The great thing about writing stories…

…is that I get to be all the characters. The hero who does such nice things and saves the world. (I’ve always wanted to save the world and get credit for it.) The villain. (I can be as nasty as I damned-well please. It is such a great emotional release. Helps me get rid of the garbage in my life.) The sexy femme fatale. (Gives me a chance to explore the feminine side of my personality.) The gracious sidekick. (I get to be a little bit gracious and that always makes me feel good.)

No matter the story, I am in there taking punches, giving punches and having a grand old time. When someone walks up to me and says that they have a story I should write, I try to tell them that they should come on in, the water’s fine. But they insist they have no gift. Well, I am not interested in exploring anybody else’s dirty laundry. I have plenty of my own and all filled with wonderful characters that I can be.

All I have to do is sit down at a table in an imaginary restaurant and say, “Hey.”

“Hey,” says the dark-haired lady across from me, sipping red wine.

“So you need me to find your husband?”

“Yes, but don’t make it too fast. I’m having too much fun with his money for now. Sometime in a month or so will be just fine with me.”

“You didn’t murder your husband, did you? I’d hate to go off on a wild goose chase.” Of course, if I know this kind of story, I will be on a wild goose chase before you can toss a coin and call it heads or tails.

“No, I didn’t. I would have liked to. But he’s worth more to me alive than dead.”

And there you have it. I have quickly become two characters in a poorly lit restaurant, discussing murder. Where would I have that opportunity otherwise?

Rejection Letters to Famous Authors

Have you ever asked why so many writers take to drink? Well, you would drink too if you received a rejection letter like these writers might have received.

Dear Mr. Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom): You are very good with the long sentences. But you seem to be stuck way too much in the past.

Dear Miss Mitchell (Gone With the wind): The Civil War is over. Get over it.

Dear Mr. Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea): Our audience is an adult audience. Unfortunately your sentences are not above the sixth grade reading level.

Dear Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer): Could you give us more sex and less story please?

Dear Mr. Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath): We don’t do wine books.

Dear Miss Austen (Pride and Prejudice): Nothing seems to happen in your novels. If you could write something with a story like Fifty Shades of Grey, we could see our way to publishing. Call it Fifty Shades of Mr. Darcy.

Dear Mr. Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby): I am sorry but I don’t think our readers will be able to identify with your Gatsby character. He is way too rich and those parties he throws are much too sinful. Now if he loved Jesus, and was a lost soul that converted to the Lord, you would have something.

Dear Arthur Conan Doyle (A Study in Scarlet): Your detective, Sherlock Holmes, is much too smart for our readers.

Dear Mr. Dickens (A Christmas Carol): That Scrooge fellow makes all us capitalists look bad. Then you have to go and turn him into a communist.

Dear Mr. Heller (Catch 22): Very interesting book. It really isn’t about baseball, is it?

Dear Mr. Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five): There are no such things as aliens.

Dear Mr. Tolstoy (War and Peace): Make up your mind. Is it war or is it peace?

Dear Miss Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird): We are not interested in instruction manuals on how to murder birds.

Dear Senor Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude): Nobody around here reads Spanish. That is Spanish, isn’t it?

Dear Mr. Adams (A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy): In what galaxy is hitchhiking allowed?

Dear Mr. Dante Alighieri (The Divine Comedy): We did not find your book funny. Not funny at all.

Dear Mr. Gibran (The Prophet): If you are a prophet, why didn’t you predict that we wouldn’t publish your book?

Dear Mr. Joyce (Ulysses): Where did you hide all your commas anyway?

Dear God (The Bible): Not sure what genre to put this one under. Geneology? History? Poetry? Motivation? Fantasy? Biography? Besides nobody will ever believe that story about the guy and the whale. And that book about a guy named Job is a real downer.

A Writer’s Horror Story

The writer sat back, lit himself a cigar and grinned. He had come to the end of his tome, Somehow, he worked through all the jokes, and all the times when he didn’t want to write the damned thing. It was done, and he was a happy man. He saved his work.

He went to the kitchen, took a grand puff on his cigar and poured a drink of the pinot he’d been saving for a celebration. Soon the glass was empty. He poured a second glass and walked back to his computer with a big smile on his face.

51,717 words. He was indeed proud of himself. Lady Whats-her-name had adventures up the wazoo and who knew? Maybe the next novel might bring more adventures. He had only one more thing to do. Upload his words to the online site. Before he did, there was just one itsy-bitsy change he wanted to make. Change THE END to FINALE.
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He sat down at the computer and looked at the page. He was stunned. The words, all 51,717 of them, had been erased. Where was his work, his month of staying up late and typing out nonsense into the word processor? Hours of trying to think up crap for a useless extravaganza of an exercise.

He stared at the monitor. Suddenly a big mouth appeared on his screen. It said in the crudest possible way, “I’m hungry and I want more words. More words, if you please.”

Left hand, right hand

They say that left handers are the creative ones. Which means that we right handers have a lot to overcome to make art. Slay some dragons. Rescue a few virgins. Play quidditch. As George W. Bush used to say, “It’s hard.” God knows I’ve been after that Holy Grail for most of my life. All I keep hearing from the unknown: “On you huskie. On.”

That “On” has taken me down the road not taken many a time. There’s some scary stuff down that path. Lions and tigers, oh my. I never know just who I’ll run into down the Road. It could be Abby Normal or his sister, Abby So Lutely. Mostly I have been trying to follow what Dorothy and Scarecrow’s advise, when they sing, “Ease on down the road.” But sometimes that is easier said than done. When I come to a fork in the road, I do follow Yogi Berra’s wisdom. “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Still I ask, “What’s a fork without a spoon?”

I do try to follow Jesus’ advice. I try to never let my right hand know what my left hand is doing. “Shhh, it’s a secret,” I tell him. Have to tell you that is a good way to get clobbered. That right hand don’t particularly like it when he gets told what to do. That’s why I’m not letting him know it’s a blog I’m-a doing. If I do, he might not play nice. Could very well take over. Then what would you get? All that rational stuff that just isn’t any fun.

The Writer’s Life

The novelist sat down at his computer desk and sipped his coffee. It was November 1. Time for his annual exercise with the National Novel Writing Month, better known  as nanowrimo. His past three excursions into nanowrimo-land had turned out successful. After much needed editing, each novel was published, sold well, and received quite a lot of positive criticism.

Usually he prepared for the exercise with several months of planning. Not this year. This year he had nary a clue of what story would go onto the blank page, staring back at him. This year he was going to wing it.

His cell rang. Instead of letting the caller leave a message, he answered. Twenty minutes later he hung up, then stared at the blank document before him. It stared back. What to write, what to write?

He reached over for his cup. It was empty. This was no way to start a novel. He needed more coffee. Off to the kitchen, he went and brewed himself a second cup. Looking over at the sink filled with dishes, he realized that he couldn’t write with dirty dishes in the sink.

Twenty minutes later, the dishes were washed and dried, and he was back at his desk with a fresh cup of coffee. Then it came to him. He did not have clothes for the meeting he was supposed to have with his publisher two days away. Can’t have that.

As he pushed a load of laundry into the washer, he realized he was not getting any writing done. The machine began its washing. He looked at his watch. Three hours had passed and he didn’t have a word on paper yet.

No wonder I can’t get anything started. I’m hungry.

Sitting at the kitchen table, he bit into the first of three toasted cheese sandwiches. He searched the newspaper before him for ideas. Nothing in here but murder, murder, murder. He took a sip from his soda. Gee, I’ve got to give up sugar. But it won’t be this month. That would be a distraction from the novel I have to write.

An hour later the laundry was finished and the sandwiches eaten and the dishes washed. Still no idea what his nanowrimo would be. He had heard of writer’s block before but this was ridiculous. He turned on the TV. There was a Tarzan movie on. It hit him. Finally an idea. Off went the TV.

He stared at the blank page on his computer. “The man,” he typed. No, that’s not right. Got to give him a name. What name? Oh, I’ve got it.

On the screen appeared the words, “Jack Peters raised his rifle and aimed at the charging rhino.

“Click. The gun misfired.

“The rhino closed in on him.”

“Hold on there,” Jack said to the writer. “What makes you think I am agreeing to this? Ain’t no way I want to be gored by a rhino.”

This had never happened before. A character talking to him. His characters always did what they were told.

“Shut up and do as you’re told,” the novelist said to his character.

“I am not going to be gored by a rhino. Just so you can get in some imaginary word count so’s you can brag to your girlfriend that you’re a big stud of a writer. Who do you think I am?”

“You’re a big game hunter. American, if I remember correctly. Yes, definitely American. Now get to work.”

“No. No. No. That is not how it works around here. You know, if that beast gores me in the right place, I could be dead. Or even worse, impotent. That may have been good enough for that Jake Barnes fellow but not for me. I’m having none of that.”

“You don’t have any choice.”

“And you want to know something else? If you don’t make your move with that woman of yours, I’ll take care of her for you. All she needs is a man. You ain’t him.”

“Leave her out of it.”

“Okay,” the character said. “But only if you do the right thing and let me take that rhino down. Otherwise she’s all mine.”

“Geez, I never had this kind of trouble with a character before.”

“That’s ’cause all your characters have sucked big time. I’m the first real character to appear in any of your novels. Since it’s my story, I get some input. And my input is that I am not gored by a rhino. You hear me?”

“Okay,” the novelist begrudgingly agreed.

“Well, let’s get to it.” The character returned to his place on the page.

The novelist typed. “Jack dropped to his knees. He threw his rifle aside. Grabbed the gun lying in the grass next to him. The rhino was three feet away and charging. Jack aimed and fired. The rhino dropped at his feet.”

The character stepped off the page again. “That’s better. Now keep it up.”