Sunday, January 29, 2006

Why is it ... ? Part 2

By 1997 I had joined an online Trivia site, and met a woman who was there. She lived in Wyoming. We chatted often, after playing 'Cosmo's Conundrum' - a game no longer in existence at Uproar Games - and I fell in love with her. Mind you, without ever having laid eyes on her. So it can happen! And yes, I am quite shallow, but she was something special!

While chatting and surfing with her - nice to do with someone far away! - she sent me to a page with a short story she liked. It was "A Rose For Emily" by William Faulkner.

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I liked the short story, but was intrigued by one of those banner ads on the page. It advertised a free writing course. Something called "F2K". Well, that sparked something, brought something to life, so I surfed over and signed up. I went through a session - 7 weeks - of F2K and liked it, and joined WVU, its parent organization. Heck, it was just for one year, so it's not like I signed my life away. Besides I had money then. *sigh* Yes, I did, then. And I was thinking, quietly, that maybe these folks would show me how to get published.

So, I joined a Study Group or two, posted parts of chapters, gave feedback to the other writers, and generally had fun. I managed to get a few short stories published - and paid for! - and started work on a few projects that I eventually abandoned. And Time, of course, passed.

My Dear Lady agreed to move down here, so I paid to first move myself - from a small one-bedroom! - bought a plane ticket to the north, and moved her on down. An expensive, love-filled adventure! And I was madly, deeply in love. Within a few months I had lost my decent-paying job, and had scrambled to find a carpet cleaning job that paid less than half what I had been making, and ate up 10+ hours a day, six days each week. It exhausted me, frankly.

By the time we experienced the Four Hurricanes in late summer of 2004, she was tired of the lack of money, and my seeming inability to look for better jobs. And she left. Much as it hurt/hurts ... I can't blame her. I told her I'd take care of her, and in the end I could barely take care of myself.

By the following April my car had been repossessed, the phone - and dial-up - had been shut off, and I was barely hanging on. Writing was just another dead dream at that point. I was now working at Wal-Mart, had saved enough to buy a bike, so I could ride to work, and was on the trail of a cheap truck. Eventually I was able, with some help, to get the phone back, and with it the Internet.

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May saw me wake early one morning and go through the submission Guidelines of ePress. Well, what the heck, right? I was going nowhere, I had nothing ahead of me, so why not take the plunge again? So I pulled out the manuscript, made sure it fit the guidelines, and emailed it. I related that tale here, so I won't bore you with the story again.

After nine years, and a lot of crap in between, my manuscript began the publishing journey. Nine years! Now do you see what I meant in the previous post? Why did I want to go through that again?

I had a nice short-ish tale in the SF genre. Might make a decent novel. Might! But do I want to write something as involved as "Dune"? I just don't know. So, can I sit my arse down and do what my head tells me to do? Write down the dialogue I hear, describe the scenes I can see? Do I?

Gotta say, it still scares me, just as "Benning's War" scared me when I began it in 1996.


Yeah, I know I will, too. But I don't wanna!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Why is it ... ? Part 1

Why is it that I can see the story I wish to tell, in my mind, yet I cannot seem to be able to sit my arse down and write it? I know that what I thought was my tale has grown in leaps and bounds. It is now a very large story.

At first I had a nice, easily-handled tale - a story of two individuals, perhaps three - who are in conflict with one another, although one of those individuals only realizes said conflict a ways into the story. But, as so often happens, on some reflection, and dissatisfaction with the direction of the tale, I realized that it was but a portion of the tale. There seemed to be much more to be told.

Am I unwilling to go through with it? Am I afraid of writing a huge novel?

My first novel, "Benning's War" - soon to be available at as well as ePress - did the same bloody annoying thing! Now I ask you: do any of you go through the same thing? Look, I had a perfectly decent little article on an incident in the American Revolution. That's all I had in mind. Nothing more! And is that what I had at the end?

NooOOOOoooo! Of course not! Why not?

If I recall ... as I read the article, my mind's eye (yes, we have that! A Cinema in our brains that shows us things.) summoned up images and dialogue. Now, there was not one word of dialogue in the article, yet I was hearing it in my mind! Well, poop!

So, I figured, "Why not write that down?" After all, a short story can earn a little money, just as an article can. And I worked at that short story. Put a lot of sweat and writer's cramp into it. And when it was finished, the Mind's Eye was still showing me "Coming Attractions". I could re-read that short, and say to myself, "This is pretty good, Old Boy." But I knew I wasn't finished. And I hated that!

Damn it! Look, this was beginning to cut into my lazy, leasure time. I don't want to write any stinkin' novel! ("We don' need no stinkin' batches!" - name that motion picture!) My dreams are dead and buried! Finished! I had urges to write when I was far younger, but life goes on, y'know? And I left that behind, before my acting dreams died, before my Art dreams died. Dead and gone!

By Golly, I was not gonna stir up an old dream. I'm not interested. Who needs to be rejected again? To hell with that! I am my own man, and in no mood to listen further.


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So, of course I sat down and started writing. When I had done much of the story, and done quite a bit of research, too, I decided I wanted to see it. The ground. I wanted to be at the Waxhaws, climb the sides of Kings Mountain. See the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals. Feel the weather in South Carolina in May. So I went.

Took my brother along - no Lady at the time, and who wants to do these things alone, eh? Well, I didn't! And Tim made a fine companion - and we met in Charlotte, rented a car, and drove up to Boone, North Carolina. We did a lot of driving! Up and down! North, through the mountains, and into Tennessee. On to Elizabethton, the present-day site of the Watauga Settlements, and Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River. Then down to Kings Mountain, and a hot climb up to the top and back down. We rented a motel room, then rose the next day to drive down to the Waxhaws, the place where so many brave men died. The place that started all of this folderol.

Good Lord! It's almost not there! Sad, haunted place. A turnaround by the side of the road, information on the Park Service sign incorrect. A quiet place where brave men died, many years ago. And it looked surprisingly as I envisioned it! Only, in reverse! Where I had seen the Virginians on the east of the Waxhaws road - in my mind's eye - with the British Legion charging down the rise from the west, it was, in fact, the exact opposite. I think if it had been as I foresaw it, I might have tossed the entire book! It would have been far too spooky a happening.

But the trip inspired me to do some revisions, make some changes. And also, almost from the start of the writing, I had co-workers and friends who agreed to read snippets, and chapters as I finished them, and give me thier honest opinions. They were very helpful. And very tough! Finally, the manuscript finished, my family pleased with the result, I sent it to a small publisher here in Florida.

I figured a publisher where I live might be more inclined to publish me. Wrong. I received a polite rejection letter. Not a helpful word in the entire thing. Just one of those, "This doesn't fit our needs at present" letters. ooOOooooh! How stinkin' helpful! Yeesh!

So, with my very first official rejection in hand, I put away my book. And almost forgot about it.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Thomas Kinkade's 'Hometown Evening' hosted by Photobucket
"Hometown Evening" - 1998 by Thomas Kinkade

Well, Hick, this might or might not be Placerville. But I do like it. It's odd, seeing paintings of an America that only exists in dreams. Don't you agree?

Thomas Kinkade has a series - Sweetheart Cottage? - that's like that. Beautiful setting for each, but only a dream setting. And still, I have to return to gaze at it. For Kinkade, it's that "Painter of Light" hallmark that puts him in his own class. The illusion of light - candles, lampposts, reflected moonlight, and so on - that is the hallmark of a Kinkade painting is widely imitated. Sometimes those imitations have been quite good. They are, in their way, an homage to Kinkade. But there are a mountain of bad imitations, too. Yet, you can always seem to pick out the Kinkades from the fakes.

Thomas Kinkade's 'Moonlight Cottage' hosted by Photobucket
"Moonlight Cottage" - 2001 by Thomas Kinkade

Look at the puddle, the reflection within it. Sorry, those of you who find this pedestrian, lower-class, beneath you. This is Art. I love it! Complete with Kinkade's hallmark - the light!

Yes, Kinkade seems to be doing the Warhol thing in recent years - mass-producing product, dabbing a few bits of paint on an assembly line of canvases to add his 'touch' to the copies (copies that are hand-painted, just not by him) before they go on sale. That part seems tawdry at first glance. Commercial as opposed to Artistic.

Well, why not? He isn't the first! I can't remember if it was DaVinci or Michelangelo, but one, or maybe all of them did similar things. Using a school of apprentices to do the work under their guidance, the classic painters still garnered the credit, money, and plaudits for the finished product. Kinkade simply is doing what the painters of old did. And doing it very well, indeed!

I think that's the worst of it, too. To the Elite critics, it's his success that is his sin. Artists must suffer in their own time, and be incomprehensible to most people to be true artists. Otherwise they are 'commercial', simplistic, good only for placemats in diners.

So color me plaid and give me a Big Mac! I don't care! The Critics are idiots with inflated opinions of themselves. Piss on 'em!

I'm just sayin'. LOL

Friday, January 20, 2006

"Almost Heaven" by Thomas Kinkade

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Yeah, I know. It looks kinda like something from Field & Stream, but still, it's pleasant to see, isn't it?

Now, I need to find something by him from his paintings of Placerville. 'Hick' mentioned that, so I'm looking. Click on that picture to head on over to Kinkade Central.

Maxfield Parrish coming, too!

Fine Writing

There are so many fine novels out there. So many fine works of non-fiction, too. And it's quite hard to pick a favorite. But I know that many of you tend to keep your books, regardless of whether or not they were good or bad.

I keep way too many books, that's true. But I like to know that my favorites are where I can find them. As well, I like to buy copies of my favorites as gifts for friends and loved ones.

SomethingWickedThisWayComes Image hosting by Photobucket SomethingWickedThisWayComes Image hosting by Photobucket SomethingWickedThisWayComes Image hosting by Photobucket

I just finished re-reading one of my all-time favorites: "Something Wicked This Way Comes" by Ray Bradbury. Love this book. It still manages to give me chills. Here's what one synopsis said about it:

"A classic fantasy novel about a mysterious carnival that arrives in an Illinois town and begins to damage the lives of its inhabitants. Two boys are the only ones who realize what is happening and it is up to them to fight a growing evil that destroys all it touches."

Or here's an reviewer on the book:

"A masterpiece of modern Gothic literature, Something Wicked This Way Comes is the memorable story of two boys, James Nightshade and William Halloway, and the evil that grips their small Midwestern town with the arrival of a "dark carnival" one Autumn midnight. How these two innocents, both age 13, save the souls of the town (as well as their own), makes for compelling reading on timeless themes. What would you do if your secret wishes could be granted by the mysterious ringmaster Mr. Dark? Bradbury excels in revealing the dark side that exists in us all, teaching us ultimately to celebrate the shadows rather than fear them. In many ways, this is a companion piece to his joyful, nostalgia-drenched Dandelion Wine, in which Bradbury presented us with one perfect summer as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, he deftly explores the fearsome delights of one perfectly terrifying, unforgettable autumn. --Stanley Wiater"

Not bad, but this misses the fact that this tale is written so poetically that it almost brings tears to your eyes.

Now, I don't particularly care for poetry. And modern poems do nothing for me. Somehow the loss of rhymes and a kind of rhythm makes these 'poems' seem, to me, to be just short prose. At times they read, to me, like stream of consciousness. Not for me. I don't really want to read what somebody's psychiatrist should be reading.

That being said, Bradbury's prose here goes to a different place. It is not poetry, but reads so much as if it is. It is lyrical, melodious, rhythmic.

Now, whether or not you care for Fantasy, Horror, or Science Fiction - another of Bradbury's genres - this a novel that must be read. And savored. Read "The Martian Chronicles" , "Dandelion Wine", or "October Country" for some of the Bradbury flavor.

All I can tell you is that Ray Bradbury makes for some fine reading. He is a Master of Fine Writing. Go to the library, or the book store, or your favorite online book store, and find some Bradbury. You won't regret it!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I sorta forgot ...

Y'know, when my book got to the publisher, they sicced an interviewer on me! LOL

No, actually Parker Owens is a very nice person. She emails her questions, asks you to answer them, and when you're done she will send it back to you for your final approval. How sweet is that?

And nobody can whine that they didn't say that! So, Parker Owens interviewed me!

Does that mean I'm a real Writer? An Author? Heheheee!

Read, and I hope you enjoy! I don't think I came off sounding too odd, did I?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

"Moonlight" - Maxfield Parrish, 1932

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What more needs to be said?

Just this: Find more beautiful Art at CGFA.

Also, you can find beautiful works of Art at The Art Renewal Center.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Eyes Of The Beholder

Look, I know that we all have different taste. In many things. Food, Music, Art, Writing. Well, you name it. I know people who, honestly, enjoy eating Brussels Sprouts! Can you imagine? *shudder*

So, when I hear supposed 'smart' people denigrating things, simply because they exist for, or appeal to, the 'common man', I have a pretty good idea that they are elitist snobs who need to eat some Nachos, sip some cold beer, watch some Three Stooges short films. Why do they need these things, or something similar? Because they've been poisoned.

Yep! Poisoned! Ever hear this, or something like this: "If you have to ask what it is, you just don't understand 'art'."

I have. Oh, not aimed at me! Nosir! I don't usually parade my plebian tastes to the Elite, y'know? But I've heard it. What that person usually means is, "I have no idea what it is, but the label says it is 'Peace' (or 'Horse with Love Ankles' or 'Heart Sack One' or ... see?) and I'm not going to look foolish by saying it looks like a twenty pound slab of bacon, dipped in chocolate, and dropped from a twenty-story building."

Thus, the Elite have denigrated Norman Rockwell for ages. They poo-pooed Maxfield Parrish. The composer of "The Nutcracker Suite", Tchaikovsky, was nothing. And so on, for many creative people whose only crime was to create things - music, art, poetry, books - that everybody understood and enjoyed.

This is a painting that I enjoy. It's "Garden Of Prayer" by Thomas Kinkade.

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Not my favorite, mind you. My favorite is Maxfield Parrish's "Moonlight". But this I find beautiful. Thomas Kinkade is a solid, talented painter. He's found a niche in the market, and his fans love him. Therefore, to the Elite, he's dull and his work is garbage.

The same is true of some of the most popular novelists. When did you last read the book that won the Nobel prize for literature?

Thought so.

Can you look at the above and not enjoy it? Be honest, now.

How I Became an F2K Mentor

F2K is a free writing course hosted by Writers' Village University. It's a really good writing course. So good, in fact, that I signed up for it three times! After the second session I joined WVU as a member. Been there ever since! I highly recommend it to any writers out there.

Anyway, back to F2K.

Very early during my first trip through, I found that staying in my own classroom was not quite my 'cup of tea'. I liked to peek in at the other classes, see who was in there, read what they were writing. And I'd give a little feedback, too. Hey! For me, that was fun. And I had the time, being single - hint! hint! Ladies! - and curious.

Got to know quite a few writers - fellow students - and came to be known as a 'kibbitzer' around F2K. Truth is, I know I infected a few others who then became 'kibbitzers' as well. Hehehee!

There are always a few writers who, for some unknown reason, do not get many comments or feedback on their writing. Some just show up late, and they never catch on with the others. Some don't feel qualified to give feedback, so nobody gives feedback to them. And, yes, some write horrible stuff.

It's true.

So it feels good to add some feedback to an empty board. Know what I mean? Besides, I read some very nice things in my Kibbitzing travels.

Well, fast forward to my third trip through F2K in the Autumn of 2005. I may be a better writer now, but I still enjoy the 'kick in the pants' that F2K can provide to any writer. So there I am. Taking the lessons again, and doing my thing. My thing being ... remember the word? ... Kibbitzing!

Heheheee! Yep, Ol' benning was kibbitzing the different classrooms again, even ticking off one of the Mentors. Mentors are volunteers who guide the students, answer questions, and keep an eye on things. There's a Mentor for each classroom. So, for me, nothing had changed, really. Except ...

Well, seems they needed another Mentor or two. Seems they did notice that Ol' benning got around, met the students, gave advice or steered the students to the right people to ask, and just generally helped out. Did Ol' benning know that's what he was doing? Hardly. Ol' benning was having fun. Period.

So the Head Mentor, whom I call 'MA', emailed me and asked if I'd be interested in becoming an F2K Mentor. Sheesh! Me? But that's a responsibility, right? *sigh*

Well, 'MA' and the others are friends of mine, y'know. We're all members of WVU. If they ask, they must think I can do it. Right? That's what I figured. So, I said, "Sure, I'll do it."

Some procedural things followed, and then 'MA' wanted to know if I had a Name for the room I would have. See, all the classrooms bear the name of a writer. Some I've never heard of, so I know the Mentor named it for some obscure favorite. One room is named for a former F2K Mentor - Colin R. Onstad - who passed away. Well, I'd think about it, right? I'd want a good writer to grace the nameplate of my room, right? You betcha!

Emailed 'MA' a few minutes later. "Can I have the Robert A. Heinlein room?" If you never heard of him, look him up! Sheesh!

And that's the room I'm Mentoring in right now. LOL

So far, in this, my first run at Mentoring, it's been interesting. But it's still very early. We'll see if I can actually do what the veteran Mentors can. But I haven't scared any students away. Yet.

We'll see.

Hit those links at the top of this post, or over to the left there. Great places for writers. Trust me! I'm not a politician! :D

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Not so hard, but ... Reposted

Well, it seems this isn't terribly difficult to do, supposing one has a lot of opinions and plenty of time to express them. I have the opinions, but not so much the time. Free time I use reading blogs, writing - or attempting to - my novel, and just generally goofing off. That's me - a goof off.

Now, I do have a completed novel, at a publisher, waiting to be readied for the buying public. As I understand it, my book is behind another that is having some production problems. Were this a large publisher I doubt my book would be held up. However this is a very small publisher, with limited resources. So what was supposed to be a December publishing date is now, tentatively, a January publishing date. Make sense? LOL

Fact is, the manuscript was accepted in Late May 2005. By all rights I would not have expected it to hit the shelves for nearly eighteen months, anyway. Seems they liked it enough to put an editor on it right away. And then we struggled with revision and corrections for a few months. Sometimes it was fun. Sometimes it was hell.

Trust me, after you've written a novel, gone through it for errors, had it read by people whose judgement you trust, revised the daylights out of it, and sent it to a publisher ... well ... you are damned well tired of it. The last thing you want to do is look at it again. And again, and again, and ... Get the idea?

From my main editor, the manuscript went to two others. Same things from them. My choice was always make the changes or don't. "It's your book, benning. You decide."

After the three of them were finished, guess what? HAH! One more editor. AND I was asked what sort of cover I wanted.

"Can I do my own?"

"Well, we do have someone who's done a few covers for our authors." And I just know they're thinking, "Oh, Lord, he's gonna do a cover in Sharpie and crayons!"

"Well, lemme give it a shot, and you decide if it sucks or not, okay?" Yes, I did say that. Hey! I used to be a fair hand with a pencil, and painted some nice pictures in my youth. Well, I did! Hmmmph!

Here's the main picture I worked up. Not too bad, is it? Be brutal!

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This is my work, folks. My sketch, my arrangement, my cover. Any good? well, I hope so. Besides it's the inside that counts, right?

My novel is "Benning's War". It's a novel about the American Revolution. I think it's quite good. I hope once it's published that you buy a copy. AND that you agree that it's good.

My publisher is Image hosted by ePress Online is a small publisher, but they're growing. Why not visit them? See if the books now available aren't interesting enough to buy? I know most of the authors there, and they write some entertaining things. The non-fiction books are well worth the small price, too!

Go! Buy! Come back and see if I'm on sale yet, too! LOL