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.
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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?