The Saturday Morning Blogger – Flying like Superman


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Flying like Superman

James Barrington

Flying has always been fascinating to me. Oh, flying in an airplane was appealing, but flying (like Superman) was always so much more interesting. There are probably a million different ways that psychoanalysts would diagnose me with all kinds of social and mental abnormalities, but whatever their opinion of me, I’ve just thought the idea of defying gravity was a fun way to travel. It has been the subject of some of my short fiction daydreaming and always leads into the superhero mode.

In part, it ties back to my refusal to believe that there is an absolute physical speed limit of the speed of light. After all, for years scientists of great renown believed that the speed of sound was an absolute limit beyond which no physical object could pass. I suspect most were pretty red-faced when Chuck Yeager proved them wrong.

As a child I was thrilled with pictures of people wearing flying jet packs and predictions that average commuters would be flying to work in the far distant year of 1975. Hum… that didn’t work out, but the idea still floats around, including flying cars and other dreams of faster local transportation with less congestion. I wonder what will happen when the first flying car accidents result in crashes into home and fatalities on the ground. If we would all just fly “like Superman” we wouldn’t have to worry about those concerns.

Defying gravity, with or without wings, has long been an aspiration of humanity, but the reality of it continues to elude us. We walk and birds fly. Superman’s ability to fly seems to be destined to remain in the realm of comic books.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Days of summer


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Days of summer

James Barrington

When I was a child I looked forward to summer with a special kind of longing. I enjoyed school, but breaking the routine of “time to get up” and “bedtime” was a treat. My dad was much too rigid from his farm life during the Depression to his Army days during World War II, but when I could “sleep in” it was a tiny taste of Heaven.

Summer days brought opportunities to swim or picnic. I would spend hours reading library books. I enjoyed exploring the town on my bicycle. Back in the early 60’s, small town America was still a safe place to live – or at least pre-teens and their parents seemed to think so. The big cities were where crime occurred and small towns were “where everybody knows your name.”

I remember being attacked by two German Shepherd dogs the summer I was 17. I stormed into the house and pulled my dad’s .22 rifle out of the closet and was starting out the door to dispatch those two dogs when my mom stopped me, noticing the blood flowing from the torn leg on my blue jeans where the dogs’ teeth had found flesh. She stopped me and called the local town marshal. He impounded the dogs and I never saw them again.

I don’t remember fishing much as a child. I played little league baseball a couple of years – not very well. Some of my best memories of childhood summers were hunting on my grandparents’ farm outside Nacogdoches. I became proficient with my dad’s .22 rife and my granddad’s 410 gauge shotgun. I shot a good share of armadillos and rabbits. I shot a few squirrels and a few snakes. I even used the .22 to “thin the herd” of roosters when they started outnumbering the “laying hens.”

This summer I’m looking forward to some time to visit our daughter and grandsons in Maine. The younger one is on a little league team. His skill, by all accounts, far exceed what I was able to do at his age. As summer approaches, I’m looking forward to some cooler days that the Texas summers when we visit “Down East” Maine and enjoy a lobster dinner and some little league baseball.

 

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Truth vs. Fiction


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Truth vs. Fiction

James Barrington

Tom Clancy has been quoted as saying that fiction is harder to write than non-fiction, because fiction has to be believable. I don’t know about you, but I think he is onto something.

I do believe that well-written fiction can have enough unexpected twists and turns that it makes it almost unbelievable, but in the literary world that tends to push it into fantasy or science fiction.

The 2001-2002 NFL season that began with the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon ended with the New England Patriots turning around a lackluster season with a second-string quarterback and winning their first Super Bowl. If that had been a work of fiction, people would have dismissed it as being trite. Many wartime clichés were born in real life experiences of World War II veterans.

All that is to say, verging on the unbelievable in works of fiction does not automatically make a scene or passage unbelievable or cliché. Often such passages just need some extra work to make them fit into the mold of the believable. I further defend that statement with the evidence of supernatural or miraculous events that we scratch our heads about as we try to make explanations fit into a category with which we are more comfortable.

There are miracles in this world. Sometimes we just need to open our spiritual eyes to see them.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Travel Diary Israel


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Travel Diary Israel

James Barrington

I have heard it said that journalism is the first draft of history. I’m pretty sure that’s true, although in these days it’s more of a rough draft needing a lot of review and correction than a first draft fit to be printed.

That is a prologue to my Israel travel dairy note about ancient graffiti on the stones at the temple mount. If we can get a photo posted on the WordSmithSix blog site, you will be able to see a fourth century AD bit of graffiti chiseled in stone on the western wall of the temple mount. Translated from the Hebrew, it says, “Then you shall see and your heart shall rejoice and their bones like grass shall”. It is almost a quote of Isiah 66:14, which says, “Then you shall see and your heart shall rejoice and your bones like grass shall flourish.”

Our guide speculated that the “author” of the graffiti may have been chased off before he could complete his work. He also said that the difference between “your bones” and their bones” is one letter in the Hebrew. He further noted that at the time the graffiti was placed there, Jerusalem had been rebuilt as a Roman pagan city.

It seems that people have been writing and “editorializing” for centuries, even when it would have taken considerably more effort than simply typing on a keyboard.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Travel Diary Israel


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Travel Diary Israel

James Barrington

As a child in the summer of 1964, I began a diary of the sights and experiences of our family vacation to Yellowstone National Park. That was lost somewhere in our moves over the years, but my habit of keeping such travel diaries was never lost. My most recent tome was in November of 2015 as I traveled to Israel with a group sponsored by Red River Family Encampment.

Having made the flights from DFW to Newark and Newark to Tel Aviv (and back) on United, the recent black eye United has been taking over forcibly removing a man from one of their flights who happened to be sitting in a seat they wanted seems appropriate to one of my diary entries. To the best of my memory, the flight from DFW to Newark was my first experience with “the friendly skies” of United. My diary entry regarding the landing in Newark says, “We had a really rough landing at Newark. The USS Kennedy arrested landing was smoother. The landing gear slammed down and the plane gave the motion of skidding sideways for a couple of seconds before straightening up on the runway.” Fortunately, the rest of our landings were technically smoother.

I’m not sure I want to know the case of the roughness. While many friends and family members have asked me (before and since flying) if I was concerned for my safety, I must say that the most concerned I was during the two weeks of the trip was when I thought we were about to skid off the runway at Newark. It might have been nice to have a Southwest Airlines flight attendant to break the tension a bit with a wise crack. But I guess Southwest Airlines flight attendants have more sense than to fly United.

Six and a half hours into the flight, we were “feet dry” over Spain. The TV console in front of me said it was -65 degrees at 37,000 feet while traveling at 629 mph. Sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea was memorable. My dairy reported, “After seeing stars against the black sky at 37,000 feet, the sun rose as we were above the toe of Italy’s boot.”
We weren’t even to Israel yet, and I had already written four and a half pages in my diary. Many of the details I’ve mentioned here were probably meaningful only to me, but they form part of the fabric of the adventure – like the ice crystals on the window and the sun shining up off the surface of the Mediterranean. Look down was like seeing a 3D map of lands I had seen before on globes or maps, with cities and geophysical contours that I could readily identify.

I highly recommend travel diaries. I believe the relatively short duration and the unusual sights and experiences off the incentive to stay with it. I’ll share more of my musings in future blogs.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Portraits of Courage


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Portraits of Courage

James Barrington

In the forward to George W. Bush’s latest book, “Portraits of Courage,” Laura Bush wrote, “When George and I married, if someone told me that he would become President, I would have thought, ‘Well, maybe.’ He was running for Congress at the time, and we loved politics. But if someone had said, ‘One day you will be writing a forward for a book that includes George’s paintings,’ I would have said, ‘No way.’”

In his life after the presidency, George W. Bush took up painting. He eventually graduated from flowers, pets, and landscapes to portraits. With his love of our nation’s military personnel, and especially his commitment to our nation’s wounded warriors, he began painting portraits of many of the men and women he has come to personally know and help through the Wounded Warrior programs he supports.

“Portraits of Courage” includes George Bush paintings and brief stories of more than 100 current and former military personnel who were wounded in combat. The stories detail the circumstances and nature of their wounds and their paths to recovery. Reflecting real life, not all the stories have “fairy tale” endings, but all offer hope and display courage in overcoming adversity. They display adaptability and the strength of character of so many members of our military who put their lives on the line and are now recovering from horrific injuries.

I recently won a copy of the book at a presentation by Todd and Dallas Bell of Burrowing Owl Bookstore. After eagerly reading every story and examining every portrait, I am donating the book to the Canyon Area Library to make it available to everyone. For those who want their own copy, the Burrowing Owl Bookstore at 419 16th Street on the east side of the courthouse square has copies for sale. It’s a beautiful coffee table book filled with stories of courage and inspiration.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Burrowing Owl Books on the Square in Canyon


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Burrowing Owl Books on the Square in Canyon

James Barrington

For anyone who has not yet discovered the Burrowing Owl Bookstore on the east side of the square in Canyon, it is a shop worth visiting. Dallas and Todd Bell own the store, but Todd’s duties as a medical doctor ensure than most of the office hours at Burrowing Owl are kept by Dallas – and her mother and daughters.

They have an eclectic variety of new and used books. For the kids, the doors of a wardrobe open to provide entrance to the kids’ books section. My 12-year-old granddaughter and I have already explored it a few times and made purchases there.

The shelves are arranged to make browsing easy, but if you know exactly what you want, odds are good that Dallas can take you right to it. They even take trade-in on your used books with credit toward purchases of other used books.

It reminds me in many ways of the “Shop around the corner” from “You’ve Got Mail.”

With a new snap of cooler weather, it’s a great place to pick up a book for reading in front of your fireplace!

Keep reading! It gives you great ideas for your own great American novel.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Show, don’t tell

James Barrington

I generally consider myself a pretty good writer, but that doesn’t mean I know all the rules to be a pretty good writer of fictional novels. That’s a whole different animal.

Four of our Wordsmithsix group got together this week to review our latest efforts at literary brilliance. I am constantly grateful for the input of my partners. I can see my work improving, but I recognize I still have a long way to go.

One (of many) writer rules I’m still struggling to learn and internalize is the “show, don’t tell” rule. I need to want to narrate a story instead of planting visual images in the minds of my readers. While that may be OK in a blog, it’s not acceptable in literary fiction. I have the rule pretty well fixed in my mind. My problem I haven’t fully grasped the application of how to follow that rule. I’m working on it, but it’s too easy for me to fall back into the narrator role. My wordsmithsix friends are very expert in pointing those issues out as I read my developing work. It seems like I make a few steps forward and then I have a tendency to slip on the narrative slope. Each time I’m caught doing that, I get another lesson. Hopefully I’m learning.

The concept I’m working on internalizing is letting the characters in the story reveal facts through their dialogue rather than simply spelling it out. Telling is much simpler, but not nearly as interesting.

“So on I worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread…” (with a tip of the hat to Edward Arlington Robinson).

And hopefully “show not tell” will take roots in my creative system and become a natural thing.

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Continuous vs. segmented


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Continuous vs. segmented

James Barrington

I have written five previous novels. None have been published. I hope I am learning with each successive effort. While the idea of having a legion of fans of my writing is appealing, I have found each effort personally rewarding whether they ever leave the confines of my hard drive or not. In each of my earlier efforts, I have essentially written from start to finish as ideas flowed, but in my current effort I’m finding that the ideas are coming in interconnected but not continuously flowing patterns.

Perhaps my disjointed story segments result from the nature of the story – a twenty-year class reunion being the “current day” and the events of the intervening years laying background to peel back the layers of motivation and character interrelationships. As I mentally “see” action unfolding, my mind begins telling me the roots of the latest developments.

I’m finding this technique challenging, but stimulating at the same time. Mainly I’m finding it a great opportunity to put more depth to each character. I believe it will produce a better product in the end. I’m also finding the wordsmithsix critique group extremely helpful in keeping me grounded with suggestions and questions that I realize I should have already considered.

The Texas High Plains Writers will be meeting today (March 18) at The Oasis on Canyon Drive at 9:30 a.m. For anyone interested in writing, there are always great ideas, great information, and great fellowship. See you there!

The Saturday Morning Blogger – Burrowing Owl Books on the Square in Canyon


The Saturday Morning Blogger – Burrowing Owl Books on the Square in Canyon

James Barrington

For anyone who has not yet discovered the Burrowing Owl Bookstore on the east side of the square in Canyon, it is a shop worth visiting. Dallas and Todd Bell own the store, but Todd’s duties as a medical doctor ensure than most of the office hours at Burrowing Owl are kept by Dallas – and her mother and daughters.

They have an eclectic variety of new and used books. For the kids, the doors of a wardrobe open to provide entrance to the kids’ books section. My 12-year-old granddaughter and I have already explored it a few times and made purchases there.

The shelves are arranged to make browsing easy, but if you know exactly what you want, odds are good that Dallas can take you right to it. They even take trade-in on your used books with credit toward purchases of other used books.

It reminds me in many ways of the “Shop around the corner” from “You’ve Got Mail.”

With a new snap of cooler weather, it’s a great place to pick up a book for reading in front of your fireplace!

Keep reading! It gives you great ideas for your own great American novel.