In writing fiction novels, I find that it is often a fine line between reasonable facts and absolute facts. When I read a book, I relate to the characters. Yes, I need to know where they are, what year they are in and what they are wearing to move the plot forward. Like if I’m reading a western set in the 19th century, I don’t want one of the main characters to drive off in a pickup truck. But, if the rider has the character just ride off on a horse, that’s fine with me. I don’t need to know if its an Arab or a Andalusian, unless it somehow plays a part in the plot. Keep me in the character’s frame of mind.
I mention this because today I was working on my latest novel Peace by Pieces – Farrell Family Saga – Book 7. Two of the main characters are on their way from the Houston Space Center to the Kennedy Space Center. In this case, I felt it was important to name the airport where they will be landing when they reach Florida and to give the reader a bird’s eye view of the launch sites, the scaffolding, the sheds, the tech buildings and the dorms where the astronauts and ground techs are housed before, during and after the launches.
The research takes time away from the creative aspect of book writing and I can’t say I enjoy it. Still, I recognize that it is necessary. And truthfully, I often find myself learning one detail and that detail leads me to wonder about another aspect of the subject. Then, it’s a fun trip of uncovering bits and pieces that may not get into the book, but certainly help my frame of mind as I put my characters though their paces.
So, I’ll do the research. A critique I recently received from a fellow writer underlined the importance of such research. I had my lead character jumping into a first of it’s kind 1964 Ford Mustang, when actually, the first Ford Mustang was a 1964 1/2. Oops. Thanks to Jim Veary, a dear friend and a great short story writer, I dodged that mistake.
All this discussion of research brought to mind a quote by Mark Twain. “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Debbie Hilbish, a dear writer friend of mine, drove into town with her mother, Joanne Brunet, for a visit with me today. She is such a talented lady. She is a very expressive prose writer, but it is her poetry that really gets to your heart. I met her in Quartzsite, AZ where she coordinated a book sellers market place the Reader’ Oasis Bookstore owned by the original and unique Paul Winer.
Debbie is one of the most positive people you will ever meet. She brings sunshine into every corner of the room, of every area she visits. And, she loves my books. We had a fun time today talking about the characters and plots of the first three books of my Farrell Family Saga books. Her positive comments were so appreciated coming from a woman who can use words to depict human emotion like no other person I have ever read before her works.
Just as a side bit of information, her mother is the creator and curator of a wonderful collection of gum displayed in her gum museum in Quartzsite, AZ. Joanne and her sister began collecting the gum as-children and now she has thousands. Her husband built the building where the gum is displayed and a visit to her museum will surely bring back so many memories. If you are ever in the area, it’s worth a visit.
These two ladies are the kind of friends that when you are with them, there is just so much to share, to learn, to laugh about and maybe even a few tears now and them, that there is never a moment of silence. When they leave there a genuine, love-filled hugs amid a sense of continuing friendship, along with sadness at their leaving. Wonderful people that I’m blessed to have as friends.
Their visit and friendship led to remember this quote, “A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.” Ibid.
Received a review today for Mama Played for the King. The reader said she really enjoyed the book and all the trauma the family went through. And, best of all, she said will be reading more of my books. All of that is music to my ears.
Getting feedback, good or bad, is a challenge to the writer to analyze what was said. Writers needs to verify that the positive comments are validation and that they are on the right track for effective fiction writing. Or, if the feedback is negative, to assess and check for an area of their writing that needs work. Either way, the writer is lucky to have that information as they work on their current writing.
I’m working on some critiques of my writing from several fellow writers. Their praise or their suggestions for necessary adds/changes/deletes are so very valuable and have helped me improve my writing skills over the years.
Yet, there is a difference in how a reader versus a fellow writer sees the writing. Sometimes a fellow writer will suggest changes that portray their writer’s ‘voice’ versus your own writer’s ‘voice.’ A good writer can be identified early in their novels by their writer’s ‘voice’.
But, no matter, feedback is what we writer’s want and when we get it, it is sincerely appreciated. Which brings to mind the following quote by Samuel Johnson. “I would rather be attacked than unnoticed. For the worst thing you can do to an author is to be silent as to his works.”
No writing today. Instead, I spent the day traveling over to Needles, CA to visit my Dad’s grave. Actually, he was my step-father, but in the words of Brad Paisley’s song – ‘He was the Dad he didn’t have to be.’ My mother married him when I was nine. Although he was not the type of man to hug and kiss his children to show his love for them, there was never a doubt that he did and that he was always the ‘go-to’ guy for any problem.
I only remember him hugging me once. I was in my late 20s and had two kids. It was Christmas Eve and we were watching my kids and my young brothers and sisters open their presents. I was standing in the hallway door watching the kids as they tore into their gifts. All of a sudden, I felt an arm around my shoulder. My Dad gave me a quick squeeze, then said, “I’m very proud of the woman you’ve become, Shari Ann.” It lasted only a moment, then he was off into the living room telling the kids to start cleaning up the wrapping paper and ribbons mess. But, that moment meant the world to me.
He passed away at age 69 from the big C. Way too young! Now, every year around the date of his birthday and during the Christmas holiday, I buy a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and drive over to ‘chat’ with him. I pour some on his grave and take some sips myself as I tell him how much he is missed by me and all his kids/grandkids and that we hope he had been rewarded generously where ever he is now. I also put a quarter on the headstone. He loved to play Keno at the casinos, so I leave the quarter as start-up money should he find a Keno machine where ever he is.
Now, as I close out the day, I think of this quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “He was a man, take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again.”
Had an interesting day working on book 7 of my Farrell Family Saga. Today’s writing included lots of nostalgia through discussion between the characters. When I review my work tomorrow, I’ll be looking for redundancy and hopefully there won’t be too much. I seldom review my writing on the same day I wrote it. I always give it a day to settle. Then, when I sit down to write the next day, I start by editing what I wrote the day before and make any adds/deletes/changes before I move the story forward.
Also, today I worked on some critiques I received from my fellow writers in the LHCWG, Lake Havasu City Writer’s Group,. Lots of valuable feedback. I will miss the group. I resigned last month after being with the group for over ten years. In fact, I was one of the founders of the group. The group has grown from around 10 writers to over 30, which means a lot of reading to be able to give my fellow writers good critiques. Also, they are becoming a community involvement group and will be offering scholarships. For the most part, they are talented, fun-loving and motivated writers and I will still enjoy socializing with many of them. But, they have outgrown my needs which is to just read my fellow writers work and give them constructive feedback, then receive the same in return for my writing submissions.
Fortunately, I have several readers who like editing my work. Getting feedback from readers who enjoy my genre is very valuable and I am blessed to have them, especially now.
When I think about leaving the LHCWG and if it was a right decision, I think of this quote by Norbert Wiener, The human Use of Human Beings. “Progress imposes not only new possibilities for the future, but new restrictions.”
Been thinking about yesterday and the value of going to the KABAM festival each year. The cons are – travel distance, low sales and no time to work on my current novel. The pros are – interaction with other writers (both local and distant), the possibility of having that ‘one’ person walk up and offer you a publishing/marketing contract. It didn’t happen yesterday, but you never know who was there and what they saw/read.
I was chosen by my grandson Nick to be his confirmation sponsor. Because I can’t be with him physically each week, we call each other every Sunday as suggested by the confirmation coordinator. Today was Sunday and Sunday is the day we make the calls to check to see if spiritual guidance is needed in any way. Fortunately, guidance wasn’t needed this week, so we just had a nice conversation about a report on the immune system he had to write, then orally present it to his teacher and his classmates. He feels like he did quite well. He is brilliant, so no worries about his grade on the report.
Also, today, I worked on Peace by Pieces – Farrell Family Saga – Book 7. I worked on the formatting of ‘was’ and effectively sharing old family memories/deeds without boring the reader to death. I think I got it, but won’t know for a few days. Regardless, it worked for me and brought back lots of Farrell family antics/gatherings. The current characters’ trip down memory lane is about over and soon I’ll have them back in Houston for their moon trip prep.
All that work with memories brought to mind this quote from Cicero. “Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” So very true!
Spent a fun day in Kingman, AZ at their annual KABAM (Kingman Area Books Are Magic) festival. Lots of authors attended, at least 5 from Lake Havasu City. The three sitting near me in the author’s tent were from the Phoenix area. The variety of genres was quite varied, but there did seem to be a lot of fantasy and children’s books. To supplement the author sales, there were booths containing food, arts, crafts and clothing.
The planners worked hard and were so very accommodating to us authors. They had entertainment on a small stage from 10 am to 4 pm consisting of musicians, poets and story tellers.
The only drawback was lack of customers/readers. Most of the folks who stopped at my table to talk to me were authors who had tables themselves. I didn’t make many sales, but met some interesting folks. My favorite was a nine year old boy who kept coming back to my table to talk. He said he loved to read and intended to write his own book someday. I made him promise that he would write a ‘book’ and bring it to my table next year so I could read it. He said he loved fantasy and had many ideas of his own, especially regarding a character called ‘Flash’. I enjoyed his positive outlook on life and his promise to write his book. I’ll look for him at next year’s KABAM.
Mike, one of the moderators on the small stage, came around and interviewed the authors. He would take that info to the microphone and do a nice ad/promo for that author’s selection of books. When he did mine, he talked about my Farrell Family Saga series of books. He said the name, then spelled it out. Because, he joked, folks might think it was the ‘Feral’ Family. He laughed and said maybe they were feral which could make them a different kind of exciting reads. I do have to admit that, at times, some of the Farrell brothers have acted quite feral. Anyway, it was a cute promo and I thank Mike for it.
All in all, it was a good day and I came home motivated and hopeful. Those feelings, along with my memory of that nine year old potential author, reminded of this quote from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done.”
Sharon Poppen’s latest novel, The Band – Farrell Family Saga Book 6, is now available in both print and ebook at Amazon.com. Below is the blurb on the back cover of the book.
The Band – The Farrell Family Saga – Book 6
The world has tended to the wounds suffered across the lands. Human nature has picked up the pieces and prosperity looms for those willing to accept the past, but look to the future and all the possibilities it offers.
The latest generation of the Farrell Family has joined in looking toward the future. They continue to love ranching and daily intermingling with the land and the livestock, but another love has taken the attention of the sons of Josh and Lani Farrell. Their Hawaiian ancestors have instilled a love of music in all four sons. In this novel, the Farrell brothers are ranchers by day and musicians by night after forming a quartet to entertain tourists in the nightspots of Maui.
Growing up as son of a father who gave so much during the Second World War, oldest son J.J. took on responsibilities as devoted son and reliable brother. He accepted those responsibilities readily. In addition to his brothers, a child of druggie parents comes under his protective wing. This child, Annie, becomes the love of his life.
A talent agent discovers the brothers and lures them into the wild world of rock and roll music. They take the name The Islanders and the four young Farrell men are introduced to the exciting, yet dangerous, world of music. A world filled with fan admiration, exhausting touring, alcohol, drugs and women wanting their night with a music idol. A world not appreciated by their wives.
As usual with the Farrell family, what happens to one Farrell affects every Farrell from grandparent to grandchild. I hope this family continues to touch your heart and that you’ll want to read on to discover how this next Farrell generation copes with the changing times as they search for their generation of love, happiness and peace in their lives.
I will be signing my latest book ‘Stephen’s Boys – Farrell Family Saga, Book 5’ at Hastings Books Music & Video on Sunday, January 31st between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Hastings is located at 321 N. Lake Havasu Blvd. here in Lake Havasu City. Hope you get a chance to stop by to say hi.
The Lake Havasu City Writer’s Group begins its 2016 Writers Forum Presentations tomorrow, Jan. 11, 2016 at Mohave Communtiy College. The topic for this presentation is ‘So You Want to Write Short Stories – Fiction’. The moderator is Sharon Poppen. The program starts at 7:00 p.m. in room 202.