Getting Your 200,000-mile Writer’s Tuneup

I wonder if the engine would like a CBD treatment rather than oil

My car just turned over its 200,000th mile. I do like milestones, so I should have prepared by putting a wet bar in the trunk a couple of months ago so I could have whipped up a roadside cocktail at the divine moment, but instead I just noted the passage with some bemusement, rather than amusement. 

Probably because it’s an old Toyota Corolla, and an insipid silver-grey at that. This most unprepossessing vehicle—which probably would be great for bank robberies, because of its blandness—is the most common car I’ve ever owned. Among the beauties I’ve piloted are a ’62 Caddy, ’63 Mercury Monterey, ’64 Dodge Dart, ’62 Pontiac Tempest, ’65 Ford Galaxie, ’64 Studebaker, ’71 Volvo p1800, ’81 Mercedes 380SL, ’81 Jag XJ6, and a bunch of old BMWs and old Volkswagens. I love old, interesting cars.

So, turning over 200,000 in a listless Corolla was kind of a letdown.

Writerly Roses Among Some Thorns

I bought the Toyota a bit back because the cash register hasn’t been ringing as often the past couple of years, despite my usual efforts in pitching both business writing and freelance pieces, as well as book editing and fiction writing. Those usually add up to something, but this year, nothing added up. Hello Corolla.

So, I’ve felt like it was me with the 200,000 miles under the hood, and needful of an oil change. Or more to the point, a writer’s tuneup.

But I did publish a novel in the spring that I feel came out well, and now I’ve just published another, so there’s some satisfaction in that. The latest is Swirled All the Way to the Shrub,  my first collaborative novel, written with my pal Rick Wilson. Here’s the logline for the book: 

Sozzled reporter and would-be author blunders in and out of love, lunacy and sorrow in post-Great Depression Boston.

Uplifting, eh?

You can download a PDF of the book’s first three chapters at the bottom of the Shrub site’s home page.

if you’re not the Amazonian type, the Where to Buy page on the site has a number of other online vendors for the ebook. There are also some elaborations of historical references from the book on the site and some other amusements about our collaboration. And for you worldly types, drink recipes from the 1930s.

The deal on this shrubbery (“It’s got to be a nice one,” as Monty Python would say) will only be until year’s end. We’ll be tuning the ebook and print prices up from there.

An odd year, in so many ways, for me and of course, for our country. I think we’re all in need of a writer’s tune-up. But I welcome a new year—and I have many new thoughts on changes to my work, forging new habits, perspectives and challenges. Maybe I’ll even paint flames on the side of the Corolla. 

Happy Holidays to all!

How to Edit Friends and Influence Punctuation—FREE!


A while back, I wrote The Write Word Easy Editing and Spiffy Style Guide, the charming creature just a bit below and off to your right in the sidebar. Thousands of energetic, elvish electrons rushed out to peddle my modestly priced guide, feverish in their quest to lop off dangling participles (dang them) and comma splices (much worse than comatose spices) and make the world safe for the semicolon.

But this being Christmas Eve and all, it’s a time for giving. Since I don’t want to give away my only other prized possession, a basketball signed by Elgin Baylor, I’m making the easy, spiffy guide a gift to the world. Just click on that beaming baby in the sidebar, give me your email address (no Sir Spamalot am I), and it’s yours. Find a typo in there and I will make you a perfect Manhattan the next time you venture to my doorstep. (We can drink them inside, though.)

Don’t Pick These People Up If You See Them Hitchhiking
The other item with which I want to scorch your eyeballs is my novel, All Roads Are Circles, pictured above. I recently released it as an ebook on Amazon. Of course it is the Great American Novel, which is why I set it in Canada in the 1970s. Picture two post—high school best friends on a lunatic hitchhiking trip, picked up by the crazed, the cuckoo and the calamitous. It’s kind of like On the Road meets Huck Finn, but I don’t have those guys’ press agents. Oh, the two leads fall in love with the same gal on their odyssey, and they get a bit testy. And messy.

If you don’t feel you can risk the .99, think of it this way: you can download the free editing guide, use its pointed prescriptives to detect any places in my novel where the plot’s socks get soggy, and we can rewrite the thing together, and with the second edition’s proceeds, I will have enough money to make you another Manhattan. Your call.

PS I will make you three Manhattans (with brandied cherries, not those crappy Maraschinos) if you review the durn thing on Amazon.