Personal Musing

All posts in the Personal Musing category

VOICE OF A SPANISH DANCER – COMING TO MY SENSES

Published April 3, 2017 by rochellewisoff

COMING TO MY SENSES

        There is a scene in my second novel, FROM SILT AND ASHES, where Yussel Gitterman tells his grandchildren that the Almighty is merciful. His fifteen-year-old grandson, who has survived the violence in Eastern Europe, lashes out. “When we light candles for the dead, it will start a bonfire. How can you call that God’s mercy?”

            Yussel, who is blind, answers by pressing his hand over Lev’s eyes. He then challenges the boy to see his surroundings with his ears, nose and skin.

 “Tell me what you hear, Lev.”

“I hear Bayla and Evie’s giggles.”

“Anything else?”

For a moment Lev stood still, bit his lip and cocked his head. “Kreplakh’s (dog) snoring under the sofa. Tikvah’s (infant) bawling.”

“Good, Lev. Now what do you smell?”

“What do I smell?” Lev’s voice scaled up an octave with each word.

“You have a nose?”

“Sure.”

“And it works?”

“All right. All right. I smell…mm…sponge cake and apple pie. Coffee. Aunt Cate’s lavender perfume and Uncle Wolf’s nasty cigar.”

“You see, Lev, not all smells are pleasant. Not all sounds are sweet. But…we are alive. That, my son, is God’s mercy.”

            For the past couple of weeks, the weather in our area has been, to say the least, wet and gloomy. Although the rain is much needed, day after day of grey skies has had me digging holes in my outlook.

            Inspired by my friend, Valerie Davies’ blog https://valeriedavies.com/2017/03/26/simple-pleasures-they-may-not-be-what-you-think/           and thinking about my book’s passage, which is one of my favorites, I’ve decided to take Yussel’s challenge.

            I exercise at least five days a week—sometimes less, sometimes more. More often than not, depending on the weather, I walk to the fitness center, a little over a mile away. This way I am able to do both weight bearing and aerobic exercise.

            To some, swimming laps might seem like the penultimate boredom. Not to this Spanish Dancer. The gurgle and swish of the waves is music. I note the difference in watery tones as I vary my strokes and the way the water billows when I exhale. As I flip-turn like an Olympic swimmer to change directions, I’m weightless, buoyed by the current. Unlike an Olympic swimmer embroiled in a race, I take my time when I somersault and enjoy the patterns the ripples make. As I suspend for a few seconds I note the way the water blossoms overhead.

Spanish Dancer Human

Spanish Dancer Jellyfish

            Once showered and dressed, I’m ready for my mile trek home.

            Spring is upon us and splashes of color are everywhere—bright yellow Daffodils and Dandelions—Redbuds and Dogwoods, stunning against a Payne’s grey sky. I fill my eyes with them.

The scent of charcoal from someone’s fire the night before hangs on the breeze. Exhaust fumes and a hint of cigarette smoke taint the rain and grass scented air. I wrinkle my nose. “Not all smells are pleasant.” As I near home I breathe in the scent of hyacinths from a neighbor’s garden.

            Crossing a bridge I, listen to the voice of the water as it flows over rocks. Although I don’t know one bird’s call from another, I can tell that there are several different species singing their arias. Robins, geese, crows and owls are among the few I recognize. A lawnmower starts up in the distance. A rooster crows. Two dogs bark as I pass their turf. A chainsaw grinds and a rake scrapes the sidewalk. “Not all sounds are sweet.”

            I am happy to be alive.  

 

TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO AUTHOR HAS GONE BEFORE

Published April 1, 2017 by rochellewisoff

Today, April 1st,  Pegman takes us 225 million kilometers to Mars.

Feel free to stroll around the area using the Google street view and grab any picture you choose to include in your post. Be sure to wear your helmet, and watch out for storms!

To enjoy stories inspired by the What Pegman Saw prompt or to submit your own 150-word story, visit the inLinkz button:

For guidelines and rules for the What Pegman Saw weekly writing prompt, visit the home page.

Thanks to J Hardy Carroll and Karen Rawson for hosting this mission to Mars.

Happy April One-eth. So it should surprise me that our host should choose a place like Mars? Below is my choice from the Pegman Prompt Buffet and my story, submitted for your approval. 

Genre: Memoir and Musing

Word Count: 150

WHERE NO AUTHOR HAS GONE BEFORE

            In the 1950’s, my parents, who owned a restaurant in downtown KC, would hand my brother a few dollars and say, “Jeff, take your sister to the movies.” This afforded them a couple of child-free hours.

            Jeff chose the movies. I never minded. We saw them all—The Mysterians, Forbidden Planet, and so on—while munching popcorn and jujubes. I don’t remember being bothered by the fact that, in many of the flicks, the actors’ lips didn’t sync with the dubbed voices.

            When I turned eleven, Jeff introduced me to “The Martian Chronicles.”  I fell in love with Bradbury’s golden eyed, bronzed skinned Martians.

            My love for sci-fi has continued over the years. Yet, my writing hasn’t bent much in that direction. Heinlein I’ll never be.

            However, given the unprecedented popularity of “The Martian,” perhaps I’d attract a larger audience if I’d written, “Please Say Kaddish for Me on Mars.”

*

*

*

In any event, if you do like historical fiction about the Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century you might enjoy my trilogy 😉 :

HERDING CATS

Published February 13, 2017 by rochellewisoff

HERDING CATS

The Joys of Hosting a Blog Challenge

A few weeks ago former Friday Fictioneer  Karen Nelson invited me to write an article about my experience for her new online magazine entitled

literary-citizen-cover

Click here to read the rest of the magazine.

To learn more about the editor click here to read an interview with another former fictioneer and fellow author Jan Morrill.

Karen Nelson

Karen Nelson

Following is the article as it appears in the magazine. Warning! It’s longer than a flash fiction. 😉 

HERDING CATS

            Four years ago, as a newly published author of a short story anthology, writing and rewriting my first novel, I didn’t have much of a direction for my blog. The few articles I posted were met with overwhelming disinterest.

One April day I noticed a Facebook post by someone named Madison Woods on the Ozarks Writers League page announcing the time had come for Friday Fictioneers. I found the title intriguing so I asked her about it.

She explained that every Wednesday she put up a photo and each participant was to insert it into his or her own blog page and write a short story to go with it. I decided to try my hand at it. From the first hundred words, I was hooked. I quickly learned that less really can be more. This revelation spilled over into my longer pieces.

Even more addicting than the writing was the interaction of an international group of writers. Although it took me a few weeks to catch onto comment protocol, I soon learned how to give and receive. I was fascinated by the variety of stories and poems one photograph can inspire. The themes range from light and funny to dark and sinister.

Soon, I developed close friendships with some of the other writers. I looked forward to my weekly serving of magic until one morning my friend, Doug, on the Big Island asked, “Are you going to take over Friday Fictioneers?”

“Why would I do that?”

“Didn’t you get Madison’s email?”

Sure enough, I found an email from Madison saying it was time for her to move on. She offered Friday Fictioneers to anyone who might be interested in taking over after October. I felt like I’d lost my best friend.

When I shared the news with my husband, Jan and cousin, Kent, they, too, encouraged me to bid for the facilitator role. Never one to take on leadership roles, I couldn’t see myself in that position.

“Why not you?” asked Kent. “You know the ropes and you have the chops. I think you should go for it.”

Jan agreed with Kent.

I bounced the idea around in my head for a few hours. Nothing will change. I haven’t missed a week in six months. I’ll still post my stories. The only difference will be that I’ll be choosing the photos.  

Apparently the impassioned plea I sent Madison convinced her, too, for she announced my adoption of her baby that very week. The photo prompt she chose was of a bus and I knew I was in for an exciting ride. Here’s the story I posted:

FRIDAY’S BUS

Apprehensions whelmed the new driver. How could she steer this behemoth? Her feet barely reached the gas pedal.

A lithe maiden with pointed ears and iridescent wings floated past her.  Next was an imposing man whose black silk cape skimmed the floor. One by one, diverse passengers stowed their baggage and found their seats.

“Welcome,” said the last in line. “I’m Russell.”

Warmed by his congenial smile she tried not to stare at his plastic clown nose and grasped his offered hand.

Zzzzzzt! His joy buzzer sent shockwaves to her shoulder.  

He chortled. “Are we there yet?” 

Here’s a link to that post complete with comments from my fellow fictioneers. https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/fridays-bus/

Russell Gayer, FF Class Clown

Russell Gayer, FF Class Clown 

***

            The first month or so went smoothly. I received a lot of support from other members and quite a few offers of photos for potential prompts.

As with any group, even those online, personality quirks and conflicts arose. One fictioneer I’d considered a friend, lashed out at me in a scathing email in which she accused me developing “an over- inflated Friday Fictioneers Ego.” Without going into detail about the situation, suffice it to say, her words stung like needles.

Another memorable time came when one member decided to use my page as a platform to preach her religion. This sent a flurry of complaints to my inbox.

I tried, via email, as diplomatically as possible, to persuade the would-be evangelist to confine her proselytizing to her own page. She never replied but, eventually disappeared from our midst.

Occasionally, a zealous blogger will link his unrelated blog to the Friday Fictioneers’ inLinkz in order to draw traffic to his site. In those instances, I will notify the person to let him know I’ve deleted his link and why. Most of the time there’s no response but in a few instances I’ve been called a control freak or worse.

For the most part, I enjoy the interaction and have learned from other writers. As a child I had a few pen –pals, one in Wales and another in South America. It was so much fun to get those letters and feel like I’d, in some way, traveled overseas. To me, Friday Fictioneers is akin to having pen-pals on steroids.

To my amazement, Friday Fictioneers has gained popularity and has been featured in three separate WordPress articles about blog writing challenges. Each time my following increased exponentially and participation has topped out as high as 100 writers in one week.

Pet Peeves

            In the beginning, I felt it my responsibility as facilitator to read and comment on each story. After a couple of years it occurred to me that I had neither the time nor the stamina. Perhaps it sounds selfish but I’ve come to the point where I mostly comment on stories of the writers who most often comment on mine. I understand we live in busy societies and not everyone has time to read every story. As I tell folks in the rules, reciprocation is half the fun. Some are great participants while others merely link their pages and neither comment nor reply. To those I return the favor.

And in the end, the love you send…

            An article about Friday Fictioneers wouldn’t be complete without a few examples. I’ll begin with the photo submitted by C. E. Ayr, who describes himself as a Scot who has discovered Paradise in a small town he calls Medville on the Côte d’Azur in France. The following five stories were inspired by this single photo.

PHOTO PROMPT © CEAYR

PHOTO PROMPT © CEAYR

 

HERO

By Himself, C.E. Ayr

Times change.
The floodlights still illuminate the night sky.
The crowd still roars as once it roared for me.
But no more.
The sound echoes across the water to where I sit, feet wet, in my little boat.
I think back to the good times when I was the city’s hero.
When everyone loved me.
When she loved me.
As the dampness reaches my knees I recall faces smiling, doors opening.
And I remember the mistakes that were made.
Followed by scowls, and impassable barriers.
And she said goodbye.
The lights go out abruptly.
The darkness closes over my head.

***

LONG DISTANCE CALL

by Margaret Leggatt – Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia

‘Hello. Zack speaking.’

‘Hi, honey. It’s me. I’m going to be late.’

‘What’s happened?’

‘Well, I had such a long list of pickups. I travelled miles. The professor’s so particular about what he wants, but I did my best, and I’ve collected some great specimens. I’m sure he’ll be satisfied.’

‘So what’s the hold-up? You haven’t lost a specimen again, have you?’

‘Oh no – all sedated and secure. The problem is, these streets all look the same at night; I can’t remember where I parked, and now the portal’s closed and I’ve missed the last transporter beam out of here.’

***

THE MEET-UP

By Dale Rogerson – Boucherville, Quebec

It was supposed to be for a light lunch. Neither was hungry, so they had a drink: water for her, soda for him.

They sat at a table and exchanged pleasantries. He asked questions, his gaze intense and she felt like he was reading more than her words. She felt the tension build and squirmed in discomfort, feeling totally exposed, yet strangely excited.

Before she knew how, he made her feel things she never imagined.

As he left her, dazed, yet lit up, he said, “You’ll see, this will play out in your head all day.”

He was not kidding.

***

I SAW IT

By Kent Bonham – Olathe, KS. USA

My last trip to Spain won me a date with Alicia, an actress-model I had been trying to go out with a long time.

We walked arm in arm through the dark streets, like in the movies!

Pigeons flew from the ground, almost on cue.

I turned to kiss her lovely face.

A pigeon swooped down, pooped a nasty on my white pants.

Startled, I spun around, knocked Alicia into a fountain. Her skirt flew over her head … and “Victoria” shared ALL her “secrets!”

“C’est la vie,” I said.

She slapped me.

She thought I said, “Se la ví.”  

***

Lastly, another one from the author herself.

SWINGJUDEN

            In 1969 my mother packed me off to my aunt and uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin.

“But Mom, Uncle Otto’s weird. That eyepatch and those scars—ick.”

***

            One night he took my Jefferson Airplane record from the stereo and replaced it with his own 45.

“You tink das ist protest music? ‘It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,’” He sang. “The SS ransacked our nightclub, but I danced all the way to Buchenwald.”

Uncle Otto taught me more than the jitterbug that summer.

***

            At his funeral last year I saluted my favorite uncle with, “Swing Heil!”
 

AN AUTHOR IN PARADISE – AN INTERVIEW WITH C. E. AYR

Published February 6, 2017 by rochellewisoff
C. E. Ayr

C. E. Ayr

C.E. Ayr has always been somewhat nomadic, fairly irresponsible and, according to his darling daughter, a bit random.
His work history ranged from
selling programmes at his local football club to running his own company which supplied IT solutions to the retail sector.
He has now discovered Paradise in a small town he calls Medville on the Côte d’Azur.
Hence the title of his recently published book of Sound Bite Fiction, MEDVILLE MATTERS.

medville-matters

Your Bio was written a few years ago, has anything changed?

On the surface, not much.
I am still, to my surprise, in Medville.
I am, rather sadly, happier than I have ever been in my life.
I am relaxed and creative, I write Sound Bite Fiction of 100 words and novellas of 20,000 words.
I write poetry and, arguably, song lyrics.
I have heard very different versions of my stuff produced in very different ways by very different musicians.
Yep, Bluegrass to Heavy Metal.
I have seen Carolina Sartor, a Canadian artist of exceptional talent, translate a children’s poem into twenty-two breathtakingly beautiful images well beyond the scope of my imagination, culminating in the creation of The Famous Green Hunchback Turtle of Béthune, my latest book for children.

he can sky dive

he can sky dive

I have met some interesting guys and some beautiful ladies.
And, most amazingly, I have found the best friend I have ever had in my life.
I have grown up and become sensible.
Did I mention that I write fiction?

What made you decide to be a writer?

I grew up in South Africa at a time when there was no television and very little English-language radio, so I became a voracious, almost compulsive, reader.
So story-telling has always seemed natural to me.

What is your favorite genre? Why?

I read across-the-board fiction, enjoying anyone who can tell a story.
I would say I am not a big fan of horror, but I am a huge admirer of Stephen King, or of Westerns, but I love Elmore Leonard.
I am also not too keen on Science Fiction, but I am impressed by Wells, Asimov and Clarke, and the dystopian works of Orwell, Bradbury and Huxley.
I devour the crime stories of quality writers like Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Robert Crais, and Scotland’s Ian Rankin.

Who is the author who inspires you the most?

I guess that John Steinbeck is top of that list, his seemingly effortless prose creating works as diverse as The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row. His writing always seems to have a power unmatched by anyone else.
But I have to give honourable mentions to Franz Kafka and Hermann Hesse, along with more modern authors including Paul Auster, Sebastian Faulks and Iain Banks.
Apart from Rankin and Banks, I am also inspired by other compatriots, from Robert Louis Stevenson and Lewis Grassic Gibbon, through Alasdair Gray to Irvine Welsh and A L Kennedy.
And, of course, I pay homage to the genius who is Dr Seuss!
I apologise to other favourites who are temporarily hidden in strange dark corners of my mind.

How often do you write?

Pretty much every day, but times vary.
Typically the afternoon is my leisure time when, depending on season, I walk or swim. This is when I am most creative, and I constantly make notes of thoughts and ideas, no mean feat when I am up to my ears in my beloved Mediterranean Sea.
Then I draft stories on paper, longhand, while I relax at the Little Café in the Square or the Little Café  at the Port, both of which I feature in my tales.

'tis a hard life

’tis a hard life

The following morning I input these to my laptop, filling in the blanks and trimming the redundancies, before emailing them to my friend and first line editor Emmy L. Gant for her critical analysis. And as a backup in case of natural disaster, which I can be!

Do you have any major projects in the works?

Most importantly, I am currently looking for a publisher for The Famous Green Hunchback Turtle of Béthune, as mentioned above.
I have two novellas at the finishing stage, with no clear idea of what I will do with them.
I rarely write with a market in mind, I produce just what the muse says at the time.
Occupation tells of a small group of resistance fighters in a land occupied by The Creation, while Abduction is a tale of vengeance, where one man pursues the organisation who kidnapped his girl.
They are very different in content but, like my previously published e-book, The Second Request, are written in my trademark short line style.

the-second-request-image
I am, of course, thinking about a second book of Sound Bite Fiction, but living in a non-English speaking country makes marketing difficult at a personal level.
I certainly have enough material, in fact probably enough for three books, I am nothing if not prolific.
My recent stories are generally slightly longer and, I believe, even more personal than Medville Matters.

In what way is your writing becoming more personal?

Ah, good question!
I find it an interesting paradox that the more fiction I write, the more of myself I expose.
But we create using ideas from within ourselves, our imagination, our dreams, our memories.
And not just our successes but, more pertinently, our failures and losses.
Some stories are pure fantasy (I kill far fewer folk in real life), but in others I feel that I have stripped my soul naked.

You say you also write poetry and songs. Who are your inspirations here?

Again, they are many and varied but, as a Scot who did several years of schooling only a couple of miles from his Ayrshire birthplace, I have to say that Robert Burns stands alone.
Outwith his work, my favourite poem is probably The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde.
And I am in awe of Leonard Cohen.

What are your writing goals for the future?

I don’t make goals, I rarely make any plans, I tend to live in the moment.
A few years ago I sold, or otherwise disposed of, everything I owned.
With my worldly possessions in two suitcases (one summer, one winter) I took a coach 500 miles to the English Channel, crossed to Calais and rented a car.
Other than the offer of temporary accommodation at Emmy’s home a further 750 miles to the south, I had nothing fixed in my mind.
Every day is an adventure.
Or, as Robert Heinlein (I forgot him earlier!) said, life is short, live wide.

What advice would you give other writers?

As Shakespeare says, advice is free and that’s all it’s worth.
But I do make a plea to everyone who tries to write.
Please, learn some basic grammar, and use a spell checker.
Okay, two words of advice.
Read.
(Not Tweets or the Sports pages, but real books by decent writers.)
Write.
(All the time.)

FACE TO FACE

Published January 23, 2017 by rochellewisoff
Theodore Roosevelt portrait

Theodore Roosevelt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Several times over the past few years, as I’ve painted “portraits” of my characters, someone has asked who I used for models. As a rule the answer is, “no one in particular.” In fact, I’ve often thought if I ever need a regular job, I could apply for one as a police sketch artist since I’ve become adept at composites: the eyes from one model coupled with a nose and mouth from another. “Oh, and that’s the perfect hairstyle.” I admit to using a few celebrity photos, although I try not to make them look like portraits. On the other hand, if it’s meant to be a portrait I’m a little more particular. 

        Google images and Pinterest are wonderful places to find vintage photos for the dress and hairstyles of the day. All great fun for the girl who used to get in trouble for daydreaming in class while drawing pictures. Of course those daydreaming episodes were practice for my future storytelling career. 😉 

        From my first chapters of PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME I’ve had a mental image of Havah Cohen. 

havah-at-16

Havah at 16 © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Havah in her 20's © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Havah in her 20’s © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

Last week I had lunch with some friends. One of them brought an American history book he thought would come in handy for my research. It’s a lovely hardbound coffee table book with lots of pictures. 

He opened it to a bookmarked page and pointed to a photo of a young Russian Jewish immigrant and said, “I thought you might know this lady.” 

I suddenly felt like Karen Eiffel, (Emma Thompson) the author in the movie “Stranger than Fiction” coming face to face with Harold Crick (Will Ferrell). There she was, the girl whose voice I heard in my dreams. Do you agree? 

i-know-this-lady

 

INSIDE THE QUIRKY MIND OF SARAH POTTER

Published January 9, 2017 by rochellewisoff

 

sarah-potter

It’s my great pleasure to start the year off by interviewing Friday Fictioneers regular, Sarah Potter who lives in a house on a hill, with panoramic views over the English Channel in SE England. Sharing the house are her husband, son and chocolate Labrador, all three of whom are great supporters of her literary endeavours. When not writing novels, she pens haiku and tanka poems, takes nature photographs, grapples with bindweed and snails in the garden, invents recipes, and sings mezzo-soprano.

What made you decide to be a writer?

My love affair with writing fiction and poetry blossomed at the age of eight. I could read before I went to school, which gave me a head-start with vocabulary. My mother read me lots of books as well; ones that were too advanced for me to read myself, such as The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White. Also, she made up stories off the top of her head. I remember in particular her tales about The Eccentric Man who liked to do things such as having operations without anesthetic (wince). At senior school, I wrote exercise-book length novellas: popstar or sci-fi romances mostly. These proved a great hit with my classmates, as well as my piano teacher, who showed one of my literary creations to her English teacher boyfriend. He responded with the words “That girl will be famous one day”. …Still waiting, although I do have the line of fame on my palm, so maybe there’s still time for his prophecy to come true. In my 20s, I was too busy making ends meet to have time to write much, apart from poems that moved almost imperceptibly between depressed rambles and black comedies. At the age of 36, I decided to go to evening class and study for an AS Level in English, which I passed with a straight A, with full marks for the creative writing module. The same year, I watched Kevin Costner’s movie, A Field of Dreams, in which he said something along the lines of “I’m 36 and if I don’t fulfill my dreams now, I never will”. That’s when I decided to write my first novel, a time travel romance set in a psychiatric hospital.       

What is your favorite genre? Why?

This is a difficult question, as I read quite widely. My choice of fiction at any one time depends upon my mood. I’m not good with high literary, as it’s too exhausting. On the other hand, I can’t deal with pulp fiction that has two-dimensional characters and unadventurous vocabulary. There’s nothing that’s more of a delight to me than discovering a brilliant trilogy and reading all the volumes back-to-back. In particular, I love apocalyptic science fiction, with Justin Cronin’s “The Passage trilogy” at the top of my list. This genre fascinates me, not out of a sense of morbidity, but because of its epic scale. Throughout history people have demonstrated an amazing spirit of survival against a backcloth of good and evil, and the apocalyptic scenario takes them right to the point of extinction, yet there’s a core group with the vision and determination to fight back, using a combination of practical skills and a profound sense of community.

I enjoy Nordic Noir, too, especially Karin Fossum, and Scandinavian authors in general, my favourite being the quirky Danish author, Peter Hoeg, who writes in an accessible literary style. The novel for which he’s the most famous is Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, but my personal favourite is his less well known satirical anthropological novel The Woman and the Ape.

“Desiccation” is mesmerizing. How did you come up with the idea? How long did it take you to write it?

desiccationDesiccation is number three out of five novels, and was originally titled “Spaced-out”. They say write about what you know, so I based the setting for the story on the boarding school I attended in the latter part of the 1960s. The school never came under attack by body-snatching interdimensional aliens, although I seem to remember daydreaming about such things when I should have been concentrating on lessons. I did three months of research, which included reading a fascinating natural history book all about woodlice/pillbugs, followed by three months of writing the first draft. I sent the second draft out to a literary agent who said “I applaud your imagination and your writing skills, but it would be very hard to convince a publisher to take on a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and humour written by a first-time author”.  After this, I cast Desiccation aside and left it to marinade for ages, then rewrote it, then left it to marinade again, until in 2015 my family persuaded me to have a go at indie publishing one of my novels. My son voted for Desiccation, on the grounds that he’d found the first draft so exciting that he’d stayed up all night reading it and spent all the following day falling asleep at school.

I’m reading “Noah Padgett and the Dog-People” which, so far, is a rare treat. What can you tell us about it?

This is my fourth novel. I’m marketing it as a middle-grade children’s novel, although I suspect that most of my readers are aged 40 plus (much the noah-padgett-and-the-dog-peoplesame as with Desiccation). I like to think of Noah Padgett and the Dog-People as a multi-layered crossover novel that children and adults can enjoy at different levels. For instance, there’s Sergeant Salt and his Mercenary Lurcher Band, which is my joke on The Beatles’ album, Sergeant Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band. Children possibly won’t pick up on this, but they will still find the characters entertaining. The book is available as an audiobook, as well on kindle and in paperback. For me, hearing my book read by talented actress Mil Nicholson, who’s brilliant with the characters’ voices and accents, is almost as exciting as having it made into a movie.

The inspiration behind the story is my chocolate Labrador, who was a puppy at the time of writing. I kept having anxiety dreams in which I turned around for a moment and she disappeared, and the more I thought about it, the more the kidnapping of a beloved dog seemed like a disturbing central theme to a novel. Added to this, my mother used to breed and show dogs and my first job after leaving school was as a kennel maid, so again, it was writing about what I knew.  Here’s my novel’s three sentence hook…

When Noah Padgett and his chocolate Labrador puppy disappear through a computer screen, they find themselves in the Zyx-dimension, where the main species is Canis sapiens. Bluebell soon falls into the paw-hands of deranged entrepreneur Monsieur Percival Poodle, who likes to collect alien specimens and believes himself above the law. Meanwhile, Noah ends up in a high security hospital for criminally insane Canis sapiens, with no apparent means of escape and terrified for his beloved puppy’s safety.

Bluebell in the furry flesh. © Sarah Potter

Bluebell in the furry flesh. © Sarah Potter

Who is the author who inspires you the most?

Apart from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, you mean? ( 😉 ) This is a hard question to answer, as different authors have inspired me at different times in my life. These days I’m looking for five things in a book.

  • I find it so engaging that it compels me to sneak read it at breakfast time.
  • I care passionately about the fate of its characters.
  • The writing is crafted so beautifully that it gives me profound “wow” moments.
  • It teaches me something new, including techniques to improve my own writing.
  • When I’ve finished reading it, I suffer withdrawal symptoms and can’t settle to read anything else for a week or two.

I’ve already mentioned some of the authors who fit this bill, but who to choose above all others?  Here are the three authors who’ve taught me the most about writing as a craft: Donna Tartt, Rose Tremain, and Stephen King, and of those three, I would say that Donna Tartt triumphs over all.

How often do you write?

When I’m writing the first draft of a novel, I write for about five hours a day from Monday to Friday. For rewriting or editing, it’s around about three hours a day. Most weeks I write a haiku poem for the regular “Monday Morning Haiku” feature on my blog. Time permitting, I also participate in Friday Fictioneers, which I love. Any other writing is done at random times and scribbled on scraps of paper, which I scatter about the house or stuff in my coat pockets. Then I have to go on a hunt for them, having forgotten where I’ve put them, rather like a squirrel with its winter food hoard.  

Do you have any other major projects in the works?

I’ve an idea for a new work, which I’m researching at the moment. This is for a “genre bending” novel, better known as mashup fiction. This involves taking a literary classic that’s in the public domain and melding it with a genre. An example of this is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. At the moment, I’m reading the original Pride and Prejudice, and then I’m going to compare it to the mashup version and its sequel, Pride and Prejudice: Dreadfully Ever After. If I decide this type of novel is for me, I will go ahead writing it, with a view to submitting it to a traditional publisher or two. I’m keeping it close to my chest about which public domain work I intend to slaughter or enhance!

What are your writing goals for the future?

Ultimately, I would like to write a novel that literary agents and traditional publishers are willing to take a punt on. On the other hand, I don’t want to end up stuck with churning out novel after novel of the same ilk, unless I adore that ilk; otherwise, it will give me literary indigestion and a writer’s ulcer. If I can achieve recognition for my brand, namely “quirky fiction”, rather than for a particular genre, I will die happy.

Meanwhile, in the latter part of 2017, I might indie publish a third novel, most likely my medieval-style sword and sorcery fantasy adventure. This will be my experiment into whether it’s easier to market a novel that fits into a recognised subgenre, while still allowing for quirkiness. So far, my experience of marketing sucks.          

What advice would you give other writers?

  • Read widely.
  • Learn techniques and pick up skills from other authors, but develop your own voice.
  • Put your work under the microscopes of trusted beta readers who write well themselves and/or have editing experience. Don’t make changes immediately, but put the critiques aside for a week or two, especially if they annoy you! When you’ve calmed down and left your manuscript to marinade, compare the reader reports. If all of the readers pick up on a particular problem, then this problem needs addressing.
  • Don’t rely solely on your computer’s spellchecker.
  • Keep your writing muscles exercised, but don’t push it on days when you’re not in the mood. Go out for a walk or to the gym, meditate, have a sleep, clean the house, brush the dog, sing, dance, whatever. Anything other than writing total rubbish and beating yourself up about it.
  • Observe life closely, through all of your senses.
  • Give yourself plenty of thinking time.
  • Eat regular meals and don’t prop yourself up on strong coffee and donuts.
  • Don’t give up your day job and end up starving in your garret.

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Connect with Sarah: 

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Sarah’s Books on Amazon:
Desiccation
Noah Padgett & the Dog-People

 

Every Village Has One – An Interview with Russell Gayer

Published December 2, 2016 by rochellewisoff

russell-in-plaid

Like Benjamin Franklin, Russell Gayer spent most of his adult life in the printing industry, except for three years in which he was a framing carpenter. During that time he’s been honing skills that his wife, Connie, has made sure come in handy ever since. 

His collection humorous short stories, THE PERILS OF HEAVY THINKING, is available at Pen-L.com, Barns & Noble.com and Amazon.com.

Russell is the resident humorist of Friday Fictioneers who, every week, manages to pull laughter from the most somber photo prompt.

You may ask (or not ask) what makes Mr. Gayer tick? I did ask. Here are the answers:

 

What made you decide to be a writer?

I’m not sure it was a conscious choice. I began writing songs and poetry at an early age. I have written over 200 poems. The majority of them were pretty somber or serious stuff. I gave our neighbor, Linda Apple, a book containing some of my poems and short stories about ten years ago, and she invited me to attend a local critique group with her. Several people in that group were published authors who were willing to give of their time to help us “rookies” grow and improve. It was a very nurturing environment and I’m extremely grateful for their guidance and support.

What is your favorite genre? Why?

My favorite genre to write is humor. We live in a very fast-paced world filled with pressure, tension, and stress. People need an escape from that. Sometimes a little silliness is just what the doctor ordered. When people tell me they laughed out loud or snorted coffee out their nose while reading my work, I feel like I’ve touched them in a positive way and perhaps replaced some of that stress with joy, if only briefly.

I’m fascinated by near-death experience books. I find these stories encouraging and supportive of my spiritual beliefs—sort of an affirmation of faith—if you will.

Who is the author who inspires you the most?

My “go to guys” in the humor field are Patrick McManus, Dave Barry, and David Sedaris. Sedaris is more subtle in his approach to humor, but still very funny. I’m also a huge fan of Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder.

In addition to enjoying the story, I study the structure of their work. Their characters, how they set up a scene, use of dialogue and narration, any little thing that can help me become a better story teller. russell-in-coveralls

How often do you write?

I write something every day. Weekdays, I get up at 5 am and write for an hour. It could be on a story, or reading and commenting on blogs. When I go hunting, I take a pad and pen and write in the woods. Some of my most productive periods have occurred in the woods.

I am also what people in my writing group call a “Pantser,” meaning someone who doesn’t diagram out a story before they write, but simply flies by the seat of their pants.

Do you have any major projects in the works?

I’ve been working on ONE VILLAGE SHORT OF AN IDIOT for over a year now. This title was originally used in a Friday Flash Fiction post in October 2015. When I decided to turn the concept into a longer piece, I envisioned something in the neighborhood of 5,000 words. As of today, we’re at 29,000+ and counting. The characters have taken over the story on numerous occasions and created scenes that I never anticipated or would have thought of on my own. It’s been a real blast to write, as I never know what’s going to happen next.

What are your writing goals for the future?

I have a dozen other short stories lying around impatiently waiting for me to finish the Idiot saga. Hopefully, I’ll wrap that one up and hand them all off to Pen-L Publishing shortly after New Year’s. I was hoping for an April Fools book release, but that doesn’t seem too realistic at the moment.

What advice would you give other writers?

Write what you love. Be observant and study the work of others. Hone and polish your craft. Join a critique group and find a beta reader who will provide open and honest feedback. Attend writers’ conferences and rub elbows with published authors.

russell-and-mark-twainI’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

(This quote copied from fellow OWL member Lori Ericson’s blog) https://loriericson.com/2016/09/18/every-word-is-a-choice-and-opportunity/

 

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