Tuesday, July 31, 2007

After Signing

Well, I was really happy with the signing tonight. I’m still excited. I didn’t have a lot of people, but they were all enthusiastic and friendly and I sold quite a few books. I think the talk went over pretty well and I had a lot of folks come up after to chat. I didn’t have to sign until my hand cramped but I think I felt a twinge in my thumb once. (LOL) Apparently the library folks liked my presentation because they started talking to me about coming back once the third Taleran book is published. That would be very nice.

Among the folks who came were O’Neil and Debb De Noux, both writers and both good friends. I hadn’t seen either of them in probably over a year so that was nice. Elora Fink, from my Wordsmith’s writing group, drove all the way over the 24 mile bridge through rain and rush hour traffic to get there. Elora is always so supportive of her friends, writing or otherwise. I think she’s been to all of my signings and talks and I always appreciate seeing her. I think, btw, that Elora has some passing connection with the blogger known as Sphinx Ink. Brenda Howard came with Elora and bought a copy of all the books. I’ve met Brenda a couple of times before but hadn’t seen her in quite a long time either. Melissa Bryant was the lady from the Covington library who arranged all the details and made sure the room was set up. Much thanks to her. Her husband, Stephen, also attended, and it turns out Stephen and Melissa are from Arkansas. In fact, Stephen even attended Arkansas Tech where I went to undergraduate school, although we weren’t there at the same time. Some other folks who made the drive were Sarah and her husband Daniel. Sarah works with Lana at the Abita Springs library, and I’d spoken with her before. This was my first time meeting Daniel, and we talked quite a bit about psychology, a subject I occasionally dabble in.

And, of course, Lana was there, being her usual supportive self. I had to laugh earlier in the day, though, because I think she was more nervous than I was. All in all, I hope a good time was had by everyone. I know I had a good time. Sometimes it’s good for a writer to get out in public and meet real people.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Night the Roar Came

I was seventeen, living at home on our farm in Arkansas, when one night we heard a roar from the fields below the house. It sounded like I imagined a lion would sound, but this wasn’t Africa and I was no great safari hunter.

Whatever made that noise, it drove our cattle wild, sending them stampeding across the field, bawling as if their tails were on fire. My older brother and I grabbed our guns and took off in the truck for the source of the commotion. Both of us were afraid, and I know I felt the beginnings of terror because I had no idea what that roar could be. As far as I knew, nothing in Arkansas could roar like that. But I’d read about cattle mutilations and could easily imagine something that might make that sound. Something…not of this world.

We reached the field where the cows were and they had quieted down a bit. I had to open the gate for us to drive through, and that was terrifying in itself because I kept thinking of what might come out of the darkness. My heart was beating so hard that it fluttered my shirt. But I got the job done and lived to get back in the truck.

There was a little hill awaiting us, and as we crested it and started down the other side the lights flashed out over the field and for a moment I saw--literally--hundreds of little glowing purple balls floating in midair in the darkness in front of us, floating a few feet off the ground. Paul David, my brother, slammed on the brakes and we slid to a stop. I looked at him. He looked at me. I could feel the hairs curling on my neck, and I’ve always had a lot of hair to curl. I could hear the cows moving about, right in the midst of those purple floaters. How could that be? How could that be?

My brother was a braver man than I. He let off the brake, inched forward, and as the light from the headlights struck further into the field we saw suddenly that the floating purple orbs were eyes. But not alien eyes. It was the cows, their eyes wide open in terror as they reflected the headlights. I’d never seen them that scared before; nor have I since.

So what made the sound? We never found out. There were no tracks the next day, but we were missing a calf and we found its mother with her ears stripped to threads by the teeth or claws of...something. Before that night I often walked the farm in the darkness. After that night I seldom did again. Fear can go away, but terror lingers.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Suspense Work

I plan to center my talk at the Tuesday signing around the importance of suspense in all literature and how to develop it. One thing I plan to talk about is the difference between what I’m calling “Quick” and “Slow” suspense. Quick is what thrillers often open with: a bomb’s about to go off in a school, a plane’s engine sputters and fails, a fire breaks out in a hospital and starts to spread. Such events quickly put you into a dramatic situation. An obvious emergency has happened, is happening, and people who are helpless or unaware, or both, are in danger.

There’s nothing wrong with Quick suspense. Horror, thriller, and mystery novels certainly need it. In very short stories it may even be the only thing you have to work with. But Quick suspense cannot carry an entire novel, of any kind. You must have Slow suspense too, which is the kind that develops as we begin to care about characters. In the opening of a book, unless it’s part of a series that we’ve been reading, we have no idea who the characters are. We can only care about them in an abstract manner, which is why thriller openings often place into threat those who we generally view as “innocent.” Schoolchildren and hospital patients work well for such Quick suspense, but would you honestly care as much if you knew the bomb was going to go off in a maximum security prison where the inmates are all murderers and rapists?

Once people have started to develop an attachment to the characters, though, the possibilities of suspense are endless. Even problems that are small in the scheme of things can generate suspense when we care about characters. We don’t have to have bombs going off and fires raging out of control. We just have to have one character that we like trying to do something, achieve something, and being met with obstacles and struggle rather than easy success.

I like books that start with Quick suspense. But I’m hard pressed to make it all the way through the work unless the characters come to life and the suspense turns “Slow.”

Friday, July 27, 2007

As Signing Grows Nigh

My first signing for the Taleran Books is coming up this next Tuesday, July 31, at 6:30 PM in the Covington Branch Library. I know that most of you reading this aren't close enough to come, although I'd love to see anyone who can, but in case anyone is considering it the address is 310 W. 21st Ave, Covington, LA. The phone there is (985) 893-6280.

I will be giving a talk on writing before the signing, which will probably last about half an hour. My topic will be on writing, primarily on dreams as story prompts and on developing suspense. After that there will be time for questions before I do any signing. I'll have copies of "Swords" and "Wings," and also of my first book, Cold in the Light, and will be able to offer a slight discount on the Amazon cost to those who attend.

Please let everyone else know who might be interested and able to attend. I'm looking forward to a fun evening.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cut the Fat and the Metaphors

Most of you reading this already know what I'm going to say below, but I was working on this for an article for beginning writers and thought I would post it here. I've been working on a piece about how to speed up the pace of one's fiction in order to ratchet up the tension and suspense. Here's one of the points I made in the article.

"Cutting out extraneous wording can significantly increase the pace of a story, and the level of tension in suspenseful scenes. Phrases like “it seemed that” or “she wondered if” are often unnecessary anywhere in a tale, and they can be the deadly enemy of suspense. Even metaphors and similes, which are great for scene setting and for creating atmosphere, will slow the pace in action sequences. Tight noun and verb sentences convey the pounding, dynamic rhythm that the reader wants when bad things are about to happen on the page."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kinda Cool

Jonathan Maberry is a writer to watch. He's written a lot of nonfiction, both books and articles, but he made his first foray into long-form horror with a novel called Ghost Road Blues in 2006. It promptly won a Stoker award, and it was a well deserved win. I read the book last year, and blurbed it, and today I got in the mail from Amazon Jonathan's second horror novel, Dead Man's Song. I'll be starting this in the next day or two, and am looking forward to it.

Ghost Road Blues takes place in Pine Deep, a smallish Pennsylvania town that was visited by a serial killer thirty years earlier. That killer was killed in turn, but the evil that arrives just before Halloween thirty years later seems to have old roots, roots that begin to twist and twine through the town, intent on destroying it from within. “Ghost Road” was the first novel that I’d read in quite a while that actually gave me shivers. I thought it was very atmospheric, with solid action scenes, great suspense all along, and some chilling imagery. If I had to pick some influences on “Ghost Road,” I’d say that it reminded me a bit in places of works by Joe Lansdale and Robert McCammon. There is also some Ray Bradbury influence, and maybe a smidgen or two of Charles Grant. The cover of the second book mentions King but I think that’s just publicity. I didn’t really see a lot of King in “Ghost Road,” although Maberry has a similar knack for creating everyday characters that stick with you.

“Ghost Road” is actually the first book of a trilogy, although I felt that it stood well on its own. Dead Man’s Song is the sequel, and I’m not sure what the third book is to be called. I really recommend “Ghost Road,” and I’ll let you know what I think of “Dead Man” after I finish it. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about Jonathan Maberry, his website is here.

Oh, and Dead Man’s Song even mentions me in the thank you section, and has my blurb for “Ghost Road” included among many others. How cool is that?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Recreational Anger

I’m reading a book that’s pissing me off pretty badly, but I’m still rather enjoying it. It’s called Hell Bent for Leather: Confessions of a Heavy Metal Addict, and it’s by a British fellow named Seb Hunter. Hunter is a younger fellow than I, but with many similar musical experiences. He and I were both in bands as teenagers, although he took it much more seriously and took it further than I did.

The book is decently written, although it wanders about a good bit. There is some information that I didn’t know, particularly about the British metal scene. There are a few problems, though. First, even though Hunter claims to be a “Heavy Metal Addict” he clearly doesn’t have much respect for the genre. I don’t know if it’s because he wanted to be famous and never made it, or if he’s moved on to different music as he’s aged, but the work is full of snide comments and putdowns that he perhaps considers to be funny. I don’t find them funny. He is horribly dismissive of whole bands and even subgenres, but I think part of that is “style” over “substance” problems. He dismisses the band Krokus as worthless, for example, but while Krokus had quite a silly image (in my opinion) they put out some really good rocking tunes, including “Stayed Awake All Night” and “Screaming for Vengeance.” Their style wasn’t much, but there was some substance there.

Bizarrely, to me, he also dismisses Motley Crue while it’s clear that his strongest influences were the 1980s Glam Rockers. He likes/liked Ratt, Hanoi Rocks, Faster Pussycat, Poison, apparently unaware that none of those bands would either have existed or reached any level of fame without Motley Crue paving the way. Poison, of course, is laughable as a heavy metal band. There was nothing of heavy or metal about them. Again, it’s style over substance.

I wouldn’t personally call myself a heavy metal addict, but it’s by far the main type of music I listen to. I don’t mind seeing the field addressed with humor--I rather enjoyed the movie Spinal Tap--but I don’t find it funny when someone who claims to be an insider tries to gut it from within. I could care less what someone says about metal who doesn’t really listen to it, but I have to admit that it bothers me when 1) the critic is someone who seemingly has listened enough to the music to know better, and 2) when the focus of the criticism is on style over substance.

All right. Enough of my rant for the day.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

For Research Purposes

Sidney Williams has a great post today on using the internet for research to help you build your characters. It's called "The Web as Central Casting" and there's some bonus info on using photography sites. I've used internet name sites to help me with developing character names but hadn't thought of the ideas laid out in Sid's post.

Check it out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Writer Ugly Part 2

Steve and Candice have each posted on the problems and possibilities of the ugly first draft. Clearly, how “ugly” one can go depends quite a bit on an individual writer’s personality. Candice was wondering if some of her productivity while writing longhand comes from not being able to “rework” a page as easily as if it were on the computer, which forces her to “move on.” This made me wonder if there were any way to get this effect on a computer, and I have a couple of possibilities to throw out.

First, something I’ve done myself for experimentation purposes is to turn the color of my font to white on a white background. This prevents even the possibility of reading and correcting while I’m writing. Certainly there will be some spelling errors (teh anyone?), but as long as you make sure to start with your fingers on the right keys you won’t get gibberish. Once you’ve finished a section you just do select all and turn the font black.

Second, Lana has a font that she downloaded from the web which changes English words into Viking runes. There are also fonts on my computer that change words into symbols. What if you wrote in either a runic or symbols font, then used select all to turn the words back into an English font? I tried writing this post in the symbol font and found that I actually knew when I’d misspelled a word, because my fingers would tell me. I’d just backspace to take out the word and go on. But trying to edit such a work to correct wording would be impossible. For some reason, typing the symbols didn’t always work because when I turned it back to English words there were sections that didn’t translate. I have no idea why. The runes worked fine, though.

The easiest thing for me was to write white on white. And this paragraph was written that way. I simply found myself looking more at the keyboard while I composed than looking at the computer screen, although staring off into space would probably have been just as effective.

I’m not sure either of these mechanical aids to writing ugly will be helpful to anyone here, but it seemed worth a post. At times they might be quite inconvenient, if you were doing a lot of plotting as you wrote. But they might work if you were really focused on simply getting a draft of some scene down. I also suspect they might be more helpful to newer writers rather than those who have already developed the writing habit and are used to how we “do things.”

By the way, Writer Ugly refers, of course, to the writer whose first draft is so ugly you’d rather pull your eyes out rather than read it. (With apologies to the phrase “Coyote Ugly.”)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

By way of Introduction

It’s already bone hot in the dawn, the white sun bruising down through a haze of alkali dust that sifts out of the desert air. Kainja sits astride his stallion, Skaal, gazing out at the vast rock and sand plain that lies before him. Dust coats his leathers, turns his scars pale. Only his yellow eyes give a hint of color, and it is a cold color. He thinks, briefly, of a silver pool in a courtyard where children play. He thinks of laughter that tinkles. Then he shakes the thoughts away, knowing that he no longer deserves those memories, and he urges Skaal forward into the vastness, into the Thorn Desert, which no one has lived to cross before.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Writer Ugly

Let yourself write ugly. You probably wouldn’t get up from a night’s sleep and go directly out on a date. You’d fix yourself up a bit first. But you don’t blame yourself for your morning face, morning hair, morning breath. Treat your writing the same way. It doesn’t have to be perfect, or even presentable, when it first comes out of your head onto the screen. Get stuff down and then worry about making it look and sound good.

No one in the world has to see the first words you put down. You can try out anything you like, use any word that pleases you, make any argument you want to make, and no one can deny or contradict you. No one can tell you: “That sucks!” Who cares if what you put down is ugly? You can always fix it later.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Illuminata Pub

The July Illuminata is out. There are three pieces on writing in this issue, including an expansion on a piece that first appeared in this blog on "The Physical Side of Writing." Other than that I don't have much writing related stuff to report.

I've finished a couple of good books lately. Men of Bronze by Scott Oden, whose name is on my links, is a historical novel set in Egypt nearing the end of the Egyptian empire, but it reads much like a heroic fantasy novel. Scott knows his history and works it deftly into the story, but he doesn't let detail slow down the action. The main character, Barca, is a brutal warrior with a deep sensitive streak. The villain is well constructed and provides an excellent foil for Barca.

I also enjoyed Death Reign of the Vampire King, a pulp novel of The Spider by Norvell Page. Page's work is non-stop action and moves as fast as any modern thriller. Plus he has all those cool pulp features. Don't you love that title?

Friday, July 13, 2007


I’ve been tagged by Donnetta and should I agree to accept my assignment I am supposed to tell you eight things about myself. I’m also supposed to post the rules here and tag eight other people. I’m going to tweak the rules a bit, something I do fairly well.

First, I’ll simply link you to Donnetta’s blog, as I did above, which lists the rules.

Second, I’m going to tag the same people Donnetta tagged, even though I don’t know all of them, and this means that if they accept Donnetta’s tag they will fulfill my tag as well.

Now, for the eight things about me.

1. I have at least 18 scars, ranging from about the size of a watch battery to one that is around twelve inches long and four across. These are from various things, but the worst ones are from two bad motorcycle wrecks.

2. I cut the tags out of my t-shirts because they bug me.

3. I once won a trophy in seed judging, back when I was in the 4-H as a kid. I still have the trophy.

4. I’m a Type A personality, which means I often multi-task, try to do everything quickly, and often feel as if I’m under time-pressure. However, Type A’s are supposed to be ambitious too and I don’t have that trait at all, unless it’s the ambition to be ignored by all powers that be so I can do my own thing.

5. I love cucumbers but they don’t love me.

6. The only sport I really care to watch is football, but I find myself watching it less as the “showboating” increases. Because I really, really hate showboating.

7. I can’t stand court shows like Judge Judy. I hold most reality TV judges in contempt and believe they need to be given a good spanking and taught some humility. They also need to be educated on the basics of treating people with dignity.

8. My favorite color is maroon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've been doing a fair amount of "grammar" study lately, partly just to refresh myself and partly for an article I'm working on. Last night I was reading up on prepositions, and I thought I'd post a bit here about them. (BTW, thanks to everyone for their comments on my "tense" post. It was a very helpful discussion.)

Prepositions are words such as “in,” “to,” “with,” “at,” “for,” “from,” “upon,” “among,” “between,” “behind,” and “about.” They indicate the relationship between a noun or pronoun and some other word in the sentence. He undressed behind the hedge is an example of this usage. “He undressed” is connected to “hedge” by “behind.”

It is a common belief, but a wrong one, that a writer should never end a sentence with a preposition. The most likely reason for the belief is that in casual speech people often add an unnecessary preposition to the end of a sentence. Where should we go to, or, Where have you been at are examples of this. The prepositions, “to” and “at” are not needed here. But, what movie are you going to is perfectly fine. The “to” is necessary and putting it at the end saves you from such obfuscating constructions as "what movie is it to which you are going."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Feeling Tense

I started a piece on tense last night, as in past, present, future tense, and quickly discovered that I really just don’t know enough about the issue to write on it. Usually we speak of a bit of writing as being in the past tense, or occasionally in the present tense, but when I try to analyze some writing I often find myself confused. Consider the following tidbit, in which I’ve indicated the verb tenses in parentheses.

“The first bombing run was (past) barely over when the second one began (past). Tom raced (past) his jeep through the streets, hoping he would (future) be able to reach his fighter plane and take off before it was (past) destroyed.”

Although this is a past tense piece, there is at least one use of the future tense. Isn’t there?

Then consider this line: “There was sleet that sent the people of Locknaar scurrying from the streets as the sun failed.” This is past tense, and if we write it in present tense we get: “There is sleet that sends the people of Lochnaar scurrying from the streets as the sun fails.” Note that “scurrying from the streets” is precisely the same in both forms. Normally, in writing in past tense you’d say, “scurried from the streets.” “Scurrying” seems to be happening now, in both sentences. Owwie, my brain hurts.

I’ve checked out grammar books but most of them seem to give only the briefest and simplest examples of tense usage, ones that always seem clear to me but do not cover the whole range of differences. Most of them seem to focus on nonfiction as well. Anyone have a suggestion for a book or article that really gets in there and explains the details? Or perhaps you are yourself a tense guru and can make the scales fall from my eyes.

I await…enlightenment.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Pleasure of a Good Review

One of the first things I saw this morning was a message from a fellow in Ireland who really seemed to enjoy Swords of Talera. His name is W. Nelson and he posted an outstanding review of the book on Amazon.uk..

Not long ago I got an email from Randy Johnson, who I know is a regular visitor of this blog, telling me how much he enjoyed Cold in the Light. Randy now owns every book I’ve written, all three of them. That’s a pretty nice feeling. And, of course, I’ve had several very good reviews of the books already on Amazon, although the one from Nelson is the first from the United Kingdom. Some of those have come from folks who check this blog, and, of course, many folks here have given me tremendous support on their own blogs with commentary, reviews, and even an interview.

It really makes my day when someone spends a few moments of their limited time to tell me that they like my work, and even to tell others. I don't know if folks who aren't writers quite understand what a pleasure it is to hear good things about one's works. For me, it really keeps me going even when I know I'm not making a ton of money from my writing.

Today is another good day.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Horror's Top Five (Historically)

Up until the last three decades of the 20th Century, horror fiction was primarily found in short story form. There were relatively few novels that had a major influence, although those that did were big. A list of the five most influential horror novels of the early days follows. All of these are in the public domain and I’ve added links where they can be found for free online.

1. Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto, 1764. Generally considered to be the first Gothic novel. Still surprisingly readable. Online here

2. Clara Reeve: The Old English Baron, 1777. The world’s first horror pastiche. The influence of Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto is clear. Download it here.

3. Matthew Gregory Lewis: The Monk, 1796. Written before Lewis turned twenty and so successful that forever after the author became known as “Monk” Lewis. For the time it was considered horrendously blasphemous and sexy. I think it still reads pretty well today. Download it here

4. Mary Shelley: Frankenstein, 1818. An influence on the development of science fiction as well as horror. Check it out online here.

5. Charles Robert Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer, 1820. An early “Deal with the Devil” novel. Find it free online here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Birds of Summer

I’ve mentioned our back yard bird sanctuary a few times here. Now it’s become a multigenerational gathering spot. At least three pairs of Cardinals raised their broods nearby and they’re bringing their young ones to eat at our stump buffet. You can tell the young from their lack of red feathers and their behavior. They flutter their wings and give a little plaintive cry until one of the parents stuffs a seed in their mouths.

We also have baby Blue Jays, and cutest of all, baby woodpeckers. A pair of Red-bellied woodpeckers have been frequent visitors over the past several months. I think they should be called “blushed bellies” myself because the red on their stomachs is not prominent at all. They also have red or rosy-feathered heads. The male has red all the way over the head to the beak while the female just has red about halfway across her head. The young ones have no red yet but will cling to the side of a tree or a stump while the mom or dad lands above them, gets a seed, then turns around and puts it into their offspring’s mouth.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the “babies” certainly aren’t little anymore. They’re all flying, of course, but most are as physically big or bigger than their parents. I guess this is a combination of being fed with little effort on their part, and of their parents losing weight from the hard labor of raising their families.

Oh, and this morning for the first time I saw a Box Turtle crossing our yard. You’re probably saying, “be still my heart,” or “how did you stand the excitement?” but I thought it was pretty cool. I used to love what we called “terrapins” as a kid but you don’t see them too often anymore. From reading about the Gulf Coast Box Turtle's habits I probably wouldn't have seen it if our back yard had not been flooded. It apparently loves to wade through shallow pools of water in search of insect larva. I hope it eats some of our mosquitoes.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sow With Darkness

If you want to write good scary scenes I suggest you take the time to scare yourself, and notice the effects you get. I go for walks down the dirt roads around my place at midnight. Sometimes with the moon and sometimes not. There are trees on every side. I hear night birds. But there isn’t a single streetlight. Once in a while you’ll see a lonely house lamp through the pines, that faint fog of a light that only serves to accentuate the greater darkness all around.

Shadows follow me when the moon is up. I hear small animals crashing away through the brush, but they don’t sound so small when you’re standing alone on a rutted dirt road with the dark forest all around. I don’t know if this will work for you, but it gets my heart rate up.

Use your own actual experiences of fear. Create new experiences. Write them down without holding anything back. This is the secret to generating the emotions of fear, terror, and horror in your readers.

Sow with darkness. Reap by the light of the moon.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A New Dream Story

For whatever reasons my dreams the last few nights have been rich with storyline scenes. In the first dream I’m alone in a house. I’m standing at the edge of a dark corridor, looking toward the room at the other end. The door is closed but there’s a large window in the door and I can see that it too is dark. Somebody, I think it was my mom, had told me to turn on the light in that room before I leave the house.

I try the light switch in the corridor where I am but nothing happens. With a muffled curse I move down the hall to the other room. There’s no light switch on the outside there and I’m reluctant to go in the room. I have a feeling that there’s something wrong in there but I don’t know what.

I open the door and reach into the blackness, which is much darker than in the corridor where I stand, and feel around for the light switch. I can’t find it and must open the door wider and push my upper body into the room. I’m afraid to do this. The sense of hovering danger in the blackness grows.

I find the switch plate, quickly flick the switches on with relief. But nothing happens. The lights don’t work here either. I flick them desperately several times but still nothing. Abruptly, I feel something, a caress of breeze where there should be no breeze, as if something in the room has moved and stirred the air. I jerk my hand out of the dark and shut the door, and begin to back away down the corridor.

Something is coming toward that door from the other side. I feel it. I back away faster, but can’t take my eyes off the window in the door. Then something hits the door from the other side. The window bulges slightly. I jump, give a little scream. Behind the window I can see something, the head of a person, with long tangled hair and their face pressed to the glass. I know it is a woman though I can’t say how I know. I scream louder then, as I realize the woman’s mouth is open against the glass, that it’s working against the glass as if she sees me and wants to bite me. Or kiss me.

I wake up. I’m grateful.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Memories Part II

Yesterday I talked about keeping a journal of my childhood memories, and later memories, so that I don't forget them and so that I can mine them for details to use in my writing. I thought today I might just give a sample of a few of my entries.

120. Making little holes in persimmons and putting firecrackers through before we lit them and threw them. This would let us throw the firecrackers further, and if the persimmon was ripe it would explode goo all over where it blew up.

186. Pretending weeds were enemy warriors, and sword fighting them with the top part of a broken fishing rod. Or sometimes I used a piece of chrome that had been lost off the side of one of our cars.

207. daddy putting the big metal barrels beneath the eaves of the old house to catch rainwater, and how we would sometimes soak in one in the hot summer, and how salamanders often washed down from the roofs into them. I once hid in one and my parents were desperately trying to find me. I didn’t realize how truly upset they were. I thought it was fun and games. They never thought to look there, until I crawled out.

214. Catching a big water moccasin on my fishing rod once and what a fight it was. This was at the New Pond. Somehow I hooked him through the side underwater and at first I though I had a monster fish. Then he surfaced and I remember him writhing across the water as he fought to get away. Terry and John were with me. Since he was a poisonous one I had to kill him to get him off the hook.

The numbers above correspond to when the entry was made in the journal but are not necessarily age related. I just started writing things down as they occurred to me, and I continue that to this day. In fact, I'm going back to add some more today. I find it enjoyable.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Every time I go home to Arkansas I experience an almost overwhelming surge of memories from my childhood. And often I'll get my mom or my brother started and they'll mention other things that bring the old days back. I tried to get my mom to do this as therapy because she was a bit depressed during and after her recent hospitalization about not being as active as she was used to being. I find that happy memories restore me a bit, reenergize me. At least they are fun to recall. I thought it might work for her too, and she did smile a lot as I brought up things.

I keep a "memory journal" that I put such memories down in. I'm working today on expanding it from my recent trip. You may wonder what this has to do with writing. Well, I think it has a lot. A writer's memories and experiences provide the imagery and detail that he or she uses in constructing their stories in the here and now. I've used scenes or tidbits from my memory journal in many stories, and if you don't keep such a journal I suggest you start. I wish I would have started it when I was young so that I'd have the greater richness of detail, but in those days I was convinced I'd never forget. Don't be fooled. You'll forget too.