Venture Galleries http://venturegalleries.com Connecting Readers, Writers, and Books Thu, 26 May 2016 10:43:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What was the secret behind the image? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/what-was-the-secret-behind-the-image/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/what-was-the-secret-behind-the-image/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 07:40:44 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76173 Old abandoned houses have always fascinated me. I wonder what secrets they possess. WHERE DO IDEAS for stories originate? Sometimes it only takes a single image. How do stories begin? In my mind, they always start with a single... Read more

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Old abandoned houses have always fascinated me. I wonder what secrets they possess.

Old abandoned houses have always fascinated me. I wonder what secrets they possess.

WHERE DO IDEAS for stories originate?

Sometimes it only takes a single image.

How do stories begin?

In my mind, they always start with a single image.

Why do we tell stories?

No matter how hard we try, we can’t get that single image out of our minds.

It’s not complicated.

We see the image.

We ask why.

And we write the next 75,000 words to find out.

I had no idea who she was.

I had never met her.

I would never meet her.

She was a stranger then.

She is a stranger now, a stranger without a name.

I don’t know how old she was.

Or how young.

I have no idea why she left.

I don’t know where she’s gone.

I don’t know if she’s ever coming back.

All she left behind was a purse.

The old house sat back among the oaks of Kentucky.

It was perched alongside a narrow, twisting road where few people ever go anymore unless they’re lost or curious.

I was curious.

The road ended about a mile away at the edge of a creek bank.

Bad weather had taken the bridge away.

Nobody had any reason to build it again.

It was a road to nowhere.

Nowhere had ceased to exist.

Old houses fascinate me.

They hold secrets.

They keep their secrets close.

The secrets are none of my business.

That’s what the old houses think.

They’re wrong.

The secrets are my business.

I’m a writer.

The weeds were a foot high.

The white paint was streaked with age and strips of weathered wood.

The wind had quit blowing about ten miles back down the road.

The steps were no longer attached to the porch.

I could see through the cracks in the porch.

The door was open.

I walked in.

Wallpaper was peeling.

The roses in the paper were no longer red.

The roses no longer bloomed.

There was only one piece of furniture in the living room.

A little table sat beside the window.

The windowpane had been broken.

Glass scattered among the stains of raindrops on the surface of the table.

I didn’t see it at first.

But there it sat amidst the shards and spots: a leather purse.

It was all that remained of a life, of a woman who had once laughed and worried and prayed and loved and found shelter in the house.

I stood and stared at the purse.

The leather was cracked.

The brown had been stained by black.

It was covered with layers of dust.

A spider web had tied it to the table.

All I had were questions.

Who could have left it?

Why was it left?

Did someone leave in a hurry?

Was someone taken away so long ago?

Did someone die?

Was the purse simply forgotten?

Or was it a memory no one wanted anymore?

Was her name inside?

Was there a secret inside?

I could have opened the purse.

I didn’t.

Maybe the house was right after all.

Maybe the secrets were none of my business.

I said goodbye to the woman.

I waited for a whisper.

I heard only silence and walked out the door.

I didn’t need to pry.

I didn’t have to.

The image of an old and forgotten purse in an old and forgotten house alongside an old and forgotten road had told me everything I needed to know.

My novel, Deadline News tells the secrets of a small town before the houses aged and were abandoned.

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What does it take to make America laugh? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/what-does-it-take-to-make-america-laugh/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/what-does-it-take-to-make-america-laugh/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 06:55:49 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76146   Don Knotts gained fame as "one bullet" Barney on the Andy Griffith Show. REMEMBER CHARLIE CHAPLIN? W. C. Fields? Mae West? Lucille Ball? Phyllis Diller? Zazu Pitts? Marjorie Main? Red Skelton? Bob Hope? Jack Benny? Laurel and Hardy?... Read more

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Don Knotts gained fame as "one bullet" Barney on the Andy Griffith Show.

Don Knotts gained fame as “one bullet” Barney on the Andy Griffith Show.

REMEMBER CHARLIE CHAPLIN? W. C. Fields? Mae West? Lucille Ball? Phyllis Diller? Zazu Pitts? Marjorie Main? Red Skelton? Bob Hope? Jack Benny? Laurel and Hardy? Abbott and Costello? The Marx Brothers? Jerry Lewis? Jackie Gleason? The Three Stooges?

All of these magnificent comedians — and a host of others — brought a lot of joy and laughter into our lives. But wait, there’s one more I want to tell you about. He may have been the greatest of them all.

Some people say Jesse grew up in a home where his father was hard on him most all of his life. And his older brother was always picking on him and beating him up.

So growing up in the family home in Virginia was a bitter experience for young Jesse. And on top of everything else, he was sick a lot of the time. Some believed the sickness was real, but others believed it was in his head.

 

Bill Keith

Bill Keith

Even when he went to school, the bigger boys bullied him and made fun of him for being so skinny and meek.

Some say that because life didn’t hold much hope for Jesse, he went to work at a chicken plant plucking feathers, a job hardly any of the other young boys wanted.

Life didn’t hold a lot of promise for young Jesse.

But he did have a dream — he wanted to become a ventriloquist. So he looked for and found a book on ventriloquism. He practiced with sock puppets and saved his money so he could purchase a real ventriloquist dummy and entertained folks in his home town in West Virginia.

When he was old enough, he enlisted in the military. Although some vestiges of his sicknesses persisted, the military recognized his talents and put him to work entertaining the other troops.

That was a major development in his life and, from that time forward, his life began to change as he developed more and more confidence in himself.

Little Jesse discovered that he had a talent for making people laugh and laugh so hard they often had tears in their eyes.

We’ve all heard stories of how some famous people overcame difficulties to become very successful. But not Jesse. He kept his paranoia and capitalized on it to make millions of dollars and become one of the best-loved characters of all time in so doing!

For, you see, the little paranoid hypochondriac, who turned his nervous demeanor into a successful career, was a man who still holds the records for the most Emmys given in a single category.

This wonderful, gifted, talented, nervous comedian was the man who brought us Barney Fife on the “Andy Griffith Show.” His name was Jesse Don Knotts who starred with Andy Griffith and brought us delightful movie comedies “The Reluctant Astronaut,””The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” and “The Shakiest Gun in the West.”

In 2000, he was recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He passed away in 2006, but his memory will last forever.
Bill Keith is the author of Whisper in the Wind.

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Spending fifty years as an ink-stained wretch http://venturegalleries.com/blog/spending-fifty-years-as-an-ink-stained-wretch/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/spending-fifty-years-as-an-ink-stained-wretch/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 06:45:00 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76169 I experienced the strange, lonely life of a newspaper job. Photo source: FloridaPolitics.com             “The best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago.” – Chinese proverb\             “Newspaper readership is... Read more

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I experienced the strange, lonely life of a newspaper job. Photo source: FloridaPolitics.com

I experienced the strange, lonely life of a newspaper job. Photo source: FloridaPolitics.com

            “The best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago.” – Chinese proverb\

            “Newspaper readership is declining like crazy. In fact, there’s a good chance nobody is reading my column.” – Dave Barry

            When I started working at The Grant County Herald in Elbow Lake, Minnesota, in early June 1966, I had no idea a summer job would evolve into a fifty-year career.

Back then, I reasoned that learning the newspaper trade beat stacking hay bales and I would usually get off work in time to play night baseball games. As it turned out, the pen proved mightier and more profitable than the curve ball.

How did I wind up experiencing my ninth-grade ambition to be a writer – and occasionally, a journalist? Probably because auto repair, carpentry and any contributions to scientific discovery were virtual impossibilities. I can pass along, but hardly claim, a scientific revelation only slightly younger than the first documentation of brewing (roughly 7,000 years ago): one does not truly buy beer, one only rents it.

            Of course, I could have shared this observation while laboring in other professions, but likely with less elaboration and duller scenarios.

Times and terminology have changed distinctly in fifty years. In 1966, one still more often mooned over a lost love than mooned passing cars from an adjacent window sill or wall, although “dropping trou” soon found popularity/notoriety. Tripping was rapidly evolving from a balance issue to an LSD-induced voyage. Microchips, by any other name, were the end result of sitting on a bag of Lay’s.

Stephen Lang

Stephen LangI have never idolized other journalists, although I have quoted many, and laugh heartily and often at Twain and Dave Barry. While writing this column I found some affirmation as I perused the book, “Letters to a Young Journalist,” by Samuel Freedman, once a New York Times reporter and later a journalism professor at Columbia University. He wrote:

“I have also seen…what makes journalistic education fail, and this is when it settles for being a bunch of hero-worshipping students fawning over a star writer’s war stories. I remember the weakest student in my first Columbia class asking if he could skip a session so that he could hear a speech by David Halberstam. ‘If you go to hear Halberstam,’ I told him, ‘you’ll never be Halberstam.’”

            Freedman also wrote that his college paper “was my classroom, and experience was my teacher.”

            Or, as I was bluntly told on my first job when mentally calculating how far eighty-five-cents-per-hour would stretch: “Kid, it’s not what you’re earning, it’s what you’re learning.”

            I would learn, over the course of the next two and a half decades and a half-dozen newspapers, three important premises:

  1. “All the news that fits, we print,” so make sure everything worth remembering was included in the first three paragraphs of the story.
  2. Don’t cuss the printer if you don’t want to run the risk of a typo-filled story. Readers berate the editor, not the compositors, when calling to complain.
  3. Most newspapers, as a ready source of information or libation, or both, seemed to be conveniently located within a minute’s walk of a tavern.

Early in my career, I gravitated toward commentary rather than the highly-prized realm of investigative reporting. My most notable newspaper sleuthing involved shadowing various historians seeking to prove the validity of the Kensington Runestone of central Minnesota.

Since its discovery in 1898, the Runestone and its chiseled controversy – indicating that Vikings had explored the region in 1362 – promoted considerable debate among scholars/scoffers and scholars/believers. While working at a now-defunct daily paper, I accompanied a runic aficionado armed with metal detector and strong suspicions to the top of Inspiration Peak, the highest point in the region, in the dead of winter.

“Good story possibility here,” my editor muttered as he passed off the researcher. Judging by the twinkle in his eye, I surmised my editor was biting down on his pipe stem to keep from howling in laughter, either at the latest Runestone theory or the opportunity to send a smart-aleck kid out into the snow.

Even at twenty, I had learned to detect warning signs affecting credibility: glazed eyes, nervous twitches and conversations with unseen companions. This gentleman possessed none of these, so we drove to the Peak, trudged up the hill through at least a foot of snow and I snapped photos as he detected.

Sure enough, he struck metal, but whether he found beer cans, genuine Viking artifacts from a six-hundred-year-old campsite or the front bumper of a ’48 Pontiac, I remain uncertain. Digging through frozen ground was out of the question, and by the time I organized my notes to compile a story, the paper folded. In the meantime, I was ordered to report for a draft physical, so the theory that the Runestone authors pitched camp on the Peak due to its vantage point would rust in peace.

Years later, I met a Viking enthusiast who had presumably sniffed too much lutefisk. His eyes were glazed, he had a nervous tic, and while I did not hear him speak to unseen companions, I had the uneasy feeling that the imaginary parrot who abnormally sat on his shoulder was just down the block stretching its wings.

When this explorer eventually saw his research moved to a new location – one with mattress wallpaper – I abandoned all pretense of verification. When moving to West Texas and learning about the Marfa Lights, I realized the mathematical formula of tourism was universal: Legend + Controversy = Visitor Revenue.

I mentioned earlier that I never idolized other journalists, but for a time, I envied the success of a few. In my 40s, I muttered to my mother that my career had never seemed to get off the ground.

She stared at me, then said, “You’ve always made a living doing what you love,” and the light switched on. I have considered myself a lucky man ever since.

And to my extreme surprise, I discovered that the experience — added up over a half-century of Social Security taxable earnings — has been worth a million, and a fair amount more.

Steve Lang thanks all his readers – and employers — for 50 years of total enjoyment.

 

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Thursday Sampler: Not Bound by Blood by Gay Ingram http://venturegalleries.com/blog/thursday-sampler-not-bound-by-blood-by-gay-ingram/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/thursday-sampler-not-bound-by-blood-by-gay-ingram/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 06:40:38 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76142 In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Not Bound By Blood, a riveting new drama of love and loss... Read more

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FinalCover

In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Not Bound By Blood, a riveting new drama of love and loss and discovery by Gay Ingram.

About Gay Ingram

Gay Ingram writes from her cabin in the piney woods of East Texas. For over twenty-five years she has been entertaining and informing readers either through her novels or by way of articles published in magazines such as Writer’s Journal, BackHome and The Herb Companion.

Recently introduced to blogging, she now contributes a blog to www.venturegalleries.com and posts twice-weekly on her own blog, Comparing Oranges and Apples, at www.gayingram.blogspot.com.

The Story

In a friendship forged in high school days, solemn athletic Miriam Meyer and flamboyant actress Blanche LaRue seem as different as apples and kumquats.

After winning an Olympic Gold Medal while still a teenager, a plane crash forces Miriam to give up her dream of a repeat performance. She marries and settles for small-town life as the wife of her banker husband, Brad Hammond.

Blanche disposes of anything that will come in the way of achieving her goal, even husband and child. Her career carries her into the European war scene. An enamored Count Romano Vicente comes to rescue her.

Although continents sometimes separate the friends, their strong bond of friendship remains.

The Sampler

Gay Ingram

Gay Ingram

Blanche shrugged. “I’m glad to be back but acting jobs are scarce right now. Everybody’s caught up in the war news.” She caught a flash of alarm flicker across Miriam’s face. “Oh Mare, I’m so sorry. The fact of Brad’s enlistment completely left my mind. Do you know where he’ll be going yet?’

“All we know right now is that he has to report on December 30th. We won’t know anything else until then. All we know right now is that he has to report on December 30th. We won’t know anything else until then.”

“Gee, Mare. That’s rough. Are you going to be all right? Of course, you do have your parents close by to help you out.”

“I haven’t tried to think about when he’ll be gone. We just want to have a happy Christmas and enjoy the days we have left before…” she swallowed hard.

Blanche leaped from her seat and rushed to Miriam’s side. She pulled her friend into a close embrace, rubbing her back until the sobbing ended. After a bit, Miriam pulled away and dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief she pulled from her pocket.

“Guess we never know what life is going to throw at us, do we? Look at me, one day married to a man willing to give me the moon and the next, back where it all began and all alone again. Well, not exactly alone.”

Miriam cocked her head and gave Blanche a puzzled look. Blanche remained with her head bowed. The ensuing silence between them grew heavier.

“Well? You are going to explain that last remark, aren’t you? Have you found a new somebody already?”

Blanche’s head jerked up, ready to deny whatever Miriam hinted at. Instead, she lunged to her feet and began to pace. “The fact of the matter is, I’m pregnant.” She stopped in the middle of the room and threw both arms out wide. “Can you believe it? Romano’s dead and I’m pregnant.”

Miriam started to rise and come to hug Blanche, but the woman stretched her arms forward, palms toward her friend. “Don’t congratulate me, Mare. I don’t want this baby. My life is too full to make room for a helpless baby right now. I don’t want anything or anyone making demands of me. So…that’s why I took a couple weeks away to take care of this problem.”

Miriam stared at her friend, eyes wide in shock. “You call having a baby a problem to be taken care of? I don’t believe it. How can you say such a thing? Do you have any idea what it’s like to lose a life you’ve yearned to bring into being?” She blinked rapidly, turned her head aside to hide the threatening tears. It took a moment for Miriam to realize Blanche had spoken. “What did you say?”

“Mare, I truly am sorry for your loss. I know how hard you and Brad tried to have children. But it’s different for me. I need to focus on getting my career back into full swing. If I went ahead and had this baby, it would be too much of a distraction.”

Miriam gasped.

“Distraction? You call a living, breathing being you brought into this world a distraction? I can’t believe I’m hearing you say this.”

Blanche turned to face Miriam. “Why don’t you take my baby and raise it then? If you really want to raise another child, I’ll be perfectly content to turn over this he or she, whatever it turns out to be, and let you have full responsibility for it.”

Speechless, Miriam could only stare at Blanche, reading defiance written across her face. Only the crackle and thump of a log dropping in the fireplace broke a silence that went on and on. “Well? Don’t you have anything to say?”

Miriam shook her head as if to sweep away disruptive thoughts. “I don’t know what to say, Blanche. You’ve caught me completely off guard.”

Blanche took several steps away and then turned back. “I think that is just the perfect solution. I can be happy knowing my child will be well taken care of and you can add another little one to your cozy family. Oh, and by the way, I’ll set up a trust account so you won’t ever have to worry about money. In a way, Romano should be the one providing for this little package he left me with.”

 

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You can’t ignore the only one who knows the story. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/you-cant-ignore-the-only-one-who-knows-the-story/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/you-cant-ignore-the-only-one-who-knows-the-story/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 07:40:54 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76139 AMBROSE LINCOLN WANDERS DOWN from wherever he hangs out about two o’clock every day. He knows I’ll be writing about him soon. He doesn’t’ want to be late. He knows I get really upset when he’s late. Ambrose Lincoln is not... Read more

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AMBROSE LINCOLN WANDERS DOWN from wherever he hangs out about two o’clock every day.

He knows I’ll be writing about him soon.

He doesn’t’ want to be late.

He knows I get really upset when he’s late.

Ambrose Lincoln is not like any of the characters I’ve written about in the past.

He is different indeed.

They were friendly and outgoing.

Ambrose keeps his feelings locked away inside.

They joked around.

Ambrose seldom smiles. But then, he has little reason, too.

They made snide, sarcastic comments and wanted to fool around.

Ambrose is all business.

They came along for the ride.

Ambrose drives.

I try not to be late when I start writing.

I know Ambrose can get really upset when I’m late.

His philosophy is a simple one.

Let’s get the chapter started.

Let’s hit the ground running.

Make something happen.

Deadly.

And chilling.

Then move on.

On paper, Ambrose Lincoln moves in and out of scenes that unfolded during World War II. He’s not a soldier. He’s not there to fight. He has a mission handed him by the U. S. government.

He doesn’t know who’s in charge.

He doesn’t know where the assignments come from.

His mind has been erased during behavioral experiments. His mind is a barren landscape burned dry by the electrodes of shock therapy.

He’s not afraid.

Ambrose has no fear of dying.

He believes he may have already died, and the war and purgatory have a lot in common.

“You’ve just written chapter forty-two in the new book,” Ambrose tells me.

I nod.

He knows I try to keep my novels somewhere between sixty and seventy thousand words, and each chapter runs about a thousand words.

“I read it,” he says.

I nod.

“In fact, I’ve read them all,” he says.

“You should,” I tell him. “They’re about you.”

Ambrose shakes his head.

He thinks about grinning, then decides against it.

“You don’t have an ending in mind,” he says.

“I haven’t figured one out yet,” I tell him.

“But you’re looking.”

“I am.”

“You changed the story in the past chapter or two,” he says.

“I came to a fork in the road, and I couldn’t resist not taking it.”

“Know where it’s going?” Ambrose asks.

“No.”

“You’re gonna be surprised,” he says.

“I usually am,” I say.

Ambrose stares out the window.

The sun has dropped behind an oak tree.

The hillside hadsturned golden.

It’s the magic hour of winter.

“Where did you get the girl this time?” he asks.

 

“She didn’t come from central casting,” I say.

“Didn’t think so,” Ambrose says. “She’s a helluva woman.”

“She’s really pretty.”

“I knew she would be pretty.” He shrugs. “All your girls are pretty,” he says.

“She’s tough.”

“Hell,” he says, “she’s tougher than I am.”

“Celia has a hard shell,” I say.

“I can’t crack it,” he points out.

“Her heart’s tender,” I say. “She’s like a little girl. Lost. Afraid. Abandoned.”

“Could have fooled me.”

“I tried,” I said.

“How many has she killed?” Ambrose asks.

“Bunches.”

“More than me?”

“Lot’s more.”

“That’s what I thought.” He pauses, and his face becomes grim. His eyes darken. “You’re not gonna kill her off, are you?” he asks.

“I don’t know.”

“You better not?”

“Why?”

“I know where you live.”

I grin.

He doesn’t.

Ambrose stands up and heads on back to wherever he hangs out when I’m not writing.

“Don’t worry about the ending,” he says.

“Why not?”

“Just follow me, and stay close,” he says. “I’ll get you there.”

“You got it figured out?”

“If I haven’t, then you’re out of luck,” Ambrose says.

I don’t argue. I’d write another chapter, but I can’t.

Only Ambrose Lincoln knows the story, and he’s already gone.

 

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Remember them: They built our freedom with their lives. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/they-built-our-freedom-with-their-lives/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/they-built-our-freedom-with-their-lives/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 06:55:46 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76129 On Memorial Day, all Across America, we remember the sacrifice. Photogragh: J Gerald Crawford. THEY WENT AWAY to places they maybe had never heard of, could not spell, could not pronounce. Places like Marne, Meuse-Argonne,... Read more

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On Memorial Day, all Across America, we remember the sacrifice. Photogragh: J Gerald Crawford.

On Memorial Day, all Across America, we remember the sacrifice. Photogragh: J Gerald Crawford.

THEY WENT AWAY to places they maybe had never heard of, could not spell, could not pronounce.

Places like Marne, Meuse-Argonne, Belleau-Wood.

Places like Leyte, Okinawa, Guadalcanal, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Normandy.

Dien Bien Phu, Saigon, Baghdad.

They went away in great numbers.

And did not come back.

Young.

Or just past young.

Ripped, yanked from the lives they had known.

Away from the umbilical cord of home.

Sent away on bouncing, rolling, smelly ships and roaring, crowded, shaky airplanes. On buses, trains.

Frightened.

Homesick.

With no idea when they might get back, if ever.

Roger Summers

Roger Summers

Duty, loyalty, purpose summoned them.

And, in the end, duty, loyalty, purpose, claimed them.

Claimed them in great numbers, numbers too large to precisely count.

So on this Memorial Day we remember them.

Proudly, reassuringly the flags will gloriously wave, tugging mightily at the heart, soul.

Majestically, buoyantly the bands will call up the tunes – the fanfares, overtures — that inspire.

Bring lump to throat.

Tear to eye.

In person, in photographs, in videos and in the mind’s eye we will go to the national cemeteries and other cemeteries where those who went away are at deserved, honored, peaceful rest.

There, where the row upon endless row of markers collectively, soberly, somberly remind of the incalculable price extracted.

Paid so those here on this Memorial Day can go on, be all we might be.

To pursue fulfillment and its blessings.

And those who come after us can too.

Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author of The Ladies in the Pink Hats and My Johnny.

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The art of making your story universal http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-art-of-making-your-story-universal/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-art-of-making-your-story-universal/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 06:50:37 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76134 EVERY GREAT STORY is both particular and universal. Being rooted in a local context paradoxically allows it to reach beyond its social and cultural boundaries. In his book, Story, Robert Mckee refers to the process by which a story becomes... Read more

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EVERY GREAT STORY is both particular and universal. Being rooted in a local context paradoxically allows it to reach beyond its social and cultural boundaries. In his book, Story, Robert Mckee refers to the process by which a story becomes universal as symbolic ascension.

Like the images in our dreams, symbols permeate our unconscious mind. They deepen our experience of a story in ways that are not at once apparent.

Done in a crude way, we immediately recognise these images as mechanical devices, destroying their effect. Slipped in gradually, skillfully and surreptitiously, however, they move us profoundly.

Stavros Halvatzis

Stavros Halvatzis

Making Stories Universal through Symbolism

Symbolic ascension works in this way: At first the settings, incidents and specific actions of characters in a story represent only themselves – they are denotative or literal in meaning.

But as the story progresses they acquire greater significance. They acquire connotative or figurative meaning. By the end of the story these very same settings, incidents and actions come to stand for universal ideas.

In The Deer Hunter, the protagonist, Michael (Robert De Niro) progresses from a beer-drinking factory worker to a worrier – the hunter of the film’s title. A man who kills.

But the film shows that if you keep killing you eventually will turn the gun on yourself – as does Nick (Christopher Walken).

The death of Nick precipitates a crisis in Michael. Armed, and in camouflage, he ascends to a mountain top where he spots a magnificent elk emerging from the surrounding mist. The setting resonates with significance harking back to Moses receiving the transformative knowledge of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

The action (the ascension), and the setting (the mountain), are symbolically significant. But they are also literal events. It is this effortless duality that gives the story its enduring power.

In my own novel, The Land Below, life in a converted underground mine (the sanctuary of the only humans to have survived a cataclysm), becomes increasingly claustrophobic for its young protagonist, Paulie.

He dreams of the open resplendent spaces filled with grass and waterfalls that he has only seen in books. His decision to climb to the surface, against the warnings of his elders, is a symbolic rejection of fear and ignorance. It represents his desire for knowledge. His actual physical journey to reach the surface has therefore acquired symbolic meaning.

Summary

Symbolic ascension is the process by which seemingly ordinary and specific settings, actions and events acquire universal meaning.

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Wednesday Sampler: Web of Silence by Marjorie Swift Doering http://venturegalleries.com/blog/wednesday-sampler-web-of-silence-by-marjorie-swift-doering/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/wednesday-sampler-web-of-silence-by-marjorie-swift-doering/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 06:40:29 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76125 In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Wednesday's Sampler features an excerpt from Web of Silence, a police procedural mystery packed with... Read more

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Wednesday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Web of Silencea police procedural mystery packed with suspense by Marjorie Swift Doering.

About Marjorie Swift Doering:

Marjorie Doering was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at a very early age. Okay, seriously now…
At ten months of age she was whisked from Milwaukee to a tiny town (our phone number was 55!) where her father bought and ran a successful eighteen-hole golf course.

While a brother, a sister, two uncles, and a number of cousins were drawn to the golf profession, Marjorie set down her golf clubs and picked up a pen. At forty, her husband introduced her to a computer (a love-hate relationship) and her writing left the hobby stage, and a serious desire to entertain a reading audience took over.

There have been dozens of multi-genre short stories and even several one-act plays, but the Ray Schiller Mystery Series is her current focus. Dear Crossing was followed by Shadow Tag, which was followed by Targeted. The fourth Ray Schiller police procedural/mystery, Web of Silence has just been released.
Meanwhile, she and her husband Denny live in NW Wisconsin with their Springer spaniel and three crazy, lovable cats.

The Story

Was it a mugging or something more sinister? Either way, a man has been killed. The woman found lying beside him in an alley is in a coma. Answers may be as close as a four-year-old boy found abandoned in downtown Minneapolis, but he won’t communicate. For Ray Schiller and his partner Detective Dick Waverly, the silence is maddening.

Jealousy? A custody battle? Their list of suspects and motives only grows when the discovery of a second murder victim complicates their case.

Another kind of silence is troubling Ray on a more personal level. Waverly is keeping something from him, and the implications are becoming increasingly disturbing.

The Sampler

Marjorie Swift Doering

Marjorie Swift Doering

Ray Schiller prayed he was dreaming. When the phone rang a second time, he rolled over, opened one eyelid and checked the clock on his nightstand: 2:05 AM. Barely in bed long enough to warm his side of the mattress, he grabbed the receiver and let it dangle several inches off the floor.

There was a muffled “Detective Schiller? Hello? Are you there, Detective?”

He lifted the phone to his ear, trying to get his body in sync with his brain. “I’m here. Go ahead.” Moments later he asked, “Where?” He sat up with an effort that made him feel like he’d been ‘Velcroed’ to the bed. “I’m on my way.”

Friday, like the day before and the day before that had been long and hard. At least he’d had the satisfaction of wrapping up a difficult case, but with the seemingly endless days strung together back-to-back, the middle-of-the-night call felt downright sadistic.

He stood and dressed, then leaned over his wife. Gail’s head was nestled on her feather pillow, the comforter pulled up to her shoulders. In case she was awake enough to hear him, he said, “I’ve got to go, honey.”

Her eyes didn’t open, but she murmured, “Be careful, okay?”

“I will.” He kissed her forehead. “Love you, babe.” Before leaving the house, he did a quick check on Laurie, their thirteen year old, ten-year-old Krista and Joey, age three.

Intent on making the fifteen-minute drive to downtown Minneapolis in ten, Ray sped down the streets of Eden Prairie. By the time he reached US-212, he was nearly standing on the accelerator. Due more to sleep deprivation than urgency, he almost took the cloverleaf ramp onto MN-100 North on two tires.

He dreaded the information dump that would come, as it always did, when he arrived at the murder scene. Tonight that meant Sixth Street between First and Hennepin Avenues, which ran between the Target Center and the City Center Shopping Center.

As Ray pulled up, his partner, Detective Dick Waverly, got out of his car several vehicles away. Police officers and medical personnel were congregated on the sidewalk outside the mouth of an alley. Media vultures had already descended on the site.

“Not the way to start the morning, buddy,” Waverly said by way of a greeting.

“You won’t get any argument from me.”

They approached a nearby officer standing on the sidelines.

“What happened?” Waverly asked.

“Two victims: one male, one female. Both shot,” he said. “The woman took a bullet in the back. She’s been taken to Hennepin County Medical Center.”

Waverly looked down the alley toward a small group clustered around the second victim’s body. “Apparently the woman’s better off than that poor schmuck down there.”

“I hope that’s still true,” the cop told them. “The woman didn’t look too good when they transported her. The guy never stood a chance.”

“Got an ID on the victims?” Ray asked.

“Can’t help you there, Detective. No wallet. No purse. If they were carrying cell phones, those are missing, too. I noticed the woman has pierced ears, but I didn’t see any earrings. There was an indentation at the base of the man’s ring finger, but no ring. And judging by his tan, he’s missing a watch. Looks like a mugging.”

Impressed with the cop’s observations, Ray glanced at his nametag. “Anything else before we take a look for ourselves, Officer Fielding?”

The cop lifted his cap and scratched his head. “Yeah… he was a golfer.”

Waverly brushed a finger over his thick, walrus-style mustache. “What—are there spikes on the soles of his shoes or something?”

“No, but he’s got one of those weird tans golfers get from wearing a golf glove. One hand’s tan; the other is fish-belly white. The tan lines from the glove and watch are on his left hand and wrist, so he was probably right-handed… in case it matters.”

“If I give you a second,” Ray said, “I suppose you can tell us his handicap, too.”

“Offhand,” Fielding joked, “I’d have thought it would be his age, but from the looks of the woman he was with, maybe not. She was all dolled up in a close-fitting, white dress—the kind that shows off a woman’s curves, and hers were real nice. Her shoes, though… you’d think women would get nosebleeds wearing heels that high.” He stopped to think. “Oh, yeah… one more thing: she wasn’t wearing a coat.”

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You don’t need a genre to write. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/when-writing-a-novel-start-as-close-to-the-end-as-possible/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/when-writing-a-novel-start-as-close-to-the-end-as-possible/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 07:40:36 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76100 Many tried to write like him, but there was only one Kurt Vonnegut. Kurt Vonnegut – the creative genius who gave us such memorable books as Slaughterhouse 5, Cat’s Cradle, Breakfast of Champions, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Player Piano,... Read more

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Many tried to write like him, but there was only one Kurt Vonnegut.

Many tried to write like him, but there was only one Kurt Vonnegut.

Kurt Vonnegut – the creative genius who gave us such memorable books as Slaughterhouse 5, Cat’s Cradle, Breakfast of Champions, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Player Piano, and Slapstick – was a man without a pure genre.

His work was funny.

Sometimes it was downright outrageous.

It was dark.

It explored the landscape of man’s mind.

It explored landscapes where man might never go or want to go.

He wrote science fiction.

He wrote literary fiction.

And Vonnegut didn’t see any difference between the two.

Got a story?

Tell it.

It can be told in the future.

It can be told in the past.

It can be told now.

It’s the story that counts, not the time period for which it was written.

Some critics said Vonnegut wrote classics.

Others labeled him as counter-culture.

His prose was warm-blooded.

It was cool.

He became the pied piper of a whole generation of readers who were known as rebels, iconoclasts, mavericks, druggies, hippies, beatniks, and flower children.

Many tried to write as he did.

They didn’t last long.

There was only one Kurt Vonnegut.

In the preface of his short story collection, Begombo Snuff Box, he gave his own eight basics of creative writing.

  • Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  • Give the reader at last one character he or she can root for.
  • Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  • Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.
  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  • Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  • Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Vonnegut also said the he believed the “greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor. She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.”

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Deadly Prose: My Interrogation of Kathy Bennett http://venturegalleries.com/blog/deadly-prose-my-interrogation-of-kathy-bennett/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/deadly-prose-my-interrogation-of-kathy-bennett/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 06:55:00 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=76091   KATHY BENNETT served twenty-nine years with the Los Angeles Police Department—eight as a civilian employee and twenty-one as a sworn police officer. Thriving for the majority of her career roaring from call to call in a patrol car,... Read more

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KATHY BENNETT served twenty-nine years with the Los Angeles Police Department—eight as a civilian employee and twenty-one as a sworn police officer. Thriving for the majority of her career roaring from call to call in a patrol car, she also worked assignments as a firearms instructor, a crime analyst in the War Room, a field-training officer, a senior lead officer, and an undercover officer for various assignments. She was named Officer of the Year in 1997.

In 2011, Kathy’s first novel, A Deadly Dozen Roses—featuring Los Angeles Police Officer Jade Donovan—hit the digital bookshelves. Since then, Kathy has written four entries in her bestselling LAPD Detective Maddie Divine series. A Deadly Blessing, the first book in the series, was chosen as a Best Book of 2012 by Barnes and Noble. The fourth Detective Maddie Divine novel, A Deadly Beauty, was released in March 2016 and is quickly becoming a bestselling police procedural on Amazon.

Kathy Bennett

Kathy Bennett

An interrogator should never ask compound, complex questions. They can be confusing and can lead to bad things—like the invoking of rights. But, as she is under suspicion of writing Deadly dangerous prose, Kathy does not have the right to remain silent…So, I’m going to run the risk of asking some pesky compound, complex questions and let Kathy to have free range in her answers…

Oh, dear…Free range in my answers…Hmm, I might get into a lot of trouble.

 Were you still ‘on the job’ when you started writing, and do you consider yourself a cop who is a writer or a writer who is a cop (even though you are retired, we know there is no such thing as an ex-Marine or an ex-cop)…Was there a defining moment of separation between cop and writer?

 I started writing seriously in 1998 while I was still on the job. I thought I was going to be a romance writer, but when my critique partner would read my work, she would say, “I see plenty of mystery here, but where’s the romance?” I’d wave my hand and say, “I’ll throw that in later.” After many of these discussions, I finally figured out that maybe I wasn’t a romance writer.

1In regards to separating the cop and the writer, I don’t think I’ve made the break. I like to brand my books as Authentic Crime…Arresting Stories, so I try to be as realistic as I can. The longer I’m retired, the tougher it gets. If I need info about current procedures, I contact friends who are still on the job—although, that gets a little harder every year because many of the people I know have also retired or are getting ready to retire.

Who were your original writing influences…How aware were you of other cop writers when you first put the metaphorical pen to paper?

 I’ve had a lot of writing influences in my life, often different ones depending on where I was in my writing career. The writer who had biggest influence in my writing career was probably Jackie Collins. The first book I read of hers was Hollywood Wives. She wrote in rotating points of view. I loved that style, and I’ve adopted it in my own work. I’ve also read a lot in the mystery/thriller/suspense genre. In actuality, I think every writer I’ve read has had an influence whether I’m conscious of their impact or not.

The only cop writer I was aware of when I started writing was Joseph Wambaugh, whom I love. I learned about another writer who was a cop when he came and spoke at one of my romance groups in Orange County. His name was Paul Bishop, and I bought, devoured, and loved his Fay Croaker series. We’re good buddies now.

2Ha! Quit trying to get on my good side…I don’t have one…You aren’t getting out of this interrogation that easily…What prompted you to change main characters from Jade Donovan to Maddie Divine…How did Maddie take over as your main series character and Jade get demoted to cameo or secondary appearances?

 My very first published book was a romantic suspense story featuring LAPD Detective Jade Donovan. I intended the book to be a standalone story. Many writer friends said mystery readers loved book series. I agreed, but I thought I was done with Jade, so I created a new character, LAPD Detective Maddie Divine.

 However, readers loved Jade so much they begged me to bring her back. She appears briefly in Maddie’s first book, A Deadly Blessing, and then Jade and Maddie are partners in the second book in the series, A Deadly Justice. I haven’t ruled out bringing Jade back in a different series in a different location sometime in the future.

How much of your own experiences as a police officer gets on the page—is authenticity more important than story?

 I like to call myself Doctor Frankenstein because I take bits and pieces of incidents, people, and my own life experiences, and weave them into my stories. I do my best to stay true to the policies and procedures of the LAPD. However, I write fiction, so I often have officers making moral decisions that are a figment of my imagination. I know I have a quite few current or former police officers from various agencies around the world who read my books. They love my stories and applaud the fact I get the departmental politics spot on. I think police politics is a phenomenon that translates well, no matter the police agency.

Be sure to check back next week for Part 2 on my interrogation of Kathy Bennett

FOR MORE ABOUT KATHY BENNETT AND HER BOOKS CLICK HERE

Paul Bishop is the author of Lie Catchers.

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