Tag Archives: Fiction

Was author Morgan Robertson a time traveler

Morgan Robertson, born 1861, died 1915. He was an American author who would be forgotten today if  not for his novella “Futility.” It is about an unsinkable ocean liner named Titan that on its maiden voyage hits an iceberg and sinks killing nearly everyone onboard. Sounds like what happened to the Titanic don’t you think. But Robertson published the story in 1898, 14 years before the Titanic sank.

Beyond the similarity in the name of the ship, that both were considered unsinkable, and both sunk by an iceberg, there are more similarities. Neither the Titanic, with 20 lifeboats, including the four folding boats, nor the Titan with 24 lifeboats, could accommodate half the passengers on ship. The Titanic’s reported speed at impact with the iceberg was 22 1/2 knots; the Titan 24 knots. Both sinking’s occurred in April and both hit an iceberg 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland.

Of course not everything is the same.  Titan’s length of 800 feet short of Titanic’s 882 feet, the number of airtight compartments  and bulkheads are different, and the Titan departs from New York, instead of being the destination. But if you were a time traveler and wrote everything you knew precisely you would be considered a witch and burned at the stake. In fact, Robertson was thought to have seen into the future, but he said he based his story on his intimate familiarity with the sea, ships, and trends, having spent 11 years in maritime service.

The title “Futility” does recall the aftermath of the Titanic’s sinking, when public discussion centered around how ‘futile’ to think man could conquer nature, or anything, that there are forces beyond our reach, always keeping our collective egos in check.

But that is not all of the story. If this were the only ‘seeing into the future,’ it could be dismissed as coincidence, or as Robertson claimed, simply a matter of putting things together based on his knowledge. His 1914 short story “Beyond the Spectrum” is about a sneak attack by the Japanese on America, attacking ships going to Hawaii and the Philippines.  Of course if Robertson died in 1915 he could not have known about Pearl Harbor.  But perhaps he did not die, perhaps he traveled forward in time. Perhaps he is among us now.

I bought the Kindle edition with two short stories included, including Beyond the Spectrum. It is rather fun to read a story from 1898, especially the Titan’s first incidence with another ship.

If you are interested in reading Futility, Amazon links are here

If you want to read about Robertson and the book on Wikipedia it is here

And my website is here.

My Amazon page is here

 

 

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The Last Tycoon’s great advice for fiction writers and screenwriters

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel “The Last Tycoon” could have been his greatest had he not died after 60,000 words, but it does have one scene between Hollywood mogul, Monroe Stahr (based on Irving Thalberg, the boy genius of MGM) and a novelist and would be screenwriter named Boxley. Here is the scene from the novel that worked so beautifully in the movie directed by Elia Kazan with Robert DeNiro as Stahr.

Stahr is talking.

“Suppose you’re in your office. You’ve been fighting duels or writing all day and you’re too tired to fight or write any more. You’re sitting there staring— dull, like we all get sometimes. A pretty stenographer that you’ve seen before comes into the room and you watch her— idly. She doesn’t see you though you’re very close to her. She takes off her gloves, opens her purse and dumps it out on a table -” Stahr stood up, tossing his key-ring on his desk. “She has two dimes and a nickel— and a cardboard match box. She leaves the nickel on the desk, puts the two dimes back into her purse and takes her black gloves to the stove, opens it and puts them inside. There is one match in the match box and she starts to light it kneeling by the stove.

You notice that there’s a stiff wind blowing in the window— but just then your telephone rings. The girl picks it up, says hello— listens— and says deliberately into the phone ’I’ve never owned a pair of black gloves in my life.’ She hangs up, kneels by the stove again, and just as she lights the match you glance around very suddenly and see that there’s another man in the office, watching every move the girl makes -” Stahr paused. He picked up his keys and put them in his pocket.

“Go on,” said Boxley smiling. “What happens?”

“I don’t know,” said Stahr. “I was just making pictures.”

Boxley felt he was being put in the wrong. “It’s just melodrama,” he said.

“Not necessarily,” said Stahr. “In any case nobody has moved violently or talked cheap dialogue or had any facial expression at all. There was only one bad line, and a writer like you could improve it. But you were interested.”

“What was the nickle for?” asked Boxley evasively.

“I don’t know,” said Stahr. Suddenly he laughed, “Oh yes— the nickle was for the movies.”

The two invisible attendants seemed to release Boxley. He relaxed, leaned back in his chair and laughed. “What in hell do you pay me for?” he demanded. “I don’t understand the damn stuff.”

“You will,” said Stahr grinning. “Or you wouldn’t have asked about the nickel.” F. Scott Fitzgerald (2015-05-14). The Last Tycoon (p. 39).  . Kindle Edition.

What Stahr is saying works for both the screenwriter and the novelist. That being, show, don’t tell; action speaks louder than words. Why did she lie about the gloves? Why did she burn them” Who is the other guy in the room?

Whether you are watching a movie or reading a book, you will continue to watch or read to see what happens next. Don’t explain everything, that is boring. Reveals should be slow and tantalizing.

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What I would like to do but can’t

As a writer I would love to do two things. One is to thank the people who took time out of their very, very, very,  busy lives to give good reviews of my books on Amazon. The second is to castigate those who wasted their time on a bad review. But I can do neither.

A number of years ago I wrote an article summarizing the draft picks of an NFL team on a sports website. One person commented that I was full of s… among other choice remarks. So I commented on his comment that he can disagree all he wants, but that his language did not help his point of view. Naturally many took his side, not mine. As someone wrote, “You can’t win.” Lesson learned. It was my first encounter with an Internet troll.

I decided to write this article after going on to my Amazon page and reading a four star review (my second) for the first book I wrote, one that is close to me for many reasons. The review was well written, well thought out, and it made me feel great. And I did not know this person in case you are wondering.

But I have also had a bad review on another book, a one star review. I did not mind that so much except he gave away the ending. Clearly he has no conscious. That being said, he took the ending literally. He may be right-if you believe the story of the person in question. The person could have been lying. Or could have been telling the truth. But the story is more than who did what and why. Some people get it and some don’t.

The point is one can not thank those who give you a good review, as much as you want to, nor can you rip those who hate your story, as much as you want to. You just have to go on writing and publishing and hope for the best. Nor can you ask Amazon why a four star review of a book disappeared. They will just blame those tricky, sneaky algorithms. I think that lost review bothers me more than the one star review.

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Why a writers life is about lunch

I don’t have writers block, but I do have writers procrastination. What I do is palm it off on my fictional character Chet Koski a screenwriter for Paramount in the 1920’s. He solved the murder of William Desmond Taylor in my e-mystery “Loonies in Hollywood.” Now he is about to solve another big Hollywood murder.

So I take my terrible character traits and give them to Chet, hoping they will disappear from my psyche.

Here is an example from his upcoming adventure of writers procrastination. I love this guy.

“Back in my closet-office the next day I sat down to work on a new story. I had not heard from Matt Hobby, my supposed writing partner; his supposition, not mine, so was glad to delve into a story in the privacy of my own imagination. The problem is that the first hour my fingers never touched my typewriter. The blank piece of bright white paper glared at me, challenging me, no it was taunting me, saying, you think you’re so smart, here I am, fill me with words, with ideas, with action, with, oh my God, dialogue. You can’t do it can you Bud? Go ahead; soil my whiteness with dark ink splattering my purity.

There is a fine line between writing, or any artistic endeavor, and madness. It is a side effect of the creative mind. Not wanting to go mad, I decided to rip out the insidious white sheet, crumble it into a ball and toss it in the waste basket. At least if anyone comes in they will think I had been working. Then I stared at the wall trying to regain my sanity, to stay clear of the madness of listening to an imaginary conversation with a piece of paper. Then I realized I am a screenwriter, therefore I am not artistic, and so my madness must come from another source. I crumbled up more paper and filled the basket halfway. I found it stimulating. Just look at the trash. I have been busy writing, rewriting, not satisfied with what I had been doing, but striving for perfection, the best scene, the best dialogue.

I went to lunch.”

The life of a writer is a wondrous thing. It is all about the lunch. Chet and I will get back to you.

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Ray Bradbury’s Zen exercise for writers

In his book “Zen and the Art of Writing” Ray Bradbury wrote that at one time in his career he began to make a list of titles. They were simply nouns done without thinking, trusting his subconscious. For example he used this list: The Lake. The Night. The Crickets. The Ravine. The Attic. The Basement. The Trapdoor. The Baby. The Crowd. The Night Train. The Fog. The Horn. The Scythe. The Carnival. The Carousel. The Dwarf. The Mirror Maze. The Skeleton.

He did this to discover who he was as a writer. He learned about himself from these lists because they came out of his subconscious, reminding himself of things from his childhood. And some of them were scary.

What he would do was to take one of the titles and begin to write a long prose poem based on the chosen title. He said about the second page, the poem changed into a story as a character would inject himself into the poem-story and a story grew out of the poem. In the last title listed above-The Skeleton-he remembered as a child drawing skeletons and showing them to his female cousins to scare them. He then goes on to say how he came to write a short story in a few hours.

The point is that his unconscious writing of lists would reveal hidden memories within them and his stories flowed out of the exercise. And many times he did not need to begin with a prose poem.

Just as you can’t be being who you are, you can’t help writing what you write. Unless you are Elmore Leonard and can write in every genre with equanimity, but few of us are that adept. Lets me use The Baby as an example. Some may write a story about a baby dying in infancy and how the family copes  with the tragedy. Can the family stay together? Some may write a suspense story about a kidnapping of a baby. Others might write a comic novel wherein the baby is narrating about how he sees the new world around him. For me, being an old-time baseball fan, I see a story about a bonus baby player who does not live up to expectations, his career spiraling downward, rejected by the game, by friends, and what the player does to redeem himself.

Even if you know what type of writer you are, it is a good exercise to find story ideas. And after you  make a list-done without thinking-and examine what each word mean to you-you may open doors into yourself, doors that open to something unexpected about yourself. I hope it doesn’t scare you. If it does, then write horror stories.

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How not to sell your book

I have read much about how indie writers should not sell their books and I agree that many of the methods some writers use are crass.

One should not make a direct appeal to blog followers by promoting their book. God forbid they might actually enjoy your story. So I will henceforth not make direct appeals. (Though of course if you want to visit my Amazon page-a link is provided below. Or if you want to visit my website, that link is also provided below). 

Nor will I cater to your sensitivity to animal cruelty, despite the fact I have a cat that was rescued from an abusive owner. Yes I give her, of the sadly soulful eyes, treats and yes I frequently pet her softly as she sits in my lap purring loudly with contentment. She follows me everywhere, as does my devoted spaniel, another rescue, who limps behind me with the cat shouldering the spaniel so she will not fall over. No, I can not prey on your heart.

Nor do I wish to use my disarming news of my doctor’s assessment that I have six months to live because of incurable athletes foot.  I have gotten three second opinions and they all agree neither surgery or amputation will amend the problem. I will await my fate with quiet dignity. Though what fate my teary eyed cat and, for all intent, a three legged dog, will meet without resources gained from the sale of my books, is unknown. No, I will not, do not wish, to ever sell books that way.

Nor do I desire to use my service as a Vietnam War veteran, a victim of agent orange and  that war stress syndrome thing, whatever it is called. Despite my having saved dozens of South Vietnamese children from mass murder, an action that won me a prestigious medal, no I can not use that to sell books either. (Mainly because I flunked my physical and was unable to serve my country). 

Nor will I offer free books for positive reviews, nor will I pay for reviews.

No, I can do nothing of the sort. I will do only what is left to do. And that is nothing, but just sit and twiddle my thumbs. (Both of which were broken by neighborhood bully).

Don’t go to my Amazon page. ttp://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

Nor to my website. http://terrynelson.net/

 

 

 

 

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Do blog readers feel cheated at 300 words

When I first began blogging I read from many sources that a blog should be 300-350 words because in todays social media culture people don’t have time to read long articles; they prefer short and quick. So I followed the herd and usually kept it at 350 or so, sometimes going crazy with over 400 words.

Now I’m told things have changed. I have read in another blog (of course) that 1,000 is the new 300. Readers feel cheated, they want something longer, more substantial. If this is true I wish you readers would make up your mind. My question is who said 300 words to begin with and who said 1,000 words now?

Should we bloggers believe anything we read. (You can believe me though-most of the time). We as readers, we as humans, need not to listen to what others say we should do. Why should I believe 1,000 is now the acceptable blog length. Where is the data? Who took a survey?  I read nothing in the New York Times, the Washington Post, nor have I read anything on the Internet, other than the blog I read. And it was written from a reliable blogger and author.

Lets be honest. None of that matters. Whether it is 300 or 1,000 it is about content, not word count. The only arbiter in social media is the reader and there are all kinds of readers, those that like long blogs, those that like short blogs and on and on. There are readers who like short novels and those that like long novels and those that just like a good read and dame the word count.

Henceforth I will write what I want to write. Maybe it will be 200 words. Maybe 300-400. Occasionally I may get to 1,000.  The things is that  writing 1,000 words for a blog takes away from a good deal of fiction writing, one in which I would like to write 1,500 to 2,000 words.

The last paragraph ended at 314 and now I am done. Call me old school.

http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38  is my Amazon page. I have short stories and two e-novels, one of which is long. Take you pick.

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