At the Mirror: Stranger in a Strange Land

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Marietta Rodgers has a funny, quirky, oft times political blog:
The Mordant Scribe.
This piece of writing is plain and simple fun, and not what you think.
If you need a laugh, read on.
Comments are closed here. Click on over and enjoy.

Stranger in a Strange Land

by Marietta Rodgers

“You’re here,” I say, a bit frazzled because I had not finished dusting my collection of  Gothic ashtrays.

“Yes, I realize I’m a bit early,” the stranger says uneasily. “I’m a little nervous; I haven’t done this in a long time.

“Well, I’ve never done this before. Do you want to do it right here on the table,” I ask, pointing to my kitchen table with a rotting fruit bowl as its centerpiece.

“Anywhere is fine,” he says, looking down at his feet embarrassed.

I nod and make my way to the hall closet. Immediately when I open the door, a broom falls out and the handle hits me square in the forehead with an audible, whack.  I shove the broom into the very back of the closet so it won’t assault me the next time I open it. A lone Members Only Jacket is hanging up, just hoping and waiting for the day that epaulets are in vogue again. My eyes scan the contents on the shelf. I see the box that I want underneath an old blanket. As I make my way back to the table, with the box in hand, I hear my tea kettle singing.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I was going to make myself a cup of tea.”

“I’ll have one as well.” I sit the box on the table and empty the contents of the fruit bowl, where I notice several fruit flies had died.

The stranger adds a little milk to his tea. The milk was already expired by at least three days; I had forgotten to dump it out. I debate on whether I should tell him or not. I finally decide that I will not.

Mom always said to check the date on the milkShe probably meant before you buy it though, not if you’re at a random stranger’s house.  

I pour my tea and politely refuse the three-day-old milk, when the stranger offers it. Instead, I open my cookie jar and take out a flask containing whiskey and pour a little into my cup.  I don’t like how the stranger is judging me with his eyes…

(continue reading: Stranger in a Strange Land)

March For Our Lives

David Hogg, (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Most of my followers have heard me mention a time or two that my youngest brother was a victim of gun violence. Fifteen years ago this summer, he was shot in the head inside his home. There was no national coverage, no thoughts and prayers from politicians. He was just another gun death among the thousands that occur in the US every year, most so routine that we never hear about them.

These days, there are too many to report.
Mass shootings 2018 to date: 69
School shootings 2018 to date: 12

Approximately 33,000 Americans die from guns every year, that’s the equivalent of a 9/11 every month. On average that’s 96 gun-deaths each and every day. The statistics are plentiful and horrifying.

“March for Our Lives” rally March 24, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

When I was a grief counselor for children and families, I witnessed the long-term effects of grief as a result of violence. In addition to the common physical, emotional, and spiritual responses to a death, violence piles on an extra layer of cruelty. Because someone did it on purpose. Someone made the choice to pull a trigger and steal a future, not only from the person who died but from everyone within his or her circle of friends and family.

For the survivors that loss doesn’t occur just once, but over and over again through the years in a long series of absences and missing and longing for what might have been and will never be. Because someone had access to a gun and didn’t care.

In this country, no one is safe from gun violence, including thousands of children. After 20 tiny kids and 6 teachers were murdered in Sandy Hook, I thought my nation might say enough is enough.

It didn’t.

Gun laws were relaxed. The shootings continued unabated. Our lawmakers offered platitudes and stuck to their guns, both literally and figuratively. What does an inability to even attempt to protect our children say about us as a country?

Then yesterday, teenagers took over. Eloquent, angry, committed, organized, passionate, they challenged our leaders to change or kiss their privileged careers goodbye. And these kids won’t take no for an answer. For me, they triggered tears of old loss and new hope. I was so proud of them. These children restored my faith in my country. Finally, finally, I feel the momentum. Change is coming.

Finally, my brother’s death counts. Finally his one hatch-mark in the sea of statistics matters.

Enough is enough.

The last photo of my brothers and me together, 2002

Author Interview: D Wallace Peach

Over my break, I answered a few questions about The Rose Shield series for Kathy Wagoner’s blog. Kathy’s another speculative fiction writer. If you have the time, stop by to say hi and check out her blog. And have a wonderful weekend!

KL Wagoner

Author D. Wallace Peach infuses her speculative fiction with vivid prose and intriguing plots. Her twelve published books are divided between two four-book series and four standalone novels. Kari’s Reckoning (2017) is the fourth and final novel in her Rose Shield series, a storyline that explores flawed and compelling characters, a sentient landscape, and a magic system that allows for manipulating emotions. Learn more about Diana and her writing on her website/blog MythsOfTheMirror.com and her Amazon author page, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@dwallacepeach), and Goodreads.


What was the initial spark for the Rose Shield seriesa character, the setting, a what-if question?
For any of my books, my initial spark is usually something related to a magic system. I’m a fan of fantasy author Brandon Sanderson and enjoy the structure he brings to the magic in his books, including how he integrates his…

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The Word Police

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I’m back from my break and it wasn’t all about relaxing. In fact, I spent a good deal of time in custody. This post is about 3 years old, but the Word Police continue to visit me every time a WIP starts throwing it’s weight around and threatening to take hostages. While I catch up on reading posts and replying to comments, I hope you enjoy this oldie, but goodie.

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Your WIP is looking respectable. It kicks off with a barbed hook and wraps up with a big fish. You’ve plugged up the plot holes, got the dialog flowing, the pace humming, and planted Chekov’s gun on the mantel. The characters are consistent, motivated, and true to life. The structure can withstand a windstorm.

The time has arrived for a visit from the Word Police,
and they’re a humorless bunch.

This is Step 3 in my editing process, the epitome of tediousness, a procrastinator’s nightmare. This is when writing is unadulterated, grueling toil. It’s time for me to weed out all those lame words, wimpy verbs, and crutch words that add no value to my prose. They’re plain old polyester when I strive for silk.

We all tap ordinary words. This post brims with them. Sometimes they’re the perfect choice, and sometimes there’s no wriggling around them.  In dialog, where characterization drives dialect and word choice, an attempt to police your words could prove foolhardy.

Yet, on the whole, if we explore more colorful options, delete the meaningless fillers, and zero in on those “telling” indicators, our writing will grow richer and more compelling.

In my case, the Word Police handcuff me to my recliner for weeks on end, inject me with caffeine, and force me to use the “Find” function in Word until my eyeballs dry out and my brain shrivels. They know my lazy words well, those I’m oblivious to as they tiptoe into my WIP. For starters the Crutch-word Cops make me look up 561 “that’s.”

I look at thousands of words, one at a time. When I can, I switch them out, thin them, delete them, or rewrite them away…depending.

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Here’s the full list (except for the ones I missed). Get to know your favorites and feel free to add a few!

Wimpy Verbs: was/were, has/had, have, be, been, could, got, did, put, needed, wanted, gave, took, saw, walked, ran, sat, liked, moved, looked, appeared, seemed, made, turned, came, went, became…

Crutch Words – fillers:  that, then, next, well, OK, just, actually, really, only, still, yet, since, perhaps, maybe, so, even, tried, began, started…

Vague Words:  very, quite, rather, more, almost, about, around, often, some, somehow, somewhat…

Lame Words: really, awesome, amazing, great, better, dark, sad/happy, cold/hot, fast/slow, old/new, big/small, bad/good, nice, fine, interesting, beautiful, wonderful, sexy, for a moment, a bit, a few, lots, someone, something …

Telling Words – thinking/explaining: knew, thought, suspected, remembered, believed, understood, imagined, doubted, supposed, realized, wondered, guessed, hoped, wished, because…

Telling Words – sensing: Watched, saw, observed, felt, smelled, tasted, heard…

Telling Words – adverbs: Hopefully, quickly, slowly, slightly, sincerely, personally, possibly, certainly, exactly, finally, suddenly… (search by “ly”).

Any others I should add?

Keystone-Cops

A Short Blogging Break

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Turn off the laptop
The world waits beyond your screen
Honor life’s sweet flow

Last summer I wrote a post encouraging blogging breaks
(The Benefits of a Blogging Break).

I made a deal with myself that I’d take a week off every 3 months to relax, go outside, and reconnect with friends and family. Well… the last one was 6 months ago. Oops.

Deadlines are looming on the next two books, and it’s time for a little elbow grease! I’ll be offline for a week or so getting ahead of schedules, enjoying a little reading and a lot of sunshine (I hope).

Have a wonderful week. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HeArt and Craft of Writing

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My blogger friend Sean Carlin wrote a post a few days ago about Artistic Originality. He’s a writer with a background in film, and he often laments the industry’s sequels and reboots that sacrifice the original film’s creative power for a guaranteed (but unsatisfying to the viewer) box-office bump.

His post got me thinking about the same phenomenon in books and what makes a story original.  We may disagree on the number of plots available to us, ranging from 4 (man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. nature, man vs. himself) to Polti’s 36 (here’s the list). But we can all agree that the number we have to work with is limited.

Since we’re essentially rehashing the same plots millions of time (sit with that thought for a minute) how is it that we aren’t bored to tears with writing and reading? Aren’t we all, in a way, regurgitating our favorites?

Sean Carlin

Carlin concludes his post with a reflection on his current writing endeavor Escape from Rikers Island, and to me, he defines what makes a piece of art original:

“For better or worse, it is a reflection of my personality, my interests, my sensibilities, my experiences. When I read it back, I …hear myself. It sounds like me.”

In lauding George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy, Carlin writes:

“… he diversified his influences, internalized them, developed an authentic voice all his own, and—this part is key—summoned the courage, without any assurances of a receptive audience, to make it heard.  If all artists took inspiration from that and aspired to the same, our popular culture would yield a limitless bounty of originality.”

I find these conclusions both wonderful and daunting because they place originality in a realm where we, as artists, have full control—our individual collections of experiences, imaginings, and most important of all, our hearts.

My reflection on Carlin’s post led to the core of what makes a piece of art compelling and memorable to me, which is the artist’s internal investment, the deeper the better. In writing, it’s an author’s emotional soul that feeds a story and evokes a reaction. That personal vulnerability requires courage, but it’s worth it because readers perceive the authenticity of the human experience unfolding in the books they love.

The blogosphere is full of spectacular advice on the “craft” of writing, but not so much on the “art.” Because heArt is like a fingerprint—personal and one of a kind. It isn’t something taught, but a rich quality mined from a soulful place within us. You are sublimely unique, and therein lies your source of originality.

Carlin wrote in his comment to me:

“…tools, techniques, and even theory are cool, but they’re only there to help us create an authentic emotional experience, and we can’t do that unless we write honest stories, drawn from our own experiences, imparted with a piece of our souls … I think that goes to illustrate just how sensitive storytelling is—what a delicate balance between heart and craft we have to strike in order to get it right.”

I love that.

Happy Writing. ❤

At The Mirror: Their Whiteness

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At the Mirror today: an exquisite piece of flash fiction by Kelvin Knight.

Please click through to comment ❤

Their Whiteness

by Kelvin M. Knight

He pirouetted through oceanic whiteness, leaving ripples of himself. Drifting through these, she gasped at the softness of his touch. A touch bursting with promise: that dance he’d promised her but she’d always been too busy to accept. Back then. Back there. Where cares were weighty. Where duty outweighed sin. Where their love went unrecognised. Because of him. Because…

Continue Reading: Their Whiteness