Reviewed for Readers Favorite.
From time to time I read something that doesn’t seem to fit (for me, at any rate) into any traditional genre classification. Such was the case with The Junk Yard Solution: Adventures Among the Boxcars and Other Lost Causes, by Peter Kelton. The story opens with the discovery of Loretta’s body hanging from a cell phone tower in the middle of a village made up of abandoned railroad boxcars populated by a cast of characters one might classify as “misfits.” The boxcars are as uniquely finished and decorated as the personalities that inhabit them. Each of those personalities exhibits its own unusual idiosyncrasies, as does the Federal Marshal, Rick Senate, who investigates Loretta’s death. Throughout the journey to discover Loretta’s killer, the reader is taken along on a series of adventures as parts of the villagers’ past stories are presented.
For me, the most notable part of The Junk Yard Solution, by Peter Kelton, was the cast of characters. There is Loretta herself, who is described as having been “a health nut, a cleanliness freak, [and] a Yogini of the first order.” Loretta had a passion for learning. Then come the actors, Arthur, and his “friend” Oswald (who makes a fine plumber); Cicero who is also known as Don Quixote (and as CVR), who sometimes wears a monk’s robe and is the one to whom the others go with their problems; and Helena, the Chocolate Lady, whose life goal (at age 70) is to travel to India to spread her late husband’s ashes there; to name a few. My personal favorite is the widow, Ellen McDougal, who “converses mostly with her deceased husband, the historian.” I especially enjoy Miss Ellen because she “wanders among the boxcars at night, kind of like an itinerant fundamentalist of a proselytizing faith, quoting The Elements of Style.” Meanwhile, a couple of her neighbors, Jefferson Davis McClandish and Justine, don’t unsettle her in the least when they take up nudism, but they annoy her no end with their incessant use of the word “like.” (Seriously, that is a person I’d like to meet!) The various characters’ lives generally include some details as to how each has been in touch with—or has come within only a couple degrees of separation from—some famous person or event. Those in this odd and entertaining group share two things in common: their dislike of digital life, and their desire to discover who is responsible for Loretta’s murder. Together, these factors make for an interesting afternoon of reading.
The Best and Worst Things About Being an Author
I can think of no better way to welcome in 2019 than for us to share our thoughts with you about what we each find to be the best and worst things about being an author.
Let's see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has to say.
Robin is sure to catch up with us. In the meantime, for more information, please find her here.
I wonder what P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, thinks are the best and worst things about being an author. Shall we see?
My own musings on the best and worst aspects of being an author will be rather short this time around. Which will perhaps illustrate the blessing and curse of the vocation aptly. First, the worst. The worst aspect of being a writer? It can be put off.
Follow the link for more!
Finally, here are my thoughts about the best and worst . . .
In general, I prefer to end things on a positive note. Thus, I shall first set forth my “worst.” For me, that’s fairly easy. Some say it’s the editing. But no, no, no, not for me! That’s actually one of the best things for me, as it means that my thoughts are already down. From there, I can manipulate them to my heart’s content. I just need time, quiet, and to “get into the zone” for editing. No, the worst thing for me is getting the creative juices that are required for the first draft, flowing in the first place.
Some say that the best time for being creative is when you are tired because your mind is unfocused and therefore able to ramble into unexpected realms. Others say there is a best time of day for creative thinking and they identify that time as “early in the morning.” In practice, this just means your earlier “daytime hours.” So if you are typically up at 7:00 am, your best writing time would begin then, whereas, if you’re typically not up until noon, then noon to 2 pm might be your most creative time of day.
And then there are those who believe that mornings are for bakers, and that the best time for writing is late at night. I think this may be the camp for me, but I admit that the jury is still out.
In fact, I’ve found that the time of day is far less critical for me than is the prospect of being interrupted. If I know that interruptions are likely to come to me, it is almost impossible for me to get in the correct frame of mind to write. (This explains a lot in terms of my writing over the past months, as my husband was in the hospital a few times this past fall, and when not in, he was home almost continuously. Thus, interruption-less time has been pretty much nonexistent.)
In short, I find that the hardest thing about being an author is getting enough solitude to be productive.
Now for the good news!
So, what is the best thing about being a writer? For me there are two "best things." (Yes, I know that only one thing can really be "the best," but you're following, I'm sure...) Each of these two things is so good that I think it is the best until I consider the other. Thus, I must address them both.
First is the incredible feeling that comes with bringing a story to conclusion. That sense of accomplishment doesn't compare well with many other things in life. Maybe graduating law school, or passing the bar, or getting all of your children through their teen years in one piece, or… No, that’s about it. The feeling is amazing, and for this writer, it compares to only one other feeling that an author might enjoy, which brings me to my second thing.
My second thing is the joy I’ve experienced from meeting and developing friendships with so many amazing people who share with me, an interest in writing. Because of my writing, I now have friends in many places around the world, including across the U.S., Canada, Australia, the UK ... Gibraltar … and the list goes on. These are people whose advice I feel comfortable in asking for. I feel so close to some of my fellow writers that if I was traveling through their area, I’d want to drop in to visit. (One of my author friends traveled from the southeast U.S. coast to the mid-west by herself for a book show and awards ceremony. In advance, she contacted friends from her favorite writing group, some of whom she stayed with as she made her journey across the country.) So, heck yeah, someday I might even stay in the guest room of an author friend for a night or two! Take my fellow Quills, for example—neither of whom I’ve met in person. If I visited the area in which either of them live, I wouldn’t dream of passing through without connecting. I sincerely hope that they would do the same. So yes, that is a pretty incredible thing. Don’t you agree?
There are so many ways to communicate. Some, like sign language, don't even require sound, or use little of it. Many of the optional means for communicating have names of their own. Likely, you've come across these speech forms before. Which of them have you used? How many of them do you speak?
I'd say I speak the English language with a Midwestern dialect. I use legal jargon from time to time, as well as a "faith based" lingo when among particular friends, and sometimes, I use slang. Finally, my writing encompasses specialized terms, which might be identified as the use of an argot (although not for an underworld group or group of thieves) for specific people in my stories.
How about you? What do you speak?
It's Not TOO Late - Even Though It’s Quite Late
As you know, we Quills typically post on the first Friday of each month. Unfortunately, as happens with everyone from time to time, things got away from us a bit this month. Still, it’s never too late to talk about, and to do, a bit of giving. Don’t you agree? So today we post our thoughts on gift-giving—and we are including a bit of a gift to you in the form of our Fantasy eBook Giveaway. More on that to follow!
Here are some thoughts about giving from Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies.
I know what I have given you... I do not know what you have received.”
― Antonio Porchia
It has been a strange year, sometimes awful, often amazing. [And] in this time of affliction and adversity, it’s Christmas all the time…
Follow the link for more!
Next up is P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse.
Christmas is coming. It's just around the weekend corner. And I'm finished with wrapping.
I just finished reading Jonathan Stroud's Screaming Staircase, and as usual, Stroud has this incredible knack for creating unique and clever voices in his characters. His descriptions are vivid and often hysterical. (His Bartimaeus trilogy was a good example. So that's what I'm doing. Reading good books, drinking a bit of 'nog, and enjoying the Christmasy lights, music, and raucous excitement from the boys.
That's right, there's more at the link!
Now, for my thoughts ...
This is the season of giving. As I look at the many, many packages I’ve wrapped and put beneath the tree just for those in our little family (there will be six of us for Christmas Eve), I can see that it will take hours for us to go person-by-person, gift-by-gift, as is our tradition, to open them. This way everyone gets to see what everyone else got. And here’s the crazy part: there are sure to be more wrapped gifts to come when my beloved son, darling daughter-in-law, and amazing daughters show up on Christmas Eve.
So why do we give gifts, anyway? I think it's because a gift is a simple but effective way to show someone how much they mean to you, how often you think of them, how you hear them when they say there is something that they would like or could use, or even how you can see inside of them when they don’t voice those things, yet you are able to identify their wishes and desires. A gift can say, “See? I saw that need of yours.” Or perhaps it might say, “I saw this and I thought of you.” In my mind, giftgiving is an art. It is a giving of time, self, thought, and creativity. Some gifts may cost a few dollars, but it is not the cost that is important, it is the message the gift conveys.
And so today, we Quills also have a gift for you—a GIVEAWAY. You’ll notice it is just in time for the holidays. Running until January 1—New Years Day—you’ll want to be sure to enter for your chance to win. If chosen, you will get to start 2019 with a bang!
Wishing you the happiest, healthiest, most rewarding and promising holidays and the absolute best for 2019!
October is upon us and I've found as I often do come autumn, that time is flying by faster all the time. That is so true that for our post this month, we each decided to offer something we'd previously posted here or elsewhere. We're calling it "This and That," which is precisely what you are about to get.
P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse is reposting one of his most-loved prior offerings. Here goes!
As I dug back through my top shared posts, (that is, those collaboratively published with the our Quills writer’s group), I found, surprisingly, that the fan favorite, by a healthy margin, was The Prophet & the Assassin, a Jonah-like short story I published exactly one year ago.
Be sure to follow the link for more!
Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has something special for you. Find out more with the link!
Polishing my All Seeing Eye, I carefully scanned all the Quill posts, searching for that one treasure would light up like a beacon. That one post that everyone loved more than all the others. But wait, what’s this? There’s a tie?
That leaves me. For my part, I decided to re-post something I wrote about five years ago and posted elsewhere, entitled ...
The Bookmobile is Here!
What are your earliest memories of reading? Of finding yourself surrounded by the musty smell of books begging you to open their pages, to peruse their inner glories? I know this post will age me, but for me those memories date back to a time when I was growing up in a small rural community.
When I was quite young, we were a single-car family. My father worked elsewhere and “hobby” farmed. My mother was home with us eight—yes, count them—eight children. (Eight “girl” children, to be exact!) As you might expect, this meant that we did not often go places. Entertainment was found in our own backyard. We created stories that we sometimes acted out, encouraging the few other neighborhood children that were around, to engage with us in our make-believe escapades. One of our favorite pastimes was to play “Harriet the Spy,” a game (obviously) named from the book of the same title. With our notebooks in hand, we would try to creep up unaware on one another, taking notes of what they were doing, leaving behind little tidbits for other to find ... Finding someone’s notebook unattended offered a plethora of fascinating information about the antics of others. From whence did ideas of this ilk come? Reading—of course. And, where better to pick up those ideas than from the books we checked out from the bookmobile that made its way to our little community from time to time?
I suppose the bookmobile had a schedule. It must be that it showed up every second Tuesday or Thursday (or whatever) through the summer months. Truth to tell, I don’t remember, although my mother might. I’ll have to ask her one day. I just recall hearing those magic words from time to time: “The Bookmobile is here!” The hunt would begin for all those books we’d taken out the last time, read and then perhaps misplaced in the interim, so that we could return them and select new ones: mysteries, like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys; fantasies, like The Little Witch or Mio My Son; adventures, like The Oregon Trail; animal stories like Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows; and so on. Ahhh yes, those were the days—when the library came to us.
I have not seen a bookmobile for many long years—but I did a little research. They do still exist. It seems the first “taking of collections of books to people” was in 1893. By 1899 there were 2500 “traveling collections.” Apparently, Melvil Dewey was the genius behind the idea. (The information and statistics shared here are found here.
In very early days, some book collections traveled by horseback. By 1900 some libraries sent books by mail to those who could not even reach the traveling collections. Then came the first motorized bookmobile in 1912. In 1929 the term “bookmobile” was coined.
Check out these statistics: in 1950, there were about 600 bookmobiles; by 1956, over 900; by 1970, over 2000. As might be expected, when fuel costs increased, the number of bookmobiles decreased. By 1990 there were only about 1100 remaining, and by 2000, there were fewer than 900—roughly the same number as in 1956.
I think of children today who do not have libraries near them and wonder how many budding geniuses, how many creators of their own stories that could be shared with the world, might be lost with the demise of the bookmobile. For my part, I will always hold dear memories of those sticky hot summer days when my sisters and I would heed the call: “The Bookmobile is Here!”
Thanks for stopping by. Please share your comments. See you next month!
This month we Quills discuss what has been our biggest writing challenge regarding our current work (or works, as there may be more than one) in progress. (Incidentally, you might find this discussion on the difference between the phrases "work in progress" and "work in process," interesting.)
Reasons for delay! Goodness, but there are so many. So, where does one begin?
I thought we might start with comments from P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse. That said, I can't imagine what could possibly stand in Parker's way of getting something, anything, done! It's not like he might be busy at home with his wife and three little boys, or that he spends many hours at his full time job ... Right, Parker?
I am currently working on a distinctly different story than anything I've done before. This new novel is not at all related to The Unseen Chronicles, and while I certainly miss Essie Brightsday and the cast of characters we met in A Hero's Curse and Nightrage Rising, I am loving the new setting. Inter-dimensional travel, a mad scientist, two brothers, a detective, a runaway...There is so much to investigate and explore! So many new characters to interact with!
(Follow the link for more.)
Next is Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies. Now, I happen to know that Robin has got some things happening in her life these days, but I can't imagine they could stand in the way of her writing. Right, Robin?
My experiences in the novel-writing game are relatively few, but so far, every novel has posed at least one challenge. I’m not talking about the Usual Life Challenge that pops up every time you choose a cool project and Things Happen. Like the furnace goes out, or you get the flu, or you remember at the last minute that a Quills Post is due tomorrow… No, I’m talking about novel-specific snags and pitfalls. Like the Beisyth Web in As the Crow Flies, or the (top secret now) timeline issues in Flesh and Bone. This time, right-this-minute, I find myself surrounded by a virtual cloud of delicate perfume as I ...
(Follow the link for more.)
Ahhh ... so now it's my turn. Well, here goes!
There are so many: (1) ways to stumble; (2) reasons to delay; and (3) opportunities to turn one’s attention elsewhere. It seems in one way or another, all of these things have happened to me as I’ve worked on Volume Four of The Oathtaker Series.
As to my “stumbling,” I spent a year on a work that I am very pleased and proud of. Unfortunately, I feel compelled to wait to publish it until someone I know personally is able to come to grips with my doing so. Because the project put me behind on other things—including my writing Volume Four—I realize that in fact, I didn’t just stumble. In fact, I fell ... as in I fell way behind.
But, finally, I’ve managed to get back up and to concentrate on my new work in progress ...
As to my reasons for delay, I’m sure I needn’t dwell on them. I’m still a practicing attorney by day, and as the economy has (finally!) improved after nearly a decade of stagnancy, things have picked up at the office. As a consequence, it is harder to find down time, and harder yet to use it productively—as opposed to using it to rejuvenate. In addition, like everyone I know, there are other things happening in my personal and family life that take time and attention, causing yet more delay ... Still, I want to, I strive to, put my family first, so this is not a complaint, merely a observation ...
As to opportunities to turn my attention elsewhere, I admit that I’ve been having an unexpectedly good time writing some quick flash fiction stories of late. I never considered myself a short-story writer, but the concept of trying to tell a big story with few words has captured my imagination.
I’ve worked on stories for joint blog posts with my fellow Quills (Her Golden Hair, The Resistance, and Signs, Signs, Everywhere There Are Signs!), as well as on another story in the course of my connecting with two young women interested in writing. (Find my story, Throwback Awakening, and the story of one of these young women at the link). When I talked with these two about flash fiction, they were very excited to give it a try. Since then, not only have I spent time writing with them, but also, I’ve taken my hand to editing their materials, pointing out issues they face, researching specifics to help them to find answers, and so forth. It has all been in an effort to try to speak into their lives and their art—and that takes time. That said, I’ve had so much fun doing it, that it has pulled my attention away from Volume Four.
Finally, in truth, I spent some time waiting for inspiration. I believe it is shaping up now, but the subject matter of Volume Four can be a bit difficult at times. Consequently, it urges me to other ventures. Still, it is a subject worth addressing, and so, I go on . . .
So, there you have them—my main obstacles to writing Volume Four. Notwithstanding them all, it is in the works.
What sorts of delays keep you from getting to your projects?
It sounds almost too unbelievable to be true, but I've actually used in my tales, a number of the words noted here. My favorites are "gewgaw" and "frippery." In fact, if I had a clothing or accessories store, that's what I'd name it: Gewgaw and Frippery. (And if I had a casual clothing store for young people, I'd call it "Disheveled.")
What do you think of these words? Have you ever made use of them? Do you think you might?
Please, do share your thoughts. Also, let me know if you've found my use of any of these words in my stories. (It will be like looking for lost treasure!)
Writers take different approaches to their work. Some have every scene mapped out in advance, every character portrait painted, before the opening words find their way to the page. Others just . . . let it happen. It seems to me that both approaches have their benefits—and their downfalls. If all is planned in advance, will there be surprises sufficient to continue to engage the reader? On the other hand, if events are allowed to happen without any advance thought, will what ultimately transpires prove to be internally consistent? Then, of course, we writers tell our stories through our characters and as every writer knows, characters have minds of their own.
It is true. A writer may begin with the purest of intentions, but as things trip off from the ends of the writer’s fingers to the keyboard and onto the screen, things happen. Characters do and say things the author didn't anticipate.
These things may leave the writer shocked, laughing, or even mourning, as they can force the story to change directions. Add to that the fact that characters think their own thoughts, from the purest, to the most despicable. Thus, this writer often finds herself wondering: was that always inside of me? Was it just a matter of my not having entertained those thoughts in the past?
From whence do these unexpected turns and revelations come? Does a writer dream them first? Are they floating around in her subconscious mind until they simply burst out from the tips of her fingers? And, what is this writer to do with a wayward character who simply will not abide by the rules, who displays skills of which I previously had been unaware, who says the most outrageous things, or perhaps, who says nothing at all. . . ?
(Content first published elsewhere, September 20, 2013.)
Recently, I met an amazing young woman, Veronica Clay, who it so happens, is quite the writer! We chatted briefly about flash fiction—finding ways to tell BIG stories with few words, and thought we might do some flash fiction writing together. (See the side post.)
A short time later, Reyna, another terrific and talented young woman who I've known since she was born (and who it so happens, is friends with Veronica), decided she would like to join us.
Together we three decided we would choose a single pic, and then each of us would write a story using it for inspiration.
The simply gorgeous pic we chose, entitled, Maori Pirate Princess, is provided, below. You can find more information about it, here. Of course, I never make things easy, so I decided to tell a story about the subject of this artwork as though she was not a pirate. Below is my offering. I hope you enjoy it!
Having received permission from both Veronica Clay and Reyna Myvett, their stories are also set out, below. They are fabulous!