Someone Like Bill

Critique. It’s not everyone’s favorite thing, right? But as a writer, critique groups are necessary for me, a good hurt. Of course, not every circle of writers is a good mix or a constructive influence. I don’t know the secret formula for finding the perfect critique group. Somehow I’ve been super lucky. I attend three amazing groups that suit my location, my genres, my commitment, and my skill level. They accept my writing for what it is, yet challenge me to do better without insulting my ineptitude. Sure, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Critique hurts sometimes, no matter what. And we still debate the common trivialities: the Oxford comma, clichés, and the ever-popular-bad-apple, adverbs.

Today a writer in my critique group lost his battle with cancer.

William Barnes wrote historical fiction. His latest work-in-progress dealt with the sordid history of the Texas Rangers. Before I continue, I must confess—I’m a Yankee. When we arrived at the “Western Expansion” portion of our U.S. History books in high school, our teacher skipped it, claiming this part of U.S. history wasn’t important, as it contained dubious facts and silly folktales. In contrast, my children took two Texas history classes before graduating from elementary school, which I considered suspiciously xenophobic. Bill read his work-in-progress at critique group and shot bullets through my prejudice. In his native Texan drawl, he read his excerpt aloud, a complex tale with Rangers hunting down Mexican-heritage citizens while those in Congress debated boundaries and laws. Conflict, complexity, humor, and action surrounded the historical facts of his story and I was surprisingly intrigued. Funny how a brilliantly scripted “silly folktale” can change minds, huh?   

But I gained more than a new respect for Texas history from Bill. That same night, I shared my piece with the group, a flash fiction horror story. Bill liked it so much he emailed me later and volunteered to beta-read anything I had. I sent him a YA fantasy short story. He sincerely loved it and detailed the reasons. When I lack confidence in my writing abilities, it helps to recall Bill’s words. A Texas grandfather and longtime-writer of historical fiction went out of his way to encourage me, a YA speculative fiction writer.

Though cancer stole Bill from the world, his encouraging words live on. They lend me confidence on days of doubt. Before he passed, I had the precious opportunity to thank Bill for his encouragement. I imagine him riding into heaven on a wild mustang.

Critique is important. Facing tough criticism molds us into better writers. But there’s a flip side. Encouragement also makes us better. If there’s someone like Bill in your critique group, thank them today.

 


It is all for the bright!

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Don’t Be Afraid

She sighed as she looked out over the turquoise water.  Waves crashed at her feet and she felt the water wash over her toes.  This island had been her home soon after she first encountered the Guardian, over ten years ago.  The last decade had been filled with adventure and purpose—and much danger.  Elizabeth had a strong feeling danger was closer than ever.  Closer than the Guardian.

Don’t be afraid, she remembered.

The Red Knot, Chpt. 9, The Job

(Nanowrimo project 2014, published 2015)


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Inspection In The Mirror

Li didn’t look much like his father. This inspection in the mirror was as close as Li thought he would ever get to seeing who he really favored– his mother.

The Red String, Chpt. 1, The Boy Meets Girl

(Nanowrimo project 2012, published 2013)


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Following Protocol

Kayleen and her sisters had been rescued by a group led by Aaliyah.  She learned later how Aaliyah had stayed behind, following protocol, to ensure Kayleen and her siblings were not discovered by E.C.C.O. agents.  She was very grateful to Aaliyah for reuniting them with their dad, Dr. Mark Yancey, and also for taking care of the Yancey’s beloved dog Lucy, by leaving her with their neighbors.  She smiled at Aaliyah when she saw her false name written in pink marker, Lucy.

The Red Cloak, Chpt. 6, The Son

(Nanowrimo project 2013, published 2014)


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The Good Shepherd- Nanowrimo 2016

“Thank you for letting me borrow this beautiful bonnet, Mrs. Wickersham,” Leona said, her thin fingers caressing the black velvet lining.

Mrs. Wickersham grabbed Leona’s gray, moth-eaten bonnet from the dresser and threw it in the bin. She pressed her lips taunt. “Black is the appropriate color for a funeral. At least you have a black bonnet now. I should have ordered a black dress for you to have on hand for such ominous occasions, but one never expects death. Attending two funerals so close together is quite unusual, don’t you agree?”

“Yes, Mrs. Wickersham,” the girl replied.

-“The Good Shepherd”, my work-in-progress for NaNo 2016

Budding and blooming authors, check out the National Novel Writing Month challenge! (At least look at this year’s T-shirt!)


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