Have I really been doing this for six years?

Today’s image is from Tuku.

Yes, yes I have. For six years now, I’ve been showing up here at least once a week to share posts with you. Some have been popular, some haven’t. Some have been good, some haven’t. Some I look back on with pride. Some I’d prefer not to look back on at all. 

It’s been a ride, and I’m popping some champaign today. I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it.

It’s been six years of learning. I started this blog before I started my first book. I didn’t know anything about writing a blog. I just sort of started. I had crappy graphics, typos. I wrote about things no one cared about. Honestly, I just had no idea what I was doing.

It’s astounding to see how far this little blog has come. Especially in a time when a lot of people are shutting their blogs down. I am still amazed anytime someone subscribes or likes one of my posts. That never gets old. 

I’m also really glad I started this blog way back in 2014. The world is a little crazy right now, you might have noticed. I’m beyond thankful to have a place to speak up about the state of the world. I hope I’m bringing you information you can use, along with a little bit of hope and maybe a laugh. We could all use a laugh right now. 

Paper Beats World is going to keep right on changing, getting better hopefully. I’m not going anywhere and I hope you’re not either. But I’d love to know if you have any suggestions. Is there something you’d like to see more or less of? Do you have any questions about writing or a book you’d like me to review? Please let me know in the comments.

Thank you again for six years of writing joy. As always, you keep me accountable. 

Stay tuned. 

Why Buffy The Vampire Slayer worked, until it really didn’t

Let me tell you about my Thursday nights as a kid. Well, as a teenager. It was sort of the best night of the week. I would park myself in the dining room, for three solid hours of tv. Those hours were devoted to some of the best television I’ve ever seen.

Buffy, Angel and Charmed. 

Yes, I have been a nerd my whole life. 

The darling husband and I have been binge-watching Buffy and Angel recently, because what the hell else are we going to do? And I have to say, I can see why I loved Buffy so much as a kid. As an adult, I can also see where and why it went downhill.

Boy did it go downhill fast. 

When it was good

It’s very good. It’s a fun show for a teenage girl to watch. The characters are a lot of fun. Willow is relatable, so is Zander. I loved Giles and still do.

The show was funny, but it also had deep moments. No one was a throwaway character. People reacted when someone died. 

None of the characters were perfect. Buffy was a pain in the ass. Everyone kept secrets Ozfrom each other, everyone was selfish sometimes. Except for Oz. Oz was always perfect.

It was just a really fun show to watch every week that wasn’t preachy, stupid or overly complicated. 

I’ll grant, though, that it might be benefiting from nostalgia. Would I like it so much if I didn’t still have those fond memories of Thursday nights? I honestly don’t know. That’s one of the bad things about revisiting shows we loved in the past. We can never again see them with fresh eyes. We’ll always see them through the lens of the past, with the heart of the girl who first fell in love with them.

When it started getting bad

On the other hand, my eyes have still gotten used to modern special effects, and the ones from Buffy did not stand the test of time. The husband and I just watched an episode with a giant snake monster, and we were howling anytime the thing was on the screen. Probably not the impact they were going for. 

Sad to say, but I think most of the good writers left Buffy and went to Angel when it split off. The stories from that point on got a little less mature. They got a little more silly, a little less coherent. 

And character development changed. That was a big issue for me. Buffy continued to grow as a person, but not into a very nice person. She’s selfish and unaware of how she uses people. She doesn’t care about the emotional well being of anyone else, her problems always seem to overshadow everything else. And it’s not just when we’re talking about saving the world problems. It also includes boy troubles. Which are no more crucial than anything anyone else is going through.

I also wasn’t thrilled with many of the story arches. Some of them just seemed designed to be heartbreaking. 

Like Joyce dying. I get that the actress wanted to leave the show. I get that people lose their parents. But I don’t think that this sort of thing had a place on this kind of show. It felt out of place, too mean. 

Finally, let’s talk about the worst addition to the show.


I hated this character. I love the actress, but the character is a huge pain in the ass. She’s the scrappy doo of Buffy. I honestly can’t tell you what she adds to the show. Buffy didn’t need an annoying little sister. She didn’t need additional responsibility. 

Which isn’t to say it stopped being good then. It’s still fun, so long as we’re not having a depressing episode. And the addition of the antagonist Glory was great. 

Mind you, I’m not saying that Buffy wasn’t worth watching. I still enjoy the later seasons, right up to the last episode. It just wasn’t what it was at first. It was still a revolutionary show that opened doors for a lot of work we wouldn’t have now without it. That’s worth overlooking some flaws.

Now I want to hear what you think. Did you watch Buffy when it originally aired? What are your thoughts about it now? Let us know in the comments. 

I’m going for a MilwordY

Today’s image is from StockSnap

I love a good challenge. Especially if it’s an incentive to fix a problem I’ve been having. Well, a few problems.

So I’m going to go for it. I’m going to do a Milwordy. 

You can be forgiven for not knowing what that is, as I didn’t know less than a week ago. It’s pretty simple.

Write one million words in a year. 

That sounded easy until I broke it down and realized that was over 3,000 words a day, assuming I took occasional days off.

Okay, now it sounds a little insane, right? But I think I can do it. The rules, when you look at them, are generous. Here they are.

All writing counts

This isn’t all going to be publishable content. I hope this will be more books, short stories, blog posts, poems and other fun content that I love sharing with you. But it will also be journaling, brainstorming, stupid things I jot down because they’re in my head. Writing about that weird dream I had about being locked in a bathroom. Angry letters I write to politicians. Any time I put words on the page, it counts.

Edited words count too

I don’t mean like a quick grammar check. I mean like when I’m writing the third draft of a novel and I’m going through every single damned word with a red pen. Those edited pages count. 

So, why am I doing this? Because I’m feeling like I’m not doing enough writing. I know, that sounds crazy. But I’m not writing beyond my novels. And I want to be writing more little things. I’ve never understood why authors don’t write more little pieces. Micro-fiction and haikus. To me, it’s like being a painter who never doodles in the margins of a workbook.

I also want to journal more. I want to write about what I’m seeing in the world right now, process it on the page. Because damn, a lot is going on right now. I’ve found myself wondering if this sort of writing is a waste of time because no one but me sees this.

I swear, I can hear Natalie Goldberg yelling at me right now. Since she’s not here to say it, let me say it for her. 

Freewriting in your notebook is probably the most important writing you ever do! 

I know, I know. But this is the part where my artist brain and business brain duke it out. My artist side knows that practice is essential. That getting my feelings out on the page is good for my mental health. That I should be writing in my journal every single damned day for myriad reasons that I don’t need to list because I and every other writer has listed already.

The business side says, “What’s the point if it’s not making you money or getting you exposure?” 

I can’t just ignore that voice. I’ve learned it’s best to work with my darker instincts, not against them. Give them what they want but in a healthy way. And that voice likes numbers. It likes to see numbers going up. So if an hour of writing haikus in my notebook can be seen as increasing my word count for the day, then I’m all in.

What I love about this goal is that it’s not on top of what I’m already doing. I’m not writing a novel, blog posts and podcast scripts, then writing a million words on top of that. That would be stupid to the highest degree. What this is, is me stretching. Writing more than I usually do. Writing more consistently. Reaching for a goal. A big, fat, scary goal.

Being my impetuous self, I did start right smack dab in the middle of August. I didn’t wait for the first of September. I didn’t wait for the new year. What’s the new year mean? Every day is a new day. I can set a new goal any day I want. Dream a new dream at any time. Who says I can’t?

I’m sure I’ll be giving you regular updates. And next year I’m sure I’ll do at least one big long post about how my year trying to reach a Milwordy went. My deadline, far away in 2021 is August 14th. Let’s see if I can write a million words in a year. What do you think?

Do we really have to defend the post office now?

Today’s image is from Dean Moriarty

Has your mail been on time? If it has been, it might not be for long. Because apparently, we have to defend all of our rights in 2020, including the mail.

That’s right. I’m bringing a bonus post to you this week because we have to get the word out. 

I’m sure if you pay any attention to the news, you’ve heard Trump talk about how terrible mail-in voting is. How it’s not the same as absentee voting and will lead to rampant voter fraud. Spoiler, he’s wrong. Mail-in voting is the same thing as absentee voting. There is no difference.

But since Trump couldn’t fear-monger about that, he’s taken some additional steps to dismantle our postal service. And yes, I do have receipts.

Let’s start with Louis DeJoy, who was given the job of Postmaster General on June 15th. Fun fact, he used to own a lot of shares in Amazon and UPS. He sold, well, some of them. He’s also a long time contributor to the Republican party with no experience in the postal system. He’s the first Postmaster General to ever not have experience with the post office.

These are facts. Make of them what you will. 

Another fact is that Trump ordered the removal and dismantling of 671 high volume mail processing machines. This started in June, by the way. Again, just facts. Why this was done is up for debate. Some say it’s more cost-effective. What I don’t get is, and tell me if you have an answer for this, why it saves money to get rid of something that you already have. I assume it won’t save me money to have my dishwasher taken out.

The machines aren’t just being removed. They’re being dismantled. Why? No one knows. At least, no one’s saying on the record. 

This might not be intentional, but it sure as hell feels like it is. It feels like a way to rig the election in a year we need an election. It feels like a way to sabotage mail-in voting during a pandemic when it might literally kill you to go vote. It feels like some people saw some polls that suggested they might not win and decided to do something about it. This isn’t speculation on my part so much as it’s an educated guess.

Then, of course, there’s the removal of sidewalk mailboxes. You know, the cute little blue ones that if you’ve ever lived in an apartment building you kind of rely on? They’re being removed. Not everywhere, just in Democratic-leaning areas and swing states.

All of this wouldn’t be so suspicious, I guess if Trump hadn’t flat out said he was blocking funds to the post office to derail mail-in voting. He said it, not me. I just say he’s an unconstitutional scumbag.

So what can we do about it? Write to your representatives. Here’s a link to the Resist app. It makes it easy to contact your local reps and let them know what you think about this. You can also let them know what you think about them taking a month-long break in the middle of a pandemic that has people out of work unable to pay their bills. You can, if you so chose, tell them to get their asses back to work and protect our postal service. Our constitutionally protected postal service.

We only get to keep the rights we fight for. 

Five reasons you could do worse things than watch old Disney movies

Disney +. Come for Hamilton, stay for the ridiculous amount of nostalgia. This isn’t sponsored, it’s just literally what happened to me in July. 

We’re still staying home more than we used to because people don’t want to wear their damned masks and I have a husband who’s high risk. (Seriously, I want to be understanding and see all sides of this. But people are dying. Wear a mask, wash your hands, keep your hands off your damned face.)

Since we have nothing to do, we’ve been watching a lot of old Disney movies the husband didn’t see when he was a kid. I don’t mean old like Davey Crockett. I mean like Oliver and Company, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Stuff that was around when I was a kid. Stuff I loved when I was a kid. 

Like everything else, I can’t just watch and experience something. I’ve got to take a lesson from it. Then, I have to share it with you. So here are five reasons why I think you should all watch old Disney movies. 

Unexpected adult jokes

This is kind of an open secret, but I still love it. I’m not talking about the easter egg things like the penis on the cover of Little Mermaid or the word sex sprawled out in leaves in Lion King. These are just good old fashioned dirty jokes. Like in Beauty and the Beast. There’s a part on Gaston’s song when he says that every last inch of him is covered in hair. And this gross asshole looks right at the audience and winks!

The animators knew what they were doing. 

The music is better than you remember

Before Let it Go got played to death, it was a pretty good song. Disney movies have always had songs that kids love to sing along to. But here’s a secret. The song your mom wanted to kill you for singing on repeat probably overshadowed some damn good music. Take God Help the Outcast from Hunchback of Notre Dame. That song makes me cry.

And I know it’s a bit more modern, but the whole soundtrack for Tarzan is just astounding. I mean, it is Phil Collins, so I suppose that shouldn’t be surprised. 


great mouse
Look at those colors!

So is the artwork


We were watching The Rescuers, and I kept pausing to go on about the artwork. How you could see the brushstrokes. How some scenes looked like living paintings. How adorable yet intelligent the mice were drawn. 

This is the shit my husband puts up with, you guys. 

But the artwork is amazing. I know that we’re quite accustomed to getting movies a lot faster these days with computer animation. I’m not saying art can’t be made on a computer, it totally can. But there’s something about a hand-drawn movie. I mean, it took a lot longer. The Hydra scene from Hercules alone took over a year.

But my goodness, it’s astounding. It deserves to be appreciated. 

A million little writing lessons

Look, I’m not going to sit here and defend every bit of writing in a Disney movie. Much of it is lazy, pure garbage, or outright stolen from other sources. (Looking at you, Kimba.)

But it’s not all bad. For instance, in watching these old movies I’ve noticed that a decent amount of protagonists are kind of assholes. They’re still good people, they’re just dicks. Like Basil, the great mouse detective. Or the Beast. They’re not nice people. They’re not selfless, kind, tactful. 

But they’re still good. That’s the thing about people, they have layers. It would be nice to see that more often.

Sometimes you need to step back into your childhood

Finally, sometimes it’s nice to just be a little kid again. Just chill out and watch a kid’s

This scene took over a year!



Here’s the thing, the world is heavy right now. I don’t need to tell you that. And a lot of my day is spent either trying to figure out what I can do to make things better or being just damned depressed about what’s happening. 

That’s not likely to end anytime soon. There’s never been a moment in my life where it’s more important to fight the good fight every damned day. And while I’m never going to be one to turn off the news, sometimes we do need to take a break from it. 

Take breaks how you need to. Take care of yourself and your mental health. Stopping the horrible things happening in our world doesn’t end with the election in November. And if watching some old Disney movies helps us keep fighting, then let’s all do that. 

If you’re looking for ways to help, here’s just a few things you can do.

1. Wear your damned mask.

2. Donate to foundations working for us, like the ACLU or Black Lives Matter. 

3. Donate to charities that are stressed right now, like Immigrant Families Together. 

4. Download the Resist app and use it to let your local officials know where you stand on the issues. 

5. Register to vote, and make sure everyone you know registers too.

6. If you’re healthy and able, volunteer to work at polls this election day.

7. Give everyone, including yourself, grace. Everyone’s going through hell right now. We’re only getting through it if we stick together. 

Artwork for this post came from IMDB.

Keeping your voice when writing different genres, with 11.22.63

I tell people that I write speculative fiction. And I do, technically. But speculative fiction is an umbrella term that includes science fiction, fantasy and horror. Everyone sort of knows that. 

On the one hand, I can kind of see why. These three genres are easy to blend, especially horror and science fiction. Some pieces of fiction you have to pick apart to figure out which side of the fence it falls on.

On the other hand, science fiction and horror are pretty distinct. If you compare the last horror book I read (American Psycho) and the last science fiction book (Now, Then and Everywhen), they’re lightyears from each other. 

So when an author goes from one genre to another, some serious considerations have to be made. Many authors use pen names for different genres to help differentiate their work.

I don’t. And neither does Stephen King, one of my writing mentors. (In my head. I’ve never met the man, I’ve just read On Writing many times.) His time travel novel, 11.22.63, was a worldwide hit. That’s no surprise, he could stick his name on the front of a phone book and it would sell. But this was a really good story. I just finished watching the mini-series on Hulu, and it was quite entertaining. More than that, it was a shining example of how to switch genres like a pro.

(Oh, and it has a satisfying ending. I won’t tell you what it is, but it’s there.)

Lee11.22.63 is purely a time travel story. It checks all the boxes. We have betting on sports, falling in love with a woman in the past, trying to hide knowledge of the future. The main character, Jake, is amazed and hurt by the racism of the past. I was, too, honestly. 

This was not, in short, a horror story. There was some blood, some spookiness at the start. It begins with the tale of a man who’s family was murdered by his father. But after that, there’s precious little blood. There are no jump scares. No serial killers. No eerie thing creeping in the night, clicking its teeth in anticipation of crunching into flesh and bone.

And yet, this is a King story. No one who’s read as much of his work as I have could ever mistake it. 

I mean, let’s start with the fact that Jake is from Maine. He’s an English and Creative Jake and old guyWriting teacher, from Maine. He’s divorced, and he has an older cantankerous man as a good friend. 

Does King know that people have other jobs besides writing? Asking for a friend. That friend is King. 

In case we didn’t notice that this is a King story, the directors helpfully left little clues all over the place. I loved this. Eagle eye watchers will notice that Randall Flagg made a cameo in the last episode. At one point the word ‘redrum’ is written in red on a wall. Christine also makes an appearance, driven by Sadie’s ex-husband. At one point Jake, while pretending to be a drunk JFK fan, tells an FBI agent that he’s his number one fan. In one episode that includes kids trick or treating, we see children dressed up as killer corn monsters and Pennywise the Clown.

Maybe because I’m so big on dialog myself, this is the biggest sign of style for me. The word usage and names are very much King’s style. It’s a difficult thing to explain, style. But you know it when you see it. You can recognize a page of writing from Tolkien, Grisham or King. It’s just something you can feel.

I hope that someday people say that about my work. 

So if you’re a writer and you’re considering switching genres, go for it. Your style will come through, whether you’re writing about demons or spaceships. 

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