I raise the curtain behind a writers madness in writing a sentence

Writing is rewriting. The following is based on a short story I am starting. I thought it might be fun and instructional to show what goes through a writers mind as he/she tries to get a sentence and paragraph.  So let’s peek into my madness.

 

THEY COULDN’T GET OUT, THOUGH SOME COULD GET IN.

I know who ‘they’ are, the reader doesn’t. ‘They’ could be humans, or ‘they’ could be animals. The sentence needs clarity.

THE PEOPLE INSIDE COULDN’T GET OUT, THOUGH PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE DOOR COULD GET IN.

More specific, yet dull.

A CODE ON THE DOOR WAS NEEDED TO GET IN. THREE NUMBERS TO PUSH, THEN A CLICK WAS HEARD, THEN ONE PUSHED THE DOOR OPEN, LOOKING THROUGH THE WINDOW TO MAKE SURE SOMEONE INSIDE COULDN’T GET OUT, OR RATHER SHOULDN’T GET OUT.

Better, but awkward, does not say how the code is used. Does someone say “Alexa, please open door” or say three numbers, or are buttons pushed on a security pad. Also grammar is bad.

A MAN WALKED DOWN THE CARPETED HALLWAY, THE WALLS HUNG WITH INOFFENSIVE CHEERFUL POSTERS LEADING TO THE DOOR.

Problem is the walls are not hung, the posters (framed-should have used framed posters) are hung, and that is not what leads to the door.

A MAN WALKED DOWN THE INSTITUTIONAL CARPETED HALLWAY TOWARDS A THICK METAL DOOR WHICH HAD A REINFORCED WINDOW. FEW USED THIS HALLWAY, ONLY VISITORS AND STAFF AND THERE WAS ALWAYS MORE STAFF INSIDE THAN VISTORS. NEXT TO THE DOOR WAS A SECURITY PAD. THE MAN PUSHED THREE BUTTONS ON THE PAD, HEARD THE CLICK OF THE DOOR, BUT BEFORE PUSHING THE DOOR OPEN, THE MAN BRIEFLY PAUSED TO LOOK THROUGH THE WINDOW IN THE DOOR TO MAKE SURE IT WAS SAFE TO OPEN. THERE WERE PEOPLE WAITING TO GET OUT AND THEY MUST REMAIN. IT WAS CLEAR.

I like this. I used institutional carpeted to give the reader a hint of the type of building. I used ‘few used this hallway’ to make the reader wonder why (part of the hook if you will). And for the same reason wrote ‘more staff than visitors’ so that the reader will wonder what kind of place has more staff than visitors along with ‘few used this hallway.” The hallway and the building I hope arouse the reader’s curiosity. Then we have some action the man ‘pushed,’ ‘heard,’ and ‘paused.’ And finish with people inside must remain. And why.

If your first reaction is this is a jail, it is not. My intent is to describe what is inside the door through the actions or inactions of the people inside, doing so without telling you what the building is, but by describing what is going on it will become clear to the reader. Always better to show, not tell. I am not sure I am done with the opening paragraph. But it is time to move on to the second, to move forward, then go through it all over again.

 
The point for writers is to just write a simple sentence no matter how bad it looks, and then expand. Just starting gets the creative juices going. It may be slow for a bit, but then it picks up and you get on a roll. And as every writer knows, that is when magic happens.

My e-books are found on Amazon.

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THE DAY I MET A 1911 BASEBALL STAR

You know you are getting old when you can tell people you met a pitching star whose rookie season was 1911. That was over a century ago.

 
I’m not a time traveler, I did not meet him in 1911; but at my age when reflecting on early parts of my life it sometimes seems I am traveling through time. The present is a totally different world from the late 1950’s.

 
I was probably in grade school. My father had been a pitcher in his youth, playing in an industrial league where I grew up. He gave that up when he decided to marry and have a family.

 
One of the umpires in the industrial league was a former major league pitcher who had an eatery in downtown Hoquiam, Washington, where I grew up. He told my dad-this is dad’s story- that this umpire told him he was good enough to pitch in the Pacific Coast League.

 
Who Knows?

 
But my dad took me to the eatery and introduced me to Vean Gregg, a pitcher who had a Hall of Fame start to his career until his arm went bad. In his rookie year of 1911 with the Cleveland Indians he was 23-7 with a league leading 1.80 ERA. Had there been a Rookie of the Year award he would have won.

 
The next two years he was 20-13 both seasons with ERA’s of 2.59 and 2.54. Then arm woes. He was 9-3 in 1914 before being traded to the Red Sox where he went 4-4. He was with Boston through 1916, then the Philadelphia A’s in 1918 and a final fling with Washington in 1925. His career record was 92-63 with a 2.70 ERA.

 
I remember sitting on a lunch counter stool and looking at Gregg as my father introduced me. I recall Gregg had nice smile and I have this image of the three of us going to a back room where I got to see some memorabilia.

 
He played on the same team as Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the great hitters of the game. He was also a teammate of Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie. Gregg also played with the only player to be killed by a pitched ball, Ray Chapman.

 
And oh, yes, when he was traded to Boston he was on the same staff with a 19 year old pitcher named Babe Ruth. I wish I could recall every word of the conversation. Did I ask him what it was like to pitch to Ty Cobb? I remember images, not the words of the conversation. Knowing what I now know of baseball history I wish I could have that conversation again.

 
But at least I have the memory of meeting Vean Gregg, a star pitcher for three great seasons. That is what baseball can do. Give you memories that link to a bygone era. Sort of like being a time traveler.

 

And this memoir about Vean Gregg is what led me to be a writer. In researching and studying the 1911 baseball season I remembered the story of Charlie Faust and in researching Charlie I decided to write a fictional account of his brief time with the New York Giants. And because I liked two fictional characters I created for the Faust story I continued with them in two more novels with another finished, waiting publication, and another in the early stages of writing.

 

Every writer has a journey. This is how mine began.

 

Charlie’s story and the continuing adventures of Chat and Eveleen are e-books that are on Amazon.

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Shakespeare and R L Stevenson altered our minds without drugs

Myth can be created by folklore like Paul Bunyon, a tall tale to be sure, but myths can also arise, inadvertently by an author, from popular fiction that takes on a life of it’s own.

Two cases in point.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The popular conception of pirates is that they buried their treasure because that is what happened in the novel. But there is only one known pirate to do that and it was Captain Kidd, who was more a privateer than pirate. It depended on whether his contemporaries liked him or not. More disliked him than liked him, so to us he is a pirate. Winners write history.

Think of it logically. Why would pirates bury their treasure and return later to dig it up. The entire crew knows where it is, so each larcenous crew member now looks at each other with distrust and paranoia. And don’t think the captain was the boss. A pirate captain was elected by the crew and he did nothing without a vote from the crew. And the crew wants the loot and they want it now. They have been at sea a long time and they want rum and women.

In truth pirates took ships, their cargo, and most of the crew of the captured ship. At one point, Kidd had three captured ships in tow. They would go to a friendly pirate port and sell everything they could, keeping supplies they needed.

The only reason Kidd buried nearly a million dollars in jewels and goods is that he was headed back to New York to answer charges of his piracy so he had to bury the evidence. Didn’t help. Most of his treasure has been found. But other pirates and ‘X’ marks the spot maps are pure fiction, not history. Thank to Long John Silver and R.L. Stevenson.

Another example comes from Shakespeare’s play Anthony and Cleopatra. Everyone believes Cleo was bitten by an asp while she was a prisoner of the Romans. That is what happens in Old Will’s play, but whether Will was passing on the lore he knew or he made it up, the asp is now our truth. Check any crossword puzzle.

The Romans found her dead. There were two puncture marks. From an asp? Well, according to other records she committed suicide by a poisoned hairpin, not an asp. Poison was a big seller in Egypt. Cleo was found in her private chambers. As a prisoner she would not have access to snakes, nor would she keep them in her rooms. But a snake is more dramatic because the audience would be more fearful of a dangerous snake than poison. Poison being more passive. 

And now you know the truth of the matter. Until it changes once again. You never know. It just shows the power of the written word, the power of story telling, and how we believe what we read, even if it is fiction.

Here are two of my fictional e-novels at Amazon. Both based on true stories. Perhaps another myth will arise from one of them. With your help of course.

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The dilemma of telling people you’re a writer

A few days ago I received my online newsletter from Authors Publish.  It contains two leads for publishing houses, but what caught my interest was a short piece about what happens when you tell people you are a writer.

Number one of the five is the imposter syndrome. I have always been hesitant telling people I am a writer. The reactions I have gotten have not been positive, leaving me at times, feeling like an imposter. To this point, other than a brief memoir in a book published in 2012 and two short stories published locally in an annual book, I have published three e-novels and two short-story collections on Amazon. I also wrote film reviews for a newspaper for eleven years and did a few freelance stories. I received positive feedback during that period.

Yet I still hesitate.

I told a woman the other day about my short story published in an edition of the locally published book and she told me she wrote a piece for them a few years ago-and then made sure she deflated me my saying -“They publish anything sent to them.” I don’t know why she blew it off, and I question whether everything send is published.

Another woman said she only reads ‘real books’ and e-books are not real. Perhaps she fears the digital world. Then there are relatives. My closest cousins don’t read much, if at all, and though one wanted one of the annuals where my short story was published, he has never read, to my knowledge, the story. He had said he would tell me how he liked it, but that was about seven months ago. No phone call, no email, no smoke signals, not a wisp of contact. My other cousin said she still has not read the story. She never reads.

Is there any doubt why I sometimes feel like an imposter and any doubt why I hesitate to tell people I am a writer.

My best experience was reading my latest short story at the kickoff for the last annual collection of local writers. One woman said she read the story three times, and the man who puts the writings together for publication told the group how much he liked the story, why he liked it, and pushed me to read the opening page of my short story.

Though I hesitate, I am getting better at it. I have learned that detractors often have insecurities as I noted about the woman who said they publish anything. Like the Taylor Swift line ” haters are going to hate” so stay away from the haters and the negative nellies. They are not worth your time. I have found a positive group of local writers to share writing and experiences with, so am moving forward.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the great make you feel, that you too, can become great.-Mark Twain.

I am coming out of  the “I am a writer” closet.

I am a writer, like it or not, take it or leave it.

To Publish or Not to Publish; that is the question-and of course How

If Moses were alive today he’d come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and spend the next five years trying to get them published.
– Anonymous

I have published three e-novels and two collections of short stories on Amazon because getting an agent who may find a publisher who may publish the book would be like beating the odds of winning the lottery. The odds are against anyone for too many reasons to go into in this blog.

But . . .

Having just finished my fourth novel I am faced with a choice based on new information about e-books and hard copy (book) by a publisher (who puts book in bookstores).

First, Amazon has something new that might make it easier for me and anyone else to publish. In the past I outsourced my word.doc to LiberWriter who changes my word doc. to the specifications of Amazon, something I do not feel qualified to do. LiberWriter sends me a file that I can upload on Amazon. Of course that costs me money, but I am willing as it saves me time and because I have no idea how to do it anyway.

Bu now Amazon has something called Kindle Create that lets me send my Word Doc to a software program they have and it recognizes everything, lets me play with it a bit, edit and so on before I publish, thus bypassing my paid formatter. I have done a cursory review of the how to and it seems easy enough for me to accomplish.

Or . . .

I subscribe to Authors Publish, a free weekly e-mail about smaller publishing houses that are likely to accept your manuscript. They do research on the company and also remind you to check out the publisher yourself through websites like Predators and Editors, which, alas, is no more. It is looking for a caretaker. But there is Writers Beware, that is supported by Science  Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America with support from Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and American Society of Journalists and Authors (links below). Authors Publish also has leads on magazines, online zines, journals, and they tell who pays and who doesn’t and provide links.

So . . .

Among the emails from them I have found book publishers that I may be able to work with. I have yet to fully research them as these e-mails have come during my writing and proofreading, so I saved the ones I read that looked promising. I have had a couple short stories published in hardcover, but a novel would be nice.

Therefore . . .

I must research both Kindle Create and a possible publisher. And do so now. But we have more options today then did Moses and he was more of an agent.

Horror Writers Association

Mystery Writers of America

American Society of Journalists and Authors

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Character Reveal, Foreshadowing, and Toilet Paper

After you read the following excerpt from my soon to be released e-novel I will explain the intent, why the reveal and the foreshadowing, and tell about toilet paper and life. The time is 1927 and this paragraph ends a chapter near the end of the story

Driving back I felt a sense of freedom. I was free from my job, a job I liked I grant you, but you become accustomed to not working. Maybe I am lazy. But I sensed this story was coming to an end, that Bast would be found, arrested, and tried for multiple murders. That would free my mind, case closed, back to Hollywood, back to a new job, back to writing, back to normalcy. Chasing down a killer, being followed, being shot at, being lied to, are not things that are pleasurable. It may be entertaining to an audience watching a hero in a movie catch a killer; a hero with smarts like Sherlock Holmes, with brawn like any movie tough guy, and all the while wooing some dame with ultra-coolness, but reality is nerve racking, tense, mind numbing, the bullets real, the danger scary. I am not near as smart as Sherlock Holmes, not a movie tough guy, not even close. I learn by accident, I stumble through the carnival funhouse coming out the other side with unexpected answers. And I don’t woo any dame. I am married, happily so. Movies aren’t real. I know, I write them. Of course we writers like to twist things, turn the screw if we can, do a Henry James you know. If we are good, we are magicians, or maybe illusionist is a better word, making you look one way, then the reveal, the twist, the unexpected moment. I didn’t think there was one in real life. I said ‘didn’t’ with intent because that is past tense. There was a real twist coming, one that Henry James would not have seen. Maybe that Freud guy would have figured things out, but not a writer.

First, a word about character reveals. Normally you might see a character reveal a personality trait about himself through dialogue, action, or something descriptive, like a nervous person avoiding eye contact, tapping their foot, pacing around the room. Here Chet Koski is being reflective. He has been trying to solve multiple murders and because he is a writer, not a police detective or private eye, he is frustrated. Real life is not the movies and he is a movie guy. There is an implication that moviegoers don’t get it when they watch a movie. Maybe he is out of his element at times, another reason for frustration.

This character reveal segues into foreshadowing by Chet’s reflection on writers and why at the end of the story writers twist things; the surprise ending. It is the author (that would be me) warning you there is a surprise ending coming soon. By implying Freud may have figured things out evokes, I hope, a psychological complex ending. Naturally I used my fictional character to reveal the foreshadow. Writers are sneaky. However, the character reveal is solely from Chet.

P.S. There is also another foreshadowing in the third sentence: “But I sensed this story was coming to an end.” Once again I put thoughts into Chet’s head. I am so bad.

Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

 

Ancestry.com links me to Sherlock Holmes

According to Ancestry.com to whom I sent my DNA-not all of it, just a sample-I am a direct descendant of Sherlock Holmes. I know, I know, you are going to tell me Holmes is a fictional character; I understand all that. But I too am a fictional character. It does not make me any less real.

There are thousands like me, perhaps millions, and we have lives; we experience fear, love, and some of us are mistrusted, many for good reason, and many of us are heroic in different ways.

The problem we fictional characters face is that our lives, no matter how exciting our lives seem to you, get boring at the redundancy of our existence. I have been told that readers face similar fates, but with a difference. You get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, go to work or school, eat lunch, go home, eat dinner, watch TV, and go to bed and if you are one of the lucky ones, you do not sleep alone. One difference between you and us, is we rarely go the bathroom. When did Sherlock Holmes ever relieve himself, or sit on a toilet and ponder clues.

So perhaps your life seems redundant at times and you to escape into our world and read some fictional lives. But look at it from our point of view. Take Sherlock Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles. You can read the story a hundred times and Sherlock does the same things a hundred times. Let me tell you folks, that gets boring for us. Do you have any idea how it feels to be a character who is killed off. Do you want to get shot thousands of times. It’s not fun, but that is not my problem for I have not died off yet. But I can imagine.

Speaking of imagination try to imagine life from our point of view. Would you like to eat in the same restaurant, eating the same food, wearing the same clothes, dining with the same people. Trust me, it gets boring. You can change things up a bit. We are trapped.

The good thing about Sherlock Holmes was he had adventures other than the Hound story. Like him and all my other ancestors-Phillip Marlowe, Perry Mason, Nick and Nora Charles, Hercule Poirot, Lew Archer, Travis McGee, and Nero Wolfe to name a few, they do have different stories to tell. As a result they have different ways to get bored, but still it is better than having one story to tell.

Just as God created humans-so I am told-someone created me and I am thankful for that. In fact, I feel a stirring in my soul-yes we have one- and I sense a sequel coming on so I must get back to work. So I will see you in the bookstore or perhaps that Kindle thing.

But first I will go the bathroom.

JK Rowling attributes her success to failure

I get daily emails of encouragement from major league baseball manager Clint Hurdle, many of the posts coming from other writers and motivators. The post the other day was written by Steve Gilbert.

He tells of a period in Rowling’s life when she hit rock bottom; her mother died, she was getting divorced, didn’t like her job, and thought about suicide. She had an idea for a series of books while sitting on a train, but did not act on it.

Rowling then changed her life. She writes,  “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1977 with a run of 500 copies, 300 of which went to libraries. Sales now are over 12 million.

I am not recommending would-be-writers blow up their life and do a reboot. Reboots may carry a virus or two, but her opening line is what grabbed me. Strip away what is not essential in your life. It is another way of saying get your life in order, pursue what you need to do, stripping away what is preventing you from your goal.

We all waste time (from time to time) and that is okay for it can be relaxing, freeing anxiety and stress. But it can also become a habit that, like any addiction, can be consuming.

Consume yourself with your passion, not your distractions.

QUIZ-who wrote world’s first novel?

The modern novel, according to many, began with Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, published in 1719.

Or, as other scholars have suggested, Don Quixote, by Cervantes, published 1605.

But the truth of the matter is, as far as we know at this time, the first novel was written 700 years before Robinson Crusoe. It came not from the west, but from the east.

I write ‘as far as we know’ because their remains the possibility, remote though it is, that a manuscript of some type could yet be discovered.

The country where the novel originated is Japan. And the author of the first novel called The Tale of the Genji was a woman. And she was the first to use a pen name.

She did not intend, nor chose, to use her pen name of Murasaki Shikibu. She was, it is believed, to be a lady-in-waiting in the Heian Court. It was considered rude to record the names of women who came from noble families, though some exceptions were made, primarily for a princess or an emperor’s wife or companion.

Their is controversy of how the novel should be presented. The original translation was done in six volumes, but subsequently it has been reduced to 54 chapters. The feeling by Edward Seidensticker was that 54 chapters are the original text, that the cut chapters are not of the same narrative.

Murasaki began her novel around 1002. The Japanese, like the Chinese at the time, did not regard this form of writing worthy. Poetry, history, and philosophy were the genres one wrote in. Women could write diaries or vernacular tales and Murasaki essentially merged both in Tales of the Genji.

I have not read the original translation. I have the Seidensticker abridged version. And reading her novel I found myself amazed how modern it feels. Too bad we don’t know her real name.

Sources used for this blog:

The Novel 100 by Daniel Burt

A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland

The Tale of the Genji

 

 

“Peanuts” Character Reveals Writing Secret

A classic Peanuts cartoon strip by Charles Schulz appeared in a recent Sunday newspaper and the punchline exemplifies what some writing gurus have advised.

Linus is at his school desk writing on the theme of returning to school after summer vacation. Over three captions we see he has written this: ” No one can deny the joys of a summer vacation with its days of warmth and freedom. It must be admitted, however, that the true joy lies in returning to our halls of learning. Is not life itself a learning process? Do we not mature according to our learning. Do not each of us desire that he…”

And there it stops.

The next three panels show him taking the paper to the teacher’s desk, handing in the paper, and returning to his desk.

Then you see him saying “Yes, Ma’am? Oh . . Why, thank you . . I’m glad you liked it . . ”

The final panel shows him sitting sideways, one elbow on the desk behind him where Charlie Brown is sitting. Linus says, “As the years go by, you learn what sells!”

Linus knew his audience; it was the teacher. And he also knew what she wanted, in essence, to hear, so he wrote what she wanted, hoping to ingratiate himself, of course, and get a good grade.

If there is a hot market that readers are feasting on, you can jump on that bandwagon and if the bandwagon is not crowded and the market has yet to be devoured, you have a shot of finding an audience. But what is hot now can soon fade away.

Or you can write what you want to write and hope you find an audience. If you write in the genre that most appeals to you, I belive your writing will be better.

Each approach has its drawbacks, nothing is guaranteed, but you must chart your writing course through tricky waters no matter which direction you go. Write well, edit even better, and write a little everyday. And be cool like Linus.

I turned in my e-books to Amazon

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