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Ribbons on Our Streets

I don’t actually know what the rest of the world- or at least the USA- is saying or thinks about the recent tragedy of Gregg “Nigel” Benner’s death. I live in the city where it happened- within a couple miles of it- so the perspective is different, not to mention the fact that it’s quite possible I may have seen or met this police officer. He certainly sounds like the sort of person you wish you did know.
As I was saying, I don’t know what the rest of the world is seeing, but I’m pretty sure you’ve seen a lot about Benner and this whole tragedy. Well, inevitably it will fade, and a tiny bit of you will be glad. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s just that it’s painful and other things come up.
Well, I ask that you continue praying for the family and friends, as well as his fellow police officers. And, go ahead and write down his name in your calendar in some later month, and maybe at the end of the year and well into the next, because this man is in the forefront of many peoples hearts.

Ribbons in Our Hair

These ribbons are tied all along the procession route These ribbons are tied all along the procession route

This last Thursday was the funeral for Gregg “Nigel” Benner, the first police officer in the history of our young city to be killed in the line of duty. It was a terrible tragedy. Officer Benner lost his life on Memorial Day, a dreadful irony; and our city is so young that everything seemed to work together in smooth humdrum bureaucracy, and has now grown up, as our pastor said.

A flag adorns a cherry picker along the procession route A flag adorns a cherry picker along the procession route

The community in our young, humdrum city has come together in our shock. They say we’re tight-knit. It’s funny that a city this size can be tight-knit!

Here is the memorial, that grew quickly to overflowing. Here is the memorial, that grew quickly to overflowing.

There was a procession after the funeral, with everyone encouraged to line the streets and “Stand up for Officer Benner.” Apparently the turnout was pretty…

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Show, Don’t Tell

Lynette Noni

This seriously awesome “cheat sheet” popped up in my Facebook and Twitter feed the other day and it’s simply too good not to share. It originated from a website called Writers Write:

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2015/01/img_6212.png As writers, we’re often told how important it is to “show, don’t tell” with our words. The funny thing is, it can be easier to write “tell” rather than “show”, but it’s waaaay better to READ “show” than it is to read “tell”. And really, as someone who spends a lot of time reading, I kinda hate it when I read writing that does more telling than showing, because it almost makes me feel dumb, you know? It sends the message that the writer thinks that to get their story across then they have to describe everything to the point that there’s no room left for my imagination to enjoy the creativity of filling in any gaps…

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A Little Bit of Relevancy

I’m a writer and what I write about (properly write, not just blog posts) is generally not relevant. Hopefully some of what I write will not be so irrelevant that it’s useless, but basically: it’s fiction. I like fiction. But that’s beside the point. This post will be relevant to something that’s happening right now, and it’s just possible I won’t publish this- it depends on if I like it by the time I’m done.

Anyway, about the relevancy of it: I like to stay away from subjects that are current; politics and outrageous celebrities and such things, because it can get messy. It is amazing how unsettled and shifting our world can be and such topics are always changing so I like to stick to things that are less likely to change. But this subject, as it so happens, has an interesting connection to one of my stories and I thought I may as well talk about it: the movie The Interview and the Sony hack.

Most likely you know all about it: the movie’s subject matter, how Sony was hacked, threats were made against theaters that showed the movie, Sony decided against its release and then, basically the movie’s been released. Of course there are all sorts of questions raised: was Sony right in withdrawing it? Were they right to let it be released in the end? And there are lots of problems behind both those questions.

And here’s what I think: basically, I respect Sony for their original decision to not release the movie, but I think it is right that it should be released, simply in defiance of the threats against the theaters. I should probably start by repeating something someone else said in regard to Sony being called cowards and that is: “You wouldn’t think they were cowards if something did happen…”

That leads to the reason why I respect Sony for their decision, and how this whole thing makes any connection to my Civil War trilogy, in a surprising way. In my trilogy, one of the points I make is: If you know something bad is going to happen, something that will put someone in danger, you have the right- even duty- to try to stop it. And that is what Sony did.

If they hadn’t done anything I at least would have disliked them a little for putting a lot of people at risk, simply for entertainment and profit, and that would especially be the case if something had happened. But they decided to try to stop something bad from happening, something which they had control over, so I have to respect them for that.

However, there’s the simple fact that no one should be able to say what someone says or does or thinks to anyone, not when it’s life threatening. It’s that simple, so I think it’s a good thing the movie was released after all, simply on those grounds.

And then there’s another interesting question for me: would I have gone to see The Interview? Because it’s just not my type of movie. There was never any possibility of my seeing it, but if there had been any possibility- would I go see it, even with the danger involved? I don’t know the answer because it won’t happen, but I think I would’ve gone to see it, for the reasons I’ve already stated.

And that’s that.

It is the 11th of November

The 11th of November is an important day- partly because it’s a good friend’s birthday- but also because it’s Veterans Day. For me, the meaning of this day is one of those things that seem too big and amazing to contemplate- sorry, wrong word: it’s too big to imagine. I can contemplate on the sacrifice men and women give all day, I can stand in awe of it. But to think about all the people in history, at the beginning of America to this point, who have answered the call of freedom’s duty, is the point where I am too amazed to be able to imagine it. It’s the Grand Canyon of bravery and patriotism; you can paint it, take a picture of it or talk about it, but no imitation is comparable to when you are actually there.

So, before I go on, talking about my own stuff, I just wanted to say thank you to all the veterans. Simply saying ‘thank you’ in return for what you’ve done seems small, and it is too small, but I mean it with all my heart and with every sacrifice that’s been made in my thoughts. So, it isn’t just a simple thanks, but a thankfulness from one of the millions of lives you’ve touched, a mere echo of your own achievements. God bless you.

Now, the rest of this post will be related to the first part, because of what this day means. As I’ve said, Veterans, Marines, Sailors, Generals, NCIS and just about all of those numerous military-related things give me a sense of awe similar to the Grand Canyon. They are heroes of a kind that I can only admire and attempt to capture in my own small ways. And My Civil War stories are one of those attempts- unfortunately, I think I’ve only managed to get a picture of the Grand Canyon with an old cell phone camera that’s been run over.

There’s a comradeship, a friendship, a strength and bravery, a- well, if we’re talking only about America- there’s something American about it that you can recognize, though sometimes in different forms, that’s distinctive and wonderful. It’s simple, rough, determined and steadfast.

And that’s what I tried to capture, allowing my characters to be fascinated- mesmerized- by it. I basically tried to capture what I appreciate myself. I can only pray I managed it.

The Drifter’s Course: Time

It’s nearly November! NaNoWriMo is here!

This year I’m doing the 3rd part to my Civil War story.

Just as a quick “behind the scenes” thing, this story was originally- at the very beginning- intended to be an article/essay. I was challenging myself to learn about the Civil War- a subject I knew very little about- and to write something about, most likely my own opinions on the matter. Well, that was when I found out I am really bad at writing my own opinions about things, at least when it comes to imagining it in book form, as I was doing (think C.S. Lewis, serious-type thing)

Well, the story took several confusing turns, until it came to be a story about a brilliant professor figuring out how to travel through time and possibly turn his time machine- which allows one to be able to travel to the past and be ‘invisible’, that is: people are not fully aware of them- into a college course. I love this idea because it sounds funny, but for some reason I’ve never managed it fully. So anyway, they decide to send a couple of test ‘students’ to see how it goes and… well, things happen.

And now I’m on to my 3rd story. I actually don’t know if it will be my last- because I don’t know how complete the story will be by the end- but it’s most likely my biggest yet.

So, here is a link to my page on the NaNoWriMo website: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/inconnu.

I have trouble with writing synopsis’. It’s hard to explain a story, especially when you’re trying to avoid certain plot twists. And with this story there’s too much going on for me to include everything and make it make sense. But anyway, I am fairly pleased with this synopsis and here it is (hopefully I’ll manage to put up an excerpt):

Mark Kingston has traveled to the past twice, and he thought that would be it. He, his friends and everyone involved with the Drifters’ Experiment are on the run from a powerful and dangerous group and they are cut off from the machine that allows them to travel through time. So it may seem that the time traveling has come to an end.

But then a second machine is made. And Mark has a mission to complete- a decision to make. He can change one of the many moments in history that seemingly went wrong and- if he should be successful- might change the course of history for the better.

But that is not when Mark’s trouble begins. Time itself does not want anyone changing history, and it can go to any lengths to keep them from doing just that.

This chapter of Mark’s life is coming to a close, and there’s no telling where the next chapter will lead or if Mark will be able to carry through to it.

Kissing Goodbye

One of the problem with writing- well, probably with a lot of subjects- is that you have to figure out what to include in your story, when it’s necessary- or when it’s a distraction.

Of course, when it comes to NaNoWriMo, you just lock your inner editor in a dark dungeon and put into your story whatever extra bits you want. Your goal is to reach 50,000 words, after all, and the best way to do that is to totally ignore any mistakes- which would bog you down- and add the parts you know you’ll probably get rid of. Of course, that’s the best way to reach 50,000 words- the fun way is simply to write.

Anyway, as I was saying, at some point you have to edit and figure out if the extra parts are necessary. Sometimes, after all, they are extra but they’re important- at least to you. Sometimes the case may be that you took time to research a subject, or you’ve always wanted to see what your character would do in this situation- or whatever the case may be. The extra stuff is important- but is it necessary, is it a distraction?

Unfortunately I’ve come to a point like this in my second Civil War story I wrote, which I was reading to get back into the mood. It’s a tiny point. I didn’t even research it- I think I just brought up a picture I had of a collection of Civil War-era guns and revolvers, I picked one and put it into my story, just as an opportunity to show what I’d researched. How could it be that bad?

Then I reread it and, when I came to the point where I was saying what kind of revolver a character had, the pace just slowed down. It was a distraction, a smudge. So, I know what I have to do. I hate to do it, I hate to change something I took a little bit of time to look into and, as I thought at the time, make the story feel more authentic.

(In case anyone is interested, the weapon I mentioned is a Remington Revolver Cal .44. I thought that I may as well mention what kind of weapon this character had somewhere, sense I did take some trouble over it. I will now simply say that he had a Remington revolver, which will give it some authenticity, but will not slow down the pace)

This did, however, bring up an annoying point. Simply: I researched the Civil War a lot (not enough, actually). I even checked out things I would only possibly use, such as the 10 (I think) steps it took to reload some weapon or other. I took the trouble to put that process into my first story and, as with the revolver problem, it slows it down so much it’s the equivalent of walking with sand in your shoes!

I guess what I’m basically saying is: It’s hard, but sometimes those things you put time into, that you carefully stuffed into your story, sometimes that really has to go. So, as much as you like it, because of how much trouble it took you, give it a kiss and say goodbye.

Further Preparations for NaNoWriMo

Well, November is slowly drawing closer. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! It’s actually pretty hard to believe- mainly because this year has been odd for my family, and also because, here in New Mexico, Autumn is just another word for: ‘a little cooler than last month’.

Sill, the autumn decorations are up, and that helps the mood feel a little more autumnal. It also cheers things up a bit.

Anyway, back to NaNoWriMo, I am still preparing for that great event. Among the important things for writing- especially during November, when you’re supposed to write a novel in a month- it helps to have a playlist, quick meals planned, and a document ready for you to just bring up and start writing (either that or journal to write by hand, if you want to do that, like my sister does).

We still have the meals to plan for, and I haven’t actually created a document (for some reason I like to do that last minute). I have, however, managed to create a playlist for my story- which I didn’t expect to happen, or possibly just a partial playlist.

Music is actually very important- in fact I have another blog (which I’ve sadly neglected) talking about how important music is. Here’s the link, in case you want to take a look: http://myuniversesitsinchocolate.blogspot.com/

Anyway, music is important because it helps you clarify your story. It can help tell the story- or sometimes a deeper story which you know about. For instance, in my story I wanted my character- who is going through a very difficult time- to come to a point where he must overcome the desire to simply stop, to give up, and he decides to go on. At least, that’s what I hope happens, but unfortunately it’s rather a difficult thing for me to manage to put in there and I’ve always been afraid it will fall out- partially for sounding very melodramatic and a little unlikely. However, I happened to see in my collection of music the score to the movie The Island (2005, I think) by Steve Jablonsky, the song title: I’m not Ready to Die and I suddenly realized that was the song. That’s what’s happening in my story- the simple declaration: “I’m not ready to die.”

And now that I have a song that actually applies to that moment, it seems possible that I can actually put it in my story. We’ll see if that really happens.

And of course it helps with atmosphere, it helps you concentrate, to have music. For me, it’s almost as important as the story itself.

Another good way to get in the mood for your story is to read the right books. Of course, for my time train stories set in an alternate universe there wasn’t really anything for me to read that would get me in the mood. But for my Civil War stories- ah! so many things!

(by the way, another good idea is to stay away from stories that will mess up your atmosphere or mood. For instance, it’s a bad idea for me to read Frank Peretti because he influences my writing style too much)

I need atmosphere for the place, that is the most important thing. It is the hardest for me to manage- and I have never yet managed to capture it. I’ve read Little Women and that helped me understand what the time is like, as only someone that’s lived there can write it. I’ve read the Red Badge of Courage and that, again, gave me a sketch of the past- a very different sketch. I read With Lee in Virginia, which was rather romanticized, but again deepened my understanding (and there was a summary of the Civil War that was very clear and helpful). I’ve even started to read Jefferson Davis’ and U.S. Grant’s books they wrote, both of which are a challenge but help me understand them, the way people thought, and yet another depth to that time.

I would have thought I would have a rounded perception of this time, considering I’ve read things from the perspective of a lady, military, and a fellow writer or two like myself (who had the advantage of living nearer to the time). They are all very different, and yet give an underlying feel that coincides.

But why is it that I can write almost exactly the way some of the people talked in The Red Badge of Courage and yet it sounds completely ridiculous? It’s sad.

Well, I’ve started a Mark Twain and- ah!- it has exactly the atmosphere I want! His description of a neighborhood sounded almost exactly like a place I had in my last Civil War story, but somehow he managed to make it sound charming and not clichéd! So, I think what I’ve got to do it is read a lot of Mark Twain – which shouldn’t be hard- and just start writing!

And it’s taken me all day to write this post (because I got thoroughly distracted onto other things). So without further delay, I’m goin’ back to Pudd’nhead Wilson!     (ugh)

Disclaimer: there will soon be excerpts from some of these stories which exemplify the ‘dialect’ I wish to capture. I would love to just get the atmosphere and thinking style, but especially the ‘dialect’ would be nice!