via My Books
Excerpt from my book, Bosses and Blackjacks: A Tale of the “Bloody Fifth” in Philadelphia:
It only took Dave five minutes to walk from the station house at Third and Delancey, but the August heat took its toll. His collar and hatband were soaked through with sweat when he arrived at Deutsch’s shop.
“Mayor Smith told me to come and talk to you about how I can help with the election,” Dave said. He looked over his shoulder to make sure nobody saw him go in.
“Yes. Yes. Good. Come in, Lieutenant,” Ike Deutsch replied. The butcher wiped his palms and the backs of his hands on his blood-splattered apron, and they shook hands. He locked the door to the shop and flipped the “Open” sign to “Closed” after Dave entered. “Let’s go to the back where we can talk in private.” As he pulled his apron off over his…
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Have you ever felt like too many people have their fingers in your pie?
All licking your vitality off their palms as it runs down to their wrists. They don’t stop to ask permission. They just dip into your allotted 24 hours and sop a bit up for themselves.
Of course, they don’t realize the damage they’re doing. It’s certainly not a group effort.
They are each snatching a crumb of your time without thinking very much about the cumulative affect upon you.
The question is this: Where do you draw the line?
Before the last slice?
The last bit of fruit?
The last crumb?
STAY CALM, and:
Finish shopping for your family, and 75 of your closest friends and colleagues, making sure you stay under that $200 limit you set for yourself this year;
Bake 500 dozen cookies that are so special no one has ever eaten them before;
Decorate at least three trees of varying size for inside your house with different themes, one of which must be woodland creatures;
Check batteries on all those “safe” candles you now own, so the cats and dogs, and babies don’t set themselves on fire;
Add one more string of lights outside, so TV station satellites can pick out the glow of your home from space;
Cook every kind of meat that exists so everyone (including that Uncle we all have) enjoys Christmas dinner;
Cook every vegan dish you can think of so the two people you know who are vegan don’t starve;
Watch all twenty gazillion Christmas movies in one weekend while you . . .sing along to every Carol that was ever written;
Send out at least two thousand Christmas/holiday cards to remind everyone you’ve ever met in your life that you are still alive;
And, most importantly — make sure the liquor cabinet is well-stocked, so you can accomplish all of the above!
Enjoy the holidays . . . and try not to hurt anyone.
From our castle to yours … MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
The rumbling and swooshing and screeching woke me long before the alarm clock sounded.
Did a freight train jump the tracks? Was there a terrorist attack? A horrible traffic accident?
In a stumbling, drunken-like stupor, I made my way to the open bedroom window to discover the source of the fearsome cacophony . . . It sounded like a thousand needles prickling the predawn sky.
Standing there in the cool darkness, I realized, as the latest gush surrounded me and pushed past — The last of the brown, crumbling, dead leaves were being hurled and smashed to smithereens against any barrier standing in their way by . . .
Mother Nature, blowing Autumn off and making way for the entrance of Winter!
(I understand she has an important job to do . . . but, couldn’t the bitch have waited until after the alarm went off? Geez.)
He wanted to be scary…she wanted to be pretty.
She was six…he was five.
This was one of those Halloweens that seared itself into the recesses of my mind, just waiting to bring a smile upon request by my consciousness.
I make that request every year at this time.
Wasn’t it yesterday that I said, “to hell with it!” and cut a good white sheet to drape over my little boy’s frail frame? And wasn’t it that same yesterday when I taught my little girl the Roaring Twenties song, “Anything Goes?”
I can still hear him roar as he raised his stretched arms, because, to him, that would be much more frightening than simply shouting “boo!”
Placing the dark brown wig over her bright red tresses to hide her identity from her classmates was the only demand my little flapper made.
To ensure the whole Halloween experience would be absorbed into their own memory-banks — I reminded him to roar at each door . . . and her little girl voice belted out: “In olden days a bit of stocking was looked on as something shocking…now, heaven knows —anything goes!”
This Halloween season, I hope you share your own recollections with friends and family, and keep building on those “Misty, water-colored memories.”
I’d also love to read them in the comments section of this post, if you’re so inclined, Dear Readers!
Your Secret Editing Weapon: Lose Your Crutch Words
I know the copy editor was just trying to be nice, but I burst out laughing at her carefully worded comment in my last manuscript. I had to imagine what she must have thought as she realized she needed to mention it.
What the flick?
“Please note ‘flickering’ throughout” she wrote. Then she put a smiley-face so I’d understand she wasn’t being critical, only supportive, and went on to say, “There seems to be a lot of flickering going on in your manuscript.”
Flickering I thought? Flickering? I was baffled. But when I did an edit-find for flicker, there it was. I mean, there it was. Again and again and again.
Monitors flickered. People’s eyes flickered. Birds flickered. Lights flickered. I can’t even remember all the things that flickered. Somehow I had gotten that word into my head, and apparently it seemed like a good one, and every day as I wrote my thousand words, I guess I figured I should use it. It never crossed my mind that I was repeating it. Like crazy.
Has your own version of “flicker” happened to you? Trust me, it has. When we’re in the midst of writing, when we’re in the zone and the words are flowing, our brains tend to default to words that are comfortable. How many times do you write “of course”? How many times do you write “right”? Right? How about “just”?
What would happen if you went through your manuscript looking for those words? How many do you think you would find? I promise you, you’ll be shocked at how many times you type “just.” You don’t even notice it. But it is just clogging your manuscript.
Oops, I said it again. And “even.” That’s another one.
Actually, crutch words make everyone the same
Whatever. Does more than one character say whatever? Does more than one character say “you’re kidding me?” Does more than one character say “I know, right?” ? Not only do we latch on to our personal crutch phrases, but we tend to assign them to every character. That’s a pitfall because it makes every character sound just the same.
I mean—the same. Not “just” the same.
Actually. Certainly. Supposedly. Allegedly. By the name of. As a result. Really. How many times do you use those?
More important: How many of them do you need?
Pick one of your words. Put it in edit-find. (You know how to do that, right?) Prepare to be amazed. And you might as well laugh, because now you have the power to fix it.
Next, see if your manuscript is—over qualified. How often do you use kind of, sort of, possibly, maybe, a little? What are you qualifying? What would happen to your manuscript if you cut those sentence softeners? Try it. Doesn’t it sound stronger to say it is something, rather than a little bit something?
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this
And check your choreography. How often do people tuck their hair behind their ear? Wave someone off? Flip a hand. Raise an eyebrow. Raise both eyebrows? How often do people nod? Or pause? Or pause, nodding?
Do people shrug? Do they grin? Do they shrug and grin? Think about it. In real life, people rarely do those things. Shrugging, maybe. Grinning? Not so much. And shrugging and grinning is as goofy as it gets.
It’s damn important, though, for a stronger manuscript
When you excise your crutch words, you’ll see your manuscript take on a new quality. In my current WIP, the copy editor noted the word “though.” I mean…though? But when I did my faithful edit-find, I found I’d used it 72 times. Seventy-two times! I thought: why didn’t I say although? Why didn’t I say but? Why didn’t I rearrange the sentence so the entire structure was different? When I took out all but about 15 of those “thoughs,” the sentence rhythm changed. The balance changed. After noticing my repetitions, I had to think harder about new ways to express the same thought—and the result was a stronger manuscript.
Oh, I forgot “very.” How many verys do you have? Mark Twain, the story goes, had a perfect solution. He suggested every time you want to use the word “very,” replace it with the word “damn.” Then your editor will take it out, and your sentence will read the way it should have in the first place.
So here’s today’s tip—go on a treasure hunt for your personal repetitions. And keep a list of them to remind you!
And then—get writing.
The “find” option can become your best friend when editing. Please feel free to share your most common crutch words in the Comments section of this post…it may help the rest of us kick those crutches to the curb!—L.C. Bennett Stern
“Would you like to go to NYC for New Year’s Eve?” he asked.
“Sure. Why not,” she said.
And so, they held hands.
“What is your favorite color dead leaf?” he asked.
“Orange,” she said.
And so, they dated.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
“Have another beer,” she said.
And so, they laughed.
“He asked me to marry him, is that okay?” she asked.
“About time. It’s your life,” her children said.
And so, she said yes.
“Does Bastille Day work for you?” he asked.
“Definitely,” she said.
And so, they were married.
“Will you hand me the remote?” he asked.
“Here ya go,” she said.
And so, they smiled and grew old together.
As a writer, I get to meet the most amazing and talented people when attending book signing events. A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting L.C. Bennett Stern at the Collingswood Book Fair and, we’ve been friends ever since. I did an interview on Linda about her novel, Bosses and Blackjacks, and you can read about it here. This year, Linda published another book, and like the first one, this story takes place in Philadelphia. Join me now as I learn more about Mae’s Revenge.
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