Monday, September 26, 2016
Saturday, January 30, 2016
“Danielle It’s not full enough.” My boss, Mr. Girish, barked at me. He’d assigned me to do a window arrangement for the front of the store. A more is more type of guy, he also had a tendency to yell at everyone, but never gave instructions other than ‘do it.
He left the store for his lunch. He never took his poor wife.
I’d heard him yell at his wife. He’d hit her across the face once with customers in the store. She apologized to him or he’d hit her again.
Much as I hated working for the man, I couldn’t quit. I needed the job. As a single mother of a toddler.
I nervously moved forward putting more to stuff into the store window’s display. He’d probably criticize it again. A floor full of pool toys, beach towels and blow up rafts. A shelf of makeup and creams another of children’s books and women’s magazines, greeting cards and books. If it didn’t follow any theme like I wished it did, I felt I’d done what my boss insisted I do.
I went to the back of the store and got my jacket and purse to leave work for the day. “Danielle.” The whisper came out of the office nearby.
“Pamela, my lord what did he do.” Her eyes swollen shut turned dark red. One bled from just above the eyelid. Her nose looked broken and her lips bled and swelled.”
“I made him so mad Danielle. I made a mistake in the ledger and he got so mad.” The poor woman’s speech never got above a whisper. Some of what she said, I pieced together. I’d heard enough.
I’d wet a clean dishrag I’d grabbed from the store, and found some ice in the refrigerator, which I used to wipe her face and put the ice in another rag and placed it on her lip. I wasn’t really sure where to place the ice with swelling all over. I chose her mouth so she could speak better.
“I’m calling the police.”
“What? Are you kidding me?”
“I know better than to talk like that to him.”
“Pamela, how long has he abused you like this? Wait, you were abused growing up weren’t you?”
“Abused? Oh no, he keeps and upper hand. My parents did to. I don’t do things like I should”
I took my cell phone out of my purse. Whatever Pamela said, I knew she couldn’t find any way out.
“911 how can I assist you.” The operator answered. I ask them to send the police and an ambulance. I told them the address and why. They wanted details and I got a little impatient. My defenses were up and I wanted results. “I’m with Pamela Girish, her face looked like hamburger. She can barely speak.”
Just about then, Mr. Girish surprised us. I neither saw nor heard him approach.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? That’s my business.” He pointed to his wife.
I stood and walked into him. “You are a monster. Pamela is a woman, human, decent and you call her a ‘that’!”
“Back off or you’ll look just like her.” He spat back. “Women and children don’t speak to me like that.”
I didn’t get intimidated easily. Maybe it would help if I could back off.
“How did you find out about this?” The 911 operator remained on the line. I held my phone behind me.
“I had a drink with the cop called to my store. He’s more than glad to keep me informed.” Mr. Girish said and pushed me into the office.
I didn’t know where the gun came from. Mr. Girish reached out to hit me and the gun replaced my cell phone. I pushed him back and aimed. I saw the fear in his eyes and then I heard the sound of the gunshot. He slumped and slid down against the wall. At first he looked surprised, then his eyes dimmed and he quit breathing.
The officer arrived just as I’d pulled the trigger. He cuffed me in back after I dropped the gun to my side so he could take it from me.
(Why do some things move fast and other so slow?) Who knows, but I remember as the officer turned me around, I saw another cuffing Pamela.
“What are you doing to her? Can’t you see she’s the victim. Girish did that to her.”
“Take it easy and move.” The officer sounded so harsh. “We have to take both of you to the station. They’ll sort it out.”
“But she needs medical attention.” I begged.
“She’ll get it.” The second officer called in for an ambulance, but he didn’t take off Pamela’s cuffs.
“Yes, thank you.”
That’s when Pamela spoke. She sounded lost somewhere. Her eyes fixed on the floor. “When he went after you Danielle, I knew he’d do evil to you. Oh so evil.” Those were the last words I heard from Pamela as they escorted her out of the store behind me. Thank goodness the officer released her to paramedic at a waiting ambulance.
Thanks to the cell phone and the 911 operator’s recording, Pamela was sent for psychiatric evaluation. She was not able to stand trial, nor could the hospital release her. She had not life skills without someone standing over her. She wasn’t dumb. They said it was a conditioned response. She admitted to placing the gun in my hand for my protection, not for her own.
They tried to charge me with second degree murder. However, with the 911 operator’s recording they offered a plea of manslaughter. I did after all pull the trigger and Girish had no weapon. “Do I think he would have killed or maimed me? Oh very likely, but the facts supported at least the charge of manslaughter. I received six months in county jail, three years of probation, and community service.
“Mommy?” My little Trina cried and ran to me after my release. I picked her up and squeezed her to me. My mother stood in the corner crying.
“Oh baby, I’m missed you. I love you so much.” The three-year-old imp with her blonde curls and big blue eyes. “I love you too mommy. You left me. I wanted you.”
I sat her down with me on the couch. “Trina baby, I hurt someone really bad. The person I hurt tried to hurt someone else and they tried to hurt me, but I hurt him really bad. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my child how badly I’d hurt him.
“Did you kill him, like on TV.”
I looked at my mother. “I couldn’t keep her away when they said your name on TV. I turned it off, but they’d finished the report.”
“Yes honey. I don’t think they wanted to send me to jail, but since he didn’t have a gun too, they had to.”
“I’m mad at the jail people. They took you.” Trina pouted.
“She’s young honey. She’ll understand when she’s older. You’ll be able to teach her better.” My mother pointed out and joined us on the sofa. “How about a group hug?”
“Only if I’m in on it.” My father’s voice came from the back door.
“Yes, yes grampa group hug too.”
I laughed. “You betcha.”
Friday, December 11, 2015
The Christmas of Three Trees:
Why we decided to have so many trees that Christmas, I don't know. No matter, we ended up with one scrawny tree.
The first tree, our usual fiber optic artificial, we loaded with glittery Christmas balls of blue, green, red, white and any color we liked. The bright filaments of light reflected color throughout the living room.
In one corner of the dining room, we put up a five-foot pine, which we decorated in the traditional way with a star on top. Homemade decorations from generations filled it from top to bottom.
The final tree would remind you of a Charlie Brown scrawny, little, crooked tree. We decorated with what lights it would hold and still stand. I filled it with oodles of plastic candy canes and stapled the top to the wall to keep it standing. A paper angel with glitter hid the afixed top of the evergreen. I did forget to mention we cut it from a sappling in my parents pasture.
We'd developed a tradition of stockings and sometimes the stuffers didn't fit inside. That year everyone brought enough stockings for each of their family. It meant a break in tradition for we generally only did the single set plus one family filled mine and one my husband's. Everyone arrived and remarked how cheerful the house looked. They laid their stockings under the big tree and threw their coats on the bed.
As the eighteen members filled our small home, the smells of turkey, ham, apple and cherry pies, and ofcourse, the usual pumpkin filled the house.
I heard the first yell. "Get in here and get these stockings moved. The tree is shorting out and one just scorched." My husband demanded sternly.
The rush to the tree almost knocked it over as the man of the home struggled to unplug it. Christmas balls fell on the floor and shattered. My fear of broken glass filled me with anxiety and I screamed at all the children to stay away from it. After only twenty minutes, which seemed like an hour, the whole mess was gone. All stockings and gifts moved to the pine tree full of homemade ornaments.
"Help," my daughter called.
"What now?" I asked through my frustration at the interruption.
"Needles are falling all over the floor. The tree is bare."
Another tree undecorated and sent out the door with only a scrawny, little, sappling left. The homemade ornaments taped to the wall around it to make it appear larger. Tinselled and filled with light from the colorwheel now removed from the original saved the poor, final cedar from extinguishing our celebration. Not one guest complained. The event became like a game. The table for the feast glowed with candles and reflections off the tinselled little gift.
A poster sized picture now overtakes that spot from the place of the stapled angel to the top of a little table that's never moved since.
This story is a result of a vivid dream I had last night. I had to share it. 12/11/15
G. K. Fralin
Monday, December 08, 2014
Monty McCord, a name synonymous with heroism, fell in love with all things western and law enforcement as a young boy. He’s not only an award winning author, but the subject of other authors’ works.
Monty’s own career in law enforcement started in 1974, and by 1993 Monty held the rank of lieutenant for the
Police Department when the Chief picked him to attend the Hastings, Nebraska --the FBI's
academy for ranking officers worldwide with
training at the FBI academy in FBI National
Academy . After working as a
deputy at two rural sheriff’s offices, Monty finished his nearly three decade
career as a Lieutenant of the Quantico,
Virginia Police Department. Hastings,
Monty’s writing career began with his book Police Cars-A Photographic History-1991, then Cars of the State Police and Highway Patrol-1994, and Law Enforcement Memorabilia-1999 (all from Krause Pub.) Monty’s works also includes many articles and historical accounts.
More recently, Monty released his fiction novel Mundy’s Law (Five Star/Cengage 2013). For his audio book version (Books-In-Motion), Monty received a 2010 Spur finalist award for Best Western Audio Book from Western Writers of America and Mundy's Law (print version) won a PEACEMAKER AWARD from the Western Fictioneers for Best First Western Novel, and a Finalist for Best Western Novel in 2013. The book was also a Finalist in the 2013 Will Rogers Medallion Awards.
Monty has also featured his love for his home state of
Nebraska in his books: -The
Hastings of the Plains (Arcadia Pub.
2001), I Christen Thee Queen City -The
History of the USS Nebraska (iUniverse 2005), and The 1931 Hastings
Bank Job & The Bloody Bandit Trail (The History Press 2013). Nebraska
Glenda: Monty, I’ve covered only a portion of your interests and works. However, there is a Monty McCord behind the books and awards who fell in love with the subjects he writes about. For this part of the interview, I’d like you to share with us some history of you and what made you identify with the subjects you write about. So the page is now yours for as much as you’d like to share.
Monty: Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s was fun in part because of all the great television programs we had on only 3 channels. The westerns and police dramas really caught my eye. Hopalong Cassidy was the earliest western I remember. I lost some interest when they started singing though! But when Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, aired, I was really hooked. When I was about 7, I got my first horse. We soon moved to the country and added to our herd, which included some cattle. Although we don't have any now, my love of horseflesh never died. My daughter is infected with it too, she trains horses and people in
Dakota. Through all of this and school studies, I was
hooked on history.
Also, at some point, police programs added to an interest in law enforcement. At my parents urging though, I first tried training for refrigeration and air conditioning repair, but was bored to tears. I ended up transferring to marketing and management, something that helped when I got my first police job in 1974. When asked why I chose police work, my only answer was sort of a cliché, but it was true. I wanted to help people. I was in a position to help crime and accident victims, especially children that I removed from homes due to abuse and neglect. All police officers help way more people than the public ever knows about. They all know when bad things happen however...
It is from this background that I write about lawmen. And of course, lawmen wouldn't have much to do without outlaws! I try to portray lawmen in a realistic way for the given period in my books. The period I write mostly is from around the 1850s to 1950s. Crime solving stories are more fascinating to me when there are no computers,
or NCIC ( ) involved. National
Glenda: Almost all writing takes at least some research. You, as a novelist, and historian must do week, months or even years of research for your books and articles. Personally, I’m a great fan of good research, would you mind explaining your approach to research?
Monty: As you know, I write both fiction and non-fiction, and BOTH take LOTS of research. All of my reading of history has really helped my writing, including fiction. If you're not doing a lot of research for fiction as well as non-fiction, you're not doing right by your readers. Reminds me of a novel writing session I took at a convention in
New Mexico. They talked about an author who
wrote a submarine story. It went something like this, "Dive, the captain
ordered. So the man controlling the knobs that would make the submarine dive,
turned those knobs and the submarine dived." That's the simple version,
but the original kept the group laughing for ten minutes! Obviously, it
illustrated a lack of proper research for a novel. And, we've all read them!
As far as my approach to research, I first decide what I want a book to cover and write notes or an outline. I examine every piece of information I find for leads to further research (pretend you're a detective). Nearly every bit of info will give clues to more. You may decide not to use some of it, that's fine, but you can be satisfied that you've covered everything you could possibly find. I've learned that when I tire of research for a project, I buckle down and work harder and longer at it. I've never been sorry; in fact this extra effort usually produces a bit of solid gold information. Poorly researched books are dime-a-dozen. I try to not make mine one of them. I also have to give credit to my wonderful wife Ann, because she is a great research assistant!
Research can also be an editing tool. Case in point, I just wrote a book review for a national magazine. The book I reviewed had the incorrect first name of one of the most famous westerners of all time (more than once!). Part of the problem was an over-dependence on internet research which rings a death knell for authors. We, as writers, don't know every fact, and sometimes just plain get things wrong, so it's good to double-check now and then. Bottom line, don't be lazy with your research.
I mentioned editing, so will throw this out here. If you publish traditionally, any real publisher will provide professional editing. If you self-publish (POD, printed locally or from book producers, etc.),
NEVER, EVER, be the only one who edits your book. Pay for editing services if
you don't have a contact who knows how, and will do it. One of my books is
self-published and I may go that way again. I have nothing against self-pub,
but it continues to get a bad name because of no editing, or the author does
the edit, AND for non-fiction books WITHOUT an index and bibliography! I have
purchased many self-pub books on fascinating topics (that should have sold to
publishers) but have been disappointed with every one of them because of
these types of problems. 'Nuff said.
Glenda: When I started reading Mundy’s Law, one of your characters, Lute Kinney, has an eye you describe as larger than the other. For some reason, the face of Jack Elam, the old western actor, flashed through my mind. Putting any visual cue into the mind’s eye of the reader takes a keen mind’s eye from the author and a way to describe it. When choosing your characters and describing them, what do you ask yourself in order to answer that same question for the reader?
Monty: Oh yes, the reference to killer Lute Kinney was, "One eye socket looked larger than the other, and no one knew if he was born that way or it was the result of an injury." Now, we shouldn't give a detailed description of everyone and everything in our books, but we DO want our readers to be intimate with our primary characters. Regarding Lute Kinney, he is a cold-blooded killer, so his description leans toward something un-attractive instead of describing his "smooth golden skin" for example. I don't mean that he should be made into a caricature either. And of course, some killers look very handsome or attractive. We have to decide how we want him to appear in a given story.
I try to avoid describing my characters like I'm reading from a police report. Here's another character from Mundy's Law, Judge and Justice of the Peace Elsworth T. Worden..."with a white beard and soon-to-match hair. Tufts of hair protruded from both sides of his head and on top, which combined with the beard, covered all of the points of a compass." There's a little more to his description as he is a regular in the story. For a character who only appeared once, but in an important scene, I described..."Elizabeth Ranswood was a handsome woman of forty-three years. She sat erect on a velvet-upholstered armless chair and waited for Lyman to speak. Her red hair was piled and pinned on top of her head, her blue taffeta dress immaculate."
Study people and think how you would describe them. I write only period 1950s and older, nothing modern, there's plenty of that now. Some people I see in public are easy to imagine in a different time period and place. Some look like bad guys and some fit other characters we need for our stories. This is only one source, books are another.
Glenda: From the time you were a young boy, you’ve also had an interest in horses. You’ve also raised quarter horses. We can escape into our writing and we can escape into reading a book by another author. However; we also need a way to escape from books. You also worked many years in law enforcement, which must be stressful. Are horses a way for you to escape in another way?
Monty: I wish horses were one of those escapes, but we don't have them anymore. But, I will say that reading is still a major escape for me. Fortunately, or unfortunately(!), I have fairly wide interests. I claim to be a closet naval buff which resulted in my 2005 book, I Christen Thee
- The History of the USS Nebraska
Related Naval Ships. Not all of my interests produce books and probably
never will. I'm interested in Nebraska U.S.
war history, specifically, Civil War naval warfare, World War I fighter pilots
and aircraft and Indian War cavalry. Other interests are Jack the Ripper (I own
30 books), miniature models, photography, 19th century architecture, dirt track
auto racing and the old auto thrill shows, Husker football and Boston Red Sox
baseball. I've also collected police badges and memorabilia for 40 years. I
enjoy all of these things through reading and movies. Watching old movies is
most likely my favorite escape.
What can I learn from Monty McCord in this interview? First I’ve learned that Monty is a conscientious author. He doesn’t cut corners, like doing a bit of research and filling in the rest. That happens more than I’d like to see. I’ve learned that Monty loves to bring history to life for us in both his fiction and non-fiction. The ability of a writer to bring information to life with a face, colorful environment, or whatever; is what can grab at the reader with that “oh, Lute Kinney reminds me of Jack Elam.” That puts a real picture in my mind, something identifiable.
Monty isn’t afraid to continue his research long past what may fit in his story, but make no mistake, that information may become part of another story or article. I never consider research as a waste of time.
Monty’s process and love for his topics make him a sought after and award winning author. I’d rather have Monty teach me through his work than to study a history textbook. The one exception being if I’m going to write about a period of history, then I need to research for myself.
Thank you Monty for sharing knowledge, interests and a desire to read your works and maybe develop a new interest through them, much the way you developed interest in westerns and law enforcement.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Ten years ago, Mark Coker co-authored a novel with his wife titled, Boob Tube. It’s a roman a clef about the daytime television soap opera industry. Despite representation from a top NY literary agency, publishers refused to publish the novel because previous soap opera-themed novels had performed poorly.
The experience helped Mark realize that publishers were unable, unwilling and disinterested to take a chance on every author. He imagined hundreds of thousands of fellow aspiring authors whose dreams had also been crushed by a publisher’s unwillingness to take chance.
Mark decided to do something about it. In early 2008, he launched Smashwords, a free ebook publishing and distribution platform that allows any writer in the world to self-publish an ebook at no cost. Six years later, Smashwords has grown to become the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks, delivering books to channels such as Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo, OverDrive and Baker & Taylor. Smashwords had revenue in 2013 of more than $20 million, and about 85% of that went straight to Smashwords authors. For two years running, Forbes Magazine has named Smashwords among its top 100 “Most Promising Startups.” The company represents nearly 100,000 authors who have collectively published over 300,000 titles at Smashwords. Some of these writers have achieved enormous commercial success.
As CEO, Mark takes an active interest in helping other writers publish with success. He has published three books about ebook publishing best practices, including the Smashwords Style Guide, a step by step guide to formatting an ebook and preparing it for publication, The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, which teaches writers how to promote their books for free; The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success which identifies the 30 best practices of the bestselling self-published authors. The three books have been downloaded over 600,000 times. Mark also does speaking engagements. In other words Mark is a very busy man.
Glenda: Mark, thank you for fitting this interview into your schedule. I’ve briefly introduced the professional Mark Coker. However, the person often gets lost in their professional credits. What would you like to tell us about you and those around you?
Mark: About me: I think about Smashwords almost 24 hours per day including my dream time. It doesn’t feel like work. It’s a passion. I want to change the world of publishing one indie ebook at a time. When people doubt me (and they have doubted me every step of the way), it just adds more fire to the passion. Six years in, I still feel like we’re just getting started. We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do for our authors. When I’m not working, you’ll find me outside in my garden (I’ve got 30 tomato plants this year!), or enjoying my cats, fruit trees, chickens, pure-bred homing pigeons, or hiking, or hanging out with my wife. About those around me: Although Smashwords started as my crazy idea, it wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing staff of 22 book-loving professionals. From engineering to author support and customer service and finance, Smashwords would be nothing without the team that makes it all work. And we’d also be nothing without the 95,000 amazing writers and publishers who publish their books with Smashwords. We exist to serve our authors and publishers. We exist to make authors who work with us more successful than those who don’t.
Glenda: Jumping into a bit of nature versus nurture philosophy on writing, where do you see your voice would fit in that analysis and why?
Mark: Prior to starting Smashwords, my prior startup was a technology public relations firm. My job was to take really complicated technical products and tease out what those products meant to consumers, and then how to communicate that to journalists so they felt compelled to relay the communication in the form of press coverage. What does the product do, why is it special and why should the consumer care? I am not a technical person, but the experience helped me bridge the worlds of techies and normal consumers. I know how to make complex things simple and accessible, and I’ve brought that to my writing about ebook publishing best practices. I know how to teach anyone ebook publishing best practices, and I can do it without technobabble or jargon. I know how to make smart writers into smart publishers.
Glenda: Who do you see as most influential to you as a person and a writer?
Mark: As a person, it would be my mother. She was an anti-war, free speech activist as a student at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. She tells me she brought me to the demonstrations in utero and later in a stroller. She’s a free thinker and very independent-minded, yet she also has incredible compassion for people everywhere. Mention how young men and women are going off to war and it’ll bring instant tears to her eyes. My mom taught me to be skeptical of the status quo. Just because someone in power tells you how something should be, doesn’t mean they’re right. Sometimes you need to fight the power. I’ve inherited this attitude. Tell me I can’t do something and it makes me want to do it even more.
In 2008, I don’t think anyone other than Dan Poytner believed that self-publishing was the future of publishing. He believed it. I believed it too. People are now starting to come around to the view, but most people still don’t get it yet. Even self-described indie authors don’t fully understand how they will not only inherit the future, they will shepherd it. Their decisions will determine everything.
As a writer, a few people have influenced my writing. I learned I enjoyed writing in my college English class at UC Berkeley taught by professor Theo Theoharris when he gave us the freedom to write a paper about anything. I wrote about the five most common positions for sex, based on Masters and Johnsons research. That paper got me an A, my first A in English ever. Later, in my first PR job, my boss Dave Murray and my supervisor Deborah Caldwell taught me to write with greater clarity, purpose and precision. And boy, if you haven’t read Stephen King on Writing, you’re not as good of a writer as you could be. When I was doing PR for McAfee Associates, the anti-virus software firm, their former CEO Bill Larson was an incredible writer and strategic thinker he taught me how to use written communications to articulate strong visions, and how to communicate and demonstrate your execution on that vision. When I was a blogger for VentureBeat, my editor Matt Marshall taught me more about the journalistic style of writing. Though I think he would still cringe at the length of some of my blog posts for the Smashwords blog! J
Glenda: Most people who start up a business have goals, but some go far beyond the scope of what they imagine. Did you have any idea that your efforts and those around you would become the powerhouse for self-publishing that it is today?
Mark: “Smashwords as powerhouse” is a surprise, and frankly, although I appreciate that some in the industry view us that way, I still view us as the scrappy startup with something to prove. I knew the world needed something like a Smashwords, but I’d done enough startups prior to this to know that great ideas are a dime a dozen, and to create something great you need good vision , great execution and a lot of funding, but above all you needed a healthy dose of luck and lucky timing. I knew my business idea for Smashwords (we wanted to publish writers that publishers didn’t want to publish!) was crazy and would most likely fail, but I never once doubted the truth of my core believe that all writers deserve the right to published, all writers are special, all writers have something valuable to share with the world, and that if I could give all writers a chance, readers would identify the very best writers and catapult them to worldwide fame and recognition. People ask me all the time what is our secret sauce? It’s difficult to describe, but I can tell you the most important ingredient is my core belief that all writers are special and deserve to be published. All writers deserve the chance to be judged by readers. That belief is still blasphemy in many publishing circles, but it’s most important secret that explains why we do what we do, and unless a competitor truly feels it they can copy the outward-facing edges of what we do but they can’t copy the essential spirit that drives our engine.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Dennis lives in the small town of Dodge, north of Lincoln, with a population between 600 and 700 people. He grew up in Nebraska and enjoys sports, gardening, photography, and of course writing.
Dennis Timothy started writing at least twenty years ago. His first works were published when a local paper asked him to do an editorial series. From there the idea of publishing a monthly called Legendary Iron News, for collectors and restorers of antique farm equipment, flared a desire to write fiction. One early short story, “Found Them“, was published in the e-magazine Golden Visions. Dennis has since published a book of short stories titled One Heartbeat Past Normal, a novel Merry Hell, and is working on a series The Whiskey Scrolls he hopes to publish book one this year. The first two books listed above are available on Amazon and both rate five stars. Dennis’ style contains unexpected twists and at times a nearly poetic pen. He brings the reader into his mind’s eye by using the skills all writers are taught, but not all achieve to the degree Dennis does.
Glenda: Dennis, your style is descriptive in a unique way that engages the reader in what I would define as often poetic. For example from One Heartbeat Past Normal, in your short story “Perspective”, you wrote the following; “I remember the sky then darkened for an instant, as if the sun decided to blink.” Simile is a great tool for writing, but not always in such a way that we can imagine so distinctly. Is there any other writer you consider a model to help find your own inner voice?
Dennis: This was a great catch on your part, Glenda. I turn to prose at some point in all of my writings. This is homage to John Gardner who wrote Grendel, which was the re-telling of the Beowulf legend from the monster’s point of view. The man was a genius at poetic descriptions, and was taken from us far too soon.
I also have a different style of rendering detail in my writing. I describe just enough of the scene for the reader to grasp what is happening, and allow the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks. I don’t write a lot of detail unless it drives the story forward, at which point I use dialog to flesh out the finer points of a scene.
At one time I was a voracious reader; and now I find it difficult to find the time to read as much as I would like to. C.S. Forester, Kenneth Robeson, Robert Heinlein, John Jakes, and Nelson DeMille have probably all had an influence on my writing style. Everyone who has read or reviewed my work usually has the same two comments - “quick paced”, and “it’s like watching a movie in your head”. This is the style I bring to my stories.
Glenda: Most of us, as authors, like to draw from our experiences and then add to these our imagination. You always have more to tell. What are some of the places or events in your life that you’ve drawn from for your stories?
Dennis: In my book Merry Hell, I explore what would happen if family and friends were suddenly trapped together because of a freak snow storm. The setting is rural, and the event is Christmas Dinner where all the characters think they be getting together for a short visit, and have their plans interrupted by Mother Nature. The humorous family drama that ensues is drawn largely from my own experiences. However, the idea for the story came from an acquaintance that had this very thing happen to them.
The inspiration for One Heartbeat Past Normal comes from a variety of sources. I was raised in the country several miles south of Nebraska City. My brothers and I walked over two miles to a one room country school house. As youngsters, every abandoned building, every odd shaped tree, every owl hoot became the basis of a story we would tell each other as we walked to school. Also, south of Nebraska City are the Seven Sisters Hills. Legend has it that about a century ago, a man went crazy and hung his seven sisters at seven separate hills. This area is known for car problems, mysterious screams, ghostly encounters, and even stories of Big Foot. This certainly influenced my imagination.
In so far as individual stories from One Heartbeat Past Normal, the story “Found Them” was a direct result of the Seven Sisters legend. “The Discovery in the Woods” came from a childhood story my father once told me. “The Brothers” was based on an actual event, as were “Hunting a Haunt” and “Home”.
Readers of One Heartbeat Past Normal will appreciate the variety of the stories. Many collections of short stories follow a formula or a common theme. In this collection, the fifteen stories are completely different from each other. I build plot, character, and structure quickly; and I vary the perspective from first person to third person depending on the tale.
Glenda: I think the key of the previous question is imagination. From your own experience, do you feel imagination is something we either have or don’t, or is it something that is cultivated throughout life?
Dennis: I think it depends on the person. Obviously someone like Stephen King had an active imagination at an early age. Frank McCourt didn’t write his first book Angela’s Ashes until he was 66. I’ve known people with active imaginations that couldn’t commit one word to paper, and I’ve know those who had little if any imagination.
I consider it my great fortune that I was raised in a day and age without the electronic distractions of today. As a child, I used my imagination for entertainment. Also, my father was a great story teller. I think it depends, in some part, on a genetic predisposition. My mother taught piano to a great many people, but I was her dismal failure. I have a nephew who at age six could play the piano as though he were classically trained. I think each of us just have different gifts and talents.
In my own writing discipline, I am constantly on the lookout for something unusual or interesting to write about. I’ll come home from work with my pockets stuffed with notes of things I’ve heard or thought about. I also keep a digital recorder at my writing desk and make verbal notes of potential story lines or scenes I might one day use.
Glenda: You wrote a publication, Legendary Iron News, for people who like to restore old farm machinery. That’s a huge undertaking to target such a specific audience. You must have some interest and experience in refurbishing. Do you still publish that because of a personal interest and articles written by collectors and restorers? How did you go about promoting a publication? Is that any different from your promotional plan for your books?
Dennis: Wow. That’s a huge question - but I’ll do my best to keep the answer manageable. I had a business in which I did freelance graphic design and custom printing on caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and school apparel. One day I was approached by a member of the Nebraska Antique Power Association. His name was Jerry Wymore, and he was interested in getting some apparel with the club’s logo. As he and I visited, it became clear that a lot of what the club was restoring were the things we used on the farm as I was growing up. I didn’t consider them antiques at the time.
I met with the club, and discovered that there were very few sources who catered to the needs of these individuals. I developed a line of t-shirts that featured old tractors and began to attend shows where collectors gathered. Then I developed a line of reprinted manuals that these people needed to understand their machinery.
The internet was not as active at that time. Collectors and sellers were limited to shows and magazine ads for the items they needed to restore this antique farm machinery. That’s when I hit upon the idea of a “buy-sell-trade” publication that would bring all these people together, and help me sell my t-shirts and manuals.
I contacted some of the people I had met at these shows, and they were only too happy to share their knowledge of how things worked in yesteryear. I had an individual, who called himself “The Tractor Doctor”, who would answer technical questions sent in by subscribers. Another gentleman, Menno Kleiwer, had lived through the depression while living in rural Nebraska, and had many stories to share. I had several regular contributors who shared their experiences of acquiring and restoring equipment. And, I sold advertising on the back pages of the publication. I printed two hundred of the first issue, took them to the National Antique Power Show, and passed them out for free. The back page had a subscription order, and the rest was history.
I became the editor and smoothed out the rough edges of the stories people sent me. I also had a monthly editorial column that I hope people enjoyed. I would comment of the current state of collecting, agriculture in general, and blended the two with my own brand of humor. The publication almost grew beyond me. I think I had subscribers from thirty of the forty-eight contiguous states. It was a lot of work pasting it up each month, getting it printed, and mailing it out; but it was a lot of fun as well.
The age of my contributors, and the easy access to the internet finally brought an end to the publication. And any attempt to recreate such a paper probably couldn’t work today.
My current marketing plans for my books are pretty mundane. I use social media and word of mouth to generate sales. I am gathering something of a hardcore fan base. This helps during those times when you are given to self-doubt (a trait shared by most authors.) I try to target groups on Goodreads, or social media, who would have a specific interest in my stories. The mass market is a myth, so today’s author has to ferret out the niche markets for his product.
My next story, The Whiskey Scrolls, is so epic and so well done that I will probably pitch it to a small press or independent publisher. It deserves at least that much effort. The story has been professionally proofed, and the cover art is complete. So, we’ll see where this adventure leads.
Dennis Timothy epitomizes the disciplined technical writer who crosses over to the fiction market in a way most of us only dream. I agree with Dennis that talent for writing comes in many different ways. Some fiction writers develop their imagination, or it was cultivated by parents or teachers such as Dennis’s father. Some are born with a vivid and sometimes disturbing imagination, but where would we be without them to make us jump when gripped by that moment when the story or a character turns.
I’ve said before that every interview I do with other writers is a learning curve for me. I relish the styles, personalities and processes. Most of all, through the progression of asking questions that are sometimes a bit much, I appreciate the willingness of someone like Dennis skillfully answering instead of requesting I break it down. He would have been right to do so. However, he so skillfully put the puzzle together so we could understand the entirety of his essay. There is no one particular way to write a story or a paper that surpasses another. There is the writer and their work the way they do it best.