The Seguin Lighthouse

Sep 28 2020, 11:43 am

Tis the season to tell spooky stories. Today I begin a weekly series of Haunted Lighthouse tales. 

Maine has 67 Lighthouses. One, the Seguin Lighthouse, is in the Gulf of Maine on Seguin Island, south of the Kennebec River.

Established in 1795, it is the second-oldest of Maine’s coastal lighthouses. The light station stands on the island’s highest point, and includes the lighthouse itself, the keeper’s house, fog signal building, a small oil house, and a 1006 foot tramway for bringing supplies from the shore to the site. The light, built from granite blocks, is 53 feet tall and 180 feet above sea level making it the highest in the state. The first tower was wood frame completed in 1797 and replaced by the present tower in 1857.

This light has quite the history and it is haunted…..

Let’s start with the history part. On September 5, 1813 the epic sea battle between the HMS Boxer and USS Enterprise took place near Seguin. Yes. The name USS Enterprise has a long, glorious history.

More than a hundred light keepers have served at Seguin. There has been several women assistant keepers. Not a common thing in those days. Going through the list of keepers names I found it odd that some were removed from their position. For what reason? I can understand why many resigned. That island is pretty small and is said to be foggy fifteen percent of the time. The fog horn is so loud it can be heard fourteen miles away and keepers swear it has blasted birds from the sky.  BTW I don’t care for fog. Nope. Not at all. What about those who were removed. Why? Did they go batty?

Anyone who lived there had to be self-sufficient. Electricity didn’t arrive until 1953 and from what I can tell it was kinda iffy at that. Did those that resigned get bored? Couldn’t take the isolation or get tired of being so self-sufficient?

Now here is where the weird stuff begins.     

Near the island, in July of 1875, a sea captain and ship’s crew reported seeing a monster that came to their boat and put its head over the rail. They struck it with a pike sending it back into the water. A few days later another boat reported seeing the serpent floating along occasionally raising it head to look around. WTH?

Many believe the pirate, Captain Kidd, buried his gold and silver treasure on the island. In 1936, for a year, a man dug up the place looking for it but found nothing. The legend and a lot of holes still exists. 

Sometime in the mid-1800s a murder suicide took place. The story is, a light keeper bought his wife a piano. Ah. Nice guy. She played the same tune over and over for hours upon hours until it apparently drove the keeper insane because he took an axe to the piano, his wife and himself. Eww. Doing yourself in with an axe? The mind boggles. The spooky thing is on quiet nights, the crews of ships going by the island say they can hear the tune playing over and over and over.

A young girl died and was buried on the island and many report still seeing her running up and down the stairs. Some have even heard her laughing.

Getting chills yet?

There are other reports of items being moved or going missing, jackets being taken from hooks and thrown to the floor, and furniture rearranged.  

In 1985 the Coast Guard was packing up to leave the island.  An apparition—you got that right—an apparition in oil skins begged a warrant officer to leave his furniture and home alone. The next day as the furniture was being loaded on a boat, chains broke and all the furniture fell into the ocean. Coincidence? Don’t know but my rule is if a ghost asks me to leave his furniture and home alone, I’m not arguing.       

Do you have any haunted lighthouse stories?

                                                                     Rita      

 

 

 

Writers are Super Heroes – Part Trois

Sep 18 2020, 8:30 am

Yes they are.

The Creativity Super Power

With all going on in the world there has been some discussion about how to keep the joy in our writing. There are a bazillion possible answers to this.

I think one is by indulging our other creative talents.  Yeaph. OTHER creative talents. Authors are very creative people. Writers think about all the other talents you have and how those creative outlets can nourish your writing. 

Here are a few.

Sewing. BTW I hear it’s coming back as a thing. Many Historical Romance authors make costumes for their events. 

Knitting and crocheting.  

 Setting a proper table is now considered an art. Ha!  I giggled when I saw a Facebook post about setting a table and there was no place for the cell phone.

Family wrangling. 

Cooking. Baking. Look at all the TV cooking shows.

Painting as in, on a canvas and the walls. 

Carpentry.

Sketching.

Coloring.

Gardening.

Decorating.

Giving Parties.

Yeah. I hear you asking what these creative endeavors have to do with writing.  Consider. When you begin writing a new book you write a synopsis. Make a plan. Develop a structure or a pattern.  Look at the talents I mentioned above. How many need a plan, a pattern?

When sketching a face you start with the basic features everyone has, head shape, jaw, ears, nose eyes. But, it is how we shape those features that makes the face unique. Take sewing a dress. You begin with a pattern. Each one has an opening for the head and sleeves, but think of the creative possibilities in achieving the finished product.

When you begin to write every word inside you doesn’t rush out like a water fall onto the page all at once. It’s like knitting and crocheting. One stitch/word at a time culminating in this great design/book.

I believe spending a few hours or minutes a week with your other talents can help feed the writing beast. I know many authors creative in other fields. One is what I call a perpetual creative bottle rocket. She’s an entrepreneur, baker, swag maker and always has amazing creative ideas. Another, is a knitter extraordinaire. Others are or have been a TV producer, an opera singer, teachers, farmers and gardeners.

Me? I sketch. Drawing my characters. Although I have to admit I sometimes use the Flash Face app to get the basics. I may or may not admit to coloring in the big girl books. I click the knitting needles and crochet with basic stitches. Garden. A new design is emerging in the out of control back yard jungle thanks to my improved chain saw skills.

What are your other creative talents? Take one of yours and examine it for similarities with writing.

Do you think enjoying all your creative venues can help keep the joy in your writing?

 

Writers Are Super Heroes – Part Deux

Sep 16 2020, 8:20 am

Yes they are. 

The Curiosity Superpower.

Author’s professional curiosity is a huge subject on many levels. It begins with, can I write a book? Should I write a book? How do I write a book? Flash forward to a truck load of how do I promote and gain new reader questions.

I believe an author’s personal curiosity keeps joy in their writing. It ignites the imagination and fuels the creativity tank.

Curiosity isn’t just asking questions, it’s challenging yourself to come up with your own discoveries. Please. Please. When you do ask questions, don’t be an ask hole.

DefinitionAsk Holeone who takes another’s time asking a million questions and not only doesn’t listen to the answer, but if asking for advice, has no intention of taking it. 

In asking questions be prepared for the responses you may receive. I asked a couple married 60 years a simple question. “When did you first know you were in love?”  The couple had never told each other and their answers had everyone in the room dabbing tears.    

The Curiosity Superpower takes a writer places. Not like in horror movies when the dude goes out into a dark and stormy night to see if the guy with the chain saw needs help. Like asking a perfect stranger in line at the Post Office a question that can lead to a romance or lifelong friendship. Ask the elders in your family what their earliest memories are. Call the local apiary and ask how they get bees to give up their pollen. BTW, I still haven’t gotten an answer to that one. 

Being curious gives you the courage and confidence to step out of your comfort zone. Even if it’s a tiny bit and for the briefest moment it can take you to the next level with new experiences to use in your writing.

Schedule a day, few hours, an hour, to question everything in your world like a joyous five year old. Finding the fun and joy in your life carries over into your writing. Use curiosity to wake up your senses. Take a ‘feel’ trip. Invite friends. Touch everything you see. Well, not hot stuff and not other people you don’t know. High end department stores, craft stores, and garden centers are great for this. When you write about the silk duvet on the heroine’s bed you’ll smile remembering exactly how it looked and felt when you flopped on it at the chi-chi boutique.

Equate the wool textures from the craft store with your protagonist’s sweater. You won’t have to imagine what his girlfriend feels as her fingers drift over his sleeve. You will know.

Finger flower petals and leaves. They have an incredible lush feeling. Leaves can release a surprising scent. Instead of the heroine stomping through the lavender, you can use lemon balm, geraniums or any other scented plants you discover. 

Ladies, talking scent, do an experiment to find which is more alluring to the Y chromosome homo sapiens in your life. Does bacon, stink bait, or a slightly spicy Jo Malone scent dabbed behind the ear drive them crazy?  I found it broke down to the first two depending on how hungry and how close to the weekend it was.

Guys, are you more likely to be drawn to a woman with the scent of bacon wafting from her bag or who smells of Freesia and nectarine blossoms?   

Are you curious and courageous enough to taste python pizza?  Find out if eel is really that nasty. Blah. I say yes. It’s nasty. Does a hot dog taste as good without the bun? That’s a big N O for me. How many shots of grappa does it take to make you drunk?

So using my curious endeavors I could write a story about a bee pollen hijacker who slams back grappa with python pizza and carries bacon in her purse to attract men who wear sweaters.

Where has your curiosity taken you?

Come back Friday to read suggestion on how to fill your Creativity tank. 

                                                                                              Rita 

Writers Are Super Heroes.

Sep 14 2020, 8:35 am

Yes they are.

Why?  Because writers swirl words on the page in a way that captures the reader’s imagination with descriptions and conversations and carries them away to other places and times. 

They are able to do this using their Superpowers of Imagination, Curiosity and Creativity. Every writer, no matter the genre we write, has theses super powers.  No joke.  If we didn’t have them we couldn’t write.  

The Imagination Super Power.

Writers are blessed/cursed with the double edged sword of wild, vivid imaginations propelling us to conjure stories of the same ilk.  I firmly believe imagination is everything to a writer. It’s a way to preview life’s coming attractions. It’s the ability to change the past in our mind’s eye. And……therefore allows us to write about such things.

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

I’m not going to argue with Al.

Authors are frequently asked: “Where do you get your stories?” 

When I first started writing I was hesitant to say the people living in my head tell me what to write so, being the snarky person I am, I quickly said, “the Amazon story store.”  I mean, Amazon sells live lady bugs and rents goats, why not sell stories?  But alas, I had to stop because too many asked me for the link. 

The correct answer is writers get stories everyplace. Remember that double edged sword?  Through our senses, into our minds, we ingest the world around us then reshape it all into new images in our imagination.   

Last year my imagination was triggered by The Bureau of Land Management seeking volunteers to spend the summer in the middle of nowhere Montana in an abandoned haunted town.  Not happening for me but, my mind took me to an abundance of romance possibilities and spooky stuff.

Then there’s the abandoned and boarded up Baker hotel in Mineral Springs TX.  A big ole empty hotel just sitting there. I imagined a story about a group of mystery writers spending the weekend. I even came up with a last sentence for the book. “How would you rate your stay at the Baker Hotel?”   

And songs. For me songs are writing prompts. Take Ray Stevens’ DEAD SKUNK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. I immediately thought of a squished ex sprawled across the double yellow line. The protagonist, a very hot detective BTW,  is convinced the ex-wife killed the skunk.

Who but an author can admire an ancient oak and imagine couples from every time period falling in love under the spreading branches? Then wonder how many bodies the roots are embracing.

I believe authors are a special breed. Every day we fade into the alternate world of books. Those written by others and the ones we’re writing. We extend our arms, put our fingers to the keyboard and imagination flows, letter by letter, across the screen. We can imagine anything and happily share what we conjure up with the world. 

I use my imagination to write the Under Fire series about extraordinary women and the men they love. Military heroines. A Coast Guard helicopter pilot. A Coast Guard admiral. A Marine Corps Intelligence officer. A Federal agent who works closely with Special Ops men. Women at the top of their field in a man’s world.

My imagination got the best of me and I published Let Me Tell You a Story.  A collection of eight twisted and tattered tales from the odd side. It felt amazing to finally free these characters from my mind and put them on the page. 

BTW I now answer the question, “where do your ideas come from”, with a huge smile and say, “I imagine every single one of them.”

Where has your imagination taken you today?  Or, where has an author’s imagination taken you today?  

Come back Wednesday to talk about another writer’s Super Power –Curiosity.

                                                                               Rita 

TIPS FOR SELF EDITING.

Jul 29 2020, 10:00 am in

 

First draft finished. Woot. It’s strong and somewhat as bloated as a T-Rex.

As a writer my goal is to have the reader devour every word I put on the page and keep them turning those pages. I strive to make my writing crisp and to the point. Before a manuscript goes to my editor I go through several self-editing steps. First, I search for weak works and phrases, redundant words, and overused and unnecessary words. If I’m writing in a series I refer back to my series bible and make sure characters who appeared in previous books have the same color eyes and hair etc.

Next, I read the story aloud or have a program read it back to me. I catch many things that way.   

My job is to de-bloat my story like these pink birds tackled the T-RexHere are some editing tips you may find useful to de-bloat your WIP.

Weak words and phrases. 

Weak words drain the power from what you write. Watch for these weak words: even, very, some, sometimes, occasionally, before, maybe, really, often, especially, somewhat, actually, few, fairly, many, most, and just.

Some editors insist you never use just. I use just when I speak and consequently insert it into my work. It’s the first word I search to remove.  

Wasted phrases and vague words.

Do you best to eliminate these wasted phrases: in order to, by means of, in fact, for the purpose of.  and any other combination of wordy words that can be deleted and not missed. 

The more specific a word or phrase is, the more information the reader has. The more information the reader has increases their connection to your story. We want to keep readers hooked.  Using vague, useless wasted words unhooks them.

A little pregnant.  Somewhat hungry. Halfway angry. Say they’re hungry or angry. Start to. Start is sufficient. He almost exploded.  Either he did or didn’t. 😯 

Redundant words.

Using two words when, by definition, you’ve said it twice. For example, baby puppies.  Puppies are babies. The word baby is unnecessary. Examples. 

Flinch back

Crouch down

Stand up

Sit down

Climb up

Kneel down

Frigid ice

Honest truth

Burning hot

Short midget

Tall giant

Protrude out

New recruit

Free gift

Bare naked

Completely naked

Burn down

Recur again

Cancel out

Basic fundamentals

Definite decision

Completely destroyed

Eliminate common overused and unnecessary words.

Search for— that, was, had, the, as if, but, when, again, against, by. It isn’t possible to eliminate all these words. But when that is used 13 times in one paragraph. Well…..some can go. 

Read your sentences with and without these words aloud. Decide which you prefer.

 

                   Happy editing.

                                             Rita   

 

 

 

 

Aioli

Dec 24 2019, 1:10 pm

Aioli

A garlic mayonnaise 

Ingredients

2 cloves of garlic. Or three. I’m in the three group.

2 pinches salt. I use coarse salt.

2 egg yolks

Approximately 1 cup olive oil

Makes 1 cup – You can double the recipe.

Directions

  1. Cut the ends off of the garlic, peel it, and either chop it or put it through a garlic press.
  2. Put the garlic in a mortar and pestle with the salt and grind it into a paste.
  3. In a heavy mixing bowl (one that won’t scoot across the counter as you’re mixing with one hand and pouring with the other), whisk (you can use an electric whisk but I thinks that’s cheating) the egg yolks, and garlic mixture together until well combined, about one minute.
  4. Start adding the olive oil, drop by drop, whisking all the while. You can add it a bit faster as you go along, but as with mayonnaise, the key to success is going very slowly at the start. When you are done adding the oil you can adjust the seasoning as suits your taste.
  5. Serve with crackers or thin baguette slices.

 

My World Famous Tequila Christmas Cookies

Dec 24 2019, 11:25 am

 

Ingredients

1 cup of water

 1 tsp. baking soda

 1 cup of sugar

1 cup of butter

 1 tsp. salt

 1 cup of brown sugar

 1 tbsp. lemon juice

 4 large eggs

 1 cup nuts

 2 cups of dried fruit

 1 bottle tequila

 Sample an ounce of the tequila to check quality.

Put butter in a large bowl, pour 2 ounces of tequila and drink. With electric mixer beat butter until the bowl is fluffy.

 Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.

 At this point, it’s best to make sure the tequila is still OK, so, try a half a cup.

 Turn off the mixerer thingy.

 Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

 Pick the frigging fruit and the damn cup off the floor.

 Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers, just
 pry it loose with a drewscriver.

 Sample the tequila to check for tonsisticity.

 Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Check the tequila.

 Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

 Add one table.

 Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.

 Greash the oven.

 Turn the cake tin to 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

 Don’t forget to beat off the turner.

 Put the bowl through the window, finish off the booze and make sure to put the dirty stove in the dishwasher.

 CHERRY MISTMAS TO ALL!

 

 

 

Furry and Feathered War Heroes.

Nov 6 2019, 10:11 am in ,

November is Veterans Month

Veterans come in many sizes shapes and species. Yeah! Species. Animals have served and are serving around the world and many are certified heroes.

I believe we are most familiar with military working dogs (MWD) and K9 officers. Dogs have been in warfare since ancient times used as scouts, sentries and trackers. They sniff out explosive devises saving countless lives. They are assigned to safe guard generals and political personnel on visits outside the country. They’ve suffered severe trauma, lost limbs and been honored for their bravery with medals.

Recently Social Media was ablaze over the heroism of this military working dog  assigned to 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, known as Delta Force. 

 

And then there’s

Layka

a Belgian Malinois, shot four times in 2014 at point-blank range by enemy forces in Afghanistan. Despite her injuries, she attacked and subdued the shooter, protecting her handler, and other members of the team. 

 

                                       Sgt Stubby, a war hero from WWI

 He wandered into the training encampment of the Massachusetts of 102nd infantry in 1917. When the unit shipped out to France, Stubby was smuggled aboard ship. On the battle field, the dog alerted his friends to German attacks. He was wounded by a hand grenade, gassed several times, and once found and held a German spy by the seat of the pants until the troops could complete the capture.

When his master was wounded, Stubby accompanied him to the hospital and made rounds to cheer the troops. Sgt. Stubby survived the war and Gen. John Pershing, personally awarded him a gold medal for one of his many efforts. He became a highly decorated dog, among his medals a Purple Heart, and various veteran’s awards. Stubby returned home at the end of the war and became quite the celebrity. He was made a lifetime member of the American Legion, the YMCA, and the Red Cross. He lived at the Y and made recruiting tours for the Red Cross. Stubby passed on in 1926, he was preserved and displayed with his medals at the Smithsonian Institution.

 

Now let’s talk about some of the other animal heroes maybe not so well known like Staff Sergeant Reckless,USMC 

The Staff Sergeant was a beer-guzzling, American hero war horse who bravely transported ammunition and carried wounded Marines to safety under enemy fire in the Korean War

She served with the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 1st Marine Division, was bought for $250 at a race track in Seoul during the war. The marines taught her to walk over trip wires, avoid incoming enemy fire and deliver huge packs of ammunition during battle.

During the five day Battle of Outpost Vegas in 1953 in one day she made 51 solo—that’s by herself— trips from the Ammunition Supply Point to the firing sites. Marine Corps history say this battle was particularly savage and Reckless was in the middle of it. Enemy soldiers could see her as she made her way across the deadly “no man’s land” rice paddies and up 45-degree mountain trails to the firing sites. “It’s difficult to describe the elation and the boost in morale that little white-faced mare gave Marines as she outfoxed the enemy—remember she was on her own—bringing vitally needed ammunition up the mountain,” Sgt. Maj. James E. Bobbitt recalled.

She carried 386 rounds of ammunition (over 9,000 pounds – almost FIVE TONS! — of ammunition), walked over 35 miles through open rice paddies and up steep mountains with enemy fire coming in at the rate of 500 rounds per minute. She would carry wounded soldiers down the mountain, unload them, get reloaded with ammo, and off she would go back up to the guns. She also provided a shield for several Marines who were trapped trying to make their way up to the front line. Wounded twice, she didn’t let that stop or slow her down.

Her heroics defined the word “Marine.” She was BELOVED by the Marines. They took care of her better than they took care of themselves – throwing their flak jackets over her to protect her when incoming was heavy, risking their own safety.

Her Military Decorations include two Purple Hearts, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with star, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

There is a book about Sgt. Reckless. She has a face book page and she has a bronze statue. 

 

Okay I find this one really well, odd. But Wojtek the bear was bought and adopted by Polish soldiers making their way back east after they were released from a prison camp in Siberia in 1942.

When the unit re-entered the war the only way they could take Wojtek with them was to make him an official soldier. So he became Corporal Wojtek of the artillery supply unit. Wojtek fit in quite well—his favorite activities included wrestling, drinking beer, and Taking showers.

The 440-pound bear became an ammo carrier that ferried heavy artillery rounds to the guns and he was good at his job. His finest hour came during the Battle of Monte Cassino, when he loaded 100-pound boxes of artillery shells into trucks all day long, every day until the battle was won. The army honored Wojtek’s service by putting his image, carrying ammo, on the unit’s official badge. After the war, Wojtek was housed at the Edinburgh Zoo until his death in 1963.

 

Then there are our feathered heroes.

Quite a few carrier pigeons were honored for their service in war. Cher Ami, a messaging pigeon serving in the Argonne Forest with the 77th Infantry. Joe an American pigeon.

In WW1, Cher Ami, a messaging pigeon was serving in the Argonne Forest with the 77th Infantry Division when the battalion of 550 soldiers she was with was completely cut off by German forces. After four days of heavy fighting, friendly artillery decided the battalion must have surrendered already and began firing on them. Ouch! Remember this WW1 could get on the cell and tell them to knock that crap off. They had to use carrier pigeons. Three were sent out and quickly shot down. Cher Ami, with a hole in her chest and a nearly amputated leg, got back into the air and delivered her message. Wow! 194 soldiers made it out alive thanks to her actions.

Joe an American pigeon from Fort Monmouth, N.J. was in Italy. The British advanced on a town the Germans had abandoned and… that U.S. planes were about to strike.  Radio communications couldn’t reach the airfield 20 miles away to tell them the German were gone. Joe saved the day. He carried a message, covering the entire 20 miles in only 20 minutes. His message reached the airfield just as the bombers were taxiing for take off. With only five minutes to spare, the bombing run was canceled, saving the lives of at least 1000 British troops.

Joe retired to the Detroit Zoological Gardens until he died in 1961 at age 18. His body was mounted and displayed for years at Fort Monmouth, which closed in 2011.

 

A pig, Tirpritz, was carried on the German warship Dresden in 1914 as a food source. The Dresden was sunk in battle with the HMS Glasgow off the coast of South America. Tirpitz escaped the sinking ship and swam to the Glasgow. The crew brought him aboard and adopted him as a mascot, named him after German admiral Alfred von Tirpitz and he spent a year aboard. Tirpitz was eventually auctioned off as pork, but in his final act he raised £1785 for the British Red Cross. His mounted head is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. Tirpitz’s trotters were made into handles for a carving set that traveled with the Glasgow in World War II, giving Tirpitz the dubious honor of serving aboard the ship in two wars.

                                                                               Rita

August 7 is National Lighthouse Day

Aug 7 2019, 11:04 am

A short story to entertain you on National Lighthouse day

Haunted Lighthouse

From William Samuels’ Journal. 

Written on a plane headed to Kansas City.

     I love lighthouses. I grew up a block from the St. Augustine, Florida lighthouse. As a kid the grounds, with its old oaks were my playground. The light and the keeper’s house were basically abandoned after the Coast Guard automated the light.

     I’m not admitting to anything but…entering the structure was—cough—hypothetically possible. Hypothetically, I spent some rainy afternoons in the keeper’s house with a girlfriend or two, making out. Occasionally, of an evening, Clay, my best friend in high school, and I would entice our dates to climb in a window and go into the light. Not up to the top, just stay at the bottom where it was nice and private. I’ve only been to the top a handful of times. Not because it’s 219 steps to the top, but up past the first 50 or so steps I got a queasy, dizzy feeling. Like vertigo. Pretty sure it’s because of the heavy smoke smell permeating the walls. Accumulated from years of cigar and pipe smoking keepers. I also hear phantom footsteps that kept my feet firmly on the ground. One of the times I did go to the top was with a girl. While we were up there she clocked my hard enough to cause a bloody nose. Why? She said I tried to push her over the iron stair railing. I didn’t lay a hand on her and I was pretty mad she said I did something like that.

     Anyhow, that’s how I got started with lighthouses.

     I went away to journalism school at the University of Missouri and believe it or not there aren’t any lights there. I was so used to the beam from the St. Augustine light sweeping past my window every minute and a half I had trouble sleeping. I tried setting a timer on a lamp to mimic the light. Roomie put an end to that real quick.

   After graduation I worked for a couple of small newspapers and freelanced. I could see the internet was killing print media and in my spare time—which had become more than my working time—I began to write the great American novel. Quickly learned I’m no Stephen King. Writing is hard. One night at the corner pub I was telling a friend my sad tale of woe and he gave me the name of a client of his looking for a ghost writer. Well, hell. I gave it a try and found out I could do it and do it well. I live comfortably off my earnings. So do two ex-wives.

     I recently traveled to Michigan to work with a client on his auto-biography. Before taking on a gig I visit a client to gage the tempo of their speech and get a feel for where they live. This makes the ghost writing easier. The client spent his childhood on the upper-peninsula, or thumb, as the locals call it. A nice guy, nothing earth shaking in his life. Some interesting stuff, like his grandfather came to Michigan from Boston on an orphan train. We bonded big time when he tells me about a nearby haunted lighthouse where he and his friends hung out. I’ll be honest, I never thought about lighthouses in Michigan. But, get this, Michigan has more than any other state. The rocky shores on four great lakes have a hundred and twenty. Florida has thirty. Yeah. We shared a few lighthouse stories and a lot of damn good whisky.

     Contract signed and my business concluded, on a whim, I drove my rental to a few of the Michigan lights. At each I was greeted by enthusiastic volunteers who treated me to the stats, stories and secrets of their wards. These bastions are pretty damn amazing. Most, built in the late nineteenth century on inhospitable rocky islands and desolate land, are pounded year round with treacherous weather. Yet, they’re still standing.  Gotta tip my hat to those who built the towers without the heavy equipment we have today.  One thing they had in common with the St Augustine light, they smell of cigar and pipe smoke. I mentioned this to the woman—an aging hippie type—showing me around. She stopped dead in her tracks and put her hand to her throat, breathing hard. Eyes big as Oreos. Thought she was having an attack and was reaching for my phone to call 911 when she told me, in a halting whisper only special people could smell the smoke.

   Alrighty then.   Said my good-bys and beat feet it out of there.

   I made my way to the next Light where a great guy and his wife show me around. At the top of the light the lady, in a hushed voice, says, “The windows are clean.” I thought she was responsible and asking for an atta girl so I told her she did a good job. Although I wasn’t sure how she’d managed to do the outside. The Mrs. politely informs me she didn’t clean the windows, the ghost did.   Okay.

   Moving on, I mention it’s too bad the smoke smell can’t be removed by cleaning. The couple give me a hard look. The Mr. chimes in that not everyone can smell the smoke from the light keeper’s cigars. As if I’ve given them a secret handshake into a paranormal club, tales of haunted lighthouses around the country pour from them. Strange lights, music playing, cries of women and sailors, heavy footsteps on the stairs. Cleaning ghosts, like the one here, who clean light windows and brass. Specters of women in flowing white gowns and men in pea coats.      

     On the ground, outside and after the hairs on my body returned to their proper positions I was slapped alongside the head with a book idea. Thoughts swirled in my mind and I wasn’t able to think of anything else. I’ve heard writers speak of getting ideas this way but this is a first time experience for me. I’m excited. Excited about writing for myself. I can hardly sit still. The woman in the seat next to me keeps giving me funny looks. I gave her a big smile and tell her I’m going to write a damn good book about a haunted lighthouse.

 

     I’m Rita and this is my blog.

 

Fresh Writing and Cliché Busting.

May 6 2019, 8:57 pm in , ,

Ever been dinged in a contest or in a critique for using a cliché? I sure have. What is a cliché?  Here are a few general definitions I found.

  • A cliché is an analogy characterized by its overuse. It may be true (‘Fat as a pig’), no longer true (‘work like a dog’) or inscrutable (‘right as rain’), but it has been overused to the point that its sole function is to mark its user as a lazy thinker.
  • Being predictable and unimaginative; falling into a groove of human boredom; an old tired trend.
  • Something that has been overdone to the point where it is now predictable. A fad that has either died or is dying out.
  • Something that is lame and unimaginative, and, more importantly, has been done many times before.

Look carefully at these definitions. They are very applicable to our writing.  I know you all have heard of the writing oracles Some One, They Say, and They Said. Their teachings and sayings have often been quoted to me in an effort to prevent me from using dreaded clichés. I shall be referring to their words of wisdom here.

I think, to a degree, clichés are unavoidable.  I suggest we take clichés, bend and twist them and use them to our advantage.  Fresh writing or cliché busting.

The actor, John Krasinski and Amazon took a lot of heat for casting him as CIA Analyst Jack Ryan in a Prime Original. Krasinski’s bulk of work had been in comedies. Critics said he was horribly miscast. He’d ruin the series. Well, huge cliché buster and surprise. He was brilliant.

In the movie, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, the Cannibal, Lector, a brilliant physiologist, kills and eats part of his victims. Ewww! Think of all the Hollywood tough guys the director could have picked to play Lector.  Each and everyone, evil, and diabolical.  He chose Anthony Hopkins, a five-foot- six, middle aged, English Shakespearian actor whose only screen roles to date had been portrayals of gentle men. The performance Hopkins gives is chilling. Big cliché buster.

 On more than one occasion, the oracle They Say has made it very clear we should not open a book, or a chapter, with our characters in bed. It’s cliché. They Say is also against opening with descriptions of the weather.  It was a dark and stormy night.  It was a bright sunny day.

Try these.
It was a dark and stormy night on a planet that didn’t have nights or storms.
It was a bright and sunny day. The first in the hundred and twenty years since the war.
Simple, and for me, cliché busters.
Some One is against using cliché sayings. Think of the GIECO auto insurance commercials. They take cliché sayings bend and twist them and make them fun.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Really?
The little pig went wee, wee, wee all the way home.
Can a woodchuck chuck wood? In this commercial we learn they can.
The Drill Sergeant Therapist.
These are cliché busters.

Take a look at the following clichés. Can you twist them to something new?
All’s well that ends well.
An oldie but goodie.
Pick of the litter.
Pay backs are hell.
Kick ass.
I know it like the back of my hand.
Slept like a baby.

I’ll take the last one. A detective asks his partner.
“How did you sleep?”
His partner replies, “Like a baby. I woke up every two hours.”

They Said makes it clear we must stay away from stereotype cliché situations.  Say my WIP is about a middle aged Italian widow who loves to cook.  She has two grown sons and she is constantly talking to them about marriage. What is the first image you conger up?  A short plump woman standing in her kitchen stirring spaghetti sauce with a wooden spoon and lecturing her sons they need to get married and give her grand children.

Try this. A hot Italian cougar with her own TV cooking show who is desperate to get her sons to break up with the boring women they are considering marrying, sell their book store, and travel the world for fun and adventure.   Cliché buster.   

I do agree with They Say about descriptions having become predictable.  Just once (yes I used just) I’d like the description of the handsome Lord in a historical to be a bit off.

Lord Brilliantly Handsome stormed into the room. His cravat appeared to be on backwards, his waistcoat was on inside out, his breeches buttoned askance and dear me, his boots were on the wrong feet. Where had his Lordship been and what had he been doing that led him to such disarray?

Or, the beautiful heroine has a penchant for wearing so many ribbons in her hair you can barely see said hair.  

Oh come on, you know you’d like to see it happen.  🙂

 

Bottom line is, listen to our writing oracles. Avoid being a lazy thinker. Don’t use the same overused, predictable, unimaginative, boring clichéd openings, character descriptions, settings and situations.  Spin them, twist them, make them your own to thrill and amaze the rest of us. Go through your WIP. Can you identify a cliché you could rewrite? 

                                                              Rita

 

 

 

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