Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Realist Writer

There is something about the realist writer that appeals to me. I enjoy reading their stories and books and poems concerning the lives and struggles of genuine day-to-day people. The old drunk on the corner drinking his wine from a paper sack, the man who can’t get a girl to go on a date with him, and the single mom who’s at odds with her teenage, drug-addict daughter, these are the people and stories I want to read. These are the people to which I most relate—the real people.
I gain an immediate connection to these characters when they have the same goals, desires, and heartaches as I do. I want to know about the man working down at the local factory who is facing layoff. How does he cope? How will he provide for his family? What are his options? Take me into the mind of the school teacher turned prostitute. Make me interested in her thoughts and emotions. Make me sense her emotional pain as she lies down with a total stranger for the fifth time in one night. These are the stories I want to read.
I’ve always held the lives of the ordinary men and women in high regard. These “ordinary” people make for extraordinary stories. No magic, no science fiction, just realism. Solid, barebones, storytelling.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My Soul on the Page

I’ve studied and read some of the greatest writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. I’ve delved into Chekhov’s short stories, admiring them, falling in love with his style and storytelling. I’ve let myself fall into Neil Gaiman’s realm of magical realism. I’ve nodded in agreement, sneered, and shaken my head while reading the gritty tales and poems of Charles Bukowski. There are many writers to read and discover, yet not enough time in which to do it.
Most read to escape. I open a book to gain insight. I want to discover truth or a hidden door that leads me into a mindset that I’ve never ventured to before. I want to hammer away at the shell of ignorance and uncover a part of myself I never knew.
When I read it’s at night, in my bed, while my body and mind are at their most relaxed. I absorb the words on the page and only this time and space exist. Real work doesn’t exist. No coworkers. No bosses. The moment is guarded. Nothing else matters.
In these stories, I admire the heroes that make me laugh, that make me feel that I am marching alongside them. I admire the writer who makes me a part of her story whether I want to be or not. I admire the characters with real-life struggles and hardships. These are my people.
Reading the stories by these writers, I’ve learned many wonderful lessons, as a writer myself and as a human being. What I probably enjoy more than the story being told is the tone and style in which it is written. In my efforts of reading and studying these magnificent writers, I hope to grasp a little of what makes them who they are and redefine it as my own.
For any writer, to have her own style and tone for which she’s known is a gift, or prize. I want the woman who lies in her bed at night reading as I do to know that what she reads unmistakably belongs to me. I want the words to be my own. I want a little of my soul left on the page.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Under the Willow Tree enrolled in Kindle Matchbook Program

 Under the Willow Tree and Other Stories is now enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook Program. What does this mean? This means that when you buy the paperback you will receive a FREE ebook version also (regularly priced at $3.99). And, for those who purchased a paperback from Amazon before this announcement, never fear because you too are eligible for a FREE download. Just go back to the purchasing page and click the link. Lastly, if you purchased your paperback via some other means (like directly from me), I will gladly send you a FREE pdf copy of Under the Willow Tree. Just shoot me an email and I’ll get it to you as soon as possible.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

KATE’S FUNERAL (excerpt)

Kate sat calm and pleasantly content in the front row in one of the provided folding chairs. And even though she was attending her own funeral, she seemed unbothered by this small detail of not being alive. Instead, she looked around the large funeral parlor with the curiosity and fascination of a small child, one that has gone outside to discover nature for the first time. Except, this wasn’t nature. This was death. This was Kate’s death. The end of her physical being.
The old building, which had served for years as the town’s funeral home, quickly filled with grievers of many kinds. Some of the people Kate hadn’t seen since her early childhood. Some were former primary schoolmates; some were family members, high school friends, teachers, and other acquaintances. Through the crowded room, there was one face that she had yet to see, and for Kate, it was the face of an angel—her David. She carefully observed the parlor, looking all around, but again, she didn’t see her love. She knew, though, it wouldn’t be long, and he too would arrive to bid her a bittersweet farewell. She knew that for sure.
Two years before this day, the day of her funeral, Kate Longley met David Bennington when she was a freshman and he was a junior in high school. David played guitar in a garage band and was popular at their school. Kate loved music, and she also knew of David, but not on a personal level. That changed when they began sharing study hall together. It was then their relationship blossomed. Upon their first conversation, Kate had expressed to David her fascination for the arts—especially for the indie music scene.
“Indies are revolutionizing the industry,” Kate had said, while sitting at her cramped desk, riddled with artwork of yesteryear’s students. Smeared, inked images of rainbows, peace signs, and pot leaves graced the Formica surface.
“I totally agree,” said David. He scribbled into a spiraled notebook. “It’s like these big-wig record producers turn their noses up whenever someone mentions the words independent artist. I really don’t get it. They need to open their eyes. This is the wave of the future.”
“Absolutely,” said Kate.
She stared into David’s hazel eyes and thought he had the face of an angel. His artistic intellect also impressed her. The two carried on with their conversation a while longer, sharing their deep musical passions. David, after finding the nerve, asked Kate the question he had wanted to ask since their conversation had started.
Still nervously scribbling in his notebook, he said, “You know, if you’re not too busy, maybe you could come by and watch us jam sometime?”
This had been what Kate was hoping for: a chance to hang out, a chance to get to know this person, who seemed to be more like her with each passing moment of their conversation.
“Sure. I would like that,” she said, trying to contain a huge smile, but failing.
“Great,” said David, grinning back. “You can come by tonight, if you want. We usually get started around six. I can give you directions.”
“I know where it’s at,” said Kate. “I’ll be there.”
It had been the beginning of something wonderful. Thereafter, their love and devotion for each other grew as the young couple was together every waking moment. They would go to the library to read books, usually about art and literature or music and philosophy. Sometimes they would go to the classic movie theatre to see some of their favorite films from the golden age of cinema.
Several months passed and their relationship finally reached a level that assured Kate she would indeed spend the rest of her life with David, that she would someday marry him, someday become his wife. She couldn’t wait for the day she would become Mrs. David Bennington.
As she reflected on those happier times among the living, reality struck Kate. I’m dead, she thought. It was then she realized that she would never get the chance to become David’s happy bride.
Kate looked around the funeral parlor. She hadn’t realized how much of an impact she had made on some of these people, the ones that loomed in the corner, chatting of how sad it was that a beautiful girl had died at such a young age, the ones that lingered in and out of the catering room eating the free mini sandwiches and drinking lemonade and iced tea. She had forgotten many of their faces over the course of her young life. Many wept as they walked by her open casket, and she almost became embarrassed the longer she watched them blubber over her chilled corpse.
“Quit crying, for God’s sake,” she said as another walked past her body. But the living couldn’t hear the young and beautiful Kate Longley, and wouldn’t hear her ever again.
Most did came to grieve for her, but there were some who came only to play witness to the almighty hand of death, which many thought sent one to the realm of the unknown. For Kate, death wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t a big deal, really. And now that she was deceased, she couldn’t understand why the living had always made a big fuss over it.
From across the room, through the scattering of people, Kate noticed a man staring at her. She rose from the folding chair and turned in the man’s direction. He stood casually, wearing a grey trench coat, hands in his pockets. Combed straight back, tight against his head, was his black, greasy hair.
Is he really looking at me? Kate thought.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Do you have a story idea I can borrow, please?

Where do your story ideas come from? How do you decide on what it is you’re going to write about? These are questions that writers and authors are frequently asked. For myself, I have no true rhyme or reason for the conception of any particular story. Many times my stories start out as nothing more than a few scribbles of rambling words in a notebook. Ah, there’s an idea, I may think and then jot it down. Or, ooh, I like that concept, and make note of it on scrap paper, or on whatever is available at that time.

The real answer to these questions is that story ideas linger everywhere. You just have to look around you. And there is no systematic plan for acquiring them. I, for one, cannot go anywhere without the possibility of a potential story jumping out at me. I literally cannot close my mind’s creative eye. I’m always inconspicuously observing people and their actions, mannerisms, dialogue, and so on. Whether standing in line at the movie theatre, or sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, I’m constantly taking mental notes of my surroundings and looking at what it might have to offer, artistically.

Many times ideas filter into my brain at such a rapid rate that I sometimes become overwhelmed. So, what do I do about this creative overload? How do I rifle through all these characters and plot lines? It’s simple, really: I pick out the ones that fascinate me the most. I try to work on the stories that often stick out in my mind; the ones that constantly yell out: What are you waiting on? Write me, damn it!

Other times stories simply originate from a writer’s own life experiences. Maybe last year’s family trip sparks an interest for you to write a post-apocalyptic thriller about a family’s vacation to Miami. While there, they discover flesh-eating zombies that haphazardly lurch along vile-ridden streets of chaos and destruction. Or if that is not your cup of tea, maybe you’d rather pen a happier tale about that first hunting trip you and your dad took together when you were only nine-years-old? It could be the groundwork for a classic coming of age story. Or maybe the beginning to a nifty fairy tale about a young hunter who goes into the forest, only to discover that the woodland creatures talk back to him. The possibilities are endless. It’s your world, your vision. Only you can decide how the story is told.

If you are an aspiring fiction writer – who is not sure what to write about – merely think of your own interests and passions. Think of the stories and books that you yourself enjoy reading the most. Cultivate a story line or an engaging character from these personal fascinations and go with it. Don’t hold back. Turn off your inner critic and write freely, letting your ideas spew onto your notebook or your computer screen. Save the self-critiquing for your rewriting session/s. As long as you hold a passion for storytelling and a desire to create art, there will always be stories to write.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Learning and Loving the Trade

A few weeks ago I passed my one-year anniversary for having stepped into the independent publishing field. I have to confess: I’ve learned a vast amount about this business in the passing year. Some lessons were learned the hard way, some came a little easier. Most importantly, though, I learned, and I’m still being taught day in and day out.

In my first year I produced 14 products, 9 original short stories in total, some of which dip into the western genre, kids’ fiction, and the coming of age spectrum. Basically, it’s been whatever I’ve felt the urge to write. It’s that simple and I love this business for that reason.

I love the freedom that comes with independent publishing. Never being tied down to a specific genre is great. When I feel a period of burnout syndrome I can easily switch over to an entirely new topic to write and can publish it just the same.

I’m not sure what it is that lures me to writing fiction. I guess it’s the power to create any world I wish to, one that I could make at any given moment. The power of imagination has a lot to do with my writing motivation, I guess. I adore pushing my imagination to its max, seeking out the unknown caverns in my mind, pulling from those deep, dark holes new characters, conflicts, protagonists, and antagonists. To create art is indeed the best feeling.

I have many planned projects I want to unveil in 2013. I hope that everything I’ve learned in my first year will help expand my readership to an entirely new level. We shall wait and see. It’s been a wonderful first year and I have no complaints. After all, how could anyone ever complain about getting to do what they absolutely love to do the most? For me, the thought is just not fathomable.

With that said, I want to wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year.



Friday, November 30, 2012

Grizzly Rendezvous (excerpt)

Description: (Short Story, 25 pages)
No one ever told the McCarty brothers the western frontier would be an easy place to live. This time, an ornery grizzly is on the prowl, making life tough for a few that happen to get in its way. However, Lucas, who also has a personal stake in this, has had enough. It's up to him and an old trapper named Jude to track down the beast and set matters straight.
Northwest Louisiana Territory, October, 1826
The young trapper named Lucas McCarty stood knee-deep in the cool waters of the Rocky Mountain stream. Bending over, he lowered the Newhouse trap to the streambed below, into which he anchored the device securely. With his hand, he clumped and stirred the mud, concealing the trap’s powerful steel jaws. Next, he pulled his knife and with it he honed the end of a willow sapling to a fine point. Shoving the pointed end into the muddy bottom, he positioned the leafy end above the water, directly over the steel apparatus. Lastly, he fumbled inside his leather possibles bag and removed a small bottle filled with the beaver castoreum. Lucas pulled the cork and splashed the leaves thoroughly. When finished, he waded fifty-yards downstream and stepped up to the dry bank where his sorrel had been waiting patiently.
“That’s the last one, ol’ boy,” he said to the horse, as he wiped his bare feet on the grass. “Now we just have to wait for Henry to get back with our supplies.” The horse snorted and bucked its muscular neck, appearing to agree with the remark.
While Lucas sat on the ground, wiping the rest of the mud from his feet, the sun was on the verge of sinking behind the mountain peaks to the West. The young man of twenty had learned a great deal about this frontier, which he and his older brother had traveled to only three years before. He had also realized early on that the western frontier wasn’t to be taken lightly. Vicious, cruel intent lurked where one least expected it. However, he also had discovered that the Rocky Mountains held more majestic and natural beauty than he’d ever seen before in his entire life.
As Lucas climbed back to his feet, the sorrel whinnied and flared its nostrils wide, showing signs of fear and distress.
“What’s wrong, boy?” whispered Lucas. His eyes scanned the thicket of fir trees in front of him. Behind him a loud roar erupted from a beast that snapped and bored through trees branches with ease. Unexpectedly, a giant grizzly sprang from the shadows.
Panic stricken, the sorrel jerked, reared, and darted through the trees with the Lucas’ long rifle strapped to its side. Instinctively, with a smooth jerk from his belt, the frontiersman swung his pistol level and fired. The lead ball plunged into the bear’s chest, igniting a roar from snarling teeth.
Undeterred by the shot, the grizzly commenced forth, and Lucas pulled his hatchet, sliced the air with a downward chop, opening a deep, bloody gash at the animal’s shoulder. Again, the beast roared and a swooping paw soon followed, thrashing Lucas against his chest, knocking him to the ground in a daze. Trying to escape, Lucas dug his feet and hands into grass, pushing himself in reverse. The bear charged, exhaling short grunts and roars while frothy saliva hung from its mouth.
“Go on. Get out of here!” Lucas yelled. His chest burned with fire as he flailed his arms in an attempt to coerce the beast to run away. But the bear charged ahead.
Lucas stumbled once and then rose to his feet. With another swipe, the grizzly’s claws ripped tender muscle on the mountain man’s left shoulder, knocking him to the ground once more. While the bear paused, Lucas raised his hatchet and came down with another swing. The forged steel struck solidly, splitting the grizzly’s nose, causing blood to spew. With another venting roar, the grizzly shook its boulder-sized head and, unexpectedly, fled down the bank, and up the mountainside. As it tromped out of earshot, Lucas fell back.
Gasping, he tried to evaluate his physical condition. His canvas shirt was in tattered rags, barely covering his thick torso. His left shoulder pulsated with burning pain and poured blood. He glanced to his chest and found the same horrid affliction. His mind stirred with crazed emotions and panic began to set in. Trying to stand, his enfeebled body wouldn’t allow it, and he collapsed to the ground yet again.
“Maybe I should rest a spell,” he said, easing his head back on the soft bank. His chest heaved in and out, and his heart raced while the gentle rush of the stream’s water flooded his mind. Then, heavy eyelids caused his world to slowly blacken in front of him. As he lay at the side of the mountain’s stream, Lucas’ mind swirled and faded into a darken void. He lay there alone, unprotected, and at the mercy of a frontier that was known for turning on a man in a split second. And unknowing to Lucas only a few moments before, this savage frontier had indeed turned on him too.