Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Storyteller

Novelists are often challenged to write like Hemingway -- concise, void of adjectives and description. The opposite is flowery, long, flowing sentences with metaphors and similes out the wazoo. Both styles have their pluses and minus and both have won their share of international and national book awards.

As we contemplate the Christmas story during this season of the year, it is interesting to think about those early storytellers/writers. They wrote on papyrus or on animal skins with crude writing instruments and ink. Note they were frugal with their words, yet managed to create suspense, emotion and action, while conveying a sense of time and place.

From Luke: Now there were shepherds abiding in the field keeping night watch over their flock (setting, characters, time). The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear (supernatural, character reaction). The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all  the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Descriptive. Clean. Conveys action. Includes music. Gives direction. Relates fear -- dark of night; supernatural beings; something out of the ordinary is happening.

This story has lasted over two thousand years. Not bad for a writer with crude writing instruments. You'd think he was inspired or something :-)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Backcut

I just finished a debut novel by Cynthia Levesque entitled "Backcut". This novel has it all -- romance, intrigue, conflict, suspense ; interwoven  with faith-based references and environmental issues. The author masterfully relates legal treatment of endangered and threatened species when managing forestlands while exposing the reader to the chilling finality of Niemann-Pick Type C disease. This is the book for those who not only enjoy a suspense novel with Christian Fiction tenants (no explicit sexual issues or bad grammar here) , but who want to learn about medical research and environmental concerns. Check out her blog and book information at http://www.cslevesque.com/

Friday, October 24, 2014

Books, Books, Books

How exciting!!! The Weston Lakes Book Club announced the reading list for our year and we are well into our program. This month we read and discussed "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt.
This 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is an amazing read. It is long; it has intricate sentence structure; the characters are engaging. Some of our club found the read too long (867 pages) and wordy. There is no doubt it could have been shortened without losing the story, but -hey! - the Pulitzer Prize?? How does one criticize that?  The only thing is that elite members of the literary community helped push the book, and "regular" readers might not necessarily agree with those kinds of selections.  Nonetheless, it was a wonderful experience. What is truly amazing is that this is only Donna Tartt's third book.

Other books awaiting our club this year are: "The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion" (Flagg), "The Invention of Wings" (Kidd), "Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" (Fowler), "Sycamore Row" (Grisham), "Deliver Us: Three Decades of Murder and Redemption in the Infamour I-45, Texas Killing Fields" (Casey), AND my very own "Ransomed Earth: An Eco-Thriller" which I will present right before Earth Day 2015.  I look forward to reading these selections and the follow-up discussions.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Car Travel Equal Books

Well, we're back....back from a two-week road trip to Myrtle Beach SC, a bucket-list destination we've dreamed about for over 25 years. The drive was pleasant: good weather, good roads, well-maintained road-side parks along the way, inspiring scenery along the Gulf coast prairies, up the Appalachians, and across the Piedmont to the Atlantic shore. AND, 35 hours of audio tapes to enjoy!

Patsy and I so enjoy a good audio book...of the three selected for this journey (two with Carolina settings and the other in the Black Hills) one was a bust, one was okay, and Nora Roberts was excellent, although a bit wordy. Technology allows us to stop the tape and discuss the storyline or a point that we are confused on, giving us an opportunity to explore each other's thoughts. I always pick up a technique or idea I can use in my own writing. We could have gotten to our destination in one day via air travel instead of three days on the road, but we enjoy the road trips too much to change. Audio tapes: Love Them!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thank You, Christina Baker Kline

I just read "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline. It was an excellent read...historical fiction at its best. It is based on factual events surrounding trains rumbling west from New York City filled with orphans of all ages for adoption by Midwestern families. There were no adoption rules in those days...1870's - 1920's. Orphans needed somewhere to go and farmers, factories, households and others needed workers. Some children were abused and underfed. Some were treated well, even adopted and schooled.

Ms. Kline presents the novel in designated chapters covering the 1920's through 1940's (Ireland, New York, Minnesota) , interspersed with modern settings in 2011Maine. I like the way she arranged the timing of plot and characters and can see it useful in my own work. For this, I thank you, Christina Baker Kline!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Churches and Climate Change


There's been a whirlwind of discussion (pardon the pun) about climate change, global warming, rising sea levels, etc. etc. etc., over the last decades. A key element of the jabber involves the impact of humankind activities on these changes, now and in the future. While the geological record reveals this ole Earth has been through numerous shifts in cold and warm climates, drought, flood, fire, and earthquake, some people think that we, by our actions or lack of actions, can materially influence climate change. Where do religious organizations stand on this issue?
For an excellent summary of how churches are reacting to climate change, check out Cyndi  Levesque's blog, God's World in the Balance, at http://cslevesque.com/2014/07/blog-post-2-2/
Roman Catholic, Evangelicals, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopal and other Christian Interfaith web sites may reveal surprising stands on this question. Thanks, Cyndi, for such an informative blog.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Manitous at Work


I just read "Native American Legends of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley". This is a compilation of over a hundred legends and myths from oral traditions collected by Katharine B. Judson and originally published in 1914. Very interesting to read about the relationships between the spirits of man, animals, nature, earth, sky, water, fire, and weather. One of their beliefs addressed unknown spirits called Manitou or Manito*. Like many religious beliefs, there were good spirits and bad spirits. The job of the bad spirit was to come behind the Good Manitou and undo all the good they did for the day.

I sometimes feel that evil Manitous follow me when I write. I get motivated, write, am excited and happy, then the next day is a downer. I wonder if anyone will ever read what I am working on, will I find an agent, will the book sell? So, prayers to the Good Manitous, Holy Spirit, angels, saints, the Earth-Maker himself and undertaken to restore the good. Maybe I should burn incense or sage as well  :-)

*A term by the Algonquian tribe referring to the mysterious and unknown powers of life in the universe (p 195, Bruce Grant, "Concise Encyclopedia of the American Indian," Wings Books, New York, 1958.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fatherhood

This Father's Day I broke in a new wood grill (courtesy of wifey), wore a gift tee-shirt (San Antonio Spurs 2014 Western Conference Champions, courtesy of wifey) and Harvard cap (courtesy of daughter), drank my customary Shiner Bock, opened a fine bottle of wine (courtesy of another daughter), watered a new house plant (courtesy of yet another daughter), communicated with all my children, and reflected.


Writing is like being a parent -- you help give the manuscript birth, worry about it, help it grow, overprotect it, sometimes go days or weeks without sitting down and having a long talk with it, nourish it. The manuscript is like a child. It is never far from your mind. You want it to be the best it can be. And you realize that you aren't in this wonderful calling of authorship alone. Others help with things they say; ideas you can use to improve the manuscript. Readers asked to review it give you further insight. Muses come to your aid as do memories.

Unlike human fatherhood, there comes a time when you are done with the manuscript. If lucky, an agent and an editor will be interested enough to help the manuscript grow further than you, the father, alone can take it. Now is that time for me. After four serious edits my novel, Sinner-Saint: The Redemption of Euel Leevy, is done. Time now to let it go.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Welcome

Dear Reader,

Welcome to my home page. I hope you find my three novels on environmental fiction interesting and helpful; I certainly enjoyed writing them, especially the research that went into each book.

I just completed the first draft of my new novel. As you can read from previous posts, we have been busy moving into our new home. Even now the garden calls, but I am trying to be more disciplined in my writing so I must wait until later today to engage in building my picket fence.

I will provide updates as major events occur. Until then, enjoy the read!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Gardening and Writing

I am busier now in the garden. Last fall and through the winter I added a trail system of weed cover and crushed granite plus several loads of topsoil. Then I planted turnips, radishes, Swiss chard, greens, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and a rose bush. In February I put four fruit trees in: peach, lemon, orange, olive. Now I am adding more topsoil to the low lying area and mulch, and preparing the beds. I've started tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers in starter trays.

I can't help but think gardening and writing are very much related. The author preps the story with foreshadowing and setting, adds characters and plot, turns the plot like one turns the soil, plants the theme, and watches the book grow. Good seed: good crops. Good story: good book. I am thankful for the opportunity to enjoy both!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Readers

I met an avid, dedicated reader at this month's Weston Lakes Book Club session, which is somewhat strange to say given 30 members who meet monthly to dissect and discuss the assigned reading can all be classified as avid, dedicated readers. But our review of Dan Brown's "Inferno" revealed a reader extraordinaire -- one who used her laptop map capability to track Robert Langdon and Sienna Brown's escapades in Florence. She used the satellite map (hybrid) to track their pathways and the historic structures so aptly described by Brown, giving all of us a better grasp of Brown's mastery of the setting and plot, and planting the seed for us to use such technology in our future reading.

Thank you, Weston Lakes Book Club members for such a lively discussion! It is so revealing to study how various readers interpret the same book, what impresses some and not others, striving to understand the author's intent, etc. As for my own writing journey, passed the 64,000 word mark and pressing on toward completing my first draft this spring. Still lots to do, but progress!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Book Club Prep

One of my New Year resolutions is to join the Weston Lakes Book Club, an organization of well over 25 members I am told. I've read "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini in preparation for the January meeting -- eloquent sentences based on stories within stories. I am hopeful that expanding my reading and participating in literary discussions will improve my own writing efforts. Happy New Year to everyone and best wishes in fulfilling your own resolutions....