TURKEY TROT

No time to write…it’s almost turkey time! So, here’s a rerun for you!

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Stern Words

Thanksgiving is next week. I can’t believe how calmly I said that.

We celebrate Thanksgiving each year at our house—and by “we” I mean twenty to forty immediate family members!

In the old days, when there were seven or eight of us sharing the holiday, the beautifully roasted turkey would take center-stage in the middle of the dining table waiting for the ceremonial (dramatic music playing in the background) carving. It was surrounded by the appropriate side dishes and condiments, with lovely serving forks and spoons of polished silver.  Each person had at least two glasses included in their place-setting that rested on a lovely table linen, and their napkins were actually held, just so, in rings of appropriate autumnal materials.

We all sat together,

said “Grace” together,

ate together,

and sang “We Gather Together” together!

We made Norman Rockwell proud!

Kiss those days good-bye!

Thanksgiving now…

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THE WAYWARD WIND

It’s a birds-flying-sideways kind of November day…and so, I was reminded of this piece I wrote a couple of years ago. It still works.

Stern Words

It’s a windy fall day . . .

The kind of day where the last of the dry, dead leaves are ripped from the trees and are tossed high in the air, and tumbled over and over before they come to rest on the brown, crisp, dying lawns of the suburbs.

Raking occupied the last three weekends. Too soon.

But—the current windy day (one of the last of its kind this autumn) has decided to conduct one more performance by rustling the uppermost leafy branches of its arboreal orchestra.

The sky provides a bright blue curtain behind the pine, maple, oak, and dogwood musicians.

I watch and listen again to the wind as it takes its last gasp of warmth before winter.

For some reason, I always hear a balalaika playing “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago.

That is the magic of the wind.

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Halloween Horror

It’s the time of year again for creepy stories…here ya go!

Stern Words

LET’S PLAY

If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” He patted the right pocket of his dirty overalls as he approached.

Glancing around, I discovered I was alone down here with this small skinny boy. How could I be alone? I’d followed at least a dozen other commuters through the turnstile before descending to the platform. I backed away quickly, trying to recall which way I should run to reach the subway steps leading up to the street.

“No thank you,” I replied.

“You don’t even want to guess?” he asked, more aggressively.

I couldn’t move. I don’t know why. I think it was his eyes. They were an iridescent green I had never seen before.

“I’m not very good at guessing,” I told him. Again, I managed to take a few steps back.

“You’re just like the rest of them. Nobody ever…

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WEEPING LIKE A WILLOW

Hello. My name is Linda…and I’m a tree hugger.

They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that in order to recover, you must first admit you have a problem.

My problem is: I want to cry every time I hear the buzz of a chain saw ripping into an innocent tree.

I know. I know…it is not safe to ignore trees who may appear lovely from the exterior, but whose interior may be full of rot, and therefore a danger, if Mother Nature decides to kick up a storm.

But, surely there is a gentler way to bid farewell to a natural wonder which has given years of shade from a sweltering sun, whose roots gripped the earth and held erosion at bay, and whose branches were home to a variety of birds. If squirrels could speak (our language), I’m sure they would beg that their playground not be destroyed in such a violent way.

And yet, I hear the grinding, buzzing, ripping taking place down the street, and I find myself once again, tearing up over the tearing down.

All at once, I am reminded of one of the advantages of living in a town designated as:

“Tree City USA”

. . . a new sapling will be put in its place very soon.

To everything there is a season.

True for trees.

True for humanity.

Now, go hug a tree while you can.

 

NO ONE IS COMING, BUT WE ARE ALIVE AND WE ARE TOGETHER

Almost two years into this nightmare, and unfortunately, this post by Chuck Wendig still resonates like the screeching wheels of a locomotive trying to brake before it runs all of us over!

Stern Words

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Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. This is his blog. He talks a lot about writing. And food. And pop culture. And his kid. He uses lots of naughty language. NSFW. Probably NSFL. Be advised.

I set that as my 7AM reminder this morning.

I set it because, I dunno, maybe up until this point I’ve been hanging onto a loose and fraying thread that clearly, surely, some savior force would come in and reverse what was coming. The vote would prove to be rigged. The “OMG RUSSIA DID IT” investigation would advance to the point of no return. Obama would rip off Comey’s mask and reveal Old Man Giuliani underneath, who would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you crazy Millennials. Joe Biden would challenge malarky-havin’ Comrade Dumpkov to a ski contest on the K2 and he would win the day against the rich punks…

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BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER … SO BEHOLD THIS!

I’m not just another (fill-in-the-blank) face!

I don’t always lock myself away, soaking my keyboard with the tears of a desperate writer. 

I peek at the outside world . . . occasionally.

And when I do, I like to bring my camera along.

Some of the results of my foray into the great wide world beyond my writer’s cave can be found here:

https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/1-linda-stern.html

If you can spare the time . . . take a look, and let me know what you think.

16 Out of 10 Tips Can’t be Wrong!

  1. The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and once they are up there, throw rocks at them.

Vladimir Nabokov

A story without challenges is just plain dull. Nobody wants to read that. Readers want an escape, and it’s your job to give them that.

  1. There is only one plot – things are not what they seem.

Jim Thompson

This kinda made my head explode (in a good way). My eyes were opened. I realized that we want – as readers – a roller coaster ride, twists, turns… and as a writer, we have to challenge ourselves to deliver them.

  1. Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Anton Chekhov

If you have ever been in a critique group, you’ve heard this a thousand times. This is the essence of “show versus tell” and it’s the main thing lacking in your writing. This is what immerses a reader in your story.

  1. All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies.

Steve Almond

This is very liberating for a writer to realize. Once you get it, the doors are open to a lot of stuff – if you have the guts to write it. Willing accomplices. They want you to do it. That’s huge.

  1. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Kurt Vonnegut

It’s also been said as, he who tries to please everyone with a story pleases no one. Find your muse and write to her. Not every story is for every reader.

  1. Great writing isn’t safe.

Dan Alatorre

It’s not gratuitous to include myself on this list because I work with a lot of new writers and this is what they’re afraid of: someone I know might read this! Put that aside and write in a way that will grab the reader, about any topic. If it feels real enough and you put the emotion in, readers will laugh with your characters and cry with them, and thank you afterward. But it’s a lot of effort, and you really have to put your bare soul on the page. Go there.

  1. It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way ‘atcha write it.

Jack Kerouac

Your writing voice is yours, not a copy of someone else’s, and you must use it as a tool to deliver the goods. In that, style counts.

  1. The best stories don’t come from “good vs. evil,” but “good vs. good.”

Leo Tolstoy

For the bad guy’s point of view, he’s probably not the bad guy. Mind = blown. And understanding that, your writing just went to a new level.

  1. No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.

Robert Frost

Pour emotion onto the page. Have tears falling into the keyboard as you create the drama. You can, and when you do, your reader gets it because it reads true.

  1. Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once

Stephen King

What can I say? We all love/hate to be teased. We all love a good surprise midway through. We all love a good twist. We all… well, you get it.

(It’s okay to have a few more, for after the writing, for the editing, the publishing, the motivation to start, the evaluating afterward…)

  1. A good story is life, with the dull parts taken out.

Alfred Hitchcock

I love this quote, and not just because I messed it up while texting from a jacuzzi with a friend. If it’s seen as life, it’s relatable. But it’s not everything from life. That’d be boring. Just the good stuff. That’ll make a nice foundation for a good story.

  1. Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.

Napoleon Hill

Do not deprive the world of your story. Don’t polish it forever, because at some point it’s not better, it’s just different. Publish it and get on to your next one. You have more than one great story in you.

  1. If you wait for inspiration, you’re a waiter, not a writer.

Dan Poynter

That hurts to read, doesn’t it? Yeah, so don’t expect the Great American Novel to find you. It won’t. It will come as a result of a lot of hard work and days where you didn’t feel like writing but did anyway.

  1. If it’s funny enough, you can do anything.

Dan Alatorre

I have covered the most egregious topics imaginable by being funny when I did it. And as a rule, this totally works. Think court jester, speaking truth to power, but without the silly hat thing.

  1. If a book is well written, I always find it too short.

Jane Austen

I think everyone does. Don’t worry about the length of your story, worry about how engaging it is.

  1. And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.

John Steinbeck

This gives you permission to have early works. Everyone will expect you to get better with each story you write, because you are constantly learning and improving. Your next book is you best one, and none will be perfect, so stop expecting that and stop denying the world of your stories.

SPECIAL THANKS TO DAN ALATORRE – AUTHOR! (for compiling this list)

ARGHH! . . . I’M SO CONFUSED!

By Maeve Maddox

My cumulative list of “words commonly confused” continues with ten that begin with the letter S. The confusion relates to spelling or meaning.

1. sight / site
Both words function as nouns and verbs.

As a noun, sight is a thing seen. Ex. The Pont du Garde is an astounding sight.

As a verb, sight means “catch sight of something or to take aim.” Ex. The lookout sighted land at dawn. Ex. The surveyor sighted the compass.

Site is from Latin situsplaceposition. The principal meaning for web users is probably “a web address.” Ex. Daily Writing Tips is one of my favorite sites.

The context in which site is frequently confused with sight regards physical location.

Examples of correct usage:
• A small Iron Age settlement was found during excavations at the site of a new housing development near Swindon.
• Redness, soreness, swelling, or itching may develop at the site of the injection.

2. stationary / stationery
Stationary is an adjective meaning fixed or unmoving. Ex. All of his traffic violations involved stationary vehicles.

Stationery is a noun meaning writing and office materials, especially writing paper and envelopes. Ex. She’s old-fashioned enough to write letters by longhand on monogrammed stationery.

Tip: An easy way to remember which is which is to be aware of the er in stationery. It matches the -er at the end of paper.

3. storey / story
This distinction concerns British speakers, although some older Americans were taught to observe the difference between storey, “the level of a building,” and story, “a tale.” Younger generations of Americans are accustomed to using story for both meanings.

Examples:
• I live in a one bedroom second-storey walkup in Chelsea.
• Children derive comfort as well as vocabulary from a daily bedtime story.

The plural of storey is storeys. The plural of story is stories.

4. sometime / sometimes / some time
Sometime is an adverb that means an indefinite, unstated time in the future. Ex. I’ll clean the garage sometime.

Sometimes is an adverb that means “continually, off and on, occasionally.” Ex. Sometimes she reads in the evening instead of watching television.

Some time is a phrase that refers to a period of time. Ex. My web design took some time to complete, but was worth the wait.

5. shear / sheer
Both words function as different parts of speech with numerous meanings. The confusion is that of misspelling sheer as shear when the meaning of sheer is “thin, fine, diaphanous.”

INCORRECT: She bought some shear curtains for the living room.
CORRECT: She bought some sheer curtains for the living room.

Shear is a verb meaning “to cut” or “remove wool by cutting.” Ex. We watched the men shear the sheep.

6. set / sit
As a verb, set means, “to place.” Ex. Please set the hot dish on a pad.

The verb sit means, “to be or remain in that posture in which the weight of the body rests upon the posteriors; to be seated. Ex. Are you going to sit at that computer all day?

7. sale / sell
Sale is a noun meaning “the act of selling.” Ex. He regretted the sale of his old Encyclopedia Britannica.

Sell is a verb meaning “to transfer ownership of something for a price.” Ex. When are you going to sell your golf clubs?

Sell functions as a noun in the expression “hard sell.” Ex. Jones has mastered the art of the hard sell: he can bully a customer into buying anything.

The error with these words is to use sell in place of sale, as in this example from a site about garage sales:

INCORRECT: I had a garage sell and I only made 5 dollars! .
CORRECT: I had a garage sale and I only made 5 dollars! .

8. straight / strait
Both straight and strait function as more than one part of speech. The error with this pair is one of spelling.

In all its uses, strait conveys the ideas of “tight,” “tightly fitting,” and “narrow,” whereas straight connotes the idea of “not crooked.”

Here are some examples of both strait and straight:

• What the British call a “strait waistcoat,” the Americans refer to as a “strait jacket”: a garment for the upper part of the body, made of strong material and admitting of being tightly laced, used for the restraint of violent lunatics or prisoners.

• One meaning of strait as a noun is “a comparatively narrow water-way or passage connecting two large bodies of water, like the Strait of Gibraltar.

• A straight line is the shortest distance between two points.

• The old soldier stood straight and tall as he saluted the flag.

9. statue / statute
statue is “a representation in the round of a person, animal, etc., which is sculptured, molded, or cast in marble, metal, plaster, or a similar material. Ex. One of the most famous statues in the world is the Davidof Michelangelo.

Generally speaking, a statute is a law. Ex. The perpetrator was identified just before the statute of limitations ran out.

The usual error with this pair is to write statue for statute, as in this comment on a legal site:

INCORRECT: My husband was sentenced to prison on a 20 year old burglary charge in California? Can they do this? Is there no statue of limitations on this type of crime?
CORRECT: My husband was sentenced to prison on a 20 year old burglary charge in California? Can they do this? Is there no statute of limitations on this type of crime?

10. sensuous / sensual
Both adjectives relate to the senses and are often used interchangeably.

Sensuous, however, contrasts with the adjectives spiritual and intellectual. Although often equated with sexuality, sensuous can describe anything that appeals to the bodily senses, producing an agreeable effect conducive to physical comfort or contentment. For example, the touch of a cat’s fur, the aroma of bread baking, the warmth from a cozy fire, etc. are sensuous in nature.

Sensual, on the other hand, implies a certain indulgence of appetite, a gratification or titillation of the senses that goes beyond what might be considered acceptable, at least in public. Ex. Madonna and Led Zeppelin Make a Startling, Sensual Pairing in “Justify a Whole Lotta Love.”

 https://www.dailywritingtips.com/

 

SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN!

I recently read a “writer’s advice” column telling authors to avoid political posts if they want to increase their book sales.

I disagree!

This is how whole populations are silenced.

Those of us who write, have a responsibility to speak up loud and clear for those whose voices are whispers.

If writers shy away from expressing their views, they are capitulating to those in power, who happily quash any questioning of their authority, action or inaction.

Throughout history, writers have been at the forefront of free speech. If we stay on the side-lines, in order to make a profit, we do a disservice to not just our own readers, but to our society in general.

 

Your thoughts?