Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. And I am among the millions of readers who are grateful.

Of course, sentimental reader that I am on occasion, I love his A Christmas Carol and the transformation of Scrooge most. That said, how can any reader not enjoy his many books including Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Nickolas Nickleby, Bleak House, and Hard Times.

An extravagance I usually don’t allow myself, I have purchased Charles Dickens complete works – and it is with great pleasure I open the volume and settle into the detailed and sometimes grim world of Dickens.

So Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens – and thanks! For more information on Dickens, check out this link.

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IMG_1821 Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. Born on January 19, 1809, Edgar lived only 40 years, but his impact on writing has lasted much longer.

Many of today’s writers of dark fantasy, horror, and detective stories can trace their genre’s roots back to Poe. And arguably, even science fiction short stories can find a rootlet embedded in one of his tales.

I, too, have always been a fan of Poe’s wonderfully fantastical tales and lyric poetry. So it is with admiration that I say, “Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe!”

For those who want to learn more, here’s a link to more information on this American writer.

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I’ve always liked the description of science fiction as the writing (or literature) of the future. Though if the story involves time-travel, it can be writing of the past, present, AND future!

There are many valuable resources for writers (and readers) of science fiction available online – everything from interviews with pros, market lists, and how-to write ups. A blog I discovered (thanks to Carol Hightshoe and her worthwhile newsletter, Wolfsinger Publications Daily) which is filled with information on science fiction is Contary Brin (David Brin’s secondary blog).

So fellow sf-fans (and authors), here’s the link to a fabulous, information-filled, not-to-be-missed post from Contrary Brin: Explore Science Fiction: The Literature of the Future.


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I taught poetry residencies for the Maryland State Arts Council’s Artists-in-Education Program for over ten years to students from kindergarten through grade twelve. It was a wonderful, but exhausting, experience. The first thing I wrote on the board when I walked into the classroom was: “”Poetry excites the senses!” And then, I’d write my name.

Because of the limited number of words a poet has to express their ideas, they must choose wisely. In my opinion, the wisest way to express yourself and grab a reader is to use sensory language. I used to had out a list of sensory words for all five senses, then I’d have the students read aloud the smell and/or taste words. I still hand out that list to prose and poetry writing workshops I teach – whether young writers, college level courses, or adults.

Why? Because a writer needs to be observant. He or she needs to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the world around them, and use that information to enrich their writing. Readers can more easily become immersed in your world when they can identify with the sensory experiences your characters are having.

Again, I’m going to link to writing friend Steven R. Southard’s blog, Poseidon’s Scribe where he discusses another way for writers to think like Leonardo da Vinci: Sensazione.

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cinder I’ve never tried to write a novel in November (National Novel Writing Month), but I cheer on my writer friends who make the attempt. And I salute those persistent friends who manage to complete a novel in a month’s time.

I’ve heard all the doubting Thomases and Thomasinas who say, “Why bother? Nothing good comes of writing a novel in thirty days.”

Actually, they’re wrong! Many NaNoWriMo novels prove quite successful, including one of my favorites, Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. Here’s the link to: Seven YA Must Reads That Started As NaNoWriMo Projects from the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog if you want to read more.

So keep on writing NaNoWriMo challenge-takers. I wish you success, and admire your dedication.

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I must admit, Stephen King’s stories (whether novel-length or short story) scary me. Not just a little heart-beating-faster kind of scare, but a can-barely-breathe-looking-over-my-shoulder-and-shaky kind of scare. Which is just what a reader wants, and a horror writer strives to create.

I own, and recommend, King’s book, On Writing. Not your classic “how-to” writing book, it nevertheless is filled with information that writers will find useful. And it is in that spirit of learning that I share a wonderful article from The Guardian by James Smyth, “Ten things I learned about writing from Stephen King.”

In this article, and elsewhere, you’ll find announced a new short story contest (deadline December 18) to be judged by the master of horror writing, Stephen King himself. Interested? Here’s the link for the Stephen King Short Fiction Competition.

Good luck and keep writing!

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John Horst Thanks to Western book author, John C. Horst, for stopping by and answering a few questions.

VWC: When did you decide you wanted to be an author?

JCH: Since an early age, maybe fifteen or sixteen, but was never encouraged. So I did not try until I was in my late thirties, but kind of gave up when I had no luck obtaining an agent or contract with a publisher. Then, I tried again in 2012, and was mentored by Patrick Smithwick, a writer and educator who gave me excellent help and insight.

VWC: What are some of the things you did to reach that goal?

JCH: First, I worked with Patrick Smithwick who read my first manuscript and thought I had something worthwhile. After the normal and subsequently unsuccessful attempts at finding an agent or publisher, I decided to self-publish on Amazon. The Mule Tamer became a big success, eventually making it as a #1 Amazon bestseller for Westerns. All of the great reviews inspired me to keep going with the characters, and this developed into a four book series, about the Walsh family in Arizona and Mexico, spanning from the 1890s through 1911.

VWC: How did you find your first publisher?

JCH: I attended the Western Writers of America (WWA) conference and was able to meet face to face with publishers. I still do not have an agent, but have a wonderful working relationship with the publisher, who has published all three of my books in the Allingham series, about a tough New York cop who moves to Arizona for his health. This series has also proven to be popular with readers.

VWC: How do you find a publisher for a book now?

JCH: I submit my manuscripts to the publisher who has taken my previous work directly.

VWC: Have you ever self-published a book? If yes, what are the greatest challenges for a self-published author?

John Horst Allingham Long Journey JCH: Yes, as mentioned above, all of my books except for Allingham – The Long Journey Home started out as self-published books. The greatest challenge is having the books noticed by readers. Of course you’ll have to get someone to professionally edit the book for you, but that just involves finding a good person and investing the money. The real difficulty is having folks actually buy the book. There is a tremendous amount of material out there for folks to buy, and if you do not have the advertising budget employed by the big publishing houses, then you’ve got to find a way to compete.

VWC: Your books are Westerns, is that the sort of book you read?

JCH: Actually no. Although B. Traven, the author of Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of my favorite authors, I really love general fiction and literary fiction and mostly stuff that has not been written before, say 1960. I purposefully do not read Westerns as I do not want to copy anyone’s style or story. My hope is to produce something that is genuinely novel.

VWC: To date, you’ve had seven books published, four in The Mule Tamer Series and three in the Allingham Series. Why do you write series novels?

JCH: I have found that, once folks get to know certain characters, they like to read more about them. My greatest compliment from readers is that I have extremely interesting and (mostly) lovable characters. One reader stated that he felt as if he could go out to Arizona and visit the graves of my characters. They were that real to him. That was profoundly gratifying. I also feel that the stories become stronger as I go along. I pull various characters who might have played a minor role in the first story and give them center stage. But ultimately, it is the response by the reader that dictates my decision to write additional stories about my established characters.

VWC: What book that you’ve written is your favorite, and why?

John Horst Marias Trail JCH: Maria’s Trail in The Mule Tamer series. Chica (or Maria) is the love interest of my protagonist, Arvel Walsh. She is a Mexican beauty who has had a rather storied past. Some of the readers of The Mule Tamer did not like her, as she is bold, profane, and often violent. I felt that I had to defend her honor, so I told her back story in Maria’s Trail. That story almost wrote itself, as I knew Chica by then, and it felt like I was simply chronicling her life. It was extremely fun to write, and made many of my readers love her even more.

VWC: Do you work on more than one book at a time?

JCH: No, but I have several stories in my head at one time. I’ll sometimes write notes about them and revisit them, but my primary focus is on one book at a time.

VWC: Do you have any time-management secrets for writers?

JCH: Do not stay away from your story at all. Even if you only have a few minutes to work on it on a particular day, do something with it. If you are blocked, go back and read what you’ve written and revise it. But keep the momentum. If you do not, you’ll never get it written. Also, I like to write in a linear fashion, but sometimes a particular scene will pop into my head and I’ll just write that. I don’t even know where it will fit in the story, but at least it’s down on paper (virtually, since I write on a PC). Also, sometimes I won’t even write in complete sentences. I don’t worry about that. I’ll clean it up and revise it later, but at least it’s down on paper and that’s the hard part. Cleaning it up and making it plain to the reader is the easy part.

VWC: What projects are you working on now?

JCH: A fiction around the Rough Riders from Arizona. It is the story of two brothers who join Theodore Roosevelt’s volunteers and their adventure. I’ve also got a nice sub-plot story about Nurses, Clara Maass who was a real person at that time, a so-called immune nurse who is an African American from North Carolina, and a nun from Baltimore’s convent of Sisters of Mercy, who also served during the Spanish American War. It is a lot of fun so far.

VWC: What advice do you have for writers trying to get a book published?

JCH: Do not become discouraged. This is a subjective business. Many good books go unpublished. Many bad books become best-sellers, and getting your book published is kind of like winning the lotto. Having a lot of people read your story and like it is like winning the mega millions. Just remember that and keep pushing. Go to conferences where agents and publishers handle your kind of writing. Talk to them, but remember, you’ve got to grow a thick skin. These people are not out to hurt your feelings, but they will if you let them. They are in business and that’s all. Maintain a healthy attitude. The most heartbreaking story to me is the one about John Kennedy Toole, who became so discouraged that he took his own life when he suffered one rejection after another. He did not live long enough to see A Confederacy of Dunces become a grand success. You CANNOT let this stuff effect you in that way. Keep a positive attitude and keep pushing to get that publishing contract.

VWC: Who was your favorite author as a child?

JCH: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

VWC: Who is your favorite author now?

JCH: Olive Higgins Prouty. She was the author of the Vale novels and Stella Dallas. Your readers might remember her as the author whose story was made into the film, Now Voyager, in 1942.

John Horst MuleTamer VWC: When is your favorite time of day to write?

JCH: Whenever I have the time. I am not a fulltime writer, and I have many other obligations, including a family and day job. I have to fit in the writing around all that.

VWC: What was the most valuable piece of writing advice given to you?

JCH: Women read fiction, men read “how-to” books. Always write for a female audience. Even with Westerns, which are read widely by men (at least the men who read fiction), write them with women in mind. I always, always write with the female reader in mind.

VWC: And now, the final and most important question: What’s your favorite kind of cookie?

JCH: Ginger snaps.

For more information on John C. Horst visit his website and blog.  And you can find his books on Amazon.

Thanks, John, for stopping by. Watch Whimsical Words for more Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, Writing Tips, Recipes, and lots of other interesting posts. Have a “wide open spaces” kind of Monday – Vonnie

PS. If you want to show some love, visit my Amazon page and buy one of my books. 🙂

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