Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"All This Digging" reviewed



Rod Richards, who owns "The Title Wave" bookstore in Portland, Oregon, has reviewed thousands of books and has been posting reviews on readerman.us. Recently, he reviewed my debut collection of short stories, "All This Digging and other stories."

The link to the actual review is: http://readerman.us/201504_7039/

I wrote these stories while working on my Masters Degree many years ago. They were part of a larger project I was doing as part of my thesis. At that time, the loose collection was called "Unfinished Business," because I believe that all short stories are mere glimpses into a moment in time. We don't generally know what led us to the event detailed in the story nor do we often know what happens afterward. I also named it that because I had the start of a novel (then called "Summer of Seven" which later became "Summer Breaks") and knew that it was not even close to being finished.

Some of the stories begin and end with roughly the same sentence. I was trying to develop a series of stories that I dubbed "Circle of Life" tales. That is, the reader is taken on a small journey that essentially leads the reader right back to where s/he started.

For example, the collection's title piece, "All This Digging," starts off with:
"I hate all this digging," the old man said aloud to no one.
As the story unfolds, the reader is drawn into a strange, ultimately horrific, tale. As the old man finishes his work, the story ends with the opening line above.

As Rod says, each story shows, "the way people think in different situations. Some I don’t understand but I recognize them." That is the point of many of the short fiction that I write: get inside the protagonist's head, even if you don't understand what's in there. We often wonder what other people are thinking or what it would be like to be the proverbial fly on the wall. All too often, though, what we'd find would either scare us or confuse us.

Don't get me wrong, these are not horror stories (er, well, not all of them). But, I have found the line between laughter and fear is not always clearly defined.

Want to read the book? Click on "All This Digging" in the right column.

Thanks for stopping by!

*What does the bear picture have to do with anything!? Read the book to find out!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Work in Progress: Game-inspired novel #writing #novel #ootp

Hey, everyone! Thanks for stopping by to see what I've been up to. Right now, I am working on a novel inspired by the baseball simulation called OOTP (Out of the Park). The story centers on two brothers from Chicago: John and Carter "Dingus" Bailey.



I let the game create everything in a fictional midwestern league: team names, player names, birthdates, cities of birth, etc. Then, I went through all the players and found all those with the same last name. After that, I looked to see if any of those had been born in the same city. Sure enough, the Bailey brothers were discovered.

Carter was born on April 26, 1980. John  was born on September 06, 1990. At the start of the novel, Carter wears #14 and plays left field for the Oklahoma City Mad Ants. John wears #5 and plays Shortstop for the Omaha Pumas. We'll see where their careers, and their age differences, take them over the course of their ball-playing time.

The cool thing about the game is that you not only get stats, but you get fun News Items, such as injury reports that tell you how the player got injured (say, accidentally shoots himself in the foot - an actual in-game event, though it was not a Bailey boy who did it) and how long the player is expected to be out. The game also picks Players of the Week and hands out various other awards.

I chose to create an 8-team league because I wanted that small town feel. I'm sure there will be superstars on some teams and drama on others. Some of those players and events will have an impact on one Bailey brother or the other - or sometimes both, I'm sure.

I've never tried to write a novel this way before, so we'll see how it all pans out. Wish the boys luck!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A "nameless" college



In the Fall of 1987, students learned that Loretto Heights College in Denver, Colorado, was being sold to Regis College and subsequently to the Japanese University (or vice versa).

In any case, the Spring of 1988 was difficult for the students who had come to love attending the small, private Liberal Arts college. I took a creative writing class that semester under the leadership of Dr. Bob Johnson. He was, by far, one of the best writing profs I have ever had.

We had an assignment to write about the closing of the college. I don't know what ever happened to my paper, and I hate that I did not keep it. It talked of crumbling sandstone and broken hearts. It also spoke of what I saw of my future.

I wrote that I would ultimately graduate from some "nameless college." As life's irony would have it, not only did I not graduate from a nameless college, I graduated from a university with MY own name! Twice.

In 1990, I transferred from University of Colorado to Henderson State University. I had not planned to graduate from there. I was enrolled in order to help get my grades back in line after majoring in "socializing" at CU-Boulder.

I actually came to enjoy attending Henderson State, met the woman who amazingly agreed to marry me, and in the Spring of 1993 I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts - Mass Media Radio.

In the Summer of 2003 (or thereabouts), I walked out with my Master of Liberal Arts - English (or, listed as "General") degree from Henderson State University.

And now, our son attends that same university.

Not only did I *NOT* end up at some "nameless" university, but the university with my own name has proved to be one of the pivotal points over the course of my lifetime.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Not quite #750Words, not quite awake either

NOTE: The following was written the night before after a long day of attending an eductech conference, taking part in The Great Escape Room and hanging out at Downtown Disney for a few hours. I am pasting it exactly as I had typed it - typos and nonsensicals included. For the record, I do not drink alcohol any longer. I haven't had a drop since 1990. Yes, you needed to know that. This little bit of writing below might lead you to believe otherwise:

Well, since getting back into writing 750 words per day, I really haven't written much of anything. It's nearly midnight on a Wednesday and I am in Orlando, so I figured as tired as I am, I would go ahead and write something. Makes about as much sense as anything else, right?

Caleb Tengan stood around 5'9" with short brown hair. He had brown eyes. Well, mostly brown eyes. His left eye had a peculiarity in which a full three-fourths of the color was brown, but one fourth of the circle surrounding his pupil was actually blue. You had to look closely to see it, but once you did, you saw it forever. His medium build, regular nose, and non-descript mouth made him look like anyone else in the world. He felt nothing special about himself. That is not to say he was down on himself. On the contrary, he thought himself to be of at least average intelligence and of at least above-average in the looks department. He wasn't going to set girls' hearts to fluttering, but he wasn't some ugly beast, either. And, he was fine with that. He scratched lightly at his chest.

"Well, I'm not too shabby, I suppose," he said to no one in particular. In fact, as he looked around, he wasn't saying it to anyone else at all. The room in which he stood was vacant. "Well, dang. How long have I been standing here?" He looked at his watch. It was 3:15 in the afternoon, and he had no recollection as to how he missed the fact that all the other participants had left the room. He shrugged, "Well, whaddya gonna do, eh," he said in a mock Italian-American accent.

**I can already tell, this is going nowhere right now. I keep typing in a haze, some kind of weird vegetative state where my eyes glaze over and thoughts escape me, yet my fingers continue to type. Sometimes, I have to go back and fix the words on the page because I have allowed my mind and fingers wander into places unknown. As I am typing this, I have hit 358 words. That's a little bit beyond the halfway mark.

I keep zoning out, playing some kindof boxing match in my head. In the daydream, I walk up to someone's house (always the same house, though) and ask for Niko or something (I can't remember just now). When he comes out, we have a scuffle and I cannot remember why. But, I end up getting an .. I have no idea. My mind is shot, and the line between the reality of the fact I am typing and that of being a hired hand to work, there are certainly drawbacks.

Okay, time to shut this down. Sorry. I just couldn't make it.

--- NOTE: Haha, I have no idea what the second-to-last line means. In fact, I don't even remember typing the last full paragraph. This, children, is why we don't write after we should have gone to sleep.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Playing with #750Words

Greetings!
  It has been several YEARS since I last updated this blog. I have decided to give it another go. My source of inspiration comes from a site called "750words.com" which asks you to write at least 750 words per day.

I am going to start posting my entries (or at least some of them) as a way to show not only what runs through my brain when freestyle writing, but to hopefully provide some thoughts and insights as to the writing process as well.

All entries are copyright David W Henderson, Prescott, AR. Feel free to contact me regarding usage, etc if you are so inclined.

Tonight's entry:

Elmer Johnson washed his hands in the dirty bathroom basin. The mirror above the sink was a piece of polished stainless that had long ago lost its lustre. Now, as he looked into it, a ghostly image stared back. Actually, stared is too strong a word, for the surface was so scarred and so disorienting, one could not make out any specific features at all. So, instead of seeing his own defined reflection, there were mere impressions of his being looking back at him. He could not make out eyes nor little, round wire-rimmed glasses nor the bald head with a taunture of hair on each side above the ears. He simply saw an ill-defined shape that shifted when he shifted. He smiled, and the reflection made no noticeable change. This made Elmer scowl and then he spat on the mirror.

Looking down, he rubbed his hands under the running water. Blood washed off in sheets and streams and rivers and tributaries. It fell into the sink, splashing all around, leaving ribbons on the side as the blood found its way to the drain. He tried using the soap dispenser, but it was long empty. As the faucet continued to run, he grabbed a few paper towels out of the dispenser on the wall. He rubbed and he wiped, using circular motions that reminded him of a scene in a movie he had once seen. In the that scene, a boy washed and waxed a car in specific circular motions as commanded by his teacher, his sensei. He smiled again. There was no sensei, no master here. Unless, of course, he counted himself the master, which he did not. He shook his head to show himself there was no master, least of all one Elmer Ray Johnson.

He turned off the water and used more towels to clean up the sink. The thing was so grimy, he couldn't tell where the blood stopped and the filth began. By the time he finished, the sink was as clean as it must have been the first day they installed it, save for the cracks and dents and dings that time so ungraciously provided to it. He considered wiping the stainless steel mirror, but thought he had already wasted too much time in this rest stop restroom. He gathered the used towels and stuffed them into the pockets of his light jacket. He looked down to see his shadow puddling around his feet as the fluorescent light above shone down from the ceiling.

He turned around, unbolted the door, and opened it. As he did, the day's light filled the space and flicked the switch on the wall to turn off the light. He walked briskly to his car, not because of what had just transpired but because the temperature had fallen a great deal while he was in that bathroom. He watched as his breath made vapor in the air.

"Lower than 40," he said out loud to no one. The sky above had grey, smooth clouds. In fact, everything seemed to have taken on a decidedly grey look to it, as he had noticed seemed to be the norm as the season changed from Fall to Winter. And here it was, the first real sign that winter had arrived: monochromatic scenery and smooth clouds overhead. Snow would come. He squinted against the bright, reflected and refracted light around him. If there had been snow, surely he would be blinded by the light all around him. He reached his car and unlocked the door. After getting in, he laid his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes.

When he woke, he shivered a moment before opening his eyes. As he began to come back into the world, he realized he hadn't driven anywhere. The bright, grey light was gone. Left behind, the dark sky overhead, still covered he presumed since he could not see stars. His windshield was covered in a light layer of snow, easily brushed away with the wipers once he started them. He put his key in the ignition and turned it. The wipers raised up from their hidden place and wiped away the snow. The engine hesitated once then came to life. The headlights automatically lit the way before him. He reached over to the center console, flicked the temperature dial to the large red section, indicating maximum heat then he turned the fan to maximum. He punched the button that split the airflow between the windshield and his feet. Curling his toes inside his shoes against the rush of cold air, he threw the car into DRIVE. He hit the gas pedal so hard, his tires spun out on the icy surface beneath them for a moment before catching a dry spot, lurching the car forward.

(Note: at this point, we see that the story is TELLING and not SHOWING. To remedy this, we need to go back and add thoughts, dialog, etc. We need to show more of the surroundings. What does he hear, smell, feel?)

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Summer Breaks" Reviewed

I asked Rod Richards, author of "Readerman.net" and fellow card collector, to write up a review for my debut novel, "Summer Breaks."  I respect his thoughts and insights and have enjoyed reading the reviews of the many other books he has posted to his site.

One of the advantages to having Rod on my Facebook friends list: direct discussion.  He let me read the review before posting, and I was able to explain some of my thoughts on his responses.  He then had some follow-up comments, and the whole process showed me where certain weak areas might exist in the novel.

The two main issues he had with the novel: time and age. 

I wrote the story without a particular time in mind because it was meant to have nostalgic feel without limiting the setting to a particular decade or specific year.  I can see where that might actually detract from things in retrospect.  In one scene, Decker opens a pack of baseball cards and tosses most of them away.  As a collector, knowing just what cards (and what year of the cards) is a piece of information we basically thrive on.  Did he throw away a rookie card of some guy named "Eddie Murray?"  Was it Nolan Ryan?  How about Derek Jeter or Albert Pujols or, heaven forbid, Mickey Mantle?  Okay, well, the songs referenced in the story would prevent some of those names being opened in a fresh pack of dime-store cards, but hopefully you get the gist.  The date is probably more important than I had given thought.

The ages of the kids in the story, I thought, were self-evident.  But, after reading back over it again, I can see where a reader might not quite be sure just how old these kids are.  I did have one reader ask me, "Are you sure ten year olds would do this?"  I then explained that though this tale was fiction, some of the episodes in it were based on actual adventures I had myself... when I was about eight.  I figured no one in their right mind today would believe such things could happen to eight year olds, so that is why I made them all around ten.  As an aside, the original story was called, "Summer of Seven" and was about a group of seven kids who were all seven years old.  Again, I figured no one today would believe seven year old kids would be doing these things.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

There were a couple of editing errors as well.  They are the kind that we make when we insert words mentally we know should be there physically.  They even got by my editor.

What I really enjoyed about the review, especially when connected with the follow up conversation, were the afterthoughts I had because of it.  The story will eventually be included in a compilation of the "Decker Stories" once I finish the series, and some revision/reworking will certainly be in order.

The review can be found here: http://www.readerman.net/201110_3388/

Thank you, Rod, for the review and the thought-provoking discussion!

Two asides:
1) Yes, there will be a series for this novel.  The next book, "Lost Summer" is already in the works (meaning I have started writing it and will use it for my NaNoWriMo entry this year).
2) I always wondered by authors re-released some of their books.  And now I know why.  After a story has left an author, it takes on a life of its own, and just like real life, as the story ages, it gains new character, deeper personality, and age lines.  Sometimes, an author feels like they need to do a little plastic surgery to keep the story fresh - not really changing its appearance completely, but just enough for readers to see a slightly different side of it.  I don't plan on going all "Michael Jackson" with it.  But, maybe more like "Jennifer Grey" - just a nip to make the reader look twice.

Friday, October 21, 2011

2011 Fall Gathering of Authors!

Want something fun to do this Saturday?  Want to help the kids at St. Jude's Hospital in the process?  Want to win some VERY cool door prizes?  Would you like to meet some local (and some not-so-local) authors? Want some food to eat?  Want some cool things for kids (of all ages!) to do?

The 2011 FALL GATHERING OF AUTHORS is here!!

When: Saturday, October 22 from 10am - 4pm (come and go, or stay the day!)

Where: Four States Fairgrounds, Fine Arts Center, Texarkana

Who, What, Why? For those answers, jump on over to here: http://www.tammydthompson.com/fall_gathering_of_authors 

I will be there to sign books, chit-chat, and have a good time! Come on by and say "HI!"

SHOW SPECIAL: 50% OF ALL MY BOOK SALES GOES TO ST. JUDES!

You can also have a chance to win a signed copy of one of my books!

Books I'll have on-hand include:


SUMMER BREAKS: a novel
ALL THIS DIGGING and other stories