I Am Homophonophobic

Alright, since you cornered me about it, I will admit it.

My name is Lucas and I am homophonophobic.

First of all, it was just plain fun making up that word. Secondly, my hate and fear of typos is real–especially when it comes to homophones. You know how they are: conniving, backstabbing, and sneaky. 

I’m not merely talking about in my manuscripts, but everywhere. When texting friends, I edit and re-edit before hitting [SEND]. Even still, sometimes “your” slips through in place of “you’re”. An instant follow-up message is required by Lucas law. If I’m in an online forum with frenzied fingers blurring in rapid-fire responses–and a fat-fingered mistake sneaks through–death. I immediately enter a correction preceded by an asterisk to replace “there” with “*their” or even “*they’re”.

Typos in Tweets (Tweetpos?) are the worst. They instantly zip out into the Twitterverse with no tether to yank them back. Tweetpos are irrevocable and fly out to a gazillion recipients at once. Double-death. There is no telling how many times I have posted a comment or status on Facebook, only to re-read it, gasp at my idiocy, and delete it. I recover quickly, however, and can draft a more eloquent version with the necessary change of “its” to “it’s” in mere seconds.

Before this blog entry is posted, I will search it diligently (multiple times…) for not only coherence, rhythm, the best wording, and spelling–but also a separate pass in search of  any homophones that fly below the spellchecker’s radar. Why am I confessing my homophonophobic nature? Because I threw up a little bit in my mouth the other day when I discovered “here” in place of “hear” in a blogpost that had been up for days. You can hunt for it if you’d like. You won’t find it. It was eradicated in a zealous hate-crime against homophone misuse. 

Here is a Euler Diagram to help you take back control of your life if you–like me–are homophonophobic. Caution: It may make you aware of new phobias you never even thought of having.

Writers: The Bad Ones Rape Her

Ray Bradbury once said:

Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us…

Do you know why books such as this are so important? …The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.

So now do you see why books are hated and feared, they show the pores on the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon phases, or less, hairless, expressionless. We’re living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.

How I Write Relationships


A fellow blogger’s post* about struggling with writing a relationship in her story got me thinking about the method I use. I have never really put the concept into words before. Read it. Love it. Hate it. Amend it. Trump it.

In relationship arcs, just as in great dialogue, I think of the two players as each continually trying to “one up” each other. I’m not talking about competition or fighting–but tension in the context of every interaction within the scope of their relationship.

Is one partner attempting to be sweet? Then the other can’t be equally sweet. S/he has to be even sweeter, or go the other route and be unaccepting/an asshole/not ‘get’ the sentiment. The players switch roles at times. They must always remain ‘in character’, but this push and pull where they hardly ever respond in like kind is the source of tension that keeps the romantic element from feeling stale/bland.

Replace “sweet” with any other action/emotion/motivation: passionate, angry, frisky, distant, etc. I try to keep the characters at odds with one another in varying levels from ‘almost on the same page’ to ‘opposite ends of the emotional spectrum’. Every now and then I allow them to actually line up–but those moments are few and far between. The climax–of course–is where my characters find the penultimate level of connection (or repulsion!).

Think about your favorite love stories. The tension of the two hearts not aligning–the unmet desire–is [most likely] the reason you find those stories so touching and worth watching/reading.

I’m no expert, but this is the method I use to infuse my characters’ relationships with flavor and fire.

How do you ‘write’ relationships?


*The post that inspired me to put my own method into words: http://alphabeticallyinclined.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/the-hardest-thing-is-a-good-kiss/

Forget the Zombie Apocalypse. Prepare for F-DAY!


As writers, we write stuff. [Genius, I know!]

Sometimes that stuff hits a chord and resonates with a reader. I’m not talking about the “Oh, I really like that story” or “You should be a real writer” kind of resonance. I’m thinking of something a little deeper, a bit more personal–the kind of connection that happens when a story actually zings inside the reader.

There have been many instances of writers ‘foretelling’ the future. Sci-Fi is good for this. Authors like Isaac Asimov created fictional events, technology, and gadgetry which seemed far-fetched and ludicrous at the time. I remember [bits and pieces of] Fahrenheit 451 from High School. I can turn my head away from this laptop screen and see something in my very own home that seems eerily similar to Ray Bradbury’s wall TV concept. 

There have been a slew of zombie movies and books hitting the market for years now. [For the record, the campy 1950’s setting of the movie Fido is my all-time favorite.] Sometimes the zombies are really fast and nimble, other times they are slow and clunky (but still eat your face anyway). Apparently, In Miami, the Zombies prefer to dine au naturalle.

And so the Zombie Apocalypse Begins.

Do I really believe in a soon-coming day when Zombies will roam the land? Ummm, no. What I do believe is this: the story in that link is kinda creepy. Not because it has a coked-up killer in it, but because–one day–somebody’s book is going to get it right. We’re going to wake up and find that the world as we once knew it is gone.

It could be real-life (real-death?) zombies, an alien spacecraft hovering over Paris, animals with the ability to talk, some chap in S. America who suddenly reveals he can fly under his own volition, a near-earth asteroid scorching the ozone, or a little girl who can predict the lottery with 100% accuracy. And, chances are, someone will already have written a story about it before it ever happened.

My novel, Freeborn, has some of the basic sci-fi elements necessary to make it believable: technology that has evolved from where it is now to where it might be heading, socio-economic dynamics as they may look in the future if we remain on our current trek, realistic interactions between characters in a world based on these changes.

Thankfully (because I wouldn’t be much of a writer if it didn’t),  Freeborn also incorporates fresh concepts that have never been explored in the genre. Plenty of these are sprinkled throughout the narrative, but everything hinges on that one key hook which–to my knowledge–has never been explored in the same way in previous novels.

Clones have been done–yes. Infection by viruses has been done–no brainer. But, when the virus infecting the clones causes spontaneous pregnancies to occur–regardless of the clone’s sex–well, haven’t seen that one until I put it down on paper myself.

Once-fictional-now-real technology exists. Folks wrote about zombies and then some naked guy kept munching his victim’s face even though the cops shot him–over and over. I’m not saying dudes are going to start having spontaneous babies. I’m just saying: if it ever does happen, you heard it here first.

So how will you know what to do when you wake up as a victim of the spontaneous pregnancy apocalypse? What should you do when Freeborn Day (F-Day) becomes a reality?

You must begin by clicking “Like” on FREEBORN’s Facebook Page. Today!
Don’t wait until it’s too late!

And, once it’s published, you need to buy the book (of course!)

It’s the only way to be prepared when F-Day hits.

[You know, if it ever comes…]

Full Manuscript Request: FREEBORN


Understatement: I’m excited about this.
Disclaimer: I am stretching this post out to include a Twitter-teach along the way.

Yesterday, I spent 6 hours monitoring a Twitter feed. Brendra Drake, along with a a couple other hosts, organized the Writer’s Voice Twitter Party. The full rules for the contest can be found here: http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

[I’m going to pop in the bracket explanations for those of you who are still working on your Twitter savvy. I know you’re out there. Don’t be embarrassed. I’ll help you. 😉 ]

The contest involved tweeting a pitch for a novel using the imposed 140 character limit.
[A Tweet is simply a post–similar to a Facebook update. If you don’t know what that is…oh my…]

The hashtag #WVTP was crucial to the contest to feed the tweets into the correct stream where agents would be lurking.
[A hashtag is simply a label. Hashtags serve as funnels to carry updates from anyone using them into a common folder. By searching for a hashtag, you can see the Tweets of others with similar interests.]

So, out of techie world, and back to the experience itself.

The timeframe for the contest was 12-6pm. Literary Agents trolled the stream during that window. Aspiring authors submitted their pitches in hope of having one of the agents ask to see the manuscript. Basically, it served as a way to get the idea of a book in front of many agents at once instead of sending tedious, individual query letters.

At noon, the #WVTP stream exploded as authors began submitting their pitches. It was insane. Trying to read each pitch was difficult because so many were flooding in. The screen kept scrolling as the new entries stacked on top of the previous ones. The hashtag was used so much in such a short amount of time that it began ‘trending’. [In other words, it became popular since so many Twitterers were using it.]

That’s when the steady influx of SPAM messages added to the melee: “enhance your penis size”, “can this be real”, “I can’t believe they let me post this”, “come see what everyone else is seeing”, “make 10k a week from home”. The nude avatars and constant posting of the SPAM started as a novelty, became an annoyance, and then pretty much made the pitch-reading impossible.

Enter: http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta. [Oh no, more brackets…TweetDeck is a secondary program that can be downloaded free. It serves as a dashboard for your personal Twitter feed and is outstanding for organizing tweets from users all over the world into easy-to-read columns. It’s like a digital filing system for all your Tweet interests.] TweetDeck contains a filtering function. With a few keystrokes, the file extensions for all the SPAMmers’ links could be weeded out of the feed. Voila! Back to only pitches and agent/host comments.

Then the fun began.

I pitched both FREEBORN and CAPRITARE when agents were present on the feed. No bites. So I started rewriting the tweet-pitches to focus on different aspects of each story. You know: put more hooks in the water, try different bait. My reworked pitches for FREEBORN took on many forms by zeroing in on different elements: Katia, Adam, their relationship, the Surgeon Generals, the clones, The Candystripers, the mission to overthrow the government, gender issues, the virus, spontaneous pregnancies, etc.

Still, no bites.

Then, fifteen minutes before the contest was to end, Agent John M Cusik http://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/ pointed out he was looking for Young Adult novels. Now, the vast majority of the pitches were for YA. Only, we couldn’t spare the characters to include those two little letters. I reworked the pitch [again] and sent this one blazing into the feed:

YA The Surgeon Generals are liars. The lives squirming inside Katia and the other clones aren’t parasites. They’re bastard Freeborns. #WVTP

I waited. Then a Direct Message [not a mass Tweet, but a message sent directly from one user to another] popped up in its column on my TweetDeck. Here’s what it said:

Yo yo, send me that. #WVTP

Sweet! So, John and I chatted a few direct messages back and forth. Apparently, he didn’t know it was YA until that Tweet. Also, he noted that sometimes persistence is the key. It damn sure was!

I have already received my instructions on how to bypass the slush pile and send the full manuscript for FREEBORN directly to an agent who asked for it. This is a great opportunity. I have not even queried FREEBORN yet, so the Twitter Party was it’s first foray into the larger world of publishing professionals.

Understatement: I’m excited about this.

FREEBORN: Facebook Page

Just like his older brother before him, FREEBORN now has his own Facebook Page.

Stop by and give it a “Like”. It costs absolutely nothing, and you can watch the little tyke as he grows up and makes his way to market.

In the novel, the Infection is viral. It’s hard to imagine that a Facebook Page for an [as-of-yet] unpublished book could be as well—but hey—an author’s gotta have dreams ya know.




Movement ripped Katia out of her imaginings. A man in a baggy shirt passed her bench. Even though the day was cool, large patches of sweat darkened his armpits. He couldn’t hold his head still. He kept checking over his shoulder. Frightened. Infected.

“You see him, Katia?”

“Yeah. He’s got to be a mark.”

“I agree. You ready to snag him?”

“I am.”

“Be careful.”

Katia stood, leaning on her cane. She broke into a quick hobble to close the gap between them. The infected man glanced back at her. Picked up his pace. Forget the cane! Just get to him before he reaches the scanner.

Katia stood upright, and shifted her weight to take off in a sprint. Adam yelled in her head, “Katia, abort! Candystripers!”

A pair of figures flashed past her. They corralled the man an instant later. He tried to run, but one of the assassins landed a roundhouse kick to his gut, slamming the man to the concrete.

“Stay down, parasite!”

“Haha! Look at him. All infected and bleeding from the mouth.”

The man writhed on the cement. Clutching his belly. Gasping.

“Pl—please,” he begged between inhales. “Don’t k—kill me.”

“Katia! Get out of there!”

But she couldn’t move. She was transfixed. Had to watch. Stay within earshot.

The Candystripers circled the man.

“Let’s see,” said one of the assassins. “I’m gonna bet he’s…eight days infected.”

“No way!” said the other. “More than that. A lot more. I’m gonna go with fourteen days.”

“You’re hyped up on Ambrosia! No way he’s been hiding for that long.” He kicked the man in the ribs. “Have you, parasite?”

“I’ll bet you fifty debits. Whoever’s closest without going over: wins.”

“You got it, chump! Check him.”

The high-bidder pulled out a portable detector. The low-bidder lifted the man’s shirt with the toe of his shoe. His partner slammed the needle into the man’s stomach. A moan. A red light.

A holo-screen projected into the air. The high-bidder read off the stats. “Felix-2190. Crop 03. Infected. Sixteen days. Ha! I told you!”

“Lucky guess,” said the loser. He pointed his gun. Fired two quick shots. One to the man’s infected gut. One to his head.



“I can’t wait until those assholes get infected.”


Publisher’s Feedback: Capritare

I haven’t sent out any queries for Capritare in over two months. In fact, with the new novel in the works, I haven’t referred back to my submission tracking sheet in a long while. Today, I received this unexpected letter from a publisher. It is–by far–the most indepth bit of feedback I have received.

Mr. Hargis,

Thank you very much for the chance to read CAPRITARE. We have reviewed the manuscript, and your story has promise, though could benefit from some additional work. I was very interested by the world you created and the core of the story. If you’re interested in revising the manuscript to resubmit, I’d be happy to reconsider it.

Some of the thoughts I had while reading:

  • By dropping us in the story with no lead-up, I was too fish-out-of-water in order to get a footing in the narrative. Since the story is about Capritare’s journey, start at the beginning and let us discover existence in this new world alongside him.
  • Too often I was confused by the names of people, places, and things, unsure of what was actually going on. You can smooth over the culture shock with a light description of things before naming them, so the reader has a more concrete idea of what the object is.
  • On the other hand, the lofty descriptions got away from me too easily. Your primary target audience for YA should be 15-20, with a secondary of 13-15 (20+ is good for YA, but something that comes naturally). I’m not saying to dumb down the narrative, but streamlining would go a long way to hitting the buttons you want with your intended audience. Try to strike a balance if at all possible.

While your submission isn’t quite right for [NAME] Publishing at the moment, you do have promising talent as a writer, and we would be interested to see more of your work in the future.

So, there are some good comments in there, as well as some great suggestions. These statements echo what many of my readers have noted. I want to keep the LitFic feel, so I believe that taking it out of the realm of teen readers is my best bet. Capritare was my first novel, and provided a huge amount of learning and experimentation for me. So, the question is: to do a major edit? Or lose the YA tag and self-publish?

FREEBORN is written in a much more ‘commercial’ style, so it has become my new arrow pointed at the mainstream market. Capritare may have to hang in the background and serve as my ‘loss-leader’.

Decisions, decisions…

Balance: Checkbooks, Unicycles and Novel Drafting


When the checkbook shows $2,000 more than the bank’s number, [I suppose] it’s time to balance it out to find the discrepancies. I was only two months behind when I sat down to match up the deposits and debits yesterday. The main concern was that someone else had been tapping into the funds.

I ordered a new batch of checks three weeks ago. They never arrived in the mail. Last week, I followed up with the bank. They couldn’t track the shipment, but went ahead and issued a stop payment on those check numbers, and then reissued a new batch of checks.

After an hour of highlighting, locating math errors, and adding debits that never made it into the register–I got the account balanced. The finding: no thievery was involved. In the midst of a busy schedule, I had simply forgotten to enter five [rather large] debits. These weren’t like $5.19 for Subway or $20.00 cash back from the grocery store. They were hefty payments for welding work, glass stock, and an online mortgage payment. Oops.

With my novel Freeborn, I have been balancing things as I go. From the outset, I have been ever-conscious of wordcount by chapter, an undulating pace of compressed action offset with more fluid descriptions, and editing each chapter before moving on to the next.

I spent way too much time going back in to edit my first and second novels. It was rather like trying to juggle the checkbook, bank statement, and a highlighter while riding a unicycle. This time around, I set a goal at the beginning of the process to take care of things as I went–to keep it balanced along the way. And this go around is more akin to taking a leisurely ride through the park on a two-wheeler instead.

So, no one stole my money. I received my new checks. Both my bank account and Freeborn are sitting pretty–balanced to the penny.



I have been away for a bit. My trip to Massachusetts was a mix of ups and downs. On the way there–with a van and attached trailer full of stock–the transmission went out. Outstanding. My partner and I were in the middle of nowhere in the lower tier of NY state. We crested a hill with that Ford pulling for all she is worth. Then as we rolled over the apex, the engine sounded really strange. I coasted down the hill, and when I pressed that little skinny pedal to ascend the next incline–nothing,

We pulled over with semis speeding past us. And, of course, it was raining. My partner called his insurance company’s roadside assistance to schedule a tow. The rep’s advice: “Since I am in Ohio and you are in New York, I really can’t help you. I would suggest you hitchhike to the next exit and try to get help there.”

Really? Hitchhike?

Next, I called AAA. Here’s the help I received:

“Your policy only covers your vehicle–not the trailer.”

“So, we are just supposed to leave it on the side of the interstate with all our stuff in it?”

“Your policy does not cover the trailer.”

“You’re really not helping me at all. I’m really in a tough spot: I have a deadline I’m trying to meet, my van is busted, and I do not want to leave a trailer full of expensive items randomly perched on an incline on the side of the interstate.”

“When the towtruck arrives, you can ask them for a quote to tow the trailer.”

“How far away is the towing company?”

“Twenty miles.”

Thanks. That’s a lot of help. Wait for them to travel across the wilderness, and when the guy finally makes it here, I’ll ask him about towing the van back the full twenty miles, and then, while I’m trying to locate a transmission shop, go back and pick up the trailer for another hour (at least) roundtrip.

So how did it turn out? We ditched all the amazing advice and helpfulness, and forced the van along at 30 mph in the shoulder for six miles to the next exit. I quess we could have hitchhiked instead–an Amish horse and buggy passed us in town, afterall. ‘Town’ may be the wrong term. Perhaps ‘village’ would be more accurate. The fellow at the only garage added some transmission fluid. Ummm, no help, but thanks for the thought. He suggested we drive to the next town over. “It’s bigger–only twenty miles away. Just take it slow.”

Like we had a choice.

We made it to Jamestown, rented a U-Haul, swapped out the goods, located a transmission shop, and snuck the van in at 4:55pm. No rush at all–we still had five minutes to spare before he closed for the day. The mechanic estimated that he would have the van ready for us five days later on Friday. That was perfect since we were planning to continue on to our destination to set-up at the antique show and would be returning the following Monday.

During the show, the call came. “It looks like I won’t be able to even start working on the transmission until Monday.” Excellent. We would love to stretch the nightmare out even further. I mean, you only had a full week to take care of it. Why should a transmission shop owner in Podunk, NY rush to get a pair of stranded, weary travellers back on the road? It’s not like we are now paying a daily rate for both a U-Haul truck and trailer. It’s not like we are being charge seventy-nine cents per mile. We would love to add the cost of a new transmission and lodging in Nowhere, USA to the expenses.

Then, another call. “Well, it looks like I mightget it done by Tuesday close-of-business.”

[Insert more sarcasm here].

 The show was a success. Normally, we would be home Sunday night. That plan was thwarted so we had two options. Cry and moan and whine about it, or squeeze some juice out of the situation and make some lemonade. We chose the latter. We took our time loading up and stayed an extra night in Massachusetts. On the way back, we hit some sweet antique shops we would never stop at if we didn’t have days to spare. Oh, and–maybe–we stopped at a casino and hit the blackjack tables. Maybe… We intentionally paid more than we normally would for a hotel so we could score one with an indoor pool. Lemonade.

During dinner Monday night, the mechanic called to tell us that the van was repaired and ready to go. Sweet. Finally. We enjoyed some swimming and a good night’s rest in a comfortable bed as opposed to the slowly deflating air mattress we spent the prvious week sleeping on. On Tuesday morning, everything went uber-smoothly as we picked up the van, moved the contents from the U-Haul into it, hooked up the trailer and headed home with a sparkling new transmission.

So, what does this story have to do with ‘Writing”? Nothing really. It’s just one of those things I needed to put down in black-and-white so I can look back on it in a year. In the meantime, I’m hoping to incorporate hitchhiking into my work-in-progress. Plus, I found a new go-to plotline when I need some added tension in a scene: Worthless advice from those who should have the answers. In my this little autobiographical excerpt of mine, this led to taking charge and figuring things out without the help of the great and powerful Oz. And the MC made it out all the better for the experience.

I am a mechanical idiot. I’m not into hot rods, or motorcycles, or guns, or any of that butch, manly stuff. I like thinking and poetry. I like weird movies and dying my hair. I’m good at creating things. I can cut stuff up, reassemble it, and make something new and beautiful from the parts. I once tried to change the oil in my old Jeep Comanche. Took me like 6 hours of sweating, cussing, and ruining a pair of cooking tongs from the kitchen…Forget that shade-tree-mechanic crap. I gladly pay the $20 to keep my non-butch self out from under a vehicle.