Changing My Voice

Hey Everyone. I hope it’s  been another great week for you all. It’s been a good one here. I have only one full week left with my seniors, then they head off to begin their lives. It will be a good week, busy, but good. I thought I’d share a little about my latest work and how I have completely changed my ‘voice’ for this endeavor.

If you remember my previous stories, you will remember that I often write in a classical and somewhat antiquated voice, especially in my most dated works. For Autumn Leaves, I updated my voice for a more contemporary feel. Through it all, however, I embraced years of learning to craft for each character a feeling of unequaled supremacy, juxtaposed to their downtrodden lives among the derelicts of the world. For any good example, see my earliest works, all short narratives in the 1st person. For this novel, I am doing two things that are different: I’m returning to the 1st person and I’m dropping the educational mentality.

First, I am returning to an old playground I enjoyed so much in the infancy of my writing career. I loved the use of the 1st person narrative. I dove deep into the individual psyche of the character, existentially staying in their minds for longer than normal periods. I found with the 1st that it allowed for so much needful reflection, especially in the case of growth, and so I am reuniting my pen with that old style. This latest work is told from the viewpoint of the main character, and his alone.

Second, I am forsaking the elitist mentality and going for a less-than sophisticated feel. My character is a man of no great mental depth or development, and his life is reflected by his poor approach to grammar and syntax. But his story, what i have written so far, resonates with a power that is earthy and real, unmatched by any of my previous characters. He records as he speaks, and his pen writes whatever comes to mind. His is not a sing-song oration, but rather a natural thought process on the journey he has taken, and the remembrances of his past that shape his present.

So, as you can see, I have made two major changes in my style, and I am excited for both. Hopefully I will begin on my work soon, when school is out for the summer holiday. Until then, thanks for walking along on this journey, and as always, thanks for reading.

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Gearing Up For A New Work

Hey Everybody. I hope you all have been well. It’s been busy here for me, with the end of the school year in sight. Only a few more days, and my seniors will move from high school student to high school graduate. I’m excited for them, and very happy to have played a part in their lives.

That being said, I am equally looking forward to getting some writing done this coming summer. I have missed my story-telling, and eagerly anticipate a fun summer of writing (remember I said this when I am complaining later). I have been getting my timeline ready, and have been preparing a series of blog ideas that I want to share with you all. Tonight, I merely want to speak about ‘gearing up’ for a new write and all that it entails.

First, you have to have the right mindset. I like to be focused when I begin a new project. I don’t want other story ideas floating around in my mind. I like to be totally engaged with my present work, and not worrying about anything else. My story demands all of me, and I want to give it that. I take one project at a time, and bring it to completion.

Second, you need to spend a lot of time with that idea. Working through the timeline, character personas and plot twists are great ways to really ‘feel out’ the entirety of the story and the tale the characters want to share with the world. I have completed the timeline (or outline) for my latest work, and have spent a lot of hours with each character, so I have a good grasp of the narrative flow. Of course, it will most likely change along the way. We’ll see.

Third, it is always important not to become too attached to what the above ideas present, as it may change on you. I always give my characters a free hand, since, after all, it is their narrative. I like organization and structure, but I always know that spontaneity must also have place in the new work. I refrain from being too structured for fear of losing something essential from the tale.

Finally, I record all items and place them in a binder, “The Binder,” that will be used throughout the whole process. Every little note, idea, picture and suggestion goes into that binder, so it can be easily retrieved later. Organization is always key for any work of any length, especially a mammoth work.

As you can see, getting ready for a new project is no small task. It takes a lot of pre-planning on the part of the writer, and a lot of  thought. It is, however, so worth it, and I am very excited to begin this process soon.

As always, thanks for reading.

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The Joys of Outlining

Hey everyone. It’s been a busy few days, but I wanted to get this posted before the school week begins anew. Amidst grading and planning, I’m also putting attention towards my latest  work, beginning with the outline. You see, I’m an organizational freak when it comes to writing papers, and I always outline the entire story before I begin. I confess that I actually started the story before the outline, and was several pages into it when I chided myself for my folly. So, here I am now, designing an outline that will carry me through the tale. Outlines are so essential, and I favor the process for three great reasons.

I like to outline because it keeps me organized. When you are writing a short story, you don’t need to be excessively structured, but when you are composing a lengthy and elaborate tale, you need all the help you can get. It assists me in knowing where I am going next, and it helps me to begin where I last left the story, should I depart from it for a time.

I equally like outlining because I feel it allows for deeper character development, as I can see the entirety of the novel and know where I can insert episodes that will enhance the character’s nature along the way. Seeing the whole work apart from the random images you have contained in your authorial brain helps to work out any mishaps with continuity and development.

Finally, I simply like outlining because it just makes the process easier. Writing is no small task, and any procedure that can expedite the months-long process is always welcomed. I know I have several laborious weeks ahead of me, and if outlining can aid me, that I shall bless it all the more.

Well, that is where I am “write” now, in the outlining phase. I’ll share soon about the flexibility of the outline at a later date, maybe next week. Until then, have a wonderful week. As always, thanks for reading.

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What the Heck Happened to Me?

Hey Everyone. It’s me, obviously. I suppose I should introduce myself to you once again, since it has been so long since I’ve been on this site. I’m extremely sorry for my lapse, but it has been with good reason. Since the publication of Autumn Leaves, I turned my attention  to another endeavor, one that took all my energies. I decided to become an educator. It has been an amazing choice,  but one that,  until recently,  has taken all my spare moments. Here, let me explain.

When I published Autumn Leaves and saw the return of my leisure time, I began to think of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It was sort of like a ‘mid-life crisis,’ only twenty years early. After heeding that small voice, I decided I wanted to follow through with my dream (and calling) to become a teacher.

Now, to be a teacher is no small feat, especially here in Florida. I began with the usual paperwork, and was instructed to pass the Social Sciences 6-12 (grade level) exam. If you know me well, you will know that I throw myself headlong into my studies. And as many of you have seen, I virtually disappeared while I prepared for the test. I had to study nothing short of 4000 years of human history (as well as Political Science, Economics, American History, Social Science, and Geography). The exam took over three hours, but I passed it on the first attempt during the summer, something I am told is a bit amazing. I studied for several months for it, but it paid off. I was then approved to teach social sciences in either middle of high school.

I then turned my attention to my career, and started submitting my resume (which I had to entirely redesign – teaching resumes are different from the corporate world). After much trial and error, I interview at Oak Ridge High School for a history position. This position came about from a customer I met at my place of employment who ‘hooked me up’ with Oak Ridge. She teaches business law there, and we became good friends. I did not receive the position, but they called me back a few days later when a new position unexpectedly opened, and the rest is history. I now teach high school economics to seniors.

I work in what is called a Title 1 school, which means the students mainly come from low income earning homes. I tell you plainly it has been the best decision of my life and I could not wish to be in a better school.

Okay, so now I’m a teacher. Time to get back to writing, right? Wrong. Now, I have several classes to take at night, a General Knowledge exam to pass, on-line courses to pass, and successive evaluations to endure before I complete my first year. I started preparing for the GK (General Knowledge) exam on September 3, and I took the last math exam three weeks ago. It’s been six months of continuous study, but I passed the test. I also, in the first semester, completed my courses and the on-line set. I was busy with all that, and,  you know, teaching my economics class, but it was worth it.

Teaching has been such an amazing experience for me. I have met so many wonderful young people, and have learned so much about them and even myself. Needless to say, I have made some very good relationships. And I’ve had a lot of fun along the way.

Alright! All of that to say, now I am finally back and working on my next WIP (work in progress). I have summer break approaching and I just completed my spring break. Now,  I am ready to return to the literary world with my latest work.

Expect one blog post a week, like normal, and please follow along on my facebook site for daily updates. Thank you all for your understanding and encouragement. It’s been a great year for me so far, and I’m so very excited to see what the future will bring.

 

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How to Handle Racism in Writing II

Hello everyone. I hope your week has been well thus far. I’m certain everyone is eagerly awaiting the weekend. I know I am. We have a lovely downtown art fair to attend on Sunday, so it should make for a nice time. Today is my father’s birthday, so happy 66th, Dad!

Last time, I spoke about the racist views of classic authors and how we handle them. Today, I want to discuss how we write about racism in our own contemporary works. My first and immediate thought is that we should abstain from any form of racism in our writings. I always view the written word as another expression of art, and I feel that such derogatory language (racist language – I will handle others forms later on) would only clutter up the canvas upon which we paint, proverbially speaking. There is no room, I believe, in the beautiful for the ugly.

Most importantly, I believe we should ever strive to heal the wounds of the past with our expressions today. In order to create new mindsets, we need to move away from the sins of the past and design the positive future we pursue. We cannot do that if we are inundating our novels with the evils of the past. Such history should not be forgotten, but we can recall the past adequately without the derogatory sentiments.

On the other hand, if you are crafting a story about the US in 1953, authenticity must be the rule. You can’t create a utopia when one never existed. Rewriting history is horrible, as we are often prone to doing. Your story must be authentic and so it must run in the thread of the times. That does not mean your character has to use racist terms, as not all people always thought such, but it does mean you need a researched level of understanding as to how the people viewed one another at the time.

Still today, people cling to their modes of racism as their view of the world. That being said, if authenticity is key, you must express that in your writings. Perhaps it’s part of your character arc? Or maybe it’s how you craft your villain? Either way, if it’s how people engage with one another, then it must be done. Listening to two African American youths converse, or two Anglo Saxons or Latinos, authenticity must trump all. I hardly think “Good day, kind sir, and pray thee, what time hath thee?” would be suitable for Chicago in 1997, or 2016 Atlanta. We must craft dialogue that, though offensive to some, expresses the true nature of the episode.

Writing can also be a time capsule for out generation. Right now, in 2016 America, there is  rampant a string of “Islamaphobia” and anti-Muslim sentiments are high. I don’t agree with that, but if I’m writing about my contemporary time, I need to include that. Maybe I would craft a character who tries to defend a Muslim friend from angry friends, or a person who hates Muslims until he has to work with one? It’s part of preserving our history, for good or for ill, in our writings. Through the history of writing, then, we can see the advances we have made, and how far we still have to travel.

Well, that is all for now. Any thoughts, feel free to share them below. As always, thanks for reading.

Please check out my debut novel, Autumn Leaves, at the links below. Thanks
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Autumn-Leaves-Robert-Oliver-ebook/dp/B01D2BPOCM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458302334&sr=8-1&keywords=Autumn+Leaves+Robert+Oliver

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/autumn-leaves-robert-oliver/1123534519?ean=2940152923513

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/622923

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How to Handle Racist Attitudes in Literature Part 1

Hello Everyone. How are you all this week? I’m very excited to say that last week’s blog did exceptionally well. It was the most visited blog to date, and that makes me very happy. I’m always delighted to share some writing tips and my opinions concerning writing, with you all. Today, in that similar vein, I want to begin a two part series (those of you who read last week’s blog are chuckling) on racist attitudes in literature. This week, I will write about the understandings of previous authors, and next week, I’ll deal with how contemporary writers should handle the subject. So, without further fanfare, let’s go.

Through our academic years, we all no doubt read the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Jack London and Joseph Conrad, to name a few. They are the cornerstones of literature, and their works are imortalized in various printed editions and on the silver screen. For many readers and authors today, they are the inspiration that propels them forward, their words forming some of the fabric of their being. But, writers of earlier periods were often a product of their culture, and with that culture came racial insensitivities that we as a society no longer tolerate. So, how do we handle the attitudes of these writers?

I have often asked myself this question, wondering just what I should do with two of my favorite authors, Edgar A. Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. Both are macabre authors, and both are considered geniuses in their field. Both, however, have exhibted racial attitudes that can be alarming. Poe, for starters, will use common vernacular to describe the few appearances of African Americans in his works. Given the often existential nature of his writings, and the restrained amount of characters present in the writing, his use of such terminology does not appear frequently. Lovecraft, however, displays racially derogatory attitudes in most of his writings. He is insensitive to both African Americans, immigrants and, well, anyone of any socially or economically lower class. What must be understood is that both men were writing nearly 100 years ago (Poe died in 1849 and Lovecraft in 1937). Both had prolific careers spanning decades. Both were writing when customs and ideas on race relations were much different. That is key to understanding racism in literature; it is a product of its time.

It is very easy today for contemporary citizens to disregard the works of Faulkner, Twain and others because they use the ‘n’ word, or portray some of their characters in a less than desirable light. Were these men racist? Maybe. Were they products of their time? Most certainly. That must be remembered, that these men grew up in a certain time and place, and their writings are time capsules of that era. To read Poe or Twain is to see through a window into a world long past, a world not always perfect, but a world from which we all come. Their time and place is necessarily ours as well, since through that time we pass, the long march of history plodding on forever.

We cannot condone their attitudes, and we cannot condemn them, either. Ridding our contemporary mindsets of these great authors is only harming ourselves, as we are severing our own minds from our corporate history. Turning a blind eye to their faults is not acceptible, either. We must boldly face our past, as represented by the works we read, to better understand our future. We must see the stories for what they are, pieces of the fabric of time. Each story is a narrative of a moment in human history; they might not always be wonderful, but in their bleakness, we see our own progress, and how far we have yet to travel.

With that, I say, read Poe and Faulkner, but remember you do not have to agree with them, and you do not have to mirror their conception of the world. It is up to us to make sense of the situation, seeing beyond the literary mistakes to the essence of the human experience.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. Next week, I’ll share how we as writers can handle the issue of racism in our works. As always, thanks for reading.

If you have not already, please check out my debut novel, Autumn Leaves, a novel about one couple’s journey into the dark world of domestic abuse.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Autumn-Leaves-Robert-Oliver-ebook/dp/B01D2BPOCM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458302334&sr=8-1&keywords=Autumn+Leaves+Robert+Oliver

Nook: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/autumn-leaves-robert-oliver/1123534519?ean=2940152923513

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/622923

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Why Read a Books that’s Part of a Series

Hello everyone. Sorry this is late. It’s been very busy here, and I’m still trying to tackle my studies while marketing my book. Just a quick word on that: Autumn Leaves is doing very well. What I hear from readers so far (no reviews yet), is that the book is very compelling, it has them hooked, and is a very good read. I’m excited over that. Tonight, however, I do not wish to carry on over my latest work, but address an issue that has plagued me for some time now: why do writers and readers engage in a book that’s part of a series?

I’m certain all of you have read a book that’s had siblings stretching into the double digits. Harry Potter had seven volumes; the Twilight saga had several; the Wheel of Time had 13! I confess here that I am not a real fan of books that stretch on for multiple volumes. If I ever wrote something that did stretch on beyond a single book, I would draw the line at three, and no more. The question remains: Why do writers unnecessarily lengthen their works, and why do readers choose to read them?

The ‘why’s’ are much different for writes and readers. First off, for readers, the length of the book (the total story) is compelling and one can easily lose themselves in the entirety of the tale. If the story is really good, it’s very easy to let your mind travel along with the characters. It’s even  better knowing the story is not finished, and that another book will carry you still further into the new world you have just begun to explore.

Second, in a similar vein, if you love the characters, it’s very easy to follow them on continuous adventures. One book is simply not enough time to spend with Frodo and Sam, or D’Artagnan, the boy who lived. They become living beings to you, and friends. Saying goodbye is difficult, so it’s easier to delay that parting until a further date.

Finally, I feel there is a sense of triumph when one completes a 13 book collection. You can proudly display the titles on your bookshelf and remember fondly the span of your life you committed to that novel. I often look fondly at my collection of Musketeers books.

Now, for writers, it’s different. Please note, here I take a bit of a cynical turn with this first point. I feel that for writers, writing a book in multiple volumes is a marketing ploy not always necessary. (Remember, I am referring here to a continuation of the same general story-line, not separate adventures of the same characters). Writers feel they can ‘hook’ the audience with their book and seemingly coerce them into reading the successive volumes, especially if left with a cliff-hanger. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but I believe in that case, the purpose of the book is mere monetary gain, and not art. Writing should be about life and art, not rudimentary profit. Cheap ploys for readership are not welcomed by this author, and should be shunned by all writers who truly view their work as something more.

There is also for writers an established audience who is awaiting the second chronicle of their favorite character. It is no doubt advantageous to have that readership established, so a writer does not necessarily have to begin anew with each book. My first work dealt with domestic abuse, but my second will deal with something entirely different. In a sense, I’ll have to start fresh with my readers, as one book will appeal to one person, and another to someone different.

Finally, and probably what disgusts me the most, is that the notion of writing 47 volumes on one adventure is the vogue thing to do right now. Popularity dictates that everyone extend a story far beyond its logical limits. It’s the ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ practice right now, so on the shelves one sees only “Sexy Vampire: a sexy vampire story 17” or “Crazy zombie junk: a crazy zombie junk story, 11.” No! Enough. Please, stop! If you can’t tell it in three novels, please stop. Frodo and Sam: three novels. Musketeers: three novels. Just because one person found success with the idea doesn’t mean all writers need to follow it.

Alright, this was a rather lengthy rant tonight. My apologizes, but this sort of junk annoys me. That being said, many books are part of a series today. If you enjoy them and find amusement in reading them, then by all means surrender your mind to the novels and escape for a little while. Have fun with the book.

As for you writers: don’t! Just don’t.

As always, thanks for reading.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Autumn-Leaves-Robert-Oliver-ebook/dp/B01D2BPOCM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458302334&sr=8-1&keywords=Autumn+Leaves+Robert+Oliver

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/autumn-leaves-robert-oliver/1123534519?ean=2940152923513

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/622923

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