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Bird-Watching Background Noise- Perfect for Reading or Napping

These birds wouldn’t sit still long enough to take a good picture, but they made cool sounds as they flew around.

This isolated bird watching spot off a local river was the perfect place to read, except I was paranoid somebody would sneak up from behind and conk me on the head.  People will conk you on the head anywhere, even in the woods next to a river.

The solution was easy.  I took a short video and looped it several times, and now I can read at home with my favorite background noise.  I guarantee you, I’m not wasting this environment with a James Patterson novel.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens-(a lesson on how to write setting)

Setting can be tough for an author.  If you write too much, you can make the reader bored.  If you don’t write enough, the story can feel incomplete.

Getting the setting wrong can ruin a book for a reader.  My teenage daughter complains that too many pages in classic literature are devoted to descriptions of place.  She already knows what all that stuff looks like, she says.  I remind her that the internet didn’t exist when classic literature was written, so stuff had to be described.  Back then, literature was relatively new.  There were places, people, and ideas that had never been put into words before.  A lot was new.

When it comes to words and ideas, not so much is new today.  Almost everything has been described.  It’s difficult to come up with new was to say the same thing.  But it’s lazy to not try.  I respect any current author who tries.

For example, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens starts off with a description of a marsh:

Marsh is not swamp.  Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water floats into the sky.  Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace- as though not built to fly- against the roar of a thousand snow geese.

Then within the marsh, here and there, true swamp crawls into low-lying bogs, hidden in clammy forests.  Swamp water is still and dark, having swallowed the light in its muddy throat.  Even night crawlers are diurnal in this lair.  There are sounds, of course, but compared to the marsh, the swamp is quiet because decomposition is cellular work.  Life decays and reeks and returns to the rotted duff; a poignant wallow of death begetting life.

Of course, the reader knows that once decomposition is mentioned, something bad is going to happen.  Something bad has to happen.  It’s a marsh in fiction.  Nothing good can happen in a marsh in fiction.  If something good happens in a marsh in fiction, the novel won’t get published.  It doesn’t matter who the author is or who the author knows, the novel won’t get published.  Something bad has to happen in the marsh in fiction.

I had to look up the word diurnal.  It means (of course, you probably know already) “active in the daytime,” demonstrating how dark the swamp is during the day if the nightcrawlers are moving around.  I appreciate a novel that expands my vocabulary a little bit.  I don’t appreciate it when an author shows off, and I have to rely on a dictionary page-by-page, but I appreciate Delia Owens.

Maybe I’m overstating how good this writing is.  Last month I began reading a James Patterson book The Chef and was so disgusted by the poor writing that I stopped reading fiction for a while.  Maybe this description of the marsh in Where the Crawdads Sing is mediocre writing (I doubt it), but compared to James Patterson, it’s awesome.

Here’s James Patterson’s description of New Orleans in the first few pages of The Chef.  Yes, New Orleans is a city and not a swamp so the comparison of writing might be unfair, but New Orleans is a city built on a swamp:

A collision of food, music, history, passion, and chaos… yep, that pretty much sums up New Orleans for you.  “Nawlins,” as us locals say it.  NOLA.  The Crescent City.  The Big Easy.  Different names for the same magical, one-of-a-kind place.  My hometown of three-and-a-half decades.  The capital of the world, as far as I’m concerned.  A city where anything can happen, and nothing is ever as it seems.

Ugh, I can’t believe I forced myself to read that again. Yeah, I know.  It’s my fault for reading a James Patterson book.  I should know better.  I do it because he writes so many books that I can’t ignore them because the public doesn’t ignore them.  I feel like it’s my duty to occasionally point out what a scam his books are, even if nobody listens to me.

I’ll go one step further. Imagine a world where all novels are written in James Patterson style.  Here’s how James Patterson might describe a marsh:

A collision of light, grass, and water… yes, that very much sums up the marsh for you.  “Mahsh” as us locals say it.  Marshland.  The Marsh.  The Big Swamp.  Different names for the same, magical, one-of-a-kind place.  My home for three-and-a-half decades.  The center of the world, as far as I’m concerned.  A place where anything can happen, and nobody ever knows it happened.

I’m glad James Patterson didn’t write Where the Crawdads Sing with Delia Owens.

I’ll keep reading Where the Crawdads Sing just because of the description of the marsh.  I rarely find good description in novels anymore.

A lot could still go wrong with this book.  The plot could be predictable (I don’t know, I haven’t read that far).  The characters could all be two dimensional stereotypes (I don’t know, I haven’t read that far).  The dialogue could be really bad (I don’t know).  But I know that this novel at least has a great description of the marsh.  And I know that something bad happens in it.  Right now, that’s good enough for me.

Indie Author Success Strategy: Use Political Power to Sell Books

Independent authors can come up with a lot of bizarre ways to sell books, but using corrupt politics (or the appearance of corrupt politics) has to be one of the worst.  It’s worse than a male author pretending to be an attractive woman online convincing lonely guys to buy books.  It’s worse than one author pretending to be an entire publishing company.  It’s worse than one author writing one novel a week and glutting the market.

At first glance, Healthy Holly doesn’t seem to be the type of girl to abuse political power. Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want to criticize Healthy Holly.  Healthy Holly seems to be a nice person.  She’s healthy.  She has a positive message.  These books seemed well-intentioned.  Who can be against healthy children?

Even if the books aren’t very good (I’m just speculating), at least the books have a good message.  But now it looks like the author is a politician who used her influence to get these books purchased.

The details are here, and they’re kind of boring, especially for a tale of possible government corruption.  This indie children’s author was a state senator who served on the board of directors for a statewide medical system.  The indie author state senator then sold $500,000 worth of her books to that statewide medical system (while she was on the board of directors) and didn’t disclose it (until she got caught).

And it looks like a lot of her books were put into storage by the statewide medical system.  And it looks like the indie author politician funneled some of the money from the books into political campaigns.  And it looks like some of this might be illegal.

Maybe Healthy Holly had it coming to her.   I’ve never liked children’s books that had an obvious positive message.  I liked books that were fun to read.  Healthy Holly might be a nice kid, but she doesn’t seem all that fun to hang around with.  I’d rather spend time with a talking cat who trashed (other peoples’) houses or a kid who sailed off to a deserted island to dance around a bunch of monsters.  I’d even rather run around with a purple crayon.  These crazy books didn’t care about delivering a positive message.  If crazy children’s books were fun to read, then a positive message was just a bonus.

In the indie author politician’s defense, I’ve been desperate to sell books before too.  I’ve gotten over that phase, but I’ve been there.  Even at my lowest, though, I’ve never tried to use my political influence to sell books.  In fact, I’ve never even tried to get into politics.  The only thing I’ve done is written the books and put them up for sale.  I mean, I barely even promote.

I’ve never felt the urge to write a children’s book either.  I like good children’s books, but most of them today are really dry uninspiring message books that don’t really encourage kids to read.  If a moratorium on new children’s books were imposed (I’m not condoning that), kids could get by on Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears books and Harry the Dirty Dog without noticing the lack of new material.

This isn’t the first politician who’s tried to make a ton of money off books.  Michelle Obama did pretty well recently with a memoir.  Joe Biden sold a bunch of books too.  Bill Clinton teamed up with James Patterson to write a novel that made no sense but made a bunch of money.  These politicians used fame to promote their books, but they didn’t force another government entity to purchase them.  At least, we don’t know about it if they did.

A few months ago, somebody commented on this blog that most indie authors need a book bully, a friend or a spouse who will do the promoting that makes most authors uncomfortable.  In this case, the indie author politician might have been her own book bully and probably took it too far.

We indie authors want people to WANT to read our books.  We don’t want to force sales or intimidate readers.  I load my blog with a bunch of my original stuff so that potential readers can see what I write before they spend money on anything.  And if they don’t buy anything, that’s okay because I have a job that has nothing to do with writing.

At any rate, I don’t think anybody is going to willingly read the Healthy Holly books anymore.  She has been tainted with the appearance of corruption. I almost feel sorry for her.  But at least she has her health.

 

Awkward Moments in Dating: The Ex-Girlfriend Look Alike

(image via wikimedia)

I didn’t want to hear that my potential future date looked like my ex-girlfriend.  I had gotten over my ex-girlfriend.  I wasn’t bitter, and I didn’t want her back.  Things were good.  I also didn’t want my friends thinking I was trying to replace my ex-girlfriend with a woman who looked just like her.

Suzanne was just a friend but had known my ex-girlfriend and didn’t like her.  So when Suzanne had said that Kimberly looked like my ex (you can get more details here ), I got a bit defensive.

“She doesn’t look anything like Daniella,” I said.  Even though we were eating at a restaurant, I made sure no food was in my mouth whenever I spoke.

“They both have long, dark hair,” Suzanne replied.  She was sitting across from me in a booth and had to lean forward to speak because the music in the restaurant was loud.

“That’s one-half of the female population in the city,” I said, having no proof to back up my statistic.

“They both wear glasses.”

“Daniella’s were fake,” I said.  “The glasses.”

“Why did she wear fake glasses?” Suzanne asked and then paused.   “I don’t want to know.”

“She wanted to appeal to intelligent guys,” I said.  “And she didn’t really read those classic novels she carried around.”

“You are so shallow,” she laughed.

“Hey, I read the books I carry around,” I said.  “And I’m sure Kimberly does too, if she carries books.  Besides, their personalities seem completely different.”

“Does that matter?” Suzanne asked.  “To such a shallow man?”

“Daniella would have thrown a fit about being stood up,” I said.  “Daniella would have invited herself to sit with us.  Kimberly seems more reserved.  I like reserved.”

“Not too reserved,” Suzanne said.  “You two will never say anything to each other.”

Two quiet people on a date, that could be disastrous, I knew.  Still, I was getting ahead of myself.  Kimberly had my phone number, but that didn’t mean she’d call me.  She could have just thrown my card into the trash, and I’d never hear from her, and all of this speculation would end up being wasted energy.

“If she calls you, I want to know about it,” Suzanne said.

“I don’t do play-by-play,” I declared.  It was true.  I kept my romantic details to myself, even to my male friends.  I lied about the details sometimes (I’m pretty sure my friends were lying too), but I never told too many details.  Just a few to get them off my back, and rarely the truth.

“C’mon,” she said.  “You met because of me.  I deserve details.”

“She might not even call,” I said.

“I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t,” Suzanne said.  “She knows you have a friend like me.  That makes you more attractive to other women.”

I wasn’t sure how that worked.  Looking back, I remembered a bunch of times I’d gotten snubbed by women during social occasions, even when I wasn’t trying to talk to them.  When I was dating Daniella, however, women loved talking to me.  I knew about the “girlfriend effect.”  I wasn’t so sure about the “just friends effect.”

“Or you might have scared her off,” I argued.  “She might think we have something for each other and decide to stay away.”

“She can tell we’re not into each other like that,” Suzanne said.  “Women can sense those things.”

Suzanne actually wanted to bet me ten dollars that Kimberly would call.  I thought about taking the bet.  That way, even if Kimberly didn’t call, I’d win ten dollars.  I like no-lose situations.  But I wanted Kimberly to call more than I wanted the ten dollars, and I didn’t want to bet against my own self-interests, so I declined.

We finally moved away from the topic of Kimberly and discussed more Suzanne-related topics, like the new guy she was stalking and then the stupid people she had to work with.  She was pretty sure the new guy she was interested in already had a girlfriend (which was why she was free to hang out with me on a Saturday night), and she was thinking about parking outside his house to see if he was there (and who was with him).

I didn’t put too much effort into listening about her work-related stories.  Everybody complains about the stupid people they work with, and the listener only gets one side of the story.  There were probably people where I worked who thought I was stupid too.  So I nodded, and a couple times I muttered, “What a bunch of maroons.”

After the platonic dinner and movie (nothing happened between the two of us, of course), I had more time to compare Daniella and Kimberly.  They didn’t really look alike, despite what Suzanne had said.  Daniella and I had been a physical mismatch because she’d flaunted her looks and I was (at best) an average guy who could look presentable on a good day.

Kimberly probably could flaunt her looks if she wanted to but didn’t.  At least, she hadn’t that night.  She hadn’t been forward at all, like Daniella.  I had talked to her first (which I probably wouldn’t have done before I’d met Daniella).

Kimberly seemed to carry herself well.  She seemed to have a good nature.  She probably wouldn’t be anything like my previous ex-girlfriend.

None of this speculation would matter, however, if Kimberly didn’t call.

But she did.

And I’ll get to that in the next episode.

To be continued in Awkward Moments in Dating: The Initial Phone Call !

Grade My Writing: Getting Rid of Profanity

(image via wikimedia)

When I read my older writing out loud, I get mad because I hear mistakes that I should have originally caught.

For example, a few years ago I wrote a 60 episode blog serial called “The Literary Girlfriend,” and it was based on stuff that actually happened.  When I finished the series on my blog, I thought I had the foundation for a potential book, but now when I reread it, I hear/see a bunch of scenes that need to be rewritten.

Below is a video where I read one of my former favorite episodes of “The Literary Girlfriend” out loud.  I treat this video like an ideal writer’s group where we’d hand out a copy of the excerpt to everyone and read a passage aloud before receiving feedback.

Reading out loud was more uncomfortable than getting criticism, but it’s an important part of the process.  If you don’t want to hear my voice (I don’t like it either), you can mute the video or read the story here  instead.

The video’s version is slightly different because I got rid of all the profanity in the dialogue.  I didn’t want video of me saying bad words, even if it’s in dialogue.  There are too many people who don’t understand context (or don’t care), and I’m still a little paranoid about things like that.

What do you think?  Is the profanity in the dialogue necessary?  Or does the sanitized version still sound realistic?  I know what I think, but I’m interested in other opinions.

Literary Glance: Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is an okay book so far.  Daisy Jones is a fictional rock singer from the 1970s.  The Six is the band she joined up with.  The book is a collection of fictional interviews about the singer and the band from various points of view.

From what I’ve read so far, there was nothing to really complain about the writing or the book except… it’s fiction.

A few pages in, I asked myself, “Why am I reading this?”

By that, I meant, why was I reading fake interviews about a fictional rock singer?  There are hundreds of real rock singers with compelling, (maybe) true stories that I could read.  I couldn’t even listen to any of Daisy Jones’s songs to judge her voice for myself.  Nowadays I keep hearing about how talented a bunch of current singers are, but when I listen they sound mediocre at best.

Maybe Daisy Jones was over-hyped.  If the media is going to tell me that Daisy Jones has a great voice, then I want to hear her songs for myself, and the book doesn’t provide that.  Even The Monkees and the Partridge Family gave us songs, and that was in the 1960s and 1970s.

Supposedly, the book is being turned into a mini-series for a streaming service.  Maybe then, we’ll see what kind of a voice Daisy Jones has.  If her voice isn’t up to my high standards, then I won’t believe all the hype in this book.  And I can’t stand undeserved hype.

Anyway, since there’s no way for me to judge the quality of Daisy Jones’s voice and music, I don’t trust the hype.

So I put the book down.

At least I got a few pages into Daisy Jones & the Six.  When George RR Martin came out with Fire and Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones, his fake history of Westeros, a few months ago, I barely started it.  Why should I read fake history when there’s a ton of real history that I could learn about?  I know that a lot of real history is probably fake, but you have to start somewhere.

If I had to choose between Daisy Jones & the Six and Fire and Blood, I’d read Daisy Jones & the Six.  It’s not bad.  It’s just not real.

Awkward Moments in Dating: Getting Stood Up vs. Getting Ditched

(image via wikimedia)

Suzanne and I weren’t actually on a date.  Our relationship was completely platonic, and both of us understood that.  So on that Saturday night when I had been waiting for her to show up for our platonic dinner at some generic restaurant (belonging to a chain that still exists today) in 1993, I’d started a conversation in the waiting area with a brunette who had just been stood up ( I explain everything here.).  When I told the brunette that Suzanne and I were “just friends,” Suzanne looked like she’d been offended.

“I can’t believe he just said that in front of you,” Suzanne said to the brunette.

Oh God, I thought, I’d said something inappropriate again.  Despite my polite upbringing, I had a bad habit of making unintentionally inappropriate comments.  Sometimes I wonder what I would have been like without that polite upbringing.

“Maybe you two need to talk,” the brunette said, smiling.  At least she wasn’t fleeing the uncomfortable situation.

“No, he’s right,” Suzanne stated.  “We’re just friends.  I’m surprised he said that in front of you.”

“I wanted to be clear about the nature of our relationship,” I said.  “Not that we’re in a relationship.”

The brunette didn’t respond to that.  Instead, she glanced at the door.  A family with a bunch of kids had just walked in, and we were blocking their way.  I stepped to my right, and then both Suzanne and the brunette moved toward me, and the family nudged past us.

“I think he wants to ask you out,” Suzanne stage whispered to the brunette.

I could feel my ears turn red.  I couldn’t deny what Suzanne had said.  The red ears always give it away.

The brunette grinned.  “But he’s with you,” she said.

“He’s not ‘with me’ with me,” Suzanne replied.

“I just got stood up,” the brunette said.    “I can’t trust a man who ditches his date to ask me out.”

“She’s not getting ditched,” I said.

“Stay out of this,” Suzanne said.  “It’s not about you.”

Suzanne turned back to the brunette.  “He’s very shy.  He doesn’t talk to women much.”

“How is this not about me?” I asked futilely.

“Did he talk to you first?” Suzanne asked.  “Or did you talk to him?”

The brunette paused.  “He talked to me first.”

“He never does that,” Suzanne said.  “He must like you.”

“That’s enough!” I said, maybe too loudly.  I stepped in front of Suzanne.  Nowadays, it would probably be called something like man-blocking or man-terference, but it was necessary.  Suzanne was fem-sabotaging me.  But people didn’t talk like that in the 1990s.

“I apologize for my friend’s behavior,” I said to the brunette.

“I have issues,” Suzanne said.  “That’s what my ex-boyfriend says.”

“Her ex-boyfriend is a jerk,” I said.  “And I’m not her ex-boyfriend.  Or her current boyfriend.”

“You should go out with him,” Suzanne said.

“Only if you want to,” I said.  “But not tonight.  Suzanne and I are hanging out tonight… in a completely platonic way.”

The brunette hesitated.

“You don’t have to decide right now,” I said.  I took out my wallet and pulled out a card with my name and phone number.

Suzanne laughed.  “You have a card?”

“It’s for work,” I said.

“Since when have you had a card?”

“I don’t know, a long time,” I said.  “There’s never been a reason to give you my card.  You know my name and number.”

To be honest, all of that was a lie.  I’d had the cards made after my live-in literary girlfriend broke up with me, and I never used them for work.   This was the first time I’d ever used the card, and I was a little self-conscious about it.  But it was better than asking a woman whom I’d never met to give me her phone number.

The brunette took my card and looked at it.  “James,” she said.  “I’m Kimberly.”

“You’re going by James?” Suzanne said and then turned to the brunette.  “He’s Jimmy to me.”

“Jimmy didn’t look right on the card,” I said.

“I don’t know you anymore,” Suzanne said, shaking her head.

“We’ve only been friends for a few months.”  I noticed that several of the restaurant staff were staring at the three of us blocking one of the benches in the lobby.  We probably looked like loiterers.

“It’s nice to meet you, Kimberly,” I said.  “If you call me and we do something, I promise that she won’t come with us.”  I nodded to Suzanne.

Kimberly still held the card.  “You know this is weird, right?”

Kimberly didn’t say whether or not she’d call, and I didn’t want to seem too hopeful, so somehow we said our goodbye for the evening (or forever).  As Kimberly walked out, a tall handsome guy coming in held the door open for her.  They smiled at each other and she said “Thank you,” and kept walking.  After she cleared the exit, he walked in and glanced around, and I was pretty sure he was by himself.

“You think that was the guy that stood her up?” Suzanne mumbled as we were escorted to our table.

“Is he really standing her up if he shows up, even if it’s 35 minutes late?” I asked.  “And who gets first priority, the guy who’s late or the guy you meet because the guy is late?”

“Whoever I like better gets first priority,” she said.  “And a guy shouldn’t be late at all.  The woman gets 15 minutes.”  We ordered drinks and probably got appetizers too.  We were in our mid-late twenties and still ate everything just for the heck of it.

After a few minutes of conversation, Suzanne said, “I knew you’d want to ask Kimberly out as soon as I saw her.  Even before I saw you talking to her, I knew.”

“I didn’t know you were psychic.”

“It was obvious,” Suzanne explained.  “Kimberly looks just like Daniella.”

Daniella.  My former girlfriend.  The one who’d pulled a knife on me right before we broke up.  Kimberly looked just like her?  Of course, I had a dramatic reaction to that.  And I’ll get to that in the next episode.

*****

To be continued in Awkward Moments in Dating: The Ex-Girlfriend Look Alike !

Old Books Book Review: Uncle Shelby’s A, B, Z Book by Shel Silverstein

As much as I like Uncle Shelby’s A, B, Z Book by Shel Silverstein, I’ve never heard anybody else rave about it.  Silverstein fans tend to focus on The Giving Tree or Where the Sidewalk Ends.  I remember some poem about a girl who never took the garbage out.  All of those were okay, but I thought Uncle Shelby’s A, B, Z Book was at a completely different level.

Now that I’ve found my old copy of Uncle Shelby’s A, B, Z Book, I can talk about why I like it so much.  And why I think it’s a children’s book despite its tone and humor.  And why it just might be communist propaganda.

Literary Glance: The Chef by James Patterson and some other guy

The Chef by James Patterson and some other guy is a top five bestseller right now, and there’s one thing I’ll say about it; The Chef has James Patterson written all over it, even if the other guy contributed.

Scenes written by James Patterson rarely have a strong sense of place, and this applies to The Chef.  Here in the first chapter, the protagonist is working at his food truck in New Orleans.  A food truck is an interesting place.  New Orleans is an interesting place.  Put a food truck and New Orleans together, and it should make an interesting scene.  Instead, this is what Patterson (and some other guy) come up with:

A collision of food, music, history, passion, and chaos… yep, that pretty much sums up New Orleans for you.  “Nawlins,” as us locals say it.  NOLA.  The Crescent City.  The Big Easy.  Different names for the same magical, one-of-a-kind place.  My hometown of three-and-a-half decades.  The capital of the world, as far as I’m concerned.  A city where anything can happen, and nothing is ever as it seems.

Ugh, that sounds like something from Wikipedia or a brochure.  It makes me wonder if James Patterson (or the other guy) has ever been to New Orleans.  You don’t necessarily have had to visit a place to write about it.  But an author should be able to imagine being there and put that imagined scene into words.

If I had written this first chapter, I would have dropped this paragraph altogether and slowly brought New Orleans into it, maybe with some naked guy ordering food at the truck with nobody being offended.  Yeah, maybe that’s a stereotype, but it’s not the first time Patterson (or any other author) has relied on a stereotype.

Next is the food truck.  Here, Patterson (or the other guy) at least tries.

Last, I make the “shake.” I dump a batch of twisted strips of raw dough into the metal deep-fryer basket, then plunge them into the scalding vat of oil.  Once they’re golden brown and perfectly flaky, I slide them into a serving boat and dust them with precisely six shakes of powdered sugar.  Most New Orleans joints serve beignets, a similar, more common pastry.  But I’ve always preferred these, known as angel wings.  And I’ve never been one to follow the crowd, either here or in my other career.

There’s a lot of food description, enough to make me wonder if Patterson is trying to write one of those foodie murder mysteries.  Maybe there are some New Orleans recipes in the book and I just haven’t read far enough yet.  At any rate, there’s no sense of space or claustrophobia inside the truck.  He should be bumping into stuff and getting frustrated with any coworkers (whom I’m about to mention).

And then there’s the James Patterson dialogue.  Patterson tends to overwrite his banter, using long sentences that nobody in real life would ever say.

For example, here’s a scene where a female customer is flirting with the male protagonist.  I’ve never seen a female flirt with a guy working in a food truck.  I’ve seen male customers try to flirt with women who work in food trucks, but never the other way around.  Maybe it happens, but I don’t think it does.  This just shows how awesome the protagonist is, I guess.

Here’s how the protagonist’s ex-wife (yeah, his ex-wife works with him in the food truck… hack!) responds to the flirtatious drunk chick.

“Oh, honey,” she says, her (the ex-wife’s) voice dripping with experience and sarcasm.  “Don’t let Caleb’s two hundred pounds of hunkiness fool you.  That man’s a lot like the sun.  Plenty hot when he shines on you, but try to get close and he’ll burn you to a crisp.  Believe me, I know.”

“Don’t let Caleb’s two hundred pounds of hunkiness fool you?”  Nobody talks like that.

Maybe I’m arrogant to rewrite the words of the bestselling author of all time, but seriously, an editor should have done this:

“Don’t let him fool you, honey,” she says.  “The man’s a lot like the sun; he’s hot, but he’ll burn you to a crisp.”

The line is still hacky, but maybe somebody would actually say it.

So there we have it, another co-written James Patterson novel that feels like a first draft.  Sometimes my own writing can feel like a first draft, but I don’t write/publish 10+ books a year like Patterson.  As a masterclass author, he should have higher standards.  If any writer deserves to get bashed (not physically), it’s a masterclass-teaching bestselling author who puts out rough drafts as final copies, like James Patterson.

To be fair, I should also bash the coauthor, the other guy, for writing this too.  It’s disrespectful of me to leave out the other guy.  I’m sorry, other guy.

Awkward Moments in Dating: Just Friends

(image via wikimedia)

Back in 1993, I was just friends with a woman named Suzanne.  We were the same age, 28, and guys liked her a lot until they got to know her.  She could get clingy really quickly, and guys would flee.  Plus, she owned a big dog that didn’t like it when guys got amorous with Suzanne in her apartment, and that had caused some awkward moments.  Guys respect single women who own big dogs, but the big dog isn’t allowed to interfere with romantic situations.  That’s a deal breaker.

“He thinks he’s protecting me,” Suzanne said to me more than once.

“He’s going to make you single until he dies,” I warned her.  “And then you’ll be… almost 40.”

I know that in most situations a guy isn’t supposed to mention a woman’s age, but we were just friends and she needed to know that the dog could cause her some future regrets, especially if he bit a good potential husband.

The dog and I got along because I never tried anything funny with Suzanne.  She (Suzanne, not the dog) was attractive, but she wasn’t my type, and I wasn’t hers, and we both knew it.  She had seen me with Daniella, my previous girlfriend (whom I wrote about in another blog serial called The Literary Girlfriend a few years ago)  and knew what my physical type was.

Suzanne and I had met at a mutual friend’s party when I was living with Daniella and Suzanne was dating some guy I can’t remember except that he was tall with an exceptionally strong chin.  Since we had a lot of the same friends, we kept running into each other, and we’d complain to each other about our awkward dating situations.  For example, when Daniella broke up with me, Suzanne said I was better off without her.

“I never liked her,” Suzanne told me over the phone.

“Well, I liked her,” I said.  I was torn.  I felt like I had to defend my ex-girlfriend, but at the same time, I was flattered that Suzanne was trying to look out for me.

“She was mean,” Suzanne said.

“Not mean.  Vindictive,” I said.  “And she was never mean to me.”

She pulled a knife on you!

“It was a bad moment.”

Anyway, Suzanne and I were going to meet up at a restaurant on a weekend evening because neither of us had anything else to do.   That’s what we did.  If we had nothing else going on, we’d hang out.  Sometimes we’d go to a movie.  Sometimes we’d go to a restaurant.  A couple times, we even spied on guys she was dating; I’d drive in my nondescript car and she’d hunch down in the passenger side when we got close to her target.  If Suzanne ever decided to write about her own awkward moments in dating, she’d be a bestselling author… or get locked up.  And I was an enabler.

That night I arrived at the restaurant a little early and saw an attractive brunette with glasses sitting in the waiting area.  Even though her skirt was kind of long, I could tell she had nice legs.  She looked me over and opened her mouth and then closed it.  I wondered if I knew her from somewhere.  Maybe she thought I looked familiar.  I think I look like a lot of people because strangers sometimes mistake me for somebody else.  Or maybe they’re trying to scam me and I’m just gullible.

After hesitating, the brunette got up and tentatively took a step toward me.

“Thomas?” she said.

“No, I’m not Thomas,” I said slowly, kind of wishing that I was Thomas.  I didn’t feel guilty about that.  Suzanne and I weren’t dating or anything.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said.”

“It’s okay.”

We sat down on different benches on opposite sides of the waiting area.  I tried really hard not to make eye contact.  The brunette was cute, and I thought Thomas was a shmuck if he didn’t show up.  Suzanne was late, but this was the 1990s, and nobody had cell phones.  If a friend was late, you waited 15 minutes or longer before you gave up.

After 15 minutes, the brunette and I glanced up at the overhead clock at the same time and made eye contact.

“Did you get stood up?” I asked.

“It looks like it,” she said.  “You too?”

“Probably not.  She always runs late.  I just got here early so that we’d average on time.”

The brunette smiled.  “It’s been 30 minutes.  I think I’ve been stood up.”

“He’s a fool,” I said, realizing that I’d meant only to think that, not say it.

The brunette got up to leave just as Suzanne strolled in.  “Sorry I’m late,” Suzanne said, and we did the quick hug.

“I’m glad your date showed up,” the brunette said as she moved past us to the door.

“My date?”  I laughed.  “We’re just friends.”

I knew immediately from Suzanne’s body language that I shouldn’t have said that.  I’d just taken a normal, friendly situation and suddenly made it awkward.  Of course, things were going to get worse… or at least more awkward,  And I’ll get to that soon.

To be continued in…  Awkward Moments in Dating: Getting Stood Up vs. Getting Ditched!