Poets, Poetry and a Contest With Poems

I wanna talk about three poets.

Poet #1: Mikey Mason

advice for writers, professional ghostwriter





Mikey Mason is a geek comic and songwriter responsible for songs like She Don’t Like Firefly, Best Game Ever for which Gary Gygax’s family wrote him a thank you note, and sheer poetry like you’ll find in Han Solo Cool

If I could just be cool like Han Solo

If I could misbehave like Captain Mal

If I could just be half as smooth as Lando

I could get a grip on life somehow

If I could kick some alien ass like Ripley

If I could make you laugh like Doctor Who

If I could follow treasure maps like Indy

They would always lead me back to you

Mikey’s newest album, “Dangerous Gifts” was recently released and is probably his best work yet. I recommend you check him out.

Poet #2: Jake F. Simons

professional ghostwriter

Jake F. Simons is my personal alter ego, the guy who writes stuff that I don’t necessarily want the kids I teach karate to find out about by accident.

In Jake’s book Wingmanyou meet poet Luie Grant. He’s sort of like Beavis or Butthead would be after a few more years of life experience and a couple of trips to prison.

Luie tends to spin extemporaneous poetry during the adventures he has with his good buddy Max Farkas.

Here’s one of his haiku:

At the Home Depot

With two lovely women

Do they still stock chains?

And a limerick he aimed at Max after a particularly bizarre animal encounter:

Your situation’s quite goofy

But don’t try to be aloofy

We’ve seen quite a bit

Some really strange shit

But who knew monkeys used roofies?

TCK Publishing released Jake’s short story collection Five Days of Farkas earlier this month.

Poet #3: YOU

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That’s right. YOU have the chance to win a free copy of both “Dangerous Gifts” and Five Days of Farkas. Here’s how.

Comment here, on Facebook or on my G+ profile with the filthiest, wrongest, sickest, most don’t-tell-your-mom-you-wrote-this haiku you can come up with that uses no curse words, anatomical terms for naughty bits or scenes of graphic violence. Your job is to force the reader to imagine something more horrible than you could ever actually describe.

  • You can enter as often as you like.
  • Deadline is Monday, November 26th.
  • I will announce the winner (the very best entry) on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
  • The winner will receive a free copy of both works.
  • Two second-place winners (drawn randomly from qualifying entries) will receive either the music or the book.

So what are you waiting for? Get to it.

Software Design Techniques Applied to Screenwriting

business writing coachJohn Copp is a former software engineer, frequent fisherman, screenwriter, poet and political activist I have the privilege of knowing through my writing group. He read some poetry at Three Mugs Brewing last weekend, and absolutely did not get me in a fistfight at last year’s Fisher Poets’ Gathering in Astoria.

Here he applies software design to screenwriting. Enjoy.


Time runs away faster than a frightened antelope.  I wrote the original screenplay in four months.  The next rewrite took eight months.  Too long.  Self, I said, take what you know about software design and apply it to screenplay design.  Graduate degree in Computer Science, years in the industry, and over two million lines of code to my credit.  So I did and finished the third rewrite in four weeks.  Not a quick polish but a full rewrite.  Two concepts helped: set theory and modular design.

I’m not talking about movie sets but mathematical sets.  A set is a collection of related things:

  • {apples, oranges, bananas}                             fruits
  • {open a file, write to a file, close a file}          software operations
  • {hero, ally, opponent}                                      screenplay archetypes


Sets provide a means of organizing large collections.  The human intellect uses sets to manipulate ideas, perceptions, relationships, and strategies.  In a sense, the human imagination is structured like a nested Russian doll.  One set contains another which contains another.  Given the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex, the number of nested sets is infinite.

Likewise, the pathways and possibilities a writer’s mind can explore are infinite.  That poses a problem.  If the number of options is infinite, and the life of a writer is finite, how to impose constraints so that something tangible – a deliverable product – gets created quickly?  Sets to the rescue.

TOOLS: whiteboard, eraser, dry erase marker, and left curly braces.  Each curly brace contains a set of related things, most commonly verbs.  Software is all about action, and verbs perform actions.  Same with screenplays.  Here’s an example:








Voila!  A screenplay.  The 13th Warrior, more or less. 

Each curly brace contains a set consisting of things (actors, events, circumstances) and, most likely, more curly braces, each of which contains a set of other things including more curly braces.  “Cannibal monster attacks the village,” for instance, will expand into a set of related actions, each contained within a curly brace.  Dolls within dolls within dolls.

Careful.  You’re not writing the screenplay here.  Just stubs with a few action verbs, maybe a character name or two.  Be playful.  It’s all erasable, movable, rewriteable.  When you’re think you’ve got a good map, take a snapshot of the whiteboard and save it.

Now to modular design.  Over two-thirds of the total cost of software systems is incurred after the software is released to the public.  Why?  The software is full of defects.  The best antidote is modular design.  A “program” becomes a set of separate, smaller pieces.  The following characteristics help ensure that these modules behave well.

  •  Clarity of purpose: a module (or scene) should perform a limited set of precisely defined functions.  Similarly, a well-crafted scene has a clear purpose: drive the story forward, say.
  •  Simplicity: a module should neither be overly long or overly complex.  It’s behavior should have strict limitations.  Limited inputs, limited scope of action, and limited output.  In other words, it does what it is intended to do without throwing any surprises.
  •  Easily modified: a module should allow a straight-forward rewrite, not just by the author, but by whomever does the rewrite.
  •  Robust: a module should be able to take a beating in the hurly-burly of the real world without rolling over and crashing the whole system.  Even better if it’s designed for testability.  That is, it’s designed for a ruthless pounding by peers, critics, and script consultants.
  •  Interoperable: modules must play nicely in the sandbox with the other children.  A rogue module that does its thing at the expense of other modules causes trouble.  A scene that undercuts the credibility of the hero undercuts the credibility of the story.
  •  Aesthetic: a well-crafted module has a logical beauty that reflects thoughtfulness and mastery.

So let’s review.


  1. TOOLS: whiteboard, eraser, dry erase marker, sticky notes in various colors.
  2. Write ACT I, ACT II, and ACT III on the whiteboard.
  3. Populate each act with stubs on the whiteboard.
  4. Take a snapshot with your cell phone.  Save it.
  5. Erase the stubs but leave the act headers.
  6. Open or print the snapshot showing all the stubs.
  7. Using sticky notes, create scene hints, and post under the relevant act.


Cautionary note: by “hint”, I mean just a simple reminder.  Here’s an example.



Interrogates Joe, accuses him of  blowing up his own boat.


  1. When each act is populated with scene hints, stand back, review, think.  Let it sit overnight.
  2. Take a snapshot of the whiteboard.  Save it.  Print it if you like.
  3. Next morning, scrutinize the whiteboard.  You’ll be surprised how many holes jump out.
  4. Do a walk-through on what’s on the whiteboard.  Talk aloud to yourself while you do it.
  5. Do another walk-through while explaining it to somebody else.  Record critical comments.
  6. Do NOT fire up Final Draft until you are absolutely certain you’re on the right path.
  7. Take the rest of the day off.  So something fun.


Now it’s time to implement each sticky note as a scene.  Don’t be surprised if you replace or delete many sticky notes.  It’s a discovery process.  Put a checkmark on each sticky note when the scene is complete.  It help spot gaps and, when the last one is checked, gives you a wonderful warm feeling.

Filling an empty sheet of paper with words is both challenging and great fun. When the words become thousands, however, and the pages number in the hundreds, it is easy to lose perspective. Key threads dangle in the air like unfinished spider webs. Unwanted redundancy and sloppy logic lurk in the shadows. Applying logical design is like shining a spotlight on a frog’s face: now you can see all the bumps. It’s a small price to pay to produce a higher quality product in a shorter period of time.


Haaaaaaave You Met Ness?

ness garcia, professional website Ness Garcia is a fellow web writing professional who helps small business owners (including writers) get their…um….*stuff* together online. She offered to write a post about keyword research for us, so here it is.

If you want to learn more about Ness and what she does, hop on over to MakeAWebsite. They work with folks like Harvard and Britannica, so she’d sort of a big deal.



3 Best Tools to Help Your Keyword Research

If you have just recently started building your own website, your next step would be optimizing it to make it more search engine friendly. Keyword research continues to be a big part of internet marketing and drivingtraffic to your website through search engine optimization. There should never been any confusion, if you have a good keyword research tool, you will have a much better chance of success than your competitors that don’t have access to one. Some of the best tools have a monthly fee, but it is a small price to pay for the success of your business or blog. So without further any further delays, let’s take a look a 3 excellent tools that can help you take your keywords to the next level.


This is an incredible tool that costs about $90 a month. You get all of the general benefits that come with keyword tools such as approximate monthly searches, local searches, and  general competition information. The real value of this tool is in a few aspects that can really give you an advantage over your competition.

Keyword Spy

Extreme amounts of details regarding your competition and their keywords. When I say extreme, I mean it, you will be able to type in their domain name and get which keywords they have targeted, how much money they have spent per keyword, their cost per click if they use pay per click ads, how much of their traffic is organic or paid for, who their main competitors are, and so much more. You will ultimately save so much time and resources that you would have spent to get all of the same information. Once you have finished gathering all of the information you want, you can export it to many different programs to further use the data.
Using all the features this tool has to offer will make targeting keywords a simple and easy task. If you have been doing research without a tool, then you know how much time it can take to get all of the information that is needed to make the right choice about keywords. Why spend all of that time when you could be spending it on other aspects of your website?




This is a bit more pricey, but if you have the budget, it is definitely recommended. Starting out at about 200 dollars and going up to about 400 per month, you get everything you need in a easy to use program that looks stunning. Most subscribers to this tool need SEO services and do keyword research on a massive scale because the interface allows you to do much more than other programs will allow. It is much more than a keyword search tool and offers other services from link profiles, reporting, branding tools, automatic scans and updates, and much, much more.

You will be able to get all the information that is possible from keywords and phrases without much effort and then you will be able to track those keywords. You can also check your own progress easily within certain keywords and make adjustments as necessary. Overall, this is a superior tool that costs a more than other tools.



WordZe is a very affordable tool that is great for anyone with a small scale blog or business. You have the option to subscribe for just 1 day instead of a full month, which costs about 8 dollars. If you decide to go the full month it is 45 dollars. If you only need to do research on a few search terms, then this might be your easy solution because you could do all the research in one day and only need to pay 8 dollars for it.

WordZe The tool itself is very easy and simple to use, with minimal graphics. You won’t get lost like some other tools, but has little design appeal. If you are just looking for quality data and don’t mind lower graphics, then this is a great tool for you.
There are so many other tools out there that can help, but these 3 are definitely worth checking out. If you decide to go and look for other tools, make sure not to spend money on a tool that doesn’t work effectively. A lot of tools claim to do great things, but once you hand over the money, you realize that they are not as effective as they claimed to be.