Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Twain, Hannibal, and Tom Sawyer

We just completed a 10-day road trip to Iowa. We expected corn and soybean fields; we saw those. We expected summer days, but were greeted with a pleasant 60 degree cool spell that was refreshing after the heat of Texas. We did not expect so many small towns. While Patsy and I grew up in rural Texas and enjoy the solitude of nature away from the noises of road traffic, we were pleasantly surprised to see so much unspoiled nature in Iowa. Our friends summer home is on the banks of the Mississippi River below Fort Madison. We relaxed in the breeze of their screened-in porch, watching barge traffic, enjoying fresh corn and catfish. My grandson and I went fishing with friends and caught over 20 catfish among all of us fishermen.
     Thus inspired we decided to stop in Hannibal MO on our return trip, and visit Mark Twain's boyhood home and museum. Thus inspired, we departed, reveling in an audio tape of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer". It has been decades since Tom and I visited. Over the hours of listening to Twain's fine prose and ability to capture scene and plot, it struck me that he must have had a wonderful childhood. That made me think of my own which came up short. I wonder how many future generations will be able to identify with Twain's stories, given the childhood experiences they will have, often void of the outdoors and ample freedom to explore.
     My new favorite quote from Twain: " The difference between the right word ad the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Writing Tools

If you are interested in learning tricks of the trade about writing in the digital age, I recommend you check out https://JaneFriedman.com. Jane has over 20 years experience in the book and magazine publishing industry. She is THE expert on digital publishing and speaks at dozens of conferences around the globe. She has worked as the digital publisher of writing's flagship, The Writer's Digest Magazine, is a blogger with over 180,000 followers (including me), an author, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia.

I am learning so much reading Jane's blog....tips on plot, character development, narrative, and other nuances authors are concerned about...as well as changes in both the print and digital publishing worlds. Her writing is concise and valuable for those with limited time searching for useable information.

My research regarding family history continues as I continue to piece together family history. This is a fulfilling effort, and I hope useful to future family members. Take care all......

Thursday, February 11, 2016

     The season of Lent began last Wednesday with the signing of ashes for many Christians who are called to an examination of conscious, turning away from bad habits and forming good ones, reflection and meditation. My wife subscribes to The Magnificat, a monthly booklet whose trademark is owned by the Magnificat Central Services Team, Inc., A Ministry to Catholic Women. This year they offered a companion booklet in support of Pope Francis' call to enter into an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy which he deems a time for believers to grow stronger and more effective by attentively focusing on God's action in our lives. The Companion Book of Mercy contains daily reflections on scripture, ancient writings of church leaders, and poetry from the modern era. As I ponder the readings of the day, I am struck with the realization that fiction characters must possess some spiritual quality or they will not be real to the reader.
     We generally accept that humans have three basic needs: physical, emotional and spiritual. The first two occupy center stage of fiction plot and character in all forms.....romance, thriller, western, horror, suspense, etc. Spirituality ... a believe in Other Power or other forms of existence or supernatural or sacredness. Spirituality does not equate to Religion, but can encompasses it. Regardless of one's own beliefs, readers can sense spiritual expressions in horror books where supernatural, other-diminish, angels and demons, etc., are part of the plot. Ditto for science fiction. A sense of peace and appreciation of nature and the living interplay of creatures is found in environmental, Native American, and wilderness portions of plot. Romance is a key user of spiritual when evoking the connection between characters, especially love and rejection.
     Let's resolve to look more deeply for these traits in both our reading and writing.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Unhappy Endings

Many pundits and professionals caution writers to avoid writing novels that don't have a happy ending. Readers will be disappointed, they say. Probably especially so if the author leads them to believe all will end well -- the Fairy Tale ending.

I recently read "The Light Between Oceans" by M.L. Stedman which many may judge to have an unhappy ending. But, the ending is reality...the hero and heroine suffer, undone by what they thought the right thing to do years earlier, which came back to haunt them and alter their lives forever. Stedman sowed the seed for the ending; yet, it still came as a surprise. It was a well-written novel that I encourage all to read.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Joy of Audio Tapes

In December we drove to San Francisco to visit our youngest daughter....two weeks on the road. As usual, we checked out a half-dozen audio tapes from the local library and as usual we listened to half of those. Either the topic was too dull or boring, or too much repetition in telling the story. We found two stories compelling:  "Ford County" by John Grisham and "The Apple Orchard" by Susan Wiggs. Their tales helped pass the time as we enjoyed driving through the vastness of the American Southwest. Wiggs story was particularly interesting as it addressed the often under-reported occupation of Denmark by the Nazis during WWII, and the underground resistance war efforts. Grisham is a master storyteller. His recollections of Mississippi are entertaining and educational. Both were fine, fine presentations.