WeWriWa—Surveying the pantry

Happy 90th birthday to Mickey Mouse!

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This year, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This week’s snippet comes some pages after last week’s. Sparky (real name Katherine) and her best friend Cinnimin have come home from school, and introduced Sparky’s mother to the concept of Thanksgiving. The girls begged her to make kosher Thanksgiving foods, so their families can celebrate together, each with their own foods on the table.

Mrs. Small isn’t entirely sold on the idea, since the money to pay for this food has to come from somewhere, and her family needs to save money for more important things. Regardless, she’s given the girls permission to go into her kitchen to check for holiday-appropriate food.

The girls went into the Smalls’ kitchen, and Sparky pointed out where everything was.  They discovered carrots, potatoes, onions, flour, sugar, salt, mushrooms, walnuts, apples, dried fruits, non-dairy baking chocolate, green beans, brown sugar, cinnamon, and eggs, all of which could be used to prepare traditional Thanksgiving foods.  Cinni set out the non-perishables on the counter the Smalls used for their parev foods, so they’d be reminded of what they needed to use.  She also left a note about needing to use the eggs and mushrooms.

“Your mom won’t need to buy too much,” Cinni declared as she surveyed the gastronomic loot. “Only cornbread, pumpkin, bread for making breadcrumbs, celery to add to the stuffing, cranberries, yams, marshmallows, and turkey.  You can make gravy outta the turkey drippings, and thicken it up with flour.  My mom can lend you her recipes for stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and candied yams.”

“I can’t eat marshmallows,” Sparky objected. “They’re made with gelatin, and that comes from pig bones.”

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How to write a book in the style of Beatrice Sparks

It’s been too long since I wrote a post ripping the late fraud “Dr.” Beatrice Sparks a new one. So, let’s do that!

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care if someone wrote books I didn’t click with. One person’s lousy writing is another’s treasure. But in the case of “Dr.” Sparks, this isn’t just about bad writing or books that aren’t my style at all. Since more than a few people, esp. in her target audience, believe these are true stories, she was dangerous and unethical in addition to a fraud.

Some of her books are marginally better than others. They’re not all pure horse dung. But with the obvious exception of the 25 real entries from Alden Barrett in Jay’s Journal, they all read like the work of an over the hill, extremely conservative and religious person pretending to be a teen.

We now know Sparks lied about her training, education, credentials, experience, etc. People who know what’s what also understand she was the true authors of all those books, and what she did to the poor Barrett family.

I have NO problem with either a real-life or fictional teen being religious, frequently praying, having a close-knit relationship with her or his mother, trying to live a G-rated life, being conservative, etc.

What I DO have an issue with is how Sparks injected this into each and every one of her books, making her characters clones of herself. The way her characters express these things is so unrealistic, ridiculous, over the top, identical.

How to write in the style of “Dr.” Sparks:

1. Always give the time of day at the start of each entry, and every time you return to an entry later in the day.

2. Everyone loves RANDOM CAPS! In fact, readers have even more love for ENTIRE SENTENCES IN ALL CAPS, or, better, yet, COMPLETE PARAGRAPHS IN ALL CAPS!

3. We all love random italics too!

4. The best of both worlds is RANDOM CAPS IN ITALICS!

5. Who doesn’t love excessive exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6. PUT THEM ALL TOGETHER REGULARLY FOR EVEN BETTER, MORE INTENSE WRITING!!!!!!!!!!

7. Repeat words thrice for emphasis; e.g., “We’ve heard he’s loud loud loud” and “My mom is soooo very wonderful. I love love love her.”

8. Randomly use advanced, fancy-sounding words while pretending you have no idea where you heard them. Even better if you use distinctively Mormon concepts and terminology while feigning ignorance about their meanings.

9. At the same time, talk like a preschool kid, with beyond-babyish language. Who wouldn’t believe a 15-year-old ex-gangbanger would say “Goobly-goop-poop”?!

10. Make up baby words and sprinkle in lots of connected nonsense syllables even a doo-wop song would reject, like kit-kit-kit-kat-kat-doodle.

11. Oversimplify complex issues, and solve them in record time.

12. Use the stock line, “Ooh, I’m sooo glad my dear, sweet, precious Mom is MY dear, sweet, precious Mom!”

13. Engage in hardcore, fetishistic maternal worship, where all things Mommykins and mothers are pure, holy, angelic, never negative.

14. Make sure your character comes from a broken home, and depict divorced families as the worst moral crisis ever, bound to lead to all manner of social ills and sins.

15. Trawl through psychology textbooks and after school specials for “serious” lines to sprinkle in, like a mean girl quickly admitting she only acts like an aloof snob who doesn’t want friends because she’s insecure and afraid of rejection.

16. Pack in as many problems as possible, no matter how disconnected.

17. Make your characters mentally much younger; e.g., a 14-year-old who sounds like a 3-year-old.

18. Your characters are never drawn into drug use, premarital sex, pregnancy, gangs, cults, etc., through their own actions. It’s always the fault of bad friends tricking, abusing, exploiting them.

19. Everything is always Magickally alright again after your narrator tearfully confides in Mommykins, who’s amazingly loving, forgiving, accepting, an angel on Earth.

20. Use lines no teen ever would utter, like, “Wowee! Now I know what hormones are!”

21. Immediately apologize for cursing; thinking negative, unappreciative thoughts; or saying less than worshipful things about parents. E.g., “Ew, Mom! You are such a gross bitch!” (Five minutes later.) “ZOMG! How dare I curse at my dear, sweet, precious Mommykins in the pages of my own journal! I’m worse than Hitler! I might as well kill myself now!”

22. Jump into relationships at lightning-speed, and act like you’ve already got a serious, eternal pair-bond with a total stranger.

Beatrice Sparks, I hate you. May you continue to be exposed as the vile fraud you were. Teens learn best by honest examples delivered respectfully, not by being lied to, preached at, scared, and emotionally manipulated.

WeWriWa—Art class turkeys

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This year, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

In first period art class, new immigrant Sparky (real name Katherine) has encountered the concept of Thanksgiving for the first time, and her rebellious friend Kit has made a turkey with very non-traditional colors. Their frenemy Adeline got into an argument with Kit about the realism of such a turkey, and Kit made sure to get the last word in.

Kit gave her turkey large turquoise eyes with generous drops from her paintbrush.

Sparky looked at Cinni’s turkey and tried to copy the colors, shapes, and placements of the feathers and various other body parts.  So their turkeys wouldn’t look exactly alike, Sparky didn’t put her feathers in the same order.  Cinni’s turkey alternated red, yellow, and orange feathers from left to right, while Sparky alternated yellow, red, and orange feathers.  Sparky also made her turkey a bit bigger, and put more detail into it.

“How come you never told me about this holiday?” Sparky asked at the conclusion of art class.

“I thought you knew about it.  My daddy says a bunch of countries have Thanksgiving, even if it ain’t exactly the same as the American version.  You knew about Halloween.”

IWSG—November odds and sods

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The Insecure Writer’s Support Group meets the first Wednesday of each month. Participants share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

I’ve been writing since age four, so my creativity has evolved along with everything else on the journey through life. My storylines and characters are no longer so out in left field and overly creative (i.e., implausible). I’ve always been very creative—writing, drawing, cross-stitch, thinking, solutions to problems.

I’m once again a NaNo rebel, though this year, the majority of my wordcount will come from my WIP. Last year, it was about split between a WIP and creative non-fiction in the form of blog posts. I can’t say enough about how writing last year’s 12-part series on The Jazz Singer at 90 gave me back my mojo.

This year, I’m counting blog posts, my WIP, and the story I wrote for the IWSG anthology contest. I resurrected my 18th century character Jinx and her younger sister Myrina, whom I’d shelved in ’92. It got me so excited about these characters, I almost wished I could change my NaNo project and significantly expand that story!

Jinx’s original real name was Marionetta, and her sister was Marilyn, but since those weren’t authentic 18th century names, Jinx’s real name became Iynx (pronounced “inks”), and Marilyn became Myrina. Their mother is a passionate Hellenophile who gives all her kids obscure names from Greek mythology.

I can’t wait to restart this long-shelved series! I have so many awesome ideas, but I need to do a lot of research first—18th century life; 18th century Charleston, New Orleans, Port Royal Island, and Bologna; the Ursuline Academy in New Orleans; the University of Bologna (the first university in the world to admit women, centuries before just about everyone else); and the American Revolution.

I tried to write as many important November blog posts as possible before NaNo, and was able to do the ones about The White Album, and the 1928 films The Wind and Show People. I also started my recent post about the 1928 film Speedy, and the first of my posts on Duck Soup (1933).

I’m making great progress on my WIP. My NaNo project has it as Volume II of A Dream Deferred, though I’m still on the final chapter of Part I. Since Part I has ended up far longer than I anticipated going in three years ago, I’ll be releasing it as one book in two volumes.

I recently ran across a 3-star review of my alternative history on Goodreads. I’m glad to get any reviews, and to see someone mostly enjoyed this book. She took issue with my rather old-fashioned writing style; thought it was confusing to keep track of how everyone in the extended Romanov family was related; felt people repeated themselves sometimes; and thought there were a lot of lists.

I’ve always owned the fact that my writing style may seem old-fashioned in the modern era. While I’ve ditched the archaic God-mode, I still learnt how to write from older books. There’s only so much modernizing I could do without losing my own voice and style. With this particular book, I also acknowledge the voice and style are a bit more old-fashioned even by my own standards.

One of the main reasons I’ve disliked so many recent historicals is that the voice is too modern!

My best guess about the lists criticism is that it refers to dining scenes and descriptions of things like room layout, outfits, and presents received. Again, I own that this is part of my worldbuilding style, which may not appeal to everyone. Many other people love my food scenes, and reading about all those delicious things on the menu.

The repeating things I kind of see, though again, that’s a conscious, deliberate stylistic thing, meant as emphasis of something’s importance.

Are you doing NaNo this year? Do you mind a more old-fashioned style, in a historical or any type of book? Would that style cause you to give a book fewer stars?

WeWriWa—Kit’s avant-garde turkey

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This year, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets come from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

In first period art class, new immigrant Sparky (real name Katherine, born Katharina) is very confused to encounter the concept of Thanksgiving. Her best friend Cinnimin, whom she lives with, gives a basic explanation. True to form, their rebellious friend Kit decides to make a very non-traditional turkey.

At the next table over, Kit was defiantly using her watercolors to paint the white construction paper purple, green, bright pink, turquoise, teal, and blue.  She completely ignored the brown and black paper, and assembled her turkey only from pieces of the orange, yellow, red, and painted papers.

“That doesn’t look like a real turkey,” Adeline whispered. “Your folks won’t be very happy to see that.”

“My daddy will love it.  He loves everything I do.” Kit dipped a wooden stick into the bowl of homemade adhesive and applied it to the bottom of her feathers. “Abstract art is neater than boring paintings of angels, flowers, and lakes.”