What do Kafka and Virginia Woolf owe their fame to

Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf both had emotional problems, but they had more in common than mental issues. Both are literary icons today, but neither were much regarded in their time. So how did they go from obscurity to masters of storytelling?

Kafka was born in Prague in 1883 and though his short stories were published in magazines beginning in 1909, he did not set the literary world on fire. He died at the age of forty to tuberculosis. Before he died he told his best friend Max Brod to burn all his writings; to not even read the unpublished stories, just burn them.

Had Brod followed Kafka’s wishes we would never have heard of him. Brod kept the writings and it was not until the 1930’s, years after Kafka’s death in 1924 that his works were translated from German, and not until the 1940’s when the French existentialists, primarily Albert Camus and Jena-Paul Sartre discovered Kafka and extolled his works.

It was a chain of events over decades for Kafka to be found, to have his works praised, to have is work admired, respected. He died not knowing his legacy to literature.

Virginia Woolf, born one year before Kafka, in Kensington, Middlesex, England, died at age 59 from suicide in 1941.

At the age of thirty She married Leonard Woolf in a marriage of convenience. They were part of the famed liberal Bloomsbury Group of artists and intellectuals. The Woolf’s published Virginia’s book with their own Hogarth Press. (Perhaps all writers should own their own little publishing company). She only sold a few hundred of her books before her death. Had they not had that press, she may not have been published.

But the feminist movement of the 1960’s and 70’s brought fame to Virginia as women saw in Woolf’s books much fuel for their fire, due in large part to Woolf’s 1929 book A Room of One’s Own. The awakening feminist movement reawakened the novels of Virginia Woolf, decades after death, raising her from obscurity to world wide fame.

There are other writers who have gone from obscurity to literary prominence and honor. The message is just write, that is a writers job. Many popular writers of their time have been forgotten. The only things you can control is you keyboard and your imagination. Whatever happens, happens. It would be nice to have a friend like Max Brod though. Thanks Max.

My e-books, a couple in obscurity despite good reviews found on Amazon

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Was Tristram Shandy, 1723, the 1st post modern novel

Post modern literature,  according to literary scholars,  came about following World War II. In the above link many examples are listed, and like anyone with a list, not all will be agreeable to everyone. Some of the titles stretch the concept.

Of course post-modernism is often difficult to categorize, and the link I provided in above paragraph doesn’t get to the heart of it.

Much of post modern literature revolves around the author, the narrative, and nature of fiction. It is experimental in nature, it looks inward, is playful, chiding the author, the story, and the reader. Think Donald Barthelme, J. G. Ballard, Thomas Pynchon, just to name three of many.

My favorite novel is The Universal Baseball Association, J. Henry Waugh, proprietor. It is about  J. Henry Waugh who works for a small firm of accountants and bookkeepers. He likes B-girls and delicatessens and loves playing his creation-a baseball game played with dice. He has created teams, players, and results, not only of plays, but of histories for all his players. The game is as elaborate as any novel. As we get deeper into the story the more the players take center stage and J. Henry Waugh slowly disappears from the story until all that is left are the characters Waugh created who now have a life of there own.

Robert Coover is the author of the novel, but Waugh is the creator of the game-of course Coover is behind it all- and Waugh disappears, his (Coover or Waugh’s or both)characters are important, they are of interest, not the author. This is one of the playful non-narrative narratives of post modernism.

What is the nature of fiction? Of the author? Post modern writers play with these ideas through satire, humor, digressions, and all sorts of tricks.

But the nine volume The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne was written between 1759-1767 was not written post World War II, but two centuries before anyone heard of post modernism. Yet Sterne’s Shandy is bawdy, satirical, and has all the signs of post modernism. Shandy sets out to tell his biography, but his stories go off in so many tangents, he never gets around to his biography. Midway through his third volume he seems apologetic for not having gotten past the first day of his life. And now he realizes a year after starting this biography that he has 364 more days of his life to cover. He will never catch up.

The post modernist traits to Stern’s epic indicates to me the old Peter Allen song, Everything Old is New Again. As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun.

I don’t belive my e-novels at Amazon are post modern, perhaps not even modern, but there might, perhaps could be, but probably not be . . . well who likes categories and pigeon holes anyway.

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What is the Difference Between Someone or Somebody

Writers need to be precise whether writing fiction or non-fiction. There are many words whose definition is so subtle that the wrong word can throw off the sentence.

So in working on my e-novel yesterday I stopped myself trying to decide whether to use ‘someone’ or ‘somebody’ and thought to see which is proper in the context of my sentence.

I checked six books on language usage, books that discussed problem words and expressions, the which word when type of books. There was no mention of either word I was looking for. I checked the dictionary and found either word is okay, they are interchangeable.

If they are interchangeable then why do we have two words? Can’t we eliminate one or the other. If they mean the same thing then one must go.

But wait I said to myself. Check the Internet.

One site confirmed they are interchangeable, but that someone is five times more popular in usage than somebody. Fewer syllables, easier to use. But one site is not conclusive and how do I know someone is five times more popular. What is their source.

Another site said the following: ‘Someone’ is used if you are in a location where there are many people around, but you don’t know whom you’re referring to. Sounds confusing? To break it down, if used in a sentence ‘“ ‘Someone has left the room and started screaming loudly’ it means you don’t know exactly who left the room with all the people around.

‘Somebody’ is used if you are in a location and you are referring to a person with a slight importance. For example, ‘Somebody has left the room and started screaming loudly.’ The use of ‘somebody’ is to refer to the person whom you possibly know but unknown in the current situation.

Huh?

Again the source is not known. From where do they get that definition, especially when every other website or grammar book says they are interchangeable.

Does anybody know the answer. Or is it ‘Does anyone know . . .’

Okay let me grab a book

If somebody, or anybody, is interested in my e-books then anyone, even someone, can click and learn more

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What Writers Should Do Second, Not First

When writing a story writers can fall into a trap, one based on what they have read or seen in movies, a trap they  must escape. Let me explain.

A short story I wrote, Flowers for Martha Clemens, was based on something I saw, then I ran away with it into the twilight zone. I saw an old man, perhaps mid 70’s, carrying a shovel  in a cemetery. He walked with purpose among the graves, his clothes not those of a cemetery worker. I stopped to watch the old man, but then thought if I saw what he was going to do it might make sense and I would forget the whole incident. Better to turn away, not see what he was going to do and make up my own story.

The first thought of a writer would be obvious. The old man is going to dig up a grave. We have seen and read about grave robbers, and though the idea of a 70 year old grave robber has a bit of interest, I though it better to ignore my first instinct. Instead of robbing a grave he would dig up the grave for another reason, one more macabre. One reviewer said she liked the story “for the hauntingly melancholy vibe that sucks you into the story.”

Because of her comment I knew I made the right choice, one not based on the obvious, but one going in a new direction. That is why writers need to make unusual choices and not trust your first instinct. Better to play around with choices, bouncing things around in your mind, coming up with a few to choose from is even better.

Creativity is found in challenging your mind, writing outside the page, creating a sense of play, and getting a bit weird if need be. Creativity is challenging yourself to make new things. Writing need not be stolid, it should be fun.

6,466 Words That Anger And Please

Writers have bad days when words come slow, if they come at all. Then there are the good days where words pour out like a Pacific Northwest rain, fast and hard. But what happens when they flow to fast, too hard.

Maybe it was the two pots of tea that stimulated the senses, but 6,466 words is one heck of an output for me. I did not know what was coming next, I was in a zone where characters, situations, dialogue took over, my fingers tapping keys with little thought. I was not in control, some creative force was. I loved it.

But something happened when the words began piling up. Fingers must have got tired and when they did, bad things happened; then my mind got tired and bad things happened.

I noticed after a few thousand words there were more typos. Then they began increasing with two or three in every sentence, then three or four. When you are in a zone this becomes irritating seeing those words underlined in red, the color that infuriates bulls. I saw the red, the cape, and the bull in me took over. My fist pounded the arm of the chair. Then as typos overran my brain, my fist pounded the table behind me.

As I got close to 6,000 words loose objects were thrown with fierce bullheadedness. Soft objects will not do, noise is the only way to ameliorate the anger, the only way assuage the frustration.

I finally came to the end. The tornado was over. FEMA came in to assess the damage. I received counseling and was released from the hospital. In the end I was thrilled with my 6, 446 words.

And now I must go, this post a warm-up to another day of writing. I am not planning on a 6,000 word day. The room is empty except for desk, computer, and chair. I have no idea what will happen. Writing is adventure, writing is risk, writing is dangerous.

No keyboard was injured during the creative flow.

My dangerous e-Books on Amazon you can find here.

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How a Candy Bar Changed My Life

It happened when I was four years old. A seminal moment I will never forget for even at four I realized something, and what I realized changed my life.

My aunt was driving me someplace, the where and why forgotten. I remember she stopped at a drugstore and went inside to purchase something. She came back out and handed me a candy bar.

I was curious as to what the candy bar was called. I was a year away from learning how to read, so I needed some help.

“What is the name of this candy bar?” I said.

“You know,” she answered.

“Now I don’t.”

“You know,” she said a second time.

Being four and being a boy, I was subject at times to a temper tantrum. I was on the verge of one by saying with strong emphasis, “No I don’t know. I CAN’T READ!”

I stared at the still unwrapped candy. It was long, had a silver wrapper and some letters on it. I kept looking down at it while my aunt pointed to the first letter. She said, “This is the letter U and this is the letter N and this is a O. It says U-No.”

“OH!”

I realized the power of letters. I realized the power of words. I learned the power of being able to read. I felt I was on the outside, that I was at a disadvantage.

This point was driven home when I learned how to read. Beginning with the Dick and Jane readers, progressing to the Hardy Boys, moving on to Jules Verne, I kept reading because the power of words, what they meant, what they symbolized was like having a super power.

I still read. I read fiction, non-fiction, e-Books, magazines, newspapers. And candy bar wrappers. I read because knowledge is power, but knowledge is gained from reading and discerning, analyzing, and thinking about what I read. And it is the letters, the words, that convey all that you need. U-No what I mean.

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”
– Confucius
“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
– Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
– Frederick Douglass

Reading also led me to writing as these e-Books on Amazon attest.

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Adam and Eve, the truth of the matter

In the beginning Adam and Eve had the Garden all to themselves and frolicked with squirrels and all the other cute critters. Life was blissful.

Women don’t like to hear this, but I did not write the story; it was written by a male many centuries ago. In fact, according to linguists, Genesis was written by at least seven people, including one woman. Though I doubt she was the author of this part of the story.

The point is that Eve strayed. I don’t know where Adam was, perhaps sleeping, reading the sports page, or playing with squirrels. Maybe Eve was concerned about Adam’s performance issues. We simply don’t know, but she did approach the Tree of Knowledge, inching closer and closer to temptation. Then the serpent appeared and he began to hit on Eve, no doubt using the best pickup lines learned from his eating of the forbidden fruit. It was not an apple, that piece of fruit was added to the story centuries later. I once read an archeologist suggested it was a pomegranate, but that is another story.

Well what woman does not like the bad boy and the serpent was all of that. By the way, it was not a snake. That image, again, came centuries later. There are many types of serpents and there also could be a translation problem. But the point is that Eve did what the serpent suggested and ate of the fruit.

Bad Girl.

And what boy does not like the bad girl.

Now keep in mind Adam was loyal, loving, and honest. Not the bad boy; kind of dull, but a good man. Being a good man and desiring of an equal partnership he did not dominate, but strove for compromise. And he trusted Eve, the love of his life. Of course there were no other women around, so any port in the storm.

Anyway we know how the story ends. Adam was convinced by Eve to eat of the fruit. After they both ate they saw each other in a new light. It was an aha moment. The downside was they were evicted from the Garden. They were now party people and they disturbed the squirrels and other fun critters. So for the sake of the neighborhood, for it to remain a quiet place of peace and solitude, they had to leave.

I mention this because the story of Adam and Eve is the first story, one in which we have two characters; a man and woman. There is suspense. Will she listen to the bad guy? Will she give in to temptation or stay loyal to Adam? Two innocent people, a villain, and the results of being corrupted. And Eve the first femme fatale. Everything you need for a compelling story.

And look at what happened after they left the Garden. Millions of sequels.

My e-books can be found on Amazon

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Dangers of writing contests

I once read where people submitting their story to writing contests closer to the deadline had a better chance of winning. I don’t know if it is true, but I always put off until the near last minute.

But there is a danger to waiting.

I wrote a story that I was going to enter in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) unpublished contest. The writing was easy enough, as was the editing and punctuation checking. In case of course, it was easy because I did not catch all the mistakes. Writers tend to have a blind eye. We can’t see the comma through the period.

The main thing, however, in entering a contest is not the writing, but following all the directions. A self addressed stamped envelope (2 stamps) to receive two critiques whether you win or lose. And make sure you place the category number on the outside of the main envelope to the contest address.

There are requirements that must be stringently adhered too like double spacing, the margins, the font, what needs to be in the upper left corner of every page, namely the title, the category, the page number.

It is fun if you are obsessive compulsion going over everything a dozen or so times. Every day. But even after everything seems set, the unexpected happens. I have a computer that must be mad at the printer, for even though they came out of the same box from the same  manufacturer they frequently have trouble talking with each other.

When I click print-and this happens often-it says printer error. I try to delete in the queue, and though it says deleting, it will stay that way for eternity and never delete and that can prevent me from printing anything in the future. Sometimes turning off computer and starting it later it will automatically print. That is the usual modus operandi.

Not this time. Day after day nothing happened. Finally five days from deadline I did a troubleshoot. I have tried this in the past without any solution as troubleshoot and computer do not speak with each other either. But this time they were on friendly terms and my entry form printed.

Whew!

As I write this it is three days to deadline. The only thing left to do is one final check of the story, once again checking grammar, punctuation, and those fun things. Today it will be submitted online. Although I could do it tomorrow. I still have one day, unless of course my computer fails to talk with me tomorrow.

I better get to work. Tomorrow is to late.

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt   

I have two collections of twilight zone, paranormal, bump in the night stories you may enjoy. The e-books are found here.

Or you can read something about them as well as a review or two by clicking on the title at top of blog.

One Simple Paragraph . . .but

I recently read A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar. She is a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master. It was originally published in 1960 and I would describe the book as literary, noir mystery.

The story is about a married woman named Daisy who hires a private detective/ bail bondsman to reclaim a lost day in her life. It has to do with her believing there is another person in her grave.

Of course she is alive; she knows that. But there is a reason for her belief. It is a nice hook to draw you into a story with some great twists and turns among believable characters.

There is a piece of writing, one paragraph that I loved that I want to share. It has to do with her trying to convince the detective, who thinks the woman is a bit off her rocker. The following is the paragraph:

“I didn’t lose the day. It’s not lost. It’s still around someplace, here or there, wherever used days and old years go. They don’t simply vanish into nothing. They’re still available— hiding, yes, but not lost.”

We all have memories both pleasant and not so pleasant. But there are also lost days, days that if you live long enough, increase to the point where they far exceed what we do remember. But are there hidden within those lost days, if they were found, something pleasant that its recovery would be a wonderful memory, like a treasure hunter discovering Captain Kid’s treasure?

Of course the flip side is that there might be in those lost days something you may not want to discover. There are people surrounding Daisy that try to tell her some things are better lost, not found.

So I reread the paragraph. There is something wistful and naïve about her thinking. We as readers may stop and wonder about are lost days, that they can be recovered and wouldn’t that be nice. But then again . . .

It is one paragraph, well written, that lies within a well written story. The paragraph, like the story makes you think. That is good writing.

Whether my e-novels on Amazon make you think or simply entertain you can decide.
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Writers Trick to Pronunciation

In Peter Ackroyd’s novel Chatterton, the lead character Charles is walking with his son at the beginning of the story looking for an address. When he finds the person he is looking for Charles introduces himself this way:

‘ Hi, I’m Wychwood.’

As a reader I immediately wonder if it is pronounced Witchwood or Wickwood. I not only like to read words, but I like the sound of them, and I do like to pronounce them correctly.

Ackroyd solves this problem for me and all readers by continuing with the scene this way:

“Mr. Leno sounded puzzled. ‘Which . . .?’

‘Wood. I telephoned this morning. About the books.’ ”

Since Charles did not correct Mr. Leno, we readers can surmise the name is pronounced with the sound of ‘which’ or ‘witch,’ as a minute later Charles is called ‘Mr. Witch.’ Now we have the author reinforcing the sound of the name, just in case we missed it the first time.

We learn the pronunciation of Charles’ name in a seamless manner, Ackroyd not telling us, but showing us through character interaction, a scene with humor no less.

It is not just a clever trick to pronunciation, but a way to introduce information without telling. It is so much better to learn things through characters than be told. After  all a novel is not nonfiction in which we are told things. We like novels, because-lets be honest-we are eavesdropping on people. And in this humorous scene which continues Mr. Leno, Mr. Leno, and Charles is fun to watch and listen in on.

The characters should tell the story, the author should be in the background, invisible; an observer like the readers.

Two of my five e-novels on Amazon are:

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