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Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Write Like The Masters" by William Cane (5) George Orwell, "1984"

In my continuing endeavor to learn more about what makes master writers masters, I've re-read 1984 by George Orwell, keeping in mind William Cane's discussion in Write Like the Masters.

First, let me say it now. 1984 is the most harrowing book I've ever read. Part of what makes it so harrowing is its plausibility. I so identified with Winston Smith that I felt his confusion and horror. I could very well see myself living in the insane world of Big Brother, Ingsoc, and doublespeak. So this supports Cane's discussion of Orwell's use of limited third person point of view being part of the power of this story.

Cane points out that Orwell uses penumbra, i.e., characterizing individuals through indirect and "more ambiguous suggestion" than through direct positive statements about individuals. In truth, penumbra pervades every character in the book. Smith (and the reader) can never be sure of whom to trust or believe.

According to Cane, Orwell uses a very simple plot. It is simple, but in a complex way. The complexity arises from the the subtext and gives the simple plot extra energy and meaning.

Cane says Orwell makes good use of repetition throughout the novel. The story constantly, in vaious ways, reiterates its themes--the ambiguity, the paradoxes of Oceanian society: War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength. What is so harrowing is that all of this is accomplished by making the past the present (or the present the past) in such a way that there is no past. This is accomplished by obliterating memory.

Cane stresses how Orwell makes the villain not only bad, but also good. Of course, what is good and bad has been turned upside down in Oceania. Who is the villain? It's Big Brother. It's your neighbor. It's your employer. It's your friend or family member. Perhaps it's even yourself, and what can be more harrowing than that?

Friday, March 23, 2012

I've received the famous "Liebster Blog *heart*" award.

My new blogging buddy Jeff Hargett at Strands of Pattern  has honored me with this award that I admit I needed a lot. He knew I was getting lonely in my little corner of the blogosphere.
Thank you, Jeff.



The rules are that you must

  1. Thank the person that nominated you on your blog and link back to them.
  2. Nominate up to five other blogs for the award.
  3. Let them know via a comment on their blog
  4. Post the award on your blog
Who will my victims be. They must have less than 200 followers. That leaves out a lot of my blogging friends.

1. Calling Shotgun
2. Diane Fordham
3. Jackson Porter
4. Kamille Elahi
5. Liam Guiney

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Living Half Free" by Haley Whitehall

It takes a skillful writer to step into the roles of another person's skin and culture. Haley Whitehall has done it well. She enters the antebellum life of a black slave and the society of the Cherokee Indians. What is refreshing about this is that Whitehall's story is free of stereotypes. Each character is an individual, unique in his or her own way. The humanity, and sometimes inhumanity, of her characters shines through.

Living Half Free is the tense and thoroughly engrossing story of Zacharia, a slave who passes for white and marries a Cherokee woman Lillian. But his slavery past haunts him, even in his marriage, influencing his every decision. But his top priority is to be free. Zacharia is a humble man who wants to do the right thing in a world where wrong often prevails over right. After adjusting to the complicated and bewildering white man's world, adjusting to the Cherokee world brings new challenges to his sense of dignity and self-worth. This struggle is complicated by his love for his wife (his future) and his love for his mother and sister (his past) and these two aspects of his life converge and clash, leading to a bittersweet ending.

Living Half Free is available through Amazon.com, as well as other sources. You can visit Haley's Whitehall's website at haleywhitehall.com.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My very first post revisited.

I just read my very first post, which I wrote over a year ago, in which I muse about living and writing and wonder if we writers are insane. (see it here if you wish, it's quite short) The question of insanity still seems relevant.

At the time of my first post I was still in the traditional publishing mode: write a book, query an agent, receive a zillion rejections, then give up. Or, miraculously get an agent, then get rejected by every publisher in the world. Or, miracle of miracles, get accepted by a reputable publisher, and, after a lifetime of struggling, actually see my book get published. Then, like 80% of all books published, it doesn't even earn back the royalties I was paid. All the while, working on my next project. It does seem a bit crazy to devote thousands of hours to such endeavors. But I was doing it and, to some degree, I still am.

Then I discovered self-publishing ebooks. I thought about it long and hard. Should I do it? What does it mean if I do it? Will I be the scourge of the publishing world? Will I lose all my friends? Will I be looked at as a failure? Is self-publishing a form of suicide? Well, a lot of people were doing it, and some were even making a living at it. Then I wondered what have I got to lose. I mean really, who cares how your book is published, as long as it's out there? Right? I don't know. All I know is that I saw no future whatsoever in the traditional model. So, I self-pubbed a book of short stories, just because. Just because I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to learn the ropes. And learn them I did. And now I've self-pubbed a novel. It seems like the publishing world has turned upside down between the time I published my first book and my second a year later.

I'm now part of a growing fraternity of self-publishers. I no longer feel so insane. In fact, I feel as if I've found sanity in an insane world. Of course, the insane don't know they're insane. That's the beauty of insanity. So, maybe I'm insane and just don't know it, which might be a form of sanity. Anyway, it's been a fantastic year and a marvelous journey. And it ain't over yet.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness

I am not really into basketball. But my daughter wanted help in choosing brackets, so I came up with my bracketology to the Final Four. I know they're hard to read, but if you have the bracket breakdowns, you can probably follow my flowchart. Yes, I'm picking FSU to win it all. I'm looking for some upsets along the way. What about you? Are you playing this braketology game?

I have to tell you, my daughter graduated from FSU, so we're a little biased. By that logic, I should be choosing USF to win it all, because I graduated from USF. But who uses logic?








Thursday, March 15, 2012

I'm happy today.

Yes, I'm happy today. I'm happy with the way my blog is going. I enjoy reading blogs I follow, and I enjoy reading the comments left on my blog. A lot of times I re-read my blog post after it's been up awhile and has a few comments. I like to see how I've connected with someone else. It is time-consuming, but I enjoy it or I wouldn't do it.

I'm happy today, because I had a good night's sleep. I suffer from sleep apnea and use a cpap machine to sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the morning just as tired as when I went to sleep. Doesn't make for a pleasant day.


I'm happy today, because my grandson and granddaughter are playing well together this morning. I'm raising my almost three-year-old grandson and I babysit my slightly younger granddaughter. Some days they drive me crazy and I get no work done. I won't get any work done today other than jump on the internet now and then. I like taking them to the park. They love it and I've met some pretty interesting people there. I've gotten to know one of the wives of the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff. She had a baby last month, so I probably won't see her again until the fall. I've seen a Jaguars player and his family there. I get to talk to other grandparents who are babysitting their grandchildren. We share stories as if we were two young mothers instead of retired grandparents.

I'm happy that I've now self-published two ebooks. I think I'm just as happy as if they'd been published by Random House or Scribners or any of the big boys.

How about you? Are you happy today, or is it a less than ideal day?

I've revealed a little bit about myself, because Rachna Chhabria Her blog asked for it. How about it? Let's keep it going. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Descriptions from "The Man With the Golden Gun" by Ian Fleming

In my quest to see more of Ian Fleming's work, I read his novel The Man With The Golden Gun. Besides being filled with a lot of witicisms, the book was a fairly interesting read. There were a few coincidences to move things along. The Bond of this book isn't much like the bond of the movies. This Bond has feelings and fears and the book is a book, not a rewrite of a movie script.

Here are a few of the more remarkable descriptions in the book that I liked.

The prairie fire of the sunset raged briefly in the west and the molten sea cooled off into moonlit gun-metal.

Instead of the severe shirt and skirt of the days at Headquarters, she was wearing a single string of pearls and a one-piece short-skirted frock in the colour of a pink gin with a lot of bitters in it--the orangey-pink of the inside of a conch shell.

Two birds fly into a cafe.
They strutted up and down imperiously, eyeing Bond without fear from bold, golden eyes and went through a piercing repertoire of tinny whistles and trills, some of which required them to ruffle themselves up to almost twice their normal size.

Scaramanga shoots the birds:
The explosions from the Colt .45 were deafening. The two birds disintegrated against the violet back-drop of the dusk, the scraps of feather and pink flesh blasting out of the yellow light of the cafe into the limbo of the deserted street like shrapnel.

Bond is wounded and scrambling through a mangrove swamp.
Bond dropped to one knee, his senses questing like the antennae of an insect.

I hope you find these quots as interesting as I do. What do you think? Is this better than average writing? Do you think Fleming should be considered a master storyteller?

Monday, March 12, 2012

My novel "Only The Lonely" is free today.

My novel Only The Lonely is free today on Amazon.com. See the slideshow on the right for a link.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Apology: My novel "Only The Lonely" is NOT free today.

I'm sorry but something has gone wrong and my novel Only The Lonely is not showing up for free on Amazon.com. I assure you, I did set it up, but it isn't free today. I will reset it for Monday. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this has caused anyone.

My Novel "Only The Lonely" is free today.

My novel Only The Lonely is free today. See my slideshow to the right for the link to Amazon.com

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Battles and other stories is free today

My collection of short stories is free on Amazon.com today. See the slide show on the right for a direct link to the book.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Download my books for free

Well, I finally did it. I've self-published Only The Lonely on Amazon.com. Now I have two books available: OTL and Battles and other stories. I'm offering them for free: Battles will be available on March 8th and Only The Lonely will be available on March 9th.

Unfortunately I had a formatting problem with OTL. It's certainly readable as is, but most paragraphs are not indented. I attempted to fix the problem, but I don't think it worked. I believe the problem lies in my Word program. Somehow in trying to set my book up for Smashwords awhile back, I set my program default to Normal, which seems to be causing problems on Amazon. I've been unable to unset it from Normal. If anyone can tell me how to fix the problem, I would be grateful.

BTW, I'm published under the penname R Patrick Hughes. See my slideshow for links to Amazon.com. Thank you.

I hope you download each book and give them a read and let me know what you think. A review (good or bad) on Amazon would be appreciated.

I hope to have a third book out by this summer.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Quandary resolved--"The Sendoff"

I want to thank everyone who commented on my quandary about what to work on next. It was a tough decision at first, but I decided to listen to my heart, and my heart says The Sendoff. I love that book. It's something I want to publish.  When I made the decision Friday night in my sleep, and woke up Saturday morning and began revising the first chapter of the book, I was excited, thrilled. I knew I had made the right decision. Thank you all.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Write Like the Masters" by William Cane (4) Ian Fleming

Cane chose Ian Fleming as a master writer for a variety of reasons. The main reason I like Fleming is for his use of details. Besides creating suspense and excitement, Fleming uses "sumptuous details." To see for myself, I read Fleming's short story "Octopussy." (Don't you wish you could come up with titles like that? I wish I could.) Of course, it's a James Bond story--and Bond is one of my favorite characters from the movies, and maybe now from literature--but the story has little to do with James Bond. He's a minor character in the story.

Even though it's a short story, "Octopussy" is full of Fleming's attention to details. Some of his detailed descriptions are fairly long; e.g., he uses about 200 words to describe the deadly scorpion fish (a major player in the story). Fleming mentions that scorpion fish are the source of "the rascasse that is the foundation of bouillabaisse." When Smythe (the main character) eats some sausage in the mountains, Fleming writes "Oberhauser's (another character in the story) sausage was a real mountaineer's meal--tough, well-fatted and strongly garlicked."

Fleming's use of details isn't limited to food-related subjects. When Smythe looks at the case containing gold stolen from Germany during WWII, Fleming writes "There were the same markings on each--the swastika in a circle below an eagle, and the date, 1943--the mint marks of the Reichsbank."

When Smythe and Oberhauser reach their destination in the mountains, Fleming writes "Directly above them, perhaps a hundred feet up under the lee of the shoulder, were the weather-beaten boards of the hut." What struck me about the sentence was 'under the lee of the shoulder' and 'weather-beaten boards,' two wonderful details I would have not thought of.

The last description I'll mention that sturck me as something I would have missed is when, after Smythe shoots a man in the mountains, Fleming writes "The deep boom of the two shots that had been batting to and fro amoung the mountains died away." I thought the double-entrendre on 'died' was clever.

One thing Cane doesn't mention that I found interesting is Fleming's use of character names. Of course, we all know James Bond. But the names of the other characters in this story are interesting as well: Dexter Smythe, Hannes Oberhauser, and the Foo brothers.

What does it mean to me as a writer? It makes me want to try harder with details. It means more research and greater visualization of scenes and finding the words that make it the best description I can make it. And maybe a greater consideration of characters' names.

What do you think of these examples of description from "Octopussy"? Do they strike you as better than average? Also, do you find the characters' names more interesting than the usual?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I'm in a quandary.

Yes. I'm in a bit of a quandary. I've basically finished Only The Lonely and hope to publish it soon. The quandary is: what do I work on next. Maybe you can help me decide.

 I've got perhaps 80-85% of a sequel to Only The Lonely already written called Battlefields of Love. My crude estimation is that I can finish it in 3-6 months, maybe even closer to 3 months. In some ways I think it's a better book than OTL. It will be about the same length, 75-80 thousand words.

I've got another novel that I wrote maybe 8-10 years ago that is probably 99% complete called The Sendoff. It has nothing to do with the OTL saga I have planned. I crudely estimate finishing it in 1-2 months. In some ways, I think it's the best book I've ever written, but it's from when I was first transistioning from literary writing to a more popular vein of writing. And it's somewhat, though not entirely, different from OTL. It's probably a bit shorter than 75,000 words, more like 50-60 thousand.

So, there's my quandary. Which do I work on next? Which one would you work on?