The Story Behind My Blog's Title

The Story Behind My Blog's Title
Why is my blog named "My Father's Oldsmobile"? Click on the car and find out.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Priceless Puppies

I don't have any pressing matter about writing to post today. So I'm just gonna go all chatty on ya.

At the moment, we have a very pregnant bassett hound in our house. Her name is Tootsie, and she looks a lot like a tootsie roll--except for the ears. She's my daughter's dog, and we did not get her fixed because we intend to breed her to another basset. You may have noticed that I said, "we intend to breed"; future tense, and she's already pregnant.

Over Thanksgiving we left town for about four days. When we got home, our neighbor informed us that a friend's dog, a blue heeler/border collie mix, got into the backyard. Two months later, we have a bassett hound with a stuffed belly and an udder like a dairy cow. Hmm. . .I wonder what that dog was up to?

I've been worried about what we're going to do with all of these puppies. We can't sell them. They aren't pure bred. And giving them away, who's going to want them? They're worthless. Right?

Last week, something happened to make me reconsider this. Our neighbor--same one who found the dog in our backyard--accidently ran over his red heeler. He was devastated; not just at the loss of his dog, Bindi, but by the memory of her final moments. He just kept seeing her in agony, crawling toward him, with that look of, "he'll know how to fix me."

A couple of days after the accident, a friend of mine found a puppy. The puppy was nothing special--just a mutt, with some heeler in her--but she was sweet, cuddly, and she needed a home. (Yes, there are alot of heelers around here. It's cow country.) This friend of mine didn't know about Bindi's death. Matter-of-fact, she only knew my neighbor by name. After trying all day to find the puppy a home, she decided to pray. For some strange reason, she thought of my neighbor, so she called me to ask for his number. And you can guess how the rest turned out.

Yesterday, I looked out my window, and saw my neighbor laughing. At his feet was this little puppy jumping around and wagging its tail

I have no doubt that God brought them together.
None of his creations are worthless.

Now, who wants a puppy?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finding Your Voice in a Room Full of Critics

I'll be honest. I have mixed feelings about critique groups. It's not that I can't take criticism. I welcome it, so long as it's useful. Occasionally though, I get the impression that some critics are there to play Gotcha instead of offering helpful advice. I can't say for certain what their motivation is for being a member of the group, but I suspect the need to feel superior plays a part.

Writing is a tricky craft; a delicate balance of creativity and academics. And each writer has to find his or her unique formula to express what's in their heart.

Critique groups are meant to help a writer chisel the flaws from their work. And rules were created to identify flaws. Most of these rules make writing better. But lately, it seems like more and more keep getting added to the mix. And there seems to be a belief among some writers that these rules are absolutes.

Don't use 'ly' words, Don't use 'ing' verbs, stay away from 'was', don't use too many pronouns, make use of pronouns, don't start a sentence with 'when', don't use semi-colons in dialogue, don't use dashes in dialogue, don't use font tricks, don't use 'thought' or 'wondered', don't change verb tense, don't change POV in the scene. I'm sure I'm leaving a few out. Anyone paralyzed yet?

Most of these rules I like. Keeping tenses straight, and sticking to a single POV keep a story tidy. But even these, I break from time to time, if it's the right tool. It's my work, my perogative. (I always leave a space to cue the reader. There, ya happy!)

Other rules are good guildlines. A story littered with 'ly' words does start to sound like a jingle after a while. That's not to say you should never use them. And a 'was' in every other sentence makes my mouth feel like it's full of sand. But sometimes 'was' is the right choice, and jumping through hoops to go around it ends up creating a circus act. There is a balance.

When I catch myself breaking a rule, like I just did by starting this sentence with 'when', I ask myself a simple question. WHY? Was it carelessness on my part, or was I doing it to acheive a certain effect? If the answer is the latter, then I need to determine if I was successful. This is where an honest, objective critic comes in handy. Don't seek out a rule Nazi. They won't like your work until you rewrite it their way, verbatim.

Now let me get back to my point about critique groups. If you're a rule breaker, I promise you, it's the first thing that will get pointed out. Don't be stubborn. The group is there to help you, so listen to them; consider their suggestions, but ALWAYS keep in mind your reason for breaking the rule. In the end, go with your gut. That's where you'll find your voice.

As a side note:
Somewhere along the way, someone will tell you, "A truly talented writer works magic within the rules." I'm going to say, "Truly talented writers work magic when they choose to cast the rules aside."

Off the top of my head, I can list several talented rule breakers; Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts and Deeanne Gist for starters. There are a whole lot more if I use the list of rules from above. Truthfully, I don't see how anyone can adhere to all of those and still write. "Use pronouns. No don't." Come on!

Oh, and looky here. I'm holding Tom Clancy's The Bear and The Dragon. And the first word in chapter one is . . . 'Going.' Ding Ding. Got another one!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Short Story Material

Okay, you're editing your novel and you come to a part where the creative bug bit you while writing; next thing you knew, you were off on a tangent about a pig in love with a goat, playing chase around the yard, and wreaking havoc on the front porch where the whole family had gathered to take a picture. The problem is that your novel's a romance, and the scene you're editing is supposed to be "conducive" to such feelings. I don't know about you, but pig crap doesn't make me want to cuddle? Ewwww! If you think it sounds romantic, you might want to keep that to yourself.

You get ready to delete this little side-track, but you're feeling reluctant because you kind of like this story. It's funny, and it tells the reader something about your MCs past. Who cares that the reader doesn't need to know this!

But, you've also got a manuscript that has balooned to 135,000 words. Cutting back here and there won't do, you've got to go for the Ginny Craig plan if this baby is gonna shrink.

Consider this: Pull the tangent aside, and rewrite it as a short story. I've found that this is a great way to come up with new material. If you're like me, the characters you've created over the years have a lot more history than what you've written into your novels. Don't let those experiences go to waste. Your characters deserve to be heard.

I bet you thought I was being silly in the example I wrote above. Well, a little story called, "What Happened Next," will run next month in A Long Story Short. You might find it interesting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

First Day as a Blogger

For awhile now, I've known that this is something I needed to do. As a writer, I've got to generate publicity. But, I find myself in a strange predicament. I can't think of a thing to say.

What's one to do when faced with this dilemma? Perhaps I should write about not having anything to write about. That sounds like a challenge.

Hmm. It's not working. I'm still blank.

But, maybe it is working since I am, in fact, writing about not writing. Now that I think about it, I could probably do this for awhile. And since I'll likely be the only one reading this, maybe I should. At least until something comes to mind.

Something came to mind.

Recently, I've clicked with another writer, and she and I have been exchanging our work so we can help each other improve. I read the first chapter of her book, and it was great; the flow, the characters, the pacing--all fantastic. But what peaked my curiousity the most was this little beetle. It didn't have a staring role, not yet anyway, and I can't even put my finger on why I found it so curious. I just did.

When I told her about this, she told me that she didn't know there was going to be a beetle. It was one of those inspired things that showed up unexpectedly. And it worked. It added just the right amount of intrigue.

A few days later, she emailed me after reading a short story of mine. There was a scene that she really liked. Well, not to brag, but in her words, "Loved, Loved, Loved," and "Gave me chills."

This particlar scene happened by accident. I was just writing along, minding my own business, when suddenly one of my characters barged in. She totally took over; my fingers were a blur on the keyboard and words magically appeared on screen. When she was done, I took a look and thought, 'Wow, didn't know that was going to happen--but yeah, I like it."

So, I'm not sure what my point is; other than creativity, and psychiatric disorders may be closely related.

1970 Olds 442


If you're curious about the story behind the name of my blog, click on the car. :)