Archive | February, 2014

When I have/am . . . I will do . . .

19 Feb

Have you ever said to yourself: when I have/am, I will …………  (when this problem is solved, I’ll do that)

I’m sorry to say that probably – you won’t. How do I know this? Because I didn’t do it either.  Get those qualifications out of the room. They don’t belong there. What does belong is: dedication, determination, discipline, diligence. At a minimum, you start with these. If you don’t have them, find them or you’ll have a really hard time reaching your goal. I won’t say you never will, because I don’t know your level of persistence, but I’d say the chances are slim and null.

This is a fill-in-the-blanks sort of sentence. In my case it was:

Once I get a new a job (I’d been  downsized and couldn’t find another job in my chosen field), I’ll  write.


When I get the bills paid off, I’ll write.

Or, whatever . . .

I think there were a couple of other notions in there, too, but none of my qualifications worked.

What I found out was this: There is NO magic switch that you can flip to enable yourself to sit down and write. Or stand up and write, whichever is your preference.  I like to sit at the computer, so if I say sit, please know it can interchange with stand up or lie down or whatever is your preferred position. What matters is this: You have to – literally – put your fanny in the chair and work at it. Make no mistake – Writing is Work! Even when it’s really flowing from brain to fingers to monitor in front of you – it’s work! Your shoulders, your back and even your butt will confirm that once you decide to take a break.

I have had days of producing 5000 or so words and it was almost all usable. Other days, I’ve struggled to get 100 sensible words, and have worked harder on them, than I did with the bigger production.

But I had to learn that there is no magic bullet. If you make the kinds of excuses mentioned at the top of this post, chances are good you’ll still be making them ten years from now. You have to disconnect from that mental image and literally turn the page. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do it.

I’d known since I was a teenager that I wanted to be a writer. I’m not sure if I ever had the gumption to say ‘I will be a writer,’ or ‘I AM a writer.’ That’s probably where I put myself on the rocks to begin with. It took 40+ years and a bossy daughter for me to realize that. She sorted me out in almost no time. “Put your ass in that chair and write!” I apologize for the words, but they were her exact admonition to me. I did as she told me to (that once!) and have never looked back.

So, unless you are fortunate enough to have a bossy daughter like I did, you need to take this advice. Don’t put off your ambition – it could easily become derailed, and you don’t want that to happen. Trust me. It’s still early enough in the new year to make a fresh start. Put yourself in that chair and write something every day. You don’t have to produce chapters every day. A page a day will be a good start. After all, a page of typing is 4-500 words, generally speaking. If a novella is fifteen to twenty-five thousand words – you do the math. You should be able to finish a shorter novella in a month. Or even less. Once you know the joy of finishing something, you’ll be eager to experience it again. And there you are – on your way to writing your first book! You don’t have to start with a novella, of course. That was merely an example.  But you can do a lot with a novella – and frankly, I’ve read any number of books that would have been so much better had they been only a novella!

It might not be publishable, but that decision can be made later. The most important thing is to get yourself in the habit of writing.

So, what are you waiting for?

By the way, my alter ego Hetty St. James has just published another Regency novelette. This one is An Improbable Duke, and it may be purchased here:

Not to belabor my point about doing something, I woke up on Friday January 31 with the basic plot of this novelette (11,500 words) in my head as the result of a dream. Granted I already knew the heroine, as she’s the major character in a Regency mystery series I hatched about 20 years ago. But this short story doesn’t figure in the series except that she had to have been married before the series begins, and here’s the tale of how that came about! To be sure, I was aided by the blizzards and frigid conditions that we experienced during the first weeks of February – they really discouraged me from going out, so I attached myself to the computer, and here it is.


Cheers, everyone!  And happy writing to you!


Which witch is which – part two!

5 Feb

Remember that old saying — be careful what you wish for – you might get it!

Well, I always hope for a response to these posts, but the one for Which Witch is Which so far exceeded my expectations as to be astonishing! I was very pleased I must say.

And then, considering that piece was inspired by an article in our local paper, it was almost hysterical to find another one a week later. On 1-21-14, a sports story said that someone had gone through the ‘ringer’ instead of ‘wringer’ !!!!  (I hope I’m not the only person left here who remembers what a ‘wringer’ really was. Or did. Or meant!

Anyway, words fell out of the ether in great abundance, and I thank all of you who contributed to this great windfall.  Here is the new batch.  (apologies for the double-spaced format here, I can’t seem to eliminate it.)

beet/beat                            one/won

blew/blue                            or/oar

booze/boos                        pain/pane

buy/bye                              red/read

cell/sell                               right/rite

cereal/serial                       sea/see

cheap/cheep                      sense/cents

damn/dam                         sent/cent/scent

days/daze                          shear/sheer

doze/does                         side/sighed

eye/aye                             sight/cite

feet/feat                            so/sew

flew/flue/flu                       sow/sough

floe/flow                            soul/sole

fowl/foul                            threw/through

hair/hare                           time/thyme

lie/lye                                vain/vane

meet/meat                        vice/vise

mist/missed                      weigh/way/whey


I must acknowledge these joyous responses from Dr. Bob Birch, with whom I have an on-going communication. He also included these five pairs of words which are spelled the same but have rather different meanings:

switch/switch  (If you don’t switch, I’m going to use my switch on you.)

smart/smart   (I know you’re smart, but my spanking would smart.)

bob/bob   (Please don’t bob while I’m trying to bob your hair.)

log/log      (Then I sat on a log to log into my email account.)

yarn/yarn  (I will tell you a yarn about my wife’s collection of knitting yarn.)

Dr. Bob  delights in words as much as I do, but his imagination is way wackier than mine, so herewith are some additions from him!

Dam Yew Kelly. You’re peace a bout righting now has me obsessing a bout words.

Sew, now I’ll knot get any thing dun. Eye kneed a brake.  I’m going two rub some cream in my hare and take some male to the post office.

Good buy four now. (but that didn’t last long!)

My time has been less interesting. I was bussed to a show where a midget was paid to bust a woman in her breasts.

four one want to write right.

I scheduled time for my wife and I for a private tour, but I lost my notes and can’t remember which hours are ours.

I wonder how often a writer has written about suffering about of flew.

In my novels a bum might jump from a moving train and land on his bum. He was quite bummed out.  Or, how about the goat that is about to butt a woman’s butt, but I save the day. Please, no wise cracks.

Similar words I always have to double check – though, through and thought. I also self-published a book for premature ejaculators where I repeatedly advised them to trust slowly.

I also frequently have to check my spelling – did I mean bowl or bow, and did I mean dessert or desert?

Serves him write. He through it. He never got the add vise, bee careful watt yew throw, bee cause it mite just come back two yew. He got his just dessert.

Reminds me of when I was in the army having intense discussions in tents.

I’m going to have to quit – – – reminding me of two other spellings I need to double check when I write – – – quit and quiet

Then he redeemed himself with this following note!

I should have checked my library a bit closer. I have a small paperback book (1987) titled THE GOOF-PROOFER: How to Avoid the 41 Most Embarrassing Errors in Your Speaking and Writing by Stephen J. Manhard.   ISBN 0-02-040610-X   It’s out of print, but there are used copies available. This book contains a chapter titled Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words. This chapter contains an exhaustive list – far more than I could ever have come up with. Mr. Manhard’s obituary is also interesting.

MANHARD, Stephen J. — On December 17, 2001, in Foster City at age 89 after a short illness. Beloved companion for fourteen years of Kitty LaPlante and beloved father of Tom and Richard, grandfather of Chris and Wendy, great-grandfather of Matthew, Samantha and Ryan. An award-winning advertising executive and writer, Steve was the founder of SPELL, the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature, a now worldwide organization encouraging proper English in everyday life. Steve also loved traditional Dixieland jazz and was a past president of the New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California as well as an avid Railfan and model railroad builder for many years.

This has been a fun experience — at least for me! Thank you all for your input. I value it very highly. As always if you have comments or questions, please feel free to write to me: