, they would say.

As the holiday season progressed that first year, people would tell other people and they would e-mail their friends who would facebook somebody else and pretty soon I was having crowds of folks all just from word of mouth.  I didn't want to be on the news or in the paper, so I didn't solicit any of that, and as it turned out, I really didn't need any advertising.  By the week of Christmas, cars were wrapped around the block from 7:30 until 9:30.  I started to get concerned.  Maybe it was going to get out of hand.  Luckily it never did.

The good things about that first year were numerous.  The neighbors didn't seem to mind (at least they didn't tell me), everyone who saw it loved it, people for the most part were well behaved with the exception of a few I'll mention in a moment, people would clap when they would see me walking around the display, attending to some minor maintenance or checking wiring and set-up.  On Luminary night, I received numerous standing ovations and even one, "I'm gonna do this next year."  I tried to warn the fellow about what he was getting into, but he didn't seem to care.  I still don't know if he ever followed through or not.

I even had one couple send me a Christmas card with money in it to help pay for the electric bill.  That floored me.  But the thing that touched me the most was the little 5 year old girl who insisted on giving my wife $5.00 of her allowance so we would keep doing it every year.  Her parents wouldn't take the money back and said it was what she wanted to do.  These are the ones that make my decision not to do the show this year regrettable.  I'm sure I've let some people down. 

Tomorrow, in part 3, the bad things that have happened.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Lights Part 1

I finally came to my senses.  Well, actually I needed a break.  After only 2 years of the animated Christmas Light Show, I have successfully burned my self out.  Don't get me wrong, it was fun to see it running and everyone who saw it raved about how cool it was, but man, it was a lot of work.

If any are not familiar with animated Christmas Lights, just google 'animated Christmas lights to music' and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Some are spectacles in themselves.  Behind the scenes, it takes quite a bit of planning and time to put a good show together.

My first year, I started thinking about it in January.  I bought a lot of the equipment on sale in July and at that point had already decided what I was going to do and had begun practicing with a free limited version of the software that runs the show.  Over the summer I built a lot of the pieces and spent countless hours soldering together the controller boxes that would send the signals from the computer to the actual lights.  I bought controller kits and they took about 5 hours each to build.

The rest of the summer and fall was spent programming the music so the lights would turn on and off to the beat of the song.  With each controller (8 of them) having 16 channels, that gave me 128 different things to turn on and off and I had to program each one for each song.  It usually took about an hour to program about 15 seconds of a song.  You get the idea.

I still remember having my littlest one operate the drill as we spun lights onto PVC pipe to make the leaping arches.  She said she had fun, but I could tell she was sick of it after only two.

Set-up started the day after Halloween and the next three weeks I spent every waking hour that I wasn't at work, putting it all together.  I did not exist in my family that year during that time period.  No one saw me the whole buildup to Thanksgiving which was my target date for the show to start.  You can probably figure how that went over with the family.  Obsessed was a term I heard a lot.

Tomorrow part 2.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Dog Snores

My dog snores.  She hasn't always done this, but as she's gotten older it seems to worsen by the day.  I mean sometimes it's so loud it drowns out the TV. I could fall asleep in front of the TV and wake 20 minutes later from her snoring.  When she walks or runs, she oinks now like a pig and that in itself is somewhat humorous, but when she sits in front of you, staring at your food and snoring at it while she is wide awake, even I crack up.

My Dad had a ukulele when we were kids.  If you've never seen one, it's like a baby guitar but with only four nylon strings.  You tuned it by singing these four words:  My Dog Has Fleas.  Now, when you look at those four words it's hard to imagine tuning an instrument to them, but if you heard how they were sung just once, you would never forget.  It always worked.

If I could just use that theory on my dog I might be able to make her snoring just a little more pleasing to the ear:  My Dog Snores Loud.  You know...tune her up or something.

Anybody else out there have pets or animals that make uncharacteristic noises?  Love to hear about it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm scared

I saw this post on Facebook the other day:

"I'm scared."

That was it.  Two words.  Maybe if you say it fast enough, one word..."I'mScared."  The response was phenomenal.  Comments were being left, left and right (or right and left if you're right handed):

"What's wrong?"  "Why?"  "Who scared you?  I'll kick their ass!"  "???"  and the best, "I had a scar once too, but I put some cream on it and it slowly faded away."

And then there were the 'likes'.  42 people liked this!  What the F?  Did these 42 people know the reason this person was scared?  Did they care?  Or did they just click on the 'like' button by mistake.  I did that once when a friend of mine made some depressing comment about their dog Gigi dying after 15 long, blissful years in the family.  I couldn't figure out how to cancel it.  I'm down one friend now.

This went on for a whole day and this person never explained what he/she meant by "I'm scared."  Silence on their part and this made it worse.  It drove people nuts so they just started making shit up:

"I heard he/she came out of the closet."  "Maybe the dog became violent."  "Carnies scare me!"  "Can I come over and hold you?"  "I had herpes once. Scared the crap out of me too!"  "Cabbage juice is good for your stomach.  Keeps everything flowing."

Those two terrifying words had created panic and bedlam among this person's 'friends' and if somebody didn't give them some information soon, they were going to shut the website down!

The next day, this person posted on their wall "Oops!  My bad!  I meant 'I'm seared'.  I'm fried... I got super sunburned at the beach.  Sorry."

Sheesh!!!   Tomorrow I'm gonna' try it.  I'll put:

"I'm worried."  instead of  "I'm hurried."  Or "I'm late." instead of  "I'm lame."  Or "I've got ointment." instead of  "I've got appointments."

Be careful what you type, it might just lead to embellishment...I mean embarrassment.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I decided to impose upon myself a few deadlines, this blog being one of them.  I wanted to see if I could write something everyday for 30 days.  Today I'm going to cheat a little.  I wrote something so now I'm done.  Oh...alright, never mind.

All of us have deadlines.  Just the other day, I needed to pay a certain bill by a certain date, so I wrote a check (people still use these things?) put it in an envelope, licked it, put a stamp on it, and mailed it.  Pretty simple.  I still hate it.  I'm somewhat of a procrastinator and If I can let it go, I will.  For some reason, when somebody imposes a deadline on me, I take it as a personal assault on my time.  A demand for attention I'm unwilling to give.  A violent thrust of a wickedly sharp knife slicing into the guts of my existence.'s not really that bad.  I just put stuff off sometimes and then forget about it until I either have to rush around to finish the task or realize no amount of hurrying will complete it on time and I must be satisfied with it being late.  There are a few exceptions to this basic flaw of mine, but for the most part, putting stuff off has become an art form for me.  Let me give you an example:

Never mind...I'll think of one tomorrow.

Most writers deal with deadlines all the time.  Whether you write for a newspaper, magazine, or blog, you are usually required to have a completed, polished, article ready by a certain time and date or risk having your work passed over or at the worst, losing your job.  Popular fiction writers are usually no different.  They must adhere to deadlines dealt them by their publishers and are usually paid in advance for work expected within a certain timeline.  Thus, I'm practicing for when I'm cool and popular (if ever).  If some future publisher wants me to hand in to them 500,000 words of polished material by Christmas Eve, dammit I want to be ready.

Or at least close.  Maybe by Christmas day.  Wait....that's a holiday so...the day after Christmas.  Whatever.