Just a couple of writers on a road trip through life. Hop in, hold on, and don’t forget your rain boots.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Spooktacular: How clichés annoy the skubala out of people (and five alternatives)

I learned a new word this week. Skubala. It’s a dirty word, and I learned it in church. Oh yes, I did. I’m not going to say what it means, because if you can’t figure it out from context clues you’ll just have to Google it. I enjoy using it. It makes me happy. 

Halloween is a time to be someone other than you. Dressing up like a ghoul or goblin or alter ego or zombie or Bigfoot gives you a power you don’t have in normal people clothes. I would like Halloween better if it wasn’t only one day a year. I really like dressing up and I feel like I should get to do it when I will stand out. People are all dressed up at Halloween. Some women use it as a time to fulfill their desire to dress all trampy. And to that I say, to each his own. It’s all good in the hood. No skin off my nose.

Be a word ninja. Ninjas are cool.
Some people wear costumes that show their super nerd side. I love The Big Bang Theory. It's partly because Dr. Sheldon Cooper is awesome and looks like a sexy praying mantis. Okay not really but that is my favorite compliment ever. If I tell you you look like a sexy praying mantis, I am inches away from making out with you.  But also I like it because they do a lot of dressing up, usually as comic book superheroes and characters from The Lord of the Rings. I have an epic and undying love of nerds. They are the wind beneath my wings. They really get my motor running. At the end of the day, nerd is the word. 

You see? You see what I did there? I’m sure you did, if you were paying attention. I put all kinds of clichés up in here. This blog is fully loaded. The whole ball of wax. The whole nine yards. All the tea in China.

I think clichés have their place in fiction and in journalism. Sometimes we use them facetiously, sometimes to flesh out a character, sometimes just to be cheeky. But if you use them all the time, you look unoriginal. You lose your readers, because you sound like every Tom, Dick and Harry. You can go too far the other direction – I think I can safely cite the movie Juno as an example of jargon gone wrong. Writer Diablo Cody invented her own language and her own clichés and then wrote an entire movie in them. I thought it was creative but cutesy, and in the end it detracted from the story (for me, anyway).

There are so many clichés and common sayings and idioms and colloquialisms that you couldn’t possibly avoid them all, but here are five tips to help reduce the number in your stories. 
  1.  Read your writing aloud to yourself. Nine times out of ten (did it again!), you’ll catch phrases that seem a little too familiar. If you do, try rephrasing, or cutting them out. Chances are you don’t need them anyway. I’m on a roll here.
  2. Have someone else read your writing. Other people notice things that you might not. A trusted reader circle can help you avoid errors, and if you have a cliché problem, usually a good peer group will catch you in the act and help you get back on the wagon.  
  3.   Make a list and check it twice. If you have a cliché habit, it may be recurring throughout your writing. Go through and pull out some of oft-repeated phrases, and make a list. Then scan each piece before submitting.
  4. Let some go. There are always going to be points that seem best emphasized with a good old fashioned cliché. Let it happen, occasionally. Sometimes you need something tried-and-true to drive that point home.  
  5.  You’ll always hit one out of the park when you’re being authentic. Clichés aren’t authentic. They are a way to hide behind what you are really trying to say. Don’t be a chicken. Just say it. Say it loud and say it proud.

And here are a few clichés to never, ever, ever use, not just because they annoy me specifically. Okay, yes, because they annoy me specifically. But you've got to admit, these ones are bad news. 

 At the end of the day. As if something changes around five o'clock.
 When all is said and done. This sounds like something a politician says.
 As luck would have it
 Better late than never
Cross that bridge when you come to it. But what else are you going to do when you come to a bridge? Ignore it and jump in the river and swim for it?
Cry or sleep like a baby, or sleep like a log. Babies don't sleep very well, they cry to communicate, and logs don't sleep. They just lay there until someone comes and chops them to bits, which you don't want people doing to you when you're sleeping. Ever. 
 Fun in the sun. No rhyming, I'm begging. You're not Dr. Seuss. Unless you are Dr. Seuss, and then it's okay. But I think he's rhyming in heaven these days.
 More power to you
 Rolled over in the grave. I don't like when my zombie family members have restless leg syndrome or start tossing and turning in their graves. It's not okay. 
 Wrong side of the bed
 A case of the Mondays. Thank you, Office Space.    
 That's my personal worst offender list. So don't use them. I mean it. It’s Halloween, which is a good time for me to put on my ninja suit and come hunt you down. Because everyone is dressed as a ninja during Halloween, so I won’t be noticed or recognized. I don’t want to have to ninja kick you in your special places. But I will. 

And also, don’t dress up as a sexy nurse or a sexy referee or a sexy milkmaid. Come on. Been there, done that. You should be a sexy chicken, a sexy mailbox, a sexy giant whiteboard, so people can write their phone numbers on the place where your boobies would be. And drawing attention to the boobies is sort of the point of trampy Halloween costumes anyway. Be original. I dare you.

PS: I was looking for lists of cliches I found this on Amazon

Julie Simmons-Wixom is a reclusive writer, so don't try and get candy from her tonight because she will probably ninja kick you in the teeth. Or maybe she'll just hide and turn off all the lights and lay on the floor. Email her here if you have a better idea. 

Leave a comment below. Comments are awesome. People who comment are double super awesome, because they make us feel like we're not just talking to ourselves. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stephanie Birch: Pirate

Pirates of the Caribbean was HUGE! I don’t even think Pirates were a big deal until those movies came out. I mean, sure there was the ride in Disneyland, but now people want to be like a pirate. We even have a day dedicated to talking like a pirate and it just so happens to be September 19th, my husband’s birthday. That being said, I love pirates as a general rule. They pillage, they plunder and most importantly, they drink a good amount of rum. The depravity of their rum-polluted nature is inspiring, luring anyone in seductively. Oh the rum! Anyone who can pull off those things while three sheets to the wind and proclaiming, “Arrg!” is okay in my book.
Recently I noticed the correlation between me, a freak, and pirates. Picture this: a ship sails with a load of tea and spices from India to England. The wind blows in the fake white wig of the Captain and he feels alive. Why wouldn’t he? He is at sea and dressed in his finest white wig and tights. He is fancy, commanding and in his element. But ahoy! On the horizon another ship approaches.  It seems to be getting closer. It is moving with such speed, but the Captain is not worried until (gasp!), an ominous black and white flag is raised. The Captain knows something bad is afoot and, as always, there’s not much he can do about it. The pirates pillage, they plunder, and they do it with ease in their inebriated rummy-headed state. The captain and his crew are left with nothing, stripped of their goods and ranks, mere prisoners on the pirate ship and yet there is an edge of envy. They want to be a pirate too.
And so it is with me. I conduct myself in a normal manner, but soon I feel the need to break loose, to make a spectacle of myself for no good reason. I get a look in my eye, so says my husband, and then I raise the colors! He can see it rising! Here it comes! And I let my freak flag fly in all its pirate-flag glory.
A few nights ago my husband took me to a very nice restaurant at the Ahwahnee in Yosemite Valley. I was dressed to kill and so was he. The maître d’ seated us, this demure couple, in the best seat in the house. Little did he know who just came aboard the ship. Our appetizer arrived, a beautiful crab cake paired with a deliciously overpriced glass of champagne. Ignoring the prevailing winds, I swirled the bubbly in my glass noting its resemblance to the sea. Oh, the deep blue sea. Yo ho! A Pirates life for me! The bubbles tickled my throat as I finished the glass, eyeing the wine list in hopes that the rum wasn’t already gone. A bottle of wine later and I began my rapid descent into pirate-dom. After much too much rum, Jake’s eyes grew wide. He knew. He saw me raise my colors. My freak flag flew high for all to see.  He said something about a business associate. Something I felt was unsavory, savvy? And I cut loose. In the middle of the dining hall, I said, “You want me to kick his ass?” to which he hushed me and said that people were looking. I responded, “I’ll kick their asses too!” It was too late. There was no stopping me. I had to pillage and plunder! After all, the rum was only going to last a little while longer anyhow. I laughed manically at my husband’s jokes and made inappropriate jokes and comments to no avail. The other diners were looking at me with horror wondering just who let this pirate aboard this ship. But they were my prisoners! I pillaged and plundered and took their ship as my own. And they were helpless, along for the ride and, of course, secretly wanting to be a freak just like me.

Stephanie D. Birch is an acrobatic Captain of her pirate ship, The Grey Squirrel. She is also a certified taste tester of Rum and other libations, of which she is indiscriminate. She is currently setting sail for another pillage and plunder, destination unknown. To hear more of her pirate adventures, contact her at birchwordnerd@yahoo.com

Yo ho Mateys!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy Dance

In addition to today's post, here's a little bonus video... I promised to do a happy dance if we hit 100 likes... so I did. And I recorded it. And posted it on YouTube. I know. But that's why this is Writer Freaks. Because we're freaky and weird and not normal. 

In case you haven't already liked our Facebook page, you should. Who knows what I'll do next... Did someone say "flash mob"?

How (not) to end up on a government watch list

If government watch lists really exist, that is. I don't know for sure because I've heard about these watch lists from conspiracy theorists, and therefore they are unverified (Note: I'm about to make a lot of completely satirical comments about conspiracy theorists and the government. If you are a conspiracy theorist and are easily offended or were born without a sense of humor, you should probably stop reading here. Although you may want to look into another line of work, because being an easily offended conspiracy theorist is probably not for you. They get made fun of and/or called crazy nutso lunatics a lot. Just a heads up. Though now that I think about it, conspiracy theorist-ism probably is more of a hobby than a profession.)

The long arm of the law
I feel like I'm going to get myself in trouble sooner or later with the overarching governmental authorities solely because I have an innate inability to take things seriously. Yes, they tell you not to joke around about hiding bombs in your panties when you go through airport security. But somehow I always manage to make at least one inappropriate bomb-in-bra joke. It's bad, I know it's bad. Lots of people have real true post traumatic issues and it's really sad and they should receive all the help and benefits and stuff because I know it would be awful to have a bomb go off anywhere near me, ever. I am not brave, and I would like to pretend I am a super ninja bad-ass, but I'm not. I'm actually really patriotic when I can be serious for two seconds, and very grateful for people serving and fighting and stuff. Bombs are serious and not to joke around about. But I can't help picturing those giant bowling ball looking ones with the fuse on them, the kind Wile E. Coyote tries to drop on the Roadrunner all the time, in a person's bra where their boobies should be. And in my head they go through the X-ray scanner and the picture comes up and there's these bombs with the fuses burning and the security guys come a-running.

 But anyway, back to the point. Me. Trouble. Big-mouth. I could probably end this post right here and the people who know me would completely understand. My husband [who I feel like I should give a title to, so he can remain anonymous in case more than six people read this blog. I mean there should be a disclaimer, like "The following blog is a paid program and in no way reflects the ideals, values and beliefs of So-and-so Blank, Julie Simmons-Wixom's husband." Although I guess putting my own real name on there makes it hard for him to stay anonymous. Still, I should call him something cool, like the Captain or Mr. Spock. Sometimes I call him the Marine, because he used to be a Marine and he still sometimes gets all stern and Marine-like and sexy. I could call him Rocketman, because that was his nickname in high school (but not in a dirty way). He was a really fast runner on the track team and stuff. Okay, I'll call him Rocketman for today. Because he should be exempt from any connection with my crazy, except the whole legally-bound-to-me-for-life thing. But that shouldn't make him land on a watch list just because of guilt by association. This is the longest parenthetical aside ever.] is kind of a conspiracy theorist himself, so I hear all these weird ideas about Planet X and the zombie virus and aliens and secret government projects and whatnot. It's exciting to live with the possibility that there is all kinds of wacky stuff out there that could possibly invade or infect us all. I like the adrenaline high of living on the edge.

So the other day my sister-in-law (she gets a secret identity too-- codename: Special K) and I were at the Target checkout counter. And the kid asked to see my driver's license, which they scan every time you buy certain items (cold medicine, alcohol, machetes). I asked him if he could just not scan it, because I'd heard from someone that when they scan your license they track you and I didn't want to government to know how much cold medicine or machetes or ninja throwing stars I purchase on a regular basis. The manager kid was right there-- totally adorable 20-something kid-- and he got in on the conversation too. He said whoever told me that was a conspiracy theorist and I shouldn't worry about it. But then I said how do I know you aren't a secret undercover government agent just trying to fool me into scanning my license? 

And I told him if he was a secret government agent, I had a few questions for him. Like maybe he could clear up the thing about voting, because I also heard that people shouldn't vote because if you vote Republican (which I'm not saying I do but this is what that guy said) then they track you because you probably own guns and they want to keep an eye on you. Which is silly because ninjas are way deadlier than guns when used properly, and no one can track the number of ninjas you have. But anyway. A different conspiracy theorist told me the thing about voting. I hope I’m not outing all the CT’s in my life (I had to abbreviate because I’m tired of typing out “conspiracy theorist.” Although I just typed it again plus the extra word explaining said abbreviation). And before everyone gets on my case about mocking politics and stuff, since voting and elections are such a hot button issue right now, remember the point of this post. How me running my mouth can and probably eventually will get me into trouble. I think it’s unfair though, that there’s all kinds of comedians out there making inappropriate jokes about whatever they want, in public, on a stage, and you never hear about them getting hauled away for questioning in a room with a two-way mirror thingie where the guys sit on the other side making monkey faces. I don’t believe for one second that they’re standing back there analyzing and profiling. No, that’s just how they do it on Law and Order. They are totally back there making faces.

The Target guys were laughing for the most part, but they did get kind of serious at the end because my diatribe kept going and going and I think they started to worry that I was serious. When we got home Special K was still laughing pretty hysterically because she knows me well enough to know that I am never serious, but the Rocketman said I was lucky they didn't call Target security on me and hold me without cause and send me away to Gitmo for running my mouth. But did I listen? Did I learn? No. I never do. Because the very next day I was actually in a government office answering some official questions (on a totally different matter unrelated to my cold medicine and machete purchases) and the lady was asking all these questions off a clipboard. And one was ethnicity, and she asked if anyone was Native American. I said, "I don't think so but even if we were I don't think I'd tell you because we’re staging a coup. The government owes my people some buffalo. But I don’t think I want to be listed as any ethnicity in case the government doesn't like my kind of people and gets all internment camp on us, like if you're Canadian. Although with Canadians they probably just throw them out of America on their butts. But then again, people are kind of down on being white, too. It's not like back in the day, you know, before 1865 and stuff. Now it's probably better to be some ethnicity. But I can't decide what would be the safest. Probably best to just put us down as Canadians."

I tend to keep talking if no one stops me. And of course I know that there are no Canadian internment camps and Canada is just a really nice but very cold country where they say 'eh' a lot.  But the lady clearly couldn't tell that I was joking because she looked at me like I was completely insane and then made a little note on her clipboard. And I'm pretty sure I made it on a government watch list, just like that.

And now I’ve done it once more, but this time here on the interwebs for all to see. I feel like the guy they’d assign to watch list me would be an overweight bald dude with jelly doughnut on his shirt named Ralph (sorry to those named Ralph, but that’s just the name I picture him having, because let’s face it, it’s unfortunate to have a name that doubles as an euphemism for the act of projectile-ing a bodily fluid). I’m just saying. They’re not going to put James Bond on me. I kind of wish they would. Although I guess he's not a government agent and also he's British and I don't think they'd do an intercontinental agent transfer thing just for me. Plus I'm kind of fuzzy on the James Bond franchise but I feel like he's more of a freelancer type in some ways, because he mostly seems to ignore whatever Miss Moneypenny says and just does whatever he wants. 

And then I went home and wrote the outline for a short story about getting on government watch lists. Because by then it was all I could think about. I get on a tangent about something and sooner or later it turns into a story, with characters like Ralph and a song and dance sequence. And to Ralph, who may be reading this at this very moment: thanks for protecting the world from loonies, but I am not out to get the government. It would take way too much effort and focus and besides I really like voting and roads and military protection. No, I am just a writer. Freak.

Julie Simmons-Wixom lives in a bunker high atop a mountain far far away. If you are looking to put her on any lists, email her here as it is her only way of communicating.

 Like, share, and/or leave a comment if you think this post is wackadoo and the person writing it should be tested for insanity. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

SNL and Fortune Cookies

Some jobs are easier than others. And this Freak can tell you about a variety of jobs. I’ve held many in the days before I realized what I was: a Writer Freak.  There was the time I worked for a large health insurance company and accidentally threatened my boss. Seriously. I did, but she took it in stride. In all fairness, I was only offering her a piece of cake, but I pointed the knife at her and said, “You want a piece of this?” Oops! My bad. I just didn’t have the kind of decorum or drive to work there. Then there was the graphics design company. I could not stay inside the lines and really, who was I fooling thinking I had that kind of talent? What? You didn’t like the graphic of a rainbow super-imposed on an industrial truck? You don’t think it is relevant to the industrial truck company? Now, come on. Rainbows are great! Once I audited phone calls for a tire company. That was actually kind of fun, until I realized I could identify the brand of tires on a vehicle from 100 feet away.  That is not a talent I wanted to add to my resume.  Then there was receptionist, file clerk, administrative assistant, workers comp claims adjuster, and the assistant to the private investigator stint. How creepy is it to watch other people going about life as usual? Okay. I’ll admit it. People fascinate me and this was the ultimate in people watching. Sometime I will tell you about my people watching game. It is fabulous! But I was still a square peg in a round hole. Finally, I landed in journalism. I love to write, but asking people probing questions made me feel like I needed to shove my head into an ostrich hole. Now, I am taking charge and writing fiction because that is what I love and have always loved. Still, there are some days when I see a job I think I could totally do.
I could totally write fortunes for fortune cookies. I don’t think they are very creative. I remember a time when they were. Now, sometimes they even state a fact and aren’t really very telling of the diner’s fortune at all. Once I got one that said, “Much happiness is found in the comfort of friends.”  Really? Well, duh! So not a fortune. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they told unexpected fortunes? Something right out of left field. “You will find an unexpected item in a most inconvenient place.” or, “Puppies will kiss your face, a sign of a prosperous life to come.” or, “Grave danger awaits you in the shower on Thursday.” or “Bruno Mars will kill it on SNL and you will laugh so hard a beverage will come out of your nose.” or even, “All the ponies of the world will run away and never come back.” Okay, that last one was really for me. I detest ponies.  I could rock those fortunes. Yes. I think I should do it.
Another job I talk a big game about being able to do? Writer for Saturday Night Live. How do they come up with this stuff? I mean who would have thought that a sketch about about a D#@k in a Box would become a pop culture phenomenon? And what about Alec Baldwin and Betty White’s (cheers here because I adore her) sketches for Schweddy Balls and Dusty Muffins? Timberlake’s Cup O Noodles Sketch was hysterical. And the hits keep coming! I want to give it a whirl. I want to write sketches with enough innuendo to make you always come back for more.  I think my first sketch would be something to do with clubbing with major celebs all doing the Gangnam Style dance while eating hot dogs and figuring out who should drive everyone back to their cribs, which would actually be cribs, or horse stalls. I dunno. It’s just an idea.
On second thought, maybe I should just stick to writing books.

Stephanie D. Birch is an all-star BananaGrams player, certification agent for the ministry of of silly walks and Clydesdale enthusiast. To contact her, email her at: birchwordnerd@yahoo.com

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sex and the City and the embarrassing truth

Fancy-pants shoes
 Am I allowed to criticize something that I never liked? I’m going to anyway. 

 I was sick this week and laid in bed one day for a two hour stretch during my son’s nap. I usually write during that time but I felt like Ramen noodles. In that I was all weak and mushy and my brain was liquid like broth. Anyway, Sex and the City (SATC) the movie was on. I missed maybe the first fifteen minutes, and I kept switching back and forth between that and anything else that didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out, but I kept going back because I was curious to see just how bad it could get. Man, curiosity is death.

 I would have preferred to watch an entire two hours of tampon and Monistat commercials uninterrupted by the horror that was that movie. I didn’t think I could care any less about fictional characters than I did when they were on the show, but watching the movie made me realize how desperately I wanted to run them over in a riding lawn mower. Their problems are so ridiculous. Frivolous. Oh wait, I should say spoiler alert, as if anything could spoil that crapfest. I think the one old oversexed bag lady one had some kind of problem that buying a bunch of Gucci crap couldn’t solve, but I never did sort out exactly what her deal was. The one over-perfect rich chick had everything she wanted and her big problem was she was worried that it would all eventually begin to suck. Ooh. Sad. The main chick can’t get the dude to marry her no matter what shoes she wears. And the mean red-headed one got cheated on by her husband, which I’ll give her that one because that’s a legit gripe. But she forgives him and they kiss and it’s all kittens and rainbows and butterflies and whatnot after that. So all good in the hood. 

Ooh, look how happy they are...
 I guess what I don’t get is how people could watch a movie that has no heart and soul to it whatsoever—no heart, no soul, no guts, no glory, no despair, no ninjas, no zombies, no Battlestars—and get anything out of it. Even entertainment value. Nothing they did made me care about the characters in the slightest. I kind of wanted to puke when the main chick goes back to her fancy pants penthouse apartment and runs into the guy she was supposed to marry because they both went back for a pair of fancy-pants expensive shoes and they are reunited somehow, probably by their mutual love of fancy things. Barf. If I met anyone who spent over five hundred dollars on one pair of shoes I would kick them in their special places. Scratch that. If I met anyone who spent over five hundred dollars on their entire collection of shoes I would probably kick them in their special places. 

 I would be a giant jerk myself if I didn’t admit that I watch plenty of stuff for entertainment purposes that has no redeeming value whatsoever. Pretty sure both the Hangover movies fall into that category, as well as most episodes of Family Guy and The Office. So I’m a big hypocritical judger myself. And also about four years late in seeing that movie, which is just sad because I’m pretty sure they’ve even come out with a sequel to that awful mess since the first one was made. I don’t say this as a disclaimer, just as an acknowledgement that I am being hypocritical.

 I’m coming to a point now, I swear it. Two points, actually. And one involving a very dumb thing I did. Deep breath. I really hate admitting it but I committed to sharing gut-wrenching, embarrassing things and things that make me a writer and things that make me a better writer, and that’s what this next part is about. I’m cringing and cringing. Okay, here goes. When I was in college*, I wrote a sex column for the college newspaper. It was during the height of SATC popularity, and I was the only one willing to write it. It was a big risk. I think it is more than necessary—it’s vital—to take risks as a writer. Write from a different point of view. Write as a character who is your own personal polar opposite. Write mean when you’re nice. Write sad when you’re happy. Challenge yourself. I remember when Stephanie was telling me about her manuscript, and how it was written from the point of view of a character very different from her usual characters. But she did it. So it can pay off if you do something outside the box. I really do believe that. But I also know that things can follow you around, and you don’t want to get known for something you did long ago. I regret that column not because it wasn’t a risk, but because it wasn’t me. I wasn’t being my true authentic self. Because the true me doesn’t talk about that stuff with people other than close friends. The true me really believes in love, and it’s not just about sex. I did write a column about women’s issues, rape, and one about STD’s. Those columns didn’t run because the editor didn’t think they were lighthearted enough. But those were the ones that are the real me—if I’m going to write about sex, I want to raise awareness, and maybe help people. I don’t just want to talk about how to get a guy in bed in three easy steps (pretty sure it only takes one anyway—ask). 

The second thing is write what is real. Maybe SATC is very realistic. Maybe people really are that shallow and self- centered and decadent and over-the-top when it comes to their style and clothes and stuff. But to me the whole thing sounded artificial. Even if you’re writing a story that stretches your imagination, it has to be real or it’s going to be awful. Maybe not a SATC level of awful but still pretty bad. I guess it depends on what you’re writing—if you write television commercials I suppose this doesn’t apply—but I think anything should come from a place inside the writer that is genuine, authentic. It doesn’t mean you write only about stuff that you’ve experienced firsthand. Just that you can put yourself in your story, in the character, into the little town you invented or on the spaceship you’re flying. If you can’t, your reader can’t.

 If I have any one overarching goal as a writer, it’s to write stuff that makes people feel something, and also to write something good that doesn’t make people want to puke Ramen noodles all over the shop. If you’re a writer and you’re reading this, I implore you. Write something good. Write real people. Write from your heart. And in the name of all you hold dear and all the ninjas in the world, do not write SATC fan fiction or a second sequel that would make it a Sex and the City Trilogy of Horror. I mean it. I will curse you with halitosis and warts and foot fungus and make you drink the water in the alligator pond at the zoo. Which will give you the trots because it’s full of bacteria and stuff. Go forth and write. 

*College: Yes, I did go but I never got that fancy piece of paper with letters on it at the end. I messed around and I have enough junior college credits to rule all the junior colleges forever as the supreme Queen of Junior College, but the four-year thing and the actual getting my act together and graduating thing didn’t happen. Just so everybody knows I’m not claiming to be a college graduate. Someday, though, I’ll get that special piece of paper. And I’ll hang it on the wall next to my Man Booker Prize

Julie Simmons-Wixom is a writer, yoga enthusiast, and someday dreams of flying around on Battlestar Galactica. Email her here if you need more information on anything. She knows it all. 

Leave a comment below the blog if you agree or disagree or think elephants are fascinating. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Vampire Diaries and Tabloid Rags: 10 Influential Guilty Pleasures

I admit these things reluctantly, but only because I believe guilty pleasures serve as a springboard for story ideas. Besides, you know you want to watch it. You know you want to read it. You know you want to do it. So, instead of hiding out of fear of embarrassment, I’m going to share with you my top 10 guilty pleasures.
 1.)    Vampire Diaries:  It really is a fantastically well written script and the acting is top notch. Okay, so I like vampires, werewolves, the magical and mystical, and most importantly those Salvatore brothers. Oh, yum! 

2.)    Tabloid Rags: It’s kind of like men and Playboy. They read it for the articles, right? Sure (Wink Wink.). But the fact remains that even though I am not a naturally star-struck person, I am fascinated at what these rags make up for celebrities. A stroke of creative brilliance. And honestly, I would love to see that half alien, half wolf boy baby they keep talking about. He’s got to be at least 12 by now. 

3.)     Bubble Bath, Books and Bubbly: I take long bubble baths while reading a book and sipping on champagne. It is fabulous and I will sit relaxing in that warm and inviting water until my fingers and toes are well past prune territory. 

4.)    Fuzzy Socks: I call these spa socks and my feet appreciate these while I am at home. And when I get an extra special pair, I’ll do a little tippy-toe dance. My husband got me these socks called A Treat for Your Feet while he was in Alaska. They are starting to wear out and that makes this sock-obsessed girl sad.

5.)    Middle Grade Fiction: I LOVE HARRY POTTER! I secretly want to go to the Harry Potter Theme Park, buy a wand and wear Gryffindor robes around town exclaiming, “Expelliarmus!” I also love The Hunger Games.  The Mockingjay tune is my ring tone. And I would be remiss if I did not mention Twilight. Yes, I will be lining up with some friends for the midnight showing. Actually, we will be watching all of the movies in the theater and then attending the midnight showing. Twelve hours in a theater with a bunch of screaming, hormonally charged teenage girls. I’m there! 

6.)    Family Guy: People say it is crude an inappropriate, but the truth is that it is freaking hysterical! I think my favorite cut-away is of Peter trying out adult diapers. 

7.)    Sleeping In: My body often won’t let me do this anymore, but when it happens it is glorious! I wake up and the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and I feel like breaking out in the “Morning’s Here” song from FRIENDS. 

8.)    Whipped Cream: When we have one of those cans of whipped cream, you better believe this chica sneaks off to the fridge for late night shots directly into her mouth. Foodgasm! 

9.)    Barry White: I can’t help it! He’s a love-making, song singing genius and I Just can’t get enough of his love, babe. 

10.) YouTube: I can’t help but seek out videos of animals and humans doing embarrassingly stupid and downright hysterical things. I even look for practical jokes. My favorites now are the music video Gangnam Style and the Denis Quaid practical jokes on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. “I’m a pretty pony!”

All of these guilty pleasures are outlets for hidden needs and desires. Letting go and throwing caution to the wind helps alleviate stress and, for this writer, provides new entertaining ideas for character development and plot.
What ‘s your top guilty pleasure?
Stephanie D. Birch is a black belt in yummy noises and certified procurer of curiosities. To hear her yummy noises via talk to text or to purchase her curiosities, email her at birchwordnerd@yahoo.com

© 2012 Writer Freaks by Stephanie Birch

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Freaks on Parade

Stephanie  D. Birch has been stuck in the world of make believe since she was knee high to a grasshopper. Not that creepy kind of stuck in make believe that involves the Neverland Ranch or endless hours of of video games wearing a diaper while pounding energy drinks. No, the kind of stuck in make-believe where the blank page is her canvas and the pen (or keyboard) her paintbrush. Stephanie wrote her first dramatic and dark, albeit short book at the age of eleven. It is titled, In the Years of the Ox, Rat, Dragon and Stephanie. She was aiming to mimic the title, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. She even wrote an author's bio. It reads. "My name is Stephanie. I was born in 1981. I enjoy creative writing and writing about other people."  Well, not much has changed. She still writes on darker topics, still enjoys creative writing and writing about other people. As she grew up she had many a different career. She once worked for the McNaughton News Service as a writer for a number of their news publications including the longest running newspaper west of the Mississippi. Journalism is great, but not when you want to write fiction. 

Currently Stephanie offers her expertise as an editor to self published authors and as a freelance copy editor for small businesses while she eagerly awaits her big break. What she really wants is to write not just one, but several great American novels and although they aren't published YET, she has already written two. If she has to live off Ramen noodles and watered down Kool-Aid, she will because she has all these ideas, stories, characters, and things and MUST write them down or else she might go insane and really, if you think she is a freak now, which she is, an insane freak might not be an ideal thing to be.  But that is a story in an of itself. 

Julie K.M. Simmons-Wixom (yep, it takes a long time for her to sign autographs) has been making up stories for as long as anyone can remember. When she was a kid it was sometimes mistaken for lying, like the time she told her fourth grade teacher about the menagerie, including giraffes and aardvarks, that her family kept on their large ranch. Parent-teacher conferences were confusing that year, mostly because her mother was baffled about what animals the teacher was referring to, since the only family pet, a hamster named Brownie, was recently (tragically) deceased.  Julie sees herself as girl outside of the world. She not like other people, and she's actually really happy about that. In her mind, something intangible connects all writers to each other. Writers are bound together by imagination, by all the stories swirling around them, and the compulsion to get them down on paper. And that's why writers are freaks. Julie considers herself part of that freakish kinship of writers compelled to write by the magic inside their heads. She writes because she must. She writes fiction. And she's a Writer Freak.

There was a time when she wrote down facts for people. Mostly news organizations like the Associated Press, McNaughton News Service, a college newspaper that shall remain unnamed, and she's also written marketing copy for several company websites. She has published several pieces at Shortbread Stories, an online publication. She admits disliking facts, preferring stories that can involve magical powers, telepathy, psychic abilities, and ninjas. All right, so she hasn't actually written any stories about ninjas yet. She's just obsessed with them. She likes being silly and making people laugh so hard that they spit coffee on their computer screen. Sometimes she just writes to amuse herself. She's currently seeking publication for one novel, several short stories, and a series of children's books.  
A Conversation with Stephanulie
Stephanie: Let me just start this by saying I have a prejudice against ponies. Yes. Ponies. They look like old horses and aren't very cute to me.You know how some people buy miniature dogs in the hopes that they will always look like a puppy, but they never stay that way and then you have a small, old dog on your hands? Yes, ponies have that affect on me. They freak me out, as I am a freak and am easily freaked out. But, I am so freaking excited about starting this freaky weird writer blog together. I think that we writers have to stick together, much like how bumble bees stick together in large groups when they swarm. Well, writers don't really swarm (how scary would that be). We like to think of ourselves as a refined group of people set apart from others, but the truth is we are set apart from others not because of refinement, but because we let our inner freak comeout in black and white. Kind of like a that guy that sings that Gangnam Style song. You know, the one about dressing sharp, but dancing tacky. He is freaky, he is wildly popular and he is successful because of the support he receives and becasue his dance moves are super fly.

Julie: I love this video, because it encompasses all sorts of awesome. It is fabulous. I want a yellow pleather suit only with a skirt instead of pants on the bottom half, and knee high yellow pleather boots. I have many fears and phobias, but mostly you'll notice my freaky-ness coming to light in the form of very specific neuroses. I like to hand write and I always have several notebooks going at once. But I can only write in colored ink. Black freaks me out, as does red. I prefer blue fine tip Sharpies. Or sparkly metallic colored pens. I make lists of everything. This is where my writing gets to the people around them and makes them crazy. I write to do lists, wish lists, gift lists, pro/con lists, lists about things I like, lists about things I don't like, budget lists, writing task lists, lists about lists. I have a problem with lists. I also have a freaky dramatic side and I like to make up little skits and plays and act things out. I started out making my brothers be in them, but then they got old enough to run away from me, so now I use my kids, sometimes people from church, and if I can't find any live people, I use puppets. Okay that's a lie. Puppets freak me out. They are on my list of phobias. Perhaps writer freaks as a general rule are neurotic as well as being freaky. Hmm. Ponderous thoughts.

So you like what you see and are interested in boycotting pony rides or wearing yellow pleather suits or would just plain like to see more from the collective genius that is our craft? Contact a freak at twowriterfreaks@gmail.com
© 2012 Writer Freaks