Tiffany Maxwell Freelance writer and editor

8Jun/110

You know you’re meant to be an entrepreneur when…

Cross-posted from the Lyrical Press blog

You accidentally commit bank fraud in your first week.

Give me credit, when I do something stupid, I really shoot for the 99th percentile. I don't just walk into things, I collide mid-air with a glass wall. I don't just forget some things for planning a party, I'm pantsless with bed hair and nothing but dog food and baking soda in the house when the first guests show up. Hell, when I went to the emergency room after my rat bit me, the doctor gave me a little pamphlet saying that domestic rodent bites made up only 2% of domestic animal-related emergency room visits.Everyone has a talent.

Risking your joint bank account being frozen in your first week of no steady income and about a half hour after you wrote your rent cheque sets a new standard, however. Though feel free to correct me here, there are times when I'd like to be wrong.

I emerged, hissing and smoking, into the evening sunlight last week, my legs wobbling after wasting away sitting at the dining room table all day. I stumbled down to the bank, intending to deposit a few cheques. I clutched the sheaf of them in one hand, and carefully entered the information for the top one into the ATM, then fumbled it into an envelope, and let the machine gobble it up.

Why yes, I would like to perform another transaction Mr. ATM, thank you for asking.

Imagine my surprise when I looked down to start entering the information for the next set of cheques, only to see the one I just deposited still sitting smugly in my hand.

Frantically I counted the cheques. The number in my hand corresponded with the number I had left the house with.

I looked at the machine. I tried to recall if vandalizing an ATM was more or less than five years in prison. I looked at my reflection in the window and calculated my odds of attracting the attention and protection of the biggest prison guard on the block. Not liking my chances, I shoved the cheques in my purse, and sprinted home.

An entirely swift and not-at-all agonizing thirty minutes later, I got through to a human voice at the bank.

"This is Trevor at Bank, how may I help you this evening?"

"Hi, I just did something really stupid at the ATM that will probably put me in line for Moronic Customer of the Year."

"Hahaha! Well, don't say that."

"Don't say, 'Don't say that,' until you've heard what I'm about to tell you."

"Okay, what did you do?"

"I just deposited some sort of mystery paper in the ATM in place of an actual cheque."

"Oh."

That particular, "Oh," coming from the mouth of someone with control over your bank account was about as comforting as your neurosurgeon saying, "Huh, that's different," when looking at your MRI.

"So what do I do?"

"Hope they don't charge you for fraud. Also hope you have enough cash to last for a couple of days, since they'll probably freeze your account."

"That's interesting. I just gave my landlord my rent payment."

"Did you give them a cheque?"

"Yes."

"Then actually you just gave them a slip of paper with your name on it."

"Fantastic. Is there any way I can avoid this? My boyfriend's laid-back but I'm pretty sure eviction would be one of his dealbreakers."

"I'm going to write down the situation here, and hopefully that will head them off, since it was an honest mistake, but if I were you, I'd go to your branch first thing tomorrow and explain everything to them."

"Much obliged."

It wasn't until I hung up the phone that my mind skipped back to the mystery paper.

I did put a piece of paper in that envelope, I know I did. I really wrestled it in there. Whatever it was, by god, it was going to go in the machine, and it was going to like it.

With my luck, it was probably a shopping list that started something like this:

1. Trojans, family pack

2. Monistat 7-day, GOD not using the 1-day treatment again

3. Suppositories, bubblegum flavour

And progressively getting worse from there.

Or perhaps it was the McDonald's napkin on which I scribbled the detailed outline of my erotic Phantom of the Opera/West Side Story crossover fanfic novel.

Perhaps it was the last letter from my grandmother.

Or perhaps it was a map to Aztec treasure, or my coffin.

Whatever it was, godspeed, Mystery Paper. I await the day when we shall meet again, and I will come to know your secrets.

Namaste.

31May/110

Re-Modelling, Day 2

I updated and spruced up the Portfolio page, and along with a few new pieces, it also includes links to my awesome Lyrical Press authors, who I hope to have over for tea and a chat on this blog in the coming months.

Visit them, and check out their books. I personally guarantee they are all pinnacles of literary achievement*. Due entirely to my editing, of course**.

And it's on to the next thing.

*Your literary mileage may vary.

**I'm kidding, I'm kidding.

30May/110

The Real First Post

It's 10:30 on May 30, and I am wrapping up my first day as a full-time freelancer. I am tired and nervous, but I am also excited and can't wait for another work day tomorrow.

The next few weeks, months, and hopefully years should see a lot of changes here at this site. I've been having ideas for new services, new posts, new concepts, and of course, new posts.

I can't wait to share.

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9Nov/100

The Writer and Reality

Crossposted to the Lyrical Press Official Blog

From what I understand, most people who are not a) writers, b) actors, or c) deranged (see a & b) live in something referred to as “reality”. In “reality”, I am given to understand, there are no such things as vampires, ghosts, psychic detectives (in any testable sense), or unicorns. Also, in reality, there are other people with thoughts and feelings who spend their days muddling about doing nothing very exciting, and interacting with each other in mostly mundane ways.

I know, it sounds boring. That’s because it mostly is.

Nevertheless, all writers should have a good relationship with reality, and should do their best to understand it, at least in theory. Wine and dine it regularly, and kiss it on the lips, after all, you’re setting pretty much all of your stories there.

As an editor, my eyeballs bleed and my teeth explode every time a writer tries to duck a suggestion I make by saying, “But it’s just a story! It’s not reality!”

Oh yes it is.

I flash back to a lecture given at NASA by noted skeptic James Randi, where he said something along the lines of, “You have to make assumptions every day. If you didn’t make assumptions, you would be catatonic.” This is true. If you didn’t assume that the chair you were about to sit in was in fact a solid chair, and not sponge cake painted to look like a chair, you would have to carefully test every chair you saw before sitting in it. If you didn’t assume that your floor was able to support your weight each morning, and wasn’t eaten away by termites overnight, you would be too nervous to get out of bed.

Readers make the same assumptions about the world in which you’re writing that they do about the world in which they’re living. Until you tell them otherwise, all the chairs you mention in the book are made of hard-ish material that can support the weight of an average human being. Until you tell them otherwise, all your human characters have four functioning limbs that have the same range of motion as that of an average human being. So when you write that your character is performing a physical action that involves a body part independently spinning 360 degrees, while still attached at its proper place, or some other kind of action that would involve the insertion or removal of various major bones or organs to be completed in real life, your reader is left thinking that you either neglected to tell them some crucial information (that all the characters in your book have ball joints, for example), or that your writing makes no sense. Either way, you’ll annoy them, and the last thing you want to do is annoy your readers.

If you’re not sure you’re writing a physical action that makes any sense, I want you to do something for me. Stand up, and try it yourself, as close as to what is in your story as possible. Obviously if your character is hanging upside down off a speeding train in the middle of a gunfight, you’re somewhat limited in your imitative possibilities, but I imagine you have access somehow to things like couches, chairs, and tables. Use those to your advantage, preferably when no one else is home. And I’ll state for the record that I take no responsibility for any humiliation you suffer as a result of this method. The point is, test your gestures. Do the literal words you’ve written translate into a doable action? Put yourself into the mind of your characters, does that action feel natural? If the answer is yes and yes, then congratulations, you’ve written a good action, keep it there. If one or both of the answers here is no, then you might want to take another crack at rewriting. The temptation to say, “artistic license” doesn’t apply here, because for physical actions, you want the reader to be able to picture those concretely, and they can’t read your mind. Artistic license is for the beauty of the stars, or the smile on your romantic hero’s face, or the fabulousness of his haircut, or anything else that is ultimately subjective. The essential rules of your book’s reality, however, much like actual reality, are not subjective, and you’re best served to stick closer to the literal truth of the matter.

Remember, your book is, indeed, our boring old reality, until stated otherwise. Learn to love reality. Without it, you’d have to spend the first ten chapters of every book defining every nuance of ceilings, floors, and dining room chairs, just to give your characters something to stand on. The reality we have gives you the groundwork, and saves you the time.

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