Tag Archives: Writing

BORGES REMEMBRANCE AND NOSTALGIA

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Thirty years ago no one used yet such terms as internet, e-mail, nor cell-phone in Latin America. The most advanced in technology available then for popular use was compact discs, which of course represented a luxurious expense for the great majority.

The night of June 14th, 1986, trapped inside the passionate DX mania, so strange and ancient nowadays, completely antediluvian and left behind in the last century for most of the young, I was listening to Radio Suiza Internacional, found by mere chance after playing with the dial, transmitting from Berna. The overwhelming news was: Borges, the great Jorge Luis Borges, who never received a Nobel Prize even though he deserved it much more than the great majority who had obtained it, has just died in Geneva.

That fact left a mark on us for all time to come, given that there would not be any talking of any other topic in the Special Literature subject. From the following day on, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo would be, for all of us who represented the specialty of Social Sciences, the great torture or the great passion, according to the characteristics of each of those fifteen-year-old spirits who knew little to nothing about the author of El Aleph. Assignments, monographs, expos, research, essays, mandatory readings (and for that reason not so pleasant as those that arise from the feeding need of a bibliophile) left some of Borges in us: in the case of the author of these lines were his mark, his circling ruins that from time to time raise again to involve and enfold us in oneiric worlds from which no one ever knows how to emerge, or from which one emerges, as in La Flor de Coleridge, disturbed forever and carrying material evidence brought from those orbs, forever tempted to return and disappear in the magical forcefulness of their complacent idealism.

We were only a few, of course, very few, who remained so marked by the fact, that ever since then we would never abandon the Borgesian world, because we would even discover later, as enthused as the one who makes a discovery by his own even though others have already done it before: the Kafkaesque condition of Borges’ literature, and years later the Borgesian condition of Eco’s literature.

From him it was, top and paradigm of the writer, from whom we learned that books are extensions of the thinking and the mind of the human being. The book, the magazine, the newspaper, as extensions of the thinking, must so keep that condition of word and human ideas’ vehicle, must serve as means of broadcasting of those ideas among all cultures, for only so we will be able to move forward on this cosmic journey without losing track, without getting lost nor ending up buried under the uncontainable avalanche of data and images.

Thirty years since his death, the Argentinian tiger, the most universal gaucho, still rests in Geneva, though his work and his name are now more immortal than ever. To me, though Borges did not live to see it, the current world is full of his fiction. For example, if someone wants to meet/know the aleph, they can read and read again that Borgesian tale, but can also connect to the internet from a computer or a cell phone, and in that precise moment converge at a single spot, all the spots around the world.

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Remembranza y nostalgia de Borges
Por: Rodrigo Aguilar Orejuela

Hace treinta años nadie usaba aún en Latinoamérica los términos internet, correo electrónico ni teléfono celular. Lo más adelantado de la tecnología al servicio del consumo popular suntuoso era por entonces el disco compacto, que por supuesto resultaba aún demasiado oneroso para las grandes mayorías.

La noche del 14 de junio de 1986, atrapado por la manía apasionante del diexismo, hoy tan extraña y antiquísima, tan del siglo pasado y para la mayoría de los jóvenes completamente antediluviana, escuchaba por esas casualidades del dial Radio Suiza Internacional, que transmitía desde Berna. La noticia fue contundente: Borges, el gran Jorge Luis Borges, aquél que nunca recibió el Premio Nobel aunque lo merecía mucho más que la gran mayoría de quienes lo obtuvieron, acababa de fallecer en Ginebra.

El hecho nos marcó para siempre, pues no se hablaría de otro tema en la materia de Literatura Especial. A partir del día siguiente, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo sería, para la gran mayoría de quienes conformábamos la especialidad de Ciencias Sociales, la gran tortura o la gran pasión, según las características de cada uno de esos espíritus quinceañeros que poco o nada sabían del autor de El Aleph. Trabajos, monografías, exposiciones, investigaciones, ensayos, lecturas obligadas (y por ese motivo no tan placenteras como aquellas surgidas de la propia necesidad alimenticia de un bibliófago) dejaron en nosotros algo de Borges: en el caso del autor de estas líneas fueron su marca, sus ruinas circulares que de cuando en cuando vuelven a erigirse para envolvernos e involucrarnos en mundos oníricos de los que nunca se sabe cómo emerger, o de los que se emerge, como en La Flor de Coleridge, para siempre turbados y portando pruebas materiales traídas desde aquellos orbes, para siempre tentados a retornar y desaparecer en la mágica contundencia de su idealismo complaciente.
Por supuesto que fuimos pocos, muy pocos, quienes quedamos tan marcados por el hecho, que desde entonces jamás abandonaríamos el mundo borgiano, porque además descubriríamos luego, con el entusiasmo de quien hace un descubrimiento por sí solo aunque ya otros lo hayan hecho antes: la condición kafkiana de la literatura de Borges, y años después la condición borgiana de la literatura de Eco.

Fue de él, cima y paradigma del escritor, de quien aprendimos que es el libro una extensión del pensamiento y la mente del ser humano. El libro, la revista, el diario, como extensiones del pensamiento, deben por ende mantener esa condición de vehículos de la palabra y las ideas humanas, deben servir de medios de difusión de aquellas ideas entre todas las culturas, pues solo así podremos avanzar en este viaje cósmico sin perder el rumbo, sin extraviarnos ni quedar sepultados bajo la avalancha incontenible de la información y las imágenes.

A treinta años de su deceso, el tigre argentino, el gaucho más universal, aún descansa en Ginebra, pero su obra y su nombre siguen más inmortales que nunca. Para mí, aunque Borges no vivió para verlo, el mundo actual está lleno de su ficción. Si alguien quiere conocer el aleph, por ejemplo, puede leer y releer ese relato borgiano, pero también puede conectarse desde una computadora o un teléfono celular a internet, y en ese mismo momento tener en un solo punto todos los puntos del mundo.

 

RODRIGO AGUILAR OREJUELA
Bio: (Ecuador – 1970) Writer, ghostwriter, journalist, editor, columnist, I have worked as a journalist of opinion and information for twenty five years at different press media institutions from Ecuador. In 2004 I was the absolute winner in the First National Essay Contest. My books: Colombia-Ecuador: an Example of Coexistence (2004), The Charm of Cuenca (editions in Spanish, English, French, and German, 2005), Market, Barrio and City: History of the Ninth (2009), The Hummingbird’s Flight (2011), Like a Thistle: spoken portrait of Eudoxia Estrella (2013), Monologue of a Castaway (2016).

The Story Behind the Story Trish Jackson

 

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Every story starts with an idea—that one little spark of information that triggers a blaze of creativity.

A little while ago I was walking on the beach early in the morning and as I passed a man who was in conversation with two women I heard him say, “It all started at Melanie’s slumber party in 1978.” I immediately thought what a great first line for a story.

I’m still working on that one, but ‘Scorpio’s Sting’, my next romantic suspense thriller in the Zodiac Series is in the final editing process, and will be released by my publisher soon.

Here’s the story behind Scorpio’s Sting:

Several years ago when I lived in Young, Arizona, I was sitting at my desk in the real estate office, when my friend and co-worker received a phone call. I could tell immediately that this was something serious, and as soon as she hung up, she turned to me and said that her brother in Phoenix employed an illegal immigrant from Mexico. No biggy there. Lots of people in southern border states do that. This Mexican guy, let’s call him Juan, had paid a lot of money to have his wife safely escorted over the border (illegally) so she could join him and live with him in the United States.

The men whose ‘profession’ it is to get people across our southern borders without detection by Border Patrol are known as ‘coyotes’ and they are tough, ruthless people, often affiliated with the major drug cartels who also move drugs across our borders.

In this instance, the coyote had called Juan and demanded more money. He had Juan’s wife in a remote part of the Arizona desert and threatened to abandon her there without food or water unless he was paid another three thousand dollars.

As far as I remember, my friend and her brother were able to scrape up the money and help Juan out, but I wondered how many people can’t meet the coyote’s demands. I cannot start to imagine the terror of the victims and the helplessness of their family members.

In Scorpio’s Sting, Drew McBain has developed a system he calls a Virtual Mine Field, which will be installed along our borders, and will help to stop illegal border crossings as an alternative to building a wall. The major Mexican drug cartel in the area, La Serpiente Coral Cartel stands to lose millions of dollars in human trafficking and drug revenues. They mount a ruthless campaign to stop Drew from manufacturing the product, leaving him saddened, sickened, and driven by a desperate need for revenge.

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officer Neelie Nelson has a history with the Cartel. Her Border Patrol husband was tortured and gruesomely murdered by its leader, Jose Marie Iglesias. Now cartel members are following her home every night, and she is terrified they may hurt her child.

In a strange twist of circumstances, Drew and Neelie end up having to work together with a group of undocumented (illegal) immigrants living in the sewers under the city of Los Angeles to take Iglesias and his cartel down.

I write romantic suspense, so you know they’re gonna fall in love sooner or later. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Drew McBain’s eyes opened wide, and before he could do anything to stop her, a smoking hot blonde filled his arms. “Watch it!” he said.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry,” she yelped.

“You should look where you’re going.” He held onto her. She smelled good, and he had just groped a delectable, firm breast. “I didn’t mean to—”

She ran her tongue over her lower lip, and for a moment their eyes met. “I’m sorry, again.” She held up the cell phone she had been checking. “My bad.  I’m late for work.”

He released his hold on her, and watched her ass until she disappeared into the darkness.

~*~

I’d love to hear where your ideas come from.

Trish Jackson writes romantic suspense thrillers and romantic comedy, and loves to

include fictional animals that are not limited to dogs in her stories.  http://www.trishjackson.com

 

3 Reasons Writing LGBTQ Fiction is Mega Rewarding

 

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Like many authors, I have lots of book ideas in my head. One of the most difficult decisions I had early on was choosing which one to start first. That started The Great Debate (trademark pending). I even made spreadsheets with pros and cons of releasing each novel. OK I made that up, but I did think about it a lot.

Finally, I decided it was the right time for my LGBTQ novel. Things today are progressing, but there’s still a lot of hate and ignorance out there. So many teenagers are struggling with their sexuality and bullying. And I really wanted to give them something that attempts to be funny and poignant at the same time. I had to say “attempts” because it’s not up to me to decide if it succeeded. SEE! I’m a humble author! For reals! Hello? Is this thing on?

Anyway, since The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren was released, I’ve realized the decision to publish it first was absolutely, one million percent correct. So many wonderful things have happened as a result of the novel being LGBTQ. And I wanted to share a few! So let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

I had the most fun LGBTQ book launch party ever!

When planning the book launch, I racked my brains on how to make it interesting yet relevant. I had some really, really bad ideas, like doing those stupid teamwork games where everyone sits on each other’s laps in a circle. Or conducting trust falls off the top rungs of ladders.

Finally, someone suggested that, because my book is set at a pray-away-the-gay school, why not take everyone there? Consequently, I made name tags for everyone that read, “My name is X and I’m a gay”. Then, I conducted the same orientation written for Sanctuary Preparatory Academy (the homophobic school in my novel). Sanctuary is WAY over-the-top with their homophobia. There are posters depicting the stereotypical signs of gays and lesbians. They even serve food like “Cleansing Corn” and “Healing Hamburgers”. With all this in mind, I made my own posters and handed out meal coupons listing some of the food. For a half hour, everyone knew what it was like to be told they were essentially evil.

The fun part was half of the attendees were straight. So I got to pull them into my world along with everyone else. And they took it so well. I even convinced a few of them to come out. OK that’s not true.

But, in the end, it was a really fun, memorable event.

I dominated a Barnes & Noble event (Mwahahaha!)

Early this summer, I was fortunate enough to attend a young adult book event at my local Barnes & Noble. I had no idea what to expect so, the day of the event, I showed up all nervous, toting my box of books. Why was I nervous? Well, although I’m proud of my novel, I did have this little worry in the back of my head about backlash. I started concocting worst-case scenarios about prejudiced people shaming my novel or throwing giant Shakespeare books at me.

When I arrived, I was put at a table with two other local authors who immediately put me at ease. They were both friendly and approachable. However, both of them were much more established than me, so I imagined giant lines forming in front of them while I filed my nails.

Nope.

First of all, the event planners got us involved, making us compete in a spelling bee against the teenagers. It was really fun, except I was one of the first people out! You can laugh, but I was given a word from Harry Potter, like densaugeo or aparecium or broom. Who in their right mind knows how to spell those?

As embarrassing as it was – all the kids laughed and one even threw some Chocolate Frogs at me, screaming, “Spell this!” – being eliminated allowed me to chat with the teens. Their interest in my book was incredible! Virtually every teen there grabbed a copy and some talked with me about their own struggles. One teenager told me about her love of writing and interest in the LGBTQ community.  She and I have since exchanged e-mails.

Although I’m kind of bragging, don’t think this is how all my events go. I had another event where I brought 20 books and left with 19. And the only reason one was gone is because I forced someone to take it for free so it at least looked like I’d sold something. See! Humble.

I got to speak with an LGBTQ school!

Late last year, a friend connected me with a man who’d founded Pride School Atlanta in Georgia. While their students are primarily LGBTQ, the school is for anyone who wants to learn in a safe, bully-free environment.

I ended up sending him copies of my book and we’ve since become friends. Last week, he invited me to be a guest speaker to his students. It was amazing! I was expecting to jump onto Skype and see two students interested in writing. Instead, I found a room full of students and teachers all asking me questions about writing, LGBTQ issues, Pokemon Go, and everything in between.

One of my favorite parts of the chat was when I held up my book. When the students saw the word ‘Gay’ in the title, they gasped and clapped. That really touched me. Young people everywhere are clamoring for fiction they can identify with. And being able to fill that gap just a little is so rewarding.

All in all, I’ll never forget their reactions, and the reactions of everyone I’ve spoken to about the novel. It made the decision to write a novel about a gay teen and a siren one of the best I’ve ever made.

 

About the Author

Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out”. See what he did there? He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

Special Places by Patricia Dusenbury

 

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Special good or special bad, some places are simply more interesting than others. A unique character makes them tourist destinations—and popular settings for fiction. My first three books are set in pre-Katrina New Orleans.

The Big Easy, The Crescent City, The Paris of the Americas—New Orleans has nicknames to spare, and more than enough personality to support them all. How can you not be charmed by the food, the music, the glorious mix of people, and the easy-going atmosphere? But wander off the beaten path and you’ll see poverty. Don’t go too far or you’ll risk being mugged. Dig a little deeper and see how easy-going can lead to an acceptance of corruption. Put the good and the bad in a pot, stir it up, and you have a great setting for mysteries.

New Orleans also has numerous old houses in various states of repair, which makes it a perfect location for Claire Marshall whose vocation is the restoration of historic houses. Claire loves her adopted city, but she learns that its old houses hold secrets: hidden cupboards, ghosts, skeletons real and metaphoric. People have their secrets, too, things no one wants to talk about, and if you insist …  Well, you get the picture.

After three mysteries set in New Orleans, I wanted a change of scenery. Geary, NC cannot be found on any map, and the imaginary 700 miles that separate it from New Orleans are a chasm. Where New Orleans is a diverse and tolerant port city; Geary is small town Appalachia, homogenous and judgmental. The anonymity that is part of city living doesn’t exist in Geary, but there are things no one wants to talk about.

The new setting gets a new heroine. Older and wiser than Claire, Susan Randolph has been around the block. Her history includes a shotgun marriage to the scion of Geary’s first family, two sons, growing unhappiness, and a hasty departure. That was eleven years ago, and as far as Susan is concerned, Geary exists only in the past.  But then she sees Chris on television. The boy she left behind is now a young man, a suspect in a brutal double murder, and the object of an intensive manhunt.  Susan, who works for a criminal defense attorney in New York City, thinks she knows where Chris is hiding. She knows she can help him. Desperate for another chance to be a good mother, she returns to the town she hates.

I think the right setting adds color to a story, and some settings cry out for a story. Copper Hill TN and McCaysville GA, really one town divided by the state line, are calling to me. For almost a hundred years, they sat in a biological desert. Deforestation and copper smelting had created fifty square miles of eroded red clay and acid creeks where only man, the species that made the mess, could survive. Much has been written about the environmental devastation and the decades of reforestation efforts that, finally, is bringing back plants and animals. What interests me is the people who lived there.  Does such an extreme environment affect behavior?  I’m thinking the answer is yes, and one day I’ll set a book there. Meanwhile, the second installment of this blog will be a stranger-than-fiction true story from McCaysville.

***

Before she became a writer, Patricia Dusenbury was an economist and the author of numerous dry publications. She is hoping to atone by writing mystery stories that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015’s best mystery by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition. Book 2, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a finalist in the 2016 EPIC award and was a top ten finalist in the Preditors and Editors 2014 readers’ poll. Book 3, A House of Her Own, released in October 2015, completes the trilogy. It has been nominated for InD’tale’s RONE award. Pat’s newest book, Two Weeks in Geary, is a finalist for the Killer Nashville 2016 Claymore Award.

 

When she isn’t writing, Patricia is reading, gardening, hanging out with the grandkids, or exploring San Francisco, the fabulous city that is her new home

 

CONFESSIONS OF A WORD FLASHER by Sal Buttaci

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When I was a boy, caught in my mischief, my father would sit me down and ad-lib a story with a not-so-subtle moral attached. The protagonist had a different name, a different appearance, sometimes committed even a different infraction. The antagonist never changed. He was the one who lured Pete or Billy or Nicky off the path where the honest and self-respecting walked, heads high, posture straight, conscience specklessly clean.

Papa pitted one against the other as if to say, “Sal, I know why you took that pencil sharpener, but look at what you need to do now to make things right.” Then he’d touch my shoulder or wink at me. I had disappointed him, but that touch, that wink, were reminders that Papa still loved me no matter what. “Pete’s a good boy,” Papa would say, “but he’s got lessons to learn so he can become a very good boy.” Or “Billy loves his sister and didn’t mean to hurt her. He claims he’s sorry, but words are cheap if Billy can’t back them up by not hurting Maria again.”

I learned much about writing stories from my father. Though unschooled in the craft, he had an innate ability to weave characters in and out of conflicts. He knew how to cleverly move the action, give believable voices in dialogue, create suspense, and effectively resolve the conflict with a powerful last sentence or two that remained with me long after the telling. He orally fabricated those stories without hesitation, without an uh-uh pause filler, without unnecessary words. To this day I carry those writing lessons and life lessons Papa taught me.

My mother likewise unwittingly taught me how to tell a story in as few words as possible. Before we closed down the day, the last of evening before sleep, Mama would tell us Bible bedtime stories from the Old and New Testaments. Brought up in Sicily, she had never learned about Sleeping Beauty or any of the fairy-tale characters that so delight American children. I did not know about nursery rhymes either. Jack Horner? Miss Muffet? And just what was that tuffet she was sitting on anyway? Curds and Whey? Whatever they were, no way would I ever eat them!

In 2007 I retired after nearly thirty years of teaching English from 6th grade elementary to senior college classes. What I enjoyed most during those years was helping students improve their writing skills and encouraging them to submit their work for publication. It seemed the logical progression: create it and share it. An essential by-product of seeing one’s words in print was a bolstering self-confidence that riveted young writers to the literary track beyond school years. I am pleased to say many of my former students since 1966 continue to write, a good number of whom have become English teachers.

Writing poetry and fiction, especially the flashy shorts, is the love of my life, second only to my wonderful wife Sharon. I try not to let the sun go down on a day without writing, even if all I write are see-you-later notes in my pad or a poetic line to build upon or a sentence I suspect could and often does serve as the opener, the hook, for the rest of the story.

As a child I dreamed of becoming Batman’s new sidekick in the event Robin lost interest in fighting crime. Then I envisioned myself in the cockpit of fighter planes. At fifteen I learned how to box for the Police Athletic League, I saw myself as Kid Tuff, champion in the ring and future Lothario in the field, but in my second fight a better boxer knocked me out. Goodbye, Kid Tuff.

One day I told Papa I wanted to be a comedian. He punched my arm and said, “Don’t make me laugh!” He wanted a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer for his son. I became a teacher, but I never stopped writing. Did I dream of becoming a bestselling author like my literary heroes? I just wanted to write. After all these years, my first and foremost dream remains: to continue typing out of me those frisky pre-poems, those hopping hyper flashes driving me to the keyboard or the pen.

Philip Harris, the publisher of All Things That Matter Press, took a chance on my first flash collection, Flashing My Shorts. After that he took another chance and published my second: 200 Shorts. For his faith in me I will always be indebted and to all who have read and reviewed both books, finding neither one a flash in the pan.

I also wrote a book in 1998 called A Family of Sicilians: Stories and Poems, which I self-published and personally sold nearly all of a 1,000-copy first run. I wrote it to show readers the true image of Sicilians and Sicilian Americans in response to the gangster portrayal of the biased media. In 2008 I made it available at Lulu.com and copies continue to sell.

A Family of Sicilians…        http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ButtaciPublishing2008

Flashing My Shorts     http://www.freado.com/book/6562/flashing-my-shorts

200 Shorts                   https://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-Salvatore-         Buttaci/dp/0984639241?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

 

 

BIO

Sal Buttaci has been writing since childhood. His first published work, an essay entitled “Presidential Timber,” appeared in the Sunday New York News when he was sixteen. Since then his poems, articles, letters, flash and short stories have been widely published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Writer, Cats Magazine, Christian Science Monitor, and numerous others here and abroad. In 2007 he was the recipient of the $500.00 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. He lives in West Virginia with his wife Sharon, the love of his life and his work’s inspiration.

Reflections on life—a grouping of poems by Kenneth Weene

Early Breakfast

The worm – half eaten – burrows deeper
The robin’s beak is even fleeter.
Regrets the worm that he must eat her;
the apple makes her that much sweeter.

 

Antique

With a sneeze of nostalgia
I go antiquing.
I like things made of bronze, brass, copper –
Shiny memories that whir and clang.
I don’t want to buy –
Only to look.
I create new memories –
Reminiscences never lived.
It terrifies me when I find
My childhood in a shop,
Reminding my mortality
That I am getting old.
Wheezing with historic dust
I go antiquing
Only to see me in a mirror
Abandoned on a musty shelf.

 

Barbie

Sprung full boobed
Ready role model
For a generation
Willing to die
Of self-starvation
For flatter stomachs
For thinner thighs.

 

in time

the sweet mary and joseph flow of life
lost itself
as she wandering from man to man
sitting in the parlors of wheelchairs
touching each upon the head
in sweet caress
was lost

 

afeared

crossing herself with nervousness
wearing away the bodice nap
of the off-purple robe
that the angel of death
seeing such proof
might pass her by

stopping to preen her close-cropped gray
gazing in a mirror of empty air
and then again
the rounds renew
at once the sinner and the saint
without the bit
to pay her freight
across the river of her doom

 

I wouldn’t want to anthropomorphize

I wouldn’t want to anthropomorphize –
Not about penguins at the Chicago aquarium.
I wouldn’t want to over-identify
With the Rockhopper
Trapped on the highest ledge –
Marching un-surefooted back and forth
Not quite learning the narrow passage
Or perhaps inhibited by the Magelenites
Playing house and talking about the weather,
Which they could no longer remember
Never changes when one lives in glass cages.
I wouldn’t want to over-interpret
Her trapped marching back and forth,
Unaware of the desperation
A lesser species – such as man –
Might feel in her place.

 

While Love Sleeps

You stir in the dark, and I waken.
Strands of light poking through the blinds
outline your body curled beneath the covers.
Controlling my urge to reach into your dreams,
I watch – counting your breaths –
until sleep again descends.
In our sleep we breathe as one.

 

Ken Weene observes, “Every now and again I find poetry rather than prose expresses my mood and vision.”  Ken’s poetry, essays, and prose often reflect on the irony of life. Still he celebrates the humor and the intimacy that we can salvage from the only experience of which we can be sure, our earthly existence. You can find more of Ken’s work and view at http://www.kennethweene.com

Kenneth Weene
http://www.kennethweene.com

How to Approach Your Book by Dellani Oakes

 

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No one can dictate to you how to write your book. The way the story presents itself to the author is all important. How-To authors will tell you what you must avoid, shouldn’t do, how you have to approach something. The fact is, they don’t know anymore than anyone else, they just sat down and wrote a book about it. Don’t let them bully you and dictate to you how you write. Chances are good that they have broken their own edicts at one time or another.

The best advice I have ever heard came from actor, director, author, screenwriter and producer, Ken Farmer. “Just write the damn story.”

I couldn’t have said it better. There is no set in stone way to approach your story. Anyone who says differently is lying to you. I read an article many years ago, when I was a mere novice. I had one book, Indian Summer, under my belt. I was beginning my Lone Wolf sci-fi series. I came across this article by a famous sci-fi author, whose name I can’t remember now. He said that an author must outline everything carefully before beginning to write. An author must know the ending before beginning to write. An author must spend more time on the outlining and planning stage than on the writing itself. It was, in this author’s opinion, essential to follow a carefully crafted plan.

That one article spun me into a panic of momentous proportions. I don’t do any of that. I tried writing an outline once, only to find myself writing the story instead. I scrapped the outline and wrote. I don’t plot and plan before I begin. I never know the ending. I hop in and hope for the best. I dispense with the long, drawn out planning stage and go for the fun part—writing.

For certain styles of writing, outlining is important. For instance, if you’re writing a biography, non-fiction or a how-to book, you should probably know where you’re going. I’ve always been more of the opinion that the outline is something you write after they paper is done, but then I never have had a conventional approach to anything.

I have been a Blog Talk Radio host for six years. In that time, I have talked with dozens of authors and I ask them the same question every show, “Are you a plotter/ planner or do you jump  in and start writing?” Surprisingly, the plotter/ planners are in the minority, though how-to authors would have us believe that theirs is the only correct and perfect way to approach the story. This offers food for thought. Which approach is the correct one?

The answer is simple, no one can tell you that. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for anyone else. I’ll describe my method (such as it is) and tell you some variations I’ve come across.

I get a starting idea—usually an opening sentence. Once in awhile, it’s dialogue. Whatever’s the case, it nags at me until I write it down. If I don’t, it’s gone and I may never get that story back. Frustrating but true.

Once I start to write, the words flow and I type as fast as I can in order to get them down. Sometimes, a story presents itself through pen and paper. I don’t argue, I just write. These are rare, but do happen. I’ve learned to live with it.

My stories, for the most part, come at me chronologically. I begin at the beginning and write until I reach the end. I rarely use flashbacks, though I do have them from time to time. I rarely skip from one scene to another. For me, that’s a lot more work. The only time I do that is if I get a scene that’s really compelling and wants to be written now. Then I pick up and continue where I left off, bringing the story to that place.

Once in awhile, I can’t remember exactly where I left off. If I’m away from home and intend to write while I’m gone, I’ll take a notebook with me. I might pick up a scene a bit further in the future and write it instead, then go back and bridge the gap.

I listen to music when I write. What I have playing varies, but usually it’s something that provides a background and doesn’t intrude. A lot of my author friends say they can’t have music with words, but that doesn’t usually bother me. I hear the melodies and am only marginally aware of the lyrics.

I continue typing until I finish the book, or the muse clams up. Since she’s a pesky wench, she does that fairly often—hence the fact that I have nearly as many unfinished novels as I do finished ones. If she closes her mouth on one, she often opens it on another. I write on that for awhile until she clams up again.

This is my method, if it can be called such.

There are variations, the most common of which are below. I am presenting these in First Person, though they are the ways and means of other authors:

I write each scene separately, whatever interests me the most. I write notes of each on a note card and lay them out on the floor, moving them around until I get the right sequence, then I string them together.

I write chronologically, but I write different scenes, the ones that speak to me the loudest, then I weave them together.

I have to have absolute quiet when I work. I can’t have music, TV, radio or any other distractions. If I do, I lose track of where I’m going with the story.

I don’t like music playing, but I have the TV on while I write. I don’t pay attention to it, I just like the background noise.

I listen to the radio when I write. It helps me block out other noise and concentrate on my writing.

I work on only one book at a time. If the words stop flowing, I give myself a break and do something else. When I feel the story again, I go back to it and keep writing. I can’t keep track of more than one plot at a time.

These variations are endless. I have only listed the ones that I’ve heard more than once from other authors. I’m surprised to find that there are a few of us who constantly juggle multiple projects. I don’t know if it speaks to our level of Attention Deficit or some other personality quirk. Most people I speak to work on one project at a time. There are some of us who are, apparently, gluttons for punishment and torture ourselves with more.

Write the way that feels comfortable. Allow your chaotic process to be productive and don’t worry about it. Accept that the first draft will probably be terrible and live with this fact. It takes years to write an acceptable first, second or hundredth draft. Don’t feel as if you need to control it all, because the fact is, you control nothing. The story chose you, not the other way around. It will control how you write, what you write and how it ends. Accept this and move on. It’s much more fun when you allow yourself to relax.

 

©2014 Dellani Oakes
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Dellani Oakes is the author of nine published novels, 50 more which haven’t been finished yet and 75 which are finished, but not published. She’s a Blog Talk Radio host on the Red River Radio Network where she speaks to other authors. She’s also former A.P. English teacher and journalist.

To Buy Dellani’s Books http://tinyurl.com/kwt3ne9

Write is Right by Dellani Oakes

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 I’m the first to admit that I can’t spell. If it weren’t for spell check, the greatest invention in the modern age, I’d never get anything written. Next best, on-line dictionaries, because now I don’t have guess every time I can’t spell a word. If I misspell a word when looking it up, the program will ask me if I mean…. And it gives me suggestions.

I misspell stupid things—anything with IE or EI, will always be reversed. Fortunately, the computer notices and changes it for me. Yay! Necessary. Camouflage. Bureaucrat. These are examples of words I frequently misspell. There are others, but I am most consistently wrong with these. I can usually get through necessary, but I have to spell it to myself as I go. I can’t just type or write it.

When I was a teenager, I had an extensive vocabulary. With a college English professor for a father and an elementary school teacher for a mother, how could I not? Unfortunately, I couldn’t spell the extensive vocabulary and had to rely on much more basic things. When I asked my English teacher about it, he told me to “Look it up.” “But how,” I asked. “Can I look it up if I don’t know how to spell it?” No one ever had a good explanation. It took me years to learn that if it wasn’t under the spelling I thought, that was wrong, I had to try something else. Tedious process. Again, thank god for spell check and on-line dictionaries!

I finally cracked down and put my mind toward spelling better when my English teacher, Mr. Frakes, gave me back a paper that said: “For story and content A. For mechanics F.” Much embarrassed, I decided that perhaps spelling did matter. It was a long process, and it only partially took, but I have finally gotten more conversant with spelling. I had thought of writing this piece, leaving the typos in, but decided that made me look way stupider than I was willing to look and I corrected them. I’m all for window dressing, but that would have been a little much.

I was grateful to Mr. Frakes for teaching me something else with that one message. That was to be as fair to my students as possible. I adopted that method of grading when I became a teacher, because I had some brilliant students who couldn’t spell their way out of a wet paper sack. One even bought a “Bad Speller’s Dictionary” only to find that his misspellings were so messed up, they weren’t in there. My heart went out to him. I felt his pain! More than once, he’d hand in a paper with the same word spelled three or four different ways, all wrong. I asked him about it once.

“I figured if I tried it different ways, one of them would be right.”

Sadly, he was completely wrong in that assumption. Somehow, he defied the laws of averages and statistics, defied the gods of grammar and still managed to mess it up completely. I lost track of him once he graduated. I hope he, like I, learned to spell and that he can find compassion in his heart for others the way I had compassion for him.

 

In addition to writing, Dellani Oakes is a prominent host on Blog Talk Radio.

The Rule of Five By Nancy Cole Silverman

 

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Someone once told me we couldn’t be friends because they already had their five.  I looked at them curiously.  I had no idea there was a limit to the number of friends one could have, but indeed with some people – particularly those living here in Los Angeles – there is.  Five appears to be a magic number for which people feel they are comfortable.

It got me thinking.  Could the same be true for my readers?  Was there such a thing as an ideal number of principal characters?

Writers know too many names on a page or in a scene can confuse the reader.  While there is no rule-of-thumb for the number of characters an author may use in a work, there is a limit to the number the reader is comfortable with before they begin to feel overwhelmed. Please note, I’m not talking about the over-all number of minor and reappearing characters in a book, but those that actually interact with the protagonist for the purpose of moving the story forward.

Hence my rule of five.

  1. Limit the number of primary characters to a handful. This frequently allows the author to add color and depth to their personalities.  Alice becomes not just the girl with blue eyes, but my former college roommate, the girl who got all the guys, etc.
  2. Consider combining the roles of principal characters. Do you really need five investigators?  Would two, maybe three be better, allowing you to show the conflict between them?
  3. Make certain your characters names are not too similar to each other. I’m good friends with Maryann, Marilyn and Madeline, but I’d never write a novel with the three of them in the same room. It’s too easy with today’s speed reader to slip by the names and mix them.
  4. Ancillary characters don’t always need to be named. Consider referring to them by their job description. For instance, the intern, the receptionist, or perhaps by a physical description; the pharmacist with the bulbous nose.
  5. First and last names are wonderful and frequently used alternatively, as well as a nickname. But make certain it’s used frequently enough that the reader will remember that Worm when used on page 192, was Marty’s nickname from high school that you introduced in chapter one.

Of course rules are made to be broken. Tolstoy was famous for the number of characters in his novels and their pseudonyms. I remember having to make a chart to follow all the characters in his books. But most readers today all multi-taskers, they may be watching TV, surfing the internet or perhaps even texting while reading your novel.  Keeping it simple may guarantee your reader will remember your book and even pick up the next.

Oh, and by the way, I ran into my I-already-have-my-five-friends the other day.  She wanted to get together.  It seems her BFF had moved away and she suddenly found herself with time on her hands.  She wondered if we might hang out.

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Nancy Cole Silverman says she has to credit her twenty-five years in radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. In 2001 Silverman retired from news and copywriting to write fiction fulltime. In 2014, Silverman signed with Henery Press for her new mystery series, The Carol Childs’ Mysteries. The first of the series, Shadow of Doubt, debuted in December 2014 and the second, Beyond a Doubt, debuted July 2015. Coming soon, in 2016, is the third in the series, Without A Doubt. For more information visit www.nancycolesilverman.com

 

 

 

 

SOME STORIES HAVE NO ENDINGS by Bonnie Hearn Hill

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Winter had settled in, and Central California carried a sharp, stringing cold that made me appreciate the warmth of the classroom as I entered it that night. With a year of teaching writing behind me, and several students who were now published, I had gained confidence in my ability to help other writers reach their goals.

That night just after class began, an attractive, dark-haired woman dressed in white entered the room, walked to the back, and slid into a seat next to Raquel Aleman, one of my regulars.

With shaking hands, Raquel read an essay that night. Unlike her bilingual children’s stories, “I Fought Back” described Raquel’s abusive marriage and her struggle to overcome her fear when her husband shoved her into the bedroom closet as he frequently did when he brought women to their home. This time, she burst out and confronted both the shaken husband and his woman.

When Raquel finished reading, everyone applauded, the first time that had happened in my class.

As students praised Raquel, the woman in white looked straight ahead, as if she didn’t hear.

“I’ve never told this to anyone,” Raquel said to the class. “I can’t begin to explain how free I feel, and how scared.”

We talked then about how the only things that own us are those of which we cannot speak. We talked about possible markets for her essay. Although we critiqued numerous manuscripts that night, Raquel’s was the one everyone praised as they left the room.

Usually quiet, she was animated as she paused at the door. “See you at the Robin,” she told me.

After class each week, many of us met at Red Robin, and some of our best ideas happened there. This was the first night Raquel would join us.

Students continued to file out until only the woman in white and I remained. Her black hair was pulled back from her face, her lips a deep red. Those are the only details I recall, and even they are suspect. When I think about her now, I’m sure she wore a white suit. In other attempts to recall her, I’ve told myself it was a white dress similar to one I used to own.

We stepped outside, and I started toward my car. “Which way are you heading?” I asked.

“The same way you are, I think.” Her voice was low and controlled.

Panic attacks hid out in the parking lot. Lights could play in weird ways, and even when I thought I was balanced and happy, a crippling wave waited behind every corner. I was grateful to have this stranger with me, grateful and curious. Side by side, we headed through the cold night air toward the parking lot, and I wondered if I should invite her to meet us at Red Robin.

“I liked your class,” she said. “I’m sorry I joined late. I just saw it in the school catalog yesterday.”

“I’m glad you came,” I told her. “Have you written before?”

“Only journals, but I can never get it down. I thought maybe this would help.”

We reached my car, and I leaned against the back passenger door. Something was making me anxious. If I didn’t have the solid surface against my back, I wouldn’t have been able to stand there.

“Maybe it’s time,” I said. “I’ve heard that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

“I hope so.” She spoke in a clear tone devoid of emotion. “Several years ago, my daughter was killed by a drunk driver.”

I hadn’t expected that, and certainly not in such a calm, practiced tone. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to get too personal.”

“Don’t apologize. I wanted to tell you. It destroyed my life.” Again, she spoke in a matter-of-fact way, as if she had rehearsed this speech for me. “Almost a year after that, my son died of a drug overdose.”

“That’s terrible. What did you do?” I didn’t know how else to respond.

“Part of me was furious with him for doing that, especially since he knew that my daughter’s death had nearly destroyed me. I was so devastated, so…” She stopped and stepped back as if she had second thoughts. “I know you want to go meet the others. Is it okay for me to tell you this?”

“It’s okay.” I felt glued to the ground. For whatever reason, I needed to listen to her.

She sighed, as if attempting to collect her thoughts. “I went to work for the IRS. It was easy because no one cared, and everything was rigid. I had to be on time. I couldn’t talk to anyone. Do you understand?”

“In a way I do,” I said. “You didn’t want to feel.”

“Do you think writing will help?” she asked.

“All I can tell you is it’s a great healer.”

“I believe that.” She glanced around the dim parking lot at the other students who were laughing and talking just a few feet from us. “I can’t share this with anyone at work. I set it up that way, of course. My marriage is over. Both of my children are dead. I’m not just grieving. I’m angry.”

“You’ll be safe here.” I believed that, and I felt connected to her and to the honesty of her words. “If you don’t want to read in class, you don’t have to. Just try to start writing what you feel. Don’t edit yourself or worry about what anyone will think. No one will see it unless you want them to, I promise.”

“That’s what I need.” For the first time, she smiled. “When I heard Raquel read tonight, I wondered how it would feel to be that open.”

“Raquel didn’t get there overnight,” I said. She got there by doing the work.”

The last car left the lot, and I realized my hands were numb from the cold.

The woman glanced at me and then at her watch, although I doubt that she could have seen it in the darkness. “I’m so sorry I took your time. I have never told anyone what I shared with you just now.”

“It’s all right,” I told her. “Remember what I said about healing. I know writing can do that for you. It has for me.”

We talked longer, close to thirty minutes.

Then I watched her walk to her car and realized that I had somehow slipped into panic mode. I, who had been leaning against the passenger door, was so weak that I had to feel my way to get into the driver’s seat. Inside, I took deep breaths and tried to calm the crazed flutter of my heart. It was as if I were expressing the anxiety the woman in white could not.

She never returned.

At first, I made excuses. Perhaps she had to work late. Maybe something else had come up. But the moment I walked into my classroom the next week and saw the empty seat next to Raquel, I knew.

“It’s because she confessed to you,” a friend told me later. “Every time she looked at you, she would have to remember.”

I wonder.

What happened to the woman in white? Why didn’t she return? Did she ever write? Could I have said or done something to encourage her?

At first, I thought I had failed her. Then I had to remind myself that our encounter that night was about her, not about me. I may have been only one person on her path to share that story, only one of many strangers who would bring her closer to coming to grips with it.

Raquel sold her personal essay that year and much later, her memoir. In the twenty years I taught that class, we celebrated many successes, including my book deal with a major publisher for my first six suspense novels.

For a long time, I tried to remember the name of the woman in white, as if that detail would anchor other memories and maybe an explanation. I can’t believe that I would let a student float in and out of my classroom without asking her name.

Some stories have no endings, no structure to contain them, no red bows on top. When I share with others what I recall of this one, I always hear the same question. “Could you have imagined her?”

I’ve asked myself that as well. No one else with whom I’ve discussed it, including Raquel, remembers seeing her that evening.

Was the woman in white some part of me, a metaphor for that quality in all of us who dare to confront our pain and try to put our voices on paper? Was she part of my own healing?

No. The woman in my classroom and that parking lot was a real as I am. One night many years ago, she stepped into my life and allowed me a glimpse into hers. Even now, I’m not sure what I saw, or why.

 

 

Bonnie Hearn Hill’s many mysteries can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Hearn-Hill/e/B001HMUYPQ