The Story Behind the Stories: Healing Waters.”

30 Sep

The Story behind the Story: Healing Waters

Healing Waters was a story I have wanted to write for a long time. I have always been fascinated with the healing springs we have all over Arkansas, from Eureka Springs to Hot Springs. Hot Springs is an especially fascinating area. I love how one can walk up to the fountains within the national park while carrying their own jugs, and each fountain is labeled as to the disease it purportedly cures. There has to be other hot springs in and around the area that are not located within the national park.

Ginseng has also been another of the Arkansas native plants that have fascinated me. I remember fishing at Lee Creek  up around Devil’s Den and seeing the hill folks walking out with sacks of the herb. I recently traveled to Lee Creek and posted pictures of my old fishing holes.

But what finally served as the catalyst for this story was a picture taken by Chicago Photographer Jennifer Moore. The picture was of a lady standing in the ankle deep waters of a pool in a creek. Jennifer had sent me the picture and asked if I’d be interested in doing a story, and this one was born. Here is a link to the picture as it appears on Jennifer’s website:
http://jmooreart.com/artwork/2731364_Untitled.html

The picture gave me an idea for the story I wanted to write—a story that would include the healing springs and one of the most fascinating herbs in the state—ginseng.

I immediately began researching the springs in the state and the growing and harvesting of ginseng. I had an idea of how the story would go, and the basic structure of the story is what I began with. I just wasn’t sure how to end the story.

While in Neil Connelly’s Forms of fiction class at McNeese State University, I did a paper on the Indiana Review and the stories within. That paper taught me the best way to end a story was on an image or action of a character. The image or action should somehow sum up, or stand as a metaphor, for the heart of, or for a major theme of the story. Many times I will have an idea for a story, but not know where to end or begin. When that happens, I just start writing, from the beginning, and I trust in my own editorial skills to help me edit the story later. One tactic that seems to work well for me is to begin at the point where the greatest tension of the story is created. Or instance, in a story titled Alligator Stew published in Real South I began the story in the first draft giving exposition about all of the characters. Later, the main character receives a phone call from his daughter’s boyfriend. He tells the father to say good-by to the daughter as he is about to kill her. The father then has to wait for what seems an eternity to learn what happens. I switched the order of events when editing to allow the phone call to happen in the first paragraph.  Then as I am revealing the back-story, the tension is always there. The reader is expecting you to get back to the issue and resolve it, and the time you take away from the issue truly represents the time the character is left hanging in the story.

So I decided to begin this story with my ginseng farmer catching a girl crawling through his fence and onto his property. He believes she is stealing his ginseng, but the photos are inconclusive. This creates tension. I wrote the story through to one possible ending where he sees her swimming in the creek and jumps in with her. I liked that ending because he had not been swimming since he had helped his wife in the creek before her death. The act of swimming seemed to be a good act that stood for his change in thinking.

When I sent the story to Jennifer Moore, the original ending had my preacher stripping his clothes and diving in. Jennifer commented in an email that she had seen that one coming. I knew that ending had to go, because foreseeability is the kiss of death for literary fiction. An ending, according to John Dufresne, must be unforeseeable, but also inevitable. The reader should never be able to guess what will happen, but when it does, they should nod their heads in agreement that it could not have ended any other way.  I didn’t have that ending yet, and I knew I needed to end on an action that somehow summed up the story. The planting of the ginseng seeds seemed to be a running theme for faith as the story took shape, so I started brainstorming on how to end the story with the planting of the seeds.

Extensive research was necessary to make sure I had the right biological information, and my new friend, Madison Woods, the author of  a blog titled “Where fantasy Meets the Wild Ozarks” was a tremendous source of information. My former biology teacher, Ms. Sandy Tedder, knew I was writing a story about ginseng and sent me this link to Ms. Woods’ blog:

http://www.wildozark.com/to-find-american-ginseng-in-the-woods-find-the-indicator-plants-first-ozarks-nature-wildozark/

Ms. Woods was kind enough to read and review the story for biological accuracy, and she even provided some additional details I picked up from her website—for instance the reference to maidenhair and christmas ferns. A link to her blog is posted on the blog page of my website.

I also did a bit more research on the crystals that are found in and around the Hot Springs area. I wanted to use those in the story also, but had problems finding a way to make them relevant. I firmly believe if something appears one time in a story and it can be removed without requiring a change anywhere else, it should be edited out. I talked about the crystals but made no other reference to them in the story. Then I realized as I was revising the end that I could refer to her eyes shining like crystals, and that allowed me to leave the reference in the story.

I had originally worried that none of my readers would catch that she was an apparition at the end and not a real being. If they thought she was real, they would have criticized my preacher for not going in to get her. But he hadn’t swam in the creek since Little Daisy Belk had died, and he wasn’t going to jump in for this stranger, even if he had the hots for her. For some reason, although I think there was a possibility of romance there, I liked his steadfastness in not swimming in the creek at the end, and not questioning what he had witnessed. To me, his not questioning whether what he saw was real was the greatest leap of faith he made during the story. Seeing the ginseng up on the side of the creek bank also allowed him to focus elsewhere, and to think of Daisy.

This is a story I could easily go back and make a novel of, and perhaps one day I will.

Guest Blog by Ms. Caitlin Lafarlette: My Big Girl Panties Don’t Exist

11 Jan

My ‘big girl panties’ don’t exist

I am at the DMV, for the second time of the day, fuming I waited an hour for an address change that took 10 seconds. “That’s grown-up life, my mom tells me later.

What does that even mean?

What is “grown-up,” “adult?” Apparently I made the transition of a snotty teenager into someone society gives full-time pay to, but I can’t even make a grilled cheese sandwich. Or change a flat tire (obviously the grilled cheese is a more pressing matter.)

There is no true age defining one of this right of passage. And anybody who says “18” has clearly never watched a group of college freshmen girls tape hundreds of condoms to a co-ed’s door and needs to pipe the hell down.

At some point we traded in stuffed animals for a lover, Juicy Juice for tequila and Flintstones vitamins for birth control pills. Frilly dresses gave way to mini-skirts, which faded into dress pants and blazers with an office job. Money for toys goes to rent now (at least, in theory.) “I’m gonna stay up so late, like until midnight!” slips into “Christ, my bedtime is at 10:30 and now I’m going to be hungover.”

On the other hand, I can go where I want, when I want. I can make decisions like eating dinner in the bathtub or wearing the same hoodie for 10 days straight. It’s a freeing concept when you grasp it. But I will never understand when I made that turning point.

Honestly, though, I don’t think “adulthood” really exists. Aside from college breaks, I’ve been living on my own for nearly five years and my parents still call to check up on me. Grandma still sends care packages of food. My dear mentor lovingly calls me her child. It’s all so comforting.

Ten-years-old and I am anxiously awaiting 13, the teenage milestone. Sixteen, and I am frustrated while waiting for college and dorm parties. Nineteen. I am bored with school and ready for a “real” job. Twenty-three. I live in a new city and work for a newspaper that creates award-winning journalists. And every night I fall asleep with stuffed animals and I wear footie pajamas all weekend.

In most aspects, others would see me as an “adult.” But I am completely content with never applying such a boring term to myself.

Aside 19 Jun

I spent the past week traveling to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, wherethe Southeastern Writer’s Association had invitedme toattend as an instructor their annual writer’ conference held at Epworth by the Sea.

     The facilities, the grounds, the scenery all were inspiring. The staff at Epworth prepared some wonderful meals with a bountiful spread of selections that seemed to offer something for everyone to love.

     The conference is organized by a board of directors. The board replaced three members as partof a reguar routine of sifting the direction of the leadership, adding one young lady in her 20’s! This act impressed me, as usually organizations like this get caught up in a battle of control that stifles any chance for growth. That will not happen here. I left the conference with a satisfied and assured sense that this organization will continue to grow and prosper. and provide a valuable service to its members and fellow authors.

     But what impressed me most were the skills of the individual writers in attendance.–many with books already published. They seemed like dry sponges, soaking up every offered drop of wisdom offered by the instructors as they searched for the tip or writing practice that might mke a difference in their craft.

     It is this quality, I am sure, that accounts for so many books published within this talented group of writers.  

     The meals were served buffet style, Attendees sat with instructors and presenters sharing tales of family and ex-wives  and writing and hunts and trials and challenges–such as cancer or the loss of a loved one–that they all faced and conquered.

     On Monday night an open mic reading was held where everyone was given a four minute time slot to read from the best f their work. As I listened I was struck by the talent of the prose and the presentations of the authors. I was impressed with the voice of the readers and the yearnings expressed so clearly within those snippets.

     For thousands of dollars one can attend Breadloaf or Sewanee. but I fail o see how anyone could not benfit just as much, for a percentage of the cost,  by attending this conference.
 
     I encourage anyone who seeks to improve as a writer to join and support tis well-managed and run organization and make plans to attend their conference next year. You will love the majesty of the moss-draped live oaks, the quality of the food, the all-inclusive family atmosphere of the people who refuse to allow a first-time attendee to remain a stranger, and ore than anything, your writing skills will evolve and develop in a loving atmosphere of writers who simply want to become better writers.

Memorial Day Doldrums!

22 May

I have been extremely busy lately and have neglected some of my duties, including this blog, so I apologize for my negligence. It seems I have been tremendously busy at times, while at other times I am simply twiddling my thumbs.
I am writing a new story for an anthology titled “Memphis Noir” that will be part of my novel. My research has been frustrated by my inability to find information online about long river boats with cabs, the kind used by my uncle when he was guiding duck hunters. These boats have a tremendous load capacity and the ability to run rivers with strong currents at high speeds. My uncle’s boat had an 80 horse Evinrude that would have pulled two skiers while loaded down with 10 hunters and gear.
This spring has seen me doing a lot of traveling. I have been to Durant, Oklahoma, and Bangor, Maine. I hope to be making a trip to Keyser, WV, soon, and I will definitely be traveling to the SE Writer’s Conference at St. Simon’s Island in Georgia in June. All of this with working 30-40 hours a week, writing, researching and applying for teaching jobs across the country is keeping me busy.
Memorial Day has slipped up on me and I have made no plans to go camping or fishing. I do plan to pick up some pork ribs and cook some BBQ, and if I don’t have to work on Monday I will travel to mammoth Spring, AR, and catch some trout.
I have interviewed for a couple of positions and have another interview coming up, and researching the communities where these colleges and universities are located is always fun. I begin with requesting information from the local area chambers and the state tourism bureaus. I also request info from the state game and fish commissions. I read through the local daily newspapers online and peruse the rentals listings on Craigslist. Craigslist does not always have a division for the town you are researching, but it always has one close and then you can limit your search to a particular town or area. I also like to look at the listings of items for sale in the farm section, as they usually have a lot of locally grown produce. I also check for local grocery stores and look up their weekly ads and contact the local utility companies to get an idea of how much their deposts are for connecting services. You can get a good idea of the cost of living in any area this way!
I may need to write a guide to relocating some day!

Link

http://issuu.com/btsemag/docs/may-june2014/29?e=5491198/7687064

4 May

http://issuu.com/btsemag/docs/may-june2014/29?e=5491198/7687064

BTS Emagazine has published a great review of “God’s Naked Will” and a personal interview with me for their latest edition. i was trying to embed the pages but i don’t think I got it done!

http://issuu.com/btsemag/docs/may-june2014/33?e=0

 

 

#mywritingprocessblogtour.com: Brett riley!

21 Apr

#MyWritingProcess #BlogTour

“My Writing Process” Blog Tour

My friend C.D. Mitchell tagged me as part of the Blog Tour. I always appreciate the opportunity to publicize my work and that of other writers, so for whatever it’s worth, this is my contribution.

What am I working on these days?

I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. Due to spending several years in graduate school without much time to submit my work, I’ve got a pretty good backlog of text that I’m shopping. My somewhat-experimental novel-in-stories The Subtle Dance of Impulse and Light dropped about this time last year. You can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine online retailers. I’m spreading the word about it as much as I can.

I’m currently submitting two works to independent publishers. One is Mulvaney House, another somewhat-experimental novel. It traces the (d)evolution of a single house in southeast Arkansas from the late 19th through the early 21st centuries. It is first inhabited by ill-fated Irish immigrants; later, its ownership passes to a disillusioned World War I veteran. Because that situation does not end well either, the house becomes the local “haunted,” “cursed” place that all the smart kids avoid and that all the cool kids want to explore. In the 1960s, it becomes the setting for a star-crossed interracial romance, and in the early 21st century, three teenagers spend the night there just to prove that they can. Serious carnage ensues.

I’m also submitting my second story collection, tentatively titled Bedtime Stories for Insomniacs. Most of the stories therein have been published. In terms of subject matter, it’s a pretty eclectic book. There’s a serial killer story, a couple of tales that make use of mythological creatures, some gritty realism, and some humor.

I’ve gotten some kind words about the projects, but whether they will ever see the light of day is anyone’s guess.

Oh, you thought I was through? Not yet—I’m also shopping The Dead House, a literary ghost story. It’s a novel-length work set in central Texas, though many of the characters are from south Louisiana. The book is a supernatural thriller detective fish-out-of-water story. I’ve gotten a few nibbles from literary agents; I’m hoping to land one soon.

In terms of new work, I’m currently drafting a post-apocalyptic novel set in the South. I’m also three stories into a new cycle that will, I hope, become a book one day.

I recently submitted a screenplay that I adapted from one of my published stories. As I have no contacts in Hollywood, I don’t expect it to go anywhere, but hey, they have to option somebody’s script, right?

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I’ve always thought that this kind of question is best answered by critics and scholars, not writers. I just tell stories. Some editors have compared various stories I’ve written to writers as diverse as Jack Kerouac, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Elmore Leonard, and Ernest Hemingway. (I’m not egotistical enough to say that I agree, but I really appreciated their saying it.) I think a couple of my stories read like they were written by the love child of Stephen King and Cormac McCarthy. What all this means, I think, is that you can get a pretty good read on my basic format and style, but the content and how I employ that style may vary widely from piece to piece. I try not to write the same thing twice, and if I do delve into an area that I’ve visited before, I try to change perspectives, or voices, or tones, or something that will make the work seem a little fresher.

I don’t know what my genre is, other than “literary,” so no matter what similarities and differences a given reader sees between my work and that of any other serious writer, they’re probably on the right track, even if what they say contradicts somebody else.

Why do I write what I do?

Why does anybody write what they do? I never know what to make of this question. I can only tell you this: I believe that real writers do what they do because they are compelled. You don’t do it for fame. Writing literary fiction for money is a mug’s game. You don’t do it for all the groupies because most of us don’t have any (well, maybe Chuck Palahniuk). You do it because you can’t imagine a life where you don’t do it.

When I don’t get my two daily writing sessions in, I feel incomplete and guilty. When I don’t get at least one session, I feel out of sorts, angry with myself, despairing about the time that has passed. When I don’t write at all, I want to punch somebody, often myself. I have stories and people and dramatic situations in my head. Some of them are funny or sad and sick or cool. Others will probably never really go anywhere. But I have to find out what might work, or I go a little nuts.

As for where I get my ideas, my standard answer is, “A warehouse in Poughkeepsie. Don’t tell anybody.”

Seriously, though, they come to me as I live—sometimes from a bit of conversation I overhear, sometimes from an image I see in life or a movie or a magazine, sometimes from that place deep within my imagination where everything begins with “What if…?”

I write down every idea that I can. I’ve got files of them, ideas for stories and novels and essays and screenplays and comic book series and TV shows. I add to the piles fairly regularly. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to all of them. Some of them probably suck. My job is to write as many of them as I can, and to write them to the best of my ability, and hope that some agent, editor, or publisher will believe in me, in my story. After that, you pray that the piece will find its audience, but you can’t really control that, or the publishing side. You can only write and submit and not give up.

How does my Writing Process work?

I look over my list of ideas and see which one speaks to me at that given moment. Sometimes I’ll outline how I imagine the story will go, but even when I do, I allow for organic and spontaneous growth, when the people in the story do something that I didn’t expect. Most of the time, I just write until I complete the narrative arc. I do a full draft without worrying too much about how well it all holds together.

With my book, I revised extensively, several times. With the novel I’m currently shopping, I revised ten times before I ever submitted it. I’ll tinker with any given story for a couple of drafts until it seems to chug along pretty well.

Then I submit.

In this business, you have to expect rejection unless you’re already a household name. To succeed at any level at all, you have to strike the right combination of talent, learned skill, perseverance, and luck—getting the right piece to the right gatekeeper at the right time. Unless you have personal contacts at an agency or publisher, that’s about all you can do.

I’ll generally send out a piece to a half-dozen places. If nobody takes it, I revise again and find other places to submit. I keep doing that until I find the right home for it or I decide that maybe it isn’t as good as I thought it was. I have yet to self-publish anything, but I’m not above it if the industry never accepts what I truly believe is a story worth telling.

Once someone accepts a piece, I am perfectly willing and able to tinker with it if an editor sees areas that need work. Sometimes I insist on leaving something as is if I feel changing it will fundamentally undercut my integrity as a writer and the story I want to tell, but I pick my battles carefully. I have yet to meet an editor with whom I could not work amicably and productively.

As for my day-to-day process, once I’ve chosen a project of any length or type, I try to write at least twice a day for an hour each time. It isn’t always possible, but I do my best. I tend to work on a couple of projects at once—a potential novel chapter and a story, a story and a screenplay, etc. In grad school, I was forced to multi-task, and I have yet to break the habit completely. Right now, for instance, I’m revising a text and working on a new story. I’ll revise for a session and write for a session. I’ve found that setting time limits, rather than specific word counts, works better for me because of my other time constraints.

I’d like to thank C.D. Mitchell for tagging me.In turn, I am tagging two of my writer friends who occasionally blog, Robin Becker and Sean Hoade.

Robin Becker is a graduate school buddy of mine. She has recently accepted a teaching position at Ole Miss. Her zombie novel, Brains, is available in bookstores and online.

Sean Hoade is a fellow Las Vegan. He has been a prolific self-publisher; his latest work, Deadtown Abbey, is hilarious and weird, and I mean that in the best possible sense. He has recently contracted to write a series of undead-themed books for a traditional publisher, so look for them in the near future., coming to bookstores near you.

My Writing Process Blog Tour

14 Apr

I became a part of this process when Tamara Linse tagged me to follow up on this blog tour. I generally do not participate in such things, but this seemed intriguing, so I tossed my hat in the ring and tagged two fellow writers I admire, Shonell Bacon and Brett Riley to follow me. So here goes!

What am I working on these days?

I am working on a yet untitled novel that will involve smuggling of guns, drugs, and illegals up the Mississippi River and its navigable waterways by riverboat barge. A chapter of the novel, one that deals primarily with President’s Island in Memphis, is scheduled to appear in Memphis Noir sometime this fall. The novel deals with river barge traffic, a largely unregulated means of travel during the early 1990’s. I envision a mix of Mark Twain, Robert Earl Keen and Cormack McCarthy in the final text. My main character has purchased an electric shock therapy machine at a flea market in Mississippi and will eventually use it to collect money on fronted drugs.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
A recent review of my story collection “Alligator Stew” called the writing “Dirty Realism.” Many of the reviews of my work posted on Goodreads and Amazon.com have observed that I write about situations others shun or ignore. I create real characters faced with desperate situations. I don’t spend six pages describing in flowery language how a dog crosses the road to take a shit in the ditch. That is not to say that sentence construction, word choice and rhythms are not important to me. They are, and they must be important to all writers. But my emphasis is story. Shit happens in the stories I write!

Why do I write what I do?
Because too many others lack the courage to face the reality of life. I write to expose the incredible hopelessness faced by the schizophrenic, by the impoverished, by those cursed with bad luck and misfortune. I write to expose the hypocrisy of the Bible-thumping zealots who would steal our freedoms away and impose by law their own brand of morality upon US citizens. I write because I have to. It has always been a hunger I must feed. I write because the best day of writing is always the best day of my life!

How does my Writing Process work?
I have always heard of binge eaters and binge drinkers; I am a binge writer. I develop an idea for a story or book. I note it in my journals and I write about the idea. I research and develop the characters. I read newspaper articles and interview people. At some point, the influx of information builds like water pressure behind a dam until I am forced to open the floodgates and release the weight of all that has accumulated. I have binges where I write every day, and during those times I commit to 500 words a day. Promising myself 500 words allows me to sit down when I have little time, and to get up when I simply must leave. But more often than not, 500 words become 1500 or even 2000. I endlessly revise, going back and rereading as often as I can. For instance, my current novel has had me researching Electric Shock Therapy Machines on the internet and trying to buy one on Amazon.com. I have interviewed a close friend of mine who ran river boats up and down the Mississippi and intra-coastal for thirty years. I am booking an evening ride on the Memphis Queen so I can approach President’s Island from the river, and I will also make a trip to the Island and hopefully spend some time exploring the Wildlife management Area that exists there within the city limits of Memphis. I have just begun the writing of the book, and the research will continue.
Image

How Should I Feel Today?

19 Mar

How Should I Feel, Today?

Today a man died who spent the last thirty years of his life hating me, disrespecting me, disrespecting my children, and taking great glee in my many misfortunes—and I gave him much over the years to be happy about. And although I must admit at times I yearned for this day to come, that yearning subsided many years ago. At this stage of my life, rarely does an event happen for which I do not have a clear-cut stance, emotion or response, but today I have no idea what I am supposed to feel.

I tell my students that many times the best writing happens when we have no answers to our questions. Writing then gives us the opportunity to explore our feelings and exorcize our emotions if necessary, so I thought I’d write an elegy this morning.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay this nameless soul is that he forced me to become a better man. The day he laughed in my face when I told him I was going to law school provided the motivation I needed to see my way through seven difficult years of college. The fact neither he nor his wife showed their faces at any of my graduations just made the accomplishments that much better. But later, as my life imploded and he laughed and mocked my many failures, he taught me another great lesson.
Success is the greatest revenge.
There is an old cliché about trying many bold things will result in many bold failures—something like that. I tried many bold things and had many bold failures. I also had many failures because of my own stupidity. At one time of my life, I often ascribed my failures to bad luck. After my law office was destroyed in a fire that consumed one whole city block of my hometown, I lamented the bad luck of having my insurance lapse three weeks before the fire. An attorney friend of mine replied that wasn’t bad luck, that was just stupid. His words had a tremendous impact many years later on my life. I say many years later because I still had a whole lot of “stupid” left in me waiting to come out.
All of that stupidity gave great pleasure to this deceased man who delighted in my many misfortunes and who never missed a chance to be rude to me or my family. Then came a day when rock bottom slapped me on the cheek, and the thoughts of others no longer mattered. I found myself in a desperate struggle to survive.
I discovered who truly loved me, the friends who were more than friends, the family who were truly family. I also learned that no one else mattered.
The good thing about rock bottom is you have two options. You can lie in the filth you created and quit. That was never an option for me. The other: there is only one way out, and that is up!
I began a systematic reclaiming of my life. I returned to school. I started a new career. I took control and instead of blaming my mistakes on bad luck, I began to make my luck. I took all the small steps necessary to place myself in a position to be successful. I went without instead of using shortcuts. I worked endlessly and tirelessly, educating myself in areas I had little or no knowledge. In 2002 I didn’t even know what an email was, but I had decided to return to college. Once again, I could hear the laughter of my number one detractor in my ears. Once again, I felt that old motivation.
Over the years, many things changed–including me. The thoughts of my detractor no longer provided motivation, or anything. They no longer mattered. If someone could profess to be a Christian and still act the way he did, then they had bigger problems than their hatred for me. It still upset me that I believed he punished my children for keeping me as a part of their lives, but he soon saw he could not interfere in that arena. Sadly, all he did was affect their feelings for him.
Today my greatest concern is that he is being judged by his maker for his actions, and I am sure my name will be mentioned prominently. I take no satisfaction in this. I would much rather have a positive impact on a person’s life. I would rather help a person achieve in a positive manner instead of in a negative way as this man affected me. I would hope to leave positive memories in the minds of those who may even mourn my passing.

But today, my thoughts are on the waste of life and precious time that occurs when lies and bitterness, hatred and hypocrisy control our existence. Because no amount of attending church on Sunday morning or eating of communion can atone for the way we act during the week. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from this person was that a lifetime of bitterness and hatred shrinks a soul to a life of inconsequence. Eventually, people will forget you and your feelings for them, and go on with their lives. You will be left with your hatred and bitterness as your own communion. So today I now know how I am supposed to feel. Today I know I must release any old grudges; I must forgive and forget all grievances.
There was a time when I had sworn to drink a 12 pack and be the first to piss on this man’s grave. Today all I can do is say a prayer for his soul. Perhaps in the end, this man made me a better man than I could ever have been without him.

I hope this thought doesn’t cause him to roll over in his grave!

My trip to the Dahlonega, GA Literary Festival

10 Mar

 

The Dahlonega Literary Festival

This past weekend I traveled to Dahlonega, GA for the Dahlonega Literary Festival. I had a wonderful time, traveled through some beautiful country, met some wonderful writers, and met some dedicated and inspiring “Aspiring” writers.

Let me first begin with the travels. I drove from Paragould, Arkansas, to Dahlonega, Georgia, driving through Jackson Tennessee, taking a loop through Franklin, TN, skipping Nashville, after passing through Chattanooga, I cut off at Dalton, Ga. And took US76 and then GA 52 through Ellijay to Dahlonega.

This route skirts the edge of the north Georgia mountains that I had never seen before. By the time I hit Dalton, it was dark, and the mountain vistas provided a special beauty as I watched the glimmering lights of life twinkling miles below in the canyon valleys. Eighteen miles west of Dahlonega is Amicalola Falls State park where I spent the night sleeping in the back seat of my truck. This was a minor inconvenience caused by my delay in reserving a hotel, but it also seemed to add to the experience. I couldn’t see the park in the dark, but travelled up to the lodge, which was awesome, and was told just to go park under a tree away from the lights and I’d be okay.
The next morning I was awake before dawn and traveling on to Ellijay. I didn’t have my camera, and I missed some tremendous opportunities. Being an old turkey hunter I had to stop at the top of several ridges and give a hoot-owl hoot down the mountain to see if I could get a turkey to gobble, and I was not disappointed.
Dahlonega is an historic college town with a town square laid out in the 1830’s. The town was a part of Georgia’s historic gold rush and one can still pan for gold in the area. The southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail is nearby at Amicalola, so the area seems to have a robust tourist economy as well as the steady presence of North Georgia College and University. The downtown area was littered with excellent, though a bit pricey, restaurants.

Ken Smoke and the folks at the Catholic Church did an excellent job of hosting and taking care of the needs of the writers. We had a good, though small turnout of readers and sight-seers. I served on a panel that talked about writing in general and experiences as a writer, and I was impressed with the questions and response.

If I had a criticism of the conference, it would be the lack of knowledge of the local community about the affair. Every place I went to eat or buy supplies, I mentioned I was attending the conference. Of the many locals, I met one that knew of the conference. Perhaps a bit more effort could be made to advertise the conference locally and to enhance its status as a local event. But that is not a criticism as much as a suggestion for the future.

I left early Sunday morning to return to Paragould, and arrived at Amicalola around 7:30. I paid the five buck fee again and travelled through the park and finally got to see its beauty in the daylight. I hiked to the base of the falls and then drove to the top of the falls. Beautiful. Majstic, Humbling. Awe-inspring. All words that came to mind. Then I enjoyed an eight dollar breakfast buffet at the lodge. The buffet included fresh fruit, drinks, any type of breakfast food you wanted, and even eggs cooked to order. It was an excellent value!

The rest of the trip home allowed me to see the mountains in the daylight and the beautiful apple orchards that populated the north Georgia terrain. Apparently the peaches are further south, but I’d love to return to Georgia during the apple harvest and bring back several bushels to put in the freezer of T-giving and Christmas.

Chattanooga is beautiful in the daytime or nighttime, and the trip through Franklin is always delightful. But on this trip I loved coming off the final ridge near Dyersburg and seeing the Mississippi River Bridge in the distant haze. The sun had set to where its bottom touched the top of the trees that lined the distant river bank, and by the time I reached the bridge, it had set below the horizon. But the haze of the distant river reminded me of those dog-days of summer coming soon.

            I will be returning to Georgia in June for the Southeastern Writer’s Conference on St. Simon’s Island, and then in August at the Decatur Book Festival. I am excited to see more of Georgia.

            Perhaps now, for the first time in my life, I truly understand the lyrics of the old song “Georgia on my mind.”

Upcoming Travels and Appearances!

4 Mar

Today I made further arrangements for my travels coming up promoting both of my books. This Saturday, March 8th, I will be at the Dahlonega Literary Festival in Dahlonega, Georgia. I will also make an appearance on a Regional Authors panel where along with several other authors I will be discussing the writing experience.
Dahlonega will be a new experience for me. I have travelled to many writer’s conferences but always as a teacher and a reader of books. This will be the first time I will appear as a writer, and I look forward to meeting people who will be in attendance and searching for books to read.
I was also making arrangements for my travels to the Dallas/FW Writers Conference to be held at the Hurst Conference Center on May 3rd and 4th in Hurst, Texas. I will be teaching two classes: Setting as Character, and Yearning: the Heart of Quality Prose.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts on both of these topics. Far too many times novice writers overlook setting, or even believe that by offering a few details and visual images they have created a compelling setting. But this class will deal with creating a setting for your stories that is itself a character. Setting that is a character in your story makes it impossible to pick up your characters and set them in any other location.

In the past when teaching creative writing workshops I have always used the Annie Proulx short story “Brokeback Mountain.” The Wyoming setting for that story became a character as important as Innes or his lover. If the story were picked up and moved to San Francisco, New York, or any other urban setting, it is not the same.

For setting to be a character, it must have a significant influence on the plot and or characters—an influence that is unique for the locale. I can think of several other stories that come to mind as examples of setting as character. John Steinbeck’s “Chrysanthemums” is another example I use in my classes. Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” with the lush green on one side of the tracks and the barren sand on the other provides another example of the importance of setting and how setting plays a crucial role in the piece. In this story, the setting even provides an ticking clock as they wait for the train and the seconds pass away, leading to their separation.
I became aware of the importance of setting while writing my MFA thesis. In trying to create a thesis of stories with a common thread, I attempted to move the setting of my story “Stud Fee” from atop Mount Nebo near Dardanelle, Arkansas, to a point on Crowley’s Ridge in northeast Arkansas. After reading the story again and trying to find how I could properly edit the story, I discovered I couldn’t without making significant changes. The mountain top setting of the Mt. Nebo State park, with the hang gliders and the cabin overlooking the home of the characters of Lani and her husband could not be changed.
Ever since that epiphanic moment, I have done my best to make setting important in every piece I write. I think my greatest success using setting as character was in the story “Healing Waters” from God’s Naked Will.  The setting there is in a valley that flows with hot, mineral spring waters that flow from the same sources as the springs in the Hot Springs National Park. The stream flowing through the property purchased by Elias nurtures the ginseng he grows and provides crystals he sells, and once provided hope for a miracle of healing for his wife.

I have never taught a class dedicated to this topic, but I look forward to sharing what has worked for me with the folks in Dallas.

Yearning is another topic important to quality writing, and I will be teaching a another class in Dallas on Yearning and its importance to quality prose. Yearning is that uniquely human trait that causes us to do things beyond reason. It causes us to do things that others simply shake their heads at. In this class, we will talk about identifying examples of yearning as they exist all around us. Recognizing those examples will help writers create examples of their own.
For instance, I cannot walk through Dillard’s without stopping by the Estee Lauder table and having a saleslady spray a card sample with Private Collection. Just this past week I did this, and the sales lady asked if I were going to buy this for my sweetheart.
“No. It’s what she used to wear. Every once in a while, I just like to remember her.” I thought the lady was going to cry!
“That is so special. I want to be someone’s fragrance someday!”
I guess there was a yearning there for both of us!

Blog Tour for Bruce A. Borders: Miscarraige of Justice

28 Feb

Good Vs. Evil by Bruce A. Borders

 

A huge thank you to all the members of Rave Reviews Book Club who agreed to host me on their site! I am honored to be the Spotlight Author!

 

Miscarriage Of Justice tells the story of two people, Ethan Rafferty and Mariana Clark. Ethan has just been released from prison after serving fifteen years for a crime he didn’t commit; Mariana is the D.A. responsible for putting him there. As we get to know the characters, their lives are moving in opposite directions. One is continually sinking to new depths; the other is slowly making an ascension to becoming a better individual. It’s the old line of good versus evil – almost. But what happens when those lines intersect? When neither side is exactly virtuous or exhibits an upstanding moral character?

 

In writing this book, I wanted to bring out that sometimes it’s hard to tell, with certainty, the good from the bad. Sometimes, good and bad seem to run together, with the attributes of both present. I think the majority of people fall into this category – I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “no man is all good, and no man is all bad.” Yet, there is a right and wrong. Most of us inherently know which is which, but events and situations can muddle what we know.

 

We’re taught that good always triumphs over evil, but what if you’re not sure which side is good and which is evil? Then how do you know which side is going to win?

 

In the beginning, both Ethan and Mariana are normal people – reasonably normal anyway. But as they respond and react to situations, into which they have unwillingly been thrust and over which they have no control, their paths take them in opposite directions, until…

 

 

Miscarriage Of Justice

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/1624070639

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/miscarriage-of-justice-bruce-a-borders/1111648967

Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/156958

Sony http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/bruce-a-borders/miscarriage-of-justice/_/R-400000000000000717099

iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/book/id543047448?mt=11

Kobo http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Miscarriage-Of-Justice/book-KcHcGhmTgESAXmnO9tUK4Q/page1.html?s=SxowIrFdQkGHRsi0UUar0g&r=2

 

Connect with Bruce:

@BruceABorders

http://www.facebook.com/BruceABordersBooks

http://bruceabordersbooks.weebly.com

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5752197.Bruce_A_Borders

 

RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB “SPOTLIGHT” AUTHOR, Bruce A. Borders was born in 1967 in Cape Girardeau, MO. Bruce’s childhood years were spent in a number of states, including Missouri, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
During his high school years, he was a member of the football, basketball and track teams, involved in various non-athletic activities such as school yearbook production and photography, and won numerous awards for his artistic creations. Bruce graduated Valedictorian in 1984.
While in school, Bruce held three part-time jobs; a store clerk, a janitor, and a dental technician, working about 60-70 hours per week. After graduation, he became employed full time as a dental technician. Other jobs have included restaurant manager, carpenter, and grocery store cashier. For the past sixteen years, he has worked as a commercial truck driver, logging more than two million miles.
At the age of fifteen, Bruce decided to become a writer. He began by writing songs, news articles, and short stories. Eventually, books were added to the list. Over the years, he continued to write and currently has a catalog of more than 500 songs, numerous short stories and over a dozen completed books. He writes on a variety of subjects such as fictional novels of legal issues and westerns. Titles include: Inside Room 913, Over My Dead Body, Miscarriage Of Justice, The Journey, and in The Wynn Garrett Series – Mistaken Identity, Holy Terror, Remote ImageImageControl, Judicial Review, Even Odds, and Safety Hazard.