Marketing, Uncategorized

To Hemlock Run

THR promo 3

When reporter Jason Reynolds is asked to look into the disappearance/abduction of a young woman in rural Washington State, he agrees to do what he can. What he discovers is this is no ordinary case of domestic abuse. Instead, he’s stumbled upon something bigger and more dangerous.

What he’s found is the Barton family, the de facto rulers of Dunham County. Not only are they the wealthiest family and largest employer, but they have nearly total political control of the county’s legal system. Residents of Dunham County like to say: “You don’t cross the Bartons; bad things happen to people who cross the Bartons.”

And no one has ever crossed the Bartons like Jason Reynolds crossed them.

Soon he is dodging the Bartons’ Sheriff’s Department and trying to find a way to bring them to justice without sacrificing his life and the lives of his friends.

Read To Hemlock Run by James Boyle, out now.

 

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Marketing

A Moment of Shameless Self-Promotion

I would like to impose on everyone a bit to introduce my newest novel: To Hemlock Run. Here is the description:

Where do you find justice when the criminals are the law?

Jason Reynolds, investigative reporter out of Seattle, does not think he can do anything to help his ex-girlfriend’s friend, Helen. She is clearly involved in an abusive relationship with a Dunham County Sheriff’s Deputy named Travis Wilcox.

Then Helen goes missing and Jason and Danielle “Danny” Hayden go to Dunham County where they face an enemy more dangerous than they’ve ever faced. For Travis Wilcox is part of the Barton family and the Barton family controls Dunham County. They are the county’s largest employer and landlord. They are the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and a judge. They can do whatever they want without any consequences. And they do.

Jason and Danny will need all their wits and imagination to bring the Bartons and Travis Wilcox to justice without losing their own lives.

Here is a link to its Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hemlock-Run-James-Boyle/dp/0692830235/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1484968542&sr=8-1

And here is a link to its Kindle page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hemlock-Run-James-Boyle-ebook/dp/B01MZ6UU93/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1484968542&sr=8-1

And you can find a free sample of the opening scenes here:

http://jamesboyleauthor.com/to-hemlock-run/

Thank you in advance for your interest and support.

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Uncategorized, writing

Eulogy For Daniel Boyle

This post is going to be something a little different. Rather than my humble opinions on various aspects of the writing craft, I will instead offer a small example of my writing. A sample, if you would, of the finished product.

I had published some examples of fiction earlier in the life of my blog. Then I discovered that many publications consider works published on a blog as “published.” In other words, they won’t touch them. So, no more fiction I might wish to publish later.

But first, a short explanatory note about this work. For those who aren’t already aware, my father passed away on July 8. As we were preparing for his memorial service I was told I needed to write the eulogy. Apparently, my family thinks I have a way with words, or something. Whatever the reason, I did write and deliver the eulogy at my father’s funeral.

It is the most difficult thing I have ever written.

So:

EULOGY FOR DANIEL BOYLE

I have been asked to say a few words about my father. My Dad.

Thanks.

Where to start? How do you do justice to almost seventy-five years of life, of loving, in a few paragraphs? How do you put into words what words were never designed to convey?

My Dad would answer that question this way: you do the best you can.

So. Who was my Dad?

My Dad was a man.

“Well yeah,” some of you are saying. “We kind of figured that.”

No, not just an adult male; he was a man. There is a difference.

A man is strong. Look up the strong, silent type and you’ll find a picture of my Dad. He worked hard for years to make a better life for his family and that meant taking overtime whenever he could get it. There were many times when the family would be gathered around the dinner table in the evening and the phone would ring. Us older kids would ask “Are you home?” And he would usually nod that he was.

I once asked him how he’d worked for the same company for twenty-five years. He told me that you just kept going back the next morning.

So yes, he was tough and he was strong, but he was so never violent. He never raised his hand against the women in his life and never against us children. (Other than the rare butt swat we always deserved.) In fact, I never saw, nor heard of him raising his hand against anybody. When he raised a hand it was to help someone, not hurt them.

He celebrated his children’s victories and consoled us in our defeats. All he wanted was that we do our best. And when we did screw up or make a bad decision he never belittled us, never made us feel stupid. Usually, he’d just ask a simple question: did you learn anything from this?

Lastly, Dad had a deep and powerful faith in God. He didn’t talk about it very much; it was a private affair, between him and God. But as the saying goes, actions speak much louder than words and those of us close to him know that he honestly, consciously tried to live his life in a manner that Jesus would approve. And he came pretty close.

In his final hours at the hospital, we tried to find a priest to give him last rights. The hospital staff called one, only to find that he was out fishing and couldn’t be reached. They tried valiantly to find another priest, but were unsuccessful. This never happens in the movies. Personally, I wasn’t worried about it. In my mind, the extreme unction would almost be just a formality.

I’ll leave you with an image in my head.

(I have lots of images in my head, but I’m only going to share this one.)

Dad stands in front of St. Peter’s desk outside the golden gates of heaven. Not the battered, worn-out body he lived in toward the end, but the lean, strong body of the young Marine, ready to take on the world.

St. Peter consults his reservation book and hesitates, stroking his beard.

“Is there a problem?” Dad asks.

“Well, a minor one,” St. Peter says. “But yes, there is a problem. It seems you did not receive Last Rights before you passed over. I can’t let you in without Last Rights.”

Dad sighs. “What happens now?”

“You’ll have to go to the waiting area until other arrangements can be made.”

Dad is clearly disappointed, but the rules are rules. Before he can move, a shadowy figure emerges from the billowing clouds on the far side of the gates and steps up beside St. Peter.

It’s Jesus.

“Is there a problem?” he asks, smiling at my Dad.

“Yes,” St. Peter tells him. “This young man has not received Last Rights, so he cannot gain immediate entry. I was just about to show him to the waiting area.”

“Oh, Peter.” Jesus smiles and shakes his head. “Don’t be such a Pharisee. Let the poor guy in.”

St. Peter starts, but then nods, writes something in the book, and the gates swing open.

Jesus steps over to Dad. “Forgive him. I love Peter like a brother, but even when we were wandering the hills of Galilea it was so hard to get him to see the big picture.”

“Thank you.”

“Come, walk with me,” Jesus takes Dad’s hand and leads him toward the gate. “I think there’s some people who want to see you.”

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Writing advice, Writing and Editing

Show, Don’t Tell

Recently, in my role as something of an amateur writing coach, I’ve run into several beginning writers who all made the same mistake in their work. In my humble opinion, it is the most common conceptual mistakes inexperienced writers make. Show, don’t tell.

Now everyone who has tried their hand at this frustrating gig called writing fiction has heard this rule a time or two. It’s arguably the rule most often drilled into students in writing classes and workshops. Judging by the results I’ve seen, it is still not always understood.

“Show, don’t tell,” refers to dramatizing scenes, instead of narrating them. The best fiction writers use the drama of a scene to reveal their characters, themes, and the plot as it unfolds. They simply present the circumstances to us and let us interpret it as we choose. If they are very good, the scenes and details as they’ve rendered them lead us to the interpretation they desired. Sometimes, they even lead to interpretations that transcend the author’s original intent.

The amateur writer, particularly the beginning writer, often falls into the trap of telling us what he wants us to think, rather than presenting the material and let us draw our own conclusions. They confuse “telling” a story with “showing” us a story that tells itself.

An example. In one of the works I examined, the author writes:

Today, John Wallace, tribal game warden, burst into the office of Mark Schonberg, hatchery manager. He was offered a chair, but was too wound up to accept. He wanted to remain civil to this man he had cooperated with for years, but he was past agitated.

“Damn it, Mark. What the hell is happening out there?”

This is the just the opening paragraph of a scene, but the author misses an important opportunity. She tells us the main character, John, is “too wound up” to accept an offered chair, then, that he “wanted to remain civil to this man” but he was “beyond agitated.” The premise is fine. The situation screams conflict, begins right in the middle of things, and draws our interest, but she is telling us how John feels. She isn’t showing us.

My recommendation to her was that she re-write the scene, this time showing John storming into the office. Mark reacts by offering his colleague a chair, which is refused. Instead, John paces the office, barely able to control his temper. Only then, do we get his angry question. Rather than telling us that her character is “wound up” and “beyond agitated” show us how he acts and let us figure it out.

Another example, a little more subtle, from a draft of my own work:

“Hey.” Debbie looked over at him. “You okay?”

Jason made his mouth form the semblance of a smile. “Sure.”

He didn’t think she believed him.

In the third line, I (through the narrator) am telling you what is going on. I am not showing you her reaction to his statement than he was alright. A better depiction might be She peered at him, frowning.

In both examples, writers get caught in the trap of telling the story, rather than rendering it and laying out what happens before the reader. It’s easier, of course. It’s much easier to tell the reader what happens than depict it, but it is cheating. More than anything else, it’s cheating the reader. And after all, it is the reader we are trying to entertain. Let’s give them credit for being able to figure it out for themselves. And give ourselves the credit that we can artfully depict the scenes our readers need to follow the story.

We don’t need to tell them because we can show them.

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short story

The Volcano (part one)

This is my only real attempt at writing humor. Perhaps you’ll see why.

I was more than a little surprised when “Little Mac” McAllister identified himself on the phone. He wasn’t the type to call the local paper; heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t even read our little weekly rag. He just wasn’t the reading type. Whatever information he’d need, he could pick up easier at the City Diner, or Fat Man’s Tavern, or from Melody, his wife.

He didn’t waste any time on social niceties now. “I wondered if you’d stop by the ranch
this afternoon. There’s something out here I think you should see.”

Stopping by his ranch meant a twenty minute drive out of town. “What’s that?”

“Dunno. That’s why you should look at it.”

Well, put that way . . . I had to admit I was more than a little curious. Something was
certainly up, if Mac was asking me to come take a look at it.

“I have a meeting with Joan Collins (yes, that really was her name) at 1:00 to talk about
the school bond measure,” I told him. “I can come out afterwards‑‑say 2:00, or 2:30.”

I thought I heard a chuckle. “I’ll have coffee on.”

Joan Collins apparently wasn’t on his Christmas card list. She wasn’t on mine either, for
that matter, but when you run a small town weekly, you deal with the people who make the local
news. For better or worse.

We disconnected and I went back to milking two thousand words out of last weekend’s
Volunteer Fire Department pancake feed.

#

The McAllister Ranch was twenty acres of mostly flat land along a small creek. It sat
among the foothills of the Cascades a few miles east of town, off County Road 151. It had
belonged to Little Mac’s father (Big Mac) before him and was less a working ranch than a
country retreat from the construction business he ran in the city. I had been there a couple of
times over the previous two decades and‑‑from the point of view of someone who’d lived in one
bed room apartments most of his life‑‑thought the house was very nice. It was a two‑story
farmhouse with a wraparound porch and a beautiful oak shading the front yard.

I drove up the newly paved driveway toward the house shortly after two, my mind still
numbed from the hour I’d spent listening to Mrs. Collins, and parked my aging Honda beside
Little Mac’s new Ford pickup and his wife’s Explorer. Neither had a scratch or a speck of dust
on them.

Little Mac met me on the front porch with a grinding handshake. “Thanks for coming
out.”

I checked my hand for broken bones and admitted I was curious.

Little Mac nodded. “It’s the damndest thing.”

“Well, let’s go see it.”

“Hi, Tom.” Melody McAllister appeared in the doorway behind her husband. “Mac
seems to have forgotten his manners. Would you like to come in for some coffee?”

“Oh,” Little Mac looked chagrined, like he’d been caught with the cookie jar. “I was
going to take a look at the pasture first.”

Ever the peacemaker, I suggested we take a look at whatever he had in his pasture, then
discuss it over coffee.

Five minutes later we stood in the pasture a hundred yards behind the house looking
down at a crack in ground. It was two inches wide at its widest and about four feet long. Thick
clouds of foul‑smelling steam drifted out of the opening and the air itself seemed tainted with
the stench of rotten eggs.

“Well?” Little Mac asked. “What do you think?”

“When did this start?”

“A week ago. Something like that.”

I could only stare. It was the most incredible thing I’d seen in these parts.

“What is it?”

“I’m no expert,” I told him. “But I’d say you’ve got a new volcanic vent here.”

He nodded gravely. “That’s what Melody thinks too.”

For a few seconds we both stared at the smoking crack in the ground. We were standing
almost five feet away and I could feel the heat on my face. The meadow grass around the edges
of the crack was blackened and withered brown.

Little Mac looked at me. “So what do I do about it?”

I looked up at him. What do you do about it? What do you do about tornados,
hurricanes, tsunamis, or any other force of nature? You get out of the way. But the look in his
eyes told me he wasn’t jerking me around, nor was he taking this development lightly.

“I don’t know,” I told him. “But I have a friend at the University who might have an
answer for you.”

He nodded.

It might have been my imagination, but right then the ground beneath me seemed to
quiver just a bit.

#

The next afternoon, Little Mac and I watched as Henry Jenkins, a professor of geology at
the University–who looked like Kurt Cobain after a rough night–scrambled around the edges of
the crack taking readings on some kind of handheld device. I had been shocked at the changes
in just a day. The crack was now almost six inches wide and nearly ten feet long. And if I
wasn’t mistaken the area around it had risen several inches during the night, as if something was
pushing up from below the meadow. I’m no expert, but I personally took that as a bad sign.

The fact that it was a beautiful spring day, just made the anomaly in Little Mac’s pasture
seem all the more weird.

Finally, Henry returned to us, his eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. “It’s
incredible. And right in our back yard. This will make Mt. St. Helens look like yesterday’s
news.” He consulted his device. It looked like a Blackberry. “It’s emitting sulfur dioxide at the
rate of ten cubit feet an hour and the ambient temperature at the mouth is approaching five
hundred degrees.”

“So what is it?” Little Mac asked.

“A vent. You’ve got a vent just starting up. Do you have any idea how rare it is to
witness something like this? I’d like to set up a monitoring station immediately.”

Little Mac just shook his head. “How do I stop it?”

Jenkins looked like Little Mac had just asked him if he believed in the Easter Bunny. He
stopped playing with his device long enough to look up at Little Mac. “You can’t stop it. This is
part of a volcano.”

He gestured at the Cascades lined up along the eastern horizon. “All these mountains are
volcanic. This is where the Pacific and North American tectonic plates come together. Channels of molten rock cris‑cross the entire region, just under the crust, looking for a weak spot. You might have a new mountain growing right here. It’s probably just venting some heat and gas, but if it decides to go into a real eruption, it will erupt. There’s nothing you, I, or anyone else can do about it.”

Little Mac’s eyes narrowed to slits as he gazed at the crack. “We’ll see about that.”

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short story

Untitled. Short story in progress

This is the beginning of the short story I was referring to in my last post about anachronisms. I have not finished it at this point, but thought everyone might be interested in what it looks like so far (without the modern time references).
Enjoy.

The morning hunt had not been very successful. They weren’t going home empty-handed, but all the party had been able to bring down was one small deer, barely enough to feed everybody for a couple of days. Not only had they not seen any of the larger game they’d been seeking, but there had been little or no sign of the game even being around. It was like all the elk and bison had left the valley.

Which was entirely possible.

“Maybe it’s time to move camp,” Bear suggested as the four men trudged up the trail toward their encampment. A thick forest of oak and pine grew to either side of the path. A small stream burbled and splashed a few paces to their left.

Wolf nodded. “Maybe.”

It was not the first time the idea had entered his mind. The game had been growing scarce over the past few weeks. They needed to be where the game was.

“The snows will be coming soon anyway.”

Again, this was nothing Wolf hadn’t already considered. They probably had another moon or two before the prospect of being snowed in became a real concern. But they needed to store up some meat before then, or they’d be in trouble.

“We probably would only have to travel a day,” Bear said. “Maybe two.”

“We’ll discuss it when we get back,” Wolf finally told him. “The time for planning is when everyone is gathered around the fire, not alone on a game trail.”

Bear nodded. He was thick and stout and habitually carried his head low, looking up through his eyebrows at you like a bear. He was also Wolf’s closest friend and had been since childhood. They were nearly brothers.

“Your judgment is valued,” Wolf told him. “This just isn’t the time or place.”

Bear sighed but nodded. As it was, the other two members of their party had probably not heard a word of their conversation. They were a few paces behind Wolf and Bear, the deer slung between them from a spear shaft.

Wolf stopped cold. He raised a fist and everyone else in the party also stopped as if frozen in place.

Something was wrong.

Wolf wasn’t sure what exactly had alarmed him, but he wasn’t about to continue until he figured out what it was. There were enemies everywhere. The forests hid predators: lions, bears, and at least one pack of wolves; there were also other bands of hunters in the area with mouths to feed who might just kill them for their puny deer. When survival was at stake…

It paid to be alert.

For a few beats, all four men stood there on the trail, not moving a muscle, barely even breathing. Wolf had completely shut down conscious thought, focusing all his energy into his senses. He scanned the forest around them, searching out anything that looked unusual, out of place, or suspicious. All he could see were the trunks and branches of the oak and pine and the bright foliage of the undergrowth. Nothing drew his attention.

The only sound was the rustle of gentle breeze jostling the leaves. The only scents that of pine needles and damp earth. Nothing unusual.

But something had alerted him and he trusted his instincts. What was it?

Again, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

Then he heard it: muffled footsteps. Running footsteps. Two feet, not four.

“Someone’s coming.”

Without another word, all four men slipped off the trail and quietly concealed themselves in the brush. To a man running down the trail, there would be no sign they’d ever been there. Even the deer was quickly concealed under brush and leaves.

The footsteps grew louder. Closer. Then a young boy appeared around a bend in the trail, running toward them.

“It’s Runs Like Deer,” Bear murmured.

Wolf had recognized the boy also. He was ten years old and the fastest among the boys from their camp.

Wolf stepped out on the trail well ahead of the boy. “Hold, my friend. Why such a hurry?”

Runs Like a Deer, slowed to a stop. His skin shown with a fine sheen of sweat and his breath came fast and deep. “Grandfather sent me to find you.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Magpie’s baby,” he said between gasps of air. “Monsters took him.”

By now, the other men had gathered around the young boy.

“’Monsters?’”

“Little Grasshopper? What happened?” Elk Horn asked, panic edging into his voice. He was Magpie’s mate and Grasshopper’s father.

“I don’t know. Magpie came running back into camp, saying monsters had taken her little one.”

“When?” Wolf asked the boy. His question also kept Elk Horn from bolting toward the camp. “When did it happen?”

They needed to know much of a lead the monsters had.

“Not long. Grandfather sent me to find you right away.”

Wolf nodded and looked up at the others. “Let’s go.”

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short story

Haunted

This is another writing sample from your humble fictionalist. Not really sure whether it’s just a sketch I may use later on, or flash fiction, or what have you. You be the judge.

Every cop was haunted.

There were exception, of course, because some cops, Derek knew a handful himself, were every bit the sociopath as the folks they pursued; they had simply chosen to enforce the law rather than break it. Maybe as kids they’d flipped a coin.

So most cops were haunted, especially once they’d spent a significant number of years on the job. It went with the territory. They learned to hide it well, from their friends and family and especially from their colleagues, but the ghosts were there, waiting, patient, ready to appear the moment they dropped their guard. No one ever completely escaped.

The ghosts appeared in your dreams, or against the screens of your closed eyelids as you laid in bed, unable to find sleep yet again. For some it was the broken body of the toddler lying in the street after being hit by a car. There’d been nothing anyone could do to save him. For others, it was the expression on the face of the child’s mother. Or on the car’s driver. The guilt. The horror.

Sometimes it was the vacant expression on a six-year-old’s face after watching his mother get beaten by her boyfriend. Sometimes it was the emotionless, matter-of-fact manner a killer described his crimes.

For Derek, the image was always the same. His ghost was named Melvin O’Connell. Five years ago, Melvin, in the midst of a week-long methamphetamine binge, had come after Derek with a six inch folding knife. Derek had warned him. He’d drawn his sidearm. He’d ordered him to stop. Told him that he would shoot him. Told him to stop again. Melvin had ignored him, kept coming with that knife, insanity in his eyes.

Derek had put two rounds in Melvin’s chest.

It had surprised Melvin, getting shot. His face showed utter shocked surprise, as though he had never before conceived of this possibility. He had dropped the knife. Then he, himself, had dropped. He had died on the way to the hospital. To this day, Melvin was the only person Derek had ever shot and it was Melvin’s face that haunted him during those long, lonely nights.

Melvin and that look of complete, dumbfounded surprise.

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