Posts by Lynn

A Cowboy Hits the Book Writing Trail

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

A Cowboy Hits the Book Writing Trail

Today’s guest blogger, H. Alan Day has spent more time riding a horse than writing on a laptop. Yet, he co-authored the  New York Times bestseller, Lazy B, with his sister Sandra Day O’Connor, and this year published an award-winning memoir, The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs, with University of Nebraska Press and co-authored with Lynn Wiese Sneyd. His book writing journey is as unique as they come. I came to writing in a very oblique way. I never had dreams of writing a book while I was growing up or during adulthood. But then one day, the phone rang and my sister Sandra, who is pretty plain spoken and gets to the point in a direct fashion, said, “Alan, I think we should write a book together.” After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said, “Tell me more. Why would we want to write a book? And what would that book be about?” Sandra said that we had been raised in a very unique environment that had taught us both a very strong work ethic. Being raised on the Lazy B cattle ranch, a 200-square-mile chunk of Sonoran desert, taught us to be problem-solvers because out on the ranch nobody was going to solve your problems for you. I had never taken any writing classes and certainly had minimal skills in that department, so the book Sandra was suggesting felt about as big as that ranch. I had a hard time getting my arms around it. Sandra was far more skilled than I in terms of writing ability. She wrote many legal opinions not graded for literary quality but read by many lawyers and historians. After stumbling and fumbling with an answer and not wanting to look like a fool, I finally said, “Well, how do I go about this? How do I start to write a book?” Her answer was Sandra simple. Yellow legal pad and number two pencil. “What if the product sounds dumb or doesn’t make sense?” “Whatever you have on paper submit it to me and we’ll make it work,” she said. I have a feeling that not many would-be authors get that kind of a send off in their writing careers. Having been given an assignment, however, I rolled up my sleeves and tackled it. A lot of days I would only get a paragraph or two written, and then after sitting and contemplating it for awhile, I’d tear it up the sheet and throw it away. Other days, I would say to myself, okay big boy, today’s the day for writing. And then I would find fifteen excuses why not to write. Progress was very slow. After six months of writing, I had several chapters that seemed a little bit appropriate. I sat down and read everything that I had written. It was so bad that shame consumed me. The thought hit me that even if I could rewrite these pages twice as good, they would still be bad. In a fit of depressed anger, I tossed it all away. I had attempted to write the history of the ranch chronologically beginning in 1880 when our grandfather settled on Lazy B. I decided I needed a whole different format to make it more interesting. Since I didn’t know what other formats were used by writers, I gave myself two weeks to come up with another way to write the book. I spent time each day jus trying to think up a different way to write the story. Toward the end of my two week self-imposed deadline, I finally had a bright...

Read More

When Fear Strikes the Hearts of Writers

Posted by on Oct 28, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

When Fear Strikes the Hearts of Writers

By Kathryne Squilla For the past year, I’ve been watching a dear friend of mine write her second YA novel.  She’s by no means an inexperienced writer, having published two non-fiction books and many essays. Her first YA novel is in production. She is one of the most disciplined and productive writers I know.  Earlier this year, she finished her first draft of the new novel, and then promptly completed the second draft. After sharing her work with a few trusted readers, she revised yet again.  At that point, she believed she had a book her agent would love unconditionally. He did love it, but not unconditionally. A major plot line bothered him and one of the two main characters just didn’t thrill him in the way he felt he needed to be thrilled in order to effectively sell the novel. He brought in a trusted editor who agreed and recommended major cuts.  I mean, MAJOR cuts. They wanted my friend to lose almost half of the book – to take out the character in question entirely — and then rewrite with a new focus in mind. Needless to say, my friend had a lot of soul searching to do, and potentially a whole new book to write (or half a book anyway).  She loved her character, and so did many of her readers.  I felt her pain; to cut away all that work in one fell swoop! Ouch! And yet, ultimately she decided to go ahead with the revision. She could see how their view of the novel, combined with her vision and hard work, could result in something truly special. She is still at it, but just this morning she told me that she thinks she has only about 50 pages left before she is done with this draft, hopefully the last draft, though there are no guarantees on that. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend’s journey. In addition to being editors and publicists, we are also writers. I, myself, am working on a novel – when I can, anyway.  And although I have not yet completed my first draft, I am already dreading the second. I know this is silly. After all, as writing instructors love to say: writing is revision. I was recently at an event where the writer, Anne Lamott, read from her latest book of essays. Someone later asked her about her tips for writing fiction. She said the secret is to give yourself permission to write a really “shitty” first draft, and then do the real work in the editing process. As an editor, I know this to be gospel – I’ve seen books transform from dull to radiant in the later drafts. Yet, as a writer, I cringe at the thought of highlighting some large section – perhaps an entire chapter – and hitting that delete button.  (I have another writer friend who pastes all of her major cuts into one master document of deleted sections because she can’t bring herself to erase them completely. She calls the document, The Prose Graveyard.) In making cuts, it helps to think of the bigger picture, the strength of the novel as a whole, as opposed to some little flourish at the sentence level. That sleek metaphor I thought was so clever when I first wrote it isn’t worth keeping for a section that I can now see does nothing to further the novel.  As Faulkner says, “kill your darlings.” Oh, but its tough! It’s so very tough. I take courage in stories like that of my friend. If she can...

Read More

The Three Things We Can Learn from Poets

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Blog | 4 comments

The Three Things We Can Learn from Poets

Today’s guest post comes from my friend Rod Miller, a Spur Award-winning poet and author, who I met this summer at the Western Writers of America conference in Sacramento, CA. In addition to writing poetry, Rod pens novels, short stories, magazine articles, and other non-fiction pieces about cowboys and the American West. Three Things We Can Learn from Poets By Rod Miller Prose and poetry are different. The discipline is different, the approach is different, the craft is different, the emphasis is different. But, despite the many differences, much is the same. Both rely on words, and the meanings of words, whether literal or figurative, expressed or implied. Generally speaking, however, poets pay more attention to words—dissecting them into syllables and sounds, rhythms and rhymes, stresses and shapes. While it would be impossible, not to mention unwise, for writers of prose to agonize over every syllable in every word in every line as poets do, a little extra attention to a few literary techniques can make prose read better, sound better, and communicate more effectively on more levels. Here are three tools poets use (as do the best prose writers, as in the examples that follow) that can shape and sharpen what you write. But remember—like any tool, they can be over-used, misapplied, and cause harm, so proceed with caution. 1. What you say, vs. How You Say It. This is an eternal tug-of-war, but is, for the most part, based on false assumptions. Those on the “What” end of the rope claim plain and simple is preferable. Extremists on the “How” end believe purple prose should take precedence. Both points of view are lacking. Language can be clear and communicative as well as distinctive and delightful. Consider this sentence: In 1776, our founding fathers, desiring freedom and equality for all, created the American nation. Not much to complain about there. The meaning is clear, the structure and syntax acceptable. But, in the better hands of Abe Lincoln, that same sentiment becomes musical and memorable: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 2. Metaphor To a poet, metaphor is mother’s milk. As part of a balanced diet, metaphor can lend vitality to prose as well. Along with pure metaphor, lump in other metaphorical techniques such as simile, synecdoche, and metonymy. Comparisons can be powerful; often more vivid than a plain description. Given my long career writing ad copy, I like this pointed metaphor from George Orwell: Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket. And there’s this descriptive comparison, from William Faulkner: He looks like right after the maul hits the steer and it is no longer alive and don’t yet know that it is dead. 3. Repetition of Sound Another big deal among poets. There’s rhyme, of course, which has limited application to prose. But rhyme should not be excluded out of hand, as this famous opening by Charles Dickens demonstrates: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… And there’s assonance, the repetition of vowel sounds, and consonance, the repetition of consonants. Both are aptly demonstrated in this sentence by Cormac McCarthy—repeated “a” sounds, both long and short; hard “g” sounds; the “k” sound from that letter as well as the hard “c.” And stepping softly with her air of blooded ruin about the glade in a frail agony of grace she trailed her rags through dust and ashes, circling the dead fire, the charred billets and chalk...

Read More

Dream Chaser by P. Christina Greenaway

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Gallery | 0 comments

Dream Chaser by P. Christina Greenaway

Dream Chaser by P. Christina Greenaway
Girl by the Sea Publishing
Fiction, Paranormal Romance

Read More

On Handling Rejection

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Blog | 6 comments

On Handling Rejection

The world of writing comes with a constellation of certainties. Creating. Editing. Research. Solitude. More editing. And if you’re submitting your work for publication, add the Big R to the list: Rejection. As Isaac Asimov wrote, “Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” Yep, all the greats have suffered rejection. I’d love to give the subject a Pollyanna-polish, but really, there’s no way around it. Rejection sucks. Since it’s an inevitable pothole in the writing journey, the question is not how to avoid rejection, but how to handle it. Here’s one slightly comforting perspective. Writing may be a lonely endeavor, but when you’re swimming in the pool of rejection, you’re never alone. A lot of bodies inhabit that salty, tear-filled water and the good thing is they are alive. So while you’re dog-paddling around, do some commiserating. Then swim to the side, haul yourself out, shake like a dog, and get back at it. About two years ago, I attended a writer’s workshop where a very successful author related the sad tale of one of his manuscripts. He had worked on the novel for over a year, finally had it polished to his satisfaction, and sent it off to his agent, who promptly rejected it. He then sent it to the editor who published his previous book and she, too, rejected it. But get this. The author’s previous novel had been optioned, found its way into a screenplay, and then into an Academy-Award-winning movie. Needless to say, after this particular manuscript was soundly rejected, he and a bottle of scotch spent some serious time on the couch. I just saw this author at a writer’s conference, where he presented. He’s still writing. He’s still getting published. He’s still at it. So the thing about rejection is somehow you have to handle it, get it out of your system and get back at it. Punch pillows. Line up pints of Ben & Jerry’s and plow through them. Run like you’re Forrest Gump. Whatever works for you, just do it. Because in the end, we writers have to scrape ourselves off the pavement, stash that chocolate-caramel smeared spoon in the dishwasher, and strap ourselves to the chair. If we don’t, we’ll get all gummed up with words and stories, and we won’t be able to finish any manuscript. And that, my friends, is far worse than rejection. Write on! Lynn  ...

Read More