"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, September 6, 2021

I'm fired up!

 Last Saturday I taught one of my workshops to the California Writers Club - Orange County Branch. I've taught this workshop a fair number of times. It's called "Rhythm, Pace, and Amusement" and I'll tell you a bit of a secret: I didn't originate this workshop. 

I mean, I did, but sort of the backdoor way. I was pitching workshops to Michael Steven Gregory, director of the Southern California Writers Conference and he said, "If I gave you a workshop called 'Rhythm, Pace, and Amusement' could you do something with that?"

Of course I can, Michael.

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So I put the thing together and the first few teachings felt shaky (to me) although the workshop participants said they enjoyed it. I got into the rhythm of it, eventually.

So when Mary Vensel White of CWB/OCB asked me to teach that workshop, I got my charts out and updated them (I always do this for every workshop), and...

OMG, this is the BEST workshop I've ever taught!

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It is chock full o' practical information, and the kind of info that leads to discussion and that's a great workshop. The best part is that I get to update these charts again and teach it at the Southern California Writers Conference in Irvine in less than two weeks!

I'm also teaching my newest workshop, "What's the Point? Story, Subtext, and Plot." This workshop is my passionate plea to writers everywhere to ask themselves WHY they want to tell THIS story. Oh, and how to let the reader know why they want to read it. I pitched this idea hard to Michael and he said yes.

So the conference is September 17-19 and I'm completely fired up to teach and I SO HOPE you'll join me!

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Here's the link: https://writersconference.com/la/

Friday, August 27, 2021

You are cordially invited



Dear Writers,

There are a couple of events I simply must invite you to in September. And by "Writers" I mean if you are a writer who is currently plugging away at this or that, or if you are someone who would like to be a writer but hasn't a clue how to start the process (hint: by writing).

First, I will be teaching a workshop on September 4th at the California Writers Club Orange County Branch. It will be a Zoom session so you can show up in your jammies. 

I will be teaching "Rhythm, Pace, and Amusement," a workshop that delves into the nuts and bolts of how to tell whether your writing is engaging, your story well structured, and if you're injecting humor, some helpful hints about that.

Here's the link to their Meetup, where they will give you the Secret Handshake for the meeting, which starts at 11:00 am:

https://www.meetup.com/Orange-Creative-Writing-Meetup/events/smcjmryccgbfb

If you want to learn more about organization, here is the link to their website:

http://www.calwritersorangecounty.org/



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After that meeting, you're going to be all fired up and wanting more, yes? And if you can't make it to the September 4th meeting, you're going to be kicking yourself and having a severe case of FOMO.

Have I got good news for you!

September 17-19 is the Southern California Writers Conference in Irvine, California. It's two-and-a-half days of writing immersion. Learn about it, talk about it, feel for a moment that writing is EVERYTHING.

And then meet us in the bar for a lot of laughter.

Here's the link:

https://writersconference.com/la/

I could wax poetic about this conference, but I'll just point to one of my many blog posts on the subject to try to convince you to attend.

https://gaylecarline.blogspot.com/2017/08/if-you-dont-invest-in-yourself-who-will.html

I'm teaching workshops there, too. One of them sounds familiar--"Rhythm, Pace, and Amusement." Do not be concerned about hearing a replay. Each time I teach a workshop I rework it so it's never quite the same.

The power of editing, peeps.

I'll also be teaching a semi-new workshop, "What's the Point? Story, Subtext, and Plot." I taught this last February in (virtual) San Diego and got a lot of good feedback on it. It was fun and exciting to teach, so I'm excited again!

Please invest some time, if not some money, in yourself as a writer. I'd love to see you!

Cheers,

Gayle


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Editing magic tricks

I am currently writing the third book of the fantasy trilogy (again, WHY do they insist on being trilogies?) and I thought I'd pass on some insights into what works for me when I am writing a big fat book. 

Unless you write like James Patterson with 45-page outlines and then send your interns off to finish it because you've already written the whole thing in your head, OR you write like Dean Koontz and perfect  five pages before going onto the next five pages and there is no outline...


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You may get stuck in your story at times.

It happens to the best of us. Some call it writer's block. We have an idea of where the story should go, and some key scenes that will be boffo for the reader, but we get lost in the woods of words and don't know how to get there from here. I actually heard a would-be writer once say, "I know all the key scenes, and the rest I'll just put in filler."

Don't ever do that. I will hunt you down and slap you if you do.


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Here are some things I've done to avoid getting stuck:

1. Re-read the story. If it's a long manuscript, I usually just re-read from the last action sequence. It's like jogging my memory, the way I retrace my steps when I've forgotten why I'm in the kitchen. I read it and think, "Oh, yeah, THAT'S where I was heading with this."

2. Have my character do something mundane. Eat a meal. Wash clothes. Take a walk. This makes my character go forward in their space, making it easier to get them where I want them to go. Ninety percent of the time I delete all the boring stuff, but every once in awhile I find that little nugget of a revelation/clue/foreshadowing that stays.

3. There is the Soupy Sales approach (aka "and then the dragons came"). Soupy Sales was a guy with a kids' show in the 50s and 60s. At some point in the show, there would be a knock on the door and it would always be a surprise guest to mess with him. If you don't know what else to do, throw a surprise at your character. A visit from the suspect's mom. A door that leads to a room with a clue. An unexpected gryphon. Hit them in the head with a golf club (one of my favorite moves).  Again, it might not stay in the manuscript, but it gets your character moving forward.

And don't forget to treat this like that first blank page of your manuscript:

1. This is a rough draft.

2. No one will see it except me.

3. I can start anywhere, even with "Okay, this is the story I want to tell," and ramble on until the tale starts coming out.

4. Once I've typed the end, I'll have a better idea of where it should begin.

5. I CAN'T EDIT A BLANK PAGE.

There is one caveat to all of this: as you work your way through the stickiness, you may not find a way back to that boffo action scene you had planned. 

It's okay--there will be another boffo scene to replace it, one that's bigger and boffo-ier. 


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I hope I've been helpful. Just remember, use what makes sense and discard the rest. As always, your mileage may vary.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Time to begin again

On Sundays we set our Intentions.

Journal about your goals.

  • What is your intention for this week?
  • What goals do you want to set for the week?
  • What does "success" look like for you this week?
  • What are your priorities this week?

Helpful hint: make certain your priorities and your goals are not at odds. 

Good luck!



Friday, July 9, 2021

Tell me a story

Saturday is for our Stories.

Journal about your stories.

  • What is something you have struggled with lately?
  • What is a story you are telling yourself that could be holding you back from achieving your full potential?
  • How can you reframe that negative belief into a positive one?

I can imagine myself journaling this every Saturday. The earlier days are writings that I will refer to, remind myself of, reassess every so often. But what did I struggle with this week, and what old stories contributed to that struggle?

Time to turn that car around.



Thursday, July 8, 2021

Time to noodle

 Friday Review.

Review the past week.

  • What have you accomplished? Write down three things you've accomplished this week.
  • You can also journal about how you want to get closer to your goals next week. What tasks can you schedule that will enable you to do this?

As far as accomplishments, I don't think you should look at just the big things. Look at the baby steps, too. Maybe you put your laundry away and cleared that from your mind so you could pursue your dream. Maybe you were nice to someone who clearly didn't deserve it. Maybe you got out of bed this morning. 

Go you!



Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Let us give thanks

 Thankful Thursday.

Grateful people are more likely to take care of themselves, make healthier choices, and feel happier.

  • Write down 5 things you are grateful for. Be as specific as possible.

To be honest, I don't know where they got the statement above regarding grateful people. But I do find that if I write three things I'm grateful for and three things I'm excited about each morning, that I do feel more grateful and excited than I was before.

Try it.



Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Get ready to rumble

 On Wednesday we are Warriors.

Journal about the ways we trap ourselves.

  • Where are you making things more complicated than they need to be?
  • How are you complicit in creating things you do not want?

Oof. Think of what you'd do if you didn't "have" to do X. Do you "have" to do X? Have you said YES too many times when you wanted--no, NEEDED--to say NO? Can you release anything that would free you to live your ideal day, or move toward your goals?

Take your time. I'll wait here.



Monday, July 5, 2021

Get ready for Tuesday

Tuesday is about Transformation.

Journal about your ideal day.

  • What does your ideal day look like?
  • How would your ideal day look if it were impossible for you to fail?
  • How can you structure an ideal day that will help you achieve your goals?

Remember, it helps if you reframe these questions using "I/me" instead of "you." Make it personal. You are creating change.



Saturday, July 3, 2021

Another new way to look at the data

 I'm always looking to be a better person.

It's entirely possible that this is dysfunctional behavior on my part. What does it say about someone when they are never satisfied with who they are and are constantly reaching for a firmer grip on what makes themselves tick.

Who am I looking for?


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Oh, well. This is the way.

I stumbled across an article about productive/purposeful journaling (I wish I could attribute this to where I got it--I THINK it was on the Sivana website). The prompts indicated that it was something you would do for a week, then revisit at various points in time. I printed it out and tried it. And I really liked it, so I thought I'd share it with you, one day at a time. 

I'll post them a day ahead so you can be prepared for the next day. 

*One Caveat to This: I write each question in my journal before I answer them, and change the "you" to "I/me" to point the spotlight onto myself.

MONDAY MOTIVATION

Journal about your motivations and goals.

  • What is your purpose?
  • What is your why? 
  • What does your life look like when you are at your happiest?
Open your books, turn the page, and write.




Tuesday, June 8, 2021

I'm not always ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille

There is a kind of shot that film/TV directors use when someone discovers THE SECRET to the whole story. It's kind of a quick closeup, either toward or away, while their eyes widen. Kind of like this:


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Or this:

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I don't care if it's considered cheesy, it fits the moment, just as it fits moments in my life. I was remembering one of these today. 

Marcus needed new shoes. We used to go to Famous Footwear, where I'd buy him two pairs of shoes because the second pair was half price. He would dutifully wear the same pair of shoes until they fell apart and I'd donate the second pair because they no longer fit him. It only took me eight or ten years to figure out that I could buy him one pair and get myself a pair for half price.

I'm nothing if not stubborn.

This particular day, he'd been in a kids' size 4, so we sat down in the kids section and I got the metal foot measure to see what size he needed. He propped his heel against the back and...his toes hung over the front. Confused, I retrieved the adult-sized metal foot measure.

My son wore a size 6 MENS.

Numbly, I walked him to the men's section and let him pick out a pair of sneakers. I then struggled to breathe as he strode up and down the aisle, saying, "Look! I have clown feet!"

It was that moment of revelation, when I saw my son as an adult. A mini-adult who was in elementary school, but yet--not a baby.

Years later, I still feel that quick closeup, just before the camera hits me in the face.



Sunday, May 23, 2021

Day's end

When I am at the end of my day

    I shall not rage nor shall I whimper

But I should like to have a party

     and serve too much of everything

And speak of simple things and hard things 

     and all that lies between in shadows

        and laugh until we weep.

One thing I ask and one thing only

When I lie and tell you 

     I am not afraid

Smile, Dear Friend, and say, "Not you."

Not you.


--Gayle Carline, 2021

Monday, May 17, 2021

Out in the land of the living

"Now is the winter of our discontent 

Made glorious summer by this sun of York."

We all remember March 2020, when the lockdown came for us and we sat home and masked up and cracked our hands red from washing. It was the winter of our discontent, which lasted about 15 months. 

I remember it painfully because I had JUST. RELEASED. A. NEW. BOOK. I had plans, People. Big plans that were thwarted on all sides because I couldn't go anywhere and meet anyone and do anything.

In time, I dried my tears and kept working on the next project.

But glorious summer is literally and metaphorically coming. I'm happy to announce that I will be having a booth at this year's Celebration of the Arts and Music Festival, presented by the Yorba Linda Arts Alliance Foundation. Yeah, it's a mouthful to say, but just say you'll be there to see me IRL! I will have bunches of books, and maybe some giveaways and IDK, a way to tell you how grateful I am to actually see you in the flesh.





But before that, I will be part of a panel at the Sisters in Crime Orange County meeting on this Sunday, May 23rd. Unfortunately, we will still be Zooming, but at least it's not as far to drive, and you don't have to put on pants!

Here is the link to the time, the topic, and all of our friendly faces. I can't wait to talk with these ladies!

http://ocsistersincrime.org/

Hope to see you!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

I see funny people

I've got other things to do today but sometimes a thing gets hold of my brain and I have to clear it out before I can get to anything else. A thought clog, if you will.



Someone posted a thing on Facebook recently that basically said you can tell someone's intelligence by their sense of humor. At first, I thought that was right, because there is a certain level of smart that allows you to enjoy erudite, New Yorker humor.

Then I remembered what I've learned about humor over the years and I reconsidered.

So I'm going to attempt, in a single post(!) to try to ease your mind about why you have a PhD and still laugh at fart jokes. Ready?

Here's the thing about humor: it is completely subjective. I'm sure there are scientists who've done all kinds of tests to figure out where "funny" lives in our bodies and quantify humor, etc. I'm not sure how successful they've been.



We call it a "sense of humor" for a reason. I know we've all been sold on the five senses (six if you're Haley Joel Osment), but scientists have found a lot more.



Typically our "senses" are defined as physical reactions to external stimuli, but some external stimuli are subtle (e.g. our sense of our own physical space--we can touch our nose with our eyes closed). Scientists have defined between 14-20 senses (again, not counting HJO) and are probably still looking for more.

What does this have to do with your sense of humor? Pretty much everything. I like brussels sprouts. You may hate them. Why? "Because they're yucky," is not an answer. You don't like the way they taste and your taste is neither good nor evil--it's just your taste.



Why do you laugh at a joke? "Because it's funny," is not the answer. Why is it that you can understand a joke, understand why it is meant to be funny, and yet not feel any spontaneous laughter from it? Again, your sense of humor is not good or bad--it's just your humor. 

Which means that maybe you were laughing at The Three Stooges as a kid and still laugh at them because you can't help it if they make your stomach shake and your lungs dance and tears roll down your face. You can be a nuclear physicist or a clerk in the store. 



Your funny is YOUR funny, no matter what your IQ is.

For my writer friends, here is an additional point I'd like to make:

When we're faced with a food we don't like, we don't eat it, and say, "Thank you, but I don't like peas." We own that as our taste preference. (Unless we're in grade school where there is a lot of pointing and, "You gonna eat THAT?")

When we're faced with a joke, or a book, or a movie, that does not make us laugh, we don't smile and say, "Thank you, but I don't like slapstick humor." We say, "It didn't make me laugh, therefore IT WASN'T FUNNY." Somehow our own taste in humor has been spread about to become everyone's taste in humor.

Which means that if you are writing humor and intend it to reach an audience and get the best audience you can, you need to be specific about your brand of funny. Are puns your forte? Anecdotal stories? Do your characters drip with stunning sarcastic wit?

Tell your audience what they should expect. And then scrub yourself daily with steel wool--if you write humor, you're gonna need thick skin.




Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Writing, editing, and leopard-print lingerie

 I have in the past written a post about my editing process. It is long and it is tedious (the process, not the post) and is usually composed of five official stages of editing, and within each stage, an infinite number of passes through the manuscript. If you want to look it up, it's here:

https://gaylecarline.blogspot.com/2013/10/editing-its-not-for-wimps.html

Since that's the way I've always done it, that's the way I expected to do it for this book (currently titled MOON DRAGON FALLING, book 2 of the fantasy trilogy). As usual, my great expectations were incorrect. I'm going to chalk it up to two things. 

One is that this is a Big Damn Book that refuses to come in under 110,000 words. (My editor might eventually disagree when she reads it.) 

The second is that this book, much like the first, refused all attempts to be outlined like my mysteries and insisted on being born naturally, without a plan. Or an epidural.


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So instead of doing many sweeping reads to get rid of my go-to words and fix grammar and tidy things up, I went straight to Step 4, where I reverse-engineered the book and made an outline, then looked at the pacing, re-arranged chapters, and fixed what fell flat. 

I'm now going to the Read Aloud portion of the program, followed by the Listen to the Digital Voice Recorder step, and hopefully end up Verifying My Edits without losing my mind.

I'm thinking of making a board game out of this process.

As I was re-structuring the chapters, an idea slapped me. Why not make the beginning of the second book echo the beginning of the first? If I can do it subtly, it's one of those things that brings the reader confidence, makes them feel like they know and like this story without knowing why. Like when a woman wears leopard-print lingerie under her business suit--her secret brings her confidence. No one else knows why there's a spring in her step. They don't have to. 

They just have to stay out of her way.




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Friday, March 26, 2021

The post in which I wax philosophic

 I've lost friends in the past twelve months.

One was the dearest of souls who called to tell me of her diagnosis and I broke down crying because, well, I'm a selfish beast sometimes who could only think that my friend was in pain and sad and scared and I should have bucked up and been optimistic and calm and gentle instead. My failure haunts me.

One was a sassy gal I only saw at writer's conferences and I knew she had some health issues but she tended to want to talk about writing instead. I never brought up her health because that's not polite conversation and I figured it was the last thing she'd want to talk about.

The latest was a fab and funny woman I served on a board with, worked with, laughed with, and last saw at my book launch party in February of 2020. I didn't even know she was ill. Her face is still fresh in my memory, smiling as always.

They all had one thing in common in my narrow world--I didn't get to say goodbye. What would I give to have been able to spend just a few more minutes in their presence, putting every detail down to memory? A fat lot of whatever the Universe asked.

I try to be reasonable about it all. If I knew my prognosis was grim, that I may not have all the time I wanted on this Earth, it would be difficult to share that with even my close friends. I wouldn't want pity and I wouldn't want helpful advice about a new drug or a doctor or some herbal concoction. To be honest, I'm not certain I'd like my friends to visit, no matter how much I love them. It might be too raw.

What would I want?

Funny cards that make me laugh. Photos of people enjoying life. Weird little tchotchkes that remind them of me. Inside jokes to remind me of them. Communication.

But that's just me. Your mileage may vary.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Sometimes the mind gets cluttered

 I'm actually editing the fantasy (part 2) but I have to get this out or my mind will not stop reliving the day.

Yesterday I went to the Anaheim Convention Center for my second COVID shot. No, I have not had much of a reaction. Yes, I feel bulletproof and might step out later today to put on a cape and stop a train.


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The Convention Center was fairly organized, but they'd had to scramble a bit, because we're having EFFING SANTA ANA WINDS IN FEBRUARY and they had to re-route all the Disneyland vaccinations to an indoor location. I had no place else to go, so I was okay to stand in line and play with my phone.


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Except I couldn't play with my phone, because the older lady behind me was chatty. After I tried multiple times to look engrossed in a crossword puzzle, I surrendered and reminded myself that life is to be experienced, not tuned out.

She was shorter than me (so, SHORT!) and discussed the Convention Center, how much she hated parking garages, and Disney in general. I found out she works the phone lines for Disney, helping people with reservations for the parks and hotels, etc. She mentioned her eye surgeries a few times (regarding parking garages and doctors' appointments), we had the loveliest chat, and then the line started to move. I lost her in the sea of tables and syringes, and figured that was that and I wish I'd gotten her name.

After it was all done, I found my car (yes, I lost it briefly even after writing down where it was) and made my way toward the exit. Who was pulling out of her parking space? My chatty friend.

How did I know it was her? First, she was looking through the steering wheel, not over it. Second, it took her a 99-point turn to back out of her space. Pull up a little, back a little, pull up a little, back a little. I followed her out of the garage and she turned right on Katella, just like me.

BTW, she was in an older model Buick LeSabre. Her license plate said GENIUS 7.

I watched her in the middle lane for a while, going straight, then slightly veering toward the right. Thank God for the bumps on the lane lines! At one point, I was able to stop almost next to her at the light. That's when I saw the right side of her car--it had the crap beat out of it. Dented front and rear fenders, scrapes down the entire side, a significant dent in the rear door.


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My first and only thought was, "She is delightful but she should NOT be driving!"

And now that's out of my system, I can go about my day of editing. Thanks ever so for listening.



Friday, February 19, 2021

My a-MUSE-ments

 Sometimes I muse.

The other night I watched IN THIS OUR LIFE (1942) on TCM and really enjoyed it. Bette Davis is a very bad witch, narcissistic, sociopathic, all the icks. Her sister, Olivia de Havilland is so sweet and unassuming, it's like watching the battle of archetypes. 



After the movie ended, TCM played SUPER FLY, and I watched enough of that one to hear the theme song and make certain Ron O'Neal was still sexy as hell, which he was. (I'd have watched the whole thing but it was already past midnight and I was turning into a pumpkin.)

And I started thinking...in cinema, we began in silent movies, with large gestures and facial expressions. From there, we moved into melodramas and broad comedies, still with larger-than-life performances. Stereotypes, archetypes, it was difficult to find a performance that represented "normal life."



And then, technology and equipment and filmmakers intersected to make movies that felt like real life. The camera could follow Priest down the streets of Harlem while he makes a drug deal. No one's horrible, no one's honorable. They're just people doing what they have to do. Archetypes are for superhero movies.

I looked at that evolution in contrast to the evolution of visual art. Artists used to paint a tree to look like a tree. To paint it any other way would get them blocked from galleries, critics, and basically the general public. 

Jean Leon-Gerome
Century of Augustus: Birth of Jesus Christ

But a handful of artists chafed at the sameness of portraits and religious/historical scenes. They took their canvases outside and started to work with the concepts of light and shadow, line, space. Like filmmakers, they wanted scenes from real life, although they wanted to paint them in the least realistic way possible. (BTW, it took them over ten years to be accepted.)

Claude Monet
Madame Monet & her Son

While one medium took the road from broad strokes to reality, another medium took it the other direction.

Why was I thinking all this?

Because stories. Throughout time, writers have been able to tell all the stories. Melodramatic, realistic, fantastical, experimental, we can twist and turn a story any direction we want.

I've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret
Or make me frown
I had strings
But now I'm free
There are no strings on me.




Have an a-MUSE-ing day. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

You still working on that fantasy thing? How's it going?

It's going...um, okayish. I thought it was going better in that it was going more forward, but it might be stepping a little back, and then leaping, kind of like that prep step a gymnast does before she launches across the floor in a series of death-defying aerials.

The trajectory I had planned was to have the first book out looking for agents while I wrote the second book. So far I've gotten about 40 rejections out of 96 queries (don't look so hopeful--many of these agents tell you up front that a non-answer from them means no), and I have the second book finished and in the editing process.

Here's the thing: Once I loosened the reins on the second book and wrote it with the same casual disregard for where it might go that I wrote the first one, it revealed a secret I didn't know. A secret I need to go back and sow through the first book. 

Color me shocked.

I am reminded of my friend, Jeff, who wrote a delightful first book to a trilogy, then revealed to me that he regretted publishing the first book because there are things the story would like to do in the second book but is constrained by the first one.

Unspoken Rule #1 about writing trilogies: Finish the WHOLE story before you wander off and get anything published. I am actually now relieved that none of those agents have jumped onto my manuscript. There's still time to tell a better tale.

In the meantime, I thought I'd do a little reading aloud from the first book. This beginning probably won't change that much, and I do like to tell you a story. Enjoy.



Thursday, January 14, 2021

Go ahead. Debate me. Or not.

This morning I went to see my very awesome dermatologist, Dr. Hsu, who used her freeze-ray gun to zap a number of moles and blemishes on my person (I did complain that I always leave her feeling like I've been electrocuted). As she was zapping me, I was making little "pew-pew" noises in my head, mostly to distract myself from the discomfort. I got to thinking about STAR WARS and I realized something.

They should have never made those prequels.

Before I'm branded a heretic, hear me out. I have two reasons for my statement (and sincere apologies to Mr. Lucas, I still love the storyline).

1. The first trilogy had elements to it that made it immensely entertaining. It was action/adventure, a space Western-Samurai movie, full of pew-pew fights with lively banter in between. We went with this story happily, giddily, because we knew that the hero and his plucky band of rebels would win. Good would triumph over evil. We were not disappointed.



The prequel is all about Anakin's descent into Vader, the destruction of the Jedi, and the rise of the Empire. It is not a happy story. The hero does not win because there is no hero. It's grim on top of grim with a side of grim. The pew-pew fighting wasn't adventurous fun, it was a desperate struggle to survive. And let's just forget Jar Jar ever happened. He was the only comic relief and he wasn't funny.

I get it--this is the only story to be told, the story of how things came to be the way they were before Luke Skywalker looked up at the double moons and chafed against life as a farm boy. Which leads me to...

2. At the end of all discussions, the prequel trilogy is backstory. It's a prologue. How many of you actually read a prologue in a book? True confession: I'll read them if they're 1-2 pages and not italicized. If I see one going on longer, I skip it. Sometimes I skip the whole book.

Blah Blah Blah.


What are we writers told about writing backstory? You don't plop it all into the front of the book, or any place in the book, in a big lump of "here's what happened before Chapter 1." You sprinkle it throughout the story, using it right before it's needed. There is no need to give me several pages describing your character's PTSD prior to Chapter 1 if I need to connect with that PTSD in Chapter 10. 

You certainly don't need three movies to explain it.

By the end of the RETURN OF THE JEDI, I had received all the backstory I needed. Empire bad, Rebels good. Vader bad, Jedi good. Vader is Luke's father, Luke rejects Dark Side, Good conquers Evil. Did the prequels tell me anything else I needed to know?

I think not, although I guess your mileage may vary.

Pew-pew!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

If your best day was your last

 We had a recent scare with our golden retriever, Lady Spazzleton. She came to us in June 2012 as a rescue. At the time, the vet estimated her age at between 4 and 6. When she had to have her spleen removed in 2016, the vet told us she had typical problems for an older dog.

"So she's not eight?" I asked.

"Oh, no," he replied. "She's at least ten."


Lady Spazzleton when she came to live with us.


So basically, she's somewhere between 14 and 200. Even 14 is old for a goldie.

She's got arthritis and sleeps a lot, but plays with Duffy the corgi, bouncing on her stiff legs, tail wagging, still a puppy inside that old frame. I know her days are numbered but every day she's the same happy-go-lucky dog with no complaints.

On Wednesday, she began having intestinal issues, refusing to eat, throwing up, etc. Fearing a blockage, I got her into the vet Thursday morning, who ran every test they could plus x-rays and diagnosed her with colitis. I breathed a sigh of relief.

At 14, she could not have survived surgery for a blockage.

For two more days I watched her lay around, lethargic, refusing to eat. She would drink water then go throw it up in the yard. Her face was drawn. She was in pain, and I started to wonder whether it was "time."



I have two different friends who told me of having to put down their pets. In both cases, they said their fur-babies were on the decline, couldn't get out of bed without assistance, ate minimal amounts of food, etc. And then a day came when the pets got up, ran around, played like they were two-year-olds again, and THAT was the day my friends took them in to be euthanized. And at the time of their telling their stories, I thought, "NO, but they're feeling GOOD!"

Now I understand.

Lady Spazz was so sick, so sick. I hovered over her for four days, stuffing pills down her dry throat, sitting with her on her very dirty, dog-hairy bed, watching her pain, talking to her. The vet's office was closed (yay, New Year's) so if she needed more professional help, we'd have to take her to the emergency clinic.

I couldn't stand the thought of her being so sick and being hefted into the back of our car and driven to strangers, who might possibly be responsible for sending her to that dreamless sleep. To feel like utter crap and then die? Perhaps living your best day ever on your last day isn't so bad.



Fortunately, by Saturday afternoon she began to rally and ate a little chicken. On Sunday, she was ravenous and ate breakfast and dinner with great enthusiasm. She was back to wandering about the yard, finding me to lay at my feet, and sleeping by my bed.

I know she is an old dog, and that I am losing her piece by piece. My prayer is that she makes the decision someday, to stretch out on the warm patio in the sun, close her eyes and take the last breath. Failing that, I pray for the wisdom to help her if she needs it when "the time" comes.

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