Saturday, February 27, 2010

Accuracy in the little things

Video of a reading of Motherless Soul.

An article in a writers' magazine made a point that stuck with me over many years of putting words on paper. The author had started reading a short story in which the protagonist, who was driving through Manhattan, turned onto Fifth Ave and drove uptown. That author tossed the story down and never bothered to finish it, because people who know New York know that Fifth Ave is one way downtown. In truth, a story can be about a man being chased by space aliens and giant fish people, but if that same man drives uptown on Fifth Ave. readers will think the writer is not writing realistically.

I just finished The Good Guy by Dean Koontz and I had a similar problem with that book. It is the story of man who, while sitting alone in a bar, gets caught in the middle of a contract between a hit man and an envoy from a group paying for that killer's services. This type of book almost demands that it be unrealistic. There are shoot outs and escape scenes and times when both the hit man and the people running from him take wild guesses that always turn out to keep the conflict going. I can live with all that. Characters that are almost super heroes (or super villains) are part of what makes that genre interesting.

But one scene in the book bothered me too much. A character was home alone with his dog, Zoe. The dog reacted as if something was wrong. She was pacing around and sniffing at both the front and back doors, but she wouldn't go out into the yard. She was clearly scared. So the man took his dog to his car, drove down the block, and watched his own house. After some time, about ten or fifteen minutes, a car of suspicious men arrived and broke into his home.

Dogs can hear things that we don't hear and through their sense of smell they are aware of an entire world of information that we can't know. They pick up signs from our actions that allow them to determine if we're planning to leave a house soon or if when we go up a set of stairs we plan to come right back down or stay up there for awhile. They can tell if there is a stray dog or deer running around in back of their homes. And some can even tell if a person has cancer, when that person doesn't know it. But, unless they have some odd form of animal ESP, they cannot know the future. They cannot tell their owners, "Watch out! Someone is going to be here within the next half hour and you don't want to be here when that happens."

A good story can be ruined if the writer isn't careful about the little details.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sunday in the gallery with Toni

Last Sunday was Valentine's Day. It was also the opening for a show of pastels by the Pastel Society of North Carolina. So Toni and I celebrated the holiday with wine and cheese and a chance to enjoy some spectacular art. The show is in the Ambleside Gallery on Elm Street in Greensboro and will be there through March 14. It is a lovely gallery in a wonderful section of town that is filled with other galleries, coffee shops, clubs and a few theaters.

Toni had two pieces in the show this year. The picture I've posted above is one of those. It's part of her Orchard Apples series, number 8 to be specific. There were landscapes (Toni's second piece was one of those) and still lifes as well as a picture of a sea turtle and one of a blue heron. All the work was executed wonderfully.

I always have such a great time at these openings. I love to talk with the artists and hear descriptions of what they went through to produce their work. Every piece seems to have a story and all the members of PSNC are remarkably talented.

After the opening some of us went out for dinner and shared a few more stories. It was great way to spend a Sunday and a Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Authors Show

Video of a reading of Motherless Soul

There were times when I heard commentators talking about "living in cyberspace" that I felt they were over hyping the technology. After all isn't email just a quicker way to write a letter? That was before I had Motherless Soul accepted for publication by All Things That Matter Press and I began the process of marketing a book in the internet age. I am amazed by the amount of resources that are available for people interested in writing or reading the works of new writers. There are also social networks that are more than a group of people telling each other what they are planning for dinner that night. And there are different types of media that allow people to focus on what they want to hear. The Authors Show is one of those. I'm scheduled to interview with
Don McCauley next week (Saturday Feb 20). Our talk will be recorded and be available for my friends and readers to listen to whenever they choose.

These cyber groups of writers and readers are people who share my interest, but everyone has a place out there. Art is my wife's main interest. She can share critiques over the web and visit the websites for most of her friends. My brother had some health issues a few years back and needed a stem cell transplant. He and his wife use the internet to locate others in similar situations and provide support. It goes on and on.

I guess there is a down side to the ability to meet others who are similar to ourselve, since we may limit our exposure to new ideas. But in my opinion the up side of sharing our work and our dreams greatly outweighs that.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The birds at our feeder

Video of a reading of Motherless Soul.

The last couple of weekends have been cold and snowy. They were great days for writing and painting. But Toni and I took some time off from our work to enjoy the birds at our feeder. I love the way they look against the white. The black you see in some of these shots is a half sheet of plywood covered with sunflower seeds. In the cold weather we put out more seed than we can fit in the feeders, so we leave it on a board.

Jays and cardinals are our most common guests, but we get a few smaller birds as well, wrens and chickadees I believe.

Of course, birds aren't the only ones that show up at the feeder. We enjoy the squirrels and rabbits just as much. Sometimes the squirrels will feed from the feeders instead of the ground. It's amazing to watch them eating while hanging by their toes.

Even though we're behind a window in a house that's about thirty yards away, the birds still take off if we move a little too quickly.

But they come back.

I guess that's enough action from our yard. I've got to get back to writing.