Monday, July 28, 2014

Who's Reading Now?

Nice Spot to Read a Good Book

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of American adults did not read or listen to a single book last year. Seemed like when I was a kid everyone read books, but that was back in the 60s, the one channel on television and no internet days. The same report says that in the last 25 years the percentage of non-readers of a single book in a year has nearly tripled. That is a lot of people not reading, and only about a quarter of Americans say they read 11 or more books in the last year.

Why are people reading less? Too many other things to do for entertainment? Maybe, or maybe not enough good books to get people excited about reading again. Like them or not, the Harry Potter books, the vampire romances and books like 50 Shades, have certainly got, at least, some persons excited about reading.

Do we just need better books? Unfortunately too many books attempted to copy these best sellers and most didn’t work. But that has always been the case with success in every venue.

So what is the answer? Write something people want to read. But the question, what is it that will get both readers and nonreaders alike excited about reading again?  Most genres are too narrow to appeal to those who have given up on reading, so it must be something new and exciting. Or maybe not.

Good stories, good writing, great promotion might help. Seems like word of mouth is still what sells the most books, even traditionally published books need help from word of mouth and of course social media.

But it is still about the story. The last three fiction books I have tried were no-goes. I give them one or two chapters, that’s it, too many books to read a bad one. I get authors promotions touting their great new book, and in some cases, they are just, flat-out bad.

So it’s still the story, if it is a great story and the author promotes, word of mouth/social media should take care of the rest.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

5 Reasons I Don't Write Much In The Summer

Not sure I like doing much serious writing in the summer. I do keep up, barely, with my numerous blogs,, but little else. I am still editing and re-editing my book on the Civilian Conservation Corps and adding some information I stumbled on after the first draft. It might have been the second draft I can’t remember, its summer.

I do have a fiction book ready to go but have not settled on a cover yet. Other than that I am nearing completion on a long story, not sure it is long enough to be a novella. It is Young Adult and about 10,000 words. My nine year old grandson has helped me with this, reading each day whatever I have completed.
I realize that so many writing experts say to not let a reader have it until it is ready, but this seems to be fun for both of us.

So, how do I spend my summers? Gardening,

playing golf, hiking in our wonderful state park, and reading in the evening

After much time and effort, about three minutes worth, I have identified why I am not a productive writer in the summer.

1.  I love basking in the sun, sitting on our deck.

More than 30 years of teaching kids to play. Part of this years bunch.
2.  Playing golf five days, or so, a week takes some time.

3.  Digging in the dirt is fun and rewarding – I have a passion for gardening.

4.  Grandkids, we love having them here, makes us feel young.

5.  All the great summer events, from speakers to concerts, fairs and great summer get-to-gathers.

6.  I’m retired, I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to.

I know, I know, my list has six instead of five but remember, I’m retired, I don’t do much, and I only count what I want to.

I love summer, but don’t get much writing done.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What's In A Plot ?

How many stories can be told, how many plots are novels made from? According to Christopher Booker’s 2004, The Seven Basic Plots, there are, well seven.

·        The Quest

·        Voyage and Return

·        Rebirth

·        Comedy

·        Tragedy

·        Overcoming the Monster

·        Rags to Riches

Looks good to me, if placing books in large enough categories it looks like everything would fit within Booker’s list.

Ronald B. Tobias identified 20 plots in his 1993 book,

20 Master Plots.

·        Quest

·        Adventure

·        Pursuit

·        Rescue

·        Escape

·        Revenge

·        The Riddle

·        Rivalry

·        Underdog

·        Temptation

·        Metamorphosis

·        Transformation

·        Maturation

·        Love

·        Forbidden Love

·        Sacrifice

·        Discovery

·        Wretched Excess

·        Ascension

·        Dissension.

With this list of 20 seems like most any book should fit, not bad.

This topic, plot, has been talked about and rehashed since the times of the ancient Greek writers. Looks to me like most agree there are only so many plots a novel can follow. The difference then, in a good book from a bad, is story, and how well it is told. Two books may follow the voyage and return plot, but how the story is told makes all the difference.

Seems to me that in the western genre the most used plot lines seem to be, quest, voyage and return, revenge and underdog.

You know what? Doesn’t matter to me, I just like to read a great story, with the possible exception of tragedy. I like to escape in reading not feel depressed. Sorry Shakespeare!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mae Urbanek - She Could Write it All


Green of the pine, grey of the sage,

Mixed with the rocks crumbling with age;

Guarded by mountains touching the sky,

Blessed with a grandeur none can deny.

Mae Urbanek

Mae Urbanek will never be forgotten, at least in Wyoming she will not. Why? Her wonderfully researched book, Wyoming Place Names, has been continuously in print since its first edition in 1967. Few books can still be found in stores a half century after publication. I am in awe of someone who could do the amount of research needed to write this book, and before the internet.

Because of this book I know that, Bill, Wyoming was named after four ranchers, all named Bill, whose corners met here. Wyoming writer C.J. Box could have found the inspiration for his fictional town of Saddle String, Wyoming thanks to Mae Urbanek and her research of this tiny Johnson County abandoned post office. A saddle string, by the way, is what cowboys used to tie extra bundles and mail behind their saddles.

 Mrs. Urbanek was not only a writer of nonfiction but a poet and a writer that dabbled in some fiction over the years. Her fiction book, The Second Man, of which I proudly own a copy, is a wonderful read that just never got enough circulation to be a best seller. Maybe this book was before its time.  

She published other books, now out of print, and nearly impossible to find, too bad, I have read as much of her stuff as I could find, she was a gifted writer and researcher. Too bad someone can’t bring back all of her work for modern readers to enjoy.

She lived a wonderful and long life, passing in 1995, a few months before her 92nd birthday.
And just for fun, a very nice Guernsey State Park waterfall to calm and cool on this warm summer day.