Who is Ed? – Lessons from the Comics

It matters how something is said. We all know that. But it also matters how something is thought to be said. Our lesson from the Comics today is from “Pickles”by Brian Crane. The cartoon is of retired couple Opal and Earl. A recent episode featured Earl jealous of a text he sees on her phone which he believes is a reminder to call “Ed”. Opal explains that it doesn’t say, “call Ed”. It simply says, “called”.
It’s funny in a cartoon but if confusion is in a novel or short story, not so much.


What am I talking about? Not simple reading errors but word placement that causes confusion or maybe a whole different meaning.
For example, “You can hop on the tube and eat lunch at Harrow’s Grill for three dollars.” Someone might think it only costs three dollars for lunch at Harrows when it really costs twelve bucks for the cheapest dish. Should say, “For three dollars you can catch the tube to Harrows Grill and get some lunch.” Whole different point.
Here’s another, “After eating my bird whistles.” Hmm, does that mean someone is eating a bird?
How about, “My favorite foods are fried chicken, peanut butter and jelly and pizza covered with anchovies.” Is that peanut butter and jelly with anchovies?
These are just simple examples of poor word order and missing commas, but you get the idea. I’ve heard the best way to catch these types of mistakes is to read what you write aloud. When you read your writing, if you stumble at speaking it, chances are a reader will stumble at reading it.
In the cartoon, the momentary confusion almost led to a serious issue between Opal and Earl. Hopefully we can avoid even near misses. When my novel gets before an agent or publisher the last thing I want is for even one sentence to leave her scratching her head saying, “What?”
I’m fairly certain that would be followed by a, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Write on but take the time to read aloud!

Just for Kicks – Up Time / Down Time

I have three sisters. We spent a good part of our childhood in competition with each other as that was encouraged by our parents; not on purpose but the side effect of fickle favoritism and random penalizing. Even so, we often got on harmonious “kicks”which were spurts of obsession with one activity or another and had great fun together. Here’s some of the ‘kicks’ we had:
• Puzzles – kitchen table overtaken by 1000 piece jigsaws.
• Playing “I doubt it” and/or Spoons and/or any card game Nana taught us.
• Paint by number kits– we were all artists for weeks
• Peanut butter no bake cookies – they cropped up each time one of us reached sixth grade and had cooking class.
• Funnel cakes and cinnamon crusted muffins – another cooking class food obsession
• Freeze pops
• Marionette puppets (kits to make them)
• Making rock candy – mysterious cups of colored sugar water with strings hanging in them.
• Giant chocolate bars – thanks to mom who bought them on sale, one for each of us. We became addicted to chocolate and begged her for more promising to do all kinds of extra chores if she would keep them flowing.
• Reading novels. No one moved from their preferred reading chair for days. Any money that was to be had went to buying books. I read a lot of my sisters hand me downs which is how I read books maybe not appropriate for my age. I’ll never forget reading “Alive” about a plane crash in the Andes.
There were the Barbie days, the Fisher -Price Little People days, the ‘make your own’ paper dolls days, the knitting and crocheting and embroidery days. Those were the days!

The things is, we submerged ourselves in these things, and were consumed by them and even more so as a group. But when the ‘kick’ passed, it was gone. We may have a collection of sticky paint by number scenes of mountains down the hall and a velvet tiger half finished under a bed but that was it. Things change. Rainy days end. Summer ends. Life happens and we were in different places. But that didn’t make the enjoyment and the benefits disappear.
I still love to paint, embroider, definitely read, and I’ll never forget those cinnamon crusted muffins my sister cranked out every morning.
I’m sharing this to say don’t be discouraged if you have intense times of creativity and writing and it seems like you are destined for the stars by sheer zeal. But then, there’s a shift in your life, in your mind and there you are like a normal person with not a creative thought in your head. Writing seems tedious and you wonder where you were going in the next chapter that was left half finished.
It’s all good. The battery is charging in those down times. Something is building that will burst out when the time is right. Learn to channel the creative bursts into goals and relax in the low key rests.
Just go with it. Happy writing and waiting to write!

He Did What? – characters running the show

Once I wrote a novel called, “Lilies in the Spring”. It is about a brother and sister, fifteen years apart in age. The parents die in a car crash and the brother must raise his thirteen year old sister. The story started with the brother’s childhood before the sister was born. He was an independent child who was given responsibilities at an early age. I had a scene where at ten, he made coffee before his mother woke up. One of the people who critiqued the story made the comment that a boy of that age would never be able to do such a task without supervision.
My first reaction was, this boy does! My son never made coffee for me at that age but I think he could have. There may be some of you who would say sure, there are ten year olds that are capable. The question isn’t how possible is it that such a child exists but what is most likely, most plausible in most reader’s minds?
That’s the thing. It does no good to be stubborn and possessive about a character or a scene. Yes, I am the author but if my goal is to write well, to craft well, the characters must be subject to that objective and I must be subject to the reader and their preferences.
Now, that doesn’t mean, I can’t have a ten year old making coffee as a chore. But if the feedback from more than one person (or even just one) is that it’s not realistic, I either have to do a stellar job in making it clear that this unusual child is real or I need to revise. The point of the scene was to show he was a serious, independent and highly responsible child who would grow up to be governed by that sense of responsibility, order and serious thinking which is all upended in raising a teenager.
If the coffee scene was a hard sell, there are many other ways to get the point across and that is the takeaway from this post. Don’t let characters and their special endearing, seemingly indispensable qualities, run the show. Characters must be in step with the whole purpose of their existence, to tell the story in the most engaging, thought provoking, intense, unforgettable way. Be open to pushing your characters down another path to get to the same place. That’s the joy of writing, the empty page can take a character any direction. It’s worth the trouble to find the right one. Write on!

What’s in a Name? Storm Weaver – 7

The woman wails.
Picking up the brown pebble my fingers brush up against,
a larger stone, mostly covered by earth.
But I see the outline of an unnatural square stone.
The woman stops crying,
She begins clawing at the tufts of grass encroaching on it until she lifts it upright.
Her face streaked with dirt and tears she asks, “Kind sir, what is your name?”
The pebble in my hand,
feels heavier by the minute.
Like I must put it down,
Close to the earth.
So I drop it,
In front of the square stone,
that says, “Adam”,
my name.

This is installment 7 in the Series “Storm Weaver”. Each installment is 100 words. Read the whole series by choosing “Storm Weaver” in categories.

Writing Tips from the Funnies- Authenticity

It’s a hot debate in writer’s circles with the old adage ‘write what you know’ against ‘create your own world’. I personally think writing is one of the last frontiers for the mind, that and scientific research (ha ha). The subject, the setting, the fiction needs to have the freedom to expand to fill whatever space the story fits in. Apart from technical and historical accuracy, I say, breathe your characters to life in the circumstance that they fit in whether it’s been your experience or just one you know of. The truth is, in many ways we all share in common human pressures, disappointments, joys and triumphs. In mini-bites there are moments of hunger, desperation, hopelessness, being mis-understood, deceived, betrayed, loved, abused, broken, wounded, stuck with no clear way out and the list goes on and on.


In the Peanuts cartoon, Lucy complains that Snoopy’s story about suffering is shallow, meaning it’s not believable. She accuses him of having not suffered enough to get it right.
That is the key point if you’re going to superimpose your mini-bites of life over a character whose whole life is about something you may know just a little bit about and the rest is imagination you better get it right. To do that, you need to be a studier of people, of emotions, and think deep enough, act out in your mind the full experience and lose yourself in a new reality. It’s a gamble and it means frequent gut checks. Does this ring true? It means research and interviewing and pulling from all those sources and then crafting the words up out of it. In that process, I have lost myself in research and learned things I never would have if I didn’t need to strengthen the believability of my story plot. Early on in my writing adventure I was writing a book about two friends, one with AIDS and the other a medical student. My draft story received such a scathing critique from someone on the frontlines of patient care. She let me know I didn’t get it right. She challenged me to get to know my subject. I took the challenge and joined a volunteer program to help patients who didn’t have any family to support them. Before you think I’m a saint, I never actually became an active volunteer but I stepped into a world that I would never have understood if I didn’t write myself into that corner. Tread carefully in the land of research. That’s all I’m saying. It may be easier just to rewrite scenes from your own life ; avoid the challenge and pitfalls of conjecture….really? When are we writers afraid of going into the unknown wherever the pen may take us? You’ll be fine. Write on!

The Power of Slash -Life of a NaNoWriMo Novel

“Kill Words” by Clare Graith – first paragraphs:

I can’t go home. That much I know. I’ll just stay in my car at the Walmart parking lot. If I could just get the phone package open. My hands are shaking. What did he say? “Hang up and go buy a burner phone then call me back.” His words go through my mind over and over. I love his voice. It matches the tone of his blog posts. Strong but approachable. I must be crazy. He only spoke one sentence and then click. Did I make that up?

I resort to using my car key to rip a hole in the package. The phone slides out. As soon as I have it on and the screen lights up, my heart pounds even faster. I need to calm down. I’m not doing anything wrong. I look around half excepting a police officer to come by come and tell me to step out of the car as though using a disposable phone is a crime. I’ve got to get it together. Seriously, all this could be a game; “let’s see what Maisey will do”. Wait, not Maisey, Maeve. I have to remember my blog name. I’ll play along for now. I make the call.

            He picks up at the first ring. “Hi Maeve. Sorry about this.”

            “What’s going on Tyler?” I surprise myself with a demanding tone. But that’s right Maeve would be that way. “Why can’t we talk on our regular phones?”

            “The people I work for. I think they’re monitoring my phone and my email.”

            “But you work for the library, right?”

            “The library is my cover job.”



The new beginning was created by chopping the entire first three chapters, picking the story up right before Maisey’s life spirals out of control. The previous beginnings are below. I think its getting better. Who wants to bet that I’ll have another post with further revisions? Anyone want to see more?

I hope sharing the progression of the beginning of my novel, gives someone out there the courage to try slashing. It can transform the beginning from “meh” to “yeah”.

Write On! Slash on! Be free from the page already written!

Read about Tyler’s backstory at EnTyleryWords.com

The previous Beginning read like this:


Lying on my bed, staring up at the swirly pattern on the ceiling of my childhood room, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a blog. I need a place where I can be me, not the me that everyone thinks I am. The me I know I am. I’ll be called Maeve. That’s a good, solid sounding name. Better than Maisey. Not that Maisey is a bad name, it’s just that it’s grandma Gertie’s middle name and Grandma Gertie was incredible. Widowed with ten kids at thirty, she built a business making children’s cloths. What am I building? Not even immunity, I catch a cold every other month chasing after kids as a teacher’s aide.

This kind of thinking is what happens on fall break. Give me some time and I see my life for what it is. I see clearly, I’ve bought into the lie that working hard, getting a degree with high honors means I’m destined for success. My mother was a five-time winner of the Midwest teacher of the Year award. Yet what kind of job do I land? One that does not even require a college degree; ‘preferred but not required’ to be exact.

A blog will not solve all my problems, but it won’t add to them.

This was the version before:

I’m named after my grandmother, Gertrude Maisey Warner. But I don’t have her first name, I’m called Maisey. The truth is even when I was born my parents could tell I would not fill Grandma Gerty’s shoes. She married at eighteen, lost her husband at thirty and raised ten kids by sewing children’s clothes, eventually creating her own brand. Each of her children grew up with the same penchant for success. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon and pioneered a technique for treating a rare brain tumor. Uncle Jack is dean of mathematics at the university. Aunt Becca is co-founder of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner city. Now it was the next generation’s turn to carry on the legacy unless I break the trend.

ORIGINAL First Draft Beginning:

I’m named after my grandmother Gertrude Maisey Warner, the revered matriarch of the family. They called her Gerty, but I’m called Maisey. I guess my parents could tell even then that I would not be able to fill her shoes. She married at eighteen and had ten kids all of them growing up to be upstanding citizens. My uncle Bill is a neurosurgeon, uncle Jack head of mathematics at the university, my aunt Becca a CEO of a medical device company. My own mother not only won ‘teacher of the year’ five years in a row for the Midwest region, but she started a non-profit to combat illiteracy in the inner-city.

Counting on Success

Repost due to yesterday’s glitch

I’m a numbers person. Not math, strings of numbers. It gives me pleasure when a number is assigned to a record by the system and it has order like, 828928, or if I look at the clock and it says:11:11. Don’t get me started on dates. Every month last year, the month plus 20/20 made me want to check a box. I don’t make much of this wacky joy. There are so many things to bring worry and anxiety, why look too deeply into something that puffs a little positivity my way?
It’s easy though to get caught up in the numbers game with blogging. How many ‘likes’ on a post, how many followers, how many posts in a month? Keep it light, keep it fun, that’s what I say.
I’m preparing a query letter for my current WIP and I really want to get it right. Writing query letters is as strenuous as writing beginnings of novels for me. I revise a thousand times and still go back and read it a week later and want to spit for how terrible it sounds. I can’t even get out of the gate with a few sentences that show case how great the story is if someone reads to at least page fifteen. I’ve tried cutting straight to page fifteen with marginal success. Anyway, off topic.
Numbers. In my study on a better query I came across a chart of expected word count for the type of novel I’m pitching. This particular article said it should be 80-90K. Forget the query, I need another fifteen thousand words! If I don’t have the word count right, that could be the end of my query even if I manage to nail the three sentence summary.
Adding fifteen thousand words does not make me sick, not at all. I’ve learned that if I carefully read through my story, I will find great big gaps that in my haste to get through to the next scene, I’ve summarized without realizing it. It’s happened so many times that even though I was sure I had the best final draft (before a professional editor gets ahold of it), there are pockets of story missing.
Did Tyler and Maisey really just walk up to the car and boom someone came behind them with chloroform saturated clothes? So quick, so easy to get them in the clutches of their enemies. There’s a nugget of five thousand words to push in there. Now if I could just stop cutting words from the beginning, I might one day get it right!

Anyone notice yesterday’s wonderful date? 012121. So nice.

Did you see yesterday’s post at Entylerywords?

Press Pause Please

My home office came into existence March 16, 2020. Before that date, the dining room table worked just fine for the occasional stay at home days. I bought the cheapest monitor from Walmart since a laptop screen is too small for continuous work. I set up a “desk” using two folding camp tables. But work doesn’t go on pause just because a setup is make shift. It was full steam ahead, trying to keep track of files, documents, take video calls, eat lunch, with a crazy set-up.
Since I go into work a few times a week, I had to pack my notebooks and files in my backpack and then take them back and forth. In a very short time I was surrounded by chaos, but still to stop and organize, get the equipment and strategy that would make work easier, wasn’t an option. At the end of every extended day, there isn’t anything left to continue another fifteen or thirty minutes to improve the work environment. Until, my brain said, “stop!” and so I did.
One morning when there were no meetings scheduled I took an hour to clear out everything and start over. I used a vanity desk with drawers and a folding table. I positioned my monitors (added another compliments of the company) toward the window so my view was a tree and the garden instead of the neighbor’s deck. I consolidated files and tossed stuff that I no longer needed. I vacuumed and cleaned and made the bed that crowds the space (it’s a guest room) when all was said and done, I started back to work, behind thirty emails but feeling a lot more sane.
Why am I saying all this? Because there is a parallel with my writing projects. I’m so driven to write that even though I know I really should stop, take some time to plot out where I’m headed or listen to that inner editor that asks if a character really needs to be in a scene, I don’t slow down. Take a break? Spend some time researching if the setting is accurate? Not a chance, I’m red hot I can’t stop or else I’ll never get done. That’s the way it feels, always this sense of urgency. But if I take a lesson from my ‘work at home’ situation, I might realize taking time to employ the tools (books on how to write better), or even find the right tools (software for plotting) or just get my workspace and files organized, will result in better quality the first time. If your project is starting to be a cloud of ‘things I’ll fix later’, it might be time to take a morning off, do some planning, tidying up files, taking advantage of tools and finding out, a short pause is not a waste of time but can turn into the energy and drive to finish well.
Write on!

Getting to Know You

Character building through conversations

Tyler Rowan of “EnTyleryWords.com”

This fictitious conversation is between Andrea Mann a journalist researching for an article about patrons of “Feed Our Souls” (FOS) homeless shelter in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Andrea: Tyler, tell me about the circumstances that brought you to FOS. How old were you? What happened that you came to FOS?

Tyler: I was twenty-two, living in my car at the time. FOS had good food and I was starving.

Andrea: Were you working?

Tyler: Lost my job. Then I couldn’t pay my part of the rent, so my roommates kicked me out. Well actually I left. I wasn’t going to let them pay for my place. None of us were doing that well.

Andrea: So FOS was there for you when you were between jobs. What happened that you lost your job?

Tyler: I screwed up. Worked for a builder. I was learning a trade; you know how to put up walls, windows, a roof. But I partied too much. Came to work hung over, still drunk and almost got one of my co-workers killed. I was fired which I totally deserved.

Andrea: Not easy to admit.

Tyler: Took me a long while to get over, you know, almost killing someone. Sobered up fast but my references were shot.

Andrea: Hard to find a job without a good word from someone.

Tyler: Damn near impossible and it didn’t help that I’m not cut out for working at a fast food place or the dollar store.

Andrea: What about family?

Tyler (sarcastic laugh) Don’t have any.

Andrea: No family? You’re an orphan then?

Tyler: Not exactly. My dad died when I was eight, but mom remarried.

Andrea: And…

Tyler: Stan doesn’t want reminders of mom’s old life, tried to drive me out before I was eighteen but I had to finish high school at least, wanted to go to college. Yeah, that was a childhood dream. And I have a sister but she’s in jail.

Andrea: No aunts, uncles, grandparents?

Tyler: I thought this interview was about FOS.

Andrea: Yes, right. Sorry. It is but the background of FOS patrons helps us understand the support that might be needed beyond a bed and a meal.

Tyler: I don’t need support. I just need something to eat now and again.

Andrea: Of course. That is our main purpose.


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction based on the character in “Kill Words” by Clare Graith. Tyler’s blog can be found at EnTyleryWords.com (launching soon). FOS is a fictional homeless shelter. Andrea Mann is a fictional journalist. Any resemblance to real people and places is coincidental.

Personal Notes on the New Year

Woke up in the new year, From a sound sleep,
To the pop of fireworks,
12:04 am.
Ha ha!
Thought something was hitting the window.
It’s a new year on the calendar,
Same world.
I want to do better in this current
12 month period.
Just not sure what
That looks like!
Not better at what I do,
Better at who I am,
But it’s a moving target,
And I feel like I’m missing the point,
Shooting arrows aimlessly.

Writing note- introspection and journaling can lead to great writing. I entered a contest a few months ago with a short story birthed from a few thoughts I jotted down and turned into a character’s situation. Winners will be announced soon. I’m not terribly hopeful but it’s a good story. I’ll post one day and see if you all agree. Maybe in my newsletter coming soon!

Happy 2021 may it be fruitful in all that is good and halt all that is bad.