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 . . .

“Patience, Hummingbird”

Authors of this and other platforms are still writing of the Chinese Virus and its effects now and long term. Stretching finances so hard you’re scared how bad the recoil will sting if you dare let go. How do first-time homeschoolers keep from going bats. An uptick in board game sales (I’d give almost anything to be that monarch butterfly on an overhead wall of the group playing Monopoly, The Cheaters Edition!). A new spin on old leftovers. Staying connected and sane despite isolation–is this really an introvert’s paradise? New hobbies found after streaming service binges become one day of the week into the next. The dozens of notables who’ve passed during this rotten transition into a new normal. Despite their death and we’re all sick of all things COVID to the back teeth, life goes on. But the deaths seem to punch a bigger, nastier, hurting hole into this reality more than any of us are ready for.

So I’m doing a first, hours before this post is due for my 2nd Saturday monthly jam: the patience I need is–
–Woth myself
–With other authors
–With God
–With other mere mortals.
I’m burned out from Monopoly, Uno, Duraq, and Jenga, yet my mind’s too wired to read. My phone’s storage is near tapped in Ooooh-look!-Shiny app downloads, but I’m grouchier with myself, God, my loved ones, my characters. My writing life, upheaval aside and not for lack of trying, is at a standstill. Family members have COVID updated or took their leave of this dimension, I’m now neck-deep in toiletries to open a small supply depot over. And tthe next salon/spa/massage visit feels like it’s twelve light years out waiting for my turn to feel normal again.

A study in my phone’s Bible app talking about this Jumanji event had a line that jumped out at me this past June–

“Don’t expect people to live up to my standards, since I don’t have any clue what those are in these times. This IS a new normal, like it or not. Nobody has a playbook to be guided by, not even you. Be especially patient with others, with God, with the circumstance, and most impotanrly, with myself. Whatever or whomever is perplexing you, just let it go, let it ride, or let it be.”

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Well, that wrecking ball of straightshootin’ common sense snacked me upside my stubborn head. Aren’t we patient with ourslves in learning a new skill, working with a new hire, or wrestling with a storyline, for whichever unexplicable reason, isn’t coming together as it should?

You sure are. I sure am.

So why contradict this?

While following a streaming yoga workout this week past, during it, the camera guy caught a gorgeous hummingbird outside the instructor’s patio window. I’m a sucker for anything flying on its own power, so my ADHD mind went nuts over this. But his soothing voice and telling the followers to not move a muscle, lest he startle the bird away, was that stroking-a-ferret-to-sleep to my ADHD thoughts, and they soon Zen’ed out. In a balmier frame of mind, the paradox of the hummingbird surfaced. The wings beat blurringly fast, but even this creature knows when to slow or when to move on when it’s time. Fast as it moves, it has to be patient with itself, or die burning itaelf out before its work is finished.

As I work this, Sweet Reader, you may enjoy and be entertained and informed by my nimble fingers feverishly keeping pace with my Road-Runner-on-‘roids thoughts, two scenes are marinating for my projects I’m thisclose to getting down. I’m a monthly subscriber to a writing box company to spur creativity again (and of course, LoM gets first review dibs when I’ve played with the goodies for a stretch). I’m planning a near-year end trip with my husband to New York’s Howe Caverns and the Corning Glass Museum, and to visit a friend whose husband died this past spring in a freak work accident. Trips like these do FAR more for my writing mojo than the traditional and indie industry gatherings do. And I’ll call a spade a spade–who needs a weekend-long pissing contest in the guise of friendly camaraderie with fellow authors over strategies we’ve heard inside out? I don’t.

I sip Harney & Sons Earl Grey as Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” on my TV music channel beckons I harmonize with it as I type. Even with this COVID clusterfuck we’re still untangling from, I’m in a good and bad place with writing. This, too, can use a needed reboot, or that I’m crying for change to supplement this part of the creative craft with something else communally. Whereever I land, what some of you call in a good place after sorting, dusting off, spring-cleaning and the like, untreated ADHDs like me always find a good and not-so-cool place to be in simultaneously. How can we live like this, you’re wondering? ‘Taint easy. But maybe the magic of the hovering hummingbird is a lovely reminder to be patient while moving quickly, but to know when to stay patient as I’m moving, be it slow or fast, or I die before it’s time. And to extend this same allowance to humanity, regardless who they are or if they’re clueless in which next to go as I am, is the “wisdom” in the hummingbird’s work.

English Language Be Gettin’ a Bad Rap Like a Overrated Airport Sammich!

That got your attention, you sticklers for grammar and its rules. For those who’re fast and loose with this part of the writing universe, you’re (maybe) applauding me I’m with you.

Before we get into the breakdown of the English language and what it isn’t and is, let’s explore some history.

From what I’ve remembered in my Greek & Latin Roots of English more than two decades (twenty years or a “score”) in completing my B.A. for journalism, our language has evolved through the Germanic and Hellenesic Wars. It also took on much change during the Battle of Hastnigs in 1066. An all day bloody battle, taking out King Harold allegedly with an arrow through his eye, ended his reign and destoryed his forces. Harold had been the final Anglo-Saxon King of England.

More of what History.com says about this war: “After his victory at the Battle of Hastings, William marched on London and received the city’s submission. On Christmas Day of 1066, he was crowned the first Norman king of England in Westminster Abbey, and the Anglo-Saxon phase of English history came to an end. French became the language of the king’s court and gradually blended with the Anglo-Saxon tongue to give birth to modern English. (Illiterate like most nobles of his time, William spoke no English when he ascended the throne and failed to master it despite his efforts. Thanks to the Norman invasion, French was spoken in England’s courts for centuries and completely transformed the English language, infusing it with new words.) William I proved an effective king of England, and the “Domesday Book,” a great census of the lands and people of England, was among his notable achievements.”

This book of my former professor’s, now in its sixth edition, says, “More than 60 percent of all English words have Greek or Latin roots; in the vocabulary of the sciences and technology, the figure rises to more than 90 percent. Through the study of the Greek and Latin roots of English, students can expand their knowledge of English vocabulary and also come to understand the ways in which the complex history of the English language has shaped our perceptions of the world around us.

“The Greek and Latin Roots of English maintains the book’s much-praised thematic approach. After an essential overview of world languages, and the linguistic histories of Greek, Latin, and English, the text organizes vocabulary into various topics, including politics and government, psychology, medicine and the biological science, as well as ancient culture, religion, and philosophy. The sixth edition features revised cumulative exercises in each chapter that reinforce both vocabulary and analytical skills learned from pervious chapter. The [sixth edition] also features alphabetized vocabulary lists, new photos and cartoons, and other reader-friendly updates.”
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I (naturally!) aced this class. I’ve always loved words, how they were used, what their breakdowns were, why some words stuck and others didn’t, etc. To expound on my recent post mentioning Schoolhouse Rock and how well I did with English because of those cartoon segments, that’s how certain parts of speech made more sense and opened horizons and doors for me. Until diagramming sentences came into my world in high school, that is. I didn’t bomb those; I got cratered. But I made up for it in doing well in other parts of speech, vocabulary, subtect, contextual meanings the author was exploring, and spelling. My favorites to this day: adverbs, prepositions, conjections, interjections, punctuation marks, similies, May-the-Fours (that’s metaphors to you in Rio Linda, haha!), and plays-on-words, or more commonely know as puns.

This post was inspired by a Little House episode (“School Mom”) where Caroline Ingalls pinched hit as a substitute while Walnut Grove’s regular teacher recovered from an injury. Among her charges was a near adult-aged boy near illiterate, a “Hold my beer!” moment for Caroline when her girls called the boy “Dumb Abel.” But it was a segment of this episode that always makes me misty-eyed: Each child holds a printed letter in front of him, and they takes turns representing their letter to eventually form a word. This, over time, helps the boy become literate (and sealing Landon’s often Disney-ending writing for this show–which is why I find the writing of The Waltons much stronger.). The teamwork behind this colossal effort, the simplicity in which words are just letters strung together in a certain order, and the light in his eyes how everything made sense broken down in simpler elements, was moving. That, and more importantly–somebody cared enough to care. And you’re never too old to learn, as evidenced in the fantastic book Life is So Good. So why should the adverbe, or any parts of speech for that matter, be shorted on one’s say so?

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After the show, I wondered about how anybody–writers, authors, cumudgeounly Enlgish teachers and grammaticitians, real, imagined, or self-appointed–ALWAYS have something nasty to say about somebody else’s use of the language. Foreigners are laughed at, made fun or, or corrected to their face about its use when it’s not their first line of communication. Deaf or hard-of-hearing had to evolve sign language to its bare bones; I know a little ASL to converse in it slowly. For pregnant, they place their hands so their fingers are a third on top of one another, palms down, and arc them from their bodies to touch the bottome of their bellies. Together means hooked index fingers to “link” them. Asking the time means pointing at your wrist and holding up your fingers to represent the number; thank you mean to blow a kiss; yes means to nod your head or your fist; no means to shake your head or that fist side to side; hot means to fan yourself; cold means you hug yourself is if you’re freezing; and walking means moving your index and middle fingers in a method in how legs would walk. See where this is going? So since when did those who speak English get to be the arbitors of what’s right to say and not to?

So if a grammaticitian comes into your world, dead-set on your speaking properly in your writing as strict as the grammar rules are, your end results may come across stuffy at best, or reading like the worst pain in the ass Grammar Police Patrol you’ll ever know handcuffed you and your creativity. Nobody needs this–not you, not me, and certaintly not readers. So it shouldn’t be any surprise to you, Dear Reader, when I came axross the trend of–

DON’T USE ADVERBS IN YOUR WRITING!!!!!

all the F over social media. Done by a genre-creating author, yet, with the bestest-selling book on the craft of writing in publishing history, save for The Elements of Style.

While everyone might’ve taken this author’s word as gospel, I had to contest the premise–little ol’ David me daring to cross swords with the Goliath, multi-award-winning bestseller. Not so much I come by dissension naturally–if some of you saw my recent unapologetic and unrepentant stirrings and stances in a writing group, you’ll know what I’m saying. But adverbs are one of the pillars of parts of speech; that’s like saying you’re overusing nouns, or you’re breathing too much. Instead, this author should’ve declared JUST as boldly–

USE ADVERBS LIKE YOU SHOULD DRINK–RESPONSIBLY!

Didn’t happen. So I did it.

Oopsie.

I was applauded in some cases–“Thank you, Scribe, for sticking up for us foreigners newly learning English.”–but for the most part, people attacked me in perception I attacked him! Was I a bestseller (No.)? Was I jealous (**laughing** Hardly.)? Oh, yeah? Where’s your book (In my computer, thank you for asking. Next!)? Gonna self-publish because traditional houses think you suck, huh (Um . . . some who’re traditionally published with contracts as thick as my femur is long are more interested in checking a PC box than honing decent writing for repeat business, and that ain’t me, so . . . NEXT!)? And so the storm raged. But I held my ground for the lowly, ain’t-good-for-nothin’ adverb. Inevitably, the next part of speech to be attacked, which I meant satirically, was the semi-colon. I called it–but I was only kidding! The bullies weren’t. And still ain’t–they’re attacking free speech altogether, never mind parts of it, but that’s another topic for another post.

Here’s the thing: all parts of speech, punctuation, consonants, vowels, and its references, have a place, even the ugliest of words. They. ALL. Have. A. Place. Yes, there is such thing as too much telling. There is also such thing as too much showing. And too much setting. Too much descriptions. Too much backstory. Too much info-dumping. Too much . . . too much . . . too much . . .! So it’s the adverb’s time to be bullied. In an era of can’t we all just get along, there sure is a lot of bullying going on we’re told to not do otherwise. And taking adverbs out of sentences for the sake of, guess what happens to and with that sentence? Its subtext and context are changed subtly and obviously so the paragraph around that one sentence with the shameful adverb being cross-examined is also changed. Leave the adverb alone. It’s has a place–so let it do the job it’s supposed to do.

And there is such a thing as too much use in strong verbs, too; once everyone’s doing it, and is doing it, what makes it special in that piece of writing anymore? To steal a phrase from one of my many favorite PIXAR movies, The Incredibles, where Syndrome says, “Once everyone are Supers . . . no one will be,” is just as fittin’ here as it is anywheres else.

Not bad advice from a villain, despite discovering too late his cape was a bad idea. So you too, Dear Author for your even Dearer Readers, don’t let YOUR writing cape do you in on the adverb, either. ‘Sides, if Superman and Batman and Robin handled theirs with finnesse and class, please make your use of grammar just as messy to match your imagination. Do so freely, wildly, often, richly, and boldly.

And, of course . . . do so indubitably.

God Winks: It’s The Little Things

Being a bombastic big mouth from old school NYC, it’s hard to get me to willingly shut up. When I do, you best believe it’s intentional, purposeful, and to hold my attention. 9/11. A sun dog. A newborn with her fantastic Heaven-scent aroma on her onesie and in my nose. A great sleep.

And . . . God winks.

Although I’d drafted this on the 27th anniversary of turning 27–that’s called “Awesome 54some!” for those of you in #RioLinda **smirk/sarc**–it’s been dreadful to find fresh words for my Casebooks, my Threesome of Magic mysteries, even this platform. We were in the biggest game of cooties I’ve seen in life via COVID. A shutdown wrecking economic havoc. The pokiness of re-opening states so people can resume their lives–or move on in them to settle loved ones’ affairs. These stupid city burnings after an unfortunate series of events in Minnesota. And still having to wear a mask, it becoming a symbol of murdering logic, common sense, and reason in favor of groupthink, fear, and forced compliance.

But I digress.

I prayed, mainly because I couldn’t take the overwhelm anymore. It was the one thing I had some control over, some input for, some say in. When I wasn’t praying, I was sleeping. A lot. No, I’ve no plans to harm myself or others–don’t tempt me on the “others” part, please! :)–but I found it a solace He was listening.

That’s when the little reminders popped up like mushrooms do overnight. Specifics only I’d know. Hoo-boy, did I know them.

Ever heard of Squire Rushnell? Oh, yes you have. If you’re familiar with Schoolhouse Rock and other Saturday morning children’s programming on ABC back in the day, that’s the name behind this part of pop culture. He put that network on the map for inspiring 3 to 7 minute animated segments in history, science, math, government (“I’m Just a Bill”), and grammar in between cartoons, much like CBS did In The News with Christopher Glenn in between theirs (and I switched channels often to not miss either one!). Anyhoo . . . Rushnell kept adding up little coincidences in his life leading to the big ones like Schoolhouse, and how that lead him to be ABC’s Children’s Programming Prez. And hey–if he helped kids do better in school with these subjects of the songs and visuals they provided, #360Win.

Mushroom #1: My husband Pete picks up flowers in bright purple and vivid yellow. I gasped, cried, then asked if he remembered if I told him of my villain’s signature colors in my TOM mysteries. He said no–he just felt he had to get them when he saw them as a sweet birthday gesture.

Mushroom #2: Somebody shares a meme on social of an entryway from the movie adaptation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Almost immediately, a scene drops in mind for my TOM mysteries I can plenty use to move the plot(s) forward. Yes . . . I gasped in sweet surprise again.

Mushroom #3: A Times fan since my mother, God rest her, gave me a back-to-school Snoopy watch for third grade when I was seven (I skipped second, being so bright), fostering my love for analog timepieces since. Along with the flowers, my husband gifts me a watch called Vincero (pronounced vinchairro), and the brand translates in English from Italian, “I will win.” Vincero’s pretty damn close to missing-his-ear van Gogh. Vincent Price. And my Casebooks Jay Vincent. Oh, sure–Casper’s and Logan’s names’d pop up plenty of times outside of their Casebook lives in my life, but Pedregon’s seldom did . . . before that watch company came in over my transom.

Mushroom #4: A numerology newsletter I’m subscribed to, the author suggested in part of her communique for this month that, for those who draw, to keep drawing. Those who create and craft, keep creating and crafting.

And for those who write?
You guessed it: keep writing.

Squire Rushnell created God Winks when he thought coincidence did a disservice to those unexplainable-timing-in-a-good-way little things that make you take notice. It’s not a religious aspect you must believe to see the treatise behind the belief, although Rushnell is a Christian. It’s more like Chicken Soup for the Soul’s cousin or bolder little sister. I haven’t read the book, but I plan to. It’s an occasional nod you’re headed in the right direction when you’re not sure you are, to keep staying on track–or need a boost when you don’t want to stay the course, as was my circumstance, but poignantly special after a monstrously trying week in a disgustingly taxing first half of 2020.

But in the middle of our national storm, another birthday’s come and gone. That, all things considered, is the best God wink there is.

Apologies for the heavy use of adverbs in this update. “Lolly’s Adverb Store” takes full blame for that!

Why A Writing Rebel is #SorryNotSorry

What do Elmore Leonard, Tim LeHaye; Rod Serling; Nat Hentoff; Mark Twain, Paula Danziger; Robert Cormier; Sidney Sheldon; Edgar Allen Poe; Jackie Collins; Mickey Spillane; Michael Crichton; Madelaine L’Engle; Maurice Sendak, and Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, have in common?

If you said they’re all dead, good for you. As of this post, they still very much are (and with this COVID headache still with us, they died of that, I drop sarcastically 😏). But if you also said they were writers who were in my reading and TV library as an impressionable, rebellious, and misunderstood girl-rascal, you know me well. Brace yourselves–doing so is precarious. **smirk**

Need another hint? I’ll give you a minute to find the clue in the above paragraph. **insert “Syncopated Clocks” theme here.**

Time’s up.

Before #sorrynotsorry was a thing, they wrote rebelliously. For their time(s), they crossed lines and pushed comfort zones tame by today’s scary-dark and nakedly demonic standards. The thought was to push philosophical, societal, and imaginative boundaries and platforms within reason, and not to go against physical nature or humanity. This I was okay with. In fact, it kicked me to be a better author without having to plumb the scarier, darker side of what imaginatively could be.

In a critique of my 2nd book’s opening chapter, the now-fired editor said she loved it . . . but, despite my saying I’m a woman writing from a guy’s POV, she constructively found the female descriptions objectifying (but missed my other bigoted names briefly mentioned. Huh. 🤔). In today’s times beyond the hypocritical #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein, and the persistent tug-of-war between the sexes, it’s a tightrope balance between staying true to my unbridled imagination or being mindful of those finding “broad,” “cutie,” “honey,” “sweetie-pie,” “tomato,” “dame,” or the “C” word objectionable. None of these bother me if ever said IRT (in real time for those of you in Rio Linda), save for the “C” one. To be fair, I’ve use that for women being jerks when “basic bitch,” “thot,” or “nasty-ass ho” isn’t strong enough to call her (thank you, urbandictionary.com!) 😄😏. Justified, of course. Or muttered under my breath when it wasn’t.

Writing on the edge should happen by default no matter the genre; language is as perilous and nasty as it is sweet, lovely, and gossamer. Twain used nigger several times in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Stevie Wonder’s speaking parts in the “Livin’ For The City” track on his Inner Visions album mention this, too. I don’t shy from the questionable, objectionable, or downright frightening. To face it head-on to fine tune a moral and ethical compass, and to know where to draw a line I won’t ever cross. Children’s author Maurice Sendak told Maury Safer in a 60 Minutes interview he wrote about the monsters in Where The Wild Things Are because “. . . .the nightmares kids have–and monsters in those nightmares–are as real as their mommies and daddies are.” To put them down tangibly, he figured, not only gave kids something credible to show kids a grown up thought as they did, but that if kids faced their fears, they weren’t too scary big to fight them back, the kids weren’t too young to fight them at all, and to win. In his In The Night Kitchen story was where a naked child was shown for the first time, reasoning during the Safer interview, Sendak said he showed a naked child in the illustrations because he didn’t think kids were worried about clothes in their nightmares. I don’t fully remember the story, but if memory serves, the boy, dreaming he was in a dough suit, obviously couldn’t be clothed under the pastry; how much sense would this make? Sendak’s Night Kitchen was boldly, #sorrynotsorry controversial as Marilyn Monroe’s 1951 naked appearance in the first issue of Playboy. 🤔😏

L’Engle’s Wrinkle In Time held a God-heavy theme in the Murray kids and friend Calvin saving Professor Murray from an evil force (and notwithstanding, a genius five-year-old unapologetically using a vast vocabulary in his character, but still manages to stay an adorable Charles Wallace. This sparked an argument how can five-year-olds talk on a near Einsteinian level? Um, some can. And some do.). Danziger’s The Cat Ate My Gymsuit today could be deemed as fat-shaming in Marcy’s character, her mother a pushover in the shadow of her husband’s and Marcy’s father’s blustering bullying. But the story showcases a young teacher’s outside-the-box instruction in a conservative community determined to see their kids taught English by the book of English–Dead Poet’s Society, anyone? This wasn’t far off the mark of Danziger herself, since she’d been a full time English teacher before her writing career took off. In this story, Marcy’s high school teacher impacted her past the classroom.

Be they gentle stories showing a shy little black cat’s courage, or a Catholic family’s sons adventures in 1898 Mormon Utah, to grittier reads bearing themes in the plots that challenged my opinions and forcing my stances a closer look, these authors didn’t shy from their stories. They all pushed me past the story in their word choices, in the norms at their time, and letting their imaginations weave tales maybe the harsher themes and beliefs were better swaddled in than given so starkly. Whichever came first, it doesn’t matter and didn’t matter. They left a patina on me in their unapologetic storytelling to this day has gotten under my own storytelling skin. They were #sorrynotsorry doing that to me, so I pay it forward to anyone reading me, also unapologetically Sorry/Not Sorry. As one Logan McGuinness of the Casebooks and Threesome of Magic Mysteries would tell me: be bold AF, Missye. He’s right. I can’t let the kid readers and kids at heart ones, down. Or him, either.

Speaking of Mr. McG, I’ve a scene in my 2nd TOMM mystery I’ve finally smoothed the wrinkles from. Best I get to it. And best too, you, Dear Reader, find books and stories that push you past your easy, your simple, your familiar, your typical. For you Dear Authors reading this, your homework is to keep your imaginations deadly, unsettled, and untamed in good ways. That’s where the fun lies. In this wild ride we’re all on dealing with COVID, no one’s gonna much worry about writing dangerously anymore. We lived it.

And guess what? Even my lyrical writing, which was what the now-fired editor told me Casebook #2 is, is also writing lethally. But it’s lethal to the healing we’ll need on the other side of this COVID madness. Writing dangerously doesn’t always mean pushing, provoking, or even angering. Writing soft without the superfluous is a true skill to unapologetically be Sorry/Not Sorry for. I’m happy to be that rebel to do it.

Dr. Missye K. Clarke, Writing Life Coach @ Your Service!

Ordinarily this blog offers tips, pointers, secrets of the writing life you can implement in your own mysteries and shorts. But life’s kickin’ my keister recovering from a rotten cold and two vicious sickle cell crises in as many months, so let’s have a little fun. For this post, I’ve on my what-happens-when-life-demands-my-writing-time Life Coach cap for insight, wisdom, and experiences dealing with the not-so-nice parts of your writing life. I’m positive these brave ladies who’ve asked theses questions, you, Everyday Susan and Typical Jo, have asked yourselves this, too.

So let’s get to it!

Q: Dr. Missye, what’s some good writing advice you can offer? I’m a mom to two under eighteen, working full time, keep house, and have a husband. Where do I find writing time?

Did I mention my kids are Gen Z, I’m a Gen X’er, and my husband’s a front-end millennial? HELP!!!

Thanks,
“Eugenie

A: Great question, Eugenie! I’ll do my best to give a satisfactory answer–but at the end of the day, you have to go with what’s best for you in your situation.

Firstly, being pulled in multiple directions is awful, isn’t it? Nobody understands. We’re stuck between generations. Or you’re feeling it more than the others do. Whichever the case . . . just . . . breathe. In. Out. Repeat. Remind yourself as you deep breathe: This, too, shall pass. This, too, shall pass.

You’re good? Talked all down? Okay.

So. You’ve babies under eighteen . . . aawww. Cherish them now; they’ll be grown and gone before you know it. This’ll be antipoden in what you want to hear, but your writing life may need to hit pause as you raise your kidlets. Too many authors have neglected their kids for their imaginary worlds, justifying this with the millions they’ll make to make up for it. Wrong. They want YOU, not possessions (yeah, I’ll say it: “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, anyone?), so be there for them. If you must write, do so when they’re asleep, while they’re in school, or involved with other peripherals.

In working full-time while shoehorned in with caregiving aging or ailing family members and meeting your own nuclear nest’s needs, tight time organization is essential. During obligation breaks, maybe jot lines for your story, post a quick character sketch, a scene outline, or untangle a plot kink via a story device app. Or unwind with an audiobook. Find snatches of time you can to put into write, draft, outline, hell, even sleep. Some “you” time is essential and not at all wasted during this hectic activity, too. You’ll go bats if you don’t.

Note this, if nothing else: Please don’t compare your writing like and time with anyone else’s. You’ll only discourage yourself, and to be honest, why waste that time and energy you can’t get back? This is your path. Walk it as you do. And in perspective, if providing for your family is more important than creating and crafting for the time being, so be it. Your situation isn’t anyone else’s, and you don’t know the real goings-on of that life you think is so put together, either. In other words, as your kids’ gen says–much like ours did–“Eyes on your own paper!” And just do you.

If the writing bug bites that badly, delegate house chores to hubby or area kids needing a fast buck. Have the kids clean their own room(s) and other rooms if they’re big and old enough, or they can regularly clean a room you always do. Oh, and forget perfect; the job’s done, and it’ll get dirty again regardless. But you got some writing in, and practice makes perfect, which applies to chores, too. Have a child or hubby giving you consternations–that’s also known as pitching fits for those of you in #RioLinda 😎–? That’s real easy. Make them Bed-Making Captain! Or the CDVO–Chief Dusting and Vacuuming Officer! If you give an important title with the chore, they might not complain about having to do it. Or trade–they do the work, you write, and you make their meal favorites when the chores are done. I’d’ve suggested not make a meal at all to the selfish family members, but . . . uh, well . . . calls to Children’s Services aren’t invited to be part of your life, or of this post, and nobody wants that 😏.

We all get the same 24 hours in a day. Some can get more done in that day than others. If you’re not one of them, that’s fine. Where’s it written you have to do everything in this life you wanted to do? Some things are worth leaving aside for the joy in others–and the best thing, in my life coach opinion, is raise your kiddies, be their mommy, and love every minute of their young lives. The writing will be there when they’re grown, gone, and you’ve got time to make their empty bedroom into your personal writing studio. #360Win Hope this helps. And the very best of luck to you!

Q:  Hi, Dr. Missye . . . I sure hope you can help me.

I’m involved with a man I met online. “Rod” is in Utah, I’m in Maine, and we’ve been talking regularly for almost eighteen months. We both want to make it work, but for one sticking point–he disregards my writing (I write poetry and am working on a memoir) as a flight of fancy and thinks it’s pointless. Any advice?

Constance

A: Hi, Constance (oooh, I love you name!)! Thank you so much for your question, it’s awesome! :).

Hmmm . . . well, there’s two answers for this: the starlight and moonbeams answer, or the tough-love, OG NYC gal, answer. Which do you want?

Oh, good, the tough-love answer. The starlight and moonbeams answer–yeah . . . I got nothin’.

Kidding!

This is a two-part question, so I’ll take the obvious one first. If you and Rod really want this to work, possibly you can meet halfway between your home states and make a weekend of some touristy spots in Indianapolis (been there; lovely city, that!), Nashville (for me, it’s meh, but you might dig better’n I do.), or go big and bold in New Orleans. The idea is to find if you honestly have chemistry more than just talking online? You have to be in one another’s spatial space to know if there’s electricity between you two in real time (Yeah, #RioLinda, lookin’ at you–that’s IRT spelled out!). If he balks or bails, give him time to explain why you felt like a big box of swampy skunk-ass getting stood up–or have the pleasure of telling him off before you declare you’re never bothering with him again–but in your gut, you’ll have your answer.

Second part: when you say he disregards your writing, you weren’t specific. He disregards it how? Does he call it degrading names (“silly,” “waste of time”)? Is he dismissive (“Who’s gonna buy it?” “Are you any good?” “Aren’t you a little old to play pretend?”)? A deeper question–why do you let him do this to what you hold dear? What’s been your response? Have you defended it? Have you asked him to not invade that boundary? If he’s this flippant about your creative choices, it’s time to play Pick A Door. You can choose Door, Stage Left by never mentioning this to him again–on this and other issues, you don’t have to always see the same POV–but he doesn’t get to disrespect you verbally, permitted his opinion notwithstanding. If he cares for you as he says he does, he’ll choose wiser words in the future, Men, I’ve found, either grunt through the English language while gnawing the last of a meat bone’s marrow, or they’re superfluously verbose in speech–cape, sword and all–much more than women are.

BUT . . .!

If he’s really been nasty in his views about your writing life and creativity, I’d ask why he believes this the case, and ask why does he need to be so cruel expressing himself this way. While sharing, while you respect his having that stance, it hurts you he does hold it. You mentioned this has been a sticking point between you two, so I’d imagine y’all have been talking about it. Maybe he’s insecure how far you’ve gotten. Maybe he’s threatened by what you can do what he’s strove to do and couldn’t achieve. Maybe he genuinely believes you’re not good enough, but can’t bring himself to say it. Whichever the case, it’s on you to protect your creativity. You do this by a): that’s a boundary he never crosses if you and he plan to make this work; or b): end the relationship if he can’t respect your stance or refuses to quit violating that boundary. You respect his having those views, asinine as they may be, and likely told him so. If he claims to hold deep feelings for you, he’ll rethink his position with care and wisdom, keep his views to himself, or work on himself to abandon them altogether. You deserve peace of mind, body, soul, and spirit. Get that however you can. If he’s incapable of holding up this side of the relationship, things between you and he might’ve run its course.

Thank you for letting me share this angle of the writing life with you. Everything touches everything else. When you’re emotionally instigated, it’ll resonate in your writing world in the most profound ways.

Namaste.

Missye K. Clarke Asks Herself . . .WTH Was She Thinking?!?

A hearty Standing O for those of us surviving another upcoming season of damn-it-to-hell DST. We earned it! Should somebody important happen to be reading this, I implore you: PLEASE put a fork in that spring-ahead/fall-back mess, it’s far long past its expiration date. My love for REM sleep and said dreams thank you. For those living in Hawaii and Arizona who don’t have to tolerate this foolishness, damn you for being irritatingly lucky to be off that pointless hook :).

It was during NaNo 2011 when I drafted my 2nd Casebook, tentatively titled KINGZ of CASPIAN COUNTY–and (w)here the WTF was I thinking part of this post–comes to pass. Having had so much fun writing my 1st book, I decided to tackle a tougher challenge: A plot within a plot.

Well, it sounded so good in my head!

In conversations with myself while on decent dog walks as my family and I lived in Gettysburg at the time, I had it worked pitch perfect. Dozens of read-throughs–and since out of Gettysburg–a decade later, I found and fixed plot-holes, minimized adverbs, changed the past to present tense. Cut many slice-of-life bits, turned questions to statements where it made logical sense, and more or less trimmed fat on a microscopic level short of hiring a dev editor to walk-through this book with me (which I’d’ve happily paid for the task, but for the price tag short of a first-run remodeled DeLorean on a mint condition asking price. Yeahhhhuhhhh . . . no 😏🤫🤫😏.) Still, I trust and know the story is strong from the onset. made stronger when bits of inspiration dropped in when least expected. But here’s a few gems of an Herculean task I learned while on this ride that grounded me, and might help you in your novel stage, too.

Trust The Process

If you’ve a great cast, they’re not gonna mind a complicated plot. Nor will you or your readers. Sometimes the rules have to be busted wide open to rock your 🌈imagination🌈–insert SpongeBob’s use of the word here–to get you from Point A to Point B. You’re playing God in your writing world–so go batshit crazy. But even He can’t go outside His boundaries of the elements; like every breathing being needs C, O, I, H, H2O, and glucose to survive–for those of you in #RioLinda, C, O, I, H, and H2O is carbon, oxygen, iron, hydrogen, and water–stick with the writing rules. Just know when to play fast and loose with and within the rules. And while on this subject: toss that pile of crap about being established first to do this. Said who? The established authors, I’ll guess. Another topic–ahem, pet peeve post–for another time.

G’head, Get Messy! You KNOW You Want To!

First drafts are supposed to be a disheveled playroom, anyways, so write-play with abandon and kick your critics, haters, and doomsdayers to the curb. You’re dreaming out loud on paper. You’re God in this world. The actual God made the platypus, right? A mammal giving birth to its own in egg-form like birds do, but it’s got webbed feet and a bill like a duck? C’mon, now! So don’t hold back. You can always fix that disheveled playroom later. Or keep it and let your imagination pick up from where it’d left off in that room when you re-read your efforts, tweaking here and there. Most of us forget we’re dreaming out loud on paper, tucking the absurd in the crevices where everything makes sense to be pulled out later to logically tie everything wildly imaginative together.

Which brings us to . . .

Wow . . . Don’t You Clean Up Nice

There’s a big difference between a disheveled playroom of a story (which can be tidied) and a dumpster fire one (which can’t be), and it’s more than just how you see it. If not only your instincts are telling you the project is insalvageable, but so are beta readers, your editor, or an average Joe listening to you read it aloud, or if you’re just not feelin’ it anymore, just chuck it. And don’t think twice doing so. Again, you’re dreaming on paper, so you can toss that dream and find a fresh one. Your readers or characters won’t know or care much about your behind-the-scenes work. Your characters might even thank you for putting them in something more harrowing, unthinkable, frightening, or adventurous than your previous try. Whichever the case, you got this :).

But IF the story works, be merciless what weighing-down elements stay on the cutting room floor and keep them there. Stay consistent, as aforementioned. Have a realistic transition phase. No deux ex machinas. Foreshadow decently. Blend the least likely things to happen; truth’s stranger than fiction, right? So make it apply TO that fictional world and defend it to the end. Most importantly, don’t feel you have to justify or explain yourself on the impossible. Wanna know why? The impossible happens in the 3D world all the time, so why not have it happen in yours? Because it’s your world, your imagination, your prerogative, and your damn rules. Because you said so. That’s why. You already know this, but it’s always nice to have a reminder of such periodically.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

This doesn’t make you a failure as a writer. You’re only a failure as one if you don’t ask. Simple, right?

Yes and no.

Even if outlandish, the author giving said advice is one you’d love to give a good punch in the puss for challenging your non-writing-related views–yeah, I know, you’re looking at me, and I don’t mind, really :)–take it. Try it out. See what happens. You might love it. You might hate it. But let it stand on its own merit, not for what her kooky beliefs are aside from it. You don’t know if it won’t fit because she’s not on board with your NWR worldview; her input might’ve been that puzzle piece needed, or that one way to clear the creative roadblock of your project stymieing you for the longest time to finally move on from.

But you’re secretly saying: Well, damn. If she’s right about this, is she right about that other thing I think is bullshit?

Nah. Broken clocks are always gonna stay broken clocks :).

Listen To Your Instincts, Always

So what say you? What’s your mess of a story at first that cleaned up nice? Did you have a plot within a plot that had elements in it bringing both together? Was it a struggle getting it there–or did you throw the MS away for something simpler?

I’m still working on KINGZ, elated for the light at the end of this decade-old tunnel. I’m happy to report one of the truly impossible events that happened in the 3D world does in this book. Not only does my MC/narrator survives this, I wrote this event not knowing a similar event happened to a skyscraper window-washing team. But I’m even happier to to report my third Casebook is a straight mystery of cat-and-mouse trying to outwit one another (think Tom & Jerry meets Spy v. Spy). Listening to podcasts of true crime stories and why villains do what they do is a big help in forming this mystery for a more realistic, believable villain.

Happy Valentine’s Day a week early!

Author’s Note–

Deepest apologies for this post going live prematurely. I forgot this was my day to update, believing next week was my day. I also weathered a wicked sickle cell trait bout recently, adding to the forgetfulness. For those posting comments to this, I thank you all and appreciate you more than words can properly express.