Thursday, November 28, 2013

Jerry and Izzy

     Izzy was waiting, and he knew that to leave a woman wanting and waiting would only lead to disaster.  The shortcut required a trespass across a cow pasture.  It was almost 600 yards from the tree that he used to scale the barbed wire, to the tractor gate on the lane.  It was a long trek through the minefield of cow pies and green-headed biting flies, but it saved more than a mile going by road.
     The Jones Z farm was about the only dairy left in the area, there were a few small dirt farms, but most of the fields Jeromy had played in as a child and then hunted in his teen years were now crammed with cookie cutter houses and plain vanilla condominiums.  The rural community was surrendering to the destructive siege of urban sprawl.  Life was changing.

     Jerry and Izzy had been best friends since the fifth grade.  In grade school everyone called her Isabel, but by the time they reached high school, the two were commonly known by one polysyllabic name, Jerry-and-Izzy.  No one ever said, “Hey Jerry,” or “What’s up, Izzy?”  If you saw one, you saw the other, and people spoke to them as if they were one person in two bodies.

     On a small knoll 70 or 80 yards to his left, Jerry watched the bull snort and scratch the ground with its front hoof.  Unflinching, he kept a steady pace.  Jerry knew the animal well and it was certainly not the first time that Blackie was out during his trek through the fields.  The bull was benign enough as long as he wasn’t provoked; he knew better than to run. 
     Jones Z’s prize Angus stud began a lumbering walk, matching Jerry’s pace stride by stride.  Coming of age working on dairies, the seasoned farmhand knew that the bovine’s movement was a sign of curiosity and not of an impending charge.  Jerry was only half way across the pasture, so if the bull did charge, there would be no way to outrun him.  His gait unchanged, he kept a close watch on both the bull and his manure pocked path. 
     When he was nearly fifty yards out from the tractor gate, he checked the bull one more time.  Smiling at his unspoken joke, he knew he could run 50 yards faster than the bull could cover 120; he had already taken six long strides before the bull started its charge.  Jerry hit the gate laughing and waited astraddle the top rail until the bull caught up to him. 
     Blackie snorted between his labored breaths and lifted his face to the man on the fence.  Jeromy patted the polled head of the thousand pound beast and renewed his old friendship.  Up close the bull’s eyes recognized the playful man as someone he knew and liked.  Slipping off the gate back into the pasture, Jerry stroked the strong shoulders of the amiable giant, and grabbing the bull’s head with both hands, laid his forehead against its face in a greeting that they had used for nearly ten years.
      Nothing can be sweeter than a friendship based on respect.  The man knew the bull could trample him with the slightest instigation and the bull knew that men were the masters capable of inflicting great pain.

      Izzy was waiting inside her trailer home and watched as her friend and lover ambled through the dust and into her yard.  They were three years out of school and everyone but Izzy was surprised that they were not married or living together.  The first time they had been intimate was in their sophomore year and Jerry announced as he zipped his pants that they should get married someday and raise a big family.
      But in the years since graduation, Jeromy’s parents’ marriage had turned bitter and angry.  The eventual divorce left Jerry with a pessimistic attitude and marriage became a taboo subject that often resulted in loud angry arguments.  Izzy resigned herself to a maiden’s life.

      Izzy knew Rory Horshein well; Jeromy still lived with his father.  She knew him as a man with a sense of humor but also a quick temper that had at times become violent.  The pills the VA gave him to ward off his pain affected him like an on / off switch.  With each dose, as the opiates hit his system, he mellowed, joked and put on the genuinely affable front that she had known since childhood.  Later as the prescription’s concentration in his blood rose, he would doze and sleep for hours before waking angry, nervous and in pain from the wounds he suffered four summers ago at the Army Reserve camp.  It was in this pre-medicated state that he frequently cursed his “whore” wife who left him to sleep with “every asshole in the fucking county.”
     Izzy’s memory of Luann Horsheim did not match the way Rory described her.  She had always been polite and attentive to her husband and son.  Even after the accident, the love she had for her family was apparent in everything she said and did.  But the accident took its toll on the marriage.  It was apparent in the arguing and frequent disappearances of Luann.  Knowing the severity of Rory’s wound, Izzy once asked about how the husband’s injuries affected their sexual relationship, the answer she got was cold and surprising.  “Sex,” Luann said, “is not what marriage is about.  You can still love someone even without sexual relations, and I do love Rory.  But I will tell you this; a woman can’t live a full life without some sexual gratification.  Since my husband can’t perform, I had to find other ways to be satisfied.”
It wasn’t until after the separation when Izzy put two and two together and realized the “other ways” had to do with the manager of the Piggly Wiggly on the north end of town.
     The separation changed Jerry.  He went from the sweet, lifelong friend, companion and lover to an impatient often hopeless man.  The quiet seductive romance of their lovemaking evolved into crass suggestions and profane innuendos.
      At first Izzy resisted adopting the obligatory concept of satisfying Jerry, but her love was such that making him happy became her sole purpose.  If he needed physical relief, then she would make herself available for him.  Unfortunately, the more she acquiesced, the more arrogant and demanding he became, sometimes showing up at her trailer as many as three times a day.        Izzy missed their social life; rarely did they go out together as a couple.  Jerry’s job kept him busy most of the time and the brief interludes of shared time were spent in passionless copulation.  Gone were the intimate talks and common goals that were the foundation of their love and friendship.  Her love, it seemed, was expected, but not reciprocated.

      Jerry opened the door wearing his all too familiar stoic gaze.  “My damned truck wouldn’t start.  I had to walk here.”
Izzy put her arms around his neck and stretched up to kiss his lips.  Jerry’s mouth was dry from the long walk and his breath tasted of raw onion, but she kissed him anyway, and he kissed back for a few moments.  He pulled her arms down and stepped back; the momentary affection had faded.  “Get me some water or something.  That hamburger I had for lunch left me parched.”
     Izzy opened the refrigerator and retrieved a bottle of water.  Handing it to him she asked, “What happened to the truck?”
“I don’t know, but I got to get it fixed today.  Come on, we need to get this over with so I can get back home.”
     She dutifully undressed and laid across the bed still rumpled from the morning visit.  He invaded her body with sharp forceful rhythms, finishing much too soon for Izzy to glean any physical satisfaction.  Jeromy shifted his weight to the far side of the bed to avoid the damp spots on the sheet and rested his forearm across his eyes.  Izzy rolled on her side to look at the man she loved and caressed his chest.  “Honey?” she asked in a soft voice.  His reply was a whispered, “I’m going to sleep for a few minutes.”
      Izzy propped herself up on one elbow and asked, “Before you go to sleep, can we talk for just a second.”  Jeromy grunted a sound that was neither affirmative nor negative.   Izzy sighed, “Sometimes this gets, you know, almost mechanical.  I like making love with you, but sometimes you act like it is more of a chore than a choice.”
Without lifting his arm and in a tired grumbled voice, “It is a chore, Babe.  I know what you women do when you ain’t getting enough at home.  It starts with those damned toys, and don’t think I don’t know you have one, and it ends with some other man in my woman.”  He lifted his arm up just far enough to see her face, “You never know when some punk-ass kid is going to shoot my balls off, so as long as I have this dick, we are going to fuck as often as we can.  You ain’t gonna be a whore for any man but me.”
     “Is that how you think of me?”  Her voice cracked, “A whore?  Is that the respect you have for me?  You think I am your whore?”  Izzy swung her feet heavily to the floor announcing, “I’m getting a water.  You want anything?”
      Jerry shook his head no and dropped his arm back across his face.

      Izzy returned from the kitchen carrying a bottle of water.  Jerry laid motionless; the slow rise and fall of his diaphragm evidenced his sleep.  Izzy carefully eased back into bed mentally replaying his words over and over.  “A whore for any man but me -- fuck as often as we can -- as long as I have this dick.”

     The last of her hope evaporated with the thought that nothing could be crueler than love without respect.  The cold metal of the kitchen knife felt good against her skin as she reached for her Jerry.  “As long as I have this dick.”  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Reason for Thanksgiving

I’m writing this short greeting on the eve of Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow we celebrate that unique American holiday when we gather our friends and loved ones around a banquet table and gorge ourselves with a month’s worth of sodium, fats and sugars.  The glorious day that awards the hard working chefs in each crowd, who spent countless hours shopping, prepping and cooking the sundry of “traditional” dishes, with the experience of an orgy of frenzied consumption that leaves little time to appreciate their exhaustive efforts.  Mountains of food will be devoured, at least partially, in a matter of a few minutes; with the remnants stowed in refrigeration for even more gluttony on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  It is during this celebration that the faithful, and the C&E’s (Christmas and Easter Christians), and even the non-practitioners, all pause in reverent prayer to express their gratitude for health, life, love and their own prosperity measured by whatever scales are appropriate.

It is precisely those “scales of measurement” that need our attention.  It would be easy to mire our thanks in the worry over an unsustainable national debt growing exponentially with unchecked deficit spending, nationwide continued high unemployment with faltering consumer confidence, the healthcare debacle, rockets flying in Syria, or the precarious world financial situation and the potential of forced austerity spreading from small countries into First World Economies.  But history demonstrates that in light of rampant pessimism and despair, we still need to recognize that there is much to be thankful for.

It started in 1623, when Governor Bill Bradford along with his fellow Plymouth colonists sat and feasted with the Wampanoag Indians for three days: 72 hours!  (That’s just about as long as we will have to spend at the gym to unstuff our gullets and arteries.)  Back then, they were thankful that they had had a harvest big enough that they weren’t going to suffer the same starvation and death they had endured during the previous two winters.  These early settlers were thankful they had something, anything to eat, now we as a society are so spoiled that we get pissed if the supermarket runs out of our favorite dinner rolls.

About 150 years later, after we had burned a few witches, decimated most of the indigenous peoples, and started importing cheap labor from Africa, George W (no, the other one) in remembrance of those Pilgrims, signed a proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1789 to celebrate the end of hostilities with mother England and the recent ratification of the U.S. Constitution (which of course immediately instigated what we now refer to as “American Politics”). 

Then a scant 74 years later, Haywood County, North Carolina native (that’s what they say around here) turned president, Abraham Lincoln, signed a new Thanksgiving proclamation in an attempt to “heal the wounds of the nation” and to urge people to offer tender care to “all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife.”  By Honest Abe’s decree, the day-of-thanksgiving was to be celebrated on the LAST Thursday of November in perpetuity.  And it stayed that way until 1939, when FDR in the midst the “great depression” moved it up a week to spur retail sales and stimulate the failed economy.  (Roosevelt is responsible for Black Friday!  Take that Walmart.)

So even if you had to buy some substitute bread, and as we continue to argue over the interpretation of our national laws, divided as we are into red and blue states of differing philosophies, licking the wounds of yet another long war, and struggling with a precarious economy, there still should be gracious thanks.  Look across the table at your love, your child, your grandchild, or your friends, perhaps experience the joy of volunteering at your local mission, Ronald McDonald House or VA hospital, and look into the eyes of those who feel blessed because you are there.  Measure the bounties of your life by whatever scales are needed, and then, today and every day, give a look up to Heaven and pray: A Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My haunts are haunted! Or are they?

Ah, a peaceful Sunday morning, and it has turned into such a beautiful day, NOT!

I couldn’t sleep but a couple of hours last night; I have more work promised than I could ever accomplish; it is frigid cold outside; and whatever it is that haunts this house is running amok this morning.

A couple hours ago, I went downstairs for a cup of coffee, noticed the pretty snowcaps on the distant peaks, froze my you-know-what off trying to get one shot good enough to post, and returned to the much warmer second floor to download the pictures.

About the time I had them loaded and selected the shot to put up, I started hearing voices.  Now voices in this mostly vacant house are not at all unusual, but most of the time I can make out gender and even some hint as to the age of the voices, but rarely are they audible enough to actually follow the conversations.  This time was different; I could clearly hear the words and make out whole sentences. 

Now, in my bedroom I have an alarm clock radio.  You should understand that I have NEVER in my life used an alarm.  My internal clock is more accurate and always has me awake at the proper time.  Also I have never used the radio feature on the clock, because I don’t listen to radio. 

  After several minutes I when down to discover the never been used radio was on and tuned to a station.  I had to find a spare pair of glasses so that I could see the tiny control buttons and shut it off.  I was stymied but not concerned.

I returned to the loft, finished a couple of small jobs and was setting up to start the eye-bleeder that I should be working on now, when there was an odd crash like sound that came from my office.  I had a stack of #10 envelopes on a bookshelf sitting under a couple of books that I hadn’t refiled yet.  Somehow they got out from under the books and strew themselves across the floor.

By this time I knew my little haunts were playing games.  I see their shadows frequently and I already told you I hear them talking and laughing.  They have never presented any danger, so I abide their presence with some amusement.

But today, they are being a bigger pain-in-the-ass than that Tsarina you hear me reference once in a while (okay, all of the time).  

The radio turned back on.

That inspired me to write a quick email note to my partner and Royal PITA in case she had suddenly developed telekinesis and was playing games with me all the way from Denmark.  While I awaited her answer, I got up and started down the stairs; I was at the half way point when the radio turned off by itself.  I went into the bedroom and checked the controls; they were securely in the off position.  I chuckled to myself and wondered if it were my resident shadow people, or the pranks of an international brat.

If all of that were not enough to keep my day interesting, my poor Sebastian, who is normally peacefully asleep on my lap while I am working, is now alert and watchful with his little head twitching up-and-down and side-to-side like he is following some non-existent bug flying around the room.  If it is only my friendly ghosts, I am happy to play their games, but if this turns out to be the multi-talented Adrianna, I will exact an appropriate revenge.

Ah, a peaceful Sunday morning, and it has turned into such a beautiful day.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Word Count or Words that Count -- advice on the use of modifiers

Adrianna and I have the privilege, and sometimes the tedious task, of reading many stories and pieces by a huge variety of writers.  Between students, writers that I mentor, the Writer’s Gallery, and my editing work (Adrianna has about the same sources), I see some really excellent writing, and some that leaves me cowering in the corner with bloodied eyes.

One of the biggest problems (I will use the plural here for me and my partner) that we see is the improper use of modifiers and descriptors.  In writing instruction, we continually tell people to paint their story.  Show me, don’t tell me. Fill me in on where the characters are. Don’t have an action scene on a blank canvas; show me where the action is.

From that tiny bit of instruction, many new or emerging writers think that every noun and every verb should be modified in some fashion to build their story.  Nothing could be more wrong.
In the past, I have written papers on word choice, and how it creates the magic of your writing.  Part of word choice is economy.  You know that flakey poet that lives up there in your brain? Go wake him or her up (I know they were out late last night again, but we are going to need them).

Poets will demonstrate to you, that given the constraints of their stanzas with or without an iambic foot, they have to develop their ideas with an efficiency of words and syllables that make many prose writers cry.

So what do descriptors and modifiers do for writing? They can foreshadow later events or character traits; add color or depth to a scene; purposely mislead us (in mysteries), and they can augment or diminish the importance of their subject.  What they can also do is drown your reader in superfluous information that distracts from your story while the reader is searching for the purpose of the words.

There are some descriptors that show up more often than the word tempest in Adrianna’s writing (Oh, I am going to pay for that!).  One of my favorites that I see all of the time, is useless bodily description.  “The water ran down her long slender body,” or “She brushed her raven black hair.”  Those two lines, or something very close to that, I have read at least 500 times, and in almost every instance the information was worthless to the character or story.  They were just fill-in words that the writer thought added something. 

It would be different if you were building an image that may have something to do with the story: “She had an exotic beauty that left a wake of wanting admirers wherever she ventured.  Her flawless olive complexion pulled taut over the sleek toned curves up and down her statuesque figure complemented her bedroom eyes and raven hair.  But her looks were only a small part of her weaponry.”  This is the same information, but this time it is telling the reader something.  Also, we can use the word “raven” to describe her hair, rather than two descriptors that mean the exact same thing.

Don’t modify a word or use a descriptor unless it is going to convey details the reader needs to know.  You might paint a scene for a shooting in front of a grocery store: the angle of the sun, the number of cars in the parking lot, the amount of traffic both foot and vehicular, the signage, the curbs, the car stops and sidewalks could all be very important, but how the cans of vegetables are stacked on the inside of the store is more likely useless information.
If you are fond of adjectives and adverbs, write them.  Sometimes they will take the story in a surprising verve.  If you find yourself wanting to describe the vast shelves filled with leather bound books in a room with bright upholstered sofas and chairs, and dark wood tables with stained glass lamps, then maybe your characters are trying to tell you they are rich, well-read, collectors, or decorators.  If not, you might find it necessary to pare those words out in a subsequent reread and edit.

As another example, do not have your character “jump into his candy-apple-red Ferrari and speed away” unless the fact that it’s red, a Ferrari, or that he sped, has something to do with the story.  It is great that you see him that way, but let me in on it.  Why does it matter to me that he has a red Ferrari and speeds?  If it is only an exit from a scene, I don’t need those details.

In workshops, I often get, “Well I think he should be rich and handsome, so that’s why he has a Ferrari.”  Okay, then tell me why that has to do with your story.  If it does, go back and write it.  If it doesn’t, take out the superfluous info, and let my reader’s imagination figure out whether he got into a Chevy Lumina, a BMW 3 series, a Lincoln Town Car, or a red Ferrari.  He left; that’s all we need to know.

Reread your work carefully; don’t let your pride stand in the way of parsing your sentences and paring off unnecessary information.  Be creative with your word choice, but be economical.  Show your readers what they need to know. Don’t bog them down with information that does not drive the story or your characters.  Good writing is not about word count, it is about WORDS THAT COUNT.

Don't be alarmed, it is only the alarm

     As many of you know, I live high on the side of a very steep
mountain.  If I am paying attention, I can hear a vehicle from the time they leave the county road and cross the stream onto my mountain access, all the way until the reach their destination somewhere either above or below me, but then, who pays attention.  Shortly after moving in here, twice I was startled to find an unexpected visitor standing at my front door.  I realized that living this deep in the woods and visually isolated from other houses (my nearest neighbor is two hundred feet above me), I needed some sort of advance warning system to alert me if someone was approaching.  To give you a little perspective, when you get to my gate, you cannot see my house, nor can I see you.  The driveway is approximately 100 yards long, has two 90 degree turns, and rises over 110 feet in height (10 stories) from the gate to the garage.
     After some careful research, I found an affordable, wireless, infrared sensor system with enough range to let me mount it on the gate post and still receive the signal up in the house. 
     It has been great.  When a repairman or the UPS driver is arriving, I know exactly when to go out to meet them.  The few times that unexpected people showed up, I knew they were on the driveway long before I could see them or they could see me.  And when my dog’s best friend, Angel, comes to visit and play, she sets off the alarm and my Sebastian jumps to window, barking his happy greetings.
     If there is a downside to the alarm at all, it is during a brief period in the afternoon when the sun shines directly on that part of the driveway.  The infrared sensor detects the warm sunlight and the slightest movement of a leaf will trip the alarm.  Over the past year, I have grown very used to that, but unfortunately Sebastian still thinks it must be Angel coming up the drive.  To calm him and get him to stop baking, I simply turn off the receiver until the Earth rotates a little further and the sunlight is no longer a problem.
     Well, I should say that was the only downside.  For the past three nights, some nocturnal animal or maybe family of animals has been playing in my driveway.  I haven’t seen them, but I have been awakened by their detected presence each night.  Whatever it or they are, the alarm does not only go off once, it trips again and again and again until I either go turn on the porch lights (which sometimes scares whatever it is away) or I turn off the alarm and lie awake worried that now I am left unprotected and you know that will be the exact time some crazed escaped murderer will walk up the mountain, bypassing all the other houses along the way, and break in my front door to get me.  No, I need the alarm active and the stupid animals gone.
     It has just occurred to me that this might be the first and only practical use for my night-vision monocular.  Yes, I really do have night-vision; it was a big boy toy that I treated myself to a few years back to watch the coyotes on the mountain behind another house I lived in.  I may have to play Navy Seals tonight and see if I can identify these varmint trespassers.
     We don’t have many of the large animals on this part of the mountain; the dogs that run free (Angel) keep the deer, catamount, and bear away.  I am sure that there are unseen raccoons and opossums frolicking with the ever-present populous of squirrels and chipmunks.  I have witnessed more than a couple of cottontail rabbits, heard turkeys, and the other day when Angel came to visit, she proved beyond all reasonable doubt, that somewhere around here there are skunks.  I didn’t let her in.   Which of these species it is that is robbing me of sleep, I have no idea, but I intend to find out.
     So here is my carefully thought out plan that I devised in the last five minutes.  I’ll stay up all night tonight, wear my fall colored camouflage pajamas (Note to self: go buy camo pj’s), paint my cheeks with black shoe polish (not the beard), about 1 a.m. sneak down to the second bend in the driveway, settle down on the concrete, remember I forgot the damn night-vision monocular, go back to the house and pour a cup of coffee to break the chill of walking around outside in my stocking feet, put on some warmer socks and my sneakers, take the coffee with me out the side door to the driveway, turn around curse my stupidity and go get the monocular, and eventually sit on the freezing concrete to spy on my little animal pests.
     Of course, once I have identified the culprits, I will have only one choice.  I gave up hunting thirty-five years ago, and I am not in favor of ever wasting a life (Well, there are a few people I wouldn’t mind… Oh, never mind), but this alarm is driving me crazy (It just now went off again!).  My only choice is to go into the closet, get a step stool, reach all the way to the top shelf in the back, and get my spare pillow to cover head while I try to sleep and hope Sebastian wakes me up when that sociopath kicks down the door.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Human emotions, a Penske rental truck, divorce and a new outlook on life

      Human emotions are so fickle and difficult. I have no idea how you people live with them.  A short while ago, a longtime friend who I married, and suffered a much too prolonged relationship, pulled away in a Penske rental truck with more than half of what I thought was mine.  My marriage has ended.
     There were no dishes thrown or vile name calling; only a solemn parting of ways.  This ending started and stopped too many times to count, but this time it is for real and permanent.  She wants to live near her children, and there was not enough of a relationship left for her to want to stay here with me, or for me to go there with her.
     So we parted as friends with a momentary, passionless hug that would have been more appropriate for a casual friend met in a public forum.
     Our marriage, that can now be pronounced dead, (the Death Certificate will read 8:10 a.m., November 19, 2013) has never been anything great.  There were too many lies, mutual indiscretions, horrible misunderstandings, and in the case of her daughters that I helped raise, the failure to ever consummate a true family unit. 
     Still all in all, that big yellow truck headed south is taking my regular dinner companion, half of my daily conversations, my housekeeping partner, and financial confederate.  Not counting the years of pre-marital relations, we shared 32 years and two months as a couple, with likes and dislikes, common experiences both good and bad, and varied uncommon friendships, she with hers and me with mine.  Part of me left in that truck.  All of those memories we shared have now been ripped from our communal book to be separated from now on.  Okay, it’s over, and although my life won’t and can’t be the same, it can be better.
     This marriage taught me the difference between love and being in love.  I discovered that it is possible to love someone without being in love, and that may be the best way to sum this up.  I have tasted being in love, and this wasn’t it.  None-the-less, for whatever it was, there is now a void in my daily life that will have to be dealt with (not to mention a whole bunch of voids where things were that are now gone).  I know this separation is right; it is way overdue, and it will be better for both of us.  At the same time, I also know we will likely never see each other ever again.  That has my eyes a tad weepy. 
     I think I would be doing better if I was mad, but I’m not.  I am only sad.  Sad that I failed, that we both failed.  Sad that it came apart so late.  Sad she took one of the dogs and left the other, and both will miss their other master.  Sad, because that is all that’s left to feel. 
     I’m back to how you ordinary people do this.  I am beginning to have a little more respect for you humans.
     Email has friends chiming in from all over with well-meaning advice to go party, or bury myself in any activity that avails itself.  Some are pleading that I go back and do all the things I didn’t do while married.  Then one, who always seems to have the right words, is telling me that if I didn’t feel this conflicted sadness mixed with a gladdened relief, then my humanity would come into question.  Me?  Human?  Plffffthz!  (Sorry, you have a tiny bit of spittle on your cheek.)
     So now I am back to wondering how you mere mortal beings deal with this emotional crap in your day-to-day lives.  There must be some intoxicant or antidote you use to ease the turmoil.  Is there anything more than trite Hallmark sayings?  I remember in the movie version of John Berendt’s true crime novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, one of the many real life personalities, Lady Chablis (a drag queen), who was a part of the social scene, wherein the renown antique dealer Jim Williams murdered his gay lover in the Mercer House in old Savannah.  She (he) expressed her (his) feigned mourning over the slain male prostitute and former roommate by declaring"Two tears in a bucket, Mother Fuck it."  That is certainly not Hallmark card quality (or even American Greetings), but it might be the best thing I’ve heard all day.
     That may be a little coarse, but it is time for me to shake off the dirt and dust of the past three decades and begin a new life.  I resolve right now that I am going to dry out these tear ducts so I can see clearer and formulate a plan to make this new part of my life better; not to ignore the past, but to concentrate on the future.
     I don’t need a lot of feedback on this post, but you are welcome to if you feel motivated.  I debated with my business partner whether I even needed to say something.  It was decided that I needed the cathartic cleansing, and as usual, she was right (damn, you’d think just once she’d get something wrong).  I do feel better now than when I wrote the starting sentence, and I guess that IS THE START!  All that is left now is to shed this pathetic public perception of me being human and get back to being the divine me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Do you know what I just hate.....?

No, I wouldn't subject you readers to my whole list.  Even if I only listed my own many pathetic faults (or those that my dear Adrianna loves to continually point out), this post would take up much too much space and time.  If I started to list all of the things wrong with you other people (yes, including you), I would have to plan my funeral early (I'd either die from writer's cramps or by the demonic-inspired hand of some latent slayer of mediocre fiction writers who might secretly love to see me planted).  No, I think I will pick on just one of my hated things.  (I just used just in a sentence.  I hate that, too, and so does Adrianna, believe me, she tells me all the time).  Okay two of my hateful things.  That should just be enough to fill this post.  (I just did it again, didn't I?)

Okay, what I just REALLY hate:  I hate that everything is moving just too fast.  I think faster than my phailing phat phingers can possibly type.  My plurals seem to always lose their ass, oops, I mean S.  My "yours" comes out as you.  I commonly omit articles like the, a, both.  I misspell the eesiest words, and autocorrect helps by substituting the wurst ideals in the most inopportunity places.  Ask my pretty PITA partner, she spends her days correcting me with an evil laugh and a licorice grin.

Add my horrid typing skills to the modern practices of instant messaging, hurried emails, and blog posts that can't wait for the requisite reread, edit, rewrite, edit, reread, cross out, send to a friend, be embarrassed, start over and eventually throw in the trash, like my normal work goes through.  No, in today's impatient world, I end up with sentences like, "Are your word that the way someone in their position would talk?"  That is real excerpt, right out of my Word Choice post.  Great word choices, huh?

Before I met my Pain-in-the-Aarhus (the city in Denmark), I had to self-edit.  That took rereads by the dozens.  See, I read like my mind thinks, no time for articles or bad spelling, just figure it must there and move on.  I don't see the simple things, only the big picture.  Did I get the point out?  Okay, success!  "What do you mean it doesn't make sense?"  Eventually, I came to realize that my first through my seventh drafts always read like it was written by a dyslexic fourth grader for whom English is a second language.  I need help.  Thank God for Adrianna Joleigh.

Did you get my point yet?  

Yesterday morning, as Adrianna and I were planning the day and triaging the tasks for the Writer's Gallery, the Christmas Challenge, the Select Showcase, gathering contributed content, plus our respective money making occupations, I managed to say something that really upset my partner.  As a consequence, she hardly talked to me all day, and when she did, it felt like a winter's gale wind blowing straight off the North Sea.  I was left alone and scared to deal with my many foibles all by myself.  I not only "did not like it," I HATED it; THAT is what I just hate.  

Oh, you thought the "I hate" was about my sloppy typing, pathetic spelling and hurried posting, nope; what I just hate is when I manage to piss off my darling Royal PITA, Adrianna and she gives me that intolerable cold shoulder all the way from the shores of northern Europe (and believe me, she has the mental and emotional stamina to keep it going full-force all day).  In all honesty, I'd much rather deal with her cruelly used cat-o-nine-tails whip and her rusty shackles than her inhumane silent treatment.  She knows I love her (I hope), but she has a magical gift for torture that she wields with perverse pleasure.

I am truly sorry, Your Majesty.  I am and will always be your humble and loyal servant.  Please, let me come in from the dog house, it is cold out here; I will kiss your feet to make you feel as special as you really are. 
(Shh, I think she's buying it.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Steven's Clock (excerpt)

     The following is an except from an unfinished manuscript; it was posted here to garner a few cherished opinions as to the subject matter and the harsh portrayal of deviant sexual tendencies.  The initial 3,000 words were written in a single, sit down and type session with no prior research.  There were no edits or rewrites.   
     This is not simple fiction; it is written using significant conventions of the Modernist Movement, the story begins at the end and the traces the self-destructive choices of moderately successful accountant through the demise of his career, three failed marriages and the loss of his familial relationships.  My use of an unconventional, non-omniscient narrator speaking in the present tense directly to the reader and relating the past deeds of the degenerate Steven is intended to poke fun at some of the (my opinion) sophomoric conventions of the now popular Contemporary Movement.
     This excerpt of three paragraphs is not intended to reveal the entire plot line nor even the complexity of the characters. (If I ever found myself writing that simplistically I would abandon my literary career.)  A longer except may well have been more inviting to a casual internet reader, but the paragraphs contiguous to these were too poorly written to display without significant reworking.
     Feel free to read through and comment if you wish, but I have decided NOT to abandon the roughly 3,000 words of the unfinished first draft.  I suspect that the initial writing when culled in editing and rewritten to exploit language coloring, appropriately researched content and the requisite careful literary allusions will span between 3,000 and 4,000.  With all due respect to the hurried normality of Internet writing, I would suspect that this piece might be ready for viewing as a completed work in 3 to 4 months.

     The times changed and Steven didn’t.  Locked in a mire of self-assuredness and conceit, he ignored the damage his every relationship suffered.  Divorced for the third time, estranged from his brother, and an outcast at his menial job as an accounts payable clerk the Fordham’s Ford dealership, Steven easily identified every fault of every person he ever met, and was never afraid to voice his opinion. 
     Our poor, unsympathetic protagonist lives in a three room basement apartment where the rent covers all utilities and cable TV.  He had tried to upgrade the cable subscription to include some wished for movie channels, but the bill was in Jack’s, the landlord, name.  He did eventually convince a customer service rep to allow him to buy pay-per-view features using his debit card and keep it off the master bill.  These days, if you should venture past the side-yard entrance to his subterranean lair at any time later than ten at night, you will likely here the sophomorically written mood music and over-emoted moans of the latest adult channel releases.  With his right hand lover and his voyeuristic television, Steven reconciled himself to a voluntary hermitage.    

     Life hadn’t always been so simple.  In his youth, he had a string of passionate affairs propagated with hormone driven lust and a steadfast disbelief in the existence of love.  These trysts rarely lasted longer than a few weeks before our charming gigolo became bored his “unimaginative” sex partner, and with his callous but characteristic post-coital declaration of his dissatisfaction, ended the relationship by crushing yet another vulnerable ego while smirking at the incredulous look in her eyes.  In his mind, it was time to move on to the next willing woman in line.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

For All the Tea in Denmark

There was a time when mail was delivered on horseback that the idea of stringing a few wires, adding some relays and talking in a dit dot dit code, you could send a message across the country was an absurd fantasy.

Then this dude Alex came along and got the notion that using some kind of magic, and using the same type of wires and relays as a telegraph, he could send your voice anywhere that had one of his little black boxes with, you guessed it, a Bell inside.  (Talk about self-promotion!)

Marconi did Bell one better, he cast a spell that let voices fly invisibly across miles of sky and blended with some eerie whistles and hiss, could be heard on yet another box.  The radio magic was a huge success and just a couple of weeks before Betty Cronin was to release her newly patented frozen Radio Dinners, Philo Farnsworth improved Marconi's incantation and started broadcasting grainy black and white pictures to weirdly constructed radios with big tubes sticking through the front of the cabinet.

It would not be long before another Alex dreamed of a fantasy world where you could hook his new little box to Bell's little box, and providing someone at the other end had the same kind of box, you could put a piece of paper in one box and have a facsimile of it come out the other.  That of course became the "Bain" of businesses everywhere with the invention of fax spamming.

Only a short few years later, Vice President Al Gore, single handedly invented the Internet, and with a magic that is as yet still not known (Oops, sorry for the delay.  I got knocked off line.)  Anyway, people are still perfecting this unbelievable voodoo, where documents, pictures, whole files, live video, VoIP, and email are all instantly available to everyone who has a box with magic "Gates" inside.

This progression of these technologies is still astounding even today when most of us have never used a telegram, Martin (or is it Martian) Cooper cut the wires off our telephones, fax machines are now unsellable junk in thrift stores, Al Gore sold his TV network to Al Jazeera, and Bill Gates is trying to eradicate the world's diseases while viruses still plague his magic boxes.  But we need one more magical invention.

My partner, co-host, student and friend is "under-the-weather" over in Denmark.  I really want to get her a fresh cup of steaming tea to comfort her in her misery.  I need the next generation of magic boxes so I can put it in here and have it come out there.  Sorry, Adrianna.  I tried.  Maybe you could "nuke" a cup of water in that other magic box and make your own tea while I try to figure out the secret to molecular transportation.  Where is my chief engineer Scotty when I need him?

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Few Choice Words

What’s the difference between ordinary writing and extraordinary literature?

Word choice.

     That is not some editorial decree to run out and buy a new thesaurus (although if you don’t own J. I. Rodale’s Synonym Finder, you should go get it), there is a lot more to word choice than a simple book-learned substitution of terms.
     As a self-directed exercise, I suggest you take any sentence out of your most recent work (eventually, take them all out, but start with just one) and challenge yourself to find three uniquely different ways of expressing that same thought.  While ruminating over your language skills, run across your cerebral hall and wake up that flaky poet who resides in the left hemisphere of your brain.  Ask your reclusive internal bard if he/she could suggest a better, more artistic way of presenting your idea.      
      Look for neoteric words, innovative sentence structures and scene appropriate idiom that will convey your ideas more proficiently and with more originality. Consider using of symbolism, analogy, metaphor, simile or juxtaposed scenarios to show your reader the story, not just tell it.
     Great writing requires great effort.  It takes practice to find new, different and novel (pun intended) ways to express your thoughts, and it does require study.  Read the classics, read the acclaimed, read the published, then go back and read them again.  Study the way the masters take a simple idea and apply the alchemy of word choice to turn the heavy LEAD of writing into the precious GOLD of literature.     A favorite line of mine is from Nabokov’s Lolita, as Vladimir described an ill kept lawn, he wrote, “Most of the dandelions had changed from suns into moons.”

     Can you see that lawn?  Is that not a great way to describe weeds?  Keep in mind that this was written by a man who grew up speaking Russian, went to school in France (speaking French) and came to the U.S. with English as his THIRD language.
     Next scan your writing for passé / dated language, clichés and unintentional informality.  I just break this rule every time I write.  Seems like just about every sentence I write with more than five words, just ends up with just in it.  It just bothers the hell out of me.  Really, I just hate that word just, but I say it all of the time so it just sneaks into my writing.
      Be continuously vigilant for equally mundane words or phrases that threaten to infiltrate your writing from the borders of your unregulated conversational language.  When you re-read, don’t read in your own voice; read with the new eyes of your potential audience.  Read your stories out loud, and slowly.  If you have succumbed to the habit of poor language and dismal sentence structure, the offending words will stick to your tongue like the purple dye of cheap grape candy.  
Another offense that every writer commits at times is the use of overused descriptions and clichés.  As an editor, nothing bothers me more than reading something from an author who I know has talent, and running across terms like "chiseled features" of their handsome hero, or his damsel who is "a diamond in the rough" and the inevitability their "falling head over heels" in love.  I would much rather read about a man whose symmetry and lines would make a Michelangelo sculpture envious, who is attracted to a commonly woman whose unadorned aesthetics belie the rich beauty of her soul, and their fated mating of hearts, where two bodies become the symbiotic unity of one love.
     Moving on, the next thing you need to parse and analyze, is your story’s dialogue.  Go hide in your bedroom or out in the shed, and act out your story!  Are your characters speaking like the people you wrote them to be, or are the people in your story talking just like you.  Excuse me for a moment while I strap on this safety helmet; you’ll understand in a second (have you seen my partner, Adrianna?).
      Not long ago I was helping a 
friend with a story.  In a scene were several seasoned, rough and ready, deadly combat marines were facing an as-yet unknown enemy.  One of the subordinate soldiers asked his CO if they should “blow the barn to smithereens.”  Duck!  Here Adrianna comes with her bat!
      I was cussed at for the next few days as my PITA researched military jargon and combat lingo to pen the right words for her platoon of doomed marines.  In the end the Mist lifted and her soldiers sounded like the lethal combatants she needed for the story to work.     
       Who are your characters?  Are they soldiers, doctors, nurses, teenagers, octogenarians, drug addicts, thieves, cops, Bible thumping preachers, unrepentant sinners, promiscuous bar flies, ex-cons or latent homosexual college professors?  Take the story’s action off the page, and look at the naked dialogue out of the context of your story's momentum.  Who is talking?  Are you using your words or are you writing the dialogue of someone with the heritage, education and socio-economic position of your character?  
     For the next exercise, you will need to replace your story’s action back on the page.  This time I want you to take a red pencil and divide your story into action segments.  Whether through summary narration, character actions, crisis building, resolution or denouement, your story is in constant motion.  (If not maybe you should consider starting over.)  With your story segmented, examine each of the portions and define the action using no more than two or three words.  Once you have a name for the action, take out your Synonym Finder (or thesaurus) and start listing as many words as possible that imply or complement that action.  If there is fire, build a list of words that relate to smoke, heat, flame, burnt, ash, charred, inferno, hell.  If there is a contest, look for words that imply victory (or defeat).  Use the same methodology for anger, romance, revenge, fear, betrayal, etc.  You should have a separate list for each change in the direction your story takes.  With these lists in hand, go word by word through your action segments substituting as many relational nouns, verbs and adjectives as is possible.  This is what is known in literature as coloring a story.  It guides your readers through the action with repetitious subliminal suggestions.
     Word colors will carry your audience along the currents of a story's energy, trap them in the eddies of character indecision and thrash them against the rocks in the rapids of crisis.

      When you've finished putting your colors in, go back through the words that you didn't change and be SURE that there are no words that contrast with the color of the action.  You would not want rosy, prize, win, award, ribbon, trophy, optimistic or leader if your character is in a downward spiral or in the process of failing at his/her efforts.

     Coloring your scenes will draw your readers into the mood of the story; dialogue will build the realism of your characters; idiom that matches the time, place and culture of your story creates credibility, and innovative expression will demonstrate your mastery of the craft.
      Writing takes effort; great writing takes great effort.  Nabokov, Faulkner, Chekov, Hemingway, Joyce, Kafka and Melville were not made in a single day.  They practiced and failed; learned and grew; and eventually found their unique path to the immortality we all strive for.  Your path is waiting.
      Did you REALLY think you were done?  C’mon, no one said this was going to be easy.  Get that story back out!   Read through it one more time and find everyplace you used the same word twice (or God forbid three times).  Recheck those sentences carefully, are there other word substitutions that might work?  Could you restructure the presentation of the story without using and re-using the same words.  Even your grandma’s 1950s vintage edition of Roget’s Thesaurus might suggest a few words to improve your writing.
       Okay, the lesson is over.  Now it is up to you to study, practice and improve.  The next time you need a woman to scream in fear while a violent storm rages and a door creaks open letting in some evil entity; I want to experience the high octave modulation of incomprehensible terror, the trees of the shadowy copse weeping their unheeded warning amidst the howl of dark winds, and the rusty pivots of hinges braking hard against unlubricated pins with an eerily down-pitched whistle that announces the ominous entry of the demonic poltergeist.
     Word choice is the incantation behind the Magic of Writing.  If you study the ancient texts, learn the lessons of sorcerers with more experience, practice your spell casting, and have confidence in your mystic powers, you too can create extraordinary literature from ordinary writing.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Man in the Cloud

The Man in the Cloud

I was where I ought not be,
In my sin, I ventured forth,
In a stolen craft, at sea.
In my sin, I ventured forth,
Into a cloud not risen,
I feared not my dire course.
Into a cloud not risen,
My senses all had failed me,
Intoxicated with sin.
My senses all had failed me,
Gray on gray, no up, no down,
I reeled in uncertainty.

Gray on gray, no up, no down,
I moved without confusion,
I knew not when to turn 'round.

I moved without confusion,
In a blissful loneliness,
Without wanting to be done.

In a blissful loneliness,
A voice bade me "Good morning",
I shrieked and cried "Who is this?"

A voice bade me "Good morning",
The man in the cloud spoke more,
He asked what I was doing.

The man in the cloud spoke more,
I was where I ought not be,
I travel that way no more.


     Autumn pervades the forested hilltops, draining the colors of youth from the crown of foliage.  The aging textures and colors change and branches are left withered and fragile.  It is hard not to look westward into the sunset, fearing that this day, like all of time, might be left unfulfilled.  And time marches on, an undefeatable foe.
     But instead I yearn to look east toward the days of my youth, contemplating the errors of my ways and thinking how if blessed with another opportunity, I would not repeat those tragic mistakes.  The western skies are a stark reminder of so many past seasons spent in futile attempts to cultivate the intangibles that never existed, yielding only a semi-developed orchard of fruitless trees.
     Poets write and troubadours sing of the blissful folly of melting hearts, the lilting myth of unending love where two can be one, but one cannot be at all without the other.  You would have never received such affirmation from me.  No, I lived the life I am now deserting not believing in that fabulous myth, denying faith in the improbable concept that Adam, whose rib was taken to create Eve, could not ever be made whole without Eve to complete him.  Like Gabriel’s revelation in the Madonna silhouette of his wife, Gretta with her grace and mystery, standing on the stair, obscured in shadow, eyes cast upward, listening to the angelic music, The Lass of Aughrim, I, too, questioned the lost chances at such mythical love.  As Joyce so masterfully put it:

“Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.”

    It was late in life that I revisited the great myth; I met someone who seemed to fill that void in me.  Although the fit was not perfect, I held on desperately, vowing to never let go of that fleeting moment, but corrosives invaded through the misshaped cracks and eroded the weakened bonds; the rib that I mistook as my own left me and I was once again unfulfilled.  I was as certain as Gabriel that “[t]he time had come … to set out on [my] journey westward,” alone among the living and the dead.
     The darkness of my unused life persisted for months and into years.  I heard voices, and song, and laughter, and joy, everywhere except on my path into the sunset.  I hid within a false persona, spying on a world I could not share, frightened and hopeless with neither the will to live nor the desire to die.  In my grief, I buried all that was important of me, interred in sacred scrolls carefully exhumed and ceremoniously transplanted with each computer generation.  These were my relics, the only evidence of what could have been, my immortality not yet written.

     But then, alone in my lightless existence a thought called out to me; a thought like none I had ever thought; a thought more powerful than I could imagine.  That thought is now my beacon, lighting my path back into the solid world, back to my roots, back to the prospect of finding my long lost rib.  I have a map now, a goal, and a destination, whether it is ultimately the right destination, only the journey can prove.  My beacon disentombed my former self and carried the rotting corpse on her rays to a place of resurrection and rebirth.  I am alive again and grateful.

     I am facing east once more, into the bright sun.  There is optimism in my soul, albeit tempered by dark memories of the past.  No, I will not repeat the mistakes of my previous travels.  I have been granted a new opportunity.  It may be the only one I will ever need, or it may be the first of many.  Only time can tell, but time is no longer my enemy.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I am scared as hell right now

     Ah!  Saturday morning.  It’s the weekend, right?  My life is so topsy-turvy that I have lost the compass that gives meaning to the idea of a “weekend.”
     Saturday and Sunday are my busiest days for work production, primarily because my clients all want to meet beginning of the week deadlines and pay cycle cut offs and my pinging partner has obligations that don’t include me.  These are my quiet workdays spent toiling to stay ahead of the raging tsunami waters.
     Perhaps the weekend is really my Friday.  I have this improbable prospect of some small respite come Monday and Tuesday, so they might be like your planned, quiet and restful weekend that you’ll spend cleaning leaves out of the gutters, pressure washing the house and reorganizing the garage, right? (Football?  What's that?)
     But in an ironic contrast, the weekend might also be my Monday.  I have to organize, plan and triage my queue of work to assure timely deliveries on each of those other days that end in “Y” or is that supposed to be “Why?”  All of my days seem to end in Why?
     I must keep my topsy-turvydom (real word, look it up) organized.  I have two long term writing projects, a couple of young talented writers to mentor, a half dozen private instruction students, I maintain a blog, took on a partner, started another site that has so many facets that no one outside of my warped head seems to know the full extent of my goal, and still answer 70 - 80 emails a day asking for advice, direction or help, requesting a schedule opening for an editing project, proposing new joint ventures, and occasionally containing a friendly hello from some shadow of memory that crossed my path at a distant place in time.  It all runs like clockwork (yeah, right!). 
     Day to day, I keep this delicate balance by standing on a faltering foundation, afraid to look down.  I keep my head above my phantom stacks of comforting work with my face painted in sun-filled smiles and broadcasting the raucous laugh and inane humor of an impetuous jokester.  But beneath my carefully constructed façade, no one is allowed to see the dread and fear I have of a future bereft of the false hope that a thousand yesterdays foolishly held.  
     The saying goes that when one door closes, another opens.  My world is a place of familiar discomfort, a room where I know every piece of furniture and discarded hope.  I can navigate here with my eyes shut and never stub a toe.  My great fear is of a room unseen, unfamiliar, with barricades and obstacles to bruise and batter my limbs, with unknown rules that carry frightening consequences handed down in words I have yet to learn.  My tomorrow is that unknown place.  In my youth, that would have been exciting, but instead I am terrified and worried.

     Bottom line is this:  If I throw a joke at you at an inopportune time, or seem distant, withdrawn or depressed, if I lose myself in work while taking on even more jobs with urgent due dates, or if you catch me smiling with eyes that are dark and empty, don’t take it personal.  I am scared as hell right now. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Did you say Proofreader or Editor?

Did you say Proofreader or Editor? (a repost from

2 Votes

Picture 1Adrianna and I thought we might like to address something that almost all writers know something about, but a topic of which few emerging writers have a competent knowledge.  In fact, two distinctly different job titles that I perform work under on a daily basis, my primary source of income, are often confused and frequently interchanged by novice writers.  Both Adrianna and I offer ourselves out as both “proofreaders” and as “editors.”  They are not the same job, not by a long shot.  I will let my PITA explain things as she sees it and applies it to the jobs she does, but for myself, here is an easy summary.
When I proofread, I am looking for punctuation, dropped words, grammatical errors such as singular/plural usage, gender errors, homonyms, misspellings, etc.  The job of a proofreader is to NOT change or improve the language, just proof any errors.  I proofread a lot of research reports, medical dissertations, legal filings, and trial transcripts.  None of which do I have the privilege of altering outside of the basics.  The most I can do is highlight an area and suggest the author might consider a partial re-write.  This is NOT editing.
Editing, although it does in part consider all of the tasks of a proofreader, is reading for a much more complex series of correctable issues.  I will tell you here, that when someone sends me a project to edit, and it has not been proofread, I will send it back; I cannot be distracted by a thousand petty errors when looking at the bigger picture.  An editor is there to improve the author’s writing.  I am looking for plot structure, credibility, plausibility, continuity and readability.  I am studying word usage and coloration (where modifiers imply the same emotion), character development, scene placement, idiom, and depending on the genre, proper foreshadowing, literary layering, allusion opportunity, the subtle threads that weave a great story/novella/novel.  I don’t rewrite anything, but there will be tons of red ink throughout the pages with suggestive and constructive critiques.
An edit is not a single use read through, it is a back and forth relationship between a trusted advisor and a writer looking to improve their work. It is not for the ego of, “None of you know what you’re talking about, my story is perfect, just the way I wanted it.”  I won’t take work from people like that, the money I make is not worth the headache.  You don’t hire an editor to praise your work, an editor is there for one purpose: to find every flaw, every fault, everything you did wrong and show it to you so that you can fix it.  An editor does not necessarily have to be a better writer than the writer that is being improved.  A writer has conceived, gestated and given birth to their little progeny.  The editor is removed from all of the parental love and like a good pediatrician, isn’t captivated by the cuteness of the infant, but whether there is anything wrong.
Those who know me, know that I am always saying no piece of writing is ever “done.”  There comes a point when it is “ready,” but never is it done.  Walt Whitman first publishedLeaves of Grass in 1855; he was still rewriting and editing it until his death in 1892.  It was ready for publication SEVEN times (including the Death Bed Edition that was published two months after his passing). That being said, when you are through with an editor, your work will be ready for publication.
bae910b9-d3a9-482f-affe-8395e4f97ec3Hi everyone.  It’s the PITA—I mean, Adrianna.  David, seriously, I think we should just legally change my name to PITA since I sign all my mails that now. Also, I’m growing fond of my tiara.
Okay, back to the point of the post. Those of you who know me know that I’ve not been writing as long as some of you, but nothing gives more experience as an editor,proofreader and writer than rejections.  I’ve had editor after editor look at my work.  Out of my eagerness to learn more and more, I contacted people to help me find out what my writing was lacking.  How can I grow?  Along the way I began to learn what to look for in a story.  After many hours of reading and researching, I remembered what I was taught by my teachers about Literary Writing and the points of a good editor.  Along that journey, I’ve picked up some great concepts and rules to follow.  If I hadn’t sought out other editors during my journey to learning how to become a better writer, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  For those of you who think that this sounds easy, it’s not.  I’ve shed frustrating tears in my journey to where I am today.
What do I look for when I edit?  Well, whether you’re a client of mine or a friend whose work I’ve had the pleasure of editing, then you know that I do not joke around when I edit.  David and I even edit one another’s work (Yes, every editor needs an editor), and cringe when we know the other is about to open a file of corrections and/or suggestions.  It’s not always easy when it’s someone you know, but it has to be done.  If you care about the life of a story, no matter who wrote it, then honesty needs to play the major role here.
Once I open the book, I look at the first five paragraphs.  They alone will tell me what I need to know about the author.  I search for passive and active voice; excessive use of adverbs; are they not showing and only telling; sentence structure; repetition; do the sentences in the paragraph complement one another; punctuation; wordy sentences; lack of immediacy (in genres that call for this); and a few other small things.  When I edit someone’s work and they are willing to learn how to write, I will give them a few tips to go by, and then work on it one step at a time.  For some writers, too many corrections and lessons at once can be overwhelming.
Okay, David, I think I’ve said enough. I could go on and on and on, but I don’t want their eyes to bleed.  Not tonight.  Maybe tomorrow. :P