Thoughts on Writing, on Books

Dante

  1. A $6 book will provide about a 3 more hours of enjoyment than a $3 cup of coffee, but they are a match made in Heaven.
  2. You can still learn from reading bad books, even how to write a bad book, who will publish it, who will read it.  It’s okay to write horse puckey, because it sells.  Horse puckey might help keep you eating so you can write that Great American Novel.
  3. The author of a memoir is the most unreliable narrator.
  4. DVDs are clutter, books are décor.
  5. Books don’t change.  Perspective does.
  6. Stories mean something.  Even Jesus spoke in parables.
  7. Great writers don’t need to steal.  They simply find inspiration in the work of others.
  8. A great plot will keep you reading to the end; great characters will keep you re-reading.
  9. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you usually can by its synopsis.
  10. The mark of a great writer is being able to engage all of the senses.  http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/07/humans-have-a-lot-more-than-five-senses/
  11. Less is more (especially when it comes to smut and profanity).  Too much can dull the senses and be distracting.
  12. The advent of the selfie has made the whole “one picture is equal to a 1000 words” false.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #341, Theme: Hiding

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Hiding Places

For some,
it is their mother’s basement
with the glare of the TV giving their face
that 3 a.m. glow.
For others,
it is the local coffee shop,
amongst those too wrapped up in their own lives
to pay any attention to the pajama-clad man
behind the monitor.

They hide behind the faces of others,
of dogs and old, unrecognizable photos,
or shots taken from so far away,
we cannot close the distance and
see their every flaw.

We know not their face,
their voice,
what makes them tick tock
like a clock bomb.
They reveal little parts,
like trailers to a movie—
a smash-cut of a life well-lived,
well-played.

Under the cover of anonymity,
they hide behind an alias or several,
cropping their lives like their photos,
creating the life they want to live
through status updates,
and doctored pictures,
as if the images were sick.

They can be as hateful as they want,
without repercussions.
Then they must, as we all do,
go out into the world
as a fully-functioning human being,
the face-to-face encounters
softening their inner core
of coarseness.

What one reveals in their unguarded moments—
the bright screen stripped away like the Wizard’s curtain,
the keyboard stuck so that all is gibberish—
is the essence of who they are;
if the online presence and the actual one
juxtapose,
then their identity is lost amongst the virtual rubble.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #340, Theme: “Finally” or “At Last”

Scenic 90 Cafe

The Diner Hour

Once upon a time in Pensacola,
Ella May Cinders—
a waitress of generous proportions—
lived with her evil stepbrothers,
Randy the Handyman,
who was anything but handy,
(just randy),
and Andy Jack-a-Dandy,
who disdained her fashion nonsense.

Jeb, her evil stepfather,
who liked to hedge funds,
had expected her to take over
his late wife’s wifely duties—
save those in the bedroom.

Eking out a hardscrabble existence
amongst the one-percenters that frequented
The Shiny Diner—
known as Scenic 90 Café—
she never lost hope that a single tip
would change her life,
as it was against the law in this parallel universe
for a woman to leave her father
without a husband—
to be “uncleaved”.

Ella Mae’s auto was a Caddy from the last Millennium,
having not seen an oil change in 5000 miles,
the white paint chipping away like eczema.
Her black uniform was soft and thin
from so many washings,
and her shoes had holes in the soles and toes.
She was a mess.

Every day, when she went in to work,
there was Ashton Prince at Table 25,
who was looking for a wife.
Thirty to her twenty,
and a Mormon at that,
he was gloriously unmarked—
piercings and tattoos had he none.

But alas, this prince saw her only
as a server willing to chitchat,
for she was known as “The Comely Backwater Kid”.
Though her hands were clean,
her hair needed a cut,
for the ends split every which way.

Pale and wan,
she was often tired
from cleaning up after her father and brothers.
She never thought of her mother,
who’d only married the miser for his money,
thinking it would benefit her daughter.
She laughed miserably at the irony
that she was poorer than she had been
when her 99-percenter father had been alive.

So there was Ashton,
ordering his usual—
the Steak Diane—
with Rosy, the waitress,
a riveting one, at that,
with her Italian charm and French perfume,
talking him into some dessert.

Ella still had twenty minutes till her shift,
and so she went to the picnic table out back,
where no one was smoking for a change.
She started to cry,
pulling an old napkin—
smelling of brown gravy—
from her apron.

Then suddenly,
a man she had never seen,
wearing the uniform of the diner,
came up to her,
sooty as a coal miner.

“Hello,” she said, sniffling,
and he smiled and said,
“I’m Harry, and I’m here for you.”
Ella looked around,
but he told her not to fear,
for her fairy godfather was here.

“I’m here to make your prince see you
as you really are—the Daughter of a King.”

Since it was Halloween night,
he dressed her up as the Duchess of Cambridge;
her Caddy was now a mint-green Minnie Cooper,
her shoes making her feel ten feet tall.

“T’will be when the diner closes at nine,
the spell will be broken,
and you will be as you were,
so you’ve but four hours to make this man
fall in love with you, Ella unseen.”

He sprinkled some dust,
ground from the seeds of forget-me-nots,
so that none would recognize her.

She walked through the front door—
no longer “the help”—
breezing by the hostess.
She went to the booth where her prince
was soothing his sweet tooth,
and asked, “Is this seat taken?”

So taken with her he was,
over the course of an hour,
and three courses in,
that he pulled his mother’s engagement ring
from his pocket.
“Whosoever this ring fits,
that will be the girl for you,” she’d said.
He let her try it on,
and it fit like a Trump in a tower.

Suddenly, it was closing time,
and she said, “I have to go”,
but the spell broke before she could get away,
and he saw her as she had been,
and as she was now.

“Forgive me, Ella, for being such a dolt,
for you had my heart at ‘Sweet or Unsweet?’”

He took her away from her evil brood,
and they were married in the temple the next day
possible.
She got to know her Heavenly Father,
and knew through Him,
she would be reunited with her earthly father,
and would be sealed for time and all eternity
to her prince in a shining Mercedes.

As for Randy, Andy, and Jeb,
they eventually each ran for mayor,
using the Princess of Pensacola,
Mrs. Ella Prince,
as their claim to the seat.

At long last, Ella was happy—
happy to not endorse any of them.

 

5 Really Cool Things About Kindle

  1. Free books.  I don’t consider PDF downloads “real” books, but I love the free ones (especially on writing) offered on amazon.com.  It’s a great way to connect with other authors and learn something about the craft.  (I highly recommend “How to Write Poetry, by Cynthia Sharp; it’s not free, but it was well worth the $2.99).  I already have a free e-book idea of my own I am developing (writing prompts with examples), as a way to gain followers, and perhaps even contacts.
  2. Samples:  I can sit anywhere (like in bed) and read a sample of the book before I buy.
  3. Instant gratification:  I don’t have to wait for a book in the mail.
  4. It’s minimalist.  I hate clutter (I can count on both hands the number of DVDs I own, and there is a cap on how many of anything I allow myself to own); nothing looks junkier than a bunch of dog-eared paperbacks.  Plus, the electronic device is also much more sanitary than a used book that someone may have read while on the can.  (Hey, going to the bathroom is boring.)
  5. I can send documents.  http://www.amazon.com/gp/sendtokindle/email.  This is my favorite feature, because I’ve been wanting to print up a booklet of all the kids’ songs I sing to my daughter (as I haven’t learned all the verses to them yet–even the lyrics I wrote myself), but now I can just send a Microsoft Word document with all the songs as an attachment to my Kindle e-mail.  I can also read my own work, thus saving ink (but I can’t edit it).

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There are a few drawbacks to an e-reader, like not being able to give away a book you will never read again.  (I don’t pay $3.99 for a book to just delete it.)  A few of the authors I read, like Lisa Jackson and Sandra Brown (mainstream fiction authors, whose focus is on plot, unlike literary fiction, where the focus is on characterization), I won’t read again.  I know the plot, and the characters aren’t compelling enough to revisit.  (I like to compare mainstream novels to milk chocolate, and literary novels to dark.)

Furthermore, I was under the impression that Kindle books were cheaper, but they are not, considering I rarely ever buy a new book.  I generally by “Like New” books in hardcover, or, unless they are by one of the authors I mentioned, I buy a cheap paperback.

Also, there is nothing like browsing the bookstore for an hour.  It’s one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon (usually with a coffee).  I say, I will never buy an illustrated children’s book on any kind of electronic device.  My daughter likes turning the pages, and I like the aesthetics of a shelfie.

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So, I am what I call a hybrid reader–beloved books will still have a place on my shelf, but pure escapism can be relegated to my Kindle.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #339, Theme: Anticipation

A Life of Days

Sunday, September 13, 1981,
I was born at Lucy Lee,
wrapped in a quilt of many colors,
blessed with the ancestral name of Sarah Lea.

Saturday, March 16, 2013,
I was married at Grace Lutheran,
my ring a simple band of rose gold,
as uncomplicated as I am not.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013,
my daughter was born at Sacred Heart—
a little copy weight of me,
as light as I am dark.

So many other dates I anticipate—
lovely memories yet to be made—
and faith tells me they will be wonderful.
I hold out my arms with my eyes closed,
like a child expecting a present
too large to hold for long,
knowing the best has yet to come
and will come again.

So many dates I anticipate,
save the last on the timeline of my life,
for there will be stories that could’ve been,
but will have to remain untold;
for these stories are mine,
and no one else can tell them in the way
I could have done.

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Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #338, Theme: Stained

The Stain of Inhumanity

Though her sheets had been as white as snow,
they were stained with the scarlet sins
of Dr. Krueger—
with the sins of the donor fathers,
who had never looked upon their Sleeping Beauty.

Asleep, she proved her usefulness,
for such was greater than her wakefulness—
her unwillingness—
to collaborate with the devil M.D.—
to create a master set of keys
that would unlock the world powers.

Her empty vessel was filled
with clumps of cells that would grow to form
a single function—
like little Romes, or rather, Dresdens—
each unique,
and carefully selected;
each conception immaculate,
even sterile.
She was the garden from which his
little flowers would grow—
a bridge to the sun.

Violations by dozens of men,
all the way from Denmark,
are imprinted on her memory,
the results of each planting,
another loss of autonomy.
She has no voice but Sister Augustine’s,
whose powers are limited on this earth.

Her body is not her own,
for it was bought with a price.
Dr. Krueger was her savior,
even as he is her imprisoner,
having harvested her from the trash
that was her family—
the plot of an evil stepmother
with a rotten apple.

Stockholm Syndrome, they call it,
for he preserves her life,
even as he denies it to her.
The news of the world beyond her windows
filters in secondhand
through this haze of semi-consciousness.
She cannot make sense of it all.

This incapacitated princess cannot love them all,
any more than the princes of Scandinavia,
can love their all.
Through not one,
but many like her,
will spring up kingdoms and principalities—
light in color,
but dark in intent and purpose.

“You will be a queen,” he says,
her throne a hospital bed,
her crown a tangled mass of hair
the color of golden raisins,
her glass slipper a yellow sock with a
puffed smiley face on the bottom.

A plastic bracelet has her name,
but she has forgotten it now,
for it’s been so long since she’s heard it.
She is simply, Another Eve,
and sometimes Mother Mary,
who was overcome with a mysterious entity
called the Holy Ghost;
or was that Ghost,
that vapor,
simply a doctor with a needle
that put the Virgin to sleep?