Thursday, July 31, 2014

Setting Daily Writing Goals

Much like writers all have best times of the day to write, we all have different ways of setting daily goals. I’m a morning person so I write my new manuscripts in the morning and do editing, social networking and administrative tasks in the afternoon. I have tried a number of different approaches on setting daily writing goals.

Sometimes I try to accomplish a certain number of words a day. Other times I’ve set page targets or completing a chapter. The important part for me is merely writing every day. The only time I don’t write is when we have family functions or are visiting our kids and grandkids. Then I put writing aside.

For the most recent manuscript, I wrote at least a chapter a day. This ended up having fifty chapters, and with various family activities, I completed the rough draft in two months. Now I’m on to my many editing passes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gun Shoot

Last Saturday members of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America spent part of the day at a gun range in Colorado Springs. For mystery writers this was an excellent opportunity to learn more about weapons and experience shooting different types of guns.

We used three semi-automatic handguns, a revolver, an automatic rifle and a shotgun. Before shooting, we learned safety rules: 1. Point down range, 2. Finger alongside not on the trigger until ready to shoot 3. Gun is always loaded.

Some interesting statistics given by the instructor on one shot stop with various handguns:

22                    3%

25                    24%

32                    60%

38 special        63%

350                  70%

9mm                83%

45                    90-95%

I ended up with a nice bruise on my right shoulder from the shotgun and even hit the target a few times.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Operation North Wind in World War II

I always thought the Battle of the Bulge was the last major offensive by the Germans on the western front in World War II. In writing the biography of my friend, Ed, a World War II infantryman during Operation North Wind, I learned something new.

For Operation North Wind (Unternehmen Nordwind), Hitler gave orders to destroy the American forces in the Vosges Mountains.

As the German advance in the Battle of the Bulge stalled, Hitler went back to one of the rejected earlier plans. The fighting in the north had pulled Patton’s army to the Ardennes, so the new attempt at attacking the allies occurred in the Alsace region on December 31, 1944, one hour before midnight.

With the movement of Patton’s troops to fight in the Battle of the Bulge to the north, the lines of the Seventh Army were spread thin.

For the second time within the month of December, allied command was surprised by a ferocious German attack, this time on New Year’s Eve. Earlier, the British had been able to intercept and break the code of radio communications from the Germans. This worked very well when the Germans were in French territory. But after the German forces withdrew into Germany, they relied on wire communications rather than wireless that could be intercepted.  The allies had lost surveillance of a number of German units but did pick up hints of a buildup opposite the American Seventh Army. Other evidence included increased refugee movement toward the west and a break in German radio silence on New Year’s Eve.

Dissent also existed within allied command. With some of the initial signs of a buildup of enemy troops, Eisenhower had given orders to General Devers of the Sixth Army Group to retreat if attacked. He wanted to avoid another situation as in the Battle of the Bulge where the Germans had surrounded allied troops in Bastogne. The Sixth Army Group consisted of the US Seventh Army under General Patch and the French First Army under General Lattre de Tassigny. Patch had the unenviable position of defending a front of over 125 miles with six infantry divisions. Within the Seventh Army, General Haislip’s XV Corps made up of the 44th, 100th and 103rd Divisions had thirty-five miles along the Vosges to defend.

De Gaulle became aware of Eisenhower’s direction to Devers to be prepared to fall back and strenuously objected, since he did not want to give up Strasbourg, which had been recaptured by the Allies. Strasbourg lay on the French side of the border, but had been a contested city for years between France and Germany. De Gaulle knew that if the Germans retook the city, numerous French citizens would be slaughtered for defying the Nazis. Strasbourg remained second only to Paris as a symbol of the rebirth of France after German domination. De Gaulle threatened to pull the French troops out of the alliance if Strasbourg were not defended. This led to a meeting between Churchill, Eisenhower and De Gaulle. Churchill sided with De Gaulle that Strasbourg should not be given up. A repercussion was that de Gaulle lost his trust in American command, which played out years later in his independent attitude, refusal to join NATO and hostility toward the United States.

The initial advances made by the Germans early in January, 1945, in Operation North Wind were stopped, and from then on, the Allies made the advances.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Trying to Fix Something and It Gets Worse

When you try to fix something, do you run into the problem that it gets worse?

This used to happen to me often with plumbing projects. I did them so infrequent6ly that I had to learn all over again when I fixed something. On numerous occasions, I ended up breaking something along the way and had to recoup from that as well as the original problem.

I’m now facing the same thing with slow Internet speed. I called, and the technician speeded up my connection a small amount but recommended I get a new modem, so I purchased a new modem and now the speed is lower than with the old modem. After some dinking, the technician gained me back a little speed, but I’m still worse off than when I started. Now I have to wait for a repair person to come to my house to take a look.

Sigh. The wonders of the modern world.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Short Versus Long Chapters in Books

Do you prefer reading books with short or long chapters?

One answer could be: it depends on the genre. Personally, I like reading books with short chapters. You might think that long chapters lead to readers deciding to stay with the story longer at a time and finish the chapter. I’m the other way. If I’m reading a book with short chapters, I’m more apt to read another chapter because it’s short anyway versus getting sleepy and stopping in the middle of a long chapter. And if there is a cliff hanger or an unanswered question at the end of a short chapter, I’ll continue reading rather than feeling I’m going to be trapped in a long chapter.

As a writer, I tend to write short chapters as well, typically five to ten pages. My usual mystery scene is approximately five pages, and I typically have one scene per chapter. If I combine scenes in a chapter, then chapters are closer to ten pages.