Periodically, I look for interesting websites. I’m curious what’s out there like everyone else is. And, I’m not very good at finding them, so when I do find one that I really like, I have a compulsion to share. There is an app I have on my iPad that I review daily. It is Zite magazine. I love this app because it lets me choose the topics for the news that I want to see routinely. Among the topics that I really value are Fiction, Literature, Publishing, Reading and Writing. These are all separate sections that are updated daily.

President George W. Bush honors with the 2006 ...

William Safire has a way with words Image via Wikipedia

The other day, I saw a posting on Zite about writing advice. It was from a website called: openculture.com. There was writing advice from Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Henry Miller, Neil Gaiman and William Safire. While they all had some great advice, I found the one from Safire to be particularly entertaining.

I hope you enjoy it, too. Enjoy the weekend, my friends.

William Safire (the author of the New York Times Magazine column “On Language”)

1. Remember to never split an infinitive.
2. The passive voice should never be used.
3. Do not put statements in the negative form.
4. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
5. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
6. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
7. A writer must not shift your point of view.
8. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
9. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
10. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
11. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
12. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
13. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
14. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
15. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
16. Always pick on the correct idiom.
17. The adverb always follows the verb.
18. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

If you guessed The Mamas and the Papas from the title, you guessed right. All the way back to 1965. Great song and I hear it even in quiet moments.

I bring up this music because it is a keen substitute for a term that I really don’t like — the bucket list. I really dislike that term because it has certain implications that I just don’t want to recognize. For example, it implies someone has some unfinished business/entertainment/travel/topics to take care of before your term in office expires, so to speak. For that reason, pure desperation to clear the slate, I just don’t like that term. I liked the movie, but you can skip the term, por favor.

Derek gets a new hole

So, some months ago, Patti and I were here in Murphy and I told her that I wanted to talk and she should probably have a seat before I started. Well, you can imagine the look she gave me. We sat down across from each other at the breakfast table. This was serious.

‘What’s this all about?” Patti likes to cut to the chase, particularly when I approach her that we need to talk.

‘Well, there is a decision that I have made, and I need to discuss it with you.”  Ok, I didn’t cut to the chase.

Right then and there, I got ‘the look.’ That meant, cut to the chase.

“I want to get an earring.” There, I said it and I was out with it.

“What? WHAT?!” I got Patti’s look of surprise.

“You know, I’m not working any more. For a very long time, I’ve wanted to have a tasteful earring, like Harrison Ford.” I told her that if Han Solo and Indiana Jones can wear an earring, then so can I. When I saw Harrison Ford wearing a very small, tasteful circle-style earring on a talk show, that was my sign. Ok, I can imagine what you’re thinking. If Harrison Ford went out to a pasture and ate a cow patty, would I do the same thing? Hell no. At my age, I would like to think that I am a rational thinker.

Patti sat there for a few moments. She laughed once, then twice. I could tell that what I said was circling her cerebellum.  Then, “You know, hon, if you want to bad enough, go for it!” Not that I was asking her permission, by any means, but in respect for keeping her informed.

I told her that when I was working as a management consultant there is no way I could call on clients with an earring. Just no freakin’ way. And I certainly didn’t need any complications as a consultant to win assignments and instill confidence in clients and contacts. So, at the time, the earring was put on hold.

Like I said, I didn’t revisit it much the past few months because it was not really a priority, just a want-to … until December when I visited Casey down in Austin.

I was in Austin to have some work done on the car by Jerry and Scott, my Pit Stop friends who work on our cars. I told Casey about my discussion with her mom, and then Casey took this on with a vengeance. She told me that a tattoo/piercing parlor has more restrictions for safety and cleanliness than a Claire’s. She found a place and we went there for the EVENT. It was her Christmas present to me. Isn’t that just so endearing — a piercing for Christmas. How touching.

So, there I am at Diablo Rojo, having my LEFT ear pierced. After all, I knew enough about it to understand that “what’s left is RIGHT, and what’s right is WRONG.” I wanted to make sure that I got the CORRECT ear pierced. I mean really!

Derek's new 'hole'

So, at Diablo Rojo, the attendant, who must’ve had her entire life story tattooed on all parts of her body, was my clinician. She had ear disks that looked like two UFOs levitating around her head.

So, the magic moment of the prick came, and it really stung. Not a baby, I did not cry, but, hell, it did sting.

The attendant told us about how to care for the ear after the piercing, and I’ve been following those instructions ever since.

So, the deed was done. So, am I happy? You betcha! So, am I glad to have an earring? Yes, I am! Am I smarter for having an earring? No, of course not. Are my brain cells draining out of the new hole? Maybe. Do I look or feel like Harrison Ford? No, you must be kidding Am I catching hell from friends and family? Of course I am. Do I still hear The Mamas and the Papas? Yes, of course. Always will.

But now, I hear the Beatles singing “Fixing a Hole” too, and I love the earring!

For years, Patti has teased me that I am such a slow reader. She is right on the mark. Frankly, I just love books — everything about books, including the covers, the writing, premise, plots, etc. You name it about books and I just can’t seem to get enough about them.

I have stopped doing this, but years ago, as I would read a book, I would edit it, too. It was my fun. Occasionally, I would rewrite the text in the margin. I still have some of those marked-up books.

So, it was with a great deal of pleasure to me when I was reading Pat Conroy‘s latest novel “South of Broad” and I found an error in the book. Toward the end of the book, there is a sentence and the word “to” is left out of the sentence.

Now, that probably doesn’t mean much to anyone else, but, to me, this was like winning the Kentucky Derby. I understand that Pat Conroy is a real stickler for precision when he is writing. And, his editor, Nan Talese, has a stellar reputation for producing the absolute best top-quality books in the marketplace. That’s a powerful 1-2 punch.

So, when I discovered this error as I was reading, it came as quite a surprise. You see, I grew up under the premise that publishing allowed absolutely no errors in the finished published work. The commendable notion that the book was “clean” was a significant matter of pride by the author, the editor and the publishing house.

Conroy is my favorite author, when he is writing his novels. I don’t care much for his cookbook or his book about basketball, but when he tackles a novel, there is none better, in my book, sotospeak. I have seen some reviews of this book and the complaint that there is a lot of sniveling among the  characters. Perhaps. But a reader knows that about Conroy’s novels. They are loaded with tortured souls and fractured dreams.

‘South of Broad” is about Charleston, South Carolina, and a group of people whose friendships developed in high school. The novel carries them through various trials and tribulations both in childhood and adulthood. There are no car chases, no nuclear threats, no terrorist plots solved by superhuman CIA agents. It’s just fantastic character development with a plot that moves the reader along. The fact that Patti and I had just been in Charleston and had a map of the town helped as Conroy made numerous references to the city and places within the town.

For me, it was a great read, even though I did discover the error.

I may be retired, but some lifelong skills I acquired in college and in my career have not left me. Once  an editor, always an editor.

I am thankful for that, and the little things that bring us truly the greatest joy.