Thursday, May 29, 2014

What's the meaning of this?

You may be wondering where the title of this Blog came from since it's not really about school marms and cowboys.  It's actually more about relationships. I have always been fascinated by the unexplainable attraction between certain types of individuals.  Using my own family and acquaintances as the norm is, I know, an overgeneralization, but nevertheless, it bears consideration.  

The school marm is usually pictured as a woman teaching in a one-room schoolhouse. She is generally thought to adhere to severe arbitrary rules and be strict on those who failed to comply with those rules. She likes the power and control of being in charge. Hers is a no-nonsense world of rules and rituals.

It is said that a cowboy is not only defined by the work he does, but by the way he carries himself.  It is a culture of work ethics, not big talkers. Cowboys love nature and the natural world.  They want to die working…not working for money, working to make things better.  They love the land, the ranch and the plains.  They know it intimately.  Unfortunately, these characteristics do not always translate well in relationships. Early western movies portrayed the cowboy and his horse riding off into the distance and leaving the girl behind.  Why is that?  Perhaps it’s because women talk. They need verbal communication in a relationship, and cowboys love solitude silence.

So what is the attraction between these two seemingly opposite types of individuals? Is it simply a case of opposites attracting? I think not.  Beneath her tough exterior, the school marm harbors a deep seated desire to improve the world she lives in.  She sees education and the strict adherence to rules as a means to an end.  She is, after all, a dreamer…just like the cowboy.

The cowboy, on the other hand, lacks the ability to impose order on his chaotic world.  Deep down he knows that he cannot not succeed in making any significant changes to the world unless he understands and works within the rules that govern society. In a sense, he longs for order while at the same time, he is rebelling against it.

The same kind of push-pull attraction can be said to work for most relationships. What is it that attracts the charismatic leader to the shy, withdrawn individual?  More importantly, what sustains the relationship when theses opposite forces come into conflict as eventually they must?

And therein lies, the crux of the situation and the basic plot line for my writing. I like putting these characters in difficult situations to see which one rises to the top…which one takes control…and how this crisis changes their relationship.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Blog Tag: How I Write

Let's have some fun! 

If you're reading this blog and you like to write whether it be a diary, travel journal, blog, poetry, fiction or nonfiction, why not share your process with others by answering these four questions and pass it on! If you don't have a blog site of your own, then answer the questions right here in the comment section at the end of this one.  I'll post it for you!

What Am I Working On? I am currently at work on my second novel which will be the first in a series following the lives of the family of Simon Kingsley. This novel takes place in Indiana during the turbulent early years of the 1960's. A young minister and rising star on the evangelical stage takes a stand against civil injustice and brings the wrath of the John Birch Society down on his career and his family.
How Does My Writing Differ from Others of Its Genre? I write literary fiction set against the culture and isolationism of the Midwest.  I like to look at the present through the lens of the past to see what patterns emerge and what behaviors seem to repeat themselves through the generations. I'm working on finding a comfortable balance between internal and external conflicts so that the action of the plot does not get lost in the character's internal struggles.
Why Do I Write What I Do? I write to clarify my own thinking. I started this blog to explore my own past and discover some answers to questions that had haunted me throughout my life.  That part of the blog turned into my first novel, Windborne.  Now I write to discover ways to hone my craft. I use it to explore how characters might react in certain situations.  But most of all, I write because I love it!
How Does My Writing Process Work? I've written several blog pieces about this so I won't bore you with a rehash. The best way to describe my process is "gasps and spurts"! The story comes together in pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. I write and rewrite as I go along. It's like traversing a maze.  Sometimes I think I'm on the right track only to run into a dead end.  Then I have to back track and start over in a new direction.

There you have it! Your answers don't have to be lengthy or filled with intellectual insight.  Let's just have a conversation and see what happens. You can also reach me on Facebook at  or Twitter at  I look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Language of Literature

What sets literary fiction apart from commercial fiction?  Is it the complex, literate, multilayered language?  Is it the relatability of universal dilemmas? The answer is “Yes!”

Among the arts, literature is unique in that it uses as its medium the language of everyday communication. One major difference is that literary language remains present in the reader’s mind in the form of stylistic questions or multiple interpretations in a way that everyday language does not.

This is not to say that literary fiction is all about the wording at the expense of the plot. In good literary fiction the characters must still face challenges and evolve just as they do in commercial fiction.  However, in literary fiction, the plot tends to be more subtle, often unfolding within the mind or emotions of the character. More often, in commercial fiction the plot involves continuous action. It is more about how a character interacts with events in the outside world. Thus, the reader becomes an observer rather than a participant who brings his or her own meaning to the work.

In Windborne, most of the plot is inferred by the choices the characters make. It requires a great deal of empathy to relate to the characters as humans and to deduce the hidden motivations and desires that lurk beneath their actions.  Things happen on the surface, but what is really important are the thoughts, desires and motivations of the characters as well as the underlying social and cultural threats that act upon them. The reader has to recognize the small tuning points as well as the highs and lows of the plot based on what they know of the characters.  They must bring their own experiences and knowledge of human nature into the work.  

In The Stone House Legacy, I am attempting to fold more action sequences into the inner life of the characters. The plot is more overt, but what happens out in the world isn’t as important as what happens within the minds of the characters. By using an Epilogue and Prologue to foreshadow the action of the plot I hope to refocus the reader’s attention on the characters’ inner struggle rather than how they defeat or are defeated by external forces.

The prose is pretty straightforward, but I am attempting to use more literary devices such as symbolism, allusion and imagery that will leave more room for interpretation. The plot points all relate to the inner mind and may be hidden in quiet moments and small, but powerful, revelations.  I realize that this may make it more challenging for the reader, but I believe it will be worth it!