Tag Archives: Gone

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 (Still unfinished, still unpublished).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

NaNoWriMo: “Dixieland” Day 1

Putting a wrap on Day 1 of National Novel Writing Month, the daily word-count goal is 1,667, which will produce just over 50,000 words for the 30-day NaNoWriMo. Two years ago I hit 50,014 words — whew! — just enough to be considered a “winner” of the month of literary abandon. Unfortunately, “Gone” remains unfinished, a work-in-progress. (Most novels — the ones that are actually published — are typically between 80,000 and 100,000 words, although I’m told that some Harry Potter books are about a million words. Or something like that). Last year I cranked out 64,000 words on “Chasing The Devil,” which also remains a WIP.

That brings us to “Dixieland” — already at 4,695 words. This story is actually the first in the series with the other two unfinished novels. I’ll share this scene from the opening pages of the story where I’m trying to establish the pervasive, yet mostly unacknowledged tones of racial tension through the words of little boys who have come to tell Billy Blanchard’s Uncle Alvie — a soon-to-be-deployed World War II airman — that his nephew is “fixin’ to get tore up” by the local bully. The dialogue picks up here where Ladd Miller, whose daddy is a school teacher and head of the local KKK, expresses complete disdain for black people.

Unedited, of course. (My inner editor is under a strict gag order, which will lifted on Dec. 1, except for work release for my day job at the Columbia Daily Tribune).

Dixie walked past the little boy on the sidewalk and stepped into the yard to speak to Edna Mae. The little imp snorted loudly, spat a nasty wad of phlegm near Dixie’s feet, and announced, “Daddy says coloreds are s’posed to halt to the white folks.”

Alvie made one long stride, squatted in front of Ladd Miller, and hovered over the boy even in a catcher’s crouch. “Tell you what, buddy, you need to step over there and run your foot through that snot, and apologize to Miss Dixie.” His firm voice was just above a whisper.

Ladd stepped back, shrinking. “And if I don’t?”

“If you don’t mop your foot through the snot, I’ll use your shirt collar to sop it up.”

The little boy tugged at his collar with balled-up fists. “You not gettin’ my shirt off me.”

“I won’t take your shirt off,” Alvie said, leaning toward the cowering boy. “I’ll sop up that snot with you still wearin’ the shirt.”

Ladd’s lips trembled. “I’ll tell my daddy.” He was about to cry.

Alvie leaned closer and his shadow swallowed the boy. “Well, your daddy will already know, ‘cause I’m tellin’ him first.”

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Filed under "Dixieland", Inspiration, National Novel Writing Month 2012, Old Time Religion, WIPs

Forgetting to get dressed lately …

Colossians 3:12 – “… you must therefore clothe yourselves with … gentleness …”

Finding myself homebound, ailing and recuperating from pneumonia last week, offered ample opportunity to consume a portion of the programming on our DVR, but there are still: 62 episodes of “M*A*S*H”; 30 episodes of “Wild Kingdom” (side note: I interviewed my boyhood idol, Jim Fowler, back in ’98); “Barbecue University” (21 episodes); “The War” (10); “Nova” (13); “Haunted Highway” (10); and “The Boys in the Hall” (7). That’s just a smattering of the clutter – I mean, “information” – that I have DVR’d. And you can never watch “Mermaid: The Body Found” too many times.

There was also time to take stock of the other things that interest me, and if I’d had the energy and adequate stretches of consciousness, I would have lost myself in origami, an art that I’ve tinkered with but not yet mastered. Organizing notes and outlining long-term projects for the Tribune would have been another wise use of time. Better yet, I could have worked on finishing “Chasing the Devil” (unfinished novel No. 1, book two of trilogy) or “Gone” (unfinished novel No. 2, third part of trilogy), before National Novel Writing Month comes in November and I begin “Dixieland,” the sequel for the trilogy.

Oh, the things I could have done. I certainly had the time.

Instead, I convalesced and reflected, and even before I re-encountered that No. 1 pet peeve of my life – the Creasy Springs/Business Loop/West Boulevard roundabout ‑ it dawned on me during that time of reflection that somehow it IS possible to survive without a constant infusion of Diet Coke, and also that lately I have not been a gentle person. It really didn’t take Phil Schaefer saying so on Sunday at Christian Fellowship to convince me, but apparently he WAS speaking only to me: “Clothe yourselves with gentleness.” There are some other clothing requirements in there, too, like “patience” and “tender mercy,” but the one that stabbed me Sunday – and again later this week – was “gentleness.”

I’ve even been “snarky” with people lately. And I hate snarky. Apparently I’m good at it, but not proud of it. One of my first lines of defense is sarcasm. It’s a trait that rarely leads to productive dialogue and consensus. While I wrestle with the insecurities that make me need to be right and clever, I need to nip “snarky” in the bud.

Can’t be that and gentle at the same time.

Back in 2000-01, I spent most of the school year substitute teaching in Jefferson City and Blair Oaks. I worked the 4-to-midnight shift most of the time at the Jefferson City News Tribune, so I usually worked two or three days a week making a little extra dough as a public school sub. Please, please, don’t EVER make me sub again for middle school students! High school was okay, but what I especially enjoyed was the special needs classroom or grades K through 2.

One of my best experiences was subbing for the music teacher at Callaway Hills Elementary School in Holts Summit, where just inside the classroom door was a sign that said: “Before I say it, ask: Is it true? Is it nice? Is it necessary?”

Lately I’ve needed that reminder, and not so much in how I speak, but how I respond non-verbally and how I want to respond to the incredible imbeci … – I mean, people – who simply can’t grasp that roundabouts are NOT four-way stops, and that you’re supposed to yield to traffic already in the circle to your left.

Gentle. I’m working on it. If I’ve been anything less, don’t excuse me, but please – in your most gentle spirit – please forgive me.

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Kianna’s story: Day 3 …

Relax. I’m not starting a daily recap of The Life of Kianna Allene Brown, although I’m sure my digital Journal here will occasionally offer incredible tales and recaps of milestone moments of her life – at least until she figures out what’s going on here and she learns to say, “Now Grandpa, don’t quote me on that.”

I’m not changing my focus because I have something better to write about, but the inspiration this little princess has poured into my heart will now be channeled toward completing two other works-in-progress, my unfinished novels “Chasing the Devil” and “Gone.” Jackson’s Journal, of course, will continue to occupy this section of Cyberspace. Look for a guest blog on Saturday by my friend and fellow fictionista Lamar Henderson.

And speaking of focus, I’ve had none this week. In fact, I’m sure I’ve had conversations and encounters with co-workers, friends and sources on my news beats that I can’t even remember. Today is Friday? Huh. The only day I remember this week was Wednesday. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a couple of bylines in the Tribune this week, but don’t ask me which stories bore my name.

As far as telling Kianna’s story, I can’t really do that, because she will write it herself – with the direction of Kishia and Darnell, of course. That was the 7 pound, 3 ounce epiphany that came to me when I held Kianna Thursday afternoon at Boone Hospital. As she snoozed peacefully, I wished hard that her eyes would open. I whispered, “There’s so much I want you to see.” The random images flashed through my mind: Sunsets. Coots diving into the mud at Eagle Bluffs. Meteor showers at 3 a.m. The glow that has radiated from Grammy since Wednesday. Any Pixar movie. The tears that come from her daddy’s eyes every time Kianna sounds the least bit uncomfortable or hungry. The first leaf buds of spring.

My wish list for Kianna is incredibly long and maybe, probably at some point, I’ll help her see some of life’s most wonderful sights. Maybe I’ll be the one who helps her figure out something that gives her an “Aha!” moment. I’m going to support others to share those unique moments with her. She’ll see most things, for a while, through her mommy’s and daddy’s eyes. They’ll be the ones who show her the way. Along the way, Kianna will discover that the greatest discoveries are made on her own. And if I’m the kind of Grandpa that I know I’m going to be, I’ll be anxious for Kianna to show me the wonders of life as she figures them out or stumbles onto them.

“Grandpa, did you see this? Grammy, look at that?”

And whatever this or that is, when we look through her eyes, it will be as if we’re seeing it for the first time.

That will be Kianna’s story – not what she learns from Grandpa, but what she teaches Grandpa.

Not how the world changes her – but how she changes the world.

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Filed under Family, Kianna Allene Brown