Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Thursday, October 19, 2017

You and the Miracle of Your Third Draft

Some call the first draft the vomit phase.



Others may see it as something like this:





In any case, the first goal is getting the words on the page, day by day. In good time, we meet that goal. And whatever hell we went through is soon to be forgotten when we start the second draft.


Do all writers go through such back-breaking work? Not all, but many. Perhaps even most. Here's a look at the great Nabokov conquering a second draft:


The work's as exhausting as digging a ditch with a teaspoon instead of a shovel. Simply clearing the vomit or shit off each page is enough to make a writer weep, howl at the moon or cry 'Never again!'

And the worst of it is this: no matter how greatly we improve the first draft, we're still nowhere near completion of a finished, professional work. Yes, we've pruned and edited, polished and filled in some blanks. And we've begun to see the outline of our book. But it's still just a sack of potential

The third draft, however, gives us the chance for a wonderful break from ditch-digging and drudgery. Now we get to put on our Architect hats. We can forget about Pretty or Perfect for now. Time to think of our narrative's structure...and where the structure may need reinforcements.




Here are some of the issues I'm tackling in the third draft of my WIP:
1) My book's divided into five acts. Are they roughly the same length and is my pacing on the mark?
2) My book contains shifts of POV. Do my two lead characters get close to the same stage time? And have I made it clear enough to readers at a glance to identify who's 'on' now?
3) Have my mystery's clues been fairly and effectively placed?
4) Have my characters done the detecting they should have done at all key points?
5) Have I brought my setting to life, buckshot-style, with just enough details as needed?
6) Have I succeeded on two fronts: launching a new spin-off series from my Boss MacTavin mysteries...and not giving readers the backstory blues?
7) Though this is a standalone series, is it completely consistent with the Boss MacTavin universe?
8) Can I do anything else to reinforce the novel's theme? Colors, imagery, weather, etc.


Now, with the clearance work you've done, is the perfectly natural time for such things. When they've been tackled, you're prepared for the delicate refinements of your fourth and final drafts.

If you don't believe in miracles, give this one a try.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Lost Art of Waking Up: a Pictorial

Somewhere along the line, we forget how to wake up refreshed and renewed. And instead we awaken like this:



 Correction: we wake up like that after hitting Snooze repeatedly:

.
Finally, we lumber up and stumble on in search of clothes and keys and everything we'll need--the most important of which we will always forget.

So, no matter what we wear...no matter what we don't forget...the message we send to the world will be this:



Okay, then. Let's take these as givens:
--Good diet
--Good health
---6-8 hours' sleep every night

If so, why would we need Snooze alarms? I have a theory about this. I don't claim that it's profound but it's been tested--and it works:



Our mindset when we go to bed determines our state in the morning. For better or worse, we continue where we left off the night before. And we'll continue for the worse if we retire in a negative or aimless state, I propose a three step plan to ensure that we wake for the better.





1) Eat lightly after 6 p.m.. Your last meal doesn't have to be what you see in the picture above. But keep it light, something easily digested.



2) That's right, meditate--in any position you like: sitting in a cozy chair or thinking while you stretch. Your meditation can be a review of the day: what went well or might have gone better. Review your blessings while you're at it. A positive 15-minute spiritual stretch will prepare you for a deeper and more restful sleep.


3) This is my own master key: a Kenneth Cole standing valet. My solution to maddening mornings spent looking for my keys, deciding what to wear and learning when I've left home that I've forgotten something. After my spiritual stretch, I set myself up for the morning--everything I'll need, from clothes to keys to change to my wallet, etc. I go to bed in a decisive state as well as a positive, calm one.

The process is a simple one. Whether you use it or one of your own, be true to it and you'll enjoy wht you've missed for far too long:



Saturday, September 16, 2017

Lies, Lies and More Damned Lies

I'm in a rare state of despair today because I've learned once again that ads are often jut cold, polished lies.



My state began a while back when learning that the bottled water on which I'd been spending so much of my money was actually just tap water. The story's here, if you care to look. But you've probably already had doubts of your own.

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2016/01/25/pepsico-finally-comes-clean-and-admits-the-truth-about-their-bottled-water/

True, none of us could have expected that our designer tap water might actually threaten our health--with something like...oh, say...a tapeworm:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7mNTpRB9F0

Still, life went on. My despair ebbed as I started watching closely, and more closely still, the food I put into my body. I eyed the labels like a hawk, on the watch for sugar in any form, preservatives, etc.

But I read a story this week that rocked my boat and should rock yours. Whether you're a Vegan, vegetarian or meat lover, the same question concerns us all: can we trust the labels or even the stores? Is 'organic' food really organic? Are 'cage-free' chickens actually cage-free? Are 'grass-fed' cows actually grass-fed? Is 'free range' actually so?

Here's one ad that sure sounds good, for yummy free range chickens:

http://www.maryschickens.com/


But:



'Direct Action Everywhere, whose mission is to create animal welfare-friendly cities and outlaw factory farming practices, visited a dozen Pitman farms and never once saw a chicken roaming outside. The group reported that it found no indications of outdoor living, such as feathers or fecal matter. Twenty-four hour surveillance cameras attached to six separate locations revealed no outdoor birds either, the activists said. Instead, chickens were packed shoulder-to-shoulder inside dusty sheds with degraded air quality, forced to challenge one another for access to food and water.'
--the intercept.com, 9/15/17


So free range may mean, Dasani-style, not cage-free.

And does cage-free actually mean anything better than factory farm?

For your consideration:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/theyre-being-eaten-alive-what-i-saw-in-a-cage_us_580a5aefe4b0b1bd89fdb1d0

I don't argue that you should be Vegan or that you shouldn't eat meat. But all of us should be empowered to make enlightened dietary decisions. And this is something we can't do if the labels lie.


“The industry is in bed with the government,” said (Wayne) Hsiung. “I’m a former securities lawyer. It’s similar to the financial industry. The USDA’s mission statement is to promote agriculture. You can’t promote the industry and guard against the industry’s abuses. It’s like trying to be a lawyer for both sides of a litigation.”





Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Hallelujah Change of Life

You know what it's like, there's just not enough time, not when you work 40 hours a week. And for much of my life I worked two jobs--60 hours or more, 7 days a week--while somehow making time to write.

In Seattle I cut down to one job, a relief. Even so, though, weekends were never enough. Half the weekend, generally, was spent recovering from work stress. 



I'd continued to write. In fact, I'd succeeded in putting on speed, close now to putting out one book a year. But I'd pretty much given up on having an actual life.

Until now. I quit my office job and took a position that offers: future transfer, if I like, to any major city in the country...good benefits...a physically challenging position that helps me stay in shape...discounts on the best and healthiest organic food...and:

a 4-day week, if I like.

I like--and I've arranged it.



Retirement may be wonderful for those who can afford it. For those of us who can't...yet...we should at least enjoy the rewards of a physically active job...nearly half the week off to ourselves...good medical benefits...and paid time off.

Finally, the second shift allows me to write seven days a week. So I'm a happy camper--with a train trip coming up in November.



Friday, August 18, 2017

Taking Out the Trash

Sometimes more courage goes into taking out the garbage than climbing Kilimanjaro.



You know the sort of trash I mean: from haunting regrets to lingering messes we made years ago, then allowed to remain.

Getting rid of the trash may prove tougher than lugging two bags to a dumpster. But, as I learned yesterday, the relief makes it well worth whatever it takes.

I had three messes I needed to clear from my life. And doing so took up a good part of my day: phone calls, emails, certified mail, running here and running there. At the end of the day I was lighter by three messes I'd come to accept as 'my life'. Lesson learned.

Taking out the trash may prove painful. Or costly. Or just difficult to do. We may need to write off a beloved old friend who no longer wants to be one. We may need to find a way to make peace with something we've done...or not done. We may need to take guilt, shame, envy or anger to the dump heap.

The price may be high but it's worth it. When the time is right, set aside a day for a test of your own.




Saturday, July 29, 2017

If Women Don't Look At Men's Shoes First, They Should

When's the last time you walked into a shoe store and found a clerk who knew his or her stuff...or even found a clerk at all?



While we're on the subject, when's the last time you regarded shoes as a top priority and were willing to hunt till you got the right pair, regardless of the cost?

A screaming purple pinkie toe last night straightened me out on the subject of shoes. My new job, you see, keeps me on my feet all day and I walk between 8-10 miles per shift. So, naturally, I jumped at the company's offer to provide a pair of slip-resistant work shoes from their mail order supplier. What size? Hell, I've been sold 11.5 or 12 size for all my adult life. So I ordered 12's, thinking that I could return them or slip in some insoles. Relief either way from the toe-pinching sneakers I'd bought for a song at Ross Dress For Less.

Smart women will avoid all men who buy mail order shoes and/or wear any shoe that doesn't fit.

Tell me about that! For a week I'd been wearing the poorly fitting but 'free' work shoes, in discomfort from the start. By last night, I could barely walk and came home to see that my right pinkie toe had turned to a dark purple bordering on black. The pinkie looked far worse than this and other toes too were afllicted with blisters.



My brain teemed with the worst panicky thoughts. Might I lose the toe...or foot? Would I lose my job if I took time off work? What if I needed a couple of weeks? Could I afford a first-rate, properly fitting pair of shoes--and where would I find them? In my experience, department stores were as useless as discount shoe outlets. 

Late night decisions: come morning, I'd call work, explain my situation and spend as much time as I needed to find my first real pair of quality shoes.

Bright and early, I called work, encouraged to take whatever time I needed. Next, Lady Google: I started by researching a store I'd passed by many times: The Walking Company. Their reviews were strong and I noted that they specialized in what they call custom orthotics: insoles tailored to an individual's foot size and walking patterns.

This store was my first, and last, stop. The prices were steeper than I'd hoped, but I let the sales clerk do his thing. He showed me several styles offering a wider 'shoe box' (front of the shoe), so that my toes wouldn't be pinched. Then he showed me how they size one's foot and pick the right orthotic, using a digital screening device. 

I tried the shoe on without the orthotic--then with. 


pinkie toes


Tomorrow I'll return to work, when the pinkie's toned down from purple to a paler shade of pink.

And this is good. But better still is the change in my outlook that came with the shoe. And here are the reasons I think that women should first check out a man's shoes:

1) Good shoes aren't accessories. They're fundamental reflections of a man's care and respect for his bod.
2) Good shoes aren't an extravagance. A man who buys and looks after the best is an enlightened pragmatist. For cheap shoes end up costing more in foot, knee or back pain...and eventually doctor's bills.
3) Good shoes are spirit as much as fashion statements. A solid, first-class, grounded look paves the way for a splash of color or a touch of whimsy elsewhere. 

So, I guess, in a way I need to thank the purple pinkie toe that filled my eyes with tears.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Broadway Debut

A bit later in my life I've had the good luck to go Broadway.



Now, Broadway can be anywhere and mine happens to be in Seattle. It can also be in almost any venue: from writing to acting to singing to driving a limo.

Broadway's where to become a great star you'd better damned well act like one from the moment your feet hit the ground. And my true debut on Broadway came about in an unusual way and in an unusual place I will call simply The Store.

Compared to The Store, any other job I've had has been at best Off-Broadway. And more than a few were Off-Off. But the lines in The Store are huge...the energy is dazzling...and the stakes are as high as the profits. On my first work day--after a pleasant, low-key orientation--I got the message loud and clear: I needed to learn quickly and was expected to work on my own within a week. I needed to move quickly and constantly strive to do more. The first two rites of passage were the three month and nine-month reviews.

I went home exhausted but with a solid checklist. Lessons that can apply to any form of Broadway

1) You are you what you pretend to be--so behave like a star to become one.
2) Move, speak and act calmly and decisively, no matter how flustered you feel.
3) Put a positive spin on everything. You don't feel exhausted, you're 'getting your legs'. You don't feel confused, you're working it out.
4) Never blame your age or inexperience for any shortcomings or slip-ups.
5) Over and over, with gusto, repeat these words: It's