Thursday, January 19, 2012

happy endings or sad endings?

I can tell you this: in Toronto they'll get you to re-write happy endings so they are sad or just plain dark. No happy endings in literary fiction, that is seen as the domain of pop fiction, so it doesn't surprise me the reverse is true for popular fiction. Zo and White Birds both have sad endings. Though I am going to make the ending of the third in the series upbeat no matter Toronto says. But that is the way of things.

For me, I have written enough sad endings in novels and in almost 50 short stories (not all sad endings, just enough) that I find having the freedom to write endings that come together more pleasantly something of a novelty. I'm not in any hurry to write another sad ending & have no sense of need, calling or urgency to do so. I've done enough. Nothing to prove. I'll stick with sunshine for a while.

I've written about this many times and spoken about it at writers' gatherings, even secular ones - another ingredient: religious people must be dysfunctional if they're Christian - unless they're old & toothless and then you can write benevolently about them.

When I was writing in my 20s and 30s I was iconoclastic & I wanted to show Christians there were sad and tragic occurrences in life, that not everything could be turned into Cheez Whiz with a few Bible verses - I also wanted to show non-Christians a believer could write hard and true - with White birds, even though a main character dies at the end, I made more of an effort, an effort that began with Zo, to show a fullness of life: dark and light, bitter and sweet, happy and sad - life has both - Christians can't rejoice in or understand everything that goes wrong - but non-Christians can't say there is no happiness or forgiveness or hope - even in what I'm doing with you I want that fullness - so Wings has an upbeat ending - but as you know good people die in the book from war and disease and that shows the inescapable dark shadow that sticks with us in this life - see Psalm 88, Job, Jonah's prayer, Ecclesiastes, etc. - but definitely as a young writer I reacted to Christians dolling everything up & my first novel (Mizzly Fitch)was as dark as Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio in its way, and got me in a lot of trouble, though it's no different, really, than a text from the first part of Psalm 73 or any portion of Psalm 88. But few people know the Bible anymore except for a few favorite passages and books they continually re-read.

I think many Christians who want to write sad endings are simply trying to be honest about life experience and faithful to God in telling such tales - the difference between us is I got to do that years ago and don't feel the need to make the point anymore - but then I was not denied the opportunity as they are being denied the opportunity - but, as you say, I can't see Christian fiction becoming literary fiction so they will have to go to small publishing houses and low advances if they want to publish their tragedies - I suspect most won't do that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

how do I start writing a novel?

It doesn't happen until I start the real writing. But it's like something pent up has been let loose, I can feel the opening inside of me, and there is a strong and steady flow that can cut through rock and earth that bursts forth and begins to go steady and sure. It carries me with it to places and scenes and characters I did not always anticipate or plan for and it is irresistible and unstoppable. It can be like a fire too and hurt & burn if I do not let it out and hurt & burn even if I do. I am swept away with it until we empty into the great sea of the ending. This very much happened with Wings and Heaven.

. . . .

I do bare bones plotting and envisage what needs to happen with each chapter (as well as one can knowing the plot will take twists and turns you didn't plan on) - but I most certainly don't nail everything down tight before starting - however I have a strong sense of direction and beginning and that propels me out of the blocks - then it's a matter of thinking and evaluating day by day as you write and things take on shape - I would never presume to nail everything down before writing began because the act of writing changes everything since it brings the ideas to life & anything can happen once you have life force.

writing about women

I was privileged to be interviewed by California author Keli Gwyn online. Here is an excerpt from that interview which has to do with me writing in a genre that is normally reserved for female authors. Keli's first novel will be published by Barbour in July at which time I hope to return the favor and interview her on my blog.

Keli: The stereotypical romance writer is female, so I’m impressed when I find a man who has embraced the genre. What do you see as the challenges and benefits of being a male romance writer?

Murray: I have a mother, a sister, a wife, and a daughter, and I have worked alongside female colleagues since I was young. So as a male romance writer my challenge is to reflect what I have seen and learned of the wonderful women in my life in the female characters I portray, especially the heroine. The advantage is, as someone looking in on the female heart and spirit from the outside, I see and value and highlight things that women writers might overlook or take for granted and so not portray. Women, in their strength and depth and mind and soul, are fascinating and I want to express as much of that as I can in my writing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

are the amish quaint or relevant?

Are the Amish quaint?

Many people think so. They travel to Amish regions in the US and Canada, cameras ready, to take pictures of people who don’t want to be photographed just because those people look quaint or old-fashioned.

Quite apart from not wanting to be photographed, I doubt the Amish want to be thought of as quaint, especially when it comes to their Christian faith and Christian lifestyle. I know I wouldn’t be. Quaint makes you sound cute, sweet and out-of-date, and I wouldn’t want my Christian faith to be described using any of those terms. I’m pretty sure the Amish wouldn’t like those words applied to their faith either.

The Amish take their faith seriously – it is the reason they live and dress as they do. It is the reason they still use horses and buggies, the reason they meet in homes and not church buildings, the reason the women have their hair up under prayer kapps. They are what people call quaint because it is their way of following Christ. But to them their faith is alive and vibrant and has a lot to say to the modern people and modern times that swirl around them. Theirs is not a dead faith or an antiquated faith or a fossilized faith, as far as they are concerned. It is brimming with Jesus in 2012 – not just 1912 or 1812.

This is one of the challenges for both the writers and readers of Amish fiction – to make the Amish real in their minds and hearts and imaginations, not quaint, not dated, not precious throwbacks to another era that have nothing much to say about real life and a real God to this one. Yes, the Amish live in many ways as if it is still the late 1800s. But why they do it and what they believe has a lot to say to anyone seeking Christ or following him in the 2100s. So the writer and reader need to work together to make sure that the charm of an 1800s way of life the world left behind in a hurry in the 1920s and 30s is not the only takeaway from Amish fiction.

The commitment to one another and to community is important. Seeking God’s will and not the world’s is also crucial. The value of humility, quietness, peace, and self-sacrifice are right up there. So are avoidance of war, rejecting conflict with your neighbors, forgiveness, and deep and abiding relationships. There is much more, as careful writers, readers, and researchers know.

The challenge is to say with Amish fiction that there is a beauty to the Amish ways but not just because they drive buggies and plow with oxen and make butter with butter churns. The beauty is they do all that and remain absolutely relevant to the people of the 21st century. Especially those who are seekers after God, followers of Christ, and men and women lost in the maelstrom of modern life who wish there was another way, even a better way, for them to raise their families and live out the threescore and ten years God has allotted them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the wings of morning trailer


Sunday, January 01, 2012

virginia city released

Virginia City Released

January 1st marks the release date of A Bride’s Flight From Virginia City, Montana. It will be in the brick and mortar stores when they open again Monday or Tuesday and available online right now.

A friend contacted me on Facebook this morning to tell me the ecopy she had pre-ordered showed up on Kindle early this morning and she had already started reading it. A ranching couple I had given a printed copy to for Christmas contacted me to say they had dug right into it and had had a great read over the holidays. So that’s a nice beginning for which I’m grateful.

The bare bones plot (if you didn’t pick up on it from earlier posts): A young woman attempts to keep two children safe from a murderer by fleeing east to her old home in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, a region she vowed never to return to. Now she must not only do everything in her power to ward off the killer who stalks them, but deal with the people, personalities, and issues that made her leave the Amish faith to begin with. One man tries to help her, but he is a man haunted by his own past – the slaughters of the Civil War made him vow never to fight or use a gun again. The killer, known as The Angel of Death, has no such qualms.

A surprise romance between the woman and man binds them closer to each other and to the two children. It even brings them closer to the Amish of Bird in Hand and closer to God. But from the killer’s point of view, the four of them don’t have a prayer . . .

I hope you pick up a copy and enjoy the ride!