Thursday, June 23, 2016

Flash Fiction

My name is Spindly Crabback.  I was skimming along the surface like any other day shaking up some delightful fish eggs,  in a pleasing fog of mud, that went down in a bite or two.  Looked like I was in a good spot for a change.  Of course, I had to dodge a number of fat stocks that seems to always be in pairs that kept shifting around in the atmosphere to plant themselves in the mud only to shift again.  You couldn't see the tops of them as they went up through the atmosphere to disappear beyond the transition showing a pinkish or black haze that seemed to float around in sync with the stocks; more pinks than blacks.  From curiosity, I had scrambled like the dickens one time to try and reach the top of the transition only to get buffeted back down by the churning of the atmosphere cause by the stocks moving.  Some friends that went with me made it to the top and I've never seen or heard from them again.  

Well, I wasn't going to let that bother me today.  I was in pincer heaven when I found a fresh sack of eggs.  I was so engrossed with digging into them that I didn't see it coming.  Squish… That dang stock pushed me a good hundred of my little feet into the mud.  

That really upset me, mad at myself for not watching better.  Not only did I lose my egg sack it's going to take me three days to dig myself out of here.  

Ego and Writers Groups

Roland Boykin, a Fantasy writer, blogged an article about Critique Groups: A Slice of Life that sparked my thinking on egos.  He looks to an even bigger picture by equating the small writers group as a reflection of society as a whole.  I'm not there quite yet, so I just want to shell out a few thoughts on ego.  Here is Roland's link:

There is a difference between a overly large ego and being filled with confidence.  I think, that at first blush, it is hard to tell the difference.  With time and exposure, the large ego rears its ugly head or the confident person emerges.
 Image result for ego and writing
I suppose it could be argued that they go hand-in-hand where the ego and the confidence coincide.  Perhaps, that is true, but I think not.  I think they exist like the right and left arm; a part of the whole, but doing their own thing and come together occasionally to collaborate.  The ego tends to be fragile, easily offended and hurt.  It resists criticism which in a writers group setting comes in the form of critique. Confidence on the other hand is tough and resilient, where critique is considered against an existing base of knowledge and experiences and acted upon accordingly.

New aspiring writers have a low level of confidence, not a large ego.  I don't think that, as most arguments would have you believe, it takes a huge ego to be a writer.  If you wonder if your ego is unhealthy give yourself this test.  Do I get upset when that other person, the testy, cranky, insufferable person in the Writer's Group publishes a gosh awful work and you don't?  Do you secretly wish they would slip on the tire iron when changing a tire and break a finger?  Does the steam build In the back of your head when someone says about your perfectly crafted prose that they don't understand it, or it's preachy or telling or clique and you defend it, of course?  Answer yes to any of these and you probably have a overly large ego.  An over-sized ego breeds envy.

Image result for ego and writing

Ann Lamott wrote in her book on writing, Bird by Bird:
If you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with [envy] because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know—people who are, in other words, not you . . .You are going to feel awful beyond words. you are going to have a number of days in a row where you hate everyone and don’t believe in anything. if you do know the author whose turn it is, he or she will inevitably say that it will be your turn next, which is what the bride always says to you at each successive wedding, while you grow older and more decayed.
It can wreak just the tiniest bit of havoc with your self-esteem to find that you are hoping for small bad things to happen to this friend—for, say, her head to blow up.

From <>

 That takes me as to why write if we are not confident and our ego isn't overly large.  I for one, like to express my thoughts and feelings in print.  It may be for myself, solely (which is actually rare) or for the convincing of  others as to my point of view or to be thought provoking by providing an interesting piece that someone would like to read.

If, as a writer, we want to provide work for people to read.  Then, I think that we have to be respectful of the audience.  We, over time, have a responsibility to write in such a manner as not to put off the reader.  Foremost, this comes in the form of good construction of the written word.  Now, on to content;  to present interesting material that draws in the reader and builds on the argument or plot, if you will. 

I think that there are very few of us that are looking for a place in history like Poe or Hemingway to be read, studied and remembered for all the rest of time.  I, for one, would like to spin a yarn that a reader would enjoy as much as I enjoyed writing it.  I don't care if Hemingway thinks writing, at its best, is a lonely life (as I sit here in the dark by myself, when everyone else in the household is in bed).  I am comfortable with myself, I'm my second best friend after my wife.  I would feel successful if my book was in the bottom of the barrel at Goodwill for Twenty-five cents.  But, I have to write it before it gets there.  Perhaps, the best validation of our writing is if someone gives us some money for it, from time to time, and we transition from amateur to professional.

Already, in the few sessions I've attended at the Kitsap's Writers Group, I like to think that my writing has grown and/or matured.  Insights given are spot-on.  The time and effort put into the depth of the critiques I have received is not to be under appreciated.  In times past I have had a series of epiphanies that brought me to the realization that I am flawed.  I don't always have the right answers to any given topic regardless of how passionate I am about it.  I think disjointedly and truncate my writing as though I'm doing an "Operators Manuel" rather than a robust descriptive piece with depth and emotion.  The aggravating thing is I can't see it until it is pointed out to me by the group. Then yippee… I can fix that. 

As I read posts by published authors(on Google+), I smile when they comment about a discussion or debate they've had with their critique group on, say, Point-of-view, or Tense, or author intrusion, or whatever.  I agree fully with those that feel a group is important; birds of a feather do flock together and everyone who writes would write better when swimming in the pool with other writers. 

Ego is okay if healthy.  Confidence is even better and if the confidence level is low, study, practice, and more practice will grow and strengthen it.  So much the better for building confidence when a group of like minded souls lovingly contribute their two-cents.  If you are a fledgling writer like I am, join a writers group.  If you are seasoned and at the top of your game, join a writers group and share. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Princess and the Apprentice by Roland Boykin

I am not one for book reviews for several reasons; foremost, I don't think I'm really qualified to judge another persons writing.  I, generally, don't know the person that wrote it  and admire that their book was published for what skill they have and I like the book or not.  On my Kindle after reading a book it pops up with book review option - "Before you go - Say something about this book."  I might be inclined to do so, but I have a hard enough time at the keyboard composing my thoughts, so index fingering a response for a book review leaves me fatigued.  Oh, and by the way, the Kindle doesn't let you off easy; it is work to get by the review request.

That said.  I know Roland Boykin.  Not well, but better since hooking up on Google+.  You can get a measure of a person by what they post and pictures they show.  I really like cats too, by the way.  This I decided to write a review of Roland's book I finished a few weeks ago.

Here are a few things that strikes me as a good book. 

  1. Depth of characters:  Do they become real to me?
  2. Plot development:  Does it take me where it hints to with a twist here and there?
  3. Cleverness:  How original is it?  Of course, it is said that every human condition has been written about, so, thus, what neat clever way has it been approached in this book?
  4. Audience, is this book written for a genre in a particular age group or across a wide spectrum or readers?
  5. Finally, do I want to read more of this author?

Before I start my review.  I'll say I thoroughly enjoyed Roland Boykin's book.

These points above are not in any order of importance.  For Roland's book I'll start with the audience.

When I finished his book my wife asked me how did I like it.  First thing that came to mind was it is an easy read.  I finished it in two evenings.  The story seems targeted at high school/young adult.  Which may be why I liked it so well.  Language is clean, not sexually graphic, and the violence (have to have violence when dealing with monsters) is appropriately applied in this book.

 The Princess and the Apprentice is written in a well used and largely abused genre of fantasy.  That makes it difficult to get a original plot or theme going.  I think Roland knows this and employs a good bit of cleverness along with his character development to carry the day. 

The main characters are likable and although you don't overly worry about them you because know what outcomes there are going to be it is interesting to see how Roland gets them through their trials.  I especially like it when the heroes are in a tough spot and I can't see a way out and the author then saves them in a way I could not imagine.   Roland does that well.

The plot starts off straight forward enough for this type of book.  Then as Shelton on the "Big Bang Theory" says  -  Zingna;  or gotcha, bet you didn't see that twist coming.  I won't spoil it for you by telling what that is.

Finally,  Roland neatly ties up the end with a well worked out teaser for a follow-on book.  Which, I hope isn't to long in coming.

My recommendation is if you like fantasy and/or a cleverly written book that will take you away for a couple days then I say read  Princess and the Apprentice.