Thursday, May 31, 2007

Limiting labels

Holly Kennedy, author of two novels already on the shelves, The Tin Box and The Penny Tree stopped by my blog the other day and left this comment.

"How interesting that you write women's fiction (I read your profile)
-- not in a bad way, of course. In a very cool way. It's such a broad,
wide open market that calling it 'women's fiction' seems unfair, don't
you think?"

I agree with Holly. I sometimes think labels limit a book's potential. I have read countless books that fall under the women's fiction category and while I am a male who doesn't mind reading a book described as such or for that matter a novel with a bare chested man embracing some damsel in distress. I'll read ANYTHING that catches my fancy or is recommended by a trusted friend. However I do not think I am the typical male. Matter of fact I've been teased from time to time by my mostly male coworkers for the books I often read.

This same thing happens with the designations of Literary and Commercial. I read both but I know people who view anything that hits the best seller list as trash. This is not the case, but they will not be caught dead reading Jody Picoult, Janet Evanovich, or John Grisham. Then there are the opposite kind of people who would never crack open a Pulitzer winner. they use excuses like I'm not smart enough to understand that kind of stuff, or it would take me years to read a book like that, or I like something to actually happen in the books I read, all that physcological crap puts me to sleep. Again this is not always the case, but preconceived notion prevent readers form even picking up a certain type of novel.

There are other monikers that I feel limit a book's potential, all the so-called its Chick, Mom, Lad, and so forth. I've read books from all these categories and enjoyed them but only because I read EVERYTHING. Why can't we just say this is a dang good book that will appeal to people who like and list similar,but maybe more well known authors. After all there is no section in the bookstore labeled Women's fiction, or literary, or chick-lit.

Now I understand the need for categorizing romances, westerns, mysteries, Sci-Fi and so forth, but it sure seems to me that everything else puts a limit on your readership. I'm eager to hear my fellow writers opinion on this. Especially you published authors out there who have actually dove into the business side of the publishing world.

All the research in the world can't compare to real life experience. So talk to me. Tell why I'm wrong, or why I'm right.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Funkster

Okay I admit. there was a time when I thought Professional Wrestling was great. No, I never thought the antics were real, or that the outcome of the matches depended on each wrestlers skill. Yes, even as a young boy I knew wrestling was fake, but I loved it anyway. Sorry Steve, but its true the matches were staged. And if you really think about it, pro wrestling has every thing that a good piece of fiction must possess.



Characters- A book needs them and wrestling has never been shy of interesting characters.



Plot- Any wrestling federation that there has ever been has dozens of plots going on. Throw out the matches and the whole thing is really one continuous soap opera.



Suspense-There was a time when I was just as eager to see who would become the next world champion. Nowadays I'm more eager to find out who the initials R.A.B belong to. For you non Harry Potter fans this is a reference to something that came out in book six.


**********************************


So yesterday I go to the gym to work off the aftermath of my long weekend. I sitting on the bike pedaling my no shrinking rear end off when a man takes the bike next to me. I look over and who do I see?





For those who do not know this is Terry Funk from the legendary Funk family that included Dory, Dory Jr, and Terry. Not only is Terry a legendary wrestler but he has also appeared in numerous television shows and movies, including Paradise Alley with Stallone, Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze and Sam Elliott. (my wife would shoot me if I didn't mention Sam Elliott here - If you could give Johnny Depp Sam Elliott's voice and make him play the guitar like Willie Nelson she'd faint dead away)

Amarillo isn't that big of town and Terry Funk has lived her all his life so this isn't the first time I've ran across him. Matter of fact for those of you following along with the Feedstore Chronicles, Terry Funk and Dick Murdoch another famous wrestler used to come in and buy cattle feed. Back then they pissed me off cause they would sit around and chat with Earl, all the while spitting tobacco juice on the floor which I would have to clean up after they left.

In case you are wondering I rode the bike at level 5 for twenty minutes on a random cycle which means it simulated going up and down hills as well as level ground. Terry Funk a man thirty years my senior who can barely walk after years of abusing his body set his bike on level 9 for twenty five minutes all uphill. But I pretty sure I could outrun him.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Bloated Blogster

Three weeks of watching what I eat and exercising = 6 pounds lost
One long holiday weekend = 5 pounds gained

Could be worse at least I'm still one pound to the good. I have a shocking new flash for anyone else out there trying to lose weight at a doctors orders. Mexican food, Barbecue, and beer are not diet foods.

Here is a rundown of my weekend.

Friday I took in the latest Pirates movie.

Saturday I worked eight hours, okay I showed up and stayed eight hours. i won't lie and say I did much in the way of actual work. Afterwards I attended a graduation party in honor of a friend's daughter where I indulged in mass quantities of fajitas (chicken and beef), queso dip, numerous Shiner Bocks and a couple of shots o' tequila. This is where probably added four of those five pounds back.

Sunday again worked or as I like to call it mandatory attendance at the job site. Afterwards more Mexican food, at a different location followed by a wine tasting at a friend of a friends. actually my wife drank wine while I downed a few more Shiners. But in the spirit of the event I tried to hold my pink out to the side in a delicate fashion.

Monday, yes I put in my mandatory attendance and no not all postal workers get every holiday off. After work, back to the location of Saturday's party where we dined on leftover fajitas and barbecue ribs. But alas the Shiner was all gone so I had to resort to Bud Light.

On the writing front- Despite the rigors of the weekend I had a break through. Rewrote the beginning of my WIP (work in progress) and added a bit more spunk to my female protagonist. I feel like I'm back on the right track.

I also discovered this amusing tidbit this weekend. The twenty two worst places to live, not because of the way of life but because of the embarrassment on you return address. Check it out but I'll want you it's not for the faint of heart so if you shy away from strong language stay away.

So what is the strangest city name you've ever heard of?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Drowsy pirates, flying wizards, & dang good books

This is a catch up blog. A little bit of everything. Wednesday I worked my normal 8 AM to 4 30 Pm shift at work. That night I returned to work at midnight and put in another 8 hour shift without any sleep in between. Afterward I caught a two hour nap then attended my son's award ceremony at school and finally at eight thirty got in bed and dies for the next ten hours.

Yesterday, I went to see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie with my wife, four year old son, and four teenage girls that are friends of the family. Yes, they swooned over Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, but not nearly as much as my wife. The movie was okay. It certainly had its humorous moments and I appreciated the Un-Disney-esque ending. Won't say more so as not to spoil anything but The Curse of the Black Pearl was by far the best of the three. This one just got weird at times and the plot was a bit erratic. I did enjoy Keith Richard cameo and as usual they paid good homage to the original ride at Disneyland and Disney World. Can't wait to go back to Florida next year and ride the revamped version.

Finished another couple of books over the last two days. In case you are wondering why I always post these in pairs, it is because I generally read two books at once and seem to finish them within a day or so of each other. The first was Flyte by Angie Sage which is book two of the Septimus Heap series. The writing isn't elaborate, it's not meant tow be since the target audience is eleven and twelve year olds, but the story and characters are captivating and I'd recommend the series to anyone with children or to those who don't mind suspending their belief and acting like one.

I also read Alice Hoffman's Here on Earth which is exactly the kind of book I wish I could write. Dark, rich in character, physcological in nature, suspenseful, entertaining . The characters lives are a an out of control train that you know is going to run of the track. It's just a matter of when where, and how. This is not a feel good story, but I don't always read to feel good. I've often heard, especially on my first two novels that my writing is too dark. I realize that I am no Alice Hoffman but novels like Here on Earth give me encouragement that there is an audience out there for books that take a close look at life, the good and bad, that entertain yet teach at the same time, and that do not fall into the trap of happily ever after. Life never quite works out that way so why should fiction that is supposed to mirror reality?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mental Constipation

Since it has been a few days since I blogged about anything writing related, I thought I'd discuss every writers worst fear -- WRITERS BLOCK.

Now I've never had what I'd consider true writers block, which as i define it would be having a desire or need to write but not being able to conjure up a subject, characters, plot, or even an idea.

But I do sometimes have what I'd describe as writer's hurdle. I can see and imagine where I want to go, but there is some time of obstacle between me and the finish line. An impediment between the thoughts within my noggin and that flashing cursor on my computer monitor.

When this happens and I find myself staring at a blank screen for ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes I have a choice to make. Forget trying to get it right and just get something down. Sometimes this works and I write myself over the hurdle. If that doesn't work I have a few other constructive tactics that help, playing solitaire, hearts or free cell is not among them.

1) Listen to music. I favor Texas songwriters who tell a good story through their lyrics. Such as Robert Earl Keen, Charlie Robison, Cory Morrow. But I like nearly all types of music as long as the person singing actually writes the majority of the songs they perform. I have very little respect for the pretty faces that have decent enough voices but no heart behind their songs. But don't get me started because that is another blog for another day.

2) Read. Diving into a good story and getting involved with someone else's characters sometimes allows the voices I created to become clearer.

3) Drive. A good long car ride by myself is always good for my writing. But maybe not for the other drivers on the road once I get my mind wrapped totally around the story in my head.

4) Shower- A really long hot shower has away of melting away my mental barriers and allowing the flow to resume.

So how about the rest of your writers out there? Do you get writer's block or writer's hurdle, and how do you combat this hideous disease?

Jerry does his MS Telethon. Whoopi, Billy, and Robin host Comic Relief, Willie puts on Farm Aid. Where is Writers Relief and who should be the big name behind it?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Buy that man an Espresso

I heard this story on my Sirius satellite radio on the way home from work. I looked it up and read the article. You can follow the link but I'll paraphrase here for the sake of discussion.

Basically a guy got shot in the head from a small caliber weapon while sleeping. Then four hours later he awoke to find blood. The police said the bullet lost velocity going through the wall of his West Virginia mobile home. Someone had sprayed four or five rounds into his house.

Okay I'm a sound sleeper but I thin I'd wake up at the sound of a single gunshot much less four five. And when a bullet smacked in the head, whether it had lost velocity or not, I'd wake up and I'd be pissed, or curled up in the fetal position crying like a baby. Hey, it's easy to be tough until you take a bullet to the head.

By the way, near the end of the article it does say he'd been asleep about an hour after a night out on the town. Now there is a euphemism for ya' .

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ritualistic Writing

Not much to report writing wise this weekend. I managed to get a page or two down on chapter four, but already I'm thinking very little of it will survive when I open the file up and dive back in. I know a lot of writers do a rough draft and pretty much go straight through from beginning to end without revising. I tried that when penning my second novel and somewhere in the middle I found myself lost. Matter of fact I strayed so far from my original intent that I ended up quitting going back and rewriting my first novel for four or five months and then starting completely over. My third, A River Without Water is where I developed my current routine. Write a chapter or two. go back edit up to the point where I stopped. Write another chapter or two go back to page one and edit the now three or four chapters, and so on all the way through the end.

I've also tried using an outline, but found it a bit too rigid for me. I felt compelled to follow it come hell or high water, even when new and better ideas occurred to me.

I think most of the people who read this blog are writers and I'd like to hear how some of you go about the craft. Are you an outliner, a single rough draft kind of person, or do you have some other kind of quirk?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A sad day

Very sad news for all of us blogging writers and for all writers in general. Miss Snark is retiring. Like her or not, she bestowed a lot of good advice and gave all of us a bit of insight into the other end of the query process.

Taking Up The Slack

I've been a slacker these past few days. No new blog entry since Thursday, not a single word down in print on my WIP, no times spent researching things I need to know to help define the story and characters. I did manage to send out a handful of queries Thursday, and I edited Chapter Three based on my critique groups thoughts as well as a couple of other trusted readers. But like always I feel like I should have accomplished more over my two days off. However, as is often the case real life got in the way.

Sometimes it is frustrating to have some good thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my head but not having the time t o get words down on the screen. Over the last few days Chapter Four has gelled in my brain like grease on leftover porkchops and I think the finished product will be just as tasty. Yes The DIET is getting to me, but greasy porkshops have long been a favorite of mine, which is exactly why I'm now being forced to lose weight.

So I've got the chapter fleshed out in my mind. Hopefully I'll get a chance to start compiling the words so I can see if my ideas work as well on the page as they are in my mind. But if not today or tomorrow then Monday because in the meantime I'll keep pondering over my character and getting to know them better which always make the story easier to tell. And besides the things that prevent me from writing. Doctor appointments, end of school activities, quality time with my wife and sons ... are the very things that make me who I am. Without their love and support, I'd have no desire to write and certainly no motivation to chase the dream of becoming a published author.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A River Without Water

So I've wrote a bit about writing on here. Told a humorous story or two. But I've never really done much in the way of explaining what I write. Sure I've mentioned that I write commercial women's fiction and linked to my website, which I'm currently dismantling in the hopes of revamping. With knowledgeable help this time. Today is query day so in that spirit, I thought I'd post the part of my letter that doesn't change depending on the agent. I always research and tailor the letter to fit the individual agent, but the description of the book stays the same. I welcome all feedback, positive and negative, so let me know what you think works or doesn't work, or is just flat-out confusing.

Lindsay Parker has always run. As a young girl, she ran to feel free and alive. As a teenager, she chased glory in the track world. At seventeen, she slowed long enough for Rusty Hawkins to sweet talk her into the backseat of his Trans-Am.
For the last nine years Lindsay has simply ran away. Away from one failed relationship after another. Away from anger towards her father. Away from the abortion she will never forget.
Blue Riggins is a man others envy for his stout physical stature, confident, firm demeanor, and ice-cool approach to adversity. A rodeo star turned pro poker player, he knows this entire persona is merely a bluff. The only real thing in his life vanished four years ago when his wife died in childbirth. Since then, he has allowed no one to get close, including his young daughter.
Thanksgiving Day brings Lindsay and Blue together in the town of Eagles Rest, Idaho. Recollections of bygone holidays, strangers with familiar accents, and another woman’s pregnancy rekindle memories that lead Lindsay to finally face her past, and confront her father over the choice he made for her. She catches a ride to Oklahoma with Blue.
Lindsay, a woman who is angry and resentful over a teenage abortion, and Blue, a man who believes his wife would be alive had she chose that option, travel across the country. Along the way, Blue and Lindsay’s many differences come to light. She runs ten miles every morning, his idea of exercise is raking poker chips across a felt table, she shuns red meat, he thinks lettuce is the devil -- And the polar opposites of their grief.
Beneath these contractions, they share a sorrow for what might have been, a hope for the future, and an undeniable attraction to one another. But the rigors of the road, well-meaning but misguided friends, meddlesome family members, and the emotions of going back home might be more than their newfound love and strength can overcome.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Give me a C ... for confused

Have you ever heard of a referee competition? Follow me on this. Can you picture a bunch of guys standing out in some field, clad in their trusty black and white stripes competing to see how high they can throw a yellow flag? Me neither, but it might sound something like this if ESPN televised such an event.

"Boy Howdy Jim. Look at Frank Jones go. He's really on his A game today. I've never seen anyone signal false start with such zest."

"You said it Biff. He got a full 720 on that rotation. And his form was flawless."

Ridiculous right? Nobody cares how well a ref looks while he throws a flag or signals a penalty, so what would be the point of having them compete just for the sake of competition? Refs only have value as long as they are needed to police an actual game.

I couldn't agree more. So why in the world do we have cheerleader competition? What are they cheering for? And who are they leading is these supposed cheers?

Here in Amarillo we have at least two "organizations" that girls or guys of all ages can join and cheer. Not for sports teams but in cheer competitions. Why? Somebody please explain this to me.

I know someone will take offense to this and claim my attitude towards this is sexist, but really I don't think that is the case. To me it is more a case of putting the cart before the horse. It would be like having a Zamboni driver competition based on how pretty of turn they make at each end of the ice, when his real job is to lay a decent sheet down so the game can proceed. Or to take the analogy out of the arena, Like judging a conductor on how well he flings that little stick around(yes I'm aware that description makes me sound like a hick) instead of how well the symphony plays.

What's your opinion on this? I suspect most of you will disagree, but that's okay. I can live with rejection. I'm a writer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Float Your Boat

The last two books I've read couldn't be anymore different. Both were recommended to me by friends whose opinions I respect. The first, Little, big by John Crowley is a literary fantasy novel. The second, Eleven On Top by Janet Evanovich is most definitely commercial fiction. Crowley's brilliant prose often made me envious as a writer. Evanovich crafted her story in a way that made me laugh out loud through out. Little, Big took me several weeks to finish. I completed Eleven On Top in an evening and a half. But you know what? I enjoyed them both. And so would a lot of others. So why are there so many book snobs out there.

I once knew someone who carried around a certain type of book by day, literary classics so they would look intelligent, but read a different kind of novel by night, romance and mysteries. How stupid is that? There are a whole lot more people out there reading James Patterson than James Joyce. As long as a book entertains me, whether it be with humor and sex scenes, or awe-inspiring prose I don't care. Give me a character and story that I care about and it doesn't matter to me if I'm riding along to rid the world of an evil terrorist, trying to bring about social change, or joining a vengeful wife as she saws off her philandering husband's appendage with a rusty pocket knife. Okay, as a male that one might be too tough to read, but you get my point. Pun intended.

As a writer, I say anything that brings people into bookstores or gets them interested in reading is a good thing. So I don't read many horror , Sci-Fi, or historical novels. That doesn't mean I think I'm better than those who do. I don't care if you only read books about rabid goats who lust after cross-dressing porcupines. Just so long as you read.

Besides, whose to say one of these days, when I finally convince the world of my talent, that the goat book aficionado isn't going to be perusing the shelves at their local brick and mortar only to notice one of my novels on the shelf. They might just pick up my work, turn the jacket over and say "WOW, I've never heard of this Travis Erwin fella but he sure is good lookin', and get a load of that fish he's holding. Think I'll buy this novel too." But that wouldn't even be possible if they hadn't been at the store to pick up a copy of Me and Ewe: The Pointy Side of Love.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Flying Sasquatch Airlines

I've been making a lot of airplane reservations lately. I fly to Houston the first week in June, my wife and kids hit the skies a week later to visit relatives near St Louis, we've begun planning our tenth anniversary in October in which we'll jet off to Vegas. Now it is time for me to confess. I hate to fly. Actually that's not true. It's airports and other travelers that I despise. The flying and getting there quick are the only good things about the whole ordeal. I've told you all of that, just so I can tell you the following story about the time I swore of flying forever. Of course like most of my resolutions it didn't last, but for better than five years I kept my pledge and this is why.

In April of 1998 my wife and I were headed to Florida. We'd been married for six months and this trip was supposed to be a sort of honeymoon Version 2.o since we hadn't had a lot of money to spend on the first one. We planned to hit Disney World and visit her best friend from high school who resided in Stuart, Florida at the time.

We drove to Oklahoma City and flew out of there since the flight was half of what it would be direct from Amarillo, but of course we had a long layover in St. Louis.

That afternoon we were finally boarding the plane for the final leg of our journey when the pilot got on the intercom and told everybody to get seated ASAP because a storm is coming in and we might be able to beat it and leave before the bad weather hit. Everybody scrambled to stow away their carry-ons and find a seat. Southwest does not have assigned seating like most other airlines. No sooner did I buckle my seat belt when the stewardess appeared and asked if I would mind relocating to the emergency exit row because FAA rules said a capable adult had to occupy those seats. Being the nice guy I am me and my wife got up and moved. Whoever said no good deed ever goes unpunished must have been on an earlier flight.

Back then Southwest still had the planes where the emergency row seats faced each other. I sat next to the window, my wife was to the right of me and beside her sat a nice looking guy in a dark suit. Then they sat the people in front of us. He looked a lot like this.

Except hairier. Clad in a stained muscles shirt that only a barber could have removed from his body because the cloth the hair on his shoulders had seemingly grown over the fabric, a pair of Bermuda shorts, and a pair of flip-slops this guy sits directly in front of me and commences talking. About absolutely nothing.

The plane taxied out on the runway and then the storm moved in. To escape conversation with George "The Animal" Steele's long lost brother I lifted a magazine high in front of my face, but this guy was not to be deterred. He kept right on talking as if I was still listening. His wife, no beauty queen herself but a regular debutante next to him, subtly tried to rein him in. Again he was not to be stopped. We sat on the tarmac for almost two hours while the plane rocked at the wind gusts, Rain slashed the fuselage, and hail beat down. How did I fill the time?

Glad you asked. By listening to this jackass. But what about your magazine? Oh, he put an end to that by reaching across and tugging down the pages so I could see him talking. He must have asked me a thousand times to guess what he did for a living. I ignore him as long as possible, but finally, I relented to his incessant badgering and the constant tugs on my magazine. "What? What do you do for a living?"

"Absolutely nothing."

Okay, I didn't know how to respond to that so I went back to reading. Only to be interrupted again. "My wife here is a nurse so I don't really need to make any money. We do all right just on her salary, but I do sort of have a job. I win stuff. Off the radio. I got me half a dozen phone lines and a bunch of radios set up. All I do is call up and win. Won this trip we're on as a matter of fact."

"That's good," I responded. I forgot to mention the fact that this guy has been sitting with his legs crossed and his nasty green fungus infected big toe dangling right before my eyes for over an hour as the storm raged outside.

Next he went into his Bubba Gump spiel of everything he'd ever won. 584 large pizzas, 279 movie passes, dozens of massages, ticket to Cardinals, Rams, Blue's games, dog grooming, flowers, lawn service, and a whole bunch of other crap I didn't care to hear about. Oh, and a brand new Firebird but he didn't have the money for insurance so he had to sell the car. About thirty minutes into his, Things I've won speech he ran out of material. But that didn't stop him for long. next her focused on the weather.

"See those clouds out yonder. They are cumulus clouds and ... blah, blah blah." I tuned out most of what Sasquatch said, but at this point the man to my wife's right chimed in and said, "No they're not."

The beast looked surprised to hear from an new person, but he quickly seized on the opportunity. "Sure they are, you can tell be the ...."

No you're wrong," insisted the suit wearer. For the next fifteen minutes the man politely argued with Mr. Hairy Know-It-All. Finally, Sasquatch's bride looked at the guy in the suit and said, "Hey, aren't you the weatherman on channel seven?"

"Yes I am," replied Suitman.

Now did the beast stop arguing or realize he was a fool for arguing about clouds with an actual meteorologist? Nope. Not a chance.

The rest of the flight was just as bad. we ended up arguing over the names of the towns below us until we finally arrived in Orlando some four hours later than scheduled. then, four or five days later while walking amid a throng of people in the United Kingdom section of Epcot who do you think I spotted headed my direction? You guessed it, so I quickly pulled my wife into a shop selling authentic and expensive English tea sets. My wife asked in a strange voice "Why did we come in here?"

I pointed out the window and said, " To avoid that guy." Just as Sasquatch walked by still clad in that same muscle shirt. As I watched the thick dark rug of his shoulders passed by I swore right then and there, that after our flight home, I'd never sail the skies again. Some resolutions are bound to be broke, but I'm sure thankful Southwest did away with those facing seats.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Semen to MySpace - Who said research is a drag?

I'm always torn between blogging about something writing related, or something funny and entertaining. Sometimes I'm lucky and come up with an anecdote that is both, or so I hope anyway. I have a story I want to tell, and that I've promised WordVixen, about my first trip to Walt Disney World. Or actually it's more about the plane ride to Florida than the parks themselves, but it doesn't have a thing to do with writing so I think I'll put it off another day or two since yesterdays Porsche story had no literary merit or slant.

So now that we've established that today's blog will be neither funny nor entertaining, let me ask the few, the desperate, the regular readers of this blog a few questions. Have you ever read a published novel that uses internet chat as part of the story? Like instant messages via MySpace or some other forum? I'm curious the proper way to format such a thing in manuscript form.

Also do any of you know of a good book or internet site for abbreviations and other chat terms. I know the basics lol, roflmao, brb, and such. I have spent a little time on chat rooms in the last couple of weeks and have seen stuff I have no idea what means. Since this is a teenager I'm assuming she would know most of these. I don't want to get too elaborate or I'll confuse the less technical of readers out there but I want the narrative to be believable and fell real. My friend Jennifer Archer used some of this in her novel Sandwiched (A great read by the way) but I would like to find a few other examples and I know they have to be out there. So somebody please help me out.

Bull semen is the other subject I'm researching for this novel so if anyone happens to have some insider knowledge about this lucrative business, especially the duties of a job title semen collector, and are willing to admit said knowledge let me know. Ive got a good angle on a ranch about ninety miles from here where I can go and watch both the collection and the insemination process. Sounds like fun afternoon to me.

Still working on a title for this one, but whatever I come up with should be interesting, given the diversity of the characters and the subject matter.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The world is full of 'Em

How come you rarely see a Porsche with tinted windows? I'll give you my opinion later but for now let me tell you about my ride into town this morning.

I'm sitting at a stop light listening to the radio when I hear this engine revving over and over. I glance to my right and there is this guy staring at me like a sixteen year old boy out on a Friday night in his dad's car. Only this guy is mid fifty at least. With a salt and pepper beard. He looked like a college professor. He revs the engine again and grins at me. Now I'm not much of a car guy so while I realize he's driving some kind of silver sports car I didn't pick up on the fact it was a Porsche, until he light turns green and he takes off squealing his tires. He makes it all of about three blocks before we hit another red light.

Again, the same routine only this time and smile and shake my head at his pathetic attempt to relive some bygone dream of his. This time a car turns right off the side street just as the light turns green so I'm out in front while he is stuck behind traffic. Now keep in mind I'm only doing about thirty five or forty miles an hour. Not trying to race this character, I'm just trying to get home so i can get on the computer and do some work.

So this idiot catches me in half a mile or so, pulls up beside me, grins like a shit-eating monkey, and shoots off like rocket, obviously proud to have outran me and my 1997 Chevy Blazer with his brand new, sticker-still-on-the-window, sleek, silver Porsche.

That's when it occurs to me. People who buy these kind of cars don't tint the windows because then the whole world wouldn't be able to look at them and whisper, Oooh look at the guy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

In, Outs, and In-Betweens

Sorry for the absence of a fresh new blog yesterday. I was too busy cradling my thumb drive and whispering sweet nothings into its USB port. Yes, I found it. After taking a looooong lunch at work yesterday -- scouring the land, walking every parking lot, bugging every receptionist about their lost and found, agonizing over my stupidity - It was in the my car the whole time. Yes I'd looked there before, but then I last night I dropped my mailbox key and it slid down the hole where the seat belt comes through. I stick my finger down to retrieve it and what do I pull out? MY thumb drive. Hallelujah!

Check this blog out to learn about your options in backing up material, so you don't have to have a panic attack like I did.

Just found out about a new game called LieBrary over at WordVixen's blog. Sounds like a blast, but not sure I could talk any of my friends into playing it with me. Maybe my critique group, but that would mean taking a week off from doing actual works on our novels and I'm not sure playing games is the best use of our time. But I would love to find someone interested just to try it out.

A lot happened at the mailbox yesterday. besides finding my thumbdrive I found a rejection letter. For a complete I sent off to an agent back on in early November. It wasn't all bad though. She offered a few suggestion about the beginning, which I have actually changed quit a bit (Yeah I know, I should have made those changes before I started querying but at the time I thought the beginning was as good as I could make it. The light didn't dawn on me until later.) She questioned one secondary character's motivation and whether I really need him for the story or not. I'll go back and read with her views in mind, but off the top of my head the character serves an important role, albeit short-lived. However in her letter, nearly a page and a half long, this agent said the reason she ultimately had to pass was not because of the the writing or story itself, but the fact she'd already taken on several projects from debut authors of similar material and she didn't want to flood the editors she knew that might be in the market. She ended by saying not to give up, that another agents might feel more confidant taking the novel on, but if not and I was again seeking representation on a future project to send it her way and she would be glad to read it. She also highlighted a few things in the manuscript that she thought I did extremely well - dialogue and capturing the essence of human emotions. Those are her words not mine.

This means I'll spend Thursday researching and sending out more queries since I only have one full MS and two partials still out. The one full is for a fabulous agent, the one I blogged about after THE CAll a couple of weeks ago, but I've learned not to put all my eggs in one basket. So what if that is a cliche, can't writers use a cliche every once in a while? Cut us some slack. We're people too.

Monday, May 7, 2007

When things go bad ...

They go really bad. Now I have lost my thumb drive, the heart and soul of my writing. Yes I have copies of my stuff but the very latest versions were on this thumb drive, including the only version of chapter two and three of my latest WIP.

And I have traveled to hell and back today, the doctor's office, pharmacy, college registrar to sign my son up for another round of dance. Then to work, lunch at Subway, because now I got to be like Jared. When is that dude's fifteen minutes up anyway? Then Critique group. Damn, Damn, Damn. What are the chances I'll find it or somehow get it back? My bet says None drags Slim out the back door kicks his skinny arse.

Did I already say Damn, Damn , Damn?

Rejoice! All You Evil Vegetarians

Monday is when my critique group meets every week and tonight marks a sad day for me. For the first time in about three years I will not be bringing any pages of my own. Not because I'm a slacker, I actually finished about twenty five or thirty pages this week, I just don't feel good about the majority of what I wrote this week.

I'm not talking about the typos, or myriads of punctuation errors, or even my atrocious grammar. I can live with someone reading my material that is laced with those types of errors. Heck, those of you who read this blog are subjected to that stuff everyday. I'm talking content, voice, and just plain lackluster storytelling. Now I have taken material to crit only to find out the story is working near as well as I imagined. My group has picked apart a character or two and moaned over a weak plot, but luckily not lately. They still offer a ton of valuable help, but usually we are talking about fine tuning a character not an entire makeover. Anyway I don't feel comfortable enough with this one POV character (yes, its that pesky teenage girl) to unleash her on the world so my streak will end tonight.

Changing the subject, i went tot he doctor this morning to hear my results on some bloodwork I had done a couple of weeks ago. Now anybody that knows me has heard me say, Lettuce is the devil. so is broccoli, bean sprouts, carrots, beets, spinach, and just about everything else plant that people eat. I don't do vegetables. I am a carnivore, with a bit of bread thrown in.

For years people have told me. One of these days your diet is gonna catch up to you. You cholesterol must be out of this world. You're going ti keel over with a heart attack before you forty.

Okay all at once let me hear it -- I TOLD YOU SO.

Feel better now. My good cholesterol was too low and now I have some nice new pills to take every night. My blood sugar was too high and my doctor directed me to lost 55 pounds. Yes, you read that right FIFTY-FIVE as in the same number Sammy Hagar shouted that he couldn't drive. Right now I tip the scales at 275 sow e are talking about nearly one-fifth of my body weight. I'm gonna try and lost some weight, but don't expect to see me chomping on celery stick anytime soon. Think I'll go on the all beef jerky diet.

Anybody got any suggestions that doesn't involve a bowl of lettuce?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Happy Feet

Keeping with the recent Dance Fever theme let me tell you about my weekend. Friday night I attended a dress rehearsal for a dance recital. From 4-6 year-olds performing ballet and tap dance routines all the way through interpretive dances by a college student. All in all there were about seventy five or eighty girls dancing. And ONE six-year-old boy. My oldest son.

And let me be the first to say he did a marvelous job.

Last year his class at school was well ahead of their required curriculum at the end of the semester so his teacher, a wonderful lady and a lifelong tap dancer, brought in her tap shoes and showed the kids a few basic steps. My son was hooked. He begged to take tap classes, but when I checked out the schedule out of local community college the classes for his age were full. He was mighty disappointed so when Fall came around we enrolled him the day registration opened. From the first class he was hooked, but then again this is the same kid who gets in trouble at least once a month for trying to kiss some little girl, or his teacher. And suddenly he was the lone male in a class of sixteen girls.

The class was actually a dual tap and ballet. Ballet isn't exactly his favorite, but he endures it until he can set those legs of his to twitchin' in tap.

Friday night when he hit that stage and saw all those people out in the audience .. his chin come up and his chest puffed out as if to say "These people came just to see me and I'm gonna give them a show." Of course only about twelve of us were there to see him, but not in his eyes. Like every other child that age he didn't execute every step to precision, but he did dance his little behind off with a dramatic flourish that made me burst with pride.

What does this have to do with writing you might ask. Not much but you can check out my previous blog on the similarities of a child and a novel here

I hope he sticks with the dancing, because it is obvious he really enjoys it and I truly believe he has a talent for it. My wife and I plan to encourage him, but at the same time I've seen parents push their kids to hard at an early age and ruin what should be just youthful fun. I won't do that.

Somewhere down the line one of his friends or some other boy will ridicule him for engaging in "girly" behavior. I'll tell him the same thing I told some of my friends who asked why I would LET him take ballet. "Hey, if his dad can write emotional laden relationship stories why can't he do a pirouette?" And if he's till dancing when he's older I'll simply tell him to respond with ."While you're outside chasing a ball in the heat I'll be inside dancing with your girlfriend."

Maybe I should teach him how to box too .

Friday, May 4, 2007

Shake it all about

Thursdays and Fridays are my normal days off from work. Thursdays( when I’m not mandatoried to work that is) I have to myself and I usually spend a good portion of the day working on my writing. Fridays I do a bit but I also keep my four-year-old son, because he only Montessori classes four days a week. We have a good time hanging out together although he does a pretty good job of conning me, which is why I dine at Chuck E. Cheese for lunch about every other Friday, and why I’m slightly out of breath as I type this.

At his insistence, I just finished doing the hokey pokey with him, in my underwear no less. It wasn’t a pretty sight I can promise you. Had someone walked up and peaked in the window they would have been blinded for life. Now believe it or not, this wasn’t my first experience with this particular little ditty.

Sure, there are authors out there who have published multiple books, won awards, sold million of copies, but I’d wager there ain’t a heck of a lot of writers out there who have done the hokey pokey with a New York editor under the musical direction of a Western Swing band. I have.

Every year at the conclusion of our local conference, Frontier In Writing, the speakers and staff along with the local volunteers head to the Big Texan. In case you’ve never heard of it, The Big Texan is a somewhat famous restaurant that offers a free 72oz. steak to anyone who can eat it and the trimmings, a baked potato and salad within one hour. The place has been featured in several movies, magazines and television shows and is chocked full of Texas d├ęcor and souvenirs. Every Saturday night in the summer they open the outside tent, bring in a live band and offer a good sized dance floor to go along with your steak and beer.

So there we were better than dozen conference volunteers, two or three agents, a couple of editors and five or six published authors, amid the usual array of tourist and travelers. As one of the few able bodied men I had danced far more than my normal three or four songs. I’d been bust trying to teach the foreigners( in this case anybody not born and raised in Texas) how to properly two step because the thing people do in other states is not the Texas Two Step, trust me on this. Anyway I was several Shiner Bocks into a fun evening, when the band, for God only knows why launched into the hokey pokey. Kensington Books editor, Hilary Sares, (I’ll go ahead and give you her name because I don’t think she would mind. At least I hope not.) grabbed me by the arm and said , “Let’s go do the hokey pokey.” I looked at her and with my most befuddled tone asked, “Are you serious?” “Yeah,” she answered. “Why not?”

Why not? We were in public. Two tables over was a group of my coworkers. The hokey pokey is a kids song and dance. I’m to big to do anything but the two step. My body does not look good shaking all about. Think the gopher in CaddyShack and you get the idea.

But a few second later, there I was sticking my right foot in, turning myself around and yes, shaking it all about. No it wasn’t pretty. Just ask my coworkers who were there and like to remind me about it from time to time.

But I don’t regret it because Hilary ranks as one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met, both within the business and out. Nor do I regret doing the hokey pokey with my son this morning because he will only be four once, and that truly is, What it’s all about.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Belly-Achin'

I haven't done much in the way of whining, griping, and belly-aching on this blog, but given my current mood and the way this week has gone I'm going to unleash a myriad of complaints today. Below is the list of irritations currently rankling my brain

1) The Real World - Plain and simple, real jobs stink when you are an unpublished writer trying to get where you want to be. This week not only was I forced to work one of my two days off, but I've also had to work on a few things work related off the clock instead of my writing.

2) W.I.P - So my work in progress has been going good, better than expected for a new novel. Chapter One and Two came together nicely and for early drafts I am really pleased ... but sure enough my fears of the 16 year-old girl's POV have come true. I'm struggling. I know what I to say and have happen but so far I'm not pleased with the tone and feel.

3) My website - Okay, this is the one some of you other writers might be able to help me out with. My regular website, traviserwin.com , is still not where I want it to be. I'm not pleased with the look or the info that is there. Feeling I needed to post a sample of my writing over there I recently put one of my short stories up. But is it my best? No I don't think so. I still have hopes that some of my better stories will find homes in publications somewhere, paying publications would be even better, so I don't want to kill those chances by posting on my site. On the other hand, do I really want something out there for the world to see that I don't feel like is my best?
And what about a sample chapter from one or all three of my completed novels. I have heard conflicting reports on this. From - No, don't post any of your novel because then it is considered published and publishers almost never look at already pubbed work. Then I've heard, Yes a small portion such as a chapter is fine. It is no different that an excerpt in a magazine? Can anybody out there tell me for certain which of these schools of thought are correct?

4) Home Woes- I live out in the stick, my house is old, about to fall down around me, I'm afraid my well is on its last legs, my septic tank is in danger of collapsing, I have three acres of grass, yuccas, and weeds that needs mowing, yet here I sit at the computer typing away because that is what I'd rather be doing.

Okay I'm done now. Just had to get my insecurities and gripes out there in the open, But seriously if anyone out there can answer my questions about work posted on website let me know. I will try to post a more informative and entertaining blog a bit later but for now my WIP calls. Now, for some positive thinking ... Come on Travis, you can do it. Think like a 16 year-old girl.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Grey Matter

No, not that grey matter. What I'm talking about is the stuff that makes for great fiction. The inconsistencies of life. The conflicting dilemmas we are all confronted with. The times when there is no easy choice -- where every decision comes with consequences. Sometimes grave consequences.

I just finished reading T.C. Boyles, The Tortilla Curtain which is a marvelous example of unbiased fiction. In this particular case the author tells the story of a married couple of illegal aliens trying to survive and find their slice of the American Dream on the outskirts of LA. As a counterpoint he uses a couple that on the surface is already living that dream. Through the eyes of these characters we examine the border issue that seems to be getting larger everyday. He also uses some great metaphors but I won't spoil the novel by saying anymore.

When you stop to think about it there isn't a whole lot in this world that isn't grey matter. At least if you have an open mind and REALLY look at all the nuances. there are always choices to be made that require a bit of debate. Pros versus Cons. Even on the most polar of issues. The ones that often divide the country.

Politics - I dare you to find a candidate that agrees or disagrees with every single thing you do. In the end we choose the one that fits best, simply vote along party lines.

Religion - Sure you could say this is a black and white issue, Either you believe or you don't. But Who do you believe in? God, Allah, Buddha ... and I know this is dangerous territory, but surely every one regardless of inclination has had a doubt somewhere along the line. Maybe not in the grand scheme of things. I'm certainly not accusing you of all being non-believers, but you've had to stop and think, Is buying a lottery ticket a sin? ... Do I really need to tithe the full ten percent? ... What about a beer every now and then. I'm going to stop here, because I'm already in over my head and this is a conversation for a whole other type of blogpage but still, There is a lot of grey matter out in this world and I happen to like my fiction chocked full of it. Hearing two sides to a complex issue educates me gives me something to think about, and yes, I do believe that well done fiction can be educational ... as long as the author gives the reader sufficient cause to trust the words on the page. But give me cause as a reader to lose that confidence and I no longer care about the words you wrote. So dive into that grey matter but please do it responsibly. Don't drink and drive. Call your mother every Sunday, and don't forget to tip the waitstaff. Good night and good reading.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

'Cause I'm Lazy

This has been one heck of a lousy day. Not as far as the writing goes, but real world stuff, so I'm gonna cheat and send you other places for your daily dose of information and entertainment.

Frontiers In Writing Conference - If you live within a days drive of Amarillo and already write or want to start, I suggest you take a serious look at attending this years event. June 8th and 9th if I have the dates right. I know I'll be there.

Willie's Birthday- Willie Nelson turned 74 yesterday. Go check out my friend Britta Coleman's blog about Willie and while your at it go find her novel Potter Springs in your local bookstore and give it a read. You won't be sorry.

Ever wonder who the mysterious Bluefingers is that leaves all those comments on my blog. Pop on over to this blog and find out. But beware, I just found out she might be some kind of evil spy because of all the tasty things in this world to eat she is currently touting bean sprouts.