BE BRAVE FRIDAY — THE GUY WHO SANG

He was walking next to me, one step ahead, turning to face me, pausing so I could keep up. “You’re going to a bar? Off campus? With people who aren’t students?”

“I am.”

When I was in college, I got to get out of my college bubble because I dispatched as part of my work-study. I was poor, so I had work-study, grants, aid, and a small loan. Being a security dispatcher meant that I talked to and hung out with people who weren’t students, professors or staff. My college was pretty great. But honestly? Between that dispatching job and interning for Janet T. Millsfor two summers when she was the Androscoggin County District Attorney? It’s where I learned the most about the world and people.

The other student stopped, turned to face me and said, face full of raised eyebrows and slack lips. “Why?”

“Your face is a question mark,” I told him.

“You are devastatingly weird,” he huffed and walked on. A second later, he said, “You didn’t answer my question.”

“Why not?” I liked the people at work and at my internship.

“Because it’s unsafe,” he said. “You don’t—They are older than you.”

“Not all of them.”

“They aren’t students.”

I stopped now, right on the edge of the campus where the student housing ended and the Lewiston apartment buildings began. “So, students are safe, but regular people aren’t?”

He didn’t have a real answer. I went out to that bar because I was always doing things back then that made me uncomfortable, that made me learn, and I watched a coworker sing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with a skinny, pale guy on the fiberglass karaoke floor in a bar that smelled like 90s cops’ thick deodorant, chewing tobacco, and beer. Half the bar was cops and people from the DA’s office, though not the DA, and the other half were people that the cops had arrested before, that I’d seen in the courthouse. They all mingled together. Or at least they did that night.

The guy my coworker was singing with had a criminal record and a frame that barely held up his skin; brown hair leaked past the ridge of his t-shirt. She sang a song she hated, but she knew her voice sounded good when she crooned out Streisand, even when she had too many.

“Thank you,” she said to the totally inebriated guy and to the drunk audience. She thanked the guy out of professional courtesy not because he sang well. He didn’t.

“Welcome,” he replied so loudly that it came over the microphone and we all laughed. He took a bow.

He didn’t leave her side when she walked back to our table. He ordered two margaritas and paid.

“I might sleep with him later,” she told me, leaning in, all alcohol breath.

He said to her, still so loudly, “You’re beautiful singer.”

“Thank you.” She flipped through the book of karaoke songs and the guy was off to the john. She looked at me. “You never go up there and sing.”

“Can’t do it,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Too scared.”

“Of singing?”

“Of sucking.”

On the way back, he-who-was-not-afraid-of-sucking clapped along and took the microphone away from a man serenading some fishnet wearing girl with a country song I didn’t recognize. He strained to wiggle his hips to the rhythm while he sang. He couldn’t. He tried some pseudo sexy pelvic thrusts.

“Carrie is afraid of singing,” Jessie announced.

my art that I’m always so afraid to share.

He eyeballed me and his hand clung to the curve of Jessie’s back. “Carrie looks like she’s afraid of a lot of things.” He leaned forward so all I could smell was him; beer sour, tobacco stained-breath. “You are afraid of your own damn voice, aren’t you?”

I was. Jessie wasn’t. He obviously wasn’t. But I was and I still kind of am, but I’m working on it.

Every week, I’m trying to learn that it’s not the end of the world to get a small detail wrong and that you can correct that detail and that it’s way more important to focus on the act of speaking, writing, singing, reporting, doing. It’s way more important to enjoy and be a part of the process.

But it’s so hard sometimes.

How about you? Are you finding ways to be brave, to put your voice out there, to sing and not worried that you might not sound awesome? I hope so. I hope you do.

Also, I made a QR code for my art place. How cool is that?

How To Make Your Characters Flawed As F And Why You Should

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
How To Make Your Characters Flawed As F And Why You Should
/

The character in your story is the heart of your story.

It does not matter if that character is a person or a troll or a manatee. That character is the soul of your story. Setting, theme, plot are important, but the most important aspect is creating a character that the reader can connect with.

That connection can be emotional.

That connection can be intellectual.

But there has to be a connection.

How readers connect to the character isn’t always for the same reason. They might seem like a friend. They might seem like us. They might be who we want to be. They might be who we are afraid to be. And as authors, we have to find ways to make our readers care about the characters we put on the page.

That’s what we talk about this podcast! So listen in and like and subscribe and all those things.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

Beers All Over the Highway and How To Get to that Flow State

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Beers All Over the Highway and How To Get to that Flow State
/

This podcast is about a butt ton of Coors Light on a Florida highway and flow states.

A few years ago, we talked about FLOW on our podcast and then I just did again over on our LIVING HAPPY newsletter, but I thought it would be pretty cool to talk about it for another hot second because more people are talking about it now.

We’re trendsetters, baby.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE:

To get that flow state, stay focused, persistent, give yourself time, minimize distractions and make it a tiny bit hard. It’s like chasing a cat. You always think you might catch it, but it’s not easy. 

RANDOM THOUGHT LINK

https://www.npr.org/2022/09/22/1124451096/florida-coors-light-beer-cans-highway-crash

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.645498/full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5763465/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/flow-state

She Has A Poem

Carrie Does Poems
Carrie Does Poems
She Has A Poem
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Hi! This year (2022), I’ve decided to share a poem on my blog and podcast and read it aloud. It’s all a part of my quest to be brave and apparently the things that I’m scared about still include:

  1. My spoken voice
  2. My raw poems.

Thanks for being here with me and cheering me on, and I hope that you can become braver this year, too!

best raw poem podcast
She Has A Poem

Hey, thanks for listening to Carrie Does Poems. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in Carrie, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Eric Van der Westen and the track is called “A Feather” and off the album The Crown Lobster Trilogy.

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/eric-van-der-westen/the-crown-lobster-trilogy-selection

The Paqui One Chip Challenge or Shaun Kills His Tastebuds Live and Other Stupid Things People Do

Loving the Strange
Loving the Strange
The Paqui One Chip Challenge or Shaun Kills His Tastebuds Live and Other Stupid Things People Do
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We thought he wouldn’t survive and he sort of didn’t? Join us for the podcast where Carrie absolutely doesn’t endorse the actions of her co-host as he kills his tastebuds, dries out his mouth, and looks like a zombie because he foolishly does the Paqui One Chip Challenge

Be warned: Shaun says the f-bomb a lot.

BE BRAVE FRIDAY

This week I reached out to another woman even though I was afraid to. If you don’t know, I’m actually technically an introvert. Reaching out is hard for me.

But it wasn’t about me being an introvert.

I was afraid to reach out to her because I’ve started a local news newsletter/blog and this person is someone who shows up in the news. At a meeting, I watched someone else try to vilify her and another person call her an adjective that is often used as a derogatory qualifier for women who have hope in positive outcomes.

People have called me that adjective a lot especially when it comes to political issues or politics in general or even when it comes to my faith that humanity can be better, that as individuals we can make the right choices.

If I reached out, I wondered, would she scoff? Would she think I was ridiculous? I decided that I didn’t care because it mattered more that she knew that someone saw and recognized what she dealt with—even if that someone was just me.

At the meeting, I didn’t speak up because I don’t think that a reporter’s role is to shape the tenor of a meeting, but it was incredibly hard for me not to speak up because what happened pulled at two of my core beliefs: trying to be an impartial reporter of the news to the best of my abilities AND standing up for people who are being maligned. I beat myself up about my choice for a while.

But the next morning, I ended up emailing her, telling her that I saw what happened and that though I wasn’t her mom or her friend I was really proud of her for being brave.

Why was she brave? Honestly, I think that anyone in local politics who puts themselves out there in the hopes of trying to make a better community, to create compromise, and to try to do that in a vulnerable and kind way? That’s pretty damn boss. I definitely don’t agree with every local politician’s political decisions, but for the ones who go into that political arena with good intentions? It’s so hard.

So, I guess my point on this be brave Friday is that if you see someone else being brave? Give them some props. Let them know that you see them. Actually, maybe it doesn’t even have to happen when people are being brave. Maybe we can just all actively work on letting people know, no matter what they are doing, “I see you.”

I see you.

I hope you all have the best weekend. Shaun is doing something super ridiculous on our live podcast tonight, LOVING THE STRANGE. And there is an art sale this weekend of my things. Also, our latest episode of our true crime podcast, DUDE, NO is here and it’s all about a Maine man who was shot by deputies, mummified accidentally and toured the country after he died.

Oh Baby, Look at that Backstory and Goals

Without knowing the backstory, we wouldn’t know the emotional goals of the character, the why for their tangible goals. Instead we’d be reading and thinking, yeah, he wants this. So what?

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Oh Baby, Look at that Backstory and Goals
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Last week on the podcast and over on our substack, we talked about creating amazing characters and the role of backstory.

I’m going to talk a little bit more about that today.


Again, backstory is the events that happened to your character before the actual main story starts.

So backstory, once you have it, allows you to give your character goals in the beginning of the novel and throughout the novel because it allows you the writer (and reader) to know what forces and history make that character who they are today and drive them.

The Two Goals (Thanks to Backstory) Which Gives Your Character Dimension

One goal is usually physical or tangible. They want something. Let’s say they want to drive a car. They are 15 and want to learn how to drive. That’s a tangible goal. The author wants to get her novel done. The puppy wants a bacon treat.

The other goal is usually emotional. This goal has to do with yearning. This goal is the reason for the tangible goal.

They want to learn how to drive (tangible) because they yearn to get out of their claustrophobic home (emotional).

She wants to get her novel done (tangible) because her brother always said she couldn’t get anything done because she’s lazy and she yearns to prove him wrong (emotional).

The puppy wants a bacon treat (tangible) because he yearns for bacon because that’s what he used to get in his first house before he got lost (emotional).

Without knowing the backstory, we wouldn’t know the emotional goals of the character, the why for their tangible goals. Instead we’d be reading and thinking, yeah, he wants to finish the novel. So what?

Tomorrow over on LIVING HAPPY, I’ll dive in a tiny bit more into this.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

Warped Brains For The Win

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Warped Brains For The Win
/

Join us as we talk about calling a new born baby an aunt and cognitive distortions.

Cognitive distortions are basically when you notice something that happens outside of yourself and you distort the hell out of it and create this super exaggerated, super negative view of yourself or another person.

There are at least six of these bastards.

The first is called Catastrophizing. I’m a master at this, but let’s go through all of them according to Esther Perel, a therapist and author.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Sparty Dog says to only worry about the now, baby. Eat your treats, scratch your fur, snore, and call it good.

Contemplating scratching

LINKS

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-recognize-and-tame-your-cognitive-distortions-202205042738

https://www.masterclass.com/classes/esther-perel-teaches-relational-intelligence/chapters/developing-self-awareness

https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/family/older-dads-weird-demand-to-family-over-babys-name-baffles-internet/ar-AA122iLR

Our Puppy Ate A Lot of Tampons

This is Pogie getting ready to be sick.

Yesterday, I was in a bit of a panic because Pogie the puppy wasn’t acting like a puppy. She wasn’t jumping around; there was no begging for treats, no questing for cats, no scampering.

And she wanted to just flop on the bed upstairs away from everyone. Pogie the puppy is not that kind of puppy. She’s the kind of puppy who wants to be right in the action, preferably touching Sparty (the dog) a cat or a human even when she’s asleep.

More typical Pogie behavior, staring at cats like she wants to marry them.

Pogie vomited. It was pretty chill at first, just breakfast. She pooped, but it was normal. She did not drool. She did not foam. Her head did not spin around like she was a canine cast member of The Exorcist.

My head, however? It came pretty close.

I obsessed about bowel obstructions and poisons and we made promises that if she still seemed sick tomorrow we’d call the vet.

I also obsessively googled things. And then Pogie threw up a gallon of liquid and it looked like there was a bit of a feminine hygiene product in it.

“What’s that?” Shaun said.

“That is a piece of tampon!” I shouted. “OUR DOG ATE A TAMPON!”

I got a paper towel, picked it up and actually peered at it really intensely. I never knew that I would grow up to be a person who would stare at a vomit slathered piece of used tampon, but apparently I am.

Shaun and I shared a look. Three days ago, Xane didn’t leave their bathroom door closed and Pogie went in the trash. There was trash all over the floor that I picked up. I never realized that there could be trash in Pogie’s belly, and yes, she is a puppy and I should have realized that PUPPIES EAT ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING!

Now you can imagine me obsessively googling “dogs+tampons.” And it turns out that tampons are really bad for dogs to swallow. They can cause bowels instructions. They can die.

Pogie actually sleeping. Spoiler: This is a bad sign.

According to Emergency Vet USA,

“Unfortunately for our furry friends, eating a tampon can be extremely dangerous. The main purpose of the tampon is what makes it so dangerous when consumed by a dog.

“Tampons are designed to remain intact when in the body for long periods of time, as well as swelling to absorb fluids.

“This results in tampons not being easily digested by the gut, as well as the potential for the tampon to expand in the stomach or intestines.”

Now that we knew what the actual problem was, it was now way past the time of our vet being open. Shaun said, “I bet she’ll feel better now.”

We watched.

We laid down with her.

We listened to her belly.

She didn’t seem quite better. Then Shaun carried her outside with Sparty and she did her business. She did her business for a long, long time and created a long, long business. Imagine two feet long, all attached, one tampon after another after another, strings hitching into each other. Our tiny puppy had eaten at least five tampons. Her poop was longer than her body.

LONGER THAN HER BODY!

And let me tell you, Pogie’s tummy did not digest those tampons.


IMPORTANT STUFF

When a dog eats a tampon (or many tampons like Pogie, the overachieving puppy) they can irritate their GI tract, scrape it, irritate it, and the tampon can expand and irritate it and make the dog hurt. They can have bloody poop. Pogie did not. We checked obviously. You can imagine us gloved up, nostrils flaring, studying that poop.

Tampon consumption can cause choking because of the string and the cotton.

According to National Canine Research Association of America,

“Blockages in the digestive tract can prevent fluid, foods, and gas from being able to move normally through your dog’s body.

“This can be both painful and life-threatening, as it can restrict blood flow to the intestines, stomach, or esophagus.

“If the blockage isn’t treated quickly enough, necrosis can set in, causing tissue death and even more complications.”

Tampon consumption can also obstruct the dog’s bowel. It can get stuck so nothing else can get through.

Sometimes, like Pogie, a dog will be able to get rid of the tampon themselves. Usually, this depends on how many tampons they ate and how big their intestines are. This is supposed to be pretty dangerous. You shouldn’t wait like we did. You should call the vet. And according to Emergency Vet USA it takes about 72 hours for bowel obstruction symptoms. Our bathroom event was on Saturday. Pogie’s big event was on Tuesday.

We were super lucky. I hope that you’ll be lucky, too.


I AM RISKING IT ALL WRITING YOU THIS.

“You can’t write about this,” one of the kiddos said. They are fourteen. Fourteen is a hard age to have a bonus parent like me.

“I have to!” I said. “Dogs could die. People must know!”

“But it’s ridiculous.”

“That is exactly why.”

“People will judge you.”

“People judge me anyway,” I said because damn if that’s not true. “I’d rather they know.”

They then stomped off because (I think) it was their tampons.

Writing Exceptional Characters Part One Backstory

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Writing Exceptional Characters Part One Backstory
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Hey! Join us this week as we talk about writing exceptional characters starting with backstory! It’s quick. It’ll make you a better author. It’s free. 🙂

My poor rescue dogs have pretty rough backstories.

In between starting a new business, a new true-crime podcast, and local news blog, and editing other people’s stories, I’ve actually started my own new book that I’m pretty excited about, but when I was rereading my first chapter, I realized that so far I’d been failing terribly when it came to making my main character.

I-the -writer loved her, but the me that’s an editor? Yeah. I knew we had some work to do.

Thankfully there is a lot of good ideas and advice out there about how to make a character that’s a rock star, a character that people remember and want to hang out with for 50,000 to 100,000 words.

And my character’s big issue?

She had no past. I was so focused on the adventures she was about to have that I didn’t mention that she’d ever existed beyond that first paragraph of the story.

Backstory is a tricky thing because we don’t want it to weigh down the forward motion of the present narrative, right? But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t sprinkle it in and give readers (and ourselves) an understanding of how the character is the way they are now in the book.

The best kind of backstory is one that allows readers to worry or care about them. Think about Harry Potter. He’s abused, unloved, neglected, but still pretty kind. A good majority of the horrors that have happened to him at the hands of his relative happened before the main thrust of the story.

It doesn’t need to be that drastic or dramatic. You do not have to put your characters in cupboards.

In my story’s first pages, the dad and daughter are about to head to Iceland for her senior year because he allegedly has a new job there. The character wants to be a cook. She has a boyfriend. It’s her senior year. That’s all quickly established in my revision as she’s packing their car and sees something nefarious lurking at the edge of the woods. Then her dad gives a little bit of a kicker when he says to her, “You’ve never liked change.”

It hints at the backstory. Obviously there has been a time before where something changed and it didn’t go well.

It also hints at the theme: Change happens. Nothing is forever.

And it also hints at her big lie that she believes about the world: Change is bad.

All those things happen in one tiny bit of dialogue, but also, that one tiny bit of dialogue lets us know that the characters have a shared past. Pretty cool, right?

There’ll be more on my LIVING HAPPY blog tomorrow about this, but if you don’t go check that out, please just remember that you don’t want EVERY SINGLE THING THAT EVER HAPPENED EVER to be revealed in the first ten pages. That bogs the story down. Sprinkle it in like your story is stew that needs just a touch of salt. You’ve got this.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

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