I shouldn’t have, but did

Beach Buddy, aka the Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy, and I attend Coffee with a Cop in Oceanside every month. Barnes & Noble hosted the July event. While Bruce was filming a live video on the patio, I went into the store and bought two books.

Yes, I probably shouldn’t have, but I did.

I shouldn’t have because I’m still trying to donate outdated “how to write” books I bought years ago. The local friends of the library foundation doesn’t want them. I thought about leaving them in the laundry room, but I’m fairly certain that people at the apartment complex won’t want them either. I don’t think any of my neighbors have writing ambitions. And some of them don’t speak English. So there’s that, too.

I confess that my new books also are about writing; however, they aren’t “how to write” books for aspiring writers. One of them is titled Writing Without Rules, by Jeff Somers. The second one is Write Smart Write Happy, by Cheryl St. John. I confess that I bought them in the hope of recharging my own writing aspirations.

Time will tell.

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Brouhaha at the carnival

[Note: I confess that this essay is very badly written (and you know it is very badly written when I use two ly adverbs together to describe it). Sadly, over the years, I have downloaded too many freebie e-novels that weren’t written much better than this.]

Talk about being a drama queen; I think I was at my best with this essay. Well, at the time; later, I did top it as a college freshman. Unfortunately, the writing in this is really bad, well, more like terrible. But what the heck, I was seventeen when I wrote it. I’m fairly certain I typed this draft on a manual typewriter. During typing class, when, of course, I should have been practicing whatever lesson we were supposed to practice that day. And I sucked at typing on any form of a manual typewriter. My fingers were too short to reach the keys correctly. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I’ve modified the essay just a tiny bit, but this version contains 99 percent of the original material, minus the typos and weird punctuation, of course. However, I did retain all those strangely structured sentences, the weird word usage, and those awful adverbs—ugh. I’ve also added comments in brackets. Names of all participants have been changed to (hopefully) prevent anyone reading this from figuring out who they really were.

This version isn’t complete; the last page seems to be missing. So this probably was a rough draft. I must have edited the story a bit because I’m sure I showed a “clean copy” to “Jeremy” (a high school boyfriend, more or less, mostly less as it turned out). I made him read a lot of the crazy stuff I wrote. He never told me I was crazy, except the time that “Kate” and I stalked his brother “Roddy” by trailing him down the street for about a half mile one Columbus Day, back in the Mid-Jurassic Period. Oh, wait; it was Roddy who told Jeremy we were crazy. (Sorry, Roddy, we were really bored that day, and you just happened to walk by. We saw an opportunity and we took it.)

Thinking about it now, I wonder how we ever got into this mess. Making that remark wasn’t like “Jenna.”

We We’re Minding Our Own Business When…

Every year, some organization in the next town [Fire Dept.?] sponsors a carnival. I think it goes on for the better part of a week. My four friends and I went to the carnival for three nights in a row. By the third night we felt like veterans [lame usage here].

Passing by a certain bunch of guys we knew, I could sense Roddy and “Max” staring at me behind my back [Yeah, I know, adolescent paranoia.] You’d think I committed a crime. [Huh! Jeremy cheated on me; well, I guess maybe he cheated on both of us. Yeah, he did.] But I wasn’t at the carnival to brood over my personal problems [even though I did anyway]. Thoughts of Roddy’s boyish looking [Well, he was a boy.] younger brother, Jeremy, never wandered far from my mind or my heart. [OMG, I can’t believe I wrote that, but I was sixteen (at the time this brouhaha happened) and thought I was “in luuuve.”]

The five of us decided to split up. Kate, “Cindy”, and I stayed together, while Jenna and “Sally” went off together in another direction. Kate talked Cindy into having a picture taken at the photo booth, so we went over there.

About twenty minutes later, we were standing in front of the photo booth when Sally came racing up to us, trailed closely by Jenna whose appearance had suddenly changed from one of exemplary to that of chaotic. Her long, honey-brown hair [honey brown?], which had been pulled back into a french twist, now looked disheveled and uncombed [redundant]. To me, her appearance relayed the impression that she had just slugged it out with someone. How right I was!

Breathlessly [How’s that for an adverb?], Jenna and Sally had pieced together their little escapade of a few minutes ago. They had been standing in front of the motorcycle exhibition when Sally made some reference to Hoody Guy who was practically the star attraction of that racket. A couple of nights previously, he had made clear his interest in Sally [In other words, he tried to hit on her.].

Although the feeling was NOT mutual, Sally made some remark about him. It was just her bad luck that the two girls standing in front of them didn’t exactly appreciate Sally’s praise of Hoody Guy’s masculine attributes [Whatever the heck they were. Sally may have been impressed, but I wasn’t.] In fact, their dislike was so intense that they started bugging Jenna.

Jenna was wearing a very nice pair of slacks. One of the girls said to her, “So, you think you’ve got hot pants.”

“No,” Jenna said. “I think they’re cool.”

The girl apparently didn’t much like that answer. She had slapped Jenna across the face and started pulling her hair. Sally, completely stunned, had backed off and watched the affair [weird choice of word] from a safe distance. Finally, Jenna got away and she and Sally went looking for the rest of the crew.

As we listened to the details, Kate, Cindy, and I began to feel pangs [another weird choice of word] of revenge surge within us [Oh, the drama—and the insanity.] In a wild moment of madness [That explains it.], we all hollered, “Let’s go get them.” After securing [Oh, puhlezzze!] a description of the two from Jenna and Sally, the five of us courageously set out to finish what Sally had unwillingly started.

Halfway to our destination, a thought suddenly hit me like a bombshell [Yikes!]. Calling our little army [Well, fits in with bombshell.] to an abrupt halt, I asked Jenna to repeat her description of the girls. She did: one blonde, one brunette. Oh, brother, I had seen those two here before. And man, were they ever something. My idea of two typical sluts [is writing sluts politically correct these days?], and how right I was.

Realizing that we weren’t fooling with just anybody, I began to think things over. However, the determination of the others dissolved [weird word again] any fears I might have had at the moment. Chins set firmly [s/b chins firmly set for consistency w/fists phrase] and fists tightly clenched, the five of us continued on in our search for trouble.

We found it, or rather, it found us halfway around the carnival grounds. That’s when we sighted [Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.] our opponents heading in our direction. Personally, I’d rather have sighted a saber-toothed tiger and a dinosaur instead, but that’s life, so they say [really lame sentence, and weird too]. Just about then, I thought life was getting to be pretty crazy and a little dangerous [Got even crazier a couple of weeks later, but that’s another story involving an “open house” event, a minor accident, and a state trooper.].

Our courage began to fail as we previewed [ugh] our opposition. We unanimously decided against violence and continued on our way, ignoring the two. Unfortunately they decided not to be ignored. We all cautioned one another not to get excited [Panic would be a better word here.] as the pair began trailing after us. After all, there were five of us and only two of them.

I walked about five yards ahead of the others, with Kate close behind [We were scared out of our minds at this point.]. Intuition told me there was going to be trouble, and again, how right I was [I seemed to be right a lot]. Making up my mind, I turned to Kate, “I’m going to find a cop.”

“No,” Kate said, “If my mom and dad see this….” [Kate and Jenna’s parents were also at the carnival that night.]

Ignoring Kate’s protest, I raced to the animal [sheep? cows? pigs?] exhibition where I found a rather elderly gentleman who was certainly far from my idea of a cop [I favored State Troopers; they looked good in uniform.] but it apparently suited the person who had the audacity to pin that badge on the man’s shirt. And as long as he was endowed with that shiny symbol of authority, he would do. [Oh, puhlezzze!]

Attempting not to appear too worried [actually too freaked out], I told the officer that two girls were apparently determined to start something with my friends and me. I explained that they had evidently [way too many adverbs in this thingy] singled out one of my friends to push around.

Without any sign of surprise [Happened all the time, I guess.], he followed me almost mechanically to one area of the carnival where a crowd had gathered. Shoving my way through the human mess, I blinked my eyes in disbelief at the sight before me. The Blonde had grabbed Jenna’s long brown hair and, by that means was whirling her around [bad sentence]. Jenna was no match for the girl, who, by her attitude of pugnacity [pugnacious attitude], conveyed to me the impression that she was, most likely, the veteran of several similar disagreements.

I knew that I had to do something. But what? Realization hit me like a rocket [Oh, puhleeze! Yeah, I know redundant expression.] as I turned my shocked gaze and discovered to my horror [No, really?] that Jenna wasn’t the only one being thrown around. Kate, standing stunned on one side of the crowd, was about to be charged by the Brunette, who looked no less friendly [This should either have been less friendly or no more friendly, but whatever.] than her companion.

In the midst of all this excitement, whom did I happen to glance upon standing bewildered among the spectators but Sally and the equally dazed Cindy.

I knew what I had to do. As the Brunette came racing toward Kate, I charged into her with all my strength, and as she retreated in surprise, I yelled in her face with all the audacity within me [sure], “You leave her alone!”

Caught off guard, the Brunette fell back, startled. “What are you butting in for?” she yelled.

Before I had a chance to yell a smart remark in return and before she had the chance to reciprocate the attack, the slightly tardy police officer (or whatever he was), who didn’t seem much interested in the first place, calmly wandered into the circle and broke everything up. The crowd, disappointed because the battle had culminated in the first round [Wonder what the heck that was supposed to mean?], faded away in amusement [ugh].

Hoping against hope that we had seen the last of that pleasant pair, Jenna, Kate, and I rounded up the two non-participants and proceeded to continue our tour of the carnival grounds. This time we stuck together.

About twenty minutes later, while standing before one of the many amusement booths, I learned to our great dismay that fate was against us. When turning around, I noticed the enemy sneaking up behind us. Not rejoicing at this present development, I concluded that I’d just better find that cop again.

I walked away from the booth at a normal pace. Kate came up behind me. “I think they’re going to start something,” she whispered. “I heard one of them say ‘you take this one, and I’ll take that one.’”

The next thing I knew, one of the girls grabbed my coat [Why the heck was I dragging a coat around? It was July.] “Where do you think you’re going?” she demanded.

“I’m going to get a cop,” I said in exactly the tone of voice that I had been addressed.

“And why are you going to get a cop?” the Blonde asked.

“Because,” I retorted, “I don’t like the way you’re treating my friends.”

Apparently, that wasn’t the answer they were looking for, because the next thing I knew I was being slapped across the face. As I realized my true plight, I began to panic. I wanted to run, and then the Blonde smacked me good with her experienced little hand.

Courage renewed, I threw down my sweater [What the heck happened to my coat?] and began kicking wildly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kate shoving her way through the crowd that had gathered.

[Unfortunately, the last page of this story got lost somewhere between the Mid-Jurassic Period and now. However, here’s how it ended: Kate grabbed onto a post and started kicking the Brunette in the stomach. About two minutes later Kate and Jenna’s parents wandered into the scene and broke up the fight. Blonde and Brunette took off, never to be seen again that evening.

A few minutes later, we discussed the situation with two or three guys who began talking to us. They were strangers to us, but they knew the other girls and their reputations. The guys walked around the carnival with us for the remainder of the evening, for protection, I guess. I don’t remember who they were; I had a boyfriend at the time, so I wasn’t interested. At any rate, we didn’t become permanent friends with them, which probably is just as well.]

 

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Ideas are up for grabs

When it comes to choosing beta readers, an aspiring author recently commented that he doesn’t accept beta readers who are strangers to him. He’s afraid they might steal his ideas.

Probably not. I wouldn’t.

When it comes to choosing recreational reading before bedtime, cozy mysteries and sweet romances have been my choices for a few years. They are clean, non-violent sub-genres, and they don’t keep me awake nights or give me bad dreams. So it’s probably no surprise that I beta read novellas and short novels written by authors of cozy mysteries and sweet romances.

However, I don’t write cozy mysteries and sweet romances. And I don’t steal ideas from authors of those sub-genres or any genres, sub or otherwise. I can come up with enough ideas on my own.

Apparently, a few of my ideas have been considered good enough for someone to steal.

When I was in the undergraduate creative writing program at a major state university, a classmate poached ideas from an article I wrote. Classmate wrote her own article, incorporating my ideas (but not my exact words), and got it published in the university newspaper. I think she was paid for her article. I, of course, was not.

I was a tad bit upset at first. Friends who read both articles noted the similarities and told me I should complain to the professor.

I didn’t do as they suggested because I knew complaining would be a waste of time and effort. Ideas cannot be copyrighted. It’s the words used to express those ideas in an article, book, or other form of media that can be copyrighted.

Ideas are up for grabs.

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Self-promotion might work the second time around

Years ago, when I lived in Arizona, I created a business card with a link to the only blog I had at the time. I also included a small icon of an antique automobile and a tagline on the card. The tagline read, Hey, Jeremy, remember the time that you . . .

I printed about twenty cards and left them at restaurants, library branches, and bookstores.

Recently, I was reminded of my brief attempt at shameless self-promotion when I met a woman who paints sayings and pictures on rocks. She gives the rocks to friends or leaves them in areas near the beach for others to enjoy.

Learning about her pastime makes me think that perhaps I should print some more of those business cards and use them to, ahem, encourage people to visit my web sites.

Yes, now I have two sites. And I once had a third. I haven’t deleted that third site; it’s just been “on hiatus” for a couple of years. Maybe someday I will re-activate My WestWord Novel blog.

Maybe.

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Yes, I’m an editor, but . . .

I don’t think it’s a big deal if someone who isn’t a journalist/author makes a grammar error when commenting on FB or Twitter. Most people probably post in a hurry and hit enter before looking at their text.

However, when posting a comment on a local, regional, or national media website, I think people should at least proofread their comments to ensure that they have used the correct word, e.g., accept not except.

Recently, on a local media website, I backed up a woman who had called out a poster on this error. Another commenter asked us if we though the man’s grammar mistake made his opinion “not valid”. No, of course his opinion is valid. But he probably could use a short refresher course in correct word usage.

This particular error is one of my pet peeves. I learned the difference between affect and effect in sixth grade English class. Thank you, Mrs. Grover.

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Apparently, my plot suggestion did not go over well

Someone recently asked my advice regarding their (the generic their) historical novel in progress. Their hero was orphaned when his criminal parents were hanged. The aspiring author, who lives in a western state, asked me to let them know what crime would have been a hanging offense in Massachusetts in the mid to late 1800s.

Specifically, in 1865, could both the hero’s father and mother have been hanged for a crime that generally seems to warrant only several years of prison time in the twenty-first century? As an example that would be relevant today, let’s pretend the parents had conned the preacher’s widow out of her life savings.

Despite having grown up in Massachusetts, I  know very little about nineteenth-century justice in that state. However, I don’t think a man would have been hanged for theft then. And, as far as I know, Massachusetts hasn’t executed a woman since the days of the Salem witch trials.

I suggested that the author have the father kill the mother. I’m fairly certain that would have been a hanging offense in 1865, and it conveniently would have dispatched both Dad and Mom for plot purposes.

For some reason, the author didn’t seem too enthusiastic about my suggestion.

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Editor/beta reader taking a break

I was employed as an editor at nonprofit organization for many years. Now I’m a freelance editor, currently on hiatus for personal reasons. If I return to editing, I have decided that I will edit only very short projects, at least for a while.

I also beta read e-novellas and short e-novels—mostly cozy mysteries and sweet romances. To be honest, because I live in the States, I prefer to read works of authors whose first language is a version of English. And, for the time being, I will read works only by authors who are located in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Although I prefer to read final drafts, I do make exceptions.

 I read for clarity, consistency, and credibility, paying special attention to both plot and character development. I will be nice, but I also will be honest.

Some beta readers charge for this service; I do not. Beta reading is not the same thing as editing. However, it is a way to keep my critical reading skills fresh while I take the time to decide if I want to resume editing other writers’ full-length works.

 I will be on hiatus from beta reading in November as I am participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge.

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