The Journal: On Taking Your Time and Focusing Down

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: On Taking Your Time and Focusing Down
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“I asked him how he described himself on his passport. ‘I bet you call yourself an Author,’ I said. He agreed, with a shade of reluctance, perhaps because he scented sarcasm on the way. ‘Just so,’ I said. ‘Well, I describe myself as a Writer. There are authors and artists, and then again there are writers and painters.'” Ian Fleming

“There is only one recipe for a best seller and it is a very simple one. You have to get the reader to turn over the page.” Ian Fleming

Topic: On Taking Your Time and Focusing Down

Forgive the long post. I’m doing something very different today. I seldom share a work in progress, but this passage struck me as particularly valuable as a lesson on taking your time and focusing down.

Yesterday, I had written the following for the opening of Chapter 18 of The Comancheros, my current novel. The novel takes place in the Texas panhandle in the 1880s. The Rangers had intercepted a wagon filled with female captives whom the comancheros were shipping south:

In town, the captain put together a special patrol of five Rangers to accompany two of the women back to their homes on the eastern side of the panhandle.

There was more, but not much, and it was all “telling” vs. “showing” (or vs. “letting the reader see”).

Here’s how the chapter ended up:

Chapter 18

One week after Corporal Edwards had led the wagon into Amarillo, the town had returned mostly to normal. There was still an undercurrent of conversation among the citizens regarding the ladies who had been rescued, but most of those conversations were short and spoken in hushed tones and generalities. And most of them wished the ladies well. Many citizens contributed to a fund to help purchase tickets on the train or stage for those who wanted to leave.

The captain had called a meeting for 3 p.m. Wes, having walked over to the livery stable to check on Charley during a lag in the day, was hurrying along the boardwalk on his way to that meeting when he encountered Deputy May.

Before he realized what was happening, the door to his left opened.

Deputy May said, “I will, Sheriff,” then turned and walked directly into him, the door closing behind her.

As her breasts pressed hard against him, Wes caught her by the shoulders, then quickly stepped back and put up his hands, his palms out. “Oh, sorry.” He looked at his hands and slapped them down to his side. “Sorry. I ought’a watch where I’m goin’ Miss—Deputy May. You all right?”

Color flashing into her cheeks, she straightened her hat. “I’m fine, thanks.” She grinned. “I’m the one who should look before I walk. Sorry about that.”

Wes rolled his eyes straight up and realized he was still wearing his hat, and in the presence of a lady. He whipped it off and held it at his chest. “Oh, no ma’am, not at all. I’m just clumsy.”

She laughed, those curious blue eyes practically dancing. “Tell you what, let’s agree that we were both to blame.”

He said nothing, but only nodded, his hat still clamped to his chest.

She said, “You know, we should have a drink some time. Or dinner maybe. Or supper. I mean, I know you’re always with your Ranger friends for those things, but—”

“Oh, no ma’am. I can lose those guys any time I like.”

She laughed again, and the sound seemed to enter his ears and sparkle down through his soul.

Wes only grinned, wondering whether he’d said something witty.

The deputy said, “Let’s maybe do that sometime. I mean, if you want to. I really am grateful for what you said that day, about riding with me and standing with me.” She glanced past him, then pointed. “But right now I’m on my way to the ladies’ barn.”

Wes nodded, the grin still on his face. “Yes ma’am. Well, there’s always that.”

She laughed again. “Maybe not too much longer. I think we’re mostly done. Some of the ladies have already left town, and besides, Melinda and Sally have pretty well taken charge.”

“Melinda and Sally?”

“Oh, yeah. Melinda Pearson and Sally Martin. They’re the two who want to go back to their farms. Those two are different, Wes. They seem eager to take on any challenge. It’s like they’re harder than the others. Or maybe less broken and more tempered. Maybe because they’re determined to stand rather than move away.”

Wes said, “Well, that takes a special kind of woman, right there.” He blushed. “Well, what I mean is—”

Again she chuckled. “I know what you mean. And I appreciate it. It takes a special kind of crazy, doesn’t it?”

Wes laughed. “Well, it might at that.”

“But you’re the same way, Wes, if you think about it. Really, all of us who stay are the same, aren’t we? Women or men, we’re all the same.” She smiled and put one hand on his shoulder. “Anyway, I’d better get down there. We’ll talk soon, okay?” And she brushed past him and went on down the boardwalk.

For a long moment, he watched her go. She was probably right. Maybe most of those who stay are the same, women or men, but he could think of several differences he was particularly glad were in place.

As Deputy May turned the corner several buildings down, he frowned. He was supposed to be on his way to something. Wasn’t he?

Then he remembered the meeting. The captain’s meeting.

He realized his hat was still in his hands. He quickly slapped it on his head, turned and hurried down the boardwalk.


When he worked the latch on the door of the headquarters and the door swung inward, everyone was already seated at the long table. The captain, at the head, looked up. “Ranger Crowley! How very good of you to grace us with your presence.”

The others at the table were stifling chuckles.

“Sorry, Cap. I went to check on ol’ Charley and I reckon I lost track of time somewhere along the way. I guess I was distracted.”

Corporal Connolly laughed. “I saw exactly what distracted you. If you don’t know, I’ll fill you in later.”

Everyone else burst out laughing too, and Wes felt his neck and cheeks going red. As he moved to grab the back of a chair, he said, “Now, that was all official business. The deputy was just fillin’ me in on what’s goin’ on down at the ladies’ barn.”

Corporal Edwards said, “Is that all? Sounded to me like she was askin’ you on a date.” He looked across at Corporal Connolly. “Isn’t that what you heard, Jim?”

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure what distracted him was the receding view of her be—”

The captain said, “That’s enough, gentlemen. I’m sure you’re only envious anyway.” He looked up at Wes and grinned. “Have a seat, Ranger Loverboy. We have things to discuss.”

Everyone laughed again as Wes settled into a chair. He said, “Aw, you guys don’t know nothin’ about women, that’s all.”

To derail any chance of a response, the captain rapped his knuckles on the table. “All right, gentlemen, let’s get down to business.

“As you are all probably aware, most of the ladies who wanted to leave have already left. I think there are only two or three left, other than the two who wanted to return to their homes.” He grinned. “Perhaps Ranger Crowley can enlighten us more after his impending rendezvous with Deputy May.”

“Aw now, Captain—”

The captain held up one hand. “Perhaps you’ll consider being on time for future meetings, Ranger Crowley.”

Wes only looked at the table and shook his head.

The captain said, “Those two ladies have been instrumental in helping care for the others, but now that most of them are gone, the sheriff believes Ranger Crowley’s girlfriend can handle the workload.” He paused, glanced up at Wes and quietly said, “Sorry. No more.”

As the others chuckled, he said, “So Corporals Connolly and Edwards, I’d like you to ride out tomorrow morning with Rangers Stanton, Stilson and Mendoza. You will accompany Mrs. Pearson and Mrs. Martin back to their respective farms. You will leave each of them with a revolver and a carbine from the weapons Corporal Edwards confiscated. Then you will return here. I don’t expect the trip to take more than three days.”

Corporal Connolly said, “Are we takin’ ‘em in the wagon, sir? ‘Cause if we are, the trip might—”

“Ah. Excellent question. No. The sheriff—” and he glanced at Wes, “and the inestimable Deputy May—” he glanced at the others again, “tell me they can both ride quite well. So they will each have their pick of one of the horses you brought back.”

Mac’s hand shot into the air. “What about me and Wes and Lawson over there?”

“You and Ranger Lawson will be here with me on the rear guard.” He paused, then grinned. “Perhaps we can keep Ranger Crowley from doing something he’ll regret. Like losing us any time he likes.”

Everyone burst out laughing again as Wes sank down in his chair and pulled his hat down over his brow. “Oh hell.”


Which version do you find more entertaining? What did you learn about the “character” of the characters?

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Thriller Writing Advice From James Bond’s Creator, Ian Fleming — Circa 1963” at Great advice for all writers.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 290 words

Writing of WCGN2: The Comancheros (novel)

Day 1…… 1216 words. Total words to date…… 1216
Day 2…… 1913 words. Total words to date…… 3129
Day 3…… 3103 words. Total words to date…… 6232
Day 4…… 2490 words. Total words to date…… 8722
Day 5…… 4179 words. Total words to date…… 12901
Day 6…… 3492 words. Total words to date…… 16393
Day 7…… 4419 words. Total words to date…… 20812
Day 8…… 2245 words. Total words to date…… 23057
Day 9…… 2639 words. Total words to date…… 25696

Total fiction words for June……… 74190
Total fiction words for the year………… 528679
Total nonfiction words for June… 19850
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 126080
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 654759

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 10
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 63
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.