About Matt D

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First Thoughts

I’ve been working with ProWritingAid Premium for the past couple of days. So far, I’m thrilled with it. As I was able to apply a discount code of 25% off, my total cost for this year is $60. That works out to $5 a month.

Unlike some programs, ProWritingAid doesn’t have an app. It has free app extensions for a multitude of programs, including internet browsers. This gives you a quick and dirty grammar check while you are typing.

For the full effect, you open a web-based site and log in. They store your work in the cloud and you can write a story there and then export it to wherever you need it.

At first, I used the free version to check my memoir. It found about 100 areas for improvement. After I had corrected all of them, I then ran it again with the Premium version. It identified an additional 200 areas that had some type of problem.

It’s not perfect. There are some suggestions that I ignored, otherwise, my document wouldn’t make sense. Once you ignore the suggestion, it does not bring it back up. One feature I really like is when it identifies that you have started multiple sentences with the same word. I had one section where I deliberately started each sentence with “I’m” for dramatic effect. Pretty easy to tell the program to ignore that section.

The one feature that I’m looking forward to using is the pacing check. It identifies where your story will bog down. As I despise stories that bog down repeatedly, this will be a significant feature.

I’ve only scratched the surface of ProWritingAid, but I’m duly impressed. If you are like me and have limited editing experience, this is the way to improve your skills and your writing.

Weekly Writing Challenge #25 – The Haunting

Prompt – Write about a place where two rivers meet

There is a place, a special place where two rivers meet. This point is not like other meeting points of rivers. The rivers are two distinct types. One is crystal clear, the other is brown from all the sediment. Where they meet the mixing is a slow process.

This isn’t what makes this place special. An ancient spirit haunts the land between the two rivers. Legend has it that there is only one night in the year when the spirit comes out to haunt whoever dares to camp at the meeting point. It is never the same day each year.

I’ve scoured the internet and books on this meeting place. Tremendous amount of rumors abound, but no one ever agrees on how the haunting takes place. The only common thread is that it happens during October. I think it is about time to debunk this fable. Planning took most of the summer, but I’m ready to camp out until I’m haunted or the end of October comes.

I’ve set up webcams around the campsite. Paid for an entire month of Livestream. I’ve plenty of provisions and a comfortable tent and hammock. The webcams will shift to night vision every evening. Now comes the hard part; waiting.

To keep myself occupied, I keep a running commentary going. Interacting with whoever is watching the Livestream. Once word gets out, my audience grows like wildfire. I’m enjoying the brief notoriety till it gets tedious. My audience soon becomes bored with every day being the same.

Plenty of false alarms every night as small wildlife comes to the river to drink. I am tiring of staying up all day and night. October 31st can’t come soon enough. I’ve stopped shaving and bathing. Instead of talking to my audience, I’ve started talking to myself. I’m slowly going crazy out here.

Finally, Halloween is here. I’ve only one more night in this hellhole. I’m pretty sure I’ve completely debunked this myth. The sun sets, leaving me in darkness. The dim glow of the campfire keeps me company. My plan is to stay awake until midnight. I stare at the embers, completely mesmerized. It’s almost hypnotic.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spot a dim floating light. Quickly my head turns, but the light disappears. Maybe it was a firefly? I struggle to see, as my eyesight is not completely adapted to the dark after staring at embers. Then I hear a branch breaking. The ghost is here!

My heart pounding, I hold my breath. A raccoon trundles toward my campfire. I let out my breath with a sigh of relief. Silly me, I’ve been in the woods for far too long. My imagination has run wild. There is no ghost, no hauntings. It is all a tall tale to scare people. I look at my watch and see it is after midnight. Shaking my head, I turn off the webcams and shut down the livestream.

Icy hands encircle my neck from behind. I knew instantly I had been horribly mistaken.

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Weekly Progress Report #38

This week has been all about editing. Not my strongest suit, but something that I need to work on. Slowly I’m getting there, but it seems like I’m slogging through a mud pit. I’ve decided that I need help. I’m going to pull the trigger on buying a year’s worth of premium for ProWritingAid. Of all the editing software I’ve seen, it fits the bill the best.

I’m on day 2 of my stop smoking process. I only get to smoke 19 cigarettes today. Yesterday was the first day I’ve only smoked 1 pack. I’ve been a pack and a half smoker for a while. When I visited with my youngest daughter at their new home, I went over two hours without smoking. When I left and came home, I smoked and I got a buzz. Felt lightheaded. From past experiences, this will happen more this week. Not a good recipe for success with trying to concentrate on editing.

I still need to write my Weekly Writing Challenge story. I will post it early tonight. It’s another vague prompt that could go in a number of different directions. Probably what I need to continue to grow as a writer, but indecision is wracking my brain.

I foresee a tough week ahead. I’ve been through tougher weeks in the past, so I know I’ll be able to get past all the obstacles.

Till next week, time and tide wait for no man.

On Editing

Editing to me is tedious. I figure there has to be a better way to edit. Off I went into the rabbit hole of editing software and online sites. So many choices presented themselves. First, I looked at the free online editing sites. Most had a word limit which really restricts the editing process.

I stumbled across the Hemingway Editor. No word limit and easy-to-use interface. It is great for finding all those pesky passive voice usage. For grammar, it doesn’t check at all. Plus, it doesn’t look at tense changes in your document.

Then I looked at the paid editors. Grammarly looks impressive, but at $144 a year, that is pricey for my budget. ProWritingAid is cheaper at $79 a year and can integrate with quite a few apps. I’ve installed it on my browser and I find it’s a bit distracting while I type. Lines appearing and disappearing. I may see if I can disable the app while I’m typing and then turn it on afterword.

Takes a couple of clicks to disable it and then to re-enable it. That’s not a good option. I did sign up for an account and it seems to have calmed down. Either that, or I’ve magically become a better writer.

One way I’ve been testing all these sites is to copy and paste my memoir that I’m currently editing. Some found problems in an area that none of the others found. Quite a few had word limits, and I am unable to fully test them.

Both Grammarly and ProWritingAid have additional features when you purchase the paid version. I can see where that would help my writing.

Grammarly may be the best option. I’m leaning toward ProWritingAid because it is easier on the wallet. I’m going to sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow.

Of course, I’m sure that someone will suggest one that I didn’t look at today and I’ll be back down the rabbit hole again tomorrow.

The Process

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Tomorrow I start my patented stop smoking process. Well, not really patented, but this process is one that I came up with the last time I stopped smoking. It worked then and I know it will work this time. The trick is to stay stopped which is as hard as stopping. My doctor has agreed to keep me on Wellbutrin for a year this time. Last time, I was on it for three months and within a week or so after stopping Wellbutrin, I started smoking again.

I’ve been on Wellbutrin for two weeks now and definitely get a bad taste in my mouth from smoking. Time to start the weaning process. First some prep work. I get a brand new carton of cigarettes and tear off the top of the carton. Usually I keep my cigarettes in the car, but this time I’m keeping them in the kitchen.

Day 1 (tomorrow) First thing in the morning, I pull one pack out of the carton. There are twenty cigarettes in the pack. Before I go to bed tomorrow night, I will smoke all twenty of them. Once the pack is empty, I’m done for the day. Last thing I do tomorrow night is I open the next pack of cigarettes. I take out one cigarette and place it in the now empty pack. Then I label the top of that pack with a 1 and place it back in the carton.

Day 2 (Sunday) – I grab my pack for the day. It has nineteen cigarettes. Once I smoke all nineteen, I’m done for the day. Then I open the next pack and take out two cigarettes and place them in the empty pack and label it with a 2. I continue with this until I’ve opened all 10 packs. Each day smoking 1 less.

On day 11, I grab the pack that is labeled 10 and that is all I smoke for the day. At the end of the day, I throw that pack away. At the end of twenty days, I’ll be down to only 1 cigarette for the day.

Why so elaborate of a system? I don’t have to count how many cigarettes I’ve smoked each day. When the pack is empty, I’m done. I’ve tried in the past to count how many cigarettes I’ve smoked in a day. That works for two or three days and then I forget and smoke way too many. This way, in the evening, I can look at how many cigarettes I have left and figure out how to stretch them to last the rest of the evening.

By the time I get down to the 14 cigarette day, I’m now counting the time between cigarettes in order to make it last. Each day, I gradually extend the time between cigarettes.

One last thing. I found in the past there was a day or two where I’m about ready to go to bed, but I still have cigarettes in my pack. Instead of saving them for the next day, I stay up and smoke all of them until the pack is empty. To me, it’s important to keep to the ritual of having an empty pack each night. Otherwise, I’ll be tempted to carry them over to the next day and defeat the whole process of smoking 1 less each day.

This is my plan. I’m sticking to it because it worked before.

The Plot Thickens

Photo by Mitja Juraja on Pexels.com

It’s Thursday and that means it is tumor board day. If you recall, my radiation oncologist that is very excited about Fenbendazole curing my cancer, said he is going to present my case.

Sure enough, he must have because I got not one, but two calls from the Cancer Center. Surely this must mean that my case interests them and they want to know more.

Au contraire my friends, both calls were to schedule me for radiation treatments. I was aghast! Why would they want to radiate me when I have no detectable cancer. My radiation oncologist had wholeheartedly agreed that radiation therapy didn’t make sense at all for me.

Then I remembered that ugly word that I’ve come to hate. PROTOCOL!

The doctors there are baffled and instead of using their brains, they fall back on protocol. Protocol may help the majority of their patients, but it doesn’t and can’t help all patients. I’m one of the ones where protocol may actually harm me.

Of course, I declined the radiation therapy and stated that I had an agreed upon monitoring plan with my radiation oncologist and my primary physician. I’m not going to follow their protocol.

Mrs. D thinks that they are trying to cover the bases to keep me from bringing a lawsuit against the Cancer Center. That sounds a bit far-fetched to me at first, but thinking about the way the medical establishment is now risk-averse, it makes sense.

I’m now waiting to see if they call again. Both of the previous callers had stated they were messengers and had been asked to call me. If I get called again, I’m going to ask who exactly wants to radiate me and tell them I won’t talk to anyone else except him personally.

I have my suspicions which doctor it is that is making this call. I wasn’t impressed with him the previous times I met with him and he is high on my suspect list.

Think

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I can’t think. My mind is blank. No it’s not writer’s block. I blame the drugs. I’m on Wellbutrin so I can stop smoking. I’ve been on it for two weeks now. Still smoking, but increasingly the cigarettes taste bad.

At times I feel like my head will explode.

Why does WordPress insist on putting a tutorial up every single time I start a new post. How annoying.

Tried to do some editing. The more I look at the word “was” the weirder it looks. “The” is running a close second.

Maybe my brain will settle out with Wellbutrin eventually. If not, then I can kiss my writing career gone. I want to stay on Wellbutrin for at least a year so I can have the best chance of not only stop smoking but stay stopped.

The word “stay” is looking a bit dodgy. Kind of looks like staaaaaaaaaayyyy.

I should delete this post. Muhahahahaha! Hell no, we won’t go!

Hold on, massive hot flash coming on.

Whew. Cleared the head a bit. I’m almost afraid to look at what I’ve written so far. Oops, I looked and it is pretty darn weird.

Okay, it’s not just the Wellbutrin. I also overdid it at work today and am exhausted.

Bedtime for Bonzo.

Bad Words?

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Being relatively new at the revision and editing process. I have come to the conclusion I can either wing it or research it. I’ve already tried winging it and it didn’t work very well. So I did a bit of research. First I built a revision list. Then after completing the list, it is now time to go bad word hunting.

My two words to search for are “just” and “was”. Found 24 instances where I used “just”. Not too bad, but not great. I want to get rid of every one of them. Then I searched for “was”. Ouch! 265 instances of “was”. That word is a very good indicator of passive sentences. Before deleting all the bad words, I did a bit of investigation. Consider this sentence:

I was just trying to be a good writer.

Uh-oh, it has both bad words in it. It also sounds weak. I found that the word “just” when used this way is called “Hedging your bet”. It’s better to be bold, so we will omit “just”.

I was trying to be a good writer.

Hey, it actually is better. Not a whole lot, but we are getting there. The sentence is a passive sentence. So let’s remove the word “was”

I trying to be a good writer.

Ugh! That sounds horrible. I need to revise it and I’ve decided to change the tense of “trying”

I tried to be a good writer.

Much better sentence. Still not there. This sounds like I tried and failed. It has completely changed the tense of the sentence. Writing in present tense and then throwing up this sentence would be jarring. Instead of changing “trying” let’s add “am”

I am trying to be a good writer.

Much better. Compare this sentence to the original. This denotes action, firmness and an onward journey. The original sounded a bit whiney. Now the question arises, should I always delete “was” and “just”? At first glance, the answer is yes. My twisted brain decided to go a step further and see if there is any possible way to use the original sentence.

Suppose you have a character that is sniveling, whiney and pathetic. A character that the reader hopes dies first. What if I gave the character this sentence to say?

“I was just trying to be a good writer,” he sobbed.

Yes, context matters. I can definitely see the character talking like this. But let’s make sure. Using the same weaselly character, I’m going to give him the final sentence without the “just” and “was”.

“I am trying to be a good writer,” he sobbed.

Meh. I like the “just” and “was” instead. This whole exercise has taught me that there are no bad words. Words that appear out of context seem bad, but can be used in other context.

I think I’m turning into a word nerd.

Weekly Writing Challenge #24

Prompt – Start a story with a quote from a song.

Dust in the wind is a fact of life in southeast New Mexico on the high plains of the Llano Estacado. That’s Spanish for Staked Plains. The early conquistadores saw the many yucca plants with a single stalk sticking up four or five feet and said it looked like a bunch of stakes.

During the windy period of March and April, the wind blows from sunrise to sunset. A stiff breeze is about thirty miles per hour. 50, 60 and sometimes 70 mile per hour wind is common. Being a dry arid country, this naturally picks up a lot of dust. Since the wind blows predominantly from the west, the saying was that during this time, Arizona blows and Texas sucks.

In the 1970’s and early part of 1980’s it wasn’t uncommon to have a sandstorm. The wind would strip off a layer of dirt and sand and it would form a wall of sand. If you were on the highway, the prudent thing would be to stop on the side of the road when you saw one coming. If for some reason you wanted to drive through the sandstorm, this was a recipe for disaster. The sand would be so heavy that visibility drops to zero. It’s like turning out the lights. The increased velocity of the sand due to your car driving through the storm is enough to strip paint from your car down to bare metal.

I used to ride a motorcycle quite a bit. One time I looked up and saw a wall of sand 100 feet tall moving toward me. I quickly slowed and steered my motorcycle into the bar ditch beside the road. Putting the bulk of the motorcycle between me and the approaching storm, I curled up like a turtle and covered the best I could. A long ten minutes later, the sandstorm passed and I shook off the accumulated sand from me and my motorcycle. With a prayer on my lips, I kickstarted the engine a few times until I heard the distinctive sound of my motorcycle roaring. With a gritty smile, I was back on the road heading to town.

Farmers around that area started changing how they managed their crops and by planting winter crops, cut down on the sandstorms tremendously. Now it is exceedingly rare to have a sandstorm. The weather in that part of the country is very interesting. It is considered the start of tornado alley. When I was in Junior High School, one day we were outside practicing for a track & field event. A cry went out and we looked to the north to see five tornado funnels across the horizon. The coach watched for a few minutes and saw they were moving away from us. He then yelled for us to get back to practicing.

Living in Florida, I don’t miss the constant dust in the wind. Mrs. D is happy she doesn’t have to dust every single day.

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Author’s note: When I first picked this prompt, I thought it would be easy. Then I realized there are thousands of songs and thousands of lyrics to choose from. My first couple of tries, I wound up telling the story of the song. That didn’t appeal to me. Then I went looking for esoteric lyrics and started a couple of stories that just petered out rather quickly. Finally, I went back to the Rock Classics I grew up with. As soon as I saw this song, I knew what to write.