What Do Published Authors Know?

Recently, I read a mini article posted on a blog of sorts, wherein the writer called out Stephen King’s book On Writing, concluding that “famous writers don’t know Jack.”

king1

WOW! Really?

 

I was shocked and offended. And I assume that is the reaction she wanted to elicit in order to bring traffic to her article or her own website.

Let me clarify that I am not an avid Stephen King reader. I’m not much into science fiction, but I have been reintroduced to his work upon reading Doctor Sleep, the continuation, in some sense, of The Shining. I have read On Writing some years ago. I’m pretty certain it’s still on my bookshelf as it’s required reading for anyone who wants to write – whether you like it or not. And my favorite essay of his, which I sometimes share with students is “Why We Crave Horror Movies.”

Therefore, I’m not defending a writer I love with a passion but an author I admire with sincerity. And I am taking issue with the blogger’s lack of professionalism in her disrespectful and disingenuous response to a successful and prolific author.

Stephen King

In Academia, occasionally members of the community in praising literary fiction take issue with popular literature. In one such class, when someone asked about King, the instructor responded – “In 100 years, no one will remember him.”

Yeah, I’m guessing someone who has written over 50 novels as well as over 200 short stories, among others projects will be remembered.

Again, my issues with her article is that she comes across as disingenuous. I don’t believe she really believes King is wrong, I think she wants to make a name for herself and create a controversial reaction and bring traffic to her website, so she can look at the numbers and get a little thrill when it pops up instead of actually presenting sound and original ideas. I say this because she didn’t actually say much of value.

This blogger’s premise is that writing is a gift and it is done intuitively, so authors don’t necessarily know how to explain writing. Understood. As well, she takes issues with some basic rules that I’ve learned since third grade. She says, “we’d all end up sounding like Stephen King.” Not necessarily so.

king2

Her final claim: “You can do anything, provided that you can pull it off.”

 

Well, duh! You can break every damn rule of writing if you’ve got a story so great that Hollywood will buy it and the publishers are going to make bank from it.  Dare I talk about The Hunger Games?  As an English teacher, it hurt my eyes to read the numerous punctuation errors. But, as one of my editors said, Story is King. It’s the story that matters, not the comma splices that most non academics won’t even notice.

However, every good writer should know the “rules.” And I’m using that term loosely here. A writer should be familiar with what has come before, what others are doing, as well and what others believe the rules should be.  How many people have commented on Picasso’s blue period, ignorant of his background, and said “I could do that!” Picasso learned and practiced the rules. Then he chose to break them. When I break a rule of writing, I ask myself: “Is it for effect, and is it resulting in the desired effect?

I say: “Break that damn rule if you want. Just know why you’re doing it and if it’s working.” If Stephen King breaks a rule, even his “own” rule, I imagine he knows it and knows why he’s doing it. I don’t think On Writing is prescriptive; I believe it’s meant to be descriptive.

So, I suppose I don’t even have that much issue with what she said, but it’s how she said it. Stephen King is an award winning, multi-best-selling author, show some respect. That’s called Professionalism. You can disagree with someone, you just want to do it respectfully.  She says she leaves the “writing instruction” to the “less qualified people -“.

king3.gifREALLY?  The author of over 200 short stories is less qualified than who – YOU?  How many books have you published?  I looked her up. A few “middle grade readers,” a nonfiction book, a few short stories. She says she prefers to tell people how to get published.

I go back to her line, “famous writers don’t know Jack.” How unprofessional can you be?

I teach a business writing class (among others); I run the class like a course in professionalism. And this is something I would say is an absolute NO! We can disagree with anyone – I tell my students – but we should know how to respectfully disagree.

As a writer, I see a lot of unprofessional behavior. (I in no way claim to be perfect myself).  I belong to writers’ groups and read (more than I post) in these online writers’ groups. And it can be things like this – open to the public – that can get a person in trouble. You never know who you are dealing with on the other end of that computer. Random arguments, stupid comments, and radical, unqualified statements can hinder one’s success.

I was asked recently by a publishing company for my CV. This is not a problem; I sent it right over. Why would I not?  I posted asking for advice about the CV, for future reference. Some people seemed beside themselves, as if a publishing company asking for my CV was out of line. The publishing company is my potential employer. They are entitled to my CV and, as a professional writer, I want to show it to them!

Now, what if I had written a blog such as that – disrespectfully and disingenuously criticizing one of their best authors? It might cause the publishing company to think twice about even looking at my work, let alone looking at my CV. The cold, hard fact in this world is most companies are not going to hire or work with people who are unprofessional. While they may want people to speak their minds, they don’t want people publicly running off at the mouth. Charlie Sheen and any number of actors learned this the hard way.

king4

I am not at all saying that we shouldn’t voice our opinions! If you disagree with anyone, you should be able to, and have the absolute right to speak your opinion. I’m suggesting it be done with polite professionalism.

Who is this author of a few middle-grade books to be criticizing King? She is never going to convince ME or many writers that King is wrong. However, had she respectfully disagreed with his views on the certain aspects of writing, clearly stated her reasoning – it would have been far more professional and more believable! I would have read it, taken her opinion into consideration, and possibly even agreed with her. However, by her announcing that he is “less qualified” and doesn’t “know Jack,” not only do I question her intelligence and her integrity, she’s possibly offended people she’d rather have as friends or colleagues. (You’ll notice I didn’t link her article here. I’d prefer not to give attention-seekers more attention).

I, personally, would rather respectfully disagree with people than announcing contrary opinions for the sake of readership. I guess being boisterous will get you noticed. But, it will also get you noticed, if you know what I mean.

I’ll take her words, “You can do anything, provided that you can pull it off.” – Yes, yes, you can. You’ve seen numerous examples of people running off at the mouth about others and nothing happened to them or their career. However, are you sure you can do it and not experience consequences? Have yking5ou built up enough credit, have enough backing, or whatever else you need, to make certain you will not face consequences. OR – have you done this, seen it done, heard it done, and the person hasn’t gone very far in their career. Hmmmm.  Might be a reason.

Say what you will. I suggest you say it with respect.

 

 

Posted in Adventures in Los Angeles, Essay, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Death Watch

Do you know how everyone loses their minds when a parent passes away?

My father experienced a slow decline; soon after Memorial Day two years ago, he passed.

memorial day

My father was a big man, over six foot tall, strong and thick. He was a marine in his younger years, worked as a roofer for much of his life. He used to brag about how many packs of shingles he carried up the ladder. He was good at cards and had a smile on his face much of the time.

My short piece, “Memorial Day Death Watch,” is inspired in part by the last week or so of my father’s decline. I learned what every family learns regardless of how close or far away the members are when someone dies – people lose their minds.

“Memorial Day Death Watch” was a finalist in Writer’s Advice Flash Contest in April. It’s been published in FishFood Magazine quite recently.

 

20170813_233017

My father prior to his illness.

 

In celebration of this publication, I‘m giving away copies of “Dad Shining” on GoodReads. The giveaway begins August 21st and goes until August 28th. Watch FB and Twitter for those reminders.

Dad Shining is available on Kindle and in Paperback on Amazon. One Reviewer writes: “The author has a unique writing style, beautiful detail, but with space throughout for the reader to fit in. I look forward to reading other books and stories by this author.”

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Myth of Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a myth perpetuated by people who don’t really want to write.

write

And I really don’t like when people ask me if I ever “get it,” as if it’s contagious. In some ways, I think it is. People talk about it too much and infect others with their ideas of this mysterious and loathsome “writer’s block.”

Maybe I’m thinking of the block all wrong. I’m not sure at all what it means. Does it mean the person can’t sit in a chair and write? Are their hands broken? Is their brain injured? Or does it mean they can’t write as well as they want? Does it mean that writing’s not easy?

Hey – wait – let’s hold on to that one: Writing is not easy?!

Of course, at times, it’s not easy! Sometimes the scene isn’t quite right or the dialogue is inauthentic or the words aren’t laying out as smooth and beautiful as we’d like. Does that mean we lay down the ivory pipe, get up from our Italian baroque seventeenth century carved desk, retire our gray wool writing jacket with the patches on the elbows, and lounge for the rest of the day waiting for this “block” to pass?

None of it’s real!Writers-Block-is-a-Lie

The desk, the jacket, or the block – these are images people use to perpetuate the myth that writing is some magical gift that is laid down upon us and is taken away just as easily.

I’m not saying the ability to ribbon words rhythmically and meaningfully isn’t a gift – but it is work.

Now there’s the word we need to use. The only thing, perhaps, people are being blocked from is WORK.

A writer needs time. The lack of time can inhibit starting or finishing – but we make time. Many writers (Vonnegut, Angelou) woke up early.  I used to be one of those people who said – oh, no, I need my sleep. But then I decided I wanted to write more than I needed extra sleep. Writers, for centuries, have had no choice but to get up early or stay up late in order to produce.

And there’s that word again. Work. Let’s get to it, ladies and gentlemen, no matter how gifted you are, writing is work, writing is commitment. And there’s the other word so many people are afraid of: commitment.

If you want to be a writer it takes work and it takes commitment. The real work of writing is to commit yourself to it, to sit your ass in that chair, at that desk, or dining table, or in the corner closet, and write. Sometimes nothing is going to come out right. And that’s when you keep working, or you take a break, go grab a cuppa and get back to it. Writer’s commit themselves to time and action, whether it’s one hour a day or eight hours a day. And sometimes things come out well and sometimes they’re a struggle.

plumbers block

 

Imagine writing as a job. If you want to be successful, can you give up the moment it gets challenging?  Can you imagine your plumber calling you and saying, “I just can’t come today, I have plumber’s block”?

 

 

 

If something you’ve started has stunted, write something else, take it in a different direction, write an angry letter to one of the characters insisting they do what you want them to, then let them write one to you.

poe2

 

Let’s be honest about what writer’s block really is –

  • it’s procrastination;
  • it’s distraction; 
  • it’s fear of rejection.

 

I do believe people go through periods where they’re not as productive, or they have some psychological issues blocking them from releasing their ideas. These problems can be solved – therapy.

beautiful journalist looks typewriterIf you want to take part in the myth – “oh I can’t write today!”

If you want to perpetuate the myth – “What do you do when you get blocked?”

That’s fine. However, Do not bring your kind of negativity to me – “Do you ever get blocked?” Because I don’t want to hear it; I don’t want to be a part of it; and I certainly don’t want you attempting to infect me with your dis-ease.

 

read

 

Now – sit that ass in that chair and WRITE something. 😉 Good luck. 

 

Posted in Fiction, Poe, Uncategorized, Writing about writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It doesn’t matter…..

I loved The Munsters when I was a child. When asked to write an “artist’s statement” in graduate school – I actually said I wanted to be kicking around in the leaf-blown yard of Munster-like house.

I came across this lovely little clip recently. True wisdom for our age – for any age.

Love each other because you’re human. Understand that we all follow different paths and respect one another.

 

 

What does matter is the size of your heart and the strength of your character….

Posted in Adventures in Los Angeles, family, Random, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Bananas Saved the World…

6 Good Reasons to Eat a Banana Today

Just Kidding.

But Bananas are considered the world’s perfect fruit because only 2% of people are allergic to them. However, sometimes, bananas can fool an allergy filled system. When my system is filled with allergens from other foods, bananas can make them momentarily worse. There’s been research on this – btw – not just making this up. It falls under a “cross reactive food.”

My daughter happens to be one of the people who are allergic to bananas, so I’ve accidentally poisoned her a number of times. (Wow, did I just admit child endangerment in public? She’s over 18, child services won’t do anything.) Don’t worry, she doesn’t go into anaphylactic shock or anything; she just gets a little itchy. We actually didn’t learn this until she was over 18. I’ve made recipes and added bananas, then didn’t think to warn her when she picked up the carrot cake or the brownies.

Other benefits of bananas include:

  • Vitamin B6 – .5 mg
  • Manganese – .3 mg
  • Vitamin C – 9 mg
  • Potassium – 450 mg
  • Dietary Fiber – 3g
  • Protein – 1 g
  • Magnesium – 34 mg
  • Folate – 25.0 mcg
  • Riboflavin – .1 mg
  • Niacin – .8 mg
  • Vitamin A – 81 IU
  • Iron – .3 mg

Helps with: digestion problems, heart disease (cause it’s high in fiber), and anemia.

Okay, so we’re actually getting to the real reason for this post. I made banana bread/muffins today and they were sooooo good, I had to share.

I’m an average cook. I’m pretty damn good at throwing things together and coming up with something pretty wonderful. (It runs in the family – you should try my mother’s cream-of-nothin’-soup) Therefore, measurements are approximate. I learned from my grandmother, who sometimes made the world’s best fudge; she believed you had to feel the recipe. Measuring cups are for suckas. (Hence, the “sometimes” in the world’s best fudge).

Okay, recipe with running commentary, and in relative order. (Don’t you hate that recipes list the ingredients in random ways?)

 

Banana Bread/Muffins

 

2 Eggs (that’s exact, but I didn’t say small, medium, or large; mine were medium brown).

A little more than 1/3 and less than a 1/2 cup of oil – the type of oil is important. Do NOT use vegetable oil! If you have that shit in your cabinet, toss it in the garbage now. The only thing crisco is good for is slipping off a too-tight ring. Do not put that crap in your in your baked goods. It’s not good for your body. If you’re trying to be healthy, why is that in your cabinet? I used about half coconut oil, half olive oil. And make sure that’s the real stuff too. Legally (?), they can sell oils that are actually mixed and label it as “pure.” Who passes these freaking laws? I know there’s a lot of information online about the good and bad of coconut oil, but here’s why I think it’s more good than bad.  Number one rule of health is to know what you’re putting into your body, folks!

1/3 ish a cup of Greek yogurt. Make sure it’s as close to Greek as possible. It’s not sweetened, it does not have cane sugar, fructose, etc. If you have problems with dairy, you could probably use coconut yogurt, but I’ve only ever seen that with added sugars; not sure how that will work. I used Fage brand because I like their ingredients above most of the things available on the American market.

1 tsp-ish of vanilla extract. (Although I prefer vanilla paste, I just haven’t found it lately. If you haven’t tried vanilla paste – it’s fabulous. So much better than the extract with alcohol, and you can use it straight in the greek yogurt, no alcohol taste!)

1/4 to 1/3 cup of honey.  Again – watch the honey. Do not buy that stuff in the bear jar. Legally (again with that ?), honey companies can add high fructose corn syrup and not list it on the label. Buy the stuff that’s real, do some research.

3 large ripe bananas.  Mmmmm….

Mix all those things up in a bowl. I, personally, like the bananas a little chunky.

Add the rest straight to this bowl. (Screw that whole whole bowl for wet, bowl for dry, bowl for spices. Please, who wants to do all those dishes?!)

Cinnamon. How much do you like cinnamon? I added like three or four healthy shakes from the container. I’m going to assume it was more than a half a tablespoon, probably less than a whole… but, when all was said and done, I felt it needed more anyway.

2 dashes of nutmeg and cloves (then I added an extra dash of cloves). Again, these are shakes from the container. I got all nostalgic for pumpkin pie. Mmmm.  I taste tested then because, well, because. And from there, it almost went no further. I really wanted to sit down with the bowl then and there.

Baking soda. Don’t add too much! That sucks. I did a dash and a half. Most people would do a half or full tsp. Do not do more than that.

1 and 1/2 to 1 and 3/4 cup of Flour – I used Almond Flour. Do not use that bleached white flour crap. Again, that goes into trash with the vegetable oil, and you better not have any of that white sugar in your cabinet either. Throw it away, throw it away now! White flour and white sugar products are poison to your system. As is that high fructose corn syrup. Don’t do that to your body. It better not even be out on your counter – if you’re one of those people who get all the ingredients out – how cute you are – but if you took that out, get rid of it now. Don’t let it near these muffins. Back to the flour now. Coconut flour is too sweet for this recipe. You can use oat flour. The almond flour will help this come out yummy and moist. Oat flour will be a little drier, but not too much so.

Walnuts. We know the rules by now, right? No salt, no sugar, just all natural, unmolested walnuts. Check the label. I used about a handful or more of the walnuts (Hey, I’m not cooking for anyone else, it’s okay if I put my hands in this stuff). Because I used almond flour, I didn’t want to use too many walnuts.  People with nut allergies are obviously going to use the oat flour and skip the walnuts, right?!

Raisins. Weird? I guess I was thinking breakfast cereal. Right?! We got cinnamon, nuts, raisins. I got crazy. And it was yummy.  Okay, so 2 handfuls of raisins.

Cook between 15-20 minutes for muffins and 30-40 minutes for bread at 325. Keep watch. Do not let them get too brown on top.

 

 

So, end results:  I decided against the bread and made muffins. As I said, I wish I’d added more cinnamon. But they were very moist and delicious. These will not last on your counter. If you’re going to have them for more than a day or two, put them in the fridge.

There you go: no butter, no sugar, no poison to your system. Tasty, healthy, nutritious muffins for breakfast or snacks.

Consider the ingredients in this – even the honey has nutritional benefits for your body sugar does not. Almonds have nutritional benefits, as does oat flour. All of these far outweigh anything white sugar or white flour can offer. White flour is like sugar to your system. So – the basic chocolate chip cookie – poison: white flour – sugar. white sugar – sugar. milk chocolate – sugar and fat. But, hey, the egg is good for you.

Much love and let me know how it goes!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Nutrition and Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delphinium – with care, blooms twice

Sticking to their word, Delphinium blooms again. The lovely editors at REaDLips have promised to give some of the proceeds of Delphinium’s Summer Issue 2017 (and going into the future) to literacy programs.  I’m beginning to appreciate Delphinium and those at REaDLips more than ever. They are showing themselves to have a heart, to care about our society. I am more than proud to be affiliated with this journal, proud to be published a long side amazing award winning authors as well as my own students. That’s right! Lynn Johnson was a student in my African – American Literature class. Her poem, published in Delphinium, was one she wrote in response to one of our readings and shared in class as part of her creative project.

I hope you’ll give Delphinium a read, and not because I’m published in it (well, not JUST because), the journal features authors and artists of diverse cultures and it will benefit art and literacy programs.

delphin cover3

Posted in Fiction, Poetry, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Namas-Cray

My friend Laura LaBrie from Lovely Lattitudes, first said this word to me.  It describes life, don’t you think?  My new book was all set to go, it just needed a title.  I felt like this word, “Namas- Cray” accurately described the stories involved.

In everyone of these stories, the characters are, shall we say, a little off. One woman is planning her “Perfect Day,” when she’s interrupted by a young couple about to rob her. Did  I mention her perfect day involves suicide?

In “Harvey Levin Can’t Die,” the narrator is just going about her life, working at a coffee shop down on Ventura Blvd, when the whole world seems to get serious. Her b/f leaves her to go back to college. Customers want to talk about serious stuff, not reality tv. WTH? But she finds the underground – and accidentally – I mean, it was probably an accident – mows down Harvey Levin with her car.  She tried to report it! The police didn’t want to hear it!

Talk about having a cray day –

So this title fit PERFECTLY.  I think whether you are an avid reader or someone who picks up a book to make it look like you’re an avid reader, you will love this book.  (Humble, right?)namascraycoverwithfilter

You can win a copy on GoodReads!

 

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment