Queen’s Letter: Oneofthesedays

One thing is for sure: stressful times make writers write. And stressful interactions with others can make us write even more. Another word from our President and Queen…written before the Cottonwood Rodeo of last weekend. And before another case of COVID-19 was announced for Shasta County on Monday.



Miss Translation

by: Laura Hernandez


I had a little talk over the fence with my neighbor yesterday that alarmed me. You might be having similar talks with your neighbors as Chingona blows somewhere else and Shasta County starts to roam around.

My neighbor listens to alternative news and online crap fests. You should have seen the list she gave me during Snowmagedon that “Proved” the government was using the electrical wipe out to kill people on purpose, but we could resist by listening to these radio stations. That may have been when they started buying toilet paper online and having it delivered. But I didn’t ask then.

My neighbors have always worked from home with a business that is artistic and global:  they make and manufacture custom buttons for coats and jackets using everything from Czech Republic crystals to plant designs she has created. They have ovens and molds and packaging so they can ship themselves.  Don’t laugh, they pay their 15-year mortgage (the kind where you pay double payments to pay it off early) with the profits from this business and have not had a “supplemental job in 18 years. She is also a fine artist showing in galleries here and trade shows as far away as New York.

She and her husband help me with firewood and I know would give me the toilet paper off their rolls if I asked.

But here is what horrified me yesterday: She doesn’t believe, you know, an act of faith not based on anything, that THIS has all been an exaggeration and people who died in this county ALL DIED FROM SOMETHING ELSE, and the government is lying.

I told her about that 75- year old woman who infected her church after a visit with an infected person in Sacramento. She interrupted me 3 times to say that woman had and died from her heart surgery. Which is not true. I told her she was thinking of another case. She wasn’t convinced.

I told her she and I had to be careful because we have had cancer and we are old. She said we’re not old!

This also tells me she is not reading the Record Searchlight where this 75-year old’s story has been researched, contact traced and documented by a real journalist and real nurses and the real Health Department.  Not reading the paper is weird for her because she still has one of those obnoxious orange mail boxes in her driveway labeled and designated for actual delivery of said paper. Her little newspaper delivery person has even yelled at me, through my neighbors, that I was placing my trash toters too close to the box, disabling her from driving on the wrong side of the street to easily deliver the paper to my neighbor.

But this was not the most disturbing part of our conversation.

The most disturbing part was that she was not going to go to Costco on Monday as she planned because Costco was requiring customers to wear masks and masks “were bad for us” even though Fauci, she spat his name, said we should wear them when going out.

She mis-translated what Fauci said. He has talked about how masks protect the person in front of the mask wearer, not the mask wearer.  Your mask protects other people. Their masks protect you from their germs that you don’t know you have. Coughing without a mask goes some 12 feet (yeah, double Social Distancing). A cough with a mask goes about 6 inches and up, not out. Wearing a mask is Not Bad Protection, just inadequate for you. It doesn’t harm you. Unless you are wearing your mask while driving your car for prolonged drives. (Reference previous Queen’s Letter)

It’s like a game of telephone. Or when my brothers and sisters would tell my one little sister, “Don’t tell dad, don’t tell dad, don’t tell dad.” She was nervous (Dad would see that and interrogate her and she would crack, ‘cause she always cracked). She would repeat, “Don’t tell dad” so much and with such fear that she would very soon forget half of the warning. “Don’t tell dad, don’t tell dad,” Became, “Tell dad, tell dad.”  She totally mis-translated the warning. And told dad.

And as for Dr. Fauci: do not disrespect him in front of me. He is my new Pretend Boyfriend (in addition to Governor Andrew Cuomo). And by the way, I’m not the only one crushing on him. Sally Quinn based her love interest on Dr. Anthony Fauci in her thriller romance published in the 90s. She met him at a fancy dinner a long time ago and was anticipating the dinner would be a bore when she was seated next to Dr. Fauci. Boy, was she wrong! She said she was wrong, and had a fabulous dinner with a fascinating man. She has told Dr. Fauci that he was the inspiration for that fictional character in her Romance Novel, Happy Endings, and he just laughed and said thank you.

If Sally Quinn’s name is familiar to you, it should be. She was a journalist and married to Ben Bradlee the executive editor of the Washington Post from ’68-’91. She was married to him from ’78 to his death in 2014. She still writes a blog in WaPo on religion.

Like Ruth Bader Ginsberg of the Supreme Court, and Governor Cuomo, I pray for Dr. Fauci’s health every day. I wish they’d all get their own morning TV show, but I don’t get everything I pray for.

As we open up, and if Shasta County can go until May 13 without new cases, we can all leave the house, the Asshole Factor has increased.

Traffic around town is up and aggressive. People are running red lights and speeding like I haven’t seen since the last 3-day weekend.

People are also being rude in person. I got my first Rude Patriot in the law library yesterday. Since my counter and lobby can’t be locked with drop boxes like the other departments at the courthouse, I am requiring people to wear masks to come into the law library. It’s posted on my door and the Marshals are telling people that when they enter the courthouse. The courthouse is “recommending masks” for other departments.

This Rude Patriot woman breezed in with an adult man, both 30-something in age (the age group that is getting most of the infections, too), and when I leaned from my chair 6 feet away and politely told her a mask was required to come in here, she moved away from the copy machine and said, “So are you taking away my civil liberties, too?”  I said, “No one is doing that, goodbye,” to her back.

Now, I could tell you with plenty of case citations about how the government CAN tell you how to do your protests, your freedom of speech, in a time, place, and manner that doesn’t take away your civil liberties, and still gives you instructions. You can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater (remember those?) and the government says you can’t. You can’t say whatever you want, any time you want, where ever you want. I could give you more examples of that but my critique group gets enough of those, and I’m also guessing you’ve opted out of going to law school, so you don’t need more examples.

Suffice it to say that you don’t have a Constitutional Right to make copies in the law library and wearing a mask isn’t depriving you of anything except the right to smudge your lipstick.

The government, the state governor, by the authority of the 10th Amendment Police Powers can tell you to stay the ‘eff at home, and wear a damn mask when you go out. So far, Governor Newsome has said masks are required in some counties, mostly in the Bay Area and So. Cal and that County governments can require them as needed. So far, ours has not required it.

Does that mean you should try and get away with it? How about not. How about lowering the Asshole Quotient, saving a nurse, and wearing your damn mask?

“Opening up this county” just means our county has decided a we have enough hospital beds in the event of a sudden outbreak of this virus and can treat your acute respiratory problems in our ICUs and have a clean respirator and a tube they can shove down your closing throat with your name on it; based on the guessing models and the math the Health Department has been using this whole time.

Hospital beds, tubes. Not eradication of the virus.

And if Other People are trying to up the Asshole Quotient by driving to our area to recreate, ‘cause they are bored and really, really want to, we will get their stealth virus. They will go to the lake (not likely to let the virus linger and pass around unless grouping on the shores), then go to the store and the gas station near you. Yeah, they’re not wearing masks.


What are you writing during our covid-19 stay-at-home? Share it with us! Please!

Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.

Queen’s Letter: Notevengonnatrytolookupwhatdayitis

writers forum president

This week’s Letter from the Queen highlights some important issues we have to deal with today. Laura’s piece on contact testing and continued social distancing should go viral. It’s that important. And then Laura gives us another great writing aid.



Contact Tracing

I’ve done this.  When I was in graduate school for Medical (Urban) Anthropology, I manned and ran the Hotline at the university health clinic in the eastern San Fernando Valley.

It wasn’t the flu we were tracing. It was venereal disease. Girls would call; it was mostly girls calling.  They would call and describe symptoms we were trained to ask about, and we’d make appointments at the clinic for confirmation testing. The reason there were more girls calling than men is because most of the time, females have symptoms they notice. Their male partners did not have symptoms. But they were carriers. The men didn’t know they were carriers. Yet.

That’s where contact tracing found them. In the appointments at the clinic, girls were encouraged to make a list to take home, of the sexual partners they had in say 6-8 weeks previous to the onset of symptoms.  It was up to the infected girls to contact their previous partners and encourage those partners to come to the clinic (or an anywhere clinic), for testing and treatment.  There was blaming, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.

I encouraged the girls to paint a grim picture, with colorful language, for the important phone call they would have to make to each partner (former and current, cute or ugly). She, in turn, was encouraged to use colorful language to encourage the partner to come clean and get clean before he made any further contacts.  Once the male partner(s) came into the clinic, same dosey-doe. Each contact was traced by each person who came for treatment. The clinic didn’t contact the contacts on the list.

Unless a person told us that a contact refused treatment and made some kind of threat that they would intentionally continue untreated contact with the community. That didn’t happen in our clinic. But we heard about a guy who did that at another university. Cops were involved as a Public Health Emergency. For that one guy.

Contact tracing for Chingona Virus is coming. It’s already here. That’s how we heard about that Redding woman who just had to go to Sacramento to visit a sick person and brought the Chingona back with her to her son, to her church.  She was asked, after she was sick, who the hell she had contact with. She told health care workers before she died. The health care workers did this tracing and contacted those people she contacted because she was too sick to make the phone calls.

Staying the eff at home makes contact tracing much easier.  One way you can make this easier to do for yourself is to keep your receipts from the grocery store and the drug store for 3 weeks at a time in a prominent place. They are date and time stamped, so you don’t have to remember when asked, and health care workers can find these in case you are too freaked out when asked after you get sick or someone you know is now sick and you had to visit them and are now busted. And, of course, these are the only places you should be going for a while, so that’s not a lot of receipts to keep, is it? Don’t rend or gnash, just keep your receipts.

As of today (it’s the latest, trust me) Age 18-49: 26,956 cases,

Age 50-64:14,078 cases

Age 65+: 12,098 cases

in California. What the hell does this mean? It means that Californians who are 18-49 are getting sick far more often than older people. My guess is that they are also more likely to not be staying the eff at home. And also more likely to get in their cars to go somewhere else for recreation because, you know, they are bored.  And it’s not that they are going on a hike in the wide, open spaces and not contacting other people. They go to the gas station to prepare for driving Somewhere Else. They buy snacks at the gas station or one of our little markets. Contact. If your nephew, or grandson or sons and daughters are doing this, don’t yell at them, just back away. Tell them to just wave from where they are. Save a nurse.

Things are opening up, but not all the way and we are still vulnerable to spreading this and getting this. Wear an effing mask.  Not while you’re driving. Didn’t you read about that woman who was driving around with her mask on and hit a tree because she passed out at the wheel? The mask is hard to breathe through. I saw 3 people driving around downtown Redding yesterday, wearing masks while driving.  Don’t do that.  It’s going to start getting warm outside and that makes breathing more difficult, too. Limit wearing your mask to when you get out of the car to get groceries.  And you can’t put on your lipstick before your mask.  Found out the hard way. A cloth sleeping mask, turned upside down with the “nose part” flipped up, can make a pretty good mask with something you may already have around the house. Don’t try and order N-95 ones yet as our health care professionals still need them more than you do.


I know you’re bored and freaked out. I’m one of those. I’ve been trying to write and have been reading about writing, which is the same thing (it is, it is, it is!).

The funnest book in My Pile right now is Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need, by Jessica Brody. This book has a predecessor for screenwriters and this book builds on that one for helping us write something as riveting as a great movie.  She’s written (and sold) some 15 bestsellers (YA mostly), so she does know a couple things.

This book helps you write a Beat Sheet for your plot points to fill out the Three Act Structure. It’s good for planning something you haven’t done yet, but it’s also great for fixing up what you’ve already written! Jessica (I can call her by her first name because I have contacted her online and now we are Pretend Friends!), shows examples of what she’s writing about in popular movies so you can get the visual.

And there’s more! Udemyyes, I spelled that right…is an online teaching place that offers Jessica’s “Write a Best Selling Novel in 15 Steps” course!  It’s offered on sale for $9.99 most of the time (wait for a sale, not the $50 price), and once you buy it, you have it online forever. It’s a lot like the book, but not exactly, but it’s very good to use and play along.  You can go back anytime and re-view one of more of the almost one-hour class. Go to www.udemy.com to sign up, create an account and pay online. There are 100s of classes to take, not all of them by Jessica.

I bought her book, marked it up and use it, but I also bought the course from Udemy because sometimes you need a puppet show.

Jessica’s course on novel writing is presented in little blocks of something like 5-10 minutes each with examples, charts, short outlines, and clear explanations from her little face of what the hell she’s talking about. You can stop and start and repeat in the middle of each lesson and go back and forth as you need. She shows how popular and classic novels used what she’s talking about (because they all have these beats!), and of course, how popular movies show her concepts. AND this gives you a movie and book list to learn from and get back into right now because you need more to watch now!

She explains things like Theme, the Catalyst, the Debate, and the B-story (which is NOT the sub-plot but is the main character’s emotional development throughout your novel, her reason for and resistance to the change she needs to make to survive her story).

You’ll learn exactly how to improve your Fun & Games, Midpoint, Bad Guys Close in, All is Lost, and the Dark Night of the Soul. And yeah, you need to improve all that to write and sell your best-selling novel. The Finale Beat and Final Image spots are the necessary ending parts that will make you sure you have given the reader what she needs to love your novel and look forward to your next one.

There’s a “writer’s room” at the end of each “chapter” or “beat” where she shows you what she’s working on that illustrates what she just said, and shows you how writers plan in person, in real time, and how we can help each other “spit-ball” ideas in the comfort of your living room in the Time of Chingona Virus!  See how that all came together?!

Learn something new online, you know, Distance Learning. Continue to stay the eff at home. And just be glad it’s not the University Health Clinic contact tracing you.

Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.

Queen’s Letter Chingona Virus Iforgetwhattodayis Edition

writers forum president

In which The Queen shares her adventures of finding supplies in the days of Chingona Virus, and offers us some writing tips based upon current publisher advice.

Yup, still going to work every day, still trying to figure out optimum time to score toilet paper and other supplies to minimize risk of death, disease and infection.

People are still panic-buying all kinds of stuff.  My market is completely out of Vitamin C.  Any brand, any size, gone.  Now look, keeping healthy is fine, even recommended during a pandemic. But hording Vitamin C to make sure you will always have enough is ridiculous and selfish. And really, this virus doesn’t respond to Vitamin C like a prevention or a cure. And if you take it on an empty stomach, or as a food substitute, you are in for some serious gastric discomfort that might scare you into a hospital visit, which will do you much more harm than good right now.

So, because Some People have taken all the Vitamin C pills, I’ve been reduced to buying and consuming Gummy Vitamin Cs like I’m a kindergartener.  Thanks.

And I tried ordering my favorite wine online (because I’m out, naturally), from every site I could think of without success. I even went to the vineyard itself.  They won’t deliver to my house unless I join the Wine Club.  That’s where they “hand select” some 6 bottles of Random Wine, and send them every 3 months.  What do I do after week one of Wine Club? Wait panting by the door for a month and a half?  Do I have to go to the Dark Web for wine?  This is bullshit.

 And now we are on to Killing Time and Taking Care.  With our homes.  For me, it’s Weed Time, or as I’m now calling it: The Next Plague.  I made the mistake of going to Home Depot last week for my favorite herbicide (it lasts for a year!). I’d ordered a week before (because this is how long things take to arrive anywhere because people are Online Ordering All the Things). I didn’t go on a Saturday, ‘cause that’s just suicidal in the best of times.  Which this is not. I did what I have done before and ordered and paid online to pick up at the store when it arrived, thinking this was the least risky to me and others.  Miscalculation.  When I’ve ordered this way before to be delivered at the store, there was a “locker” system where you go to a special designated line and cashier to get a numerical combo to access the bank of lockers near the entrance and you can then run off with your pre-purchase.

This time was different.  A masked man at the entrance told me to go to the Young Girl Under the Tree and she would take my printed receipt and run into the store to get it for me!  He was wrong.  Unless you had selected “curb-side” delivery at purchase-point online you (me) would be out of luck.  By the time I was corrected, the line to enter the store was 20 people long, and not spaced out in Social Distancing. The store was/is limiting the number of people inside the store at one time. Goody.  And smart on the one hand. But on the other hand (and two feet), it’s not.  As I stood apart from the guy in front of me, the asshole behind me grumbled that I was doing that.  When I got to the door, after another 10 minutes, the masked man questioned me again and I had to tell him that he shouldn’t tell people to go to the Girl Under the Tree unless they had pre-selected that curb-side option.  I was then allowed to enter and stopped 2 feet inside the door to the Pick Up section.  Where the 4 of us standing there on different colored, spaced out arrows on the floor, were made to wait about 20 more minutes, while Everyone who entered the door passed by us, and breathed on us.  Even the guy who brought his toddler (you know those small people who touch everything and then put their fingers in their mouths?) and promptly let go of her hand once they got inside the door, letting her free-range the aisles, ‘cause everyplace is a playground!

The counter woman was nice, speaking behind a new, spit-guard window mounted crooked in front of her cash register.  I got my Weed Killer, thanked her and was able to exit through the garden, which was effing packed with people buying effing flowers, like we’re all on Vacation and Home Improvement.  Even though I had my receipt out, no bag, one item, I was still stopped by a masked employee and questioned for a several seconds while people in the jammed check-out lines on two sides, breathed on me.

This was all bad enough, and some free-for-nothing advise: No one who is older and/or has underlying health issues (and you know who you are), should be going to Costco or Walmart during the time of Chingona Virus.  There are too many people going there for you to be safe.  People are driving from all over the valley, then standing in line outside for a couple hours waiting to get in, and you are not even getting a sample-snack-on-a-stick these days while you wait. Yeah, it’s cheaper in those places, but really, saving a few bucks for a year’s supply of anything is not saving you the risk of Chingona right now.

I will now order online from Home Depot (because I do need more weed killer and pond cleaner, sludge eradicator) and use the “Deliver to your home for free when you order $45 or more,” option. Until at least June.

 And I keep writing.  Reading about writing is also writing and brought me to a favorite book:  Writing with Emotion, Tension & Conflict by Cheryl St. John.  It goes on the tract of showing not telling and letting your readers fill in the emotion without you pointing it out to them. ‘Cause they hate that. 

This also dovetails with something shocking that I heard and read from several editors recently: don’t do that sequel thing anymore where you have your protagonist mull over or put together what just happened in the scene before. The protagonist uses this mulling over to plan out new or next action.  It’s “outdated.” Yeah, I know.  It’s been the format of most mysteries and thrillers Forever.  But we are being cautioned that modern readers don’t want to put up with that anymore.  So says Donald Maas in Writing the Breakout Novel.  And he knows everything.

Instead, deepen dilemmas and increase tension with interior monologues, that don’t plan the next move.  Show the conflicts of spirit. Use exposition to do this. Use the mixed feelings sparingly. But use them. She is bigger than her circumstances and you will show that throughout your story. But don’t follow your girl throughout the day.  Her day is not that interesting, especially while she’s thinking about shit, rehashing what just happened, what we already know and just saw. This lowers the tension, and you don’t want to do that, no matter what kind of story you are writing. The space between confrontations and other high moments should not be a low swampland of remembrance and wallowing.

Show the inner conflicts through incidents, anecdotes or news that are more complex. Add depths and layers showing her/our human frailties, and fears.  This bonds your readers to your characters. You sustain that interest through constant development and escalation of your girl and her emotional problems.

Do more like John Grisham: hold back on revealing too much of your protagonist until later in your novel. Disguise motives. Hold back information.  It doesn’t Set You Up, it just makes your story fall down.

It helps if your inherent story has tension already, you know like presenting a dead body.

Motives shouldn’t be obvious especially at the beginning. Maybe the circumstances are not even appealing. Drop hints that your girl is not all the way bad. Or good. Somebody loves her. Somebody doesn’t. Make your prose plain enough, but direct.  Don’t spend so much time setting the scene. Each character has a purpose, that’s the scene. Don’t reveal where the money is between the characters.  Let that secret marinate. Unfolding secrets and this rising conflict will dictate the scene order. This ratchets up the tension on a whole-book macro level in a micro page. And isn’t that what you want to do?

 Keep writing and re-writing. Take a break. Walk around the house.  Make a list of shit that needs to be done.  And a list of scenes that need to be written. Take a drink of something.  And for an update on my personal needs met: I found a new favorite wine at the smaller grocery store!  It comes in a can.  Yeah, it’s come to that.  It’s from the same vineyard Beringer Main & Vine as my fav, and it’s a white wine spritzer!  It has white wine, spritz, Blood Orange (not just some navel or something), and MANGO! And it comes in a little four-pack so you don’t look like some sad, lonely drinker but like a Party Person!  I have what I need for now.

Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog. Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.

Queen’s Letter 4: More Inspiration to Stay the Eff Home

writers forum president

We have another letter form the Queen! Today Laura shares some tricks and tools for making your social distancing fruitful for your writing projects. She references Amazon books, and I have inserted links in the titles to make them easy for you to find at Amazon. Just click on the title, and you are there! I will also have a few comments on the Amazon maze after her letter to you.

Okay, let’s try and get some work done!

First of all: what the hell are you wearing?  I don’t mean your pants.  I don’t care if you are wearing pants or not.  I mean I care/not care.  What I’m talking about is what are you wearing on your feet?

Shuffling around in your bedroom slippers at home makes you feel sloppy, unproductive, and frankly: sick.

If you are worried about bringing germs in the house with your regular shoes, wipe the bottoms of your shoes with one of those precious bleach-y wipes you’ve been hording for other reasons.

Pants/no pants, put your socks and shoes on! Doing that will literally give you the support you need to get some shit done. Writing, too. It will also facilitate Hokey Pokey-ing around the yard during your 10-minute breaks after 45 minutes of writing/planning to write.  Yup, that’s the schedule (see what I did there?).

Here’s a plan for getting some shit done:  If you have a manuscript started, re-read the whole thing.  Now.  Really, this will get your head right back where it needs to be and is more productive that looking at the blank page and nodding your head to the bouncing curser, waiting for inspiration.  It really helped me get revved up this week!

After doing that or if you haven’t started a manuscript, read something teachable and learnable.

Over the past few months, I’ve told you about some of my favorite Pretend Boyfriends who don’t know I exist, and have written some great writing books. Since you forgot, I’ve made a list for you. Each book is a sentence. Because I think that makes it more dramatic, not because I think it’s grammatically correct.  It’s a list in no particular order of importance or romantic fantasy. And very little commentary. (Not “no commentary,” ‘cause, have you met me?!)  Here ya go:

Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton (He wrote some of this from prison, but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t learned something about getting hooked. And caught). The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (Helps you get noticed by an agent!). The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke (Just helps). The Elements of Storytelling by Peter Rubie.  Story Tumps Structure by Steven James (okay he’s my favorite.). Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James (see?). Secrets of Story by Matt Bird (he’s probably really cute!). The Last 50 Pages by James Scott Bell (This will change your life!  You can troubleshoot what you’ve already written to get the best ending ever. Not a “happy ending” but that’s a whole ‘nuther kind of thing. But really this is sooo good and you can read and understand it in one afternoon! He usta be a lawyer so he can, arguably, convince you to make your writing better so you can not just drive, but Arrive!).  The Art of Subtext Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter (You’ll have to re-read this a few times!).  Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer (which will make you laugh out loud a great many times!).

The above use literary and cinematic references to give you concrete examples of what the hell they are talking about.

Now for the girls!  These female authors are contemporary and also give concrete examples for you to cruise and use.

Make a Scene by Jordan Rosenfeld (and I like the title for something to rebel against!). Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It) by Janice Hardy (teaching you how to find and fix shit in your writing). 90 days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet.  It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences by June Casagrande (I also like this one because it’s a riff on one of my family’s favorite phrases!). The Scene Book, a Primer for the Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield (who proves that every scene has a pulse!).  Story Genius by Lisa Cron (Planning from idea to wired brain writer). Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody (Changes the way you think about story!). Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide For Novels and Novellas by Karen Wiesner.  Writing With Emotion, Tension, & Conflict by Cheryl St. John. AND DYI MFA by Gabriela Pereira (It’s more than a How To book, it gives a plan like a fun kind of classroom, and you can sign up for e-mail letters to keep you going!).

And how do you get these beauties now, in the Time of Chingona Virus?  Amazon! If you sign up for Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping on books and a whole bunch of new tv and movies things to watch (on your Roku or Smart Thing). A year-long subscription is $106 and now there is a monthly payment option instead of a big ol’ one-time payment.  All online! I like to have these kinds of craft books in paperback so I can (gasp!) mark them up!  These are the kind of books you want to go back to time and again and, as your skill progresses, you will need different chapters that speak to your changing needs.  It’s like learning a new language. When you have mastered some basics, you suddenly hear “new” things because you know more things, now.

Yeah, I know: Big Biz, Independent Bookstores, blah, blah, blah. But this is the time of Chingona Virus and you need to stay the eff home AND get shit done. When it’s safe to go to the Indy stores, we will. But that’s not now, so don’t think your patriotic duty is anything other than staying the eff home.

There is also Amazon’s Kindle to get these books to you right away.  There is a “note taking” function on the Kindle but I think it’s hard to use. So you can take notes like, on paper and stuff. Kindle magically gets your books to you immediately after purchase and opens them on your device when you are near wifi, and is usually cheaper by a few dollars to buy this electronic way than paper books. You will have these books forever on your Kindle.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you might want to get one online now! It’s about $50, on sale at different times. It’s as big as the old kind of paperback novel and weighs just a couple ounces. Get the little “stand” ($12) with it and you can read hands free! You will also get lots of new tv and movie things to watch on your Kindle Fire if you purchase Amazon Prime! Makes tv portable, and you can carry hundreds of books on it, too! There is a “help” telephone/online number to help you set it up (Honestly, it’s very easy, takes seconds, and much easier than setting up a computer!).

Of course, you can get Amazon Prime on your PC, too and read/watch your stuff there. It’s a much bigger screen than a Kindle, but you might be at the mercy of a cord or a laptop battery.

Which ever way you get to these books, get to them! You need to jump-start your writing again, and try to not obsess over, well, all this. And stay the eff home!

Laura referenced Amazon for purchasing your books while we cannot hit the brick-and-mortar stores that might be our favorite indy establishment. I wanted to let you know one thing to be aware of while shopping at Amazon: you easily have the ability to purchase books in multiple formats. The links above all go to the Kindle versions. You also have the option of purchasing softcover, hardcover, and all sorts of editions of the books. You can even purchase them from ‘independent sellers’ through Amazon.

You need to stay aware of exactly which version/edition you are purchasing, and be sure you look at all of your options. When I looked up Laura’s first book, the page I landed on listed the Kindle, softcover, and hardcover version. The Kindle version was $13.99, the softcover version was listed at $54.89, and the hardcover at $112.70. I went to the Kindle version for the link to provide in this post, and I saw that the softcover version here was listed at $23.99, and the hardcover for $25.00. Sometimes the links go to off-site non-Amazon sellers who are selling through Amazon. I don’t think Amazon was trying to rip anybody off, but you do need to look around at exactly what you are purchasing.

One of the books Laura mentioned was DIY MFA. I have mentioned that book on this blog before. It’s not just a book; it’s a program that you can use as little or as much of as you want. In addition to the book, which is a great one in its own right, you can follow the blog, podcasts, and many videos for free. There are also class options and different levels of engaging with DIY MFA that cost money. Look for another blog post on the DIY MFA program soon.



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Queens Letter: Easter ‘Effing Letter Edition

Writers Forum President and Queen Laura Hernandez has more thoughts to share with us on quarantine this Easter weekend.

If you are using this time to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and would like to share your work with the public at large, we would be glad to help you do that. Submission guidelines are below Laura’s piece.

Worst. Lent. Ever.

Except for the first one.  Obviously.

We are usually going to church this week. Passover Seder with family is out. Protestants and the lazy kind of Catholic most of us have become can’t go to Mass this Sunday. We better effing not.

On Good Friday, I usually go to church (no mass, ‘cause, Sad Day), to do the Stations of the Cross. We Catholics have prayers at each horrific scene depicted on a plaque, said all together, directed and prompted by the priest. We move together, say the prayers together, remember the history as we know it together. The most famous political prisoner’s death, attended by more people now than were there at the time a couple thousand years ago. It is not a celebration. It is a day to mourn, but we do it in a group.

Not today.

You might know that I grew up Catholic but it was a very rebellious kind of Catholicism. We didn’t attend a traditional parish. My three sisters and two brothers grew up down the street from a college seminary where young men studied to be priests. And they broke the rules toward Social Justice before it was cool. They lived there during most of the year and took their own bus to Loyola University in L.A. That’s who we went to mass with. The caretaker’s family of ten kids, who we also went to school with, went to mass with us too, so there were other civilians. But mostly it was the seminarians.  They were our catechism teachers in classes they created just for my siblings and me, filled with research we did at the public library in another town. Our altar was turned to face the congregation, which was not done for years in civilian churches. They played their own music, protest songs too, and sang like the award-winning choir they were. (I saw the trophies in the rec room!) We were welcomed here since I was 6 and the Head of Students went jogging down my dirt road and saw my mom on the big front lawn with a baby, twin toddlers and two kindergarten-age girls. A good assumption we were Catholic.

We usually sat at the back of the room at Mass, trying not to stick out.

But at Easter Mass, there were guests. The juvenile residential detention camp, David Gonzales, would send a busload of some three dozen older teenage guys sentenced for crimes, to us. They were obviously Catholic, knew all the prayers, and when to stand and sit and kneel. They sat together at the back of the beautiful but Spartan chapel mostly holding their hands in front of them, unchained, clean in their Chambray shirts and baggy jeans and black combat boots.  Respectful and quiet.

Except for the first time I saw them do a sneaky thing. My brother, the baby in his bucket, my sisters me and my mom (dad was a no-name Protestant, so not with us to Mass), sat together at the back on the other side of the center aisle from the Camp Boys. So we could see that they were doing something. One guy would shift his shoulders, left to right and after a second, the guy next to him would do it too. This movement went in a horizontal line as they stood next to each other. Mass by the early 1960s had a lot of standing, so we could watch as the movement went down the row of Camp Boys until it got to the guy at the end of the pew and had to turn. Then I could see they had been passing a bag of jelly beans to each other, taking a handful without making too much of a move, then passing the bag to the next guy with only a shift of their shoulders. Smooth Skills that probably got them to the Camp in the first place. The first time I saw this, I think I had my mouth open because the guy at the end of the row saw me and looked a little panic-y. I would never rat out a guy for jelly beans in church. But he didn’t know that. I didn’t even want my mom to see, a practiced response. I quickly smiled at him. And he winked. It was all good. But it was a secret.

We knew that the Camp Boys were already in trouble, we knew what Camp David Gonzales was. Sometimes as we drove past the entrance gate to the camp on the way to the beach, my mom would tell my little brother that he better behave, or…

We also knew that the Boys were given this privilege to be out in public, to be at Mass, and any shenanigans would revoke the privilege. Maybe for everyone for all time.

These boys and the adult offender Camp Miller men, two miles from David Gonzales, were also trained to work the fire line which was not a theoretical skill in rural Calabasas. These guys could save our lives our house, our horses, our neighbors, every fall when the Santa Anas blew in to try and kill us. I would not rat them out for eating jelly beans in Mass.

And I never did. The Camp Boys made a jelly bean pass every Easter Mass, even though there were different guys year after year. They knew how to keep a secret, too. By the next year my Favorite sister, Patty, noticed it too and we smiled at each other when she whipped her head to me in recognition the first time she got it. When my twin sisters noticed it a couple years later, they could hardly keep it to themselves. They giggled right in Mass. They were not cool. I think threats were made. I think I made them but I’m not sure.

In the following years, Easter Mass was moved to dawn, outside by the little man-made lake on the Seminary grounds. And still there was a jelly bean pass-around. Still surreptitious, still we kept secret between my family and their group.

Of course I want to go to Mass this Sunday with jelly beans in my pocket. But I can’t. You can’t either. And just in case you want to risk it, because, well you’ve been good for a couple weeks, and it’s Easter and shit.

I would like to remind you of just how Church hurt our Redding community a couple of weeks ago.

A 75 year-old woman drove to visit a friend she knew was sick in the hospital in Sacramento in the middle of March. She knew that person was sick and she knew, because it was on the news, that there were reports of Covid-19 cases in Sacramento. She knew this was a California hotspot, like the Bay Area was reported to be. Chingona virus was there. She just had to see and visit.

I don’t know why she was allowed in to see her friend in the hospital. Maybe that person was in the hospital for Something Else. But that person also had the Chingona. And that’s where she got it. But she had no symptoms. So, she went to see her adult son who lives in Redding upon her return from that Sacramento hospital. My guess is that she also went to the store. Or to get coffee. What I do know for sure, because it was in the Searchlight, is that she next went to a big event, widely attended, at her First Assembly Church on Airport Road at the end of March. She didn’t have symptoms then either.

When she did develop symptoms later, so did a few other people at her church. She died. Two other people from that church event did, too.  Now maybe they had hand sanitizer at the church that day. Like that choir group in Washington State who held practice toward the end of March at one of their homes. They thought that Not Hugging and using glops of hand sanitizer would protect them, because they really wanted to comfort each other from the news of the day. Seattle, a hot spot, was 30 miles away, so what were the chances, right? Pretty great, it turned out. Forty of 60 people were infected after that 2-hour practice. Two have died.  Breathing, singing, it turns out, was deadly.

What this means, in the Time of Chingona Virus is that now: church is not your sanctuary. Staying home, eating all the Easter candy is.

Think I don’t want to be at Mass, with jelly beans?  We just can’t yet.

Dr. Karen Ramstrom of the Shasta County Health Department said Wednesday, that we here in this county may have to stay the eff home longer than the rest of the state. Get that: longer than all the people in L.A., we will be grounded. Why? Because people are not staying the eff home. Testing here doubled this week. That means that people who were showing symptoms got tested. A Redding Costco employee is now under quarantine, although that person hasn’t been to work since the end of March, so if you went to buy all the toilet paper since then, you probably didn’t get it from her.

We aren’t done yet. Stay the eff home. You have plenty of toilet paper. I’ll get my own jelly beans. I’m eating all the cookies, too.

Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events.