Category Archives: MIP: Memoir-in-progress

By me, about me. Read me.

40 years ago I got a girlfriend

Nov. 22, 1976, eighth grade economics class at Belle Junior High School. Forty years ago today.

I was down in the dumps and my best friend, Kenny Shanks, wanted to cheer me up. He said, “I bet I can get you a girlfriend.” I just shrugged – “I’ll bet you can’t,” I said – and a couple of minutes later he came back and said, “You’re going with Kelly.” (Program note: “Going with” was the vernacular for today’s “going out with,” which was simply vernacular because there wasn’t any going anywhere. At least not for a while, although we did frequent the Rolla Drive-In to watch all the great slasher movies of the late 70’s, but Kelly won’t want to talk about Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Town the Dreaded Sundown, The Howling – 1 and 2 …)

Anyway.

After Kenny found me a girlfriend, I’m not sure if it was me or Kelly who later said – when we finally came face to face – “So I guess we’re going together.”

We’d known each other a little, but only enough not to really like each other. She was a shade under 6 feet tall. I was like 5-2. And I was an annoying preacher’s kid and a know-it-all. She was stunningly beautiful, a brilliant student who worked hard, studied hard and loved horses. She was a practical, methodical thinker who had immense respect for teachers, our church leaders and anyone else in a position of authority. I loved practical jokes, shunned authority, embraced chaos and made life my ad lib comedy stage.

And did I mention she was tall – and I was really, really short?

We mostly knew each other through church, but didn’t have any of the same close friends or social circles. Our parents played pinochle together, so that put us in the same proximity a few times. But, really, we didn’t have one thing in common. Except our faith.

Within 18 months both of our parents’ marriages ended in divorce, a few of our friends found a few different kinds of drugs – to go with the alcohol some of them already drank too frequently – and we began a togetherness of navigating grief, uncertainty (it was the Cold War, you know, and we were sure there’d be nukes firing off any time) and a process of falling deeply in love. Those common pains and joys that began accumulating blossomed into what would become a lifetime together.

Today, our common pains and joys continue to nurture and foster this incredible thing that sometimes is scary, in a way, because it just doesn’t seem possible for two human beings to be this close, connected and melded together. The greatest assurance that this will continue and reach even more one-ness than we could possibly imagine is looking back and seeing that each one of my missteps – some stupidly deliberate, others just stupidly ignorant – has the redeeming fingerprints of our Father and the blood of His Son covering it all.

Thankfully I’m not the same guy I was on 11/22/76 or even 6/5/82. (For that matter, I’m not the same guy I was 20 years ago or 12 years ago or five years ago.). But you know what’s really scary? It’s thinking for even a second about what life might have been like if Kenny Shanks hadn’t wanted to cheer me up 40 years ago.

So, with that: Kelly, I’m so grateful you agreed to be my girlfriend. Because I love, love, love being your boyfriend.

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Filed under Amazing Grace, Family, Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

Hey, I wrote a book!

Here’s the rest of the cast for the main characters in “Shackles.” Most of the characters from the jailer’s part of the story in Philippi are entirely fictional. Paul’s part of the story, based on the Book of Acts – in particular, Acts 16 – features real characters with whom I carefully took creative liberties.

If anyone has contact info for the director/production team of Ron Howard and Tom Hanks, pass it along and let’s get this fantasy project turned into something for the silver screen. (As mentioned previously, I cast Mr. Hanks as Claudius for the Philippi story, but he’s welcome to switch with Christian Bale to play Barnabas if he’d like). Remember, this fantasy cast is based on a fantasy budget. I wanted to find spots for Johnny Depp and Will Smith, but even fantasy budgets have limits. I want to shell out the biggest fantasy bucks possible for the Howard-Hanks team.

And here’s another snippet from “Shackles,” which is now in the hands of 18 or so test readers. Tomorrow: we begin making “Shackles: The Playlist,” so start passing along your favorite Christian, sacred and secular songs that might fit this story.

SHACKLES - CAST 4 pmd

CHAPTER 24 – Telling the world …

Barnabas wondered if Paul had recognized the two men.

“I’ve noticed that many tend to follow us from town to town,” Barnabas said. “But these two. They seem different. Not just curious. It’s hard to explain.”

Paul had a more exact impression.

“I know the tactics,” he said. “I’ve used them.”

Barnabas was puzzled. “Tactics?”

“Plant seeds of division and doubt, find a spark of disagreement or anger, and fan it into flames of hatred.”

“You mean they want to do us harm?”

“Have they approached either of us with questions about our teaching? About Jesus?”

Barnabas agreed. “They’ve had ample opportunity to introduce themselves.”

“Well,” Paul said, patting Barnabas on the shoulder. “Our God is sovereign and in control. Just as He worked when I went throughout Judea, Samaria and Syria planting seeds of doubt and division, looking for sparks of disagreement or anger, then fanning the flames of persecution.”

“So you’re saying they want to do us harm?”

“They’re being very patient,” Paul said. “I’ll even go so far as to say they have support from the high priests in Jerusalem. Very similar method of stirring trouble and hatred. And the cleverest part is they get others to actually get their hands dirty.”

“Dirty?”

“Bloody. They won’t need to pick up stones. They’ll get others to do it.”

 

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Filed under Inspiration, Living Write, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, National Novel Writing Month, Shackles, WIPs

Five days and counting, we’re full blown ‘Wedding Central’

night-lake-dark-scenery

Wedding countdown

Five days away from Natasha and Kory’s “I do.” We’re now counting down by blocks of time and tasks that are getting checked off Kelly’s master list(s). (Re: see yesterday’s post).

Once upon a time, we could drive to Wal-Mart, I’d drop Kelly off at the front of the store, and she’d begin shopping and after I’d found a parking space, I’d go in and find her. It worked pretty well for a couple of decades. Nowadays I enter the store as I tap Kelly’s number on my cell phone to ask, “Where are you?”

It’s getting more difficult to recall life PD – pre-digital. Technology makes my head spin.

I’m also have trouble remembering when Kelly wasn’t part of my life. We began “going together” – that was the vernacular of the day – on Nov. 22, 1976. That was 37 years ago. We’ve been married 31. The truth is, every pre-Kelly memory seems to be attached to the question, “Where was Kelly?” We’re that connected; seems like we’ve always been.

Life without Kelly? I don’t want to remember that. The night before our wedding, I drove to the Belle City Park, where I’d caught hundreds of fish from the lake and clubbed hundreds of hits (and a few over the fence) on the baseball field. Some of my finest moments of almost 19 years of life had deep connections to the park and lake in my hometown.

But that night, I sat in the car, alone, fairly sure I knew we were way too young to get hitched, yet too much in love to give any credibility to conventional wisdom. As I stared out over the pitch blackness of the small lake, I asked God for a sign, some indication of whether I should be getting married in less than 24 hours. The thought that hit me was to imagine life without Kelly, and as I continued the ponder the profound question, the answer was right there in my gaze.

Nothing. Empty. Alone.

Meaningless and stagnant, much like that lake.

I married my best friend, and Kelly will say the same. We’re a couple of lucky, blessed married folks.

How to Wreck Your Marriage

Wrecking ball No. 12 – Major on minors. When you disagree or reach an impasse, be sure to pick your battle based on your spouse’s perceived weakness or that hot-button criticism that you know will throw off your spouse emotionally and mentally. Even better, stake your claim to your right to be an incredible gift to humanity by making a big deal out of … Nothing.

It’s not just about arguing over which shade of green is best – olive or evergreen – or what to name the dog. It’s about using that wrecking ball over and over by pounding your spouse with your “victories” in such disagreements. It’s amazing how something so trivial can be used to find and then wear away the chink in his/her armor, eventually exposing his/her heart so you can move in with even more force to prove your superiority.
If you’re puzzled about what qualifies as a major or minor point, just adopt the conclusion that everything is a big deal.

Playlist

Going to my deep well of sacred hymn favorites. These old songs play on a fairly continuous loop in my noggin. Here’s a super not-so-old arrangement of At The Cross, performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

Two observations: Yes, it is sometimes tortuous to watch Bill Gaither sing. And at around the 1:27 mark it looks like Mark Lowry has fiery horns. Cool. And, oh yeah, Guy Penrod and David Phelps have crazy awesome voices.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kelly, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion, Wedding countdown

10, 9, 8 … Countdown to Wedding Day

AndyGriffithShowAndyTaylorBarneyFife

I paid the wedding fee and the kitchen deposit today to use Christian Fellowship Church for the Sept. 7 holy matrimony of Natasha Jackson and Kory Myrick. A week from now it’ll be Mr. and Mrs. Myrick.

As we’re counting down the days and activity at the Jackson Estate becomes almost solely wedding focused, I’m also counting up with “How to Wreck a Marriage,” some of which is based on my 31 years of trial and error of being a prince to my princess, and some of which is based on the observations of others.

Wrecking ball No. 9: Resist change; don’t expect change. Andy will always be sheriff, Barney will always be his whacky sidekick, and Aunt Bee has a pie in the oven. You have an idea of what marriage will be like and look like, and if you’re the type that doesn’t roll very well with the punches of ever-present change, you’re in good shape to follow through with this wrecking ball. (It’s sibling, “Your fiancé will change once he/she becomes your spouse,” is this wrecking ball’s evil twin. More on that one tomorrow).

At first glance this wrecker might seem hard to understand, but if you can appreciate the nuances of “resist change,” you can wreak great havoc. For instance, here’s a chance to flex your inflexibility, to shrink away from challenges that threaten to expand your borders. Someone wants you “think outside the box?” What a ridiculous cliché. Besides, the box you’re in is just fine. You know how it operates, you know what to expect. There’s structure. Sounds like a good thing, sure, but taken to the extreme — which is what we’re after here — the unalterable structure you’ve created stifles creativity. And it stifles your spouse, the one that maybe recognizes the need to switch careers, houses, seats at church, the seasons of life. Blah blah blah.

You’re just fine. This is the way it will always be. Inside the box. Safe. Stifled.

On the other hand — I told you there were nuances, right? — being inflexible and unimaginative brings heavy darkness when things aren’t good, and love has grown dim, live has become overbearing, and your faith is like a vapor.

It will always be this way. It’s hopeless. I can’t change.

Hopeless indeed. Wrecked.

Congratulations.

Playlist

With my deepest, most sincere apologies to the late Freddy Mercury — and take a listen before you pass judgment — my No. 1 rock/metal hit of all time, Bohemian Rhapsody, performed by …

The Muppets.

And once that warms you up, check out the most classic Muppet tune of all-time. Click here.

Mahna Mahna

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Wedding countdown

A little Rowling here, a little Twain there

If you ask a question often enough, you’re bound to eventually get the answer you want.

Today one of the members of the Columbia Missouri Novelists Facebook page posted what could be either the most instructive, inspiring link or the most vanity-laden, time-wasting link.

I Write Like … You paste a sample of your work into a box, click “analyze,” and within seconds you find out your word choice and writing style compares favorably with — which famous author. I quickly yielded to temptation, certain that I could embrace or reject any conclusion.

I encourage you to give it a try.

First I submitted two samples from my current work, “Dixieland,” the 2012 National Novel Writing Month project. Both analyses determined the word choice and style compared favorably with H.P. Lovecraft. That was baffling, because I neither read nor write science fiction or “weird fiction,” the genre that Lovecraft basically birthed. So I copied and pasted another “Dixieland” sample that compared favorably with Stephenie Meyer.

The Twilight Saga? What? Flattering as that was, I have to confess that I also don’t read — and really have zero interest in — paranormal romance, vampires and werewolves, and death-pale young men and women.

So I sought additional analysis. Next to copy-and-paste was a dialogue-heavy scene from “Chasing The Devil,” my 2011 NaNoWriMo project. (Still unfinished, still unpublished). The analysis reported: J.K. Rowling. (Here’s the link if you think I’m fibbing). Again — sorry. I’ve read maybe six pages of the Harry Potter series. Wizards, sorcery, Harry himself — just not my cup ‘o tea.

Or is it? Meyer has made a gazillion bucks with her Twilight series; Rowling has made a trilabilagazillion bucks from Harry Potter. Hmmm?

Let’s try some more. Two selections from “Gone” (2010, NaNoWriMo). Different conclusions but familiar results: Meyer for one, Rowling for the other.

Still not satisfied, I reached into the archives of Jackson’s Journal to one of my favorite blog posts, Aug. 17, 2012, the conclusion of a three-part story of the time I almost drowned in the Gasconade River. Surely this would break the Lovecraft-Meyer-Rowling spell?

I pasted the copy, hit “analyze,” and this time the answer didn’t come right away. I laughed out loud at the conclusion.

“Mark Twain.” Ahhh! A kindred spirit, a fellow journalist.

So I had to check one more time, pasting the copy of a news story from April 2009. (It’s a horribly tragic story if you care to read it). The story was awarded second place for spot news reporting in that year’s Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors annual competition.

The analytic conclusion? “Mark Twain.”

twain and friends

It was a fun exercise in vanity, but more than that, as I perused my unfinished, novel-length works, it was a stark reminder that I have too many unfinished, novel-length works screaming to get out of their desktop folders, out of my noggin and into the hands of readers.

And that’s where any real or imagined similarities with famous authors end. They’ve actually finished a book or two.

Excuse me, then. I have some work to do.

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Filed under "Dixieland", "Gone", A reporter's life, Chasing The Devil, Living Write, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, National Novel Writing Month 2012, WIPs

Be nice, give blood

NEEDLES ARE NEEDLES
I’ve got a co-worker, Catherine, who won’t get a flu shot, so I was especially intrigued this afternoon when I saw her making a donation at the Red Cross/Tribune blood drive. Fascinating, I thought, because I assumed that perhaps she was fearful of needles. But no. Miss Martin is simply opposed to getting a flu shot; she’s sure that her young’ish immune system will ward off influenza and its many incarnations. However, I tried to convince her that we get the flu shot for the people we love, not for ourselves. While she might not get sick because of her (hypothetically) superior immune system, she can still carry the “bug” to, oh, an immune-compromised grandmother or a small child.

The guilt trip didn’t work. So instead I told her that the size of the needle they used to drain a pint of our blood was waaaaaay bigger than the needle that injects influenza vaccine. That made her face get a funny yet queezy look.

YEAH, ONE MORE THING
I was in the pre-jab position on the blood drive bed (it’s more of a chaise lounge) as the above-mentioned co-worker slipped off her bed and headed for the delightful blood drive snacks. As Catherine passed, I asked her to sing “Soft Kitty.” She didn’t, but I think she understood the reference.

When my pint-sized donation was finished, the blood tech who got the life-giving liquid flowing from my arm with one stick –kudos to Olivia for that — asked if I needed anything. I replied, “Will you sing ‘Soft Kitty?'” She didn’t.

So here’s “Soft Kitty” for everyone.

REVIEW
One more thing to think about. We have the technology to produce vaccine to ward off influenza. (Although not 100 percent “guaranteed” to keep you from getting the flu, it does an amazing job of averting potential pandemic outbreaks.) By some estimates, influenza has killed more people throughout human history than any other disease. It was the ninth leading cause of death in the United States in 2010.

By contrast, science and medicine cannot produce a synthetic product to replace blood. The only place where blood is “manufactured” is in our bodies.

Be nice, give blood.

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Filed under A reporter's life, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

Real character or mannequin?

What’s the secret?

You know what I mean. Not the secret to your success (although I am interested to hear that, too) or the secret to your grilling technique (again … I am interested). I’m asking, “What’s your secret?”

Answering that is one of the beauties of writing fiction. You need to create a character, name the character, maybe even toss in a clever nickname. You’ve got hair color, hair length, hair type (wavy, straight, maybe no hair), height, body type, blah blah blah. Sure, that’s all important, but I’ve just described a mannequin, an empty form with a name. Add a favorite color. A quirk that you wouldn’t expect. (I sometimes symmetrically arrange the food on my plate; don’t even notice most of the time). Tell me your character’s best time of day: night owl, early bird, mid-day masher? Give me some background: middle child, only child, lost a finger in shop class, maybe a sixth toe? (Super cool!) Adopted? (Adoption and foster kids are a common link in most of what I write).

Now give your character a secret. Something she’s done that no one else (or only your wife/BFF) knows about. Give every character a secret, and suddenly you’ve got depth. Not that you’ll tell-all in your story or novel, but that character will be more real to YOU. And until that happens, the character is nothing but a mannequin on paper.
And who wants to read about a mannequin?

Not every secret needs to be dark or terrible, but there can be plenty of those, too. I once worked with a woman who told me that when she was a kid, she’d climb over the neighbor’s fence and pick an apple or two. The neighbor finally told her parents and she was punished.

So she burned the neighbor’s house down.

Crazy? Made up? There’s never been a moment that I doubted it. Her demeanor, body language, almost nonchalant recounting of the event all testified of a cold heart that probably suffered a great wound as a child – but a cold, dark heart that had no hint of remorse in telling the story the same way someone might say, “I got in trouble because the neighbor told my parents, so I snuck over to his house one night and stomped his marigolds.” Seriously. I remember it like this: “So I burned the SOB’s house down. Are you going out for lunch or eating in the office?”

The story came alive as a defining moment in the childhood of Hannah Abigail Lincoln, the main protagonist in my unfinished work, “Chasing the Devil.”

HERE’S THE EXCERPT

The moment the neighbors drive away, Hannah hopped the fence, emptied a can of lighter fluid on the refinished chest and wardrobe on the patio, and struck a match. The flash caught one of her sleeves on fire. She quickly dropped the can and plunged her arm into a nearby birdbath.

Hannah raced to her bedroom, changed her shirt and soothed the burn with aloe salve, something she knew to do to treat burns. She had experience.

The sirens were faint at first and then louder.

“Hannah, we need to talk,” her mother shouted as she came upstairs. Elizabeth Lincoln stepped into her daughter’s room. Hannah dropped the burned shirt.

“Um, sweety? Did you know the Bentley’s house is on fire?”

Hannah had no response.

“I saw you climbing over that fence.” Her mother paused. “Hannah, did you pick another apple?”

The little girl heard her mother’s admonitions echoing in her mind: Bravery, Hannah. Courage, Hannah. Don’t slouch like a whore, Hannah. Hannah clenched her teeth and stepped toward her mother.

“The Bentleys are just weak,” Hannah said. “Rednecks.”

Elizabeth Lincoln reached out and drew her daughter close.

“Yes, baby doll,” her mother said, giving her a firm hug. “I love you.”

(Ed. note: It’s the only memory Hannah has of her mother’s hug).

PRAYING FOR THE PLANE TO CRASH

Maybe the secret is less sinister. A stand-up sort of guy who, for some reason, once stole his neighbor’s mail. (I’m brainstorming here). A school teacher who, despite cheating in college to earn her bachelor’s degree, has turned out to be quite a teacher and is about to be promoted to principal – or superintendent. A hilarious secret? A shy man eats an entire pie that is about to be presented to the retiring superintendent – or the Queen of England. (“Who ate Her Majesty’s custard pie?”) Maybe not something all that BAD or illegal, but not something you’d want to admit. No matter how many years go by, YOU still remember.

When I was a kid, I had an uncle who flew radio-control, model airplanes. Cool, huh? Not really. I resented that we drove 700 miles to visit my grandparents only to see the neighboring cousins called right away to join us, where they continued to be the center of attention. I visited maybe once a year; they lived right … over … there. (Extend your arm, point your finger … yeah, right over there). Once we were whisked across the pasture to the cousin’s house – a huge home with a lake – where we had a cook-out and obligatory viewing of my uncle flying his radio-control airplane. I actually bowed my head and prayed that the plane would crash.

And it did.

Whew. I feel better. Up to now, only four or five people have heard this confession. Now, if I count Twitter, Facebook, email subscribers and anyone else who stumbles across Jackson’s Journal, that’s another 1,100 people.

Maybe you don’t want to share YOUR secret. But give me some ideas for future and existing characters. C’mon …

What’s the secret?

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Filed under Family, Living Write, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, WIPs

Now to hurry up and wait

The most distressing news the Jacksons got in 2012 was back in August when the seller backed out of an agreement — unsigned — that would have made us homeowners within two weeks. We were devastated. We were certain it the house we were supposed to buy.

Just days after that deal fell through, it became apparent that the house in question had serious structural problems. Due mostly to the summer drought and the shrinking and compression of the clay-type soil in our area, both the slab and the foundation of the house were cracked, leading to cracked floor tiles, a bulge under the carpet in the hall, separation of drywall from the frame and fractures above every door and on the ceiling. The front door barely closes and a 1-inch gap above the door lets an ample supply of outside air in despite my best efforts to seal the gap. I’m guessing it won’t be long before we’ll be able to see through at least one wall into the garage.

It’s going to take thousands of dollars to fix what ails the house, and that’s on top of the thousands that will be needed to replace the 30-year-old furnace, central air unit and hot water heater. One inspector also suspects that a sewer line is cracked and/or leaking under the house — under the foundation. My report of perpetually slow drains on the west side of the house is more evidence of that suspicion, he said.

HEAR THAT SIGH OF RELIEF?

In hindsight — what could have been astronomically expensive hindsight — if the seller hadn’t withdrawn the unwritten concessions and terms, we’d own that house and a bevy of seen and unseen and known and unknown structural flaws.

Today we signed a contract to buy a house on the northwest side of Columbia. We’ll know in a couple of days whether the terms we offered were acceptable. The final purchase is contingent, of course, on structural, mechanical, electrical and termite inspections. For now, it’s hurry up and wait for the deal to be done. Meanwhile, we’re packing.

Funny how life’s circumstances twist and turn, huh? What you think you really, really want sometimes slips out of reach — and cracks in half.

YOUR TURN

Let me hear your stories of near-misses with potentially devastating, expensive mistakes.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, MIP: Memoir-in-progress

Diving into words: reading and writing list for 2013

Writers are insufferable creatures of melancholy and regret. We love to write, yet we’re sure we don’t do it often enough (we’re probably right about that), and even when we do, we generally regard our prose creations with disdain.

What? I wrote THAT?!

My novel-writing train is again chugging out of the station as of 1/1/13. In addition to finishing two of my Unfinished Epics in 2013 (see, that capitalization got MY attention), I also resolve to write one short story per month. (Defined by anything under 3,500 words).

My writing charge is firm and clear.

Even more than writing, though, we’re the world’s worst when it comes to reading, or thinking we should be reading, or berating ourselves because we think we’re not reading enough. (Let’s admit we can be a fairly miserable lot).

I’m certain that my life is littered with more unfinished reading lists than unfinished novels, so I’m not planning some grand announcement that THIS is the year I read a dozen classics and become enraptured by a dozen new authors. Maybe will, maybe won’t.

JUMPING OFF THE SHELF

But my writer’s library grew by two books on Christmas, thanks to my most supportive reader — the woman who has been listening to and reading my most imaginative embellishments for 30-plus years. My wife. She asked for a Christmas gift list and I produced a detailed accounting of my literary desires. She must have given Santa a good report, because I now possess Novelist’s Boot Camp (penned by former West Point assistant professor Todd A. Stone) and The Writer’s Workout (from veteran writing coach Christina Katz).

I’ve needed the drill-sergeant approach advocated by Stone. If I can develop the discipline that he says writing demands, then I’ll be published by year’s end. Most of us have a writer’s how-to book that tells us, “These are the rules, but rules are made to be broken,” and I love hearing that, because then I don’t feel constricted by those stifling rules of writing. But Stone takes a much different approach, and I appreciate his honesty:

“Are you a best-selling or acclaimed author? No. You don’t even have a book yet. After you’ve written and published your third, fifth or tenth book, you can break all the rules you want. Until then, to get your idea on paper, to produce a complete book-length work of fiction, just to get the darn thing written and get it done and done well, do as you’re told.”

Yes, sir! The book has 101 drills, so reading two or three a week can’t hurt. (However, Stone does occasionally write, “Drop and give me 20 push-ups,” so, yes, I suppose it could hurt).

Whereas Boot Camp is broken into manageable, writer-friendly sections, The Writer’s Workout has 366 one-page “chapters” offering tips, tasks and techniques. It’s also arranged in four sections that match the seasons of nature or the seasons of life.

This is from Day 1: “Write until writing becomes as natural as breathing. Write until not writing makes you anxious.” Make it a habit and a natural function, in other words — not a duty or responsibility. (Tough to follow in some respects when it comes to my day job as a newspaper journalist, where on 1/1/13 I covered the county government swearing-in ceremony of new elected officials AND the customary “first baby of the year” story, which did lend itself to a more creative approach.)

ALSO ON THE SHELF

Those are the newest additions to my writer’s library. I pulled a few others off the shelf, but offer only brief, Twitter-like reviews.

Fiction Writer’s Brainstormer, James V. Smith Jr., is the single book that gets me unstuck and unblocked. Smith’s riddle to “Begin at the End” is the best single piece of noveling advice I’ve ever read.

The Glamour of Grammar, Roy Peter Clark, includes these chapter header gems: Consult a thesaurus to remind yourself of words you already know; Master the elliptical art of leaving things out; and, Play with sounds, natural and literary. (It’s a fun book that I happened to win on a fun Twitter contest a couple of years ago).

The Power of Point of View, Alicia Rasley. She presents the hard-fast rules about not ever changing POV in a scene, then promptly suggests that writers not always follow that rule. I’m guessing Todd Stone would make her run laps for writing that.

YOUR TURN

What are some of your go-to writer’s how-to books? What’s your reading plan for 2013? Bonus question: In the event that someone might want to discover a new author or two in 2013, what are your suggestions — and why?

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Filed under Living Write, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, National Novel Writing Month 2012, WIPs