Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tales Old Roy Told

Hooping in a pinafore.

Finding Old Roy

I was ten years old and wanted to do something different. “Nah, I don’t want to do that,” I answered Warren. “All we ever do is roll hoops. It’s getting too hot anyway.”
The town was dusty but blessed with an itinerant cloud shadow. Nothing was going on but an occasional rider or buggy passing by in the dirt of the main street.

Warren acted like he warn’t too upset ‘cause he never made a move to git up. We were at the end of the boardwalk. The only building in town past us was Jones’, the blacksmith who usually supplied the wheel hoops we played with. Warren kept right on throwing pebbles at a pile of horse apples, trying to knock the top one off. “Well, what then Noah?”

Good-looking Jessie Beauchamp came up with the idea that turned on our imaginations. Jessie, whose mom tried to pass her off as a genteel little lady by using a hot curling iron to put springy curls in Jessie’s hair and tucking her in starched white pinafores to keep her dresses clean. The Jessie that Warren, Elijah, and I all secretly loved.
She said it. “I heard my daddy mention that Old Roy would tell anybody a story for a drink.”

“That’s probably true.” Elijah nodded in agreement because he always agreed with everything.

“How come it's true?” Warren poked a finger at Elijah roping him into the middle of attention.

That was a ritual in our group. Elijah agreed, and Warren tried to make him justify why.

Eli cast about, looking for someone to help him and finally come through on his own. “Have you ever seen Old Roy at the water barrel? I bet he’s plumb thirsty.”

I thought about that and figured Eli had it. You’d see Old Roy here or there, but no one ever saw him move. He just was in his place. Or somewhere else. I ruminated on it while they watched me. Them and Cora, Eli’s little sister.  For some reason, I seemed to be our leader, so I had to think it through.

I made a decision. “Cora, fetch a pint jar. We’ll go see.”

She ran to the blacksmith’s and returned with a stained jar that smelled like turpentine, but it was empty. Warren filled it at the horse trough, and we marched off to find Old Roy because he wasn’t behind the smithy’s, one of his usual abiding spots.

We reconnoitered him reclined on a bench in front of the cooper store on the shady side of the street. Old Roy had his hat pulled over his eyes, his hands tucked under his round belly that reminded me of lump jaw settled onto his stomach, and his fatigued boots crossed at his ankles. That wasn’t no problem because Old Roy didn’t wear spurs. Couldn’t use ‘em if he did. No one saw him walking, much less riding.

We arrived at the same time Mrs. Lambert stopped to admonish Old Roy. She tapped him across his knees with her parasol until he moved his hat back, uncovering his bearded face. She drew herself up, arms akimbo, and demanded to know, “Why are you lying there like that?”

Old Roy brought her into focus and in his dark whiskey voice rumbled, “So we can look into each other’s noses. I can see tadpole jerky in yours. What do you see in mine?”

Mrs. Lambert went cherry, with the seed jerked out the way her lips puckered. She placed her hand in front of her face and took off, pumping her laced-up city shoes against the boardwalk like hail on the roof.

I felt kinda bad for her since she always made sure we got some cookies when she baked, but jiminy whillikers, it was funny.

Old Roy took our measure while wiping the rheum out of his eyes with the backs of his thumbs. “What do you kids want?”

Mrs. Lambert once shooed Warren out of the way so he may have been feeling some kinship with Old Roy. He held out the jar. “Here’s a drink. How about telling us a story?”

Old Roy squinted at him. “Got a chaw?”

Warren’s face said he had something of value he didn’t want us to know. He pulled out a half-inch length of black twist and held it to Old Roy. “Got this licorice,” he offered.

Old Roy waved it away. “Ain’t got the teeth to eat that and it don’t soak up like a good chaw,” he said.

Warren popped it into his mouth before any of us could say a thing. Old Roy dug around in his shirt pocket and found a small plug of tobacco that he set to half-chewing, half-gumming. He took the drink, threw out the water, and spit in the jar.

“Well,” he said, “there is the matter of Ragtail and Lark.”

Who or what are Ragtail and Lark? Come back next Wednesday and Old Roy will begin his story.

How do you think it will go? Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is published Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Loving Your Writing

Never a wrong word.

Are We Rushing To Publish?

Last week we talked about being our own worst critics. When that misconception grabs us, we hold on to our work and never let anyone read it.

At the other end of the pendulum swing is where we imagine our story and it so enthralls us that we can't see that it didn't transfer to the written word very well.

The ability to self-publish has seen the market offer a lot of books that are subpar in punctuation, character development, plot, and ... you get the idea.

Let's not be that guy

How do we know our work is ready for the market? One person I heard of uses her retired English teacher to proofread her work. When the teacher gushes over the story, it's rushed to print. Let the marketing begin.

We need English teachers. We need to learn all we can from them. We also need Creative Writing teachers if we're going to write something to hold someone else's attention.

The difference is between learning how to spell success and how to achieve it.

But more than that

Let's say that we've typed "The End." Now what?

Here is a post from Brian Klems Writer's Digest blog hosting Steven Gillis about rewriting.

Yes, it's necessary and here's how you find out.

Critique groups. Listen with an open mind and be prepared to find out that there is only one Shakespeare.
Critiques work both ways, give one, get one. This is good. It's another part of our learning experience.

Beta readers. They will read the whole manuscript at once and give an overall report, or we can ask for specific feedback such as how well the dialog flows.

Professional editing. The best, most effective, and most expensive solution to polishing a story.
There are different levels of editing that we won't go into here. This is an area for a whole post.
There are many sites regarding the types of editing services available, search for them. But approach with caution.
Anyone can hang out a shingle and say that they're an editor so be sure and check out their credentials.

Then publish your story

And rest assured that you gave your baby the best start in life you could.

What did you do to get ready for publication? Let's talk about it. Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran




Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Our Worst Critics

There's that critic. Always watching

The Critic in the Mirror

I know that guy. He's the one telling me that my writing is no good, I'm wasting time and resources, and I have nothing new to say. There's a ring of truth to that.

Especially the part about nothing new to say. How many romances can be written, how many westerns, how many mysteries? You get the idea.

So why are thousands of books published each year?

We each have a voice, we are unique. We do the same things differently and we have a story.
Take bicycle riding for instance. I recently read a moving story where bike riding was a central theme. The tale wasn't about a bike, but couldn't have happened the way it did without one. No bike, no story.

Another bike rider, my son Charlie, got his pants leg caught in the chain, hit a rock, and catapulted into a sticker patch. According to his mother, the story is about mending scrapes, pulling out stickers, and sewing pants. But again, no bike, no story.

So, are these stories worth writing? Absolutely.

What's stopping us?

I think it all comes down to fear. Fear of rejection, of course, fear of being the object of ridicule, and lots of our own particular reasons.
However, fear can be overcome by gaining information and confidence.

Let the reader decide.

We don't know what readers will like or dislike. Believe me, we'll find both kinds for anything we write.

We need to gain information from writing courses, critique groups, and blogs from authors who graciously share their knowledge.
Here's just one to get us started from K.M. Weiland.

Only one person is stopping us.

Yep. As Pogo Possum said, "We have met the enemy and they are us."

Your voice is different even for a similar story. Only you can tell it. Do it.

What's your hangup and how do you overcome it? Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Drenching Texas

Unprecedented Flooding in Texas Gulf Coast

I like to have fun on this blog but today is different. Today, people are crying. Therefore, I'm giving this week over to re-posting DiAnn Mills. You will be moved.
Visit DiAnn's page and sign up for her blogs. She's an excellent writer and shares her knowledge.

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Hi Burton, in the 08/29/2017 edition of DiAnn's Desk:

Houston, We Have a Problem


By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills
Houston and most of the Texas Gulf Coast has a problem, and it’s called Harvey. On Friday night, the category 4 storm slammed into Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas. According to the National Hurricane Center, Harvey brought winds of 130 mph. Here’s how it looked, courtesy of NOAA/NASA, when it was approaching. At the time this image was taken, it had maximum sustained winds of only 110 mph.
Much of the media coverage has been about Houston, the fourth largest city in the country and my home. We’ve been pelted by catastrophic rain bands, breaking records and hearts with its devastation. Fifteen trillion gallons of water have been dumped onto our city, and it will not recede for days. Seems like a record number of Tornado warnings have been issued, one after another urging those in the whirlwind path to take shelter.
In this writing, I’m looking out my kitchen window watching the incessant rain. My husband and I have been blessed with only minor issues, and we are looking forward to helping others if only in a small way. None of us wanted the distinction of experiencing the worst flooding in US history. This article gives the stats: http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/08/28/harvey-by-numbers.html
Houston, We have a Problem
Where do people flee when they’re unable to leave their homes due to water-filled streets? How can victims be helped when 911 appears non responsive as the emergency service is experiencing unprecedented calls? The answer is the many brave men and women, both local and those from outside the region, who are able stepped up to the challenge arriving with boats in tow. This map shows just some of the road closures as of this writing. We’re near the blue dot in upper left-hand corner.
The countless heroic stories surfacing above the dirty water confirm my faith in humanity. Although I could never list the thousands of heroes emerging from their circumstances to help others, I invite you to see read some of their stories here. https://www.houstoniamag.com/articles/2017/8/27/the-heroes-of-hurricane-harvey
Otis, the dog who left his home near Corpus Christi has become a symbol of the Texas Spirit. https://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/08/27/viral-photo-shows-hero-dog-personifying-the-texas-spirit-amid-hurricane-harvey/
The Red Cross, the National Guard, food banks, many churches, and individuals are working around the clock to assist victims. Here’s a partial list of those organizations who are accepting donations. I encourage you to explore the various entities. https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/8/27/16211642/hurricane-harvey-donations-charities-disaster-relief
Southern Baptists are well known nationally for their Disaster Response teams. Our church is partnering with the state level Disaster Relief team. You can partner and make a donation with them here.

Most of all, we thank you for your continued prayers for all those impacted by the storms.  May God’s peace be extended in a powerful way.

DiAnn Mills

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Are Literary Agents Anti-Writers?

A good likeness of Murgalump Kneffle

Are Literary Agents Anti-Writers and Pro-Publishers?

I wanted to speak with my agent, Murgalump Kneffle, but as usual, she avoided me. I decided to appeal to her on her level. All I needed to do was figure out what is an agent's passion - what drives them?

Money. Aha!

I withheld her monthly check and told her that she had to come pick it up. She did but charged me $30 for the pickup fee.

I had a nice lunch prepared, I knew she wouldn't pass up a free meal and would stay as long as the food lasted and until she got her check. I hauled out my question list.

"Agents aren't supposed to get paid until the writer does

so why do I have to pay you a monthly retainer?"

Murgalump talked around a wad of food in her mouth. "It's the only way you'll get an agent."

"Are you working to sell my book?"

"Ha!" She spit out half of the gob, caught it in her napkin and transferred it back in with the rest. "Let's say I'm saving you from ... well, embarrassment in the least. Most likely ostracism and having to register as an offender of the printed word.

"Do you treat your other clients this mean?"

"Don't have other clients."

"What? Nobody else wants you?" I was getting a sinking feeling that I'd been had.

"Plenty of people want me. What do you think I do all day? It's turning down writers - crushing their dreams." She smiled and looked heavenward as if giving thanks. "I love my job."

"So agents are like bounty hunters?"

Murgalump squinted her eyes at me. "What do you mean?"

"Well, the hunted don't pay the bounty hunter, but someone does or they wouldn't do it. Also, bounty hunters keep their prey from succeeding. It sounds to me like your niche."

"Hmm." She nodded and sent me a sideways glance. "That's above your usual comprehension level. Given time, there may be hope for you."

That's the best encouragement I'd ever heard from her. "Really? How much time do you think I'll need?"

"As long as it takes you to learn to use a comma correctly."

"Oh, well then, about six or seven hundred years."

What's your experience with an agent? Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesday's.

Thank a veteran

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bad Advice For Good Writers

You think you're funny.

Good Writers Still Hear Bad Advice.

We know how to give a meaningful critique, don't we? It's all about the craft and style of writing. It's never personal.
Even when the writing, in our opinion, requires a lot of polish, we can always legitimately praise the writer's efforts.

So What Happened?

Yep. I was the one doling out the horrible critique.
Well, the actual critique probably wasn't so off-the-mark and I should have stopped there. It was a well-written piece of flash fiction by an author I like and respect.

Did you notice all the "I's" above?

That's right. I inserted myself into the critique of her story by trying to be humorous and telling her that her gritty and gripping tale scared me, and I didn't realize how mean she is.

She Took The High Road.

She apologized for upsetting me and was about to withdraw her story from entering a contest.

What have I done?

In reality, it's what I've done over and over. Tried to get a laugh from the serious efforts of another.

It never works.

I'm the one that needs to apologize - and I do.

Humbly. Sincerely.

Please, folks. When you get a bad critique, when the rejection slips arrive, even when you succeed and face the jealousy of others, keep on writing.
No one else can tell your story.

With hat in hand, I'll ask: Have you received an undeserved critique that stung? What did you do?
Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays

Thank a veteran.



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Is My Writing Any Good?

Writing fears are real.

Is My Writing Good Enough To Share?

It's scary to display our thoughts and feelings for public judgment.

I get that.

Who wants to open themselves up to criticism, or worse, ridicule?

Especially after we have worked so long and hard building up our public persona: the facade we maintain that we hope others seek when they think of us.

So maybe we try to dull any pointed comments with a preemptive, "It's a little story, not to be taken seriously. I just wrote it as a whimsy. Ha Ha."

But It's Real For Us.

We absolutely want to hear, "This is good. You should do more."

Ah, yes. Those are magic words the first time we hear someone other than mama say them.

Mama doesn't count when it comes to critiquing your work, Snookums. You have always been the most talented and creative creature on this planet and she has your art hanging on her refrigerator to prove it. Of course, she thinks you're wonderful and you shouldn't change a word.

Yeah, But What If ...?

That's it, isn't it? The "what if?" Truly, there are a lot of reasons to avoid submitting our stories. Sometimes our characters don't want to leave home. We haven't prepared them to live in the real world of imagination and they know it.

Here's What You Do.

If you can't take a creative writing course, buy books on how to write and read them yourself. One will lead to another.

Subscribe to blogs. Some of my favorites are Almost An Author, Anne R. Allen's Blog, Jane Friedman, K.M. Weiland, Kathy Steinemann, Steve Laube Agency, and The Write Conversation.
There are more, but this will do for starters.

Enter contests. This most often will include receiving a critique from a professional agent or editor. Embrace such feedback. The more red ink on our pages means more opportunities for us to learn.

And the four most important things to do that will turn you into a polished writer are: write, write, write, read.

What do you think we should do to build confidence? Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays

Thank a veteran

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Writers Wanted

Three Acts by Three Authors

Writers Wanted. Flash Fiction and More.

We've mentioned Little CAB Press before. Well, they're opening up more opportunities for all writers - newbies and pros.

To be sure, Little CAB is desirous of quality prose but seems to have a wondrous tolerance for effort. Plus, the newly opened slots are for blog posts and not the impending anthologies. It's a great chance to get your feet wet.

Read more about it here www.LittleCABPress.com or send them a message from the web site.

How We're Having Fun.

My big brother, Roy, Darling Daughter, Laurie, and I decided to have fun with the flash fiction part of Little CAB's invitation. We opted to write one act each of about 300 words.

Roy wrote Act I and titled it The Jock and the Nerd. He sent it to me.

I hadn't seen it until it hit my inbox, but I wrote Act II up to the crises point.

That left Laurie with Act III, saving the wreck and supplying the denouement.

None of us have written flash fiction before unless you count the letters I've sent to my children documenting their Uncle's shenanigans - and, of course, those weren't fiction.

So Here's How It's Stacking Up.

See the picture above. The three parts should blend together into a unified whole that makes the charming figure the model that she is. (A certain publisher posed for the picture.)

Act I starts as a flying saucer, Act II brings us an executive contemplating this year's goat crop. Act III is a piece of literary fiction that shows how all her efforts are programmed and she has no free will.

Or something like that. We don't know if Little CAB will post our combined acts, but meanwhile, it's our enjoyment and we plan on doing some more.

How about you? Join in at www.littlecabpress.com and let me know how you did. It's fun.

Writing Fiction is posted on Wednesdays

Thank a veteran

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Calling Forth Our Characters

Gail Kittleson
Author - Teacher

Calling Forth Our Characters

Today's post is classier than usual. I'm honored to turn the page over to Gail Kittleson. I thought some of my readers would like to meet Gail prior to the fall release of her sequel to With Each New Dawn.


The World War II era intrigues Gail Kittleson, who writes from her northern Iowa home. After instructing English as a Second Language and expository writing, she published a memoir and now focuses on women’s historical fiction. She also facilitates writing workshops/retreats. 

She and her husband enjoy their grandchildren and in winter, Arizona’s Mogollon Rim Country. You can count on Gail’s heroines to ask honest questions, act with integrity, grow in faith, and face hardships with spunk. Here's Gail.



The female Gambel’s Quail chirping to her young before they hatch gives such a powerful picture of a mother’s role. I’m working on a book for midlife women, using desert life’s survival strategies to navigate midlife’s pitfalls.
That mother quail calling her chicks to life sticks with me. So does an amazing desert flower, la Reigna de la Noche, which blossoms just once each year. At night. In obscurity.  About the third week in June, around sunset, with help from insects and birds, the Queen of the Night propagates itself.
Blossoming just one day a year . . . calling your unhatched chicks into life . . . I said I’d be writing about characterization, and I’m getting there.
Yesterday I read about Ananias, the early Damascan disciple commanded to lay hands on temporarily blinded Saul. This would-be Apostle had already dreamed of Ananias coming to heal him.
If I were Ananias, I’d feel a little STUCK, backed into a corner. If he refuses to obey, God’s plan (which He reveals to Ananias—to use Saul in a mighty way in propagating the Gospel) goes awry. Who could handle that sort of guilt?
But the Master adds, “Don’t argue! Go! . . . I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.” (Acts 9: 15-16 MSG)
That one extra bit of motivation might have made all the difference. So God hand-picked Saul, and he’s going to suffer like the rest of us . . . Who knows if Ananias thought like that, but it’s how I think—above all, I want justice to be done.
That’s a character trait. For me, it goes back to a bottom-line concern for things to turn out right! As you can imagine, that trait has required tweaking over the years.
I’m also working on a novel set in Pine, AZ, where we spend most of the winter
A bit of the Mogollon Rim
near Gail's winter home.
right under the Mogollon Rim. My heroine Abby’s character arc develops under the shadow of that Rim and evolves in the same way as this blog article. Bit by bit.
Abby came to me years ago, the winter my husband spent in Iraq. But she’s been a little reticent to let me see into her soul. I’ve realized only recently that she’s also reticent to embrace joy.
Once, she lunged into the emotion of the moment, but as hurt after hurt piled on her, she shrank back from joy. If we do that long enough, our capacity becomes stunted, and recovering the faculty happens ever so gradually. That’s my Abby.
A dear friend sent me a card that said, “Blooming is risky business—just ask any flower.” Yes, but what kind of world would be flowerless? Impossible to calculate the effect of beauty—how many times has a glimpse of loveliness thwarted evil or encouraged a despairing soul to plod on? The Rim’s natural beauty attends Abby as she regains her ability to enjoy life.
Those of you who write, how do your characters evolve? And readers, what types of character strengths/flaws entice you most?

Gail Kittleson
http://www.gailkittleson.com/
www.facebook.com/GailKittlesonAuthor
http://amazon.com/author/gailkittleson
www.twitter.com/GailGkittleson @GailGkittleson

One more soon to come.













We'll try to get Gail to come back as her new book nears publication. Stay tuned.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays

Thank a veteran

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Katie and Rocky Fly To Colorado

Katie with her mom, Laurie, before Rocky
shows up with Security

Katie and Rocky Fly To Colorado.

This week's post is in the words of my Darling Daughter. She describes a bonding moment with her younger daughter during the McCarran International Airport screening process.

Getting Ready.


So, Katie went to Denver yesterday for her annual visit with my brother's family.

It was an early morning flight out of McCarran International Airport in LasVegas, and Katie stayed up late to pack, an exercise that I did not supervise.  She’s flown many times before, so I didn't worry too much about it.  Before we left for the airport, I made sure she put her bulging toiletries bag in her suitcase to be checked and ran through the list of items with her that she's not allowed to take on the plane.  (And that got about as much attention as the flight stewards do with their oxygen mask safety speech.)

Checking In.

Not surprisingly we were a little behind schedule at 5:00 a.m., and by the time I got a pass to go through security with her to catch her flight, we were running later still.  I didn't have anything to put through the scanner except my shoes and cell phone. Katie had her backpack and laptop which she took out and put it a separate bin as required.

The Process.

Shoes, phones, and the computer zipped down the rollers. Everything came through except Katie's carry-on.

We put our sandals back on and waited.

And waited.

I began to picture us in a lineup of Clark County’s banned flyers and asked Katie if she forgot and left her pocket knife in her backpack?

No.

Bottle of perfume?

No.

Bottle of Jack Daniels?

No, Mom!

Finally, a security officer appeared holding the bin with Katie's velvet, black and white, polka dotted backpack with the pink straps.  All the little doodads and keychains she had attached to it were flapping over the sides clattering against the plastic.
Laurie was seeing black and white
striped clothing.

Suspects.

He looked us over, and the sight of him replaced glitzy neon lights to become my defining image of Las Vegas. We froze at the end of the conveyor, jostled and pushed by the other in-a-hurry passengers. We stood in their way and so close that they no longer smelled of perfume and aftershave but hurry, worry, and tension.

The agent carried the tub to a small counter where he proceeded to inspect the object of our delay.

He didn't exactly motion us over, but Katie and I sidled up anyway and watched him poke, prod, pinch, and frisk the pack. All the while I ran through every possible thing Katie could have in it that would cause a problem.

What Has Katie Done?

Oh, please don’t let her be trying to smuggle fireworks or pot (it's legal in Colorado, you know).

I finally blurted out, “You can just open it!”

Well, apparently an airport security official does not need to be told by a rushed, middle-aged, mother that he can open a bag containing unknown and potentially hazardous or dangerous material or weaponry.

I received a sharp look, and a terse, “Step back, please.”

The Contraband.

He finally landed on something, and I admit my heart rate jacked up a tad as he unzipped the front pocket and pulled out a large, brightly colored ROCK.

I stared at Katie and said, “What the hell is that?”
So strong it can hold up an airplane.

My brilliant, already-in-college, 16-year-old informed me, “It's a painted rock from Arizona! I want to hide it in Colorado!”

You see, my daughter has been caught up in the 2017 version of the pet rock craze. She spends a lot of time avoiding homework by painting the landscaping rocks from our front yard and hiding them around town. This activity apparently even has its own Facebook page.

Mom Steps In.

I assumed that our humorless security official was not familiar with this pastime, but would now have a pretty pink rock with the smiley words "Love from Kingman, Arizona" as a paper weight on his desk.

I rather heatedly informed my daughter she would not be allowed to take that on the plane.

Imagine my surprise when the officer wordlessly slipped the rock back into the front pocket and handed the bag to Katie.

Once again, we made the gate with a microsecond left to board.

And On To The Next One.

There you have it. Laurie's last sentence is a closing and prophesy - "Once again..."
I've watched my Darling Daughter dash from calamity to catasrophe all her life, usually with hilarious results. She needs to start her own stories.

Before leaving, I had to wonder about the agents on their coffee break.
Agent 1: I intercepted 5 ounces of cocaine this morning.
Agent 2: I got 3 kilos of pot and a switchblade.
Agent 3: I found a rock.

Stunned silence - waiting for the punch line.

Agent 3: They were checking in from Kingman, Arizona.
Agent 1: Oh, yeah.
Agent 2: Well, then ... sure.

What happened to you at the check in? Leave a comment here.

Writing Fiction is posted on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Quail, Writers and Survival

Do you see him?

Quail, Writers, and Survival

Gambel's Quail are native to Arizona and have adapted to life in urban communities surrounded by desert.

Such is the case in Sun City West where Frances and I enjoy watching them stomp through the yard, calling to one another. They are one of the few birds that still stimulate my failing audio receptors, and I like to think that they're always amused since it sounds like they chuckle.

It's Their Destiny.

Quail have several inherent strategies for thriving. They prefer to stay on the ground and have excellent camouflage for blending in with the environment. They can and will fly. They may nest where suitable in trees or structures up to 30 feet high. They are usually monogamous and stay together in a family unit.

But Life Isn't Easy.

We noticed that mom and dad quail showed up with a brood of six tiny chicks just as The Valley of the Sun experienced the worst heat wave of the summer. They were cute little rascals, no bigger than a golf ball, and so fast they were almost a blur running from bush to shrub.

The temperature rose to 115 degrees Fahrenheit that day.

The next few days temperature held between 112 and 114 and Frances worried about them. We saw four chicks, then, ohmygosh, 13 of the cuties following mom and dad. We felt great.

Then back to four, but they were juveniles now and looked like they would make it. There was no doubt that some of the clutch fell to fates of nature one way or the other.

Where Am I Going With This?

Gambel's Quail and writers face similar struggles.

Just before her eggs hatch, mom Gambel's Quail calls to her chicks. They answer her and chirp to each other. They hatch in synchrony.

Writers graduate a creative writing class. Much chirping occurs then, too.

Quail stay together, help each other find food, water, and cover.

Agent Dad
Ditto critique groups.

Dad quail positions himself where he can see. He stands guard and alerts the covey when things are amiss.

Writers have agents.

Not all quail survive.

*Sigh*
Same with writers.

Quail can take explosive flight.

Some writers have done the same thing.

I think the next one will be you!

Are you ready? Leave a comment by clicking on the post title or going here.

Writing Fiction is published on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Visualizing Your Story

Are there Panthers in Kingman, Arizona?

Visualizing Your Story

Creative people have exciting lives.

Look carefully just above the dash to see the cat running to the left.

Give credit where it's due.

Frances has just had cataract surgery and her eyesight has improved immensely. She can see now, even with only one eye done, better than she has in a long time.

She spotted it right away.

Allie's in on the action.

Our favorite oldest granddaughter posted the picture on Facebook with the notation, "Look what we saw last night."

Her mother, our Darling Daughter, wanted to know if she had called the police.

Concern for Allie was high at our house. That cat was too big to be a house cat and with a tail that long couldn't be a bobcat. It had to be a mountain lion, or could it even be a Panther?

Checking for safety.

Frances texted Allie for more information. She got it.
There are dumpsters in Kingman, Arizona

What Allie posted was a picture of a dumpster fire.

Clearing it up.

That rascally pair of sunglasses sitting on the dash must allow the viewer to see things differently.

But don't you think that catching a glimpse of a fleeting Panther where none should be is much more exciting than a dumpster fire?

What do you see? Leave a comment here.

Writing Fiction is posted on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Creative Nonfiction

Laurie Voss Barthlow
Manager, Mom, Humorist, Author of several
books of family genealogy.

Creative Nonfiction

We're lucky today to have guest blogger, Laurie Voss Barthlow, give us her viewpoint on-- shall we say-- a particular genre of writing. Before turning it over to her I would like to point out that I was witness to how one young girl put some of her descriptions and methods into practice against her younger brother. For years!

Here's Laurie.

The Blog Gets A Plug

So, my dad has created a website called Writing Fiction, where he posts a weekly blog on his efforts to hone his writing craft and his advice to others on navigating the choppy waters of being published.  He also uses the forum to tell tall tales about his big brother, Roy Voss.  Now, Dad didn’t invent Tall Tales, but he does come from a family of folks who hold with the idea that facts should never stand in the way of a good story. (A practice usually instigated by older siblings -ed.)

A Sprinkling of Fact and Fiction

In any case, Dad recently invited me to be a guest writer for his weekly column. I admit that I've always wanted to be a writer, and I am a big fan of both my uncle's and my father's work, even if Dad mostly lies about Uncle Roy.

Still, who doesn't like a good story?  In contemplating my contribution to the topic of creative writing, one of my favorite cousins came to my mind speaking three of her all-time favorite words, “Got any gossip?”

And Entertainment

Everybody likes some great dish, and it doesn’t much matter if it’s about the president of the United States or your next-door neighbor.

Oh, I suppose there is a voyeuristic aspect to pure gossip that is rather unbecoming.  We always like to hear that someone else is screwing up worse than we are, but I'm proud to say that my cousin and I never outright made up lies (Dad).

My point is that gossip tells a story, and let’s be honest, it can be entertaining. When you’re trying to tell a story and there are details you don’t know, what is an inquiring mind to do but fill in the blanks?  Admittedly, this is how tall tales get taller, and where gossip is concerned, there can certainly be a maliciousness that I am not at all advocating.

The Root of The Story

The basis for my uncle's adventure series is his time and experience in traveling the world as a pipeline engineer for Bechtel.  The basis for some of my dad's tales is his time and experience growing up in Kingman, Arizona.

I aspire to write historical fiction using some of the stories from my own family tree that fascinate me the most about people to which I am directly related.  I am always inspired by the adventures of my forbearers who struggled and overcame tough situations and conditions.  Trouble is, I don’t know everything, so I only have two options – ask someone who does know or make it up.

It Can Get Sticky

My mom and dad have in the past frowned upon my initiative to inquire about certain family stories as bad manners, particularly at family reunions, and research can only take me so far. I am therefore left with the only alternative which is to spin my own tales around those events in my family’s history by which I am most intrigued.

So, allow me to conclude my guest blog with this thought:  Perhaps when such a writer gets stuck – either for a lack of historic details or due to creative constipation – it might be useful to remember these words . . . Got any gossip?
Got Any Gossip?

Personally, I liked the post. Is Laurie on track? Should we invite her back?
Leave a comment.

Writing Fiction is posted on Wednesdays.

Thank a veteran.