You Can’t Scare Me, by Dave Smith

 

You Can’t Scare Me

by Dave Smith

My most memorable childhood epiphany was this: a good number of kids’ songs, nursery rhymes and the like were designed to scare the bejesus out of five-year-olds. That’s right, they’re not bedtime stories, they’re scary movies.

Don’t believe it? Then sing along with me: “Don’t go down in the woods today; if you do don’t go alone … ” yeah, see what I mean? Teddy bears picnic my ass. That ditty’s purpose is to make little boys paranoid about the forest so they won’t wander into it.

How about Jack and Jill? Don’t climb up there; you’ll hurt yourself.

Miss Muffet? Spider anyone?

Recently I ascertained another undeniable truth: Famous authors use their notoriety to offer mortifying advice to novices (like me), which is fabricated to discourage neophytes (like me) from writing. Why? Basic economics—it eliminates the competition. And just like the sneaks who prey on kiddies’ fears, they make it sound wholesome.

Not convinced? Let me provide some examples.

“Should take no more than three months.” Stephen King on how long it takes to write a book. Way to crush my resolve, Steve. That’s like running a race against a cheetah. In the desert. Over rocks. Barefoot.

“The first draft of anything is shit.” Why don’t you give me some of your shit, Ernie, so I can revise it and sell it. E. Hemingway with D. Smith—hmmm, nice ring, but sounds fishy. He just didn’t want anyone to write anything.

“I leave out the parts that people skip.” I do that too, Elmore. So far I have 27 words down which I’m pretty sure someone will read and not skip. In King time, I should have four, maybe five, paragraphs completed in the allotted three months.

“Murder your darlings.” That advice was actually meant for a friend who was writing a murder mystery. Over the years it has morphed into boogeyman talk to gin up paranoia, and to get the competition to leave out good parts so their stories will suck.

“Write something every day.”  And if I don’t? Wait, don’t tell me … I’ll never be a success at anything. And because I know there’ll come a day—maybe tomorrow—when I’ll break some part of my writing arm, wrist, hand, finger, pencil, it’s best to not even start.

“Write what you know.” Actually that’s how a lot of ax murderers who write books get caught. I think it’s because at the police academy officers are taught to read. For sure there are no successful ignorami.

Armed with this revelatory knowledge I now pay no attention to successful authors or believe anything I read in self-help books, and I feel much better. My blood pressure is lower, the urge to throw things has lessened, and my constipation has resolved itself. And because there are no rules, my creativity is soaring, my first drafts are award-winning, I retain all my darlings (even the unreadable ones), and if I want to take a day off—or three months off—I do.

I’m also gathering up my courage to go into the woods on teddy bear picnic day.

But I’m bringing my gun.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the e-newsletter.

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. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.

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Why Does He Do That, by Dave Smith

Today we present to you another Dave Smith piece. (BTW, Dave…most of the people I hear from don’t think you write drivel. Just thought that needed to be said.)

Version 3

Why Does He Do That?

by Dave Smith

Why does he write that drivel for the Forum? His pencils should be put back in the box.

Are you talking to me?

Let me tell you why.

First reason: The Pandemic. Yes, it has driven me insane, over the top, cuckoo. nuts, bonkers. I am now unable to provide even one correct answer to a Rorschach Test. In the beginning my wife and I were just fine, able to put up with staying home and eating out of the freezer. We prayed for the vaccine, and when it came we ran yelling and flailing to the front of the line.

Unfortunately many of our friends did not. Used-to-be friends I should say. For a bunch of fake reasons, they decided that not trusting science was better than being alive. Better than me being alive. Fine.

Then came the variant, probably only the first of many. And the resurgence of infections. Thank you old friends.

Back to the freezer.

And to my pencil.

Second reason: Procrastination. If I write weird shit like this, I don’t have to address my real problem, which is editing my latest novel.

What? You haven’t read any of my previously-published novels? That’s because there aren’t any. I just told you—I procrastinate, and I do it very well. By writing drivel. Which by the way you are still reading. Have a procrastination problem, do you?

Third reason: Pain. The same people who made me take the Rorschach Test told me there is a fine line between pain and pleasure. Writing is a pleasure, until it’s not, then it’s a pain. I don’t know where that line is…yet. Someday maybe. I like what I write, so I put it out there, knowing you will enjoy it, too. Wrong. You call it drivel. Fine.

Fourth reason: Pity. (Say, are any of you awake enough to realize I just used P to begin all of my reasons? … thought so.)

Pity for our dungeon master George Parker, who cried into his computer a few months ago begging for articles to put on the website or in the newsletter.

I’m here for you, Buddy. I can turn anything that crosses my desk or my mind into an article to help you out. You understand me, right?

… Right, Geo?

… Geo??


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the e-newsletter.

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. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.

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You Really Mean That, by Dave Smith

Today we present to you another Dave Smith piece.

Dave Smith 1

Soul. Some words have one.

Most people call it connotation, but I like soul; sounds more … intriguing.

Lately I’ve become obsessed you might say (or you might not say) with word souls. It’s all because of a how-to book that crossed my path recently. The author admonished me about using certain words too often, and presented a list of vexatious words which, if over-used, would turn my writing into dung.

One word on her/his list was look.

Okay, got it; I don’t want my writing to be boring, so finding alternatives is always good (except for the word said, which apparently has escaped the most-wanted list.) Said somehow disappears off the page and out of the mind, so a writer can use it with abandon, knowing with certainty it won’t bore the reader. I know that because that’s what they say in those how-to books.

Not so look. It apparently doesn’t disappear.

And yet that word has so many uses.

Look, according to that author, should be replaced as often as possible, because it’s not appropriate to disturb the writing rules. That’s the law. And the word does have numerous alternatives. See for yourself—look it up in your dictionary and your thesaurus. Oh, dang, I mean observe it in your dictionary and thesaurus—or do I?

See? Your mind hesitated on the word observe, didn’t it? Why?

It’s all about soul, my friends. Replacing words to satisfy the rules should be done with caution, me thinks.

Imagine my surprise shock when I read a section of a novel by this author—who is making money trying to improve my writing—in which she/he wrote, “The detective walked out of the building and his gaze shifted to the far end of the street.” Or something like that. The author certainly walks the walk. Technically correct? Yup. Many readers might not even hiccup at it.

Me, I came to a full stop, because like I told you, I’m obsessed. According to Dave, the soul of gaze is wistfulness, longing, mental numbness, and time. One gazes at the stars, or a Thomas Kinkade painting, or an unanswerable question on the DMV driving test. A detective does not walk out of a building and gaze down the street; a detective walks out of a building and looks down the street. He could stare (gaze, if you have to use the word) once he saw something of interest.

I always look for (darn it, I said it again) alternatives when writing, of course, but I believe it is my authorial duty to consider the soul of my replacement, because I mustn’t annoy the astute reader (you), who understands that sweet-sounding yet appropriate French word nuance.

And please, never gaze at me. (Unless you mean it.)


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the e-newsletter.

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. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.

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Me and Stephen King, by Dave Smith

Today we present to you brush-with-fame memories from Writers Forum member Dave Smith

Pre Orono

Stephen King was born in 1947. I was born in 1947.

He arrived in Portland Maine, and I was off just a few miles, landing at eleven minutes past eleven in Brattleboro, Vermont. I’m not sure what his arrival time was but if you ask him he could most likely tell you; he’s good at those details.

We both grew up in New England. To those of you who didn’t, you wouldn’t understand what that means to a person’s mental awareness. Let’s just say it has something to do with Puritanical tendencies. Being a down-easter (that’s someone from Maine) he had a larger dose than I.

Orono

The main campus of the University of Maine is in Orono, a town not far from Bangor, and it sets on the bank of the Stillwater River. Even though we were born the same year, Steve graduated from high school in 1966, a year after me. He blamed it on having to repeat first grade. Really Steve? Who repeats first grade? He said it was because he was sick. I think it may have been the mental awareness thing, a down-east problem.

I was accepted at the University of Maine in the fall of 1965. They made a big mistake because I was not ready for college life. At least the study part. Beer was more to my liking. Steve was a better student. Probably because he spent an extra year in first grade.

In the fall of 1966 (my third semester) Steve began his studies at Orono. Here’s the important part: Our paths most likely crossed at some point, maybe two or seven points. I spent time in the library; so did Steve. I spent time in the Memorial Union; he most likely did too. I walked across the quad; can’t imagine he didn’t. Maybe he went to a football game and we sat next to each other in the stands. And for sure he knew about Pat’s Pizza, the local downtown joint for pizza, of course…and beer. We would both have been underage but that didn’t usually matter in New England: Everybody drank beer—Schlitz usually.

I wish I had recognized him because we might have been friends, although he majored in English or something like that, and I was in Wildlife Management. And he was a better student. The extra year thing.

The beer didn’t help my grades, and at the end of the fall semester, the University asked me to take some time off to mature. Steve never said goodby when I left Orono. Maybe he didn’t care.

Maturing was too hard, so I joined the Navy, and for the next four years I visited foreign ports. And drank a lot of foreign beer.

Fast forward four years. Mature or not I got married while I was in the Navy. Not wanting to be a lifer (military talk) I wrote a letter and begged the University of Maine to take me back and promised I would be good. For some fool reason they accepted my offer, and Chris and I left sunny California and set out for Orono, arriving in the fall of 1971. Steve, the good student, graduated just before I returned, but he didn’t go far. He was living nearby with his wife, a girl he had met a few years earlier in the stacks of the University library. Wonder if I knew her. Probably.

Steve wrote about a mobile home he lived in during the early 70s. I think it was the same one we looked at to live in before deciding to rent an apartment in Orono. His description was the same as mine but he got paid to write his.

The Kenduskeag Stream canoe race was a popular spring attraction back then and maybe Steve waved to me and my paddling partner and we glided by, or laughed as we tipped over in the rapids. And for sure he and I rubbed shoulders at Pat’s. Everybody went there. Even saw a streaker there once, who, as I think about it, looked a lot like … no, couldn’t be.

Steve published his first book, Carrie, in 1974. I didn’t read it. I was busy studying. This time I did better, and graduated in the fall of ‘74.

Post Orono

We decided to move west, back to California. Steve moved west, too, to Colorado, but then he moved back, and lived in western Maine, near a town called Rangeley, which, by happenstance, I spent a summer at when I was a teenager. What a coincidence.

Steve went on to fame and fortune; I went on.

Probably that damn extra year.


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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. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.

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A Box Full of Words, by Dave Smith

Today we present to you observations from Writers Forum member Dave Smith

My email box overflows with words and phrases and word/phrase games these days because of my frugal nature—I like free stuff. I’m addicted, like the old saying, “If it’s free, it’s me.”

As you know, nothing is really free, hence my overflowing mailbox.  As I visit sites about writing, blogs, and such places, my eye is always caught by the little box that says Click here for your FREE download. Sometimes I can resist, but usually not. I mean, you never know when you’ll actually learn a tidbit from one of these that makes your day.

You know where I’m headed with this, because maybe you’re a tiny bit guilty yourself. Each free download means I give my email address to yet another somebody out there who wants to sell me something. And with today’s drill-to-the-core advertising, they soon learn all about me and my interests and what days I’m most susceptible to them and what color pens I use to write with. (How do they do that?)

Well, hah! Not to be outdone, I’ve taken them at their words and turned the tables. I’m using what they send me to write this article, which if nothing else will keep you busy and away from your own writing for a minute or three.

We all love words, and now I have a mailbox filled with them each day. Here’s some historical slang that arrived one day:

Collywobbles – a tummy ache

Snollygoster – a shrewd, unscrupled person who succeeds

Gigglemug – someone who smiles a lot

Gigglewater – booze

And did you know there was an opposite to Deja Vu? It’s Jamais Vu, meaning when a familiar situation seems new. I’ll not make senior jokes here.

Also included in my lessons are some Japanese words. How about Wabi-Sabi? Not the zippy stuff; this one means accepting imperfection as a part of life (good word for writers, huh?)

Here’s another Japanese word for writers – Ozappa. It’s a personality which doesn’t sweat the small stuff and is always chill. Probably has many things in common with a Gigglemug.

When I drink too much Gigglewater I myself am more of a Gigglemug, and more Ozapparous. Yes, I just made that word up. I can send it to your email inbox if you want.

In closing let me suggest that when today’s Podsnappery gives you the Morbs and you want to retreat to your Growlery, simply call up a Mellifluous song, lean back, close your eyes and contemplate this; the longest word in the English language contains over 189,000 letters, and that is no Phonus-Balonus according to my inbox.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the e-newsletter.

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. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.

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.