Thursday, December 27, 2012


I'm doing the regular cleaning stuff--dishes, laundry, sweeping--but my focus over this final week of break is to clean out the other have-tos:

1. Finish my syllabi and print them off for my classes.

2. Set up my online class on Angel.

3. Complete all mending/sewing projects.

4. Prepare five canvases for next painting project.

5. Go through kids' clothing in prep for their start of term. Donate small clothing.

6. Get ahead with my Firehouse work so that January and February are more relaxed.

And I think that's it. Clearing out the junk makes my whole life easier, and hopefully I'll set myself up for active achievement in the writing, painting, musical, and sewing realms in the coming year. I won't tell you what my new year's resolution is yet. Perhaps you can guess?

What "housecleaning" are you doing right now? What are you preparing for?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Writing--Christmas Cards

I'm still finishing up Christmas cards. Okay, that's not quite honest. I only began them yesterday... and I am hoping to finish them today.

I'm pretty motivated, though, mainly because it will be yet another big task off my to-do list. Then I can work on SEWING. Yup. Not writing. I have to get a bunch of mending and sewing done during the break. Only then can I really get back to writing.

Weird how I've put writing at the bottom of my list for so long. No, it's WRONG how I've put writing at the bottom. But it's at the bottom, nonetheless.

I've cleared my spring schedule some, however. I'm now down to TWO jobs--teaching and artistic director at the local gallery--and that (hopefully) will leave me time for a few fantastically fun things. What are they, you ask? (I just KNEW you'd ask!) Here's my list, just below my job responsibilities:

1. Audition for Oliver! Even better, get a part, involve my kids in it, and help out with costumes.

2. Paint Cape Flattery on a five-canvas display for my new sunroom. It's a huge project, but I hope to start it during the break, and work on it every single day. I'll need to collect a lot of newspaper, though, so that I can spread out and paint with abandon.

3. Revise my Mermaid novel, my Charley novel, and both of my other novels, and set out to get at least one of them published. I can't control who is willing to serve as my agent, but I can't get one if I don't send the damn manuscripts out.

4. Participate in Script Frenzy (April) and write some more plays. Get them sent out, too, to local theatres.

5. Sew, sew, and sew some more! I have tons of fabric, some truly lovely patterns, and a working sewing machine. What's keeping me from it?

The only resolution forming in my head for the year is to "write every day"... I fear that adding "sew every day" and "paint every day" and "play piano every day" will make handling all four impossible.

Any plans of your own? Anything you've been setting aside, that you hope to get back to?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Not Owning a Gun Ever

I've waited and watched as several pundits have spoken out about the gun control issue, mostly horrified that it's taken the slaughter of so many for us to really start talking about it at all.

But I'm even more horrified by the NRA's response to it. Horror is the only word I can muster. It's heart-breaking that anyone would choose a gun over a child's life. The main speaker even said, "If you love your kids more than money" and went on to name all the things we must love more than our kids if we don't make guns as common as blackboards on school grounds. Only these people love their guns more than their kids. They love guns more than mercy, more than rational thought, more than God.

These are the same people who are stockpiling guns, raiding gun stores to get their hands on huge magazines and the worst kinds of weapons, for fear that these lethal tools may soon become illegal. They fear what will happen if only bad guys have guns, imagining a world where they hide in their own homes, afraid to go out for fear of being shot by such "bad guys."

Certainly, there are places in the world where this is common. The middle east is such a reality, where mere existence is dangerous, where people fear to walk in the streets yet also know they can die right in their own homes.

But these guys also have it wrong. It's not the "bad guys" that we have to fear. It's not some creepy Scrooge. Scrooge is US. He is all of us. He's our worstness, our ugly tendencies, our unreasonable fear and anger. I have no trust that I would do good with a gun in my house. What if my marriage went sour? What if I developed a mental illness, unnoticed and undiagnosed? What if I felt the whole world was falling apart, and the gun seemed a solution to this "problem?"

I'm not afraid of evil people. They are everywhere, in all of us. We all have the capacity to do evil. And we too often make the choice to act upon our evil inclinations. A gun isn't evil, but it makes our ability to act horribly all the easier. When we are under stress, when we hate and fear, we are capable of doing almost anything. The only person I can think of whom I would truly trust to never use a gun badly is Mother Theresa, and she's dead. I wouldn't even trust myself to own one.

That is why the idea of armed people in my children's school doesn't comfort me. They aren't "bad guys," but they are capable of doing evil all the same. What if one of them becomes romantically involved with a teacher? What if that relationship goes wrong? I trust policemen and soldiers, in general, to carry guns, but they are not perfect. We know of too many times when soldiers at war make horrible decisions and do horrible things. We know of cops who go bad, who use their guns on their families. Having a certain job does not make them infallible. And this latest school shooting proves that training someone to shoot a gun does not keep them from using that knowledge to do the very thing they shouldn't. There is no way to guarantee that someone given a skill will always use it for good.

Even if they intend to do only good, people make mistakes. Cops shoot someone dead, thinking he is armed, only to find they were wrong. Neighborhood watchers, intent on protecting the neighborhood, shoot an innocent child dead. Guns go off by mistake, even when owners believe they aren't loaded. Children find family guns and turn them on their friends. The intent to kill isn't in any of these acts, yet people die all the same.

That is why I will never own a gun. It is why I don't like the idea of my next door neighbor having one, either, especially one that can hold 30 rounds. My home is already dangerous enough. A child could drown in my pool or fall down the stairs, or cut themselves horribly on a kitchen knife. Or one of us could do something horrible with household tools. But a gun would make that sort of horror all the more possible, all the more destructive.

The answer to the school shooting isn't more guns. More guns will only make such a reality more likely. More guns will only make it easier for us to blow each other away. My kids' school is gun-free, and if I find out they plan to change that, I will do all I can to prevent it. I don't want my child's teacher armed.

And I sure as hell will never buy a gun and go to a licensed shooting gallery to shoot, for doing so in this country requires I join the NRA.

And THAT will never, ever happen.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Embracing One's Inner Dork

This post is about my daughter, for a change.

(I know the word "dork" should indicate my son has done something, but that isn't the case. However, be assured that my daughter's involvement in dorkiness is my fault, not hers.)

Anyway, although she is a bit old for it, my daughter volunteered to stick around with the littler children and participate in the Christmas musical at church, which I am directing. Because of casting needs, she was cast as the Beth, the Star of Bethlehem. That was okay to her (she really wanted to be an angel instead), but for months we've wondered what to do about a costume.

I searched, and I searched, but it wasn't until last week that I found one, on the Oriental Trading website, of all places. (I didn't even know they had costumes!) Here it is, in all its illustrious glory:

Glamorous, isn't it? Looks even better on, too.

I was worried. Almost twelve is a great age for worrying what people think. We only had one more rehearsal, too, to get used to it.

So, Sunday morning, I forced her to wear it during practice. She didn't want to. She was hoping to just "forget" to wear it at the last minute, so that everyone would just have to pretend it was there.

No dice. She reluctantly put it on, and then ran through her lines and movements with everyone else. After two scenes, her voice was too quiet to hear, her face down, her body language defeated. She hated the costume. She thought she looked ridiculous. She was a dork.

But then something magical happened, and it was all her doing. She realized, first of all, that her arms didn't have to stick out the slits on the sides. She could shove them deep into the star's points above her shoulders. And the costume was soft, so she could make the star's points move, squish together, wave, curl around other character's ponytails, etc.

Even more, once other people saw what she was doing, and laughed, she realized how immensely entertaining the movements were. Suddenly she wasn't the stupid kid in the even stupider costume. She was the funny kid in the goofy costume--and she was hilarious! And happy. And her voice grew louder and more animated. And her movements were happy, filled with energy, and she was focused on the play with an intensity she had NEVER expressed before.

Yup. She'd done it all by herself, too. She'd embraced her inner dork and realized its worth. She chose acceptance and self-deprecation over stodgy insistence on decorum. Too bad more people can't seem to make this choice. I'm not saying it would make the world a better place, but it would make for a little more entertainment. And they'd be happier, too.

Now the only thing left is to keep my daughter from stealing the show with that costume of hers--that dorky, goofy, funny, scene-stealing star costume.

Are you embracing your inner dork? Funny how embracing it makes it oh-so-much-less dorky.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why the Hell am I NOT Writing?

I'm not writing.

I know you know that.

I know that you know that I know that you know that. Yet I keep repeating it all over the 'Net. Ad nauseam. Yup, you're probably gagging at this point. I know I'm gagging.

Yet I'm not writing.

It's hard to write and gag at the same time. If you don't believe me, go try it for yourself. You'll see. Besides, at least then you'll be off doing something instead of reading about me not doing it.

Let me tell you what else it's hard to do AND write at the same time:

1. Eat. Peanut butter mushed into a laptop does it no good. And I can't type one-handed, either. When, oh when, will somebody invent an automatic feeder?

2. Sweep, mop, clean the shower, do laundry, or any other type of housework. Not physically possible.

3. Write Christmas cards. Sure, I have a pen in hand, but I can only handle one form of writing at a time, and it's no good to get ONE Christmas card done a day. I need LOTS of Christmas cards done. And fast. Now would be good.

4. Drive. Now we're moving into dangerous territory--like smash-the-laptop-into-my-face-when-I-slam-the-car-into-a-tree territory. Please DON'T go out and try this one. I promise, even without attempting it myself, that it won't end well.

5. Grade papers. I don't have much longer on this one, since grades are due Thursday, but it still eats up writing time.

6. Help kids with homework. And, no, I don't mean DO the kids' homework. I'm pretty strict about that. But I'm continually amazed at the perception of my kids. As soon as they think my mind has wandered somewhere else, they suddenly need my help. How did they get that intuitive?

7. Attend stuff--whether a play, a party, a meeting, or anything else where human interaction is expected. Hosting a party is even worse! Why couldn't I just make myself a recluse this time of year? I could be Emily Dickinson. Though I wouldn't wear my hair like that. Talk about homely!

I could add more, but the truth is that EVERYTHING I'm doing right now--or needing to do--simply doesn't allow me to write. The problem isn't all the stuff. It's that I'm allowing it to take the place of writing. I'm placing writing at the bottom of my list, under "clean out the fridge" and "donate clothing to Salvation Army."

Until I make writing a priority, it won't happen.

Hopefully I'll move it up soon. I've got some deadlines coming up, and I'd love to think that once they are over, I'll get to writing, but I know better. I'll have two classes to prep for January, books to read, housework to do (forever!), and I probably will still put writing off.

It's all my fault, and I know it. And if you're not writing--or doing the things you say you love doing but never do--then you're at fault, too.

I just wish KNOWING this stuff made me stop doing it... and start writing again. Maybe for Christmas I'll get some free time. And I'll use it more wisely. I'll let you know.

What do you want in your stocking this year?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Play Day

Finally, after three and a half months of straight work, I have a day off.

Okay, sure, I need to vacuum... and do dishes... and mop that floor that's still sticky from our party over the weekend... and I'll keep going on that to-do list if I don't stop myself now.

But that's just it. I'm stopping myself RIGHT NOW.

I will do dishes. I'll neaten up some. I'll do whatever I can before I take the kids to school for their last school day of the week. But as soon as my kids have been dropped off, the have-to's end. I'll have my paints and brushes and paper set out before we leave for school--I'll even set out a nice clean glass of water--and from the moment I step back in, it'll be time to play.

Not making pies for Thanksgiving. In fact, all the cooking I need to do will be on that day itself. If I play my cards right (and don't give in to guilt) I'll be painting and writing tomorrow, too. Maybe watching a movie. Or reading a book.

It's crucial that I play for the next few days. And that I avoid stores on Friday at all costs.

And play. And play some more.

What about you? Will you play?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wow, Have I Been Totally BUSY!!!

Just thought I'd update. I'm maintaining about eight jobs right now--most of them paying--and I am pretty much running around with my head cut off as a result.

But I'm happy. I'm happier than I've been since I moved. And I feel like progress is happening. I'm teaching again (love it!), I'm director of a non-profit arts organization downtown (love it!), I'm editing the sequel of a novel I edited last year (love both the book and the author!), and I'm preparing to throw myself into a book of my own, which, oddly enough, ALREADY HAS A PUBLISHER! EEEK!

I'll give you more details later, but my normally loud snarky voices have taken the week off and flown to Barbados. I just hope the only people they pester there don't speak any English (or Snark).

I'm sure the voices will be back, though, so I'm setting mirrors all around, hoping they might catch a glimpse of themselves and find their ugliness bad enough to run away forever.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

If I Were Dead, Would that Get Me Published?

First of all, I'm not dead. This is not some cousin sitting at my house and hacking into my computer right after my funeral (though that would make an interesting short story).

Nope. I'm still alive and kicking. And that makes my writing worth less than my mid-sleep drool. No, that's not true. I'm too used to writing fiction, it seems. I don't drool. Perhaps my writing is worth less than my toothpaste foam? I do actually brush my teeth. A lot. And I floss, too.

But I digress. I spent the last week or so reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the first 100 boring pages left me wondering why an editor didn't tell the writer to cut half of the exposition at the beginning. Or all of it. Then I realized that the writer was dead. An editor couldn't exactly cut it out over the author's dead body, could he? Or could he?

I know the book is a bestseller. I don't mean to criticize, really. But I did wonder whether the book is not far more popular because its author is dead. In the same way that an artist's paintings suddenly cost twice as much when the artist is no longer around to paint any more of them. 

And I still wish the first part had been edited down a LOT. And I didn't find the prose in the least bit "steamy," as the back cover promised. I wish I'd liked the characters more. I wish the justified deaths of the bad guys had been more satisfying. I wish there had been more suspense. More than anything else, I wish the author were still alive so that he could revise a little, improve, and make his books utterly spectacular.

I guess that makes me grateful. My best draft of any of my books isn't very good, but I'm not dead. I have time still to work on them.

What have I learned from all this, besides the fact that I hate exposition?

1. I'm not dead. (Whew!)
2. I don't want to be dead.
3. My writing still needs work.
4. If I don't become a published author until after I'm dead, that will stink big time.
5. I need to get to work on my writing!!!!

Come to think of it, so do you! You won't live to be 300, so you might as well get to work on your big life's project right now. Go do it. Get off this page. Stop wasting time reading my drivel and create some of your own. And then revise it. Cut out the damn exposition. Make it better.

Geez, are you still here? Go! Really! Why are you still reading this!?

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I believe my last post was in APRIL! I so suck! No, please don't comment that I don't suck, for I won't believe you. This is not the blog where people are supposed to be all nice to each other and say polite things. Nope, not the place. Give it to me honestly, or don't comment.

Fine, then, don't comment. Who said I wanted your comments anyway...

Besides, I'm posting, so nobody should complain. I'm sure you're so giddy that I'm here again that you almost spilled your coffee on your new pajama pants. And I'm only posting so that you can know why I'm such a non-posting goofball.

You see, I pretty much took four months off. Yup, May to August, to be precise, and now that I'm back on a roll and as busy as it is physically possible to be, I'm posting. Weird, huh? I had far more time during the summer, and I managed to accomplish absolutely nothing. Also weird.

Anyway, now that my kids are back in school, I find I have a TON of new work to do. These are my current jobs. I've put a dollar sign by those jobs which actually pay money, but don't believe for a moment that this is why I've added them to my weekly schedule. I'm a month in to most of them, and I'm a bit out of breath, but I finally feel like I have stuff to get up for in the morning, stuff that makes my heart beat wildly with excitement. I've also marked stuff that's new for this year. So, here's the list:

1. Director of the Bainbridge-Decatur County Center for the Arts (New)($): I was on the board last year, but everything shifted over the summer, and now I handle publicity for classes and art shows for a beautiful, historic Bainbridge Firehouse downtown which has been turned into an art gallery and meeting center.

2. College Instructor (New)($): I'm only teaching one class, but it's English, so it still gives me plenty of grading.

3. Director of Children's Choir: As I did last year, I'm directing 2- to 11-year-olds in my church's annual musical for Christmas.

4. Mother and Homework Helper: I'm on kid duty every afternoon, sometimes all afternoon and evening. The hardest part of this so far was getting my kids to realize they were back at school, and homework was a requirement.

5. Zumba instructor ($): I've cut down my classes a bit, but I still teach this two days a week. Many people want me to teach more, but I'm determined to leave my evenings free.

6. Author/Researcher of Spirits and Legends of the Chattahoochee Trace ($?): This is one of those projects that hopefully will pay off in a little bit, but I'll have to put in all the research and time and travel first, most likely. I'm excited about it, though, for I love research into legends and ghosts, especially when the research involves both.

7. Editor/Ghost Writer ($): I've done three of these projects over the last few months, and I just received another assignment. This latest one is just for editing, though, and I could not be more pleased. She's a great person and a great writer, and I am grateful not to be ghost writing, for that is a far harder task to undertake, as I have discovered through the past year. Editing is also great for my own writing, so this is good practice.

8. Organizer/Board Member for Women's Shelter: This is just starting up in our town, and we're busy collecting furniture and donations for it, organizing fundraisers, and, in my case, creating brochures for it, editing policies, and figuring out ways to get the whole thing going. I am by far not the most active board member, but that is only because the other ones are SOOOO hard working!

I'm also busy on other continuous projects--things like sewing for my kids and myself, painting and drawing, framing projects, and my continuous list of chores to keep the household going. I may very well have missed something, but I can edit this post (Thank God!).

So, what have all of you been up to?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Snail's Pace Won't Boil Water

I have a few too many pots boiling at once.

1. I am costuming a musical--and I've so far managed to measure about HALF the cast.

2. I am revising a translation from Italian (yes, a language I am not actually fluent in). Thankfully, all I need to do is a quick final edit, and the project is finished.

3. I'm trying every single day to make sure my kids stay on track with school, homework, chores. But I still have over a month of school remaining.

4. Our house's addition is nearly complete, but then we have a lanai to put over the pool.

5. I am helping to refinish a kitchen in an historic building downtown. Actually, I start helping today. And we have two weeks to get it done. We've planned it out, at least.

6. Miscellaneous house projects still await, like some refinished floors, lacquered TV trays, a laundry room paint, etc. But I've done most of the house, at least.

Thankfully, once I put my time into these projects (especially 1 and 5), the percentages will change.

But you know what else it means? No writing. It means my mermaid novel will have to wait. It means that I'm not participating in Script Frenzy. It means that those summer dresses and shirts I'd like to make my kids probably won't happen.


If anybody has figured out how to squeeze a couple more hours out of a day, please let me know!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Not Writing--Costuming

I just finished a mammoth short story (a long, long short story), and I was all set to begin work revising my mermaid novel (once I've read through and edited two novels for a fellow writer), when I got a FANTASTIC call.

The local theatre is doing ANNIE... and while there is no way I have the evening time to be in it (and thus didn't audition), they've asked me to do costumes!!!! Yippee! I haven't costumed a whole show in several years, and, though I like acting, my creativity is far better suited for costuming and writing plays.

I am SO excited! To those of you who like the snarkier tone of this blog, I am so sorry, but I have not been feeling snarky at all lately. Just happy. And now I have yet another activity to adore!

Hope your lives are filled with fun stuff, too! I promise I'll check in when I'm feeling snarky, too. If you are feeling that way, please feel free to share your snarky comments below...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Got Ugly Voices? Kick Their Teeth In!

It still happens, every single time. Whether I'm submitting a poem to a contest, writing a query for my latest revised novel, or pressing "send" on a job proposal through a free-lance writing site, I hear those ugly voices.

You know them. If you are human, you have heard them yourself.

Mine are vicious. They say things like, "You know nobody's going to hire you," and "It's not like your novel is even worth reading," and "Your poetry/writing/blogging/hair/talent/voice/etc. just SUCKS!" They are insidious, taking little fears and blowing them up into cataclysms, trying to convince me that this one e-mail submission will absolutely RUIN my chances of EVER making it in the real publishing world.

Yours are unique to you, I am certain, but they cover the same sort of ground, saying everything they can to tear down your dreams, to keep you from taking chances, to make you crawl into a fetal position on the living room rug and stay there for the rest of your life.

They will drive you insane.

The solution? You KNOW what it is! You have mad karate skills, honed through practice and perseverance. So use those skills, and beat the snot out of these voices. Kick them in the teeth. Pull out their hair. Punch them again and again and again until they fall down or hop out of the ring. This is war.

As they grin at you, slicing at you with fear and criticism, bobbing and weaving, talking their trash, instead of trying out that fetal position, do the very thing they say you can't do. Submit your work. Finish that supposedly "crappy" novel. Write another sucky poem, and another, and another. Practice singing until you are hoarse. Play piano until your hands cramp. Try for that out-of-reach job. Kick them in the teeth enough times, and their teeth will either break into little pieces or they will simply GO AWAY.

Don't go insane. Don't let the voices take over. Don't be afraid. Embrace your fear, accept it for what it is--fear--and go on. I feel that fear every time, but I've decided that the more times I feel it, the more I'm working towards my dreams. I do submit carefully, but the point is that I still submit.

Funny word, submit. I wonder what I'm really submitting to...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Round of ABNA--I'm In!

I am still think into writing, but I had to share news: My novel THE GHOST PORTAL made it to the second round of the Breakthrough Novel Contest! Yeah!

I'm editing a different novel right now, though... trying not to think about the fact that the next round won't be until March 20. Wish me luck!

And if you entered and made it to the next level, let me know! I'll look for you on the next list... (and keep my fingers crossed, too!)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Still Writing

Sorry it's been so long since I've blogged...

Okay, no, I'm not sorry. I'm all set to substitute teach, but each day I don't get a call I see it as a sign I need to write. So I do. I'm working steadily on my shred of novel #3, and once it's done I'm starting on novel #4's shred.

I did get called to sub once... in March... so I've put that one on the calendar, and I'm writing.

I do love you guys. I promise. But I don't love you more than writing, so I'm off to do it some more.

Comfort yourself with the thought that I am still alive. I'll try to write in another few weeks if I'm still kicking. Until then, GET WRITING, dammit!

Saturday, January 28, 2012 Breakthrough Novel Contest

If you haven't submitted your complete novel to the Breakthrough Novel Contest yet, you only have a few more days to do it. The submission period ends February 5, or once 5,000 entries have been received in a given category (there are two: Adult and YA).

I just uploaded mine and submitted, and I'm glad I did. Sure, I might not even make it to the next level, but every time I send my work out, it gets easier. I spent more than a week revising and re-revising my next-to-next-to-last chapter (the climax), trying to get it where it needed to be. I've revised this novel at least 25 times, but probably more that this, for its first version was completed in 2003, just six months after I graduated with my doctorate. I bought myself a used laptop as a graduation present, and it was the first novel I wrote on it.

Is it ready to publish? I have no idea. Countless people have read it--some have read more than one version--and I have to admit it might not be ready for another ten years (*gasp*), but I'll likely not give up on it.

Now it's your turn. Do you have a completed work? SEND IT IN!!!! Don't wait! Don't sit on your hands any longer. Don't doubt.

Okay, doubt if you wish. But send it in anyway. What do you have to lose?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Not Writing--Job Hunting

The "unemployed" chapter of my life will soon be ending, and I'm pretty happy about it. Unlike so many unfortunate people in this country and in the world, though, I wasn't let go because of budget cuts, nor was I fired. I moved. 

And I moved to a place where my typical job wasn't available. I've taught English at the college level for 18 years, at every kind of college you could think of, but that isn't a possibility here, for my hubby's job makes my teaching at the same college illegal. The next closest college is an hour away or more, and I simply haven't wanted to drive two hours for an adjunct class. So I've spent the year just writing, working on my house, and otherwise keeping myself horribly busy with stuff that's kind of interesting, but which also doesn't make any money. 

Believe me, it isn't all it's cracked up to be. I think I have been a far more prolific writer when working than I am when I'm not earning anything. I'm just as busy for some reason, but I haven't been as happy, or as challenged, or as intellectually stimulated. I guess I'm just not meant to be a SAHM (it took me several months to even figure out what that is), and this change may make quite a difference in my state of mind.

So now I'm off venturing into new territory. Substitute teaching--something I've done before and pretty much LOVED--and professional editing online. Both are jobs I've dabbled with in the past, and I'm even working on getting my state teacher's certification so that I can teach full-time.

This week won't be one of writing, I'm afraid. Too many forms to fill out, resumes to compile, and other job-related tasks. Perhaps the weekend?

No telling.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Breaking the Rules

We all speed, right? Okay, well, most of us.

But we know what a speed limit is, right? It's a rule, and it's there for a reason, even if we only treat it as a guideline. And we know what it's for. It's designed to prevent deadly accidents, as a reminder insisting we should only go a certain speed (or lower, not higher).

We follow other rules that are even more important:

Drive on the correct side of the road.
Stop completely before opening your car door.
Don't leave your car running when you are filling it up with gas.

It isn't just cars that come with rules, either. We have rules at work (wear clothing), rules at home (place your dishes in the sink), rules governing writing (use commas where appropriate).

Yet there are also times when one must break the rules. Or when one can break the rules, and get away with it. Rules schmules, one might say. But one would be wrong. Technically, to break a rule, one should know what the rule is and why one is breaking it.

Two requirements for effective rule breaking, in life as in writing.

"Why?" you might pout, stomping your feet. "Why can't I just break the rule without these?"

Let's handle the first requirement: To break a rule effectively, one must know what it is. Now let's imagine you attend high school one day wearing nothing but your underwear. But this is the first time you've been to a real high school, and when your mother home schooled you she let you wear whatever. So all the other kids are staring at you, and you don't know why. You are promptly called into the office and then sent home to change, and when you realize what you've done--the rule you broke--you know you can never return to that school again. Too embarrassed.

Why? Because you didn't know the rule... and broke it in front of everybody.

Now imagine that your principal has restated the dress code over the intercom lately, and you decide he's just a bit too rigid with his skirt length requirements and banning of shirts with decals on them. So you create a shirt that has a hangman on it, all but one leg, with the blanks below saying "F_ _ _ You," and wear it atop a super mini skirt--which you've torn five inches from that morning on the bus--that shows off your cheeks when you sit down.  Now you're sent to the principal's office, and maybe you're even given suspension, but the rest of the school idolizes you for such an act of rebellion. You are forever cool. You are a hero, or at least an anti-hero, and people will talk about you even at your 25-year reunion.

The difference? You broke the rule because you knew what it was and deliberately wanted to create the effect by breaking it.

The same goes with writing rules. Rules have a reason for being, but many writers make mistakes because they don't know the rules well enough. Suddenly, they put, commas, everywhere they can, because they have, no, earthly, clue where to put them. Or they run on and on with no end in sight they can't figure out the proper end mark they wonder whether similar thoughts all belong in the same sentence they think if they put too many end marks in the writing will be choppy or they don't read it aloud and see how horrible it sounds when it's all mushed together.

Not understanding the rules makes it hard to write anything effective. The errors, rather than emphasizing something cool, drive readers crazy. And when the writer figures out what he or she has done, it's extremely embarrassing (or should be).

When one chooses to create a fragment, or to explode a scene in an unusual way, or to make the villain into the hero, or to break any number of writing rules, that choice is made for a reason. (Note: Laziness is not a reason. Or at least not a valid one. And you'll notice that this sentence, the one before it, and several others above are also fragments. Completely intentional. Not lazy. That's two more fragments.)

Go ahead, break the rules. However, if you don't know the rules, find them out first. READ. Find a grammar book and go through the exercises. Learn to find your verbs and make them more vivid. Practice, practice, practice. Did I say READ? Yeah, do that. And once you know the rules, and you discover that breaking one of them--or a few--can add to your narrative voice, could shape an entire scene, might change how readers view a character, THAT is when you can break them. Knowingly.

Don't go in for involuntary rule-breaking. Have your eyes wide open. Do it with knowledge and forethought. Plan it out. And if anybody asks why your underpants are showing, tell them why.

You might just become a hero yourself.