Poor Choices

Poor Choices

Choices | Guy L. PacePeople sometimes make poor choices. Sometimes they turn out okay. Sometimes they don’t.

Unfortunately, our history is full of people who made poor choices and/or led others to bad ends. We learn about the Donner Party in school, and how poor choices all along their way across the West brought them to the winter camp near Truckee Lake. They took the Hastings’ Cutoff, promoted by Lansford Hastings, a poorly considered option to the well-known Oregon and California trails. Of the 87 (or 90) souls who took Hastings Cutoff, only 45 survived.

Meek Cutoff, another poor choice along the Oregon Trail, cost the lives of almost 50 souls of the more than 1,000 led across Central Oregon. Steven Meek, to his credit, wasn’t working from a complete lack of information. He d visited the Harney area during a good water year and it looked promising. When he arrived in 1845 with more than 1,000 emigrants, what he saw was the results of one or more drought years.

Meek Cutoff | Guy L. PaceBy the time the wagon trains taking the Meek Cutoff reached The Dalles on the Columbia River, 25 of their number died. Adding the Elliott Cutoff and some other changes to crossing points made the cutoff workable.

The Goodale’s Cutoff came about when “John Jeffrey began promoting a trail following traditional Shoshoni paths to generate business for his ferry on the Blackfoot River.” It got more use after the Northern Shoshone and Bannock started resisting the numbers of white settlers passing through their lands. Massacre Rocks State Park now provides some information to visitors to that area.

Goodale’s Cutoff

Goodale’s Cutoff wasn’t a bad choice. As the web site suggests, seven of ten wagons coming through after 1863 took that cutoff. The first leg of the journey through what is now Arco, and Craters of the Moon, was hard on wagons and their owners. If you’ve ever been to the Craters of the Moon, put yourself in the place of immigrants seeing that for the first time. Imagine how depressing and discouraging that landscape looked to a family in a covered wagon. The National Park Service provides more information. But, put simply, most wagon trains crossed there in full summer (July). The route was one lane, slow, and the lava beds and dry heat took a toll on the wood wagons.

There are almost always consequences to a choice, be it good or bad.

We, as authors, would like to think our main characters won’t make bad choices. They are, after all, the heroes. Right? But, if you want your hero more real, more human, he/she will make a poor choice once in a while. And, there will be consequences. Maybe not as dire as the Donner Party. Even Goodale’s Cutoff was a choice between two dangerous routes. You might not survive the one, and you might die on the other.

Give your character choices. Make them real. Add danger. Make sure the results, the consequences, fit the plot.

Keep writing.

 

 

Confidence

Confidence

Confidence | Guy L. PaceWe usually express confidence outwardly. It shows in our body language, dress, attitude, and how we communicate with others.

Or, lack of confidence.

Or, in the example provided by the image here, questionable fashion sense?

Okay, I’m really not one for criticizing other’s fashion taste, though. My wardrobe consists of t-shirts with pockets and jeans. Hmmm … getting off track a little here.

At one panel at the Spokane Science Fiction and Fantasy convention (SpoCon) I listened to fellow authors talk about confidence. When it came down to honest confessions, most said the same thing. While we know our first drafts are awful, we tremble in fear that we will be found as frauds when we submit our work. That’s basically true across the board.

This is familiar territory for men. We spend most of our lives in desperate fear we’ll be found out, and worry we aren’t good enough, smart enough, talented enough, or <whatever> enough. We hold ourselves up to co-workers and find ourselves lacking, and we beat ourselves up regularly. In truth we’re capable, strong, smart, and talented. It is just to hard to admit.

Yellow Jacket

Take the guy in the image with the yellow, double-breasted jacket. He is either, based on the impression, supremely confident and courageous. Or a complete idiot. But, when you compare yourself to certain best-selling authors, they look like that guy in the yellow jacket and you might feel like me–a guy who shows up in jeans and a t-shirt. They act, speak, and lecture like they know everything and the world turns on them. But who are they really?

Is their first draft gold? Does it go to press unchanged, unsullied by an editor? Does that best-selling author struggle with self-confidence after that first draft, wondering if it rises above the 90 percent that is crap in Sturgeon’s law?

What you find out in conventions–especially small, intimate ones where best-selling authors are honest and forthcoming–they struggle with confidence just like the rest of us. They know their first draft is awful. They rewrite, revise, and self-edit before getting more professional help. Just like the rest of us.

One difference is they (those best-selling authors) have been at it longer and manage to find a public persona to present to the world. They get up in the morning, put on that yellow jacket, and lecture to students, meet the adoring public, or get interviewed by the media.

It’s when they take off that yellow jacket and sit down and share with folks at a con, you get to meet the real person and find out they aren’t really any different.

Keep writing.

 

 

Craft

It’s About the Craft

craft | Guy L. PaceWriting is a craft. An art. A skill you hone and improve with practice and time–seasoned with blood and tears.

When you first start writing, your clumsy, stilted prose dribbles down the page. Your words flow in sluggish sentences with passive verbs and all to many adverbs. Your dialog shouts with too many words.

As you practice and improve, you find efficiencies in voice and style. Sometimes you try to imitate another writer’s style to see how things fit. Still, more words end up in the trash bin than in the submission envelope.

Finally, something changes. Your writing becomes a craft. An art. You develop your own style and your own voice. You may still have one roadblock. Fear. You fear letting your feelings, secrets, desires, or beliefs out on the page. What if someone reads that?

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”Ernest Hemingway

Papa says it best. He also says it concisely and briefly. Your fears try to keep you from getting the hurt, the emotion, the beliefs out on the page. What you may not know: You’re not alone in those things. You are not the only one who hurts, who believes what you do, who feels the way you do about something. You’re not the only one with That secret.

A Service

One of the great services writers do in society is sharing those hard things so others know they are not alone. If you hold it all back, others can’t learn and you’ll always be alone. The story must come out.

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”Ernest Hemingway

Then, write another. And another. Repeat until you’re done and you told the story.

Look, it if were easy, it wouldn’t be a craft or art form. Everyone could do it and stories or novels would have little or no value. So it isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done. One more quote from Papa.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” — Ernest Hemingway

The main thing, keep writing. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep improving and learning. Someday you’ll write something others will find and value. Then you’ll know it was all worth it.

Keep writing.

 

 

Booksellers

Booksellers

This post is to bookstores and booksellers who buy or may buy my books.

BugBear Books | Guy L. PaceI recently got a shipment back from IngramSpark (the print-on-demand company). Of course, this is disappointing and frustrating. I had no idea who bought this lot and didn’t have a chance to help them sell the books. I communicated with Ingram hoping that there might be a way to help extend marketing by sharing some information. That’s not happening and it is no surprise. That information on their retailers is proprietary and they hold it closely.

So, I’m going around the long way.

If you purchase an order of my books for your inventory or for your store, fill out the contact form on the Connect page. Let me know that you bought them, how many, and if you would like some marketing support from me. I’ll post on this website to promote your business. I’ll post on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to help you sell the books to your customer base.

If we can arrange it, I’ll even visit your location for a reading/signing/Q&A. There are some limits to this, but I’m willing to make the effort.

I don’t mind having a supply of books on hand. It’s expensive getting a shipment from the printer of returned books. I can’t sell books damaged in shipping and handling. The best solution all around is to make sure books ordered from the print-on-demand company (IngramSpark, in this case) get to the bookstore or bookseller and get the marketing support from the author (me) they need to get sold.

I updated the contact form and made sure it works on the Connect page. If you tried and failed to use the form before this date, please let me know.

Let’s make this work. Especially for independent Christian bookstores and booksellers.

Thanks.

Something Happened

Something Happened

Joseph Heller (author of Catch 22) published Something Happened in 1974. I read Catch 22 shortly after leaving the military, so the theme and humor wasn’t lost on me. I thought Something Happened would be a good read too. It was a good read in a very strange way. I won’t spoil the books in case you haven’t read them.  Something Happened was–as Kurt Vonnegut Jr. called it–deeply unhappy.

something happened | Guy L. PaceBut, something did happen.

That’s the point of writing a story or novel, isn’t it? Something happened. You develop characters, settings, motivations. Then something happens.

Unlike Heller’s second novel, more than the thing happens in most of our writing and usually much earlier in the story. Short stories may have one or two things happen. Novels can have a lot of things happen. In all cases, though, there is one key thing that happens and that drives the story or plot.

In my current work in progress, the main character Amy is working and living in the community her friends, family, and neighbors built after the collapse of everything, “the Troubles.” She’s mentoring Paul’s little sister, dealing with jealousy, and working in a subsistence lifestyle. Then something happens. It isn’t the really big something happens, but it does lead to other things. She gets involved in dealing with that, and something else happens.

Gardening

Think of a writer as gardener. The gardener plants a seed. Between the soil, the moisture, nutrients, and the seed; something happens. The seed sprouts and emerges out of the ground. The writer nurtures this new life to see it grow, bloom, and produce fruit. The result depends in large part on what seed the gardener chose, what kind of soil, and if the plant got enough moisture. It also depends on the nurturing the writer pours into it.

What follows after something happens spins on your character(s). Characters react and respond in ways true to their nature and believable to the reader. That, then, takes your story to the next thing that happens. And so on.

In the end, the reader find the fruit. The reader knows that something happened.

Keep writing.