Tuesday, January 10, 2017

TRAIN TRIPS IN 99 WORDS!


THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
January 10, 2017



Note about our schedule: Because of important family business, I will be away from my office next weekend and the weekend following that. So I will not be posting on my blog January14th or 21st. Instead, I am posting the January 14th blog early, on Tuesday, January 10, and it will remain at the top of the blog until January 28, when I'll be back. This means the 99-word stories will be showcased for a long, happy stretch.

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On this second post for the month of January 2017, I am presenting stories submitted by friends of The Joy of Story. The prompt I assigned was “I took a trip on a train.” I was inspired by an earworm that was haunting my brain at the time. (For those who don’t know, an earworm is a song that plays over and over in the Muzak of your mind, a snatch of a song you can’t get rid of.) The song was “I Thought About You,” with music by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. I like the song a lot, but I was getting sick of hearing it by the time it moved on, only to be replaced by another  earworm.

The first line of the song is “I took a trip on a train,” which makes it qualify as a train song. The singer/narrator is on a train, having left a loved one at home. There is a suggested element of regret that the lovers parted, and the outbound traveler has a strong wish to return and patch thing up. The story has conflict, choice, and change, not to mention scene and plot and characters. The plot is more hinted at than told, and the choice and change are forecasted not shown, but that’s okay. Call this minimalist fiction. By the way, other train songs from the Great American Songbook are “Sentimental Journey” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Remarkably, these songs both tell a similar story, but in these stories the travelers have bought their tickets and are ready to board the train home.

Well, this week’s 99-ers took this reader for a number or train rides, and some describe good scenery and others have believable characters. Some of them, though, lack plot, conflict, choice, and change. I hope I’ll see more of these essentials in next month’s stories. The prompt for next month is “I can’t give you anything but love.” That should suggest some conflict, I think!
One of the stories this month stands out for having all the necessary ingredients of a good story. That one is “Round Trip,” by Marilyn London. This story has the same plot as “I Thought About You,” with an extra twist at the end. Good work, Marilyn!

 If you're unfamiliar with the 99-word story feature of this blog, see the information given below this month's stories, in the section titled Call for Submissions.

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TRAIN TRIP STORIES
told in 99 words




ROUND TRIP
by Marilyn London

We were arguing a lot. I needed to get away. I took a trip on a train.
It was fun to be alone, to enjoy the peace and quiet. The countryside was beautiful. I finished my book. The car was almost empty. There was no one to talk to.
Someone walked down the aisle checking the seats. That must be the conductor, I thought.
Without looking up, I asked, “What time is it? When will we be there?”
“Depends on where we’re going,” said a familiar voice. He took my hand, kissed me and sat down.
We went home. 
•••

WINDOW SEAT
by Tom Donovan

I took a trip on a train with a youngster.
We were almost at Penn station so he was glued to the window. Five minutes from the station we would pass the alcoves, caves, and caverns.
Tracks led off into dark recesses where the people of the NYC underground lived. Sleeping bags, plastic, and paper remains of hastily prepared food.
The remnants of barely serviceable clothing drying wherever a bit of sunlight could find them.
At first he wondered, was this some sort of a Disney-like make-believe diorama?
 Later came an understanding that life takes different turns for everyone.
•••

FANTASY AND REALITY
by Jerry Giammatteo

The Jungfrau railway headed up the Bernese Alps, framed in snow, and passed lovely little Alpine villages on its way. I marveled at the beauty.
We made a stop to admire a Volkswagen Beetle carved out of ice. Life was good for a twenty-three-year old.
As the train headed for the summit, I closed my eyes for a brief rest.
Then I felt a light tap on my arm and awakened to a Long Island Railroad conductor. She was saying, “All tickets, please?”
I then heard the announcement, “Train to Penn Station.” Damn. I was sixty-one and tired again.
•••

A DESTINATION NOT YET REACHED
by June Kosier

At thirteen, I took a trip on a train. A train unable, so far, to reach its destination. The train was called “Creativity.”
I boarded forty-three years ago, heading for a writing career. There were stops along the way. High school, college, a career in nursing, marriage, motherhood, grandparenting, cancer were the stops. I have enjoyed all these stations and each has taught me well.
I have paid the toll, but, now retired, I have decided to board the train again. Hopefully, this time there will be no stops and I will get to my desired destination, called “Published.”
•••

ONCE, ON A TRAIN
by Cathy Mayrides

I don’t often take trains, but I remember a train trip to Washington, D.C. At the time, I was a teenager, and I dabbled in Tarot cards and Ouija boards. But my own metaphysical experiences were nil.
As we sped toward Union Station, I suddenly realized that I was speeding over tunnels and trees and could see the top of the train from this vantage point. I didn’t panic, but rather wondered in a dream state if I would be able to get back into the train.
I did. We arrived. Welcome to my first out of body experience.

•••
TRAVELS WITH BRAD
by Christine Viscuso

“Where’ve you been, Brad? You haven’t been to work in days.”
“I took a trip on a train, Greg.”
“You’re an Uber driver; what’re you doing traveling the rails?”
 “I dropped off the most gorgeous, ethereal girl at the train four days ago. I wanted to know her better so I parked the car and hopped the train. Followed her to Manhattan and then to Amtrack; destination, Washington D.C.”
 “Ethereal, huh?”
 “A beauty. But I lost her. I tripped. Fell on my head as I got off the train. Ended up in a hospital.”
 “You’ve had some train trip!”
•••
LIMBO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
by D. F. Saunders

My flight arrived at Houston on time. I pushed up the aisle to deplane fast. I had to catch another flight, on a different airline.
I took a train from one airline to the other, boarded another airplane, and flew to DFW, where I took yet another train to catch my flight home, on yet another airline.
When my DFW train ride stopped at the end of the line, I found myself back in Houston Airport. I retraced my steps, and it happened again.
I said to a ticket agent, “I’m lost.”
She shrugged. “I know. We’re all lost.”
•••



Note: The following story was inadvertently left out of last month’s harvest of 99-word stories, for which the prompt was “A fine romance this turned out to be.” With apologies to Diane Morelli, the author, I am presenting it here:

METAMORPHOSIS
by Diane Morelli

Laura and Glen met in high school. They dated for six months before they got engaged.
Glen’s dad cautioned his son, “Take a good look at your future mother-in-law now; you’re looking at your wife in twenty years.”
Glen realized that his fiancĂ©e’s mom was unkempt, overbearing, and neurotic. Just like his mother. He ignored Dad’s warning and married Laura without reservation.
Twenty-five years passed. Laura and Glen were still together and seemed happy. Glen’s dad finally apologized for his unsolicited premarital advice.
“I should have been the one who took a good look at my mother-in-law,” said Laura.


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Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for February’s 99-word story submissions is February  1, 2017. The stories will appear on my blog post for February 11, and will stay posted for a week.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: jmd@danielpublishing.com

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Write a story inspired by the following sentence (in honor of Valentine’s Day): I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.

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Calling all published authors—

I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at jmd@danielpublishing.com.


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Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week!





Saturday, January 7, 2017

RESOLUTIONS FOR “THE JOY OF STORY”




THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
January 7, 2017




Greetings to all on this first Saturday of the new year, 2017! Welcome back to all of you who have visited this blog during the past few years; and to all of you stumbling into the room by chance or sheer nosiness, welcome to you, too. I post on Saturdays, usually, and each post stays at the top of the blogsite for a week. This weekly blog, which I call The Joy of Story, is a celebration of stories, primarily for writers and readers. I direct the show, loosely speaking, but I encourage regular, occasional, and accidental readers to add their own ideas and responses in the comments section that appears at the end of each blog post.

My credentials for hosting this weekly gathering are a lifetime of laboring (with pleasure) in the various fields of literature as a writer, editor, publisher, bookseller, and teacher of creative writing. I focus on story for this blog, because that’s what thrills me most about writing and reading.

What is a story, exactly? The short answer is this: A story tells about something that happened to somebody. Essential ingredients of a story are conflict, choice, and change. A story must have a narrative arc, and a story must entertain while it says something worth reading or hearing. There’s a great deal more to list about what a story is, what makes it work, what makes it play. To see what I mean, stick around and come back on either regular or occasional Saturdays.

This New Year I have made some resolutions concerning The Joy of Story. I want to have a more dependable structure for the blog, and so have come up with a regular weekly schedule, as follows:

Week One.

I have collected together 22 essays about the story form (fiction and nonfiction). Some of these essays were first used as lecture notes for classes I taught in public education classes, mostly for seniors. Others are repeats from my earlier writing instruction book, Structure, Style and Truth: Elements of the Short Story. Some of the essays also appeared in the literary magazine Black Lamb, to which I used to contribute monthly essays over the course of several years. Some of them have already appeared in this blog. I intend some day to publish this small collection of writing lessons in book form (the book will be titled The Joy of Story, of course), but for the time being I will post each of the 22 pieces sequentially on my blog, starting today with the Preface: “How I became a Writer.”

Week Two.

On the second Saturday of each month, I will post 99-word stories submitted to me by you, this blog’s “audience.” To learn about how this feature works, read the instructions toward the bottom of post. Please note that this is not a contest. I believe strongly that writing is not a competitive sport. I’m going to say a few words each week on what I like about particularly good stories, because I think particularly good writing should be praised and prized and recognized. But I won’t criticize. I am aware that some of my contributors are beginning writers and have a lot to learn. I hope they’ll learn from reading the stories of others, as well as what I have to say about the craft of writing.

Week Three

The week beginning on the third Saturday of the month will be devoted to a guest author. This will give us another voice and perhaps some fresh ideas on how to find joy in writing and/or reading stories. It also gives the author a chance to introduce a newly published or soon-to-be-published book. The guest author’s writing style and genre can be anything that includes story-telling, such as fiction, memoir, or poetry. If you’re an author who wants a place to promote a new or recent book, check out the invitation that appears below, following the information about the 99-word stories.

Week Four

For the fourth week I plan to post a chapter of my novel The King’s Eye: A Fantasy of the Farther Isles. There are 21 chapters in the novel, and I will post them in order, so that the story will run as a serial. The chapters are short, and each ends with a cliff-hanger. My hope is to hook you, so you’ll be sure to check in each week and find out what happens next! I think you’ll enjoy reading the stories that make up this book—almost as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Week Five?

The fifth Saturday of the month, if there is a fifth Saturday, will be a wild card. I’ll let you know when the time comes.

That’s it—what you can expect to find on my blog in the weeks and months ahead. Now I’ll move on to this week’s feature, the preface to my manuscript The Joy of Story.

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THE JOY OF 

STORY


Brief

Essays on 
Writing Fiction

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Preface: How I Became a Writer

Not long after I learned to read (I cut my teeth on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), I developed a strong urge to tell stories of my own. That is: I wanted to write!

I decided to write my first story when I was five or six years old. I borrowed a pencil and a piece of paper from my mother and asked her what I should write my story about.

“Write about what you know about,” she advised me.

So I did. The story came out something like this: “Johnny and his mother went to the circus. They saw clowns. They had fun. They came home. The end.”

My mother was proud of me. (Of course. That’s what mothers are for.) But when I showed my story to my brother, Neil, who was nine years older than I, he said, “It’s not a real story. A real story needs conflict.”

That put me in a quandary. At the age of six, I had no conflict in my life, so I couldn’t write a real story if I were to write about what I knew about. That put my writing career off for another ten years or so.

Then I started reading the novels of Richard Bissell, and I thought to myself: I can do this. I tried it, and I found I was right: I could do this. By that time I was a teenager, so of course there was conflict in the life I knew so well; it goes with the territory.

Elmore Leonard said that 70% of what he knew about writing came from reading the novels of Richard Bissell. So you can believe me when I say that Bissell is worth your time. But it doesn’t have to be Bissell. Find your own favorite writer and write something that writer might want to read.

Once I got started, I never stopped. The first fiction I wrote wasn’t worth the wear and tear on my typewriter, but eventually I got a novel published–by Perseverance Press! I dedicated Play Melancholy Baby to the memory of Richard Bissell (and Lorenz Hart, another one of my writing heroes.)

I haven’t supported myself with my writing (not many writers do), but I’ve never stopped writing, and in the meantime I’ve worked in the written word: as a student, a reader, a bookseller, an editor, a ghostwriter, a fiction writer, a publisher, and a teacher of creative writing.

I owe it to my mother, my brother, and mainly to other writers–Bissell and many more. And of course to my students and my readers.


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Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for February’s 99-word story submissions is February  1, 2017. The stories will appear on my blog post for February 11, and will stay posted for a week.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: jmd@danielpublishing.com

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Write a story inspired by the following sentence (in honor of Valentine’s Day): I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.

§§§


Calling all published authors—

I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at jmd@danielpublishing.com.


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Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week!





Saturday, December 24, 2016

Season's Greetings!






John and Susan Daniel are away for the holidays.
John's blog, The Joy of Story, will resume January 7, 2017.

Here's wishing you Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

FAMILY ROOTS AND TIES


THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
December 17, 2016



Greetings, friends and fellow fans of Story. This week we have a guest author, as we do the week following the third Saturday of every month. Our guest this time, Marilyn London, has written a multi-generational family saga. It sounds like a fascinating and highly entertaining story, with a blend of history and moral themes supporting the novel’s structure. I won’t tell you anything more about Marilyn’s novel, Percy’s Gold or The Trust Fund, because she’s done a fine job of that in the guest essay that appears below.
I’ve never written a multi-generational family saga, so I won’t pretend to list all that’s involved in the art. I can state the obvious: the novel needs to have the essential ingredients of all stories, namely conflict, choice, and change. I assume such a book must take a good deal of research, since the early generations in the plot must have lived in the long ago. I have written a bit of historical fiction, and I try my best to avoid anachronisms. I’ve also written stories involving families, and I’ve noticed how important it is to reveal family traits, and it’s sometimes good to pay attention to the relatives who dare to escape their roots and traditions and make their own rules.

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Before I forget, I need to make this important announcement: this is the last post of the month of December and it’s also the last post for the year 2016. Susan and I will be in Las Vegas celebrating Christmas with family. The blog will be up and running again January 7, 2017.

Don’t forget  about the 99-word story feature. In case you’re a new visitor, you’ll find rules of the game following our guest speaker’s visit.

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The Roots and Treasures that Pass
from Generation to Generation

Marilyn London

Percy’s Gold or The Trust Fund is a multi-generational saga of familial love, infidelity, and loyalty. The story explores how the consequences of our actions transcend time. 

In the late 1850s, Mamie loses her husband on a whaling boat and enters a marriage of convenience with a Virginia plantation owner in the hopes of keeping food on the table for her sons, Percy and Sam. Aided by his brother and the underground railroad, Percy runs from the encroaching Civil War and joins a wagon train headed west. He survives the Indian Wars near Fort Laramie and falls in love with a runaway slave. Their life on the prairie is arduous and Percy becomes disillusioned. He steals gold from the railroad as it makes its way through the Black Hills. When he dies, the stolen gold is passed to Sam and his descendants as a familial trust fund. To inherit stolen gold, each must be trusted to keep the family secret, and the gold changes the lives of everyone it touches. Sam’s daughter has Alzheimer’s. She wills the gold to her grandson, Jason, but misplaces it before she dies.  Jason’s mother, Emma, knows nothing of the gold but feels that something is missing in her relationship with her mother and is surprised to learn that her son has inherited a trust fund. In the end, Emma and Jason both find gold. The reader is left wondering if they will share their discoveries with one another.
Several themes permeate the story. The first theme deals with our choices about how to live our lives. Percy did what others wished they would do, but never would because of real or perceived dangers. He never lived vicariously. Sam, on the other hand, benefited from happenstance, and an innate ability to let go and enjoy life’s pleasures as they came.
The second theme is Percy’s gold, which is both his father’s wedding band and the gold Percy stole from the railroad. The only good that comes from the train heist is the reconstructed family home on Long Island, a symbol of family loyalty and hope for the future. Juxtaposed, the value of the ring is minute when compared to the monetary value of the stolen gold. However, the love passed on with the ring exemplifies the trust and caring that bonds family members whose actions transcend time.
Emma’s quest for acceptance is the third theme. She struggles to attain her aging mother’s love while caring for her. This theme also touches on researching ancestry and discovering how our lives fit into the larger scheme of history.
The fourth theme is derived from the prayer recited by Red Cloud as he absorbs the true meaning of a wagon train massacre carried out in retribution for the destruction of innocent lives at Sand Creek. The prayer recognizes the fleeting nature of human life and the transcendent power of nature, goodness and human action. As a metaphor, the reader notes that Percy will be gone, but the stolen gold will have lasting effects.
When my parents could no longer live in their home, it fell to me to prepare their house for sale. I began this book as I reflected on my childhood. I found that the memories of my family’s unique sense of humor, love for American history, and strong religious morals far out-valued any objects my parents left behind. The characters in my story bring my memories to life in a creative way.
I self-published Percy’s Gold or The Trust Fund as an ebook on Amazon recently, and it will soon be available in paperback. 



Marilyn London is new to the creative writing field but not new to creative arts. For more than twenty years, she was a classical musician-teacher-performer before changing careers. For the next twenty years, she was an administrator and assistant dean at a medical school, where she currently volunteers to facilitate small groups of medical students in discussions about ethics and professionalism. She also teaches online courses part-time. As a retiree, she is participating in local organizations to hone her creative writing skills. Besides holding Masters degrees in piano performance and cultural anthropology, she has a Doctor of Education in Creative Arts in Education. Her novel, Percy’s Gold or The Trust Fund, is now available on Amazon.com as an ebook. It soon will be available in paperback. Marilyn lives on Long Island, New York with her husband and two dogs, Cole and Mirabelle.

Twitter: @marilynlondon22

Buy the book on Amazon.com: Percy’s Gold or the Trust Fund


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Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for January’s 99-word story submissions is January 1, 2017. The stories will appear on my blog post for January  14, and will stay posted for a week.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: jmd@danielpublishing.com

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Write a story inspired by the following sentence: I took a trip on a train.

§§§


Calling all published authors—

I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at jmd@danielpublishing.com.

§§§

Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next year!