Guest Terry Banker: How to Write a Symple Synopsis

Like the misspelling in the title made you read the next line, a synopsis is a promise that says Trust me, dear reader. If you like my synopsis, you’ll love my novel.

Synopsis? Ugh.

Don’t worry. You’re not a lone. All writers hate writing a synopsis. To us, it’s impossible to explain 500 pages of pure genius in a page or two. However, I have a secret. Shh. I’m going to show you a simple technique on how to write a simple synopsis.

What is a synopsis?

A synopsis is

a summary with feeling;

a brief, story bridge.

This poem is written in haiku to help you remember. Essentially, a synopsis captures the feel of your novel and includes the protagonist, the antagonist, turning points, climax, and the resolution. Here’s how:

 

The Story Sentence

By Gary Provost

 

Once upon a time, something happened
to someone, and he decided that he would pursue a goal
So he devised a plan of action, and even though
there were forces trying to stop him, he moved
forward because there was a lot at stake. And just as
things seemed as bad as they could get, he
learned an important lesson, and when
offered the prize, he had sought so strenuously,
he had to decide whether or not to take it,
and in making that decision he satisfied a need that had been
created by something in his past.

 

This type of breakdown includes everything someone needs to know about your novel. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example The Lord of the Rings:

 

Format: Lord of the Rings:
Once upon a time, something happened [inciting incident] Gandalf comes to the shire bearing bad news: the world is changing, the shire will perish unless Frodo gets rid of the ring.
to someone, and he decided that he would pursue a goal With Gandalf’s guidance, Frodo decides he will take the ring to the elves so they can deal with it.
So he devised a plan of action, and even though After being chased by otherworldly creatures, Frodo gets the ring to the elves, who decide the only way to prevent devastation is to cast the ring into Mount Doom.

Frodo volunteers for the task.

there were forces trying to stop him, he moved Sauron and the forces of evil want the ring and will do anything to get it back.
forward because there was a lot at stake. And just as Unless the ring is destroyed, Middle Earth will be destroyed and everyone will die or become slaves to Sauron.
things seemed as bad as they could get, he When Frodo and his protectors get separated, he and his faithful gardener, Samwise, must journey to Mount Doom alone.
learned an important lesson, and when Frodo learns one must confront evil for the sake of good—even if you feel you are alone.
offered the prize, he had sought so strenuously, Or…Frodo can keep the ring…which offers him everything he’s ever wanted (think psychic heroin for eternity and/or death)
he had to decide whether or not to take it, Frodo casts ring into Mount Doom
and in making that decision he satisfied a need that had been Hobbits and Shire folk are not insignificant in the grand scheme. Even the smallest creature has something to offer.
created by something in his past. He was a nobody and now he is the legendary 9-finger Frodo.

Now you have collected the fundamentals of your novel:

  • Who: Frodo, a hobbit from the shire who has never left his home
  • What: must cast a ring into a volcano to prevent evil from taking over the world
  • Where: Middle Earth
  • When: a long, long time ago.

What about the How?

Here’s where your artistic genius come in:

  1. Write one paragraph on each point listed above (11 paragraphs)
  2. Write it in third person, present tense
  3. Write the synopsis in the tone of your novel
  4. Sprinkle in transitions, and
  5. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.

Boom! Your symple short-form synopsis is ready!

 

Terry’s Synopsis Tips: Don’t reinvent the wheel and fail where others have succeeded. Write your synopsis in third-person, present tense, and DON’T get creative with the format.

The key to writing a good synopsis is to spend the necessary time writing a great book! But if I know you—and I do—you’re just the genius to do it!

Now, back to work!

My best,

--Terry

 

Terry@TerryBanker.com

 

Essential Resources:

 

“Writing the Fiction Synopsis” by Pam McCutcheon *

 

“100 Ways to Improve Your Writing” by Gary Provost* – (a great list of ideas!)

 

* BUY THESE BOOKS

 

A SURPRISING SOURCE OF INSPIRATION YOU MAY NOT HAVE THOUGHT OF

When I define myself, I don't call myself a writer. I call myself a storyteller (in point of fact I like the term raconteur.) The distinction, to me, is an important one. As a writer, my entire world is the written word, fiction or non-fiction, novel-length or short subject. As a storyteller, I embrace all forms of fiction, not just written. I read, yes, but I also watch TV unabashed, enthusiastically rush to the movie theater, and even admire some television commercials. And it doesn't stop there: I love live theater (yes even musical theater, I know and can sing many show tunes from memory,) I get a major kick out of old-timey radio shows, I can even sit for hours watching the extemporaneous play of children. Many of my dreams are cinematic in nature, quite dramatic, with beginning, middle, and end. Some music, notably country music, is an entire master class on tight and concise plotting in a single two-to-three minute song (Tie a Yellow Ribbon, The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald, The Coward of The Country, Ode to Billy Joe, etc. ad infinitum.)

As a raconteur I have learned so much from embracing all of these forms of storytelling. But recently I have been exposed to a unique form of storytelling that has absolutely astounded me with it's surprising depth, complexity, and ability to draw one in and thoroughly entertain. Please bear with me, here, I think you might find these insights worthwhile.

XBOX CONTROLLER

When is the last time you played a video game? I'm not talking about Pacman or Super Mario Brothers. Recently I bought myself a top of the line gaming console and a few of the most popular games: Disney Infinity, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto V. To be honest I was a little intimidated by modern gaming consoles, assuming as I suspect many adults assume, that they require hours and hours of valuable time to master, and besides are really rather silly and juvenile. I had so many better things to do.

Well, I was not prepared for the experience. First, let me get the misunderstandings about modern gaming out of the way. These games are not difficult to master, for the most part. The controllers are designed in such a way as to make interaction with the games easier, not harder. While you will have to exercise concentration and develop some hand-eye coordination that may have gone rusty, the games give you unlimited tries to get it right, and you will find yourself adapting and mastering the controls much quicker than you think. Second, most games are episodic in nature, broken up into vignettes (in some games referred to as missions), between which you can save your progress and walk away. So you are not obliged to play for hours on end. You might feel compelled to, but with a little self-discipline you can limit yourself to only an hour a day, or a couple of hours a weekend. It need not become the giant time-suck you fear.

You may suspect that modern games have better graphics than the last time you tangled with Donkey Kong and you'd be right. But baby, you have no idea! The detail and realism of the worlds these games open up to you is something beyond anything you could ever imagine. One of the most impressive is Grand Theft Auto V (GTA for short.) This game takes place on a vast island fashioned after Los Angeles, and I cannot express to you the detail of the world they've built, and the realism. It really is every bit as if Los Santos is a real place that you've stepped into. Call of Duty the same. There are still cartoonish games such as Disney Infinity but even these are well rendered and engaging.>/p>

But on to the most compelling part. The storytelling. For many of these games, you follow a plot through the game. These stories are every bit as well written, well-acted as a Hollywood production. Call of Duty centers around a veteran soldier sidelined by the amputation of his arm, who finds new employment with the private security firm owned by the father of his best friend, who was killed in battle. He is given a bionic arm and a chance to fight to defend the defenseless again, but soon he and his new friends begin to suspect a more nefarious motive behind the missions they are being assigned. While these games necessarily involve action, combat, explosions and the like, they are character-driven stories, compelling and engaging, with wonderful build-ups, conflict, and climactic conclusions.

In Grand Theft Auto V you alternate between the POV of three characters: a retired gangster in witness protection contending with boredom and a family who no longer has any respect for him, a street hustler looking to take a step up in the underworld and take part in bigger and more lucrative heists, and a psychopathic killer with anger-management issues. Together these three find themselves athwart some very powerful criminal and law enforcement types and must navigate a dangerous world, to somehow come out alive on the other side. This one is heavy on shooting and crime but the stories are still very well developed, character driven, and enthralling.

Now of course, as an action/thriller writer, I chose games heavy on action, and those are primarily the games one hears about the most. But there are other sorts of games for those who like more mystery and intrigue than shoot-em-up. For example, <em>Never Alone</em> features a little Inuit  (Eskimo) girl and her little arctic fox friend who must embark on a perilous quest across many dangerous obstacles to save her tribe from extinction. Along the way she encounters spirits, some of which she can enlist to help her, and others who wish to oppose her. The dialog is entirely in authentic Inuit - a soft, almost hypnotic language - with subtitles. This is a visually beautiful game, some of it looking more like an ethereal painting than a video game.

Look, I'm no gamer. But as a storyteller, these and other games I have played have caught my imagination every bit as much as reading Harry Potter or attending a performance of The Mikado, with the added dynamic of being interactive. No, I would not put them in the same category as Dickens or Hemingway, but in their own way they deal with very similar human dramas in an engrossing and thoroughly entertaining way. I would encourage those of you who embrace storytelling in all its forms to make these games a part of your research and inspiration. I think you will be blown away by just how satisfying they can be.

And how was your day….?

helplessI had a different blog in mind. Really. But something happened tonight that reinforces what my life as a writer is like. I thought it might resonate with some of you.

I was at the annual RMFW and board meeting this last Saturday (I don’t think I saw you there?). The 250 mile trip home was near blizzard, and my car ended up covered with road salts. I decided to stop at the carwash on my way home from work tonight. You know the kind— you pay, drive inside, and let it do its thing for five minutes.

Only today, the carwash had something else in mind. I ended up locked inside the car wash. Yes, that was me, sitting there with my bumper six inches from the rollup door, the dryer shaking my car like a tornado, but only drying the front three feet. Thinking it's just a matter of time before the door opens. Then sitting and waiting after the blower stopped. And waiting some more.

The whole fifteen minutes reminds me of my writing life. Where I write a great (hopefully) manuscript, clean and polish it, and when it’s nice and shiny, submit it to an agent or editor. And wait. And wait some more. Worry and second guess myself. And worry some more. Acting like it’s the only thing I can do.

But all I had to do was get out of my car, open the side door, find someone who knew what to do, and let them help me. Just as I am not some helpless old lady, I am not a helpless writer. All I need to do is gather my fellow writers around me for advice and comfort. And start writing something new while I wait. Have my critique crew give me input. Anything but just sitting and waiting for the agent to love me. For someone to rescue me.

I don’t need rescued. I can write my characters out of any situation, and I can handle these painful “wait” periods with a little help from my friends. The moral of this (long) story is…you don’t have to do this alone. You’re part of a tribe, or a seahorse herd (Susan Spann, you will forever be quoted after that epic Gold speech!). We’re all in this together. We understand each other. We’ve been there, done that, and survived. So don’t hibernate, fretting over ”will they like it or will it be a rejection”? No matter which way it goes, you’ll learn from it, and all your RMFW writer friends (even the ones you don't yet know) will cheer your successes or commiserate with your “Thanks But…” letters. Because we’ll be the ones who need it next time.

Don’t wait to be rescued. Open the door and ask for help from your fellow authors. And Write On.

Rocky Mountain Writer #28

J.D. Dudycha & Sitting Dead Red

 

The podcast today is with J.D. Dudycha, who has ten years of experience in baseball at the collegiate level. He retired from the sport shortly after the birth of his son. Since his retirement, he developed a love for writing, an outlet he so desperately needed in the absence of playing the game.

His first novel, Paint The Black was published last summer on Amazon and his second, Sitting Dead Red, comes out in February just as pitchers and catchers are getting ready to report for Spring Training.

Jon Dudycha

Deb Hall

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

I Have an Idea

"Where do you get ideas for books?"

I've been asked this question a lot, and I have to admit it bewilders me. I don't know what actually spawns them, but the suckers are everywhere, like ants at a picnic, like wasps at a barbecue.  They come to me in the night, born of dream fragments or of lying awake worrying about the state of the world and the creatures in it. They pop up out of books I'm reading. They lie in wait on pages of newspapers and magazines, on the TV screen, in snippets of casual conversation.

They love to present themselves when I'm on a writing deadline for another project. Those particular ideas emerge from the ether, floating around my head scattering fairy dust and singing a siren song of distraction.

I don't know about your writer brain, but mine works like this:

I scan through Facebook, see a picture of an amazing underground cave that has plants growing in it, and I get an idea for a fantasy set in a subterranean world.

I see a story about a missing woman on the news, and I get a thriller idea about a woman who fakes her death and goes into hiding, probably to protect her family from the aliens who are blackmailing her.

I'm at work in the clinic and the doctor takes an extraordinarily long time in the room with a patient.  I start wondering, "What if they're both dead in there? If they were, how could it have been done?"

I walk outside and see icicles hanging from the eaves, beautiful but lethally sharp and pointy, and think they would make a fabulous murder weapon. Or we're burning dead wood on a bonfire and I have the same thoughts about a sharp ended stick...

Oh, and the day we discovered new orders had been entered in the chart of a deceased patient? Clearly a zombie story with a humorous twist...

You get the idea. (Ha. See? Ideas lurk all over the place.)

The difficulty is not in finding ideas. What's tricky is distinguishing a good idea from a bad idea.

In my younger days, if an idea hit me I used to just dive in and start writing, emerging from a creative frenzy only to realize that what seemed like sheer brilliance unrivaled in the history of mankind had fizzled out into nothing. Ah, youth. There was time for such foolishness then. I had a gazillion years in which to write every idea that came my way, and I wasn't writing professionally. I had the hope of being published, but not the expectation. That is a very different sort of thing.

These days I need to be a little more selective.

Here are a few questions I use to decide whether a story idea is worth my time or not:

  1. If I write an idea down and leave it alone for a week, am I still excited about it when I look at it again?
  2. How much energy does the idea have? Is this an idea I'm going to want to spend the next year of my life writing, rewriting, editing, publishing, promoting - or if I commit will it start to feel like an ill-advised Vegas wedding?
  3. Are there actual plot possibilities? Can it support a story arc and a cast of characters? Or is it just a bit of fluff that might be fun to add into another idea?
  4. What are the odds that anybody else will want to read it? (Consider this one with caution. It's impossible to predict what readers are going to latch onto, and trying to predict and follow trends is a quagmire.)
  5. How many times has it already been done? The truth is, most ideas have already been written in one way or another. If an idea burns in my writer soul like a little sun of inspiration, though, I'm going to write it anyway.
  6. Consider genre. If you're writing purely for the sake of Art (which is a wonderful thing) discard this bit of advice. If you're seeking publication, or are already published and want another contract, you've got to at least think about genre. Where does this idea fit in the grand scheme of things?

After you wisely consider all these things, if you're like me at all you'll still end up writing something like my Dead Before Dying - a weird, misfit paranormal-mystery-thriller-with-cozy- elements, born of a Twitter conversation and a joke about a geriatric vampire. And maybe, if it makes you happy, that's okay.

 

 

W is for Writer

“What’s a writer like you doing in a place like this?” The white rabbit asked.

“Somebody told me this is the road that leads to publication.”

“Really? How long have you been on it?”

“Couple of lifetimes.”

“Oh dear.  Any luck yet?” Said the rabbit, his eyes gleaming with curiosity.

“Not so far. And once I find the son-of-a-bitch that talked me into to this, I’m gonna…”

“Whoops! Gotta go. I see my agent is calling me. Looks like we’ve got an offer. It’s been nice talking to you.”

And with that the Rabbit of Publication disappeared down the rabbit hole.

That about sums it up, doesn’t it?  A writer lost in the magical world of thinking, “If I only do this, say that, write this, follow this road, I’ll be published.”  And now the traveler having been on this road for a couple of lifetimes is weary, cynical and angry.  But reading between the lines, we also see the traveler is still on the road. They didn’t say they were getting off it.

Such has been my path to fictional publication. It seems to elude me, tease me. It builds up my hopes only to smack them down again.

Three years ago I attended my first writer’s conference. Colorado Gold they called it.

I stepped onto the golden road as a newbie. My newbie nametag was so shiny and bright it could be seen blazing in the hallways. Filled with the encouragement of my mentor and friend, I knew I was in my right place. This was the place where books, stories, novels and legends were created. I was simply happy to be there.

Everyone was so nice to me. People came out of the woodwork to greet me, show me around, answer my questions. I was home. And I was armed with an idea, and several thousand words on the page of which I was going to pitch to agent. Not only was it my first conference, it was my first pitch too. I just knew I was going to be wildly successful. Sound familiar? Ah the bliss of naiveté!

The pitch was successful. To a point. The word count was too short. Tighten it up, extend it and get back to me. Sure. No problem. I can do that!

Three years later I’m still searching for that elusive “Yes, we would love to publish your novel.” I’ve cried, torn up my office, thrown things and tried to convince myself this is dumbest, stupidest quest we’ve ever set our feet upon.

But something else has happened too. I’ve continued to attend the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. My world of friends and knowledge has expanded exponentially. I’ve continued to have success as a non-fiction writer. And I’ve learned tools and skills to help me keep going.

For those things alone the journey has been worth it. I’m in for the long haul, as long as I can stop chasing white rabbits.

 

GetAttachment

Najah Lightfoot is a contributing author for Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing. Her non-fiction articles appear in their Magical Almanac, Witches’ Companion and Spell-A-Day series.

When she is not busy crafting articles for Llewellyn, she is busy polishing her fictional stories and manuscripts, hoping they will someday find their forever home. She is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and lives in Denver, Colorado.

Writing Space

It's January and goal-making time, and most of us have determined what we want to accomplish this year with regard to our writing. It might also be time to take a look at our office or writing work space to see that it's set up right.

By that, I mean that it is right for you. I know what I need for my office, and some things might apply to all of us, but make sure you have your space set up the way you prefer and need it. Anything that keeps you from writing should be corrected.

First, consider lighting. It's also winter. I suffer on gray days, so I've put full-spectrum light bulbs in both my desk lamp and the overhead fixture. My office faces south so I usually get sunlight during some of the day, too, which keeps me working. That said, the sunlight can hit shiny materials that set up a glare when I look beyond my monitor, so my blinds are angled to minimize this. Lighting can also be a subconscious cue. When the overhead lights are on, I'm usually looking for something, or checking out my bookcases. When the desk lamp is on, it's time to write, and my brain (and fingers) know this.

Currently I have a full office set up, including separate keyboard, large monitor, computer stand and a u-shaped desk with bookcases on two sides. Computers being so small and portable now, also consider where you'd like to work and what peripherals will help you most. You may prefer a notebook on a table in a sunroom rather than an actual office.

But do think about those peripherals. My separate keyboard has a numeric keypad which I find useful and is more ergonomic than a laptop keyboard, and with larger keys. It also on a pole that can be raised, lowered and angled. That works for me. Are you happy with your keyboard?

My monitor is a full 22 inches and excellent to compare documents side to side, particularly during the copy edit and galley stage. Or for two versions of a document. I do have a tiny 11 inch travel computer and have found comparing documents on that difficult. Are you happy with your monitor?

I have my most used research books in hard copy and within reach, since if I look on the internet for a quick answer I can be distracted. I also have an engagement calendar where I write down my progress at my elbow. At a glance I can see how much I've written during the week and if I've made my daily goals. These help me.

What are you sitting in? I recently met with a friend who has a reclining chair with a tray that I lusted after, one that cradles her bad back. I tend to use a covered exercise ball. And make sure you have the room to stop and stretch in between (I hope) bouts of inspiration.

Consider the tidiness of your office. Do you look in and cringe at how sterile the place is? Or shudder at the stacks of stuff on your desk that you think you should take care of before you write? You are the best judge of the ambiance of clutter you like, but make sure it isn't keeping you away from your workspace. And, I admit, that's why I wanted to write this article. I do have a stack of papers – okay, two stacks – that are bothering me right now. Time to clean them up and get going on meeting my deadlines.

May you create your perfect space for writing and find pleasure in your craft every day.

Robin

Writerly Goals for 2015: Did You Meet Yours?

Christmas Labrador puppy dog wearing Santa hat

Let’s see where I ended up on my goals for 2015:

Write a book.

Check. I wrote at least 2. Take that hernia of my left thumb.

Write a great book, of the all American novel kind.

I’m still working on this one, as in working up the desire to write a book no one will actual ever read, but boy will they say they have.

Write a bestseller.

Yeah, you can see how far that goal has gotten me. 2016 list for sure. I blame my pen. The damn thing never writes a bestseller.

Revise the book hidden in my underwear drawer.

Did I say revise? I meant look at once, cringe, and tuck it even farther back. That book needs serious work. Maybe when I die they’ll use it as one of those long lost manuscripts that goes for millions at auction. Or more likely, toss it in the rubbish bin.

Network with my writerly peers by going to more events.

I would’ve done this one had it not required me to a) leave the house and b) put on pants. Admit it, you hate wearing pants as much as I do.

Attend at least one conference.

Surprisingly I made it to two, RMFW and Pikes Peak. Both were very informative and it was great catching up with my tribe. I no longer felt like a seahorse at the bottom of the tank. Thank you, all of you, those I met, and will meet next conference.

Be healthy.

You wouldn’t think this one is writerly, but maybe even more so than the others. If I don’t take care of myself, then I won’t be able to write. Have you ever seen a chick in traction write a novel? Okay, I probably could dictate. My gosh, everyone’s a critic.

 

Which brings me to the next goal…

 

Ignore my critics.

Five years ago, heck, even three years ago, I would’ve scoffed at this advice, claiming you learn from every criticism. Then I realized something. Since I started writing I haven’t learned anything expect how to a) feel badly about myself and my work and b) that even the best criticism comes with a critic. Meaning, someone else’s ego, subjectivity, and baggage join whatever advice that is doled out. Now I am not saying ignore any and every bit of advice, but instead, use your head. I know what I’m doing (for the most part). I can ‘see’ when the advice is right or when it is driven by more than a desire to fix the page.

Listen, really listen, to advice.

Did I mention that I’m a bit complicated? So here it is, ignore goal 7. Take advice. There are people who can see my work better than I can. Editors for one. Consider their advice. Roll it around my head. And then make the decisions. Don’t discount it out of hand because I ‘know’ best. Though I do. Because this is my goals list, damn it.

Learn new tools and skills

I failed this goal. I had high hopes of starting to dictate my books. Then I tried it, felt stupid talking out loud to my computer, and then on top of that realized it was taking twice as long. My words come from my brain to my typing fingers. Not to my lips.

I also wanted to learn ways to excite my description, so I went to a workshop, and what I found out was, it’s not that description is lacking in excitement. I am. I can twist and turn a phrase with the best of them (not really but it sounded good) but I can’t do it when it’s not something I am interested in, like what a room looks like or how grandma smells. So I’m moving this over to goals for 2016. I plan to sniff plenty of grandmas in the name of research.

Write daily.

I have to admit a terrible truth. I am not a daily writer. I do write daily, just not fiction. I write emails for work, grocery lists, sometimes on the back of my arm for fun… This year was going to be different. Yet it wasn’t. I wrote for three whole weeks, every single day, until I didn’t anymore. So back on the goals for 2016 list it goes.

 

Goals for 2016

  • See list above

What about you? Did you make any goals for last year? How’d you fare on them? Were you crazy enough to make goals for 2016? If so, care to share?

Happy New Year to all my prose-prone friends! May this be your year!

Rocky Mountain Writer #25

Lisa Manifold & IPAL

The guest on Episode #25 is Lisa Manifold, who serves Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers in a double capacity as newsletter editor and IPAL rep.

She’s also a busy writer – with plans, as you’ll hear, to become much more productive.

IPAL is The Independent Published Authors Liaison, a relatively new slot within RMFW that exists for the purpose of providing networking and promotional opportunities for independently published authors and for promoting RMFW itself.

Lisa talks about IPAL and IPAL membership and her own double life as a writer, working under her own name, Lisa Manifold, and as Laney Powell for stories on the spicier side of things.

Topics include Amazon, Kindle, independent publishing, book marketing, the Dragon Naturally Speaking approach to dictating a book and much more.
Show Notes:
Lisa Manifold

Laney Powell

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Elizabeth Ann West

Draft 2 Digital

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Write!

holiday imageSince it’s the holiday season, I thought I would explore that mystical, magical, time-honored literary event known as THE HOLIDAY NEWSLETTER.

You know, that multi-page bit of fluff that shows up this time of year, sent by some high-school cheerleader who only spoke to you once during your senior year. Thirty years later you don’t even recognize the name (but that might be because she’s on her third husband).

That newsletter is followed by others from distant relatives (third cousins twice removed…or aunts who had your cousins removed?) and possibly misdirected mail since you still don’t recognize any of the names or events listed.

Now come on.  Do these people really think you’re going to believe their first born has just been accepted to Harvard’s kindergarten prep school, or husband #3 is a Italian count and they just finished remodeling the family castle, or they’re vacationing this year with Prince William and his family, or the home-based business they started for $69 last month sold to Microsoft for a gazillion dollars?  I mean, they’re safe to say anything since you haven’t seen them in years (if ever!).  It should be a law that newsletters have to be notarized to prove factualness (hmm, I wonder if that’s a real word?). IF I were to write a holiday newsletter, I’d at least be realistic. Maybe something like this:

The Family Newlaughter

     Well, it’s another year gone by. I swear this one was only 265 days, but the calendar disagrees.  I didn’t want all of you to think my life was so boring that nothing of note ever happens and now that our gag order expired, I’m free to write about it. If you hadn’t heard about that little faux pas, just forget I mentioned it. It wasn’t any big deal. We’re not even really sure how that video ended up on YouTube.  People are just so touchy about things like that these days.  But hey, stuff happens, right?

Rick and I are still married (38 whole years – could be true love…or we’re just naturally lazy). The Garage Mahal is nearly done (I think it might officially be an antique before it’s fully functional), although Rick has recently realized you can’t get a 400 pound saw up a winding staircase without factoring in the cost of a hernia operation – so modifications are pending. He’s going green, converting some of his power tools into running off beer and that’s why I keep finding all those cans and bottles in the shop. Who knew!? We did a small remodel on the house, replacing the roof which didn’t leak until AFTER we fixed it.

Our oldest, Jimmy, and his wife, Hannah, have been married a dozen years and we have two great grandkids we really enjoy, with the added bonus of being able to send them home when they get tired and grumpy, or Grandpa feeds them too much sugar. I think Hannah has finally resigned herself to being one of “the family”, but I have noticed she still wears big sunglasses whenever we’re all out in public. I keep telling her it’s not us up there on the Post Office wall – it’s just an uncanny resemblance (I don’t think she believes me).

Our youngest, Ryan, is still in college, and we’re thinking about an intervention so he’ll get his degree and be able to move on before he’s older than the professors. He joined the National Guard after an impressive spiel about how they’d “help him be can be all he can be” and what not, but I think they had him at “explosives.” What guy wouldn’t want to blow things up and get paid to do it? He and Stephanie have been married for two years and are content to raise animals rather than children, although sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference (feel free to interpret that any way you want).

It’s been a while since we’ve taken a vacation because the post office hasn’t come up with a big enough “If It Fits, It Ships” box for both of us. But just in case, if a big COD package shows up on your doorstep, be sure to accept it and open it pretty quickly.  You might want to do that outside though, because things could be a little messy, if ya get my drift.

We’ve been putting a lot of thought into our retirement plans, too, but there are a lot of things to consider, you know? There are literally dozens of those scratch tickets to choose from these days!  Besides, we can’t get find a location to enjoy our “golden years” until we figure out what kind of décor goes with large cardboard refrigerator boxes – maybe shabby chic?

Well, that pretty much brings you up-to-date on the family. Hope you’re all healthy and happy (rich would be good, too, especially if you’ve named any of us in your will), but, hey, two out of three is pretty darn good!

The Benson FamilyChristmas image

And so to all of you, my friends, a Merry Christmas,

Happy New Year, Kwanza, or whatever, and Write On!