Tag Archives: literature

From the other side of death

26 Mar

An excerpt from The Savior of Turk.

After I died, I figured I’d possess a clear memory of my whole life, from the day I popped out of my mama’s belly till they put a sheet over my head at the hospital. In eternity, I had in mind that I’d go back and forth over everything that happened to me like I was playing a movie, re-watching the nice parts and fast forwarding through the others until I about wore out the tape. But chunks of my life are fuzzier than others. Whole pieces got lost somewhere, things you’d think I’d remember. I recall but a few of the kids’ birthdays. Just a handful of Christmas mornings made the cut, and those memories are like looking through a window smeared with Vaseline.

BeachOther recollections are as clear to me as if they happened a minute ago, in vivid Technicolor. But they’re not necessarily the kind of memories you’d think would have stuck. Like the time our daughter Kimmie — I reckon she was around two because it was before Karl came along — got her fingers slammed in the door of our car as she was getting out. I hadn’t been paying close enough attention, and I took for granted that she was clear of the door when I shut it. She bawled bloody murder for close to half an hour. We’d crossed up to Iowa to spend a Sunday afternoon at a state park where there was a little sandy beach, and we had just parked the car when it happened.

For the occasion, Polly had bought Kimmie a purple swimsuit with a little yellow frilly thing around the waist that made it look like a tutu. Kimmie wore it to bed the night before. She was so hopped up about going to the beach that she liked to have never got to sleep. Then I had to go and ruin it by slamming her fingers in the door. Her right pointer and middle fingers swelled up like hot dogs. We had some ice from the cooler to help the swelling, but it didn’t make her feel any better. She sat next to her mom on a beach towel and whimpered the whole afternoon. Never got in the water. I didn’t either. I felt so bad and wished I could have done something to make it right.

I don’t know why a memory like that would be so clear to me, but I guess I’ve got plenty of time to figure it out.

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I’m slightly less stupid than a year ago

10 Jan

Reason #1: I know I should not be my own editor

I published my first novel, The Savior of Turk (Only $2.99. Hurry while digital copies last!) a little more than a year ago. I don’t know if I’m any smarter, but I was dumber then than I am now.Turk_Print_Cover

An adage, which I just made up, goes that even John Steinbeck needed an editor. Everyone, no matter how good they are at writing, requires a good editor to keep them on the right path. However, I was so sure of myself when I wrote The Savior of Turk  (Only $2.99. Hurry while digital copies last!that I thought I could get by without a professional putting the thing under a microscope.

No matter how good a writer I may think I am, I need someone who can look at my work objectively. This person is not my dear wife, Michele.  I find it a good idea to have Michele read my work because she takes the better or worse thing seriously and has willed herself to be my biggest fan. If she doesn’t like something I’ve written—and, believe me, there have been such occasions—it confirms I have written junk. If, however, Michele praises my work, it doesn’t prove anything, except that Michele is a supportive spouse.  Michele said she really liked the manuscript for The Savior of Turk  (Only $2.99. Hurry while digital copies last!). This proved that our marriage was on reasonably solid footing, but it did not confirm anything about the book’s quality, other than it was at least slightly better than something a baboon could produce.

Professional editors do more than look at a manuscript objectively. They also see the big picture. After Michele read the manuscript, I asked two friends with extensive writing experience to take a look.  Glenn Kleier, whose novel The Knowledge of Good and Evil is available for $7.99 while digital copies last! also read the manuscript. All three gave me favorable feedback and good suggestions. However, none of them could be expected to go through the manuscript as an editor, who would evaluate the story arc, character development, dialogue and all that. That’s what a professional editor does. And they don’t care if they hurt my feelings like my wife or friends theoretically might. An editor is paid to help the writer craft the best possible story.

Since The Savior of Turk  (Only $2.99. Hurry while digital copies last!) was published, I have revised it twice, primarily re-proofing, shortening and eliminating some sections that I decided added little to the story. I know the book was always good, but now it’s even better. It could have been that way all along if I had gotten an editor to look at it. Next time, I will, you know, because I’m not the idiot I was twelve months ago.

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Next Post: Reason #2 I’m slightly less stupid than a year ago

I now shamelessly piggy-back on the Twilight franchise

16 Nov

In honor of the movie premiere of Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 2, I provide here a passage from the first few pages of Twilight, the novel:

They came up through the stand of cypress that shrouded the graveyard, the pickup hidden off the road in a chert pit clotted with inkblot bowers of honeysuckle. There were two of them, a young woman and a gangling youth who appeared to be younger still. A leaden rain out of the first slow days of winter had begun some time after midnight and the cypresses wept as they passed beneath them, the tools the pair slung along in their hands refracting away such light as there was and the pair pausing momentarily when the first milkwhite stones rose bleakly out of the dark. Behind and below them the church loomed, a pale outraged shape, no more, and only impotent dead kept its watch.

That’s a seriously powerful combination of vowels and consonants. If you’ve poohed-poohed the thought of ever trying the Twilight books, you may now think you underestimated their quality. If you’re already a fan, perhaps you wonder why you don’t remember that part.

The above passage is from a different Twilight, the one written by William Gay. This Twilight does not have vampires or werewolves, yet it’s a freak-out creepy book. The antagonists are an undertaker who messes around with the dead (in more ways than one), and a murderous town bully.

Never heard of it? You have a lot of company. When I last checked, Gay’s Twilight was #308,655 on Amazon’s best sellers list (I hope to help get him back in the five-figure range with this blog entry.) The Twilight that started the movie franchise, the one with the pasty dude, the frozen-face, and the other guy who can’t find his shirt, was listed at #271. If you were an agent or publisher, which type of book would you want in your portfolio?

There’s the rub. Publishers and agents are in the business of making money. “In business” and “making money” have been inextricably linked since Ned Neanderthal operated Caveman Used Wheels at the corner of Hunter and Gatherer Streets. I don’t blame publishers these days for passing on something considered “literary” when schlock like a memoir on the Kardashians has a built-in customer base.  If I were a publisher trying to put food on the table, I’d be right there with them.

So, what becomes of the literary genre? First, many writers, including me, have avoided that label.  Despite what book sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble think, the term does not originate from the Latin meaning “all the other stuff.” Some books are considered literary because they don’t fit neatly in categories such as young adult, mystery, crime or romance.

According to a popular stereotype, literary is synonymous with highbrow, highfalutin’ or fancy-breeches. No.

Everyone seems to have their own definition, so here’s mine: First, not all literary books are high quality. But the good ones have unique story lines with believable dialogue and characters I can’t quit. If I really care about the characters, the plot becomes secondary. That’s not too highbrow, is it?

America didn’t quit producing great literary talent when Steinbeck and Faulkner purchased the farm.  And there’s a lot of it out there today. Some of my favorites are Kentucky sons Wendell Berry and Silas House, as well as Donald Ray Pollock and the lately departed Mr. Gay. Daniel Woodrell, a Missourian whom I’ll forgive for attending the University of Kansas, even came up with country noir to describe his work because nothing else fit right.

That’s why I have such hope for independent/self publishing. Right now, there’s a lot of noise out there, a lot of writers trying their hand at the business now that they don’t have to run the agent/publisher gauntlet. Eventually, things will settle down. When they do, some fresh literary works will rise to the top. Few literary writers will make much money—that’s never been the case—but they’ll get a chance. Great writing of that type has never gone away. It’s just not obvious as a werewolf that can’t keep his shirt on.

P.S. I’m hesitant to mention my own work on the same page with some of these great novelists. (I’m embarrassed about Kris Jenner, too, but that’s for another reason.) Still, I must. You can find my books here.

Worth the price and time

5 Jul

This story is free and takes about five minutes to read. It’s a about a farmer whose wife is in a nursing home. He’s so afraid of change that he decides it’s time to go. Download it at Smashwords. Image

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Cover Design

13 Jun

Cover Design

The new cover for The Night Budda Got Deep in It, out late this summer.