Letters of Note: C. S. Lewis on Writing

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Letters of Note: C. S. Lewis on Writing

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PODCAST: Pantsers vs Plotters

“Pantsers vs Plotters” is my latest WRITING STUFF Podcast on SoundCloud.

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JOURNAL: Toxic people; 16 Jun 2018

My friend called me last night to talk with me.

Well, more precisely, he called to talk at me. And talk, and talk. He really had no interest in what I wanted to say. If he did, he would have called me at a time which was more convenient for me. I am an early riser, as you can see from the time of this post. He, on the other hand, is night owl. So when he called me the previous night at ten o’clock at night, that pegs him as a toxic person right there.

I knew I shouldn’t have called him back. If I really did want to call him back, I should have timed it to just before prime time. You see, he’s also a cheap person who refuses to buy a cable-phone-internet package. So he is a slave to the TV schedule. He has to call me when he has nothing else to do — for the next hour or so.

I put the timer on on my phone. I give him 20 minutes. (The next time we speak, he’s getting fifteen.) If you have to make excuses to cut someone off, that’s a pretty good indication that any conversation is a time-suck. Toxic.

He always knows just what is needed to save the city / state / country / world. “Someone should do this.” “Someone should call city hall.” “Someone should stand up to them.”

Not he, mind you — no, he never says that he’s going to the next city council meeting and address problem XYZ. He loves to feel that he can influence others to do his bidding. He thinks he’s a Svengali; he isn’t even a Svengoolie.


He’s bright enough, but he is also pretty lazy. And his allies are the most disgusting bunch of perverts and leeches I’ve ever know.

He wants me in that circle. No thank you, I’ll make my own circle. And I’ll tell you all about it, when I feel like it, probably some weeknight around 7:55 p.m.


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Death Mask (#99)

Death Mask

I know it is going to happen. I have another of my recurring dreams, where I am walking with someone in a place that is both familiar and unfamiliar. Was it the beach, my old neighborhood, or a military base?

Where isn’t the issue so much as the fact that the dream is very real and very scary. Sometimes I scream or cry, “I’m not supposed to be here!”

The person I’m walking withers a nondescript face. We turn a corner. Someone comes out with something in his hand, whether a gun or a knife or even something as seemingly harmless as a cellphone. My companion freezes, and then drops to the ground, dead.

I catch only a glimpse of the horror, of the face of the murderer. He’s about 70, fat — boy, don’t men hate the word ‘fat’. He’s unshaven, but not in the millennial hipster way. His clothing hasn’t seen laundry soap in weeks.

I wake up. It’s very early, and the birds are already attacking my downstairs neighbor’s bird feeder. Thank goodness I’m and early riser and that I like most birds.

I go to the bathroom, look in the mirror …

… And see a face that is not mine.

Continue reading

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"Even Nazis can’t kill that fast." (Casablanca, 1942)

Victor Laszlo: And what if you track down these men and kill them, what if you killed all of us? From every corner of Europe, hundreds, thousands would rise up to take our places. Even Nazis can’t kill that fast.

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A garden-variety politician (From BROKEN WATCH)

Bob Grant was your garden-variety politician: a bully, a hypocrite, and an opportunist. A real throw-back, he was adept at getting things done for his neighbors and his core supporters. But on the flip side, he preferred strong-arm tactics to negotiation.

Also a garden-variety racist, he would let a white guy breeze through the hackney licensing drill. But when a Chinese couple wanted to install a free vintage pinball machine in their laundromat (to keep the kids occupied and to keep them from riding in the laundry carts), he harangued them for what seemed to be hours. A few of their regular customers, who had been watching the meeting on TV, showed up in Aldrich Chambers and stood up to Grant, in support of the couple.

As all bullies are cowards, Grant quickly backed down.

~ End of excerpt ~


All politics is … deadly.

Deb Trimmer is your typical pain in the ass — with a very, very dark side. A prolific blogger, Deb doesn’t stand in front of the First Amendment, protecting it from all adversaries. She hides behind it and attacks, slanders, and harasses her victims. She is an “injustice collector,” railing against all real and (mostly) imagined slights. But when she stumbles on a legitimate scandal, she pays for her delusions and venom … with her life.
It’s up to Maeve Gallagher, no fan of Deb Trimmer by any means, to find Deb’s killer, especially when the finger of suspicion points to … Maeve herself.

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21 May 2018 will be my “Cut the Cord” Day

12 May 2018
Winchester Public Library
Winchester, MA, USA

CtCD – 9*

*”Cut the Cord Day” minus Nine

To paraphrase a well-known saying, “No one ever looked back on their life and said, “I wish I had spent more time on the internet.”

Well, I don’t want to look back on my life and say that I spent too much time on the internet. I’ve already wasted too much time. Oh, my friends and family will say, “But what about all those adorable baby pictures? And those pictures of so-and-so’s trip?”

They’ll still be there whether I slouch onto my ‘social media’ sites every day or once a week or once a month.

One of my dreams was to find a place to write without distractions: no TV, no internet, no phones. And for a long time, I knew of just such a place. Until now, I was, in my heart, fearful of that place, not because it was unfamiliar, but because it was very familiar.

That place was my home. All I would have to do is get rid of my cable bundle. If I did need the internet to, for instance, upload this article to my WordPress site – the free one, of course – I would have to plan my week so that I would be at a place that had free wifi.

My work has free wifi, but I don’t want to spend any more time there than I had to. My first choice is the library. I could go twice a week, on Wednesdays (after work) and Saturday late morning, and take care of all my internet needs: mail, social sites, etc. I could also upload any articles I had written.  Finally, I would post the link to my articles on my social sites. And that’s about all I’d post to my social sites.

My blog site also allows me to ‘time’ my posts. For instance, this post probably won’t be uploaded for a couple of days, but I can set the posting date for today.

At this point in time, the internet is little more than reality-TV on steroids. People stroke each other or bleat at each other, self-perpetuating the cesspool it has become. “Look at this! Isn’t it wonderful?” Or, “Look at this! Isn’t this horrible?”

“This just happened, and it’s wonderful / horrible. But you’ll have to click on the link to find out where it is. And when you find out that it’s in China or Australia or India, you’ll be pissed. But we’ll keep posting this click-bait, and you’ll be back for more.”

But it took a relatively minor occurrence to finally get me to make the decision to go bundle-free at home. My cable provider took away my Adult Swim. I don’t even watch it that often. I like to watch King of the Hill and Bob’s Burgers occasionally, but that’s it.

And that’s not the only reason I am finally going to ‘cut the cord’. Another go-to network, Turner Classic Movies, has been showing either really crappy movies or the same movies over and over and over again. I could recite Sunset Boulevard, backwards and in Latin.

My Friday night habit, Live PD, is nothing more than a vehicle for cross-promotion, not to mention that fact that it has become very boring. How many times can one watch cops hassling black people – yes, cops do hassle black people – or watch them pick up yet another drunk off of the sidewalk?

As for my telephone, the only people who call me are telemarketers. There’s one person, I’ll call them Leslie, who is nice enough, but can be a real soul-sucker. Leslie also loves nothing more than the sound of their own voice. They’re the type that says, things like, “Someone should do something about X, Y, and Z.” Never will they say, “I did something about X, Y, and Z.”

So, nine days from now, I’ll call my cable provider and spend the better part of an hour cancelling my service. I’ll have already loaded the equipment into my truck so I can take it directly from work. And I will have already installed an over-the-air (OTA) antenna so I can watch my free TV, like I used to do when I was a kid.

On my library jaunts, I could also get DVDs out. And book – remember them?

I’ll have to pay the early termination fee, which pales in comparison to the $140+ I’ll save each month.

“Cut the Cord” Day is 21 May 2018.


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