Where to buy Traci Robison's books

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September 30, 2011

Bringing the Devil to His Knees

From time to time I like to share books about writing that I've found especially useful or interesting.  The latest one I've been reading,  Bringing the Devil to His Knees: the Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life is comprised of essays originally presented as lectures in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers.  The book is not an assemblage of how-to-write rules, but instead, an exploration of writing approaches.  The essays are divided into three categories:  Techniques, Devices, and Strategies; Maps and Legends; and Facing Up to the Reader.  As in any collection, some essays stand out as more relevant than others, but which essays a reader finds useful will no doubt vary with the reader's own needs as a writer.  The chapter with the greatest impact on me, "In Defense of Omniscience" by Richard Russo, inspired me to step away from my usual first-person narrative style and begin writing my current draft in third person omniscient.  Within the essay, Russo also touches on balancing showing with telling, which is something I'm constantly evaluating in my own writing.

The closing of the book's introduction states: "This book does not mean to provide--cannot provide--a set of answers.  At best it will be suggestive (in the best sense), informative, and inspiring".  It delivers exactly what it promises.

September 23, 2011

Werewolves 101

Gévaudanais defends herself from the Beast of Gévaudan
Want to know how to become a werewolf?  Need to identify a specific type of lycanthrope or single out a famous case?  Begin your search at Monstrous.com, where you'll find art, stories, myths, and collected information about every aspect of the werewolf.

Professor D. L. Ashliman of the University of Pittsburgh has translated numerous folktales, among which you will find werewolf legends from Germany.  I especially like that Professor Ashlimann provides citations for the sources from which he has gathered his stories.

Werewolfpage.com, a site with an extensive werewolf collection, includes a great list of werewolf movies sorted by date ranges.  Synopsis and even some trailers are included for the films. (I'll be adding a few of these to my Netflix list.) 

The site Dans l'Ombre de la Bete (translation: In the Shadow of the Beast) contains primary sources and plenty of information related to the Beast of Gévaudan and the attacks attributed to large wolf-like creatures in Gévaudan during 1764-1765. The site is in French, but you can view scans of original documents.  And, using Google translate, you can read most of the site's text.  There's quite a bit there, and I've only begun skimming it myself--let me know what you find especially interesting.

September 19, 2011

Kind Words to get you started

Image by darrylfurr
I've written about finding inspiration in music, as have my fellow writers at writersvibe.  Today, to get back into the habit of providing a weekly writing prompt, I offer this musical treat from the Internet Archive--Geeshie Wiley's Last Kind Words.  And if you're a writer more inspired by the visual, you might find a story growing from the photograph above.  Together, the two send me back almost a century and into the resilient spirit of childhood.   

September 17, 2011


It's been a month since my dad died.  Three days from now should have been his 70th birthday.  My sister and I wanted to have a party, a card shower, put together scanned photos from his past to honor seven decades of life--a milestone.  Cancer stole our chance.

We found out about the cancer last October when Dad hurt himself working on the combine during harvest.  The scan to make sure his hernia hadn't caused internal hemorrhaging showed cancer in his lungs.  More tests showed it in his liver; in vertebrae of his neck.  Stage IV adenocarcinoma--a glandular cancer that might have started in his lungs since he'd been a smoker when he was younger.  Radiation took care of the cancer in his vertebrae.  He tried chemotherapy and, after his first round, almost died from bacterial pneumonia that was resistant to antibiotics.  That was just after Christmas.

Slowly, Dad improved.  None of us kids could get him to eat when we tried to care for him at home, but in the nursing home, he flourished.  And he brought that place to life.  He spoke to everyone; knew each by name and included them in conversations.  He participated in the group activities and traded stories with his roommate, George.

Sometimes I find myself wishing we hadn't found out about the cancer.  I think of all the things Dad wanted to do and couldn't after chemo--places he wanted to visit, shows he wanted to see at the Lied--and how little time the treatment bought him.  If he hadn't been fighting cancer, he would have been living his life.  And yet, he didn't seem to see it that way.  He needed to fight as much as he needed to laugh and swap stories with everyone who crossed his path.  I'm like that, too.

I've compartmentalized my life these last few months, plunging into work as if nothing's happening outside it, and forgetting work altogether to spend time with Dad.  I've avoided blogging because everything I might say here seemed trivial compared to what we were living, and I didn't want to share anything this personal with the world at large.  But here it is, a coming out of sorts.  I miss my dad.