Saturday, December 29, 2007

Writing Forums dot com Is Down

Since is down (which leaves several thousand people temporarily displaced, myself included), and since I stumbled upon the site Writing Discussions: Forums for Writers (please see the link in my "Must Reads"), not to take away from other sites listed in my 'Must Reads' mind you, I thought I'd point Writing Discussions: Forums for Writers out as being another either temporary or perhaps permanent first or second (third, forth, twelfth) home.

Posted right at the top of Writing Discussions: Forums for Writers (in News & Announcements) is the topic "Writing Forums is Down..." by Selorian. That post reads as follows:

"It appears that is down. If you're a member there looking for someplace to hang out until the problem is resolved, feel free to sign up and use Writing Discussions.

"Abide by the same rules you would there and enjoy.

"I'll try to update the status of WF as the information becomes available to me."

Thank you so much for your kindness, Selorian. WD is truly a lovely writing forum, and one I'm proud to have joined.

Might I also recommend for the displaced another lovely writing forum called Literary Mary (please see the link in my "Must Reads"). There you'll find many familiar faces, an excellent staff, mad-skills talent and enough forums to satisfy any writer.

As for No—I have no idea why it's down, nor can I guess when it'll be back up. Like Selorian, I'll also try to update the status of WF (here) as the information becomes available to me. Knock on wood it'll be up soon. Meanwhile, write on!



Monday, December 24, 2007

To All...

Hugs, love and happiness,

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Song Quiz

Try to identify the carol from the clues. Some are pretty tricky! The answers are at the bottom... don't peek if you want to try it for yourself.

1. The apartment of 2 psychiatrists.
2. The lad is a diminutive percussionist.
3. Decorate the entry-ways .
4. Sir Lancelot with laryngitis.
5. A B C D E F G H I J K M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.
6. Present me naught but dual incisors for this festive Yuletide.
7. The smog-less bewitching hour arrived.
8. Exuberation to this orb.
9. 288 Yuletide hours.
10. Do you perceive the same longitudinal pressure which stimulates my auditory sense organs.
11. The red-suited pa is due in this burg.
12. Stepping on the pad cover.
13. Uncouth dolt has his beezer in the booze and thinks he is a Dark Cloud's boyfriend.
14. Far back in a hay bin.
15. Leave and do an elevated broadcast.
16. That exiguous hamlet south of the holy city.
17. Behold! I envisioned a trio of nautical vessels.
18. Listen, the winged heavenly messengers are proclaiming tunefully.
19. A joyful song relative to hollow metallic vessels which vibrate and bring forth a ringing sound when struck.
20. As the guardians of little woolly animal's protected their charges in the shadows of the earth.
21. Frozen precipitation commence
22. Monarchial triad
23. Oh, member of the round table with missing areas
24. Boulder of the tinkling metal spheres
25. Vehicular homicide was committed on Dad's mom by a precipitous darling
26. Wanted in December: top forward incisors
27. We are Kong, Lear, and Nat Cole
28. Cup-shaped instruments fashioned of a whitish metallic element
29. Oh small Israel urban center
30. Our fervent hope is that you thoroughly enjoy your yuletide season
31. Parent was observed osculating a red-coated unshaven teamster
32. May the Deity bestow an absence of fatigue to mild male humans
33. Natal celebration devoid of color, rather albino, as a hallucinatory phenomenon for me.
34. Obese personification fabricated of compressed mounds of minute crystals.
35. Tranquiltiy upon the terrestrial sphere.
36. Have hitherward the entire assembly of those who are loyal in their belief.


And the answers are:

1. The Nutcracker Suite
2. Little Drummer Boy
3. Deck The Halls
4. Silent Night
5. Noel (No L)
6. All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
7. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
8. Joy To The World
9. 12 Days Of Christmas
10. Do You Hear What I Hear?
11. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
12. Up On the Housetop
13. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
14. Away In A Manger
15. Go Tell It On The Mountain
16. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
17. I Saw Three Ships
18. Hark the Herald Angels Sing
19. Jingle Bells
20. As Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night
21. Let It Snow
22. We Three Kings
23. O Holy Night
24. O Christmas Tree
25. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
26. All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth (again)
27. We Three Kings (again)
28. Silver Bells
29. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem (again)
30. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
31. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
32. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
33. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas (or Walkin’ In a Winter Wonderland ?)
34. Frosty The Snowman
35. Peace On Earth
36. O Come All Ye Faithful

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Video Chuckles

Since we’re doing the Christmas video thing (aren’t we?), I thought I’d post a couple of chuckles for you. I know I could sure use a good giggle at this time of year, but anyway...

Hope you enjoy.

And for my fellow Canadians...



Monday, December 17, 2007

Traditions (Or How To Avoid Buying Into The Commercial Christmas) again

Thought I'd drag this one out of last year's mothballs, dust it off and repost it.

Can someone please tell me when we went from the true meaning and joy of Christmas, to commercialism and hype? When peace, love thy fellow man, “Merry Christmas” wishing, cease-firing (during wartime, no less), warm and fuzzy feelings and family and traditions were replaced with camping out in front of stores, fist fights in lineups, “Seasons Greetings” wishing (if we say anything at all) lest we offend someone, bitching each other out, paying double on e-bay, Christmas tree dismantling in airports, and walking over each other's dead bodies if necessary for a chance at that elusive, must-have-no-matter-what, whatever-the-hell-it-is piece of what’s-it at what-ever-the-hell price?

And after all that, after we've warmly and fuzzily beat some line-jumper nearly to death and/or drove ourselves into depression, the very kids we did it for (depending on their age, of course) will either play with said “must-have” once or twice and then play with the box or bow instead, or, if older, snub their noses at the (for example) $100 plus IPod as though you’ve just handed them slug guts in a box, utterly disgusted that you didn’t get them the $300 “black” number they only told you a bazillion times to get—the status symbol everyone has. Pul-ease.

And we do this... why?

The kids won’t remember everything they get (and from whom) this year, anymore than they remember everything they got (and from whom) last year.

Go ahead—ask them. I can wait.

What they will remember is the cat knocking over the Christmas tree. Or Grandpa taking out his dentures and making funny faces. Or Aunty Deb baking Nanaimo squares. Or the Christmas meal, in menu-like detail, including their first sip of wine. Or dad throwing everyone out of the kitchen to make his famous potato dressing. In other words, you can’t buy memories, but you can make them.

Gee, what a concept.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Sing-Along!

Ah, Christmas. Are your stockings hung, your credit cards maxed out, the mall's a madhouse, and you've decided you're gonna take up heavy drinking if you don’t find a good Christmas sing-along to pick up your spirits? Then you've come to the right place!

Oh come on. You know you wanna.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Great Neighborhood Tree War

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

~Trees by Joyce Kilmer

No, I’m not talking about Lord of the Rings and Ents here… though Treebeard was a pretty cool character. What I’m talking about is the healthy, massive, heritage Oak tree in my back yard.

I’ve no idea how tall or how old it is; the farmer who owned the land here back in the day—back when it was farm land and not houses on postage-stamp-sized lots, that is—planted it, and a Spruce, on either side of his driveway. Ages later, when they built this house, they were careful to keep the tree as is. I’m careful too. After all, I love the big old boy. And it actually works for its keep too, providing shade for this house and the nice neighbor’s house as well. See, it overhangs the nice neighbor’s fence, and has for years… long before I ever moved here, I‘m guessing. But no one minded. In fact, the nice neighbor asked that the tree remain exactly as it is as well, which suited me just fine. I mean, it’s not like I can jump on a ladder and trim it up anyway—it being the biggest somebitch within a five mile radius, matched only by the heritage Spruce, which is still alive and well in the nice neighbor’s back yard, thank you. So, everything should be happily ever after, right?


The nice neighbor sold his house last Spring to a company based out of Sylvan Lake, who promptly turned it into a duplex and rented it out. Still, it shouldn’t be a big deal, right?

Wrong again.

I received a letter from the city yesterday. Seems the company doesn’t much care for my big old Oak tree. It wants the many massive limbs hacked off at the fence line between our two properties, which may or may not kill the old Oak outright. Now it’s a big deal.

Anyway. So I looked out today and noticed that the heritage Spruce in their back yard is half in my back yard, the Spruce snug up tight against the fence between us, its limbs hanging well into my property. Hmm. Dilemmas, dilemmas. See, I’m thinking this could quickly become ‘neighbor rage‘—right? Yep, it sure could. Not that I have anything against the people living there. I don’t. They only rent the place. No, it’s the company from Sylvan that I have a problem with. Especially if removing the offending Oak’s limbs (that are a good thirty plus feet off the ground and so are not in anyone’s way nor apt to be a nuisance) ends up killing something almost as old as the town itself.

To me, writing is very much like a tree. It starts out as an sapling of an idea and, once planted, takes root and grows. Of course, not everyone will like every bit of your tree/work, including you. So some pruning will be needed, and that begs the question: how much? How much can one prune before the story isn’t the same story anymore?--before you‘ve killed or ruined it? That then dominos into the next question: should you write for the readers, or for yourself? Depends on how popular you want to be, I suppose. Like me and the overhanging Spruce I’m about to report. Oh yes, I’m not going to be very popular I think. But hey, all’s fair in love and tree wars.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Writing Fall Flowersicles

“If a guy hits .300 every year, what does he have to look forward to? I always tried to stay around .190, with three or four RBI. And I tried to get them all in September. That way I always had something to talk about during the winter.”
~Bob Uecher

Ah, Fall. The mere mention of the word signals the beginning of the end of most of the things I’d mentioned in my “Spring” entry (green grass, fresh air through open windows, BBQ’s, hot apple pie cooling on the windowsill (which I’ve never done) and walking the dog without bundling up to the eyes). It also means the neighbors will still be out in their backyard on their lawn chairs smoking pot while their comedian cum jailbird teenage son puts hotdogs in everyone’s mailboxes and bananas in everyone’s tailpipes, only now, they’ll be wearing sweaters. On the bright side, the wasps and creepy crawlies will also be no more, the flyswatters and bug killers neatly stored away until next Spring. Oh bliss!

It was so wondrous to see the Canada Geese training their young for the big trip south. Far less wondrous will be the sure knowledge of the return of Winter. Leaves of every make, model and color will soon decorate the trees… including the giant heritage oak tree in my back yard that dwarfs literally everything within a three-mile radius, and who’s annual leaf dump literally and absolutely buries every living (and nonliving) thing not only in my back yard, but in at least three other back yards on either side. But that’s okay. We’ll be ready for it. We’ll go to Home Depot and corner the market again, this time on every new fangled rake, blower and gas-powered picker-upper imaginable, right? Yep, we certainly will. We’re still outdoorsy types who know we‘re gonna be shut-ins again, and nothing—nothing—is gonna turn our Summer Utopias into Fall nightmares one moment sooner than they have to be, including Fall.

Speaking of Fall, there is nothing more depressing to a cold-weather hater like myself than to hear the furnace kick on in the morning. Almost as bad is knowing that the idiot-proof flowers you spent a small fortune on in the Spring and then cursed and grudgingly coaxed into living throughout the Summer are at that very moment being turned into frosty flowersicles. But so it goes, right? Seasons change and we have to change with them. So it’s into the closet to dig out the coats we’d happily stuffed away during our Spring cleaning days that seem like… oh, I dunno—last week, maybe? And while we’re in there, we may as well get out boots and hats and scarves, and our flannel sheets and comforters as well. Oh, and let’s not forget the leftover window Saran Wrap-like stuff—the stuff that takes us an hour to put up and our cats a second to shred down. And the ice picks—don‘t forget the ice picks. After all, we’ll need something that’ll chip assorted frozen foodstuffs out of the bottoms of our mailboxes, left courtesy of that knee-slappingly funny teenager who unfortunately still lives next door.

But most importantly, Fall brings thoughts of renewed ambition. Specifically, writing! We may as well, yes? I mean, what else will we have to do? So enjoy it. Clean that thing you call a writing desk and then stock up on paper, pens, stamps and sticky-notes. And while you’re at it, don’t forget a warm throw blanket and a bag of hotdog buns. After all, it’s Fall!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Is it in your soul?

If you’d like to sing along, here’re the lyrics:

Ever since I was a little kid
I have always thought
I could run faster than the wind
Stare up to the sky with open spaces
I could live and die
Man you can't find that in no book
You never find that in no book
Someone will drag you down
And try to knock you under
Hey mama said with her words of wonder
Don't matter cause, cause it's in your soul

(I have always felt
That I had to prove it to myself)
No salvation from the firin' line
(A million dreams won't set you free)
God I know there's something trapped in me
There's no refuge from the ride
No shelter ever saved a man his pride
(Give you pain and never feed you hunger
I won't close my eyes when it rain and thunders)
Don't matter cause, cause it's in your soul

(And when the night is overcome
And I've been racin' down a road
That's got no trace, no face
If I could live by the words I've sung
And carry all the choices I've made)
I swear, I swear I'll be there

'O no no, na na
Hey mister don't shadow box with me
'Cause I don't wanna someday be
An old man cursin' what I might have been
Now I realize what I see
That the wind was never chasin' me
And I don't feel so alone
I can close my eyes I'm goin' home

(Behind the clouds the sun is shinin'
Some rain will fall no use in cryin')
'O no
'O no not me
(Got a picture in my head that won't let go of)
Young man running in search of
Count your blessings
'Cause it's in your soul
'O it's in your soul
In your soul
'O no
[In your soul]
Ever since I was a little kid
I have always thought
[Ah he always thought]
Young man running
[Always thought]
Keep on running - and a running - and a running
Keep on running

Saturday, June 23, 2007


After months of cold and rainy weather, we are finally coming up to summer and BBQ season.

Therefore it is important to refresh your memory on the etiquette of this sublime outdoor cooking activity, as it's the only type of cooking a 'real' man will do, probably because there is an element of danger involved.

When a man volunteers to do the BBQ the following chain of events are put into motion:


1) The woman buys the food.

2) The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.

3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill - beer in hand.

Here comes the important part:


More routine....

5) The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.

6) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he deals with the situation.

Important again:


More routine....

8) The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.

9) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.

And most important of all:

10) Everyone PRAISES the MAN and THANKS HIM for his cooking efforts.

11) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed "her night off." And, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there's just no pleasing some women....

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why Do Women...

(This giggle was sent to me this morning by my sister. Thanks, Val.)

When you have to visit a public bathroom, you usually find a line of
women, so you smile politely and take your place. Once it's your turn,
you check for feet under the stall doors. Every stall is occupied.
Finally, a door opens and you dash in, nearly knocking down the woman
leaving the stall.

You get in to find the door won't latch. It doesn't matter, the wait has
been so long you are about to wet your pants! The dispenser for the
modern "seat covers" (invented by someone's Mom, no doubt) is handy, but
empty. You would hang your purse on the door hook, if there was one, but
there isn't - so you carefully, but quickly drape it around your neck,
(Mom would turn over in her grave if you put it on the FLOOR!), yank down
your pants, and assume " The Stance."

In this position your aging, toneless thigh muscles begin to shake. You'd
love to sit down, but you certainly hadn't taken time to wipe the seat or
lay toilet paper on it, so you hold "The Stance."

To take your mind off your trembling thighs, you reach for what you
discover to be the empty toilet paper dispenser. In your mind, you can
hear your mother's voice saying, "Honey, if you had tried to clean the
seat, you would have KNOWN there was no toilet paper!" Your thighs shake

You remember the tiny tissue that you blew your nose on yesterday - the
one that's still in your purse. (Oh yeah, the purse around your neck,
that now, you have to hold up trying not to strangle yourself at the same
time). That would have to do. You crumple it in the puffiest way
possible. It's still smaller than your thumbnail.

Someone pushes your door open because the latch doesn't work. The door
hits your head, and you and your purse topple backward against the tank of
the toilet. "Occupied!" you scream, as you reach for the door, dropping your
precious, tiny, crumpled tissue in a puddle on the floor, lose your
footing altogether, and slide down directly onto the TOILET SEAT. It is
wet of course. You bolt up, knowing all too well that it's too late.
Your bare bottom has made contact with every imaginable germ and life
form on the uncovered seat because YOU never laid down toilet paper - not
that there was any, even if you had taken time to try. You know that your
mother would be utterly appalled if she knew, because, you're certain her
bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, dear,
"You just don't KNOW what kind of diseases you could get."

By this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so
confused that it flushes, propelling a stream of water like a fire hose
against the inside of the bowl that sprays a fine mist of water that
covers your butt and runs down your legs and into your shoes. The flush
somehow sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the
empty toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged in too. At this
point, you give up. You're soaked by the spewing water and the wet toilet
seat. You're exhausted. You try to wipe with a gum wrapper you found in
your pocket and then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks.

You can't figure out how to operate the faucets with the automatic
sensors, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk
past the line of women, still waiting. You are no longer able to smile
politely to them. A kind soul at the very end of the line points out a
piece of toilet paper trailing from your shoe. (Where was that when you
NEEDED it??) You yank the paper from your shoe, plunk it in the woman's
hand and tell her warmly, "Here, you just might need this." As you exit,
you spot your hubby, who has long since entered, used and left the men's
restroom. Annoyed, he asks, "What took you so long, and why is your purse
hanging around your neck?"


This is dedicated to women everywhere who deal with a public restrooms
(rest?? you've got to be kidding!). It finally explains to the men
what really does take us so long. It also answers the age-old question about why women go to the restroom in pairs. It's so the other gal can hold the door, hang onto your purse and hand you Kleenex under the door!

If I'm going to get my "Woman's Card" revoked for spilling a secret, I blame Val. Take hers !

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Inspiration, Part II

Do you remember talking about inspiration? Well there I was, searching and researching today when I ran across these: Chinese Scholar’s Mountain, and Chinese Scholar’s Wood and Stones (Spirit Stones). Seems long before the computer came, writers were also looking for inspiration and didn’t want to (or perhaps couldn‘t afford to) leave home to find it. So they used the next best thing.

Chinese Scholar Stone or Scholar Mountain were created sometime in the 18th century. Normally made of jade, or in rare instances malachite, they were made for Chinese scholars who were constantly cooped up in small study spaces. The scholar would place the stone on his desk to help envision himself in nature. The carvings in the stone (below), though not easily seen here, depict a scholar attended by two figures, picnicking and heading towards a pagoda retreat. The other side of the stone features an ox, which stands for enlightenment, and pine trees, which represent long life. This particular one is carved out of malachite, making it especially rare.

Cherished and collected for centuries, Chinese "Scholar's Rocks" or "Spirit Stones" (gongshi) are as varied as Nature herself. Strange or fantastic stones (guai shi) are used in classical Chinese gardens as necessary counterpoints to the trees, bushes, flowers, and water. Throughout the centuries, scholars, nobles and officials have graced their offices and studies with smaller versions of these "fantastic stones," both to provide the essence (or qi) of the element earth, and to serve as a unique focal point for study and meditation. These small spirit stones were hand-selected in China, and set on wood stands to hold their highly individual shapes.

So if you’ve been wondering if that odd what’s-it on your desk makes you slightly “weird,” not to worry. You’re in very good company.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Literary Mary - Writing Forums

Just to say, I'm a proud member of Literary Mary.

"So what is Literary Mary?" you ask.

I'm glad you asked.

Literary Mary is a friendly and unique forum for writers and artists, built by writers and artists. When you register, you are in complete control of your account and work, both of which you can delete for publication purposes as you see fit. It's our goal to create an atmosphere where people can post their work among friends for critique and feedback while those who would like to hang onto first rights can do so without risk. We also have forums for uploading spoken word or songs and forums for sharing your photographs or pretty much any other visual art. And that's not all. Just a few of this forums super features include:--

* An excellent and very approachable staff.
* Mad-skills-talented members from beginners to the published.
* Enough threads to more than satisfy writers of all walks, tastes and genres (including an Erotica thread which is age restricted and viewable by members only, and a *Secret Bonus Track* thread which is another members only thread similar to a Workshop--meaning first rights are protected in both Erotica and Bonus threads).
* A monthly members only newsletter.
* Seasonal Featured Work---the crème de la crème as chosen by the members in the categories of Poetry, Fiction, and Erotica).
* Lyrics and Music
* Debate
* Chat Forum
And much more.

So if you're a writer, artist, musician or avid reader, check out Literary Mary.


Friday, June 01, 2007

What's in a Name?

Summer is finally here, and because of it, I decided to invade the produce section and corner the market on all things fruit. I’m a huge fruit fan. In fact, I could easily become a very bad fruitarian, were it not for my love of poached eggs and veggies (mainly spinach) and if I only had a decent memory. But I don’t. You see, one needs a decent memory to remember to take vitamins and supplements to replace those missing from such a radical dietary change. Since I don’t happen to possess one, I’d likely die of malnutrition or some related issue. (Perhaps I should have invaded the fish a la brain food section instead.)

You know, trying something new is a lot like trying a new author or genre (and yes, my thoughts always go back to writing). At least, it is for me. Either I love it or I put it down—there seems no middle ground. But anyway, back to the fruit... thing.

Funny that adults will try almost anything, but kids won’t eat anything that doesn’t look right, or rather, doesn’t look right after it’s cooked. Take broccoli. Or spinach. Or turnips. Or, horror of horrors, Brussels Sprouts. Heck, take me and mushrooms for instance. I still remember the sight of my first cooked mushroom. Pan-fried slugs, I thought. No way am I eating that, I thought. Mom’s finally flipped out. After mom served it numerous times, always with the threat that I’d “never leave the table” until I try it (and after an hour each time of making gag noises and facial expressions that would make Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes proud—ones that made my mom beg me to go outside), I finally tried one—just one. See, a kid has to build up to these things as dramatically and as vocally as possible, and that means letting your audience (the same one who’d inadvertently turned herself into a captive audience via my captivity; after all, someone had to actually watch me eat the mushroom you know) wait. Let the suspense mount. Let the battle of wills play out. David and Goliath, good and evil, unknown veggie and kid. The mushroom was excellent by the way. A little cold though.

So as I was saying, I loaded up on all things fruit: Red Delicious apples, huge oranges, bananas, cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon... and low and behold, what did I come across, but this:

I know—revolting, isn’t it. You betcha. It’s so ugly it almost screamed to be looked at it and then dared you to look away. Sort of like a car accident. Almost... alien, really. Okay, so that’s a bit of a stretch. But never in my life had I seen anything that so reminded me of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors” or maybe a pod from the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” before, especially not for sale in the produce section of my lowly supermarket. Heck, I half expected it to start singing or maybe crawling toward me. I did... until a very well dressed, middle-aged woman wandered over with a plastic bag in hand and started going through the stack of them.

“I just love these!” she said to no one in particular, holding one up like she was an archeologist who’d just unearthed the long lost Egyptian “Book of the Living.” Obviously, I wasn’t seeing what she was seeing. “Don’t you?”

“What it is?” I asked, still partly expecting a tongue or harpoon-like appendage to fire out the top and adhere to her face.

“It’s Dragon Fruit!”

Okay then, so that name made sense. I mean, it definitely looked like something a dragon might eat. Or lay. Or... something. And the name certainly intrigued me. Then again, an intriguing title or a well-known author has often influenced my reading choices. And that very thing has disappointed me more than not, too. Same with fruit... which made me wonder if perhaps they (whoever ‘they’ are) purposely gave the hideous-looking thing a good name in order to sell it to those of us whose pallets lean toward something at least slightly aesthetically pleasing. (Prime example: I will not eat liver. End of discussion.)

“You should try one!” she said, shoving the precious what’s-it in the bag and depositing it in my cart. “Just peal off the red. The flesh inside is white-ish grey, sweet, and really seedy.”

I didn’t want to eat any of it, and I certainly didn’t want it in my cart. “Okay,” I said. “And thanks.”

“Remember—don’t eat the red.”

For a moment, I thought to ask what would happen if I did, but let it drop. Besides, my eyes were glued to the “thing” now in my cart and my mind was stuck on three key words (flesh, white-ish and grey), which to me sounded about as appealing as raw squid (no knock against raw squid lovers intended).

For those of you dying to know what it tasted like, I’m not going to tell you, anymore than I’d tell you about a novel you’ve just purchased or an author you’ve just heard about. What I will say from one writer to another, however, is never to be afraid to try new styles, new genres, new voices. New... things. You never know. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hey, if we can't laugh at ourselves...

39 Rules to Writing a Novel:

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

3. Employ the vernacular.

4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

6. Remember to never split an infinitive.

7. Contractions aren't necessary.

8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

9. One should never generalize.

10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

11. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

12. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

13. Be more or less specific.

14. Understatement is always best.

15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

17. The passive voice is to be avoided.

18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

20. Who needs rhetorical questions?

21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

22. Don't never use a double negation.

23. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with point

24. Do not put statements in the negative form.

25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.

26. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

28. A writer must not shift your point of view.

29. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)

30. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!

31. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to the irantecedents.

32. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

33. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

34. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.

35. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

36. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.

37. Always pick on the correct idiom.

38. The adverb always follows the verb.

39. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague; They're old hat; seek viable alternatives.

40. (Bonus Step) “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ~W. Somerset Maugham


A linguistics professor was lecturing to his English class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."


There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer. When asked to define great, he said, "I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!"

He now works for Microsoft writing error messages.


A screenwriter comes home to a burned down house. His sobbing and slightly-singed wife is standing outside. “What happened, honey?” the man asks.

“Oh, John, it was terrible,” she weeps. “I was cooking, the phone rang. It was your agent. Because I was on the phone, I didn’t notice the stove was on fire. It went up in second. Everything is gone. I nearly didn’t make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is—”

“Wait, wait. Back up a minute,” The man says. “My agent called?”


How many science fiction writers does it take to change a light bulb?
Two, but it's actually the same person doing it. He went back in time and met himself in the doorway and then the first one sat on the other one's shoulder so that they were able to reach it. Then a major time paradox occurred and the entire room, light bulb, changer and all was blown out of existence. They co-existed in a parallel universe, though.

How many publishers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Three. One to screw it in. Two to hold down the author.

How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

How many screenwriters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Why does it *have* to be changed?

How many cover blurb writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?


How many screenwriters does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Ten.
1st draft. Hero changes light bulb.
2nd draft. Villain changes light bulb.
3rd draft. Hero stops villain from changing light bulb. Villain falls to death.
4th draft. Lose the light bulb.
5th draft. Light bulb back in. Fluorescent instead of tungsten.
6th draft. Villain breaks bulb, uses it to kill hero's mentor.
7th draft. Fluorescent not working. Back to tungsten.
8th draft. Hero forces villain to eat light bulb.
9th draft. Hero laments loss of light bulb. Doesn't change it.
10th draft. Hero changes light bulb.


Punctuation Parable

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?


Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.
You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?



And finally, Writer’s Quotes

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”
—Tom Clancy

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it.”
—William Faulkner

“I handed in a script last year and the studio didn't change one word. The word they didn't change was on page 87.”
—Steve Martin

“I have always been a huge admirer of my own work. I'm one of the funniest and most entertaining writers I know.”
—Mel Brooks

“It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.”
—Robert Benchley

“A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction.”
—William Faulkner

“The free-lance writer is the person who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
—Robert Benchley

Friday, May 11, 2007

One Cup of Inspiration, Please.

Ah, if it were only that simple. But really, it is.

“Inspiration is born of the need for self understanding and acceptance. We write to discover and accept who we are.” In other words, observation and experience are the tools of inspiration, but the need for self-love is its impetus.

I don’t write every day. In fact, having to write (or rather, the pressure to write) is the quickest way to do me in—I’m lousy under pressure but can write like a demon when the muse strikes me. And maybe that’s the thing. Writing just to write doesn’t necessarily make one a better writer, any more than is writing just to write better than nothing. Sometimes the ideas just aren’t there, and if you push it—if you make yourself write—often the best ideas don’t have the opportunity to form, in effect sandbagging those times when you could have walked away, relaxed, and perhaps had that brilliant “ah-ha” moment.

A dear friend pointed out that I’m “going to pop the bubble of all those ‘Write every day” people’” to which I conceded that a lot do indeed write every day, and more power to them. At the same time, how often have you heard writers say they have to think about a story? That they have to let it form and stew and come together in their mind? Tons. And I’m one of them. If I wrote the first thing that came to mind, odds are I’d go so far off track that when something really good twigged that I’d either have to discard the idea entirely, or back so far up in the story that I may as well start over. So yes, sure writing every day works for some. But it doesn’t work for everyone. Whatever works for the individual, that’s what I think; just write in the way that works best for you and to heck with what anyone else thinks.

Did you know there are a number of writers out there whose work has influenced a nation, a world, but have themselves only written one or two books? Never mind that though. Writing has to be in you, but more importantly, it as to be fun. You have to want to do it and be a happy camper while you are. If you aren’t happy, if it’s not coming to you, then why bash your head against the wall until you loath it? And yes, you can loath anything, even if you want to like it.

Think of a little kid (let’s call him Tommy) whose parents force him to practice the piano. So there little Tommy is, twenty-minutes a day, right after supper, parked in front of the piano and pounding out tunes that make the neighbors cringe. At the end of that time, he shuts the piano and walks away until tomorrow’s practice when he’ll pound it out again. Sure he might get better. Sure he’ll learn the basics. But he’ll never love it, and I guarantee you, the first chance he gets he’ll stop playing the piano and take up something else… like decorating the cat. In other words, it’s not fun, and because of that, about the only thing he’ll learn is to hate the piano with a blinding passion. Forcing yourself to write when it’s not fun and not coming to you is kind of like that—Tommy torture. At least, it is for me.

A writer never really stops writing; it just doesn’t always involve the use of a pen, pencil, or computer. Experiencing things and observation are forms of writing. Take, for instance, my mother’s day surgery, and the lady in the bed across the way who’d waited so long she fell asleep. Or the quiet man on one side of the curtain and the “talker” on the other—the one with tan shoes and matching corduroy pants… which were about all I could see of him under the curtain. Or my mother, who was so wired for sound that she turned speed talking into an art form (of course, bells suddenly going off followed a few minutes later by the announcement “Code Red, all clear! Code Red, all clear!” should get at least some of the credit.) All of them will come back to you when you need them as characters or stories that seemingly write themselves. In other words, inspiration can come from anywhere. The trick is to recognize it.

Speaking of recognizing it, do you know your own past can be a wealth of inspiration, one where “honest writing”—the best kind of writing—will come from? For example, some authors have to travel to where they are writing about. They need to smell that air, touch that earth, see that hillside. They need to feel the moment and put themselves there—right in the character’s shoes—and walk the walk. Why? Because nothing beats honest writing, and nothing is more honest that one’s own perceptions and observations. To commit sights, smells, scenery, customs and even dialect to memory so that they can write not just from research, but from personal experience. From honesty. In other words, much of their work is real, if known only to them. But not everyone can afford to jet off to who-knows-where, and it’s to those (myself included) I say you don’t need to book a plane ticket, because you have your past. Better?—it’s unique because it’s all your own. And even better still?—it comes complete with dialogue, scenery, emotion, characters and even an outcome. Voila! Instant inspiration and instant honest writing, and you didn’t have to leave home to find it.

So one cup of inspiration, please. And fill it to the brim with your own unique observations and experiences. In yourself, you will find all the inspiration you need.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


This video is hilarious and I thought I’d share it with you. “This is not the greatest song in the world, no. This is just a tribute.”

Tenacious D - Tribute

Saturday, May 05, 2007

My Biggest Boy

Bear, Bram, Moon and Mystic have each been shown here, but Joe (Joe Glo Two) has yet to have his two seconds. So without further ado, here's my biggest boy. Say hello, Joe.

For the horsey set out there, please note that Joe's a senior horse and is wearing a Monty Foreman Training Bit—one of the best and gentlest bits on the market. Yep, people, it can be done.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My Desk Buddies

Meet The New Guy.

This is Moon. (Okay, so it‘s not really him, but my camera isn’t working at the moment so this is as close to him as I can get. Will replace with his real photo as soon as I'm able.) He’s a young Double Ray (DR) Crowntail Betta and a real looker.

Meet The Old Guy.

Moon shares my writing desk (not a tank of course) with my two-year old Mystic Half-Moon Butterfly Betta (the name is longer than the darn fish!) named, of course, Mystic.

Pretty yes? You bet. But before you go rushing out to get a desk buddy Betta of your very own, please, please, please do your research. These fish are not ornaments, nor should they ever be used for our amusement or entertainment. They are living things, and to own one means to be responsible for it.

Respect all life. If not, please leave Bettas (and all future pets) to those who will respect them.

There are a million Betta sites out there, but I’ve found the following to be the most helpful:

Betta Cave
Betta Talk
Tropical Fish Forums
Betta House
Betta Groups

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Yes, even I have roots. And now I'm going to trip over them while going down memory lane. In other words, this is my old home town of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.


Author Note: My sincere apologies for posting the photos of my old home town. When sent to me I didn't realize they were not owned by the party who sent them. Therefore, they have been removed.

Again, my apologies.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech

Pictured: 8 pm Candlelight Vigil on the Drillfield

My thoughts and prayers are with the families and all the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy.

April 16th Memorial Website

Virginia Tech expresses its shock and profound sorrow regarding the tragic campus shootings of April 16, 2007. To honor and remember the victims, the above website has been created so those within the university community and around the world may share condolences, thoughts, and prayers.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Now you know I don’t usually recommend writing forums on The View, but this is one the exception. Introducing:—

Just a few of this forums super features include:

* An excellent and very approachable staff.
* Mad-skills-talented members from beginners to the published.
* Enough threads for writers of all walks, tastes and genres (including an Erotica thread which is age restricted and viewable by members only, and a *Secret Bonus Track* thread which is another members only thread similar to a Workshop—meaning first rights are protected in both Erotica and Bonus threads).
* A monthly newsletter.
* Seasonal Featured Work—the crème de la crème as chosen by the members in the categories of Poetry, Fiction, and Erotica).

If you write or are an avid reader and haven’t yet checked out LiteraryMary, I urge you to do so. And tell 'em I sent ya.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

For All You Writers Out There:

Here's something cute for you. A kind of little engine that could sort of thing, that may lift your spirits a bit and hopefully inspire you.

Love and hugs.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Pet Food Recall List and More

I am an animal lover and proud owner of a sweet Golden Retriever, two cats and two horses. For those of you who haven‘t been keeping up with the latest and don't know where to get information, here are a few helpful links:

Pet Food Recall List
(Scroll down for the list of brand names.) Note: PETA is also calling for the recall of dry pet foods from these same brand names.

(People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

(World Wildlife Foundation)

I myself am a proud sponsor of WWF. For your convenience, the above three links will be permanently included in my Help List.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lil Chuckle

In the hospital the relatives gathered in the waiting room, where their family member lay gravely ill. Finally, the doctor came in looking tired and somber.

"I'm afraid I'm the bearer of bad news," he said as he surveyed the worried faces. "The only hope left for your loved one at this time is a brain transplant. It's an experimental procedure, very risky but it is the only hope.

Insurance will cover the procedure, but you will have to pay for the brain yourselves.."

The family members sat silent as they absorbed the news. After a great length of time, someone asked, "Well, how much does a brain cost?"

The doctor quickly responded, "$5,000 for a male brain, and $200 for a female brain."

The moment turned awkward. Men in the room tried not to smile, avoiding eye contact with the women, but some actually smirked.

A man unable to control his curiosity, blurted out the question everyone wanted to ask, "Why is the male brain so much more?"

The doctor smiled at the childish innocence and explained to the entire group, "It's just standard pricing procedure. We have to mark down the price of the female brains, because they've actually been used."

Friday, March 23, 2007


Say it ain't so. Say WF isn't down again.

Honestly, this is getting ridiculous.


It’s back. So, was that a mini sequel, or precursor?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Who, me?

Ruling Planet: Mercury
Quality: Mutable
Element: Earth

Short Summary

Virgo's are one of the most misunderstood signs of the zodiac. People think they're fussy, critical bad tempered and picky but that's only because they want everything to be perfect. This is the sign of cleanliness, although lots of Virgo's have the grottiest bedrooms and hang their clothes on the floor. They're extremely inquisitive and have a dreadful time trying to relax. Virgo's make fantastic friends. If a minor crises pops up you can be sure the Virgo will have everything under control in 30 seconds. They are always on the move because they like to learn as much as they can before they take off again. They excel at work so they probably get all the boring jobs (the ones Leo wouldn't be seen dead doing)

Long Summary

Virgo's are highly intelligent, interested in everything and everyone and happy to be busy with many jobs and hobbies. Many have some kind of specialized knowledge and most are good with their hands. Their nit-picking ways can infuriate their colleagues. They find it hard to discuss their innermost feelings and this can make them hard to understand. In many ways, they are happier doing something practical than dealing with relationships. These people can overdo the self-sacrificial bit and make themselves martyrs to other people's impractical lifestyles. They are willing to fit in with whatever is going on and they can adjust to most things, but they mustn't neglect their own needs. Although excellent communicators and wonderfully witty conversationalists, Virgo's prefer to express their deepest feelings by actions rather than words. Most avoid touching all but very close friends and family members and they find lovey-dovey behavior embarrassing. These people can be very highly sexed and they may use this as a way of expressing love. Virgo's are criticized a good deal as children and are often made to feel unwelcome in their childhood homes. They in turn become very critical of others and they can use this in order to wound.

Many Virgo's overcome inhibitions by taking up acting, music, cookery or sports. Acting is particularly common to this sign because it allows them to put aside their fears and take on the mantle of someone quite different. They are shy and slow to make friends but when they do accept someone, they are the loyalist, gentlest and kindest of companions. They are great company and have a wonderful sense of humor.

Perfect Partners: Taurus, Capricorn
Nearly Perfect Partners: Cancer, Scorpio
Like Minded Souls: Virgo
Opposites You're Attracted To: Aries, Aquarius
Learn From Your Differences: Leo, Libra
Not Your Destiny: Gemini, Sagittarius
Astrological Hell: Pisces

And you are?

Check it out at:

Kelly’s Star Signs

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hello, Hal.

Novels and movies such as A Space Odyssey and I, Robot have made cynicism of robotics second nature, the water-cooler thought that robots will attack humans and take over the world a collectively held view with nary a shrug.

And speaking of sci-fi and cutting edge technology (weren‘t we?), here’s something I saw on the news today that has the potential to change lives, not to mention likely has the bazillion-dollar wheelchair and scooter industry quaking on their rims. The potential here is staggering. I can only imagine what it could mean for the bed bound, the paraplegic, and the disabled. And this is only the beginning. Surely future prototypes will be smaller and so easily hidden beneath clothes. And at $20,000 a pop? I don’t think it’s an unreasonable amount when compared to scooters and hydraulic van lifts and retrofitting homes and businesses to be wheelchair or scooter accessible, etc, etc. It could even, perhaps, be subsidized (or even partially subsidized) by the government. I mean, really, think of the workforce it could regenerate. Think of the possibilities. Think of the human aspect. Please.

Now compare that to the UC Berkeley Exoskeleton video below. Note the huge differences in bulk, size, weight, obvious strain on the wearer, and aesthetics.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

When I was a teen I had a friend in a boy whose name I’ll leave out for privacy sake. He was a sweet, wonderful person from a loving family who had everything going for him.

Life doesn’t blindside you when you seem to be standing still. No, life blindsides you when you’re heady and you’re happy and you let your guard down, just once.

This proves something. That maybe there’s a plan, though it’s hard to see or understand, if ever. That maybe we need to go down certain roads, forced down them if needs be, to see what we’re made of. That maybe when you let your guard down, you leave yourself open for some crazy-ass football player to blindside you. That was more or less what happened to a friend of mine as he crossed the train tracks beside the overpass on graduation night. It came in the form of a right front tire that drifted off the pavement and struck the full rail, his car coming to a stop on its roof. As you can imagine, it was a long and slow road to recovery—one full of unfathomable pain and depression.

Now years later, and he has overcome so much. He’s married (though he bet good money that would never happen) and a family man (though the doctors said it was impossible). Best of all, he’s again that sweet, wonderful person from a loving family who has everything going for him... but one. He’d like to someday walk with his children. It’s for him, and people like him, that I hope this suit succeeds.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Why Canadians Are So Tired

(Thanks for sending this, Val.)

No wonder we're so tired!

The population of Canadais 30 million.
11 million are retired, that leaves 19 million to do the work.
There are 5.5 million in school, which leaves 13.5 million to do
the work.

Of this there are 3 million employed by the federal government,
leaving 10.5 million to do the work.

1 million are in the armed forces, preoccupied with killing
Terrorists, which leaves 9.5 million to do the work.

Take from that total the 7 million people who work for Provincial
and city Governments, and that leaves 2.5 million to do the work.

At any given time, there are 476,000 people in hospitals, leaving
2,024,000 to do the work.

Now, there are 1,211,998 people in prisons and 812,000 on Employment
Insurance and Welfare.

That leaves just two people to do the work.

You and me.

And there you are sitting on your ass, at your computer, reading


Real nice.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Change Will Do You Good

First, my apologies for neglecting to post for the last little while. I promise to do better in the future. In fact, I’m currently at work on the next installment of To Write and will post it Monday (hopefully). Second, no doubt you’ve noticed the header change at the top. Like the song by the same name says: a change will do you good. And it did. Hope you like.

Speaking of changes, I’ve changed my style, my mind, my opinion, my stand, my hairstyle, my pen name, my clothes and just about everything else over the years, including my car.

The first car I ever owned was a Plymouth Satellite Sebring Plus V8. She was metallic black with white pin striping and white leather interior (oh baby!) and was used—sure—but so little she was mint. I loved that car. Babied that car. Washed it and waxed it and vacuumed it and was one of those annoying drivers who parked sideways to avoid dings… and when my mom wanted a New Yorker, I reluctantly traded it. So what happened to her? The guy that bought her jacked up the back, slapped on some mags, and ended up rolling and totaling her within a month. Damn shame, that.

Then there was my dad, who use to practically live by the old saying: “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” To understand how this ties into the change theme here, this was a man who installed mom’s brand new dishwasher before dishwashers were installable. I remember standing in the basement holding this and that water pipe while he soldered them together, proud as all-get-out that he’d asked me to help him do something professional plumbers swore up and down could not be done. Of course after it was, they came to the house in droves, looked it all over, and then went about making a fortune while he received none of the credit. Kind of the same way he blueprinted the first snowplow to fit train engines in the yards because he was tired of taking men away from their tasks to shovel the tracks by hand (he was a car inspector with the railway back then, checking cars for hot wheels, etc., and ordering them off the track when they weren’t A-1). It didn’t matter to dad that he wasn’t recognized for it, only that having it made everyone’s job that much easier. (I don't come from stupid people, just modest ones. *grin*)

Not that a new header is on the same par with my dad’s achievements, nor will it make my job easier. I just like it. And who knows? It could be the start of something better.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I interrupt this blog for a very important question...



Now, back to my regularly scheduled blog.

***Update: WF is now back online.***


Monday, January 08, 2007

Augment - By Chris Miller

Certain things in life are private, personal, and not open to sharing: bank account statements, take-home pay stubs, sexual exploits (or lack thereof), journals/blogs. But when Chris Miller (see My Must Reads—Blogs from the War Room) mentioned writing "not a rebuttal, but something to augment [my To Write post]" I insisted on putting it up here, in its entirety and without comment. So with thanks (again), here's Chris:


Just received my two complimentary copies of Cosmos—The Science of Everything in the mail, and seen, for the first time, a story of mine in a commercial publication. What a rush. They did a fantastic job—commissioned Tristan Schane to do this amazing 12x24 oil painting for it, which she told me took her 3 weeks including research and thinking. Even got my name at the bottom of the cover: FICTION BY CHRISTOPHER K. MILLER & LIZ MARTIN. And now I’m thinking Liz wishes her parents had given her a longer name.

Yeah I’ll crash and fade into reality soon enough. But this morning I’m feeling pretty professional and swell. Tallying up my income from the last two years of writing I see I’ve earned 800 + 75 + 10 + 10 + 10 dollars, less Paypal deductions and one three-dollar entry fee. So I’ve earned 905 dollars in two years, mostly in US funds, but also one Amazon gift certificate. That’s over 25 cents an hour probably… or maybe not… but it still qualifies me as a pro, and so it’s from this lofty perch that I now share everything I think I’ve learned about creative writing.

Instead of just enumerating all the “mistakes” I see beginners make on the forums over and over and saying “don’t do that,” I’m going to look at these as part of a growth process, an important stage in each person’s development as a writer. I’m pretty sure every new writer fantasizes about popular acclaim and financial success. I know I do. But the real underlying reason I write is to remember, think and feel. To grow. Writing puts me in touch with my memories, thoughts and emotions. It exercises my imagination. Also, as the owner of a pretty annoying obsessive-compulsive personality, I’ve wrestled a few addictions in my life. I know a thing or two about addiction. Writing is a heady drug.

This brings me to my first (and also last) stage of writing:

Self Gratification

Writing is like sex. For most of us, our first experience probably does not involve anyone else. My first character is based on me. He has my views and opinions. In fact, initially, all he does is expound my views and opine my opinions. Later, I will introduce other characters to rescue, kill, hang out or have sex with—depending on my mood. If I like to drink, I’ll drink a lot. If I like to make out, I’ll do that.

Of course I will not begin by just blurting out, “I got drunk and Mary let me feel her breasts.” I am a literary writer. Mood and setting are important. Preparation is important. As a literary writer, I am very concerned with choosing, not just the right words, but as many of them as possible. I will make sure that every noun has a weighty adjective or two in front of it and that for every verb there is an adverb. I will expand my vocabulary. I will clarify everything. The sun will not merely set into the pines. Oh, no. The crimson orb of the smoldering globular sun will plummet into the towering verdant trees of the ominous dark forest like a double-banked three-ball dropping into the side pocket. See how much better that is, especially the part about the three-ball, because I like to play pool too. I will have depth. I will explain that my feelings for Mary reach right down to the very core of my essence. I will try to use the words “shards” and “soul” in connection with this if I can. Probably I will try to work in a moral lesson too so that if my mom reads it she’ll see how mature and wise and sensitive I’ve turned out. Then I’ll feel her tits (Mary’s, not my mom’s). Then I’ll jerk off. There’s nothing wrong with the self gratification stage of writing. Many popular authors never leave it. And, no matter how much I evolve as a writer, it will always be a part of my work. Just as we as humans still contain elements of the life forms from which we evolved.


I’m still using too many adjectives and mixing up its and it’s, and your and you’re. Maybe my quote tag punctuation’s still a little screwy. But I’ve started to twig that others do not enjoy reading my work as much as I or my mom do. That my readers, like my friends, don’t care how deeply I love Mary, or that her eyes are like bottomless woodland pools, or that her sweet laughter’s as infectious as Chlamydia. They just want to know how far she let me go and what was said before, during and after, including the embarrassing stuff—especially the embarrassing stuff. And while I’d like things to go smoothly and be told how great I am and how no one’s ever satisfied her like that before, my friends would rather I unloaded in my shorts but still somehow caught Herpes and made her pregnant so that now her big brother who’s a biker is looking to kick my ass. I’ve come to see that my difficulties and failures are much more interesting than my achievements. Suffering is more entertaining than comfort. Really, anything is more entertaining than comfort.


I’ve come to realize that not only do I not know how my characters feel, I don’t care. No one does. We only care how we ourselves would feel in their situations. To read that “Mary was terribly, terribly unhappy” does not evoke much feeling in me. But to read that “Mary butted her cigarette high inside her thigh and sighed,” gets me imagining how she felt. That just telling how my characters feel kind of ruins it for me. Even in the first person, where I know my narrator’s thoughts and memories, I really don’t know him any better than my readers do, or he himself does. That we must discover him, and thereby ourselves, together in our own ways. Writing is getting harder now. It was a LOT easier finding interesting words than it is finding interesting sentences. It was a lot easier fantasizing than living too.

Clarity and Concision

I’m learning better what to leave out, what should be left to the reader. I’ve also started to ease up on the turgid descriptors and to use contractions more. I don’t write “might have” when “might’ve” will do, or “there is” when “there’s” works. I use possessives more. And hyphens. Now, instead of writing, “The yellowing wallpaper on the walls of Mary’s bedroom with roses on it was probably older than she was,” I might write, “Mary’s bedroom’s yellowing rose-print wallpaper was…” Clarity and concision often go hand in hand. I’ve discovered that words can also be saved by combining sentences or using sentence fragments. And by mixing these up, my prose will be less monotonous. If I want to give extra impact to a sentence, I make it short and precede it with a run-on.

Writing just keeps getting harder. Because now that I’m writing simply and concisely, it’s easier to see that a lot of it just isn’t interesting. Mary took a cigarette out of her purse and asked me for a light. I pushed the car’s lighter in with my knee. Then together, we waited for it to pop back out. When it did, I pulled it from the dash and held it out to her… ah who cares. Keeping word count down is not about staying under competition limits and within submissions guidelines. It’s about letting your reader do less work for the same or better bang.

Credibility and Patience

In place of grandiloquent descriptors and flat narrative, I’m starting to use specifics. But specifics take research, a kind of expertise. And I don’t know anything about wallpaper patterns or the ’83 Chevy Impala. I don’t know anything about antiques or horses or modern art either, or what the name of Nashville’s college football team is, or whether or not Chicago’s Wrigley Field has a Jumbotron, or how to make ricin, or what life’s like in the Gaza strip. But if I want my stories and characters to seem real, I have to find out. This was probably a LOT harder before the internet. I’ve also stopped posting pieces I wrote in half-an-hour, or a day-and-a-half. Writing is about ideas and idea density. I’m not talking about scientific facts, philosophical musings and personal epiphanies, although these can be good too. Ideas can be apt and even poetic descriptions, connecting seemingly disparate things, character nuances, and even clever turns of phrase. An idea is anything that clicks. I now know that I will probably read everything I write dozens if not hundreds of times. If nothing clicks in a sentence, why make myself suffer through it again and again? Wouldn’t my story—my life—be better off without it? Maybe it’s necessary to know that Fred drove home from the office, took off his shoes, patted his dog, took a leak and poured himself a rye and ginger before turning on the TV and seeing that he’d just won the Powerball lottery. But maybe it isn’t.

So I’m asking myself, how do I resolve concision and patience? I don’t want idealess sentences and a lot of empty descriptors. But I don’t want my stories to rush childishly and breathlessly forward in an “and then… and then… and then” sort of way either. Details like leaves falling or birds nesting or a boy throwing a newspaper onto your driveway from his bicycle can be used to put the reader in a scene and make the narrative less linear. But they can also bore and distract. Here’s how I decide. If I’m incorporating sentences only to get my story from point A to point B, it’s poor concision, flat and weak. Trying to connect all my scenes into one big duller one is a bad thing. But if I’m using them as sort of non sequiturs or asides to pace or broaden a scene, they’re probably indicative of patience, poetic and okay.

Cohesion and Depth

So I’ve described an interesting and believable series of events involving real and likable (and hate-able) characters, but because these events are unrelated (except that they all happen to the same guy) my story’s only an entertaining anecdote. It doesn’t mean anything. Doesn’t penetrate. This is where motif, symbol and allegory come into play. They connect the pieces of my story, and my story to the world at large. Say Mary’s biker brother beats me up after I’ve come in my boxers and she’s given me Herpes and I’ve made her pregnant. This is interesting. Readers might enjoy seeing this happen. Now suppose it was this biker brother who gave her the Herpes. Now readers can see how my premature ejaculation and general embarrassment, naivety and inexperience might’ve been a sort of relief and change of pace for her and is what actually allowed me to move on around the bases and knock her up. Even if I can’t see it—especially if I can’t. By connecting the biker brother to the story and promoting Herpes to a motif, suddenly the conflict and characters are deepened. Suppose Mary and I wander bare-legged into a patch of stinging nettles while walking in the woods. Stinging becomes a connecting theme. Our infatuation has allowed us to become trapped in this painful situation. Maybe I pick her up and carry her out. Maybe I try to stop her from burning her thigh with her cigarette. See how suddenly, because of this stinging/burning motif or symbol, actions take on deeper meanings? The more elements of a story that are tied together, the deeper it’ll run. An allegory to Cupid’s stinging arrow might strengthen the motif. That the baby might not be mine, but instead her father’s (this is one dysfunctional family), could connect my Mary to the Virgin Mary. I try to connect a story’s elements through plot, motif, allusion, and poetic devices like simile and metaphor. The more I can tell a story in terms of itself and allegory the deeper it will become.

Self Gratification (again)

To me, a lot of professional writers, especially novelists, are the equivalent of good mall landscape painters. They crank out the same content and quality over and over. If I want to earn a living writing, I’ll have to learn to do this—to write for the largest demographic. I’ll have to read what sells and try to mimic it in some original, but not too original, way. Then I’ll have to market myself. This has gotten a lot harder. With the internet and word processing, more and more people are writing and entertain hopes of striking it rich and becoming famous. It’s harder to find an agent today than it used to be to find publishers. It might be helpful to work up a CV by winning competitions and getting credible smaller publications under my belt. To do this I’ll need to read the magazines I target and winners of the competitions I wish to enter so that I can emulate their styles and themes.

But this all strikes me as a lot of work that, while it might see me more widely read, will not really improve me as a writer or a person. One can have too many lovers. And I would rather “publish” to a few trusted others who know me and who’ll share their minds and eyes than millions of strangers who give nothing. This is what’s gratifying. And, paradoxically, I can’t help but feel that this is the path to success.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

To Write

In the beginning man created the written word, and it was good.

Actually, and depending on who you’re talking to, man started out with clicks and squeals, moved up to grunts and groans, then moved further still to finger-painting and clubbing thy neighbor to death. But that’s not what this post is about. Believe it or not, this is about the wonderful world of fiction writing.

I figure I must have had something worthwhile to say about writing at some point, because The View and The Quill were created as a sort of writing duality—one for thoughts and one for a few works respectively—yet it seems I’ve dropped the ball. My apologies. So for the next while I’m going to post a few of my disjointed thoughts, personal pet peeves and things I’ve learned along the way, with a few memories thrown in to (hopefully) keep it interesting. Not that you should listen to everything I say thinking I know all about what I do, because I don’t—no writer does. As a matter of fact, feel free to agree or disagree with any and all of what will follow because, hey, that’s what makes the world go ‘round. As for me, I just do what I do and it seems to work. Of course, when it doesn’t, I’m as much in the dark as the next writer. I am, after all, still learning my chops and hopefully always will be; the day I stop learning is the day I stop writing altogether and take up wire jewelry making. That said, I reserve the right to add or delete to this list as necessary.

“But my mom says I’m a fantastic writer,” some of you may say, “so I don’t need your crummy tips.”

Wow, that’s really great. Let me know how the wire jewelry making business goes, will you?

For everyone else, let’s start where everything should: in the beginning. And what better place to begin than with…

Part One:
The Nifty Idea

I’m always astounded when I hear people say things like “I lived on 18th street back in ‘87, and I remember the day when…” mainly because I have no idea where I was or what I was doing at anytime in my life. Okay, that’s not completely true. I remember the things and times that had the most impact.

My dad (Kenneth Henry, to whom the saying “There is always a way” was a way of life, is thirteen years past) had a memory that rivaled computers. Mine is so bad that I’m lucky to remember what I had for lunch by dinnertime, never mind original story ideas (two or three or five previously unrelated ideas that come together and create something new) which seem to come from nowhere and, if not recognized and captured quickly enough, flit off to find another writer who will recognize and capture them. And use them. And someday you’ll read that story in a fancy-shmancy magazine or bestselling novel and never know what could have been.

Scary, huh?

Unless you have a memory like my dad had, make sure you write that original story idea down. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a napkin, your hand, or the back of your over-due hydro bill. Just make sure it’s written. As a matter of fact, one good tip is to have something to write on, and something to write with, in places where you’ll wish you had them, such as your pocket, your car, your bedside table, even your washroom. There’s nothing more frustrating than losing what could have been a really good idea for the lack of a ten cent pencil.

Right. So it’s written. Now what?

This is where you take your nifty idea and start adding to it. And one of the best ways I’ve found of doing that is to play the “What if” game.

Part Two:
The “What If” Game

Take “Hurtful Things” as a for-instance. I was lying in bed one night, wide awake and thinking about my childhood. Specifically, I was thinking about the old fellow who’d lived at the end of our street and how afraid we neighborhood kids had been of him. Anyway, so I got to thinking about all our errant baseballs that ended up in his yard and so in his house, and that if he was still alive, his basement must be full of them. Then I started thinking, “What if he took our baseballs as a way to keep us from nosing around his house?” (Bingo! Original idea.) That, of course, lead to even more “What if” questions, and from there, the story grew. Not that it wrote itself, mind you, or even came out exactly as planned. Then again, they never do.

Just to sidestep for a moment. It’s about here where the self-important know-it-all’s go off on long-winded tirades about the hard and fast rules of writing based on their “extensive” education and experience, which amounts to a lot of bean hills. Truth is, all rules can/will/or have been broken. So really, there are no steadfast rules of writing, only preferences of the writer, editor and, more importantly, the reader. (If you don’t believe me, look up “Götz and Meyer” by David Albahari, a novel composed of one continuous paragraph that runs over 167 pages). And thank goodness for that. If everything (and I’m talking perfectly formed sentence structure and the negation of passive voice, etc., etc.) were the same, there would be no need for the John Saul’s, Tom Clancy’s, or David Albahari’s of this world. Nothing would be unique. Nothing would be special. Nothing would stand over the others. Okay, so the plots, characters and ideas might, but not much else. Not to mention the dictionary would never have to be revised. But the reality is that a story is as individual as the reader; each reader hoping to be taken on a journey and each author hoping their story will meet that need.

On that note, here’s as good a place as any to throw in a few of my personal Pet Peeves. (Don’t panic if you don’t know what I mean; I’ll go into each of them a little later.)

*The first rule of writing is show, don’t tell. Don’t tell me she is a talented musician. Show me the crowd cheering, etc. Give me (the reader) something to feel and believe, via action and/or dialogue. We readers need details such as thoughts and/or feelings; we need to smell the theater, hear the applause, feel the pride and not just be told the character is proud. Anything less cheats us from experiencing your story. Dialogue is another area where you have the opportunity to show or to tell. Creative dialogue tags (barked, murmured) is telling, not showing. Let dialogue, along with accompanying action, show the tone of voice and the emotion.

* The best dialogue attribution is said, as in he said she said, etc., not he cried angrily, she shouted hastily, they growled malevolently, he gasped stupidly (although I myself have been guilty of the later a time or ten).

* The writer’s love affair with certain words such as as (as if, as though), like (often used in place of as if and as though), that, and the ultimate—and. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with using them. Just please be aware of them and don't abuse them.

* Clichés (also called “Purple Prose:” a lot of fluff with little substance). Don’t use them. Please.

* Guide the reader through the story, don’t drag them through it—meaning don’t describe every little detail, ad nauseum. The reader’s imagination is far more powerful than any words a writer can come up with.

* Don’t write down to the reader—they are smarter than you think. By the same token, don’t overdress your work with fancy vocabulary just because you think you should or you’re embarrassed about the short words you‘ve used. Write plainly and directly, and use the basic rule of vocabulary: use the first word that comes to mind, as long as it is colorful and appropriate. No need to say A semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air erupted from her nose and mouth when you really mean She sneezed.

* Don’t clutter up your work with every flowery prose, cliché, adjective and adverb possible (also known as “Purple Prose”). I’m not saying to barebones it, but omitting needless words is best. And while we’re on the subject of omitting needless words, when you rewrite, take out all the things that are not the story, repeats, and anything that does the reader‘s thinking for them.

* Research, research, research. Readers demand authenticity so you’d better know what you’re writing about.

* Exclamation points in dialogue without tags (in lieu of screamed/ranted, etc.) is okay, but that’s about it. Of course (and depending on who you listen to), the jury is still out on that one. The one thing we can all agree on, however, is that using exclamation points excessively is the mark of an inexperienced writer.

* Don’t do an info dump. Spread the information out in the story. The same can be said about prologues, which also tend to be information dumps.

* Don’t use your grammar check as the know-all source. Run-on sentences and fragments break up the format and so make the read more interesting (if done properly). Fragments are also used to create clear images, emphasis, streamline narration, speed up the read, and add drama and/or tension, etc., etc. Remember, good fiction isn’t grammatical correctness, but brief escapes from real life.

* Tense changes (from past to present) within a paragraph/scene are not acceptable.

* Spell check everything. Then check it again. If you don’t have a spell check, get one. When in doubt (say, if the spell check removes hyphens between compound adjectives that precede a noun, such as “black-haired woman“) and you happen to use Microsoft Works Word Processor like I do, try typing the two words as one (blackhaired) and then hover your curser over it and right click to display options.

* Oh, and one more thing (for now). Always start a new line for each person who speaks.

Okay, so back to the subject. By now your story has grown from an idea to a bit of a framework. Congratulations! Now write that down. And keep adding to it. No worries about the story not gaining enough weight at this point. It will gain as you write it, as you get onto your character/s and decide on all the little idiosyncrasies (not to mention background, settings, twists, and all the unexpected sidetracks every story takes no matter how solid the framework).

Part Three:
The Opening’s The Thing

A lot of newer writers strive for the perfect title, believing it is the ticket to making or breaking the story. Ah, but not so. Coming up with the greatest title of all time won’t mean squat if the reader can’t get past (or rather, into) the first few paragraphs. And the quickest way to turn them off is with a heap of clichés, adjectives, adverbs and flowery prose—a common mistake of the newer writer. Not that flowery is nice, but I don't really care that the fluffy cloud glimmered like a thousand cut diamonds in a crystal stream—you know? Glinted, shone, sparkled, blinded, tore the eyes out... Eesh. Therefore, some of the best advice I can give is to write your opening paragraph, save it, make a copy and, in that, delete every flowery prose, cliché, adjective and adverb you find. Seriously. (Well, I do have better advice, but I’ll get into that later.) Now read the two aloud and compare them. Which reads better to you? If the copy didn’t read better than the original I’ll…I’ll… Well I’ll do something. Just not sure what, right now.

Fine, fine, I’ll give you an example. Let’s see…

Gus hardly ever talks about himself, or why he’s here, just doing his job, but he likes to tell the story of who he calls “The Guilty Innocent.” He does it with just the right flair, as if to say, “Now this time you try keepin’ up with me, Trevor—you try as hard as you can, okay?” He’ll sometimes tell the story while I’m sitting on what passes as a bed here and scratching my ear, him standing just inside the door, the one that rarely opens. I usually laugh when he tells the story, which always ends with some nonsense about a ladder and a car accident. It’s a entertaining sort of story, even if you have heard it a million times. Not that I want to hear it again.

Good or bad, that is the unedited opening for a WIP (work in progress) short story of mine called (obviously) “The Guilty Innocent.” Note that it is all but devoid of clichés, adjectives or adverbs. Why? Because there was no need to describe the bed, his ear, the car accident, or anything else; it’s a given (via reader imagination filling in the blanks) that the bed was hard, his ear was itchy, the car accident was horrific, etc., without going into further detail. In other words, what I’m doing here is trying to engage the reader’s mind. More clutter equals less reader imagination needed to fill in the blanks and so the less engagement. Ta da!

While we’re here, we’d better touch on The First Sentence. It is, without a doubt, the most important sentence of your story. It is what writers sweat over. It is what they will change a half dozen times. It is what they’ll either crow over or kick themselves over…and if you don’t believe me, ask a writer. The first sentence is the single hardest line in the story to write. Why? Because that is the reader’s first introduction/impression to the story—the greeter at the door, if you will. It’s also the hook that will hopefully make the reader want to read the second line and every line thereafter. Therefore, it needs to be poignant, something that opens that fictional door to the entire story, something that makes the reader want to read beyond. But that’s not to say it has to be long or even flowery. My own personal favorite is quite simple and at the same time pretty much captures the sentiment of the story: It happened because Nathan was an asshole.

A word of advice (re: the first sentence/paragraph): avoid any and all mention of the weather.

Another word of advice (re: for the entire story): read everything you write aloud, including the dialogue. Listen to the words. If it does not sound right to you, it will not sound right to the reader.

More later.
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