Venture Galleries http://venturegalleries.com Connecting Readers, Writers, and Books Wed, 24 Aug 2016 11:37:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Writing memorable characters? It’s all about their feelings. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/writing-memorable-characters-its-all-about-their-feelings/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/writing-memorable-characters-its-all-about-their-feelings/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 07:40:31 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78306 NOVELS ARE like life. Characters reside within them. Some bad. Some good. A few ugly. Writers don’t tell the story. Characters do. As readers, we like them. We hate them. We fear them. But a good story would be lost... Read more

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NOVELS ARE like life.

Characters reside within them.

Some bad.

Some good.

A few ugly.

Writers don’t tell the story. Characters do.

As readers, we like them.

We hate them.

We fear them.

But a good story would be lost with them.

What makes a character unforgettable?

It’s not that he’s tough.

It’s not that she’s beautiful.

We are attached to characters when we know what they are feeling at a single moment of time when their individual story hangs in the balance.

I never work on plots. The plots always show up.

I do, however, care a great deal about what my character is feeling.

In the historical novel I’m writing, Last Dance of the Doodlebug Man, I write about Eudora Durant, the love interest, who is desperately trying to come to grips with a terrible marriage going from bad to worse. She wonders what might have been.

She was plowing in the field when I wrote:

“Eudora Durant knew there must be a hundred or more good ways of dying, some better than others, some worse, and she wondered why she had insisted on taking the slowest path possible to the grave. She couldn’t blame anyone for her lot in life. All she had to do was look in the cracked mirror beside her bed from time to time, and she knew where the blame fell, and it landed squarely on her shoulders.”

In my new novel that will be released on August 29, Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever, high school quarterback Casey Clinton looks back on his life of a football hero. The last game has been played. The lights are dim. The glory days have passed him, and he believes has no hopes for the future.

I wrote:

“On Friday nights, Casey Clinton had always felt good. There had been football and tradition, cheerleaders screaming his name, the band playing Tuxedo Junction, someone to walk him off the field when he won, and someone to make him forget when he didn’t. Dances and girls. Mums and roses. Cokes and bootleg whiskey in the trunk of somebody’s car. Cheeseburgers down at the Bulldog Grill. Love songs on a jukebox. Fogged windows in the front seat of his car, parked back beneath the pines where he would never be parked with Chelsea Sinclair again. He guessed her name would be Chelsea Calhoun now. It sounded country.

“Damn.

“Those were good times.

“Those were the best of times.

“He wanted to live them all over again just one more time. It was too late.”

Ambrose Lincoln is an American operative during World War II whose mind has been erased by government experiments. The doctors have taken his memory away.

He was waiting to be interviewed by a government psychiatrist in Secrets of the Dead when I wrote:

“Lincoln did not have to look around to know he was alone. He would remain that way for four minutes and twelve seconds. It was a game that psychologists liked to play. Treat him like a rat in a dark maze. Test his patience. Then pounce like a jungle cat out of the darkness. Catch him off guard and count the threads in his frazzled nerves.

“Leave him alone. Let him stew for a few minutes. See if fits of anxiety would untangle those frazzled nerves and leave the raw ends exposed.

“Lincoln smiled. It was, he had decided a long time ago, a game that fools played. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift away. He had no idea where it went, but it was somewhere on the far side of worry and pain. Ambrose Lincoln spent a lot of time in a place as black as night when the world was devoid of stars, and the moon lay behind a thunderhead that kept the storms away. It was a place of death, and he wondered why so many feared it, and he could not figure out why he fought so hard to keep from tumbling into a black hole that felt as cool as the stones of a tomb and smelled like the freshly-turned earth of a new grave.”

Little Lies, which will be re-released later this year, focuses on a charismatic preacher, Nathan Locke, whose thirst for power triggers a split in the Church. It is a chilling, fearful tale of a small town that has smoldered too long in the fires of jealousy and selfish greed, then is finally blown apart by lies, gossip and violent death.

The preacher was preparing to deliver the eulogy at a funeral, I wrote:

“Nathan Locke’s dark eyes scanned the scriptures he had prepared to comfort those who had come to be comforted and entertain those who had come for the show. A preacher’s reputation depended on how well he could send some wretched soul on to its eternal reward.

“The rich old reprobates in Mississippi didn’t care what anybody said about them as long as they were alive. They treated business as a good game of poker, and they based their life on one basic homespun commandment: a man wasn’t guilty unless he got caught, and those with enough money never got caught, much less convicted.

“Idle talk, no matter how malicious, never bothered them. But when the time came to lay it all down and give up the ghost, they wanted those final words spoken over them to be strong powerful and unforgettable. It was their last shot to have something akin to immortality etched in stone. Truth was not a prerequisite. Never had been. Never would be. The preacher was their defense attorney on judgment day, and heaven or hell awaited his final summation to a jury of angels or demons.

“Nathan Locke smiled to himself. At the moment he had everything he needed.

“A rich and respected corpse.

“An overflowing crowd.

“A cooperative widow who knew how to sob loud enough and often enough to be heard on the back row.

“And a sermon that would knock them dead.”

Readers always want to know how a character looks.

They want to know how a character is dressed.

But what do they really want to know? What is the character thinking and how does he or she feels about the dilemma rising up to confront a desperate life?

Finding out makes characters real.

Finding out makes the character someone readers will remember for a long time.

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The world is full of stories waiting to be told. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-world-is-full-of-stories-waiting-to-be-told/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-world-is-full-of-stories-waiting-to-be-told/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 07:00:55 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78296 Story ideas for me may be nuggets of information tucked away in newspapers. MY WRITING routine: Get an idea in what passes for my brain. They can come from all places, all directions. You know... Read more

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Story ideas for me may be nuggets tucked away in newspapers.

Story ideas for me may be nuggets of information tucked away in newspapers.

MY WRITING routine:

Get an idea in what passes for my brain.

They can come from all places, all directions.

You know them.

Newspapers.

Magazines.

Signs on the wall.

Something you overhear.

Obits.

Wills.

Will?

And the older the better.

Not long ago, someone sent a will from a couple of centuries ago.

Fascinating.

Roger Summers

Roger Summers

All sorts if possibilities for a writer.

One man left his cow to his three daughters.

One husband left his wife a featherbed mattress. That’s all.

One left his wife his prized bull. That’s it.

Such information in the wills has all sorts of possibilities for writers.

Mull.

Let the imagination run wild.

Take a break.

Punch the words in what passes for my brain into the computer while the words are fresh on my alleged mind.

Even if I am not sure of the spelling and exact meaning of some words.

Just get it into the computer as I think it, know it.

Now. Before some of the thoughts escape, maybe never to return.

Take a break. Take a walk. Watch a ball game. Work in the garden.

Mull.

Start re-write one.

Break.

Re-write two.

Break.

Re-write three.

Break.

Re- wri. . .

Break.

Fact-check.

Break.

Spelling check.

Break.

Fact-check.

Spelling check.

Only when I am satisfied with it, send it along to a few family members, friends, acquaintances – which I refer to as my personal editorial board — for review.

Break.

Send it along to a professional copy editor whose expert work I have known, trusted and appreciated for more than a quarter century.

Copy editors can – and do – save you from embarrassing yourself in print. And electronically.

When it is returned to me, re-read.

Break.

Re-read.

Send it along for publication.

After publication, review, read any comments, see if I might have done more to improve it.

Go on to next writing project.

Works for me.

No bull.

Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author of Heart Songs from a Washboard Road.

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Time Traveler: A Jack Durish Short Story http://venturegalleries.com/blog/time-traveler-a-jack-durish-short-story/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/time-traveler-a-jack-durish-short-story/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 06:50:21 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78299 Waiting and watching to see what tomorrow may bring. Photo Source: Prison Legal News JOE PUSHED THE CART along the dimly lit corridor while Eddy steered. Although every step was monitored under the baleful eye of strategically placed cameras,... Read more

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Waiting and watching to see what tomorrow may bring. Photo Source: Prison Legal News

Waiting and watching to see what tomorrow may bring. Photo Source: Prison Legal News

JOE PUSHED THE CART along the dimly lit corridor while Eddy steered. Although every step was monitored under the baleful eye of strategically placed cameras, their conversation was private.

“Well, he’s gone,” Joe said.

“Hank?”

“Yeah.”

“Where do you think he ended up?”

“Who knows?”

Eddy shrugged like a person who didn’t know, wasn’t supposed to know, never expected to know.

Joe paused in his labor to adjust his collar. “Damn starch,” he muttered. The reflex to unbutton it was frozen by the stare of the camera. He resumed his labor and the conversation. “Hank went back, right?”

“Yeah, the past. That’s all he could talk about. No fingerprints. No DNA. The cops won’t catch him again.”

“Yeah. That’s what I’d choose.”

“You plan on gettin’ back in the business when you get out?”

“What else? I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout nuthin’ else.”

Jack Durish

Jack Durish

“If you get caught again, it’ll be your third strike. The death sentence.”

“Or I can take the time machine.”

“You’d go back, like Hank?”

“Sure. Gimme the past. Same reason.”

The pair pushed and guided the cart as though they had nowhere in particular to go and even less to go back to.

“Who’s this?” Joe asked, changing the subject.

Eddy shrugged. “Some con.”

“Death sentence?”

“No, just died.”

“Lifer?”

Eddy shrugged again.

“Tough.”

“Yeah.”

Joe touched the edge of the six foot long box on the cart and Eddy glanced at the nearest camera.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not gonna look. I’s just thinkin’ it’s not much of a coffin.”

Eddy smirked. “They ain’t gonna bury him, you damn dummy.”

Joe responded with his eyebrows.

“Cremation,” Eddy added.

“Oh.”

“You never brought a body down here before?”

“No. How much further?”

“As long as we can make it.”

“Don’ wanna miss lunch.”

“Don’t worry. You won’t.”

Silence joined them for the next span of the hallway and the men’s attention wavered. The cart bumped the wall and the box twisted.

“Watch what you’re doin’!” Joey complained.

“You watch!”

Eddy placed his hands on the top edge and pushed. The weight of the body held the box fast and the lid slipped off.

Both men held their breath and searched for the nearest camera. It was right above them pointed down the hall. The next one looking in their direction was twenty-five yards further on.

“Quick! Put it back.”

“I am,” Eddy replied, but raised up on his toes to peek before pulling the lid back in place.

He froze.

“Close it, damn it!”

Eddy didn’t move.

“What the hell you doin’?”

Eddy didn’t respond.

Joey slid between the cart and the wall and reached to pull the lid back in place.

“Look,” Eddy commanded.

Joey glanced at the camera and then peeked into the box.

“Shit.”

The men pulled the lid back into place and pushed against the bottom of the box to realign it on the cart, then leaned side-by-side against the wall.

Several moments passed before they started and glanced at the camera. Without another word, they resumed their journey.

The guard at the crematorium opened the door and checked the number on the box before allowing them to push their cart inside. It aligned perfectly with a roller conveyor onto which they shoved the box.

“Take the cart and report back,” the guard instructed.

They returned the way they had come in far less time as though trying to outrun their transgression.

Eddy was the first to dare to speak.

“That was Hank.”

“Shut up!”

“That was…”

Joe turned on Eddy with a threat.

“I said…”

“Okay. Okay.”

“Shit.”

“Did they see…”

“No. I don’t know. I hope not.”

A guard met them when they arrived at the cell block and began leading them away from the mess hall.

“It’s lunch time.” Eddy complained.

The guard didn’t respond, but locked them in separate cells.

An hour later, trays of food were slid through access ports in their doors.

The next day, four inmates pushed two carts with two boxes along the corridor.

Jack Durish is the author of the historical novel about war, love, and the Cuban Revolution: Rebels on the Mountain.

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First Chapter Finalist for Historical Fiction: Eyes of the Doe by Patricia Wells http://venturegalleries.com/blog/first-chapter-finalist-for-historical-fiction-eyes-of-the-doe-by-patricia-wells/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/first-chapter-finalist-for-historical-fiction-eyes-of-the-doe-by-patricia-wells/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 06:40:44 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78304 The Eyes of the Doe by Patricia Wells is a Finalist in the Historical Fiction category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards. Award-Winning First Chapter It’s not the tragedy, but loss of innocence,... Read more

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The Eyes of the Doe by Patricia Wells is a Finalist in the Historical Fiction category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.

Award-Winning First Chapter

It’s not the tragedy, but loss of innocence, that hardens the soul.

Sometimes it seems that each year renders the same mean destiny as the one before, like a wound that won’t quite heal or a door that won’t slam shut no matter how hard I push against it. There never has been much happiness in the world. All I do is struggle to make ends meet and put up with kids who, half the time, are more of a burden than a blessing, especially Holly. Ever since the day she was born, she could aggravate me one moment, then leave me feeling ashamed for not being a better mother the very next. She simply wants more and needs more than I ever have to give her. Even in the womb, she was insufferable; kicking my insides out every restful second and putting me through eighteen hours of labor on one of the hottest days ever recorded in East Texas. All I had to show for it was a scrawny, baldheaded, red-faced screaming daughter. There, I finally said it. Now I would spend the rest of my day trying to make amends. I would buy Holly a new set of paper dolls or let her tear out the Betsy McCall page as soon as my new magazine arrived. I might even sit down with her while she drew a picture and tell her she was sure to make an artist.

Holly’s older sister was born eight months after Ross shipped out overseas, somewhere in the Pacific. He made it clear in every letter he wrote home how badly he wanted a son. I was sure once he saw Kathleen he would feel differently. But fighting a war had left Ross too moody and restless, too willing to find comfort from a pint of Jim Beam, to notice what a beautiful baby girl I had given him.

The war had taken its toll on me, too; what with trying to raise a child all alone, wondering how I was going to pay all the bills and worrying whether my husband would come back in one piece. But I never used any of that as an excuse for chucking my responsibilities.

Kathleen was almost seven when I got pregnant with Holly. Ross eagerly awaited the birth of a son, just like he had done when I was carrying Kathleen. He didn’t even try to hide his disappointment when he learned his second child was also a girl.

Holly was still in her crib when Jake was born. Ross may have gotten his wish for a son, but for me each waking moment was spent taking care of an infant and toddler still in diapers. To make matters worse, every time Ross held Jake in his arms, Holly would throw a tantrum, crinkling her face like an old man’s as she squatted at his feet, screaming and kicking, then hitting her balled fists against the floor before sprawling out in front of him like a jilted lover. It wasn’t until Holly came down with polio, right before her second birthday, that Ross paid her any attention. From then on, he gave in to everything she wanted.

I was the one who had to deal with Holly’s bad leg and temper. She was different from all the other children her age and she knew it.

“Don’t make me!” she screamed each time I tried to put the brace on her leg.

“You know you can’t walk without it! Besides, you’re not the only child with polio, you know.”

“Am, too,” Holly insisted.

“I don’t want to hear any more. Just be glad you didn’t end up in an iron lung. Now

hurry up before I give you something else to cry about!”

One morning Holly grabbed the brace and threw it against the wall, tearing a hole

through the plaster. The day before her Aunt Martha and her cousin Nick had stopped by.

Holly, Jake and Nick were running around the backyard like wild Indians. The two boys had taken off their shirts and were tossing a ball to one another while Holly did her best to snatch it from them. She was no match for her brother and cousin and soon plopped down on the grass, emptying her pockets of the pebbles she had gathered earlier and throwing them at the boys for not letting her have the ball.

“Poor child,” Martha didn’t even lower her voice as she spoke to me. “She’ll probably never marry. You know what I mean, with her leg and all.”

“What a fool thing to say about a six year old,” I said. “Holly has a pretty face and that will more than make up for her bad leg.”

“Well, I wouldn’t tell her she was pretty if I were you. That way, she won’t be disappointed when men notice she’s a cripple and look the other way.” Martha pursed her lips, the way she always did when she wanted to make a point.

I felt guilty for having thought the same thing myself. Although I worried how Holly would handle being labeled a cripple, it only fueled her doggedness to prove Aunt Martha wrong. She worked hard to build her strength so one day she could walk without her brace and took extra pains to disguise her lameness.

Despite having polio, Holly pestered me constantly to let her take ballet lessons like her cousin Caroline, who was a year older and had two good legs to dance on. Holly would never walk on her toes anymore than she would fly to the moon. Why God had given me a child who always wanted what she couldn’t have, most of which was utter nonsense, was beyond me. Her fixation on being a ballerina was soon replaced with wanting an apple tree like the one she had seen in some book. I blamed Ross for that. He’s the one who told her she could have anything she wanted if she waited long enough and thought hard enough about it. I don’t know why he

had to give her such false hope.

The day this all started was so scorching hot and humid I had to mop my neck repeatedly

with a damp dish cloth. Beads of moisture formed on every surface. A small fan droned as it swung back and forth in its battle to stir the unforgiving air. I heard utensils rattling in the drawer behind me and turned as Holly grabbed a large serving spoon and tried to hide it under her cotton shirt. She slid out the screen door before I could stop her.

“Just where do you think you’re going, Holly Hendricks?” I hollered after her. “You’re not going to take my good spoon out there in the yard!”

“I’ll bring it back, I promise!”

“You know better than to run around like that on your bad leg! You’ll have to wear your

brace again if you’re not careful!” It was too hot to chase after her. All I could do was keep a close watch as she ran toward the chain link fence that separated our backyard and pasture.

Holly, safely out of calling range, crouched down next to the dark pink blooms climbing the fence like a floral barbed wire waiting to prick the living daylights out of anyone who brushed up against it. I tried calling her again, but she couldn’t hear me.

The best I could tell, Holly was digging little holes with my spoon. I had a good mind to go out there and snatch it from her. She knew better than to tear up my garden after all the time I had spent pruning, mulching and nurturing my beautiful Tyler roses, which also provided an alluring feast for the forager bees Ross kept in the pasture.

Earlier that morning, I noticed the apple seeds Holly had placed on the windowsill to dry were missing. Later I saw her untie one of my handkerchiefs and look at the little pile of seeds she had wrapped inside it.

“You ought to throw those seeds away,” I grumbled.

“I’m going to plant them,” she argued.

“Well, you’re wasting your time if you ask me. Apple trees don’t grow around here. Not in this kind of soil and climate.”

Holly retied the handkerchief and stuffed it in her pocket. She walked out of the room like she hadn’t heard a word I said. I don’t know how she got to be so stubborn. Kathleen always yielded to a strong voice and Jake never caused any fuss in the first place. For whatever reason, Holly wanted an apple tree and no amount of coaxing could change her mind. Well, she didn’t get that kind of thinking from me. That was Ross’s doing. I had been burdened enough with all this foolishness. Ross would have to deal with her, not me, when those seeds of hers refused to sprout.

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What happens when the lights dim and the game ends? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/what-happen-when-the-lights-dim-and-the-game-ends/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/what-happen-when-the-lights-dim-and-the-game-ends/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 07:40:32 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78288 I NEVER PLAYED organized football. I graduated from high school at a hundred and eighteen pounds. If I hadn’t had an Adam’s apple, I couldn’t have cast a shadow. I was lanky. I was thin. I was slow. Coaches didn’t come... Read more

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FridayNights-FrontOnly

I NEVER PLAYED organized football. I graduated from high school at a hundred and eighteen pounds. If I hadn’t had an Adam’s apple, I couldn’t have cast a shadow.

I was lanky.

I was thin.

I was slow.

Coaches didn’t come around to ask my name. No coach ever asked if I could play football. They took one look at me and had the only answer they needed.

Growing up on the backyard sandlots of East Texas, however, I’ve thrown a pass or two and caught a pass or two and kicked a punt of two. I’ve been battered and scarred and held together for weeks at a time with Band-Aids.

When we played, there were no yard markers.

No lights.

No band.

No scoreboard.

No cheerleaders to wipe the blood from our dirty faces.

No one ever asked who won.

Why bother?

No one knew. Even fewer cared.

We played a lot of games in the front yard of the James Ward home. He had a son a little older than I. He didn’t play any organized football either.

Mister Ward was a banker. He had a lush lawn, thick with soft, freshly mowed grass. It was a good place to fall.

Out games chewed it up. We ripped out chunks of St. Augustine grass and left patches of dust in their places.

One of the neighbors asked Mister Ward, “Why do you let those boys come over and tear up such a beautiful lawn.”

Mister Ward smiled.

“Right now,” he said, “I’m growing boys. When they leave home, I’ll grow grass.”

I never played organized football. But I’ve written about it.

I covered football for my Kilgore College newspaper, The Flare. During my senior year at The University of Texas, I was Sports Editor of The Daily Texan when we beat Navy in the Cotton Bowl to win the National Championship.

During summers, I ran up and down the sidelines in Gladewater’s high school football stadium, taking photos with an old Speed Graphic Camera and scribbling notes for a story I would write in The Gladewater Daily Mirror.

On Friday nights, there was no place better to be.

In Texas and throughout the South, football is not a sport.

Football is a religion.

A town might have a population of four thousand, but ten thousand fans would pack into the stands on Friday nights.

When Linda served as principal of Ennis High School, we did not miss a game.

I was there because I loved the game.

Linda was there because principals were expected to keep an eye on the crowd.

Students seldom gave her any trouble.

Fans were always out of control.

During her tenure, Ennis won three state championships.

All of the playoff games were out of town. And Ennis – the school and the town – hit the road.

The police chief once told us that for two hours before game time until two hours after game time, his office would not receive a single phone call.

There was no trouble. There was no one left to cause trouble.

On one Friday night before the Saturday State Playoff game at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, a man was shot to death in town.

He was still alive when police reached his front porch and lived long enough to whisper a name.

There was no mystery to solve. Police knew who fired the fatal shot.

But no one searched for the killer.

No one had to.

The homicide detective simply went to Cowboy Stadium the next afternoon, stood beside the ticket office, and waited as the legion of fans pass through the gates.

Sure enough, the killer came to buy his ticket.

Police knew he would show up.

Where else would he be when his hometown team was playing for the state championship?

He didn’t mind going to jail.

He didn’t mind going to prison.

He hated like hell to miss the opening kickoff.

On more than one occasion, Linda and I sat in the stands and watched a bunch of sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen year olds play a football game. For them, it was more than a game.

They were stars.

They were royalty.

All they could hear were people screaming their names.

Bright lights shone on their faces.

The only math they needed to know were the numbers on the scoreboard.

I once told Linda, “For some of these boys, Friday night is as good as it will ever be, and their Friday nights won’t last forever.”

What happens when the lights dim?

What happens when the cheering stops?

What happens when no one knows your name anymore?

What happens when no one wants an autograph?

What happens when cheerleaders no longer walk arm-in-arm beside you?

I wanted to know. So I wrote a book about it.

Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever will be released August 29 just in time for the high school football season. On Southern football fields, one glorious world ends, and a new one begins all over again.

It always does.

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Knowing Novelist Eric Beetner by the books he reads http://venturegalleries.com/blog/knowing-novelist-eric-beetner-by-the-books-he-reads/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/knowing-novelist-eric-beetner-by-the-books-he-reads/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 07:00:28 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78269 AS PART OF an ongoing series of blog posts, I’ve asked rising star Eric Beetner to give us a personal look into what writers read and what books influence their lives. If you want pistol-whipping, boot-stomping, nasty noir, then Eric... Read more

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AS PART OF an ongoing series of blog posts, I’ve asked rising star Eric Beetner to give us a personal look into what writers read and what books influence their lives.

If you want pistol-whipping, boot-stomping, nasty noir, then Eric Beetner is the guy for you—or his books anyway…Eric himself is wonderful blend of kind and cool…He’s the quick-fisted presence behind two of the best Fight Card novels (Split Decision / A Mouthful Of Blood) with his work since exploding across the hardboiled mystery scene. Rumrunners, The Devil Doesn’t Want Me, and Stripper Pole At The End Of The World, are just a few of the tough, noir influenced works Eric has published to critical acclaim…

Eric Beetner

Eric Beetner

THE BOOK YOU LOVED AS A CHILD…

One I really remember is called The Great Cheese Conspiracy. It’s about a gang of mice who live in an old movie house watching old gangster films and get inspired to rob the cheese shop next door. I think it inspired my love of crime fiction at a young age.

A BOOK YOU WOULD READ TO YOUR KIDS…

Another favorite from childhood I had the pleasure to read to my girls is The Phantom Tollbooth. My girls are reading on their own now so this is close to the last book they let me read to them, but it is such an important book to me. I had to share it with them

THE BOOK THAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER…

I think the one that turned the tide and made me want to commit to crime fiction was A Simple Plan by Scott Smith. Before that I was more omnivorous as a reader, but that solidified the types of stories I like best. 

YOUR FAVORITE CLASSIC…

Oh, man, making me choose! I do my best to read the classics of crime. I know I have a long way to go, but my favorite for now might be The Hot Spot by Charles Williams. It was originally titled Hell Hath No Fury when it came but the movie title is how it is republished today. But ask me again in five minutes and I’ll switch to something else like The Kiss Off or The Big Steal or Rendezvous In Black or Double Indemnity or…or…or…

THE CLASSIC YOU’VE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO READ…

Maybe Crime and Punishment? But to be honest I haven’t tried that hard. I know better than to try some classic detective fiction like Agatha Christie because I know it’s just not my thing.

THE CLASSIC YOU’VE PRETENDED TO HAVE READ…

3I never pretend. I’ll cop to not reading something every time. Talented Mr. Ripley is one I’ve never read but probably should. I own it. Just never read it.

THE MOVIE ADAPTATION YOU’VE LOVED…

Back to A Simple Plan. They really nailed it.

THE BOOK YOU’D LIKE TO SEE AS A MOVIE… 

Well, any of mine, of course. I’d like to see Gun Monkeys by Victor Gischler. With the right cast, it could be a lot of fun.

THE IMAGINARY PLACE WHERE YOU COULD LIVE… 

It’s far away enough to be imaginary and mythical in my mind, but I’d love to have lived and worked in Hollywood in the 1940s. A great time for film.

THE GENRE YOU’D READ IF YOU WERE LIMITED TO ONE…

Hardboiled crime fiction

THE BOOK YOU’VE RETURNED TO AGAIN AND AGAIN…

I don’t re-read very much, but when I even think of it I always want to start with Wild At Heart by Barry Gifford.

THE FICTIONAL FRIENDS YOU’D LOVE TO HAVE…

Oh man, I’ll say the Amlingmeyer brothers from Steve Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range series. Or Hap and Leonard from Joe Lansdale’s series. Both pairs get into a lot of trouble though so you’d have to watch your back.

THE LAST NOVEL TO MAKE YOU LAUGH AND THE LAST TO MAKE YOU CRY…

Martin Short’s autobiography I Must Say was fantastic. Do the audiobook to get the full effect. In a way it had the funniest and some of the saddest parts of a book so you get both in one volume.

Paul Bishop

Paul Bishop

WHAT YOU’RE READING NOW…

I just started Dodgers by Bill Beverly and it’s off to a great start. I’m looking forward to digging into the rest of it.

Thanks for hanging out Eric—Always looking forward to your next novel offering…

Eric’s latest book, When The Devil Comes To Call, continues the adventures of aging hitman Lars and Shaine, the high spirited daughter of one of Lar’s targets who has more mayhem in one fist than most men in their entire bodies…

FOR MORE BOOKS BY ERIC BEETNER CLICK HERE

Bestselling author Paul Bishop is the force behind Lie Catchers.

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Historical American: The Female Paul Revere http://venturegalleries.com/blog/historical-american-the-female-paul-revere/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/historical-american-the-female-paul-revere/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 06:50:50 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78281 Dicey Langston shields her father to save his life. Born 14 May, 1766, Laodicea "Dicey" Langston is sometimes referred to as a "female Paul Revere" because of her fearless regard for her own life in her effort to warn others of danger. When... Read more

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Dicey Langston shields her father to save his life.

Dicey Langston shields her father to save his life.

Born 14 May, 1766, Laodicea “Dicey” Langston is sometimes referred to as a “female Paul Revere” because of her fearless regard for her own life in her effort to warn others of danger.

When the Revolutionary War began, Dicey’s brothers left the plantation to fight with the Continental Army. They camped in the forest with a small band of Patriots. When 15-year-old Dicey Langston heard that the Bloody Scouts were going to attack the small group of Whigs at Little Eden, she broke her promise to her father. The Bloody Scouts were a group of British supporters ruthless in killing anyone who was part of the rebel cause.

Gay Ingram

Gay Ingram

She started out on her twenty-mile tramp that night avoiding the roads and keeping to the fields and forests. In order to reach her brothers and warn them, she had to cross the flooded Tyger stream. Soaked, exhausted, and almost drowned, she finally reached the band of men. When the Bloody Scouts reached the Whigs’ camp, no one was there.

Soon afterwards, the enraged group descended upon Samuel Langston’s farmhouse, intent on killing him because of his known support of the rebels. Dicey jumped in between the pistol and her father, clasped her father’s body close to her own and reprimanded the man. The gunman was called off and the party left.

One day Dicey was met by a company of loyalists who ordered her to give them some intelligence about the family she had just visited. She refused and the captain of the band pulled out his pistol. Her reply was, “Shoot me if you dare! I will not tell you.” The officer was about to fire, when another threw up his hand and saved the courageous girl’s life. Throughout the war, Dicey continued her patriotic work by standing up to the bands of Loyalists who terrorized her home.

After the war, Dicey Langston married Thomas Springfield. Dicey was the mother of 22 children and known to boast she had thirty-two sons and grandsons able to vote or fight for liberty.

Gay Ingram is author of the historical fiction novel: Not Bound by Blood.

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First Chapter Book Award Finalist/Mystery: Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies http://venturegalleries.com/blog/first-chapter-book-award-finalistmystery-dust-bunnies-and-dead-bodies/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/first-chapter-book-award-finalistmystery-dust-bunnies-and-dead-bodies/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 06:40:18 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78284 Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies: Book Two by Janis Thornton is a Finalist in the Mystery/Thriller category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards. Award-Winning First Chapter “Hold on, Miss Cropper!... Read more

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Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies: Book Two by Janis Thornton is a Finalist in the Mystery/Thriller category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.

Award-Winning First Chapter

“Hold on, Miss Cropper! We’re gonna crash!”

I knew it! Ever since I let my friends talk me into adding “fly in a powered parachute” to the top of my bucket list, I had known “Hold on, Miss Cropper! We’re gonna crash!” would be the last words I’d ever hear.

Janis-author-photo2         My young friend, Clip Parker, had been piloting the levitating two-seater cart—which looked more like a flimsy dune buggy dangling from an umbrella than a federally approved aircraft—hundreds of feet above the Elm County countryside, with me straddling him from behind, for a half an hour. The whole time, he had flown it masterfully and, I should add, without incident, keeping my trepidation at bay. That is, until some bird-brained, directionally impaired waterfowl flapped loosey-goosey into the aircraft’s propeller and promptly burst into a kaleidoscope of shredded feathers and shards of meat in various shades of red. Bye-bye, birdie. I’d have been chewing my fingernails to the quick had anyone other than Clip been at the helm of that contraption. My faith in his piloting skills was resolute. However, a half a second later, the cart’s engine choked on a glob of the organic fallout, coughed once, sputtered, and died. And so did my faith. As my survival instinct kicked in, I lurched forward, wrapping my arms around Clip and digging my fingernails into his burly chest for dear life. The kid was good, but he was no Sully Sullenberger, the heroic pilot who had safely crash-landed his commercial airliner on New York’s Hudson River after a flock of Canadian geese had flown into its path. Thanks to him, everyone onboard walked away unscathed.

Cruising at thirty miles an hour generated a noisy wind that would have made conversation impossible if not for the two-way radio wired into our helmets. I had forgotten about the sensitive, audio connection and possibly could have busted Clip’s eardrums, when I screamed, “We’re gonna what?” into my helmet mike.

“Hold on,” he shouted back. “I’m bringing her down.”

Without a motor to keep the propeller spinning, our lives literally depended on the rainbow-colored parachute to keep us airborne. I’m sure it was the altitude causing my split-second lapse into hysterical clarity when I started to think that gliding through the crisp, spring air was not a totally unpleasant sensation. For a teeny moment, I flashed back to a childhood dream I once had where I was soaring with the eagles. I felt like shouting, “Whee!” And I would’ve if I hadn’t been about to die.

Approaching Elmwood from our lofty vantage, the city looked like a crocheted doily. Unfortunately, it lacked a single place for us to land as smooth and soft as the bean field we had taken off from in the northern part of the county.

“Where are we going to set it down?” I yelled.

Clip pointed toward the southeast. “Over there,” he said, steering the cart’s nose in that direction.

I was confused. “Over there” was the courthouse steeple. Surely, we weren’t going to land anywhere near there. Several blocks beyond the courthouse was the local radio station’s 500-foot-tall transmission tower, and past it was the cemetery. I had no idea what Clip was referring to. Surely, we weren’t going to touch down near any of those landmarks.

I had always taken pride in my ability to keep myself grounded—both feet firmly planted with my head bobbing some six feet above them. I don’t know what came over me a couple weeks ago, when Clip, my long-time mechanic and a veritable genius at tinkering with combustion engines, invited me for a ride on his new toy. I admit I was slightly intrigued and thought it would make a great feature story for my hometown newspaper, the Elmwood Gazette, for which I have been editor for just over a decade. And besides, Clip was a sensible young man, which was why I told him, “Sure, I’d love to go up in your powered parachute. Someday.” From that moment on, every time the phone rang, I feared it would be Clip calling to tell me the weather was perfect for our flight. Early that morning, after several rainy days, the ideal conditions finally arrived. It was Memorial Day. How appropriate.

“Where?” I asked him again, eyeing the neighborhoods, streets, treetops, automobile traffic, people—and even cats and dogs—all of which were growing increasingly larger below us. I was beginning to think we had shifted into free-fall. As if that weren’t alarming enough, we were on an approach for the courthouse lawn, where a mob of approximately 500 men, women, and children had congregated for the ceremonial Memorial Day service, complete with the community band and the American Legion firing squad.

“We’re going to die, aren’t we?” I gasped. Eyeing the innocent bystanders, I wondered if any of them could even conceive of the danger we momentarily would thrust upon them. “And how many others will we take with us?”

“Crystal,” he said, addressing me by my first name—a sign that I must have really ticked him off, “you’re going to have to trust me.”

It was the last thing he said before the stampede. At first, when the people noticed us, they grinned and waved. They yelled, “Hellooooooooow,” which attracted the attention of others around them, who also joined in. Soon, nearly everyone was waving and cheering at us—until the moment they realized if they didn’t get out of our way, the funny-looking flying machine was going to mow them down like spring grass.

As I expected, panic took hold all of a sudden. But then, the screaming crowd parted like the Red Sea, unwittingly clearing a perfect landing strip on the courthouse lawn. Clip gently touched down and the cart taxied to a graceful stop with both of us in one piece. We were alive. And unscathed. I threw my arms around Clip and shouted, “Whee!” I hadn’t doubted his piloting skills for one second.

Sully Sullenberger, eat your heart out!

 

 

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A memoir is only carved from memories, never history. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/a-memoir-is-only-carved-from-memories-never-history/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/a-memoir-is-only-carved-from-memories-never-history/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 07:40:18 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78262 My memoir would surely cover the days I spent on the road with my good friend and great photographer, Gerald Crawford. He happens to the be one on the right. WE ALL HAVE A MEMOIR dwelling deep inside us. And alongside the memoir there rests... Read more

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My memoir would surely cover the days I spent on the road with my good friend and great photographer, Gerald Crawford.

My memoir would surely cover the days I spent on the road with my good friend and great photographer, Gerald Crawford. He happens to the be one on the right.

WE ALL HAVE A MEMOIR dwelling deep inside us.

And alongside the memoir there rests a basic fear.

Will anybody read it?

Will anybody care?

Why would anyone want to hear my story anyway?

What have I ever done?

Who am I?

I looked in the mirror this morning.

I’m not even sure who I am.

None of us are alone when surrounded by those fears.

Others have experienced them, and others have written successful memoirs.

These are their thoughts about the task as written within the pages of the memoirs themselves.

 

“Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book, if written, results in a person explained.”
― Thomas M. CirignanoThe Constant Outsider

 

Remember that you own what happened to you. If your childhood was less than ideal, you may have been raised thinking that if you told the truth about what really went on in your family, a long bony white finger would emerge from a cloud and point to you, while a chilling voice thundered, “We *told* you not to tell.” But that was then. Just put down on paper everything you can remember now about your parents and siblings and relatives and neighbors, and we will deal with libel later on.”
― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

 

“I start to see that I surround myself with broken people; more broken than me. Ah, yes, let me count your cracks. Let’s see, one hundred, two… yes, you’ll do nicely. A cracked companion makes me look more whole, gives me something outside myself to care for. When I’m with whole, healed people I feel my own cracks, the shatters, the insanities of dislocation in myself.”
― Julie GregorySickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood

 

“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures. …We tell the story to get them back, to capture the traces of footfalls through the snow.”
― Gail CaldwellLet’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

 

In the English language, it all comes down to this: Twenty-six letters, when combined correctly, can create magic. Twenty -six letters form the foundation of a free, informed society.”
― John GroganBad Dogs Have More Fun: Selected Writings on Family, Animals, and Life from The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

“It has always been on the written page that the world has come into focus for me. If I can piece all these bits of memory together with the diaries and letters and the scribbled thoughts that clutter my mind and bookshelves, then maybe I can explain what happened. Maybe the worlds I have inhabited for the past seven years will assume order and logic and wholeness on paper. Maybe I can tell my story in a way that is useful to someone else.”
― Nancy HoranLoving Frank

 

“’I don’t know where to start,’ one [writing student] will wail.

“Start with your childhood,” I tell them. “Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can. Flannery O’ Connor said that anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life. Maybe your childhood was grim and horrible, but grim and horrible is Okay if it is well done. Don’t worry about doing it well yet, though. Just get it down.”
― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

 

“Write about small, self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you remember them, it’s because they contain a larger truth that your readers will recognize in their own lives. Think small and you’ll wind up finding the big themes in your family saga. ”
― William Zinsser

 

“The morning opens, a mist of innocence appears across the countryside that tells each one of us the day is new. That feeling of hope, love and the humble awareness of our duty becomes clear if even for a moment. It is that experience of inspiration that follows us into a small town woken by a cool frost on this Sunday morning and the laughter of children playing.”
― Kris CourtneyNorma Jean’s Sun

 

“Stories nurture our connection to place and to each other. They show us where we have been and where we can go. They remind us of how to be human, how to live alongside the other lives that animate this planet. … When we lose stories, our understanding of the world is less rich, less true.”
― Susan J. TweitWalking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey

 

“Those who live in memories are never really dead.”
― Kate MortonThe House at Riverton

 

“Memoir is not an act of history but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt.”
― Mary Karr

 

Who knows?

I may write a memoir someday.

And if I do, I know why.

There’s no doubt about it.

I want to make sure that my stories are told exactly the way I would tell them when I’m no longer around to tell them myself.

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Was the mysterious brass plaque a lost treasure or a hoax? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/was-the-mysterious-brass-plaque-a-lost-treasure-or-a-hoax/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/was-the-mysterious-brass-plaque-a-lost-treasure-or-a-hoax/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 07:00:26 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=78251 “I love unsolved mysteries, don’t you?” I asked my friend, Irene. I knew the answer before she responded. “I do. Yes, I do.” “As you know, I have been studying them for years and have many books on them, and in my own lifetime,... Read more

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“I love unsolved mysteries, don’t you?” I asked my friend, Irene. I knew the answer before she responded.

“I do. Yes, I do.”

“As you know, I have been studying them for years and have many books on them, and in my own lifetime, some unsolved mysteries have deepened and developed side-stories, some have actually been solved, and some have been proven as fakes, or hoaxes.”

“I hate it when that happens.” Irene then chuckled.

“For example, I have right here a copy of Strange Stories, Amazing Facts put out by Reader’s Digest with a publishing date of 1976. Several of the mysteries have been solved since it was published and several have been found out to be hoaxes.

“Give me an example.”

“Are you familiar with The Francis Drake Plaque, discovered near San Francisco in the 1930s?”

“Yes. You mean it was a hoax? Oh, no.”

 

Sara Marie Hogg

Sara Marie Hogg

“Well, listen to the story and decide for yourself. It was so fascinating that I wanted it to be true. The plate was found at Drake’s Beach in 1933 by a man picnicking. He overturned a rock on the north shore of Golden Gate Bridge and found the dirty old plate under it. He kept it for awhile in his car, thinking it might come in handy to make a metal repair with. I think he then threw it away one day, near San Quentin clear around the point of Marin County.”

Irene asked, “Then who found it?”

“Supposedly a man named Beryle Shinn found it. He cleaned it up with soap and water and thought he might be onto something. The old brass plate read something like this:

Bee it knowne unto all men by these presents June 17, 1579, By

     the grace of God and in the name of herr Majesty Queen Elizabeth

     of England and herr successors forever I take possession of this

     kingdome whose king and people freely resign their right and title

     in the whole land unto her majesties keeping now named by me and

     to bee knowne unto all men as Nova Albion. –Francis Drake.

Irene recalled some facts. “And so they believed this for years—that Sir Francis Drake stopped here on his circumnavigation of the globe and left this plate in California. It was even taught to some of the school children of California that this was real, an actual genuine artifact, as I recall.”

“Yes, they did, and it is all because Beryle Shinn took it to the office of noted historian, professor Herbert Bolton, at the Berkeley campus.   Bolton got very excited by the discovery and it was soon being called the mysterious ‘Plate of Brasse.’”

“What happened then?”

“Bolton forgot his own rule, ‘if it seems too good to be true, it is,’ and declared it was a long lost treasure, and after studying it, declared it was authentic beyond a reasonable doubt. That is how things stood when he died in 1953. He had gotten many unrelated honors over the years. Then, the sophisticated tests that were available in 1977 proved that it was a forgery. There had been an attempt to artificially age the plate, but tests showed that the brass it was made of was actually rolled in the twentieth Century. So, they knew it was a forgery, but they could not figure out who was behind it.”

“Oh, my, Phoebe. That kills it. What a huge embarrassment.”

“Some of Professor Bolton’s old chums started getting nervous. You see they had all been in this club, the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus. The club mainly centered around joke-telling and cocktails. They called themselves ‘Clampers.’ Bolton was the Grand Royal Historian of his own chapter of Clampers (Yerba Buena), also, Bolton was a known expert on Drake and he had often regaled them with the notion that Drake had left a brass plate somewhere in the area. Where he got this idea, I don’t know—probably from years of research. Some of the friends in his group decided to provide one for a practical joke. They created one with some brass from and Alameda ship chandlery and etched the Elizabethan-style writing on it.   When Bolton believed it was a true artifact, the club members got a terrible feeling in the pits of their stomachs. They did not know how to correct their misdeed. One idea they had didn’t work. They planted a second authentic-looking plate that said the first one was a joke, but that plate was never found.”

“That is a great idea, if it had worked,” Irene offered. “So the people who found the first plate, was that incident staged then?”

“It must have been. They must have roped a plate-finder in on it. All of the pranksters, and Bolton are long gone, but the way the hoax was discovered was this: When the hoaxers got up steeper and steeper in age, they started letting some of their prank get out. One of the old guy went by the Clamper nickname of Gee-Hosaphat, according to an issue of California History Magazine.”

“Ha, ha, that is a good one, Phoebe.

“I thought so, but no matter, Drake will always be immortal for his discoveries, and Professor Bolton will be remembered for his other many worthwhile contributions—and there are those in high places who are convinced that there is a Plate of Brasse still out there waiting to be discovered because of the professor’s deep research on the subject.”

“Well, I’ll swan.” This was all that Irene could think of to say.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of The Scavenger’s Song.

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