Just a Few Thoughts on What and Why

I was thinking about what qualities one needs to be a writer. I had to pose the question aloud. It helps me think. Later on, I asked; Why do I write. What purpose am I trying to accomplish?

I have a knack where I can watch me from outside myself. And I watched the thoughts, feelings, and emotions I had while writing.

First, let’s get into the qualities. An important quality a writer needs is to like people. If a writer doesn’t like people, it comes across. The reader will pick up on it and put that book down and never read another story by that author. Unless, of course, the reader doesn’t like people either. Right. How many people in this world truly do not like people? You have to relate.

Patience– A writer has to have the patience of an angel at times. There is a lot of research one has to look up. Even if it’s looking up something contrite to the layout of a foreign city. Then there is the dreaded rewrite. Under normal circumstances, a book is rewritten several times. I was told some time ago that Stephen King rewrites his stories at least eight times before turning it into the proofreaders. Personally, I quit at five to seven.

Confidence– And you know what I’m talking about. Ever feel afraid to turn in your story to be proofread? It’s like learning how to write and the teacher is looking over your shoulder to see how well you are doing. Scarry. Worse yet, what if the reader won’t like it? Scarier yet! But we all know that one miscue can destroy a book. One wrong word can throw off the entire plot. A weak theme and a book ain’t going anywhere.

Be fair to yourself– Every time you sit to write, set a goal for yourself. A good goal is to write 2000 words. Or write an entire chapter. Then come up with a worthwhile reward. You have to come up with a worthwhile reward and goal otherwise you won’t be interested in attaining anything. And if you don’t attain it; no reward for you! It just has to go both ways.

One quality an author can not have is being lazy. And I learned that the hard way.

One item I put in my debut book, My Angel of Angels is that Manuel’s dad died of celiac disease. I did a search on diseases. Celiac disease came up and I thought that had to be a terrible disease. (Notice I didn’t research what ciliac disease is.) Let’s put it in the story.

I gave one of the copies to a co-worker my daughter works with (They’re both nurses). My daughter texted me one day and asked if anyone died in the book. I explained about Manuel’s dad. Ten minutes later she texted a thank you. I texted back if there was a problem. Ten minutes went by. Okay, she’s at work. I waited until lunch break. I sent another text. She never replied. Finally, I asked why is she laughing at me (I just knew she was). She informs her father of very little medical knowledge that nobody dies from celiac disease.

In this profession, this is called Lazy Writing. One quality a writer can not have is being lazy. Know of what you speak. Please. It will save you from a lot of embarrassment.

And the most important quality one can have is————enjoy what you are doing. Again, a reader will know that this is a drudge for you and never read you again. They feel as drained as you do at the end of your writing. Why would you write if you’re not enjoying it? You may as well go get a job at minimum wage and work.

Words are fun things to play with, look up and throw curves at people with. Keep loose and tell a story that will captivate the world.

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My Thanksgiving Story

My debut book, My Angel of Angels was based on a relationship between a man and a woman. And I was bestowed the honor of being asked to write a blog on how a man should treat a woman in a romantic relationship.

This week we are celebrating our Day of Thanks. And that means, for the most of us, being around those who mean the most to us, our family.

As I was growing up, that meant driving through the snowfall of Western New York. (that would be close to Buffalo N.Y.), going to Gramma’s house and bringing her to our house. Complete with her brother Henry and her sister-in-law, Helen, who love to die her hair a soft shade of blue.

There was a house full of kids having a grand old time as Gramma taught us how to sing Silent Night in German. Henry would sing along as Helen wondered what was going on. The fire crackling in the fireplace and the aroma of a delicious turkey dinner wafting from the kitchen. Mom and Dad both in charge of the oven. Turned out, Dad was a better cook than Mom with a lot of dishes. So, Mom was more than happy to listen to Dad about how or when to baste the turkey. Actually, she did really well with the veggies and potatoes and the rest of the sides. And there were a ton of that. Dad’s strong card was the meat department. But, boy, could he rustle up a bowl of corn that tasted like it was still on the cob!

After Grace and the carving of the bird very little was said. A lot of munching and gulping. Every now and then you heard a: “Great job, Mom.”  or “Delicious bean casserole, Kay.” (Kay was Mom.) But you could always tell when people were coming up on having enough. Forks slowed and the conversation started to pick up.

Dad would suggest that we take a break for a while, but that never lasted more than fifteen minutes before Mom would ask who wanted Apple or Pumpkin Pie. Helen would, without fail ask for “a little slice of both, please? Just make them half slices, if you could.” Mom never failed to please the little bittie. Ice cream on the apple, whipped topping on the pumpkin. “Oh, thank you so much Catherine.” she’d say.

After the dessert was accomplished, we’d all sit back and hold our bellies and talk about how wonderful dinner was. Mother taking in all the compliments as graciously as anyone could. Then Dad would look at the adults after a bit and ask; “Who’s for an after dinner drink?” The after dinner drink was usually green Creme de Minthe on the rocks. And when we children got to be old enough, we took part along with the previous generations. Oh, how nice that was.

The after dinner drinks took a good thirty minutes to enjoy. The conversation would go on to politics and other topics. The children sat right there in their seats listening trying to learn a thing  or two. But as tradition held in my family, you’d be next to being disowned if you didn’t start picking at the dinner again and nibble at the soon to be leftovers and top off the Creme de Minthe.

I have never witnessed anything like that in any other family I have had a Thanksgiving Dinner with. And it is the one thing I miss the most every year when I don’t have that traditional meal with them. It’s just not the same without the second round and Creme de Minthe. Well, that, and the relationship I have with my family.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Love and enjoy your family.

 

Her New Pet

“Can I keep him, Mommy?”

“What are you going to do with him?” Mother said as she made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.

Little JoAnne thought for a moment. “I can teach him tricks.”

“Oh. You’re going to teach him tricks. What kind of tricks?”

Her worried, huge brown eyes searched the kitchen floor. She raised her head and her face brightened. Mother saw the light bulb appear above her daughter’s head.

“I can teach him to roll over.”

“Roll over, now,” Mother exclaimed. “Wow. that would be quite a trick for him to do.”

“Well, I’ve see’d them get rolled over on TV. So, I know’d they can roll over.”

Mother beamed a smile into her little girl’s face. “What else do you want to teach him?”

JoAnne screwed up her face as she contemplated. “How ’bout we teach him to sit?”

“We?” she said. “Oh, now you want my help.”

“Please, Mommy? I think it’ll be so much more funer if you help.”

“Oh, I don’t know. He’s your pet, Jo. I think you should take full responsibility for him. I mean, you are four years old and a big girl now.” Mother explained. “You teach him to sit. Can you teach him to speak?”

“We can try.

“No, no. There is no ‘we’. This is going to be all you. You train him, you feed him, you make sure he gets enough water and sleep.”

“Mommy, sleep is not a problem. He can sleep in my bed with me at night.”

“You know, Little Bit, animals need more sleep than humans. They have to find a comfortable place to sleep in all the time all day long. Can you provide that for him?”

“How ’bout I put him on a extra pillow?”

“That would work out just fine. Where is one, by-the-way?”

There was a hesitation. But she finally said; “We can go to the Starvation Army Store and get one!”

“Don’t you mean Salvation Army?”

“Oh. I guess I do. Can we go there and get a pillow?”

“After lunch,” Mother said as she placed the sandwich on the table with a tall glass of milk. “But for now, go wash your hands and face. You have been handling an animal and they have germs.”

“Mother, why are so icky about germs. You act like they can hurt you. They’re just tiny little thing too small to hurt anyone. Don’t worry so much about germs.”

“Okay, Baby. Now go wash up like a good girl.”

JoAnne dashed out of the kitchen and into the bathroom. She dampened her face and hands with cold water and returned to her mother. She proudly held out her hands for her mother to see.

Mother turned her hands over to see both sides. “Hmmm. Did you use warm water?” JoAnne lowered her head feeling ashamed. “Is the soap still dry also?”

“Yes, Mommy,” she responded sadly.

“Honey, you know better than that. Now go wash up like you’re supposed to.”

She left dragging the toes of her shoes across the floor making a stuttering sound as they moved.

“None of that, missy. Now pick up your feet when you walk.” JoAnne did. But it didn’t make her feel any different.

When she came back to the table, JoAnne sat at the chair with the sandwich.

“Wait a minute, missy.” Mother checked the temperature of her hands. She could tell they were washed with warm water. “Okay. I hope you enjoy your lunch.”

JoAnne bit into her sandwich with a bit more energy. After a few bites, Mother asked;

“What do you want to name your new pet?”

JoAnne washed down her mouthful of peanut butter and jelly with a gulp of milk. “I think his name should be Tommy,” she proclaimed proudly.

“Tommy. Why Tommy?”

“Because, Mommy, it goes best with what he is. Tommy Turtle. That’s his name. Tommy Turtle.”

I Gotta Tell Ya

It’s getting kinda late and I had to put my working progress away, (for now). I really want to get this blog out.

Remember me advising you to research you work if needed when writing? Well, I got hit upside the head with that piece of advice.

My working progress project is called …  for now; It Takes Guts. I told the publishing company I want to work with that it’s going to be about 400 pages. By the time I got done with it, it was an embarrassing 132 pages. Talk about feeling low and sweating bullets. How am I going to get this long enough?

I sat in the nippy night air out in the country one evening, contemplating my dilemma. I was either in prayer or at least meditating. Both work for me. Anyway, it hit me. This voice in my head said all I need to do is research and get more info on the data you need.

Well, after that celebration, I got up and went back to the computer. Got on YouTube. The first set of videos that came up were all on the topics I need for making this book what I want it to be.

I just wanted to tell you about my little victory. I talked about this last week and don’t want to be monotonous about this.

But the outcome of all this is the fact I have to add a lot of storyline to the novel. That’s fine. But while doing so, I have noticed the voice of Jack, the protagonist, is changing. He’s a bit more relaxed. Which is somethig I like also because he was too tight. Too, to himself.

Which brings me to my next point.

I have worried about my voice. Both as a narrator and when I allow my characters to speak. This is what I’ve learned. Don’t worry about it. Just like your body, your voice is going to change. You can’t help it. It comes with growing. And I dare say; the character may change before you come to the end of your project. That’s fine too.

An important factor in writing is to have fun. To be honest, I wasn’t having fun for the first part of this book. After I got my butt into high gear, and I do my job as it is supposed to be done, things have changed. My style has changed. My attitude has definitely done a 180.

I tell you this because there aren’t enough writers in the world. Even though there are approximately 5000 titles published every year, mostly from new writers, we need more writers. Everybody’s got a new angle on the same subjects. Why not give yours?

Is it easy? Yes and no. It’s a constant learning curve. But, to me, anyway, it’s worth it. I get to mingle with some of the most imaginative people on the planet. I may have never met them, but we talk and share our ideas. We feed off  the other person. Yes, I’m having fun.

It’s time to pull out my working project and get back at it.

Random Thoughts

Not sure what I want to talk about today. I ran across a number of other blogs and came up with random comments. Take them for what they’re worth.

Occasionally I have wondered what other writers and authors desks and offices look like. I picture what Stephen King’s office looks like, but it’s all a guess. As usual, I compared their situations to mine. And the two comparisons can’t be the same.

I would imagine a normal writer and author have a permanent place to work. I don’t have such a luxury. Because of my paying job and schedule, I have to grab what ever time I can to write. Now that probably sound like an excuse of some nature, right?

Not really. I don’t have a permanent place to do my writing and blogging. As a matter of fact, I am at work as I write this page. I also work on my second novel what at work. On my days off, I do work at home at my dinning room table and I do a much better job there. Mostly because I have more control over what goes on.

I was at home yesterday and worked on my second novel for some seven hours and loved it! So peaceful. So fulfilling. I should have done this blog yesterday but forgot about it. I was working on my book. But that’s not the good part (I think). I’m having a difficult time getting the book long enough. I am at less than two hundred pages. That’s embarrassing. By the time 9:00 pm came around my head was spinning. My fingers lost the locations to the keys I needed. I was hitting Backspace more than the letter “E”.

I went to YouTube and found about a dozen clips on the topic my book is on. I was elated! I started taking notes and thought I had enough notes until I found more clips and took more notes and so on. I was thinking; who’s guiding this? I believe this next book is meant to be published.

Another amazing thing happened yesterday morning. After breakfast, I grabbed a book, a fiction genre. Dirty Work by Stuart Woods. It really keeps you thinking. But, when I read another author, I am almost constantly criticizing. Of course I am enjoying the book. But don’t you have moments when reading that you are looking at how a bigger author is wording his/her stories? Me too.

After I got done reading, I opened my drive and brought up my work, the words seemed to flow a lot easier. I’d like to brag about how much better my rhythm was, but I don’t want to bore you with my bragging. (I’m reading at my New York State underhanded smart ass remark and I’m smiling.) But I guess that’s what you get for being raised around Buffalo.

My final thoughts about writing (for today anyway); Writing puts me in a make believe world where I don’t look like I need to be put in a state hospital. Yeah, I talk to myself when working. But more importantly, when readers read our work, we are hoping that they also get caught up in the world we created. They feel the satisfied feelings of our hero. The heartbreak of the heroine who just lost the love of her life who died on their wedding night. They are lost in a country never before seen by them. When the reader eventually puts the book down, they are relieved from the stress of their day and can face Life again. Unbeknownst to them, they may even see a bit of the author’s world and wonder; How do they come up with that?

What Does It Take?

I have been seriously writing since July 2013. My debut book was published in September 2014. It is plain to see, I could hardly be referred to as an ‘old hat’ at this art, profession, whatever you want to call it. According to some authors, I’m not an author either. I am a writer. I won’t get into the differences between the two. It wouldn’t make me look very good if I did that.

It is said that a writer has to write a million words before he/she can write. I believe what that means is, it takes that much time and energy to discover what is called, your voice. I always believed that. And that is saying a lot because after the upbringing I had if something is said to me, I need proof. I have a hard time with blind obedience and blind trust.

Well, I got that proof just this past week. I thought I had it when my first book was published. After all, I re-wrote it four times. That had to be at least a million words. But I have been struggling through my work on my second novel. Words, lines, and paragraphs just don’t sound right and I couldn’t put my finger on why.

One night this past week I stepped outside. The air was crisp and the moon shined so bright it cast shadows of the garage, trees, and house I was staying. It stimulated the mind and I pondered the problems why I don’t feel comfortable about my work.

It came to me. Who was actually telling the story? Was it some unknown soul never seen before? Because that was the point I was writing from. It was like asking, Who told the story of the Three Bears?        Answer; some unknown soul. That is not the person who is telling my novels, I decided. I am the one who is telling the story. That was some realization to me. It took tons of weight off my chest and totally eased my mind.

So, okay, I am the one giving the narration to the story. If I was to sit down with someone and regale the same story, how would I put that story? After some deliberation, I decided at a later time I had to go back and re-word a bunch of lines that sound like I was speaking.

One of the rules I heard from the beginning was; write to tell a story, not to impress. I did just that. I used flowery words I normally don’t use. I thought that would get people to read my book and they won’t think I am some idiot that has the vocabulary of a second grader. But using words where you need a huge dictionary to look up the definitions of what I was saying, I sounded like an idiot anyway.

Readers know when a writer is trying to impress people and when they are actually telling a story. There is an ease to the flow when a writer is telling a story and knows what  the story is about. Which brings me to the next point.

Know what you are writing about. I believe I’ve talked about this before. But it’s worth reiterating. If you have a scene in your story and you don’t know the subject intimately, do some research on it. Again, readers can tell when a writer is lying his/her way around a scene.

Here’s an example; I would never tell a story about what it is like to be a woman. I have no idea what it is like to be a woman. So, if I wanted to write a story about the feelings, problems, and joys of being a woman, I would have a woman sit next to me and tell me exactly what she goes through in different situations. However, I will tell you about traveling, military and fatherhood all day long … from my point of view.

How Many Kinds of Love Are There?

Rosie just got back from school when her grandfather greeted her as she came into the house. He was visiting his daughter.

She dropped her school books on the table and asked;

“Papa, how many kinds of love are there?”

Gerry looked at his granddaughter with a loving gleam in his eye and a smile so warm.

“How many kinds of love are there? Geeze, kid, how many people can you love?”

Rosie sat at the kitchen table pondering the question.

“Okay, little bit, I have to ask you this; Do you love your Mommie?”

“Of course, Papa. Who couldn’t love Mommie?”

“Okay, that’s one kind of love. Do you love your sissie?”

“Well, duh, Papa. She is my little sister. How could I not love my sissie?”

“Then comparing the two, wouldn’t you say that is another kind of love?”

Rosie stared at her grandfather searching for an answer as though it would sprout out of his forehead. She fidgeted with her books. Her face twisted.

“Rosie? Wouldn’t you say that the way you feel about your mother and the way you feel about your sister are different?”

“How do you mean, Papa?”

Gerry thought, looking for an example. “When you hug Mommie, is it the same as when you hug Maria?”

“I guess.”  Gerry could still hear the confusion in her voice.

“When you hug Mommie, what do you expect her to do?”

“She hugs me back.”

“Good! Then what happens?”

“I dunno. We talk or I help with whatever she is doing.”

“How do you feel about that when you help or talk to her?”

Rosie’s face glowed a bit. “I feel grown up. I feel big, like Mom.”

“And when you hug Maria, what do you do then?”

“It depends, but I usually wind up taking care of her for a while. And honestly, Papa, that feels like a bother sometimes.”

“You don’t feel grown up?”

“Yeah, but in a different way. Not in a good way like I do with Mom.”

“But you love Maria, right?”

“Of course.”

“There you have it. We just figured out two kinds of love. And that is just the beginning. Love is nothing more than a strong feeling of appreciation and tenderness towards someone. Then you devote a good portion of your life to that person.”

“All our life is devoted, Papa?”

Gerry giggled. “No, no. Not your whole life. God knows, we need a break once in a while. We do need to get away once in a while. But through the good times and the bad, we are still dedicated to that person. And it takes a long time to figure that out. Discovering you love someone takes time. And then a commitment to make it last.”

Gerry looked at his ‘little bit’ thoughtfully. “Why did you ask me that question, Rosie?”

Her cheeks blushed. Gerry looked closer and noticed something.

“Is there a boy in your class that you feel…?”

“Papa, that’s silly. I’m only twelve.”

He smiled broadly. “Is that shadow I see in your eyes?”

“It’s raining outside. There can’t be any shadow anywhere.”

“You do realize that liking a boy is okay, right?”

“I don’t like any boys,” she insisted.

“Well, I just want you to know that being attracted to other people is in our genes. We are built that way.”

“Papa, I’m wearing a dress. I’m not in jeans.”

“Okay. Time to talk to your mom. She knows how to explain these things.”