Thursday, July 10, 2014

What's It About?

Whenever I tell someone I've written a novel, their first response is almost always, "What's it about?" Most authors have an easy answer when asked this question; however when I tell people Brute Heart is about a young veterinarian who is trying to decide whether to euthanize her terminally ill father, I can't stop there. If I do, the main conflict in the story might sound too negative for people to want to read about it.

So I yammer on, producing details such as:
  • her father is an alcoholic
  • he's been mentally and physically abusive to her and her family
  • then I usually add, "not sexually abusive." Some people are drawn to such accounts, the more lurid the better, but I don't want them to think that's part of the veterinarian's growing up years because it just isn't true. 
 If what I've said so far still produces a blank expression, I then add:
  • the father can't understand why she won't give him the same merciful injection she gives animals in similar circumstances
  • meanwhile, I bring up the fact that she had to work her way through college and veterinary school, and if she were to be caught euthanizing a human being she could lose her license and end up in prison
  • then we usually have a discussion about why it's OK to euthanize a suffering animal but not a suffering human being
Soon the blank expression on the person's face simply glazes over. I've said too much and not well enough to pique their interest.

I still believe Brute Heart is a compelling read, especially for any child with an alcoholic parent or parents. Most of these kids, even after they become adults, could use a boost to their self-confidence.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Bit of Humor

Most of my posts are rather serious, so this month I'm sharing a bit of humor.

Gender Poetry from Slice of Life

(first from the woman)

Before I lay me down to sleep
I pray for a man who's not a creep.
One who's handsome, smart and strong,
one who loves to listen long.
One who thinks before he speaks,
one who calls, not waits for weeks.
Oh send me a king to make me a queen,
a man who loves to cook and clean.

(next from the man)

I pray for a deaf-mute gymnast nymphomaniac
with big boobs who owns a bar on a
golf course and loves to send me
out to go fishing and drinking.
This doesn't rhyme,
and I don't give a shit.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Linear Writing

Many writers feel they have to write a story from beginning to end. When telling a story or a joke, we can't skip around or those listening will lose interest. The beauty of writing as opposed to telling is time; time to think, change direction, rewrite, and so forth. We can jump around as much as we'd like, work on this chapter for a while, that paragraph, the conclusion until we are finished and satisfied with what we've created. (Completely satisfied never seems to happen for me, but I have to stop revising at some point.)

Writing is sort of like putting together a puzzle. Perhaps we feel like working on the blue pieces that make up the sky, or the maze of branches that forms the trees. It is probably a good idea to complete the border (the general framework of the story) before filling in the middle, but even that isn't a hard and fast rule.

If we force ourselves to write linearly, we are setting ourselves up for a bad case of writer's block. Stressing over "what comes next" could make us give up on a project; whereas working on another part of the story could help us fill the gap we abandoned. At the very least it will give us a sense of accomplishment and a more positive attitude about what we're writing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Snow

Ah the joys of spring (unless you happen to live in Bend, Oregon) where spring is a season that arrives for a week in February, and then disappears until about May. We are teased with a warm day now and then, but a spring bursting with blossoms, the kind that turns a young man's thoughts to love,  takes place somewhere else. Below is a  poem describing a taste of spring I experienced on Highway 97.

"April Snow"

Beads of snow dust my windshield,
bounce off the hood,
scurry across the asphalt.

Where are the robins?
Five miles south of here
it was sunny.

April 2013

Friday, March 7, 2014

Must Reads for Aspiring Writers

     Over Christmas I had coffee with a friend of mine. At one point in our conversation she told me about her son who’d had more than his share of bad luck including spine surgery followed by a serious accident. In pain most of the time and unable to do many of the physical things he used to do, he was thinking about being a writer.
     I suggested he read through my blog—all the way back to when I started it forty-four posts ago. My friend then asked if there were any books about writing I could recommend to him. I knew exactly what to tell her, and the fact I could do so without hesitation made me realize I am taking this writing business more seriously than I thought.
     Neither of us had anything except a napkin to write on, so I whipped out one of my business cards and listed my three favorite writing books on the back of it. I hardly ever remember to hand out one of these little marketing tools, so I was pleased to find a use for one of them.
     Here are the books I wrote down. I have added their Amazon descriptions.

     The Elements of Style by William Strunk
     This book is intended for use in English courses in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature. It aims to give in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style. It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention (in Chapters II and III) on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. The numbers of the sections may be used as references in correcting manuscript.

     On Writing by Stephen King
     “Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

     Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
     Think you've got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn't afraid to help you let it out. She'll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott's witty take on the reality of a writer's life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer's block and going for broke with each paragraph. Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Short Exerpt

I am a slow writer. I revise and revise and revise what I've already written, lucky to add a paragraph or two of new text each day. It's almost like taking one step forward, two steps back, but that's how I eventually reach the end of my manuscript.

For those of you curious to know what I'm working on now, here is an excerpt from the novel I am writing. It's a story inspired by the life of my great-grandmother who moved from Philadelphia to Colorado when she was twelve years old.

As soon as Clara adjusted to her sidesaddle, she and her Aunt Lou began riding across the nameless creeks and unfenced portions of the San Luis Valley. Clara rode ahead, her dark braids bouncing against her back as she punctuated her anger with every thud of her horse’s hooves. The farther she rode, the more she appreciated the rugged beauty of the open range where Mother Nature painted breathtaking landscapes then painted over them when the seasons changed. In the spell of a freedom she’d never known she opened her arms to the assault on her senses that waited in ambush behind every tree and boulder.

From Part I,  "Cowboys and Clotheslines"
Ginger Dehlinger