Friday, August 30, 2013

A climb up Mt. Mansfield, Vermont — Part 2

By Scott Bury

July, 2012

This post continues the previous one, where the author and his son, Super Nicolas, climbed Vermont's highest peak, Mount Mansfield, on foot from the very bottom to the very top.

In Part 2, we try to climb down. As anyone who's climbed knows, coming down is often harder than climbing up.

The wind up here is frigid, but after the hard work of the climb up, it's refreshing and we don't bother putting on our long pants or sweat-shirts.

At the top of the Cliff Trail, we have to make a decision: do we attempt this strenuous climb down this DDD trail, back over the section with the loops driven into the smooth rocks and back through the Cave of Winds with its bottomless holes to jump over, to get to the gondola which closes in 19 minutes? If we miss the last gondola, our options down are:

  • back the way we came originally, retracing the rest of the extremely difficult Cliff Trail, up the ladders, along the ledges and through the tunnels
  • climb up through the Cave of Winds yet again, over the holes, hike up again over the smooth rocks and up the narrow steps back to the Long Trail, and then make a long slog down the Toll Road.
Climbing DOWN through the
Cave of the Winds was not an
inviting prospect.

We elect not to take a chance on getting to the gondola in 19 minutes. It's going to be long enough without having to double the Cliff Trail needlessly. The Long Trail to parking lot A at the Visitor's Center is easy, and only takes a few minutes.

We must look tired when we get there — or at least, I must — because a family in a mini-van offers us a ride down. We accept.

The driver, Mike, explains that a friend has let him borrow his 1990 Honda Odyssey for the summer. The side doors don't work anymore, so the whole family — his brother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece — climb in the front doors and over the seats to sit in the back. Nicolas and I follow, and sit on the floor, squeezed between coolers and backpacks. We can't see very well.

The toll road is very long, with a lot of switchbacks, and it seems even longer when you cannot see. And the road is quite steep.

After a while, Mike's brother, sitting behind me, advises him to use the brakes rather than low gear to go downhill "because it's cheaper to replace brake pads than a transmission."  Soon, the stink of overheated transmission oil is replaced by the much worse smell of burning brake pads.

The smell gets worse as we try to distract ourselves by exchanging information about where we’re from, our vacations and other small talk. But about half-way down the mountain, Sandra, in the back of three rows of seats, tells Mike to pull over. “The fumes are really building up back here,” she says. “And we can’t open the back window.” I look back: one of the teenagers, sitting in the cargo area, looks like she’s about to faint.

Mike pulls over where the road is a little wider. We clamber out and suck in as much clean air as we can. I hold my hand 15 centimetres from the rear fender to feel the heat radiating from the overworked brakes.

The youngest teenager wobbles around for a minute, woozy from the fumes of burning brake pads, then twists her ankle. Fortunately, Sandra, her aunt, is a registered nurse. Eventually, with the fumes dissipated and the ankle wrapped, we climb back into the minivan for the remainder of the trip.

Fortunately, we’re not far from the bottom at this point, and the brakes and transmission have a much easier time. Mike drives us to the parking lot at the bottom of the chairlift where we left our car. We say thank you and wish our short-term companions well.

As we watch the minivan drive back down Mountain Road toward Stowe, I am surprised not to see smoke coming out of it.

“So, what was more adventurous?” I ask Super Nicolas. “The climb up, or the drive down in the burning minivan?”

Nic laughs. “The trip down was more dangerous.”

From the peak, some people say you can see the lights of Montreal
on a clear night.

Scott Bury (right) is an author, editor and journalist based in Ottawa, Canada. His books include The Bones of the Earth and One Shade of Red. Visit his website, Written Words, and follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.
Super Nicolas is a geologist and outdoorsman. Happy birthday, Super Nicolas!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

1,000 metres up: A hike on Mt. Mansfield

By Scott Bury 

Vermont's Long Trail stretches from the Canadian border, over the top ridge of Mt. Mansfield, over several other Green Mountains, all the way to the Massachusetts border and connects with the Appalachian Trail system.

Our summer vacation in 2012 was to Stowe, Vermont, home of the nauseatingly famous Von Trapps, and nestled on the southern slopes of Mount Mansfield. From Stowe, the crest of this mountain looks like the elongated profile of a face, with a distinctive forehead, nose, chin (the summit) and Adam's apple, plus two other rises that could be lips.
I park at the bottom of the gondolas, and then Super Nicolas and I take the Haselton Trail, which is rated D for difficult. It's very pleasant, although quite steep as it parallels the ski runs. Most of the lower part is under trees, along hogs-back ridges or winding across the slope. At several places, it crosses little mountain streams, allowing pleasant places to rest. On that hot summer day, most of the morning is cool under the trees.

The top half of the trail becomes ski runs in the winter, so they're wide-open and exposed to the sun. However, because they’re around 3,000 feet above sea level, the conditions are breezy.
An inviting spot to cool your dogs.

The Haselton Trail ends at the top of the Toll Road. We still have to hike up to the Visitor's Center, which is at the base of the Nose. The Nose also has a number of antennae sticking up out of it.

Apparently, there used to be a luxury hotel here, and one of the guests’ favourite activities was to sit on the patio, sip coffee and watch crazy people scale the cliffs. But the hotel was torn down in the 50s. The Visitor's Center today has only a few brochures and posters of wildlife. There's no running water, and the only bathrooms are two por-to-lets.

From there, Super Nicolas and I take the Cliff Trail toward the summit. According to Wikipedia, the Cliff Trail is rated DDD. It must stand for "so Difficult, Don't even try this, Dummy."

The views as you ascend, especially from the ski runs, are spectacular. Here, we look east across the Green Mountains.
The Cliff Trail presents challenges for the inexperienced climber. There are places where you have to turn around and climb up or down using your hands as well as feet.
To get through some of the
tunnels, you have to take
off your backpacks.
There are caves or tunnels that require you to take off your backpack and crawl on your hands and knees to get through. And there are three or four study ladders placed by the Green Mountains hiking club.

Watch out for all the moose poop. Sometimes it seems like the Cliff Trail should be called the Mooses' Latrine.

The Cave of the Winds is near the northern end of the trail. It's actually not a cave, but more of a place where a sheet of rock has split off from the main cliff face. There are bottomless holes that you have to jump over. When I went through, behind me was a family that got onto the last part of the Cliff Trail after riding up the ski gondola. I turned and pulled a 12-year-old boy over the last hole.

Entrance to the Cave of the Winds.
The last part of the Cliff Trail is a steep climb up rocks; the state or the hiking club or whoever maintains the trail has actually put iron loops into the rocks to help you climb over them. 

When we finally get back to the Long Trail that winds more or less directly to the summit, I am panting and sweating. Thankfully, the Long Trail from here is easy: a slow, more or less steady climb up to the Chin.

Up this high, the trees are stunted. Signs advise you that the vegetation is delicate alpine/arctic tundra type, and urge visitors to "Take the Rock Walk" and stay off the plant life. The state has laid out string, looped around rocks, to guide your footsteps.

We walk up, and up, and up, toward what we both think is the peak. But when we get there, we realize it was an illusion: after a brief, shallow dip, the path rises again to the REAL summit.
Which one is the REAL summit? The farthest
one, of course.

I sit beside a woman in a pink hoodie. "Discouraging, isn't it? I thought this was the top, too. Then I saw that." she says, pointing to the trail that leads to the peak, a couple of hundred metres long.

I look at my watch. It is now 3:40, We had planned to ride the gondola down, but it closes at 4:30 "We've already come this far," says Nicolas.

"Already," I think. We started climbing the mountain before 11:00 a.m.

We make that last 200 metres or so fairly quickly and easily. Finally, we're looking at a brass disk set into the rock, marking the highest point in Vermont. The view is stunning. Lake Champlain to the west, the Camel's Hump to the south, green folds of Vermont to the east. Someone else at the top says that on a clear night, you can see the lights of Montreal in the north.

But we don't have much time to admire the view if we want to take the gondola. After taking it in, we hitch up our packs and begin the long walk down. 
Super Nicolas and I at the top of Vermont.

Scott Bury (right) is an author, editor and journalist based in Ottawa, Canada. His books include The Bones of the Earth and One Shade of Red. Visit his website, Written Words, and follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.
Super Nicolas is a geologist and outdoorsman.

Monday, August 26, 2013

(WWII) A Grandfathers Story

By Dawn Torrens

An ambush took them by surprise,
Comrades falling all around,
A soldier finds sanctuary in a hollow tree,
The only one left he now realized.

The enemy makes camp all around he did see,
While the lone soldier remains still and dares not breathe,
Silent he remains until the arrival of sunrise,
Greeted by the sight of fallen comrades laid out before his eyes.

No enemy insight just the lingering smell of death,
He searches the dead for his childhood friend.
Only to find him spread out on the land,
This war will never steal my last breath.

As he walks undefeated through desolate land,
The sound of guns not too far behind.
His mission he knows is not yet accomplished,
Until he reaches his longed for homeland.

Dedicated to my Grandfather 1923-2012 

As a great lover of war history, after listening to many stories by my grandfather who fought in World War II, I decided to write and dedicate this poem for him. 

My grandfather was a fascinating man. Many years ago when I was just a young girl he told me a fascinating story. This story never left me and I wondered at his courage and strength to survive a night in a hollow log while the Germans slept all around him. This poem tells of his story.

I am a true believer that the reading of books and poetry alike is akin to an incredible journey for the mind. As an author and poet, I have written five books with a sixth on the way. Through my writing journey I have learned many things, one of which is this, without failure there can be no success. Simply put, if we never fail at anything how can we possibly grow. 

I am a devoted mother living in Birmingham England and blessed to be married to a very supportive husband.

D.G. Torrens is the author of five books which she has written over the past three years with a toddler in tow! Her latest release, Tears of Endurance, is an intense romantic drama that will stir up all your emotions for sure. 

Her other books include Amelia's Story

and Broken Wings.

The author is also a member of RABMAD, "Read a book make a difference," a group of like-minded authors who donate a percentage of their sales to their chosen charity. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Detective Visibility and The Mystery of Amazon Categories....

By Terry Tyler

...... I've read a bit recently about getting my books more visible on Amazon, because we all know that "discoverability" is one of the best ways to get people reading your books, right? 

I know that genre charts are massively important, probably THE most

important thing in this. The trick is to find categories that will be searched for by book buyers, but are not too extensively populated already. Both my last two books, Dream On and Full Circle, got to about 2000 in the chart at their highest point, but were not in any genre charts because I'd chosen massively over-used things like contemporary fiction, so I knew I had to sort that out before I did the 77p promotion for them this weekend.

Dream On and Full Circle are both centred around two things: musicians wanting to hit the big time, and love relationship/parenthood tangles. In Dream On my character Janice is a single mother; the book features much about her day to day life. In Full Circle, three of my main characters have small children - the fatherhood thing is one of the central themes. In this book the subject of alcoholism is also prominent, but I couldn't find a fiction category that deals with this...

.... and, furthermore, there is, apparently, no such Amazon genre as 'rock fiction'. I researched the subject of categories quite extensively, and eventually found the perfect one for Dream On: lad lit. Dream On has as many reviews from men as from women, virtually all of whom loved the rock band bits, saying that the banter between the men is so realistic (pssst!! - the two other main characters are women!!). Marvellous, thought I - really relevant to my book, and not highly populated - a real "Eureka!" moment! I emailed Amazon. No, can't put it in lad lit. Why not? Because that category exists for Books but not for Kindle Books. Okay.....

Now, this is interesting, and something that might be useful for us all to know: Amazon explained to me that the categories you see books in, on the books' own pages, aren't necessarily their own standard categories from which you can choose to place your book. They are decided by customer search; what the customer put in the search facility, and how often your book is clicked on after such a search. Which explains a lot, I think. Like why my psychological drama You Wish sometimes enters the 'occult' chart.... at no point have I chosen 'occult' as a genre for that book.

You may have read in a certain best-selling book about visibility that all you need to do is identify the category and chain leading to it, and email Amazon to ask for your book to be put in it (eg, Kindle>Fiction>Mystery>Victorian); I don't know if this was ever correct, but it certainly isn't now. Amazon assures me that it doesn't work like this.

After further extensive research I identified two other perfect Kindle fiction categories that would apply to aspects of both books - please note: I made sure they were both for fiction, and specified that the books should be in the FICTION categories first and foremost. Thus: Single Parent for Dream On, and Fatherhood for Full Circle. I emailed Amazon with my requests.

I am happy to say that both books are, this morning, in genre charts.
Dream On is in Non Fiction>Parenting & Families>ParentingFull Circle is in Books>Health,Family & Lifestyle>Families & Parents>Fatherhood

I give up.....

(I just hope that people are intelligent enough to read the blurb before going to purchase a self-help book about parenting and ending up with a philandering wannabe rock star getting hauled onto the Jeremy Kyle show....)

Terry Tyler is author of Full Circle, Dream On, The Other Side, Nobody's Fault and You Wish, and a member of Independent Authors International. Visit Terry Tyler's blog at

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cover reveal: Deadly Call by Martha Bourke

On August 22, the latest volume of Martha Bourke's New Breed series launches: Deadly Call. 

Deep in the shadows of Boston, Massachusetts, the Order—a secret brotherhood of New Breed warriors—is all that stands between a takeover by shifter supremacists.

Diesel, the most charismatic of the brothers, exudes a love for life all the while carrying a terrible burden. A veteran of the Iraq War, he is haunted by the traumatic events of a single night. Poisoned by shame and certain he is cursed, Diesel fears he is a danger to everyone around him.

Helen, the Order’s stunning and gifted surgeon, has a few demons of her own. Even as she and Diesel give in to the deepest pleasures of the mating call, something still holds her back. Destiny threatens to divide them, until, in the midst of unimaginable tragedy, they must banish the ghosts of the past to save their future.

Martha Bourke grew up in Burlington, Vermont, a magical place where street art meets cosmopolitan sensibilities meets nature. She is an accomplished teacher who has spent the last fifteen years creating Spanish language programs for elementary schools and traveling extensively. For most of her life, she has had a fascination with foreign languages, culture, and mythology – a passion that colors and enriches the world of Jaguar Sun, which now encompasses two series.

Martha and her husband of fifteen years have carved out their own little piece of Vermont in the Massachusetts countryside. When not writing, she loves spending time with her animals, listening to good music, thrifting, and adding to her Converse collection.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ask an author: Kids talk to a children's book author

By Roger Eschbacher

Hey you guys! My name is Roger Eschbacher and I write cartoons for a living. These days I’m working on two shows – The Littlest Pet Shop and Scooby Doo, Mystery Incorporated. I have a lot of fun writing animation, but I have even more fun writing books for kids. I’m a published picture book author and just this past fall I published my first middle-grade fantasy novel, Dragonfriend.

Over the years I’ve been asked to do signings and readings at book fairs, book stores, and in classrooms. When I’m finished reading from my books, I’ll take questions from kids in the audience. Here are three of the more popular ones:

Q: I want to be an author. How do I get started?

A: Before you become a writer, you need to be a reader; a hardcore reader. Reading needs to become one of the things you like to do as much as playing video games, riding your bike, or baking cookies. I call this kind of reading “pleasure reading” as opposed to the kind of reading you have to do in school. 

When I was a kid, I was seldom seen without a book. I loved reading then and I love reading now. Without exception, every author that I’ve ever met or read about is an avid reader who both loves books and reads for fun. They’ve been this way ever since they were kids, too.

Why is it important to be a hardcore reader before you’re a writer? Because you learn how to write your stories by reading how skilled authors write their stories. You learn what good dialogue looks like because you read books where you like what the characters are saying and how they are saying it. You learn how to describe a location or an action sequence because you read books that do this so well it’s almost like having a movie playing in your head. You learn what you like to read and why you like to read it and after a while you develop the confidence necessary to give writing a try yourself. It’s as simple as that. Not all readers become authors, but all authors are readers.

Q: Do you make a lot of money writing books?

A: Some authors make a lot of money, most do not. While I would certainly like to have the kind of success that J.K. Rowling has experienced, that’s not the reason why I write books. I do it because I have no choice. My head is full of all kinds of stories and the only way I can get them out of there is to write them down. I love to write and I love the idea that people out there, total strangers, will read my stories and, hopefully, enjoy them. That’s what keeps me writing despite the fact that I can’t afford a castle in Scotland. Not yet, anyway.

Q: Books (novels) are long! I don’t think I could ever write anything that big. How do you do it?

A: You’re right. Books, especially novels, can be very long. The way I handle the writing of a novel is to be organized and disciplined. Once I come up with an idea that sounds fun, I write a one or two page outline. I don’t go crazy into detail, just some descriptive paragraphs that help me figure out the beginning, middle, and end of the story. I list characters that come to mind and interesting settings in these paragraphs, too. These are notes to myself about what I want to write.

Then, I divide the outline up into chapters (usually 20-25). I’ll have a paragraph or so of description in each of these chapters. If this is sounding complicated to you, it really isn’t. By breaking a big thing like a novel into smaller, manageable bits, it makes it easier to give yourself permission to start writing. Writing little bits at a time isn’t as scary as the idea of writing a full novel. Everyone can write little bits.

When you’re first starting out, you don’t need to know everything about being an author or how to write a book. You just need to be brave and start writing. You’ll learn by doing, by figuring out what works and what doesn’t work as you go along. It’s okay to make mistakes. If you learn from them, mistakes help you to get better.

Then, I start writing. The way I motivate myself is by setting word count goals. My every day, non-deadline goal is 1,000 words a day. This sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. A thousand words usually works out to around four double-spaced pages (I use MS Word). You could choose a smaller goal of fifty or one hundred words a day and still make some very good progress.

In a recent interview with famous author Stephen King, famous author Neil Gaiman summed it up nicely:
“I think the most important thing I learned from Stephen King I learned as a teenager, reading King’s book of essays on horror and on writing, Danse Macabre. In there he points out that if you just write a page a day, just 300 words, at the end of a year you’d have a novel. It was immensely reassuring – suddenly something huge and impossible became strangely easy. As an adult, it’s how I’ve written books I haven’t had the time to write, like my children’s novel Coraline.”

In short, if you write enough little bits, you can eventually string them all together and end up with a big old honkin’ book. That’s how I tricked myself into writing my first novel.

Roger Eschbacher is author of Dragonfriend: Leonard the Great, Book 1, Road Trip and Nonsense, He Yelled, and writer of animated television series. He is a member of Independent Authors International, and was nominated for a daytime Emmy award. His website is Roger Eschbacher Books and Other Writing.

This post originally appeared on Heather Sutherlin's Escape to another world blog.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The thing about fiction is...

By Alan McDermott

... it isn’t real.

Yeah, I know that’s kinda obvious, but some of the people who have read Gray Justice don’t seem to realise this.

Let’s start at the beginning.

In July 2010 I had the seed of an idea and an empty Word document, and the first thing I needed was a main character.

Male or female? Hmm, good question. I thought about it for a while and decided that as the protagonist would have an SAS [British special military forces] background, I would go with male.

Next, a name. How about Clint Power? Max Thrust? Trenton Steele? Actually, why not go with a normal name? Okay, Dave…Sid…Tom… yeah, Tom. Tom what? Tom Savage!! No, something run-of-the-mill that doesn’t build the guy up as a super hero. Something bland, something … Gray!

Tom Gray!

Okay, so I have the seed of an idea, which is that someone loses a loved one to a repeat offender and sees the punishment handed down by the court as derisory. What should he do?

I know! He starts a petition to demand tougher sentencing guidelines. He goes on Facebook and Twitter and amasses a million followers and they all sign the petition and it goes before parliament and he’s standing outside Number Ten waving a placard and…

No. Where’s the story? Where’s the action, the intrigue? He could trip over a couple of times because he made the placard too big, or…

Stop! That isn’t going to work. He has to do something unique. This is supposed to be a story that grabs readers and takes them somewhere they’ve never been. It shouldn’t read like a few column inches in The Guardian. He could mow down the killer, or kidnap and torture him, or…

Right, that’s enough, Alan! Here’s a hundred bucks, go buy yourself a proper imagination!

What would Stephen King do in this situation? I read Misery, and that was a good book. A woman finds an injured author, her favourite author, and takes him back to her home. Okay, that’s the first couple of chapters. What happens next? Does she call an ambulance and have him taken to hospital? If she’d done that, it would have been King’s shortest and worst story EVER! Instead, she breaks his ankles to stop him escaping and makes him write a novel about her favourite character, one that doesn’t see the heroine die.

Possibility of that happening? Slim to none is my guess, but it made for great entertainment. I was reading it and wondering “How is he going to get out of this?”

Okay, another few light years and I’ll still be a million miles from Stephen King, but that’s the kind of thing you need to give an audience. Put the protagonist in an unheard of situation and have the reader wonder how they could possibly come through the other end.

Okay, got it. He kidnaps not just the killer, but four other repeat offenders and holds them in a disused warehouse. He tells the government that he wants tougher sentencing or his hostages die.
Hmm, it’s missing something. The authorities would soon locate him, if they even gave a shit about the criminals in the first place. So we need a deterrent. What could possibly stop the police wanting to rush the place? Think! Think! I know, he’s planted a bomb somewhere, and if they kill him, the bomb will go off!

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Yeah, a standoff. He’s got the hostages, and the police won’t make a move. So now what? What has Tom achieved? Nothing. The news channels will report about a hostage situation, but Tom’s grievances are falling on deaf ears. The police and politicians might sympathise after what he’s been through, but it all boils down to him committing a criminal act.

Tom needs to reach the people, but how? He builds a website and streams video of the hostages, and tells the government that they mustn’t interfere with it, otherwise…What? And how long is this going to go on for?

Let’s go back to the start. We need to make Tom a man with nothing left to lose. Okay, his wife, overcome with grief at the loss of their son, takes her own life. We still have the problem of a timescale, though. Is this going to go on forever? And where’s the government’s incentive to play ball?

Got it! Tom will reveal the location of the device on Friday, then take his own life! He now has nothing to lose, so why not? But what will he have achieved by then? Think, Alan!

I know! He wants to change the sentencing guidelines, but he thinks the government won’t listen. Why not let the people of Britain vote on the changes? They can ignore one lunatic, but not the entire population! Let the people speak!

All we need now is a set of changes he wants to make, but we have to bear in mind who is creating them. This is a simple ex-soldier, not a politician. Successive governments have had numerous experts working on the perfect judicial system and it still isn’t quite there, so it would be crazy to have Tom come up with the perfect solution. It wouldn’t be in keeping with the character I’m trying to create. Instead, I’ll just have to give him a bunch of unworkable ideas and throw in some counter-arguments to balance things out.

Should I mention rehabilitation and crime prevention as possible solutions, or attacking the root of the problem at an early stage through school workshops and the like? Would anyone in Tom’s situation think like that, or would they just be damn angry and want to see the criminals punished? I’ll err on the side of the latter.

So, that’s the process. I think of situations for my characters, I give them the appropriate personalities and opinions, and let them get on with it.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post: Some people seem to think that Tom’s thoughts and ideals are actually a reflection of MY feelings towards the British judicial system (here's a classic example). If you’re among that number, then you must also assume that Stephen King condones the kidnapping and hobbling of injured authors! Is that what you really think?

So please, when you read this book, just remember it’s a work of FICTION! Whether you agree or disagree with Tom’s ideals or methods is entirely up to you, but your argument will be with a fictional character.  

Alan McDermott is author of the Tom Gray trilogy: Gray Justice, Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption. His blog is jambalian.

Friday, August 16, 2013


By Scott Morgan

Writers love pain. New York Times bestselling authors who have their books bought for movies love storytelling, but writers love pain. We use it as a way to connect with other people. We use it to humanize ourselves. We use it to motivate us.
It's understandable. Pain is a natural story generator. Creative writing, after all, is propelled by drama and conflict.
But after the ten or twelve years I've just had, I have no more use for pain. I don't know that I feel it anymore.
So is it coincidence, then, that I don't write that much anymore? Is it coincidence that the end of my pain ‒‒ and the subsequent sensation of general indifference ‒‒ coincides with my utter disinterest in trying to convince the world that I'm right?
You see, I don't want anymore. I have no real sense of desire for anything. Not in that burning, aching, I-have-a-goal sense, at least. So I have no compulsion to convince you that I'm right.
The upside is, I can't be hurt (though I'm often annoyed). The downside is, I can't be swept away. Can't fall in love. With anything.
So this makes me wonder: Is it really pain that makes us write or paint or sing so beautifully? Or is it the ability to feel pain?
I don't know. I have a theory that I'll save for the end. But first, I'd rather bore you with six things I believe about pain.
1. Pain makes us sensitive. Pain brings us together because when someone feels what has hurt us, we want them to know they're not alone. It's a noble impulse. It means we want to help, in some small way, to heal someone who suffers.
2. Pain makes us competitive and arrogant. Like everything, the pain we feel boils down to a pissing contest. We take a perverse joy in having had it worse than others and living to tell the tale. Sure, your dog died ‒‒ but my father died. When I was a reporter in 2001, I learned quickly that people who didn't live in the Northeast (I was in New Jersey) had developed a form of 9/11 envy. They didn't have a story that involved someone being there; they didn't personally know someone who was killed. And those who did have a more inside connection to that day were quick to brag how much worse it was to know what it was like first-hand.
3. Pain makes us cautious. I know. "Duh." Of course pain makes us cautious. It's supposed to. We're supposed to learn not to lick a hot stove twice, it's a survival thing. But it also makes us reticent to take new chances. Pain can make us brave in one way (like when we share our pain) and fearful in another (like when we hide, rather than go out in the world and try new adventures).
4. Pain does not make us creative. There's an old joke: A guy asks his doctor, "Hey, when this cast comes off my arm, will I be able to play piano?" The doctor says sure and the guy says, "Great, I never could before." If you can't write to begin with, you won't be able to just because you got your illusions dashed and your heart broken. If you can write, you can channel your pain into good stories, but if you can't now, you never will.
5. Pain makes you toxic. As creative writers, most of us like to believe in the movie version of pain ‒‒ the one that postulates that when we are brooding in cafés, extremely attractive and sensitive strangers will come over to us and save our souls via 80s movie montage activities and sad-but-satisfying sex in the rain. The truth is, the more in pain you are outwardly, the farther away from you people in cafés will sit. At most, one of the wait staff will tell you that you look sad. But the truth hits you soon enough ‒‒ no one wants to be around a person who's in pain. You might as well have boils on your face and a flask that says "AIDS" balanced precariously on your chin. True pain is very lonely, and no one cares.
6. Pain does not make us unique. We all like to be different. Just like everyone else. And somehow we like to think that our painful experiences make us unique. They don't. Most of us have at least a tangential relationship with horrifying things. I was once asked in an interview which word I hate the most. I said cancer. Everyone who heard me nodded and said "Oh, yeah." Your pain is only unique to you. It's pain's universality that makes it so powerful in storytelling.
Which brings me back to my theory. I don't think it's pain that makes for great stories. I think it’s hope. Love. The ability to feel the belief that things will get better or that by writing our pain, catharsis will show us the solution to our problems.
The slowing of my creative writing isn't because I feel pain. It's because I don't feel anything. Too much pain has taken my ability to feel wonder and naïveté, and love.
My point in all this? Embrace your love, not your pain. It is your wonder, your awe, your passion that fuels you. Not your pain. Even if you're writing painful things.
This post originally appeared in the blog Write Hook in May 2013.
Scott Morgan grew up in New Jersey, but we won't hold that against him. He is the author of Character Development From the Inside OutHow To Be A Whiny Beeyotch: 71 Writing Excuses Meet the Back of My Handand the collection of short stories, Stories My Evil Twin Made Up. His latest published work is the short story, Precious

A visit to his blog, Write Hook: Write for the Jugular, is well worth any writer's time. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Come on over and converserate

From RS Guthrie's blog, Rob on Writing.
I read a very interesting post yesterday (“interesting” being defined as “for anyone with enough of a geek/time combination to find a full-length blog on word meanings an enjoyable way to spend a few minutes. It’s called 10 Words That You’ve Probably Been Misusing and it was written by Tyler Vendetti. Now before I get into the meat of this blog, I want to make a few observations about the blog on which Tyler is a contributor (HelloGiggles) and about a few sundry items pertaining to said blog.
Tyler’s blog has 200,000 likes and has been tweeted 2,897 times (as of this moment). It also has about 20 pages of comments. Maybe 50. And comments on comments. And comments on pages that were linked-to in comments, referringback to Tyler’s post.
Tyler Vendetti is my new hero. That’s a lot of blog publicity. And she’s just one of the HG contributors. Plus her last name sounds like a cross between a crime syndicate and a guy bent on revenging the gruesome death of his wife and children.
blog_cartoon_300x300I must be doing something wrong with this blogging thing. Not interesting enough or too harpy or maybe it smells like bad fish. As I approach my 200th post in just over a year and a half, I am left reticent about how well-spent is my time “blogging”? If 200,000 people were bent on my opinion or almost 3,000 people wanted all their Twitter followers to check out what brilliance had just flew from my fingertips well, yeah, of course it would be worth my time and effort.
Did I mention Tyler’s just in college right now? Doesn’t matter. I blog for myself. And for those salaciously witty few who get it. The craftily obfuscated humor, I mean. My readers. All six of ya. So I’m going to do what I do best; I’m going to climb the rungs of that soap box and give it to you straight, no chaser (apologies to the great a capella group).
Here are the ten words that Tyler says we all misuse/misunderstand (I’m going back to the proper writing form of spelling numbers instead of using them—something about getting all grammarly [<~~~MY word, dammit, and I think it's a good one] makes me want to be as technically correct as possible, even though it obviously doesn’t stop me from making up my own language):
(The list below is copied from Tyler’s blog but I snipped her snappy chatter in-between numbers so that I would have space for my own snappy witticisms afterword.)
1) Travesty
What you may think it means: a tragedy, an unfortunate event
What it actually means: a mockery; a parody
2) Ironic
What you may think it means: a funny coincidence
What it actually means: contrary to what you might expect
3) Peruse
What you may think it means: to skim or glance over something
What it actually means: to review something carefully/in-depth
4) Bemused
What you may think it means: amused
What it actually means: confused
5) Compelled
What you may think it means: to willingly do something, to feel like you need to do something
What it actually means: to be forced to do something (willingly or unwillingly)
6) Nauseous
What you may think it means: to feel sick
What it actually means: to cause nausea
7) Conversate
What you may think it means: to hold a conversation
What it actually means: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING
8) Redundant
What you may think it means: repetitive
What it actually means: superfluous, able to be cut out
9) Enormity
What you may think it means: enormousness
What it actually means: extreme evil
10) Terrific
What you may think it means: awesome, fantastic
What it actually means: causing terror
true-and-interesting_50291543a9b43Okay, it made for a pretty damned interesting blog, I have to admit. Here was the comment I made (preceded by a little dictionary research of my own and never to be seen by Tyler nor anyone else because it’s literally already suffocated in the pile of comments both before and following it):
“Many of the words you chose mean exactly what you/we “thought” they meant. AND they mean what many of us didn’t know. It’s both; you’re simply using ONE of multiple usages of the word. That’s not the same thing as a word NOT meaning what you thought it did. Cute post, but you should have chosen fewer (more correct) words or written it under “Other Meanings You Did NOT Know”. Nice work with “conversate”, however. That’s one that should make all our skin crawl.
Ex. Redundant (and this is def #1): characterized by verbosity or unnecessary repetition in expressing ideas; prolix: a redundant style.
Ex. Enormity: #3: greatness of size, scope, extent, or influence; immensity
Ex. Peruse: #2: to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner”
letter_eI appreciate Tyler’s erudite blog and her ability to both entertain, entice, enamor, elongate, eradicate, electrify, ease, erase, and yes, even enrage. It really was (almost) a fun as trying to come up with so many “e” words a moment ago. Let’s face it; this is what blogs ARE. They are honeypots, hoping to garner enough attention that the writer lands successfully somewhere between “no one’s ever heard of ya, kid” and “twenty-year-old cutie slain by unusually articulate blog-stalker”.
Do we try to educate? (Another “e” word I spared you, at least until now.) Yes, of course. I wouldn’t have titled my blog the way I did if all I ever intended to do was rage against the machine. But do people ever really learn anything? As I poured through (seven) pages of comments to find my own, I perused a few dozen along the way, and I’d say the majority were pretty nasty.
Don’t FUCK wid my bidness, and don’t you MONKEY around wit my GRAMMAR.
snoring-sleeping-zz-smiley-clip-artNo, seriously, one girl called Tyler’s blog “less interesting than a wet bag of potato chips.” Although a pretty damned funny retort, that comment was completely uncalled for (do any comments actually receive a call?). It really is a great blog, but in all seriousness, I could notbelieve the pages, and pages, and pages of comments and conversates :) taking place over what I thought was a well-researched, slightly inappropriately-titled, very interesting piece.
If she reads through that plethora [<~~overused word; means just what we think it does] of comments, my guess is she’s already by now been institutionalized. No one—and I mean NO ONE—least of all a bright, joyful, ne’er say ne’er, Mary Poppinsesque college student should ever bear witness to the hideousness of a true cross-section of the World Public like that. It’s terrific. Or terrifying.
Or both, if you believe that little college dipshit’s blog.
Just kidding, Tyler.
But don’t ever fuck wid my grammar again, bitch.
The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.
R.S. Guthrie grew up in Iowa and Wyoming. He has been writing fiction, essays, short stories, and lyrics since college.

Black Beast: A Detective Bobby Mac Thriller (Volume 1) marked Guthrie's first major release and it heralded the first in the Detective Bobby Mac Thriller series. The second in the series, Lost: A Detective Bobby Mac Thriller (Volume 2) hit the Kindle shelves in December 2011.

Blood Land is the first in the James Pruett Mystery series and represents a project that is close to Guthrie's heart: it is set in a fictional town in the same Wyoming where he spent much of his childhood and still visits.

The sequel, Money Land released at the end of 2012 and Guthrie is working on the third in the series, Honor Land.

Guthrie lives in the Colorado Rockies with his wife, Amy, three young Australian Shepherds, and a Chihuahua who thinks she is a 40-pound Aussie!
Readers can catch up with what's new with the author at his official site,, discussions related to writing and other topics at his blog, Rob on Writing (, or at his showcase of authors giving back to causes at the Read A Book Make A Difference (RABMAD) website (