I Want To Write Like That!

first draft

I think we would all like to imitate the phenomenal Indie success of such writers as Sci Fi author Hugh Howie, or  Amanda Hocking who writes paranormal fiction. Then there’s the immortal types of books — the ones that will be read for generations to come. One treasure I have recently happened upon is author James Herriot. His books, memoirs actually, are based on his country veterinarian experiences. All brilliantly descriptive and entertainingly witty., I can hardly put them down. In fact, now I’m studying his writing techniques through rereading and note-taking.

I want to write like that!

All Creatures Great and Small, for example — I hardly ever read First Person POV, but this author just has a way of conversing with the reader. His wordplay speaks to the senses: sight, smell, taste…and tickle bone.

It’s 1937 and factories abound. He’s finally graduated from veterinary college and is on his way for an interview in the country: “The confinement of the city, the grime, the smoke — already they seemed to be falling away from me,” he writes.

What an environment he’s leaving behind! Are you holding your breath? Can you imagine the sense of escape and relief?

And then he arrives at his rural destination: “There was a clarity in the air, a sense of space and airiness that made me feel I had shed something on the plain, twenty miles behind.”

Now you’re breathing in the clean fresh air.

Off to work he goes. There’s this annoying old man who rambles on about how a more superior veterinarian he knows would better attend this suffering cow in the midst of a difficult birthing: “‘Now then, young man,” he cried in the nasal twang of the west…” etc.

James (the new veterinarian in town) needs a hand and gives direction to the farmers standing by to pull a rope when he tells them. At the same time, the old man disagrees and still seated on his straw bale perch proceeds to espouse what a better, more superior but unschooled animal tender he knows would do in a similar situation.

In that moment it becomes clear to James that he has suffered enough of the man’s verbal abuse, but rather than address the old man directly, he puts the farmers standing by to instant task when he bellows: “Pull on the bloody head-rope, I tell you!” Which makes him feel immediately better when the old man, obviously offended, retires his tongue.

It’s a book full of novel dialogue, description, and emotion. If you love animals, you learn a lot, laugh at the ludicrous, and are deeply touched by tender observations of human and beast.

That’s what I”m missing in my own writing. The stuff that speaks to the senses — makes you feel and hear and see what’s going on.

I have a steno pad I call “How Do You Say?” with rudimentary tabs for emotions, environment, weather, etc.  As I take a second journey through James Harriet’s books, I’m jotting down some phrases because I want to learn.  It’s how I want to write — the gift I, too, long to give to my readers. Never to plagiarize, of course, but to help me sort out my own way to express what I want to say, I enter snippets of dialogue that makes me pause with admiration or delights me with its colorful description.

Indeed, I think we writers have much to glean from our author predecessors.

And from what I’m seeing while delving into the old greats, perfect grammar be hanged! If it makes the story better, don’t be so afraid to break some rules. I think writing a great story is what we should be brave enough to pursue without concern for what grade an English teacher — or our neighbor, may grant us in their opinion.

Be encouraged — in the end, your beta readers and editor will help you clean it up…so long as you’re willing to take that next brave step and reveal your work to others who want to help you.

A Puppy Named Leo

Leo – Born 12/10/2018
Leo 4 weeks old

Oh…my…gosh! Just look at that face:)

This is Leo, an adorable Pitt bull we chose to rescue. We like the breed. When raised right they are no more harmful than any other breed. Unfortunately for Leo, his owner refused to keep him with his mom longer than three weeks, so I’m his new mom, and believe me, raising this infant pup is entirely new territory for me.

Born on December 10, 2018, Leo weighed in at 3.5 lbs when we brought him home at 3 weeks-old. Today is January 17, 2019, and as Leo moves into 6 weeks-old, he weighs 8.8 lbs. That’s a lot of formula and TLC.

Leo is thriving. He is a hearty little guy who has the needle sharp teeth of an alligator. His whole world, in fact, consists of teeth first exploration, which sometimes occurs in the dark, early morning hours. Truly a test of patience and stamina. Unless you’ve experienced yourself, I can’t tell you how much it hurts to have a puppy clamp down on one’s hand and then rag it back and forth. Yikes!

Presently, it’s a little embarrassing to have visitors stop in because our floors look like a puppy pad crossword puzzle. I also told my husband, since it’s hard to watch Leo every moment, we may consider finally buying new furniture after a year of puppy teething. Honestly, we were thinking of eventually purchasing new furniture anyway, so this just expedites the matter.

We have 3 other dogs: Buddy is a 13 year-old American Pitt bull; Gizmo is a 7 year-old Yorkie-Poodle mix — we’re thinking the poodle was NOT a miniature, and Mia is a 5-ish year-old Labrador/German Shepherd mix. Each has their own unique rescue story, but none at the moment are loving Leo. Not yet. Seriously, who wants to be chewed on?

As it is, Gizmo’s tail is low to the ground so I have to look out for him — often having to catch up with him to disengage those pesky teeth that so far seems only to connect with Gizmo’s long fur there.

Buddy aims for higher ground. When trouble looms, he hops up on my bed or on the sofa, depending where I am. (My office is in my bedroom).

It may be maternal instinct, but Mia gets closest of all and sniffs Leo. She even runs to see what’s going on if the pup yelps for any reason, but she won’t let him touch her without a low warning growl. Sometimes she stands a few feet away with a stern stare as if sensing his imminent approach, which he must clearly understand because with that look he changes his mind and turns his attention elsewhere. It’s fascinating to observe, and I’m hoping Mia will be the one to teach him good manners among the pack.

As for the guy who got rid of 8 puppies as fast as he could, after irresponsibly letting his female dog have 32 puppies in 2018, he gave her up, too, and the new owner has already got her spayed. Hallelujah!

Leo at 10 months old

A Horse named Jack Daniels

Jack Daniels – May 9, 2018

Today’s not a great day. Not for me, anyway. Soon the Veterinarian will arrive and assist the last of my horses to a better place where there is no more pain and suffering.

Sending my animals off to heaven is one of the hardest things I have to do. If it wasn’t, I’d have no business bringing them into my life. But I’m glad to have known every one of the many I have loved and cared for over the years, and I’m honored to have been loved by them — always heart-broken to let them go.

Today Jack Daniels and I spent the early morning hours together beneath the trees. He’s almost 30-years-old and suffers from arthritis that came from working hard on a ranch for most of his life. When they were finished with him, I was lucky to adopt him and we meandered many easy trails together for the next twelve years. His last year was spent with no demands but to be a horse hanging out and grazing among other senior horses who loved his company. I’m glad I could give him that.

Farewell, sweet boy.

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Jack Daniels