Check out these cool bits and pieces I came across this week:
Writers Helping Writers outlines 4 ways to fix a boring story.
Over at Scriptmag, writer William C. Martell gives us the goods on invisible plants and payoffs. The article is specifically for the screenwriter audience, but the advice is good for novels as well.
For those of you who are putting together your samples, be sure to check out the advice from writer Noemi Tasarra-Twigg at Freelance Writing Gigs on the portfolio mistakes you want to avoid.
Here’s one just for fun: From the same folks who gave us the uproarious It’s a Southern Thing YouTube channel, Bless Your Rank includes several hilarious videos of food and beverage rankings.
This one is named Zeta – we’re into the Greek because we ran out of English names – and at first I was really worried because I thought we were at the end of the Greek alphabet too. (Turns out Zeta is only the sixth letter, but still!)
Hurricane Z is in the Gulf (as of Monday morning) and will be blasting by my home, the great state of South Carolina, on the back side later this week.
And that’s just not right. Not when Halloween is days away.
Yes, it’s true that hurricane season lasts through the end of November, but let’s be honest: We consider this a technicality and don’t expect to be picking up storm debris along with the ghost and goblins displays in the front yard.
On the other hand, we’re still in 2020, and if this year has taught us anything, it’s that we should not let down our guard until the ball drops at 11:59 p.m. on December 31.
In the meantime, I recommend that you bookmark Mike’s page and follow him on Facebook (as Mike’s Weather Page) and on Twitter (as @tropicalupdate). He has up-to-the-minute info on everything weather related. Consider donating (PayPal and Patreon links on the left column) if you can, because he’s an enormous help and deserves our support.
Unrelated, but still interesting, note:
Grammarcat insisted that I mention the headline is correct with “its” (the possessive form) rather than “it’s (contraction of “it is”). I had an internal debate on this and finally located a site that spelled out the differences and spent some quality time there. This, of course, is what we grammar nerds do for fun and is also why God invented the internet.
A few interesting stories I came across this week:
On the Create Write Now site, writer Joy Held encourages writer wellness and challenges with five things for your writing.
At IngramSpark, writer Scott La Counte explains how to promote a book on social media.
Derek Hanes at Just Publishing Advice discusses using a free starter series to sell more books.
BBC News has a life-imitates-myth story where an eight-year-old girl pulls a 1,500-year-old sword from a lake in Sweden.
Continuing with the “children leading us” theme, Good News Network has what we hope will be good news indeed: 14-year-old girl wins $25k for a scientific breakthrough that could lead to a Covid-19 cure.
I’m just back from a quick weekend trip to the beach. Our party of six did a five-hour ride on Amtrak to Rocky Mount, NC, then rented a car for a three-hour drive over to the Outer Banks.
A beach trip like that might seem a bit of overkill, considering all six of us live in Charleston, where a trip to the beach is measured in minutes instead of hours and doesn’t involve anyone yelling “All Aboard!” (unless you want to, of course).
But it’s the journey, not the destination, as they say.
It’s also the insights that you pick up along the way. Insights you’d never pick up at home. Like the one that hit me after I returned the rental car.
After a few days in Nags Head – by which I mean dangerously strong surf, biting winds, and fabulous food that made up for the less-than-welcome beach – we did the return trip: three hours by car, then I dropped everyone at the Amtrak station and went to Enterprise to drop off the rental and call for a taxi to take me back to the station. (Yes, Enterprise does provide free shuttle, but not during after-hours, which it was at this point on Sunday.)
The taxi service said they’d send someone but weren’t sure when the person would get there. Hopefully soon, might be forty-five minutes, could be an hour or more. I started thinking up contingencies in case I didn’t make the train. Because I’m a professional worrier (and pretty good at it), this was a serious concern, and I launched into full-on fretting mode.
But then – surprise! – the taxi pulled up about two minutes after I parked. I was so grateful that I jumped in and said to the woman, “Thank you so much!”
She didn’t say anything. Nor did she talk on the way to the train station. I could see her eyes in the mirror. Tired, sad, a little apathetic.
When we pulled up to the station, I said, “You were such a blessing to me today.”
The woman shrugged and mumbled something like, “Uh.”
The fee was 9.65. I gave her a twenty.
She groaned and said, “I only have ones to give you.”
I said, “No, keep the change.”
She just looked at me dumbfounded, so I said it again: “I mean it. You were a blessing to me today, and I appreciate how quickly you got there. Thank you.”
I got out of the car and went into the station. A quick glance back. She was still staring at me, confused.
That was an interesting encounter. I thought about it on the way home. I fell asleep thinking about it. And I woke up this morning with an insight.
You see, I don’t think it was my double-paying the taxi fee that puzzled her.
Maybe she didn’t hear “thank you” or “I appreciate you” very much and wasn’t sure how to respond. (I’m guessing that when it came to paying the fee, riders usually only said something about the high price, if they said anything at all.)
Maybe she wasn’t used to being called a blessing.
And sure, maybe I’m over-thinking the encounter (I’m as skilled at over-thinking as I am at worrying), but when you get an insight, you might as well entertain it for a while.
I don’t think it was an accident that I ended up in her taxi. I think it was part of the journey-not-destination that she and I are both on, where we gain valuable insights in the most unlikely of places and use them to grow: For me, it’s seeing blessings instead of worrying and fretting; for her, maybe it’s believing that blessings are real and, in fact, sometimes come in the form of her.
I can’t help hoping and praying that the woman also thought about our conversation. I wouldn’t even mind if she was irritated or rolled her eyes when she thought about it.
I just hope she heard the truth: “You were a blessing to me today.”
I hope it gets stuck in her head and echoes every day.
I hope it takes root and grows.
I hope it becomes part of her self-talk.
Here’s some fun stuff I came across this week:
Over at Scriptmag, writer Ray Morton delves into the best exposition scene ever written.
Writer Katie Buller provides a fabulous resource roundup for authors. (I hope to be added to her “Amazing Author Blogs” one day!)
At Ingramspark, writer Penny C. Sansevieri outlines 11 things you need to plan for holiday sales.
Writer Derek Haines at Just Publishing Advice gives us some news we can all use: 20 practical ways you can make money blogging.
For those of you who followed Bitter Script Reader (I did for years!), he’s been revealed. Scott Myers interviews him over at Go Into the Story.
The following is an excerpt from a book I wrote with my dad. The full title (shown in the image to the left) is, “If You Can’t Pay Attention, Take Notes: A Navy Brat Reflects on Brathood, the First Line of Defense, and Why You Don’t Wash the Chief’s Coffee Cups.”
That title almost constitutes a whole chapter by itself. Dad would have approved.
Dad loved the Navy. He was a natural storyteller, and sea stories were his favorites. He retired as Chief Radioman in 1978, and he died in 2017. A lot of sea stories were told between those years.
Here’s one of them:
~ ~ ~
My dad always had a way with vehicles. A magic touch, you might say. And it wasn’t just a matter of making it run smoothly; his ability to acquire vehicles for little or nothing was an art.
Take that time he found a jeep in perfect running condition. Not bought, not borrowed: found. And then he got to keep it, courtesy of the U.S. Army. It might have been his best auto purchase, considering there was no purchase at all.
But I’ll let him tell the story his way:
I had been transferred from the main communications centers to the harbor entrance control post. That post controlled all the shipping and boats, including fishing boats, in and out of the harbor of Da Nang.
Transportation from our barracks to the post was “iffy” most of the time. The buses were usually broken down or if they worked, then they couldn’t find a driver. We ended up walking the three miles almost every day.
After I’d been there about three months, I found a jeep.
I was walking to work with Bill, a guy who worked in Operations. Same building where I worked, down the hall from my office. We stood watch together a lot, so we usually made the trip to the post together.
This one day, we were walking along, and as we rounded a corner, we saw an Army jeep on the side of the road.
We thought it was odd. Here’s this jeep out in the middle of nowhere, just sitting there. Bill and I walked around it and looked it over good just in case it was booby-trapped. We didn’t find anything, so we got in and hit the starter. What luck – it cranked right up!
We didn’t know why anyone had abandoned the jeep, but we were going to take advantage of the free ride.
Then we went about two feet and realized why it was just sitting there abandoned. The tie rod had come loose, and the front wheels were headed in different directions.
Good thing we had left the barracks early that morning – since it looked like the bus wasn’t going to make it again – because we had time to run back and get some bailing wire to tie up the rods. We did, and we fixed it up.
But then Bill and I got to thinking. The Army might be coming back for it, possibly with their motor pool – or worse, with armed guards – and it wouldn’t do for us to have it in our possession. So instead of driving off with it, we left it there.
When we got off work the next morning, we saw it was still there. Now most of us in the Navy didn’t have a terribly high opinion of the Army, but we knew that even they wouldn’t take twenty-four hours to fix a jeep. So we drove it back to the barracks. We figured they’d come looking for it and we’d let them know we fixed it.
They never did, though. We drove it back and forth for several days until it finally ran low on fuel.
We took it over to the Navy fuel depot. A supply clerk filled it up and noticed that it was an Army jeep, not one of ours.
I started to pay for it, but the fellow said he’d charge it to the Army.
“No, that’s all right,” I told him. “I’ll pay for it.”
“Nope. It’s the Army’s jeep. They’ll pay.”
What the heck, I let ’em pay. Who am I to argue with military protocol?
So we kept driving it. Then about a month later, Bill took it into town. He stopped in at the club, had a few drinks, and ended up staying out past curfew. The MPs arrested him, and he called me for help.
By this time, he was in deeper trouble than just staying out past curfew. He was a sailor driving an Army jeep with no papers, and no one believed his story about finding it on the side of the road and fixing it.
I caught a ride over there after my watch was over, and I explained everything to the provost marshal.
At first the provost marshal didn’t believe me either, especially when he found out I was a radioman. Not that a radioman can’t know how to work on cars, but this man just wasn’t buying the story.
I told him all about my background working on cars and all, and he finally took my word for it. But he was still fit to be tied.
Turns out the jeep had already been marked as transferred stateside and taken out of their inventory. It would create a lot of paperwork and probably start an investigation if they acknowledged that it was still in Vietnam.
He sat there, his face getting redder and redder, and he glared at both of us. Finally, he passed sentence.
“Just keep it!” he said. “But don’t tell anyone around here where you got it.”
We agreed. He closed the case. Then he had his motor pool fix the front end for us.
And we had free gas for the rest of our tour. All we had to do was pull up to the depot and tell them to charge it to the Army.
~ ~ ~
Want to read more? You can find it here.