R.I.P. Beverly Cleary

She lived a **ahem** storied life for 104 years. I probably should have sent her a letter thanking her for her early books, since they profoundly changed my view on reading.

I was an advanced reader and read whatever I could get my hands on. But not kid’s books. They were boring and dull, while young adult books weren’t. Give me the Outsiders over the boring chapter books we had available in the late 60s.

Not completely true; Scholastic sent around a catalog we could buy books from, and my amazing parents wanted to encourage reading, so they bought me almost everything in the catalog. And I did read them, three a day. The stack would last a week and it was off to the library for grown-up books.

Except this one time. Cleary’s Motorcycle Mouse was on the bottom of the stack (we had a mouse problem and I didn’t want to empathize with them). But when I got to and fell into it, I suddenly saw children’s books as having value. I think I read that book a dozen times. Then Runaway Ralph a few years later. I’d picked up Cleary’s other books about Beezus and Remona and Henry Higgens. Good, but not as good as Motorcycle Mouse. This was Cleary’s only mystic realism book (she probably didn’t think about it that way), giving a mouse the power to ride a motorcycle in an otherwise realistic setting (oh, her DETAIL!). Because of her, I gave other writers a try (I read most of Judy Bloom’s books a tad early. Puberty terrified me).

Beverley Cleary graduated from the University of Washington, not too many miles from where I grew up… 25 years before I was born, but that’s close to rubbing shoulders with greatness.

Our own writer, Bonnie Manning Anderson, wrote a wonderful grade school novel called Always Look for the Magic that has a Cleary feel to it with delightful details of an earlier time. Same magic as Cleary’s, same vivid pictures. Buy a copy today as a tribute to Beverly Cleary. You won’t regret it. Oh, and buy some of Cleary’s many books. They really are that good (and if you have children you MUST buy them!)

Always Look for the Magic

The Batwoman Woes

Batwoman, The New Warriors, other TV shows and stories, have met ridicule and joyous slams.

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I will watch it, probably tonight. I struggled with the first season, but hoped Ruby would grow into a good actress. She didn’t, but she was in pain the whole time from a back injury. We’ll see how this actress does.

You see, the second season of Batwoman has a black actress, The New Warriors comic book is stocked with tone-deaf SWJs. Online pundits have been gleefully trashing them.

Why the glee?

There are many shows, books, and stories that I haven’t liked. That’s totally ok. No story makes everyone happy. An author doesn’t need to–and shouldn’t–worry about every negative review. People who don’t like it aren’t your audience.

Now, I haven’t seen or read either of the afore mentioned stories. Still, I’d guess the storytelling is competent. That can be a dangerous assumption, of course, but I’m fairly certain it’s the black and SJW characters that are reviled. Note, it’s not racism, it’s leftism (that is, it’s far right people who hate virtue-signaling and political correctness).

Yet there are people who will likely enjoy them for the same reasons the extreme right hate them.

Recently, I saw The New Mutants movie. I disliked it immensely. It was like a 10-year-old wrote and directed it. It was badly written and they left a lot of great reversals off the page. It could have been great, but in my mind it wasn’t. I know people who loved it.

But I don’t take joy in hating it. That’s just weird. I felt bad that they didn’t see what they had.

The Fan4stic (Fantastic Four) movie that tanked a few years ago didn’t work because it wasn’t a superhero film, it was a creature feature. On that level, it did work.

Here’s the thing, every story has more than one perspective. There’s the story itself, there’s the storyteller’s skill and perspective, the genre, the characters, and the plot. You can like any of these or none.

What’s important, though, is that every writer has an audience. Which means others won’t be. Don’t sweat the negatives, focus on the positives.

That works in life, too.

Merry Christmas to All Who Recognize it!

It’s been a while, too long, since I’ve posted. Life has been busy! So how is it that I find time on Christmas Eve of all times?

Simple, I drove 8 hours to be with my family, but having a 70-pound puppy who chews on walls when she’d alone, I’m dog-watching in the far room while some of the family works and some are looking for things to watch.

Puppy is currently napping, but would quickly awaken should I leave, so I’ve been ruminating on an interesting thought. You see, this year is the last for our youngest daughter; she’s getting married in a 10 days, so my wife, two daughters, and son have been sharing my daughter’s house to plan for the wedding while taking a nod toward Christmas. It’s close quarters, and everyone’s character is on high display.

The interesting thought is how rarely I see holidays in novels that aren’t centered on holidays. Sure, you expect Christmas to be in “Here Comes Christmas” but not in “The Skipping Dead.”

Yet holidays often find us under pressure, a perfect way to reveal character.

Olaf lost some weight. Frosty is looking more trim. Must be stress from the holidays!

If your story takes place in summer, maybe include a chapter or two on the 4th of July. Valentines Day heats up some hearts and stills others. How does your Irish character respond to St. Patrick’s Day? Your Latina to Cinco de Mayo? How does your alcoholic character respond to holidays?

I don’t read a lot of romances, but I suspect they will often showcase a holiday or two to give their characters insight into each other.

If only as a character study that doesn’t make it into the novel, how do your paper friends and foes respond to holidays?

Ah, a wet nose and red tongue are interrupting me. I best sign off with a Merry Christmas (or winter holiday of your choice) and Happy New Year!

Who Do YOu Write Like?

I sat in on a webinar selling their “Who Do You Write Like” service that is, frankly, expensive for what they do. Especially when there are free sites who offer something similar. Yes, you need to do some legwork that the paid service do automatically, but it isn’t difficult.

“Who Do I Write Like” https://iwl.me is a free site where you paste your sample and they give you an author who you write like.

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Similar, not identical. Which are you?

Do NOT paste your whole story in here. Just a multi-paragraph excerpt. Try a few from different parts of your book(s) to get a wider range. The repeat authors are the ones you write like the most.

I dropped in excerpts from three of my books and came up with:

* Arthur C. Clarke (OK)

* Stephen King (Whoo-hooo!)

* Bram Stoker (???)

*Anne Rice (huh)

Truthfully, I can see this. I like Sci-Fi, so Clarke and 2001 a Space Odyssey is good company. I like to dig into fanciful technology. King writes about regular people in extraordinary circumstance, so that’s good. Stoker and Rice are wildcards, but they build tension much the same way I do.

But so what? Don’t you want a unique voice?

Yes, you do, and you have, but similar does not mean identical. Their readers will likely enjoy your books.

Again, so what?

Ah, that’s where the leg work comes in. Scour their book reviews and look for key words to use in your ads and descriptions. Drop their names in blog posts and social media posts “Do you like Stephen King? Then you’ll LOVE xxxxx.”

Or you can get wild and send your author style-sake a copy of your book. You never know what can come from that. 🙂

I’d guess the paid service has a larger bank of books to compare it to, but IWL seems to work well enough.

Check it out!

The Dog Days of Summer

When all this Covid stuff hit, the absence of our dear, departed dogs was too much and we went in search of a puppy. It was an adventure I won’t get into here, but for the first time we had a girl and a big dog. Well, not big yet. She was 14 pounds with long, skinny legs and a narrow head and body.

Because of Covid, we were with her every day, fed her well, and while we were definitely aware she was growing, it wasn’t wasn’t until Hurricane Sally gave us the blessing of our grown kids coming home from Pensacola for the weekend, with their two Jack Russel’s — their two very tiny Jack Russels — that we realized how big McKinley had become.

The Jacks been puppies in our home and were six or so months when they moved North with my daughter. At the time, they seemed like average size dogs. We’d had a small mutt, a chi, and whatever Thunder was at various times, all topping out around 17 pounds.

She is much prettier than the mountain she’s named after!

McKinley is now 45 pounds with another 20 pounds to gain. The Jacks could run under her without touching her belly (if they got along enough to do so. Jacks are a terror around big, boisterous, happy dogs unaware of their own size. For good reason; they have spindly bones my girl could crush in her eager rush to play.

When we first got her, she couldn’t reach her paws up to the table. Now she can and towers over the table looking for grub.

Yes, this is a writer’s blog, and yes there is a point.

If you write your story just a little bit everyday, your little story will take on size and dimension that amazes you. Some days you may write a paragraph; some days a chapter or more. The key is to write a bit every day. You’ll find when you sit to write for a few minutes, those minutes also take on size and dimension, and suddenly they’re hours. But even if not, a little bit will still accumulate.

My first novel was supposed to be a 15,000 to 20,000 word Dime Store novel. I wrote on a state-of-the-art computer at the time. Word was a DOS program and didn’t include a wordcount or even page count. When I finally finished the novel, it was 150,000 words. I had no idea! I began printing (on a dot-matrix printer) and it took three days to finish. One of these days, I’ll dust that novel off and rewrite it to a more manageable 60 – 80k manuscript.

The point is, a little over time becomes a lot. I’m the first to say with all I have going on right now that I don’t have time to write. I don’t have time to write for hours, but I do have time to write for 30 minutes or so.

Can’t you?

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