Learning Focus From Canines, Gazelles, & Mattresses


All of us have some sort of aspirations for our lives. Success is different for each of us. While we may realize that triumph does not come about merely by well wishing, to many times we act as if it will. True victory in life, regardless of how we define it, will only come about by focus and dedication.

Like A Dog On A Bone

Have you ever seen a dog chew on a bone? He knows it’ll be a long and difficult process, but I have never seen focus in my life more than a dog on a bone. When I see that a dog has a bone, nothing can distract him from his task at hand. Even time does not weary him. You cannot take it from him, and after trying once, you’ll know no to try again. Not only will the dog win that tug-of-war, you could receive a war wound from this. You don’t even want to pet a done when he’s working over a bone.

If we are going to find success in life, we needed to be as focused as a dog on a bone. Some people strive for success, but give up when the meticulousness of achievement wears down on them, but not a dog. Certain folk desire achievement, but strangely will let others take it from them. They don’t have the dog on a bone mentality. And just like a dog doesn’t like to be petted when he as a bone, we need to be weary of friends when it comes to our accomplishments. Our loved ones can be the one thing that can derail our victory train, and only if we let them. We don’t want to hurt our loved ones, and yet we will allow them to hurt us by blocking us form achieving ultimate victory in life.

Like A Gazelle Being Hunted

Sometimes you can define something by looking at its opposite. Success is not failing. Iife is a pass/fail exam. So to do the things that keep you from failing will be in line with carrying out what you need for success. This is important because some people feel as if they can still fall just short of their aspirations and still be considered successful. That’s like saying you can strike out in baseball but think of it as a home run because you were close. If you strike out, you are out. No one in archery misses he target and yells, “Bulls eye!”

From the Bible, the 6th chapter from the book of Proverbs deals with the need to be industrious and productive. In the fifth verse, Solomon says, “Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter.” For a gazelle success is not getting killed. Failure is not acceptable. Close enough and almost there still leave you as a trophy head on someone’s wall and steak dinners for the family. Run toward success, but also run away from failure. Run as if failure cannot be acceptable. Succeed or die! This is the only path to victory.

Going To The Mattresses

We have all heard the phrase “go to the mat,” especially when it is someone telling us how committed they are to some goal or project. They are willing to “go to the mat,” in other words, do what ever it takes, to accomplish what they want. The phrase has grown threadbare and means little today, but its origins should breathe new life into the power of this claim.

It comes from the 1972 movie, “The Godfather,” and actually the phrase is “go to the mattresses.” Clemenza tells Pauly to see a guy downtown about picking up a bunch of mattresses (about 25 of them) because “Sonny is ready to go to the mattresses over this thing.” To go to the mattresses is gangster slang from this time meaning to go to all out war with a rival gang. These mobsters would have several rooms with nothing but mattresses covering the floor. These were for the soldiers in this makeshift barracks of sorts. If you are at war with another gangster, you are either on the street to kill someone or sleeping.

If success for us is just a little “it would be nice to” kind of fantasy, we will not succeed. Achieving our goals and not is the difference between eating and being eaten. It is winning and losing a war. All of these phrases have to do with survival. Human achievement is unique to people, and we need to keep it. We should all want something we focus upon. If we have no dreams, no aspirations in this life, if we are not noted for accomplishments, but merely eat and sleep, nothing more, ten we might as well be animals since this I how they exist. Dreams make us human and reaching them keeps us truly alive in every sense of the word.

Let me ear our thought on success in life and focus for our dreams. Leave your opinions in the Comment section below.

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How To Greet The Godfather And What That Has To Do With Your Characters


You can learn about a character by watching his actions. But you can also learn of a character by seeing how other characters interact with him. A perfect example of this is the opening scene of the movie The Godfather. It is Vito Corleone’s daughter’s wedding day. Vito is asked a favor by five different people. They way they go about it tells us something about how they see the Godfather.

Amerigo Bonasera

Amerigo came to America seeking his fortune, and he found it serving as an undertaker. He lived in Vito’s neighborhood, but was afraid to seek out his friendship. When Amerigo’s daughter was beaten and disfigured, Amerigo thought the courts would give him justice. When the judge suspended the sentence, he decided to see the Godfather.

Vito chides Amerigo for being afraid of his friendship and seeking justice in the courts first. Moreover, he scolds him for his plea for the Godfather to have these two men murdered, a service for which Amerigo would pay the Godfather. Vito refuses because it is not justice since her daughter still lives, and he does not do murder for hire services in the first place.

Vito’s greatest offense is that Amerigo did not ask with respect and friendship. When he does, Vito says he will take care of it, but not for money. The Godfather may ask him for a favor in return someday. This favor is asked when Vito’s eldest son is ambushed at a tollstop on a Long Beach Causeway, and he needs the corpse to look its best for the funeral.

Luca Brasi

Luca was bigger and tougher than anyone, but mostly, he was not afraid to die. He threw his newborn son in a furnace because he did not want his bloodline to continue. The same night he took and overdose of pills and turned himself in to the police, hoping to die in prison.

He didn’t die, but the pills gave him brain damage mostly affecting his speech. The Godfather had him released and made him his own weapon. Luca was devoted to Vito, even avoiding being seen with him in public to spare the Godfather’s reputation.

So Luca was truly surprised when he was invited to the wedding. He waited to tell Vito briefly of his gratitude, wished his daughter’s first child be a masculine child, and gave the most generous tribute offered that day for her bridal purse.

Nazorine Pitelli

Nazorine grew up Vito’s neighborhood and ran a patisserie. He knew how generous the Godfather was and honored him all his life with friendship and respect. Nazorine was also grateful that the Godfather intervened once in a welched deposit owed him by a furniture company. Nazorine took a Sicilian prisoner of war named Enzo Aguello to work in the bakery. Enzo and Nazorine’s daughter fall in love, but when the war ended, the government wanted to expatriate Enzo back to Sicily.

Nazorine shows great respect when asking Vito to help keep Enzo in the country. Vito is glad to help. As Nazorine leaves, he brags about the size of the wedding cake he made for Vito’s daughter.

Johnny Fontane

Johnny was a singer, and he was also Vito’s godson. Vito once helped Johnny get out of a service contract to a bandleader who wished to keep him from going out on his own. Johnny ended up divorcing his wife and neglecting his kids, which angered Vito, and their relationship was strained.

Johnny’s voice grew week so he turned to acting. There was a part he wanted that could make him a big star, but the producer refused him the part for petty reasons. Johnny asks for Vito’s help, which he promises, but only after smacking Johnny around and yelling at him to act like a man, which he truly deserved.

Genco Abbandando

Even though a Sicilian cannot refuse a request made to him on his daughter’s wedding day, there is one thing asked of Vito he refuses, with complete understanding why. This offer comes from Vito’s oldest friend, Genco. After coming to America, Genco’s family takes him in, even offering him work in the family grocery.

Eventually, Vito goes into business for himself, but names it after his friend, Genco Pura, which imported olive oil. Genco served as Vito’s right hand man until the day of the wedding. Genco had cancer and was about to die. He asked Vito to scare off the Grim Reaper, which Vito says he cannot do. Genco dies with his best friend beside him in the hospital.

So what do we learn form this? From Amerigo we learn that those who know about the Godfather but didn’t really know him were afraid of him. From Luca, we learn that Vito is generous to those who are loyal to him. From Nazorine we learn that he knows how to be a friend to those who show respect. From Johnny we learn that Vito will always forgive those who come back to him, but you might have to suffer some tough love first. And from Genco we learn that Vito is only human. His abilities had human limitations but his care had human universality. Vito’s personae is enhanced by these relationships. As writers, we can write about character’s actions, but also interactions, and this will add depth to our stories.

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How To Write A Stunning Courtroom Scene


I just completed the part of the book that I had been dreading, but now, because of the work that I have put into it, I greatly cherish. I have just finished writing a courtroom scene for my novel. I knew that there were many ways this could go belly towards the sunshine, so I think I put in more prepatory effort for this one than other scenes I might had been more comfortable writing. Some obvious concerns were validated, but a few surprises awaited for me.

Know The Law

My novel is set in Cuba in the 1940s during the Batista era, and this invites all sorts of troubles. I cannot write a dictatorial tribunal as one might write To Kill A Mockingbird. Not only would Cubans have different laws, but the authoritarian regimes have a vastly different set of ways about them. I had to change everything so many times I almost gave up on the scene, but these changes were in the name of getting things right. To say a writer needs to know the law is only part of it. He must know the legal code, but also the adversarial process, the judge, the punishments potentially faced, and even what the courtroom itself is like.

Use Details Prudently

This might be the case with any scene, but I found it particularly sticky with a courtroom scene. There are details that are necessary, but boring. There are details that are exciting, but unnecessary. Remember, it’s not just arguing and cross-examining in the courthouse itself. There is also the interview of witnesses and the evidence gathering aspect. This was a minefield of bad writing waiting to take my legs off if I were not careful. I had to go through the ways of emptying a brake fluid resivior, and I bored myself even writing it. But you can’t spring evidence on the reader like you can the court. Also, the pre-trial interviews often sound too much like the in court cross-examination. You could be repeating yourself. We all need readers to help us proof out materials, but here I would use them even before book is done. Your details must be needful and exciting.

Balance Your Legal Jargon

Like all scenes, your legal scenes need to be authentic and understandable. Also, they need to keep the narrator’s voice consistently as it had been used before and will be employed after. Our American courts use plenty of Latin phrases, so how much more do you think there are in a Spanish speaking court? Keep the legalese at ease. But it needs an appropriate use to seem authentic. From here the writer runs into a bad spot trying to make the situation clear without breaking the narrator’s voice be explaining everything like a Dick & Jane reader. I think the best remedy to this problem is sing the show me, don’t tell me model we all know and love.

Avoid The Obvious

It may be clear even before the scene that the verdict will be either guilty or not guilty. That is not the problem. Even if anyone can see for a mile coming that the defendant will get off, don’t allow legal flow to become so transparent that your conclusion becomes ho-hum. In my scene, the lawyer looked at the evidence and flipped the state’s expert witness, but still I feel as if my lawyer’s case in not only interesting and understandable, but also not obvious beforehand to most readers. If the reader knows it before the lawyer says it, it needs reworking.

Make Pace Everything

A legal scene needs to move. You can get bogged down with stuff, or you can move quicker than what the reader needs to know can be written. To keep the interest of the reader, you need a quick pace, which does not avail itself to many details, but many details is what you need in a any good legal scene. Did I accomplish this in my own courtroom scene? I don’t know. I think I did. I hope I did. But like any other scene, it will be worked and reworked. That is the clear upside of being a writer – you don’t have to get it perfect on the first draft. Knowing that also encouraged me to start and finish this tough part of my novel.

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Making A Christian Epic From A Pagan Legend: A Study Of Beowulf


Beowulf is the highest literary mark of Old English literature. It describes a society in the midst of great changes, particularly transitioning from a pagan to a Christian society. What many of the Christian leaders tried was to take existing pagan symbols and stories and repackage them as Christian. So when one reads a story like Beowulf, one can see both pagan and Christian elements. One of the best examples is the constant appeals for men to be humble before God, and yet the main characters, particularly Beowulf, demonstrates great pride. Also, Christian faith points to eternity as being with God in Heaven, but pagan eternal life was having a great reputation that lived long after you, and the best reputation was to be a great warrior. And while the pagan elements are clear in Beowulf, the more evident use of the piece is the interposition of Christian elements over the old pagan story, because that is clearly why it was written for us.


Beowulf shows its Christian fingerprints the clearest in all of the conflicts end up being types of good versus evil. Grendel is described as a descendant of Cain. In the book of Genesis, Cain is mostly known as a murderer, but this results from unacceptable worship. Further, the Nephilim were descendants of Cain before the flood, who were supposed to be giants. These Nephilim were among the wicked destroyed in the flood. Further, Grendel like Cain was jealous. So when Grendel is described as a descendant of Cain, we can gather he is abnormal in appearance, wicked, murderous, and one who worships in vain. In short, Grendel represents the pagans. And the conflict of Beowulf versus Grendel as a type of good versus evil ends up being a struggle between Christianity and paganism. Beowulf never outright kills Grendel, but tears off his arm. And just as Christianity did not obliterate idolatry from Europe, it clearly disarmed it, at least, according to the Beowulf poet.

Grendel’s Mother

Following this, Beowulf has to combat Grendel’s mother. There is half as much said about her as there is Grendel or the dragon, so interpretations of her place can be speculative. Typically she is defined by her relationship to Grendel or by being a woman. And so she ends up being evil just because she’s Grendel’s mother, and nothing more. But there must be something that can touched upon. Grendel’s mother seems to brush up again the world of spells and charms, and she probably is a sea-witch. In contrast to Beowulf’s giant sword (which fails), her only weapon is a small dagger. This may represent her tongue with which she casts spells. And when she knocks Beowulf to the ground, she mounts him in what is clearly a sexual position. There were witches thought of in this time who would subdue men by raping them, and this is more than likely what the poet has in mind. But I think there may be a more basic use for Grendel’s mother, one that is not so mystical. She appears in an instant, wipes out a room, and disappears just as quickly. Grendel’s mother may just as well symbolize disease, famine, and plague. As blessings came from God, sickness was often thought to come from the devil. The lesson for the reader is simple: turn your life over to Christianity and you and your family will not fall prey to disease.

The Dragon

Many see Beowulf as a symbol of Christ himself, but I do not think that is warranted. Instead, I would argue that he represents Christianity, or better yet, a Christian individual. I gather this from the struggle with the dragon. Clearly, the dragon is a symbol of the devil. This is an image that even the Bible uses for the Great Adversary. And while the dragon is slain, Beowulf also dies in this conflict. What is significant in that Beowulf seems to die as a result of the curse on the dragon’s gold. In the Bible, the curse that comes from the devil is sin, and the wages of sin is death. Christ came to free us from the curse of sin, but that doesn’t mean that a Christian can still allow himself to recursed and slain by his own intemperance. If we remember the swimming contest, Beowulf was taken to the bottom of the ocean by a sea-monster. This clearly brings to mind the story of Jonas. But Jesus referred to himself as Jonas by his death, burial, and resurrection and how that is similar to Jonah going to the bottom of hell and rising up from that. But I priorly mentioned Beowulf is not a Christ-figure, but a Christian. For one to become a Christian they must reenact the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus by their own repentance and baptism, from which they arise from the waters in a new life. Beowulf’s long trip to the bottom of the sea and back is not emblematic of him as Jesus, but a follower of Jesus. And yet he died because the dragon’s curse, the curse of sin from yielding to the devil. This yielding could be in his pride or even greed. Possibly the point to this is to usurp the pagan view of eternal life. Even a great warrior and hero can be spiritually failing. In this, Beowulf ends up being a cautionary tale for all those who would go back to paganism in any of its forms. And so the final description of Beowulf as one who was eager for fame may be a condemnation and not a commendation.

As writers, we all sorts of reference points for tales. We can take any one of them and make them our own, just as the ancient English monk did by writing out Beowulf for all of us. When you write something, even if you are rewriting something old, it is yours. You have no obligation to the former story to be faithful to its rendering. Your only obligation is to yourself and your story.

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Top Ten Of My Favorite Dying Word Of Characters In Literature

We’ve always been fascinated with dying declarations. A man’s last words often stand out as the essence of what he wants to be known of him. This is true for fictional characters as well for those who were real and historical. Here is my top ten list of my all-time favorite last words of dying characters in literature.

10 Beowulf from the anonymous poet’s Beowulf: “You are the last of us, the only one left of the Waegmundings. Fate swept us all away, sent my whole brave high-born clan to theirfinal doom. Now I must follow them”

9 Anna Karenina from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “Lord, forgive me everything.”

8 J.P. McMurphy from Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: “I’ve took their best punch.”

7 Othello from Shakespeare’s Othello: “I kiss’d thee ere I kill’d thee: no way but this; killing myself, to die upon a kiss.”

6 Johnny Cade from Hinton’s The Outsiders: “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.”

5 Jean Valjean from Hugo’s Les Miserables: “[My] children, my sight is failing. I had more to say, but no matter. Think of me sometimes. You are fortunate. I don’t know what is happening to me, I can see a light. Come closer. I die happy. Bow your dear heads so that I may lay my hands on them.”

4 Mr. Kurtz from Conrad’s The Heart Of Darkness: “The horror! The horror!”

3 Sydney Carton from Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

2 Captain Ahab from Melville’s Moby-Dick: “To the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee!”

1 Roddy Compson from Abbott’s Prince: “My God, but life is beautiful.”

Okay, I included one of my own. But it is a good line, isn’t it? You might want to make your own list. If you do, let me know about it in the Comments section. Also, let me know what lines you would have added or which ones of mine you would have left out. And please, share this will all those you know who love good books.

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Today’s Stop On The Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour


Today the Bloodhound blog tour makes a stop at Vickie Miller’s site. She gave me a great interview, and I amso thankful for her support. Here’s a link to her post http://www.vickiesmiller.com/blog/spotlight-on-neal-abbott

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Moving Along The Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour


Today’s Bloodhound blog tour stops at K.M. Weiland’s excellent site, Helping Writers Become Authors. Here’s a link to my article comparing Creative Writers to The Doctor – http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/3-ways-doctor-who-can-help-you-become-a-fantastic-writer/. Check out her site, it is a wonderful resource for writers. Thanks to K.M. for her help.

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Next Stop On The Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour


I’m thrilled to announce that today’s stop on my Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour is an interview on the website Quid Pro Quills. Here’s a link to the interview – http://quidproquills.com/2015/05/20/author-interview-with-neal-abbott/. I am thankful for their help to my friend Robin Patchen for arranging this. Be sure and visit her site and pick up a copy of Bloodhound soon.

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The Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour Continues


The Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour began yesterday to a rousing success. It continues today with a stop at Beth Hammond’s website. She posted an article of mine entitled “Rewriting The Classics.” Here is a link to the article https://bethhammond.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/rewriting-the-classics-guest-post-by-neal-abbott/. My thanks to Beth for helping me promote Bloodhound.


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Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour Begins Today


The first stop on the Bloodhound Virtual Book Tour is on Michele Mathews’s website. The article is entitled “Putting The ‘Creative’ Back In Creative Writing.” Here’s a link to the article – https://michelemathewsauthor.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/putting-the-creative-back-into-creative-writing/. I want to thank Michele for hosting my post and supporting the Bloodhound Tour!

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