Pluck a curious American out of his familiar surroundings and plunk him down in a rural farming barrio in a third world country. Give him a computer and a lot of free time. Immerse him in a bewildering culture, pummel him with a strange and unfamiliar language, befuddle him with intricate social rules, equip him with an unrestrained ironic wit, and turn him loose on the reading public with a book describing his slightly off-center view of the world. The result is “My Philippine Adventures: Hazy, Hot and Humorous,” an unrestrained tumble through the thickets of Philippine culture, an as-it-happened account of one man’s adjustment to, and eventual acceptance of, life in a tropical backwater that he,only half jokingly refers to as Paradise.
I am a lazy man, so I don’t do anything full time. But I write every day, at least until my Sweetie “suggests” that there are chores left undone. I do maintain a blog at www.myphilippinechronicles.com, which eats up a lot of time.
I write best in the morning. A warm bagel, two cups of coffee and my laptop; is there a better way to start the day? But sometimes an idea will rattle around in my mostly empty head and I will sit and write.
I was once asked this question by another author and I replied that I write because I want to show off. “Look at me. See what I can do.” And there’s some truth to that. I consider myself a performer of sorts. Yes, I have something to say, but I am mainly driven by a desire to entertain my readers. Also, I relish the idea of putting words together in an interesting and creative way. There is something delicious about a perfectly worded sentence. Editing, as you can imagine, is agony.
I have just finished my second book, “Flip Flops and Girly Beer: Life in a Philippine Barrio,” and am working on my first novel, which I hope to publish in 2016 on Amazon. It’s a mystery about art fraud. It takes place primarily in the Philippines.
For twenty years I kept a journal of my experiences adjusting to the Philippine culture, sending regular e-mails to friends and relatives. I received some positive feedback, and some of my correspondents suggested I compile these notes and put them in a book. I was aware, of course, that complimentary remarks from friends and relatives should be taken with a large grain of salt. But my ego, being inflated to embarrassing proportions, I decided to plunge ahead. I was pleasantly surprised that my first book received a warm reception.
Unfortunately, my first two books do not fit into one genre. They are, in different aspects, biography, travel, culture and humor. This has created a visibility problem on Amazon.
I do a fair amount of Internet research and a lot of reading, mostly to avoid making a fool of myself by misunderstanding the historical or cultural roots of what I am writing about. I am, of course, quite used to making a fool out of myself, but I try to avoid it if I can.
Over the years, I have gradually developed a “voice” that seems to resonate with my readers. This has given me more confidence. I have also learned that you can’t please everyone – though less than a five star review still stings a little.
My first two books were easy to write since they recount my first-hand experiences. I had some difficulty climbing the learning curve to get them published on Amazon and CreateSpace, but overall it was a relatively painless experience. My next book, however, is a novel, and equine of a different hue. Keeping the plot moving and keeping track of the storyline has been a challenge. I am not a serious man. My life is lived mostly on the surface, so character development is something I have to work on.
The thing that pumps me up is when a reader appreciatively quotes one of my lines. This kind of compliment will keep me energized for weeks.
Since I write ironic humor, I have gotten a feel for what works and what doesn’t. There is a fine line between irony and criticism. I try to stay on the happy side of that line.
I write a thrice-weekly 1,000 word essay for my blog, and it’s always a challenge to come up with new material. Sometimes I stare at the blank screen, frozen into inaction. But I find that typing something into the computer, no matter how unfinished the though, is enough to get me started. From there, I can let it flow. Writing my novel, however, is more difficult. I experimented with train of thought and outlines and snowflake method, but couldn’t really get anything coherent down. I am now using a combination of those techniques. We’ll see if it works.
I always write in the first person, speaking directly to, and involving the reader in the story. This keeps my audience always in mind, and it gives the reader, I think, a more enjoyable experience. I always answer comments on my blog and on Facebook, though they don’t come frequently enough.
I have a large, but fragile ego. I thrive on positive feedback. I write with that in mind, always with the thought of pleasing my readers. As they say in business, “The customer is always right.”
I have been playing with the idea of joining a local writers’ group, but have not done so, partly because I lack sufficient confidence in my work, and partly because I’m afraid exposure to the dry mechanics of storytelling might dampen my spirit. I realize this is irrational, but there it is.
I have not worked with a professional editor and probably could have benefited by doing so. I do have well-read friends evaluate and comment, but, of course, they are reluctant to criticize.
I credit Lawrence Sanders, and his McNalley series, for helping me develop my “voice.” The Archy McNalley character is someone I would like to be. In my upcoming novel, I have expanded on this character and given him more depth. But he remains essentially irreverent, funny and smart.
Marketing! Ugh. I’m learning the ropes, but I hate it. I maintain a blog at www.myphilippinechrobicles.com where I try to keep current with fresh content and where I plug my books. I reluctantly got my Facebook account this year, which has significantly increased my blog traffic, but it’s a chore to stay engaged with my “friends” there.I’ve done some book signings and issued press releases and scoured the web for sites where I can get my name out. But I can’t say I enjoy any of it. And the jury is still out about the effectiveness of my efforts so far.
I am an Amazon guy, E-book and paperback. The great thing about e-publishing is that it’s free; anybody can do it. The bad thing about e-publishing is that it’s free; anybody can do it. It’s tough being one small fish in a school of millions.
Although I haven’t yet published my first novel, I like the idea of a recurring character, though not necessarily a chronological sequence. I enjoy, for instance, the late Robert B. Parker – same characters, no identifiable timeline.
I think a novel should be at least 250 pages, otherwise I think I am cheating my readers.
Don’t I wish. I frequently ask readers to write a review, and there is a request at the beginning and end of my books, but so far I have received only a few. I am not comfortable blowing my own horn and asking for pats on the back.
Live your life. Look, ask, be curious, read, experience, take notes.
I am a Dick Francis fan. I love his style and his intricate plots. My writing is very different, but Francis has shown me what possibilities there are. Emulating him, however, is beyond my ability. Robert B, Parker’s dialogue is one of the best. As I mentioned before, Lawrence Sanders’ McNalley is a wonderful character.
I’m not up to that learning curve yet.
I’m working on getting my novel out there and scratching my head to come up with another story. I am, I say modestly, a decent writer, but I have much to learn about storytelling.
My morning exercise period is a time for reflection. It is then that I revise my current piece and try to think of where I’m going next. If nothing interesting comes to the surface, I do something else for a while, then come back to the computer
I’m a newby myself, so I’m not qualified to advise. I can offer some first-hand experience in the mechanics of e-publishing, but you can read that everywhere