All tagged writing fiction

I was surprised when the public librarian in a small town in Virginia rejected the idea of placing my novels in her library, saying, “They’re too regional—they’re all set in the Texas Panhandle. I don’t think my patrons here in Northern Virginia are interested in stories that take place out West. They want stories set in their part of the country.”

I can’t say that she was wrong about her patrons. Maybe they really are that limited in what they will read. But she certainly was wrong in saying that a story can be “too regional,” and for that reason would not be of interest to anyone who is not from wherever the story takes place.

Good stories are timeless and “place-less.”

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I’m different. I don’t want my memories to die with me. When someone I have known dies, part of my sorrow is that most of their memories have died with them. Most people don’t leave behind, when they leave this world, long diaries or extended memoirs or annotated albums of photographs or audio-videos or carefully-crafted CDs of their lives. And after a few years, even what memories they have left behind are stored in a box and stuck in a closet somewhere, and forgotten. Their memories died with them, in effect. I don’t want that to happen in my case.

So I write novels—historical novels, which are really my own history; romantic fantasies, which are the romances I lived or wish I had lived; tragedies, which entail the sad things that have happened to me or to my loved ones during my life.

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In writing my stories, I have to keep in mind that certain themes are forbidden.

I’m not talking about pornographic material or sex scenes that might be too explicit for some readers. And I’m not talking about political correctness in my choice of words for describing different ethnicities and groups of people. I’m talking about certain cultural and historical themes, which in some countries, government censors would not allow, and which in this county, could cause my book to get “black listed” among certain groups of readers.

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For the novels in my series, Once Upon a Time in the Texas Panhandle, I invented a town named “Mackenzie,” after Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie. In retrospect, I think a better name would have been “Leetown,” after Gen. Robert E. Lee. Underlying my stories is the idea that in the decades after the American Civil War, bands of ex-Confederate soldiers and their families established new towns across the Texas Panhandle that would continue the values and ideals of the “Old South” and the “Southern Way of Life.”

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The first thing that happens when I begin to write is that one of the characters wakes up in the morning with something in mind to do. I know what that character plans to do, but life is not like that. We all make plans, but we never know what is going to happen—whether we will get to carry out our plans. And my characters—they set out to go somewhere, do something, see somebody. But they don’t really know what is going to happen. They hope it happens the way they have planned, but that’s not life.

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