Thursday, April 30, 2009
Yesterday my oldest had to leave school do to multiple upchucking so I left work and picked him up. He was fine the rest of the day, but as he was sitting on the couch laughing uncontrollably at Tom and Jerry cartoons I got to thinking.
Over the years lots of people have claimed that cartoon violence has desensitized out culture from violence. Shows Like Tom & Jerry, Wile E. Coyote, and others have been cited. But if you ask me Popeye has had a far great negative impact. Those cray unfounded spinach claims aside I blame Wimpy and the whole "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today," philosophy for the worlds crumbling economy.
Still not sold on twitter? I am, for lots of reasons but just this week I discovered via twitter the fabulous term aporkalypse. So much better than swine flu if you ask me.
Today is Willie's 76th birthday. Shame on you if you need me to explain that by Willie I mean The Red Headed Stranger. The King of Hemp and Bio Diesel. The Godfather of modern Texas music.
On that note here's a little musical tribute the one and only Willie.
What Would Willie Do - Gary Allan
Ill Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again by Toby Keith
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Writing is easier than finding the time to sit down and do it.
Writing is easier than researching agents to discover their like, dislikes, and track record of sales.
Writing a four hundred page novel is easier than a one page query, or synopsis.
Writing is easier than for a response to those queries.
Writing is easier than separating your emotions from the completed work.
Spend hour after hour nurturing something and see how attached you come to be. I don't care if it's tiny little tree you plant, water, and fertilize in your backyard, a blank canvas that you slowly bring to life with your pallet, or a stack of computer paper that you transform into a manuscript, when you pour yourself into it it becomes much more than an inanimate object.
All writers have taken their turn on the roller coaster, myself included. The ones that get published are the ones that can handle the stomach churning drops. Sure, they may step away from the ride , they may even hurl up their milk duds, but they are not afraid to get back on, time after time until they conquer that evil roller coaster.
That brings us to the point where I tell you about a couple of my friends. I've never met Stephen Parrish and Erica Orloff but I'm proud to call both friend. I've read their blogs for several years now. They also came to came to my family's rescue when we needed it most this past January. They organized the phenomenal fundraiser that so many of you contributed to. For that they will always have my gratitude, but it was their talent as writers that first drew me to become regulars on their blogs and it is that talent that makes me admire them most.
Erica has been riding the coaster a long time and her talent has shown through in the many books she has published over the years. This Friday her latest comes out and I for one will be hitting my local store to pick up a copy. Magickeepers is the first installment in her new young adult series and it is being released under the pen name of Erica Kirov.
Stephen has been battling for a while and this week he too conquered the beast. Stop by his blog and congratulate him that his first novel Adamant Stone has been bought by mystery/suspense imprint Midnight Ink.
Meanwhile I will keep battling. This past week I received my first ever review. For making the top 500 of the amazon contest I "won" a publishers weekly review/ Actually ti wasn't as bad as I feared it might. after all if the review had been all rainbows and glitter I would have made the top 100. Anyway, I thought I'd share it with y'all, warts and all.
ABNA Publishers Weekly ReviewerWith a single exception, men are louts in this fitfully comic saga of serial sexual harassment and one woman's revenge set in a small-town Oklahoma Ford dealership in the late 1990s. The good guy is 37-year-old top salesman Hank, who started washing cars on the lot when he was 16. Remaining loyal to his increasingly shrewish high school sweetheart, he opts out of a scurrilous scheme by new owner Junior -- the sleazy son of the deceased, revered founder -- to bet on who can first bed a succession of busty receptionists. Hank's disdain for the testosterone-powered shenanigans bonds him with strait-laced Fiona, who handles the dealership's finances and with whom he shares his fantasy of one day visiting the islands of the Caribbean, despite his wife’s preference to visit "the biggest mall in all of America." The novel's emphasis on bumptious men behaving badly eventually palls, but author's rendition of questionable car lot sales ploys plays into perceived car-salesman stereotypes with plausible humor, and the story's resolution is satisfying.
And then today I received a rejection on the full manuscript that said much the same thing but in a very different way. Sure I feel a bit nauseous, but I've been here before and already my mind is spinning. I have a few ideas for revision. For bolstering that palling plot and shoring up the sagging middle. I've also been making steady progress on the feedstore memoirs so it won't be long until I'm back on the ride, pulling down that lap bar and gearing up for one hell of a ride.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
What an inspirations. Ms. Angelou's spirit, wit, and elegance held the crowd captive.
She spoke of honoring those who have provided all of us with the opportunities we now have. She talked about rainbows in the cloud and how we all had them in their past and it was just as important that we find way to be someone else's rainbows. She sang, she laughed, she cracked jokes as she told bits of her history. And all of it was wrapped inside a great personality and told with a smile that truly did light up the entire arena.
Then toward the end she spoke directly to me. Or so it seemed. Like a sinner sitting in the first row of pews I couldn't help but feel Ms. Angelou was addressing me when she started talking about humor and laughter.
First she said, "Never trust anyone who doesn't laugh."
I couldn't agree more.
Then she went on to add. "You see those people with the back of their hands pressed to their foreheads. They go around saying. 'I'm not laughing, because I'm serious.' " For that last part she adapted a falsetto to her voice to imitate those kind of people's speech pattern.
Then, in her own voice Maya, said, "I don't know how serious any of them are but they sure are boring as hell." The place erupted in laughter.
Then she gave us a bit of history on one of her more lighthearted poems. She prefaced it by saying. "I am not nor have I ever been a vegetarian." And suddenly I liked her all the more.
Then she shared a story about a visit some twenty odd years ago to a health diner where the waitress ridicule her for simply reaching for a package of cigarettes. I found that poem in the internet and I'm going to share it here.
The Health-Food Diner
No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).
Not thick brown rice and rice pilaw
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I'm dreaming of a roast).
Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).
No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run
Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).
Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.
-- Maya Angelou
I don't smoke, but I understand exactly how she feels and that is Maya's true gift, capturing the human spirit. Whether it be a poem, an oral story or classic prose on a page she speaks not to the brain but to the heart and soul of those fortunate enough to be her audience.
An interesting tidbit. The very same West Texas A&M university is soon hosting Karl Rove as their commencement speaker. I can't imagine any tow individuals having more dissimilar life philosophy's than Ms. Angelou and Mr. Rove so I'll give the university kudos for their diversified approach.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Back in November of last year I did a My Town Monday post on the world's fastest athlete ... The American Quarter Horse. At that time I told you that the American Quarter Horse Association was based in Amarillo and I even showed you a picture of the AQHA offices. For this week's post I'm hopping just next door to those very same offices. To the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum.
I visited the facility this week and had a spectacular guide.
I'm ashamed to say that even though the Hall of Fame & Museum first opened in July of 1991, I'd never been until this past week. That truly was my loss as the place was packed full of both educational and fascinating characters and stories that neither my photographs or descriptions will do justice. The museum sits right on Interstate 40 and should you ever pass through I highly recommend you stop in and take a look around. There is an admission charge, but at only 6 bucks per adult it is worth every penny.
Outside there are various bronze statues as well as a small arena where a variety of events take place. One of the more famous racing quarter horses was Dash for Cash. He is depicted in the picture just below.
Oh, but that isn't simply a bronze sculpture. It also serves as a headstone as Dash for Cash is actually buried underneath.
I found it interesting that the first human inductees into the hall of fame occurred in 1982 it wasn't until 1989 that the first horses were selected to the Hall. As you walk into the building there is large are called the Grand Hall which is lined with plaques that highlight the name, year of induction and a picture of each inductee. At you feet is a large chart depicting the original bloodlines of the breed. According to my guide every Quarter Horse can trace it's heritage back to one of the horse on that chart. I took several pictures but none came out.
Also on the main floor there is a art gallery with a large collection of Orren Mixer paintings and several educational displays that emphasize the versatility of the breed. There are activities for kids as well as videos showing the horses in action. But upstairs is where the place comes alive.
Every inductee (214 people and horses thus far) has a display. This is the area that will bring me back. You can literally spend hours reading the stories and looking at the display pieces associated with each of the Hall of Famers.
The All- American Futurity is the Super Bowl of Quarter Horse races. The first race was ran in 1959. Galobar won that race out of gate 8. The very same gate 8 in the following photo.
Only one horse, Special Effort has ever won all three legs of the Quarter Horse Triple Crown.
And then tucked away and available by special request is the reading room.
The shelves are lined with book about everything from western heritage, horses, cowboys, and Native Americans. It has a great feel and many of the books are rare out of print that a person would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Access to the room is by request only, as it is not in part of the building open to public access.
Speaking of private access ... thanks to my insider tour guide I was able to see the working side of the museum as well.
Things such as this office door from the old original Quarter Horse office building.
The story goes that somebody kept this artist waiting a little too long so he grabbed a bottle of liquid white out and created this piece.
Stored in the back room are dozens of old saddles, chaps, hats and other assorted artifacts. There are also more books, canisters of film, and video than one person could ever go through in a lifetime. Luckily the museum is staffed with many talented and passionate people to organize it all and present it in ways that not only will appeal to horse lovers, but also anyone who enjoys expanding their knowledge and learning about new things.
I'll leave you with one last photograph.
Behind these three lovely ladies you will see a statue depicting the ideal American Quarter Horse. And the ladies from left to right ...
Crystal Phares- Crystal is the museum curator or collections. She also served as my wonderful tour guide. Crystal is also a very talented writer and you have probably seen her comments on my blog before. Be sure and stop by her blog, Everything and Nothing At All to say hi.
Shannon Strauss - Shannon also has a blog called Ramblings. She is leaving Amarillo and the AQHA Museum to take a job on a ranch down in the hill country of Texas. I'm sure she'll be missed but stop by her blog and wish her well on her new endeavors.
Ande Ragsdale - Ande is the Manager of Educational Programs at the AQHA Museum and Hall of Fame. She is also a poet, blogger and artist. If you live in or around Amarillo check out her art show going on now through May 5th at the 806 down on 6th street. She often posts poetry on her blog I Need My Wit To Kick In.
Special thanks to Crystal for taking the time to give me the VIP tour and to Shannon and Ande for posing for the picture. Ande now hold the distinction of being the first person I've ever met face to face that I first became acquainted with via the blogosphere.
As always, check back through Sunday and Monday for more My Town Monday posts from all over the globe.
THIS WEEK'S LINKS
Lana Gramlich - Abita Springs, Louisiana (Flatwoods Preserve)
Jenn Jilks - Muskoka, Ontario Canada (Guerilla Gardening)
Debra - Village of Peninsula (Rookeries))
Barbara Martin - St Jacobs County, Ontario, Canada (Kissing Bridge)
Clair Dickson - Somerset Township, Michigan (McCourtie Park)
Chris - Genoa, Italy
Linda McLaughlin - Anaheim, California (Public Library)
Mary - Olmsted Falls, Ohio (Plum Creek)
Gary Dobbs - Rhondda Falls, England (Land of My Fathers)
Cloudia - Honolulu, Hawaii (Shangila)
Sunday, April 26, 2009
It's always good to see a fellow Amarilloan find success.
Friday, April 24, 2009
My six year old suddenly has a new hobby. Writing books or maybe I should say creating books since they are heavy on pictures and light on words. Mostly there are about animals though he has started one about pirates.
The first as was all about animals. Here are a few shots.
His caption reads The Dolphin, or at least it does by his idea of phonics.
Then there is his turkey
As a sequel to the animal book he made one all about his favorite animal ... sharks. Here is my favorite page.
His penciled words are hard to read in the picture but it reads Shrks et met which translates to Sharks eat meat.
See he's like me in more ways than one. A writer and a carnivore at heart.
I wish i could find his pirate book to show you some of those pages but like a true writer he doesn't like anyone to see the early stages. actually he's probably just hidden his notebook so his brother doesn't use any pages, but nevertheless I can't find it.
I am proud to see him working so hard on his books but I got quit the chuckle the other morning. he got up early, a rarity for him, so that he could work on his book before school but when it came time to leave he hadn't gotten done as much as he wanted.
I made him put away his crayons and work in progress and he immediately started crying. through big, tear-filled eyes he whimpered, "But I don't wanna go to school today. I just wanna stay home and work on my book."
As I grabbed my keys to head off to work I simply said, "Me too buddy. Me too."
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Let me introduce you to three different liars and show you what I mean.
Larry has ratty looking handlebar moustache and the kind of twang to his voice usually reserved to bad dinner theatre actors trying to portray a Texan. He lies so often and with such boldness that often times he forgets what the truth really is. He doesn't think before he lies and often tall tales himself right into a deep hole. Here is a but one snippet of an actual conversation with Larry (Larry is real as is this dialogue, but his name has been changed.)
Chewing on the corner of his nicotine stained moustache, Larry said, "Hopefully this weekend I can get down to the lake and take my submarine out."
Being a new hire at the post office I hadn't learned the truth about Larry yet so I replied with, "Your what?"
"My sub." "Larry's chest swelled like a dead fish as he said, "I saved this antique collectors life once and he gave me an old submarine as a reward."
"This is when a third guy walked up. One that had worked at the PO longer than myself and said, "You're not still telling that same bullshit story are you?"
Larry never batted an eye. "It's not bullshit. It's moored to the marina at Lake Meridith right now."
"So's my boat," said older guy. "And I go every weekend. How come I've never seen a submarine
Not to be deterred, Larry comes back with, "Kids are always playing on the damn thing so I gotta keep it submerged."
"Oh yeah, then how do you get in and out of it?"
Larry was out of the game right there.
Now to liar #2. We'll call him Moe.
Moe worked at the post office right alongside Larry, and he lied every bit as much. One day Moe told me a story for the better part of a half hour before I realized he'd taken the exact plot of the first Rambo movie and inserted himself as the lead character. He strung me along thanks in part to his black eye and bruised knuckles. I never got the faintest whiff of bullshit until he got the part where he was in jail and the police sent for his old military commander because they took one look at his military records and knew he would be the only who stood a chance to reason with him. Later I learned that Moe had simply got in a bar fight over a woman and got tossed out, but his grandiose, detail-filled tale encompassed half the city and a dozen patrolmen.
Another timer time Moe told a group of us a story about his days serving in Vietnam. a gripping tale full of detail and adventure. The four or five of us listened and enjoyed the tale. Only after it was over and Moe walked away did one guy say, "Wow, those exact same things happened to me. Matter of fact I told Moe my story a few weeks back."
Right about then someone in the group asked, "Why didn't you stop Moe and call him out for stealing your story?"
The answer? "Because Moe tells it a hell of a lot better than I do."
Now to Curly. Curly also works with Larry and Moe at the post office. He also lies. But when Curly tells a story he mixes in the truth. He talks about actual places we've all been. Like Moe he adds in lots of details, making absolutely every last one of them is true and accurate. Curly's lies are more about manipulation. tweaking turning the truth, disguising it the way a magician does with smoke and mirrors. He camouflages the lies with the truth. Wrapped up and tucked inside the truth no one listening to his story ever doubts his version. They weren't there to witness it, but nothing is outlandish or out of Curly's character so they have no reason not to believe.
Jump over to the world of fiction. I once read a novel, set in the seventies that included a scene with a group of farm boys engaged in a sexual act with a calf. I immediately doubted that would happen. Now I'm not naive enough to believe a lonely farm boy never ever has formed a "special bond" with his livestock, but having been a teenage boy I highly doubt they'd gather in a group to do so. Then a few chapters later these same boys were grabbing for each other's privates in the locker room after a football game. Right then I stopped reading in the same fashion as I avoid listening to anymore of Larry's stories. Trust me when I say there is no more homophobic environment in the world than a Texas high school locker room. No guy wants to get got so much as eyeballing another dudes jock, so he sure as heck isn't going to be grabbing for it.
Now this was from a very well known and successful novel. It fooled a lot of the people but just like Larry's submarine story couldn't fool a guy who spent lots of time at that marina, this famous author's novel couldn't foll me, a boy who'd grown up in a very similar environment as his characters I cried bullshit and flung the book against the wall. (Any guesses to the title or author?)
But wait you say. Millions of people bought into a series of books about an orphaned wizard who could walk through a brick wall and catch a train to a giant hidden magical castle full of witches and wizards. They eagerly stood in line at midnight to grab the next installment and read a fanciful game of flying snitches and brooms. Of an entire society of magical people living undetected in modern times.
You are right and the reason why is because like Moe's yarns the stories were highly entertaining. You can flat out lie and have everyone know you are lying, but you dang sure better be entertaining of you do.
Now to Curly. My favorite author is Richard Russo. Take a look at his novels, Nobody's Fool, if you haven't read the book maybe you caught the movie version starring Paul Newman. Or The Risk Pool, which is my favorite Russo novel. Maybe you've read Empire Falls for which the Pulitzer was awarded. Or the HBO miniseries of the same name. Bridge of Sighs is Russo's latest work.
The point is everyone of his novels are filled with characters so real they could be your neighbors. Dates, events, locations and conflicts are written with such accuracy that you forget you are reading fiction. Russo's work is about the psychology of man, the human spirit, and the fragility of our decisions. I never questions what I'm reading I'm simply happy to read and learn about my fellow man.
As a writer, I like to think I fall somewhere between Moe and Curly. Entertaining and maybe a bit outlandish in my telling at times, but true to my characters and the world they in habit. If you happen to learn something about your fellow man in the process than I have succeeded beyond even my own expectations. In the meantime, I'll keeping coming up with lies and writing them down on paper. How about you, told any good yarns lately?
Totally unrelated to this post, but thought I'd let you know Rebecca has a picture of me up at her blog Sanding the Rails today.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Where o' where shall I start?
Maybe with his decision to skinny dip in big blue. Mario. Dude. Have you never seen all the stuff that lives in the ocean?
Crabs and lobsters with big claws just made for grabbing a hold of your junk.
Eels, jellyfish, and sting rays are lurking below the surface all too eager to zap Mr. Squid. Haven't you ever heard of the Crocodile Hunter?
Sharks, barracudas, and a myriad of other toothy fish are swimming about and everyone of them would like a worm to snack on.
Yep, Mario swimming in the ocean while freeing willie was mistake number one. Oh, but you weren't punished for it, so you hop out of the chilly water and despite being the victim of shrinkage you don't feel the need to don clothes. I'll applaud you for the self-confidence as most dudes prefer to only be seen at their best, but Mario wasn't content to simply let little Luigi go about pale and shriveled. No he decided to camp out on a slatted deckchair. In the warm sun.
Now I've had a few nasty sunburns in my day so no way am I going to dangle my bits about and risk becoming the subject for a new version of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Not to mention the long term chance of skin cancer. A bit of melanoma on the ol' Manitoba would not be a pretty sight.
And then he dozed off. I know lots of people sleep in the nude, but doing it in the safety and confines of your own bedroom is one thing. Hanging it all out at the beach while you are unconscious is another. Ants, bees, biting flies, stray dogs, kids with a Frisbee, the list of hazards are endless. As Mario's fate proves it's simply not healthy to let things roll around unattended.
And man oh man would I have hated to be on that maintenance crew who had to come saw the chair in half. I'm pretty sure that was not in their official job description. And poor, poor Mario. No one since Bill Buckner, has done as poor a ball handling job, but I do feel a bit of sympathy for Mario. Any man with a set of his own would have to. Having you guys hanging about in the presence of a whirling saw blade is far from a situation any man wants to find himself in.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I'm excited about this week's My Town Monday post. It's something I've had in mind for quite a while, but life kept getting in the way. Amarillo is the home to many talented, and multi-published writers. I might be envious of their success, except they are also some of the nicest and most generous mentors any wannabe writer could have. I'm very fortunate to call these people my friends and from time to time I'm going to introduce you to these talented people. I plan to sprinkle in these My Town Monday interviews with the other topics of interest regarding Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.
Without further ado let me introduce ... Jennifer Archer.
Publisher’s Weekly calls Jennifer Archer a writer who “captures the voices and vulnerabilities of her characters with precision.” Archer finaled twice in Romance Writers of competition, was a 2006 finalist for the prestigious Rita Award with her mainstream women’s fiction novel The Me I Used To Be, and her novel Sandwiched was a 2006 nominee for a Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is the author of eight published novels and three novellas, and her first novel for young adults, to be published by HarperCollins, is scheduled for release in Fall of 2010. Along with her business partner, author Mary Schramski, Archer also offers freelance writing services though their business STERLING PEN @ www.sterlingpen.net.
But this wouldn't be My Town Monday without a bit of talk about the hometown both Jennifer and I call home, so let's get on with it.
Hi Jennifer, thanks for taking time away from your writing to answer a few questions. I'm really thrilled to get the chance to talk to you and your readers about writing on your blog! Thanks for having me.
But back to your question about Texas. Since I was just a toddler when we left for the first time, I don't remember missing anything about the state. It wasn't until I moved from Amarillo to Oklahoma City after graduating from college and marrying that I became homesick for Texas. Oklahoma and the Panhandle of Texas are similar in a lot of ways. The people are a lot alike, too. Very down-to-earth and friendly. In fact, I think those of us from the Texas Panhandle probably have more in common with Okies than with Texans who live further south! So Oklahoma felt very familiar and I was comfortable there. I just missed my Texas family and friends. One thing that *was* different and took some getting used to was the humidity in Oklahoma City during the warmer months, since I'm so used to arid Panhandle weather.
Your family moved to a small town in the Panhandle just before you started junior high, then moved to Amarillo when your were in High School. What is your earliest memory of the city and how long did it take before the felt like home?
Like most writers, you fell in love with reading at an early age, but after college you put off your dreams of writing. I quote from your website's bio "I became sensible,pulled on my pantyhose, and set out to make a living in the business world. (Besides, I didn't know any writers. They're all bohemians who live in places like Europe or New York City, aren't they?)" What changed your mind? What made you decide that a person from Amarillo really could go after the dream and become a multi-published writer? I began taking a continuing education night class in creative writing at Amarillo College when my sons were small. Mothers of young children need a break now and then -- especially when those children are 2 rowdy little boys only 2 years apart in age! The class started out as my attempt to have some "me time" doing something that interested me. I thought it would be a nice hobby. When I realized that the teacher was a selling fiction writer -- historical romance writer Jodi Thomas -- and that the follow-up course was taught by another selling historical fiction writer -- DeWanna Pace -- I started to think that my dream might be possible, afterall. Both of these women had lived in Amarillo most of their lives. I could relate to them. If they could succeed in becoming published authors, I thought maybe I could, too. Also, the classes really hooked me in. The more I wrote, the more writing seeped into my blood. I always tell people it's like an addiction. Luckily, it's a healthy one!
What have been the biggest challenges to overcome as a writer in Amarillo as opposed to one living in New York, Paris, Or LA? Are there any advantages? Since I've never lived in New York, Paris or L.A., I'm not sure I can say what the differences, holdbacks, or advantages might be. But I have a feeling we tackle the same challenges. I've met many writers from all over since I've been pursuing the art and business of fiction writing. Usually, we speak the same language right away when it comes to our mutual profession. Creating believable characters, plotting, pacing, and all the other elements that make a great story are the same no matter where you live. That said, I do think something about the Panhandle stirs imagination in ways many other places might not. Maybe it's the relentless wind, the lush sunsets, or the fact that you can see all the way to the horizon without anything obstructing the view -- but there seems to be a lot more creative folks per square mile around here than in other parts of the U.S.
All of your books, whether they be a romance like Shocking Behavior or women's fiction like The Me I Used To Be are full of great characters. Do you fully develop your characters before you start writing the novel, or do you flesh them out as you go along relying on the plot to reveal their true character? Thanks for the compliment! I tend to be more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" type of writer, at least when I'm starting a book. I have a pretty good sense of the main character's personality at the beginning, but all the details of why they are like they are usually develop as I'm writing. More often than not, about mid-way through the first draft, I find myself stopping and asking myself where the story is going to lead. That's when I sit down and plot and fully flesh out the characters' personalities and back-stories. I really know them deeply by that point. Still, I have to say every book is different for me. When I was working on The Me I Used To Be, it was as if Ally was whispering the story in my ear and I just had to type in what she told me. I didn't do any formal plotting for that book. I wish that happened more often, but sometimes my characters are not so forthcoming! I have to really pry information out of them.
I know you have been working on a young adult novel which will be available from Harper Collins next year. Can you give a sneak preview of what it is about and the title? Also when we can expect to find it to hit the shelves? Thanks for asking! I'm really excited about this story, as well as my debut as a writer of Young Adult fiction. YA novels have such a wide appeal that often crosses over to an adult audience. Today, many YA novels tackle complex issues that affect teens. And the writing can be -- and often is -- as sophisticated and lyrical as the writing in a novel for adults. I'm having a great time working on this first YA novel and brainstorming the one that will follow it and also be published by Harper Teen.
Many thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to be a part of My Town Monday.
Stop in over at Jennifer's blog and tell her hi, hello, bonjour, aloha, guten tag, konnicha wa, or even a good ol' howdy. She doesn't post as often as I'd like, but maybe with enough encouragement we can change that.
Her website is here. Be sure and check out the excerpts from all over her novels which can be found here.
And if you are in need of freelance writing, editing, or other author services check out Sterling Pen here.
Check back throughout Sunday and Monday to discover more great My Town Monday posts from all over the globe.
Chris - Dwells in Hong Kong but posts this week about Genoa, Italy
Jenn Jilks - Live in Muskoka but this week blogs about Toronto, Canada
Lyzzydee - Stops to smell the flowers in Welwyn Garden City, England
Mary - Linda Britton Zinn guest blogs about Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Debra - Takes a historic look at the Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio.
Clare - Takes us to the bookish town of Wincanton, Somerset, UK
Barbara Martin - Compares the then and now of Toronto, Canada
Gary Dobbs - Visits the old church on the hill in Gilfach Goch, UK
Linda McLaughlin - It's a heatwave in Orange County, California
Paul Brazill - Introduces us to Poland's Marian Rejewski
Barrie Summy - Let's the dogs out in Sand Diego, California
Patti Abbott - Hops across her home state to Benton Harbor, Michigan
Clair Dickson - Serves up a mighty sweet post from Livingston County, Michigan
Lauren - Piles on the relish from Chicago, Illinois
Reb - Takes a road trip to Bagg Creek near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
J Winter - It's all about the dead presidents in Cincinnati, Ohio
Cloudia - Has a grand location in Honolulu, Hawaii
Yellowdog Granny- Is out and about in West, Texas
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Sure I'm a bit disappointed. What writer doesn't want to see their baby shine, but I realize there were lots of talented entries. Heck I know several very talented writers who didn't make the cut to 500 so I'm proud to have lasted as long as I did. Hopefully, I'll learn something useful from my Publisher's Weekly review once they are released. My congrats to those who made the Top 100.
Last night I typed a rather lengthy post, but after working on it for half an hour I deleted the whole thing. What was supposed to be a humorous story about one of my trips to Oklahoma postal technical training was nothing more than a boring diatribe of nothingness. Kind of the same thing this post seems to be headed for. So, with that random theme in mind here are some random thoughts that have infected my brain in the last few days.
Camo. I don't get it. Okay I see the benefits of green camouflage clothing if you are hiking through a jungle trying to avoid taking a bullet between the eyes. Or the brown camo our military wear is desert environments. I can even buy the bow hunter who whiles away his days up in a tree stand waiting on that big buck to come by. But why anyone needs their everyday pick up to be painted like a forest is beyond me. The same goes for camo cell phone covers, spare tire covers, barbecue grills, or any of the other tree colored crap that dots the shelves these days. Come on guys, how can I poke fun of our female counterparts for their silly, unneeded notions like toilet seat covers, when everything you own looks like a tribute to MASH.
Is it possible to boldly go through life and have someone use this description of you, "He chalantly walked up and cursed William Shatner for being a nerve wracking buffoon," or must we all be doomed to a life of nonchalantly sneaking about? While on that subject can a person be flimmed without getting flammed, or flammed and not flimmed. And my postal worker background probably is to blame for this one, but if a fellow is happy, content and eager to head off to work can he be desribed as gruntled? And can someone simply be combobulated? Or must they perpetually be DISsed as well?
Not to BE outdone. Have you ever been wildered or fuddled? Yeah me neither.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Most of my posts about Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle are positive, or at least neutral. I try to shy away from politics and my own opinions on this blog. I try to look at the bigger picture and present things that highlight the cultural differences between my home and yours, but this week I'm going to tell y'all about a common practice in these parts that is asinine regardless of how you paint it. I'm gonna ramble for a minute, but stay with me.
Canyon, Texas is but a short hop to the south of Amarillo. Twelve or so miles but there are enough businesses and homes along Interstate 27 that it only seems like four or five. Beyond Canyon, on Interstate 27 a traveler will pass through the towns of Happy, Tulia, Kress, Plainview, Hale Center, Abernathy, New Deal, and finally Lubbock. There Interstate 27 ends and since it beings in Amarillo the term Interstate is a misnomer, as all 112 miles of the road resides within the confines of The Lone Star State. So let's call I-27 an Intrastate Highway. But the wrongly named roadway isn't really what this post is about. There is actually something else odd about the byway.
No, I''m not talking about the lack of rainfall, or the evaporating playa lakes. I'm talking about booze. Until recently* you could not buy a single drop of alcohol anywhere between the outskirts of Amarillo and the far side of Lubbock.
HAPPY, TX - THE TOWN WITHOUT A FROWN ... OR A GOOD STIFF DRINK.
And even odder, Canyon, Texas is a college town. The home of West Texas A&M University.
Simply put, I do not get dry counties. I understand the theory. The entire remove from temptation rhetoric, but I ain't buying it. People that wanna drink are gonna drink regardless. Prohibition failed miserably and went a long way to creating organized crime. So how does anyone think regionalized prohibition is a good idea? Yes, bootlegging of a sort is common. Not like the rum runners and moonshiners of old that created NASCAR, but many a guy can make a few bucks by hauling back a case of brew for his buddies after a trip to Amarillo or Nazareth. Nazareth is a small German community that sits a ways off of the interstate. Despite having less than 400 residents the tiny rural town supports two or three liquor stores because all of the surrounding areas are dry.
I'm open for discussion on the benefits of a dry county, but I am of the opinion that the policy creates problems rather than solving them. I say it creates drunk drivers. If a guy has to get in his car and head a county or two over he's not going to wait until he gets home to crack that first beer like he might if his trip was only to the convenience store around the corner. And when the boys at the frat house run out of beer,a s they are eventually going to do, isn't it better if they have the option to walk to a store on the edge of campus, or ride a bike? Not in Canyon, they have to hop in a car and get on the interstate no less.
Ohh ... but the tee-totalers would have you to believe that the frat parties at WT involve Hawaiian Punch and Kool-Aid, because it's too much trouble to import beer from that ungodly big city twelve miles to the north.
Okay I'm going to step down off my beerbox and say there are a number of counties in the Texas Panhandle that have restricted liquor laws. Some are completely dry - no booze whatsoever. Others you can join a private club and drink there - again forcing you to drive home at the end of the night. Some sell beer and wine only. Most places in the entire state restrict hard liquor sales on Sunday or after 9 PM the other days.
Now I'm in no way condoning drunk driving. I'm all for designated drivers, heck I'm all for drinking in the safety of your own home, but when rules go overboard and create more problems than they solve, I just don't get how they remain in place.
So I'm curious. Is this dry county business a bible belt side affect or do you have such in your area. Can you buy hard liquor on Sunday? Or after 9? What unique laws do you have? And yes, I am fully aware that I am stumping for what many consider a sin on one of the most religious days of the year. But after all, Jesus turned that water into wine, not grape juice.
* The city of Plainview recently voted to lift the no booze ban in order to recapture the tax revenue they were losing to other counties.
Thirsty for more MY TOWN MONDAY posts? Check out these links.
Yellowdog Granny - West, Texas
David Cranmer - Castine, Maine
Barbara Martin - Toronto, Canada
Debra - Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Gary Dobbs - South Wales, England
Lana Gramlich - Abita Springs, Louisiana
Barrie Summy - San Diego, California
Reb - Elk Island National Park, Alberta, Canada
Passage of Woman - Kingston, Tennessee
Chris - India
Terrie Farley Moran - New York City, New York
Patti Abbott - Hamtramck, Michigan
J Winter - Cincinnati, Ohio
Cloudia - Honolulu, Hawaii
Carolee Sherwood - Ogunquit Beach, Maine
A.K. - Delhi, India
Clair Dickson - Livingston County, Michigan
Junosmom - Kentucky
Friday, April 10, 2009
But there are a few things I tune in to watch. Cornhusker football, Saints football. The Dallas Stars even though they cross-checked my across the mouth this year. Yeah, I'm a sports fan but a man can't get by on balls and pucks alone. Sometimes he needs to broaden his view and learn about the world beyond the gridiron and hockey rink. Sure most of the time I turn to books for that, but there are times when mere words fail to do a subject justice.
When you ask. Glad you did.
Ever wonder what the roasted eyeball of a goat tastes like? Or fish stomach sauce? How about eight week old putrefied shark?
Sure you could describe the affect on you salivary glands but it's a lot more graphic to see the expression on the oh-so-brave Andrew Zimmern's face as he swallows such craziness. Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel is one of my favorite shows and for those who read my blog on a regular basis will realize I mentioned it in my recent post about the scent of Morocco. Well after that post I was contacted by folks from the Travel Channel about spreading the word about the upcoming season which start Tuesday night, April 14th. Check your local listings for the time, but here is what the people at the Travel Channel sent me to use in this blog.
The first episode of the new season takes Andrew to the beautiful country of Tanzania. He begins his journey in the city of Arusha, a favorite jumping off point for tourists going on safari. Here he samples the traditional Tanzanian breakfast supu; a soup made with goat lungs, heart, and liver, as well as cow stomach, intestines, and tongue. Andrew's next destination is the Village of Irkeepusi down the Ngorongoro Crater, where he spends a few days with the Maasai tribe. Here he's taught such traditions as drinking blood from cows and goats since the animals are too valuable to be killed. Andrew's guide Edward also takes him to a meat camp for men, where the goal is to fill up on as much meat as possible over 5 days.
Andrew's next step is on the lower slopes of massive Mount Kilamanjaro, where he learns the ways of the Chagga tribe. Many of their foods are made with bananas, including their beverages. Andrew watches the tribe make banana beer by hand. Later he tries three different soups, including one made with dirt and another made with blood.
Hungry yet? Be sure to watch next week! In the meantime, here's a sneak preview
Since I am a genuine fan and do plan to watch, I had no problem spreading the word. Besides, they promised me a little care package for the effort, including dome edible crickets that me and my youngest son are eager to sample. And how about that season opener. I like the sounds of a meat camp for men but something tells me they won't be dining of marinated elk tenderloin or even a nice tasty rib-eye. Nevertheless I'll be watching. How about you?
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Every novel has hatched from a different egg. there really is now pattern there. The first started with setting. I built the characters and plot around location. The second started with an idea for ending. I created characters and led them to the climax. The third began with the idea of contrasting characters with polar opposite pasts. and Plundered Booty began as a short story.
But regardless of how they all began, there have been some similarities in how I wrote them. I start with the characters. I go back in time to long before my novel starts and write little snippets from their life. For POV characters I write four or five scenes from their earlier life. One from early childhood, another from their school years. Maybe their first taste of love, or a bitter disappointment. I think about their goals not in relation to the novel but their life in general. When all is said and done I end up with 10 to 20 pages of seemingly disconnected scenes for each POV character.
I do the same though on a smaller scale for each secondary character. I may have one page for them or maybe 10 if they play a large role. Sometimes I realize I've chosen the wrong POV in this stage and have to shuffle character around.
Most of what I write in this stage never even make a mention in the novel but they are still things I know about each character and that makes it easier to paint their world later on.
Plot is my greatest weakness as a writer. I try to build and layer things from the start but outlining or structuring the story is difficult for me. I feel pigeon holed if I have to follow rigid plans. I wish I could but the story begins to feel stilted and the pace falls apart for me. I am very much a character driven writer.
Do I let the character write my novel? To an extent and that can be a problem. But if they lead me to a dead end I simple go back, find the place where everything went wrong and start over. I've hit snags that take me two months and half a dozen different routes before I find one that will work for both me and my character.
I keep my timeline straight with the use of a calender. I jot notes from each scene int eh squares. The POV, the major conflict of the scene, the weather, because it bugs me to read a book that either never mentions the weather, or has a blizzard in every chapter. Of course of your story is set in Antarctica that wouldn't be out of the ordinary.
Usually I am three or four chapter ahead in my mind. I do lots of writing in my head. While driving, showering, working, (yeah that may be why your letter to Aunt Rita in Hoboken wound up in Helsinki, but what can I say I'm a writer at heart even though my paychecks say US Postal Service. ) Actually I don't sort the mail at all, I service the machines that do and if my mind wanders too far I could find myself getting a nice electrical shock.
Writing ahead in my mind help me work out the big problems. Of course when the words hit the paper things do not always work out so sometimes I get stuck. Often I can get the story moving again by going back a few chapters and reading myself back into the groove. I never write more than three or four chapters without going back and reading and editing. By the time I'm on chapter 14 or 15 I have read and edited the first few chapters half a dozen times.
I follow this pattern all the way to the end and then I've gotten a complete manuscript I read it once without a pen in hand wait a few weeks and then read it with a red marker at the ready. Two or three complete read through and corrections and then it is query time.
This post is probably boring to most of you, but several have asked how I write, so now you know. Also you may have noticed, but this post bored me so much that I have chosen not to go back and reread it to make corrections. I hope it made sense and wasn't too riddled with typos and shoddy grammar. then again shoddy grammar might be my specialty.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
You will have to take this posts for what they are worth. After all, I've yet to find a home for any of my novels, so if I really had any earth shattering how-to advice I'd be using it myself. But I have been around the writing block enough times that I feel like I've gained some worthy knowledge.
A week or so back I posted that this blog was now 2 years old. That spawned a bit of confusion that I had only been writing two years. That is not the case, so for today I thought I'd give you my writing history.
After a lifelong love of books, and fiction in particular, I began actively writing with publication in mind in the fall of 2001.
My first novel I titled Small Town, Big Lies. I finished it in about nine months. Looking back I should have followed the general guidelines of the Romance genre and made it a contemporary but I didn't really know what I was doing. I watered it down with too many POV (Point of View) characters and tried to do too much with the story. Because of the multiple POVs and subplots I marketed it as Women's Fiction. Of course it was also littered with telling rather than showing, passive writing, and other assorted beginner mistakes. Not knowing any better I sent out lots of queries and was lucky enough to have four or five agents request the full manuscripts. One editor that I met at a conference even requested the full and for a time, I though I was going to get lucky with my first novel. But the marketing team at her publisher overruled her and said the novel had nothing to separate it from books already on the shelf.
After that I wrote a few short storied before diving into my next novel. UnLuckLess was a title no one ever liked but me. Nevertheless I continued to call it UnLuckLess in the nearly hundred queries I mailed out. (Very few agents took e-queries then) The novel was about a man who believed himself to be the unluckiest guy on earth, when actually his bad luck aways turned out to be good luck in the end. Confused yet? So was everybody else, but I'll try to make you understand. You have a flat on the way to the airport and miss your plane that is bad luck. If said plane then crashes and everyone on board dies your bad luck just became good luck. The novel was more subtle than that. It too had a strong romance element, but the female protagonist was married and the plot was dark and heavy and it would never work as a romance novel despite the to protagonists eventually riding into the sunset together. This novel drew little interest from agents and the few that did request more all said it was too dark, too heavy and too gritty for the commercial market. And the writing not strong enough for it to be literary. No one ever came right out and said that but the implication was there. I did receive one handwritten rejection from an agent that read ... "Your excess verbiage and meandering storytelling does not appeal to me now or never." Harsh yes, but accurate as well. Though he is no longer an agent and I am still writing so that takes the sting out a bit.
After that I wrote a few more short stories, published a few, and then started a new novel called Murky Water. But as the feed back came in for UnLuckLess I stopped writing it. If it was too dark then Murky Water was an absolute black hole. Murky Water started with a death, ended with a death and dealt with death throughout. I still believe in the plot and characters but who knows if I'll ever finish it.
Sticking with an aqua fascination I next began writing A River Without Water. A River had a female protagonist in her late twenties who'd spent her entire adult life running from an abortion she had at seventeen. She blamed her father for forcing her to give up her child. I poured a lot of research in by reading psychology books about the after affects of abortion and I even interviewed three different women who'd had abortions at a young age. My character ended up traveling cross country with a man whose wife dies in childbirth after going against medical advice to have an abortion. Neither character knew about the others past, but each learned that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of a difficult choice. This novel gained some interest but many agents brought up the difficulty of a male author writing such a story. The novel did have a subtle pro-life slant, but my intent was always to look at the emotional aftermath of an abortion not the legality or morality of the procedure. I still think it is a worthy novel and one that can be enjoyed by any fan of Women's Fiction regardless of their political or religious leanings.
Again I wrote and published few more short stories. I started this blog. and then commenced writing a novel called If Only He Knew. It was a story about a married women that believed sex was ruining her life. Her nymphomaniac mother was about to get kicked out of the Baptist ran retirement village, her 15 year old son was dying for his first taste of love, and her rancher husband was out having sex with some floozy twenty years his junior. My character was even sick of hearing about her husband's bull semen business. So she hatched one doozie of a scheme to teach them all a lesson.
One of these days I'll finish this novel but I got sidetracked while writing it. You see I one of the short stories I wrote in the interim was a 13,000 word piece titled Plundered Booty. Several friends read it and said it was the best thing I'd ever written. All of them with Deborah Elliott-Upton at the helm urged me to flesh out the characters, add a subplot or two and turn it into a novel. Most of you know I did that very thing and the novel version of Plundered Booty is now one of the top 500 quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. Next week the announce the Top 100. If you haven't read the excerpt or left a review over at Amazon you still can at this link.
Currently, I am working on a creative non-fiction project. A memoir based on my days working at a Feedstore here in Amarillo for what has to be one of the world's most hilarious and immoral bosses. Despite those adjectives he was also one of the funniest and most likable people I've ever met. To this day I consider him a friend and a mentor because there truly is a lot to be learned from a bad example.
If you wish to read one of my published short stories there is a link to my favorite at the upper right hand side of of my blog. or you can wait a few weeks for my story Y Not to appear on David Cranmer's fabulous e-zine, Beat To a Pulp.
Writing and trying to sell fiction is not an easy chore. It will leave you beat to a pulp. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Writing has more ups and downs than a bordello's bed springs, but the ups truly are glorious. And right now I'm feeling pretty good. I have a short story coming out, my latest novel is in the top 500 of a contest that accepted 10,000 entries, and just this afternoon I had a request from an agent who read a partial and has now wants to read the full manuscript.
So all in all I've been in the fight for nearly 8 years. I've completed four novels, dozens of short stories, started a blog, met lots of great people, and had a ton of fun.
Sure, I have a few incomplete novels buried on my hard drive, along with some short stories that will never see the light. And yeah I have a nice collection of rejections, but no one can say I that I haven't continued to come out swinging. I do believe that there is still a good bit of fight in my bones. Per the title of this blog, ONE DAY my name will grace the cover of a novel.