Thursday, June 23, 2011


I just finished Scott Niven's collection of short stories TWILIGHT CANDLEFLIES. I was first drawn to the book by the beautiful cover. It reminds me of a German Expressionist painting. And the stories inside, being dystopian sci/fi, have that same expressionistic feel--that somewhat odd but engrossing aura.

All three stories end on a somewhat ironic note, which flows naturally from the stories' plots and themes. So, all three stories, while whole and complete in themselves, leave you wanting to know more, more about this dystopian world.

The story I'll discuss in more detail is a perfect example. The title itself, "This Is Not Your Mother's Earth," sets up the tone of irony. Is the title directed at the reader or at the story's subject matter? It works either way, but with totally different meanings.

And what about the main character? He's an eighteen-year-old man who's life is filled with irony. Has he been bred to be what he is? Is this the fate of all boys on this planet? And who's in control? Chaos is an intregal part of his theme. Is chaos in control? It's doubtful, but maybe.

This is clearly a world without love, yet love is at the center of this man's life. Unfortunately, he can't have what he loves. And his love is drowned out by the roar of falsity. And the notion of what's heroic is definitely a lie.

There is much that can be said about this story and the other two as well. The writing is excellent. Scott has taken great pains to master his craft. I don't read much sci/fi or dystopian literature, but I think the quality of his stories places them at a higher level of performance than the average literature in this genre. If you like this genre, you will be enthralled by Scott Niven's collection.

You can visit Scott Niven and learn more about him and his writings at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rebecca Kiel, blogging on the farm

Rebecca's is another blog on which I cannot leave comments.

I wanted to say:
A very interesting post. It's got to be hard but rewarding work--organic gardening. And you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  But Blogger won't let me.

Again, as in the previous post, if she switches to pop-up window for comments, I and perhaps some others can leave comments.

Author Karen Walker, Following the Whispers

Following the Whispers is one of those blogs that Blogger won't allow me to make comments on, so I have to make my comments as a post. Her post this morning is about the movie "Departures". My comment was
"I've seen the movie, and it does affect you. It's a rare kind of movie." But, of course, I couldn't post the comment. I would email her the solution to the problem, but I can't seem to email her either. Here's the solution (several people I follow had made the change and it worked): switch from the full-page format for comments to the pop-up window. It's simple to do. Go to Settings, Comments, and select pop-up box. Maybe she will see this post and make the change.

 Others I can't leave comments on are The Intern, Ellie Great, and Amanda Barrett.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kathan's drawings. Are they art?

When I watch my two-year-old grandson Kathan drawing (he calls it "colors"), it's obvious something is going on in his head. He's total concentration. What he's thinking, I have no idea. I suppose he's discovering as he draws--he's one with the drawing. There' no separation between him and the act of drawing and the drawing itself; it's all of one process. It's as William Butler Yeats says in "Among School Children":

             O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
             How can we know the dancer from the dance?

I'm sure Kathan's not working from a planned design. I don't think he thinks of what he's doing as art. I think he's fascinated by desgn, shape, color, and relationships without thinking about those concepts. He has no such words in his vocabulary. They are just automatically within his range of understanding.

To an adult, it may look like scribbling. I don't think I could scribble as well as Kathan 'scribbles,' if that's what it is. When I scribble, I'm aware that I'm scribbling, and I try to make it beautiful, graceful, colorful, and I may succeed. Or, I may not. Kathan succeeds every time.

I've heard it said that children are natural born artists, and we adults kill that natural talent. It takes a special adult to let a natural artist work. We want to implant our notions of art into them. We want them to do it our way. Maybe we should be doing it their way.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Tanya Reimer

I've had the pleasure of knowing Tanya Reimer almost since I started blogging. Her posts are in a class of their own. Her blog is called Life's like that, which hints that the unexpected is usually what you get in life. Her blog touches on many subjects, but best of all, it does so with wit and wisdom. I think she should consider writing humor, because she definitely has a gift for it. One of the accomplishments she listed after winning an award was: "I wrote ten novels and I'm still happily married." How many of us can say that.

It's clear that Tanya has a high regard for her family, and her family has a high regard for her. She has given her children the gift of reading, and they wanted her to read to them something she wrote. "And so, I told my tale and this time--my family gave me a gift."

Tanya's the first to admit that she has a problem.

"I wrote my first draft about six months ago. (Gee when I write it like that, it comes off a little like an AA meeting introduction.-- Maybe I should start a blog for Writing Addicts.)"

"Yeah, I have a problem. I'm addicted to writing. It's not so funny, it took me a long time to admit that. I should sleep but it nags at me until I get up and satisfy the craving. The laundry needs to be folded, but honestly, can't we wear it out of the basket? I mean, come on! It's been sitting there so long it's already wrinkled!"

She believes she has special powers:

"In life, we deal with specialists all the time. Professionals. The guys and gals who KNOW their stuff. They come in handy for work, writing, even as a parent. Yet, five minutes with my very informed doctor makes me wonder if she knows I have magical kisses that heal boo boos. Because I really do--they even impress the hell out of me."

She's not only witty, she's also a philosopher.

"It's how we survive that matters in life, not what we know. Now go write about what little you know. It'll be fun to see how brilliant you can be."

Those are just a few of her gems. Please visit her blog (even if she already has hundreds of followers, what's a few hundred more?) Lifes like that. You might meet the unexpected that is also true.

Hard time reading books?

I've heard a lot of writer's say they don't read the way they used to read before they became writers. A lot of times, they just can't get through a novel they're reading, because they're too critical, not reading the book like a non-writing reader reads--just for the pleasure of reading the book and enjoying the book. This is a problem for me as well. I can't tell you how many times I've began a book, even best-sellers, only to quit reading them, because they just don't measure up to what I expect from a book.  Obviously, the problem is mine. I'm too critical.

I know a way around this problem, where I can once again "read" books just for the pleasure and enjoyment. How? By listening to recorded books. There's a world of difference between listening to someone read the book and reading it yourself. Your inner critic turns off, unless the book is just not your cup of tea. I've listened to many, many books that I couldn't or wouldn't normally read: Meet Me Under the Umbu Tree, Last Voyage of the Valentina, (those two are romances), many thrillers, James Rollins among others, Maeve Binchy, The Horse Whisperer, biographies, science books, just hundreds of different books.

Listening to recorded books may return you to that innocent state in which you can read a book just for the pleasure of it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish & Beta readers

(Again, I can't post a comment on my own blog.)

Elizabeth Varadan stated the difficulty of finding a Beta reader. No doubt about it.
A couple of places to find an intermediary between the writer and Beta reader might be a college professor who knows another professor or student who likes to read or someone you know in a club that might know someone who likes to read. It's difficult, and I've never really tried to find one, but I've not reached the final draft that I'd want someone to read--yet. But soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

CM Smith & Beta readers

CM Smith asked how do you know if the Beta reader is any good. (It's pretty bad when Blogger won't allow me to post a comment to my own blog, but yes, it has happened, so I'll answer it as a post.)

That's a good question, one I never thought about. I guess I assumed the person would be good. But you know what assume means. My quick answer is that the intermediary would know good people to ask to read your work. But, I suppose that's no guarantee the Beta reader would be good.

A further elucidation of a Beta reader is that the best Beta readers are not writers. They are just people who love to read books. They are not critiquing your work. They're just answering the question as to whether they liked your book and what they liked about it, or vice versa. In other words, they are representative of the general reading public that does not write books. It's certainly not science. It's subjective feedback that attempts to be objective.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Is it art? These are two drawings by my two-year-old grandson Kathan. I see balance, organization, symmetry--in short, I see beauty. I'm a doting grandfather. I'm blind to the truth, whatever it is.

I'm not asking you to tell me whether Kathan's drawings are art. I'm merely using them as an example of the difficulty we have in knowing whether the fiction we write is excellent, good, poor, lousy. We need the help of others. We really don't want to go it alone. We need validation.

Finding true objectivity comes from those who don't know us. Those who know us are not usually objective enough to give an unbiased assessment. Yet, that is exactly where most of us begin seeking validation. We begin with ourselves, using the most objectivity we can. Then we usually turn to friends and relatives, who usually 'love' what we've written. Then we turn to non-family members and strangers. This last step is crucial. We can skip it and self-publish, and we might be okay. But it's probably a poor decision. Finding true objectivity is difficult. In the final analysis, it's the reading public who gives the final answer.

Writing groups can be helpful in the writing process, but even they are not objective enough to give an unbiased assessment. One of the best things to do is to find a Beta reader to read the finished product before seeking publication. The best Beta reader is a sort of double-blind situation. The writer doesn't know who the Beta reader is, and the Beta reader doesn't know who the writer is. This requires an intermediary. I've yet to find a Beta reader who meets that final requirement. The closest I've come is entering portions of my writing in contests, and that is very educational. That's about as "real as it gets."

What would Kathan say about all of this? Just look below.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


We've probably all written stories in which a character has a dream. Dreams are often crazy and difficult to understand. But dreams in stories have to relate to the story, perhaps to the plot or to a character's self-understanding. There's no revelation in this. We all know that.

We all know that dreams are a part of our sleeping life. Here's really what this post is about. Have you ever had a 'sweet' dream? I have never had a sweet dream. I don't know what one is. Each and every dream I remember ever having is full of frustration, incompetence, failure, and many other negative emotions or non-accomplishments. So, my question again is: have you ever had a sweet dream and, if you have, can you tell me about it. I'd like to know what a sweet dream is like.