Ol’ Man Janus Ain’wah He Use-ta Be

by Missye K. Clarke

I’m at my new tripod desk as I work on this month’s longish post, so I please ask your pardon for the inconvenience. Truthfully–and warring winter allergies with pet dander while half-zonked on antihistamines meds–I’m half-winging this, uncertain how to open or grab your attention on a writing topic not done past use, but I suppose this works. I wasn’t about to offer another post of life post-couvid, or kvetch to y’all when do I get my former life back, how I’m adjusting without this or that. Although nothing wrong with those subjects in/of themselves, for one usually a big mouth on issues . . . couvid silenced me another way: The shock of how fast humanity changed past the point of know return, the shock itself, and how this event’s deepoend me despite not wanting to go that crazy depth. Like in almost every writing reference around insisting the main character must adjust to his or her new normal in their worlds, I’ve been forced again to follow suit. Guess my cast is having a good belly laugh at my expense, because in their words: this constant compass-adjusting just fuckin’ sucks. They’re not wrong.

Still . . . I’m notorious for delayed shock, unfortunately exposed to this at an early age. Knocked out cold by a thrown rock when I was nine, I had my first of several out of body experiences, being knocked silly to start with, subsuquent recovery from the OBE, and the shock itself until many weeks later. 9/11/2001, another stunner, now much bigger and deeper with the emergence of a more likely storyline behind that event I’m still unpacking. Still sweaty from kidhood at twenty whem my forty-year-young mom lost her cancer fight; and four years hence, more shock during what should’ve been a joyous time receiving my firstborn the same year my father violently died. As you can imagine, also released that year, Mike + The Mechanics’ “The Living Years” will always hold a certain poignance, the last verse especially useful when I need a good cry to wash my eyes out before allergy meds kick in.

But even couvid and a rigged election’s aftermath still being written before our eyes isn’t my biggest shock, despite the resonance these events still hold. For the longest time, I’ve struggled to put my thoughts and feelings into digestable bites for readers and contributors of this platform to understand, cogitate, and maybe help me change–and on another level, maybe even relate a little to me–without coming off bitchy, arguing too much, or generally be that unlikeable narrator. This subject’s been on my heart since I could remember, only recently instigated by open mockery, hot disdain, and the flat-out exile from groups, orgs., and other socials of daring to hold a dissenting point of view. What was once done in pockets of academia–being a target from both sides while finishing college, you learn a few things–the veneer of impartiality and evenhandedness in the open marketplace of ideas is gone, if it existed to begin with. In its place is a scary, filthy leviathan of a share-our-view-or-else slant now so mainstream you’d have to be living on Pluto most of your life not to see how bad times have become. Don’t misunderstand–this isn’t a political post, nor will such ever be shared here. But I’m speaking–pleading, if I’m being honest–strictly from the standpoint of an author making a modest living on a basic tenet: to speak his or her mind freely no matter how appalling, offensive, or dangerous it may come across. I do not sanction violence. But the right to be as you are, say what you like, how, where, when, or which you like–just being heard, damn it!–is being persecuted in unprecedented ways. I hope to help quelch this, not only in picking up the reins where the fantastic, late, great Nat Hentoff dropped off, but holding to that late Sixties drumbeat I was taught in school: DIFFERENCES ARE GOOD! As I opine this, I’ve tears in my eyes where free speech, free thought, and free expression will go–the helpful, beneficial, positive, uplifting, and inspiring kinds that call on pulling together differences in every one of us we’re the same to and in at the end of the day despite the awful-icky speech we’ve dealt with. Solomon of Proverbs was spot on when he said the tongue is more powerful than the strongest sword or the heftiest ship’s rudder. Hoo-boy, isn’t it ever.

In the guise of “wokeism,” I found myself in #1stAHasAVoice jail from certain platforms within the past year. One was with two scribe orgs. I’m happily no longer assosicated with; Twitter, where I called out several NYT bestselling authors for treating their readers like they’d been asked to enjoy a roten fish smoothie for lunch; and the third was a monthly box I’d gushed over several months back (This last, I owe you a deep apology for–not that you’ll like what I do, but I should’ve vetted this company more thoroughly for my tastes.) I could’ve been a little more diplomatic, suave, evenhanded in my responses. But I suppose holding my feelings and thoughts of what’s moral and just in the name of professionalism was what got even one of us here to begin with is problamatic. Done with being nice, I gave my own exit interviews to those outlets like a wrecking ball discovering demolition sex, having nothing else, in my eyes, to professionally lose. Banned from the blue bird (Sidenote: why are some to most beta males disgusting to strong women they secretly want? What, SWINOs–strong women in name only–need only apply?)–no real loss, since it’s permitting child porn and okaying snitching on your friends/followers/following, euphamistically labeled “Birdwatching” if you haven’t heard, with zero discernment. The tea has it through other socials membership is continuing to decline in my former orgs, including those rethinking their membership in wake of my treatment on principle, and take their wallets where viewpoint alienation isn’t a menu regular. As the quasi-tired expression goes, some are finally seeing the true light in the contrived darkness. I’m happy for this. Being that casuality, or witnessing one, isn’t a picnic, nor is going outside my comfort zone defending the attacked, or letting them stay persecuted (i.e.: capitulation by proxy) hoping in that skein, maybe I won’t be. Un/Fortunately, we’re not in polite times or polite society anymore. Positions will be taken, rooted deeper into, right POV or no. Whichever yours are, hold fast boldly, go all in, bake until done. Lukewarm, wimpy, or milquetoasts anything is unacceptable–in the writing life and your right to speak in it!–and that’s how it is.

As my box-drop is funniest in a you-hadda-be-there kind of way, I’ll expound. Comedians like Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Fred Rubino, identical twins Kevin & Keith Hodge, Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy, Tim Allen, and a slew of others lamented they can’t visit American college and university campuses anymore for stand-up routines. Why? Co-eds are so indoctrinated with unevidenced fear and anger over jokes being offensive to anyone, when it’s that means making dark times more bearable. The kids are right in one sense–even through we ladies might find gallows humor appalling, laughter makes those intense moments less so; I can only imagine the sick jokes during and after Christ’s execution or the rotten timing of satire from some in Titanic’s lifeboats as they waited for the Carpethia. But psychological studies of this phenom back this to be legitimate: dangerous vocations like First Responders or high-rise window cleaners have, or one in a horrific life-changing event, often crack morbid, greusome, or gory jokes to help themselves deal with nightmarish tasks they’d like to forget forever. In the place of some NYPD detectives having to handle recent affairs of child sex trafficking–those terrifying images involved they had to see, they’d damn better joke, joke, joke all the way home. #TooSoon isn’t applicable here.

But an author serving a spoof at couvid’s or its country of origin’s espense? No! Go! Scared me so! Get out, get out, GET!!!! OUT!!!! Not hyperbole, either–it happened all that way. Even this platform came under recent fire for contributors not towing the censorship line others wished they’d do. I defended my fellow authors in both cases that tasteless, crass speech is free to be expressed, as it’s on the reader/listener/viewer to discriminate if they’ll be in audience. Sadly, with many millennials freefalling into the dangers of okaying piecemeal’ed to extreme censorship–and not a few boomers declaring themselves God to push such impositions on–they complained to the CEO and group owners about the emerging author’s share and complained about those who supported her right to express herself. No avail. We were permanantly excused. Just as well–I can’t justify monthly writing tchotchkes on a lean budget, but more imporantly, I won’t patron a business hellbent on quelling voices or views they find objectionable because it challenges their hegemony or stances. Sharing my argument to the CEO that I expected to go unanswered (it did), later that week I received a snarkily-comedic worded exit email, feigning sadness in its “Dear John” seeing me go. Tough sh*t, I’m staying ghost. I won’t give anything of me to anyone, anything, or any cause showing its ass, even more so since my position’s been thoroughly belittled, dismissed, scorned, or openly made fun of. All in the name of tolerance, of course.

Although a tired expression, it’s one worth sharing again: Where He closes a door, He opens a window. Opportunities abound for a warrior. During times of great upheaval, they always, always do.

So. That was my January. The bearded god looking in our past sees . . . what? Wreckage of a broken everything, if we’re being raw honest. The god’s other bearded face looking into our sunrise of what’s to come . . . sees what, exactly? Wreckage illuminated? The glow to rebuild, the light to guide?

The resplendwency to constntly keep in plain sight what never to revisit in history ever again?

That dude’s role sure ain’t what it use-ta be.

Then again, ain’t none of us are.

Stay strong in the fight for the pursuit of life, liberty, and that ever elusive bitch of happiness, my friends and scribe warriors. We’ve only just gotten started.

ps: Almost forgot: Happy Valentines’ Day. May you all be showered in flowers today and always.

.

Just Like In The Movies

Books have been adapted into movies since Hollywood became the glittering city, drawing hopefuls on stardom promises since the early 20th century. I could look up which movie was the first to adapt its storyline from a novel, but I don’t want to, and that’s not this month’s thesis. But, as the cinematic empire evolved, I found myself thinking about books, and how this medium needs writers to captivate minds enough to open their wallets.

But before books came to be thanks to Johann Gutenberg’s printing press in 1555, what did people do for information and education, to spark dreams and ideas? They told stories. Before then, the poor couldn’t afford books, copying reads to parchment by candlelight was painstaking tedium and boring (could you imagine starting over if you left out a word or wrote one wrong? Yikes!), so oral retellings committed to memory was the only way to share. Not like they had TMZ, Hearst, or podcasts to rely on for such things.

Some stories are lost to time by extinction and elemental damage, unfortunately. But oral traditions in many, many other stories survived the tellings and retellings to captivate the listener in imagination, in laughter or sorrow, or a strong lesson learned. Reading is no different. Again, many thank-yous to our innovator Johann G.
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Terry Brooks, author of the Shannara series and The Magic Kingdom stories, put it best (paraphrasing mine) of this medium: “Reading is the least expensive form of entertainment, but has the most lasting impact. It forces the brain to slow down and process this information, leaving an imprint unforgettable for some time.” And the late, great Paul Harvey once said in his broadcast of a Harry Potter film adaptation release: “Directors of movies think they have the author’s story vision for a blockbuster film, but it’s readers who hold more power. That story in your hands, Reader, is your script. You, Reader, are the true director in which the words feed your imaginations’ worlds (paraphrasing also mine).”

Okay, damn! But he and Paul Harvey weren’t wrong. The books are almost always better, and I speak from experience.

At the time of the 1982 release, I was excited as hell for the adaptation of The Outsiders. You know that story, right? No? Here’s the gist without giving away the story much: a ragtag bunch of guys eventually confronts their more privileged rivals after one kills another in self-defense. There’s more themes in this story than this post permits time for, but while the book brilliantly drew out uncomfortable truths of classism and how some are more equals than others if you have enough money to get you there, the film itself didn’t capture this in the least. Seeing the move on first-night release as an eager 17-year-old, I left disappointed and pissed. Thinking it was just me and expecting the movie to live up to my exprectations, I went again the following night.

Nope–was right the first time, and spot on since seeing this film thereafter: The movie version sucks at worst and passable at best. But hey, the guys playing Two-Bit Matthews (Emilio Estevez), Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio), Sodapop (Rob Lowe), Darry (Patrick Swayze), and Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) Curtis were/are super-easy on the eyes. I even thought Diane Ladd (Sherry “Cherry” Valance) was sexy as shit then and still so today. Still didn’t take from the fact Coppola could’ve taken the time to capture on film what Hinton did for me in her story pages–which validated Harvey’s point of the reader’s imagination being the best movie experience far better than any director can do, if he’s doing his job right as the author sure has to do. It’s also reported Roald Dahl–Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and James and the Giant Peach author–thought the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie was atrocious, and loudly voiced his objections (it’d been reported a third into the film, he walked out). I have wondered, though, what his thoughts might’ve been on Tim Burton’s take on the same story, but at least Burton had the stinking decency to stay true to the book! We’ll never know, sadly; Dahl died in 1975.

While watching TCM with my husband Pete one Sunday morning–Noir Alley wirh Eddie Muller, to be precise—we got to talking. The films often don’t do the books justice, but authors have to give more than enough visual guides to feed a reader’s asleep-dreams as directors do for the adaptations, Coppola and Mel Stewart notwithstanding. We authors dream about our scenes, settings, titles, characters’ wardrobe; what they look like, smell like, act like, talk like, are like. But if I’ve done my storytelling job well, what my TOMM cast looks like doesn’t just matter to me, it matters to the one reading me. Say a homeschooled teenager’s reading FROST BITE on the low (his parents are super strict on his book content, and I didn’t exactly craft a work Victorian-era prudent **smirk**). Let’s also say this kid’s bisexual on the rogue. What if he’s wildly in love with my FROST BITE narrator–hey, you’ve crushed on your past book characters, don’t judge! :)–and in this kid’s dreams, my narrator’s good with this, even though he’s told me he’s sunbeam straight? Honestly, there’s nothing either of us can do about that aspect, because I’m not in that kid’s mind as Logan, my MC, is. In other words, it could be Logan’s doppelgänger belonging to this kid who’s enjoying a Luther Vandross and scented candles romp, but the author’s fictional McGuinness isn’t. Or, as the Harry Potter director cast a young unknown at the time named Daniel Radcliffe for the part, the readers and audiences may’ve had a completely different look in mind on a more personal level–their imagination Harry is green-eyed to Daniel’s blue, or their imagination Harry was a taller eleven-year-old than the one for Sorcerer’s Stone (and while on the topic, they couldn’t’ve fitted Daniel with non-Rx green-irised contacts? The movie is pretend, after all! But it’s done, and I digress.).

And then there’s our story of lore in who had to be casted as Margaret Mitchell’s Rhett Butler for the iconic film–no question Clark Gable was the only one to fit that bill (To be fair and in her defense, though I don’t claim to know if Mitchell’d had him in mind while writing GWTW, her knowing the cast so well automatically connected the actor with the character in the readers’ minds before the film came to be–much like we prefer young Elvis over old, or the late Sean Connery as the 007 James Bond.). Does this make sense?

I read a lot as a child, even more when I moved to, and lived in, 6,000-strong Page, AZ in 1980 (pop. today: 73,442, based on most recent U.S. Census compilations). I didn’t make many friends, I was quite ostracized for being different–ho-ho, much like today after shedding three writing orgs, right, #RioLinda? :). Lacking means to get around other than walking, I needed an escape from my family and nothing-to-do-in-Podunk-AZ surroundings. Books were that, like movies and drawing horses were for The Outsiders‘ narrator Ponyboy Curtis. I wore that book out reading it so much, I could near quote whole chapters from memory, which was why the film still disappoints today. Though impressive, it didn’t win me many friends or influence people, writing did. It became another escape, like some watch old movies, or play aquash, or take long distance runs for the same thing. Just like those movies, imaginations are stirred enough to find a fedora to wear like James Coburn or James Stewart did in their films. And on occasion, because of this sparking my imagination, I don’t mind rabbits, love the name Harvey, and look fierce in a fedora.

Books are the readers’ personal movie scripts they get to direct. Some readers may become writers and authors themselves as result. Some stay readers and want more scripts. We spin yarns for your imaginations. And always for ours, too. That’s doing-it-for-Johnny, “Outsider” enough for me.

Another Missye K. Clarke 1st: A 1st Unofficial NaNo Pep Talk

It’s that time upon us–nip in the wood stove-smoke air, days are shorter, and that damnable Daylight Savings is a memory. Oh, and Thanksgiving. Food, glorious food!

And NaNoWriMo. It’s nuts. If you’ve done it, you’re nuts. If you haven’t, try it. It’s nuts. I’m doing it again. Yes, I’m nuts. Make mine pistachios, pumpkin, and pinions (oh, my!), please. 😎

So I’ll go back to Casebook #4 while you enjoy this little pepper I gave a fellow NaNo nutter frightened her book is a pile of hot garbage. It well could be; we don’t know until seeing the final version, if ever. May this give you a booster as I hope it has for her.

Oh, right . . . I promised y’all my news since last month’s post. Time to fulfill a promise, as The Patrick Bowen Files author Steven James oft says to do.

JERSEY’s got two reviews on ‘Zon at 4.5 stars! And my first-ever go for a story album submission, I made it in, squeeeee! Soon as I receive details, y’all can enjoy “Punxsutawney Kill” in the 2020 BOULD Anthology when it’s available. Although I still think I should’ve picked “Groundhog Slay” for the story title, my husband Pete says “Punx” has mure a nyah–zhuzh edge to it; its quirkyness was why I made it in “Slay” doesn’t have. Well, that, and we’re living in battleground state Pennsylvania, so . . . 😏.

Happy reading! Back again next month, Lord willing, the last before 2020 ends. What a ride it’s been, huh?

* * *

Aawww, honey. It’ll be okay, I swear. At the expense of coming across like a mother hen to her daughter chick, instead, see me as your wise old “Slappy Squirrel” big sister (Yeah, I’m just as cudmudgeony, but I mean well.). Follow my train of thought for a bit, okay?

My first mystery I indie-published in 2018 was HARDLY the book that came to me in 2005 (yeah, 13 years, I know.). But for two stinking scenes–TWO, AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!–in 2011, I scrapped the entire MS I’d drafted since 2005. Lord God, I about clewed the grey from the pavement outside my house, I was so mad at the time. Another writer friend from TX, sadly now deceased, reached out when she heard I was lit up. She talked me down, said this will pass, because SHE scrapped her first book, too. And from the words of a Writer’s Digest instructor during an assignment in 2009, most of the submitted chapter had a severe lack of credibility that began on a different topic altogether. Put another way: if that chapter was seriously questioned, the book around it was a hot pile of crap, but I was too emotionally invested. She said the story was fine, but where I’d plucked the execution from for it, was a poor fit.

“Eureka!” lightbulb, on!

Your MS is a pile of hot crap–so what? Every author writes or has written a book version of an Edsel. I think in past NaNos, YA author Meg Cabot said you’re going to write over A MILLION WORDS before you dig into the gold, so let this book be your trainnig ground to get you there. It doesn’t have to see the light of day in its early stages, nor should it. Leave yourself some secrecy, some dignity in how that magic came to be. The story being sound is what counts. It’s the rejected execution you’re ticked about, mad at, elated and pissed over, laughing at/to/or for that’s got you rattled–but if you know in your heart the MS needs to be trashed where it is, do it. It stinks hearing and reading these words, but trust me on this. I’m a Gemini. I’m the product of Speedy Gonzales and Ricochet Rabbit, thanks to my untreated-since-childhood ADHD. I’m a 9 Life Path; I’m naturally harder on myself than most are, and I’m not naturally prone to patience. Coming from somebody with my background, you best believe it’s damn tough to trust the process!

But everybody in our position before us were right. The scenes I’d rebuilt JERSEY DOGS around bookends Ch. 12’s “Brother . . . Oh, Brother,” to segue the badass “A Message From Ewe.” And it is badass, not because I drafted it, but because of the stinking “Wow!” magic doing it for me building it. Had I not scrapped the ’05-’11 book, “Ewe” might not’ve happened. So allow the hurt, frustration, jealousy. confusion, anger, shock and sorrow over your loss fuel you to construct an MS better, stronger, leaner, and meaner than you’d thought. Why? Because the bloat of your story’s backstory is out of the way, you know what’ll go in and/or what’ll be left out in the next MS, and you’ll know where your story is telling you where its execution lies. You’re okay. You will be. Honest. It’s just words, tools none wasted if you hold the right perspective for them, and you, in this crazy writing life.

PS: Nathan Brandsford had a blog post a decade plus back citing that you NEVER go with the first idea, because that’s likely been done, done to death, and done ad nauseum even after that. Instead, dig deep for an original story. Deeper. DEEPER! DEEPER, dammit! Go REAL deep! So deep you’ll get the bends coming back up for air. After that, let your best listed ideas marinate for twenty-four hours before picking one. It’s that story you’re living with, so better make it a doozy and make it really count for a reader to love what you do to make him smile.

And now . . . Slappy Squirrel’s got her date with two hot McG guys I’m being a NaNo Rebel for in Casebook #4, OWL ROCKA THE ROCKAWAYS. Go knock ’em dead, author! Readers, show us love, because it’s for you and for our imaginations we’re working our tails off for.

Dabble, Scribbler, & A Dash of Ampersand

Hi, Ladies of Mystery bloggers, LoM readers, and the general public! Has it been another month already? Good grief! Two more to go before we hit Level 12 of Jumanji how this dumpster fire of a year’s turned out to be. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t wait to put 2020 in my rear windshield.

So . . . as the title indicaes, I’ve found some Easter egg writing-related goodies to keep my untreated ADHD mind happy as my imagination marinates on WIPs. These are fairly inexpensive and lots of fun if you’re bored of your typical writing routine, or are in the market of shaking up your writing arsenal. In either case, I hope you’ll have as much fun as I’m having.

DABBLE


Dabble is a monthly subscription writing platform and a fantastic alternative to Scrivner or Microsoft Word if these software programs aren’t optional. This platform’s more user-friendly for the visually impaired or needing low vision assistance than Scrivner is, and has its own cloud service to store only your WIPs. Unlike Reedsy Editor, Dabble is laid out as Word is. But unlike Reedsy Editor, more font selections are available on Dabble, users can switch the screen to dark mode when writing during the day, and Dabble’s left side menu offers sections to organize scenes, world-building artifacts, a place to blueprint your plot, a built-in dictionary and spell-check, a trash bin to cut what isn’t working, and a progress and goal tracker for daily word counts and days spent on your project. It reminds me of digital 4×6 tacked, corkboarded note cards to keep your story on task. Depending on which best fits your pocketbook for a monthly or annual package, you’ll have access to live-time support assistance if you aren’t tech savvy to ough some of this service’s features. I happened to find Dabble during 2019’s NaNoWriMo when the company offered a discount for completing the month-long marathon. I’m especially impressed with the tech team making this platform possible, and especially love the CS’s team’s patience with my seemingly endless questions of the platform’s bells and whistles, levelheadedness, and courteousness. On a deeper personal note, with what’s been recently disocvered about the Chinese virus, I’m thrilled to use a service or two with zero political skin in the game on the world’s stage. I’m especially happy both Reedsy Editor and Dabble make it possible to end my monthly dimes going into that nasty MS Word creator’s unethical, worldly pockets.

SCRIBBLER

Thrown over my social feed’s news and ads transom, Scribber is a monthly box subscription created by two authors with seventeen published books between them. Created by writers for writers, the Scribbler service has a private social group for support and advice, offers critiques from scenes to full MSs (pricing reflecting), and sells other writer merch. Each box comes with goodies like a Writer Passport deep-diving a specific craft area (pacing, setting, tension, humor, and so on.); a book by the author the passport’s based on; and a pamphlet called Publishing Process Inside Look! also authored by month’s featured novelist. My September box had Opium & Absinthe by Lydia Kang in the goodies–which opened one drawback in this service: The purchaser doesn’t get to select the box’s title book. Past boxes, unless you’re part of the social group’s sister book club to find previous titles, aren’t accessible unless you contact support for this information. Although I found the writer tchotchkes a trememdous help–one’s a yellow “Eureka!” lightbulb stress ball squeezie-thingy with “Bust Writers Block!” printed on its side, and super-adorable—the book itself after reading a few pages in, not so much. It’s in 3rd POV set in 1899 about a possible homicide under the cover of a vampire attack and a possible connection with Jack the Ripper. This subgenre is out of my preferential and craft wheelhouse; I don’t do vampires, zombies, werewolves, Satanic worship, demons, Godzillas, anything involving dark magic and worse. If that makes me a shitty writer for not reading this stuff someone else slaved over, so be it–but I do congratulate them in getting it done (#IAintSorry #GetOverIt). Sidenote: if any LoM ladies are interested in my September tale, inbox me this week only for details. Otherwise it’ll just be donated to a new forever home like my August title was.



Overall, both products look to be the hands-on tools needed for my craft. Both services are set up to cancel at any time (before your next charge hits, that is). The box exposes you to an author happy you’re reading his story and sweet swag getting you jazzed for the next box or inspired to write on. They even hold a monthly contest on a Scribbler postcard based on the theme to win a prize. Dabble is the Little Engine That Could as a writing software program. Both companies are open for future changes, product implements, and offer stellar CS. That’s rare in this otherwise brutally lonely and huckster-happy industry, so research these gems and kick the tires whenever you have a moment before taking the plunge.

&

No, you read right. This heading’s an ampersand. It’s intentional. Got your attention, though, like a good headline should do.

She’s real gone, you’re telling yourself. Old news, says I, but that dun bother me none–we both know darn well you secretly love it. **smirk**

Okay . . . back to our story.

This particular symbol of the English languange charaters has an interesting history. If you’re old enough to remember when you learned the alphabet, you recited “and per se and”–& this said as such–after Z. In time, and per se and merged into the word ampersand you know today. While on the topic of mashing words together from a string of them said either too fast, said or accented incorrectly, misheard, or misused, ampersand became part of the mondergreen crowd. Explains why you thought the mondergreen, “You are caught up in me” from the chorus of Elton John’s “Daniel” is really “You were older than me.”

Ampersand, the & symbol, originally combined the capital letters of E and T. When everyone way back when wrote in gorgeous penmanship, E and T, especially next to one another in cursive, sure looked an awful lot like the &. Over time, and with differeing fonts, the two merged to become the punctuation we know.

And of course, what would our peek into the writing life be without this symbol helping others used to replace foul language? Cartoonists and comic strip artists from the 1920s to as late as the 1970s, while syndicated with national and global newspaper chains, had to find a workaround to express salty language without overtly using it. Hello, &%*$#@! Ingenuity! Excelsior! Rather than be cited for cultural impropriety, or tired of just plain getting the business over such use, comic strip and editorial cartoonists used these to skirt, and maybe flaut a little, censorship rules. So for you cozy mystery creators where sewer talk isn’t allowed, this #%*&$@! is perfect to show over tell–zing!–the preferred stronger word(s). Think of it as a visual version of cartoon starbursts, comets, squiggles and whorls when one of the Looney Tunes cast actually sees–as does JERSEY DOGS narrator Casper McGuinness–after getting his noodle clonked for doing something stupid. This could be a delightful change for your readers no other cozy writers are doing, much to your surprise.

Another lovely reading ride comes to a close. I’d wish you an early Happy Halloween, but with the spooktacular clusterf*ck this year’s been, you hardly need my OK to get your Jolly Rancher, candy corn, & dark chocolate Snickers bites freak on like it’s Donkey Knng. Now let me git before I share what next month’s punctuation cornucopia’ll be–the almighty asterick that turned a Roger Maris record into Babe Ruth’s baseball side chick.

Nope–I’ve a fantastic post in store you may enjoy more, but it ain’t that. Gotcha again. **smirk**

& with that, God’s will, and your faithful readership . . . until next month, my friends.

~ Missye

One & Done: Writing Stars Sometimes Do Align

When you first put eyes on the man you knew who’d be your husband. The opening notes of a song that strums your soul, still gives you chills when you’re reunited years later. How a perfect canvas sky at sunrise or sunset leaves you spellbound. The awe you hold in a composer, a painter, or any other artist getting a project right on the first go, the first shot, the first time out.

I’ll let you on a little secret. Don’t tell anybody.

It. Does. Happen.

Let me explain.

Sometimes when you draft a scene, a character sketch, a chapter or chapters, whichever your writing project is under your fingertips, you can–and do!–get it right on the first try. I’m here to exclaim, take back, and boldly proclaim: IT HAPPENS!!! The magic pixie dust found you that day, took a liking to you, and left you some of its glittery jet wash in its fumes.

Here’s a few instances–

We Are The World,” co-written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson, both completed the song’s lyrics and melody in 2.5 hours, and recorded the song in a single session.

Sir Paul McCartney, in writing the 007 Live and Let Die theme, had movie execs wait five days for the work–when he’d written the music in a scant 45 minutes. According to the anecdote relayed in Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown, “I didn’t want the movie brasses to think this was easy, but it was.”

Alanis Morrisette wrote her 1990s hit “Ironic” in an hour.

The blind guy who hit a hole-in-one on his only try.

Chapter 18 of JERSEY DOGS called “A Little Rusk Nikk’ed Us.”

Woodstock, 1969.

Any MLB team’s first try for, or breaking a century-long drought, at a World Series win.

And countless times when people played the lottery on a sole instance, and hit the number big.

So don’t tell me when you bang out a first draft of anything it’s impossible to get it right ON the first go, in the first go. Granted, this is a diff’rent post from calling that first one-and-done draft novel perfect; it ain’t. The book’s likely purple prose-y, your story’s taking forever to get to the point, it’s adverb- or passive voice-heavy, etc. You know who youse are :).

BUT . . . some chapters, or sentence phrasing(s), scenes, or certain word choices ARE perfect in the middle of that first draft crapstorm you can pluck free that which resonated most, and build around this in the coming revisions.

An article in the September 2019 issue of The Writer, “Stop Trash-Talking Your First Draft” puts it brilliantly: “You wouldn’t call your firstborn a sh*tty first draft, would you? Of course not! Even if the baby may have correctable health problems or non, that child is imperfectly perfect, period. Anyone saying to you that child is a crappy first draft, you’d say they’re abominable human beings. The first breaths of life in that early writing draft isn’t any different.” (paraphrasing mine.)

Whether you’re a veteran author or a brand-new writer ten minutes ago, the first draft is part of the writing process. But if the end result isn’t called the horrific names the first draft gets, why should the first draft be treated like a bastard at a family reunion? This reference is a great piece I can’t encourage to be read enough. Feel empowered when you come away from it–I’ll betcha you do, as you should. I did–and if anyone knows how much a hardass I am, I was a wet and snotty cottonball after the piece. (Forget you read that “wet and snotty cottonball” part–I’m a hardass, rememeber?)

So write the first draft with abandon! Come to its defense, warts and all; who else will if not you? The article also questioned when did it become sacred to trash the first shoots of life in a brand-new piece to begin with. It ruminates Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird had much to do with the first draft getting the hot pile of bat guano label, but maybe, the article’s author muses, it might be time to put this line of thought in the trash. I could not agree more. Also paraphrasing mine: Just because Bird rode high on the writers’ reference bookshelves and bestsellers lists, doesn’t mean its apologia is airtight–or shouldn’t be questioned, revised, or even abandoned altogether if its information isn’t applicable or merited anymore.

First-run tries do periodically knock it out the park. Is this a fluke? An oddity? Chance? Absolutely. But trashing the first drafts have gotten the sacred cow status in the writing world–and perhaps your writing lives–long enough. The initial piece may be in rough shape, but you got the damn thing OUT in the first place. The potential the work holds is enough to NOT tag it as crappy, even if it isn’t in a no-need-to-edit perfect place on the first doggoned try.

I’ll let you in on another inside baseball secret: Every word above this paragraph virtually poured out of me for this month’s post on the first go, easy to align my thoughts on the article’s topic, only an edit or two for clarity, continuity, and relevance. But, as that damn bitch called The Muse mule does, when Bessie’s out of steam, she’s not moving for anyone until she’s good and ready. Then it hit me. Rather, Bessie, my mule of a Muse, kicked me (is this her helping me plow another 40 acres of a blog post? You decide. **smirk**) to bookend this aspect of my writing life in a way I didn’t think plausible. The second reason this post couldn’t be more timely: this article vindicates me to my now disbanded online critique group my first Casebook got ripped to hell for. I told that group at the time I knew I was instinctively right to defend the book’s parts that fit when the self-righteous–and traditionally published in the group–mob tried to justify their words in tearing it down. But that’s another blog post for another time.

Create? Yes. Re-Create? Sh*t, No!

Let’s revisit and unpack our “We Are the World” by USA For Africa example–can that magic be re-created? No, unfortunately. Or when you first read Harry Potter, saw the movies, had your first child, or found your car unicorn. Can you re-create that exact perfect first draft moment with all its magical elements falling into place where they should, as they should? Nope. This is why you don’t see Lionel Ritchie, Quincy Jones, J.K. Rowling, et al trying to re-do what sheer dumb luck, fantastic timing, and a lot of Tinkerbell’s dust helped that magic come together, and hold together, in the first place. Imagine trying to re-create Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The Back to the Future, Toy Story, or the Indiana Jones flicks. If anything, somebody should’ve told Michael Wang this 1 Corinthians 10:23 lesson before taking the thought of creating Woodstock 50 in mind: Just because you can do something, dun mean you should do it.

“When it’s perfect, be it from the onset or after many rounds of revisions, then let it go. If you keep tweaking, you’ll tweak the perfect out of it.” —Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, 25th Anniversary Edition (paraphrasing mine)

If Cameron’s second-to-none resource is helping you to be okay with finally silencing your mother’s words, the inner editor and outer critics, naysayers, and downright haters of first drafts for being in that pole position, then be okay with it. Don’t even let Anne Lamott tell you diff’rent. Think about it: How much pressure is on her to defend her position?

The defense rests.

I attended a NYC 2011 workshop where Reed Farrell Coleman spoke on a similar topic. He knew a would-be author a few years prior revising his book’s opening chapter–both hands on the wheel, please, or swallow your hot beverage before reading on–27 times.

You read correctly. Twenty. Seven. Times.

But this was made more bittersweet because, Coleman said, this author had been one of the first detectives on scene hours after the Twin Towers were still hot ash, hot rubble, and chaos. He’d been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer as he drafted the novel, so Coleman point-blank told him, “Dude, you don’t have time to revise this much. Take the best of the suggestions and move on; the opening’s gonna be what it’s gonna be!”

The author took Coleman’s advice and moved on. But he died before ever completing his book. How much time he’d lost on something that didn’t need that much fussing about to begin with, and sadly, the world will never know what would have been.

This is what Cameron means about tweaking the perfect out of the imperfect, and this includes first time tries being right . . . the first time out. You, Dear Author, need not diss the WIPs in the zygotic stage of life. Let it go. Be proud you get to watch it fly–or cradle it to the next world with dignity and grace in one hell of a send off.

As always, you got this.

~ Missye

* * *

You’re still here?

Um . . .why?

The piece is over. I mean, I know you want more of me–or wished the Toy Story franchise ended at TS3 like I do, or more Pottermore following Harry and the wizarding gang all growed up–but sorry, ain’t got that for ya. I’ll be back next month, Lord willing, with another scintillating, firestarting post. Go feed your cat or clean his box, since he’s giving you that stink-eye felines perfected waiting on their humans to tend them.

No?

Sigh.

I didn’t want to do this, but . . . this goes dark in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .