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5 Misleading Quotes about Writing Written by Famous Authors

If you bleed so much when you type, maybe you should quit writing… or quit drinking. (image via wikimedia)

Aspiring authors often love quotes about writing, and nobody writes better quotes about writing than famous authors.  When a famous author writes a quote about writing, a bunch of people will see it because the author is already famous.  If the average author writes a quote about writing, nobody will see it, so it doesn’t matter how awesome the quote is, at least not until the author becomes famous.

There’s a good reason why famous authors have more credibility when it comes to quotes about writing; nobody knows more about writing than a famous author. Some quotes about writing have become so widely known that they’re almost accepted without second thought.

But what if these famous quotes are misleading? What if these famous authors weren’t meaning to be taken literally?  What if the famous authors were just messing with us? What if famous authors were toying with our emotions and fragile egos?

Below are five famous quotes about writing that MIGHT be misleading:

QUOTE #1 “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”- Ernest Hemingway

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

Aspiring authors have enough problems, like being rejected, being ignored, and being over-criticized. We don’t need to hear about bleeding at a typewriter.   I have never bled at the typewriter, and for my first ten years of writing, I actually used a typewriter. Unfortunately, I never learned keyboarding skills, so I was a two-fingered hunt-and-peck typist who used lots of White-out. If anybody should have bled out at the typewriter, it would have been me (or I). I did not bleed at the typewriter. Hemingway should not have left the impression that it’s normal to bleed at the typewriter. If you bleed while you’re writing, stop writing and maybe see a doctor.

QUOTE #2

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”- Stephen King

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

I know Stephen King likes to scare readers with his horror novels, but this quote sounds like he’s trying to scare us aspiring writers with his advice. I love the moment just before I start. I’m optimistic when I start. The scary part is when I know I’m about to be critiqued. And even that’s not scary. I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather have my writing get insulted than get ignored.

If there’s a scary moment in writing, it’s when I see somebody’s facial expressions while he/she is reading what I wrote. With so much done online nowadays, I don’t see facial expressions anymore, so there is no scary part. Stephen King shouldn’t try to scare aspiring authors like that. He should have better things to do.  I hear that he spends a lot of time on Twitter now.

QUOTE #3

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Mark Twain

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

If I had literally followed this advice in high school, I would have failed my English classes. I was tempted to follow this advice. After all, it was from Mark Twain. I came very/damn close to littering one of my stories with a bunch of damns and then defending it to my teacher by saying Mark Twain said it was okay.

A couple friends (now that I think about it, I don’t believe they were really my “friends”) encouraged me to use a lot of damns. They thought it was a damn good idea. When I chose not to, they said I was damn cowardly. I said I was damn smart, and a teacher heard me. He told me to watch my language, and then he left to smoke a cigarette in the parking lot. I was damn lucky. The problem with exchanging “very” with “damn” is that if you do it too often, you talk like Holden Caulfield and it gets damn old damn quickly.

QUOTE #4

“Literature is all, or mostly, about sex.” – Anthony Burgess

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

I don’t know what Anthony Burgess looks/looked like, but I picture him as an old man. The last thing an old man needs to do is talk about sex, especially if he’s a writer. This quote makes writers look like a bunch of perverts. We’re no more perverted than the perverts who read our stuff, but still, Anthony Burgess should at least try to hide it and not push his pervertedness (also known as “perversion) on the rest of us.

Literature is about relationships. Sex is merely one part of a relationship. Maybe it gets discussed in a particular book, maybe it doesn’t. But other aspects of the relationship are important too, like… like… like…

?

QUOTE #5

“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.” – Edgar Rice Burroughs

WHY IT MIGHT BE MISLEADING

Putting potential readers through 100 bad stories just to get to one good one is pretty poor. Hey, I can talk. I read the first Pelucidar book. Edgar Rice Burroughs could write a lot of stuff, but it could also get old, unless you don’t get tired of the chase, captured, rescue, chase, capture, escape, chase, capture, rescue/escape formula.

I know, I know, Edgar Rice Burroughs had bills to pay, and a lot of people out there were reading his books, but I think his quote encourages bad writing. It implies that if you simply write a lot, chances are SOMETHING is going to be good, almost by accident, almost by chance.   Maybe that worked for Burroughs (some critics would say ALL of his stories were bad and his body of work is proof that his quote is wrong, but I wouldn’t go that far. He did create Tarzan, after all).

*****

There are a lot of writing quotes by famous authors out there (and there might be a writing quote that says not to start a sentence with “there”). What other quotes about writing do you think are misleading?

Did James Frey Really Cry on Oprah?

Oprah chose this “memoir” for her Book of the Month Club, and then the author cried on her show… I think… when she accused him of writing lies… I think.

I’m not sure if James Frey really cried on Oprah Winfrey’s show 15 years ago.  Just so you know, I don’t care that much if he did or didn’t; I’m more worried about my potentially bad memory.  I have a vivid memory of James Frey crying, but now I can’t find proof.

I’m getting to the age where I’m starting to not trust my memory.  I still have a pretty good recollection of stuff that’s happened in my life, but now my brain inserts my family into these memories.  I remember hanging out with my wife in college, even though we didn’t meet until six years after I’d graduated.  I remember seeing my wife and daughter at a couple family get-togethers back when I was a kid, before my daughter was even born.

Here’s how my memory could cause problems for my blog.  A few days ago, I made a video (you can find it here) about the line between embellishing and outright lying when you’re writing.  I used James Frey’s memoir A Million Little Pieces as an example of an author lying.  When I recorded the video, I mocked James Frey for crying on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show maybe 15 years ago when she busted him for lying.  Before I put the video up, I thought, you know, I’d better verify that James Frey actually cried on Oprah before I put up a video of me mocking him for it.

The thing is, I remember watching that episode on the day it was on.  My wife used to watch Oprah and she suggested that I might be interested that day because of the guest James Frey and the topic.  I remember James Frey crying because I called him a derogatory name (one that rhymes with wussy) and told him that that fake crying doesn’t work anymore (evidently he didn’t hear me and I was wrong).

My wife kind of remembers him crying.  She says he started crying after Oprah pointed out to him that he wasn’t reacting at all to her accusations.  From my perspective, that’s still crying.  If that’s why I mocked him over a decade ago, I stand by it.  If my memory is faulty and he didn’t cry, then I have to take back my mockery, which also wouldn’t have happened.

I think it’s weird that I can’t find a clip of the full interview, but I’m not making any crazy accusations about it.  I’m sure Oprah owns the footage and controls what clips from her shows get played and which get buried.  If James Frey indeed cried on her show, I wonder why she would hold onto that part of the clip in her vault, but I’m not even sure he actually cried, so I can’t accuse her of hiding footage.  At least, I couldn’t accuse her without looking crazy.

This reminds me of the Mandela Effect, which is when a bunch of people misremember an event in such a way that their memory can be proven false.  For example, a lot of people believe that Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned when died a few years ago.  Oddly enough, I remember Nelson Mandela being freed and then even thriving politically before his death.

Here are some other popular examples of the Mandela Effect:

The Berenstein Bears vs. The Berenstain Bears

Shazaam the movie starring Sinbad vs. Kazaam the movie starring Shaquille O’Neil

“Luke, I am your father” in The Empire Strikes Back vs. “No, I am your father.”

“If you build it, they will come” from Field of Dreams vs. “If you build it, he will come.”

Some theorists say that powerful forces (government, financial, magical,) are messing with the populations for whatever reason (confusion,  mind control, fun).  Some think that this is proof of parallel universes occasionally merging.  Others just think it is weird.

I admit that I don’t pay attention to details enough to have strong opinions on most of these.  I rarely even notice when my wife changes her hair, so I’m not going to commit to an opinion about a childhood memory.  I know when Kevin Costner built it, a lot of people showed up.  I thought Darth Vader being Luke’s father was a cop-out twist.  Whether Kazaam was a movie or not, it doesn’t matter; it would have been stupid either way.  An old copy of a Barenstain Bears book that I own says Berenstain Bears; if some force is strong enough to change a copy that old (and every other copy that old), I don’t want to mess with it.

My memory about James Frey crying on Oprah might not be the best example of the Mandela Effect because I don’t think there’s any mass memory involved.  I don’t think anybody else cares if James Frey cried on Oprah.  If my memory says James Frey cried on Oprah and a video shows up with the entire interview and no weeping, nobody else is going to care.  I might not even care.  I’d just say, “Aw, dang it, I misremembered that.”

And I’d go on to misremembering something else.

What do you think?  In what ways has your memory tricked you?  Did James Frey really cry on Oprah?

Will you dare take… THE ULTIMATE READING QUIZ????

(image via wikimedia)

Most people don’t like taking quizzes because they don’t like being put under pressure or they don’t want to get judged on their scores.  If you’re not forced to take a quiz, however, and if nobody judges you on your score, then everything changes.

I haven’t been forced to take a quiz in years, and I’m a much better person for it, but I’ve taken this quiz.  I even wrote this quiz, and it didn’t hurt me a bit. So what are you waiting for?  Take the quiz!

A.  A friend declares that a book he/she has just read is “THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!”  What do you do?

  1. Trust your friend’s judgment and try reading the book.
  2. Tell your friend that you’ll read the book but then never get around to it.
  3. Calmly tell your friend that you know he/she has not read every book ever written so he/she is in no position to judge whether or not a book is the best ever.
  4. Tell your friend about another book that you think is “THE BEST BOOK EVER!!!!” just so he or she knows how it feels.

*****

B.    When you see a copy of Moby Dick, your first reaction is

  1. To feel a smug satisfaction, knowing that you’ve already read it and understand all the symbolism and themes of the novel.
  2. To feel that your life is a little empty since you haven’t read it, but you’ll get to it.
  3. Turn away in disgust, knowing that you’ll never read it and you’re proud that you’ll never read it.
  4. Moby Dick.  Ha ha ha ha!  Dick.  Ha ha ha!

*****

C.     You find out that a book that you truly love is about to be made into a movie.  What is your reaction?

  1. Obsessively watch for news about the casting and release dates of the movie.
  2. Make a mental note to be on the look-out for it, but you don’t put much thought into it.
  3. Watch the movie and intentionally catalogue every flaw in it.
  4. You know it’ll suck because every movie based on a book sucks.

*****

D.   A famous author is having a book signing while you’re there.  What do you do?

  1. Grab a copy of the new book, stand in line, and gush when the author signs it.
  2. Find a beat up copy of an old book and hope that the author doesn’t call you a cheap skate.
  3. Stand in line without a book so you can at least brag that you’ve met the author.
  4. Who cares?  All authors do is write books.  Anybody can write books.

*****

E.    An acquaintance recommends a book from a genre you don’t care for (maybe sci-fi/fantasy, a trashy romance, or literary fiction).  You automatically think…

  1. I’ll have to give that book a try.
  2. Maybe it’s a good book, but it’s probably not for me.
  3. Oh, it’s one of “those” books.
  4. There’s a good reason why this person is only an acquaintance.

*****

F.    How long does it take you to decide whether or not you’ll finish reading a book?

  1. You’ll finish reading a book no matter what.
  2. You’ll read at least half of it and give it an honest chance.
  3. If it doesn’t grab you within the first few pages, you’re done with it.
  4. If it doesn’t have a cool cover, forget it.

*****

G.    When a teacher at school assigns (or assigned) a novel, what is your initial response?

  1. If this book is in the school curriculum, it must be very interesting.
  2. I’m already reading a good book, but I guess I’ll juggle both.
  3. If this book is in the school curriculum, it must really suck.
  4. Flippin’ school!  You’re not gonna tell me what to read!

*****

H.   A book that you really want to read comes out in hardback and is very expensive.  What will you do?

  1. You shell out the $30.00+ because you’ll read this no matter what.
  2. Check the book’s availability at the library and then maybe buy it for $12.99 on your Kindle.
  3. Wait for the paperback and hope that it’s not one of those $15.00 paperbacks.  $15.00 for a paperback?  That’s ridiculous!
  4. No book is worth putting that much effort into.  You’ll read whatever you want whenever you feel like it.

*****

I.     You’re reading an intensely sad scene from a book while in a public place and are about to cry.  How do you respond?

  1. You openly weep because you’re completely wrapped up in the book and don’t care what anybody thinks.
  2. You read the book in short increments so that you don’t cry in public.
  3. You stop reading the sad book and do something else.
  4. You never read in public because you’re afraid you’ll get conked on the head.

*****

J.     You’re reading a really good book in a public place when you notice a person who needs assistance in an emergency situation.  What do you do?

  1. Put the book down immediately and help out.
  2. See if somebody else is around to help before you stop reading.
  3. Finish the page/chapter/book that you’re on before you help.
  4. Stop reading immediately, record the emergency situation with your phone, and post it online for clicks.

*****

SCORE

10-15 Points- You are an open-minded reader and are sensitive about others’ feelings.

16-25 Points- You are independent-minded but willing to try new experiences occasionally.

26-35 Points- You are fiercely loyal to the books you love but are sometimes called inflexible and stubborn by people who just don’t understand you.

36-40 Points- You don’t read (or play) well with others.

*****

BONUS QUESTION- This one doesn’t count!

After finishing a reading style quiz, what do you immediately do?

  1. Leave a comment that announces your score and gives feedback.
  2. Add up your score but keep it to yourself.
  3. Ignore the score and move on to another article.
  4. Click the “Like” button without having even read the quiz.

*****

See?  That wasn’t so bad, was it?  What was your score on THE ULTIMATE READING QUIZ?  What other questions would you want to see asked?

When Does A Writer Become A Liar?

(image via Wikimedia)

Telling the truth can be counterproductive for a writer.  Even when authors are writing something that’s supposedly “based on a true story,” they might embellish a little.  They sometimes make up dialogue because people usually aren’t as witty in real life as they are on paper.

Writers might leave out crucial details to make one person look worse than he or she is (or make him or look worse).  They might make up details that no normal person would remember, like weather and clothing, just to make readers feel like they’re part of the story.  Without these details, the truth could seem to be downright boring.

Some authors don’t even use their reals names.  Samuel Clemens wrote his books as Mark Twain.  Or was it the other way around?  Stephen King started off his writing career as Richard Bachman.  Some female authors like S.E. Hinton and J.K. Rowling abbreviate their first names so that male readers don’t get turned off by reading a female author.   Male author Dan Mallory used the pseudonym A.J. Finn for his novel The Woman in the Window so that readers would think he was female (I think… I might have misremembered that).

I’m pretty sure Dan Mallory lied about having brain cancer, though, and that’s probably worse than using an unethical(?) pseudonym.

At any rate, part of writing is being just a little bit dishonest.  Authors like to call it creative liberty.  A little embellishment can make stories, even those based on actual events, much more interesting.  But at what point does embellishment become outright lying?

For more about liars and writing, WATCH HERE!

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winners, 2019-2009: A Review

Winning a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is way better than getting a book on the bestsellers list.  At least, in my imagination, it would be.  I haven’t accomplished either, so I guess I wouldn’t know for sure, but theoretically, a Pulitzer Prize would be awesome.

First of all, a Pulitzer Prize is forever.  A book can disappear from a bestsellers list within a week, but that’s not true for a Pulitzer Prize.  Once your book wins a Pulitzer Prize, it’s there forever.  I don’t think any author has lost a Pulitzer Prize once it’s been won.  Even James Patterson hasn’t won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction yet.  He might team up with a literary fiction author to give himself a chance, but he might have to put his name in really small letters on the cover if he’s serious.

Anyway, nobody who likes literary fiction wants to read about James Patterson, so without further ado, here are recent recipients of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:

2019 The Overstory by Richard Powers

It’s a story about trees, but not really. It’s a story told from the point of  view of trees but not really.  It’s a bunch of stories not about trees not necessarily told from the point of view of trees, but not really.  If The Overstory hadn’t won a Pulitzer, I never would have tried reading it, but it did, so I did.  I don’t want to overdo my praise for The Overstory, but it’s better than anything James Patterson has written lately.

2018 Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Here’s a Pulitzer Prize winner with a hack title.  Less is about a guy named Arthur Less, a struggling writer for whom the narrator seems to feel contempt.  Book titles with a character’s name seem lazy to me, but this novel won a Pulitzer, so I guess I can’t judge.  Still, when it comes to Pulitzer Prizes, I expect more, not Less.

2017 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This is a great novel about the Underground Railroad, but you’d better know your history before you read it.  I feel sorry for the U.S. history student who reads The Underground Railroad and then takes a test in U.S. history class about the Underground Railroad.  The history student’s results might not be all that good.

2016  The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

When I heard The Sympathizer was the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2016, I ran out to the local book store and bought myself a copy without the “Pulitzer Prize for Fiction” label.  I don’t know why those book cover labels bother me, but they do.  Even though The Sympathizer was way better than anything James Patterson has written, I feel like the author was trying too hard to make this an important book.  That might seem like an odd criticism, and I’m not sure I can defend it now, but that’s how I felt when I read it a couple/few years ago.

2015   All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I know a lot of people who have read All the Light We Cannot See (or claimed to have read it), and nobody I know despises this book.  Usually a Pulitzer brings about a ton of extra criticism, but I haven’t seen any post-Pulitzer backlash for this like I’ve seen from other winners (especially The Goldfinch and A Visit from the Goon Squad).

If a book can be a long-term bestseller AND a Pulitzer Prize winner and NOT get post-award backlash, then that book must be AWESOME (except saying it’s AWESOME would be setting expectations too high and cause more undeserved backlash).

2014  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This is what I’m talking about, a polarizing Pulitzer Prize winner that’s been a bestseller for a long time.  A lot of readers love it, and a lot of readers hate it.  Readers complain that it’s too long, too slow, and has sections that don’t make sense or contribute to the story.  Others say the book is brilliant.  Being “brilliant” implies that that readers who complain about the book just don’t get it.  Readers who complain about it might say they “get” it but it’s not as brilliant as readers who love it say it is.

I haven’t read it.  By my standards, it’s pretty long.

2013  The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

North Korea is a rare setting for a novel, and the author uses a bunch of literary devices to describe all the horrible stuff going on there, so it’s more than just a laundry list of human rights abuses.  I don’t like reading about human rights abuses, even when I know they’re fictional.

In The Orphan Master’s Son, the orphan master treats his son more harshly than the orphans in his care.  That’s how it goes.  When I was growing up, a friend of mine’s mom was a teacher, and one year he had to be in his mom’s class for the whole year, and he was miserable because she was always on his case.  I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as being an orphan master’s son in North Korea, but still.

2012  No Award

I respect an award where there isn’t always a winner (or recipient).  There shouldn’t always be a winner just because there’s an award available.  There should be standards!!  If no novel written in 2012 meets those standards, then so be it.  I wish the Heisman Trophy (for college football) had a No Award option.

2011  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

As a writer, you can’t go wrong with a metaphor as a title.  As a reader, I can get confused with metaphors because I’m kind of literal.  When I read A Visit from the Goon Squad, I was expecting an actual goon squad.  I like books with goon squads.  I don’t like goon squads in real life because they’re dangerous, but I like goon squads in literature because they make books interesting.  Just so you know, there are no real goon squads in A Visit from the Goon Squad.  That doesn’t really spoil anything.

2010  Tinkers by Paul Harding

Here’s another polarizing Pulitzer winner.  Readers either love Tinkers or hate it.  Some critics call it poetic, and others say the author tried too hard.  I know what those critics mean.  In this novel an old man is on his death bed thinking about his life with his family around him.  It seems like a common idea.

I’ve read books and seen movies with that concept, but Tinkers uses a lot of metaphors regarding clocks and time. Some critics say the author tried too hard to make this book deep, but Tinkers won a Pulitzer, so who cares?  If I’m the author and I’ve won a Pulitzer, I don’t care if critics say I tried too hard.  Trying too hard shows you care.  It’s better than not trying hard enough.

2009  Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Sometimes a book title with only a character’s name can be confusing.  Did Elizabeth Strout write Olive Kitteridge?  Or did Olive Kitteridge write Elizabeth Strout?  Elizabeth Strout would have been a cool fictional name, and Olive Kitteridge would be a cool author’s name.  At least when Jane Austen wrote Emma, she didn’t give Emma a last name.  If Emma had been given a last name, I might have gotten Jane and Emma confused too.

BONUS BOOK

2008  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao  by Junot Diaz

This is the opposite of Olive Kitteridge.  Take a character’s name and add a bunch of adjectives to it.  Plus, there are tons of pop cultural references in this book.  I wonder how it will hold up 20, 50, even 100 years from now.  When somebody reads The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2108, will readers be turned off by all the references that are no longer in the cultural lexicon?  That’s the thing about being a Pulitzer Prize winner; it’s forever.  At least, it’s forever as long as people still read books.

*****

What do you think?  Would you rather write a bestselling novel or a Pulitzer Prize winner?  Which Pulitzer Prize winning novel above is your favorite?

My Daughter Just Got Her Driver’s License, And Now She Has My Car!

(image via wikimedia)

My daughter earned her driver’s license a few days ago, and now she’s out by herself with my car.  She will pick up a friend on her way to a mall or a movie or something, but I won’t be in the car with her.  In my mind, that’s the same as being by herself.

I probably shouldn’t have used the word Got in the title.  I should probably say “My daughter earned her driver’s license” or “My daughter received her driver’s license,”  but I don’t care because my daughter has my car.

It’s tough for me to concentrate on writing while she’s out by herself with the car, even if she has my permission.  I know I’ll have to learn to relax when she’s driving by herself.  It will be difficult, but I have to do it.  I’ve paced around the house, folded some laundry, and prayed a little.  Every parent goes through this.

Just so you know, it’s my daughter that I’m worried about, not the car.

For more about teaching your kids how to drive, WATCH HERE!!

What do you think?  How did you emotionally react to your kids driving off on their own?  What important driving advice do you have for inexperienced drivers?

5 Tips to Reading A Wide Variety of Great Books

(image via wikimedia)

Choosing the right book to read can be frustrating, especially when you have a bunch of choices and not much time.  Most avid readers have dozens/hundreds of books piling up, and it’s even more difficult if you have other commitments like family and a time-consuming job.  Plus, the book publishers are glutting the market with books that aren’t very good.  With so much going on and so many books out there, how can a reader decide which books to choose?

After decades of reading, I have come up with several tips to reading only the books that I will enjoy the most.

Tip #1- Sample many, finish few.

I’m a big believer in NOT finishing books.  I used to complete every novel I started just for the sense of accomplishment, but then I started to accomplish real things in life (I hope that doesn’t sound like an insult to people who finish books no matter what because I mean that as a reflection of me and not other people).  Reading shouldn’t be a chore (unless you’re in school), and I’m getting old, and if I don’t want to finish a book (or wear matching socks), then I don’t have to.

I’m proud of the number of books I haven’t finished.  I used to lie to people and say I’d read the books that I had actually stopped reading, but conversations are more interesting if I’m honest and say “I started that book but couldn’t finish it.”  Plus, it’s not good to lie.

Tip #2- No more than three books per series.

I don’t read any series that goes over three books, or if I begin reading such a series, I stop after three books.  Seriously, how many stories truly deserve more than three books?  Not many do.  If The Lord of the Rings could be told in three books, then so should just about any other story.  Even The Bible is only two books; if God only needs two books, then who do we think we are to write more books in a series than God?

Tip #3- No books more than 500 pages long.

How many stories are truly worth the effort it takes to read (much less write) 500 pages?  A few might be worth it, but not many.  Usually a novel longer than 500 pages means that the editors didn’t do their jobs (or in the case of 19th century Russian authors, the translators didn’t do theirs either).

Yeah, The Bible is over 500 pages long, but that’s God for you. If any author is allowed to get long-winded, it’s God.  I pretty much allow God to write what He wants without complaining about it.

Tip #4- No more than 3 books per author.

There are a lot of great authors out there, and I’d like to read as many of them as possible.  Most authors who write lots of books follow a formula.  If you’ve read two or three of their novels, you’ve read them all.  When I think like that, I don’t yearn for the latest Stephen King horror/fantasy or the newest James Patterson schlock that somebody else probably wrote.

I don’t have anything against schlock.  I love schlock.  I write schlock.  I just want a variety of schlock in my life.

Tip #5-No books with bad dialogue.

This is probably the only subjective rule of the bunch because reasonable people can disagree about the quality of dialogue.  You can’t really disagree about whether or not a book is 500 pages or not or whether or not a series has more than three books in it.  I guess you COULD argue about it, but reasonable people would look at you funny.

Even though it’s subjective, dialogue is important to me.  If the characters don’t sound authentic, then I can’t put myself in the story.

Some of the dialogue in The Bible is kind of corny, but I’d never admit that to God.  As far as I’m concerned, God writes great dialogue, but humans mess up the translation.

*****

I like my tips for reading, but I also know they wouldn’t work for everybody.  Some people have a certain number of books they want to finish within a certain time.  Some readers want to consume every book by their favorite authors.  Some refuse to read any books written by certain authors.  Some readers might not even have any tips at all for reading books.

But enough about me!  What tips do you have for reading a wide variety of books?

I Stopped Talking To Myself, and Here’s How I Did It!

This would seem normal, except he’s by himself. (image via wikimedia)

I’ve always talked to myself when I write.  I read my words out loud.  I mutter profanity when I make mistakes.  I tell myself how to edit and revise as I go.  I’m probably not the only writer who does this.

Unfortunately, I also talk to myself when I’m not writing.  I catch myself murmuring conversations when I’m at work or in my car or at the grocery store.

A co-worker once told me it’s okay if you talk to yourself as long as you don’t answer yourself back.

That’s my problem; I answer myself back and then I answer my answer back again too.

The good news is that I have taught myself to stop this bad habit, and it was easier than I thought it would be, except for a couple exceptions.

In the video link below, I explain how I learned to stop talking to myself.  If you talk to yourself (or know someone who does), I hope you find it helpful.

I Stopped Talking To Myself!  Here’s What Happened Next!

Literary Glance: Backlash by Brad Thor

Backlash by Brad Thor! How can it NOT be an instant bestseller?

Brad Thor is probably the best name ever for a male military thriller author.  Brad… Thor… Two first names, both one syllable, and a last name that’s the same as the Norse god of thunder.  If I could exchange names with anybody, I’d take Brad Thor’s name.

With a name like Brad Thor, you can write whatever you want, as long it’s filled with masculinity.  And Brad Thor usually delivers what his name suggests.  When you read a Brad Thor novel, you know what you’re going to get: lots of action, bad dialogue, and the occasional awkwardly worded sentence.

Backlash by Brad Thoris pitched as the 19th book in the Scot Harvath series.  19th book?  No character deserves 19 books, especially a guy named Scot Harvath.  I mean, it has to be tough to come up with a fictional name cooler than Brad Thor.  I think it’s an author’s responsibility to come up with a name cooler than his/her own, and Scot Harvath doesn’t cut it for an author named Brad Thor.

I know it’s tough to come up with a name cooler than Brad Thor, but Clive Cussler created Dirk Pitt, so it’s possible.  The name Scot Harvath sounds like Brad Thor just gave up.  If Scot Harvath were the author, I might buy 19 books with a character named Brad Thor, but not the other way around.

The quality of a Brad Thor book is important to a few people, I guess, and Backlash is okay so far. The writing is fast-paced with an awkward sentence popping up occasionally.  Here’s a typical example of Thor’s writing from Backlash.

Chapter 2

Police Chief Tom Tullis had seen plenty of dead bodies over his career.

But this was a record for him at a single crime scene.

During the height of the summer, the popular resort town of Gilford could swell to as many as twenty thousand inhabitants.  Off-season, like now, the number of full-time residents was only seventy-three hundred.  Either way, four corpses were four too many.

Pulling out his cell phone, the tall, crew-cut-sporting cop texted his wife.  They were supposed to meet for lunch.  That was impossible now.  He told her not to expect him for dinner either.  It was going to be a late night.

This is what you get in Backlash.  A bunch of simple sentences that could have been combined in more creative ways.  A few awkward phrases that could have rewritten or deleted, and I have a few questions..

If Tom Tullis was police chief of a resort town, why has he seen so many dead bodies?

Do readers need to know Tom Tullis was “crew-cut-sporting cop”?  Texting the wife that he’ll miss lunch and dinner seems calm for a resort town cop.  Maybe I’m wrong, but a resort town cop might not be so casual about his text.

A more believable reaction would be something like this: “Holy crap!  We have four dead bodies in my resort town!  I moved here to get away from that crap! What the hell is going on?”

The rest of the chapter is just as matter-of-fact.  Tullis handles this quadruple murder very methodically, even though it’s unheard of in his resort town.  Maybe this Tom Tullis is a super cop, and I just haven’t read enough of the Scot Harvath books.  There are 19 of them after all.

And why am I using numerals for 19 but Brad Thor spells out seventy-three hundred?  It’s okay to write 7300.  I’d rather read 7300 than seventy-three hundred.

I mean, I’d rather see the numeral 7300 than the words seventy-three hundred.  I don’t want to read seventy-three hundred of anything, not even seventy-three hundred Brad Thor books.

Brad Thor is still a really cool name though.

How to Deal with a Political Junkie

(image via wikimedia)

Being around political junkies can be tough because they can get crazy about politics at any moment.  You probably know what I’m talking about.   During an election, every conversation can turn into a one-sided, long-winded lecture.  If you dare disagree with a political junkie, the lecture can turn into an endless argument.

Even when the election is over, the junkie follows every news item and has an instant knee-jerk opinion.  It never ends, especially with social media stirring things up.

Political junkies can be in a constant state of agitation, and it’s difficult for a non-junkie like me to keep an even frame of mind.  When I tell political junkies that not everything is about politics, they tell me that I’m the problem because I don’t get involved enough.

I then tell the junkie that his/her behavior makes problems worse because of the endless arguments that make people furious, and people can’t solve problems when they’re angry.  And then the friendship (or the pleasant work relationship) ends.

Political junkies usually aren’t interested in dialogue.  They talk fast and interrupt immediately.  Watch out when they say “We need to have an honest conservation…” because the political junkie’s definition of conversation probably isn’t the same as yours (unless you’re a political junkie).

I’m a non-confrontational guy, but I need to keep an even disposition when I’m with political junkies, especially at work.  If you’re in the same position as I, here are some strategies you can use to help deal with a political junkie:

1.  Avoid news in conversation.

Political Junkies love to have news channels on their televisions or phones.  The constant updates and commentary gets their agitation up and makes them irritable and argumentative.  Try to change the topic of conversation, if possible.  Sports and reality shows are your best bets.

If you live with a political junkie, change the channel to a sports station (if they’re not arguing about politics on it) whenever you get the chance or an animal channel, preferably one with puppies and kittens.

2.  Call every politician a dick.

Political junkies will idolize politicians from their own party and then vilify opposing politicians, even when all the politicians engage in the exact same behavior.  I just call every politician a dick.  It’s liberating.  You don’t have to defend anybody’s behavior or stupid comments.

Plus, you don’t have to waste any energy thinking of clever responses.  In today’s society, the word dick can apply to everyone.  If the word dick offends you, you can find another term.  Jerk is acceptable.

 3. Wear headphones.

If the political junkie sees you wearing headphones, he/she will know that you will have to turn off the volume and remove your headphones before the conversation can begin.  Plus, you can pretend that you don’t see or hear the political junkie.  Since getting your attention will now take time and effort, the junkie will reduce the number of times she wants to start conversations with you.

You can even make the die-hard junkie wait by pretending that whatever you’re listening to is really important.  Just raise your finger and nod your head while you make the junkie wait… and wait… and wait.

*****

What do you think?  When I wrote this, I originally wanted to title this “5 Tips for Living with a Political Junkie,” but right now I can only think of these three.  What nonviolent, non-confrontational tips do you have for dealing with political junkies?

I wasn’t a political junkie when I wrote the blog post below, but I was when the incident happened.

THE BEST POLITICAL INSULT EVER!!

She looked like a sweet old lady, but if you pissed her off, she’d rip you a new one. (image via wikimedia)

Experts may disagree about which U.S. political insult is the best ever, but everybody agrees that it hasn’t happened in the current election cycle.  In fact, the rhetoric in the 2016 presidential campaign has been really lame.  Hillary Clinton has called Republicans her enemies.  Donald Trump has pretty much insulted everybody, and everybody else has insulted him back.  Even so, nobody yet has had a good zinger that historians will remember.

To be fair, it’s been a few presidential campaigns since anybody’s had a really good political insult.

(Read more here)