NVDT #96 – Ophidiophobia

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

The Prompt: Write a scene or story that includes a character who has a phobia. What do they fear? How does this phobia affect their life?

Among my plethora of nutcase characters, and few new lurkers, I could post novels. But there isn’t time for Deanna’s vagina or Paro’s helicopters. In fact I’m gonna cheat and drop a rerun that started life as a prelude, never intended as a self contained short, won an award long ago from Stevie Turner’s site, got tweaked and entered elsewhere and won several more.

Gator Bait

Carrie Louise screamed a split second before the shotgun blast. Birds exploded from the cypress canopy, the surface of the water boiled with leaping frogs, crickets, surprised fish and a lone gator. The sound and accompanying activity rolled away across the bayou in an expanding halo. Bobby couldn’t look down where he hoped his feet still were, saw the look of sheer panic in Carrie Louise’s eyes, steeled himself and waited for the blast from the second barrel. CL was shaking so hard she couldn’t pull the hammer back. Bobby took a second, glanced down to see the snake that had dropped into the boat from the tree branches overhead slither through the new hole in his dad’s old, flat bottom swamp skiff. CL screamed bloody murder again when she couldn’t make the sawed-off shotgun work, started to launch it into the swamp after the snake when Bobby snatched it away.

The silence in the aftermath bordered on church-like except for the soft gurgle of the swamp slowly filling the boat.

“Dayum, girl.”

“Dayum yourself, Bobby B.” CL, white as a ghost, held her legs out straight in front of her above the encroaching water, narrowed her eyes. “It was a, a…A snake. You saw it. I…And…You know how much I hate fuh, fuh, snakes.”

“Do for a fact.” He wiggled his feet to prove they were still there, whistled softly. “Dayyy-um.”

Bobby had no idea how deep the water was, but he dumped what had drifted into his dad’s waders, pulled them on and tied a knot in the shoulder straps while the boat slowly settled toward the water line. Under her breath Carrie Louise cussed a blue streak of randomly constructed profanity, her heels now resting on the rusty oarlocks, swamp water closing in on her cutoffs.

He stepped out into water waist-deep on his average to a little tall, twelve-year-old frame, let the breath he’d been holding go. His dad’s waders were up to his chin, so unless a snake slopped over the top they were good. He sloshed the few steps to Carrie Louise.

“When I turn around, climb on my shoulders. Baby style, not piggyback.”

“Okay. But you can’t drop me in, in there. In this…You can’t.” She looked over her shoulder in the direction the snake had taken off, climbed on his shoulders. She wrapped her arms around his forehead, her legs tucked under his arms, heels almost touching the base of his neck.

“You see a gator, CL? Or another snake?” He handed off the shotgun. “Holler and let me shoot. Got it?”

“Okay. How far is it, you think?”

“As far as it is.”

Big help. Do NOT drop me.” She shivered involuntarily. “Please.”

“No need to get all polite, CL. You have the shotgun.”

Bobby took a minute to get his bearings, knowing how his dad was gonna raise all sorts of hell about the trolling motor. Once dad knew he could find it and the water wasn’t very deep they’d be back to get the motor, take it home, dry it out and rebuild it on the garage floor. He’d rebuild it, dad would drink beer and give bad advice, mom would put some vodka in her iced coffee or tea and read the latest and greatest from the library where she worked. And pretend to watch them like she cared while whatever was in the oven turned black.


Carrie Louise climbed off his shoulders on to dry ground and screamed again when Bobby waded out. Another snake had hitched a ride, its fangs embedded in the thick rubber heel of the waders. Bobby saw CL point the shotgun at his foot and screamed with her. She shoved the shotgun into his chest, took off down the finger of two-lane ruts that cut through the swamp. Bobby pointed the shotgun down, put the barrel against the snake’s head and pushed until it lost its grip and recoiled away. He had one shell in the sawed-off swamp boat gun, and he might need it for more than a snake dumb enough to hit waders.


Sheriff Sheridan Wylie, a little overweight in a uniform and life vest that fit a couple of years ago, swung Terrebonne Parish Swamp Patrol Boat number 2 alongside the finger of dry land, tossed out a grappling hook. He watched the two stragglers in the shimmering heat haze headed his way, waited for them to come into focus, his .40 caliber Smith & Wesson, safety off, behind his back.

“Well, I do declare, look what’s wanderin’ in out the haze. Carrie Louise Roche and Bobby Buisson. Y’know, when I got a call about two kids with a shotgun wandering the Mauvais Bois I thought maybe I had me some lost poachers or the next Bonnie and Clyde. Hell no, what turns up ain’t nothin’ but Houma’s own double trouble.” He waited for them to get within arm’s reach, held out his empty left hand. “You might crack that shotgun open and hand it to me, young Mister B. Go a looooong ways toward keepin’ my blood pressure under control.”

“Yes sir.” Bobby broke the sawed-off open, offered it butt first. “Sorry.”

“Think nothin’ of it. What’s a lethal weapon or two between friends?” Wylie took the sawed-off, holstered his pistol. He unloaded both shells from the shotgun, dropped them in his life vest pocket, set the shotgun on top of the instrument and radio cluster. “You can give this sawed off I don’t know is the wrong side of legal back to your daddy after I’ve carried you two home. And you done told me about the spent shell.”

“CL’s scared of snakes.”

“Am not.” She threw an elbow into Bobby’s side. “Don’t like ’em much, that’s all.”

“Is that right?” Wylie offered both hands, helped them step off into the boat. “Life vests are in the box under the aft seat. Gotta be a longer version of ‘scared of snakes’ puts you two on foot in the bayou. Bobby?”

“You know daddy’s rusty old skiff, one used to be kinda green? She blew a hole in the bottom of it tryin’ to let a snake know she didn’t think much of it droppin’ in.”

“Damn, girl.” The sheriff checked their vests, cinched down on Carrie Louise’s. “You kill it?”

She shook her head.

“For a fact?”

She nodded.

“Dayyy-um, girl.”

“That all anybody can say?” Carrie Louise dropped on the aft bench, hung her head in her hands.

The sheriff and Bobby shared a look while Bobby collected the hook, dunked it a few times until the mud was gone. When he dropped it in a bucket on the deck the sheriff idled the boat around and out into the swamp in no kind of hurry.

“Either a you two been gone so long anybody’d be worried enough I should call?”

“No sir. Daddy’s out on the rig, mom’s at work.” He checked CL, still moping. “Mama Roche said be home before dark or she’d throw dinner out.”

“Be a shame to waste Mama Roche’s cookin’ on that lazy ol’ bag a bones.”

“Daddy’s quit drinkin’.” Carrie Louise raised her head. “Again.”

“I was meanin’ that ol’ dog of y’all’s, Carrie Louise. Not your daddy.” He squeezed the trigger on the mic. “Wylie, Bayou two. Armed poachers turned out to be a pair of swamp rat minors name of Buisson and Roche. Had ’em a shallow water equipment failure. No casualties, no prisoners, no backup or medical required. They’ll need deliverin’. May take me a while. Bayou two out.”He let the radio squawk back, hung up the mic, leaned against the instrument panel where he could keep one eye on the swamp and one on CL and Bobby, held the boat on course with his forearm on the wheel.

“Now we got y’all’s particulars out the way, lemme tell you two what I need.” He throttled the boat up a touch.” I’m headin’ back in no big hurry ‘cause y’all are gonna spin me one hell of a lot better stow-ree ’bout that spent shell. Tellin’ you now it better have a 15, maybe 20 foot gator and a witch and a toothless coonass pervert or two in it, ‘cause bein’ as we’re out here and it’s hotter’n hell an all? I’ll be stoppin’ in at the marina for a ring-of-fire hot link, some of Louella’s fried shrimp bites and an Abita Amber just this side of ice. On the Parish dime. And I’ll need to write me up a nice report when I get back to justify burning half a shift and a butt-load of Parish gas in them two Hondas back there rescuing a couple born on the bayou kids who should know better than blow a damn hole in the bottom of a boat.” He gave Carrie Louise a fatherly squint. “An me just puttin’ down ‘girl don’t like snakes’ in that big ol ‘precipitating action’ box ain’t gonna cut it.” He turned back, idled the boat up a little. “There’s water an Cokes in the ice chest if you want any. Go easy, Carrie Louise. Ain’t nowhere for a girl to pee for a good forty minutes.”


An hour and a half later Sheriff Wylie dropped them at a makeshift dock on Bayou Black across the street from Bobby’s house. Bobby went home carrying the unloaded sawed off and his dad’s waders, Carrie Louise huffed off to her house next door with a greasy paper bag of leftover spicy shrimp bites.

Fifteen minutes passed before she banged on the screen door to Bobby’s kitchen. He toed the door open, her eyes said she’d been having an angry cry, most likely from a Momma Roche ass chewing. She shoved a plate with a huge slice of peach pie and rapidly-losing-form-in-the-heat whipped cream at him.

“Momma says she guesses thanks for saving me from bein’ gator bait. I told her it was snakes, but she said thanks anyway, even though a Houma girl dumb enough to blow a hole in a boat mighta been justifiably left behind. And to say I’m sorry about your dad’s boat and scaring you shitless with the shotgun and almost blowing your foot off.” She heaved a big sigh, scuffed his back step with her foot. “She’ll see that we make it right, when we can.”

The sadness coming off of her was tangible, along with leftover steam from how mad she’d gotten on the ride back when Bobby and the Sheriff had joked and laughed about her blowing a hole in the boat and not killing the snake the whole way and coming home to her momma piling on.

“You tell Momma R not to worry. CL. I’m figurin’ I’ll tell Daddy I did it. ” He shrugged one shoulder, took the pie plate. “Dad’ll drop a couple M-80s to run the snakes an gators off so I can hook up the motor an fish it out pretty easy. And it won’t be near as bad a ‘Bobby you dumb ass’ sermon as telling him I let a girl beat me to the snake-and-gator gun.” He lifted his chin , held the door open for her. “Come on. Pie this size needs two forks.”

“You sure? About the boat and all?”


Sure sure?”


“Like certain sure?”

“C’mon CL, do I look like I’m standin’ here air conditionin’ both our back yards changin’ my mind?”

“No… ” She stepped past him into the kitchen, opened his fridge. “So I guess that means you have a couple of new shots of Cool Whip or maybe some butter pee-cawn ice cream in here to go with that extra fork and this big ol’ piece of my momma’s blue-ribbon peach pie?”

What other hoppers think is here.

Yeah, yeah. I’ll use anything for a writing exercise.

NVDT #95 – No Prompt Day – Instead – A Lesson from History

NOT Part of Open Link Blog Hop (EDIT – surprise surpise – the link reappeared)

The Prompt: I think it was something about when is your best time to write or when do you manage TCB, but the invite vanished. So…

I like to read authors before they were classics, icons, Nobel winners. Because I learn a lot and it gives me hope. Not of writing anything Nobel worthy, but telling a decent story with some skill.

In another blog I mentioned Faulkner’s Mosquitos. Written in 1927 it highlights the same issues of publication writers face today. Popularity of sports stars and celebutantes, high profile society murders, nepotism. Along with, as today, not everyone was literate, or had the price of a magazine, much less a book. But there were a gazillion more outlets for the written word because there was very little competition for entertainment. Movies were silent and for the most part a novelty. Records sounded like shit, more novelty. Radio wasn’t even in it’s prime. Forget about TV and every streaming content provider putting different faces and locales on nine or so scripts. With all its inherent faults Mosquitos was a searing social satire, a fun story, well drawn and palatable. In some ways timeless. No mean feats for a beginner.

Recently I’ve been reading early Hammett.

Dizzy yet?

I often bag on the Danger Barbie and Hunky Ken format. Like a lot of TV and streaming content from Hart to Hart and Hunter to Murder she baked/cooked/wrote/reported/stumbled over/librarianed/bookshopped/fished/ on Hallmark. I have even stepped in that format. My once white Reeboks are irreversibly stained. See? Just writing about it brought out an adverb. Well, Danger Barbie and Hunky Ken are another post, but for the meantime lets shift gears to –

There’s a website out there called The Cozy Mystery Listhttps://cozy-mystery.com/blog/ Not only does it have recommendations and what’s new, but if you desire you can search for Danger Barbie cozies by occupation. There are pages of bakers and chefs and librarians. So much derivative shit it would be impossible for anyone to read all the mystery solving bakers, much less the librarians and retired or shamed CIA hit women with bi-sexual tendencies.

Such may be said of all the con jobs sage advice “editors” and “mentors” that, like the Sirens, call you to their altars and for a fee will show you how to write “perfectly formulaic drivel like me” and open the doors of publishing for you. (You still out there, Dan?)

What the fuck does all that have to do with early Hammett and early Faulkner?

In November 1923 The Black Mask magazine published Hammett’s “Second Story Angel”. If you write you need to read it. That’s all I’m gonna say.

The PDF of “Second Story Angel” is out there for free. If you can’t find it, ask me. It’s amazing to me how many people miss the irony in the title alone, much less the story.

What other hoppers think is NOT here this week. (EDIT – Yes it is)

Yeah, yeah. I’ll use anything for a writing exercise.

NVDT #94 – Audio Books – Write Music or Die

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

The Prompt: Are audiobooks the future of book sales? Do you have your stories on audio?

Some say yes. The plethora of podcasts and the ubiquitous ear buds say yes. What is really happening on the phone while “working”? Any sort of podcast, music, Netflix, audio book. Just because someone is walking their dog or staring at a computer screen doesn’t mean they’re disconnected from e-tainment.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Elmore Leonard – 10 Rules for Writing

Not to belabor a point, but if you don’t write rhythmically, or somewhat musically, or chase bunnies or take too damn long to get from the road up the driveway to the house or throw logical construction out the window, you are doomed. People will tolerate a lot of slop in copy – look at the news – but getting way off into plants or hobbies or minutiae or “world building,” all that stuff that eats up word count dies on the ears unless you do only the minimal amount to paint the picture and get on with it. Why? This is by and large a 4 x 4 backbeat audio universe. Somebody starts telling you a story and goes off into the pastoral landscape what do you do? Thanks for the slides of your vacation, but was there a story in that somewhere?

Make it interesting and give your voice talent some leeway in how they handle your work. I read in one of these hops recently where someone “read’ an audio book and the use of said got annoying. A decent VO will read it down once for rhythm, timing, certain verbosities and echoes. They’ll red-line what doesn’t work ‘out loud’.

For example, I read a PD James a while back where he and she said said said over one word dialogue back and forth, no way to confuse attribution. Out loud it would have sucked more mightily than it did on the page. Also, a good VO understands inflection and even if as writers we are dumb enough to write asked or said after a ? a good VO will inflect the line and drop the attribution.

Unless there’s a point to using one, avoid poncey, too mellifluous, strained, harried or stiff readers. Depending on content someone relaxed who can dial it up or down as needed is the best choice.

I’ve done voice over, voice over production, foley, post processing and sound design for a living. I have more gadgets for voice manipulation than crumbs in a sat-on bag of tortilla chips. Of course they help. A little reverb in a deep cave, some vocoder on a robot or even a gender shifting plasma. But gimmicks won’t save the day. Unless you’re making action movie serials and then the gimmick is the whole deal. Get the story out, then hit it with post.

What’s needed most of all? A book with a story, not a lot of writerly bullshit. Because commentary or scene shifts out of left field, opening up on people or relationships not yet in evidence, head hop time… all those traps jump out, and once airborne make the listener go WTF? Unless they’re punishing themselves with Umberto Eco read by someone from Hollywood. Which would have to be read at half speed for me.

If your VO won’t self edit, consider submitting an edited copy, sans the stuff that doesn’t work as ear instead of eye food.

I’ve had audio books that I’ve done focus research on for authors, and bunny chasing is their number one rip-the-headphones-off complaint. So get from point A to point B without the vacation slides for audio books. If you think reading and writing have become soundbites, audio is far worse.

My .02.

What other hoppers think is here

Yeah, yeah. I’ll use anything for a writing exercise.

Gambits #15 – Crazy Ways to Die

Over 90 people are killed every year in riding lawnmower accidents.

That’s more than the average for death by sharks, bears and alligators combined – in spite of Hollywood, those average about one each per year. Lawnmowers were higher than snake bites (6) and venomous spiders (11).

In fact there are only 4 “freak” accidents that kill more people than lawnmowers. Angry deer (no shit) at 200, electrocution at 400, carbon monoxide at 430, and the most boring “accident” of all, falls, at 36,000 plus.

I wonder how tractors fit into that? I have secondhand personal knowledge of a death by tractor followed by suicide of the perpetrator.

I suppose it would be a forensics nightmare. Murderer catches old Bob out on his mower, out of sight of the house maybe, or nobody’s home. Put a rock in the path, a bonk on the head, Bob goes headfirst over the front, gets chewed into hamburger. Most of those mowers have a kill switch in the seat, but if most people are like my father-in-law was, that switch got deactivated the first time it was a pain in the ass. No pun intended. Or maybe, like the two neighboring politicians in Virginia who got off their mowers and into fisticuffs over who was mowing what they shouldn’t be, well, you have the perfect setup.

Or like the ever popular somebody killed the competitive bike rider, think about sabotage on the hot-rodded riding mower circuit.

So think outside the box. Killed by an angry deer is so predictable. I mean think of all the scripts and real murders where somebody got shot “accidentally” while deer hunting when all they needed to do was offer to carry Bob’s gun and piss off a deer. Death by riding mower takes some imagination, or a serious case of stupid.

NVDT #93 – Human Candle

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

The Prompt – If your character wanted to wear a disguise, how would they dress?

“You called me, Deanna. You asked me if I had time to talk and I told you ‘save whoever’s dime you’re on.’ I don’t know how to say that in Ye Oldy Cambridge, but try to pick this up. No. I don’t have time. In fact, I need to boost, yesterday.”


“Jet. Boogie. Skate. Hit it. Skedaddle. Git. Make like a cowpie and hit the tr—”

“I get it, Jax. But… Well, I’m not used to it. American talk and everything. Lately. I mean, like since —”

“Almost a year?”

“Don’t play victim, Mister, I mean it. You were the one nobody could bloody find since January. And, and I really needed you. A couple of times.”

“That’s remarkable. You didn’t ‘bloody’ need me or anyone else there for what, two—”

“Stop it. Okay? I know I was, well, not very… Where were you?”

“A lot of places. Look–”


“Summer I was in Vegas dressed up like Paul Revere, playing piano for gangsters in tuxedos and their movie star friends. When I wasn’t being a hooker houseboy.”

“God, Jackson. Can you pile it any higher?”

“You asked, And I’m serious, I gotta —”

“Boost. I know. What can possibly be more important than us finally talking?”

“I have a Rasputin gig in Malibu.”

“Rasputin? I thought… Well, like, wasn’t he really tall, and big? With a beard? How can you possibly—”

“I have the beard. I blow my hair out all crazy, hit it with some cheap hairspray. Ratty bowling shirt, some baggy plaid, double-knit golf pants tucked into work boots from Goodwill. Bam… Rasputin.”

“Come on, Jax.”

“What can I say, it’s L.A. I’m part of the tableau for the Painted Ladies when they show up in clothes at some Daddy Warbucks’ who bought their latest wall size —”

“What do you mean ‘in clothes’?”

“It’s a long story.”

“I have time.”

“I don’t.”

“Well, tell me what you do, as Rasputin I mean, and you can go.”

“D, it’s the old eggbeater piano routine, only I get paid serious jack. I really don’t —”

“That? The egg beater? I mean it, I hate… Serious ‘jack’? Forget it. Okay, after. What do you do with your, your beard and crazy hair and eggbeater after whatever with the painter ladies in clothes?”

“Nothing with them. I’m still Rasputin, though, so I get extra mileage from the prep by doing a walk-on show at Transit. It’s an art bar off Sunset. Only for that I twist my hair into a cone and spray paint it orange. Like a traffic cone.”

“Jackson, you are so full of shit. I ask you what you’re doing that’s so important we can’t talk and all you can do is make up stuff and lie, lie, lie. Gangsters and, and hookers and lady painters and traffic cone hair… I would think after all you and I, and, and… everything that you’d at least—”

“Nice talkin’ to you, to, Deanna. Gotta go.”

“Wait! If your hair really is full of hair spray?” The handset was on the way to its cradle. “Remember the Fire baton routine—”


“You heard the lady.” Dash handed off the pink acrylic bong, kept the lighter. “Allow me.” He turned the BIC all the way down, clicked it several times.

“You can turn it up. The baton routine wasn’t me.”

“Maybe not.” The BIC caught, Dash pocketed the lighter while Jackson coughed. “Still. No need to add human candle to your already exquisitely outside resume.”

What other hoppers think is here

Yeah, yeah. I’ll use anything for a writing exercise.

NVDT #92 – Minnie Pearl Syndrome

Or – Your Tag is Showing

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

The Prompt – Do you use said or asked after a ? or tag your interruptions? Any punctuation that bugs you? What’s the hardest for you to get right?

I’ve posted on this before, several times. This one is more concise.

Beware of advice – even this. – Carl Sandburg

I have three simple rules about my use of tags.

Rule 1) I rarely use said or a variant synonym unless the story/scene or laziness demands.

Why? Said is the most widely used, nearly invisible (and unimaginative) authorial insertion add-a-beat verb out there. It lasts just long enough to buy time. A breath break. “But damn,” he said, “it’s boring.” The use of synonym said-isms is somewhat more interesting but their use requires care in the picking or they become blatant authorial interjections and overpower the dialogue. Action/Reaction tags are great as well but need to be handled more by ear than eye so they don’t disrupt the rhythm of the spoken scene and turn it into narrative.*

2) No reliance on an -ly to ‘splain dialogue.

I never say ‘She says softly,’ If it’s not already soft, you know, I have to leave a lot of space around it so a reader can hear that it’s soft. – Toni Morrison

3) I never use redundant tags that punctuation has already accomplished. i.e. “Bitchin’!” Nancy exclaimed. “What flavor?” Bob asked. What the hell was the punctuation for? ! is fucking “exclaimed” and ? is fucking “asked” and ? is not fucking “said.”

Cheesy examples –

“Please…” Maddy begged/implored/beseeched/supplicated/intoned/pleaded, “will you listen?”

All of those said-ism verbs overpower the single word “please.” Think about her state of mind or the state of mind you want conveyed. Consult The Emotion Thesaurus if need be. Use phrasing, italics, an action. Consider this – see what might happen if we dropped the authorial ‘splainin’ verb altogether, got the hell out of her way.

Please…” she searched Ben’s eyes/grabbed the front of his shirt/hung her head/gripped the edge of the table, “will you listen?” Now we know a lot more about the situation. Be sure the action supports the dialogue. See how having her do something to advance or enhance the story instead of us telling the readers how it is with a said-ism keeps their heads in it and us out of the way –

“Please…” she lowered her head, palms pushed into the table, “just go. Now. Okay?”

Avoid the urge to add ‘splainin’ to those actions, like lowered her head “in resolution” because actions speak for themselves.

The hardest for me to get right? Giving the words too much room under the assumption the dialogue carries itself as I transcribe it. I would write dialogue only because that’s what I hear. Adding in where I see it happening is the work.

TIP – If you want to up your action/reaction game? Transcribe a scene from any TV show or movie with the actors’ movements.

“Fuckin’ allergies.” Tim rubbed his nose. “Not your best idea, Johnson.” He stopped the nose rub, stuck his pinky deep in the left nostril, rotated it. “You got anything else?”

“Much deeper, bro, you gonna strike oil. Or put your fuckin’ eye out from the backside.”

Tim pulled his pinky, inspected it, wiped it on his jeans. “I’ll worry about my eye.” He bent, blew his nose in a wastebsket. “You trot down to the corner Walgreens for some Dayquil. Hustle back with it. An bring us back a better plan while you’re at it.”

* Stevie Turner can tell you all about me and ‘stay the hell out of characters’ heads in the middle of a conversation’.

What other hoppers think is here

Yeah, yeah. I’ll use anything for a writing exercise.

NVDT #91 – Random Writerly Concerns – Adjectives

Or – How easily ignorable the written word has become

Or – How the brain autocorrects what we want to read

Several things came up this last week so I’ll load them up, and try to tie them together.

I received an email from Pro Writing Aid a few days ago. The subject was adjectives. Word choice being one of my causes, I checked it out. You can too – https://prowritingaid.com/Adjectives

Point one – I often wonder as writers if we think about which word to use or if we start throwing words that sound like writing at a scene and hope. I read a lot stuff written like that so I know it’s out there. Why I bothered to learn the business/painters’ emotional color wheel and music’s emotional key wheel is beyond me. Except in advertising all that subliminal shit counts. But otherwise? I see people read through and publish atrocious writing all the time. In that case our brains autocorrect the hash to make sense of the reading exercise.

Which brings me to point two. I read (yes, really) a post the other day about Tolkien’s using only primary (or blended primary) colors in the Hobbit books. No adverbs or added adjectives. Green, blue, white, yellow etc. I will not elaborate on the plethora of bullshit commentary that subject brought out, but suffice it to say there was everything from another example of genius in creating a different word that was flat and different to dimensionality (?) to his innermost psychological workings.

It was brilliant, but not because he was colorblind or his mother fed him too much oatmeal or his writing instructor had small breasts and fat ankles. It was a simple authorial tactic to build reader investment. JRR writes “green.” Okay. Is your green my green, or Jim Bob’s green or Betty Sue’s green? No. When I read that book, that green belongs to me. Without me noticing it. I see my green in his description and I am involved. Slick, dead simple and big time effective use of adjectives (possibly nouns).

Staying with the color thing, think how many uses ‘blue’ has. Adjective, noun, verb. Staying away from determiners is a sure-fire way to avoid confusion, and offer ownership – (n) She was dressed in blue. If that’s it, she’s ours. In this case our brains will fill in the gaps, the right outfit, the right blue.

Next – I answered the call to a blog suggestion this week. Here it is. “Write a top 10 list in the voice of a character. Is your character a person making a bucket list? How about someone listing their greatest fears? What does the list they make say about the character?”

Simple, huh? There were a handful of lists alright. Narrative, bullet points, almost back jacket material. I mentioned that. Nobody said “oops.” Why? What was the word most everyone pegged? List. Like it had been LIST surrounded by air. And they proceeded to read right past “in the voice of a character.” List. Okay, easy. Done. Next? In this case the brain skips what we don’t want to see or have time for.

I learned a while ago that in business most people I dealt with from overlings to underlings decided to open an email based solely on the preview. No, you say! Bullshit. Just like how everyone is against texting and driving and says they don’t and all you need to do to disprove that is look at the car next to you. I got in the habit of starting emails like the sky was falling. I know I often bail on brevity when it’s not business, probably from all that biz brevity. My point is, why has it become impossible to read the whole damn thing, all of it, absorb its meaning, be in the words?

Which brings me to why bother writing like you mean it, in a straight line, when people will take what they want from it like it was a crap sound bite from USA Today?

Last but not least – Earlier today I read one of those modern “free form poetic prose” bits from a site dedicated to that “style”. A site with tons of fawning followers. It read like a narrative Hallmark moment. Which is okay, but don’t call it free form poetic prose when it’s full of glue words and medium strength common adjectives. Even when there’s a power adjective/noun/verb it is usurped by a miasma of surrounding and, and the.

The conclusion – Maybe we write exactly what we mean. Nothing more. No one will bother to read, or will read through our polished, over edited prose looking for the key word(s). We should all be on an Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot Haiku mission. Or a Joe Friday style of “Just the facts, ma’am.”

It’s sad because that’s what I used to do with Spanish when I worked in that environment. I listened for the noun, verb or adjective combo. Necesito un pedal de sostenido para mi teclado marca Korg Em A Uno. Sustain pedal – Korg – M-1.

I guess that’s all we really need,

Since no one bothers to read. Hey! I’m a poet!

NVDT #90 – Wants and Needs

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

The Prompt (Devolving into Marketing Bullet Points): Write a top 10 list in the voice of a character. Is your character a person making a bucket list? How about someone listing their greatest fears? What does the list they make say about the character?

Well, I was gonna bail. But I couldn’t let Richard take the heat for being the only one to actually write something. Most people don’t want much. Mostly they want to be loved and get where they need to be to get something done.

What Jackson wants The Hot Girl I

It was a sunny Palm Sunday in Oklahoma, and Jackson figured the little chapel in the old St. Mary’s Cathedral was the right place for her to be hanging out and listening. He sure hoped she was. He took all the money he’d gotten in his last paycheck from the restaurant that fired him, five dollars even, folded it and put it in the slot at Mary’s feet. He lit a candle and touched her feet, crossed himself. He hoped she knew he was serious. He’d thought about bringing flowers but going overboard to butter her up was stupid because she’d spot it. And all the masses he’d stayed awake through as an altar server while Monsignor Mumbles rambled on about the importance of creating family gathering Hallmark moments with or without a holiday attached should count for something.

“All I want… is to be cool.” Did she get it? “Okay. Sorry. Real cool, you know, not a, a poser…” Jackson squeezed his eyes closed as tight as he could. “And a girlfriend that’s special, and different, just for me.” There. It was out. Short and sweet, don’t waste her time. How hard could it be, anyway? Mary was like Super Mom. He touched her toes again. The sooner she got on girlfriend and cool, the better.

What Deanna wants The Hot Girl I

On that same Palm Sunday in St. Anthony’s, the oldest Catholic Church in Wichita, Kansas, a few scattered clouds cast occasional deep shadows in the corners of the sanctuary. In one of those corners Deanna Collings, a pretty young girl in self-exile, took all of her money from not eating lunch for two days, three dollars and seventy-eight cents in change, and dropped it in the slot at the feet of another Mary. She made a face while she waited for the noise to subside, folded her hands and softly closed her eyes.

“I want someone who will think I’m special. Just me, just who I am, who will love me forever.” Manners, Miss Collings. “Please.” She lit her candle, crossed herself, and really, really hoped Mary had heard her. She had to, it was a prayer and everything, and Mary was a girl. She closed her eyes again. “Could you put a rush on that guy who thinks I’m special? ‘Cause many more handsy asshohhh… um, guys, and I might join a convent.” And I know you don’t want me in there…

What Bobby wants Bobby BSwampVue

Senior Eldridge stood between Bobby and his son Junior, an arm around both their shoulders, looked over the parts scattered around between the machines and through the open hanger sized door into the back lot of Celitore’s old shop.

“What the hell you plan on buildin’ th’all this shit, Bobby?”

“Boats, Mr. Eldridge. Air-conditioned swamp boats. Came to me in a dream.”

“I was you I’d stop eatin’ Mama Roche’s Jambalaya late in the day. She gets her sausage over to Rupert’s.” He crushed out a cigarette under his work boot, gave Bobby a sideways glance. “Shit’ll make you crazy. Before it kills you.”

What Carrie Louise wants Bobby B – Swamp Vue 

Carrie Louise had on work boots with her cutoffs and tank top, her hand on a SURF LOUISIANA surfboard with a metal room fan bolted to the back end like a propeller driven swamp boat, the board mounted on a pole stuck in half a whiskey barrel full of cement. She was toe kicking the barrel a little harder than absently.

“Bobby, I don’t want to learn how to weld.”

“Every party has a pooper. You don’t wanna learn you can hang and watch me.”

“Imagine the joyous memory that’s gonna bring me in the old folks’ home. Me and that ol’ numb-nuts whatsisdoodley, I forget his name because he was so boring. We were a real pair of weldin’ demons down to his machine shop.” She walked around the surfboard pole, hanging on it like a lamp post. “I want to go to Lafayette before school starts. To a real movie. Not X-Men but something with half a plot. And I want to eat some of that shrimp done up right three kinds of ways like they do it at LeCroix’s.”

“Half a plot with some slow, noisy slobbery kissin’ probably, and shrimp roulette?”

“Only if you make me.” She batted her eyelashes. “If we leave early, we can do all that and be home by midnight, can’t we?”

What Cavanaugh Moreno wants The Great Kerrigan Bank Robbery


She turned and I could feel her eyes behind the sunglasses. “We’re going to rob the bank, Paro. There, en el medio de la nada, Tejas.

Rob a bank in the middle of nowhere. Shit. My wiser, self-preservationist self, Tavius, the CIA’s order and my recently reinstated licenses all got into an argument.

“What are you thinking, Paro?”

Fu-uhk me was what I was thinking. I said, “I’d love to help you rob a bank in Kerrigan, Cav. What are friends for?”

What Bobby wants Bobby B – Monterrey Mick’s Mad Mods

He kept his eyes on them while he bent side to side and rummaged around in his cargo pockets. “Looks all the hell to me like y’all got business in the Big Red Stick. Business somebody, or a shit load a somebodys, don’t want done.”

“So far you’re telling a good bedtime sto –”

“Forget it, Bernie.” Bobby wadded up his sweat soaked t-shirt and threw it in the Stinger. “That’s almost the story. We got shot at on the bridge, dumped the car south of the barge loaders, hooked it over to the Standard side where a friend of mine left me this boat. Also seems to have left us a piece of shit for a map sayin’ there was a shallow here fishermen used to get from the channel into the Tensas. Along with some shrimp salad my neighbor’s momma made sittin’ on a block of dry ice in a cooler. Shrimp salad still ain’t thawed, couldn’t find the shallow. You’re lookin’ at where we’re at.” He picked up the rope. “We need to get on to Baton Rouge. You gonna stand there and talk or you gonna help?”

What Agent Hyland wants Bobby B – Monterrey Mick’s Mad Mods

The Samoan finished unrolling the silencer, studied Orrin and Paris, both pacing nervously, the two female agents assigned to them bored, leaning against their car. “Think Vernier will burn the money?”

“If she does, she has to replace it from somewhere. We have her trail either way. Speaking of money…” He waved toward Orrin and Paris with the back of his right hand. “Pay them off. We’re done here. No place on Earth smells like Louisiana and I’d like to forget how I came to know that. Soon.”

What Creighton DeHavilland wants Bobby B – Monterrey Mick’s Mad Mods

“How do you know —”

“We’ll get to that. Are you tangled up emotionally, real or imagined, with the lovely not-a-real-parts-girl but plays one on TV Bernadette Evrard?”

“No. I mean, I don’t know if we’re friends or if she’s a misdirect or even authentic. I’m trying to play it flat, like Mitch told me. See it all, and wait.”

“She is who she says she is. And she’d like to like you, as a friend. Something about you cutting her some slack, being a sweetheart instead of a dick. Could you work with her?”

“If it was straight, hell yeah.”

“Good. She’s smart and has half a plan herself. If she’d fuck her way into the entertainment business she could start in prime time but that’s not her. She doesn’t want screen time, short or long term. She wants management. For that desire to benefit us all,” he pointed finger pistols at Bobby with both hands. “I need to redirect both of you to an entertainment vision beyond the ends of your noses. Let’s go eat breakfast.” He dropped his sunglasses back down, stepped around the side of the Porsche. “Been to Malibu yet?”

What Monterrey Mick wants

“Perfect. Me gone with his money and no worries, him here with my estrogen and overhead headaches? Sounds like Shangri fucking la to me.” Mick adjusted his girdle, pulled down his shirt, popped a Xanax and a thumb-sized vitamin. “I have to pull this gig off, man. Eating rabbit food and listening to women talk because I can’t afford to rent quiet ones is killing me.”

What Bernie wants

“Ms. Evrard, you were allowed to stay because you have a reputation for being smart and overly curious when it comes to money. And you can act a little, if need be. You also have a temper and tactical firearms certification. I don’t want you getting the wrong idea when you see us running money in and out of your burger joint project to catch money launderers and end up killing these two boys right out from under me.”

Bernie stepped around to the table, looked at Bobby and Creighton out of the corner of her eye, collected all the papers and handed them to Hyland.

“I would shoot them for that. If I didn’t know.” She leaned over the table, checked the pizza boxes, pulled one her way and frowned. “And now look here, Mr. FBI. I don’t care who your uncle is. If you don’t leave me some of that pineapple pizza, you’ll be on the short list of getting shot right along with them.”

What other hoppers think is here

Yeah, yeah. I’ll use anything for a writing exercise.

NVDT #89 – Smells Like Sunshine and Happy

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

The Prompt: What commercial do you hate? What commercial is your favorite? (YouTube link us if possible) Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from a commercial? Note – 2k read.

Richard Carpenter got “We’ve Only Just Begun” from a commercial, so… I should also recuse myself here since hard-hat movies (industrial video of all kind) and myriad TV commercials were my first day job as a corporate musician and remain a side gig to this day. But I won’t.

My favorite commercial? Smells like Sunshine and Happy. From The Hot Girl.

Jackson’s apartment, Long Beach, CA – late summer 1982

“Jackson… I… There’s a…” her pecan sized ice-blue eyes closed, her lips turned tightrope. She opened her eyes, re-inflated her lips, glanced at the ceiling, breathed a barely audible “Shit…

He waited, his back against the refrigerator of his narrow kitchen, unopened beer in one hand, arms folded like a shield. As if it would help if she went full Tasmanian devil.

On the opposite side of his small kitchen divider stood the very attractive, at the moment very tense Kaitlin Everson, the actress whose lawsuits had roared like background noise on cheap tape through almost five months of his life. She absently tapped her fingers on the divider’s tile top while inflicting minor contortions on her camera-loves-me face, the machinations framed by her signature swept up cascade of lazy ringlets over softer waves that fell below her shoulders.

After a short eternity that was probably less than a minute, she finally found him with her eyes. “There’s a long story, Jackson. About… About why I hate musicians.”

It sat on the counter between them. Awkward, slightly embarrassing. Like having a sun pinked fat man in a speedo suddenly show up in your line of sight at the beach.

“I’ve heard some of them.” He considered the urge to kick start their usual venom laced exchanges, took a straight shot instead. “That’s why you’re here, Kait? To tell me a long story?”

“Alix was supposed… She didn’t call you?”

“She said,” adopting an exaggerated French accent, “‘My love, the lovely and most delighted Kaitlin has telephoned. You will speak with her of what she desires, s’il vous plaît?’” He gauged her. Tense, but otherwise nothing he couldn’t have found in a promo head shot, shifted his voice back to normal. “Since no one living has ignored Alix’s s’il vous plaît, here you are. We could have gone neutral somewhere. Or was that the point, to stay out of public places?”

“No…” she turned, made a slow, right-to-left scan of his place. “I heard about this old apartment of yours. How comfortable and real it is. The open windows, the sounds, the sweet monster dog. And about what happens here. I heard… was told that you had eleven top-shelf L.A. women in here on Saturday mornings all summer with zero trippy bullshit. I had… I wanted, to see it.” She stopped her fingers, took a surprise deep composure inhale for someone usually cooler than a bucket of ice.


“So I sat with Randi Navarro and Cicily Warren at a Women in Broadcast luncheon last week.”

“Rubber chicken and a ‘go get ‘em gals’ speech from somebody irrelevant. What else did those two have to say that would put you in my living room?”

“They showed me their personal bio packs. And they were the shit. The supreme shit. Custom hint-of-color-folders, custom cards, embossed calligraphy, perfect complementary colors, not overdone. Definitely not office supply store print shop ready-to-wear. They said massive taste, and they would be the first ones out of any pile. I asked Randi where they came from and she said you were involved, and that… That I should contact the French lady lawyer who untied our two-little-bitches-in-Hollywood knot. She said to call you and that you, that you might let me in on who does that work.”

He caught ‘Your little bitch in Hollywood knot’ before it got out. “Any of them could have sent you straight to the source. No one needed to send you to me like I clear who gets access to that talent. Yeah, I’m involved, indirectly, but it doesn’t matter what I think, or how you and I feel about each other. The point is that a talented person who has something to offer and could make a difference gets hooked up with what they need to advance their career.” He turned, put the unopened beer back in the fridge. “If I had to be ape shit happy with everyone I worked with I’d be screwed. And so would you and so would everyone else in this town.”

“How do we feel about each other? I mean, now that we aren’t…”

“Suing each other? The truth is, you carried the movie that made both of us and everyone involved all temporarily insane, and at long last some money. You’re way too good looking and too talented and your bitch factor is too high for you to disappear. And you’re too smart not to care about something. So I’m down. Like I said, not that it matters what I think.”

“That was the best backhanded compliment I’ve ever gotten. I think.” She leaned both arms on the divider. He stepped up to the counter attached to the other side, thought for a second.

“Look, Kait, I was a green, dopey, shaggy flatland college boy with a deal that fell in my lap. You gave me that shit on your shoes look the day we met and I figured okay, fair enough. I’m not actress bait, drop it and get on down the road. I always wonder why girls who bail on me do it, but I get it. I justify it by telling myself I’m an acquired taste.” They looked at each other for a few, like a lion tamer and a lion, trying to figure out who was which.

“It wasn’t personal, Jax.” She did that thing he thought was a universal girl move, averting her eyes to look at her fingers absently doodling on his tile-topped divider. “Musicians were like a, a bad habit until I started getting real work. After I got the full-time job on the soap, I put that part of me down. Some guys I’d known before wouldn’t let it go, and they did some really stupid, mean shit.”

“I can see how everybody I know who buys strings or sticks would miss you.”

“That’s two believable almost compliments.”

“Don’t faint on me, I’m out of brandy. Finish your story?”

“My story is I got tired of their shit and one night I’d had enough and went off on a B-list spandex hair farmer at the Whiskey. It got turned into ‘Ex-Groupie Soap Star Goes Off’ press. With pictures of me screaming and looking all fucked up. Which I was, screaming anyway, about all their lying bullshit. I had to sue them, all of them, to stop it.”

“So suing musicians is just how you get through your day?”

“You can bag the grin. Randi warned me if I gave you a chance, you’d find a way to get around me. No matter what I put up.”

“Randi and I went a few rounds at first, so she warns every female that’s about to talk to me.”

“She should. And Cicily told me what you did to that piece of work pussy-bait ex-loverboy of hers. I worked a laundromat-on-acid fabric softener spot with that rat fart when I first started, back in high school.”

“Whoa. No shit? The one where the girl pulls her clothes out of the dryer, the guy dumps his clothes all over to run help ‘cause she’s so cute and her clothes smell so good, everything goes all wiggly and BAM, they’re holding hands in a field somewhere?”

“You saw it?”

“Hell yeah. I can’t believe that was you and Gibson. That’s sad, because a lot of us wanted to be the dude in the laundromat. You probably started a whole humongous urban myth about picking up chicks with fabric softener, you being all way wet-dreamable in that almost see-through dress. In fact, I need to call some people and tell them the ‘Smells like Sunshine and Happy’ chick filed a couple of lawsuits to keep from going out with me.”

“You’re not supposed to be funny, Jax. Or nice. Or easy for me to be with, or work with. I emptied my humility piggy bank and rehearsed some deep southern fried Scarlett O’Hara damsel in distress for this.” She crossed her arms, grabbed her lacey blouse with both hands in the center of her chest. “Oh puh-leeeeease, Mistuh Jay-uc-son, you just hay-uv tuh help po lil ol’ me.” She let go, relaxed her arms back onto the divider.

“That has to be the smallest humility piggy bank on the planet and the best Scarlett O’Hara I’ve seen since some guys explained cotillions to me when I was sixteen.” He pulled a pair of business cards from a kitchen drawer, set them on the divider. “You’re helped, Kaitlin. The only rule is don’t try to be smarter than the people who will help you. That about killed the control freak in Randi, but if you like her package, that’s how it happens.”

“Screw that stress. Let whoever it is clean up my press world and drop a quarter in my direction when it’s time to pick it up.” She tapped the counter again, caught herself, shook it off. “Okay. Coming here is what about killed me. And that’s all there is? No ‘who’s on top now.’ No insincere apologies, no name calling, no games? No pinch my left butt cheek until it’s purple?”

“That’s it. Well…”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Is that your hair?”

“For fuck’s… Yes it’s mine. It’s cut longer down the back so I can put the center curls in and it balances. If I don’t put the curls in I have to do all kinds of crap with clips or my hair looks like a horse’s ass from behind. Godammit, I see it. Don’t you even think it. What is it with everyone and my fucking hair?”

“Everybody says it’s a fall. That bass player you got so pissed off at had a curly fall just like your hair tied to his antenna and lime green crotchless panties taped to his back window. He said both of them belonged to you.”

“They weren’t mine. Not my hair, for damn sure not my panties. I mean give a girl some credit for taste. And that waste of air with all of his phony Kaitlin’s groupie swag taped to his car got his ass sued with the rest of them. I am not a groupie and never was, and this is my hair. Once upon a time I liked to hit a fatty and dance and I liked to go out with band guys. Until a few years ago turning twenty-one and regular employment raised my IQ.”

“So you didn’t pull a train after the —”

“NO!” He thought her eyes might catch fire. “You can eat shit and fucking die, Jackson. You’re as bad as all the rest of them.” She spun, steamed for the door.

That’s the Kaitlin I know.” He couldn’t hold the laugh. “Day-um, bitch. Chill. You hungry?”

She stopped at the door, turned halfway around. “You hillbilly asshole. I’m starving.” She did the index finger flip between them. “You? And me? Now?”

“Let’s go. Hangin’ with you’ll make me look good, and we can bust each other’s chops a little longer without blood or lawyers. You forgot these.” He held out the two business cards, tugged on her ringlets when she got close enough to take them. She yanked the cards with one hand, punched him on the shoulder, hard, with the other.

“Fuck you, you, you,” a laugh of her own got out. “You goofy, pickle dick hick.” She shook her hair, checked out Paula’s and Stacey’s Morisé Women’s Initiatives cards, dropped them in a clutch not much bigger than they were. “You’re driving. Because I like your old car and want to be seen riding in it. Since that is so incredibly shallow of me, I’ll buy. But only if you take us somewhere clean in West Hollywood or Beverly.”

She looked up, caught him grinning. “And all that ‘I’m really just a cute, fun guy’ shit you’re working like it would make La Brea belch Elvis back? Buy it a coffin. If anyone asks? We still hate each other. Got it?”

The whole chapter, Used Dog Food, is here

What other hoppers think is here

Yeah, yeah. I’ll use anything for a writing exercise.

Gambits #14 – Pesky Caucasians? Turn up the Country Music

Attention: All those seeking equity and equality who aren’t already running our local governments, city councils, school districts, hospitals, sports franchises, school boards, economic development campaigns or spending tax dollars for Covid Vaccination Sites where white people aren’t, listen up.

A study by researchers Steven Stack of Wayne State University and Jim Gundlach from Auburn University hypothesize that topics often present in the lyrics of country songs — such as “marital discord, alcohol abuse and alienation from work” — can foster a suicidal mood among those who are already at risk.

The researchers performed a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas and found the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the higher the suicide rate. In their paper, the researchers explain that “the effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty and gun availability.”

The retort is that depressed white people simply seek out country music. You know, for that “Bummed but not the Lone Ranger” feeling of false empathy from a puppet pop star. Before they pop themselves.

This study was done two decades ago, so with with the deep inroads pop has made into country maybe things have changed. But I doubt it. Hell, enough Taylor Swift would make make anyone as suicidal as hearing Achy Breaky Heart ever again. But the main themes in country haven’t changed. A whopping 75% of country songs are the old heartbreak numbers. Add in the collateral damage from lost love and “dee-vorce” and there goes the truck, the double wide, the farm, the kids, the dog, all with drinkin’ as the usual offered solution and you have 98% of country music.

So, Sha’niqua, you wanna turn the little community college Becky’s outta the blood lab? Turnin’ up the R&B or BCA won’t help, but changing it to country will.

Think I’m foolin? Download the text.

Two funnies from my career in music: A conversation at a small, grimy cinder block bar outside Cheyenne, Wyoming, where we asked someone in the parking lot: “You got room for live music here?” “Why hell yeah. We got room for both kinds. Country and western. Which one are you boys?” Standing outside the Ryman in downtown Nashville with two geezers, one holding a violin (sorry, fiddle) case, the other a mandolin case while a hired gun guitar player threw down some serious shred warming up at sound check inside. Fiddle geezer looks at me and his friend, saying: “That shit rat there?” He thumbed the Ryman’s open door, spit a stream of tobacco juice into the street. “That shit rat there is whut the hayul’s wrong with country music ennymower.”

Or is it the fact that’s it’s all one song, as shown from 6 top songs being indistinguishable?