Tom's Blog

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Third Issue

June 8, 2009

Catching Up

Well, so much for keeping up my blog regularly. Events got away from me for a time. Events that were from the significant, such as my father-in-law's death in April, to the mundane, like an overabundance of consulting work. Now, it's time to catch up.

After a number of sessions with the Evanston Writers Group I dropped out. Primarily because I discovered that I was uncomfortable giving the level of criticism offered by other participants while receiving the benefit of their cogent comments. The one piece I had submitted for review was the opening pages of Scratch, the novel I shelved due to my own dissatisfaction with it.

There was much value in their criticism. Some of which I will apply if I take up the novel again. I've also considered a variety of other approaches to the novel, such as shifting the protagonist role to another character. Whether I'll act on any of this is uncertain.

Most writing ideas have only so much life to them. Other ideas keep pressing in. There is so much I want to write and so little a time to get it done.

A Fortunate Life

After completing the draft of Crossing Georgian Bay, I took up writing down my memories. That was a worthwhile exercise as I found that by opening my mind to my own memories, what I could rercall multiplied. I now have a roughly 90-page draft of memories.

Some time I will take that effort further, cross-checking against what documentation I posses, which should refine the chronology. Perhaps someday I will turn the memories into a Memoir. I titled the piece A Fortunate Life, for that's what I feel I've had.

As an aside, I am age 62 , so my life extends from 1946. There has been ample change in our society and in the wider world during those sixty-plus years.

Current Projects

I am researching in earnest the history of China from about 1840 through 1900. I've had in mind for some years writing a novel set in the Republic or warlord period (1912-1939). Yet for me the task seemed daunting because while I possess an understanding of Chinese history there is so much about its historical society with which I'm unfamiliar.

I decided to bite off a small piece first. The piece centers on the siege of the legations in 1900, which is an element of the Boxer Rebellion and the resulting contention between the Chinese (Manchu) government and the concession powers (Britain, Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, America).

If successful when I write this novel, then it, in turn, can form a backdrop to the warlords novel.

In addition to the research, I constructed a family on the fringe of Chinese-European society. I am thinking about the family as a bridge to tell the story from both the Chinese and European viewpoints.

My other current project is a game design.

Simulation Wargames

As noted in my brief biography, I have designed simulastion wargames in the past that have been published: Hell Hath No Fury (Boudicca's rebellion against the Romans), Condottieri (Sir John Hawkwood and Padua versus Verona), and Hegemon (Philip's campaign against Athens and Thebes).

Actually, I'm usually fussing with a game design. Writing tends to be a morning activity. Game design is usually an evening activity. The current design is based on Napoleon's Waterloo campaign.

Any gamer reading this is probably groaning given the plethora of Waterloo games. My spin is different in that the game encompasses all of Southern Netherlands (modern Belgium and Luxembourg) giving wider scope to the strategic options available to the players.

Back to Meet Up Groups

This Wednesday evening I intend going to another Meet Up group here in Evanston. This group is an offshoot from the previous group I attended. Rather than a criticism group, the focus of the new group is on writing. My understanding is that the group partakes of several writing exrcises per session. I'm hoping this group's activity is more to my taste. I'll let you know.

Thanks for your interest,


Second Issue

March 16, 2009

Evanston Writers Group

I attended my first meeting of this MeetUp group on March 4. There were 11 of us in attendance at the Border's coffee shop. The meeting ran from 7 pm to 9 pm roughly. In that time we reviewed four pieces of writing previously submitted on the group's MeetUp web site.

As one would expect the quality of the various pieces was uneven. Some were first drafts and others heavily worked pieces. No piece was longer than 3,000 words, a house rule. So some were short stories and others a chapter. One piece was a scene from a play. All were fictional.

The criticism was also uneven. Some comments were didactic, having to do with grammar, formatting, etc. Other comments were quite cogent analyses and suggestions. Some comments, in my opinion, had less merit.

All in all, it made an interesting evening. I felt it to be worthwhile enough to attend again, the next session being this coming Wednesday, the 18th. From among my own writings, I selected the first short three chapters from Scratch, my incomplete crime novel, to upload for others criticism.

A low risk approach since I'm dissatisfied with what I've written thus far of Scratch. I suppose it would be riskier to upload a piece from Battle Hymn or Texas Fever as I'm pleased with those novels. In that vein, I'm considering uploading the first chapters from each of my unpublished novels to this site for general approbation.

Crossing Georgian Bay

This past weekend I completed the first draft of Crossing Georgian Bay. The piece is either a long short story or a short novella intended for "young adults". In addition to the story there is a postscript offering more information about the foundering of the steamship Asia.

I'm not sure why passenger shipping on the Great Lakes interests me. When I wrote Voyage of the Screw Steamer Penetang, it was inspired by a visit to a maritime museum. Crossing Georgian Bay results from reading a brief citation mentioning the two teenage survivors, a young woman and man.

Thanks for your interest,


First Issue

March 2, 2009

AWP Conference

In February '09, my eldest daughter and I attended the annual conference of The Association of Writers & Writing Programs held in Chicago. The conference offered many sessions per each time slot in its three full days of schedule, plus many additional associated events and a Book Fair . Most of the organizations having booths at the Book Fair were university writing programs, as well as university and literary presses.

My daughter and I were only able to attend two days, overlapping one and spending it together. She attended Thursday and Friday; I attended Friday and Saturday. The sessions I attended included:

Of the nine sessions I attended, I would say four were excellent, three were good, one was mediocre, and one was poor. I gained ideas and learned something from every one of them, including the poor one. I also managed to buy only two books at the Book Fair, showing commendable restraint. All in all, I'd rate the AWP conference as among the better that I've attended.

During the Creative and Critical Writing session, they drew on the book Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches by Davidson and Fraser. I was impressed enough by that session that I intend to buy the sister volume to the Poetry work, titled Writing Fiction (Amanda Boulter) . Writing for the Screen has also been published as part of the series and a Writing Non-Fiction is due out soon. The series is published by Palgrave-Macmillan and the series editor if Graeme Harper.

Meet Up

Another item on my list of things to do was to establish or join a group interested in fiction writing. My eldest daughter is doing the same in the area she lives, Buffalo, NY. She launched the end of February through using

Checking out for my community--Evanston, IL--I discovered an existing group that meets twice monthly to critique one anoither's work. I joined and expect to participate in my first meeting this week. We'll see how it goes.

Tom's Blog

One last item for today is this blog. This is an experiment for me.The idea is that I write regularly this little column and invite responses. For the moment, just respond via the Crow Woods Publishing e-mail address. If this garners activity, we can put the blog on a more formal basis.

Thanks for your interest,


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