Winter Sport

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riting is a winter and foul weather sport isn’t it? It’s not yet winter, but rain is upon us this morning, so here I am at the keyboard. Spring is recover from winter and autumn is get ready for another season of indoor. Unless of course you are a snowshoer, skier, ice skater, etc. Those will take you from the keyboard as quickly as boating, camping, gardening or other things like fence repair done best in the summer.

Weeds love the summer and can send roots through hard clay for water. The garden crops we love to eat and brag about require water and the elimination of the moisture-robber weeds. Flowers we clip for the dinner table and photograph for social media posting require the same attention.

And the lawn! Letting it grow over the recommended height or let it brown in a neighborhood of green may bring comments between green and trimmed grass neighbors. Not that committed writers or those having a deadline to meet in order pay the electric bill care about brown grass which doesn’t need mowing if it isn’t watered.

But those clay-soil penetrating weed roots…

Aw the rain – a downspout is clogged!

Grandpa, did you…?

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hen my grandchildren were much younger they’d ask questions about nearly everything. Most of the time a simple yes or no was a good answer, but a second question usually led to a story. Many times, when they were older, one or more would ask something like, “What did you tell us about…”
I’d try to remember what I’d said when they were younger.



FADE IN
INT. LIVING ROOM WITH CHAIRS, COFFEE TABLE, ETC
Grandpa leaning back in a soft chair. Three teenage granddaughters One teenage grandson, two pre-teen grandsons, and a pre-teen granddaughter lounging and snacking. Parents of grandchildren moving in and out of the room.
GRANDDAUGHTER 1
Any new Buster Bunny stories Grandpa? Have you written them down?
GRANDPA
Which question should I answer?
GRANDDAUGHTER 2
(dipping her head and raising an eyebrow)
Papa!
GRANDPA
No new stories and I’ve only written two – maybe three.
GRANDSON 1
(Standing)
Want a soda Grandpa?
GRANDPA
I’ll just finish my coffee, but if you’re leaving would you get me some chips.
GRANDSON 1
Sure.
(turning to the others)
Anyone else?

The three pre-teens standing in unison with Grandson 1.

GRANDSON 2
Think I’ll get a Pepsi.

Pre-teens leaving with Grandson 1.

GRANDDAUGHTER 2
Papa. Buster Bunny?
GRANDPA
Well, Bu…
TEEN GRANDDAUGHTERS
(In unison)
‘ster Bunny was not a regular rabbit; he lived in a city.

Granddaughters laugh.

GRANDPA
How do you always remember that?
GRANDDAUGHTER 3
(Standing)
We’ve heard the opening many times. Anyone else want a soda?

Granddaughter 3 leaving. Grandsons 1, 2, and 3 returning.

GRANDSON 3
Grandson 1 says you got shot. Was it when you were in the Army or when you were a cop?
GRANDSON 2
Grandpa was a teacher!
GRANDPA
I didn’t get shot in the Army or when I was a reserve officer.

Grandpa pausing and taking a sip of his coffee.

GRANDPA
I was shot before I was thirteen. Probably when I was twelve. Because it was in the spring.


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hot in the Arm is chapter 17 in my new book Before Grandpa was Thirteen: Stories I told my Grandchildren.

Same Line – Same Name

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was reading a prize-winning story and realized I’d read the same opening line written by someone else. “Sometimes the name they give you is all wrong.” When I saw the first line in a different publication, I did a search and found it in another, then another.

For whatever reason I remembered hearing a spoof song about plagiarism from the 1950s.
Tom Lehrer sang:
“… Plagiarize; Let no one else’s work evade your eyes; Remember why the good Lord made your eyes; So don’t shade your eyes; But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize; Only be sure always to call it please “research”…”
Well that thought led to a copyright search. Kawhoo! Copyright is complicated. However, several online sources say a single line cannot be copyrighted. I had no intention of calling out the writers who used the same opening line, but I feel better finding that no infringement was Committed.

In my previous blog, I talked about my starting several stories with the same first line. The line I’ve quoted above is one listed for Summer 2019 submissions to The First Line. But every story in an issue of The First Line starts with the same line. And a reputable publication wouldn’t intentionally put its contributors in jeopardy of copyright infringement.

Thus, in something I’ve just written, I explain my use of the name Buster Bunny in stories to my grandchildren.
“The Buster Bunny stories I made up, told to my grandchildren, and included in this work are mine; subsequently, I discovered at least two other fictional rabbits named Buster Bunny. One was a character in Standard Comics, and another appears in the Tiny Toon Adventures copyrighted by Warner Bros. However, just as there is more than one John Benson, there is more than one Buster Bunny.

Finishing

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he First Line is a quarterly literary journal to which I’ve made several submissions and more than a dozen unsubmitted drafts. “The purpose of The First Line is to jump start the imagination – to help writers break through the block that is the blank page.” My problem is finishing an idea for one of its first lines.
Five examples follow:


There were five of them, which was two more than I’d been expecting. I was faced with loading 1,000 lbs. of passengers and their luggage into the small SUV for a 50-mile ride to the mountain cabin. On a normal day, there would be options: take two trips, call for a second van, hire a ride share for the two extras… Calling the resort manager wasn’t one of the options. He was grouchy enough with employees on a regular basis, but to call him at 3:00 AM could result in my being fired on the spot.


There were five of them, which was two more than I’d been expecting. The delivery crew assured me the invoice for five chairs was accurate and the order number matched what I’d received online. I did a quick calculation and determined the total was for three of what I had paid. The response from the company’s customer service was that my order was for three and the price was as printed. To make the adjustment, I’d have to send all five back and wait for a shipment of three.


There were five of them, which was two more than I’d been expecting. The show had advertised three of Branston’s classic black and white originals for action. Branston was well known in the photography world for making one print and destroying the negative so there would never be duplicates. I thought I’d read every catalog of his work and didn’t recall seeing the extra two.


There were five of them, which was two more than I’d been expecting. Soviet T-54s were disturbing to a well-armed infantryman with a Bazooka and even more so to anyone with only a M-1 Carbine or M1911 .45 caliber pistol. Someone somewhere must have thought technicians shouldn’t be armed when gathering electronic intelligence on the American Zone/Czech border in 1961. Where I was t and for what I was doing my .45 was locked up in the company arms room.


There were five of them, which was two more than I’d been expecting. Adam Scott, my best high school friend, was there with his girlfriend Evadne Rossman. Evette, Evadne’s twin whom I was dating would be sitting in the front seat with me at the drive-in movie. But the twins’ sister Peggy, younger by a year, and Cranston Peal, her on again, off again, too old for our comfort, boyfriend, were standing just off to the side when I parked at the curb next to the Rossman home.


My previous blog was about advice. Perhaps I should take John Grisham’s and write the ending first and work the first line toward that end.

Advice

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hould I listen to one who gives advice on how to advise? They’re there on their own advice. They advise me to cite my site about sight. Some time ago, I took the editorial advice of someone more than willing advise me on a writing project. Turns out the project then became the advisor’s and not mine. Good thing I saved the original.

I just read a ‘good advice’ blog that talked about writing structure. “How to Unlearn Everything You Learned about Writing in School” by Dana Sitar. Do I dare advise other writers to read and perhaps head the advice?

This week I also read “Tips for Creating a Beneficial Author-Editor Relationship” by Julie Collins. The blog gives good advice perhaps based on advice given the author by others or from personal experience.

Then there’s word count. Mark Twain allegedly said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” I’m sure one agent didn’t read past my, “… 32,000-word…” statement in my query and replied that my work was too short for consideration. Then there’s the word limit for submission; but I understand the restrictions to limit cost of printing in a journal. But does tightening a 1000-word piece to 750 allow the story to be told? A piece of advice given by a word length advisor suggested splitting long works into a series. Bet that was never said to James Michener.

I think I’ll write a little about bios next time.

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ell, I need to quit before I get into a writing controversy I can’t talk my way out of of which I cannot talk my way out. Don’t want to be a grammar criminal and end in a preposition! [Who made up that rule, standard, law? Check The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way by Bill Bryson.]