Gambits #12 – Deadly Umbrellas

Like the myriad of disgusting headlines my friend sends me or I discover in my own local news, I’m sharing another one I haven’t seen beaten to death (yet).  Not that it’s not out there by any means, but I haven’t seen it circulating in print or TV.

Here you go – Death by beach umbrella.

Many accidents and injuries involving errant beach umbrellas go unreported, but you should know that between 2008 and 2017 at least 31,000 were reported and required emergency medical treatment. Several deaths by beach umbrella have even been reported along with quite a few maimings, including loss of eyeballs, feet, appendages and abdominal parts.

What a fucking great setup. PI or Bounty Hunter Barbie on the beach with Hunky Ken. After the fashion observations and minute accessory descriptions, the wind kicks up.

“Damn!” She exclaimed, pissedoffedly. “I paid twenty dollars for that hat.”

“Hat?” Ken said, absently studying her perfect buns that sported a confectioners dusting of sand.

“Yes, my white straw sun hat with the blue and fuscia Kate Spade knock-off bandana. There it goes!” She pointed into the mess of tumbling, rollicking beach umbrellas, picnic baskets, beer coolers, plastic starfish and towels piling up against the pier and tourist gift shop.

“Isn’t Kate Spade like, dead?”

“That’s why the knock off is so valuable, moron.”

“Check that.” Hunky ex NATO superspy Ken tapped his temple saying “Be right back.” He dashed recklessly into the melee. Upon grabbing her fashion statement hat he stopped in his tracks and began blocking incoming beach debris with his forearms like Wonder Woman in a speedo. The wind abated as suddenly as it started.

“What’s wrong?” Bounty Hunter Barbie asked.

“This one has your name on it, Barb babe,” he shouted, then muttered “or is it babe Barb…?”

When she arrived, he pushed the upside-down umbrellas and coolers aside to give her a clear, yet disturbingly grim view.

“Jeez, Hunky Ken. It’s Benson Ekoreck, the witness protection skip I’ve been looking for.”

“With a beach umbrella stuck in his chest.” Ken reached to remove the umbrella.

“Stop!” Barbie screeched in that shrill voice she hated but just came out when she was upset or orgasmic. “That’s my umbrella!”

Well, of course it is. Was. Whatever. Anyway, there you go, a free plot device. Remember, you heard it here first. Evanovich owes me five-spot if she uses it.

Seriously – Umbrella deaths and bodily damage are a reality. So much so that several Democratic Senators, two from Virginia and one from New Jersey on a day with nothing better to do sent a letter to the Consumer Safety Commission demanding the effects of errant beach umbrellas be looked into.

“Beach umbrella safety is always lower on anybody’s list, until you get impaled by one,” Senator Menendez said.  

Well no shit, Sherlock.

Can’t help myself – If the fictional scene started above had gone on, it might have ended this way –

“That cop thinks you whipped up the windstorm with your hoo-ha somehow so you could get the Bail Bond on that dude refunded,” Hunky Ken said, disaffectedly brushing sand from his glistening bicep.

“He’s just a hairy scrotum in a cheap suit looking for an easy way out. I didn’t do it, so he can kiss my ass and go pound sand. Hey, what’s that on your shoulder?”

“Uh, souvenir?”

“Souvenir? You can’t just take things from a closed crime scene just because it started out as an Act of God, Hunky Ken.”

“Ohh… But the cops said to pick out what we wanted…” Hunky Ken stopped, looked glumly back at the pile of beach crap being picked through by once happy beach goers. “I guess I better take them back.”

“I guess. Wait. Them?”

“I got you one, too.” In a quick move based on years of training and reflex perfection, he whipped two beach towels off his shoulder, snapped them out in front of himself before handing one to Bounty Hunter Barbie.

“Oh my God!” She inhaled a big breath. “A Versace beach towel! You don’t see many of these.”

“Or these.” Hunky Ken held up an oversize Def Leppard towel. “This is major killer.”

Bounty Hunter Barbie rolled her eyes. “What’s so special about a Def Leppard towel?”

“It’s a collector’s item, babe, Barb, uh Barb — ”

“Never mind.” Barbie pouted, unaffected by his enthusiasm.

“No, really. Check it out, Babe, uh, Barb uh… In this picture?” Hunky Ken palmed up the silkscreened band photo on the towel for her. “The drummer dude still has both arms!”

NVDT #76 – Who’s Running This Show, Anyway?


Prompt- Who’s the boss, you or the story?

The story. I always say the story tells itself. Stories come from the same place as music and all other art. All I need to do is get out of the way and listen.

This is not an original concept. Michelangelo said that his job was to get the statue out of the block of marble. Beethoven, Mozart  — they heard it on the way to the staff paper. Paul McCartney openly admits that he doesn’t work at writing songs because he learned long ago that when he tried, nothing happened. I believe that. Here’s an observation to put that in perspective. Pop songs are an art form because good ones are better novels than most of us write. How many people have over 200 solid stories in a songbook? That are no more than 3.5 minutes long? Yes, little gems hacked from the giant blocks of often pointless words many of us deem necessary.

Here’s the rub.

Most of us aren’t Michelangelo or Beethoven, but even they had to work at it. The issue, as described by many artists, comes at the — everybody listen up — transcription stage, which is generally rough because we’re in the loop. Some of us forget that once the story is out doesn’t mean it’s done. Even if the story is the boss, we need to reserve the right to say to the piece, like Mike probably did, “Hey, Pieta. Nice to see you out of that block of marble. Let’s shine you up.”

The story talks to us. Shows itself to us. Our job is to let the story do its job. We need to stay as invisible as possible and put our “author” to bed and our skills to work in order to do them justice.

Here’s a bit from Elmore Leonard where a character of his explains how the story is the boss, There’s a great video where EL explains the cleaning up.

“What he does, he makes us do all the work, the people in the books. Puts us in scenes and says go ahead and do something. No, first he thinks up names. Takes forever to think up names like Bob and Jack. Jackie for a woman, a female lead. Or Frank. Years ago anyone named Frank in one of his books was a bad guy. So then he used Frank as the name of a good guy one time and this Frank wouldn’t talk, refused to come out and become the kind of person Elmore wanted. So he changed his name to Jack after thinking of names for another few weeks, and it felt so good he couldn’t shut the guy up, I mean this Jack, not Elmore. So he names us and he says okay start talking. So that’s what we do. Sometimes if a character has trouble expressing himself he’s demoted. He’s given less to do in the book, or he might get shot. What can also happen if a minor or even a no-name character shows he can talk, he can shove his way into the story and get a more important part. So Elmore names us, gets us talking to each other, bumping heads or getting along okay and then I don’t know what happens to him, I think he takes off, leaves it up to us. There was a piece written about him one time in The Village Voice called ‘The Author Vanishes’ and it’s true.”

Elmore Leonard

NVDT #75 – How to Write Your Next SyFy in Two Minutes

Including unique devices, nomenclature and world building tools. Need a door lock that works off DNA? Opposed Tri-piston Electroinfluctance Genetakey.

Differential Girdlespring!

So what have you built lately? Leave them below.

NVDT #74 – Pipe Dreams


Prompt – What is one thing that you would like to learn?

Acoustic guitar. Lord knows I tried. Never could get my wrists to cooperate. Tried the Chapman stick back in the 80s but never took time to understand the geometry. Or rather transfer the geometry.

Someday I’d like to learn to write. For those of you who don’t follow along, here’s one for everyone

And someday, God knows it’s almost too late, I’ll learn to sit on my rapid, generally unwanted and unfiltered opinions for the mainstream. Last time was picture of me surrounded by professionals who know their shit and speak their minds and appreciate a straight shot. I never learned that the rest of the world doesn’t care. For those of you who don’t follow along, here’s one for everyone in this circle –

“Look, son, Imma tell ya somethin’ ’bout breakin’ an settin’ your own horse an keepin’ your mouth shut that’s gonna make your life a whole lot easier. See, most folks, they’d rather have 15 nags in the barn than a real horse.”

“Why’s that?”

“I reckon ’cause it’s a sight easier to wrangle a dude ranch than be a real fuckin’ cowboy.”

What would others like to learn?


NVDT #73 – Bullshit, Headtime, Backstory and Other Dialogue Killers

The Lost Art

I have been cursed of late with reading books and even short blogs full of bullshit and backstory clogging up dialogue. Right now I’m 20% through a book where nothing has happened but a bone being found in a swamp. Twenty effing percent. And the convo? It’s constantly interrupted with protagonist’s head time observations, judgements, head time backstory drops. In between lines of dialogue is not the place for that shit. Dialogue is a tool for that, as we’ll see, but anyone who writes? Do me a favor and get the hell out of the character’s heads and let them talk. They might just drop it for you. You can get back to that junk if want afterward but stop interrupting them.

FYI – neither is the mirror an excuse for a head time backstory drop. Not everyone has a psychological backstory drop moment in the mirror. Where’d that physical/emotional scar come from? Who cares? You could drop it when you need to in a single line. What if a character stood in front of a mirror and shaved or popped a zit?

In the instance of what I’m reading instead of the whole mirror thing we could have had, much earlier on for the sake of the character, this exchange – I borrow a paraphrased line from the most recent offender –

“The short hair is understandable, but right now you look like Brittany Spears in her breakdown period. (What’s your problem with the wig?) I added that. Look what we get.

“It makes me look like my mother.”


“I’m not… perfect. She wanted a perfect daughter. I see myself in the wig and there she is, on my ass about not being girly enough and following my father into the CIA. Happy?”

“Not ‘till you put the wig back on, G.I. Jane. You’re a supposed to be an ex-beauty queen librarian, not who you really are.” (Wow, no stereotype in the beauty queen librarian. As original as ex-boxer private eyes.)

Now we could continue the cutesy convo with extended pauses between lines filled with head scans, as the author does ad nauseum, but I’m out of Rolaids. Those three lines just saved us a head scan when the character should be hurrying out a door 20% of the way through the damn book. If I was the character I’d appreciate readers knowing more about me besides my prejudices against small towns and my CIA assassin fuck ups by then.

Rather than harp on how not to introduce backstory in between dialogue with author inserted narrative to make sure we get it, whatever ‘it’ is, please take a moment of your time to read a master who, in dialogue and a couple of lines of narrative, tells us effortlessly what we need to know. (Yes, that was an adverb). Written 87 years ago. 1200 words, three pages paperback. Nothing missing, a couple of adverb tags (but hey, this was 1933) and yet we know who everyone is with no bullshit. Yes, I consulted the 4 laws of fair use of copyrighted material and passed the test.


I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from the table where she had been sitting with three other people and came over to me. She was small and blonde, and whether you looked at her face or at her body in powder-blue sports clothes, the result was satisfactory. “Aren’t you Nick Charles?” she asked.

I said: “Yes.”

She held out her hand. “I’m Dorothy Wynant. You don’t remember me, but you ought to remember my father, Clyde Wynant. You—”

“Sure,” I said, “and I remember you now, but you were only a kid of eleven or twelve then, weren’t you?”

“Yes, that was eight years ago. Listen: remember those stories you told me? Were they true?”

“Probably not. How is your father?”

She laughed. “I was going to ask you. Mamma divorced him, you know, and we never hear from him—except when he gets in the newspapers now and then with some of his carryings on. Don’t you ever see him?”

My glass was empty. I asked her what she would have to drink, she said Scotch and soda. I ordered two of them and said: “No, I’ve been living in San Francisco.”

She said slowly: “I’d like to see him. Mamma would raise hell if she found it out, but I’d like to see him.”


“He’s not where we used to live, on Riverside Drive, and he’s not in the phone book or city directory.”

“Try his lawyer,” I suggested.

Her face brightened. “Who is he?”

“It used to be a fellow named Mac-something-or-other—Macaulay, that’s it, Herbert Macaulay. He was in the Singer Building.”

“Lend me a nickel,” she said, and went out to the telephone. She came back smiling. “I found him. He’s just round the corner on Fifth Avenue.”

“Your father?”

“The lawyer. He says my father’s out of town. I’m going round to see him.” She raised her glass to me. “Family reunions. Look, why don’t—”

Asta jumped up and punched me in the belly with her front feet. Nora, at the other end of the leash, said: “She’s had a swell afternoon—knocked over a table of toys at Lord & Taylor’s, scared a fat woman silly by licking her leg in Saks’s, and’s been patted by three policemen.”

I made introductions. “My wife, Dorothy Wynant. Her father was once a client of mine, when she was only so high. A good guy, but screwy.”

“I was fascinated by him,” Dorothy said, meaning me, “a real live detective, and used to follow him around making him tell me about his experiences. He told me awful lies, but I believed every word.”

I said: “You look tired, Nora.”

“I am. Let’s sit down.”

Dorothy Wynant said she had to go back to her table. She shook hands with Nora; we must drop in for cocktails, they were living at the Courtland, her mother’s name was Jorgensen now. We would be glad to and she must come see us some time, we were at the Normandie and would be in New York for another week or two. Dorothy patted the dog’s head and left us.

We found a table. Nora said: “She’s pretty.”

“If you like them like that.”

She grinned at me. “You got types?”

“Only you, darling—lanky brunettes with wicked jaws.”

“And how about the red-head you wandered off with at the Quinns’ last night?”

“That’s silly,” I said. “She just wanted to show me some French etchings.”


The next day Herbert Macaulay telephoned me. “Hello, I didn’t know you were back in town till Dorothy Wynant told me. How about lunch?”

“What time is it?”

“Half past eleven. Did I wake you up?”

“Yes,” I said, “but that’s all right. Suppose you come up here for lunch: I’ve got a hangover and don’t feel like running around much…. O.K., say one o’clock.” I had a drink with Nora, who was going out to have her hair washed, then another after a shower, and was feeling better by the time the telephone rang again. A female voice asked: “Is Mr. Macaulay there?”

“Not yet.”

“Sorry to trouble you, but would you mind asking him to call his office as soon as he gets there? It’s important.” I promised to do that.

Macaulay arrived about ten minutes later. He was a big curly-haired, rosy-cheeked, rather good-looking chap of about my age—forty-one—though he looked younger. He was supposed to be a pretty good lawyer. I had worked on several jobs for him when I was living in New York and we had always got along nicely. Now we shook hands and patted each other’s backs, and he asked me how the world was treating me, and I said, “Fine,” and asked him and he said, “Fine,” and I told him to call his office.

He came away from the telephone frowning. “Wynant’s back in town,” he said, “and wants me to meet him.”

I turned around with the drinks I had poured. “Well, the lunch can—”

“Let him wait,” he said, and took one of the glasses from me.

“Still as screwy as ever?”

“That’s no joke,” Macaulay said solemnly. “You heard they had him in a sanatorium for nearly a year back in ’29?”


He nodded. He sat down, put his glass on a table beside his chair, and leaned towards me a little. “What’s Mimi up to, Charles?”

“Mimi? Oh, the wife—the ex-wife. I don’t know. Does she have to be up to something?”

“She usually is,” he said dryly, and then very slowly, “and I thought you’d know.”

So that was it. I said: “Listen, Mac, I haven’t been a detective for six years, since 1927.” He stared at me. “On the level,” I assured him, “a year after I got married, my wife’s father died and left her a lumber mill and a narrow-gauge railroad and some other things and I quit the Agency to look after them. Anyway I wouldn’t be working for Mimi Wynant, or Jorgensen, or whatever her name is—she never liked me and I never liked her.”

“Oh, I didn’t think you—” Macaulay broke off with a vague gesture and picked up his glass. When he took it away from his mouth, he said: “I was just wondering. Here Mimi phones me three days ago—Tuesday—trying to find Wynant; then yesterday Dorothy phones, saying you told her to, and comes around, and—I thought you were still sleuthing, so I was wondering what it was all about.”

“Didn’t they tell you?”

“Sure—they wanted to see him for old times’ sake. That means a lot.”

“You lawyers are a suspicious crew,” I said. “Maybe they did—that and money. But what’s the fuss about? Is he in hiding?”

Macaulay shrugged. “You know as much about it as I do. I haven’t seen him since October.” He drank again. “How long are you going to be in town?”

“Till after New Year’s,” I told him and went to the telephone to ask room service for menus.

Excerpted from Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. Copyright 1933, 1934 by Alfred A, Knopf, Inc. Renewed 1961, 1962 by Dashiell Hammett

NVDT #72 – “Alleged”


Prompt – We usually interview our good guys and gals when we do character interviews. How about we do an interview with our favorite bad guy?

“Today we’re speaking with Elizabeth Vernier, Esq, J.D. Executive partner in the law firm of Vernier, Leduc and Delome of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Good afternoon, Ms. Vernier.”

“Is it afternoon?”

“Well, yes.”

“You know that how?”

“I had lunch before I arrived.”

“I see.” (glances at wall clock, 11:47) “Anecdotal then, not empirical.” (desk phone rings). “Excuse me.” (picks up phone). “Katrine? I specifically requested you hold … He did what? Shit. Where? Tell me it wasn’t out of sta … Mississippi? Good. Bad? Why? … Not that fucking idiot. Bobby? What does that little shi…he have to do with… A hooker’s black book? That’s what this is about? No? What do you mean ‘sorta.’ It is or it isn’t… A whorehouse in a shrimp truck? Never mind. Call Chief Bastik at LBI, tell him to run the end sweep. Yes, dear, that’s all. End. Sweep.” (cradles desk phone) “Where were we?”

“I… I’m not sure. I ate lunch, and started the interview, the phone rang…”

“Let’s see if I can help.” (Pulls sheet from stack of paper) “You want to know why I’m the bad guy in the Bobby B series. I’ll tell you why. I don’t want my lovely, brilliant niece to have anything more to do with that little swamp rat. A fact that per se does not equate to ‘bad person’.”

“It’s also been said that you are a political manipulator.”

“Manipulator is a strong word with nasty connotations. Football Quarterbacks, by nature of their job, are manipulators. Do we call them that? No, we call them ball handlers and field generals and game managers. I am no different. I run Senator Guillome’s office like a quarterback.”

“By that you mean?”

“I call the plays, handle the balls, squeeze them if need be, and manage the parties involved for a DPO.”


“Desired Productive Outcome. Did you go to school?”

“Yes ma’am. Arkansas.”

“That explains a great deal.”

“It does?”

“If the toothbrush had been invented anywhere but Arkansas it would have been called a ‘teeth’ brush. Next question?”

“What is your DPO in this current, uh,” (motions to phone) “situation.”

“None of your business.”

“Okay… Back to Bobby B. He seems likable enough. He’s brought jobs and a small boat building industry to Houma. His restaurant chain seems to be a hit, the car show’s ratings are up. It’s hard to find anyone with anything bad to say about him.”

“The people with nothing bad to say have their hands out and are riding the lucky little shi… Bobby’s coattails. However, I see him as a direct impediment to my niece becoming the bride, and along with me the brains of a new political dynasty in Louisiana. From where I sit, we would all be better off if Mr. B were dead.”

“Haven’t you tried that on several occasions?”

“Are you suggesting­—”

“Of course not. But ‘they’ didn’t succeed?”

“Failures and disappointments only strengthen one’s resolve.”

“Like Bobby? His mother left when he was twelve, his father was killed on an offshore rig —”

“I am fully aware of Mr. B’s history. If his mother had emancipated herself from Houma when she should have the little shi… Bobby would never have been born.”

“Something that would have saved you a lot of trouble?”

“It certainly — ” (picks up vibrating cell phone, turns chair 180 degrees) “What… Bastik, cut the shit. All I care about is the Senator. I don’t give a damn about a pair of fucking… They did what? Tell me they weren’t yours… Fuck! Tell the ambulance to drive slow, maybe stop for lunch. Text me.” (spins back to face interviewer who is looking at cell phone) “What are you doing?”

“Reading. Two renegade State Troopers and an LBI agent with automatic weapons just shot up a shrimp delivery truck on I-59 at the Mississippi border. At the same time ‘unknowns’ blew up a Mississippi Trooper cruiser with a home-made rocket launcher.”

“Where did that occur?”

“The cruiser was parked in front of a rest stop on I-20 outside Vicksburg where they’d reportedly pulled over a Louisiana State Senator for going a hundred and twenty to avoid arrest. Seems he had a nearly naked sixteen-year-old girl in the car with him that he’d run off with from, um… Lauderdale County.”

“‘Allegedly’ run off with and ‘Reportedly’ stopped. Is there dash cam video to support their claim?”

“Went up with the cruiser is what they’re saying. The Senator beat it when the cruiser blew.”

“‘Alleged Senator.’ The unknowns?”

“No plates on a green pickup.” (flips through phone screens) “Found it burning just across the river on Louisiana 3218.”

“So it never happened. The Shrimp truck?”

“Belongs to ‘Pink Tails – Louisiana’s Finest.’ Full of frozen shrimp. No cash onboard, no apparent reason to shoot it up.” (checks phone again) “Hey! That’s a Bobby B company!”

(Liz Vernier checks her cell phone, smiles) “So it is. Now they’re saying the troopers were impostors and aren’t expected to survive?”

“How’d you know?”

“It’s ‘You know that how’ and that’s my line. Thanks for stopping by,” (Liz stands, points past her desk through the facing Victorian love seats) “The elevators are that way. Y’all have a nice day.”


NVDT #71 – The Arts, Editors and Tree Hugging


Prompt – If you had unlimited money to start and maintain a business, what would it be?

A much younger, clean cut twice-a-year sport coat wearing version of me, giving Herbie Hancock my autograph

I would find the guys who bought GEM’s digital hybrid modelling piano technology from the Italian bankruptcy court. Last I looked they were in Finland. I would buy them out. Then I would enlist a handful of my old artists (that are still alive) to once again create the best digital piano on the planet. Upgradeable via flash. Maybe even get Phillippe at Modartt/Pianoteq involved in a hardware hybrid.

I would hire a marketing team to expand the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz concepts to inner cities/community colleges with matching grants. Kids who are playing/learning music, regardless of style, aren’t doing something less productive. I’d expand this concept into an all-inclusive arts program that is not exclusionary like Arts Magnets schools. The program would also have a community outreach and service program so that those challenged mentally or physically would have a place for their inner ballerina, artist, musician, writer – Any pathway to constructive creative expressions is a highway of growth for the soul. Better foundations, better citizens, better people.

Last, but not least, I would hire an army of underemployed editors, pay them enough to work without an eye to marketing and making “friends”, make them available and affordable, if not completely free, to Indie writers. Editors who won’t blow smoke, coddle, hand out semi-colons and way-to-gos for starting and ending but will force line-item consideration, paragraph logic and consistency.

On that thought, for those of you who don’t bother with the other times I erupt post, but need to feed your inner self editor, here’s NVDT 70

And maybe a clean, small, high-quality restaurant on a coast somewhere that all I had to was fund to keep open, show up occasionally and eat. In the fog. Like Cape Fear in Duncans Mills, CA.

There should be something added about grants for animal rescue, certain tree hugging issues, alternative materials for sustainability, like bamboo and artificial cellular materials for furniture, musical instruments, housing etc. But that goes without saying. Some guy has already made solar panels from food waste that are more efficient than current natural resource depleting panels! Go, dude!

The Promega 3 in the header belonged to Keith Emerson. Photo courtesy of Julien’s Auctions.

Click the link below, see what others would do with this prompt!


NVDT #70 – To Ing or not to Ing

Is your modifier dangling?

It’s no secret I dislike a sentence that starts with an -ing verb, or writing a sentence that ‘feels’ inside out, or backwards. “While” and words of that sort can ruin you, too. “While eating lunch a bird pooped on the hotdog I was holding” Yes, that’s a bad sentence, but I see them all the time. And that’s exactly why I hate them because your brain can reform that into making sense. Which is way too much work and once you get in the groove of accepting them they are almost impossible to self edit. A forest for the trees issue.

I have been told it’s not illegal to start with an -ing phrase as they mix up your sentence structure. No thanks. Unless it’s a tone setter or dialogue. Otherwise I’d rather write smash-mouth direct because -ing, like adverbs and mold, go from a little green spot to an entire fuzzy piece of cheese in an instant.

But for those of you so inclined – Searching my hard drive, I found a grammar exercise yesterday . Or, Yesterday I discovered a grammar exercise on my hard drive. (yes!) Or, While exploring my hard drive yesterday, I discovered a grammar exercise. See why I’m sentence retentive? See why I didn’t use “came across” in the first or third examples? Here ya go, modifier fans. A Dangling Mod worksheet.


  1. While walking in the yard yesterday evening, we were thrilled to see a pair of Canada geese on the lake behind the house.
  1. While walking in the yard yesterday evening, a pair of Canada geese on the lake behind the house gave us a thrill.


  1. Being late in the afternoon, that class does not always get my full attention as I am usually quite drowsy.
  1. Being late in the afternoon, I do not always give that class my full attention as I am usually quite drowsy.


  1. Heavily damaged in the fall on the mountain, Mark’s bike was taken directly to the repair shop.
  1. Heavily damaged in the fall on the mountain, Mark sent his bike to the repair shop.


  1. Standing on the fifteenth floor balcony, I thought that the whole ocean seemed to spread out before me.
  1. Standing on the fifteenth floor balcony, the whole ocean seemed to spread out before me.


  1. To find the file, the entire file cabinet will probably need to be searched.
  1. To find the file, I will need to search the entire file cabinet.


  1. Seeing it from a distance, that towering thunderhead was a beautiful sight.
  1. Seen from a distance that towering thunderhead was a beautiful sight.


  1. Seeing Pat Ryan at the reunion, for an embarrassing moment I could not remember her name.
  1. Seeing Pat Ryan at the reunion, I could not remember her name for an embarrassing moment.

NVDT #69 – Whoa! Inter-app Functionality!

ProWritingAid and Scrivener talk to one another!

The other day I pulled the plug for good on Grammarly. Because I final line edit and compile in Scrivener. Since Rev 1. As far I can tell there is no easier way to deal with a multi scene/chapter document. Regardless of how you work. You can be visual, or a retentive outliner, researcher, academic – it doesn’t matter. Scrivener works the way you do. Watch a couple of YouTube videos and you can even stop paying people for your epub formats.

Alas, with Grammarly and ProWritingAid it was always a two-or-three-step process to use them with Scrivener. Copy out, paste into Word or their desktop apps, copy back. After losing all formatting, italics etc. PWA finally got to where it would open Scrivener projects natively. But when reopened in Scrivener? All the formatting, gone again.

After cutting the cord on one overpriced and marginally useful spell checker on steroids I Googled Scrivener and PWA. Lo. Integration. Probably the same ol’ same ol’. Software companies rarely fix what really needs fixing. It should be noted here I was not alone in my complaints and requests for proper integration. Writers’ Productivity Matters, you know?

Today I downloaded, via prompt, the latest PWA. No word about fixes or anything. I opened it, opened a Scriv project I really really really want finished, did some work, saved and closed. Reopened the project in Scriv fully expecting to fix the formatting and re-find all my italics –

Hell No! It Worked!

I had a couple of sync issues that were Windows/One Drive and Scrivener’s problem, tidied that up and BAM.

Working on a Scrivener project in the desktop app of ProWritingAid is like working in a form of Scrivener Lite.

I’m not sure if the world cares or not, but to me this event is a flash of collaborative brilliance.

I am not an actor portraying a Scrivener user, nor am I paid or swagged by Literature and Latte in any way. Scrivener is $49. Jeez, PWA is $79 a year ($59 first year) for arguably the best glorified spell checker. $49 as a one-off to make composition easier than anything you’ve ever used? I’d pay three times that just because

It Fucking Works!

NVDT #68 – Bonanza, Polti and Tolkien


Prompt – Every story starts with a stranger in town or a journey. “Pa, we’re takin’ the wagon to Virginia City.” Every story ends with “Golly gee, Wally. I thought we were goners.” True or False?

Yes, and yes/no. Regardless of whether you write milieu, idea, character or event, even deep stream of consciousness or “slice of life” stories in any of Polti’s 36 plot forms, they all have an inciting incident. A person or an event wakes up, encounters someone or something else. Spending a moment in time with a character or an event is to cover (for lack of a proper pronoun) “its” journey.

The “Golly gee, Wally I thought we were goners” only applies as denouement. If the conflict is resolved without dusting up, then that line might read –

Alix dropped the pistol on Yannick’s body when she stepped over it and through the splintered door into the late summer night. (The Hollywood out of budget The End scene)

The Golly Gee version might go like this –

Alix dropped the pistol on Yannick’s body when she stepped over it and through the splintered door into the late summer night. She would take the next train to Paris, find the beautiful American woman and tell her the good news. Tell her how a passionate, blue-eyed French girl with impossible hair had begun to feel about her, see what she thought about that.

 The difference can be a denouement of several lines, or a chapter, a wedding invitation, or the hero listening to his new stereo after the insurance rebuilt his house. Resolution equals BAM. Golly gee equals BAM plus denouement.

Either way, the end of narrative “generally” involves a resolution, even if the “journey” (quest, procedural, civilization) is a failure.

Unless you’re writing a series, “cliffhangers” or unresolved narratives should be avoided. Standalone they are pretty much writerly suicide as they are frustrating as hell to readers. However, if you are a screenwriter who writes novels or films, you are allowed more unresolved sub plot holes than Swiss cheese as long as the main protagonist(s) commits some resolving action. Forget what happened to the white Cadillac, the Mafia boss’s son, the hooker, the Faro dealer and all the forensic evidence, security cameras and cell phone tower pings. Bang Bang. The cheating husband is dead. Wife and mistress are happy. Roll credits.

I keep saying this to everyone who thinks anyone has reinvented the literary wheel – check this link out. From Plotto to Plot Genie. (there was a you too can become a Dan Alatorre clone comment here, but it was sarcastic and inflammatory, so I deleted it)

Understanding that Bonanza is Star Trek. Beowulf is Dune is Lord of the Rings means the  best any of us can do with the stranger or the journey is to write engaging, well-edited and logical content regardless of chosen genre.

As always, there’s more – There are some interesting tips on Writer’s Digest (A book my father bought annually until his death) and this is one I want to share for first page/chapter construction, as explained (in edited form) by Orson Scott Card.

Tolkien does not begin with a prologue recounting all the history of Middle-earth … He begins, instead, by establishing Frodo’s domestic situation and then thrusting world events on him, explaining no more of the world than Frodo needs to know right at the beginning. We learn of the rest of the foregoing events bit by bit, only as the information is revealed to Frodo.

In other words, the viewpoint character, not the narrator, is our guide into the world situation. We start with the small part of the world that he knows and understands and see only as much of the disorder of the universe as he can. 

And here’s a bit on prologues that is longer than Elmore Leonard’s, but maybe blowing it up a little will help.

Too many writers of event stories, especially epic fantasies, don’t learn this lesson from Tolkien. Instead, they imagine that their poor reader won’t be able to understand what’s going on if they don’t begin with a prologue showing the “world situation.” Alas, these prologues always fail. Because we aren’t emotionally involved with any characters, because we don’t yet care, the prologues are meaningless. They are also usually confusing, as a half-dozen names are thrown at us all at once. I have learned as a book reviewer that it’s usually best to skip the prologue and begin with the story—as the author also should have done. I have never—not once—found that by skipping the prologue I missed some information I needed to have in order to read the story; and when I have read the prologue first, I have never—not once—found it interesting, helpful or even understandable.

In other words, writers of event stories, (I say any stories) don’t write prologues (or overly busy or populated first chapters). Homer didn’t need to summarize the whole Trojan War for us; he began the Iliad with the particular, the private wrath of Achilles. Learn from Homer—and Tolkien, and all the other writers who have handled the event story well. Begin small, and only gradually expand our vision to include the whole world. If you don’t let us know and care about the hero first, we won’t be around for the saving of the world. There’s plenty of time for us to learn the big picture.