Watch It, Man!

For today’s Throwback Thursday – slash – pet peeve story, I am bringing up the subject of drivers who don’t pay attention!  So many of us complain about hating people who text or talk on their cell phones when they drive, yet so many people still do it.  Grrr!

I also hate when I allow someone to go ahead of me and they don’t give me the “courtesy thank you wave” in return.  I really can’t stand that!

Once I was driving behind a lawn maintenance truck and he lost a very expensive weed eater/edger thingy.  I pulled over and picked it up then hurried to speed up and catch him to return it.  And do you know when I finally flagged him down at a stop light and returned it, he didn’t even thank me!  Worse yet, once he got back in his car and the light turned green, he cut me off and almost ran me into a ditch!

Sometimes I feel like my car has a “cloak of invisibility” on it (which is similar, though different than a “cone of silence.”)  (It’s no secret that I LOVE classic TV, so if you do too, you may know what I’m talking about when I reference Maxwell Smart’s “Cone of Silence” from Get Smart.  Of course, he had a shoe phone and not a cell, so that makes things completely different.)

Anyway, when I drive and someone cuts me off or tries to plow into me, I almost always stick my arm out and say, “Watch it, man!”  (I picked this up years ago from The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour which was like an hour long version of I Love Lucy.  In the episode “Lucy Wins a Racehorse,” Lucy has to drive the horse in a race.  If you’ll watch here between 44:30 and 45:50, you’ll see what I mean.  And if you’ll watch the whole episode, you’ll be sure to laugh heartily for the next 50 minutes.)

Anyhow, I digress.  Despite drivers that don’t pay attention or are otherwise just plain rude, I also don’t like to be in the car with people that complain about the other bad drivers long after the incident has passed.  If we make the light, we make the light.  If we miss the light, maybe we just saved ourselves from being hit by a train.  It’s not worth getting all negative about for the next hour and a half.  (And if my sister, Michelle, is reading this, yes, I’m talking about you!…  I’m kidding.  She used to do this, but she’s calmed down about it a lot in recent years.  Thanks, Michelle.)

So one cool thing that can happen when other drivers are rude, is that it can catch up to them and bite them in the posterior.  I LOVE when that happens!  Case in point:  Once, many moons ago, my sister and I were dating two members of a certain band.  We were on our way to a concert, and we got there early so we could use our all-access passes and hang out with the band before the show.  However, on our way there, a man cut us off and nearly ran us off the road.  Watch it, man! 

We kept driving, then ended up encountering him again later down the road.  He switched lanes rapidly and this time nearly ran us into an oncoming truck!  We were obviously quite perturbed.  We slowed way down and hit some bad traffic, and ended up making it to the venue just in time to get our seats.  However, once we were in the venue parking lot, we had just eyed an available space, when out of nowhere the same maniacal driver came from the other direction, cut us off and stole our parking spot!

We parked somewhere way out of the way and were quite angry as we walked in during the first song.  Our band friends kept questioning us with their eyes and trying to read our lips as we took our seats and we enjoyed the show and tried to let it go.

After the show, we went backstage and explained what had happened.  The whole band rallied behind us and were livid when they heard about the crazed motorist.  We waited while they changed and we all headed back to our hotel and sat in the bar which was closed to the general public.

As we sat there visiting, a man came walking up with the guitar player.  The guitar player said, “Steve, you already know the guys.  And this is Rachel and Michelle.  They’re with us.  They’re like family.  You’ll love them.”  Then he turned to us and said, “Everyone, this is Steve.  I’ve known him since I was a kid.”

Steve smiled a crooked smile and blushed as he looked down.  “Pleased to meet you,” he mumbled.

“Really?” I asked loudly.  “Because you were trying to kill us before the show!”

Michelle bowed up her chest.  “Yeah, whose grandma did you run over to park here outside the hotel?”

Everyone in the band looked at Steve as they realized HE was the maniacal driver who tried to kill us earlier!  He blushed and mumbled, “I was hoping you wouldn’t recognize me.  I’m really sorry about that, girls.”

It was hysterical and worth every moment of danger he put us in.  Don’t you love when you get to see comeuppance in action?

So tell me, have you ever had an encounter with a driver and later met them in another capacity?  (Perhaps with a potential employer or employee before an interview?  Now, THAT would be funny!)  Do you text and drive?  Do you talk on the phone and drive?  Do you know how many car lengths there are supposed to be between you and another driver in your lane?  Do you always give the courtesy thank you wave when someone lets you in ahead of them?

Good Job… Sort Of

How are we holding up with my pet peeve theme this month, friends?  I hope I haven’t chased anyone away.  (I was afraid when I selected this month’s theme that people might perceive me as being negative and not want to read my blog anymore.)

Anyway, today’s pet peeve IS about negative people.  More accurately, it’s about people that are stingy with compliments.  And please, before you feel like I’m trying to solicit a bunch of “attagirls” in my comment section below, that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m also not talking about what I call “false compliments” such as when you tell someone something like, “I like your shirt,” and they automatically reply with , “I like yours, too.”  Personally, when this happens, I don’t believe the person and I think it’s a kneejerk response because they either don’t know what to say, they don’t know how to simply say “thank you” or they are unused to receiving praise.

What I am talking about is one phrase in particular that some people use to preface a so-called compliment (the preface takes away from it actually being a compliment).  It goes something like this:  “Now I don’t want you to get a big head, but…”  The person usually has a big, cheesy grin when they say it.

That boils my blood when people say that to me.  I know they think they’re being funny, but I just think they’re being kind of mean.   If strangers or causal acquaintances say this to me, I think it’s just in bad taste because they don’t know me.  But when someone who knows me well says that, it really cheeses me.  If they knew me as well as they think they do, they’d know I’m the last person to walk around with a swollen ego from one compliment.  They’d know I’m my own worst enemy as well as my harshest critic.  They’d know that if I’m not happy with whatever accomplishment they are complimenting, then their “Good job, Rach” is absolutely meaningless to me.  And they’d know that I’ve never been overly complimented in my life from my very own family.

I really hope you don’t think I’m trying to break my arm patting myself on the back here, because I’m a little embarrassed to share this, but I’m only stating the facts when I say that I’ve raised two autistic kids with absolutely zero help from either of their dads, and my family (except one of my sisters, Michelle) never gave me any moral support whatsoever.  My entire childhood was filled with, “Not bad, but you could do better if only…”  My birth mom’s idea of a compliment is, “You know how this could be better…”  (Even those are rare.  Mostly it’s, “You know what your problem is…”)  Heck, I was over forty years old before ANYONE ever said to me, “Rachel, I’m proud of you.”  It was one of my childhood friend’s fathers who connected with me after 20+ years on Facebook and learned what I had been doing.  He watched my childhood and knew the type of environment I grew up in.  And when he told me he was proud of me, I actually cried.  And when I told him he was the only person to have ever said that to me, HE cried.

I guess I just don’t see what’s wrong with giving praise when praise is due.  It doesn’t cost anything and it can make all the difference in the world to someone.  We don’t always know what other people are secretly dealing with.  There’s definitely a time for humor; don’t get me wrong.  But I just don’t think the time is in the middle of what should be a sincere compliment.  (Again, I’m not talking about blogging or social networking, casual contact, etc., and I’m also not talking about people we see every day and do compliment regularly… If you tell your wife she’s beautiful every day and then once a month you joke that her hair is sticking up, that’s just being funny.  {Of course if you joke about her appearance every day and only compliment her once a month, then that’s just not nice.}  But I’m talking about withholding the compliment from people we actually know.)  What does it hurt to say, “All kidding aside, I really liked your report on the Rainforest,” or, “Wow, you did a great job on running that 5K!” or even, “Nice try!”

So now, instead of asking you any thought-provoking questions today, I’m going to ask you to go be kind to someone else.  Please go find another (real) person today, either in your home or elsewhere (not on-line), and pay them a sincere compliment, delivered in person, no strings attached.  Have a wonderful day! 

Sleepless in Seattle? Or Topless in Manhattan?

As I told you last week, in New York City, it is perfectly legal (and apparently it has been since the 1990s) for women to walk around topless because they have the same rights as men.  This is thanks to the “Topfreedom Political Movement” which seeks to advance gender equality.  I understand that it’s legal for women to be topless in Canada, too, though I’ve never actually seen it in action during my many visits.  Do any Canadians care to weigh in on this?

I was only made aware of this law because of Bruce WIllis and Demi Moore’s daughter, Scout, pictured here, having made news recently to promote this movement to legalize topless women.

Some news articles I’ve heard or read on this subject indicate that part of this movement is because of people complaining about mothers who breastfeed in public.  My personal feelings on the women topless thing is that breastfeeding in public does not bother me at all.  Maybe if I had young children with me, I’d prefer that the nursing mom put a baby blanket over her shoulder until the baby is attached at least.  But my pet peeve is two-fold.

First of all, part of it comes from when there are activists that want a law amended to allow for these types of things, yet said laws, once passed, don’t seem to consider the possible or probable repercussions.  (Having been a paralegal for more than a dozen years, I tend to look at a lot of situations as how their potential for legal issues might unfold.)

For example, does the woman have to be at least a legal adult?  Because, if not, how many teenage girls look to be a lot older than they are?  So how is the city going to police this movement?

A potential problem is, if for example, a tourist takes a photo of a topless  16 or 17 year old who looks to be 23, the tourist now technically owns child porn.  If he innocently posts this on his Facebook account, just to say, “Hey, look at how women don’t wear shirts here in the Big Apple!” he has now distributed child porn.  Technically, he could have just had sealed his fate of having to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, when really he was just guilty of culture shock (okay and maybe exploiting women) once he left his small town life for the weekend.

Furthermore, if or when one of these topless women gets raped, how negatively will it play in that she was half naked and therefore “coerced” the rapist?  (No, I do not believe her attire, or lack thereof, has a thing to do with the heinous crime of rape, but you’d better believe there are plenty of jurors that do, not to mention clever defense attorneys that will use it to the rapist’s advantage.)

What if one of these ladies who simply want to “let the puppies breathe” is a school teacher?  How many parents will see her out shopping for some produce or a book, and will then become irate and write letters of complaint to the schools where the women work?  And now, if these women lose their job over doing something that, according to the city statute, is within their rights, how difficult will it be for them to be accepted at their next job because of the obvious taboo associated with the combination nudity and teaching children?

Now, keep in mind, this statute allows topless women to walk anywhere in the city.  It isn’t just a designated area such as at a topless beach or park.  So while certain retailers may have a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” restriction, the sidewalk and street, as well as the numerous sidewalk vendors and open markets there are fair game.  And while it may be within the “limits of the law”, I can tell you that I definitely wouldn’t have wanted my kids when they were young to, pardon the pun, be exposed to topless women.

The second part of my pet peeve on this subject I guess stems from another place in me.  I want to know, do the women who support this movement really want to walk around without a shirt on or do  they just want the right to do it because men do?  I know it may sound like it, but I’m not trying to be a prude here.  Because honestly, yeah, if there’s a good looking, buff man without his shirt on, I’ll look (or ogle).  But most of the time that’s not the case.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, when I see men without a shirt on, I’m not thinking, “I wish I could do that, too,” I’m thinking, “Eww!  I wish he would cover that up!”  I do not even want to entertain the thought of my grandma or yours walking around the city topless, much less our daughters.  (Of course, please keep in mind that I live in the retirement capital of the country, Florida, and not only do we have a lot of topless and nude beaches, but even our regular beaches often have the over-90 crowd in their speedos and thongs.  I don’t want to make fun, but as a mom, I’ve been embarrassed on numerous occasions when my kids were small and one of them stopped to point and stare at great-grandma and grandpa’s semi-nudity.)

There are plenty of places for people to go where there is a designated spot to be either topless or completely nude if someone chooses.  And in those places, we don’t have to worry about our children accidentally seeing something that they wouldn’t be allowed to see in a Rated R or NC movie.  Furthermore, while I absolutely believe in gender equality for things such as equal pay for equal work, or opportunity for advancement in the workplace, there are some things that will never be equal and shouldn’t be.  For instance, men will never have to fight to be allowed to breastfeed in public.

So, tell me, do you think this law has the potential to cause problems?  If you are a lady, would you go topless in Manhattan?  If you’re a man, would you find topless women distracting?  If you’re a parent, would you have a problem with topless women being around your children in public?  Or would you have a problem if your children’s teacher or your church’s minister went around topless in public?

At the Sound of the Tone…

I remember the first answering machine I ever saw.  My uncle bought it for my grandma one Christmas in the early 80s.  It was the kind that was huge, had a plastic “wood grain” finish, and housed two cassette tapes, one for the outgoing message and one for the incoming messages.

Nowadays, of course, most phones have digital voicemail.  Even the answering machines that are left are digital now.  The few that aren’t have only one tape and it’s one of those micro-cassettes, and those are generally only found at thrift stores and yard sales.  My point is that the widespread use of machines to take telephone messages has been around for decades.


That being said, my pet peeve today is when people refuse to utilize them when they call me.  Everyone who knows me well, knows my position on this.  I refuse to be a slave to caller ID and spend time scrolling through the phone every time I come home, only to guess who each number might belong to and what they want.  The entire reason I have an answering machine is to save me from having to do that.

Another reason I have an answering machine is that I work from home.  My machine has the option to push lines one through four depending if a person wants to leave a message for my business or for one of the occupants of my house.  I run a photography studio, so there is a good chance that I am either with a client or I am busy Photoshopping and can’t be bothered.  When I’m not doing either of these things, I can almost always be found writing or editing something I have written.

Yet, despite my complaints, my friends and family frequently ignore my request and they call and hang up then call again because they assume I will eventually answer the phone that way.  Not gonna happen, people!  Yes, it is a huge pet peeve of mine when people refuse to leave a message when they call.  And an even larger pet peeve when they call back repeatedly, expecting me to be available if only the phone rings longer when they never even left one message in the first place.

Call once.  Leave a message.  Do not be vague.  Be detailed with the message.  Whether you think so or not, I have a busy schedule and there is rarely a time that I leave my home that I don’t have messages to sort through.  Sometimes business clients call and I have to call them back.  Sometimes bill collectors call and I have deal with them.  Sometimes photography vendors call and I might want to respond to them.  So after all that, hearing a dozen hang-ups that leave a loud and annoying buzzing sound on my answering machine, and a few “It’s me; call me back” messages with no further explanation, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t sound important, so I will probably not call you back.  When you do that, it just makes me think you must want something from me.  If you’re calling just to check in and see how I’m doing, then say so.  Not only will it make me feel good, but it will also make me think a lot more highly of you.

And while I’m on the subject, I also can’t stand when I call someone and leave a detailed message, then they call me back and ask what I wanted.  I tell them I left everything on their voicemail, and they respond by telling me that they didn’t listen to it, but only checked their caller ID and noticed I called.

Okay, if that’s the case, there almost always is an option to turn your voicemail off.  Better yet, say so on your outgoing message and tell me not to bother wasting my time, but that your phone has most certainly captured my telephone number and you’ll call me later to discuss whatever it was I called you about.

I guess what all this boils down to, is that I consider my time valuable and I don’t want to waste it either by guessing who called me and why, or by calling other people and doing as their voicemail instructs and taking the time to leave them a message that they never listen to.

Okay, I’m done with my rant.  At the sound of the tone, please leave me a message.  BEEP!

So do hang up calls annoy you as much as they do me?  Or are you one of the people who boycott leaving messages?  Are you one of those people who never actually listen to their messages and rely solely on caller ID?  Do you remember the answering machines with the dual cassette tapes and fake wood grain finish? 

Author Interview – Gary Hoadley

Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog.  (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.)  I asked everyone thirty-five questions, some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries, and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Gary Hoadley, had some very interesting as well as hilarious responses which I’m sure will you will enjoy.  After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to his blogs and follow him for a regular dose of side-splitting humor and satire.  And now, heeere’s Gary…



1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

My name is Gary Hoadley. Some people call me “Stop thief”.  I was born in a slum area of London named Fulham in 1962.   By 1978 I was a career criminal. In 1995 I began to rehabilitate myself.  The first thing I ever wrote, was a bedtime story for my cell mates kids.  Some years ago, I began to write for “The Spoof” an online satirical magazine.  I was known as “Armfeetandtoe” don’t ask me why. My work is still on there.  A couple of years ago, I started writing for Clive Danton’s online magazine “Soz Satie” A very successful satirical outlet, that agrees to publish my work in exchange for a bag of coal and a box of matches.  I love comedy, and I love making people laugh. Not all my work is satirical, I write whatever lunacy enters this small brain of mine.  I have written serious stuff, a few poems, and a couple of novellas.  The BBC published a couple of short stories I wrote. I’m still waiting for the royalty cheques. If you know anyone there, have a word.

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

The Spoof.

3. How many books have you written?

I have written two books in collaboration with other writers.  And two books that remain unpublished.

4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing?  Why?  If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

Publisher in Canada.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

From a very early age. I wrote a story, my teacher accused me of Plagiarising Edgar Allan Poe. I did not write again until my late twenties.  It was other writers giving me encouragement that got me where I am today.

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

I want to entertain. It gives me a kick thinking someone in the world is sitting down having a good laugh at one of my stupid stories.  One time, a bloke from Saudi Arabia contacted me to ask if I could explain a certain passage in one of my stories. A week later he writes to me to say he read it out to his family and they fell about laughing.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

George Orwell has to be my favourite. His books are so atmospheric they move along at pace that draws the reader in, so much so, one begins to become part of the story; Anton Chekov – The shooting Party;  Hans Christian Andersen – The Emperor’s New Clothes; Henry Miller – Tropic Of Cancer; Spike Milligan – Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall. Just a few of my favourites.

9. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?

Definitely a book. Hardback or Paperback. I think having the book on the shelf is a constant reminder to read it again.

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

My style varies. Depending on what situation I am trying to explain.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

I always have a break. I like to rest my imagination for a bit.

12. How many books would you say you read in a year?  How many at any one time?

12# I read about seven or eight books a year. I like to enjoy a book, so I take my time and try not to race through to get to the end. Something my Mother taught me. She was an avid reader.



13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

14. What is your novel’s genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

It is not a Manuscript. I have written a short story for Soz Satire.

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

The futility of war. And the idiots that perpetrate it.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

A tough question. I would like to reach out to all ages.

17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

It is a complete send up of the Battle Of Waterloo.



18. How often do you write?

I do not write every day. But I do make notes and put ideas on paper.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

From one line to a thousand words or more.

20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

I’m a bit Dyslexic, so I always get someone to have a look before my work is published, especially stuff that goes online. My good friend Clive Danton gives it the once over. It is a golden rule I think everyone should follow. Saves all that cringing when you see those glaring mistook you jist mode.

21. What is your method of writing?  (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

I have no method. I just write. Sometimes it can be for hours, other times, it can be for ten minutes.

22. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

People. I love people. All the different characters from every corner of this fantastic planet of ours. And history, oh how I love to pick apart history and turn it on its head. Lovely.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

Could not honestly say. Again, it depends on what I am writing.

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel?  If so, please elaborate.

I never set myself goals. I like to let the natural rhythm of my imagination dictate how much I write.

25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

I spent two years living on the streets of London back in the 70s.  Some of the characters I met will never be forgotten. And, as a monument to them, I often include them in stories. I have had an interesting and varied existence. The people that have been in my life, even for a brief time, are a library of voices and faces.

26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

If I am writing a comedy about a certain historical character or event, then I will research to make sure I have my facts right.  When I write more serious stuff, I do take a little time to look up certain things that are important to the story.

27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

I like a nice big mug of splosh! (tea). And, when one of my children come through the front door, a sandwich is usually demanded with the threat of the electricity being disconnected if they do not comply.

28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

In the garden. The conservatory or lounge. I am easily distracted.  So I write until one of my family or my dogs want my attention.

29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

No, there is nothing more important to me than my family and friends.  I did once forget my deaf Great Dane was out in the yard. He smashed the door down. Irene, my wife, was not impressed. I blamed my twelve year old daughter, my son, the next door neighbour…

30.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

I talk as I write.  No one in the house needs to read it.  They have already heard what I have written!



31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

Shylock Humes and the case of the missing Cod.

32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

Shylock Humes. A real twit and the world’s worst detective.  But, he makes me roar with laughter because he does not realize how bad he really is. Which is a bit like me and my writing.

33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?

Will Ferrell as Shylock Humes; Robin Williams as Dr Watsit; John Cleese as Inspector Corner, of the Yard;

Timothy Spall as Sergant Pillery; Ray Winstone as Morrihairy; and Bette Midler as Mrs Benson.

34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?

The timetable for trains leaving St Pancras Station.

35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?

The timetable for trains leaving St Pancras Station.


Thank you, Gary, for allowing me to interview you.  I was already a fan of your satire, but I learned a lot more about you today.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.


Author Interview – Douglas Schwartz

I recently posted a Call to Writers, asking those of you who write to allow me to interview you for a guest spot in my blog.  The response was magnificent (and if any of you still want to participate, please contact me for details). I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted.  My friend and fellow-author, Douglas Schwartz, had some very creative and engaging responses which I’m sure you will find as captivating as I did.  When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to his website and make sure you check out his work.  And now, heeeere’s Douglas…



Doug Schwartz (1)1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

Hello.  My name is Douglas Schwartz.  This first question reminds me of one of my pet peeves, when I’m in a meeting and someone suggests, “Let’s go around the room, say our name, and tell something about ourselves.”  It’s a pet peeve because there is so much that could be said and saying one thing usually does not give a other people a clear picture about who that person is.  Until I find the right answer that can completely sum up myself in a single sentence, I don’t like answering that question (not that I’m trying to be difficult).

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):


From there, you can connect to Twitter, Facebook, my blog, and my hobby gaming company.

3. How many books have you written?

So far, I have published one novel — Checkered Scissors.  I have another book, a collection of short stories, I aim to release later in 2014.  Plus, I have two other novels outlined, and plans for a second short story collection.

4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

Checkered Scissors : http:\\\

From this site, you can link to various sites to purchase the book, both in digital and printed formats.

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing?  Why?  If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

I am self-published.  I did a lot of research prior to making this decision, and both paths seem equally challenging.  The two main reasons for picking self-publishing over traditional is (1) a quicker time to market, and (2) retaining more control.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I started writing stories in 5th grade, but I knew I wanted to write a book while I was in middle school.  At that time, I thought I wanted to write a book about time travel.  Then, in high school, I had a dream that inspired Checkered Scissors (the dream is reflected in the first chapter of the novel).  A couple decades later, I developed my writing voice, found the story I wanted to tell, and released my first novel.  I promise, the next novel will take much less time.

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

I am an artist.  Writing is only one medium I work in.  As an artist, I have a desire to create new things.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

My favorite authors…

Douglas Adams, because his style of writing is different than most, and even though it might not technically be considered “great prose”, it works and it’s fun.

Stephen King, because he writes incredibly vivid characters.

Neil Gaiman, because he weaves wonderful, fantastic stories.

Terry Pratchett, also because his characters are vivid, and his stories are fun, easy reads.

I’m currently reading Mockingjay (that a friend loaned me).  I’m not enjoying it as much as the first two of the series, because I seem to be approaching it from an author’s point of view.  As I read it, I keep thinking, “Why isn’t Katniss doing this, instead of that?”  So, I’m finding myself not really caring much about the character as much as I did in the first couple of books.

9. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?

Most books I read are still print (either paperbacks or hardbacks), because I enjoy rereading the books I have, and have borrowed books from friends.  I do have a growing library of books in both the Kindle and iBook apps on my iPad, especially many of my favorite books I love to reread.

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

Most stories are third person, past tense.  A few short stories where the main character is also the narrator, I have written in first person, past, as if they are telling a friend their story.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

I take breaks.  Most of my reading time is right before bed to help wind down my mind before sleeping.  Sometimes, I don’t know what I want to read next.  Or, I have a story wanting to get out, so I outline it (or bits of it) instead of reading.

12. How many books would you say you read in a year?  How many at any one time?

I don’t know how many books I read in a year.  Maybe 20 to 25?  Most of the time I read one at a time.  There are books I start, can’t latch onto, and set aside for another time.  Also, there are books I read to my kids, too.  We are currently in the middle of the 4th Harry Potter.



13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

Pickled Bananas and Other Schwartz Stories.  This is my first collection of short stories.  All these stories are quirky and highly imaginative.  I’ve also contributed a short story, “A World Taken Over” to another collection (Wyrd World 2).

14. What is your novel’s genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

Under the online stores, Checkered Scissors is under the “fantasy” genre.  I’ve called it “light fantasy”.  But, recently, I referred to the style as “the They Might Be Giants of prose”.  TMBG is considered “alternative rock”, but what does that say about their unique style?  It says, “We don’t know what to call it, so we’re going to stick it over in another bucket labeled ‘alternative’.”

Like that, I have a hard time defining the genre I write in, because I consider it very unique, absurd and imaginative.  Is there a sub-genre bucket called “alternative” or “other”?  When I think of fantasy, I think of something like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, but it’s not like that.  There are strange occurrences, some magical elements, and odd creatures.  It has been called surreal, but even though there are weird elements, I know I could write something much more surreal than it is.  My writing style is what it is, but what that is, is difficult to pinpoint.  How about “Whimsical Fantasy”?

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

Checkered Scissors was inspired from a dream.  My most recent story, “A World Taken Over”, was inspired from watching Phineas & Ferb.  What if Doofenshmirtz didn’t just take over the tri-state area, but the world?  What if, after a mad scientist successfully took over the world, what would they do to release control of it again when the decided they no longer wanted it?  It’s these what-ifs that inspire my stories.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

People who enjoy reading a light, easy story at the end of the day.  Nothing too heavy or thought provoking, but likes a fun read.  People of all ages have read and enjoyed my stories.  Kids as young as ten up to the elderly retirees enjoy my stories.  My fiction is family friendly.  Not that I go out of my way to avoid it, but I typically do not write anything overly adult (sex, extreme violence, or foul language).

Doug Schwartz (2)17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

Checkered Scissors is about four people who get trapped in different worlds.  They think the checkered Scissors are what they need to take them to where they want to be.  It explores the concept of doors between worlds, what happens to the characters who end up in different worlds, and the reasons they have for wanting to escape where they are or to where they want to be.  The first half of the novel sets up all the chess pieces, then the second half follows the moves to the conclusion.



18. How often do you write?

I write most days.  On days when I am not sitting down, knocking out sentences for a story, I am thinking about plots and making notes for future stories.  I try to write something creative daily, but there are days when I don’t or can’t.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

I haven’t measured it, but I’m sure it is under the goals for something like NaNoWriMo.  Some days, I knock out several pages, while other days I struggle to write a complete paragraph.

20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

I go through three stages of editing:

(1) I finish the first draft, set it aside, then read through it, making notes as I go.

(2) After making corrections from the first pass, I have the story read and critiqued by my peers.  Sometimes I repeat this step multiple times.

(3) Finally, I hire someone to professionally edit the story before formatting and publishing it.

21. What is your method of writing?  (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

I start with an outline.  In a way, it’s more of a synopsis, because it is a series of paragraphs describing the different scenes.  From this “outline”, I work as I go, sometimes tweaking the synopsis and manuscript as necessary.

However, I may change this after reading the book “The Anatomy of Story”.  My next novel, I intend to follow the exercises suggested in this book.

22. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

Yes, I do have a muse and I thank her often.  Sometimes, I think my muse drinks way too many caffeinated drinks.  Too many stories bounce around inside of my head.  I keep a journal of ideas, random thoughts, dreams, ponderings, etc..  At times, when I need inspiration, I read through my journal.

As for what inspires me… Looking at life from different angles and asking “What if…?” a lot.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

Checkered Scissors took two decades from when I knew I wanted to write a story to when I completed it.  In all that time, i wrote several short stories to help find my writing voice.  The amount of time I found the right direction to take the story I wanted to tell, it was less than a year to write from end to end and a couple more years to clean it up and publish it.

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel?  If so, please elaborate.

Not really.  I have a friend, Renee, who helps me plan out sprints for working on my projects and getting things done in a more timely fashion.  Thank you, Renee!

25. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

Each scenes in my outline is about a paragraph long.  For my novel, character profiles and background information about the world are often a page or more of text.

26. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

I must have my home computer.  I could use any computer to write, but I make a point only to write on my home computer, not on my work computer.  A nice Starbucks drink doesn’t hurt, either.

27. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

Because we have two kids who have lots of friends in the neighborhood over to our house, I tend to get up crazy early (sometimes as early as 4 AM.  Yes, Virginia, there is a 4 AM).  At that time of day, everyone else is asleep and there are much fewer distractions.  Plus, I get my own stuff out of the way before dealing with everyone else’s stuff, so by the end of the day, I still feel accomplished, even when I’m too tired to write some more.

28. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

I write around my real life.  My family is more important than my writing, and I will set everything aside for them.  For now, work is what pays the bills, so I must set my writing aside for my day job.  Many times, I would rather focus on my writing instead of dealing with other people’s problems, but I don’t, because that makes me feel like I’m being selfish.

29.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

I recently wrote a story that contains a talking stack of pancakes.  What I, the person writing these stories, do is boring compared to the lives inside the stories I create.  :)



30. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

I’m going to include my projects in my answer.  I am proud of my novel, because it is an amazing accomplishment that fuels the work post-release.  My favorite work is “The Inside Joke” which includes an elaborate dialog in slang invented by the characters in the story.  The slang is explained over the course of the story as it progresses.  It’s like constructing a puzzle in reverse; you get the full picture up front, but to understand it, you need to examine each piece more closely.  “The Inside Joke” is one of the stories to appear in “Pickled Bananas”.

31. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

Max from Checkered Scissors.  He is the original owner of the scissors, and travels a world built upon dreams.  To be able to travel a world like that, meeting all sorts of creatures and people, would be an incredible experience.

32. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?

For Checkered Scissors…

Ed, the young entrepreneur, should be played by someone like Calum Worthy or Matt Smith, who is wacky, but not obnoxious.  Someone who enjoys life, but doesn’t take it too seriously.

Max, the traveling pool salesman, should be played by someone like Simon Pegg, who is calm and quiet, and can appreciate the wonders of the world around them.

Glick, the lost soul, should be played by Hugo Weaving, who can be reserved and logical.

Mr. Pinkerton, the mad scientist, should be played by the Enigma (the tattooed man of Austin), who is intense, calculating, and unpredicatable.


Thank you, Douglas, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.