Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story

Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story

 
 
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A lot of writing coaches talk about story structure and plots and inciting incidents, which is all well and good but Carrie is burnt-out this week. 


Carrie: I have worked too hard and my brain is broken. 

So, instead we are going to tell you what NOT to do. We are going to be the story police and harsh out the rules. 

Carrie: I don’t like rules or broken brains, but let’s do this. 

What Not To Do According To Conventional Wisdom Right Now

Do not start with dialogue.

This used to be super popular, but MySpace also used to be super popular. Things go out of style and it is not super popular anymore. 

Here’s an example: 

             “I like elephants.”

                        “Awesome. Me too.”

                        “No way?”

                        “Actually, I am lying.” 

EXAMPLE OF AWESOME

You’ve no clue who is talking, where they are or why they do or don’t like elephants and you probably don’t care. We want readers to care from the very beginning of the story.

An alarm clock buzzing. 

Who even has an alarm clock anymore, actually? But no alarm clocks or cell phone alarms or whatever. Waking up is dull. 

            My alarm buzzed and I groaned. 

                        “Another day, another dollar,” I said to my cat, Muffin. 

                        Muffin hit me in the nose with her paw. She’s tired of my clichés. 

Another Example of Awesome

The whole IT WAS ALL A DREAM start.

Unless this is a paranormal or fantasy where the dream is a key part of the power or the threat? Then it’s okay even if people say ‘never ever.’

Cough. You don’t want to be super invested in a story and then find out that it was all crap and not real even to the character. 

Amazing thing happens. More amazing things happen. More amazing things happen for five pages. Oops. It’s all a dream. 

Example of dreamy

Being dorky without meaning to. 

This is when you accidentally make a super silly mistake or state something obvious in the very beginning of your story. Gasp! I know! You would never do that, right?

Spoiler alert: We all do this.

She knew she had to wear a mask in a pubic place.

Try to avoid the typos.

“I love to love you,” I think to myself.

This is an example. We all think to ourselves. Cut the ‘to myself.’

All narrative all the time. 

There is no dialogue anywhere in the first ten pages of this story and instead everything is just a solid block of text in which I, the author, tells you exciting things – well at least they are exciting to me – about the story, but honestly it’s just a lot of navel gazing. Did you know that people get lint in their navels? Did you know that a lot of that lint is actually random fibers from your clothes, if you wear clothes, and dead skin, and then it gets stuck there and mixes all up together. I wonder if you care. I wonder if you care that I care. And so on.

Agh. Did you even read this example? It ruined our SEO readability score.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Don’t start off on the wrong writer foot. 

Dog Tip for Life

It’s okay to start over.

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 222,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

This week’s episode.

Continue reading “Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story”
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We dogs smell poop the way sommeliers smell wine. It’s about nuance.

We dogs smell poop the way sommeliers smell wine. It’s about nuance.

 
 
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RANDOM THINGS YOU LEARN ABOUT EACH OTHER DURING LOCKDOWN

So, in this house we’ve learned a few random things that we didn’t know before we had to isolate ourselves because of the Covid-19 pandemic and these things include some things that were mentioned on Buzzfeed and some that weren’t including: 

  • Treasure Hunting For Gray Hair In Other People’s Hair Is Fun.
  • People Hook Up on the Scrabble app and Words With Friends. 
  • Sometimes Your Relatives Don’t Close Cabinets.
  • How Much Noise Your Fellow Family Members Including Dogs Make. 
  • Your Husband Is More Southern Than You Thought.

So, while we were checking that out we also saw that Buzzfeed had this other article called, “17 Delicious Cookout Recipes That Will Impress Your Southern Friends” and the first thing we thought was, “Do I have southern friends?” And then we remembered we have an entire Southern family and then we were ashamed. 

But the article was not all that Southern and it confused us.

Did the writer think Northern people don’t have BBQ pulled pork, buttermilk fried chicken, BBQ baby back ribs, corn on the cob, fried fish, burgers, baked mac and cheese normally? And why would Southern people be more impressed by that than Northerners? 

Like where did this regionally specific food divide even come from? The only southern thing that was on there that Carrie (from the North) didn’t grow up with were collard greens. She even had peach ice tea. Albeit, it was the Snapple kind.

They had baked beans on there. Dudes, they are called Boston Baked Beans for a reason. They had potato salad on there! It made no sense!  

And someone in the comments actually wrote: “This post should probably be changed to the perfect SOUTHERN cookout. Most of these things aren’t gonna fly at a cookout in Maine!”

And Carrie lost her chill.

All you all, don’t talk about Maine if you’ve never been here. Similarly, give shout-outs to the origins and history of the foods that you’re blogging about because erasure isn’t a cool thing and that goes for socio-economic erasure and ethnic erasure. The foods of different cultures sustain us, build us, bind us, and also reflect our histories–the good and horrible parts. 

What does this have to do with writing?

When you write about regions, think about it from more than your perspective. When you want to add some authenticity into your stories, think about the strange things you learn about your own house and family during lockdowns. Those details and nuance? That’s what makes a story authentic, not a bullshit blog post about how to impress your Southern friends at a cookout or a food post about Kimchi that never mentions it’s a Korean food. 

Writing Tip of the Pod

Be smart. Be detailed. Be full of empathy, but don’t be so full of yourself that you forget the backs and lives and hearts of the people who came before you. That goes not just for writers, but for regular humans, too. 

Dog Tip for Life

Dogs are all about origins and details. According to Sparrty, our dog, “We dogs smell poop the way sommeliers smell wine.” 

It’s all about the nuance. Be about the nuance not the generalization. That’s true about writing and thinking. Smell the bouquet, appreciate the differences. 

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

Come Write With Me!

I coach, have a class, and edit things.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 222,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.


Link to Jose’s bonus interview. Jokes, Stuffies, And Using Your Weirdness for Good, An Interview with Jose De La Roca

Link to Caitlyn’s bonus episode. Books, Law School during Covid-19 and just being Kick Butt – Using Law to Create Lasting Change – Interview with Caitlyn Vanover

Link to this week’s episode of awesome.

Last week’s episode. Money Is Not the Enemy and the Habits of the Rich

NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

 

 

Tips on Writing a First Page for Kids’ Books

These are what I once learned from the First Pages Panel at New England SCBWI Spring Conference on a Saturday when people were still able to gather in groups.

(The cool editors involved were Katie Cunningham, Alyssa Henkin Eisner, and Diane Landolf)

Eight Hot Tips (Ouch! On fire!) To Writing A Good First Page

Tip 1

It’s cool to be funny. It’s cool to be poignant, but it is awesome to be funny AND poignant. 

TIP 2

It’s good to have lovely language but not too much of it because then it’s easy to forget about character and plot. Yes, character and plot are actually important in children’s stories.

TIP 3

Every sentence should make you move towards the next sentence. Dogs eat cake. The martians have yellow hair. Journal writing is incessant.  Those are examples of sentences that do NOT move forward.

TIP 4

A good strong voice is much better than a wimpy little voice. Voices are like superheroes. We want them to have muscle. They have to save us from evil plots and menacing back story.

TIP 5

Kookiness is good as long as it is kid-friendly kookiness. 

TIP 6

Your first page shouldn’t be a character study. Your character study should be a character study. 

TIP 7

Don’t stay inside your own head too long, Author Person! We need emotion and movement to propel us readers forward.

TIP 8

Don’t sound 87 if you are supposed to be 15. Adult voice or datedness makes us not connect with the narrative.


Come Write With Me!

I coach, have a class, and edit things.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 222,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.


Link to Jose’s bonus interview. Jokes, Stuffies, And Using Your Weirdness for Good, An Interview with Jose De La Roca

Link to Caitlyn’s bonus episode. Books, Law School during Covid-19 and just being Kick Butt – Using Law to Create Lasting Change – Interview with Caitlyn Vanover

This week’s episode. Money Is Not the Enemy and the Habits of the Rich

Last week’s episode link. Emotional Insecurity Is Us and Farts are Everywhere.

NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

What I See When I Write My Stories

So, a lot of times writers have vision boards for their stories. We fill these with images that represent the theme or the thought or the character. I do this a lot by painting, but sometimes I make real boards somewhere (like Pinterest) too.

Like this would be one for my adult mystery, THE PLACES WE HIDE.

This works really well for the image system of your story and image systems are super cool. Let me know if you want me to blog about them.

And this is the one for one of the stories I’m working on right now. It’s basically a campground for the undead and other strange creatures. The working title is brilliantly called, CREEPY CAMPGROUND STORY. Yes! Yes! I know! Genius title.

And this one would be for the YA story I’m revising, which is a bit of a time travel story, but still awesome and not confusing.

And this one would be for IN THE WOODS, which I cowrote with Steve Wedel and came out this summer.

So, yeah. That’s a peek into the weird image part of my story writing process.

For more about a couple of the stories, check out behind the jump.

But before you go, let me explain. When I write my stories, I hear them inside my head first and then I see the images. Not all writers are like this. When I try to get to the heart and soul of my story and its characters, it is the images that pull me there. Not the words. So in my first draft, I hear the story, but when I revise, I feel the images.

Continue reading “What I See When I Write My Stories”

Emotional Immaturity is Us Farts are Everywhere

Emotional Immaturity is Us Farts are Everywhere

 
 
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So, um, as you can tell, during the self-isolation, stay-at-home orders of our pandemic, we have descended into the land of the immature. 

Carrie had high hopes of using this time to build up our intellectual skills and read the NYT and Rousseau and Descartes by the light of the pellet stove. But instead we watched Tiger King and What We Do in the Shadows obsessively. 

Which brings us to the topic of our episode.

Farts? 

No. Not farts again. But a Medium article by Niklas Goke entitled

“15 Signs You’re Emotionally Mature- How you know you handle life like an adult”

(The link is in the podcast notes.)

So, Niklas has a bunch of assertions about how we know if we are emotionally mature, which seems a pretty big construct in itself, right? Like how do we as a society define maturity if we as a society can’t even define what is truth? But whatever, we’re just going to go with it because it’s not farts. 

Niklas says that you have to train yourself to be emotionally mature and build the characteristics. He’s got fifteen characteristics because he’s apparently an overachieving guy. But he actually took his questions from The School of Life’s 25 suggestions about emotional maturity. So, it’s all derivative, baby. 

We’re joining in. And we’re condensing them into five.

It’s Not All About You All the Damn Time 

If someone tells you to stop farting in their face, maybe stop farting in their face? It’s good to remember the world isn’t just about you and the immediate release of your gastric discomfort. That’s mature. 

Not All People are Psychics

You might want to think about what your actions and facial expressions are telling the people who are stuck in the room with you. Nikos says we don’t all have a lovely Sims icon over our heads telling people our feelings. When people don’t realize you’re hungry or sad? That’s not always on them. It’s sometimes because you aren’t giving them the clues. Express how you feel so everyone doesn’t have to guess all the damn time. That’s mature. 

You Are Cool In Your Lack of Coolness

You aren’t perfect. You can be annoying. The people who matter will love you anyway. We have so many bad scripts and biases running in our heads. Don’t waste a lot of time or energy trying to pretend to be perfect.  It’s best to admit when you muck up or that you have weaknesses and be open about your boo-boos. It means your strong. That’s mature and also sexy. 

Try To Be Chill About the Dorks

Realize a lot of time when other people suck, it’s because they are lonely or upset or feeling super vulnerable. Try to respond with kindness unless they are really hurting you or a threat. Then respond with a restraining order. You have to protect you, too. That’s mature. 

It’s Cool To Celebrate Things  

It’s okay to realize that there’s no reason to be angry, to compromise, to love others even though they are flawed and appreciate those flaws, those compromises, your own ‘failures.’ Celebrate being alive every day and having enough money to get coffee, to be able to hug your friends, to go through life without a mask on. Those things we take for granted? They are big things even though they might seem small. Appreciation? That’s mature. And also sexy. 

Writing tip of the Pod:

It’s okay to have a mature character once in awhile.

Dog Tip for Life:

It’s okay to be the mature character once in awhile. It’s also okay to fart. 

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

RECENT EPISODES OF AWESOME AND BONUS INTERVIEWS

This week’s episode link. 

Last week’s episode link 

Link to Sam’s interview.

A bonus interview with Dr. J.L. Delozier, Pennsylvania doctor and writer. 

bonus interview with poet and coach Fiona Mackintosh Cameron. 

NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

Continue reading “Emotional Immaturity is Us Farts are Everywhere”

Fart Jokes, Zoom Fatigue and Coronavirus

Fart Jokes, Zoom Fatigue and Coronavirus

 
 
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What do you call a person who never farts in front of other people? 
A private tooter.

What do you call it when someone eats refried beans and onions?
Tear gas.

Success is like a fart. It only bothers people when it’s not their own.

How do you say “fart” in German?
“Farfrompoopin.”

These jokes are from Fatherly https://www.fatherly.com/play/21-best-funniest-fart-jokes-kids/

Why are we talking about fart jokes? Well, because right now there’s a pandemic and people are dying and economies are crashing and there’s a lot of pain out there. Throughout history, people have been in pain, lived and died, faced wars, pandemics, economic uncertainty, loss of freedom, a lack of human rights. 

And throughout history there have been fart jokes. As writers and humans, it’s good to think about that. 

The oldest joke in recorded history? It was a fart joke. Flatulence is almost always funny unless it is a joke told by Ancient Sumerians, maybe? 

Here’s the joke: 

“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”

I am going to be honest here. I don’t get it. 

The oldest British Joke is this one from 10th Century—“What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before? Answer: A key.”

Those naughty Anglo-Saxons, you can tell Shaun’s related to them. Notice their joke is not about farts, but a twist on something anatomical, a set-up and a reversing of expectation. 

Jokes are often about rebellion and not caring about cultural taboos, right? 

According to the author of the article in the Conversion there are certain theories about what makes these sort of jokes funny: 

The superiority theory says that we laugh when we feel “sudden glory,” as Thomas Hobbes put it – a sudden sense of superiority over a person, especially someone to whom we ordinarily feel inferior. Cases of slapstick humor, such as the pie-in-the-face or someone slipping on a banana peel, fall into this category.

Kant and Schopenhauer argued on behalf of the incongruity theory, which says we laugh at the juxtaposition of things that don’t ordinarily go together, such as a talking dog or a bearded woman. 

And relief theorists like Spencer and Freud maintain that laughter is how we relieve nervous tension regarding subjects or situations that are socially taboo or inappropriate. This explains the popular appeal of jokes based on sex, ethnicity and religion.

Last week, the BBC posted a story about Zoom fatigue. Manyu Jiang wrote: 

“Your screen freezes. There’s a weird echo. A dozen heads stare at you. There are the work huddles, the one-on-one meetings and then, once you’re done for the day, the hangouts with friends and family.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we’re on video calls more than ever before – and many are finding it exhausting.”

Jiang talked to experts and learned that video chats are hard and tiring because our brains have to go into overtime to understand non verbal cues, the pitch of a voice, and so on. The silence that happens is not natural. It makes us anxious. A 1.2 second delay in response makes people think that you are a jerk.

And most of us are not reality tv stars and we see our face and we feel watched. It is like we are on stage. 

And the calls remind us of how weird these circumstances are. We do not get to hang out with our friends or our coworkers and these video calls remind us of that and not only that the bubbles of our lives (work, family, friends, school) are suddenly all in the same physical space. That can weird us out. 

So tell fart jokes if it is appropriate. Turn off the video if they let you. Put your screen to the side instead of the front of you. Build space around the meetings if you can. And breathe. 

Try to remember the value that happens in humor and connections and fart jokes. 

Writing Tip of the Pod

Fart jokes last longer than most other things, just like farts. 

Dog Tip For Life

Right now, we need more fart jokes and less Zoom meetings. We need to engage with the people we’re isolated with and notice the nuance, the pauses, the gaps. 


SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

RECENT EPISODES OF AWESOME AND BONUS INTERVIEWS

This week’s episode link. 

Last week’s episode link 

Link to Sam’s interview.

A bonus interview with Dr. J.L. Delozier, Pennsylvania doctor and writer. 

bonus interview with poet and coach Fiona Mackintosh Cameron. 


NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

WHAT ELSE? 

I’m still revising ANOTHER NOW, which is a big time travel story. It is killing me. 

AND FINALLY, MY NEW PATREON STORY

And over on Patreon, I’m starting a new story this week! It’s a chapter a month if you want to check it out. It basically costs $1 a month to listen to my story and $3 a month to read it. There’s a new chapter every week. It’s super fun; I promise. Here’s an excerpt. 

Pants-drunk, Geico, Stinky Beer, Government Cheese – It’s a podcast of awesome where things get weird

Pants-drunk, Geico, Stinky Beer, Government Cheese – It’s a podcast of awesome where things get weird

 
 
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When you think about people getting drunk in their underwear, you tend to think of Joe Exotic and the people on Tiger King, the hot-AF Netflix documentary, but the people who are masters at getting completely sloshed at home are the Finns. 

Yes, the Finns. 

They have a word for it and that word is kalsarikännit. That word means pantsdrunk 

They even have emojis depicted half-dressed emoji people holding a beer or a wine glass that they send each other when they are solo drinking in their undies. 

And that’s what is happening to America in the time of Covid-19. Believe me, this is such a thing that it’s a trending Instagram tag and even the Barefoot Contessa is getting involved. 

Here’s the thing. People in northern, isolated, winter-dark, sun-absent climates know all about staying at home. They know about facing the darkness and drinking in their undies. Yes, undies. Not sweatpants. Undies. Part of being pantsdrunk is stripping down. 

On Harper Collins’s website for Miska Rantanen’s book about the cultural phenomenon, it states:

“When it comes to happiness rankings, Finland always scores near the top.  Many Finnish phenomena set the bar high: the best education system, gender equality, a flourishing welfare state, sisu or bull-headed pluck.  Behind all of these accomplishments lies a Finnish ability to stay calm, healthy and content in a riptide of endless tasks and temptations.  The ability comes from the practice of “kalsarikanni” translated as pantsdrunk.”

Harper Collins’s blurb people

According to an article by Claudia Alarcon in Forbes

“Pantsdrunk is one of the cornerstones of drinking culture in Finland,” says Partanen (an actual Finnish person she quotes). “The Finns are very reserved people, which is why there are jokes in Finland about how social distancing simply means that we keep doing what we’ve always been doing: avoiding physical contact and keeping at least a meter distance from others.”

Claudia Alarcon

When you are undergoing constant stress and anxiety, it increases your risk for both physical and mental health issues. You don’t want that. We don’t want that for you. So, it’s okay to find some joys even as the horrifying happens. Build a fort. Sing in the shower. Read books. Snuggle with puppies. 

What’s this got to do with writing other than the fact that the tradition has been immortalized in a book? It’s about letting go, diving into your story and giving your anxiety a giant finger flip. It’s about tearing off your clothes and your devices and writing the raw, naked tipsy story without your internal critic or internal editor standing over your shoulder telling you to go get the seltzer water and put your clothes back on. That’s when you write cool stories. 

This time we are in now, this pandemic, this physical isolation? It can divide us or it can make us closer. We can choose to despair in our systemic issues and lack and we should recognize it, but is just as important to notice the moments of humanity, of how people still find ways to create and communicate and love. 

Writing Tip of the Pod

Don’t give up. Persistence is super in life and in writing. 

Dog Tip for Life

Find your alcohol. Be naked. Live while you can.

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

Gabby does not approve of alcohol.

WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

This week’s episode link. 

Last week’s episode link.

Last week’s interview with writer Jordan Scavone!

SO, HERE’S WHAT I’M UP TO. 

THE WRITING COURSE OF AWESOME

It’s our very own writing course! 

Basically, it’s set up a bit like a distance MFA program, only it costs a lot less and also has a big element of writer support built in and personalized feedback from me! This program costs $125 a month and runs for four-month sessions!

To find out more, check out this link. It’s only $125 a month, so it’s a super good deal. Come write with us! 


NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

WHAT ELSE? 

I’m still revising ANOTHER NOW, which is a big time travel story. It is killing me. 

AND FINALLY, MY NEW PATREON STORY

And over on Patreon, I’m starting a new story this week! It’s a chapter a month if you want to check it out. It basically costs $1 a month to listen to my story and $3 a month to read it. There’s a new chapter every week. It’s super fun; I promise. Here’s an excerpt.

Zoombombing, Tiger King, Kittens in Heat – Is Your Family Driving You Mad During Lockdown? This might be why

Zoombombing, Tiger King, Kittens in Heat – Is Your Family Driving You Mad During Lockdown? This might be why

 
 
00:00 / 00:28:44
 
1X
 

Now that we’re all home and living with our significant others because of CoVid-19 aka the coronavirus from Hell, it’s making some of go a little… Well, a little crazy. Why is this? Here we are housebound with the people we love with all our hearts and suddenly just listening to them breathe is making us want to throw knives when we really should just be so thankful that we’re not sick.

Are you feeling this way and freaking out about it? 

Well, you are not alone. Not only is Covid messing with our anxieties, our livelihoods, our health and sending some of us into spirals of depression and grief, it’s also changing our routines and schedules and patterns and that can make us feel kind of vulnerable and off kilter. 

This is where attachment styles come in. In her essay “Coping With an Insecure Attachment Style” on VeryWellMind on carriejonesbooks.blog, Marni Feuerman talks about how our attachment styles can be either secure or insecure and how they arise from our childhood. 

She writes,

“A secure style comes from consistency, reliability, and safety in one’s childhood. As an adult, those with a secure attachment style can reflect back on their childhood and see both the good and the bad that occurred, but in the proper perspective. Overall, they generally feel that someone reliable was always available to them in their formative years. In adulthood, they enjoy close, intimate relationships and do not fear taking risks in love.”

Feuerman

Who are these magical, well-balanced people? They are the ones who are chill and not freaking out about how their significant other is loading the dishwasher, that’s who they are. 

The rest of us have three insecure attachment patterns, she explains, and those are avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized.

THE THREE INSECURE ATTACHMENT PATTERNS

“Avoidant: Avoidant people have a dismissive attitude. They shun intimacy and have many difficulties reaching for others in times of need.

Ambivalent: Those with an ambivalent pattern are often anxious and preoccupied. These people may be viewed as “clingy” or “needy,” often requiring much validation and reassurance.

Disorganized: The disorganized pattern is often the product of trauma or extreme inconsistency in one’s childhood. Disorganized attachment is not a mixture of avoidant and ambivalent attachments—it is a far more serious state where a person has no real coping strategies and is unable to deal with the world.”

Feuerman again

I am ambivalent AF.  Gabby, our dog, is also ambivalent.

What do attachment styles have to do with writing?

Well, when you’re writing about relationships in a dystopian novel or apocalypse, you want to account for those different types of personalities and levels of attachment.

Is your character secure or insecure? What type of insecure?

Knowing that and their background can help you flesh them out and make each character not a carbon copy of you or of your other characters. 

What does this have to do with life?

Well, I think you all know. It’s time to buck up and do the work while we’re social distancing to make sure that we can evolve to the best people we can be and not scream at our loved ones and not repeat bad behaviors. We can’t all afford psychotherapy and we can’t even go see a therapist right now, but a good thing to keep in mind is what Feuerman says,

“To earn security, you have to develop a coherent narrative about what happened to you as a child. You also need to explore the impact it has had on the decisions you may unconsciously have made about how to survive in the world. You have to think critically about how your upbringing affected your attachment style, and work on breaking those patterns.”

Feuerman

That’s hard work, but it’s worth it. Nobody wants a criminal record or to go to jail during a pandemic. You’ve got this. Don’t have Joe Exotic be your end story.

Writing Tip of the Pod 

Think about your main character. Are they secure? Insecure? Why? 

Dog Tip for Life

You’ve got to create a narrative that will help you be the best dog owner you can be. Dogs do this all the time. We’re hurt, abandoned, rescued and we create whole new joyous lives. You can too. Bacon helps. 

Writing Exercise of the Pod

Think about your best friend’s mom. Think about your best friend. What is their narrative? Write it. 

In our random thought (which you hear in the podcast) we talk about:

  1. Tiger King
  2. Zoombombing
  3. Kittens in heat

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

Last week’s episode’s link.


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Last week’s episode link. 

This week’s episode link.

NEWS

Over 180,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them.

NEW PODCAST INTERVIEW EPISODES!

Starting this Thursday we’re sharing bonus interview podcasts with cool people who exist. Check it out and critique Carrie’s interviewing skills.


WRITING NEWS! 

The Writing Course of Awesome

It’s our very own writing course! 

Basically, it’s set up a bit like a distance MFA program, only it costs a lot less and also has a big element of writer support built in. This program costs $125 a month and runs for four-month sessions and starts in April 2020 

To find out more, check out this link. It’s only $125 a month, so it’s a super good deal. Come write with us!


NEW BOOK OF AWESOME

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 

Continue reading “Zoombombing, Tiger King, Kittens in Heat – Is Your Family Driving You Mad During Lockdown? This might be why”

Rebel Reading the Hobbit & Talking Head Syndrome

Rebel Reading the Hobbit & Talking Head Syndrome

 
 
00:00 / 00:23:47
 
1X
 

A lot of time I’ll be reading scenes in books and it will be two characters talking and I’ll only have a vaguely general idea about where they are. Maybe I won’t have an idea at all. We call this evil beast the talking heads syndrome. 

Cue scary music here. 

WHAT IS TALKING HEADS SYNDROME?

No, it’s not about the iconic 1980s group. Sorry!

It’s where there’s a lot of dialogue going on but there’s no actual anchor for the characters. It’s like they are floating in space blabbing at each other. There’s no physical world placement. 

This happens a lot and it’s because some of us are writers who really hear our scenes rather than see our scenes or live in our scenes. It’s also because we sometimes forget to get those anchors in there. 

How to Imagine Yourself in a Scene

To do this exercise you have to step away from the keyboard for a second and stand up. We know! We know! Writers are all about sitting down and putting their butts in the chair and getting the work done, right? Well, give yourself five minutes and stand up in a quiet place preferably not in Starbucks or anything. 

Now close your eyes and think about your scene where there are talking heads.

SMELL

There you are with your characters. Maybe you can even imagine yourself as one of the characters. Possess them like they’re Zac Bagans and you’re filming Ghost Adventures. Inhale. What kind of smells are you smelling? Remember that. 

SOUND

You’re still there with the characters standing in the setting. What do you hear? Remember that. 

TOUCH

Your characters don’t stay completely still for the whole scene, do they? Have them move even if it’s to fidget. Let them touch things. What do those things feel like? Are they hot? Textured? Hands aren’t the only things that touch. Does their hair sweep over something? Does their foot kick against a table? Do their shoulders lean against the rough wood of the wall? 

TASTE

What does it feel like inside their mouth? Dry? Coppery? Do they need to brush their teeth? Please make them floss. Everyone should floss. 

SIGHT

This is the fallback for most writers and it can have some issues. We want to be able to visualize the setting and where things are happening, but we don’t need the buffer of the character seeing what’s happening. 

There are a lot of stories where it says, 

“Shaun looked over and saw the cat dangling from the curtain.”  

Don’t pad the details with distancing words. Don’t tell us that Shaun’s looking. Just have us see. 

Instead write, 

“The cat dangled from the curtain.”  

It’s so much more powerful. 

MOVEMENT

Have the characters move. Give them actions and objective correlatives to their emotional states. 

What are the next steps to Banishing the talking heads?

No, it’s not casting David Byrne to an isolated bunker in Nebraska. It’s also not putting him on SNL. It has nothing to do with him! I promise.

The next step is incorporating what you imagined for tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing, movement into the actual scene. You have to have your characters’ perceptions of the outside world and setting incorporated into that dialogue and action. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. 

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Don’t be full of talking heads. Write scenes that come alive. 

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Be in the moment, man, and actually notice things. 

Note: In the random thoughts in bed section of our podcast we talk about Liberal cheers, famous for being losers, getting thick thanks to the Coronavirus and Shaun binging Swedish Fish, and golf balls. How’s that for random? 

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

Last week’s episode’s link.


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

This week’s episode link. 

NEWS

Over 180,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them.

Continue reading “Rebel Reading the Hobbit & Talking Head Syndrome”

How to Make a Good Book Better – Revision Tips of Awesome – Part Three

So, these past three Mondays, I’ve been giving revision tips to help with people’s stories. And this is the last in the series! I know! I know! The horror!

Get ready writers and put your revision hats on. As I write this, we’re in lockdown because of CoVid-19 aka the coronavirus, and I know you all just want to draft and eat, but get dressed and do the hard stuff, too. Revising makes your book so much stronger.

11.  GIVE YOUR CHARACTERS A REASON

Do not have your hamster kill your cat without a motivation. The cat’s tormenting? That’s a reason. The cat’s snoring? That’s a motivation. 

Every character has to have a want and a motivation, a reason for doing what they do.

In other words: Your characters need to make sense.

12. THINK ABOUT TIME FRAME

Should your story be an hour in the protagonist’s life? A day? A year? Does it really need to end with the prom? Plath says to think of the story as “an image stamped in Silly Putty, until it became distorted and possibly more interesting?” 

Pull out that image. Think about how long your story is in the character’s life.

13. ADD SOME TEXTURE

Think about figurative language. Think about symbols and allusions and metaphors. Use the tools of literature and the sounds of poetry to make your story resonate.

But, um, don’t put a simile in every paragraph.

14. MAYBE YOU SHOULD GO UNRELIABLE

Narrators who are reliable are sometimes narrators who are boring. What would happen if yours went to the dark side? 

15. BE TRIVIAL. BE DEEP

We want to hear what matters to the character and what trivial parts of his/her existence make him/her real. If she’s a bus driver. Let us know how that impacts her thinking. Let us see her job.

PART ONE OF THESE TIPS IS HERE!

PART TWO OF THESE TIPS IS HERE!


These revision tips this week are all originally from James Plath’s article “Twenty-one Tweaks to a Better Tale,” which was published in THE COMPLETE BOOK OF NOVEL WRITING, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinatti, Ohio, Edited by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron, and the Editors of Writer’s Digest.


WRITING AND PODCAST NEWS

Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow! 

Last week’s episode’s link.

This week’s episode’s link.


Continue reading “How to Make a Good Book Better – Revision Tips of Awesome – Part Three”