Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Where did it come from?

[I posted this on my Amazon author page and thought, why not here, too?]

For a number of years, the idea of taking my set of knowledge into another time has intrigued me. How would I survive? What could I make?

 For example, I wondered, if I went back 500 years could I produce an automobile? I know generally how they work and are made. But what about things like the state of metallurgy in the 15th Century? Politics? Who would want to control the technology?
One evening I had an image of a modern person facing a king or other powerful person from an earlier era demanding this man’s secrets, and his dilemma whether to give them up. I knew I had my book.
Of course, it turns out, that isn’t really what the story is about, it’s only what happens. If that sounds confusing, just remember that most stories are about a character’s search to fulfill a need and the story gets them there.
You may wonder why this time period, and why Venice? I wanted my guy to meet a guy and Venice was where this fellow was going to be, so we headed to the city of love, canals, and cutthroat business, in a roundabout way. I hope you enjoy!

The fine art of showing up

The Payoff

How do you plan to be at the right place at the right time?

This past Friday and Saturday, my wife and I attended the Frontiers in Writing conference in Amarillo, our fifth consecutive. It’s a great event, where writers of all stripes gather to hear presentations, talk shop, and make connections. We encourage each other and generally recharge our batteries.

One feature of conferences like this is the “Meet an [agent, editor, author, other industry professional] appointment.” Typically you get ten minutes to make a pitch with an agent or editor, and you need a more or less finished product ready.

Since my book, THE KING OF SILK, released earlier this year and my next project is in early stages, I almost didn’t reserve a spot this year, but requested one at the last moment. Or maybe someone or (Someone?) pushed me.

When I took my turn, the agent stood and asked if I were Joe, and if _____________ were my cousin.

It turns out he and my cousin had lived next door to each other until sixth grade and recently got in touch again through Facebook. He mentioned the conference and she mentioned I was going. He already knew who I was before I arrived. Coincidence?

In spite of my barely-started work, we had a nice talk and chatted another time or two during the conference. Maybe something will come of it. I know my work will have to pass muster, but at least we have a connection. But what would have happened if I had not signed up for the spot–would he have tracked me down? I don’t know.

So, after that long introduction, here’s the thing: Fortune looks poorly on those who don’t prepare. Craft your work as well as you can and knock on as many doors as possible. Don’t wait for Opportunity to do the heavy lifting.

Book signing for The King of Silk!

I’ll be signing books this coming Saturday, June 18, in Lubbock, Texas at the Spoil Me Rotten Party House, 124 East Broadway (near the fairgrounds), from 10:00 to 4:00. It’s an arts and crafts show featuring china painting and, well, me of course. Refreshments served, all the usual and some unusual.

I’ll also be signing books at the Frontiers in Writing conference (Amarillo, Texas) June 24-25.

Come out to either or both–we’ll have a swell time!

On the road to Pyramid: Day 8

February 21, 2011 3 comments

Visit with an Indian Activist and Spiritual Leader

On a cool, sunny Saturday morning, we set off from Pyramid Lake to Fallon, Nevada, where nearby sit the Fallon Naval Air Station (home to TOPGUN, aka The Naval Fighter Weapons School) and the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe reservation.

We did not see any Tom Cruise types, but went to the reservation for a visit with a living piece of history.

Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall

Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall was born in 1929 on the Red Lake Indian Reservation (Minnesota) into the Red Lake Band of Chippewa. He spent ten years in an Indian boarding school and eventually wound up in the San Francisco Bay area, where in the 1960s he built a successful extermination company. He never stopped caring about issues affecting Native American peoples.

In 1969, he was instrumental in the occupation by a group of Indian individuals of the abandoned prison on Alcatraz Island. His activism did not go unnoticed, however. Despite his insistence on non-violent actions, he attracted the interest of state and federal authorities. In short order, he lost his business and moved his family to the home reservation of his lovely wife, Bobbie, to the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe Reservation.

Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall, Roundhouse Gallery

He rebuilt his life there as an artist. His home and the art gallery beside his house are filled with his handicraft. Stone and wood are his primary media, but paintings and jewelry are also represented. We have an eye on a certain sculpture, and perhaps one day we will be able to purchase it.

Fortunate Eagle welcomed us into his home and talked about all kinds of things. In a surprise to me, we are both writing books which involve “little people,” in what would popularly be called a “paranormal” genre. His is intended for younger readers. The parts of the early draft he read to us are delightful.

We also discussed less pleasant subjects, including the treatment of indigenous peoples by the Europeans who claimed this continent. His understandable anger and resentment are balanced with humor and a desire for beneficial change.

Of course, this is an incomplete sketch of the man and his experiences. He has written a couple of memoirs and made a video of his life. You can find more about him if you like. Just run an internet search and you’ll find lots of information.

We were enriched and blessed by the visit to his home. Thank you Bobbie and Fortunate Eagle, our new friends.

Roundhouse Gallery, Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall

The Main Street Cafe

In our continuing series about the restaurants we visited, we bring you another out-of-the-way eatery.

Maine Street Cafe, Fallon, Nevada

The Maine Street Cafe in Fallon features an eclectic menu for breakfast and lunch, dinner on special occasions (like Valentine’s Day), and they provide full-service catering.

On our visit this day, I ordered a chicken burrito with rice and beans. I expected a burrito with rice and beans on the side, and that’s what I received, but they were all on the in-side. Pretty tasty that way, especially with the sauce that tasted slightly vinaigrette instead of the salsa I’m used to. A nice break.

Rhonda (my sweet wife and hot girlfriend) had a chicken panini sandwich she raved about.

Susan of The Maine Street Cafe

Our host, Susan, talked to us about starting the restaurant. They bought the old house, then gutted and retrofitted the neat, roomy building to make a state-of-the-art facility. Then she recounted the difficult times when road construction all but landlocked them. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and recommend it.

Maine Street Cafe
810 S. Maine St.Fallon, NV 89406
(775) 423-1830

What’s private about the internet?

Not much.

An article on the New York Times this morning delivered a pretty sobering message. You can find it online here (you’ll need to be subscribed, but it’s still free, I think):

It talks about how one injudicious picture or comment on Facebook or in an email can haunt a person forever. Employers can search for any reference about an applicant. It could as easily be a reader, reviewer, or book buyer.

The article stressed that the information could be posted in a private area and passed along innocently, or otherwise, to a more public venue. It could even be in comments posted by someone else about you. Good luck getting it back. There is a growth industry in internet reputation restorers.

Here are just a few examples of things writers might beware. Some may write a type of material under a pen name they wouldn’t want connected to their other works. An off-hand comment or off-color joke might get you. Then there’s that lady at the USDA that went through a difficult period because someone posted something out of context, and now the fellow who posted it is in hot soup. Be careful what you release, even in what you think is a protected environment.

Categories: writing Tags: ,

My Big Green Tractor

I witnessed the coolest thing today. I’ll bring in a writing application in a bit, but this is a great story in its own right.

My day job responsibilities include the production of sales and promotion materials for a farm equipment manufacturer. In other words, I market plows. Well, this day I traveled out to a customer’s farm to get some video of this particular unit in operation. Since I was going anyway, I carried some parts they had on order to save them a trip. When I pulled up in the field, Brad, the farmer, came over and we made introductions.

He told me his young son had, a number of times, watched a DVD we distribute and was excited I was coming out to his place to make a movie. As he spoke, in fact, a truck pulled up bearing Brad’s son and grandfather. The grandfather drove, of course.

His son (circa five years old) wasn’t feeling well and had stayed home from school. I could tell the little fellow felt poorly, and was shy as well. Brad let him come out anyway, and I’m glad he did.

They climbed on that green John Deere tractor with the youngster in the cab, perched on the buddy seat. They raised and lowered the plow and dragged it back and forth in the field while I shot video and took stills.  After an hour or so it was time for lunch and I had all the video I needed, so he parked the tractor. As he did, I shot a photo of them both on that tractor.

After they climbed down again, son in his dad’s arms, I asked the young man what kind of music he liked.

He turned into Brad’s embrace, shy again. “My Big Green Tractor,” he replied.

It’s a popular country song, I determined with a Google search.

Then his dad asked him what he liked again.

A pause. “Guns.”

His dad grinned. “No, he wants to know what music you like.”

Grab a hanky.

“Jesus Loves Me,” he half-whispered.

Brad smiled.

They went on to lunch and I volunteered to take the parts to their shop in town instead of unloading the heavy items on their truck. It would keep them from having to handle the things twice, the shop was on my way, and it would help customer relations. My back is sore.

When I pulled up to their property, I found several houses where family units live in close proximity and a couple barns. On one a sign declared this to be the “____ Family Farm,” and listed the founder and several descendants. The young man’s great grandfather’s name appeared with the descendants.

I dropped off the parts, headed home, and mulled all this over. You might say I ruminated, but maybe that was only the beans I had for lunch.

We encounter people daily and get insights into their lives, sometimes less, sometimes more. As writers we can tap into these experiences and borrow from them for inspiration.

What about the lives of this family can we infer from these bits of information? Here are just a few assumptions I made.

The son loves his dad, and vice versa. He loves tractors, I suspect through association with his dad and great grandfather. His family promotes a spiritual component in their lives. The family is close, tight-knit.

What questions do these elements raise? What about mom? Grandfather? When did the family settle here? What obstacles did they face? What joys, what tragedies? What story could we weave around the smattering of things we know?

These encounters are gifts to us, as human beings and writers. Treasure them; store them; draw upon them.

p.s. This young man is going to receive a DVD featuring a picture of him with his dad on the face. I wonder what two songs to put in the video’s background?

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What’s Your Hurry?

A year or so ago, I received an object lesson about the consequences of impatience. The tale is a little indelicate; read on with caution.

During a weeknight, a stomach bug attacked and kept me awake for much of it. I would have stayed home from my day job, but had to meet at a customer’s place to shoot some video. That went all right, so instead of going directly home, I dropped by the office for a bit. The bug came back for another round.

I headed for the restroom in the office, but it was full. The one in the warehouse break room was similarly occupied. The urgency only intensified with the passage of seconds. In the manufacturing building next door, about thirty workers share two restrooms. Those are often both busy, but time being short, I scurried in their direction on a cold February day and hoped.

One door stood open, welcoming me to sanctuary. The light was burned out. Fortune smiled on me, though, because the second restroom also was unoccupied. I made haste and learned three great truths:

You can’t pull your pants down while wearing suspenders.

You can’t slip off suspenders while wearing a jacket.

You can’t remove your jacket with suspenders jammed into the sleeves.

In short, the hurrier I got, the behinder I became.

This started me thinking about haste. It’s good to do one’s best and to give all one can give. But you can’t give more than that or go any faster than you can go. All you can do is all you can do.

Watch the runners at a track meet, especially in the sprints. When they come to the tape, the one most relaxed is the winner. He or she is giving one hundred percent, running at the limit. The second place entrant is trying to put out something beyond capacity, but is straining, flailing. I think of this when I hear the phrase, “I’m going to give 110 percent!” It’s counterproductive.

What does this have to do with writing? I’ll give you my own experience.

I began a novel almost four years ago, convinced that a rough draft would take three months or so and within six I’d be signing a contract for the finished version. I was in a HURRY. What did the first draft look like when I wrote “The End” at six months? Rough, of course.

I needed training, counsel, and experience. A couple of writing groups welcomed me and writing book authors volunteered advice, for a fee. I learned by having my manuscript critiqued and, probably more, by critiquing others. I revised and revised. When my book comes out early in 2011, it will have been through a journey of four and a half years. I’m grateful the general public will never see those early drafts.

So, for those of you early in the process of writing, remember it is a process. Enjoy it.

By the way, if you’re wondering, all’s well that ends well.

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