"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing and Golf

By Richard Rice

Sometime, not too long ago, I set two goals to guide me through the next years of my life. Number one, I want to publish a novel. Secondly, I want to shoot my age at golf.

Simple goals, their achievement easily verified. Now I’m on record. The world can watch to see how I do. How difficult are these goals, and how am I doing?

Specifics I’ve set for the published novel is that it cannot be a limited, self-published work, but a genuine, New York book, purchased by thousands of anxious readers who will become the beginnings of my fan club. The odds against this happening are quite high. Statistics abound, suggesting that agents receive tens of thousands of author queries each year and only a small fraction actually lead to published novels. I believe it. I have hundreds of rejections, probably enough to paper my garret. Undaunted by such odds, I fearlessly plunge ahead with my writing and queries.

I have recently completed my third novel, Incendiary, and have begun the tortuous journey toward its publication. I’m pleased to say, things are going well. I have already received my first rejection! I won’t bore you with a long description of the story, but just in case you’re interested, here is a short excerpt from Chapter 1:

Mohammad felt a light pressure on his shoulder and a tingling sensation in his throat. Surprised, he raised his hands to his neck and looked down, discovering a crimson stain spreading across his chest. He tried to shout, but no sound came from his mouth. Dark spots appeared before his eyes and a roaring filled his ears. A dizzy feeling came over him, deepening as he sank to his knees, still not understanding what had happened. Strong hands took a grip on an arm and belt and he felt his body being propelled toward the precipice. He saw the river below growing closer and sensed a cool rush of air on his face. He wondered if he could be flying.

The golf goal is also a long shot. Shooting your age at golf is a rare accomplishment, limited to only a few percent of all golfers. Still, I persist, a familiar figure hacking away at the local courses, and occasionally on a road trip to some exotic links in, say, Utah. How close am I to reaching my goal? Consider the numbers. A normal golf course par is 72. Pro golfers usually shoot about this or a little less. My typical score is considerably higher. For example, this last weekend, if I was 89, I would have shot my age. But, I have a long way to go before I’m 89. Can I hold on to my present level for another 18 years? Or improve enough to intercept my age somewhere along the way?

To increase my odds of shooting my age someday, I take lessons, try new equipment, fiddle with my golf swing, practice often and note golf tips in various magazines or on the Golf Channel. Are these things working? So far not enough. But, as in writing the Great American Novel, one must persist, continue to learn, and never give up.

So, I persist. In writing as in golf.

Richard grew up in Southern California and received his BS and MS degrees in Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. In an exciting three-decade technical career, he was involved in NASA’s space program and in nuclear energy and novel energy production research for the Energy Department. He traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia, presenting the results of his work and collaborating with other research institutions. Richard began writing as a teenager, covering high school sports for the local newspaper. He continued writing throughout his career, producing a number of technical papers, articles and reports. He recently decided to end his engineering career and write full time. Since then, he has produced three novels. He has also written several short stories, three of which were accepted by the Idaho Magazine. His third short story was named as a winner in the Idaho Magazine 2010 fiction contest. Richard lives with his family on the Snake River in Southeastern Idaho.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Witch's Daughter

“Hey look down there.” Tobias pointed toward the river. “Isn’t that Brea, the witch’s daughter?"

Charles looked down at the young girl on the bank by the water. “Yes, I think that’s Ludenia’s daughter. Why do you call her mother a witch?”

“Cause my old man says so.” Tobias slapped Charles’s head with his hand.“Haven’t you seen the shack they live in?”

“Yes, I have,” said Charles. “It always looked clean to me.”

“You never looked close enough; they‘re trash, my pa said so.”

Tobias moved some branches, careful not to snag his new purple waistcoat with the big gold buttons. “What’s she up to?”

Brea sat at the edge of the river, a tiny table and chairs were on the ground before her. She reached into a large bowl by her side and carefully lifted out a squirming frog. She held it carefully as she dressed the creature in a tiny pair of white pants and a fancy blue coat.

“Sit there and be good,” she told the frog in a child’s voice. “Tea will be in five minutes.”

She pulled another amphibian from the bowl and began to slide a tiny lace dress over its squirming legs. “You must dress quickly; the guests are already starting to arrive.”

The first frog began to squirm off the tiny chair. Brea gently rubbed its head behind its bulging eyes … it stilled as if hypnotized. When she had both the frogs seated on chairs she began to remove tiny pieces of silverware from a bag tied to her waist and carefully place them on the table. Plates, cups, forks …

Tobias laughed. “She’s having dinner with a bunch of frogs.”

“She’s just a kid, all kids play,” Charles said.

“Well, I don’t like it,” Tobias frowned. He picked up a stone from the path and pitched it toward the girl. There was a loud smack and a voice began to wail.

Brea was standing with a half-dressed frog in her hand when Tobias and Charles walked up to her.

“You hurt my hand and my friend.” Brea sobbed. Tears ran down her cheeks.

“That’s what you get for hanging out with the wrong people,” Tobias said.
He began to stomp on the tiny table and chairs, smashing the furniture.

“Stop!” Brea cried.

The frog in the chair began to hop away. Tobias tried to crush it with his boot.

Suddenly Brea rose above her feet. Her eyes turned red and her hair became a brilliant orange, standing on end. “Now!” she screamed. Tobias burst into flames and was instantly consumed. A puff of smoke dissolved in the wind.

Charles ran. When he was at the top of the bank, he looked back. Brea had placed both frogs on the broken chairs.

“Oh good.” She giggled. “Our Guest has arrived.”

Brea pulled a squirming frog from the bowl and began to carefully dress him in a purple waistcoat with big gold buttons.

From “HOBBS INN” a novel in progress. Randall R. Peterson is a freelance writer from Annis, Idaho, and a new member of Blue Sage Writers.