Things In Writing I Pay Attention To That Other People Might Not Care About

If Haskell gets any closer Nyxie will show him the consequences

Yes A Does Really Have To Get To B Eventually

Cause And Effect

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Unresolved situations are frustrating.

Example: If a character experiences trauma, they will be traumatized and then display signs of trauma as a result of the event.

To not experience trauma in response to a traumatic event indicates something other. This could be used as a literary device. If it is not being used as a device it is distracting and takes away from the work. Make sure all actions have consequences.

Does The Characterization Of Each Character Match Up With The Timeline?

Characters are on a journey. Each character is moving from A to B and some will go on to C or D. Along those paths each character is changed. This creates the timeline of a book. How a character is portrayed in a scene needs to match the point in the timeline a character is at.

Example: A character that is in her twenties thinks about bills and her job as opposed to a character in her teens that is thinking about school. Because of this, the relationships formed around these areas are most important in life and are the most emotionally impactful outside of family and those that might as well be family.

We Didn’t Go Anywhere

When the setting of a story changes it’s important to have some form of transition to show movement of time and place.

There are some stories that don’t include enough details about objective indicators of passage of time and check that they are consistent such that all of the details of the story align temporally.

There are some stories that don’t include them at all and it’s somehow eternal summer somewhere bizarre like Alaska.

There are some stories that include way too much detail. It’s overwhelming and distracting from the story. I am suddenly studying the passage of time and the changing of the seasons instead of the nature of man.

There are some stories that include lots and lots of details. So many details. All the details. But none of them align temporally, so suddenly April was both 6 months ago and 2 months ago with Winter only 3 months away. This is when I start getting headaches. James Joyce does this. A lot.

Characters Have Hidden Lives

It’s Okay To Have “Offensive” Characters

There’s a huge difference between an “offensive” character that upsets readers and an overdone inaccurate stereotyped character that upsets readers because it doesn’t resonate.

The best offensive characters speak to the group they’re offending because they are too accurate and too real. This will be upsetting to some people. That’s the kind of “offensive” I relish. There may be those that demand a content warning. Good – research is showing that content warnings increase the reads a piece gets much like good tagging because people are seeking them out.

I don’t care who the author is – I promise if you have done your research and shaped your character in a way that reveals truths in your observations, I will love your character even if people get really upset with you over it. Cut the wound deep and hit where it hurts, not where it’s been done ad nauseum unless it’s real. Reveal something no one else has, but remember that pen names exist for your protection.

Your Characters Have Conversations The Reader Doesn’t Know About And Doesn’t See

An author cannot document everything. They are writing down a snapshot of a potential alternate universe that could exist because someone thought of it, right? That means all of those characters have private inner lives the reader can’t possibly know in its entirety. This means characters can have relationships with each other that are implied instead of explicitly stated. All of this helps to create depth.

It helps to come up with a full backstory for every character in a story even if it’s never talked about or mentioned. This will influence how dialogue is written and how hidden relationships between characters are revealed.

Your Characters Have Moods

Depending on your character’s internal state they will have a mood. This mood will translate into action or inaction in response to a stimulus and that will result in some consequence. Moods and energy levels related to exhaustion as an effect of the story timeline should all be cohesive.

Your Characters Of Different Cultures Are Going To Have Trouble Getting Along

Culture clash is real. The minority of people will be peaceful and fine and that’s great, but your characters aren’t the saints you think they are. Nope. They are averse to change and other cultures and view other as dangerous. This goes all ways. Be real – your characters from different cultures are going to be uneasy around each other and hesitant to make friends for legitimate reasons evolutionary wired in (if they’re humanoid).

Settings Are Places That Can Only Be Known Through Experience

Setting Descriptions Have A Time And Place With Characters In Them

It is not uncommon that I run into setting descriptions that are detached from the story either by the characters not interacting with the setting features or by the characters existing completely separate from setting descriptions.

By integrating setting details with the story as a whole the sensory experience can be the focus. The integrated sensory experience of the setting provides the reader with a greater sense of passage of time.

Settings Indicate Culture

Think about it – In the United States, if I set a story in the South a reader is going to anticipate a lot of passive aggressive saccharine manipulation straddled by y’alls happening. If I set a story in the Northeast, there’s a more WASPy social norm puppet show expectation.

But that’s based on the dominant culture of an area. What about when you’re writing about an area’s subculture?

I like to refer to framing subculture structures in writing as “country clubs” – it’s exclusive, you need to know someone to be someone, and there are generally specific central gathering places.

TL;DR

  • Make sure everything makes sense temporally
  • Ground the reader in temporal details outside the character
  • Offend by speaking the truth and make very effort to ensure that truth resonates in an effective and impactful way with the audience
  • Characters have conversations the reader won’t see but totally influence what the final dialogue will be.
  • Characters have inner lives, states, and energy levels that change as a result of the story. Write that.
  • Culture clash is real. Observe it and describe it. Be curious and nuanced. This gives a story so much depth.
  • Details of setting can be added to show passage of time in the story and immerse the characters and action in the location.
  • Settings indicate dominant culture and can somewhat indicate subcultures.

Thank you for reading! If you like this post on writing please like and let me know. What are things in books that drive you crazy?

Today in “Lo Is Domestic AF”: Will It Chocolate Chip Cookie? Part 1

That’s Thai Basil Lemonade – I can do some things

I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret:

I’m not a domestic goddess

But I really like cookies and my sister has gotten me craving cookies. I blame you dear sweet sister, Becky.

Except, unlike her, I am not an angel of the kitchen. No. I create abominations behind closed doors. I present to you:

The Pillsbury Gluten-free [Cayenne Surprise] Chocolate Chip Cookie*

*not sponsored – this is what we had in the pantry

“But Lo,” You ask, “What’s the surprise if you tell us the cayenne is in it?”

Well, most people aren’t prepared for a cayenne chocolate chip cookie made with coconut oil instead of butter.

Don’t forget to preheat your oven to 375F because Pillsbury says,“🦆 the metric system!”

That’s 1/2 cup of softened coconut oil, couple dashes cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon tap cold water, and an egg.

Blend until decently homogeneous such that unsuspecting husband cannot see the cayenne pepper flakes.

Advise him that he can taste how spicy they are if he would like. Watch as he makes his “ew that has raw egg in it” face.

Laugh on the inside as you taste it and suggest adding more. He says, “No.”

Elevation seems to impact cooking time a lot for this baking mix. At 3205 feet elevation (at MSO) the cook time is approximately 10 minutes. I have made this recipe at 6000+ feet elevation and 10 minutes was not the correct time. Both were gas ovens, but there are other variables to be aware of.

Listen, gluten-free baking is weird and I’m constantly whispering incantations like “you better work you 🦆ing box of baking soda tasting 💩 “ over it. I’m not a wizard, contrary to what my last name may lead some to believe.

Once the cookies are out you have to let them cool a little, then detach them.

Next comes the fun part – the cayenne.

Dust the cookies with cayenne then transfer to a rack to finish cooling because I obviously trust you to do the right thing. Right?

Psych! Get that second batch in the oven and get your favorite homogenized nut juice some weirdo is insisting you call nut milk. Pour a glass and get a plate with at least 2 cookies.

If you are using horchata instead, you’re the true goddess, my friend.

Like that glass? Sales of it support the survival of a community gathering place important to me. You can buy that glass here.

Are you ready?

Yay! 2/2 approve! Cayenne Surprise is the good kind.

So What’s The Surprise?

The spice sneaks up on you. The tingling starts around your lips and crawls around in your throat balanced with the flavors of chocolate and cookie. It’s subtle, but you can’t eat too many. The cayenne isn’t super noticeable visually. It adds a brightness close up. Overall, I’d say this was a success. Have you tried similar with a different chocolate chip cookie mix or recipe? How did it turn out?

What should I try to add to cookies next? Do you have another domestic potential disaster for me to attempt? Comment below!

We’re On An Adventure

Rainbows everywhere

Today we did something crazy. We drove from Missoula, Montana to Eureka, Montana and back to give a friend a ride back to civilization from their family’s compound after they tested negative for COVID-19. What a great chance to show everyone this amazing place I live!

I did say rainbows

Beautiful Montana

These are all from today

I am blessed to live in a place of wide open spaces and the optical illusion that creates a bigger sky

Where glaciers collide with clouds

Flathead Lake is always a welcome sight

Flathead Lake is a gem

We hit a bit of rain on our way, but it eventually subsided.

As with any good Montana road trip you have to stop for the wildlife.

Don’t worry – they move eventually

You’d never believe this is one of the major shipping routes across the US border into British Columbia, now would you?

Nearing Eureka as it begins to get darker

Blue sky still visible at 9 PM? Not for long!

Near Trego, Montana the last bits of day find their way into this beautiful night

We managed to catch the sunset on our way in to town

As I’m pleased to share with you some of the magnificent clouds we witnessed about 15 miles south of the Canadian border at the port of Roosville

As we return from Eureka we see signs reminding us to social distance and stay close to home. Missoula County and Lincoln County both have 0 active cases. Our friend safely in tow, they are also high risk, have been isolating, and need to get to Missoula for a doctor appointment that cannot be done over a video chat.

Whitefish looks desolate. There’s no one on the roads here. It makes sense – Flathead County is among the hardest hit in the state – every case that’s been traceable has been connected to travel. Flathead County is where the airport for West Glacier and Whitefish is. We head south toward Kalispell.

So helpful

We stop in Kalispell to charge the car and use a disposable barrier for handling the charging cable. Charging will require a couple of hours.

It’s dark, so the pictures aren’t going to be very interesting for the rest of tonight. We will be safely back in Missoula soon.

And there’s your Montana road trip during this crazy time. The world is a mess. Stay safe – hold your family close.

Nyxie Explores The Downstairs

Nyxie is getting more settled and comfortable in her new home. She is now demanding attention by inviting herself into Jacob’s lap while he is working. She has decided drawers and cabinets are the best things ever. She opens them, runs inside, then closes them. She thinks she is a clever kitty. We think we need to invest in child safety locks.

She has discovered that Jacob’s desk is also a standing desk. You know, that one standing desk from Costco that lots of people decided to all go and buy right before tech companies started saying work from home indefinitely? That one. It’s buttons spook the hell out of me and are so touch sensitive. Nyxie doesn’t care. Elevator cat.

Guess what else this cat is fearless agains? Robotic vacuums. Shadow cat don’t care. House dragon cause bigger scare. Rawr.

Nyxie is doing well. We’re wondering how much she was eating at the shelter – she seems satiated around 2/3 of a cup of food per day with some treats, a snack, or a little wet food thrown in at some point. Otherwise she is *starving* throwing a tantrum.

Play is a work in progress. She does not seem to engage with objects quickly. That makes using toys difficult. I want to try a laser pointer next.

Thank you for reading this update!

Nyxie Explores The Downstairs

Nyxie is getting more settled and comfortable in her new home. She is now demanding attention by inviting herself into Jacob’s lap while he is working. She has decided drawers and cabinets are the best things ever. She opens them, runs inside, then closes them. She thinks she is a clever kitty. We think we need to invest in child safety locks.

She has discovered that Jacob’s desk is also a standing desk. You know, that one standing desk from Costco that lots of people decided to all go and buy right before tech companies started saying work from home indefinitely? That one. It’s buttons spook the hell out of me and are so touch sensitive. Nyxie doesn’t care. Elevator cat.

Guess what else this cat is fearless agains? Robotic vacuums. Shadow cat don’t care. House dragon cause bigger scare. Rawr.

Nyxie is doing well. We’re wondering how much she was eating at the shelter – she seems satiated around 2/3 of a cup of food per day with some treats, a snack, or a little wet food thrown in at some point. Otherwise she is *starving* throwing a tantrum.

Play is a work in progress. She does not seem to engage with objects quickly. That makes using toys difficult. I want to try a laser pointer next.

Thank you for reading this update!

Poverty And Coronavirus: How Bad Could It Get?

Source: https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/2014-2018-poverty-rate-by-county.html#

Let’s talk about poverty and how it plays a role in pandemics (specifically covid-19 and the current state of things in the US).

First, to get this out of the way ,

Poverty does not mean someone is…
dirty
diseased
uneducated
deserving of their position
being punished
has made mistakes
is suffering consequences
or any of that B.S.

Now that that’s out of the way. Let’s move on.

Source: It’s a zoomed in version of the map above, y’all. I’m from the Chesapeake Bay and you can see West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky at high risk just by consideration of poverty.

Impoverished areas tend to have worse health care with low availability than areas of higher average income. And it has only gotten worse over the past 4 years. This means that in these areas everyone is of a much higher risk category when it comes to having community impact from covid-19. There are a couple factors playing into this, but let’s start with the accessibility question.

Closure of Rural Hospitals

Rural hospitals often serve impoverished areas. Because healthcare in the United States is privatized it is not secure. Based on whether or not a larger medical network parent hospital corporation thinks a hospital is profitable, a hospital can be closed down. This is not a new problem. It’s been going on for the past decade, quietly, while everyone else focused on all of the other aspects of healthcare. Except for rural communities where we banded together and started figuring out Ag worker clinics and other ways to cover vitals needs. But guess what: that can’t do crap against the coronavirus.

Since coronavirus entered the United States, West Virginia saw the closure of Fairmont Regional Medical Center at the hands of California owned Alecto Healthcare Services. Other hospitals across the United States are closing and laying off workers to reduce costs and shift resources within these greater hospital networks, like Alecto Healthcare Services. This reduces the resources available to impoverished or communities that might not make these networks as much money. Another example is Missoula, Montana where Western Montana Clinic laid employees ahead coronavirus in a similar way.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-09/hospital-bankruptcies-leave-sick-and-injured-nowhere-to-go

Bloomberg reported back in January that hospital closures were becoming a concern prior to the coronavirus hitting the United States media’s attention. The article references hospital networks taking these actions as a means of weeding out “weaker facilities”.

“Some of the more recent closings are the result of large health systems weeding out weaker facilities. That’s the case with hospitals run by Community Health Systems Inc. and its spin-off, Quorum Health Corp.

All of the areas where these hospitals once were are at much higher risk of having their remaining healthcare systems overwhelmed.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-09/hospital-bankruptcies-leave-sick-and-injured-nowhere-to-go

Under the Trump economy, hospitals have suffered immensely as measured by the Polsinelli TrBK Health Care Services Distress Index (tracks bankruptcy filings in health-care). Not only has this president set our healthcare system up to fail during his entire time in office, he is now trying to deny all responsibility. I don’t identify with a political party in the United States, but seriously.

Essential Employees

Essential employees include delivery drivers, manufacturing employees, gas station workers, grocery store check out clerks, health care workers, government workers, and all of these low-paid minimum wage jobs. Who makes minimum wage?

Source: https://policy-practice.oxfamamerica.org/work/poverty-in-the-us/us-minimum-wage-map/ Darker areas of map represents the concentration of workers being paid under $10.10/hr.

Many of the essential employees that are still going to work are the same ones making minimum wage. They are also the ones living in low income areas where healthcare is suboptimal, easily overwhelmed, and is far away. Assuming they can afford it at all.

Notice something that will make your heart break? Where did all of the hospitals close?

Update: as of 31 March 2020

Source: https://coronavirus.1point3acres.com/en (8:49 PM MST) – Where’s all of Oklahoma’s testing?

I’m not a religious person, but I ask if you read this to pray for those communities. This is where flattening the curve is both most important and least likely to happen. For further reading on how the US is doing with that check out this post here.

Happy to update this and answer questions, plus dress this up with additional research.

Thank you for reading – without you these would just be shouts into the ether.

Upcoming Reviews: February 2020

Welcome to February 2020! This list was very delayed (I apologize) and not all of these books will have live tweet reviews. That said, you can expect a continuation of the Author Interview Series.

The February 2020 Books Are:

Trillium” By ML Holton (Full Review; Author Interview)

But I Am Here” by Pamela Bettencourt (Live Tweet Review; Full Review)

Worship Me” by Craig Stewart (Live Tweet Review Coming Soon; Full Review Coming Soon; Author Interview)

Wanting Peace” by Alaine Greyson (Live Tweet Review; Full Review)

Schedule Update (March 19 2020):
Working on posting reviews until I am back on track. Due to a death in the family as well as illness there have been some delays.
Ideal schedule:

Mondays – Story Updates/Announcements
Wednesdays – Reviews
Fridays – Author Interviews

That’s the goal!

If you are interested in submitting your book for future review, I am currently booked through end of July 2020 and am currently looking for books starting with August 2020. Check out the schedule of themed/open-themed months here. Due to this backlog, the calls on Twitter have been temporarily discontinued until further notice.

Requirements for submission:

  • Print Edition Must Be Available (preferably paperback)
  • Under $20 (USD) – I buy your book like everyone else!
  • Not Erotica or “The Serbian Film” Level Gore/Sex/Violence – for more details check here.

You can send me an e-mail with the subject line: Only a Hippopotamus Will Do (e-mails not including this subject will be ignored)

In this e-mail include:

  • a link to where I can purchase your book.
  • a brief introduction to yourself
  • a link to your Twitter and/or personal website (if applicable).

IF you are interested in sending me a copy of your book, please send me an e-mail with the subject line: The Buffalo Seem Fine to Me