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Friday, March 6, 2020

My Favorite Author

People often ask me to name my favorite author, and I’m sorry to report I receive few nods of recognition when I say, “Annie Proulx.” I get an aha when I mention she wrote “Brokeback Mountain,” but none of my friends and acquaintances seem to have heard of her, read her gritty yet humorous short stories or  her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Shipping News.

I dove into Annie Proulx’s work when I found out she wrote "Brokeback Mountain" which was after I had seen the movie. Since most of her work is set in the West, I read everything I could get my hands on while doing research for my novel, Never Done, a story inspired by my great-grandmother who moved to Colorado in the 1890’s.

Like Proulx, most of my writing is historical fiction set in the American West, and also like her, I try not to romanticize the past. I also avoid Western stereotypes. If you happen to be a fan of Westerns, my writing contains no Indians attacking wagon trains or land barons usurping the homesteads of poor settlers, no gunfights and no bank robberies. Instead I write about real people, some of them related to me, and how they dealt with life in remote areas without the labor-saving devices and other services we take for granted.

Unlike Proulx, I am fairly conservative when developing my characters. She would most likely say the folks in my stories are milk toast compared to the tough-as-nails people she describes. Here is one of them, a telegraph key operator, who plays a small part in her short story, “Them Old Cowboy Songs.”

His face and neck formed a visor of scars, moles, wens, boils, and acne. One leg was shorter than the other, and his voice twanged with catarrh.

Thus far, "Them Old Cowboy Songs" is my favorite Annie Proulx short story. I have read every word (over 8,000) five times or more, and the story still staggers me. You will find it in Just the Way It Is.


Saturday, February 8, 2020

Red-faced Characters

As long as I can remember, I have had to deal with the reddening of my face. I blush far too easily, and my face gets bright red with exertion. I played a lot of tennis in my youth, and people used to attribute the glow on my face to sunburn.

"No," I told them. "It will go away in a few minutes."

Many reasons a person's face might become red or rosy reflect emotional reactions such as anger, shyness, embarrassment or shame. Also hot flashes, a hormonal, rather than emotional red face issue I've been blessed with. Some people blush if they are suddenly the center of attention, while speaking in public, when they have been caught telling a lie or if suddenly encountering someone they have a crush on.

Technically speaking, blushing is due to the sudden arousal of the sympathetic nervous system. When a person feels uncomfortable (as they might in situations described in the previous paragraph), the small blood vessels in the face, ears, and neck dilate, turning the skin some shade of pink or red. One of the first signs of anger is a reddening of the ears.

As a writer, giving a character a red face is a way to describe him or her without having to state the obvious: he was angry, she was embarrassed. Over the years I have created a stockpile of  red-face expressions that I distribute where appropriate in what I write. Below are some of my favorites.

color flooded his face (or cheeks); she felt her cheeks heat up; shamefaced; her cheeks flamed as her mouth went dry; his face turned scarlet with anger; angry red glare; her color deepened; a pink glow rose from his neck to his hairline; blushed, flushed, reddened

I'm always looking for different ways to describe a red face, and will appreciate those you are willing to share

blushing love emoji - Image by Renee💕

Monday, January 6, 2020

Okay, Okay, Okay

I just finished reading Mother Tongue, English & How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson. This book is jam-packed with information about English, from its origins to the development of profanity to the language's future. It must have taken the author years to do the research, and what an outstanding job he did!

One topic I found particularly interesting was the mostly American English word O.K., or however you choose to spell it. This word, thankfully a positive one, has been picked up and used to some degree by speakers of many languages around the world.  It is also possibly the most versatile word in English.

Here are a few examples:

"Just O.K." (an action done minimally well-adverb)
"is not O.K." (description of the action's outcome-adjective)
"I need Management's O.K. before I can publish this." (noun)
"Will you O.K. my request?" (verb)
"O.K., I've had about enough of this nonsense." (interjection)

It's also a word that can be delivered both positively ("O.K!") and negatively ("O.K., if I have to.")

The word's first appearance in print was in 1839 in the Boston Morning Post. The author suggests O.K. may have stemmed from a fad that developed in 1838 among New York and Boston writers who poked fun at the language by using O.W. for "oll wright" and O.K. for "oll korrect." Also in 1839, Martin Van Buren ran for reelection. His nickname was Old Kinderhook (based on the small New York town he came from). A group of Democrats who worked on his campaign gave themselves the name Democratic O.K. Club. "Club O.K." became a widespread slogan used throughout the campaign, and though Van Buren lost, O.K. won the hearts of the American people.

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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Hackneyed Expressions

Nothing makes me groan harder than finding a hackneyed expression in something I read, and I go to great lengths to avoid them when I write. I make an exception for dialog since people frequently use these sayings in conversation.

I do, however, enjoy learning about how these sayings developed. Below are explanations for the origins of some of these expressions. I received this as an email that included no information as to the source, so my apologies to the person who produced it.

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Books Make Great Gifts

As we approach the holiday gift-giving season, I would like to remind my followers that a book or books could be the perfect gift for someone on your list. Besides giving someone the joy that lies between the covers, books are a snap to wrap. You won't have to deal with a weird shape, and don't have to look for a box. How great is that at this busy time of year?

Another benefit of gifting books is you can mail a book for less postage than an item of comparable weight. If you mail only the book--no other items--you can send it media rate. This can only be done at the post office and you will have to ask the agent for media rate. Don't wait till the last minute. Media rate usually takes a couple of days longer than regular mail.

                               Image result for Christmas wrapping

Thursday, October 10, 2019

My Favorite Westerns

According to Noelle Buffam, writing for The Script Lab, "Western Film is a genre that revolves around stories primarily set in the late 19th century in the American Old West. Most Westerns take place between the American Civil War (1865) and the early 1900s. Common themes within Western film include: the conquest of the wild West, the cultural separation of The East and the West, the West's resistance to modern change, the conflict between cowboys and Indians, outlaws, and treasure/gold hunting. American Western film usually revolves around a stoic hero and emphasizes the importance of honor and sacrifice."

I still enjoy a good Western, especially those with an unusual twist, compelling story, and top-notch actors. Once a dependable money-maker for movie studios, Westerns are now more often box office disappointments. The films that do succeed are not the rootin'-tootin', singing cowboy, unscrupulous landowner VS small rancher, cattle rustling variety that filled movie screens for decades.

 Below, in alphabetical order, are my all-time favorites.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969): screenplay by William Goldman. Goldman won the Oscar that year for best original screenplay. Light-hearted, yet authentic.

Dances With Wolves (1990): adapted from a book by Michael Blake. This film won the Best Picture Oscar. What an amazing, beautifully adapted story!

Hostiles (2017): screenplay by Donald Stewart based on a story by Donald E. Stewart. Violent, yet true to what life was like for settlers and Native Americans when the West was still wild.

Legends of the Fall (1994): book by Jim Harrison. In my opinion, this film never received the recognition it should have.

Lonesome Dove (1985): Not a movie, but a TV miniseries adapted from a book written by the phenomenal Western writer, Larry McMurtry. I never get tired of watching both Lonesome Dove and its sequel, Return to Lonesome Dove.

The Magnificent Seven (1960): screenplay by William Roberts (a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Japanese film Seven Sumurai. I cry every time I watch it. I've never watched the remake, nor do I intend to. Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson are irreplaceable. 

The Unforgiven (1992): screenplay by David Webb Peoples. Another Western film that won the Oscar for Best Picture. Tough to watch, but excellent.

If you haven't watched one or more of these films, and you aren't a Western genre naysayer, I don't believe you will be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Getting Those All-Important Reviews

     While I was in the process of writing my first novel I sometimes caught myself imagining the thrill of reading a review of my book in one of the local newspapers. Sometimes that thrill would turn to dread when I pictured a negative review, but I still wanted the feedback and publicity. My wildest dreams were not wild enough to expect a review in the New York Times or even The Oregonian, however I did believe the Klamath Falls Herald and News and The Bulletin in Bend would print one. After all, most of Brute Heart takes place in Klamath Falls and I was a long-time resident of Bend. How naïve of me! Local newspapers simply do not have staffs large enough to read and review books by local authors or even established authors. The reviews they do print are written by staffers working for the New York Times News ServiceLos Angeles TimesNewsday, etc.
     I was also shy about asking friends or family members for reviews of my first novel. But that disappeared by the second novel. By the time Never Done was released I was bolder and armed with a better understanding of the relationship of reviews to sales. Since then, when someone compliments either of my novels I say, “May I ask a favor? If you enjoyed the book, will you please write a review on Amazon?” (or Goodreads if they have an account) I only have 10 reviews for Brute Heart but as of today, 37 for Never Done.
     A few of the people I asked for reviews said they couldn’t figure out where to write a review on Amazon. So-o-o-o, I wrote an instruction sheet.

                                    How To Write a Review on Amazon

  • Under the book's title, Kindle Edition, you will see the current number of customer reviews.
  • Click on that link.
  • You will see a bar graph picturing the number of stars the book has received so far.
  • Below the graph is the "write customer review" box. Click on that.
  • Five empty stars will appear.
  • Click on the star that best fits your opinion of the book with five being highest.
  • You may insert a photo at the next prompt, but it is optioal.
  • Next, Amazon would like a headline from you: a brief overall statement of what you think is most important for a potential reader to know about the book.
  • After writing the headline, please write your review in the space provided.
  • Don't forget to click "submit" at the very end.
It isn’t necessary to write a long review. Potential readers often skip long, detailed posts. They just want to find their next book and get started on it.

     Never Done has been in print for over two years now, so I rarely get a new review. Nevertheless, I am thrilled with those I have received and still ask for a review if a situation seems to warrant it.