Tag Archives: Jackson’s Journal

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 (Still unfinished, still unpublished).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.


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

Good, bad, better, best

Here’s how this works: I list something “good,” followed by something “bad,” then, recognizing that life has too many blessings to count, identify “better” and “best.” The list of four somethings may or may not be related.

Let’s begin.

Good: Started today with a good 5 mile bike ride. Bad: The central air unit was frozen this afternoon. Literally frozen. Ice on the tubing. Uh oh. Better: Lunch and afternoon get-together with our girls, Kishia (and hubby Darnell) and Natasha (and boyfriend Korey). Best: Granddaughter Kianna napping on Grandpa and Grammy’s bed, then waking up and smiling and looking for me when she hears my voice.

Good: Watering my parched plants just before sunset. Bad:Andy Griffith died yesterday.

Sheriff Andy Taylor
TV and entertainment pioneer Andy Griffith died Tuesday.

Better: Navigating the Creasy Springs roundabout on a bike creates an awesome buzz of adrenaline. Best: My nephew, Zeke, and his wife, Julie, had their first child on Monday, David Thomas Assel, weighing in at over 9 pounds. His daddy, Thomas Ezekiel, is one of my favorite people on the planet. (Just don’t tell him, ‘cause he has an inflated opinion of himself. Bazinga.)

Good: Preparing brats, chicken breast and my own on-the-grill scallop potatoes for grilling. Bad: Failure to pick up lighter fluid after the last grill-fest. I’m a briquets-only grill guy. Better: Natasha and Korey making a speedy trip to Moser’s to pick up lighter fluid. Best: Brats, chicken, potatoes were magnificent. Also grilled pineapple for the first time. Not a pineapple fan, but apparently it was okay.

Good: Two box fans and a borrowed window unit air conditioner getting the indoor temperature down to 80. At 11 p.m. Bad: Mediacom cable service. No complaints for eight months, but last four weeks or so? Grandpa’s very dissatisfied. Better: Our little dog, Bella, a Brussels griffon, is finally starting to like me. We’ve had her almost three years. Best:Spending most of Tuesday with Kelly enjoying Grandpa/Grammy time with Kianna.

Grammy and Grandpa with Princess Kianna

Good: The Fourth of July. Bad: Too much political and ideological polarization in the country. Better: Agreeing to disagree. Best: Living in the U.S. of A.

Good: Getting four free tickets to Monday night’s “Hot Summer Nights” chamber recital at Broadway Christian Church. Bad: No downside to this one. Better: Remembering Jerry Clower’s routine, “Public School Music Class.” Best: Enjoying the concert/recital/event with our friends Scott and Jane Williams.

Good: Writing a blog entry for the first time in too long. Bad: Going so long without keeping up with Jackson’s Journal, especially after building an audience with “Countdown to Kianna.” Better: Making a commitment to return to a 5-day-a-week blogging schedule. Best: Keeping that commitment.


Filed under Family, Kianna Allene Brown

Six-Word Memoir: The Write Life

It’s Saturday, time for The Write Life, an exploration of words and the nuts and bolts of the writing craft. Guest posts and comments are strongly encouraged.

Six-Word Memoir

 I continually break blogging’s cardinal rule about brevity.

 I tend to write long. (Not surprisingly, I have the same habit in my day job as reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune. My editors sometimes need an axe and a cutting torch to trim my copy).

 For those of you who have longed for my long-form blogging to tighten up, Six-Word Memoir is for you. In fact, this one is for everyone. However, your participation and commenting is mandatory. I’m going to ask you to write a Six-Word Memoir and share it with the growing crowd that is Jackson’s Journal.

 Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

 I’m not sure I can come up with something so brilliant that paints a cornucopia of thoughts, images and mysteries. (On a side note, I’ve been dying to use the word “cornucopia” this week).

 This Six-Word Memoir is not an original idea. The online magazine Smith asked readers to write a six-word story of their own lives in a single sentence. That project birthed Not Quite What I Was Planning, a collection of six-word memoirs by writers, artists and musicians.

Larry Smith, founding editor of Smith magazine, and Rachel Fershleiser, Smith‘s memoir editor, offered their own contributions. Fershleiser’s Six-Word Memoir? Bespectacled, besneakered, read and ran around. And Smith’s: Big hair, big heart, big hurry. Some others: Almost a victim of my family; The psychic said I’d be richer; Mom died, Dad screwed us over; Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult.

I’m giving you my three stories. Your assignment: write at least two six-word memoirs – one funny, one serious. If you can come up with three or more, you’ll get bonus points. If you can achieve both humorous and somberly serious in a single, six-word entry … well, the cornucopia of warm feelings you’ll have will be the best reward.

Ahem. My stories.

Stop? Ask for directions? Not me!

Apparently left owner’s manual in womb.

Was great, now fantabulous. I’m “Grandpa.”

(Grandpas are allowed to invent words).

Now …

Your turn.


Filed under Living Write, Uncategorized

Kianna’s mom wonders: ‘Where did my liver go?’

Guest Post
Interestingly, a few weeks ago, Jackson’s Journal posted a blog which referenced a song that was stuck in my head for weeks. The lyrics in Nichole Nordeman’s song “I Am” are powerful, and for some reason this one was been stuck in my head: “Bless the moments that we feel You nearer.”
Maybe you are expecting something else from Kianna’s mom. 
But I sum up the past nine months of this experience as a “moment that we feel You nearer.” Or maybe it is a combination of many moments like these: 
– We had our first ultrasound at six weeks. The doctor said, “Congratulations! You are the proud parents of a dot!” I looked at Darnell, my husband, and maybe there was a small tear in the corner of his eye. I didn’t know what to say because the dot was moving. It had a heartbeat. This little peanut with a heartbeat is what makes me puke all day and night? Wow. “And bless the moments that we feel You nearer.”
– Darnell and I were walking our dog one day. When we walk through our neighborhood we mostly talk about all of the pretty houses and lawns. Why are the moles just in our yard? How did they get their rose-bush to look so full?  But this was a fairly quiet walk. For some reason on this walk it hit me: If there is a child inside of me, where did my intestines move? And where did my liver go? This was really bothering me, so when I got home I looked up a diagram of where all the organs move to make room for the baby, and I was kind of in awe. I know it’s crazy – and graphic. But He rearranged all of my insides to make room for this little girl. It wasn’t such a moving moment because of the unexpected anatomy lesson. But it was a moment that I realized God was taking care of it all. Even my liver. Bless that moment, because I could feel Him so much nearer.
– When I first met Darnell seven years ago, all he owned was a gym bag of clothes. That’s it. He has an amazing testimony that he rarely shares, but when he does, listen closely. He never imagined this life that we have: marriage, great jobs, a beautiful house, and now a baby to complete it all. So when I walked by Kianna’s room one day, and I saw Darnell asleep in my late Granny’s rocking chair, I felt so blessed to be a part of Darnell’s blessing. It sounds a little crazy, but in that moment, I realized that I am almost more excited to see Darnell hold this little girl than for myself.  And wow … if there wasn’t such a presence in that moment. I felt Him much nearer. 

Kianna's expectant parents: Darnell and Kishia Brown.

MY message to Kianna

Your dad and I have made mistakes in our lives, and you will, too. But we have made sure we took steps to try to learn from those mistakes. And those steps we have taken in our lives together have been intentional. We may have waited many years to have a child, but that is because we wanted the best life for you.
You were seven years in the making.
Your dad and I have loved you before you were born. We have loved you before you were even conceived.
And we will always love you.
You will have moments in your life that are happy and amazing and you will feel so blessed. You will also have moments in your life that are sad and scary and you will feel overwhelmed. Embrace all of it and “bless the moments that we feel You nearer.”


Filed under Family, Guest Blog, Kianna Allene Brown

Living write: Navigating the cyber clutter

Countdown to Kianna: 25, 24, 23, 22 days … until the princess Kianna Allene Brown makes a very celebrated entry into our lives — as if she doesn’t already consume our every waking moment.

Now for our regular Saturday programming …

The moment you’ve finished reading this post, do nothing else until you have bookmarked, earmarked, dog-eared or subscribed to the blogs that I’m introducing you to. You can thank me later. For now, though, focus on the profound discoveries I’m going to share. (And you already know there’s an entry for Grandpa’s message to Kianna at the bottom of the post; kind of like the prize at the bottom of a box of cereal. You know, like back in the days of 8-track dashboard consoles?)

Maybe you’ve see Hoarders on the A&E network or Confessions: Animal Hoarding on Animal Planet? I’m ashamed to say I could be a hoarder except that Kelly, by bride of 30 years, wouldn’t allow it. I tend to collect and amass “stuff.” I’m much better than I used to be, but left to my own devices and given enough passage of time, I’d probably find myself someday saying, “Huh. Where IS the front door?”

My email in-boxes are something of a cluttered mess. (At last count I had 10 email addresses, seven of which are devoted solely to Fantasy Baseball, yet another example of digital hoarding). My “favorites” box on Twitter is a hoarder’s dream.  And it’s a constant battle to keep my computer desktops from becoming labyrinths of icons.

But since you’ve tuned in to Jackson’s Journal today, that means you are interested in, perhaps even crave, becoming a better writer. And you have no doubt wondered, “Huh? I’ll bet there are myriad websites and blogs out there that could help satisfy my yearning for writing tips, inspiration and motivation.” And you would be correct.

However, I have already navigated the vast sea of such blogs and websites, and hereby present you with a few of the blogs I follow. The ones listed here are top priority, so you’re okay if you don’t add to the list on your own. Just check back here periodically – Saturdays are probably best – for new entries for your blog-reading menu.

The SINGLE BEST Twitter feed for writers is @elizabethcraig, and her website  has been named by Writer’s Digest as one of the top 100 websites for writers three or four years running. But you must follow her on Twitter. She collects all the best stuff for writers in the Twitterverse and posts it every week.

It’s kind of like having someone bring the old Shoney’s breakfast buffet right to your desk. Very nice.

Two other websites and blogs to get connected with are The Write Practice  and Mighty Red Pen. Even if you’re not currently obsessed with learning to never use passive voice again, as I am, Mighty Red Pen is a very entertaining blog/website.

It has convinced me that indeed grammar are fun. (Um, I meant to do that. See what I did?)

Two authors/writers produce daily can’t-miss content. Jeff Goins and Roz Morris are equal parts inspiration and drill sergeant. For writers waiting for someone to give them their marching orders to “GO WRITE!”, Jeff Goins is your guy. Roz, who also goes by the Twitter ID of @dirtywhitecandy, resides across the pond, as they say. Both writers are generous with their advice and encouragement.

Finally, if you’re simply looking for a brief but usually hilarious daily diversion, let me introduce you to “Riding in Cars with Goats and Other Stories” by my wacky colleague Caroline Dohack. CD grew up in Doniphan, Mo., just a stone’s throw from the Bootheel, in the poorest county in Missouri. Just a head’s up, though: frequent coarse language.

And now …

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #15: You’re going to have lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask them. And if I don’t have the answers, well, I’ve got the books. Really, I do. My collection includes What Makes Flamingos Pink?, Do Penguins Have Knees?, Do Fish Drink Water?, and Why Does Popcorn Pop?

And when you’re a little older, you’ll want to read Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things and, my favorite, Panati’s Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody.

Can’t wait!


Filed under Kianna Allene Brown, Living Write

Countdown to Kianna: Grandpa eats crow

My brain is best wired for blogging/noveling at 10 o’clock at night. The main drawback to that schedule is that Kelly is usually deep in slumber by the time I finish the next Jackson’s Journal entry. That makes it hard to ask things like, “Hey, honey, I should remember this, but how long were you in labor with Kishia?”

My last JJ post mentioned that Kelly was wheeled into the delivery room on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 1985, to end 20 hours of labor. If I had said, “Twenty hours of labor that day,” it would have been closer to accurate, because Kishia was born at 9:30 p.m. That was the end of 22 1/2 hours of labor that day.

Kelly let me know (see her comment on the last post) that she’d been in labor for a period that covered five days. The Friday before Tuesday’s delivery, her ob/gyn, Dr. Philo Su, did something during an exam that caused Kelly to go into labor. (What few details I remember about that “something” makes me feel faint and queasy, so I offer no further explanation). She went into labor late that day, through the weekend and into Monday, and then finally delivered Kishia a few hours before midnight on Feb. 26. “Labor” meant consistent, increasingly more intense contractions and probably dilating, but let’s not get into the faint-and-queasy details, shall we.

One of the biggest concerns about Kishia’s arrival was how late it was — by as many as three weeks late.

I also want to convey a more accurate “Countdown to Kianna,” so we’re going to include two days of counting with this post. As I said, I normally write this at night and my dedicated followers/subscribers get it via email right away, but probably don’t read it until at least the following morning. That means that if you’re reading “Countdown to Kianna, Day 28,” which was Sunday’s post, you probably read it on Monday (today), which was actually Day 27. (We’re counting down, remember?)

So here’s my solution: I’m scheduling email release and public posting of JJ for 6 a.m. each morning, which means that the Countdown chronology will match the day of release/posting. For instance, I’m writing tonight (Monday) for Tuesday, so when you see this on Tuesday, the Countdown will be on track with Day 26.

So here we are: 28, 27, 26 … days until Feb. 19 and the arrival of Kianna Allene Brown.

And here we are, probably more confused with my time-element explanation than by simply continuing as I was.

You can expect Jackson’s Journal to (loosely) follow this schedule, with Countdown to Kianna taking priority at least until the countdown is over and I begin overwhelming you with photos of Kianna and stories about how she’s the best baby ever.

Monday: Memoir-in-Progress, “Lost in the 70s.”

Tuesday and Thursday: Guest posts. (Except for today/Tuesday).

Wednesday: Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

Friday: Memoir-in-Progress, “Big hair, big dreams: The 80s.”

Saturday: Living Write. (Geared toward my fellow fictionistas and writing/journalism followers, and eventually a way for  you to get a glimpse of my novels-in-progress, “Chasing The Devil” and “Gone.”)

Sunday: No set topic at this time.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna, #11 …

You’re going to hear it or see it soon enough, so I’m just going to tell you: I’m a little bit quirky. For instance, I have a little-kid-at-Christmas fascination with snakes and lizards, but I’m terrified of spiders.

Other than that, I’m really normal.

(All comments on my claim of “normal” will be heavily edited).

1 Comment

Filed under Family, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress