The Western heart-Part 1

Image  This a story that has been haunting me for several weeks and I thought I would serialize it for my fellow writers. Please give me feed back and I might just submit it for publication if it looks like a good story.

 

I dreamed of a grass covered plain surrounded by majestic mountains. My thoughts were tranquil at least until I heard the  shrill screaming from down the hall  This brought me back to the unpleasant reality that I was still in the psych wing of the local hospital.

I had been living day to day doing a mundane 9 to 5 kind of job plodding along not realizing how much the mere boredom of my existance was burning me out. I seemed to hit a wall at full speed and the resulting crash caused my nervous break down. A co-worker I knew well found me sobbing uncontrollably in the stall next to hers.

“Callie whats wrong you have to come out!”

“NO!” I was vehement.

This lead to Erica getting my supervisor Jean to talk me out of the bathroom. I was babbling about being nothing and no one to the point they were afraid I would do something rash and desperate like suicide.  I woke up in the lock down unit of the pyschiatric ward. I was trundled up in a straight jacket feeling dopey.

What managed to keep me sane over the next few weeks were visits from friends after the powers that be decided I was no longer a threat and my travel related dreams. I quickly formulated a plan. I served notice at the office and announced I was going to use some investment savings and travel before I decided my next step.  I was being drawn west for some particular reason. Was it my destiny to pick up and forge a new life somewhere different.  Were my dreams a result of this need or were they catalyst to get my ass moving.

I mentioned this to the leader of my therapy group.

“Are you afraid of something new?”

“No I am afraid of not doing something new.”

“I think the nervous break down was a wake up call Callie.”

I think she was right and that’s what spurred my decision to take my show on the road.

I was awake and listening to the patients moaning and wailing. I praised my higher power that today I was getting sprung from this joint.

Karen Vaughan Does It Again! But This Time in Daytona?

Daytona Dead by Karen H. Vaughan

KarenCoverLaura Hamilton and Gerry Fitz are at it again – only this time these amateur sleuths are taking their act on the road and across the border – to America. These super Canadian crime fighters have finally tied the knot and have headed to Daytona Beach, Florida for some sun and fun – and murder.

Shortly after their arrival, the Fitz’s find themselves in a pickle. Someone left a body in the road and they hit it with their car. When it turns out to be the dead body of Laura’s ex-husband, Lou, suspicion naturally falls on them. These two never do anything by half measures and this time it’s no different. Join the Canadian couple as they track down the perpetrator of a series of hit and run killings.

Karen Vaughan’s newest book will thrill and delight you. Her unlikely pair of amateur sleuths have a nose for crime and a penchant for trouble. As always, Vaughan’s mystery is layered with humor and witty dialogue.

Of course, the setting is close to my heart. This is my home town, folks! In fact, if you look closely, you might spot a familiar name on the pages of this snappy novel.

Karen always gives us a great villain and this time is no different. She has not just one, but two creepy crawlers after Laura and Gerry.

Killer T. Ford is a conceited, egotistical maniac with a history of violence and deceit. He will stop at nothing to keep himself out of prison, even if it means setting someone up to take the fall for his crime.

Dave Meechum is my favorite character. I don’t want to give spoilers, so I won’t explain exactly why – just know that he’s a man to watch.

Come to the sunny beaches of Daytona with Laura and Gerry, but watch out for vintage Chevys in dark alleys.

Five Golden Acorns
© Dellani Oakes

What writers really do. by Karen H. Vaughan

Image

Is writing mostly inspiration or something else?

Does an idea for a story come to us in the form of an epiphany in the middle of the night? Do we rack our brains for the perfect plot that will be the great novel of the century. 

Sometimes I get a germ of an idea in my head and let it marinate in it’s own juices for a bit then flip it over and let it marinate some more. When I think it has grown some legs I test drive it on friends and family to get a feel for what might work.  Two things are going to happen. I will get a multitude of suggestions as to what could work and who the characters can look like. This is where people say I like this and I really would like to be in this story or could you kill off so and so for me?

Others run 10,000 miles in the opposite direction not wanting to hear the elevator pitch for my latest endeavor.

It’s more than likely that a writer will cloister his/her self in a room with a non stop supply of coffee or caffeine related product, munchies and their fave music to inspire them.  They may not emerge from said cave til the outline is done or some primal urge to eat, sleep or visit the potty over takes the need to write. 

Do we have lives outside this need to go forth and create? Do our families, friends, pets and employers stage an intervention should we be cloistered too long?  Do we recognize ourselves after a serious bout of writing? Are there more lines, wrinkles or threads of wisdom when the project is done?

A writers life is exactly what it is. It is an entity unto itself. It is not for sissies. Some of us might need psychiatric care or a damn good vacation between stretches of writing and editing and handing it off to the publishing gods.

It all comes down to the same thing. We’re writers! HANDLE US WITH CARE!Image

 

LET’S TALK ABOUT YOU AND ME (and other pronouns)

By Eileen Register, English teacher and author of Adrianna and the Grisholm County Chronicles series.

 

Pronouns are handy little words. They keep our writing from being too repetitious. Here’s a quick example:

Eileen thinks she should pay more attention to her grammar.

Now let’s try that without using pronouns:

Eileen thinks Eileen should pay more attention to Eileen’s grammar.

Obviously, the second example is too repetitious, using the proper noun, Eileen, three times in a ten-word sentence. It would be too much even in a longer sentence. The first sentence uses a subjective pronoun to indicate “Eileen” and then an objective pronoun to indicate “Eileen”, and in both instances, the reader understands what word is being substituted. If we want to make absolutely sure about the “her” in the sentence, we could add another word to clarify it: …to her own grammar.

Now let’s play with that sentence a bit. Look what happens if we do this:

She thinks she should pay more attention to Eileen’s grammar.

Who is the “she” in this sentence? I can’t tell who should be paying more attention to Eileen’s grammar. Can you? This is called an unclear antecedent (even when the pronoun precedes the noun it is replacing).

Here’s another one:

Eileen thinks Mary should pay more attention to her grammar.

Should Mary pay more attention to her OWN grammar or to Eileen’s grammar? We would probably assume Eileen is telling Mary to pay more attention to Mary’s grammar, but it isn’t really clear, is it?

Things get even more complicated in paragraphs. For example:

Eileen and her sister, Carol, often argue about grammar. She thinks she should take another English class or two so that her writing has less errors. However, she thinks her grammar is just fine and doesn’t think she needs any help with it. She can argue all she wants, but she will never convince her to take those classes.

Oh my goodness! Which “she” is “she”? Which one thinks the other one needs classes? This is an extreme example, of course, but it brings home the fact that having clear antecedents for pronouns is very important. This paragraph can have four totally different meanings, depending on which pronouns are replaced by which nouns:

Eileen and her sister, Carol, often argue about grammar. Eileen thinks Carol should take another English class or two so that her writing has less errors. However, Carol thinks her writing is just fine and doesn’t think she needs any help with it. She can argue all she wants, but she will never convince her that she needs to take those classes.

 

In this sentence, it is clear that Eileen thinks Carol has the writing problems. The fact that it is Carol who should take more English classes makes the rest of the pronouns clearly refer to Carol. Because of the first two sentences, we can assume that in the third sentence, Eileen is the one who can argue, and Carol is the one who can never be convinced. However, you know what they say about that word “assume” – it can make an ASS of U and ME. The sentence would be much clearer if some of the pronouns were changed to nouns:

Eileen can argue all she wants, but she will never convince Carol that she needs to take those classes.

If we switch Eileen and Carol beginning with the second sentence, then it becomes Eileen who has the writing problem and Carol who thinks Eileen needs to take some English classes:

Eileen and her sister, Carol, often argue about grammar. Carol thinks Eileen should take another English class or two so that her writing has less errors. However, Eileen thinks her grammar is just fine and doesn’t think she needs any help with it. Carol can argue all she wants, but she will never convince Eileen that she needs to take those classes.

Have I lost you yet? Well, let’s take another look at that paragraph, replacing the pronouns in yet another way:

Eileen and her sister, Carol, often argue about grammar. Eileen thinks she should take another English class or two so that her writing has less errors. However, Carol thinks Eileen’s grammar is just fine and doesn’t think she needs any help with it. Carol can argue all she wants, but she will never convince Eileen that she doesn’t need to take those classes.

Although we had to change “needs” to “doesn’t need” in the paragraph this time, the principle is the same as far as pronouns are concerned. We can switch Eileen and Carol in this one, too, and have the opposite meaning. (If I worked at it a bit more, I could probably come up with several other ways to change the pronouns and give different meanings to the paragraph. However, I’m tired of typing the same paragraph over and over, and I’m sure you’re tired of reading it, so I’ll stop here.)

This has been a study in unclear antecedents (and a repetitive BLOG entry, one might add), but I hope it has helped to clear up this particular problem with pronouns and nouns. Pronouns are great for reducing redundancy in our writing, but if the reader may be confused by the use of pronouns, it’s important to use their antecedents often enough to clarify who or what we are talking about.

One last point: When writing several paragraphs that have the same two antecedents, and one antecedent is a “she” and one is a “he”, it is possible to argue that the reader won’t become confused if the second paragraph and those following it contain only the pronouns. I’ve made it my personal policy not to do that because I feel that it makes for a better understanding regardless of gender (especially if the two characters are Tracy and Terry!). Readers may tend to forget which characters are being talked about if the names are left out for several paragraphs since there are usually more than one “he” and one “she” in the book. Going back and rereading to see which characters are doing what can be irritating to the reader. We want them to read our entire novel over and over, not parts of it, but if they have to go back and reread stuff to keep track of things, they are less likely to give the book a second reading.

Okay, now that I have beaten that horse to death, I’ll see youz guyz next time! Perhaps I’ll talk about using too many euphemisms and colloquialisms and too much regional slang. (GRIN)

Tritely yours,

Eileen

An Author’s Crutch

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 200Hello, my name is Dellani and I’m an author. I’m here today because I have a writing crutch. Admit it. Be honest with yourself – we all have them. They differ from one to the next, but we all have our little “things” that we do. It’s our safety net.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but mine is the hospital. Just when things seem to be going well, someone breaks a leg, has an asthma attack, gives birth, has a heart attack, gets beaten up, nearly drowns or has a car accident.

Looking through my finished (and unfinished) books, I took a count of how many of my stories involve someone being in the hospital or receiving medical attention. Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I counted them up. Of the 104 novels/ novellas & short stories(finished and unfinished) polled: 62 involved someone receiving medical attention. 42 do not. The actual number of stories was 115, but 11 of them, I couldn’t remember definitively if there was medical aid rendered or not, so I didn’t include them in the final count.

That’s a lot of broken bones, babies, accidents, shootings, stabbings, amputations, near drownings, head injuries, heart attacks, beatings, surgeries or asthma attacks! I have a very unfortunate number of characters.

I guess this is my version of Raymond Chandler’s plot crutch. “When in doubt, make a guy come through the door with a gun in his hand.” Only mine would be, “When in doubt, send someone to the hospital.”

I try to get away from it. Really, I do! I have rewritten more than one story to avoid it, but they keep coming back again and again. Of course, it doesn’t help that several of my stories involve medical people. Then there are the ones that involve the every day Joe becoming a hero. Of course, he’s going to get hurt. That’s a given.

Just ask any of my heroes. They will tell you that the movies have it wrong. You can’t crawl through an attic, kick out a wall, hop down onto a water fountain and not end up in a heap on the floor with a bone protruding through the skin.

Or they can tell you that you when you tackle an intruder on the stairs, one of you is gonna end up with a concussion. Not always the bad guy, either.

Crawl through broken glass and get cut up – check. Get in a fight to the death with psychopaths – check. Knife fight followed by a shootout with sadistic bikers – check. Gunfights, sword fights, fist fights, chick fights – check.

Sorry, y’all. It’s inevitable. Someone is gonna end up bleeding.