Tuesday, September 7, 2021
How long will it take before we can burn images stored in our brain onto a computer? Do you think it will ever come to pass? I hope so, because even though I used to dabble in art in college, I never inherited the landscape gene. I could do portraits, from live models or pictures, but I didn’t have the knack to capture a glowing sunset or wavy grasses, or a frothy seascape. Perhaps, with the proper training, I could make a decent stab at it, but for now the only way I can immortalize scenes of nature is through the lens or with my pen. Figuratively speaking, that is, since I haven’t written books with a pen and paper in many years.
Lately, I’ve been lamenting potentially award-winning photos that I’ve missed. Lost shots. Those showstoppers, the gorgeous scenes I couldn’t acquire because of unsafe driving conditions or a timetable that didn’t allow lollygagging. I still see them, clear as cold lake water, simmering and shimmering in my mind’s eye.
The first lost shot occurred one fall, many years ago. We’d been scurrying around all morning, getting ready to deliver chairs to our customers. One of my side jobs, besides engineering, writing, and photography, is chair caning. My wife does the hand caning, and I do the rush, splint, flat reed, and pressed cane. Every Saturday morning, we load up the van with chairs and head for Honeoye Falls and East Bloomfield, where we deliver them to the shops that hire us. My wife and daughter were with me that morning, since we were going to squeeze in a little breakfast at George’s, our favorite small town diner. We were hungry. We were late. And I forgot my camera. Of course, this was before iPhones with their handy dandy cameras.
It happened only five minutes from the house, and I’ll never stop kicking myself for not turning around to go back. The night had been cold, and the morning dawned sunny. Frost crackled under our shoes as we tromped across the lawn, and there was a freshness to the air, heightened by the icy morning. We traveled north on Lakeville-Groveland Road, and when we passed Booher Hill, I glanced eastward. This is one of my favorite stretches of land, where multiple layers of trees, fields, and hills delineate the ridges that cradle Conesus Lake. When the sun rises over the eastern shore, it kisses the lake valley with rose, orange, lavender, and hot yellow.
This morning, however, the sun had risen hours earlier. But what greeted my eager eyes was not the sun, but a cloud.
I’m talking about a fully-fleshed, cotton ball cloud. It sat directly on top of the lake, lying like a thick eiderdown on the water. This cloud was not filmy, like mist or fog. It wasn’t transparent. It was rock solid puffy white, and it rose at least 1000 feet over the lake, stretching north-south along fourteen miles of the narrow trench carved many years ago by a glaciers. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and fear I’ll never see it again.
The memory is sharp, but I really wish I could show it to you.
The next two scenes that haunt me happened in winter. The frustrating part was that I had the camera with me both times, but just couldn’t stop because it wasn’t safe to pull over on the snowy roads.
The first was a scene I pass every day on the way to work. Normally, I admire the textures and contrasts of this spot with an almost casual, see-it-every-day insouciance. I do take pleasure in the old barns, dilapidated farmhouse, antique cars in the open sided shelter, and the young Thoroughbred who paces in a small paddock. And each time I pass the old milk shed, I admire the faded white paint and the attractive timeworn look it has from years of exposure to sun and wind. My fingers itch for the camera here most mornings, but it’s private property, 6:30 in the morning, and its positioned near a country intersection, which makes it a bit awkward to stop and snap pictures of this venerable old building.
This particular morning, however, snow blasted sideways across the road in such ferocity and beauty, it quickened my heartbeat. It was a fierce burst of white, constant and rippling, blinding whoever crossed its path. The contrast electrified me. Deep turquoise metal-sided barn, cement block barn nearby, white post and board fence swaying in the storm…they were simultaneously shadowed and revealed by the spraying snow.
But I didn’t stop. I worried about arriving late to work, and the sides of the road looked very slippery. So… another lost shot.
Later that week, they closed the whole county for whiteouts. I had to get home, I was determined to get home, and I sure as heck didn’t want to spend the night in my office. So, I spent an hour and a half dodging blinding whiteouts, and finally made my perilous way down Groveland Road, almost home. Another half mile, and I’d be safe in the driveway.
Snow devils. Cyclones of white. Billowing and flowing over the hills to the west, up the sides of the valley, rolling across the fields like massive sheet-white tornadoes.
My jaw dropped. My insides thrilled. And I gripped the steering wheel tighter to stay in the snowy lane. I didn’t get the shot. Once again.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not really complaining. I’ve captured dozens of deeply satisfying photos and have been blessed with pastoral scenes of breath-taking beauty year-round. I’ve snapped hundreds and hundreds of photos. But those lost shots… they keep haunting me. Which, I guess, is why I’ve written about them today. When visions haunt me, they spill out of my fingertips.
There is one consolation. The images still reside in my brain. And someday, maybe soon, I’ll download them and be able to show you. ;o)
Books by multi-award winning author, Aaron Lazar:
DOUBLE FORTÉ (print, eBook, audio book)
UPSTAGED (print, eBook, audio book)
TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON (print, eBook, audio book)
MAZURKA (print, eBook, audio book)
FIRESONG (print, eBook, audio book)
DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU (print, eBook, audio book)
UNDER THE ICE (print, eBook)
MURDER ON THE BREWSTER FLATS
HEALEY'S CAVE (print, eBook, audio book)
TERROR COMES KNOCKING (print, eBook, audio book)
FOR KEEPS (print, eBook, audio book)
FOR THE BIRDS (print, eBook, audio book)
ESSENTIALLY YOURS (print, eBook, audio book)
SANCTUARY (print, eBook, audio book)
THE SEACREST (print, eBook, and audio book)
DEVIL’S LAKE (print, eBook, and audio book)
WRITE LIKE THE WIND, volumes 1, 2, 3 (audio books)
Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, thrillers, love stories, and writing guides, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Dialog Tags - Still Valid in 2021!
copyright Aaron Lazar 2009
When I first started writing over a decade ago, I exulted in every new dialog tag I could think up. I preened over “he croaked” and purred over “she grumbled.” Finding new and inventive ways to say “he said” became my quest.
My early works were peppered with gloats, murmurs, and barks. I even started a most coveted (only by me) list.
How many words can you think of to say “he said” or “she said?” Here are some, in no particular order: Mumbled Murmured Expostulated Grunted Groaned Whispered Purred Spat Huffed Croaked Barked Choked Queried Cackled Harrumphed Stuttered Muttered Moaned Hissed Grumbled Whined Sang Twittered Tittered Griped Yelped Cried Stammered Shrieked Crooned Wheedled Retorted Pressured Cajoled How many more can you think of? There are probably hundreds.
Okay, now that you’ve wracked your brain for tantalizing tags, let me tell you one very important lesson.
DON’T * EVER * USE * THEM.
What? Such brilliance? Such innovative thought?
Yeah. Sorry. Forget it. Never use anything but “said,” “asked,” or an occasional “whisper” or “mumble.”
Once in a great while, if you feel you really need it, slip in a “spat” or “croaked.” But I’m here to tell you that dialog tags, for the most part, should be invisible. “Said,” is invisible. “Asked,” is invisible. “Barked” stops the flow of the dialog. Anything that makes your story stutter needs to be eliminated, including these juicy but totally distracting tags.
Got that part?
Now that I’ve encouraged you to use “said,” I’m going to retract it.
Forgive me, but that’s just the way it is. If you can avoid a tag altogether–through the clever use of action “beats”– then more power to you.
Here’s an example of changing a passage from lush useless tags, to he said/she said tags, to using beats instead of tags:
I maneuvered the van around the next pothole, and was about to congratulate myself for my superior driving skills when a series of washboard ruts nearly popped the fillings out of my teeth. “Want me to take over?” Tony wheedled. “Why? Am I making you nervous?” I retorted, gripping the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white. “Of course not, sweetums. You’re a great driver. Just thought you might want a break,” he crooned. We rounded the bend and the road disappeared. The crater before us could hold three elephants. Big elephants.
“Whoa! Watch it, honey. Don’t wanna blow a tire,” Tony groaned.
I maneuvered the van around the next pothole, and was about to congratulate myself for my superior driving skills when a series of washboard ruts nearly popped the fillings out of my teeth. “Want me to take over?” Tony said, leaning on the dashboard. “Why? Am I making you nervous?” I said with a frown. All smiles, he said, “Of course not, sweetums. You’re a great driver. Just thought you might want a break.” We rounded the bend and the road disappeared. The crater before us could hold three elephants. Big elephants. “Whoa! Watch it, honey. Don’t wanna blow a tire,” Tony said in a panic.
I maneuvered the van around the next pothole, and was about to congratulate myself for my superior driving skills when a series of washboard ruts nearly popped the fillings out of my teeth. Tony braced himself on the dash. “Want me to take over?” My knuckles turned white. “Why? Am I making you nervous?” “Of course not, sweetums.” He forced an innocent smile. “You’re a great driver. Just thought you might want a break.” We rounded the bend and the road disappeared. The crater before us could hold three elephants. Big elephants. Tony’s frozen smile barely hid his panic. “Whoa! Watch it, honey. Don’t wanna blow a tire.”
These examples aren’t beautifully written or perfectly rendered. But they should give you the gist of what I’m trying to illustrate today.
Add your own examples below, if you’d like. Let’s see some Case A, B, and C’s in the comments section!
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
How Covid Affected This Writer
Hello, dear friends and book lovers!
I've been conspicuously absent from... everywhere... this year. If you've missed me, you can read about my life, losses, and books here.
Aaron Paul Lazar
USA Today Bestselling Author
"If Mark Twain and Mary Higgins Clark got married, their author-child would be Aaron Paul Lazar.”
- Joan Hall Hovey, best-selling author
I hope you have all emerged from the past year with your health intact and your hearts full of appreciation for what pleasures lie ahead. Please let me know how you're doing by replying to this email - I miss our chats!
After giving up so much over the past fifteen months - some lost loved ones to the dreaded disease, suffered in hospitals themselves, and everyone sacrificed freedom and family, things are somewhat settling down, and every little opportunity seems like a gift, doesn't it?
My "day" job ended last December (thank you, Covid!), and for several months we suffered untold uncertainty about our future - where we'd live, how we'd survive, etc. But after lots of research and finagling finances, we found a way to stay in our beloved home. Dale and I weren't able to see two of our three girls and five of our seven grandchildren since Christmas of 2019. Since this past May, each time we reconnect with one of them we feel incredibly blessed. We're still waiting to see Melanie and Luke (5) from New Hampshire, but are looking forward to a visit this summer. ;o)
Blatant request: I am offering editing services now for fiction, technical, or engineering content. I will help you write your dreamed of novel, get it formatted and published, and put you in touch with cover artists. Or, I can help your engineering firm write reports, specifications, procedures, etc. in straightforward, easy-to-understand formats. If you know anyone who is hiring for part time, remote work, give me a heads up! (Thanks!)
In spite of the tragic losses of 2019/2020, there were a number of good things that happened. Being isolated with someone you've loved since you were a teenager is a very good thing. Aside from not seeing family and friends, we actually didn't mind hanging out at home one bit. (okay, so we missed eating out, but that was a small price to pay for being safe.) We focused on fixing up our home, cooking fun and healthy meals, obsessively organizing closets, and playing tons of board games with Chris (7) and Joey(5) who fortunately still live with us. They provided such comic relief all year and kept us very busy! I also found a passion in re-purposing old stuff, like our 30-year-old outdoor metal table and chairs. Spray paint in multiple colors is so much fun! ;o) (see the spiderwebs I left on our white iron bench before spraying, below.)
Oddly enough, I didn't write a thing.
I know, crazy, right? After 29 books, I lost my urge to write and simply focused on other things (like becoming OCD over organizing, as I said above! You should see my tool closet!! LOL.) I suspect the writing bug will return, but I'm not worried about it.
As you read this, Pete Milan is recording the audiobook for The Return (book 13 in the LeGarde Mystery series) and it promises to be stellar!
Right now, I'm filling the future well of creativity by collecting all the sights, scents, tastes of today. I've been drowning in glorious colors in my gardens, already harvesting veggies galore (squash, peas, beets, greens, basil, etc), and have been manically weeding and mulching. I do love it, and it's good exercise. You'll find an assortment of all kinds of photos inserted in here, from flowers to veggies to book covers. What can I say? It's just who I am. ;o)
I hope you were able to enjoy your July 4th weekend. Our Independence Day holiday was suffused with sadness. On July 3rd we had to put our beloved Balto to sleep. He was the best family dog ever, and is the model for Gus's new puppy Siegfried gave him in the last chapter in Murder on the Brewster Flats. He had lost almost all of his faculties at the age of fifteen, and it was time. But he had a wonderful life and provided us with untold joy. Little Amber, his lifelong pal, is confused and lonely. We're giving her extra special love and treats. You may have noticed many of my books are dedicated to "Balto and Amber." It's so hard losing your furry friends, isn't it?
I love sharing my books with readers, and as I've said over the years, the best part of being a writer is connecting with people. I've given tens of thousands of my books away, but now the Lazar coffers are low and I need to try to sell some actual copies, lol. I hope you've enjoyed them, and perhaps you'd like to discover or rediscover some more?
Today I'm going to give you links to all five series, and hope you can find something you love for your summer reading fun. ;o)
Please let me know how you're doing! And if you'd like, I'd love to hear which of the series and/or books are your favorites. I might be coming back to ask you for more ideas, because after 29 stories where almost everything possible happens to my characters, I'm looking for inspiration! ;o)
By the way, my email address firstname.lastname@example.org hasn't worked in forever. I'm just using email@example.com for now. I've tried half a dozen times to get webs.com to fix it, but it never works, ugh!
So if you want to connect, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. ;o)
Take good care! If you haven't been vaccinated, please seriously consider it. And as I always say, take pleasure in the little things!
Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of many mystery and suspense series, love stories, and writing guides, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming releases.
“Addictive, award-winning fiction.”
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