Saturday, February 20, 2010

Plugging the Hydrant


“Talking is a hydrant in the yard and writing is a faucet upstairs in the house. Opening the first takes the pressure off the second.”
Robert Frost

Robert Frost is somewhat featured in Off The Moon. Of course we all know he was an exceptional poet, but if you read through some of his quotes, you see that he was also a man of much common sense and intelligence with wonderful advice for living as well as writing.

My luster and drive for throwing myself into my stories and essays has been waning. At the same time, I’ve been throwing myself into reconnecting with old friends and talking with new and trying to keep up with everyone’s goings on. I enjoy it. Honestly. However, it has become that hydrant that’s such a danger to writing.

I’ve realized that for some time but expected I could find a way to balance it. So far, that hasn’t happened. My writing isn’t going where I want it to go. My chatting (partly with promo as an excuse) is becoming more predominant than my work. And a recent event has made me step back and realize I need to reconfigure.

I started writing back when I didn’t have enough communication. It was a constantly running faucet that relieved the emotional valve. It made for full, vivid stories packed with meaning and sub-meaning because all of my repressed thoughts came out in my work. Now, too often, they come out during chats and ramblings and it releases too much of that pressure I want in my work.

So, if I’m not around the lists or social networks much for a while, you can find me here – hopefully with better and deeper entries – and in my books. I have two I want out this year. They need my attention and my intensity. I also have a couple of other projects that have been on the back burner: projects that I believe will touch more people than I can with my little here-and-there ramblings.

I’m spread too thin. I need a narrower base of operations. This blog will be the main source. There’s also my quarterly newsletter (sign up is on my website). If you comment here or in my guest book, I’ll be around to answer. I can’t guarantee that elsewhere. Some of my miscellaneous projects will either be closing or transferred to others. The holes leading to water leaks need to be welded and the most important things I need to say are in my work.

There is a sign up to be notified of new blog entries to the right. It is only used for that – your email will not be shared. Please subscribe to my updates if you want to know of new entries, or become a fan at Facebook where these entries will filter automatically. Click Here or search LK Hunsaker.

As for actual news:

Today is the release date for Classic Romance Revival’s “Cupid Diaries” anthology for romance lovers. My story “Toward The Sky” is included for their premiere issue. As it relates to Off The Moon, I’ve sent it about as promo for the novel and have received some very nice comments. Find the anthology here: Cupid Diaries: Moments in Time

“Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life.”
Robert Louis Stevenson


Happy Birthday, Grandpa. May I be able to leave as beautiful a legacy as you did.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Musical Moment: the 70s

I was a child of the Seventies. Now, when most say that, they mean their late teen and early twenties years were during the Seventies and they were smack in the midst of the hippie revolution. I mean I was a child during the Seventies and my teen years began right at the tail end of that decade. But, I was always kind of old for my age and when I was ten, I fell right into that music-obsessed teen-like musician worship stage. Anyway, it seemed to me that all teens and pre-teens were music obsessed and that all conversation centered around who was hot at the moment and who had the better voice/most skill.

Since those days, I've come to realize that isn't true: not everyone centered their teen worlds on music. Unbelievable, though it may be.

They say scent is the strongest neumonic; nothing brings recall better than a familiar scent. Maybe that's true for most, but for me, nothing will bring back a moment in time more than a song, or a band, or even a musical style. Take the Super Bowl halftime show. I don't watch football, but my son called me out when The Who came on. Suddenly, I was swept back in time to when their songs were on the radio and I was in my parents' home locked away in my bedroom working on something to keep my hands busy just as an excuse to be lost in the music. The Who played a mix of some of their top songs and while some were knocking how "old" they are and how "bad" the sound was, I could only think how cool it was to see them perform and be swept away to the past. And to be fair, they gave a strong performance for a band that came out in the mid Sixties.

It was great to share the experience with my son who is older than I was when The Who was on the radio. He was impressed. For "old guys" they played well and were full of energy, which surprised the sixteen year old with tons of his own. He commented on how good the drummer was and how cool the stage looked. See? This is a kid after my own heart. He gets it. It's not only entertainment; it's an experience. [He also found it cool that their drummer for the show was none other than Zak Starkey, Ringo's kid.]

How can you go through your teen years without falling for a particular band, or a particular musician? Music captures moments of time that can't be captured in any other way, and teens are primed and ready for this musical moment-stealing.

I was swept away by many singers and many bands during those awkward years. Donny and Leif and Andy and David, plus Styx and Journey and Chicago and Air Supply … I could spend as much time with them as I could pull from homework and chores and they were always there waiting. Granted, most of the albums belonged to my big sis since she had babysitting money, but as we shared a room and she was a loving big sis, I got to use her record player and her albums.

I still vividly remember the day she brought home a new album of a band I'd never heard of. I thought they were rather odd-looking, to tell the truth, not as cute as Andy and Donny, but still, there was something fascinating about them I couldn't put my finger on (other than their odd clothing choice). And then she played the album. I was grabbed in a way no other music had ever grabbed me.

I've talked with many adults recently who were big fans of the band, as well, and so often I hear it was their looks that were the big attraction. Hmm.. I'm one of the youngest fans and no, it wasn't their looks for me. Heck, I was ten at the time or right at that. Boys were still only undecipherable creatures and interesting but rather annoying (apologies to my little brother, but he understands). It was the music.

As I grew, I moved into the Eighties with Hall & Oates and Madonna and Michael Jackson and Tears For Fears and Julian Lennon, but that band remained number one on my list. Why? Who Knows? Something about them spoke to me. In fact, it spoke loudly enough, it became a story. What were they really like past the media hoopla? What was it like to tour and live in hotels and buses and be stuck with each other for months at a time? Did they get along behind the scenes? What about girlfriends? How do you have one with that kind of lifestyle?

The questions festered until I had to start answering them. No, I didn't stalk the band. They disappeared and all that was left were those albums and the posters previously smothering our bedroom wall and then tucked safety into folders. I was stuck in a little town in the Midwest going to school and family functions. In my head, though, I was on the road. It moved well past questions about that one band to being about a band in general, and a girl who supported them.

I created my own band to answer those questions. The results were thirty-some years in the making, with tons of research and music-following in general and talking with other fans and reading music biographies, and it became my Rehearsal series. It's not why I started writing. I've been doing that since I knew what writing was. It did spur an obsession for story-telling, for discovering the whys and hows and what ifs, even if the answers are fiction. All fiction has its truths. Reading a novel may mean no more than several hours of escape. Or, it may be a moment in time that causes a lasting effect in some way.

That one moment back in the mid Seventies when I listened to that one album lovingly crafted by artists coming into their own was much more than 30 minutes of escapism. It was pure inspiration. It was lasting joy. It was a trigger. If only one of my books could do the same, that would be a legacy I would be thrilled to have.

If you're wondering, no, I'm not revealing the band name, because that's not the point (and because I called them odd-looking -- apologies to those of you who do know who I mean, but I was only ten-ish and I mostly changed my mind later).

However, for those following the CRR Blog Carnival (and for anyone else who stops by), I do have a musical prize to be drawn from those who leave comments on this post:

A CD full of music from my youth, much of which is mentioned in my Rehearsal series, plus

Rehearsal: A Different Drummer as Ebook on a signed CD. I'll draw the name on Tuesday morning to give those in other time zones plenty of time to get here. Be sure I can contact you or stop back by to see if I need your contact info!

So what about you? Were you a music-obsessed teen? Who did you listen to? If not, what was your teen obsession?


This is part of the Classic Romance Revival Valentine's Day Blog Carnival. Winners for the grand prize -- a 5-ARC package from Classic Romance Revival authors -- will be drawn from visitors commenting on the most blogs.  To qualify for the grand prize, you need to register for the contest.  Please visit the Classic Romance Revival blog to find details of all the blogs and to register:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Book Review: Last Night in Twisted River

Last Night in Twisted River
John Irving
Random House 2009

I’ve been a John Irving fan since reading The World According to Garp several years ago. And then The Cider House Rules and The Fourth Hand. I have many still to read, since his newest is novel number twelve. I’ve read half of his previous novel, Until I Find You. I kind of got stalled on it and am sure I’ll eventually go back to finish, but it was less impressive (aka more rambling) than the others and it lost my attention. A shame, since the copy I have is personally signed.

Yes, I met Irving at the National Book Fair in Washington D.C. just after that novel came out, long enough to get it signed and say hello and how I loved his story variety (which got a cute grin). I suppose I shouldn’t refer to a man who was graduating college about the time I was born cute, but so be it.

Of course I had to pick up his latest. I impatiently made myself wait a few days to start it since I was in the middle of another novel (or maybe 2 or 3 others), although I did read the first two or three paragraphs right away. The way a book begins is hugely important to me, and it yanked me right into the story.

Once I started reading, my literary spirits started to sink a bit. Like the last one, this novel – after the great beginning – felt slow. Now I don’t mind rambling in a novel if it’s interesting and the characters are pulling at me to get to know them. I like literary fiction; it’s my favorite genre and I’m not intent on rushing through books to get to the next. I savor. I kick back at night before sleep settles in and immerse myself in someone else’s world. It’s the joy of fiction.

However, if I find myself thinking I’d rather rather read something else on a particular night, I know the story is not keeping me pulled well enough.

Irving’s characters, as always, are interesting and varied and well drawn. The first problem I had was the time frame jumping. At times we were in the present moving along and then suddenly we were back somewhere in the past and trying to figure out just where in the past. I understand the point of the book: it’s largely about the process of writing, of creating a story from real life without using too much real life. That is what Irving does, and he does it well. And of course writers jump back into their past to pull stories and experiences. For the reader, though, this was slightly disconcerting.

The other technical issue I had with it was the repetition. At times, I felt Irving assumed his readers were either complete morons who had to be told something six or seven times before they would “get” it or else he was writing for dementia patients who do need things repeated (or two year olds, but the story is far too advanced for them). I’m an avid reader with very good comprehension; tell me once and I’ve got it, thanks. Repetition in the way it was used, often in an explanatory tone, felt rather insulting. No need. I gotcha the first time.

After the first half of the very long novel (and I don’t mind long, either – heck, I write long), I finally felt like I was getting swept away in it and truly enjoying it. And then, BAM, an even bigger insult right at the end. A note to writers: if you call a large percentage of your readers “stupid” even through a character’s dialogue or thoughts, you’re not winning them over for your next novel.

I also don’t mind political issues in novels. I use political issues. However, when you’re presenting one side of the issue and all of a sudden a major character comes out ranting about one certain political figure or event enough that it completely pulls away from the story and into a rant, that’s not good fiction. Yes, one of the major characters comes out and calls a whole big group of people in the current population “stupid” and “bully patriots” and “dumber-than-dog-shit” and is agreed with by the main character, the writer, who is presumably a character sketch of Irving himself. Yes, he has a right to his political opinion, but once the reader comes to that point in the novel, she ends up wondering if the whole book was written simply to make that opinion widely known.

I’d like to just remind readers that novels are one person’s opinion and that most novelists have not been on the inside of politics to know any more than the media knows. The novel does put the media down, as well, for presuming to know more than they do and to make up stories around events that aren’t the way they look. Yes, true, but so do novelists. The difference is, we’re supposed to be presenting things as fiction and opening eyes to varying viewpoints, not telling everyone who doesn’t agree with us they’re stupid bullies.

It’s hard to feel so let down by one of your favorite writers. That one section of the book truly ruined it for me. Of course, the character making those statements turns out to do something truly stupid and self-centered, so maybe that was meant to infer his opinions really aren’t worth a whole lot.

Irving can always say that Danny the character is not him and does not share his political thoughts, but as he keeps repeating through the story that fiction is not based on true life and then countering it by having Danny write about his true life, that would be rather hard to buy. 

I found much of the main character’s actions hard to fathom and had more interest in Dominic, his father, than in Danny. Danny seemed to live in his own little world and saw things from his own very limited viewpoint, which would make anything he wrote also rather limited perspective. In addition, they both ran away from things instead of facing them, which made me a tad unsympathetic and unlikely to hold their views in very high estimation. They weren’t bullies, true. They were wimpy instead: just keep running and letting the bad guy ruin your life over and over. Hm…

What I did like about Twisted River was the imagery and the voice and the bits of subtle humor and the “twist” at the end. The novel as a whole was original and rather innovative. Will I pick up his next novel? I don’t know. I may wait to hear reviews and check it out of the library instead. I do still plan to read his older books, a couple of which I have on my shelf waiting. I imagine I’ll wait on that until the “stupid” and “bully” comments have time to fade.

Legalities: This book was purchased by the reviewer and no compensation was received.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Trigger: no, not the horse

Yesterday’s discussion on a writing list triggered an A-HA moment that led to more questions. The discussion was about books that have influenced your life. While I couldn't name one in particular, I did have a short list come to mind for different reasons. But the discussion's big relevance hit when a comment brought something to light about my writing past I hadn't considered before:

the Cs I received on my English papers in college.

Now, backing up a bit, in junior high, I aced English papers. I was not only asked to join the school newspaper but was put in a high position on it. By the time I hit high school, I was well known as having writing ability, and again, I aced English.

With plenty of confidence in my writing skills (and little elsewhere), I moved on to college. And I started getting Cs on my English essays and stories. It was a huge shock to my system, as bad as the C I got in basic drawing because it was based ONLY on improvement, she said, and she hadn't taught me anything I didn't know already. I had been writing forever. It was part of who I was. Those Cs were like someone punching me in the gut and saying, "Who do you think you're trying to fool?" I expected every other class I had to be challenging, but English comp?

Up to that point, I'd been writing tons of story notes and scattered scenes for books yet to come. I had some bad (juvenile) poetry under my belt and even a play that got some nice comments from close family and a couple of friends.

During my college career, I got "too busy" to write creatively. Then I married and I still didn't touch it. Not for years. I've always blamed marriage and kids and moving and such. Maybe that wasn't it. Maybe that punch in the stomach pushed me away.

I was well used to struggling through classes. School was hard due to the ADD I had back before the days anyone had any idea what ADD was (I struggled with my homework much more than anyone knew just to try to keep my mind where it needed to be), but I kept at it and wound up on the top ten in high school and the Who's Who list in college. *shrug* None of that mattered a heck of a lot as I looked back on it. I think it didn't much matter because the one thing I really wanted had been yanked from underneath me.

I left school before my bachelor's degree was finished due to marriage and moving away. I promised my mom I would finish, though, and years of working child care and retail and part-time taxes when it wasn’t my thing convinced me I wanted more than that. So I went back to finish my bachelor’s degree in my early thirties.

This time, I was determined to do better than the B average I had. I wanted my GPA raised. My major was psychology, with my minor a combination of art and English since I already had tons of those under my belt. And I dreaded turning in essays and term papers for my psych and lit classes. Math and science are my nemesis but I was much more willing to shove them in and see what I could get out of them than to cringe at my writing grades.

Not only did I manage to pull an A in online statistics where I had to teach myself since the professor was largely unavailable, I aced the essays and term papers. Easily. In both psych and English, I received "impressive"-type comments on every paper I turned in.


I'd been back to creative writing in the meantime, barely, but I had no thought of showing anyone. I wrote for my sanity, for something that was "mine" during years of military travel and putting kids and my husband and house stuff first.

I'd even taken a novel writing class before going back to school. For myself. I had no plans to put anything out where someone could stomp on it.

I suppose those "impressive" comments changed my mind. My husband kept asking what I was going to "do with" the book I spent so much time scribbling. He hadn't even known all the years we'd been married that I had any interest in writing before I became obsessed with that book, before I'd wait all day for him to be home to rescue me from the hellions so I could lock myself in my room and write.

I've been thinking there may not have been any point in finishing my degree since I'm working at home instead of applying it to a career and am happy doing so, but maybe there was. Maybe without those As and "impressive" comments, my work would still be sitting in notebooks unread by anyone but me.

Now I'm wondering what happened with those early college years for my work to be graded so differently than at any other time. Granted, there was some (a lot of) emotional upheaval during my life at that time, but there was earlier, as well. Maybe it was going from a tiny little town school to a city school where most of the students had more diverse/interesting topics to write about? I was horribly nervous during those early college years. Was that it? Did it show?

I suppose I won't find out the answers to those ponderings, but it seems like such a shame that all those years were wasted not writing because of something so silly as a few Cs.

Youth. *sigh*