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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Mission San Jose & Alebrijes

01 JAN 2020

Happy New Year!

To start the new year off right I have for you a fine selection of history and Hispanic culture. No story today though.

First off, pictures from a recent Mission trip. We went down to San Antonio and toured the San Jose Mission just south of town. There are several missions in and around the city, but we only had time for one this trip. The mission was peaceful and beautiful. The place is huge, with a nice central square area protected by the walls. 

We also saw, though I did not take pictures of, a beautiful young lady in a gigantic light blue dress, most likely celebrating her Quinceañera. She was a beautiful butterfly flitting around, landing here and there for pictures, complemented by the azure sky.

The mission comes from the time when Spain was in charge of the Americas. 

Picture above is one of the corners of the church. Bottom left of the picture (lighter area) can be seen some of the original decorative outer coating of the church

I enjoy going to missions. I could wander around them for hours. I don't like some of the history of the places, the enslavement and forced conversions of the Indians, but they are soothing places now. I've visited many missions in California, but I believe this is the first one I've been to outside of California.

The small mission cemetery. 
The sky was a perfect blue that day

The front of the church
The cemetery in the previous picture
can be seen in the bottom right

Detail above the church doors

The next bit to share is about Alebrijes (pronounced ah-la-bree-hays). Here's the Wikipedia link for those who want to know more, but basically they are fantastical creatures made of bits of this and that -wings, tails, claws etc... all colored crazily. Anything I can think of as a writer is nothing compared to these things!

Here's an example: 

Have a great New Year!!!! Here are some more images from the Mission.

Diego and the Virgin Mary

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Remember the Fallen

25 DEC 2019

This will probably be my last post of 2019. But who knows what the future holds. Anyways, managed to pump out a grand of words on and off for the last few days. Not much for others, but good enough for me. Below is a sample which should remain relatively unchanged in the final proof. Do I need a spoiler alert for a story that no one has read yet? 

To set the scene, the characters are remembering a fallen comrade... 

Sunday afternoon, Dave, Carol and all non-essential police personnel listened with reverence at the police station and in their vehicles as dispatch called out on the radio.
Her voice held a hint of urgency, of expectation. “Detective Morel, come in.” Silence.
Again, this time with desperation, with hope against all odds that he would answer. “Detective Leonard Morel, come in.” Someone near the door choked back a tear.
“She does such a good job. I couldn’t do that.”
One more time. Resignation. “Detective Leonard Morel. No response.” The dispatch operator paused for a moment. “Let the log show Detective Leonard Morel, lost in service to the citizens of Los Angeles. May god rest his soul.”

Unless I am going for anger and outrage, my stories will show a proper reverence for the fallen. 

May your days be long and good upon the Earth.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Dave & the End of a Decade

24 DEC 2019

Howdy all. As year's end is fast approaching, it seems fitting to finish the decade with another wonderful article by Dave. A decade denouement if you will. Sage wisdom and advice he always has in abundance. This time his inspiration comes from the good people over at Writer's Digest. Personally, I take away from this article my own struggle with never being satisfied with my writing, as he mentions just above the anecdote. I'm currently in the throes of battle with a story now light-years ahead of where it was months ago (see what I did there, movie-goers?). In other news, I am of two minds about trying my hand at some poetry, just so I can say my writing has gone from bad to verse... 

Happy Holiday!


The “Had Horrors” Redux

David Alan Owens

In 1927 Laurence O’Dorsay wrote an article for “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing.” I rediscovered the article “The Had Horrors,” in November 2019. The 1994 Edition of “Guide To Good Writing,” languished in my attic for fifteen years. I dusted the cover and began to read again this wonderful compilation of WD articles. Fine advice from seventy-five years inspired me again — but I read D’Orsay’s article with a renewed interest.
In D’Orsay’s article (page 25), he wrote about when he, in 1927 found himself at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the most famous fiction magazine editors of the day (I researched but found little about this mysterious Gamaliel, and I am not sure whether D’Orsay referred to the rabbinical legend, or the Jewish teacher of the same name, I think the name is an allusion and honors the editor by comparison to the great Gamaliel).
In those days, editors often took it upon themselves to develop writers. Editors and agents do not today reach out to writers with obvious talent and help those new writers develop into the professionals they might become. The concept demonstrates the writing and publishing world’s decline.
Today the object is money and fame where the self-publishing world cranks out millions, yes millions, of poorly written stories, stories without noticeable merit, and they are filled with nothing but trope and cliché. Fame comes not often, and is a rare event in the self-publishing world. Fame is also rare in traditional publishing.
D’Orsay sat in his office with Gamaliel when a young “editor in training” entered the office and placed a manuscript on the table. The young man voiced his complaints about the story. “Something’s still wrong with it. You’ve sent it back to him five or six times. He’s got a good opening now, and a good finish, but somehow it just doesn’t register. It’s a good story, but he seems to take too long to get to the meat of the thing after his dramatic start.”
Gamaliel peeked into the manuscript and announced, “It’s as plain as day. Snifkins (the author) has a bad attack of the had horrors.”
When questioned about this “disease,” he replied, “Most of them have ‘em young. Just like children with measles, best to have them young. They think they must stop the story for a time and tell the reader what the hero and his heroine and the villain had been doing before the reader ever saw them. Causes the reader to start guessing, right from the beginning. Snifkins leaves ‘em hung up in the air until page four. He starts his puppets working, and then drops the strings while he lectures about their past lives. Look at this damn thing! Hads and had beens scattered all over his pages. He has the makings of a good writer, but we must cure him of his had horrors.”
If a story is strong and contains well-sustained entertainment value, an editor might overlook a few technical flaws, but one thing he will not overlook is a bad attack of the had horrors, Gamaliel observed.
D’Orsay relates how hads are like a stodgy lump of cold greasy fat served when you’ve finished the appetizers. He explains how to solve the mess and produce better work (page 26). “The thing to do with this irreducible minimum of explanatory matter about antecedent happenings is to link it with your moving story. Use action, with dialogue, and with thoughts running through the minds of characters. In this way, you can weave the whole thing into one pattern, connect the past with what is present, and future, and turn the thing into entertainment. Keep the dramatic conflict in the forefront and let your characters solve the eternal problem — what happens and why. The process focuses upon the concept of writing for the reader.”
A true writer is never satisfied with his writing. John Dusfresne, professor in the Master of Fine Arts Writing Program of the English Department of Florida International University said, “Show me a writer who is satisfied with their work, and I’ll show you an amateur.”  

In the same 1994 Writer’s Digest 75th anniversary issue, this short anecdote appears on page 30:
Fred Kelly, the humorist and author of the dog’s only book of philosophy, You and Your Dog, sat with the famous writer Booth Tarkington, in Tarkington’s Indianapolis home. Tarkington related how discouraged he often became when writing.
“Are you ever conscious right at the time of doing something good,” Kelly asked.
“No,” Tarkington chuckled, “it all seems fairly bad. You know, writing is about the most discouraging job of all. One knows so well what he is trying to express, but all the words aren’t available. This afternoon I tried to write a paragraph or two to describe a scene in northern Africa but the words weren’t available. I tried to write vivid description for my readers, but when I groped for the crystals all I could pick up were a few smeary words — a meaningless mess. Yet all the time I knew the right words were somewhere if I could only find them. It’ll never suit me, I’ll still feel that I could do it better.”
Kelly later said, “When I came away, I thought: So long as he has that attitude toward his work, no wonder it’s good.” (Dufresne’s wisdom)
References: Writer’s Digest Guide To Good Writing.
Copyright © 1994, by Writer’s Digest Books - Edited by Thomas Clark
Library of Congress ISBN 0-89879-640-7


Sunday, December 8, 2019

Writing Update


I finally was able to work on a story this weekend. Not a lot done, but progress was made toward the finish line. I haven't written anything for a while now, not counting words about my grandparents. So here's a little sample of words from this weekend:
Dave is a Los Angeles police officer, and Carol is a CSI (Crime Scene Investigator). They are returning to an apartment where an unusual murder took place...


They pulled into a spot next to her car. A homeless lady pushed a cart full of belongings into the nearby alley.
Dave, concerned, questioned Carol. “You sure you’re okay to drive?”
“Yeah,” she replied. Yellow police tape decorated the doorframe of the apartment upstairs. “You mind going upstairs to the crime scene? I told my boss I would retake a few photos.”
“Sure. Let’s do this.”
They climbed up the stairs. Dave held the tape as Carol ducked under.
A couple flicks of the light switch did nothing. “You’re going to have to come back tomorrow.” Dave left the door open and pulled out his mag light.
“Over here,” she said. “I just want to take another look at it while we’re here.” She stood near the end of the hallway and waited for Dave to join her. She could feel the symbol glaring at her from the bedroom door.
He pointed the beam over her shoulder. The hash marks and symbol were still there.
She was too nervous to glance down at her hand. “Your ring, Dave. Hold it up.”
“My ring? I don’t wear a ring.”
Carol’s heart thumped in her chest. She tried to sound disinterested, “I thought you were married?”
“I was. Look, can we do the twenty questions later?”
She could hear something raw in his voice.
The flashlight beam danced around. “I don’t wear a ring, so let’s keep it moving. Is this about your ring glowing?”

“Yeah,” she answered, but she was really thinking about the world of possibilities that just opened up between her and Dave. She turned to him and smiled in the darkness. “My grandmother’s ring.” She brought her hand up and reached for the symbol. Her ring glowed, just as before. “See!”


Hopefully this snippet interests you. I'm still finishing up the last few pages of the rewrite. No ETA on the finished product yet. 

Picture for today: In honor of the holiday season. Not my place, but one from a nearby neighborhood. 


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Asian Influences


I have not written any stories with Asian influences yet. For research and fun I traveled to a local Asian Garden located in downtown Shreveport. A few of the pictures I took follow. Not sure what I will use in my stories yet, and the images were not taken with an eye toward covers or source material. I just wandered about, camera in hand. Enjoy. 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Inspiration, Vision, and the loss of grandparents

What will inspire you this morning? I know not. The picture above (filtered) was from an art installation shown in several cities, including one near me. Does it inspire you? From their website

"Rainbow City Shreveport is presented by the Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC) and will be on view from November 2 to December 8, 2019. RAINBOW CITY Shreveport will be a place to make new friends and entertain families during a six-week, fun-filled festival, as the people of Shreveport celebrate the grand opening of the City’s first urban greenspace—CADDO COMMON. CADDO COMMON, with its RAINBOW CITY, is located at 869 Texas Avenue in downtown Shreveport in the Shreveport Common Neighborhood. It is FREE and open to the public. Arts in Education Tours, with hands-on STEAM activities, begin Monday, November 4 and continue to Friday, December 6. Dynamic programming continues throughout the six-week festival and includes Walking Wednesdays, Food Truck Court lunches and suppers, Friday Night Dance Parties, Sunday Brunches, a Weekend Arts Market and special events"

The brilliance is amazing, the size and grandeur is impressive. Not what I would've done but I applaud the artists wholeheartedly. They certainly got my attention. Given the palate of an open outdoor space, what would you create? 

As far as writing goes, I have been working on how to develop characters through various methods including dialogue, setting and actions. Good friend Dave Owens prods me occasionally, which always helps, but productive moments are eluding me like they're related to Bigfoot.

I am also currently reading Vellichor, a dark fantasy novel about a 'special' book store. It's the latest release by author Dawn Napier. Good book so far; chapter two really grabbed me and drew me in! You can check out some of her other works here, though a word of warning: some of her fantasy/horror books cover touchy subjects, which ought not to surprise readers of said genres.

And for all you crazy people (including my wonderful wife) who have decided to participate in #NANOWRIMO this year. Good luck! I don't think I'll ever jump on that crazy train given the time of year it happens in, but maybe I'll do my own version over the summer sometime. 

On a more somber note, I recently lost my last two grandparents. As a writer, what do I say about them? Memories mostly. The way we laughed, cried, 'familied' together. The easier one to write about would be my grandfather. An army vet, he was one impetus to my military career as well as several other members of our family. Great man, unparalleled welder, excellent provider, great American Dream story, wonderful role model for any and all. A true Man. His smile could light up the room and his anger could cower any foe. I won't be able to hear the phrases "Como tall-ee voo" (how are you in French) and "How's the weather up there?" without thinking of him. He invariably said both at every meeting between us, which in hindsight now strikes me a little odd, considering I am not the tallest member of the family! My fondest memory of him? Him trying to pass on to me his love of fishing. It never stuck, but days by his side at Leg Lake and other places never fail to bring a warmth to my life.

My grandmother on the other hand, my Nana. Deep breath. Swallow. She would be the harder to write about. Especially without my eyes leaking. The superglue of family, she held it all together through every storm. Picture the actress Claudette Colbert, so close they could be twins. They even had the same color hair. 

Memories are probably the easiest way to write about my Nana. 


Yeah. I can hear her laugh and hear her yell in my mind, almost at the same time. She had much to be sad about and much to be happy about, and carried the emotional weight of both with poise and grace. I can picture the wave of her hand as she dismissed the worst things in the world as if by magic. "Holocaust?" *Wave of hand. "What do I know about such nonsense? Come and sit down, get you something to eat, you skinny child!"

Sitting at the table, waiting for food. You didn't ask what deliciousness was about to be served, you just sat down and enjoyed it. Usually while guarding your dish from air strikes by your uncle's silverware. 

"Mi Hijo!" Son. She had every right to call me her son, though nieto would be more accurate. She raised generations with love and care, including me. 

Opening one of the greatest Christmas presents ever when I was a teen. A book. Changed my life and still affects me to this day. Amazingly perceptive woman. 

Thanksgivings. Tamales. mouth-watering Turkey mole. Family dozens deep, crowded happiness more than can be described. And while this is the second holiday memory, and you could easily assume the most pleasant memories would be during those times, you would be wrong. Even the regular everyday moments were wonderful. There was just this joy in the house when she was there. I'm not sure how I will feel being there with her gone. Will I still feel her presence?

All My Children, General Hospital, One Life to Live. What happened today, Nana? Soaps, Little Rascals, Three Stooges (I can hear their theme song Three Blind Mice playing right now...). Wonderful wonderful memories beside her in front of that big ole TV that drew down to a spot in the middle of the screen when you turned it off. I can still her Dada's TV in the bedroom way down the hall too, turned all the way up so he could hear it. 

My fondest memory, the moment I wish I could go back to with all my heart? Driving her to work, at near midnight, up the streetlamp lit openness of a near-deserted La Brea Avenue. Eating breakfast burritos before digging into a night of returning a movie theater to pristine condition. Memories inside of memories of running down the aisles as a little child while the adults swept and vacuumed up popcorn and mopped the stickiness of spilled sodas. The feel of fresh sunshine as we finished for the night/day, her gossiping with friends, weary but filled with satisfaction at a job well done. Then heading back down the traffic of morning La Brea Boulevard toward big comfy home somewhere south of the Ten. Odd memory for some maybe, to be tear-filled and held so close to the heart, but then again, she was my Nana, as she was to so many others, and I will cherish my memories of our days together any damn way I want to. It's what she would have wanted.

I miss her. 
I miss her red hair. 
I miss the smile on her face. 
I miss her hugs, her love, and her caring about you no matter what you were up to. 

I blame my sister for today's writing. Thank you sis. Love you.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

NWLA Artists Directory, Pushcart Prize and a little Texas

A statue in the park next to the Historic Market Square
San Antonio, TX. Bird does not look impressed.

Howdy All!

Just came across an old post about the NorthWest Louisiana Artists Directory, so I hopped on over there and posted some more artwork. Shots from Las Vegas, Belgium and photos from around Louisiana were added to my artist profile. I need to place some more writing over there as well. Neat to see the different styles I prefer -macro, abstract, geometric. Been a year or so since I last wandered around the LA art site. Wish it were more active, or that my wife and I were more involved in the local artscene, or both! Who knows. Someday maybe. It's a great idea, a site to gather together creative types in the area. 

Also heard that Catherine Shields was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, which recognizes the best literary works in the small presses. She is nominated for "My Phantom Ovaries" published in Ariel Chart. Intriguing title! You can read it here.

Another short piece of hers, "Blessed Curse" appeared just a couple of months ago as part of Dave's excellent series on how to Micro Write. You can read it here. Good luck, Catherine!

Picture up at the top of this entry was from a trip down to San Antonio. I didn't write down who the statue was of or what the statue was for. The bird resting on the end of the rifle is what caught my attention. He's not normally part of the statue! Got distracted after I took that picture because a helicopter was landing on the roof of the Children's hospital right next door. Had a lot of fun down there visiting relatives and taking a few pictures. Here's another, from inside the Historic Market Square...

May your days be long and good upon this earth.