Tag Archives: Short story

The recommended author bio for the 21st century

In days of yore, yore being before the Internet, prestigious hard copy author bios were, and still are, for those lucky enough to have staid old New York publishers, rather straight. The bio would say for example: John Doe graduated from Northwestern, and did graduate studies in Beowulf at Cleveland Institute of the Arts. He won the William Faulkner award for his short story “Genghis Khan Dated Jesse James,” and has written both fiction and non-fiction for Atlantic Monthly; Paris Review; Berlin Reich; Playboy, and Readers Digest. In lives in New England with his wife, two daughters and a poodle named Butch.

One never saw a bio that said, “the author is a former postal worker in Humptulips , Washington,” or “the author is a housewife from Kitchenfloor, Tennessee.”

But Indie writers are everywhere, anyone can write a novel-hell, I did. Now let me state that my old bio did mention I had a degree in English Literature from Western Washington University, wrote film reviews for ten years, and all that jazz. Except no poodle named Butch.

I keep reading from those in the know, seem to be in the know, or claim to be in the know, that in todays world the author bio needs to be more friendly and personal in order to relate to people on social media and social networking and all that poodle doodle.

So without further ado, my new author bio:

Since I was born the following has happened to me; my mother and I saw a UFO; my voice was recorded at the Washington State Performing Arts Center and used for a radio DJ in a play; I was a volunteer legislative aide for one year in the Washington State House of Representatives; I managed theatres; owned a bookstore; wrote film reviews for ten years for a small town newspaper; a brief memoir of mine was published in “Christmas Spirit” by St. Martins Press; I visited the homes of John Keats and Charles Dickens when I was in London (they weren’t home); I stayed in the same hotel in London-though I did not know it at the time-where Jimi Hendrix died; I nearly severed a large vein or artery (how do you tell) on the back of my hand with a broken dish I was washing at a woman’s apartment in Goteborg, Sweden; while house sitting at Ocean Shores, Washington, a butcher knife fell out of a cupboard nearly slicing my finger off; I may have met the Manson Family one month before the Tate-La Bianca murders; I was stranded in Esbjerg, Denmark, without money; I am descended from two Danish Squires; in 1969 I saw Juan Marichal pitch for the Giants in San Francisco and the next night saw Tom Seaver pitch for the Mets against the Dodgers in LA and both became Hall of Fame pitchers; I am a Strat-o-matic fanatic; I learned when living on North Cherokee in Hollywood, that across the street on the next block was one of the places where “The Black Dahlia” lived; I owe Rick Barry, NBA Hall of Famer, an apology; I heard Anthony Burgess, author of “Clockwork Orange” tell a lie-and I was reasonably disheartened; I could go on, but I have to stop sometime.

Now you know much about me, and yes, it is all true.

My website

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How Marlon Brando’s tie nearly ruined my short story

I was preparing a short story for an international competition in England. That means proofreading letter by letter, comma by comma. What fun! I would let the story sit  a couple of days, then look at again. this went on for about two weeks, I corrected a few things, added more detail, deleted some sentences, added others.

Then one day something caught my eye. I had two characters, both men, both wearing a red tie. That will not do. Granted one was dead, one was living, but unless there is an allusion, or some connection, some reason for the two red ties, then get rid of of one of them.

The reason is quite simple. Variety. A reader can spot the fact that two men are wearing red ties and think you-I mean me- is sloppy. I was.

Writers can fall into patterns. I blame the red tie on Marlon Brando. I saw “Last Tango in Paris” and loved the scenes in which he was wearing a black sports jacket, gray slacks, a blue and white stripped shirt with-yes, a red tie. It was the only time in my life I was influenced my fashion in a movie. I purchased a perfectly dashing black sports jacket in London, bought gray slacks back home in America, the shirt and the tie. Sadly I never got to tango in Paris though. But I looked sharp.

So I still have the idea of a red tie in my head. That is something I must be watchful of. (Yes I know I ended a sentence with a preposition, but that is not a hard rule as any grammar text, like “Fowler’s Modern English” will testify, though not without some hue and cry from the prosecution).

So you as a writer must be aware of certain details you fall in love with, whether colors, apparel, facial descriptions, anything that might trip you up like two red ties. Be aware of subtle ways you repeat yourself, even in dialogue, settings, anything at all.

I don’t know if I used a red or brown tie for Giants pitcher Red Ames-it was his lucky tie-in “Loonies in the Dugout,”  but if you read it you will know.

http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

 

 

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Why I hate success stories

I harbor a distaste for success stories, especially from writers I never heard of. Ah bitterness, how sweet thy sting. A success story is a sub genre of those feel good, warm and fuzzy, based on, or inspired by a true story, about people who overcame the odds and rose above their misfortune. In the old days they would be on the ABC, made for TV, movie of the week. But there is a larger issue with success stories and why stories about failure are more informative.

I have read many stories about indie writers and so-called real writers and they all have good advice, make salient points, and have, by reading through their success stories, a formula you can follow. And truth in honesty, what they say makes sense. The problem is that every person, every writer is different. Some are aggressive in marketing, others are passive, some see a clear path, others flounder along various trails, taking the wrong fork in the road. In the end some are lucky, others are not lucky.

No doubt you have heard ‘you can make your own luck.’  Or that luck is when ‘preparation meets opportunity.’  And lest we forget, ‘luck is the residue of design.’ To this I say luck can not be mixed in a bowl, baked at 350 degrees, and served on a golden plate. A friend of mine gave me a recipe for banana bread. I followed the recipe to perfection three times- and the banana bread was a disaster all three times. And while I find that preparation is important, not when opportunity comes knocking at your door for that implies you are patiently waiting for opportunity- but when you knock on opportunities door, it does not mean opportunity is home. Mr. Opportunity may be taking a lunch with Mr. Luck. And you can design your formal for success, but the residue can be ashes.

What is more important are stories of failure because they teach us what not to do. Jerry Lewis said you can learn more from bad movies than good ones because watching bad movies shows what is wrong, you see it, we have all experienced bad movies and we know why they were bad. Good movies we get involved and pay little attention to why, we don’t care, we are involved.

The good news is that there is only one failure story. You can find it in every story of failure you hear about. The recurring theme that comes under different headings is one and the same: giving up, quitting, surrendering, desisting, abandoning, throwing in the towel-or the keyboard.

The true success story is continuing to work at writing. You don’t need inspiration, that doesn’t last, it tastes good for a short time, but, like my banana bread, it does not sustain. Come to think of it, it never tasted good either. What you need is not inspiration, but will. The will to sit down and simply write.

My e-novels and short stories that will not inspire, but amuse are at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

 

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.99 Halloween sale on my e-horror short story collection

A collection of short stories to scare, amuse, ponder, and enjoy.  The collection “Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms” is on sale Thursday through Monday at 8 AM Pacific Coast Time for .99 cents.

The lead story is “An Evening with Constance Bennett”  about a man watching  a marathon of  Constance Bennett movies on TV who takes a mysterious journey. The second story is “The Castle” about a just graduated high school senior who travels to England to house sit an ancient castle and the less you know the better. “Due Date” involves a writer returning to his home town to find the young librarian who influenced his life when he was a child, but finds a ghostly mystery that he can’t escape.

Then we have four tales from a Cemetery, one that actually exists. But whether the stories are real or not, you can decide. “Flowers for Martha Clemens” is a macabre mystery that will haunt a detective. “Desecration” is about two young lads whose pranks on Halloween in a cemetery will upset the dead, and that you don’t want to do. Third tale is “No Shadow in the Shade” about  man whose unexpected demise carries him into the next ghostly realm and his experience adjusting to his afterlife.   The final cemetery tale is “After the Party.” It has to do with a burial of the parents of children who have gathered at the grave site.

The final short story is a short detective story I included for no reason other than it was the first story I wrote. An experiment into a brief detective noir story. Something to exercise my writing ideas.

Happy Halloween!

Cemetery Tales and Other Phantasms: http://www.amazon.com/Cemetery-Tales-other-Phantasms-Nelson-ebook/dp/B00G9JND9Q/ref=la_B00EEVHN38_1_2/185-3832833-5964812?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414613901&sr=1-2

 

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I interupt this blog to bring you a commercial message

Even if not looking for a good e-book maybe you know somebody would enjoy one of these stories written by yours truly. Two are novels, one is a collection of horror stories.

The first novel is “Loonies in the Dugout.” Not just a baseball novel based on a true story in 1911 when I a goofy character thought he was a baseball player, and  ended up in Vaudeville within two weeks of arriving in New York-yes, this is true-and also thought he would lead the New York Giants to the pennant. And who is to say he didn’t; but the story is also about Chet Koski, a fictional character, a rookie on the team and his on again off again romance with Broadway chorus girl Eveleen Sullivan. Chet and the goofy Charlie Faust meet Bat Masterson, George M. Cohan, among others. The story is a satire on fame and celebrity.

Chet and Eveleen , now married in 1922 in “Loonies in Hollywood,” is also based on a true story, the unsolved murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor. Chet is now a writer for a studio and Eveleen is a supporting actress. There are a few suspects who could have committed murder, a possible police cover-up, blackmail, some gin joints, a stolen radio that may end up being shot by a the killer, and Chet is arrested for the murder of Eveleen’s  old boyfriend. There is also a dynamic flapper named Clancy, a rich girl with a fancy car, who helps keep Chet and Eveleen on the right trail.

These two books are the first two of a series, though one can read the second and not be lost. The are independent of each other. But there will be a third book coming out this summer, another murder mystery.

The short story collection is “Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms,” most of which have to do with a cemetery; all are creepy Twilight Zone type stories. Thanks for reading.

Buy now before prices go up.

My amazon page is http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

 

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How to let writing ideas bounce out of your head

There are times when, and I am sure this has happened to you, that you have an idea, in my case the other day it was a short story, but it lies in the swampy miasma of your brain. You stare at the swamp bog, you can’t see it, but you know it is there. You think and think, but nothing.

What I had was about 500 words of what had been the opening of my e-novel “Loonies in the Dugout.” I cut it along with many passages to get the story started sooner. As in get to the point stupid. But I liked those 500 words. So I kept it thinking I could use it for a short story some day.

An idea popped into my head, but quickly sank in the swamp before I could see it. I knew how I wanted to use those 500 words. The question is what would follow the 500. I knew it had to be a murder mystery, the why I must of necessity keep secret.

People can overthink, trying too hard to force the solution. So I let it go. About two days later, the weather must have cleared as the swamp was drained, and I saw where the story was going to go. The excitement when this happens is the ‘voila’ moment. It comes to you in a flash, a bolt out of the sky that strikes you with what you are sure is genius.

We flatter ourselves of course. It is more relief than anything. Problem solved. I have the answer. I know what to do with those 500 words. I know how the murder mystery will play out. I wrote about 1,000 words to get it going when the ‘voila’ moment hit. I do not need another bolt from the sky to kick start me. I will get back to it soon. I still have a e-novel to write that I am 25,000 words into.

I will say the short story and novel are related. Thank you lightening bolt.

The point is if you get stuck in your writing someway, or in life to broaden things out, just let go. Your mind works like your security system on your computer. I get a message sneaking in from the side, that says, “Certain background tasks were performed while you computer was idle.”  Let your inner brain work in the background while the rest of you brain goes into idle. You will soon get the right message. 

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Could Edgar Allan Poe get published today

“I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keeping originality always in view-for he is false to himself who ventures to dispense with so obvious and so easily attainable a source of interest-I say to myself, in the first place, ‘Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect or (more generally)  the soul is susceptible, what one shall I say, on the present occasion select?’ “

The sentence above is from Poe’s essay “The Philosophy of Composition.” To be fair it begins a paragraph early in the essay, so, in a real sense, it is taken out of context. It is directed, I am sure, not to the common reader, but to the intelligentsia.  So let me quote from a short story in the next paragraph. It is the opening paragraph from “Morella.”

“With a feeling of deep yet most singular affection I regarded my friend Morella. Thrown by accident into her society many years ago, my soul, from our first meeting, burned with fires it had never before known; but the fires were not of Eros, and bitter and tormenting to my spirit was the gradual conviction that I could in no manner define their unusual meaning, or regulate their vague intensity.”

Keeping in mind that I read Poe in junior high and in college, and is one of my favorite writers, I ask, if whether he could get published today.

I ask because in the first example about composition, the sentence is awkward, requiring a better mind than mine to determine precisely what he is writing about. I have to read it three times before I get the gest of the meaning. Which is preferred- to read with swiftness, understanding each sentence, each paragraph, absorbing every point with ease, or to go over the same sentence over and over.

In the second example cited from Poe’s short story, would not an agent or editor say to the writer change ‘burned with desire’  along with ‘the fires were not of Eros’ for being antiquated.

And that is the point, writers today do not write like Poe, like Dickens, like Melville. Styles have, culture has changed, art has changed. Movies had a lot to do with how writers have changed. Writers began to write not with intellectual thoughts, but by seeing the story played out like a movie. Writing began reflecting the editing structure of movies. Movies told stories faster, and over time writers began to do the same.

 Today it is more along the lines of  ‘keep it simple stupid.’  Keep the story moving, don’t get bogged won with too many words. I still read Poe and other writers of yore, but I question if Poe were a young man today his style would get him published. Quoth the raven, nevermore!

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