MIdweek fiction from Cat “The Night Driver”

Everyone has lurking within them a bit of silliness that demands to be set free once in a while.  On one occasion, mine escaped while I was writing, so I decided to take on that most hackneyed of opening phrases, “It was a dark and stormy night … “. I planted my tongue firmly in my cheek and picked up my pen.  The Night Driver is the result of my silly spell.

It was a dark and stormy night – a real nasty one – the kind I’ve come to dread ever since that night.  I was sitting quietly, enjoying my beer, when I noticed the guy staring at me.  I ignored him as I do anyone who is rude enough to stare.  Then I sensed him coming over.

After a bit of small talk, he stopped talking and just looked at me.  I looked back.  “What, you want to hear about the time traveller?”

“If you wouldn’t mind telling me,” he said, signalling for refills for both of us.

I thanked him, then said, “I don’t mind telling, if you don’t mind listening.  All I ask is that you don’t interrupt too much, because I don’t really like talking about it.”

He agreed and, after a sip of the beer, I started.

“It was a dark and stormy night “ I stopped as I saw him glaring at me, then I said “I know, I know – any story that starts that way has to be pure bull, right?  Hear me out, then you tell me.

“As I said, it was a night much like tonight and as usual, I was working the night shift, but in a cab for a change.  That I was even working that night was a fluke.  My usual job was night dispatcher and I was scheduled to be off, but a couple of drivers were out sick, so the owner took over dispatch and chased the night guy out into a cab and called me in to drive.  So, I got another chance to meet some of the people behind the addresses and voices I heard over the telephone.  It was also the last time I ever drove.

“I had just dropped a customer and decided it was time for coffee and a smoke, so I headed for my favourite coffee shop.  It has long been my view that people who work in the taxi industry, drivers or dispatchers, are fuelled by caffeine and nicotine and my tank needed refilling.  As the company has a strict policy against smoking and eating in the cars, I planned on a fifteen minute break.  At that time of morning, I knew the chances of getting a call were slight, so I wasn’t worried.

“Anyhow, I was cruising along quietly.  As usual whenever I drove in bad weather, the AM/FM was off, so the only noises in the cab were the rain pounding the roof and windshield; the wipers losing their battle to keep part of the windshield clear, and the occasional sound from the two-way.  The dispatcher called the code for the stand serving the area I was headed for.  Silence.  Then I heard ‘Car for the area.’  A couple of guys booked on the call but they were farther than I was.  I keyed the mike ‘21 – Parkway and Elm.’”

“‘21 – Parkway and Elm.  Anyone else?  Looks like you’re the lucky winner 21.  Parkway and Main.  Call me on the phone.’”

“‘Rog’, then I called the office.  While I punched the number, I tried to figure out who the hell would want a cab from that corner at two in the morning.  That was probably the most desolate spot in town at that time of night, with the shopping mall being the only thing there and it had closed two hours ago.  Perhaps the cops had stopped some guy who was now going home without his car while his car went to impound.

“‘City Cab’ Jerry answered.

“‘Hi Jer, it’s Sue, what’s up?’

“‘Sweet Sue, Queen of the Night.  Thanks for calling.  Listen, this sounds odd somehow.  Guy called from the theatre entrance at the mall.’

“‘Okay.  Kinda late, but maybe he’s one of the cleaners just finished.’

“‘Yeah, I know, but I didn’t recognize the voice as one of the usuals from there.  I don’t know Sue, the whole call made me edgy.  You know how you can usually hear some kind of background noise, or line noise, especially on nights like this, well, there was nothing like that at all.  Just dead silence until he spoke.  His voice gave me the creeps too.  It sounded dead – no emotion at all and it sounded like he was at the bottom of a deep well.  Just be careful, sweetie.  This one sounds weird.’

“‘Thanks Jerry.  My doors are locked and if I don’t like his looks, he ain’t gettin’ in darlin’ and I won’t care how hard it’s raining!  Did he say where he was going?’

“‘Uh, no, not exactly.  All he said was County Road 5.  Look Sue, this sounds like a setup for a robbery.  Do you want to pass the call?’

“‘No, I’ll take it.  Like I said, I’ll check him out first, then let you know.  I’ll radio in with the exact destination and I’ll call you again the instant I’m clear.  I promise.  I’ll use the usual codes if there’s trouble.’  Then I hung up, shaking my head at Jerry’s concern.  I should have taken his offer to pass the call, for although I didn’t know it, my night was about to get very strange.  I headed to Parkway and Main, humming to myself.

“What’s that you say?  ‘The usual codes?’  Oh that.  Well, Jerry and I had many discussions on this.  I always felt that when a driver called someone ‘a fare’, they are reducing the person to nothing more than a walking, talking ATM.  I always used ‘customer’ or ‘passenger’ for I felt it was more humanizing.  So, if Jerry, or any other dispatcher, heard me call someone a ‘fare’ they knew I was concerned about something.  And if they heard me, or any other driver, call in and give our car number in reverse – in my case, 12 instead of 21, they knew there was serious trouble and they should call the cops.

“As I pulled into the plaza, I saw someone standing near the theatre entrance, silhouetted against the lights from the poster boxes.  He was about six-four, skinny as a rake and neatly dressed, although his suit didn’t look like the latest style.  But, then again, who am I to judge?  When I drive a cab, I’m no fashion plate either.  He looked okay, so I swung the car up to him.

“‘Hi.  Sorry it took so long.  Where would you like to go?’

“He started at the sound of my voice and said ‘Oh!  I wasn’t expecting a female driver.’

“‘Well, we were short-staffed tonight, so the owner took dispatch and put me out here’ I explained.  ‘Now, where to?  The dispatcher said something about County Road 5?’

“‘Yes, County Road 5, number 5280.’

“‘Okay, that shouldn’t take too long’ I said as I grabbed the mike.  Jerry was right, this one was creepy.  ‘21, I have my fare.  Clearing at 5280 County 5.’

“‘Roger.  Watch the roads, I’ve had some reports of flooding.’

“‘21, flooding, roger’ I acknowledged and headed further out Main.

“As we drove, I kept an eye on my passenger.  ‘Odd’ didn’t begin to describe him. He looked like a tourist, the way he kept staring at everything, which wasn’t much in that part of town at night.

“I don’t know if all cab drivers do it, or if the dispatcher in me is responsible, but even if I have someone in the cab, I still pay attention to the radio.  That’s how I knew Jerry was really worried, for I heard him dispatch a couple of cars to the stands nearest my destination.  That area is about 90% residential, bordering on rural, so I knew it was a couple of hours before he could reasonably expect calls from there.  One of the drivers, George, the biggest pain in the butt to ever drive a cab, complained.  Jerry cut him off with ‘Car 10, call the office now!’

“The drivers at City Cab may have considered me the queen bitch of dispatch, but they had learned, first from me, then from the other dispatchers that when a dispatcher said ‘call the office now ’ in that tone of voice, they had better be punching the number into their cell phone with one hand while they acknowledged the order with the other because we didn’t say ‘now’ without a damned good reason.

“I never found out what Jerry said, but a couple of minutes later, I heard a very subdued George on the radio, mumbling ‘Car 10, roger.’

“As I said, the guy had been staring out the window ever since he got into the car.  He turned toward me and said in his dead voice ‘What was the purpose of that?’

“I wasn’t about to tell this guy that Jerry was worried about my safety, so he’d sent a couple of cars to stands close to my destination just in case they were needed.  I had heard the car numbers Jerry had sent and knew he’d picked the two biggest men working nights.  Instead, I gave him a song-and-dance that Jerry probably had a call that George didn’t particularly want.  I explained that most drivers, at least the good ones, developed a knowledge of call patterns.  In talking with each other, they relayed things like which calls were good; which calls were short runs, and who tipped well.  I told the guy George was more than likely trying to weasel out of a short call with a poor tipper.  I also mentally thanked Jerry, because this guy was really creeping me out.

“With this exchange, the guy got more talkative.  He began by making some comment about how small the town seemed, then mentioned that he didn’t recognize anything.  He had on odd way of talking – not the usual speech patterns I was accustomed to hearing, and don’t forget, as a dispatcher, I got to hear lots of accents and speech patterns.  His word selection was also slightly different – almost as if he’d learned English by reading a dictionary.

“By now we were approaching County 5 and I turned onto that road.  Just after I did, the car took a funny jump and shimmy, almost as if I’d hit a speed bump both too fast and at an angle, then settled down to its normal sounds and feel.  I’d been concentrating on the road – there were no lights on County 5 and I didn’t want to hit a rabbit or something larger, like a deer – I saw a car that did that once and it wasn’t a pretty sight – so it wasn’t until I heard that horrible graunching noise of wipers on dry windshield that I noticed the rain had stopped.  Looking around, I noticed the sky seemed lighter as well.

“‘That’s strange’ I said to the guy, ‘“two minutes ago we were in a downpour and now the road is bone-dry.’  As I said this, I spotted the entrance to 5280 and made to pull in.  He told me just to drop him at the end of the drive.  The lane was long and unpaved, so I said to him, ‘You sure?  Won’t cost any more to the house.’

“The house must have been a good half-mile from the road, but he told me he could use the walk.  He handed me a bill and told me to keep it.  As he was closing the door, he stopped, leaned in and, smiling slightly, said ‘In reference to your earlier comment about the weather, it never rains  here. Unless we want it to.  I advise you miss, for your own safety, to go back the way you came, without stopping, Thank you for the ride.’

“I pulled out of the mouth of the drive and keyed the mike.  ‘21, clear at 5280 County 5.’  Silence acknowledged me.  No static; none of the other cars; just – nothing.

“As I once again approached the intersection of 5 and Main, I could see no speed bumps or anything that could have caused the car to act as it had.  But, again the car did that weird little dance and suddenly I couldn’t see out the window for rain.  I stopped and looked in the mirror.  Rain was falling on a flooded County Road 5.

“The radio burst into life ‘21, are you out there?  Car 21, acknowledge.’  Jerry sounded frantic.

“I keyed the mike.  ‘21, I’m here and clear at Main and 5.’

“‘Thank God!  Sue, please call me immediately.’  The relief was evident in his voice.

“I still hadn’t moved from the intersection, which made it easier to acknowledge while I hit redial on the phone.  Jerry caught it during the first ring. ‘Sue!  Where the hell have you been for the last three hours?  I didn’t know what to think.  I sent George to look for you.  Not only couldn’t he find you, he says County Road 5 doesn’t have numbers that high.’

“‘Jerry, Jerry, calm down, you’ll have a heart attack.  Now what’s this about three hours?  It only took about twenty minutes.  And you know George couldn’t find his butt with both hands and a roadmap.’ I was getting seriously mad now.  ‘Even if he did miraculously find 5, he couldn’t have missed the place, not all lit up the way it was.’

“‘Okay.  Come on in.  I want to see for myself that you’re all right.’

“‘Jerry …’

“‘Don’t argue Sue, please. It’s just about shift change anyway.’

“I did a slow count to ten, then ‘Fine, I’ll come in.  Do you want coffee?’

“‘Hell, yeah!  I’d prefer something stronger, but coffee will do.’

“When I got to the office, Jerry just looked at me for a moment, then walked over and gave me a big hug.  Next he said ‘Okay, run through this for me.  You picked the guy up at the mall theatre entrance.  Then what?’

“I ran through the story for him, including the guy’s comment about George’s whining and the remark about how he didn’t recognize anything and finished by saying ‘Jerry, I’ve still got the bill he gave me.’

“Just then, George came in, saw me and said ‘I don’t know where the hell you were, but it sure wasn’t County 5.  There’s about a foot of water on it a quarter mile off Main.  Damn road’s a lake.’

“Jerry looked at me.

“‘Jerry, I was there.  The road was dry.  Look, here’s the money’ as I threw the bill on the desk.

“Jerry picked it up, looked at one side, then the other.  Still looking at the bill, in a quiet voice, he said ‘Sue, I believe you if you tell me you took this guy to County Road 5 but sweetie, I don’t think it was our County Road 5′ and he handed me the bill.

“The five a.m. news came on as I stared at the bank note with the big ‘20′ on it, the Parliament Building in Ottawa and bearing the legend ‘North American Federation of Canada’ and a date that won’t come about for a couple of millennia yet.

“After my shift, I went back to County 5.  George had been right – the road had about a foot of water over it, and the numbers stopped at 3500.

“So, take a look at this, then tell me – is it bull?”  I asked him as I fished the twenty out of my wallet.

He barely glanced at the banknote.  Instead, he thanked me for telling him the story then left a bill on the bar to cover the drinks, and walked out the door.

The barman came over and picked up the bill, then turned to me.  “Very funny Sue.”

“What?”

“Isn’t this yours?” he said as he held up a bill identical to the one I still held in my hand.

When I drove a cab – number 21 – one of the other drivers referred to me as “The Queen of the Night.”

Cat

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It isn’t romance

I recently posted an interview with author Rusty Blackwood.  A few days ago, Rusty posted the following, which I found interesting, on her website, and she has graciously allowed me to copy it here:

PEOPLE — ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!
Posted on September 28, 2012 by Rusty Blackwood

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2012/03/12/fifty-shades-of-grey-a-winning-romance-novel-goes-from-fan-fiction-to-viral-hit/#disqus_thread

What does it take for human beings ( in this case the reading public) to  possess even the slightest possibility of a brain cell in the area of reading genres to FINALLY realize, let alone understand that erotica is NOT romance? What is the matter with everyone? Are you just one of the millions of mindless brain-washed zombies who have just got to have the latest hype in words regardless of what that might be, or how utterly mistaken the branding is? Honestly!

As a writer of romance I, and countless other writers – hard working writers who actually strive for something worth putting our name on; something to be proud of, something which carries our emotions, hard work and sweat in order to obtain a well crafted piece – only to find this continued outrageous nonsense surrounding this ‘erotic story’ – yes, that’s all it is – erotica – NOT romance – far from it – the two are in no-way connected nor are they the same. For crying out loud people if you can’t get it straight then at least get a clue!

Everyone is entitled to their opinion – just as I am – but as the title of this post says:  PEOPLE — ENOUGH ALREADY!!!! When it comes to actual romance, erotica, and the writing of such is 50 Shades AWAY!

As always, support your local authors ( regardless of genre) as well as all local talent in the Arts.

Rusty.

Unfortunately for writers such as Rusty and I, many people don’t want to read something that will require them to use their brain, they’d rather have things spelled out for them. The quality of the writing does not enter into the decision of what to buy and read. That decision is mostly influenced by word of mouth – what everyone’s talking about. All they want is titillation, and 50 Shades apparently provides that in spades, although from reviews I’ve read, the quality of the writing itself isn’t that good. The popularity of this series seems to be based more on the effectiveness of the hype and the rumoured kinkiness in it than any literary qualities.

Thinking again about what Rusty wrote yes, romance novels may contain elements of erotica but only if it comes as a natural progression of the romance. On the other hand, books that have the main characters simply jumping from bed to bed, possibly stopping along the way for some , umm … “interesting” diversions contain no elements of romance and very little in the way of plot development.  They are “erotica”, in other words what some would call “soft porn” or “smut”.  But one thing they are not are romance novels.

There are many examples of romance novels and romance writers, Rusty among them, who do not see the need to resort to “erotica” to make their novels more acceptable.  Their writing holds the readers interest and, unlike books like “50 Shades”, they require the reader to use their imaginations.  Writing in a fashion that leaves things unsaid, left to the readers’ imaginations, isn’t as easy as it sounds.  It is actually easier to describe events and locations in detail than it is to just hint at what’s happening.  That ability to entice readers with subtle clues as to what is going on and make it sound believable is the mark of a good writer.  Anyone can describe in detail, but that isn’t writing, that’s just reporting.

As a writer, I credit my readers with intelligence – after all, they are reading my writings – and therefore feel they are capable of using their minds and imaginations.  Here is a description from a piece I’m still writing:  The city was one of those anonymous places that comprise what politicians and pollsters commonly refer to as “the industrial base.”  The signs at the city limits proudly proclaimed population figures from the last census, but several minor recessions and a major depression had taken their toll and the signs were wildly optimistic.  I could have gone into much greater description, for this was based on an actual place, but by leaving it as I did, I’m encouraging the reader to “fill in the blanks” with scenes from their own lives.  And that is also the main difference between romance and erotica.  In erotica, there are no blanks to fill in.

As Rusty wrote above “People – enough already”.  Learn to tell the difference.

Cat.

Just ban the whole thing

This morning I was speaking with the lady who runs a local shop.  The topic was the revisions to “A Visit from St Nicholas” – see my posting “May as well use loose leaf textbooks in school” for my views on this.

We got a bit silly with this, mentioning various other sections someone, somewhere would find objectionable or politically incorrect.   With tongue planted firmly in cheek, let’s take a look this poem to see what might cause reactions.

Line 6 – “visions of sugar plums” nope, can’t have that.  Too much sugar isn’t good for kids.  Have to change that.  Maybe leave out “sugar”.  Fruit is good so “plums” can stay.

Line 13 – “The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow”.  Sexist – that will have to go as well.

Line 16 – “eight tiny reindeer”.  You’re travelling to various countries with this livestock.  Have they had all the necessary shots?  Do you have the paperwork proving this?  And are they being given a break after so many hours in the air, much like airline pilots?  And, why are you using “tiny reindeer”?  Are they capable of doing the job or are you overworking them?  Has the SPCA investigated this?

Line 27 – “up to the housetop...”  Is that a safe environment for reindeer?  Again, perhaps the animal welfare people, or PETA, should get involved here.

Line 32 – “Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.”  Don’t the authorities consider things like this breaking and entering?  Are we encouraging children to engage in criminal activity with this line?  Better get rid of it too.

Lines 41 and 42 I’ve already covered in the posting named above, so won’t go into them again.

Line 54 – “and away they all flew”.  Has St Nick filed proper flight plans for all this aerial travel?  If not he could find himself being forced down by Air Force jets.   Considering these are international flights, he could find himself in a lot of trouble.  Or, if his paperwork is in order, he wouldn’t have room for any toys.

Considering the possible problem areas I found in a quick scan of “A Visit from St Nicholas”  perhaps we’d be better just banning the whole thing.  That would solve a lot of problems.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

And no, I’m not serious about this.  Have a good laugh.

Cat.

May as well use loose leaf textbooks in school

I caught an item on the early news just now and I’m ashamed to say this was a Canadian idea.

We’ve all heard of the poem “A Visit from St Nicholas” by Clement Moore, or maybe you know it better by its first line “Twas the night before Christmas”.  Some publisher in Vancouver thinks it needs to be updated for the twenty-first century.  Her new version omits the following two lines found in the original:  The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;  I would imagine illustrations will also reflect this change.

This poem has been around about 180 years, so why does it need “updating” now?  Is this political correctness run amok, or something else?  Yes, I know smoking is no longer as socially acceptable as it once was, but is that any reason to revise a poem that has reached icon status?  If so, how long will it be before any reference to tobacco is removed from history texts, despite the fact it played such a huge role in the settlement of North America?

If history as we know it is subject to revision at the whim of the god called political correctness, history texts may as well be published in loose leaf binder format because any page could be changed at any time.  All it would take would be one person objecting to the way something is portrayed!  And as we are aware, all it takes is one person to point out something they personally find politically incorrect and they will have no problem getting supporters for having that banned.

If you’re of a certain age, you may have studied Shakespeare in high school.  One of the plays I studied was “Merchant of Venice”.  It’s been fifty-odd years and I can still remember parts of Portia’s courtroom speech.  To my mind, that speech is still one of the better monologues in all of Shakespeare: “the quality of mercy is not strained …”  Today’s students can’t study that.  It isn’t politically correct and has been removed from classrooms as being anti-semitic.  Shakespeare was only reflecting the general view of Jews that existed at the time he wrote that play, yet because it doesn’t fit today’s modern view, students are being deprived the opportunity to study it.  History is the same.  Things happened, be they good or bad.  We can’t change them.  Even if we revise history, we still cannot change the past no matter how hard the political correctness police may want to.

Sorry, got carried away there.  As I was saying, changing “A Visit from St Nicholas” is just as bad, just as serious, as attempting to change history because you don’t like how something turned out.  Leave it alone.   I don’t know of any kids who, upon hearing those two lines, decided to go out and try smoking a pipe because Santa smoked one.  Most people don’t even remember those two lines are there.

That lady’s gonna get a lump of politically incorrect coal in her stocking this Christmas.

Cat.

An interview with author Rusty Blackwood


Photograph of Rusty Blackwood taken by, and used with permission of, Miss Carson Doan of Carson Doan Photography.

St Catharines author Rusty Blackwood seems to jump effortlessly among children’s stories; poetry and romance/drama.

anewcatsworld recently had the opportunity to sit down with Rusty and ask her about her writing.

anewcatsworld: In your biography, I note you credit your elementary teacher with encouraging your writing.  For me, it was my Grade 6 teacher, back in London, so what grade would you have been in at the time?

RB: This question pertains to something that came about a very long time ago, but I shall try to recall. I attended # 21 Southwold, a one room country school located on Routh Road, in Southwold Township, Elgin County, south-western Ontario, back when the entire eight grades were taught by one teacher who was in charge of every lesson taught to every student. I still admire those wonderful teachers for they were, in my honest opinion, a true teacher, one who taught for the love of educating children, and awakening the passion to learn within each one. Mrs. Gladys Carroll taught, with the exception of music and religion classes (these were taught by Mr. Philip Squire, Mrs. Kay Chamberland, and Mr. Brian Bragg respectively) everything from grade two, through eight, as well my entrance to high school. Her love and admiration for expressive literature was a passion with her, and she made me aware of this by middle grade, and definitely passed her same need and satisfaction on to me by the time I was in grade seven.

CW: Your biography states you’ve performed in a couple of bands.  Do you feel that musical background has helped shape your writing in any way?  And, can we look forward to one of your characters being a musician/singer in a band in some future novel?

RB: Music’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’m fortunate to have been born into a musical family where my father, his two male siblings, as well their families all played assorted instruments, and were vocalists. Again I owe a portion of my love for music to Mrs. Carroll who played piano and had a great love of musicals and plays. All my school mates and I performed plays, skits, musical numbers, and dance routines for the entertainment of our parents at yearly Christmas concerts, as well the odd production throughout the school year. This provided good training for performing with my family’s country band, The Midnight Ramblers when I was thirteen. I began as their female vocalist doing four selections during each of their performances. This evolved into learning guitar at fifteen and later bass guitar when I was twenty. In the country/rock band MIRAGE I was bassist, and shared lead vocals. Every song tells a story. I believe that words which tell a story through its lyrics set to melody is the challenge of every vocalist to see how well they can interpret the message of the writer. In other words the better the writing the easier the musician’s job, especially the vocalist. I feel it goes hand in hand. You have to understand what the writer meant in order to properly convey the message during the performance, so in that respect I would say that a writer and a musician work hand in hand.

With regard to the second part of your question I would have to say that when it comes to my characters, anything is possible. The hero, Cullen Malone from my romance/drama Passion in Paris, is a musician/actor whose first love was, and still is music even though his public career took him in a different direction. Being a musician as well a writer, I can understand both genres, so it’s very likely another musician shall surface at some point. I have plans for a novel centering on The Midnight Rambler’s years which I hope to bring to print one day.
CW: As I noted, you seem to move among the children’s stories, the poetry and the “steamy” stuff without effort.  Is it really as effortless as you make it seem, or does it take a while to get into a particular mindset?

RB:  Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes not. I believe each writer has their own system which best works for them regardless of proper rule of thumb. My writing is very much like I am personally in as much as I get bored easily and am always looking for something to tweak my interest, or challenge me in some way and this is no different when it comes to sitting at my keyboard or facing a blank piece of paper. Writing children’s stories are the easiest because it’s simply a matter of letting the inner child surface and have fun. Poetry can come on a whim, a simple notion or something that has inspired me, yet there are times when I have to work at it. I find my best poems come from my need to express something I feel. I’m a hopeless romantic who believes in love ever-lasting and true soul mates finding each other regardless of the odds, which I suppose enable me to express this in word. I find myself writing what I’d love to experience. In some cases I have, as we all write from experience as well as what we know about, at least I feel we should. I believe it helps to get into a certain mindset, depending on the desired result, but if you can feel it, the chances of writing it well is much better.

CW: Many people seem to think that writing is easy – you know the “anyone can write a book” train of thought.  How much time do you spend writing each day?  And how long did it take you to write “Passion in Paris”?

RB: I believe that everyone has at least one book within them, as that book—or that life within said book—is important and interesting to someone, it’s just not everyone that can express it in words or project it properly. I feel writing is first and foremost a passion, a love to express something in a way that only you see it, and with hope that your views are something that a prospective reader can understand and relate to. Since becoming a professional writer I find my creative time suffers greatly because I just don’t have the time I’d like to sit and simply write. The business side demands so much effort and time that it can become frustrating, but it’s all part of putting your name on a piece of written work that has been published and now hopes to flourish. I never have a set amount of time or reserved number of words that I need to produce in a set amount of time. I write when I feel the need but as I stated earlier the time is often never enough. I make notes, for I find whenever I have an idea, or inspiration for something the notes help to bring things to life when I sit down to work which otherwise would die before they had a chance to live. The complete writing of Passion in Paris  took the majority of ten years from first idea to finished product. This amount of time would have been greatly diminished had I had the luxury of excess time without interruption. If it had been that way the story would have been finished in half the time that it was, possibly less.

CW: an author once made the comment that to be a writer, you had to produce 600 words a day.  Would you agree with that assessment?

RB: I never like to compare myself to anyone, or follow the same set of rules as someone else simply because everyone is different in their way of perception, their talent, and their need to project whatever it is they feel. No two people experience something in the exact same way, or see something in the same light, so to say one has to produce a certain amount of words per day to be a writer is, I believe, as far off the mark as one can be. You can’t fake feelings within words and expect the reader to feel any emotion if there’s none there to begin with, whether it’s 600 words, 6,000, or simply 6. I keep everything I write regardless of whether it’s good or not, because something that might not fit a working project at the moment might fit something in the future, and if you discard it you’ve lost it. What it really boils down to is write what you feel is productive, and something you are satisfied with.

CW: You’ve chosen to self-publish.  Any advice for those of us still scribbling away in our garrets who might consider that option?

RB: Never let it be said that indie writers have turned their back on standard publishing for I don’t believe this is necessarily the case, at least with me. There are many reasons why one chooses to self-publish as opposed to packaging up your unsolicited manuscript, and send it off to umpteen publishing houses with hopes that it will even get in the door, let alone before the eyes of an editor. And the chances of this happening through the representation of a good literary agent that has accepted your solicited manuscript is still both a challenge, and a gamble. Part of the reason I chose the course I presently have is because I wanted to maintain the rights to my work, and not have to sign them away in return for a publishing contract. It is a gamble either way, because no writer wants to see their ‘child’— and very often that is exactly what a story becomes to its creator— altered or changed in any way, and this is often done, especially if your manuscript is fortunate enough to make it to screen, but still we wish to be properly compensated for our work, our time, and our talent. When it comes to travelling the self-publishing route, even before the initial cost, one has to keep in mind first and foremost and I cannot stress this enough, do your homework; be sure you know every minute detail before you sign the contract. It can be costly, depending on the package you purchase, and they all vary with regard to what they include, but each company can be different with the routine and the connection between author, and the numerous department representatives  assigned throughout the course of your project. Other methods of self-publishing are to have your manuscript printed by companies that offer this for a fee for printing however many copies you wish, but the marketing is totally up to you, as well book storage, public connections and the end sales. At least most self-publishing companies that offer assorted packages also offer marketing but usually at an extra cost and keep in mind this marketing is very limited, and the majority of it comes on the writer’s dime. Also, even after all this the end result in sales can still be very limited. I believe self-published books are always best represented by a good, solid, reputable marketing agent who has the knowledge, experience, and the contacts required to project you in the best possible way, path, and light.

CW: Thank you for your time Rusty.  Is there anything you’d like to add?  Perhaps something I missed?

RB: Just a few words. To aspiring authors, do not be discouraged, do not let anyone tell you it can’t be done for only ‘you’ know what is within you to do, and with enough determination and belief in your talent and ability, you can move mountains. Listen, question, learn, and follow your instincts, and your heart.

To prospective readers and those always on the lookout for new books and authors: always remember, the very well-known, highly publicized names in literature were once unknown authors. Someone took a chance and read them, most importantly, they liked what they read. Support your local authors!

And finally: I’d like to take this opportunity to thank “anewcatsworld” for the chance to do this in-depth interview with her, and to allow readers the chance to know me better, my work, as well my passion for writing it. Thank you.

When you can, I recommend you pick up copies of her books.  Why not do it now so you’ll have something to read on the weekend.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and book sales) too.

Cat.

Writing 101 by Cat, or what would I say?

This was originally posted on Catsworld 1, but the response was so good, I had to repost it here.  I promise this will be the last one.  C.

On my recent posting “Blogs: opinion pieces or news reports?”  one person left a comment and made reference to teaching them how to write in the style I use.  I thought about that for about thirty seconds.  I didn’t want to spend more time analyzing it lest I become the centipede.  You know the story of the centipede, don’t you?  You don’t?  Well, I’ll tell you then.

One day a tiny ant was watching a centipede pass by, legs all moving with military precision, not tripping over its feet or kicking the leg in front of it.  The ant stopped the centipede and asked how he managed to keep everything so well organized.  Having never thought about it, the centipede had to admit he didn’t know.  After the ant went his way, the centipede sat and thought about the question and tried to analyze his actions.  Not finding an answer he liked, he gave up and decided to carry on to wherever he had been going.  That was when he discovered that in his attempts to figure out just how he did it, he’d managed to lose the ability to co-ordinate his legs and he kept tripping.   I didn’t want to spend time analysing how and why I write as I do for fear I’d end up like that centipede and forget how to write.

But, a few things from that thirty seconds may be worth repeating.  First, write the way you speak.  That’s the best advice I was ever given.  If you don’t use “ten dollar words” in your  everyday speech, don’t get all fancy when you’re writing, even if you can get those words in a “two for one” sale”. If you try to use words you’re unfamiliar with, you will probably use them in the wrong context, so my advice on that matter is simple: Don’t do it. The way I write is the way I speak.  I know that people are told “write what you know”.  Well yes, it is always good to have some knowledge of your topic before you put a single word on paper (or screen – I still prefer to write in longhand) especially if you’re writing an instructional piece.

In addition to “write what you know” I would add “write what you feel strongly about”, be that the antics of your local politicians or something else.  If you want to write an opinion piece, write it with passion.  If you feel strongly enough about something that you want to voice your opinion, let that fire show through in your writing.  My personal view where it relates to opinion pieces is that if I’ve upset someone, then I’ve done my job properly.  Of course that attitude is probably helped by being 68 and not really caring what others think of my opinions.

There you have it – Writing 101 by Cat.  I hope I’ve offered some suggestions you may not have considered.

To my followers and readers, enjoy the rest of your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.