Winter reading for free

Hello from stormy western Nebraska.  An hour ago I was going to ride my bicycle to the library. Now the wind’s ripping through the trees & the sky’s black. And so, here are places you can get free digital reads.

Hathi Trust is one place for interesting books of all kinds. http://www.hathitrust.org.  I’m fond of fiction, so I read a long-neglected Scots author, Susan Ferrier.  I read all her novels, but my favorite is Marriage.  It’s not difficult and it’s fun (at least I thought so, but you might like more action-packed stories). From a writer’s point of view, it was interesting how she created love between opposites and made the explanations really entertaining.  Hathi Trust is worth it.  Far beyond the other services in terms of actual books, not just ancient farm manuals or mail records.  If you have trouble, use the help features and get a human. They’ll get you where you need to go. You don’t need to be part of a college or library, either.

I found some history there I needed for a book I’m slowly writing — and on Google Play. (About the tourists who visited the Scots highlands in the early 1800’s.)  You could focus on what you like.

I also use Open Library. It’s much easier than Internet Archives, which I think means well but wastes a lot of time & doesn’t give you the books they really have. Open Library’s pretty straightforward. Hathi, Google Play and Open Library are, of course, free.  They have services that charge you, but it’s clearly marked and avoided.

Burgomeister’s my old stand-by, but sometimes it disappears for a little while.  That seems to be the case right now, but I’ll keep sending the ‘owner’ email.  Sometimes using a vpn/proxy works, sometimes not.

Libraries now have free downloads for kindles and other reading devices, so you can stay out of the cold. I need to take advantage of the kindle set up; but I had some trouble with Amazon,  got lazy & stopped at 2 free downloads.  Libraries have lists of newspapers, books and magazines and several ways of getting them. Just phone or email your library. If you don’t have  a card, you can probably do that online, too.

I tried to stay ‘informed’ last fall & ended up being one more lied-to American. The New Yorker’s cartoons seemed to understand what we were going through. But they were manipulating us, just like everybody else.

So many things have turned out to be untrue, others might be worse.  I refuse to get involved again.   However, I’m going to be optimistic and more of an individual than ever.  And I will NOT read ‘the news.’  If things get really bad, I’m not afraid to leave.  It’s primitive & lonely away from the States, but not impossible…

Mind-readers among you, don’t be shocked at my language…

Keep in touch.  Remember, I live in a deeply conservative area right now & appreciate every gentle reminder of friendship.

Julia Bates

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SEXY OIL FIELD LOVER FOR THE HYPER LITERATE (Okies discuss “The Lotos-Eaters”

Cody:  Everybody says how sexy the Thai women are & just how they treat a handsome man like you.  Why didn’t you stay there?

Titus:  Well, sure, the women were beautiful & gosh, Cody. I can’t say they didn’t do everything they could to tempt a man.

<Captured by that memory, looking back is written all over his face:  his half-shut eyes, parted lips, rapid gasping breath.>

<Suddenly snaps out of it. Shakes himself, dazed wild look in his eyes.> Where am I?  Oh yeah.

Sure, uh,  Hi, Cody.

<Embarrassed.  Clears his throat.>  A-hem.  

<Resumes their conversation> Those tropical paradise places sure are easy. There was plenty of oil work off shore, too.  And I could’ve consulted from there…

Cody: Then what made you come back to Oklahoma?

Titus:  You recall TS Eliot’s “The Lotus Eaters….”

Cody:  You know, he didn’t write that. It was Alfred Lord Tennyson did.  “The Lotos-Eaters.”

Titus:  You know, you’re right.  I remember that now.  Well.  I stand corrected!

Cody:  I fell into that same mistake.  I wish Eliot had written more directly on that theme, “The Lotus Eaters.”  Certainly many people did write about it.  If you look even at The Time Machine and the Eloi, they were of that same complaisant temperament.  And just what did that MEAN?

But frankly, I stopped reading Tennyson after the tenth volume.  Never got to the real stuff with him, I’m afraid.

Titus: Well then let’s skip back to the Odyssey itself and the island where Odysseus and his men were besieged by these women with their lotus-fruit…

Cody:  By the way. I feel the best translations, hands down, are Richard Lattimore’s, for the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Titus:  I agree.  I read Lattimore’s translations of other Greek poems, too.  But I do wish a more truly musical treatment were on the market for Homer’s epics.

Cody:  Whom would you think?  Burton Watson?  <She snuggled against his chest.>

Titus:  My Cody, you’re awfully beautiful tonight.  <His fingers drifted down her neck>  Who was it now translated Ikkyu?

Cody:  Who? … Oh, Ikkyu…Titus, what are you doing there?…  I don’t … know about…   Ikkyu….  Was he the real sexy one?

Titus:  Mmmm. You bet.  <Feeling the soft skin between her thighs…>

*

To be continued

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Blood Up to the Horse’s Bit: An Oklahoma Love Story

Hello, Gentle Readers,

Have any of you all written flash romance fiction? I read about an editor whose father was a ‘traveling minister.’ In Oklahoma mountain-speak, that means a revival/tent preacher. I was at the keyboard immediately and just 4 days later, I sent it in to a Flash F house.

 

 
This was another story about the deep south of Oklahoma. It’s about the Book of Revelations’ creating a runaway marriage. In 1,000 words.

 
I don’t think it’s my normal editors’ dream submission. Might be too … weird. What do you think?

 

After thinking it over I submitted it as Mainstream Flash Fiction, for a similar reason.  Although it did have a happy ending, the Book of Revelations and an Oklahoma Tent Revival aren’t the near-slapstick fare that sometimes hits the Romance shelf these days.  Not much snappy dialogue, either, because people talk very slowly down there, especially the folks below the poverty line who go to revivals.

 

 

Plenty of accurate dialogue and local color went into this 4-page story. Grit and realism…

 

Technique-wise, I wrote in Close/Limited Omniscience, 3rd person.  I broke the pov into two scenes, making the heroine start the story.  I made sure to use her name in the first sentence, too, to avoid any reader confusion.  The girl, Liddie, was talking from her world.

 

Next section was ‘his.’  It clearly began with his name, immediately, and his masculine country voice was doing the talking.

 

Romance novelist Christie Craig emphasizes that characters should sound whatever sex you’ve written them to be.  This was easy, because the action/plot had clarified that he was financially stable and she wasn’t.  That he was a farmer and she was a preacher’s daughter.  And so on (as my Chinese students said).

 

The hero’s section was more cheerful, too, and easier to write; I’d gone through all their tribulations already.  SPOILER FOLLOWS.

Now the happy couple was just sailing along together.

 

This was actually hard work.  I didn’t have to do much research, but it called for remembering things I wanted to just forget — like the harshness and narrow-minded people we all run across.

 

Therefore,  I’ll be glad to write a flippant, cheery Regency romance now!

 

 

Best!  Julie

 

 

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Correction: VR, Media, Pokemon Go. And Point of View

Howdy.  Being a responsible writer, let me say “I was wrong.”

Virtual Reality

I thought this little story was interesting.  It even mentions The (great) New Yorker.  (http://www.foliomag.com/2016/magazine-publishers-embrace-vr/)

I swear I read what I’d said earlier; but maybe i dreamed it.

It doesn’t look like magazines are less interested now in media. (I said that a post or two ago.)

POV

I have now read every book on writing 3rd Limited/Close and the evil habit of straying into 3rd Omniscient.  I’ve also alienated all my friends, asking for advice.

I finally wrote some ‘experts’ as to where I could take a class/workshop.  I think I’m OK with writing in 3rd Limited now. But i want this to be as fool proof as my non fiction about cowboys in Oklahoma or shamans in Nepal.

I’ve seen hundreds of letters from writers struggling with this POV thing, too.  They’re all over the Net, frantically asking for help. And the dozens of unrealistic articles:  ‘You have to choose which pov suits you!’

I know that a critique group or even hiring an editor won’t correct this.  I have to learn it for myself.

Tune in for the results.  I’ll post where to find those classes.

Thanks again for your comments.  I learn a lot from you!  Julie

 

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Have the guts: Is writing your vocation?

“Volition and Vocation” = guts, stamina, personal will to achieve what you know you should do.

In a fragmented age it’s hard to even want to follow your own path.  But it’s more important now than ever.  Take a deep breath.  Do you want to express yourself?  Look around.  Find out what you can do, immediately.  Do you need to earn a little money?  Figure that in and get moving.

Is writing your vocation?  Are you flexible?  But can you still be yourself?

Studying other writers last night, I kept coming on that phrase, “Volition and Vocation.”  It means many things.  For most of us today, it simply means putting our heads down and being the artists we know we are. Going for it, despite all the distractions.

The ancient Greeks and Romans, talking about the work of art itself, said that it should ‘move’ a person, from one state of mind to another.

That’s how I feel about my life work.  It must constantly challenge and move me, from a stalemate to a vital, living and breathing way of life.

What we do should move us and change us for the better.

 

So far, micro-jobs don’t cut it — for me.  I frankly don’t believe that life is profile-driven.  I’ve read others who get ‘sucked down the rabbit hole of the internet’ in this process.

But if you can get through their process quickly, that’s one idea for you! I met a Scotsman (in Thailand) yesterday who supports himself, traveling for months at a time, writing about what interests him. He started with micro-jobs.

His advice:  there are thousands of micro-jobs on the Net.  Just find something that interests you… it works. Give me feedback about how you were able to cope with micro-jobs!

(My only good experience with a micro-job so far:  the chat line people were very helpful. I’m an expert now on customer service reps. Maybe I’ll write an article on that.)

Now in my heart of hearts, I’d just like to finish Sexy Oil Field Lover!

You might also be interested to know that non fiction article writing is a bit more ‘human’ than it was for a few years.  I’ve seen a few ads lately asking for ‘less emphasis on media’ which is nice.  (More writing, fewer supporting videos).  I still like Writers Market and some online marketing services, too. Quite a bit of work, but it’s worth it.

(I published my first article in  an internationally published trade magazine in 1995.  I threw a yoga hand-out I’d written into an envelope. They published it as a ‘linked poem’ and I wrote for them for over 10 years.)

Time to meet a friend for lunch.   Let me know what you’re up to. You’re interesting, you know.

 

 

Taichi master nanchangIMG_0050

pushing with the energy that comes at you…

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I’m not a big fan of rules, any kind of rules. When 3 publishers wrote to see my full manuscript I didn’t exactly celebrate. It was more how I tidied up my desk, cleaned the computer screen, bought a new desk lamp and waited for the storm to blast me sideways.

And it’s still blasting me sideways. Because I did ignore the rules — on purpose. I’d been writing different forms of fiction, including narrative non fiction, while teaching creative writing to university kids. I wrote a few books, took photos and spent many pleasant hours doing research. I did some of my research in the field, some at the computer. Not much in libraries, because I was in … countries that didn’t exactly have reliable libraries, quite a bit of the time.

When I was in Oklahoma last year it seemed only sensible to both write and do research. One day I saw a book about ignoring the experts, write from your heart. I decided to take a chance. I spent a year writing Sexy Oil Field Lover.

Publisher #3 has been kind and helpful (like Jane Austen’s characters said about almost everyone. By the way: Jane Austen really was the Queen of Irony. In this case, she shared a joke with her readers: everybody used that expression, but the people referred to didn’t always live up to being ‘kind and helpful.’)

But she’s a miracle. She’s been supportive and intelligent.  She writes to me and has never once used phrases that drive me nuts, like ‘deep point of view.’  I get the feeling that she’s beyond that.  I understand now why authors dedicate books to wonderful editors.

She immediately pointed out that Sexy Oil Field Lover had ‘structural’ problems despite all the wonderful words I’d sent her. And she discussed how I could change these things.

It’s harder work than I’d anticipated.  I feel my characters’ voices grow fainter every time I must dance around, obeying this rule or that.  I wish I’d written a play!  People just say what they think, and get on with their lives…

On the other hand, I love these particular characters and I won’t abandon them.

Then there are Edward Albee’s wonderful words: ‘I’m not a nice person. I fight back.’ I’ll do this book, keeping my characters true to themselves. I might even write more popular fiction after this.

Just a word to the other rebels out there. Keep your integrity, but it’s a waste of time not to know what editors demand.  I think we can still write what we feel, but  publishers can afford to be choosy now.

An easy exercise I devised for myself is to analyze how a few authors use the point of view most used in fiction — 3rd person. I think you could use this exercise for any technique that you want to master.

Notice the way a successful writer uses it.  I’d say avoid the thousands of discussions raging about a subject (like pov). Just pick up a novel and concentrate.

See how an author successfully writes (in 3rd point of view, for example). Then set yourself a topic  or  choose a scene — and learn how to write that way, too. Notice details. Maybe read an established expert on that author’s technique to make sure you don’t sail past something you’ll need to do.

Here are a few ideas.

All 3 editors said I should describe Cody’s life apart from her sexiness with her oil field lover. I’ve written several scenes now that do that.  

You could write a scene about an imaginary person that shows both aspects of their personality. Or shows one side and hints at the other.

I also had to rewrite how they met.  (Not the hot one posted on this site, for opening the book. She said to use that later.)  

You could write about a first look, through one person’s eyes. Then learn to write narrative and dialogue the way the editor says to.

This shouldn’t take a lot of time. Sleeping on it helps, too.  Then you’ll probably wake up with a more cheerful attitude about doing revisions.

I love hearing from you.

Much affection to you all. Julie

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She’s My Little Rock & Roll..

Remember that song by the Stones, long long ago? Pretty creative, energetic, descriptive?  Recall the next line: ‘Her … got soul…’

Creativity is the way to keep your soul as your own.  You can quote me on that.

I was reading up on deep point of view today.  My favorite explanation is here:

Diving Deep into Deep Point of View

Writers in the Storm isn’t always my favorite writing blog, but this was just perfect.  It explains very clearly what publishers (so far as I know) demand of us, if we’re writing love stories.  (I don’t know about other forms of fiction, but non-fiction doesn’t have these expectations.)

Frankly, I became exasperated with Writers in the Storm when they went on a tech-is-Life jag.  I’m pretty strong on keeping humans in charge.  There are so many wonderful sci fi stories about humans becoming passive and lazy.  I read some especially chilling ones this last year.   I’m careful about using too many gadgets and devices to do my writing for me.

At any rate, I do recommend this post.  It also gives credence to using fewer and more descriptive dialogue tags, even if you’re uninterested in the other stuff.  I think we can all learn from this post.

Although I’ve read Julia Quinn novels and agree with other authors that JQ’s text is ‘sparse’ — I enjoy her light touch and simplicity.  Also, I think her sparse prose sends us a wonderful sense of FUN.

I’m looking over my dream-journals (I’ve written my dreams down for years, first thing each morning) to make my descriptions come alive.  Hemingway refused to describe his protagonists.  I describe people once and that’s enough.  I simply won’t shove long-winded descriptions down readers throats.

But I want to be fair so I looked over some of Julia Quinn’s books today.  I decided that learning to have a light, cheerful touch is probably the answer.

Another idea is to look at your own journals/dream journals.   Translating a dream into everyday English does strengthen your powers of description.  You have taken an abstract thought and put it into robust, earthy English. And diaries/journals do keep us describing our emotions.

A little talk about technique that will hopefully help!  Keep in touch.  Julia Bates

 

 

 

 

 

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